List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V3, by Eugene Sue
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catechism, confirmation, communion, the sisters opened widely their large
eyes with astonishment, understanding nothing of such talk.

According to her simple faith, terrified at the ignorance of the young
girls in matters of religion, Dagobert's wife believed their souls to be
in the greatest peril, the more so as, having asked them if they had ever
been baptized (at the same time explaining to them the nature of that
sacrament), the orphans answered they did not think they had, since there
was neither church nor priest in the village where they were born, during
their mother's exile in Siberia.

Placing one's self in the position of Frances, you understand how much
she was grieved and alarmed; for, in her eyes, these young girls, whom
she already loved tenderly, so charmed was she with their sweet
disposition, were nothing but poor heathens, innocently doomed to eternal
damnation.  So, unable to restrain her tears, or conceal her horrors, she
had clasped them in her arms, promising immediately to attend to their
salvation, and regretting that Dagobert had not thought of having them
baptized by the way.  Now, it must be confessed, that this notion had
never once occurred to the ex-grenadier.

When she went to her usual Sunday devotions, Frances had not dared to
take Rose and Blanche with her, as their complete ignorance of sacred
things would have rendered their presence at church, if not useless,
scandalous; but, in her own fervent prayers she implored celestial mercy
for these orphans, who did not themselves know the desperate position of
their souls.

Rose and Blanche were now left alone, in the absence of Dagobert's wife.
They were still dressed in mourning, their charming faces seeming even
more pensive than usual.  Though they were accustomed to a life of
misfortune, they had been struck, since their arrival in the Rue Brise-
Miche, with the painful contrast between the poor dwelling which they had
come to inhabit, and the wonders which their young imagination had
conceived of Paris, that golden city of their dreams.  But, soon this
natural astonishment was replaced by thoughts of singular gravity for
their age.  The contemplation of such honest and laborious poverty made
the orphans have reflections no longer those of children, but of young
women.  Assisted by their admirable spirit of justice and of sympathy for
all that is good, by their noble heart, by a character at once delicate
and courageous, they had observed and meditated much during the last
twenty-four hours.

"Sister," said Rose to Blanche, when Frances had quitted the room,
"Dagobert's poor wife is very uneasy.  Did you remark in the night, how
agitated she was? how she wept and prayed?"

"I was grieved to see it, sister, and wondered what could be the cause."

"I am almost afraid to guess.  Perhaps we may be the cause of her

"Why so, sister?  Because we cannot say prayers, nor tell if we have ever
been baptized?"

"That seemed to give her a good deal of pain, it is true.  I was quite
touched by it, for it proves that she loves us tenderly.  But I could not
understand how we ran such terrible danger as she said we did."

"Nor I either, sister.  We have always tried not to displease our mother,
who sees and hears us."

"We love those who love us; we are resigned to whatever may happen to us.
So, who can reproach us with any harm?"

"No one.  But, perhaps, we may do some without meaning it."


"Yes, and therefore I thought:  We may perhaps be the cause of her

"How so?"

"Listen, sister! yesterday Madame Baudoin tried to work at those sacks of
coarse cloth there on the table."

"Yes; but in about an half-hour, she told us sorrowfully, that she could
not go on, because her eyes failed her, and she could not see clearly."

"So that she is not able to earn her living."

"No--but her son, M. Agricola, works for her.  He looks so good, so gay,
so frank, and so happy to devote himself for his mother.  Oh, indeed! he
is the worthy brother of our angel Gabriel!"

"You will see my reason for speaking of this.  Our good old Dagobert told
us, that, when we arrived here, he had only a few pieces of money left."

"That is true."

"Now both he and his wife are unable to earn their living; what can a
poor old soldier like him do?"

"You are right; he only knows how to love us, and take care of us, like
his children."

"It must then be M. Agricola who will have to support his father; for
Gabriel is a poor priest, who possesses nothing, and can render no
assistance to those who have brought him up.  So M. Agricola will have to
support the whole family by himself."

"Doubtless--he owes it to father and mother--it is his duty, and he will
do it with a good will."

"Yes, sister--but he owes us nothing."

"What do you say, Blanche?"

"He is obliged to work for us also, as we possess nothing in the world."

"I had not thought of that.  True."

"It is all very well, sister, for our father to be Duke and Marshal of
France, as Dagobert tells us, it is all very well for us to hope great
things from this medal, but as long as father is not here, and our hopes
are not realized, we shall be merely poor orphans, obliged to remain a
burden to this honest family, to whom we already owe so much, and who
find it so hard to live, that--"

"Why do you pause, sister?"

"What I am about to say would make other people laugh; but you will
understand it.  Yesterday, when Dagobert's wife saw poor Spoil-sport at
his dinner, she said, sorrowfully: "Alas! he eats as much as a man!"--so
that I could almost have cried to hear her.  They must be very poor, and
yet we have come to increase their poverty."

The sisters looked sadly at each other, while Spoil-sport pretended not
to know they were talking of his voracity.

"Sister, I understand," said Rose, after a moment's silence.  "Well, we
must not be at the charge of any one.  We are young, and have courage.
Till our fate is decided, let us fancy ourselves daughters of workmen.
After all, is not our grandfather a workman?  Let us find some
employment, and earn our own living.  It must be so proud and happy to
earn one's living!"

"Good little sister," said Blanche, kissing Rose.  "What happiness!  You
have forestalled my thought; kiss me!"

"How so?"

"Your project is mine exactly.  Yesterday, when I heard Dagobert's wife
complain so sadly that she had lost her sight.  I looked into your large
eyes, which reminded me of my own, and said to myself : 'Well! this poor
old woman may have lost her sight, but Rose and Blanche Simon can see
pretty clearly'--which is a compensation," added Blanche, with a smile.

"And, after all," resumed Rose, smiling in her turn, "the young ladies in
question are not so very awkward, as not to be able to sew up great sacks
of coarse cloth--though it may chafe their fingers a little."

"So we had both the same thought, as usual; only I wished to surprise
you, and waited till we were alone, to tell you my plan."

"Yes, but there is something teases me."

"What is that?"

"First of all, Dagobert and his wife will be sure to say to us: `Young
ladies, you are not fitted for such work.  What, daughters of a Marshal
of France sewing up great ugly bags!' And then, if we insist upon it,
they will add: `Well, we have no work to give you.  If you want any, you
must hunt for it.' What would Misses Simon do then?"

"The fact is, that when Dagobert has made up his mind to anything--"

"Oh! even then, if we coax him well--"

"Yes, in certain things; but in others he is immovable.  It is just as
when upon the journey, we wished to prevent his doing so much for us."

"Sister, an idea strikes me," cried Rose, "an excellent idea!"

"What is it? quick!"

"You know the young woman they call Mother Bunch, who appears to be so
serviceable and persevering?"

"Oh yes! and so timid and discreet.  She seems always to be afraid of
giving offence, even if she looks at one.  Yesterday, she did not
perceive that I saw her; but her eyes were fixed on you with so good and
sweet an expression, that tears came into mine at the very sight of it."

"Well, we must ask her how she gets work, for certainly she lives by her

"You are right.  She will tell us all about it; and when we know,
Dagobert may scold us, or try to make great ladies of us, but we will be
as obstinate as he is."

"That is it; we must show some spirit!  We will prove to him, as he says
himself, that we have soldier's blood in our veins."

"We will say to him: `Suppose, as you say, we should one day be rich, my
good Dagobert, we shall only remember this time with the more pleasure."

"It is agreed then, is it not, Rose?  The first time we are alone with
Mother Bunch, we must make her our confidant, and ask her for
information.  She is so good a person, that she will not refuse us."

"And when father comes home, he will be pleased, I am sure, with our

"And will approve our wish to support ourselves, as if we were alone in
the world."

On these words of her sister, Rose started.  A cloud of sadness, almost
of alarm, passed over her charming countenance, as she exclaimed: "Oh,
sister, what a horrible idea!"

"What is the matter? your look frightens me."

"At the moment I heard you say, that our father would approve our wish to
support ourselves, as if we were alone in the world--a frightful thought
struck me--I know not why--but feel how my heart beats--just as if some
misfortune were about to happen us."

"It is true; your poor heart beats violently.  But what was this thought?
You alarm me."

"When we were prisoners, they did not at least separate us, and, besides,
the prison was a kind of shelter--"

"A sad one, though shared with you."

"But if, when arrived here, any accident had parted us from Dagobert--if
we had been left alone, without help, in this great town?"

"Oh, sister! do not speak of that.  It would indeed be terrible.  What
would become of us, kind heaven?"

This cruel thought made the girls remain for a moment speechless with
emotion.  Their sweet faces, which had just before glowed with a noble
hope, grew pale and sad.  After a pretty long silence, Rose uplifted her
eyes, now filled with tears, "Why does this thought," she said,
trembling, "affect us so deeply, sister?  My heart sinks within me, as if
it were really to happen to us."

"I feel as frightened as you yourself.  Alas! were we both to be lost in
this immense city, what would become of us?"

"Do not let us give way to such ideas, Blanche!  Are we not here in
Dagobert's house, in the midst of good people?"

"And yet, sister," said Rose, with a pensive air, "it is perhaps good for
us to have had this thought."

"Why so?"

"Because we shall now find this poor lodging all the better, as it
affords a shelter from all our fears.  And when, thanks to our labor, we
are no longer a burden to any one, what more can we need until the
arrival of our father?"

"We shall want for nothing--there you are right--but still, why did this
thought occur to us, and why does it weigh so heavily on our minds?"

"Yes, indeed--why?  Are we not here in the midst of friends that love us?
How could we suppose that we should ever be left alone in Paris?  It is
impossible that such a misfortune should happen to us--is it not, my dear

"Impossible!" said Rose, shuddering.  "If the day before we reached that
village in Germany, where poor Jovial was killed, any one had said to us:
`To-morrow, you will be in prison'--we should have answered as now: `It
is impossible.  Is not Dagobert here to protect us; what have we to
fear?' And yet, sister, the day after we were in prison at Leipsic."

"Oh! do not speak thus, my dear sister!  It frightens me."

By a sympathetic impulse, the orphans took one another by the hand, while
they pressed close together, and looked around with involuntary fear.
The sensation they felt was in fact deep, strange, inexplicable, and yet
lowering--one of those dark presentiments which come over us, in spite of
ourselves--those fatal gleams of prescience, which throw a lurid light on
the mysterious profundities of the future.

Unaccountable glimpses of divination! often no sooner perceived than
forgotten--but, when justified by the event, appearing with all the
attributes of an awful fatality!

The daughters of Marshal Simon were still absorbed in the mournful
reverie which these singular thoughts had awakened, when Dagobert's wife,
returning from her son's chamber, entered the room with a painfully
agitated countenance.



Frances' agitation was so perceptible that Rose could not help
exclaiming: "Good gracious, what is the matter?"

"Alas, my dear young ladies!  I can no longer conceal it from you," said
Frances, bursting into tears.  "Since yesterday I have not seen him.  I
expected my son to supper as usual, and he never came; but I would not
let you see how much I suffered.  I continued to expect him, minute after
minute; for ten years he has never gone up to bed without coming to kiss
me; so I spent a good part of the night close to the door, listening if I
could hear his step.  But he did not come; and, at last, about three
o'clock in the morning, I threw myself down upon the mattress.  I have
just been to see (for I still had a faint hope), if my son had come in
this morning--"

"Well, madame!"

"There is no sign of him!" said the poor mother, drying her eyes.

Rose and Blanche looked at each other with emotion; the same thought
filled the minds of both; if Agricola should not return, how would this
family live? would they not, in such an event, become doubly burdensome?

"But, perhaps, madame," said Blanche, "M. Agricola remained too late at
his work to return home last night."

"Oh! no, no! he would have returned in the middle of the night, because
he knew what uneasiness he would cause me by stopping out.  Alas! some
misfortune must have happened to him!  Perhaps he has been injured at the
forge, he is so persevering at his work.  Oh, my poor boy! and, as if I
did not feel enough anxiety about him, I am also uneasy about the poor
young woman who lives upstairs."

"Why so, madame?"

"When I left my son's room, I went into hers, to tell her my grief, for
she is almost a daughter to me; but I did not find her in the little
closet where she lives, and the bed had not even been slept in.  Where
can she have gone so early--she, that never goes out?"

Rose and Blanche looked at each other with fresh uneasiness, for they
counted much upon Mother Bunch to help them in the resolution they had
taken.  Fortunately, both they and Frances were soon to be satisfied on
this head, for they heard two low knocks at the door, and the
sempstress's voice, saying: "Can I come in, Mrs. Baudoin?"

By a spontaneous impulse, Rose and Blanche ran to the door, and opened it
to the young girl.  Sleet and snow had been falling incessantly since the
evening before; the gingham dress of the young sempstress, her scanty
cotton shawl, and the black net cap, which, leaving uncovered two thick

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