Catherine Chopin’s “Athenaise”

One morning, Athenaise traveled 10 miles along the Bon Dieu River in Louisiana to see her parents. When she did not come back in the evening, her husband Cazeau became concerned. When Félicité, his servant, brought him dinner, Cazeau confided in her about his concerns. By himself, he dined by the glow of a coal-oil lamp. Félicité appeared as an uneasy shadow close by. “After just two months of marriage, she already seems ready to depart! It’s not correct,” she exclaimed. Cazeau gave a shoulder shrug. After two months of marriage, Félicité’s assessment of his wife’s actions was irrelevant to him. He didn’t mind spending a night or two alone because he was accustomed to it. Cazeau got up and began to move.

The groups of trees in the yard were starting to turn black as the night grew deeper. He heard someone playing an accordion in the distance. There was a wailing infant nearby. Saddled, Cazeau’s horse was ready. Before going to bed, he still had a lot of farm work to accomplish. He had no time to consider Athenaise. However, her absence hurt him deeply. Cazeau dreamed that night of Athenaise’s young, pale face, complete with sensuous eyes and lips, before going to sleep. It had been a mistake to get married. All he had to do was gaze into her eyes and experience her rising distaste for him. However, the union could not be reversed.

Cazeau thought about these melancholy things long into the night. The chamber was illuminated by the soft glow of the moon. The accordion’s far-off notes were the only sound present while it was still outside. The following day, Athenaise did not come back, despite her husband’s request via her brother Montéclin. Cazeau saddled up his horse and set out to find her on the third day. The Michés, Athenaise’s parents, were town traders, and they had a big house. The house was considerably too huge for their use. The unoccupied, spacious apartments upstairs were the scene of many a party.

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