her rudimentary nails into the poor girl's flesh, or twisted，
Suddenly the sound of footsteps near the door roused him from his stupor. He shuddered at the thought that some one might come in. He hated the very idea of ridicule. So summoning all his courage he went toward Madame d'Argeles, and, raising her from the floor, he exclaimed: "Don't cry so. You grieve me, upon my word! Pray get up. Some one is coming. Do you hear me? Some one is coming." Thereupon, as she offered no resistance, he half led, half carried her to an arm-chair, into which she sank heavily. "Now she is going to faint!" thought Wilkie, in despair. What should he do? Call for help? He dared not. However, necessity inspired him. He knelt at Madame d'Argeles's feet, and gently said: "Come, come, be reasonable! Why do you give way like this? I don't reproach you!"
Slowly, with an air of humility which was indescribably touching, she took her hands from her face, and for the first time raised her tear-stained eyes to her son's. "Wilkie," she murmured.
She heaved a deep sigh, and in a half-stifled voice:
"MADAME!" she repeated. "Will you not call me mother?"
"Yes, of course--certainly. But--only you know it will take me some time to acquire the habit. I shall do so, of course; but I shall have to get used to it, you know."
"True, very true!--but tell me it is not mere pity that leads you to make this promise? If you should hate me--if you should curse me--how should I bear it! Ah! when a woman reaches the years of understanding one should never cease repeating to her: 'Take care! Your son will be twenty some day, and you will have to meet his searching gaze. You will have to render an account of your honor to him!' My God! If women thought of this, they would never sin. To be reduced to such a state of abject misery that one dares not lift one's head before one's own son! Alas! Wilkie, I know only too well that you cannot help despising me."
"No, indeed. Not at all! What an idea!"
Poor woman, her face brightened. She so longed to believe him! And her son was beside her, so near that she felt his breath upon her cheek. It was he indeed. Had they ever been separated? She almost doubted it, she had lived so near him in thought. It was with a sort of ecstasy that she looked at him. There was a world of entreaty in her eyes; they seemed to be begging a caress; she raised her quivering lips to his, but he did not observe it. For a long time she hesitated, fearing he might spurn her; but at last, yielding to a supreme impulse, she threw her arms around his neck, drew him toward her, and pressed him to her heart in a close embrace. "My son! my son!" she repeated; "to have you with me again, after all these years!"
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