Webtext prepared by Ann Woodlief;
click on the marked phrases for notes
Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with
great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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!
she kept whispering.
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
Her fancy was 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 be long.
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