by Kate Chopin
|It was still quite light out of doors, but inside with the|
curtains drawn and the smouldering fire sending out a dim,
uncertain glow, the room was full of deep shadows.
Brantain sat in one of these shadows; it had overtaken him and
he did not mind. The obscurity lent him courage to keep his eves
fastened as ardently as he liked upon the girl who sat in the
She was very handsome, with a certain fine, rich coloring that
belongs to the healthy brune type. She was quite composed, as she
idly stroked the satiny coat of the cat that lay curled in her lap,
and she occasionally sent a slow glance into the shadow where her
companion sat. They were talking low, of indifferent things which
plainly were not the things that occupied their thoughts. She knew
that he loved her--a frank, blustering fellow without guile enough
to conceal his feelings, and no desire to do so. For two weeks past
he had sought her society eagerly and persistently. She was
confidently waiting for him to declare himself and she meant to
accept him. The rather insignificant and unattractive Brantain was
enormously rich; and she liked and required the entourage which
wealth could give her.
During one of the pauses between their talk of the last tea
and the next reception the door opened and a young man
entered whom Brantain knew quite well. The girl turned her
face toward him. A stride or two brought him to her side, and
bending over her chair--before she could suspect his intention,
for she did not realize that he had not seen her visitor--he pressed
an ardent, lingering kiss upon her lips.
Brantain slowly arose; so did the girl arise, but quickly, and
the newcomer stood between them, a little amusement and some
defiance struggling with the confusion in his face.
"I believe," stammered Brantain, "I see that I have stayed
I--I had no idea--that is, I must wish you good-by." He was clutching
his hat with both hands, and probably did not perceive that she was
extending her hand to him, her presence of mind had not completely
deserted her; but she could not have trusted herself to speak.
"Hang me if I saw him sitting there, Nattie! I know it's
deuced awkward for you. But I hope you'll forgive me this
once--this very first break. Why, what's the matter?"
"Don't touch me; don't come near me," she returned angrily.
"What do you mean by entering the house without ringing?"
"I came in with your brother, as I often do," he answered
coldly, in self-justification. "We came in the side way. He went
upstairs and I came in here hoping to find you. The explanation is
simple enough and ought to satisfy you that the misadventure was
unavoidable. But do say that you forgive me, Nathalie," he
"Forgive you! You don't know what you are talking about. Let
me pass. It depends upon--a good deal whether I ever forgive you."
At that next reception which she and Brantain had been talking
about she approached the young man with a delicious frankness of
manner when she saw him there.
"Will you let me speak to you a moment or two, Mr. Brantain?"
she asked with an engaging but perturbed smile. He seemed
extremely unhappy; but when she took his arm and walked
away with him, seeking a retired corner, a ray of hope
mingled with the almost comical misery of his expression.
She was apparently very outspoken.
"Perhaps I should not have sought this interview, Mr.
Brantain; but--but, oh, I have been very uncomfortable, almost
miserable since that little encounter the other afternoon. When I
thought how you might have misinterpreted it, and believed things"
--hope was plainly gaining the ascendancy over misery in Brantain's
round, guileless face--"Of course, I know it is nothing to you, but
for my own sake I do want you to understand that Mr. Harvy is an
intimate friend of long standing. Why, we have always been like
cousins--like brother and sister, I may say. He is my brother's
most intimate associate and often fancies that he is entitled to
the same privileges as the family. Oh, I know it is absurd,
uncalled for, to tell you this; undignified even," she was almost
weeping, "but it makes so much difference to me what you think
of--of me." Her voice had grown very low and agitated. The misery had
all disappeared from Brantain's face.
"Then you do really care what I think, Miss Nathalie? May I
call you Miss Nathalie?" They turned into a long, dim corridor that
was lined on either side with tall, graceful plants. They walked
slowly to the very end of it. When they turned to retrace their
steps Brantain's face was radiant and hers was triumphant.
Harvy was among the guests at the wedding; and he sought her
out in a rare moment when she stood alone.
"Your husband," he said, smiling, "has sent me over to kiss
A quick blush suffused her face and round polished throat. "I
suppose it's natural for a man to feel and act generously on an
occasion of this kind. He tells me he doesn't want his marriage to
interrupt wholly that pleasant intimacy which has existed between
you and me. I don't know what you've been telling him," with an
insolent smile, "but he has sent me here to kiss you."
She felt like a chess player who, by the clever handling of
his pieces, sees the game taking the course intended. Her eyes
were bright and tender with a smile as they glanced up into his;
and her lips looked hungry for the kiss which they invited.
"But, you know," he went on quietly, "I didn't tell him
so, it would have seemed ungrateful, but I can tell you. I've
stopped kissing women; it's dangerous."
Well, she had Brantain and his million left. A person can't
have everything in this world; and it was a little unreasonable of
her to expect it.