List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V5, by Eugene Sue
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the view, particularly in summer, an incredible confusion of parasites
and brambles.  The trees, left to themselves, had shot forth and mingled
their branches in all directions; some straggling vines, reproduced from
offshoots, had crept along the ground to the foot of the trees, and,
climbing up their trunks, had twined themselves about them, and encircled
their highest branches with their inextricable net.  You could only pass
through this virgin forest by following the path made by the guardian, to
go from the grating to the house, the approaches to which were a little
sloped to let the water run off, and carefully paved to the width of
about ten feet.  Another narrow path which extended all around the
enclosure, was every night perambulated by two or three Pyrenees dogs--a
faithful race, which had been perpetuated in the house during a century
and a half.  Such was the habitation destined for the meeting of the
descendants of the family of Rennepont.  The night which separated the
12th from the 13th day of February was near its close.  A calm had
succeeded the storm, and the rain had ceased; the sky was clear and full
of stars; the moon, on its decline, shone with a mild lustre, and threw a
melancholy light over that deserted, silent house, whose threshold for so
many years no human footstep had crossed.

A bright gleam of light, issuing from one of the windows of the
guardian's dwelling, announced that Samuel was awake.  Figure to yourself
a tolerably large room, lined from top to bottom with old walnut
wainscoting browned to an almost black, with age.  Two half-extinguished
brands are smoking amid the cinders on the hearth.  On the stone
mantelpiece, painted to resemble gray granite, stands an old iron
candlestick, furnished with a meagre candle, capped by an extinguisher.
Near it one sees a pair of double-barrelled pistols, and a sharp cutlass,
with a hilt of carved bronze, belonging to the seventeenth century.
Moreover, a heavy rifle rests against one of the chimney jambs.  Four
stools, an old oak press, and a square table with twisted legs, formed
the sole furniture of this apartment.  Against the wall were
systematically suspended a number of keys of different sizes, the shape
of which bore evidence to their antiquity, whilst to their rings were
affixed divers labels.  The back of the old press, which moved by a
secret spring, had been pushed aside, and discovered, built in the wall,
a large and deep iron chest, the lid of which, being open, displayed the
wondrous mechanism of one of those Florentine locks of the sixteenth
century, which, better than any modern invention, set all picklocks at
defiance; and, moreover, according to the notions of that age, are
supplied with a thick lining of asbestos cloth, suspended by gold wire at
a distance from the sides of the chest, for the purpose of rendering
incombustible the articles contained in it.  A large cedar-wood box had
been taken from the chest, and placed upon a stool; it contained numerous
papers, carefully arranged and docketed.  By the light of a brass lamp,
the old keeper Samuel, was writing in a small register, whilst Bathsheba,
his wife, was dictating to him from an account.  Samuel was about eighty-
two years old, and, notwithstanding his advanced age, a mass of gray
curling hair covered his head.  He was short, thin, nervous, and the
involuntary petulance of his movements proved that years had not weakened
his energy and activity; though, out of doors, where, however, he made
his appearance very seldom, he affected a sort of second childhood, as
had been remarked by Rodin to Father d'Aigrigny.  An old dressing-gown,
of maroon-colored camlet, with large sleeves, completely enveloped the
old man, and reached to his feet.

Samuel's features were cast in the pure, Eastern mould of his race.  His
complexion was of a dead yellow, his nose aquiline, his chin shaded by a
little tuft of white beard, while projecting cheek-bones threw a harsh
shadow upon the hollow and wrinkled cheeks.  His countenance was full of
intelligence, fine sharpness, and sagacity.  On his broad, high forehead
one might read frankness, honesty, and firmness; his eyes, black and
brilliant as an Arab's, were at once mild and piercing.

His wife, Bathsheba, some fifteen years younger than himself, was of tall
stature, and dressed entirely in black.  A low cap, of starched lawn,
which reminded one of the grave head-dresses of Dutch matrons, encircled
a pale and austere countenance, formerly of a rare and haughty beauty,
and impressed with the Scriptural character.  Some lines in the forehead,
caused by the almost continual knitting of her gray brows, showed that
this woman had often suffered from the pressure of intense grief.

At this very moment her countenance betrayed inexpressible sorrow.  Her
look was fixed, her head resting on her bosom.  She had let her right
hand, which held a small account-book, fall upon her lap, while the other
hand grasped convulsively a long tress of jet-black hair, which she bore
about her neck.  It was fastened by a golden clasp, about an inch square,
in which, under a plate of crystal, that shut in one side of it like a
relic-case, could be seen a piece of linen, folded square, and almost
entirely covered with dark red spots that resembled blood a long time

After a short silence, during which Samuel was occupied with his
register, he read aloud what he had just been writing: "Per contra, 5,000
Austrian Metallics of 1,000 florins, under date of October 19th, 1826."

After which enumeration, Samuel raised his head, and said to his wife:
"Well, is it right, Bathsheba?  Have you compared it with the account-

Bathsheba did not answer.  Samuel looked at her, and, seeing that she was
absorbed in grief, said to her, with an expression of tender anxiety:
"What is the matter?  Good heaven! what is the matter with you?"

"The 19th of October, 1826," said she, slowly, with her eyes still fixed,
and pressing yet more closely the lock of black hair which she wore about
her neck; "It was a fatal day--for, Samuel, it was the date of the last
letter which we received from--"

Bathsheba was unable to proceed.  She uttered a long sigh, and concealed
her face in her hands.

"Oh! I understand you," observed the old man, in a tremulous voice; "a
father may be taken up by the thought of other cares; but the heart of a
mother is ever wakeful."  Throwing his pen down upon the table, Samuel
leaned his forehead upon his hands in sorrow.

Bathsheba resumed, as if she found a melancholy pleasure in these cruel
remembrances: "Yes; that was the last day on which our son, Abel, wrote
to us from Germany, to announce to us that he had invested the funds
according to your desire and was going thence into Poland, to effect
another operation."

"And in Poland he met the death of a martyr," added Samuel.  "With no
motive and no proof, they accused him falsely of coming to organize
smuggling, and the Russian governor, treating him as they treat our
brothers in that land of cruel tyranny, condemned him to the dreadful
punishment of the knout, without even hearing him in his defence.  Why
should they hear a Jew?  What is a Jew?  A creature below a serf, whom
they reproach for all the vices that a degrading slavery has engendered.
A Jew beaten to death?  Who would trouble themselves about it?"

"And poor Abel, so good, so faithful, died beneath their stripes, partly
from shame, partly from the wounds, said Bathsheba, shuddering.  "One of
our Polish brethren obtained with great difficulty permission to bury
him.  He cut off this lode of beautiful black hair--which, with this
scrap of linen, bathed in the blood of our dear son, is all that now
remains to us of him."  Bathsheba covered the hair and clasp with
convulsive kisses.

"Alas!" said Samuel, drying his tears, which had burst forth at these sad
recollections, "the Lord did not at last remove our child, until the task
which our family has accomplished faithfully for a century and a half was
nearly at an end.  Of what use will our race be henceforth upon earth?"
added Samuel, most bitterly.  "Our duty is performed.  This casket
contains a royal fortune--and yonder house, walled up for a hundred and
fifty years, will be opened to-morrow to the descendants of my ancestor's
benefactor."  So saying, Samuel turned his face sorrowfully towards the
house, which he could see through the window.  The dawn was just about to
appear.  The moon had set; belvedere, roof, and chimneys formed a black
mass upon the dark blue of the starry firmament.

Suddenly, Samuel grew pale, and, rising abruptly, said to his wife in a
tremulous tone, whilst he still pointed to the house: "Bathsheba! the
seven points of light--just as it was thirty years ago.  Look! look:"

Indeed, the seven round holes, bored in the form of a cross in the leaden
plates which covered the window of the belvedere, sparkled like so many
luminous points, as if some one in the house ascended with a light to the



For some seconds, Samuel and Bathsheba remained motionless, with their
eyes fixed in fear and uneasiness on the seven luminous points, which
shone through the darkness of the night from the summit of the belvedere;
while, on the horizon, behind the house, a pale, rosy hue announced the
dawn of day.

Samuel was the first to break silence, and he said to his wife, as he
drew his hand across his brow: "The grief caused by the remembrance of
our poor child has prevented us from reflecting that, after all, there
should be nothing to alarm us in what we see."

"How so, Samuel?"

"My father always told me that he, and my grandfather before him, had
seen such lights at long intervals."

"Yes, Samuel--but without being able, any more than ourselves, to explain
the cause."

"Like my father and grandfather, we can only suppose that some secret
passage gives admittance to persons who, like us, have some mysterious
duty to fulfil in this dwelling.  Besides, my father warned me not to be
uneasy at these appearances, foretold by him, and now visible for the
second time in thirty years."

"No matter for that, Samuel, it does strike one as if it was something

"The days of miracles are over." said the Jew, shaking his head
sorrowfully: "many of the old houses in this quarter have subterraneous
communications with distant places--some extending even to the Seine and
the Catacombs.  Doubtless, this house is so situated, and the persons who
make these rare visits enter by some such means."

"But that the belvedere should be thus lighted up?"

"According to the plan of the building, you know that the belvedere forms
a kind of skylight to the apartment called the Great Hall of Mourning,
situated on the upper story.  As it is completely dark, in consequence of
the closing of all the windows, they must use a light to visit this Hall
of Mourning--a room which is said to contain some very strange and gloomy
things," added the Jew, with a shudder.

Bathsheba, as well as her husband, gazed attentively on the seven
luminous points, which diminished in brightness as the daylight gradually

"As you say, Samuel, the mystery may be thus explained," resumed the
Hebrew's wife.  "Besides, the day is so important a one for the family of
Rennepont, that this apparition: ought not to astonish us under the

"Only to think," remarked Samuel, "that these lights have appeared at
several different times throughout a century and a half!  There must,
therefore, be another family that, like ours, has devoted itself, from
generation to generation, to accomplish a pious duty."

"But what is this duty?  It will perhaps be explained today."

"Come, come, Bathsheba," suddenly exclaimed Samuel, as if roused from his
reverie, and reproaching himself with idleness; this is the day, and,
before eight o'clock, our cash account must be in order, and these titles
to immense property arranged, so that they may be delivered to the
rightful owners"--and he pointed to the cedar-wood box.

"You are right, Samuel; this day does not belong to us.  It is a solemn
day--one that would have been sweet, oh! very sweet to you and me--if now
any days could be sweet to us," said Bathsheba bitterly, for she was
thinking of her son.

"Bathsheba," said Samuel, mournfully, as he laid his hand on his wife's;
"we shall at least have the stern satisfaction of having done our duty.
And has not the Lord been very favorable to us, though He has thus
severely tried us by the death of our son?  Is it not thanks to His
providence that three generations of my family have been able to
commence, continue, and finish this great work?"

"Yes, Samuel," said the Jewess, affectionately, "and for you at least
this satisfaction will be combined with calm and quietness, for on the
stroke of noon you will be delivered from a very terrible

So saying, Bathsheba pointed to the box.

"It is true," replied the old man; "I had rather these immense riches
were in the hands of those to whom they belong, than in mine; but, to-
day, I shall cease to be their trustee.  Once more then, I will check the
account for the last time, and compare the register with the cash-book
that you hold in your hand."

Bathsheba bowed her head affirmatively, and Samuel, taking up his pen,
occupied himself once more with his calculations.  His wife, in spite of
herself, again yielded to the sad thoughts which that fatal date had
awakened, by reminding her of the death of her son.

Let us now trace rapidly the history, in appearance so romantic and
marvellous, in reality so simple, of the fifty thousand crowns, which,
thanks to the law of accumulation, and to a prudent, intelligent and
faithful investment, had naturally, and necessarily, been transformed, in
the space of a century and a half, into a sum far more important than the
forty millions estimated by Father d'Aigrigny--who, partially informed on
this subject, and reckoning the disastrous accidents, losses, and
bankruptcies which might have occurred during so long a period, believed
that forty millions might well b e considered enormous.

The history of this fortune being closely connected with that of the
Samuel family, by whom it had been managed for three generations, we
shall give it again in a few words.

About the period 1670, some years before his death, Marius de Rennepont,
then travelling in Portugal, had been enabled, by means of powerful
interest, to save the life of an unfortunate Jew, condemned to be burnt
alive by the Inquisition, because of his religion.  This Jew was Isaac
Samuel, grandfather of the present guardian of the house in the Rue

Generous men often attach themselves to those they have served, as much,
at least, as the obliged parties are attached to their benefactors.
Having ascertained that Isaac, who at that time carried on a petty
broker's business at Lisbon, was industrious, honest, active, laborious,
and intelligent, M. de Rennepont, who then possessed large property in

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