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ATHENAISEby Kate ChopinIAthenaise went away in the morning to make a visit to her parentsten miles back on rigolet de Bon Dieu. She did not return in the eveningand Cazeauher husbandfretted not a little. He did not worry much about Athenaisewhohe suspectedwas resting only too content in the bosom of her family; his chief solicitude was manifestly for the pony she had ridden. He felt sure those "lazy pigs her brothers, were capable of neglecting it seriously. This misgiving Cazeau communicated to his servant, old Felicite, who waited upon him at supper. His voice was low pitched, and even softer than Felicite's. He was tall, sinewy, swarthy, and altogether severe looking. His thick black hair waved, and it gleamed like the breast of a crow. The sweep of his mustache, which was not so black, outlined the broad contour of the mouth. Beneath the under lip grew a small tuft which he was much given to twisting, and which he permitted to grow, apparently for no other purpose. Cazeau's eyes were dark blue, narrow and overshadowed. His hands were coarse and stiff from close acquaintance with farming tools and implements, and he handled his fork and knife clumsily. But he was distinguished looking, and succeeded in commanding a good deal of respect, and even fear sometimes. He ate his supper alone, by the light of a single coal-oil lamp that but faintly illuminated the big room, with its bare floor and huge rafters, and its heavy pieces of furniture that loomed dimly in the gloom of the apartment. Felicite, ministering to his wants, hovered about the table like a little, bent, restless shadow. She served him with a dish of sunfish fried crisp and brown. There was nothing else set before him beside the bread and butter and the bottle of red wine which she locked carefully in the buffet after he had poured his second glass. She was occupied with her mistress's absence, and kept reverting to it after he had expressed his solicitude about the pony. Dat beat me! on'y marry two mont'an' got de head turn' a'ready to go 'broad. C'est pas Chretientenez!"Cazeau shrugged his shoulders for answerafter he had drained his glass and pushed aside his plate. Felicite's opinion of the unchristianlike behavior of his wife in leaving him thus alone after two months of marriage weighed little with him. He was used to solitudeand did not mind a day or a night or two of it. He had lived alone ten yearssince his first wife diedand Felicite might have known better than to suppose that he cared. He told her she was a fool. It sounded like a compliment in his modulatedcaressing voice. She grumbled to herself as she set about clearing the tableand Cazeau arose and walked outside on the gallery; his spurwhich he had not removed upon entering the housejangled at every step.The night was beginning to deepenand to gather black about the clusters of trees and shrubs that were grouped in the yard. In the beam of light from the open kitchen door a black boy stood feeding a brace of snarlinghungry dogs; further awayon the steps of a cabinsome one was playing the accordion; and in still another direction a little negro baby was crying lustily. Cazeau walked around to the front of the housewhich was squaresquat and one-story.A belated wagon was driving in at the gateand the impatient driver was swearing hoarsely at his jaded oxen.Felicite stepped out on the galleryglass and polishing towel in handto investigateand to wondertoowho could be singing out on the river. It was a party of young people paddling aroundwaiting for the moon to riseand they were singing Juanitatheir voices coming tempered and melodious through the distance and the night.Cazeau's horse was waitingsaddledready to be mountedfor Cazeau had many things to attend to before bedtime; so many things that there was not left to him a moment in which to think of Athenaise. He felt her absencethoughlike a dullinsistent pain.Howeverbefore he slept that night he was visited by the thought of herand by a vision of her fair young face with its dropping lips and sullen and averted eyes. The marriage had been a blunder; he had only to look into her eyes to feel thatto discover her growing aversion. But it was a thing not by any possibility to be undone. He was quite prepared to make the best of itand expected no less than a like effort on her part. The less she revisited the rigoletthe better. He would find means to keep her at home hereafter.These unpleasant reflections kept Cazeau awake far into the nightnotwithstanding the craving of his whole body for rest and sleep. The moon was shiningand its pale effulgence reached dimly into the roomand with it a touch of the cool breath of the spring night. There was an unusual stillness abroad; no sound to be heard save the distanttirelessplaintive note of the accordion.IIAthenaise did not return the following dayeven though her husband sent her word to do so by her brotherMonteclinwho passed on his way to the village early in the morning.On the third day Cazeau saddled his horse and went himself in search of her. She had sent no wordno messageexplaining her absenceand he felt that he had good cause to be offended. It was rather awkward to have to leave his workeven though late in the afternoon- Cazeau had always so much to do; but among the many urgent calls upon himthe task of bringing his wife back to a sense of her duty seemed to him for the moment paramount.The MichesAthenaise's parentslived on the old Gotrain place. It did not belong to them; they were "running" it for a merchant in Alexandria. The house was far too big for their use. One of the lower rooms served for the storing of wood and tools; the person "occupying" the place before Miche having pulled up the flooring in despair of being able to patch it. Upstairsthe rooms were solargeso barethat they offered a constant temptation to lovers of the dancewhose importunities Madame Miche was accustomed to meet with amiable indulgence. A dance at Miche's and a plate of Madame Miche's gumbo file at midnight were pleasure not to be neglected or despisedunless by such serious souls as Cazeau.Long before Cazeau reached the house his approach had been observedfor there was nothing to obstruct the view of the outer road; vegetation was not yet abundantly advancedand there was but a patchystraggling stand of cotton and corn in Miche's field.Madame Michewho had been seated on the gallery in a rocking-chairstood up to greet him as he drew near. She was short and fatand wore a black skirt and loose muslin sack fastened at the throat with a hair brooch. Her own hairbrown and glossyshowed but a few threads of silver. Her round pink face was cheeryand her eyes were bright and good humored. But she was plainly perturbed and ill at ease as Cazeau advanced.Monteclinwho was there toowas not ill at easeand made no attempt to disguise the dislike with which his brother-in-law inspired him. He was a slimwiry fellow of twenty-fiveshort of stature like his motherand resembling her in feature. He was in shirt-sleeveshalf leaninghalf sittingon the insecure railing of the galleryand fanning himself with his broad-rimmed felt hat.Cochon!he muttered under his breath is Cazeau mounted the stairssacre cochon!Cochonhad sufficiently characterized the man who had once on a time declined to lend Monteclin money. But when this same man had had the presumption to propose marriage to his well-beloved sisterAthenaiseand the honor to be accepted by herMonteclin felt that a qualifying epithet was needed fully to express his estimate of Cazeau.Miche and his oldest son were absent. They both esteemed Cazeau highlyand talked much of his qualities of head and heartand thought much of his excellent standing with city merchants.Athenaise had shut herself up in her room. Cazeau had seen her rise and enter the house at perceiving him. He was a good deal mystifiedbut no one could have guessed it when he shook hands with Madame Miche. He had only nodded to Monteclinwith a muttered "Comment sa va?"Tiens! something tole me you were coming to-day!exclaimed Madame Michewith a little blustering appearance of being cordial and at easeas she offered Cazeau a chair.He ventured a short laugh as he seated himself.You know, nothing would do,she went onwith much gesture of her smallplump handsnothing would do but Athenaise mus' stay las' night fo' a li'le dance. The boys wouldn' year to their sister leaving.Cazeau shrugged his shoulders significantlytelling as plainly as words that he knew nothing about it.Comment! Monteclin didn' tell you we were going to keep Athenaise?Monteclin had evidently told nothing.An' how about the night bef',questioned Cazeauan' las' night? It isn't possible you dance every night out yere on the Bon Dieu!Madame Miche laughedwith amiable appreciation of the sarcasm; and turning to her sonMonteclin, my boy, go tell yo' sister that Monsieur Cazeau is yere.Monteclin did not stir except to shift his position and settle himself more securely on the railing.Did you year me, Monteclin?Oh yes, I yeard you plain enough,responded her sonbut you know as well as me it's no use to tell 'Thenaise anything. You been talkin' to her yo'se'f since Monday, an' pa's preached himse'f hoa'se on the subject, an' you even had uncle Achille down yere yesterday to reason with her. W'en 'Thenaise said she wasn' goin' to set her foot back in Cazeau's house, she meant it.This speechwhich Monteclin delivered with thorough unconcernthrew his mother into a condition of painful but dumb embarrassment. It brought two fiery red spots to Cazeau's cheeksand for the space of a moment he looked wicked.What Monteclin had spoken was quite truethough his taste in the manner and choice of time and place in saying it were not of the best. Athenaiseupon the first day of her arrivalhad announced that she came to stayhaving no intention of returning under Cazeau's roof. The announcement had scattered consternationas she knew it would. She had been imploredscoldedentreatedstormed atuntil she felt herself like a dragging sail that all the winds of heaven had beaten upon. Why in the name of God had she married Cazeau? Her father had lashed her with the question a dozen times. Why indeed? It was difficult now for her to understand whyunless because she supposed it was customary for girls to marry when the right opportunity came. Cazeaushe knewwould make life more comfortable for her; and againshe had liked himand had even been rather flustered when he pressed her hands and kissed themand kissed her lips and cheeks and eyeswhen she accepted him.Monteclin himself had taken her aside to talk the thing over. The turn of affairs was delighting him.Come, now, 'Thenaise, you mus' explain to me all about it, so we can settle on a good cause, an' secu' a separation fo' you. Has he been mistreating an' abusing you, the sacre cochon?They were alone together in her roomwhither she had taken refuge from the angry domestic elements.You please to reserve yo' disgusting expressions, Monteclin. No, he has not abused me in any way that I can think.Does he drink? Come 'Thenaise, think well over it. Does he ever get drunk?Drunk! Oh, mercy, no,- Cazeau never gets drunk.I see; it's jus' simply you feel like me; you hate him.No, I don't hate him,she returned reflectivelyadding with a sudden impulseIt's jus' being married that I detes' an' despise. I hate being Mrs. Cazeau, an' would want to be Athenaise Miche again. I can't stan' to live with a man, to have him always there, his coats an' pantaloons hanging in my room, his ugly bare feet- washing them in my tub, befo' my very eyes, ugh!She shuddered with recollectionsand resumedwith a sigh that was almost a sob: "Mon Dieumon Dieu! Sister Marie Angelique knew w'at she was saying; she knew me better than myse'f w'en she said God had sent me a vocation an' I was turning deaf ears. W'en I think of a blessed life in the conventat peace! Ohw'at was I dreaming of!" and then the tears came.Monteclin felt disconcerted and greatly disappointed at having obtained evidence that would carry no weight with a court of justice. The day had not come when a young woman might ask the court's permission to return to her mamma on the sweeping ground of a constitutional disinclination for marriage. But if there was no way of untying this Gordian knot of marriagethere was surely a way of cutting it.Well, 'Thenaise, I'm mightly durn sorry you got no better groun's 'an w'at you say. But you can count on me to stan' by you w'atever you do. God knows I don' blame you fo' not wantin' to live with Cazeau.And now there was Cazeau himselfwith the red spots flaming in his swarthy cheekslooking and feeling as if he wanted to thrashMonteclin into some semblance of decency. He arose abruptlyand approaching the room which he had seen his wife enterthrust open the door after a hasty preliminary knock. Athenaisewho was standing erect at a far windowturned at his entrance.She appeared neither angry nor frightenedbut thoroughly unhappywith an appeal in her soft dark eyes and a tremor on her lips that seemed to him expressions of unjust reproachthat wounded and maddened him at once. But whatever he might feelCazeau knew only one way to act toward a woman.Athenaise, you are not ready?he asked in his quiet tones. "It's getting late; we havin' any time to lose."She knew that Monteclin had spoken outand she had hoped for a wordy interviewa stormy scenein which she might have held her own as she had held it for the past three days against her familywith Monteclin's aid. But she had no weapon with which to combat subtlety. Her husband's lookshis toneshis mere presencebrought to her a sudden sense of hopelessnessand instinctive realization of the futility of rebellion against a social and sacred institution.Cazeau said nothing furtherbut stood waiting in the doorway. Madame Miche had walked to the far end of the galleryand pretended to be occupied with having a chicken driven from her parterre. Monteclin stood byexasperatedfumingready to burst out.Athenaise went and reached for her riding skirt that hung against the wall. She was rather tallwith a figure whichthough not robustseemed perfect in its fine proportions. "La fille de son pere she was often called, which was a great compliment to Miche. Her brown hair was brushed all fluffily back from her temples and low forehead, and about her features and expression lurked a softness, a prettiness, a dewiness, that were perhaps too childlike, that savored of immaturity. She slipped the riding skirt, which was of black alpaca, over her head, and with impatient fingers hooked it at the waist over her pink linenlawn. Then she fastened on her white sunbonnet and reached for her gloves on the mantel piece. If you don' wan' to goyou know w'at you got to do'Thenaise fumed Monteclin. You don' set yo' feet back on Cane Riverby Godunless you want to- not w'ile I'm alive."Cazeau looked at him as if he were a monkey whose antics fell short of being amusing.Athenaise still made no replysaid not a word. She walked rapidly past her husbandpast her brotherbidding good-by to no onenot even to her mother. She descended the stairsand without assistance from any one mounted the ponywhich Cazeau had ordered to be saddled upon his arrival. In this way she obtained a fair start of her husbandwhose departure was far more leisurelyand for the greater part of the way she managed to keep an appreciable gap between them. She rode almost madly at firstwith the wind inflating her skirt balloonlike about her kneesand her sunbonnet falling back between her shoulders.At no time did Cazeau make an effort to overtake her until traversing an old fallow meadow that was level and hard as a table. The sight of a great solitary oak treewith its seemingly immutable outlinesthat had been a landmark for ages- or was it the odor of elderberry stealing up from the gully to the south? or what was it that brought vividly back to Cazeauby some association of ideasa scene of many years ago? He had passed that old live-oak hundreds of timesbut it was only now that the memory of one day came back to him. He was a very small boy that dayseated before his father on horseback. They were proceeding slowlyand Black Gabe was moving on before them at a little dogtrot. Black Gabe had run awayand had been discovered back in the Gotrain swamp. They had halted beneath this big oak to enable the negro to take breath; for Cazeau's father was a kind and considerate masterand every one had agreed at the time that Black Gabe was a foola great idiot indeedfor wanting to run away from him.The whole impression was for some reason hideousand to dispel it Cazeau spurred his horse to a swift gallop. Overtaking his wifehe rode the remainder of the way at her side in silence.It was late when they reached home. Felicite was standing on the grassy edge of the roadin the moonlightwaiting for them.Cazeau once more ate his supper alonefor Athenaise went to her roomand there she was crying again.IIIAthenaise was not one to accept the inevitable with patient resignationa talent born in the souls of many women; neither was she the one to accept it with philosophical resignationlike her husband. Her sensibilities were alive and keen and responsive. She met the pleasurable things of life with frankopen appreciationand against distasteful conditions she rebelled. Dissimulation was as foreign to her nature as guile to the breast of a babeand her rebellious outbreaksby no means rarehad hitherto been quite open and aboveboard. People often said that Athenaise would know her own mind some daywhich was equivalent to saying that she was at present unacquainted with it. If she ever came to such knowledgeit would be by no intellectual researchby no subtle analyses or tracing the motives of actions to their source. It would come to her as the song to the birdthe perfume and color to the flower.Her parents had hoped- not without reason and justice- that marriage would bring the poisethe desirable poseso glaringly lacking in Athenaise's character. Marriage they knew to be a wonderful and powerful agent in the development and formation of a woman's character; they had seen its effect too often to doubt it.And if this marriage does nothing else,exclaimed Miche in an outburst of sudden exasperationit will rid us of Athenaise, for I am at the end of my patience with her! You have never had the firmness to manage her- he was speaking to his wife- "I have not had the timethe leisureto devote to her training; and what good we might have accomplishedthat maudit Monteclin- WellCazeau is the one! It takes just such a steady hand to guide a disposition like Athenaise'sa master handa strong will that compels obedience."And nowwhen they had hoped for so muchhere was Athenaisewith gathered and fierce vehemencebeside which her former outbursts appeared milddeclaring that she would notand she would notand she would not continue to enact the role of wife to Cazeau. If she had had a reason! as Madame Miche lamented; but it could not be discovered that she had any sane one. He had never scoldedor called namesor deprived her of comfortsor been guilty of any of the many reprehensible acts commonly attributed to objectionable husbands. He did not slight nor neglect her. IndeedCazeau's chief offense seemed to be that he loved herand Athenaise was not the woman to be loved against her will. She called marriage a trap set for the feet of unwary and unsuspecting girlsand in roundunmeasured terms reproached her mother with treachery and deceit.I told you Cazeau was the man,chuckled Michewhen his wife had related the scene that had accompanied and influenced Athenaise's departure.Athenaise again hopedin the morningthat Cazeau would scold ormake some sort of a scenebut he apparently did not dream of it. It was exasperating that he should take her acquiescence so for granted. It is true he had been up and over the fields and across the river and back long before she was out of bedand he may have been thinking of something elsewhich was no excusewhich was even in some sense an aggravation. But he did say to her at breakfastThat brother of yo's, that Monteclin, is unbearable.Monteclin? Par exemple!Athenaiseseated opposite to her husbandwas attired in a white morning wrapper. She wore a somewhat abusedlong faceit is true- an expression of countenance familiar to some husbands- but the expression was not sufficiently pronounced to mar the charm of her youthful freshness. She had little heart to eatonly playing with the food before herand she felt a pang of resentment at her husband's healthy appetite.Yes, Monteclin,he reasserted. "He's developed into a first-class nuisance; an' you better tell himAthenaise- unless you want me to tell him- to confine his energies after this to matters that concern him. I have no use fo' him or fo' his interference in w'at regards you an' me alone."This was said with unusual asperity. It was the little breach that Athenaise had been watching forand she charged rapidly: "It's strangeif you detes' Monteclin so heartilythat you would desire to marry his sister." She knew it was a silly thing to sayand was not surprised when he told her so. It gave her a little foothold for further attackhowever. "I don't seeanyhoww'at reason you had to marry mew'en there were so many others she complained, as if accusing him of persecution and injury. There was Marianne running after you fo' the las' five years till it was disgraceful; an' any one of the Dortrand girls would have been glad to marry you. But nonothing would do; you mus' come out on the rigolet fo' me." Her complaint was patheticand at the same time so amusing that Cazeau was forced to smile.I can't see w'at the Dortrand girls or Marianne have to do with it,he rejoined; addingwith no trace of amusementI married you because I loved you; because you were the woman I wanted to marry, an' the only one. I reckon I tole you that befo'. I thought- of co'se I was a fool fo' taking things fo' granted- but I did think that I might make you happy in making things easier an' mo' comfortable fo' you. I expected- I was even that big a fool- I believed that yo' coming yere to me would be like the sun shining out of the clouds, an' that our days would be like w'at the story-books promise after the wedding. I was mistaken. But I can't imagine w'at induced you to marry me. W'atever it was, I reckon you foun' out you made a mistake, too. I don' see anything to do but make the best of a bad bargain, an' shake han's over it.He had arisen from the tableandapproachingheld out his hand to her. What he had said was commonplace enoughbut it was significantcoming from Cazeauwho was not often so unreserved in expressing himself.Athenaise ignored the hand held out to her. She was resting her chin in her palmand kept her eyes fixed moodily upon the table. He rested his handthat she would not touchupon her head of an instantand walked away out of the room.She heard him giving orders to workmen who had been waiting for him out on the galleryand she heard him mount his horse and ride away. A hundred things would distract him and engage his attention during the day. She felt that he had perhaps put her and her grievance from his thoughts when he crossed the threshold; whilst she-Old Felicite was standing there holding a shining tin pailasking for flour and lard and eggs from the storeroomand meal for the chicks.Athenaise seized the bunch of keys which hung from her belt and flung them at Felicite's feet.Tiens! tu vas les garder comme tu as jadis fait. Je ne veux plus de ce train la, moi!The old woman stooped and picked up the keys from the floor. It was really all one to her that her mistress returned them to her keepingand refused to take further account of the menage.IVIt seemed now to Athenaise that Monteclin was the only friend left to her in the world. Her father and mother had turned from her in what appeared to be her hour of need. Her friends laughed at herand refused to take seriously the hints which she threw out- feeling her way to discover if marriage were as distasteful to other women as to herself. Monteclin alone understood her. He alone had always been ready to act for her and with herto comfort and solace her with his sympathy and his support. Her only hope for rescue from her hateful surroundings lay in Monteclin. Of herself she felt powerless to planto acteven to conceive a way out of this pitfall into which the whole world seemed to have conspired to push her.She had a great desire to see her brother and wrote asking him to come to her. But it better suited Monteclin's spirit of adventure to appoint a meeting place at the turn of the lanewhere Athenaise might appear to be walking leisurely for health and recreationand where he might seem to be riding alongbent on some errand of business or pleasure.There had been a showera sudden downpourshort as it was suddenthat had laid the dust in the road. It had freshened the pointed leaves of the live oaksand brightened up the big fields of cotton on either side of the lane till they seemed carpeted with greenglittering gems.Athenaise walked along the grassy edge of the roadlifting her crisp skirts with one handand with the other twirling a gay sunshade over her bare head. The scent of the fields after the rain was delicious. She inhaled long breaths of their freshness and perfumethat soothed and quieted her for the moment. There were birds splashing and spluttering in the poolspluming themselves on the fence-railsand sending out little sharp criestwittersand shrill rhapsodies of delight.She saw Monteclin approaching from a great distance- almost as far away as the turn of the woods. But she could not feel sure it was he; it appeared too tall for Monteclinbut that was because he was riding a large horse. She waved her parasol to him; she was so glad to see him. She had never been so glad to see Monteclin beforenot even the day when he had taken her out of the conventagainst her parents' wishesbecause she had expressed a desire to remain there no longer. He seemed to heras he drew nearthe embodiment of kindnessof braveryof chivalryeven of wisdomfor she had never known Monteclin at a loss to extricate himself from a disagreeable situation.He dismountedandleading his horse by the bridlestarted to walk beside herafter he had kissed her affectionately and asked her what she was crying about. She protested that she was not cryingfor she was laughingthough drying her eyes at the same time on her handkerchiefrolled in a soft mop for the purpose.She took Monteclin's armand they strolled slowly down the lane; they could not seat themselves for a comfortable chatas they wouldhave likedwith the grass all sparkling and bristling wet.Yesshe was quite as wretched as evershe told him. The week which had gone by since she saw him had in no wise lightened the burden of her discontent. There had even been some additional provocations laid upon herand she told Monteclin all about them- about the keysfor instancewhich in a fit of temper she had returned to Felicite's keeping; and she told how Cazeau had brought them back to her as if they were something she had accidentally lostand he had recovered; and how he had saidin that aggravating tone of histhat it was not the custom on Cane river for the Negro servants to carry the keyswhen there was a mistress at the head of the household.But Athenaise could not tell Monteclin anything to increase the disrespect which he already entertained for his brother-in-law; and it was then he unfolded to her a plan which he had conceived and worked out for her deliverance from this galling matrimonial yoke.It was not a plan which met with instant favorwhich she was at once ready to acceptfor it involved secrecy and dissimulationhateful alternativesboth of them. But she was filled with admiration for Monteclin's resources and wonderful talent for contrivance. She accepted the plan; not with the immediate determination to act upon itrather with the intention to sleep and to dream upon it.Three days later' she wrote to Monteclin that she had abandoned herself to his counsel. Displeasing as it might be to her sense of honestyit would yet be less trying than to live on with a soul full of bitterness and revoltas she had done for the past two months.VWhen Cazeau awokeone morning at his usual very early hourit was to find the place at his side vacant. This did not surprise him until he discovered that Athenaise was not in the adjoining roomwhere he had often found her sleeping in the morning on the lounge. She had perhaps gone out for an early strollhe reflectedfor her jacket and hat were not on the rack where she had hung them the night before. But there were other things absent- a gown or two from the armoire; and there was a great gap in the piles of lingerie on the shelf; and her traveling-bag was missingand so were her bits of jewelry from the toilet tray- and Athenaise was gone!But the absurdity of going during the nightas if she had been a prisonerand he the keeper of a dungeon! So much secrecy and mysteryto go sojourning out on the Bon Dieu! Wellthe Miches might keep their daughter after this. For the companionship of no woman on earth would he again undergo the humiliating sensation of baseness that had overtaken him in passing the old oak-tree in the fallow meadow.But a terrible sense of loss overwhelmed Cazeau. It was not new or sudden; he had felt it for weeks growing upon himand it seemed to culminate with Athenaise's flight from home. He knew that he could again compel her return as he had done once before- compel her to return to the shelter of his roofcompel her cold and unwilling submission to his love and passionate transports; but the loss of self-respect seemed to him too dear a price to pay for a wife.He could not comprehend why she had seemed to prefer him above others; why she had attracted him with eyeswith voicewith a hundred womanly waysand finally distracted him with love which she seemedin her timidmaidenly fashionto return. The great sense of loss came from the realization of having missed a chance for happiness- a chance that would come his way again only through a miracle. He could not think of himself loving any other womanand could not think of Athenaise ever- even at some remote date- caring for him.He wrote her a letterin which he disclaimed any further intention of forcing his commands upon her. He did not desire her presence ever again in his home unless she came of her free willuninfluenced by family or friends; unless she could be the companion he had hoped for in marrying herand in some measure return affection and respect for the love which he continued and would always continue to feel for her. This letter he sent out to the rigolet by a messenger early in the day. But she was not out on the rigoletand had not been there.The family turned instinctively to Monteclinand almost literally fell upon him for an explanation; he had been absent from home all night. There was much mystification in his answersand a plain desire to mislead in his assurances of ignorance and innocence.But with Cazeau there was no doubt or speculation when he accosted the young fellow. "Monteclinw'at have you done with Athenaise?" he questioned bluntly. They had met in the open road on horsebackjust as Cazeau ascended the river bank before his house.W'at have you done to Athenaise?returned Monteclin for answer.I don't reckon you've considered yo' conduct by any light of decency an' propriety in encouraging yo' sister to such an action, but let me tell you-Voyons! you can let me alone with yo' decency an' morality an' fiddlesticks. I know you mus' 'a' done Athenaise pretty mean that she can't live with you; an' fo' my part, I'm mighty durn glad she had the spirit to quit you.I ain't in the humor to take any notice of yo' impertinence, Monteclin; but let me remine you that Athenaise is nothing but a chile in character; besides that, she's my wife, an' I hole you responsible fo' her safety an' welfare. If any harm of any description happens to her, I'll strangle you, by God, like a rat, and fling you in Cane river, if I have to hang fo' it!He had not lifted his voice. The only sign of anger was a savage gleam in his eyes.I reckon you better keep yo' big talk fo' the women, Cazeau,replied Monteclinriding away.But he went doubly armed after thatand intimated that the precaution was not needlessin view of the threats and menaces that were abroad touching his personal safety.VIAthenaise reached her destination sound of skin and limbbut a good deal flustereda little frightenedand altogether excited and interested by her unusual experiences.Her destination was the house of Sylvieon Dauphine Streetin New Orleans- a three-story gray brickstanding directly on the banquettewith three broad stone steps leading to the deep front entrance. From the second-story balcony swung a small signconveying to passers-by the intelligence that within were2"chambres garnies." 4It was one morning in the last week of April that Athenaise presented herself at the Dauphine Street house. Sylvie was expecting herand introduced her at once to her apartmentwhich was in the second story of the back elland accessible by an openoutside gallery. There was a yard belowpaved with broad stone flagging; manyfragrant flowering shrubs and plants grew in a bed along the side of the opposite walland others were distributed about in tubs and green boxes.It was a plain but large enough room into which Athenaise was usheredwith matting on the floorgreen shades and Nottingham lace curtains at the windows that looked out on the galleryand furnished with a cheap walnut suit. But everything looked exquisitely cleanand the whole place smelled of cleanliness.Athenaise at once fell into the rocking-chairwith the air of exhaustion and intense relief of one who has come to the end of her troubles. Sylvieentering behind herlaid the big traveling-bag on the floor and deposited the jacket on the bed.She was a portly quadroon of fifty or thereaboutclad in an ample$volante 4 of the old-fashioned purple calico so much affected by her class. She wore large golden hoop-earringsand her hair was combed plainlywith every appearance of effort to smooth out the kinks. She had broadcoarse featureswith a nose that turned upexposing the wide nostrilsand that seemed to emphasize the loftiness and command of her bearing- a dignity that in the presence of white people assumed a character of respectfulnessbut never of obsequiousness. Sylvie believed firmly in maintaining the colorlineand would not suffer a white personeven a childto call her "Madame Sylvie"- a title which she exacted religiouslyhoweverfrom those of her own race.I hope you be please' wid yo' room, madame,she observed amiably. "Dat's de same room w'at yo' brotherM'sieur Micheall time like w'en he come to New Orlean'. He wellM'sieur Miche? I receive' his letter las' weekan' dat same day a gent'man want I give 'im dat room. I say'Nodat room already ingage'.' Ev-body like dat room on 'count it so quite (quiet). M'sieur Gouvernaildere in nax' roomyou can't pay 'im! He been stay t'ree year' in dat room; but all fix' up fine wid his own furn'ture an' books'tel you can't see! I say to 'im plenty time''M'sieur Gouvernailw'y you don't take dat t'ree-story frontnowlong it's empty?' He tells me'Leave me 'loneSylvie; I know a good room w'en I fine itme.'"She had been moving slowly and majestically about the apartmentstraightening and smoothing down bed and pillowspeering into ewer and basinevidently casting an eye around to make sure that everything was as it should be.I sen' you some fresh water, Madame,she offered upon retiring from the room. "An' w'en you want an't'ingyou jus' go out on de gall'ry an' call Pousette: she year you plain- she right down dere in de kitchen."Athenaise was really not so exhausted as she had every reason to be after that interminable and circuitous way by which Monteclin had seen fit to have her conveyed to the city.Would she ever forget that dark and truly dangerous midnight ride along the "coast" to the mouth of Cane river! There Monteclin had parted with herafter seeing her aboard the St. Louis and Shreveport packet which he knew would pass there before dawn. She had received instructions to disembark at the mouth of Red riverand there transfer to the first south-bound steamer for New Orleansall of which instructions she had followed implicitlyeven to making her way at once to Sylvie's upon her arrival in the city. Monteclin had enjoined secrecy and much caution; the clandestine nature of the affair gave it a savor of adventure which was highly pleasing to him. Eloping with his sister was only a little less engaging than eloping with some one else's sister.But Monteclin did not do the2grand seigneur 4 by halves. He had paid Sylvie a whole month in advance for Athenaise's board and lodging. Part of the sum he had been forced to borrowit is truebut he was not niggardly.Athenaise was to take her meals in the housewhich none of the other lodgers did; the one exception being that Mr. Gouvernail was served with breakfast on Sunday mornings.Sylvie's clientele came chiefly from the southern parishes; for the most partpeople spending but a few days in the city. She prided herself upon the quality and highly respectable character of her patronswho came and went unobtrusively.The large parlor opening upon the front balcony was seldom used. Her guests were permitted to entertain in this sanctuary of elegance- but they never did. She often rented it for the night to parties of respectable and discreet gentlemen desiring to enjoy a quiet game of cards outside the bosom of their families. The second-story hall also led by a long window out on the balcony. And Sylvie advised Athenaisewhen she grew weary of her back roomto go and sit on the front balconywhich was shady in the afternoonand where she might find diversion in the sounds and sights of the street below.Athenaise refreshed herself with a bathand was soon unpacking her few belongingswhich she ranged neatly away in the bureau drawers and the armoire.She had revolved certain plans in her mind during the past hour or so. Her present intention was to live on indefinitely in this bigcool clean back room on Dauphine street. She had thought seriouslyfor momentsof the conventwith all readiness to embrace the vows of poverty and chastity; but what about obedience? Latershe intendedin some roundabout wayto give her parents and her husband the assurance of her safety and welfarereserving the right to remain unmolested and lost to them. To live on at the expense of Monteclin's generosity was wholly out of the questionand Athenaise meant to look about for some suitable and agreeable employment.The imperative thing to be done at presenthoweverwas to go out in search of material for an inexpensive gown or two; for she found herself in the painful predicament of a young woman having almost literally nothing to wear. She decided upon pure white for oneand some sort of a sprigged muslin for the other.VIIOn Sunday morningtwo days after Athenaise's arrival in the cityshe went in to breakfast somewhat later than usualto find two covers laid at table instead of the one to which she was accustomed. She had been to massand did not remove her hatbut put her fanparasoland prayerbook aside. The dining-room was situated just beneath her own apartmentandlike all rooms of the housewas large and airy; the floor was covered with a glistening oilcloth.The smallround tableimmaculately setwas drawn near the open window. There were some tall plants in boxes on the gallery outside; and Pousettea littleoldintensely black womanwas splashing and dashing buckets of water on the flaggingand talking loud in her Creole patois to no one in particular.A dish piled with delicate river shrimps and crushed ice was on the table; a caraffe of crystal-clear watera few2hors d'oeuvres4 beside a small golden-brown crusty loaf of French bread at each plate. A half-bottle of wine and the morning paper were set at the place opposite Athenaise.She had almost completed her breakfast when Gouvernail came in and seated himself at table. He felt annoyed at finding his cherished privacy invaded. Sylvie was removing the remains of a mutton chop frombefore Athenaiseand serving her with a cup of cafe au lait.M'sieur Gouvernail,offered Sylvie in her most insinuating and impressive manneryou please leave me make you acquaint' wid Madame Cazeau. Dat's M'sieur Miche's sister; you meet 'im two t'ree time', you rec'lec', an' been one day to de race wid 'im. Madame Cazeau, you please leave me make you acquaint' wid M'sieur Gouvernail.Gouvernail expressed himself greatly pleased to meet the sister of Monsieur Micheof whom he had not the slightest recollection. He inquired after Monsieur Miche's healthand politely offered Athenaise a part of his newspaper- the part which contained the Woman's Page and the social gossip.Athenaise faintly remembered that Sylvie had spoken of a Monsieur Gouvernail occupying the room adjoining hersliving amid luxurious surroundings and a multitude of books. She had not thought of him further than to picture him a stoutmiddle-aged gentlemanwith a bushy beard turning graywearing large gold-rimmed spectaclesand stooping somewhat from much bending over books and writing material. She had confused him in her mind with the likeness of some literary celebrity that she had run across in the advertising pages of a magazine.Gouvernail's appearance wasin truthin no sense striking. He looked older than thirty and younger than fortywas of medium height and weightwith a quietunobtrusive manner which seemed to ask that he be let alone. His hair was light brownbrushed carefully and parted in the middle. His mustache was brownand so were his eyeswhich had a mildpenetrating quality. He was neatly dressed in the fashion of the day; and his hands seemed to Athenaise remarkably white and soft for a man's.He had been buried in the contents of his newspaperwhen he suddenly realized that some further little attention might be due to Miche's sister. He started to offer her a glass of winewhen he was surprised and relieved to find that she had quietly slipped away while he was absorbed in his own editorial on Corrupt Legislation.Gouvernail finished his paper and smoked his cigar out on the gallery. He lounged aboutgathered a rose for his buttonholeand had his regular Sunday-morning confab with Pousetteto whom he paid a weekly stipend for brushing his shoes and clothing. He made a great pretense of haggling over the transactiononly to enjoy her uneasiness and garrulous excitement.He worked or read in his room for a few hoursand when he quitted the houseat three in the afternoonit was to return no more till late at night. It was his almost invariable custom to spend Sunday evenings out in the American quarteramong a congenial set of men and women-2des esprits forts4 all of themwhose lives were irreproachableyet whose opinions would startle even the traditional "sapeur for whom nothing is sacred." But for all his "advanced" opinionsGouvernail was a liberal-minded fellow; a man or woman lost nothing of his respect by being married.When he left the house in the afternoonAthenaise had already ensconced herself on the front balcony. He could see her through the jalousies when he passed on his way to the front entrance. She had not yet grown lonesome or homesick; the newness of her surroundings made them sufficiently entertaining. She found it diverting to sit there on the front balcony watching people pass byeven though there was no one to talk to. And then the comfortingcomfortable sense of not being married!She watched Gouvernail walk down the streetand could find no fault with his bearing. He could hear the sound of her rockers for some little distance. He wondered what the "poor little thing" was doing in the cityand meant to ask Sylvie about her when he should happen to think of it.VIIIThe following morningtowards noonwhen Gouvernail quitted his roomhe was confronted by Athenaiseexhibiting some confusion and trepidation at being forced to request a favor of him at so early a stage of their acquaintance. She stood in her doorwayand had evidently been sewingas the thimble on her finger testifiedas well as a long-threaded needle thrust in the bosom of her gown. She held a stamped but unaddressed letter in her hand.And would Mr. Gouvernail be so kind as to address the letter to her brotherMr. Monteclin Miche? She would hate to detain him with explanations this morning- another timeperhaps- but now she begged that he would give himself the trouble.He assured her that it made no differencethat it was no trouble whatever; and he drew a fountain pen from his pocket and addressed the letter at her dictationresting it on the inverted rim of his straw hat. She wondered a little at a man of his supposed erudition stumbling over the spelling of "Monteclin" and "Miche."She demurred at overwhelming him with the additional trouble of posting itbut he succeeded in convincing her that so simple a task as the posting of a letter would not add an iota to the burden of the day. Moreoverhe promised to carry it in his handand thus avoid any possible risk of forgetting it in his pocket.After thatand after a second repetition of the favorwhen she had told him that she had had a letter from Monteclinand looked as if she wanted to tell him morehe felt that he knew her better. He felt that he knew her well enough to join her out on the balconyone nightwhen he found her sitting there alone. He was not one who deliberately sought the society of womenbut he was not wholly a bear. A little commiseration for Athenaise's alonenessperhaps some curiosity to know further what manner of woman she wasand the natural influence of her feminine charm were equal unconfessed factors in turning his steps towards the balcony when he discovered the shimmer of her white gown through the open hall window.It was already quite latebut the day had been intensely hotand neighboring balconies and doorways were occupied by chattering groups of humanityloath to abandon the grateful freshness of the outer air. The voices about her served to reveal to Athenaise the feeling of loneliness that was gradually coming over her. Nothwithstanding certain dormant impulsesshe craved human sympathy and companionship.She shook hands impulsively with Gouvernailand told him how glad she was to see him. He was not prepared for such an admissionbut it pleased him immenselydetecting as he did that the expression was as sincere as it was outspoken. He drew a chair up within comfortable conversational distance of Athenaisethough he had no intention of talking more than was barely necessary to encourage Madame- He had actually forgotten her name!He leaned an elbow on the balcony railand would have offered an opening remark about the oppressive heat of the daybut Athenaise did not give him the opportunity. How glad she was to talk to someoneand how she talked!An hour later she had gone to her roomand Gouvernail stayed smoking on the balcony. He knew her quite well after that hour's talk. It was not so much what she had said as what her half saying had revealed to his quick intelligence. He knew that she adored Monteclinand he suspected that she adored Cazeau without being herself aware of it. He had gathered that she was self-willedimpulsiveinnocentignorantunsatisfieddissatisfied; for had she not complained that things seemed all wrongly arranged in this worldand no one was permitted to be happy in his own way? And he told her he was sorry she had discovered that primordial fact of existence so early in life.He commiserated her lonelinessand scanned his bookshelves next morning for something to lend her to readrejecting everything that offered itself to his view. Philosophy was out of the questionand so was poetry; that issuch poetry as he possessed. He had not sounded her literary tastesand strongly suspected she had none; that she would have rejected The Duchess as readily as Mrs. Humphrey Ward. He compromised on a magazine.It had entertained her passablyshe admittedupon returning it. A New England story had puzzled herit was trueand a Creole tale had offended herbut the pictures had pleased her greatlyespecially one which had reminded her so strongly of Monteclin after a hard day's ride that she was loath to give it up. It was one of Remington's Cowboysand Gouvernail insisted upon her keeping it- keeping the magazine.He spoke to her daily after thatand was always eager to render her some service or to do something towards her entertainment.One afternoon he took her out to the lake end. She had been there oncesome years beforebut in winterso the trip was comparatively new and strange to her. The large expanse of water studded with pleasure-boatsthe sight of children playing merrily along the grassy palisadesthe musicall enchanted her. Gouvernail thought her the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Even her gown- the sprigged muslin- appeared to him the most charming one imaginable. Nor could anything be more becoming than the arrangement of her brown hair under the white sailor hatall rolled back in a soft puff from her radiant face. And she carried her parasol and lifted her skirts and used her fan in ways that seemed quite unique and peculiar to herselfand which he considered almost worthy of study and imitation.They did not dine out there at the water's edgeas they might have donebut returned early to the city to avoid the crowd. Athenaise wanted to go homefor she said Sylvie would have dinner prepared and would be expecting her. But it was not difficult to persuade her to dine instead in the quiet little restaurant that he knew and likedwith its sanded floorits secluded atmosphereits delicious menuand its obsequious waiter wanting to know what he might have the honor of serving to "monsieur et madame." No wonder he made the mistakewith Gouvernail assuming such an air of proprietorship! But Athenaise was very tired after it all; the sparkle went out of her faceand. she hung draggingly on his arm in walking home.He was reluctant to part from her when she bade him good-night at her door and thanked him for the agreeable evening. He had hoped she would sit outside until it was time for him to regain the newspaper office. He knew that she would undress and get into her peignoir and lie upon her bed; and what he wanted to dowhat he would have given much to dowas to go and sit beside herread to her something restfulsoothe herdo her biddingwhatever it might be. Of course there was no use in thinking of that. But he was surprised at his growing desire to be serving her. She gave him an opportunity sooner than he looked for.Mr. Gouvernail,she called from her roomwill you be so kine as to call Pousette an' tell her she fo'got to bring my ice water?He was indignant at Pousette's negligenceand called severely to her over the banisters. He was sitting before his own doorsmoking. He knew that Athenaise had gone to bedfor her room was darkand she had opened the slats of the door and windows. Her bed was near a window.Pousette came flopping up with the ice waterand with a hundred excuses: "Mo pa oua vou a tab c'te lanuitemo cri vou pe gagni deja la-bas; parole! Vou pas cri conte ca Madame Sylvie?" She had not seen Athenaise at tableand thought she was gone. She swore to thisand hoped Madame Sylvie would not be informed of her remissness.A little later Athenaise lifted her voice again: "Mr. Gouvernaildid you remark that young man sitting on the opposite side from uscoming inwith a gray coat an' a blue ban' aroun' his hat?"Of course Gouvernail had not noticed any such individualbut he assured Athenaise that he had observed the young fellow particularly.Don't you think he looked something- not very much, of co'se- but don't you think he had a little faux-air of Monteclin?I think he looked strikingly like Monteclin,asserted Gouvernailwith the one idea of prolonging the conversation. "I meant to call your attention to the resemblanceand something drove it out of my head."The same with me,returned Athenaise. "Ahmy dear Monteclin! I wonder w'at he is doing now?"Did you receive any news, any letter from him today?asked Gouvernaildetermined that if the conversation ceased it should not be through lack of effort on his part to sustain it.Not today, but yesterday. He tells me that maman was so distracted with uneasiness that finally, to pacify her, he was fo'ced to confess that he knew w'ere I was, but that he was boun' by a vow of secrecy not to reveal it. But Cazeau has not noticed him or spoken to him since he threaten' to throw po' Monteclin in Cane river. You know Cazeau wrote me a letter the morning I lef', thinking I had gone to the rigolet. An' maman opened it, an' said it was full of the mos' noble sentiments, an' she wanted Monteclin to sen' it to me; but Monteclin refuse' poin' blank, so he wrote to me.Gouvernail preferred to talk of Monteclin. He pictured Cazeau as unbearableand did not like to think of him.A little later Athenaise called outGood night, Mr. Gouvernail.Good night,he returned reluctantly. And when he thought that she was sleepinghe got up and went away to the midnight pandemonium of his newspaper office.IXAthenaise could not have held out through the month had it not been for Gouvernail. With the need of caution and secrecy always uppermost in her mindshe made no new acquaintancesand she did not seek out persons already known to her; howevershe knew so fewit required little effort to keep out of their way. As for Sylviealmost every moment of her time was occupied in looking after her house; andmoreoverher deferential attitude towards her lodgers forbade anything like the gossipy chats in which Athenaise might have condescended sometimes to indulge with her landlady. The transient lodgerswho came and wentshe never had occasion to meet. Hence she was entirely dependent upon Gouvernail for company.He appreciated the situation fully; and every moment that he could spare from his work he devoted to her entertainment. She liked to be out of doorsand they strolled together in the summer twilight through the mazes of the old French quarter. They went again to the lake endand stayed for hours on the water; returning so late thatthe streets through which they passed were silent and deserted. On Sunday morning he arose at an unconscionable hour to take her to the French marketknowing that the sights and sounds there would interest her. And he did not join the intellectual coterie in the afternoonas he usually didbut placed himself all day at the disposition and service of Athenaise.Notwithstanding allhis manner toward her was tactfuland evinced intelligence and a deep knowledge of her charactersurprising upon so brief an acquaintance. For the time he was everything to her that she would have him; he replaced home and friends. Sometimes she wondered if he had ever loved a woman. She could not fancy him loving anyone passionatelyrudelyoffensivelyas Cazeau loved her. Once she was so naive as to ask him outright if he had ever been in loveand he assured her promptly that he had not. She thought it an admirable trait in his characterand esteemed him greatly therefor.He found her crying one nightnot openly or violently. She was leaning over the gallery railwatching the toads that hopped about in the moonlightdown on the damp flagstones of the courtyard. There was an oppressively sweet odor rising from the cape jessamine. Pousette was down theremumbling and quarreling with someoneand seeming to be having it all her own way- as well she mightwhen her companion was only a black cat that had come in from a neighboring yard to keep her company.Athenaise did admit feeling heartsickbody-sickwhen he questioned her; she supposed it was nothing but homesick. A letter from Monteclin had stirred her all up. She longed for her motherfor Monteclin; she was sick for a sight of the cotton fieldsthe scent of the ploughed earthfor the dimmysterious charm of the woodsand the old tumble-down home on the Bon Dieu.As Gouvernail listened to hera wave of pity and tenderness swept through him. He took her hands and pressed them against him. He wondered what would happen if he were to put his arms around her.He was hardly prepared for what happenedbut he stood it courageously. She twined her arms around his neck and wept outright on his shoulder; the hot tears scalding his cheek and neckand her whole body shaken in his arms. The impulse was powerful to strain her to him; the temptation was fierce to seek her lips; but he did neither.He understood a thousand times better than she herself understood it that he was acting as substitute for Monteclin. Bitter as the conviction washe accepted it. He was patient; he could wait. He hoped some day to hold her with a lover's arms. That she was married made no particle of difference to Gouvernail. He could not conceive or dream of it making a difference. When the time came that she wanted him- as he hoped and believed it would come- he felt he would have a right to her. So long as she did not want himhe had no right to her- no more than her husband had. It was very hard to feel her warm breath and tears upon his cheekand her struggling bosom pressed against him and her soft arms clinging to him and his whole body and soul aching for herand yet to make no sign.He tried to think what Monteclin would have said and doneand to act accordingly. He stroked her hairand held her in a gentle embraceuntil the tears dried and the sobs ended. Before releasing herself she kissed him against the neck; she had to love somebody in her own way! Even that he endured like a stoic. But it was well he left herto plunge into the thick of rapidbreathlessexacting work till nearly dawn.Athenaise was greatly soothedand slept well. The touch of friendly hands and caressing arms had been very grateful. Henceforward she would not be lonely and unhappywith Gouvernail there to comfort her.XThe fourth week of Athenaise's stay in the city was drawing to a close. Keeping in view the intention which she had of finding some suitable and agreeable employmentshe had made a few tentatives in that direction. But with the exception of two little girls who had promised to take piano lessons at a price that would be embarrassing to mentionthese attempts had been fruitless. Moreoverthe homesickness kept coming backand Gouvernail was not always there to drive it away.She spent much of her time weeding and pottering among the flowers down in the courtyard. She tried to take an interest in the black catand a mockingbird that hung in a cage outside the kitchen doorand a disreputable parrot that belonged to the cook next doorand swore hoarsely all day long in bad French.Besideshe was not well; she was not herselfas she told Sylvie. The climate of New Orleans did not agree with her. Sylvie was distressed to learn thisas she felt in some measure responsible for the health and well being of Monsieur Miche's sister; and she made it her duty to inquire closely into the nature and character of Athenaise's malaise.Sylvie was very wiseand Athenaise was very ignorant. The extent of her ignorance and the depth of her subsequent enlightenment were bewildering. She stayed a longlong time quite stillquite stunnedafter her interview with Sylvieexcept for the shortuneven breathing that ruffled her bosom. Her whole being was steeped in a wave of ecstasy. When she finally arose from the chair in which she had been seatedand looked at herself in the mirrora face met hers which she seemed to see for the first timeso transfigured was it with wonder and rapture.One mood quickly followed anotherin this new turmoil of her sensesand the need of action became uppermost. Her mother must know at onceand her mother must tell Monteclin. And Cazeau must know. As she thought of himthe first purely sensuous tremor of her life swept over her. She half whispered his nameand the sound of it brought red blotches into her cheeks. She spoke it over and overas if it were some newsweet sound born out of darkness and confusionand reaching her for the first time. She was impatient to be with him. Her whole passionate nature was aroused as if by a miracle.She seated herself to write to her husband. The letter he would get in the morningand she would be with him at night. What would he say? How would he act? She knew that he would forgive herfor had he not written a letter?- and a pang of resentment toward Monteclin shot through her. What did he mean by withholding that letter? How dared he not have sent it?Athenaise attired herself for the streetand went out to post the letter which she had penned with a single thoughta spontaneous impulse. It would have seemed incoherent to most peoplebut Cazeau would understand.She walked along the street as if she had fallen heir to some magnificent inheritance. On her face was a look of pride and satisfaction that passers-by noticed and admired. She wanted to talk to some oneto tell some person; and she stopped at the corner and told the oyster-womanwho was Irishand who God-blessed herand wished prosperity to the race of Cazeaus for generations to come. She held the oyster-woman's fatdirty little baby in her arms and scanned it curiously and observinglyas if a baby were a phenomenonthat she encountered for the first time in life. She even kissed it!Then what a relief it was to Athenaise to walk the streets without dread of being seen and recognized by some chance acquaintance from Red River! No one could have said now that she did not know her own mind.She went directly from the oyster-woman's to the office of Harding & Offdeanher husband's merchants; and it was with such an air of partnershipalmost proprietorshipthat she demanded a sum of money on her husband's accountthey gave it to her as unhesitatingly as they would have handed it over to Cazeau himself. When Mr. Hardingwho knew herasked politely after her healthshe turned so rosy and looked so conscioushe thought it a great pity for so pretty a woman to be such a little goose.Athenaise entered a dry-goods store and bought all manner of things-little presents for nearly everybody she knew. She bought whole bolts of sheerestsoftestdowniest white stuff; and when the clerkin trying to meet her wishesasked if she intended it for infant's useshe could have sunk through the floorand wondered how he might have suspected it.As it was Monteclin who had taken her away from her husbandshe wanted it to be Monteclin who should take her back to him. So she wrote him a very curt note- in fact it was a postal card- asking that he meet her at the train on the evening following. She felt convinced that after what had gone beforeCazeau would await her at their own home; and she preferred it so.Then there was the agreeable excitement of getting ready to leaveof packing up her things. Pousette kept coming and goingcoming and going; and each time that she quitted the room it was with something that Athenaise had given her- a handkerchiefa petticoata pair of stockings with two tiny holes at the toessome broken prayer-beadsand finally a silver dollar.Next it was Sylvie who came along bearing a gift of what she called "a set of pattern'"- things of complicated design which never could have been obtained in any newfangled bazaar or pattern storethat Sylvie had acquired of a foreign lady of distinction whom she had nursed years before at the St. Charles hotel. Athenaise accepted and handled them with reverencefully sensible of the great compliment and favorand laid them religiously away in the trunk which she had lately acquired.She was greatly fatigued after the day of unusual exertionand went early to bed and to sleep. All day long she had not once thought of Gouvernailand only did think of him when aroused for a brief instant by the sound of his footfalls on the galleryas he passed in going to his room. He had hoped to find her upwaiting for him.But the next morning he knew. Some one must have told him. There was no subject known to her which Sylvie hesitated to discuss in detail with any man of suitable years and discretion.Athenaise found Gouvernail waiting with a carriage to convey her to the railway station. A momentary pang visited her for having forgotten him so completelywhen he said to her. "Sylvie tells me you are going away this morning."He was kindattentiveand amiableas usualbut respected to the utmost the new dignity and reserve that her manner had developed since yesterday. She kept looking from the carriage windowsilentand embarrassed as Eve after losing her ignorance. He talked of the muddy streets and the murky morningand of Monteclin. He hoped she would find everything comfortable and pleasant in the countryand trusted she would inform him whenever she came to visit the city again. He talked as if afraid or mistrustful of silence and himself.At the station she handed him her purseand he bought her ticketsecured for her a comfortable sectionchecked her trunkand got all the bundles and things safely aboard the train. She felt very grateful. He pressed her hand warmlylifted his hatand left her. He was a man of intelligenceand took defeat gracefully; that was all. But as he made his way back to the carriagehe was thinkingBy heaven, it hurts, it hurts!XIAthenaise spent a day of supreme happiness and expectancy. The fair sight of the country unfolding itself before her was balm to her vision and to her soul. She was charmed with the rather unfamiliarbroadclean sweep of the sugar plantationswith their monster sugar housestheir rows of neat cabins like little villages of a single streetand their impressive homes standing apart amid clusters of trees. There were sudden glimpses of a bayou curling between sunnygrassy banksor creeping sluggishly out from a tangled growth of woodand brushand fernand poison-vinesand palmettos. And passing through the long stretches of monotonous woodlandsshe would close her eyes and taste in anticipation the moment of her meeting with Cazeau. She could think of nothing but him.It was night when she reached her station. There was Monteclinas she had expectedwaiting for her with a two-seated buggyto which he had hitched his own swift-footedspirited pony. It was goodhe feltto have her back on any terms; and he had no fault to find since she came of her own choice. He more than suspected the cause of her coming; her eyes and her voice and her foolish little manner went far in revealing the secret that was brimming over in her heart. But after he had deposited her at her own gateand as he continued his way toward the rigolethe could not help feeling that the affair had taken a very disappointingan ordinarya most commonplace turnafter all. He left her in Cazeau's keeping.Her husband lifted her out of the buggyand neither said a word until they stood together within the shelter of the gallery. Even then they did not speak at first. But Athenaise turned to him with an appealing gesture. As he clasped her in his armshe felt the yielding of her whole body against him. He felt her lips for the first time respond to the passion of his own.The country night was dark and warm and stillsave for the distant notes of an accordion which some one was playing in a cabin away off. A little Negro baby was crying somewhere. As Athenaise withdrew from her husband's embracethe sound arrested her.Listen, Cazeau! How Juliette's baby is crying! Pauvre ti chou, I wonder w'at is the matter with it?THE END