The day was on the wane and a cooler air came in stronger puffs making a view

The day was on the wane and a cooler air came in

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The day was on the wane, and a cooler air came in stronger puffs, making a view of Epinal, which was fastened to the wall by two pins, flap up and down. The scanty window curtains, which had formerly been white, but were now yellow and covered with fly-specks, looked as it they were going to fly off, and seemed to struggle to get away, like the old woman's soul. Lying motionless, with her eyes open, the old mother seemed to await the death which was so near, and which yet delayed its coming; with perfect indifference. Her short breath whistled in her throat. It would stop altogether soon, and there would be one woman less in the world, one whom nobody would regret. At nightfall Honore returned, and when he went up to the bed and saw that his mother was still alive he asked: "How is she?" just as he had done formerly, when she had been sick. Then he sent La Rapet away, saying to her: "To-morrow morning at five o'clock, without fail." And she replied: "To-morrow at five o'clock." She came at daybreak, and found Honore eating his soup, which he had made himself, before going to work. "Well, is your mother dead?" asked the nurse. "She is rather better, on the contrary," he replied, with a malignant look out of the corner of his eyes. Then he went out. La Rapet was seized with anxiety, and went up to the dying woman, who was in the same state, lethargic and impassive, her eyes open and her hands clutching the counterpane. The nurse perceived that this might go on thus for two days, four days, eight days, even, and her avaricious mind was seized with fear. She was excited to fury against the cunning fellow who had tricked her, and against the woman who would not die. Nevertheless, she began to sew and waited with her eyes fixed on the wrinkled face of Mother Bontemps. When Honore returned to breakfast he seemed quite satisfied, and even in a bantering humor, for he was carrying in his wheat under very favorable circumstances. La Rapet was getting exasperated; every passing minute now seemed
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to her so much time and money stolen from her. She felt a mad inclination to choke this old ass, this headstrong old fool, this obstinate old wretch--to stop that short, rapid breath, which was robbing her of her time and money, by squeezing her throat a little. But then she reflected on the danger of doing so, and other thoughts came into her head, so she went up to the bed and said to her: "Have you ever seen the Devil?" Mother Bontemps whispered: "No." Then the sick-nurse began to talk and to tell her tales likely to terrify her weak and dying mind. "Some minutes before one dies the Devil appears," she said, "to all. He has a broom in his hand, a saucepan on his head and he utters loud cries. When anybody had seen him, all was over, and that person had only a few moments longer to live"; and she enumerated all those to whom the Devil had appeared that year: Josephine Loisel, Eulalie Ratier, Sophie Padagnau, Seraphine Grospied.
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