Katherine O’Flaherty Chopin was born in 1850 in St. Louis, Missouri, to an affluent family. She was formally educated in a Catholic school for girls. At age twenty, she married Oscar Chopin and moved with him to New Orleans. The couple eventually relocated to Cloutierville in 1879, an area where many members of the Creole community lived. The Chopins lived, worked, and raised their six children to gether until Oscar died unexpectedly in 1882, leaving his wife in serious debt. Chopin worked and sold the family business to pay off the debt, eventually moving back to St. Louis to be near her mother, who died soon after Chopin returned. After experiencing these losses, Chopin turned to reading and writing to deal with her grief. Her experiences in New Orleans and Cloutierville provided rich writing material, and during the 1890s, she enjoyed success as a writer, publishing a number of stories in the Local Color tradition. By 1899, her style had evolved, and her important work The Awakening, published that year, shocked the Victorian audience of the time in its frank depiction of a woman’s sexuality. Unprepared for the negative critical reception that ensued, Chopin retreated from the publishing world. She died unexpectedly a few years later in 1904, from a brain hemorrhage.
In her lifetime, Chopin was known primarily as a Local Color writer who produced a number of important short stories, many of which were collected in Bayou Folk in 1894. Her ground breaking novel The Awakening published in 1899 was ahead of its time in the examination of the rigid cultural and legal boundaries placed on women which limited or prevented them from living authentic, fully self-directed lives. The novel offers a sensuous portrait of a young married woman and mother, Edna Pontellier, who awakens to herself as a dimensional human being with sexual longings and a strong will to live an authentic life, not the repressed half life she is assigned by tradition and culture, through the institutions of marriage and motherhood, to “perform.”
Though today it is viewed as an important early feminist work, the novel shocked and offended the turn of the century reading audience. It was all but forgotten until interest in the novel and in Chopin’s work in general was revived inthe 1960s. During this revival, an unpublished short story was discovered, “The Storm,” written in 1898 but not published until 1969. The story, which offers an erotic depiction of sex between a man and a woman who are not married to each other, would have been unpublishable by most, if not all, major literary magazines in late nineteenth-century America. The story’s title indicates that it was intended as a sequel to “At the ‘Cadian Ball,” first published in 1892 and reprinted in Bayou Folk. Read together, the linked stories concern two couples, one from the upper class Creoles (Alcée and Clarisse), and the other from the less prominent Acadians or Cajuns (Calixta and Bobinôt). What begins as a strong flirtation in the first story between Calixta and Alcée, both single at the time and from different social classes, culminates in torrid lovemaking years later in the second story, years after Calixta had married Bobinôt and Alcée had married Clarisse. Beyond the candid, natural depiction of sexual intimacy between the lovers during a stormy afternoon, including the scenes of a woman clearly enjoying an afternoon of passion, the story offers a non judgmental ending: no one appears to be hurt by the affair; in fact, after the storm passes, Alcée and Calixta go their separate ways, and everyone, the reader is told, is quite happy.
2.8.1 “At The ‘Cadian Ball”
Bobinôt, that big, brown, good-natured Bobinôt, had no intention of going to the ball, even though he knew Calixta would be there. For what came of those balls but heartache, and a sickening disinclination for work the whole week through, till Saturday night came again and his tortures began afresh? Why could he not love Ozéina, who would marry him to-morrow; or Fronie, or any one of a dozen others, rather than that little Spanish vixen? Calixta’s slender foot had never touched Cuban soil; but her mother’s had, and the Spanish was in her blood all the same. For that reason the prairie people forgave her much that they would not have overlooked in their own daughters or sisters.
Her eyes, Bobinôt thought of her eyes, and weakened, the bluest, the drowsiest, most tantalizing that ever looked into a man’s, he thought of her flaxen hair that kinked worse than a mulatto’s close to her head; that broad, smiling mouth and tip tilted nose, that full figure; that voice like a rich contralto song, with cadences in it that must have been taught by Satan, for there was no one else to teach her tricks on that ‘Cadian prairie. Bobinôt thought of them all as he plowed his rows of cane.
There had even been a breath of scandal whispered about her a year ago, when she went to Assumption, but why talk of it? No one did now. “C’est Espagnol, ça,” most of them said with lenient shoulder-shrugs. “Bon chien tient de race,” the old men mumbled over their pipes, stirred by recollections. Nothing was made of it, except that Fronie threw it up to Calixta when the two quarreled and fought on the church steps after mass one Sunday, about a lover. Calixta swore roundly in fine ‘Cadian French and with true Spanish spirit, and slapped Fronie’s face. Fronie had slapped her back; “Tiens, bocotte, va!” “Espèce de lionèse; prends ça, et ça!” till the curé himself was obliged to hasten and make peace between them. Bobinôt thought of it all, and would not go to the ball.
But in the afternoon, over at Friedheimer’s store, where he was buying a trace chain, he heard some one say that Alcée Laballèire would be there. Then wild horses could not have kept him away. He knew how it would be or rather he did not know how it would be if the handsome young planter came over to the ball as he sometimes did. If Alcée happened to be in a serious mood, he might only go to the card-room and play a round or two; or he might stand out on the galleries talking crops and politics with the old people. But there was no telling. A drink or two could put the devil in his head, that was what Bobinôt said to himself, as he wiped the sweat from his brow with his red bandanna; a gleam from Calixta’s eyes, a flash of her ankle, a twirl of her skirts could do the same. Yes, Bobinôt would go to the ball.
That was the year Alcée Laballière put nine hundred acres in rice. It was putting a good deal of money into the ground, but the returns promised to be glorious. Old Madame Laballière, sailing about the spacious galleries in her white volante, figured it all out in her head. Clarisse, her goddaughter helped her a little, and together they built more air-castles than enough. Alcée worked like a mule that time; and if he did not kill himself, it was because his constitution was an iron one. It was an every-day affair for him to come in from the field well-nigh exhausted, and wet to the waist. He did not mind if there were visitors; he left them to his mother and Clarisse. There were often guests: young men and women who came up from the city, which was but a few hours away, to visit his beautiful kinswoman. She was worth going a good deal farther than that to see. Dainty as a lily; hardy as a sunflower; slim, tall, graceful, like one of the reeds that grew in the marsh. Cold and kind and cruel by turn, and everything that was aggravating to Alcée.
He would have liked to sweep the place of those visitors, often. Of the men, above all, with their ways and their manners; their swaying of fans like women, and dandling about hammocks. He could have pitched them over the levee into the river, if it hadn’t meant murder. That was Alcée. But he must have been crazy the day he came in from the ricefield, and, toil stained as he was, clasped Clarisse by the arms and panted a volley of hot, blistering love words into her face. No man had ever spoken love to her like that.
“Monsieur!” she exclaimed, looking him full in the eyes, without a quiver. Alcée’s hands dropped and his glance wavered before the chill of her calm, clear eyes. “Par exemple!” she muttered disdainfully, as she turned from him, deftly adjusting the careful toilet that he had so brutally disarranged.
That happened a day or two before the cyclone came that cut into the rice like fine steel. It was an awful thing, coming so swiftly, without a moment’s warning in which to light a holy candle or set a piece of blessed palm burning. Old madame wept openly and said her beads, just as her son Didier, the New Orleans one, would have done. If such a thing had happened to Alphonse, the Laballière planting cotton up in Natchitoches, he would have raved and stormed like a second cyclone, and made his surroundings unbearable for a day or two. But Alcée took the misfortune differently. He looked ill and gray after it, and said nothing. His speechlessness was frightful. Clarisse’s heart melted with tenderness; but when she offered her soft, purring words of condolence, he accepted them with mute indifference. Then she and her nénaine wept afresh in each other’s arms.
A night or two later, when Clarisse went to her window to kneel there in the moonlight and say her prayers before retiring, she saw that Bruce, Alcée’s negro servant, had led his master’s saddle-horse noiselessly along the edge of the sward that bordered the gravel-path, and stood holding him near by. Presently, she heard Alcée quit his room, which was beneath her own, and traverse the lower portico. As he emerged from the shadow and crossed the strip of moonlight, she perceived that he carried a pair of well-filled saddle-bags which he at once flung across the animal’s back. He then lost no time in mounting, and after a brief exchange of words with Bruce, went cantering away, taking no precaution to avoid the noisy gravel as the negro had done.
Clarisse had never suspected that it might be Alcée’s custom to sally forth from the plantation secretly, and at such an hour; for it was nearly midnight. And had it not been for the telltale saddle-bags, she would only have crept to bed, to wonder, to fret and dream unpleasant dreams. But her impatience and anxiety would not be held in check. Hastily unbolting the shutters of her door that opened upon the gallery, she stepped outside and called softly to the old negro.
“Gre’t Peter! Miss Clarisse. I was n’ sho it was a ghos’ o’ w’at, stan’in’ up dah, plumb in de night, dataway.”
He mounted halfway up the long, broad flight of stairs. She was standing at the top.
“Bruce, w’ere has Monsieur Alcée gone?” she asked.
“W’y, he gone ‘bout he business, I reckin,” replied Bruce, striving to be noncommittal at the outset.
“W’ere has Monsieur Alcée gone?” she reiterated, stamping her bare foot. “I won’t stan’ any nonsense or any lies; mine, Bruce.”
“I don’ ric’lic ez I eva tole you lie yit, Miss Clarisse. Mista Alcée, he all broke up, sho.”
“W’ere has he gone? Ah, Sainte Vierge! faut de la patience! butor, va!”
“W’en I was in he room, a-breshin’ off he clo’es to-day,” the darkey began, settling himself against the stair-rail, “he look dat speechless an’ down, I say, ‘You ‘pear tu me like some pussun w’at gwine have a spell o’ sickness, Mista Alcée.’ He say, ‘You reckin?’ ‘I dat he git up, go look hisse’f stiddy in de glass. Den he go to de chimbly an’ jerk up de quinine bottle an po’ a gre’t hoss-dose on to he han’. An’ he swalla dat mess in a wink, an’ wash hit down wid a big dram o’ w’iskey w’at he keep in he room, aginst he come all soppin’ wet outen de fiel’.
“He ‘lows, ‘No, I ain’ gwine be sick, Bruce.’ Den he square off. He say, ‘I kin mak out to stan’ up an’ gi’ an’ take wid any man I knows, lessen hit ‘s John L. Sulvun. But w’en God A’mighty an’ a ‘omen jines fo’ces agin me, dat ‘s one too many fur me.’ I tell ‘im, ‘Jis so,’ while’ I ‘se makin’ out to bresh a spot off w’at ain’ dah, on he coat colla. I tell ‘im, ‘You wants li’le res’, suh.’ He say, ‘No, I wants li’le fling; dat w’at I wants; an I gwine git it. Pitch me a fis’ful o’ clo’es in dem ‘ar saddle-bags.’ Dat w’at he say. Don’t you bodda, missy. He jis’ gone a-caperin’ yonda to de Cajun ball. Uh uh de skeeters is fair’ a-swarmin’ like bees roun’ yo’ foots!”
The mosquitoes were indeed attacking Clarisse’s white feet savagely. She had unconsciously been alternately rubbing one foot over the other during the darkey’s recital.
“The ‘Cadian ball,” she repeated contemptously. “Humph! Par exemple! Nice conduc’ for a Laballière. An’ he needs a saddle-bag, fill’ with clothes, to go to the ‘Cadian ball!”
“Oh, Miss Clarisse; you go on to bed, chile; git yo’ soun’ sleep. He ‘low he come back in couple weeks o’ so. I kiarn be repeatin’ lot o’ truck w’at young mans say, out heah face o’ a young gal.”
Clarisse said no more, but turned and abruptly reentered the house.
“You done talk too much wid yo’ mouf already, you ole fool nigga, you,” muttered Bruce to himself as he walked away.
Alcée reached the ball very late, of course too late for the chicken gumbo which had been served at midnight.
The big, low-ceiled room they called it a hall was packed with men and women dancing to the music of three fiddles. There were broad galleries all around it. There was a room at one side where sober-faced men were playing cards. Another, in which babies were sleeping, was called le parc aux petits. Any one who is white may go to a ‘Cadian ball, but he must pay for his lemonade, his coffee and chicken gumbo. And he must behave himself like a ‘Cadian. Grosboeuf was giving this ball. He had been giving them since he was a young man, and he was a middle-aged one, now. In that time he could recall but one disturbance, and that was caused by American railroaders, who were not in touch with their surroundings and had no business there. “Ces maudits gens du raiderode,” Grosboeuf called them.
Alcée Laballière’s presence at the ball caused a flutter even among the men, who could not but admire his “nerve” after such misfortune befalling him. To be sure, they knew the Laballières were rich that there were resources East, and more again in the city. But they felt it took a brave homme to stand a blow like that philosophically. One old gentleman, who was in the habit of reading a Paris newspaper and knew things, chuckled gleefully to everybody that Alcée’s conduct was altogether chic, mais chic. That he had more panache than Boulanger. Well, perhaps he had.
But what he did not show outwardly was that he was in a mood for ugly things to-night. Poor Bobinôt alone felt it vaguely. He discerned a gleam of it in Alcée’s handsome eyes, as the young planter stood in the doorway, looking with rather feverish glance upon the assembly, while he laughed and talked with a ‘Cadian farmer who was beside him.
Bobinôt himself was dull-looking and clumsy. Most of the men were. But the young women were very beautiful. The eyes that glanced into Alcée’s as they passed him were big, dark, soft as those of the young heifers standing out in the cool prairie grass.
But the belle was Calixta. Her white dress was not nearly so handsome or well made as Fronie’s (she and Fronie had quite forgotten the battle on the church steps, and were friends again), nor were her slippers so stylish as those of Ozéina; and she fanned herself with a handkerchief, since she had broken her red fan at the last ball, and her aunts and uncles were not willing to give her another. But all the men agreed she was at her best to-night. Such animation! and abandon! such flashes of wit!
“Hé, Bobinôt! Mais w’at’s the matta? W’at you standin’ planté là like ole Ma’ame Tina’s cow in the bog, you?”
That was good. That was an excellent thrust at Bobinôt, who had forgotten the figure of the dance with his mind bent on other things, and it started a clamor of laughter at his expense. He joined good-naturedly. It was better to receive even such notice as that from Calixta than none at all. But Madame Suzonne, sitting in a corner, whispered to her neighbor that if Ozéina were to conduct herself in a like manner, she should immediately be taken out to the mule-cart and driven home. The women did not always approve of Calixta.
Now and then were short lulls in the dance, when couples flocked out upon the galleries for a brief respite and fresh air. The moon had gone down pale in the west, and in the east was yet no promise of day. After such an interval, when the dancers again assembled to resume the interrupted quadrille, Calixta was not among them.
She was sitting upon a bench out in the shadow, with Alcée beside her. They were acting like fools. He had attempted to take a little gold ring from her finger; just for the fun of it, for there was nothing he could have done with the ring but replace it again. But she clinched her hand tight. He pretended that it was a very difficult matter to open it. Then he kept the hand in his. They seemed to forget about it. He played with her ear-ring, a thin crescent of gold hanging from her small brown ear. He caught a wisp of the kinky hair that had escaped its fastening, and rubbed the ends of it against his shaven cheek.
“You know, last year in Assumption, Calixta?” They belonged to the younger generation, so preferred to speak English.
“Don’t come say Assumption to me, M’sieur Alcée. I done yeard Assumption till I ‘m plumb sick.”
“Yes, I know. The idiots! Because you were in Assumption, and I happened to go to Assumption, they must have it that we went together. But it was nice hein, Calixta? in Assumption?”
They saw Bobinôt emerge from the hall and stand a moment outside the lighted doorway, peering uneasily and searchingly into the darkness. He did not see them, and went slowly back.
“There is Bobinôt looking for you. You are going to set poor Bobinôt crazy. You’ll marry him some day; hein, Calixta?”
“I don’t say no, me,” she replied, striving to withdraw her hand, which he held more firmly for the attempt.
“But come, Calixta; you know you said you would go back to Assumption, just to spite them.”
“No, I neva said that, me. You mus’ dreamt that.”
“Oh, I thought you did. You know I ‘m going down to the city.”
“Betta make has’e, then; it ‘s mos’ day.”
“Well, to-morrow ‘ll do.”
“W’at you goin’ do, yonda?”
“I don’t know. Drown myself in the lake, maybe; unless you go down there to visit your uncle.”
Calixta’s senses were reeling; and they well-nigh left her when she felt Alcée’s lips brush her ear like the touch of a rose.
“Mista Alcée! Is dat Mista Alcée?” the thick voice of a negro was asking; he stood on the ground, holding to the banister-rails near which the couple sat. “W’at do you want now?” cried Alcée impatiently. “Can’t I have a moment of peace?”
“I ben huntin’ you high an’ low, suh,” answered the man. “Dey dey some one
in de road, onda de mulbare-tree, want see you a minute.”
“I would n’t go out to the road to see the Angel Gabriel. And if you come back
here with any more talk, I ‘ll have to break your neck.” The negro turned mumbling away.
Alcée and Calixta laughed softly about it. Her boisterousness was all gone. They talked low, and laughed softly, as lovers do.
“Alcée! Alcée Laballière!”
It was not the negro’s voice this time; but one that went through Alcée’s body like an electric shock, bringing him to his feet.
Clarisse was standing there in her riding-habit, where the negro had stood. For an instant confusion reigned in Alcée’s thoughts, as with one who awakes suddenly from a dream. But he felt that something of serious import had brought his cousin to the ball in the dead of night.
“W’at does this mean, Clarisse?” he asked.
“It means something has happen’ at home. You mus’ come.”
“Happened to maman?” he questioned, in alarm.
“No; nénaine is well, and asleep. It is something else. Not to frighten you. But you mus’ come. Come with me, Alcée.”
There was no need for the imploring note. He would have followed the voice anywhere.
She had now recognized the girl sitting back on the bench. “Ah, c’est vous, Calixta? Comment ça va, mon enfant?”“Tcha va b’en; et vous, mam’zélle?”
Alcée swung himself over the low rail and started to follow Clarisse, without a word, without a glance back at the girl. He had forgotten he was leaving her there. But Clarisse whispered something to him, and he turned back to say “Good-night, Calixta,” and offer his hand to press through the railing. She pretended not to see it.
“How come that? You settin’ yere by yo’se’f, Calixta?” It was Bobinôt who had found her there alone. The dancers had not yet come out. She looked ghastly in the faint, gray light struggling out of the east.
“Yes, that ‘s me. Go yonda in the parc aux petits an’ ask Aunt Olisse fu’ my hat. She knows w’ere ‘t is. I want to go home, me.”
“How you came?”
“I come afoot, with the Cateaus. But I ‘m goin’ now. I ent goin’ wait fu’ ‘em. I ‘m plumb wo’ out, me.”
“Kin I go with you, Calixta?”
“I don’ care.”
They went together across the open prairie and along the edge of the fields, stumbling in the uncertain light. He told her to lift her dress that was getting wet and bedraggled; for she was pulling at the weeds and grasses with her hands.
“I don’ care; it ‘s got to go in the tub, anyway. You been sayin’ all along you want to marry me, Bobinôt. Well, if you want, yet, I don’ care, me.”
The glow of a sudden and overwhelming happiness shone out in the brown, rugged face of the young Acadian. He could not speak, for very joy. It choked him. “Oh well, if you don’ want,” snapped Calixta, flippantly, pretending to be piqued at his silence.
“Bon Dieu! You know that makes me crazy, w’at you sayin’. You mean that,
Calixta? You ent goin’ turn roun’ agin?”
“I neva tole you that much yet, Bobinôt. I mean that. Tiens,” and she held out her hand in the business-like manner of a man who clinches a bargain with a hand-clasp. Bobinôt grew bold with happiness and asked Calixta to kiss him. She turned her face, that was almost ugly after the night’s dissipation, and looked steadily into his.
“I don’ want to kiss you, Bobinôt,” she said, turning away again, “not to-day. Some other time. Bonté divine! ent you satisfy, yet!”
“Oh, I ‘m satisfy, Calixta,” he said.
Riding through a patch of wood, Clarisse’s saddle became ungirted, and she and Alcée dismounted to readjust it.
For the twentieth time he asked her what had happened at home. “But, Clarisse, w’at is it? Is it a misfortune?”
“Ah Dieu sait!” It ‘s only something that happen’ to me.”
“I saw you go away las night, Alcée, with those saddle-bags,” she said, haltingly, striving to arrange something about the saddle, “an’ I made Bruce tell me. He said you had gone to the ball, an’ wouldn’ be home for weeks an’ weeks. I thought, Alcée maybe you were going to to Assumption. I got wild. An’ then I knew if you didn’t come back, now, to-night, I could n’t stan’ it,again.”
She had her face hidden in her arm that she was resting against the saddle when she said that.
He began to wonder if this meant love. But she had to tell him so, before he believed it. And when she told him, he thought the face of the Universe was changed just like Bobinôt. Was it last week the cyclone had well-nigh ruined him? The cyclone seemed a huge joke, now. It was he, then, who, an hour ago was kissing little Calixta’s ear and whispering nonsense into it. Calixta was like a myth, now. The one, only, great reality in the world was Clarisse standing before him, telling him that she loved him.
In the distance they heard the rapid discharge of pistol-shots; but it did not disturb them. They knew it was only the negro musicians who had gone into the yard to fire their pistols into the air, as the custom is, and to announce “le bal est fini.”
2.8.2 ”The Storm”
The leaves were so still that even Bibi thought it was going to rain. Bobinôt, who was accustomed to converse on terms of perfect equality with his little son, called the child’s attention to certain sombre clouds that were rolling with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar. They were at Friedheimer’s store and decided to remain there till the storm had passed. They sat within the door on two empty kegs. Bibi was four years old and looked very wise.
“Mama’ll be ‘fraid, yes, he suggested with blinking eyes.
“She’ll shut the house. Maybe she got Sylvie helpin’ her this evenin’,” Bobinôt responded reassuringly.
“No; she ent got Sylvie. Sylvie was helpin’ her yistiday,’ piped Bibi.
Bobinôt arose and going across to the counter purchased a can of shrimps, of which Calixta was very fond. Then he returned to his perch on the keg and sat stolidly holding the can of shrimps while the storm burst. It shook the wooden store and seemed to be ripping great furrows in the distant field. Bibi laid his little hand on his father’s knee and was not afraid.
Calixta, at home, felt no uneasiness for their safety. She sat at a side window sewing furiously on a sewing machine. She was greatly occupied and did not notice the approaching storm. But she felt very warm and often stopped to mop her face on which the perspiration gathered in beads. She unfastened her white sacque at the throat. It began to grow dark, and suddenly realizing the situation she got up hurriedly and went about closing windows and doors.
Out on the small front gallery she had hung Bobinôt’s Sunday clothes to dry and she hastened out to gather them before the rain fell. As she stepped outside, Alcée Laballière rode in at the gate. She had not seen him very often since her marriage, and never alone. She stood there with Bobinôt’s coat in her hands, and the big rain drops began to fall. Alcée rode his horse under the shelter of a side projection where the chickens had huddled and there were plows and a harrow piled up in the corner.
“May I come and wait on your gallery till the storm is over, Calixta?” he asked.
Come ‘long in, M’sieur Alcée.”
His voice and her own startled her as if from a trance, and she seized Bobinôt’s vest. Alcée, mounting to the porch, grabbed the trousers and snatched Bibi’s braided jacket that was about to be carried away by a sudden gust of wind. He expressed an intention to remain outside, but it was soon apparent that he might as well have been out in the open: the water beat in upon the boards in driving sheets, and he went inside, closing the door after him. It was even necessary to put something beneath the door to keep the water out.
“My! what a rain! It’s good two years sence it rain’ like that,” exclaimed Calixta as she rolled up a piece of bagging and Alcée helped her to thrust it beneath the crack.
She was a little fuller of figure than five years before when she married; but she had lost nothing of her vivacity. Her blue eyes still retained their melting quality; and her yellow hair, dishevelled by the wind and rain, kinked more stubbornly than ever about her ears and temples.
The rain beat upon the low, shingled roof with a force and clatter that threatened to break an entrance and deluge them there. They were in the dining room the sitting room the general utility room. Adjoining was her bed room, with Bibi’s couch along side her own. The door stood open, and the room with its white, monumental bed, its closed shutters, looked dim and mysterious.
Alcée flung himself into a rocker and Calixta nervously began to gather up from the floor the lengths of a cotton sheet which she had been sewing.
lf this keeps up, Dieu sait if the levees goin’ to stan it!” she exclaimed.
“What have you got to do with the levees?”
“I got enough to do! An’ there’s Bobinôt with Bibi out in that storm if he only didn’ left Friedheimer’s!”
“Let us hope, Calixta, that Bobinôt’s got sense enough to come in out of a cyclone.”
She went and stood at the window with a greatly disturbed look on her face.
She wiped the frame that was clouded with moisture. It was stiflingly hot. Alcée got up and joined her at the window, looking over her shoulder. The rain was coming down in sheets obscuring the view of far-off cabins and enveloping the distant wood in a gray mist. The playing of the lightning was incessant. A bolt struck a tall chinaberry tree at the edge of the field. It filled all visible space with a blinding glare and the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon.
Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward. Alcée’s arm encircled her, and for an instant he drew her close and spasmodically to him.
“Bont!” she cried, releasing herself from his encircling arm and retreating from the window, “the house’ll go next! If I only knew w’ere Bibi was!” She would not compose herself; she would not be seated. Alcée clasped her shoulders and looked into her face. The contact of her warm, palpitating body when he had unthinkingly drawn her into his arms, had aroused all the old-time infatuation and desire for her flesh.
“Calixta,” he said, “don’t be frightened. Nothing can happen. The house is too low to be struck, with so many tall trees standing about. There! aren’t you going to be quiet? say, aren’t you?” He pushed her hair back from her face that was warm and steaming. Her lips were as red and moist as pomegranate seed. Her white neck and a glimpse of her full, firm bosom disturbed him powerfully. As she glanced up at him the fear in her liquid blue eyes had given place to a drowsy gleam that unconsciously betrayed a sensuous desire. He looked down into her eyes and there was nothing for him to do but to gather her lips in a kiss. It reminded him of Assumption.
“Do you rememberin Assumption, Calixta?” he asked in a low voice broken by passion. Oh! she remembered; for in Assumption he had kissed her and kissed and kissed her; until his senses would well nigh fail, and to save her he would resort to a desperate flight. If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defense, against which his honor forbade him to prevail. Now well, now her lips seemed in a manner free to be tasted, as well as her round, white throat and her whiter breasts.
They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms. She was a revelation in that dim, mysterious chamber; as white as the couch she lay upon. Her firm, elastic flesh that was knowing for the first time its birthright, was like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world.
The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.
When he touched her breasts they gave themselves up in quivering ecstasy, inviting his lips. Her mouth was a fountain of delight. And when he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life’s mystery.
He stayed cushioned upon her, breathless, dazed, enervated, with his heart beating like a hammer upon her. With one hand she clasped his head, her lips lightly touching his forehead. The other hand stroked with a soothing rhythm his muscular shoulders.
The growl of the thunder was distant and passing away. The rain beat softly upon the shingles, inviting them to drowsiness and sleep. But they dared not yield.
The rain was over; and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems. Calixta, on the gallery, watched Alcée ride away. He turned and smiled at her with a beaming face; and she lifted her pretty chin in the air and laughed aloud.
Bobinôt and Bibi, trudging home, stopped without at the cistern to make themselves presentable.
“My! Bibi, w’at will yo’ mama say! You ought to be ashame’. You oughta’ put on those good pants. Look at ‘em! An’ that mud on yo’ collar! How you got that mud on yo’ collar, Bibi? I never saw such a boy!” Bibi was the picture of pathetic resignation. Bobinôt was the embodiment of serious solicitude as he strove to remove from his own person and his son’s the signs of their tramp over heavy roads and through wet fields. He scraped the mud off Bibi’s bare legs and feet with a stick and carefully removed all traces from his heavy brogans. Then, prepared for the worst the meeting with an over-scrupulous housewife, they entered cautiously at the back door.
Calixta was preparing supper. She had set the table and was dripping coffee at the hearth. She sprang up as they came in.
“Oh, Bobinôt! You back! My! But I was uneasy. W’ere you been during the rain? An’ Bibi? he ain’t wet? he ain’t hurt?” She had clasped Bibi and was kissing him effusively. Bobinôt’s explanations and apologies which he had been composing all along the way, died on his lips as Calixta felt him to see if he were dry, and seemed to express nothing but satisfaction at their safe return.
“I brought you some shrimps, Calixta,” offered Bobinôt, hauling the can from his ample side pocket and laying it on the table.
“Shrimps! Oh, Bobinôt! you too good fo’ anything!” and she gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek that resounded, “J’vous rponds, we’ll have a feas’ to-night! umph-umph!”
Bobinôt and Bibi began to relax and enjoy themselves, and when the three seated themselves at table they laughed much and so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as Laballière’s.
Alcée Laballière wrote to his wife, Clarisse, that night. It was a loving letter, full of tender solicitude. He told her not to hurry back, but if she and the babies liked it at Biloxi, to stay a month longer. He was getting on nicely; and though he missed them, he was willing to bear the separation a while longer realizing that their health and pleasure were the first things to be considered.
As for Clarisse, she was charmed upon receiving her husband’s letter. She and the babies were doing well. The society was agreeable; many of her old friends and acquaintances were at the bay. And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their intimate conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while.
So the storm passed and every one was happy.
2.8.3 Reading and Review Questions
- How do either (or both) stories represent elements of Realistic or Naturalistic fiction?
- In “At the ‘Cadian Ball,” what is the relationship between social classes presented in the story (Creoles and Acadians)?
- In “The Storm,” what does the title suggest in terms of figurative meaning?
- In “The Storm,” is it reasonable to accept that at the end “everyone was happy”? Or are consequences possible or inevitable beyond the ending of the story?
- What does a reading of the stories in sequence provide readers in terms of interpretation of “The Storm” that a reading of the second story alone might not?
- Examine the role social class plays in both stories.