List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v4, by Eugene Sue
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tears furrowed her cheeks--without her knowing it, her features expressed
the deepest despair--and she appeared so exhausted, so weak, so overcome,
that Florine offered her arm to support her, and said to her kindly:
"Pray walk in and rest yourself; you are very pale, and seem to be ill
and fatigued."

So saying, Florine led her into a small room; with fireplace and carpet,
and made her sit down in a tapestried armchair by the side of a good
fire.  Georgette and Hebe had been dismissed, and Florine was left alone
in care of the house.

When her guest was seated, Florine said to her with an air of interest:
"Will you not take anything?  A little orange flower-water and sugar,

"I thank you, mademoiselle," said Mother Bunch, with emotion, so easily
was her gratitude excited by the least mark of kindness; she felt, too, a
pleasing surprise, that her poor garments had not been the cause of
repugnance or disdain on the part of Florine.

"I thank you, mademoiselle," said she, "but I only require a little rest,
for I come from a great distance.  If you will permit me--"

"Pray rest yourself as long as you like, mademoiselle; I am alone in this
pavilion since the departure of my poor mistress,"--here Florine blushed
and sighed;--"so, pray make yourself quite at home.  Draw near the fire--
you wilt be more comfortable--and, gracious!  how wet your feet are!--
place them upon this stool."

The cordial reception given by Florine, her handsome face and agreeable
manners, which were not those of an ordinary waiting-maid, forcibly
struck Mother Bunch, who, notwithstanding her humble condition, was
peculiarly susceptible to the influence of everything graceful and
delicate.  Yielding, therefore, to these attractions, the young
sempstress, generally so timid and sensitive, felt herself almost at her
ease with Florine.

"How obliging you are, mademoiselle!" said she in a grateful tone.  "I am
quite confused with your kindness."

"I wish I could do you some greater service than offer you a place at the
fire, mademoiselle.  Your appearance is so good and interesting."

"Oh, mademoiselle!" said the other, with simplicity, almost in spite of
herself; "it does one so much good to sit by a warm fire!"  Then,
fearing, in her extreme delicacy, that she might be thought capable of
abusing the hospitality of her entertainer, by unreasonably prolonging
her visit, she added: "the motive that has brought me here is this.
Yesterday, you informed me that a young workman, named Agricola Baudoin,
had been arrested in this house."

"Alas! yes, mademoiselle.  At the moment, too, when my poor mistress was
about to render him assistance."

"I am Agricola's adopted sister," resumed Mother Bunch, with a slight
blush; "he wrote to me yesterday evening from prison.  He begged me to
tell his father to come here as soon as possible, in order to inform
Mdlle. de Cardoville that he, Agricola, had important matters to
communicate to her, or to any person that she might send; but that he
could not venture to mention them in a letter, as he did not know if the
correspondence of prisoners might not be read by the governor of the

"What!" said Florine, with surprise; "to my mistress, M. Agricola has
something of importance to communicate?"

"Yes, mademoiselle; for, up to this time, Agricola is ignorant of the
great calamity that has befallen Mdlle. de Cardoville."

"True; the attack was indeed so sudden," said Florine, casting down her
eyes, "that no one could have foreseen it."

"It must have been so," answered Mother Bunch; "for, when Agricola saw
Mdlle. de Cardoville for the first time, he returned home, struck with
her grace, and delicacy, and goodness."

"As were all who approached my mistress," said Florine, sorrowfully.

"This morning," resumed the sewing-girl, "when, according to Agricola's
instructions, I wished to speak to his father on the subject, I found him
already gone out, for he also is a prey to great anxieties; but my
adopted brother's letter appeared to me so pressing, and to involve
something of such consequence to Mdlle. de Cardoville, who had shown
herself so generous towards him, that I came here immediately."

"Unfortunately, as you already know, my mistress is no longer here."

"But is there no member of her family to whom, if I could not speak
myself, I might at least send word by you, that Agricola has something to
communicate of importance to this young lady?"

"It is strange!" said Florine, reflecting, and without replying.  Then,
turning towards the sempstress, she added:  "You are quite ignorant of
the nature of these revelations?"

"Completely so, mademoiselle; but I know Agricola.  He is all honor and
truth, and you may believe whatever he affirms.  Besides, he would have
no interest--"

"Good gracious!" interrupted Florine, suddenly, as if struck with a
sadden light; "I have just remembered something.  When he was arrested in
a hiding-place where my mistress had concealed him, I happened to be
close at hand, and M. Agricola said to me, in a quick whisper: 'Tell your
generous mistress that her goodness to me will not go unrewarded, and
that my stay in that hiding-place may not be useless to her.' That was
all he could say to me, for they hurried him off instantly.  I confess
that I saw in those words only the expression of his gratitude, and his
hope of proving it one day to my mistress; but now that I connect them
with the letter he has written you--" said Florine, reflecting.

"Indeed!" remarked Mother Bunch, "there is certainly some connection
between his hiding-place here and the important secrets which he wishes
to communicate to your mistress, or one of her family."

"The hiding-place had neither been inhabited nor visited for some time,"
said Florine, with a thoughtful air; "M. Agricola may have found therein
something of interest to my mistress."

"If his letter had not appeared to me so pressing," resumed the other, "I
should not have come hither; but have left him to do so himself, on his
release from prison, which now, thanks to the generosity of one of his
old fellow-workmen, cannot be very distant.  But, not knowing if bail
would be accepted to-day, I have wished faithfully to perform his
instructions.  The generous kindness of your mistress made it my first

Like all persons whose better instincts are still roused from time to
time, Florine felt a sort of consolation in doing good whenever she could
with impunity--that is to say, without exposing herself to the inexorable
resentments of those on whom she depended.  Thanks to Mother Bunch, she
might now have an opportunity of rendering a great service to her
mistress.  She knew enough of the Princess de Saint-Dizier's hatred of
her niece, to feel certain that Agricola's communication could not, from
its very importance, be made with safety to any but Mdlle. de Cardoville
herself.  She therefore said very gravely: "Listen to me, mademoiselle!
I will give you a piece of advice which will, I think, be useful to my
poor mistress--but which would be very fatal to me if you did not attend
to my recommendations."

"How so, mademoiselle?" said the hunchback, looking at Florine with
extreme surprise.

"For the sake of my mistress, M. Agricola must confide to no one, except
herself, the important things he has to communicate."

"But, if he cannot see Mdlle. Adrienne, may he not address himself to
some of her family?"

"It is from her family, above all, that he must conceal whatever he
knows.  Mdlle. Adrienne may recover, and then M. Agricola can speak to
her.  But should she never get well again, tell your adopted brother that
it is better for him to keep his secret than to place it (which would
infallibly happen) at the disposal of the enemies of my mistress."

"I understand you, mademoiselle," said Mother Bunch, sadly.  "The family
of your generous mistress do not love her, and perhaps persecute her?"

"I cannot tell you more on this subject now; and, as regards myself, let
me conjure you to obtain M. Agricola's promise that he will not mention
to any one in the world the step you have taken, or the advice I have
given you.  The happiness--no, not the happiness," resumed Florine
bitterly, as if that were a lost hope, "not the happiness--but the peace
of my life depends upon your discretion."

"Oh! be satisfied!" said the sewing-girl, both affected and amazed by the
sorrowful expression of Florine's countenance; "I will not be ungrateful.
No one in the world but Agricola shall know that I have seen you."

"Thank you--thank you, mademoiselle," cried Florine, with emotion.

"Do you thank me?" said the other, astonished to see the large tears roll
down her cheeks.

"Yes! I am indebted to you for a moment of pure, unmixed happiness; for I
have perhaps rendered a service to my dear mistress, without risking the
increase of the troubles that already overwhelm me."

"You are not happy, then?"

"That astonishes you; but, believe me, whatever may be, your fate, I
would gladly change with you."

"Alas, mademoiselle!" said the sempstress: "you appear to have too good a
heart, for me to let you entertain such a wish--particularly now."

"What do you mean?"

"I hope sincerely, mademoiselle," proceeded Mother Bunch, with deep
sadness, "that you may never know what it is to want work, when labor is
your only resource."

"Are you reduced to that extremity?" cried Florine, looking anxiously at
the young sempstress, who hung her head, and made no answer.  She
reproached herself, in her excessive delicacy, with having made a
communication which resembled a complaint, though it had only been wrung
from her by the thought of her dreadful situation.

"If it is so," went on Florine, "I pity you with all my heart; and yet I
know not, if my misfortunes are not still greater than yours."

Then, after a moment's reflection, Florine exclaimed, suddenly: "But let
me see!  If you are really in that position, I think I can procure you
some work."

"Is it possible, mademoiselle?" cried Mother Bunch.  "I should never have
dared to ask you such a service; but your generous offer commands my
confidence, and may save me from destruction.  I will confess to you,
that, only this morning, I was thrown out of an employment which enabled
me to earn four francs a week."

"Four francs a week!" exclaimed Florine, hardly able to believe what she

"It was little, doubtless," replied the other; "but enough for me.
Unfortunately, the person who employed me, has found out where it can be
done still cheaper."

"Four francs a week!" repeated Florine, deeply touched by so much misery
and resignation.  "Well! I think I can introduce you to persons, who will
secure you wages of at least two francs a day."

"I could earn two francs a day?  Is it possible?"

"Yes, there is no doubt of it; only, you will have to go out by the day,
unless you chose to take a pace as servant."

"In my position," said Mother Bunch, with a mixture of timidity and
pride, "one has no right, I know, to be overnice; yet I should prefer to
go out by the day, and still more to remain at home, if possible, even
though I were to gain less."

"To go out is unfortunately an indispensable condition," said Florine.

"Then I must renounce this hope," answered Mother Bunch, timidly; "not
that I refuse to go out to work--but those who do so, are expected to be
decently clad--and I confess without shame, because there is no disgrace
in honest poverty, that I have no better clothes than these."

"If that be all," said Florine, hastily, "they will find you the means of
dressing yourself properly."

Mother Bunch looked at Florine with increasing surprise.  These offers
were so much above what she could have hoped, and what indeed was
generally earned by needlewomen, that she could hardly credit them.

"But," resumed she, with hesitation, "why should any one be so generous
to me, mademoiselle?  How should I deserve such high wages?"

Florine started.  A natural impulse of the heart, a desire to be useful
to the sempstress, whose mildness and resignation greatly interested her,
had led her to make a hasty proposition; she knew at what price would
have to be purchased the advantages she proposed, and she now asked
herself, if the hunchback would ever accept them on such terms.  But
Florine had gone too far to recede, and she durst not tell all.  She
resolved, therefore, to leave the future to chance and as those, who have
themselves fallen, are little disposed to believe in the infallibility of
others, Florine said to herself, that perhaps in the desperate position
in which she was, Mother Bunch would not be so scrupulous after all.
Therefore she said: "I see, mademoiselle, that you are astonished at
offers so much above what you usually gain; but I must tell you, that I
am now speaking of a pious institution, founded to procure work for
deserving young women.  This establishment, which is called St. Mary's
Society, undertakes to place them out as servants, or by the day as
needlewomen.  Now this institution is managed by such charitable persons,
that they themselves undertake to supply an outfit, when the young women,
received under their protection are not sufficiently well clothed to
accept the places destined for them."

This plausible explanation of Florine's magnificent offers appeared to
satisfy the hearer.  "I can now understand the high wages of which you
speak, mademoiselle," resumed she; "only I have no claim to be patronized
by the charitable persons who direct this establishment."

"You suffer--you are laborious and honest--those are sufficient claims;
only, I must tell you, they will ask if you perform regularly your
religious duties."

"No one loves and blesses God more fervently than I do, mademoiselle,"
said the hunchback, with mild firmness; "but certain duties are an affair
of conscience, and I would rather renounce this patronage, than be

"Not the least in the world.  Only, as I told you, there are very pious
persons at the head of this institution, and you must not be astonished
at their questions on such a subject.  Make the trial, at all events;
what do you risk?  If the propositions are suitable--accept them; if, on
the contrary, they should appear to touch  your liberty of conscience,
you can always refuse--your position will not be the worse for it."

Mother Bunch had nothing to object to this reasoning which left her at
perfect freedom, and disarmed her of all suspicion.  "On these terms,
mademoiselle," said she, "I accept your offer, and thank you with all my
heart.  But who will introduce me?"

"I will--to-morrow, if you please."

"But they will perhaps desire to make some inquiries about me."

"The venerable Mother Sainte-Perpetue, Superior of St, Mary's Convent,
where the institution is established, will, I am sure, appreciate your
good qualities without inquiry; but if otherwise, she will tell you, and
you can easily satisfy her.  It is then agreed--to-morrow."

"Shall I call upon you here, mademoiselle?"

"No; as I told you before, they must not know that you came here on the

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