“If only it’s a fine day to-morrow!” she giddily remarked in the evening when her scurrying to and fro had come to an end.
The morning proved lovely; there was a blue sky and a flood of sunshine, the air was pure and invigorating as only the air of spring can be. The funeral was to take place at ten o’clock. By nine the drapery had been hung up. Juliette ran down to give the workmen her ideas of what should be done. She did not wish the trees to be altogether covered. The white cloth, fringed with silver, formed a kind of porch at the garden gate, which was thrown back against the lilac trees. However, Juliette soon returned to her drawing-room to receive her lady guests. They were to assemble there to prevent Madame Grandjean’s two rooms from being filled to overflowing. Still she was greatly annoyed at her husband having had to go that morning to Versailles—for some consultation or other, he explained, which he could not well neglect. Thus she was left alone, and felt she would never be able to get through with it all. Madame Berthier was the first arrival, bringing her two daughters with her.
“What do you think!” exclaimed Madame Deberle; “Henri has deserted me! Well, Lucien, why don’t you say good-day?”
Lucien was already dressed for the funeral, with his hands in black gloves. He seemed astonished to see Sophie and Blanche dressed as though they were about to take part in some church procession. A silk sash encircled the muslin gown of each, and their veils, which swept down to the floor, hid their little caps of transparent tulle. While the two mothers were busy chatting, the three children gazed at one another, bearing themselves somewhat stiffly in their new attire. At last Lucien broke the silence by saying: “Jeanne is dead.”
His heart was full, and yet his face wore a smile—a smile born of amazement. He had been very quiet since the evening before, dwelling on the thought that Jeanne was dead. As his mother was up to her ears in business, and took no notice of him, he had plied the servants with questions. Was it a fact, he wanted to know, that it was impossible to move when one was dead?”
“She is dead, she is dead!” echoed the two sisters, who looked like rosebuds under their white veils. “Are we going to see her?”
Lucien pondered for a time, and then, with dreamy eyes and opened mouth, seemingly striving to divine the nature of this problem which lay beyond his ken, he answered in a low tone:
“We shall never see her again.”
However, several other little girls now entered the room. On a sign from his mother Lucien advanced to meet them. Marguerite Tissot, her muslin dress enveloping her like a cloud, seemed a child-Virgin; her fair hair, escaping from underneath her little cap, looked, through the snowy veil, like a tippet figured with gold. A quiet smile crept into every face when the five Levasseurs made their appearance;