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 slower.
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.