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<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Their freedom of expression was at first incomprehensible to her,
though she had no difficulty in reconciling it with a lofty
chastity which in the Creole woman seems to be inborn and

Never would Edna Pontellier forget the shock with which she
heard Madame Ratignolle relating to old Monsieur Farival the
harrowing story of one of her accouchements, withholding no
intimate detail. She was growing accustomed to like 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 Robert was 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 in secret and solitude, though none of
the others had done so,--to hide it from view at the sound of
approaching footsteps. It was openly criticised and freely
discussed at table. Mrs. Pontellier gave over being astonished,
and concluded that wonders would never cease.


They formed a congenial group sitting there that summer
afternoon--Madame Ratignolle sewing away, often stopping to relate
a story or incident with much expressive gesture of her perfect
hands; Robert and Mrs. Pontellier sitting idle, exchanging
occasional words, glances or smiles which indicated a certain
advanced stage of intimacy and camaraderie.

He had lived in her shadow during the past month. No one
thought anything of it. Many had predicted that Robert would
devote himself to Mrs. Pontellier when he arrived. Since the age
of fifteen, which was eleven years before, Robert each summer at
Grand Isle had constituted himself the devoted attendant of some
fair dame or damsel. Sometimes it was a young girl, again a widow;
but as often as not it was some interesting married woman.

For two consecutive seasons he lived in the sunlight of
Mademoiselle Duvigne's presence. But she died between summers;
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