A No-Account Creole

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Author: Kate Chopin  | Date: 1894

VII

The spring came early in Orville, and so subtly that no one could tell exactly when it began. But one morning the roses were so luscious in Placide’s sunny parterres, the peas and bean vines and borders of strawberries so rank in his trim vegetable patches, that he called out lustily, "No, mo’ winta, Judge!" to the staid Judge Blount, who went ambling by on his gray pony.

"There’s right smart o’ folks don’t know it, Santien," responded the judge, with occult meaning that might be applied to certain indebted clients back on the bayou who had not broken land yet. Ten minutes later the judge observed sententiously, and apropos of nothing, to a group that stood waiting for the post-office to open:

"I see Santien’s got that noo fence o’ his painted. And a pretty piece o’ work it is," he added reflectively.

"Look lack Placide goin’ pent mo’ ’an de fence," sagaciously snickered ’Tit-Edouard, a strolling2maigre-echine 4 of indefinite occupation. "I seen ’im, me, pesterin’ wid all kine o’ pent on a piece o’ bo’d yistiday."

"I knows he gwine paint mo’ ’an de fence," emphatically announced Uncle Abner, in a tone that carried conviction. "He gwine paint de house; dat what he gwine do. Did n’ Marse Luke Williams orda de paints? An’ did n’ I done kyar’ ’em up dah myse’f?"

Seeing the deference with which this positive piece of knowledge was received, the judge coolly changed the subject by announcing that Luke Williams’s Durham bull had broken a leg the night before in Luke’s new pasture ditch- a piece of news that fell among his hearers with telling, if paralytic effect.

But most people wanted to see for themselves these astonishing things that Placide was doing. And the young ladies of the village strolled slowly by of afternoons in couples and arm in arm. If Placide happened to see them, he would leave his work to hand them a fine rose or a bunch of geraniums over the dazzling white fence. But if it chanced to be ’Tit-Edouard or Luke Williams, or any of the young men of Orville, he pretended not to see them, or to hear the ingratiating cough that accompanied their lingering footsteps.

In his eagerness to have his home sweet and attractive for Euphrasie’s coming, Placide had gone less frequently than ever before up to Natchitoches. He worked and whistled and sang until the yearning for the girl’s presence became a driving need; then he would put away his tools and mount his horse as the day was closing, and away he would go across bayous and hills and fields until he was with her again. She had never seemed to Placide so lovable as she was then. She had grown more womanly and thoughtful. Her cheek had lost much of its color, and the light in her eyes flashed less often. But her manner had gained a something of pathetic tenderness toward her lover that moved him with an intoxicating happiness. He could hardly wait with patience for that day in early April which would see the fulfillment of his lifelong hopes.

After Euphrasie’s departure from New Orleans, Offdean told himself honestly that he loved the girl. But being yet unsettled in life, he felt it was no time to think of marrying, and, like the worldly-wise young gentleman that he was, resolved to forget the little Natchitoches girl. He knew it would be an affair of some difficulty, but not an impossible thing, so he set about forgetting her.

The effort made him singularly irascible. At the office he was gloomy and taciturn; at the club he was a bear. A few young ladies whom he called upon were astonished and distressed at the cynical views of life which he had so suddenly adopted.

When he had endured a week or more of such humor, and inflicted it upon others, he abruptly changed his tactics. He decided not to fight against his love for Euphrasie. He would not marry her- certainly not, but he would let himself love her to his heart’s bent, until that love should die a natural death, and not a violent one as he had designed. He abandoned himself completely to his passion, and dreamed of the girl by day and thought of her by night. How delicious had been the scent of her hair, the warmth of her breath, the nearness of her body, that rainy day when they stood close together upon the veranda! He recalled the glance of her honest, beautiful eyes, that told him things which made his heart beat fast now when he thought of them. And then her voice! Was there another like it when she laughed or when she talked! Was there another woman in the world possessed of so alluring a charm as this one he loved!

He was not bearish now, with these sweet thoughts crowding his brain and thrilling his blood, but he sighed deeply, and worked languidly, and enjoyed himself listlessly.

One day he sat in his room puffing the air thick with sighs and smoke, when a thought came suddenly to him- an inspiration, a very message from heaven, to judge from the cry of joy with which he greeted it. He sent his cigar whirling through the window, over the stone paving of the street, and he let his head fall down upon his arms, folded upon the table.

It had happened to him, as it does to many, that the solution of a vexed question flashed upon him when he was hoping least for it. He positively laughed aloud, and somewhat hysterically. In the space of a moment he saw the whole delicious future which a kind fate had mapped out for him: those rich acres upon the Red River his own, bought and embellished with his inheritance; and Euphrasie, whom he loved, his wife and companion throughout a life such as he knew now he had craved for- a life that, imposing bodily activity, admits the intellectual repose in which thought unfolds.

Wallace Offdean was like one to whom a divinity had revealed his vocation in life- no less a divinity because it was love. If doubts assailed him of Euphrasie’s consent, they were soon stilled. For had they not spoken over and over to each other the mute and subtile language of reciprocal love- but under the forest trees, and in the quiet nighttime on the plantation when the stars shone? And never so plainly as in the stately old drawing-room down on Esplanade Street. Surely no other speech was needed then, save such as their eyes told. Oh, he knew that she loved him; he was sure of it! The knowledge made him all the more eager now to hasten to her, to tell her that he wanted her for his very own.

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Chicago: Kate Chopin, "VII," A No-Account Creole Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LJ7C1IHHLZYLXW5.

MLA: Chopin, Kate. "VII." A No-Account Creole, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LJ7C1IHHLZYLXW5.

Harvard: Chopin, K, 'VII' in A No-Account Creole. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=LJ7C1IHHLZYLXW5.