“That’s my reward!” she exclaimed merrily. “You know I deserve it; I have run about enough. You’ll see what a success it will be!”
But Helene remained chilled to the heart, while the doctor, with Lucien clinging to his neck, gazed at them over the child’s fair head.
In the hall of the doctor’s house stood Pierre, in dress coat and white cravat, throwing open the door as each carriage rolled up. Puffs of dank air rushed in; the afternoon was rainy, and a yellow light illumined the narrow hall, with its curtained doorways and array of green plants. It was only two o’clock, but the evening seemed as near at hand as on a dismal winter’s day.
However, as soon as the servant opened the door of the first drawing-room, a stream of light dazzled the guests. The shutters had been closed, and the curtains carefully drawn, and no gleam from the dull sky could gain admittance. The lamps standing here and there on the furniture, and the lighted candles of the chandelier and the crystal wall-brackets, gave the apartment somewhat the appearance of a brilliantly illuminated chapel. Beyond the smaller drawing-room, whose green hangings rather softened the glare of the light, was the large black-and-gold one, decorated as magnificently as for the ball which Madame Deberle gave every year in the month of January.
The children were beginning to arrive, while Pauline gave her attention to the ranging of a number of chairs in front of the dining-room doorway, where the door had been removed from its hinges and replaced by a red curtain.
“Papa,” she cried, “just lend me a hand! We shall never be ready.”
Monsieur Letellier, who, with his arms behind his back, was gazing at the chandelier, hastened to give the required assistance. Pauline carried the chairs about herself. She had paid due deference to her sister’s request, and was robed in white; only her dress opened squarely at the neck and displayed her bosom.
“At last we are ready,” she exclaimed: “they can come when they like. But what is Juliette dreaming about? She has been ever so long dressing Lucien!”
Just at that moment Madame Deberle entered, leading the little marquis, and everybody present began raising admiring remarks. “Oh! what a love! What a darling he is!” His coat was of white satin embroidered with flowers, his long waistcoat was embroidered with gold, and his knee-breeches were of cherry-colored silk. Lace clustered round his chin, and delicate wrists. A sword, a mere toy with a great rose-red knot, rattled against his hip.
“Now you must do the honors,” his mother said to him, as she led him into the outer room.