Deeply moved by his trouble, she put her arm about the child's neck and drew him to her.
"Because, my boy, the lot of Jameray Duval, the poor and friendless lad who succeeded at last, will be your lot, yours and your brother's, and I have brought it upon you. Before very long, dear child, you will be alone in the world, with no one to help or befriend you. While you are still children, I shall leave you, and yet, if only I could wait till you are big enough and know enough to be Marie's guardian! But I shall not live so long. I love you so much that it makes me very unhappy to think of it. Dear children, if only you do not curse me some day!----"
"But why should I curse you some day, mother?"
"Some day," she said, kissing him on the forehead, "you will find out that I have wronged you. I am going to leave you, here, without money, without"--and she hesitated--"without a father," she added, and at the word she burst into tears and put the boy from her gently. A sort of intuition told Louis that his mother wished to be alone, and he carried off Marie, now half awake. An hour later, when his brother was in bed, he stole down and out to the summer-house where his mother was sitting.
The words were spoken in tones delicious to his heart. The boy sprang to his mother's arms, and the two held each other in an almost convulsive embrace.
"Cherie," he said at last, the name by which he often called her, finding that even loving words were too weak to express his feeling, "cherie, why are you afraid that you are going to die?"
"I am ill, my poor darling; every day I am losing strength, and there is no cure for my illness; I know that."
"Something that I ought to forget; something that you must never know. --You must not know what caused my death."