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35. Chapter XXXV
I scarcely know how we got through that day. Stroeve could not bear to be alone, and I exhausted myself in efforts to distract him. I took him to the Louvre, and he pretended to look at pictures, but I saw that his thoughts were constantly with his wife. I forced him to eat, and after luncheon I induced him to lie down, but he could not sleep. He accepted willingly my invitation to remain for a few days in my apartment. I gave him books to read, but after a page or two he would put the book down and stare miserably into space. During the evening we played innumerable games of piquet, and bravely, not to disappoint my efforts, he tried to appear interested. Finally I gave him a draught, and he sank into uneasy slumber.
When we went again to the hospital we saw a nursing sister. She told us that Blanche seemed a little better, and she went in to ask if she would see her husband. We heard voices in the room in which she lay, and presently the nurse returned to say that the patient refused to see anyone. We had told her that if she refused to see Dirk the nurse was to ask if she would see me, but this she refused also. Dirk's lips trembled.
"I dare not insist," said the nurse. "She is too ill. Perhaps in a day or two she may change her mind."
"Is there anyone else she wants to see?" asked Dirk, in a voice so low it was almost a whisper.
"She says she only wants to be left in peace."
Dirk's hands moved strangely, as though they had nothing to do with his body, with a movement of their own.
"Will you tell her that if there is anyone else she wishes to see I will bring him? I only want her to be happy."
The nurse looked at him with her calm, kind eyes, which had seen all the horror and pain of the world, and yet, filled with the vision of a world without sin, remained serene.
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