They approached the bed, and Sauvresy put Bertha’s hand into Hector’s.
“Do you swear to obey me?” asked he.
They shuddered to hold each other’s hands, and seemed near fainting; but they answered, and were heard to murmur:
“We swear it.”
The servants retired, grieved at this distressing scene, and Bertha muttered:
“Oh, ’tis infamous, ’tis horrible!”
“Infamous—yes,” returned Sauvresy, “but not more so than your caresses, Bertha, or than your hand-pressures, Hector; not more horrible than your plans, than your hopes—”
His voice sank into a rattle. Soon the agony commenced. Horrible convulsions distorted his limbs; twice or thrice he cried out:
“I am cold; I am cold!”
His body was indeed stiff, and nothing could warm it.
Despair filled the house, for a death so sudden was not looked for. The domestics came and went, whispering to each other, “He is going, poor monsieur; poor madame!”
Soon the convulsions ceased. He lay extended on his back, breathing so feebly that twice they thought his breath had ceased forever. At last, a little before ten o’clock, his cheeks suddenly colored and he shuddered. He rose, up in bed, his eye staring, his arm stretched out toward the window, and he cried:
“There—behind the curtain—I see them—I see them!”
A last convulsion stretched him again on his pillow.
Clement Sauvresy was dead!
The old justice of the peace ceased reading his voluminous record. His hearers, the detective and the doctor remained silent under the influence of this distressing narrative. M. Plantat had read it impressively, throwing himself into the recital as if he had been personally an actor in the scenes described.
M. Lecoq was the first to recover himself.
“A strange man, Sauvresy,” said he.
It was Sauvresy’s extraordinary idea of vengeance which struck him in the story. He admired his “good playing” in a drama in which he knew he was going to yield up his life.
“I don’t know many people,” pursued the detective, “capable of so fearful a firmness. To let himself be poisoned so slowly and gently by his wife! Brrr! It makes a man shiver all over!”
“He knew how to avenge himself,” muttered the doctor.
“Yes,” answered M. Plantat, “yes, Doctor; he knew how to avenge himself, and more terribly than he supposed, or than you can imagine.”
The detective rose from his seat. He had remained motionless, glued to his chair for more than three hours, and his legs were benumbed.
“For my part,” said he, “I can very well conceive what an infernal existence the murderers began to suffer the day after their victim’s death. You have depicted them, Monsieur Plantat, with the hand of a master. I know them as well after your description as if I had studied them face to face for ten years.”