After that she closed hermetically all the openings in her room, kindled two small fires, and, having commended her soul to God, stretched herself out on her bed. It was five o’clock.
A dense, bitter vapor spread slowly through the room; and the candle ceased to give a visible light. Then she felt as if an iron screw were tightening on her temples. She was suffocating, and felt a desire to sleep; but in her stomach she suffered intense pains.
Then strange and incoherent thoughts arose deliriously in her head; her ears were filled with confused noises; her pulse beat with extraordinary vehemence; nausea nearly convulsed her; and from time to time she fancied terrific explosions were breaking her skull to pieces.
The candle went out. Maddened by a sensation of dying, she tried to rise; but she could not. She wanted to cry; but her voice ended in a rattle in her throat.
Then her ideas became utterly confused. Respiration ceased. It was all over. She was suffering no longer.
Thus a few minutes longer, and all was really over. Count Ville-Handry’s daughter was dying! Count Ville-Handry’s daughter was dead!
But at that very hour the tenant of the fourth story, Papa Ravinet, the second-hand dealer, was going to his dinner. If he had gone down as usually, by the front staircase, no noise would have reached him. But Providence was awake. That evening he went down the back stairs, and heard the death-rattle of the poor dying girl. In our beautiful egotistical days, many a man, in the place of this old man, would not have gone out of his way. He, on the contrary, hurried down to inform the concierge. Many a man, again, would have been quieted by the apparent calmness of the Chevassat couple, and would have been satisfied with their assurance that Henrietta was not at home. He, however, insisted, and, in spite of the evident reluctance of the concierge and his wife, compelled them to go up, and brought out, by his words first, and then by his example, one tenant after another.
It was he likewise, who, while the concierge and the other people were deliberating, directed what was to be done for the dying girl, and who hastened to fetch from his magazine a mattress, sheets, blankets, wood to make a fire, in fact, every thing that was needed in that bare chamber.
A few moments later Henrietta opened her eyes. Her first sensation was a very strange one.
In the first place she was utterly amazed at feeling that she was in a warm bed,—she who had, for so many days, endured all the tortures of bitter cold. Then, looking around, she was dazzled by the candles that were burning on her table, and the beautiful, bright fire in her fireplace. And then she looked with perfect stupor at all the women whom she did not know, and who were bending over her, watching her movements.