List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v4, by Eugene Sue
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part of M. Agricola, and a second visit might be discovered, and excite
suspicion.  I will come and fetch you in a coach; where do you live?"

"At No. 3, Rue Brise-Miche; as you are pleased to give yourself so much
trouble, mademoiselle, you have only to ask the dyer, who acts as porter,
to call down Mother Bunch."

"Mother Bunch?" said Florine, with surprise.

"Yes, mademoiselle," answered the sempstress, with a sad smile; "it is
the name every one gives me.  And you see," added the hunchback, unable
to restrain a tear, "it is because of my ridiculous infirmity, to which
this name alludes, that I dread going out to work among strangers,
because there are so many people who laugh at one, without knowing the
pain they occasion.  But," continued she, drying her eyes, "I have no
choice, and must make up my mind to it."

Florine, deeply affected, took the speaker's hand, and said to her: "Do
not fear.  Misfortunes like yours must inspire compassion, not ridicule.
May I not inquire for you by your real name?"

"It is Magdalen Soliveau; but I repeat, mademoiselle, that you had better
ask for Mother Bunch, as I am hardly known by any other name."

"I will, then, be in the Rue Brise-Miche to-morrow, at twelve o'clock."

"Oh, mademoiselle! How can I ever requite your goodness?"

"Don't speak of it: I only hope my interference may be of use to you.
But of this you must judge for yourself.  As for M. Agricola, do not
answer his letter; wait till he is out of prison, and then tell him to
keep his secret till he can see my poor mistress."

"And where is the dear young lady now?"

"I cannot tell you.  I do not know where they took her, when she was
attacked with this frenzy.  You will expect me to-morrow?"

"Yes--to-morrow," said Mother Bunch.

The convent whither Florine was to conduct the hunchback contained the
daughters of Marshal Simon, and was next door to the lunatic asylum of
Dr. Baleinier, in which Adrienne de Cardoville was confined.



St. Mary's Convent, whither the daughters of Marshal Simon had been
conveyed, was a large old building, the vast garden of which was on the
Boulevard de l'Hopital, one of the most retired places in Paris,
particularly at this period.  The following scenes took place on the 12th
February, the eve of the fatal day, on which the members of the family of
Rennepont, the last descendants of the sister of the Wandering Jew, were
to meet together in the Rue St. Francois.  St. Mary's Convent was a model
of perfect regularity.  A superior council, composed of influential
ecclesiastics, with Father d'Aigrigny for president, and of women of
great reputed piety, at the head of whom was the Princess de Saint-
Dizier, frequently assembled in deliberation, to consult on the means of
extending and strengthening the secret and powerful influence of this
establishment, which had already made remarkable progress.

Skillful combinations and deep foresight had presided at the foundation
of St. Mary's Convent, which, in consequence of numerous donations,
possessed already real estate to a great extent, and was daily augmenting
its acquisitions.  The religious community was only a pretext; but,
thanks to an extensive connection, kept up by means of the most decided
members of the ultramontane (i. e. high-church) party, a great number of
rich orphans were placed in the convent, there to receive a solid,
austere, religious education, very preferable, it was said, to the
frivolous instruction which might be had in the fashionable boarding-
schools, infected by the corruption of the age.  To widows also, and lone
women who happened moreover to be rich, the convent offered a sure asylum
from the dangers and temptations of the world; in this peaceful retreat,
they enjoyed a delightful calm, and secured their salvation, whilst
surrounded by the most tender and affectionate attentions.  Nor was this
all.  Mother Sainte-Perpetue, the superior of the convent, undertook in
the name of the institution to procure for the faithful, who wished to
preserve the interior of their houses from the depravity of the age,
companions for aged ladies, domestic servants, or needlewomen working by
the day, all selected persons whose morality could be warranted.  Nothing
would seem more worthy of sympathy and encouragement than such an
institution; but we shall presently unveil the vast and dangerous network
of intrigue concealed under these charitable and holy appearances.  The
lady Superior, Mother Sainte-Perpetue, was a tall woman of about forty
years of age, clad in a stuff dress of the Carmelite tan color, and
wearing a long rosary at her waist; a white cap tied under the chin, and
a long black veil, closely encircled her thin, sallow face.  A number of
deep wrinkles had impressed their transverse furrows in her forehead of
yellow ivory; her marked and prominent nose was bent like the beak of a
bird of prey; her black eye was knowing and piercing; the expression of
her countenance was at once intelligent, cold and firm.

In the general management of the pecuniary affairs of the community,
Mother Sainte-Perpetue would have been a match for the most cunning
attorney.  When women are possessed of what is called a talent for
business, and apply to it their keen penetration, their indefatigable
perseverance, their prudent dissimulation, and, above all, that quick and
exact insight, which is natural to them, the results are often
prodigious.  To Mother Sainte-Perpetue, a woman of the coolest and
strongest intellect, the management of the vast transactions of the
community was mere child's play.  No one knew better how to purchase a
depreciated property, to restore it to its former value, and then sell it
with advantage; the price of stock, the rate of exchange, the current
value of the shares in the different companies, were all familiar to her;
she had yet never been known to make bad speculation, when the question
was to invest any of the funds which were given by pious souls for the
purposes of the convent.  She had established in the house the utmost
order and discipline, and, above all, an extreme economy.  The constant
aim of all her efforts was to enrich, not herself, but the community she
directed; for the spirit of association, when become a collective
egotism, gives to corporations the faults and vices of an individual.
Thus a congregation may dote upon power and money, just as a miser loves
them for their own sake.  But it is chiefly with regard to estates that
congregations act like a single man.  They dream of landed property; it
is their fixed idea, their fruitful monomania.  They pursue it with their
most sincere, and warm, and tender wishes.

The first estate is to a rising little community what the wedding-
trousseau is to a young bride, his first horse to a youth, his first
success to a poet, to a gay girl her first fifty-guinea shawl; because,
after all, in this material age, an estate gives a certain rank to a
society on the Religious Exchange, and has so much the more effect upon
the simple-minded, that all these partnerships in the work of salvation,
which end by becoming immensely rich, begin with modest poverty as social
stock-in-trade, and charity towards their neighbors as security reserve
fund.  We may therefore imagine what bitter and ardent rivalry must exist
between the different congregations with regard to the various estates
that each can lay claim to; with what ineffable satisfaction the richer
society crushes the poorer beneath its inventory of houses, and farms and
paper securities!  Envy and hateful jealousy, rendered still more
irritable by the leisure of a cloistered life, are the necessary
consequences of such a comparison; and yet nothing is less Christian--in
the adorable acceptation of that divine word--nothing has less in common
with the true, essential, and religiously social spirit of the gospel,
than this insatiable ardor to acquire wealth by every possible means--
this dangerous avidity, which is far from being atoned for, in the eyes
of public opinion, by a few paltry alms, bestowed in the narrow spirit of
exclusion and intolerance.

Mother Sainte-Perpetue was seated before a large cylindrical-fronted desk
in the centre of an apartment simply but comfortably furnished.  An
excellent fire burned within the marble chimney, and a soft carpet
covered the floor.  The superior, to whom all letters addressed to the
sisters or the boarders were every day delivered, had just been opening
she first, according to her acknowledged right, and carefully unsealing
the second, without their knowing it, according to a right that she
ascribed to herself, of course, with a view to the salvation of those
dear creatures; and partly, perhaps, a little to make herself acquainted
with their correspondence, for she also had imposed on herself the duty
of reading all letters that were sent from the convent, before they were
put into the post.  The traces of this pious and innocent inquisition
were easily effaced, for the good mother possessed a whole arsenal of
steel tools, some very sharp, to cut the pager imperceptibly round the
seal--others, pretty little rods, to be slightly heated and rolled round
the edge of the seal, when the letter had been read and replaced in its
envelope, so that the wax, spreading as it melted, might cover the first
incision.  Moreover, from a praiseworthy feeling of justice and equality,
there was in the arsenal of the good mother a little fumigator of the
most ingenious construction, the damp and dissolving vapor of which was
reserved for the letters humbly and modestly secured with wafers, thus
softened, they yielded to the least efforts, without any tearing of the
paper.  According to the importance of the revelations, which she thus
gleaned from the writers of the letters, the superior took notes more or
less extensive.  She was interrupted in this investigation by two gentle
taps at the bolted door.  Mother Sainte-Perpetue immediately let down the
sliding cylinder of her cabinet, so as to cover the secret arsenal, and
went to open the door with a grave and solemn air.  A lay sister came to
announce to her that the Princess de Saint-Dizier was waiting for her in
the parlor, and that Mdlle. Florine, accompanied by a young girl,
deformed and badly dressed, was waiting at the door of the little

"Introduce the princess first," said Mother Sainte Perpetue.  And, with
charming forethought, she drew an armchair to the fire.  Mme. de Saint-
Dizier entered.

Without pretensions to juvenile coquetry, still the princess was
tastefully and elegantly dressed.  She wore a black velvet bonnet of the
most fashionable make, a large blue cashmere shawl, and a black satin
dress, trimmed with sable, to match the fur of her muff.

"To what good fortune am I again to-day indebted for the honor of your
visit, my dear daughter?" said the superior, graciously.

"A very important recommendation, my dear mother, though I am in a great
hurry.  I am expected at the house of his Eminence, and have,
unfortunately, only a few minutes to spare.  I have again to speak of the
two orphans who occupied our attention so long yesterday."

"They continue to be kept separate, according to your wish; and this
separation has had such an effect upon them that I have been obliged to
send this morning for Dr. Baleinier, from his asylum.  He found much
fever joined to great depression, and, singular enough, absolutely the
same symptoms in both cases.  I have again questioned these unfortunate
creatures, and have been quite confounded and terrified to find them
perfect heathens."

"It was, you see, very urgent to place them in your care.  But to the
subject of my visit, my dear mother: we have just learned the unexpected
return of the soldier who brought these girls to France, and was thought
to be absent for some days; but he is in Paris, and, notwithstanding his
age, a man of extraordinary boldness, enterprise and energy.  Should he
discover that the girls are here (which, however, is fortunately almost
impossible), in his rage at seeing them removed from his impious
influence, he would be capable of anything.  Therefore let me entreat
you, my dear mother, to redouble your precautions, that no one may effect
an entrance by night.  This quarter of the town is so deserted!"

"Be satisfied, my dear daughter; we are sufficiently guarded.  Our porter
and gardeners, all well armed, make a round every night on the side of
the Boulevard de l'Hopital.  The walls are high, and furnished with
spikes at the more accessible places.  But I thank you, my dear daughter,
for having warned me.  We will redouble our precautions."

"Particularly this night, my dear mother."

"Why so?"

"Because if this infernal soldier has the audacity to attempt such a
thing, it will be this very night."

"How do you know, my dear daughter?"

"We have information which makes us certain of it," replied the princess,
with a slight embarrassment, which did not escape the notice of the
Superior, though she was too crafty and reserved to appear to see it;
only she suspected that many things were concealed from her.

"This night, then," resumed Mother Sainte-Perpetue, "we will be more than
ever on our guard.  But as I have the pleasure of seeing you, my dear
daughter, I will take the opportunity to say a word or two on the subject
of that marriage we mentioned."

"Yes, my dear mother," said the princess, hastily, "for it is very
important.  The young Baron de Brisville is a man full of ardent devotion
in these times of revolutionary impiety; he practises openly, and is able
to render us great services.  He is listened to in the Chamber, and does
not want for a sort of aggressive and provoking eloquence; I know not any
one whose tone is more insolent with regard to his faith, and the plan is
a good one, for this cavalier and open manner of speaking of sacred
things raises and excites the curiosity of the indifferent.
Circumstances are happily such that he may show the most audacious
violence towards our enemies, without the least danger to himself, which,
of course, redoubles his ardor as a would-be martyr.  In a word, he is
altogether ours, and we, in return, must bring about this marriage.  You
know, besides, my dear mother, that he proposes to offer a donation of a
hundred thousand francs to St. Mary's the day he gains possession of the
fortune of Mdlle. Baudricourt."

"I have never doubted the excellent intentions of M. de Brisville with
regard to an institution which merits the sympathy of all pious persons,"
answered the superior, discreetly; "but I did not expect to meet with so
many obstacles on the part of the young lady."

"How is that?"

"This girl, whom I always believed a most simple, submissive, timid,
almost idiotic person--instead of being delighted with this proposal of
marriage, asks time to consider!"

"It is really pitiable!"

"She opposes to me an inert resistance.  It is in vain for me to speak
severely, and tell her that, having no parents or friends, and being
absolutely confided to my care, she ought to see with my eyes, hear with

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