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Title: A Love Episode
Author: Zola, Émile, 1840-1902
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Love Episode" ***

                           PREPARER'S NOTE

  This eBook was prepared from the edition published by the Societe
  des Beaux-Arts in 1905 for the Comedie d'Amour Series. Registered
  copy Number 153 of 500.

[Illustration: Comedie d'Amour Series]

                            A LOVE EPISODE


                              EMILE ZOLA

                        ILLUSTRATED BY DANTAN

[Illustration: Emile Zola]

                        ZOLA AND HIS WRITINGS

Emile Zola was born in Paris, April 2, 1840. His father was Francois
Zola, an Italian engineer, who constructed the Canal Zola in Provence.
Zola passed his early youth in the south of France, continuing his
studies at the Lycee St. Louis, in Paris, and at Marseilles. His sole
patrimony was a lawsuit against the town of Aix. He became a clerk in
the publishing house of Hachette, receiving at first the modest
honorarium of twenty-five francs a week. His journalistic career,
though marked by immense toil, was neither striking nor remunerative.
His essays in criticism, of which he collected and published several
volumes, were not particularly successful. This was evidently not his
field. His first stories, _Les Mysteres de Marseilles_ and _Le Voeu
d'Une Morte_ fell flat, disclosing no indication of remarkable talent.
But in 1864 appeared _Les Contes a Ninon_, which attracted wide
attention, the public finding them charming. _Les Confessions de
Claude_ was published in 1865. In this work Zola had evidently struck
his gait, and when _Therese Raquin_ followed, in 1867, Zola was fully
launched on his great career as a writer of the school which he called
"Naturalist." _Therese Raquin_ was a powerful study of the effects of
remorse preying upon the mind. In this work the naturalism was
generally characterized as "brutal," yet many critics admitted that it
was absolutely true to nature. It had, in fact, all the gruesome
accuracy of a clinical lecture. In 1868 came _Madeleine Ferat_, an
exemplification of the doctrine of heredity, as inexorable as the
"Destiny" of the Greek tragedies of old.

And now dawned in Zola's teeming brain the vast conception of a
"Naturalistic Comedy of Life." It was to be Balzac "naturalized," so
to speak. The great cycle should run through the whole gamut of human
passions, foibles, motives and interests. It should consist of human
documents, of painstaking minuteness of detail and incontrovertible

The idea of destiny or heredity permeates all the works of this
portentously ambitious series. Details may be repellant. One should
not "smell" a picture, as the artists say. If one does, he gets an
impression merely of a small blotch of paint. The vast canvas should
be studied as a whole. Frailties are certainly not the whole of human
nature. But they cannot be excluded from a comprehensive view of it.
The "_Rougon-Macquart_ series" did not carry Zola into the Academy.
But the reputation of Moliere has managed to survive a similar
exclusion, and so will the fame of Zola, who will be bracketed with
Balzac in future classifications of artistic excellence. For
twenty-two years, from _La Fortune des Rougon_, in 1871, to _Docteur
Pascal_ in 1893, the series continued to focus the attention of the
world, and Zola was the most talked about man in the literature of the
epoch. _La Fortune des Rougon_ was introductory. _La Curee_ discussed
society under the second Empire. _Le Ventre de Paris_ described the
great market of Paris. _La Conquete de Plassans_ spoke of life in the
south of France. _La Faute de l'Abbe Mouret_ treated of the results of
celibacy. _Son Excellence Eugene Rougon_ dealt with official life.
_L'Assommoir_ was a tract against the vice of drunkenness. Some think
this the strongest of the naturalist series. Its success was
prodigious. In this the marvellous talent of Zola for minute
description is evinced. _Une Page d'Amour_ (A Love Episode) appeared
in 1878. Of _Nana_, 1880, three hundred thousand copies were quickly
sold. _Pot-Bouille_ portrayed the lower _bourgeoisie_ and their
servants. _Au Bonheur des Dames_ treated of the great retail shops.
_La Joie de Vivre_ came in 1884. _Germinal_ told of mining and the
misery of the proletariat. _L'Oeuvre_ pictured the life of artists and
authors. _La Terre_ portrayed, with startling realism, the lowest
peasant life. _Le Reve_, which followed, was a reaction. It was a
graceful idyl. _Le Reve_ was termed "a symphony in white," and was
considered as a concession to the views of the majority of the French
Academy. _La Bete Humaine_ exhausted the details of railway life.
_L'Argent_ treats of financial scandals and panics. _La Debacle_,
1892, is a realistic picture of the desperate struggles of the
Franco-Prussian war. _Le Docteur Pascal_, 1893, a story of the
emotions, wound up the series. Through it all runs the thread of
heredity and environment in their influence on human character.

But Zola's work was not finished. A series of three romances on cities
showed a continuance of power. They are _Lourdes_, _Rome_, and
_Paris_. After the books on the three cities Zola planned a sort of
tetralogy, intended to sum up his social philosophy, which he called
the "Four Gospels." _Feconditie_ is a tract against race suicide. The
others of this series are entitled _Travail_, _Verite_ and _Justice_,
the latter projected but not begun.

The attitude which Zola took in reference to the wretched Dreyfus
scandal will add greatly to his fame as a man of courage and a lover
of truth. From this filthy mess of perjury and forgery Zola's
intrepidity and devotion to justice arise clear and white as a lily
from a cesspool.

Several of Zola's books have been dramatized.

Zola died suddenly at his home in Paris, in September, 1902. He
received a public funeral, Anatole France delivering an oration at the
grave. There is every indication that Zola's great reputation as an
artist and philosopher will increase with the passing of the years.


                            A LOVE EPISODE

                              CHAPTER I.

The night-lamp with a bluish shade was burning on the chimney-piece,
behind a book, whose shadows plunged more than half the chamber in
darkness. There was a quiet gleam of light cutting across the round
table and the couch, streaming over the heavy folds of the velvet
curtains, and imparting an azure hue to the mirror of the rosewood
wardrobe placed between the two windows. The quiet simplicity of the
room, the blue tints on the hangings, furniture, and carpet, served at
this hour of night to invest everything with the delightful vagueness
of cloudland. Facing the windows, and within sweep of the shadow,
loomed the velvet-curtained bed, a black mass, relieved only by the
white of the sheets. With hands crossed on her bosom, and breathing
lightly, lay Helene, asleep--mother and widow alike personified by the
quiet unrestraint of her attitude.

In the midst of the silence one o'clock chimed from the timepiece. The
noises of the neighborhood had died away; the dull, distant roar of
the city was the only sign of life that disturbed those Trocadero
heights. Helene's breathing, so light and gentle, did not ruffle the
chaste repose of her bosom. She was in a beauteous sleep, peaceful yet
sound, her profile perfect, her nut-brown hair twisted into a knot,
and her head leaning forward somewhat, as though she had fallen asleep
while eagerly listening. At the farther end of the room the open door
of an adjoining closet seemed but a black square in the wall.

Still there was not a sound. The half-hour struck. The pendulum gave
but a feeble tick-tack amid the general drowsiness that brooded over
the whole chamber. Everything was sleeping, night-lamp and furniture
alike; on the table, near an extinguished lamp, some woman's handiwork
was disposed also in slumber. Helene in her sleep retained her air of
gravity and kindliness.

Two o'clock struck, and the stillness was broken. A deep sigh issued
from the darkness of the closet. There was a rustling of linen sheets,
and then silence reigned again. Anon labored breathing broke through
the gloom. Helene had not moved. Suddenly, however, she started up,
for the moanings and cries of a child in pain had roused her. Dazed
with sleep, she pressed her hands against her temples, but hearing a
stifled sob, she leaped from her couch on to the carpet.

"Jeanne! my Jeanne! what ails you? tell me, love," she asked; and as
the child remained silent, she murmured, while running towards the
night-light, "Gracious Heaven! why did I go to bed when she was so

Quickly she entered the closet, where deep silence had again fallen.
The feeble gleam of the lamp threw but a circular patch of light on
the ceiling. Bending over the iron cot, she could at first make out
nothing, but amidst the bed-clothes, tossed about in disorder, the dim
light soon revealed Jeanne, with limbs quite stiff, her head flung
back, the muscles of her neck swollen and rigid. Her sweet face was
distorted, her eyes were open and fixed on the curtain-rod above.

"My child!" cried Helene. "My God! my God! she is dying."

Setting down the lamp, Helene touched her daughter with trembling
hands. The throbbing of the pulse and the heart's action seemed to
have died away. The child's puny arms and legs were stretched out
convulsively, and the mother grew frantic at the sight.

"My child is dying! Help, help!" she stammered. "My child! my child!"

She wandered back to her room, brushing against the furniture, and
unconscious of her movements; then, distracted, she again returned to
the little bed, throwing herself on her knees, and ever appealing for
help. She took Jeanne in her arms, rained kisses on her hair, and
stroked her little body, begging her to answer, and seeking one word
--only one word--from her silent lips. Where was the pain? Would she
have some of the cooling drink she had liked the other day? Perhaps
the fresh air would revive her? So she rattled on, bent on making the
child speak.

"Speak to me, Jeanne! speak to me, I entreat you!"

Oh, God! and not to know what to do in this sudden terror born of the
night! There was no light even. Then her ideas grew confused, though
her supplications to the child continued--at one moment she was
beseeching, at another answering in her own person. Thus, the pain
gripped her in the stomach; no, no, it must be in the breast. It was
nothing at all; she need merely keep quiet. Then Helene tried to
collect her scattered senses; but as she felt her daughter stark and
stiff in her embrace, her heart sickened unto death. She tried to
reason with herself, and to resist the yearning to scream. But all at
once, despite herself, her cry rang out

"Rosalie, Rosalie! my child is dying. Quick, hurry for the doctor."

Screaming out these words, she ran through dining-room and kitchen
to a room in the rear, where the maid started up from sleep, giving
vent to her surprise. Helene speeded back again. Clad only in her
night-dress she moved about, seemingly not feeling the icy cold of the
February night. Pah! this maid would loiter, and her child would die!
Back again she hurried through the kitchen to the bedroom before a
minute had elapsed. Violently, and in the dark, she slipped on a
petticoat, and threw a shawl over her shoulders. The furniture in her
way was overturned; the room so still and silent was filled with the
echoes of her despair. Then leaving the doors open, she rushed down
three flights of stairs in her slippers, consumed with the thought
that she alone could bring back a doctor.

After the house-porter had opened the door Helene found herself upon
the pavement, with a ringing in her ears and her mind distracted.
However, she quickly ran down the Rue Vineuse and pulled the door-bell
of Doctor Bodin, who had already tended Jeanne; but a servant--after
an interval which seemed an eternity--informed her that the doctor was
attending a woman in childbed. Helene remained stupefied on the
footway; she knew no other doctor in Passy. For a few moments she
rushed about the streets, gazing at the houses. A slight but keen wind
was blowing, and she was walking in slippers through the light snow
that had fallen during the evening. Ever before her was her daughter,
with the agonizing thought that she was killing her by not finding a
doctor at once. Then, as she retraced her steps along the Rue Vineuse,
she rang the bell of another house. She would inquire, at all events;
some one would perhaps direct her. She gave a second tug at the bell;
but no one seemed to come. The wind meanwhile played with her
petticoat, making it cling to her legs, and tossed her dishevelled

At last a servant answered her summons. "Doctor Deberle was in bed
asleep." It was a doctor's house at which she had rung, so Heaven had
not abandoned her! Straightway, intent upon entering, she pushed the
servant aside, still repeating her prayer:

"My child, my child is dying! Oh, tell him he must come!"

The house was small and seemed full of hangings. She reached the first
floor, despite the servant's opposition, always answering his protest
with the words, "My child is dying!" In the apartment she entered she
would have been content to wait; but the moment she heard the doctor
stirring in the next room she drew near and appealed to him through
the doorway:

"Oh, sir, come at once, I beseech you. My child is dying!"

When the doctor at last appeared in a short coat and without a
neckcloth, she dragged him away without allowing him to finish
dressing. He at once recognized her as a resident in the next-door
house, and one of his own tenants; so when he induced her to cross a
garden--to shorten the way by using a side-door between the two houses
--memory suddenly awoke within her.

"True, you are a doctor!" she murmured, "and I knew it. But I was
distracted. Oh, let us hurry!"

On the staircase she wished him to go first. She could not have
admitted the Divinity to her home in a more reverent manner. Upstairs
Rosalie had remained near the child, and had lit the large lamp on the
table. After the doctor had entered the room he took up this lamp and
cast its light upon the body of the child, which retained its painful
rigidity; the head, however, had slipped forward, and nervous
twitchings were ceaselessly drawing the face. For a minute he looked
on in silence, his lips compressed. Helene anxiously watched him, and
on noticing the mother's imploring glance, he muttered: "It will be
nothing. But she must not lie here. She must have air."

Helene grasped her child in a strong embrace, and carried her away on
her shoulder. She could have kissed the doctor's hand for his good
tidings, and a wave of happiness rippled through her. Scarcely,
however, had Jeanne been placed in the larger bed than her poor little
frame was again seized with violent convulsions. The doctor had
removed the shade from the lamp, and a white light was streaming
through the room. Then, opening a window, he ordered Rosalie to drag
the bed away from the curtains. Helene's heart was again filled with
anguish. "Oh, sir, she is dying," she stammered. "Look! look! Ah! I
scarcely recognize her."

The doctor did not reply, but watched the paroxysm attentively.

"Step into the alcove," he at last exclaimed. "Hold her hands to
prevent her from tearing herself. There now, gently, quietly! Don't
make yourself uneasy. The fit must be allowed to run its course."

They both bent over the bed, supporting and holding Jeanne, whose
limbs shot out with sudden jerks. The doctor had buttoned up his coat
to hide his bare neck, and Helene's shoulders had till now been
enveloped in her shawl; but Jeanne in her struggles dragged a corner
of the shawl away, and unbuttoned the top of the coat. Still they did
not notice it; they never even looked at one another.

[Illustration: Jeanne's Illness]

At last the convulsion ceased, and the little one then appeared to
sink into deep prostration. Doctor Deberle was evidently ill at ease,
though he had assured the mother that there was no danger. He kept his
gaze fixed on the sufferer, and put some brief questions to Helene as
she stood by the bedside.

"How old is the child?"

"Eleven years and six months, sir," was the reply.

Silence again fell between them. He shook his head, and stooped to
raise one of Jeanne's lowered eyelids and examine the mucus. Then he
resumed his questions, but without raising his eyes to Helene.

"Did she have convulsions when she was a baby?"

"Yes, sir; but they left her after she reached her sixth birthday. Ah!
she is very delicate. For some days past she had seemed ill at ease.
She was at times taken with cramp, and plunged in a stupor."

"Do you know of any members of your family that have suffered from
nervous affections?"

"I don't know. My mother was carried off by consumption."

Here shame made her pause. She could not confess that she had a
grandmother who was an inmate of a lunatic asylum.[*] There was
something tragic connected with all her ancestry.

[*] This is Adelaide Fouque, otherwise Aunt Dide, the ancestress of
    the Rougon-Macquart family, whose early career is related in the
    "Fortune of the Rougons," whilst her death is graphically
    described in the pages of "Dr. Pascal."

"Take care! the convulsions are coming on again!" now hastily
exclaimed the doctor.

Jeanne had just opened her eyes, and for a moment she gazed around her
with a vacant look, never speaking a word. Her glance then grew fixed,
her body was violently thrown backwards, and her limbs became
distended and rigid. Her skin, fiery-red, all at once turned livid.
Her pallor was the pallor of death; the convulsions began once more.

"Do not loose your hold of her," said the doctor. "Take her other

He ran to the table, where, on entering, he had placed a small
medicine-case. He came back with a bottle, the contents of which he
made Jeanne inhale; but the effect was like that of a terrible lash;
the child gave such a violent jerk that she slipped from her mother's

"No, no, don't give her ether," exclaimed Helene, warned by the odor.
"It drives her mad."

The two had now scarcely strength enough to keep the child under
control. Her frame was racked and distorted, raised by the heels and
the nape of the neck, as if bent in two. But she fell back again and
began tossing from one side of the bed to the other. Her fists were
clenched, her thumbs bent against the palms of her hands. At times she
would open the latter, and, with fingers wide apart, grasp at phantom
bodies in the air, as though to twist them. She touched her mother's
shawl and fiercely clung to it. But Helene's greatest grief was that
she no longer recognized her daughter. The suffering angel, whose face
was usually so sweet, was transformed in every feature, while her eyes
swam, showing balls of a nacreous blue.

"Oh, do something, I implore you!" she murmured. "My strength is
exhausted, sir."

She had just remembered how the child of a neighbor at Marseilles had
died of suffocation in a similar fit. Perhaps from feelings of pity
the doctor was deceiving her. Every moment she believed she felt
Jeanne's last breath against her face; for the child's halting
respiration seemed suddenly to cease. Heartbroken and overwhelmed with
terror, Helene then burst into tears, which fell on the body of her
child, who had thrown off the bedclothes.

The doctor meantime was gently kneading the base of the neck with his
long supple fingers. Gradually the fit subsided, and Jeanne, after a
few slight twitches, lay there motionless. She had fallen back in the
middle of the bed, with limbs outstretched, while her head, supported
by the pillow, inclined towards her bosom. One might have thought her
an infant Jesus. Helene stooped and pressed a long kiss on her brow.

"Is it over?" she asked in a whisper. "Do you think she'll have
another fit?"

The doctor made an evasive gesture, and then replied:

"In any case the others will be less violent."

He had asked Rosalie for a glass and water-bottle. Half-filling the
glass with water, he took up two fresh medicine phials, and counted
out a number of drops. Helene assisted in raising the child's head,
and the doctor succeeded in pouring a spoonful of the liquid between
the clenched teeth. The white flame of the lamp was leaping up high
and clear, revealing the disorder of the chamber's furnishings.
Helene's garments, thrown on the back of an arm-chair before she
slipped into bed, had now fallen, and were littering the carpet. The
doctor had trodden on her stays, and had picked them up lest he might
again find them in his way. An odor of vervain stole through the room.
The doctor himself went for the basin, and soaked a linen cloth in it,
which he then pressed to Jeanne's temples.

"Oh, madame, you'll take cold!" expostulated Rosalie as she stood
there shivering. "Perhaps the window might be shut? The air is too

"No, no!" cried Helene; "leave the window open. Should it not be so?"
she appealed to the doctor.

The wind entered in slight puffs, rustling the curtains to and fro;
but she was quite unconscious of it. Yet the shawl had slipped off her
shoulders, and her hair had become unwound, some wanton tresses
sweeping down to her hips. She had left her arms free and uncovered,
that she might be the more ready; she had forgotten all, absorbed
entirely in her love for her child. And on his side, the doctor, busy
with his work, no longer thought of his unbuttoned coat, or of the
shirt-collar that Jeanne's clutch had torn away.

"Raise her up a little," said he to Helene. "No, no, not in that way!
Give me your hand."

He took her hand and placed it under the child's head. He wished to
give Jeanne another spoonful of the medicine. Then he called Helene
close to him, made use of her as his assistant; and she obeyed him
reverently on seeing that her daughter was already more calm.

"Now, come," he said. "You must let her head lean against your
shoulder, while I listen."

Helene did as he bade her, and he bent over her to place his ear
against Jeanne's bosom. He touched her bare shoulder with his cheek,
and as the pulsation of the child's heart struck his ear he could also
have heard the throbbing of the mother's breast. As he rose up his
breath mingled with Helene's.

"There is nothing wrong there," was the quiet remark that filled her
with delight. "Lay her down again. We must not worry her more."

However, another, though much less violent, paroxysm followed. From
Jeanne's lips burst some broken words. At short intervals two fresh
attacks seemed about to convulse her, and then a great prostration,
which again appeared to alarm the doctor, fell on the child. He had
placed her so that her head lay high, with the clothes carefully
tucked under her chin; and for nearly an hour he remained there
watching her, as though awaiting the return of a healthy respiration.
On the other side of the bed Helene also waited, never moving a limb.

Little by little a great calm settled on Jeanne's face. The lamp cast
a sunny light upon it, and it regained its exquisite though somewhat
lengthy oval. Jeanne's fine eyes, now closed, had large, bluish,
transparent lids, which veiled--one could divine it--a sombre,
flashing glance. A light breathing came from her slender nose, while
round her somewhat large mouth played a vague smile. She slept thus,
amidst her outspread tresses, which were inky black.

"It has all passed away now," said the doctor in a whisper; and he
turned to arrange his medicine bottles prior to leaving.

"Oh, sir!" exclaimed Helene, approaching him, "don't leave me yet;
wait a few minutes. Another fit might come on, and you, you alone,
have saved her!"

He signed to her that there was nothing to fear; yet he tarried, with
the idea of tranquillizing her. She had already sent Rosalie to bed;
and now the dawn soon broke, still and grey, over the snow which
whitened the housetops. The doctor proceeded to close the window, and
in the deep quiet the two exchanged a few whispers.

"There is nothing seriously wrong with her, I assure you," said he;
"only with one so young great care must be taken. You must see that
her days are spent quietly and happily, and without shocks of any

"She is so delicate and nervous," replied Helene after a moment's
pause. "I cannot always control her. For the most trifling reasons she
is so overcome by joy or sorrow that I grow alarmed. She loves me with
a passion, a jealousy, which makes her burst into tears when I caress
another child."

"So, so--delicate, nervous, and jealous," repeated the doctor as he
shook his head. "Doctor Bodin has attended her, has he not? I'll have
a talk with him about her. We shall have to adopt energetic treatment.
She has reached an age that is critical in one of her sex."

Recognizing the interest he displayed, Helene gave vent to her
gratitude. "How I must thank you, sir, for the great trouble you have

The loudness of her tones frightened her, however; she might have woke
Jeanne, and she bent down over the bed. But no; the child was sound
asleep, with rosy cheeks, and a vague smile playing round her lips.
The air of the quiet chamber was charged with languor. The whilom
drowsiness, as if born again of relief, once more seized upon the
curtains, furniture, and littered garments. Everything was steeped
restfully in the early morning light as it entered through the two

Helene again stood up close to the bed; on the other side was the
doctor, and between them lay Jeanne, lightly sleeping.

"Her father was frequently ill," remarked Helene softly, continuing
her answer to his previous question. "I myself enjoy the best of

The doctor, who had not yet looked at her, raised his eyes, and could
scarcely refrain from smiling, so hale and hearty was she in every
way. She greeted his gaze with her own sweet and quiet smile. Her
happiness lay in her good health.

However, his looks were still bent on her. Never had he seen such
classical beauty. Tall and commanding, she was a nut-brown Juno, of a
nut-brown sunny with gleams of gold. When she slowly turned her head,
its profile showed the severe purity of a statue. Her grey eyes and
pearly teeth lit up her whole face. Her chin, rounded and somewhat
pronounced, proved her to be possessed of commonsense and firmness.
But what astonished the doctor was the superbness of her whole figure.
She stood there, a model of queenliness, chastity, and modesty.

On her side also she scanned him for a moment. Doctor Deberle's years
were thirty-five; his face was clean-shaven and a little long; he had
keen eyes and thin lips. As she gazed on him she noticed for the first
time that his neck was bare. Thus they remained face to face, with
Jeanne asleep between them. The distance which but a short time before
had appeared immense, now seemed to be dwindling away. Then Helene
slowly wrapped the shawl about her shoulders again, while the doctor
hastened to button his coat at the neck.

"Mamma! mamma!" Jeanne stammered in her sleep. She was waking, and on
opening her eyes she saw the doctor and became uneasy.

"Mamma, who's that?" was her instant question; but her mother kissed
her, and replied: "Go to sleep, darling, you haven't been well. It's
only a friend."

The child seemed surprised; she did not remember anything. Drowsiness
was coming over her once more, and she fell asleep again, murmuring
tenderly: "I'm going to by-by. Good-night, mamma, dear. If he is your
friend he will be mine."

The doctor had removed his medicine-case, and, with a silent bow, he
left the room. Helene listened for a while to the child's breathing,
and then, seated on the edge of the bed, she became oblivious to
everything around her; her looks and thoughts wandering far away. The
lamp, still burning, was paling in the growing sunlight.

                             CHAPTER II.

Next day Helene thought it right and proper to pay a visit of thanks
to Doctor Deberle. The abrupt fashion in which she had compelled him
to follow her, and the remembrance of the whole night which he had
spent with Jeanne, made her uneasy, for she realized that he had done
more than is usually compassed within a doctor's visit. Still, for two
days she hesitated to make her call, feeling a strange repugnance
towards such a step. For this she could give herself no reasons. It
was the doctor himself who inspired her with this hesitancy; one
morning she met him, and shrunk from his notice as though she were a
child. At this excess of timidity she was much annoyed. Her quiet,
upright nature protested against the uneasiness which was taking
possession of her. She decided, therefore, to go and thank the doctor
that very day.

Jeanne's attack had taken place during the small hours of Wednesday
morning; it was now Saturday, and the child was quite well again.
Doctor Bodin, whose fears concerning her had prompted him to make an
early call, spoke of Doctor Deberle with the respect that an old
doctor with a meagre income pays to another in the same district, who
is young, rich, and already possessed of a reputation. He did not
forget to add, however, with an artful smile, that the fortune had
been bequeathed by the elder Deberle, a man whom all Passy held in
veneration. The son had only been put to the trouble of inheriting
fifteen hundred thousand francs, together with a splendid practice.
"He is, though, a very smart fellow," Doctor Bodin hastened to add,
"and I shall be honored by having a consultation with him about the
precious health of my little friend Jeanne!"

About three o'clock Helene made her way downstairs with her daughter,
and had to take but a few steps along the Rue Vineuse before ringing
at the next-door house. Both mother and daughter still wore deep
mourning. A servant, in dress-coat and white tie, opened the door.
Helene easily recognized the large entrance-hall, with its Oriental
hangings; on each side of it, however, there were now flower-stands,
brilliant with a profusion of blossoms. The servant having admitted
them to a small drawing-room, the hangings and furniture of which were
of a mignonette hue, stood awaiting their pleasure, and Helene gave
her name--Madame Grandjean.

Thereupon the footman pushed open the door of a drawing-room,
furnished in yellow and black, of dazzling effect, and, moving aside,

"Madame Grandjean!"

Helene, standing on the threshold, started back. She had just noticed
at the other end of the room a young woman seated near the fireplace
on a narrow couch which was completely covered by her ample skirts.
Facing her sat an elderly person, who had retained her bonnet and
shawl, and was evidently paying a visit.

"I beg pardon," exclaimed Helene. "I wished to see Doctor Deberle."

She had made the child enter the room before her, and now took her by
the hand again. She was both astonished and embarrassed in meeting
this young lady. Why had she not asked for the doctor? She well knew
he was married.

Madame Deberle was just finishing some story, in a quick and rather
shrill voice.

"Oh! it's marvellous, marvellous! She dies with wonderful realism. She
clutches at her bosom like this, throws back her head, and her face
turns green. I declare you ought to see her, Mademoiselle Aurelie!"

Then, rising up, she sailed towards the doorway, rustling her skirts

"Be so kind as to walk in, madame," she said with charming
graciousness. "My husband is not at home, but I shall be delighted to
receive you, I assure you. This must be the pretty little girl who was
so ill a few nights ago. Sit down for a moment, I beg of you."

Helene was forced to accept the invitation, while Jeanne timidly
perched herself on the edge of another chair. Madame Deberle again
sank down on her little sofa, exclaiming with a pretty laugh,

"Yes, this is my day. I receive every Saturday, you see, and Pierre
then announces all comers. A week or two ago he ushered in a colonel
suffering from the gout."

"How silly you are, my dear Juliette!" expostulated Mademoiselle
Aurelie, the elderly lady, an old friend in straitened circumstances,
who had seen her come into the world.

There was a short silence, and Helene gazed round at the luxury of the
apartment, with its curtains and chairs in black and gold, glittering
like constellations. Flowers decorated mantel-shelf, piano, and tables
alike, and the clear light streamed through the windows from the
garden, in which could be seen the leafless trees and bare soil. The
room had almost a hot-house temperature; in the fireplace one large
log was glowing with intense heat. After another glance Helene
recognized that the gaudy colors had a happy effect. Madame Deberle's
hair was inky-black, and her skin of a milky whiteness. She was short,
plump, slow in her movements, and withal graceful. Amidst all the
golden decorations, her white face assumed a vermeil tint under her
heavy, sombre tresses. Helene really admired her.

"Convulsions are so terrible," broke in Madame Deberle. "My Lucien had
them when a mere baby. How uneasy you must have been, madame! However,
the dear little thing appears to be quite well now."

As she drawled out these words she kept her eyes on Helene, whose
superb beauty amazed and delighted her. Never had she seen a woman
with so queenly an air in the black garments which draped the widow's
commanding figure. Her admiration found vent in an involuntary smile,
while she exchanged glances with Mademoiselle Aurelie. Their
admiration was so ingenuously and charmingly expressed, that a faint
smile also rippled over Helene's face.

Then Madame Deberle stretched herself on the sofa. "You were not at
the first night at the Vaudeville yesterday, madame?" she asked, as
she played with the fan that hung from her waist.

"I never go to the theatre," was Helene's reply.

"Oh! little Noemi was simply marvellous! Her death scene is so
realistic! She clutches her bosom like this, throws back her head, and
her face turns green. Oh! the effect is prodigious."

Thereupon she entered into a minute criticism of the actress's
playing, which she upheld against the world; and then she passed to
the other topics of the day--a fine art exhibition, at which she had
seen some most remarkable paintings; a stupid novel about which too
much fuss was being made; a society intrigue which she spoke of to
Mademoiselle Aurelie in veiled language. And so she went on from one
subject to another, without wearying, her tongue ever ready, as though
this social atmosphere were peculiarly her own. Helene, a stranger to
such society, was content to listen, merely interjecting a remark or
brief reply every now and then.

At last the door was again thrown open and the footman announced:
"Madame de Chermette! Madame Tissot!"

Two ladies entered, magnificently dressed. Madame Deberle rose eagerly
to meet them, and the train of her black silk gown, heavily decked
with trimmings, trailed so far behind her that she had to kick it out
of her way whenever she happened to turn round. A confused babel of
greetings in shrill voices arose.

"Oh! how kind of you! I declare I never see you!"

"You know we come about that lottery."

"Yes: I know, I know."

"Oh! we cannot sit down. We have to call at twenty houses yet."

"Come now, you are not going to run away at once!"

And then the visitors finished by sitting down on the edge of a couch;
the chatter beginning again, shriller than ever.

"Well! what do you think of yesterday at the Vaudeville?"

"Oh! it was splendid!"

"You know she unfastens her dress and lets down her hair. All the
effect springs from that."

"People say that she swallows something to make her green."

"No, no, every action is premeditated; but she had to invent and study
them all, in the first place."

"It's wonderful."

The two ladies rose and made their exit, and the room regained its
tranquil peacefulness. From some hyacinths on the mantel-shelf was
wafted an all-pervading perfume. For a time one could hear the noisy
twittering of some sparrows quarrelling on the lawn. Before resuming
her seat, Madame Deberle proceeded to draw down the embroidered tulle
blind of a window facing her, and then returned to her sofa in the
mellowed, golden light of the room.

"I beg pardon," she now said. "We have had quite an invasion."

Then, in an affectionate way, she entered into conversation with
Helene. She seemed to know some details of her history, doubtless from
the gossip of her servants. With a boldness that was yet full of tact,
and appeared instinct with much friendliness, she spoke to Helene of
her husband, and of his sad death at the Hotel du Var, in the Rue de

"And you had just arrived, hadn't you? You had never been in Paris
before. It must be awful to be plunged into mourning, in a strange
room, the day after a long journey, and when one doesn't know a single
place to go to."

Helene assented with a slow nod. Yes, she had spent some very bitter
hours. The disease which carried off her husband had abruptly declared
itself on the day after their arrival, just as they were going out
together. She knew none of the streets, and was wholly unaware what
district she was in. For eight days she had remained at the bedside of
the dying man, hearing the rumble of Paris beneath her window, feeling
she was alone, deserted, lost, as though plunged in the depths of an
abyss. When she stepped out on the pavement for the first time, she
was a widow. The mere recalling of that bare room, with its rows of
medicine bottles, and with the travelling trunks standing about
unpacked, still made her shudder.

"Was your husband, as I've been told, nearly twice your age?" asked
Madame Deberle with an appearance of profound interest, while
Mademoiselle Aurelie cocked her ears so as not to lose a syllable of
the conversation.

"Oh, no!" replied Helene. "He was scarcely six years older."

Then she ventured to enter into the story of her marriage, telling in
a few brief sentences how her husband had fallen deeply in love with
her while she was living with her father, Monsieur Mouret, a hatter in
the Rue des Petites-Maries, at Marseilles; how the Grandjean family,
who were rich sugar-refiners, were bitterly opposed to the match, on
account of her poverty. She spoke, too, of the ill-omened and secret
wedding after the usual legal formalities, and of their hand-to-mouth
existence, till the day an uncle on dying left them some ten thousand
francs a year. It was then that Grandjean, within whom an intense
hatred of Marseilles was growing, had decided on coming to Paris, to
live there for good.

"And how old were you when you were married?" was Madame Deberle's
next question.


"You must have been very beautiful."

The conversation suddenly ceased, for Helene had not seemed to hear
the remark.

"Madame Manguelin!" announced the footman.

A young, retiring woman, evidently ill at ease, was ushered in. Madame
Deberle scarcely rose. It was one of her dependents, who had called to
thank her for some service performed. The visitor only remained for a
few minutes, and left the room with a courtesy.

Madame Deberle then resumed the conversation, and spoke of Abbe Jouve,
with whom both were acquainted. The Abbe was a meek officiating priest
at Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the parish church of Passy; however, his
charity was such that he was more beloved and more respectfully
hearkened to than any other priest in the district.

"Oh, he has such pious eloquence!" exclaimed Madame Deberle, with a
sanctimonious look.

"He has been very kind to us," said Helene. "My husband had formerly
known him at Marseilles. The moment he heard of my misfortune he took
charge of everything. To him we owe our settling in Passy."

"He has a brother, hasn't he?" questioned Juliette.

"Yes, a step-brother, for his mother married again. Monsieur Rambaud
was also acquainted with my husband. He has started a large business
in the Rue de Rambuteau, where he sells oils and other Southern
produce. I believe he makes a large amount of money by it." And she
added, with a laugh: "The Abbe and his brother make up my court."

Jeanne, sitting on the edge of her chair, and wearied to death, now
cast an impatient look at her mother. Her long, delicate, lamb-like
face wore a pained expression, as if she disliked all this
conversation; and she appeared at times to sniff the heavy, oppressive
odors floating in the room, while casting suspicious side-glances at
the furniture, as though her own exquisite sensibility warned her of
some undefined dangers. Finally, however, she turned a look of
tyrannical worship on her mother.

Madame Deberle noticed the child's uneasiness.

"Here's a little girl," she said, "who feels tired at being serious,
like a grown-up person. There are some picture-books on the table,
dear; they will amuse you."

Jeanne took up an album, but her eyes strayed from it to glance
imploringly at her mother. Helene, charmed by her hostess's excessive
kindness, did not move; there was nothing of the fidget in her, and
she would of her own accord remain seated for hours. However, as the
servant announced three ladies in succession--Madame Berthier, Madame
de Guiraud, and Madame Levasseur--she thought she ought to rise.

"Oh! pray stop," exclaimed Madame Deberle; "I must show you my son."

The semi-circle round the fireplace was increasing in size. The ladies
were all gossiping at the same time. One of them declared that she was
completely broken down, as for five days she had not gone to bed till
four o'clock in the morning. Another indulged in a diatribe against
wet nurses; she could no longer find one who was honest. Next the
conversation fell on dressmakers. Madame Deberle affirmed no woman
tailor could fit you properly; a man was requisite. Two of the ladies,
however, were mumbling something under their breath, and, a silence
intervening, two or three words became audible. Every one then broke
into a laugh, while languidly waving their fans.

"Monsieur Malignon!" announced the servant.

A tall young man, dressed in good style, was ushered in. Some
exclamations greeted him. Madame Deberle, not taking the trouble to
rise, stretched out her hand and inquired: "Well! what of yesterday at
the Vaudeville?"

"Vile!" was his reply.

"What! vile! She's marvellous when she clutches her bosom and throws
back her head--"

"Stop! stop! The whole thing is loathsome in its realism."

And then quite a dispute commenced. It was easy to talk of realism,
but the young man would have no realism at all.

"I would not have it in anything, you hear!" said he, raising his
voice. "No, not in anything! it degrades art."

People would soon be seeing some fine things on the stage, indeed! Why
didn't Noemi follow out her actions to their logical conclusion? And
he illustrated his remark with a gesture which quite scandalized the
ladies. Oh, how horrible! However, when Madame Deberle had declared
that the actress produced a great effect, and Madame Levasseur had
related how a lady had fainted in the balcony, everybody agreed that
the affair was a great success; and with this the discussion stopped

The young man sat in an arm-chair, with his legs stretched out among
the ladies' flowing skirts. He seemed to be quite at home in the
doctor's house. He had mechanically plucked a flower from a vase, and
was tearing it to pieces with his teeth. Madame Deberle interrupted

"Have you read that novel which--"

He did not allow her to finish, but replied, with a superior air, that
he only read two novels in the year.

As for the exhibition of paintings at the Art Club, it was not worth
troubling about; and then, every topic being exhausted, he rose and
leaned over Juliette's little sofa, conversing with her in a low
voice, while the other ladies continued chatting together in an
animated manner.

At length: "Dear me! he's gone," exclaimed Madame Berthier turning
round. "I met him only an hour ago in Madame Robinot's drawing-room."

"Yes, and he is now going to visit Madame Lecomte," said Madame
Deberle. "He goes about more than any other man in Paris." She turned
to Helene, who had been following the scene, and added: "A very
distinguished young fellow he is, and we like him very much. He has
some interest in a stockbroking business; he's very rich besides, and
well posted in everything."

The other ladies, however, were now going off.

"Good-bye, dear madame. I rely upon you for Wednesday."

"Yes, to be sure; Wednesday."

"Oh, by the way, will you be at that evening party? One doesn't know
whom one may meet. If you go, I'll go."

"Ah, well! I'll go, I promise you. Give my best regards to Monsieur de

When Madame Deberle returned she found Helene standing in the middle
of the drawing-room. Jeanne had drawn close to her mother, whose hands
she firmly grasped; and thus clinging to her caressingly and almost
convulsively, she was drawing her little by little towards the

"Ah, I was forgetting!" exclaimed the lady of the house; and ringing
the bell for the servant, she said to him: "Pierre, tell Miss Smithson
to bring Lucien here."

During the short interval of waiting that ensued the door was again
opened, but this time in a familiar fashion and without any formal
announcement. A good-looking girl of some sixteen years of age entered
in company with an old man, short of stature but with a rubicund,
chubby face.

"Good-day, sister," was the girl's greeting, as she kissed Madame

"Good-day, Pauline! good-day, father!" replied the doctor's wife.

Mademoiselle Aurelie, who had not stirred from her seat beside the
fire, rose to exchange greetings with Monsieur Letellier. He owned an
extensive silk warehouse on the Boulevard des Capucines. Since his
wife's death he had been taking his younger daughter about everywhere,
in search of a rich husband for her.

"Were you at the Vaudeville last night?" asked Pauline.

"Oh, it was simply marvellous!" repeated Juliette in parrot-fashion,
as, standing before a mirror, she rearranged a rebellious curl.

"It is annoying to be so young; one can't go to anything!" said
Pauline, pouting like a spoiled child. "I went with papa to the
theatre-door at midnight, to find out how the piece had taken."

"Yes, and we tumbled upon Malignon," said the father.

"He was extremely pleased with it."

"Really!" exclaimed Juliette. "He was here a minute ago, and declared
it vile. One never knows how to take him."

"Have you had many visitors to-day?" asked Pauline, rushing off to
another subject.

"Oh, several ladies; quite a crowd! The room was never once empty. I'm

Here she abruptly broke off, remembering she had a formal introduction
to make

"My father, my sister--Madame Grandjean."

The conversation was turning on children and the ailments which give
mothers so much worry when Miss Smithson, an English governess,
appeared with a little boy clinging to her hand. Madame Deberle
scolded her in English for having kept them waiting.

"Ah! here's my little Lucien!" exclaimed Pauline as she dropped on her
knees before the child, with a great rustling of skirts.

"Now, now, leave him alone!" said Juliette. "Come here, Lucien; come
and say good-day to this little lady."

The boy came forward very sheepishly. He was no more than seven years
old, fat and dumpy, and dressed as coquettishly as a doll. As he saw
that they were all looking at him with smiles, he stopped short, and
surveyed Jeanne, his blue eyes wide open with astonishment.

"Go on!" urged his mother.

He turned his eyes questioningly on her and advanced a step, evincing
all the sullenness peculiar to lads of his age, his head lowered, his
thick lips pouting, and his eyebrows bent into a growing frown. Jeanne
must have frightened him with the serious look she wore standing there
in her black dress. She had not ceased holding her mother's hand, and
was nervously pressing her fingers on the bare part of the arm between
the sleeve and glove. With head lowered she awaited Lucien's approach
uneasily, like a young and timid savage, ready to fly from his caress.
But a gentle push from her mother prompted her to step forward.

"Little lady, you will have to kiss him first," Madame Deberle said
laughingly. "Ladies always have to begin with him. Oh! the little

"Kiss him, Jeanne," urged Helene.

The child looked up at her mother; and then, as if conquered by the
bashful looks of the little noodle, seized with sudden pity as she
gazed on his good-natured face, so dreadfully confused--she smiled
divinely. A sudden wave of hidden tenderness rose within her and
brightened her features, and she whispered: "Willingly, mamma!"

Then, taking Lucien under the armpits, almost lifting him from the
ground, she gave him a hearty kiss on each cheek. He had no further
hesitation in embracing her.

"Bravo! capital!" exclaimed the onlookers.

With a bow Helene turned to leave, accompanied to the door by Madame

"I beg you, madame," said she, "to present my heartiest thanks to the
doctor. He relieved me of such dreadful anxiety the other night."

"Is Henri not at home?" broke in Monsieur Letellier.

"No, he will be away some time yet," was Juliette's reply. "But you're
not going away; you'll dine with us," she continued, addressing
Mademoiselle Aurelie, who had risen as if to leave with Madame

The old maid with each Saturday expected a similar invitation, then
decided to relieve herself of shawl and bonnet. The heat in the
drawing-room was intense, and Monsieur Letellier hastened to open a
window, at which he remained standing, struck by the sight of a lilac
bush which was already budding. Pauline, meantime, had begun playfully
running after Lucien behind the chairs and couches, left in confusion
by the visitors.

On the threshold Madame Deberle held out her hand to Helene with a
frank and friendly movement.

"You will allow me," said she. "My husband spoke to me about you, and
I felt drawn to you. Your bereavement, your lonely life--in short, I
am very glad to have seen you, and you must not be long in coming

"I give you my promise, and I am obliged to you," said Helene, moved
by these tokens of affection from a woman whom she had imagined rather
flighty. They clasped hands, and each looked into the other's face
with a happy smile. Juliette's avowal of her sudden friendship was
given with a caressing air. "You are too lovely not to be loved!" she

Helene broke into a merry laugh, for her beauty never engaged her
thoughts, and she called Jeanne, whose eyes were busy watching the
pranks of Lucien and Pauline. But Madame Deberle detained the girl for
a moment longer.

"You are good friends henceforth," she said; "you must just say _au

Thereupon the two children blew one another a kiss with their

                             CHAPTER III.

Every Tuesday Helene had Monsieur Rambaud and Abbe Jouve to dine with
her. It was they who, during the early days of her bereavement, had
broken in on her solitude, and drawn up their chairs to her table with
friendly freedom; their object being to extricate her, at least once a
week, from the solitude in which she lived. The Tuesday dinners became
established institutions, and the partakers in these little feasts
appeared punctually at seven o'clock, serenely happy in discharging
what they deemed a duty.

That Tuesday Helene was seated at the window, profiting by the last
gleams of the twilight to finish some needle work, pending the arrival
of her guests. She here spent her days in pleasant peacefulness. The
noises of the street died away before reaching such a height. She
loved this large, quiet chamber, with its substantial luxury, its
rosewood furniture and blue velvet curtains. When her friends had
attended to her installation, she not having to trouble about
anything, she had at first somewhat suffered from all this sombre
luxury, in preparing which Monsieur Rambaud had realized his ideal of
comfort, much to the admiration of his brother, who had declined the
task. She was not long, however, in feeling happy in a home in which,
as in her heart, all was sound and simple. Her only enjoyment during
her long hours of work was to gaze before her at the vast horizon, the
huge pile of Paris, stretching its roofs, like billows, as far as the
eye could reach. Her solitary corner overlooked all that immensity.

"Mamma, I can no longer see," said Jeanne, seated near her on a low
chair. And then, dropping her work, the child gazed at Paris, which
was darkening over with the shadows of night. She rarely romped about,
and her mother even had to exert authority to induce her to go out. In
accordance with Doctor Bodin's strict injunction, Helene made her
stroll with her two hours each day in the Bois de Boulogne, and this
was their only promenade; in eighteen months they had not gone three
times into Paris.[*] Nowhere was Jeanne so evidently happy as in their
large blue room. Her mother had been obliged to renounce her intention
of having her taught music, for the sound of an organ in the silent
streets made her tremble and drew tears from her eyes. Her favorite
occupation was to assist her mother in sewing linen for the children
of the Abbe's poor.

[*] Passy and the Trocadero are now well inside Paris, but at the time
    fixed for this story they were beyond the _barrieres_.

Night had quite fallen when the lamp was brought in by Rosalie, who,
fresh from the glare of her range, looked altogether upset. Tuesday's
dinner was the one event of the week, which put things topsy-turvy.

"Aren't the gentlemen coming here to-night, madame?" she inquired.

Helene looked at the timepiece: "It's a quarter to seven; they will be
here soon," she replied.

Rosalie was a gift from Abbe Jouve, who had met her at the station on
the day she arrived from Orleans, so that she did not know a single
street in Paris. A village priest, an old schoolmate of Abbe Jouve's,
had sent her to him. She was dumpy and plump, with a round face under
her narrow cap, thick black hair, a flat nose, and deep red lips; and
she was expert in preparing savory dishes, having been brought up at
the parsonage by her godmother, servant to the village priest.

"Here is Monsieur Rambaud at last!" she exclaimed, rushing to open the
door before there was even a ring.

Full and broad-shouldered, Monsieur Rambaud entered, displaying an
expansive countenance like that of a country notary. His forty-five
years had already silvered his hair, but his large blue eyes retained
a wondering, artless, gentle expression, akin to a child's.

"And here's his reverence; everybody has come now!" resumed Rosalie,
as she opened the door once more.

Whilst Monsieur Rambaud pressed Helene's hand and sat down without
speaking, smiling like one who felt quite at home, Jeanne threw her
arms round the Abbe's neck.

"Good-evening, dear friend," said she. "I've been so ill!"

"So ill, my darling?"

The two men at once showed their anxiety, the Abbe especially. He was
a short, spare man, with a large head and awkward manners, and dressed
in the most careless way; but his eyes, usually half-closed, now
opened to their full extent, all aglow with exquisite tenderness.
Jeanne relinquished one of her hands to him, while she gave the other
to Monsieur Rambaud. Both held her and gazed at her with troubled
looks. Helene was obliged to relate the story of her illness, and the
Abbe was on the point of quarrelling with her for not having warned
him of it. And then they each questioned her. "The attack was quite
over now? She had not had another, had she?" The mother smiled as she

"You are even fonder of her than I am, and I think you'll frighten me
in the end," she replied. "No, she hasn't been troubled again, except
that she has felt some pains in her limbs and had some headaches. But
we shall get rid of these very soon."

The maid then entered to announce that dinner was ready.

The table, sideboard, and eight chairs furnishing the dining-room were
of mahogany. The curtains of red reps had been drawn close by Rosalie,
and a hanging lamp of white porcelain within a plain brass ring
lighted up the tablecloth, the carefully-arranged plates, and the
tureen of steaming soup. Each Tuesday's dinner brought round the same
remarks, but on this particular day Dr. Deberle served naturally as a
subject of conversation. Abbe Jouve lauded him to the skies, though he
knew that he was no church-goer. He spoke of him, however, as a man of
upright character, charitable to a fault, a good father, and a good
husband--in fact, one who gave the best of examples to others. As for
Madame Deberle she was most estimable, in spite of her somewhat
flighty ways, which were doubtless due to her Parisian education. In a
word, he dubbed the couple charming. Helene seemed happy to hear this;
it confirmed her own opinions; and the Abbe's remarks determined her
to continue the acquaintance, which had at first rather frightened

"You shut yourself up too much!" declared the priest.

"No doubt," echoed his brother.

Helene beamed on them with her quiet smile, as though to say that they
themselves sufficed for all her wants, and that she dreaded new
acquaintances. However, ten o'clock struck at last, and the Abbe and
his brother took up their hats. Jeanne had just fallen asleep in an
easy-chair in the bedroom, and they bent over her, raising their heads
with satisfied looks as they observed how tranquilly she slumbered.
They stole from the room on tiptoe, and in the lobby whispered their

"Till next Tuesday!"

"O, by the way," said the Abbe, returning a step or two, "I was
forgetting: Mother Fetu is ill. You should go to see her."

"I will go to-morrow," answered Helene.

The Abbe had a habit of commissioning her to visit his poor. They
engaged in all sorts of whispered talk together on this subject,
private business which a word or two enabled them to settle together,
and which they never referred to in the presence of other persons.

On the morrow Helene went out alone. She decided to leave Jeanne in
the house, as the child had been troubled with fits of shivering since
paying a visit of charity to an old man who had become paralyzed. Once
out of doors, she followed the Rue Vineuse, turned down the Rue
Raynouard, and soon found herself in the Passage des Eaux, a strange,
steep lane, like a staircase, pent between garden walls, and
conducting from the heights of Passy to the quay. At the bottom of
this descent was a dilapidated house, where Mother Fetu lived in an
attic lighted by a round window, and furnished with a wretched bed, a
rickety table, and a seatless chair.

"Oh! my good lady, my good lady!" she moaned out, directly she saw
Helene enter.

The old woman was in bed. In spite of her wretchedness, her body was
plump, swollen out, as it were, while her face was puffy, and her
hands seemed numbed as she drew the tattered sheet over her. She had
small, keen eyes and a whimpering voice, and displayed a noisy
humility in a rush of words.

"Ah! my good lady, how I thank you! Ah, ah! oh, how I suffer! It's
just as if dogs were tearing at my side. I'm sure I have a beast
inside me--see, just there! The skin isn't broken; the complaint is
internal. But, oh! oh! the pain hasn't ceased for two days past. Good
Lord, how is it possible to suffer so much? Ah, my good lady, thank
you! You don't forget the poor. It will be taken into account up
above; yes, yes, it will be taken into account!"

Helene had sat down. Noticing on the table a jug of warm _tisane_, she
filled a cup which was near at hand, and gave it to the sufferer. Near
the jug were placed a packet of sugar, two oranges, and some other

"Has any one been to see you?" Helene asked.

"Yes, yes,--a little lady. But she doesn't know. That isn't the sort
of stuff I need. Oh, if I could get a little meat! My next-door
neighbor would cook it for me. Oh! oh! this pain is something
dreadful! A dog is tearing at me--oh, if only I had some broth!"

In spite of the pains which were racking her limbs, she kept her sharp
eyes fixed on Helene, who was now busy fumbling in her pocket, and on
seeing her visitor place a ten-franc piece on the table, she whimpered
all the more, and tried to rise to a sitting posture. Whilst
struggling, she extended her arm, and the money vanished, as she

"Gracious Heaven! this is another frightful attack. Oh! oh! I cannot
stand such agony any longer! God will requite you, my good lady; I
will pray to Him to requite you. Bless my soul, how these pains shoot
through my whole body! His reverence Abbe Jouve promised me you would
come. It's only you who know what I want. I am going to buy some meat.
But now the pain's going down into my legs. Help me; I have no
strength left--none left at all!"

The old woman wished to turn over, and Helene, drawing off her gloves,
gently took hold of her and placed her as she desired. As she was
still bending over her the door opened, and a flush of surprise
mounted to her cheeks as she saw Dr. Deberle entering. Did he also
make visits to which he never referred?

"It's the doctor!" blurted out the old woman. "Oh! Heaven must bless
you both for being so good!"

The doctor bowed respectfully to Helene. Mother Fetu had ceased
whining on his entrance, but kept up a sibilant wheeze, like that of a
child in pain. She had understood at once that the doctor and her
benefactress were known to one another; and her eyes never left them,
but travelled from one to the other, while her wrinkled face showed
that her mind was covertly working. The doctor put some questions to
her, and sounded her right side; then, turning to Helene, who had just
sat down, he said:

"She is suffering from hepatic colic. She will be on her feet again in
a few days."

And, tearing from his memorandum book a leaf on which he had written
some lines, he added, addressing Mother Fetu:

"Listen to me. You must send this to the chemist in the Rue de Passy,
and every two hours you must drink a spoonful of the draught he will
give you."

The old woman burst out anew into blessings. Helene remained seated.
The doctor lingered gazing at her; but when their eyes had met, he
bowed and discreetly took his leave. He had not gone down a flight ere
Mother Fetu's lamentations were renewed.

"Ah! he's such a clever doctor! Ah! if his medicine could do me some
good! Dandelions and tallow make a good simple for removing water from
the body. Yes, yes, you can say you know a clever doctor. Have you
known him long? Gracious goodness, how thirsty I am! I feel burning
hot. He has a wife, hasn't he? He deserves to have a good wife and
beautiful children. Indeed, it's a pleasure to see kind-hearted people
good acquaintances."

Helene had risen to give her a drink.

"I must go now, Mother Fetu," she said. "Good-bye till to-morrow."

"Ah! how good you are! If I only had some linen! Look at my chemise
--it's torn in half; and this bed is so dirty. But that doesn't matter.
God will requite you, my good lady!"

Next day, on Helene's entering Mother Fetu's room, she found Dr.
Deberle already there. Seated on the chair, he was writing out a
prescription, while the old woman rattled on with whimpering

"Oh, sir, it now feels like lead in my side--yes, just like lead! It's
as heavy as a hundred-pound weight, and prevents me from turning

Then, having caught sight of Helene, she went on without a pause: "Ah!
here's the good lady! I told the kind doctor you would come. Though
the heavens might fall, said I, you would come all the same. You're a
very saint, an angel from paradise, and, oh! so beautiful that people
might fall on their knees in the streets to gaze on you as you pass!
Dear lady, I am no better; just now I have a heavy feeling here. Oh, I
have told the doctor what you did for me! The emperor could have done
no more. Yes, indeed, it would be a sin not to love you--a great sin."

These broken sentences fell from her lips as, with eyes half closed,
she rolled her head on the bolster, the doctor meantime smiling at
Helene, who felt very ill at ease.

"Mother Fetu," she said softly, "I have brought you a little linen."

"Oh, thank you, thank you; God will requite you! You're just like this
kind, good gentleman, who does more good to poor folks than a host of
those who declare it their special work. You don't know what great
care he has taken of me for four months past, supplying me with
medicine and broth and wine. One rarely finds a rich person so kind to
a poor soul! Oh, he's another of God's angels! Dear, dear, I seem to
have quite a house in my stomach!"

In his turn the doctor now seemed to be embarrassed. He rose and
offered his chair to Helene; but although she had come with the
intention of remaining a quarter of an hour, she declined to sit down,
on the plea that she was in a great hurry.

Meanwhile, Mother Fetu, still rolling her head to and fro, had
stretched out her hand, and the parcel of linen had vanished in the
bed. Then she resumed:

"Oh, what a couple of good souls you are! I don't wish to offend you;
I only say it because it's true. When you have seen one, you have seen
the other. Oh, dear Lord! give me a hand and help me to turn round.
Kind-hearted people understand one another. Yes, yes, they understand
one another."

"Good-bye, Mother Fetu," said Helene, leaving the doctor in sole
possession. "I don't think I shall call to-morrow."

The next day, however, found her in the attic again. The old woman was
sound asleep, but scarcely had she opened her eyes and recognized
Helene in her black dress sitting on the chair than she exclaimed:

"He has been here--oh, I really don't know what he gave me to take,
but I am as stiff as a stick. We were talking about you. He asked me
all kinds of questions; whether you were generally sad, and whether
your look was always the same. Oh, he's such a good man!"

Her words came more slowly, and she seemed to be waiting to see by the
expression of Helene's face what effect her remarks might have on her,
with that wheedling, anxious air of the poor who are desirous of
pleasing people. No doubt she fancied she could detect a flush of
displeasure mounting to her benefactress's brow, for her huge,
puffed-up face, all eagerness and excitement, suddenly clouded over;
and she resumed, in stammering accents:

"I am always asleep. Perhaps I have been poisoned. A woman in the Rue
de l'Annonciation was killed by a drug which the chemist gave her in
mistake for another."

That day Helene lingered for nearly half an hour in Mother Fetu's
room, hearing her talk of Normandy, where she had been born, and where
the milk was so good. During a silence she asked the old woman
carelessly: "Have you known the doctor a long time?"

Mother Fetu, lying on her back, half-opened her eyes and again closed

"Oh, yes!" she answered, almost in a whisper. "For instance, his
father attended to me before '48, and he accompanied him then."

"I have been told the father was a very good man."

"Yes, but a little cracked. The son is much his superior. When he
touches you you would think his hands were of velvet."

Silence again fell.

"I advise you to do everything he tells you," at last said Helene. "He
is very clever; he saved my daughter."

"To be sure!" exclaimed Mother Fetu, again all excitement. "People
ought to have confidence in him. Why, he brought a boy to life again
when he was going to be buried! Oh, there aren't two persons like him;
you won't stop me from saying that! I am very lucky; I fall in with
the pick of good-hearted people. I thank the gracious Lord for it
every night. I don't forget either of you. You are mingled together in
my prayers. May God in His goodness shield you and grant your every
wish! May He load you with His gifts! May He keep you a place in

She was now sitting up in bed with hands clasped, seemingly entreating
Heaven with devout fervor. Helene allowed her to go on thus for a
considerable time, and even smiled. The old woman's chatter, in fact,
ended by lulling her into a pleasant drowsiness, and when she went off
she promised to give her a bonnet and gown, as soon as she should be
able to get about again.

Throughout that week Helene busied herself with Mother Fetu. Her
afternoon visit became an item in her daily life. She felt a strange
fondness for the Passage des Eaux. She liked that steep lane for its
coolness and quietness and its ever-clean pavement, washed on rainy
days by the water rushing down from the heights. A strange sensation
thrilled her as she stood at the top and looked at the narrow alley
with its steep declivity, usually deserted, and only known to the few
inhabitants of the neighboring streets. Then she would venture through
an archway dividing a house fronting the Rue Raynouard, and trip down
the seven flights of broad steps, in which lay the bed of a pebbly
stream occupying half of the narrow way. The walls of the gardens on
each side bulged out, coated with a grey, leprous growth; umbrageous
trees drooped over, foliage rained down, here and there an ivy plant
thickly mantled the stonework, and the chequered verdure, which only
left glimpses of the blue sky above, made the light very soft and
greeny. Halfway down Helene would stop to take breath, gazing at the
street-lamp which hung there, and listening to the merry laughter in
the gardens, whose doors she had never seen open. At times an old
woman panted up with the aid of the black, shiny, iron handrail fixed
in the wall to the right; a lady would come, leaning on her parasol as
on a walking-stick; or a band of urchins would run down, with a great
stamping of feet. But almost always Helene found herself alone, and
this steep, secluded, shady descent was to her a veritable delight
--like a path in the depths of a forest. At the bottom she would raise
her eyes, and the sight of the narrow, precipitous alley she had just
descended made her feel somewhat frightened.

She glided into the old woman's room with the quiet and coolness of
the Passage des Eaux clinging to her garments. This woefully wretched
den no longer affected her painfully. She moved about there as if in
her own rooms, opening the round attic window to admit the fresh air,
and pushing the table into a corner if it came in her way. The
garret's bareness, its whitewashed walls and rickety furniture,
realized to her mind an existence whose simplicity she had sometimes
dreamt of in her girlhood. But what especially charmed her was the
kindly emotion she experienced there. Playing the part of sick nurse,
hearing the constant bewailing of the old woman, all she saw and felt
within the four walls left her quivering with deep pity. In the end
she awaited with evident impatience Doctor Deberle's customary visit.
She questioned him as to Mother Fetu's condition; but from this they
glided to other subjects, as they stood near each other, face to face.
A closer acquaintance was springing up between them, and they were
surprised to find they possessed similar tastes. They understood one
another without speaking a word, each heart engulfed in the same
overflowing charity. Nothing to Helene seemed sweeter than this mutual
feeling, which arose in such an unusual way, and to which she yielded
without resistance, filled as she was with divine pity. At first she
had felt somewhat afraid of the doctor; in her own drawing-room she
would have been cold and distrustful, in harmony with her nature.
Here, however, in this garret they were far from the world, sharing
the one chair, and almost happy in the midst of the wretchedness and
poverty which filled their souls with emotion. A week passed, and they
knew one another as though they had been intimate for years. Mother
Fetu's miserable abode was filled with sunshine, streaming from this
fellowship of kindliness.

The old woman grew better very slowly. The doctor was surprised, and
charged her with coddling herself when she related that she now felt a
dreadful weight in her legs. She always kept up her monotonous
moaning, lying on her back and rolling her head to and fro; but she
closed her eyes, as though to give her visitors an opportunity for
unrestrained talk. One day she was to all appearance sound asleep, but
beneath their lids her little black eyes continued watching. At last,
however, she had to rise from her bed; and next day Helene presented
her with the promised bonnet and gown. When the doctor made his
appearance that afternoon the old woman's laggard memory seemed
suddenly stirred. "Gracious goodness!" said she, "I've forgotten my
neighbor's soup-pot; I promised to attend to it!"

Then she disappeared, closing the door behind her and leaving the
couple alone. They did not notice that they were shut in, but
continued their conversation. The doctor urged Helene to spend the
afternoon occasionally in his garden in the Rue Vineuse.

"My wife," said he, "must return your visit, and she will in person
repeat my invitation. It would do your daughter good."

"But I don't refuse," she replied, laughing. "I do not require to be
fetched with ceremony. Only--only--I am afraid of being indiscreet. At
any rate, we will see."

Their talk continued, but at last the doctor exclaimed in a tone of
surprise: "Where on earth can Mother Fetu have gone? It must be a
quarter of an hour since she went to see after her neighbor's

Helene then saw that the door was shut, but it did not shock her at
the moment. She continued to talk of Madame Deberle, of whom she spoke
highly to her husband; but noticing that the doctor constantly glanced
towards the door, she at last began to feel uncomfortable.

"It's very strange that she does not come back!" she remarked in her

Their conversation then dropped. Helene, not knowing what to do,
opened the window; and when she turned round they avoided looking at
one another. The laughter of children came in through the circular
window, which, with its bit of blue sky, seemed like a full round
moon. They could not have been more alone--concealed from all
inquisitive looks, with merely this bit of heaven gazing in on them.
The voices of the children died away in the distance; and a quivering
silence fell. No one would dream of finding them in that attic, out of
the world. Their confusion grew apace, and in the end Helene,
displeased with herself, gave the doctor a steady glance.

"I have a great many visits to pay yet," he at once exclaimed. "As she
doesn't return, I must leave."

He quitted the room, and Helene then sat down. Immediately afterwards
Mother Fetu returned with many protestations:

"Oh! oh! I can scarcely crawl; such a faintness came over me! Has the
dear good doctor gone? Well, to be sure, there's not much comfort
here! Oh, you are both angels from heaven, coming to spend your time
with one so unfortunate as myself! But God in His goodness will
requite you. The pain has gone down into my feet to-day, and I had to
sit down on a step. Oh, I should like to have some chairs! If I only
had an easy-chair! My mattress is so vile too that I am quite ashamed
when you come. The whole place is at your disposal, and I would throw
myself into the fire if you required it. Yes. Heaven knows it; I
always repeat it in my prayers! Oh, kind Lord, grant their utmost
desires to these good friends of mine--in the name of the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Ghost!"

As Helene listened she experienced a singular feeling of discomfort.
Mother Fetu's bloated face filled her with disgust. Never before in
this stifling attic had she been affected in a like way; its sordid
misery seemed to stare her in the face; the lack of fresh air, the
surrounding wretchedness, quite sickened her. So she made all haste to
leave, feeling hurt by the blessings which Mother Fetu poured after

In the Passage des Eaux an additional sorrow came upon her. Halfway
up, on the right-hand side of the path, the wall was hollowed out, and
here there was an excavation, some disused well, enclosed by a
railing. During the last two days when passing she had heard the
wailings of a cat rising from this well, and now, as she slowly
climbed the path, these wailings were renewed, but so pitifully that
they seemed instinct with the agony of death. The thought that the
poor brute, thrown into the disused well, was slowly dying there of
hunger, quite rent Helene's heart. She hastened her steps, resolving
that she would not venture down this lane again for a long time, lest
the cat's death-call should reach her ears.

The day was a Tuesday. In the evening, on the stroke of seven, as
Helene was finishing a tiny bodice, the two wonted rings at the bell
were heard, and Rosalie opened the door.

"His reverence is first to-night!" she exclaimed. "Oh, here comes
Monsieur Rambaud too!"

They were very merry at dinner. Jeanne was nearly well again now, and
the two brothers, who spoiled her, were successful in procuring her
permission to eat some salad, of which she was excessively fond,
notwithstanding Doctor Bodin's formal prohibition. When she was going
to bed, the child in high spirits hung round her mother's neck and

"Oh! mamma, darling! let me go with you to-morrow to see the old woman
you nurse!"

But the Abbe and Monsieur Rambaud were the first to scold her for
thinking of such a thing. They would not hear of her going amongst the
poor, as the sight affected her too grieviously. The last time she had
been on such an expedition she had twice swooned, and for three days
her eyes had been swollen with tears, that had flowed even in her

"Oh! I will be good!" she pleaded. "I won't cry, I promise."

"It is quite useless, my darling," said her mother, caressing her.
"The old woman is well now. I shall not go out any more; I'll stay all
day with you!"

                             CHAPTER IV.

During the following week Madame Deberle paid a return visit to Madame
Grandjean, and displayed an affability that bordered on affection.

"You know what you promised me," she said, on the threshold, as she
was going off. "The first fine day we have, you must come down to the
garden, and bring Jeanne with you. It is the doctor's strict

"Very well," Helene answered, with a smile, "it is understood; we will
avail ourselves of your kindness."

Three days later, on a bright February afternoon, she accompanied her
daughter down to the garden. The porter opened the door connecting the
two houses. At the near end of the garden, in a kind of greenhouse
built somewhat in the style of a Japanese pavilion, they found Madame
Deberle and her sister Pauline, both idling away their time, for some
embroidery, thrown on the little table, lay there neglected.

"Oh, how good of you to come!" cried Juliette. "You must sit down
here. Pauline, move that table away! It is still rather cool you know
to sit out of doors, but from this pavilion we can keep a watch on the
children. Now, little ones, run away and play; but take care not to

The large door of the pavilion stood open, and on each side were
portable mirrors, whose covers had been removed so that they allowed
one to view the garden's expanse as from the threshold of a tent. The
garden, with a green sward in the centre, flanked by beds of flowers,
was separated from the Rue Vineuse by a plain iron railing, but
against this grew a thick green hedge, which prevented the curious
from gazing in. Ivy, clematis, and woodbine clung and wound around the
railings, and behind this first curtain of foliage came a second one
of lilacs and laburnums. Even in the winter the ivy leaves and the
close network of branches sufficed to shut off the view. But the great
charm of the garden lay in its having at the far end a few lofty
trees, some magnificent elms, which concealed the grimy wall of a
five-story house. Amidst all the neighboring houses these trees gave
the spot the aspect of a nook in some park, and seemed to increase the
dimensions of this little Parisian garden, which was swept like a
drawing-room. Between two of the elms hung a swing, the seat of which
was green with damp.

Helene leaned forward the better to view the scene.

"Oh, it is a hole!" exclaimed Madame Deberle carelessly. "Still, trees
are so rare in Paris that one is happy in having half a dozen of one's

"No, no, you have a very pleasant place," murmured Helene.

The sun filled the pale atmosphere that day with a golden dust, its
rays streaming slowly through the leafless branches of the trees.
These assumed a ruddier tint, and you could see the delicate purple
gems softening the cold grey of the bark. On the lawn and along the
walks the grass and gravel glittered amidst the haze that seemed to
ooze from the ground. No flower was in blossom; only the happy flush
which the sunshine cast upon the soil revealed the approach of spring.

"At this time of year it is rather dull," resumed Madame Deberle. "In
June it is as cozy as a nest; the trees prevent any one from looking
in, and we enjoy perfect privacy." At this point she paused to call:
"Lucien, you must come away from that watertap!"

The lad, who was doing the honors of the garden, had led Jeanne
towards a tap under the steps. Here he had turned on the water, which
he allowed to splash on the tips of his boots. It was a game that he
delighted in. Jeanne, with grave face, looked on while he wetted his

"Wait a moment!" said Pauline, rising. "I'll go and stop his

But Juliette held her back.

"You'll do no such thing; you are even more of a madcap than he is.
The other day both of you looked as if you had taken a bath. How is it
that a big girl like you cannot remain two minutes seated? Lucien!"
she continued directing her eyes on her son, "turn off the water at

The child, in his fright, made an effort to obey her. But instead of
turning the tap off, he turned it on all the more, and the water
gushed forth with a force and a noise that made him lose his head. He
recoiled, splashed up to the shoulders.

"Turn off the water at once!" again ordered his mother, whose cheeks
were flushing with anger.

Jeanne, hitherto silent, then slowly, and with the greatest caution,
ventured near the tap; while Lucien burst into loud sobbing at sight
of this cold stream, which terrified him, and which he was powerless
to stop. Carefully drawing her skirt between her legs, Jeanne
stretched out her bare hands so as not to wet her sleeves, and closed
the tap without receiving a sprinkle. The flow instantly ceased.
Lucien, astonished and inspired with respect, dried his tears and
gazed with swollen eyes at the girl.

"Oh, that child puts me beside myself!" exclaimed Madame Deberle, her
complexion regaining its usual pallor, while she stretched herself
out, as though wearied to death.

Helene deemed it right to intervene. "Jeanne," she called, "take his
hand, and amuse yourselves by walking up and down."

Jeanne took hold of Lucien's hand, and both gravely paced the paths
with little steps. She was much taller than her companion, who had to
stretch his arm up towards her; but this solemn amusement, which
consisted in a ceremonious circuit of the lawn, appeared to absorb
them and invest them with a sense of great importance. Jeanne, like a
genuine lady, gazed about, preoccupied with her own thoughts; Lucien
every now and then would venture a glance at her; but not a word was
said by either.

"How droll they are!" said Madame Deberle, smiling, and again at her
ease. "I must say that your Jeanne is a dear, good child. She is so
obedient, so well behaved--"

"Yes, when she is in the company of others," broke in Helene. "She is
a great trouble at times. Still, she loves me, and does her best to be
good so as not to vex me."

Then they spoke of children; how girls were more precocious than boys;
though it would be wrong to deduce too much from Lucien's
unintelligent face. In another year he would doubtless lose all his
gawkiness and become quite a gallant. Finally, Madame Deberle resumed
her embroidery, making perhaps two stitches in a minute. Helene, who
was only happy when busy, begged permission to bring her work the next
time she came. She found her companions somewhat dull, and whiled away
the time in examining the Japanese pavilion. The walls and ceiling
were hidden by tapestry worked in gold, with designs showing bright
cranes in full flight, butterflies, and flowers and views in which
blue ships were tossing upon yellow rivers. Chairs, and ironwood
flower-stands were scattered about; on the floor some fine mats were
spread; while the lacquered furnishings were littered with trinkets,
small bronzes and vases, and strange toys painted in all the hues of
the rainbow. At the far end stood a grotesque idol in Dresden china,
with bent legs and bare, protruding stomach, which at the least
movement shook its head with a terrible and amusing look.

"Isn't it horribly ugly?" asked Pauline, who had been watching Helene
as she glanced round. "I say, sister, you know that all these
purchases of yours are so much rubbish! Malignon calls your Japanese
museum 'the sixpenny bazaar.' Oh, by the way, talking of him, I met
him. He was with a lady, and such a lady--Florence, of the Varietes

"Where was it?" asked Juliette immediately. "How I shall tease him!"

"On the boulevards. He's coming here to-day, is he not?"

She was not vouchsafed any reply. The ladies had all at once become
uneasy owing to the disappearance of the children, and called to them.
However, two shrill voices immediately answered:

"We are here!"

Half hidden by a spindle tree, they were sitting on the grass in the
middle of the lawn.

"What are you about?"

"We have put up at an inn," answered Lucien. "We are resting in our

Greatly diverted, the women watched them for a time. Jeanne seemed
quite contented with the game. She was cutting the grass around her,
doubtless with the intention of preparing breakfast. A piece of wood,
picked up among the shrubs, represented a trunk. And now they were
talking. Jeanne, with great conviction in her tone, was declaring that
they were in Switzerland, and that they would set out to see the
glaciers, which rather astonished Lucien.

"Ha, here he is!" suddenly exclaimed Pauline.

Madame Deberle turned, and caught sight of Malignon descending the
steps. He had scarcely time to make his bow and sit down before she
attacked him.

"Oh," she said, "it is nice of you to go about everywhere saying that
I have nothing but rubbishy ornaments about me!"

"You mean this little saloon of yours? Oh yes," said he, quite at his
ease. "You haven't anything worth looking at here!"

"What! not my china figure?" she asked, quite hurt.

"No, no, everything is quite _bourgeois_. It is necessary for a person
to have some taste. You wouldn't allow me to select the things--"

"Your taste, forsooth! just talk about your taste!" she retorted,
flushing crimson and feeling quite angry. "You have been seen with a

"What lady?" he asked, surprised by the violence of the attack.

"A fine choice, indeed! I compliment you on it. A girl whom the whole
of Paris knows--"

She suddenly paused, remembering Pauline's presence.

"Pauline," she said, "go into the garden for a minute."

"Oh no," retorted the girl indignantly. "It's so tiresome; I'm always
being sent out of the way."

"Go into the garden," repeated Juliette, with increased severity in
her tone.

The girl stalked off with a sullen look, but stopped all at once, to
exclaim: "Well, then, be quick over your talk!"

As soon as she was gone, Madame Deberle returned to the charge. "How
can you, a gentleman, show yourself in public with that actress
Florence? She is at least forty. She is ugly enough to frighten one,
and all the gentlemen in the stalls thee and thou her on first

"Have you finished?" called out Pauline, who was strolling sulkily
under the trees. "I'm not amusing myself here, you know."

Malignon, however, defended himself. He had no knowledge of this girl
Florence; he had never in his life spoken a word to her. They had
possibly seen him with a lady: he was sometimes in the company of the
wife of a friend of his. Besides, who had seen him? He wanted proofs,

"Pauline," hastily asked Madame Deberle, raising her voice, "did you
not meet him with Florence?"

"Yes, certainly," replied her sister. "I met them on the boulevards
opposite Bignon's."

Thereupon, glorying in her victory over Malignon, whose face wore an
embarrassed smile, Madame Deberle called out: "You can come back,
Pauline; I have finished."

Malignon, who had a box at the Folies-Dramatiques for the following
night, now gallantly placed it at Madame Deberle's service, apparently
not feeling the slightest ill-will towards her; moreover, they were
always quarreling. Pauline wished to know if she might go to see the
play that was running, and as Malignon laughed and shook his head, she
declared it was very silly; authors ought to write plays fit for girls
to see. She was only allowed such entertainments as _La Dame Blanche_
and the classic drama could offer.

Meantime, the ladies had ceased watching the children, and all at once
Lucien began to raise terrible shrieks.

"What have you done to him, Jeanne?" asked Helene.

"I have done nothing, mamma," answered the little girl. "He has thrown
himself on the ground."

The truth was, the children had just set out for the famous glaciers.
As Jeanne pretended that they were reaching the mountains, they had
lifted their feet very high, as though to step over the rocks. Lucien,
however, quite out of breath with his exertions, at last made a false
step, and fell sprawling in the middle of an imaginary ice-field.
Disgusted, and furious with child-like rage, he no sooner found
himself on the ground than he burst into tears.

"Lift him up," called Helene.

"He won't let me, mamma. He is rolling about."

And so saying, Jeanne drew back, as though exasperated and annoyed by
such a display of bad breeding. He did not know how to play; he would
certainly cover her with dirt. Her mouth curled, as though she were a
duchess compromising herself by such companionship. Thereupon Madame
Deberle, irritated by Lucien's continued wailing, requested her sister
to pick him up and coax him into silence. Nothing loth, Pauline ran,
cast herself down beside the child, and for a moment rolled on the
ground with him. He struggled with her, unwilling to be lifted, but
she at last took him up by the arms, and to appease him, said, "Stop
crying, you noisy fellow; we'll have a swing!"

Lucien at once closed his lips, while Jeanne's solemn looks vanished,
and a gleam of ardent delight illumined her face. All three ran
towards the swing, but it was Pauline who took possession of the seat.

"Push, push!" she urged the children; and they pushed with all the
force of their tiny hands; but she was heavy, and they could scarcely
stir the swing.

"Push!" she urged again. "Oh, the big sillies, they can't!"

In the pavilion, Madame Deberle had just felt a slight chill. Despite
the bright sunshine she thought it rather cold, and she requested
Malignon to hand her a white cashmere burnous that was hanging from
the handle of a window fastening. Malignon rose to wrap the burnous
round her shoulders, and they began chatting familiarly on matters
which had little interest for Helene. Feeling fidgety, fearing that
Pauline might unwittingly knock the children down, she therefore
stepped into the garden, leaving Juliette and the young man to wrangle
over some new fashion in bonnets which apparently deeply interested

Jeanne no sooner saw her mother than she ran towards her with a
wheedling smile, and entreaty in every gesture. "Oh, mamma, mamma!"
she implored. "Oh, mamma!"

"No, no, you mustn't!" replied Helene, who understood her meaning very
well. "You know you have been forbidden."

Swinging was Jeanne's greatest delight. She would say that she
believed herself a bird; the breeze blowing in her face, the lively
rush through the air, the continued swaying to and fro in a motion as
rythmic as the beating of a bird's wings, thrilled her with an
exquisite pleasure; in her ascent towards cloudland she imagined
herself on her way to heaven. But it always ended in some mishap. On
one occasion she had been found clinging to the ropes of the swing in
a swoon, her large eyes wide open, fixed in a vacant stare; at another
time she had fallen to the ground, stiff, like a swallow struck by a

"Oh, mamma!" she implored again. "Only a little, a very, very little!"

In the end her mother, in order to win peace, placed her on the seat.
The child's face lit up with an angelic smile, and her bare wrists
quivered with joyous expectancy. Helene swayed her very gently.

"Higher, mamma, higher!" she murmured.

But Helene paid no heed to her prayer, and retained firm hold of the
rope. She herself was glowing all over, her cheeks flushed, and she
thrilled with excitement at every push she gave to the swing. Her
wonted sedateness vanished as she thus became her daughter's playmate.

"That will do," she declared after a time, taking Jeanne in her arms.

"Oh, mamma, you must swing now!" the child whispered, as she clung to
her neck.

She took a keen delight in seeing her mother flying through the air;
as she said, her pleasure was still more intense in gazing at her than
in having a swing herself. Helene, however, asked her laughingly who
would push her; when she went in for swinging, it was a serious
matter; why, she went higher than the treetops! While she was speaking
it happened that Monsieur Rambaud made his appearance under the
guidance of the doorkeeper. He had met Madame Deberle in Helene's
rooms, and thought he would not be deemed presuming in presenting
himself here when unable to find her. Madame Deberle proved very
gracious, pleased as she was with the good-natured air of the worthy
man; however, she soon returned to a lively discussion with Malignon.

"_Bon ami_[*] will push you, mamma! _Bon ami_ will push you!" Jeanne
called out, as she danced round her mother.

[*] Literally "good friend;" but there is no proper equivalent for the
    expression in English.

"Be quiet! We are not at home!" said her mother with mock gravity.

"Bless me! if it will please you, I am at your disposal," exclaimed
Monsieur Rambaud. "When people are in the country--"

Helene let herself be persuaded. When a girl she had been accustomed
to swing for hours, and the memory of those vanished pleasures created
a secret craving to taste them once more. Moreover, Pauline, who had
sat down with Lucien at the edge of the lawn, intervened with the
boldness of a girl freed from the trammels of childhood.

"Of course he will push you, and he will swing me after you. Won't
you, sir?"

This determined Helene. The youth which dwelt within her, in spite of
the cold demureness of her great beauty, displayed itself in a
charming, ingenuous fashion. She became a thorough school-girl,
unaffected and gay. There was no prudishness about her. She laughingly
declared that she must not expose her legs, and asked for some cord to
tie her skirts securely round her ankles. That done, she stood upright
on the swing, her arms extended and clinging to the ropes.

"Now, push, Monsieur Rambaud," she exclaimed delightedly. "But gently
at first!"

Monsieur Rambaud had hung his hat on the branch of a tree. His broad,
kindly face beamed with a fatherly smile. First he tested the strength
of the ropes, and, giving a look at the trees, determined to give a
slight push. That day Helene had for the first time abandoned her
widow's weeds; she was wearing a grey dress set off with mauve bows.
Standing upright, she began to swing, almost touching the ground, and
as if rocking herself to sleep.

"Quicker! quicker!" she exclaimed.

Monsieur Rambaud, with his hands ready, caught the seat as it came
back to him, and gave it a more vigorous push. Helene went higher,
each ascent taking her farther. However, despite the motion, she did
not lose her sedateness; she retained almost an austre demeanor; her
eyes shone very brightly in her beautiful, impassive face; her
nostrils only were inflated, as though to drink in the air.

Not a fold of her skirts was out of place, but a plait of her hair
slipped down.

"Quicker! quicker!" she called.

An energetic push gave her increased impetus. Up in the sunshine she
flew, even higher and higher. A breeze sprung up with her motion, and
blew through the garden; her flight was so swift that they could
scarcely distinguish her figure aright. Her face was now all smiles,
and flushed with a rosy red, while her eyes sparkled here, then there,
like shooting stars. The loosened plait of hair rustled against her
neck. Despite the cords which bound them, her skirts now waved about,
and you could divine that she was at her ease, her bosom heaving in
its free enjoyment as though the air were indeed her natural place.

"Quicker! quicker!"

Monsieur Rambaud, his face red and bedewed with perspiration, exerted
all his strength. A cry rang out. Helene went still higher.

"Oh, mamma! Oh, mamma!" repeated Jeanne in her ecstasy.

She was sitting on the lawn gazing at her mother, her little hands
clasped on her bosom, looking as though she herself had drunk in all
the air that was stirring. Her breath failed her; with a rythmical
movement of the shoulders she kept time with the long strokes of the
swing. And she cried, "Quicker! quicker!" while her mother still went
higher, her feet grazing the lofty branches of the trees.

"Higher, mamma! oh, higher, mamma!"

But Helene was already in the very heavens. The trees bent and cracked
as beneath a gale. Her skirts, which were all they could see, flapped
with a tempestuous sound. When she came back with arms stretched out
and bosom distended she lowered her head slightly and for a moment
hovered; but then she rose again and sank backwards, her head tilted,
her eyes closed, as though she had swooned. These ascensions and
descents which made her giddy were delightful. In her flight she
entered into the sunshine--the pale yellow February sunshine that
rained down like golden dust. Her chestnut hair gleamed with amber
tints; and a flame seemed to have leaped up around her, as the mauve
bows on her whitening dress flashed like burning flowers. Around her
the springtide was maturing into birth, and the purple-tinted gems of
the trees showed like delicate lacquer against the blue sky.

Jeanne clasped her hands. Her mother seemed to her a saint with a
golden glory round her head, winging her way to paradise, and she
again stammered: "Oh, mamma! oh! mamma!"

Madame Deberle and Malignon had now grown interested, and had stepped
under the trees. Malignon declared the lady to be very bold.

"I should faint, I'm sure," said Madame Deberle, with a frightened

Helene heard them, for she dropped these words from among the
branches: "Oh, my heart is all right! Give a stronger push, Monsieur

And indeed her voice betrayed no emotion. She seemed to take no heed
of the two men who were onlookers. They were doubtless nothing to her.
Her tress of hair had become entangled, and the cord that confined her
skirts must have given way, for the drapery flapped in the wind like a
flag. She was going still higher.

All at once, however, the exclamation rang out:

"Enough, Monsieur Rambaud, enough!"

Doctor Deberle had just appeared on the house steps. He came forward,
embraced his wife tenderly, took up Lucien and kissed his brow. Then
he gazed at Helene with a smile.

"Enough, enough!" she still continued exclaiming.

"Why?" asked he. "Do I disturb you?"

She made no answer; a look of gravity had suddenly come over her face.
The swing, still continuing its rapid flights, owing to the impetus
given to it, would not stop, but swayed to and fro with a regular
motion which still bore Helene to a great height. The doctor,
surprised and charmed, beheld her with admiration; she looked so
superb, so tall and strong, with the pure figure of an antique statue
whilst swinging thus gently amid the spring sunshine. But she seemed
annoyed, and all at once leaped down.

"Stop! stop!" they all cried out.

From Helene's lips came a dull moan; she had fallen upon the gravel of
a pathway, and her efforts to rise were fruitless.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed the doctor, his face turning very pale. "How

They all crowded round her. Jeanne began weeping so bitterly that
Monsieur Rambaud, with his heart in his mouth, was compelled to take
her in his arms. The doctor, meanwhile, eagerly questioned Helene.

"Is it the right leg you fell on? Cannot you stand upright?" And as
she remained dazed, without answering, he asked: "Do you suffer?"

"Yes, here at the knee; a dull pain," she answered, with difficulty.

He at once sent his wife for his medicine case and some bandages, and

"I must see, I must see. No doubt it is a mere nothing."

He knelt down on the gravel and Helene let him do so; but all at once
she struggled to her feet and said: "No, no!"

"But I must examine the place," he said.

A slight quiver stole over her, and she answered in a yet lower tone:

"It is not necessary. It is nothing at all."

He looked at her, at first astounded. Her neck was flushing red; for a
moment their eyes met, and seemed to read each other's soul; he was
disconcerted, and slowly rose, remaining near her, but without
pressing her further.

Helene had signed to Monsieur Rambaud. "Fetch Doctor Bodin," she
whispered in his ear, "and tell him what has happened to me."

Ten minutes later, when Doctor Bodin made his appearance, she, with
superhuman courage, regained her feet, and leaning on him and Monsieur
Rambaud, contrived to return home. Jeanne followed, quivering with

"I shall wait," said Doctor Deberle to his brother physician. "Come
down and remove our fears."

In the garden a lively colloquy ensued. Malignon was of opinion that
women had queer ideas. Why on earth had that lady been so foolish as
to jump down? Pauline, excessively provoked at this accident, which
deprived her of a pleasure, declared it was silly to swing so high. On
his side Doctor Deberle did not say a word, but seemed anxious.

"It is nothing serious," said Doctor Bodin, as he came down again
--"only a sprain. Still, she will have to keep to an easy-chair for at
least a fortnight."

Thereupon Monsieur Deberle gave a friendly slap on Malignon's
shoulder. He wished his wife to go in, as it was really becoming too
cold. For his own part, taking Lucien in his arms, he carried him into
the house, covering him with kisses the while.

                              CHAPTER V.

Both windows of the bedroom were wide open, and in the depths below
the house, which was perched on the very summit of the hill, lay
Paris, rolling away in a mighty flat expanse. Ten o'clock struck; the
lovely February morning had all the sweetness and perfume of spring.

Helene reclined in an invalid chair, reading in front of one of the
windows, her knee still in bandages. She suffered no pain; but she had
been confined to her room for a week past, unable even to take up her
customary needlework. Not knowing what to do, she had opened a book
which she had found on the table--she, who indulged in little or no
reading at any time. This book was the one she used every night as a
shade for the night-lamp, the only volume which she had taken within
eighteen months from the small but irreproachable library selected by
Monsieur Rambaud. Novels usually seemed to her false to life and
puerile; and this one, Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe," had at first
wearied her to death. However, a strange curiosity had grown upon her,
and she was finishing it, at times affected to tears, and at times
rather bored, when she would let it slip from her hand for long
minutes and gaze fixedly at the far-stretching horizon.

That morning Paris awoke from sleep with a smiling indolence. A mass
of vapor, following the valley of the Seine, shrouded the two banks
from view. This mist was light and milky, and the sun, gathering
strength, was slowly tinging it with radiance. Nothing of the city was
distinguishable through this floating muslin. In the hollows the haze
thickened and assumed a bluish tint; while over certain broad expanses
delicate transparencies appeared, a golden dust, beneath which you
could divine the depths of the streets; and up above domes and
steeples rent the mist, rearing grey outlines to which clung shreds of
the haze which they had pierced. At times cloudlets of yellow smoke
would, like giant birds, heavy of wing, slowly soar on high, and then
mingle with the atmosphere which seemed to absorb them. And above all
this immensity, this mass of cloud, hanging in slumber over Paris, a
sky of extreme purity, of a faint and whitening blue, spread out its
mighty vault. The sun was climbing the heavens, scattering a spray of
soft rays; a pale golden light, akin in hue to the flaxen tresses of a
child, was streaming down like rain, filling the atmosphere with the
warm quiver of its sparkle. It was like a festival of the infinite,
instinct with sovereign peacefulness and gentle gaiety, whilst the
city, chequered with golden beams, still remained lazy and sleepy,
unwilling to reveal itself by casting off its coverlet of lace.

For eight days it had been Helene's diversion to gaze on that mighty
expanse of Paris, and she never wearied of doing so. It was as
unfathomable and varying as the ocean--fair in the morning, ruddy with
fire at night, borrowing all the joys and sorrows of the heavens
reflected in its depths. A flash of sunshine came, and it would roll
in waves of gold; a cloud would darken it and raise a tempest. Its
aspect was ever changing. A complete calm would fall, and all would
assume an orange hue; gusts of wind would sweep by from time to time,
and turn everything livid; in keen, bright weather there would be a
shimmer of light on every housetop; whilst when showers fell, blurring
both heaven and earth, all would be plunged in chaotic confusion. At
her window Helene experienced all the hopes and sorrows that pertain
to the open sea. As the keen wind blew in her face she imagined it
wafted a saline fragrance; even the ceaseless noise of the city seemed
to her like that of a surging tide beating against a rocky cliff.

The book fell from her hands. She was dreaming, with a far-away look
in her eyes. When she stopped reading thus it was from a desire to
linger and understand what she had already perused. She took a delight
in denying her curiosity immediate satisfaction. The tale filled her
soul with a tempest of emotion. Paris that morning was displaying the
same vague joy and sorrow as that which disturbed her heart. In this
lay a great charm--to be ignorant, to guess things dimly, to yield to
slow initiation, with the vague thought that her youth was beginning

How full of lies were novels! She was assuredly right in not reading
them. They were mere fables, good for empty heads with no proper
conception of life. Yet she remained entranced, dreaming unceasingly
of the knight Ivanhoe, loved so passionately by two women--Rebecca,
the beautiful Jewess, and the noble Lady Rowena. She herself thought
she could have loved with the intensity and patient serenity of the
latter maiden. To love! to love! She did not utter the words, but they
thrilled her through and through in the very thought, astonishing her,
and irradiating her face with a smile. In the distance some fleecy
cloudlets, driven by the breeze, now floated over Paris like a flock
of swans. Huge gaps were being cleft in the fog; a momentary glimpse
was given of the left bank, indistinct and clouded, like a city of
fairydom seen in a dream; but suddenly a thick curtain of mist swept
down, and the fairy city was engulfed, as though by an inundation. And
then the vapors, spreading equally over every district, formed, as it
were, a beautiful lake, with milky, placid waters. There was but one
denser streak, indicating the grey, curved course of the Seine. And
slowly over those milky, placid waters shadows passed, like vessels
with pink sails, which the young woman followed with a dreamy gaze. To
love! to love! She smiled as her dream sailed on.

However, she again took up her book. She had reached the chapter
describing the attack on the castle, wherein Rebecca nurses the
wounded Ivanhoe, and recounts to him the incidents of the fight, which
she gazes at from a window. Helene felt that she was in the midst of a
beautiful falsehood, but roamed through it as through some mythical
garden, whose trees are laden with golden fruit, and where she imbibed
all sorts of fancies. Then, at the conclusion of the scene, when
Rebecca, wrapped in her veil, exhales her love beside the sleeping
knight, Helene again allowed the book to slip from her hand; her heart
was so brimful of emotion that she could read no further.

Heavens! could all those things be true? she asked, as she lay back in
her easy-chair, numbed by her enforced quiescence, and gazing on
Paris, shrouded and mysterious, beneath the golden sun. The events of
her life now arose before her, conjured up by the perusal of the
novel. She saw herself a young girl in the house of her father,
Mouret, a hatter at Marseilles. The Rue des Petites-Maries was black
and dismal, and the house, with its vat of steaming water ready to the
hand of the hatter, exhaled a rank odor of dampness, even in fine
weather. She also saw her mother, who was ever an invalid, and who
kissed her with pale lips, without speaking. No gleam of the sun
penetrated into her little room. Hard work went on around her; only by
dint of toil did her father gain a workingman's competency. That
summed up her early life, and till her marriage nothing intervened to
break the monotony of days ever the same. One morning, returning from
market with her mother, a basketful of vegetables on her arm, she
jostled against young Grandjean. Charles turned round and followed
them. The love-romance of her life was in this incident. For three
months she was always meeting him, while he, bashful and awkward,
could not pluck up courage to speak to her. She was sixteen years of
age, and a little proud of her lover, who, she knew, belonged to a
wealthy family. But she deemed him bad-looking, and often laughed at
him, and no thought of him disturbed her sleep in the large, gloomy,
damp house. In the end they were married, and this marriage yet filled
her with surprise. Charles worshipped her, and would fling himself on
the floor to kiss her bare feet. She beamed on him, her smile full of
kindness, as she rebuked him for such childishness. Then another dull
life began. During twelve years no event of sufficient interest had
occurred for her to bear in mind. She was very quiet and very happy,
tormented by no fever either of body or heart; her whole attention
being given to the daily cares of a poor household. Charles was still
wont to kiss her fair white feet, while she showed herself indulgent
and motherly towards him. But other feeling she had none. Then there
abruptly came before her the room in the Hotel du Var, her husband in
his coffin, and her widow's robe hanging over a chair. She had wept
that day as on the winter's night when her mother died. Then once more
the days glided on; for two months with her daughter she had again
enjoyed peace and happiness. Heaven! did that sum up everything? What,
then, did that book mean when it spoke of transcendent loves which
illumine one's existence?

While she thus reflected prolonged quivers were darting over the
sleeping lake of mist on the horizon. Suddenly it seemed to burst,
gaps appeared, a rending sped from end to end, betokening a complete
break-up. The sun, ascending higher and higher, scattering its rays in
glorious triumph, was victoriously attacking the mist. Little by
little the great lake seemed to dry up, as though some invisible
sluice were draining the plain. The fog, so dense but a moment before,
was losing its consistency and becoming transparent, showing all the
bright hues of the rainbow. On the left bank of the Seine all was of a
heavenly blue, deepening into violet over towards the Jardin des
Plantes. Upon the right bank a pale pink, flesh-like tint suffused the
Tuileries district; while away towards Montmartre there was a fiery
glow, carmine flaming amid gold. Then, farther off, the working-men's
quarters deepened to a dusty brick-color, changing more and more till
all became a slatey, bluish grey. The eye could not yet distinguish
the city, which quivered and receded like those subaqueous depths
divined through the crystalline waves, depths with awful forests of
huge plants, swarming with horrible things and monsters faintly
espied. However, the watery mist was quickly falling. It became at
last no more than a fine muslin drapery; and bit by bit this muslin
vanished, and Paris took shape and emerged from dreamland.

To love! to love! Why did these words ring in Helene's ears with such
sweetness as the darkness of the fog gave way to light? Had she not
loved her husband, whom she had tended like a child? But a bitter
memory stirred within her--the memory of her dead father, who had hung
himself three weeks after his wife's decease in a closet where her
gowns still dangled from their hooks. There he had gasped out his last
agony, his body rigid, and his face buried in a skirt, wrapped round
by the clothes which breathed of her whom he had ever worshipped. Then
Helene's reverie took a sudden leap. She began thinking of her own
home-life, of the month's bills which she had checked with Rosalie
that very morning; and she felt proud of the orderly way in which she
regulated her household. During more than thirty years she had lived
with self-respect and strength of mind. Uprightness alone impassioned
her. When she questioned her past, not one hour revealed a sin; in her
mind's eye she saw herself ever treading a straight and level path.
Truly, the days might slip by; she would walk on peacefully as before,
with no impediment in her way. The very thought of this made her
stern, and her spirit rose in angry contempt against those lying lives
whose apparent heroism disturbs the heart. The only true life was her
own, following its course amidst such peacefulness. But over Paris
there now only hung a thin smoke, a fine, quivering gauze, on the
point of floating away; and emotion suddenly took possession of her.
To love! to love! everything brought her back to that caressing phrase
--even the pride born of her virtue. Her dreaming became so light, she
no longer thought, but lay there, steeped in springtide, with moist

At last, as she was about to resume her reading, Paris slowly came
into view. Not a breath of wind had stirred; it was as if a magician
had waved his wand. The last gauzy film detached itself, soared and
vanished in the air; and the city spread out without a shadow, under
the conquering sun. Helene, with her chin resting on her hand, gazed
on this mighty awakening.

A far-stretching valley appeared, with a myriad of buildings huddled
together. Over the distant range of hills were scattered close-set
roofs, and you could divine that the sea of houses rolled afar off
behind the undulating ground, into the fields hidden from sight. It
was as the ocean, with all the infinity and mystery of its waves.
Paris spread out as vast as the heavens on high. Burnished with the
sunshine that lovely morning, the city looked like a field of yellow
corn; and the huge picture was all simplicity, compounded of two
colors only, the pale blue of the sky, and the golden reflections of
the housetops. The stream of light from the spring sun invested
everything with the beauty of a new birth. So pure was the light that
the minutest objects became visible. Paris, with its chaotic maze of
stonework, shone as though under glass. From time to time, however, a
breath of wind passed athwart this bright, quiescent serenity; and
then the outlines of some districts grew faint, and quivered as if
they were being viewed through an invisible flame.

Helene took interest at first in gazing on the large expanse spread
under her windows, the slope of the Trocadero, and the far-stretching
quays. She had to lean out to distinguish the deserted square of the
Champ-de-Mars, barred at the farther end by the sombre Military
School. Down below, on thoroughfare and pavement on each side of the
Seine, she could see the passers-by--a busy cluster of black dots,
moving like a swarm of ants. A yellow omnibus shone out like a spark
of fire; drays and cabs crossed the bridge, mere child's toys in the
distance, with miniature horses like pieces of mechanism; and amongst
others traversing the grassy slopes was a servant girl, with a white
apron which set a bright spot in all the greenery. Then Helene raised
her eyes; but the crowd scattered and passed out of sight, and even
the vehicles looked like mere grains of sand; there remained naught
but the gigantic carcass of the city, seemingly untenanted and
abandoned, its life limited to the dull trepidation by which it was
agitated. There, in the foreground to the left, some red roofs were
shining, and the tall chimneys of the Army Bakehouse slowly poured out
their smoke; while, on the other side of the river, between the
Esplanade and the Champ-de-Mars, a grove of lofty elms clustered, like
some patch of a park, with bare branches, rounded tops, and young buds
already bursting forth, quite clear to the eye. In the centre of the
picture, the Seine spread out and reigned between its grey banks, to
which rows of casks, steam cranes, and carts drawn up in line, gave a
seaport kind of aspect. Helene's eyes were always turning towards this
shining river, on which boats passed to and fro like birds with inky
plumage. Her looks involuntarily followed the water's stately course,
which, like a silver band, cut Paris atwain. That morning the stream
rolled liquid sunlight; no greater resplendency could be seen on the
horizon. And the young woman's glance encountered first the Pont des
Invalides, next the Pont de la Concorde, and then the Pont Royal.
Bridge followed bridge, they appeared to get closer, to rise one above
the other like viaducts forming a flight of steps, and pierced with
all kinds of arches; while the river, wending its way beneath these
airy structures, showed here and there small patches of its blue robe,
patches which became narrower and narrower, more and more indistinct.
And again did Helene raise her eyes, and over yonder the stream forked
amidst a jumble of houses; the bridges on either side of the island of
La Cite were like mere films stretching from one bank to the other;
while the golden towers of Notre-Dame sprang up like boundary-marks of
the horizon, beyond which river, buildings, and clumps of trees became
naught but sparkling sunshine. Then Helene, dazzled, withdrew her gaze
from this the triumphant heart of Paris, where the whole glory of the
city appeared to blaze.

On the right bank, amongst the clustering trees of the Champs-Elysees
she saw the crystal buildings of the Palace of Industry glittering
with a snowy sheen; farther away, behind the roof of the Madeleine,
which looked like a tombstone, towered the vast mass of the Opera
House; then there were other edifices, cupolas and towers, the
Vendome Column, the church of Saint-Vincent de Paul, the tower of
Saint-Jacques; and nearer in, the massive cube-like pavilions of the
new Louvre and the Tuileries, half-hidden by a wood of chestnut trees.
On the left bank the dome of the Invalides shone with gilding; beyond
it the two irregular towers of Saint-Sulpice paled in the bright
light; and yet farther in the rear, to the right of the new spires
of Sainte-Clotilde, the bluish Pantheon, erect on a height, its fine
colonnade showing against the sky, overlooked the city, poised in the
air, as it were, motionless, with the silken hues of a captive balloon.

Helene's gaze wandered all over Paris. There were hollows, as could be
divined by the lines of roofs; the Butte des Moulins surged upward,
with waves of old slates, while the line of the principal boulevards
dipped downward like a gutter, ending in a jumble of houses whose
tiles even could no longer be seen. At this early hour the oblique sun
did not light up the house-fronts looking towards the Trocadero; not a
window-pane of these threw back its rays. The skylights on some roofs
alone sparkled with the glittering reflex of mica amidst the red of
the adjacent chimney-pots. The houses were mostly of a sombre grey,
warmed by reflected beams; still rays of light were transpiercing
certain districts, and long streets, stretching in front of Helene,
set streaks of sunshine amidst the shade. It was only on the left that
the far-spreading horizon, almost perfect in its circular sweep, was
broken by the heights of Montmartre and Pere-Lachaise. The details so
clearly defined in the foreground, the innumerable denticles of the
chimneys, the little black specks of the thousands of windows, grew
less and less distinct as you gazed farther and farther away, till
everything became mingled in confusion--the pell-mell of an endless
city, whose faubourgs, afar off, looked like shingly beaches, steeped
in a violet haze under the bright, streaming, vibrating light that
fell from the heavens.

Helene was watching the scene with grave interest when Jeanne burst
gleefully into the room.

"Oh, mamma! look here!"

The child had a big bunch of wall-flowers in her hand. She told, with
some laughter, how she had waylaid Rosalie on her return from market
to peep into her basket of provisions. To rummage in this basket was a
great delight to her.

"Look at it, mamma! It lay at the very bottom. Just smell it; what a
lovely perfume!"

From the tawny flowers, speckled with purple, there came a penetrating
odor which scented the whole room. Then Helene, with a passionate
movement, drew Jeanne to her breast, while the nosegay fell on her
lap. To love! to love! Truly, she loved her child. Was not that
intense love which had pervaded her life till now sufficient for her
wants? It ought to satisfy her; it was so gentle, so tranquil; no
lassitude could put an end to its continuance. Again she pressed her
daughter to her, as though to conjure away thoughts which threatened
to separate them. In the meantime Jeanne surrendered herself to the
shower of kisses. Her eyes moist with tears, she turned her delicate
neck upwards with a coaxing gesture, and pressed her face against her
mother's shoulder. Then she slipped an arm round her waist and thus
remained, very demure, her cheek resting on Helene's bosom. The
perfume of the wall-flowers ascended between them.

For a long time they did not speak; but at length, without moving,
Jeanne asked in a whisper:

"Mamma, you see that rosy-colored dome down there, close to the river;
what is it?"

It was the dome of the Institute, and Helene looked towards it for a
moment as though trying to recall the name.

"I don't know, my love," she answered gently.

The child appeared content with this reply, and silence again fell.
But soon she asked a second question.

"And there, quite near, what beautiful trees are those?" she said,
pointing with her finger towards a corner of the Tuileries garden.

"Those beautiful trees!" said her mother. "On the left, do you mean? I
don't know, my love."

"Ah!" exclaimed Jeanne; and after musing for a little while she added
with a pout: "We know nothing!"

Indeed they knew nothing of Paris. During eighteen months it had lain
beneath their gaze every hour of the day, yet they knew not a stone of
it. Three times only had they gone down into the city; but on
returning home, suffering from terrible headaches born of all the
agitation they had witnessed, they could find in their minds no
distinct memory of anything in all that huge maze of streets.

However, Jeanne at times proved obstinate. "Ah! you can tell me this!"
said she: "What is that glass building which glitters there? It is so
big you must know it."

She was referring to the Palais de l'Industrie. Helene, however,

"It's a railway station," said she. "No, I'm wrong, I think it is a

Then she smiled and kissed Jeanne's hair, at last confessing as
before: "I do not know what it is, my love."

So they continued to gaze on Paris, troubling no further to identify
any part of it. It was very delightful to have it there before them,
and yet to know nothing of it; it remained the vast and the unknown.
It was as though they had halted on the threshold of a world which
ever unrolled its panorama before them, but into which they were
unwilling to descend. Paris often made them anxious when it wafted
them a hot, disturbing atmosphere; but that morning it seemed gay and
innocent, like a child, and from its mysterious depths only a breath
of tenderness rose gently to their faces.

Helene took up her book again while Jeanne, clinging to her, still
gazed upon the scene. In the dazzling, tranquil sky no breeze was
stirring. The smoke from the Army Bakehouse ascended perpendicularly
in light cloudlets which vanished far aloft. On a level with the
houses passed vibrating waves of life, waves of all the life pent up
there. The loud voices of the streets softened amidst the sunshine
into a languid murmur. But all at once a flutter attracted Jeanne's
notice. A flock of white pigeons, freed from some adjacent dovecot,
sped through the air in front of the window; with spreading wings like
falling snow, the birds barred the line of view, hiding the immensity
of Paris.

With eyes again dreamily gazing upward, Helene remained plunged in
reverie. She was the Lady Rowena; she loved with the serenity and
intensity of a noble mind. That spring morning, that great, gentle
city, those early wall-flowers shedding their perfume on her lap, had
little by little filled her heart with tenderness.

                             CHAPTER VI.

One morning Helene was arranging her little library, the various books
of which had got out of order during the past few days, when Jeanne
skipped into the room, clapping her hands.

"A soldier, mamma! a soldier!" she cried.

"What? a soldier?" exclaimed her mother. "What do you want, you and
your soldier?"

But the child was in one of her paroxysms of extravagant delight; she
only jumped about the more, repeating: "A soldier! a soldier!" without
deigning to give any further explanation. She had left the door wide
open behind her, and so, as Helene rose, she was astonished to see a
soldier--a very little soldier too--in the ante-room. Rosalie had gone
out, and Jeanne must have been playing on the landing, though strictly
forbidden to do so by her mother.

"What do you want, my lad?" asked Helene.

The little soldier was very much confused on seeing this lady, so
lovely and fair, in her dressing-gown trimmed with lace; he shuffled
one foot to and fro over the floor, bowed, and at last precipitately
stammered: "I beg pardon--excuse--"

But he could get no further, and retreated to the wall, still
shuffling his feet. His retreat was thus cut off, and seeing the lady
awaited his reply with an involuntary smile, he dived into his
right-hand pocket, from which he dragged a blue handkerchief, a knife,
and a hunk of bread. He gazed on each in turn, and thrust them all
back again. Then he turned his attention to the left-hand pocket, from
which were produced a twist of cord, two rusty nails, and some
pictures wrapped in part of a newspaper. All these he pushed back to
their resting-place, and began tapping his thighs with an anxious air.
And again he stammered in bewilderment:

"I beg pardon--excuse--"

But all at once he raised his finger to his nose, and exclaimed with a
loud laugh: "What a fool I am! I remember now!"

He then undid two buttons of his greatcoat, and rummaged in his
breast, into which he plunged his arm up to the elbow. After a time he
drew forth a letter, which he rustled violently before handing to
Helene, as though to shake some dust from it.

"A letter for me! Are you sure?" said she.

On the envelope were certainly inscribed her name and address in a
heavy rustic scrawl, with pothooks and hangers tumbling over one
another. When at last she made it all out, after being repeatedly
baffled by the extraordinary style and spelling, she could not but
smile again. It was a letter from Rosalie's aunt, introducing Zephyrin
Lacour, who had fallen a victim to the conscription, "in spite of two
masses having been said by his reverence." However, as Zephyrin was
Rosalie's "intended" the aunt begged that madame would be so good as
to allow the young folks to see each other on Sundays. In the three
pages which the letter comprised this question was continually
cropping up in the same words, the confusion of the epistle increasing
through the writer's vain efforts to say something she had not said
before. Just above the signature, however, she seemed to have hit the
nail on the head, for she had written: "His reverence gives his
permission"; and had then broken her pen in the paper, making a shower
of blots.

Helene slowly folded the letter. Two or three times, while deciphering
its contents, she had raised her head to glance at the soldier. He
still remained close to the wall, and his lips stirred, as though to
emphasize each sentence in the letter by a slight movement of the
chin. No doubt he knew its contents by heart.

"Then you are Zephyrin Lacour, are you not?" asked Helene.

He began to laugh and wagged his head.

"Come in, my lad; don't stay out there."

He made up his mind to follow her, but he continued standing close to
the door, while Helene sat down. She had scarcely seen him in the
darkness of the ante-room. He must have been just as tall as Rosalie;
a third of an inch less, and he would have been exempted from service.
With red hair, cut very short, he had a round, freckled, beardless
face, with two little eyes like gimlet holes. His new greatcoat, much
too large for him, made him appear still more dumpy, and with his
red-trousered legs wide apart, and his large peaked cap swinging
before him, he presented both a comical and pathetic sight--his plump,
stupid little person plainly betraying the rustic, although he wore a

Helene desired to obtain some information from him.

"You left Beauce a week ago?" she asked.

"Yes, madame!"

"And here you are in Paris. I suppose you are not sorry?"

"No, madame."

He was losing his bashfulness, and now gazed all over the room,
evidently much impressed by its blue velvet hangings.

"Rosalie is out," Helene began again, "but she will be here very soon.
Her aunt tells me you are her sweetheart."

To this the little soldier vouchsafed no reply, but hung his head,
laughing awkwardly, and scraping the carpet with the tip of his boot.

"Then you will have to marry her when you leave the army?" Helene
continued questioning.

"Yes, to be sure!" exclaimed he, his face turning very red. "Yes, of
course; we are engaged!" And, won over by the kindly manners of the
lady, he made up his mind to speak out, his fingers still playing with
his cap. "You know it's an old story. When we were quite children, we
used to go thieving together. We used to get switched; oh yes, that's
true! I must tell you that the Lacours and the Pichons lived in the
same lane, and were next-door neighbors. And so Rosalie and myself
were almost brought up together. Then her people died, and her aunt
Marguerite took her in. But she, the minx, was already as strong as a

He paused, realizing that he was warming up, and asked hesitatingly:

"But perhaps she has told you all this?"

"Yes, yes; but go on all the same," said Helene, who was greatly

"In short," continued he, "she was awfully strong, though she was no
bigger than a tomtit. It was a treat to see her at her work! How she
did get through it! One day she gave a slap to a friend of mine--by
Jove! such a slap! I had the mark of it on my arm for a week! Yes,
that was the way it all came about. All the gossips declared we must
marry one another. Besides, we weren't ten years old before we had
agreed on that! And, we have stuck to it, madame, we have stuck to

He placed one hand upon his heart, with fingers wide apart. Helene,
however, had now become very grave. The idea of allowing a soldier in
her kitchen somewhat worried her. His reverence, no doubt, had given
his sanction, but she thought it rather venturesome. There is too much
license in the country, where lovers indulge in all sorts of
pleasantries. So she gave expression to her apprehensions. When
Zephyrin at last gathered her meaning, his first inclination was to
laugh, but his awe for Helene restrained him.

"Oh, madame, madame!" said he, "you don't know her, I can see! I have
received slaps enough from her! Of course young men like to laugh!
isn't that so? Sometimes I pinched her, and she would turn round and
hit me right on the nose. Her aunt's advice always was, 'Look here, my
girl, don't put up with any nonsense!' His reverence, too, interfered
in it, and maybe that had a lot to do with our keeping up
sweethearting. We were to have been married after I had drawn for a
soldier. But it was all my eye! Things turned out badly. Rosalie
declared she would go to service in Paris, to earn a dowry while she
was waiting for me. And so, and so--"

He swung himself about, dangling his cap, now from one hand now from
the other. But still Helene never said a word, and he at last fancied
that she distrusted him. This pained him dreadfully.

"You think, perhaps, that I shall deceive her?" he burst out angrily.
"Even, too, when I tell you we are betrothed? I shall marry her, as
surely as the heaven shines on us. I'm quite ready to pledge my word
in writing. Yes, if you like, I'll write it down for you."

Deep emotion was stirring him. He walked about the room gazing around
in the hope of finding pen and ink. Helene quickly tried to appease
him, but he still went on:

"I would rather sign a paper for you. What harm would it do you? Your
mind would be all the easier with it."

However, just at that moment Jeanne, who had again run away, returned,
jumping and clapping her hands.

"Rosalie! Rosalie! Rosalie!" she chanted in a dancing tune of her own

Through the open doorway one could hear the panting of the maid as she
climbed up the stairs laden with her basket. Zephyrin started back
into a corner of the room, his mouth wide agape from ear to ear in
silent laughter, and the gimlet holes of his eyes gleaming with rustic
roguery. Rosalie came straight into the room, as was her usual
practice, to show her mistress her morning's purchase of provisions.

"Madame," said she, "I've brought some cauliflowers. Look at them!
Only eighteen sous for two; it isn't dear, is it?"

She held out the basket half open, but on lifting her head noticed
Zephyrin's grinning face. Surprise nailed her to the carpet. Two or
three seconds slipped away; she had doubtless at first failed to
recognize him in his uniform. But then her round eyes dilated, her fat
little face blanched, and her coarse black hair waved in agitation.

"Oh!" she simply said.

But her astonishment was such that she dropped her basket. The
provisions, cauliflowers, onions, apples, rolled on to the carpet.
Jeanne gave a cry of delight, and falling on her knees, began hunting
for the apples, even under the chairs and the wardrobe. Meanwhile
Rosalie, as though paralyzed, never moved, though she repeated:

"What! it's you! What are you doing here? what are you doing here?

Then she turned to Helene with the question: "Was it you who let him
come in?"

Zephyrin never uttered a word, but contented himself with winking
slily. Then Rosalie gave vent to her emotion in tears; and, to show
her delight at seeing him again, could hit on nothing better than to
quiz him.

"Oh! go away!" she began, marching up to him. "You look neat and
pretty I must say in that guise of yours! I might have passed you in
the street, and not even have said: 'God bless you.' Oh! you've got a
nice rig-out. You just look as if you had your sentry-box on your
back; and they've cut your hair so short that folks might take you for
the sexton's poodle. Good heavens! what a fright you are; what a

Zephyrin, very indignant, now made up his mind to speak. "It's not my
fault, that's sure! Oh! if you joined a regiment we should see a few

They had quite forgotten where they were; everything had vanished--the
room, Helene and Jeanne, who was still gathering the apples together.
With hands folded over her apron, the maid stood upright in front of
the little soldier.

"Is everything all right down there?" she asked.

"Oh, yes, excepting Guignard's cow is ill. The veterinary surgeon came
and said she'd got the dropsy."

"If she's got the dropsy, she's done for. Excepting that, is
everything all right?"

"Yes, yes! The village constable has broken his arm. Old Canivet's
dead. And, by the way, his reverence lost his purse with thirty sous
in it as he was a-coming back from Grandval. But otherwise, things are
all right."

Then silence fell on them, and they looked at one another with
sparkling eyes, their compressed lips slowly making an amorous
grimace. This, indeed, must have been the manner in which they
expressed their love, for they had not even stretched out their hands
in greeting. Rosalie, however, all at once ceased her contemplation,
and began to lament at sight of the vegetables on the floor. Such a
nice mess! and it was he who had caused it all! Madame ought to have
made him wait on the stairs! Scolding away as fast as she could, she
dropped on her knees and began putting the apples, onions, and
cauliflowers into the basket again, much to the disgust of Jeanne, who
would fain have done it all herself. And as she turned, with the
object of betaking herself into her kitchen, never deigning another
look in Zephyrin's direction, Helene, conciliated by the healthy
tranquillity of the lovers, stopped her to say:

"Listen a moment, my girl. Your aunt has asked me to allow this young
man to come and see you on Sundays. He will come in the afternoon, and
you will try not to let your work fall behind too much."

Rosalie paused, merely turning her head. Though she was well pleased,
she preserved her doleful air.

"Oh, madame, he will be such a bother," she declared. But at the same
time she glanced over her shoulder at Zephyrin, and again made an
affectionate grimace at him. The little soldier remained for a minute
stock-still, his mouth agape from ear to ear with its silent laugh.
Then he retired backwards, with his cap against his heart as he
thanked Helene profusely. The door had been shut upon him, when on the
landing he still continued bowing.

"Is that Rosalie's brother, mamma?" asked Jeanne.

Helene was quite embarrassed by the question. She regretted the
permission which she had just given in a sudden impulse of kindliness
which now surprised her. She remained thinking for some seconds, and
then replied, "No, he is her cousin."

"Ah!" said the child gravely.

Rosalie's kitchen looked out on the sunny expanse of Doctor Deberle's
garden. In the summer the branches of the elms swayed in through the
broad window. It was the cheeriest room of the suite, always flooded
with light, which was sometimes so blinding that Rosalie had put up a
curtain of blue cotton stuff, which she drew of an afternoon. The only
complaint she made about the kitchen was its smallness; and indeed it
was a narrow strip of a place, with a cooking-range on the right-hand
side, while on the left were the table and dresser. The various
utensils and furnishings, however, had all been so well arranged that
she had contrived to keep a clear corner beside the window, where she
worked in the evening. She took a pride in keeping everything,
stewpans, kettles, and dishes, wonderfully clean; and so, when the sun
veered round to the window, the walls became resplendent, the copper
vessels sparkled like gold, the tin pots showed bright discs like
silver moons, while the white-and-blue tiles above the stove gleamed
pale in the fiery glow.

On the evening of the ensuing Saturday Helene heard so great a
commotion in the kitchen that she determined to go and see what was
the matter.

"What is it?" asked she: "are you fighting with the furniture?"

"I am scouring, madame," replied Rosalie, who, sweating and
dishevelled, was squatting on the tiled floor and scrubbing it with
all the strength of her arms.

This over, she sponged it with clear water. Never had the kitchen
displayed such perfection of cleanliness. A bride might have slept in
it; all was white as for a wedding. So energetically had she exerted
her hands that it seemed as if table and dresser had been freshly
planed. And the good order of everything was a sight to see; stewpans
and pots taking rank by their size, each on its own hook, even the
frying-pan and gridiron shining brightly without one grimy stain.
Helene looked on for a moment in silence, and then with a smile

Every Saturday afterwards there was a similar furbishing, a tornado of
dust and water lasting for four hours. It was Rosalie's wish to
display her neatness to Zephyrin on the Sunday. That was her reception
day. A single cobweb would have filled her with shame; but when
everything shone resplendent around her she became amiable, and burst
into song. At three o'clock she would again wash her hands and don a
cap gay with ribbons. Then the curtain being drawn halfway, so that
only the subdued light of a boudoir came in, she awaited Zephyrin's
arrival amidst all this primness, through which a pleasant scent of
thyme and laurel was borne.

At half-past three exactly Zephyrin made his appearance; he would walk
about the street until the clocks of the neighborhood had struck the
half-hour. Rosalie listened to the beat of his heavy shoes on the
stairs, and opened the door the moment he halted on the landing. She
had forbidden him to ring the bell. At each visit the same greeting
passed between them.

"Is it you?"

"Yes, it's me!"

And they stood face to face, their eyes sparkling and their lips
compressed. Then Zephyrin followed Rosalie; but there was no admission
vouchsafed to him till she had relieved him of shako and sabre. She
would have none of these in her kitchen; and so the sabre and shako
were hidden away in a cupboard. Next she would make him sit down in
the corner she had contrived near the window, and thenceforth he was
not allowed to budge.

"Sit still there! You can look on, if you like, while I get madame's
dinner ready."

But he rarely appeared with empty hands. He would usually spend the
morning in strolling with some comrades through the woods of Meudon,
lounging lazily about, inhaling the fresh air, which inspired him with
regretful memories of his country home. To give his fingers something
to do he would cut switches, which he tapered and notched with
marvelous figurings, and his steps gradually slackening he would come
to a stop beside some ditch, his shako on the back of his head, while
his eyes remained fixed on the knife with which he was carving the
stick. Then, as he could never make up his mind to discard his
switches, he carried them in the afternoon to Rosalie, who would throw
up her hands, and exclaim that they would litter her kitchen. But the
truth was, she carefully preserved them; and under her bed was
gathered a bundle of these switches, of all sorts and sizes.

One day he made his appearance with a nest full of eggs, which he had
secreted in his shako under the folds of a handkerchief. Omelets made
from the eggs of wild birds, so he declared, were very nice--a
statement which Rosalie received with horror; the nest, however, was
preserved and laid away in company with the switches. But Zephyrin's
pockets were always full to overflowing. He would pull curiosities
from them, transparent pebbles found on the banks of the Seine, pieces
of old iron, dried berries, and all sorts of strange rubbish, which
not even a rag-picker would have cared for. His chief love, however,
was for pictures; as he sauntered along he would seize on all the
stray papers that had served as wrappers for chocolate or cakes of
soap, and on which were black men, palm-trees, dancing-girls, or
clusters of roses. The tops of old broken boxes, decorated with
figures of languid, blonde ladies, the glazed prints and silver paper
which had once contained sugar-sticks and had been thrown away at the
neighboring fairs, were great windfalls that filled his bosom with
pride. All such booty was speedily transferred to his pockets, the
choicer articles being enveloped in a fragment of an old newspaper.
And on Sunday, if Rosalie had a moment's leisure between the
preparation of a sauce and the tending of the joint, he would exhibit
his pictures to her. They were hers if she cared for them; only as the
paper around them was not always clean he would cut them out, a
pastime which greatly amused him. Rosalie got angry, as the shreds of
paper blew about even into her plates; and it was a sight to see with
what rustic cunning he would at last gain possession of her scissors.
At times, however, in order to get rid of him, she would give them up
without any asking.

Meanwhile some brown sauce would be simmering on the fire. Rosalie
watched it, wooden spoon in hand; while Zephyrin, his head bent and
his breadth of shoulder increased by his epaulets, continued cutting
out the pictures. His head was so closely shaven that the skin of his
skull could be seen; and the yellow collar of his tunic yawned widely
behind, displaying his sunburnt neck. For a quarter of an hour at a
time neither would utter a syllable. When Zephyrin raised his head, he
watched Rosalie while she took some flour, minced some parsley, or
salted and peppered some dish, his eyes betraying the while intense
interest. Then, at long intervals, a few words would escape him:

"By Jove! that does smell nice!"

The cook, busily engaged, would not vouchsafe an immediate reply; but
after a lengthy silence she perhaps exclaimed: "You see, it must
simmer properly."

Their talk never went beyond that. They no longer spoke of their
native place even. When a reminiscence came to them a word sufficed,
and they chuckled inwardly the whole afternoon. This was pleasure
enough, and by the time Rosalie turned Zephyrin out of doors both of
them had enjoyed ample amusement.

"Come, you will have to go! I must wait on madame," said she; and
restoring him his shako and sabre, she drove him out before her,
afterwards waiting on madame with cheeks flushed with happiness; while
he walked back to barracks, dangling his arms, and almost intoxicated
by the goodly odors of thyme and laurel which still clung to him.

During his earlier visits Helene judged it right to look after them.
She popped in sometimes quite suddenly to give an order, and there was
Zephyrin always in his corner, between the table and the window, close
to the stone filter, which forced him to draw in his legs. The moment
madame made her appearance he rose and stood upright, as though
shouldering arms, and if she spoke to him his reply never went beyond
a salute and a respectful grunt. Little by little Helene grew somewhat
easier; she saw that her entrance did not disturb them, and that their
faces only expressed the quiet content of patient lovers.

At this time, too, Rosalie seemed even more wide awake than Zephyrin.
She had already been some months in Paris, and under its influence was
fast losing her country rust, though as yet she only knew three
streets--the Rue de Passy, the Rue Franklin, and the Rue Vineuse.
Zephyrin, soldier though he was, remained quite a lubber. As Rosalie
confided to her mistress, he became more of a blockhead every day. In
the country he had been much sharper. But, added she, it was the
uniform's fault; all the lads who donned the uniform became sad dolts.
The fact is, his change of life had quite muddled Zephyrin, who, with
his staring round eyes and solemn swagger, looked like a goose.
Despite his epaulets he retained his rustic awkwardness and heaviness;
the barracks had taught him nothing as yet of the fine words and
victorious attitudes of the ideal Parisian fire-eater. "Yes, madame,"
Rosalie would wind up by saying, "you don't need to disturb yourself;
it is not in him to play any tricks!"

Thus the girl began to treat him in quite a motherly way. While
dressing her meat on the spit she would preach him a sermon, full of
good counsel as to the pitfalls he should shun; and he in all
obedience vigorously nodded approval of each injunction. Every Sunday
he had to swear to her that he had attended mass, and that he had
solemnly repeated his prayers morning and evening. She strongly
inculcated the necessity of tidiness, gave him a brush down whenever
he left her, stitched on a loose button of his tunic, and surveyed him
from head to foot to see if aught were amiss in his appearance. She
also worried herself about his health, and gave him cures for all
sorts of ailments. In return for her kindly care Zephyrin professed
himself anxious to fill her filter for her; but this proposal was
long-rejected, through the fear that he might spill the water. One
day, however, he brought up two buckets without letting a drop of
their contents fall on the stairs, and from that time he replenished
the filter every Sunday. He would also make himself useful in other
ways, doing all the heavy work and was extremely handy in running to
the greengrocer's for butter, had she forgotten to purchase any. At
last, even, he began to share in the duties of kitchen-maid. First he
was permitted to peel the vegetables; later on the mincing was
assigned to him. At the end of six weeks, though still forbidden to
touch the sauces, he watched over them with wooden spoon in hand.
Rosalie had fairly made him her helpmate, and would sometimes burst
out laughing as she saw him, with his red trousers and yellow collar,
working busily before the fire with a dishcloth over his arm, like
some scullery-servant.

One Sunday Helene betook herself to the kitchen. Her slippers deadened
the sound of her footsteps, and she reached the threshold unheard by
either maid or soldier. Zephyrin was seated in his corner over a basin
of steaming broth. Rosalie, with her back turned to the door, was
occupied in cutting some long sippets of bread for him.

"There, eat away, my dear!" she said. "You walk too much; it is that
which makes you feel so empty! There! have you enough? Do you want any

Thus speaking, she watched him with a tender and anxious look. He,
with his round, dumpy figure, leaned over the basin, devouring a
sippet with each mouthful of broth. His face, usually yellow with
freckles, was becoming quite red with the warmth of the steam which
circled round him.

"Heavens!" he muttered, "what grand juice! What do you put in it?"

"Wait a minute," she said; "if you like leeks--"

However, as she turned round she suddenly caught sight of her
mistress. She raised an exclamation, and then, like Zephyrin, seemed
turned to stone. But a moment afterwards she poured forth a torrent of

"It's my share, madame--oh, it's my share! I would not have taken any
more soup, I swear it! I told him, 'If you would like to have my bowl
of soup, you can have it.' Come, speak up, Zephyrin; you know that was
how it came about!"

The mistress remained silent, and the servant grew uneasy, thinking
she was annoyed. Then in quavering tones she continued:

"Oh, he was dying of hunger, madame; he stole a raw carrot for me!
They feed him so badly! And then, you know, he had walked goodness
knows where all along the river-side. I'm sure, madame, you would have
told me yourself to give him some broth!"

Gazing at the little soldier, who sat with his mouth full, not daring
to swallow, Helene felt she could no longer remain stern. So she
quietly said:

"Well, well, my girl, whenever the lad is hungry you must keep him to
dinner--that's all. I give you permission"

Face to face with them, she had again felt within her that tender
feeling which once already had banished all thoughts of rigor from her
mind. They were so happy in that kitchen! The cotton curtain, drawn
half-way, gave free entry to the sunset beams. The burnished copper
pans set the end wall all aglow, lending a rosy tint to the twilight
lingering in the room. And there, in the golden shade, the lovers'
little round faces shone out, peaceful and radiant, like moons. Their
love was instinct with such calm certainty that no neglect was even
shown in keeping the kitchen utensils in their wonted good order. It
blossomed amidst the savory odors of the cooking-stove, which
heightened their appetites and nourished their hearts.

"Mamma," asked Jeanne, one evening after considerable meditation, "why
is it Rosalie's cousin never kisses her?"

"And why should they kiss one another?" asked Helene in her turn.
"They will kiss on their birthdays."

                             CHAPTER VII.

The soup had just been served on the following Tuesday evening, when
Helene, after listening attentively, exclaimed:

"What a downpour! Don't you hear? My poor friends, you will get
drenched to-night!"

"Oh, it's only a few drops," said the Abbe quietly, though his old
cassock was already wet about the shoulders.

"I've got a good distance to go," said Monsieur Rambaud. "But I shall
return home on foot all the same; I like it. Besides, I have my

Jeanne was reflecting as she gazed gravely on her last spoonful of
vermicelli; and at last her thoughts took shape in words: "Rosalie
said you wouldn't come because of the wretched weather; but mamma said
you would come. You are very kind; you always come."

A smile lit up all their faces. Helene addressed a nod of affectionate
approval to the two brothers. Out of doors the rain was falling with a
dull roar, and violent gusts of wind beat angrily against the
window-shutters. Winter seemed to have returned. Rosalie had carefully
drawn the red repp curtains; and the small, cosy dining-room,
illumined by the steady light of the white hanging-lamp, looked,
amidst the buffeting of the storm, a picture of pleasant, affectionate
intimacy. On the mahogany sideboard some china reflected the quiet
light; and amidst all this indoor peacefulness the four diners
leisurely conversed, awaiting the good pleasure of the servant-maid,
as they sat round the table, where all, if simple, was exquisitely

"Oh! you are waiting; so much the worse!" said Rosalie familiarly, as
she entered with a dish. "These are fillets of sole _au gratin_ for
Monsieur Rambaud; they require to be lifted just at the last moment."

Monsieur Rambaud pretended to be a gourmand, in order to amuse Jeanne,
and give pleasure to Rosalie, who was very proud of her
accomplishments as a cook. He turned towards her with the question:
"By the way, what have you got for us to-day? You are always bringing
in some surprise or other when I am no longer hungry."

"Oh," said she in reply, "there are three dishes as usual, and no
more. After the sole you will have a leg of mutton and then some
Brussels sprouts. Yes, that's the truth; there will be nothing else."

From the corner of his eye Monsieur Rambaud glanced towards Jeanne.
The child was boiling over with glee, her hands over her mouth to
restrain her laughter, while she shook her head, as though to
insinuate that the maid was deceiving them. Monsieur Rambaud thereupon
clacked his tongue as though in doubt, and Rosalie pretended great

"You don't believe me because Mademoiselle Jeanne laughs so," said
she. "Ah, very well! believe what you like. Stint yourself, and see if
you won't have a craving for food when you get home."

When the maid had left the room, Jeanne, laughing yet more loudly, was
seized with a longing to speak out.

"You are really too greedy!" she began. "I myself went into the
kitchen--" However, she left her sentence unfinished: "No, no, I won't
tell; it isn't right, is it, mamma? There's nothing more--nothing at
all! I only laughed to cheat you."

This interlude was re-enacted every Tuesday with the same unvarying
success. Helene was touched by the kindliness with which Monsieur
Rambaud lent himself to the fun; she was well aware that, with
Provencal frugality, he had long limited his daily fare to an anchovy
and half-a-dozen olives. As for Abbe Jouve, he never knew what he was
eating, and his blunders and forgetfulness supplied an inexhaustible
fund of amusement. Jeanne, meditating some prank in this respect, was
even now stealthily watching him with her glittering eyes.

"How nice this whiting is!" she said to him, after they had all been

"Very nice, my dear," he answered. "Bless me, you are right--it is
whiting; I thought it was turbot."

And then, as every one laughed, he guilelessly asked why. Rosalie, who
had just come into the room again, seemed very much hurt, and burst

"A fine thing indeed! The priest in my native place knew much better
what he was eating. He could tell the age of the fowl he was carving
to a week or so, and didn't require to go into the kitchen to find out
what there was for dinner. No, the smell was quite sufficient.
Goodness gracious! had I been in the service of a priest like your
reverence, I should not know yet even how to turn an omelet."

The Abbe hastened to excuse himself with an embarrassed air, as though
his inability to appreciate the delights of the table was a failing he
despaired of curing. But, as he said, he had too many other things to
think about.

"There! that is a leg of mutton!" exclaimed Rosalie, as she placed on
the table the joint referred to.

Everybody once more indulged in a peal of laughter, the Abbe Jouve
being the first to do so. He bent forward to look, his little eyes
twinkling with glee.

"Yes, certainly," said he; "it is a leg of mutton. I think I should
have known it."

Despite this remark, there was something about the Abbe that day which
betokened unusual absent-mindedness. He ate quickly, with the haste of
a man who is bored by a long stay at table, and lunches standing when
at home. And, having finished, himself, he would wait the convenience
of the others, plunged in deep thought, and simply smiling in reply to
the questions put to him. At every moment he cast on his brother a
look in which encouragement and uneasiness were mingled. Nor did
Monsieur Rambaud seen possessed of his wonted tranquillity that
evening; but his agitation manifested itself in a craving to talk and
fidget on his chair, which seemed rather inconsistent with his quiet
disposition. When the Brussels sprouts had disappeared, there was a
delay in the appearance of the dessert, and a spell of silence ensued.
Out of doors the rain was beating down with still greater force,
rattling noisily against the house. The dining-room was rather close,
and it suddenly dawned on Helene that there was something strange in
the air--that the two brothers had some worry of which they did not
care to speak. She looked at them anxiously, and at last spoke:

"Dear, dear! What dreadful rain! isn't it? It seems to be influencing
both of you, for you look out of sorts."

They protested, however, that such was not the case, doing their
utmost to clear her mind of the notion. And as Rosalie now made her
appearance with an immense dish, Monsieur Rambaud exclaimed, as though
to veil his emotion: "What did I say! Still another surprise!"

The surprise of the day was some vanilla cream, one of the cook's
triumphs. And thus it was a sight to see her broad, silent grin, as
she deposited her burden on the table. Jeanne shouted and clapped her

"I knew it, I knew it! I saw the eggs in the kitchen!"

"But I have no more appetite," declared Monsieur Rambaud, with a look
of despair. "I could not eat any of it!"

Thereupon Rosalie became grave, full of suppressed wrath. With a
dignified air, she remarked: "Oh, indeed! A cream which I made
specially for you! Well, well! just try not to eat any of it--yes,

He had to give in and accept a large helping of the cream. Meanwhile
the Abbe remained thoughtful. He rolled up his napkin and rose before
the dessert had come to an end, as was frequently his custom. For a
little while he walked about, with his head hanging down; and when
Helene in her turn quitted the table, he cast at Monsieur Rambaud a
look of intelligence, and led the young woman into the bedroom.[*] The
door being left open behind them, they could almost immediately
afterwards be heard conversing together, though the words which they
slowly exchanged were indistinguishable.

[*] Helene's frequent use of her bedroom may seem strange to the
    English reader who has never been in France. But in the _petite
    bourgeoisie_ the bedchamber is often the cosiest of the whole
    suite of rooms, and whilst indoors, when not superintending her
    servant, it is in the bedroom that madame will spend most of her
    time. Here, too, she will receive friends of either sex, and, the
    French being far less prudish than ourselves, nobody considers
    that there is anything wrong or indelicate in the practice.

"Oh, do make haste!" said Jeanne to Monsieur Rambaud, who seemed
incapable of finishing a biscuit. "I want to show you my work."

However, he evinced no haste, though when Rosalie began to clear the
table it became necessary for him to leave his chair.

"Wait a little! wait a little!" he murmured, as the child strove to
drag him towards the bedroom, And, overcome with embarrassment and
timidity, he retreated from the doorway. Then, as the Abbe raised his
voice, such sudden weakness came over him that he had to sit down
again at the table. From his pocket he drew a newspaper.

"Now," said he, "I'm going to make you a little coach."

Jeanne at once abandoned her intention of entering the adjoining room.
Monsieur Rambaud always amazed her by his skill in turning a sheet of
paper into all sorts of playthings. Chickens, boats, bishops' mitres,
carts, and cages, were all evolved under his fingers. That day,
however, so tremulous were his hands that he was unable to perfect
anything. He lowered his head whenever the faintest sound came from
the adjacent room. Nevertheless, Jeanne took interest in watching him,
and leaned on the table at his side.

"Now," said she, "you must make a chicken to harness to the carriage."

Meantime, within the bedroom, Abbe Jouve remained standing in the
shadow thrown by the lamp-shade upon the floor. Helene had sat down in
her usual place in front of the round table; and, as on Tuesdays she
refrained from ceremony with her friends, she had taken up her
needlework, and, in the circular glare of light, only her white hands
could be seen sewing a child's cap.

"Jeanne gives you no further worry, does she?" asked the Abbe.

Helene shook her head before making a reply.

"Doctor Deberle seems quite satisfied," said she. "But the poor
darling is still very nervous. Yesterday I found her in her chair in a
fainting fit."

"She needs exercise," resumed the priest. "You stay indoors far too
much; you should follow the example of other folks and go about more
than you do."

He ceased speaking, and silence followed. He now, without doubt, had
what he had been seeking,--a suitable inlet for his discourse; but the
moment for speaking came, and he was still communing with himself.
Taking a chair, he sat down at Helene's side.

"Hearken to me, my dear child," he began. "For some time past I have
wished to talk with you seriously. The life you are leading here can
entail no good results. A convent existence such as yours is not
consistent with your years; and this abandonment of worldly pleasures
is as injurious to your child as it is to yourself. You are risking
many dangers--dangers to health, ay, and other dangers, too."

Helene raised her head with an expression of astonishment. "What do
you mean, my friend?" she asked.

"Dear me! I know the world but little," continued the priest, with
some slight embarrassment, "yet I know very well that a woman incurs
great risk when she remains without a protecting arm. To speak
frankly, you keep to your own company too much, and this seclusion in
which you hide yourself is not healthful, believe me. A day must come
when you will suffer from it."

"But I make no complaint; I am very happy as I am," she exclaimed with

The old priest gently shook his large head.

"Yes, yes, that is all very well. You feel completely happy. I know
all that. Only, on the downhill path of a lonely, dreamy life, you
never know where you are going. Oh! I understand you perfectly; you
are incapable of doing any wrong. But sooner or later you might lose
your peace of mind. Some morning, when it is too late, you will find
that blank which you now leave in your life filled by some painful
feeling not to be confessed."

As she sat there in the shadow, a blush crimsoned Helene's face. Had
the Abbe, then, read her heart? Was he aware of this restlessness
which was fast possessing her--this heart-trouble which thrilled her
every-day life, and the existence of which she had till now been
unwilling to admit? Her needlework fell on her lap. A sensation of
weakness pervaded her, and she awaited from the priest something like
a pious complicity which would allow her to confess and particularize
the vague feelings which she buried in her innermost being. As all was
known to him, it was for him to question her, and she would strive to

"I leave myself in your hands, my friend," she murmured. "You are well
aware that I have always listened to you."

The priest remained for a moment silent, and then slowly and solemnly

"My child, you must marry again."

She remained speechless, with arms dangling, in a stupor this counsel
brought upon her. She awaited other words, failing, as it were, to
understand him. And the Abbe continued putting before her the
arguments which should incline her towards marriage.

"Remember, you are still young. You must not remain longer in this
out-of-the-way corner of Paris, scarcely daring to go out, and wholly
ignorant of the world. You must return to the every-day life of
humanity, lest in the future you should bitterly regret your
loneliness. You yourself have no idea how the effects of your
isolation are beginning to tell on you, but your friends remark your
pallor, and feel uneasy."

With each sentence he paused, in the hope that she might break in and
discuss his proposition. But no; she sat there as if lifeless,
seemingly benumbed with astonishment.

"No doubt you have a child," he resumed. "That is always a delicate
matter to surmount. Still, you must admit that even in Jeanne's
interest a husband's arm would be of great advantage. Of course, we
must find some one good and honorable, who would be a true father--"

However, she did not let him finish. With violent revolt and repulsion
she suddenly spoke out: "No, no; I will not! Oh, my friend, how can
you advise me thus? Never, do you hear, never!"

Her whole heart was rising; she herself was frightened by the violence
of her refusal. The priest's proposal had stirred up that dim nook in
her being whose secret she avoided reading, and, by the pain she
experienced, she at last understood all the gravity of her ailment.
With the open, smiling glance of the priest still bent on her, she
plunged into contention.

"No, no; I do not wish it! I love nobody!"

And, as he still gazed at her, she imagined he could read her lie on
her face. She blushed and stammered:

"Remember, too, I only left off my mourning a fortnight ago. No, it
could not be!"

"My child!" quietly said the priest, "I thought over this a great deal
before speaking. I am sure your happiness is wrapped up in it. Calm
yourself; you need never act against your own wishes."

The conversation came to a sudden stop. Helene strove to keep pent
within her bosom the angry protests that were rushing to her lips. She
resumed her work, and, with head lowered, contrived to put in a few
stitches. And amid the silence, Jeanne's shrill voice could be heard
in the dining-room.

"People don't put a chicken to a carriage; it ought to be a horse! You
don't know how to make a horse, do you?"

"No, my dear; horses are too difficult," said Monsieur Rambaud. "But
if you like I'll show you how to make carriages."

This was always the fashion in which their game came to an end.
Jeanne, all ears and eyes, watched her kindly playfellow folding the
paper into a multitude of little squares, and afterwards she followed
his example; but she would make mistakes and then stamp her feet in
vexation. However, she already knew how to manufacture boats and
bishops' mitres.

"You see," resumed Monsieur Rambaud patiently, "you make four corners
like that; then you turn them back--"

With his ears on the alert, he must during the last moment have heard
some of the words spoken in the next room; for his poor hands were now
trembling more and more, while his tongue faltered, so that he could
only half articulate his sentences.

Helene, who was unable to quiet herself, now began the conversation
anew. "Marry again! And whom, pray?" she suddenly asked the priest, as
she laid her work down on the table. "You have some one in view, have
you not?"

Abbe Jouve rose from his chair and stalked slowly up and down. Without
halting, he nodded assent.

"Well! tell me who he is," she said.

For a moment he lingered before her erect, then, shrugging his
shoulders, said: "What's the good, since you decline?"

"No matter, I want to know," she replied. "How can I make up my mind
when I don't know?"

He did not answer her immediately, but remained standing there, gazing
into her face. A somewhat sad smile wreathed his lips. At last he
exclaimed, almost in a whisper: "What! have you not guessed?"

No, she could not guess. She tried to do so, with increasing wonder,
whereupon he made a simple sign--nodding his head in the direction of
the dining-room.

"He!" she exclaimed, in a muffled tone, and a great seriousness fell
upon her. She no longer indulged in violent protestations; only sorrow
and surprise remained visible on her face. She sat for a long time
plunged in thought, her gaze turned to the floor. Truly, she had never
dreamed of such a thing; and yet, she found nothing in it to object
to. Monsieur Rambaud was the only man in whose hand she could put her
own honestly and without fear. She knew his innate goodness; she did
not smile at his _bourgeois_ heaviness. But despite all her regard for
him, the idea that he loved her chilled her to the soul.

Meanwhile the Abbe had again begun walking from one to the other end
of the room, and on passing the dining-room door he gently called
Helene. "Come here and look!"

She rose and did as he wished.

Monsieur Rambaud had ended by seating Jeanne in his own chair; and he,
who had at first been leaning against the table, had now slipped down
at the child's feet. He was on his knees before her, encircling her
with one of his arms. On the table was the carriage drawn by the
chicken, with some boats, boxes, and bishops' mitres.

"Now, do you love me well?" he asked her. "Tell me that you love me

"Of course, I love you well; you know it."

He stammered and trembled, as though he were making some declaration
of love.

"And what would you say if I asked you to let me stay here with you

"Oh, I should be quite pleased. We would play together, wouldn't we?
That would be good fun."

"Ah, but you know I should always be here."

Jeanne had taken up a boat which she was twisting into a gendarme's
hat. "You would need to get mamma's leave," she murmured.

By this reply all his fears were again stirred into life. His fate was
being decided.

"Of course," said he. "But if mamma gave me leave, would you say yes,

Jeanne, busy finishing her gendarme's hat, sang out in a rapturous
strain: "I would say yes! yes! yes! I would say yes! yes! yes! Come,
look how pretty my hat is!"

Monsieur Rambaud, with tears in his eyes, rose to his knees and kissed
her, while she threw her arms round his neck. He had entrusted the
asking of Helene's consent to his brother, whilst he himself sought to
secure that of Jeanne.

"You see," said the priest, with a smile, "the child is quite

Helene still retained her grave air, and made no further inquiry. The
Abbe, however, again eloquently took up his plea, and emphasized his
brother's good qualities. Was he not a treasure-trove of a father for
Jeanne? She was well acquainted with him; in trusting him she gave no
hostages to fortune. Then, as she still remained silent, the Abbe with
great feeling and dignity declared that in the step he had taken he
had not thought of his brother, but of her and her happiness.

"I believe you; I know how you love me," Helene promptly answered.
"Wait; I want to give your brother his answer in your presence."

The clock struck ten. Monsieur Rambaud made his entry into the
bedroom. With outstretched hands she went to meet him.

"I thank you for your proposal, my friend," said she. "I am very
grateful; and you have done well in speaking--"

She was gazing calmly into his face, holding his big hand in her
grasp. Trembling all over, he dared not lift his eyes.

"Yet I must have time to consider," she resumed. "You will perhaps
have to give me a long time."

"Oh! as long as you like--six months, a year, longer if you please,"
exclaimed he with a light heart, well pleased that she had not
forthwith sent him about his business.

His excitement brought a faint smile to her face. "But I intend that
we shall still continue friends," said she. "You will come here as
usual, and simply give me your promise to remain content till I speak
to you about the matter. Is that understood?"

He had withdrawn his hand, and was now feverishly hunting for his hat,
signifying his acquiescence by a continuous bobbing of the head. Then,
at the moment of leaving, he found his voice once more.

"Listen to me," said he. "You now know that I am there--don't you?
Well, whatever happens I shall always be there. That's all the Abbe
should have told you. In ten years, if you like; you will only have to
make a sign. I shall obey you!"

And it was he who a last time took Helene's hand and gripped it as
though he would crush it. On the stairs the two brothers turned round
with the usual good-bye:

"Till next Tuesday!"

"Yes, Tuesday," answered Helene.

On returning to her room a fresh downfall of rain beating against the
shutters filled her with grave concern. Good heavens! what an
obstinate downpour, and how wet her poor friends would get! She opened
the window and looked down into the street. Sudden gusts of wind were
making the gaslights flicker, and amid the shiny puddles and
shimmering rain she could see the round figure of Monsieur Rambaud, as
he went off with dancing gait, exultant in the darkness, seemingly
caring nothing for the drenching torrent.

Jeanne, however, was very grave, for she had overheard some of her
playfellow's last words. She had just taken off her little boots, and
was sitting on the edge of the bed in her nightgown, in deep
cogitation. On entering the room to kiss her, her mother discovered
her thus.

"Good-night, Jeanne; kiss me."

Then, as the child did not seem to hear her, Helene sank down in front
of her, and clasped her round the waist, asking her in a whisper: "So
you would be glad if he came to live with us?"

The question seemed to bring no surprise to Jeanne. She was doubtless
pondering over this very matter. She slowly nodded her head.

"But you know," said her mother, "he would be always beside us--night
and day, at table--everywhere!"

A great trouble dawned in the clear depths of the child's eyes. She
nestled her cheek against her mother's shoulder, kissed her neck, and
finally, with a quiver, whispered in her ear: "Mamma, would he kiss

A crimson flush rose to Helene's brow. In her first surprise she was
at a loss to answer, but at last she murmured: "He would be the same
as your father, my darling!"

Then Jeanne's little arms tightened their hold, and she burst into
loud and grievous sobbing. "Oh! no, no!" she cried chokingly. "I don't
want it then! Oh! mamma, do please tell him I don't. Go and tell him I
won't have it!"

She gasped, and threw herself on her mother's bosom, covering her with
tears and kisses. Helene did her utmost to appease her, assuring her
she would make it all right; but Jeanne was bent on having a definite
answer at once.

"Oh! say no! say no, darling mother! You know it would kill me. Never!
Oh, never! Eh?"

"Well, I'll promise it will never be. Now, be good and lie down."

For some minutes longer the child, speechless with emotion, clasped
her mother in her arms, as though powerless to tear herself away, and
intent on guarding her against all who might seek to take her from
her. After some time Helene was able to put her to bed; but for a part
of the night she had to watch beside her. Jeanne would start violently
in her sleep, and every half-hour her eyes would open to make sure of
her mother's presence, and then she would doze off again, with her
lips pressed to Helene's hand.

                            CHAPTER VIII.

It was a month of exquisite mildness. The April sun had draped the
garden in tender green, light and delicate as lace. Twining around the
railing were the slender shoots of the lush clematis, while the
budding honeysuckle filled the air with its sweet, almost sugary
perfume. On both sides of the trim and close-shaven lawn red geraniums
and white stocks gave the flower beds a glow of color; and at the end
of the garden the clustering elms, hiding the adjacent houses, reared
the green drapery of their branches, whose little leaves trembled with
the least breath of air.

For more than three weeks the sky had remained blue and cloudless. It
was like a miraculous spring celebrating the new youth and blossoming
that had burst into life in Helene's heart. Every afternoon she went
down into the garden with Jeanne. A place was assigned her against the
first elm on the right. A chair was ready for her; and on the morrow
she would still find on the gravel walk the scattered clippings of
thread that had fallen from her work on the previous afternoon.

"You are quite at home," Madame Deberle repeated every evening,
displaying for Helene one of those affections of hers, which usually
lasted some six months. "You will come to-morrow, of course; and try
to come earlier, won't you?"

Helene, in truth, felt thoroughly at her ease there. By degrees she
became accustomed to this nook of greenery, and looked forward to her
afternoon visit with the longing of a child. What charmed her most in
this garden was the exquisite trimness of the lawn and flower beds.
Not a single weed interfered with the symmetry of the plants. Helene
spent her time there, calmly and restfully. The neatly laid out flower
beds, and the network of ivy, the withered leaves of which were
carefully removed by the gardener, could exercise no disturbing
influence on her spirit. Seated beneath the deep shadow of the
elm-trees, in this quiet spot which Madame Deberle's presence perfumed
with a faint odor of musk, she could have imagined herself in a
drawing-room; and only the sight of the blue sky, when she raised her
head, reminded her that she was out-of-doors, and prompted her to
breathe freely.

Often, without seeing a soul, the two women would thus pass the
afternoon. Jeanne and Lucien played at their feet. There would be long
intervals of silence, and then Madame Deberle, who disliked reverie,
would chatter for hours, quite satisfied with the silent acquiescence
of Helene, and rattling off again if the other even so much as nodded.
She would tell endless stories concerning the ladies of her
acquaintance, get up schemes for parties during the coming winter,
vent magpie opinions on the day's news and the society trifling which
filled her narrow brain, the whole intermingled with affectionate
outbursts over the children, and sentimental remarks on the delights
of friendship. Helene allowed her to squeeze her hands. She did not
always lend an attentive ear; but, in this atmosphere of unceasing
tenderness, she showed herself greatly touched by Juliette's caresses,
and pronounced her to be a perfect angel of kindness.

Sometimes, to Madame Deberle's intense delight, a visitor would drop
in. Since Easter she had ceased receiving on Saturdays, as was usual
at this time of the year. But she dreaded solitude, and a casual
unceremonious visit paid her in her garden gave her the greatest
pleasure. She was now busily engaged in settling on the watering-place
where she would spend her holiday in August. To every visitor she
retailed the same talk; discoursed on the fact that her husband would
not accompany her to the seaside; and then poured forth a flood of
questions, as she could not make up her mind where to go. She did not
ask for herself, however; no, it was all on Lucien's account. When the
foppish youth Malignon came he seated himself astride a rustic chair.
He, indeed, loathed the country; one must be mad, he would declare, to
exile oneself from Paris with the idea of catching influenza beside
the sea. However, he took part in the discussions on the merits of the
various watering-places, all of which were horrid, said he; apart from
Trouville there was not a place worthy of any consideration whatever.
Day after day Helene listened to the same talk, yet without feeling
wearied; indeed, she even derived pleasure from this monotony, which
lulled her into dreaming of one thing only. The last day of the month
came, and still Madame Deberle had not decided where to go.

As Helene was leaving one evening, her friend said to her: "I must go
out to-morrow; but that needn't prevent you from coming down here.
Wait for me; I shan't be back late."

Helene consented; and, alone in the garden, there spent a delicious
afternoon. Nothing stirred, save the sparrows fluttering in the trees
overhead. This little sunny nook entranced her, and, from that day,
her happiest afternoons were those on which her friend left her alone.

A closer intimacy was springing up between the Deberles and herself.
She dined with them like a friend who is pressed to stay when the
family sits down to table; when she lingered under the elm-trees and
Pierre came down to announce dinner, Juliette would implore her to
remain, and she sometimes yielded. They were family dinners, enlivened
by the noisy pranks of the children. Doctor Deberle and Helene seemed
good friends, whose sensible and somewhat reserved natures sympathized
well. Thus it was that Juliette frequently declared: "Oh, you two
would get on capitally! Your composure exasperates me!"

The doctor returned from his round of visits at about six o'clock
every evening. He found the ladies in the garden, and sat down beside
them. On the earlier occasions, Helene started up with the idea of
leaving her friends to themselves, but her sudden departure displeased
Juliette greatly, and she now perforce had to remain. She became
almost a member of this family, which appeared to be so closely
united. On the doctor's arrival his wife held up her cheek to him,
always with the same loving gesture, and he kissed her; then, as
Lucien began clambering up his legs, he kept him on his knees while
chatting away. The child would clap his tiny hands on his father's
mouth, pull his hair, and play so many pranks that in the upshot he
had to be put down, and told to go and play with Jeanne. The fun would
bring a smile to Helene's face, and she neglected her work for the
moment, to gaze at father, mother, and child. The kiss of the husband
and wife gave her no pain, and Lucien's tricks filled her with soft
emotion. It might have been said that she had found a haven of refuge
amidst this family's quiet content.

Meanwhile the sun would sink into the west, gilding the tree tops with
its rays. Serene peacefulness fell from the grey heavens. Juliette,
whose curiosity was insatiable, even in company with strangers,
plagued her husband with ceaseless questions, and often lacked the
patience to wait his replies. "Where have you been? What have you been

Thereupon he would describe his round of visits to them, repeat any
news of what was going on, or speak of some cloth or piece of
furniture he had caught a glimpse of in a shop window. While he was
speaking, his eyes often met those of Helene, but neither turned away
the head. They gazed into each other's face for a moment with grave
looks, as though heart were being revealed to heart; but after a
little they smiled and their eyes dropped. Juliette, fidgety and
sprightly, though she would often assume a studied languor, allowed
them no opportunity for lengthy conversation, but burst with her
interruptions into any talk whatever. Still they exchanged a few
words, quite commonplace, slowly articulated sentences which seemed to
assume a deep meaning, and to linger in the air after having been
spoken. They approvingly punctuated each word the other uttered, as
though they had thoughts in common. It was an intimate sympathy that
was growing up between them, springing from the depths of their
beings, and becoming closer even when they were silent. Sometimes
Juliette, rather ashamed of monopolizing all the talk, would cease her
magpie chatter.

"Dear me!" she would exclaim, "you are getting bored, aren't you? We
are talking of matters which can have no possible interest for you."

"Oh, never mind me," Helene answered blithely. "I never tire. It is a
pleasure to me to listen and say nothing."

She was uttering no untruth. It was during the lengthy periods of
silence that she experienced most delight in being there. With her
head bent over her work, only lifting her eyes at long intervals to
exchange with the doctor those interminable looks that riveted their
hearts the closer, she willingly surrendered herself to the egotism of
her emotion. Between herself and him, she now confessed it, there
existed a secret sentiment, a something very sweet--all the sweeter
because no one in the world shared it with them. But she kept her
secret with a tranquil mind, her sense of honor quite unruffled, for
no thought of evil ever disturbed her. How good he was to his wife and
child! She loved him the more when he made Lucien jump or kissed
Juliette on the cheek. Since she had seen him in his own home their
friendship had greatly increased. She was now as one of the family;
she never dreamt that the intimacy could be broken. And within her own
breast she called him Henri--naturally, too, from hearing Juliette
address him so. When her lips said "Sir," through all her being
"Henri" was re-echoed.

One day the doctor found Helene alone under the elms. Juliette now
went out nearly every afternoon.

"Hello! is my wife not with you?" he exclaimed.

"No, she has left me to myself," she answered laughingly. "It is true
you have come home earlier than usual."

The children were playing at the other end of the garden. He sat down
beside her. Their _tete-a-tete_ produced no agitation in either of
them. For nearly an hour they spoke of all sorts of matters, without
for a moment feeling any desire to allude to the tenderness which
filled their hearts. What was the good of referring to that? Did they
not well know what might have been said? They had no confession to
make. Theirs was the joy of being together, of talking of many things,
of surrendering themselves to the pleasure of their isolation without
a shadow of regret, in the very spot where every evening he embraced
his wife in her presence.

That day he indulged in some jokes respecting her devotion to work.
"Do you know," said he, "I do not even know the color of your eyes?
They are always bent on your needle."

She raised her head and looked straight into his face, as was her
custom. "Do you wish to tease me?" she asked gently.

But he went on. "Ah! they are grey--grey, tinged with blue, are they

This was the utmost limit to which they dared go; but these words, the
first that had sprung to his lips, were fraught with infinite
tenderness. From that day onwards he frequently found her alone in the
twilight. Despite themselves, and without their having any knowledge
of it, their intimacy grew apace. They spoke in an altered voice, with
caressing inflections, which were not apparent when others were
present. And yet, when Juliette came in, full of gossip about her day
in town, they could keep up the talk they had already begun without
even troubling themselves to draw their chairs apart. It seemed as
though this lovely springtide and this garden, with its blossoming
lilac, were prolonging within their hearts the first rapture of love.

Towards the end of the month, Madame Deberle grew excited over a grand
idea. The thought of giving a children's ball had suddenly struck her.
The season was already far advanced, but the scheme took such hold on
her foolish brain that she hurried on the preparations with reckless
haste. She desired that the affair should be quite perfect; it was to
be a fancy-dress ball. And, in her own home, and in other people's
houses, everywhere, in short, she now spoke of nothing but her ball.
The conversations on the subject which took place in the garden were
endless. The foppish Malignon thought the project rather stupid, still
he condescended to take some interest in it, and promised to bring a
comic singer with whom he was acquainted.

One afternoon, while they were all sitting under the trees, Juliette
introduced the grave question of the costumes which Lucien and Jeanne
should wear.

"It is so difficult to make up one's mind," said she. "I have been
thinking of a clown's dress in white satin."

"Oh, that's too common!" declared Malignon. "There will be a round
dozen of clowns at your ball. Wait, you must have something novel."
Thereupon he began gravely pondering, sucking the head of his cane all
the while.

Pauline came up at the moment, and proclaimed her desire to appear as
a soubrette.

"You!" screamed Madame Deberle, in astonishment. "You won't appear in
costume at all! Do you think yourself a child, you great stupid? You
will oblige me by coming in a white dress."

"Oh, but it would have pleased me so!" exclaimed Pauline, who, despite
her eighteen years and plump girlish figure, liked nothing better than
to romp with a band of little ones.

Meanwhile Helene sat at the foot of her tree working away, and raising
her head at times to smile at the doctor and Monsieur Rambaud, who
stood in front of her conversing. Monsieur Rambaud had now become
quite intimate with the Deberle family.

"Well," said the doctor, "and how are you going to dress, Jeanne?"

He got no further, for Malignon burst out: "I've got it! I've got it!
Lucien must be a marquis of the time of Louis XV."

He waved his cane with a triumphant air; but, as no one of the company
hailed his idea with enthusiasm, he appeared astonished. "What, don't
you see it? Won't it be for Lucien to receive his little guests? So
you place him, dressed as a marquis, at the drawing-room door, with a
large bouquet of roses on his coat, and he bows to the ladies."

"But there will be dozens of marquises at the ball!" objected

"What does that matter?" replied Malignon coolly. "The more marquises
the greater the fun. I tell you it is the best thing you can hit upon.
The master of the house must be dressed as a marquis, or the ball will
be a complete failure."

Such was his conviction of his scheme's success that at last it was
adopted by Juliette with enthusiasm. As a matter of fact, a dress in
the Pompadour style, white satin embroidered with posies, would be
altogether charming.

"And what about Jeanne?" again asked the doctor.

The little girl had just buried her head against her mother's shoulder
in the caressing manner so characteristic of her; and as an answer was
about to cross Helene's lips, she murmured:

"Oh! mamma, you know what you promised me, don't you?"

"What was it?" asked those around her.

Then, as her daughter gave her an imploring look, Helene laughingly
replied: "Jeanne does not wish her dress to be known."

"Yes, that's so," said the child; "you don't create any effect when
you tell your dress beforehand."

Every one was tickled with this display of coquetry, and Monsieur
Rambaud thought he might tease the child about it. For some time past
Jeanne had been ill-tempered with him, and the poor man, at his wits'
end to hit upon a mode of again gaining her favor, thought teasing her
the best method of conciliation. Keeping his eyes on her face, he
several times repeated: "I know; I shall tell, I shall tell!"

Jeanne, however, became quite livid. Her gentle, sickly face assumed
an expression of ferocious anger; her brow was furrowed by two deep
wrinkles, and her chin drooped with nervous agitation.

"You!" she screamed excitedly; "you will say nothing!" And, as he
still feigned a resolve to speak, she rushed at him madly, and shouted
out: "Hold your tongue! I will have you hold your tongue! I will! I

Helene had been unable to prevent this fit of blind anger, such as
sometimes took possession of the child, and with some harshness
exclaimed: "Jeanne, take care; I shall whip you!"

But Jeanne paid no heed, never once heard her. Trembling from head to
foot, stamping on the ground, and choking with rage, she again and
again repeated, "I will! I will!" in a voice that grew more and more
hoarse and broken; and her hands convulsively gripped hold of Monsieur
Rambaud's arm, which she twisted with extraordinary strength. In vain
did Helene threaten her. At last, perceiving her inability to quell
her by severity, and grieved to the heart by such a display before so
many people, she contented herself by saying gently: "Jeanne, you are
grieving me very much."

The child immediately quitted her hold and turned her head. And when
she caught sight of her mother, with disconsolate face and eyes
swimming with repressed tears, she on her side burst into loud sobs,
and threw herself on Helene's neck, exclaiming in her grief: "No,
mamma! no, mamma!"

She passed her hands over her mother's face, as though to prevent her
weeping. Helene, however, slowly put her from her, and then the little
one, broken-hearted and distracted, threw herself on a seat a short
distance off, where her sobs broke out louder than ever. Lucien, to
whom she was always held up as an example to follow, gazed at her
surprised and somewhat pleased. And then, as Helene folded up her
work, apologizing for so regrettable an incident, Juliette remarked to

"Dear me! we have to pardon children everything. Besides, the little
one has the best of hearts, and is grieved so much, poor darling, that
she has been already punished too severely."

So saying she called Jeanne to come and kiss her; but the child
remained on her seat, rejecting the offer of forgiveness, and still
choking with tears.

Monsieur Rambaud and the doctor, however, walked to her side, and the
former, bending over her, asked, in tones husky with emotion: "Tell
me, my pet, what has vexed you? What have I done to you?"

"Oh!" she replied, drawing away her hands and displaying a face full
of anguish, "you wanted to take my mamma from me!"

The doctor, who was listening, burst into laughter. Monsieur Rambaud
at first failed to grasp her meaning.

"What is this you're talking of?"

"Yes, indeed, the other Tuesday! Oh! you know very well; you were on
your knees, and asked me what I should say if you were to stay with

The smile vanished from the doctor's face; his lips became ashy pale,
and quivered. A flush, on the other hand, mounted to Monsieur
Rambaud's cheek, and he whispered to Jeanne: "But you said yourself
that we should always play together?"

"No, no; I did not know at the time," the child resumed excitedly. "I
tell you I don't want it. Don't ever speak to me of it again, and then
we shall be friends."

Helene was on her feet now, with her needlework in its basket, and the
last words fell on her ear. "Come, let us go up, Jeanne," she said;
"your tears are not pleasant company."

She bowed, and pushed the child before her. The doctor, with livid
face, gazed at her fixedly. Monsieur Rambaud was in dismay. As for
Madame Deberle and Pauline, they had taken hold of Lucien, and were
making him turn between them, while excitedly discussing the question
of his Pompadour dress.

On the morrow Helene was left alone under the elms. Madame Deberle was
running about in the interests of her ball, and had taken Lucien and
Jeanne with her. On the doctor's return home, at an earlier hour than
usual, he hurried down the garden steps. However, he did not seat
himself, but wandered aimlessly round the young woman, at times
tearing strips of bark from the trees with his finger-nails. She
lifted her eyes for a moment, feeling anxious at sight of his
agitation; and then again began plying her needle with a somewhat
trembling hand.

"The weather is going to break up," said she, feeling uncomfortable as
the silence continued. "The afternoon seems quite cold."

"We are only in April, remember," he replied, with a brave effort to
control his voice.

Then he appeared to be on the point of leaving her, but turned round,
and suddenly asked: "So you are going to get married?"

This abrupt question took her wholly by surprise, and her work fell
from her hands. Her face blanched, but by a supreme effort of will
remained unimpassioned, as though she were a marble statue, fixing
dilated eyes upon him. She made no reply, and he continued in
imploring tones:

"Oh! I pray you, answer me. One word, one only. Are you going to get

"Yes, perhaps. What concern is it of yours?" she retorted, in a tone
of icy indifference.

He made a passionate gesture, and exclaimed:

"It is impossible!"

"Why should it be?" she asked, still keeping her eyes fixed on his

Her glance stayed the words upon his lips, and he was forced to
silence. For a moment longer he remained near her, pressing his hands
to his brow, and then fled away, with a feeling of suffocation in his
throat, dreading lest he might give expression to his despair; while
she, with assumed tranquillity, once more turned to her work.

But the spell of those delicious afternoons was gone. Next day shone
fair and sunny, and Helene seemed ill at ease from the moment she
found herself alone with him. The pleasant intimacy, the happy
trustfulness, which sanctioned their sitting side by side in blissful
security, and revelling in the unalloyed joy of being together, no
longer existed. Despite his intense carefulness to give her no cause
for alarm, he would sometimes gaze at her and tremble with sudden
excitement, while his face crimsoned with a rush of blood. From her
own heart had fled its wonted happy calm; quivers ran through her
frame; she felt languid; her hands grew weary, and forsook their work.

She now no longer allowed Jeanne to wander from her side. Between
himself and her the doctor found this constant onlooker, watching him
with large, clear eyes. But what pained Helene most was that she now
felt ill at ease in Madame Deberle's company. When the latter returned
of an afternoon, with her hair swept about by the wind, and called her
"my dear" while relating the incidents of some shopping expedition,
she no longer listened with her former quiet smile. A storm arose from
the depths of her soul, stirring up feelings to which she dared not
give a name. Shame and spite seemed mingled in them. However, her
honorable nature gained the mastery, and she gave her hand to
Juliette, but without being able to repress the shudder which ran
through her as she pressed her friend's warm fingers.

The weather had now broken up. Frequent rain forced the ladies to take
refuge in the Japanese pavilion. The garden, with its whilom exquisite
order, became transformed into a lake, and no one dared venture on the
walks, on account of the mud. However, whenever the sun peeped out
from behind the clouds, the dripping greenery soon dried; pearls hung
from each little blossom of the lilac trees; and under the elms big
drops fell splashing on the ground.

"At last I've arranged it; it will be on Saturday," said Madame
Deberle one day. "My dear, I'm quite tired out with the whole affair.
Now, you'll be here at two o'clock, won't you? Jeanne will open the
ball with Lucien."

And thereupon, surrendering to a flow of tenderness, in ecstasy over
the preparations for her ball, she embraced both children, and,
laughingly catching hold of Helene, pressed two resounding kisses on
her cheeks.

"That's my reward!" she exclaimed merrily. "You know I deserve it; I
have run about enough. You'll see what a success it will be!"

But Helene remained chilled to the heart, while the doctor, with
Lucien clinging to his neck, gazed at them over the child's fair head.

                             CHAPTER IX.

In the hall of the doctor's house stood Pierre, in dress coat and
white cravat, throwing open the door as each carriage rolled up. Puffs
of dank air rushed in; the afternoon was rainy, and a yellow light
illumined the narrow hall, with its curtained doorways and array of
green plants. It was only two o'clock, but the evening seemed as near
at hand as on a dismal winter's day.

However, as soon as the servant opened the door of the first
drawing-room, a stream of light dazzled the guests. The shutters had
been closed, and the curtains carefully drawn, and no gleam from the
dull sky could gain admittance. The lamps standing here and there on
the furniture, and the lighted candles of the chandelier and the
crystal wall-brackets, gave the apartment somewhat the appearance of a
brilliantly illuminated chapel. Beyond the smaller drawing-room, whose
green hangings rather softened the glare of the light, was the large
black-and-gold one, decorated as magnificently as for the ball which
Madame Deberle gave every year in the month of January.

The children were beginning to arrive, while Pauline gave her
attention to the ranging of a number of chairs in front of the
dining-room doorway, where the door had been removed from its
hinges and replaced by a red curtain.

"Papa," she cried, "just lend me a hand! We shall never be ready."

Monsieur Letellier, who, with his arms behind his back, was gazing at
the chandelier, hastened to give the required assistance. Pauline
carried the chairs about herself. She had paid due deference to her
sister's request, and was robed in white; only her dress opened
squarely at the neck and displayed her bosom.

"At last we are ready," she exclaimed: "they can come when they like.
But what is Juliette dreaming about? She has been ever so long
dressing Lucien!"

Just at that moment Madame Deberle entered, leading the little
marquis, and everybody present began raising admiring remarks. "Oh!
what a love! What a darling he is!" His coat was of white satin
embroidered with flowers, his long waistcoat was embroidered with
gold, and his knee-breeches were of cherry-colored silk. Lace
clustered round his chin, and delicate wrists. A sword, a mere toy
with a great rose-red knot, rattled against his hip.

"Now you must do the honors," his mother said to him, as she led him
into the outer room.

For eight days past he had been repeating his lesson, and struck a
cavalier attitude with his little legs, his powdered head thrown
slightly back, and his cocked hat tucked under his left arm. As each
of his lady-guests was ushered into the room, he bowed low, offered
his arm, exchanged courteous greetings, and returned to the threshold.
Those near him laughed over his intense seriousness in which there was
a dash of effrontery. This was the style in which he received
Marguerite Tissot, a little lady five years old, dressed in a charming
milkmaid costume, with a milk-can hanging at her side; so too did he
greet the Berthier children, Blanche and Sophie, the one masquerading
as Folly, the other dressed in soubrette style; and he had even the
hardihood to tackle Valentine de Chermette, a tall young lady of some
fourteen years, whom her mother always dressed in Spanish costume, and
at her side his figure appeared so slight that she seemed to be
carrying him along. However, he was profoundly embarrassed in the
presence of the Levasseur family, which numbered five girls, who made
their appearance in a row of increasing height, the youngest being
scarcely two years old, while the eldest was ten. All five were
arrayed in Red Riding-Hood costumes, their head-dresses and gowns
being in poppy-colored satin with black velvet bands, with which their
lace aprons strikingly contrasted. At last Lucien, making up his mind,
bravely flung away his three-cornered hat, and led the two elder
girls, one hanging on each arm, into the drawing-room, closely
followed by the three others. There was a good deal of laughter at it,
but the little man never lost his self-possession for a moment.

In the meantime Madame Deberle was taking her sister to task in a

"Good gracious! is it possible! what a fearfully low-necked dress you
are wearing!"

"Dear, dear! what have I done now? Papa hasn't said a word," answered
Pauline coolly. "If you're anxious, I'll put some flowers at my

She plucked a handful of blossoms from a flower-stand where they were
growing and allowed them to nestle in her bosom; while Madame Deberle
was surrounded by several mammas in stylish visiting-dresses, who were
already profuse in their compliments about her ball. As Lucien was
passing them, his mother arranged a loose curl of his powdered hair,
while he stood on tip-toe to whisper in her ear:

"Where's Jeanne?"

"She will be here immediately, my darling. Take good care not to fall.
Run away, there comes little Mademoiselle Guiraud. Ah! she is wearing
an Alsatian costume."

The drawing-room was now filling rapidly; the rows of chairs fronting
the red curtain were almost all occupied, and a hubbub of children's
voices was rising. The boys were flocking into the room in groups.
There were already three Harlequins, four Punches, a Figaro, some
Tyrolese peasants, and a few Highlanders. Young Master Berthier was
dressed as a page. Little Guiraud, a mere bantling of two-and-a-half
summers, wore his clown's costume in so comical a style that every one
as he passed lifted him up and kissed him.

"Here comes Jeanne," exclaimed Madame Deberle, all at once. "Oh, she
is lovely!"

A murmur ran round the room; heads were bent forward, and every one
gave vent to exclamations of admiration. Jeanne was standing on the
threshold of the outer room, awaiting her mother, who was taking
off her cloak in the hall. The child was robed in a Japanese dress
of unusual splendor. The gown, embroidered with flowers and
strange-looking birds, swept to her feet, which were hidden from view;
while beneath her broad waist-ribbon the flaps, drawn aside, gave a
glimpse of a green petticoat, watered with yellow. Nothing could be
more strangely bewitching than her delicate features seen under the
shadow of her hair, coiled above her head with long pins thrust
through it, while her chin and oblique eyes, small and sparkling,
pictured to the life a young lady of Yeddo, strolling amidst the
perfume of tea and benzoin. And she lingered there hesitatingly,
with all the sickly languor of a tropical flower pining for the land
of its birth.

Behind her, however, appeared Helene. Both, in thus suddenly passing
from the dull daylight of the street into the brilliant glare of the
wax candles, blinked their eyes as though blinded, while their faces
were irradiated with smiles. The rush of warm air and the perfumes,
the scent of violets rising above all else, almost stifled them, and
brought a flush of red to their cheeks. Each guest, on passing the
doorway, wore a similar air of surprise and hesitancy.

"Why, Lucien! where are you?" exclaimed Madame Deberle.

The boy had not caught sight of Jeanne. But now he rushed forward and
seized her arm, forgetting to make his bow. And they were so dainty,
so loving, the little marquis in his flowered coat, and the Japanese
maiden in her purple embroidered gown, that they might have been taken
for two statuettes of Dresden china, daintily gilded and painted, into
which life had been suddenly infused.

"You know, I was waiting for you," whispered Lucien. "Oh, it is so
nasty to give everybody my arm! Of course, we'll keep beside each
other, eh?"

And he sat himself down with her in the first row of chairs, wholly
oblivious of his duties as host.

"Oh, I was so uneasy!" purred Juliette into Helene's ear. "I was
beginning to fear that Jeanne had been taken ill."

Helene proffered apology; dressing children, said she, meant endless
labor. She was still standing in a corner of the drawing-room, one of
a cluster of ladies, when her heart told her that the doctor was
approaching behind her. He was making his way from behind the red
curtain, beneath which he had dived to give some final instructions.
But suddenly he came to a standstill. He, too, had divined her
presence, though she had not yet turned her head. Attired in a dress
of black grenadine, she had never appeared more queenly in her beauty;
and a thrill passed through him as he breathed the cool air which she
had brought with her from outside, and wafted from her shoulders and
arms, gleaming white under their transparent covering.

"Henri has no eyes for anybody," exclaimed Pauline, with a laugh. "Ah,
good-day, Henri!"

Thereupon he advanced towards the group of ladies, with a courteous
greeting. Mademoiselle Aurelie, who was amongst them, engaged his
attention for the moment to point out to him a nephew whom she had
brought with her. He was all complaisance. Helene, without speaking,
gave him her hand, encased in its black glove, but he dared not clasp
it with marked force.

"Oh! here you are!" said Madame Deberle, as she appeared beside them.
"I have been looking for you everywhere. It is nearly three o'clock;
they had better begin."

"Certainly; at once," was his reply.

The drawing-room was now crowded. All round it, in the brilliant glare
thrown from the chandelier, sat the fathers and mothers, their walking
costumes serving to fringe the circle with less vivid colors. Some
ladies, drawing their chairs together, formed groups; men standing
motionless along the walls filled up the gaps; while in the doorway
leading to the next room a cluster of frock-coated guests could be
seen crowding together and peering over each other's shoulders. The
light fell wholly on the little folks, noisy in their glee, as they
rustled about in their seats in the centre of the large room. There
were almost a hundred children packed together; in an endless variety
of gay costumes, bright with blue and red. It was like a sea of fair
heads, varying from pale yellow to ruddy gold, with here and there
bows and flowers gleaming vividly--or like a field of ripe grain,
spangled with poppies and cornflowers, and waving to and fro as though
stirred by a breeze. At times, amidst this confusion of ribbons and
lace, of silk and velvet, a face was turned round--a pink nose, a pair
of blue eyes, a smiling or pouting little mouth. There were some, no
higher than one's boots, who were buried out of sight between big lads
of ten years of age, and whom their mothers sought from a distance,
but in vain. A few of the boys looked bored and foolish by the side of
girls who were busy spreading out their skirts. Some, however, were
already very venturesome, jogging the elbows of their fair neighbors
with whom they were unacquainted, and laughing in their faces. But the
royalty of the gathering remained with the girls, some of whom,
clustering in groups, stirred about in such a way as to threaten
destruction to their chairs, and chattered so loudly that the grown-up
folks could no longer hear one another speaking. And all eyes were
intently gazing at the red curtain.

Slowly was it drawn aside, and in the recess of the doorway appeared a
puppet-show. There was a hushed silence. Then all at once Punch sprang
in, with so ferocious a yell that baby Guiraud could not restrain a
responsive cry of terror and delight. It was one of those bloodthirsty
dramas in which Punch, having administered a sound beating to the
magistrate, murders the policeman, and tramples with ferocious glee on
every law, human and divine. At every cudgelling bestowed on the
wooden heads the pitiless audience went into shrieks of laughter; and
the sharp thrusts delivered by the puppets at each other's breasts,
the duels in which they beat a tattoo on one another's skulls as
though they were empty pumpkins, the awful havoc of legs and arms,
reducing the characters to a jelly, served to increase the roars of
laughter which rang out from all sides. But the climax of enjoyment
was reached when Punch sawed off the policeman's head on the edge of
the stage; an operation provocative of such hysterical mirth that the
rows of juveniles were plunged into confusion, swaying to and fro with
glee till they all but fell on one another. One tiny girl, but four
years old, all pink and white, considered the spectacle so entrancing
that she pressed her little hands devoutly to her heart. Others burst
into applause, while the boys laughed, with mouths agape, their deeper
voices mingling with the shrill peals from the girls.

"How amused they are!" whispered the doctor. He had returned to his
place near Helene. She was in high spirits like the children. Behind
her, he sat inhaling the intoxicating perfume which came from her
hair. And as one puppet on the stage dealt another an exceptionally
hard knock she turned to him and exclaimed: "Do you know, it is
awfully funny!"

The youngsters, crazy with excitement, were now interfering with the
action of the drama. They were giving answers to the various
characters. One young lady, who must have been well up in the plot,
was busy explaining what would next happen.

"He'll beat his wife to death in a minute! Now they are going to hang

The youngest of the Levasseur girls, who was two years old, shrieked
out all at once:

"Mamma, mamma, will they put him on bread and water?"

All sorts of exclamations and reflections followed. Meanwhile Helene,
gazing into the crowd of children, remarked: "I cannot see Jeanne. Is
she enjoying herself?"

Then the doctor bent forward, with head perilously near her own, and
whispered: "There she is, between that harlequin and the Norman
peasant maiden! You can see the pins gleaming in her hair. She is
laughing very heartily."

He still leaned towards her, her cool breath playing on his cheek.
Till now no confession had escaped them; preserving silence, their
intimacy had only been marred for a few days past by a vague sensation
of discomfort. But amidst these bursts of happy laughter, gazing upon
the little folks before her, Helene became once more, in sooth, a very
child, surrendering herself to her feelings, while Henri's breath beat
warm upon her neck. The whacks from the cudgel, now louder than ever,
filled her with a quiver which inflated her bosom, and she turned
towards him with sparkling eyes.

"Good heavens! what nonsense it all is!" she said each time. "See how
they hit one another!"

"Oh! their heads are hard enough!" he replied, trembling.

This was all his heart could find to say. Their minds were fast
lapsing into childhood once more. Punch's unedifying life was
fostering languor within their breasts. When the drama drew to its
close with the appearance of the devil, and the final fight and
general massacre ensued, Helene in leaning back pressed against
Henri's hand, which was resting on the back of her arm-chair; while
the juvenile audience, shouting and clapping their hands, made the
very chairs creak with their enthusiasm.

The red curtain dropped again, and the uproar was at its height when
Malignon's presence was announced by Pauline, in her customary style:
"Ah! here's the handsome Malignon!"

He made his way into the room, shoving the chairs aside, quite out of

"Dear me! what a funny idea to close the shutters!" he exclaimed,
surprised and hesitating. "People might imagine that somebody in the
house was dead." Then, turning towards Madame Deberle, who was
approaching him, he continued: "Well, you can boast of having made me
run about! Ever since the morning I have been hunting for Perdiguet;
you know whom I mean, my singer fellow. But I haven't been able to lay
my hands on him, and I have brought you the great Morizot instead."

The great Morizot was an amateur who entertained drawing-rooms by
conjuring with juggler-balls. A gipsy table was assigned to him, and
on this he accomplished his most wonderful tricks; but it all passed
off without the spectators evincing the slightest interest. The poor
little darlings were pulling serious faces; some of the tinier mites
fell fast asleep, sucking their thumbs. The older children turned
their heads and smiled towards their parents, who were themselves
yawning behind their hands. There was thus a general feeling of relief
when the great Morizot decided to take his table away.

"Oh! he's awfully clever," whispered Malignon into Madame Deberle's

But the red curtain was drawn aside once again, and an entrancing
spectacle brought all the little folks to their feet.

Along the whole extent of the dining-room stretched the table, laid
and bedecked as for a grand dinner, and illumined by the bright
radiance of the central lamp and a pair of large candelabra. There
were fifty covers laid; in the middle and at either end were shallow
baskets, full of flowers; between these towered tall _epergnes_,
filled to overflowing with crackers in gilded and colored paper. Then
there were mountains of decorated cakes, pyramids of iced fruits,
piles of sandwiches, and, less prominent, a whole host of
symmetrically disposed plates, bearing sweetmeats and pastry: buns,
cream puffs, and _brioches_ alternating with dry biscuits, cracknals,
and fancy almond cakes. Jellies were quivering in their glass dishes.
Whipped creams waited in porcelain bowls. And round the table sparkled
the silver helmets of champagne bottles, no higher than one's hand,
made specially to suit the little guests. It all looked like one of
those gigantic feasts which children conjure up in dreamland--a feast
served with the solemnity that attends a repast of grown-up folks--a
fairy transformation of the table to which their own parents sat down,
and on which the horns of plenty of innumerable pastry-cooks and toy
dealers had been emptied.

"Come, come, give the ladies your arms!" said Madame Deberle, her face
covered with smiles as she watched the delight of the children.

But the filing off in couples proved a lure. Lucien, who had
triumphantly taken Jeanne's arm, went first. But the others following
behind fell somewhat into confusion, and the mothers were forced to
come and assign them places, remaining close at hand, especially
behind the babies, whom they watched lest any mischance should befall
them. Truth to tell, the guests at first seemed rather uncomfortable;
they looked at one another, felt afraid to lay hands on the good
things, and were vaguely disquieted by this new social organization in
which everything appeared to be topsy-turvy, the children seated at
table while their parents remained standing. At length the older ones
gained confidence and commenced the attack. And when the mothers
entered into the fray, and cut up the large cakes, helping those in
their vicinity, the feast speedily became very animated and noisy. The
exquisite symmetry of the table was destroyed as though by a tempest.
The two Berthier girls, Blanche and Sophie, laughed at the sight of
their plates, which had been filled with something of everything--jam,
custard, cake, and fruit. The five young ladies of the Levasseur
family took sole possession of a corner laden with dainties, while
Valentine, proud of her fourteen years, acted the lady's part, and
looked after the comfort of her little neighbors. Lucien, however,
impatient to display his politeness, uncorked a bottle of champagne,
but in so clumsy a way that the whole contents spurted over his cherry
silk breeches. There was quite a to-do about it.

"Kindly leave the bottles alone! I am to uncork the champagne,"
shouted Pauline.

She bustled about in an extraordinary fashion, purely for her own
amusement. On the entry of a servant with the chocolate pot, she
seized it and filled the cups with the greatest glee, as active in the
performance as any restaurant waiter. Next she took round some ices
and glasses of syrup and water, set them down for a moment to stuff a
little baby-girl who had been overlooked, and then went off again,
asking every one questions.

"What is it you wish, my pet? Eh? A cake? Yes, my darling, wait a
moment; I am going to pass you the oranges. Now eat away, you little
stupids, you shall play afterwards."

Madame Deberle, calm and dignified, declared that they ought to be
left alone, and would acquit themselves very well.

At one end of the room sat Helene and some other ladies laughing at
the scene which the table presented; all the rosy mouths were eating
with the full strength of their beautiful white teeth. And nothing
could eclipse in drollery the occasional lapses from the polished
behavior of well-bred children to the outrageous freaks of young
savages. With both hands gripping their glasses, they drank to the
very dregs, smeared their faces, and stained their dresses. The clamor
grew worse. The last of the dishes were plundered. Jeanne herself
began dancing on her chair as she heard the strains of a quadrille
coming from the drawing-room; and on her mother approaching to upbraid
her with having eaten too much, she replied: "Oh! mamma, I feel so
happy to-day!"

But now the other children were rising as they heard the music. Slowly
the table thinned, until there only remained a fat, chubby infant
right in the middle. He seemingly cared little for the attractions of
the piano; with a napkin round his neck, and his chin resting on the
tablecloth--for he was a mere chit--he opened his big eyes, and
protruded his lips each time that his mamma offered him a spoonful of
chocolate. The contents of the cup vanished, and he licked his lips as
the last mouthful went down his throat, with eyes more agape than

"By Jove! my lad, you eat heartily!" exclaimed Malignon, who was
watching him with a thoughtful air.

Now came the division of the "surprise" packets. Each child, on
leaving the table, bore away one of the large gilt paper twists, the
coverings of which were hastily torn off and from them poured forth a
host of toys, grotesque hats made of tissue paper, birds and
butterflies. But the joy of joys was the possession of a cracker.
Every "surprise" packet had its cracker; and these the lads pulled at
gallantly, delighted with the noise, while the girls shut their eyes,
making many tries before the explosion took place. For a time the
sharp crackling of all this musketry alone could be heard; and the
uproar was still lasting when the children returned to the
drawing-room, where lively quadrille music resounded from the piano.

"I could enjoy a cake," murmured Mademoiselle Aurelie, as she sat

At the table, which was now deserted, but covered with all the litter
of the huge feast, a few ladies--some dozen or so, who had preferred
to wait till the children had retired--now sat down. As no servant
could be found, Malignon bustled hither and thither in attendance. He
poured out all that remained in the chocolate pot, shook up the dregs
of the bottles, and was even successful in discovering some ices. But
amidst all these gallant doings of his, he could not quit one idea,
and that was--why had they decided on closing the shutters?

"You know," he asserted, "the place looks like a cellar."

Helene had remained standing, engaged in conversation with Madame
Deberle. As the latter directed her steps towards the drawing-room,
her companion prepared to follow, when she felt a gentle touch. Behind
her was the doctor, smiling; he was ever near her.

"Are you not going to take anything?" he asked. And the trivial
question cloaked so earnest an entreaty that her heart was filled with
profound emotion. She knew well enough that each of his words was
eloquent of another thing. The excitement springing from the gaiety
which pulsed around her was slowly gaining on her. Some of the fever
of all these little folks, now dancing and shouting, coursed in her
own veins. With flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes, she at first

"No, thank you, nothing at all."

But he pressed her, and in the end, ill at ease and anxious to get rid
of him, she yielded. "Well, then, a cup of tea."

He hurried off and returned with the cup, his hands trembling as he
handed it to her. While she was sipping the tea he drew nearer to her,
his lips quivering nervously with the confession springing from his
heart. She in her turn drew back from him, and, returning him the
empty cup, made her escape while he was placing it on a sideboard,
thus leaving him alone in the dining-room with Mademoiselle Aurelie,
who was slowly masticating, and subjecting each dish in succession to
a close scrutiny.

Within the drawing-room the piano was sending forth its loudest
strains, and from end to end of the floor swept the ball with its
charming drolleries. A circle of onlookers had gathered round the
quadrille party with which Lucien and Jeanne were dancing. The little
marquis became rather mixed over the figures; he only got on well when
he had occasion to take hold of Jeanne; and then he gripped her by the
waist and whirled around. Jeanne preserved her equilibrium, somewhat
vexed by his rumpling her dress; but the delights of the dance taking
full possession of her, she caught hold of him in her turn and lifted
him off his feet. The white satin coat embroidered with nosegays
mingled with the folds of the gown woven with flowers and strange
birds, and the two little figures of old Dresden ware assumed all the
grace and novelty of some whatnot ornaments. The quadrille over,
Helene summoned Jeanne to her side, in order to rearrange her dress.

"It is his fault, mamma," was the little one's excuse. "He rubs
against me--he's a dreadful nuisance."

Around the drawing-room the faces of the parents were wreathed with
smiles. As soon as the music began again all the little ones were once
more in motion. Seeing, however, that they were observed they felt
distrustful, remained grave, and checked their leaps in order to keep
up appearances. Some of them knew how to dance; but the majority were
ignorant of the steps, and their limbs were evidently a source of
embarrassment to them. But Pauline interposed: "I must see to them!
Oh, you little stupids!"

She threw herself into the midst of the quadrille, caught hold of two
of them, one grasping her right hand the other her left, and managed
to infuse such life into the dance that the wooden flooring creaked
beneath them. The only sounds now audible rose from the hurrying
hither and thither of tiny feet beating wholly out of time, the piano
alone keeping to the dance measure. Some more of the older people
joined in the fun. Helene and Madame Deberle, noticing some little
maids who were too bashful to venture forth, dragged them into the
thickest of the throng. It was they who led the figures, pushed the
lads forward, and arranged the dancing in rings; and the mothers
passed them the youngest of the babies, so that they might make them
skip about for a moment, holding them the while by both hands. The
ball was now at its height. The dancers enjoyed themselves to their
hearts' content, laughing and pushing each other about like some
boarding school mad with glee over the absence of the teacher.
Nothing, truly, could surpass in unalloyed gaiety this carnival of
youngsters, this assemblage of miniature men and women--akin to a
veritable microcosm, wherein the fashions of every people mingled with
the fantastic creations of romance and drama. The ruddy lips and blue
eyes, the faces breathing love, invested the dresses with the fresh
purity of childhood. The scene realized to the mind the merrymaking of
a fairy-tale to which trooped Cupids in disguise to honor the
betrothal of some Prince Charming.

"I'm stifling!" exclaimed Malignon. "I'm off to inhale some fresh

As he left the drawing-room he threw the door wide open. The daylight
from the street then entered in a lurid stream, bedimming the glare of
lamps and candles. In this fashion every quarter of an hour Malignon
opened the door to let in some fresh air.

Still there was no cessation of the piano-playing. Little Guiraud, in
her Alsatian costume, with a butterfly of black ribbon in her golden
hair, swung round in the dance with a harlequin twice her height. A
Highlander whirled Marguerite Tissot round so madly that she lost her
milk-pail. The two Berthier girls, Blanche and Sophie, who were
inseparables, were dancing together; the soubrette in the arms of
Folly, whose bells were jingling merrily. A glance could not be thrown
over the assemblage without one of the Levasseur girls coming into
view; the Red Riding-Hoods seemed to increase in number; caps and
gowns of gleaming red satin slashed with black velvet everywhere
leaped into sight. Meanwhile some of the older boys and girls had
found refuge in the adjacent saloon, where they could dance more at
their ease. Valentine de Chermette, cloaked in the mantilla of a
Spanish senorita, was executing some marvellous steps in front of a
young gentleman who had donned evening dress. Suddenly there was a
burst of laughter which drew every one to the sight; behind a door in
a corner, baby Guiraud, the two-year-old clown, and a mite of a girl
of his own age, in peasant costume, were holding one another in a
tight embrace for fear of tumbling, and gyrating round and round like
a pair of slyboots, with cheek pressed to cheek.

"I'm quite done up," remarked Helene, as she leaned against the
dining-room door.

She fanned her face, flushed with her exertions in the dance. Her
bosom rose and fell beneath the transparent grenadine of her bodice.
And she was still conscious of Henri's breath beating on her
shoulders; he was still close to her--ever behind her. Now it flashed
on her that he would speak, yet she had no strength to flee from his
avowal. He came nearer and whispered, breathing on her hair: "I love
you! oh, how I love you!"

She tingled from head to foot, as though a gust of flame had beaten on
her. O God! he had spoken; she could no longer feign the pleasurable
quietude of ignorance. She hid behind her fan, her face purple with
blushes. The children, whirling madly in the last of the quadrilles,
were making the floor ring with the beating of their feet. There were
silvery peals of laughter, and bird-like voices gave vent to
exclamations of pleasure. A freshness arose from all that band of
innocents galloping round and round like little demons.

"I love you! oh, how I love you!"

She shuddered again; she would listen no further. With dizzy brain she
fled into the dining-room, but it was deserted, save that Monsieur
Letellier sat on a chair, peacefully sleeping. Henri had followed her,
and had the hardihood to seize her wrists even at the risk of a
scandal, his face convulsed with such passion that she trembled before
him. And he still repeated the words:

"I love you! I love you!"

"Leave me," she murmured faintly. "You are mad--"

And, close by, the dancing still went on, with the trampling of tiny
feet. Blanche Berthier's bells could be heard ringing in unison with
the softer notes of the piano; Madame Deberle and Pauline were
clapping their hands, by way of beating time. It was a polka, and
Helene caught a glimpse of Jeanne and Lucien, as they passed by
smiling, with arms clasped round each other.

But with a sudden jerk she freed herself and fled to an adjacent room
--a pantry into which streamed the daylight. That sudden brightness
blinded her. She was terror-stricken--she dared not return to the
drawing-room with the tale of passion written so legibly on her face.
So, hastily crossing the garden, she climbed to her own home, the
noises of the ball-room still ringing in her ears.

                              CHAPTER X.

Upstairs, in her own room, in the peaceful, convent-like atmosphere
she found there, Helene experienced a feeling of suffocation. Her room
astonished her, so calm, so secluded, so drowsy did it seem with its
blue velvet hangings, while she came to it hotly panting with the
emotion which thrilled her. Was this indeed her room, this dreary,
lifeless nook, devoid of air? Hastily she threw open a window, and
leaned out to gaze on Paris.

The rain had ceased, and the clouds were trooping off like some herd
of monsters hurrying in disorderly array into the gloom of the
horizon. A blue gap, that grew larger by degrees, had opened up above
the city. But Helene, her elbows trembling on the window-rail, still
breathless from her hasty ascent, saw nothing, and merely heard her
heart beating against her swelling breast. She drew a long breath, but
it seemed to her that the spreading valley with its river, its two
millions of people, its immense city, its distant hills, could not
hold air enough to enable her to breathe peacefully and regularly

For some minutes she remained there distracted by the fever of passion
which possessed her. It seemed as though a torrent of sensations and
confused ideas were pouring down on her, their roar preventing her
from hearing her own voice or understanding aught. There was a buzzing
in her ears, and large spots of light swam slowly before her eyes.
Then she suddenly found herself examining her gloved hands, and
remembering that she had omitted to sew on a button that had come off
the left-hand glove. And afterwards she spoke aloud, repeating several
times, in tones that grew fainter and fainter: "I love you! I love
you! oh, how I love you!"

Instinctively she buried her face in her hands, and pressed her
fingers to her eyelids as though to intensify the darkness in which
she sought to plunge. It was a wish to annihilate herself, to see no
more, to be utterly alone, girt in by the gloom of night. Her
breathing grew calmer. Paris blew its mighty breath upon her face; she
knew it lay before her, and though she had no wish to look on it, she
felt full of terror at the thought of leaving the window, and of no
longer having beneath her that city whose vastness lulled her to rest.

Ere long she grew unmindful of all around her. The love-scene and
confession, despite her efforts, again woke to life in her mind. In
the inky darkness Henri appeared to her, every feature so distinct and
vivid that she could perceive the nervous twitching of his lips. He
came nearer and hung over her. And then she wildly darted back. But,
nevertheless, she felt a burning breath on her shoulders and a voice
exclaimed: "I love you! I love you!" With a mighty effort she put the
phantom to flight, but it again took shape in the distance, and slowly
swelled to its whilom proportions; it was Henri once more following
her into the dining-room, and still murmuring: "I love you! I love
you!" These words rang within her breast with the sonorous clang of a
bell; she no longer heard anything but them, pealing their loudest
throughout her frame. Nevertheless, she desired to reflect, and again
strove to escape from the apparition. He had spoken; never would she
dare to look on his face again. The brutal passion of the man had
tainted the tenderness of their love. She conjured up past hours, in
which he had loved her without being so cruel as to say it; hours
spent in the garden amidst the tranquillity of the budding springtime
God! he had spoken--the thought clung to her so stubbornly, lowered on
her in such immensity and with such weight, that the instant
destruction of Paris by a thunderbolt before her eyes would have
seemed a trivial matter. Her heart was rent by feelings of indignant
protest and haughty anger, commingling with a secret and unconquerable
pleasure, which ascended from her inner being and bereft her of her
senses. He had spoken, and was speaking still, he sprang up
unceasingly before her, uttering those passionate words: "I love you!
I love you!"--words that swept into oblivion all her past life as wife
and mother.

In spite of her brooding over this vision, she retained some
consciousness of the vast expanse which stretched beneath her, beyond
the darkness that curtained her sight. A loud rumbling arose, and
waves of life seemed to surge up and circle around her. Echoes, odors,
and even light streamed against her face, though her hands were still
nervously pressed to it. At times sudden gleams appeared to pierce her
closed eyelids, and amidst the radiance she imagined she saw
monuments, steeples, and domes standing out in the diffuse light of
dreamland. Then she lowered her hands and, opening her eyes, was
dazzled. The vault of heaven expanded before her, and Henri had

A line of clouds, a seeming mass of crumbling chalk-hills, now barred
the horizon far away. Across the pure, deep blue heavens overhead,
merely a few light, fleecy cloudlets were slowly drifting, like a
flotilla of vessels with full-blown sails. On the north, above
Montmartre, hung a network of extreme delicacy, fashioned as it were
of pale-hued silk, and spread over a patch of sky as though for
fishing in those tranquil waters. Westward, however, in the direction
of the slopes of Meudon, which Helene could not see, the last drops of
the downpour must still have been obscuring the sun, for, though the
sky above was clear, Paris remained gloomy, dismal beneath the vapor
of the drying house-roofs. It was a city of uniform hue--the
bluey-grey of slate, studded with black patches of trees--but withal
very distinct, with the sharp outlines and innumberable windows of its
houses. The Seine gleamed with the subdued brightness of old silver.
The edifices on either bank looked as though they had been smeared
with soot. The Tower of St. Jacques rose up like some rust-eaten
museum curio, whilst the Pantheon assumed the aspect of a gigantic
catafalque above the darkened district which it overlooked. Gleams of
light peeped only from the gilding of the dome of the Invalides, like
lamps burning in the daytime, sad and vague amidst the crepuscular
veil of mourning in which the city was draped. All the usual effects
of distance had vanished; Paris resembled a huge yet minutely executed
charcoal drawing, showing very vigorously through its cloudy veil,
under the limpid heavens.

Gazing upon this dismal city, Helene reflected that she really knew
nothing of Henri. She felt strong and brave now that his image no
longer pursued her. A rebellious impulse stirred her soul to reject
the mastery which this man had gained over her within a few weeks. No,
she did not know him. She knew nothing of him, of his actions or his
thoughts; she could not even have determined whether he possessed
talent. Perhaps he was even more lacking in qualities of the heart
than of the mind. And thus she gave way to every imagining, her heart
full of bitterness, ever finding herself confronted by her ignorance,
that barrier which separated her from Henri, and checked her in her
efforts to know him. She knew nothing, she would never know anything.
She pictured him, hissing out those burning words, and creating within
her the one trouble which had, till now, broken in on the quiet
happiness of her life. Whence had he sprung to lay her life desolate
in this fashion? She suddenly thought that but six weeks before she
had had no existence for him, and this thought was insufferable.
Angels in heaven! to live no more for one another, to pass each other
without recognition, perhaps never to meet again! In her despair she
clasped her hands, and her eyes filled with tears.

Then Helene gazed fixedly on the towers of Notre-Dame in the far
distance. A ray of light from between two clouds tinged them with
gold. Her brain was heavy, as though surcharged with all the
tumultuous thoughts hurtling within it. It made her suffer; she would
fain have concerned herself with the sight of Paris, and have sought
to regain her life-peace by turning on that sea of roofs the tranquil
glances of past days. To think that at other times, at the same hour,
the infinitude of the city--in the stillness of a lovely twilight--had
lulled her into tender musing!

At present Paris was brightening in the sunshine. After the first ray
had fallen on Notre-Dame, others had followed, streaming across the
city. The luminary, dipping in the west, rent the clouds asunder, and
the various districts spread out, motly with ever-changing lights and
shadows. For a time the whole of the left bank was of a leaden hue,
while the right was speckled with spots of light which made the verge
of the river resemble the skin of some huge beast of prey. Then these
resemblances varied and vanished at the mercy of the wind, which drove
the clouds before it. Above the burnished gold of the housetops dark
patches floated, all in the same direction and with the same gentle
and silent motion. Some of them were very large, sailing along with
all the majestic grace of an admiral's ship, and surrounded by smaller
ones, preserving the regular order of a squadron in line of battle.
Then one vast shadow, with a gap yawning like a serpent's mouth,
trailed along, and for a while hid Paris, which it seemed ready to
devour. And when it had reached the far-off horizon, looking no larger
than a worm, a gush of light streamed from a rift in a cloud, and fell
into the void which it had left. The golden cascade could be seen
descending first like a thread of fine sand, then swelling into a huge
cone, and raining in a continuous shower on the Champs-Elysees
district, which it inundated with a splashing, dancing radiance. For a
long time did this shower of sparks descend, spraying continuously
like a fusee.

Ah, well! this love was her fate, and Helene ceased to resist. She
could battle no longer against her feelings. And in ceasing to
struggle she tasted immeasurable delight. Why should she grudge
herself happiness any longer? The memory of her past life inspired her
with disgust and aversion. How had she been able to drag on that cold,
dreary existence, of which she was formerly so proud? A vision rose
before her of herself as a young girl living in the Rue des
Petites-Maries, at Marseilles, where she had ever shivered; she saw
herself a wife, her heart's blood frozen in the companionship of a big
child of a husband, with little to take any interest in, apart from the
cares of her household; she saw herself through every hour of her life
following the same path with the same even tread, without a trouble to
mar her peace; and now this monotony in which she had lived, her heart
fast asleep, enraged her beyond expression. To think that she had
fancied herself happy in thus following her path for thirty years, her
passions silent, with naught but the pride of virtue to fill the blank
in her existence. How she had cheated herself with her integrity and
nice honor, which had girt her round with the empty joys of piety! No,
no; she had had enough of it; she wished to live! And an awful spirit
of ridicule woke within her as she thought of the behests of reason.
Her reason, forsooth! she felt a contemptuous pity for it; during all
the years she had lived it had brought her no joy to be compared with
that she had tasted during the past hour. She had denied the
possibility of stumbling, she had been vain and idiotic enough to
think that she would go on to the end without her foot once tripping
against a stone. Ah, well! to-day she almost longed to fall. Oh that
she might disappear, after tasting for one moment the happiness which
she had never enjoyed!

Within her soul, however, a great sorrow lingered, a heart-burning and
a consciousness of a gloomy blank. Then argument rose to her lips. Was
she not free? In her love for Henri she deceived nobody; she could
deal as she pleased with her love. Then, did not everything exculpate
her? What had been her life for nearly two years? Her widowhood, her
unrestricted liberty, her loneliness--everything, she realized, had
softened and prepared her for love. Love must have been smouldering
within her during the long evenings spent between her two old friends,
the Abbe and his brother, those simple hearts whose serenity had
lulled it to rest; it had been growing whilst she remained shut up
within those narrow walls, far away from the world, and gazed on Paris
rumbling noisily on the horizon; it had been growing even when she
leaned from that window in the dreamy mood which she had scarce been
conscious of, but which little by little had rendered her so weak. And
a recollection came to her of that radiant spring morning when Paris
had shone out fair and clear, as though in a glass mirror, when it had
worn the pure, sunny hue of childhood, as she lazily surveyed it,
stretched in her easy-chair with a book upon her knees. That morning
love had first awoke--a scarcely perceptible feeling that she had been
unable to define, and against which she had believed herself strongly
armed. To-day she was in the same place, but devoured by overpowering
passion, while before her eyes the dying sun illumined the city with
flame. It seemed to her that one day had sufficed for all, that this
was the ruddy evening following upon that limpid morning; and she
imagined she could feel those fiery beams scorching her heart.

But a change had come over the sky. The sun, in its descent towards
the slopes of Meudon, had just burst through the last clouds in all
its splendor. The azure vault was illuminated with glory; deep on the
horizon the crumbling ridge of chalk clouds, blotting out the distant
suburbs of Charenton and Choisy-le-Roi, now reared rocks of a tender
pink, outlined with brilliant crimson; the flotilla of cloudlets
drifting slowly through the blue above Paris, was decked with purple
sails; while the delicate network, seemingly fashioned of white silk
thread, above Montmartre, was suddenly transformed into golden cord,
whose meshes would snare the stars as soon as they should rise.

Beneath the flaming vault of heaven lay Paris, a mass of yellow,
striped with huge shadows. On the vast square below Helene, in an
orange-tinted haze, cabs and omnibuses crossed in all directions,
amidst a crowd of pedestrians, whose swarming blackness was softened
and irradiated by splashes of light. The students of a seminary were
hurrying in serried ranks along the Quai de Billy, and the trail of
cassocks acquired an ochraceous hue in the diffuse light. Farther
away, vehicles and foot-passengers faded from view; it was only by
their gleaming lamps that you were made aware of the vehicles which,
one behind the other, were crossing some distant bridge. On the left
the straight, lofty, pink chimneys of the Army Bakehouse were belching
forth whirling clouds of flesh-tinted smoke; whilst, across the river,
the beautiful elms of the Quai d'Orsay rose up in a dark mass
transpierced by shafts of light.

The Seine, whose banks the oblique rays were enfilading, was rolling
dancing wavelets, streaked with scattered splashes of blue, green, and
yellow; but farther up the river, in lieu of this blotchy coloring,
suggestive of an Eastern sea, the waters assumed a uniform golden hue,
which became more and more dazzling. You might have thought that some
ingot were pouring forth from an invisible crucible on the horizon,
broadening out with a coruscation of bright colors as it gradually
grew colder. And at intervals over this brilliant stream, the bridges,
with curves growing ever more slender and delicate, threw, as it were,
grey bars, till there came at last a fiery jumble of houses, above
which rose the towers of Notre-Dame, flaring red like torches. Right
and left alike the edifices were all aflame. The glass roof of the
Palais de l'Industrie appeared like a bed of glowing embers amidst the
Champs-Elysees groves. Farther on, behind the roof of the Madeline,
the huge pile of the Opera House shone out like a mass of burnished
copper; and the summits of other buildings, cupolas, and towers, the
Vendome column, the church of Saint-Vincent de Paul, the tower of
Saint-Jacques, and, nearer in, the pavilions of the new Louvre and the
Tuileries, were crowned by a blaze, which lent them the aspect of
sacrificial pyres. The dome of the Invalides was flaring with such
brilliancy that you instinctively feared lest it should suddenly
topple down and scatter burning flakes over the neighborhood. Beyond
the irregular towers of Saint-Sulpice, the Pantheon stood out against
the sky in dull splendor, like some royal palace of conflagration
reduced to embers. Then, as the sun declined, the pyre-like edifices
gradually set the whole of Paris on fire. Flashes sped over the
housetops, while black smoke lingered in the valleys. Every frontage
turned towards the Trocadero seemed to be red-hot, the glass of the
windows glittering and emitting a shower of sparks, which darted
upwards as though some invisible bellows were ever urging the huge
conflagration into greater activity. Sheaves of flame were also ever
rising afresh from the adjacent districts, where the streets opened,
now dark and now all ablaze. Even far over the plain, from a ruddy
ember-like glow suffusing the destroyed faubourgs, occasional flashes
of flame shot up as from some fire struggling again into life. Ere
long a furnace seemed raging, all Paris burned, the heavens became yet
more empurpled, and the clouds hung like so much blood over the vast
city, colored red and gold.

With the ruddy tints falling upon her, yielding to the passion which
was devouring her, Helene was still gazing upon Paris all ablaze, when
a little hand was placed on her shoulder, and she gave a start. It was
Jeanne, calling her. "Mamma! mamma!"

She turned her head, and the child went on: "At last! Didn't you hear
me before? I have called you at least a dozen times."

The little girl, still in her Japanese costume, had sparkling eyes,
and cheeks flushed with pleasure. She gave her mother no time for

"You ran away from me nicely! Do you know, they were hunting for you
everywhere? Had it not been for Pauline, who came with me to the
bottom of the staircase, I shouldn't have dared to cross the road."

With a pretty gesture, she brought her face close to her mother's
lips, and, without pausing, whispered the question: "Do you love me?"

Helene kissed her somewhat absently. She was amazed and impatient at
her early return. Had an hour really gone by since she had fled from
the ball-room? However, to satisfy the child, who seemed uneasy, she
told her that she had felt rather unwell. The fresh air was doing her
good; she only needed a little quietness.

"Oh! don't fear; I'm too tired," murmured Jeanne. "I am going to stop
here, and be very, very good. But, mamma dear, I may talk, mayn't I?"

She nestled close to Helene, full of joy at the prospect of not being
undressed at once. She was in ecstasies over her embroidered purple
gown and green silk petticoat; and she shook her head to rattle the
pendants hanging from the long pins thrust through her hair. At last
there burst from her lips a rush of hasty words. Despite her seeming
demureness, she had seen everything, heard everything, and remembered
everything; and she now made ample amends for her former assumed
dignity, silence, and indifference.

"Do you know, mamma, it was an old fellow with a grey beard who made
Punch move his arms and legs? I saw him well enough when the curtain
was drawn aside. Yes, and the little boy Guiraud began to cry. How
stupid of him, wasn't it? They told him the policeman would come and
put some water in his soup; and at last they had to carry him off, for
he wouldn't stop crying. And at lunch, too, Marguerite stained her
milkmaid's dress all over with jam. Her mamma wiped it off and said to
her: 'Oh, you dirty girl!' She even had a lot of it in her hair. I
never opened my mouth, but it did amuse me to see them all rush at the
cakes! Were they not bad-mannered, mamma dear?"

She paused for a few seconds, absorbed in some reminiscence, and then
asked, with a thoughtful air: "I say, mamma, did you eat any of those
yellow cakes with white cream inside? Oh! they were nice! they were
nice! I kept the dish beside me the whole time."

Helene was not listening to this childish chatter. But Jeanne talked
to relieve her excited brain. She launched out again, giving the
minutest details about the ball, and investing each little incident
with the greatest importance.

"You did not see that my waistband came undone just as we began
dancing. A lady, whose name I don't know, pinned it up for me. So I
said to her: 'Madame, I thank you very much.' But while I was dancing
with Lucien the pin ran into him, and he asked me: 'What have you got
in front of you that pricks me so?' Of course I knew nothing about it,
and told him I had nothing there to prick him. However, Pauline came
and put the pin in its proper place. Ah! but you've no idea how they
pushed each other about; and one great stupid of a boy gave Sophie a
blow on the back which made her fall. The Levasseur girls jumped about
with their feet close together. I am pretty certain that isn't the way
to dance. But the best of it all came at the end. You weren't there;
so you can't know. We all took one another by the arms, and then
whirled round; it was comical enough to make one die laughing.
Besides, some of the big gentlemen were whirling around as well. It's
true; I am not telling fibs. Why, don't you believe me, mamma dear?"

Helene's continued silence was beginning to vex Jeanne. She nestled
closer, and gave her mother's hand a shake. But, perceiving that she
drew only a few words from her, she herself, by degrees, lapsed into
silence, into thought of the incidents of that ball of which her heart
was full. Both mother and daughter now sat mutely gazing on Paris all
aflame. It seemed to them yet more mysterious than ever, as it lay
there illumined by blood-red clouds, like some city of an old-world
tale expiating its lusts under a rain of fire.

"Did you have any round dances?" all at once asked Helene, as if
wakening with a start.

"Yes, yes!" murmured Jeanne, engrossed in her turn.

"And the doctor--did he dance!"

"I should think so; he had a turn with me. He lift me up and asked me:
'Where is your mamma? where is your mamma?' and then he kissed me."

Helene unconsciously smiled. What need had she of knowing Henri well?
It appeared sweeter to her not to know him--ay, never to know him well
--and to greet him simply as the one whose coming she had awaited so
long. Why should she feel astonished or disquieted? At the fated hour
he had met her on her life-journey. Her frank nature accepted whatever
might be in store; and quietude, born of the knowledge that she loved
and was beloved, fell on her mind. She told her heart that she would
prove strong enough to prevent her happiness from being marred.

But night was coming on and a chilly breeze arose. Jeanne, still
plunged in reverie, began to shiver. She reclined her head on her
mother's bosom, and, as though the question were inseparably connected
with her deep meditation, she murmured a second time: "Do you love

Then Helene, her face still glad with smiles, took her head within her
hands and for a moment examined her face closely. Next she pressed a
long kiss near her mouth, over a ruddy spot on her skin. It was there,
she could divine it, that Henri had kissed the child!

The gloomy ridge of the Meudon hills was already partially concealing
the disc of the sun. Over Paris the slanting beams of light had yet
lengthened. The shadow cast by the dome of the Invalides--increased to
stupendous proportions--covered the whole of the Saint-Germain
district; while the Opera-House, the Saint-Jacques tower, the columns
and the steeples, threw streaks of darkness over the right bank
dwellings. The lines of house-fronts, the yawning streets, the islands
of roofs, were burning with a more sullen glow. The flashes of fire
died away in the darkening windows, as though the houses were reduced
to embers. Distant bells rang out; a rumbling noise fell on the ears,
and then subsided. With the approach of night the expanse of sky grew
more vast, spreading a vault of violet, streaked with gold and purple,
above the ruddy city. But all at once the conflagration flared afresh
with formidable intensity, a last great flame shot up from Paris,
illumining its entire expanse, and even its hitherto hidden suburbs.
Then it seemed as if a grey, ashy dust were falling; and though the
clustering districts remained erect, they wore the gloomy,
unsubstantial aspect of coals which had ceased to burn.

                             CHAPTER XI.

One morning in May, Rosalie ran in from the kitchen, dish-cloth in
hand, screaming out in the familiar fashion of a favorite servant:
"Oh, madame, come quick! His reverence the Abbe is digging the ground
down in the doctor's garden."

Helene made no responsive movement, but Jeanne had already rushed to
have a look. On her return, she exclaimed:

"How stupid Rosalie is! he is not digging at all. He is with the
gardener, who is putting some plants into a barrow. Madame Deberle is
plucking all her roses."

"They must be for the church," quietly said Helene, who was busy with
some tapestry-work.

A few minutes later the bell rang, and Abbe Jouve made his appearance.
He came to say that his presence must not be expected on the following
Tuesday. His evenings would be wholly taken up with the ceremonies
incident to the month of Mary. The parish priest had assigned him the
task of decorating the church. It would be a great success. All the
ladies were giving him flowers. He was expecting two palm-trees about
fourteen feet high, and meant to place them to the right and left of
the altar.

"Oh! mamma, mamma!" murmured Jeanne, listening, wonderstruck.

"Well," said Helene, with a smile, "since you cannot come to us, my
old friend, we will go to see you. Why, you've quite turned Jeanne's
head with your talk about flowers."

She had few religious tendencies; she never even went to mass, on the
plea that her daughter's health suffered from the shivering fits which
seized her when she came out of a church. In her presence the old
priest avoided all reference to religion. It was his wont to say, with
good-natured indulgence, that good hearts carve out their own
salvation by deeds of loving kindness and charity. God would know when
and how to touch her.

Till the evening of the following day Jeanne thought of nothing but
the month of Mary. She plagued her mother with questions; she dreamt
of the church adorned with a profusion of white roses, filled with
thousands of wax tapers, with the sound of angels' voices, and sweet
perfumes. And she was very anxious to go near the altar, that she
might have a good look at the Blessed Virgin's lace gown, a gown worth
a fortune, according to the Abbe. But Helene bridled her excitement
with a threat not to take her should she make herself ill beforehand.

However, the evening came at last, and they set out. The nights were
still cold, and when they reached the Rue de l'Annonciation, where the
church of Notre-Dame-de-Grace stands, the child was shivering all

"The church is heated," said her mother. "We must secure a place near
a hot-air pipe."

She pushed open the padded door, and as it gently swung back to its
place they found themselves in a warm atmosphere, with brilliant
lights streaming on them, and chanting resounding in their ears. The
ceremony had commenced, and Helene, perceiving that the nave was
crowded, signified her intention of going down one of the aisles. But
there seemed insuperable obstacles in her way; she could not get near
the altar. Holding Jeanne by the hand, she for a time patiently
pressed forward, but at last, despairing of advancing any farther,
took the first unoccupied chairs she could find. A pillar hid half of
the choir from view.

"I can see nothing," said the child, grievously discontented. "This is
a very nasty place."

However, Helene signed to her to keep silent, and she lapsed into a
fit of sulks. In front of her she could only perceive the broad back
of a fat old lady. When her mother next turned towards her she was
standing upright on her chair.

"Will you come down!" said Helene in a low voice. "You are a

But Jeanne was stubborn.

"Hist! mamma," she said, "there's Madame Deberle. Look! she is down
there in the centre, beckoning to us."

The young woman's annoyance on hearing this made her very impatient,
and she shook her daughter, who still refused to sit down. During the
three days that had intervened since the ball, Helene had avoided any
visit to the doctor's house on the plea of having a great deal to do.

"Mamma," resumed Jeanne with a child's wonted stubbornness, "she is
looking at you; she is nodding good-day to you."

At this intimation Helene was forced to turn round and exchange
greetings; each bowed to the other. Madame Deberle, in a striped silk
gown trimmed with white lace, sat in the centre of the nave but a
short distance from the choir, looking very fresh and conspicuous. She
had brought her sister Pauline, who was now busy waving her hand. The
chanting still continued, the elder members of the congregation
pouring forth a volume of sound of falling scale, while now and then
the shrill voice of the children punctuated the slow, monotonous
rhythm of the canticle.

"They want us to go over to them, you see," exclaimed Jeanne, with
some triumph in her remark.

"It is useless; we shall be all right here."

"Oh, mamma, do let us go over to them! There are two chairs empty."

"No, no; come and sit down."

However, the ladies smilingly persisted in making signs, heedless to
the last degree of the slight scandal they were causing; nay,
delighted at being the observed of all observers. Helene thus had to
yield. She pushed the gratified Jeanne before her, and strove to make
her way through the congregation, her hands all the while trembling
with repressed anger. It was no easy business. Devout female
worshippers, unwilling to disturb themselves, glared at her with
furious looks, whilst all agape they kept on singing. She pressed on
in this style for five long minutes, the tempest of voices ringing
around her with ever-increasing violence. Whenever she came to a
standstill, Jeanne, squeezing close beside her, gazed at those
cavernous, gaping mouths. However, at last they reached the vacant
space in front of the choir, and then had but a few steps to make.

"Come, be quick," whispered Madame Deberle. "The Abbe told me you
would be coming, and I kept two chairs for you."

Helene thanked her, and, to cut the conversation short, at once began
turning over the leaves of her missal. But Juliette was as worldly
here as elsewhere; as much at her ease, as agreeable and talkative, as
in her drawing-room. She bent her head towards Helene and resumed:

"You have become quite invisible. I intended to pay you a visit
to-morrow. Surely you haven't been ill, have you?"

"No, thank you. I've been very busy."

"Well, listen to me. You must come and dine with us to-morrow. Quite a
family dinner, you know."

"You are very kind. We will see."

She seemed to retire within herself, intent on following the service,
and on saying nothing more. Pauline had taken Jeanne beside her that
she might be nearer the hot-air flue over which she toasted herself
luxuriously, as happy as any chilly mortal could be. Steeped in the
warm air, the two girls raised themselves inquisitively and gazed
around on everything, the low ceiling with its woodwork panels, the
squat pillars, connected by arches from which hung chandeliers, and
the pulpit of carved oak; and over the ocean of heads which waved with
the rise and fall of the canticle, their eyes wandered towards the
dark corners of the aisles, towards the chapels whose gilding faintly
gleamed, and the baptistery enclosed by a railing near the chief
entrance. However, their gaze always returned to the resplendent
choir, decorated with brilliant colors and dazzling gilding. A crystal
chandelier, flaming with light, hung from the vaulted ceiling; immense
candelabra, filled with rows of wax tapers, that glittered amidst the
gloom of the church like a profusion of stars in orderly array,
brought out prominently the high altar, which seemed one huge bouquet
of foliage and flowers. Over all, standing amidst a profusion of
roses, a Virgin, dressed in satin and lace, and crowned with pearls,
was holding a Jesus in long clothes on her arm.

"I say, are you warm?" asked Pauline. "It's nice, eh?"

But Jeanne, in ecstasy, was gazing on the Virgin amongst the flowers.
The scene thrilled her. A fear crept over her that she might do
something wrong, and she lowered her eyes in the endeavor to restrain
her tears by fixing her attention on the black-and-white pavement. The
vibrations of the choir-boys' shrill voices seemed to stir her tresses
like puffs of air.

Meanwhile Helene, with face bent over her prayer-book, drew herself
away whenever Juliette's lace rustled against her. She was in no wise
prepared for this meeting. Despite the vow she had sworn within
herself, to be ever pure in her love for Henri, and never yield to
him, she felt great discomfort at the thought that she was a
traitoress to the confiding, happy woman who sat by her side. She was
possessed by one idea--she would not go to that dinner. She sought for
reasons which would enable her to break off these relations so hateful
to her honor. But the swelling voices of the choristers, so near to
her, drove all reflection from her mind; she could decide on no
precise course, and surrendered herself to the soothing influences of
the chant, tasting a pious joy such as she had never before found
inside a church.

"Have you been told about Madame de Chermette?" asked Juliette, unable
any longer to restrain her craving for a gossip.

"No, I know nothing."

"Well, well; just imagine. You have seen her daughter, so womanish and
tall, though she is only fifteen, haven't you? There is some talk
about her getting married next year to that dark young fellow who is
always hanging to her mother's skirts. People are talking about it
with a vengeance."

"Ah!" muttered Helene, who was not paying the least attention.

Madame Deberle went into particulars, but of a sudden the chant
ceased, and the organ-music died away in a moan. Astounded at the
loudness of her own voice breaking upon the stillness which ensued,
she lapsed into silence. A priest made his appearance at this moment
in the pulpit. There was a rustling, and then he spoke. No, certainly
not, Helene would not join that dinner-party. With her eyes fixed on
the priest she pictured to herself the next meeting with Henri, that
meeting which for three days she had contemplated with terror; she saw
him white with anger, reproaching her for hiding herself, and she
dreaded lest she might not display sufficient indifference. Amidst her
dream the priest had disappeared, his thrilling tones merely reaching
her in casual sentences: "No hour could be more ineffable than that
when the Virgin, with bent head, answered: 'I am the handmaiden of the

Yes, she would be brave; all her reason had returned to her. She would
taste the joy of being loved, but would never avow her love, for her
heart told her that such an avowal would cost her peace. And how
intensely would she love, without confessing it, gratified by a word,
a look from Henri, exchanged at lengthy intervals on the occasion of a
chance meeting! It was a dream that brought her some sense of the
infinite. The church around her became a friend and comforter. The
priest was now exclaiming:

"The angel vanished and Mary plunged into contemplation of the divine
mystery working within her, her heart bathed in sunshine and love."

"He speaks very well," whispered Madame Deberle, leaning towards her.
"And he's quite young, too, scarcely thirty, don't you think?"

Madame Deberle was affected. Religion pleased her because the emotions
it prompted were in good taste. To present flowers for the decoration
of churches, to have petty dealings with the priests, who were so
polite and discreet, to come to church attired in her best and assume
an air of worldly patronage towards the God of the poor--all this had
for her special delights; the more so as her husband did not interest
himself in religion, and her devotions thus had all the sweetness of
forbidden fruit. Helene looked at her and answered with a nod; her
face was ashy white with faintness, while the other's was lit up by
smiles. There was a stirring of chairs and a rustling of
handkerchiefs, as the priest quitted the pulpit with the final

"Oh! give wings unto your love, souls imbued with Christian piety. God
has made a sacrifice of Himself for your sakes, your hearts are full
of His presence, your souls overflow with His grace!"

Of a sudden the organ sounded again, and the litanies of the Virgin
began with their appeals of passionate tenderness. Faint and distant
the chanting rolled forth from the side-aisles and the dark recesses
of the chapels, as though the earth were giving answer to the angel
voices of the chorister-boys. A rush of air swept over the throng,
making the flames of the tapers leap, while amongst the flowers,
fading as they exhaled their last perfume, the Divine Mother seemed to
incline her head to smile on her infant Jesus.

All at once, seized with an instinctive dread, Helene turned. "You're
not ill, Jeanne, are you?" she asked.

The child, with face ashy white and eyes glistening, her spirit borne
aloft by the fervent strains of the litanies, was gazing at the altar,
where in imagination she could see the roses multiplying and falling
in cascades.

"No, no, mamma," she whispered; "I am pleased, I am very well
pleased." And then she asked: "But where is our dear old friend?"

She spoke of the Abbe. Pauline caught sight of him; he was seated in
the choir, but Jeanne had to be lifted up in order that she might
perceive him.

"Oh! He is looking at us," said she; "he is blinking." According to
Jeanne, the Abbe blinked when he laughed inwardly. Helene hastened to
exchange a friendly nod with him. And then the tranquillity within her
seemed to increase, her future serenity appeared to be assured, thus
endearing the church to her and lulling her into a blissful condition
of patient endurance. Censers swung before the altar and threads of
smoke ascended; the benediction followed, and the holy monstrance was
slowly raised and waved above the heads lowered to the earth. Helene
was still on her knees in happy meditation when she heard Madame
Deberle exclaiming: "It's over now; let us go."

There ensued a clatter of chairs and a stamping of feet which
reverberated along the arched aisles. Pauline had taken Jeanne's hand,
and, walking away in front with the child, began to question her:

"Have you ever been to the theatre?"

"No. Is it finer than this?"

As she spoke, the little one, giving vent to great gasps of wonder,
tossed her head as though ready to express the belief that nothing
could be finer. To her question, however, Pauline deigned no reply,
for she had just come to a standstill in front of a priest who was
passing in his surplice. And when he was a few steps away she
exclaimed aloud, with such conviction in her tones that two devout
ladies of the congregation turned around:

"Oh! what a fine head!"

Helene, meanwhile, had risen from her knees. She stepped along by the
side of Juliette among the crowd which was making its way out with
difficulty. Her heart was full of tenderness, she felt languid and
enervated, and her soul no longer rebelled at the other being so near.
At one moment their bare hands came in contact and they smiled. They
were almost stifling in the throng, and Helene would fain have had
Juliette go first. All their old friendship seemed to blossom forth
once more.

"Is it understood that we can rely on you for to-morrow evening?"
asked Madame Deberle.

Helene no longer had the will to decline. She would see whether it
were possible when she reached the street. It finished by their being
the last to leave. Pauline and Jeanne already stood on the opposite
pavement awaiting them. But a tearful voice brought them to a halt.

"Ah, my good lady, what a time it is since I had the happiness of
seeing you!"

It was Mother Fetu, who was soliciting alms at the church door.
Barring Helene's way, as though she had lain in wait for her, she went

"Oh, I have been so very ill always here, in the stomach, you know.
Just now I feel as if a hammer were pounding away inside me; and I
have nothing at all, my good lady. I didn't dare to send you word
about it--May the gracious God repay you!"

Helene had slipped a piece of money into her hand, and promised to
think about her.

"Hello!" exclaimed Madame Deberle, who had remained standing within
the porch, "there's some one talking with Pauline and Jeanne. Why, it
is Henri."

"Yes, yes" Mother Fetu hastened to add as she turned her ferret-like
eyes on the ladies, "it is the good doctor. I have seen him there all
through the service; he has never budged from the pavement; he has
been waiting for you, no doubt. Ah! he's a saint of a man! I swear
that to be the truth in the face of God who hears us. Yes, I know you,
madame; he is a husband who deserves to be happy. May Heaven hearken
to your prayers, may every blessing fall on you! In the name of the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!"

Amidst the myriad furrows of her face, which was wrinkled like a
withered apple, her little eyes kept gleaming in malicious unrest,
darting a glance now on Juliette, now on Helene, so that it was
impossible to say with any certainty whom she was addressing while
speaking of "the good doctor." She followed them, muttering on without
a stop, mingling whimpering entreaty with devout outbursts.

Henri's reserve alike astonished and moved Helene. He scarcely had the
courage to raise his eyes towards her. On his wife quizzing him about
the opinions which restrained him from entering a church, he merely
explained that to smoke a cigar was his object in coming to meet them;
but Helene understood that he had wished to see her again, to prove to
her how wrong she was in fearing some fresh outrage. Doubtless, like
herself, he had sworn to keep within the limits of reason. She never
questioned whether his sincerity could be real. She simply experienced
a feeling of unhappiness at seeing him unhappy. Thus it came about,
that on leaving them it the Rue Vineuse, she said cheerfully:

"Well, it is settled then; to-morrow at seven."

In this way the old friendship grew closer than ever, and a charming
life began afresh. To Helene it seemed as if Henri had never yielded
to that moment of folly; it was but a dream of hers; each loved the
other, but they would never breathe a word of their love, they were
content with knowing its existence. They spent delicious hours, in
which, without their tongues giving evidence of their passion, they
displayed it constantly; a gesture, an inflexion of the voice
sufficed, ay, even a silence. Everything insensibly tended towards
their love, plunged them more and more deeply into a passion which
they bore away with them whenever they parted, which was ever with
them, which formed, as it were, the only atmosphere they could
breathe. And their excuse was their honesty; with eyes wide open they
played this comedy of affection; not even a hand-clasp did they allow
each other and their restraint infused unalloyed delight into the
simple greetings with which they met.

Every evening the ladies went to church. Madame Deberle was enchanted
with the novel pleasure she was enjoying. It was so different from
evening dances, concerts, and first nights; she adored fresh
sensations, and nuns and priests were now constantly in her company.
The store of religion which she had acquired in her school-days now
found new life in her giddy brain, taking shape in all sorts of
trivial observances, as though she were reviving the games of her
childhood. Helene, who on her side had grown up without any religious
training, surrendered herself to the bliss of these services of the
month of Mary, happy also in the delight with which they appeared to
inspire Jeanne. They now dined earlier; they gave Rosalie no peace
lest she should cause them to be late, and prevent their securing good
seats. Then they called for Juliette on the way. One day Lucien was
taken, but he behaved so badly that he was afterward left at home. On
entering the warm church, with its glare of wax candles, a feeling of
tenderness and calm, which by degrees grew necessary to Helene, came
over her. When doubts sprang up within her during the day, and the
thought of Henri filled her with indefinable anxiety, with the evening
the church once more brought her peace. The chants arose overflowing
with divine passion; the flowers, newly culled, made the close
atmosphere of the building still heavier. It was here that she
breathed all the first rapture of springtide, amidst that adoration of
woman raised to the status of a cult; and her senses swam as she
contemplated the mystery of love and purity--Mary, virgin and mother,
beaming beneath her wreath of white roses. Each day she remained
longer on her knees. She found herself at times with hands joined in
entreaty. When the ceremony came to an end, there followed the
happiness of the return home. Henri awaited their appearance at the
door; the evenings grew warmer, and they wended their way through the
dark, still streets of Passy, while scarce a word passed between them.

"How devout you are getting, my dear!" said Madame Deberle one night,
with a laugh.

Yes, it was true; Helene was widely opening the portals of her heart
to pious thoughts. Never could she have fancied that such happiness
would attend her love. She returned to the church as to a spot where
her heart would melt, for under its roof she could give free vent to
her tears, remain thoughtless, plunged in speechless worship. For an
hour each evening she put no restraint on herself. The bursting love
within her, prisoned throughout the day, at length escaped from her
bosom on the wings of prayer, amidst the pious quiver of the throng.
The muttered supplications, the bendings of the knee, the reverences
--words and gestures seemingly interminable--all lulled her to rest;
to her they ever expressed the same thing; it was always the same
passion speaking in the same phrase, or the same gesture. She felt a
need of faith, and basked enraptured by the Divine goodness.

Helene was not the only person whom Juliette twitted; she feigned a
belief that Henri himself was becoming religious. What, had he not now
entered the church to wait for them?--he, atheist and scoffer, who had
been wont to assert that he had sought for the soul with his scalpel,
and had not yet discovered its existence! As soon as she perceived him
standing behind a pillar in the shadow of the pulpit, she would
instantly jog Helene's arm.

"Look, look, he is there already! Do you know, he wouldn't confess
when we got married! See how funny he looks; he gazes at us with so
comical an expression; quick, look!"

Helene did not at the moment raise her head. The service was coming to
an end, clouds of incense were rising, and the organ-music pealed
forth joyfully. But her neighbor was not a woman to leave her alone,
and she was forced to speak in answer.

"Yes, yes, I see him," she whispered, albeit she never turned her

She had on her own side divined his presence amidst the song of praise
that mounted from the worshipping throng. It seemed to her that
Henri's breath was wafted on the wings of the music and beat against
her neck, and she imagined she could see behind her his glances
shedding their light along the nave and haloing her, as she knelt,
with a golden glory. And then she felt impelled to pray with such
fervor that words failed her. The expression on his face was sober, as
unruffled as any husband might wear when looking for ladies in a
church, the same, indeed, as if he had been waiting for them in the
lobby of a theatre. But when they came together, in the midst of the
slowly-moving crowd of worshippers, they felt that the bonds of their
love had been drawn closer by the flowers and the chanting; and they
shunned all conversation, for their hearts were on their lips.

A fortnight slipped away, and Madame Deberle grew wearied. She ever
jumped from one thing to the other, consumed with the thirst of doing
what every one else was doing. For the moment charity bazaars had
become her craze; she would toil up sixty flights of stairs of an
afternoon to beg paintings of well-known artists, while her evenings
were spent in presiding over meetings of lady patronesses, with a bell
handy to call noisy members to order. Thus it happened that one
Thursday evening Helene and her daughter went to church without their
companions. On the conclusion of the sermon, while the choristers were
commencing the _Magnificat_, the young woman, forewarned by some
impulse of her heart, turned her head. Henri was there, in his usual
place. Thereupon she remained with looks riveted to the ground till
the service came to an end, waiting the while for the return home.

"Oh, how kind of you to come!" said Jeanne, with all a child's
frankness, as they left the church. "I should have been afraid to go
alone through these dark streets."

Henri, however, feigned astonishment, asserting that he had expected
to meet his wife. Helene allowed the child to answer him, and followed
them without uttering a word. As the trio passed under the porch a
pitiful voice sang out: "Charity, charity! May God repay you!"

Every night Jeanne dropped a ten-sou piece into Mother Fetu's hand.
When the latter saw the doctor alone with Helene, she nodded her head
knowingly, instead of breaking out into a storm of thanks, as was her
custom. The church was now empty, and she began to follow them,
mumbling inaudible sentences. Sometimes, instead of returning by the
Rue de Passy, the ladies, when the night was fine, went homewards by
the Rue Raynouard, the way being thus lengthened by five or six
minutes' walk. That night also Helene turned into the Rue Raynouard,
craving for gloom and stillness, and entranced by the loneliness of
the long thoroughfare, which was lighted by only a few gas-lamps,
without the shadow of a single passer-by falling across its pavement.

At this hour Passy seemed out of the world; sleep had already fallen
over it; it had all the quietude of a provincial town. On each side of
the street loomed mansions, girls' schools, black and silent, and
dining places, from the kitchens of which lights still streamed. There
was not, however, a single shop to throw the glare of its frontage
across the dimness. To Henri and Helene the loneliness was pregnant
with intense charm. He had not ventured to offer her his arm. Jeanne
walked between them in the middle of the road, which was gravelled
like a walk in some park. At last the houses came to an end, and then
on each side were walls, over which spread mantling clematis and
clusters of lilac blossoms. Immense gardens parted the mansions, and
here and there through the railings of an iron gate they could catch
glimpses of a gloomy background of verdure, against which the
tree-dotted turf assumed a more delicate hue. The air was filled with
the perfume of irises growing in vases which they could scarce
distinguish. All three paced on slowly through the warm spring night,
which was steeping them in its odors, and Jeanne, with childish
artlessness, raised her face to the heavens, and exclaimed:

"Oh, mamma, see what a number of stars!"

But behind them, like an echo of their own, came the footfall of
Mother Fetu. Nearer and nearer she approached, till they could hear
her muttering the opening words of the Angelic Salutation "_Ave Marie,
gratia plena_," repeating them over and over again with the same
confused persistency. She was telling her beads on her homeward way.

"I have still something left--may I give it to her?" Jeanne asked her

And thereupon, without waiting for a reply, she left them, running
towards the old woman, who was on the point of entering the Passage
des Eaux. Mother Fetu clutched at the coin, calling upon all the
angels of Heaven to bless her. As she spoke, however, she grasped the
child's hand and detained her by her side, then asking in changed

"The other lady is ill, is she not?"

"No," answered Jeanne, surprised.

"May Heaven shield her! May it shower its favors on her and her
husband! Don't run away yet, my dear little lady. Let me say an _Ave
Maria_ for your mother's sake, and you will join in the 'Amen' with
me. Oh! your mother will allow you; you can catch her up."

Meanwhile Henri and Helene trembled as they found themselves suddenly
left alone in the shadow cast by a line of huge chestnut trees that
bordered the road. They quietly took a few steps. The chestnut trees
had strewn the ground with their bloom, and they were walking upon
this rosy-tinted carpet. On a sudden, however, they came to a stop,
their hearts filled with such emotion that they could go no farther.

"Forgive me," said Henri simply.

"Yes, yes," ejaculated Helene. "But oh! be silent, I pray you."

She had felt his hand touch her own, and had started back. Fortunately
Jeanne ran towards them at the moment.

"Mamma, mamma!" she cried; "she made me say an _Ave_; she says it will
bring you good luck."

The three then turned into the Rue Vineuse, while Mother Fetu crept
down the steps of the Passage des Eaux, busy completing her rosary.

The month slipped away. Two or three more services were attended by
Madame Deberle. One Sunday, the last one, Henri once more ventured to
wait for Helene and Jeanne. The walk home thrilled them with joy. The
month had been one long spell of wondrous bliss. The little church
seemed to have entered into their lives to soothe their love and
render its way pleasant. At first a great peace had settled on
Helene's soul; she had found happiness in this sanctuary where she
imagined she could without shame dwell on her love; however, the
undermining had continued, and when her holy rapture passed away she
was again in the grip of her passion, held by bonds that would have
plucked at her heartstrings had she sought to break them asunder.
Henri still preserved his respectful demeanor, but she could not do
otherwise than see the passion burning in his face. She dreaded some
outburst, and even grew afraid of herself.

One afternoon, going homewards after a walk with Jeanne, she passed
along the Rue de l'Annonciation and entered the church. The child was
complaining of feeling very tired. Until the last day she had been
unwilling to admit that the evening services exhausted her, so intense
was the pleasure she derived from them; but her cheeks had grown
waxy-pale, and the doctor advised that she should take long walks.

"Sit down here," said her mother. "It will rest you; we'll only stay
ten minutes."

She herself walked towards some chairs a short way off, and knelt
down. She had placed Jeanne close to a pillar. Workmen were busy at
the other end of the nave, taking down the hangings and removing the
flowers, the ceremonials attending the month of Mary having come to an
end the evening before. With her face buried in her hands Helene saw
nothing and heard nothing; she was eagerly catechising her heart,
asking whether she ought not to confess to Abbe Jouve what an awful
life had come upon her. He would advise her, perhaps restore her lost
peace. Still, within her there arose, out of her very anguish, a
fierce flood of joy. She hugged her sorrow, dreading lest the priest
might succeed in finding a cure for it. Ten minutes slipped away, then
an hour. She was overwhelmed by the strife raging within her heart.

At last she raised her head, her eyes glistening with tears, and saw
Abbe Jouve gazing at her sorrowfully. It was he who was directing the
workmen. Having recognized Jeanne, he had just come forward.

"Why, what is the matter, my child?" he asked of Helene, who hastened
to rise to her feet and wipe away her tears.

She was at a loss what answer to give; she was afraid lest she should
once more fall on her knees and burst into sobs. He approached still
nearer, and gently resumed:

"I do not wish to cross-question you, but why do you not confide in
me? Confide in the priest and forget the friend."

"Some other day," she said brokenly, "some other day, I promise you."

Jeanne meantime had at first been very good and patient, finding
amusement in looking at the stained-glass windows, the statues over
the great doorway, and the scenes of the journey to the Cross depicted
in miniature bas-reliefs along the aisles. By degrees, however, the
cold air of the church had enveloped her as with a shroud; and she
remained plunged in a weariness that even banished thought, a feeling
of discomfort waking within her with the holy quiet and far-reaching
echoes, which the least sound stirred in this sanctuary where she
imagined she was going to die. But a grievous sorrow rankled in her
heart--the flowers were being borne away. The great clusters of roses
were vanishing, and the altar seemed to become more and more bare and
chill. The marble looked icy-cold now that no wax-candle shone on it
and there was no smoking incense. The lace-robed Virgin moreover was
being moved, and after suddenly tottering fell backward into the arms
of two workmen. At the sight Jeanne uttered a faint cry, stretched out
her arms, and fell back rigid; the illness that had been threatening
her for some days had at last fallen upon her.

And when Helene, in distraction, carried her child, with the
assistance of the sorrowing Abbe, into a cab, she turned towards the
porch with outstretched, trembling hands.

"It's all this church! it's all this church!" she exclaimed, with a
vehemence instinct with regret and self-reproach as she thought of the
month of devout delight which she herself had tasted there.

                            CHAPTER XII.

When evening came Jeanne was somewhat better. She was able to get up,
and, in order to remove her mother's fears, persisted in dragging
herself into the dining-room, where she took her seat before her empty

"I shall be all right," she said, trying to smile. "You know very well
that the least thing upsets me. Get on with your dinner, mamma; I want
you to eat."

And in the end she pretended an appetite she did not feel, for she
observed that her mother sat watching her paling and trembling,
without being able to swallow a morsel. She promised to take some jam,
and Helene then hurried through her dinner, while the child, with a
never-fading smile and her head nodding tremblingly, watched her with
worshipping looks. On the appearance of the dessert she made an effort
to carry out her promise, but tears welled into her eyes.

"You see I can't get it down my throat," she murmured. "You mustn't be
angry with me."

The weariness that overwhelmed her was terrible. Her legs seemed
lifeless, her shoulders pained her as though gripped by a hand of
iron. But she was very brave through it all, and choked at their
source the moans which the shooting pains in her neck awakened. At one
moment, however, she forgot herself, her head felt too heavy, and she
was bent double by pain. Her mother, as she gazed on her, so faint and
feeble, was wholly unable to finish the pear which she was trying to
force down her throat. Her sobs choked her, and throwing down her
napkin, she clasped Jeanne in her arms.

"My child! my child!" she wailed, her heart bursting with sorrow, as
her eyes ranged round the dining-room where her darling, when in good
health, had so often enlivened her by her fondness for tid-bits.

At last Jeanne woke to life again, and strove to smile as of old.

"Don't worry, mamma," said she; "I shall be all right soon. Now that
you have done you must put me to bed. I only wanted to see you have
your dinner. Oh! I know you; you wouldn't have eaten as much as a
morsel of bread."

Helene bore her away in her arms. She had brought the little crib
close to her own bed in the blue room. When Jeanne had stretched out
her limbs, and the bedclothes were tucked up under her chin, she
declared she felt much better. There were no more complaints about
dull pains at the back of her head; but she melted into tenderness,
and her passionate love seemed to grow more pronounced. Helene was
forced to caress her, to avow intense affection for her, and to
promise that she would again kiss her when she came to bed.

"Never mind if I'm sleeping," said Jeanne. "I shall know you're there
all the same."

She closed her eyes and fell into a doze. Helene remained near her,
watching over her slumber. When Rosalie entered on tip-toe to ask
permission to go to bed, she answered "Yes" with a nod. At last eleven
o'clock struck, and Helene was still watching there, when she imagined
she heard a gentle tapping at the outer door. Bewildered with
astonishment, she took up the lamp and left the room to make sure.

"Who is there?"

"'Tis I; open the door," replied a voice in stifled tones.

It was Henri's voice. She quickly opened the door, thinking his coming
only natural. No doubt he had but now been informed of Jeanne's
illness, and had hastened to her, although she had not summoned him to
her assistance, feeling a certain shame at the thought of allowing him
to share in attending on her daughter.

However, he gave her no opportunity to speak. He followed her into the
dining-room, trembling, with inflamed visage.

"I beseech you, pardon me," he faltered, as he caught hold of her
hand. "I haven't seen you for three days past, and I cannot resist the
craving to see you."

Helene withdrew her hand. He stepped back, but, with his gaze still
fixed on her, continued: "Don't be afraid; I love you. I would have
waited at the door had you not opened it. Oh! I know very well it is
simple madness, but I love you, I love you all the same!"

Her face was grave as she listened, eloquent with a dumb reproach
which tortured him, and impelled him to pour forth his passionate

But Helene still remained standing, wholly unmoved. At last she spoke.
"You know nothing, then?" asked she.

He had taken her hand, and was raising it to his lips, when she
started back with a gesture of impatience.

"Oh! leave me!" she exclaimed. "You see that I am not even listening
to you. I have something far different to think about!"

Then becoming more composed, she put her question to him a second
time. "You know nothing? Well, my daughter is ill. I am pleased to see
you; you will dispel my fears."

She took up the lamp and walked on before him, but as they were
passing through the doorway, she turned, and looking at him, said

"I forbid you beginning again here. Oh! you must not!"

He entered behind her, scarcely understanding what had been enjoined
on him. His temples throbbed convulsively, as he leaned over the
child's little crib.

"She is asleep; look at her," said Helene in a whisper.

He did not hear her; his passion would not be silenced. She was
hanging over the bed in front of him, and he could see her rosy neck,
with its wavy hair. He shut his eyes that he might escape the
temptation of kissing her, as she said to him:

"Doctor, look at her, she is so feverish. Oh, tell me whether it is

Then, yielding to professional habit, despite the tempest raging in
his brain, he mechanically felt Jeanne's pulse. Nevertheless, so
fierce was the struggle that he remained for a time motionless,
seemingly unaware that he held this wasted little hand in his own.

"Is it a violent fever?" asked Helene.

"A violent fever! Do you think so?" he repeated.

The little hand was scorching his own. There came another silence; the
physician was awakening within him, and passion was dying from his
eyes. His face slowly grew paler; he bent down uneasily, and examined

"You are right; this is a very severe attack," he exclaimed. "My God!
the poor child!"

His passion was now dead; he was solely consumed by a desire to be of
service to her. His coolness at once returned; he sat down, and was
questioning the mother respecting the child's condition previous to
this attack of illness, when Jeanne awoke, moaning loudly. She again
complained of a terrible pain in the head. The pangs which were
darting through her neck and shoulders had attained such intensity
that her every movement wrung a sob from her. Helene knelt on the
other side of the bed, encouraging her, and smiling on her, though her
heart almost broke at the sight of such agony.

"There's some one there, isn't there, mamma?" Jeanne asked, as she
turned round and caught sight of the doctor.

"It is a friend, whom you know."

The child looked at him for a time with thoughtful eyes, as if in
doubt; but soon a wave of affection passed over her face. "Yes, yes, I
know him; I love him very much." And with her coaxing air she added:
"You will have to cure me, won't you, sir, to make mamma happy? Oh,
I'll be good; I'll drink everything you give me."

The doctor again felt her pulse, while Helene grasped her other hand;
and, as she lay there between them, her eyes travelled attentively
from one to the other, as though no such advantageous opportunity of
seeing and comparing them had ever occurred before. Then her head
shook with a nervous trembling; she grew agitated; and her tiny hands
caught hold of her mother and the doctor with a convulsive grip.

"Do not go away; I'm so afraid. Take care of me; don't let all the
others come near me. I only want you, only you two, near me. Come
closer up to me, together!" she stammered.

Drawing them nearer, with a violent effort she brought them close to
her, still uttering the same entreaty: "Come close, together,

Several times did she behave in the same delirious fashion. Then came
intervals of quiet, when a heavy sleep fell on her, but it left her
breathless and almost dead. When she started out of these short dozes
she heard nothing, saw nothing--a white vapor shrouded her eyes. The
doctor remained watching over her for a part of the night, which
proved a very bad one. He only absented himself for a moment to
procure some medicine. Towards morning, when he was about to leave,
Helene, with terrible anxiety in her face accompanied him into the

"Well?" asked she.

"Her condition is very serious," he answered; "but you must not fear;
rely on me; I will give you every assistance. I shall come back at ten

When Helene returned to the bedroom she found Jeanne sitting up in
bed, gazing round her with bewildered looks.

"You left me! you left me!" she wailed. "Oh! I'm afraid; I don't want
to be left all alone."

To console her, her mother kissed her, but she still gazed round the

"Where is he?" she faltered. "Oh! tell him not to go away; I want him
to be here, I want him--"

"He will come back, my darling!" interrupted Helene, whose tears were
mingling with Jeanne's own. "He will not leave us, I promise you. He
loves us too well. Now, be good and lie down. I'll stay here till he
comes back."

"Really? really?" murmured the child, as she slowly fell back into
deep slumber.

Terrible days now began, three weeks full of awful agony. The fever
did not quit its victim for an hour. Jeanne only seemed tranquil when
the doctor was present; she put one of her little hands in his, while
her mother held the other. She seemed to find safety in their
presence; she gave each of them an equal share of her tyrannical
worship, as though she well knew beneath what passionate kindness she
was sheltering herself. Her nervous temperament, so exquisite in its
sensibility, the keener since her illness, inspired her, no doubt,
with the thought that only a miraculous effort of their love could
save her. As the hours slipped away she would gaze on them with grave
and searching looks as they sat on each side of her crib. Her glances
remained instinct with human passion, and though she spoke not she
told them all she desired by the warm pressure of her hands, with
which she besought them not to leave her, giving them to understand
what peace was hers when they were present. Whenever the doctor
entered after having been away her joy became supreme, and her eyes,
which never quitted the door, flashed with light; and then she would
fall quietly asleep, all her fears fleeing as she heard her mother and
him moving around her and speaking in whispers.

On the day after the attack Doctor Bodin called. But Jeanne suddenly
turned away her head and refused to allow him to examine her.

"I don't want him, mamma," she murmured, "I don't want him! I beg of

As he made his appearance on the following day, Helene was forced to
inform him of the child's dislike, and thus it came about that the
venerable doctor made no further effort to enter the sick-room. Still,
he climbed the stairs every other day to inquire how Jeanne was
getting on, and sometimes chatted with his brother professional,
Doctor Deberle, who paid him all the deference due to an elder.

Moreover, it was useless to try to deceive Jeanne. Her senses had
become wondrously acute. The Abbe and Monsieur Rambaud paid a visit
every night; they sat down and spent an hour in sad silence. One
evening, as the doctor was going away, Helene signed to Monsieur
Rambaud to take his place and clasp the little one's hand, so that she
might not notice the departure of her beloved friend. But two or three
minutes had scarcely passed ere Jeanne opened her eyes and quickly
drew her hand away. With tears flowing she declared that they were
behaving ill to her.

"Don't you love me any longer? won't you have me beside you?" asked
poor Monsieur Rambaud, with tears in his eyes.

She looked at him, deigning no reply; it seemed as if her heart was
set on knowing him no more. The worthy man, grievously pained,
returned to his corner. He always ended by thus gliding into a
window-recess, where, half hidden behind a curtain, he would remain
during the evening, in a stupor of grief, his eyes the while never
quitting the sufferer. The Abbe was there as well, with his large head
and pallid face showing above his scraggy shoulders. He concealed his
tears by blowing his nose loudly from time to time. The danger in
which he saw his little friend lying wrought such havoc within him
that his poor were for the time wholly forgotten.

But it was useless for the two brothers to retire to the other end of
the room; Jeanne was still conscious of their presence. They were a
source of vexation to her, and she would turn round with a harassed
look, even though drowsy with fever. Her mother bent over her to catch
the words trembling on her lips.

"Oh! mamma, I feel so ill. All this is choking me; send everybody away
--quick, quick!"

Helene with the utmost gentleness then explained to the two brothers
the child's wish to fall asleep; they understood her meaning, and
quitted the room with drooping heads. And no sooner had they gone than
Jeanne breathed with greater freedom, cast a glance round the chamber,
and once more fixed a look of infinite tenderness on her mother and
the doctor.

"Good-night," she whispered; "I feel well again; stay beside me."

For three weeks she thus kept them by her side. Henri had at first
paid two visits each day, but soon he spent the whole night with them,
giving every hour he could spare to the child. At the outset he had
feared it was a case of typhoid fever; but so contradictory were the
symptoms that he soon felt himself involved in perplexity. There was
no doubt he was confronted by a disease of the chlorosis type,
presenting the greatest difficulty in treatment, with the possibility
of very dangerous complications, as the child was almost on the
threshold of womanhood. He dreaded first a lesion of the heart and
then the setting in of consumption. Jeanne's nervous excitement,
wholly beyond his control, was a special source of uneasiness; to such
heights of delirium did the fever rise, that the strongest medicines
were of no avail. He brought all his fortitude and knowledge to bear
on the case, inspired with the one thought that his own happiness and
life were at stake. On his mind there had now fallen a great
stillness; not once during those three anxious weeks did his passion
break its bonds. Helene's breath no longer woke tremors within him,
and when their eyes met they were only eloquent of the sympathetic
sadness of two souls threatened by a common misfortune.

Nevertheless every moment brought their hearts nearer. They now lived
only with the one idea. No sooner had he entered the bed-chamber than
by a glance he gathered how Jeanne had spent the night; and there was
no need for him to speak for Helene to learn what he thought of the
child's condition. Besides, with all the innate bravery of a mother,
she had forced from him a declaration that he would not deceive her,
but allow her to know his fears. Always on her feet, not having had
three hours' uninterrupted sleep for three weeks past, she displayed
superhuman endurance and composure, and quelled her despair without a
tear in order that she might concentrate her whole soul upon the
struggle with the dread enemy. Within and without her heart there was
nothing but emptiness; the world around her, the usual thoughts of
each hour, the consciousness of life itself, had all faded into
darkness. Existence held nothing for her. Nothing now bound her to
life but her suffering darling and this man who promised her a
miracle. It was he, and he only, to whom she looked, to whom she
listened, whose most trivial words were to her of the first
importance, and into whose breast she would fain have transfused her
own soul in order to increase his energy. Insensibly, and without
break, this idea wrought out its own accomplishment. Almost every
evening, when the fever was raging at its worst and Jeanne lay in
imminent peril, they were there beside her in silence; and as though
eager to remind themselves that they stood shoulder to shoulder
struggling against death, their hands met on the edge of the bed in a
caressing clasp, while they trembled with solicitude and pity till a
faint smile breaking over the child's face, and the sound of quiet and
regular breathing, told them that the danger was past. Then each
encouraged the other by an inclination of the head. Once again had
their love triumphed; and every time the mute caress grew more
demonstrative their hearts drew closer together.

One night Helene divined that Henri was concealing something from her.
For ten minutes, without a word crossing his lips, he had been
examining Jeanne. The little one complained of intolerable thirst; she
seemed choking, and there was an incessant wheezing in her parched
throat. Then a purple flush came over her face, and she lapsed into a
stupor which prevented her even from raising her eyelids. She lay
motionless; it might have been imagined she was dead but for the sound
coming from her throat.

"You consider her very ill, do you not?" gasped Helene.

He answered in the negative; there was no change. But his face was
ashy-white, and he remained seated, overwhelmed by his powerlessness.
Thereupon she also, despite the tension of her whole being, sank upon
a chair on the other side of the bed.

"Tell me everything. You promised to tell me all. Is she beyond hope?"

He still sat silent, and she spoke again more vehemently:

"You know how brave I am. Have I wept? have I despaired? Speak: I want
to know the truth."

Henri fixed his eyes on her. The words came slowly from his lips.
"Well," said he, "if in an hour hence she hasn't awakened from this
stupor, it will be all over."

Not a sob broke from Helene; but icy horror possessed her and raised
her hair on end. Her eyes turned on Jeanne; she fell on her knees and
clasped her in her arms with a superb gesture eloquent of ownership,
as though she could preserve her from ill, nestling thus against her
shoulder. For more than a minute she kept her face close to the
child's, gazing at her intently, eager to give her breath from her own
nostrils, ay, and her very life too. The labored breathing of the
little sufferer grew shorter and shorter.

"Can nothing be done?" she exclaimed, as she lifted her head. "Why do
you remain there? Do something!" But he made a disheartened gesture.
"Do something!" she repeated. "There must be something to be done. You
are not going to let her die oh, surely not!"

"I will do everything possible," the doctor simply said.

He rose up, and then a supreme struggle began. All the coolness and
nerve of the practitioner had returned to him. Till now he had not
ventured to try any violent remedies, for he dreaded to enfeeble the
little frame already almost destitute of life. But he no longer
remained undecided, and straightway dispatched Rosalie for a dozen
leeches. And he did not attempt to conceal from the mother that this
was a desperate remedy which might save or kill her child. When the
leeches were brought in, her heart failed her for a moment.

"Gracious God! gracious God!" she murmured. "Oh, if you should kill

He was forced to wring consent from her.

"Well, put them on," said she; "but may Heaven guide your hand!"

She had not ceased holding Jeanne, and refused to alter her position,
as she still desired to keep the child's little head nestling against
her shoulder. With calm features he meantime busied himself with the
last resource, not allowing a word to fall from his lips. The first
application of the leeches proved unsuccessful. The minutes slipped
away. The only sound breaking the stillness of the shadowy chamber was
the merciless, incessant tick-tack of the timepiece. Hope departed
with every second. In the bright disc of light cast by the lamp,
Jeanne lay stretched among the disordered bedclothes, with limbs of
waxen pallor. Helene, with tearless eyes, but choking with emotion,
gazed on the little body already in the clutches of death, and to see
a drop of her daughter's blood appear, would willingly have yielded up
all her own. And at last a ruddy drop trickled down--the leeches had
made fast their hold; one by one they commenced sucking. The child's
life was in the balance. These were terrible moments, pregnant with
anguish. Was that sigh the exhalation of Jeanne's last breath, or did
it mark her return to life? For a time Helene's heart was frozen
within her; she believed that the little one was dead; and there came
to her a violent impulse to pluck away the creatures which were
sucking so greedily; but some supernatural power restrained her, and
she remained there with open mouth and her blood chilled within her.
The pendulum still swung to and fro; the room itself seemed to wait
the issue in anxious expectation.

At last the child stirred. Her heavy eyelids rose, but dropped again,
as though wonder and weariness had overcome her. A slight quiver
passed over her face; it seemed as if she were breathing. Finally
there was a trembling of the lips; and Helene, in an agony of
suspense, bent over her, fiercely awaiting the result.

"Mamma! mamma!" murmured Jeanne.

Henri heard, and walking to the head of the bed, whispered in the
mother's ear: "She is saved."

"She is saved! she is saved!" echoed Helene in stammering tones, her
bosom filled with such joy that she fell on the floor close to the
bed, gazing now at her daughter and now at the doctor with distracted
looks. But she rose and giving way to a mighty impulse, threw herself
on Henri's neck.

"I love you!" she exclaimed.

This was her avowal--the avowal imprisoned so long, but at last poured
forth in the crisis of emotion which had come upon her. Mother and
lover were merged in one; she proffered him her love in a fiery rush
of gratitude.

Through her sobs she spoke to him in endearing words. Her tears, dried
at their source for three weeks, were now rolling down her cheeks. But
at last she fell upon her knees, and took Jeanne in her arms to lull
her to deeper slumber against her shoulder; and at intervals whilst
her child thus rested she raised to Henri's eyes glistening with
passionate tears.

Stretched in her cot, the bedclothes tucked under her chin, and her
head, with its dark brown tresses, resting in the centre of the
pillow, Jeanne lay, relieved, but prostrate. Her eyelids were closed,
but she did not sleep. The lamp, placed on the table, which had been
rolled close to the fireplace, lit but one end of the room, and the
shade encompassed Helene and Henri, seated in their customary places
on each side of the bed. But the child did not part them; on the
contrary, she served as a closer bond between them, and her innocence
was intermingled with their love on this first night of its avowal. At
times Helene rose on tiptoe to fetch the medicine, to turn up the
lamp, or give some order to Rosalie; while the doctor, whose eyes
never quitted her, would sign to her to walk gently. And when she had
sat down again they smiled at one another. Not a word was spoken; all
their interest was concentrated on Jeanne, who was to them as their
love itself. Sometimes when the coverlet was being pulled up, or the
child's head was being raised, their hands met and rested together in
sweet forgetfulness. This undesigned, stealthy caress was the only one
in which they indulged.

"I am not sleeping," murmured Jeanne. "I know very well you are

On hearing her speak they were overjoyed. Their hands parted; beyond
this they had no desires. The improvement in the child's condition was
to them satisfaction and peace.

"Are you feeling better, my darling?" asked Helene, when she saw her

Jeanne made no immediate reply, and when she spoke it was dreamingly.

"Oh, yes! I don't feel anything now. But I can hear you, and that
pleases me."

After the lapse of a moment, she opened her eyes with an effort and
looked at them. Then an angelic smile crossed her face, and her
eyelids dropped once more.

On the morrow, when the Abbe and Monsieur Rambaud made their
appearance, Helene gave way to a shrug of impatience. They were now a
disturbing element in her happy nest. As they went on questioning her,
shaking with fear lest they might receive bad tidings, she had the
cruelty to reply that Jeanne was no better. She spoke without
consideration, driven to this strait by the selfish desire of
treasuring for herself and Henri the bliss of having rescued Jeanne
from death, and of alone knowing this to be so. What was their reason
for seeking a share in her happiness? It belonged to Henri and
herself, and had it been known to another would have seemed to her
impaired in value. To her imagination it would have been as though a
stranger were participating in her love.

The priest, however, approached the bed.

"Jeanne, 'tis we, your old friends. Don't you know us?"

She nodded gravely to them in recognition, but she was unwilling to
speak to them; she was in a thoughtful mood, and she cast a look full
of meaning on her mother. The two poor men went away more heartbroken
than on any previous evening.

Three days later Henri allowed his patient her first boiled egg. It
was a matter of the highest importance. Jeanne's mind was made up to
eat it with none present but her mother and the doctor, and the door
must be closed. As it happened, Monsieur Rambaud was present at the
moment; and when Helene began to spread a napkin, by way of
tablecloth, on the bed, the child whispered in her ear: "Wait a
moment--when he has gone."

And as soon as he had left them she burst out: "Now, quick! quick!
It's far nicer when there's nobody but ourselves."

Helene lifted her to a sitting posture, while Henri placed two pillows
behind her to prop her up; and then, with the napkin spread before her
and a plate on her knees, Jeanne waited, smiling.

"Shall I break the shell for you?" asked her mother.

"Yes, do, mamma."

"And I will cut you three little bits of bread," added the doctor.

"Oh! four; you'll see if I don't eat four."

It was now the doctor's turn to be addressed endearingly. When he gave
her the first slice, she gripped his hand, and as she still clasped
her mother's, she rained kisses on both with the same passionate

"Come, come; you will have to be good," entreated Helene, who observed
that she was ready to burst into tears; "you must please us by eating
your egg."

At this Jeanne ventured to begin; but her frame was so enfeebled that
with the second sippet of bread she declared herself wearied. As she
swallowed each mouthful, she would say, with a smile, that her teeth
were tender. Henri encouraged her, while Helene's eyes were brimful of
tears. Heaven! she saw her child eating! She watched the bread
disappear, and the gradual consumption of this first egg thrilled her
to the heart. To picture Jeanne stretched dead beneath the sheets was
a vision of mortal terror; but now she was eating, and eating so
prettily, with all an invalid's characteristic dawdling and hesitancy!

"You won't be angry, mamma? I'm doing my best. Why, I'm at my third
bit of bread! Are you pleased?"

"Yes, my darling, quite pleased. Oh! you don't know all the joy the
sight gives me!"

And then, in the happiness with which she overflowed, Helene
forgetfully leaned against Henri's shoulder. Both laughed gleefully at
the child, but over her face there suddenly crept a sullen flush; she
gazed at them stealthily, and drooped her head, and refused to eat any
more, her features glooming the while with distrust and anger. At last
they had to lay her back in bed again.

                           CHAPTER XIII.

Months slipped away, and Jeanne was still convalescent. August came,
and she had not quitted her bed. When evening fell she would rise for
an hour or two; but even the crossing of the room to the window--where
she reclined on an invalid-chair and gazed out on Paris, flaming with
the ruddy light of the dying sun--seemed too great a strain for her
wearied frame. Her attenuated limbs could scarce bear their burden,
and she would declare with a wan smile that the blood in her veins
would not suffice for a little bird, and that she must have plenty of
soup. Morsels of raw meat were dipped in her broth. She had grown to
like this mixture, as she longed to be able to go down to play in the

The weeks and the months which slipped by were ever instinct with the
same delightful monotony, and Helene forgot to count the days. She
never left the house; at Jeanne's side she forgot the whole world. No
news from without reached her ears. Her retreat, though it looked down
on Paris, which with its smoke and noise stretched across the horizon,
was as secret and secluded as any cave of holy hermit amongst the
hills. Her child was saved, and the knowledge of it satisfied all her
desires. She spent her days in watching over her return to health,
rejoicing in a shade of bright color returning to her cheeks, in a
lively look, or in a gesture of gladness. Every hour made her daughter
more like what she had been of old, with lovely eyes and wavy hair.
The slower Jeanne's recovery, the greater joy was yielded to Helene,
who recalled the olden days when she had suckled her, and, as she
gazed on her gathering strength, felt even a keener emotion than when
in the past she had measured her two little feet in her hand to see if
she would soon be able to walk.

At the same time some anxiety remained to Helene. On several occasions
she had seen a shadow come over Jeanne's face--a shadow of sudden
distrust and sourness. Why was her laughter thus abruptly turned to
sulkiness? Was she suffering? was she hiding some quickening of the
old pain?

"Tell me, darling, what is the matter? You were laughing just a moment
ago, and now you are nearly crying! Speak to me: do you feel a pain

But Jeanne abruptly turned away her head and buried her face in the

"There's nothing wrong with me," she answered curtly. "I want to be
left alone."

And she would lie brooding the whole afternoon, with her eyes fixed on
the wall, showing no sign of affectionate repentance, but plunged in a
sadness which baffled her forlorn mother. The doctor knew not what to
say; these fits of gloom would always break out when he was there, and
he attributed them to the sufferer's nervousness. He impressed on
Helene the necessity of crossing her in nothing.

One afternoon Jeanne had fallen asleep. Henri, who was pleased with
her progress, had lingered in the room, and was carrying on a
whispered conversation with Helene, who was once more busy with her
everlasting needlework at her seat beside the window. Since the
terrible night when she had confessed she loved him both had lived on
peacefully in the consciousness of their mutual passions, careless of
the morrow, and without a thought of the world. Around Jeanne's bed,
in this room that still reverberated with her agony, there was an
atmosphere of purity which shielded them from any outburst. The
child's innocent breath fell on them with a quieting influence. But as
the little invalid slowly grew well again, their love in very sympathy
took new strength, and they would sit side by side with beating
hearts, speaking little, and then only in whispers, lest the little
one might be awakened. Their words were without significance, but
struck re-echoing chords within the breast of each. That afternoon
their love revealed itself in a thousand ways.

"I assure you she is much better," said the doctor. "In a fortnight
she will be able to go down to the garden."

Helene went on stitching quickly.

"Yesterday she was again very sad," she murmured, "but this morning
she was laughing and happy. She has given me her promise to be good."

A long silence followed. The child was still plunged in sleep, and
their souls were enveloped in a profound peace. When she slumbered
thus, their relief was intense; they seemed to share each other's
hearts the more.

"Have you not seen the garden yet?" asked Henri. "Just now it's full
of flowers."

"The asters are out, aren't they?" she questioned.

"Yes; the flower-bed looks magnificent. The clematises have wound
their way up into the elms. It is quite a nest of foliage."

There was another silence. Helene ceased sewing, and gave him a smile.
To their fancy it seemed as though they were strolling together along
high-banked paths, dim with shadows, amidst which fell a shower of
roses. As he hung over her he drank in the faint perfume of vervain
that arose from her dressing-gown. However, all at once a rustling of
the sheets disturbed them.

"She is wakening!" exclaimed Helene, as she started up.

Henri drew himself away, and simultaneously threw a glance towards the
bed. Jeanne had but a moment before gripped the pillow with her arms,
and, with her chin buried in it, had turned her face towards them. But
her eyelids were still shut, and judging by her slow and regular
breathing, she had again fallen asleep.

"Are you always sewing like this?" asked Henri, as he came nearer to

"I cannot remain with idle hands," she answered. "It is mechanical
enough, but it regulates my thoughts. For hours I can think of the
same thing without wearying."

He said no more, but his eye dwelt on the needle as the stitching went
on almost in a melodious cadence; and it seemed to him as if the
thread were carrying off and binding something of their lives
together. For hours she could have sewn on, and for hours he could
have sat there, listening to the music of the needle, in which, like a
lulling refrain, re-echoed one word that never wearied them. It was
their wish to live their days like this in that quiet nook, to sit
side by side while the child was asleep, never stirring from their
places lest they might awaken her. How sweet was that quiescent
silence, in which they could listen to the pulsing of hearts, and bask
in the delight of a dream of everlasting love!

"How good you are!" were the words which came several times from his
lips, the joy her presence gave him only finding expression in that
one phrase.

Again she raised her head, never for a moment deeming it strange that
she should be so passionately worshipped. Henri's face was near her
own, and for a second they gazed at one another.

"Let me get on with my work," she said in a whisper. "I shall never
have it finished."

But just then an instinctive dread prompted her to turn round, and
indeed there lay Jeanne, lowering upon them with deadly pale face and
great inky-black eyes. The child had not made the least movement; her
chin was still buried in the downy pillow, which she clasped with her
little arms. She had only opened her eyes a moment before and was
contemplating them.

"Jeanne, what's the matter?" asked Helene. "Are you ill? do you want

The little one made no reply, never stirred, did not even lower the
lids of her great flashing eyes. A sullen gloom was on her brow, and
in her pallid cheeks were deep hollows. She seemed about to throw back
her hands as though a convulsion was imminent. Helene started up,
begging her to speak; but she remained obstinately stiff, darting such
black looks on her mother that the latter's face became purple with
blushes, and she murmured:

"Doctor, see; what is the matter with her?"

Henri had drawn his chair away from Helene's. He ventured near the
bed, and was desirous of taking hold of one of the little hands which
so fiercely gripped the pillow. But as he touched Jeanne she trembled
in every limb, turned with a start towards the wall, and exclaimed:

"Leave me alone; you, I mean! You are hurting me!"

She pulled the coverlet over her face, and for a quarter of an hour
they attempted, without success, to soothe her with gentle words. At
last, as they still persevered, she sat up with her hands clasped in
supplication: "Oh, please leave me alone; you are tormenting me! Leave
me alone!"

Helene, in her bewilderment, once more sat down at the window, but
Henri did not resume his place beside her. They now understood: Jeanne
was devoured by jealousy. They were unable to speak another word. For
a minute or two the doctor paced up and down in silence, and then
slowly quitted the room, well understanding the meaning of the anxious
glances which the mother was darting towards the bed. As soon as he
had gone, she ran to her daughter's side and pressed her passionately
to her breast, with a wild outburst of words.

"Hear me, my pet, I am alone now; look at me, speak to me. Are you in
pain? Have I vexed you then? Tell me everything! Is it I whom you are
angry with? What are you troubled about?"

But it was useless to pray for an answer, useless to plead with all
sorts of questions; Jeanne declared that she was quite well. Then she
started up with a frenzied cry: "You don't love me any more, mamma!
you don't love me any more!"

She burst into grievous sobbing, and wound her arms convulsively round
her mother's neck, raining greedy kisses on her face. Helene's heart
was rent within her, she felt overwhelmed with unspeakable sadness,
and strained her child to her bosom, mingling her tears with her own,
and vowing to her that she would never love anybody save herself.

From that day onward a mere word or glance would suffice to awaken
Jeanne's jealousy. While she was in the perilous grip of death some
instinct had led her to put her trust in the loving tenderness with
which they had shielded and saved her. But now strength was returning
to her, and she would allow none to participate in her mother's love.
She conceived a kind of spite against the doctor, a spite which
stealthily grew into hate as her health improved. It was hidden deep
within her self-willed brain, in the innermost recesses of her
suspicious and silent nature. She would never consent to explain
things; she herself knew not what was the matter with her; but she
felt ill whenever the doctor drew too near to her mother; and would
press her hands violently to her bosom. Her torment seemed to sear her
very heart, and furious passion choked her and made her cheeks turn
pale. Nor could she place any restraint on herself; she imagined every
one unjust, grew stiff and haughty, and deigned no reply when she was
charged with being very ill-tempered. Helene, trembling with dismay,
dared not press her to explain the source of her trouble; indeed, her
eyes turned away whenever this eleven-year-old child darted at her a
glance in which was concentrated the premature passion of a woman.

"Oh, Jeanne, you are making me very wretched!" she would sometimes say
to her, the tears standing in her eyes as she observed her stifling in
her efforts to restrain a sudden bubbling up of mad anger.

But these words, once so potent for good, which had so often drawn the
child weeping to Helene's arms, were now wholly without influence.
There was a change taking place in her character. Her humors varied
ten times a day. Generally she spoke abruptly and imperiously,
addressing her mother as though she were Rosalie, and constantly
plaguing her with the pettiest demands, ever impatient and loud in

"Give me a drink. What a time you take! I am left here dying of
thirst!" And when Helene handed the glass to her she would exclaim:
"There's no sugar in it; I won't have it!"

Then she would throw herself back on her pillow, and a second time
push away the glass, with the complaint that the drink was too sweet.
They no longer cared to attend to her, she would say; they were doing
it purposely. Helene, dreading lest she might infuriate her to a yet
greater extent, made no reply, but gazed on her with tears trembling
on her cheeks.

However, Jeanne's anger was particularly visible when the doctor made
his appearance. The moment he entered the sick-room she would lay
herself flat in bed, or sullenly hang her head in the manner of savage
brutes who will not suffer a stranger to come near. Sometimes she
refused to say a word, allowing him to feel her pulse or examine her
while she remained motionless with her eyes fixed on the ceiling. On
other days she would not even look at him, but clasp her hands over
her eyes with such a gust of passion that to remove them would have
necessitated the violent twisting of her arms. One night, as her
mother was about to give her a spoonful of medicine, she burst out
with the cruel remark: "I won't have it; it will poison me."

Helene's heart, pierced to the quick, sank within her, and she dreaded
to elicit what the remark might mean.

"What are you saying, my child?" she asked. "Do you understand what
you are talking about? Medicine is never nice to take. You must drink

But Jeanne lay there in obstinate silence, and averted her head in
order to get rid of the draught. From that day onward she was full of
caprices, swallowing or rejecting her medicines according to the humor
of the moment. She would sniff at the phials and examine them
suspiciously as they stood on the night-table. Should she have refused
to drink the contents of one of them she never forgot its identity,
and would have died rather than allow a drop from it to pass her lips.
Honest Monsieur Rambaud alone could persuade her at times. It was he
whom she now overwhelmed with the most lavish caresses, especially if
the doctor were looking on; and her gleaming eyes were turned towards
her mother to note if she were vexed by this display of affection
towards another.

"Oh, it's you, old friend!" she exclaimed the moment he entered. "Come
and sit down near me. Have you brought me any oranges?"

She sat up and laughingly fumbled in his pockets, where goodies were
always secreted. Then she embraced him, playing quite a love comedy,
while her revenge found satisfaction in the anguish which she imagined
she could read on her mother's pallid face. Monsieur Rambaud beamed
with joy over his restoration to his little sweetheart's good graces.
But Helene, on meeting him in the ante-room, was usually able to
acquaint him with the state of affairs, and all at once he would look
at the draught standing on the table and exclaim: "What! are you
having syrup?"

Jeanne's face clouded over, and, in a low voice, she replied: "No, no,
it's nasty, it's nauseous; I can't take it."

"What! you can't drink this?" questioned Monsieur Rambaud gaily. "I
can wager it's very good. May I take a little of it?"

Then without awaiting her permission he poured out a large spoonful,
and swallowed it with a grimace that seemed to betoken immeasurable

"How delicious!" he murmured. "You are quite wrong; see, just take a
little to try."

Jeanne, amused, then made no further resistance. She would drink
whatever Monsieur Rambaud happened to taste. She watched his every
motion greedily, and appeared to study his features with a view to
observing the effects of the medicine. The good man for a month gorged
himself in this way with drugs, and, on Helene gratefully thanking
him, merely shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh! it's very good stuff!" he declared, with perfect conviction,
making it his pleasure to share the little one's medicines.

He passed his evenings at her bedside. The Abbe, on the other hand,
came regularly every second day. Jeanne retained them with her as long
as possible, and displayed vexation when she saw them take up their
hats. Her immediate dread lay in being left alone with her mother and
the doctor, and she would fain have always had company in the room to
keep these two apart. Frequently, without reason, she called Rosalie
to her. When they were alone with her, her eyes never quitted them,
but pursued them into every corner of the bedroom. Whenever their
hands came together, her face grew ashy white. If a whispered word was
exchanged between them, she started up in anger, demanding to know
what had been said. It was a grievance to her that her mother's gown
should sweep against the doctor's foot. They could not approach or
look at one another without the child falling immediately into violent
trembling. The extreme sensitiveness of her innocent little being
induced in her an exasperation which would suddenly prompt her to turn
round, should she guess that they were smiling at one another behind
her. She could divine the times when their love was at its height by
the atmosphere wafted around her. It was then that her gloom became
deeper, and her agonies were those of nervous women at the approach of
a terrible storm.

Every one about Helene now looked on Jeanne as saved, and she herself
had slowly come to recognize this as a certainty. Thus it happened
that Jeanne's fits were at last regarded by her as the bad humors of a
spoilt child, and as of little or no consequence. A craving to live
sprang up within her after the six weeks of anguish which she had just
spent. Her daughter was now well able to dispense with her care for
hours; and for her, who had so long become unconscious of life, these
hours opened up a vista of delight, of peace, and pleasure. She
rummaged in her drawers, and made joyous discoveries of forgotten
things; she plunged into all sorts of petty tasks, in the endeavor to
resume the happy course of her daily existence. And in this upwelling
of life her love expanded, and the society of Henri was the reward she
allowed herself for the intensity of her past sufferings. In the
shelter of that room they deemed themselves beyond the world's ken,
and every hindrance in their path was forgotten. The child, to whom
their love had proved a terror, alone remained a bar between them.

Jeanne became, indeed, a veritable scourge to their affections. An
ever-present barrier, with her eyes constantly upon them, she
compelled them to maintain a continued restraint, an affectation of
indifference, with the result that their hearts were stirred with even
greater motion than before. For days they could not exchange a word;
they knew intuitively that she was listening even when she was
seemingly wrapped in slumber. One evening, when Helene had quitted the
room with Henri, to escort him to the front door, Jeanne burst out
with the cry, "Mamma! mamma!" in a voice shrill with rage. Helene was
forced to return, for she heard the child leap from her bed; and she
met her running towards her, shivering with cold and passion. Jeanne
would no longer let her remain away from her. From that day forward
they could merely exchange a clasp of the hand on meeting and parting.
Madame Deberle was now spending a month at the seaside, and the
doctor, though he had all his time at his own command, dared not pass
more than ten minutes in Helene's company. Their long chats at the
window had come to an end.

What particularly tortured their hearts was the fickleness of Jeanne's
humor. One night, as the doctor hung over her, she gave way to tears.
For a whole day her hate changed to feverish tenderness, and Helene
felt happy once more; but on the morrow, when the doctor entered the
room, the child received him with such a display of sourness that the
mother besought him with a look to leave them. Jeanne had fretted the
whole night in angry regret over her own good-humor. Not a day passed
but what a like scene was enacted. And after the blissful hours the
child brought them in her moods of impassioned tenderness these hours
of misery fell on them with the torture of the lash.

A feeling of revulsion at last awoke within Helene. To all seeming her
daughter would be her death. Why, when her illness had been put to
flight, did the ill-natured child work her utmost to torment her? If
one of those intoxicating dreams took possession of her imagination--a
mystic dream in which she found herself traversing a country alike
unknown and entrancing with Henri by her side Jeanne's face, harsh and
sullen, would suddenly start up before her and thus her heart was ever
being rent in twain. The struggle between her maternal affection and
her passion became fraught with the greatest suffering.

One evening, despite Helene's formal edict of banishment, the doctor
called. For eight days they had been unable to exchange a word
together. She would fain that he had not entered; but he did so on
learning that Jeanne was in a deep sleep. They sat down as of old,
near the window, far from the glare of the lamp, with the peaceful
shadows around them. For two hours their conversation went on in such
low whispers that scarcely a sound disturbed the silence of the large
room. At times they turned their heads and glanced at the delicate
profile of Jeanne, whose little hands, clasped together, were reposing
on the coverlet. But in the end they grew forgetful of their
surroundings, and their talk incautiously became louder. Then, all at
once, Jeanne's voice rang out.

"Mamma! mamma!" she cried, seized with sudden agitation, as though
suffering from nightmare.

She writhed about in her bed, her eyelids still heavy with sleep, and
then struggled to reach a sitting posture.

"Hide, I beseech you!" whispered Helene to the doctor in a tone of
anguish. "You will be her death if you stay here."

In an instant Henri vanished into the window-recess, concealed by the
blue velvet curtain; but it was in vain, the child still kept up her
pitiful cry: "Oh, mamma! mamma! I suffer so much."

"I am here beside you, my darling; where do you feel the pain?"

"I don't know. Oh, see, it is here! Oh, it is scorching me!" With eyes
wide open and features distorted, she pressed her little hands to her
bosom. "It came on me in a moment. I was asleep, wasn't I? But I felt
something like a burning coal."

"But it's all gone now. You're not pained any longer, are you?"

"Yes, yes, I feel it still."

She glanced uneasily round the room. She was now wholly awake; the
sullen gloom crept over her face once more, and her cheeks became

"Are you by yourself, mamma?" she asked.

"Of course I am, my darling!"

Nevertheless Jeanne shook her head and gazed about, sniffing the air,
while her agitation visibly increased. "No, you're not; I know you're
not. There's some one--Oh, mamma! I'm afraid, I'm afraid! You are
telling me a story; you are not by yourself."

She fell back in bed in an hysterical fit, sobbing loudly and huddling
herself beneath the coverlet, as though to ward off some danger.
Helene, crazy with alarm, dismissed Henri without delay, despite his
wish to remain and look after the child. But she drove him out
forcibly, and on her return clasped Jeanne in her arms, while the
little one gave vent to the one pitiful cry, with every utterance of
which her sobbing was renewed louder than ever: "You don't love me any
more! You don't love me any more!"

"Hush, hush, my angel! don't say that," exclaimed the mother in agony.
"You are all the world to me. You'll see yet whether I love you or

She nursed her until the morning broke, intent on yielding up to her
all her heart's affections, though she was appalled at realizing how
completely the love of herself possessed this darling child. Next day
she deemed a consultation necessary. Doctor Bodin, dropping in as
though by chance, subjected the patient with many jokes to a careful
examination; and a lengthy discussion ensued between him and Doctor
Deberle, who had remained in the adjacent room. Both readily agreed
that there were no serious symptoms apparent at the moment, but they
were afraid of complex developments, and cross-questioned Helene for
some time. They realized that they were dealing with one of those
nervous affections which have a family history, and set medical skill
at defiance. She told them, what they already partly knew, that her
grandmother[*] was confined in the lunatic asylum of Les Tulettes at a
short distance from Plassans, and that her mother had died from
galloping consumption, after many years of brain affection and
hysterical fits. She herself took more after her father; she had his
features and the same gravity of temperament. Jeanne, on the other
hand, was the facsimile of her grandmother; but she never would have
her strength, commanding figure, or sturdy, bony frame. The two
doctors enjoined on her once more that the greatest care was
requisite. Too many precautions could not be taken in dealing with
chloro-anaemical affections, which tend to develop a multitude of
dangerous diseases.

[*] Adelaide Fouque, already mentioned, who figures so prominently in
    "The Fortune of the Rougons," and dies under such horrible
    circumstances in "Doctor Pascal."

Henri had listened to old Doctor Bodin with a deference which he had
never before displayed for a colleague. He besought his advice on
Jeanne's case with the air of a pupil who is full of doubt. Truth to
tell, this child inspired him with dread; he felt that her case was
beyond his science, and he feared lest she might die under his hands
and her mother be lost to him for ever. A week passed away. He was no
longer admitted by Helene into the little one's presence; and in the
end, sad and sick at heart, he broke off his visits of his own accord.

As the month of August verged on its close, Jeanne recovered
sufficient strength to rise and walk across the room. The lightness of
her heart spoke in her laughter. A fortnight had elapsed since the
recurrence of any nervous attack. The thought that her mother was
again all her own and would ever cling to her had proved remedy
enough. At first distrust had rankled in her mind; while letting
Helene kiss her she had remained uneasy at her least movement, and had
imperiously besought her hand before she fell asleep, anxious to
retain it in her own during her slumber. But at last, with the
knowledge that nobody came near, she had regained confidence,
enraptured by the prospect of a reopening of the old happy life when
they had sat side by side, working at the window. Every day brought
new roses to her cheeks; and Rosalie declared that she was blossoming
brighter and brighter every hour.

There were times, however, as night fell, when Helene broke down.
Since her daughter's illness her face had remained grave and somewhat
pale, and a deep wrinkle, never before visible, furrowed her brow.
When Jeanne caught sight of her in these hours of weariness, despair,
and voidness, she herself would feel very wretched, her heart heavy
with vague remorse. Gently and silently she would then twine her arms
around her neck.

"Are you happy, mother darling?" came the whisper.

A thrill ran through Helene's frame, and she hastened to answer: "Yes,
of course, my pet."

Still the child pressed her question:

"Are you, oh! are you happy? Quite sure?"

"Quite sure. Why should I feel unhappy?"

With this Jeanne would clasp her closer in her little arms, as though
to requite her. She would love her so well, she would say--so well,
indeed, that nowhere in all Paris could a happier mother be found.

                            CHAPTER XIV.

During August Doctor Deberle's garden was like a well of foliage. The
railings were hidden both by the twining branches of the lilac and
laburnum trees and by the climbing plants, ivy, honeysuckle, and
clematis, which sprouted everywhere in luxuriance, and glided and
intermingled in inextricable confusion, drooping down in leafy
canopies, and running along the walls till they reached the elms at
the far end, where the verdure was so profuse that you might have
thought a tent were stretched between the trees, the elms serving as
its giant props. The garden was so small that the least shadow seemed
to cover it. At noon the sun threw a disc of yellow light on the
centre, illumining the lawn and its two flower-beds. Against the
garden steps was a huge rose-bush, laden with hundreds of large
tea-roses. In the evening when the heat subsided their perfume became
more penetrating, and the air under the elms grew heavy with their warm
breath. Nothing could exceed the charm of this hidden, balmy nook,
into which no neighborly inquisition could peep, and which brought one
a dream of the forest primeval, albeit barrel-organs were playing
polkas in the Rue Vineuse, near by.

"Why, madame, doesn't mademoiselle go down to the garden?" Rosalie
daily asked. "I'm sure it would do her good to romp about under the

One of the elms had invaded Rosalie's kitchen with its branches. She
would pull some of the leaves off as she gazed with delight on the
clustering foliage, through which she could see nothing.

"She isn't strong enough yet," was Helene's reply. "The cold, shady
garden might be harmful to her."

Rosalie was in no wise convinced. A happy thought with her was not
easily abandoned. Madame must surely be mistaken in imagining that it
would be cold or harmful. Perhaps madame's objection sprang rather
from the fear that she would be in somebody's way; but that was
nonsense. Mademoiselle would of a truth be in nobody's way; not a
living soul made any appearance there. The doctor shunned the spot,
and as for madame, his wife, she would remain at the seaside till the
middle of September. This was so certain that the doorkeeper had asked
Zephyrin to give the garden a rake over, and Zephyrin and she herself
had spent two Sunday afternoons there already. Oh! it was lovely,
lovelier than one could imagine.

Helene, however, still declined to act on the suggestion. Jeanne
seemed to have a great longing to enjoy a walk in the garden, which
had been the ceaseless topic of her discourse during her illness; but
a vague feeling of embarrassment made her eyes droop and closed her
mouth on the subject in her mother's presence. At last when Sunday
came round again the maid hurried into the room exclaiming

"Oh! madame, there's nobody there, I give you my word! Only myself and
Zephyrin, who is raking! Do let her come. You can't imagine how fine
it is outside. Come for a little, only a little while, just to see!"

Her conviction was such that Helene gave way. She cloaked Jeanne in a
shawl, and told Rosalie to take a heavy wrap with her. The child was
in an ecstasy, which spoke silently from the depths of her large
sparkling eyes; she even wished to descend the staircase without help
in order that her strength might be made plain. However, her mother's
arms were stretched out behind her, ready to lend support. When they
had reached the foot of the stairs and entered the garden, they both
gave vent to an exclamation. So little did this umbrageous,
thicket-girt spot resemble the trim nook they had seen in the
springtime that they failed to recognize it.

"Ah! you wouldn't believe me!" declared Rosalie, in triumphant tones.

The clumps of shrubbery had grown to great proportions, making the
paths much narrower, and, in walking, their skirts caught in some of
the interwoven branches. To the fancy it seemed some far-away recess
in a wood, arched over with foliage, from which fell a greeny light of
delightful charm and mystery. Helene directed her steps towards the
elm beneath which she had sat in April.

"But I don't wish her to stay here," said she. "It is shady and

"Well, well, you will see in a minute," answered the maid.

Three steps farther on they emerged from the seeming forest, and, in
the midst of the leafy profusion they found the sun's golden rays
streaming on the lawn, warm and still as in a woodland clearing. As
they looked up they saw the branches standing out against the blue of
the sky with the delicacy of guipure. The tea-roses on the huge bush,
faint in the heat, dropped slumberously from their stems. The
flower-beds were full of red and white asters, looking with their
old-world air like blossoms woven in some ancient tapestry.

"Now you'll see," said Rosalie. "I'm going to put her all right

She had folded and placed the wrap on the edge of a walk, where the
shadow came to an end. Here she made Jeanne sit down, covering her
shoulders with a shawl, and bidding her stretch out her little legs.
In this fashion the shade fell on the child's head, while her feet lay
in the sunshine.

"Are you all right, my darling?" Helene asked.

"Oh, yes," was her answer. "I don't feel cold a bit, you know. I
almost think I am sweltering before a big fire. Ah! how well one can
breathe! How pleasant it is!"

Thereupon Helene, whose eyes had turned uneasily towards the closed
window-shutters of the house, expressed her intention of returning
upstairs for a little while, and loaded Rosalie with a variety of
injunctions. She would have to watch the sun; she was not to leave
Jeanne there for more than half an hour; and she must not lose sight
of her for a moment.

"Don't be alarmed, mamma," exclaimed the child, with a laugh. "There
are no carriages to pass along here."

Left to amuse herself, she gathered a handful of gravel from the path
at her side, and took pleasure in letting it fall from her clasped
hands like a shower of rain. Zephyrin meantime was raking. On catching
sight of madame and her daughter he had slipped on his great-coat,
which he had previously hung from the branch of a tree; and in token
of respect had stood stock-still, with his rake idle in his hand.
Throughout Jeanne's illness he had come every Sunday as usual; but so
great had been the caution with which he had slipped into the kitchen,
that Helene would scarcely have dreamt of his presence had not Rosalie
on each occasion been deputed as his messenger to inquire about the
invalid's progress, and convey his condolences. Yes, so ran her
comments, he was now laying claim to good manners; Paris was giving
him some polish! And at present here he was, leaning on his rake, and
mutely addressing Jeanne with a sympathetic nod. As soon as she saw
him, her face broke into smiles.

"I have been very ill," she said.

"Yes, I know, mademoiselle," he replied as he placed his hand on his
heart. And inspired with the wish to say something pretty or comical,
which might serve to enliven the meeting, he added: "You see, your
health has been taking a rest. Now it will indulge in a snore."

Jeanne had again gathered up a handful of gravel, while he, perfectly
satisfied, and opening his mouth wide from ear to ear in a burst of
silent laughter, renewed his raking with all the strength of his arms.
As the rake travelled over the gravel a regular, strident sound arose.
When a few minutes had elapsed Rosalie, seeing her little charge
absorbed in her amusement, seemingly happy and at ease, drew gradually
farther away from her, as though lured by the grating of this rake.
Zephyrin was now working away in the full glare of the sun, on the
other side of the lawn.

"You are sweating like an ox," she whispered to him. "Take off your
great-coat. Be quick; mademoiselle won't be offended."

He relieved himself of the garment, and once more suspended it from a
branch. His red trousers, supported by a belt round the waist, reached
almost to his chest, while his shirt of stout, unbleached linen, held
at the neck by a narrow horsehair band, was so stiff that it stuck out
and made him look even rounder than he was. He tucked up his sleeves
with a certain amount of affectation, as though to show Rosalie a
couple of flaming hearts, which, with the inscription "For Ever," had
been tattooed on them at the barracks.

"Did you go to mass this morning?" asked Rosalie, who usually tackled
him with this question every Sunday.

"To mass! to mass!" he repeated, with a chuckle.

His red ears seemed to stand out from his head, shorn to the very
skin, and the whole of his diminutive barrel-like body expressed a
spirit of banter.

At last the confession came. "Of course I went to mass."

"You are lying," Rosalie burst out violently. "I know you are lying;
your nose is twitching. Oh, Zephyrin, you are going to the dogs--you
have left off going to church! Beware!"

His answer, lover-like, was an attempt to put his arm round her waist,
but to all appearance she was shocked, for she exclaimed:

"I'll make you put on your coat again if you don't behave yourself.
Aren't you ashamed? Why, there's mademoiselle looking at you!"

Thereupon Zephyrin turned to his raking once more. In truth, Jeanne
had raised her eyes towards them. Her amusement was palling on her
somewhat; the gravel thrown aside, she had been gathering leaves and
plucking grass; but a feeling of indolence crept over her, and now she
preferred to do nothing but gaze at the sunshine as it fell on her
more and more. A few moments previously only her legs, as far as the
knees, had been bathed in this warm cascade of sunshine, but now it
reached her waist, the heat increasing like an entrancing caress. What
particularly amused her were the round patches of light, of a
beautiful golden yellow, which danced over her shawl, for all the
world like living creatures. She tossed back her head to see if they
were perchance creeping towards her face, and meanwhile clasped her
little hands together in the glare of the sunshine. How thin and
transparent her hands seemed! The sun's rays passed through them, but
all the same they appeared to her very pretty, pinky like shells,
delicate and attenuated like the tiny hands of an infant Christ. Then
too the fresh air, the gigantic trees around her, and the warmth, had
lulled her somewhat into a trance. Sleep, she imagined, had come upon
her, and yet she could still see and hear. It all seemed to her very
nice and pleasant.

"Mademoiselle, please draw back a bit," said Rosalie, who had
approached her. "The sun's heat is too warm for you."

But with a wave of her hand Jeanne declined to stir. For the time her
attention was riveted on the maid and the little soldier. She
pretended to direct her glances towards the ground, with the intention
of making them believe that she did not see them; but in reality,
despite her apparent drowsiness, she kept watching them from beneath
her long eyelashes.

Rosalie stood near her for a minute or two longer, but was powerless
against the charms of the grating rake. Once more she slowly dragged
herself towards Zephyrin, as if in spite of her will. She resented the
change in manner which he was now displaying, and yet her heart was
bursting with mute admiration. The little soldier had used to good
purpose his long strolls with his comrades in the Jardin des Plantes
and round the Place du Chateau-d'Eau, where his barracks stood, and
the result was the acquisition of the swaying, expansive graces of the
Parisian fire-eater. He had learnt the flowery talk, gallant
readiness, and involved style of language so dear to the hearts of the
ladies. At times she was thrilled with intense pleasure as she
listened to the phrases which he repeated to her with a swagger of the
shoulders, phrases full of incomprehensible words that inflamed her
cheeks with a flush of pride. His uniform no longer sat awkwardly on
him; he swung his arms to and fro with a knowing air, and had an
especially noticeable style of wearing his shako on the back of his
head, with the result that his round face with its tip of a nose
became extremely prominent, while his headgear swayed gently with the
rolling of his body. Besides, he was growing quite free and easy,
quaffed his dram, and ogled the fair sex. With his sneering ways and
affectation of reticence, he now doubtless knew a great deal more than
she did. Paris was fast taking all the remaining rust off him; and
Rosalie stood before him, delighted yet angry, undecided whether to
scratch his face or let him give utterance to foolish prattle.

Zephyrin, meanwhile, raking away, had turned the corner of the path.
He was now hidden by a big spindle-tree, and was darting side-glances
at Rosalie, luring her on against her will with the strokes of his
rake. When she had got near him, he pinched her roughly.

"Don't cry out; that's only to show you how I love you!" he said in a
husky whisper. "And take that over and above."

So saying he kissed her where he could, his lips lighting somewhere on
her ear. Then, as Rosalie gave him a fierce nip in reply, he
retaliated by another kiss, this time on her nose. Though she was well
pleased, her face turned fiery-red; she was furious that Jeanne's
presence should prevent her from giving him a box on the ear.

"I have pricked my finger," she declared to Jeanne as she returned to
her, by way of explaining the exclamation that escaped her lips.

However, betwixt the spare branches of the spindle-tree the child had
seen the incident. Amid the surrounding greenery the soldier's red
trousers and greyish shirt were clearly discernible. She slowly raised
her eyes to Rosalie, and looked at her for a moment, while the maid
blushed the more. Then Jeanne's gaze fell to the ground again, and she
gathered another handful of pebbles, but lacked the will or strength
to play with them, and remained in a dreamy state, with her hands
resting on the warm ground, amidst the vibrations of the sunrays.
Within her a wave of health was swelling and stifling her. The trees
seemed to take Titanic shape, and the air was redolent of the perfume
of roses. In wonder and delight, she dreamt of all sorts of vague

"What are you thinking of, mademoiselle?" asked Rosalie uneasily.

"I don't know--of nothing," was Jeanne's reply. "Yes, I do know. You
see, I should like to live to be very old."

However, she could not explain these words. It was an idea, she said,
that had come into her head. But in the evening, after dinner, as her
dreamy fit fell on her again, and her mother inquired the cause, she
suddenly put the question:

"Mamma, do cousins ever marry?"

"Yes, of course," said Helene. "Why do you ask me that?"

"Oh, nothing; only I wanted to know."

Helene had become accustomed to these extraordinary questions. The
hour spent in the garden had so beneficial an effect on the child that
every sunny day found her there. Helene's reluctance was gradually
dispelled; the house was still shut up. Henri never ventured to show
himself, and ere long she sat down on the edge of the rug beside
Jeanne. However, on the following Sunday morning she found the windows
thrown open, and felt troubled at heart.

"Oh! but of course the rooms must be aired," exclaimed Rosalie, as an
inducement for them to go down. "I declare to you nobody's there!"

That day the weather was still warmer. Through the leafy screen the
sun's rays darted like golden arrows. Jeanne, who was growing strong,
strolled about for ten minutes, leaning on her mother's arm. Then,
somewhat tired, she turned towards her rug, a corner of which she
assigned to Helene. They smiled at one another, amused at thus finding
themselves side by side on the ground. Zephyrin had given up his
raking, and was helping Rosalie to gather some parsley, clumps of
which were growing along the end wall.

All at once there was an uproar in the house, and Helene was
thinking of flight, when Madame Deberle made her appearance on the
garden-steps. She had just arrived, and was still in her travelling
dress, speaking very loudly, and seemingly very busy. But immediately
she caught sight of Madame Grandjean and her daughter, sitting on the
ground in the front of the lawn, she ran down, overwhelmed them with
embraces, and poured a deafening flood of words into their ears.

"What, is it you? How glad I am to see you! Kiss me, my little Jeanne!
Poor puss, you've been very ill, have you not? But you're getting
better; the roses are coming back to your cheeks! And you, my dear,
how often I've thought of you! I wrote to you: did my letters reach
you? You must have spent a terrible time: but it's all over now! Will
you let me kiss you?"

Helene was now on her feet, and was forced to submit to a kiss on each
cheek and return them. This display of affection, however, chilled her
to the heart.

"You'll excuse us for having invaded your garden," she said.

"You're joking," retorted Juliette impetuously. "Are you not at home

But she ran off for a moment, hastened up the stairs, and called
across the open rooms: "Pierre, don't forget anything; there are
seventeen packages!"

Then, at once coming back, she commenced chattering about her holiday
adventures. "Oh! such a splendid season! We went to Trouville, you
know. The beach was always thronged with people. It was quite a crush.
and people of the highest spheres, you know. I had visitors too. Papa
came for a fortnight with Pauline. All the same, I'm glad to get home
again. But I haven't given you all my news. Oh! I'll tell you later

She stooped down and kissed Jeanne again; then suddenly becoming
serious, she asked:

"Am I browned by the sun?"

"No; I don't see any signs of it," replied Helene as she gazed at her.

Juliette's eyes were clear and expressionless, her hands were plump,
her pretty face was full of amiability; age did not tell on her; the
sea air itself was powerless to affect her expression of serene
indifference. So far as appearances went, she might have just returned
from a shopping expedition in Paris. However, she was bubbling over
with affection, and the more loving her outbursts, the more weary,
constrained, and ill became Helene. Jeanne meantime never stirred from
the rug, but merely raised her delicate, sickly face, while clasping
her hands with a chilly air in the sunshine.

"Wait, you haven't seen Lucien yet," exclaimed Juliette. "You must see
him; he has got so fat."

When the lad was brought on the scene, after the dust of the journey
had been washed from his face by a servant girl, she pushed and turned
him about to exhibit him. Fat and chubby-cheeked, his skin tanned by
playing on the beach in the salt breeze, Lucien displayed exuberant
health, but he had a somewhat sulky look because he had just been
washed. He had not been properly dried, and one check was still wet
and fiery-red with the rubbing of the towel. When he caught sight of
Jeanne he stood stock-still with astonishment. She looked at him out
of her poor, sickly face, as colorless as linen against the background
of her streaming black hair, whose tresses fell in clusters to her
shoulders. Her beautiful, sad, dilated eyes seemed to fill up her
whole countenance; and, despite the excessive heat, she shivered
somewhat, and stretched out her hands as though chilled and seeking
warmth from a blazing fire.

"Well! aren't you going to kiss her?" asked Juliette.

But Lucien looked rather afraid. At length he made up his mind, and
very cautiously protruded his lips so that he might not come too near
the invalid. This done, he started back expeditiously. Helene's eyes
were brimming over with tears. What health that child enjoyed! whereas
her Jeanne was breathless after a walk round the lawn! Some mothers
were very fortunate! Juliette all at once understood how cruel
Lucien's conduct was, and she rated him soundly.

"Good gracious! what a fool you are! Is that the way to kiss young
ladies? You've no idea, my dear, what a nuisance he was at Trouville."

She was getting somewhat mixed. But fortunately for her the doctor now
made his appearance, and she extricated herself from her difficulty by
exclaiming: "Oh, here's Henri."

He had not been expecting their return until the evening, but she had
travelled by an earlier train. She plunged into a discursive
explanation, without in the least making her reasons clear. The doctor
listened with a smiling face. "At all events, here you are," he said.
"That's all that's necessary."

A minute previously he had bowed to Helene without speaking. His
glance for a moment fell on Jeanne, but feeling embarrassed he turned
away his head. Jeanne bore his look with a serious face, and
unclasping her hands instinctively grasped her mother's gown and drew
closer to her side.

"Ah! the rascal," said the doctor, as he raised Lucien and kissed him
on each cheek. "Why, he's growing like magic."

"Yes; and am I to be forgotten?" asked Juliette, as she held up her
head. Then, without putting Lucien down, holding him, indeed, on one
arm, the doctor leaned over to kiss his wife. Their three faces were
lit up with smiles.

Helene grew pale, and declared she must now go up. Jeanne, however,
was unwilling; she wished to see what might happen, and her glances
lingered for a while on the Deberles and then travelled back to her
mother. When Juliette had bent her face upwards to receive her
husband's kiss, a bright gleam had come into the child's eyes.

"He's too heavy," resumed the doctor as he set Lucien down again.
"Well, was the season a good one? I saw Malignon yesterday, and he was
telling me about his stay there. So you let him leave before you, eh?"

"Oh! he's quite a nuisance!" exclaimed Juliette, over whose face a
serious, embarrassed expression had now crept. "He tormented us to
death the whole time."

"Your father was hoping for Pauline's sake--He hasn't declared his
intentions then?"

"What! Malignon!" said she, as though astonished and offended. And
then with a gesture of annoyance she added, "Oh! leave him alone; he's
cracked! How happy I am to be home again!"

Without any apparent transition, she thereupon broke into an amazing
outburst of tenderness, characteristic of her bird-like nature. She
threw herself on her husband's breast and raised her face towards him.
To all seeming they had forgotten that they were not alone.

Jeanne's eyes, however, never quitted them. Her lips were livid and
trembled with anger; her face was that of a jealous and revengeful
woman. The pain she suffered was so great that she was forced to turn
away her head, and in doing so she caught sight of Rosalie and
Zephyrin at the bottom of the garden, still gathering parsley.
Doubtless with the intent of being in no one's way, they had crept in
among the thickest of the bushes, where both were squatting on the
ground. Zephyrin, with a sly movement, had caught hold of one of
Rosalie's feet, while she, without uttering a syllable, was heartily
slapping him. Between two branches Jeanne could see the little
soldier's face, chubby and round as a moon and deeply flushed, while
his mouth gaped with an amorous grin. Meantime the sun's rays were
beating down vertically, and the trees were peacefully sleeping, not a
leaf stirring among them all. From beneath the elms came the heavy
odor of soil untouched by the spade. And elsewhere floated the perfume
of the last tea-roses, which were casting their petals one by one on
the garden steps. Then Jeanne, with swelling heart, turned her gaze on
her mother, and seeing her motionless and dumb in presence of the
Deberles, gave her a look of intense anguish--a child's look of
infinite meaning, such as you dare not question.

But Madame Deberle stepped closer to them, and said: "I hope we shall
see each other frequently now. As Jeanne is feeling better, she must
come down every afternoon."

Helene was already casting about for an excuse, pleading that she did
not wish to weary her too much. But Jeanne abruptly broke in: "No, no;
the sun does me a great deal of good. We will come down, madame. You
will keep my place for me, won't you?"

And as the doctor still remained in the background, she smiled towards

"Doctor, please tell mamma that the fresh air won't do me any harm."

He came forward, and this man, inured to human suffering, felt on his
cheeks a slight flush at being thus gently addressed by the child.

"Certainly not," he exclaimed; "the fresh air will only bring you
nearer to good health."

"So you see, mother darling, we must come down," said Jeanne, with a
look of ineffable tenderness, whilst a sob died away in her throat.

But Pierre had reappeared on the steps and announced the safe arrival
of madame's seventeen packages. Then, followed by her husband and
Lucien, Juliette retired, declaring that she was frightfully dirty,
and intended to take a bath. When they were alone, Helene knelt down
on the rug, as though about to tie the shawl round Jeanne's neck, and
whispered in the child's ear:

"You're not angry any longer with the doctor, then?"

With a prolonged shake of the head the child replied "No, mamma."

There was a silence. Helene's hands were seized with an awkward
trembling, and she was seemingly unable to tie the shawl. Then Jeanne
murmured: "But why does he love other people so? I won't have him love
them like that."

And as she spoke, her black eyes became harsh and gloomy, while her
little hands fondled her mother's shoulders. Helene would have
replied, but the words springing to her lips frightened her. The sun
was now low, and mother and daughter took their departure. Zephyrin
meanwhile had reappeared to view, with a bunch of parsley in his hand,
the stalks of which he continued pulling off while darting murderous
glances at Rosalie. The maid followed at some distance, inspired with
distrust now that there was no one present. Just as she stooped to
roll up the rug he tried to pinch her, but she retaliated with a blow
from her fist which made his back re-echo like an empty cask. Still it
seemed to delight him, and he was yet laughing silently when he
re-entered the kitchen busily arranging his parsley.

Thenceforth Jeanne was stubbornly bent on going down to the garden as
soon as ever she heard Madame Deberle's voice there. All Rosalie's
tittle-tattle regarding the next-door house she drank in greedily,
ever restless and inquisitive concerning its inmates and their doings;
and she would even slip out of the bedroom to keep watch from the
kitchen window. In the garden, ensconced in a small arm-chair which
was brought for her use from the drawing-room by Juliette's direction,
her eyes never quitted the family. Lucien she now treated with great
reserve, annoyed it seemed by his questions and antics, especially
when the doctor was present. On those occasions she would stretch
herself out as if wearied, gazing before her with her eyes wide open.
For Helene the afternoons were pregnant with anguish. She always
returned, however, returned in spite of the feeling of revolt which
wrung her whole being. Every day when, on his arrival home, Henri
printed a kiss on Juliette's hair, her heart leaped in its agony. And
at those moments, if to hide the agitation of her face she pretended
to busy herself with Jeanne, she would notice that the child was even
paler than herself, with her black eyes glaring and her chin twitching
with repressed fury. Jeanne shared in her suffering. When the mother
turned away her head, heartbroken, the child became so sad and so
exhausted that she had to be carried upstairs and put to bed. She
could no longer see the doctor approach his wife without changing
countenance; she would tremble, and turn on him a glance full of all
the jealous fire of a deserted mistress.

"I cough in the morning," she said to him one day. "You must come and
see for yourself."

Rainy weather ensued, and Jeanne became quite anxious that the doctor
should commence his visits once more. Yet her health had much
improved. To humor her, Helene had been constrained to accept two or
three invitations to dine with the Deberles.

At last the child's heart, so long torn by hidden sorrow, seemingly
regained quietude with the complete re-establishment of her health.
She would again ask Helene the old question--"Are you happy, mother

"Yes, very happy, my pet," was the reply.

And this made her radiant. She must be pardoned her bad temper in the
past, she said. She referred to it as a fit which no effort of her own
will could prevent, the result of a headache that came on her
suddenly. Something would spring up within her--she wholly failed to
understand what it was. She was tempest-tossed by a multitude of vague
imaginings--nightmares that she could not even have recalled to
memory. However, it was past now; she was well again, and those
worries would nevermore return.

                            CHAPTER XV.

The night was falling. From the grey heaven, where the first of the
stars were gleaming, a fine ashy dust seemed to be raining down on the
great city, raining down without cessation and slowly burying it. The
hollows were already hidden deep in gloom, and a line of cloud, like a
stream of ink, rose upon the horizon, engulfing the last streaks of
daylight, the wavering gleams which were retreating towards the west.
Below Passy but a few stretches of roofs remained visible; and as the
wave rolled on, darkness soon covered all.

"What a warm evening!" ejaculated Helene, as she sat at the window,
overcome by the heated breeze which was wafted upwards from Paris.

"A grateful night for the poor," exclaimed the Abbe, who stood behind
her. "The autumn will be mild."

That Tuesday Jeanne had fallen into a doze at dessert, and her mother,
perceiving that she was rather tired, had put her to bed. She was
already fast asleep in her cot, while Monsieur Rambaud sat at the
table gravely mending a toy--a mechanical doll, a present from
himself, which both spoke and walked, and which Jeanne had broken. He
excelled in such work as this. Helene on her side feeling the want of
fresh air--for the lingering heats of September were oppressive--had
thrown the window wide open, and gazed with relief on the vast gloomy
ocean of darkness that rolled before her. She had pushed an easy-chair
to the window in order to be alone, but was suddenly surprised to hear
the Abbe speaking to her. "Is the little one warmly covered?" he
gently asked. "On these heights the air is always keen."

She made no reply, however; her heart was craving for silence. She was
tasting the delights of the twilight hour, the vanishing of all
surrounding objects, the hushing of every sound. Gleams, like those of
night-lights, tipped the steeples and towers; that on Saint-Augustin
died out first, the Pantheon for a moment retained a bluish light, and
then the glittering dome of the Invalides faded away, similar to a
moon setting in a rising sea of clouds. The night was like the ocean,
its extent seemingly increased by the gloom, a dark abyss wherein you
divined that a world lay hid. From the unseen city blew a mighty yet
gentle wind. There was still a hum; sounds ascended faint yet clear to
Helene's ears--the sharp rattle of an omnibus rolling along the quay,
the whistle of a train crossing the bridge of the Point-du-Jour; and
the Seine, swollen by the recent storms, and pulsing with the life of
a breathing soul, wound with increased breadth through the shadows far
below. A warm odor steamed upwards from the scorched roofs, while the
river, amidst this exhalation of the daytime heat, seemed to give
forth a cooling breeze. Paris had vanished, sunk in the dreamy repose
of a colossus whose limbs the night has enveloped, and who lies
motionless for a time, but with eyes wide open.

Nothing affected Helene more than this momentary pause in the great
city's life. For the three months during which she had been a close
prisoner, riveted to Jeanne's bedside, she had had no other companion
in her vigil than the huge mass of Paris spreading out towards the
horizon. During the summer heats of July and August the windows had
almost always been left open; she could not cross the room, could not
stir or turn her head, without catching a glimpse of the ever-present
panorama. It was there, whatever the weather, always sharing in her
griefs and hopes, like some friend who would never leave her side. She
was still quite ignorant respecting it; never had it seemed farther
away, never had she given less thought to its streets and its
citizens, and yet it peopled her solitude. The sick-room, whose door
was kept shut to the outside world, looked out through its two windows
upon this city. Often, with her eyes fixed on its expanse, Helene had
wept, leaning on the window-rail in order to hide her tears from her
ailing child. One day, too--the very day when she had imagined her
daughter to be at the point of death--she had remained for a long
time, overcome and choked with grief, watching the smoke which curled
up from the Army Bakehouse. Frequently, moreover, in hours of
hopefulness she had here confided the gladsome feelings of her heart
to the dim and distant suburbs. There was not a single monument which
did not recall to her some sensation of joy or sorrow. Paris shared in
her own existence; and never did she love it better than when the
twilight came, and its day's work over, it surrendered itself to an
hour's quietude, forgetfulness, and reverie, whilst waiting for the
lighting of its gas.

"What a multitude of stars!" murmured Abbe Jouve. "There are thousands
of them gleaming."

He had just taken a chair and sat down at her side. On hearing him,
she gazed upwards into the summer night. The heaven was studded with
golden lights. On the very verge of the horizon a constellation was
sparkling like a carbuncle, while a dust of almost invisible stars
sprinkled the vault above as though with glittering sand.
Charles's-Wain was slowly turning its shaft in the night.

"Look!" said Helene in her turn, "look at that tiny bluish star! See
--far away up there. I recognize it night after night. But it dies and
fades as the night rolls on."

The Abbe's presence no longer annoyed her. With him by her side, she
imagined the quiet was deepening around. A few words passed between
them after long intervals of silence. Twice she questioned him on the
names of the stars--the sight of the heavens had always interested her
--but he was doubtful and pleaded ignorance.

"Do you see," she asked, "that lovely star yonder whose lustre is so
exquisitely clear?"

"On the left, eh?" he replied, "near another smaller, greenish one?
Ah! there are so many of them that my memory fails me."

They again lapsed into silence, their eyes still turned upwards,
dazzled, quivering slightly at the sight of that stupendous swarming
of luminaries. In the vast depths of the heavens, behind thousands of
stars, thousands of others twinkled in ever-increasing multitudes,
with the clear brilliancy of gems. The Milky Way was already
whitening, displaying its solar specks, so innumerable and so distant
that in the vault of the firmament they form but a trailing scarf of

"It fills me with fear," said Helene in a whisper; and that she might
see it all no more she bent her head and glanced down on the gaping
abyss in which Paris seemed to be engulfed. In its depths not a light
could yet be seen; night had rolled over it and plunged it into
impenetrable darkness. Its mighty, continuous rumble seemed to have
sunk into a softer key.

"Are you weeping?" asked the Abbe, who had heard a sound of sobbing.

"Yes," simply answered Helene.

They could not see each other. For a long time she continued weeping,
her whole being exhaling a plaintive murmur. Behind them, meantime,
Jeanne lay at rest in innocent sleep, and Monsieur Rambaud, his whole
attention engrossed, bent his grizzled head over the doll which he had
dismembered. At times he could not prevent the loosened springs from
giving out a creaking noise, a childlike squeaking which his big
fingers, though plied with the utmost gentleness, drew from the
disordered mechanism. If the doll vented too loud a sound, however, he
at once stopped working, distressed and vexed with himself, and
turning towards Jeanne to see if he had roused her. Then once more he
would resume his repairing, with great precautions, his only tools
being a pair of scissors and a bodkin.

"Why do you weep, my daughter?" again asked the Abbe. "Can I not
afford you some relief?"

"Ah! let me be," said Helene; "these tears do me good. By-and-by,

A stifling sensation checked any further words. Once before, in this
very place, she had been convulsed by a storm of tears; but then she
had been alone, free to sob in the darkness till the emotion that
wrung her was dried up at its source. However, she knew of no cause of
sorrow; her daughter was well once more, and she had resumed the old
monotonous delightful life. But it was as though a keen sense of awful
grief had abruptly come upon her; it seemed as if she were rolling
into a bottomless abyss which she could not fathom, sinking with all
who were dear to her in a limitless sea of despair. She knew not what
misfortune hung over her head; but she was without hope, and could
only weep.

Similar waves of feeling had swept over her during the month of the
Virgin in the church laden with the perfume of flowers. And, as
twilight fell, the vastness of Paris filled her with a deep religious
impression. The stretch of plain seemed to expand, and a sadness rose
up from the two millions of living beings who were being engulfed in
darkness. And when it was night, and the city with its subdued
rumbling had vanished from view, her oppressed heart poured forth its
sorrow, and her tears overflowed, in presence of that sovereign peace.
She could have clasped her hands and prayed. She was filled with an
intense craving for faith, love, and a lapse into heavenly
forgetfulness; and the first glinting of the stars overwhelmed her
with sacred terror and enjoyment.

A lengthy interval of silence ensued, and then the Abbe spoke once
more, this time more pressingly.

"My daughter, you must confide in me. Why do you hesitate?"

She was still weeping, but more gently, like a wearied and powerless

"The Church frightens you," he continued. "For a time I thought you
had yielded your heart to God. But it has been willed otherwise.
Heaven has its own purposes. Well, since you mistrust the priest, why
should you refuse to confide in the friend?"

"You are right," she faltered. "Yes, I am sad at heart, and need your
consolation. I must tell you of it all. When I was a child I seldom,
if ever, entered a church; now I cannot be present at a service
without feeling touched to the very depths of my being. Yes; and what
drew tears from me just now was that voice of Paris, sounding like a
mighty organ, that immeasurable night, and those beauteous heavens.
Oh! I would fain believe. Help me; teach me."

Abbe Jouve calmed her somewhat by lightly placing his hand on her own.

"Tell me everything," he merely said.

She struggled for a time, her heart wrung with anguish.

"There's nothing to tell, I assure you. I'm hiding nothing from you. I
weep without cause, because I feel stifled, because my tears gush out
of their own accord. You know what my life has been. No sorrow, no
sin, no remorse could I find in it to this hour. I do not know--I do
not know--"

Her voice died away, and from the priest's lips slowly came the words,
"You love, my daughter!"

She started; she dared not protest. Silence fell on them once more. In
the sea of shadows that slumbered before them a light had glimmered
forth. It seemed at their feet, somewhere in the abyss, but at what
precise spot they would have been unable to specify. And then, one by
one, other lights broke through the darkness, shooting into instant
life, and remaining stationary, scintillating like stars. It seemed as
though thousands of fresh planets were rising on the surface of a
gloomy lake. Soon they stretched out in double file, starting from the
Trocadero, and nimbly leaping towards Paris. Then these files were
intersected by others, curves were described, and a huge, strange,
magnificent constellation spread out. Helene never breathed a word,
but gazed on these gleams of light, which made the heavens seemingly
descend below the line of the horizon, as though indeed the earth had
vanished and the vault of heaven were on every side. And Helene's
heart was again flooded with emotion, as a few minutes before when
Charles's-Wain had slowly begun to revolve round the Polar axis, its
shaft in the air. Paris, studded with lights, stretched out, deep and
sad, prompting fearful thoughts of a firmament swarming with unknown

Meanwhile the priest, in the monotonous, gentle voice which he had
acquired by years of duty in the confessional, continued whispering in
her ear. One evening in the past he had warned her; solitude, he had
said, would be harmful to her welfare. No one could with impunity live
outside the pale of life. She had imprisoned herself too closely, and
the door had opened to perilous thoughts.

"I am very old now, my daughter," he murmured, "and I have frequently
seen women come to us weeping and praying, with a craving to find
faith and religion. Thus it is that I cannot be deceiving myself
to-day. These women, who seem to seek God in so zealous a manner, are
but souls rendered miserable by passion. It is a man whom they worship
in our churches."

She was not listening; a strife was raging in her bosom, amidst her
efforts to read her innermost thoughts aright. And at last confession
came from her in a broken whisper:

"Oh! yes, I love, and that is all! Beyond that I know nothing

He now forbore to interrupt her; she spoke in short feverish
sentences, taking a mournful pleasure in thus confessing her love, in
sharing with that venerable priest the secret which had so long
burdened her.

"I swear I cannot read my thoughts. This has come to me without my
knowing its presence. Perhaps it came in a moment. Only in time did I
realize its sweetness. Besides, why should I deem myself stronger than
I am? I have made no effort to flee from it; I was only too happy, and
to-day I have yet less power of resistance. My daughter was ill; I
almost lost her. Well! my love has been as intense as my sorrow; it
came back with sovereign power after those days of terror--and it
possesses me, I feel transported--"

She shivered and drew a breath.

"In short, my strength fails me. You were right, my friend, in
thinking it would be a relief to confide in you. But, I beseech you,
tell me what is happening in the depths of my heart. My life was once
so peaceful; I was so happy. A thunderbolt has fallen on me. Why on
me? Why not on another? I had done nothing to bring it on; I imagined
myself well protected. Ah, if you only knew--I know myself no longer!
Help me, save me!"

Then as she became silent, the priest, with the wonted freedom of the
confessor, mechanically asked the question:

"The name? tell me his name?"

She was hesitating, when a peculiar noise prompted her to turn her
head. It came from the doll which, in Monsieur Rambaud's hands, was by
degrees renewing its mechanical life, and had just taken three steps
on the table, with a creaking of wheels and springs which showed that
there was still something faulty in its works. Then it had fallen on
its back, and but for the worthy man would have rebounded onto the
ground. He followed all its movements with outstretched hands, ready
to support it, and full of paternal anxiety. The moment he perceived
Helene turn, he smiled confidently towards her, as if to give her an
assurance that the doll would recover its walking powers. And then he
once more dived with scissors and bodkin into the toy. Jeanne still
slept on.

Thereupon Helene, her nerves relaxing under the influence of the
universal quiet, whispered a name in the priest's ear. He never
stirred; in the darkness his face could not be seen. A silence ensued,
and he responded:

"I knew it, but I wanted to hear it from your own lips. My daughter,
yours must be terrible suffering."

He gave utterance to no truisms on the subject of duty. Helene,
overcome, saddened to the heart by this unemotional pity, gazed once
more on the lights which spangled the gloomy veil enshrouding Paris.
They were flashing everywhere in myriads, like the sparks that dart
over the blackened refuse of burnt paper. At first these twinkling
dots had started from the Trocadero towards the heart of the city.
Soon another coruscation had appeared on the left in the direction of
Montmartre; then another had burst into view on the right behind the
Invalides, and still another, more distant near the Pantheon. From all
these centres flights of flames were simultaneously descending.

"You remember our conversation," slowly resumed the Abbe. "My opinion
has not changed. My daughter, you must marry."

"I!" she exclaimed, overwhelmed with amazement. "But I have just
confessed to you--Oh, you know well I cannot--"

"You must marry," he repeated with greater decision. "You will wed
an honest man."

Within the folds of his old cassock he seemed to have grown more
commanding. His large comical-looking head, which, with eyes
half-closed, was usually inclined towards one shoulder, was now
raised erect, and his eyes beamed with such intensity that she saw
them sparkling in the darkness.

"You will marry an honest man, who will be a father to Jeanne, and
will lead you back to the path of goodness."

"But I do not love him. Gracious Heaven! I do not love him!"

"You will love him, my daughter. He loves you, and he is good in

Helene struggled, and her voice sank to a whisper as she heard the
slight noise that Monsieur Rambaud made behind them. He was so patient
and so strong in his hope, that for six months he had not once
intruded his love on her. Disposed by nature to the most heroic
self-sacrifice, he waited in serene confidence. The Abbe stirred, as
though about to turn round.

"Would you like me to tell him everything? He would stretch out his
hand and save you. And you would fill him with joy beyond compare."

She checked him, utterly distracted. Her heart revolted. Both of these
peaceful, affectionate men, whose judgment retained perfect
equilibrium in presence of her feverish passion, were sources of
terror to her. What world could they abide in to be able to set at
naught that which caused her so much agony? The priest, however, waved
his hand with an all-comprehensive gesture.

"My daughter," said he, "look on this lovely night, so supremely still
in presence of your troubled spirit. Why do you refuse happiness?"

All Paris was now illumined. The tiny dancing flames had speckled the
sea of shadows from one end of the horizon to the other, and now, as
in a summer night, millions of fixed stars seemed to be serenely
gleaming there. Not a puff of air, not a quiver of the atmosphere
stirred these lights, to all appearance suspended in space. Paris, now
invisible, had fallen into the depths of an abyss as vast as a
firmament. At times, at the base of the Trocadero, a light--the lamp
of a passing cab or omnibus--would dart across the gloom, sparkling
like a shooting star; and here amidst the radiance of the gas-jets,
from which streamed a yellow haze, a confused jumble of house-fronts
and clustering trees--green like the trees in stage scenery--could be
vaguely discerned. To and fro, across the Pont des Invalides, gleaming
lights flashed without ceasing; far below, across a band of denser
gloom, appeared a marvellous train of comet-like coruscations, from
whose lustrous tails fell a rain of gold. These were the reflections
in the Seine's black waters of the lamps on the bridge. From this
point, however, the unknown began. The long curve of the river was
merely described by a double line of lights, which ever and anon were
coupled to other transverse lines, so that the whole looked like some
glittering ladder, thrown across Paris, with its ends on the verge of
the heavens among the stars.

To the left there was another trench excavated athwart the gloom; an
unbroken chain of stars shone forth down the Champs-Elysees from the
Arc-de-Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, where a new cluster of
Pleiades was flashing; next came the gloomy stretches of the Tuileries
and the Louvre, the blocks of houses on the brink of the water, and
the Hotel-de-Ville away at the extreme end--all these masses of
darkness being parted here and there by bursts of light from some
large square or other; and farther and farther away, amidst the
endless confusion of roofs, appeared scattered gleams, affording faint
glimpses of the hollow of a street below, the corner of some
boulevard, or the brilliantly illuminated meeting-place of several
thoroughfares. On the opposite bank, on the right, the Esplanade alone
could be discerned with any distinctness, its rectangle marked out in
flame, like an Orion of a winter's night bereft of his baldrick. The
long streets of the Saint-Germain district seemed gloomy with their
fringe of infrequent lamps; but the thickly populated quarters beyond
were speckled with a multitude of tiny flames, clustering like
nebulae. Away towards the outskirts, girdling the whole of the
horizon, swarmed street-lamps and lighted windows, filling these
distant parts with a dust, as it were, of those myriads of suns, those
planetary atoms which the naked eye cannot discover. The public
edifices had vanished into the depths of the darkness; not a lamp
marked out their spires and towers. At times you might have imagined
you were gazing on some gigantic festival, some illuminated cyclopean
monument, with staircases, balusters, windows, pediments, and terraces
--a veritable cosmos of stone, whose wondrous architecture was
outlined by the gleaming lights of a myriad lamps. But there was
always a speedy return of the feeling that new constellations were
springing into being, and that the heavens were spreading both above
and below.

Helene, in compliance with the all-embracing sweep of the priest's
hand, cast a lingering look over illumined Paris. Here too she knew
not the names of those seeming stars. She would have liked to ask what
the blaze far below on the left betokened, for she saw it night after
night. There were others also which roused her curiosity, and some of
them she loved, whilst some inspired her with uneasiness or vexation.

"Father," said she, for the first time employing that appellation of
affection and respect, "let me live as I am. The loveliness of the
night has agitated me. You are wrong; you would not know how to
console me, for you cannot understand my feelings."

The priest stretched out his arms, then slowly dropped them to his
side resignedly. And after a pause he said in a whisper:

"Doubtless that was bound to be the case. You call for succor and
reject salvation. How many despairing confessions I have received!
What tears I have been unable to prevent! Listen, my daughter, promise
me one thing only; if ever life should become too heavy a burden for
you, think that one honest man loves you and is waiting for you. To
regain content you will only have to place your hand in his."

"I promise you," answered Helene gravely.

As she made the avowal a ripple of laughter burst through the room.
Jeanne had just awoke, and her eyes were riveted on her doll pacing up
and down the table. Monsieur Rambaud, enthusiastic over the success of
his tinkering, still kept his hands stretched out for fear lest any
accident should happen. But the doll retained its stability, strutted
about on its tiny feet, and turned its head, whilst at every step
repeating the same words after the fashion of a parrot.

"Oh! it's some trick or other!" murmured Jeanne, who was still half
asleep. "What have you done to it--tell me? It was all smashed, and
now it's walking. Give it me a moment; let me see. Oh, you _are_ a

Meanwhile over the gleaming expanse of Paris a rosy cloud was
ascending higher and higher. It might have been thought the fiery
breath of a furnace. At first it was shadowy-pale in the darkness--a
reflected glow scarcely seen. Then slowly, as the evening progressed,
it assumed a ruddier hue; and, hanging in the air, motionless above
the city, deriving its being from all the lights and noisy life which
breathed from below, it seemed like one of those clouds, charged with
flame and lightning, which crown the craters of volcanoes.

                            CHAPTER XVI.

The finger-glasses had been handed round the table, and the ladies
were daintily wiping their hands. A momentary silence reigned, while
Madame Deberle gazed on either side to see if every one had finished;
then, without speaking, she rose, and amidst a noisy pushing back of
chairs, her guests followed her example. An old gentleman who had been
seated at her right hand hastened to offer her his arm.

"No, no," she murmured, as she led him towards a doorway. "We will now
have coffee in the little drawing-room."

The guests, in couples, followed her. Two ladies and two gentlemen,
however, lagged behind the others, continuing their conversation,
without thought of joining the procession. The drawing-room reached,
all constraint vanished, and the joviality which had marked the
dessert made its reappearance. The coffee was already served on a
large lacquer tray on a table. Madame Deberle walked round like a
hostess who is anxious to satisfy the various tastes of her guests.
But it was Pauline who ran about the most, and more particularly
waited on the gentlemen. There were a dozen persons present, about the
regulation number of people invited to the house every Wednesday, from
December onwards. Later in the evening, at ten o'clock, a great many
others would make their appearance.

"Monsieur de Guiraud, a cup of coffee," exclaimed Pauline, as she
halted in front of a diminutive, bald-headed man. "Ah! no, I remember,
you don't take any. Well, then, a glass of Chartreuse?"

But she became confused in discharging her duties, and brought him a
glass of cognac. Beaming with smiles, she made the round of the
guests, perfectly self-possessed, and looking people straight in the
face, while her long train dragged with easy grace behind her. She
wore a magnificent gown of white Indian cashmere trimmed with
swan's-down, and cut square at the bosom. When the gentlemen were all
standing up, sipping their coffee, each with cup in hand and chin high
in the air, she began to tackle a tall young fellow named Tissot, whom
she considered rather handsome.

Helene had not taken any coffee. She had seated herself apart, with a
somewhat wearied expression on her face. Her black velvet gown,
unrelieved by any trimming, gave her an air of austerity. In this
small drawing-room smoking was allowed, and several boxes of cigars
were placed beside her on the pier-table. The doctor drew near; as he
selected a cigar he asked her: "Is Jeanne well?"

"Yes, indeed," she replied. "We walked to the Bois to-day, and she
romped like a madcap. Oh, she must be sound asleep by now."

They were both chatting in friendly tones, with the smiling intimacy
of people who see each other day after day, when Madame Deberle's
voice rose high and shrill:

"Stop! stop! Madame Grandjean can tell you all about it. Didn't I come
back from Trouville on the 10th of September? It was raining, and the
beach had become quite unbearable!"

Three or four of the ladies were gathered round her while she rattled
on about her holdiday at the seaside. Helene found it necessary to
rise and join the group.

"We spent a month at Dinard," said Madame de Chermette. "Such a
delightful place, and such charming society!"

"Behind our chalet was a garden, and we had a terrace overlooking the
sea," went on Madame Deberle. "As you know, I decided on taking my
landau and coachman with me. It was very much handier when I wanted a
drive. Then Madame Levasseur came to see us--"

"Yes, one Sunday," interrupted that lady. "We were at Cabourg. Your
establishment was perfect, but a little too dear, I think."

"By the way," broke in Madame Berthier, addressing Juliette, "didn't
Monsieur Malignon give you lessons in swimming?"

Helene noticed a shadow of vexation, of sudden annoyance, pass over
Madame Deberle's face. Several times already she had fancied that, on
Malignon's name being brought unexpectedly into the conversation,
Madame Deberle suddenly seemed perturbed. However, the young woman
immediately regained her equanimity.

"A fine swimmer, indeed!" she exclaimed. "The idea of him ever giving
lessons to any one! For my part, I have a mortal fear of cold water
--the very sight of people bathing curdles my blood."

She gave an eloquent shiver, with a shrug of her plump shoulders, as
though she were a duck shaking water from her back.

"Then it's a fable?" questioned Madame de Guiraud.

"Of course; and one, I presume, of his own invention. He detests me
since he spent a month with us down there."

People were now beginning to pour in. The ladies, with clusters of
flowers in their hair, and round, plump arms, entered smiling and
nodding; while the men, each in evening dress and hat in hand, bowed
and ventured on some commonplace remark. Madame Deberle, never ceasing
her chatter for a moment, extended the tips of her fingers to the
friends of the house, many of whom said nothing, but passed on with a
bow. However, Mademoiselle Aurelie had just appeared on the scene, and
at once went into raptures over Juliette's dress, which was of
dark-blue velvet, trimmed with faille silk. At this all the ladies
standing round seemed to catch their first glimpse of the dress, and
declared it was exquisite, truly exquisite. It came, they learned,
from Worth's, and they discussed it for five minutes. The guests who
had drunk their coffee had placed their empty cups here and there on
the tray and on the pier-tables; only one old gentleman had not yet
finished, as between every mouthful he paused to converse with a lady.
A warm perfume, the aroma of the coffee and the ladies' dresses
intermingled, permeated the apartment.

"You know I have had nothing," remonstrated young Monsieur Tissot with
Pauline, who had been chatting with him about an artist to whose
studio her father had escorted her with a view to examining the

"What! have you had nothing? Surely I brought you a cup of coffee?"

"No, mademoiselle, I assure you."

"But I insist on your having something. See, here is some Chartreuse."

Madame Deberle had just directed a meaning nod towards her husband.
The doctor, understanding her, thereupon opened the door of a large
drawing-room, into which they all filed, while a servant removed the
coffee-tray. There was almost a chill atmosphere in this spacious
apartment, through which streamed the white light of six lamps and a
chandelier with ten wax candles. There were already some ladies there,
sitting in a semi-circle round the fireplace, but only two or three
men were present, standing amidst the sea of outspread skirts. And
through the open doorway of the smaller drawing-room rang the shrill
voice of Pauline, who had lingered behind in company with young

"Now that I have poured it out, I'm determined you shall drink it.
What would you have me do with it? Pierre has carried off the tray."

Then she entered the larger room, a vision in white, with her dress
trimmed with swan's-down. Her ruddy lips parted, displaying her teeth,
as she smilingly announced: "Here comes Malignon, the exquisite!"

Hand-shaking and bowing were now the order of the day. Monsieur
Deberle had placed himself near the door. His wife, seated with some
other ladies on an extremely low couch, rose every other second. When
Malignon made his appearance, she affected to turn away her head. He
was dressed to perfection; his hair had been curled, and was parted
behind, down to his very neck. On the threshold he had stuck an
eye-glass in his right eye with a slight grimace, which, according to
Pauline, was just the thing; and now he cast a glance around the room.
Having nonchalantly and silently shaken hands with the doctor, he made
his way towards Madame Deberle, in front of whom he respectfully bent
his tall figure.

"Oh, it's you!" she exclaimed, in a voice loud enough to be heard by
everybody. "It seems you go in for swimming now."

He did not guess her meaning, but nevertheless replied, by way of a

"Certainly; I once saved a Newfoundland dog from drowning."

The ladies thought this extremely funny, and even Madame Deberle
seemed disarmed.

"Well, I'll allow you to save Newfoundlands," she answered, "but you
know very well I did not bathe once at Trouville."

"Oh! you're speaking of the lesson I gave you!" he exclaimed. "Didn't
I tell you one night in your dining-room how to move your feet and
hands about?"

All the ladies were convulsed with mirth--he was delightful! Juliette
shrugged her shoulders; it was impossible to engage him in a serious
talk. Then she rose to meet a lady whose first visit this was to her
house, and who was a superb pianist. Helene, seated near the fire, her
lovely face unruffled by any emotion, looked on and listened.
Malignon, especially, seemed to interest her. She saw him execute a
strategical movement which brought him to Madame Deberle's side, and
she could hear the conversation that ensued behind her chair. Of a
sudden there was a change in the tones, and she leaned back to gather
the drift of what was being said.

"Why didn't you come yesterday?" asked Malignon. "I waited for you
till six o'clock."

"Nonsense; you are mad," murmured Juliette.

Thereupon Malignon loudly lisped: "Oh! you don't believe the story
about my Newfoundland! Yet I received a medal for it, and I'll show it
to you."

Then he added, in a whisper: "You gave me your promise--remember."

A family group now entered the drawing-room, and Juliette broke into
complimentary greetings, while Malignon reappeared amongst the ladies,
glass in eye. Helene had become quite pale since overhearing those
hastily spoken words. It was as though a thunderbolt, or something
equally unforeseen and horrible, had fallen on her. How could thoughts
of treachery enter into the mind of that woman whose life was so
happy, whose face betrayed no signs of sorrow, whose cheeks had the
freshness of the rose? She had always known her to be devoid of
brains, displaying an amiable egotism which seemed a guarantee that
she would never commit a foolish action. And over such a fellow as
Malignon, too! The scenes in the garden of an afternoon flashed back
on her memory--she recalled Juliette smiling lovingly as the doctor
kissed her hair. Their love for one another had seemed real enough. An
inexplicable feeling of indignation with Juliette now pervaded Helene,
as though some wrong had been done herself. She felt humiliated for
Henri's sake; she was consumed with jealous rage; and her perturbed
feelings were so plainly mirrored in her face that Mademoiselle
Aurelie asked her: "What is the matter with you? Do you feel ill?"

The old lady had sunk into a seat beside her immediately she had
observed her to be alone. She had conceived a lively friendship for
Helene, and was charmed with the kindly manner in which so sedate and
lovely a woman would listen for hours to her tittle-tattle.

But Helene made no reply. A wild desire sprang up within her to gaze
on Henri, to know what he was doing, and what was the expression of
his face. She sat up, and glancing round the drawing-room, at last
perceived him. He stood talking with a stout, pale man, and looked
completely at his ease, his face wearing its customary refined smile.
She scanned him for a moment, full of a pity which belittled him
somewhat, though all the while she loved him the more with an
affection into which entered some vague idea of watching over him. Her
feelings, still in a whirl of confusion, inspired her with the thought
that she ought to bring him back the happiness he had lost.

"Well, well!" muttered Mademoiselle Aurelie; "it will be pleasant if
Madame de Guiraud's sister favors us with a song. It will be the tenth
time I have heard her sing the 'Turtle-Doves.' That is her stock song
this winter. You know that she is separated from her husband. Do you
see that dark gentleman down there, near the door? They are most
intimate together, I believe. Juliette is compelled to have him here,
for otherwise she wouldn't come!"

"Indeed!" exclaimed Helene.

Madame Deberle was bustling about from one group to another,
requesting silence for a song from Madame de Guiraud's sister. The
drawing-room was now crowded, some thirty ladies being seated in the
centre whispering and laughing together; two, however, had remained
standing, and were talking loudly and shrugging their shoulders in a
pretty way, while five or six men sat quite at home amongst the fair
ones, almost buried beneath the folds of their skirts and trains. A
low "Hush!" ran round the room, the voices died away, and a stolid
look of annoyance crept into every face. Only the fans could be heard
rustling through the heated atmosphere.

Madame de Guiraud's sister sang, but Helene never listened. Her eyes
were now riveted on Malignon, who feigned an intense love of music,
and appeared to be enraptured with the "Turtle Doves." Was it
possible? Could Juliette have turned a willing ear to the amorous
chatter of the young fop? It was at Trouville, no doubt, that some
dangerous game had been played. Malignon now sat in front of Juliette,
marking the time of the music by swaying to and fro with the air of
one who is enraptured. Madame Deberle's face beamed in admiring
complacency, while the doctor, good-natured and patient, silently
awaited the last notes of the song in order to renew his talk with the
stout, pale man.

There was a murmur of applause as the singer's voice died away, and
two or three exclaimed in tones of transport: "Delightful!

Malignon, however, stretching his arms over the ladies' head-dresses,
noiselessly clapped his gloved hands, and repeated "Brava! brava!" in
a voice that rose high above the others.

The enthusiasm promptly came to an end, every face relaxed and smiled,
and a few of the ladies rose, while, with the feeling of general
relief, the buzz of conversation began again. The atmosphere was
growing much warmer, and the waving fans wafted an odor of musk from
the ladies' dresses. At times, amidst the universal chatter, a peal of
pearly laughter would ring out, or some word spoken in a loud tone
would cause many to turn round. Thrice already had Juliette swept into
the smaller drawing-room to request some gentleman who had escaped
thither not to desert the ladies in so rude a fashion. They returned
at her request, but ten minutes afterwards had again vanished.

"It's intolerable," she muttered, with an air of vexation; "not one of
them will stay here."

In the meantime Mademoiselle Aurelie was running over the ladies'
names for Helene's benefit, as this was only the latter's second
evening visit to the doctor's house. The most substantial people of
Passy, some of them rolling in riches, were present. And the old maid
leaned towards Helene and whispered in her ear: "Yes, it seems it's
all arranged. Madame de Chermette is going to marry her daughter to
that tall fair fellow with whom she has flirted for the last eighteen
months. Well, never mind, that will be one mother-in-law who'll be
fond of her son-in-law."

She stopped short, and then burst out in a tone of intense surprise:
"Good gracious! there's Madame Levasseur's husband speaking to that
man. I thought Juliette had sworn never to have them here together."

Helene's glances slowly travelled round the room. Even amongst such
seemingly estimable and honest people as these could there be women of
irregular conduct? With her provincial austerity she was astounded at
the manner in which wrongdoing was winked at in Paris. She railed at
herself for her own painful repugnance when Juliette had shaken hands
with her. Madame Deberle had now seemingly become reconciled with
Malignon; she had curled up her little plump figure in an easy-chair,
where she sat listening gleefully to his jests. Monsieur Deberle
happened to pass them.

"You're surely not quarrelling to-night?" asked he.

"No," replied Juliette, with a burst of merriment. "He's talking too
much silly nonsense. If you had heard all the nonsense he's been

There now came some more singing, but silence was obtained with
greater difficulty. The aria selected was a duet from _La Favorita_,
sung by young Monsieur Tissot and a lady of ripened charms, whose hair
was dressed in childish style. Pauline, standing at one of the doors,
amidst a crowd of black coats, gazed at the male singer with a look of
undisguised admiration, as though she were examining a work of art.

"What a handsome fellow!" escaped from her lips, just as the
accompaniment subsided into a softer key, and so loud was her voice
that the whole drawing-room heard the remark.

As the evening progressed the guests' faces began to show signs of
weariness. Ladies who had occupied the same seat for hours looked
bored, though they knew it not,--they were even delighted at being
able to get bored here. In the intervals between the songs, which were
only half listened to, the murmur of conversation again resounded, and
it seemed as though the deep notes of the piano were still echoing.
Monsieur Letellier related how he had gone to Lyons for the purpose of
inspecting some silk he had ordered, and how he had been greatly
impressed by the fact that the Saone did not mingle its waters with
those of the Rhone. Monsieur de Guiraud, who was a magistrate, gave
vent to some sententious observations on the need of stemming the vice
of Paris. There was a circle round a gentleman who was acquainted with
a Chinaman, and was giving some particulars of his friend. In a corner
two ladies were exchanging confidences about the failings of their
servants; whilst literature was being discussed by those among whom
Malignon sat enthroned. Madame Tissot declared Balzac to be
unreadable, and Malignon did not deny it, but remarked that here and
there, at intervals far and few, some very fine passages occurred in

"A little silence, please!" all at once exclaimed Pauline; "she's just
going to play."

The lady whose talent as a musician had been so much spoken of had
just sat down to the piano. In accordance with the rules of
politeness, every head was turned towards her. But in the general
stillness which ensued the deep voices of the men conversing in the
small drawing-room could be heard. Madame Deberle was in despair.

"They are a nuisance!" she muttered. "Let them stay there, if they
don't want to come in; but at least they ought to hold their tongues!"

She gave the requisite orders to Pauline, who, intensely delighted,
ran into the adjacent apartment to carry out her instructions.

"You must know, gentlemen, that a lady is going to play," she said,
with the quiet boldness of a maiden in queenly garb. "You are
requested to keep silence."

She spoke in a very loud key, her voice being naturally shrill. And,
as she lingered with the men, laughing and quizzing, the noise grew
more pronounced than ever. There was a discussion going on among these
males, and she supplied additional matter for argument. In the larger
drawing-room Madame Deberle was in agony. The guests, moreover, had
been sated with music, and no enthusiasm was displayed; so the pianist
resumed her seat, biting her lips, notwithstanding the laudatory
compliments which the lady of the house deemed it her duty to lavish
on her.

Helene was pained. Henri scarcely seemed to see her; he had made no
attempt to approach her, and only at intervals smiled to her from
afar. At the earlier part of the evening she had felt relieved by his
prudent reserve; but since she had learnt the secret of the two others
she wished for something--she knew not what--some display of
affection, or at least interest, on his part. Her breast was stirred
with confused yearnings, and every imaginable evil thought. Did he no
longer care for her, that he remained so indifferent to her presence?
Oh! if she could have told him everything! If she could apprise him of
the unworthiness of the woman who bore his name! Then, while some
short, merry catches resounded from the piano, she sank into a dreamy
state. She imagined that Henri had driven Juliette from his home, and
she was living with him as his wife in some far-away foreign land, the
language of which they knew not.

All at once a voice startled her.

"Won't you take anything?" asked Pauline.

The drawing-room had emptied, and the guests were passing into the
dining-room to drink some tea. Helene rose with difficulty. She was
dazed; she thought she had dreamt it all--the words she had heard,
Juliette's secret intrigue, and its consequences. If it had all been
true, Henri would surely have been at her side and ere this both would
have quitted the house.

"Will you take a cup of tea?"

She smiled and thanked Madame Deberle, who had kept a place for her at
the table. Plates loaded with pastry and sweetmeats covered the cloth,
while on glass stands arose two lofty cakes, flanking a large
_brioche_. The space was limited, and the cups of tea were crowded
together, narrow grey napkins with long fringes lying between each
two. The ladies only were seated. They held biscuits and preserved
fruits with the tips of their ungloved fingers, and passed each other
the cream-jugs and poured out the cream with dainty gestures. Three or
four, however, had sacrificed themselves to attend on the men, who
were standing against the walls, and, while drinking, taking all
conceivable precautions to ward off any push which might be
unwittingly dealt them. A few others lingered in the two
drawing-rooms, waiting for the cakes to come to them. This was the
hour of Pauline's supreme delight. There was a shrill clamor of noisy
tongues, peals of laughter mingled with the ringing clatter of silver
plate, and the perfume of musk grew more powerful as it blended with
the all-pervading fragrance of the tea.

"Kindly pass me some cake," said Mademoiselle Aurelie to Helene, close
to whom she happened to find herself. "These sweetmeats are frauds!"

She had, however, already emptied two plates of them. And she
continued, with her mouth full:

"Oh! some of the people are beginning to go now. We shall be a little
more comfortable."

In truth, several ladies were now leaving, after shaking hands with
Madame Deberle. Many of the gentlemen had already wisely vanished, and
the room was becoming less crowded. Now came the opportunity for the
remaining gentlemen to sit down at table in their turn. Mademoiselle
Aurelie, however, did not quit her place, though she would much have
liked to secure a glass of punch.

"I will get you one," said Helene, starting to her feet.

"No, no, thank you. You must not inconvenience yourself so much."

For a short time Helene had been watching Malignon. He had just shaken
hands with the doctor, and was now bidding farewell to Juliette at the
doorway. She had a lustrous face and sparkling eyes, and by her
complacent smile it might have been imagined that she was receiving
some commonplace compliments on the evening's success. While Pierre
was pouring out the punch at a sideboard near the door, Helene stepped
forward in such wise as to be hidden from view by the curtain, which
had been drawn back. She listened.

[Illustration: Malignon appoints a Rendezvous with Juliette]

"I beseech you," Malignon was saying, "come the day after to-morrow. I
shall wait for you till three o'clock."

"Why cannot you talk seriously," replied Madame Deberle, with a laugh.
"What foolish things you say!"

But with greater determination he repeated: "I shall wait for you--the
day after to-morrow."

Then she hurriedly gave a whispered reply:

"Very well--the day after to-morrow."

Malignon bowed and made his exit. Madame de Chermette followed in
company with Madame Tissot. Juliette, in the best of spirits, walked
with them into the hall, and said to the former of these ladies with
her most amiable look:

"I shall call on you the day after to-morrow. I have a lot of calls to
make that day."

Helene stood riveted to the floor, her face quite white. Pierre, in
the meanwhile, had poured out the punch, and now handed the glass to
her. She grasped it mechanically and carried it to Mademoiselle
Aurelie, who was making an inroad on the preserved fruits.

"Oh, you are far too kind!" exclaimed the old maid. "I should have
made a sign to Pierre. I'm sure it's a shame not offering the punch to
ladies. Why, when people are my age--"

She got no further, however, for she observed the ghastliness of
Helene's face. "You surely are in pain! You must take a drop of

"Thank you, it's nothing. The heat is so oppressive--"

She staggered, and turned aside into the deserted drawing-room, where
she dropped into an easy-chair. The lamps were shedding a reddish
glare; and the wax candles in the chandelier, burnt to their sockets,
threatened imminent destruction to the crystal sconces. From the
dining-room were wafted the farewells of the departing guests. Helene
herself had lost all thoughts of going; she longed to linger where she
was, plunged in thought. So it was no dream after all; Juliette would
visit that man the day after to-morrow--she knew the day. Then the
thought struck her that she ought to speak to Juliette and warn her
against sin. But this kindly thought chilled her to the heart, and she
drove it from her mind as though it were out of place, and deep in
meditation gazed at the grate, where a smouldering log was crackling.
The air was still heavy and oppressive with the perfumes from the
ladies' hair.

"What! you are here!" exclaimed Juliette as she entered. "Well, you
are kind not to run away all at once. At last we can breathe!"

Helene was surprised, and made a movement as though about to rise; but
Juliette went on: "Wait, wait, you are in no hurry. Henri, get me my

Three or four persons, intimate friends, had lingered behind the
others. They sat before the dying fire and chatted with delightful
freedom, while the vast room wearily sank into a doze. The doors were
open, and they saw the smaller drawing-room empty, the dining-room
deserted, the whole suite of rooms still lit up and plunged in
unbroken silence. Henri displayed a tender gallantry towards his wife;
he had run up to their bedroom for her smelling-salts, which she
inhaled with closed eyes, whilst he asked her if she had not fatigued
herself too much. Yes, she felt somewhat tired; but she was delighted
--everything had gone off so well. Next she told them that on her
reception nights she could not sleep, but tossed about till six
o'clock in the morning. Henri's face broke into a smile, and some
quizzing followed. Helene looked at them, and quivered amidst the
benumbing drowsiness which little by little seemed to fall upon the
whole house.

However, only two guests now remained. Pierre had gone in search of a
cab. Helene remained the last. One o'clock struck. Henri, no longer
standing on ceremony, rose on tiptoe and blew out two candles in the
chandelier which were dangerously heating their crystal sconces. As
the lights died out one by one, it seemed like a bedroom scene, the
gloom of an alcove spreading over all.

"I am keeping you up!" exclaimed Helene, as she suddenly rose to her
feet. "You must turn me out."

A flush of red dyed her face; her blood, racing through her veins,
seemed to stifle her. They walked with her into the hall, but the air
there was chilly, and the doctor was somewhat alarmed for his wife in
her low dress.

"Go back; you will do yourself harm. You are too warm."

"Very well; good-bye," said Juliette, embracing Helene, as was her
wont in her most endearing moments. "Come and see me oftener."

Henri had taken Helene's fur coat in his hand, and held it
outstretched to assist her in putting it on. When she had slipped her
arms into the sleeves, he turned up the collar with a smile, while
they stood in front of an immense mirror which covered one side of the
hall. They were alone, and saw one another in the mirror's depths. For
three months, on meeting and parting they had simply shaken hands in
friendly greeting; they would fain that their love had died. But now
Helene was overcome, and sank back into his arms. The smile vanished
from his face, which became impassioned, and, still clasping her, he
kissed her on the neck. And she, raising her head, returned his kiss.

                           CHAPTER XVII.

That night Helene was unable to sleep. She turned from side to side in
feverish unrest, and whenever a drowsy stupor fell on her senses, the
old sorrows would start into new life within her breast. As she dozed
and the nightmare increased, one fixed thought tortured her--she was
eager to know where Juliette and Malignon would meet. This knowledge,
she imagined, would be a source of relief to her. Where, where could
it be? Despite herself, her brain throbbed with the thought, and she
forgot everything save her craving to unravel this mystery, which
thrilled her with secret longings.

When day dawned and she began to dress, she caught herself saying
loudly: "It will be to-morrow!"

With one stocking on, and hands falling helpless to her side, she
lapsed for a while into a fresh dreamy fit. "Where, where was it that
they had agreed to meet?"

"Good-day, mother, darling!" just then exclaimed Jeanne who had
awakened in her turn.

As her strength was now returning to her, she had gone back to sleep
in her cot in the closet. With bare feet and in her nightdress she
came to throw herself on Helene's neck, as was her every-day custom;
then back again she rushed, to curl herself up in her warm bed for a
little while longer. This jumping in and out amused her, and a ripple
of laughter stole from under the clothes. Once more she bounded into
the bedroom, saying: "Good-morning, mammy dear!"

And again she ran off, screaming with laughter. Then she threw the
sheet over her head, and her cry came, hoarse and muffled, from
beneath it: "I'm not there! I'm not there!"

But Helene was in no mood for play, as on other mornings; and Jeanne,
dispirited, fell asleep again. The day was still young. About eight
o'clock Rosalie made her appearance to recount the morning's chapter
of accidents. Oh! the streets were awful outside; in going for the
milk her shoes had almost come off in the muddy slush. All the ice was
thawing; and it was quite mild too, almost oppressive. Oh! by the way,
she had almost forgotten! an old woman had come to see madame the
night before.

"Why!" she said, as there came a pull at the bell, "I expect that's

It was Mother Fetu, but Mother Fetu transformed, magnificent in a
clean white cap, a new gown, and tartan shawl wrapped round her
shoulders. Her voice, however, still retained its plaintive tone of

"Dear lady, it's only I, who have taken the liberty of calling to ask
you about something!"

Helene gazed at her, somewhat surprised by her display of finery.

"Are you better, Mother Fetu?"

"Oh yes, yes; I feel better, if I may venture to say so. You see I
always have something queer in my inside; it knocks me about
dreadfully, but still I'm better. Another thing, too; I've had a
stroke of luck; it was a surprise, you see, because luck hasn't often
come in my way. But a gentleman has made me his housekeeper--and oh!
it's such a story!"

Her words came slowly, and her small keen eyes glittered in her face,
furrowed by a thousand wrinkles. She seemed to be waiting for Helene
to question her; but the young woman sat close to the fire which
Rosalie had just lit, and paid scant attention to her, engrossed as
she was in her own thoughts, with a look of pain on her features.

"What do you want to ask me?" she at last said to Mother Fetu.

The old lady made no immediate reply. She was scrutinizing the room,
with its rosewood furniture and blue velvet hangings. Then, with the
humble and fawning air of a pauper, she muttered: "Pardon me, madame,
but everything is so beautiful here. My gentleman has a room like
this, but it's all in pink. Oh! it's such a story! Just picture to
yourself a young man of good position who has taken rooms in our
house. Of course, it isn't much of a place, but still our first and
second floors are very nice. Then, it's so quiet, too! There's no
traffic; you could imagine yourself in the country. The workmen have
been in the house for a whole fortnight; they have made such a jewel
of his room!"

She here paused, observing that Helene's attention was being aroused.

"It's for his work," she continued in a drawling voice; "he says it's
for his work. We have no doorkeeper, you know, and that pleases him.
Oh! my gentleman doesn't like doorkeepers, and he is quite right,

Once more she came to a halt, as though an idea had suddenly occurred
to her.

"Why, wait a minute; you must know him--of course you must. He visits
one of your lady friends!"

"Ah!" exclaimed Helene, with colorless face.

"Yes, to be sure; the lady who lives close by--the one who used to go
with you to church. She came the other day."

Mother Fetu's eyes contracted, and from under the lids she took note
of her benefactress's emotion. But Helene strove to question her in a
tone that would not betray her agitation.

"Did she go up?"

"No, she altered her mind; perhaps she had forgotten something. But I
was at the door. She asked for Monsieur Vincent, and then got back
into her cab again, calling to the driver to return home, as it was
too late. Oh! she's such a nice, lively, and respectable lady. The
gracious God doesn't send many such into the world. Why, with the
exception of yourself, she's the best--well, well, may Heaven bless
you all!"

In this way Mother Fetu rambled on with the pious glibness of a
devotee who is perpetually telling her beads. But the twitching of the
myriad wrinkles of her face showed that her mind was still working,
and soon she beamed with intense satisfaction.

"Ah!" she all at once resumed in inconsequent fashion, "how I should
like to have a pair of good shoes! My gentleman has been so very kind,
I can't ask him for anything more. You see I'm dressed; still I must
get a pair of good shoes. Look at those I have; they are all holes;
and when the weather's muddy, as it is to-day, one's apt to get very
ill. Yes, I was down with colic yesterday; I was writhing all the
afternoon, but if I had a pair of good shoes--"

"I'll bring you a pair, Mother Fetu," said Helene, waving her towards
the door.

Then, as the old woman retired backwards, with profuse curtseying and
thanks, she asked her: "At what hour are you alone?"

"My gentleman is never there after six o'clock," she answered. "But
don't give yourself the trouble; I'll come myself, and get them from
your doorkeeper. But you can do as you please. You are an angel from
heaven. God on high will requite you for all your kindness!"

When she had reached the landing she could still be heard giving vent
to her feelings. Helene sat a long time plunged in the stupor which
the information, supplied by this woman with such fortuitous
seasonableness, had brought upon her. She now knew the place of
assignation. It was a room, with pink decorations, in that old
tumbledown house! She once more pictured to herself the staircase
oozing with damp, the yellow doors on each landing, grimy with the
touch of greasy hands, and all the wretchedness which had stirred her
heart to pity when she had gone during the previous winter to visit
Mother Fetu; and she also strove to conjure up a vision of that pink
chamber in the midst of such repulsive, poverty-stricken surroundings.
However, whilst she was still absorbed in her reverie, two tiny warm
hands were placed over her eyes, which lack of sleep had reddened, and
a laughing voice inquired: "Who is it? who is it?"

It was Jeanne, who had slipped into her clothes without assistance.
Mother Fetu's voice had awakened her; and perceiving that the closet
door had been shut, she had made her toilet with the utmost speed in
order to give her mother a surprise.

"Who is it? who is it?" she again inquired, convulsed more and more
with laughter.

She turned to Rosalie, who entered at the moment with the breakfast.

"You know; don't you speak. Nobody is asking you any question."

"Be quiet, you little madcap!" exclaimed Helene. "I suppose it's you!"

The child slipped on to her mother's lap, and there, leaning back and
swinging to and fro, delighted with the amusement she had devised, she

"Well, it might have been another little girl! Eh? Perhaps some little
girl who had brought you a letter of invitation to dine with her
mamma. And she might have covered your eyes, too!"

"Don't be silly," exclaimed Helene, as she set her on the floor. "What
are you talking about? Rosalie, let us have breakfast."

The maid's eyes, however, were riveted on the child, and she commented
upon her little mistress being so oddly dressed. To tell the truth, so
great had been Jeanne's haste that she had not put on her shoes. She
had drawn on a short flannel petticoat which allowed a glimpse of her
chemise, and had left her morning jacket open, so that you could see
her delicate, undeveloped bosom. With her hair streaming behind her,
stamping about in her stockings, which were all awry, she looked
charming, all in white like some child of fairyland.

She cast down her eyes to see herself, and immediately burst into

"Look, mamma, I look nice, don't I? Won't you let me be as I am? It is

Repressing a gesture of impatience, Helene, as was her wont every
morning, inquired: "Are you washed?"

"Oh, mamma!" pleaded the child, her joy suddenly dashed. "Oh, mamma!
it's raining; it's too nasty!"

"Then, you'll have no breakfast. Wash her, Rosalie."

She usually took this office upon herself, but that morning she felt
altogether out of sorts, and drew nearer to the fire, shivering,
although the weather was so balmy. Having spread a napkin and placed
two white china bowls on a small round table, Rosalie had brought the
latter close to the fireplace. The coffee and milk steamed before the
fire in a silver pot, which had been a present from Monsieur Rambaud.
At this early hour the disorderly, drowsy room seemed delightfully

"Mamma, mamma!" screamed Jeanne from the depths of the closet, "she's
rubbing me too hard. It's taking my skin off. Oh dear! how awfully

Helene, with eyes fixed on the coffee-pot, remained engrossed in
thought. She desired to know everything, so she would go. The thought
of that mysterious place of assignation in so squalid a nook of Paris
was an ever-present pain and vexation. She judged such taste hateful,
but in it she identified Malignon's leaning towards romance.

"Mademoiselle," declared Rosalie, "if you don't let me finish with
you, I shall call madame."

"Stop, stop: you are poking the soap into my eyes," answered Jeanne,
whose voice was hoarse with sobs. "Leave me alone; I've had enough of
it. The ears can wait till to-morrow."

But the splashing of water went on, and the squeezing of the sponge
into the basin could be heard. There was a clamor and a struggle, the
child was sobbing; but almost immediately afterward she made her
appearance, shouting gaily: "It's over now; it's over now!"

Her hair was still glistening with wet, and she shook herself, her
face glowing with the rubbing it had received and exhaling a fresh and
pleasant odor. In her struggle to get free her jacket had slipped from
her shoulders, her petticoat had become loosened, and her stockings
had tumbled down, displaying her bare legs. According to Rosalie, she
looked like an infant Jesus. Jeanne, however, felt very proud that she
was clean; she had no wish to be dressed again.

"Look at me, mamma; look at my hands, and my neck, and my ears. Oh!
you must let me warm myself; I am so comfortable. You don't say
anything; surely I've deserved my breakfast to-day."

She had curled herself up before the fire in her own little
easy-chair. Then Rosalie poured out the coffee and milk. Jeanne took
her bowl on her lap, and gravely soaked her toast in its contents with
all the airs of a grown-up person. Helene had always forbidden her to
eat in this way, but that morning she remained plunged in thought. She
did not touch her own bread, and was satisfied with drinking her coffee.
Then Jeanne, after swallowing her last morsel, was stung with remorse.
Her heart filled, she put aside her bowl, and gazing on her mother's
pale face, threw herself on her neck: "Mamma, are you ill now? I
haven't vexed you, have I?--say."

"No, no, my darling, quite the contrary; you're very good," murmured
Helene as she embraced her. "I'm only a little wearied; I haven't
slept well. Go on playing: don't be uneasy."

The thought occurred to her that the day would prove a terribly long
one. What could she do whilst waiting for the night? For some time
past she had abandoned her needlework; sewing had become a terrible
weariness. For hours she lingered in her seat with idle hands, almost
suffocating in her room, and craving to go out into the open air for
breath, yet never stirring. It was this room which made her ill; she
hated it, in angry exasperation over the two years which she had spent
within its walls; its blue velvet and the vast panorama of the mighty
city disgusted her, and her thoughts dwelt on a lodging in some busy
street, the uproar of which would have deafened her. Good heavens! how
long were the hours! She took up a book, but the fixed idea that
engrossed her mind continually conjured up the same visions between
her eyes and the page of print.

In the meantime Rosalie had been busy setting the room in order;
Jeanne's hair also had been brushed, and she was dressed. While her
mother sat at the window, striving to read, the child, who was in one
of her moods of obstreperous gaiety, began playing a grand game. She
was all alone; but this gave her no discomfort; she herself
represented three or four persons in turn with comical earnestness and
gravity. At first she played the lady going on a visit. She vanished
into the dining-room, and returned bowing and smiling, her head
nodding this way and that in the most coquettish style.

"Good-day, madame! How are you, madame? How long it is since I've seen
you! A marvellously long time, to be sure! Dear me, I've been so ill,
madame! Yes; I've had the cholera; it's very disagreeable. Oh! it
doesn't show; no, no, it makes you look younger, on my word of honor.
And your children, madame? Oh! I've had three since last summer!"

So she rattled on, never ceasing her curtseying to the round table,
which doubtless represented the lady she was visiting. Next she
ventured to bring the chairs closer together, and for an hour carried
on a general conversation, her talk abounding in extraordinary

"Don't be silly," said her mother at intervals, when the chatter put
her out of patience.

"But, mamma, I'm paying my friend a visit. She's speaking to me, and I
must answer her. At tea nobody ought to put the cakes in their
pockets, ought they?"

Then she turned and began again:

"Good-bye, madame; your tea was delicious. Remember me most kindly to
your husband."

The next moment came something else. She was going out shopping in her
carriage, and got astride of a chair like a boy.

"Jean, not so quick; I'm afraid. Stop! stop! here is the milliner's!
Mademoiselle, how much is this bonnet? Three hundred francs; that
isn't dear. But it isn't pretty. I should like it with a bird on it--a
bird big like that! Come, Jean, drive me to the grocer's. Have you
some honey? Yes, madame, here is some. Oh, how nice it is! But I don't
want any of it; give me two sous' worth of sugar. Oh! Jean, look, take
care! There! we have had a spill! Mr. Policeman, it was the cart which
drove against us. You're not hurt, madame, are you? No, sir, not in
the least. Jean, Jean! home now. Gee-up! gee-up. Wait a minute; I must
order some chemises. Three dozen chemises for madame. I want some
boots too and some stays. Gee-up! gee-up! Good gracious, we shall
never get back again."

Then she fanned herself, enacting the part of the lady who has
returned home and is finding fault with her servants. She never
remained quiet for a moment; she was in a feverish ecstasy, full of
all sorts of whimsical ideas; all the life she knew surged up in her
little brain and escaped from it in fragments. Morning and afternoon
she thus moved about, dancing and chattering; and when she grew tired,
a footstool or parasol discovered in a corner, or some shred of stuff
lying on the floor, would suffice to launch her into a new game in
which her effervescing imagination found fresh outlet. Persons,
places, and incidents were all of her own creation, and she amused
herself as much as though twelve children of her own age had been
beside her.

But evening came at last. Six o'clock was about to strike. And Helene,
rousing herself from the troubled stupor in which she had spent the
afternoon, hurriedly threw a shawl over her shoulders.

"Are you going out, mamma?" asked Jeanne in her surprise.

"Yes, my darling, just for a walk close by. I won't be long; be good."

Outside it was still thawing. The footways were covered with mud. In
the Rue de Passy, Helene entered a boot shop, to which she had taken
Mother Fetu on a previous occasion. Then she returned along the Rue
Raynouard. The sky was grey, and from the pavement a mist was rising.
The street stretched dimly before her, deserted and fear-inspiring,
though the hour was yet early. In the damp haze the infrequent
gas-lamps glimmered like yellow spots. She quickened her steps, keeping
close to the houses, and shrinking from sight as though she were on
the way to some assignation. However, as she hastily turned into the
Passage des Eaux, she halted beneath the archway, her heart giving way
to genuine terror. The passage opened beneath her like some black
gulf. The bottom of it was invisible; the only thing she could see in
this black tunnel was the quivering gleam of the one lamp which
lighted it. Eventually she made up her mind, and grasped the iron
railing to prevent herself from slipping. Feeling her way with the tip
of her boots she landed successively on the broad steps. The walls,
right and left, grew closer, seemingly prolonged by the darkness,
while the bare branches of the trees above cast vague shadows, like
those of gigantic arms with closed or outstretched hands. She trembled
as she thought that one of the garden doors might open and a man
spring out upon her. There were no passers-by, however, and she
stepped down as quickly as possible. Suddenly from out of the darkness
loomed a shadow which coughed, and she was frozen with fear; but it
was only an old woman creeping with difficulty up the path. Then she
felt less uneasy, and carefully raised her dress, which had been
trailing in the mud. So thick was the latter that her boots were
constantly sticking to the steps. At the bottom she turned aside
instinctively. From the branches the raindrops dripped fast into the
passage, and the lamp glimmered like that of some miner, hanging to
the side of a pit which infiltrations have rendered dangerous.

Helene climbed straight to the attic she had so often visited at the
top of the large house abutting on the Passage. But nothing stirred,
although she rapped loudly. In considerable perplexity she descended
the stairs again. Mother Fetu was doubtless in the rooms on the first
floor, where, however, Helene dared not show herself. She remained
five minutes in the entry, which was lighted by a petroleum lamp. Then
again she ascended the stairs hesitatingly, gazing at each door, and
was on the point of going away, when the old woman leaned over the

"What! it's you on the stairs, my good lady!" she exclaimed. "Come in,
and don't catch cold out there. Oh! it is a vile place--enough to kill

"No, thank you," said Helene; "I've brought you your pair of shoes,
Mother Fetu."

She looked at the door which Mother Fetu had left open behind her, and
caught a glimpse of a stove within.

"I'm all alone, I assure you," declared the old woman. "Come in. This
is the kitchen here. Oh! you're not proud with us poor folks; we can
talk to you!"

Despite the repugnance which shame at the purpose of her coming
created within her, Helene followed her.

"God in Heaven! how can I thank you! Oh, what lovely shoes! Wait, and
I'll put them on. There's my whole foot in; it fits me like a glove.
Bless the day! I can walk with these without being afraid of the rain.
Oh! my good lady, you are my preserver; you've given me ten more years
of life. No, no, it's no flattery; it's what I think, as true as
there's a lamp shining on us. No, no, I don't flatter!"

She melted into tears as she spoke, and grasping Helene's hands kissed
them. In a stewpan on the stove some wine was being heated, and on the
table, near the lamp, stood a half-empty bottle of Bordeaux with its
tapering neck. The only other things placed there were four dishes, a
glass, two saucepans, and an earthenware pot. It could be seen that
Mother Fetu camped in this bachelor's kitchen, and that the fires were
lit for herself only. Seeing Helene's glance turn towards the stewpan,
she coughed, and once more put on her dolorous expression.

"It's gripping me again," she groaned. "Oh! it's useless for the
doctor to talk; I must have some creature in my inside. And then, a
drop of wine relieves me so. I'm greatly afflicted, my good lady. I
wouldn't have a soul suffer from my trouble; it's too dreadful. Well,
I'm nursing myself a bit now; and when a person has passed through so
much, isn't it fair she should do so? I have been so lucky in falling
in with a nice gentleman. May Heaven bless him!"

With this outburst she dropped two large lumps of sugar into her wine.
She was now getting more corpulent than ever, and her little eyes had
almost vanished from her fat face. She moved slowly with a beatifical
expression of felicity. Her life's ambition was now evidently
satisfied. For this she had been born. When she put her sugar away
again Helene caught a glimpse of some tid-bits secreted at the bottom
of a cupboard--a jar of preserves, a bag of biscuits, and even some
cigars, all doubtless pilfered from the gentleman lodger.

"Well, good-bye, Mother Fetu, I'm going away," she exclaimed.

The old lady, however, pushed the saucepan to one side of the stove
and murmured: "Wait a minute; this is far too hot, I'll drink it
by-and-by. No, no; don't go out that way. I must beg pardon for
having received you in the kitchen. Let us go round the rooms."

She caught up the lamp, and turned into a narrow passage. Helene, with
beating heart, followed close behind. The passage, dilapidated and
smoky, was reeking with damp. Then a door was thrown open, and she
found herself treading a thick carpet. Mother Fetu had already
advanced into a room which was plunged in darkness and silence.

"Well?" she asked, as she lifted up the lamp; "it's very nice, isn't

There were two rooms, each of them square, communicating with one
another by folding-doors, which had been removed, and replaced by
curtains. Both were hung with pink cretonne of a Louis Quinze pattern,
picturing chubby-checked cupids disporting themselves amongst garlands
of flowers. In the first apartment there was a round table, two
lounges, and some easy-chairs; and in the second, which was somewhat
smaller, most of the space was occupied by the bed. Mother Fetu drew
attention to a crystal lamp with gilt chains, which hung from the
ceiling. To her this lamp was the veritable acme of luxury.

Then she began explaining things: "You can't imagine what a funny
fellow he is! He lights it up in mid-day, and stays here, smoking a
cigar and gazing into vacancy. But it amuses him, it seems. Well, it
doesn't matter; I've an idea he must have spent a lot of money in his

Helene went through the rooms in silence. They seemed to her in bad
taste. There was too much pink everywhere; the furniture also looked
far too new.

"He calls himself Monsieur Vincent," continued the old woman, rambling
on. "Of course, it's all the same to me. As long as he pays, my

"Well, good-bye, Mother Fetu," said Helene, in whose throat a feeling
of suffocation was gathering.

She was burning to get away, but on opening a door she found herself
threading three small rooms, the bareness and dirt of which were
repulsive. The paper hung in tatters from the walls, the ceilings were
grimy, and old plaster littered the broken floors. The whole place was
pervaded by a smell of long prevalent squalor.

"Not that way! not that way!" screamed Mother Fetu. "That door is
generally shut. These are the other rooms which they haven't attempted
to clean. My word! it's cost him quite enough already! Yes, indeed,
these aren't nearly so nice! Come this way, my good lady--come this

On Helene's return to the pink boudoir, she stopped to kiss her hand
once more.

"You see, I'm not ungrateful! I shall never forget the shoes. How well
they fit me! and how warm they are! Why, I could walk half-a-dozen
miles with them. What can I beg Heaven to grant you? O Lord, hearken
to me, and grant that she may be the happiest of women--in the name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!" A devout enthusiasm had
suddenly come upon Mother Fetu; she repeated the sign of the cross
again and again, and bowed the knee in the direction of the crystal
lamp. This done, she opened the door conducting to the landing, and
whispered in a changed voice into Helene's ear:

"Whenever you like to call, just knock at the kitchen door; I'm always

Dazed, and glancing behind her as though she were leaving a place of
dubious repute, Helene hurried down the staircase, reascended the
Passage des Eaux, and regained the Rue Vineuse, without consciousness
of the ground she was covering. The old woman's last words still rang
in her ears. In truth, no; never again would she set foot in that
house, never again would she bear her charity thither. Why should she
ever rap at the kitchen door again? At present she was satisfied; she
had seen what was to be seen. And she was full of scorn for herself
--for everybody. How disgraceful to have gone there! The recollection of
the place with its tawdry finery and squalid surroundings filled her
with mingled anger and disgust.

"Well, madame," exclaimed Rosalie, who was awaiting her return on the
staircase, "the dinner will be nice. Dear, oh dear! it's been burning
for half an hour!"

At table Jeanne plagued her mother with questions. Where had she been?
what had she been about? However, as the answers she received proved
somewhat curt, she began to amuse herself by giving a little dinner.
Her doll was perched near her on a chair, and in a sisterly fashion
she placed half of her dessert before it.

"Now, mademoiselle, you must eat like a lady. See, wipe your mouth.
Oh, the dirty little thing! She doesn't even know how to wear her
napkin! There, you're nice now. See, here is a biscuit. What do you
say? You want some preserve on it. Well, I should think it better as
it is! Let me pare you a quarter of this apple!"

She placed the doll's share on the chair. But when she had emptied her
own plate she took the dainties back again one after the other and
devoured them, speaking all the time as though she were the doll.

"Oh! it's delicious! I've never eaten such nice jam! Where did you get
this jam, madame? I shall tell my husband to buy a pot of it. Do those
beautiful apples come from your garden, madame?"

She fell asleep while thus playing, and stumbled into the bedroom with
the doll in her arms. She had given herself no rest since morning. Her
little legs could no longer sustain her--she was helpless and wearied
to death. However, a ripple of laughter passed over her face even in
sleep; in her dreams she must have been still continuing her play.

At last Helene was alone in her room. With closed doors she spent a
miserable evening beside the dead fire. Her will was failing her;
thoughts that found no utterance were stirring within the innermost
recesses of her heart. At midnight she wearily sought her bed, but
there her torture passed endurance. She dozed, she tossed from side to
side as though a fire were beneath her. She was haunted by visions
which sleeplessness enlarged to a gigantic size. Then an idea took
root in her brain. In vain did she strive to banish it; it clung to
her, surged and clutched her at the throat till it entirely swayed
her. About two o'clock she rose, rigid, pallid, and resolute as a
somnambulist, and having again lighted the lamp she wrote a letter in
a disguised hand; it was a vague denunciation, a note of three lines,
requesting Doctor Deberle to repair that day to such a place at such
an hour; there was no explanation, no signature. She sealed the
envelope and dropped the letter into the pocket of her dress which was
hanging over an arm-chair. Then returning to bed, she immediately
closed her eyes, and in a few minutes was lying there breathless,
overpowered by leaden slumber.

                           CHAPTER XVIII.

It was nearly nine o'clock the next morning before Rosalie was able to
serve the coffee. Helene had risen late. She was weary and pale with
the nightmare that had broken her rest. She rummaged in the pocket of
her dress, felt the letter there, pressed it to the very bottom, and
sat down at the table without opening her lips. Jeanne too was
suffering from headache, and had a pale, troubled face. She quitted
her bed regretfully that morning, without any heart to indulge in
play. There was a sooty color in the sky, and a dim light saddened the
room, while from time to time sudden downpours of rain beat against
the windows.

"Mademoiselle is in the blues," said Rosalie, who monopolized all the
talk. "She can't keep cheerful for two days running. That's what comes
of dancing about too much yesterday."

"Do you feel ill, Jeanne?" asked Helene.

"No, mamma," answered the child. "It's only the nasty weather."

Helene lapsed once more into silence. She finished her coffee, and sat
in her chair, plunged in thought, with her eyes riveted on the flames.
While rising she had reflected that it was her duty to speak to
Juliette and bid her renounce the afternoon assignation. But how? She
could not say. Still, the necessity of the step was impressed on her,
and now her one urgent, all-absorbing thought was to attempt it. Ten
o'clock struck, and she began to dress. Jeanne gazed at her, and, on
seeing her take up her bonnet, clasped her little hands as though
stricken with cold, while over her face crept a pained look. It was
her wont to take umbrage whenever her mother went out; she was
unwilling to quit her side, and craved to go with her everywhere.

"Rosalie," said Helene, "make haste and finish the room. Don't go out.
I'll be back in a moment."

She stooped and gave Jeanne a hasty kiss, not noticing her vexation.
But the moment she had gone a sob broke from the child, who had
hitherto summoned all her dignity to her aid to restrain her emotion.

"Oh, mademoiselle, how naughty!" exclaimed the maid by way of
consolation. "Gracious powers! no one will rob you of your mamma. You
must allow her to see after her affairs. You can't always be hanging
to her skirts!"

Meanwhile Helene had turned the corner of the Rue Vineuse, keeping
close to the wall for protection against the rain. It was Pierre who
opened the door; but at sight of her he seemed somewhat embarrassed.

"Is Madame Deberle at home?"

"Yes, madame; but I don't know whether--"

Helene, in the character of a family friend, was pushing past him
towards the drawing-room; but he took the liberty of stopping her.

"Wait, madame; I'll go and see."

He slipped into the room, opening the door as little as he could; and
immediately afterwards Juliette could be heard speaking in a tone of
irritation. "What! you've allowed some one to come in? Why, I forbade
it peremptorily. It's incredible!! I can't be left quiet for an

Helene, however, pushed open the door, strong in her resolve to do
that which she imagined to be her duty.

"Oh, it's you!" said Juliette, as she perceived her. "I didn't catch
who it was!"

The look of annoyance did not fade from her face, however, and it was
evident that the visit was ill-timed.

"Do I disturb you?" asked Helene.

"Not at all, not at all," answered the other. "You'll understand in a
moment. We have been getting up a surprise. We are rehearsing
_Caprice_[*] to play it on one of my Wednesdays. We had selected this
morning for rehearsal, thinking nobody would know of it. But you'll
stay now? You will have to keep silence about it, that's all."

[*] One of Alfred de Musset's plays.

Then, clapping her hands and addressing herself to Madame Berthier,
who was standing in the middle of the drawing-room, she began once
more, without paying any further attention to Helene: "Come, come; we
must get on. You don't give sufficient point to the sentence 'To make
a purse unknown to one's husband would in the eyes of most people seem
rather more than romantic.' Say that again."

Intensely surprised at finding her engaged in this way, Helene had sat
down. The chairs and tables had been pushed against the wall, the
carpet thus being left clear. Madame Berthier, a delicate blonde,
repeated her soliloquy, with her eyes fixed on the ceiling in her
effort to recall the words; while plump Madame de Guiraud, a beautiful
brunette, who had assumed the character of Madame de Lery, reclined in
an arm-chair awaiting her cue. The ladies, in their unpretentious
morning gowns, had doffed neither bonnets nor gloves. Seated in front
of them, her hair in disorder and a volume of Musset in her hand, was
Juliette, in a dressing-gown of white cashmere. Her face wore the
serious expression of a stage-manager tutoring his actors as to the
tones they should speak in and the by-play they should introduce. The
day being dull, the small curtains of embroidered tulle had been
pulled aside and swung across the knobs of the window-fastenings, so
that the garden could be seen, dark and damp.

"You don't display sufficient emotion," declared Juliette. "Put a
little more meaning into it. Every word ought to tell. Begin again:
'I'm going to finish your toilette, my dear little purse.'"

"I shall be an awful failure," said Madame Berthier languidly. "Why
don't you play the part instead of me? You would make a delicious

"I! Oh, no! In the first place, one needs to be fair. Besides, I'm a
very good teacher, but a bad pupil. But let us get on--let us get on!"

Helene sat still in her corner. Madame Berthier, engrossed in her
part, had not even turned round. Madame de Guiraud had merely honored
her with a slight nod. She realized that she was in the way, and that
she ought to have declined to stay. If she still remained, it was no
longer through the sense of a duty to be fulfilled, but rather by
reason of a strange feeling stirring vaguely in her heart's depth's--a
feeling which had previously thrilled her in this selfsame spot. The
unkindly greeting which Juliette had bestowed on her pained her.
However, the young woman's friendships were usually capricious; she
worshipped people for three months, threw herself on their necks, and
seemed to live for them alone; then one morning, without affording any
explanation, she appeared to lose all consciousness of being
acquainted with them. Without doubt, in this, as in everything else,
she was simply yielding to a fashionable craze, an inclination to love
the people who were loved by her own circle. These sudden veerings of
affection, however, deeply wounded Helene, for her generous and
undemonstrative heart had its ideal in eternity. She often left the
Deberles plunged in sadness, full of despair when she thought how
fragile and unstable was the basis of human love. And on this
occasion, in this crisis in her life, the thought brought her still
keener pain.

"We'll skip the scene with Chavigny," said Juliette. "He won't be here
this morning. Let us see Madame de Lery's entrance. Now, Madame de
Guiraud, here's your cue." Then she read from her book: "'Just imagine
my showing him this purse.'"

"'Oh! it's exceedingly pretty. Let me look at it,'" began Madame de
Guiraud in a falsetto voice, as she rose with a silly expression on
her face.

When the servant had opened the door to her, Helene had pictured a
scene entirely different from this. She had imagined that she would
find Juliette displaying excessive nervousness, with pallid cheeks,
hesitating and yet allured, shivering at the very thought of
assignation. She had pictured herself imploring her to reflect, till
the young woman, choked with sobs, threw herself into her arms. Then
they would have mingled their tears together, and Helene would have
quitted her with the thought that Henri was henceforward lost to her,
but that she had secured his happiness. However, there had been
nothing of all this; she had merely fallen on this rehearsal, which
was wholly unintelligible to her; and she saw Juliette before her with
unruffled features, like one who has had a good night's rest, and with
her mind sufficiently at ease to discuss Madame Berthier's by-play,
without troubling herself in the least degree about what she would do
in the afternoon. This indifference and frivolity chilled Helene, who
had come to the house with passion consuming her.

A longing to speak fell on her. At a venture she inquired: "Who will
play the part of Chavigny?"

"Why, Malignon, of course," answered Juliette, turning round with an
air of astonishment. "He played Chavigny all last winter. It's a
nuisance he can't come to the rehearsals. Listen, ladies; I'm going to
read Chavigny's part. Unless that's done, we shall never get on."

Thereupon she herself began acting the man's part, her voice deepening
unconsciously, whilst she assumed a cavalier air in harmony with the
situation. Madame Berthier renewed her warbling tones, and Madame de
Guiraud took infinite pains to be lively and witty. When Pierre came
in to put some more wood on the fire he slyly glanced at the ladies,
who amused him immensely.

Helene, still fixed in her resolve, despite some heart-shrinking,
attempted however to take Juliette aside.

"Only a minute. I've something to say to you."

"Oh, impossible, my dear! You see how much I am engaged. To-morrow, if
you have the time."

Helene said no more. The young woman's unconcern displeased her. She
felt anger growing within her as she observed how calm and collected
Juliette was, when she herself had endured such intense agony since
the night before. At one moment she was on the point of rising and
letting things take their course. It was exceedingly foolish of her to
wish to save this woman; her nightmare began once more; her hands
slipped into her pocket, and finding the letter there, clasped it in a
feverish grasp. Why should she have any care for the happiness of
others, when they had no care for her and did not suffer as she did?

"Oh! capital, capital," exclaimed Juliette of a sudden.

Madame Berthier's head was now reclining on Madame de Guiraud's
shoulder, and she was declaring through her sobs: "'I am sure that he
loves her; I am sure of it!'"

"Your success will be immense," said Juliette. "Say that once more: 'I
am sure that he loves her; I am sure of it.' Leave your head as it is.
You're divine. Now, Madame de Guiraud, your turn."

"'No, no, my child, it cannot be; it is a caprice, a fancy,'" replied
the stout lady.

"Perfect! but oh, the scene is a long one, isn't it? Let us rest a
little while. We must have that incident in proper working order."

Then they all three plunged into a discussion regarding the
arrangement of the drawing-room. The dining-room door, to the left,
would serve for entrances and exits; an easy-chair could be placed on
the right, a couch at the farther end, and the table could be pushed
close to the fireplace. Helene, who had risen, followed them about, as
though she felt an interest in these scenic arrangements. She had now
abandoned her idea of eliciting an explanation, and merely wished to
make a last effort to prevent Juliette from going to the place of

"I intended asking you," she said to her, "if it isn't to-day that you
mean to pay Madame de Chermette a visit?"

"Yes, this afternoon."

"Then, if you'll allow me, I'll go with you; it's such a long time
since I promised to go to see her."

For a moment Juliette betrayed signs of embarrassment, but speedily
regained her self-possession.

"Of course, I should be very happy. Only I have so many things to look
after; I must do some shopping first, and I have no idea at what time
I shall be able to get to Madame de Chermette's."

"That doesn't matter," said Helene; "it will enable me to have a

"Listen; I will speak to you candidly. Well, you must not press me.
You would be in my way. Let it be some other Monday."

This was said without a trace of emotion, so flatly and with so quiet
a smile that Helene was dumbfounded and uttered not another syllable.
She was obliged to lend some assistance to Juliette, who suddenly
decided to bring the table close to the fireplace. Then she drew back,
and the rehearsal began once more. In a soliloquy which followed the
scene, Madame de Guiraud with considerable power spoke these two
sentences: "'But what a treacherous gulf is the heart of man! In
truth, we are worth more than they!'"

And Helene, what ought she to do now? Within her breast the question
raised a storm that stirred her to vague thoughts of violence. She
experienced an irresistible desire to be revenged on Juliette's
tranquillity, as if that self-possession were an insult directed
against her own fevered heart. She dreamed of facilitating her fall,
that she might see whether she would always retain this unruffled
demeanor. And she thought of herself scornfully as she recalled her
delicacy and scruples. Twenty times already she ought to have said to
Henri: "I love you; let us go away together." Could she have done so,
however, without the most intense emotion? Could she have displayed
the callous composure of this woman, who, three hours before her first
assignation, was rehearsing a comedy in her own home? Even at this
moment she trembled more than Juliette; what maddened her was the
consciousness of her own passion amidst the quiet cheerfulness of this
drawing-room; she was terrified lest she should burst out into some
angry speech. Was she a coward, then?

But all at once a door opened, and Henri's voice reached her ear: "Do
not disturb yourselves. I'm only passing."

The rehearsal was drawing to a close. Juliette, who was still reading
Chavigny's part, had just caught hold of Madame de Guiraud's hand.
"Ernestine, I adore you!" she exclaimed with an outburst of passionate

"Then Madame de Blainville is no longer beloved by you?" inquired
Madame de Guiraud.

However, so long as her husband was present Juliette declined to
proceed. There was no need of the men knowing anything about it. The
doctor showed himself most polite to the ladies; he complimented them
and predicted an immense success. With black gloves on his hands and
his face clean-shaven he was about to begin his round of visits. On
his entry he had merely greeted Helene with a slight bow. At the
Comedie Francais he had seen some very great actress in the character
of Madame de Lery, and he acquainted Madame de Guiraud with some of
the usual by-play of the scene.

"At the moment when Chavigny is going to throw himself at your feet,
you fling the purse into the fire. Dispassionately, you know, without
any anger, like a woman who plays with love."

"All right; leave us alone," said Juliette. "We know all about it."

At last, when they had heard him close his study door, she began once
more: "Ernestine, I adore you!"

Prior to his departure Henri had saluted Helene with the same slight
bow. She sat dumb, as though awaiting some catastrophe. The sudden
appearance of the husband had seemed to her ominous; but when he had
gone, his courtesy and evident blindness made him seem to her
ridiculous. So he also gave attention to this idiotic comedy! And
there was no loving fire in his eye as he looked at her sitting there!
The whole house had become hateful and cold to her. Here was a
downfall; there was nothing to restrain her any longer, for she
abhorred Henri as much as Juliette. Within her pocket she held the
letter in her convulsive grasp. At last, murmuring "Good-bye for the
present," she quitted the room, her head swimming and the furniture
seeming to dance around her. And in her ears rang these words, uttered
by Madame de Guiraud:

"Adieu. You will perhaps think badly of me to-day, but you will have
some kindly feeling for me to-morrow, and, believe me, that is much
better than a caprice."

When Helene had shut the house door and reached the pavement, she drew
the letter with a violent, almost mechanical gesture from her pocket,
and dropped it into the letter-box. Then she stood motionless for a
few seconds, still dazed, her eyes glaring at the narrow brass plate
which had fallen back again in its place.

"It is done," she exclaimed in a whisper.

Once more she pictured the rooms hung with pink cretonne. Malignon and
Juliette were there together; but all of a sudden the wall was riven
open, and the husband entered. She was conscious of no more, and a
great calm fell on her. Instinctively she looked around to see if any
one had observed her dropping the letter in the box. But the street
was deserted. Then she turned the corner and went back home.

"Have you been good, my darling?" she asked as she kissed Jeanne.

The child, still seated on the same chair, raised a gloomy face
towards her, and without answering threw both arms around her neck,
and kissed her with a great gasp. Her grief indeed had been intense.

At lunch-time Rosalie seemed greatly surprised. "Madame surely went
for a long walk!" said she.

"Why do you think so?" asked Helene.

"Because madame is eating with such an appetite. It is long since
madame ate so heartily."

It was true; she was very hungry; with her sudden relief she had felt
her stomach empty. She experienced a feeling of intense peace and
content. After the shocks of these last two days a stillness fell upon
her spirit, her limbs relaxed and became as supple as though she had
just left a bath. The only sensation that remained to her was one of
heaviness somewhere, an indefinable load that weighed upon her.

When she returned to her bedroom her eyes were at once directed
towards the clock, the hands of which pointed to twenty-five minutes
past twelve. Juliette's assignation was for three o'clock. Two hours
and a half must still elapse. She made the reckoning mechanically.
Moreover, she was in no hurry; the hands of the clock were moving on,
and no one in the world could stop them. She left things to their own
accomplishment. A child's cap, long since begun, was lying unfinished
on the table. She took it up and began to sew at the window. The room
was plunged in unbroken silence. Jeanne had seated herself in her
usual place, but her arms hung idly beside her.

"Mamma," she said, "I cannot work; it's no fun at all."

"Well, my darling, don't do anything. Oh! wait a minute, you can
thread my needles!"

In a languid way the child silently attended to the duty assigned her.
Having carefully cut some equal lengths of cotton, she spent a long
time in finding the eyes of the needles, and was only just ready with
one of them threaded when her mother had finished with the last.

"You see," said the latter gently, "this will save time. The last of
my six little caps will be finished to-night."

She turned round to glance at the clock--ten minutes past one. Still
nearly two hours. Juliette must now be beginning to dress. Henri had
received the letter. Oh! he would certainly go. The instructions were
precise; he would find the place without delay. But it all seemed so
far off still, and she felt no emotional fever, but went on sewing
with regular stitches as industriously as a work-girl. The minutes
slipped by one by one. At last two o'clock struck.

A ring at the bell came as a surprise.

"Who can it be, mother darling?" asked Jeanne, who had jumped on her
chair. "Oh! it's you!" she continued, as Monsieur Rambaud entered the
room. "Why did you ring so loudly? You gave me quite a fright."

The worthy man was in consternation--to tell the truth, his tug at the
bell had been a little too violent.

"I am not myself to-day, I'm ill," the child resumed. "You must not
frighten me."

Monsieur Rambaud displayed the greatest solicitude. What was the
matter with his poor darling? He only sat down, relieved, when Helene
had signed to him that the child was in her dismals, as Rosalie was
wont to say. A call from him in the daytime was a rare occurrence, and
so he at once set about explaining the object of his visit. It
concerned some fellow-townsman of his, an old workman who could find
no employment owing to his advanced years, and who lived with his
paralytic wife in a tiny little room. Their wretchedness could not be
pictured. He himself had gone up that morning to make a personal
investigation. Their lodging was a mere hole under the tiles, with a
swing window, through whose broken panes the wind beat in. Inside,
stretched on a mattress, he had found a woman wrapped in an old
curtain, while the man squatted on the floor in a state of
stupefaction, no longer finding sufficient courage even to sweep the

"Oh! poor things, poor things!" exclaimed Helene, moved to tears.

It was not the old workman who gave Monsieur Rambaud any uneasiness.
He would remove him to his own house and find him something to do. But
there was the wife with palsied frame, whom the husband dared not
leave for a moment alone, and who had to be rolled up like a bundle;
where could she be put? what was to be done with her?

"I thought of you," he went on. "You must obtain her instant admission
to an asylum. I should have gone straight to Monsieur Deberle, but I
imagined you knew him better and would have greater influence with
him. If he would be kind enough to interest himself in the matter, it
could all be arranged to-morrow."

Trembling with pity, her cheeks white, Jeanne listened to the tale.

"Oh, mamma!" she murmured with clasped hands, "be kind--get the
admission for the poor woman!"

"Yes, yes, of course!" said Helene, whose emotion was increasing. "I
will speak to the doctor as soon as I can; he will himself take every
requisite step. Give me their names and the address, Monsieur

He scribbled a line on the table, and said as he rose: "It is
thirty-five minutes past two. You would perhaps find the doctor at
home now."

She had risen at the same time, and as she looked at the clock a
fierce thrill swept through her frame. In truth it was already
thirty-five minutes past two, and the hands were still creeping on.
She stammered out that the doctor must have started on his round of
visits. Her eyes were riveted on the dial. Meantime, Monsieur Rambaud
remained standing hat in hand, and beginning his story once more.
These poor people had sold everything, even their stove, and since the
setting in of winter had spent their days and nights alike without a
fire. At the close of December they had been four days without food.
Helene gave vent to a cry of compassion. The hands of the clock now
marked twenty minutes to three. Monsieur Rambaud devoted another two
minutes to his farewell: "Well, I depend on you," he said. And
stooping to kiss Jeanne, he added: "Good-bye, my darling."

"Good-bye; don't worry; mamma won't forget. I'll make her remember."

When Helene came back from the ante-room, whither she had gone in
company with Monsieur Rambaud, the hands of the clock pointed to a
quarter to three. Another quarter of an hour and all would be over. As
she stood motionless before the fireplace, the scene which was about
to be enacted flashed before her eyes: Juliette was already there;
Henri entered and surprised her. She knew the room; she could see the
scene in its minutest details with terrible vividness. And still
affected by Monsieur Rambaud's awful story she felt a mighty shudder
rise from her limbs to her face. A voice cried out within her that
what she had done--the writing of that letter, that cowardly
denunciation--was a crime. The truth came to her with dazzling
clearness. Yes, it was a crime she had committed! She recalled to
memory the gesture with which she had flung the letter into the box;
she recalled it with a sense of stupor such as might come over one on
seeing another commit an evil action, without thought of intervening.
She was as if awaking from a dream. What was it that had happened? Why
was she here, with eyes ever fixed on the hands of that dial? Two more
minutes had slipped away.

"Mamma," said Jeanne, "if you like, we'll go to see the doctor
together to-night. It will be a walk for me. I feel stifling to-day."

Helene, however, did not hear; thirteen minutes must yet elapse. But
she could not allow so horrible a thing to take place! In this stormy
awakening of her rectitude she felt naught but a furious craving to
prevent it. She must prevent it; otherwise she would be unable to
live. In a state of frenzy she ran about her bedroom.

"Ah, you're going to take me!" exclaimed Jeanne joyously. "We're going
to see the doctor at once, aren't we, mother darling?"

"No, no," Helene answered, while she hunted for her boots, stooping to
look under the bed.

They were not to be found; but she shrugged her shoulders with supreme
indifference when it occurred to her that she could very well run out
in the flimsy house-slippers she had on her feet. She was now turning
the wardrobe topsy-turvy in her search for her shawl. Jeanne crept up
to her with a coaxing air: "Then you're not going to the doctor's,
mother darling?"


"Say that you'll take me all the same. Oh! do take me; it will be such
a pleasure!"

But Helene had at last found her shawl, and she threw it over her
shoulders. Good heavens! only twelve minutes left--just time to run.
She would go--she would do something, no matter what. She would decide
on the way.

"Mamma dear, do please take me with you," said Jeanne in tones that
grew lower and more imploring.

"I cannot take you," said Helene; "I'm going to a place where children
don't go. Give me my bonnet."

Jeanne's face blanched. Her eyes grew dim, her words came with a gasp.
"Where are you going?" she asked.

The mother made no reply--she was tying the strings of her bonnet.

Then the child continued: "You always go out without me now. You went
out yesterday, you went out to-day, and you are going out again. Oh,
I'm dreadfully grieved, I'm afraid to be here all alone. I shall die
if you leave me here. Do you hear, mother darling? I shall die."

Then bursting into loud sobs, overwhelmed by a fit of grief and rage,
she clung fast to Helene's skirts.

"Come, come, leave me; be good, I'm coming back," her mother repeated.

"No, no! I won't have it!" the child exclaimed through her sobs. "Oh!
you don't love me any longer, or you would take me with you. Yes, yes,
I am sure you love other people better. Take me with you, take me with
you, or I'll stay here on the floor; you'll come back and find me on
the floor."

She wound her little arms round her mother's legs; she wept with face
buried in the folds of her dress; she clung to her and weighed upon
her to prevent her making a step forward. And still the hands of the
clock moved steadily on; it was ten minutes to three. Then Helene
thought that she would never reach the house in time, and, nearly
distracted, she wrenched Jeanne from her grasp, exclaiming: "What an
unbearable child! This is veritable tyranny! If you sob any more, I'll
have something to say to you!"

She left the room and slammed the door behind her. Jeanne had
staggered back to the window, her sobs suddenly arrested by this
brutal treatment, her limbs stiffened, her face quite white. She
stretched her hands towards the door, and twice wailed out the words:
"Mamma! mamma!" And then she remained where she had fallen on a chair,
with eyes staring and features distorted by the jealous thought that
her mother was deceiving her.

On reaching the street, Helene hastened her steps. The rain had
ceased, but great drops fell from the housetops on to her shoulders.
She had resolved that she would reflect outside and fix on some plan.
But now she was only inflamed with a desire to reach the house. When
she reached the Passage des Eaux, she hesitated for just one moment.
The descent had become a torrent; the water of the gutters of the Rue
Raynouard was rushing down it. And as the stream bounded over the
steps, between the close-set walls, it broke here and there into foam,
whilst the edges of the stones, washed clear by the downpour, shone
out like glass. A gleam of pale light, falling from the grey sky, made
the Passage look whiter between the dusky branches of the trees.
Helene went down it, scarcely raising her skirts. The water came up to
her ankles. She almost lost her flimsy slippers in the puddles; around
her, down the whole way, she heard a gurgling sound, like the
murmuring of brooklets coursing through the grass in the depths of the

All at once she found herself on the stairs in front of the door. She
stood there, panting in a state of torture. Then her memory came back,
and she decided to knock at the kitchen.

"What! is it you?" exclaimed Mother Fetu.

There was none of the old whimper in her voice. Her little eyes were
sparkling, and a complacent grin had spread over the myriad wrinkles
of her face. All the old deference vanished, and she patted Helene's
hands as she listened to her broken words. The young woman gave her
twenty francs.

"May God requite you!" prayed Mother Fetu in her wonted style.
"Whatever you please, my dear!"

                            CHAPTER XIX.

Leaning back in an easy-chair, with his legs stretched out before the
huge, blazing fire, Malignon sat waiting. He had considered it a good
idea to draw the window-curtains and light the wax candles. The outer
room, in which he had seated himself, was brilliantly illuminated by a
small chandelier and a pair of candelabra; whilst the other apartment
was plunged in shadow, the swinging crystal lamp alone casting on the
floor a twilight gleam. Malignon drew out his watch.

"The deuce!" he muttered. "Is she going to keep me waiting again?"

He gave vent to a slight yawn. He had been waiting for an hour
already, and it was small amusement to him. However, he rose and cast
a glance over his preparations.

The arrangement of the chairs did not please him, and he rolled a
couch in front of the fireplace. The cretonne hangings had a ruddy
glow, as they reflected the light of the candles; the room was warm,
silent, and cozy, while outside the wind came and went in sudden
gusts. All at once the young man heard three hurried knocks at the
door. It was the signal.

"At last!" he exclaimed aloud, his face beaming jubilantly.

He ran to open the door, and Juliette entered, her face veiled, her
figure wrapped in a fur mantle. While Malignon was gently closing the
door, she stood still for a moment, with the emotion that checked the
words on her lips undetected.

However, before the young man had had time to take her hand, she
raised her veil, and displayed a smiling face, rather pale, but quite

"What! you have lighted up the place!" she exclaimed. "Why? I thought
you hated candles in broad daylight!"

Malignon, who had been making ready to clasp her with a passionate
gesture that he had been rehearsing, was put somewhat out of
countenance by this remark, and hastened to explain that the day was
too wretched, and that the windows looked on to waste patches of
ground. Besides, night was his special delight.

"Well, one never knows how to take you," she retorted jestingly. "Last
spring, at my children's ball, you made such a fuss, declaring that
the place was like some cavern, some dead-house. However, let us say
that your taste has changed."

She seemed to be paying a mere visit, and affected a courage which
slightly deepened her voice. This was the only indication of her
uneasiness. At times her chin twitched somewhat, as though she felt
some uneasiness in her throat. But her eyes were sparkling, and she
tasted to the full the keen pleasure born of her imprudence. She
thought of Madame de Chermette, of whom such scandalous stories were
related. Good heavens! it seemed strange all the same.

"Let us have a look round," she began.

And thereupon she began inspecting the apartment. He followed in her
footsteps, while she gazed at the furniture, examined the walls,
looked upwards, and started back, chattering all the time.

"I don't like your cretonne; it is so frightfully common!" said she.
"Where did you buy that abominable pink stuff? There's a chair that
would be nice if the wood weren't covered with gilding. Not a picture,
not a nick-nack--only your chandelier and your candelabra, which are
by no means in good style! Ah well, my dear fellow; I advise you to
continue laughing at my Japanese pavilion!"

She burst into a laugh, thus revenging herself on him for the old
affronts which still rankled in her breast.

"Your taste is a pretty one, and no mistake! You don't know that my
idol is worth more than the whole lot of your things! A draper's
shopman wouldn't have selected that pink stuff. Was it your idea to
fascinate your washerwoman?"

Malignon felt very much hurt, and did not answer. He made an attempt
to lead her into the inner room; but she remained on the threshold,
declaring that she never entered such gloomy places. Besides, she
could see quite enough; the one room was worthy of the other. The
whole of it had come from the Saint-Antoine quarter.

But the hanging lamp was her special aversion. She attacked it with
merciless raillery--what a trashy thing it was, such as some little
work-girl with no furniture of her own might have dreamt of! Why,
lamps in the same style could be bought at all the bazaars at seven
francs fifty centimes apiece.

"I paid ninety francs for it," at last ejaculated Malignon in his

Thereupon she seemed delighted at having angered him.

On his self-possession returning, he inquired: "Won't you take off
your cloak?"

"Oh, yes, I will," she answered; "it is dreadfully warm here."

She took off her bonnet as well, and this with her fur cloak he
hastened to deposit in the next room. When he returned, he found her
seated in front of the fire, still gazing round her. She had regained
her gravity, and was disposed to display a more conciliatory demeanor.

"It's all very ugly," she said; "still, you are not amiss here. The
two rooms might have been made very pretty."

"Oh! they're good enough for my purpose!" he thoughtlessly replied,
with a careless shrug of the shoulders.

The next moment, however, he bitterly regretted these silly words. He
could not possibly have been more impertinent or clumsy. Juliette hung
her head, and a sharp pang darted through her bosom. Then he sought to
turn to advantage the embarrassment into which he had plunged her.

"Juliette!" he said pleadingly, as he leaned towards her.

But with a gesture she forced him to resume his seat. It was at the
seaside, at Trouville, that Malignon, bored to death by the constant
sight of the sea, had hit upon the happy idea of falling in love. One
evening he had taken hold of Juliette's hand. She had not seemed
offended; in fact, she had at first bantered him over it. Soon, though
her head was empty and her heart free, she imagined that she loved
him. She had, so far, done nearly everything that her friends did
around her; a lover only was lacking, and curiosity and a craving to
be like the others had impelled her to secure one. However, Malignon
was vain enough to imagine that he might win her by force of wit, and
allowed her time to accustom herself to playing the part of a
coquette. So, on the first outburst, which took place one night when
they stood side by side gazing at the sea like a pair of lovers in a
comic opera, she had repelled him, in her astonishment and vexation
that he should spoil the romance which served as an amusement to her.

On his return to Paris Malignon had vowed that he would be more
skilful in his attack. He had just reacquired influence over her,
during a fit of boredom which had come on with the close of a wearying
winter, when the usual dissipations, dinners, balls, and first-night
performances were beginning to pall on her with their dreary monotony.
And at last, her curiosity aroused, allured by the seeming mystery and
piquancy of an intrigue, she had responded to his entreaties by
consenting to meet him. However, so wholly unruffled were her
feelings, that she was as little disturbed, seated here by the side of
Malignon, as when she paid visits to artists' studios to solicit
pictures for her charity bazaars.

"Juliette! Juliette!" murmured the young man, striving to speak in
caressing tones.

"Come, be sensible," she merely replied; and taking a Chinese fan from
the chimney-piece, she resumed--as much at her ease as though she had
been sitting in her own drawing-room: "You know we had a rehearsal
this morning. I'm afraid I have not made a very happy choice in Madame
Berthier. Her 'Mathilda' is a snivelling, insufferable affair. You
remember that delightful soliloquy when she addresses the purse--'Poor
little thing, I kissed you a moment ago'? Well! she declaims it like a
school-girl who has learnt a complimentary greeting. It's so

"And what about Madame de Guiraud?" he asked, as he drew his chair
closer and took her hand.

"Oh! she is perfection. I've discovered in her a 'Madame de Lery,'
with some sarcasm and animation."

While speaking she surrendered her hand to the young man, and he
kissed it between her sentences without her seeming to notice it.

"But the worst of it all, you know," she resumed, "is your absence. In
the first place, you might say something to Madame Berthier; and
besides, we shall not be able to get a good _ensemble_ if you never

He had now succeeded in passing his arm round her waist.

"But as I know my part," he murmured.

"Yes, that's all very well; but there's the arrangement of the scenes
to look after. It is anything but obliging on your part to refuse to
give us three or four mornings."

She was unable to continue, for he was raining a shower of kisses on
her neck. At this she could feign ignorance no longer, but pushed him
away, tapping him the while with the Chinese fan which she still
retained in her hand. Doubtless, she had registered a vow that she
would not allow any further familiarity. Her face was now flushed by
the heat reflected from the fire, and her lips pouted with the very
expression of an inquisitive person whom her feelings astonish.
Moreover, she was really getting frightened.

"Leave me alone," she stammered, with a constrained smile. "I shall
get angry."

But he imagined that he had moved her, and once more took hold of her
hands. To her, however, a voice seemed to be crying out, "No!" It was
she herself protesting before she had even answered her own heart.

"No, no!" she said again. "Let me go; you are hurting me!" And
thereupon, as he refused to release her, she twisted herself violently
from his grasp. She was acting in obedience to some strange emotion;
she felt angry with herself and with him. In her agitation some
disjointed phrases escaped her lips. Yes, indeed, he rewarded her
badly for her trust. What a brute he was! She even called him a
coward. Never in her life would she see him again. But he allowed her
to talk on, and ran after her with a wicked and brutal laugh. And at
last she could do no more than gasp in the momentary refuge which she
had sought behind a chair. They were there, gazing at one another, her
face transformed by shame and his by passion, when a noise broke
through the stillness. At first they did not grasp its significance. A
door had opened, some steps crossed the room, and a voice called to

"Fly! fly! You will be caught!"

It was Helene. Astounded, they both gazed at her. So great was their
stupefaction that they lost consciousness of their embarrassing
situation. Juliette indeed displayed no sign of confusion.

"Fly! fly!" said Helene again. "Your husband will be here in two

"My husband!" stammered the young woman; "my husband!--why--for what

She was losing her wits. Her brain was in a turmoil. It seemed to her
prodigious that Helene should be standing there speaking to her of her

But Helene made an angry gesture.

"Oh! if you think I've time to explain," said she,--"he is on the way
here. I give you warning. Disappear at once, both of you."

Then Juliette's agitation became extraordinary. She ran about the
rooms like a maniac, screaming out disconnected sentences.

"My God! my God!--I thank you.--Where is my cloak?--How horrid it is,
this room being so dark!--Give me my cloak.--Bring me a candle, to
help me to find my cloak.--My dear, you mustn't mind if I don't stop
to thank you.--I can't get my arms into the sleeves--no, I can't get
them in--no, I can't!"

She was paralyzed with fear, and Helene was obliged to assist her with
her cloak. She put her bonnet on awry, and did not even tie the
ribbons. The worst of it, however, was that they lost quite a minute
in hunting for her veil, which had fallen on the floor. Her words came
with a gasp; her trembling hands moved about in bewilderment, fumbling
over her person to ascertain whether she might be leaving anything
behind which might compromise her.

"Oh, what a lesson! what a lesson! Thank goodness, it is well over!"

Malignon was very pale, and made a sorry appearance. His feet beat a
tattoo on the ground, as he realized that he was both scorned and
ridiculous. His lips could only give utterance to the wretched

"Then you think I ought to go away as well?"

Then, as no answer was vouchsafed him, he took up his cane, and went
on talking by way of affecting perfect composure. They had plenty of
time, said he. It happened that there was another staircase, a small
servants' staircase, now never used, but which would yet allow of
their descent. Madame Deberle's cab had remained at the door; it would
convey both of them away along the quays. And again he repeated: "Now
calm yourself. It will be all right. See, this way."

He threw open a door, and the three dingy, dilapidated, little rooms,
which had not been repaired and were full of dirt, appeared to view. A
puff of damp air entered the boudoir. Juliette, ere she stepped
through all that squalor, gave final expression to her disgust.

"How could I have come here?" she exclaimed in a loud voice. "What a
hole! I shall never forgive myself."

"Be quick, be quick!" urged Helene, whose anxiety was as great as her

She pushed Juliette forward, but the young woman threw herself sobbing
on her neck. She was in the throes of a nervous reaction. She was
overwhelmed with shame, and would fain have defended herself, fain
have given a reason for being found in that man's company. Then
instinctively she gathered up her skirts, as though she were about to
cross a gutter. With the tip of his boot Malignon, who had gone on
first, was clearing away the plaster which littered the back
staircase. The doors were shut once more.

Meantime, Helene had remained standing in the middle of the
sitting-room. Silence reigned there, a warm, close silence, only
disturbed by the crackling of the burnt logs. There was a singing in
her ears, and she heard nothing. But after an interval, which seemed
to her interminable, the rattle of a cab suddenly resounded. It was
Juliette's cab rolling away.

Then Helene sighed, and she made a gesture of mute gratitude. The
thought that she would not be tortured by everlasting remorse for
having acted despicably filled her with pleasant and thankful
feelings. She felt relieved, deeply moved, and yet so weak, now that
this awful crisis was over, that she lacked the strength to depart in
her turn. In her heart she thought that Henri was coming, and that he
must meet some one in this place. There was a knock at the door, and
she opened it at once.

The first sensation on either side was one of bewilderment. Henri
entered, his mind busy with thoughts of the letter which he had
received, and his face pale and uneasy. But when he caught sight of
her a cry escaped his lips.

"You! My God! It was you!"

The cry betokened more astonishment than pleasure. But soon there came
a furious awakening of his love.

"You love me, you love me!" he stammered. "Ah! it was you, and I did
not understand."

He stretched out his arm as he spoke; but Helene, who had greeted his
entrance with a smile, now started back with wan cheeks. Truly she had
waited for him; she had promised herself that they would be together
for a moment, and that she would invent some fiction. Now, however,
full consciousness of the situation flashed upon her; Henri believed
it to be an assignation. Yet she had never for one moment desired such
a thing, and her heart rebelled.

"Henri, I pray you, release me," said she.

He had grasped her by the wrists, and was drawing her slowly towards
him, as though to kiss her. The love that had been surging within him
for months, but which had grown less violent owing to the break in
their intimacy, now burst forth more fiercely than ever.

"Release me," she resumed. "You are frightening me. I assure you, you
are mistaken."

His surprise found voice once more.

"Was it not you then who wrote to me?" he asked.

She hesitated for a second. What could she say in answer?

"Yes," she whispered at last.

She could not betray Juliette after having saved her. An abyss lay
before her into which she herself was slipping. Henri was now glancing
round the two rooms in wonderment at finding them illumined and
furnished in such gaudy style. He ventured to question her.

"Are these rooms yours?" he asked.

But she remained silent.

"Your letter upset me so," he continued. "Helene, you are hiding
something from me. For mercy's sake, relieve my anxiety!"

She was not listening to him; she was reflecting that he was indeed
right in considering this to be an assignation. Otherwise, what could
she have been doing there? Why should she have waited for him? She
could devise no plausible explanation. She was no longer certain
whether she had not given him this rendezvous. A network of chance and
circumstance was enveloping her yet more tightly; there was no escape
from it. Each second found her less able to resist.

"You were waiting for me, you were waiting for me!" he repeated
passionately, as he bent his head to kiss her. And then as his lips
met hers she felt it beyond her power to struggle further; but, as
though in mute acquiescence, fell, half swooning and oblivious of the
world, upon his neck.

[Illustration: The meeting of Helene and Henri]

                            CHAPTER XX.

Jeanne, with her eyes fixed on the door, remained plunged in grief
over her mother's sudden departure. She gazed around her; the room was
empty and silent; but she could still hear the waning sounds of
hurrying footsteps and rustling skirts, and last the slamming of the
outer door. Then nothing stirred, and she was alone.

All alone, all alone. Over the bed hung her mother's dressing-gown,
flung there at random, the skirt bulging out and a sleeve lying across
the bolster, so that the garment looked like some person who had
fallen down overwhelmed with grief, and sobbing in misery. There was
some linen scattered about, and a black neckerchief lay on the floor
like a blot of mourning. The chairs were in disorder, the table had
been pushed in front of the wardrobe, and amidst it all she was
quite alone. She felt her tears choking her as she looked at the
dressing-gown which no longer garmented her mother, but was stretched
there with the ghastly semblance of death. She clasped her hands, and
for the last time wailed, "Mamma! mamma!" The blue velvet hangings,
however, deadened the sound. It was all over, and she was alone.

Then the time slipped away. The clock struck three. A dismal, dingy
light came in through the windows. Dark clouds were sailing over the
sky, which made it still gloomier. Through the panes of glass, which
were covered with moisture, Paris could only be dimly seen; the watery
vapor blurred it; its far-away outskirts seemed hidden by thick smoke.
Thus the city even was no longer there to keep the child company, as
on bright afternoons, when, on leaning out a little, it seemed to her
as though she could touch each district with her hand.

What was she to do? Her little arms tightened in despair against her
bosom. This desertion seemed to her mournful, passing all bounds,
characterized by an injustice and wickedness that enraged her. She had
never known anything so hateful; it struck her that everything was
going to vanish; nothing of the old life would ever come back again.
Then she caught sight of her doll seated near her on a chair, with its
back against a cushion, and its legs stretched out, its eyes staring
at her as though it were a human being. It was not her mechanical
doll, but a large one with a pasteboard head, curly hair, and eyes of
enamel, whose fixed look sometimes frightened her. What with two
years' constant dressing and undressing, the paint had got rubbed off
the chin and cheeks, and the limbs, of pink leather stuffed with
sawdust, had become limp and wrinkled like old linen. The doll was
just now in its night attire, arrayed only in a bed-gown, with its
arms twisted, one in the air and the other hanging downwards. When
Jeanne realized that there was still some one with her, she felt for
an instant less unhappy. She took the doll in her arms and embraced it
ardently, while its head swung back, for its neck was broken. Then she
chattered away to it, telling it that it was Jeanne's best-behaved
friend, that it had a good heart, for it never went out and left
Jeanne alone. It was, said she, her treasure, her kitten, her dear
little pet. Trembling with agitation, striving to prevent herself from
weeping again, she covered it all over with kisses.

This fit of tenderness gave her some revengeful consolation, and the
doll fell over her arm like a bundle of rags. She rose and looked out,
with her forehead against a window-pane. The rain had ceased falling,
and the clouds of the last downpour, driven before the wind, were
nearing the horizon towards the heights of Pere-Lachaise, which were
wrapped in gloom; and against this stormy background Paris, illumined
by a uniform clearness, assumed a lonely, melancholy grandeur. It
seemed to be uninhabited, like one of those cities seen in a
nightmare--the reflex of a world of death. To Jeanne it certainly
appeared anything but pretty. She was now idly dreaming of those she
had loved since her birth. Her oldest sweetheart, the one of her early
days at Marseilles, had been a huge cat, which was very heavy; she
would clasp it with her little arms, and carry it from one chair to
another without provoking its anger in the least; but it had
disappeared, and that was the first misfortune she remembered. She had
next had a sparrow, but it died; she had picked it up one morning from
the bottom of its cage. That made two. She never reckoned the toys
which got broken just to grieve her, all kinds of wrongs which had
caused her much suffering because she was so sensitive. One doll in
particular, no higher than one's hand, had driven her to despair by
getting its head smashed; she had cherished it to a such a degree that
she had buried it by stealth in a corner of the yard; and some time
afterwards, overcome by a craving to look on it once more, she had
disinterred it, and made herself sick with terror whilst gazing on its
blackened and repulsive features.

However, it was always the others who were the first to fail in their
love. They got broken; they disappeared. The separation, at all
events, was invariably their fault. Why was it? She herself never
changed. When she loved any one, her love lasted all her life. Her
mind could not grasp the idea of neglect and desertion; such things
seemed to her monstrously wicked, and never occurred to her little
heart without giving it a deadly pang. She shivered as a host of vague
ideas slowly awoke within her. So people parted one day; each went his
own way, never to meet or love each other again. With her eyes fixed
on the limitless and dreary expanse of Paris, she sat chilled by all
that her childish passion could divine of life's hard blows.

Meantime her breath was fast dimming the glass. With her hands she
rubbed away the vapor that prevented her from looking out. Several
monuments in the distance, wet with the rain, glittered like browny
ice. There were lines of houses, regular and distinct, which, with
their fronts standing out pale amidst the surrounding roofs, looked
like outstretched linen--some tremendous washing spread to dry on
fields of ruddy grass. The sky was clearing, and athwart the tail of
the cloud which still cloaked the city in gloom the milky rays of the
sun were beginning to stream. A brightness seemed to be hesitating
over some of the districts; in certain places the sky would soon begin
to smile. Jeanne gazed below, over the quay and the slopes of the
Trocadero; the street traffic was about to begin afresh after that
violent downpour. The cabs again passed by at a jolting crawl, while
the omnibuses rattled along the still lonely streets with a louder
noise than usual. Umbrellas were being shut up, and wayfarers, who had
taken shelter beneath the trees, ventured from one foot pavement to
another through muddy streams which were rushing into the gutters.

Jeanne noticed with special interest a lady and a little girl, both of
them fashionably dressed, who were standing beneath the awning of a
toy-shop near the bridge. Doubtless they had been caught in the
shower, and had taken refuge there. The child would fain have carried
away the whole shop, and had pestered her mother to buy her a hoop.
Both were now leaving, however, and the child was running along full
of glee, driving the hoop before her. At this Jeanne's melancholy
returned with intensified force; her doll became hideous. She longed
to have a hoop and to be down yonder and run along, while her mother
slowly walked behind her and cautioned her not to go too far. Then,
however, everything became dim again. At each minute she had to rub
the glass clear. She had been enjoined never to open the window; but
she was full of rebellious thoughts; she surely might gaze out of the
window, if she were not to be taken for a walk. So she opened it, and
leaned out like a grown-up person--in imitation of her mother when she
ensconced herself there and lapsed into silence.

The air was mild, and moist in its mildness, which seemed to her
delightful. A darkness slowly rising over the horizon induced her to
lift her head. To her imagination it seemed as if some gigantic bird
with outstretched wings were hovering on high. At first she saw
nothing; the sky was clear; but at last, at the angle of the roof, a
gloomy cloud made its appearance, sailing on and speedily enveloping
the whole heaven. Another squall was rising before a roaring west
wind. The daylight was quickly dying away, and the city grew dark,
amidst a livid shimmer, which imparted to the house-fronts a rusty

Almost immediately afterwards the rain fell. The streets were swept by
it; the umbrellas were again opened; and the passers-by, fleeing in
every direction, vanished like chaff. One old lady gripped her skirts
with both hands, while the torrent beat down on her bonnet as though
it were falling from a spout. And the rain travelled on; the cloud
kept pace with the water ragefully falling upon Paris; the big drops
enfiladed the avenues of the quays, with a gallop like that of a
runaway horse, raising a white dust which rolled along the ground at a
prodigious speed. They also descended the Champs-Elysees, plunged into
the long narrow streets of the Saint-Germain district, and at a bound
filled up all the open spaces and deserted squares. In a few seconds,
behind this veil which grew thicker and thicker, the city paled and
seemed to melt away. It was as though a curtain were being drawn
obliquely from heaven to earth. Masses of vapor arose too; and the
vast, splashing pit-a-pat was as deafening as any rattle of old iron.

Jeanne, giddy with the noise, started back. A leaden wall seemed to
have been built up before her. But she was fond of rain; so she
returned, leaned out again, and stretched out her arms to feel the
big, cold rain-drops splashing on her hands. This gave her some
amusement, and she got wet to the sleeves. Her doll must, of course,
like herself, have a headache, and she therefore hastened to put it
astride the window-rail, with its back against the side wall. She
thought, as she saw the drops pelting down upon it, that they were
doing it some good. Stiffly erect, its little teeth displayed in a
never-fading smile, the doll sat there, with one shoulder streaming
with water, while every gust of wind lifted up its night-dress. Its
poor body, which had lost some of its sawdust stuffing, seemed to be

What was the reason that had prevented her mother from taking her with
her? wondered Jeanne. The rain that beat down on her hands seemed a
fresh inducement to be out. It must be very nice, she argued, in the
street. Once more there flashed on her mind's eye the little girl
driving her hoop along the pavement. Nobody could deny that she had
gone out with her mamma. Both of them had even seemed to be
exceedingly well pleased. This was sufficient proof that little girls
were taken out when it rained.

But, then, willingness on her mother's part was requisite. Why had she
been unwilling? Then Jeanne again thought of her big cat which had
gone away over the houses opposite with its tail in the air, and of
the poor little sparrow which she had tempted with food when it was
dead, and which had pretended that it did not understand. That kind of
thing always happened to her; nobody's love for her was enduring
enough. Oh! she would have been ready in a couple of minutes; when she
chose she dressed quickly enough; it was only a question of her boots,
which Rosalie buttoned, her jacket, her hat, and it was done. Her
mother might easily have waited two minutes for her. When she left
home to see her friends, she did not turn her things all topsy-turvy
as she had done that afternoon; when she went to the Bois de Boulogne,
she led her gently by the hand, and stopped with her outside every
shop in the Rue de Passy.

Jeanne could not get to the bottom of it; her black eyebrows frowned,
and her delicate features put on a stern, jealous expression which
made her resemble some wicked old maid. She felt in a vague way that
her mother had gone to some place where children never go. She had not
been taken out because something was to be hidden from her. This
thought filled her with unutterable sadness, and her heart throbbed
with pain.

The rain was becoming finer, and through the curtain which veiled
Paris glimpses of buildings were occasionally afforded. The dome of
the Invalides, airy and quivering, was the first to reappear through
the glittering vibration of the downpour. Next, some of the districts
emerged into sight as the torrent slackened; the city seemed to rise
from a deluge that had overwhelmed it, its roofs all streaming, and
every street filled with a river of water from which vapor still
ascended. But suddenly there was a burst of light; a ray of sunshine
fell athwart the shower. For a moment it was like a smile breaking
through tears.

The rain had now ceased to fall over the Champs-Elysees district; but
it was sabring the left bank, the Cite, and the far-away suburbs; in
the sunshine the drops could be seen flashing down like innumerable
slender shafts of steel. On the right a rainbow gleamed forth. As the
gush of light streamed across the sky, touches of pink and blue
appeared on the horizon, a medley of color, suggestive of a childish
attempt at water-color painting. Then there was a sudden blaze--a fall
of golden snow, as it were, over a city of crystal. But the light died
away, a cloud rolled up, and the smile faded amidst tears; Paris
dripped and dripped, with a prolonged sobbing noise, beneath the
leaden-hued sky.

Jeanne, with her sleeves soaked, was seized with a fit of coughing.
But she was unconscious of the chill that was penetrating her; she was
now absorbed in the thought that her mother had gone into Paris. She
had come at last to know three buildings--the Invalides, the Pantheon,
and the Tower of St.-Jacques. She now slowly went over their names,
and pointed them out with her finger without attempting to think what
they might be like were she nearer to them. Without doubt, however,
her mother was down there; and she settled in her mind that she was in
the Pantheon, because it astonished her the most, huge as it was,
towering up through the air, like the city's head-piece. Then she
began to question herself. Paris was still to her the place where
children never go; she was never taken there. She would have liked to
know it, however, that she might have quietly said to herself: "Mamma
is there; she is doing such and such a thing." But it all seemed to
her too immense; it was impossible to find any one there. Then her
glance travelled towards the other end of the plain. Might her mother
not rather be in one of that cluster of houses on the hill to the
left? or nearer in, beneath those huge trees, whose bare branches
seemed as dead as firewood? Oh! if she could only have lifted up the
roofs! What could that gloomy edifice be? What was that street along
which something of enormous bulk seemed to be running? And what could
that district be at sight of which she always felt frightened,
convinced as she was that people fought one another there? She could
not see it distinctly, but, to tell the truth, its aspects stirred
one; it was very ugly, and must not be looked at by little girls.

A host of indefinable ideas and suppositions, which brought her to the
verge of weeping, awoke trouble in Jeanne's ignorant, childish mind.
From the unknown world of Paris, with its smoke, its endless noises,
its powerful, surging life, an odor of wretchedness, filth, and crime
seemed to be wafted to her through the mild, humid atmosphere, and she
was forced to avert her head, as though she had been leaning over one
of those pestilential pits which breathe forth suffocation from
their unseen horrors. The Invalides, the Pantheon, the Tower of
Saint-Jacques--these she named and counted; but she knew nothing of
anything else, and she sat there, terrified and ashamed, with the
all-absorbing thought that her mother was among those wicked places,
at some spot which she was unable to identify in the depths yonder.

Suddenly Jeanne turned round. She could have sworn that somebody had
walked into the bedroom, that a light hand had even touched her
shoulder. But the room was empty, still in the same disorder as when
Helene had left. The dressing-gown, flung across the pillow, still lay
in the same mournful, weeping attitude. Then Jeanne, with pallid
cheeks, cast a glance around, and her heart nearly burst within her.
She was alone! she was alone! And, O Heaven, her mother, in forsaking
her, had pushed her with such force that she might have fallen to the
floor. The thought came back to her with anguish; she again seemed to
feel the pain of that outrage on her wrists and shoulders. Why had she
been struck? She had been good, and had nothing to reproach herself
with. She was usually spoken to with such gentleness that the
punishment she had received awoke feelings of indignation within her.
She was thrilled by a sensation of childish fear, as in the old times
when she was threatened with the approach of the wolf, and looked for
it and saw it not: it was lingering in some shady corner, with many
other things that were going to overwhelm her. However, she was full
of suspicion; her face paled and swelled with jealous fury. Of a
sudden, the thought that her mother must love those whom she had gone
to see far more than she loved her came upon her with such crushing
force that her little hands clutched her bosom. She knew it now; yes,
her mother was false to her.

Over Paris a great sorrow seemed to be brooding, pending the arrival
of a fresh squall. A murmur travelled through the darkened air, and
heavy clouds were hovering overhead. Jeanne, still at the window, was
convulsed by another fit of coughing; but in the chill she experienced
she felt herself revenged; she would willingly have had her illness
return. With her hands pressed against her bosom, she grew conscious
of some pain growing more intense within her. It was an agony to which
her body abandoned itself. She trembled with fear, and did not again
venture to turn round; she felt quite cold at the idea of glancing
into the room any more. To be little means to be without strength.
What could this new complaint be which filled her with mingled shame
and bitter pleasure? With stiffened body, she sat there as if waiting
--every one of her pure and innocent limbs in an agony of revulsion.
From the innermost recesses of her being all her woman's feelings were
aroused, and there darted through her a pang, as though she had
received a blow from a distance. Then with failing heart she cried out
chokingly: "Mamma! mamma!" No one could have known whether she called
to her mother for aid, or whether she accused her of having inflicted
on her the pain which seemed to be killing her.

At that moment the tempest burst. Through the deep and ominous
stillness the wind howled over the city, which was shrouded in
darkness; and afterwards there came a long-continued crashing
--window-shutters beating to and fro, slates flying, chimney-tops and
gutter-pipes rattling on to the pavements. For a few seconds a calm
ensued; then there blew another gust, which swept along with such
mighty strength that the ocean of roofs seemed convulsed, tossing
about in waves, and then disappearing in a whirlpool. For a moment
chaos reigned. Some enormous clouds, like huge blots of ink, swept
through a host of smaller ones, which were scattered and floated like
shreds of rag which the wind tore to pieces and carried off thread by
thread. A second later two clouds rushed upon one another, and rent
one another with crashing reports, which seemed to sprinkle the
coppery expanse with wreckage; and every time the hurricane thus
veered, blowing from every point of the compass, the thunder of
opposing navies resounded in the atmosphere, and an awful rending and
sinking followed, the hanging fragments of the clouds, jagged like
huge bits of broken walls, threatening Paris with imminent destruction.
The rain was not yet falling. But suddenly a cloud burst above the
central quarters, and a water-spout ascended the Seine. The river's
green ribbon, riddled and stirred to its depths by the splashing drops,
became transformed into a stream of mud; and one by one, behind the
downpour, the bridges appeared to view again, slender and delicately
outlined in the mist; while, right and left, the trees edging the grey
pavements of the deserted quays were shaken furiously by the wind.
Away in the background, over Notre-Dame, the cloud divided and poured
down such a torrent of water that the island of La Cite seemed
submerged. Far above the drenched houses the cathedral towers alone
rose up against a patch of clear sky, like floating waifs.

On every side the water now rushed down from the heavens. Three times
in succession did the right bank appear to be engulfed. The first fall
inundated the distant suburbs, gradually extending its area, and
beating on the turrets of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and Saint-Jacques,
which glistened in the rain. Then two other downpours, following in
hot haste one upon the other, streamed over Montmartre and the
Champs-Elysees. At times a glimpse could be obtained of the glass roof
of the Palace of Industry, steaming, as it were, under the splashing
water; of Saint-Augustin, whose cupola swam in a kind of fog like a
clouded moon; of the Madeleine, which spread out its flat roof, looking
like some ancient court whose flagstones had been freshly scoured;
while, in the rear, the huge mass of the Opera House made one think of
a dismasted vessel, which with its hull caught between two rocks, was
resisting the assaults of the tempest.

On the left bank of the Seine, also hidden by a watery veil, you
perceived the dome of the Invalides, the spires of Sainte-Clotilde,
and the towers of Saint-Sulpice, apparently melting away in the moist
atmosphere. Another cloud spread out, and from the colonnade of the
Pantheon sheets of water streamed down, threatening to inundate what
lay below. And from that moment the rain fell upon the city in all
directions; one might have imagined that the heavens were
precipitating themselves on the earth; streets vanished, sank into the
depths, and men reappeared, drifting on the surface, amidst shocks
whose violence seemed to foretell the end of the city. A prolonged
roar ascended--the roar of all the water rushing along the gutters and
falling into the drains. And at last, above muddy-looking Paris, which
had assumed with the showers a dingy-yellow hue, the livid clouds
spread themselves out in uniform fashion, without stain or rift. The
rain was becoming finer, and was falling sharply and vertically; but
whenever the wind again rose, the grey hatching was curved into mighty
waves, and the raindrops, driven almost horizontally, could be heard
lashing the walls with a hissing sound, till, with the fall of the
wind, they again fell vertically, peppering the soil with a quiet
obstinacy, from the heights of Passy away to the level plain of
Charenton. Then the vast city, as though overwhelmed and lifeless
after some awful convulsion, seemed but an expanse of stony ruins
under the invisible heavens.

Jeanne, who had sunk down by the window, had wailed out once more,
"Mamma! mamma!" A terrible weariness deprived her limbs of their
strength as she lingered there, face to face with the engulfing of
Paris. Amidst her exhaustion, whilst the breeze played with her
tresses, and her face remained wet with rain, she preserved some taste
of the bitter pleasure which had made her shiver, while within her
heart there was a consciousness of some irretrievable woe. Everything
seemed to her to have come to an end; she realized that she was
getting very old. The hours might pass away, but now she did not even
cast a glance into the room. It was all the same to her to be
forgotten and alone. Such despair possessed the child's heart that all
around her seemed black. If she were scolded, as of old, when she was
ill, it would surely be very wrong. She was burning with fever;
something like a sick headache was weighing on her. Surely too, but a
moment ago, something had snapped within her. She could not prevent
it; she must inevitably submit to whatever might be her fate. Besides,
weariness was prostrating her. She had joined her hands over the
window-bar, on which she rested her head, and, though at times she
opened her eyes to gaze at the rain, drowsiness was stealing over her.

And still and ever the rain kept beating down; the livid sky seemed
dissolving in water. A final blast of wind had passed by; a monotonous
roar could be heard. Amidst a solemn quiescence the sovereign rain
poured unceasingly upon the silent, deserted city it had conquered;
and behind this sheet of streaked crystal Paris showed like some
phantom place, with quivering outlines, which seemed to be melting
away. To Jeanne the scene now brought nothing beyond sleepiness and
horrid dreams, as though all the mystery and unknown evil were rising
up in vapor to pierce her through and make her cough. Every time she
opened her eyes she was seized with a fit of coughing, and would
remain for a few seconds looking at the scene; which as her head fell
back once more, clung to her mind, and seemed to spread over her and
crush her.

The rain was still falling. What hour might it be now? Jeanne could
not have told. Perhaps the clock had ceased going. It seemed to her
too great a fatigue to turn round. It was surely at least a week since
her mother had quitted her. She had abandoned all expectation of her
return; she was resigned to the prospect of never seeing her again.
Then she became oblivious of everything--the wrongs which had been
done her, the pain which she had just experienced, even the loneliness
in which she was suffered to remain. A weight, chilly like stone, fell
upon her. This only was certain: she was very unhappy--ah! as unhappy
as the poor little waifs to whom she gave alms as they huddled
together in gateways. Ah! Heaven! how coughing racked one, and how
penetrating was the cold when there was no nobody to love one! She
closed her heavy eyelids, succumbing to a feverish stupor; and the
last of her thoughts was a vague memory of childhood, of a visit to a
mill, full of yellow wheat, and of tiny grains slipping under
millstones as huge as houses.

Hours and hours passed away; each minute was a century. The rain beat
down without ceasing, with ever the same tranquil flow, as though all
time and eternity were allowed it to deluge the plain. Jeanne had
fallen asleep. Close by, her doll still sat astride the iron
window-bar; and, with its legs in the room and its head outside, its
nightdress clinging to its rosy skin, its eyes glaring, and its hair
streaming with water, it looked not unlike a drowned child; and so
emaciated did it appear in its comical yet distressing posture of
death, that it almost brought tears of pity to the eyes. Jeanne
coughed in her sleep; but now she never once opened her eyes. Her head
swayed to and fro on her crossed arms, and the cough spent itself in a
wheeze without awakening her. Nothing more existed for her. She slept
in the darkness. She did not even withdraw her hand, from whose cold,
red fingers bright raindrops were trickling one by one into the vast
expanse which lay beneath the window. This went on for hours and
hours. Paris was slowly waning on the horizon, like some phantom city;
heaven and earth mingled together in an indistinguishable jumble; and
still and ever with unflagging persistency did the grey rain fall.

                            CHAPTER XXI.

Night had long gathered in when Helene returned. From her umbrella the
water dripped on step after step, whilst clinging to the balusters she
ascended the staircase. She stood for a few seconds outside her door
to regain her breath; the deafening rush of the rain still sounded
in her ears; she still seemed to feel the jostling of hurrying
foot-passengers, and to see the reflections from the street-lamps
dancing in the puddles. She was walking in a dream, filled with the
surprise of the kisses that had been showered upon her; and as she
fumbled for her key she believed that her bosom felt neither remorse
nor joy. Circumstances had compassed it all; she could have done naught
to prevent it. But the key was not to be found; it was doubtless inside,
in the pocket of her other gown. At this discovery her vexation was
intense; it seemed as though she were denied admission to her own
home. It became necessary that she should ring the bell.

"Oh! it's madame!" exclaimed Rosalie as she opened the door. "I was
beginning to feel uneasy."

She took the umbrella, intending to place it in the kitchen sink, and
then rattled on:

"Good gracious! what torrents! Zephyrin, who has just come, was
drenched to the skin. I took the liberty, madame, of keeping him to
dinner. He has leave till ten o'clock."

Helene followed her mechanically. She felt a desire to look once more
on everything in her home before removing her bonnet.

"You have done quite right, my girl," she answered.

For a moment she lingered on the kitchen threshold, gazing at the
bright fire. Then she instinctively opened the door of a cupboard, and
promptly shut it again. Everything was in its place, chairs and tables
alike; she found them all again, and their presence gave her pleasure.
Zephyrin had, in the meantime, struggled respectfully to his feet. She
nodded to him, smiling.

"I didn't know whether to put the roast on," began the maid.

"Why, what time is it?" asked Helene.

"Oh, it's close on seven o'clock, madame."

"What! seven o'clock!"

Astonishment riveted her to the floor; she had lost all consciousness
of time, and seemed to awaken from a dream.

"And where's Jeanne?" she asked.

"Oh! she has been very good, madame. I even think she must have fallen
asleep, for I haven't heard her for some time."

"Haven't you given her a light?"

Embarrassment closed Rosalie's lips; she was unwilling to relate that
Zephyrin had brought her some pictures which had engrossed her
attention. Mademoiselle had never made the least stir, so she could
scarcely have wanted anything. Helene, however, paid no further heed
to her, but ran into the room, where a dreadful chill fell upon her.

"Jeanne! Jeanne!" she called.

No answer broke the stillness. She stumbled against an arm-chair. From
the dining-room, the door of which she had left ajar, some light
streamed across a corner of the carpet. She felt a shiver come over
her, and she could have declared that the rain was falling in the
room, with its moist breath and continuous streaming. Then, on turning
her head, she at once saw the pale square formed by the open window
and the gloomy grey of the sky.

"Who can have opened this window?" she cried. "Jeanne! Jeanne!"

Still no answering word. A mortal terror fell on Helene's heart. She
must look out of this window; but as she felt her way towards it, her
hands lighted on a head of hair--it was Jeanne's. And then, as Rosalie
entered with a lamp, the child appeared with blanched face, sleeping
with her cheek upon her crossed arms, while the big raindrops from the
roof splashed upon her. Her breathing was scarcely perceptible, so
overcome she was with despair and fatigue. Among the lashes of her
large, bluey eyelids there were still two heavy tears.

"The unhappy child!" stammered Helene. "Oh, heavens! she's icy cold!
To fall asleep there, at such a time, when she had been expressly
forbidden to touch the window! Jeanne, Jeanne, speak to me; wake up,

Rosalie had prudently vanished. The child, on being raised in her
mother's embrace, let her head drop as though she were unable to shake
off the leaden slumber that had seized upon her. At last, however, she
raised her eyelids; but the glare of the lamp dazzled her, and she
remained benumbed and stupid.

"Jeanne, it's I! What's wrong with you? See, I've just come back,"
said Helene.

But the child seemingly failed to understand her; in her stupefaction
she could only murmur: "Oh! Ah!"

She gazed inquiringly at her mother, as though she failed to recognize
her. And suddenly she shivered, growing conscious of the cold air of
the room. Her memory was awakening, and the tears rolled from her
eyelids to her cheeks. Then she commenced to struggle, in the evident
desire to be left alone.

"It's you, it's you! Oh, leave me; you hold me too tight! I was so

She slipped from her mother's arms with affright in her face. Her
uneasy looks wandered from Helene's hands to her shoulders; one of
those hands was ungloved, and she started back from the touch of the
moist palm and warm fingers with a fierce resentment, as though
fleeing from some stranger's caress. The old perfume of vervain had
died away; Helene's fingers had surely become greatly attenuated, and
her hand was unusually soft. This skin was no longer hers, and its
touch exasperated Jeanne.

"Come, I'm not angry with you," pleaded Helene. "But, indeed, have you
behaved well? Come and kiss me."

Jeanne, however, still recoiled from her. She had no remembrance of
having seen her mother dressed in that gown or cloak. Besides, she
looked so wet and muddy. Where had she come from dressed in that dowdy

"Kiss me, Jeanne," repeated Helene.

But her voice also seemed strange; in Jeanne's ears it sounded louder.
Her old heartache came upon her once more, as when an injury had been
done her; and unnerved by the presence of what was unknown and
horrible to her, divining, however, that she was breathing an
atmosphere of falsehood, she burst into sobs.

"No, no, I entreat you! You left me all alone; and oh! I've been so

"But I'm back again, my darling. Don't weep any more; I've come home!"

"Oh no, no! it's all over now! I don't wish for you any more! Oh, I
waited and waited, and have been so wretched!"

Helene took hold of the child again, and gently sought to draw her to
her bosom; but she resisted stubbornly, plaintively exclaiming:

"No, no; it will never be the same! You are not the same!"

"What! What are you talking of, child?"

"I don't know; you are not the same."

"Do you mean to say that I don't love you any more?"

"I don't know; you are no longer the same! Don't say no. You don't
feel the same! It's all over, over, over. I wish to die!"

With blanching face Helene again clasped her in her arms. Did her
looks, then, reveal her secret? She kissed her, but a shudder ran
through the child's frame, and an expression of such misery crept into
her face that Helene forbore to print a second kiss upon her brow. She
still kept hold of her, but neither of them uttered a word. Jeanne's
sobbing fell to a whisper, a nervous revolt stiffening her limbs the
while. Helene's first thought was that much notice ought not to be
paid to a child's whims; but to her heart there stole a feeling of
secret shame, and the weight of her daughter's body on her shoulder
brought a blush to her cheeks. She hastened to put Jeanne down, and
each felt relieved.

"Now, be good, and wipe your eyes," said Helene. "We'll make
everything all right."

The child acquiesced in all gentleness, but seemed somewhat afraid and
glanced covertly at her mother. All at once her frame was shaken by a
fit of coughing.

"Good heavens! why, you've made yourself ill now! I cannot stay away
from you a moment. Did you feel cold?

"Yes, mamma; in the back."

"See here; put on this shawl. The dining-room stove is lighted, and
you'll soon feel warm. Are you hungry?"

Jeanne hesitated. It was on the tip of her tongue to speak the truth
and say no; but she darted a side glance at her mother, and,
recoiling, answered in a whisper: "Yes, mamma."

"Ah, well, it will be all right," exclaimed Helene, desirous of
tranquillizing herself. "Only, I entreat you, you naughty child, don't
frighten me like this again."

On Rosalie re-entering the room to announce that dinner was ready,
Helene severely scolded her. The little maid's head drooped; she
stammered out that it was all very true, for she ought to have looked
better after mademoiselle. Then, hoping to mollify her mistress, she
busied herself in helping her to change her clothes. "Good gracious!
madame was in a fine state!" she remarked, as she assisted in removing
each mud-stained garment, at which Jeanne glared suspiciously, still
racked by torturing thoughts.

"Madame ought to feel comfortable now," exclaimed Rosalie when it was
all over. "It's awfully nice to get into dry clothes after a

Helene, on finding herself once more in her blue dressing-gown, gave
vent to a slight sigh, as though a new happiness had welled up within
her. She again regained her old cheerfulness; she had rid herself of a
burden in throwing off those bedraggled garments. She washed her face
and hands; and while she stood there, still glistening with moisture,
her dressing-gown buttoned up to her chin, she was slowly approached
by Jeanne, who took one of her hands and kissed it.

At table, however, not a word passed between mother and daughter. The
fire flared with a merry roar, and there was a look of happiness about
the little dining-room, with its bright mahogany and gleaming china.
But the old stupor which drove away all thought seemed to have again
fallen on Helene; she ate mechanically, though with an appearance of
appetite. Jeanne sat facing her, and quietly watched her over her
glass, noting each of her movements. But all at once the child again
coughed, and her mother, who had become unconscious of her presence,
immediately displayed lively concern.

"Why, you're coughing again! Aren't you getting warm?"

"Oh, yes, mamma; I'm very warm."

Helene leaned towards her to feel her hand and ascertain whether she
was speaking the truth. Only then did she perceive that her plate was
still full.

"Why, you said you were hungry. Don't you like what you have there?"

"Oh, yes, mamma; I'm eating away."

With an effort Jeanne swallowed a mouthful. Helene looked at her for a
time, but soon again began dreaming of the fatal room which she had
come from. It did not escape the child that her mother took little
interest in her now. As the dinner came to an end, her poor wearied
frame sank down on the chair, and she sat there like some bent, aged
woman, with the dim eyes of one of those old maids for whom love is
past and gone.

"Won't mademoiselle have any jam?" asked Rosalie. "If not, can I
remove the cloth?"

Helene still sat there with far-away looks.

"Mamma, I'm sleepy," exclaimed Jeanne in a changed voice. "Will you
let me go to bed? I shall feel better in bed."

Once more her mother seemed to awake with a start to consciousness of
her surroundings.

"You are suffering, my darling! where do you feel the pain? Tell me."

"No, no; I told you I'm all right! I'm sleepy, and it's already time
for me to go to bed."

She left her chair and stood up, as though to prove that there was no
illness threatening her: but her benumbed feet tottered over the floor
on her way to the bedroom. She leaned against the furniture, and her
hardihood was such that not a tear came from her, despite the feverish
fire darting through her frame. Her mother followed to assist her to
bed; but the child had displayed such haste in undressing herself that
she only arrived in time to tie up her hair for the night. Without
need of any helping hand Jeanne slipped between the sheets, and
quickly closed her eyes.

"Are you comfortable?" asked Helene, as she drew up the bedclothes and
carefully tucked her in.

"Yes, quite comfortable. Leave me alone, and don't disturb me. Take
away the lamp."

Her only yearning was to be alone in the darkness, that she might
reopen her eyes and chew the cud of her sorrows, with no one near to
watch her. When the light had been carried away, her eyes opened quite

Nearby, in the meantime, Helene was pacing up and down her room. She
was seized with a wondrous longing to be up and moving about; the idea
of going to bed seemed to her insufferable. She glanced at the clock
--twenty minutes to nine; what was she to do? she rummaged about in a
drawer, but forgot what she was seeking for. Then she wandered to her
bookshelves, glancing aimlessly over the books; but the very reading
of the titles wearied her. A buzzing sprang up in her ears with the
room's stillness; the loneliness, the heavy atmosphere, were as an
agony to her. She would fain have had some bustle going on around her,
have had some one there to speak to--something, in short, to draw her
from herself. She twice listened at the door of Jeanne's little room,
from which, however, not even a sound of breathing came. Everything
was quiet; so she turned back once more, and amused herself by taking
up and replacing whatever came to her hand. Then suddenly the thought
flashed across her mind that Zephyrin must still be with Rosalie. It
was a relief to her; she was delighted at the idea of not being alone,
and stepped in her slippers towards the kitchen.

She was already in the ante-room, and was opening the glass door of
the inner passage, when she detected the re-echoing clap of a swinging
box on the ears, and the next moment Rosalie could be heard

"Ha, ha! you think you'll nip me again, do you? Take your paws off!"

"Oh! that's nothing, my charmer!" exclaimed Zephyrin in his husky,
guttural voice. "That's to show how I love you--in this style, you

But at that moment the door creaked, and Helene, entering, discovered
the diminutive soldier and the servant maid seated very quietly at
table, with their noses bent over their plates. They had assumed an
air of complete indifference; their innocence was certain. Yet their
faces were red with blushes, and their eyes aflame, and they wriggled
restlessly on their straw-bottomed chairs. Rosalie started up and
hurried forward.

"Madame wants something?"

Helene had no pretext ready to her tongue. She had come to see them,
to chat with them, and have their company. However, she felt a sudden
shame, and dared not say that she required nothing.

"Have you any hot water?" she asked, after a silence.

"No, madame; and my fire is nearly out. Oh, but it doesn't matter;
I'll give you some in five minutes. It boils in no time."

She threw on some charcoal, and then set the kettle in place; but
seeing that her mistress still lingered in the doorway, she said:

"I'll bring the water to you in five minutes, madame."

Helene responded with a wave of the hand.

"I'm not in a hurry for it; I'll wait. Don't disturb yourself, my
girl; eat away, eat away. There's a lad who'll have to go back to

Rosalie thereupon sat down again. Zephyrin, who had also been
standing, made a military salute, and returned to the cutting of his
meat, with his elbows projecting as though to show that he knew how to
conduct himself at table. Thus eating together, after madame had
finished dinner, they did not even draw the table into the middle of
the kitchen, but contented themselves with sitting side by side, with
their noses turned towards the wall. A glorious prospect of stewpans
was before them. A bunch of laurel and thyme hung near, and a
spice-box exhaled a piquant perfume. Around them--the kitchen was not
yet tidied--was all the litter of the things cleared away from the
dining-room; however, the spot seemed a charming one to these hungry
sweethearts, and especially to Zephyrin, who here feasted on such
things as were never seen within the walls of his barracks. The
predominant odor was one of roast meat, seasoned with a dash of
vinegar--the vinegar of the salad. In the copper pans and iron pots
the reflected light from the gas was dancing; and as the heat of the
fire was beyond endurance, they had set the window ajar, and a cool
breeze blew in from the garden, stirring the blue cotton curtain.

"Must you be in by ten o'clock exactly?" asked Helene.

"I must, madame, with all deference to you," answered Zephyrin.

"Well, it's along way off. Do you take the ''bus'?"

"Oh, yes, madame, sometimes. But you see a good swinging walk is much
the best."

She had taken a step into the kitchen, and leaning against the
dresser, her arms dangling and her hands clasped over her
dressing-gown, she began gossiping away about the wretched weather
they had had that day, about the food which was rationed out in
barracks, and the high price of eggs. As soon, however, as she had
asked a question and their answer had been given the conversation
abruptly fell. They experienced some discomfort with her standing thus
behind their backs. They did not turn round, but spoke into their
plates, their shoulders bent beneath her gaze, while, to conform to
propriety, each mouthful they swallowed was as small as possible. On
the other hand, Helene had now regained her tranquillity, and felt
quite happy there.

"Don't fret, madame," said Rosalie; "the kettle is singing already. I
wish the fire would only burn up a little better!"

She wanted to see to it, but Helene would not allow her to disturb
herself. It would be all right by-and-by. An intense weariness now
pervaded the young woman's limbs. Almost mechanically she crossed the
kitchen and approached the window, where she observed the third chair,
which was very high, and when turned over became a stepladder.
However, she did not sit down on it at once, for she had caught sight
of a number of pictures heaped up on a corner of the table.

"Dear me!" she exclaimed, as she took them in her hand, inspired with
the wish of gratifying Zephyrin.

The little soldier gaped with a silent chuckle. His face beamed with
smiles, and his eyes followed each picture, his head wagging whenever
something especially lovely was being examined by madame.

"That one there," he suddenly remarked, "I found in the Rue du Temple.
She's a beautiful woman, with flowers in her basket."

Helene sat down and inspected the beautiful woman who decorated the
gilt and varnished lid of a box of lozenges, every stain on which had
been carefully wiped off by Zephyrin. On the chair a dish-cloth was
hanging, and she could not well lean back. She flung it aside,
however, and once more lapsed into her dreaming. Then the two
sweethearts remarked madame's good nature, and their restraint
vanished--in the end, indeed, her very presence was forgotten by them.
One by one the pictures had dropped from her hands on to her knees,
and, with a vague smile playing on her face, she examined the
sweethearts and listened to their talk.

"I say, my dear," whispered the girl, "won't you have some more

He answered neither yes nor no, but swung backwards and forwards on
his chair as though he had been tickled, then contentedly stretched
himself, while she placed a thick slice on his plate. His red epaulets
moved up and down, and his bullet-shaped head, with its huge
projecting ears, swayed to and fro over his yellow collar as though it
were the head of some Chinese idol. His laughter ran all over him, and
he was almost bursting inside his tunic, which he did not unbutton,
however, out of respect for madame.

"This is far better than old Rouvet's radishes!" he exclaimed at last,
with his mouth full.

This was a reminiscence of their country home; and at thought of it
they both burst into immoderate laughter. Rosalie even had to hold on
to the table to prevent herself from falling. One day, before their
first communion, it seemed, Zephyrin had filched three black radishes
from old Rouvet. They were very tough radishes indeed--tough enough to
break one's teeth; but Rosalie all the same had crunched her share of
the spoil at the back of the schoolhouse. Hence it was that every time
they chanced to be taking a meal together Zephyrin never omitted to
ejaculate: "Yes; this is better than old Rouvet's radishes!"

And then Rosalie's laughter would become so violent that nine times
out of ten her petticoat-string would give way with an audible crack.

"Hello! has it parted?" asked the little soldier, with triumph in his

But Rosalie responded with a good slap.

"It's disgusting to make me break the string like this!" said she. "I
put a fresh one on every week."

However, he came nearer to her, intent on some joke or other, by way
of revenging the blow; but with a furious glance she reminded him that
her mistress was looking on. This seemed to trouble him but little,
for he replied with a rakish wink, as much as to say that no woman,
not even a lady, disliked a little fun. To be sure, when folks are
sweethearting, other people always like to be looking on.

"You have still five years to serve, haven't you?" asked Helene,
leaning back on the high wooden-seated chair, and yielding to a
feeling of tenderness.

"Yes, madame; perhaps only four if they don't need me any longer."

It occurred to Rosalie that her mistress was thinking of her marriage,
and with assumed anger, she broke in:

"Oh! madame, he can stick in the army for another ten years if he
likes! I sha'n't trouble myself to ask the Government for him. He is
becoming too much of a rake; yes, I believe he's going to the dogs.
Oh! it's useless for you to laugh--that won't take with me. When we go
before the mayor to get married, we'll see on whose side the laugh

At this he chuckled all the more, in order that he might show himself
a lady-killer before madame, and the maid's annoyance then became

"Oh!" said she, "we know all about that! You know, madame, he's still
a booby at heart. You've no idea how stupid that uniform makes them
all! That's the way he goes on with his comrades; but if I turned him
out, you would hear him sobbing on the stairs. Oh, I don't care a fig
for you, my lad! Why, whenever I please, won't you always be there to
do as I tell you?"

She bent forward to observe him closely; but, on seeing that his
good-natured, freckled face was beginning to cloud over, she was
suddenly moved, and prattled on, without any seeming transition:

"Ah! I didn't tell you that I've received a letter from auntie. The
Guignard lot want to sell their house--aye, and almost for nothing
too. We might perhaps be able to take it later on."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Zephyrin, brightening, "we should be quite at
home there. There's room enough for two cows."

With this idea they lapsed into silence. They were now having some
dessert. The little soldier licked the jam on his bread with a child's
greedy satisfaction, while the servant girl carefully pared an apple
with a maternal air.

"Madame!" all at once exclaimed Rosalie, "there's the water boiling

Helene, however, never stirred. She felt herself enveloped by an
atmosphere of happiness. She gave a continuance to their dreams, and
pictured them living in the country in the Guignards' house and
possessed of two cows. A smile came to her face as she saw Zephyrin
sitting there to all appearance so serious, though in reality he was
patting Rosalie's knee under the table, whilst she remained very
stiff, affecting an innocent demeanor. Then everything became blurred.
Helene lost all definite sense of her surroundings, of the place where
she was, and of what had brought her there. The copper pans were
flashing on the walls; feelings of tenderness riveted her to the spot;
her eyes had a far-away look. She was not affected in any way by the
disorderly state of the kitchen; she had no consciousness of having
demeaned herself by coming there; all she felt was a deep pleasure, as
when a longing has been satisfied. Meantime the heat from the fire was
bedewing her pale brow with beads of perspiration, and behind her the
wind, coming in through the half-open window, quivered delightfully on
her neck.

"Madame, your water is boiling," again said Rosalie. "There will be
soon none left in the kettle."

She held the kettle before her, and Helene, for the moment astonished,
was forced to rise. "Oh, yes! thank you!"

She no longer had an excuse to remain, and went away slowly and
regretfully. When she reached her room she was at a loss what to do
with the kettle. Then suddenly within her there came a burst of
passionate love. The torpor which had held her in a state of
semi-unconsciousness gave way to a wave of glowing feeling, the rush
of which thrilled her as with fire. She quivered, and memories
returned to her--memories of her passion and of Henri.

While she was taking off her dressing-gown and gazing at her bare
arms, a noise broke on her anxious ear. She thought she had heard
Jeanne coughing. Taking up the lamp she went into the closet, but
found the child with eyelids closed, seemingly fast asleep. However,
the moment the mother, satisfied with her examination, had turned her
back, Jeanne's eyes again opened widely to watch her as she returned
to her room. There was indeed no sleep for Jeanne, nor had she any
desire to sleep. A second fit of coughing racked her bosom, but she
buried her head beneath the coverlet and stifled every sound. She
might go away for ever now; her mother would never miss her. Her eyes
were still wide open in the darkness; she knew everything as though
knowledge had come with thought, and she was dying of it all, but
dying without a murmur.

                           CHAPTER XXII.

Next day all sorts of practical ideas took possession of Helene's
mind. She awoke impressed by the necessity of keeping watch over her
happiness, and shuddering with fear lest by some imprudent step she
might lose Henri. At this chilly morning hour, when the room still
seemed asleep, she felt that she idolized him, loved him with a
transport which pervaded her whole being. Never had she experienced
such an anxiety to be diplomatic. Her first thought was that she must
go to see Juliette that very morning, and thus obviate the need of any
tedious explanations or inquiries which might result in ruining

On calling upon Madame Deberle at about nine o'clock she found her
already up, with pallid cheeks and red eyes like the heroine of a
tragedy. As soon as the poor woman caught sight of her, she threw
herself sobbing upon her neck exclaiming that she was her good angel.
She didn't love Malignon, not in the least, she swore it! Gracious
heavens! what a foolish affair! It would have killed her--there was no
doubt of that! She did not now feel herself to be in the least degree
qualified for ruses, lies, and agonies, and the tyranny of a sentiment
that never varied. Oh, how delightful did it seem to her to find
herself free again! She laughed contentedly; but immediately
afterwards there was another outburst of tears as she besought her
friend not to despise her. Beneath her feverish unrest a fear
lingered; she imagined that her husband knew everything. He had come
home the night before trembling with agitation. She overwhelmed Helene
with questions; and Helene, with a hardihood and facility at which she
herself was amazed, poured into her ears a story, every detail of
which she invented offhand. She vowed to Juliette that her husband
doubted her in nothing. It was she, Helene, who had become acquainted
with everything, and, wishing to save her, had devised that plan of
breaking in upon their meeting. Juliette listened to her, put instant
credit in the fiction, and, beaming through her tears, grew sunny with
joy. She threw herself once more on Helene's neck. Her caresses
brought no embarrassment to the latter; she now experienced none of
the honorable scruples that had at one time affected her. When she
left her lover's wife after extracting a promise from her that she
would try to be calm, she laughed in her sleeve at her own cunning;
she was in a transport of delight.

Some days slipped away. Helene's whole existence had undergone a
change; and in the thoughts of every hour she no longer lived in her
own home, but with Henri. The only thing that existed for her was that
next-door house in which her heart beat. Whenever she could find an
excuse to do so she ran thither, and forgot everything in the content
of breathing the same air as her lover. In her first rapture the sight
of Juliette even flooded her with tenderness; for was not Juliette one
of Henri's belongings? He had not, however, again been able to meet
her alone. She appeared loth to give him a second assignation. One
evening, when he was leading her into the hall, she even made him
swear that he would never again visit the house in the Passage des
Eaux, as such an act might compromise her.

Meantime, Jeanne was shaken by a short, dry cough, that never ceased,
but became severer towards evening every day. She would then be
slightly feverish, and she grew weak with the perspiration that bathed
her in her sleep. When her mother cross-questioned her, she answered
that she wasn't ill, that she felt no pain. Doubtless her cold was
coming to an end. Helene, tranquillized by the explanation, and having
no adequate idea of what was going on around her, retained, however,
in her bosom, amidst the rapture that made up her life, a vague
feeling of sorrow, of some weight that made her heart bleed despite
herself. At times, when she was plunged in one of those causeless
transports which made her melt with tenderness, an anxious thought
would come to her--she imagined that some misfortune was hovering
behind her. She turned round, however, and then smiled. People are
ever in a tremble when they are too happy. There was nothing there.
Jeanne had coughed a moment before, but she had some _tisane_ to
drink; there would be no ill effects.

However, one afternoon old Doctor Bodin, who visited them in the
character of a family friend, prolonged his stay, and stealthily, but
carefully, examined Jeanne with his little blue eyes. He questioned
her as though he were having some fun with her, and on this occasion
uttered no warning word. Two days later, however, he made his
appearance again; and this time, not troubling to examine Jeanne, he
talked away merrily in the fashion of a man who has seen many years
and many things, and turned the conversation on travelling. He had
once served as a military surgeon; he knew every corner of Italy. It
was a magnificent country, said he, which to be admired ought to be
seen in spring. Why didn't Madame Grandjean take her daughter there?
From this he proceeded by easy transitions to advising a trip to the
land of the sun, as he styled it. Helene's eyes were bent on him
fixedly. "No, no," he exclaimed, "neither of you is ill! Oh, no,
certainly not! Still, a change of air would mean new strength!" Her
face had blanched, a mortal chill had come over her at the thought of
leaving Paris. Gracious heavens! to go away so far, so far! to lose
Henri in a moment, their love to droop without a morrow! Such was the
agony which the thought gave her that she bent her head towards Jeanne
to hide her emotion. Did Jeanne wish to go away? The child, with a
chilly gesture, had intertwined her little fingers. Oh! yes, she would
so like to go! She would so like to go away into the sunny land, quite
alone, she and her mother, quite alone! And over her poor attenuated
face with its cheeks burning with fever, there swept the bright hope
of a new life. But Helene would listen to no more; indignation and
distrust led her to imagine that all of them--the Abbe, Doctor Bodin,
Jeanne herself--were plotting to separate her from Henri. When the old
doctor noticed the pallor of her cheeks, he imagined that he had not
spoken so cautiously as he might have done, and hastened to declare
that there was no hurry, albeit he silently resolved to return to the
subject at another time.

It happened that Madame Deberle intended to stop at home that day. As
soon as the doctor had gone Helene hastened to put on her bonnet.
Jeanne, however, refused to quit the house; she felt better beside the
fire; she would be very good, and would not open the window. For some
time past she had not teased her mother to be allowed to go with her;
still she gazed after her as she went out with a longing look. Then,
when she found herself alone, she shrunk into her chair and sat for
hours motionless.

"Mamma, is Italy far away?" she asked as Helene glided towards her to
kiss her.

"Oh! very far away, my pet!"

Jeanne clung round her neck, and not letting her rise again at the
moment, whispered: "Well, Rosalie could take care of everything here.
We should have no need of her. A small travelling-trunk would do for
us, you know! Oh! it would be delightful, mother dear! Nobody but us
two! I should come back quite plump--like this!"

She puffed out her cheeks and pictured how stout her arms would be.
Helene's answer was that she would see; and then she ran off with a
final injunction to Rosalie to take good care of mademoiselle.

The child coiled herself up in the chimney-corner, gazing at the ruddy
fire and deep in reverie. From time to time she moved her hands
forward mechanically to warm them. The glinting of the flames dazzled
her large eyes. So absorbed was she in her dreaming that she did not
hear Monsieur Rambaud enter the room. His visits had now become very
frequent; he came, he would say, in the interests of the poor
paralytic woman for whom Doctor Deberle had not yet been able to
secure admission into the Hospital for Incurables. Finding Jeanne
alone, he took a seat on the other side of the fireplace, and chatted
with her as though she were a grown-up person. It was most
regrettable; the poor woman had been waiting a week; however, he would
go down presently to see the doctor, who might perhaps give him an
answer. Meanwhile he did not stir.

"Why hasn't your mother taken you with her?" he asked.

Jeanne shrugged her shoulders with a gesture of weariness. It
disturbed her to go about visiting other people. Nothing gave her any
pleasure now.

"I am getting old," she added, "and I can't be always amusing myself.
Mamma finds entertainment out of doors, and I within; so we are not

Silence ensued. The child shivered, and held her hands out towards the
fire which burnt steadily with a pinky glare; and, indeed, muffled as
she was in a huge shawl, with a silk handkerchief round her neck and
another encircling her head, she did look like some old dame. Shrouded
in all these wraps, it struck one that she was no larger than an
ailing bird, panting amidst its ruffled plumage. Monsieur Rambaud,
with hands clasped over his knees, was gazing at the fire. Then,
turning towards Jeanne, he inquired if her mother had gone out the
evening before. She answered with a nod, yes. And did she go out the
evening before that and the previous day? The answer was always yes,
given with a nod of the head; her mother quitted her every day.

At this the child and Monsieur Rambaud gazed at one another for a long
time, their faces pale and serious, as though they shared some great
sorrow. They made no reference to it--a chit like her and an old man
could not talk of such a thing together; but they were well aware why
they were so sad, and why it was a pleasure to them to sit like this
on either side of the fireplace when they were alone in the house. It
was a comfort beyond telling. They loved to be near one another that
their forlornness might pain them less. A wave of tenderness poured
into their hearts; they would fain have embraced and wept together.

"You are cold, my dear old friend, I'm certain of it," said Jeanne;
"come nearer the fire."

"No, no, my darling; I'm not cold."

"Oh! you're telling a fib; your hands are like ice! Come nearer, or I
shall get vexed."

It was now his turn to display his anxious care.

"I could lay a wager they haven't left you any drink. I'll run and
make some for you; would you like it? Oh! I'm a good hand at making
it. You would see, if I were your nurse, you wouldn't be without
anything you wanted."

He did not allow himself any more explicit hint. Jeanne somewhat
sharply declared she was disgusted with _tisane_; she was compelled to
drink too much of it. However, now and then she would allow Monsieur
Rambaud to flutter round her like a mother; he would slip a pillow
under her shoulders, give her the medicine that she had almost
forgotten, or carry her into the bedroom in his arms. These little
acts of devotion thrilled both with tenderness. As Jeanne eloquently
declared with her sombre eyes, whose flashes disturbed the old man so
sorely, they were playing the parts of the father and the little girl
while her mother was absent. Then, however, sadness would all at once
fall upon them; their talk died away, and they glanced at one another
stealthily with pitying looks.

That afternoon, after a lengthy silence, the child asked the question
which she had already put to her mother: "Is Italy far away?"

"Oh! I should think so," replied Monsieur Rambaud. "It's away over
yonder, on the other side of Marseilles, a deuce of a distance! Why do
you ask me such a question?"

"Oh! because--" she began gravely. But she burst into loud complaints
at her ignorance. She was always ill, and she had never been sent to
school. Then they both became silent again, lulled into forgetfulness
by the intense heat of the fire.

In the meantime Helene had found Madame Deberle and her sister Pauline
in the Japanese pavilion where they so frequently whiled away the
afternoon. Inside it was very warm, a heating apparatus filled it with
a stifling atmosphere.

The large windows were shut, and a full view could be had of the
little garden, which, in its winter guise, looked like some large
sepia drawing, finished with exquisite delicacy, the little black
branches of the trees showing clear against the brown earth. The two
sisters were carrying on a sharp controversy.

"Now, be quiet, do!" exclaimed Juliette; "it is evidently our interest
to support Turkey."

"Oh! I've had a talk about it with a Russian," replied Pauline, who
was equally excited. "We are much liked at St. Petersburg, and it is
only there that we can find our proper allies."

Juliette's face assumed a serious look, and, crossing her arms, she
exclaimed: "Well, and what will you do with the balance of power in

The Eastern crisis was the absorbing topic in Paris at that moment;[*]
it was the stock subject of conversation, and no woman who pretended
to any position could speak with propriety of anything else. Thus, for
two days past, Madame Deberle had with passionate fervor devoted
herself to foreign politics. Her ideas were very pronounced on the
various eventualities which might arise; and Pauline greatly annoyed
her by her eccentricity in advocating Russia's cause in opposition to
the clear interests of France. Juliette's first desire was to convince
her of her folly, but she soon lost her temper.

[*] The reader may be reminded that the period of the story is that of
    the Crimean war.

"Pooh! hold your tongue; you are talking foolishly! Now, if you had
only studied the matter carefully with me--"

But she broke off to greet Helene, who entered at this moment.

"Good-day, my dear! It is very kind of you to call. I don't suppose
you have any news. This morning's paper talked of an ultimatum. There
has been a very exciting debate in the English House of Commons!"

"No, I don't know anything," answered Helene, who was astounded by the
question. "I go out so little!"

However, Juliette had not waited for her reply, but was busy
explaining to Pauline why it was necessary to neutralize the Black
Sea; and her talk bristled with references to English and Russian
generals, whose names she mentioned in a familiar way and with
faultless pronunciation. However, Henri now made his appearance with
several newspapers in his hand. Helene at once realized that he had
come there for her sake; for their eyes had sought one another and
exchanged a long, meaning glance. And when their hands met it was in a
prolonged and silent clasp that told how the personality of each was
lost in the other.

"Is there anything in the papers?" asked Juliette feverishly.

"In the papers, my dear?" repeated the doctor; "no there's never

For a time the Eastern Question dropped into the background. There
were frequent allusions to some one whom they were expecting, but who
did not make his appearance. Pauline remarked that it would soon be
three o'clock. Oh he would come, declared Madame Deberle; he had given
such a definite promise; but she never hinted at any name. Helene
listened without understanding; things which had no connection with
Henri did not in the least interest her. She no longer brought her
work when she now came down into the garden; and though her visits
would last a couple of hours, she would take no part in the
conversation, for her mind was ever filled with the same childish
dream wherein all others miraculously vanished, and she was left alone
with him. However, she managed to reply to Juliette's questions, while
Henri's eyes, riveted on her own, thrilled her with a delicious
languor. At last he stepped behind her with the intention of pulling
up one of the blinds, and she fully divined that he had come to ask
another meeting, for she noticed the tremor that seized him when he
brushed against her hair.

"There's a ring at the bell; that must be he!" suddenly exclaimed

Then the faces of the two sisters assumed an air of indifference. It
was Malignon who made his appearance, dressed with greater care than
ever, and having a somewhat serious look. He shook hands; but eschewed
his customary jocularity, thus returning, in a ceremonious manner, to
this house where for some time he had not shown his face.

While the doctor and Pauline were expostulating with him on the rarity
of his visits, Juliette bent down and whispered to Helene, who,
despite her supreme indifference, was overcome with astonishment:

"Ah! you are surprised? Dear me! I am not angry with him at all! he's
such a good fellow at heart that nobody could long be angry with him!
Just fancy! he has unearthed a husband for Pauline. It's splendid,
isn't it?"

"Oh! no doubt," answered Helene complaisantly.

"Yes, one of his friends, immensely rich, who did not think of getting
married, but whom he has sworn to bring here! We were waiting for him
to-day to have some definite reply. So, as you will understand, I had
to pass over a lot of things. Oh! there's no danger now; we know one
another thoroughly."

Her face beamed with a pretty smile, and she blushed slightly at the
memories she conjured up; but she soon turned round and took
possession of Malignon. Helene likewise smiled. These accommodating
circumstances in life seemed to her sufficient excuse for her own
delinquencies. It was absurd to think of tragic melodramas; no,
everything wound up with universal happiness. However, while she had
thus been indulging in the cowardly, but pleasing, thought that
nothing was absolutely indefensible, Juliette and Pauline had opened
the door of the pavilion, and were now dragging Malignon in their
train into the garden. And, all at once, Helene heard Henri speaking
to her in a low and passionate voice:

"I beseech you, Helene! Oh! I beseech you--"

She started to her feet, and gazed around her with sudden anxiety.
They were quite alone; she could see the three others walking slowly
along one of the walks. Henri was bold enough to lay his hand on her
shoulder, and she trembled as she felt its pressure.

"As you wish," she stammered, knowing full well what question it was
that he desired to ask.

Then, hurriedly, they exchanged a few words.

"At the house in the Passage des Eaux," said he.

"No, it is impossible--I have explained to you, and you swore to me--"

"Well, wherever you like, so that I may see you! In your own house
--this evening. Shall I call?"

The idea was repellant to her. But she could only refuse with a sign,
for fear again came upon her as she observed the two ladies and
Malignon returning. Madame Deberle had taken the young man away under
pretext of showing him some clumps of violets which were in full
blossom notwithstanding the cold weather. Hastening her steps, she
entered the pavilion before the others, her face illumined by a smile.

"It's all arranged," she exclaimed.

"What's all arranged?" asked Helene, who was still trembling with
excitement and had forgotten everything.

"Oh, that marriage! What a riddance! Pauline was getting a bit of a
nuisance. However, the young man has seen her and thinks her charming!
To-morrow we're all going to dine with papa. I could have embraced
Malignon for his good news!"

With the utmost self-possession Henri had contrived to put some
distance between Helene and himself. He also expressed his sense of
Malignon's favor, and seemed to share his wife's delight at the
prospect of seeing their little sister settled at last. Then he turned
to Helene, and informed her that she was dropping one of her gloves.
She thanked him. They could hear Pauline laughing and joking in the
garden. She was leaning towards Malignon, murmuring broken sentences
in his ear, and bursting into loud laughter as he gave her whispered
answers. No doubt he was chatting to her confidentially about her
future husband. Standing near the open door of the pavilion, Helene
meanwhile inhaled the cold air with delight.

It was at this moment that in the bedroom up above a silence fell on
Jeanne and Monsieur Rambaud, whom the intense heat of the fire filled
with languor. The child woke up from the long-continued pause with a
sudden suggestion which seemed to be the outcome of her dreamy fit:

"Would you like to go into the kitchen? We'll see if we can get a
glimpse of mamma!"

"Very well; let us go," replied Monsieur Rambaud.

Jeanne felt stronger that day, and reaching the kitchen without any
assistance pressed her face against a windowpane. Monsieur Rambaud
also gazed into the garden. The trees were bare of foliage, and
through the large transparent windows of the Japanese pavilion they
could make out every detail inside. Rosalie, who was busy attending to
the soup, reproached mademoiselle with being inquisitive. But the
child had caught sight of her mother's dress; and pointed her out,
whilst flattening her face against the glass to obtain a better view.
Pauline meanwhile looked up, and nodded vigorously. Then Helene also
made her appearance, and signed to the child to come down.

"They have seen you, mademoiselle," said the servant girl. "They want
you to go down."

Monsieur Rambaud opened the window, and every one called to him to
carry Jeanne downstairs. Jeanne, however, vanished into her room, and
vehemently refused to go, accusing her worthy friend of having
purposely tapped on the window. It was a great pleasure to her to look
at her mother, but she stubbornly declared she would not go near that
house; and to all Monsieur Rambaud's questions and entreaties she
would only return a stern "Because!" which was meant to explain

"It is not you who ought to force me," she said at last, with a gloomy

But he told her that she would grieve her mother very much, and that
it was not right to insult other people. He would muffle her up well,
she would not catch cold; and, so saying, he wound the shawl round her
body, and taking the silk handkerchief from her head, set a knitted
hood in its place. Even when she was ready, however, she still
protested her unwillingness; and when in the end she allowed him to
carry her down, it was with the express proviso that he would take her
up again the moment she might feel poorly. The porter opened the door
by which the two houses communicated, and when they entered the garden
they were hailed with exclamations of joy. Madame Deberle, in
particular, displayed a vast amount of affection for Jeanne; she
ensconced her in a chair near the stove, and desired that the windows
might be closed, for the air she declared was rather sharp for the
dear child. Malignon had now left. As Helene began smoothing the
child's dishevelled hair, somewhat ashamed to see her in company
muffled up in a shawl and a hood, Juliette burst out in protest:

"Leave her alone! Aren't we all at home here? Poor Jeanne! we are glad
to have her!"

She rang the bell, and asked if Miss Smithson and Lucien had returned
from their daily walk. No, they had not yet returned. It was just as
well, she declared; Lucien was getting beyond control, and only the
night before had made the five Levasseur girls sob with grief.

"Would you like to play at _pigeon vole_?" asked Pauline, who seemed
to have lost her head with the thought of her impending marriage.
"That wouldn't tire you."

But Jeanne shook her head in refusal. Beneath their drooping lids her
eyes wandered over the persons who surrounded her. The doctor had just
informed Monsieur Rambaud that admission to the Hospital for
Incurables had been secured for his _protegee_, and in a burst of
emotion the worthy man clasped his hands as though some great personal
favor had been conferred on him. They were all lounging on their
chairs, and the conversation became delightfully friendly. Less effort
was shown in following up remarks, and there were at times intervals
of silence. While Madame Deberle and her sister were busily engaged in
discussion, Helene said to the two men:

"Doctor Bodin has advised us to go to Italy."

"Ah! that is why Jeanne was questioning me!" exclaimed Monsieur
Rambaud. "Would it give you any pleasure to go away there?"

Without vouchsafing any answer, the child clasped her little hands
upon her bosom, while her pale face flushed with joy. Then,
stealthily, and with some fear, she looked towards the doctor; it was
he, she understood it, whom her mother was consulting. He started
slightly, but retained all his composure. Suddenly, however, Juliette
joined in the conversation, wishing, as usual, to have her finger in
every pie.

"What's that? Are you talking about Italy? Didn't you say you had an
idea of going to Italy? Well, it's a droll coincidence! Why, this very
morning, I was teasing Henri to take me to Naples! Just fancy, for ten
years now I have been dreaming of seeing Naples! Every spring he
promises to take me there, but he never keeps his word!"

"I didn't tell you that I would not go," murmured the doctor.

"What! you didn't tell me? Why, you refused flatly, with the excuse
that you could not leave your patients!"

Jeanne was listening eagerly. A deep wrinkle now furrowed her pale
brow, and she began twisting her fingers mechanically one after the

"Oh! I could entrust my patients for a few weeks to the care of a
brother-physician," explained the doctor. "That's to say, if I thought
it would give you so much pleasure--"

"Doctor," interrupted Helene, "are you also of opinion that such a
journey would benefit Jeanne?"

"It would be the very thing; it would thoroughly restore her to
health. Children are always the better for a change."

"Oh! then," exclaimed Juliette, "we can take Lucien, and we can all go
together. That will be pleasant, won't it?"

"Yes, indeed; I'll do whatever you wish," he answered, smiling.

Jeanne lowered her face, wiped two big tears of passionate anger and
grief from her eyes, and fell back in her chair as though she would
fain hear and see no more; while Madame Deberle, filled with ecstasy
by the idea of such unexpected pleasure, began chattering noisily. Oh!
how kind her husband was! She kissed him for his self-sacrifice. Then,
without the loss of a moment, she busied herself with sketching the
necessary preparations. They would start the very next week. Goodness
gracious! she would never have time to get everything ready! Next she
wanted to draw out a plan of their tour; they would need to visit this
and that town certainly; they could stay a week at Rome; they must
stop at a little country place that Madame de Guiraud had mentioned to
her; and she wound up by engaging in a lively discussion with Pauline,
who was eager that they should postpone their departure till such time
as she could accompany them with her husband.

"Not a bit of it!" exclaimed Juliette; "the wedding can take place
when we come back."

Jeanne's presence had been wholly forgotten. Her eyes were riveted on
her mother and the doctor. The proposed journey, indeed, now offered
inducements to Helene, as it must necessarily keep Henri near her. In
fact, a keen delight filled her heart at the thought of journeying
together through the land of the sun, living side by side, and
profiting by the hours of freedom. Round her lips wreathed a smile of
happy relief; she had so greatly feared that she might lose him; and
deemed herself fortunate in the thought that she would carry her love
along with her. While Juliette was discoursing of the scenes they
would travel through, both Helene and Henri, indeed, indulged in the
dream that they were already strolling through a fairy land of
perennial spring, and each told the other with a look that their
passion would reign there, aye, wheresoever they might breathe the
same air.

In the meantime, Monsieur Rambaud, who with unconscious sadness had
slowly lapsed into silence, observed Jeanne's evident discomfort.

"Aren't you well, my darling?" he asked in a whisper.

"No! I'm quite ill! Carry me up again, I implore you."

"But we must tell your mamma."

"Oh, no, no! mamma is busy; she hasn't any time to give to us. Carry
me up, oh! carry me up again."

He took her in his arms, and told Helene that the child felt tired. In
answer she requested him to wait for her in her rooms; she would
hasten after them. The little one, though light as a feather, seemed
to slip from his grasp, and he was forced to come to a standstill on
the second landing. She had leaned her head against his shoulder, and
each gazed into the other's face with a look of grievous pain. Not a
sound broke upon the chill silence of the staircase. Then in a low
whisper he asked her:

"You're pleased, aren't you, to go to Italy?"

But she thereupon burst into sobs, declaring in broken words that she
no longer had any craving to go, and would rather die in her own room.
Oh! she would not go, she would fall ill, she knew it well. She would
go nowhere--nowhere. They could give her little shoes to the poor.
Then amidst tears she whispered to him:

"Do you remember what you asked me one night?"

"What was it, my pet?"

"To stay with mamma always--always--always! Well, if you wish so
still, I wish so too!"

The tears welled into Monsieur Rambaud's eyes. He kissed her lovingly,
while she added in a still lower tone:

"You are perhaps vexed by my getting so angry over it. I didn't
understand, you know. But it's you whom I want! Oh! say that it will
be soon. Won't you say that it will be soon? I love you more than the
other one."

Below in the pavilion, Helene had begun to dream once more. The
proposed journey was still the topic of conversation; and she now
experienced an unconquerable yearning to relieve her overflowing
heart, and acquaint Henri with all the happiness which was stifling
her. So, while Juliette and Pauline were wrangling over the number of
dresses that ought to be taken, she leaned towards him and gave him
the assignation which she had refused but an hour before.

"Come to-night; I shall expect you."

But as she at last ascended to her own rooms, she met Rosalie flying
terror-stricken down the stairs. The moment she saw her mistress, the
girl shrieked out:

"Madame! madame! Oh! make haste, do! Mademoiselle is very ill! She's
spitting blood!"

                           CHAPTER XXIII.

On rising from the dinner-table the doctor spoke to his wife of a
confinement case, in close attendance on which he would doubtless have
to pass the night. He quitted the house at nine o'clock, walked down
to the riverside, and paced along the deserted quays in the dense
nocturnal darkness. A slight moist wind was blowing, and the swollen
Seine rolled on in inky waves. As soon as eleven o'clock chimed, he
walked up the slopes of the Trocadero, and began to prowl round the
house, the huge square pile of which seemed but a deepening of the
gloom. Lights could still be seen streaming through the dining-room
windows of Helene's lodging. Walking round, he noted that the kitchen
was also brilliantly lighted up. And at this sight he stopped short in
astonishment, which slowly developed into uneasiness. Shadows
traversed the blinds; there seemed to be considerable bustle and stir
up there. Perhaps Monsieur Rambaud had stayed to dine? But the worthy
man never left later than ten o'clock. He, Henri, dared not go up; for
what would he say should Rosalie open the door? At last, as it was
nearing midnight, mad with impatience and throwing prudence to the
winds, he rang the bell, and walked swiftly past the porter's room
without giving his name. At the top of the stairs Rosalie received

"It's you, sir! Come in. I will go and announce you. Madame must be
expecting you."

She gave no sign of surprise on seeing him at this hour. As he entered
the dining-room without uttering a word, she resumed distractedly:
"Oh! mademoiselle is very ill, sir. What a night! My legs are sinking
under me!" Thereupon she left the room, and the doctor mechanically
took a seat. He was oblivious of the fact that he was a medical man.
Pacing along the quay he had conjured up a vision of a very different
reception. And now he was there, as though he were paying a visit,
waiting with his hat on his knees. A grievous coughing in the next
room alone broke upon the intense silence.

At last Rosalie made her appearance once more, and hurrying across the
dining-room with a basin in her hand, merely remarked: "Madame says
you are not to go in."

He sat on, powerless to depart. Was their meeting to be postponed till
another day, then? He was dazed, as though such a thing had seemed to
him impossible. Then the thought came to him that poor Jeanne had very
bad health; children only brought on sorrow and vexation. The door,
however, opened once more, and Doctor Bodin entered, with a thousand
apologies falling from his lips. For some time he chattered away: he
had been sent for, but he would always be exceedingly pleased to enter
into consultation with his renowned fellow-practitioner.

"Oh! no doubt, no doubt," stammered Doctor Deberle, whose ears were

The elder man, his mind set at rest with regard to all questions of
professional etiquette, then began to affect a puzzled manner, and
expressed his doubts of the meaning of the symptoms. He spoke in a
whisper, and described them in technical phraseology, frequently
pausing and winking significantly. There was coughing without
expectoration, very pronounced weakness, and intense fever. Perhaps it
might prove a case of typhoid fever. But in the meantime he gave no
decided opinion, as the anaemic nervous affection, for which the
patient had been treated so long, made him fear unforeseen

"What do you think?" he asked, after delivering himself of each

Doctor Deberle answered with evasive questions. While the other was
speaking, he felt ashamed at finding himself in that room. Why had he
come up?

"I have applied two blisters," continued the old doctor. "I'm waiting
the result. But, of course, you'll see her. You will then give me your

So saying he led him into the bedroom. Henri entered it with a shudder
creeping through his frame. It was but faintly lighted by a lamp.
There thronged into his mind the memories of other nights, when there
had been the same warm perfume, the same close, calm atmosphere, the
same deepening shadows shrouding the furniture and hangings. But there
was no one now to come to him with outstretched hands as in those
olden days. Monsieur Rambaud lay back in an arm-chair exhausted,
seemingly asleep. Helene was standing in front of the bed, robed in a
white dressing-gown, but did not turn her head; and her figure, in its
death-like pallor, appeared to him extremely tall. Then for a moment's
space he gazed on Jeanne. Her weakness was so great that she could not
open her eyes without fatigue. Bathed in sweat, she lay in a stupor,
her face ghastly, save that a burning flush colored each cheek.

"It's galloping consumption," he exclaimed at last, speaking aloud in
spite of himself, and giving no sign of astonishment, as though he had
long foreseen what would happen.

Helene heard him and looked at him. She seemed to be of ice, her eyes
were dry, and she was terribly calm.

"You think so, do you?" rejoined Doctor Bodin, giving an approving nod
in the style of a man who had not cared to be the first to express
this opinion.

He sounded the child once more. Jeanne, her limbs quite lifeless,
yielded to the examination without seemingly knowing why she was being
disturbed. A few rapid sentences were exchanged between the two
physicians. The old doctor murmured some words about amphoric
breathing, and a sound such as a cracked jar might give out.
Nevertheless, he still affected some hesitation, and spoke,
suggestively, of capillary bronchitis. Doctor Deberle hastened to
explain that an accidental cause had brought on the illness; doubtless
it was due to a cold; however, he had already noticed several times
that an anaemical tendency would produce chest diseases. Helene stood
waiting behind him.

"Listen to her breathing yourself," said Doctor Bodin, giving way to

He leaned over the child, and seemed about to take hold of her. She
had not raised her eyelids; but lay there in self-abandonment,
consumed by fever. Her open nightdress displayed her childish breast,
where as yet there were but slight signs of coming womanhood; and
nothing could be more chaste or yet more harrowing than the sight of
this dawning maturity on which the Angel of Death had already laid his
hand. She had displayed no aversion when the old doctor had touched
her. But the moment Henri's fingers glanced against her body she
started as if she had received a shock. In a transport of shame she
awoke from the coma in which she had been plunged, and, like a maiden
in alarm, clasped her poor puny little arms over her bosom, exclaiming
the while in quavering tones: "Mamma! mamma!"

Then she opened her eyes, and on recognizing the man who was bending
over her, she was seized with terror. Sobbing with shame, she drew the
bed-cover over her bosom. It seemed as though she had grown older by
ten years during her short agony, and on the brink of death had
attained sufficient womanhood to understand that this man, above all
others, must not lay hands on her. She wailed out again in piteous
entreaty: "Mamma! mamma! I beseech you!"

Helene, who had hitherto not opened her lips, came close to Henri. Her
eyes were bent on him fixedly; her face was of marble. She touched
him, and merely said in a husky voice: "Go away!"

Doctor Bodin strove to appease Jeanne, who now shook with a fresh fit
of coughing. He assured her that nobody would annoy her again, that
every one would go away, to prevent her being disturbed.

"Go away," repeated Helene, in a deep whisper in her lover's ear. "You
see very well that we have killed her!"

Then, unable to find a word in reply, Henri withdrew. He lingered for
a moment longer in the dining-room, awaiting he knew not what,
something that might possibly take place. But seeing that Doctor Bodin
did not come out, he groped his way down the stairs without even
Rosalie to light him. He thought of the awful speed with which
galloping consumption--a disease to which he had devoted earnest
study--carried off its victims; the miliary tubercles would rapidly
multiply, the stifling sensation would become more and more
pronounced; Jeanne would certainly not last another three weeks.

The first of these passed by. In the mighty expanse of heaven before
the window, the sun rose and set above Paris, without Helene being
more than vaguely conscious of the pitiless, steady advance of time.
She grasped the fact that her daughter was doomed; she lived plunged
in a stupor, alive only to the terrible anguish that filled her heart.
It was but waiting on in hopelessness, in certainty that death would
prove merciless. She could not weep, but paced gently to and fro,
tending the sufferer with slow, regulated movements. At times,
yielding to fatigue, she would fall upon a chair, whence she gazed at
her for hours. Jeanne grew weaker and weaker; painful vomiting was
followed by exhaustion; the fever never quitted her. When Doctor Bodin
called, he examined her for a little while and left some prescription;
but his drooping shoulders, as he left the room, were eloquent of such
powerlessness that the mother forbore to accompany him to ask even a

On the morning after the illness had declared itself, Abbe Jouve had
made all haste to call. He and his brother now again came every
evening, exchanging a mute clasp of the hand with Helene, and never
venturing to ask any news. They had offered to watch by the bedside in
succession, but she sent them away when ten o'clock struck; she would
have no one in the bedroom during the night. One evening the Abbe, who
had seemed absorbed by some idea since the previous day, took her

"There is one thing I've thought of," he whispered. "Her health has
put obstacles in the darling child's way; but her first communion
might take place here."

His meaning at first did not seem to dawn on Helene. The thought that,
despite all his indulgence, he should now allow his priestly character
the ascendant and evince no concern but in spiritual matters, came on
her with surprise, and even wounded her somewhat. With a careless
gesture she exclaimed: "No, no; I would rather she wasn't worried. If
there be a heaven, she will have no difficulty in entering its gates."

That evening, however, Jeanne experienced one of those deceptive
improvements in health which fill the dying with illusions as to their
condition. Her hearing, rendered more acute by illness, had enabled
her to catch the Abbe's words.

"It's you, dear old friend!" said she. "You spoke about the first
communion. It will be soon, won't it?"

"No doubt, my darling," he answered.

Then she wanted him to come near to speak to her. Her mother had
propped her up with the pillow, and she reclined there, looking very
little, with a smile on her fever-burnt lips, and the shadow of death
already passing over her brilliant eyes.

"Oh! I'm getting on very well," she began. "I could get up if I
wanted. But tell me: should I have a white gown and flowers? Will the
church be as beautiful as it was in the Month of Mary?"

"More beautiful, my pet."

"Really? Will there be as many flowers, and will there be such sweet
chants? It will be soon, soon--you promise me, won't you?"

She was wrapt in joy. She gazed on the curtains of the bed, and
murmured in her transport that she was very fond of the good God, and
had seen Him while she was listening to the canticles. Even now she
could hear organs pealing, see lights that circled round, and flowers
in great vases hovering like butterflies before her eyes. Then another
fit of coughing threw her back on the pillow. However, her face was
still flushed with a smile; she seemed to be unconscious of her cough,
but continued:

"I shall get up to-morrow. I shall learn my catechism without a
mistake, and we'll be all very happy."

A sob came from Helene as she stood at the foot of the bed. She had
been powerless to weep, but a storm of tears rushed up from her bosom
as Jeanne's laughter fell on her ear. Then, almost stifling, she fled
into the dining-room, that she might hide her despair. The Abbe
followed her. Monsieur Rambaud had at once started up to engage the
child's attention.

"Oh dear! mamma cried out! Has she hurt herself?" she asked.

"Your mamma?" he answered. "No, she didn't cry out; she was laughing
because you are feeling so well."

In the dining-room, her head bowed dejectedly on the table, Helene
strove to stifle her sobs with her clasped hands. The Abbe hung over
her, and prayed her to restrain her emotion. But she raised her face,
streaming with tears, and bitterly accused herself. She declared to
him that she herself had killed her daughter, and a full confession
escaped from her lips in a torrent of broken words. She would never
have succumbed to that man had Jeanne remained beside her. It had been
fated that she should meet him in that chamber of mystery. God in
Heaven! she ought to die with her child; she could live no longer. The
priest, terrified, sought to calm her with the promise of absolution.

But there was a ring at the bell, and a sound of voices came from the
lobby. Helene dried her tears as Rosalie made her appearance.

"Madame, it's Dr. Deberle, who--"

"I don't wish him to come in."

"He is asking after mademoiselle."

"Tell him she is dying."

The door had been left open, and Henri had heard everything. Without
awaiting the return of the servant girl, he walked down the stairs. He
came up every day, received the same answer, and then went away.

The visits which Helene received quite unnerved her. The few ladies
whose acquaintance she had made at the Deberles' house deemed it their
duty to tender her their sympathy. Madame de Chermette, Madame
Levasseur, Madame de Guiraud, and others also presented themselves.
They made no request to enter, but catechised Rosalie in such loud
voices that they could be heard through the thin partitions. Giving
way to impatience, Helene would then receive them in the dining-room,
where, without sitting down, she spoke with them very briefly. She
went about all day in her dressing-gown, careless of her attire, with
her lovely hair merely gathered up and twisted into a knot. Her eyes
often closed with weariness; her face was flushed; she had a bitter
taste in her mouth; her lips were clammy, and she could scarcely
articulate. When Juliette called, she could not exclude her from the
bedroom, but allowed her to stay for a little while beside the bed.

"My dear," Madame Deberle said to her one day in friendly tones, "you
give way too much. Keep up your spirits."

Helene was about to reply, when Juliette, wishing to turn her thoughts
from her grief, began to chat about the things which were occupying
the gossips of Paris: "We are certainly going to have a war. I am in a
nice state about it, as I have two cousins who will have to serve."

In this style she would drop in upon them on returning from her
rambles through Paris, her brain bursting with all the tittle-tattle
collected in the course of the afternoon, and her long skirts whirling
and rustling as she sailed through the stillness of the sick-room. It
was altogether futile for her to lower her voice and assume a pitiful
air; her indifference peeped through all disguise; it could be seen
that she was happy, quite joyous indeed, in the possession of perfect
health. Helene was very downcast in her company, her heart rent by
jealous anguish.

"Madame," said Jeanne one evening, "why doesn't Lucien come to play
with me?"

Juliette was embarrassed for a moment, and merely answered with a

"Is he ill too?" continued the child.

"No, my darling, he isn't ill; he has gone to school."

Then, as Helene accompanied her into the ante-room, she wished to
apologize for her prevarication.

"Oh! I would gladly bring him; I know that there's no infection. But
children get frightened with the least thing, and Lucien is such a
stupid. He would just burst out sobbing when he saw your poor angel--"

"Yes, indeed; you are quite right," interrupted Helene, her heart
ready to break with the thought of this woman's gaiety, and her
happiness in possessing a child who enjoyed robust health.

A second week had passed away. The disease was following its usual
course, robbing Jeanne every hour of some of her vitality. Fearfully
rapid though it was, however, it evinced no haste, but, in
accomplishing the destruction of that delicate, lovable flesh, passed
in turn through each foreseen phase, without skipping a single one of
them. Thus the spitting of blood had ceased, and at intervals the
cough disappeared. But such was the oppressive feeling which stifled
the child that you could detect the ravages of the disease by the
difficulty she experienced in breathing. Such weakness could not
withstand so violent an attack; and the eyes of the Abbe and Monsieur
Rambaud constantly moistened with tears as they heard her. Day and
night under the shelter of the curtains the sound of oppressed
breathing arose; the poor darling, whom the slightest shock seemed
likely to kill, was yet unable to die, but lived on and on through the
agony which bathed her in sweat. Her mother, whose strength was
exhausted, and who could no longer bear to hear that rattle, went into
the adjoining room and leaned her head against the wall.

Jeanne was slowly becoming oblivious to her surroundings. She no
longer saw people, and her face bore an unconscious and forlorn
expression, as though she had already lived all alone in some unknown
sphere. When they who hovered round her wished to attract her
attention, they named themselves that she might recognize them; but
she would gaze at them fixedly, without a smile, then turn herself
round towards the wall with a weary look. A gloominess was settling
over her; she was passing away amidst the same vexation and sulkiness
as she had displayed in past days of jealous outbursts. Still, at
times the whims characteristic of sickness would awaken her to some
consciousness. One morning she asked her mother:

"To-day is Sunday, isn't it?"

"No, my child," answered Helene; "this is only Friday. Why do you wish
to know?"

Jeanne seemed to have already forgotten the question she had asked.
But two days later, while Rosalie was in the room, she said to her in
a whisper: "This is Sunday. Zephyrin is here; ask him to come and see

The maid hesitated, but Helene, who had heard, nodded to her in token
of consent. The child spoke again:

"Bring him; come both of you; I shall be so pleased."

When Rosalie entered the sick-room with Zephyrin, she raised herself
on her pillow. The little soldier, with bare head and hands spread
out, swayed about to hide his intense emotion. He had a great love for
mademoiselle, and it grieved him unutterably to see her "shouldering
arms on the left," as he expressed it in the kitchen. So, in spite of
the previous injunctions of Rosalie, who had instructed him to put on
a bright expression, he stood speechless, with downcast face, on
seeing her so pale and wasted to a skeleton. He was still as
tender-hearted as ever, despite his conquering airs. He could not even
think of one of those fine phrases which nowadays he usually concocted
so easily. The maid behind him gave him a pinch to make him laugh. But
he could only stammer out:

"I beg pardon--mademoiselle and every one here--"

Jeanne was still raising herself with the help of her tiny arms. She
widely opened her large, vacant eyes; she seemed to be looking for
something; her head shook with a nervous trembling. Doubtless the
stream of light was blinding her as the shadows of death gathered

"Come closer, my friend," said Helene to the soldier. "It was
mademoiselle who asked to see you."

The sunshine entered through the window in a slanting ray of golden
light, in which the dust rising from the carpet could be seen
circling. March had come, and the springtide was already budding out
of doors. Zephyrin took one step forward, and appeared in the
sunshine; his little round, freckled face had a golden hue, as of ripe
corn, while the buttons on his tunic glittered, and his red trousers
looked as sanguineous as a field of poppies. At last Jeanne became
aware of his presence there; but her eye again betrayed uneasiness,
and she glanced restlessly from one corner to another.

"What do you want, my child?" asked her mother. "We are all here." She
understood, however, in a moment. "Rosalie, come nearer. Mademoiselle
wishes to see you."

Then Rosalie, in her turn, stepped into the sunlight. She wore a cap,
whose strings, carelessly tossed over her shoulders, flapped round her
head like the wings of a butterfly. A golden powder seemed to fall on
her bristly black hair and her kindly face with its flat nose and
thick lips. And for Jeanne there were only these two in the room--the
little soldier and the servant girl, standing elbow to elbow under the
ray of sunshine. She gazed at them.

"Well, my darling," began Helene again, "you do not say anything to
them! Here they are together."

Jeanne's eyes were still fixed on them, and her head shook with the
tremor of a very aged woman. They stood there like man and wife, ready
to take each other's arm and return to their country-side. The spring
sun threw its warmth on them, and eager to brighten mademoiselle they
ended by smiling into each other's face with a look of mingled
embarrassment and tenderness. The very odor of health was exhaled from
their plump round figures. Had they been alone, Zephyrin without doubt
would have caught hold of Rosalie, and would have received for his
pains a hearty slap. Their eyes showed it.

"Well, my darling, have you nothing to say to them?"

Jeanne gazed at them, her breathing growing yet more oppressed. And
still she said not a word, but suddenly burst into tears. Zephyrin and
Rosalie had at once to quit the room.

"I beg pardon--mademoiselle and every one--" stammered the little
soldier, as he went away in bewilderment.

This was one of Jeanne's last whims. She lapsed into a dull stupor,
from which nothing could rouse her. She lay there in utter loneliness,
unconscious even of her mother's presence. When Helene hung over the
bed seeking her eyes, the child preserved a stolid expression, as
though only the shadow of the curtain had passed before her. Her lips
were dumb; she showed the gloomy resignation of the outcast who knows
that she is dying. Sometimes she would long remain with her eyelids
half closed, and nobody could divine what stubborn thought was thus
absorbing her. Nothing now had any existence for her save her big
doll, which lay beside her. They had given it to her one night to
divert her during her insufferable anguish, and she refused to give it
back, defending it with fierce gestures the moment they attempted to
take it from her. With its pasteboard head resting on the bolster, the
doll was stretched out like an invalid, covered up to the shoulders by
the counterpane. There was little doubt the child was nursing it, for
her burning hands would, from time to time, feel its disjointed limbs
of flesh-tinted leather, whence all the sawdust had exuded. For hours
her eyes would never stray from those enamel ones which were always
fixed, or from those white teeth wreathed in an everlasting smile. She
would suddenly grow affectionate, clasp the doll's hands against her
bosom and press her cheek against its little head of hair, the
caressing contact of which seemed to give her some relief. Thus she
sought comfort in her affection for her big doll, always assuring
herself of its presence when she awoke from a doze, seeing nothing
else, chatting with it, and at times summoning to her face the shadow
of a smile, as though she had heard it whispering something in her

The third week was dragging to an end. One morning the old doctor came
and remained. Helene understood him: her child would not live through
the day. Since the previous evening she had been in a stupor that
deprived her of the consciousness even of her own actions. There was
no longer any struggle with death; it was but a question of hours. As
the dying child was consumed by an awful thirst, the doctor had merely
recommended that she should be given some opiate beverage, which would
render her passing less painful; and the relinquishing of all attempts
at cure reduced Helene to a state of imbecility. So long as the
medicines had littered the night-table she still had entertained hopes
of a miraculous recovery. But now bottles and boxes had vanished, and
her last trust was gone. One instinct only inspired her now--to be
near Jeanne, never leave her, gaze at her unceasingly. The doctor,
wishing to distract her attention from the terrible sight, strove, by
assigning some little duties to her, to keep her at a distance. But
she ever and ever returned, drawn to the bedside by the physical
craving to see. She waited, standing erect, her arms hanging beside
her, and her face swollen by despair.

About one o'clock Abbe Jouve and Monsieur Rambaud arrived. The doctor
went to meet them, and muttered a few words. Both grew pale, and stood
stock-still in consternation, while their hands began to tremble.
Helene had not turned round.

The weather was lovely that day; it was one of those sunny afternoons
typical of early April. Jeanne was tossing in her bed. Her lips moved
painfully at times with the intolerable thirst which consumed her. She
had brought her poor transparent hands from under the coverlet, and
waved them gently to and fro. The hidden working of the disease was
accomplished, she coughed no more, and her dying voice came like a
faint breath. For a moment she turned her head, and her eyes sought
the light. Doctor Bodin threw the window wide open, and then Jeanne at
once became tranquil, with her cheek resting on the pillow and her
looks roving over Paris, while her heavy breathing grew fainter and

During the three weeks of her illness she had thus many times turned
towards the city that stretched away to the horizon. Her face grew
grave, she was musing. At this last hour Paris was smiling under the
glittering April sunshine. Warm breezes entered from without, with
bursts of urchin's laughter and the chirping of sparrows. On the brink
of the grave the child exerted her last strength to gaze again on the
scene, and follow the flying smoke which soared from the distant
suburbs. She recognized her three friends, the Invalides, the
Pantheon, and the Tower of Saint-Jacques; then the unknown began, and
her weary eyelids half closed at sight of the vast ocean of roofs.
Perhaps she was dreaming that she was growing much lighter and
lighter, and was fleeting away like a bird. Now, at last, she would
soon know all; she would perch herself on the domes and steeples;
seven or eight flaps of her wings would suffice, and she would be able
to gaze on the forbidden mysteries that were hidden from children. But
a fresh uneasiness fell upon her, and her hands groped about; she only
grew calm again when she held her large doll in her little arms
against her bosom. It was evidently her wish to take it with her. Her
glances wandered far away amongst the chimneys glinting with the sun's
ruddy light.

Four o'clock struck, and the bluish shadows of evening were already
gathering. The end was at hand; there was a stifling, a slow and
passive agony. The dear angel no longer had strength to offer
resistance. Monsieur Rambaud, overcome, threw himself on his knees,
convulsed with silent sobbing, and dragged himself behind a curtain to
hide his grief. The Abbe was kneeling at the bedside, with clasped
hands, repeating the prayers for the dying.

"Jeanne! Jeanne!" murmured Helene, chilled to the heart with a horror
which sent an icy thrill through her very hair.

She had repulsed the doctor and thrown herself on the ground, leaning
against the bed to gaze into her daughter's face. Jeanne opened her
eyes, but did not look at her mother. She drew her doll--her last
love--still closer. Her bosom heaved with a big sigh, followed by two
fainter ones. Then her eyes paled, and her face for a moment gave
signs of a fearful anguish. But speedily there came relief; her mouth
remained open, she breathed no more.

"It is over," said the doctor, as he took her hand.

Jeanne's big, vacant eyes were fixed on Paris. The long, thin,
lamb-like face was still further elongated, there was a sternness on
its features, a grey shadow falling from its contracted brows. Thus
even in death she retained the livid expression of a jealous woman.
The doll, with its head flung back, and its hair dishevelled, seemed
to lie dead beside her.

"It is over," again said the doctor, as he allowed the little cold
hand to drop.

Helene, with a strained expression on her face, pressed her hands to
her brow as if she felt her head splitting open. No tears came to her
eyes; she gazed wildly in front of her. Then a rattling noise mounted
in her throat; she had just espied at the foot of the bed a pair of
shoes that lay forgotten there. It was all over. Jeanne would never
put them on again; the little shoes could be given to the poor. And at
the sight Helene's tears gushed forth; she still knelt on the floor,
her face pressed against the dead child's hand, which had slipped
down. Monsieur Rambaud was sobbing. The Abbe had raised his voice, and
Rosalie, standing at the door of the dining-room, was biting her
handkerchief to check the noise of her grief.

At this very moment Doctor Deberle rang the bell. He was unable to
refrain from making inquiries.

"How is she now?" he asked.

"Oh, sir!" wailed Rosalie, "she is dead."

He stood motionless, stupefied by the announcement of the end which he
had been expecting daily. At last he muttered: "O God! the poor child!
what a calamity!"

He could only give utterance to those commonplace but heartrending
words. The door shut once more, and he went down the stairs.

                           CHAPTER XXIV.

When Madame Deberle was apprised of Jeanne's death she wept, and gave
way to one of those outbursts of emotion that kept her in a flutter
for eight-and-forty hours. Hers was a noisy and immoderate grief. She
came and threw herself into Helene's arms. Then a phrase dropped in
her hearing inspired her with the idea of imparting some affecting
surroundings to the child's funeral, and soon wholly absorbed her. She
offered her services, and declared her willingness to undertake every
detail. The mother, worn out with weeping, sat overwhelmed in her
chair; Monsieur Rambaud, who was acting in her name, was losing his
head. So he accepted the offer with profuse expressions of gratitude.
Helene merely roused herself for a moment to express the wish that
there should be some flowers--an abundance of flowers.

Without losing a minute, Madame Deberle set about her task. She spent
the whole of the next day in running from one lady friend to another,
bearing the woeful tidings. It was her idea to have a following of
little girls all dressed in white. She needed at least thirty, and did
not return till she had secured the full number. She had gone in
person to the Funeral Administration, discussed the various styles,
and chosen the necessary drapery. She would have the garden railings
hung with white, and the body might be laid out under the lilac trees,
whose twigs were already tipped with green. It would be charming.

"If only it's a fine day to-morrow!" she giddily remarked in the
evening when her scurrying to and fro had come to an end.

The morning proved lovely; there was a blue sky and a flood of
sunshine, the air was pure and invigorating as only the air of spring
can be. The funeral was to take place at ten o'clock. By nine the
drapery had been hung up. Juliette ran down to give the workmen her
ideas of what should be done. She did not wish the trees to be
altogether covered. The white cloth, fringed with silver, formed a
kind of porch at the garden gate, which was thrown back against the
lilac trees. However, Juliette soon returned to her drawing-room to
receive her lady guests. They were to assemble there to prevent Madame
Grandjean's two rooms from being filled to overflowing. Still she was
greatly annoyed at her husband having had to go that morning to
Versailles--for some consultation or other, he explained, which he
could not well neglect. Thus she was left alone, and felt she would
never be able to get through with it all. Madame Berthier was the
first arrival, bringing her two daughters with her.

"What do you think!" exclaimed Madame Deberle; "Henri has deserted me!
Well, Lucien, why don't you say good-day?"

Lucien was already dressed for the funeral, with his hands in black
gloves. He seemed astonished to see Sophie and Blanche dressed as
though they were about to take part in some church procession. A silk
sash encircled the muslin gown of each, and their veils, which swept
down to the floor, hid their little caps of transparent tulle. While
the two mothers were busy chatting, the three children gazed at one
another, bearing themselves somewhat stiffly in their new attire. At
last Lucien broke the silence by saying: "Jeanne is dead."

His heart was full, and yet his face wore a smile--a smile born of
amazement. He had been very quiet since the evening before, dwelling
on the thought that Jeanne was dead. As his mother was up to her ears
in business, and took no notice of him, he had plied the servants with
questions. Was it a fact, he wanted to know, that it was impossible to
move when one was dead?"

"She is dead, she is dead!" echoed the two sisters, who looked like
rosebuds under their white veils. "Are we going to see her?"

Lucien pondered for a time, and then, with dreamy eyes and opened
mouth, seemingly striving to divine the nature of this problem which
lay beyond his ken, he answered in a low tone:

"We shall never see her again."

However, several other little girls now entered the room. On a sign
from his mother Lucien advanced to meet them. Marguerite Tissot, her
muslin dress enveloping her like a cloud, seemed a child-Virgin; her
fair hair, escaping from underneath her little cap, looked, through
the snowy veil, like a tippet figured with gold. A quiet smile crept
into every face when the five Levasseurs made their appearance; they
were all dressed alike, and trooped along in boarding-school fashion,
the eldest first, the youngest last; and their skirts stood out to
such an extent that they quite filled one corner of the room. But on
little Mademoiselle Guiraud's entry the whispering voices rose to a
higher key; the others laughed and crowded round to see her and kiss
her. She was like some white turtle-dove with its downy feathers
ruffled. Wrapped in rustling gauze, she looked as round as a barrel,
but still no heavier than a bird. Her mother even could not find her
hands. By degrees the drawing-room seemed to be filling with a cloud
of snowballs. Several boys, in their black coats, were like dark spots
amidst the universal white. Lucien, now that his little wife was dead,
desired to choose another. However, he displayed the greatest
hesitation. He would have preferred a wife like Jeanne, taller than
himself; but at last he settled on Marguerite, whose hair fascinated
him, and to whom he attached himself for the day.

"The corpse hasn't been brought down yet," Pauline muttered at this
moment in Juliette's ear.

Pauline was as flurried as though the preliminaries of a ball were in
hand. It was with the greatest difficulty that her sister had
prevented her from donning a white dress for the ceremony.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Juliette; "what are they dreaming about? I
must run up. Stay with these ladies."

She hastily left the room, where the mothers in their mourning attire
sat chatting in whispers, while the children dared not make the least
movement lest they should rumple their dresses. When she had reached
the top of the staircase and entered the chamber where the body lay,
Juliette's blood was chilled by the intense cold. Jeanne still lay on
the bed, with clasped hands; and, like Marguerite and the Levasseur
girls, she was arrayed in a white dress, white cap, and white shoes. A
wreath of white roses crowned the cap, as though she were a little
queen about to be honored by the crowd of guests who were waiting
below. In front of the window, on two chairs, was the oak coffin lined
with satin, looking like some huge jewel casket. The furniture was all
in order; a wax taper was burning; the room seemed close and gloomy,
with the damp smell and stillness of a vault which has been walled up
for many years. Thus Juliette, fresh from the sunshine and smiling
life of the outer world, came to a sudden halt, stricken dumb, without
the courage to explain that they must needs hurry.

"A great many people have come," she stammered at last. And then, as
no answer was forthcoming, she added, just for the sake of saying
something: "Henri has been forced to attend a consultation at
Versailles; you will excuse him."

Helene, who sat in front of the bed, gazed at her with vacant eyes.
They were wholly unable to drag her from that room. For six-and-thirty
hours she had lingered there, despite the prayers of Monsieur Rambaud
and the Abbe Jouve, who kept watch with her. During the last two
nights she had been weighed to the earth by immeasurable agony.
Besides, she had accomplished the grievous task of dressing her
daughter for the last time, of putting on those white silk shoes, for
she would allow no other to touch the feet of the little angel who lay
dead. And now she sat motionless, as though her strength were spent,
and the intensity of her grief had lulled her into forgetfulness.

"Have you got some flowers?" she exclaimed after an effort, her eyes
still fixed on Madame Deberle.

"Yes, yes, my dear," answered the latter. "Don't trouble yourself
about that."

Since her daughter had breathed her last, Helene had been consumed
with one idea--there must be flowers, flowers, an overwhelming
profusion of flowers. Each time she saw anybody, she grew uneasy,
seemingly afraid that sufficient flowers would never be obtained.

"Are there any roses?" she began again after a pause.

"Yes. I assure you that you will be well pleased."

She shook her head, and once more fell back into her stupor. In the
meantime the undertaker's men were waiting on the landing. It must be
got over now without delay. Monsieur Rambaud, who was himself affected
to such a degree that he staggered like a drunken man, signed to
Juliette to assist him in leading the poor woman from the room. Each
slipped an arm gently beneath hers, and they raised her up and led her
towards the dining-room. But the moment she divined their intention,
she shook them from her in a last despairing outburst. The scene was
heartrending. She threw herself on her knees at the bedside and clung
passionately to the sheets, while the room re-echoed with her piteous
shrieks. But still Jeanne lay there with her face of stone, stiff and
icy-cold, wrapped round by the silence of eternity. She seemed to be
frowning; there was a sour pursing of the lips, eloquent of a
revengeful nature; and it was this gloomy, pitiless look, springing
from jealousy and transforming her face, which drove Helene so
frantic. During the preceding thirty-six hours she had not failed to
notice how the old spiteful expression had grown more and more intense
upon her daughter's face, how more and more sullen she looked the
nearer she approached the grave. Oh, what a comfort it would have been
if Jeanne could only have smiled on her for the last time!

"No, no!" she shrieked. "I pray you, leave her for a moment. You
cannot take her from me. I want to embrace her. Oh, only a moment,
only a moment!"

With trembling arms she clasped her child to her bosom, eager to
dispute possession with the men who stood in the ante-room, with their
backs turned towards her and impatient frowns on their faces. But her
lips were powerless to breathe any warmth on the cold countenance; she
became conscious that Jeanne's obstinacy was not to be overcome, that
she refused forgiveness. And then she allowed herself to be dragged
away, and fell upon a chair in the dining-room, with the one mournful
cry, again and again repeated: "My God! My God!"

Monsieur Rambaud and Madame Deberle were overcome by emotion. There
was an interval of silence, but when the latter opened the door
halfway it was all over. There had been no noise--scarcely a stir. The
screws, oiled beforehand, now closed the lid for ever. The chamber was
left empty, and a white sheet was thrown over the coffin.

The bedroom door remained open, and no further restraint was put upon
Helene. On re-entering the room she cast a dazed look on the furniture
and round the walls. The men had borne away the corpse. Rosalie had
drawn the coverlet over the bed to efface the slight hollow made by
the form of the little one whom they had lost. Then opening her arms
with a distracted gesture and stretching out her hands, Helene rushed
towards the staircase. She wanted to go down, but Monsieur Rambaud
held her back, while Madame Deberle explained to her that it was not
the thing to do. But she vowed she would behave rationally, that she
would not follow the funeral procession. Surely they could allow her
to look on; she would remain quiet in the garden pavilion. Both wept
as they heard her pleading. However, she had to be dressed. Juliette
threw a black shawl round her to conceal her morning wrap. There was
no bonnet to be found; but at last they came across one from which
they tore a bunch of red vervain flowers. Monsieur Rambaud, who was
chief mourner, took hold of Helene's arm.

"Do not leave her," whispered Madame Deberle as they reached the
garden. "I have so many things to look after!"

And thereupon she hastened away. Helene meanwhile walked with
difficulty, her eyes ever seeking something. As soon as she had found
herself out of doors she had drawn a long sigh. Ah! what a lovely
morning! Then she looked towards the iron gate, and caught sight of
the little coffin under the white drapery. Monsieur Rambaud allowed
her to take but two or three steps forward.

"Now, be brave," he said to her, while a shudder ran through his own

They gazed on the scene. The narrow coffin was bathed in sunshine. At
the foot of it, on a lace cushion, was a silver crucifix. To the left
the holy-water sprinkler lay in its font. The tall wax tapers were
burning with almost invisible flames. Beneath the hangings, the
branches of the trees with their purple shoots formed a kind of bower.
It was a nook full of the beauty of spring, and over it streamed the
golden sunshine irradiating the blossoms with which the coffin was
covered. It seemed as if flowers had been raining down; there were
clusters of white roses, white camellias, white lilac, white
carnations, heaped in a snowy mass of petals; the coffin was hidden
from sight, and from the pall some of the white blossoms were falling,
the ground being strewn with periwinkles and hyacinths. The few
persons passing along the Rue Vineuse paused with a smile of tender
emotion before this sunny garden where the little body lay at peace
amongst the flowers. There seemed to be a music stealing up from the
snowy surroundings; in the glare of light the purity of the blossoms
grew dazzling, and the sun flushed hangings, nosegays, and wreaths of
flowers, with a very semblance of life. Over the roses a bee flew

"Oh, the flowers! the flowers!" murmured Helene, powerless to say
another word.

She pressed her handkerchief to her lips, and her eyes filled with
tears. Jeanne must be warm, she thought, and with this idea a wave of
emotion rose in her bosom; she felt very grateful to those who had
enveloped her child in flowers. She wished to go forward, and Monsieur
Rambaud made no effort to hold her back. How sweet was the scene
beneath the cloud of drapery! Perfumes were wafted upwards; the air
was warm and still. Helene stooped down and chose one rose only, that
she might place it in her bosom. But suddenly she commenced to
tremble, and Monsieur Rambaud became uneasy.

"Don't stay here," he said, as he drew her away. "You promised not to
make yourself unwell."

He was attempting to lead her into the pavilion when the door of the
drawing-room was thrown open. Pauline was the first to appear. She had
undertaken the duty of arranging the funeral procession. One by one,
the little girls stepped into the garden. Their coming seemed like
some sudden outburst of bloom, a miraculous flowering of May. In the
open air the white skirts expanded, streaked moire-like by the
sunshine with shades of the utmost delicacy. An apple-tree above was
raining down its blossoms; gossamer-threads were floating to and fro;
the dresses were instinct with all the purity of spring. And their
number still increased; they already surrounded the lawn; they yet
lightly descended the steps, sailing on like downy balls suddenly
expanding beneath the open sky.

The garden was now a snowy mass, and as Helene gazed on the crowd of
little girls, a memory awoke within her. She remembered another joyous
season, with its ball and the gay twinkling of tiny feet. She once
more saw Marguerite in her milk-girl costume, with her can hanging
from her waist; and Sophie, dressed as a waiting-maid, and revolving
on the arm of her sister Blanche, whose trappings as Folly gave out a
merry tinkle of bells. She thought, too, of the five Levasseur girls,
and of the Red Riding-Hoods, whose number had seemed endless, with
their ever-recurring cloaks of poppy-colored satin edged with black
velvet; while little Mademoiselle Guiraud, with her Alsatian butterfly
bow in her hair, danced as if demented opposite a Harlequin twice as
tall as herself. To-day they were all arrayed in white. Jeanne, too,
was in white, her head laid amongst white flowers on the white satin
pillow. The delicate-faced Japanese maiden, with hair transfixed by
long pins, and purple tunic embroidered with birds, was leaving them
for ever in a gown of snowy white.

"How tall they have all grown!" exclaimed Helene, as she burst into

They were all there but her daughter; she alone was missing. Monsieur
Rambaud led her to the pavilion; but she remained on the threshold,
anxious to see the funeral procession start. Several of the ladies
bowed to her quietly. The children looked at her, with some
astonishment in their blue eyes. Meanwhile Pauline was hovering round,
giving orders. She lowered her voice for the occasion, but at times
forgot herself.

"Now, be good children! Look, you little stupid, you are dirty
already! I'll come for you in a minute; don't stir."

The hearse drove up; it was time to start, but Madame Deberle
appeared, exclaiming: "The bouquets have been forgotten! Quick,
Pauline, the bouquets!"

Some little confusion ensued. A bouquet of white roses had been
prepared for each little girl; and these bouquets now had to be
distributed. The children, in an ecstasy of delight, held the great
clusters of flowers in front of them as though they had been wax
tapers; Lucien, still at Marguerite's side, daintily inhaled the
perfume of her blossoms as she held them to his face. All these little
maidens, their hands filled with flowers, looked radiant with
happiness in the golden light; but suddenly their faces grew grave as
they perceived the men placing the coffin on the hearse.

"Is she inside that thing?" asked Sophie in a whisper.

Her sister Blanche nodded assent. Then, in her turn, she said: "For
men it's as big as this!"

She was referring to the coffin, and stretched out her arms to their
widest extent. However, little Marguerite, whose nose was buried
amongst her roses, was seized with a fit of laughter; it was the
flowers, said she, which tickled her. Then the others in turn buried
their noses in their bouquets to find out if it were so; but they were
remonstrated with, and they all became grave once more.

The funeral procession was now filing into the street. At the corner
of the Rue Vineuse a woman without a cap, and with tattered shoes on
her feet, wept and wiped her cheeks with the corner of her apron.
People stood at many windows, and exclamations of pity ascended
through the stillness of the street. Hung with white silver-fringed
drapery the hearse rolled on without a sound; nothing fell on the ear
save the measured tread of the two white horses, deadened by the solid
earthen roadway. The bouquets and wreaths, borne on the funeral car,
formed a very harvest of flowers; the coffin was hidden by them; every
jolt tossed the heaped-up mass, and the hearse slowly sprinkled the
street with lilac blossom. From each of the four corners streamed a
long ribbon of white watered silk, held by four little girls--Sophie
and Marguerite, one of the Levasseur family, and little Mademoiselle
Guiraud, who was so small and so uncertain on her legs that her mother
walked beside her. The others, in a close body, surrounded the hearse,
each bearing her bouquet of roses. They walked slowly, their veils
waved, and the wheels rolled on amidst all this muslin, as though
borne along on a cloud, from which smiled the tender faces of cherubs.
Then behind, following Monsieur Rambaud, who bowed his pale face, came
several ladies and little boys, Rosalie, Zephyrin, and the servants of
Madame Deberle. To these succeeded five empty mourning carriages. And
as the hearse passed along the sunny street like a car symbolical of
springtide, a number of white pigeons wheeled over the mourners'

"Good heavens! how annoying!" exclaimed Madame Deberle when she saw
the procession start off. "If only Henri had postponed that
consultation! I told him how it would be!"

She did not know what to do with Helene, who remained prostrate on a
seat in the pavilion. Henri might have stayed with her and afforded
her some consolation. His absence was a horrible nuisance. Luckily,
Mademoiselle Aurelie was glad to offer her services; she had no liking
for such solemn scenes, and while watching over Helene would be able
to attend to the luncheon which had to be prepared ere the children's
return. So Juliette hastened after the funeral, which was proceeding
towards the church by way of the Rue de Passy.

The garden was now deserted; a few workmen only were folding up the
hangings. All that remained on the gravelled path over which Jeanne
had been carried were the scattered petals of a camellia. And Helene,
suddenly lapsing into loneliness and stillness, was thrilled once more
with the anguish of this eternal separation. Once again--only once
again!--to be at her darling's side! The never-fading thought that
Jeanne was leaving her in anger, with a face that spoke solely of
gloomy hatred, seared her heart like a red-hot iron. She well divined
that Mademoiselle Aurelie was there to watch her, and cast about for
some opportunity to escape and hasten to the cemetery.

"Yes, it's a dreadful loss," began the old maid, comfortably seated in
an easy-chair. "I myself should have worshipped children, and little
girls in particular. Ah, well! when I think of it I am pleased that I
never married. It saves a lot of grief!"

It was thus she thought to divert the mother. She chatted away about
one of her friends who had had six children; they were now all dead.
Another lady had been left a widow with a big lad who struck her; he
might die, and there would be no difficulty in comforting her. Helene
appeared to be listening to all this; she did not stir, but her whole
frame quivered with impatience.

"You are calmer now," said Mademoiselle Aurelie, after a time. "Well,
in the end we always have to get the better of our feelings."

The dining-room communicated with the Japanese pavilion, and, rising
up, the old maid opened the door and peered into the room. The table,
she saw, was covered with pastry and cakes. Meantime, in an instant
Helene sped through the garden; the gate was still open, the workmen
were just carrying away their ladder.

On the left the Rue Vineuse turns into the Rue des Reservoirs, from
which the cemetery of Passy can be entered. On the Boulevard de la
Muette a huge retaining wall has been reared, and the cemetery
stretches like an immense terrace commanding the heights, the
Trocadero, the avenues, and the whole expanse of Paris. In twenty
steps Helene had reached the yawning gateway, and saw before her the
lonely expanse of white gravestones and black crosses. She entered. At
the corners of the first walk two large lilac trees were budding.
There were but few burials here; weeds grew thickly, and a few cypress
trees threw solemn shadows across the green. Helene hurried straight
on; a troop of frightened sparrows flew off, and a grave-digger raised
his head towards her after flinging aside a shovelful of earth. The
procession had probably not yet arrived from the church; the cemetery
seemed empty to her. She turned to the right, and advanced almost to
the edge of the terrace parapet; but, on looking round, she saw behind
a cluster of acacias the little girls in white upon their knees before
the temporary vault into which Jeanne's remains had a moment before
been lowered. Abbe Jouve, with outstretched hand, was giving the
farewell benediction. She heard nothing but the dull thud with which
the stone slab of the vault fell back into its place. All was over.

Meanwhile, however, Pauline had observed her and pointed her out to
Madame Deberle, who almost gave way to anger. "What!" she exclaimed;
"she has come. But it isn't at all proper; it's very bad taste!"[*]

[*] In France, among the aristocracy and the upper _bourgeoisie_--to
    which Madame Deberle belonged--mothers seldom, if ever, attend the
    funerals of their children, or widows those of the husbands they
    have lost. They are supposed to be so prostrated by grief as to be
    unable to appear in public. This explanation was necessary, as
    otherwise the reader might not understand the force of Madame
    Deberle's remarks.

So saying she stepped forward, showing Helene by the expression of her
face that she disapproved of her presence. Some other ladies also
followed with inquisitive looks. Monsieur Rambaud, however, had
already rejoined the bereaved mother, and stood silent by her side.
She was leaning against one of the acacias, feeling faint, and weary
with the sight of all those mourners. She nodded her head in
recognition of their sympathetic words, but all the while she was
stifling with the thought that she had come too late; for she had
heard the noise of the stone falling back into its place. Her eyes
ever turned towards the vault, the step of which a cemetery keeper was

"Pauline, see to the children," said Madame Deberle.

The little girls rose from their knees looking like a flock of white
sparrows. A few of the tinier ones, lost among their petticoats, had
seated themselves on the ground, and had to be picked up. While Jeanne
was being lowered down, the older girls had leaned forward to see the
bottom of the cavity. It was so dark they had shuddered and turned
pale. Sophie assured her companions in a whisper that one remained
there for years and years. "At nighttime too?" asked one of the little
Levasseur girls. "Of course--at night too--always!" Oh, the night!
Blanche was nearly dead with the idea. And they all looked at one
another with dilated eyes, as if they had just heard some story about
robbers. However, when they had regained their feet, and stood grouped
around the vault, released from their mourning duties, their cheeks
became pink again; it must all be untrue, those stories could only
have been told for fun. The spot seemed pleasant, so pretty with its
long grass; what capital games they might have had at hide-and-seek
behind all the tombstones! Their little feet were already itching to
dance away, and their white dresses fluttered like wings. Amidst the
graveyard stillness the warm sunshine lazily streamed down, flushing
their faces. Lucien had thrust his hand beneath Marguerite's veil, and
was feeling her hair and asking if she put anything on it, to make it
so yellow. The little one drew herself up, and he told her that they
would marry each other some day. To this Marguerite had no objection,
but she was afraid that he might pull her hair. His hands were still
wandering over it; it seemed to him as soft as highly-glazed

"Don't go so far away," called Pauline.

"Well, we'll leave now," said Madame Deberle. "There's nothing more to
be done, and the children must be hungry."

The little girls, who had scattered like some boarding-school at play,
had to be marshalled together once more. They were counted, and baby
Guiraud was missing; but she was at last seen in the distance, gravely
toddling along a path with her mother's parasol. The ladies then
turned towards the gateway, driving the stream of white dresses before
them. Madame Berthier congratulated Pauline on her marriage, which was
to take place during the following month. Madame Deberle informed them
that she was setting out in three days' time for Naples, with her
husband and Lucien. The crowd now quickly disappeared; Zephyrin and
Rosalie were the last to remain. Then in their turn they went off,
linked together, arm-in-arm, delighted with their outing, although
their hearts were heavy with grief. Their pace was slow, and for a
moment longer they could be seen at the end of the path, with the
sunshine dancing over them.

"Come," murmured Monsieur Rambaud to Helene.

With a gesture she entreated him to wait. She was alone, and to her it
seemed as though a page had been torn from the book of her life. As
soon as the last of the mourners had disappeared, she knelt before the
tomb with a painful effort. Abbe Jouve, robed in his surplice, had not
yet risen to his feet. Both prayed for a long time. Then, without
speaking, but with a glowing glance of loving-kindness and pardon, the
priest assisted her to rise.

"Give her your arm," he said to Monsieur Rambaud.

Towards the horizon stretched Paris, all golden in the radiance of
that spring morning. In the cemetery a chaffinch was singing.

                            CHAPTER XXV.

Two years were past and gone. One morning in December the little
cemetery lay slumbering in the intense cold. Since the evening before
snow had been falling, a fine snow, which a north wind blew before it.
From the paling sky the flakes now fell at rarer intervals, light and
buoyant, like feathers. The snow was already hardening, and a thick
trimming of seeming swan's-down edged the parapet of the terrace.
Beyond this white line lay Paris, against the gloomy grey on the

Madame Rambaud was still praying on her knees in the snow before the
grave of Jeanne. Her husband had but a moment before risen silently to
his feet. Helene and her old lover had been married in November at
Marseilles. Monsieur Rambaud had disposed of his business near the
Central Markets, and had come to Paris for three days, in order to
conclude the transaction. The carriage now awaiting them in the Rue
des Reservoirs was to take them back to their hotel, and thence with
their travelling-trunks to the railway station. Helene had made the
journey with the one thought of kneeling here. She remained
motionless, with drooping head, as if dreaming, and unconscious of the
cold ground that chilled her knees.

Meanwhile the wind was falling. Monsieur Rambaud had stepped to the
terrace, leaving her to the mute anguish which memory evoked. A haze
was stealing over the outlying districts of Paris, whose immensity
faded away in this pale, vague mist. Round the Trocadero the city was
of a leaden hue and lifeless, while the last snowflakes slowly
fluttered down in pale specks against the gloomy background. Beyond
the chimneys of the Army Bakehouse, the brick towers of which had a
coppery tint, these white dots descended more thickly; a gauze seemed
to be floating in the air, falling to earth thread by thread. Not a
breath stirred as the dream-like shower sleepily and rhythmically
descended from the atmosphere. As they neared the roofs the flakes
seemed to falter in their flight; in myriads they ceaselessly pillowed
themselves on one another, in such intense silence that even blossoms
shedding their petals make more noise; and from this moving mass,
whose descent through space was inaudible, there sprang a sense of
such intense peacefulness that earth and life were forgotten. A milky
whiteness spread more and more over the whole heavens though they were
still darkened here and there by wreaths of smoke. Little by little,
bright clusters of houses became plainly visible; a bird's-eye view
was obtained of the whole city, intersected by streets and squares,
which with their shadowy depths described the framework of the several

Helene had slowly risen. On the snow remained the imprint of her
knees. Wrapped in a large, dark mantle trimmed with fur, she seemed
amidst the surrounding white very tall and broad-shouldered. The
border of her bonnet, a twisted band of black velvet, looked like a
diadem throwing a shadow on her forehead. She had regained her
beautiful, placid face with grey eyes and pearly teeth. Her chin was
full and rounded, as in the olden days, giving her an air of sturdy
sense and determination. As she turned her head, her profile once more
assumed statuesque severity and purity. Beneath the untroubled
paleness of her cheeks her blood coursed calmly; everything showed
that honor was again ruling her life. Two tears had rolled from under
her eyelids; her present tranquillity came from her past sorrow. And
she stood before the grave on which was reared a simple pillar
inscribed with Jeanne's name and two dates, within which the dead
child's brief existence was compassed.

Around Helene stretched the cemetery, enveloped in its snowy pall,
through which rose rusty monuments and iron crosses, like arms thrown
up in agony. There was only one path visible in this lonely corner,
and that had been made by the footmarks of Helene and Monsieur
Rambaud. It was a spotless solitude where the dead lay sleeping. The
walks were outlined by the shadowy, phantom-like trees. Ever and anon
some snow fell noiselessly from a branch that had been too heavily
burdened. But nothing else stirred. At the far end, some little while
ago, a black tramping had passed by; some one was being buried beneath
this snowy winding-sheet. And now another funeral train appeared on
the left. Hearses and mourners went their way in silence, like shadows
thrown upon a spotless linen cloth.

Helene was awaking from her dream when she observed a beggar-woman
crawling along near her. It was Mother Fetu, the snow deadening the
sound of her huge man's boots, which were burst and bound round with
bits of string. Never had Helene seen her weighed down by such intense
misery, or covered with filthier rags, though she was fatter than
ever, and wore a stupid look. In the foulest weather, despite hard
frosts or drenching rain, the old woman now followed funerals in order
to speculate on the pity of the charitable. She well knew that amongst
the gravestones the fear of death makes people generous; and so she
prowled from tomb to tomb, approaching the kneeling mourners at the
moment they burst into tears, for she understood that they were then
powerless to refuse her. She had entered with the last funeral train,
and a moment previously had espied Helene. But she had not recognized
her benefactress, and with gasps and sobs began to relate how she had
two children at home who were dying of hunger. Helene listened to her,
struck dumb by this apparition. The children were without fire to warm
them; the elder was going off in a decline. But all at once Mother
Fetu's words came to an end. Her brain was evidently working beneath
the myriad wrinkles of her face, and her little eyes began to blink.
Good gracious! it was her benefactress! Heaven, then, had hearkened to
her prayers! And without seeking to explain the story about the
children, she plunged into a whining tale, with a ceaseless rush of
words. Several of her teeth were missing, and she could be understood
with difficulty. The gracious God had sent every affliction on her
head, she declared. The gentleman lodger had gone away, and she had
only just been enabled to rise after lying for three months in bed;
yes, the old pain still remained, it now gripped her everywhere; a
neighbor had told her that a spider must have got in through her mouth
while she was asleep. If she had only had a little fire, she could
have warmed her stomach; that was the only thing that could relieve
her now. But nothing could be had for nothing--not even a match.
Perhaps she was right in thinking that madame had been travelling?
That was her own concern, of course. At all events, she looked very
well, and fresh, and beautiful. God would requite her for all her
kindness. Then, as Helene began to draw out her purse, Mother Fetu
drew breath, leaning against the railing that encircled Jeanne's

The funeral processions had vanished from sight. Somewhere in a grave
close at hand a digger, whom they could not see, was wielding his
pickaxe with regular strokes.

Meanwhile the old woman had regained her breath, and her eyes were
riveted on the purse. Then, anxious to extort as large a sum as
possible, she displayed considerable cunning, and spoke of the other
lady. Nobody could say that she was not a charitable lady; still, she
did not know what to do with her money--it never did one much good.
Warily did she glance at Helene as she spoke. And next she ventured to
mention the doctor's name. Oh! he was good. Last summer he had again
gone on a journey with his wife. Their boy was thriving; he was a fine
child. But just then Helene's fingers, as she opened the purse, began
to tremble, and Mother Fetu immediately changed her tone. In her
stupidity and bewilderment she had only now realized that the good
lady was standing beside her daughter's grave. She stammered, gasped,
and tried to bring tears to her eyes. Jeanne, said she, had been so
dainty a darling, with such loves of little hands; she could still see
her giving her silver in charity. What long hair she had! and how her
large eyes filled with tears when she gazed on the poor! Ah! there was
no replacing such an angel; there were no more to be found like her,
were they even to search the whole of Passy. And when the fine days
came, said Mother Fetu, she would gather some daisies in the moat of
the fortifications and place them on her tomb. Then, however, she
lapsed into silence frightened by the gesture with which Helene cut
her short. Was it possible, she thought, that she could no longer find
the right thing to say? Her good lady did not weep, and only gave her
a twenty-sou piece.

Monsieur Rambaud, meanwhile, had walked towards them from the parapet
of the terrace. Helene hastened to rejoin him. At the sight of the
gentleman Mother Fetu's eyes began to sparkle. He was unknown to her;
he must be a new-comer. Dragging her feet along, she followed Helene,
invoking every blessing of Heaven on her head; and when she had crept
close to Monsieur Rambaud, she again spoke of the doctor. Ah! his
would be a magnificent funeral when he died, were the poor people whom
he had attended for nothing to follow his corpse! He was rather fickle
in his loves--nobody could deny that. There were ladies in Passy who
knew him well. But all that didn't prevent him from worshipping his
wife--such a pretty lady, who, had she wished, might have easily gone
wrong, but had given up such ideas long ago. Their home was quite a
turtle-doves' nest now. Had madame paid them a visit yet? They were
certain to be at home; she had but a few moments previously observed
that the shutters were open in the Rue Vineuse. They had formerly had
such regard for madame that surely they would be delighted to receive
her with open arms!

The old hag leered at Monsieur Rambaud as she thus mumbled away. He
listened to her with the composure of a brave man. The memories that
were being called up before him brought no shadow to his unruffled
face. Only it occurred to him that the pertinacity of the old beggar
was annoying Helene, and so he hastened to fumble in his pocket, in
his turn giving her some alms, and at the same time waving her away.
The moment her eyes rested on another silver coin Mother Fetu burst
into loud thanks. She would buy some wood at once; she would be able
to warm her afflicted body--that was the only thing now to give her
stomach any relief. Yes, the doctor's home was quite a nest of
turtle-doves, and the proof was that the lady had only last winter
given birth to a second child--a beautiful little daughter,
rosy-cheeked and fat, who must now be nearly fourteen months old. On
the day of the baptism the doctor had put a hundred sous into her hand
at the door of the church. Ah! good hearts came together. Madame had
brought her good luck. Pray God that madame might never have a sorrow,
but every good fortune! yes, might that come to pass in the name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!

Helene stood upright gazing on Paris, while Mother Fetu vanished among
the tombs, muttering three _Paters_ and three _Aves_. The snow had
ceased falling; the last of the flakes had fluttered slowly and
wearily on to the roofs; and through the dissolving mist the golden
sun could be seen tinging the pearly-grey expanse of heaven with a
pink glow. Over Montmartre a belt of blue fringed the horizon; but it
was so faint and delicate that it seemed but a shadow such as white
satin might throw. Paris was gradually detaching itself from amidst
the smoke, spreading out more broadly with its snowy expanses the
frigid cloak which held it in death-like quiescence. There were now no
longer any fleeting specks of white making the city shudder, and
quivering in pale waves over the dull-brown house-fronts. Amidst the
masses of snow that girt them round the dwellings stood out black and
gloomy, as though mouldy with centuries of damp. Entire streets
appeared to be in ruins, as if undermined by some gunpowder explosion,
with roofs ready to give way and windows already driven in. But
gradually, as the belt of blue broadened in the direction of
Montmartre, there came a stream of light, pure and cool as the waters
of a spring; and Paris once more shone out as under a glass, which
lent even to the outlying districts the distinctness of a Japanese

Wrapped in her fur mantle, with her hands clinging idly to the cuffs
of the sleeves, Helene was musing. With the persistency of an echo one
thought unceasingly pursued her--a child, a fat, rosy daughter, had
been born to them. In her imagination she could picture her at the
love-compelling age when Jeanne had commenced to prattle. Baby girls
are such darlings when fourteen months old! She counted the
months--fourteen: that made two years when she took the remaining
period into consideration--exactly the time within a fortnight. Then
her brain conjured up a sunny picture of Italy, a realm of dreamland,
with golden fruits where lovers wandered through the perfumed nights,
with arms round one another's waists. Henri and Juliette were pacing
before her eyes beneath the light of the moon. They loved as husband
and wife do when passion is once more awakened within them. To think
of it--a tiny girl, rosy and fat, its bare body flushed by the warm
sunshine, while it strives to stammer words which its mother arrests
with kisses! And Helene thought of all this without any anger; her
heart was mute, yet seemingly derived yet greater quietude from the
sadness of her spirit. The land of the sun had vanished from her
vision; her eyes wandered slowly over Paris, on whose huge frame
winter had laid his freezing hand. Above the Pantheon another patch of
blue was now spreading in the heavens.

Meanwhile memory was recalling the past to life. At Marseilles she had
spent her days in a state of coma. One morning as she went along the
Rue des Petites-Maries, she had burst out sobbing in front of the home
of her childhood. That was the last occasion on which she had wept.
Monsieur Rambaud was her frequent visitor; she felt his presence near
her to be a protection. Towards autumn she had one evening seen him
enter, with red eyes and in the agony of a great sorrow; his brother,
Abbe Jouve, was dead. In her turn she comforted him. What followed she
could not recall with any exactitude of detail. The Abbe ever seemed
to stand behind them, and influenced by thought of him she succumbed
resignedly. When M. Rambaud once more hinted at his wish, she had
nothing to say in refusal. It seemed to her that what he asked was but
sensible. Of her own accord, as her period of mourning was drawing to
an end, she calmly arranged all the details with him. His hands
trembled in a transport of tenderness. It should be as she pleased; he
had waited for months; a sign sufficed him. They were married in
mourning garb. On the wedding night he, like her first husband, kissed
her bare feet--feet fair as though fashioned out of marble. And thus
life began once more.

While the belt of blue was broadening on the horizon, this awakening
of memory came with an astounding effect on Helene. Had she lived
through a year of madness, then? To-day, as she pictured the woman who
had lived for nearly three years in that room in the Rue Vineuse, she
imagined that she was passing judgment on some stranger, whose conduct
revolted and surprised her. How fearfully foolish had been her act!
how abominably wicked! Yet she had not sought it. She had been living
peacefully, hidden in her nook, absorbed in the love of her daughter.
Untroubled by any curious thoughts, by any desire, she had seen the
road of life lying before her. But a breath had swept by, and she had
fallen. Even at this moment she was unable to explain it; she had
evidently ceased to be herself; another mind and heart had controlled
her actions. Was it possible? She had done those things? Then an icy
chill ran through her; she saw Jeanne borne away beneath roses. But in
the torpor begotten of her grief she grew very calm again, once more
without a longing or curiosity, once more proceeding along the path of
duty that lay so straight before her. Life had again begun for her,
fraught with austere peacefulness and pride of honesty.

Monsieur Rambaud now moved near her to lead her from this place of
sadness. But Helene silently signed to him her wish to linger a little
longer. Approaching the parapet she gazed below into the Avenue de la
Muette, where a long line of old cabs in the last stage of decay
stretched beside the footpath. The hoods and wheels looked blanched,
the rusty horses seemed to have been rotting there since the dark
ages. Some cabmen sat motionless, freezing within their frozen cloaks.
Over the snow other vehicles were crawling along, one after the other,
with the utmost difficulty. The animals were losing their foothold,
and stretching out their necks, while their drivers with many oaths
descended from their seats and held them by the bridle; and through
the windows you could see the faces of the patient "fares," reclining
against the cushions, and resigning themselves to the stern necessity
of taking three-quarters of an hour to cover a distance which in other
weather would have been accomplished in ten minutes. The rumbling of
the wheels was deadened by the snow; only the voices vibrated upward,
sounding shrill and distinct amidst the silence of the streets; there
were loud calls, the laughing exclamations of people slipping on the
icy paths, the angry whip-cracking of carters, and the snorting of
terrified horses. In the distance, to the right, the lofty trees on
the quay seemed to be spun of glass, like huge Venetian chandeliers,
whose flower-decked arms the designer had whimsically twisted. The icy
north wind had transformed the trunks into columns, over which waved
downy boughs and feathery tufts, an exquisite tracery of black twigs
edged with white trimmings. It was freezing, and not a breath stirred
in the pure air.

Then Helene told her heart that she had known nothing of Henri. For a
year she had seen him almost every day; he had lingered for hours and
hours near her, to speak to her and gaze into her eyes. Yet she knew
nothing of him. Whence had he come? how had he crept into her
intimacy? what manner of man was he that she had yielded to him--she
who would rather have perished than yield to another? She knew nothing
of him; it had all sprung from some sudden tottering of her reason. He
had been a stranger to her on the last as on the first day. In vain
did she patch together little scattered things and circumstances--his
words, his acts, everything that her memory recalled concerning him.
He loved his wife and his child; he smiled with delicate grace; he
outwardly appeared a well-bred man. Then she saw him again with
inflamed visage, and trembling with passion. But weeks passed, and he
vanished from her sight. At this moment she could not have said where
she had spoken to him for the last time. He had passed away, and his
shadow had gone with him. Their story had no other ending. She knew
him not.

Over the city the sky had now become blue, and every cloud had
vanished. Wearied with her memories, and rejoicing in the purity
before her, Helene raised her head. The blue of the heavens was
exquisitely clear, but still very pale in the light of the sun, which
hung low on the horizon, and glittered like a silver lamp. In that icy
temperature its rays shed no heat on the glittering snow. Below
stretched the expanses of roofs--the tiles of the Army Bakehouse, and
the slates of the houses on the quay--like sheets of white cloth
fringed with black. On the other bank of the river, the square stretch
of the Champ-de-Mars seemed a steppe, the black dots of the straggling
vehicles making one think of sledges skimming along with tinkling
bells; while the elms on the Quai d'Orsay, dwarfed by the distance,
looked like crystal flowers bristling with sharp points. Through all
the snow-white sea the Seine rolled its muddy waters edged by the
ermine of its banks; since the evening before ice had been floating
down, and you could clearly see the masses crushing against the piers
of the Pont des Invalides, and vanishing swiftly beneath the arches.
The bridges, growing more and more delicate with the distance, seemed
like the steps of a ladder of white lace reaching as far as the
sparkling walls of the Cite, above which the towers of Notre-Dame
reared their snow-white crests. On the left the level plain was broken
up by other peaks. The Church of Saint-Augustin, the Opera House, the
Tower of Saint-Jacques, looked like mountains clad with eternal snow.
Nearer at hand the pavilions of the Tuileries and the Louvre, joined
together by newly erected buildings, resembled a ridge of hills with
spotless summits. On the right, too, were the white tops of the
Invalides, of Saint-Sulpice, and the Pantheon, the last in the dim
distance, outlining against the sky a palace of fairyland with
dressings of bluish marble. Not a sound broke the stillness.
Grey-looking hollows revealed the presence of the streets; the public
squares were like yawning crevasses. Whole lines of houses had
vanished. The fronts of the neighboring dwellings alone showed
distinctly with the thousand streaks of light reflected from their
windows. Beyond, the expanse of snow intermingled and merged into a
seeming lake, whose blue shadows blended with the blue of the sky.
Huge and clear in the bright, frosty atmosphere, Paris glittered in
the light of the silver sun.

Then Helene for the last time let her glance sweep over the unpitying
city which also remained unknown to her. She saw it once more,
tranquil and with immortal beauty amidst the snow, the same as when
she had left it, the same as it had been every day for three long
years. Paris to her was full of her past life. In its presence she had
loved, in its presence Jeanne had died. But this companion of her
every-day existence retained on its mighty face a wondrous serenity,
unruffled by any emotion, as though it were but a mute witness of the
laughter and the tears which the Seine seemed to roll in its flood.
She had, according to her mood, endowed it with monstrous cruelty or
almighty goodness. To-day she felt that she would be ever ignorant of
it, in its indifference and immensity. It spread before her; it was

However, Monsieur Rambaud now laid a light hand on her arm to lead her
away. His kindly face was troubled, and he whispered:

"Do not give yourself pain."

He divined her every thought, and this was all he could say. Madame
Rambaud looked at him, and her sorrow became appeased. Her cheeks were
flushed by the cold; her eyes sparkled. Her memories were already far
away. Life was beginning again.

"I'm not quite certain whether I shut the big trunk properly," she

Monsieur Rambaud promised that he would make sure. Their train started
at noon, and they had plenty of time. Some gravel was being scattered
on the streets; their cab would not take an hour. But, all at once, he
raised his voice:

"I believe you've forgotten the fishing-rods!" said he.

"Oh, yes; quite!" she answered, surprised and vexed at her
forgetfulness. "We ought to have bought them yesterday!"

The rods in question were very handy ones, the like of which could not
be purchased at Marseilles. They there owned near the sea a small
country house, where they purposed spending the summer. Monsieur
Rambaud looked at his watch. On their way to the railway station they
would still be able to buy the rods, and could tie them up with the
umbrellas. Then he led her from the place, tramping along, and taking
short cuts between the graves. The cemetery was empty; only the
imprint of their feet now remained on the snow. Jeanne, dead, lay
alone, facing Paris, for ever and for ever.


There can be no doubt in the mind of the judicial critic that in the
pages of "A Love Episode" the reader finds more of the poetical, more
of the delicately artistic, more of the subtle emanation of creative
and analytical genius, than in any other of Zola's works, with perhaps
one exception. The masterly series of which this book is a part
furnishes a well-stocked gallery of pictures by which posterity will
receive vivid and adequate impressions of life in France during a
certain period. There was a strain of Greek blood in Zola's veins. It
would almost seem that down through the ages with this blood there had
come to him a touch of that old Greek fatalism, or belief in destiny
or necessity. The Greek tragedies are pervaded and permeated, steeped
and dyed with this idea of relentless fate. It is called heredity, in
these modern days. Heredity plus environment,--in these we find the
keynote of the great productions of the leader of the "naturalistic"
school of fiction.

It has been said that art, in itself, should have no moral. It has
been further charged that the tendencies of some of Zola's works are
hurtful. But, in the books of this master, the aberrations of vice are
nowhere made attractive, or insidiously alluring. The shadow of
expiation, remorse, punishment, retribution is ever present, like a
death's-head at a feast. The day of reckoning comes, and bitterly do
the culprits realize that the tortuous game of vice is not worth the
candle. Casuistical theologians may attempt to explain away the
notions of punishment in the life to come, of retribution beyond the
grave. But the shallowest thinker will not deny the realities of
remorse. To how many confessions, to how many suicides has it led? Of
how many reformed lives has it been the mainspring? The great
lecturer, John B. Gough, used to tell a story of a railway employee
whose mind was overthrown by his disastrous error in misplacing a
switch, and who spent his days in the mad-house repeating the phrase:
"If I only had, if I only had." His was not an intentional or wilful
dereliction. But in the hearts of how many repentant sinners does
there not echo through life a similar mournful refrain. This lesson
has been taught by Zola in more than one of his romances.

In "A Love Episode" how poignant is this expiation! In all literature
there is nothing like the portrayal of the punishment of Helene
Grandjean. Helene and little Jeanne are reversions of type. The old
"neurosis," seen in earlier branches of the family, reappears in these
characters. Readers of the series will know where it began. Poor
little Jeanne, most pathetic of creations, is a study in abnormal
jealousy, a jealousy which seems to be clairvoyant, full of
supernatural intuitions, turning everything to suspicion, a jealousy
which blights and kills. Could the memory of those weeks of anguish
fade from Helene's soul? This dying of a broken heart is not merely
the figment of a poet's fancy. It has happened in real life. The
coming of death, save in the case of the very aged, seems, nearly
always, brutally cruel, at least to those friends who survive. Parents
know what it is to sit with bated breath and despairing heart beside
the bed of a sinking child. Seconds seem hours, and hours weeks. The
impotency to succour, the powerlessness to save, the dumb despair, the
overwhelming grief, all these are sorrowful realities. How vividly are
they pictured by Zola. And, added to this keenness of grief in the
case of Helene Grandjean, was the sense that her fault had contributed
to the illness of her daughter. Each sigh of pain was a reproach. The
pallid and ever-paling cheek was a whip of scorpions, lashing the
mother's naked soul. Will ethical teachers say that there is no
salutary moral lesson in this vivid picture? To many it seems better
than a cart-load of dull tracts or somnolent homilies. Poor, pathetic
little Jeanne, lying there in the cemetery of Passy--where later was
erected the real tomb of Marie Bashkirtseff, though dead she yet spoke
a lesson of contrition to her mother. And though the second marriage
of Helene has been styled an anti-climax, yet it is true enough to
life. It does not remove the logical and artistic inference that the
memory of Jeanne's sufferings lingered with ever recurring poignancy
in the mother's heart.

In a few bold lines Zola sketches a living character. Take the picture
of old Mere Fetu. One really feels her disagreeable presence, and is
annoyed with her whining, leering, fawning, sycophancy. One almost
resents her introduction into the pages of the book. There is
something palpably odious about her personality. A pleasing contrast
is formed by the pendant portraits of the awkward little soldier and
his kitchen-sweetheart. This homely and wholesome couple one may meet
any afternoon in Paris, on leave-of-absence days. Their portraits, and
the delicious description of the children's party, are evidently
studies from life. With such vivid verisimilitude is the latter
presented that one imagines, the day after reading the book, that he
has been present at the pleasant function, and has admired the fluffy
darlings, in their dainty costumes, with their chubby cavaliers.

It is barely fair to an author to give him the credit of knowing
something about the proper relative proportions of his characters. And
so, although Dr. Deberle is somewhat shadowy, he certainly serves the
author's purpose, and--well, Dr. Deberle is not the hero of "An
Episode of Love." Rambaud and the good Abbe Jouve are certainly strong
enough. There seems to be a touch of Dickens about them.

Cities sometimes seem to be great organisms. Each has an
individuality, a specific identity, so marked, and peculiarities so
especially characteristic of itself, that one might almost allow it a
soul. Down through the centuries has fair Lutetia come, growing in the
artistic graces, until now she stands the playground of princes and
the capital of the world, even as mighty Rome among the ancients. And
shall we object, because a few pages of "A Love Episode" are devoted
to descriptions of Paris? Rather let us be thankful for them. These
descriptions of the wonderful old city form a glorious pentatych. They
are invaluable to two classes of readers, those who have visited Paris
and those who have not. To the former they recall the days in which
the spirit of the French metropolis seemed to possess their being and
to take them under its wondrous spell. To the latter they supply hints
of the majesty and attractiveness of Paris, and give some inkling of
its power to please. And Zola loved his Paris as a sailor loves the


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Love Episode" ***

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