“Mamma! mamma!” Jeanne stammered in her sleep. She was waking, and on opening her eyes she saw the doctor and became uneasy.
“Mamma, who’s that?” was her instant question; but her mother kissed her, and replied: “Go to sleep, darling, you haven’t been well. It’s only a friend.”
The child seemed surprised; she did not remember anything. Drowsiness was coming over her once more, and she fell asleep again, murmuring tenderly: “I’m going to by-by. Good-night, mamma, dear. If he is your friend he will be mine.”
The doctor had removed his medicine-case, and, with a silent bow, he left the room. Helene listened for a while to the child’s breathing, and then, seated on the edge of the bed, she became oblivious to everything around her; her looks and thoughts wandering far away. The lamp, still burning, was paling in the growing sunlight.
Next day Helene thought it right and proper to pay a visit of thanks to Doctor Deberle. The abrupt fashion in which she had compelled him to follow her, and the remembrance of the whole night which he had spent with Jeanne, made her uneasy, for she realized that he had done more than is usually compassed within a doctor’s visit. Still, for two days she hesitated to make her call, feeling a strange repugnance towards such a step. For this she could give herself no reasons. It was the doctor himself who inspired her with this hesitancy; one morning she met him, and shrunk from his notice as though she were a child. At this excess of timidity she was much annoyed. Her quiet, upright nature protested against the uneasiness which was taking possession of her. She decided, therefore, to go and thank the doctor that very day.
Jeanne’s attack had taken place during the small hours of Wednesday morning; it was now Saturday, and the child was quite well again. Doctor Bodin, whose fears concerning her had prompted him to make an early call, spoke of Doctor Deberle with the respect that an old doctor with a meagre income pays to another in the same district, who is young, rich, and already possessed of a reputation. He did not forget to add, however, with an artful smile, that the fortune had been bequeathed by the elder Deberle, a man whom all Passy held in veneration. The son had only been put to the trouble of inheriting fifteen hundred thousand francs, together with a splendid practice. “He is, though, a very smart fellow,” Doctor Bodin hastened to add, “and I shall be honored by having a consultation with him about the precious health of my little friend Jeanne!”
About three o’clock Helene made her way downstairs with her daughter, and had to take but a few steps along the Rue Vineuse before ringing at the next-door house. Both mother and daughter still wore deep mourning. A servant, in dress-coat and white tie, opened the door. Helene easily recognized the large entrance-hall, with its Oriental hangings; on each side of it, however, there were now flower-stands, brilliant with a profusion of blossoms. The servant having admitted them to a small drawing-room, the hangings and furniture of which were of a mignonette hue, stood awaiting their pleasure, and Helene gave her name—Madame Grandjean.