“Let’s be off; let’s be off, my little pets!” Gaga kept saying. “It isn’t wholesome here.”
They went briskly out, casting a last glance at the bed as they passed it. But while Lucy, Blanche and Caroline still remained behind, Rose gave a final look round, for she wanted to leave the room in order. She drew a curtain across the window, and then it occurred to her that the lamp was not the proper thing and that a taper should take its place. So she lit one of the copper candelabra on the chimney piece and placed it on the night table beside the corpse. A brilliant light suddenly illumined the dead woman’s face. The women were horror-struck. They shuddered and escaped.
“Ah, she’s changed; she’s changed!” murmured Rose Mignon, who was the last to remain.
She went away; she shut the door. Nana was left alone with upturned face in the light cast by the candle. She was fruit of the charnel house, a heap of matter and blood, a shovelful of corrupted flesh thrown down on the pillow. The pustules had invaded the whole of the face, so that each touched its neighbor. Fading and sunken, they had assumed the grayish hue of mud; and on that formless pulp, where the features had ceased to be traceable, they already resembled some decaying damp from the grave. One eye, the left eye, had completely foundered among bubbling purulence, and the other, which remained half open, looked like a deep, black, ruinous hole. The nose was still suppurating. Quite a reddish crush was peeling from one of the cheeks and invading the mouth, which it distorted into a horrible grin. And over this loathsome and grotesque mask of death the hair, the beautiful hair, still blazed like sunlight and flowed downward in rippling gold. Venus was rotting. It seemed as though the poison she had assimilated in the gutters and on the carrion tolerated by the roadside, the leaven with which she had poisoned a whole people, had but now remounted to her face and turned it to corruption.
The room was empty. A great despairing breath came up from the boulevard and swelled the curtain.
“A Berlin! A Berlin! A Berlin!”
THE MILLER’S DAUGHTER
Pere Merlier’s mill, one beautiful summer evening, was arranged for a grand fete. In the courtyard were three tables, placed end to end, which awaited the guests. Everyone knew that Francoise, Merlier’s daughter, was that night to be betrothed to Dominique, a young man who was accused of idleness but whom the fair sex for three leagues around gazed at with sparkling eyes, such a fine appearance had he.