“Stop! stop!” they all cried out.
From Helene’s lips came a dull moan; she had fallen upon the gravel of a pathway, and her efforts to rise were fruitless.
“Good heavens!” exclaimed the doctor, his face turning very pale. “How imprudent!”
They all crowded round her. Jeanne began weeping so bitterly that Monsieur Rambaud, with his heart in his mouth, was compelled to take her in his arms. The doctor, meanwhile, eagerly questioned Helene.
“Is it the right leg you fell on? Cannot you stand upright?” And as she remained dazed, without answering, he asked: “Do you suffer?”
“Yes, here at the knee; a dull pain,” she answered, with difficulty.
He at once sent his wife for his medicine case and some bandages, and repeated:
“I must see, I must see. No doubt it is a mere nothing.”
He knelt down on the gravel and Helene let him do so; but all at once she struggled to her feet and said: “No, no!”
“But I must examine the place,” he said.
A slight quiver stole over her, and she answered in a yet lower tone:
“It is not necessary. It is nothing at all.”
He looked at her, at first astounded. Her neck was flushing red; for a moment their eyes met, and seemed to read each other’s soul; he was disconcerted, and slowly rose, remaining near her, but without pressing her further.
Helene had signed to Monsieur Rambaud. “Fetch Doctor Bodin,” she whispered in his ear, “and tell him what has happened to me.”
Ten minutes later, when Doctor Bodin made his appearance, she, with superhuman courage, regained her feet, and leaning on him and Monsieur Rambaud, contrived to return home. Jeanne followed, quivering with sobs.
“I shall wait,” said Doctor Deberle to his brother physician. “Come down and remove our fears.”
In the garden a lively colloquy ensued. Malignon was of opinion that women had queer ideas. Why on earth had that lady been so foolish as to jump down? Pauline, excessively provoked at this accident, which deprived her of a pleasure, declared it was silly to swing so high. On his side Doctor Deberle did not say a word, but seemed anxious.
“It is nothing serious,” said Doctor Bodin, as he came down again —“only a sprain. Still, she will have to keep to an easy-chair for at least a fortnight.”
Thereupon Monsieur Deberle gave a friendly slap on Malignon’s shoulder. He wished his wife to go in, as it was really becoming too cold. For his own part, taking Lucien in his arms, he carried him into the house, covering him with kisses the while.
Both windows of the bedroom were wide open, and in the depths below the house, which was perched on the very summit of the hill, lay Paris, rolling away in a mighty flat expanse. Ten o’clock struck; the lovely February morning had all the sweetness and perfume of spring.