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 tenderness.
“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.
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 garden.