List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V9, by Eugene Sue
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little chimney-sweepers slept upon straw, to the garret, on whose cold
brick floor lay stretched some wan and half-naked being, without work and
without bread.  But, of all the wards of Paris, that which perhaps
presented the most frightful spectacle during the progress of the
cholera, was the City; and in the City, the square before the cathedral
of Notre-Dame was almost every day the theatre of dreadful scenes: for
this locality was frequently thronged with those who conveyed the sick
from the neighboring streets to the Great Hospital.  The cholera had not
one aspect, but a thousand.  So that one week after Rodin had been
suddenly attacked, several events combining the horrible and the
grotesque occurred in the square of Notre Dame.

Instead of the Rue d'Arcole, which now leads directly to the square, it
was then approached on one side, by a mean, narrow lane, like all the
other streets of the City, and terminating in a dark, low archway.  Upon
entering the square the principal door of the huge Cathedral was to the
left of the spectator, and facing him were the Hospital buildings.  A
little beyond, was an opening which gave to view a portion of the parapet
of the Quay Notre-Dame.  A placard had been recently stuck on the
discolored and sunken wail of the archway; it contained these words,
traced in large characters.[37]


"The Working-men carried to the hospitals are poisoned, because the
number of patients is too great; every night, Boats filled with corpses,
drop down the Seine.

"Vengeance and Death to the murderers of the People!"

Two men, enveloped in cloaks, and half-hidden in the deep shadow of the
vault, were listening with anxious curiosity to the threatening murmur,
which rose with increasing force from among a tumultuous assembly,
grouped around the Hospital.  Soon, cries of "Death to the doctors!--
Vengeance!" reached the ears of the persons who were in ambush under the

"The posters are working," said one; "the train is on fire.  When once
the populace is roused, we can set them on whom we please."

"I say," replied the other man, "look over there.  That Hercules, whose
athletic form towers above the mob, was cue of the most frantic leaders
when M. Hardy's factory was destroyed."

"To be sure he was; I know him again. Wherever mischief is to be done,
you are sure to find those vagabonds.

"Now, take my advice, do not let us remain under this archway," said the
other man; "the wind is as cold as ice, and though I am cased in flannel--"

"You are right, the cholera is confoundedly impolite.  Besides,
everything is going on well here; I am likewise assured that the whole of
the Faubourg Saint-Antoine is ready to rise in the republican cause; that
will serve our ends, and our holy religion will triumph over
revolutionary impiety.  Let us rejoin Father d'Aigrigny."

"Where shall we find him?"

"Near here, come--come."

The two hastily disappeared.

The sun, beginning to decline, shed its golden rays upon the blackened
sculptures of the porch of Notre-Dame, and upon its two massy towers,
rising in imposing majesty against a perfectly blue sky, for during the
fast few days, a north-east wind, dry and cold, had driven away the
lightest cloud.  A considerable number of people, as we have already
stated, obstructed the approach to the Hospital; they crowded round the
iron railings that protect the front of the building, behind which was
stationed a detachment of infantry, the cries of "Death to the doctors!"
becoming every moment more threatening.  The people who thus vociferated.
belonged to an idle, vagabond, and depraved populace--the dregs of the
Paris mob; and (terrible spectacle!) the unfortunate beings who were
forcibly carried through the midst of these hideous groups entered the
Hospital, whilst the air resounded with hoarse clamors, and cries of
"Death." Every moment, fresh victims were brought along in litters, and
on stretchers; the litters were frequently furnished with coarse
curtains, and thus the sick occupants were concealed from the public
gaze; but the stretchers, having no covering, the convulsive movements of
the dying patients often thrust aside the sheet, and exposed to view
their faces, livid as corpses.  Far from inspiring with terror the
wretches assembled round the Hospital, such spectacles became to them the
signal for savage jests, and atrocious predictions upon the fate of these
poor creatures, when once in the power of the doctors.

The big blaster and Ciboule, with a good many of their adherents, were
among the mob.  After the destruction of Hardy's factory, the quarryman
was formally expelled from the union of the Wolves, who would have
nothing more to do with this wretch; since then, he had plunged into the
grossest debauchery, and speculating on his herculean strength, had hired
himself as the officious champion of Ciboule and her compeers.  With the
exception therefore of some chance passengers, the square of Notre-Dame
was filled with a ragged crowd, composed of the refuse of the Parisian
populace--wretches who call for pity as well as blame; for misery,
ignorance, and destitution, beget but too fatally vice and crime.  These
savages of civilization felt neither pity, improvement, nor terror, at
the shocking sights with which they were surrounded; careless of a life
which was a daily struggle against hunger, or the allurements of guilt,
they braved the pestilence with infernal audacity, or sank under it with
blasphemy on their lips.

The tall form of the quarryman was conspicuous amongst the rest; with
inflamed eyes and swollen features, he yelled at the top of his voice:
"Death to the body-snatchers! they poison the people."

"That is easier than to feed them," added Ciboule.  Then, addressing
herself to an old man, who was being carried with great difficulty
through the dense crowd, upon a chair, by two men, the hag continued:
"Hey? don't go in there, old croaker; die here in the open air instead of
dying in that den, where you'll be doctored like an old rat."

"Yes," added the quarryman; "and then they'll throw you into the water to
feast the fishes, which you won't swallow any more."

At these atrocious cries, the old man looked wildly around, and uttered
faint groans.  Ciboule wished to stop the persons who were carrying him,
and they had much difficulty in getting rid of the hag.  The number of
cholera-patients arriving increased every moment, and soon neither
litters nor stretchers could be obtained, so that they were borne along
in the arms of the attendants.  Several awful episodes bore witness to
the startling rapidity of the infection.  Two men were carrying a
stretcher covered with a blood-stained sheet; one of them suddenly felt
himself attacked with the complaint; he stopped short, his powerless arms
let go the stretcher; he turned pale, staggered, fell upon the patient,
becoming as livid as him; the other man, struck with terror, fled
precipitately, leaving his companion and the dying man in the midst of
the crowd.  Some drew back in horror, others burst into a savage laugh.

"The horses have taken fright," said the quarryman, "and have left the
turn-out in the lurch."

"Help!" cried the dying man, with a despairing accent; "for pity's sake
take me in."

"There's no more room in the pit," said one, in a jeering tone.

"And you've no legs left to reach the gallery," added another.

The sick man made an effort to rise; but his strength failed him; he fell
back exhausted on the mattress.  A sudden movement took place among the
crowd, the stretcher was overturned, the old man and his companion were
trodden underfoot, and their groans were drowned in the cries of "Death
to the body-snatchers!" The yells were renewed with fresh fury, but the
ferocious band, who respected nothing in their savage fury, were soon
after obliged to open their ranks to several workmen, who vigorously
cleared the way for two of their friends carrying in their arms a poor
artisan.  He was still young, but his heavy and already livid head hung
down upon the shoulder of one of them.  A little child followed, sobbing,
and holding by one of the workmen's coats.  The measured and sonorous
sound of several drums was now heard at a distance in the winding streets
of the city: they were beating the call to arms, for sedition was rife in
the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.  The drummers emerged from under the archway,
and were traversing the square, when one of them, a gray-haired veteran,
suddenly slackened the rolling of his drum, and stood still: his
companions turned round in surprise--he had turned green; his legs gave
way, he stammered some unintelligible words, and had fallen upon the
pavement before those in the front rank had time to pause.  The
overwhelming rapidity of this attack startled for a moment the most
hardened among the surrounding spectators; for, wondering at the
interruption, a part of the crowd had rushed towards the soldiers.

At sight of the dying man, supported in the arms of two of his comrades,
one of the individuals, who, concealed under the arch, had watched the
beginning of the popular excitement, said to the drummers: "Your comrade
drank, perhaps, at some fountain on the road?"

"Yes, sir," replied one; "he was very thirsty; he drank two mouthfuls of
water on the Place du Chatelet."

"Then he is poisoned," said the man.

"Poisoned?" cried several voices.

"It is not surprising," replied the man, in a mysterious tone; "poison is
thrown into the public fountains; and this very morning a man was
massacred in the Rue Beaubourg who was discovered emptying a paper of
arsenic into a pot of wine at a public-house."[38]

Having said these words, the man disappeared in the crowd.  This report,
no less absurd than the tales about the poisoning of the Hospital
patients, was received with a general burst of indignation.  Five or six
ragged beings, regular ruffians, seized the body of the expiring drummer,
hoisted it upon their shoulders, in spite of all the efforts of his
comrades to prevent them, and paraded the square exhibiting the dismal
trophy.  Ciboule and the quarryman went before, crying: "Wake way for the
corpse! This is how they poison the people!"

A fresh incident now attracted the attention of the crowd.  A travelling-
carriage, which had not been able to pass along the Quai-Napoleon, the
pavement of which was up, had ventured among the intricate streets of the
city, and now arrived in the square of Notre-Dame on its way to the other
side of the Seine.  Like many others, its owners were flying from Paris,
to escape the pestilence which decimated it.  A man-servant and a lady's
maid were in the rumble, and they exchanged a glance of alarm as they
passed the Hospital, whilst a young man seated in the front part of the
carriage let down the glass, and called to the postilions to go slowly,
for fear of accident, as the crowd was very dense at that part of the
square.  This young man was Lord Morinval, and on the back seat were Lord
Montbron and his niece, Lady Morinval.  The pale and anxious countenance
of the young lady showed the alarm which she felt; and Montbron,
notwithstanding his firmness of mind, appeared to be very uneasy; he, as
well as his niece, frequently had recourse to a smelling-bottle filled
with camphor.

During the last few minutes, the carriage had advanced very slowly, the
postilions managing their horses with great caution, when a sudden
hubbub, at first distant and undefined, but soon more distinct, arose
among the throng, as it drew near, the ringing sound of chains and metal,
peculiar to the artillery-wagons, was plainly audible, and presently one
of these vehicles came towards the travelling-carriage, from the
direction of the Quai Notre-Dame.  It seemed strange, that though the
crowd was so compact, yet at the rapid approach of this wagon, the close
ranks of human beings opened as if by enchantment, but the following
words which were passed from mouth to mouth soon accounted for the
prodigy: "A wagon full of dead! the wagon of the dead!" As we have
already stated, the usual funeral conveyances were no longer sufficient
for the removal of the corpses; a number of artillery wagons had been put
into requisition, and the coffins were hastily piled in these novel

Many of the spectators regarded this gloomy vehicle with dismay, but the
quarryman and his band redoubled their horrible jokes.

"Make way for the omnibus of the departed!" cried Ciboule.

"No danger of having one's toes crushed in that omnibus," said the

"Doubtless they're easy to please, the stiff-uns in there."

"They never want to be set down, at all events."

"I say, there's only one reg'lar on duty as postilion!"

"That's true, the leaders are driven by a man in a smock-frock."

"Oh! I daresay the other soldier was tired, lazy fellow! and got into the
omnibus with the others--they'll all get out at the same big hole."

"Head foremost, you know."

"Yes, they pitch them head first into a bed of lime."

"Why, one might follow the dead-cart blind-fold, and no mistake.  It's
worse than Montfaucon knacker-yards!"

"Ha! ha! ha!--it's rather gamey!" said the quarryman, alluding to the
infectious and cadaverous odor which this funeral conveyance left behind

"Here's sport!" exclaimed Ciboule: "the omnibus of the dead will run
against the fine coach.  Hurrah! the rich folks will smell death."

Indeed, the wagon was now directly in front of the carriage, and at a
very little distance from it.  A man in a smock-frock and wooden shoes
drove the two leaders, and an artilleryman the other horses.  The coffins
were so piled up within this wagon, that its semicircular top did not
shut down closely, so that, as it jolted heavily over the uneven
pavement, the biers could be seen chafing against each other.  The fiery
eyes and inflamed countenance of the man in the smock-frock showed that
he was half intoxicated; urging on the horses with his voice, his heels,
and his whip, he paid no attention to the remonstrances of the soldier,
who had great difficulty in restraining his own animals, and was obliged
to follow the irregular movements of the carman.  Advancing in this
disorderly manner, the wagon deviated from its course just as it should
have passed the travelling-carriage, and ran against it.  The shock
forced open the top, one of the coffins was thrown out, and, after
damaging the panels of the carriage, fell upon the pavement with a dull
and heavy sound.  The deal planks had been hastily nailed together, and
were shivered in the fall, and from the wreck of the coffin rolled a
livid corpse, half enveloped in a shroud.

At this horrible spectacle, Lady Morinval, who had mechanically leaned
forward, gave a loud scream, and fainted.  The crowd fell back in dismay;
the postilions, no less alarmed, took advantage of the space left open to
them by the retreat of the multitude; they whipped their horses, and the
carriage dashed on towards the quay.  As it disappeared behind the
furthermost buildings of the Hospital, the shrill joyous notes of distant

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