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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 13
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    Months slipped away, and Jeanne was still convalescent. August came,
    and she had not quitted her bed. When evening fell she would rise for
    an hour or two; but even the crossing of the room to the window--where
    she reclined on an invalid-chair and gazed out on Paris, flaming with
    the ruddy light of the dying sun--seemed too great a strain for her
    wearied frame. Her attenuated limbs could scarce bear their burden,
    and she would declare with a wan smile that the blood in her veins
    would not suffice for a little bird, and that she must have plenty of
    soup. Morsels of raw meat were dipped in her broth. She had grown to
    like this mixture, as she longed to be able to go down to play in the

    The weeks and the months which slipped by were ever instinct with the
    same delightful monotony, and Helene forgot to count the days. She
    never left the house; at Jeanne's side she forgot the whole world. No
    news from without reached her ears. Her retreat, though it looked down
    on Paris, which with its smoke and noise stretched across the horizon,
    was as secret and secluded as any cave of holy hermit amongst the
    hills. Her child was saved, and the knowledge of it satisfied all her
    desires. She spent her days in watching over her return to health,
    rejoicing in a shade of bright color returning to her cheeks, in a
    lively look, or in a gesture of gladness. Every hour made her daughter
    more like what she had been of old, with lovely eyes and wavy hair.
    The slower Jeanne's recovery, the greater joy was yielded to Helene,
    who recalled the olden days when she had suckled her, and, as she
    gazed on her gathering strength, felt even a keener emotion than when
    in the past she had measured her two little feet in her hand to see if
    she would soon be able to walk.

    At the same time some anxiety remained to Helene. On several occasions
    she had seen a shadow come over Jeanne's face--a shadow of sudden
    distrust and sourness. Why was her laughter thus abruptly turned to
    sulkiness? Was she suffering? was she hiding some quickening of the
    old pain?

    "Tell me, darling, what is the matter? You were laughing just a moment
    ago, and now you are nearly crying! Speak to me: do you feel a pain

    But Jeanne abruptly turned away her head and buried her face in the

    "There's nothing wrong with me," she answered curtly. "I want to be
    left alone."

    And she would lie brooding the whole afternoon, with her eyes fixed on
    the wall, showing no sign of affectionate repentance, but plunged in a
    sadness which baffled her forlorn mother. The doctor knew not what to
    say; these fits of gloom would always break out when he was there, and
    he attributed them to the sufferer's nervousness. He impressed on
    Helene the necessity of crossing her in nothing.

    One afternoon Jeanne had fallen asleep. Henri, who was pleased with
    her progress, had lingered in the room, and was carrying on a
    whispered conversation with Helene, who was once more busy with her
    everlasting needlework at her seat beside the window. Since the
    terrible night when she had confessed she loved him both had lived on
    peacefully in the consciousness of their mutual passions, careless of
    the morrow, and without a thought of the world. Around Jeanne's bed,
    in this room that still reverberated with her agony, there was an
    atmosphere of purity which shielded them from any outburst. The
    child's innocent breath fell on them with a quieting influence. But as
    the little invalid slowly grew well again, their love in very sympathy
    took new strength, and they would sit side by side with beating
    hearts, speaking little, and then only in whispers, lest the little
    one might be awakened. Their words were without significance, but
    struck re-echoing chords within the breast of each. That afternoon
    their love revealed itself in a thousand ways.

    "I assure you she is much better," said the doctor. "In a fortnight
    she will be able to go down to the garden."

    Helene went on stitching quickly.

    "Yesterday she was again very sad," she murmured, "but this morning
    she was laughing and happy. She has given me her promise to be good."

    A long silence followed. The child was still plunged in sleep, and
    their souls were enveloped in a profound peace. When she slumbered
    thus, their relief was intense; they seemed to share each other's
    hearts the more.

    "Have you not seen the garden yet?" asked Henri. "Just now it's full
    of flowers."

    "The asters are out, aren't they?" she questioned.

    "Yes; the flower-bed looks magnificent. The clematises have wound
    their way up into the elms. It is quite a nest of foliage."

    There was another silence. Helene ceased sewing, and gave him a smile.
    To their fancy it seemed as though they were strolling together along
    high-banked paths, dim with shadows, amidst which fell a shower of
    roses. As he hung over her he drank in the faint perfume of vervain
    that arose from her dressing-gown. However, all at once a rustling of
    the sheets disturbed them.

    "She is wakening!" exclaimed Helene, as she started up.

    Henri drew himself away, and simultaneously threw a glance towards the
    bed. Jeanne had but a moment before gripped the pillow with her arms,
    and, with her chin buried in it, had turned her face towards them. But
    her eyelids were still shut, and judging by her slow and regular
    breathing, she had again fallen asleep.

    "Are you always sewing like this?" asked Henri, as he came nearer to

    "I cannot remain with idle hands," she answered. "It is mechanical
    enough, but it regulates my thoughts. For hours I can think of the
    same thing without wearying."

    He said no more, but his eye dwelt on the needle as the stitching went
    on almost in a melodious cadence; and it seemed to him as if the
    thread were carrying off and binding something of their lives
    together. For hours she could have sewn on, and for hours he could
    have sat there, listening to the music of the needle, in which, like a
    lulling refrain, re-echoed one word that never wearied them. It was
    their wish to live their days like this in that quiet nook, to sit
    side by side while the child was asleep, never stirring from their
    places lest they might awaken her. How sweet was that quiescent
    silence, in which they could listen to the pulsing of hearts, and bask
    in the delight of a dream of everlasting love!

    "How good you are!" were the words which came several times from his
    lips, the joy her presence gave him only finding expression in that
    one phrase.

    Again she raised her head, never for a moment deeming it strange that
    she should be so passionately worshipped. Henri's face was near her
    own, and for a second they gazed at one another.

    "Let me get on with my work," she said in a whisper. "I shall never
    have it finished."

    But just then an instinctive dread prompted her to turn round, and
    indeed there lay Jeanne, lowering upon them with deadly pale face and
    great inky-black eyes. The child had not made the least movement; her
    chin was still buried in the downy pillow, which she clasped with her
    little arms. She had only opened her eyes a moment before and was
    contemplating them.

    "Jeanne, what's the matter?" asked Helene. "Are you ill? do you want

    The little one made no reply, never stirred, did not even lower the
    lids of her great flashing eyes. A sullen gloom was on her brow, and
    in her pallid cheeks were deep hollows. She seemed about to throw back
    her hands as though a convulsion was imminent. Helene started up,
    begging her to speak; but she remained obstinately stiff, darting such
    black looks on her mother that the latter's face became purple with
    blushes, and she murmured:

    "Doctor, see; what is the matter with her?"

    Henri had drawn his chair away from Helene's. He ventured near the
    bed, and was desirous of taking hold of one of the little hands which
    so fiercely gripped the pillow. But as he touched Jeanne she trembled
    in every limb, turned with a start towards the wall, and exclaimed:

    "Leave me alone; you, I mean! You are hurting me!"

    She pulled the coverlet over her face, and for a quarter of an hour
    they attempted, without success, to soothe her with gentle words. At
    last, as they still persevered, she sat up with her hands clasped in
    supplication: "Oh, please leave me alone; you are tormenting me! Leave
    me alone!"

    Helene, in her bewilderment, once more sat down at the window, but
    Henri did not resume his place beside her. They now understood: Jeanne
    was devoured by jealousy. They were unable to speak another word. For
    a minute or two the doctor paced up and down in silence, and then
    slowly quitted the room, well understanding the meaning of the anxious
    glances which the mother was darting towards the bed. As soon as he
    had gone, she ran to her daughter's side and pressed her passionately
    to her breast, with a wild outburst of words.

    "Hear me, my pet, I am alone now; look at me, speak to me. Are you in
    pain? Have I vexed you then? Tell me everything! Is it I whom you are
    angry with? What are you troubled about?"

    But it was useless to pray for an answer, useless to plead with all
    sorts of questions; Jeanne declared that she was quite well. Then she
    started up with a frenzied cry: "You don't love me any more, mamma!
    you don't love me any more!"

    She burst into grievous sobbing, and wound her arms convulsively round
    her mother's neck, raining greedy kisses on her face. Helene's heart
    was rent within her, she felt overwhelmed with unspeakable sadness,
    and strained her child to her bosom, mingling her tears with her own,
    and vowing to her that she would never love anybody save herself.

    From that day onward a mere word or glance would suffice to awaken
    Jeanne's jealousy. While she was in the perilous grip of death some
    instinct had led her to put her trust in the loving tenderness with
    which they had shielded and saved her. But now strength was returning
    to her, and she would allow none to participate in her mother's love.
    She conceived a kind of spite against the doctor, a spite which
    stealthily grew into hate as her health improved. It was hidden deep
    within her self-willed brain, in the innermost recesses of her
    suspicious and silent nature. She would never consent to explain
    things; she herself knew not what was the matter with her; but she
    felt ill whenever the doctor drew too near to her mother; and would
    press her hands violently to her bosom. Her torment seemed to sear her
    very heart, and furious passion choked her and made her cheeks turn
    pale. Nor could she place any restraint on herself; she imagined every
    one unjust, grew stiff and haughty, and deigned no reply when she was
    charged with being very ill-tempered. Helene, trembling with dismay,
    dared not press her to explain the source of her trouble; indeed, her
    eyes turned away whenever this eleven-year-old child darted at her a
    glance in which was concentrated the premature passion of a woman.

    "Oh, Jeanne, you are making me very wretched!" she would sometimes say
    to her, the tears standing in her eyes as she observed her stifling in
    her efforts to restrain a sudden bubbling up of mad anger.

    But these words, once so potent for good, which had so often drawn the
    child weeping to Helene's arms, were now wholly without influence.
    There was a change taking place in her character. Her humors varied
    ten times a day. Generally she spoke abruptly and imperiously,
    addressing her mother as though she were Rosalie, and constantly
    plaguing her with the pettiest demands, ever impatient and loud in

    "Give me a drink. What a time you take! I am left here dying of
    thirst!" And when Helene handed the glass to her she would exclaim:
    "There's no sugar in it; I won't have it!"

    Then she would throw herself back on her pillow, and a second time
    push away the glass, with the complaint that the drink was too sweet.
    They no longer cared to attend to her, she would say; they were doing
    it purposely. Helene, dreading lest she might infuriate her to a yet
    greater extent, made no reply, but gazed on her with tears trembling
    on her cheeks.

    However, Jeanne's anger was particularly visible when the doctor made
    his appearance. The moment he entered the sick-room she would lay
    herself flat in bed, or sullenly hang her head in the manner of savage
    brutes who will not suffer a stranger to come near. Sometimes she
    refused to say a word, allowing him to feel her pulse or examine her
    while she remained motionless with her eyes fixed on the ceiling. On
    other days she would not even look at him, but clasp her hands over
    her eyes with such a gust of passion that to remove them would have
    necessitated the violent twisting of her arms. One night, as her
    mother was about to give her a spoonful of medicine, she burst out
    with the cruel remark: "I won't have it; it will poison me."

    Helene's heart, pierced to the quick, sank within her, and she dreaded
    to elicit what the remark might mean.

    "What are you saying, my child?" she asked. "Do you understand what
    you are talking about? Medicine is never nice to take. You must drink

    But Jeanne lay there in obstinate silence, and averted her head in
    order to get rid of the draught. From that day onward she was full of
    caprices, swallowing or rejecting her medicines according to the humor
    of the moment. She would sniff at the phials and examine them
    suspiciously as they stood on the night-table. Should she have refused
    to drink the contents of one of them she never forgot its identity,
    and would have died rather than allow a drop from it to pass her lips.
    Honest Monsieur Rambaud alone could persuade her at times. It was he
    whom she now overwhelmed with the most lavish caresses, especially if
    the doctor were looking on; and her gleaming eyes were turned towards
    her mother to note if she were vexed by this display of affection
    towards another.

    "Oh, it's you, old friend!" she exclaimed the moment he entered. "Come
    and sit down near me. Have you brought me any oranges?"

    She sat up and laughingly fumbled in his pockets, where goodies were
    always secreted. Then she embraced him, playing quite a love comedy,
    while her revenge found satisfaction in the anguish which she imagined
    she could read on her mother's pallid face. Monsieur Rambaud beamed
    with joy over his restoration to his little sweetheart's good graces.
    But Helene, on meeting him in the ante-room, was usually able to
    acquaint him with the state of affairs, and all at once he would look
    at the draught standing on the table and exclaim: "What! are you
    having syrup?"

    Jeanne's face clouded over, and, in a low voice, she replied: "No, no,
    it's nasty, it's nauseous; I can't take it."

    "What! you can't drink this?" questioned Monsieur Rambaud gaily. "I
    can wager it's very good. May I take a little of it?"

    Then without awaiting her permission he poured out a large spoonful,
    and swallowed it with a grimace that seemed to betoken immeasurable

    "How delicious!" he murmured. "You are quite wrong; see, just take a
    little to try."

    Jeanne, amused, then made no further resistance. She would drink
    whatever Monsieur Rambaud happened to taste. She watched his every
    motion greedily, and appeared to study his features with a view to
    observing the effects of the medicine. The good man for a month gorged
    himself in this way with drugs, and, on Helene gratefully thanking
    him, merely shrugged his shoulders.

    "Oh! it's very good stuff!" he declared, with perfect conviction,
    making it his pleasure to share the little one's medicines.

    He passed his evenings at her bedside. The Abbe, on the other hand,
    came regularly every second day. Jeanne retained them with her as long
    as possible, and displayed vexation when she saw them take up their
    hats. Her immediate dread lay in being left alone with her mother and
    the doctor, and she would fain have always had company in the room to
    keep these two apart. Frequently, without reason, she called Rosalie
    to her. When they were alone with her, her eyes never quitted them,
    but pursued them into every corner of the bedroom. Whenever their
    hands came together, her face grew ashy white. If a whispered word was
    exchanged between them, she started up in anger, demanding to know
    what had been said. It was a grievance to her that her mother's gown
    should sweep against the doctor's foot. They could not approach or
    look at one another without the child falling immediately into violent
    trembling. The extreme sensitiveness of her innocent little being
    induced in her an exasperation which would suddenly prompt her to turn
    round, should she guess that they were smiling at one another behind
    her. She could divine the times when their love was at its height by
    the atmosphere wafted around her. It was then that her gloom became
    deeper, and her agonies were those of nervous women at the approach of
    a terrible storm.

    Every one about Helene now looked on Jeanne as saved, and she herself
    had slowly come to recognize this as a certainty. Thus it happened
    that Jeanne's fits were at last regarded by her as the bad humors of a
    spoilt child, and as of little or no consequence. A craving to live
    sprang up within her after the six weeks of anguish which she had just
    spent. Her daughter was now well able to dispense with her care for
    hours; and for her, who had so long become unconscious of life, these
    hours opened up a vista of delight, of peace, and pleasure. She
    rummaged in her drawers, and made joyous discoveries of forgotten
    things; she plunged into all sorts of petty tasks, in the endeavor to
    resume the happy course of her daily existence. And in this upwelling
    of life her love expanded, and the society of Henri was the reward she
    allowed herself for the intensity of her past sufferings. In the
    shelter of that room they deemed themselves beyond the world's ken,
    and every hindrance in their path was forgotten. The child, to whom
    their love had proved a terror, alone remained a bar between them.

    Jeanne became, indeed, a veritable scourge to their affections. An
    ever-present barrier, with her eyes constantly upon them, she
    compelled them to maintain a continued restraint, an affectation of
    indifference, with the result that their hearts were stirred with even
    greater motion than before. For days they could not exchange a word;
    they knew intuitively that she was listening even when she was
    seemingly wrapped in slumber. One evening, when Helene had quitted the
    room with Henri, to escort him to the front door, Jeanne burst out
    with the cry, "Mamma! mamma!" in a voice shrill with rage. Helene was
    forced to return, for she heard the child leap from her bed; and she
    met her running towards her, shivering with cold and passion. Jeanne
    would no longer let her remain away from her. From that day forward
    they could merely exchange a clasp of the hand on meeting and parting.
    Madame Deberle was now spending a month at the seaside, and the
    doctor, though he had all his time at his own command, dared not pass
    more than ten minutes in Helene's company. Their long chats at the
    window had come to an end.

    What particularly tortured their hearts was the fickleness of Jeanne's
    humor. One night, as the doctor hung over her, she gave way to tears.
    For a whole day her hate changed to feverish tenderness, and Helene
    felt happy once more; but on the morrow, when the doctor entered the
    room, the child received him with such a display of sourness that the
    mother besought him with a look to leave them. Jeanne had fretted the
    whole night in angry regret over her own good-humor. Not a day passed
    but what a like scene was enacted. And after the blissful hours the
    child brought them in her moods of impassioned tenderness these hours
    of misery fell on them with the torture of the lash.

    A feeling of revulsion at last awoke within Helene. To all seeming her
    daughter would be her death. Why, when her illness had been put to
    flight, did the ill-natured child work her utmost to torment her? If
    one of those intoxicating dreams took possession of her imagination--a
    mystic dream in which she found herself traversing a country alike
    unknown and entrancing with Henri by her side Jeanne's face, harsh and
    sullen, would suddenly start up before her and thus her heart was ever
    being rent in twain. The struggle between her maternal affection and
    her passion became fraught with the greatest suffering.

    One evening, despite Helene's formal edict of banishment, the doctor
    called. For eight days they had been unable to exchange a word
    together. She would fain that he had not entered; but he did so on
    learning that Jeanne was in a deep sleep. They sat down as of old,
    near the window, far from the glare of the lamp, with the peaceful
    shadows around them. For two hours their conversation went on in such
    low whispers that scarcely a sound disturbed the silence of the large
    room. At times they turned their heads and glanced at the delicate
    profile of Jeanne, whose little hands, clasped together, were reposing
    on the coverlet. But in the end they grew forgetful of their
    surroundings, and their talk incautiously became louder. Then, all at
    once, Jeanne's voice rang out.

    "Mamma! mamma!" she cried, seized with sudden agitation, as though
    suffering from nightmare.

    She writhed about in her bed, her eyelids still heavy with sleep, and
    then struggled to reach a sitting posture.

    "Hide, I beseech you!" whispered Helene to the doctor in a tone of
    anguish. "You will be her death if you stay here."

    In an instant Henri vanished into the window-recess, concealed by the
    blue velvet curtain; but it was in vain, the child still kept up her
    pitiful cry: "Oh, mamma! mamma! I suffer so much."

    "I am here beside you, my darling; where do you feel the pain?"

    "I don't know. Oh, see, it is here! Oh, it is scorching me!" With eyes
    wide open and features distorted, she pressed her little hands to her
    bosom. "It came on me in a moment. I was asleep, wasn't I? But I felt
    something like a burning coal."

    "But it's all gone now. You're not pained any longer, are you?"

    "Yes, yes, I feel it still."

    She glanced uneasily round the room. She was now wholly awake; the
    sullen gloom crept over her face once more, and her cheeks became

    "Are you by yourself, mamma?" she asked.

    "Of course I am, my darling!"

    Nevertheless Jeanne shook her head and gazed about, sniffing the air,
    while her agitation visibly increased. "No, you're not; I know you're
    not. There's some one--Oh, mamma! I'm afraid, I'm afraid! You are
    telling me a story; you are not by yourself."

    She fell back in bed in an hysterical fit, sobbing loudly and huddling
    herself beneath the coverlet, as though to ward off some danger.
    Helene, crazy with alarm, dismissed Henri without delay, despite his
    wish to remain and look after the child. But she drove him out
    forcibly, and on her return clasped Jeanne in her arms, while the
    little one gave vent to the one pitiful cry, with every utterance of
    which her sobbing was renewed louder than ever: "You don't love me any
    more! You don't love me any more!"

    "Hush, hush, my angel! don't say that," exclaimed the mother in agony.
    "You are all the world to me. You'll see yet whether I love you or

    She nursed her until the morning broke, intent on yielding up to her
    all her heart's affections, though she was appalled at realizing how
    completely the love of herself possessed this darling child. Next day
    she deemed a consultation necessary. Doctor Bodin, dropping in as
    though by chance, subjected the patient with many jokes to a careful
    examination; and a lengthy discussion ensued between him and Doctor
    Deberle, who had remained in the adjacent room. Both readily agreed
    that there were no serious symptoms apparent at the moment, but they
    were afraid of complex developments, and cross-questioned Helene for
    some time. They realized that they were dealing with one of those
    nervous affections which have a family history, and set medical skill
    at defiance. She told them, what they already partly knew, that her
    grandmother[*] was confined in the lunatic asylum of Les Tulettes at a
    short distance from Plassans, and that her mother had died from
    galloping consumption, after many years of brain affection and
    hysterical fits. She herself took more after her father; she had his
    features and the same gravity of temperament. Jeanne, on the other
    hand, was the facsimile of her grandmother; but she never would have
    her strength, commanding figure, or sturdy, bony frame. The two
    doctors enjoined on her once more that the greatest care was
    requisite. Too many precautions could not be taken in dealing with
    chloro-anaemical affections, which tend to develop a multitude of
    dangerous diseases.

    [*] Adelaide Fouque, already mentioned, who figures so prominently in
    "The Fortune of the Rougons," and dies under such horrible
    circumstances in "Doctor Pascal."

    Henri had listened to old Doctor Bodin with a deference which he had
    never before displayed for a colleague. He besought his advice on
    Jeanne's case with the air of a pupil who is full of doubt. Truth to
    tell, this child inspired him with dread; he felt that her case was
    beyond his science, and he feared lest she might die under his hands
    and her mother be lost to him for ever. A week passed away. He was no
    longer admitted by Helene into the little one's presence; and in the
    end, sad and sick at heart, he broke off his visits of his own accord.

    As the month of August verged on its close, Jeanne recovered
    sufficient strength to rise and walk across the room. The lightness of
    her heart spoke in her laughter. A fortnight had elapsed since the
    recurrence of any nervous attack. The thought that her mother was
    again all her own and would ever cling to her had proved remedy
    enough. At first distrust had rankled in her mind; while letting
    Helene kiss her she had remained uneasy at her least movement, and had
    imperiously besought her hand before she fell asleep, anxious to
    retain it in her own during her slumber. But at last, with the
    knowledge that nobody came near, she had regained confidence,
    enraptured by the prospect of a reopening of the old happy life when
    they had sat side by side, working at the window. Every day brought
    new roses to her cheeks; and Rosalie declared that she was blossoming
    brighter and brighter every hour.

    There were times, however, as night fell, when Helene broke down.
    Since her daughter's illness her face had remained grave and somewhat
    pale, and a deep wrinkle, never before visible, furrowed her brow.
    When Jeanne caught sight of her in these hours of weariness, despair,
    and voidness, she herself would feel very wretched, her heart heavy
    with vague remorse. Gently and silently she would then twine her arms
    around her neck.

    "Are you happy, mother darling?" came the whisper.

    A thrill ran through Helene's frame, and she hastened to answer: "Yes,
    of course, my pet."

    Still the child pressed her question:

    "Are you, oh! are you happy? Quite sure?"

    "Quite sure. Why should I feel unhappy?"

    With this Jeanne would clasp her closer in her little arms, as though
    to requite her. She would love her so well, she would say--so well,
    indeed, that nowhere in all Paris could a happier mother be found.
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