Henrietta, roused by the noise all over the house, the voices in the passages, and the steps on the staircase, and suspecting that some accident had happened, had rushed at once into her mother’s room.
There she had heard the doctors utter the fatal words,—
“All is over!”
There were five or six of them in the room; and one of them, his eyes swollen from sleeplessness, and overcome with fatigue, had drawn the count into a corner, and, pressing his hands, repeated over and over again,—
“Courage, my dear sir, courage!”
He, overcome, with downcast eye, and cold perspiration on his pallid brow, did not understand him; for he continued to stammer incessantly,—
“It is nothing, I hope. Did you not say it was nothing?”
There are misfortunes so terrible, so overwhelming in their suddenness, that the stunned mind refuses to believe them, and denies their genuineness in spite of their actual presence.
How could any one imagine or comprehend that the countess, who but a moment ago was standing there full of life, in perfect health, and the whole vigor of her years, apparently perfectly happy, smiling, and beloved by all,—how could one conceive that she had all at once ceased to exist?
They had laid her on her bed in her ball costume,—a blue satin dress trimmed with lace. The flowers were still in her hair; and the blow had come with such suddenness, that, even in death, she retained the appearance of life; she was still warm, her skin transparent, and her limbs supple. Even her eyes, still wide open, retained their expression, and betrayed the last sensation that had filled her heart,—terror. It looked as if she had had at that last moment a revelation of the future which her too great cautiousness had prepared for her daughter.
“My mother is not dead; oh, no! she cannot be dead!” exclaimed Henrietta. And she went from one doctor to the other, urging them, beseeching them, to find some means—
What were they doing there, looking so blank, instead of acting? Were they not going to restore her,—they whose business it was to cure people, and who surely had saved a number of people? They turned away from her, distressed by her terrible grief, expressing their inability to help by a gesture; and then the poor girl went back to the bed, and, bending over her mother, watched with a painfully bewildered air for her return to life. It seemed to her as if she felt that noble heart still beat under her hand, and as if those lips, sealed forever by death, must speak again to re-assure her.
They attempted to take her away from that heartrending sight; they begged her to go to her room; but she insisted upon staying. They tried to remove her by force; but she clung to the bed, and vowed that they should tear her to pieces sooner than make her leave her mother.