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    Chapter 11

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    Chapter 11
    Previous Chapter
    One morning in May, Rosalie ran in from the kitchen, dish-cloth in
    hand, screaming out in the familiar fashion of a favorite servant:
    "Oh, madame, come quick! His reverence the Abbe is digging the ground
    down in the doctor's garden."

    Helene made no responsive movement, but Jeanne had already rushed to
    have a look. On her return, she exclaimed:

    "How stupid Rosalie is! he is not digging at all. He is with the
    gardener, who is putting some plants into a barrow. Madame Deberle is
    plucking all her roses."

    "They must be for the church," quietly said Helene, who was busy with
    some tapestry-work.

    A few minutes later the bell rang, and Abbe Jouve made his appearance.
    He came to say that his presence must not be expected on the following
    Tuesday. His evenings would be wholly taken up with the ceremonies
    incident to the month of Mary. The parish priest had assigned him the
    task of decorating the church. It would be a great success. All the
    ladies were giving him flowers. He was expecting two palm-trees about
    fourteen feet high, and meant to place them to the right and left of
    the altar.

    "Oh! mamma, mamma!" murmured Jeanne, listening, wonderstruck.

    "Well," said Helene, with a smile, "since you cannot come to us, my
    old friend, we will go to see you. Why, you've quite turned Jeanne's
    head with your talk about flowers."

    She had few religious tendencies; she never even went to mass, on the
    plea that her daughter's health suffered from the shivering fits which
    seized her when she came out of a church. In her presence the old
    priest avoided all reference to religion. It was his wont to say, with
    good-natured indulgence, that good hearts carve out their own
    salvation by deeds of loving kindness and charity. God would know when
    and how to touch her.

    Till the evening of the following day Jeanne thought of nothing but
    the month of Mary. She plagued her mother with questions; she dreamt
    of the church adorned with a profusion of white roses, filled with
    thousands of wax tapers, with the sound of angels' voices, and sweet
    perfumes. And she was very anxious to go near the altar, that she
    might have a good look at the Blessed Virgin's lace gown, a gown worth
    a fortune, according to the Abbe. But Helene bridled her excitement
    with a threat not to take her should she make herself ill beforehand.

    However, the evening came at last, and they set out. The nights were
    still cold, and when they reached the Rue de l'Annonciation, where the
    church of Notre-Dame-de-Grace stands, the child was shivering all

    "The church is heated," said her mother. "We must secure a place near
    a hot-air pipe."

    She pushed open the padded door, and as it gently swung back to its
    place they found themselves in a warm atmosphere, with brilliant
    lights streaming on them, and chanting resounding in their ears. The
    ceremony had commenced, and Helene, perceiving that the nave was
    crowded, signified her intention of going down one of the aisles. But
    there seemed insuperable obstacles in her way; she could not get near
    the altar. Holding Jeanne by the hand, she for a time patiently
    pressed forward, but at last, despairing of advancing any farther,
    took the first unoccupied chairs she could find. A pillar hid half of
    the choir from view.

    "I can see nothing," said the child, grievously discontented. "This is
    a very nasty place."

    However, Helene signed to her to keep silent, and she lapsed into a
    fit of sulks. In front of her she could only perceive the broad back
    of a fat old lady. When her mother next turned towards her she was
    standing upright on her chair.

    "Will you come down!" said Helene in a low voice. "You are a

    But Jeanne was stubborn.

    "Hist! mamma," she said, "there's Madame Deberle. Look! she is down
    there in the centre, beckoning to us."

    The young woman's annoyance on hearing this made her very impatient,
    and she shook her daughter, who still refused to sit down. During the
    three days that had intervened since the ball, Helene had avoided any
    visit to the doctor's house on the plea of having a great deal to do.

    "Mamma," resumed Jeanne with a child's wonted stubbornness, "she is
    looking at you; she is nodding good-day to you."

    At this intimation Helene was forced to turn round and exchange
    greetings; each bowed to the other. Madame Deberle, in a striped silk
    gown trimmed with white lace, sat in the centre of the nave but a
    short distance from the choir, looking very fresh and conspicuous. She
    had brought her sister Pauline, who was now busy waving her hand. The
    chanting still continued, the elder members of the congregation
    pouring forth a volume of sound of falling scale, while now and then
    the shrill voice of the children punctuated the slow, monotonous
    rhythm of the canticle.

    "They want us to go over to them, you see," exclaimed Jeanne, with
    some triumph in her remark.

    "It is useless; we shall be all right here."

    "Oh, mamma, do let us go over to them! There are two chairs empty."

    "No, no; come and sit down."

    However, the ladies smilingly persisted in making signs, heedless to
    the last degree of the slight scandal they were causing; nay,
    delighted at being the observed of all observers. Helene thus had to
    yield. She pushed the gratified Jeanne before her, and strove to make
    her way through the congregation, her hands all the while trembling
    with repressed anger. It was no easy business. Devout female
    worshippers, unwilling to disturb themselves, glared at her with
    furious looks, whilst all agape they kept on singing. She pressed on
    in this style for five long minutes, the tempest of voices ringing
    around her with ever-increasing violence. Whenever she came to a
    standstill, Jeanne, squeezing close beside her, gazed at those
    cavernous, gaping mouths. However, at last they reached the vacant
    space in front of the choir, and then had but a few steps to make.

    "Come, be quick," whispered Madame Deberle. "The Abbe told me you
    would be coming, and I kept two chairs for you."

    Helene thanked her, and, to cut the conversation short, at once began
    turning over the leaves of her missal. But Juliette was as worldly
    here as elsewhere; as much at her ease, as agreeable and talkative, as
    in her drawing-room. She bent her head towards Helene and resumed:

    "You have become quite invisible. I intended to pay you a visit
    to-morrow. Surely you haven't been ill, have you?"

    "No, thank you. I've been very busy."

    "Well, listen to me. You must come and dine with us to-morrow. Quite a
    family dinner, you know."

    "You are very kind. We will see."

    She seemed to retire within herself, intent on following the service,
    and on saying nothing more. Pauline had taken Jeanne beside her that
    she might be nearer the hot-air flue over which she toasted herself
    luxuriously, as happy as any chilly mortal could be. Steeped in the
    warm air, the two girls raised themselves inquisitively and gazed
    around on everything, the low ceiling with its woodwork panels, the
    squat pillars, connected by arches from which hung chandeliers, and
    the pulpit of carved oak; and over the ocean of heads which waved with
    the rise and fall of the canticle, their eyes wandered towards the
    dark corners of the aisles, towards the chapels whose gilding faintly
    gleamed, and the baptistery enclosed by a railing near the chief
    entrance. However, their gaze always returned to the resplendent
    choir, decorated with brilliant colors and dazzling gilding. A crystal
    chandelier, flaming with light, hung from the vaulted ceiling; immense
    candelabra, filled with rows of wax tapers, that glittered amidst the
    gloom of the church like a profusion of stars in orderly array,
    brought out prominently the high altar, which seemed one huge bouquet
    of foliage and flowers. Over all, standing amidst a profusion of
    roses, a Virgin, dressed in satin and lace, and crowned with pearls,
    was holding a Jesus in long clothes on her arm.

    "I say, are you warm?" asked Pauline. "It's nice, eh?"

    But Jeanne, in ecstasy, was gazing on the Virgin amongst the flowers.
    The scene thrilled her. A fear crept over her that she might do
    something wrong, and she lowered her eyes in the endeavor to restrain
    her tears by fixing her attention on the black-and-white pavement. The
    vibrations of the choir-boys' shrill voices seemed to stir her tresses
    like puffs of air.

    Meanwhile Helene, with face bent over her prayer-book, drew herself
    away whenever Juliette's lace rustled against her. She was in no wise
    prepared for this meeting. Despite the vow she had sworn within
    herself, to be ever pure in her love for Henri, and never yield to
    him, she felt great discomfort at the thought that she was a
    traitoress to the confiding, happy woman who sat by her side. She was
    possessed by one idea--she would not go to that dinner. She sought for
    reasons which would enable her to break off these relations so hateful
    to her honor. But the swelling voices of the choristers, so near to
    her, drove all reflection from her mind; she could decide on no
    precise course, and surrendered herself to the soothing influences of
    the chant, tasting a pious joy such as she had never before found
    inside a church.

    "Have you been told about Madame de Chermette?" asked Juliette, unable
    any longer to restrain her craving for a gossip.

    "No, I know nothing."

    "Well, well; just imagine. You have seen her daughter, so womanish and
    tall, though she is only fifteen, haven't you? There is some talk
    about her getting married next year to that dark young fellow who is
    always hanging to her mother's skirts. People are talking about it
    with a vengeance."

    "Ah!" muttered Helene, who was not paying the least attention.

    Madame Deberle went into particulars, but of a sudden the chant
    ceased, and the organ-music died away in a moan. Astounded at the
    loudness of her own voice breaking upon the stillness which ensued,
    she lapsed into silence. A priest made his appearance at this moment
    in the pulpit. There was a rustling, and then he spoke. No, certainly
    not, Helene would not join that dinner-party. With her eyes fixed on
    the priest she pictured to herself the next meeting with Henri, that
    meeting which for three days she had contemplated with terror; she saw
    him white with anger, reproaching her for hiding herself, and she
    dreaded lest she might not display sufficient indifference. Amidst her
    dream the priest had disappeared, his thrilling tones merely reaching
    her in casual sentences: "No hour could be more ineffable than that
    when the Virgin, with bent head, answered: 'I am the handmaiden of the

    Yes, she would be brave; all her reason had returned to her. She would
    taste the joy of being loved, but would never avow her love, for her
    heart told her that such an avowal would cost her peace. And how
    intensely would she love, without confessing it, gratified by a word,
    a look from Henri, exchanged at lengthy intervals on the occasion of a
    chance meeting! It was a dream that brought her some sense of the
    infinite. The church around her became a friend and comforter. The
    priest was now exclaiming:

    "The angel vanished and Mary plunged into contemplation of the divine
    mystery working within her, her heart bathed in sunshine and love."

    "He speaks very well," whispered Madame Deberle, leaning towards her.
    "And he's quite young, too, scarcely thirty, don't you think?"

    Madame Deberle was affected. Religion pleased her because the emotions
    it prompted were in good taste. To present flowers for the decoration
    of churches, to have petty dealings with the priests, who were so
    polite and discreet, to come to church attired in her best and assume
    an air of worldly patronage towards the God of the poor--all this had
    for her special delights; the more so as her husband did not interest
    himself in religion, and her devotions thus had all the sweetness of
    forbidden fruit. Helene looked at her and answered with a nod; her
    face was ashy white with faintness, while the other's was lit up by
    smiles. There was a stirring of chairs and a rustling of
    handkerchiefs, as the priest quitted the pulpit with the final

    "Oh! give wings unto your love, souls imbued with Christian piety. God
    has made a sacrifice of Himself for your sakes, your hearts are full
    of His presence, your souls overflow with His grace!"

    Of a sudden the organ sounded again, and the litanies of the Virgin
    began with their appeals of passionate tenderness. Faint and distant
    the chanting rolled forth from the side-aisles and the dark recesses
    of the chapels, as though the earth were giving answer to the angel
    voices of the chorister-boys. A rush of air swept over the throng,
    making the flames of the tapers leap, while amongst the flowers,
    fading as they exhaled their last perfume, the Divine Mother seemed to
    incline her head to smile on her infant Jesus.

    All at once, seized with an instinctive dread, Helene turned. "You're
    not ill, Jeanne, are you?" she asked.

    The child, with face ashy white and eyes glistening, her spirit borne
    aloft by the fervent strains of the litanies, was gazing at the altar,
    where in imagination she could see the roses multiplying and falling
    in cascades.

    "No, no, mamma," she whispered; "I am pleased, I am very well
    pleased." And then she asked: "But where is our dear old friend?"

    She spoke of the Abbe. Pauline caught sight of him; he was seated in
    the choir, but Jeanne had to be lifted up in order that she might
    perceive him.

    "Oh! He is looking at us," said she; "he is blinking." According to
    Jeanne, the Abbe blinked when he laughed inwardly. Helene hastened to
    exchange a friendly nod with him. And then the tranquillity within her
    seemed to increase, her future serenity appeared to be assured, thus
    endearing the church to her and lulling her into a blissful condition
    of patient endurance. Censers swung before the altar and threads of
    smoke ascended; the benediction followed, and the holy monstrance was
    slowly raised and waved above the heads lowered to the earth. Helene
    was still on her knees in happy meditation when she heard Madame
    Deberle exclaiming: "It's over now; let us go."

    There ensued a clatter of chairs and a stamping of feet which
    reverberated along the arched aisles. Pauline had taken Jeanne's hand,
    and, walking away in front with the child, began to question her:

    "Have you ever been to the theatre?"

    "No. Is it finer than this?"

    As she spoke, the little one, giving vent to great gasps of wonder,
    tossed her head as though ready to express the belief that nothing
    could be finer. To her question, however, Pauline deigned no reply,
    for she had just come to a standstill in front of a priest who was
    passing in his surplice. And when he was a few steps away she
    exclaimed aloud, with such conviction in her tones that two devout
    ladies of the congregation turned around:

    "Oh! what a fine head!"

    Helene, meanwhile, had risen from her knees. She stepped along by the
    side of Juliette among the crowd which was making its way out with
    difficulty. Her heart was full of tenderness, she felt languid and
    enervated, and her soul no longer rebelled at the other being so near.
    At one moment their bare hands came in contact and they smiled. They
    were almost stifling in the throng, and Helene would fain have had
    Juliette go first. All their old friendship seemed to blossom forth
    once more.

    "Is it understood that we can rely on you for to-morrow evening?"
    asked Madame Deberle.

    Helene no longer had the will to decline. She would see whether it
    were possible when she reached the street. It finished by their being
    the last to leave. Pauline and Jeanne already stood on the opposite
    pavement awaiting them. But a tearful voice brought them to a halt.

    "Ah, my good lady, what a time it is since I had the happiness of
    seeing you!"

    It was Mother Fetu, who was soliciting alms at the church door.
    Barring Helene's way, as though she had lain in wait for her, she went

    "Oh, I have been so very ill always here, in the stomach, you know.
    Just now I feel as if a hammer were pounding away inside me; and I
    have nothing at all, my good lady. I didn't dare to send you word
    about it--May the gracious God repay you!"

    Helene had slipped a piece of money into her hand, and promised to
    think about her.

    "Hello!" exclaimed Madame Deberle, who had remained standing within
    the porch, "there's some one talking with Pauline and Jeanne. Why, it
    is Henri."

    "Yes, yes" Mother Fetu hastened to add as she turned her ferret-like
    eyes on the ladies, "it is the good doctor. I have seen him there all
    through the service; he has never budged from the pavement; he has
    been waiting for you, no doubt. Ah! he's a saint of a man! I swear
    that to be the truth in the face of God who hears us. Yes, I know you,
    madame; he is a husband who deserves to be happy. May Heaven hearken
    to your prayers, may every blessing fall on you! In the name of the
    Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!"

    Amidst the myriad furrows of her face, which was wrinkled like a
    withered apple, her little eyes kept gleaming in malicious unrest,
    darting a glance now on Juliette, now on Helene, so that it was
    impossible to say with any certainty whom she was addressing while
    speaking of "the good doctor." She followed them, muttering on without
    a stop, mingling whimpering entreaty with devout outbursts.

    Henri's reserve alike astonished and moved Helene. He scarcely had the
    courage to raise his eyes towards her. On his wife quizzing him about
    the opinions which restrained him from entering a church, he merely
    explained that to smoke a cigar was his object in coming to meet them;
    but Helene understood that he had wished to see her again, to prove to
    her how wrong she was in fearing some fresh outrage. Doubtless, like
    herself, he had sworn to keep within the limits of reason. She never
    questioned whether his sincerity could be real. She simply experienced
    a feeling of unhappiness at seeing him unhappy. Thus it came about,
    that on leaving them it the Rue Vineuse, she said cheerfully:

    "Well, it is settled then; to-morrow at seven."

    In this way the old friendship grew closer than ever, and a charming
    life began afresh. To Helene it seemed as if Henri had never yielded
    to that moment of folly; it was but a dream of hers; each loved the
    other, but they would never breathe a word of their love, they were
    content with knowing its existence. They spent delicious hours, in
    which, without their tongues giving evidence of their passion, they
    displayed it constantly; a gesture, an inflexion of the voice
    sufficed, ay, even a silence. Everything insensibly tended towards
    their love, plunged them more and more deeply into a passion which
    they bore away with them whenever they parted, which was ever with
    them, which formed, as it were, the only atmosphere they could
    breathe. And their excuse was their honesty; with eyes wide open they
    played this comedy of affection; not even a hand-clasp did they allow
    each other and their restraint infused unalloyed delight into the
    simple greetings with which they met.

    Every evening the ladies went to church. Madame Deberle was enchanted
    with the novel pleasure she was enjoying. It was so different from
    evening dances, concerts, and first nights; she adored fresh
    sensations, and nuns and priests were now constantly in her company.
    The store of religion which she had acquired in her school-days now
    found new life in her giddy brain, taking shape in all sorts of
    trivial observances, as though she were reviving the games of her
    childhood. Helene, who on her side had grown up without any religious
    training, surrendered herself to the bliss of these services of the
    month of Mary, happy also in the delight with which they appeared to
    inspire Jeanne. They now dined earlier; they gave Rosalie no peace
    lest she should cause them to be late, and prevent their securing good
    seats. Then they called for Juliette on the way. One day Lucien was
    taken, but he behaved so badly that he was afterward left at home. On
    entering the warm church, with its glare of wax candles, a feeling of
    tenderness and calm, which by degrees grew necessary to Helene, came
    over her. When doubts sprang up within her during the day, and the
    thought of Henri filled her with indefinable anxiety, with the evening
    the church once more brought her peace. The chants arose overflowing
    with divine passion; the flowers, newly culled, made the close
    atmosphere of the building still heavier. It was here that she
    breathed all the first rapture of springtide, amidst that adoration of
    woman raised to the status of a cult; and her senses swam as she
    contemplated the mystery of love and purity--Mary, virgin and mother,
    beaming beneath her wreath of white roses. Each day she remained
    longer on her knees. She found herself at times with hands joined in
    entreaty. When the ceremony came to an end, there followed the
    happiness of the return home. Henri awaited their appearance at the
    door; the evenings grew warmer, and they wended their way through the
    dark, still streets of Passy, while scarce a word passed between them.

    "How devout you are getting, my dear!" said Madame Deberle one night,
    with a laugh.

    Yes, it was true; Helene was widely opening the portals of her heart
    to pious thoughts. Never could she have fancied that such happiness
    would attend her love. She returned to the church as to a spot where
    her heart would melt, for under its roof she could give free vent to
    her tears, remain thoughtless, plunged in speechless worship. For an
    hour each evening she put no restraint on herself. The bursting love
    within her, prisoned throughout the day, at length escaped from her
    bosom on the wings of prayer, amidst the pious quiver of the throng.
    The muttered supplications, the bendings of the knee, the reverences
    --words and gestures seemingly interminable--all lulled her to rest;
    to her they ever expressed the same thing; it was always the same
    passion speaking in the same phrase, or the same gesture. She felt a
    need of faith, and basked enraptured by the Divine goodness.

    Helene was not the only person whom Juliette twitted; she feigned a
    belief that Henri himself was becoming religious. What, had he not now
    entered the church to wait for them?--he, atheist and scoffer, who had
    been wont to assert that he had sought for the soul with his scalpel,
    and had not yet discovered its existence! As soon as she perceived him
    standing behind a pillar in the shadow of the pulpit, she would
    instantly jog Helene's arm.

    "Look, look, he is there already! Do you know, he wouldn't confess
    when we got married! See how funny he looks; he gazes at us with so
    comical an expression; quick, look!"

    Helene did not at the moment raise her head. The service was coming to
    an end, clouds of incense were rising, and the organ-music pealed
    forth joyfully. But her neighbor was not a woman to leave her alone,
    and she was forced to speak in answer.

    "Yes, yes, I see him," she whispered, albeit she never turned her

    She had on her own side divined his presence amidst the song of praise
    that mounted from the worshipping throng. It seemed to her that
    Henri's breath was wafted on the wings of the music and beat against
    her neck, and she imagined she could see behind her his glances
    shedding their light along the nave and haloing her, as she knelt,
    with a golden glory. And then she felt impelled to pray with such
    fervor that words failed her. The expression on his face was sober, as
    unruffled as any husband might wear when looking for ladies in a
    church, the same, indeed, as if he had been waiting for them in the
    lobby of a theatre. But when they came together, in the midst of the
    slowly-moving crowd of worshippers, they felt that the bonds of their
    love had been drawn closer by the flowers and the chanting; and they
    shunned all conversation, for their hearts were on their lips.

    A fortnight slipped away, and Madame Deberle grew wearied. She ever
    jumped from one thing to the other, consumed with the thirst of doing
    what every one else was doing. For the moment charity bazaars had
    become her craze; she would toil up sixty flights of stairs of an
    afternoon to beg paintings of well-known artists, while her evenings
    were spent in presiding over meetings of lady patronesses, with a bell
    handy to call noisy members to order. Thus it happened that one
    Thursday evening Helene and her daughter went to church without their
    companions. On the conclusion of the sermon, while the choristers were
    commencing the _Magnificat_, the young woman, forewarned by some
    impulse of her heart, turned her head. Henri was there, in his usual
    place. Thereupon she remained with looks riveted to the ground till
    the service came to an end, waiting the while for the return home.

    "Oh, how kind of you to come!" said Jeanne, with all a child's
    frankness, as they left the church. "I should have been afraid to go
    alone through these dark streets."

    Henri, however, feigned astonishment, asserting that he had expected
    to meet his wife. Helene allowed the child to answer him, and followed
    them without uttering a word. As the trio passed under the porch a
    pitiful voice sang out: "Charity, charity! May God repay you!"

    Every night Jeanne dropped a ten-sou piece into Mother Fetu's hand.
    When the latter saw the doctor alone with Helene, she nodded her head
    knowingly, instead of breaking out into a storm of thanks, as was her
    custom. The church was now empty, and she began to follow them,
    mumbling inaudible sentences. Sometimes, instead of returning by the
    Rue de Passy, the ladies, when the night was fine, went homewards by
    the Rue Raynouard, the way being thus lengthened by five or six
    minutes' walk. That night also Helene turned into the Rue Raynouard,
    craving for gloom and stillness, and entranced by the loneliness of
    the long thoroughfare, which was lighted by only a few gas-lamps,
    without the shadow of a single passer-by falling across its pavement.

    At this hour Passy seemed out of the world; sleep had already fallen
    over it; it had all the quietude of a provincial town. On each side of
    the street loomed mansions, girls' schools, black and silent, and
    dining places, from the kitchens of which lights still streamed. There
    was not, however, a single shop to throw the glare of its frontage
    across the dimness. To Henri and Helene the loneliness was pregnant
    with intense charm. He had not ventured to offer her his arm. Jeanne
    walked between them in the middle of the road, which was gravelled
    like a walk in some park. At last the houses came to an end, and then
    on each side were walls, over which spread mantling clematis and
    clusters of lilac blossoms. Immense gardens parted the mansions, and
    here and there through the railings of an iron gate they could catch
    glimpses of a gloomy background of verdure, against which the
    tree-dotted turf assumed a more delicate hue. The air was filled with
    the perfume of irises growing in vases which they could scarce
    distinguish. All three paced on slowly through the warm spring night,
    which was steeping them in its odors, and Jeanne, with childish
    artlessness, raised her face to the heavens, and exclaimed:

    "Oh, mamma, see what a number of stars!"

    But behind them, like an echo of their own, came the footfall of
    Mother Fetu. Nearer and nearer she approached, till they could hear
    her muttering the opening words of the Angelic Salutation "_Ave Marie,
    gratia plena_," repeating them over and over again with the same
    confused persistency. She was telling her beads on her homeward way.

    "I have still something left--may I give it to her?" Jeanne asked her

    And thereupon, without waiting for a reply, she left them, running
    towards the old woman, who was on the point of entering the Passage
    des Eaux. Mother Fetu clutched at the coin, calling upon all the
    angels of Heaven to bless her. As she spoke, however, she grasped the
    child's hand and detained her by her side, then asking in changed

    "The other lady is ill, is she not?"

    "No," answered Jeanne, surprised.

    "May Heaven shield her! May it shower its favors on her and her
    husband! Don't run away yet, my dear little lady. Let me say an _Ave
    Maria_ for your mother's sake, and you will join in the 'Amen' with
    me. Oh! your mother will allow you; you can catch her up."

    Meanwhile Henri and Helene trembled as they found themselves suddenly
    left alone in the shadow cast by a line of huge chestnut trees that
    bordered the road. They quietly took a few steps. The chestnut trees
    had strewn the ground with their bloom, and they were walking upon
    this rosy-tinted carpet. On a sudden, however, they came to a stop,
    their hearts filled with such emotion that they could go no farther.

    "Forgive me," said Henri simply.

    "Yes, yes," ejaculated Helene. "But oh! be silent, I pray you."

    She had felt his hand touch her own, and had started back. Fortunately
    Jeanne ran towards them at the moment.

    "Mamma, mamma!" she cried; "she made me say an _Ave_; she says it will
    bring you good luck."

    The three then turned into the Rue Vineuse, while Mother Fetu crept
    down the steps of the Passage des Eaux, busy completing her rosary.

    The month slipped away. Two or three more services were attended by
    Madame Deberle. One Sunday, the last one, Henri once more ventured to
    wait for Helene and Jeanne. The walk home thrilled them with joy. The
    month had been one long spell of wondrous bliss. The little church
    seemed to have entered into their lives to soothe their love and
    render its way pleasant. At first a great peace had settled on
    Helene's soul; she had found happiness in this sanctuary where she
    imagined she could without shame dwell on her love; however, the
    undermining had continued, and when her holy rapture passed away she
    was again in the grip of her passion, held by bonds that would have
    plucked at her heartstrings had she sought to break them asunder.
    Henri still preserved his respectful demeanor, but she could not do
    otherwise than see the passion burning in his face. She dreaded some
    outburst, and even grew afraid of herself.

    One afternoon, going homewards after a walk with Jeanne, she passed
    along the Rue de l'Annonciation and entered the church. The child was
    complaining of feeling very tired. Until the last day she had been
    unwilling to admit that the evening services exhausted her, so intense
    was the pleasure she derived from them; but her cheeks had grown
    waxy-pale, and the doctor advised that she should take long walks.

    "Sit down here," said her mother. "It will rest you; we'll only stay
    ten minutes."

    She herself walked towards some chairs a short way off, and knelt
    down. She had placed Jeanne close to a pillar. Workmen were busy at
    the other end of the nave, taking down the hangings and removing the
    flowers, the ceremonials attending the month of Mary having come to an
    end the evening before. With her face buried in her hands Helene saw
    nothing and heard nothing; she was eagerly catechising her heart,
    asking whether she ought not to confess to Abbe Jouve what an awful
    life had come upon her. He would advise her, perhaps restore her lost
    peace. Still, within her there arose, out of her very anguish, a
    fierce flood of joy. She hugged her sorrow, dreading lest the priest
    might succeed in finding a cure for it. Ten minutes slipped away, then
    an hour. She was overwhelmed by the strife raging within her heart.

    At last she raised her head, her eyes glistening with tears, and saw
    Abbe Jouve gazing at her sorrowfully. It was he who was directing the
    workmen. Having recognized Jeanne, he had just come forward.

    "Why, what is the matter, my child?" he asked of Helene, who hastened
    to rise to her feet and wipe away her tears.

    She was at a loss what answer to give; she was afraid lest she should
    once more fall on her knees and burst into sobs. He approached still
    nearer, and gently resumed:

    "I do not wish to cross-question you, but why do you not confide in
    me? Confide in the priest and forget the friend."

    "Some other day," she said brokenly, "some other day, I promise you."

    Jeanne meantime had at first been very good and patient, finding
    amusement in looking at the stained-glass windows, the statues over
    the great doorway, and the scenes of the journey to the Cross depicted
    in miniature bas-reliefs along the aisles. By degrees, however, the
    cold air of the church had enveloped her as with a shroud; and she
    remained plunged in a weariness that even banished thought, a feeling
    of discomfort waking within her with the holy quiet and far-reaching
    echoes, which the least sound stirred in this sanctuary where she
    imagined she was going to die. But a grievous sorrow rankled in her
    heart--the flowers were being borne away. The great clusters of roses
    were vanishing, and the altar seemed to become more and more bare and
    chill. The marble looked icy-cold now that no wax-candle shone on it
    and there was no smoking incense. The lace-robed Virgin moreover was
    being moved, and after suddenly tottering fell backward into the arms
    of two workmen. At the sight Jeanne uttered a faint cry, stretched out
    her arms, and fell back rigid; the illness that had been threatening
    her for some days had at last fallen upon her.

    And when Helene, in distraction, carried her child, with the
    assistance of the sorrowing Abbe, into a cab, she turned towards the
    porch with outstretched, trembling hands.

    "It's all this church! it's all this church!" she exclaimed, with a
    vehemence instinct with regret and self-reproach as she thought of the
    month of devout delight which she herself had tasted there.
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    Chapter 11
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