The Wandering Jew, v7
Part 2 out of 3
which, a very religious woman, whose daughter, a young married lady,
received visits a great deal too frequent (according to the superior)
from a certain manufacturer."
"What do you say?" cried Agricola. "This manufacturer must be--"
"M. Hardy. I had too many reasons to remember that name, when it was
pronounced by the superior. Since that day, so many other events have
taken place, that I had almost forgotten the circumstance. But it is
probable that this young lady is the one of whom I heard speak at the
"And what interest had the superior of the convent to set a spy upon
her?" asked the smith.
"I do not know; but it is clear that the same interest still exists,
since the young lady was followed, and perhaps, at this hour, is
discovered and dishonored. Oh! it is dreadful!" Then, seeing Agricola
start suddenly, Mother Bunch added: "What, then, is the matter?"
"Yes--why not?" said the smith, speaking to himself; "why may not all
this be the work of the same hand? The superior of a convent may have a
private understanding with an abbe--but, then, for what end?"
"Explain yourself, Agricola," said the girl. "And then,--where did you
get your wound? Tell me that, I conjure you."
"It is of my wound that I am just going to speak; for in truth, the more
I think of it, the more this adventure of the young lady seems to connect
itself with other facts."
"You must know that, for the last few days, singular things are passing
in the neighborhood of our factory. First, as we are in Lent, an abbe
from Paris (a tall, fine-looking man, they say) has come to preach in the
little village of Villiers, which is only a quarter of a league from our
works. The abbe has found occasion to slander and attack M. Hardy in his
"How is that?"
"M. Hardy has printed certain rules with regard to our work, and the
rights and benefits he grants us. These rules are followed by various
maxims as noble as they are simple; with precepts of brotherly love such
as all the world can understand, extracted from different philosophies
and different religions. But because M. Hardy has chosen what is best in
all religions, the abbe concludes that M. Hardy has no religion at all,
and he has therefore not only attacked him for this in the pulpit, but
has denounced our factory as a centre of perdition and damnable
corruption, because, on Sundays, instead of going to listen to his
sermons, or to drink at a tavern, our comrades, with their wives and
children, pass their time in cultivating their little gardens, in
reading, singing in chorus, or dancing together in the common dwelling-
house. The abbe has even gone so far as to say, that the neighborhood of
such an assemblage of atheists, as he calls us, might draw down the anger
of Heaven upon the country--that the hovering of Cholera was much talked
of, and that very possibly, thanks to our impious presence, the plague
might fall upon all our neighborhood."
"But to tell such things to ignorant people," exclaimed Mother Bunch, "is
likely to excite them to fatal actions."
"That is just what the abbe wants."
"What do you tell me?"
"The people of the environs, still more excited, no doubt by other
agitators, show themselves hostile to the workmen of our factory. Their
hatred, or at least their envy, has been turned to account. Seeing us
live all together, well lodged, well warmed, and comfortably clad,
active, gay, and laborious, their jealousy has been embittered by the
sermons, and by the secret manoeuvres of some depraved characters, who
are known to be bad workmen, in the employment of M. Tripeaud, our
opposition. All this excitement is beginning to bear fruit; there have
been already two or three fights between us and our neighbors. It was in
one of these skirmishes that I received a blow with a stone on my head."
"Is it not serious, Agricola?--are you quite sure?" said Mother Bunch,
"It is nothing at all, I tell you. But the enemies of M. Hardy have not
confined themselves to preaching. They have brought into play something
far more dangerous."
"What is that?"
"I, and nearly all my comrades, did our part in the three Revolutionary
days of July; but we are not eager at present, for good reasons, to take
up arms again. That is not everybody's opinion; well, we do not blame
others, but we have our own ideas; and Father Simon, who is as brave as
his son, and as good a patriot as any one, approves and directs us. Now,
for some days past, we find all about the factory, in the garden, in the
courts, printed papers to this effect: 'You are selfish cowards; because
chance has given you a good master, you remain indifferent to the
misfortunes of your brothers, and to the means of freeing them; material
comforts have enervated your hearts.'"
"Dear me, Agricola! what frightful perseverance in wickedness!"
"Yes! and unfortunately these devices have their effect on some of our
younger mates. As the appeal was, after all, to proud and generous
sentiments, it has had some influence. Already, seeds of division have
shown themselves in our workshops, where, before, all were united as
brothers. A secret agitation now reigns there. Cold suspicion takes the
place, with some, of our accustomed cordiality. Now, if I tell you that
I am nearly sure these printed papers, thrown over the walls of our
factory, to raise these little sparks of discord amongst us, have been
scattered about by the emissaries of this same preaching abbe--would it
not seem from all this, taken in conjunction with what happened this
morning to the young lady, that M. Hardy has of late numerous enemies?"
"Like you, I think it very fearful, Agricola," said the girl; "and it is
so serious, that M. Hardy alone can take a proper decision on the
subject. As for what happened this morning to the young lady, it appears
to me, that, immediately on M. Hardy's return, you should ask for an
interview with him, and, however delicate such a communication may be,
tell him all that passed."
"There is the difficulty. Shall I not seem as if wishing to pry into his
"If the young lady had not been followed, I should have shared your
scruples. But she was watched, and is evidently in danger. It is
therefore, in my opinion, your duty to warn M. Hardy. Suppose (which is
not improbable) that the lady is married; would it not be better, for a
thousand reasons, that M. Hardy should know all?"
"You are right, my good sister; I will follow your advice. M. Hardy
shall know everything. But now that we have spoken of others, I have to
speak of myself--yes, of myself--for it concerns a matter, on which may
depend the happiness of my whole life," added the smith, in a tone of
seriousness, which struck his hearer. "You know," proceeded Agricola,
after a moment's silence, "that, from my childhood, I have never
concealed anything from you--that I have told you everything--absolutely
"I know it, Agricola, I know it," said the hunchback, stretching out her
white and slender hand to the smith, who grasped it cordially, and thus
continued: "When I say everything, I am not quite exact--for I have
always concealed from you my little love-affairs--because, though we may
tell almost anything to a sister, there are subjects of which we ought
not to speak to a good and virtuous girl, such as you are."
"I thank you, Agricola. I had remarked this reserve on your part,"
observed the other, casting down her eyes, and heroically repressing the
grief she felt; "I thank you."
"But for the very reason, that I made it a duty never to speak to you of
such love affairs, I said to myself, if ever it should happen that I have
a serious passion--such a love as makes one think of marriage--oh! then,
just as we tell our sister even before our father and mother, my good
sister shall be the first to be informed of it."
"You are very kind, Agricola."
"Well then! the serious passion has come at last. I am over head and
ears in love, and I think of marriage."
At these words of Agricola, poor Mother Bunch felt herself for an instant
paralyzed. It seemed as if all her blood was suddenly frozen in her
veins. For some seconds, she thought she was going to die. Her heart
ceased to beat; she felt it, not breaking, but melting away to nothing.
Then, the first blasting emotion over, like those martyrs who found, in
the very excitement of pain, the terrible power to smile in the midst of
tortures, the unfortunate girl found, in the fear of betraying the secret
of her fatal and ridiculous love, almost incredible energy. She raised
her head, looked at the smith calmly, almost serenely, and said to him in
a firm voice: "Ah! so, you truly love?"
"That is to say, my good sister, that, for the last four days, I scarcely
live at all--or live only upon this passion."
"It is only since four days that you have been in love?"
"Not more--but time has nothing to do with it."
"And is she very pretty?"
"Dark hair--the figure of a nymph--fair as a lily--blue eyes, as large as
that--and as mild, as good as your own."
"You flatter me, Agricola."
"No, no, it is Angela that I flatter--for that's her name. What a pretty
one! Is it not, my good Mother Bunch?"
"A charming name," said the poor girl, contrasting bitterly that graceful
appellation with her own nickname, which the thoughtless Agricola applied
to her without thinking of it. Then she resumed, with fearful calmness:
"Angela? yes, it is a charming name!"
"Well, then! imagine to yourself, that this name is not only suited to
her face, but to her heart. In a word, I believe her heart to be almost
equal to yours."
"She has my eyes--she has my heart," said Mother Bunch, smiling. "It is
singular, how like we are."
Agricola did not perceive the irony of despair contained in these words.
He resumed, with a tenderness as sincere as it was inexorable: "Do you
think, my good girl, that I could ever have fallen seriously in love with
any one, who had not in character, heart, and mind, much of you?"
"Come, brother," said the girl, smiling--yes, the unfortunate creature
had the strength to smile; "come, brother, you are in a gallant vein to-
day. Where did you make the acquaintance of this beautiful young
"She is only the sister of one of my mates. Her mother is the head
laundress in our common dwelling, and as she was in want of assistance,
and we always take in preference the relations of members of the
association, Mrs. Bertin (that's the mother's name) sent for her daughter
from Lille, where she had been stopping with one of her aunts, and, for
the last five days, she has been in the laundry. The first evening I saw
her, I passed three hours, after work was over, in talking with her, and
her mother and brother; and the next day, I felt that my heart was gone;
the day after that, the feeling was only stronger--and now I am quite mad
about her, and resolved on marriage--according as you shall decide. Do
not be surprised at this; everything depends upon you. I shall only ask
my father and mother's leave, after I have yours."
"I do not understand you, Agricola."
"You know the utter confidence I have in the incredible instinct of your
heart. Many times, you have said to me: 'Agricola, love this person,
love that person, have confidence in that other'--and never yet were you
deceived. Well! you must now render me the same service. You will ask
permission of Mdlle. de Cardoville to absent yourself; I will take you to
the factory: I have spoken of you to Mrs. Benin and her daughter, as of a
beloved sister; and, according to your impression at sight of Angela, I
will declare myself or not. This may be childishness, or superstition,
on my part; but I am so made."
"Be it so," answered Mother Bunch, with heroic courage; "I will see
Mdlle. Angela; I will tell you what I think of her--and that, mind you,
"I know it. When will you come?"
"I must ask Mdlle. de Cardoville what day she can spare sue. I will let
"Thanks, my good sister!" said Agricola warmly; then he added, with a
smile: "Bring your best judgment with you--your full dress judgment."
"Do not make a jest of it, brother," said Mother Bunch, in a mild, sad
voice; "it is a serious matter, for it concerns the happiness of your
At this moment, a modest knock was heard at the door. "Come in," said
Mother Bunch. Florine appeared.
"My mistress begs that you will come to her, if you are not engaged,"
said Florine to Mother Bunch.
The latter rose, and, addressing the smith, said to him: "Please wait a
moment, Agricola. I will ask Mdlle. de Cardoville what day I can dispose
of, and I will come and tell you." So saying, the girl went out, leaving
Agricola with Florine.
"I should have much wished to pay my respects to Mdlle. de Cardoville,"
said Agricola; "but I feared to intrude."
"My lady is not quite well, sir," said Florine, "and receives no one to-
day. I am sure, that as soon as she is better, she will be quite pleased
to see you."
Here Mother Bunch returned, and said to Agricola: "If you can come for me
to-morrow, about three o'clock, so as not to lose the whole day, we will
go to the factory, and you can bring me back in the evening."
"Then, at three o'clock to-morrow, my good sister."
"At three to-morrow, Agricola."
The evening of that same day, when all was quiet in the hotel, Mother
Bunch, who had remained till ten o'clock with Mdlle. de Cardoville, re-
entered her bedchamber, locked the door after her, and finding herself at
length free and unrestrained, threw herself on her knees before a chair,
and burst into tears. She wept long--very long. When her tears at
length ceased to flow, she dried her eyes, approached the writing-desk,
drew out one of the boxes from the pigeonhole, and, taking from this
hiding-place the manuscript which Florine had so rapidly glanced over the
evening before, she wrote in it during a portion of the night.
MOTHER BUNCH'S DIARY.
We have said that the hunchback wrote during a portion of the night, in
the book discovered the previous evening by Florine, who had not ventured
to take it away, until she had informed the persons who employed her of
its contents, and until she had received their final orders on the
subject. Let us explain the existence of this manuscript, before opening
it to the reader. The day on which Mother Bunch first became aware of
her love for Agricola, the first word of this manuscript had been
written. Endowed with an essentially trusting character, yet always
feeling herself restrained by the dread of ridicule--a dread which, in
its painful exaggeration, was the workgirl's only weakness--to whom could
the unfortunate creature have confided the secret of that fatal passion,
if not to paper--that mute confidant of timid and suffering souls, that
patient friend, silent and cold, who, if it makes no reply to heart-
rending complaints, at least always listens, and never forgets?
When her heart was overflowing with emotion, sometimes mild and sad,
sometimes harsh and bitter, the poor workgirl, finding a melancholy charm
in these dumb and solitary outpourings of the soul, now clothed in the
form of simple and touching poetry, and now in unaffected prose, had
accustomed herself by degrees not to confine her confidences to what
immediately related to Agricola, for though he might be mixed up with all
her thoughts, for reflections, which the sight of beauty, of happy love,
of maternity, of wealth, of misfortune, called up within her, were so
impressed with the influence of her unfortunate personal position, that
she would not even have dared to communicate them to him. Such, then,
was this journal of a poor daughter of the people, weak, deformed, and
miserable, but endowed with an angelic soul, and a fine intellect,
improved by reading, meditation, and solitude; pages quite unknown, which
yet contained many deep and striking views, both as regard men and
things, taken from the peculiar standpoint in which fate had placed this
unfortunate creature. The following lines, here and there abruptly
interrupted or stained with tears, according to the current of her
various emotions, on hearing of Agricola's deep love for Angela, formed
the last pages of this journal:
"Friday, March 3d, 1832.
"I spent the night without any painful dreams. This morning, I rose with
no sorrowful presentiment. I was calm and tranquil when Agricola came.
He did not appear to me agitated. He was simple and affectionate as he
always is. He spoke to me of events relating to M. Hardy, and then,
without transition, without hesitation, he said to me: 'The last four
days I have been desperately in love. The sentiment is so serious, that
I think of marriage. I have come to consult you about it.' That was how
this overwhelming revelation was made to me--naturally and cordially--I
on one side of the hearth, and Agricola an the other, as if we had talked
of indifferent things. And yet no more is needed to break one's heart.
Some one enters, embraces you like a brother, sits down, talks--and then
--Oh! Merciful heaven! my head wanders.
"I feel calmer now. Courage, my poor heart, courage!--Should a day of
misfortune again overwhelm me, I will read these lines written under the
impression of the most cruel grief I can ever feel, and I will say to
myself: 'What is the present woe compared to that past?' My grief is
indeed cruel! it is illegitimate, ridiculous, shameful: I should not dare
to confess it, even to the most indulgent of mothers. Alas! there are
some fearful sorrows, which yet rightly make men shrug their shoulders in
pity or contempt. Alas! these are forbidden misfortunes. Agricola has
asked me to go to-morrow, to see this young girl to whom he is so
passionately attached, and whom he will marry, if the instinct of my
heart should approve the marriage. This thought is the most painful of
all those which have tortured me since he so pitilessly announced this
love. Pitilessly? No, Agricola--no, my brother--forgive me this unjust
cry of pain! Is it that you know, can even suspect, that I love you
better than you love, better than you can ever love, this charming
"'Dark-haired--the figure of a nymph--fair as a lily--with blue eyes--as
large as that--and almost as mild as your own.'
"That is the portrait he drew of her. Poor Agricola! how would he have
suffered, had he known that every one of his words was tearing my heart.
Never did I so strongly feel the deep commiseration and tender pity,
inspired by a good, affectionate being, who, in the sincerity of his
ignorance, gives you your death-wound with a smile. We do not blame him-
-no--we pity him to the full extent of the grief that he would feel on
learning the pain he had caused me. It is strange! but never did
Agricola appear to me more handsome than this morning. His manly
countenance was slightly agitated, as he spoke of the uneasiness of that
pretty young lady. As I listened to him describing the agony of a woman
who runs the risk of ruin for the man she loves, I felt my heart beat
violently, my hands were burning, a soft languor floated over me--
Ridiculous folly! As if I had any right to feel thus!
"I remember that, while he spoke, I cast a rapid glance at the glass. I
felt proud that I was so well dressed; he had not even remarked it; but
no matter--it seemed to me that my cap became me, that my hair shone
finely, my gaze beamed mild--I found Agricola so handsome, that I almost
began to think myself less ugly--no doubt, to excuse myself in my own
eyes for daring to love him. After all, what happened to-day would have
happened one day or another! Yes, that is consoling--like the thoughts
that death is nothing, because it must come at last--to those who are in
love with life! I have been always preserved from suicide--the last
resource of the unfortunate, who prefer trusting in God to remaining
amongst his creatures--by the sense of duty. One must not only think of
self. And I reflected also'God is good--always good--since the most
wretched beings find opportunities for love and devotion.' How is it that
I, so weak and poor, have always found means to be helpful and useful to
"This very day I felt tempted to make an end with life--Agricola and his
mother had no longer need of me.--Yes, but the unfortunate creatures whom
Mdlle. de Cardoville has commissioned me to watch over?--but my
benefactress herself, though she has affectionately reproached me with
the tenacity of my suspicions in regard to that man? I am more than ever
alarmed for her--I feel that she is more than ever in danger--more than
ever--I have faith in the value of my presence near her. Hence, I must
live. Live--to go to-morrow to see this girl, whom Agricola passionately
loves? Good heaven! why have I always known grief, and never hate?
There must be a bitter pleasure in hating. So many people hate!--Perhaps
I may hate this girl--Angela, as he called her, when he said, with so
much simplicity: 'A charming name, is it not, Mother Bunch?' Compare this
name, which recalls an idea so full of grace, with the ironical symbol of
my witch's deformity! Poor Agricola! poor brother! goodness is sometimes
as blind as malice, I see. Should I hate this young girl?--Why? Did she
deprive me of the beauty which charms Agricola? Can I find fault with
her for being beautiful? When I was not yet accustomed to the
consequences of my ugliness, I asked myself, with bitter curiosity, why
the Creator had endowed his creatures so unequally. The habit of pain
has allowed me to reflect calmly, and I have finished by persuading
myself, that to beauty and ugliness are attached the two most noble
emotions of the soul--admiration and compassion. Those who are like me
admire beautiful persons--such as Angela, such as Agricola--and these in
their turn feel a couching pity for such as I am. Sometimes, in spite of
one's self, one has very foolish hopes. Because Agricola, from a feeling
of propriety had never spoken to me of his love affairs, I sometimes
persuaded myself that he had none--that he loved me, and that the fear of
ridicule alone was with him, as with me, an obstacle in the way of
confessing it. Yes, I have even made verses on that subject--and those,
I think, not the worst I have written.
"Mine is a singular position! If I love, I am ridiculous; if any love
me, he is still more ridiculous. How did I come so to forget that, as to
have suffered and to suffer what I do?--But blessed be that suffering,
since it has not engendered hate--no; for I will not hate this girl--I
will Perform a sister's part to the last; I will follow the guidance of
my heart; I have the instinct of preserving others--my heart will lead
and enlighten me. My only fear is, that I shall burst into tears when I
see her, and not be able to conquer my emotion. Oh, then! what a
revelation to Agricola--a discovery of the mad love he has inspired!--Oh,
never! the day in which he knew that would be the last of my life. There
would then be within me something stronger than duty--the longing to
escape from shame--that incurable shame, that burns me like a hot iron.
No, no; I will be calm. Besides, did I not just now, when with him bear
courageously a terrible trial? I will be calm. My personal feelings
must not darken the second sight, so clear for those I love. Oh!
painful--painful task! for the fear of yielding involuntarily to evil
sentiments must not render me too indulgent toward this girl. I might
compromise Agricola's happiness, since my decision is to guide his
choice. Poor creature that I am. How I deceive myself! Agricola asks
my advice, because he thinks that I shall have not the melancholy courage
to oppose his passion; or else he would say to me: 'No matter--I love;
and I brave the future!'
"But then, if my advice, if the instincts of my heart, are not to guide
him--if his resolution is taken beforehand--of what use will be to-
morrow's painful mission? Of what use? To obey him. Did he not say--
'Come!' In thinking of my devotion for him, how many times, in the secret
depths of my heart, I have asked myself if the thought had ever occurred
to him to love me otherwise than as a sister; if it had ever struck him,
what a devoted wife he would have in me! And why should it have occurred
to him? As long as he wished, as long as he may still wish, I have been,
and I shall be, as devoted to him, as if I were his wife, sister, or
mother. Why should he desire what he already possesses?
"Married to him--oh, God!--the dream is mad as ineffable. Are not such
thoughts of celestial sweetness--which include all sentiments from
sisterly to maternal love--forbidden to me, on pain of ridicule as
distressing as if I wore dresses and ornaments, that my ugliness and
deformity would render absurd? I wonder, if I were now plunged into the
most cruel distress, whether I should suffer as much as I do, on hearing
of Agricola's intended marriage? Would hunger, cold, or misery diminish
this dreadful dolor?--or is it the dread pain that would make me forget
hunger, cold, and misery?
"No, no; this irony is bitter. It is not well in me to speak thus. Why
such deep grief? In what way have the affection, the esteem, the respect
of Agricola, changed towards me? I complain--but how would it be, kind
heaven! if, as, alas! too often happens, I were beautiful, loving,
devoted, and he had chosen another, less beautiful, less loving, less
devoted?--Should I not be a thousand times more unhappy? for then I
might, I would have to blame him--whilst now I can find no fault with
him, for never having thought of a union which was impossible, because
ridiculous. And had he wished it, could I ever have had the selfishness
to consent to it? I began to write the first pages of this diary as I
began these last, with my heart steeped in bitterness--and as I went on,
committing to paper what I could have intrusted to no one, my soul grew
calm, till resignation came--Resignation, my chosen saint, who, smiling
through her tears, suffers and loves, but hopes--never!"
These word's were the last in the journal. It was clear, from the blots
of abundant tears, that the unfortunate creature had often paused to
In truth, worn out by so many emotions, Mother Bunch late in the night,
had replaced the book behind the cardboard box, not that she thought it
safer there than elsewhere (she had no suspicion of the slightest need
for such precaution), but because it was more out of the way there than
in any of the drawers, which she frequently opened in presence of other
people. Determined to perform her courageous promise, and worthily
accomplish her task to the end, she waited the next day for Agricola, and
firm in her heroic resolution, went with the smith to M. Hardy's factory.
Florine, informed of her departure, but detained a portion of the day in
attendance on Mdlle. de Cardoville preferred waiting for night to perform
the new orders she had asked and received, since she had communicated by
letter the contents of Mother Bunch's journal. Certain not to be
surprised, she entered the workgirls' chamber, as soon as the night was
Knowing the place where she should find the manuscript, she went straight
to the desk, took out the box, and then, drawing from her pocket a sealed
letter, prepared to leave it in the place of the manuscript, which she
was to carry away with her. So doing, she trembled so much, that she was
obliged to support herself an instant by the table. Every good sentiment
was not extinct in Florine's heart; she obeyed passively the orders she
received, but she felt painfully how horrible and infamous was her
conduct. If only herself had been concerned, she would no doubt have had
the courage to risk all, rather than submit to this odious despotism; but
unfortunately, it was not so, and her ruin would have caused the mortal
despair of another person whom she loved better than life itself. She
resigned herself, therefore, not without cruel anguish, to abominable
Though she hardly ever knew for what end she acted, and this was
particularly the case with regard to the abstraction of the journal, she
foresaw vaguely, that the substitution of this sealed letter for the
manuscript would have fatal consequences for Mother Bunch, for she
remembered Rodin's declaration, that "it was time to finish with the
What did he mean by those words? How would the letter that she was
charged to put in the place of the diary, contribute to bring about this
result? she did not know--but she understood that the clear-sighted
devotion of the hunchback justly alarmed the enemies of Mdlle. de
Cardoville, and that she (Florine) herself daily risked having her
perfidy detected by the young needlewoman. This last fear put an end to
the hesitations of Florine; she placed the letter behind the box, and,
hiding the manuscript under her apron, cautiously withdrew from the
THE DIARY CONTINUED.
Returned into her own room, some hours after she had concealed there the
manuscript abstracted from Mother Bunch's apartment, Florine yielded to
her curiosity, and determined to look through it. She soon felt a
growing interest, an involuntary emotion, as she read more of these
private thoughts of the young sempstress. Among many pieces of verse,
which all breathed a passionate love for Agricola--a love so deep,
simple, and sincere, that Florine was touched by it, and forgot the
author's deformity--among many pieces of verse, we say, were divers other
fragments, thoughts, and narratives, relating to a variety of facts. We
shall quote some of them, in order to explain the profound impression
that their perusal made upon Florine.
Fragments from the Diary.
"This is my birthday. Until this evening, I had cherished a foolish
hope. Yesterday, I went down to Mrs. Baudoin's, to dress a little wound
she had on her leg. When I entered the room, Agricola was there. No
doubt he was talking of me to his mother, for they stopped when I came
in, and exchanged a meaning smile. In passing by the drawers, I saw a
pasteboard box, with a pincushion-lid, and I felt myself blushing with
joy, as I thought this little present was destined for me, but I
pretended not to see it. While I was on my knees before his mother,
Agricola went out. I remarked that he took the little box with him.
Never has Mrs. Baudoin been more tender and motherly than she was that
morning. It appeared to me that she went to bed earlier than usual. 'It
is to send me away sooner,' said I to myself, 'that I may enjoy the
surprise Agricola has prepared for me.' How my heart beat, as I ran fast,
very fast, up to my closet! I stopped a moment before opening the door,
that my happiness might last the longer. At last I entered the room, my
eyes swimming with tears of joy. I looked upon my table, my chair, my
bed--there was nothing. The little box was not to be found. My heart
sank within me. Then I said to myself: 'It will be to-morrow--this is
only the eve of my birthday.' The day is gone. Evening is come.
Nothing. The pretty box was not for me. It had a pincushion-cover. It
was only suited for a woman. To whom has Agricola given it?
"I suffer a good deal just now. It was a childish idea that I connected
with Agricola's wishing me many happy returns of the day. I am ashamed
to confess it; but it might have proved to me, that he has not forgotten
I have another name besides that of Mother Bunch, which they always apply
to me. My susceptibility on this head is unfortunately so stubborn, that
I cannot help feeling a momentary pang of mingled shame and sorrow, every
time that I am called by that fairy-tale name, and yet I have had no
other from infancy. It is for that very reason that I should have been
so happy if Agricola had taken this opportunity to call me for once by my
own humble name--Magdalen. Happily, he will never know these wishes and
Deeper and deeper touched by this page of simple grief, Florine turned
over several leaves, and continued:
"I have just been to the funeral of poor little Victorine Herbin, our
neighbor. Her father, a journeyman upholsterer, is gone to work by the
month, far from Paris. She died at nineteen, without a relation near
her. Her agony was not long. The good woman who attended her to the
last, told us that she only pronounced these words: 'At last, oh at
last!' and that with an air of satisfaction, added the nurse. Dear
child! she had become so pitiful. At fifteen, she was a rosebud--so
pretty, so fresh-looking, with her light hair as soft as silk; but she
wasted away by degrees--her trade of renovating mattresses killed her.
She was slowly poisoned by the emanations from the wool. They were
all the worse, that she worked almost entirely for the poor, who have
cheap stuff to lie upon.
"She had the courage of a lion, and an angel's resignation, She always
said to me, in her low, faint voice, broken by a dry and frequent cough:
"I have not long to live, breathing, as I do, lime and vitriol all day
long. I spit blood, and have spasms that make me faint.'
"'Why not change your trade?' have I said to her.
"'Where will I find the time to make another apprenticeship?' she would
answer; 'and it is now too late. I feel that I am done for. It is not
my fault,' added the good creature, 'for I did not choose my employment.
My father would have it so; luckily he can do without me. And then, you
see, when one is dead, one cares for nothing, and has no fear of "slop
"Victorine uttered that sad, common phrase very sincerely, and with a
sort of satisfaction. Therefore she died repeating: 'At last!'
"It is painful to think that the labor by which the poor man earns his
daily bread, often becomes a long suicide! I said this the other day to
Agricola; he answered me that there were many other fatal employments;
those who prepare aquafortis, white lead, or minium, for instance, are
sure to take incurable maladies of which they die.
"'Do you know,' added Agricola, 'what they say when they start for those
fatal works?'--Why, 'We are going to the slaughter-house.'
"That made me tremble with its terrible truth.
"'And all this takes place in our day,' said I to him, with an aching
heart; 'and it is well-known. And, out of so many of the rich and
powerful, no one thinks of the mortality which decimates his brothers,
thus forced to eat homicidal bread!'
"'What can you expect, my poor sister,' answered Agricola. 'When men are
to be incorporated, that they may get killed in war, all pains are taken
with them. But when they are to be organized, so as to live in peace, no
one cares about it, except M. Hardy, my master. People say, 'Pooh!
hunger, misery, and suffering of the laboring classes--what is that to
us? that is not politics.' 'They are wrong,' added Agricola; 'IT IS MORE
"As Victorine had not left anything to pay for the church service, there
was only the presentation of the body under the porch; for there is not
even a plain mass for the poor. Besides, as they could not give eighteen
francs to the curate, no priest accompanied the pauper's coffin to the
common grave. If funerals, thus abridged and cut short, are sufficient
in a religious point of view, why invent other and longer forms? Is it
from cupidity?--If, on the other hand, they are not sufficient, why make
the poor man the only victim of this insufficiency? But why trouble
ourselves about the pomp, the incense, the chants, of which they are
either too sparing or too liberal? Of what use? and for what purpose?
They are vain, terrestrial things, for which the soul recks nothing,
when, radiant, it ascends towards its Creator. Yesterday, Agricola made
me read an article in a newspaper, in which violent blame and bitter
irony are by turns employed, to attack what they call the baneful
tendencies of some of the lower orders, to improve themselves, to write,
to read the poets, and sometimes to make verses. Material enjoyments are
forbidden us by poverty. Is it humane to reproach us for seeking the
enjoyments of the mind? What harm can it do any one if every evening,
after a day's toil, remote from all pleasure, I amuse myself, unknown to
all, in making a few verses, or in writing in this journal the good or
bad impressions I have received? Is Agricola the worse workman, because,
on returning home to his mother, he employs Sunday in composing some of
those popular songs, which glorify the fruitful labors of the artisan,
and say to all, Hope and brotherhood! Does he not make a more worthy use
of his time than if he spent it in a tavern? Ah! those who blame us for
these innocent and noble diversions, which relieve our painful toils and
sufferings, deceive themselves when they think, that, in proportion as
the intellect is raised and refined, it is more difficult to bear with
privations and misery, and that so the irritation increases against the
"Admitting even this to be the case--and it is not so--is it not better
to have an intelligent, enlightened enemy, to whose heart and reason you
may address yourself, than a stupid, ferocious, implacable foe? But no;
enmities disappear as the mind becomes enlightened, and the horizon of
compassion extends itself. We thus learn to understand moral
afflictions. We discover that the rich also have to suffer intense
pains, and that brotherhood in misfortune is already a link of sympathy.
Alas! they also have to mourn bitterly for idolized children, beloved
mistresses, reverend mothers; with them, also, especially amongst the
women, there are, in the height of luxury and grandeur, many broken
hearts, many suffering souls, many tears shed in secret. Let them not be
alarmed. By becoming their equals in intelligence, the people will learn
to pity the rich, if good and unhappy--and to pity them still more if
rejoicing in wickedness.
"What happiness! what a joyful day! I am giddy with delight. Oh, truly,
man is good, humane, charitable. Oh, yes! the Creator has implanted
within him every generous instinct--and, unless he be a monstrous
exception, he never does evil willingly. Here is what I saw just now. I
will not wait for the evening to write it down, for my heart would, as it
were, have time to cool. I had gone to carry home some work that was
wanted in a hurry. I was passing the Place du Temple. A few steps from
me I saw a child, about twelve years old at most, with bare head, and
feet, in spite of the severe weather, dressed in a shabby, ragged smock-
frock and trousers, leading by the bridle a large cart-horse, with his
harness still on. From time to time the horse stopped short, and refused
to advance. The child, who had no whip, tugged in vain at the bridle.
The horse remained motionless. Then the poor little fellow cried out: 'O
dear, O dear!' and began to weep bitterly, looking round him as if to
implore the assistance of the passers-by. His dear little face was
impressed with so heart piercing a sorrow, that, without reflecting, I
made an attempt at which I can now only smile, I must have presented so
grotesque a figure. I am horribly afraid of horses, and I am still more
afraid of exposing myself to public gaze. Nevertheless, I took courage,
and, having an umbrella in my hand, I approached the horse, and with the
impetuosity of an ant that strives to move a large stone with a little
piece of straw, I struck with all my strength on the croup of the
rebellious animal. 'Oh, thanks, my good lady!' exclaimed the child,
drying his eyes: 'hit him again, if you please. Perhaps he will get up.'
"I began again, heroically; but, alas! either from obstinacy or laziness,
the horse bent his knees, and stretched himself out upon the ground;
then, getting entangled with his harness, he tore it, and broke his great
wooden collar. I had drawn back quickly, for fear of receiving a kick.
Upon this new disaster, the child could only throw himself on his knees
in the middle of the street, clasping his hands and sobbing, and
exclaiming in a voice of despair: 'Help! help!'
"The call was heard; several of the passers-by gathered round, and a more
efficacious correction than mine was administered to the restive horse,
who rose in a vile state, and without harness.
"'My master will beat me,' cried the poor child, as his tears redoubled;
'I am already two hours after time, for the horse would not go, and now
he has broken his harness. My master will beat me, and turn me away. Oh
dear! what will become of me! I have no father nor mother.'
"At these words, uttered with a heart-rending accent, a worthy old
clothes-dealer of the Temple, who was amongst the spectators, exclaimed,
with a kindly air: 'No father nor mother! Do not grieve so, my poor
little fellow; the Temple can supply everything. We will mend the
harness, and, if my gossips are like me, you shall not go away bareheaded
or barefooted in such weather as this.'
"This proposition was greeted with acclamation; they led away both horse
and child; some were occupied in mending the harness, then one supplied a
cap, another a pair of stockings, another some shoes, and another a good
jacket; in a quarter of an hour the child was warmly clad, the harness
repaired, and a tall lad of eighteen, brandishing a whip, which he
cracked close to the horse's ears, by way of warning, said to the little
boy, who, gazing first at his new clothes, and then at the good woman,
believed himself the hero of a fairy-tale. 'Where does your governor
live, little 'un?'
"'On the Quai du Canal-Saint-Martin, sir,' answered he, in a voice
trembling with joy.
"'Very good,' said the young man, 'I will help you take home the horse,
who will go well enough with me, and I will tell the master that the
delay was no fault of your'n. A balky horse ought not to be trusted
to a child of your age.'
"At the moment of setting out, the poor little fellow said timidly to the
good dame, as he took off his cap to her: 'Will you let me kiss you,
"His eyes were full of tears of gratitude. There was heart in that
child. This scene of popular charity gave me delightful emotions.
As long as I could, I followed with my eyes the tall young man and the
child, who now could hardly keep up with the pace of the horse, rendered
suddenly docile by fear of the whip.
"Yes! I repeat it with pride; man is naturally good and helpful.
Nothing could have been more spontaneous than this movement of pity and
tenderness in the crowd, when the poor little fellow exclaimed: 'What
will become of me? I have no father or mother!'
"'Unfortunate child!' said I to myself. 'No father nor mother. In the
hands of a brutal master, who hardly covers him with a few rags, and ill-
treats him into the bargain. Sleeping, no doubt in the corner of a
stable. Poor little, fellow! and yet so mild and good, in spite of
misery and misfortune. I saw it--he was even more grateful than pleased
at the service done him. But perhaps this good natural disposition,
abandoned without support or counsel, or help, and exasperated by bad
treatment, may become changed and embittered--and then will come the age
of the passions--the bad temptations--'
"Oh! in the deserted poor, virtue is doubly saintly and respectable!
"This morning, after having (as usual) gently reproached me for not going
to mass, Agricola's mother said to me these words, so touching in her
simple and believing mouth, 'Luckily, I pray for you and myself too, my
poor girl; the good God will hear me, and you will only go, I hope, to
"Good mother; angelic soul! she spoke those words in so grave and mild a
tone, with so strong a faith in the happy result of her pious
intercession, that I felt my eyes become moist, and I threw myself on her
neck, as sincerely grateful as if I had believed in Purgatory. This day
has been a lucky one for me. I hope I have found work, which luck I
shall owe to a young person full of heart and goodness, she is to take me
to-morrow to St. Mary's Convent, where she thinks she can find me
Florine, already much moved by the reading, started at this passage in
which Mother Bunch alluded to her, ere she continued as follows:
"Never shall I forget with what touching interest, what delicate
benevolence, this handsome young girl received me, so poor, and so
unfortunate. It does not astonish me, for she is attached to the person
of Mdlle. de Cardoville. She must be worthy to reside with Agricola's
benefactress. It will always be dear and pleasant to me to remember her
name. It is graceful and pretty as her face; it is Florine. I am
nothing, I have nothing--but if the fervent prayers of a grateful heart
might be heard, Mdlle. Florine would be happy, very happy. Alas! I am
reduced to say prayers for her--only prayers--for I can do nothing but
remember and love her!"
These lines, expressing so simply the sincere gratitude of the hunchback,
gave the last blow to Florine's hesitations. She could no longer resist
the generous temptation she felt. As she read these last fragments of
the journal, her affection and respect for Mother Bunch made new
progress. More than ever she felt how infamous it was in her to expose
to sarcasms and contempt the most secret thoughts of this unfortunate
creature. Happily, good is often as contagious as evil. Electrified by
all that was warm, noble, and magnanimous in the pages she had just read,
Florine bathed her failing virtue in that pure and vivifying source, and,
yielding, at last to one of those good impulses which sometimes carried
her away, she left the room with the manuscript in her hand, determined,
if Mother Bunch had not yet returned, to replace it--resolved to tell
Rodin that, this second time, her search for the journal had been vain,
the sempstress having no doubt discovered the first attempt.
 In the Ruche Populaire, a working man's organ, are the following
"Carding Mattresses.--The dust which flies out of the wool makes carding
destructive to health in any case, but trade adulterations enhance the
danger. In sticking sheep, the skin gets blood-spotted; it has to be
bleached to make it salable. Lime is the main whitener, and some of it
clings to the wool after the process. The dresser (female, most often)
breathes in the fine dust, and, by lung and other complaints, is far from
seldom deplorably situated; the majority sicken of it and give up the
trade, while those who keep to it, at the very least, suffer with a
catarrh or asthma that torments them until death.
"As for horsehair, the very best is not pure. You can judge what the
inferior quality is, from the workgirls calling it vitriol hair, because
it is the refuse or clippings from goats and swine, washed in vitriol,
boiled in dyes, etc., to burn and disguise such foreign bodies as straw.
thorns, splinters, and even bits of skin, not worth picking out. The
dust rising when a mass of this is beaten, makes as many ravages as the
A little while before Florine made up her mind to atone for her shameful
breach of confidence, Mother Bunch had returned from the factory, after
accomplishing to the end her painful task. After a long interview with
Angela, struck, like Agricola, with the ingenuous grace, sense, and
goodness, with which the young girl was endowed, Mother Bunch had the
courageous frankness to advise the smith to enter into this marriage.
The following scene took place whilst Florine, still occupied in reading
the journal, had not yet taken the praiseworthy resolution of replacing
it. It was ten o'clock at night. The workgirl, returned to Cardoville
House, had just entered her chamber. Worn out by so many emotions, she
had thrown herself into a chair. The deepest silence reigned in the
house. It was now and then interrupted by the soughing of a high wind,
which raged without and shook the trees in the garden. A single candle
lighted the room, which was papered with dark green. That peculiar tint,
and the hunchback's black dress, increased her apparent paleness. Seated
in an arm-chair by the side of the fire, with her head resting upon her
bosom, her hands crossed upon her knees, the work-girl's countenance was
melancholy and resigned; on it was visible the austere satisfaction which
is felt by the consciousness of a duty well performed.
Like all those who, brought up in the merciless school of misfortune, no
longer exaggerate the sentiment of sorrow, too familiar and assiduous a
guest to be treated as a stranger, Mother Bunch was incapable of long
yielding to idle regrets and vain despair, with regard to what was
already past. Beyond doubt, the blow had been sudden, dreadful;
doubtless it must leave a long and painful remembrance in the sufferer's
soul; but it was soon to pass, as it were, into that chronic state of
pain-durance, which had become almost an integral part of her life. And
then this noble creature, so indulgent to fate, found still some
consolations in the intensity of her bitter pain. She had been deeply
touched by the marks of affection shown her by Angela, Agricola's
intended: and she had felt a species of pride of the heart, in perceiving
with what blind confidence, with what ineffable joy, the smith accepted
the favorable presentiments which seemed to consecrate his happiness.
Mother Bunch also said to herself: "At least, henceforth I shall not be
agitated by hopes, or rather by suppositions as ridiculous as they were
senseless. Agricola's marriage puts a term to all the miserable reveries
of my poor head."
Finally, she found a real and deep consolation in the certainty that she
had been able to go through this terrible trial, and conceal from
Agricola the love she felt for him. We know how formidable to this
unfortunate being were those ideas of ridicule and shame, which she
believed would attach to the discovery of her mad passion. After having
remained for some time absorbed in thought, Mother Bunch rose, and
advanced slowly towards the desk.
"My only recompense," said she, as she prepared the materials for
writing, "will be to entrust the mute witness of my pains with this new
grief. I shall at least have kept the promise that I made to myself.
Believing, from the bottom of my soul, that this girl is able to make
Agricola happy, I told him so with the utmost sincerity. One day, a long
time hence, when I shall read over these pages, I shall perhaps find in
that a compensation for all that I now suffer."
So saying, she drew the box from the pigeon-hole. Not finding her
manuscript, she uttered a cry of surprise; but, what was her alarm, when
she perceived a letter to her address in the place of the journal! She
became deadly pale; her knees trembled; she almost fainted away. But her
increasing terror gave her a fictitious energy, and she had the strength
to break the seal. A bank-note for five hundred francs fell from the
letter on the table, and Mother Bunch read as follows:
"Mademoiselle,--There is something so original and amusing in reading in
your memoirs the story of your love for Agricola, that it is impossible
to resist the pleasure of acquainting him with the extent of it, of which
he is doubtless ignorant, but to which he cannot fail to show himself
sensible. Advantage will be taken to forward it to a multitude of other
persons, who might, perhaps, otherwise be unfortunately deprived of the
amusing contents of your diary. Should copies and extracts not be
sufficient, we will have it printed, as one cannot too much diffuse such
things. Some will weep--others will laugh--what appears superb to one
set of people, will seem ridiculous to another, such is life--but your
journal will surely make a great sensation. As you are capable of
wishing to avoid your triumph, and as you were only covered with rags
when you were received, out of charity into this house, where you wish to
figure as the great lady, which does not suit your shape for more reasons
than one, we enclose in the present five hundred francs to pay for your
day-book, and prevent your being without resources, in case you should be
modest enough to shrink from the congratulations which await you, certain
to overwhelm you by to-morrow, for, at this hour, your journal is already
"One of your brethren,
"A REAL MOTHER BUNCH."
The vulgar, mocking, and insolent tone of this letter, which was
purposely written in the character of a jealous lackey, dissatisfied with
the admission of the unfortunate creature into the house, had been
calculated with infernal skill and was sure to produce the effect
"Oh, good heaven!" were the only words the unfortunate girl could
pronounce, in her stupor and alarm.
Now, if we remember in what passionate terms she had expressed her love
for her adopted brother, if we recall many passages of this manuscript,
in which she revealed the painful wounds often inflicted on her by
Agricola without knowing it, and if we consider how great was her terror
of ridicule, we shall understand her mad despair on reading this infamous
letter. Mother Bunch did not think for a moment of all the noble words
and touching narratives contained in her journal. The one horrible idea
which weighed down the troubled spirit of the unfortunate creature, was,
that on the morrow Agricola, Mdlle. de Cardoville, and an insolent and
mocking crowd, would be informed of this ridiculous love, which would,
she imagined, crush her with shame and confusion. This new blow was so
stunning, that the recipient staggered a moment beneath the unexpected
shock. For some minutes, she remained completely inert and helpless;
then, upon reflection, she suddenly felt conscious of a terrible
This hospitable mansion, where she had found a sure refuge after so many
misfortunes, must be left for ever. The trembling timidity and sensitive
delicacy of the poor creature did not permit her to remain a minute more
in this dwelling, where the most secret recesses of her soul had been
laid open, profaned, and exposed no doubt to sarcasm and contempt. She
did not think of demanding justice and revenge from Mdlle. de Cardoville.
To cause a ferment of trouble and irritation in this house, at the moment
of quitting it, would have appeared to her ingratitude towards her
benefactress. She did not seek to discover the author or the motive of
this odious robbery and insulting letter. Why should she, resolved, as
she was, to fly from the humiliations with which she was threatened? She
had a vague notion (as indeed was intended), that this infamy might be
the work of some of the servants, jealous of the affectionate deference
shown her by Mdlle. de Cardoville--and this thought filled her with
despair. Those pages--so painfully confidential, which she would not
have ventured to impart to the most tender and indulgent mother, because,
written as it were with her heart's blood, they painted with too cruel a
fidelity the thousand secret wounds of her soul--those pages were to
serve, perhaps served even now, for the jest and laughing-stock of the
lackeys of the mansion.
The money which accompanied this letter, and the insulting way in which
it was offered, rather tended to confirm her suspicions. It was intended
that the fear of misery should not be the obstacle of her leaving the
house. The workgirl's resolution was soon taken, with that calm and firm
resignation which was familiar to her. She rose, with somewhat bright
and haggard eyes, but without a tear in them. Since the day before, she
had wept too much. With a trembling, icy hand, she wrote these words on
a paper, which she left by the side of the bank-note: "May Mdlle. de
Cardoville be blessed for all that she has done for me, and forgive me
for having left her house, where I can remain no longer."
Having written this, Mother Bunch threw into the fire the infamous
letter, which seemed to burn her hands. Then, taking a last look at her
chamber, furnished so comfortably, she shuddered involuntarily as she
thought of the misery that awaited her--a misery more frightful than that
of which she had already been the victim, for Agricola's mother had
departed with Gabriel, and the unfortunate girl could no longer, as
formerly, be consoled in her distress by the almost maternal affection of
Dagobert's wife. To live alone--quite alone--with the thought that her
fatal passion for Agricola was laughed at by everybody, perhaps even by
himself--such were the future prospects of the hunchback. This future
terrified her--a dark desire crossed her mind--she shuddered, and an
expression of bitter joy contracted her features. Resolved to go, she
made some steps towards the door, when, in passing before the fireplace,
she saw her own image in the glass, pale as death, and clothed in black;
then it struck her that she wore a dress which did not belong to her, and
she remembered a passage in the letter, which alluded to the rags she had
on before she entered that house. "True!" said she, with a heart-
breaking smile, as she looked at her black garments; "they would call me
And, taking her candle, she entered the little dressing room, and put on
again the poor, old clothes, which she had preserved as a sort of pious
remembrance of her misfortunes. Only at this instant did her tears flow
abundantly. She wept--not in sorrow at resuming the garb of misery, but
in gratitude; for all the comforts around her, to which she was about to
bid an eternal adieu, recalled to her mind at every step the delicacy and
goodness of Mdlle. de Cardoville: therefore, yielding to an almost
involuntary impulse, after she had put on her poor, old clothes, she fell
on her knees in the middle of the room, and, addressing herself in
thought to Mdlle. de Cardoville, she exclaimed, in a voice broken by
convulsive sobs: "Adieu! oh, for ever, adieu!--You, that deigned to call
me friend--and sister!"
Suddenly, she rose in alarm; she heard steps in the corridor, which led
from the garden to one of the doors of her apartment, the other door
opening into the parlor. It was Florine, who (alas! too late) was
bringing back the manuscript. Alarmed at this noise of footsteps, and
believing herself already the laughing-stock of the house. Mother Bunch
rushed from the room, hastened across the parlor, gained the court-yard,
and knocked at the window of the porter's lodge. The house-door opened,
and immediately closed upon her. And so the workgirl left Cardoville
Adrienne was thus deprived of a devoted, faithful, and vigilant guardian.
Rodin was delivered from an active and sagacious antagonist, whom he had
always, with good reason, feared. Having, as we have seen, guessed
Mother Bunch's love for Agricola, and knowing her to be a poet, the
Jesuit supposed, logically enough that she must have written secretly
some verses inspired by this fatal and concealed passion. Hence the
order given to Florine, to try and discover some written evidence of this
love; hence this letter, so horribly effective in its coarse ribaldry, of
which, it must be observed, Florine did not know the contents, having
received it after communicating a summary of the contents of the
manuscript, which, the first time, she had only glanced through without
taking it away. We have said, that Florine, yielding too late to a
generous repentance, had reached Mother Bunch's apartment, just as the
latter quitted the house in consternation.
Perceiving a light in the dressing-room, the waiting-maid hastened
thither. She saw upon a chair the black dress that Mother Bunch had just
taken off, and, a few steps further, the shabby little trunk, open and
empty, in which she had hitherto preserved her poor garments. Florine's
heart sank within her; she ran to the secretary; the disorder of the
card-board boxes, the note for five hundred francs left by the side of
the two lines written to Mdlle. de Cardoville, all proved that her
obedience to Rodin's orders had borne fatal fruit, and that Mother Bunch
had quitted the house for ever. Finding the uselessness of her tardy
resolution, Florine resigned herself with a sigh to the necessity of
delivering the manuscript to Rodin. Then, forced by the fatality of her
miserable position to console herself for evil by evil, she considered
that the hunchback's departure would at least make her treachery less
Two days after these events, Adrienne received the following note from
Rodin, in answer to a letter she had written him, to inform him of the
work-girl's inexplicable departure:
"MY DEAR YOUNG LADY;--Obliged to set out this morning for the
factory of the excellent M. Hardy, whither I am called by an affair of
importance, it is impossible for me to pay you my humble respects.
You ask me what I think of the disappearance of this poor girl? I
really do not know. The future will, I doubt not, explain all to her
advantage. Only, remember what I told you at Dr. Baleinier's, with
regard to a certain society and its secret emissaries, with whom it has
the art of surrounding those it wishes to keep a watch on. I accuse no
one; but let us only recall facts. This poor girl accused me; and I am,
as you know, the most faithful of your servants. She possessed nothing;
and yet five hundred francs were found in her secretary. You
loaded her with favors; and she leaves your house without even explaining
the cause of this extraordinary flight. I draw no conclusion, my dear
young lady; I am always unwilling to condemn without evidence; but
reflect upon all this, and be on your guard, for you have perhaps escaped
a great danger. Be more circumspect and suspicious than ever; such at
least is the respectful advice of your most obedient, humble servant,
THE TRYSTING-PLACE OF THE WOLVES.
It was a Sunday morning the very day on which Mdlle. de Cardoville had
received Rodin's letter with regard to Mother Bunch's disappearance. Two
men were talking to together, seated at a table in one of the public
houses in the little village of Villiers, situated at no great distance
from Hardy's factory. The village was for the most part inhabited by
quarrymen and stonecutters, employed in working the neighboring quarries.
Nothing can be ruder and more laborious, and at the same time less
adequately paid, than the work of this class of people. Therefore, as
Agricola had told Mother Bunch, they drew painful comparisons between
their condition, almost always miserable, and the comfort and comparative
ease enjoyed by M. Hardy's workmen, thanks to his generous and
intelligent management, and to the principles of association and
community which he had put in practice amongst them. Misery and
ignorance are always the cause of great evils. Misery is easily excited
to anger, and ignorance soon yields to perfidious counsels. For a long
time, the happiness of M. Hardy's workmen had been naturally envied, but
not with a jealousy amounting to hatred. As soon, however, as the secret
enemies of the manufacturer, uniting with his rival Baron Tripeaud, had
an interest in changing this peaceful state of things--it changed
With diabolical skill and perseverance they succeeded in kindling the
most evil passions. By means of chosen emissaries, they applied to those
quarrymen and stonecutters of the neighborhood, whose bad conduct had
aggravated their misery. Notorious for their turbulence, audacity, and
energy, these men might exercise a dangerous influence on the majority of
their companions, who were peaceful, laborious, and honest, but easily
intimidated by violence. These turbulent leaders, previously embittered
by misfortune, were soon impressed with an exaggerated idea of the
happiness of M. Hardy's workmen, and excited to a jealous hatred of them.
They went still further; the incendiary sermons of an abbe, a member of
the Jesuits, who had come expressly from Paris to preach during Lent
against M. Hardy, acted powerfully on the minds of the women, who filled
the church, whilst their husbands were haunting the taverns. Profiting
by the growing fear, which the approach of the Cholera then inspired, the
preacher struck with terror these weak and credulous imaginations by
pointing to M. Hardy's factory as a centre of corruption and damnation,
capable of drawing down the vengeance of Heaven, and bringing the fatal
scourge upon the country. Thus the men, already inflamed with envy, were
still more excited by the incessant urgency of their wives, who, maddened
by the abbe's sermons, poured their curses on that band of atheists, who
might bring down so many misfortunes upon them and their children. Some
bad characters, belonging to the factory of Baron Tripeaud, and paid by
him (for it was a great interest the honorable manufacturer had in the
ruin of M. Hardy), came to augment the general irritation, and to
complete it by raising one of those alarming union-questions, which in
our day have unfortunately caused so much bloodshed. Many of M. Hardy's
workmen, before they entered his employ, had belonged to a society or
union, called the Devourers; while many of the stonecutters in the
neighboring quarries belonged to a society called the Wolves. Now, for a
long time, an implacable rivalry had existed between the Wolves and
Devourers, and brought about many sanguinary struggles, which are the
more to be deplored, as, in some respects, the idea of these unions is
excellent, being founded on the fruitful and mighty principle of
association. But unfortunately, instead of embracing all trades in one
fraternal communion, these unions break up the working-class into
distinct and hostile societies, whose rivalry often leads to bloody
collisions. For the last week, the Wolves, excited by so many
different importunities, burned to discover an occasion or a pretext to
come to blows with the Devourers; but the latter, not frequenting the
public-houses, and hardly leaving the factory during the week, had
hitherto rendered such a meeting impossible, and the Wolves had been
forced to wait for the Sunday with ferocious impatience.
Moreover, a great number of the quarrymen and stonecutters, being
peaceable and hard-working people, had refused, though Wolves themselves
to join this hostile manifestation against the Devourers of M. Hardy's
factory; the leaders had been obliged to recruit their forces from the
vagabonds and idlers of the barriers, whom the attraction of tumult and
disorder had easily enlisted under the flag of the warlike Wolves. Such
then was the dull fermentation, which agitated the little village of
Villiers, whilst the two men of whom we have spoken were at table in the
These men had asked for a private room, that they might be alone. One of
them was still young, and pretty well dressed. But the disorder in his
clothes, his loose cravat, his shirt spotted with wine, his dishevelled
hair, his look of fatigue, his marble complexion, his bloodshot eyes,
announced that a night of debauch had preceded this morning; whilst his
abrupt and heavy gesture, his hoarse voice, his look, sometimes
brilliant, and sometimes stupid, proved that to the last fumes of the
intoxication of the night before, were joined the first attacks of a new
state of drunkenness. The companion of this man said to him, as he
touched his glass with his own: "Your health, my boy!"
"Yours!" answered the young man; "though you look to me like the devil."
"How did you come to know me?"
"Do you repent that you ever knew me?"
"Who told you that I was a prisoner at Sainte-Pelagie?"
"Didn't I take you out of prison?"
"Why did you take me out?"
"Because I have a good heart."
"You are very fond of me, perhaps--just as the butcher likes the ox that
he drives to the slaughter-house."
"Are you mad?"
"A man does not pay a hundred thousand francs for another without a
"I have a motive."
"What is it? what do you want to do with me?"
"A jolly companion that will spend his money like a man, and pass every
night like the last. Good wine, good cheer, pretty girls, and gay songs.
Is that such a bad trade?"
After he had remained a moment without answering, the young man replied
with a gloomy air: "Why, on the eve of my leaving prison, did you attach
this condition to my freedom, that I should write to my mistress to tell
her that I would never see her again! Why did you exact this letter from
"A sigh! what, are you still thinking of her?"
"You are wrong. Your mistress is far from Paris by this time. I saw her
get into the stage-coach, before I came to take you out of Sainte-
"Yes, I was stifled in that prison. To get out, I would have given my
soul to the devil. You thought so, and therefore you came to me; only,
instead of my soul, you took Cephyse from me. Poor Bacchanal-Queen! And
why did you do it? Thousand thunders! Will you tell me!"
"A man as much attached to his mistress as you are is no longer a man.
He wants energy, when the occasion requires."
"Let us drink!"
"You make me drink too much brandy."
"Bah! look at me!"
"That's what frightens me. It seems something devilish. A bottle of
brandy does not even make you wink. You must have a stomach of iron and
a head of marble."
"I have long travelled in Russia. There we drink to roast ourselves."
"And here to only warm. So--let's drink--but wine."
"Nonsense! wine is fit for children. Brandy for men like us!"
"Well, then, brandy; but it burns, and sets the head on fire, and then we
see all the flames of hell!"
"That's how I like to see you, hang it!"
"But when you told me that I was too much attached to my mistress, and
that I should want energy when the occasion required, of what occasion
did you speak?"
"Let us drink!"
"Stop a moment, comrade. I am no more of a fool than others. Your half-
words have taught me something.
"You know that I have been a workman, that I have many companions, and
that, being a good fellow, I am much liked amongst them. You want me for
a catspaw, to catch other chestnuts?"
"You must be some getter-up of riots--some speculator in revolts."
"You are travelling for some anonymous society, that trades in musket-
"Are you a coward?"
"I burned powder in July, I can tell you--make no mistakes!"
"You would not mind burning some again?"
"Just as well that sort of fireworks as any other. Only I find
revolutions more agreeable than useful; all that I got from the
barricades of the three days was burnt breeches and a lost jacket. All
the cause won by me, with its 'Forward! March!' says."
"You know many of Hardy's workmen?"
"Oh! that's why you have brought me down here?"
"Yes--you will meet with many of the workmen from the factory."
"Men from Hardy's take part in a row? No, no; they are too well off for
that. You have been sold."
"You will see presently."
"I tell you they are well off. What have they to complain of?"
"What of their brethren--those who have not so good a master, and die of
hunger and misery, and call on them for assistance? Do you think they
will remain deaf to such a summons? Hardy is only an exception. Let the
people but give a good pull all together, and the exception will become
the rule, and all the world be happy."
"What you say there is true, but it would be a devil of a pull that would
make an honest man out of my old master, Baron Tripeaud, who made me what
I am--an out-and-out rip."
"Hardy's workmen are coming; you are their comrade, and have no interest
in deceiving them. They will believe you. Join with me in persuading
"To leave this factory, in which they grow effeminate and selfish, and
forget their brothers."
"But if they leave the factory, how are they to live?"
"We will provide for that--on the great day."
"And what's to be done till then?"
"What you have done last night--drink, laugh, sing, and, by way of work,
exercise themselves privately in the use of arms.'
"Who will bring these workmen here?"
"Some one has already spoken to them. They have had printed papers,
reproaching them with indifference to their brothers. Come, will you
"I'll support you--the more readily as I cannot very well support myself.
I only cared for Cephyse in the world; I know that I am on a bad road;
you are pushing me on further; let the ball roll!--Whether we go to the
devil one way or the other is not of much consequence. Let's drink."
"Drink to our next night's fun; the last was only apprenticeship."
"Of what then are you made? I looked at you, and never saw you either
blush or smile, or change countenance. You are like a man of iron."
"I am not a lad of fifteen. It would take something more to make me
laugh. I shall laugh to-night."
"I don't know if it's the brandy; but, devil take me, if you don't
frighten me when you say you shall laugh tonight!"
So saying, the young man rose, staggering; he began to be once more
There was a knock at the door. "Come in!" The host made his appearance.
"What's the matter?"
"There's a young man below, who calls himself Olivier. He asks for M.
"That's right. Let him came up." The host went out.
"It is one of our men, but he is alone," said Morok, whose savage
countenance expressed disappointment. "It astonishes me, for I expected
a good number. Do you know him?"
"Olivier? Yes--a fair chap, I think."
"We shall see him directly. Here he is." A young man, with an open,
bold, intelligent countenance, at this moment entered the room.
"What! old Sleepinbuff!" he exclaimed, at sight of Morok's companion.
"Myself. I have not seen you for an age, Olivier."
"Simple enough, my boy. We do not work at the same place."
"But you are alone!" cried Morok; and pointing to Sleepinbuff, he added:
"You may speak before him--he is one of us. But why are you alone?"
"I come alone, but in the name of my comrades."
"Oh!" said Morok, with a sigh of satisfaction, "they consent."
"They refuse--just as I do!"
"What, the devil! they refuse? Have they no more courage than women?"
cried Morok, grinding his teeth with rage.
"Hark ye," answered Olivier, coolly. "We have received your letters, and
seen your agent. We have had proof that he is really connected with
great societies, many members of which are known to us."
"Well! why do you hesitate?"
"First of all, nothing proves that these societies are ready to make a
"I tell you they are."
"He--tells you--they are," said Sleepinbuff, stammering "and I (hic!)
affirm it. Forward! March!"
"That's not enough," replied Olivier. "Besides, we have reflected upon
it. For a week the factory was divided. Even yesterday the discussion
was too warm to be pleasant. But this morning Father Simon called to
him; we explained ourselves fully before him, and he brought us all to
one mind. We mean to wait, and if any disturbance breaks out, we shall
"Is that your final word?"
"It is our last word."
"Silence!" cried Sleepinbuff, suddenly, as he listened, balancing himself
on his tottering legs. "It is like the noise of a crowd not far off." A
dull sound was indeed audible, which became every moment more and more
distinct, and at length grew formidable.
"What is that?" said Olivier, in surprise.
"Now," replied Morok, smiling with a sinister air, "I remember the host
told me there was a great ferment in the village against the factory. If
you and your other comrades had separated from Hardy's other workmen, as
I hoped, these people who are beginning to howl would have been for you,
instead of against you."
"This was a trap, then, to set one half of M. Hardy's workmen against the
other!" cried Olivier; "you hoped that we should make common cause with
these people against the factory, and that--"
The young man had not time to finish. A terrible outburst of shouts,
howls, and hisses shook the tavern. At the same instant the door was
abruptly opened, and the host, pale and trembling, hurried into the
chamber, exclaiming: "Gentlemen! do any of you work at M. Hardy's
"I do," said Olivier.
"Then you are lost. Here are the Wolves in a body, saying there are
Devourers here from M. Hardy's, and offering them battle--unless the
Devourers will give up the factory, and range themselves on their side."
"It was a trap, there can be no doubt of it!" cried Olivier, looking at
Morok and Sleepinbuff, with a threatening air; "if my mates had come, we
were all to be let in."
"I lay a trap, Olivier?" stammered Jacques Rennepont. "Never!"
"Battle to the Devourers! or let them join the Wolves!" cried the angry
crowd with one voice, as they appeared to invade the house.
"Come!" exclaimed the host. Without giving Olivier time to answer, he
seized him by the arm, and opening a window which led to a roof at no
very great height from the ground, he said to him: "Make your escape by
this window, let yourself slide down, and gain the fields; it is time."
As the young workman hesitated, the host added, with a look of terror:
"Alone, against a couple of hundred, what can you do? A minute more, and
you are lost. Do you not hear them? They have entered the yard; they
are coming up."
Indeed, at this moment, the groans, the hisses, and cheers redoubled in
violence; the wooden staircase which led to the first story shook beneath
the quick steps of many persons, and the shout arose, loud and piercing:
"Battle to the Devourers!"
"Fly, Olivier!" cried Sleepinbuff, almost sobered by the danger.
Hardly had he pronounced the words when the door of the large room, which
communicated with the small one in which they were, was burst open with a
"Here they are!" cried the host, clasping his hands in alarm. Then,
running to Olivier, he pushed him, as it were, out of the window; for,
with one foot on the sill, the workman still hesitated.
The window once closed, the publican returned towards Morok the instant
the latter entered the large room, into which the leaders of the Wolves
had just forced an entry, whilst their companions were vociferating in
the yard and on the staircase. Eight or ten of these madmen, urged by
others to take part in these scenes of disorder, had rushed first into
the room, with countenances inflamed by wine and anger; most of them were
armed with long sticks. A blaster, of Herculean strength and stature,
with an old red handkerchief about his head, its ragged ends streaming
over his shoulders, miserably dressed in a half-worn goat-skin,
brandished an iron drilling-rod, and appeared to direct the movements.
With bloodshot eyes, threatening and ferocious countenance, he advanced
towards the small room, as if to drive back Morok, and exclaimed, in a
voice of thunder:
"Where are the Devourers?--the Wolves will eat 'em up!"
The host hastened to open the door of the small room, saying: "There is
no one here, my friends--no one. Look for yourselves."
"It is true," said the quarryman, surprised, after peeping into the room;
"where are they, then? We were told there were a dozen of them here.
They should have marched with us against the factory, or there'd 'a been
a battle, and the Wolves would have tried their teeth!"
"If they have not come," said another, "they will come. Let's wait."
"Yes, yes; we will wait for them."
"We will look close at each other."
"If the Wolves want to see the Devourers," said Morok, "why not go and
howl round the factory of the miscreant atheists? At the first howl of
the Wolves they will come out, and give you battle."
"They will give you--battle," repeated Sleepinbuff, mechanically.
"Unless the Wolves are afraid of the Devourers," added Morok.
"Since you talk of fear, you shall go with us, and see who's afraid!"
cried the formidable blaster, and in a thundering voice, he advanced
A number of voices joined in with, "Who says the Wolves are afraid of the
"It would be the first time!"
"Battle! battle! and make an end of it!"
"We are tired of all this. Why should we be so miserable, and they so
"They have said that quarrymen are brutes, only fit to torn wheels in a
shaft, like dogs to turn spits," cried an emissary of Baron Tripeaud's.
"And that the Devourers would make themselves caps with wolf-skin," added
"Neither they nor their wives ever go to mass. They are pagans and
dogs!" cried an emissary of the preaching abbe.
"The men might keep their Sunday as they pleased; but their wives not to
go to mass!--it is abominable.
"And, therefore, the curate has said that their factory, because of its
abominations, might bring down the cholera to the country."
"True? he said that in his sermon."
"Our wives heard it."
"Yes, yes; down with the Devourers, who want to bring the cholera on the
"Hooray, for a fight!" cried the crowd in chorus.
"To the factory, my brave Wolves!" cried Morok, with the voice of a
Stentor; "on to the factory!"
"Yes! to the factory! to the factory!" repeated the crowd, with furious
stamping; for, little by little, all who could force their way into the
room, or up the stairs, had there collected together.
These furious cries recalling Jacques for a moment to his senses, he
whispered to Morok: "It is slaughter you would provoke? I wash my hands
"We shall have time to let them know at the factory. We can give these
fellows the slip on the road," answered Morok. Then he cried aloud,
addressing the host, who was terrified at this disorder: "Brandy!--let us
drink to the health of the brave Wolves! I will stand treat." He threw
some money to the host, who disappeared, and soon returned with several
bottles of brandy, and some glasses.
"What! glasses?" cried Morok. "Do jolly companions, like we are, drink
out of glasses?" So saying, he forced out one of the corks, raised the
neck of the bottle to his lips, and, having drunk a deep draught, passed
it to the gigantic quarryman.
That's the thing!" said the latter. "Here's in honor of the treat!--None
but a sneak will refuse, for this stuff will sharpen the Wolves' teeth!"
"Here's to your health, mates!" said Morok, distributing the bottles.
"There will be blood at the end of all this," muttered Sleepinbuff, who,
in spite of his intoxication, perceived all the danger of these fatal
incitements. Indeed, a large portion of the crowd was already quitting
the yard of the public-house, and advancing rapidly towards M. Hardy's
Those of the workmen and inhabitants of the village, who had not chosen
to take any part in this movement of hostility (they were the majority),
did not make their appearance, as this threatening troop passed along the
principal street; but a good number of women, excited to fanaticism by
the sermons of the abbe, encouraged the warlike assemblage with their
cries. At the head of the troop advanced the gigantic blaster,
brandishing his formidable bar, followed by a motley mass, armed with
sticks and stones. Their heads still warmed by their recent libations of
brandy, they had now attained a frightful state of frenzy. Their
countenances were ferocious, inflamed, terrible. This unchaining of the
worst passions seemed to forbode the most deplorable consequences.
Holding each other arm-in-arm, and walking four or five together, the
Wolves gave vent to their excitement in war-songs, which closed with the
"Forward! full of assurance!
Let us try our vigorous arms!
They have wearied out our prudence;
Let us show we've no alarms.
Sprung from a monarch glorious,
To-day we'll not grow pale,
Whether we win the fight, or fail,
Whether we die, or are victorious!
Children of Solomon, mighty king,
All your efforts together bring,
Till in triumph we shall sing!"
Morok and Jacques had disappeared whilst the tumultuous troop were
leaving the tavern to hasten to the factory.
 Let it be noted, to the working-man's credit, that such outrageous
scenes become more and more rare as he is enlightened to the full
consciousness of his worth. Such better tendencies are to be attributed
to the just influence of an excellent tract on trades' union written by
M. Agricole Perdignier, and published in 1841, Paris. This author, a
joiner, founded at his own expense an establishment in the Faubourg St.
Antoine, where some forty or fifty of his trade lodged, and were given,
after the day's work, a course of geometry, etc., applied to wood-
carving. We went to one of the lectures, and found as much clearness in
the professor as attention and intelligence in the audience. At ten,
after reading selections, all the lodgers retire, forced by their scanty
wages to sleep, perhaps, four in a room. M. Perdignier informed us that
study and instruction were such powerful ameliorators, that, during six
years, he had only one of his lodgers to expel. "In a few days," he
remarked, "the bad eggs find out, this is no place for them to addle sound
ones!" We are happy to hear, reader, public homage to a learned and
upright man, devoted to his fellow-workmen.
 The Wolves (among others) ascribe the institution of their company
to King Solomon. See the curious work by M. Agricole Perdignier, from
which the war-song is extracted.
THE COMMON DWELLING-HOUSE
Whilst the Wolves, as we have just seen, prepared a savage attack on the
Devourers, the factory of M. Hardy had that morning a festal air,
perfectly in accordance with the serenity of the sky; for the wind was
from the north, and pretty sharp for a fine day in March. The clock had
just struck nine in the Common Dwelling-house of the workmen, separated
from the workshops by a broad path planted with trees. The rising sun
bathed in light this imposing mass of buildings, situated a league from
Paris, in a gay and salubrious locality, from which were visible the
woody and picturesque hills, that on this side overlook the great city.
Nothing could be plainer, and yet more cheerful than the aspect of the
Common Dwelling-house of the workmen. Its slanting roof of red tiles
projected over white walls, divided here and there by broad rows of
bricks, which contrasted agreeably with the green color of the blinds on
the first and second stories.
These buildings, open to the south and east, were surrounded by a large
garden of about ten acres, partly planted with trees, and partly laid out
in fruit and kitchen-garden. Before continuing this description, which
perhaps will appear a little like a fairy-tale, let us begin by saying,
that the wonders, of which we are about to present the sketch, must not
to be considered Utopian dreams; nothing, on the contrary, could be of a
more positive character, and we are able to assert, and even to prove
(what in our time is of great weight and interest), that these wonders
were the result of an excellent speculation, and represented an
investment as lucrative as it was secure. To undertake a vast, noble,
and most useful enterprise; to bestow on a considerable number of human
creatures an ideal prosperity, compared with the frightful, almost
homicidal doom, to which they are generally condemned; to instruct them,
and elevate them in their own esteem; to make them prefer to the coarse
pleasures of the tavern, or rather to the fatal oblivion which they find
there, as an escape from the consciousness of their deplorable destiny,
the pleasures, of the intellect and the enjoyments of art; in a word, to
make men moral by making them happy, and finally, thanks to this generous
example, so easy of imitation, to take a place amongst the benefactors of
humanity--and yet, at the same time to do, as it were, without knowing
it, an excellent stroke of business--may appear fabulous. And yet this
was the secret of the wonders of which we speak.
Let us enter the interior of the factory. Ignorant of Mother Bunch's
cruel disappearance, Agricola gave himself up to the most happy, thoughts
as he recalled Angela's image, and, having finished dressing with unusual
care, went in search of his betrothed.
Let us say two words on the subject of the lodging, which the smith
occupied in the Common Dwelling-house, at the incredibly low rate of
seventy-five francs per annum like the other bachelors on the
establishment. This lodging, situated on the second story, was comprised
of a capital chamber and bedroom, with a southern aspect, and looking on
the garden; the pine floor was perfectly white and clean; the iron
bedstead was supplied with a good mattress and warm coverings; a gas-
burner and a warm-air pipe were also introduced into the rooms, to
furnish light and heat as required; the walls were hung with pretty fancy
papering, and had curtains to match; a chest of drawers, a walnut table,
a few chairs, a small library, comprised Agricola's furniture. Finally,
in the large and light closet, was a place for his clothes, a dressing-
table, and large zinc basin, with an ample supply of water. If we
compare this agreeable, salubrious, comfortable lodging, with the dark,
icy, dilapidated garret, for which the worthy fellow paid ninety francs
at his mother's, and to get to which he had more than a league and a half
to go every evening, we shall understand the sacrifice he made to his
affection for that excellent woman.
Agricola, after casting a last glance of tolerable satisfaction at his
looking-glass, while he combed his moustache and imperial, quitted his
chamber, to go and join Angela in the women's workroom. The corridor,
along which he had to pass, was broad, well-lighted from above, floored
with pine, and extremely clean. Notwithstanding some seeds of discord
which had been lately sown by M. Hardy's enemies amongst his workmen,
until now so fraternally united, joyous songs were heard in almost all
the apartments which skirted the corridor, and, as Agricola passed before
several open doors, he exchanged a cordial good-morrow with many of his
comrades. The smith hastily descended the stairs, crossed the court-
yard, in which was a grass-plot planted with trees, with a fountain in
the centre, and gained the other wing of the building. There was the
workroom, in which a portion of the wives and daughters of the associated
artisans, who happened not to be employed in the factory, occupied
themselves in making up the linen. This labor, joined to the enormous
saving effected by the purchase of the materials wholesale, reduced to an
incredible extent the price of each article. After passing through this
workroom, a vast apartment looking on the garden, well-aired in
summer, and well-warmed in winter, Agricola knocked at the door of
the rooms occupied by Angela's mother.
If we say a few words with regard to this lodging, situated on the first
story, with an eastern aspect, and also looking on the garden, it is that
we may tape it as a specimen of the habitation of a family in this
association, supplied at the incredibly small price of one hundred and
twenty-five francs per annum.
A small entrance, opening on the corridor, led to a large room, on each
side of which was a smaller chamber, destined for the family, when the
boys and girls were too big to continue to sleep in the two dormitories,
arranged after the fashion of a large school, and reserved for the
children of both sexes. Every night the superintendence of these
dormitories was entrusted to a father and mother of a family, belonging
to the association. The lodging of which we speak, being, like all the
others, disencumbered of the paraphernalia of a kitchen--for the cooking
was done in common, and on a large scale, in another part of the
building--was kept extremely clean. A pretty large piece of carpet, a
comfortable arm-chair, some pretty-looking china on a stand of well-
polished wood, some prints hung against the walls, a clock of gilt
bronze, a bed, a chest of drawers, and a mahogany secretary, announced
that the inhabitants of this apartment enjoyed not only the necessaries,
but some of the luxuries of life. Angela, who, from this time, might be
called Agricola's betrothed, justified in every point the flattering
portrait which the smith had drawn of her in his interview with poor
Mother Bunch. The charming girl, seventeen years of age at most, dressed
with as much simplicity as neatness, was seated by the side of her
mother. When Agricola entered, she blushed slightly at seeing him.
"Mademoiselle," said Agricola, "I have come to keep my promise, if your
mother has no objection."
"Certainly, M. Agricola," answered the mother of the young girl
cordially. "She would not go over the Common Dwelling-house with her
father, her brother, or me, because she wished to have that pleasure with
you today. It is quite right that you, who can talk so well, should do
the honors of the house to the new-comer. She has been waiting for you
an hour, and with such impatience!"
"Pray excuse me, mademoiselle," said Agricola, gayly; "in thinking of the
pleasure of seeing you, I forgot the hour. That is my only excuse."
"Oh, mother!" said the young girl, in a tone of mild reproach, and
becoming red as a cherry, "why did you say that?"
"Is it true, yes or no? I do not blame you for it; on the contrary. Go
with M. Agricola, child, and he will tell you, better than I can, what
all the workmen of the factory owe to M, Hardy."
"M. Agricola," said Angela, tying the ribbons of her pretty cap, "what a
pity that your good little adopted sister is not with us."
"Mother Bunch?--yes, you are right, mademoiselle; but that is only a
pleasure put off, and the visit she paid us yesterday will not be the
Having embraced her mother, the girl took Agricola's arm, and they went
"Dear me, M. Agricola," said Angela; "if you knew how much I was
surprised on entering this fine house, after being accustomed to see so
much misery amongst the poor workmen in our country, and in which I too
have had my share, whilst here everybody seems happy and contented. It
is really like fairy-land; I think I am in a dream, and when I ask my
mother the explanation of these wonders, she tells me, 'M. Agricola will
explain it all to you.'"
"Do you know why I am so happy to undertake that delightful task,
mademoiselle?" said Agricola, with an accent at once grave and tender.
"Nothing could be more in season."
"Why so, M. Agricola?"
"Because, to show you this house, to make you acquainted with all the
resources of our association, is to be able to say to you: 'Here, the
workman, sure of the present, sure of the future, is not, like so many of
his poor brothers, obliged to renounce the sweetest want of the heart--
the desire of choosing a companion for life--in the fear of uniting
misery to misery."'
Angela cast down her eyes, and blushed.
"Here the workman may safely yield to the hope of knowing the sweet joys
of a family, sure of not having his heart torn hereafter by the sight of
the horrible privations of those who are dear to him; here, thanks to
order and industry, and the wise employment of the strength of all, men,
women, and children live happy and contented. In a ward, to explain all
this to you, mademoiselle," added Agricola, smiling with a still more
tender air, "is to prove, that here we can do nothing more reasonable
than love, nothing wiser than marry."
"M. Agricola," answered Angela, in a slightly agitated voice, and
blushing still more as she spoke, "suppose we were to begin our walk."
"Directly, mademoiselle," replied the smith, pleased at the trouble he
had excited in that ingenuous soul. "But, come; we are near the
dormitory of the little girls. The chirping birds have long left their
nests. Let us go there."
"Willingly, M. Agricola."
The young smith and Angela soon entered a spacious dormitory, resembling
that of a first-rate boarding school. The little iron bedsteads were
arranged in symmetrical order; at each end were the beds of the two
mothers of families, who took the superintendence by turns.
"Dear me! how well it is arranged, M. Agricola, and how neat and clean!
Who is it that takes such good care of it?"
"The children themselves; we have no servants here. There is an
extraordinary emulation between these urchins--as to who shall make her
bed most neatly, and it amuses them quite as much as making a bed for
their dolls. Little girls, you know, delight in playing at keeping
house. Well, here they play at it in good earnest, and the house is
admirably kept in consequence."
"Oh! I understand. They turn to account their natural taste for all such
kinds of amusement."
"That is the whole secret. You will see them everywhere usefully
occupied, and delighted at the importance of the employments given them."
"Oh, M. Agricola!" said Angela, timidly, "only compare these fine
dormitories, so warm and healthy, with the horrible icy garrets, where
children are heaped pell-mell on a wretched straw-mattress, shivering
with cold, as in the case with almost all the workmen's families in our
"And in Paris, mademoiselle, it is even worse."
"Oh! how kind, generous, and rich must M. Hardy be, to spend so much
money in doing good!"
"I am going to astonish you, mademoiselle!" said Agricola, with a smile;
"to astonish you so much, that perhaps you will not believe me."
"Why so, M. Agricola?"
"There is not certainly in the world a man with a better and more
generous heart than M. Hardy; he does good for its own sake and without
thinking of his personal interest. And yet, Mdlle. Angela, were he the
most selfish and avaricious of men, he would still find it greatly to his
advantage to put us in a position to be as comfortable as we are."
"Is it possible, M. Agricola? You tell me so, and I believe it; but if
good can so easily be done, if there is even an advantage in doing it,
why is it not more commonly attempted?"
"Ah! mademoiselle, it requires three gifts very rarely met with in the
same person--knowledge, power and will."
"Alas! yes. Those who have the knowledge, have not the power."
"And those who have the power, have neither the knowledge nor the will."
"But how does M. Hardy find any advantage in the good he does for you?"
"I will explain that presently, mademoiselle."
"Oh, what a nice, sweet smell of fruit!" said Angela, suddenly.
"Our common fruit-store is close at hand. I wager we shall find there
some of the little birds from the dormitory--not occupied in picking and
stealing, but hard at work."
Opening a door, Agricola led Angela into a large room, furnished with
shelves, on which the winter fruits were arranged in order. A number of
children, from seven to eight years old, neatly and warmly clad, and
glowing with health, exerted themselves cheerfully, under the
superintendence of a woman, in separating and sorting the spoiled fruit.
"You see," said Agricola, "wherever it is possible, we make use of the
children. These occupations are amusements for them, answering to the
need of movement and activity natural to their age; and, in this way, we
can employ the grown girls and the women to much better advantage."
"True, M. Agricola; how well it is all arranged."
"And if you saw what services the urchins in the kitchen render!
Directed by one or two women, they do the work of eight or ten servants."
"In fact," said Angela, smiling, "at their age, we like so much to play
at cooking dinner. They must be delighted."
"And, in the same way, under pretext of playing at gardening, they weed
the ground, gather the fruit and vegetables, water the flowers, roll the
paths, and so on. In a word, this army of infant-workers, who generally
remain till ten or twelve years of age without being of any service, are
here very useful. Except three hours of school, which is quite
sufficient for them, from the age of six or seven their recreations are
turned to good account, and the dear little creatures, by the saving of
full-grown arms which they effect, actually gain more than they cost; and
then, mademoiselle, do you not think there is something in the presence
of childhood thus mixed up with every labor--something mild, pure, almost
sacred, which has its influence on our words and actions, and imposes a
salutary reserve? The coarsest man will respect the presence of
"The more one reflects, the more one sees that everything here is really
designed for the happiness of all!" said Angela, in admiration.
"It has not been done without trouble. It was necessary to conquer
prejudices, and break through customs. But see, Mdlle. Angela! here we
are at the kitchen," added the smith, smiling; "is it not as imposing as
that of a barrack or a public school?"
Indeed, the culinary department of the Common Dwelling-house was immense.
All its utensils were bright and clean; and thanks to the marvellous and
economical inventions of modern science (which are always beyond the
reach of the poorer classes, to whom they are most necessary, because
they can only be practised on a large scale), not only the fire on the
hearth, and in the stoves, was fed with half the quantity of fuel that
would have been consumed by each family individually, but the excess of
the caloric sufficed, with the aid of well-constructed tubes, to spread a
mild and equal warmth through all parts of the house. And here also
children, under the direction of two women, rendered numerous services.
Nothing could be more comic than the serious manner in which they
performed their culinary functions; it was the same with the assistance
they gave in the bakehouse, where, at an extraordinary saving in the
price (for they bought flour wholesale), they made an excellent household
bread, composed of pure wheat and rye, so preferable to that whiter
bread, which too often owes its apparent qualities to some deleterious
"Good-day, Dame Bertrand," said Agricola, gayly, to a worthy matron, who
was gravely contemplating the slow evolution of several spits, worthy of
Gamache's Wedding so heavily were they laden with pieces of beef, mutton,
and veal, which began to assume a fine golden brown color of the most
attractive kind; good-day, Dame Bertrand. According to the rule, I do
not pass the threshold of the kitchen. I only wish it to be admired by
this young lady, who is a new-comer amongst us."
"Admire, my lad, pray admire--and above all take notice, how good these
brats are, and how well they work!" So saying, the matron pointed with
the long ladle, which served her as a sceptre, to some fifteen children
of both sexes, seated round a table, and deeply absorbed in the exercise
of their functions, which consisted in peeling potatoes and picking
"We are, I see, to have a downright Belshazzar's feast, Dame Bertrand?"
said Agricola, laughing.
"Faith, a feast like we have always, my lad. Here is our bill of fare
for to-day. A good vegetable soup, roast beef with potatoes, salad,
fruit, cheese; and for extras, it being Sunday, some currant tarts made
by Mother Denis at the bakehouse, where the oven is heating now."
"What you tell me, Dame Bertrand, gives me a furious appetite," said
Agricola, gayly. "One soon knows when it is your turn in the kitchen,"
added he, with a flattering air.
"Get along, do!" said the female Soyer on service, merrily.
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