List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew v9, by Eugene Sue
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"Agreed!" answered Morok.

"Come, gentlemen, attention! we must follow every movement," resumed
Ninny Moulin.  "Let us first see if the bottles are of the same size--
equality of weapons being the foremost condition."

During these preparations, profound silence reigned in the room.  The
courage of the majority of those present, animated for a moment by the
arrival of the punch, was soon again depressed by gloomy thoughts, as
they vaguely foresaw the danger of the contest between Morok and Jacques.
This impression joined to the sad thoughts occasioned by the incident of
the coffin, darkened by degrees many a countenance.  Some of the guests,
indeed, continued to make a show of rejoicing, but their gayety appeared
forced.  Under certain circumstances, the smallest things will have the
most powerful effect.  We have said that, after sunset, a portion of this
large room was plunged in obscurity; therefore, the guests who sat in the
remote corners of the apartment, had no other light than the reflection
of the flaming punch.  Now it is well known, that the flame of burning
spirit throws a livid, bluish tint over the countenance; it was therefore
a strange, almost frightful spectacle, to see a number of the guests, who
happened to be at a distance from the windows, in this ghastly and
fantastic light.

The painter, more struck than all the rest by this effect of color,
exclaimed: "Look! at this end of the table, we might fancy ourselves
feasting with cholera-patients, we are such fine blues and greens."

This jest was not much relished.  Fortunately, the loud voice of Ninny
Moulin demanded attention, and for a moment turned the thoughts of the

"The lists are open," cried the religious writer, really more frightened
than he chose to appear.  "Are you ready, brave champions?" he added.

"We are ready," said Morok and Jacques.

"Present! fire!" cried Ninny Moulin, clapping his hands.  And the two
drinkers each emptied a tumbler full of brandy at a draught.

Morok did not even knit his brow; his marble face remained impassible;
with a steady hand he replaced his glass upon the table.  But Jacques, as
he put down his glass, could not conceal a slight convulsive trembling,
caused by internal suffering.

"Bravely done!" cried Ninny Moulin.  "The quarter of a bottle of brandy
at a draught--it is glorious! No one else here would be capable of such
prowess.  And now, worthy champions, if you believe me, you will stop
where you are."

"Give the word!" answered Jacques, intrepidly.  And, with feverish and
shaking hand, he seized the bottle; then suddenly, instead of filling his
glass, he said to Morok: "Bah! we want no glasses.  It is braver to drink
from the bottle.  I dare you to it!"

Morok's only answer was to shrug his shoulders, and raise the neck of the
bottle to his lips.  Jacques hastened to imitate him.  The thin,
yellowish, transparent glass gave a perfect view of the progressive
diminution of the liquor.  The stony countenance of Morok, and the pale
thin face of Jacques, on which already stood large drops of cold sweat,
were now, as well as the features of the other guests, illuminated by the
bluish light of the punch; every eye was fixed upon Morok and Jacques,
with that barbarous curiosity which cruel spectacles seem involuntarily
to inspire.

Jacques continued to drink, holding the bottle in his left hand;
suddenly, he closed and tightened the fingers of his right hand with a
convulsive movement; his hair clung to his icy forehead, and his
countenance revealed an agony of pain.  Yet he continued to drink; only,
without removing his lips from the neck of the bottle, he lowered it for
an instant, as if to recover breath.  Just then, Jacques met the sardonic
look of Morok, who continued to drink with his accustomed impassibility.
Thinking that he saw the expression of insulting triumph in Morok's
glance, Jacques raised his elbow abruptly, and drank with avidity a few
drops more.  But his strength was exhausted.  A quenchless fire devoured
his vitals.  His sufferings were too intense, and he could no longer bear
up against them.  His head fell backwards, his jaws closed convulsively,
he crushed the neck of the bottle between his teeth, his neck grew rigid,
his limbs writhed with spasmodic action, and he became almost senseless.

"Jacques, my good fellow! it is nothing," cried Morok, whose ferocious
glance now sparkled with diabolical joy.  Then, replacing his bottle on
the table, he rose to go to the aid of Ninny Moulin, who was vainly
endeavoring to hold Sleepinbuff.

This sudden attack had none of the symptoms of cholera.  Yet terror
seized upon all present; one of the women was taken with hysterics, and
another uttered piercing cries and fainted away.  Ninny Moulin, leaving
Jacques in the hands of Morok, ran towards the door to seek for help,--
when that door was suddenly opened, and the religious writer drew back in
alarm, at the sight of the unexpected personage who appeared on the



The person before whom Ninny Moulin stopped in such extreme astonishment
was the Bacchanal Queen.

Pale and wan, with, hair in disorder, hollow cheeks, sunken eyes, and
clothed almost in rags, this brilliant and joyous heroine of so many mad
orgies was now only the shadow of her former self.  Misery and grief were
impressed on that countenance, once so charming.  Hardly had she entered
the room, when Cephyse paused; her mournful and unquiet gaze strove to
penetrate the half-obscurity of the apartment, in search of him she
longed to see.  Suddenly the girl started, and uttered a loud scream.
She had just perceived, at the other side of a long table, by the bluish
light of the punch, Jacques struggling with Morok and one of the guests,
who were hardly able to restrain his convulsive movements.

At this sight Cephyse, in her first alarm, carried away by her affection,
did what she had so often done in the intoxication of joy and pleasure.
Light and agile, instead of losing precious time in making a long
circuit, she sprang at once upon the table, passed nimbly through the
array of plates and bottles, and with one spring was by the side of the

"Jacques!" she exclaimed, without yet remarking the lion-tamer, and
throwing herself on the neck of her lover.  "Jacques! it is I--Cephyse!"

That well-known voice, that heart-piercing cry, which came from the
bottom of the soul, seemed not unheard by Sleepinbuff.  He turned his
head mechanically towards the Bacchanal Queen, without opening his eyes,
and heaved a deep sigh; his stiffened limbs relaxed, a slight trembling
succeeded to the convulsions, and in a few seconds his heavy eyelids were
raised with an effort, so as to uncover his dull and wandering gaze.
Mute with astonishment, the spectators of this scene felt an uneasy
curiosity.  Cephyse, kneeling beside her lover, bathed his hands in her
tears, covered them with kisses, and exclaimed, in a voice broken by
sobs, "It is I--Cephyse--I have found you again--it was not my fault that
I abandoned you! Forgive me, forgive--"

"Wretched woman!" cried Morok, irritated at this meeting, which might,
perhaps, be fatal to his projects; "do you wish to kill him?  In his
present state, this agitation is death.  Begone!" So saying, he seized
Cephyse suddenly by the arm, just as Jacques, waking, as it were, from a
painful dream, began to distinguish what was passing around him.

"You! It is you!" cried the Bacchanal Queen, in amazement, as she
recognized Morok, "who separated me from Jacques!"

She paused; for the dim eye of the victim, as it rested upon her, grew
suddenly bright.

"Cephyse!" murmured Jacques; "is it you?"

"Yes, it is I," answered she, in a voice of deep emotion; "who have come-
---I will tell you--"

She was unable to continue, and, as she clasped her hands together, her
pale, agitated, tearful countenance expressed her astonishment and
despair at the mortal change which had taken place in the features of
Jacques.  He understood the cause of her surprise, and as he
contemplated, in his turn, the suffering and emaciated countenance of
Cephyse.  he said to her, "Poor girl! you also have had to bear much
grief, much misery--I should hardly have known you."

"Yes," replied Cephyse, "much grief--much misery--and worse than misery,"
she added, trembling, whilst a deep blush overspread her pale features.

"Worse than misery?" said Jacques, astonished.

"But it is you who have suffered," hastily resumed Cephyse, without
answering her lover.

"Just now, I was going to make an end of it--your voice has recalled me
for an instant--but I feel something here," and he laid his hand upon his
breast, "which never gives quarter.  It is all the same now--I have seen
you--I shall die happy."

"You shall not die, Jacques; I am here--"

"Listen to one, my girl.  If I had a bushel of live coal in my stomach,
it could hardly burn me more.  For more than a month, I have been
consuming my body by a slow fire.  This gentleman," he added, glancing at
Morok, "this dear friend, always undertook to feed the flame.  I do not
regret life; I have lost the habit of work, and taken to drink and riot;
I should have finished by becoming a thorough blackguard: I preferred
that my friend here should amuse himself with lighting a furnace in my
inside.  Since what I drank just now, I am certain that it fumes like
yonder punch."

"You are both foolish and ungrateful," said Morok, shrugging his
shoulders; "you held out your glass, and I filled it--and, faith, we
shall drink long and often together yet."

For some moments, Cephyse had not withdrawn her eyes from Morok.  "I tell
you, that you have long blown the fire, in which I have burnt my skin,"
resumed Jacques, addressing Morok in a feeble voice, "so that they may
not think I die of cholera.  It would look as if I had been frightened by
the part I played.  I do not therefore reproach you, my affectionate
friend," added he, with a sardonic smile; "you dug my grave gayly--and
sometimes, when, seeing the great dark hole, into which I was about to
fall, I drew back a step--but you, my excellent friend, still pushed me
forward, saying, `Go on, my boy, go on!'--and I went on--and here I am--"

So saying, Sleepinbuff burst into a bitter laugh, which sent an icy
shudder through the spectators of this scene.

"My good fellow," said Morok, coolly, "listen to me, and follow my

"Thank you! I know your advice--and, instead of listening to you, I
prefer speaking to my poor Cephyse.  Before I go down to the moles, I
should like to tell her what weighs on my heart."

"Jacques," replied Cephyse, "do not talk so.  I tell you, you shall not

"Why, then, my brave Cephyse, I shall owe my life to you," returned
Jacques, in a tone of serious feeling, which surprised the spectators.
"Yes," resumed he, "when I came to myself, and saw you so poorly clad, I
felt something good about my heart--do you know why?--it was because I
said to myself, `Poor girl! she has kept her word bravely; she has chosen
to toil, and want, and suffer--rather than take another love--who would
have given her what I gave her as long as I could'--and that thought,
Cephyse, refreshed my soul.  I needed it, for I was burning--and I burn
still," added he, clinching his fists with pain; "but that made me happy-
-it did me good--thanks, my good, brave Cephyse--yes, you are good and
brave--and you were right; for I never loved any but you in the wide
world; and if, in my degradation, I had one thought that raised me a
little above the filth, and made me regret that I was not better--the
thought was of you! Thanks then, my poor, dear love," said Jacques, whose
hot and shining eyes were becoming moist; "thanks once again," and he
reached his cold hand to Cephyse; "if I die, I shall die happy--if I
live, I shall live happy also.  Give me your hand, my brave Cephyse!--you
have acted like a good and honest creature."

Instead of taking the hand which Jacques offered her, Cephyse, still
kneeling, bowed her head, and dared not raise her eyes to her lover.

"You don't answer," said he, leaning over towards the young girl; "you
don't take my hand--why is this?"

The unfortunate creature only answered by stifled sobs.  Borne down with
shame, she held herself in so humble, so supplicating an attitude, that
her forehead almost touched the feet of her lover.

Amazed at the silence and conduct of the Bacchanal Queen, Jacques looked
at her with increasing agitation; suddenly he stammered out with
trembling lips, "Cephyse, I know you.  If you do not take my hand, it is

Then, his voice failing, he added, in a dull tone, after a moment's
silence, "When, six weeks ago, I was taken to prison, did you not say to
me, 'Jacques, I swear that I will work--and if need be, live in horrible
misery--but I will live true!' That was your promise.  Now, I know you
never speak false; tell me you have kept your word, and I shall believe

Cephyse only answered by a heart-rending sob, as she pressed the knees of
Jacques against her heaving bosom.  By a strange contradiction, more
common than is generally thought--this man, degraded by intoxication and
debauchery, who, since he came out of prison, had plunged in every
excess, and tamely yielded to all the fatal incitements of Morok, yet
received a fearful blow, when he learned, by the mute avowal of Cephyse,
the infidelity, of this creature, whom he had loved in spite of
degradation.  The first impulse of Jacques was terrible.  Notwithstanding
his weakness and exhaustion, he succeeded in rising from his seat, and,
with a countenance contracted by rage and despair, he seized a knife,
before they had time to prevent him, and turned it upon Cephyse.  But at
the moment he was about to strike, shrinking from an act of murder, he
hurled the knife far away from him, and falling back into the chair,
covered his face with his hands.

At the cry of Ninny Moulin, who had, though late, thrown himself upon
Jacques to take away the knife, Cephyse raised her head: Jacques's woeful
dejection wrung her heart; she rose, and fell upon his neck,
notwithstanding his resistance, exclaiming in a voice broken by sobs,
"Jacques, if you knew! if you only knew--listen--do not condemn me
without hearing me--I will tell you all, I swear to you--without
falsehood--this man," and she pointed to Morok, "will not dare deny what
I say; he came, and told me to have the courage to--"

"I do not reproach you.  I have no right to reproach you.  Let me die in
peace.  I ask nothing but that now," said Jacques, in a still weaker
voice, as he repulsed Cephyse.  Then he added, with a grievous and bitter
smile, "Luckily, I have my dose.  I knew--what I was doing--when I
accepted the duel with brandy."

"No, you shall not die, and you shall hear me," cried Cephyse, with a
bewildered air; "you shall hear me, and everybody else shall hear me.
They shall see that it is not my fault.  Is it not so, gentlemen?  Do I
not deserve pity?  You will entreat Jacques to forgive me; for if driven
by misery--finding no work--I was forced to this--not for the sake of any

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