He paused to take breath, feeling quite exhausted. In an hour he had walked farther and spoken more than he was accustomed to do in the course of a whole year. They noticed, as they stopped, that their walk and conversation had led them back in the direction of Mora’s grave, which was situated just above a little exposed plateau, whence looking over a thousand closely packed roofs, they could see Montmartre, the Buttes Chaumont, their rounded outline in the distance looking like high waves. In the hollows lights were already beginning to twinkle, like ships’ lanterns, through the violet mists that were rising; chimneys seemed to leap upward like masts, or steamer funnels discharging their smoke. Those three undulations, with the tide of Pere Lachaise, were clearly suggestive of waves of the sea, following each other at equal intervals. The sky was bright, as often happens in the evening of a rainy day, an immense sky, shaded with tints of dawn, against which the family tomb of Mora exhibited in relief four allegorical figures, imploring, meditative, thoughtful, whose attitudes were made more imposing by the dying light. Of the speeches, of the official condolences, nothing remained. The soil trodden down all around, masons at work washing the dirt from the plaster threshold, were all that was left to recall the recent burial.
Suddenly the door of the ducal tomb shut with a clash of all its metallic weight. Thenceforth the late Minister of State was to remain alone, utterly alone, in the shadow of its night, deeper than that which then was creeping up from the bottom of the garden, invading the winding paths, the stone stairways, the bases of the columns, pyramids and tombs of every kind, whose summits were reached more slowly by the shroud. Navvies, all white with that chalky whiteness of dried bones, were passing by, carrying their tools and wallets. Furtive mourners, dragging themselves away regretfully from tears and prayer, glided along the margins of the clumps of trees, seeming to skirt them as with the silent flight of night-birds, while from the extremities of Pere Lachaise voices rose—melancholy calls announcing the closing time. The day of the cemetery was at its end. The city of the dead, handed over once more to Nature, was becoming an immense wood with open spaces marked by crosses. Down in a valley, the window-panes of a custodian’s house were lighted up. A shudder seemed to run through the air, losing itself in murmurings along the dim paths.
“Let us go,” the two old comrades said to each other, gradually coming to feel the impression of that twilight, which seemed colder than elsewhere; but before moving off, Hemerlingue, pursuing his train of thought, pointed to the monument winged at the four corners by the draperies and the outstretched hands of its sculptured figures.
“Look here,” said he. “That was the man who understood the art of keeping up appearances.”
Jansoulet took his arm to aid him in the descent.