She stopped short, for the woman was in the room.
"Pauline, go /yourself/ to Baudran's, and ask why my hat has not yet been sent."
Then the Countess reseated herself and scrutinized her mother. The Marquise, with a swelling heart and dry eyes, in painful agitation, which none but a mother can fully understand, began to open Moina's eyes to the risk that she was running. But either the Countess felt hurt and indignant at her mother's suspicions of a son of the Marquis de Vandenesse, or she was seized with a sudden fit of inexplicable levity caused by the inexperience of youth. She took advantage of a pause.
"Mamma, I thought you were only jealous of /the father/--" she said, with a forced laugh.
Mme. d'Aiglemont shut her eyes and bent her head at the words, with a very faint, almost inaudible sigh. She looked up and out into space, as if she felt the common overmastering impulse to appeal to God at the great crises of our lives; then she looked at her daughter, and her eyes were full of awful majesty and the expression of profound sorrow.
"My child," she said, and her voice was hardly recognizable, "you have been less merciful to your mother than he against whom she sinned; less merciful than perhaps God Himself will be!"
Mme. d'Aiglemont rose; at the door she turned; but she saw nothing but surprise in her daughter's face. She went out. Scarcely had she reached the garden when her strength failed her. There was a violent pain at her heart, and she sank down on a bench. As her eyes wandered over the path, she saw fresh marks on the path, a man's footprints were distinctly recognizable. It was too late, then, beyond a doubt. Now she began to understand the reason for that order given to Pauline, and with these torturing thoughts came a revelation more hateful than any that had gone before it. She drew her own inferences--the son of the Marquis de Vandenesse had destroyed all feeling of respect for her in her daughter's mind. The physical pain grew worse; by degrees she lost consciousness, and sat like one asleep upon the garden-seat.
The Countess de Saint-Hereen, left to herself, thought that her mother had given her a somewhat shrewd home-thrust, but a kiss and a few attentions that evening would make all right again.
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