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    Chapter 27

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    Chapter 28
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    A shock of terror alone had made the married pair speak, and avow their
    crime in the presence of Madame Raquin. Neither one nor the other was
    cruel; they would have avoided such a revelation out of feelings of
    humanity, had not their own security already made it imperative on their
    part to maintain silence.

    On the ensuing Thursday, they felt particularly anxious. In the morning,
    Therese inquired of Laurent whether he considered it prudent to leave
    the paralysed woman in the dining-room during the evening. She knew all
    and might give the alarm.

    "Bah!" replied Laurent, "it is impossible for her to raise her little
    finger. How can she babble?"

    "She will perhaps discover a way to do so," answered Therese. "I have
    noticed an implacable thought in her eyes since the other evening."

    "No," said Laurent. "You see, the doctor told me it was absolutely
    all over with her. If she ever speaks again it will be in the final
    death-rattle. She will not last much longer, you may be sure. It would
    be stupid to place an additional load on our conscience by preventing
    her being present at the gathering this evening."

    Therese shuddered.

    "You misunderstand me," she exclaimed. "Oh! You are right. There has
    been enough crime. I meant to say that we might shut our aunt up in her
    own room, pretending she was not well, and was sleeping."

    "That's it," replied Laurent, "and that idiot Michaud would go straight
    into the room to see his old friend, notwithstanding. It would be a
    capital way to ruin us."

    He hesitated. He wanted to appear calm, and anxiety gave a tremor to his
    voice.

    "It will be best to let matters take their course," he continued. "These
    people are as silly as geese. The mute despair of the old woman will
    certainly teach them nothing. They will never have the least suspicion
    of the thing, for they are too far away from the truth. Once the ordeal
    is over, we shall be at ease as to the consequences of our imprudence.
    All will be well, you will see."

    When the guests arrived in the evening, Madame Raquin occupied her usual
    place, between the stove and table. Therese and Laurent feigned to be
    in good spirits, concealing their shudders and awaiting, in anguish, the
    incident that was bound to occur. They had brought the lamp-shade very
    low down, so that the oilcloth table covering alone was lit up.

    The guests engaged in the usual noisy, common-place conversation that
    invariably preceded the first game of dominoes. Grivet and Michaud did
    not fail to address the usual questions to the paralysed woman, on the
    subject of her health, and to give excellent answers to them, as was
    their custom. After which, the company, without troubling any further
    about the poor old lady, plunged with delight into the game.

    Since Madame Raquin had become aware of the horrible secret, she had
    been awaiting this evening with feverish impatience. She had gathered
    together all her remaining strength to denounce the culprits. Up to the
    last moment, she feared she would not be present at the gathering; she
    thought Laurent would make her disappear, perhaps kill her, or at least
    shut her up in her own apartment. When she saw that her niece and nephew
    allowed her to remain in the dining-room, she experienced lively joy at
    the thought of attempting to avenge her son.

    Aware that her tongue was powerless, she resorted to a new kind of
    language. With astonishing power of will, she succeeded, in a measure,
    in galvanising her right hand, in slightly raising it from her knee,
    where it always lay stretched out, inert; she then made it creep little
    by little up one of the legs of the table before her, and thus succeeded
    in placing it on the oilcloth table cover. Then, she feebly agitated the
    fingers as if to attract attention.

    When the players perceived this lifeless hand, white and nerveless,
    before them, they were exceedingly surprised. Grivet stopped short,
    with his arm in the air, at the moment when he was about to play the
    double-six. Since the impotent woman had been struck down, she had never
    moved her hands.

    "Hey! Just look, Therese," cried Michaud. "Madame Raquin is agitating
    her fingers. She probably wants something."

    Therese could not reply. Both she and Laurent had been following the
    exertion of the paralysed woman, and she was now looking at the hand
    of her aunt, which stood out wan in the raw light of the lamp, like
    an avenging hand that was about to speak. The two murderers waited,
    breathless.

    "Of course," said Grivet, "she wants something. Oh! We thoroughly
    understand one another. She wants to play dominoes. Eh! Isn't it so,
    dear lady?"

    Madame Raquin made a violent sign indicating that she wanted nothing of
    the kind. She extended one finger, folded up the others with infinite
    difficulty, and began to painfully trace letters on the table cover.
    She had barely indicated a stroke or two, when Grivet again exclaimed in
    triumph:

    "I understand; she says I do right to play the double-six."

    The impotent woman cast a terrible glance at the old clerk, and returned
    to the word she wished to write. But Grivet interrupted her at every
    moment, declaring it was needless, that he understood, and he then
    brought out some stupidity. Michaud at last made him hold his tongue.

    "The deuce! Allow Madame Raquin to speak," said he. "Speak, my old
    friend."

    And he gazed at the oilcloth table cover as if he had been listening.
    But the fingers of the paralysed woman were growing weary. They had
    begun the word more than ten times over, and now, in tracing this word,
    they wandered to right and left. Michaud and Olivier bent forward, and
    being unable to read, forced the impotent old lady to resume the first
    letters.

    "Ah! Bravo!" exclaimed Olivier, all at once, "I can read it, this time.
    She has just written your name, Therese. Let me see: '_Therese and_----'
    Complete the sentence, dear lady."

    Therese almost shrieked in anguish. She watched the finger of her aunt
    gliding over the oilcloth, and it seemed to her that this finger traced
    her name, and the confession of her crime in letters of fire. Laurent
    had risen violently, with half a mind to fling himself on the paralysed
    woman and break her arm. When he saw this hand return to life to reveal
    the murder of Camille, he thought all was lost, and already felt the
    weight and frigidity of the knife on the nape of his neck.

    Madame Raquin still wrote, but in a manner that became more and more
    hesitating.

    "This is perfect. I can read it very well indeed," resumed Olivier after
    an instant, and with his eyes on the married pair. "Your aunt writes
    your two names: '_Therese and Laurent_.'"

    The old lady made sign after sign in the affirmative, casting crushing
    glances on the murderers. Then she sought to complete the sentence,
    but her fingers had stiffened, the supreme will that galvanised them,
    escaped her. She felt the paralysis slowly descending her arm and again
    grasping her wrist. She hurried on, and traced another word.

    Old Michaud read out in a loud voice:

    "_Therese and Laurent have----_"

    And Olivier inquired:

    "What have your dear children?"

    The murderers, seized with blind terror, were on the point of completing
    the sentence aloud. They contemplated the avenging hand with fixed
    and troubled eyes, when, all at once this hand became convulsed, and
    flattened out on the table. It slipped down and fell on the knee of the
    impotent woman like a lump of inanimate flesh and bone. The paralysis
    had returned and arrested the punishment. Michaud and Olivier sat down
    again disappointed, while Therese and Laurent experienced such keen joy
    that they felt like fainting under the influence of the sudden rush of
    blood that beat in their bosoms.

    Grivet who felt vexed at not having been believed on trust, thought
    the moment had arrived to regain his infallibility, by completing the
    unfinished sentence. While every one was endeavouring to supply the
    missing words, he exclaimed:

    "It is quite clear. I can read the whole phrase in the eyes of the lady.
    It is not necessary for her to write on the table to make me understand;
    a mere look suffices. She means to say:

    "Therese and Laurent have been very kind to me."

    Grivet, on this occasion, had cause to be proud of his imagination, for
    all the company were of his opinion; and the guests began to sing the
    praises of the married couple, who were so good for the poor lady.

    "It is certain," old Michaud gravely remarked, "that Madame Raquin
    wishes to bear testimony to the tender affection her children lavish on
    her, and this does honour to the whole family."

    Then, taking up his dominoes again, he added:

    "Come, let us continue. Where were we? Grivet was about to play the
    double-six, I think."

    Grivet played the double six, and the stupid, monotonous game went on.

    The paralysed woman, cut up by frightful despair, looked at her hand,
    which had just betrayed her. She felt it as heavy as lead, now; never
    would she be able to raise it again. Providence would not permit Camille
    to be avenged. It withdrew from his mother the only means she had of
    making known the crime to which he had fallen a victim. And the wretched
    woman said to herself that she was now only fit to go and join her child
    underground. She lowered her lids, feeling herself, henceforth, useless,
    and with the desire of imagining herself already in the darkness of the
    tomb.
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