List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v7, by Eugene Sue
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

"But M. Agricola, will you tell me the secret of all these wonders?"

"In ten minutes you shall understand it all, mademoiselle."

Unfortunately, Angela's curiosity was for a while disappointed.  The girl
was now standing with Agricola close to the iron gate, which shut in the
garden from the broad avenue that separated the factory from the Common
Dwelling-house.  Suddenly, the wind brought from the distance the sound
of trumpets and military music; then was heard the gallop of two horses,
approaching rapidly, and soon after a general officer made his
appearance, mounted on a fine black charger, with a long flowing tail and
crimson housings; he wore cavalry boots and white breeches, after the
fashion of the empire; his uniform glittered with gold embroidery, the
red ribbon of the Legion of Honor was passed over his right epaulet, with
its four silver stars, and his hat had a broad gold border, and was
crowned with a white plume, the distinctive sign reserved for the
marshals of France.  No warrior could have had a more martial and
chivalrous air, or have sat more proudly on his war-horse.  At the moment
Marshal Simon (for it was he) arrived opposite the place where Angela and
Agricola were standing, he drew up his horse suddenly, sprang lightly to
the ground, and threw the golden reins to a servant in livery, who
followed also on horseback.

"Where shall I wait for your grace?" asked the groom.

"At the end of the avenue," said the marshal.

And, uncovering his head respectfully, he advanced hastily with his hat
in his hand, to meet a person whom Angela and Agricola had not previously
perceived.  This person soon appeared at a turn of the avenue; he was an
old man, with an energetic, intelligent countenance.  He wore a very neat
blouse, and a cloth cap over his long, white hair.  With his hands in his
pocket, he was quietly smoking an old meerschaum pipe.

"Good-morning, father," said the marshal, respectfully, as he
affectionately embraced the old workman, who, having tenderly returned
the pressure, said to him: "Put on your hat, my boy.  But how gay we
are!" added he, with a smile.

"I have just been to a review, father, close by; and I took the
opportunity to call on you as soon as possible."

"But shall I then not see my granddaughters to-day, as I do every

"They are coming in a carriage, father, and Dagobert accompanies them."

"But what is the matter? you appear full of thought."

"Indeed, father," said the marshal, with a somewhat agitated air, "I have
serious things to talk about."

"Come in, then," said the old man, with some anxiety.  The marshal and
his father disappeared at the turn of the avenue.

Angela had been struck with amazement at seeing this brilliant General,
who was entitled "your grace," salute an old workman in a blouse as his
father; and, looking at Agricola with a confused air she said to him:
"What, M. Agricola! this old workman--"

"Is the father of Marshal Duke de Ligny--the friend--yes, I may say the
friend," added Agricola, with emotion, "of my father, who for twenty
years served under him in war.'

"To be placed so high, and yet to be so respectful and tender to his
father!" said Angela.  "The marshal must have a very noble heart; but why
does he let his father remain a workman?"

"Because Father Simon will not quit his trade and the factory for
anything in the world.  He was born a workman, and he will die a workman,
though he is the father of a duke and marshal of France."

[29] See Adolphe Bobierre "On Air and Health," Paris, 1844.



When the very natural astonishment which the arrival of Marshal Simon had
caused in Angela had passed away, Agricola said to her with a smile: "I
do not wish to take advantage of this circumstance, Mdlle. Angela, to
spare you the account of the secret, by which all the wonders of our
Common Dwelling-house are brought to pass."

"Oh! I should not have let you forget your promise, M. Agricola,"
answered Angela, "what you have already told me interests me too much for

"Listen, then.  M. Hardy, like a true magician, has pronounced three
cabalistic words: ASSOCIATION--COMMUNITY--FRATERNITY.  We have understood
the sense of these words, and the wonders you have seen have sprung from
them, to our great advantage; and also, I repeat, to the great advantage
of M. Hardy."

"It is that which appears so extraordinary, M. Agricola."

"Suppose, mademoiselle, that M. Hardy, instead of being what he is, had
only been a cold-hearted speculator, looking merely to the profit, and
saying to himself: 'To make the most of my factory, what is needed?  Good
work--great economy in the raw material--full employment of the workman's
time; in a word, cheapness of manufacture, in order to produce cheaply--
excellence of the thing produced, in order to sell dear.'"

"Truly, M. Agricola, no manufacturer could desire more."

"Well, mademoiselle, these conditions might have been fulfilled, as they
have been, but how?  Had M. Hardy only been a speculator, he might have
said: 'At a distance from my factory, my workmen might have trouble to
get there: rising earlier, they will sleep less; it is a bad economy to
take from the sleep so necessary to those who toil.  When they get
feeble, the work suffers for it; then the inclemency of the seasons makes
it worse; the workman arrives wet, trembling with cold, enervated before
he begins to work--and then, what work!'"

"It is unfortunately but too true, M. Agricola.  At Lille, when I reached
the factory, wet through with a cold rain, I used sometimes to shiver all
day long at my work."

"Therefore, Mdlle. Angela, the speculator might say: 'To lodge my workmen
close to the door of my factory would obviate this inconvenience.  Let us
make the calculation.  In Paris the married workman pays about two
hundred and fifty francs a-year,[30] for one or two wretched rooms and a
closet, dark, small, unhealthy, in a narrow, miserable street; there he
lives pell-mell with his family.  What ruined constitutions are the
consequence! and what sort of work can you expect from a feverish and
diseased creature?  As for the single men, they pay for a smaller, and
quite as unwholesome lodging, about one hundred and fifty francs a-year.
Now, let us make the addition.  I employ one hundred and forty-six
married workmen, who pay together, for their wretched holes, thirty-six
thousand five hundred francs; I employ also one hundred and fifteen
bachelors, who pay at the rate of seventeen thousand two hundred and
eighty francs; the total will amount to about fifty thousand francs per
annum, the interest on a million."'

"Dear me, M. Agricola! what a sum to be produced by uniting all these
little rents together!"

"You see, mademoiselle, that fifty thousand francs a-year is a
millionaire's rent.  Now, what says our speculator: To induce our workmen
to leave Paris, I will offer them, enormous advantages.  I will reduce
their rent one-half, and, instead of small, unwholesome rooms, they shall
have large, airy apartments, well-warmed and lighted, at a trifling
charge.  Thus, one hundred and forty-six families, paying me only one
hundred and twenty-five francs a-year, and one hundred and fifteen
bachelors, seventy-five francs, I shall have a total of twenty-six to
twenty-seven thousand francs.  Now, a building large enough to hold all
these people would cost me at most five hundred thousand francs.[31] I
shall then have invested my money at five per cent at the least, and with
perfect security, since the wages is a guarantee for the payment of the

"Ah, M. Agricola! I begin to understand how it may sometimes be
advantageous to do good, even in a pecuniary sense."

"And I am almost certain, mademoiselle, that, in the long run, affairs
conducted with uprightness and honesty turn out well.  But to return to
our speculator.  'Here,' will he say, 'are my workmen, living close to my
factory, well lodged, well warmed, and arriving always fresh at their
work.  That is not all; the English workman who eats good beef, and
drinks good beer, does twice as much, in the same time, as the French
workman,[32] reduced to a detestable kind of food, rather weakening than
the reverse, thanks to the poisonous adulteration of the articles he
consumes.  My workmen will then labor much better, if they eat much
better.  How shall I manage it without loss?  Now I think of it, what is
the food in barracks, schools, even prisons?  Is it not the union of
individual resources which procures an amount of comfort impossible to
realize without such an association?  Now, if my two hundred and sixty
workmen, instead of cooking two hundred and sixty detestable dinners,
were to unite to prepare one good dinner for all of them, which might be
done, thanks to the savings of all sorts that would ensue, what an
advantage for me and them!  Two or three women, aided by children, would
suffice to make ready the daily repasts; instead of buying wood and
charcoal in fractions,[33] and so paying for it double its value, the
association of my workmen would, upon my security (their wages would be
an efficient security for me in return), lay in their own stock of wood,
flour, butter, oil, wine, etc., all which they would procure directly
from the producers.  Thus, they would pay three or four sous for a bottle
of pure wholesome wine, instead of paying twelve or fifteen sous for
poison.  Every week the association would buy a whole ox, and some sheep,
and the women would make bread, as in the country.  Finally, with these
resources, and order, and economy, my workmen may have wholesome,
agreeable, and sufficient food, for from twenty to twenty-five sous a

"Ah! this explains it, M. Agricola."

"It is not all, mademoiselle.  Our cool-headed speculator would continue:
'Here are my workmen well lodged, well warmed, well fed, with a saving of
at least half; why should they not also be warmly clad?  Their health
will then have every chance of being good, and health is labor.  The
association will buy wholesale, and at the manufacturing price (still
upon my security, secured to me by their wages), warm, good, strong
materials, which a portion of the workmen's wives will be able to make
into clothes as well as any tailor.  Finally, the consumption of caps and
shoes being considerable, the association will obtain them at a great
reduction in price.'  Well, Mdlle. Angela! what do you say to our

"I say, M. Agricola," answered the young girl; with ingenuous admiration,
"that it is almost incredible, and yet so simple!"

"No doubt, nothing is more simple than the good and beautiful, and yet we
think of it so seldom.  Observe, that our man has only been speaking with
a view to his own interest--only considering the material side of the
question--reckoning for nothing the habit of fraternity and mutual aid,
which inevitably springs from living together in common--not reflecting
that a better mode of life improves and softens the character of man--not
thinking of the support and instruction which the strong owe to the weak-
--not acknowledging, in fine, that the honest, active, and industrious
man has a positive right to demand employment from society, and wages
proportionate to the wants of his condition.  No, our speculator only
thinks of the gross profits; and yet, you see, he invests his money in
buildings at five per cent., and finds the greatest advantages in the
material comfort of his workmen."

"It is true, M. Agricola."

"And what will you say, mademoiselle, when I prove to you that our
speculator finds also a great advantage in giving to his workmen, in
addition to their regular wages, a proportionate share of his profits?"

"That appears to me more difficult to prove, M. Agricola."

"Yet I will convince you of it in a few minutes."

Thus conversing, Angela and Agricola had reached the garden-gate of the
Common Dwelling-house.  An elderly woman, dressed plainly, but with care
and neatness, approached Agricola, and asked him: "Has M. Hardy returned
to the factory, sir?"

"No, madame; but we expect him hourly."

"To-day, perhaps?"

"To-day or to-morrow, madame."

"You cannot tell me at what hour he will be here?"

"I do not think it is known, madame, but the porter of the factory, who
also belongs to M. Hardy's private house, may, perhaps, be able to inform

"I thank you, sir."

"Quite welcome, madame."

"M. Agricola," said Angela, when the woman who had just questioned him
was gone, "did you remark that this lady was very pale and agitated?"

"I noticed it as you did, mademoiselle; I thought I saw tears standing in
her eyes."

"Yes, she seemed to have been crying.  Poor woman! perhaps she came to
ask assistance of M. Hardy.  But what ails you, M. Agricola?  You appear
quite pensive."

Agricola had a vague presentiment that the visit of this elderly woman
with so sad a countenance, had some connection with the adventure of the
young and pretty lady, who, three days before had come all agitated and
in tears to inquire after M. Hardy, and who had learned--perhaps too
late--that she was watched and followed.

"Forgive me, mademoiselle," said Agricola to Angela; but the presence of
this old lady reminded me of a circumstance, which, unfortunately, I
cannot tell you, for it is a secret that does not belong to me alone."

"Oh! do not trouble yourself, M. Agricola," answered the young girl, with
a smile; "I am not inquisitive, and what we were talking of before
interests me so much, that I do not wish to hear you speak of anything

"Well, then mademoiselle, I will say a few words more, and you will be as
well informed as I am of the secrets of our association."

"I am listening, M. Agricola."

"Let us still keep in view the speculator from mere interest.  'Here are
my workmen, says he, 'in the best possible condition to do a great deal
of work.  Now what is to be done to obtain large profits?  Produce
cheaply, and sell dear.  But there will be no cheapness, without economy
in the use of the raw material, perfection of the manufacturing process,
and celerity of labor.  Now, in spite of all my vigilance, how am I to
prevent my workmen from wasting the materials?  How am I to induce them,
each in his own province, to seek for the most simple and least irksome

"True, M. Agricola; how is that to be done?"

"'And that is not all,' says our man; 'to sell my produce at high prices,
it should be irreproachable, excellent.  My workmen do pretty well; but
that is not enough.  I want them to produce masterpieces.'"

"But, M. Agricola, when they have once performed the task set them what
interest have workmen to give themselves a great deal of trouble to
produce masterpieces?"

"There it is, Mdlle. Angela; what interest have they?  Therefore, our
speculator soon says to himself: 'That my workmen may have an interest to
be economical in the use of the materials, an interest to employ their
time well, an interest to invent new and better manufacturing processes,
an interest to send out of their hands nothing but masterpieces--I must

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: