The grass exhaled an odour of summer;
flies buzzed in the air, the sun shone on the river
and warmed the slated roof. Old Mother Simon had
returned to Felicite and was peacefully falling asleep.
The ringing of bells woke her; the
people were coming out of church. Felicite’s
delirium subsided. By thinking of the procession,
she was able to see it as if she had taken part in
it. All the school-children, the singers and
the firemen walked on the sidewalks, while in the middle
of the street came first the custodian of the church
with his halberd, then the beadle with a large cross,
the teacher in charge of the boys and a sister escorting
the little girls; three of the smallest ones, with
curly heads, threw rose leaves into the air; the deacon
with outstretched arms conducted the music; and two
incense-bearers turned with each step they took toward
the Holy Sacrament, which was carried by M. lé
Cure, attired in his handsome chasuble and walking
under a canopy of red velvet supported by four men.
A crowd of people followed, jammed between the walls
of the houses hung with white sheets; at last the
procession arrived at the foot of the hill.
A cold sweat broke out on Felicite’s
forehead. Mother Simon wiped it away with a cloth,
saying inwardly that some day she would have to go
through the same thing herself.
The murmur of the crowd grew louder,
was very distinct for a moment and then died away.
A volley of musketry shook the window-panes. It
was the postilions saluting the Sacrament. Felicite
rolled her eyes, and said as loudly as she could:
“Is he all right?” meaning the parrot.
Her death agony began. A rattle
that grew more and more rapid shook her body.
Froth appeared at the corners of her mouth, and her
whole frame trembled. In a little while could
be heard the music of the bass horns, the clear voices
of the children and the men’s deeper notes.
At intervals all was still, and their shoes sounded
like a herd of cattle passing over the grass.
The clergy appeared in the yard.
Mother Simon climbed on a chair to reach the bull’s-eye,
and in this manner could see the altar. It was
covered with a lace cloth and draped with green wreaths.
In the middle stood a little frame containing relics;
at the corners were two little orange-trees, and all
along the edge were silver candlesticks, porcelain
vases containing sun-flowers, lilies, peonies, and
tufts of hydrangeas. This mount of bright colours
descended diagonally from the first floor to the carpet
that covered the sidewalk. Rare objects arrested
one’s eye. A golden sugar-bowl was crowned
with violets, earrings set with Alençon stones were
displayed on green moss, and two Chinese screens with
their bright landscapes were near by. Loulou,
hidden beneath roses, showed nothing but his blue
head which looked like a piece of lapis-lazuli.
The singers, the canopy-bearers and
the children lined up against the sides of the yard.
Slowly the priest ascended the steps and placed his
shining sun on the lace cloth. Everybody knelt.
There was deep silence; and the censers slipping on
their chains were swung high in the air. A blue
vapour rose in Felicite’s room. She opened
her nostrils and inhaled with a mystic sensuousness;
then she closed her lids. Her lips smiled.
The beats of her heart grew fainter and fainter, and
vaguer, like a fountain giving out, like an echo dying
away; and when she exhaled her last breath,
she thought she saw in the half-opened heavens a gigantic
parrot hovering above her head.