Webtext prepared by Ann
Woodlief; click on the marked phrases for notesKnowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with great
care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her
It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; that revealed
in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near
her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of
the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading
the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its
truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less
careful, less tender friend
She did hear the story as many
women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its
significance. She wept at once, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent
itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.
There stood, Into this she sank, pressed down by a
physical exhaustion that
She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees
that were all The breath of rain
was in the air. In the street below a peddler was his wares. The
notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly,
and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.
There were that had met and piled one above the
other in the west facing her window.
She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite
motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a
whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength.
But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off
yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.
and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it
was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the
sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that
filled the air.
her bosom rose and
fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was
approaching to possess her, and she was striving to
--as . When she her slightly parted lips. She said it over and
over under her breath: The
vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her
eyes. They stayed keen and bright.
She did not stop to ask if it were or were not that held
her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion
as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind,
tender hands folded in death; , fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond
that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to
her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.
she would live for herself. There would
be A kind
intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she
looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.
And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it
matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of
this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the
strongest impulse of her being!
Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the
keyhold, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg; open the
door-- What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."
"Go away. I am not making myself ill." No; she was drinking in a
through that .
Her fancy was t along those
days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days
that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be
long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might
She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities.
There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself
unwittingly like a She
clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs.
Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.
Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently
Mallard who entered, a little , composedly
carrying his and umbrella. He
had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there
had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards'
quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.
But Richards was too late.
When the doctors came
Student discussion after first reading of the story