Thus Dionysia was struck down in the very height of her happiness, when she heard, at the same time, of the terrible charges brought against M. de Boiscoran, and of his arrest.
At first, thunderstruck, she had lain nearly ten minutes unconscious in the arms of her aunts, who, like the grandfather, were themselves utterly overcome with terror. But, as soon as she came to, she exclaimed,—
“Am I mad to give way thus? Is it not evident that he is innocent?”
Then she had sent her telegram to the marquis, knowing well, that, before taking any measures, it was all important to come to an understanding with Jacques’s family. Then she had begged to be left alone; and she had spent the night in counting the minutes that must pass till the hour came when the train from Paris would bring her help.
At eight o’clock she had come down to give orders herself that a carriage should be sent to the station for the marchioness, adding that they must drive back as fast as they could. Then she had gone into the sitting-room to join her grandfather and her aunts. They talked to her; but her thoughts were elsewhere.
At last a carriage was heard coming up rapidly, and stopping before the house. She got up, rushed into the hall, and cried,—
“Here is Jacques’s mother!”
We cannot do violence to our natural feelings without paying for it. The marchioness had nearly fainted when she could at last take refuge in the carriage: she was utterly overcome by the great effort she had made to present to the curious people of Sauveterre a smiling face and calm features.
“What a horrible comedy!” she murmured, as she sank back on the cushions.
“Admit, at least, madam,” said the lawyer, “that it was necessary. You have won over, perhaps, a hundred persons to your son’s side.”
She made no reply. Her tears stifled her. What would she not have given for a few moments’ solitude, to give way to all the grief of her heart, to all the anxiety of a mother! The time till she reached the house seemed to her an eternity; and, although the horse was driven at a furious rate, she felt as if they were making no progress. At last the carriage stopped.
The little servant had jumped down, and opened the door, saying,—
“Here we are.”
The marchioness got out with M. Folgat’s assistance; and her foot was hardly on the ground, when the house-door opened, and Dionysia threw herself into her arms, too deeply moved to speak. At last she broke forth,—
“Oh, my mother, my mother! what a terrible misfortune!”
In the passage M. de Chandore was coming forward. He had not been able to follow his granddaughter’s rapid steps.
“Let us go in,” he said to the two ladies: “don’t stand there!”
For at all the windows curious eyes were peeping through the blinds.