"A mere nothing," said the smith, "really nothing. Do not think of it. I will tell you all about that presently. But first, I have things of importance to communicate."
"Come into my room, then; we shall be alone," Mother Bunch, as she went before Agricola.
Notwithstanding the expression of uneasiness which was visible on the countenance of Agricola, he could not forbear smiling with pleasure as he entered the room and looked around him.
"Excellent, my poor sister! this is how I would always have you lodged. I recognize here the hand of Mdlle. de Cardoville. What a heart! what a noble mind!—Dost know, she wrote to me the day before yesterday, to thank me for what I had done for her, and sent me a gold pin (very plain), which she said I need not hesitate to accept, as it had no other value but that of having been worn by her mother! You can't tell how much I was affected by the delicacy of this gift!"
"Nothing must astonish you from a heart like hers," answered the hunchback. "But the wound—the wound?"
"Presently, my good sister; I have so many things to tell you. Let us begin by what is most pressing, for I want you to give me some good advice in a very serious case. You know how much confidence I have in your excellent heart and judgment. And then, I have to ask of you a service—oh! a great service," added the smith, in an earnest, and almost solemn tone, which astonished his hearer. "Let us begin with what is not personal to myself."
"Since my mother went with Gabriel to the little country curacy he has obtained, and since my father lodges with Marshal Simon and the young ladies, I have resided, you know, with my mates, at M. Hardy's factory, in the common dwelling-house. Now, this morning but first, I must tell you that M. Hardy, who has lately returned from a journey, is again absent for a few days on business. This morning, then, at the hour of breakfast, I remained at work a little after the last stroke of the bell; I was leaving the workshop to go to our eating-room, when I saw entering the courtyard, a lady who had just got out of a hackney-coach. I remarked that she was fair, though her veil was half down; she had a mild and pretty countenance, and her dress was that of a fashionable lady. Struck with her paleness, and her anxious, frightened air, I asked her if she wanted anything. 'Sir,' said she to me, in a trembling voice, and as if with a great effort, 'do you belong to this factory?'—'Yes, madame.'—'M. Hardy is then in clanger?' she exclaimed.—'M. Hardy, madame? He has not yet returned home.'—'What!' she went on, 'M. Hardy did not come hither yesterday evening? Was he not dangerously wounded by some of the machinery?' As she said these words, the poor young lady's lips trembled, and I saw large tears standing in her eyes. 'Thank God, madame! all this is entirely false,' said I, 'for M. Hardy has not returned, and indeed is only expected by to-morrow or the day after.'—'You are quite sure that he has not returned! quite sure that he is not hurt?' resumed the pretty young lady, drying her eyes.—'Quite sure, madame; if M. Hardy were in danger, I should not be so quiet in talking to you about him.'—'Oh! thank God! thank God!' cried the young lady. Then she expressed to me her gratitude, with so happy, so feeling an air, that I was quite touched by it. But suddenly, as if then only she felt ashamed of the step she had taken, she let down her veil, left me precipitately, went out of the court-yard, and got once more into the hackney-coach that had brought her. I said to myself: 'This is a lady who takes great interest in M. Hardy, and has been alarmed by a false report."'
"She loves him, doubtless," said Mother Bunch, much moved, "and, in her anxiety, she perhaps committed an act of imprudence, in coming to inquire after him."
"It is only too true. I saw her get into the coach with interests, for her emotion had infected me. The coach started—and what did I see a few seconds after? A cab, which the young lady could not have perceived, for it had been hidden by an angle of the wall; and, as it turned round the corner, I distinguished perfectly a man seated by the driver's side, and making signs to him to take the same road as the hackney-coach."
"The poor young lady was followed," said Mother Bunch, anxiously.
"No doubt of it; so I instantly hastened after the coach, reached it, and through the blinds that were let down, I said to the young lady, whilst I kept running by the side of the coach door: 'Take care, madame; you are followed by a cab.
"Well, Agricola! and what did she answer?"
"I heard her exclaim, 'Great Heaven!' with an accent of despair. The coach continued its course. The cab soon came up with me; I saw, by the side of the driver, a great, fat, ruddy man, who, having watched me running after the coach, no doubt suspected something, for he looked at me somewhat uneasily."
"And when does M. Hardy return?" asked the hunchback.
"To-morrow, or the day after. Now, my good sister, advise me. It is evident that this young lady loves M. Hardy. She is probably married, for she looked so embarrassed when she spoke to me, and she uttered a cry of terror on learning that she was followed. What shall I do? I wished to ask advice of Father Simon, but he is so very strict in such matters—and then a love affair, at his age!—while you are so delicate and sensible, my good sister, that you will understand it all."
The girl started, and smiled bitterly; Agricola did not perceive it, and thus continued: "So I said to myself, 'There is only Mother Bunch, who can give me good advice.' Suppose M. Hardy returns to-morrow, shall I tell him what has passed or not?"
"Wait a moment," cried the other, suddenly interrupting Agricola, and appearing to recollect something; "when I went to St. Mary's Convent, to ask for work of the superior, she proposed that I should be employed by the day, in a house in which I was to watch or, in other words, to act as a spy—"
"What a wretch!"
"And do you know," said the girl, "with whom I was to begin this odious trade? Why, with a Madame de-Fremont, or de Bremont, I do not remember which, a very religious woman, whose daughter, a young married lady, received visits a great deal too frequent (according to the superior) from a certain manufacturer."
"What do you say?" cried Agricola. "This manufacturer must be—"
"M. Hardy. I had too many reasons to remember that name, when it was pronounced by the superior. Since that day, so many other events have taken place, that I had almost forgotten the circumstance. But it is probable that this young lady is the one of whom I heard speak at the convent."
"And what interest had the superior of the convent to set a spy upon her?" asked the smith.
"I do not know; but it is clear that the same interest still exists, since the young lady was followed, and perhaps, at this hour, is discovered and dishonored. Oh! it is dreadful!" Then, seeing Agricola start suddenly, Mother Bunch added: "What, then, is the matter?"
"Yes—why not?" said the smith, speaking to himself; "why may not all this be the work of the same hand? The superior of a convent may have a private understanding with an abbe—but, then, for what end?"
"Explain yourself, Agricola," said the girl. "And then,—where did you get your wound? Tell me that, I conjure you."
"It is of my wound that I am just going to speak; for in truth, the more I think of it, the more this adventure of the young lady seems to connect itself with other facts."
"You must know that, for the last few days, singular things are passing in the neighborhood of our factory. First, as we are in Lent, an abbe from Paris (a tall, fine-looking man, they say) has come to preach in the little village of Villiers, which is only a quarter of a league from our works. The abbe has found occasion to slander and attack M. Hardy in his sermons."
"How is that?"
"M. Hardy has printed certain rules with regard to our work, and the rights and benefits he grants us. These rules are followed by various maxims as noble as they are simple; with precepts of brotherly love such as all the world can understand, extracted from different philosophies and different religions. But because M. Hardy has chosen what is best in all religions, the abbe concludes that M. Hardy has no religion at all, and he has therefore not only attacked him for this in the pulpit, but has denounced our factory as a centre of perdition and damnable corruption, because, on Sundays, instead of going to listen to his sermons, or to drink at a tavern, our comrades, with their wives and children, pass their time in cultivating their little gardens, in reading, singing in chorus, or dancing together in the common dwelling house. The abbe has even gone so far as to say, that the neighborhood of such an assemblage of atheists, as he calls us, might draw down the anger of Heaven upon the country—that the hovering of Cholera was much talked of, and that very possibly, thanks to our impious presence, the plague might fall upon all our neighborhood."
"But to tell such things to ignorant people," exclaimed Mother Bunch, "is likely to excite them to fatal actions."
"That is just what the abbe wants."
"What do you tell me?"
"The people of the environs, still more excited, no doubt by other agitators, show themselves hostile to the workmen of our factory. Their hatred, or at least their envy, has been turned to account. Seeing us live all together, well lodged, well warmed, and comfortably clad, active, gay, and laborious, their jealousy has been embittered by the sermons, and by the secret manoeuvres of some depraved characters, who are known to be bad workmen, in the employment of M. Tripeaud, our opposition. All this excitement is beginning to bear fruit; there have been already two or three fights between us and our neighbors. It was in one of these skirmishes that I received a blow with a stone on my head."
"Is it not serious, Agricola?—are you quite sure?" said Mother Bunch, anxiously.
"It is nothing at all, I tell you. But the enemies of M. Hardy have not confined themselves to preaching. They have brought into play something far more dangerous."
"What is that?"
"I, and nearly all my comrades, did our part in the three Revolutionary days of July; but we are not eager at present, for good reasons, to take up arms again. That is not everybody's opinion; well, we do not blame others, but we have our own ideas; and Father Simon, who is as brave as his son, and as good a patriot as any one, approves and directs us. Now, for some days past, we find all about the factory, in the garden, in the courts, printed papers to this effect: 'You are selfish cowards; because chance has given you a good master, you remain indifferent to the misfortunes of your brothers, and to the means of freeing them; material comforts have enervated your hearts.'"
"Dear me, Agricola! what frightful perseverance in wickedness!"
"Yes! and unfortunately these devices have their effect on some of our younger mates. As the appeal was, after all, to proud and generous sentiments, it has had some influence. Already, seeds of division have shown themselves in our workshops, where, before, all were united as brothers. A secret agitation now reigns there. Cold suspicion takes the place, with some, of our accustomed cordiality. Now, if I tell you that I am nearly sure these printed papers, thrown over the walls of our factory, to raise these little sparks of discord amongst us, have been scattered about by the emissaries of this same preaching abbe—would it not seem from all this, taken in conjunction with what happened this morning to the young lady, that M. Hardy has of late numerous enemies?"
"Like you, I think it very fearful, Agricola," said the girl; "and it is so serious, that M. Hardy alone can take a proper decision on the subject. As for what happened this morning to the young lady, it appears to me, that, immediately on M. Hardy's return, you should ask for an interview with him, and, however delicate such a communication may be, tell him all that passed."
"There is the difficulty. Shall I not seem as if wishing to pry into his secrets?"
"If the young lady had not been followed, I should have shared your scruples. But she was watched, and is evidently in danger. It is therefore, in my opinion, your duty to warn M. Hardy. Suppose (which is not improbable) that the lady is married; would it not be better, for a thousand reasons, that M. Hardy should know all?"
"You are right, my good sister; I will follow your advice. M. Hardy shall know everything. But now that we have spoken of others, I have to speak of myself—yes, of myself—for it concerns a matter, on which may depend the happiness of my whole life," added the smith, in a tone of seriousness, which struck his hearer. "You know," proceeded Agricola, after a moment's silence, "that, from my childhood, I have never concealed anything from you—that I have told you everything—absolutely everything?"
"I know it, Agricola, I know it," said the hunchback, stretching out her white and slender hand to the smith, who grasped it cordially, and thus continued: "When I say everything, I am not quite exact—for I have always concealed from you my little love-affairs—because, though we may tell almost anything to a sister, there are subjects of which we ought not to speak to a good and virtuous girl, such as you are."
"I thank you, Agricola. I had remarked this reserve on your part," observed the other, casting down her eyes, and heroically repressing the grief she felt; "I thank you."
"But for the very reason, that I made it a duty never to speak to you of such love affairs, I said to myself, if ever it should happen that I have a serious passion—such a love as makes one think of marriage—oh! then, just as we tell our sister even before our father and mother, my good sister shall be the first to be informed of it."
"You are very kind, Agricola."
"Well then! the serious passion has come at last. I am over head and ears in love, and I think of marriage."
At these words of Agricola, poor Mother Bunch felt herself for an instant paralyzed. It seemed as if all her blood was suddenly frozen in her veins. For some seconds, she thought she was going to die. Her heart ceased to beat; she felt it, not breaking, but melting away to nothing. Then, the first blasting emotion over, like those martyrs who found, in the very excitement of pain, the terrible power to smile in the midst of tortures, the unfortunate girl found, in the fear of betraying the secret of her fatal and ridiculous love, almost incredible energy. She raised her head, looked at the smith calmly, almost serenely, and said to him in a firm voice: "Ah! so, you truly love?"
"That is to say, my good sister, that, for the last four days, I scarcely live at all—or live only upon this passion."
"It is only since four days that you have been in love?"
"Not more—but time has nothing to do with it."
"And is she very pretty?"
"Dark hair—the figure of a nymph—fair as a lily—blue eyes, as large as that—and as mild, as good as your own."
"You flatter me, Agricola."
"No, no, it is Angela that I flatter—for that's her name. What a pretty one! Is it not, my good Mother Bunch?"
"A charming name," said the poor girl, contrasting bitterly that graceful appellation with her own nickname, which the thoughtless Agricola applied to her without thinking of it. Then she resumed, with fearful calmness: "Angela? yes, it is a charming name!"
"Well, then! imagine to yourself, that this name is not only suited to her face, but to her heart. In a word, I believe her heart to be almost equal to yours."
"She has my eyes—she has my heart," said Mother Bunch, smiling. "It is singular, how like we are."
Agricola did not perceive the irony of despair contained in these words. He resumed, with a tenderness as sincere as it was inexorable: "Do you think, my good girl, that I could ever have fallen seriously in love with any one, who had not in character, heart, and mind, much of you?"
"Come, brother," said the girl, smiling—yes, the unfortunate creature had the strength to smile; "come, brother, you are in a gallant vein to day. Where did you make the acquaintance of this beautiful young person?"
"She is only the sister of one of my mates. Her mother is the head laundress in our common dwelling, and as she was in want of assistance, and we always take in preference the relations of members of the association, Mrs. Bertin (that's the mother's name) sent for her daughter from Lille, where she had been stopping with one of her aunts, and, for the last five days, she has been in the laundry. The first evening I saw her, I passed three hours, after work was over, in talking with her, and her mother and brother; and the next day, I felt that my heart was gone; the day after that, the feeling was only stronger—and now I am quite mad about her, and resolved on marriage—according as you shall decide. Do not be surprised at this; everything depends upon you. I shall only ask my father and mother's leave, after I have yours."
"I do not understand you, Agricola."
"You know the utter confidence I have in the incredible instinct of your heart. Many times, you have said to me: 'Agricola, love this person, love that person, have confidence in that other'—and never yet were you deceived. Well! you must now render me the same service. You will ask permission of Mdlle. de Cardoville to absent yourself; I will take you to the factory: I have spoken of you to Mrs. Benin and her daughter, as of a beloved sister; and, according to your impression at sight of Angela, I will declare myself or not. This may be childishness, or superstition, on my part; but I am so made."
"Be it so," answered Mother Bunch, with heroic courage; "I will see Mdlle. Angela; I will tell you what I think of her—and that, mind you, sincerely."
"I know it. When will you come?"
"I must ask Mdlle. de Cardoville what day she can spare sue. I will let you know."
"Thanks, my good sister!" said Agricola warmly; then he added, with a smile: "Bring your best judgment with you—your full dress judgment."
"Do not make a jest of it, brother," said Mother Bunch, in a mild, sad voice; "it is a serious matter, for it concerns the happiness of your whole life."
At this moment, a modest knock was heard at the door. "Come in," said Mother Bunch. Florine appeared.
"My mistress begs that you will come to her, if you are not engaged," said Florine to Mother Bunch.
The latter rose, and, addressing the smith, said to him: "Please wait a moment, Agricola. I will ask Mdlle. de Cardoville what day I can dispose of, and I will come and tell you." So saying, the girl went out, leaving Agricola with Florine.
"I should have much wished to pay my respects to Mdlle. de Cardoville," said Agricola; "but I feared to intrude."
"My lady is not quite well, sir," said Florine, "and receives no one to day. I am sure, that as soon as she is better, she will be quite pleased to see you."
Here Mother Bunch returned, and said to Agricola: "If you can come for me to-morrow, about three o'clock, so as not to lose the whole day, we will go to the factory, and you can bring me back in the evening."
"Then, at three o'clock to-morrow, my good sister."
"At three to-morrow, Agricola."
The evening of that same day, when all was quiet in the hotel, Mother Bunch, who had remained till ten o'clock with Mdlle. de Cardoville, re entered her bedchamber, locked the door after her, and finding herself at length free and unrestrained, threw herself on her knees before a chair, and burst into tears. She wept long—very long. When her tears at length ceased to flow, she dried her eyes, approached the writing-desk, drew out one of the boxes from the pigeonhole, and, taking from this hiding-place the manuscript which Florine had so rapidly glanced over the evening before, she wrote in it during a portion of the night.
CHAPTER XLVI. MOTHER BUNCH'S DIARY.
We have said that the hunchback wrote during a portion of the night, in the book discovered the previous evening by Florine, who had not ventured to take it away, until she had informed the persons who employed her of its contents, and until she had received their final orders on the subject. Let us explain the existence of this manuscript, before opening it to the reader. The day on which Mother Bunch first became aware of her love for Agricola, the first word of this manuscript had been written. Endowed with an essentially trusting character, yet always feeling herself restrained by the dread of ridicule—a dread which, in its painful exaggeration, was the workgirl's only weakness—to whom could the unfortunate creature have confided the secret of that fatal passion, if not to paper—that mute confidant of timid and suffering souls, that patient friend, silent and cold, who, if it makes no reply to heart rending complaints, at least always listens, and never forgets?
When her heart was overflowing with emotion, sometimes mild and sad, sometimes harsh and bitter, the poor workgirl, finding a melancholy charm in these dumb and solitary outpourings of the soul, now clothed in the form of simple and touching poetry, and now in unaffected prose, had accustomed herself by degrees not to confine her confidences to what immediately related to Agricola, for though he might be mixed up with all her thoughts, for reflections, which the sight of beauty, of happy love, of maternity, of wealth, of misfortune, called up within her, were so impressed with the influence of her unfortunate personal position, that she would not even have dared to communicate them to him. Such, then, was this journal of a poor daughter of the people, weak, deformed, and miserable, but endowed with an angelic soul, and a fine intellect, improved by reading, meditation, and solitude; pages quite unknown, which yet contained many deep and striking views, both as regard men and things, taken from the peculiar standpoint in which fate had placed this unfortunate creature. The following lines, here and there abruptly interrupted or stained with tears, according to the current of her various emotions, on hearing of Agricola's deep love for Angela, formed the last pages of this journal:
"Friday, March 3d, 1832.
"I spent the night without any painful dreams. This morning, I rose with no sorrowful presentiment. I was calm and tranquil when Agricola came. He did not appear to me agitated. He was simple and affectionate as he always is. He spoke to me of events relating to M. Hardy, and then, without transition, without hesitation, he said to me: 'The last four days I have been desperately in love. The sentiment is so serious, that I think of marriage. I have come to consult you about it.' That was how this overwhelming revelation was made to me—naturally and cordially—I on one side of the hearth, and Agricola an the other, as if we had talked of indifferent things. And yet no more is needed to break one's heart. Some one enters, embraces you like a brother, sits down, talks—and then—Oh! Merciful heaven! my head wanders.
"I feel calmer now. Courage, my poor heart, courage!—Should a day of misfortune again overwhelm me, I will read these lines written under the impression of the most cruel grief I can ever feel, and I will say to myself: 'What is the present woe compared to that past?' My grief is indeed cruel! it is illegitimate, ridiculous, shameful: I should not dare to confess it, even to the most indulgent of mothers. Alas! there are some fearful sorrows, which yet rightly make men shrug their shoulders in pity or contempt. Alas! these are forbidden misfortunes. Agricola has asked me to go to-morrow, to see this young girl to whom he is so passionately attached, and whom he will marry, if the instinct of my heart should approve the marriage. This thought is the most painful of all those which have tortured me since he so pitilessly announced this love. Pitilessly? No, Agricola—no, my brother—forgive me this unjust cry of pain! Is it that you know, can even suspect, that I love you better than you love, better than you can ever love, this charming creature?
"'Dark-haired—the figure of a nymph—fair as a lily—with blue eyes—as large as that—and almost as mild as your own.'
"That is the portrait he drew of her. Poor Agricola! how would he have suffered, had he known that every one of his words was tearing my heart. Never did I so strongly feel the deep commiseration and tender pity, inspired by a good, affectionate being, who, in the sincerity of his ignorance, gives you your death-wound with a smile. We do not blame him—no—we pity him to the full extent of the grief that he would feel on learning the pain he had caused me. It is strange! but never did Agricola appear to me more handsome than this morning. His manly countenance was slightly agitated, as he spoke of the uneasiness of that pretty young lady. As I listened to him describing the agony of a woman who runs the risk of ruin for the man she loves, I felt my heart beat violently, my hands were burning, a soft languor floated over me—Ridiculous folly! As if I had any right to feel thus!
"I remember that, while he spoke, I cast a rapid glance at the glass. I felt proud that I was so well dressed; he had not even remarked it; but no matter—it seemed to me that my cap became me, that my hair shone finely, my gaze beamed mild—I found Agricola so handsome, that I almost began to think myself less ugly—no doubt, to excuse myself in my own eyes for daring to love him. After all, what happened to-day would have happened one day or another! Yes, that is consoling—like the thoughts that death is nothing, because it must come at last—to those who are in love with life! I have been always preserved from suicide—the last resource of the unfortunate, who prefer trusting in God to remaining amongst his creatures—by the sense of duty. One must not only think of self. And I reflected also'God is good—always good—since the most wretched beings find opportunities for love and devotion.' How is it that I, so weak and poor, have always found means to be helpful and useful to some one?
"This very day I felt tempted to make an end with life—Agricola and his mother had no longer need of me.—Yes, but the unfortunate creatures whom Mdlle. de Cardoville has commissioned me to watch over?—but my benefactress herself, though she has affectionately reproached me with the tenacity of my suspicions in regard to that man? I am more than ever alarmed for her—I feel that she is more than ever in danger—more than ever—I have faith in the value of my presence near her. Hence, I must live. Live—to go to-morrow to see this girl, whom Agricola passionately loves? Good heaven! why have I always known grief, and never hate? There must be a bitter pleasure in hating. So many people hate!—Perhaps I may hate this girl—Angela, as he called her, when he said, with so much simplicity: 'A charming name, is it not, Mother Bunch?' Compare this name, which recalls an idea so full of grace, with the ironical symbol of my witch's deformity! Poor Agricola! poor brother! goodness is sometimes as blind as malice, I see. Should I hate this young girl?—Why? Did she deprive me of the beauty which charms Agricola? Can I find fault with her for being beautiful? When I was not yet accustomed to the consequences of my ugliness, I asked myself, with bitter curiosity, why the Creator had endowed his creatures so unequally. The habit of pain has allowed me to reflect calmly, and I have finished by persuading myself, that to beauty and ugliness are attached the two most noble emotions of the soul—admiration and compassion. Those who are like me admire beautiful persons—such as Angela, such as Agricola—and these in their turn feel a couching pity for such as I am. Sometimes, in spite of one's self, one has very foolish hopes. Because Agricola, from a feeling of propriety had never spoken to me of his love affairs, I sometimes persuaded myself that he had none—that he loved me, and that the fear of ridicule alone was with him, as with me, an obstacle in the way of confessing it. Yes, I have even made verses on that subject—and those, I think, not the worst I have written.
"Mine is a singular position! If I love, I am ridiculous; if any love me, he is still more ridiculous. How did I come so to forget that, as to have suffered and to suffer what I do?—But blessed be that suffering, since it has not engendered hate—no; for I will not hate this girl—I will Perform a sister's part to the last; I will follow the guidance of my heart; I have the instinct of preserving others—my heart will lead and enlighten me. My only fear is, that I shall burst into tears when I see her, and not be able to conquer my emotion. Oh, then! what a revelation to Agricola—a discovery of the mad love he has inspired!—Oh, never! the day in which he knew that would be the last of my life. There would then be within me something stronger than duty—the longing to escape from shame—that incurable shame, that burns me like a hot iron. No, no; I will be calm. Besides, did I not just now, when with him bear courageously a terrible trial? I will be calm. My personal feelings must not darken the second sight, so clear for those I love. Oh! painful—painful task! for the fear of yielding involuntarily to evil sentiments must not render me too indulgent toward this girl. I might compromise Agricola's happiness, since my decision is to guide his choice. Poor creature that I am. How I deceive myself! Agricola asks my advice, because he thinks that I shall have not the melancholy courage to oppose his passion; or else he would say to me: 'No matter—I love; and I brave the future!'
"But then, if my advice, if the instincts of my heart, are not to guide him—if his resolution is taken beforehand—of what use will be to morrow's painful mission? Of what use? To obey him. Did he not say—'Come!' In thinking of my devotion for him, how many times, in the secret depths of my heart, I have asked myself if the thought had ever occurred to him to love me otherwise than as a sister; if it had ever struck him, what a devoted wife he would have in me! And why should it have occurred to him? As long as he wished, as long as he may still wish, I have been, and I shall be, as devoted to him, as if I were his wife, sister, or mother. Why should he desire what he already possesses?
"Married to him—oh, God!—the dream is mad as ineffable. Are not such thoughts of celestial sweetness—which include all sentiments from sisterly to maternal love—forbidden to me, on pain of ridicule as distressing as if I wore dresses and ornaments, that my ugliness and deformity would render absurd? I wonder, if I were now plunged into the most cruel distress, whether I should suffer as much as I do, on hearing of Agricola's intended marriage? Would hunger, cold, or misery diminish this dreadful dolor?—or is it the dread pain that would make me forget hunger, cold, and misery?
"No, no; this irony is bitter. It is not well in me to speak thus. Why such deep grief? In what way have the affection, the esteem, the respect of Agricola, changed towards me? I complain—but how would it be, kind heaven! if, as, alas! too often happens, I were beautiful, loving, devoted, and he had chosen another, less beautiful, less loving, less devoted?—Should I not be a thousand times more unhappy? for then I might, I would have to blame him—whilst now I can find no fault with him, for never having thought of a union which was impossible, because ridiculous. And had he wished it, could I ever have had the selfishness to consent to it? I began to write the first pages of this diary as I began these last, with my heart steeped in bitterness—and as I went on, committing to paper what I could have intrusted to no one, my soul grew calm, till resignation came—Resignation, my chosen saint, who, smiling through her tears, suffers and loves, but hopes—never!"
These word's were the last in the journal. It was clear, from the blots of abundant tears, that the unfortunate creature had often paused to weep.
In truth, worn out by so many emotions, Mother Bunch late in the night, had replaced the book behind the cardboard box, not that she thought it safer there than elsewhere (she had no suspicion of the slightest need for such precaution), but because it was more out of the way there than in any of the drawers, which she frequently opened in presence of other people. Determined to perform her courageous promise, and worthily accomplish her task to the end, she waited the next day for Agricola, and firm in her heroic resolution, went with the smith to M. Hardy's factory. Florine, informed of her departure, but detained a portion of the day in attendance on Mdlle. de Cardoville preferred waiting for night to perform the new orders she had asked and received, since she had communicated by letter the contents of Mother Bunch's journal. Certain not to be surprised, she entered the workgirls' chamber, as soon as the night was come.
Knowing the place where she should find the manuscript, she went straight to the desk, took out the box, and then, drawing from her pocket a sealed letter, prepared to leave it in the place of the manuscript, which she was to carry away with her. So doing, she trembled so much, that she was obliged to support herself an instant by the table. Every good sentiment was not extinct in Florine's heart; she obeyed passively the orders she received, but she felt painfully how horrible and infamous was her conduct. If only herself had been concerned, she would no doubt have had the courage to risk all, rather than submit to this odious despotism; but unfortunately, it was not so, and her ruin would have caused the mortal despair of another person whom she loved better than life itself. She resigned herself, therefore, not without cruel anguish, to abominable treachery.
Though she hardly ever knew for what end she acted, and this was particularly the case with regard to the abstraction of the journal, she foresaw vaguely, that the substitution of this sealed letter for the manuscript would have fatal consequences for Mother Bunch, for she remembered Rodin's declaration, that "it was time to finish with the young sempstress."
What did he mean by those words? How would the letter that she was charged to put in the place of the diary, contribute to bring about this result? she did not know—but she understood that the clear-sighted devotion of the hunchback justly alarmed the enemies of Mdlle. de Cardoville, and that she (Florine) herself daily risked having her perfidy detected by the young needlewoman. This last fear put an end to the hesitations of Florine; she placed the letter behind the box, and, hiding the manuscript under her apron, cautiously withdrew from the chamber.
CHAPTER XLVII. THE DIARY CONTINUED.
Returned into her own room, some hours after she had concealed there the manuscript abstracted from Mother Bunch's apartment, Florine yielded to her curiosity, and determined to look through it. She soon felt a growing interest, an involuntary emotion, as she read more of these private thoughts of the young sempstress. Among many pieces of verse, which all breathed a passionate love for Agricola—a love so deep, simple, and sincere, that Florine was touched by it, and forgot the author's deformity—among many pieces of verse, we say, were divers other fragments, thoughts, and narratives, relating to a variety of facts. We shall quote some of them, in order to explain the profound impression that their perusal made upon Florine.
Fragments from the Diary.
"This is my birthday. Until this evening, I had cherished a foolish hope. Yesterday, I went down to Mrs. Baudoin's, to dress a little wound she had on her leg. When I entered the room, Agricola was there. No doubt he was talking of me to his mother, for they stopped when I came in, and exchanged a meaning smile. In passing by the drawers, I saw a pasteboard box, with a pincushion-lid, and I felt myself blushing with joy, as I thought this little present was destined for me, but I pretended not to see it. While I was on my knees before his mother, Agricola went out. I remarked that he took the little box with him. Never has Mrs. Baudoin been more tender and motherly than she was that morning. It appeared to me that she went to bed earlier than usual. 'It is to send me away sooner,' said I to myself, 'that I may enjoy the surprise Agricola has prepared for me.' How my heart beat, as I ran fast, very fast, up to my closet! I stopped a moment before opening the door, that my happiness might last the longer. At last I entered the room, my eyes swimming with tears of joy. I looked upon my table, my chair, my bed—there was nothing. The little box was not to be found. My heart sank within me. Then I said to myself: 'It will be to-morrow—this is only the eve of my birthday.' The day is gone. Evening is come. Nothing. The pretty box was not for me. It had a pincushion-cover. It was only suited for a woman. To whom has Agricola given it?
"I suffer a good deal just now. It was a childish idea that I connected with Agricola's wishing me many happy returns of the day. I am ashamed to confess it; but it might have proved to me, that he has not forgotten I have another name besides that of Mother Bunch, which they always apply to me. My susceptibility on this head is unfortunately so stubborn, that I cannot help feeling a momentary pang of mingled shame and sorrow, every time that I am called by that fairy-tale name, and yet I have had no other from infancy. It is for that very reason that I should have been so happy if Agricola had taken this opportunity to call me for once by my own humble name—Magdalen. Happily, he will never know these wishes and regrets!"
Deeper and deeper touched by this page of simple grief, Florine turned over several leaves, and continued:
"I have just been to the funeral of poor little Victorine Herbin, our neighbor. Her father, a journeyman upholsterer, is gone to work by the month, far from Paris. She died at nineteen, without a relation near her. Her agony was not long. The good woman who attended her to the last, told us that she only pronounced these words: 'At last, oh at last!' and that with an air of satisfaction, added the nurse. Dear child! she had become so pitiful. At fifteen, she was a rosebud—so pretty, so fresh-looking, with her light hair as soft as silk; but she wasted away by degrees—her trade of renovating mattresses killed her. She was slowly poisoned by the emanations from the wool.(26) They were all the worse, that she worked almost entirely for the poor, who have cheap stuff to lie upon.
"She had the courage of a lion, and an angel's resignation, She always said to me, in her low, faint voice, broken by a dry and frequent cough: 'I have not long to live, breathing, as I do, lime and vitriol all day long. I spit blood, and have spasms that make me faint.'
"'Why not change your trade?' have I said to her.
"'Where will I find the time to make another apprenticeship?' she would answer; 'and it is now too late. I feel that I am done for. It is not my fault,' added the good creature, 'for I did not choose my employment. My father would have it so; luckily he can do without me. And then, you see, when one is dead, one cares for nothing, and has no fear of "slop wages."'
"Victorine uttered that sad, common phrase very sincerely, and with a sort of satisfaction. Therefore she died repeating: 'At last!'
"It is painful to think that the labor by which the poor man earns his daily bread, often becomes a long suicide! I said this the other day to Agricola; he answered me that there were many other fatal employments; those who prepare aquafortis, white lead, or minium, for instance, are sure to take incurable maladies of which they die.
"'Do you know,' added Agricola, 'what they say when they start for those fatal works?'—Why, 'We are going to the slaughter-house.'
"That made me tremble with its terrible truth.
"'And all this takes place in our day,' said I to him, with an aching heart; 'and it is well-known. And, out of so many of the rich and powerful, no one thinks of the mortality which decimates his brothers, thus forced to eat homicidal bread!'
"'What can you expect, my poor sister,' answered Agricola. 'When men are to be incorporated, that they may get killed in war, all pains are taken with them. But when they are to be organized, so as to live in peace, no one cares about it, except M. Hardy, my master. People say, 'Pooh! hunger, misery, and suffering of the laboring classes—what is that to us? that is not politics.' 'They are wrong,' added Agricola; 'IT IS MORE THAN POLITICS.'
"As Victorine had not left anything to pay for the church service, there was only the presentation of the body under the porch; for there is not even a plain mass for the poor. Besides, as they could not give eighteen francs to the curate, no priest accompanied the pauper's coffin to the common grave. If funerals, thus abridged and cut short, are sufficient in a religious point of view, why invent other and longer forms? Is it from cupidity?—If, on the other hand, they are not sufficient, why make the poor man the only victim of this insufficiency? But why trouble ourselves about the pomp, the incense, the chants, of which they are either too sparing or too liberal? Of what use? and for what purpose? They are vain, terrestrial things, for which the soul recks nothing, when, radiant, it ascends towards its Creator. Yesterday, Agricola made me read an article in a newspaper, in which violent blame and bitter irony are by turns employed, to attack what they call the baneful tendencies of some of the lower orders, to improve themselves, to write, to read the poets, and sometimes to make verses. Material enjoyments are forbidden us by poverty. Is it humane to reproach us for seeking the enjoyments of the mind? What harm can it do any one if every evening, after a day's toil, remote from all pleasure, I amuse myself, unknown to all, in making a few verses, or in writing in this journal the good or bad impressions I have received? Is Agricola the worse workman, because, on returning home to his mother, he employs Sunday in composing some of those popular songs, which glorify the fruitful labors of the artisan, and say to all, Hope and brotherhood! Does he not make a more worthy use of his time than if he spent it in a tavern? Ah! those who blame us for these innocent and noble diversions, which relieve our painful toils and sufferings, deceive themselves when they think, that, in proportion as the intellect is raised and refined, it is more difficult to bear with privations and misery, and that so the irritation increases against the luckier few.
"Admitting even this to be the case—and it is not so—is it not better to have an intelligent, enlightened enemy, to whose heart and reason you may address yourself, than a stupid, ferocious, implacable foe? But no; enmities disappear as the mind becomes enlightened, and the horizon of compassion extends itself. We thus learn to understand moral afflictions. We discover that the rich also have to suffer intense pains, and that brotherhood in misfortune is already a link of sympathy. Alas! they also have to mourn bitterly for idolized children, beloved mistresses, reverend mothers; with them, also, especially amongst the women, there are, in the height of luxury and grandeur, many broken hearts, many suffering souls, many tears shed in secret. Let them not be alarmed. By becoming their equals in intelligence, the people will learn to pity the rich, if good and unhappy—and to pity them still more if rejoicing in wickedness.
"What happiness! what a joyful day! I am giddy with delight. Oh, truly, man is good, humane, charitable. Oh, yes! the Creator has implanted within him every generous instinct—and, unless he be a monstrous exception, he never does evil willingly. Here is what I saw just now. I will not wait for the evening to write it down, for my heart would, as it were, have time to cool. I had gone to carry home some work that was wanted in a hurry. I was passing the Place du Temple. A few steps from me I saw a child, about twelve years old at most, with bare head, and feet, in spite of the severe weather, dressed in a shabby, ragged smock frock and trousers, leading by the bridle a large cart-horse, with his harness still on. From time to time the horse stopped short, and refused to advance. The child, who had no whip, tugged in vain at the bridle. The horse remained motionless. Then the poor little fellow cried out: 'O dear, O dear!' and began to weep bitterly, looking round him as if to implore the assistance of the passers-by. His dear little face was impressed with so heart piercing a sorrow, that, without reflecting, I made an attempt at which I can now only smile, I must have presented so grotesque a figure. I am horribly afraid of horses, and I am still more afraid of exposing myself to public gaze. Nevertheless, I took courage, and, having an umbrella in my hand, I approached the horse, and with the impetuosity of an ant that strives to move a large stone with a little piece of straw, I struck with all my strength on the croup of the rebellious animal. 'Oh, thanks, my good lady!' exclaimed the child, drying his eyes: 'hit him again, if you please. Perhaps he will get up.'
"I began again, heroically; but, alas! either from obstinacy or laziness, the horse bent his knees, and stretched himself out upon the ground; then, getting entangled with his harness, he tore it, and broke his great wooden collar. I had drawn back quickly, for fear of receiving a kick. Upon this new disaster, the child could only throw himself on his knees in the middle of the street, clasping his hands and sobbing, and exclaiming in a voice of despair: 'Help! help!'
"The call was heard; several of the passers-by gathered round, and a more efficacious correction than mine was administered to the restive horse, who rose in a vile state, and without harness.
"'My master will beat me,' cried the poor child, as his tears redoubled; 'I am already two hours after time, for the horse would not go, and now he has broken his harness. My master will beat me, and turn me away. Oh dear! what will become of me! I have no father nor mother.'
"At these words, uttered with a heart-rending accent, a worthy old clothes-dealer of the Temple, who was amongst the spectators, exclaimed, with a kindly air: 'No father nor mother! Do not grieve so, my poor little fellow; the Temple can supply everything. We will mend the harness, and, if my gossips are like me, you shall not go away bareheaded or barefooted in such weather as this.'
"This proposition was greeted with acclamation; they led away both horse and child; some were occupied in mending the harness, then one supplied a cap, another a pair of stockings, another some shoes, and another a good jacket; in a quarter of an hour the child was warmly clad, the harness repaired, and a tall lad of eighteen, brandishing a whip, which he cracked close to the horse's ears, by way of warning, said to the little boy, who, gazing first at his new clothes, and then at the good woman, believed himself the hero of a fairy-tale. 'Where does your governor live, little 'un?'
"'On the Quai du Canal-Saint-Martin, sir,' answered he, in a voice trembling with joy.
"'Very good,' said the young man, 'I will help you take home the horse, who will go well enough with me, and I will tell the master that the delay was no fault of your'n. A balky horse ought not to be trusted to a child of your age.'
"At the moment of setting out, the poor little fellow said timidly to the good dame, as he took off his cap to her: 'Will you let me kiss you, ma'am?'
"His eyes were full of tears of gratitude. There was heart in that child. This scene of popular charity gave me delightful emotions. As long as I could, I followed with my eyes the tall young man and the child, who now could hardly keep up with the pace of the horse, rendered suddenly docile by fear of the whip.
"Yes! I repeat it with pride; man is naturally good and helpful. Nothing could have been more spontaneous than this movement of pity and tenderness in the crowd, when the poor little fellow exclaimed: 'What will become of me? I have no father or mother!'
"'Unfortunate child!' said I to myself. 'No father nor mother. In the hands of a brutal master, who hardly covers him with a few rags, and ill treats him into the bargain. Sleeping, no doubt in the corner of a stable. Poor little, fellow! and yet so mild and good, in spite of misery and misfortune. I saw it—he was even more grateful than pleased at the service done him. But perhaps this good natural disposition, abandoned without support or counsel, or help, and exasperated by bad treatment, may become changed and embittered—and then will come the age of the passions—the bad temptations—'
"Oh! in the deserted poor, virtue is doubly saintly and respectable!
"This morning, after having (as usual) gently reproached me for not going to mass, Agricola's mother said to me these words, so touching in her simple and believing mouth, 'Luckily, I pray for you and myself too, my poor girl; the good God will hear me, and you will only go, I hope, to Purgatory.'
"Good mother; angelic soul! she spoke those words in so grave and mild a tone, with so strong a faith in the happy result of her pious intercession, that I felt my eyes become moist, and I threw myself on her neck, as sincerely grateful as if I had believed in Purgatory. This day has been a lucky one for me. I hope I have found work, which luck I shall owe to a young person full of heart and goodness, she is to take me to-morrow to St. Mary's Convent, where she thinks she can find me employment."
Florine, already much moved by the reading, started at this passage in which Mother Bunch alluded to her, ere she continued as follows:
"Never shall I forget with what touching interest, what delicate benevolence, this handsome young girl received me, so poor, and so unfortunate. It does not astonish me, for she is attached to the person of Mdlle. de Cardoville. She must be worthy to reside with Agricola's benefactress. It will always be dear and pleasant to me to remember her name. It is graceful and pretty as her face; it is Florine. I am nothing, I have nothing—but if the fervent prayers of a grateful heart might be heard, Mdlle. Florine would be happy, very happy. Alas! I am reduced to say prayers for her—only prayers—for I can do nothing but remember and love her!"
These lines, expressing so simply the sincere gratitude of the hunchback, gave the last blow to Florine's hesitations. She could no longer resist the generous temptation she felt. As she read these last fragments of the journal, her affection and respect for Mother Bunch made new progress. More than ever she felt how infamous it was in her to expose to sarcasms and contempt the most secret thoughts of this unfortunate creature. Happily, good is often as contagious as evil. Electrified by all that was warm, noble, and magnanimous in the pages she had just read, Florine bathed her failing virtue in that pure and vivifying source, and, yielding, at last to one of those good impulses which sometimes carried her away, she left the room with the manuscript in her hand, determined, if Mother Bunch had not yet returned, to replace it—resolved to tell Rodin that, this second time, her search for the journal had been vain, the sempstress having no doubt discovered the first attempt.
(26) In the Ruche Populaire, a working man's organ, are the following particulars:
"Carding Mattresses.—The dust which flies out of the wool makes carding destructive to health in any case, but trade adulterations enhance the danger. In sticking sheep, the skin gets blood-spotted; it has to be bleached to make it salable. Lime is the main whitener, and some of it clings to the wool after the process. The dresser (female, most often) breathes in the fine dust, and, by lung and other complaints, is far from seldom deplorably situated; the majority sicken of it and give up the trade, while those who keep to it, at the very least, suffer with a catarrh or asthma that torments them until death.
"As for horsehair, the very best is not pure. You can judge what the inferior quality is, from the workgirls calling it vitriol hair, because it is the refuse or clippings from goats and swine, washed in vitriol, boiled in dyes, etc., to burn and disguise such foreign bodies as straw. thorns, splinters, and even bits of skin, not worth picking out. The dust rising when a mass of this is beaten, makes as many ravages as the lime-wool."
CHAPTER XLVIII. THE DISCOVERY.
A little while before Florine made up her mind to atone for her shameful breach of confidence, Mother Bunch had returned from the factory, after accomplishing to the end her painful task. After a long interview with Angela, struck, like Agricola, with the ingenuous grace, sense, and goodness, with which the young girl was endowed, Mother Bunch had the courageous frankness to advise the smith to enter into this marriage. The following scene took place whilst Florine, still occupied in reading the journal, had not yet taken the praiseworthy resolution of replacing it. It was ten o'clock at night. The workgirl, returned to Cardoville House, had just entered her chamber. Worn out by so many emotions, she had thrown herself into a chair. The deepest silence reigned in the house. It was now and then interrupted by the soughing of a high wind, which raged without and shook the trees in the garden. A single candle lighted the room, which was papered with dark green. That peculiar tint, and the hunchback's black dress, increased her apparent paleness. Seated in an arm-chair by the side of the fire, with her head resting upon her bosom, her hands crossed upon her knees, the work-girl's countenance was melancholy and resigned; on it was visible the austere satisfaction which is felt by the consciousness of a duty well performed.
Like all those who, brought up in the merciless school of misfortune, no longer exaggerate the sentiment of sorrow, too familiar and assiduous a guest to be treated as a stranger, Mother Bunch was incapable of long yielding to idle regrets and vain despair, with regard to what was already past. Beyond doubt, the blow had been sudden, dreadful; doubtless it must leave a long and painful remembrance in the sufferer's soul; but it was soon to pass, as it were, into that chronic state of pain-durance, which had become almost an integral part of her life. And then this noble creature, so indulgent to fate, found still some consolations in the intensity of her bitter pain. She had been deeply touched by the marks of affection shown her by Angela, Agricola's intended: and she had felt a species of pride of the heart, in perceiving with what blind confidence, with what ineffable joy, the smith accepted the favorable presentiments which seemed to consecrate his happiness. Mother Bunch also said to herself: "At least, henceforth I shall not be agitated by hopes, or rather by suppositions as ridiculous as they were senseless. Agricola's marriage puts a term to all the miserable reveries of my poor head."
Finally, she found a real and deep consolation in the certainty that she had been able to go through this terrible trial, and conceal from Agricola the love she felt for him. We know how formidable to this unfortunate being were those ideas of ridicule and shame, which she believed would attach to the discovery of her mad passion. After having remained for some time absorbed in thought, Mother Bunch rose, and advanced slowly towards the desk.
"My only recompense," said she, as she prepared the materials for writing, "will be to entrust the mute witness of my pains with this new grief. I shall at least have kept the promise that I made to myself. Believing, from the bottom of my soul, that this girl is able to make Agricola happy, I told him so with the utmost sincerity. One day, a long time hence, when I shall read over these pages, I shall perhaps find in that a compensation for all that I now suffer."
So saying, she drew the box from the pigeon-hole. Not finding her manuscript, she uttered a cry of surprise; but, what was her alarm, when she perceived a letter to her address in the place of the journal! She became deadly pale; her knees trembled; she almost fainted away. But her increasing terror gave her a fictitious energy, and she had the strength to break the seal. A bank-note for five hundred francs fell from the letter on the table, and Mother Bunch read as follows:
"Mademoiselle,—There is something so original and amusing in reading in your memoirs the story of your love for Agricola, that it is impossible to resist the pleasure of acquainting him with the extent of it, of which he is doubtless ignorant, but to which he cannot fail to show himself sensible. Advantage will be taken to forward it to a multitude of other persons, who might, perhaps, otherwise be unfortunately deprived of the amusing contents of your diary. Should copies and extracts not be sufficient, we will have it printed, as one cannot too much diffuse such things. Some will weep—others will laugh—what appears superb to one set of people, will seem ridiculous to another, such is life—but your journal will surely make a great sensation. As you are capable of wishing to avoid your triumph, and as you were only covered with rags when you were received, out of charity into this house, where you wish to figure as the great lady, which does not suit your shape for more reasons than one, we enclose in the present five hundred francs to pay for your day-book, and prevent your being without resources, in case you should be modest enough to shrink from the congratulations which await you, certain to overwhelm you by to-morrow, for, at this hour, your journal is already in circulation.
"One of your brethren,
"A REAL MOTHER BUNCH."
The vulgar, mocking, and insolent tone of this letter, which was purposely written in the character of a jealous lackey, dissatisfied with the admission of the unfortunate creature into the house, had been calculated with infernal skill and was sure to produce the effect intended.
"Oh, good heaven!" were the only words the unfortunate girl could pronounce, in her stupor and alarm.
Now, if we remember in what passionate terms she had expressed her love for her adopted brother, if we recall many passages of this manuscript, in which she revealed the painful wounds often inflicted on her by Agricola without knowing it, and if we consider how great was her terror of ridicule, we shall understand her mad despair on reading this infamous letter. Mother Bunch did not think for a moment of all the noble words and touching narratives contained in her journal. The one horrible idea which weighed down the troubled spirit of the unfortunate creature, was, that on the morrow Agricola, Mdlle. de Cardoville, and an insolent and mocking crowd, would be informed of this ridiculous love, which would, she imagined, crush her with shame and confusion. This new blow was so stunning, that the recipient staggered a moment beneath the unexpected shock. For some minutes, she remained completely inert and helpless; then, upon reflection, she suddenly felt conscious of a terrible necessity.
This hospitable mansion, where she had found a sure refuge after so many misfortunes, must be left for ever. The trembling timidity and sensitive delicacy of the poor creature did not permit her to remain a minute more in this dwelling, where the most secret recesses of her soul had been laid open, profaned, and exposed no doubt to sarcasm and contempt. She did not think of demanding justice and revenge from Mdlle. de Cardoville. To cause a ferment of trouble and irritation in this house, at the moment of quitting it, would have appeared to her ingratitude towards her benefactress. She did not seek to discover the author or the motive of this odious robbery and insulting letter. Why should she, resolved, as she was, to fly from the humiliations with which she was threatened? She had a vague notion (as indeed was intended), that this infamy might be the work of some of the servants, jealous of the affectionate deference shown her by Mdlle. de Cardoville—and this thought filled her with despair. Those pages—so painfully confidential, which she would not have ventured to impart to the most tender and indulgent mother, because, written as it were with her heart's blood, they painted with too cruel a fidelity the thousand secret wounds of her soul—those pages were to serve, perhaps served even now, for the jest and laughing-stock of the lackeys of the mansion.
The money which accompanied this letter, and the insulting way in which it was offered, rather tended to confirm her suspicions. It was intended that the fear of misery should not be the obstacle of her leaving the house. The workgirl's resolution was soon taken, with that calm and firm resignation which was familiar to her. She rose, with somewhat bright and haggard eyes, but without a tear in them. Since the day before, she had wept too much. With a trembling, icy hand, she wrote these words on a paper, which she left by the side of the bank-note: "May Mdlle. de Cardoville be blessed for all that she has done for me, and forgive me for having left her house, where I can remain no longer."
Having written this, Mother Bunch threw into the fire the infamous letter, which seemed to burn her hands. Then, taking a last look at her chamber, furnished so comfortably, she shuddered involuntarily as she thought of the misery that awaited her—a misery more frightful than that of which she had already been the victim, for Agricola's mother had departed with Gabriel, and the unfortunate girl could no longer, as formerly, be consoled in her distress by the almost maternal affection of Dagobert's wife. To live alone—quite alone—with the thought that her fatal passion for Agricola was laughed at by everybody, perhaps even by himself—such were the future prospects of the hunchback. This future terrified her—a dark desire crossed her mind—she shuddered, and an expression of bitter joy contracted her features. Resolved to go, she made some steps towards the door, when, in passing before the fireplace, she saw her own image in the glass, pale as death, and clothed in black; then it struck her that she wore a dress which did not belong to her, and she remembered a passage in the letter, which alluded to the rags she had on before she entered that house. "True!" said she, with a heart breaking smile, as she looked at her black garments; "they would call me a thief."
And, taking her candle, she entered the little dressing room, and put on again the poor, old clothes, which she had preserved as a sort of pious remembrance of her misfortunes. Only at this instant did her tears flow abundantly. She wept—not in sorrow at resuming the garb of misery, but in gratitude; for all the comforts around her, to which she was about to bid an eternal adieu, recalled to her mind at every step the delicacy and goodness of Mdlle. de Cardoville: therefore, yielding to an almost involuntary impulse, after she had put on her poor, old clothes, she fell on her knees in the middle of the room, and, addressing herself in thought to Mdlle. de Cardoville, she exclaimed, in a voice broken by convulsive sobs: "Adieu! oh, for ever, adieu!—You, that deigned to call me friend—and sister!"
Suddenly, she rose in alarm; she heard steps in the corridor, which led from the garden to one of the doors of her apartment, the other door opening into the parlor. It was Florine, who (alas! too late) was bringing back the manuscript. Alarmed at this noise of footsteps, and believing herself already the laughing-stock of the house. Mother Bunch rushed from the room, hastened across the parlor, gained the court-yard, and knocked at the window of the porter's lodge. The house-door opened, and immediately closed upon her. And so the workgirl left Cardoville House.
Adrienne was thus deprived of a devoted, faithful, and vigilant guardian. Rodin was delivered from an active and sagacious antagonist, whom he had always, with good reason, feared. Having, as we have seen, guessed Mother Bunch's love for Agricola, and knowing her to be a poet, the Jesuit supposed, logically enough that she must have written secretly some verses inspired by this fatal and concealed passion. Hence the order given to Florine, to try and discover some written evidence of this love; hence this letter, so horribly effective in its coarse ribaldry, of which, it must be observed, Florine did not know the contents, having received it after communicating a summary of the contents of the manuscript, which, the first time, she had only glanced through without taking it away. We have said, that Florine, yielding too late to a generous repentance, had reached Mother Bunch's apartment, just as the latter quitted the house in consternation.
Perceiving a light in the dressing-room, the waiting-maid hastened thither. She saw upon a chair the black dress that Mother Bunch had just taken off, and, a few steps further, the shabby little trunk, open and empty, in which she had hitherto preserved her poor garments. Florine's heart sank within her; she ran to the secretary; the disorder of the card-board boxes, the note for five hundred francs left by the side of the two lines written to Mdlle. de Cardoville, all proved that her obedience to Rodin's orders had borne fatal fruit, and that Mother Bunch had quitted the house for ever. Finding the uselessness of her tardy resolution, Florine resigned herself with a sigh to the necessity of delivering the manuscript to Rodin. Then, forced by the fatality of her miserable position to console herself for evil by evil, she considered that the hunchback's departure would at least make her treachery less dangerous.
Two days after these events, Adrienne received the following note from Rodin, in answer to a letter she had written him, to inform him of the work-girl's inexplicable departure:
"MY DEAR YOUNG LADY;—Obliged to set out this morning for the factory of the excellent M. Hardy, whither I am called by an affair of importance, it is impossible for me to pay you my humble respects. You ask me what I think of the disappearance of this poor girl? I really do not know. The future will, I doubt not, explain all to her advantage. Only, remember what I told you at Dr. Baleinier's, with regard to a certain society and its secret emissaries, with whom it has the art of surrounding those it wishes to keep a watch on. I accuse no one; but let us only recall facts. This poor girl accused me; and I am, as you know, the most faithful of your servants. She possessed nothing; and yet five hundred francs were found in her secretary. You loaded her with favors; and she leaves your house without even explaining the cause of this extraordinary flight. I draw no conclusion, my dear young lady; I am always unwilling to condemn without evidence; but reflect upon all this, and be on your guard, for you have perhaps escaped a great danger. Be more circumspect and suspicious than ever; such at least is the respectful advice of your most obedient, humble servant,
CHAPTER XLIX. THE TRYSTING-PLACE OF THE WOLVES.
It was a Sunday morning the very day on which Mdlle. de Cardoville had received Rodin's letter with regard to Mother Bunch's disappearance. Two men were talking to together, seated at a table in one of the public houses in the little village of Villiers, situated at no great distance from Hardy's factory. The village was for the most part inhabited by quarrymen and stonecutters, employed in working the neighboring quarries. Nothing can be ruder and more laborious, and at the same time less adequately paid, than the work of this class of people. Therefore, as Agricola had told Mother Bunch, they drew painful comparisons between their condition, almost always miserable, and the comfort and comparative ease enjoyed by M. Hardy's workmen, thanks to his generous and intelligent management, and to the principles of association and community which he had put in practice amongst them. Misery and ignorance are always the cause of great evils. Misery is easily excited to anger, and ignorance soon yields to perfidious counsels. For a long time, the happiness of M. Hardy's workmen had been naturally envied, but not with a jealousy amounting to hatred. As soon, however, as the secret enemies of the manufacturer, uniting with his rival Baron Tripeaud, had an interest in changing this peaceful state of things—it changed accordingly.
With diabolical skill and perseverance they succeeded in kindling the most evil passions. By means of chosen emissaries, they applied to those quarrymen and stonecutters of the neighborhood, whose bad conduct had aggravated their misery. Notorious for their turbulence, audacity, and energy, these men might exercise a dangerous influence on the majority of their companions, who were peaceful, laborious, and honest, but easily intimidated by violence. These turbulent leaders, previously embittered by misfortune, were soon impressed with an exaggerated idea of the happiness of M. Hardy's workmen, and excited to a jealous hatred of them. They went still further; the incendiary sermons of an abbe, a member of the Jesuits, who had come expressly from Paris to preach during Lent against M. Hardy, acted powerfully on the minds of the women, who filled the church, whilst their husbands were haunting the taverns. Profiting by the growing fear, which the approach of the Cholera then inspired, the preacher struck with terror these weak and credulous imaginations by pointing to M. Hardy's factory as a centre of corruption and damnation, capable of drawing down the vengeance of Heaven, and bringing the fatal scourge upon the country. Thus the men, already inflamed with envy, were still more excited by the incessant urgency of their wives, who, maddened by the abbe's sermons, poured their curses on that band of atheists, who might bring down so many misfortunes upon them and their children. Some bad characters, belonging to the factory of Baron Tripeaud, and paid by him (for it was a great interest the honorable manufacturer had in the ruin of M. Hardy), came to augment the general irritation, and to complete it by raising one of those alarming union-questions, which in our day have unfortunately caused so much bloodshed. Many of M. Hardy's workmen, before they entered his employ, had belonged to a society or union, called the Devourers; while many of the stonecutters in the neighboring quarries belonged to a society called the Wolves. Now, for a long time, an implacable rivalry had existed between the Wolves and Devourers, and brought about many sanguinary struggles, which are the more to be deplored, as, in some respects, the idea of these unions is excellent, being founded on the fruitful and mighty principle of association. But unfortunately, instead of embracing all trades in one fraternal communion, these unions break up the working-class into distinct and hostile societies, whose rivalry often leads to bloody collisions.(27) For the last week, the Wolves, excited by so many different importunities, burned to discover an occasion or a pretext to come to blows with the Devourers; but the latter, not frequenting the public-houses, and hardly leaving the factory during the week, had hitherto rendered such a meeting impossible, and the Wolves had been forced to wait for the Sunday with ferocious impatience.
Moreover, a great number of the quarrymen and stonecutters, being peaceable and hard-working people, had refused, though Wolves themselves to join this hostile manifestation against the Devourers of M. Hardy's factory; the leaders had been obliged to recruit their forces from the vagabonds and idlers of the barriers, whom the attraction of tumult and disorder had easily enlisted under the flag of the warlike Wolves. Such then was the dull fermentation, which agitated the little village of Villiers, whilst the two men of whom we have spoken were at table in the public-house.
These men had asked for a private room, that they might be alone. One of them was still young, and pretty well dressed. But the disorder in his clothes, his loose cravat, his shirt spotted with wine, his dishevelled hair, his look of fatigue, his marble complexion, his bloodshot eyes, announced that a night of debauch had preceded this morning; whilst his abrupt and heavy gesture, his hoarse voice, his look, sometimes brilliant, and sometimes stupid, proved that to the last fumes of the intoxication of the night before, were joined the first attacks of a new state of drunkenness. The companion of this man said to him, as he touched his glass with his own: "Your health, my boy!"
"Yours!" answered the young man; "though you look to me like the devil."
"How did you come to know me?"
"Do you repent that you ever knew me?"
"Who told you that I was a prisoner at Sainte-Pelagie?"
"Didn't I take you out of prison?"
"Why did you take me out?"
"Because I have a good heart."
"You are very fond of me, perhaps—just as the butcher likes the ox that he drives to the slaughter-house."
"Are you mad?"
"A man does not pay a hundred thousand francs for another without a motive."
"I have a motive."
"What is it? what do you want to do with me?"
"A jolly companion that will spend his money like a man, and pass every night like the last. Good wine, good cheer, pretty girls, and gay songs. Is that such a bad trade?"
After he had remained a moment without answering, the young man replied with a gloomy air: "Why, on the eve of my leaving prison, did you attach this condition to my freedom, that I should write to my mistress to tell her that I would never see her again! Why did you exact this letter from me?"
"A sigh! what, are you still thinking of her?"
"You are wrong. Your mistress is far from Paris by this time. I saw her get into the stage-coach, before I came to take you out of Sainte Pelagie."
"Yes, I was stifled in that prison. To get out, I would have given my soul to the devil. You thought so, and therefore you came to me; only, instead of my soul, you took Cephyse from me. Poor Bacchanal-Queen! And why did you do it? Thousand thunders! Will you tell me!"
"A man as much attached to his mistress as you are is no longer a man. He wants energy, when the occasion requires."
"Let us drink!"
"You make me drink too much brandy."
"Bah! look at me!"
"That's what frightens me. It seems something devilish. A bottle of brandy does not even make you wink. You must have a stomach of iron and a head of marble."
"I have long travelled in Russia. There we drink to roast ourselves."
"And here to only warm. So—let's drink—but wine."
"Nonsense! wine is fit for children. Brandy for men like us!"
"Well, then, brandy; but it burns, and sets the head on fire, and then we see all the flames of hell!"
"That's how I like to see you, hang it!"
"But when you told me that I was too much attached to my mistress, and that I should want energy when the occasion required, of what occasion did you speak?"
"Let us drink!"
"Stop a moment, comrade. I am no more of a fool than others. Your half words have taught me something.
"You know that I have been a workman, that I have many companions, and that, being a good fellow, I am much liked amongst them. You want me for a catspaw, to catch other chestnuts?"
"You must be some getter-up of riots—some speculator in revolts."
"You are travelling for some anonymous society, that trades in musket shots."
"Are you a coward?"
"I burned powder in July, I can tell you—make no mistakes!"
"You would not mind burning some again?"
"Just as well that sort of fireworks as any other. Only I find revolutions more agreeable than useful; all that I got from the barricades of the three days was burnt breeches and a lost jacket. All the cause won by me, with its 'Forward! March!' says."
"You know many of Hardy's workmen?"
"Oh! that's why you have brought me down here?"
"Yes—you will meet with many of the workmen from the factory."
"Men from Hardy's take part in a row? No, no; they are too well off for that. You have been sold."
"You will see presently."
"I tell you they are well off. What have they to complain of?"
"What of their brethren—those who have not so good a master, and die of hunger and misery, and call on them for assistance? Do you think they will remain deaf to such a summons? Hardy is only an exception. Let the people but give a good pull all together, and the exception will become the rule, and all the world be happy."
"What you say there is true, but it would be a devil of a pull that would make an honest man out of my old master, Baron Tripeaud, who made me what I am—an out-and-out rip."
"Hardy's workmen are coming; you are their comrade, and have no interest in deceiving them. They will believe you. Join with me in persuading them—"
"To leave this factory, in which they grow effeminate and selfish, and forget their brothers."
"But if they leave the factory, how are they to live?"
"We will provide for that—on the great day."
"And what's to be done till then?"
"What you have done last night—drink, laugh, sing, and, by way of work, exercise themselves privately in the use of arms.'
"Who will bring these workmen here?"
"Some one has already spoken to them. They have had printed papers, reproaching them with indifference to their brothers. Come, will you support me?"
"I'll support you—the more readily as I cannot very well support myself. I only cared for Cephyse in the world; I know that I am on a bad road; you are pushing me on further; let the ball roll!—Whether we go to the devil one way or the other is not of much consequence. Let's drink."
"Drink to our next night's fun; the last was only apprenticeship."
"Of what then are you made? I looked at you, and never saw you either blush or smile, or change countenance. You are like a man of iron."
"I am not a lad of fifteen. It would take something more to make me laugh. I shall laugh to-night."
"I don't know if it's the brandy; but, devil take me, if you don't frighten me when you say you shall laugh tonight!"
So saying, the young man rose, staggering; he began to be once more intoxicated.
There was a knock at the door. "Come in!" The host made his appearance.
"What's the matter?"
"There's a young man below, who calls himself Olivier. He asks for M. Morok."
"That's right. Let him came up." The host went out.
"It is one of our men, but he is alone," said Morok, whose savage countenance expressed disappointment. "It astonishes me, for I expected a good number. Do you know him?"
"Olivier? Yes—a fair chap, I think."
"We shall see him directly. Here he is." A young man, with an open, bold, intelligent countenance, at this moment entered the room.
"What! old Sleepinbuff!" he exclaimed, at sight of Morok's companion.
"Myself. I have not seen you for an age, Olivier."
"Simple enough, my boy. We do not work at the same place."
"But you are alone!" cried Morok; and pointing to Sleepinbuff, he added: "You may speak before him—he is one of us. But why are you alone?"
"I come alone, but in the name of my comrades."
"Oh!" said Morok, with a sigh of satisfaction, "they consent."
"They refuse—just as I do!"
"What, the devil! they refuse? Have they no more courage than women?" cried Morok, grinding his teeth with rage.
"Hark ye," answered Olivier, coolly. "We have received your letters, and seen your agent. We have had proof that he is really connected with great societies, many members of which are known to us."
"Well! why do you hesitate?"
"First of all, nothing proves that these societies are ready to make a movement."
"I tell you they are."
"He—tells you—they are," said Sleepinbuff, stammering "and I (hic!) affirm it. Forward! March!"
"That's not enough," replied Olivier. "Besides, we have reflected upon it. For a week the factory was divided. Even yesterday the discussion was too warm to be pleasant. But this morning Father Simon called to him; we explained ourselves fully before him, and he brought us all to one mind. We mean to wait, and if any disturbance breaks out, we shall see."
"Is that your final word?"
"It is our last word."
"Silence!" cried Sleepinbuff, suddenly, as he listened, balancing himself on his tottering legs. "It is like the noise of a crowd not far off." A dull sound was indeed audible, which became every moment more and more distinct, and at length grew formidable.
"What is that?" said Olivier, in surprise.
"Now," replied Morok, smiling with a sinister air, "I remember the host told me there was a great ferment in the village against the factory. If you and your other comrades had separated from Hardy's other workmen, as I hoped, these people who are beginning to howl would have been for you, instead of against you."
"This was a trap, then, to set one half of M. Hardy's workmen against the other!" cried Olivier; "you hoped that we should make common cause with these people against the factory, and that—"
The young man had not time to finish. A terrible outburst of shouts, howls, and hisses shook the tavern. At the same instant the door was abruptly opened, and the host, pale and trembling, hurried into the chamber, exclaiming: "Gentlemen! do any of you work at M. Hardy's factory?"
"I do," said Olivier.
"Then you are lost. Here are the Wolves in a body, saying there are Devourers here from M. Hardy's, and offering them battle—unless the Devourers will give up the factory, and range themselves on their side."
"It was a trap, there can be no doubt of it!" cried Olivier, looking at Morok and Sleepinbuff, with a threatening air; "if my mates had come, we were all to be let in."
"I lay a trap, Olivier?" stammered Jacques Rennepont. "Never!"
"Battle to the Devourers! or let them join the Wolves!" cried the angry crowd with one voice, as they appeared to invade the house.
"Come!" exclaimed the host. Without giving Olivier time to answer, he seized him by the arm, and opening a window which led to a roof at no very great height from the ground, he said to him: "Make your escape by this window, let yourself slide down, and gain the fields; it is time."
As the young workman hesitated, the host added, with a look of terror:
"Alone, against a couple of hundred, what can you do? A minute more, and you are lost. Do you not hear them? They have entered the yard; they are coming up."
Indeed, at this moment, the groans, the hisses, and cheers redoubled in violence; the wooden staircase which led to the first story shook beneath the quick steps of many persons, and the shout arose, loud and piercing: "Battle to the Devourers!"
"Fly, Olivier!" cried Sleepinbuff, almost sobered by the danger.
Hardly had he pronounced the words when the door of the large room, which communicated with the small one in which they were, was burst open with a frightful crash.
"Here they are!" cried the host, clasping his hands in alarm. Then, running to Olivier, he pushed him, as it were, out of the window; for, with one foot on the sill, the workman still hesitated.
The window once closed, the publican returned towards Morok the instant the latter entered the large room, into which the leaders of the Wolves had just forced an entry, whilst their companions were vociferating in the yard and on the staircase. Eight or ten of these madmen, urged by others to take part in these scenes of disorder, had rushed first into the room, with countenances inflamed by wine and anger; most of them were armed with long sticks. A blaster, of Herculean strength and stature, with an old red handkerchief about his head, its ragged ends streaming over his shoulders, miserably dressed in a half-worn goat-skin, brandished an iron drilling-rod, and appeared to direct the movements. With bloodshot eyes, threatening and ferocious countenance, he advanced towards the small room, as if to drive back Morok, and exclaimed, in a voice of thunder:
"Where are the Devourers?—the Wolves will eat 'em up!"
The host hastened to open the door of the small room, saying: "There is no one here, my friends—no one. Look for yourselves."
"It is true," said the quarryman, surprised, after peeping into the room; "where are they, then? We were told there were a dozen of them here. They should have marched with us against the factory, or there'd 'a been a battle, and the Wolves would have tried their teeth!"
"If they have not come," said another, "they will come. Let's wait."
"Yes, yes; we will wait for them."
"We will look close at each other."
"If the Wolves want to see the Devourers," said Morok, "why not go and howl round the factory of the miscreant atheists? At the first howl of the Wolves they will come out, and give you battle."
"They will give you—battle," repeated Sleepinbuff, mechanically.
"Unless the Wolves are afraid of the Devourers," added Morok.
"Since you talk of fear, you shall go with us, and see who's afraid!" cried the formidable blaster, and in a thundering voice, he advanced towards Morok.
A number of voices joined in with, "Who says the Wolves are afraid of the Devourers?"
"It would be the first time!"
"Battle! battle! and make an end of it!"
"We are tired of all this. Why should we be so miserable, and they so well off?"
"They have said that quarrymen are brutes, only fit to torn wheels in a shaft, like dogs to turn spits," cried an emissary of Baron Tripeaud's.
"And that the Devourers would make themselves caps with wolf-skin," added another.
"Neither they nor their wives ever go to mass. They are pagans and dogs!" cried an emissary of the preaching abbe.
"The men might keep their Sunday as they pleased; but their wives not to go to mass!—it is abominable.
"And, therefore, the curate has said that their factory, because of its abominations, might bring down the cholera to the country."
"True? he said that in his sermon."
"Our wives heard it."
"Yes, yes; down with the Devourers, who want to bring the cholera on the country!"
"Hooray, for a fight!" cried the crowd in chorus.
"To the factory, my brave Wolves!" cried Morok, with the voice of a Stentor; "on to the factory!"
"Yes! to the factory! to the factory!" repeated the crowd, with furious stamping; for, little by little, all who could force their way into the room, or up the stairs, had there collected together.
These furious cries recalling Jacques for a moment to his senses, he whispered to Morok: "It is slaughter you would provoke? I wash my hands of it."
"We shall have time to let them know at the factory. We can give these fellows the slip on the road," answered Morok. Then he cried aloud, addressing the host, who was terrified at this disorder: "Brandy!—let us drink to the health of the brave Wolves! I will stand treat." He threw some money to the host, who disappeared, and soon returned with several bottles of brandy, and some glasses.
"What! glasses?" cried Morok. "Do jolly companions, like we are, drink out of glasses?" So saying, he forced out one of the corks, raised the neck of the bottle to his lips, and, having drunk a deep draught, passed it to the gigantic quarryman.
"That's the thing!" said the latter. "Here's in honor of the treat!—None but a sneak will refuse, for this stuff will sharpen the Wolves' teeth!"
"Here's to your health, mates!" said Morok, distributing the bottles.
"There will be blood at the end of all this," muttered Sleepinbuff, who, in spite of his intoxication, perceived all the danger of these fatal incitements. Indeed, a large portion of the crowd was already quitting the yard of the public-house, and advancing rapidly towards M. Hardy's factory.
Those of the workmen and inhabitants of the village, who had not chosen to take any part in this movement of hostility (they were the majority), did not make their appearance, as this threatening troop passed along the principal street; but a good number of women, excited to fanaticism by the sermons of the abbe, encouraged the warlike assemblage with their cries. At the head of the troop advanced the gigantic blaster, brandishing his formidable bar, followed by a motley mass, armed with sticks and stones. Their heads still warmed by their recent libations of brandy, they had now attained a frightful state of frenzy. Their countenances were ferocious, inflamed, terrible. This unchaining of the worst passions seemed to forbode the most deplorable consequences. Holding each other arm-in-arm, and walking four or five together, the Wolves gave vent to their excitement in war-songs, which closed with the following verse:
"Forward! full of assurance! Let us try our vigorous arms! They have wearied out our prudence; Let us show we've no alarms. Sprung from a monarch glorious,(28) To-day we'll not grow pale, Whether we win the fight, or fail, Whether we die, or are victorious! Children of Solomon, mighty king, All your efforts together bring, Till in triumph we shall sing!"
Morok and Jacques had disappeared whilst the tumultuous troop were leaving the tavern to hasten to the factory.
(27) Let it be noted, to the working-man's credit, that such outrageous scenes become more and more rare as he is enlightened to the full consciousness of his worth. Such better tendencies are to be attributed to the just influence of an excellent tract on trades' union written by M. Agricole Perdignier, and published in 1841, Paris. This author, a joiner, founded at his own expense an establishment in the Faubourg St. Antoine, where some forty or fifty of his trade lodged, and were given, after the day's work, a course of geometry, etc., applied to wood carving. We went to one of the lectures, and found as much clearness in the professor as attention and intelligence in the audience. At ten, after reading selections, all the lodgers retire, forced by their scanty wages to sleep, perhaps, four in a room. M. Perdignier informed us that study and instruction were such powerful ameliorators, that, during six years, he had only one of his lodgers to expel. "In a few days," he remarked, "the bad eggs find out, this is no place for them to addle sound ones!" We are happy to hear, reader, public homage to a learned and upright man, devoted to his fellow-workmen.
(28) The Wolves (among others) ascribe the institution of their company to King Solomon. See the curious work by M. Agricole Perdignier, from which the war-song is extracted.
CHAPTER L. THE COMMON DWELLING-HOUSE
Whilst the Wolves, as we have just seen, prepared a savage attack on the Devourers, the factory of M. Hardy had that morning a festal air, perfectly in accordance with the serenity of the sky; for the wind was from the north, and pretty sharp for a fine day in March. The clock had just struck nine in the Common Dwelling-house of the workmen, separated from the workshops by a broad path planted with trees. The rising sun bathed in light this imposing mass of buildings, situated a league from Paris, in a gay and salubrious locality, from which were visible the woody and picturesque hills, that on this side overlook the great city. Nothing could be plainer, and yet more cheerful than the aspect of the Common Dwelling-house of the workmen. Its slanting roof of red tiles projected over white walls, divided here and there by broad rows of bricks, which contrasted agreeably with the green color of the blinds on the first and second stories.
These buildings, open to the south and east, were surrounded by a large garden of about ten acres, partly planted with trees, and partly laid out in fruit and kitchen-garden. Before continuing this description, which perhaps will appear a little like a fairy-tale, let us begin by saying, that the wonders, of which we are about to present the sketch, must not to be considered Utopian dreams; nothing, on the contrary, could be of a more positive character, and we are able to assert, and even to prove (what in our time is of great weight and interest), that these wonders were the result of an excellent speculation, and represented an investment as lucrative as it was secure. To undertake a vast, noble, and most useful enterprise; to bestow on a considerable number of human creatures an ideal prosperity, compared with the frightful, almost homicidal doom, to which they are generally condemned; to instruct them, and elevate them in their own esteem; to make them prefer to the coarse pleasures of the tavern, or rather to the fatal oblivion which they find there, as an escape from the consciousness of their deplorable destiny, the pleasures, of the intellect and the enjoyments of art; in a word, to make men moral by making them happy, and finally, thanks to this generous example, so easy of imitation, to take a place amongst the benefactors of humanity—and yet, at the same time to do, as it were, without knowing it, an excellent stroke of business—may appear fabulous. And yet this was the secret of the wonders of which we speak.