Eugène Sue.

The wandering Jew ; (Volume 2) online

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white silk, on which were the words:
"Love and joy to the Bacchanal Queen!"

Sleepinbuff was about twenty-five years
of age. His countenance was gay and
intelligent, surrounded by a collar of chest-
nut-colored whiskers ; but, worn with late
hours and excesses, it expressed a singular
mixture of carelessness and hardihood,
recklessness and mockery; still, no base
or wicked passion had yet stamped there
its fatal impress. He was the perfect type


of the Parisian, as the term is generally
applied, whether in the ariny, in the prov
inces, on board a king's ship, or a mer-
chantman. It is not a compliment, and
yet it is far from being an insult; it is an
epithet which partakes at once of blame,
admiration, and fear ; for if, in this sense,
the Parisian is often idle and rebellious,
he is also quick at his work, resolute in
danger, and always terribly satirical and
fond of practical jokes.

He was dressed in a very flashy style.
He wore a black velvet jacket with silver
buttons, a scarlet waistcoat, trousers with
broad blue stripes, a Cashmere shawl for
a girdle with ends loosely floating, and a
chimney-pot hat covered with flowers and
streamers. This disguise set off his light,
easy figure to great advantage.

At the back of tho carriage, standing up
on the cushions, were Rose-Pompon and
the Bacchanal Queen.

Rose-Pompon, formerly a fringe-maker,
was about seventeen years old, and had
the prettiest and most winning little face
imaginable. She was gayly dressed in
debardeur costume. Her powdered wig,
over which was smartly cocked on one side
an orange and green cap, laced with silver,
increased the effect of her bright black


eyes, and of her round, carnation cheeks.
She wore about her neck an orange-colored
cravat, of the same material as her loose
sash. Her tight jacket and narrow vest
of light green velvet, with silver orna-
ments, displayed to the best advantage a
charming figure, the pliancy of which
must have well suited the evolutions of the
Storm-blown Tulip. Her large trousers,
of the same stuff and color as the jacket,
were not calculated to hide any of her

The Bacchanal Queen, being at the least
a head taller, leaned with one hand on the
shoulder of Rose-Pompon. Mother Bunch's
sister ruled, like a true monarch, over this
mad revelry, which her very presence
seemed to inspire, such influence had her
own mirth and animation, over all that
surrounded her.

She was a tall girl of about twenty years
of age, light and graceful, with regular
features, and a merry - racketing air.
Like her sister, she had magnificent chest-
nut hair, and large blue eyes; but instead
of being soft and timid, like those of the
young seamstress, the latter shone with
indefatigable ardor in the pursuit of pleas-
ure. Such was the energy of her viva-
cious constitution, that, notwithstanding


many nights and days passed in one con-
tinued revel, her complexion was as pure,
her cheeks as rosy, her neck as fresh and
fair, as'if she had that morning issued
from some peaceful home. Her costume,
though singular and fantastic, suited her
admirably. It was composed of a tight,
long-waisted bodice in cloth of gold, trim-
med with great bunches of scarlet ribbon,
the ends of which streamed over her naked
arms, and a short petticoat of scarlet vel-
vet, ornamented with golden beads and
spangles. This petticoat reached half-way
down a leg at once trim and strong, in a
white silk stocking, and red buskin with
brass heel.

Never had any Spanish dancer a more
supple, elastic, and tempting form, than
this singular girl, who seemed possessed
with the spirit of dancing and perpetual
motion, for, almost every moment, slight
undulations of head, hips, and shoulders
ssemed to follow the music of an invisible
orchestra ; while the tip of her right foot,
placed on the carriage door in the most
alluring manner, continued to beat time
for the Bacchanal Queen stood proudly
erect upon the cushions.

A sort of gilt diadem, the emblem of her
noisy sovereignty, hung with little bells,


adorned fier forehead. Her long hair, in
two thick braids, was drawn back from
her rosy cheeks and twisted behind her
head. Her left hand rested on little Rose-
Pompon's shoulder, and in her right she
held an enormous nosegay, which she
waved to the crowd, accompanying each
salute with bursts of laughter.

It would be difficult to give a complete
idea of this noisily animated and fantastic
scene, which included a third carriage,
filled, like the first, with a pyramid of
grotesque and extravagant masks. Among
the delighted crowd, one person alone con-
templated the picture with deep- sorrow.
It was Mother Bunch, who was still kept,
in spite of herself, in the first rank of spec-

Separated from her sister for a long time,
she now beheld her in all the pomp of her
singular triumph, in the midst of the cries
of joy, and the applause of her companions
in pleasure. Yet the eyes of the young
seamstress grew dim with tears; for,
though the Bacchanal Queen seemed to
share in the stunning gayety of all around
her though her face was radiant with
smiles, and she appeared fully to enjoy
the splendors of her temporary elevation
yet she had the sincere pity of the poor


workwoman, almost in rags, who was seek-
ing, with the first dawn of morning, the
means of earning her daily bread.

Mother Bunch had forgotten the crowd
to look only at her sister, whom she ten-
derly loved only the more tenderly that
she thought her situation to be pitied.
"With her eyes fixed on the joydus and
beautiful girl, her pale and gentle counte-
nance expressed the most touching and
painful interest.

All at once, as the brilliant glance of
the Bacchanal Queen traveled along the
crowd, it lighted on the sad features of
Mother Bunch.

"My sister!" exclaimed Cephyse such
was the name of the Bacchanal Queen
"My sister!" and with one bound, light
as a ballet-dancer, she sprung from her
movable throne (which fortunately just
happened to be stopping), and, rushing
up to the hunchback, embraced her affec-

All this had passed so rapidly that the
companions of the Bacchanal Queen, still
stupefied by the boldness of her perilous
leap, knew not how to account for it; while
the masks who surrounded Mother Bunch
drew back in surprise, and the latter, ab-
sorbed in the delight of embracing her sis-


ter, whose caresses she returned, did not
even think of the singular contrast be-
tween them, which was sure to soon excite
the astonishment and hilarity of the crowd.

Cephyse was the first to think of this,
and wishing to save her sister at least one
humiliation, she turned toward the car-
riage, and said: "Rose- Pompon, throw
me down my cloak; and, Ninny Moulin,
open the door directly!"

Having received the cloak, the Bacchanal
Queen hastily wrapped it round her sister,
before the latter could speak or move.
Then, taking her by the hand, she said
to her: "Come! come!"

"1!" cried Mother Bunch, in alarm.
"Do not think of it!"

"I must speak with you. I will get a
private room, where we shall be alone.
So make haste, dear little sister .' Do not
resist before all these people but come!"

The fear of becoming a public sight de-
cided Mother Bunch, who, confused more-
over with the adventure, trembling and
frightened, followed her sister almost
mechanically, and was dragged by her
into the carriage, of which Ninny Moulin
had just opened the door. And so, with
the cloak of the Bacchanal Queen covering
Mother Bunch's poor garments and do-


formed figure, the crowd had nothing to
laugh at, and only wondered what this
meeting could mean, while the coaches
pursued their way to the eating-house in
the Place du Chatelet.



SOME minutes after the meeting of
Mother Bunch with the Bacchanal Queen,
the two sisters were alone together iu a
small room in the tavern.

"Let me kiss you again," said Cephyse
to the young seamstress; "at least now
we are alone you will not be afraid?"

In the effort of the Bacchanal Queen to
clasp Mother Bunch in her arms the cloak
fell from the form of the latter. At sight
of those miserable garments, which she
had hardly had time to observe on the
Place du Chatelet, in the midst of the
crowd, Cephyse clasped her bauds, and
could not repress an exclamation of pain-
ful surprise. Then, approaching her sis-
ter, that she might contemplate her more
closely, she took her thin, icy palms be-


tween her own plump hands, and examined
for some minutes, with increasing grief,
the suffering, pale, unhappy creature,
ground down by watching and privations,
and half -clothed in a poor, patched cotton

"Oh, sister! to see you thus!" Unable
to articulate another word, the Bacchanal
Queen threw herself on the other's neck,
and burst into tears. Then, in the midst
of her sobs, she added : "Pardon ! pardon !"

"What is the matter, my dear Cephyse?"
said the young sewing girl, deeply moved,
and gently disengaging herself from the
embrace of her sister. " Why do you ask
my pardon?"

"Why?" resumed Cephyse, raising her
countenance, bathed in tears and purple
with shame, "is it not shameful of me to
be dressed in all this frippery,. and throw-
ing away so much money in follies, while
you are thus miserably clad, and in need
of everything perhaps dying of want, for
I have never seen your poor face look so
pale and worn.*'

"Be at ease, dear sister! I am not ill.
I was up rather late last night, and that
makes me a little pale but pray do not
cry it grieves me."

The Bacchanal Queen had but just ar-


rived, radiant in the midst of the intoxi-
cated crowd, and yet it was Mother Bunch
who was now employed in consoling her !

An Incident occurred which made the
contrast still more striking. Joyous cries
were heard suddenly in the next apart-
ment, and these words were repeated with
enthusiasm: "Long live .the Bacchanal

Mother Bunch trembled, and her eyes
filled with tears, as she saw her sister with
her face buried in her hands, as if over-
whelmed with shame. "Cephyse," she
said, "I entreat you not to grieve so. You
will make me regret the delight of this
meeting, which is indeed happiness to me!
It is so long since I saw you ! But tell me
what ails you?"

"You despise, me perhaps you. are
right," said the Bacchanal Queen, drying
her tears.

"Despise you? for what?"

"Because I lead the life I do, instead of
having the courage to support misery along
with you."

The grief of Cephyse was so heart-
breaking that Mother Bunch, always
good and indulgent, wishing to console
her, and raise her a little in her own esti-
mation, said to her tenderly: "In support-


ing it bravely for a whole year, my good
Cephyse, you have had more merit and
courage than I should have in bearing
with it my whole life."

"Oh, sister! do not say that."
"In simple truth," returned Mother
Bunch, "to what temptations is a creat-
ure like me exposed? Do I not naturally
seek solitude, even as you seek a noisy life
of pleasure? What wants have I? A
very little suffices."

"But you have not always that little?"
"No but, weak and sickly as I seem, I
can endure some privations better than
you could. Thus hunger produces in me
a sort of numbness, which leaves me very
feeble but for you, robust and full of life,
hunger is fury, is madness. Alas! you
must remember how many times I have
seen you suffering from those painful at-
tacks, when work failed us in our wretched
garret, and we could not even earn our
four francs a week so that we had noth-
ing absolutely nothing to eat for our
pride prevented us from applying to the

"You have preserved the right to that
honest pride."

"And you as well! Did you not strug-
gle as much as a human creature could?
VOL. -^19


But strength fails at last I know you
well, Cephyse it was hunger that con-
quered you, and the painful necessity of
constant labor, which was yet insufficient
to supply our common wants."

"But you could endure those privations
you endure them still."

"Can you compare me with yourself?
Look," said Mother Bunch, taking her
sister by the hand and leading her to a
mirror placed above a couch, "look! Dost
think that God made you so beautiful, en-
dowed you with such quick and ardent
blood, with so joyous, animated, grasping
a nature, and with such taste and fond-
ness for pleasure, that your youth might
be spent in a freezing garret, hid from the
sun, nailed constantly to your chair, clad
almost in rags, and working without rest
and without hope? No ! for He has given
us other wants than those of eating and
drinking. Even in our humble condition,
does not beauty require some little orna-
ment? Does not youth require some move-
ment, pleasure, gayety? Do not all ages
call for relaxation and rest? Had you
gained sufficient wages to satisfy hunger,
to have a day or so's amusement in the
week, after working every other day for
twelve or fifteen hours, and to procure the


neat and modest dress which so charming
a face might naturally claim you would
never have asked for more, I am sure of
it you have told me as much a hundred
times. You have yielded, therefore, to an
irresistible necessity, because your wants
are greater than mine."

"It is true," replied the Bacchanal
Queen, with a pensive air; "if I could
but have gained eighteenpence a day, my
life would have been quite different; for,
in the beginning, sister, I felt cruelly hu-
miliated to live at a man's expense."

"Yes, yes it was inevitable, my dear
Cephyse; I must pity, but cannot blame
you. You did not choose your destiny;
but, like me, you have submitted to it."

"Poor sister!" said Cephyse, embracing
the speaker tenderly ; "you can encourage
and console me in the midst of your own
misfortunes, when I ought to be pitying

"Be satisfied!" said Mother Bunch;
"God is just and good. If He has denied
me many advantages, He has given me
my joys, as you have yours."


"Yes, and great ones without which
life would be too burdensome, and I should
not have the courage to go through with it. "


"I understand you," said Cephyse, with
emotion; "you still know how to devote
yourself for others, and that lightens your
own sorrows."

"I do what I can, but, alas! it is very
little; yet when I succeed," added Mother
Bunch, with a faint smile, "I am as proud
and happy as a poor little ant who, after
a great deal of trouble, has brought a big
straw to the common nest. But do not let
us talk any more of me."

"Yes, but I must, even at the risk of
making you angry," resumed the Bac-
chanal Queen, timidly; "I have something
to propose to you which you once before
refused. Jacques Rennepont has still, I
think, some money left we are spending
it in follies now and then giving a little
to poor people we may happen to meet I
beg of you, let me come to your assistance
I see in your poor face, you cannot con-
ceal it from me, that you are wearing
yourself out with toil."

"Thanks, my dear Cephyse, I know
your good heart; but I am not in want of
anything. The little I gain is sufficient
for me."

"You refuse me," said the Bacchanal
Queen, sadly, "because you know that my
claim to this money is not honorable be


it so I respect your scruples. But you
will not refuse a service from Jacques; he
has been a workman, like ourselves, and
comrades should help each other. Accept
it, I beseech you, or I shall think you de-
spise me."

"And I shall think you despise me, if
you insist any more upon it, my dear
Cephyse," said Mother Bunch, in a tone
at once so mild and firm that the Bac-
chanal Queen saw that all persuasion
would be in vain. She hung her head
sorrowfully, and a tear again trickled
down her cheek.

' ' My refusal grieves you, ' ' said the other,
taking her hand; "I am truly sorry but
reflect and you will understand me."

"You are right," said the Bacchanal
Queen, bitterly, after a moment's silence;
"you cannot accept assistance from my
lover it was an insult to propose it to
you. There are positions in life so humil-
iating that they soil even the good one
wishes to do."

"Cephyse, I did not mean to hurt you
you know it well."

"Oh! believe me," replied the Bac-
chanal Queen, "gay and giddy as I am,
I have sometimes moments of reflection,
even in the midst of my maddest joy.
Happily, such moments are rare."


"And what do you think of, then?"

"Why, that the life I lead is hardly the
thing : then I resolve to ask Jacques for a
small sum of money, just enough to sub-
sist on for a year, and form the plan of
joining you and gradually getting to work

"The idea is a good one; why not act
upon it?"

"Because, when about to execute this
project, I examined myself sincerely, and
my courage failed. I feel that I could
never resume the habit of labor, and re-
nounce this mode of life, sometimes rich,
as to-day, sometimes precarious but at
least free and full of leisure, joyous and
without care, and at worst a thousand
times preferable to living upon four francs
a week. Not that interest has guided me.
Many times have I refused to exchange a
lover, who had little or nothing, for a rich
man that I did not like. Nor have I ever
asked anything for myself. Jacques has
spent perhaps ten thousand francs the last
three or four months, yet we only occupy
two half - furnished rooms, because we
always live out of doors, like the birds;
fortunately, when I first loved him, he had
nothing at all, and I had just sold some
jewels that had been given me, for a huu-


dred francs, and put this sum in the lot-
tery. As mad people and fools are always
lucky, I gained a prize of four thousand
francs. Jacques was as gay, and light-
headed, and full of fun as myself, so we
said: "We love each other very much,
and, as long as this money lasts, we will
keep up the racket; when we have no
more, one of two things will happen
either we shall be tired of one another and
so part or else we shall love each other
still, and then, to remain together, we
shall try and get work again; and, if we
cannot do so, and yet will not part a
bushel of charcoal will do our business!' '

"Good heaven!" cried Mother Bunch,
turning pale.

"Be satisfied ! we have not come to that.
We had still something left, when a kind
of agent, who had paid court to me, but
who was so ugly that I could not bear him
for all his riches, knowing that I was liv-
ing with Jacques, asked me to But
why should I trouble you with all these
details? In one word, he lent Jacques
money, on some sort of a doubtful claim
he had, as was thought, to inherit some
property. It is with this money that we
are amusing ourselves as long as it


"But, my dear Cephyse, instead of
spending this money so foolishly, why not
pat it out- to interest, and marry Jacques,
since you love him?"

"Oh! in the first place," replied the
Bacchanal Queen, laughing, as her gay
and thoughtless character resumed its as-
cendency, "to put money out to interest
gives one no pleasure. All the amuse-
ment one has is to look at a little bit of
paper, which one gets in exchange for the
nice little pieces of gold, with which one
can purchase a thousand pleasures. As
for marrying, I certainly like Jacques bet-
ter than I ever liked any one ; but it seems
to me that, if we were married, all our
happiness would end for while he is only
my lover, he cannot reproach me with
what has passed but, as my husband, he
would be sure to upbraid me, sooner or
later, and, if my conduct deserves blame,
I prefer giving it to myself, because I shall
do it more tenderly. ' '

' ' Mad girl that you are ! But this money
will not last forever. What is to be done

"Afterward! Oh! that's all in the
moon. To-morrow seems to me as if it
would not come for a hundred years. If
we were always saying: 'We must die one


day or the other' would life be worth

The conversation between Cephyse and
her sister was here again interrupted by a
terrible uproar, above which sounded the
sharp, shrill noise of Ninny Moulin 's rat-
tle. To this tumult succeeded a chorus of
barbarous cries, in the midst of which were
distinguishable these words, which shook
the very windows: "The Queen! the Bac-
chanal Queen!"

Mother Bunch started at this sudden

"It is only my court, who are getting
impatient," said Cephyse and this time
she could laugh.

"Heavens!" cried the sewing girl, in
alarm; "if they were to come here in
search of you?"

"No, no never fear."

"But listen ! do you not hear those steps?
they are coming along the passage they
are approaching. Pray, sister, let me go
out alone, without being seen by all these

That moment the door was opened, and
Cephyse ran toward it. She saw in the
passage a deputation headed by Ninny
Moulin, who was armed with his formid-


able rattle, and followed by Rose-Pompon
and Sleepinbuff.

"The Bacchanal Queen! or I poison my-
self with a glass of water!" cried Ninny

"The Bacchanal Queen! or I publish
my banns of marriage with Ninny Mou-
lin!" cried little Rose-Pompon, with a
determined air.

"The Bacchanal Queen! or the court
will rise in arms, and carry her off by
force!" said another voice.

"Yes, yes let us carry her off!" re-
peated a formidable chorus.

"Jacques, enter alone!" said the Bac-
chanal Queen, notwithstanding these press-
ing summonses; then, addressing her court
in a majestic tone, she added: "In ten
minutes I shall be at your service and
then for a of a time!"

"Long live the Bacchanal Queen," cried
Dumoulin, shaking his rattle as he retired,
followed by the deputation, while Sleepin-
buff entered the room alone.

"Jacques," said Cephyse, "this is my
good sister."

"Enchanted to see you," said Jacques,
cordially; "the more so as you will give
me some news of my friend Agricola.
Since I began to play the rich man, we


have not seen each other, but I like him as
much as ever, and think him a good and
worthy fellow. You live in the same
house. How is he?"

"Alas, sir! he and his family have had
many misfortunes. He is in prison."

"In prison!" cried Cephyse.

"Agricola in prison! what for?" said

"For a trifling political offense. We
had hoped to get him out on bail."

"Certainly; for five hundred francs it
could be done," said Sleepinbuff.

"Unfortunately, we have not been able;
the person upon whom we relied

The Bacchanal Queen interrupted the
speaker by saying to her lover: "Do you
hear, Jacques? Agricola in prison, for
want of five hundred francs!"

"To b',. sure! I hear and understand all
about it. No need of your winking. Poor
fellow ! he was the support of his mother."

"Alas! yes, sir and it is the more dis-
tressing, as his father has but just returned
from Russia, and his mother '

"Here," said Sleopinbuff, interrupting,
and giving Mother Bunch a purse; "take
this all the expenses here have been paid
beforehand this is what remains of my
last bag. You will find here some twenty-


five or thirty Napoleons, and I cannot
make a better use of them than to serve a
comrade""in distress. Give them to Agri-
cola's father; he will take the necessary
steps, and to-morrow Agricola will be at
his forge, where I had much rather he
should be than myself."

"Jacques, give me a kiss!" said the
Bacchanal Queen.

"Now, and afterward, and again and
again!" said Jacques, joyously embracing
the queen.

Mother Bunch hesitated for a moment;
but reflecting that, after all, this sum of
money, which was about to be spent in
follies, would restore life and happiness to
the family of Agricola, and that hereafter
these very five hundred francs, when re-
turned to Jacques, might be of the greatest
use to him, she resolved to accept this
offer. She took the purse, and, with tear-
ful eyes, said to him: "I will not refuse
your kindness, M. Jacques; you are so
good and generous. Agricola 's father will
thus at least have one consolation in the
midst of heavy sorrows. Thanks! many

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Online LibraryEugène SueThe wandering Jew ; (Volume 2) → online text (page 21 of 24)