Eugène Sue.

The wandering Jew ; (Volume 1) online

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human power can save them ; since the
last equinox two ships have been lost on
this coast."

"Lost with all on board? Oh, very
frightful," said M. Rodin.

" In such a storm there is but little
chance for the crew ; no matter," said
the bailiff, addressing his wife, " I'll run
down to the rocks with the people of the
farm, and try to save some of them, poor
creatures ! Light large fin's in several
rooms get ready linen, clothes, cordials


I scarcely dare hope to save any, but
we must do our best. Will you come with
me, M. Rodin ? "

" I should think it a duty, if I could he
at all useful, but I am too old and feeble
to be of any service," said M. Rodin, who
was by no means anxious to encounter the
storm. " Your good lady will be kind
enough to show me the Green Chamber,
and when I have found the articles I re-
quire, I will set out immediately for Paris,
for I am in great haste."

" Very well, sir. Catherine will show
you. Ring the big bell," said the bailiff
to his servant : " let all the people of the
farm meet me at the foot of the cliff, with
ropes and levers."

"Yes, my dear/' replied Catherine;
"but do not expose yourself."

" Kiss me it will bring me luck," said
the bailiff ; and he started at a full run,
crying, " Quick, quick ; by this time, not
a plank may remain of the vessels."

" My dear madam," said Rodin, always
impassable, "will you be obliging enough
to show me the Green Chamber ? "

"Please to follow me, sir," answered
Catherine, drying her tears for she
trembled on account of her husband,
whose courage she well knew.




THE sea is rag-ing-. Mountainous waves
of dark green, marbled with white foam,
stand out, in high, deep undulations, from
the broad streak of red light which ex-
tends along the horizon. Above are piled
heavy masses of black and sulphurous
vapor, while a few lig-hter clouds of a red-
dish gray, driven by the violence of the
wind, rush across the murky sky.

The pale winter sun, before he quite
disappears in the great clouds, behind
which he is slowly mounting, casts here
and there some oblique rays upon the
troubled sea, and gilds the transparent
crest of some of the tallest waves. A
band of show-white foam boils and rages
as far as the eye can reach along the line
of the reefs that bristle on this dangerous

Half-way up a rugged promontory,
which juts pretty far into the sea, rises
Cardoville Castle ; a ray of the sun glit-
ters upon its windows; its brick walls and
pointed roofs of slate are visible in the
midst of this sky loaded with vapors.


A large, disabled ship, with mere shreds
of sail still fluttering- from the stumps of
broken masts, drives dead upon the coast.
Now she rolls her monstrous hull upon the
waves now plunges into their trough. A
flash is seen, followed by a dull sound,
scarcely perceptible in the midst of the
roar of the tempest. That gun is the last
signal of distress from this lost vessel,
which is fast forging on the breakers.

At the same moment, a steamer with
its long plume of black smoke is working
her Avay from east to west, making every
effort to keep at a distance from the shore,
leaving the breakers on her left. The dis-
mantled ship, drifting toward the rocks,
at the mercy of the wind and tide, must
some time pass right ahead of the steamer.

Suddenly, the rush of a heavy sea laid
the steamer upon her side ; the enormous
wave broke furiously on her deck ; in a
second, the chimney was carried away,
the paddle-box stove in, one of the wheels
rendered useless. A second white-cap,
following the first, again struck the ves-
sel amidships, and so increased the dam-
age that,no longer answering to the helm,
she also drifted toward the shore, in the
same direction as the ship. But the lat-
ter, though further from the breakers,
presented a greater surface to the wind


and sea, and so gained upon the steamer
in swiftness that a. collision between the
two vessels became imminent a new dan-
ger added to all the horrors of the now
certain wreck.

The ship was an English vessel, the
Black Eagle, homeward bound from
Alexandria, with passengers, who, arriv-
ing from India and Java, via the Red
Sea, had disembarked at the Isthmus
of Suez, from on board the steamship
Ruyter. The Black Eagle, quitting the
Straits of Gibraltar, had gone to touch
at the Azores. She headed thence for
Portsmouth, when she was overtaken in
the Channel by the northwester. The
steamer was the William Tell, coming
from Germany, by way of the Elbe, and
bound, in the last place, from Hamburg
to Havre.

These two vessels, the sport of enor-
mous rollers, driven along by tide and
tempest, were now rushing upon the
breakers with frightful speed. The deck
of each offered a terrible spectacle ; the
loss of crew and passengers appeared al-
most certain, for before them a tremen-
dous sea broke on jagged rocks, at the
foot of a perpendicular cliff.

The captain of the Black Eagle, stand-
ing on the poop, holding by the rem-


nant of a spar, issued his last orders in
this fearful extremity with courageous
coolness. The smaller boats had been
carried away by the waves ; it was in
vain to think of launching- the long-boat ;
the only chance of escape, in case the
ship should not be immediately dashed to
pieces on touching 1 the rocks, was to es-
tablish a communication with the land by
means of a life line almost the last re-
sort for passing- between the shore and a
stranded vessel.

The deck was covered with passengers,
whose cries and terror augmented the
general confusion. Some, struck with a
kind of stupor, and clinging convulsively
to the shrouds, awaited their doom in
a state of stupid insensibility. Others
wrung their hands in despair, or rolled
upon the deck uttering horrible impreca-
tions. Here, women knelt down to pray;
there, others hid their faces in their hands,
that they might not see the awful approach
of death. A young mother, pale as a
specter, holding her child clasped tightly
to her bosom, went supplicating from
sailor to sailor, and offering a purse full
of gold and jewels to any one that would
take charge of her son.

These cries, and tears, and terror con-
trasted with the stern and silent resigna-


tion of the sailors. Knowing 1 the immi-
nence of the inevitable danger, some of
them stripped themselves of part of their
clothes, waiting- for the moment to make
a last effort, to dispute their lives with
the fury of the waves ; others, renounc-
ing all hope, prepared to meet death with
stocial indifference.

Here and there, touching or awful epi-
sodes rose in relief, if one may so express
it, from this dark and gloomy background
of despair.

A young man of about eighteen or
twenty, with shiny black hair, copper-
colored complexion, and perfectly regu-
lar and handsome features, contemplated
this scene of dismay and horror with that
sad calmness peculiar to those who have
often braved great perils ; wrapped in a
cloak, he leaned his back against the bul-
warks, .with his feet resting against one
of the bulkheads. Suddenly, the unhappy
mother, who, with her child in her arms,
and gold in her hand, had in vain ad-
dressed herself to several of the mariners,
to beg them to save her boy, perceiving
the young man with the copper-colored
complexion, threw herself on her knees
before him, and lifted her child toward
him with a burst of inexpressible agon} 7 .
The young man took it, mournfully shook


his head, and pointed to the furious waves
but, with a meaning 1 gesture, he ap-
peared to promise that he would at least
try to save it. Then the young 1 mother, in
a mad transport of joy, seized the hand of
the youth, and bathed it with her tears.

Further on, another passenger of the
Black Eagle seemed animated by senti-
ments of the most active pity. One would
hardly have given him flve-and-twenty
years of age. His long, fair locks fell in
curls on either side of his angelic coun-
tenance. He wore a black cassock and
white neck-band. Applying- himself to
comfort the most desponding-, he went
from one to tfre other, and spoke to them
pious words of hope and resignation ; to
hear him console some, and encourage
others, in languag-e full of unction, ten-
derness, and ineffable charity, one would
have supposed him unaware of or indiffer-
ent to the perils that he shared.

On his fine, mild features was impressed
a calm and sacred intrepidity, a relig-
ious abstraction from every terrestrial
thought ; from time to time, he raised to
heaven his large blue eyes, beaming with
gratitude, love, and serenity, as if to thank
God for having called him to one of "those
formidable trials in which the man of hu-
manity and courage may devote himself


for his brethren, and, if not able to rescue
them all, at least die with them, pointing 1
to the sky. One might almost have taken
him for an angel, sent down to render less
cruel the strokes of inexorable fate.

Strange contrast ! not far from this
young man's angelic beauty there was
another being, who resembled an evil
spirit !

Boldly mounted on what was left of the
bowsprit, to which he held on by means of
some remaining cordage, this man looked
down upon the terrible scene that was
passing on the deck. A grim, wild joy
lighted up his countenance of a dead
yellow, that tint peculiar to those who
spring from the union of the white race
with the East. He wore only a shirt and
linen drawers; from his neck was sus-
pended, by a cord, a cylindrical tin box,
similar to that in which soldiers carry
their leave of absence.

The more the danger augmented, the
nearer the ship came to the breakers, or
to a collision with the steamer, which she
was now rapidly approaching a terrible
collision which would probably cause the
two vessels to founder before even they
touched the rocks the more did the in-
fernal joy of this passenger reveal itself in
frightful transports. He seemed to long


with ferocious impatience for the moment
when the work of destruction should be
accomplished. To see him thus feasting
with avidity on all the agony, the terror,
and. the despair of those around him, one
might have taken him for the apostle of
one of those sanguinary deities, who, in
barbarous countries, preside over murder
and carnage.

~By this time the Black Eagle, driven
by the wind and waves, came so near the
William Tell that the passengers on the
deck of the nearly dismantled steamer
were visible from the first-named vessel.

These passengers were no longer numer-
ous. The heavy sea, which stove in the
paddle-box and broke one of the paddles,
had also carried away nearly the whole of
the bulwarks on that side ; the waves,
entering every instant by this large open-
ing, swept the decks with irresistible vio-
lence, and every time bore away with them
some fresh victims.

Among- the passengers, who seemed
only to have escaped this danger to be
hurled against the rocks, or crushed in the
encounter of the two vessels, one group
was especially worthy of the most tender
and painful interest. Taking refuge abaft,
a tall old man, with bald forehead and
gray mustache, had lashed himself to a
VOL. 117


stanchion, by winding- a piece of rope round
his bccty, while he clasped in his arms and
held fast to his breast two grirls of fifteen
or sixteen, half-enveloped in a pelisse of
reindeer-skin. A large, fallow Siberian
dog 1 , dripping with water, and barking 1
furiously at the waves, stood close to their

These girls, clasped in the arms of the
old man, also pressed close to each other ;
but, far from being- lost in terror, they
raised their eyes to heaven, full of confi-
dence and ingenuous hope, as though they
expected to be saved by the intervention
of some supernatural power.

A frightful shriek of horror and despair,
raised by the passeng-ers of both the ves-
sels, was heard suddenly above the roar
of the tempest. At the moment when,
plunging- deeply between two waves, the
broadside of the steamer was turned
toward the bows of the ship, the -latter,
lifted to a prodigious height on a mountain
of water, remained, as it were, suspended
over the William Tell, during the second
which preceded the shock of the two ves-

There are sights of so sublime a horror
that it is impossible to describe them.
Yet, in the midst of these catastrophes,
swift as thought, one catches sometimes


a momentary glimpse of a picture, rapid
and fleeting-, as if illumined by a flash of

Thus, when the Black Eagle, poised
aloft by the flood, was about to crash
down upon the William Tell, the young
man with the angelic countenance and
fair, waving locks bent over the prow of
the ship, ready to cast himself into the
sea to save some victim. Suddenly, he
perceived on board the steamer, on which
he looked down from the summit of the
immense wave, the two girls extending
their arms toward him in supplication.
They appeared to recognize him, and
gazed on him with a sort of ecstasy and
religious homage !

For a second, in spite of the horrors of
the tempest, in spite of the approaching
shipwreck, the looks of those three beings
met. The features of the young man
were expressive of sudden and profound
pity ; for the maidens, with their hands
clasped in prayer, seemed to invoke him
as their expected Saviour. The old man,
struck down by the fall of a plank, lay
helpless on the deck. Soon all disappeared

A fearful mass of water dashed the
Black Eagle down upon the. William
Tell, in the midst of a cloud of boiling


foam. To the dreadful crash of the two
great bodies of wood and iron, which,
splintering- against one another, instantly
foundered, one loud cry was added a
cry of agony and death the cry $f a
hundred human creatures swallowed up
at once by the waves !

And then nothing" more was visible !

A few moments after, the fragments of
the two vessels appeared in the trough
of the sea, and on the caps of the waves
with here and there the contracted arms,
the livid and despairing faces of some un-
happy wretches, striving to make their
way to the reefs along the shore, at the
risk of being crushed to death by the shock
of the furious breakers.



WHILE the bailiff was gone to the sea-
shore, to render help to those of the pas-
sengers who might escape from the inevi-
table shipwreck, M, Rodin, conducted by
Catherine to the Green Chamber, had
there found the articles that he was to
take with him to Paris.

After passing two hours in this apart-
ment, very indifferent to the fate of the
shipwrecked persons, which alone ab-


sorbed the attention of the inhabitants of
the Castle, Rodin returned to the chamber
commonly occupied by the bailiff, a room
which opened upon a long- gallery. When
he entered it he found nobody there. Un-
der his arm he held a casket, with silver
fastening-s, almost black from age, while
one end of a large red morocco portfolio
projected from the breast-pocket of his
half-buttoned great-coat.

Had the cold and livid countenance of
the Abbe d'Aigrigny's secretary been
able to express joy otherwise than by a
sarcastic smile, his features would have
been radiant with delight ; for, just then,
he was under the influence of the most
agreeable thoughts. Having 1 placed the
casket upon a table, it was with marked
satisfaction that he thus communed with
himself :

" All goes well. It was prudent to
keep these papers here till this moment,
for one must always be on guard against
the diabolical spirit of that Adrienne de
Cardoville, who appears to guess instinct-
ively what it is impossible she should
know. Fortunately, the time approaches
when we shall have no more need to fear
her. Her fate will be a cruel one ; it
must be so. Those proud, independent
characters are at all times our natural


enemies they are so by their very es-
sence how much more when they show
themselves peculiarly hurtful and danger-
ous ! As for La Sainte Colombe, the bail-
iff is sure to act for us ; between what
the fool calls his conscience, and the dread
of being- at his age deprived of a liveli-
hood, he will not hesitate. I wish to have
him because he will serve us better than
a stranger ; his having 1 been here twenty
years will prevent all suspicion on the
part of that dull and narrow-minded wo-
man. Once in the hands of our man at
Roiville, I will answer for the result. The
course of all such gross and stupid women
is traced beforehand : in their youth, they
serve the devil ; in riper years, they make
others serve him ; in their old age, they
are horribly afraid of him ; and this fear
must continue till she has left us the Cha-
teau de Cardoville, which, from its iso-
lated position, will make us an excellent
college. All then goes well. As for the
affair of the medals, the 13th of February
approaches without news from Joshua
evidently, Prince Djalina is still kept
prisoner by the English in the heart of
India, or I must have received letters from
Batavia. The daughters of General Si-
mon will be detained at Leipsic for at
least a month longer. All our foreign re-


lations are in the best condition. As for
our internal affairs

Here M. Rodin was interrupted in the
current of his reflections by the entrance
of Madame Dupont, who was zealously
engaged in preparations to give assistance
in case of need.

" Now," said she to a servant, " light
a fire in the next room ; put this warm
wine there : your master may be in every

"Well, my dear madam," said Rodin
to her, "do they hope to save any of these
poor creatures ? "

" Alas ! I do not know, sir. My husband
has been gone nearly two hours. I am
terribly uneasy on his account. He is so
courageous, so imprudent, if once he
thinks he can be of any service."

" Courageous even to imprudence," said
Rodin to himself, impatiently ; " I do not
like that."

"Well," resumed Catherine, "I have
here at hand my hot linen, my cordials
heaven grant it may all be of use ! "

" We may at least hope so, my dear
madam. I very much regretted that my
age and weakness did not permit me to
assist your excellent husband. I also re-
gret not being able to wait for the issue
of his exertions, and to wish him joy if


successful for I am unfortunately com-
pelled to depart my moments are pre-
cious. I shall be much obliged if you will
have the carriage got ready."

" Yes, sir ; I will see about it directly."

" One word, my dear, good Madame
Dupont. You are a woman of sense and
excellent judgment. Now I have put
your husband in the way to keep, if he
will, his situation as bailiff of the estate "

' ' Is it possible ? What gratitude do we
not owe you ! Without this place what
would become of us at our time of life ? "

" I have only saddled my promise with
two conditions mere trifles he will ex-
plain all that to you."

"Ah, sir ! we shall regard you as our

" You are too good. Only, on two little
conditions "

" If there were a hundred, sir, we
should gladly accept them. Think what
we should be without this place penniless
absolutely penniless ! "

" I reckon upon you then ; for the inter-
est of your husband, you will try to per-
suade him."

"Missus! I say, missus! here's master
come back," cried a servant, rushing into
the chamber.


"Has he many with him?"

"No, missus; he is alone."

"Alone! alone?"

"Quite alone, missus."

A few moments after, M. Dupont en-
tered the room; his clothes were stream-
ing with water ; to keep his hat on in the
midst of the storm, he had tied it down
to his head by means of his cravat, which
was knotted under his chin; his gaiters
were covered with chalky stains.

"There, I have^thee, my dear love!"
cried his wife, tenderly embracing him.
"I have been so uneasy!"

" Up to the present moment THREE

"God be praised, my dear M. Dupont!"
said Rodin ; " at least your efforts will not
have been all in vain."

"Three! only three?" said Catherine.
" Gracious Heaven !"

"I only speak of those I saw myself,
near the little creek of Goelands. Let us
hope there may be more saved on other
parts of the coast."

"Yes, indeed; happily, the shore is not
equally steep in all parts."

" And where are these interesting suffer-
ers, my dear sir?" asked Rodin, who could
not avoid remaining a few instants longer.


" They are mounting the cliffs, supported
by our people. As they cannot walk very
fast, I ran on before to console my wife,
and to take the necessary measures for
their reception. First of all, my dear, you
must get ready some women's clothes."

" There is then a woman among the per-
sons saved?"

" There are two girls fifteen or sixteen
years of age at the most mere children
and so pretty!"

"Poor little things!" said Rodin, with
an affectation of interest.

"The person to whom they owe their
lives is with them. He is a real hero!"

"A hero?"

" Yes ; only fancy "

" You can tell me all this by and by.
Just slip on this dry, warm dressing-
gown, and take some of .this hot wine.
You are wet through."

" I'll not refuse, for I am almost frozen
to death. I was telling you that the per-
son who saved these young girls was a
hero; and certainly his courage was be-
yond anything one could have imagined.
When I left here with the men of the
farm, we descended the little winding
path, and arrived at the foot of the cliff
near the little creek of Goelands, fort-


unately somewhat sheltered from the
waves by five or six enormous masses of
rock stretching out into the sea. Well,
what should we find there? Why, the
two young girls I spoke of, in a swoon,
with their feet still in the water, and their
bodies resting against a rock, as though
they had been placed there by some one,
after being withdrawn from the sea."

"Dear children! it is quite touching!"
said M. Rodin, raising, as usual, the tip
of his little finger to the corner of his
right eye, as though to dry a tear, which
was very seldom visible.

" What struck me was their great re-
semblance to each other," resumed the
bailiff; "only one in the habit of seeing
them could tell the difference."

"Twin-sisters, no doubt," said Madame

"One of the poor things," continued the
bailiff, "held between her clasped hands
a little bronze medal, which was suspended
from her neck by a chain of the same ma-

Rodin generally maintained a very
stooping posture; but, at these last words
of the bailiff, he drew himself up sudden-
ly, while a faint color spread itself over
his livid cheeks. In any other person,


these symptoms would have appeared of
little consequence; but in Rodin, accus-
tomed for long years to control and dis-
simulate his emotions, they announced no
ordinary excitement. Approaching the
bailiff, he said to him in a slightly agi-
tated voice, but still with an air of in-
difference : " It was doubtless a pious relic.
Did you see what was inscribed on this

" No, sir; I did not think of it."

" And the two young girls were like one
another very much like, you say?"

"So like, that one would hardly know
which was which. Probably they are or-
phans, for they are dressed in mourning."

"Oh! dressed in mourning?" said M.
Rodin, with another start.

"Alas! orphans so young!" said Ma-
dame Dupont, wiping her eyes.

" As they had fainted away, we carried
them further on to a place where the sand
was quite dry. While we were busy about
this, we saw the head of a man appear
from behind one of the rocks, which he
was trying to climb, clinging to it by one
hand ; we ran to him, and luckily in the
nick of time, for he was clean worn out,
and fell exhausted into the arms of our
men. It was of him I spoke, when I


talked of a hero; for, not content with
having saved the two young girls by his
admirable courage, he had attempted to
rescue a third person, and had actually
gone back among the rocks and breakers
but his strength failed him, and, with-
out the aid of our men, he would certainly
have been washed away from the ridge to
which he clung."

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Online LibraryEugène SueThe wandering Jew ; (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 24)