A Wicid Wmn │ Jac Lundn

JEZEBEL, 1896 │ Shaw, John Byam Liston (1872–1919) │ Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/jezebel-58688
JEZEBEL, 1896 │ Shaw, John Byam Liston (1872–1919) │ Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

Ōdio

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t wz bcz ś hd brocn wɖ Bili ɖt Lreta hd cm viẓtñ t Santa Clara. Bili cd nt unḍstand. Hiz sistr hd rportd ɖt h hd wōct ɖ flor n craid ol nît. Lreta hd nt slept ol nît îɖr, ẃl ś hd wept most v ɖ nît. Dezi ń ɖs, bcz it wz in hr armz ɖt ɖ wīpñ hd bn dn. N Dezi’z huzbnd, Captin Cít, ń, tù. Ɖ tirz v Lreta, n ɖ cumf̣tñ bî Dezi, hd lost him sm slīp.

Nǎ Captin Cít dd nt lîc t lūz slīp. Nɖr dd h wont Lreta t mari Bili – nr enbdi els. It wz Captin Cít’s b’lif ɖt Dezi nīdd ɖ hlp v hr yungr sistr in ɖ hǎshold. Bt h dd nt se ɖs alǎd. Instd, h olwz insistd ɖt Lreta wz tù yuñ t ʈnc v marij. So it wz Captin Cít’s îdīa ɖt Lreta śd b páct of on a vizit t Msz Hemñwe. Ɖr wd’nt b eni Bili ɖr.

Bfr Lreta hd bn at Santa Clara a wīc, ś wz cnvinst ɖt Captin Cít’s îdīa wz a gd wn. In ɖ frst ples, ɖo Bili wd’nt b’liv it, ś dd nt wont t mari Bili. N in ɖ secnd ples, ɖo Captin Cít wd’nt b’liv it, ś dd nt wont t līv Dezi. Bî ɖ tîm Lreta hd bn at Santa Clara tū wīcs, ś wz abṣlutli srtn ɖt ś dd nt wont t mari Bili. Bt ś wz nt so śr abt nt wontñ t līv Dezi. Nt ɖt ś luvd Dezi les, bt ɖt ś – hd dǎts.

Ɖ de v Lreta’z arîvl, a nebyḷs plan bgan śepñ itslf in Msz Hemñwe’z bren. Ɖ secnd de ś rmarct t Jac Hemñwe, hr huzbnd, ɖt Lreta wz so iṇsnt a yuñ ʈñ ɖt wr it nt fr hr swīt gîļisnis ś wd b poztivli stypid. In prūf v ẃć, Msz Hemñwe tld hr huzbnd sevṛl ʈñz ɖt md him ćucl. Bî ɖ ʈrd de Msz Hemñwe’z plan hd tecn recgnîzbl form. Ɖen it wz ɖt ś cmpozd a letr. On ɖ enṿlop ś rout: “Mr Edẉd Baśfd, Aʈīńn Club, San Fṛnsisco.”

“Dir Ned,” ɖ letr bgan. Ś hd wns bn vayḷntli luvd bî him fr ʈri wīcs in hr prīmaritl dez. Bt ś hd cuvnntd hrslf t Jac Hemñwe, hu hd prîr clemz, n hr hart az wel; n Ned Baśfd hd fiḷsoficli nt brocn hiz hart ovr it. H mirli add ɖ xpirịns t a larj fund v similrli c’lectd deta ǎt v ẃć h mańfacćrd f’loṣfi. Artisticli n tmpṛmnṭli h wz a Grīc – a tîrd Grīc. H wz fond v qotñ fṛm Nīća, in tocn ɖt h, tù, hd pást ʈru ɖ loñ sicnis ɖt foloz upn ɖ ardnt srć fr truʈ; ɖt h tù hd imrjd tù xpirịnst, tù śrūd, tù pṛfǎnd, evr agn t b aflictd bî ɖ madnis v yuɖz in ɖer luv v truʈ. “‘T wrśp apiṛns’,” h ofn qotd; “‘t b’liv in formz, in tonz, in wrdz, in ɖ hol Olimṗs v apiṛns!’” Ɖs ptiklr xrpt h olwz cncludd wɖ, “‘Ɖoz Grīcs wr sūṗfiśl – ǎt v pṛfŭndti!”“

H wz a ferli yuñ Grīc, jedd n wòrn. Wimin wr feʈlis n unṿreśs, h hld – at sć tîmz ɖt h hd rlapsz n dsndd t peṣmizm fṛm hiz wóntd hî fiḷsofcl cām. H dd nt b’liv in ɖ truʈ v wimin; bt, feʈfl t hiz Jrmn mastr, h dd nt strip fṛm ɖm ɖ e’ri gōzz ɖt veild ɖer untruʈ. H wz cntnt t axpt ɖm az apiṛnsz n t mc ɖ bst v it. H wz sūṗfiśl – ǎt v pṛfŭndti.

“Jac sz t b śr t se t y, ‘gd swimñ’,” Msz Hemñwe rout in hr letr; “n olso ‘t brñ yr fiśñ dudz alñ’.” Msz Hemñwe rout uɖr ʈñz in ɖ letr. Ś tld him ɖt at last ś wz priperd t xibit t him an abṣlutli tru, unsulid, n iṇsnt wmn. “A mor gîļis, imakḷt bud v wmnhd nvr bluśt on ɖ planit,” wz wn v ɖ sevṛl wez in ẃć ś frezd ɖ indysmnt. N t hr huzbnd ś sd trîumfntli, “F I d’nt mari Ned of ɖs tîm -” līvñ unstetd ɖ teribl oltrṇtiv ɖt ś lact îɖr vcabylri t xpres or imaɉneśn t cnsiv.

Contrri t ol hr fōrbodñz, Lreta faund ɖt ś wz nt unhapi at Santa Clara. Tru, Bili rout t hr evri de, bt hiz letrz wr les dstresñ ɖn hiz prezns. Olso, ɖ ordīl v biyñ awe fṛm Dezi wz nt so svir az ś hd xpctd. Fr ɖ frst tîm in hr lîf ś wz nt lost in iclips in ɖ blêz v Dezi’z briłnt n mtyr prṣnaḷti. Undr sć fevṛbl srcmstansz Lreta cem rapdli t ɖ frunt, ẃl Msz Hemñwe moḍstli n śemlisli rtritd intu ɖ bacgrǎnd.

Lreta bgan t dscuvr ɖt ś wz nt a pel orb śînñ bî rflex́n. Qt unconśsli ś bcem a smōl sntr v ʈñz. Ẃn ś wz at ɖ piano, ɖr wz smwn t trn ɖ pejz fr hr n t xpres prefṛnsz fr srtn soñz. Ẃn ś dropt hr hanc̣ćif, ɖr wz smwn t pic it p. N ɖr wz smwn t acumṗni hr in ramḅlñz n flǎrgaɖ̇rñz. Olso, ś lrnt t cast flîz in stil pūlz n b’lo savij riflz, n hǎ nt t intangl silc lînz n gut-līdrz wɖ ɖ śruḅri.

Jac Hemñwe dd nt cer t tīć bginrz, n fiśt mć bî himslf, or nt at ol, ɖus gvñ Ned Baśfd ampl tîm in ẃć t cnsidr Lreta az an apiṛns. Az sć, ś wz ol ɖt hiz f’loṣfi dmandd. Hr blu îz hd ɖ d’rect gêz v a bô, n ǎt v hiz pṛfŭndti h dlîtd in ɖm n forbòr t śudr at ɖ dypliṣti hiz f’loṣfi bad him t b’liv lrct in ɖer depʈs. Ś hd ɖ gres v a slendr flǎr, ɖ fṛjiḷti v culr n lîn v fîn ćîna, in ol v ẃć h pleźrd gretli, wɖǎt ʈt v ɖ Lîf Fors palṗtetñ bnʈ n in spît v Brṇd Św – in hūm h b’livd.

Lreta brjnd. Ś swiftli dveḷpt prṣnaḷti. Ś dscuvrd a wil v hr ǒn n wiśz v hr ǒn ɖt wr nt evrlastñli intwînd wɖ ɖ wil n ɖ wiśz v Dezi. Ś wz petd bî Jac Hemñwe, spôld bî Alis Hemñwe, n dvotdli atndd bî Ned Baśfd. Ɖe incurijd hr ẃimz n laft at hr foliz, ẃl ś dveḷpt ɖ priti litl tiṛniz ɖt r letnt in ol priti n delic̣t wimin. Hr invîrnmnt actd az a soṗrifc upn hr enćnt dzîr olwz t liv wɖ Dezi. Ɖs dzîr no longr prodd hr az in ɖ dez v hr cmpańnśp wɖ Bili. Ɖ mor ś sw v Bili, ɖ mor srtn ś hd bn ɖt ś cd nt liv awe fṛm Dezi. Ɖ mor ś sw v Ned Baśfd, ɖ mor ś fgot hr presñ nīd v Dezi.

Ned Baśfd lîcwz dd sm fgetñ. H cnfyzd sūṗfiśiaḷti wɖ pṛfŭndti, n intangld apiṛns wɖ riaḷti untl h acǎntd ɖm wn. Lreta wz difṛnt fṛm uɖr wimin. Ɖr wz no masc̣red abt hr. Ś wz riyl. H sd az mć t Msz Hemñwe, n mor, hu agrìd wɖ him n at ɖ sem tîm còt hr huzbnd’z îlid drūpñ dǎn fr ɖ momnt in an unmistecbl wnc.

It wz at ɖs tîm ɖt Lreta rsivd a letr fṛm Bili ɖt wz smẃt difṛnt fṛm hiz uɖrz. In ɖ mn, lîc ol hiz letrz, it wz paʈ̇lojcl. It wz a loñ rsîtl v simtmz n suf̣rñz, hiz nrṿsnis, hiz slīplisnis, n ɖ stet v hiz hart. Ɖen foloud rproćz, sć az h hd nvr md bfr. Ɖe wr śarp inuf t mc hr wīp, n tru inuf t pt traɉdi intu hr fes. Ɖs traɉdi ś carid dǎn t ɖ brecfsțebl. It md Jac n Msz Hemñwe spekḷtiv, n it wurid Ned. Ɖe glanst t him fr xpḷneśn, bt h śc hiz hed.

“I’l fînd ǎt tnît,” Msz Hemñwe sd t hr huzbnd.

Bt Ned còt Lreta in ɖ afṭnun in ɖ big livñrūm. Ś traid t trn awe. H còt hr handz, n ś fest him wɖ wet laśz n tremḅlñ lips. H lct at hr, sîḷntli n cîndli. Ɖ laśz grù wetr.

“Ɖr, ɖr, d’nt crî, litl wn,” h sd suɖñli.

H pt hiz arm pṛtctñli arnd hr śoldr. N t hiz śoldr, lîc a tîrd ćîld, ś trnd hr fes. H ʈrild in wez unyźl fr a Grīc hu hz rcuvrd fṛm ɖ loñ sicnis.

“Ǒ, Ned,” ś sobd on hiz śoldr, “f y onli ń hǎ wicid I am!”

H smîld induljntli, n briɖd in a gret breʈ frêtd wɖ ɖ fregṛns v hr her. H ʈt v hiz wrldxpirịns v wimin, n drù anɖr loñ breʈ. Ɖr sīmd t eṃnet fṛm hr ɖ prfict swītnis v a ćîld – “ɖ ōra v a ẃît soul,” wz ɖ we h frezd it t himslf.

Ɖen h notist ɖt hr sobz wr incrisñ.

“Ẃt’s ɖ matr, litl wn?” h asct petñli n olmst ptrṇli. “Hz Jac bn bŭliyñ y? Or hz yr dirli b’luvid sistr feld t rait?”

Ś dd nt ansr, n h flt ɖt h riyli mst cis hr her, ɖt h cd nt b rsponsibl f ɖ sićueśn cntinyd mć longr.

“Tel m,” h sd jntli, “n w’l si ẃt I cn d.”

“I c’nt. Y wl dspîz m. – Ǒ, Ned, I am so aśemd!”

H laft increɉḷsli, n lîtli tućt hr her wɖ hiz lips – so lîtli ɖt ś dd nt nǒ.

“Dir litl wn, let s fget ol abt it, ẃtvr it z. I wont t tel y hǎ I luv – “

Ś utrd a śarp crî ɖt wz ol dlît, n ɖen mond –

“Tù lêt!”

“Tù lêt?” h ecoud in ṣprîz.

“Ǒ, ẃ dd I? Ẃ dd I?” ś wz monñ.

H wz awer v a swift ćil at hiz hart.

“Ẃt?” h asct.

“Ǒ, I… h. . . Bili.

“I am sć a wicid wmn, Ned. I nǒ y wl nvr spīc t m agn.”

“Ɖs – ŕ – ɖs Bili,” h bgan hōltñli. “H z yr bruɖr?”

“No… h… I dd’nt nǒ. I wz so yuñ. I cd nt hlp it. Ǒ, I śl g mad! I śl g mad!”

It wz ɖen ɖt Lreta flt hiz śoldr n ɖ insrclñ arm bcm limp. H drù awe fṛm hr jntli, n jntli h dpoztd hr in a big ćer, ẃr ś berid hr fes n sobd afreś. H twistd hiz mstaś firsli, ɖen drù p anɖr ćer n sat dǎn.

“I – I d nt unḍstand,” h sd.

“I am so unhapi,” ś weild.

“Ẃ unhapi?”

“Bcz… h… h wonts m t mari him.”

Hiz fes clird on ɖ instnt, n h plest a hand sūɖñli on hrz.

“Ɖt śd nt mc eni grl unhapi,” h rmarct sejli. “Bcz y d’nt luv him z no rīzn – v cors, y d’nt luv him?”

Lreta śc hr hed n śoldrz in a vigṛs neġtiv.

“Ẃt?”

Baśfd wontd t mc śr.

“No,” ś asrtd xplozvli. “I d’nt luv Bili! I d’nt wont t luv Bili!”

“Bcz y d’nt luv him,” Baśfd rzymd wɖ confidns, “z no rīzn ɖt y śd b unhapi jst bcz h hz pṛpozd t y.”

Ś sobd agn, n fṛm ɖ mdst v hr sobz ś craid: –

“Ɖt’s ɖ trubl. I wś I dd luv him. Ǒ, I wś I wr ded!”

“Nǎ, mî dir ćîld, y r wuriyñ yrslf ovr trîflz.” Hiz uɖr hand crost ovr aftr its mêt n restd on hrz. “Wimin d it evri de. Bcz y hv ćenjd yr mînd or dd nt nǒ yr mînd, bcz y hv – t yz an uņessṛli harś wrd – jiltd a man – “

“Jiltd!” Ś hd rezd hr hed n wz lcñ at him wɖ tir-dimd îz. “Ǒ, Ned, f ɖt wr ol!”

“Ol?” h asct in a holo vôs, ẃl hiz handz slǒli rtritd hrz. H wz abt t spīc frɖr, ɖen rmend sîḷnt.

“Bt I d’nt wont t mari him,” Lreta brouc fʈ pṛtstñli.

“Ɖen I śd’nt,” h cǎnsld.

“Bt I òt t mari him.”

“Òt t mari him?”

Ś nodd.

“Ɖt z a stroñ wrd.”

“I nǒ it z,” ś aqiest, ẃl ś strov t cntrol hr tremḅlñ lips. Ɖen ś spouc mor cāmli. “I am a wicid wmn, a teṛbli wicid wmn. Nwn nz hǎ wicid I am – xpt Bili.”

Ɖr wz a pōz. Ned Baśfd’z fes wz grev, n h lct qirli at Lreta.

“H – Bili nz?” h asct fîṇli.

A rluctnt nod n flemñ ćīcs wz ɖ rplî.

H dbetd wɖ himslf fr a ẃl, sīmñ, lîc a dîvr, t b pripẹrñ himslf fr ɖ plunj.

“Tel m abt it.” H spouc vri frmli. “Y mst tel m ol v it.”

“N wl y – evr – fgiv m?” ś asct in a fent, smōl vôs. H heztetd, drù a loñ breʈ, n md ɖ plunj.

“Yes,” h sd despṛtli. “I’l fgiv y. G ahd.”

“Ɖr wz no wn t tel m,” ś bgan. “W wr wɖ ć uɖr so mć. I dd nt nǒ enʈñ v ɖ wrld – ɖen.”

Ś pōzd t meḍtet. Baśfd wz bîtñ hiz lip impeśntli.

“F I hd onli noun – “

Ś pōzd agn.

“Yes, g on,” h rjd.

“W wr tgɖr olmst evri īvnñ.”

“Bili?” h dmandd, wɖ a savijnis ɖt startld hr.

“Yes, v cors, Bili. W wr wɖ ć uɖr so mć…F I hd onli noun… Ɖr wz no wn t tel m… I wz so yuñ –”

Hr lips partd az ɖo t spīc frɖr, n ś rgardd him añśsli.

“Ɖ scǎndṛl!”

Wɖ ɖ xploźn Ned Baśfd wz on hiz fīt, no longr a tîrd Grīc, bt a vayḷntli angri yuñ man.

“Bili z nt a scǎndṛl; h z a gd man,” Lreta dfndd wɖ a frmnis ɖt ṣprîzd Baśfd.

“I ṣpoz y’l b telñ m nxt ɖt it wz ol yr fōlt,” h sd sarcasticli.

Ś nodd.

“Ẃt?” h śǎtd.

“It wz ol mî fōlt,” ś sd steḍli. “I śd nvr hv let him, I wz t blem.”

Baśfd sīst fṛm hiz pesñ p n dǎn, n ẃn h spouc hiz vôs wz rzînd.

“Ol rît,” h sd. “I d’nt blem y in ɖ lìst, Lreta. N y hv bn vri onist. Bt Bili z rît, n y r roñ. Y mst gt marid.”

“T Bili?” ś asct, in a dim, far-awe vôs.

“Yes, t Bili. I’l si t it. Ẃr dz h liv? I’l mc him.”

“Bt I d’nt wont t mari Bili ! “ ś craid ǎt in alarm. “Ǒ, Ned, y w’nt d ɖt?”

“I śl,” h ansrd strnli. “Y mst. N Bili mst. D y unḍstand?”

Lreta berid hr fes in ɖ cśnd ćer bac, n brouc intu a paśṇt storm v sobz.

Ol ɖt Baśfd cd mc ǎt at frst, az h lisnd, wz: “Bt I d’nt wont t līv Dezi! I d’nt wont t līv Dezi!”

H pêst grimli bac n fʈ, ɖen stopt krịsli t lisn.

“Hǎ wz I t nǒ? – Bu-hu,” Lreta wz crayñ. “H dd’nt tel m. Nbdi els evr cist m. I nvr dremt a cis cd b so teribl… untl, bu-hu… untl h rout t m. I onli got ɖ letr ɖs mornñ.”

Hiz fes brîtnd. It sīmd az ɖo lît wz dōnñ on him.

“Z ɖt ẃt y’r crayñ abt?”

“N-no.”

Hiz hart sanc.

“Ɖen ẃt r y crayñ abt?” h asct in a hoplis vôs.

“Bcz y sd I hd t mari Bili. N I d’nt wont t mari Bili. I d’nt wont t līv Dezi. I d’nt nǒ ẃt I wont. I wont. I wś I wr ded.”

H nrvd himslf fr anɖr ef̣t.

“Nǎ lc hir, Lreta, b snsibl. Ẃt z ɖs abt cisz? Y hv’nt tld m evrʈñ.”

“I – I d’nt wont t tel y evrʈñ.”

Ś lct at him bsīćñli in ɖ sîḷns ɖt fél.

“Mst I ?” ś qevrd fîṇli.

“Y mst,” h sd impeṛtivli. “Y mst tel m evrʈñ.”

“Wel, ɖen… mst I?”

“Y mst.”

“H… … w…” ś bgan flǎnḍrñli. Ɖen blŕtd ǎt, “I let him, n h cist m.”

“G on,” Baśfd cmandd despṛtli.

“Ɖt’s ol,” ś ansrd.

“Ol?” Ɖr wz a vast incṛdyḷti in hiz vôs.

“Ol?” In hr vôs wz an inteṛgeśn no les vast.

“I mīn – ’r – nʈñ wrs?” H wz oṿẃlmñli awer v hiz ǒn ōcẉdnis.

“Wrs?” Ś wz francli puzld. “Az ɖo ɖr cd b! Bili sd -”

“Ẃn dd h se it?” Baśfd dmandd abruptli.

“In hiz letr I got ɖs mornñ. Bili sd ɖt mî… ǎr… ǎr cisz wr teribl f w dd’nt gt marid.” Baśfd’z hed wz swimñ.

“Ẃt els dd Bili se?” h asct.

“H sd ɖt ẃn a wmn alaud a man t cis hr, ś olwz marid him – ɖt it wz teribl f ś dd’nt. It wz ɖ custm, h sd; n I se it z a bad, wicid custm, n I d’nt lîc it. I nǒ I’m teribl,” ś add dfayntli, “bt I c’nt hlp it.”

Baśfd absnt-mînddli bròt ǎt a siġrét.

“D y mînd f I smoc?” h asct, az h struc a mać.

Ɖen h cem t himslf.

“I beg yr pardn,” h craid, flññ awe mać n siġrét. “I d’nt wont t smoc. I dd’nt mīn ɖt at ol. Ẃt I mīn z -”

H bnt ovr Lreta, còt hr handz in hiz, ɖen sat on ɖ arm v ɖ ćer n softli pt wn arm arnd hr.

“Lreta, I am a fūl. I mīn it. N I mīn smʈñ mor. I wont y t b mî wîf.”

H wêtd añśsli in ɖ pōz ɖt foloud.

“Y mt ansr m,” h rjd

“I wl… f – “

“Yes, g on. F ẃt?”

“F I d’nt hv t mari Bili.”

“Y c’nt mari bʈ v s,” h olmst śǎtd.

“N it z’nt ɖ custm… ẃt… ẃt Bili sd?”

“No, it z’nt ɖ custm. Nǎ, Lreta, wl y mari m?”

“D’nt b angri wɖ m,” ś pǎtd dḿrli.

H gaɖrd hr intu hiz armz n cist hr.

“I wś it wr ɖ custm,” ś sd in a fent vôs, fṛm ɖ mdst v ɖ imbres, “bcz ɖen I’d hv t mari y, Ned… dir… wd’nt I?”

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