Although it was still very early, and a pink mist of dawn hung in the sky, the whole mansion stood open as if for a solemn departure. The lamps still smoked over the fire-places, dust floated about the rooms. The Nabob advanced amid an inexplicable solitude of desertion to the first floor, where at last he heard a voice he knew, that of Cardailhac, who was dictating names, and the scratching of pens over paper. The clever stage-manager of the festivities in honour of the Bey was organizing with the same ardour the funeral pomps of the Duc de Mora. What activity! His excellency had died during the evening; when morning came already ten thousand letters were being printed, and everybody in the house who could hold a pen was busy with the writing of the addresses. Without passing through these improvised offices, Jansoulet reached the waiting-room, ordinarily so crowded, to-day with all its arm-chairs empty. In the middle, on a table, lay the hat, cane, and gloves of M. le Duc, always ready in case he should go out unexpectedly, so as to save him even the trouble of giving an order. The objects that we always wear keep about them something of ourselves. The curve of the hat suggested that of the mustache; the light-coloured gloves were ready to grasp the supple and strong Chinese cane; the total effect was one of life and energy, as if the duke were about to appear, stretch out his hand while talking, take up those things, and go out.
Oh, no. M. le Duc was not going out. Jansoulet had but to approach the half-open door of the bed-chamber to see on the bed, raised three steps—always the platform even after death—a rigid, haughty form, a motionless and aged profile, metamorphosed by the beard’s growth of a night, quite gray; near the sloping pillow, kneeling and burying her head in the white drapery, was a woman, whose fair hair lay in rippled disorder, ready to fall beneath the shears of eternal widowhood; then a priest and a nun, gathered in this atmosphere of watch by the dead, in which are mingled the fatigue of sleepless nights and the murmurs of prayer.
The chamber in which so many ambitions had strengthened their wings, so many hopes and disappointments had throbbed, was wholly given over now to the peace of passing Death. Not a sound, not a sigh. Only, notwithstanding the early hour, away yonder, towards the Pont de la Concorde, a little clarinet, shrill and sharp, could be heard above the rumbling of the first vehicles; but its exasperating mockery was henceforth lost on him who lay there asleep, showing to the terrified Nabob an image of his own destiny, chilled, discoloured, ready for the tomb.
Others besides Jansoulet found that death-chamber lugubrious: the windows wide open, the night and the wind entering freely from the garden, making a strong draught; a human form on a table; the body, which had just been embalmed; the hollow skull filled with a sponge, the brain in a basin. The weight of this brain of a statesman was truly extraordinary. It weighed—it weighed—the newspapers of the period mentioned the figure. But who remembers it to-day?