He did not seem to hear her, his brain as yet was void. His eyes, although his head remained motionless, wandered inquiringly round the room, and it struck her that he was wondering where he might be.
‘This is my room,’ she said. ’I have given it to you. Isn’t it a pretty one? I took the finest pieces of furniture out of the lumber attic, and then I made those calico curtains to prevent the daylight from dazzling me. And you’re not putting me out a bit. I shall sleep on the second floor. There are three or four empty rooms there.’
Still he looked anxious.
‘You’re alone?’ he asked.
‘Yes; why do you ask that?’
He made no answer, but muttered wearily: ’I have been dreaming, I am always dreaming. I hear bells ringing, and they tire me.’
And after a pause he went on: ’Go and shut the door, bolt it; I want you to be alone, quite alone.’
When she came back, bringing a chair with her, and sat down by his pillow, he looked as gleeful as a child, and kept on saying: ’Nobody can come in now. I shall not hear those bells any more. When you are talking to me, it rests me.’
‘Would you like something to drink?’ she asked.
He made a sign that he was not thirsty. He looked at Albine’s hands as if so astonished, so delighted to see them, that with a smile she laid one on the edge of his pillow. Then he let his head glide down, and rested his cheek against that small, cool hand, saying, with a light laugh: ’Ah! it’s as soft as silk. It is just as if it were sending a cool breeze through my hair. Don’t take it away, please.’
Then came another long spell of silence. They gazed on one another with loving kindliness—Albine calmly scanning herself in the convalescent’s eyes, Serge apparently listening to some faint whisper from the small, cool hand.
‘Your hand is so nice,’ he said once more. ’You can’t fancy what good it does me. It seems to steal inside me, and take away all the pain in my limbs. It’s as if I were being soothed all over, relieved, cured.’
He gently rubbed his cheek against it, with growing animation, as if he were at last coming back to life.
’You won’t give me anything nasty to drink, will you? You won’t worry me with all sorts of physic? Your hand is quite enough for me. I have come here for you to put it there under my head.’
‘Dear Serge,’ said Albine softly, ‘how you must have suffered.’
’Suffered! yes, yes; but it’s a long time ago. I slept badly, I had such frightful dreams. If I could, I would tell you all about it.’
He closed his eyes for a moment and strove hard to remember.