List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V2, by Eugene Sue
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insignificant earnings, notwithstanding her incessant toil, exposed her
to--privations which often bordered on starvation--Cephyse, young,
pretty, of warm temperament, and surrounded by brilliant offers and
seductions--brilliant, indeed, for her, since they offered food to
satisfy her hunger, shelter from the cold, and decent raiment, without
being obliged to work fifteen hours a day in an obscure and unwholesome
hovel--Cephyse listened to the vows of a young lawyer's clerk, who
forsook her soon after.  She formed a connection with another clerk, whom
she (instructed by the examples set her), forsook in turn for a bagman,
whom she afterwards cast off for other favorites.  In a word, what with
changing and being forsaken, Cephyse, in the course of one or two years,
was the idol of a set of grisettes, students and clerks; and acquired
such a reputation at the balls on the Hampstead Heaths of Paris, by her
decision of character, original turn of mind, and unwearied ardor in all
kinds of pleasures, and especially her wild, noisy gayety, that she was
termed the Bacchanal Queen, and proved herself in every way worthy of
this bewildering royalty.

From that time poor Mother Bunch only heard of her sister at rare
intervals.  She still mourned for her, and continued to toil hard to gain
her three-and-six a week.  The unfortunate girl, having been taught
sewing by Frances, made coarse shirts for the common people and the army.
For these she received half-a-crown a dozen.  They had to be hemmed,
stitched, provided with collars and wristbands, buttons, and button-
holes; and at the most, when at work twelve and fifteen hours a day, she
rarely succeeded in turning out more than fourteen or sixteen shirts a
week--an excessive amount of toil that brought her in about three
shillings and fourpence a week.  And the case of this poor girl was
neither accidental nor uncommon.  And this, because the remuneration
given for women's work is an example of revolting injustice and savage
barbarism.  They are paid not half as much as men who are employed at the
needle: such as tailors, and makers of gloves, or waistcoats, etc.--no
doubt because women can work as well as men--because they are more weak
and delicate--and because their need may be twofold as great when they
become mothers.

Well, Mother Bunch fagged on, with three-and-four a week.  That is to
say, toiling hard for twelve or fifteen hours every day; she succeeded in
keeping herself alive, in spite of exposure to hunger, cold, and poverty-
-so numerous were her privations.  Privations?  No!  The word privation
expresses but weakly that constant and terrible want of all that is
necessary to preserve the existence God gives; namely, wholesome air and
shelter, sufficient and nourishing food and warm clothing.  Mortification
would be a better word to describe that total want of all that is
essentially vital, which a justly organized state of society ought--yes--
ought necessarily to bestow on every active, honest workman and
workwoman, since civilization has dispossessed them of all territorial
right, and left them no other patrimony than their hands.

The savage does not enjoy the advantage of civilization; but he has, at
least, the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the fish of the
sea, and the fruits of the earth, to feed him, and his native woods for
shelter and for fuel.  The civilized man, disinherited of these gifts,
considering the rights of property as sacred, may, in return for his hard
daily labor, which enriches his country, demand wages that will enable
him to live in the enjoyment of health: nothing more, and nothing less.
For is it living, to drag along on the extreme edge which separates life
from the grave, and even there continually struggle against cold, hunger,
and disease?  And to show how far the mortification which society imposes
thus inexorably on its millions of honest, industrious laborers (by its
careless disregard of all the questions which concern the just
remuneration of labor), may extend, we will describe how this poor girl
contrived to live on three shillings and sixpence a week.

Society, perhaps, may then feel its obligation to so many unfortunate
wretches for supporting, with resignation, the horrible existence which
leaves them just sufficient life to feel the worst pangs of humanity.
Yes: to live at such a price is virtue!  Yes, society thus organized,
whether it tolerates or imposes so much misery, loses all right to blame
the poor wretches who sell themselves not through debauchery, but because
they are cold and famishing.  This poor girl spent her wages as follows:

        Six pounds of bread, second quality . . . . . . . .0 8 1/2
        Four pails of water . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 2
        Lard or dripping (butter being out of the question)0 5
        Coarse salt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 0 3/4
        A bushel of charcoal  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 4
        A quart of dried vegetables . . . . . . . . . . . .0 3
        Three quarts of potatoes. . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 2
        Dips. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 3 1/4
        Thread and needles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 2 1/2
                                                           2 7

To save charcoal, Mother Bunch prepared soup only two or three times a
week at most, on a stove that stood on the landing of the fourth story.
On other days she ate it cold.  There remained nine or ten pence a week
for clothes and lodging.  By rare good fortune, her situation was in one
respect an exception to the lot of many others.  Agricola, that he might
not wound her delicacy, had come to a secret arrangement with the
housekeeper, and hired a garret for her, just large enough to hold a
small bed, a chair, and a table; for which the sempstress had to pay five
shillings a year.  But Agricola, in fulfilment of his agreement with the
porter, paid the balance, to make up the actual rent of the garret, which
was twelve and sixpence.  The poor girl had thus about eighteenpence a
month left for her other expenses.  But many workwomen, whose position is
less fortunate than hers, since they have neither home nor family, buy a
piece of bread and some other food to keep them through the day; and at
night patronize the "twopenny rope," one with another, in a wretched room
containing five or six beds, some of which are always engaged by men, as
male lodgers are by far the most abundant.  Yes; and in spite of the
disgust that a poor and virtuous girl must feel at this arrangement, she
must submit to it; for a lodging-house keeper cannot have separate rooms
for females.  To furnish a room, however meanly, the poor workwoman must
possess three or four shillings in ready money.  But how save this sum,
out of weekly earnings of a couple of florins, which are scarcely
sufficient to keep her from starving, and are still less sufficient to
clothe her?  No! no!  The poor wretch must resign herself to this
repugnant cohabitation; and so, gradually, the instinct of modesty
becomes weakened; the natural sentiment of chastity, that saved her from
the "gay life," becomes extinct; vice appears to be the only means of
improving her intolerable condition; she yields; and the first "man made
of money," who can afford a governess for his children, cries out against
the depravity of the lower orders!  And yet, painful as the condition of
the working woman is, it is relatively fortunate.  Should work fail her
for one day, two days, what then?  Should sickness come--sickness almost
always occasioned by unwholesome food, want of fresh air, necessary
attention, and good rest; sickness, often so enervating as to render work
impossible; though not so dangerous as to procure the sufferer a bed in
an hospital--what becomes of the hapless wretches then?  The mind
hesitates, and shrinks from dwelling on such gloomy pictures.

This inadequacy of wages, one terrible source only of so many evils, and
often of so many vices, is general, especially among women; and, again
this is not private wretchedness, but the wretchedness which afflicts
whole classes, the type of which we endeavor to develop in Mother Bunch.
It exhibits the moral and physical condition of thousands of human
creatures in Paris, obliged to subsist on a scanty four shillings a week.
This poor workwoman, then, notwithstanding the advantages she unknowingly
enjoyed through Agricola's generosity, lived very miserably; and her
health, already shattered, was now wholly undermined by these constant
hardships.  Yet, with extreme delicacy, though ignorant of the little
sacrifice already made for her by Agricola, Mother Bunch pretended she
earned more than she really did, in order to avoid offers of service
which it would have pained her to accept, because she knew the limited
means of Frances and her son, and because it would have wounded her
natural delicacy, rendered still more sensitive by so many sorrows and

But, singular as it may appear, this deformed body contained a loving and
generous soul--a mind cultivated even to poetry; and let us add, that
this was owing to the example of Agricola Baudoin, with whom she had been
brought up, and who had naturally the gift.  This poor girl was the first
confidant to whom our young mechanic imparted his literary essays; and
when he told her of the charm and extreme relief he found in poetic
reverie, after a day of hard toil, the workwoman, gifted with strong
natural intelligence, felt, in her turn, how great a resource this would
be to her in her lonely and despised condition.

One day, to Agricola's great surprise, who had just read some verses to
her, the sewing-girl, with smiles and blushes, timidly communicated to
him also a poetic composition.  Her verses wanted rhythm and harmony,
perhaps; but they were simple and affecting, as a non-envenomed complaint
entrusted to a friendly hearer.  From that day Agricola and she held
frequent consultations; they gave each other mutual encouragement: but
with this exception, no one else knew anything of the girl's poetical
essays, whose mild timidity made her often pass for a person of weak
intellect.  This soul must have been great and beautiful, for in all her
unlettered strains there was not a word of murmuring respecting her hard
lot: her note was sad, but gentle--desponding, but resigned; it was
especially the language of deep tenderness--of mournful sympathy--of
angelic charity for all poor creatures consigned, like her, to bear the
double burden of poverty and deformity.  Yet she often expressed a
sincere free-spoken admiration of beauty, free from all envy or
bitterness; she admired beauty as she admired the sun.  But, alas! many
were the verses of hers that Agricola had never seen, and which he was
never to see.

The young mechanic, though not strictly handsome, had an open masculine
face; was as courageous as kind; possessed a noble, glowing, generous
heart, a superior mind, and a frank, pleasing gayety of spirits.  The
young girl, brought up with him, loved him as an unfortunate creature can
love, who, dreading cruel ridicule, is obliged to hide her affection in
the depths of her heart, and adopt reserve and deep dissimulation.  She
did not seek to combat her love; to what purpose should she do so?  No
one would ever know it.  Her well known sisterly affection for Agricola
explained the interest she took in all that concerned him; so that no one
was surprised at the extreme grief of the young workwoman, when, in 1830,
Agricola, after fighting intrepidly for the people's flag, was brought
bleeding home to his mother.  Dagobert's son, deceived, like others, on
this point, had never suspected, and was destined never to suspect, this
love for him.

Such was the poorly-clad girl who entered the room in which Frances was
preparing her son's supper.

"Is it you, my poor love," said she; "I have not seen you since morning:
have you been ill?  Come and kiss me."

The young girl kissed Agricola's mother, and replied: "I was very busy
about some work, mother; I did not wish to lose a moment; I have only
just finished it.  I am going down to fetch some charcoal--do you want
anything while I'm out?"

"No, no, my child, thank you.  But I am very uneasy.  It is half-past
eight, and Agricola is not come home."  Then she added, after a sigh: "He
kills himself with work for me.  Ah, I am very unhappy, my girl; my sight
is quite going.  In a quarter of an hour after I begin working, I cannot
see at all--not even to sew sacks.  The idea of being a burden to my son
drives me distracted."

"Oh, don't, ma'am, if Agricola heard you say that--"

"I know the poor boy thinks of nothing but me, and that augments my
vexation.  Only I think that rather than leave me, he gives up the
advantages that his fellow-workmen enjoy at Hardy's, his good and worthy
master--instead of living in this dull garret, where it is scarcely light
at noon, he would enjoy, like the other workmen, at very little expense,
a good light room, warm in winter, airy in summer, with a view of the
garden.  And he is so fond of trees! not to mention that this place is so
far from his work, that it is quite a toil to him to get to it."

"Oh, when he embraces you he forgets his fatigue, Mrs. Baudoin," said
Mother Bunch; "besides, he knows how you cling to the house in which he
was born.  M. Hardy offered to settle you at Plessy with Agricola, in the
building put up for the workmen."

"Yes, my child; but then I must give up church.  I can't do that."

"But--be easy, I hear him," said the hunchback, blushing.

A sonorous, joyous voice was heard singing on the stairs.

"At least, I'll not let him see that I have been crying," said the good
mother, drying her tears.  "This is the only moment of rest and ease from
toil he has--I must not make it sad to him."



Our blacksmith poet, a tall young man, about four-and-twenty years of
age, was alert and robust, with ruddy complexion, dark hair and eyes, and
aquiline nose, and an open, expressive countenance.  His resemblance to
Dagobert was rendered more striking by the thick brown moustache which he
wore according to the fashion; and a sharp-pointed imperial covered his
chin.  His cheeks, however, were shaven, Olive color velveteen trousers,
a blue blouse, bronzed by the forge smoke, a black cravat, tied
carelessly round his muscular neck, a cloth cap with a narrow vizor,
composed his dress.  The only thing which contrasted singularly with his
working habiliments was a handsome purple flower, with silvery pistils,
which he held in his hand.

"Good-evening, mother," said he, as he came to kiss Frances immediately.

Then, with a friendly nod, he added, "Good-evening, Mother Bunch."

"You are very late, my child," said Frances, approaching the little stove
on which her son's simple meal was simmering; "I was getting very

"Anxious about me, or about my supper, dear mother?"  said Agricola,
gayly.  "The deuce! you won't excuse me for keeping the nice little

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