It was into this gloomy retreat, which formed so painful a contrast with the charming little summer-house in the Rue de Babylone, that Adrienne was carried by Tomboy, who, with the assistance of Gervaise, placed the inanimate form on the bed. The lamp was deposited on the shelf at the head of the couch. Whilst one of the nurses held her up, the other unfastened and took off the cloth dress of the young girl, whose head drooped languidly on her bosom. Though in a swoon, large tears trickled slowly from her closed eyes, whose long black lashes threw their shadows on the transparent whiteness of her cheeks. Over her neck and breast of ivory flowed the golden waves of her magnificent hair, which had come down at the time of her fall. When, as they unlaced her satin corset, less soft, less fresh, less white than the virgin form beneath, which lay like a statue of alabaster in its covering of lace and lawn, one of the horrible hags felt the arms and shoulders of the young girl with her large, red, horny, and chapped hands. Though she did not completely recover the use of her senses, she started involuntarily from the rude and brutal touch.
“Hasn’t she little feet?” said the nurse, who, kneeling down, was employed in drawing off Adrienne’s stockings. “I could hold them both in the hollow of my hand.” In fact, a small, rosy foot, smooth as a child’s, here and there veined with azure, was soon exposed to view, as was also a leg with pink knee and ankle, of as pure and exquisite a form as that of Diana Huntress.
“And what hair!” said Tomboy; “so long and soft!—She might almost walk upon it. ’Twould be a pity to cut it off, to put ice upon her skull!” As she spoke, she gathered up Adrienne’s magnificent hair, and twisted it as well as she could behind her head. Alas! it was no longer the fair, light hand of Georgette, Florine, or Hebe that arranged the beauteous locks of their mistress with so much love and pride!
And as she again felt the rude touch of the nurse’s hand, the young girl was once more seized with the same nervous trembling, only more frequently and strongly than before. And soon, whether by a sort of instinctive repulsion, magnetically excited during her swoon, or from the effect of the cold night air, Adrienne again started and slowly came to herself.
It is impossible to describe her alarm, horror, and chaste indignation, as, thrusting aside with both her hands the numerous curls that covered her face, bathed in tears, she saw herself half-naked between these filthy hags. At first, she uttered a cry of shame and terror; then to escape from the looks of the women, by a movement, rapid as thought, she drew down the lamp placed on the shelf at the head of her bed, so that it was extinguished and broken to pieces on the floor. After which, in the midst of the darkness, the unfortunate girl, covering herself with the bed-clothes, burst into passionate sobs.
The nurses attributed Adrienne’s cry and violent actions to a fit of furious madness. “Oh! you begin again to break the lamps—that’s your partickler fancy, is it?” cried Tomboy, angrily, as she felt her way in the dark. “Well! I gave you fair warning. You shall have the strait waistcoat on this very night, like the mad gal upstairs.”