The Awakening, and Other Stories

By Kate Chopin; Pamela Knights | Go to book overview
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The bayou* curved like a crescent around the point of land on which La Folle's cabin stood. Between the stream and the hut lay a big abandoned field, where cattle were pastured when the bayou supplied them with water enough. Through the woods that spread back into unknown regions the woman who lived in the hut had drawn an imaginary line, and past this circle she never stepped. All was flaming red beyond there, La Folle believed. This was the form of her only mania.

She was now a large, gaunt, black woman, past thirty-five years of age. Her real name was Jacqueline, but every one on the plantation called her La Folle, or the Crazy Woman, because she had been frightened literally "out of her senses" in childhood.

On that far-past day, which was in the time of the Civil War,* there had been skirmishing and sharpshooting all day in the woods. Evening was near when P'tit Ma?i?tre, -- the young master, -- black with powder and crimson with blood, had staggered into the cabin of Jacqueline's mother. His pursuers were close at his heels.

The horror of that spectacle had stunned Jacqueline's childish reason. And so all across the bayou seemed to her aflame with blood color, alternating with black.

Alone she dwelt in her solitary cabin. The rest of the quarters had long since been removed* beyond her sight and knowledge. She had more physical strength than most men, and made her patch of cotton and corn and tobacco like the best of them. Of the world beyond the bayou she had long known nothing, save what her morbid imagination conceived.

People across the bayou at Bellissime* had grown used to her and her way, and they thought nothing of it. Even when "Old Mis"' died, La Folle had not crossed the bayou. She had stood upon her side of it, wailing and lamenting. This did not astonish the people at Bellissime. They would have been amazed had she overcome her fear of everything beyond the water.

P'tit Ma?i?tre was now the owner of Bellissime. He was a middleaged man, with a family of beautiful daughters about him, and a little son whom La Folle loved as if he had been her own. He had often


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