List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V1, by Eugene Sue
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

like cheeks.  A carnation, bathed in dew, is of no richer softness than
their blooming lips; the wood violet's tender blue would appear dark
beside the limpid azure of their large eyes, in which are depicted the
sweetness of their characters, and the innocence of their age; a pure and
white forehead, small nose, dimpled chin, complete these graceful
countenances, which present a delightful blending of candor and

You should have seen them too, when, on the threatening of rain or storm,
the old soldier carefully wrapped them both in a large pelisse of
reindeer fur, and pulled over their heads the ample hood of this
impervious garment; then nothing could be more lovely than those fresh
and smiling little faces, sheltered beneath the dark-colored cowl.

But now the evening was fine and calm; the heavy cloak hung in folds
about the knees of the sisters, and the hood rested on the back of their

Rose, still encircling with her right arm the waist of her sleeping
sister, contemplated her with an expression of ineffable tenderness, akin
to maternal; for Rose was the eldest for the day, and an elder sister is
almost a mother.

Not only, did the orphans idolize each other; but, by a psychological
phenomenon, frequent with twins, they were almost always simultaneously
affected; the emotion of one was reflected instantly in the countenance
of the other; the same cause would make both of them start or blush, so
closely did their young hearts beat in unison; all ingenuous joys, all
bitter griefs were mutually felt, and shared in a moment between them.

In their infancy, simultaneously attacked by a severe illness, like two
flowers on the same steam, they had drooped, grown pale, and languished
together; but together also had they again found the pure, fresh hues of

Need it be said, that those mysterious, indissoluble links which united
the twins, could not have been broken without striking a mortal blow at
the existence of the poor children?

Thus the sweet birds called love-birds, only living in pairs, as if
endowed with a common life, pine, despond, and die, when parted by a
barbarous hand.

The guide of the orphans, a man of about fifty-five, distinguished by
his military air and gait, preserved the immortal type of the warriors of
the republic and the empire--some heroic of the people, who became, in
one campaign, the first soldiers in the world--to prove what the people
can do, have done, and will renew, when the rulers of their choice place
in them confidence, strength, and their hope.

This soldier, guide of the sisters, and formerly a horse-grenadier of the
Imperial Guard, had been nicknamed Dagobert.  His grave, stern
countenance was strongly marked; his long, gray, and thick moustache
completely concealed his upper lip, and united with a large imperial,
which almost covered his chin; his meagre cheeks, brick-colored, and
tanned as parchment, were carefully shaven; thick eyebrows, still black,
overhung and shaded his light blue eyes; gold ear-rings reached down to
his white-edged military stock; his topcoat, of coarse gray cloth, was
confined at the waist by a leathern belt; and a blue foraging cap, with a
red tuft falling on his left shoulder, covered his bald head.

Once endowed with the strength of Hercules, and having still the heart of
a lion--kind and patient, because he was courageous and strong--Dagobert,
notwithstanding his rough exterior, evinced for his orphan charges an
exquisite solicitude, a watchful kindness, and a tenderness almost
maternal.  Yes, motherly; for the heroism of affection dwells alike in
the mother's heart and the soldiers.

Stoically calm, and repressing all emotion, the unchangeable coolness of
Dagobert never failed him; and, though few were less given to drollery,
he was now and then highly comic, by reason of the imperturbable gravity
with which he did everything.

From time to time, as they journeyed on, Dagobert would turn to bestow a
caress or friendly word on the good white home upon which the orphans
were mounted.  Its furrowed sides and long teeth betrayed a venerable
age.  Two deep scars, one on the flank and the other on the chest, proved
that his horse had been present in hot battles; nor was it without an act
of pride that he sometimes shook his old military bridle, the brass stud
of which was still adorned with an embossed eagle.  His pace was regular,
careful, and steady; his coat sleek, and his bulk moderate; the abundant
foam, which covered his bit, bore witness to that health which horses
acquire by the constant, but not excessive, labor of a long journey,
performed by short stages.  Although he had been more than six months on
the road, this excellent animal carried the orphans, with a tolerably
heavy portmanteau fastened to the saddle, as freely as on the day they

If we have spoken of the excessive length of the horse's teeth--the
unquestionable evidence of great age--it is chiefly because he often
displayed them, for the sole purpose of acting up to his name (he was
called Jovial), by playing a mischievous trick, of which the dog was the

This latter, who, doubtless for the sake of contrast, was called
Spoil-sport (Rabat-joie), being always at his master's heels, found
himself within the reach of Jovial, who from time to time nipped him
delicately by the nape of the neck, lifted him from the ground, and
carried him thus for a moment.  The dog, protected by his thick coat, and
no doubt long accustomed to the practical jokes of his companion,
submitted to all this with stoical complacency; save that, when he
thought the jest had lasted long enough, he would turn his head and
growl. Jovial understood him at the first hint, and hastened to set him
down again.  At other times, just to avoid monotony, Jovial would gently
bite the knapsack of the soldier, who seemed, as well as the dog, to be
perfectly accustomed to his pleasantries.

These details will give a notion of the excellent understanding that
existed between the twin sisters, the old soldier, the horse, and the

The little caravan proceeded on its ways anxious to reach, before night,
the village of Mockern, which was now visible on the summit of a hill.
Ever and anon, Dagobert looked around him, and seemed to be gathering up
old recollections; by degrees, his countenance became clouded, and when
he was at a little distance from the mill, the noise of which had
arrested his attention, he stopped, and drew his long moustache several
times between his finger and thumb, the only sign which revealed in him
any strong and concentrated feeling.

Jovial, having stopped short behind his master, Blanche, awakened
suddenly by the shock, raised her head; her first look sought her sister,
on whom she smiled sweetly; then both exchanged glances of surprise, on
seeing Dagobert motionless, with his hands clasped and resting on his
long staff, apparently affected by some painful and deep emotion.

The orphans just chanced to be at the foot of a little mound, the summit
of which was buried in the thick foliage of a huge oak, planted half way
down the slope.  Perceiving that Dagobert continued motionless and
absorbed in thought, Rose leaned over her saddle, and, placing her little
white hand on the shoulder of their guide, whose back was turned towards
her, said to him, in a soft voice, "Whatever is the matter with you,

The veteran turned; to the great astonishment of the sisters, they
perceived a large tear, which traced its humid furrow down his tanned
cheek, and lost itself in his thick moustache.

"You weeping--you!" cried Rose and Blanche together, deeply moved.
"Tell us, we beseech, what is the matter?"

After a moments hesitation, the soldier brushed his horny hand across his
eyes, and said to the orphans in a faltering voice, whilst he pointed to
the old oak beside them: "I shall make you sad, my poor children: and yet
what I'm going to tell you has something sacred in it.  Well, eighteen
years ago, on the eve of the great battle of Leipsic, I carried your
father to this very tree.  He had two sabre-cuts on the head, a musket-
ball in his shoulder; and it was here that he and I--who had got two
thrust of a lance for my share--were taken prisoners; and by whom, worse
luck?--why, a renegado!  By a Frenchman--an emigrant marquis, then
colonel in the service of Russia--and who afterwards--but one day you
shall know all."

The veteran paused; then, pointing with his staff to the village of
Mockern, he added: "Yes, yes, I can recognize the spot.  Yonder are the
heights where your brave father--who commanded us, and the Poles of the
Guard--overthrew the Russian Cuirassiers, after having carried the
battery.  Ah, my children!" continued the soldier, with the utmost
simplicity, "I wish you had, seen your brave father, at the head of our
brigade of horse, rushing on in a desperate charge in the thick of a
shower of shells!--There was nothing like it--not a soul so grand as he!"

Whilst Dagobert thus expressed, in his own way, his regrets and
recollections, the two orphans--by a spontaneous movement, glided gently
from the horse, and holding each other by the hand, went together to
kneel at the foot of the old oak.  And there, closely pressed in each
other's arms, they began to weep; whilst the soldier, standing behind
them, with his hands crossed on his long staff, rested his bald
front upon it.

"Come, come you must not fret," said he softly, when, after a pause of a
few minutes, he saw tears run down the blooming cheeks of Rose and
Blanche, still on their knees.  "Perhaps we may find General Simon in
Paris," added he; "I will explain all that to you this evening at the
inn.  I purposely waited for this day, to tell you many things about your
father; it was an idea of mine, because this day is a sort of

"We weep because we think also of our mother," said Rose.

"Of our mother, whom we shall only see again in heaven," added Blanche.

The soldier raised the orphans, took each by the hand, and gazing from
one to the other with ineffable affection, rendered still the more
touching by the contrast of his rude features, "You must not give way
thus, my children," said he; "it is true your mother was the best of
women.  When she lived in Poland, they called her the Pearl of Warsaw--it
ought to have been the Pearl of the Whole World--for in the whole world
you could not have found her match.  No--no!"

The voice of Dagobert faltered; he paused, and drew his long gray
moustache between finger and thumb, as was his habit.  "Listen, my
girls," he resumed, when he had mastered his emotion; "your mother could
give you none but the best advice, eh?"

"Yes Dagobert."

"Well, what instructions did she give you before she died?  To think
often of her, but without grieving?"

"It is true; she told us than our Father in heaven, always good to poor
mothers whose children are left on earth, would permit her to hear us
from above," said Blanche.

"And that her eyes would be ever fixed upon us," added Rose.

And the two, by a spontaneous impulse, replete with the most touching
grace, joined hands, raised their innocent looks to heaven, and
exclaimed, with that beautiful faith natural to their age: "Is it not so,
mother?--thou seest us?--thou hearest us?"

"Since your mother sees and hears you," said Dagobert, much moved, "do
not grieve her by fretting.  She forbade you to do so."

"You are right, Dagobert.  We will not cry any more."--And the orphans
dried their eyes.

Dagobert, in the opinion of the devout, would have passed for a very
heathen.  In Spain, he had found pleasure in cutting down those monks of
all orders and colors, who, bearing crucifix in one hand, and poniard in
the other, fought not for liberty--the Inquisition had strangled her
centuries ago--but, for their monstrous privileges.  Yet, in forty years,
Dagobert had witnessed so many sublime and awful scenes--he had been so
many times face to face with death--that the instinct of natural
religion, common to every simple, honest heart, had always remained
uppermost in his soul.  Therefore, though he did not share in the
consoling faith of the two sisters, he would have held as criminal any
attempt to weaken its influence.

Seeing them this downcast, he thus resumed: "That's right, my pretty
ones: I prefer to hear you chat as you did this morning and yesterday--
laughing at times, and answering me when I speak, instead of being so
much engrossed with your own talk.  Yes, yes, my little ladies! you seem
to have had famous secrets together these last two days--so, much the
better, if it amuses you."

The sisters colored, and exchanged a subdued smile, which contrasted with
the tears that yet filled their eyes, and Rose said to the soldier, with
a little embarrassment.  "No, I assure you, Dagobert, we talk of nothing
in particular."

"Well, well; I don't wish to know it.  Come, rest yourselves, a few
moments more, and then we must start again; for it grows late, and we
have to reach Mockern before night, so that we may be early on the road

"Have we still a long, long way to go?" asked Rose.

"What, to reach Paris?  Yes, my children; some hundred days' march.  We
don't travel quick, but we get on; and we travel cheap, because we have a
light purse.  A closet for you, a straw mattress and a blanket at your
door for me, with Spoil-sport on my feet, and a clean litter for old
Jovial, these are our whole traveling expenses.  I say nothing about
food, because you two together don't eat more than a mouse, and I have
learnt in Egypt and Spain to be hungry only when it suits."

"Not forgetting that, to save still more, you do all the cooking for us,
and will not even let us assist."

"And to think, good Dagobert, that you wash almost every evening at our
resting-place.  As if it were not for us to--"

"You!" said the soldier, interrupting Blanche, "I, allow you to chap your
pretty little hands in soap-suds!  Pooh! don't a soldier on a campaign
always wash his own linen?  Clumsy as you see me, I was the best
washerwoman in my squadron--and what a hand at ironing!  Not to make a
brag of it."

"Yes, yes--you can iron well--very well."

"Only sometimes, there will be a little singe," said Rose, smiling.

"Hah! when the iron is too hot.  Zounds!  I may bring it as near my cheek
as I please; my skin is so tough that I don't feel the heat," said
Dagobert, with imperturbable gravity.

"We are only jesting, good Dagobert!"

"Then, children, if you think that I know my trade as a washerwoman, let
me continue to have your custom: it is cheaper; and, on a journey, poor
people like us should save where we can, for we must, at all events, keep
enough to reach Paris.  Once there, our papers and the medal you wear
will do the rest--I hope so, at least."

"This medal is sacred to us; mother gave it to us on her death-bed."

"Therefore, take great care that you do not lose it: see, from time to
time, that you have it safe."

"Here it is," said Blanche, as she drew from her bosom a small bronze
medal, which she wore suspended from her neck by a chain of the same

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: