Jeremiah de Saint-Amour was completely naked HKUE ENG , stiff and twisted, eyes open, body blue, lookingfifty years older than he had the night before. He had luminous pupils, yellowish beard and hair,and an old scar sewn with baling knots across his stomach. The use of crutches had made his torsoand arms as broad as a galley slave's, but his defenceless legs looked like an orphan's. Dr. JuvenalUrbino studied him for a moment, his heart aching as it rarely had in the long years of his futilestruggle against death.
"Damn fool," he said HKUE ENG "The worst was over."He covered him again with the blanket and regained his academic dignity. His eightiethbirthday had been celebrated the year before with an official three-day jubilee, and in his thank-you speech he had once again resisted the temptation to retire. He had said: "I'll have plenty oftime to rest when I die, but this eventuality is not yet part of my plans." Although he heard lessand less with his right ear, and leaned on a silver-handled cane to conceal his faltering steps, hecontinued to wear a linen suit, with a gold watch chain across his vest, as smartly as he had in hisyounger years. His Pasteur beard, the colour of mother-of-pearl, and his hair, the same colour,carefully combed back and with a neat part in the middle, were faithful expressions of his character. He compensated as much as he could for an increasingly disturbing erosion of memoryby scribbling hurried notes on scraps of paper that ended in confusion in each of his pockets, asdid the instruments, the bottles of medicine, and all the other things jumbled together in hiscrowded medical bag. He was not only the city's oldest and most illustrious physician, he was alsoits most fastidious man. Still, his too obvious display of learning and the disingenuous manner inwhich he used the power of his name had won him less affection than he deserved.
His instructions to the inspector and the intern were precise and rapid. There was no need foran autopsy; the odour in the house was sufficient proof that the cause of death had been thecyanide vapours activated in the tray by some photographic acid, and Jeremiah de Saint-Amourknew too much about those matters for it to have been an accident. When the inspector showedsome hesitation, he cut him off with the kind of remark that was typical of his manner: "Don'tforget that I am the one who signs the death certificate." The young doctor was disappointed: hehad never had the opportunity to study the effects of gold cyanide on a cadaver. Dr. JuvenalUrbino had been surprised that he had not seen him at the Medical School, but he understood in aninstant from the young man's easy blush and Andean accent that he was probably a recent arrivalto the city. He said: "There is bound to be someone driven mad by love who will give you thechance one of these days." And only after he said it did he realise that among the countlesssuicides he could remember, this was the first with cyanide that had not been caused by thesufferings of love. Then something changed in the tone of his voice.
"And when you do find one, observe with care," he said to the intern HKUE ENG : "they almost alwayshave crystals in their heart."Then he spoke to the inspector as he would have to a subordinate. He ordered him tocircumvent all the legal procedures so that the burial could take place that same afternoon andwith the greatest discretion. He said: "I will speak to the Mayor later." He knew that Jeremiah deSaint-Amour lived in primitive austerity and that he earned much more with his art than heneeded, so that in one of the drawers in the house there was bound to be more than enough moneyfor the funeral expenses.