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That summer at Grand Isle she began to loosen a little the
mantle of reserve that had always enveloped her. There may have
been--there must have been--influences, both subtle and apparent,
working in their several ways to induce her to do this; but the
most obvious was the influence of Adele Ratignolle. The excessive
physical charm of the Creole had first attracted her, for Edna had
a sensuous susceptibility to beauty. Then the candor of the
woman's whole existence, which every one might read, and which
formed so striking a contrast to her own habitual reserve--this
might have furnished a link. Who can tell what metals the gods use
in forging the subtle bond which we call sympathy, which we might
as well call love.
The two women went away one morning to the beach together,
arm in arm, under the huge white sunshade. Edna had prevailed upon
Madame Ratignolle to leave the children behind, though she could
not induce her to relinquish a diminutive roll of needlework, which
Adele begged to be allowed to slip into the depths of her pocket.
In some unaccountable way they had escaped from Robert.
The walk to the beach was no inconsiderable one, consisting as
it did of a long, sandy path, upon which a sporadic and tangled growth
that bordered it on either side made frequent and unexpected inroads.
There were acres of yellow camomile reaching out on either hand.
Further away still, vegetable gardens abounded, with frequent
small plantations of orange or lemon trees intervening.
The dark green clusters glistened from afar in the sun.
The women were both of goodly height, Madame Ratignolle
possessing the more feminine and matronly figure. The charm of
Edna Pontellier's physique stole insensibly upon you. The lines of
her body were long, clean and symmetrical; it was a body which
occasionally fell into splendid poses; there was no suggestion of
the trim, stereotyped fashion-plate about it. A casual and
indiscriminating observer, in passing, might not cast a second
glance upon the figure. But with more feeling and discernment he
would have recognized the noble beauty of its modeling, and the
graceful severity of poise and movement, which made Edna Pontellier
different from the crowd.
She wore a cool muslin that morning--white, with a waving
vertical line of brown running through it; also a white linen
collar and the big straw hat which she had taken from the peg
outside the door. The hat rested any way on her yellow-brown hair,