“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.
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.