“What a misfortune!”
“Ah! it is terrible.”
“And so suddenly!”
Such were the remarks that people were exchanging as they met.
An idea flashed into Jansoulet’s mind:
“Is the duke ill?” he inquired of a servant.
“Ah, monsieur, he is dying! He will not live through the night!”
If the roof of the palace had fallen in upon his head he would not have been more utterly stunned. Red lights flashed before his eyes, he tottered, and let himself drop into a seat on a velvet-covered bench beside the great cage of monkeys. The animals, over-excited by all this bustle, suspended by their tails, by their little long-thumbed hands, were hanging to the bars in groups, and came, inquisitive and frightened, to make the most ludicrous grimaces at this big, stupefied man as he sat staring at the marble floor, repeating aloud to himself, “I am ruined! I am ruined!”
The duke was dying. He had been seized suddenly with illness on the Sunday after his return from the Bois. He had felt intolerable burnings in his bowels, which passed through his whole body, searing as with a red-hot iron, and alternating with a cold lethargy and long periods of coma. Jenkins, summoned at once, did not say much, but ordered certain sedatives. The next day the pains came on again with greater intensity and followed by the same icy torpor, also more accentuated, as if life, torn up by the roots, were departing in violent spasms. Among those around him, none was greatly concerned. “The day after a visit to Saint-James Villa,” was muttered in the antechamber, and Jenkins’s handsome face preserved its serenity. He had spoken to two or three people, in the course of his morning rounds, of the duke’s indisposition, and that so lightly that nobody had paid much attention to the matter.
Mora himself, notwithstanding his extreme weakness, although he felt his head absolutely blank, and, as he said, “not an idea anywhere,” was far from suspecting the gravity of his condition. It was only on the third day, on waking in the morning, that the sight of a tiny stream of blood, which had trickled from his mouth over his beard and the stained pillow, had frightened this fastidious man, who had a horror of all human ills, especially sickness, and now saw it arrive stealthily with its pollutions, its weaknesses, and the loss of physical self-control, the first concession made to death. Monpavon, entering the room behind Jenkins, surprised the anxious expression of the great seigneur faced by the terrible truth, and at the same time was horrified by the ravages made in a few hours upon Mora’s emaciated face, in which all the wrinkles of age, suddenly evident, were mingled with lines of suffering, and those muscular depressions which tell of serious internal lesions. He took Jenkins aside, while the duke’s toilet necessaries were carried to him—a whole apparatus of crystal and silver contrasting with the yellow pallor of the invalid.