List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v2, by Eugene Sue
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the angle of one of those enormous walls, exchanged a few words together.

"So," said one, "you understand all about it.  You are to watch in the
street, till you see them enter No. 5."

"All right!" answered the other.

"And when you see 'em enter so as to make quite sure of the game, go up
to Frances Baudoin's room--"

"Under the cloak of asking where the little humpbacked workwoman lives--
the sister of that gay girl, the Queen of the Bacchanals."

"Yes--and you must try and find out her address also--from her humpbacked
sister, if possible--for it is very important.  Women of her feather
change their nests like birds, and we have lost track of her."

"Make yourself easy; I will do my best with Hump, to learn where her
sister hangs out."

"And, to give you steam, I'll wait for you at the tavern opposite the
Cloister, and we'll have a go of hot wine on your return."

"I'll not refuse, for the night is deucedly cold."

"Don't mention it!  This morning the water friz on my sprinkling-brush,
and I turned as stiff as a mummy in my chair at the church-door.  Ah, my
boy! a distributor of holy water is not always upon roses!"

"Luckily, you have the pickings--"

"Well, well--good luck to you!  Don't forget the Fiver, the little
passage next to the dyer's shop."

"Yes, yes--all right!" and the two men separated.

One proceeded to the Cloister Square; the other towards the further end
of the street, where it led into the Rue Saint-Merry.  This latter soon
found the number of the house he sought--a tall, narrow building, having,
like all the other houses in the street, a poor and wretched appearance.
When he saw he was right, the man commenced walking backwards and
forwards in front of the door of No. 5.

If the exterior of these buildings was uninviting, the gloom and squalor
of the interior cannot be described.  The house No. 5 was, in a special
degree, dirty and dilapidated.  The water, which oozed from the wall,
trickled down the dark and filthy staircase.  On the second floor, a wisp
of straw had been laid on the narrow landing-place, for wiping the feet
on; but this straw, being now quite rotten, only served to augment the
sickening odor, which arose from want of air, from damp, and from the
putrid exhalations of the drains.  The few openings, cut at rare
intervals in the walls of the staircase, could hardly admit more than
some faint rays of glimmering light.

In this quarter, one of the most populous in Paris, such houses as these,
poor, cheerless, and unhealthy, are generally inhabited by the working
classes.  The house in question was of the number.  A dyer occupied the
ground floor; the deleterious vapors arising from his vats added to the
stench of the whole building.  On the upper stories, several artisans
lodged with their families, or carried on their different trades.  Up
four flights of stairs was the lodging of Frances Baudoin, wife of
Dagobert.  It consisted of one room, with a closet adjoining, and was now
lighted by a single candle.  Agricola occupied a garret in the roof.

Old grayish paper, broken here and there by the cracks covered the crazy
wall, against which rested the bed; scanty curtains, running upon an iron
rod, concealed the windows; the brick floor, not polished, but often
washed, had preserved its natural color.  At one end of this room was a
round iron stove, with a large pot for culinary purposes.  On the wooden
table, painted yellow, marbled with brown, stood a miniature house made
of iron--a masterpiece of patience and skill, the work of Agricola
Baudoin, Dagobert's son.

A plaster crucifix hung up against the wall, surrounded by several
branches of consecrated box-tree, and various images of saints, very
coarsely colored, bore witness to the habits of the soldier's wife.
Between the windows stood one of those old walnut-wood presses, curiously
fashioned, and almost black with time; an old arm-chair, covered with
green cotton velvet (Agricola's first present to his mother), a few rush-
bottomed chairs, and a worktable on which lay several bags of coarse,
brown cloth, completed the furniture of this room, badly secured by a
worm-eaten door.  The adjoining closet contained a few kitchen and
household utensils.

Mean and poor as this interior may perhaps appear, it would not seem so
to the greater number of artisans; for the bed was supplied with two
mattresses, clean sheets, and a warm counterpane; the old-fashioned press
contained linen; and, moreover, Dagobert's wife occupied all to herself a
room as large as those in which numerous families, belonging to honest
and laborious workmen, often live and sleep huddled together--only too
happy if the boys and girls can have separate beds, or if the sheets and
blankets are not pledged at the pawnbroker's.

Frances Baudoin, seated beside the small stove, which, in the cold and
damp weather, yielded but little warmth, was busied in preparing her son
Agricola's evening meal.

Dagobert's wife was about fifty years of age; she wore a close jacket of
blue cotton, with white flowers on it, and a stuff petticoat; a white
handkerchief was tied round her head, and fastened under the chin.  Her
countenance was pale and meagre, the features regular, and expressive of
resignation and great kindness.  It would have been difficult to find a
better, a more courageous mother.  With no resource but her labor, she
had succeeded, by unwearied energy, in bringing up not only her own son
Agricola, but also Gabriel, the poor deserted child, of whom, with
admirable devotion, she had ventured to take charge.

In her youth, she had, as it were, anticipated the strength of later
life, by twelve years of incessant toil, rendered lucrative by the most
violent exertions, and accompanied by such privations as made it almost
suicidal.  Then (for it was a time of splendid wages, compared to the
present), by sleepless nights and constant labor, she contrived to earn
about two shillings (fifty sous) a day, and with this she managed to
educate her son and her adopted child.

At the end of these twelve years, her health was ruined, and her strength
nearly exhausted; but, at all events, her boys had wanted for nothing,
and had received such an education as children of the people can obtain.
About this time, M. Francois Hardy took Agricola as an apprentice, and
Gabriel prepared to enter the priest's seminary, under the active
patronage of M. Rodin, whose communications with the confessor of Frances
Baudoin had become very frequent about the year 1820.

This woman (whose piety had always been excessive) was one of those
simple natures, endowed with extreme goodness, whose self-denial
approaches to heroism, and who devote themselves in obscurity to a life
of martyrdom--pure and heavenly minds, in whom the instincts of the heart
supply the place of the intellect!

The only defect, or rather the necessary consequence of this extreme
simplicity of character, was the invincible determination she displayed
in yielding to the commands of her confessor, to whose influence she had
now for many years been accustomed to submit.  She regarded this
influence as most venerable and sacred; no mortal power, no human
consideration, could have prevented her from obeying it.  Did any dispute
arise on the subject, nothing could move her on this point; she opposed
to every argument a resistance entirely free from passion--mild as her
disposition, calm as her conscience--but, like the latter, not to be
shaken.  In a word, Frances Baudoin was one of those pure, but
uninstructed and credulous beings, who may sometimes, in skillful and
dangerous hands, become, without knowing it, the instruments of much

For some time past, the bad state of her health, and particularly the
increasing weakness of her sight, had condemned her to a forced repose;
unable to work more than two or three hours a day, she consumed the rest
of her time at church.

Frances rose from her seat, pushed the coarse bags at which she had been
working to the further end of the table, and proceeded to lay the cloth
for her son's supper, with maternal care and solicitude.  She took from
the press a small leathern bag, containing an old silver cup, very much
battered, and a fork and spoon, so worn and thin, that the latter cut
like a knife.  These, her only plate (the wedding present of Dagobert)
she rubbed and polished as well as she was able, and laid by the side of
her son's plate.  They were the most precious of her possessions, not so
much for what little intrinsic value might attach to them, as for the
associations they recalled; and she had often shed bitter tears, when,
under the pressure of illness or want of employment, she had been
compelled to carry these sacred treasures to the pawnbroker's.

Frances next took, from the lower shelf of the press, a bottle of water,
and one of wine about three-quarters full, which she also placed near her
son's plate; she then returned to the stove, to watch the cooking of the

Though Agricola was not much later than usual, the countenance of his
mother expressed both uneasiness and grief; one might have seen, by the
redness of her eyes, that she had been weeping a good deal.  After long
and painful uncertainty, the poor woman had just arrived at the
conviction that her eyesight, which had been growing weaker and weaker,
would soon be so much impaired as to prevent her working even the two or
three hours a day which had lately been the extent of her labors.

Originally an excellent hand at her needle, she had been obliged, as her
eyesight gradually failed her, to abandon the finer for the coarser sorts
of work, and her earnings had necessarily diminished in proportion; she
had at length been reduced to the necessity of making those coarse bags
for the army, which took about four yards of sewing, and were paid at the
rate of two sous each, she having to find her own thread.  This work,
being very hard, she could at most complete three such bags in a day, and
her gains thus amounted to threepence (six sous)!

It makes one shudder to think of the great number of unhappy females,
whose strength has been so much exhausted by privations, old age, or
sickness, that all the labor of which they are capable, hardly suffices
to bring them in daily this miserable pittance.  Thus do their gains
diminish in exact proportion to the increasing wants which age and
infirmity must occasion.

Happily, Frances had an efficient support in her son.  A first-rate
workman, profiting by the just scale of wages adopted by M. Hardy, his
labor brought him from four to five shillings a day--more than double
what was gained by the workmen of many other establishments.  Admitting
therefore that his mother were to gain nothing, he could easily maintain
both her and himself.

But the poor woman, so wonderfully economical that she denied herself
even some of the necessaries of life, had of late become ruinously
liberal on the score of the sacristy, since she had adopted the habit of
visiting daily the parish church.  Scarcely a day passed but she had
masses sung, or tapers burnt, either for Dagobert, from whom she had been
so long separated, or for the salvation of her son Agricola, whom she
considered on the high-road to perdition.  Agricola had so excellent a
heart, so loved and revered his mother, and considered her actions in
this respect inspired by so touching a sentiment, that he never
complained when he saw a great part of his week's wages (which he paid
regularly over to his mother every Saturday) disappear in pious forms.

Yet now and then he ventured to remark to Frances, with as much respect
as tenderness, that it pained him to see her enduring privations
injurious at her age, because she preferred incurring these devotional
expenses.  But what answer could he make to this excellent mother, when
she replied with tears: "My child, 'tis for the salvation of your father
and yours too."

To dispute the efficacy of masses, would have been venturing on a,
subject which Agricola, through respect for his mother's religious faith,
never discussed.  He contented himself, therefore, with seeing her
dispense with comforts she might have enjoyed.

A discreet tap was heard at the door.  "Come in," said Frances.  The
person came in.



The person who now entered was a girl of about eighteen, short, and very
much deformed.  Though not exactly a hunchback, her spine was curved; her
breast was sunken, and her head deeply set in the shoulders.  Her face
was regular, but long, thin, very pale, and pitted with the small pox;
yet it expressed great sweetness and melancholy.  Her blue eyes beamed
with kindness and intelligence.  By a strange freak of nature, the
handsomest woman would have been proud of the magnificent hair twisted in
a coarse net at the back of her head.  She held an old basket in her
hand.  Though miserably clad, the care and neatness of her dress revealed
a powerful struggle with her poverty.  Notwithstanding the cold, she wore
a scanty frock made of print of an indefinable color, spotted with white;
but it had been so often washed, that its primitive design and color had
long since disappeared.  In her resigned, yet suffering face, might be
read a long familiarity with every form of suffering, every description
of taunting.  From her birth, ridicule had ever pursued her.  We have
said that she was very deformed, and she was vulgarly called "Mother
Bunch."  Indeed it was so usual to give her this grotesque name, which
every moment reminded her of her infirmity, that Frances and Agricola,
though they felt as much compassion as other people showed contempt for
her, never called her, however, by any other name.

Mother Bunch, as we shall therefore call her in future, was born in the
house in which Dagobert's wife had resided for more than twenty years;
and she had, as it were, been brought up with Agricola and Gabriel.

There are wretches fatally doomed to misery.  Mother Bunch had a very
pretty sister, on whom Perrine Soliveau, their common mother, the widow
of a ruined tradesman, had concentrated all her affection, while she
treated her deformed child with contempt and unkindness.  The latter
would often come, weeping, to Frances, on this account, who tried to
console her, and in the long evenings amused her by teaching her to read
and sew.  Accustomed to pity her by their mother's example, instead of
imitating other children, who always taunted and sometimes even beat her,
Agricola and Gabriel liked her, and used to protect and defend her.

She was about fifteen, and her sister Cephyse was about seventeen, when
their mother died, leaving them both in utter poverty.  Cephyse was
intelligent, active, clever, but different to her sister; she had the
lively, alert, hoydenish character which requires air, exercise and
pleasures--a good girl enough, but foolishly spoiled by her mother.
Cephyse, listening at first to Frances's good advice, resigned herself to
her lot; and, having learnt to sew, worked like her sister, for about a
year.  But, unable to endure any longer the bitter privations her

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