“Yes, sister; but I think I have heard that every opening must be well stopped, so as to admit no current of air.”
“You are right, and the door shuts so badly.”
“And look at the holes in the roof.”
“What is to be done, sister?”
“I will tell you,” said Mother Bunch. “The straw of our mattress, well twisted, will answer every purpose.”
“Certainly,” replied Cephyse. “We will keep a little to light our fire, and with the rest we will stop up all the crevices in the roof, and make filling for our doors and windows.”
Then, smiling with that bitter irony, so frequent, we repeat, in the most gloomy moments, Cephyse added, “I say, sister, weather-boards at our doors and windows, to prevent the air from getting in—what a luxury! we are as delicate as rich people.”
“At such a time, we may as well try to make ourselves a little comfortable,” said Mother Bunch, trying to jest like the Bacchanal Queen.
And with incredible coolness, the two began to twist the straw into lengths of braid, small enough to be stuffed into the cracks of the door, and also constructed large plugs, destined to stop up the crevices in the roof. While this mournful occupation lasted, there was no departure from the calm and sad resignation of the two unfortunate creatures.
Cephyse and her sister continued with calmness the preparations for their death.
Alas! how many poor young girls, like these sisters, have been, and still will be, fatally driven to seek in suicide a refuge from despair, from infamy, or from a too miserable existence! And upon society will rest the terrible responsibility of these sad deaths, so long as thousands of human creatures, unable to live upon the mockery of wages granted to their labor, have to choose between these three gulfs of shame and woe; a life of enervating toil and mortal privations, causes of premature death; prostitution, which kills also, but slowly—by contempt, brutality, and uncleanness; suicide—which kills at once.
In a few minutes, the two sisters had constructed, with the straw of their couch, the calkings necessary to intercept the air, and to render suffocation more expeditious and certain.
The hunchback said to her sister, “You are the taller, Cephyse, and must look to the ceiling; I will take care of the window and door.”
“Be satisfied, sister; I shall have finished before you,” answered Cephyse.
And the two began carefully to stop up every crevice through which a current of air could penetrate into the ruined garret. Thanks to her tall stature, Cephyse was able to reach the holes in the roof, and to close them up entirely. When they had finished this sad work, the sisters again approached, and looked at each other in silence.
The fatal moment drew near; their faces, though still calm, seemed slightly agitated by that strange excitement which always accompanies a double suicide.