It was noon by the dial on the grand-stand when the litter was finally deposited in a safe place. The surgeon could hardly arrive in less than two hours; therefore, the General realized that he must rely upon his own experience in rendering the first necessary aid.
He lifted Valentine’s hand, unbuttoned the glove, laid his finger on her pulse, and counted the pulsations, which were weak, slow, and irregular.
While the wife of the gate-keeper kept a bottle of salts at the nostrils of the injured girl, Henri soaked a handkerchief in tincture of arnica and sponged her temples with it; then, pouring some drops of the liquid into a glass of water, he tried in vain to make her swallow a mouthful. Her teeth, clenched by the contraction of muscles, refused to allow it to pass into her throat. At the end of half an hour, the inhalation of the salts began to produce a little effect; the breath came more regularly, but that was the only symptom which announced that the swoon might soon terminate. The landau with the high springs arrived. The General ordered the top laid back, and helped to lift and place upon the cushions on the back seat the thin mattress on which Zibeline lay; then he took his place on the front seat, made the men draw the carriage-top back into its proper position, and the equipage rolled smoothly, and without a jar, to its destination. On the way they met the first carriages that had arrived at the Auteuil hippodrome, the occupants of which little suspected what an exciting dramatic incident had occurred just before the races. Zibeline’s servants, by whom she was adored, awaited their mistress at the threshold, and for her maids it was an affair of some minutes to undress her and lay her in her own bed. During this delay, the surgeon, who had hastened to answer the call, found Henri nervously walking about from one drawing-room to the other; and, having received information as to the details of the fall, he soon entered the bedchamber. While awaiting the sentence of life or of death which must soon be pronounced, he who considered himself the chief cause of this tragic event continued to pace to and fro in the gallery—that gallery where, under the intoxication of a waltz, the demon of temptation had so quickly demolished all his resolutions of resistance. A half-hour—an age!— elapsed before the skilled practitioner reappeared. “There is no fracture,” he said, “but the cerebral shock has been such that I can not as yet answer for the consequences. If the powerful reactive medicine which I have just given should bring her back to her senses soon, her mental faculties will suffer no harm. If not, there is everything to fear. I will return in three hours,” he added. Without giving a thought to the conventionalities, Henri entered the bedchamber, to the great astonishment of the maids, and, installing himself at the head of the bed, he decided not to leave that spot until Valentine had regained her senses, should she ever regain them.