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glowed. She had absolutely no taste in dress, and wore a batch of
rusty black lace with a bunch of artificial violets pinned to the
side of her hair.
"Ask Mrs. Pontellier what she would like to hear me play," she
requested of Robert. She sat perfectly still before the piano, not
touching the keys, while Robert carried her message to Edna at the
window. A general air of surprise and genuine satisfaction fell
upon every one as they saw the pianist enter. There was a settling
down, and a prevailing air of expectancy everywhere. Edna was a
trifle embarrassed at being thus signaled out for the imperious
little woman's favor. She would not dare to choose, and begged
that Mademoiselle Reisz would please herself in her selections.
Edna was what she herself called very fond of music. Musical
strains, well rendered, had a way of evoking pictures in her mind.
She sometimes liked to sit in the room of mornings when Madame
Ratignolle played or practiced. One piece which that lady played
Edna had entitled "Solitude." It was a short, plaintive, minor
strain. The name of the piece was something else, but she called
it "Solitude." When she heard it there came before her imagination
the figure of a man standing beside a desolate rock on the
seashore. He was naked. His attitude was one of hopeless
resignation as he looked toward a distant bird winging its flight
away from him.
Another piece called to her mind a dainty young woman clad in
an Empire gown, taking mincing dancing steps as she came down a
long avenue between tall hedges. Again, another reminded her of
children at play, and still another of nothing on earth but a
demure lady stroking a cat.
The very first chords which Mademoiselle Reisz struck upon the
piano sent a keen tremor down Mrs. Pontellier's spinal column. It
was not the first time she had heard an artist at the piano.
Perhaps it was the first time she was ready, perhaps the first time
her being was tempered to take an impress of the abiding truth.
She waited for the material pictures which she thought would
gather and blaze before her imagination. She waited in vain. She
saw no pictures of solitude, of hope, of longing, or of despair.
But the very passions themselves were aroused within her soul,
swaying it, lashing it, as the waves daily beat upon her splendid
body. She trembled, she was choking, and the tears blinded her.