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Before turning in we went to look at poor Lucy. The undertaker had certainly
done his work well, for the room was turned into a small chapelle ardente. There
was a wilderness of beautiful white flowers, and death was made as little
repulsive as might be. The end of the winding sheet was laid over the face. When
the Professor bent over and turned it gently back, we both started at the beauty
before us. The tall wax candles showing a sufficient light to note it well. All Lucy's
loveliness had come back to her in death, and the hours that had passed, instead
of leaving traces of `decay's effacing fingers', had but restored the beauty of life,
till positively I could not believe my eyes that I was looking at a corpse.
The Professor looked sternly grave. He had not loved her as I had, and there
was no need for tears in his eyes. He said to me, "Remain till I return," and left
the room. He came back with a handful of wild garlic from the box waiting in the
hall, but which had not been opened, and placed the flowers amongst the others
on and around the bed. Then he took from his neck, inside his collar, a little gold
crucifix, and placed it over the mouth. He restored the sheet to its place, and we
came away.
I was undressing in my own room, when, with a premonitory tap at the door, he
entered, and at once began to speak.
"Tomorrow I want you to bring me, before night, a set of post-mortem knives."
"Must we make an autopsy?" I asked.
"Yes and no. I want to operate, but not what you think. Let me tell you now, but
not a word to another. I want to cut off her head and take out her heart. Ah! You
a surgeon, and so shocked! You, whom I have seen with no tremble of hand or
heart, do operations of life and death that make the rest shudder. Oh, but I must
not forget, my dear friend John, that you loved her, and I have not forgotten it for
is I that shall operate, and you must not help. I would like to do it tonight, but for
Arthur I must not. He will be free after his father's funeral tomorrow, and he will
want to see her, to see it. Then, when she is coffined ready for the next day, you
and I shall come when all sleep. We shall unscrew the coffin lid, and shall do our
operation, and then replace all, so that none know, save we alone."
"But why do it at all? The girl is dead. Why mutilate her poor body without need?
And if there is no necessity for a post-mortem and nothing to gain by it, no good
to her, to us, to science, to human knowledge, why do it? Without such it is
For answer he put his hand on my shoulder, and said, with infinite tenderness,
"Friend John, I pity your poor bleeding heart, and I love you the more because it
does so bleed. If I could, I would take on myself the burden that you do bear. But
there are things that you know not, but that you shall know, and bless me for
knowing, though they are not pleasant things. John, my child, you have been my
friend now many years, and yet did you ever know me to do any without good
cause? I may err, I am but man, but I believe in all I do. Was it not for these
causes that you send for me when the great trouble came? Yes! Were you not
amazed, nay horrified, when I would not let Arthur kiss his love, though she was
dying, and snatched him away by all my strength? Yes! And yet you saw how
she thanked me, with her so beautiful dying eyes, her voice, too, so weak, and