The Wandering Jew, v9
Part 1 out of 3
This etext was produced by David Widger
and Pat Castevens
THE WANDERING JEW
By Eugene Sue
XV. The Constant Wanderer
XVI. The Luncheon
XVII. Rendering the Account
XVIII. The Square of Notre Dame
XIX. The Cholera Masquerade
XX. The Defiance
XXI. Brandy to the Rescue
XXIII. The Poisoner
XXV. The Murderers
XXVI. The Patient
XXVII. The Lure
XXVIII. Good News
XXIX. The Operation
XXX. The Torture
XXXI. Vice and Virtue
THE CONSTANT WANDERER.
It is night. The moon shines and the stars glimmer in the midst of a
serene but cheerless sky; the sharp whistlings of the north wind, that
fatal, dry, and icy breeze, ever and anon burst forth in violent gusts.
With its harsh and cutting breath, it sweeps Montmartre's Heights. On
the highest point of the hills, a man is standing. His long shadow is
cast upon the stony, moon-lit ground. He gazes on the immense city,
which lies outspread beneath his feet. PARIS--with the dark outline of
its towers, cupolas, domes, and steeples, standing out from the limpid
blue of the horizon, while from the midst of the ocean of masonry, rises
a luminous vapor, that reddens the starry azure of the sky. It is the
distant reflection of the thousand fires, which at night, the hour of
pleasures, light up so joyously the noisy capital.
"No," said the wayfarer; "it is not to be. The Lord will not exact it.
Is not twice enough?
"Five centuries ago, the avenging hand of the Almighty drove me hither
from the uttermost confines of Asia. A solitary traveller, I had left
behind me more grief, despair, disaster, and death, than the innumerable
armies of a hundred devastating conquerors. I entered this town, and it
too was decimated.
"Again, two centuries ago, the inexorable hand, which leads me through
the world, brought me once more hither; and then, as the time before, the
plague, which the Almighty attaches to my steps, again ravaged this city,
and fell first on my brethren, already worn out with labor and misery.
"My brethren--mine?--the cobbler of Jerusalem, the artisan accursed by
the Lord, who, in my person, condemned the whole race of workmen, ever
suffering, ever disinherited, ever in slavery, toiling on like me without
rest or pause, without recompense or hope, till men, women, and children,
young and old, all die beneath the same iron yoke--that murderous yoke,
which others take in their turn, thus to be borne from age to age on the
submissive and bruised shoulders of the masses.
"And now, for the third time in five centuries, I reach the summit of one
of the hills that overlook the city. And perhaps I again bring with me
fear, desolation, and death.
"Yet this city, intoxicated with the sounds of its joys and its nocturnal
revelries, does not know--oh! does not know that I am at its gates.
"But no, no! my presence will not be a new calamity. The Lord, in his
impenetrable views, has hitherto led me through France, so as to avoid
the humblest hamlet; and the sound of the funeral knell has not
accompanied my passage.
"And, moreover, the spectre has left me--the green, livid spectre, with
its hollow, bloodshot eyes. When I touched the soil of France, its damp
and icy hands was no longer clasped in mine--and it disappeared.
"And yet--I feel that the atmosphere of death is around me.
"The sharp whistlings of that fatal wind cease not, which, catching me in
their whirl, seem to propagate blasting and mildew as they blow.
"But perhaps the wrath of the Lord is appeased, and my presence here is
only a threat--to be communicated in some way to those "whom it should
"Yes; for otherwise he would smite with a fearful blow, by first
scattering terror and death here in the heart of the country, in the
bosom of this immense city!
"Oh! no, no! the Lord will be merciful. No! he will not condemn me to
this new torture.
"Alas! in this city, my brethren are more numerous and miserable than
elsewhere. And should I be their messenger of death?"
"No! the Lord will have pity. For, alas! the seven descendants of my
sister have at length met in this town. And to them likewise should I be
the messenger of death, instead of the help they so much need?
"For that woman, who like me wanders from one border of the earth to the
other, after having once more rent asunder the nets of their enemies, has
gone forth upon her endless journey.
"In vain she foresaw that new misfortunes threatened my sister's family.
The invisible hand, that drives me on, drives her on also.
"Carried away, as of old, by the irresistible whirlwind, at the moment of
leaving my kindred to their fate, she in vain cried with supplicating
tone: `Let me at least, O Lord, complete my task!'--'GO ON!--`A few days,
in mercy, only a few poor days!'--'GO ON'--'I leave those I love on the
brink of the abyss!'--'GO ON! GO ON!'
"And the wandering star--again started on its eternal round. And her
voice, passing through space, called me to the assistance of mine own.
"When that voice readied me, I knew that the descendants of my sister
were still exposed to frightful perils. Those perils are even now on the
"Tell me, O Lord! will they escape the scourge, which for so many
centuries has weighed down our race?
"Wilt thou pardon me in them? wilt thou punish me in them? Oh, that they
might obey the last will of their ancestor!
"Oh, that they might join together their charitable hearts, their valor
and their strength, their noble intelligence, and their great riches!
"They would then labor for the future happiness of humanity--they would
thus, perhaps, redeem me from my eternal punishment!
"The words of the Son of Man, LOVE YE ONE ANOTHER, will be their only
end, their only means.
"By the help of those all-powerful words, they will fight and conquer the
false priests, who have renounced the precepts of love, peace, and hope,
for lessons of hatred, violence, and despair.
"Those false priests, who, kept in pay by the powerful and happy of this
world, their accomplices in every age, instead of asking here below for
some slight share of well-being for my unfortunate brethren, dare in thy
name, O Lord God, to assert that the poor are condemned to endless
suffering in this world--and that the desire or the hope to suffer less
is a crime in thine eyes--because the happiness of the few, and the
misery of nearly the whole human race, is (O blasphemy!) according to thy
will. Is not the very contrary of those murderous words alone worthy of
"In mercy, hear me, Lord! Rescue from their enemies the descendants of
my sister--the artisan as the king's son. Do not let them destroy the
germ of so mighty and fruitful an association, which, with thy blessing,
would make an epoch in the annals of human happiness!
"Let me unite them, O Lord, since others would divide them--defend them,
since others attack; let me give hope to those who have ceased to hope,
courage to those who are brought low with fear--let me raise up the
falling, and sustain those who persevere in the way of the righteous!
"And, peradventure, their struggles, devotion, virtue, and grief, may
expiate my fault--that of a man, whom misfortune alone rendered unjust
"Oh! since Thy Almighty hand hath led me hither--to what end I know not--
lay aside Thy wrath, I beseech Thee--let me be no longer the instrument
of Thy vengeance!
"Enough of woe upon the earth! for the last two years, Thy creatures have
fallen by thousands upon my track. The world is decimated. A veil of
mourning extends over all the globe.
"From Asia to the icy Pole, they died upon the path of the wanderer.
Dost Thou not hear the long-drawn sigh that rises from the earth unto
Thee, O Lord?
"Mercy for all! mercy for me!--Let me but unite the descendants of my
sister for a single day, and they will be saved!"
As he pronounced these words, the wayfarer sank upon his knees, and
raised to heaven, his supplicating hands. Suddenly, the wind blew with
redoubled violence; its sharp whistlings were changed into the roar of a
The traveller shuddered; in a voice of terror he exclaimed: "The blast of
death rises in its fury--the whirlwind carries me on--Lord! Thou art then
deaf to my prayer?"
"The spectre! oh, the spectre! it is again here! its green face twitching
with convulsive spasms--its red eyes rolling in their orbits. Begone!
begone!--its hand, oh! its icy hand has again laid hold of mine. Have
"Oh, Lord! the pestilence--the terrible plague--must I carry it into this
city?--And my brethren will perish the first--they, who are so sorely
smitten even now! Mercy!"
"And the descendants of my sister. Mercy! Mercy!"
"Oh, Lord, have pity!--I can no longer keep my ground; the spectre drags
me to the slope of the hill; my walk is rapid as the deadly blast that
rages behind me; already do I behold the city gates. Have mercy, Lord,
on the descendants of my sister! Spare them; do not make me their
executioner; let them triumph over their enemies!"
"GO ON! GO ON!"
"The ground flies beneath my feet; there is the city gate. Lord, it is
yet time! Oh, mercy for that sleeping town! Let it not waken to cries of
terror, despair, and death! Lord, I am on the threshold. Must it be?--
Yes, it is done. Paris, the plague is in thy bosom. The curse--oh, the
"GO ON! GO ON! GO ON!"
The morning after the doomed traveller, descending the heights of
Montmartre, had entered the walls of Paris, great activity reigned in St.
Dizier House. Though it was hardly noon, the Princess de St. Dizier,
without being exactly in full dress (she had too much taste for that),
was yet arrayed with more care than usual. Her light hair, instead of
being merely banded, was arranged in two bunches of curls, which suited
very well with her full and florid cheeks. Her cap was trimmed with
bright rose-colored ribbon, and whoever had seen the lady in her tight-
fitting dress of gray-watered silk would have easily guessed that Mrs.
Grivois, her tirewoman, must have required the assistance and the efforts
of another of the princess's women to achieve so remarkable a reduction
in the ample figure of their mistress.
We shall explain the edifying cause of this partial return to the
vanities of the world. The princess, attended by Mrs. Grivois, who acted
as housekeeper, was giving her final orders with regard to some
preparations that were going on in a vast parlor. In the midst of this
room was a large round table, covered with crimson velvet, and near it
stood several chairs, amongst which, in the place of honor, was an arm-
chair of gilded wood. In one corner, not far from the chimney, in which
burned an excellent fire, was a buffet. On it were the divers materials
for a most dainty and exquisite collation. Upon silver dishes were piled
pyramids of sandwiches composed of the roes of carp and anchovy paste,
with slices of pickled tunny-fish and Lenigord truffles (it was in Lent);
on silver dishes, placed over burning spirits of wine, so as to keep them
very hot, tails of Meuse crawfish boiled in cream, smoked in golden-
colored pastry, and seemed to challenge comparison with delicious little
Marennes oyster-patties, stewed in Madeira, and flavored with a seasoning
of spiced sturgeon. By the side of these substantial dishes were some of
a lighter character, such as pineapple tarts, strawberry-creams (it was
early for such fruit), and orange-jelly served in the peel, which had
been artistically emptied for that purpose. Bordeaux, Madeira, and
Alicant sparkled like rubies and topazes in large glass decanters, while
two Sevres ewers were filled, one with coffee a la creme, the other with
vanilla chocolate, almost in the state of sherbet, from being plunged in
a large cooler of chiselled silver, containing ice.
But what gave to this dainty collation a singularly apostolic and papal
character were sundry symbols of religious worship carefully represented.
Thus there were charming little Calvaries in apricot paste, sacerdotal
mitres in burnt almonds, episcopal croziers in sweet cake, to which the
princess added, as a mark of delicate attention, a little cardinal's hat
in cherry sweetmeat, ornamented with bands in burnt sugar. The most
important, however, of these Catholic delicacies, the masterpiece of the
cook, was a superb crucifix in angelica, with a crown of candied berries.
These are strange profanations, which scandalize even the least devout.
But, from the impudent juggle of the coat of Triers, down to the
shameless jest of the shrine at Argenteuil, people, who are pious after
the fashion of the princess, seem to take delight in bringing ridicule
upon the most respectable traditions.
After glancing with an air of satisfaction at these preparations for the
collation, the lady said to Mrs. Grivois, as she pointed to the gilded
arm-chair, which seemed destined for the president of the meeting: "Is
there a cushion under the table, for his Eminence to rest his feet on?
He always complains of cold."
"Yes, your highness," said Mrs. Grivois, when she had looked under the
table; "the cushion is there."
"Let also a pewter bottle be filled with boiling water, in case his
Eminence should not find the cushion enough to keep his feet warm."
"Yes, my lady."
"And put some more wood on the fire."
"But, my lady, it is already a very furnace. And if his Eminence is
always too cold, my lord the Bishop of Halfagen is always too hot. He
The princess shrugged her shoulders, and said to Mrs. Grivois: "Is not
his Eminence Cardinal Malipieri the superior of his Lordship the Bishop
"Yes, your highness."
"Then, according to the rules of the hierarchy, it is for his Lordship to
suffer from the heat, rather than his Eminence from the cold. Therefore,
do as I tell you, and put more wood on the fire. Nothing is more
natural; his Eminence being an Italian, and his Lordship coming from the
north of Belgium, they are accustomed to different temperatures."
"Just as your highness pleases," said Mrs. Grivois, as she placed two
enormous logs on the fire; "but in such a heat as there is here his
Lordship might really be suffocated."
"I also find it too warm; but does not our holy religion teach us lessons
of self-sacrifice and mortification?" said the princess, with a touching
expression of devotion.
We have now explained the cause of the rather gay attire of the princess.
She was preparing for a reception of prelates, who, along with Father
d'Aigrigny and other dignitaries of the Church, had already held at the
princely house a sort of council on a small scale. A young bride who
gives her first ball, an emancipated minor who gives his first bachelor's
dinner, a woman of talent who reads aloud for the first time her first
unpublished work, are not more joyous and proud, and, at the same time,
more attentive to their guests, than was this lady with her prelates. To
behold great interests discussed in her house, and in her presence, to
hear men of acknowledged ability ask her advice upon certain practical
matters relating to the influence of female congregations, filled the
princess with pride, as her claims to consideration were thus sanctioned
by Lordships and Eminences, and she took the position, as it were, of a
mother of the Church. Therefore, to win these prelates, whether native
or foreign, she had recourse to no end of saintly flatteries and
sanctified coaxing. Nor could anything be more logical than these
successive transfigurations of this heartless woman, who only loved
sincerely and passionately the pursuit of intrigue and domination. With
the progress of age, she passed naturally from the intrigues of love to
those of politics, and from the latter to those of religion.
At the moment she finished inspecting her preparations, the sound of
coaches was heard in the courtyard, apprising her of the arrival of the
persons she had been expecting. Doubtless, these persons were of the
highest rank, for contrary to all custom, she went to receive them at the
door of her outer saloon. It was, indeed, Cardinal Malipieri, who was
always cold, with the Belgian Bishop of Halfagen, who was always hot.
They were accompanied by Father d'Aigrigny. The Roman cardinal was a
tall man, rather bony than thin, with a yellowish puffy countenance,
haughty and full of craft; he squinted a good deal, and his black eyes
were surrounded by a deep brown circle. The Belgian Bishop was short,
thick, and fat, with a prominent abdomen, an apoplectic complexion, a
slow, deliberate look, and a soft, dimpled, delicate hand.
The company soon assembled in the great saloon. The cardinal instantly
crept close to the fire, whilst the bishop, beginning to sweat and blow,
cast longing glances at the iced chocolate and coffee, which were to aid
him in sustaining the oppressive heat of the artificial dog-day. Father
d'Aigrigny, approaching the princess, said to her in a low voice: "Will
you give orders for the admittance of Abbe Gabriel de Rennepont, when he
"Is that young priest then here?" asked the princess, with extreme
"Since the day before yesterday. We had him sent for to Paris, by his
superiors. You shall know all. As for Father Rodin, let Mrs. Grivois
admit him, as the other day, by the little door of the back stairs."
"He will come to-day?"
"He has very important matters to communicate. He desires that both the
cardinal and the bishop should be present for they have been informed of
everything at Rome by the Superior General, in their quality of
The princess rang the bell, gave the necessary orders, and, returning
towards the cardinal, said to him, in a tone of the most earnest
solicitude: "Does your Eminence begin to feel a little warmer? Would
your Eminence like a bottle of hot water to your feet? Shall we make a
larger fire for your Eminence?"
At this proposition, the Belgian bishop, who was wiping the perspiration
from his forehead, heaved a despairing sigh.
"A thousand thanks, princess," answered the cardinal to her, in very good
French, but with an intolerable Italian accent; "I am really overcome
with so much kindness."
"Will not your Lordship take some refreshment?" said the princess to the
bishop, as she turned towards the sideboard.
"With your permission, madame, I will take a little iced coffee," said
the prelate, making a prudent circuit to approach the dishes without
passing before the fire.
"And will not your Eminence try one of these little oyster-patties? They
are quite hot," said the princess.
"I know them already, princess," said the cardinal, with the air and look
of an epicure; "they are delicious, and I cannot resist the temptation."
"What wine shall I have the honor to offer your Eminence?" resumed the
"A little claret, if you please, madame;" and as Father d'Aigrigny
prepared to fill the cardinal's glass, the princess disputed with him
"Your Eminence will doubtless approve what I have done," said Father
d'Aigrigny to the cardinal, whilst the latter was gravely despatching the
oyster-patties, "in not summoning for to-day the Bishop of Mogador, the
Archbishop of Nanterre, and our holy Mother Perpetue, the lady-superior
of St. Mary Convent, the interview we are about to have with his
Reverence Father Rodin and Abbe Gabriel being altogether private and
"Our good father was perfectly right," said the cardinal; "for, though
the possible consequences of this Rennepont affair may interest the whole
Church, there are some things that are as well kept secret."
"Then I must seize this opportunity to thank your Eminence for having
deigned to make an exception in favor of a very obscure and humble
servant of the Church," said the princess to the cardinal, with a very
deep and respectful curtsey.
"It is only just and right, madame," replied the cardinal, bowing as he
replaced his empty glass upon the table; "we know how much the Church is
indebted to you for the salutary direction you give to the religious
institutions of which you are the patroness."
"With regard to that, your Eminence may be assured that I always refuse
assistance to any poor person who cannot produce a certificate from the
"And it is only thus, madame," resumed the cardinal, this time allowing
himself to be tempted by the attractions of the crawfish's tails, "it is
only thus that charity has any meaning. I care little that the
irreligious should feel hunger, but with the pious it is different;" and
the prelate gayly swallowed a mouthful. "Moreover," resumed he, "it is
well known with what ardent zeal you pursue the impious, and those who
are rebels against the authority of our Holy Father."
"Your Eminence may feel convinced that I am Roman in heart and soul; I
see no difference between a Gallican and a Turk," said the princess,
"The princess is right," said the Belgian bishop: "I will go further, and
assert that a Gallican should be more odious to the church than a pagan.
In this respect I am of the opinion of Louis XIV. They asked him a favor
for a man about the court. `Never,' said the great king; `this person is
a Jansenist.'--`No, sire; he is an atheist.'--'Oh! that is different; I
will grant what he asks,' said the King."
This little episcopal jest made them all laugh. After which Father
d'Aigrigny resumed seriously, addressing the cardinal: "Unfortunately, as
I was about to observe to your Eminence with regard to the Abbe Gabriel,
unless they are very narrowly watched, the lower clergy have a tendency
to become infected with dissenting views, and with ideas of rebellion
against what they call the despotism of the bishops."
"This young man must be a Catholic Luther!" said the bishop. And,
walking on tip-toe, he went to pour himself out a glorious glass of
Madeira, in which he soaked some sweet cake, made in the form of a
Led by his example, the Cardinal, under pretence of warming his feet by
drawing still closer to the fire, helped himself to an excellent glass of
old Malaga, which he swallowed by mouthfuls, with an air of profound
meditation; after which he resumed: "So this Abbe Gabriel starts as a
reformer. He must be an ambitious man. Is he dangerous?"
"By our advice his superiors have judged him to be so. They have ordered
him to come hither. He will soon be here, and I will tell your Eminence
why I have sent for him. But first, I have a note on the dangerous
tendencies of the Abbe Gabriel. Certain questions were addressed to him,
with regard to some of his acts, and it was in consequence of his answers
that his superiors recalled him."
So saying, Father d'Aigrigny, took from his pocket-book a paper, which he
read as follows:
"`Question.--Is it true that you performed religious rites for an
inhabitant of your parish who died in final impenitence of the most
detestable kind, since he had committed suicide?
"`Answer of Abbe Gabriel.--I paid him the last duties, because, more than
any one else, because of his guilty end, he required the prayers of the
church. During the night which followed his interment I continually
implored for him the divine mercy.
"`Q.--Is it true that you refused a set of silver-gilt sacramental
vessels, and other ornaments, with which one of the faithful, in pious
zeal, wished to endow your parish?
"`A.--I refused the vessels and embellishments, because the house of the
Lord should be plain and without ornament, so as to remind the faithful
that the divine Saviour was born in a stable. I advised the person who
wished to make these useless presents to my parish to employ the money in
judicious almsgiving, assuring him it would be more agreeable to the
"What a bitter and violent declamation against the adorning of our
temples!" cried the cardinal. "This young priest is most dangerous.
Continue, my good father."
And, in his indignation, his Eminence swallowed several mouthfuls of
strawberry-cream. Father d'Aigrigny continued.
"`Q.--Is it true that you received in your parsonage, and kept there for
some days, an inhabitant of the village, by birth a Swiss, belonging to
the Protestant communion? Is it true that not only you did not attempt
to convert him to the one Catholic and Apostolic faith, but that you
carried so far the neglect of your sacred duties as to inter this heretic
in the ground consecrated for the repose of true believers?
"`A.--One of my brethren was houseless. His life had been honest and
laborious. In his old age his strength had failed him, and sickness had
come at the back of it; almost in a dying state, he had been driven from
his humble dwelling by a pitiless landlord, to whom he owed a year's
rent. I received the old man in my house, and soothed his last days.
The poor creature had toiled and suffered all his life; dying, he uttered
no word of bitterness at his hard fate; he recommended his soul to God
and piously kissed the crucifix. His pure and simple spirit returned to
the bosom of its Creator. I closed his eyes with respect, I buried him,
I prayed for him; and, though he died in the Protestant faith, I thought
him worthy of a place in consecrated ground.'"
"Worse and worse!" said the cardinal. "This tolerance is monstrous. It
is a horrible attack on that maxim of Catholicism: `Out of the pale of
the Church there is no salvation.'"
"And all this is the more serious, my lord," resumed Father d'Aigrigny,
"because the mildness, charity, and Christian devotion of Abbe Gabriel
have excited, not only in his parish, but in all the surrounding
districts, the greatest enthusiasm. The priests of the neighboring
parishes have yielded to the general impulse, and it must be confessed
that but for his moderation a wide-spread schism would have commenced."
"But what do you hope will result from bringing him here?" said the
"The position of Abbe Gabriel is complicated; first of all, he is the
heir of the Rennepont family."
"But has he not ceded his rights?" asked the cardinal.
"Yes, my lord; and this cession, which was at first informal, has lately,
with his free consent, been made perfectly regular in law; for he had
sworn, happen what might, to renounce his part of the inheritance in
favor of the Society of Jesus. Nevertheless, his Reverence Father Rodin
thinks, that if your Eminence, after explaining to Abbe Gabriel that he
was about to be recalled by his superiors, were to propose to him some
eminent position at Rome, he might be induced to leave France, and we
might succeed in arousing within him those sentiments of ambition which
are doubtless only sleeping for the present; your Eminence, having
observed, very judiciously, that every reformer must be ambitious."
"I approve of this idea," said the cardinal, after a moment's reflection;
"with his merit and power of acting on other men, Abbe Gabriel may rise
very high, if he is docile; and if he should not be so, it is better for
the safety of the Church that he should be at Rome than here--for you
know, my good father, we have securities that are unfortunately wanting
After some moments of silence, the cardinal said suddenly to Father
d'Aigrigny: "As we were talking of Father Rodin, tell me frankly what you
think of him."
"Your Eminence knows his capacity," said Father d'Aigrigny, with a
constrained and suspicious air; "our reverend Father-General--"
"Commissioned him to take your place," said the cardinal; "I know that.
He told me so at Rome. But what do you think of the character of Father
Rodin? Can one have full confidence in him?"
"He has so complete, so original, so secret, and so impenetrable a mind,"
said Father d'Aigrigny, with hesitation, "that it is difficult to form
any certain judgment with respect to him."
"Do you think him ambitious?" said the cardinal, after another moment's
pause. "Do you not suppose him capable of having other views than those
of the greater glory of his Order?--Come, I have reasons for speaking
thus," added the prelate, with emphasis.
"Why," resumed Father d'Aigrigny, not without suspicion, for the game is
played cautiously between people of the same craft, "what should your
Eminence think of him, either from your own observation, or from the
report of the Father-General?"
"I think--that if his apparent devotion to his Order really concealed
some after-thought--it would be well to discover it--for, with the
influence that he has obtained at Rome (as I have found out), he might
one day, and that shortly, become very formidable."
"Well!" cried Father d'Aigrigny, impelled by his jealousy of Rodin; "I
am, in this respect, of the same opinion as your Eminence; for I have
sometimes perceived in him flashes of ambition, that were as alarming as
they were extraordinary--and since I must tell all to your Eminence--"
Father d'Aigrigny was unable to continue; at this moment Mrs. Grivois,
who had been knocking at the door, half-opened it, and made a sign to her
mistress. The princess answered by bowing her head, and Mrs. Grivois
again withdrew. A second afterwards Rodin entered the room.
 It is known that, in 1845, the Inquisition, solitary confinement,
etc., still existed at Rome.
RENDERING THE ACCOUNT.
At sight of Rodin, the two prelates and Father d'Aigrigny rose
spontaneously, so much were they overawed by the real superiority of this
man; their faces, just before contracted with suspicion and jealousy,
suddenly brightened up, and seemed to smile on the reverend father with
affectionate deference. The princess advanced some steps to meet him.
Rodin, badly dressed as ever, leaving on the soft carpet the muddy track
of his clumsy shoes, put his umbrella into one corner, and advanced
towards the table--not with his accustomed humility, but with slow step,
uplifted head, and steady glance; not only did he feel himself in the
midst of his partisans, but he knew that he could rule them all by the
power of his intellect.
"We were speaking of your reverence, my dear, good father," said the
cardinal, with charming affability.
"Ah!" said Rodin, looking fixedly at the prelate; "and what were you
"Why," replied the Belgian bishop, wiping his forehead, "all the good
that can be said of your reverence."
"Will you not take something, my good father?" said the princess to
Rodin, as she pointed to the splendid sideboard.
"Thank you, madame, I have eaten my radish already this morning."
"My secretary, Abbe Berlini, who was present at your repast, was, indeed,
much astonished at your reverence's frugality," said the prelate: "it is
worthy of an anchorite."
"Suppose we talk of business," said Rodin, abruptly, like a man
accustomed to lead and control the discussion.
"We shall always be most happy to hear you," said the prelate. "Your
reverence yourself fixed to-day to talk over this great Rennepont affair.
It is of such importance, that it was partly the cause of my journey to
France; for to support the interests of the glorious Company of Jesus,
with which I have the honor of being associated, is to support the
interests of Rome itself, and I promised the reverend Father-General that
I would place myself entirely at your orders."
"I can only repeat what his Eminence has just said," added the bishop.
"We set out from Rome together, and our ideas are just the same."
"Certainly," said Rodin, addressing the cardinal, "your Eminence may
serve our cause, and that materially. I will tell you how presently."
Then, addressing the princess, he continued: "I have desired Dr.
Baleinier to come here, madame, for it will be well to inform him of
"He will be admitted as usual," said the princess.
Since Rodin's arrival Father d'Aigrigny had remained silent; he seemed
occupied with bitter thoughts, and with some violent internal struggle.
At last, half rising, he said to the prelate, in a forced tone of voice:
"I will not ask your Eminence to judge between the reverend Father Rodin
and myself. Our General has pronounced, and I have obeyed. But, as your
Eminence will soon see our superior, I should wish that you would grant
me the favor to report faithfully the answers of Father Rodin to one or
two questions I am about to put to him."
The prelate bowed. Rodin looked at Father d'Aigrigny with an air of
surprise, and said to him, dryly: "The thing is decided. What is the use
"Not to justify myself," answered Father d'Aigrigny, "but to place
matters in their true light before his Eminence."
"Speak, then; but let us have no useless speeches," said Rodin, drawing
out his large silver watch, and looking at it. "By two o'clock I must be
"I will be as brief as possible," said Father d'Aigrigny, with repressed
resentment. Then, addressing Rodin, he resumed: "When your reverence
thought fit to take my place, and to blame, very severely perhaps, the
manner in which I had managed the interests confided to my care, I
confess honestly that these interests were gravely compromised."
"Compromised?" said Rodin, ironically; "you mean lost. Did you not order
me to write to Rome, to bid them renounce all hope?"
"That is true," said Father d'Aigrigny.
"It was then a desperate case, given up by the best doctors," continued
Rodin, with irony, "and yet I have undertaken to restore it to life. Go
And, plunging both hands into the pockets of his trousers, he looked
Father d'Aigrigny full in the face.
"Your reverence blamed me harshly," resumed Father d'Aigrigny, "not for
having sought, by every possible means, to recover the property odiously
diverted from our society--"
"All your casuists authorize you to do so," said the cardinal; "the texts
are clear and positive; you have a right to recover; per fas aut nefas
what has been treacherously taken from you."
"And therefore," resumed Father d'Aigrigny, "Father Rodin only reproached
me with the military roughness of my means. `Their violence,' he said,
`was in dangerous opposition to the manners of the age.' Be it so; but
first of all, I could not be exposed to any legal proceedings, and, but
for one fatal circumstance, success would have crowned the course I had
taken, however rough and brutal it may appear. Now, may I ask your
"What I have done more than you?" said Rodin to Father d'Aigrigny, giving
way to his impertinent habit of interrupting people; "what I have done
better than you?--what step I have taken in the Rennepont affair, since I
received it from you in a desperate condition? Is that what you wish to
"Precisely," said Father d'Aigrigny, dryly.
"Well, I confess," resumed Rodin, in a sardonic tone, "just as you did
great things, coarse things, turbulent things, I have been doing little,
puerile, secret things. Oh, heaven! you cannot imagine what a foolish
part I, who passed for a man of enlarged views, have been acting for the
last six weeks."
"I should never have allowed myself to address such a reproach to your
reverence, however deserved it may appear," said Father d'Aigrigny, with
a bitter smile.
"A reproach?" said Rodin, shrugging his shoulders; "a reproach? You
shall be the judge. Do you know what I wrote about you, some six weeks
ago? Here it is: `Father d'Aigrigny has excellent qualities. He will be
of much service to me'--and from to-morrow I shall employ you very
actively, added Rodin, by way of parenthesis--`but he is not great enough
to know how to make himself little on occasion.' Do you understand?"
"Not very well," said Father d'Aigrigny, blushing.
"So much the worse for you," answered Rodin; "it only proves that I was
right. Well, since I must tell you, I have been wise enough to play the
most foolish part for six whole weeks. Yes, I have chatted nonsense with
a grisette--have talked of liberty, progress, humanity, emancipation of
women, with a young, excited girl; of Napoleon the Great, and all sorts
of Bonapartist idolatry, with an old, imbecile soldier; of imperial
glory, humiliation of France, hopes in the King of Rome, with a certain
marshal of France, who, with a heart full of adoration for the robber of
thrones, that was transported to Saint-Helena, has a head as hollow and
sonorous as a trumpet, into which you have only to blow some warlike or
patriotic notes, and it will flourish away of itself, without knowing why
or how. More than all this, I have talked of love affairs with a young
tiger. When I told you it was lamentable to see a man of any
intelligence descend, as I have done, to all such petty ways of
connecting the thousand threads of this dark web, was I not right? Is it
not a fine spectacle to see the spider obstinately weaving its net?--to
see the ugly little black animal crossing thread upon thread, fastening
it here, strengthening it there, and again lengthening it in some other
place? You shrug your shoulders in pity; but return two hours after--
what will you find? The little black animal eating its fill, and in its
web a dozen of the foolish flies, bound so securely, that the little
black animal has only to choose the moment of its repast."
As he uttered those words, Rodin smiled strangely; his eyes, gradually
half closed, opened to their full width, and seemed to shine more than
usual. The Jesuit felt a sort of feverish excitement, which he
attributed to the contest in which he had engaged before these eminent
personages, who already felt the influence of his original and cutting
Father d'Aigrigny began to regret having entered on the contest. He
resumed, however, with ill-repressed irony: "I do not dispute the
smallness of your means. I agree with you, they are very puerile--they
are even very vulgar. But that is not quite sufficient to give an
exalted notion of your merit. May I be allowed to ask--"
"What these means have produced?" resumed Rodin, with an excitement that
was not usual with him. "Look into my spider's web, and you will see
there the beautiful and insolent young girl, so proud, six weeks ago, of
her grace, mind, and audacity--now pale, trembling, mortally wounded at
"But the act of chivalrous intrepidity of the Indian prince, with which
all Paris is ringing," said the princess, "must surely have touched
Mdlle. de Cardoville."
"Yes; but I have paralyzed the effect of that stupid and savage devotion,
by demonstrating to the young lady that it is not sufficient to kill
black panthers to prove one's self a susceptible, delicate, and faithful
"Be it so," said Father d'Aigrigny; "we will admit the fact that Mdlle.
de Cardoville is wounded to the heart."
"But what does this prove with regard to the Rennepont affair?" asked the
cardinal, with curiosity, as he leaned his elbows on the table.
"There results from it," said Rodin, "that when our most dangerous enemy
is mortally wounded, she abandons the battlefield. That is something, I
"Indeed," said the princess, "the talents and audacity of Mdlle. de
Cardoville would make her the soul of the coalition formed against us."
"Be it so," replied Father d'Aigrigny, obstinately; "she may be no longer
formidable in that respect. But the wound in her heart will not prevent
her from inheriting."
"Who tells you so?" asked Rodin, coldly, and with assurance. "Do you
know why I have taken such pains, first to bring her in contact with
Djalma, and then to separate her from him?"
"That is what I ask you," said Father D'Aigrigny; "how can this storm of
passion prevent Mdlle. de Cardoville and the prince from inheriting?"
"Is it from the serene, or from the stormy sky, that darts the destroying
thunderbolt?" said Rodin, disdainfully. "Be satisfied; I shall know
where to place the conductor. As for M. Hardy, the man lived for three
things: his workmen, his friend, his mistress. He has been thrice
wounded in the heart. I always take aim at the heart; it is legal and
"It is legal, and sure, and praiseworthy," said the bishop; "for, if I
understand you rightly, this manufacturer had a concubine; now it is well
to make use of an evil passion for the punishment of the wicked."
"True, quite true," added the cardinal; "if they have evil passion for us
to make use of it, it is their own fault."
"Our holy Mother Perpetue," said the princess, "took every means to
discover this abominable adultery."
"Well, then, M. Hardy is wounded in his dearest affections, I admit,"
said Father d'Aigrigny, still disputing every inch of ground; "ruined too
in his fortune, which will only make him the more eager after this
The argument appeared of weight to the two prelates and the princess; all
looked at Rodin with anxious curiosity. Instead of answering he walked
up to the sideboard, and, contrary to his habits of stoical sobriety, and
in spite of his repugnance for wine, he examined the decanters, and said:
"What is there in them?"
"Claret and sherry," said the hostess, much astonished at the sudden
taste of Rodin, "and--"
The latter took a decanter at hazard, and poured out a glass of Madeira,
which he drank off at a draught. Just be fore he had felt a strange kind
of shivering; to this had succeeded a sort of weakness. He hoped the
wine would revive him.
After wiping his mouth with the back of his dirty hand, he returned to
the table, and said to Father d'Aigrigny: "What did you tell me about M.
"That being ruined in fortune, he would be the more eager to obtain this
immense inheritance," answered Father d'Aigrigny, inwardly much offended
at the imperious tone.
"M. Hardy think of money?" said Rodin, shrugging his shoulders. "He is
indifferent to life, plunged in a stupor from which he only starts to
burst into tears. Then he speaks with mechanical kindness to those about
him. I have placed him in good hands. He begins, however, to be
sensible to the attentions shown him, for he is good, excellent, weak;
and ii is to this excellence, Father d'Aigrigny, that you must appeal to
finish the work in hand."
"I?" said Father d'Aigrigny, much surprised.
"Yes; and then you will find that the result I have obtained is
Rodin paused, and, pressing his hand to his forehead, said to himself:
"It is strange!"
"What is the matter?" said the princess, with interest.
"Nothing, madame," answered Rodin, with a shiver; "it is doubtless the
wine I drank; I am not accustomed to it. I feel a slight headache; but
it will pass."
"Your eyes are very bloodshot, my good father, said the princess.
"I have looked too closely into my web," answered the Jesuit, with a
sinister smile; "and I must look again, to make Father d'Aigrigny, who
pretends to be blind, catch a glimpse of my other flies. The two
daughters of Marshal Simon, for instance, growing sadder and more
dejected every day, at the icy barrier raised between them and their
father; and the latter thinking himself one day dishonored if he does
this, another if he does that; so that the hero of the Empire has become
weaker and more irresolute than a child. What more remains of this
impious family? Jacques Rennepont? Ask Morok, to what a state of
debasement intemperance has reduced him, and towards what an abyss he is
rushing!--There is my occurrence-sheet; you see to what are reduced all
the members of this family, who, six weeks ago, had each elements of
strength and union! Behold these Renneponts, who, by the will of their
heretical ancestor, were to unite their forces to combat and crush our
Society!--There was good reason to fear them; but what did I say? That I
would act upon their passions. What have I done? I have acted upon
their passions. At this hour they are vainly struggling in my web--they
are mine--they are mine--"
As he was speaking, Rodin's countenance and voice had undergone a
singular alteration; his complexion, generally so cadaverous, had become
flushed, but unequally, and in patches; then, strange phenomenon! his
eyes grew both more brilliant and more sunken, and his voice sharper and
louder. The change in the countenance of Rodin, of which he did not
appear to be conscious, was so remarkable, that the other actors in this
scene looked at him with a sort of terror.
Deceived as to the cause of this impression, Rodin exclaimed with
indignation, in a voice interrupted by deep gaspings for breath: "It is
pity for this impious race, that I read upon your faces? Pity for the
young girl, who never enters a church, and erects pagan altars in her
habitation? Pity for Hardy, the sentimental blasphemer, the
philanthropic atheist, who had no chapel in his factory, and dared to
blend the names of Socrates, Marcus, Aurelius, and Plato, with our
Savior's? Pity for the Indian worshipper of Brahma? Pity for the two
sisters, who have never even been baptized? Pity for that brute, Jacques
Rennepont? Pity for the stupid imperial soldier, who has Napoleon for
his god, and the bulletins of the Grand Army for his gospel? Pity for
this family of renegades, whose ancestor, a relapsed heretic, not content
with robbing us of our property, excites from his tomb, at the end of a
century and a half, his cursed race to lift their heads against us?
What! to defend ourselves from these vipers, we shall not have the right
to crush them in their own venom?--I tell you, that it is to serve
heaven, and to give a salutary example to the world, to devote, by
unchaining their own passions, this impious family to grief and despair
As he spoke thus, Rodin was dreadful in his ferocity; the fire of his
eyes became still more brilliant; his lips were dry and burning, a cold
sweat bathed his temples, which could be seen throbbing; an icy shudder
ran through his frame. Attributing these symptoms to fatigue from
writing through a portion of the night, and wishing to avoid fainting, he
went to the sideboard, filled another glass with wine, which he drank off
at a draught, and returned as the cardinal said to him: "If your course
with regard to this family needed justification, my good father, your
last word would have victoriously justified it. Not only are you right,
according to your own casuists, but there is nothing in your proceedings
contrary to human laws. As for the divine law, it is pleasing to the
Lord to destroy impiety with its own weapons."
Conquered, as well as the others, by Rodin's diabolical assurance, and
brought back to a kind of fearful admiration, Father d'Aigrigny said to
him: "I confess I was wrong in doubting the judgment of your reverence.
Deceived by the appearance of the means employed, I could not judge of
their connection, and above all, of their results. I now see, that,
thanks to you, success is no longer doubtful."
"This is an exaggeration," replied Rodin, with feverish impatience; "all
these passions are at work, but the moment is critical. As the alchemist
bends over the crucible, which may give him either treasures or sudden
death--I alone at this moment--"
Rodin did not finish the sentence. He pressed both his hands to his
forehead, with a stifled cry of pain.
"What is the matter?" said Father d'Aigrigny. "For some moments you have
been growing fearfully pale."
"I do not know 'what is the matter," said Rodin, in an altered voice; "my
headache increases--I am seized with a sort of giddiness."
"Sit down," said the princess, with interest.
"Take something," said the bishop.
"It will be nothing," said Rodin, with an effort; "I am no milksop, thank
heaven!--I had little sleep last night; it is fatigue--nothing more. I
was saying, that I alone could now direct this affair: but I cannot
execute the plan myself. I must keep out of the way, and watch in the
shade: I must hold the threads, which I alone can manage," added Rodin,
in a faint voice.
"My good father," said the cardinal uneasily, "I assure you that you are
very unwell. Your paleness is becoming livid."
"It is possible," answered Rodin, courageously; "but I am not to be so
soon conquered. To return to our affair--this is the time, in which your
qualities, Father d'Aigrigny, will turn to good account. I have never
denied them, and they may now be of the greatest use. You have the power
of charming--grace--eloquence--you must--"
Rodin paused again. A cold sweat poured from his forehead. He felt his
legs give way under him, notwithstanding his obstinate energy.
"I confess, I am not well," he said; "yet, this morning, I was as well as
ever. I shiver. I am icy cold."
"Draw near the fire--it is a sudden indisposition," said the bishop,
offering his arm with heroic devotion; "it will not be anything of
"If you were to take something warm, a cup of tea," said the princess;
"Dr. Baleinier will be here directly--he will reassure us as to this--
"It is really inexplicable," said the prelate.
At these words of the cardinal, Rodin, who had advanced with difficulty
towards the fire, turned his eyes upon the prelate, and looked at him
fixedly in a strange manner, for about a second; then, strong in his
unconquerable energy, notwithstanding the change in his features, which
were now visibly disfigured, Rodin said, in a broken voice, which he
tried to make firm: "The fire has warmed me; it will be nothing. I have
no time to coddle myself. It would be a pretty thing to fall ill just as
the Rennepont affair can only succeed by my exertions! Let us return to
business. I told you, Father d'Aigrigny, that you might serve us a good
deal; and you also, princess, who have espoused this cause as if it were
Rodin again paused. This time he uttered a piercing cry, sank upon a
chair placed near him, and throwing himself back convulsively, he pressed
his hands to his chest, and exclaimed: "Oh! what pain!"
Then (dreadful sight!) a cadaverous decomposition, rapid as thought, took
place in Rodin's features. His hollow eyes were filled with blood, and
seemed to shrink back in their orbits, which formed, as it were, two dark
holes, in the centre of which blazed points of fire; nervous convulsions
drew the flabby, damp, and icy skin tight over the bony prominences of
the face, which was becoming rapidly green. From the lips, writhing with
pain, issued the struggling breath, mingled with the words: "Oh! I
suffer! I burn!"
Then, yielding to a transport of fury. Rodin tore with his nails his
naked chest, for he had twisted off the buttons of his waistcoat, and
rent his black and filthy shirt-front, as if the pressure of those
garments augmented the violence of the pain under which he was writhing.
The bishop, the cardinal, and Father d'Aigrigny, hastily approached
Rodin, to try and hold him; he was seized with horrible convulsions; but,
suddenly, collecting all his strength, he rose upon his feet stiff as a
corpse. Then, with his garments in disorder, his thin, gray hair
standing up all around his greenish face, fixing his red and flaming eyes
upon the cardinal, he seized him with convulsive grasp, and exclaimed in
a terrible voice, half stifled in his throat: "Cardinal Malipieri--this
illness is too sudden--they suspect me at Rome--you are of the race of
the Borgias--and your secretary was with me this morning!"
"Unhappy man! what does he dare insinuate?" cried the prelate, as amazed
as he was indignant at the accusation. So saying, the cardinal strove to
free himself from the grasp of Rodin, whose fingers were now as stiff as
"I am poisoned!" muttered Rodin, and sinking back, he fell into the arms
of Father d'Aigrigny.
Notwithstanding his alarm, the cardinal had time to whisper to the
latter: "He thinks himself poisoned. He must therefore be plotting
something very dangerous."
The door of the room opened. It was Dr. Baleinier.
"Oh, doctor!" cried the princess, as she ran pale and frightened towards
him; "Father Rodin has been suddenly attacked with terrible convulsions.
"Convulsions? oh! it will be nothing, madame," said the doctor, throwing
down his hat upon a chair, and hastily approaching the group which
surrounded the sick man.
"Here is the doctor!" cried the princess. All stepped aside, except
Father d'Aigrigny, who continued to support Rodin, leaning against a
"Heavens! what symptoms!" cried Dr. Baleinier, examining with growing
terror the countenance of Rodin, which from green was turning blue.
"What is it?" asked all the spectators, with one voice.
"What is it?" repeated the doctor, drawing back as if he had trodden upon
a serpent. "It is the cholera! and contagious!"
On this frightful, magic word, Father d'Aigrigny abandoned his hold of
Rodin, who rolled upon the floor.
"He is lost!" cried Dr. Baleinier. "But I will run to fetch the means
for a last effort." And he rushed towards the door.
The Princess de Saint-Dizier, Father d'Aigrigny, the bishop, and the
cardinal followed in terror the flight of Dr. Baleinier. They all
pressed to the door, which, in their consternation, they could not open.
It opened at last but from without--and Gabriel appeared upon the
threshold. Gabriel, the type of the true priest, the holy, the
evangelical minister, to whom we can never pay enough of respect and
ardent sympathy, and tender admiration. His angelic countenance, in its
mild serenity, offered a striking contrast of these faces, all disturbed
and contracted with terror.
The young priest was nearly thrown down by the fugitives, who rushed
through the now open doorway, exclaiming: "Do not go in! he is dying of
the cholera. Fly!"
On these words, pushing back the bishop, who, being the last, was trying
to force a passage, Gabriel ran towards Rodin, while the prelate
succeeded in making his escape. Rodin, stretched upon the carpet, his
limbs twisted with fearful cramps, was writhing in the extremity of pain.
The violence of his fall had, no doubt, roused him to consciousness, for
he moaned, in a sepulchral voice: "They leave me to die--like a dog--the
And the dying man, rolling on his back with a convulsive movement, turned
towards the ceiling a face on which was branded the infernal despair of
the damned, as he once more repeated: "No one!--not one!"
His eyes, which suddenly flamed with fury, just then met the large blue
eyes of the angelic and mild countenance of Gabriel who, kneeling beside
him, said to him, in his soft, grave tones: "I am here, father--to help
you, if help be possible--to pray for you, if God calls you to him."
"Gabriel!" murmured Rodin, with failing voice; "forgive me for the evil I
have done you--do not leave me--do not--"
Rodin could not finish; he had succeeded in raising himself into a
sitting posture; he now uttered a loud cry, and fell back without sense
The same day it was announced in the evening papers: "The cholera has
broken out in Paris. The first case declared itself this day, at half-
past three, P.M. in the Rue de Babylone, at Saint-Dizier House."
THE SQUARE OF NOTRE DAME.
A week had passed since Rodin was seized with the cholera, and its
ravages had continually increased. That was an awful time! A funeral
pall was spread over Paris, once so gay. And yet, never had the sky been
of a more settled, purer blue; never had the sun shone more brilliantly.
The inexorable serenity of nature, during the ravages of the deadly
scourge, offered a strange and mysterious contrast. The flaunting light
of the dazzling sunshine fell full upon the features, contracted by a
thousand agonizing fears. Each trembled for himself, or for those dear
to him; every countenance was stamped with an expression of feverish
astonishment and dread. People walked with rapid steps, as if they would
escape from the fate which threatened them; besides, they were in haste
to return to their homes, for often they left life, health, happiness,
and, two hours later, they found agony, death, and despair.
At every moment, new dismal objects met the view. Sometimes carts passed
along, filled with coffins, symmetrically piled; they stopped before
every house. Men in black and gray garments were in waiting before the
door; they held out their hands, and to some, one coffin was thrown, to
some two, frequently three or four, from the same house. It sometimes
happened that the store was quickly exhausted, and the cart, which had
arrived full, went away empty, whilst many of the dead in the street were
still unserved. In nearly every dwelling, upstairs and down, from the
roof to the cellar, there was a stunning tapping of hammers: coffins were
being nailed down, and so many, so very many were nailed, that sometimes
those who worked stopped from sheer fatigue. Then broke forth laments,
heart-rending moans, despairing imprecations. They were uttered by those
from whom the men in black and gray had taken some one to fill the
Unceasingly were the coffins filled, and day and night did those men
work, but by day more than by night, for, as soon as it was dusk, carne a
gloomy file of vehicles of all kinds--the usual hearses were not
sufficient; but cars, carts, drays, hackney-coaches, and such like,
swelled the funeral procession; different to the other conveyances, which
entered the streets full and went away empty--these came empty but soon
returned full. During that period, the windows of many houses were
illuminated, and often the lights remained burning till the morning. It
was "the season." These illuminations resembled the gleaming rays which
shine in the gay haunts of pleasure; but there were tapers instead of wax
candles, and the chanting of prayers for the dead replaced the murmur of
the ball-room. In the streets, instead of the facetious transparencies
which indicate the costumers, there swung at intervals huge lanterns of a
blood-red color, with these words in black letters: "Assistance for those
attacked with the cholera." The true places for revelry, during the
night, were the churchyards; they ran riot--they, usually so desolate and
silent, during the dark, quiet hours, when the cypress trees rustle in
the breeze, so lonely, that no human step dared to disturb the solemn
silence which reigned there at night, became on a sudden, animated,
noisy, riotous, and resplendent with light. By the smoky flames of
torches, which threw a red glare upon the dark fir-trees, and the white
tombstones, many grave-diggers worked merrily, humming snatches of some
favorite tune. Their laborious and hazardous industry then commanded a
very high price; they were in such request that it was necessary to humor
them. They drank often and much; they sang long and loud; and this to
keep up their strength and spirits good, absolute requisites in such an
employment. If, by chance, any did not finish the grave they had begun,
some obliging comrade finished it for them (fitting expression!), and
placed them in it with friendly care.
Other distant sounds responded to the joyous strains of the grave-
diggers; public-houses had sprung up in the neighborhood of the
churchyards, and the drivers of the dead, when they had "set down their
customers," as they jocosely expressed themselves, enriched with their
unusual gratuities, feasted and made merry like lords; dawn often found
them with a glass in their hands, and a jest on their lips; and, strange
to say, among these funeral satellites, who breathed the very atmosphere
of the disease, the mortality was scarcely perceptible. In the dark,
squalid quarters of the town, where, surrounded by infectious
exhalations, the indigent population was crowded together, and miserable
beings, exhausted by severe privation, were "bespoke" by the cholera, as
it was energetically said at the time, not only individuals, but whole
families, were carried off in a few hours; and yet, sometimes, oh,
merciful Providence! one or two little children were left in the cold and
empty room, after the father and mother, brother and sister, had been
taken away in their shells.
Frequently, houses which had swarmed with hard working laborers, were
obliged to be shut up for want of tenants; in one day, they had been
completely cleared by this terrible visitation, from the cellars, where
little chimney-sweepers slept upon straw, to the garret, on whose cold
brick floor lay stretched some wan and half-naked being, without work and
without bread. But, of all the wards of Paris, that which perhaps
presented the most frightful spectacle during the progress of the
cholera, was the City; and in the City, the square before the cathedral
of Notre-Dame was almost every day the theatre of dreadful scenes: for
this locality was frequently thronged with those who conveyed the sick
from the neighboring streets to the Great Hospital. The cholera had not
one aspect, but a thousand. So that one week after Rodin had been
suddenly attacked, several events combining the horrible and the
grotesque occurred in the square of Notre Dame.
Instead of the Rue d'Arcole, which now leads directly to the square, it
was then approached on one side, by a mean, narrow lane, like all the
other streets of the City, and terminating in a dark, low archway. Upon
entering the square the principal door of the huge Cathedral was to the
left of the spectator, and facing him were the Hospital buildings. A
little beyond, was an opening which gave to view a portion of the parapet
of the Quay Notre-Dame. A placard had been recently stuck on the
discolored and sunken wail of the archway; it contained these words,
traced in large characters.
"The Working-men carried to the hospitals are poisoned, because the
number of patients is too great; every night, Boats filled with corpses,
drop down the Seine.
"Vengeance and Death to the murderers of the People!"
Two men, enveloped in cloaks, and half-hidden in the deep shadow of the
vault, were listening with anxious curiosity to the threatening murmur,
which rose with increasing force from among a tumultuous assembly,
grouped around the Hospital. Soon, cries of "Death to the doctors!--
Vengeance!" reached the ears of the persons who were in ambush under the
"The posters are working," said one; "the train is on fire. When once
the populace is roused, we can set them on whom we please."
"I say," replied the other man, "look over there. That Hercules, whose
athletic form towers above the mob, was cue of the most frantic leaders
when M. Hardy's factory was destroyed."
"To be sure he was; I know him again. Wherever mischief is to be done,
you are sure to find those vagabonds.
"Now, take my advice, do not let us remain under this archway," said the
other man; "the wind is as cold as ice, and though I am cased in flannel--"
"You are right, the cholera is confoundedly impolite. Besides,
everything is going on well here; I am likewise assured that the whole of
the Faubourg Saint-Antoine is ready to rise in the republican cause; that
will serve our ends, and our holy religion will triumph over
revolutionary impiety. Let us rejoin Father d'Aigrigny."
"Where shall we find him?"
"Near here, come--come."
The two hastily disappeared.
The sun, beginning to decline, shed its golden rays upon the blackened
sculptures of the porch of Notre-Dame, and upon its two massy towers,
rising in imposing majesty against a perfectly blue sky, for during the
fast few days, a north-east wind, dry and cold, had driven away the
lightest cloud. A considerable number of people, as we have already
stated, obstructed the approach to the Hospital; they crowded round the
iron railings that protect the front of the building, behind which was
stationed a detachment of infantry, the cries of "Death to the doctors!"
becoming every moment more threatening. The people who thus vociferated.
belonged to an idle, vagabond, and depraved populace--the dregs of the
Paris mob; and (terrible spectacle!) the unfortunate beings who were
forcibly carried through the midst of these hideous groups entered the
Hospital, whilst the air resounded with hoarse clamors, and cries of
"Death." Every moment, fresh victims were brought along in litters, and
on stretchers; the litters were frequently furnished with coarse
curtains, and thus the sick occupants were concealed from the public
gaze; but the stretchers, having no covering, the convulsive movements of
the dying patients often thrust aside the sheet, and exposed to view
their faces, livid as corpses. Far from inspiring with terror the
wretches assembled round the Hospital, such spectacles became to them the
signal for savage jests, and atrocious predictions upon the fate of these
poor creatures, when once in the power of the doctors.
The big blaster and Ciboule, with a good many of their adherents, were
among the mob. After the destruction of Hardy's factory, the quarryman
was formally expelled from the union of the Wolves, who would have
nothing more to do with this wretch; since then, he had plunged into the
grossest debauchery, and speculating on his herculean strength, had hired
himself as the officious champion of Ciboule and her compeers. With the
exception therefore of some chance passengers, the square of Notre-Dame
was filled with a ragged crowd, composed of the refuse of the Parisian
populace--wretches who call for pity as well as blame; for misery,
ignorance, and destitution, beget but too fatally vice and crime. These
savages of civilization felt neither pity, improvement, nor terror, at
the shocking sights with which they were surrounded; careless of a life
which was a daily struggle against hunger, or the allurements of guilt,
they braved the pestilence with infernal audacity, or sank under it with
blasphemy on their lips.
The tall form of the quarryman was conspicuous amongst the rest; with
inflamed eyes and swollen features, he yelled at the top of his voice:
"Death to the body-snatchers! they poison the people."
"That is easier than to feed them," added Ciboule. Then, addressing
herself to an old man, who was being carried with great difficulty
through the dense crowd, upon a chair, by two men, the hag continued:
"Hey? don't go in there, old croaker; die here in the open air instead of
dying in that den, where you'll be doctored like an old rat."
"Yes," added the quarryman; "and then they'll throw you into the water to
feast the fishes, which you won't swallow any more."
At these atrocious cries, the old man looked wildly around, and uttered
faint groans. Ciboule wished to stop the persons who were carrying him,
and they had much difficulty in getting rid of the hag. The number of
cholera-patients arriving increased every moment, and soon neither
litters nor stretchers could be obtained, so that they were borne along
in the arms of the attendants. Several awful episodes bore witness to
the startling rapidity of the infection. Two men were carrying a
stretcher covered with a blood-stained sheet; one of them suddenly felt
himself attacked with the complaint; he stopped short, his powerless arms
let go the stretcher; he turned pale, staggered, fell upon the patient,
becoming as livid as him; the other man, struck with terror, fled
precipitately, leaving his companion and the dying man in the midst of
the crowd. Some drew back in horror, others burst into a savage laugh.
"The horses have taken fright," said the quarryman, "and have left the
turn-out in the lurch."
"Help!" cried the dying man, with a despairing accent; "for pity's sake
take me in."
"There's no more room in the pit," said one, in a jeering tone.
"And you've no legs left to reach the gallery," added another.
The sick man made an effort to rise; but his strength failed him; he fell
back exhausted on the mattress. A sudden movement took place among the
crowd, the stretcher was overturned, the old man and his companion were
trodden underfoot, and their groans were drowned in the cries of "Death
to the body-snatchers!" The yells were renewed with fresh fury, but the
ferocious band, who respected nothing in their savage fury, were soon
after obliged to open their ranks to several workmen, who vigorously
cleared the way for two of their friends carrying in their arms a poor
artisan. He was still young, but his heavy and already livid head hung
down upon the shoulder of one of them. A little child followed, sobbing,
and holding by one of the workmen's coats. The measured and sonorous
sound of several drums was now heard at a distance in the winding streets
of the city: they were beating the call to arms, for sedition was rife in
the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. The drummers emerged from under the archway,
and were traversing the square, when one of them, a gray-haired veteran,
suddenly slackened the rolling of his drum, and stood still: his
companions turned round in surprise--he had turned green; his legs gave
way, he stammered some unintelligible words, and had fallen upon the
pavement before those in the front rank had time to pause. The
overwhelming rapidity of this attack startled for a moment the most
hardened among the surrounding spectators; for, wondering at the
interruption, a part of the crowd had rushed towards the soldiers.
At sight of the dying man, supported in the arms of two of his comrades,
one of the individuals, who, concealed under the arch, had watched the
beginning of the popular excitement, said to the drummers: "Your comrade
drank, perhaps, at some fountain on the road?"
"Yes, sir," replied one; "he was very thirsty; he drank two mouthfuls of
water on the Place du Chatelet."
"Then he is poisoned," said the man.
"Poisoned?" cried several voices.
"It is not surprising," replied the man, in a mysterious tone; "poison is
thrown into the public fountains; and this very morning a man was
massacred in the Rue Beaubourg who was discovered emptying a paper of
arsenic into a pot of wine at a public-house."
Having said these words, the man disappeared in the crowd. This report,
no less absurd than the tales about the poisoning of the Hospital
patients, was received with a general burst of indignation. Five or six
ragged beings, regular ruffians, seized the body of the expiring drummer,
hoisted it upon their shoulders, in spite of all the efforts of his
comrades to prevent them, and paraded the square exhibiting the dismal
trophy. Ciboule and the quarryman went before, crying: "Wake way for the
corpse! This is how they poison the people!"
A fresh incident now attracted the attention of the crowd. A travelling-
carriage, which had not been able to pass along the Quai-Napoleon, the
pavement of which was up, had ventured among the intricate streets of the
city, and now arrived in the square of Notre-Dame on its way to the other
side of the Seine. Like many others, its owners were flying from Paris,
to escape the pestilence which decimated it. A man-servant and a lady's
maid were in the rumble, and they exchanged a glance of alarm as they
passed the Hospital, whilst a young man seated in the front part of the
carriage let down the glass, and called to the postilions to go slowly,
for fear of accident, as the crowd was very dense at that part of the
square. This young man was Lord Morinval, and on the back seat were Lord
Montbron and his niece, Lady Morinval. The pale and anxious countenance
of the young lady showed the alarm which she felt; and Montbron,
notwithstanding his firmness of mind, appeared to be very uneasy; he, as
well as his niece, frequently had recourse to a smelling-bottle filled
During the last few minutes, the carriage had advanced very slowly, the
postilions managing their horses with great caution, when a sudden
hubbub, at first distant and undefined, but soon more distinct, arose
among the throng, as it drew near, the ringing sound of chains and metal,
peculiar to the artillery-wagons, was plainly audible, and presently one
of these vehicles came towards the travelling-carriage, from the
direction of the Quai Notre-Dame. It seemed strange, that though the
crowd was so compact, yet at the rapid approach of this wagon, the close
ranks of human beings opened as if by enchantment, but the following
words which were passed from mouth to mouth soon accounted for the
prodigy: "A wagon full of dead! the wagon of the dead!" As we have
already stated, the usual funeral conveyances were no longer sufficient
for the removal of the corpses; a number of artillery wagons had been put
into requisition, and the coffins were hastily piled in these novel
Many of the spectators regarded this gloomy vehicle with dismay, but the
quarryman and his band redoubled their horrible jokes.
"Make way for the omnibus of the departed!" cried Ciboule.
"No danger of having one's toes crushed in that omnibus," said the
"Doubtless they're easy to please, the stiff-uns in there."
"They never want to be set down, at all events."
"I say, there's only one reg'lar on duty as postilion!"
"That's true, the leaders are driven by a man in a smock-frock."
"Oh! I daresay the other soldier was tired, lazy fellow! and got into the
omnibus with the others--they'll all get out at the same big hole."
"Head foremost, you know."
"Yes, they pitch them head first into a bed of lime."
"Why, one might follow the dead-cart blind-fold, and no mistake. It's
worse than Montfaucon knacker-yards!"
"Ha! ha! ha!--it's rather gamey!" said the quarryman, alluding to the
infectious and cadaverous odor which this funeral conveyance left behind
"Here's sport!" exclaimed Ciboule: "the omnibus of the dead will run
against the fine coach. Hurrah! the rich folks will smell death."
Indeed, the wagon was now directly in front of the carriage, and at a
very little distance from it. A man in a smock-frock and wooden shoes
drove the two leaders, and an artilleryman the other horses. The coffins
were so piled up within this wagon, that its semicircular top did not
shut down closely, so that, as it jolted heavily over the uneven
pavement, the biers could be seen chafing against each other. The fiery
eyes and inflamed countenance of the man in the smock-frock showed that
he was half intoxicated; urging on the horses with his voice, his heels,
and his whip, he paid no attention to the remonstrances of the soldier,
who had great difficulty in restraining his own animals, and was obliged
to follow the irregular movements of the carman. Advancing in this
disorderly manner, the wagon deviated from its course just as it should
have passed the travelling-carriage, and ran against it. The shock
forced open the top, one of the coffins was thrown out, and, after
damaging the panels of the carriage, fell upon the pavement with a dull
and heavy sound. The deal planks had been hastily nailed together, and
were shivered in the fall, and from the wreck of the coffin rolled a
livid corpse, half enveloped in a shroud.
At this horrible spectacle, Lady Morinval, who had mechanically leaned
forward, gave a loud scream, and fainted. The crowd fell back in dismay;
the postilions, no less alarmed, took advantage of the space left open to
them by the retreat of the multitude; they whipped their horses, and the
carriage dashed on towards the quay. As it disappeared behind the
furthermost buildings of the Hospital, the shrill joyous notes of distant
trumpets were heard, and repeated shouts proclaimed: "The Cholera
Masquerade!" The words announced one of those episodes combining
buffoonery with terror, which marked the period when the pestilence was
on the increase, though now they can with difficulty be credited. If the
evidence of eyewitnesses did not agree in every particular with the
accounts given in the public papers of this masquerade, they might be
regarded as the ravings of some diseased brain, and not as the notice of
a fact which really occurred.
"The Masquerade of the Cholera" appeared, we say, in the square of Notre-
Dame, just as Morinval's carriage gained the quay, after disengaging
itself from the death-wagon.
 It is well-known that at the time of the cholera, such placards were
numerous in Paris, and were alternately attributed to opposite parties.
Among others, to the priests, many of the bishops having published
mandatory letters, or stated openly in the churches of their diocese,
that the Almighty had sent the cholera as a punishment to France for
having driven away its lawful sovereign, and assimilated the Catholic to
other forms of worship.
 It is notorious, that at this unhappy period several persons were
massacred, under a false accusation of poisoning the fountains, etc.
THE CHOLERA MASQUERADE.
A stream of people, who preceded the masquerade, made a sudden irruption
through the arch into the square, uttering loud cheers as they advanced.
Children were also there, blowing horns, whilst some hooted and others
The quarryman, Ciboule, and their band, attracted by this new spectacle,
rushed tumultuously towards the arch. Instead of the two eating-houses,
which now (1845) stand on either side of the Rue d'Arcole, there was then
only one, situated to the left of the vaulted passage, and much
celebrated amongst the joyous community of students, for the excellence
both of its cookery and its wines. At the first blare of the trumpets,
sounded by the outriders in livery who preceded the masquerade, the
windows of the great room of the eating-house were thrown open, and
several waiters, with their napkins under their arms, leaned forward,
impatient to witness the arrival of the singular guests they were
At length, the grotesque procession made its appearance in the thick of
an immense uproar. The train comprised a chariot, escorted by men and
women on horseback, clad in rich and elegant fancy dresses. Most of
these maskers belonged to the middle and easy classes of society. The
report had spread that masquerade was in preparation, for the purpose of
daring the cholera, and, by this joyous demonstration, to revive the
courage of the affrighted populace. Immediately, artists, young men
about town, students, and so on, responded to the appeal, and though till
now unknown one to the other, they easily fraternized together. Many
brought their mistresses, to complete the show. A subscription had been
opened to defray the expenses, and, that morning, after a splendid
breakfast at the other end of Paris, the joyous troop had started bravely
on their march, to finish the day by a dinner in the square of Notre-
We say bravely, for it required a singular turn of mind, a rare firmness
of character, in young women, to traverse, in this fashion, a great city
plunged in consternation and terror--to fall in at every step with
litters loaded with the dying, and carriages filled with the dead--to
defy, as it were, in a spirit of strange pleasantry, the plague that was
detonating the Parisians. It is certain that, in Paris alone, and there
only amongst a peculiar class, could such an idea have ever been
conceived or realized. Two men, grotesquely disguised as postilions at a
funeral, with formidable false noses, rose-colored crape hat-bands and
large favors of roses and crape bows at their buttonholes, rode before
the vehicle. Upon the platform of the car were groups of allegorical
personages, representing WINE, PLEASURE, LOVE, PLAY. The mission of
these symbolical beings was, by means of jokes, sarcasms, and mockeries,
to plague the life out of Goodman Cholera, a sort of funeral and
burlesque Cassander, whom they ridiculed and made game of in a hundred
ways. The moral of the play was this: "To brave Cholera in security, let
us drink, laugh, game, and make love!"
WINE was represented by a huge, lusty Silenus, thick-set, and with
swollen paunch, a crown of ivy on his brow, a panther's skin across his
shoulder, and in his hand a large gilt goblet, wreathed with flowers.
None other than Ninny Moulin, the famous moral and religious writer,
could have exhibited to the astonished and delighted spectators an ear of
so deep a scarlet, so majestic an abdomen, and a face of such triumphant
and majestic fulness. Every moment, Ninny Moulin appeared to empty his
cup--after which he burst out laughing in the face of Goodman Cholera.
Goodman Cholera, a cadaverous pantaloon, was half-enveloped in a shroud;
his mask of greenish cardboard, with red, hollow eyes, seemed every
moment to grin as in mockery of death; from beneath his powdered peruke,
surmounted by a pyramidical cotton night-cap, appeared his neck and arm,
dyed of a bright green color; his lean hand, which shook almost always
with a feverish trembling (not feigned, but natural), rested upon a
crutch-handled cane; finally, as was becoming in a pantaloon, he wore red
stockings, with buckles at the knees, and high slippers of black beaver.
This grotesque representative of the cholera was Sleepinbuff.
Notwithstanding a slow and dangerous fever, caused by the excessive use
of brandy, and by constant debauchery, that was silently undermining his
constitution, Jacques Rennepont had been induced by Morok to join the
masquerade. The brute-tamer himself, dressed as the King of Diamonds,
represented PLAY. His forehead was adorned with a diadem of gilded
paper, his face was pale and impassible, and as his long, yellow beard
fell down the front of his parti-colored robe, Morok looked exactly the
character he personated. From time to time, with an air of grave
mockery, he shook close to the eyes of Goodman Cholera a large bag full
of sounding counters, and on this bag were painted all sorts of playing-
cards. A certain stiffness in the right arm showed that the lion-tamer
had not yet quite recovered from the effects of the wound which the
panther had inflicted before being stabbed by Djalma.
PLEASURE, who also represented Laughter, classically shook her rattle,
with its sonorous gilded bells, close to the ears of Goodman Cholera.
She was a quick, lively young girl, and her fine black hair was crowned
with a scarlet cap of liberty. For Sleepinbuff's sake, she had taken the
place of the poor Bacchanal queen, who would not have failed to attend on
such an occasion--she, who had been so valiant and gay, when she bore her
part in a less philosophical, but not less amusing masquerade. Another
pretty creature, Modeste Bornichoux, who served as a model to a painter
of renown (one of the cavaliers of the procession), was eminently
successful in her representation of LOVE. He could not have had a more
charming face, and more graceful form. Clad in a light blue spangled
tunic, with a blue and silver band across her chestnut hair, and little
transparent wings affixed to her white shoulders, she placed one
forefinger upon the other, and pointed with the prettiest impertinence at
Goodman Cholera. Around the principal group, other maskers, more or less
grotesque in appearance, waved each a banner, an which were inscriptions
of a very anacreontic character, considering the circumstances:
"Down with the Cholera!" "Short and sweet!" "Laugh away, laugh always!"
"We'll collar the Cholera!" "Love forever!" "Wine forever!" "Come if you
dare, old terror!"
There was really such audacious gayety in this masquerade, that the
greater number of the spectators, at the moment when it crossed the
square, in the direction of the eating-house, where dinner was waiting,
applauded it loudly and repeatedly. This sort of admiration, which
courage, however mad and blind, almost always inspires, appeared to
others (a small number, it must be confessed) a kind of defiance to the
wrath of heaven; and these received the procession with angry murmurs.
This extraordinary spectacle, and the different impressions it produced,
were too remote from all customary facts to admit of a just appreciation.
We hardly know if this daring bravado was deserving of praise or blame.
Besides, the appearance of those plagues, which from age to age decimate
the population of whole countries, has almost always been accompanied by
a sort of mental excitement, which none of those who have been spared by
the contagion can hope to escape. It is a strange fever of the mind,
which sometimes rouses the most stupid prejudices and the most ferocious
passions, and sometimes inspires, on the contrary, the most magnificent
devotion, the most courageous actions--with some, driving the fear of
death to a point of the wildest terror--with others, exciting the
contempt of life to express itself in the most audacious bravadoes.
Caring little for the praise or blame it might deserve, the masquerade
arrived before the eating-house, and made its entry in the midst of
universal acclamations. Everything seemed to combine to give full effect
to this strange scene, by the opposition of the most singular contrasts.
Thus the tavern, in which was to be held this extraordinary feast, being
situated at no great distance from the antique cathedral, and the gloomy
hospital, the religious anthems of the ancient temple, the cries of the
dying, and the bacchanalian songs of the banqueteers, must needs mingle,
and by turns drown one another. The maskers now got down from their
chariot, and from their horses, and went to take their places at the
repast, which was waiting for them. The actors in the masquerade are at
table in the great room of the tavern. They are joyous, noisy, even
riotous. Yet their gayety has a strange tone, peculiar to itself.
Sometimes, the most resolute involuntarily remember that their life is at
stake in this mad and audacious game with destiny. That fatal thought is
rapid as the icy fever-shudder, which chills you in an instant;
therefore, from time to time, an abrupt silence, lasting indeed only for
a second, betrays these passing emotions which are almost immediately
effaced by new bursts of joyful acclamation, for each one says to
himself: "No weakness! my chum and my girl are looking at me!"
And all laugh, and knock glasses together, and challenge the next man,
and drink out of the glass of the nearest woman. Jacques had taken off
the mask and peruke of Goodman Cholera. His thin, leaden features, his
deadly paleness, the lurid brilliancy of his hollow eyes, showed the
incessant progress of the slow malady which was consuming this
unfortunate man, brought by excesses to the last extremity of weakness.
Though he felt the slow fire devouring his entrails, he concealed his
pain beneath a forced and nervous smile.
To the left of Jacques was Morok, whose fatal influence was ever on the
increase, and to his right the girl disguised as PLEASURE. She was named
Mariette. By her side sat Ninny Moulin, in all his majestic bulk, who
often pretended to be looking for his napkin under the table, in order to
have the opportunity of pressing the knees of his other neighbor,
Modeste, the representative of LOVE. Most of the guests were grouped
according to their several tastes, each tender pair together, and the
bachelors where they could. They had reached the second course, and the
excellence of the wine, the good cheer, the gay speeches, and even the
singularity of the occasion, had raised their spirits to a high degree of
excitement, as may be gathered from the extraordinary incidents of the
 We read in the Constitutionnel, Saturday March 31st, 1832: "The
Parisians readily conform to that part of the official instructions with
regard to the cholera, which prescribes, as a preservation from the
disease, not to be afraid, to amuse one's self, etc. The pleasures of
Mid-Lent have been as brilliant and as mad as those of the carnival
itself. For a long time past there had not been so many balls at this
period of the year. Even the cholera has been made the subject of an
Two or three times, without being remarked by the guests, one of the
waiters had come to whisper to his fellows, and point with expressive
gesture to the ceiling. But his comrades had taken small account of his
observations or fears, not wishing, doubtless, to disturb the guests,
whose mad gayety seemed ever on the increase.
"Who can doubt now of the superiority of our manner of treating this
impertinent Cholera? Has he dared even to touch our sacred battalion?"
said a magnificent mountebank-Turk, one of the standard-bearers of the
"Here is all the mystery," answered another. "It is very simple. Only
laugh in the face of the plague, and it will run away from you."
"And right enough too, for very stupid work it does," added a pretty
little Columbine, emptying her glass.
"You are right, my darling; it is intolerably stupid work," answered the
Clown belonging to the Columbine; "here you are very quiet, enjoying
life, and all on a sudden you die with an atrocious grimace. Well! what
then? Clever, isn't it? I ask you, what does it prove?"
"It proves," replied an illustrious painter of the romantic school,
disguised like a Roman out of one of David's pictures, "it proves that
the Cholera is a wretched colorist, for he has nothing but a dirty green
on his pallet. Evidently he is a pupil of Jacobus, that king of
classical painters, who are another species of plagues."
"And yet, master," added respectfully a pupil of the great painter, "I
have seen some cholera patients whose convulsions were rather fine, and
their dying looks first-rate!"
"Gentlemen," cried a sculptor of no less celebrity, "the question lies in
a nutshell. The Cholera is a detestable colorist, but a good
draughtsman. He shows you the skeleton in no time. By heaven! how he
strips off the flesh!--Michael Angelo would be nothing to him."
"True," cried they all, with one voice; "the Cholera is a bad colorist,
but a good draughtsman."
"Moreover, gentlemen," added Ninny Moulin, with comic gravity, "this
plague brings with it a providential lesson, as the great Bossuet would
"The lesson! the lesson!"
"Yes, gentlemen; I seem to hear a voice from above, proclaiming: `Drink
of the best, empty your purse, and kiss your neighbor's wife; for your
hours are perhaps numbered, unhappy wretch!'"
So saying, the orthodox Silenus took advantage of a momentary absence of
mind on the part of Modeste, his neighbor, to imprint on the blooming
cheek of LOVE a long, loud kiss. The example was contagious, and a storm
of kisses was mingled with bursts of laughter.
"Ha! blood and thunder!" cried the great painter as he gayly threatened
Ninny Moulin; "you are very lucky that to-morrow will perhaps be the end
of the world, or else I should pick a quarrel with you for having kissed
my lovely LOVE."
"Which proves to you, O Rubens! O Raphael! the thousand advantages of the
Cholera, whom I declare to be essentially sociable and caressing."
"And philanthropic," said one of the guests; "thanks to him, creditors
take care of the health of their debtors. This morning a usurer, who
feels a particular interest in my existence, brought me all sorts of
anti-choleraic drugs, and begged me to make use of them."
"And I!" said the pupil of the great painter. "My tailor wished to force
me to wear a flannel band next to the skin, because I owe him a thousand
crowns. But I answered `Oh, tailor, give me a receipt in full, and I
will wrap myself up in flannel, to preserve you my custom!'"
"O Cholera, I drink to thee!" said Ninny Moulin, by way of grotesque
invocation. "You are not Despair; on the contrary, you are the emblem of
Hope--yes, of hope. How many husbands, how many wives, longed for a
number (alas! too uncertain chance) in the lottery of widowhood! You
appear, and their hearts are gladdened. Thanks to you, benevolent pest!
their chances of liberty are increased a hundredfold."
And how grateful heirs ought to be! A cold--a heat--a trifle--and there,
in an hour, some old uncle becomes a revered benefactor!"
"And those who are always looking out for other people's places--what an
ally they must find in the Cholera!"
"And how true it will make many vows of constancy!" said Modeste,
sentimentally. "How many villains have sworn to a poor, weak woman, to
love her all their lives, who never meant (the wretches!) to keep their
word so well!"
"Gentlemen," cried Ninny Moulin, "since we are now, perhaps, at the eve
of the end of the world, as yonder celebrated painter has expressed it, I
propose to play the world topsy-turvy: I beg these ladies to make
advances to us, to tease us, to excite us, to steal kisses from us, to
take all sorts of liberties with us, and (we shall not die of it) even to
insult us. Yes, I declare that I will allow myself to be insulted. So,
LOVE, you may offer me the greatest insult that can be offered to a
virtuous and modest bachelor," added the religious writer, leaning over
towards his neighbor, who repulsed him with peals of laughter; and the
proposal of Ninny Moulin being received with general hilarity, a new
impulse was given to the mirth and riot.
In the midst of the uproar, the waiter, who had before entered the room
several times, to whisper uneasily to his comrades, whilst he pointed to
the ceiling, again appeared with a pale and agitated countenance;
approaching the man who performed the office of butler, he said to him,
in a low voice, tremulous with emotion: "They are come!"
"You know--up there"; and he pointed to the ceiling.
"Oh!" said the butler, becoming thoughtful; "where are they?"
"They have just gone upstairs; they are there now," answered the waiter,
shaking his head with an air of alarm; "yes, they are there!"
"What does master say?"
"He is very vexed, because--" and the waiter glanced round at the guests.
"He does not know what to do; he has sent me to you."
"What the devil have I to do with it?" said the other; wiping his
forehead. "It was to be expected, and cannot be helped."
"I will not remain here till they begin."
"You may as well go, for your long face already attracts attention. Tell
master we must wait for the upshot."
The above incident was scarcely perceived in the midst of the growing
tumult of the joyous feast. But, among the guests, one alone laughed
not, drank not. This was Jacques. With fixed and lurid eye, he gazed
upon vacancy. A stranger to what was passing around him, the unhappy man
thought of the Bacchanal Queen, who had been so gay and brilliant in the
midst of similar saturnalia. The remembrance of that one being, whom he
still loved with an extravagant love, was the only thought that from time
to time roused him from his besotted state.
It is strange, but Jacques had only consented to join this masquerade
because the mad scene reminded him of the merry day he had spent with
Cephyse--that famous breakfast, after a night of dancing, in which the
Bacchanal Queen, from some extraordinary presentiment, had proposed a
lugubrious toast with regard to this very pestilence, which was then
reported to be approaching France. "To the Cholera!" had she said. "Let
him spare those who wish to live, and kill at the same moment those who
dread to part!"
And now, at this time, remembering those mournful words, Jacques was
absorbed in painful thought. Morok perceived his absence of mind, and
said aloud to him, "You have given over drinking, Jacques. Have you had
enough wine? Then you will want brandy. I will send for some."
"I want neither wine nor brandy," answered Jacques, abruptly, and he fell
back into a sombre reverie.
"Well, you may be right," resumed Morok, in a sardonic tone, and raising
his voice still higher. "You do well to take care of yourself. I was
wrong to name brandy in these times. There would be as much temerity in
facing a bottle of brandy as the barrel of a loaded pistol."
On hearing his courage as a toper called in question, Sleepinbuff looked
angrily at Morok. "You think it is from cowardice that I will not drink
brandy!" cried the unfortunate man, whose half-extinguished intellect was
roused to defend what he called his dignity. "Is it from cowardice that
I refuse, d'ye think, Morok? Answer me!"
"Come, my good fellow, we have all shown our pluck today," said one of
the guests to Jacques; "you, above all, who, being rather indisposed, yet
had the courage to take the part of Goodman Cholera."
"Gentlemen," resumed Morok, seeing the general attention fixed upon
himself and Sleepinbuff, "I was only joking; for if my comrade (pointing
to Jacques) had the imprudence to accept my offer, it would be an act,
not of courage, but of foolhardiness. Luckily, he has sense enough to
renounce a piece of boasting so dangerous at this time, and I--"
"Waiter!" cried Jacques, interrupting Morok with angry impatience, "two
bottles of brandy, and two glasses!"
"What are you going to do?" said Morok, with pretended uneasiness. "Why
do you order two bottles of brandy?"
"For a duel," said Jacques, in a cool, resolute tone.
"A duel!" cried the spectators, in surprise.
"Yes," resumed Jacques, "a duel with brandy. You pretend there is as
much danger in facing a bottle of brandy as a loaded pistol; let us each
take a full bottle, and see who will be the first to cry quarter."
This strange proposition was received by some with shouts of joy, and by
others with genuine uneasiness.
"Bravo! the champions of the bottle!" cried the first.
"No, no; there would be too much danger in such a contest," said the
"Just now," added one of the guests; "this challenge is as serious as an
invitation to fight to the death."
"You hear," said Morok, with a diabolical smile, "you hear, Jacques?
Will you now retreat before the danger?"
At these words, which reminded him of the peril to which he was about to
expose himself, Jacques started, as if a sudden idea had occurred to him.
He raised his head proudly, his cheeks were slightly flushed, his eye
shone with a kind of gloomy satisfaction, and he exclaimed in a firm
voice: "Hang it, waiter! are you deaf? I asked you for two bottles of
"Yes, sir," said the waiter, going to fetch them, although himself
frightened at what might be the result of this bacchanalian struggle.
But the mad and perilous resolution of Jacques was applauded by the
Ninny Moulin moved about on his chair, stamped his feet, and shouted with
all his might: "Bacchus and drink! bottles and glasses! the throats are
dry! brandy to the rescue! Largess! largess!"
And, like a true champion of the tournament, he embraced Modeste, adding,
to excuse the liberty: "Love, you shall be the Queen of Beauty, and I am
only anticipating the victor's happiness!"
"Brandy to the rescue!" repeated they all, in chorus. "Largess!"
"Gentlemen," added Ninny Moulin, with enthusiasm, "shall we remain
indifferent to the noble example set us by Goodman Cholera? He said in
his pride, `brandy!' Let us gloriously answer, 'punch!'"
"Yes, yes! punch!"
"Punch to the rescue!"
"Waiter!" shouted the religious writer, with the voice of a Stentor,
"waiter! have you a pan, a caldron, a hogshead, or any other immensity,
in which we can brew a monster punch?"
"A Babylonian punch!"
"A lake of punch!"
"An ocean of punch!"
Such was the ambitious crescendo that followed the proposition of Ninny
"Sir," answered the waiter, with an air of triumph, "we just happen to
have a large copper caldron, quite new. It has been used, and would hold
at least thirty bottles."
"Bring the caldron!" said Ninny Moulin, majestically.
"The caldron forever!" shouted the chorus.
"Put in twenty bottles of brandy, six loaves of sugar, a dozen lemons, a
pound of cinnamon, and then--fire! fire!" shouted the religious writer,
with the most vociferous exclamations.
"Yes, yes! fire!" repeated the chorus!
The proposition of Ninny Moulin gave a new impetus to the general gayety;
the most extravagant remarks were mingled with the sound of kisses, taken
or given under the pretext that perhaps there would be no to-morrow, that
one must make the most of the present, etc., etc. Suddenly, in one of
the moments of silence which sometimes occur in the midst of the greatest
tumult, a succession of slow and measured taps sounded above the ceiling
of the banqueting-room. All remained silent, and listened.
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