Let us enter the interior of the factory. Ignorant of Mother Bunch's cruel disappearance, Agricola gave himself up to the most happy, thoughts as he recalled Angela's image, and, having finished dressing with unusual care, went in search of his betrothed.
Let us say two words on the subject of the lodging, which the smith occupied in the Common Dwelling-house, at the incredibly low rate of seventy-five francs per annum like the other bachelors on the establishment. This lodging, situated on the second story, was comprised of a capital chamber and bedroom, with a southern aspect, and looking on the garden; the pine floor was perfectly white and clean; the iron bedstead was supplied with a good mattress and warm coverings; a gas burner and a warm-air pipe were also introduced into the rooms, to furnish light and heat as required; the walls were hung with pretty fancy papering, and had curtains to match; a chest of drawers, a walnut table, a few chairs, a small library, comprised Agricola's furniture. Finally, in the large and light closet, was a place for his clothes, a dressing table, and large zinc basin, with an ample supply of water. If we compare this agreeable, salubrious, comfortable lodging, with the dark, icy, dilapidated garret, for which the worthy fellow paid ninety francs at his mother's, and to get to which he had more than a league and a half to go every evening, we shall understand the sacrifice he made to his affection for that excellent woman.
Agricola, after casting a last glance of tolerable satisfaction at his looking-glass, while he combed his moustache and imperial, quitted his chamber, to go and join Angela in the women's workroom. The corridor, along which he had to pass, was broad, well-lighted from above, floored with pine, and extremely clean. Notwithstanding some seeds of discord which had been lately sown by M. Hardy's enemies amongst his workmen, until now so fraternally united, joyous songs were heard in almost all the apartments which skirted the corridor, and, as Agricola passed before several open doors, he exchanged a cordial good-morrow with many of his comrades. The smith hastily descended the stairs, crossed the court yard, in which was a grass-plot planted with trees, with a fountain in the centre, and gained the other wing of the building. There was the workroom, in which a portion of the wives and daughters of the associated artisans, who happened not to be employed in the factory, occupied themselves in making up the linen. This labor, joined to the enormous saving effected by the purchase of the materials wholesale, reduced to an incredible extent the price of each article. After passing through this workroom, a vast apartment looking on the garden, well-aired in summer,(29) and well-warmed in winter, Agricola knocked at the door of the rooms occupied by Angela's mother.
If we say a few words with regard to this lodging, situated on the first story, with an eastern aspect, and also looking on the garden, it is that we may tape it as a specimen of the habitation of a family in this association, supplied at the incredibly small price of one hundred and twenty-five francs per annum.
A small entrance, opening on the corridor, led to a large room, on each side of which was a smaller chamber, destined for the family, when the boys and girls were too big to continue to sleep in the two dormitories, arranged after the fashion of a large school, and reserved for the children of both sexes. Every night the superintendence of these dormitories was entrusted to a father and mother of a family, belonging to the association. The lodging of which we speak, being, like all the others, disencumbered of the paraphernalia of a kitchen—for the cooking was done in common, and on a large scale, in another part of the building—was kept extremely clean. A pretty large piece of carpet, a comfortable arm-chair, some pretty-looking china on a stand of well polished wood, some prints hung against the walls, a clock of gilt bronze, a bed, a chest of drawers, and a mahogany secretary, announced that the inhabitants of this apartment enjoyed not only the necessaries, but some of the luxuries of life. Angela, who, from this time, might be called Agricola's betrothed, justified in every point the flattering portrait which the smith had drawn of her in his interview with poor Mother Bunch. The charming girl, seventeen years of age at most, dressed with as much simplicity as neatness, was seated by the side of her mother. When Agricola entered, she blushed slightly at seeing him.
"Mademoiselle," said Agricola, "I have come to keep my promise, if your mother has no objection."
"Certainly, M. Agricola," answered the mother of the young girl cordially. "She would not go over the Common Dwelling-house with her father, her brother, or me, because she wished to have that pleasure with you today. It is quite right that you, who can talk so well, should do the honors of the house to the new-comer. She has been waiting for you an hour, and with such impatience!"
"Pray excuse me, mademoiselle," said Agricola, gayly; "in thinking of the pleasure of seeing you, I forgot the hour. That is my only excuse."
"Oh, mother!" said the young girl, in a tone of mild reproach, and becoming red as a cherry, "why did you say that?"
"Is it true, yes or no? I do not blame you for it; on the contrary. Go with M. Agricola, child, and he will tell you, better than I can, what all the workmen of the factory owe to M, Hardy."
"M. Agricola," said Angela, tying the ribbons of her pretty cap, "what a pity that your good little adopted sister is not with us."
"Mother Bunch?—yes, you are right, mademoiselle; but that is only a pleasure put off, and the visit she paid us yesterday will not be the last."
Having embraced her mother, the girl took Agricola's arm, and they went out together.
"Dear me, M. Agricola," said Angela; "if you knew how much I was surprised on entering this fine house, after being accustomed to see so much misery amongst the poor workmen in our country, and in which I too have had my share, whilst here everybody seems happy and contented. It is really like fairy-land; I think I am in a dream, and when I ask my mother the explanation of these wonders, she tells me, 'M. Agricola will explain it all to you.'"
"Do you know why I am so happy to undertake that delightful task, mademoiselle?" said Agricola, with an accent at once grave and tender. "Nothing could be more in season."
"Why so, M. Agricola?"
"Because, to show you this house, to make you acquainted with all the resources of our association, is to be able to say to you: 'Here, the workman, sure of the present, sure of the future, is not, like so many of his poor brothers, obliged to renounce the sweetest want of the heart—the desire of choosing a companion for life—in the fear of uniting misery to misery."'
Angela cast down her eyes, and blushed.
"Here the workman may safely yield to the hope of knowing the sweet joys of a family, sure of not having his heart torn hereafter by the sight of the horrible privations of those who are dear to him; here, thanks to order and industry, and the wise employment of the strength of all, men, women, and children live happy and contented. In a ward, to explain all this to you, mademoiselle," added Agricola, smiling with a still more tender air, "is to prove, that here we can do nothing more reasonable than love, nothing wiser than marry."
"M. Agricola," answered Angela, in a slightly agitated voice, and blushing still more as she spoke, "suppose we were to begin our walk."
"Directly, mademoiselle," replied the smith, pleased at the trouble he had excited in that ingenuous soul. "But, come; we are near the dormitory of the little girls. The chirping birds have long left their nests. Let us go there."
"Willingly, M. Agricola."
The young smith and Angela soon entered a spacious dormitory, resembling that of a first-rate boarding school. The little iron bedsteads were arranged in symmetrical order; at each end were the beds of the two mothers of families, who took the superintendence by turns.
"Dear me! how well it is arranged, M. Agricola, and how neat and clean! Who is it that takes such good care of it?"
"The children themselves; we have no servants here. There is an extraordinary emulation between these urchins—as to who shall make her bed most neatly, and it amuses them quite as much as making a bed for their dolls. Little girls, you know, delight in playing at keeping house. Well, here they play at it in good earnest, and the house is admirably kept in consequence."
"Oh! I understand. They turn to account their natural taste for all such kinds of amusement."
"That is the whole secret. You will see them everywhere usefully occupied, and delighted at the importance of the employments given them."
"Oh, M. Agricola!" said Angela, timidly, "only compare these fine dormitories, so warm and healthy, with the horrible icy garrets, where children are heaped pell-mell on a wretched straw-mattress, shivering with cold, as in the case with almost all the workmen's families in our country!"
"And in Paris, mademoiselle, it is even worse."
"Oh! how kind, generous, and rich must M. Hardy be, to spend so much money in doing good!"
"I am going to astonish you, mademoiselle!" said Agricola, with a smile; "to astonish you so much, that perhaps you will not believe me."
"Why so, M. Agricola?"
"There is not certainly in the world a man with a better and more generous heart than M. Hardy; he does good for its own sake and without thinking of his personal interest. And yet, Mdlle. Angela, were he the most selfish and avaricious of men, he would still find it greatly to his advantage to put us in a position to be as comfortable as we are."
"Is it possible, M. Agricola? You tell me so, and I believe it; but if good can so easily be done, if there is even an advantage in doing it, why is it not more commonly attempted?"
"Ah! mademoiselle, it requires three gifts very rarely met with in the same person—knowledge, power and will."
"Alas! yes. Those who have the knowledge, have not the power."
"And those who have the power, have neither the knowledge nor the will."
"But how does M. Hardy find any advantage in the good he does for you?"
"I will explain that presently, mademoiselle."
"Oh, what a nice, sweet smell of fruit!" said Angela, suddenly.
"Our common fruit-store is close at hand. I wager we shall find there some of the little birds from the dormitory—not occupied in picking and stealing, but hard at work."
Opening a door, Agricola led Angela into a large room, furnished with shelves, on which the winter fruits were arranged in order. A number of children, from seven to eight years old, neatly and warmly clad, and glowing with health, exerted themselves cheerfully, under the superintendence of a woman, in separating and sorting the spoiled fruit.
"You see," said Agricola, "wherever it is possible, we make use of the children. These occupations are amusements for them, answering to the need of movement and activity natural to their age; and, in this way, we can employ the grown girls and the women to much better advantage."
"True, M. Agricola; how well it is all arranged."
"And if you saw what services the urchins in the kitchen render! Directed by one or two women, they do the work of eight or ten servants."
"In fact," said Angela, smiling, "at their age, we like so much to play at cooking dinner. They must be delighted."
"And, in the same way, under pretext of playing at gardening, they weed the ground, gather the fruit and vegetables, water the flowers, roll the paths, and so on. In a word, this army of infant-workers, who generally remain till ten or twelve years of age without being of any service, are here very useful. Except three hours of school, which is quite sufficient for them, from the age of six or seven their recreations are turned to good account, and the dear little creatures, by the saving of full-grown arms which they effect, actually gain more than they cost; and then, mademoiselle, do you not think there is something in the presence of childhood thus mixed up with every labor—something mild, pure, almost sacred, which has its influence on our words and actions, and imposes a salutary reserve? The coarsest man will respect the presence of children."
"The more one reflects, the more one sees that everything here is really designed for the happiness of all!" said Angela, in admiration.
"It has not been done without trouble. It was necessary to conquer prejudices, and break through customs. But see, Mdlle. Angela! here we are at the kitchen," added the smith, smiling; "is it not as imposing as that of a barrack or a public school?"
Indeed, the culinary department of the Common Dwelling-house was immense. All its utensils were bright and clean; and thanks to the marvellous and economical inventions of modern science (which are always beyond the reach of the poorer classes, to whom they are most necessary, because they can only be practised on a large scale), not only the fire on the hearth, and in the stoves, was fed with half the quantity of fuel that would have been consumed by each family individually, but the excess of the caloric sufficed, with the aid of well-constructed tubes, to spread a mild and equal warmth through all parts of the house. And here also children, under the direction of two women, rendered numerous services. Nothing could be more comic than the serious manner in which they performed their culinary functions; it was the same with the assistance they gave in the bakehouse, where, at an extraordinary saving in the price (for they bought flour wholesale), they made an excellent household bread, composed of pure wheat and rye, so preferable to that whiter bread, which too often owes its apparent qualities to some deleterious substance.
"Good-day, Dame Bertrand," said Agricola, gayly, to a worthy matron, who was gravely contemplating the slow evolution of several spits, worthy of Gamache's Wedding so heavily were they laden with pieces of beef, mutton, and veal, which began to assume a fine golden brown color of the most attractive kind; "good-day, Dame Bertrand. According to the rule, I do not pass the threshold of the kitchen. I only wish it to be admired by this young lady, who is a new-comer amongst us."
"Admire, my lad, pray admire—and above all take notice, how good these brats are, and how well they work!" So saying, the matron pointed with the long ladle, which served her as a sceptre, to some fifteen children of both sexes, seated round a table, and deeply absorbed in the exercise of their functions, which consisted in peeling potatoes and picking herbs.
"We are, I see, to have a downright Belshazzar's feast, Dame Bertrand?" said Agricola, laughing.
"Faith, a feast like we have always, my lad. Here is our bill of fare for to-day. A good vegetable soup, roast beef with potatoes, salad, fruit, cheese; and for extras, it being Sunday, some currant tarts made by Mother Denis at the bakehouse, where the oven is heating now."
"What you tell me, Dame Bertrand, gives me a furious appetite," said Agricola, gayly. "One soon knows when it is your turn in the kitchen," added he, with a flattering air.
"Get along, do!" said the female Soyer on service, merrily.
"What astonishes me, so much, M. Agricola," said Angela, as they continued their walk, "is the comparison of the insufficient, unwholesome food of the workmen in our country, with that which is provided here."
"And yet we do not spend more than twenty-five sous a day, for much better food than we should get for three francs in Paris."
"But really it is hard to believe, M. Agricola. How is it possible?"
"It is thanks to the magic wand of M. Hardy. I will explain it all presently."
"Oh! how impatient I am to see M. Hardy!"
"You will soon see him—perhaps to-day; for he is expected every moment. But here is the refectory, which you do not yet know, as your family, like many others, prefer dining at home. See what a fine room, looking out on the garden, just opposite the fountain!"
It was indeed a vast hall, built in the form of a gallery, with ten windows opening on the garden. Tables, covered with shining oil-cloth, were ranged along the walls, so that, in winter, this apartment served in the evening, after work, as a place of meeting for those who preferred to pass an hour together, instead of remaining alone or with their families. Then, in this large hall, well warmed and brilliantly lighted with gas, some read, some played cards, some talked, and some occupied themselves with easy work.
"That is not all," said Agricola to the young girl; "I am sure you will like this apartment still better when I tell you, that on Thursdays and Sundays we make a ball-room of it, and on Tuesdays and Saturdays a concert-room."
"Yes," continued the smith, proudly, "we have amongst us musicians, quite capable of tempting us to dance. Moreover, twice a week, nearly all of us sing in chorus—men, women, and children. Unfortunately, this week, some disputes that have arisen in the factory have prevented our concerts."
"So many voices! that must be superb."
"It is very fine, I assure you. M. Hardy has always encouraged this amusement amongst us, which has, he says—and he is right—so powerful an effect on the mind and the manners. One winter, he sent for two pupils of the celebrated Wilhelm, and, since then, our school has made great progress. I assure you, Mdlle. Angela, that, without flattering ourselves, there is something truly exciting in the sound of two hundred voices, singing in chorus some hymn to Labor or Freedom. You shall hear it, and you will, I think, acknowledge that there is something great and elevating in the heart of man, in this fraternal harmony of voices, blending in one grave, sonorous, imposing sound."
"Oh! I believe it. But what happiness to inhabit here. It is a life of joy; for labor, mixed with recreation, becomes itself a pleasure."
"Alas! here, as everywhere, there are tears and sorrows," replied Agricola, sadly. "Do you see that isolated building, in a very exposed situation?"
"Yes; what is it?"
"That is our hospital for the sick. Happily, thanks to our healthy mode of life, it is not often full; an annual subscription enables us to have a good doctor. Moreover, a mutual benefit society is arranged in such a manner amongst us, that any one of us, in case of illness, receives two thirds of what he would have gained in health."
"How well it is all managed! And there, M. Agricola, on the other side of the grass-plot?"
"That is the wash-house, with water laid on, cold and hot; and under yonder shed is the drying-place: further on, you see the stables, and the lofts and granaries for the provender of the factory horses."
"But M. Agricola, will you tell me the secret of all these wonders?"
"In ten minutes you shall understand it all, mademoiselle."
Unfortunately, Angela's curiosity was for a while disappointed. The girl was now standing with Agricola close to the iron gate, which shut in the garden from the broad avenue that separated the factory from the Common Dwelling-house. Suddenly, the wind brought from the distance the sound of trumpets and military music; then was heard the gallop of two horses, approaching rapidly, and soon after a general officer made his appearance, mounted on a fine black charger, with a long flowing tail and crimson housings; he wore cavalry boots and white breeches, after the fashion of the empire; his uniform glittered with gold embroidery, the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor was passed over his right epaulet, with its four silver stars, and his hat had a broad gold border, and was crowned with a white plume, the distinctive sign reserved for the marshals of France. No warrior could have had a more martial and chivalrous air, or have sat more proudly on his war-horse. At the moment Marshal Simon (for it was he) arrived opposite the place where Angela and Agricola were standing, he drew up his horse suddenly, sprang lightly to the ground, and threw the golden reins to a servant in livery, who followed also on horseback.
"Where shall I wait for your grace?" asked the groom.
"At the end of the avenue," said the marshal.
And, uncovering his head respectfully, he advanced hastily with his hat in his hand, to meet a person whom Angela and Agricola had not previously perceived. This person soon appeared at a turn of the avenue; he was an old man, with an energetic, intelligent countenance. He wore a very neat blouse, and a cloth cap over his long, white hair. With his hands in his pocket, he was quietly smoking an old meerschaum pipe.
"Good-morning, father," said the marshal, respectfully, as he affectionately embraced the old workman, who, having tenderly returned the pressure, said to him: "Put on your hat, my boy. But how gay we are!" added he, with a smile.
"I have just been to a review, father, close by; and I took the opportunity to call on you as soon as possible."
"But shall I then not see my granddaughters to-day, as I do every Sunday?"
"They are coming in a carriage, father, and Dagobert accompanies them."
"But what is the matter? you appear full of thought."
"Indeed, father," said the marshal, with a somewhat agitated air, "I have serious things to talk about."
"Come in, then," said the old man, with some anxiety. The marshal and his father disappeared at the turn of the avenue.
Angela had been struck with amazement at seeing this brilliant General, who was entitled "your grace," salute an old workman in a blouse as his father; and, looking at Agricola with a confused air she said to him: "What, M. Agricola! this old workman—"
"Is the father of Marshal Duke de Ligny—the friend—yes, I may say the friend," added Agricola, with emotion, "of my father, who for twenty years served under him in war.'
"To be placed so high, and yet to be so respectful and tender to his father!" said Angela. "The marshal must have a very noble heart; but why does he let his father remain a workman?"
"Because Father Simon will not quit his trade and the factory for anything in the world. He was born a workman, and he will die a workman, though he is the father of a duke and marshal of France."
(29) See Adolphe Bobierre "On Air and Health," Paris, 1844.
CHAPTER LI. THE SECRET.
When the very natural astonishment which the arrival of Marshal Simon had caused in Angela had passed away, Agricola said to her with a smile: "I do not wish to take advantage of this circumstance, Mdlle. Angela, to spare you the account of the secret, by which all the wonders of our Common Dwelling-house are brought to pass."
"Oh! I should not have let you forget your promise, M. Agricola," answered Angela, "what you have already told me interests me too much for that."
"Listen, then. M. Hardy, like a true magician, has pronounced three cabalistic words: ASSOCIATION—COMMUNITY—FRATERNITY. We have understood the sense of these words, and the wonders you have seen have sprung from them, to our great advantage; and also, I repeat, to the great advantage of M. Hardy."
"It is that which appears so extraordinary, M. Agricola."
"Suppose, mademoiselle, that M. Hardy, instead of being what he is, had only been a cold-hearted speculator, looking merely to the profit, and saying to himself: 'To make the most of my factory, what is needed? Good work—great economy in the raw material—full employment of the workman's time; in a word, cheapness of manufacture, in order to produce cheaply—excellence of the thing produced, in order to sell dear.'"
"Truly, M. Agricola, no manufacturer could desire more."
"Well, mademoiselle, these conditions might have been fulfilled, as they have been, but how? Had M. Hardy only been a speculator, he might have said: 'At a distance from my factory, my workmen might have trouble to get there: rising earlier, they will sleep less; it is a bad economy to take from the sleep so necessary to those who toil. When they get feeble, the work suffers for it; then the inclemency of the seasons makes it worse; the workman arrives wet, trembling with cold, enervated before he begins to work—and then, what work!'"
"It is unfortunately but too true, M. Agricola. At Lille, when I reached the factory, wet through with a cold rain, I used sometimes to shiver all day long at my work."
"Therefore, Mdlle. Angela, the speculator might say: 'To lodge my workmen close to the door of my factory would obviate this inconvenience. Let us make the calculation. In Paris the married workman pays about two hundred and fifty francs a-year,(30) for one or two wretched rooms and a closet, dark, small, unhealthy, in a narrow, miserable street; there he lives pell-mell with his family. What ruined constitutions are the consequence! and what sort of work can you expect from a feverish and diseased creature? As for the single men, they pay for a smaller, and quite as unwholesome lodging, about one hundred and fifty francs a-year. Now, let us make the addition. I employ one hundred and forty-six married workmen, who pay together, for their wretched holes, thirty-six thousand five hundred francs; I employ also one hundred and fifteen bachelors, who pay at the rate of seventeen thousand two hundred and eighty francs; the total will amount to about fifty thousand francs per annum, the interest on a million."'
"Dear me, M. Agricola! what a sum to be produced by uniting all these little rents together!"
"You see, mademoiselle, that fifty thousand francs a-year is a millionaire's rent. Now, what says our speculator: To induce our workmen to leave Paris, I will offer them, enormous advantages. I will reduce their rent one-half, and, instead of small, unwholesome rooms, they shall have large, airy apartments, well-warmed and lighted, at a trifling charge. Thus, one hundred and forty-six families, paying me only one hundred and twenty-five francs a-year, and one hundred and fifteen bachelors, seventy-five francs, I shall have a total of twenty-six to twenty-seven thousand francs. Now, a building large enough to hold all these people would cost me at most five hundred thousand francs.(31) I shall then have invested my money at five per cent at the least, and with perfect security, since the wages is a guarantee for the payment of the rent.'"
"Ah, M. Agricola! I begin to understand how it may sometimes be advantageous to do good, even in a pecuniary sense."
"And I am almost certain, mademoiselle, that, in the long run, affairs conducted with uprightness and honesty turn out well. But to return to our speculator. 'Here,' will he say, 'are my workmen, living close to my factory, well lodged, well warmed, and arriving always fresh at their work. That is not all; the English workman who eats good beef, and drinks good beer, does twice as much, in the same time, as the French workman,(32) reduced to a detestable kind of food, rather weakening than the reverse, thanks to the poisonous adulteration of the articles he consumes. My workmen will then labor much better, if they eat much better. How shall I manage it without loss? Now I think of it, what is the food in barracks, schools, even prisons? Is it not the union of individual resources which procures an amount of comfort impossible to realize without such an association? Now, if my two hundred and sixty workmen, instead of cooking two hundred and sixty detestable dinners, were to unite to prepare one good dinner for all of them, which might be done, thanks to the savings of all sorts that would ensue, what an advantage for me and them! Two or three women, aided by children, would suffice to make ready the daily repasts; instead of buying wood and charcoal in fractions,(33) and so paying for it double its value, the association of my workmen would, upon my security (their wages would be an efficient security for me in return), lay in their own stock of wood, flour, butter, oil, wine, etc., all which they would procure directly from the producers. Thus, they would pay three or four sous for a bottle of pure wholesome wine, instead of paying twelve or fifteen sous for poison. Every week the association would buy a whole ox, and some sheep, and the women would make bread, as in the country. Finally, with these resources, and order, and economy, my workmen may have wholesome, agreeable, and sufficient food, for from twenty to twenty-five sous a day.'"
"Ah! this explains it, M. Agricola."
"It is not all, mademoiselle. Our cool-headed speculator would continue: 'Here are my workmen well lodged, well warmed, well fed, with a saving of at least half; why should they not also be warmly clad? Their health will then have every chance of being good, and health is labor. The association will buy wholesale, and at the manufacturing price (still upon my security, secured to me by their wages), warm, good, strong materials, which a portion of the workmen's wives will be able to make into clothes as well as any tailor. Finally, the consumption of caps and shoes being considerable, the association will obtain them at a great reduction in price.' Well, Mdlle. Angela! what do you say to our speculator?"
"I say, M. Agricola," answered the young girl; with ingenuous admiration, "that it is almost incredible, and yet so simple!"
"No doubt, nothing is more simple than the good and beautiful, and yet we think of it so seldom. Observe, that our man has only been speaking with a view to his own interest—only considering the material side of the question—reckoning for nothing the habit of fraternity and mutual aid, which inevitably springs from living together in common—not reflecting that a better mode of life improves and softens the character of man—not thinking of the support and instruction which the strong owe to the weak—not acknowledging, in fine, that the honest, active, and industrious man has a positive right to demand employment from society, and wages proportionate to the wants of his condition. No, our speculator only thinks of the gross profits; and yet, you see, he invests his money in buildings at five per cent., and finds the greatest advantages in the material comfort of his workmen."
"It is true, M. Agricola."
"And what will you say, mademoiselle, when I prove to you that our speculator finds also a great advantage in giving to his workmen, in addition to their regular wages, a proportionate share of his profits?"
"That appears to me more difficult to prove, M. Agricola."
"Yet I will convince you of it in a few minutes."
Thus conversing, Angela and Agricola had reached the garden-gate of the Common Dwelling-house. An elderly woman, dressed plainly, but with care and neatness, approached Agricola, and asked him: "Has M. Hardy returned to the factory, sir?"
"No, madame; but we expect him hourly."
"To-day or to-morrow, madame."
"You cannot tell me at what hour he will be here?"
"I do not think it is known, madame, but the porter of the factory, who also belongs to M. Hardy's private house, may, perhaps, be able to inform you."
"I thank you, sir."
"Quite welcome, madame."
"M. Agricola," said Angela, when the woman who had just questioned him was gone, "did you remark that this lady was very pale and agitated?"
"I noticed it as you did, mademoiselle; I thought I saw tears standing in her eyes."
"Yes, she seemed to have been crying. Poor woman! perhaps she came to ask assistance of M. Hardy. But what ails you, M. Agricola? You appear quite pensive."
Agricola had a vague presentiment that the visit of this elderly woman with so sad a countenance, had some connection with the adventure of the young and pretty lady, who, three days before had come all agitated and in tears to inquire after M. Hardy, and who had learned—perhaps too late—that she was watched and followed.
"Forgive me, mademoiselle," said Agricola to Angela; "but the presence of this old lady reminded me of a circumstance, which, unfortunately, I cannot tell you, for it is a secret that does not belong to me alone."
"Oh! do not trouble yourself, M. Agricola," answered the young girl, with a smile; "I am not inquisitive, and what we were talking of before interests me so much, that I do not wish to hear you speak of anything else."
"Well, then mademoiselle, I will say a few words more, and you will be as well informed as I am of the secrets of our association."
"I am listening, M. Agricola."
"Let us still keep in view the speculator from mere interest. 'Here are my workmen, says he, 'in the best possible condition to do a great deal of work. Now what is to be done to obtain large profits? Produce cheaply, and sell dear. But there will be no cheapness, without economy in the use of the raw material, perfection of the manufacturing process, and celerity of labor. Now, in spite of all my vigilance, how am I to prevent my workmen from wasting the materials? How am I to induce them, each in his own province, to seek for the most simple and least irksome processes?"
"True, M. Agricola; how is that to be done?"
"'And that is not all,' says our man; 'to sell my produce at high prices, it should be irreproachable, excellent. My workmen do pretty well; but that is not enough. I want them to produce masterpieces.'"
"But, M. Agricola, when they have once performed the task set them what interest have workmen to give themselves a great deal of trouble to produce masterpieces?"
"There it is, Mdlle. Angela; what interest have they? Therefore, our speculator soon says to himself: 'That my workmen may have an interest to be economical in the use of the materials, an interest to employ their time well, an interest to invent new and better manufacturing processes, an interest to send out of their hands nothing but masterpieces—I must give them an interest in the profits earned by their economy, activity, zeal and skill. The better they manufacture, the better I shall sell, and the larger will be their gain and mine also.'"
"Oh! now I understand, M. Agricola."
"And our speculator would make a good speculation. Before he was interested, the workman said: 'What does it matter to me, that I do more or do better in the course of the day? What shall I gain by it? Nothing. Well, then, little work for little wages. But now, on the contrary (he says), I have an interest in displaying zeal and economy. All is changed. I redouble my activity, and strive to excel the others. If a comrade is lazy, and likely to do harm to the factory, I have the right to say to him: 'Mate, we all suffer more or less from your laziness, and from the injury you are doing the common weal.'"
"And then, M. Agricola, with what ardor, courage, and hope, you must set to work!"
"That is what our speculator counts on; and he may say to himself, further: 'Treasures of experience and practical wisdom are often buried in workshops, for want of goodwill, opportunity, or encouragement. Excellent workmen, instead of making all the improvements in their power, follow with indifference the old jog-trot. What a pity! for an intelligent man, occupied all his life with some special employment, must discover, in the long run, a thousand ways of doing his work better and quicker. I will form, therefore, a sort of consulting committee; I will summon to it my foremen and my most skillful workmen. Our interest is now the same. Light will necessarily spring from this centre of practical intelligence.' Now, the speculator is not deceived in this, and soon struck with the incredible resources, the thousand new, ingenious, perfect inventions suddenly revealed by his workmen, 'Why' he exclaims, 'if you knew this, did you not tell it before? What for the last ten years has cost me a hundred francs to make, would have cost me only fifty, without reckoning an enormous saving of time.' 'Sir,' answers the workman, who is not more stupid than others, 'what interest had I, that you should effect a saving of fifty per cent? None. But now it is different. You give me, besides my wages, a share in your profits; you raise me in my own esteem, by consulting my experience and knowledge. Instead of treating me as an inferior being, you enter into communion with me. It is my interest, it is my duty, to tell you all I know, and to try to acquire more.' And thus it is, Mdlle. Angela, that the speculator can organize his establishment, so as to shame his oppositionists, and provoke their envy. Now if, instead of a cold hearted calculator, we tape a man who unites with the knowledge of these facts the tender and generous sympathies of an evangelical heart, and the elevation of a superior mind, he will extend his ardent solicitude; not only to the material comfort, but to the moral emancipation, of his workmen. Seeking everywhere every possible means to develop their intelligence, to improve their hearts, and strong in the authority acquired by his beneficence, feeling that he on whom depends the happiness or the misery of three hundred human creatures has also the care of souls, he will be the guide of those whom he no longer calls his workmen, but his brothers, in a straightforward and noble path, and will try to create in them the taste for knowledge and art, which will render them happy and proud of a condition of life that is often accepted by others with tears and curses of despair. Well, Mdlle. Angela, such a man is—but, see! he could not arrive amongst us except in the middle of a blessing. There he is—there is M. Hardy!"
"Oh, M. Agricola!" said Angela, deeply moved, and drying her tears; "we should receive him with our hands clasped in gratitude."
"Look if that mild and noble countenance is not the image of his admirable soul!"
A carriage with post horses, in which was M. Hardy, with M. de Blessac, the unworthy friend who was betraying him in so infamous a manner, entered at this moment the courtyard of the factory.
A little while after, a humble hackney-coach was seen advancing also towards the factory, from the direction of Paris. In this coach was Rodin.
(30) The average price of a workman's lodging, composed of two small rooms and a closet at most, on the third or fourth story.
(31) This calculation is amply sufficient, if not excessive. A similar building, at one league from Paris, on the side of Montrouge, with all the necessary offices, kitchen, wash-houses, etc., with gas and water laid on, apparatus for warming, etc., and a garden of ten acres, cost, at the period of this narrative, hardly five hundred thousand francs. An experienced builder less obliged us with an estimate, which confirms what we advance. It is, therefore, evident, that, even at the same price which workmen are in the habit of paying, it would be possible to provide them with perfectly healthy lodgings, and yet invest one's money at ten per cent.
(32) The fact was proved in the works connected with the Rouen Railway. Those French workmen who, having no families, were able to live like the English, did at least as much work as the latter, being strengthened by wholesome and sufficient nourishment.
(33) Buying penny-worths, like all other purchases at minute retail, are greatly to the poor man's disadvantage.
CHAPTER LII. REVELATIONS.
During the visit of Angela and Agricola to the Common Dwelling-house, the band of Wolves, joined upon the road by many of the haunters of taverns, continued to march towards the factory, which the hackney-coach, that brought Rodin from Paris, was also fast approaching. M. Hardy, on getting out of the carriage with his friend, M. de Blessac, had entered the parlor of the house that he occupied next the factory. M. Hardy was of middle size, with an elegant and slight figure, which announced a nature essentially nervous and impressionable. His forehead was broad and open, his complexion pale, his eyes black, full at once of mildness and penetration, his countenance honest, intelligent, and attractive.
One word will paint the character of M. Hardy. His mother had called him her Sensitive Plant. His was indeed one of those fine and exquisitely delicate organizations, which are trusting, loving, noble, generous, but so susceptible, that the least touch makes them shrink into themselves. If we join to this excessive sensibility a passionate love for art, a first-rate intellect, tastes essentially refined, and then think of the thousand deceptions, and numberless infamies of which M. Hardy must have been the victim in his career as a manufacturer, we shall wonder how this heart, so delicate and tender, had not been broken a thousand times, in its incessant struggle with merciless self-interest. M. Hardy had indeed suffered much. Forced to follow the career of productive industry, to honor the engagements of his father, a model of uprightness and probity, who had yet left his affairs somewhat embarrassed, in consequence of the events of 1815, he had succeeded, by perseverance and capacity, in attaining one of the most honorable positions in the commercial world. But, to arrive at this point, what ignoble annoyances had he to bear with, what perfidious opposition to combat, what hateful rivalries to tire out!
Sensitive as he was, M. Hardy would a thousand times have fallen a victim to his emotions of painful indignation against baseness, of bitter disgust at dishonesty, but for the wise and firm support of his mother. When he returned to her, after a day of painful struggles with odious deceptions, he found himself suddenly transported into an atmosphere of such beneficent purity, of such radiant serenity, that he lost almost on the instant the remembrance of the base things by which he had been so cruelly tortured during the day; the pangs of his heart were appeased at the mere contact of her great and lofty soul; and therefore his love for her resembled idolatry. When he lost her, he experienced one of those calm, deep sorrows which have no end—which become, as it were, part of life, and have even sometimes their days of melancholy sweetness. A little while after this great misfortune, M. Hardy became more closely connected with his workmen. He had always been a just and good master; but, although the place that his mother left in his heart would ever remain void, he felt as it were a redoubled overflowing of the affections, and the more he suffered, the more he craved to see happy faces around him. The wonderful ameliorations, which he now produced in the physical and moral condition of all about him, served, not to divert, but to occupy his grief. Little by little, he withdrew from the world, and concentrated his life in three affections: a tender and devoted friendship, which seemed to include all past friendships—a love ardent and sincere, like a last passion—and a paternal attachment to his workmen. His days therefore passed in the heart of that little world, so full of respect and gratitude towards him—a world, which he had, as it were, created after the image of his mind, that he might find there a refuge from the painful realities he dreaded, surrounded with good, intelligent, happy beings, capable of responding to the noble thoughts which had become more and more necessary to his existence. Thus, after many sorrows, M. Hardy, arrived at the maturity of age, possessing a sincere friend, a mistress worthy of his love, and knowing himself certain of the passionate devotion of his workmen, had attained, at the period of this history, all the happiness he could hope for since his mother's death.
M. de Blessac, his bosom friend, had long been worthy of his touching and fraternal affection; but we have seen by what diabolical means Father d'Aigrigny and Rodin had succeeded in making M. de Blessac, until then upright and sincere, the instrument of their machinations. The two friends, who had felt on their journey a little of the sharp influence of the north wind, were warming themselves at a good fire lighted in M. Hardy's parlor.
"Oh! my dear Marcel, I begin really to get old," said M. Hardy, with a smile, addressing M. de Blessac; "I feel more and more the want of being at home. To depart from my usual habits has become painful to me, and I execrate whatever obliges me to leave this happy little spot of ground."
"And when I think," answered M. de Blessac, unable to forbear blushing, "when I think, my friend, that you undertook this long journey only for my sake!—"
"Well, my dear Marcel! have you not just accompanied me in your turn, in an excursion which, without you, would have been as tiresome as it has been charming?"
"What a difference, my friend! I have contracted towards you a debt that I can never repay."
"Nonsense, my dear Marcel! Between us, there are no distinctions of meum and tuum. Besides, in matters of friendship, it is as sweet to give as to receive."
"Noble heart! noble heart!"
"Say, happy heart!—most happy, in the last affections for which it beats."
"And who, gracious heaven! could deserve happiness on earth, if it be not you, my friend?"
"And to what do I owe that happiness? To the affections which I found here, ready to sustain me, when deprived of the support of my mother, who was all my strength, I felt myself (I confess my weakness) almost incapable of standing up against adversity."
"You, my friend—with so firm and resolute a character in doing good—you, that I have seen struggle with so much energy and courage, to secure the triumph of some great and noble idea?"
"Yes; but the farther I advance in my career, the more am I disgusted with all base and shameful actions, and the less strength I feel to encounter them—"
"Were it necessary, you would have the courage, my friend."
"My dear Marcel," replied M. Hardy, with mild and restrained emotion, "I have often said to you: My courage was my mother. You see, my friend, when I went to her, with my heart torn by some horrible ingratitude, or disgusted by some base deceit, she, taking my hands between her own venerable palms, would say to me in her grave and tender voice: 'My dear child, it is for the ungrateful and dishonest to suffer; let us pity the wicked, let us forget evil, and only think of good.'—Then, my friend, this heart, painfully contracted, expanded beneath the sacred influence of the maternal words, and every day I gathered strength from her, to recommence on the morrow a cruel struggle with the sad necessities of my condition. Happily, it has pleased God, that, after losing that beloved mother, I have been able to bind up my life with affections, deprived of which, I confess, I should find myself feeble and disarmed for you cannot tell, Marcel, the support, the strength that I have found in your friendship."
"Do not speak of me, my dear friend," replied M. de Blessac, dissembling his embarrassment. "Let us talk of another affection, almost as sweet and tender as that of a mother."
"I understand you, my good Marcel," replied M. Hardy: "I have concealed nothing from you since, under such serious circumstances, I had recourse to the counsels of your friendship. Well! yes; I think that every day I live augment my adoration for this woman, the only one that I have ever passionately loved, the only one that I shall now ever love. And then I must tell you, that my mother, not knowing what Margaret was to me, as often loud in her praise, and that circumstance renders this love almost sacred in my eyes."
"And then there are such strange resemblances between Mme. de Noisy's character and yours, my friend; above all, in her worship of her mother."
"It is true, Marcel; that affection has often caused me both admiration and torment. How often she has said to me, with her habitual frankness: 'I have sacrificed all for you, but I would sacrifice you for my mother.'"
"Thank heaven, my friend, you will never see Mme. de Noisy exposed to that cruel choice. Her mother, you say, has long renounced her intention of returning to America, where M. de Noisy, perfectly careless of his wife, appears to have settled himself permanently. Thanks to the discreet devotion of the excellent woman by whom Margaret was brought up, your love is concealed in the deepest mystery. What could disturb it now?"
"Nothing—oh! nothing," cried M. Hardy. "I have almost security for its duration."
"What do you mean, my friend?"
"I do not know if I ought to tell you."
"Have you ever found me indiscreet, my friend?"
"You, good Marcel! how can you suppose such a thing?" said M. Hardy, in a tone of friendly reproach; "no! but I do not like to tell you of my happiness, till it is complete; and I am not yet quite certain—"
A servant entered at this moment and said to M. Hardy: "Sir, there is an old gentleman who wishes to speak to you on very pressing business."
"So soon!" said M. Hardy, with a slight movement of impatience. "With your permission, my friend." Then, as M. de Blessac seemed about to withdraw into the next room, M. Hardy added with a smile: "No, no; do not stir. Your presence will shorten the interview."
"But if it be a matter of business, my friend?"
"I do everything openly, as you know." Then, addressing the servant, M. Hardy bade him: "Ask the gentleman to walk in."
"The postilion wishes to know if he is to wait?"
"Certainly: he will take M. de Blessac back to Paris."
The servant withdrew, and presently returned, introducing Rodin, with whom M. de Blessac was not acquainted, his treacherous bargain having been negotiated through another agent.
"M. Hardy?" said Rodin, bowing respectfully to the two friends, and looking from one to the other with an air of inquiry.
"That is my name, sir; what can I do to serve you?" answered the manufacturer, kindly; for, at first sight of the humble and ill-dressed old man, he expected an application for assistance.
"M. Francois Hardy," repeated Rodin, as if he wished to make sure of the identity of the person.
"I have had the honor to tell you that I am he."
"I have a private communication to make to you, sir," said Rodin.
"You may speak, sir. This gentleman is my friend," said M. Hardy, pointing to M. de Blessac.
"But I wish to speak to you alone, sir," resumed Rodin.
M. de Blessac was again about to withdraw, when M. Hardy retained him with a glance, and said to Rodin kindly, for he thought his feelings might be hurt by asking a favor in presence of a third party: "Permit me to inquire if it is on your account or on mine, that you wish this interview to be secret?"
"On your account entirely, sir," answered Rodin.
"Then, sir," said M. Hardy, with some surprise, "you may speak out. I have no secrets from this gentleman."
After a moment's silence, Rodin resumed, addressing himself to M. Hardy: "Sir, you deserve, I know, all the good that is said of you; and you therefore command the sympathy of every honest man."
"I hope so, sir."
"Now, as an honest man, I come to render you a service."
"And this service, sir—"
"To reveal to you an infamous piece of treachery, of which you have been the victim."
"I think, sir, you must be deceived."
"I have the proofs of what I assert."
"The written proofs of the treachery that I come to reveal: I have them here," answered Rodin "In a word, a man whom you believed your friend, has shamefully deceived you, sir."
"And the name of this man?"
"M. Marcel de Blessac," replied Rodin.
On these words, M. de Blessac started, and became pale as death. He could hardly murmur: "Sir—"
But, without looking at his friend, or perceiving his agitation, M. Hardy seized his hand, and exclaimed hastily: "Silence, my friend!" Then, whilst his eye flashed with indignation, he turned towards Rodin, who had not ceased to look him full in the face, and said to him, with an air of lofty disdain: "What! do you accuse M. de Blessac?"
"Yes, I accuse him," replied Rodin, briefly.
"Do you know him?"
"I have never seen him."
"Of what do you accuse him? And how dare you say that he has betrayed me?"
"Two words, if you please," said Rodin, with an emotion which he appeared hardly able to restrain. "If one man of honor sees another about to be slain by an assassin, ought he not give the alarm of murder?"
"Yes, sir; but what has that to do—"
"In my eyes, sir, certain treasons are as criminal as murders: I have come to place myself between the assassin and his victim."
"The assassin? the victim?" said M. Hardy more and more astonished.
"You doubtless know M. de Blessac's writing?" said Rodin.
"Then read this," said Rodin, drawing from his pocket a letter, which he handed to M. Hardy.
Casting now for the first time a glance at M. de Blessac, the manufacturer drew back a step, terrified at the death-like paleness of this man, who, struck dumb with shame, could not find a word to justify himself; for he was far from possessing the audacious effrontery necessary to carry him through his treachery.
"Marcel!" cried M. Hardy, in alarm, and deeply agitated by this unexpected blow. "Marcel! how pale you are! you do not answer!"
"Marcel! this, then, is M. de Blessac?" cried Rodin, feigning the most painful surprise. "Oh, sir, if I had known—"
"But don't you hear this man, Marcel?" cried M. Hardy. "He says that you have betrayed me infamously." He seized the hand of M. de Blessac. That hand was cold as ice. "Oh, God! Oh God!" said M. Hardy, drawing back in horror: "he makes no answer!"
"Since I am in presence of M. de Blessac," resumed Rodin, "I am forced to ask him, if he can deny having addressed many letters to the Rue du Milieu des Ursins, at Paris under cover of M. Rodin."
M. de Blessac remained dumb. M. Hardy, still unwilling to believe what he saw and heard, convulsively tore open the letter, which Rodin had just delivered to him, and read the first few lines—interrupting the perusal with exclamations of grief and amazement. He did not require to finish the letter, to convince himself of the black treachery of M. de Blessac. He staggered; for a moment his senses seemed to abandon him. The horrible discovery made him giddy, and his head swam on his first look down into that abyss of infamy. The loathsome letter dropped from his trembling hands. But soon indignation, rage, and scorn succeeded this moment of despair, and rushing, pale and terrible, upon M. de Blessac: "Wretch!" he exclaimed, with a threatening gesture. But, pausing as in the act to strike: "No!" he added, with fearful calmness. "It would be to soil my hands."
He turned towards Rodin, who had approached hastily, as if to interpose. "It is not worth while chastising a wretch," said M. Hardy; "But I will press your honest hand, sir—for you have had the courage to unmask a traitor and a coward."
"Sir!" cried M. de Blessac, overcome with shame; "I am at your orders—and—"
He could not finish. The sound of voices was heard behind the door, which opened violently, and an aged woman entered, in spite of the efforts of the servant, exclaiming in an agitated voice: "I tell you, I must speak instantly to your master."
On hearing this voice, and at sight of the pale, weeping woman, M. Hardy, forgetting M. de Blessac, Rodin, the infamous treachery, and all, fell back a step, and exclaimed: "Madame Duparc! you here! What is the matter?"
"Oh, sir! a great misfortune—"
"Margaret!" cried M. Hardy, in a tone of despair.
"She is gone, sir!"
"Gone!" repeated M. Hardy, as horror-struck as if a thunderbolt had fallen at his feet. "Margaret gone!"
"All is discovered. Her mother took her away—three days ago!" said the unhappy woman, in a failing voice.
"Gone! Margaret! It is not true. You deceive me," cried M. Hardy. Refusing to hear more, wild, despairing, he rushed out of the house, threw himself into his carriage, to which the post-horses were still harnessed, waiting for M. de Blessac, and said to the postilion: "To Paris! as fast as you can go!"
As the carriage, rapid as lightning, started upon the road to Paris, the wind brought nearer the distant sound of the war-song of the Wolves, who were rushing towards the factory. In this impending destruction, see Rodin's subtle hand, administering his fatal blows to clear his way up to the chair of St. Peter to which he aspired. His tireless, wily course can hardly be darker shadowed by aught save that dread coming horror the Cholera, whose aid he evoked, and whose health the Bacchanal Queen wildly drank.
That once gay girl, and her poor famished sister; the fair patrician and her Oriental lover; Agricola, the workman, and his veteran father; the smiling Rose-Pompon, and the prematurely withered Jacques Rennepont; Father d'Aigrigny, the mock priest; and Gabriel, the true disciple; with the rest that have been named and others yet to be pictured, in the blaze of the bolts of their life's paths, will be seen in the third and concluding part of this romance entitled,
"THE WANDERING JEW: REDEMPTION."
PART THIRD.—THE REDEMPTION.
I. The Wandering Jew's Chastisement II. The Descendants of the Wandering Jew III. The Attack IV. The Wolves and the Devourers V. The Return VI. The Go-Between VII. Another Secret VIII. The Confession IX. Love X. The Execution XI. The Champs-Elysees XII. Behind the Scenes XIII. Up with the Curtain XIV. Death
PART THIRD.—THE REDEMPTION.
CHAPTER I. THE WANDERING JEW'S CHASTISEMENT.
'Tis night—the moon is brightly shining, the brilliant stars are sparkling in a sky of melancholy calmness, the shrill whistlings of a northerly wind—cold, bleak, and evil-bearing—are increasing: winding about, and bursting into violent blasts, with their harsh and hissing gusts, they are sweeping the heights of Montmartre. A man is standing on the very summit of the hill; his lengthened shadow, thrown out by the moon's pale beams, darkens the rocky ground in the distance. The traveller is surveying the huge city lying at his feet—the City of Paris—from whose profundities are cast up its towers, cupolas, domes, and steeples, in the bluish moisture of the horizon; while from the very centre of this sea of stones is rising a luminous vapor, reddening the starry azure of the sky above. It is the distant light of a myriad lamps which at night, the season for pleasure, is illuminating the noisy capital.
"No!" said the traveller, "it will not be. The Lord surely will not suffer it. Twice is quite enough. Five centuries ago, the avenging hand of the Almighty drove me hither from the depths of Asia. A solitary wanderer, I left in my track more mourning, despair, disaster, and death, than the innumerable armies of a hundred devastating conquerors could have produced. I then entered this city, and it was decimated. Two centuries ago that inexorable hand which led me through the world again conducted me here; and on that occasion, as on the previous one, that scourge, which at intervals the Almighty binds to my footsteps, ravaged this city, attacking first my brethren, already wearied by wretchedness and toil. My brethren! through me—the laborer of Jerusalem, cursed by the Lord, who in my person cursed the race of laborers—a race always suffering, always disinherited, always slaves, who like me, go on, on, on, without rest or intermission, without recompense, or hope; until at length, women, men, children, and old men, die under their iron yoke of self-murder, that others in their turn then take up, borne from age to age on their willing but aching shoulders. And here again, for the third time, in the course of five centuries, I have arrived at the summit of one of the hills which overlooks the city; and perhaps I bring again with me terror, desolation, and death. And this unhappy city, intoxicated in a whirl of joys, and nocturnal revelries, knows nothing about it—oh! it knows not that I am at its very gate. But no! no! my presence will not be a source of fresh calamity to it. The Lord, in His unsearchable wisdom, has brought me hither across France, making me avoid on my route all but the humblest villages, so that no increase of the funeral knell has, marked my journey. And then, moreover, the spectre has left me—that spectre, livid and green, with its deep bloodshot eyes. When I touched the soil of France, its moist and icy hand abandoned mine—it disappeared. And yet I feel the atmosphere of death surrounding me still. There is no cessation; the biting gusts of this sinister wind, which envelop me in their breath, seem by their envenomed breath to propagate the scourge. Doubtless the anger of the Lord is appeased. Maybe, my presence here is meant only as a threat, intending to bring those to their senses whom it ought to intimidate. It must be so; for were it otherwise, it would, on the contrary, strike a loud-sounding blow of greater terror, casting at once dread and death into the very heart of the country, into the bosom of this immense city. Oh, no! no! the Lord will have mercy; He will not condemn me to this new affliction. Alas! in this city my brethren are more numerous and more wretched than in any other. And must I bring death to them? No! the Lord will have mercy; for, alas! the seven descendants of my sister are at last all united in this city. And must I bring death to them? Death! instead of that immediate assistance they stand so much in need of? For that woman who, like myself, wanders from one end of the world into the other, has gone now on her everlasting journey, after having confounded their enemies' plots. In vain did she foretell that great evils still threatened those who are akin to me through my sister's blood. The unseen hand by which I am led, drives that woman away from me, even as though it were a whirlwind that swept her on. In vain she entreated and implored at the moment she was leaving those who are so dear to me.—At least, 0 Lord, permit me to stay until I shall have finished my task! Onward! A few days, for mercy's sake, only a few days! Onward! I leave these whom I am protecting on the very brink of an abyss! Onward! Onward!! And the wandering star is launched afresh on its perpetual course. But her voice traversed through space, calling me to the assistance of my own! When her voice reached me I felt that the offspring of my sister were still exposed to fearful dangers: those dangers are still increasing. Oh, say, say, Lord! shall the descendants of my sister escape those woes which for so many centuries have oppressed my race? Wilt Thou pardon me in them? Wilt Thou punish me in them? Oh! lead them, that they may obey the last wishes of their ancestor. Guide them, that they may join their charitable hearts, their powerful strength, their best wisdom, and their immense wealth, and work together for the future happiness of mankind, thereby, perhaps, enabled to ransom me from my eternal penalties. Let those divine words of the Son of Man, 'Love ye one another!' be their only aim; and by the assistance of their all-powerful words, let them contend against and vanquish those false priests who have trampled on the precepts of love, of peace, and hope commanded by the Saviour, setting up in their stead the precepts of hatred, violence, and despair. Those false shepherds, supported ay the powerful and wealthy of the world, who in all times have been their accomplices, instead of asking here below a little happiness for my brethren, who have been suffering and groaning for centuries, dare to utter, in Thy name, O Lord! that the poor must always be doomed to the tortures of this world, and that it is criminal in Thine eyes that they should either wish for or hope a mitigation of their sufferings on earth, because the happiness of the few and the wretchedness of nearly all mankind is Thine almighty will. Blasphemies! is it not the contrary of these homicidal words that is more worthy of the name of Divine will? Hear, me, O Lord! for mercy's sake. Snatch from their enemies the descendants of my sister, from the artisan up to the king's son. Do not permit them to crush the germ of a mighty and fruitful association, which, perhaps, under Thy protection, may take its place among the records of the happiness of mankind. Suffer me, O Lord! to unite those whom they are endeavoring to divide—to defend those whom they are attacking. Suffer me to bring hope to those from whom hope has fled, to give courage to those who are weak, to uphold those whom evil threatens, and to sustain those who would persevere in well-doing. And then, perhaps, their struggles, their devotedness, their virtues, this miseries might expiate my sin. Yes, mine—misfortune, misfortune alone, made me unjust and wicked. O Lord! since Thine almighty hand hath brought me hither, for some end unknown to me, disarm Thyself, I implore Thee, of Thine anger, and let not me be the instrument of Thy vengeance! There is enough of mourning in the earth these two years past—Thy creatures have fallen by millions in my footsteps. The world is decimated. A veil of mourning extends from one end of the globe to the other. I have traveled from Asia even to the Frozen Pole, and death has followed in my wake. Dost Thou not hear, O Lord! the universal wailings that mount up to Thee? Have mercy upon all, and upon me. One day, grant me but a single day, that I may collect the descendants of my sister together, and save them!" And uttering these words, the wanderer fell upon his knees, and raised his hands to heaven in a suppliant attitude.
Suddenly, the wind howled with redoubled violence; its sharp whistlings changed to a tempest. The Wanderer trembled, and exclaimed in a voice of terror, "O Lord! the blast of death is howling in its rage. It appears as though a whirlwind were lifting me up. Lord, wilt Thou not, then, hear my prayer? The spectre! O! do I behold the spectre? Yes, there it is; its cadaverous countenance is agitated by convulsive throes, its red eyes are rolling in their orbits. Begone! begone! Oh! its hand—its icy hand has seized on mine! Mercy, Lord, have mercy! 'Onward!' Oh, Lord! this scourge, this terrible avenging scourge! Must I, then, again carry it into this city, must my poor wretched brethren be the first to fall under it—though already so miserable? Mercy, mercy! 'Onward!' And the descendants of my sister—oh, pray, have mercy, mercy! 'Onward!' O Lord, have pity on me! I can no longer keep my footing on the ground, the spectre is dragging me over the brow of the hill; my course is as rapid as the death-bearing wind that whistles in my track; I already approach the walls of the city. Oh, mercy, Lord, mercy on the descendants of my sister—spare them! do not compel me to be their executioner, and let them triumph over their enemies. Onward, onward! The ground is fleeing from under me; I am already at the city gate; oh, yet, Lord, yet there is time; oh, have mercy on this slumbering city, that it may not even now awaken with the lamentations of terror, of despair and death! O Lord, I touch the threshold of the gate; verily Thou willest it so then. 'Tis done—Paris! the scourge is in thy bosom! oh, cursed, cursed evermore am I. Onward! on! on!"(34)
(34) In 1346, the celebrated Black Death ravaged the earth, presenting the same symptoms as the cholera, and the same inexplicable phenomena as to its progress and the results in its route. In 1660 a similar epidemic decimated the world. It is well known that when the cholera first broke out in Paris, it had taken a wide and unaccountable leap; and, also memorable, a north-east wind prevailed during its utmost fierceness.
CHAPTER II. THE DESCENDANTS OF THE WANDERING JEW.
That lonely wayfarer whom we have heard so plaintively urging to be relieved of his gigantic burden of misery, spoke of "his sister's descendants" being of all ranks, from the working man to the king's son. They were seven in number, who had, in the year 1832, been led to Paris, directly or indirectly, by a bronze medal which distinguished them from others, bearing these words:-VICTIM of L. C. D. J. Pray for me!
——-PARIS, February the 13th, 1682.
IN PARIS, Rue St. Francois, No. 3, In a century and a half you will be. February the 13th, 1832.
——-PRAY FOR ME!
The son of the King of Mundi had lost his father and his domains in India by the irresistible march of the English, and was but in title Prince Djalma. Spite of attempts to make his departure from the East delayed until after the period when he could have obeyed his medal's command, he had reached France by the second month of 1832. Nevertheless, the results of shipwreck had detained him from Paris till after that date. A second possessor of this token had remained unaware of its existence, only discovered by accident. But an enemy who sought to thwart the union of these seven members, had shut her up in a mad-house, from which she was released only after that day. Not alone was she in imprisonment. An old Bonapartist, General Simon, Marshal of France, and Duke de Ligny, had left a wife in Russian exile, while he (unable to follow Napoleon to St. Helena) continued to fight the English in India by means of Prince Djalma's Sepoys, whom he drilled. On the latter's defeat, he had meant to accompany his young friend to Europe, induced the more by finding that the latter's mother, a Frenchwoman, had left him such another bronze medal as he knew his wife to have had.
Unhappily, his wife had perished in Siberia, without his knowing it, any more than he did, that she had left twin daughters, Rose and Blanche. Fortunately for them, one who had served their father in the Grenadiers of the Guard. Francis Baudoin, nicknamed Dagobert, undertook to fulfil the dying mother's wishes, inspired by the medal. Saving a check at Leipsic, where one Morok the lion-tamer's panther had escaped from its cage and killed Dagobert's horse, and a subsequent imprisonment (which the Wandering Jew's succoring hand had terminated) the soldier and his orphan charges had reached Paris in safety and in time. But there, a renewal of the foe's attempt had gained its end. By skillful devices, Dagobert and his son Agricola were drawn out of the way while Rose and Blanche Simon were decoyed into a nunnery, under the eyes of Dagobert's wife. But she had been bound against interfering by the influence of the Jesuit confessional. The fourth was M. Hardy, a manufacturer, and the fifth, Jacques Rennepont, a drunken scamp of a workman, who were more easily fended off, the latter in a sponging house, the former by a friend's lure. Adrienne de Cardoville, daughter of the Count of Rennepont, who had also been Duke of Cardoville, was the lady who had been unwarrantably placed in the lunatic asylum. The fifth, unaware of the medal, was Gabriel, a youth, who had been brought up, though a foundling, in Dagobert's family, as a brother to Agricola. He had entered holy orders, and more, was a Jesuit, in name though not in heart. Unlike the others, his return from abroad had been smoothed. He had signed away all his future prospects, for the benefit of the order of Loyola, and, moreover, executed a more complete deed of transfer on the day, the 13th of February, 1832, when he, alone of the heirs, stood in the room of the house, No. 3, Rue St. Francois, claiming what was a vast surprise for the Jesuits, who, a hundred and fifty years before, had discovered that Count Marius de Rennepont had secreted a considerable amount of his wealth, all of which had been confiscated to them, in those painful days of dragoonings, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They had bargained for some thirty or forty millions of francs to be theirs, by educating Gabriel into resigning his inheritance to them, but it was two hundred and twelve millions which the Jesuit representatives (Father d'Aigrigny and his secretary, Rodin) were amazed to hear their nursling placed in possession of. They had the treasure in their hands, in fact, when a woman of strangely sad beauty had mysteriously entered the room where the will had been read, and laid a paper before the notary. It was a codicil, duly drawn up and signed, deferring the carrying out of the testament until the first day of June the same year. The Jesuits fled from the house, in rage and intense disappointment. Father d'Aigrigny was so stupor-stricken at the defeat, that he bade his secretary at once write off to Rome that the Rennepont inheritance had escaped them, and hopes to seize it again were utterly at an end. Upon this, Rodin had revolted, and shown that he had authority to command where he had, so far, most humbly obeyed. Many such spies hang about their superior's heels, with full powers to become the governor in turn, at a moment's notice. Thenceforward, he, Rodin, had taken the business into his own hands. He had let Rose and Blanche Simon out of the convent into their father's arms. He had gone in person to release Adrienne de Cardoville from the asylum. More, having led her to sigh for Prince Djalma, he prompted the latter to burn for her.
He let not M. Hardy escape. A friend whom the latter treated as a brother, had been shown up to him as a mere spy of the Jesuits; the woman whom he adored, a wedded woman, alas! who had loved him in spite of her vows, had been betrayed. Her mother had compelled her to hide her shame in America, and, as she had often said—"Much as you are endeared to me, I cannot waver between you and my mother!" so she had obeyed, without one farewell word to him. Confess, Rodin was a more dextrous man than his late master! In the pages that ensue farther proofs of his superiority in baseness and satanic heartlessness will not be wanting.
CHAPTER III. THE ATTACK.
On M. Hardy's learning from the confidential go-between of the lovers, that his mistress had been taken away by her mother, he turned from Rodin and dashed away in a post carriage. At the same moment, as loud as the rattle of the wheels, there arose the shouts of a band of workmen and rioters, hired by the Jesuit's emissaries, coming to attack Hardy's operatives. An old grudge long existing between them and a rival manufacturer's—Baron Tripeaud—laborers, fanned the flames. When M. Hardy had left the factory, Rodin, who was not prepared for this sudden departure, returned slowly to his hackney-coach; but he stopped suddenly, and started with pleasure and surprise, when he saw, at some distance, Marshall Simon and his father advancing towards one of the wings of the Common Dwelling-house; for an accidental circumstance had so far delayed the interview of the father and son.
"Very well!" said Rodin. "Better and better! Now, only let my man have found out and persuaded little Rose-Pompon!"
And Rodin hastened towards his hackney-coach. At this moment, the wind, which continued to rise, brought to the ear of the Jesuit the war song of the approaching Wolves.
The workman was in the garden. The marshal said to him, in a voice of such deep emotion that the old man started; "Father, I am very unhappy."
A painful expression, until then concealed, suddenly darkened the countenance of the marshal.
"You unhappy?" cried father Simon, anxiously, as he pressed nearer to the marshal.
"For some days, my daughters have appeared constrained in manner, and lost in thought. During the first moments of our re-union, they were mad with joy and happiness. Suddenly, all has changed; they are becoming more and more sad. Yesterday, I detected tears in their eyes; then deeply moved, I clasped them in my arms, and implored them to tell me the cause of their sorrow. Without answering, they threw themselves on my neck, and covered my face with their tears."
"It is strange. To what do you attribute this alteration?"
"Sometimes, I think I have not sufficiently concealed from them the grief occasioned me by the loss of their mother, and they are perhaps miserable that they do not suffice for my happiness. And yet (inexplicable as it is) they seem not only to understand, but to share my sorrow. Yesterday, Blanche said to me: 'How much happier still should we be, if our mother were with us!—'"
"Sharing your sorrow, they cannot reproach you with it. There must be some other cause for their grief."
"Yes," said the marshal, looking fixedly at his father; "yes—but to penetrate this secret—it would be necessary not to leave them."
"What do you mean?"
"First learn, father, what are the duties which would keep me here; then you shall know those which may take me away from you, from my daughters, and from my other child."
"What other child?"
"The son of my old friend, the Indian Prince."
"Djalma? Is there anything the matter with him?"
"Father, he frightens me. I told you, father, of his mad and unhappy passion for Mdlle. de Cardoville."
"Does that frighten you, my son?" said the old man, looking at the marshal with surprise. "Djalma is only eighteen, and, at that age, one love drives away another."
"You have no idea of the ravages which the passion has already made in the ardent, indomitable boy; sometimes, fits of savage ferocity follow the most painful dejection. Yesterday, I came suddenly upon him; his eyes were bloodshot, his features contracted with rage; yielding to an impulse of mad furry, he was piercing with his poinard a cushion of red cloth, whilst he exclaimed, panting for breath, 'Ha blood!—I will have blood!' 'Unhappy boy!' I said to him, 'what means this insane passion?' 'I'm killing the man!' replied he, in a hollow and savage voice: it is thus he designates his supposed rival."
"There is indeed something terrible," said the old man, "in such a passion, in such a heart."
"At other times," resumed the marshal, "it is against Mdlle. de Cardoville that his rage bursts forth; and at others, against himself. I have been obliged to remove his weapons, for a man who came with him from Java, and who appears much attached to him, has informed me that he suspected him of entertaining some thoughts of suicide."
"Well, father," said Marshal Simon, with profound bitterness; "it is at the moment when my daughters and my adopted son require all my solicitude, that I am perhaps on the eve of quitting them."
"Of quitting them?"
"Yes, to fulfil a still more sacred duty than that imposed by friendship or family," said the marshal, in so grave and solemn a tone, that his father exclaimed, with deep emotion: "What can this duty be?"
"Father," said the marshal, after remaining a moment in thoughtful silence, "who made me what I am? Who gave me the ducal title, and the marshal's baton?"
"For you, the stern republican, I know that he lost all his value, when from the first citizen of a Republic he became an emperor.
"I cursed his weakness," said Father Simon, sadly; "the demi-god sank into a man."
"But for me, father—for me, the soldier, who have always fought beside him, or under his eye—for me, whom he raised from the lowest rank in the army to the highest—for me, whom he loaded with benefits and marks of affection—for me, he was more than a hero, he was a friend—and there was as much gratitude as admiration in my idolatry for him. When he was exiled, I would fain have shared his exile; they refused me that favor; then I conspired, then I drew my sword against those who had robbed his son of the crown which France had given him."
"And, in your position, you did well, Pierre; without sharing your admiration, I understood your gratitude. The projects of exile, the conspiracies—I approved them all—you know it."
"Well, then, that disinherited child, in whose name I conspired seventeen years ago, is now of an age to wield his father's sword."
"Napoleon II!" exclaimed the old man, looking at his son with surprise and extreme anxiety; "the king of Rome!"
"King? no; he is no longer king. Napoleon? no; he is no longer Napoleon. They have given him some Austrian name, because the other frightened them. Everything frightens them. Do you know what they are doing with the son of the Emperor?" resumed the marshal, with painful excitement. "They are torturing him—killing him by inches!"
"Who told you this?"
"Somebody who knows, whose words are but too true. Yes; the son of the Emperor struggles with all his strength against a premature death. With his eyes turned towards France, he waits—he waits—and no one comes—no one—out of all the men that his father made as great as they once were little, not one thinks of that crowned child, whom they are stifling, till he dies."
"But you think of him?"
"Yes; but I had first to learn—oh! there is no doubt of it, for I have not derived all my information from the same source—I had first to learn the cruel fate of this youth, to whom I also swore allegiance; for one day, as I have told you, the Emperor, proud and loving father as he was, showed him to me in his cradle, and said: 'My old friend, you will be to the son what you have been to the father; who loves us, loves our France.'"
"Yes, I know it. Many times you have repeated those words to me, and, like yourself, I have been moved by them."
"Well, father! suppose, informed of the sufferings of the son of the Emperor, I had seen—with the positive certainty that I was not deceived—a letter from a person of high rank in the court of Vienna, offering to a man that was still faithful to the Emperor's memory, the means of communicating with the king of Rome, and perhaps of saving him from his tormentors—"
"What next?" said the workman, looking fixedly at his son. "Suppose Napoleon II. once at liberty—"
"What next?" exclaimed the marshal. Then he added, in a suppressed voice: "Do you think, father, that France is insensible to the humiliations she endures? Do you think that the memory of the Emperor is extinct? No, no; it is, above all, in the days of our country's degredation, that she whispers that sacred name. How would it be, then, were that name to rise glorious on the frontier, reviving in his son? Do you not think that the heart of all France would beat for him?"
"This implies a conspiracy—against the present government—with Napoleon II. for a watchword," said the workman. "This is very serious."
"I told you, father, that I was very unhappy; judge if it be not so," cried the marshal. "Not only I ask myself, if I ought to abandon my children and you, to run the risk of so daring an enterprise, but I ask myself if I am not bound to the present government, which, in acknowledging my rank and title, if it bestowed no favor, at least did me an act of justice. How shall I decide?—abandon all that I love, or remain insensible to the tortures of Emperor—of that Emperor to the son of the whom I owe everything—to whom I have sworn fidelity, both to himself and child? Shall I lose this only opportunity, perhaps, of saving him, or shall I conspire in his favor? Tell me, if I exaggerate what I owe to the memory of the Emperor? Decide for me, father! During a whole sleepless night, I strove to discover, in the midst of this chaos, the line prescribed by honor; but I only wandered from indecision to indecision. You alone, father—you alone, I repeat, can direct me."
After remaining for some moments in deep thought, the old man was about to answer, when some person, running across the little garden, opened the door hastily, and entered the room in which were the marshal and his father. It was Olivier, the young workman, who had been able to effect his escape from the village in which the Wolves had assembled.
"M. Simon! M. Simon!" cried he, pale, and panting for breath. "They are here—close at hand. They have come to attack the factory."
"Who?" cried the old man, rising hastily.
"The Wolves, quarrymen, and stone-cutters, joined on the road by a crowd of people from the neighborhood, and vagabonds from town. Do you not hear them? They are shouting, 'Death to the Devourers!'"
The clamor was indeed approaching, and grew more and more distinct.
"It is the same noise that I heard just now," said the marshal, rising in his turn.
"There are more than two hundred of them, M. Simon," said Olivier; "they are armed with clubs and stones, and unfortunately the greater part of our workmen are in Paris. We are not above forty here in all; the women and children are already flying to their chambers, screaming for terror. Do you not hear them?"
The ceiling shook beneath the tread of many hasty feet.
"Will this attack be a serious one?" said the marshal to his father, who appeared more and more dejected.
"Very serious," said the old man; "there is nothing more fierce than these combats between different unions; and everything has been done lately to excite the people of the neighborhood against the factory."
"If you are so inferior in number," said the marshal, "you must begin by barricading all the doors—and then—"
He was unable to conclude. A burst of ferocious cries shook the windows of the room, and seemed so near and loud, that the marshal, his father, and the young workman, rushed out into the little garden, which was bounded on one side by a wall that separated it from the fields. Suddenly whilst the shouts redoubled in violence, a shower of large stones, intended to break the windows of the house, smashed some of the panes on the first story, struck against the wall, and fell into the garden, all around the marshal and his father. By a fatal chance, one of these large stones struck the old man on the head. He staggered, bent forward, and fell bleeding into the arms of Marshal Simon, just as arose from without, with increased fury, the savage cries of, "Death to the Devourers!"
CHAPTER IV. THE WOLVES AND THE DEVOURERS.
It was a frightful thing to view the approach of the lawless crowd, whose first act of hostility had been so fatal to Marshal Simon's father. One wing of the Common Dwelling-house, which joined the garden-wall on that side, was next to the fields. It was there that the Wolves began their attack. The precipitation of their march, the halt they had made at two public-houses on the road, their ardent impatience for the approaching struggle, had inflamed these men to a high pitch of savage excitement. Having discharged their first shower of stones, most of the assailants stooped down to look for more ammunition. Some of them, to do so with greater ease, held their bludgeons between their teeth; others had placed them against the wall; here and there, groups had formed tumultuously round the principal leaders of the band; the most neatly dressed of these men wore frocks, with caps, whilst others were almost in rags, for, as we have already said, many of the hangers-on at the barriers, and people without any profession, had joined the troop of the Wolves, whether welcome or not. Some hideous women, with tattered garments, who always seem to follow in the track of such people, accompanied them on this occasion, and, by their cries and fury, inflamed still more the general excitement. One of them, tall, robust, with purple complexion, blood shot eyes, and toothless jaws, had a handkerchief over her head, from beneath which escaped her yellow, frowsy hair. Over her ragged gown, she wore an old plaid shawl, crossed over her bosom, and tied behind her back. This hag seemed possessed with a demon. She had tucked up her half-torn sleeves; in one hand she brandished a stick, in the other she grasped a huge stone; her companions called her Ciboule (scullion).