The Wandering Jew, Entire
Part 24 out of 31
there the beautiful and insolent young girl, so proud, six weeks ago, of
her grace, mind, and audacity--now pale, trembling, mortally wounded at
"But the act of chivalrous intrepidity of the Indian prince, with which
all Paris is ringing," said the princess, "must surely have touched
Mdlle. de Cardoville."
"Yes; but I have paralyzed the effect of that stupid and savage devotion,
by demonstrating to the young lady that it is not sufficient to kill
black panthers to prove one's self a susceptible, delicate, and faithful
"Be it so," said Father d'Aigrigny; "we will admit the fact that Mdlle.
de Cardoville is wounded to the heart."
"But what does this prove with regard to the Rennepont affair?" asked the
cardinal, with curiosity, as he leaned his elbows on the table.
"There results from it," said Rodin, "that when our most dangerous enemy
is mortally wounded, she abandons the battlefield. That is something, I
"Indeed," said the princess, "the talents and audacity of Mdlle. de
Cardoville would make her the soul of the coalition formed against us."
"Be it so," replied Father d'Aigrigny, obstinately; "she may be no longer
formidable in that respect. But the wound in her heart will not prevent
her from inheriting."
"Who tells you so?" asked Rodin, coldly, and with assurance. "Do you
know why I have taken such pains, first to bring her in contact with
Djalma, and then to separate her from him?"
"That is what I ask you," said Father D'Aigrigny; "how can this storm of
passion prevent Mdlle. de Cardoville and the prince from inheriting?"
"Is it from the serene, or from the stormy sky, that darts the destroying
thunderbolt?" said Rodin, disdainfully. "Be satisfied; I shall know
where to place the conductor. As for M. Hardy, the man lived for three
things: his workmen, his friend, his mistress. He has been thrice
wounded in the heart. I always take aim at the heart; it is legal and
"It is legal, and sure, and praiseworthy," said the bishop; "for, if I
understand you rightly, this manufacturer had a concubine; now it is well
to make use of an evil passion for the punishment of the wicked."
"True, quite true," added the cardinal; "if they have evil passion for us
to make use of it, it is their own fault."
"Our holy Mother Perpetue," said the princess, "took every means to
discover this abominable adultery."
"Well, then, M. Hardy is wounded in his dearest affections, I admit,"
said Father d'Aigrigny, still disputing every inch of ground; "ruined too
in his fortune, which will only make him the more eager after this
The argument appeared of weight to the two prelates and the princess; all
looked at Rodin with anxious curiosity. Instead of answering he walked
up to the sideboard, and, contrary to his habits of stoical sobriety, and
in spite of his repugnance for wine, he examined the decanters, and said:
"What is there in them?"
"Claret and sherry," said the hostess, much astonished at the sudden
taste of Rodin, "and--"
The latter took a decanter at hazard, and poured out a glass of Madeira,
which he drank off at a draught. Just be fore he had felt a strange kind
of shivering; to this had succeeded a sort of weakness. He hoped the
wine would revive him.
After wiping his mouth with the back of his dirty hand, he returned to
the table, and said to Father d'Aigrigny: "What did you tell me about M.
"That being ruined in fortune, he would be the more eager to obtain this
immense inheritance," answered Father d'Aigrigny, inwardly much offended
at the imperious tone.
"M. Hardy think of money?" said Rodin, shrugging his shoulders. "He is
indifferent to life, plunged in a stupor from which he only starts to
burst into tears. Then he speaks with mechanical kindness to those about
him. I have placed him in good hands. He begins, however, to be
sensible to the attentions shown him, for he is good, excellent, weak;
and ii is to this excellence, Father d'Aigrigny, that you must appeal to
finish the work in hand."
"I?" said Father d'Aigrigny, much surprised.
"Yes; and then you will find that the result I have obtained is
Rodin paused, and, pressing his hand to his forehead, said to himself:
"It is strange!"
"What is the matter?" said the princess, with interest.
"Nothing, madame," answered Rodin, with a shiver; "it is doubtless the
wine I drank; I am not accustomed to it. I feel a slight headache; but
it will pass."
"Your eyes are very bloodshot, my good father, said the princess.
"I have looked too closely into my web," answered the Jesuit, with a
sinister smile; "and I must look again, to make Father d'Aigrigny, who
pretends to be blind, catch a glimpse of my other flies. The two
daughters of Marshal Simon, for instance, growing sadder and more
dejected every day, at the icy barrier raised between them and their
father; and the latter thinking himself one day dishonored if he does
this, another if he does that; so that the hero of the Empire has become
weaker and more irresolute than a child. What more remains of this
impious family? Jacques Rennepont? Ask Morok, to what a state of
debasement intemperance has reduced him, and towards what an abyss he is
rushing!--There is my occurrence-sheet; you see to what are reduced all
the members of this family, who, six weeks ago, had each elements of
strength and union! Behold these Renneponts, who, by the will of their
heretical ancestor, were to unite their forces to combat and crush our
Society!--There was good reason to fear them; but what did I say? That I
would act upon their passions. What have I done? I have acted upon
their passions. At this hour they are vainly struggling in my web--they
are mine--they are mine--"
As he was speaking, Rodin's countenance and voice had undergone a
singular alteration; his complexion, generally so cadaverous, had become
flushed, but unequally, and in patches; then, strange phenomenon! his
eyes grew both more brilliant and more sunken, and his voice sharper and
louder. The change in the countenance of Rodin, of which he did not
appear to be conscious, was so remarkable, that the other actors in this
scene looked at him with a sort of terror.
Deceived as to the cause of this impression, Rodin exclaimed with
indignation, in a voice interrupted by deep gaspings for breath: "It is
pity for this impious race, that I read upon your faces? Pity for the
young girl, who never enters a church, and erects pagan altars in her
habitation? Pity for Hardy, the sentimental blasphemer, the
philanthropic atheist, who had no chapel in his factory, and dared to
blend the names of Socrates, Marcus, Aurelius, and Plato, with our
Savior's? Pity for the Indian worshipper of Brahma? Pity for the two
sisters, who have never even been baptized? Pity for that brute, Jacques
Rennepont? Pity for the stupid imperial soldier, who has Napoleon for
his god, and the bulletins of the Grand Army for his gospel? Pity for
this family of renegades, whose ancestor, a relapsed heretic, not content
with robbing us of our property, excites from his tomb, at the end of a
century and a half, his cursed race to lift their heads against us?
What! to defend ourselves from these vipers, we shall not have the right
to crush them in their own venom?--I tell you, that it is to serve
heaven, and to give a salutary example to the world, to devote, by
unchaining their own passions, this impious family to grief and despair
As he spoke thus, Rodin was dreadful in his ferocity; the fire of his
eyes became still more brilliant; his lips were dry and burning, a cold
sweat bathed his temples, which could be seen throbbing; an icy shudder
ran through his frame. Attributing these symptoms to fatigue from
writing through a portion of the night, and wishing to avoid fainting, he
went to the sideboard, filled another glass with wine, which he drank off
at a draught, and returned as the cardinal said to him: "If your course
with regard to this family needed justification, my good father, your
last word would have victoriously justified it. Not only are you right,
according to your own casuists, but there is nothing in your proceedings
contrary to human laws. As for the divine law, it is pleasing to the
Lord to destroy impiety with its own weapons."
Conquered, as well as the others, by Rodin's diabolical assurance, and
brought back to a kind of fearful admiration, Father d'Aigrigny said to
him: "I confess I was wrong in doubting the judgment of your reverence.
Deceived by the appearance of the means employed, I could not judge of
their connection, and above all, of their results. I now see, that,
thanks to you, success is no longer doubtful."
"This is an exaggeration," replied Rodin, with feverish impatience; "all
these passions are at work, but the moment is critical. As the alchemist
bends over the crucible, which may give him either treasures or sudden
death--I alone at this moment--"
Rodin did not finish the sentence. He pressed both his hands to his
forehead, with a stifled cry of pain.
"What is the matter?" said Father d'Aigrigny. "For some moments you have
been growing fearfully pale."
"I do not know 'what is the matter," said Rodin, in an altered voice; "my
headache increases--I am seized with a sort of giddiness."
"Sit down," said the princess, with interest.
"Take something," said the bishop.
"It will be nothing," said Rodin, with an effort; "I am no milksop, thank
heaven!--I had little sleep last night; it is fatigue--nothing more. I
was saying, that I alone could now direct this affair: but I cannot
execute the plan myself. I must keep out of the way, and watch in the
shade: I must hold the threads, which I alone can manage," added Rodin,
in a faint voice.
"My good father," said the cardinal uneasily, "I assure you that you are
very unwell. Your paleness is becoming livid."
"It is possible," answered Rodin, courageously; "but I am not to be so
soon conquered. To return to our affair--this is the time, in which your
qualities, Father d'Aigrigny, will turn to good account. I have never
denied them, and they may now be of the greatest use. You have the power
of charming--grace--eloquence--you must--"
Rodin paused again. A cold sweat poured from his forehead. He felt his
legs give way under him, notwithstanding his obstinate energy.
"I confess, I am not well," he said; "yet, this morning, I was as well as
ever. I shiver. I am icy cold."
"Draw near the fire--it is a sudden indisposition," said the bishop,
offering his arm with heroic devotion; "it will not be anything of
"If you were to take something warm, a cup of tea," said the princess;
"Dr. Baleinier will be here directly--he will reassure us as to this--
"It is really inexplicable," said the prelate.
At these words of the cardinal, Rodin, who had advanced with difficulty
towards the fire, turned his eyes upon the prelate, and looked at him
fixedly in a strange manner, for about a second; then, strong in his
unconquerable energy, notwithstanding the change in his features, which
were now visibly disfigured, Rodin said, in a broken voice, which he
tried to make firm: "The fire has warmed me; it will be nothing. I have
no time to coddle myself. It would be a pretty thing to fall ill just as
the Rennepont affair can only succeed by my exertions! Let us return to
business. I told you, Father d'Aigrigny, that you might serve us a good
deal; and you also, princess, who have espoused this cause as if it were
Rodin again paused. This time he uttered a piercing cry, sank upon a
chair placed near him, and throwing himself back convulsively, he pressed
his hands to his chest, and exclaimed: "Oh! what pain!"
Then (dreadful sight!) a cadaverous decomposition, rapid as thought, took
place in Rodin's features. His hollow eyes were filled with blood, and
seemed to shrink back in their orbits, which formed, as it were, two dark
holes, in the centre of which blazed points of fire; nervous convulsions
drew the flabby, damp, and icy skin tight over the bony prominences of
the face, which was becoming rapidly green. From the lips, writhing with
pain, issued the struggling breath, mingled with the words: "Oh! I
suffer! I burn!"
Then, yielding to a transport of fury. Rodin tore with his nails his
naked chest, for he had twisted off the buttons of his waistcoat, and
rent his black and filthy shirt-front, as if the pressure of those
garments augmented the violence of the pain under which he was writhing.
The bishop, the cardinal, and Father d'Aigrigny, hastily approached
Rodin, to try and hold him; he was seized with horrible convulsions; but,
suddenly, collecting all his strength, he rose upon his feet stiff as a
corpse. Then, with his garments in disorder, his thin, gray hair
standing up all around his greenish face, fixing his red and flaming eyes
upon the cardinal, he seized him with convulsive grasp, and exclaimed in
a terrible voice, half stifled in his throat: "Cardinal Malipieri--this
illness is too sudden--they suspect me at Rome--you are of the race of
the Borgias--and your secretary was with me this morning!"
"Unhappy man! what does he dare insinuate?" cried the prelate, as amazed
as he was indignant at the accusation. So saying, the cardinal strove to
free himself from the grasp of Rodin, whose fingers were now as stiff as
"I am poisoned!" muttered Rodin, and sinking back, he fell into the arms
of Father d'Aigrigny.
Notwithstanding his alarm, the cardinal had time to whisper to the
latter: "He thinks himself poisoned. He must therefore be plotting
something very dangerous."
The door of the room opened. It was Dr. Baleinier.
"Oh, doctor!" cried the princess, as she ran pale and frightened towards
him; "Father Rodin has been suddenly attacked with terrible convulsions.
"Convulsions? oh! it will be nothing, madame," said the doctor, throwing
down his hat upon a chair, and hastily approaching the group which
surrounded the sick man.
"Here is the doctor!" cried the princess. All stepped aside, except
Father d'Aigrigny, who continued to support Rodin, leaning against a
"Heavens! what symptoms!" cried Dr. Baleinier, examining with growing
terror the countenance of Rodin, which from green was turning blue.
"What is it?" asked all the spectators, with one voice.
"What is it?" repeated the doctor, drawing back as if he had trodden upon
a serpent. "It is the cholera! and contagious!"
On this frightful, magic word, Father d'Aigrigny abandoned his hold of
Rodin, who rolled upon the floor.
"He is lost!" cried Dr. Baleinier. "But I will run to fetch the means
for a last effort." And he rushed towards the door.
The Princess de Saint-Dizier, Father d'Aigrigny, the bishop, and the
cardinal followed in terror the flight of Dr. Baleinier. They all
pressed to the door, which, in their consternation, they could not open.
It opened at last but from without--and Gabriel appeared upon the
threshold. Gabriel, the type of the true priest, the holy, the
evangelical minister, to whom we can never pay enough of respect and
ardent sympathy, and tender admiration. His angelic countenance, in its
mild serenity, offered a striking contrast of these faces, all disturbed
and contracted with terror.
The young priest was nearly thrown down by the fugitives, who rushed
through the now open doorway, exclaiming: "Do not go in! he is dying of
the cholera. Fly!"
On these words, pushing back the bishop, who, being the last, was trying
to force a passage, Gabriel ran towards Rodin, while the prelate
succeeded in making his escape. Rodin, stretched upon the carpet, his
limbs twisted with fearful cramps, was writhing in the extremity of pain.
The violence of his fall had, no doubt, roused him to consciousness, for
he moaned, in a sepulchral voice: "They leave me to die--like a dog--the
And the dying man, rolling on his back with a convulsive movement, turned
towards the ceiling a face on which was branded the infernal despair of
the damned, as he once more repeated: "No one!--not one!"
His eyes, which suddenly flamed with fury, just then met the large blue
eyes of the angelic and mild countenance of Gabriel who, kneeling beside
him, said to him, in his soft, grave tones: "I am here, father--to help
you, if help be possible--to pray for you, if God calls you to him."
"Gabriel!" murmured Rodin, with failing voice; "forgive me for the evil I
have done you--do not leave me--do not--"
Rodin could not finish; he had succeeded in raising himself into a
sitting posture; he now uttered a loud cry, and fell back without sense
The same day it was announced in the evening papers: "The cholera has
broken out in Paris. The first case declared itself this day, at half-
past three, P.M. in the Rue de Babylone, at Saint-Dizier House."
THE SQUARE OF NOTRE DAME.
A week had passed since Rodin was seized with the cholera, and its
ravages had continually increased. That was an awful time! A funeral
pall was spread over Paris, once so gay. And yet, never had the sky been
of a more settled, purer blue; never had the sun shone more brilliantly.
The inexorable serenity of nature, during the ravages of the deadly
scourge, offered a strange and mysterious contrast. The flaunting light
of the dazzling sunshine fell full upon the features, contracted by a
thousand agonizing fears. Each trembled for himself, or for those dear
to him; every countenance was stamped with an expression of feverish
astonishment and dread. People walked with rapid steps, as if they would
escape from the fate which threatened them; besides, they were in haste
to return to their homes, for often they left life, health, happiness,
and, two hours later, they found agony, death, and despair.
At every moment, new dismal objects met the view. Sometimes carts passed
along, filled with coffins, symmetrically piled; they stopped before
every house. Men in black and gray garments were in waiting before the
door; they held out their hands, and to some, one coffin was thrown, to
some two, frequently three or four, from the same house. It sometimes
happened that the store was quickly exhausted, and the cart, which had
arrived full, went away empty, whilst many of the dead in the street were
still unserved. In nearly every dwelling, upstairs and down, from the
roof to the cellar, there was a stunning tapping of hammers: coffins were
being nailed down, and so many, so very many were nailed, that sometimes
those who worked stopped from sheer fatigue. Then broke forth laments,
heart-rending moans, despairing imprecations. They were uttered by those
from whom the men in black and gray had taken some one to fill the
Unceasingly were the coffins filled, and day and night did those men
work, but by day more than by night, for, as soon as it was dusk, carne a
gloomy file of vehicles of all kinds--the usual hearses were not
sufficient; but cars, carts, drays, hackney-coaches, and such like,
swelled the funeral procession; different to the other conveyances, which
entered the streets full and went away empty--these came empty but soon
returned full. During that period, the windows of many houses were
illuminated, and often the lights remained burning till the morning. It
was "the season." These illuminations resembled the gleaming rays which
shine in the gay haunts of pleasure; but there were tapers instead of wax
candles, and the chanting of prayers for the dead replaced the murmur of
the ball-room. In the streets, instead of the facetious transparencies
which indicate the costumers, there swung at intervals huge lanterns of a
blood-red color, with these words in black letters: "Assistance for those
attacked with the cholera." The true places for revelry, during the
night, were the churchyards; they ran riot--they, usually so desolate and
silent, during the dark, quiet hours, when the cypress trees rustle in
the breeze, so lonely, that no human step dared to disturb the solemn
silence which reigned there at night, became on a sudden, animated,
noisy, riotous, and resplendent with light. By the smoky flames of
torches, which threw a red glare upon the dark fir-trees, and the white
tombstones, many grave-diggers worked merrily, humming snatches of some
favorite tune. Their laborious and hazardous industry then commanded a
very high price; they were in such request that it was necessary to humor
them. They drank often and much; they sang long and loud; and this to
keep up their strength and spirits good, absolute requisites in such an
employment. If, by chance, any did not finish the grave they had begun,
some obliging comrade finished it for them (fitting expression!), and
placed them in it with friendly care.
Other distant sounds responded to the joyous strains of the grave-
diggers; public-houses had sprung up in the neighborhood of the
churchyards, and the drivers of the dead, when they had "set down their
customers," as they jocosely expressed themselves, enriched with their
unusual gratuities, feasted and made merry like lords; dawn often found
them with a glass in their hands, and a jest on their lips; and, strange
to say, among these funeral satellites, who breathed the very atmosphere
of the disease, the mortality was scarcely perceptible. In the dark,
squalid quarters of the town, where, surrounded by infectious
exhalations, the indigent population was crowded together, and miserable
beings, exhausted by severe privation, were "bespoke" by the cholera, as
it was energetically said at the time, not only individuals, but whole
families, were carried off in a few hours; and yet, sometimes, oh,
merciful Providence! one or two little children were left in the cold and
empty room, after the father and mother, brother and sister, had been
taken away in their shells.
Frequently, houses which had swarmed with hard working laborers, were
obliged to be shut up for want of tenants; in one day, they had been
completely cleared by this terrible visitation, from the cellars, where
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.
"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."
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
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
trumpets were heard, and repeated shouts proclaimed: "The Cholera
Masquerade!" The words announced one of those episodes combining
buffoonery with terror, which marked the period when the pestilence was
on the increase, though now they can with difficulty be credited. If the
evidence of eyewitnesses did not agree in every particular with the
accounts given in the public papers of this masquerade, they might be
regarded as the ravings of some diseased brain, and not as the notice of
a fact which really occurred.
"The Masquerade of the Cholera" appeared, we say, in the square of Notre-
Dame, just as Morinval's carriage gained the quay, after disengaging
itself from the death-wagon.
 It is well-known that at the time of the cholera, such placards were
numerous in Paris, and were alternately attributed to opposite parties.
Among others, to the priests, many of the bishops having published
mandatory letters, or stated openly in the churches of their diocese,
that the Almighty had sent the cholera as a punishment to France for
having driven away its lawful sovereign, and assimilated the Catholic to
other forms of worship.
 It is notorious, that at this unhappy period several persons were
massacred, under a false accusation of poisoning the fountains, etc.
THE CHOLERA MASQUERADE.
A stream of people, who preceded the masquerade, made a sudden irruption
through the arch into the square, uttering loud cheers as they advanced.
Children were also there, blowing horns, whilst some hooted and others
The quarryman, Ciboule, and their band, attracted by this new spectacle,
rushed tumultuously towards the arch. Instead of the two eating-houses,
which now (1845) stand on either side of the Rue d'Arcole, there was then
only one, situated to the left of the vaulted passage, and much
celebrated amongst the joyous community of students, for the excellence
both of its cookery and its wines. At the first blare of the trumpets,
sounded by the outriders in livery who preceded the masquerade, the
windows of the great room of the eating-house were thrown open, and
several waiters, with their napkins under their arms, leaned forward,
impatient to witness the arrival of the singular guests they were
At length, the grotesque procession made its appearance in the thick of
an immense uproar. The train comprised a chariot, escorted by men and
women on horseback, clad in rich and elegant fancy dresses. Most of
these maskers belonged to the middle and easy classes of society. The
report had spread that masquerade was in preparation, for the purpose of
daring the cholera, and, by this joyous demonstration, to revive the
courage of the affrighted populace. Immediately, artists, young men
about town, students, and so on, responded to the appeal, and though till
now unknown one to the other, they easily fraternized together. Many
brought their mistresses, to complete the show. A subscription had been
opened to defray the expenses, and, that morning, after a splendid
breakfast at the other end of Paris, the joyous troop had started bravely
on their march, to finish the day by a dinner in the square of Notre-
We say bravely, for it required a singular turn of mind, a rare firmness
of character, in young women, to traverse, in this fashion, a great city
plunged in consternation and terror--to fall in at every step with
litters loaded with the dying, and carriages filled with the dead--to
defy, as it were, in a spirit of strange pleasantry, the plague that was
detonating the Parisians. It is certain that, in Paris alone, and there
only amongst a peculiar class, could such an idea have ever been
conceived or realized. Two men, grotesquely disguised as postilions at a
funeral, with formidable false noses, rose-colored crape hat-bands and
large favors of roses and crape bows at their buttonholes, rode before
the vehicle. Upon the platform of the car were groups of allegorical
personages, representing WINE, PLEASURE, LOVE, PLAY. The mission of
these symbolical beings was, by means of jokes, sarcasms, and mockeries,
to plague the life out of Goodman Cholera, a sort of funeral and
burlesque Cassander, whom they ridiculed and made game of in a hundred
ways. The moral of the play was this: "To brave Cholera in security, let
us drink, laugh, game, and make love!"
WINE was represented by a huge, lusty Silenus, thick-set, and with
swollen paunch, a crown of ivy on his brow, a panther's skin across his
shoulder, and in his hand a large gilt goblet, wreathed with flowers.
None other than Ninny Moulin, the famous moral and religious writer,
could have exhibited to the astonished and delighted spectators an ear of
so deep a scarlet, so majestic an abdomen, and a face of such triumphant
and majestic fulness. Every moment, Ninny Moulin appeared to empty his
cup--after which he burst out laughing in the face of Goodman Cholera.
Goodman Cholera, a cadaverous pantaloon, was half-enveloped in a shroud;
his mask of greenish cardboard, with red, hollow eyes, seemed every
moment to grin as in mockery of death; from beneath his powdered peruke,
surmounted by a pyramidical cotton night-cap, appeared his neck and arm,
dyed of a bright green color; his lean hand, which shook almost always
with a feverish trembling (not feigned, but natural), rested upon a
crutch-handled cane; finally, as was becoming in a pantaloon, he wore red
stockings, with buckles at the knees, and high slippers of black beaver.
This grotesque representative of the cholera was Sleepinbuff.
Notwithstanding a slow and dangerous fever, caused by the excessive use
of brandy, and by constant debauchery, that was silently undermining his
constitution, Jacques Rennepont had been induced by Morok to join the
masquerade. The brute-tamer himself, dressed as the King of Diamonds,
represented PLAY. His forehead was adorned with a diadem of gilded
paper, his face was pale and impassible, and as his long, yellow beard
fell down the front of his parti-colored robe, Morok looked exactly the
character he personated. From time to time, with an air of grave
mockery, he shook close to the eyes of Goodman Cholera a large bag full
of sounding counters, and on this bag were painted all sorts of playing-
cards. A certain stiffness in the right arm showed that the lion-tamer
had not yet quite recovered from the effects of the wound which the
panther had inflicted before being stabbed by Djalma.
PLEASURE, who also represented Laughter, classically shook her rattle,
with its sonorous gilded bells, close to the ears of Goodman Cholera.
She was a quick, lively young girl, and her fine black hair was crowned
with a scarlet cap of liberty. For Sleepinbuff's sake, she had taken the
place of the poor Bacchanal queen, who would not have failed to attend on
such an occasion--she, who had been so valiant and gay, when she bore her
part in a less philosophical, but not less amusing masquerade. Another
pretty creature, Modeste Bornichoux, who served as a model to a painter
of renown (one of the cavaliers of the procession), was eminently
successful in her representation of LOVE. He could not have had a more
charming face, and more graceful form. Clad in a light blue spangled
tunic, with a blue and silver band across her chestnut hair, and little
transparent wings affixed to her white shoulders, she placed one
forefinger upon the other, and pointed with the prettiest impertinence at
Goodman Cholera. Around the principal group, other maskers, more or less
grotesque in appearance, waved each a banner, an which were inscriptions
of a very anacreontic character, considering the circumstances:
"Down with the Cholera!" "Short and sweet!" "Laugh away, laugh always!"
"We'll collar the Cholera!" "Love forever!" "Wine forever!" "Come if you
dare, old terror!"
There was really such audacious gayety in this masquerade, that the
greater number of the spectators, at the moment when it crossed the
square, in the direction of the eating-house, where dinner was waiting,
applauded it loudly and repeatedly. This sort of admiration, which
courage, however mad and blind, almost always inspires, appeared to
others (a small number, it must be confessed) a kind of defiance to the
wrath of heaven; and these received the procession with angry murmurs.
This extraordinary spectacle, and the different impressions it produced,
were too remote from all customary facts to admit of a just appreciation.
We hardly know if this daring bravado was deserving of praise or blame.
Besides, the appearance of those plagues, which from age to age decimate
the population of whole countries, has almost always been accompanied by
a sort of mental excitement, which none of those who have been spared by
the contagion can hope to escape. It is a strange fever of the mind,
which sometimes rouses the most stupid prejudices and the most ferocious
passions, and sometimes inspires, on the contrary, the most magnificent
devotion, the most courageous actions--with some, driving the fear of
death to a point of the wildest terror--with others, exciting the
contempt of life to express itself in the most audacious bravadoes.
Caring little for the praise or blame it might deserve, the masquerade
arrived before the eating-house, and made its entry in the midst of
universal acclamations. Everything seemed to combine to give full effect
to this strange scene, by the opposition of the most singular contrasts.
Thus the tavern, in which was to be held this extraordinary feast, being
situated at no great distance from the antique cathedral, and the gloomy
hospital, the religious anthems of the ancient temple, the cries of the
dying, and the bacchanalian songs of the banqueteers, must needs mingle,
and by turns drown one another. The maskers now got down from their
chariot, and from their horses, and went to take their places at the
repast, which was waiting for them. The actors in the masquerade are at
table in the great room of the tavern. They are joyous, noisy, even
riotous. Yet their gayety has a strange tone, peculiar to itself.
Sometimes, the most resolute involuntarily remember that their life is at
stake in this mad and audacious game with destiny. That fatal thought is
rapid as the icy fever-shudder, which chills you in an instant;
therefore, from time to time, an abrupt silence, lasting indeed only for
a second, betrays these passing emotions which are almost immediately
effaced by new bursts of joyful acclamation, for each one says to
himself: "No weakness! my chum and my girl are looking at me!"
And all laugh, and knock glasses together, and challenge the next man,
and drink out of the glass of the nearest woman. Jacques had taken off
the mask and peruke of Goodman Cholera. His thin, leaden features, his
deadly paleness, the lurid brilliancy of his hollow eyes, showed the
incessant progress of the slow malady which was consuming this
unfortunate man, brought by excesses to the last extremity of weakness.
Though he felt the slow fire devouring his entrails, he concealed his
pain beneath a forced and nervous smile.
To the left of Jacques was Morok, whose fatal influence was ever on the
increase, and to his right the girl disguised as PLEASURE. She was named
Mariette. By her side sat Ninny Moulin, in all his majestic bulk, who
often pretended to be looking for his napkin under the table, in order to
have the opportunity of pressing the knees of his other neighbor,
Modeste, the representative of LOVE. Most of the guests were grouped
according to their several tastes, each tender pair together, and the
bachelors where they could. They had reached the second course, and the
excellence of the wine, the good cheer, the gay speeches, and even the
singularity of the occasion, had raised their spirits to a high degree of
excitement, as may be gathered from the extraordinary incidents of the
 We read in the Constitutionnel, Saturday March 31st, 1832: "The
Parisians readily conform to that part of the official instructions with
regard to the cholera, which prescribes, as a preservation from the
disease, not to be afraid, to amuse one's self, etc. The pleasures of
Mid-Lent have been as brilliant and as mad as those of the carnival
itself. For a long time past there had not been so many balls at this
period of the year. Even the cholera has been made the subject of an
Two or three times, without being remarked by the guests, one of the
waiters had come to whisper to his fellows, and point with expressive
gesture to the ceiling. But his comrades had taken small account of his
observations or fears, not wishing, doubtless, to disturb the guests,
whose mad gayety seemed ever on the increase.
"Who can doubt now of the superiority of our manner of treating this
impertinent Cholera? Has he dared even to touch our sacred battalion?"
said a magnificent mountebank-Turk, one of the standard-bearers of the
"Here is all the mystery," answered another. "It is very simple. Only
laugh in the face of the plague, and it will run away from you."
"And right enough too, for very stupid work it does," added a pretty
little Columbine, emptying her glass.
"You are right, my darling; it is intolerably stupid work," answered the
Clown belonging to the Columbine; "here you are very quiet, enjoying
life, and all on a sudden you die with an atrocious grimace. Well! what
then? Clever, isn't it? I ask you, what does it prove?"
"It proves," replied an illustrious painter of the romantic school,
disguised like a Roman out of one of David's pictures, "it proves that
the Cholera is a wretched colorist, for he has nothing but a dirty green
on his pallet. Evidently he is a pupil of Jacobus, that king of
classical painters, who are another species of plagues."
"And yet, master," added respectfully a pupil of the great painter, "I
have seen some cholera patients whose convulsions were rather fine, and
their dying looks first-rate!"
"Gentlemen," cried a sculptor of no less celebrity, "the question lies in
a nutshell. The Cholera is a detestable colorist, but a good
draughtsman. He shows you the skeleton in no time. By heaven! how he
strips off the flesh!--Michael Angelo would be nothing to him."
"True," cried they all, with one voice; "the Cholera is a bad colorist,
but a good draughtsman."
"Moreover, gentlemen," added Ninny Moulin, with comic gravity, "this
plague brings with it a providential lesson, as the great Bossuet would
"The lesson! the lesson!"
"Yes, gentlemen; I seem to hear a voice from above, proclaiming: `Drink
of the best, empty your purse, and kiss your neighbor's wife; for your
hours are perhaps numbered, unhappy wretch!'"
So saying, the orthodox Silenus took advantage of a momentary absence of
mind on the part of Modeste, his neighbor, to imprint on the blooming
cheek of LOVE a long, loud kiss. The example was contagious, and a storm
of kisses was mingled with bursts of laughter.
"Ha! blood and thunder!" cried the great painter as he gayly threatened
Ninny Moulin; "you are very lucky that to-morrow will perhaps be the end
of the world, or else I should pick a quarrel with you for having kissed
my lovely LOVE."
"Which proves to you, O Rubens! O Raphael! the thousand advantages of the
Cholera, whom I declare to be essentially sociable and caressing."
"And philanthropic," said one of the guests; "thanks to him, creditors
take care of the health of their debtors. This morning a usurer, who
feels a particular interest in my existence, brought me all sorts of
anti-choleraic drugs, and begged me to make use of them."
"And I!" said the pupil of the great painter. "My tailor wished to force
me to wear a flannel band next to the skin, because I owe him a thousand
crowns. But I answered `Oh, tailor, give me a receipt in full, and I
will wrap myself up in flannel, to preserve you my custom!'"
"O Cholera, I drink to thee!" said Ninny Moulin, by way of grotesque
invocation. "You are not Despair; on the contrary, you are the emblem of
Hope--yes, of hope. How many husbands, how many wives, longed for a
number (alas! too uncertain chance) in the lottery of widowhood! You
appear, and their hearts are gladdened. Thanks to you, benevolent pest!
their chances of liberty are increased a hundredfold."
And how grateful heirs ought to be! A cold--a heat--a trifle--and there,
in an hour, some old uncle becomes a revered benefactor!"
"And those who are always looking out for other people's places--what an
ally they must find in the Cholera!"
"And how true it will make many vows of constancy!" said Modeste,
sentimentally. "How many villains have sworn to a poor, weak woman, to
love her all their lives, who never meant (the wretches!) to keep their
word so well!"
"Gentlemen," cried Ninny Moulin, "since we are now, perhaps, at the eve
of the end of the world, as yonder celebrated painter has expressed it, I
propose to play the world topsy-turvy: I beg these ladies to make
advances to us, to tease us, to excite us, to steal kisses from us, to
take all sorts of liberties with us, and (we shall not die of it) even to
insult us. Yes, I declare that I will allow myself to be insulted. So,
LOVE, you may offer me the greatest insult that can be offered to a
virtuous and modest bachelor," added the religious writer, leaning over
towards his neighbor, who repulsed him with peals of laughter; and the
proposal of Ninny Moulin being received with general hilarity, a new
impulse was given to the mirth and riot.
In the midst of the uproar, the waiter, who had before entered the room
several times, to whisper uneasily to his comrades, whilst he pointed to
the ceiling, again appeared with a pale and agitated countenance;
approaching the man who performed the office of butler, he said to him,
in a low voice, tremulous with emotion: "They are come!"
"You know--up there"; and he pointed to the ceiling.
"Oh!" said the butler, becoming thoughtful; "where are they?"
"They have just gone upstairs; they are there now," answered the waiter,
shaking his head with an air of alarm; "yes, they are there!"
"What does master say?"
"He is very vexed, because--" and the waiter glanced round at the guests.
"He does not know what to do; he has sent me to you."
"What the devil have I to do with it?" said the other; wiping his
forehead. "It was to be expected, and cannot be helped."
"I will not remain here till they begin."
"You may as well go, for your long face already attracts attention. Tell
master we must wait for the upshot."
The above incident was scarcely perceived in the midst of the growing
tumult of the joyous feast. But, among the guests, one alone laughed
not, drank not. This was Jacques. With fixed and lurid eye, he gazed
upon vacancy. A stranger to what was passing around him, the unhappy man
thought of the Bacchanal Queen, who had been so gay and brilliant in the
midst of similar saturnalia. The remembrance of that one being, whom he
still loved with an extravagant love, was the only thought that from time
to time roused him from his besotted state.
It is strange, but Jacques had only consented to join this masquerade
because the mad scene reminded him of the merry day he had spent with
Cephyse--that famous breakfast, after a night of dancing, in which the
Bacchanal Queen, from some extraordinary presentiment, had proposed a
lugubrious toast with regard to this very pestilence, which was then
reported to be approaching France. "To the Cholera!" had she said. "Let
him spare those who wish to live, and kill at the same moment those who
dread to part!"
And now, at this time, remembering those mournful words, Jacques was
absorbed in painful thought. Morok perceived his absence of mind, and
said aloud to him, "You have given over drinking, Jacques. Have you had
enough wine? Then you will want brandy. I will send for some."
"I want neither wine nor brandy," answered Jacques, abruptly, and he fell
back into a sombre reverie.
"Well, you may be right," resumed Morok, in a sardonic tone, and raising
his voice still higher. "You do well to take care of yourself. I was
wrong to name brandy in these times. There would be as much temerity in
facing a bottle of brandy as the barrel of a loaded pistol."
On hearing his courage as a toper called in question, Sleepinbuff looked
angrily at Morok. "You think it is from cowardice that I will not drink
brandy!" cried the unfortunate man, whose half-extinguished intellect was
roused to defend what he called his dignity. "Is it from cowardice that
I refuse, d'ye think, Morok? Answer me!"
"Come, my good fellow, we have all shown our pluck today," said one of
the guests to Jacques; "you, above all, who, being rather indisposed, yet
had the courage to take the part of Goodman Cholera."
"Gentlemen," resumed Morok, seeing the general attention fixed upon
himself and Sleepinbuff, "I was only joking; for if my comrade (pointing
to Jacques) had the imprudence to accept my offer, it would be an act,
not of courage, but of foolhardiness. Luckily, he has sense enough to
renounce a piece of boasting so dangerous at this time, and I--"
"Waiter!" cried Jacques, interrupting Morok with angry impatience, "two
bottles of brandy, and two glasses!"
"What are you going to do?" said Morok, with pretended uneasiness. "Why
do you order two bottles of brandy?"
"For a duel," said Jacques, in a cool, resolute tone.
"A duel!" cried the spectators, in surprise.
"Yes," resumed Jacques, "a duel with brandy. You pretend there is as
much danger in facing a bottle of brandy as a loaded pistol; let us each
take a full bottle, and see who will be the first to cry quarter."
This strange proposition was received by some with shouts of joy, and by
others with genuine uneasiness.
"Bravo! the champions of the bottle!" cried the first.
"No, no; there would be too much danger in such a contest," said the
"Just now," added one of the guests; "this challenge is as serious as an
invitation to fight to the death."
"You hear," said Morok, with a diabolical smile, "you hear, Jacques?
Will you now retreat before the danger?"
At these words, which reminded him of the peril to which he was about to
expose himself, Jacques started, as if a sudden idea had occurred to him.
He raised his head proudly, his cheeks were slightly flushed, his eye
shone with a kind of gloomy satisfaction, and he exclaimed in a firm
voice: "Hang it, waiter! are you deaf? I asked you for two bottles of
"Yes, sir," said the waiter, going to fetch them, although himself
frightened at what might be the result of this bacchanalian struggle.
But the mad and perilous resolution of Jacques was applauded by the
Ninny Moulin moved about on his chair, stamped his feet, and shouted with
all his might: "Bacchus and drink! bottles and glasses! the throats are
dry! brandy to the rescue! Largess! largess!"
And, like a true champion of the tournament, he embraced Modeste, adding,
to excuse the liberty: "Love, you shall be the Queen of Beauty, and I am
only anticipating the victor's happiness!"
"Brandy to the rescue!" repeated they all, in chorus. "Largess!"
"Gentlemen," added Ninny Moulin, with enthusiasm, "shall we remain
indifferent to the noble example set us by Goodman Cholera? He said in
his pride, `brandy!' Let us gloriously answer, 'punch!'"
"Yes, yes! punch!"
"Punch to the rescue!"
"Waiter!" shouted the religious writer, with the voice of a Stentor,
"waiter! have you a pan, a caldron, a hogshead, or any other immensity,
in which we can brew a monster punch?"
"A Babylonian punch!"
"A lake of punch!"
"An ocean of punch!"
Such was the ambitious crescendo that followed the proposition of Ninny
"Sir," answered the waiter, with an air of triumph, "we just happen to
have a large copper caldron, quite new. It has been used, and would hold
at least thirty bottles."
"Bring the caldron!" said Ninny Moulin, majestically.
"The caldron forever!" shouted the chorus.
"Put in twenty bottles of brandy, six loaves of sugar, a dozen lemons, a
pound of cinnamon, and then--fire! fire!" shouted the religious writer,
with the most vociferous exclamations.
"Yes, yes! fire!" repeated the chorus!
The proposition of Ninny Moulin gave a new impetus to the general gayety;
the most extravagant remarks were mingled with the sound of kisses, taken
or given under the pretext that perhaps there would be no to-morrow, that
one must make the most of the present, etc., etc. Suddenly, in one of
the moments of silence which sometimes occur in the midst of the greatest
tumult, a succession of slow and measured taps sounded above the ceiling
of the banqueting-room. All remained silent, and listened.
BRANDY TO THE RESCUE.
After the lapse of some seconds, the singular rapping which had so much
surprised the guests, was again heard, but this time louder and longer.
"Waiter!" cried one of the party, "what in the devil's name is knocking?"
The waiter, exchanging with his comrades a look of uneasiness and alarm,
stammered Out in reply: "Sir--it is--it is--"
"Well! I suppose it is some crabbed, cross-grained lodger, some animal,
the enemy of joy, who is pounding on the floor of his room to warn us to
sing less loud," said Ninny Moulin.
"Then, by a general rule," answered sententiously the pupil of the great
painter, "if lodger or landlord ask for silence, tradition bids us reply
by an infernal uproar, destined to drown all his remonstrances. Such, at
least," added the scapegrace, modestly, "are the foreign relations that I
have always seen observed between neighboring powers."
This remark was received with general laughter and applause. During the
tumult, Morok questioned one of the waiters, and then exclaimed in a
shrill tone, which rose above the clamor: "I demand a hearing!"
"Granted!" cried the others, gayly. During the silence which followed
the exclamation of Morok, the noise was again heard; it was this time
quicker than before.
"The lodger is innocent," said Morok, with a strange smile, "and would be
quite incapable of interfering with your enjoyment."
"Then why does he keep up that knocking?" said Ninny Moulin, emptying his
"Like a deaf man who has lost his ear-horn?" added the young artist.
"It is not the lodger who is knocking" said Morok, in a sharp, quick
tone; "for they are nailing him down in his coffin." A sudden and
mournful silence followed these words.
"His coffin no, I am wrong," resumed Morok; "her coffin, I should say, or
more properly their coffin; for, in these pressing times, they put mother
and child together."
"A woman!" cried PLEASURE, addressing the writer; "is it a woman that is
"Yes, ma'am; a poor young woman about twenty years of age," answered the
waiter in a sorrowful tone. "Her little girl, that she was nursing, died
soon after--all in less than two hours. My master is very sorry that you
ladies and gents should be disturbed in this way; but he could not
foresee this misfortune, as yesterday morning the young woman was quite
well, and singing with all her might--no one could have been gayer than
Upon these words, it was as if a funeral pall had been suddenly thrown
over a scene lately so full of joy; all the rubicund and jovial faces
took an expression of sadness; no one had the hardihood to make a jest of
mother and child, nailed down together in the same coffin. The silence
became so profound, that one could hear each breath oppressed by terror:
the last blows of the hammer seemed to strike painfully on every heart;
it appeared as if each sad feeling, until now repressed, was about to
replace that animation and gayety, which had been more factitious than
sincere. The moment was decisive. It was necessary to strike an
immediate blow, and to raise the spirits of the guests, for many pretty
rosy faces began to grow pale, many scarlet ears became suddenly white;
Ninny Moulin's were of the number.
On the contrary, Sleepinbuff exhibited an increase of audacity; he drew
up his figure, bent down from the effects of exhaustion, and, with a
cheek slightly flushed, he exclaimed: "Well, waiter? are those bottles of
brandy coming? And the punch? Devil and all! are the dead to frighten
"He's right! Down with sorrow, and let's have the punch!" cried several
of the guests, who felt the necessity of reviving their courage.
"Begone, dull care!"
"Gentlemen, here is the punch," said a waiter, opening the door. At
sight of the flaming beverage, which was to reanimate their enfeebled
spirits, the room rang with the loudest applause.
The sun had just set. The room was large, being capable of dining a
hundred guests; and the windows were few, narrow, and half veiled by red
cotton curtains. Though it was not yet night, some portions of this vast
saloon were almost entirely dark. Two waiters brought the monster-punch,
in an immense brass kettle, brilliant as gold, suspended from an iron
bar, and crowned with flames of changing color. The burning beverage was
then placed upon the table, to the great joy of the guests, who began to
forget their past alarms.
"Now," said Jacques to Morok, in a taunting tone, "while the punch is
burning, we will have our duel. The company shall judge." Then, pointing
to the two bottles of brandy, which the waiter had brought, Jacques
added: "Choose your weapon!"
"Do you choose," answered Morok.
"Well! here's your bottle--and here's your glass. Ninny Moulin shall be
"I do not refuse to be judge of the field," answered the religious
writer, "only I must warn you, comrade, that you are playing a desperate
game, and that just now, as one of these gentlemen has said, the neck of
a bottle of brandy in one's mouth, is perhaps more dangerous than the
barrel of a loaded pistol."
"Give the word, old fellow!" said Jacques, interrupting Ninny Moulin, "or
I will give it myself."
"Since you will have it so--so be it!"
"The first who gives in is conquered," said Jacques.
"Agreed!" answered Morok.
"Come, gentlemen, attention! we must follow every movement," resumed
Ninny Moulin. "Let us first see if the bottles are of the same size--
equality of weapons being the foremost condition."
During these preparations, profound silence reigned in the room. The
courage of the majority of those present, animated for a moment by the
arrival of the punch, was soon again depressed by gloomy thoughts, as
they vaguely foresaw the danger of the contest between Morok and Jacques.
This impression joined to the sad thoughts occasioned by the incident of
the coffin, darkened by degrees many a countenance. Some of the guests,
indeed, continued to make a show of rejoicing, but their gayety appeared
forced. Under certain circumstances, the smallest things will have the
most powerful effect. We have said that, after sunset, a portion of this
large room was plunged in obscurity; therefore, the guests who sat in the
remote corners of the apartment, had no other light than the reflection
of the flaming punch. Now it is well known, that the flame of burning
spirit throws a livid, bluish tint over the countenance; it was therefore
a strange, almost frightful spectacle, to see a number of the guests, who
happened to be at a distance from the windows, in this ghastly and
The painter, more struck than all the rest by this effect of color,
exclaimed: "Look! at this end of the table, we might fancy ourselves
feasting with cholera-patients, we are such fine blues and greens."
This jest was not much relished. Fortunately, the loud voice of Ninny
Moulin demanded attention, and for a moment turned the thoughts of the
"The lists are open," cried the religious writer, really more frightened
than he chose to appear. "Are you ready, brave champions?" he added.
"We are ready," said Morok and Jacques.
"Present! fire!" cried Ninny Moulin, clapping his hands. And the two
drinkers each emptied a tumbler full of brandy at a draught.
Morok did not even knit his brow; his marble face remained impassible;
with a steady hand he replaced his glass upon the table. But Jacques, as
he put down his glass, could not conceal a slight convulsive trembling,
caused by internal suffering.
"Bravely done!" cried Ninny Moulin. "The quarter of a bottle of brandy
at a draught--it is glorious! No one else here would be capable of such
prowess. And now, worthy champions, if you believe me, you will stop
where you are."
"Give the word!" answered Jacques, intrepidly. And, with feverish and
shaking hand, he seized the bottle; then suddenly, instead of filling his
glass, he said to Morok: "Bah! we want no glasses. It is braver to drink
from the bottle. I dare you to it!"
Morok's only answer was to shrug his shoulders, and raise the neck of the
bottle to his lips. Jacques hastened to imitate him. The thin,
yellowish, transparent glass gave a perfect view of the progressive
diminution of the liquor. The stony countenance of Morok, and the pale
thin face of Jacques, on which already stood large drops of cold sweat,
were now, as well as the features of the other guests, illuminated by the
bluish light of the punch; every eye was fixed upon Morok and Jacques,
with that barbarous curiosity which cruel spectacles seem involuntarily
Jacques continued to drink, holding the bottle in his left hand;
suddenly, he closed and tightened the fingers of his right hand with a
convulsive movement; his hair clung to his icy forehead, and his
countenance revealed an agony of pain. Yet he continued to drink; only,
without removing his lips from the neck of the bottle, he lowered it for
an instant, as if to recover breath. Just then, Jacques met the sardonic
look of Morok, who continued to drink with his accustomed impassibility.
Thinking that he saw the expression of insulting triumph in Morok's
glance, Jacques raised his elbow abruptly, and drank with avidity a few
drops more. But his strength was exhausted. A quenchless fire devoured
his vitals. His sufferings were too intense, and he could no longer bear
up against them. His head fell backwards, his jaws closed convulsively,
he crushed the neck of the bottle between his teeth, his neck grew rigid,
his limbs writhed with spasmodic action, and he became almost senseless.
"Jacques, my good fellow! it is nothing," cried Morok, whose ferocious
glance now sparkled with diabolical joy. Then, replacing his bottle on
the table, he rose to go to the aid of Ninny Moulin, who was vainly
endeavoring to hold Sleepinbuff.
This sudden attack had none of the symptoms of cholera. Yet terror
seized upon all present; one of the women was taken with hysterics, and
another uttered piercing cries and fainted away. Ninny Moulin, leaving
Jacques in the hands of Morok, ran towards the door to seek for help,--
when that door was suddenly opened, and the religious writer drew back in
alarm, at the sight of the unexpected personage who appeared on the
The person before whom Ninny Moulin stopped in such extreme astonishment
was the Bacchanal Queen.
Pale and wan, with, hair in disorder, hollow cheeks, sunken eyes, and
clothed almost in rags, this brilliant and joyous heroine of so many mad
orgies was now only the shadow of her former self. Misery and grief were
impressed on that countenance, once so charming. Hardly had she entered
the room, when Cephyse paused; her mournful and unquiet gaze strove to
penetrate the half-obscurity of the apartment, in search of him she
longed to see. Suddenly the girl started, and uttered a loud scream.
She had just perceived, at the other side of a long table, by the bluish
light of the punch, Jacques struggling with Morok and one of the guests,
who were hardly able to restrain his convulsive movements.
At this sight Cephyse, in her first alarm, carried away by her affection,
did what she had so often done in the intoxication of joy and pleasure.
Light and agile, instead of losing precious time in making a long
circuit, she sprang at once upon the table, passed nimbly through the
array of plates and bottles, and with one spring was by the side of the
"Jacques!" she exclaimed, without yet remarking the lion-tamer, and
throwing herself on the neck of her lover. "Jacques! it is I--Cephyse!"
That well-known voice, that heart-piercing cry, which came from the
bottom of the soul, seemed not unheard by Sleepinbuff. He turned his
head mechanically towards the Bacchanal Queen, without opening his eyes,
and heaved a deep sigh; his stiffened limbs relaxed, a slight trembling
succeeded to the convulsions, and in a few seconds his heavy eyelids were
raised with an effort, so as to uncover his dull and wandering gaze.
Mute with astonishment, the spectators of this scene felt an uneasy
curiosity. Cephyse, kneeling beside her lover, bathed his hands in her
tears, covered them with kisses, and exclaimed, in a voice broken by
sobs, "It is I--Cephyse--I have found you again--it was not my fault that
I abandoned you! Forgive me, forgive--"
"Wretched woman!" cried Morok, irritated at this meeting, which might,
perhaps, be fatal to his projects; "do you wish to kill him? In his
present state, this agitation is death. Begone!" So saying, he seized
Cephyse suddenly by the arm, just as Jacques, waking, as it were, from a
painful dream, began to distinguish what was passing around him.
"You! It is you!" cried the Bacchanal Queen, in amazement, as she
recognized Morok, "who separated me from Jacques!"
She paused; for the dim eye of the victim, as it rested upon her, grew
"Cephyse!" murmured Jacques; "is it you?"
"Yes, it is I," answered she, in a voice of deep emotion; "who have come-
---I will tell you--"
She was unable to continue, and, as she clasped her hands together, her
pale, agitated, tearful countenance expressed her astonishment and
despair at the mortal change which had taken place in the features of
Jacques. He understood the cause of her surprise, and as he
contemplated, in his turn, the suffering and emaciated countenance of
Cephyse. he said to her, "Poor girl! you also have had to bear much
grief, much misery--I should hardly have known you."
"Yes," replied Cephyse, "much grief--much misery--and worse than misery,"
she added, trembling, whilst a deep blush overspread her pale features.
"Worse than misery?" said Jacques, astonished.
"But it is you who have suffered," hastily resumed Cephyse, without
answering her lover.
"Just now, I was going to make an end of it--your voice has recalled me
for an instant--but I feel something here," and he laid his hand upon his
breast, "which never gives quarter. It is all the same now--I have seen
you--I shall die happy."
"You shall not die, Jacques; I am here--"
"Listen to one, my girl. If I had a bushel of live coal in my stomach,
it could hardly burn me more. For more than a month, I have been
consuming my body by a slow fire. This gentleman," he added, glancing at
Morok, "this dear friend, always undertook to feed the flame. I do not
regret life; I have lost the habit of work, and taken to drink and riot;
I should have finished by becoming a thorough blackguard: I preferred
that my friend here should amuse himself with lighting a furnace in my
inside. Since what I drank just now, I am certain that it fumes like
"You are both foolish and ungrateful," said Morok, shrugging his
shoulders; "you held out your glass, and I filled it--and, faith, we
shall drink long and often together yet."
For some moments, Cephyse had not withdrawn her eyes from Morok. "I tell
you, that you have long blown the fire, in which I have burnt my skin,"
resumed Jacques, addressing Morok in a feeble voice, "so that they may
not think I die of cholera. It would look as if I had been frightened by
the part I played. I do not therefore reproach you, my affectionate
friend," added he, with a sardonic smile; "you dug my grave gayly--and
sometimes, when, seeing the great dark hole, into which I was about to
fall, I drew back a step--but you, my excellent friend, still pushed me
forward, saying, `Go on, my boy, go on!'--and I went on--and here I am--"
So saying, Sleepinbuff burst into a bitter laugh, which sent an icy
shudder through the spectators of this scene.
"My good fellow," said Morok, coolly, "listen to me, and follow my
"Thank you! I know your advice--and, instead of listening to you, I
prefer speaking to my poor Cephyse. Before I go down to the moles, I
should like to tell her what weighs on my heart."
"Jacques," replied Cephyse, "do not talk so. I tell you, you shall not
"Why, then, my brave Cephyse, I shall owe my life to you," returned
Jacques, in a tone of serious feeling, which surprised the spectators.
"Yes," resumed he, "when I came to myself, and saw you so poorly clad, I
felt something good about my heart--do you know why?--it was because I
said to myself, `Poor girl! she has kept her word bravely; she has chosen
to toil, and want, and suffer--rather than take another love--who would
have given her what I gave her as long as I could'--and that thought,
Cephyse, refreshed my soul. I needed it, for I was burning--and I burn
still," added he, clinching his fists with pain; "but that made me happy-
-it did me good--thanks, my good, brave Cephyse--yes, you are good and
brave--and you were right; for I never loved any but you in the wide
world; and if, in my degradation, I had one thought that raised me a
little above the filth, and made me regret that I was not better--the
thought was of you! Thanks then, my poor, dear love," said Jacques, whose
hot and shining eyes were becoming moist; "thanks once again," and he
reached his cold hand to Cephyse; "if I die, I shall die happy--if I
live, I shall live happy also. Give me your hand, my brave Cephyse!--you
have acted like a good and honest creature."
Instead of taking the hand which Jacques offered her, Cephyse, still
kneeling, bowed her head, and dared not raise her eyes to her lover.
"You don't answer," said he, leaning over towards the young girl; "you
don't take my hand--why is this?"
The unfortunate creature only answered by stifled sobs. Borne down with
shame, she held herself in so humble, so supplicating an attitude, that
her forehead almost touched the feet of her lover.
Amazed at the silence and conduct of the Bacchanal Queen, Jacques looked
at her with increasing agitation; suddenly he stammered out with
trembling lips, "Cephyse, I know you. If you do not take my hand, it is
Then, his voice failing, he added, in a dull tone, after a moment's
silence, "When, six weeks ago, I was taken to prison, did you not say to
me, 'Jacques, I swear that I will work--and if need be, live in horrible
misery--but I will live true!' That was your promise. Now, I know you
never speak false; tell me you have kept your word, and I shall believe
Cephyse only answered by a heart-rending sob, as she pressed the knees of
Jacques against her heaving bosom. By a strange contradiction, more
common than is generally thought--this man, degraded by intoxication and
debauchery, who, since he came out of prison, had plunged in every
excess, and tamely yielded to all the fatal incitements of Morok, yet
received a fearful blow, when he learned, by the mute avowal of Cephyse,
the infidelity, of this creature, whom he had loved in spite of
degradation. The first impulse of Jacques was terrible. Notwithstanding
his weakness and exhaustion, he succeeded in rising from his seat, and,
with a countenance contracted by rage and despair, he seized a knife,
before they had time to prevent him, and turned it upon Cephyse. But at
the moment he was about to strike, shrinking from an act of murder, he
hurled the knife far away from him, and falling back into the chair,
covered his face with his hands.
At the cry of Ninny Moulin, who had, though late, thrown himself upon
Jacques to take away the knife, Cephyse raised her head: Jacques's woeful
dejection wrung her heart; she rose, and fell upon his neck,
notwithstanding his resistance, exclaiming in a voice broken by sobs,
"Jacques, if you knew! if you only knew--listen--do not condemn me
without hearing me--I will tell you all, I swear to you--without
falsehood--this man," and she pointed to Morok, "will not dare deny what
I say; he came, and told me to have the courage to--"
"I do not reproach you. I have no right to reproach you. Let me die in
peace. I ask nothing but that now," said Jacques, in a still weaker
voice, as he repulsed Cephyse. Then he added, with a grievous and bitter
smile, "Luckily, I have my dose. I knew--what I was doing--when I
accepted the duel with brandy."
"No, you shall not die, and you shall hear me," cried Cephyse, with a
bewildered air; "you shall hear me, and everybody else shall hear me.
They shall see that it is not my fault. Is it not so, gentlemen? Do I
not deserve pity? You will entreat Jacques to forgive me; for if driven
by misery--finding no work--I was forced to this--not for the sake of any
luxury--you see the rags I wear--but to get bread and shelter for my
poor, sick sister--dying, and even more miserable than myself--would you
not have pity upon me? Do you think one finds pleasure in one's infamy?"
cried the unfortunate, with a burst of frightful laughter; then she
added, in a low voice, and with a shudder, "Oh, if you knew, Jacques! it
is so infamous, so horrible, that I preferred death to falling so low a
second time. I should have killed myself, had I not heard you were
here." Then, seeing that Jacques did not answer her, but shook his head
mournfully as he sank down though still supported by Ninny Moulin,
Cephyse exclaimed, as she lifted her clasped hands towards him, "Jacques!
one word--for pity's sake--forgive me!"
"Gentlemen, pray remove this woman," cried Morok; "the sight of her
causes my friend too painful emotions."
"Come, my dear child, be reasonable," said several of the guests, who,
deeply moved by this scene, were endeavoring to withdraw Cephyse from it;
"leave him, and come with us; he is not in any danger."
"Gentlemen! oh, gentlemen!" cried the unfortunate creature, bursting into
tears, and raising her hands in supplication; "listen to me--I will do
all that you wish me--I will go--but, in heaven's name, send for help,
and do not let him die thus. Look, what pain he suffers! what horrible
"She is right," said one of the guests, hastening towards the door; "we
must send for a doctor."
"There is no doctor to be found," said another; "they are all too busy."
"We will do better than that," cried a third; "the Hospital is just
opposite, and we can carry the poor fellow thither. They will give him
instant help. A leaf of the table will make a litter, and the table-
cloth a covering."
"Yes, yes, that is it," said several voices; "let us carry him over at
Jacques, burnt up with brandy, and overcome by his interview with
Cephyse, had again fallen into violent convulsions. It was the dying
paroxysm of the unfortunate man. They were obliged to tie him with the
ends of the cloth, so as to secure him to the leaf which was to serve for
a litter, which two of the guests hastened to carry away. They yielded
to the supplication of Cephyse, who asked, as a last favor, to accompany
Jacques to the Hospital. When the mournful procession quitted the great
room of the eating-house, there was a general flight among the guests.
Men and women made haste to wrap themselves in their cloaks, in order to
conceal their costumes. The coaches, which had been ordered in tolerable
number for the return of the masquerade, had luckily arrived. The
defiance had been fully carried out, the audacious bravado accomplished,
and they could now retire with the honors of war. Whilst a part of the
guests were still in the room, an uproar, at first distant, but which
soon drew nearer, broke out with incredible fury in the square of Notre-
Jacques had been carried to the outer door of the tavern. Morok and
Ninny Moulin, striving to open a passage through the crowd in the
direction of the Hospital, preceded the litter. A violent reflux of the
multitude soon forced them to stop, whilst a new storm of savage outcries
burst from the other extremity of the square, near the angle of the
"What is it then?" asked Ninny Moulin of one of those ignoble figures
that was leaping up before him. "What are those cries?"
"They are making mince-meat of a poisoner, like him they have thrown into
the river," replied the man. "If you want to see the fun, follow me
close," added he, "and peg away with your elbows, for fear you should be
Hardly had the wretch pronounced these words than a dreadful shriek
sounded above the roar of the crowd, through which the bearers of the
litter, preceded by Morok, were with difficulty making their way. It was
Cephyse who uttered that cry. Jacques (one of the seven heirs of the
Rennepont family) had just expired in her arms! By a strange fatality, at
the very moment that the despairing exclamation of Cephyse announced that
death, another cry rose from that part of the square where they were
attacking the poisoner. That distant, supplicating cry, tremulous with
horrible alarm, like the last appeal of a man staggering beneath the
blows of his murderers, chilled the soul of Morok in the midst of his
"Damnation!" cried the skillful assassin, who had selected drunkenness
and debauchery for his murderous but legal weapons; "it is the voice of
the Abbe d'Aigrigny, whom they have in their clutches!"
It is necessary to go back a little before relating the adventure of
Father d'Aigrigny, whose cry of distress made so deep an impression upon
Morok just at the moment of Jacques Rennepont's death. We have said that
the most absurd and alarming reports were circulating in Paris; not only
did people talk of poison given to the sick or thrown into the public
fountains, but it was also said that wretches had been surprised in the
act of putting arsenic into the pots which are usually kept all ready on
the counters of wine-shops. Goliath was on his way to rejoin Morok,
after delivering a message to Father d'Aigrigny, who was waiting in a
house on the Place de l'Archeveche. He entered a wine-shop in the Rue de
la Calandre, to get some refreshment, and having drunk two glasses of
wine, he proceeded to pay for them. Whilst the woman of the house was
looking for change, Goliath, mechanically and very innocently, rested his
hand on the mouth of one of the pots that happened to be within his
The tall stature of this man and his repulsive and savage countenance had
already alarmed the good woman, whose fears and prejudices had previously
been roused by the public rumors on the subject of poisoning; but when
she saw Goliath place his hand over the mouth of one of her pots, she
cried out in dismay: "Oh! my gracious! what are you throwing into that
pot?" At these words, spoken in a loud voice, and with the accent of
terror, two or three of the drinkers at one of the tables rose
precipitately, and ran to the counter, while one of them rashly
exclaimed: "It is a poisoner!"
Goliath, not aware of the reports circulated in the neighborhood, did not
at first understand of what he was accused. The men raised their voices
as they called on him to answer the charge; but he, trusting to his
strength, shrugged his shoulders in disdain, and roughly demanded the
change, which the pale and frightened hostess no longer thought of giving
"Rascal!" cried one of the men, with so much violence that several of the
passers-by stopped to listen; "you shall have your change when you tell
us what you threw in the pot!"
"Ha! did he throw anything into the wine-pot?" said one of the passers-
"It is, perhaps, a poisoner," said another.
"He ought to be taken up," added a third.
"Yes, yes," cried those in the house--honest people perhaps, but under
the influence of the general panic; "he must be taken up, for he has been
throwing poison into the wine-pots."
The words "He is a poisoner" soon spread through the group, which, at
first composed of three or four persons, increased every instant around
the door of the wine-shop. A dull, menacing clamor began to rise from
the crowd; the first accuser, seeing his fears thus shared and almost
justified, thought he was acting like a good and courageous citizen in
taking Goliath by the collar, and saying to him: "Come and explain
yourself at the guard-house, villain!"
The giant, already provoked at insults of which he did not perceive the
real meaning, was exasperated at this sudden attack; yielding to his
natural brutality, he knocked his adversary down upon the counter, and
began to hammer him with his fists. During this collision, several
bottles and two or three panes of glass were broken with much noise,
whilst the woman of the house, more and more frightened, cried out with
all her might; "Help! a poisoner! Help! murder!"
At the sound of the breaking windows and these cries of distress, the
passers-by, of whom the greater number believed in the stories about the
poisoners, rushed into the shop to aid in securing Goliath. But the
latter, thanks to his herculean strength, after struggling for some
moments with seven or eight persons, knocked down two of his most furious
assailants, disengaged himself from the others, drew near the counter,
and, taking a vigorous spring, rushed head-foremost, like a bull about to
butt, upon the crowd that blocked up the door; then, forcing a passage,
by the help of his enormous shoulders and athletic arms, he made his way
into the street, and ran with all speed in the direction of the square of
Notre-Dame, his garments torn, his head bare, and his countenance pale
and full of rage. Immediately, a number of persons from amongst the
crowd started in pursuit of Goliath, and a hundred voices exclaimed:
"Stop--stop the poisoner!"
Hearing these cries, and seeing a man draw near with a wild and troubled
look, a butcher, who happened to be passing with his large, empty tray on
his head, threw it against Goliath's shins, and taken by surprise, he
stumbled and fell. The butcher, thinking he had performed as heroic an
action as if he had encountered a mad dog, flung himself on Goliath, and
rolled over with him on the pavement, exclaiming: "Help! it is a
poisoner! Help! help!" This scene took place not far from the Cathedral,
but at some distance from the crowd which was pressing round the hospital
gate, as well as from the eating-house in which the masquerade of the
cholera then was. The day was now drawing to a close. On the piercing
call of the butcher, several groups, at the head of which were Ciboule
and the quarryman, flew towards the scene of the struggle, while those
who had pursued the pretended poisoner from the Rue de la Calandre,
reached the square on their side.
At sight of this threatening crowd advancing towards him, Goliath, whilst
he continued to defend himself against the butcher, who held him with the
tenacity of a bull-dog, felt that he was lost unless he could rid himself
of this adversary before the arrival of the rest; with a furious blow of
the fist, therefore, he broke the jaw of the butcher, who just then was
above him, and disengaging himself from his hold, he rose, and staggered
a few steps forward. Suddenly he stopped. He saw that he was
surrounded. Behind him rose the walls of the cathedral; to the right and
left, and in front of him, advanced a hostile multitude. The groans
uttered by the butcher, who had just been lifted from the ground covered
with blood, augmented the fury of the populace.
This was a terrible moment for Goliath: still standing alone in the
centre of a ring that grew smaller every second, he saw on all sides
angry enemies rushing towards him, and uttering cries of death. As the
wild boar turns round once or twice, before resolving to stand at bay and
face the devouring pack, Goliath, struck with terror, made one or two
abrupt and wavering movements. Then, as he abandoned the possibility of
flight, instinct told him that he had no mercy to expect from a crowd
given up to blind and savage fury--a fury the more pitiless as it was
believed to be legitimate. Goliath determined, therefore, at least to
sell his life dearly; he sought for a knife in his pocket, but, not
finding it, he threw out his left leg in an athletic posture, and holding
up his muscular arms, hard and stiff as bars of iron, waited with
intrepidity for the shock.
The first who approached Goliath was Ciboule. The hag, heated and out of
breath, instead of rushing upon him, paused, stooped down, and taking off
one of the large wooden shoes that she wore, hurled it at the giant's
head with so much force and with so true an aim that it struck him right
in the eye, which hung half out of its socket. Goliath pressed his hands
to his face, and uttered a cry of excruciating pain.
"I've made him squint!" said Ciboule, with a burst of laughter.
Goliath, maddened by the pain, instead of waiting for the attack, which
the mob still hesitated to begin, so greatly were they awed by his
appearance of herculean strength--the only adversary worthy to cope with
him being the quarryman, who had been borne to a distance by the surging
of the crowd--Goliath, in his rage, rushed headlong upon the nearest.
Such a struggle was too unequal to last long; but despair redoubled the
Colossus's strength, and the combat was for a moment terrible. The
unfortunate man did not fall at once. For some seconds, almost buried
amid a swarm of furious assailants, one saw now his mighty arm rise and
fall like a sledge hammer, beating upon skulls and faces, and now his
enormous head, livid and bloody, drawn back by some of the combatants
hanging to his tangled hair. Here and there sudden openings and violent
oscillations of the crowd bore witness to the incredible energy of
Goliath's defence. But when the quarryman succeeded in reaching him,
Goliath was overpowered and thrown down. A long, savage cheer in triumph
announced this fall; for, under such circumstances, to "go under" is "to
die." Instantly a thousand breathless and angry voices repeated the
cry of "Death to the poisoner!"
Then began one of those scenes of massacre and torture, worthy of
cannibals, horrible to relate, and the more incredible, that they happen
almost always in the presence, and often with the aid, of honest and
humane people, who, blinded by false notions and stupid prejudices, allow
themselves to be led into all sorts of barbarity, under the idea of
performing an act of inexorable justice. As it frequently happens, the
sight of the blood which flowed in torrents from Goliath's wounds
inflamed to madness the rage of his assailants. A hundred fists struck
at the unhappy man; he was stamped under foot, his face and chest were
beaten in. Ever and anon, in the midst of furious cries of "Death to the
poisoner!" heavy blows were audible, followed by stifled groans. It was
a frightful butchery. Each individual, yielding to a sanguinary frenzy,
came in turn to strike his blow; or to tear off his morsel of flesh.
Women--yes, women--mothers!--came to spend their rage on this mutilated
There was one moment of frightful terror. With his face all bruised and
covered with mud, his garments in rags, his chest bare, red, gaping with
wounds--Goliath, availing himself of a moment's weariness on the part of
his assassins, who believed him already, finished, succeeded, by one of
those convulsive starts frequent in the last agony, in raising himself to
his feet for a few seconds; then, blind with wounds and loss of blood,
striking about his arms in the air as if to parry blows that were no
longer struck, he muttered these words, which came from his mouth,
accompanied by a crimson torrent: "Mercy! I am no poisoner. Mercy!"
This sort of resurrection produced so great an effect on the crowd, that
for an instant they fell hack affrighted. The clamor ceased, and a small
space was left around the victim. Some hearts began even to feel pity;
when the quarryman, seeing Goliath blinded with blood, groping before him
with his hands, exclaimed in ferocious allusion to a well-known game:
"Now for blind-man's-bluff."
Then, with a violent kick, he again threw down the victim, whose head
struck twice heavily on the pavement.
Just as the giant fell a voice from amongst the crowd exclaimed: "It is
Goliath! stop! he is innocent."
It was Father d'Aigrigny, who, yielding to a generous impulse, was making
violent efforts to reach the foremost rank of the actors in this scene,
and who cried out, as he came nearer, pale, indignant, menacing: "You are
cowards and murderers! This man is innocent. I know him. You shall
answer for his life."
These vehement words were received with loud murmurs.
"You know that poisoner," cried the quarryman, seizing the Jesuit by the
collar; "then perhaps you are a poisoner too.
"Wretch," exclaimed Father d'Aigrigny, endeavoring to shake himself loose
from the grasp, "do you dare to lay hand upon me?"
"Yes, I dare do anything," answered the quarryman.
"He knows him: he's a poisoner like the other," cried the crowd, pressing
round the two adversaries; whilst Goliath, who had fractured his skull in
the fall, uttered a long death-rattle.
At a sudden movement of Father d'Aigrigny, who disengaged himself from
the quarryman, a large glass phial of peculiar form, very thick, and
filled with a greenish liquor, fell from his pocket, and rolled close to
the dying Goliath. At sight of this phial, many voices exclaimed
together: "It is poison! Only see! He had poison upon him."
The clamor redoubled at this accusation, and they pressed so close to
Abbe d'Aigrigny, that he exclaimed: "Do not touch me! do not approach
"If he is a poisoner," said a voice, "no more mercy for him than for the
"I a poisoner?" said the abbe, struck with horror.
Ciboule had darted upon the phial; the quarryman seized it from her,
uncorked it and presenting it to Father d'Aigrigny, said to him: "Now
tell us what is that?"
"It is not poison," cried Father d'Aigrigny.
"Then drink it!" returned the quarryman.
"Yes, yes! let him drink it!" cried the mob.
"Never," answered Father d'Aigrigny, in extreme alarm. And he drew back
as he spoke, pushing away the phial with his hand.
"Do you see? It is poison. He dares not drink it," they exclaimed.
Hemmed in on every side, Father d'Aigrigny stumbled against the body of
"My friends," cried the Jesuit, who, without being a poisoner, found
himself exposed to a terrible alternative, for his phial contained
aromatic salts of extraordinary strength, designed for a preservative
against the cholera, and as dangerous to swallow as any poison, "my good
friends, you are in error. I conjure you, in the name of heaven--"
"If that is not poison, drink it!" interrupted the quarryman, as he again
offered the bottle to the Jesuit.
"If he does not drink it, death to the poisoner of the poor!"
"Yes!--death to him! death to him!"
"Unhappy men!" cried Father d'Aigrigny, whilst his hair stood on end with
terror; "do you mean to murder me?"
"What about all those, that you and your mate have killed, you wretch?"
"But it is not true--and--"
"Drink, then!" repeated the inflexible quarryman; "I ask you for the last
"To drink that would be death," cried Father d'Aigrigny.
"Oh! only hear the wretch!" cried the mob, pressing closer to him; "he
has confessed--he has confessed!"
"He has betrayed himself!"
"He said, `to drink that would be death!'"
"But listen to me," cried the abbe, clasping his hands together; "this
Furious cries interrupted Father d'Aigrigny. "Ciboule, make an end of
that one!" cried the quarryman, spurning Goliath with his foot. "I will
begin this one!" And he seized Father d'Aigrigny by the throat.
At these words, two different groups formed themselves. One, led by
Ciboule, "made an end" of Goliath, with kicks and blows, stones and
wooden shoes; his body was soon reduced to a horrible thing, mutilated,
nameless, formless--a mere inert mass of filth and mangled flesh.
Ciboule gave her cloak, which they tied to one of the dislocated ankles
of the body, and thus dragged it to the parapet of the quay. There, with
shouts of ferocious joy, they precipitated the bloody remains into the
river. Now who does not shudder at the thought that, in a time of
popular commotion, a word, a single word, spoken imprudently, even by an
honest man, and without hatred, will suffice to provoke so horrible a
"Perhaps it is a poisoner!" said one of the drinkers in the tavern of the
Rue de la Calandre--nothing more--and Goliath had been pitilessly
What imperious reasons for penetrating the lowest depths of the masses
with instruction and with light--to enable unfortunate creatures to
defend themselves from so many stupid prejudices, so many fatal
superstitions, so much implacable fanaticism!--How can we ask for
calmness, reflection, self-control, or the sentiment of justice from
abandoned beings, whom ignorance has brutalized, and misery depraved, and
suffering made ferocious, and of whom society takes no thought, except
when it chains them to the galleys, or binds them ready for the
executioner! The terrible cry which had so startled Morok was uttered by
Back to Full Books