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At Fault   By: (1850-1904)

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[Transcriber's note: There was no table of contents in the original book; one has been added in this project to ease the navigation.]

At Fault

by Kate Chopin

Part I.

I. The Mistress of Place du Bois. II. At the Mill. III. In the Pirogue. IV. A Small Interruption. V. In the Pine Woods. VI. Melicent Talks. VII. Painful Disclosures. VIII. Treats of Melicent. IX. Face to Face. X. Fanny's Friends. XI. The Self Assumed Burden. XII. Severing Old Ties.

Part II.

I. Fanny's First Night at Place du Bois. II. "Neva to See You!" III. A Talk Under the Cedar Tree. IV. Thérèse Crosses the River. V. One Afternoon. VI. One Night. VII. Melicent Leaves Place du Bois. VIII. With Loose Rein. IX. The Reason Why. X. Perplexing Things. XI. A Social Evening. XII. Tidings That Sting. XIII. Melicent Hears the News. XIV. A Step Too Far. XV. A Fateful Solution. XVI. To Him Who Waits. XVII. Conclusion.

PART I

I

The Mistress of Place du Bois.

When Jérôme Lafirme died, his neighbors awaited the results of his sudden taking off with indolent watchfulness. It was a matter of unusual interest to them that a plantation of four thousand acres had been left unincumbered to the disposal of a handsome, inconsolable, childless Creole widow of thirty. A bêtise of some sort might safely be looked for. But time passing, the anticipated folly failed to reveal itself; and the only wonder was that Thérèse Lafirme so successfully followed the methods of her departed husband.

Of course Thérèse had wanted to die with her Jérôme, feeling that life without him held nothing that could reconcile her to its further endurance. For days she lived alone with her grief; shutting out the appeals that came to her from the demoralized "hands," and unmindful of the disorder that gathered about her. Till Uncle Hiram came one day with a respectful tender of sympathy, offered in the guise of a reckless misquoting of Scripture and with a grievance.

"Mistuss," he said, "I 'lowed 'twar best to come to de house an' tell you; fur Massa he alluz did say 'Hi'urm, I counts on you to keep a eye open endurin' my appersunce;' you ricollic, marm?" addressing an expanse of black bordered cambric that veiled the features of his mistress. "Things is a goin' wrong; dat dey is. I don't wants to name no names 'doubt I'se 'bleeged to; but dey done start a kiarrin' de cotton seed off de place, and dats how."

If Hiram's information had confined itself to the bare statement of things "goin' wrong," such intimation, of its nature vague and susceptible of uncertain interpretation, might have failed to rouse Thérèse from her lethargy of grief. But that wrong doing presented as a tangible abuse and defiance of authority, served to move her to action. She felt at once the weight and sacredness of a trust, whose acceptance brought consolation and awakened unsuspected powers of doing.

In spite of Uncle Hiram's parting prediction "de cotton 'll be a goin' naxt" no more seed was hauled under cover of darkness from Place du Bois.

The short length of this Louisiana plantation stretched along Cane River, meeting the water when that stream was at its highest, with a thick growth of cotton wood trees; save where a narrow convenient opening had been cut into their midst, and where further down the pine hills started in abrupt prominence from the water and the dead level of land on either side of them. These hills extended in a long line of gradual descent far back to the wooded borders of Lac du Bois; and within the circuit which they formed on the one side, and the irregular half circle of a sluggish bayou on the other, lay the cultivated open ground of the plantation rich in its exhaustless powers of reproduction.

Among changes which the railroad brought soon after Jérôme Lafirme's death, and which were viewed by many as of questionable benefit, was one which drove Thérèse to seek another domicile... Continue reading book >>




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