“Papa! My poor dear—dear papa!”
The hand she pressed to her lips was as cold as ice. She raised her frightened eyes to the face over which the great change from life to death had passed. “What does it mean?” Jacqueline had never looked on death before, but she knew this was not sleep.
“Oh, speak to me, papa! It is I—it is Jacqueline!”
Her stepmother tried to raise her—tried to fold her in her arms.
“Let me alone!” she cried with horror.
It seemed to her as if her father, where he was now, so far from her, so far from everything, might have the power to look into human hearts, and know the perfidy he had known nothing of when he was living. He might see in her own heart, too, her great despair. All else seemed small and of no consequence when death was present.
Oh! why had she not been a better daughter, more loving, more devoted? why had she ever cared for anything but to make him happy?
She sobbed aloud, while Madame de Nailles, pressing her handkerchief to her eyes, stood at the foot of the bed, and the doctor, too, was near, whispering to some one whom Jacqueline at first had not perceived—the friend of the family, Hubert Marien.
Marien there? Was it not natural that, so intimate as he had always been with the dead man, he should have hastened to offer his services to the widow?
Jacqueline flung herself upon her father’s corpse, as if to protect it from profanation. She had an impulse to bear it away with her to some desert spot where she alone could have wept over it.
She lay thus a long time, beside herself with grief.
The flowers which covered the bed and lay scattered on the floor, gave a festal appearance to the death-chamber. They had been purchased for a fete, but circumstances had changed their destination. That evening there was to have been a reception in the house of M. de Nailles, but the unexpected guest that comes without an invitation had arrived before the music and the dancers.
THE STORM BREAKS
Monsieur de Nailles was dead, struck down suddenly by what is called indefinitely heart-failure. The trouble in that organ from which he had long suffered had brought on what might have been long foreseen, and yet every one seemed, stupefied by the event. It came upon them like a thunderbolt. It often happens so when people who are really ill persist in doing all that may be done with safety by other persons. They persuaded themselves, and those about them are easily persuaded, that small remedies will prolong indefinitely a state of things which is precarious to the last degree. Friends are ready to believe, when the sufferer complains that his work is too hard for him, that he thinks too much of his ailments and that he exaggerates trifles to which they are well accustomed, but which are best known to him