[*] 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.