“It is over,” said the doctor, as he took her hand.
Jeanne’s big, vacant eyes were fixed on Paris. The long, thin, lamb-like face was still further elongated, there was a sternness on its features, a grey shadow falling from its contracted brows. Thus even in death she retained the livid expression of a jealous woman. The doll, with its head flung back, and its hair dishevelled, seemed to lie dead beside her.
“It is over,” again said the doctor, as he allowed the little cold hand to drop.
Helene, with a strained expression on her face, pressed her hands to her brow as if she felt her head splitting open. No tears came to her eyes; she gazed wildly in front of her. Then a rattling noise mounted in her throat; she had just espied at the foot of the bed a pair of shoes that lay forgotten there. It was all over. Jeanne would never put them on again; the little shoes could be given to the poor. And at the sight Helene’s tears gushed forth; she still knelt on the floor, her face pressed against the dead child’s hand, which had slipped down. Monsieur Rambaud was sobbing. The Abbe had raised his voice, and Rosalie, standing at the door of the dining-room, was biting her handkerchief to check the noise of her grief.
At this very moment Doctor Deberle rang the bell. He was unable to refrain from making inquiries.
“How is she now?” he asked.
“Oh, sir!” wailed Rosalie, “she is dead.”
He stood motionless, stupefied by the announcement of the end which he had been expecting daily. At last he muttered: “O God! the poor child! what a calamity!”
He could only give utterance to those commonplace but heartrending words. The door shut once more, and he went down the stairs.
When Madame Deberle was apprised of Jeanne’s death she wept, and gave way to one of those outbursts of emotion that kept her in a flutter for eight-and-forty hours. Hers was a noisy and immoderate grief. She came and threw herself into Helene’s arms. Then a phrase dropped in her hearing inspired her with the idea of imparting some affecting surroundings to the child’s funeral, and soon wholly absorbed her. She offered her services, and declared her willingness to undertake every detail. The mother, worn out with weeping, sat overwhelmed in her chair; Monsieur Rambaud, who was acting in her name, was losing his head. So he accepted the offer with profuse expressions of gratitude. Helene merely roused herself for a moment to express the wish that there should be some flowers—an abundance of flowers.
Without losing a minute, Madame Deberle set about her task. She spent the whole of the next day in running from one lady friend to another, bearing the woeful tidings. It was her idea to have a following of little girls all dressed in white. She needed at least thirty, and did not return till she had secured the full number. She had gone in person to the Funeral Administration, discussed the various styles, and chosen the necessary drapery. She would have the garden railings hung with white, and the body might be laid out under the lilac trees, whose twigs were already tipped with green. It would be charming.