Suddenly a carriage stopped in front of the door. Voices and footsteps echoed through the hall.
“M’ame Delobelle, here she is! Your daughter’s been found.”
It was really Desiree who came toiling up the stairs on the arm of a stranger, pale and fainting, without hat or shawl, and wrapped in a great brown cape. When she saw her mother she smiled at her with an almost foolish expression.
“Do not be alarmed, it is nothing,” she tried to say, then sank to the floor. Mamma Delobelle would never have believed that she was so strong. To lift her daughter, take her into the room, and put her to bed was a matter of a moment; and she talked to her and kissed her.
“Here you are at last. Where have you come from, you bad child? Tell me, is it true that you tried to kill yourself? Were you suffering so terribly? Why did you conceal it from me?”
When she saw her mother in that condition, with tear-stained face, aged in a few short hours, Desiree felt a terrible burden of remorse. She remembered that she had gone away without saying good-by to her, and that in the depths of her heart she had accused her of not loving her.
Not loving her!
“Why, it would kill me if you should die,” said the poor mother. “Oh! when I got up this morning and saw that your bed hadn’t been slept in and that you weren’t in the workroom either!—I just turned round and fell flat. Are you warm now? Do you feel well? You won’t do it again, will you—try to kill yourself?”
And she tucked in the bed-clothes, rubbed her feet, and rocked her upon her breast.
As she lay in bed with her eyes closed, Desiree saw anew all the incidents of her suicide, all the hideous scenes through which she had passed in returning from death to life. In the fever, which rapidly increased, in the intense drowsiness which began to overpower her, her mad journey across Paris continued to excite and torment her. Myriads of dark streets stretched away before her, with the Seine at the end of each.
That ghastly river, which she could not find in the night, haunted her now.
She felt that she was besmirched with its slime, its mud; and in the nightmare that oppressed her, the poor child, powerless to escape the obsession of her recollections, whispered to her mother: “Hide me—hide me—I am ashamed!”
SHE PROMISED NOT TO TRY AGAIN