And when Helene, in distraction, carried her child, with the assistance of the sorrowing Abbe, into a cab, she turned towards the porch with outstretched, trembling hands.
“It’s all this church! it’s all this church!” she exclaimed, with a vehemence instinct with regret and self-reproach as she thought of the month of devout delight which she herself had tasted there.
When evening came Jeanne was somewhat better. She was able to get up, and, in order to remove her mother’s fears, persisted in dragging herself into the dining-room, where she took her seat before her empty plate.
“I shall be all right,” she said, trying to smile. “You know very well that the least thing upsets me. Get on with your dinner, mamma; I want you to eat.”
And in the end she pretended an appetite she did not feel, for she observed that her mother sat watching her paling and trembling, without being able to swallow a morsel. She promised to take some jam, and Helene then hurried through her dinner, while the child, with a never-fading smile and her head nodding tremblingly, watched her with worshipping looks. On the appearance of the dessert she made an effort to carry out her promise, but tears welled into her eyes.
“You see I can’t get it down my throat,” she murmured. “You mustn’t be angry with me.”
The weariness that overwhelmed her was terrible. Her legs seemed lifeless, her shoulders pained her as though gripped by a hand of iron. But she was very brave through it all, and choked at their source the moans which the shooting pains in her neck awakened. At one moment, however, she forgot herself, her head felt too heavy, and she was bent double by pain. Her mother, as she gazed on her, so faint and feeble, was wholly unable to finish the pear which she was trying to force down her throat. Her sobs choked her, and throwing down her napkin, she clasped Jeanne in her arms.
“My child! my child!” she wailed, her heart bursting with sorrow, as her eyes ranged round the dining-room where her darling, when in good health, had so often enlivened her by her fondness for tid-bits.
At last Jeanne woke to life again, and strove to smile as of old.
“Don’t worry, mamma,” said she; “I shall be all right soon. Now that you have done you must put me to bed. I only wanted to see you have your dinner. Oh! I know you; you wouldn’t have eaten as much as a morsel of bread.”
Helene bore her away in her arms. She had brought the little crib close to her own bed in the blue room. When Jeanne had stretched out her limbs, and the bedclothes were tucked up under her chin, she declared she felt much better. There were no more complaints about dull pains at the back of her head; but she melted into tenderness, and her passionate love seemed to grow more pronounced. Helene was forced to caress her, to avow intense affection for her, and to promise that she would again kiss her when she came to bed.