Sample P04 from B. J. Chute, The Moon and the Thorn. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1961. Pp. 34-41. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,141 words 322 (15.0%) quotesP04

Copyright1961 by B. J. Chute. Used by permission of E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 0010-1880

B. J. Chute, The Moon and the Thorn. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1961. Pp. 34-41.

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`` He must have forgiven me '' , Henrietta murmured to the room . The absolution of Doaty's last will and testament was proof enough of that ; ; Doaty would never have left her house to a godless woman .

She found herself wishing an old wish , that she had told Doaty she was running away , that she had left something more behind her than the loving , sorry note and her best garnet pin . Perhaps Doaty had guessed already and kept her counsel .

Henrietta thought , It's extraordinary how much she always knew about both of us . There had been more to know about Hetty , inevitably , and most of it unfavorable . Adelia was the good one , or , if not always good , less frequently tempted . Their childhood would have been quite circumspect without Hetty's flair for drama , especially through the long summers . In winter , in the city , there had been the Maneret School , which taught excellently with a kind of austere passion for knowledge ; ; there had been lessons in French from a small Polish nobleman with a really profound distaste for his pupils ; ; there had been the dancing class -- Miss Craddock , thin and tireless , with her supervising wand and her everlasting one-two-three , one-two-three . There had been supper parties and teas , fetes and little balls , Mama small and pretty and gay and Papa enormously jocular , enormously possessive , the sun around which the Blackwell planets revolved .

Mama had died before the corruption of the family circle , the interruption of Charles . It was safe to assume that Papa , sighing heavily , had said many times to his remaining daughter , `` Thank God your poor mother was spared this '' , and indeed it might be true that it had been easier for Henrietta to leave , with her hand in Charles' hand , just because her `` poor mother '' was gone already and would never know . Mama was vulnerable ; ; one had always felt the need to make a safe world around her .

But I would have gone anyway , thought Henrietta . She had always been able to ignore the moral question because there had been no choice . Only at this moment -- perhaps because it was before dawn and she was lying in Doaty's bed -- she found herself examining how others might regard her . Perhaps they would argue that morality consisted just of that ability to see a choice .

She turned on her side , finding the idea oppressive . If Adelia had felt about someone as Henrietta felt about Charles , would she have run away with him ? ?

Impossible to imagine Adelia feeling so about anyone . No temptation , no sin .

No temptation , no virtue ? ?

A curious thought to end a curious night . The birds were really awake now in a colloquy of music , and light was beginning to creep across the room , touching sill and door , table and chair and all of Doaty's flowers in their artificial blossom and leaf .

Before anything else , she would go to Doaty's grave with flowers from Doaty's forgotten garden . Everything must wait upon this mission , this sentimental duty of a pilgrim whose nature avoided graveyards . She closed her eyes , remembering the small French cemetery , enclosed by stone walls . It had always seemed to rain there , and even the grass was gray .

After the sad impatient moment , waiting for comfort which could not come , she slipped out of bed and went to the open window . The garden below was lacy with dew and enchanting in its small wildness . Leaning out , she could see a tangle of rosebush and honeysuckle , one not quite come to bloom , one just beyond it . On a thrusting spray thick with thorns and dewdrops and swelling pink buds , like a summer Valentine , a bird balanced and sang , nondescriptly brown and alive with its own music , a little engine of song .

It was so pretty and artless that she felt like a child again and would have enjoyed running out barefoot to play on the wet grass with all the growing things , but Doaty never permitted bare feet and she was decidedly not a child but une femme d'un certain age . Feeling suddenly neat and subdued , she dressed quite soberly and went downstairs .

Rosa , unbelievably , was not yet up and about , reassurance that Rosa was human . Feeling protective toward this sleeping being , Henrietta found a yesterday bun and milk in a white jug , a breakfast which was somewhat the equivalent of going barefoot .

Outside , the garden , the tame wilderness , yielded a patchwork bouquet of daisies , sweet william , scented stock and lady's bedstraw , which she tied with long grasses and took back to show Rosa , who was now stirring about the kitchen and haranguing Folly . The poodle came gleefully to Henrietta and begged for the flowers , supplicating the air with prayerful forepaws .

Henrietta held her bouquet out of reach and said it was for Doaty . `` Rummaging in the dew '' , said Rosa coldly . `` Go change your shoes before you turn around '' . She sounded so exactly like Doaty that Henrietta obeyed her under the clear impression that she could either comply or stay home . Folly danced , eager for whatever lay beyond the door .

To a Blackwell , there was only one church . The cemetery slumbered just behind it , and the way lay through the village and close to the sea . For the first time in thirty years , Henrietta walked down the narrow street with its shuttered shops just stirring and its inhabitants eying her with the frankest curiosity . She smiled and bowed , recalling the princess-in-a-carriage feeling she had enjoyed when she was a child . Now , some of the acknowledgments were cautious , but all were interested .

An old man , sitting against the wall of a cottage and waiting for the sun to find him , gave her a more than reflective look as she passed , the sap still plainly rising in his branches . On an impulse , she turned back and said good morning .

He cupped his ear and shook his head at her repetition , announcing in a nettled way that he had heard her the first time . He then offered his own estimate of the weather , which was unenthusiastic . `` Summer's been slow to come '' , he said . `` It's my dryin' out time '' . He scowled at her flowers .

`` I'm taking them to the cemetery '' , said Henrietta , out of a vague feeling of hospitality .

`` They'll be takin' me next '' , he said pleasantly , `` but not so soon's they plan . See half of 'em in their graves before I choose my own coffin . It's dryin' myself out that does it '' . He regarded her with rising hope . `` You'd like to hear how I go about it '' .

`` It's nice of you '' , Henrietta said doubtfully .

`` Y're welcome '' . He straightened himself , soldierly against the wall , and pulled his sprawled feet together so they stood side by side in their old boots . His stick ceased to be a thing to rest his chin on and became a pointer for emphasizing the finer aspects of his text . `` Every month , f'r three days '' , he said happily , `` I take no water into my system , no water whatsoever . It rests the tissues '' .

Henrietta murmured that she could quite see how it would , and he nodded approval of her womanly good sense . `` Rests the tissues '' , he said , `` and pacifies the system . My dad did it , and he lived to a great age '' . He looked up at her sharply . `` Don't remember , do you '' ? ?

She did suddenly , through the link of memory with his father , old Titus , who must have been in his nineties when Henrietta ran away . Next to the Blackwells , Titus had owned the island most , and she and Adelia had often stood in front of him , silenced by his terrible years -- a scanty man with a thin beard and very deep-set blue eyes like a mariner , more aged than possible . He had never spoken once to the awed sisters , but his son had been friendly , a big fellow of fifty or more , a fishing-boat captain and powerful like the sea . It must be that son who sat before her now , shriveled to half his size and half his senses .

She said gently , `` Of course I remember you '' .

`` Not so well's I remember you '' , he said . `` Y're the young Blackwell woman . Ran away on a black night with a lawful wedded man . I know all about you '' .

`` You do seem to '' , said Henrietta , impressed .

`` Can't blame a man for leavin' his wife '' , he said quite cheerfully . `` Left mine many a time , only she never knew it . Man in a boat , there's a lot of places he can put in at and a lot of reasons he can be away for a bit . Any harm in that '' ? ?

`` Probably '' , said Henrietta dryly .

He gave a short hard laugh and looked at her knowingly . `` You'd be the one to say '' , he observed , and she found herself liking his approval none too well , but she could not defend herself and say that her actions were `` different '' , since all actions had their own laws . Only , this old man's connivance was even less to her taste than Selma Cotter's open censure . Well , she had not come back to Great Island to be understood , praised or condemned . She had come to make her peace with the past , and of that past this ancient of the earth was only a kind of shadow .

She started to move away , just as a woman came out of the cottage , a big-boned , drab-haired figure with a clean apron tied over her limp print dress . She smiled vaguely at Henrietta and spoke to the old man . `` You've not had your breakfast yet , gran'dad '' .

`` Y'r dam' porridge is no breakfast '' , he said . `` Milk and sops '' ! ! He beat the air with his stick , and it fell from his claws and clattered on the stones .

`` He's lowly today '' , his grand-daughter said wearily , and bent to pick it up . `` He's got this idea about drying out ''

`` It ain't an idea '' ! !

`` If it ain't an idea '' , she said , `` how comes it you can drink beer but not water '' ? ?

He looked piously to heaven and said , `` Beer don't affect the tissues none '' , and the ingenious hypocrisy of this defense pleased Henrietta so that she forgave him his stint of malevolence .

His grand-daughter sighed . `` Come on , do . The children are eating , and Miss Blackwell's on her way somewheres '' .

`` To the graveyard . Who ain't '' ? ?

`` Not me . I've got a day's work to do . -- You'll be visiting Miss Doaty , Ma'am '' ? ?

Henrietta nodded . How much they knew about her ! !

The woman ( she must have been a tiny baby when Hetty and Delia had stood arm in arm , watching great age grow small ) answered the nod with her own . `` God rest her soul , she was a sweet one . Come on now '' . She put a strong hand under the old man's arm and lifted him up , patiently , with the gentle cruelty and necessary tyranny that the young show toward the very old . He mumbled at her but let himself be led off inside the house , shuffling mightily to make it clear how weak and aged he was and how he was buffeted about by those who still had their wicked strength .

There was a gabble of voices from indoors , young hungry sounds like cats after fish , and a burst of swearing from the old man . Henrietta looked down at her bouquet , still lively with its color and scent , and set her feet on their journey's way again , leaving the village street and crossing the first field , Folly dancing ahead of her .

At the edge of the field , the wild rolling land took over , dotted with fat round bushes like sheep . They were covered with tiny white blossoms , their scant roots clawing at the stony ground , and wild birds darted in and about and through them so they were nearly alive with the rustle and cry .

The air was full of sounds too but placid ones , a terrestrial humming as much out of the earth as out of the blue sky . She felt mindless , walking , and almost easy until the church spire told her she was near the cemetery , and she caught herself wondering what she would say to Doaty .

Both church and graveyard were smaller than she remembered them ( how many things had lessened while she was gone away ) but the headstones had grown so thick in thirty years that to find one named `` Dorothy Tredding '' seemed suddenly impossible .

She sat down on the nearest , fallen with age and gray with sea-damp , her fingers tracing the indecipherable carved letters padded with green moss . The day's sun was gathering its strength in gold , and she wished she had brought her parasol , if only to shade Doaty's flowers . A small , rock-carved angel watched her from a nearby tomb , the only angel in the cemetery .

She remembered , suddenly , a night of savage moonlight and scudding clouds when she and Adelia , having dared each other , had stolen out of their great safe house and come here , hand in hand , hoping and fearing ghosts .