She went downstairs. Camille tiptoed quickly back into the death chamber, whipped off his shoes, ran to a small writing-table, then to the bureau, then to the armoire, trying their drawers. They were locked, every one. He ran to the bed and searched swiftly under pillows and mattresses—no keys. Never mind. He wrapped a single sheet about the dead man’s form, stepped lightly to the door, looked out, listened, heard nothing, and tripped back again.
And then with all his poor strength he lifted the bulk, still limp, in his arms, and with only two or three halts in the toilsome journey, to dash the streaming sweat from his brows and to better his hold so that the heels should not drag on the steps, carried it up to Attalie’s small room and laid it, decently composed, on her bed.
Then he glided downstairs again and had just slipped into his shoes when Attalie came up hastily from below. She was pale and seemed both awe-struck and suspicious. As she met him outside the door grief and dismay were struggling in her eyes with mistrust, and as he coolly handed her the key of her room indignation joined the strife. She reddened and flashed:
“My God! you have not, yourself, already?”
“I could not wait, Madame Brouillard. We must run up now, and do for him whatever cannot be put off; and then you must let me come back, leaving my hat and shoes and coat up there, and—you understand?”
Yes; the whole thing was heartless and horrible, but—she understood. They went up.
THE NUNCUPATIVE WILL.
In their sad task upstairs Attalie held command. Camille went and came on short errands to and from the door of her room, and was let in only once or twice when, for lifting or some such thing, four hands were indispensable. Soon both he and she came down to the door of the vacated room again together. He was in his shirt sleeves and without his shoes; but he had resumed command.
“And now, Madame Brouillard, to do this thing in the very best way I ought to say to you at once that our dear friend—did he ever tell you what he was worth?” The speaker leaned against the door-post and seemed to concern himself languidly with his black-rimmed finger-nails, while in fact he was watching Attalie from head to foot with all his senses and wits. She looked grief-stricken and thoroughly wretched.
“No,” she said, very quietly, then suddenly burst into noiseless fresh tears, sank into a chair, buried her face in her wet handkerchief, and cried, “Ah! no, no, no! that was none of my business. He was going to leave it all to me. I never asked if it was little or much.”
While she spoke Camille was reckoning with all his might and speed: “She has at least some notion as to whether he is rich or poor. She seemed a few minutes ago to fear he is poor, but I must try her again. Let me see: if he is poor and I say he is rich she will hope I know better than she, and will be silent. But if he is rich and she knows it, and I say he is poor, she will suspect fraud and will out with the actual fact indignantly on the spot.” By this time she had ceased, and he spoke out: