List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V7, by Eugene Sue
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to me.  My susceptibility on this head is unfortunately so stubborn, that
I cannot help feeling a momentary pang of mingled shame and sorrow, every
time that I am called by that fairy-tale name, and yet I have had no
other from infancy.  It is for that very reason that I should have been
so happy if Agricola had taken this opportunity to call me for once by my
own humble name--Magdalen.  Happily, he will never know these wishes and

Deeper and deeper touched by this page of simple grief, Florine turned
over several leaves, and continued:

"I have just been to the funeral of poor little Victorine Herbin, our
neighbor.  Her father, a journeyman upholsterer, is gone to work by the
month, far from Paris.  She died at nineteen, without a relation near
her.  Her agony was not long.  The good woman who attended her to the
last, told us that she only pronounced these words: `At last, oh at
last!' and that with an air of satisfaction, added the nurse.  Dear
child! she had become so pitiful.  At fifteen, she was a rosebud--so
pretty, so fresh-looking, with her light hair as soft as silk; but she
wasted away by degrees--her trade of renovating mattresses killed her.
She was slowly poisoned by the emanations from the wool.[26] They were
all the worse, that she worked almost entirely for the poor, who have
cheap stuff to lie upon.

"She had the courage of a lion, and an angel's resignation, She always
said to me, in her low, faint voice, broken by a dry and frequent cough:
"I have not long to live, breathing, as I do, lime and vitriol all day
long.  I spit blood, and have spasms that make me faint.'

"'Why not change your trade?' have I said to her.

"`Where will I find the time to make another apprenticeship?' she would
answer; `and it is now too late.  I feel that I am done for.  It is not
my fault,' added the good creature, `for I did not choose my employment.
My father would have it so; luckily he can do without me.  And then, you
see, when one is dead, one cares for nothing, and has no fear of "slop

"Victorine uttered that sad, common phrase very sincerely, and with a
sort of satisfaction.  Therefore she died repeating: `At last!'

"It is painful to think that the labor by which the poor man earns his
daily bread, often becomes a long suicide!  I said this the other day to
Agricola; he answered me that there were many other fatal employments;
those who prepare aquafortis, white lead, or minium, for instance, are
sure to take incurable maladies of which they die.

"`Do you know,' added Agricola, `what they say when they start for those
fatal works?'--Why, `We are going to the slaughter-house.'

"That made me tremble with its terrible truth.

"`And all this takes place in our day,' said I to him, with an aching
heart; `and it is well-known.  And, out of so many of the rich and
powerful, no one thinks of the mortality which decimates his brothers,
thus forced to eat homicidal bread!'

"'What can you expect, my poor sister,' answered Agricola.  `When men are
to be incorporated, that they may get killed in war, all pains are taken
with them.  But when they are to be organized, so as to live in peace, no
one cares about it, except M. Hardy, my master.  People say, 'Pooh!
hunger, misery, and suffering of the laboring classes--what is that to
us? that is not politics.' `They are wrong,' added Agricola; `IT IS MORE

"As Victorine had not left anything to pay for the church service, there
was only the presentation of the body under the porch; for there is not
even a plain mass for the poor.  Besides, as they could not give eighteen
francs to the curate, no priest accompanied the pauper's coffin to the
common grave.  If funerals, thus abridged and cut short, are sufficient
in a religious point of view, why invent other and longer forms?  Is it
from cupidity?--If, on the other hand, they are not sufficient, why make
the poor man the only victim of this insufficiency?  But why trouble
ourselves about the pomp, the incense, the chants, of which they are
either too sparing or too liberal?  Of what use? and for what purpose?
They are vain, terrestrial things, for which the soul recks nothing,
when, radiant, it ascends towards its Creator.  Yesterday, Agricola made
me read an article in a newspaper, in which violent blame and bitter
irony are by turns employed, to attack what they call the baneful
tendencies of some of the lower orders, to improve themselves, to write,
to read the poets, and sometimes to make verses.  Material enjoyments are
forbidden us by poverty.  Is it humane to reproach us for seeking the
enjoyments of the mind?  What harm can it do any one if every evening,
after a day's toil, remote from all pleasure, I amuse myself, unknown to
all, in making a few verses, or in writing in this journal the good or
bad impressions I have received?  Is Agricola the worse workman, because,
on returning home to his mother, he employs Sunday in composing some of
those popular songs, which glorify the fruitful labors of the artisan,
and say to all, Hope and brotherhood!  Does he not make a more worthy use
of his time than if he spent it in a tavern?  Ah! those who blame us for
these innocent and noble diversions, which relieve our painful toils and
sufferings, deceive themselves when they think, that, in proportion as
the intellect is raised and refined, it is more difficult to bear with
privations and misery, and that so the irritation increases against the
luckier few.

"Admitting even this to be the case--and it is not so--is it not better
to have an intelligent, enlightened enemy, to whose heart and reason you
may address yourself, than a stupid, ferocious, implacable foe?  But no;
enmities disappear as the mind becomes enlightened, and the horizon of
compassion extends itself.  We thus learn to understand moral
afflictions.  We discover that the rich also have to suffer intense
pains, and that brotherhood in misfortune is already a link of sympathy.
Alas! they also have to mourn bitterly for idolized children, beloved
mistresses, reverend mothers; with them, also, especially amongst the
women, there are, in the height of luxury and grandeur, many broken
hearts, many suffering souls, many tears shed in secret.  Let them not be
alarmed.  By becoming their equals in intelligence, the people will learn
to pity the rich, if good and unhappy--and to pity them still more if
rejoicing in wickedness.

"What happiness! what a joyful day!  I am giddy with delight.  Oh, truly,
man is good, humane, charitable.  Oh, yes! the Creator has implanted
within him every generous instinct--and, unless he be a monstrous
exception, he never does evil willingly.  Here is what I saw just now.  I
will not wait for the evening to write it down, for my heart would, as it
were, have time to cool.  I had gone to carry home some work that was
wanted in a hurry.  I was passing the Place du Temple.  A few steps from
me I saw a child, about twelve years old at most, with bare head, and
feet, in spite of the severe weather, dressed in a shabby, ragged smock-
frock and trousers, leading by the bridle a large cart-horse, with his
harness still on.  From time to time the horse stopped short, and refused
to advance.  The child, who had no whip, tugged in vain at the bridle.
The horse remained motionless.  Then the poor little fellow cried out: `O
dear, O dear!' and began to weep bitterly, looking round him as if to
implore the assistance of the passers-by.  His dear little face was
impressed with so heart piercing a sorrow, that, without reflecting, I
made an attempt at which I can now only smile, I must have presented so
grotesque a figure.  I am horribly afraid of horses, and I am still more
afraid of exposing myself to public gaze.  Nevertheless, I took courage,
and, having an umbrella in my hand, I approached the horse, and with the
impetuosity of an ant that strives to move a large stone with a little
piece of straw, I struck with all my strength on the croup of the
rebellious animal.  `Oh, thanks, my good lady!' exclaimed the child,
drying his eyes: `hit him again, if you please.  Perhaps he will get up.'

"I began again, heroically; but, alas! either from obstinacy or laziness,
the horse bent his knees, and stretched himself out upon the ground;
then, getting entangled with his harness, he tore it, and broke his great
wooden collar.  I had drawn back quickly, for fear of receiving a kick.
Upon this new disaster, the child could only throw himself on his knees
in the middle of the street, clasping his hands and sobbing, and
exclaiming in a voice of despair: 'Help! help!'

"The call was heard; several of the passers-by gathered round, and a more
efficacious correction than mine was administered to the restive horse,
who rose in a vile state, and without harness.

"`My master will beat me,' cried the poor child, as his tears redoubled;
`I am already two hours after time, for the horse would not go, and now
he has broken his harness.  My master will beat me, and turn me away.  Oh
dear! what will become of me!  I have no father nor mother.'

"At these words, uttered with a heart-rending accent, a worthy old
clothes-dealer of the Temple, who was amongst the spectators, exclaimed,
with a kindly air: `No father nor mother!  Do not grieve so, my poor
little fellow; the Temple can supply everything.  We will mend the
harness, and, if my gossips are like me, you shall not go away bareheaded
or barefooted in such weather as this.'

"This proposition was greeted with acclamation; they led away both horse
and child; some were occupied in mending the harness, then one supplied a
cap, another a pair of stockings, another some shoes, and another a good
jacket; in a quarter of an hour the child was warmly clad, the harness
repaired, and a tall lad of eighteen, brandishing a whip, which he
cracked close to the horse's ears, by way of warning, said to the little
boy, who, gazing first at his new clothes, and then at the good woman,
believed himself the hero of a fairy-tale.  `Where does your governor
live, little 'un?'

"`On the Quai du Canal-Saint-Martin, sir,' answered he, in a voice
trembling with joy.

"`Very good,' said the young man, `I will help you take home the horse,
who will go well enough with me, and I will tell the master that the
delay was no fault of your'n.  A balky horse ought not to be trusted
to a child of your age.'

"At the moment of setting out, the poor little fellow said timidly to the
good dame, as he took off his cap to her:  `Will you let me kiss you,

"His eyes were full of tears of gratitude.  There was heart in that
child.  This scene of popular charity gave me delightful emotions.
As long as I could, I followed with my eyes the tall young man and the
child, who now could hardly keep up with the pace of the horse, rendered
suddenly docile by fear of the whip.

"Yes! I repeat it with pride; man is naturally good and helpful.
Nothing could have been more spontaneous than this movement of pity and
tenderness in the crowd, when the poor little fellow exclaimed: `What
will become of me?  I have no father or mother!'

"`Unfortunate child!' said I to myself.  `No father nor mother.  In the
hands of a brutal master, who hardly covers him with a few rags, and ill-
treats him into the bargain.  Sleeping, no doubt in the corner of a
stable.  Poor little, fellow! and yet so mild and good, in spite of
misery and misfortune.  I saw it--he was even more grateful than pleased
at the service done him.  But perhaps this good natural disposition,
abandoned without support or counsel, or help, and exasperated by bad
treatment, may become changed and embittered--and then will come the age
of the passions--the bad temptations--'

"Oh! in the deserted poor, virtue is doubly saintly and respectable!

"This morning, after having (as usual) gently reproached me for not going
to mass, Agricola's mother said to me these words, so touching in her
simple and believing mouth, `Luckily, I pray for you and myself too, my
poor girl; the good God will hear me, and you will only go, I hope, to

"Good mother; angelic soul! she spoke those words in so grave and mild a
tone, with so strong a faith in the happy result of her pious
intercession, that I felt my eyes become moist, and I threw myself on her
neck, as sincerely grateful as if I had believed in Purgatory.  This day
has been a lucky one for me.  I hope I have found work, which luck I
shall owe to a young person full of heart and goodness, she is to take me
to-morrow to St. Mary's Convent, where she thinks she can find me

Florine, already much moved by the reading, started at this passage in
which Mother Bunch alluded to her, ere she continued as follows:

"Never shall I forget with what touching interest, what delicate
benevolence, this handsome young girl received me, so poor, and so
unfortunate.  It does not astonish me, for she is attached to the person
of Mdlle. de Cardoville.  She must be worthy to reside with Agricola's
benefactress.  It will always be dear and pleasant to me to remember her
name.  It is graceful and pretty as her face; it is Florine.  I am
nothing, I have nothing--but if the fervent prayers of a grateful heart
might be heard, Mdlle. Florine would be happy, very happy.  Alas! I am
reduced to say prayers for her--only prayers--for I can do nothing but
remember and love her!"

These lines, expressing so simply the sincere gratitude of the hunchback,
gave the last blow to Florine's hesitations.  She could no longer resist
the generous temptation she felt.  As she read these last fragments of
the journal, her affection and respect for Mother Bunch made new
progress.  More than ever she felt how infamous it was in her to expose
to sarcasms and contempt the most secret thoughts of this unfortunate
creature.  Happily, good is often as contagious as evil.  Electrified by
all that was warm, noble, and magnanimous in the pages she had just read,
Florine bathed her failing virtue in that pure and vivifying source, and,
yielding, at last to one of those good impulses which sometimes carried
her away, she left the room with the manuscript in her hand, determined,
if Mother Bunch had not yet returned, to replace it--resolved to tell
Rodin that, this second time, her search for the journal had been vain,
the sempstress having no doubt discovered the first attempt.

[26] In the Ruche Populaire, a working man's organ, are the following

"Carding Mattresses.--The dust which flies out of the wool makes carding
destructive to health in any case, but trade adulterations enhance the
danger.  In sticking sheep, the skin gets blood-spotted; it has to be
bleached to make it salable.  Lime is the main whitener, and some of it
clings to the wool after the process.  The dresser (female, most often)
breathes in the fine dust, and, by lung and other complaints, is far from
seldom deplorably situated; the majority sicken of it and give up the
trade, while those who keep to it, at the very least, suffer with a
catarrh or asthma that torments them until death.

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