List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v4, by Eugene Sue
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"My sister!" exclaimed Cephyse--such was the name of the Bacchanal Queen-
-"My sister!"--and with one bound, light as a ballet-dancer, she sprang
from her movable throne (which fortunately just happened to be stopping),
and, rushing up to the hunchback, embraced her affectionately.

All this had passed so rapidly, that the companions of the Bacchanal
Queen, still stupefied by the boldness of her perilous leap, knew not how
to account for it; whilst the masks who surrounded Mother Bunch drew back
in surprise, and the latter, absorbed in the delight of embracing her
sister, whose caresses she returned, did not even think of the singular
contrast between them, which was sure to soon excite the astonishment and
hilarity of the crowd.

Cephyse was the first to think of this, and wishing to save her sister at
least one humiliation, she turned towards the carriage, and said: "Rose-
Pompon, throw me down my cloak; and, Ninny Moulin, open the door

Having received the cloak, the Bacchanal Queen hastily wrapped it round
her sister, before the latter could speak or move.  Then, taking her by
the hand, she said to her: "Come! come!"

"I!" cried Mother Bunch, in alarm.  "Do not think of it!"

"I must speak with you.  I will get a private room, where we shall be
alone.  So make haste, dear little sister!  Do not resist before all
these people--but come!"

The fear of becoming a public sight decided Mother Bunch, who, confused
moreover with the adventure, trembling and frightened, followed her
sister almost mechanically, and was dragged by her into the carriage, of
which Ninny Moulin had just opened the door.  And so, with the cloak of
the Bacchanal Queen covering Mother Bunch's poor garments and deformed
figure, the crowd had nothing to laugh at, and only wondered what this
meeting could mean, while the coaches pursued their way to the eating-
house in the Place du Chatelet.



Some minutes after the meeting of Mother Bunch with the Bacchanal Queen,
the two sisters were alone together in a small room in the tavern.

"Let me kiss you again," said Cephyse to the young sempstress; "at least
now we are alone, you will not be afraid?"

In the effort of the Bacchanal Queen to clasp Mother Bunch in her arms,
the cloak fell from the form of the latter.  At sight of those miserable
garments, which she had hardly had time to observe on the Place du
Chatelet, in the midst of the crowd, Cephyse clasped her hands, and could
not repress an exclamation of painful surprise.  Then, approaching her
sister, that she might contemplate her more closely, she took her thin,
icy palms between her own plump hands, and examined for some minutes,
with increasing grief, the suffering, pale, unhappy creature, ground down
by watching and privations, and half-clothed in a poor, patched cotton

"Oh, sister! to see you thus!"  Unable to articulate another word, the
Bacchanal Queen threw herself on the other's neck, and burst into tears.
Then, in the midst of her sobs, she added: "Pardon! pardon!"

"What is the matter, my dear Cephyse?" said the young sewing-girl, deeply
moved, and gently disengaging herself from the embrace of her sister.
"Why do you ask my pardon?"

"Why?" resumed Cephyse, raising her countenance, bathed in tears, and
purple with shame; "is it not shameful of me to be dressed in all this
frippery, and throwing away so much money in follies, while you are thus
miserably clad, and in need of everything--perhaps dying of want, for I
have never seen your poor face look so pale and worn."

"Be at ease, dear sister!  I am not ill.  I was up rather late last
night, and that makes me a little pale--but pray do not cry--it grieves

The Bacchanal Queen had but just arrived, radiant in the midst of the
intoxicated crowd, and yet it was Mother Bunch who was now employed in
consoling her!

An incident occurred, which made the contrast still more striking.
Joyous cries were heard suddenly in the next apartment, and these words
were repeated with enthusiasm: "Long live the Bacchanal Queen!"

Mother Bunch trembled, and her eyes filled with tears, as she saw her
sister with her face buried in her hands, as if overwhelmed with shame.
"Cephyse," she said, "I entreat you not to grieve so.  You will make me
regret the delight of this meeting, which is indeed happiness to me!  It
is so long since I saw you!  But tell me--what ails you?"

"You despise me perhaps--you are right," said the Bacchanal Queen, drying
her tears.

"Despise you? for what?"

"Because I lead the life I do, instead of having the courage to support
misery along with you."

The grief of Cephyse was so heart-breaking, that Mother Bunch, always
good and indulgent, wishing to console her, and raise her a little in her
own estimation, said to her tenderly: "In supporting it bravely for a
whole year, my good Cephyse, you have had more merit and courage than I
should have in bearing with it my whole life."

"Oh, sister! do not say that."

"In simple truth," returned Mother Bunch, "to what temptations is a
creature like me exposed?  Do I not naturally seek solitude, even as you
seek a noisy life of pleasure?  What wants have I?  A very little

"But you have not always that little?"

"No--but, weak and sickly as I seem, I can endure some privations better
than you could.  Thus hunger produces in me a sort of numbness, which
leaves me very feeble--but for you, robust and full of life, hunger is
fury, is madness.  Alas! you must remember how many times I have seen you
suffering from those painful attacks, when work failed us in our wretched
garret, and we could not even earn our four francs a week--so that we had
nothing--absolutely nothing to eat--for our pride prevented us from
applying to the neighbors."

"You have preserved the right to that honest pride."

"And you as well!  Did you not struggle as much as a human creature
could?  But strength fails at last--I know you well, Cephyse--it was
hunger that conquered you; and the painful necessity of constant labor,
which was yet insufficient to supply our common wants."

"But you could endure those privations--you endure them still."

"Can you compare me with yourself?  Look," said Mother Bunch, taking her
sister by the hand, and leading her to a mirror placed above a couch,
"look!--Dost think that God made you so beautiful, endowed you with such
quick and ardent blood, with so joyous, animated, grasping a nature and
with such taste and fondness for pleasure, that your youth might be spent
in a freezing garret, hid from the sun, nailed constantly to your chair,
clad almost in rags, and working without rest and without hope?  No! for
He has given us other wants than those of eating and drinking.  Even in
our humble condition, does not beauty require some little ornament?  Does
not youth require some movement, pleasure, gayety?  Do not all ages call
for relaxation and rest?  Had you gained sufficient wages to satisfy
hunger, to have a day or so's amusement in the week, after working every
other day for twelve or fifteen hours, and to procure the neat and modest
dress which so charming a face might naturally claim--you would never
have asked for more, I am sure of it--you have told me as much a hundred
times.  You have yielded, therefore, to an irresistible necessity,
because your wants are greater than mine."

"It is true," replied the Bacchanal Queen, with a pensive air; "if I
could but have gained eighteenpence a day, my life would have been quite
different; for, in the beginning, sister, I felt cruelly humiliated to
live at a man's expense."

"Yes, yes--it was inevitable, my dear Cephyse; I must pity, but cannot
blame you.  You did not choose your destiny; but, like me, you have
submitted to it."

"Poor sister!" said Cephyse, embracing the speaker tenderly; "you can
encourage and console me in the midst of your own misfortunes, when I
ought to be pitying you."

"Be satisfied!" said Mother Bunch; "God is just and good.  If He has
denied me many advantages, He has given me my joys, as you have yours."


"Yes, and great ones--without which life would be too burdensome, and I
should not have the courage to go through with it."

"I understand you," said Cephyse, with emotion; "you still know how to
devote yourself for others, and that lightens your own sorrows."

"I do what I can, but, alas! it is very little; yet when I succeed,"
added Mother Bunch, with a faint smile, "I am as proud and happy as a
poor little ant, who, after a great deal of trouble, has brought a big
straw to the common nest.  But do not let us talk any more of me."

"Yes, but I must, even at the risk of making you angry," resumed the
Bacchanal Queen, timidly; "I have something to propose to you which you
once before refused.  Jacques Rennepont has still, I think, some money
left--we are spending it in follies--now and then giving a little to poor
people we may happen to meet--I beg of you, let me come to your
assistance--I see in your poor face, you cannot conceal it from me, that
you are wearing yourself out with toil."

"Thanks, my dear Cephyse, I know your good heart; but I am not in want of
anything.  The little I gain is sufficient for me."

"You refuse me," said the Bacchanal Queen, sadly, "because you know that
my claim to this money is not honorable--be it so--I respect your
scruples.  But you will not refuse a service from Jacques; he has been a
workman, like ourselves, and comrades should help each other.  Accept it
I beseech you, or I shall think you despise me."

"And I shall think you despise me, if you insist any more upon it, my
dear Cephyse," said Mother Bunch, in a tone at once so mild and firm that
the Bacchanal Queen saw that all persuasion would be in vain.  She hung
her head sorrowfully, and a tear again trickled down her cheek.

"My refusal grieves you," said the other, taking her hand; "I am truly
sorry--but reflect--and you will understand me."

"You are right," said the Bacchanal Queen, bitterly, after a moment's
silence; "you cannot accept assistance from my lover--it was an insult to
propose it to you.  There are positions in life so humiliating, that they
soil even the good one wishes to do."

"Cephyse, I did not mean to hurt you--you know it well."

"Oh! believe me," replied the Bacchanal Queen, "gay and giddy as I am, I
have sometimes moments of reflection, even in the midst of my maddest
joy.  Happily, such moments are rare."

"And what do you think of, then?"

"Why, that the life I lead is hardly the thing; then resolve to ask
Jacques for a small sum of money, just enough to subsist on for a year,
and form the plan of joining you, and gradually getting to work again."

"The idea is a good one; why not act upon it?"

"Because, when about to execute this project, I examined myself
sincerely, and my courage failed.  I feel that I could never resume the
habit of labor, and renounce this mode of life, sometimes rich, as to-
day, sometimes precarious,--but at least free and full of leisure, joyous
and without care, and at worst a thousand times preferable to living upon
four francs a week.  Not that interest has guided me.  Many times have I
refused to exchange a lover, who had little or nothing, for a rich man,
that I did not like.  Nor have I ever asked anything for myself.  Jacques
has spent perhaps ten thousand francs the last three or four months, yet
we only occupy two half-furnished rooms, because we always live out of
doors, like the birds: fortunately, when I first loved him, he had
nothing at all, and I had just sold some jewels that had been given me,
for a hundred francs, and put this sum in the lottery.  As mad people and
fools are always lucky, I gained a prize of four thousand francs.
Jacques was as gay, and light-headed, and full of fun as myself, so we
said: 'We love each other very much, and, as long as this money lasts, we
will keep up the racket; when we have no more, one of two things will
happen--either we shall be tired of one another, and so part--or else we
shall love each other still, and then, to remain together, we shall try
and get work again; and, if we cannot do so, and yet will not part--a
bushel of charcoal will do our business!'"

"Good heaven!" cried Mother Bunch, turning pale.

"Be satisfied! we have not come to that.  We had still something left,
when a kind of agent, who had paid court to me, but who was so ugly that
I could not bear him for all his riches, knowing that I was living with
Jacques asked me to--But why should I trouble you with all these details?
In one word, he lent Jacques money, on some sort of a doubtful claim he
had, as was thought, to inherit some property.  It is with this money
that we are amusing ourselves--as long as its lasts."

"But, my dear Cephyse, instead of spending this money so foolishly, why
not put it out to interest, and marry Jacques, since you love him?"

"Oh! in the first place," replied the Bacchanal Queen, laughing, as her
gay and thoughtless character resumed its ascendancy, "to put money out
to interest gives one no pleasure.  All the amusement one has is to look
at a little bit of paper, which one gets in exchange for the nice little
pieces of gold, with which one can purchase a thousand pleasures.  As for
marrying, I certainly like Jacques better than I ever liked any one; but
it seems to me, that, if we were married, all our happiness would end--
for while he is only my lover, he cannot reproach me with what has passed
--but, as my husband, he would be stare to upbraid me, sooner or later,
and if my conduct deserves blame, I prefer giving it to myself, because I
shall do it more tenderly."

"Mad girl that you are!  But this money will not last forever.  What is
to he done next?"

"Afterwards!--Oh! that's all in the moon.  To-morrow seems to me as if it
would not come for a hundred years.  If we were always saying: 'We must
die one day or the other'--would life be worth having?"

The conversation between Cephyse and her sister was here again
interrupted by a terrible uproar, above which sounded the sharp, shrill
noise of Ninny Moulin's rattle.  To this tumult succeeded a chorus of
barbarous cries, in the midst of which were distinguishable these words,
which shook the very windows: "The Queen! the Bacchanal Queen!"

Mother Bunch started at this sudden noise.

"It is only my court, who are getting impatient," said Cephyse--and this
time she could laugh.

"Heavens!" cried the sewing-girl, in alarm; "if they were to come here in
search of you?"

"No, no--never fear."

"But listen! do you not hear those steps? they are coming along the
passage--they are approaching.  Pray, sister, let me go out alone,
without being seen by all these people."

That moment the door was opened, and Cephyse, ran towards it.  She saw in
the passage a deputation headed by Ninny Moulin, who was armed with his
formidable rattle, and followed by Rose-Pompon and Sleepinbuff.

"The Bacchanal Queen! or I poison myself with a glass of water;" cried
Ninny Moulin.

"The Bacchanal Queen! or I publish my banns of marriage with Ninny

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