A Dead Woman's Secret

  • DEAD WOMAN'S SECRET

  • Narrator

    The woman had died without pain, quietly, as a woman should whose life had been blameless.

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  • Now she was resting in her bed, lying on her back,

  • her eyes closed, her features calm, her long white hair carefully arranged as though she had done it up ten minutes before dying.

  • The whole pale countenance of the dead woman was so collected, so calm, so resigned that one could feel what a sweet soul had lived in that body,

  • what a quiet existence this old soul had led, how easy and pure the death of this parent had been.

  • Kneeling beside the bed, her son, a magistrate with inflexible principles, and her daughter, Marguerite, known as Sister Eulalie, were weeping as though their hearts would break.

  • Narrator

    She had, from childhood up,

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  • armed them with a strict moral code, teaching them religion, without weakness, and duty, without compromise.

  • He, the man, had become a judge and handled the law as a weapon with which he smote the weak ones without pity.

  • Narrator

    She, the girl, influenced by the virtue which had bathed her in this austere family, had become the bride of the Church through her loathing for man.

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  • They had hardly known their father, knowing only that he had made their mother most unhappy, without being told any other details.

  • The nun was wildly-kissing the dead woman's hand, an ivory hand as white as the large crucifix lying across the bed.

  • On the other side of the long body the other hand seemed still to be holding the sheet in the death grasp;

  • and the sheet had preserved the little creases as a memory of those last movements which precede eternal immobility.

  • Narrator

    A few light taps on the door caused the two sobbing heads to look up,

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  • and the priest, who had just come from dinner, returned.

  • He was red and out of breath from his interrupted digestion, for he had made himself a strong mixture of coffee and brandy in order to combat the fatigue of the last few nights and of the wake which was beginning.

  • Narrator

    He looked sad, with that assumed sadness of the priest for whom death is a bread winner.

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  • He crossed himself and approaching with his professional gesture: