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- The Mysteries of Paris V2 - 100/113 -
"Oh, to die at her age, poor child--it is frightful!"
"The pupil fixed, dilated," answered the immovable doctor, raising with his finger the moveless eyelid of Fleur-de-Marie.
"Strange man," cried the count, almost with indignation; "one would think you without feeling; and yet I have seen you watch by my bedside night after night. If I had been your brother, you could not have been more devoted."
The doctor, quite occupied in administering to Fleur-de-Marie, answered the count, without looking at him, and with settled calmness, "Do you believe that one meets every day with such a malignant fever, so marvelously complicated, so curious to study, as the one you had? It was admirable, my good friend, admirable! Stupor, delirium, twitchings of the sinews, syncopes--your deadly fever united the most varied symptoms. Your constitution was also a rare thing, very rare, and eminently interesting; you were also affected, in a partial and momentary manner, with paralysis. If it were only for this fact, your disease had a right to all my attention; you presented to me a magnificent study; for, frankly, my dear friend, all I desire in this world is to come across just such another fine case--but one has no such luck twice."
[Illustration: FEELING FOR THE BEATING OF THE PULSE]
The count shrugged his shoulders impatiently. It was at this moment that Martial descended, leaning on the arm of La Louve, who had, as the reader knows, thrown over her wet clothes a plaid cloak belonging to Calabash.
Struck with the pale looks of the lover of La Louve, and remarking his hands covered with coagulated blood, the count cried, "Who is this man?"
"_My husband!_" answered La Louve, looking at Martial with an expression of happiness and noble pride impossible to describe.
"You have a good intrepid wife, sir," said the count to him. "I saw her save this unfortunate child with rare courage."
"Oh, yes, sir; good and intrepid is _my wife!_" answered Martial, dwelling on the last words, and looking at La Louve in his turn with an air at once tender and affectionate. "Yes, intrepid; for she also saved my life!"
"Yours!" said the astonished count.
"See his hands, his poor hands!" said La Louve, wiping the tears which softened the indignant sparkling of her eyes.
"Oh, this is horrible!" cried the count. "This poor fellow has had his hands literally chopped up. Look, doctor!"
Turning his head slightly, and looking over his shoulder at the numerous wounds which Calabash had made, the doctor said, "Open and shut your hand."
Martial executed this movement with much pain.
The doctor shrugged his shoulders, continued to occupy himself with Fleur-de-Marie, and said disdainfully, and as if with regret, "Those wounds are absolutely nothing serious. None of the tendons are injured; in a week the subject can use his hands."
"Then, sir, my husband will not be a cripple?" cried La Louve with gratitude.
The doctor shook his head.
"And La Goualeuse will live, will she not?" asked La Louve. "Oh, she must live, my husband and I owe her so much!" Then turning toward Martial, "Poor little thing! There is she of whom I spoke--she who perhaps will be the cause of our happiness--she who gave me the idea of telling you all I have said. See what chance has done, that I should save her--and here too!"
"She is our Providence!" said Martial, struck with the beauty of La Goualeuse. "What an angelic face! Oh, she will live! will she not, doctor?"
"I don't know," answered the physician; "but, in the first place, she ought to remain here. Can she have the necessary attentions?"
"Here!" cried La Louve. "Why, they murder here!"
"Hush, hush!" said Martial.
The count and doctor looked at La Louve with surprise.
"This house has a bad reputation; it surprises me the less," whispered the physician to Saint Remy.
"You have, then, been the victim of violence?" asked the count. "Who wounded you in this manner?" "It is nothing, sir. I had a dispute here, a fight ensued, and I have been wounded. But this girl cannot remain in the house," added he, in a gloomy manner. "I shall not remain myself, neither my wife nor my brother, nor my sister. We leave the island never to return."
"Oh, what joy!" cried both the children.
"Then what must we do?" said the doctor, regarding Fleur-de-Marie. "It is impossible to think of transporting this subject in this state of prostration. Yet, happily, my house is close at hand, and my gardener's wife and daughter will make excellent nurses. Since this asphyxia from submersion interests you, you can overlook her attendants, my dear Saint Remy, and I will come and see her every day."
"And you play the part of a hard-hearted, unmerciful man," cried the count, "when you have a most generous heart, as this proposition proves."
"If the subject sinks, as is possible, there will be a most interesting autopsy, which will allow me to confirm once more the assertions of Goodwin."
"What you say is frightful!" said the count.
"For him who knows how to read it, the human body is a book where one learns to save the life of the sick," said Dr. Griffon, stoically.
"However, you do good," said Saint Remy, bitterly; "that is the important thing. What matters the cause, as long as the benefit exists! Poor child, the more I look at her, the more she interests me."
"And she deserves it, sir," cried La Louve, passionately, drawing near.
"You know her?" said the count.
"Know her, sir? To her I owe the happiness of my life; in saving her I have not done as much for her as she has done for me."
"And who is she?" asked the count.
"An angel, sir; all that is good in the world. Yes, although she is dressed as a peasant girl there is not a grand lady who can talk as well as she can, with her soft little voice, just like music. She is a noble girl, and courageous and good."
"How did she fall in the water?"
"I do not know, sir."
"She is not a peasant girl, then?" asked the count.
"A peasant girl! Look at her small white hands, sir!"
"It is true," said Saint Remy. "What a singular mystery! But her name, her family?"
"Come," said the doctor, interrupting the conversation, "the subject must be carried to the boat."
Half an hour afterward, Fleur-de-Marie, who had not yet recovered her senses, was taken to the physician's house, placed in a warm bed, and maternally watched by the gardener's wife, assisted by La Louve. The doctor promised Saint Remy, who was more and more interested in La Goualeuse, to return the same evening to visit her.
Martial went to Paris with Francois, and Amandine, La Louve not being willing to leave Fleur-de-Marie until she was out of danger.
The island remained deserted. We shall soon meet with its wretched occupants at Bras-Rouge's, where they had agreed to meet La Chouette, to murder the diamond dealer.
In the meanwhile we would conduct the reader to the appointment that Tom, the brother of the Countess Macgregor, had made with the horrible old woman, the Schoolmaster's accomplice.
Thomas Seyton walked impatiently up and down on one of the boulevards, near the Observatory, till he saw La Chouette appear.
The old wretch had on a white cap, and was wrapped up in a large red plaid shawl; the point of a very sharp dagger stuck through the bottom of the straw basket which she carried on her arm; but Tom did not perceive it.
"Three o'clock is striking from the Luxembourg," said the old woman. "I am punctual, I think?"
"Come," answered Seyton; and walking before her, he crossed some waste ground, entered a deserted street situated near the Rue Cassini, stopped about the middle of the passage, where it was obstructed by a turnstile, opened a small gate, made a sign for La Chouette to follow him, and, after having taken a few steps in an alley shaded with large trees, said, "Wait here," and disappeared.
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