A Simple Soul
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. le 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 Alencon 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.