“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!”
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.