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A Sister’s Confession
by [?]

Marguerite de Therelles was dying. Although she was-only fifty-six years old she looked at least seventy-five. She gasped for breath, her face whiter than the sheets, and had spasms of violent shivering, with her face convulsed and her eyes haggard as though she saw a frightful vision.

Her elder sister, Suzanne, six years older than herself, was sobbing on her knees beside the bed. A small table close to the dying woman’s couch bore, on a white cloth, two lighted candles, for the priest was expected at any moment to administer extreme unction and the last communion.

The apartment wore that melancholy aspect common to death chambers; a look of despairing farewell. Medicine bottles littered the furniture; linen lay in the corners into which it had been kicked or swept. The very chairs looked, in their disarray, as if they were terrified and had run in all directions. Death–terrible Death–was in the room, hidden, awaiting his prey.

This history of the two sisters was an affecting one. It was spoken of far and wide; it had drawn tears from many eyes.

Suzanne, the elder, had once been passionately loved by a young man, whose affection she returned. They were engaged to be married, and the wedding day was at hand, when Henry de Sampierre suddenly died.

The young girl’s despair was terrible, and she took an oath never to marry. She faithfully kept her vow and adopted widow’s weeds for the remainder of her life.

But one morning her sister, her little sister Marguerite, then only twelve years old, threw herself into Suzanne’s arms, sobbing: “Sister, I don’t want you to be unhappy. I don’t want you to mourn all your life. I’ll never leave you–never, never, never! I shall never marry, either. I’ll stay with you always–always!”

Suzanne kissed her, touched by the child’s devotion, though not putting any faith in her promise.

But the little one kept her word, and, despite her parents’ remonstrances, despite her elder sister’s prayers, never married. She was remarkably pretty and refused many offers. She never left her sister.

They spent their whole life together, without a single day’s separation. They went everywhere together and were inseparable. But Marguerite was pensive, melancholy, sadder than her sister, as if her sublime sacrifice had undermined her spirits. She grew older more quickly; her hair was white at thirty; and she was often ill, apparently stricken with some unknown, wasting malady.

And now she would be the first to die.

She had not spoken for twenty-four hours, except to whisper at daybreak:

“Send at once for the priest.”

And she had since remained lying on her back, convulsed with agony, her lips moving as if unable to utter the dreadful words that rose in her heart, her face expressive of a terror distressing to witness.

Suzanne, distracted with grief, her brow pressed against the bed, wept bitterly, repeating over and over again the words:

“Margot, my poor Margot, my little one!”

She had always called her “my little one,” while Marguerite’s name for the elder was invariably “sister.”

A footstep sounded on the stairs. The door opened. An acolyte appeared, followed by the aged priest in his surplice. As soon as she saw him the dying woman sat up suddenly in bed, opened her lips, stammered a few words and began to scratch the bed-clothes, as if she would have made hole in them.

Father Simon approached, took her hand, kissed her on the forehead and said in a gentle voice:

“May God pardon your sins, my daughter. Be of good courage. Now is the moment to confess them–speak!”

Then Marguerite, shuddering from head to foot, so that the very bed shook with her nervous movements, gasped:

“Sit down, sister, and listen.”

The priest stooped toward the prostrate Suzanne, raised her to her feet, placed her in a chair, and, taking a hand of each of the sisters, pronounced: