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The Wandering Jew (French: Le Juif errant) is an 1844 novel by the French writer Eugène Sue. Complete Edition in One Volume.The prologue of the text describes two figures who cry out to each other across the Bering Straits. One is The Wandering Jew, the other his sister, Hérodiade. The Wandering Jew also represents the cholera epidemic— wherever he goes, cholera follows in his wake.The Wandering Jew and Hérodiade are condemned to wander the earth until the entire Rennepont family has disappeared from the earth. The connection is that the descendants of the sister are also the descendants of Marius de Rennepont, Huguenots persecuted under Louis XIV by the Jesuits. The brother and sister are compelled to protect this very family from all harm. After this first introduction, the two appear only very rarely.The Rennepont family is unaware that these protective éminences grises exist, but they benefit from their protection in various ways, be it by being saved from scalping by the Native Americans, or from languishing in prison.
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THE WANDERING JEW
by Eugene Sue
THE WANDERING JEW.
Time and again physicians and seamen have made noteworthy reputations as novelists. But it is rare in the annals of literature that a man trained in both professions should have gained his greatest fame as a writer of novels. Eugene Sue began his career as a physician and surgeon, and then spent six years in the French Navy. In 1830, when he returned to France, he inherited his father's rich estate and was free to follow his inclination to write. His first novel, "Plick et Plock", met with an unexpected success, and he at once foreswore the arts of healing and navigation for the precarious life of a man of letters. With varying success he produced books from his inexhaustible store of personal experiences as a doctor and sailor. In 1837, he wrote an authoritative work on the French Navy, "Histoire de la marine Francaise".
More and more the novel appealed to his imagination and suited his gifts. His themes ranged from the fabulous to the strictly historical, and he became popular as a writer of romance and fictionized fact. His plays, however, were persistent failures. When he published "The Mysteries of Paris", his national fame was assured, and with the writing of "The Wandering Jew" he achieved world-wide renown. Then, at the height of his literary career, Eugene Sue was driven into exile after Louis Napoleon overthrew the Constitutional Government in a coup d'etat and had himself officially proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III. The author of "The Wandering Jew" died in banishment five years later.
THE WANDERING JEW.
The Land's End of Two Worlds.
The Arctic Ocean encircles with a belt of eternal ice the desert confines of Siberia and North America—the uttermost limits of the Old and New worlds, separated by the narrow, channel, known as Behring's Straits.
The last days of September have arrived.
The equinox has brought with it darkness and Northern storms, and night will quickly close the short and dismal polar day. The sky of a dull and leaden blue is faintly lighted by a sun without warmth, whose white disk, scarcely seen above the horizon, pales before the dazzling, brilliancy of the snow that covers, as far as the eyes can reach, the boundless steppes.
To the North, this desert is bounded by a ragged coast, bristling with huge black rocks.
At the base of this Titanic mass lied enchained the petrified ocean, whose spell-bound waves appear fired as vast ranges of ice mountains, their blue peaks fading away in the far-off frost smoke, or snow vapor.
Between the twin-peaks of Cape East, the termination of Siberia, the sullen sea is seen to drive tall icebergs across a streak of dead green. There lies Behring's Straits.
Opposite, and towering over the channel, rise the granite masses of Cape Prince of Wales, the headland of North America.
These lonely latitudes do not belong to the habitable world; for the piercing cold shivers the stones, splits the trees, and causes the earth to burst asunder, which, throwing forth showers of icy spangles seems capable of enduring this solitude of frost and tempest, of famine and death.
And yet, strange to say, footprints may be traced on the snow, covering these headlands on either side of Behring's Straits.
On the American shore, the footprints are small and light, thus betraying the passage of a woman.
She has been hastening up the rocky peak, whence the drifts of Siberia are visible.
On the latter ground, footprints larger and deeper betoken the passing of a man. He also was on his way to the Straits.
It would seem that this man and woman had arrived here from opposite directions, in hope of catching a glimpse of one another, across the arm of the sea dividing the two worlds—the Old and the New.
More strange still! the man and the woman have crossed the solitudes during a terrific storm! Black pines, the growth of centuries, pointing their bent heads in different parts of the solitude like crosses in a churchyard, have been uprooted, rent, and hurled aside by the blasts!
Yet the two travellers face this furious tempest, which has plucked up trees, and pounded the frozen masses into splinters, with the roar of thunder.
They face it, without for one single instant deviating from the straight line hitherto followed by them.
Who then are these two beings who advance thus calmly amidst the storms and convulsions of nature?
Is it by chance, or design, or destiny, that the seven nails in the sole of the man's shoe form a cross—thus:
* * *
Everywhere he leaves this impress behind him.
On the smooth and polished snow, these footmarks seem imprinted by a foot of brass on a marble floor.
Night without twilight has soon succeeded day—a night of foreboding gloom.
The brilliant reflection of the snow renders the white steppes still visible beneath the azure darkness of the sky; and the pale stars glimmer on the obscure and frozen dome.
Solemn silence reigns.
But, towards the Straits, a faint light appears.
At first, a gentle, bluish light, such as precedes moonrise; it increases in brightness, and assumes a ruddy hue.
Darkness thickens in every other direction; the white wilds of the desert are now scarcely visible under the black vault of the firmament.
Strange and confused noises are heard amidst this obscurity.
They sound like the flight of large night—birds—now flapping now-heavily skimming over the steppes-now descending.
But no cry is heard.
This silent terror heralds the approach of one of those imposing phenomena that awe alike the most ferocious and the most harmless, of animated beings. An Aurora Borealis (magnificent sight!) common in the polar regions, suddenly beams forth.
A half circle of dazzling whiteness becomes visible in the horizon. Immense columns of light stream forth from this dazzling centre, rising to a great height, illuminating earth, sea, and sky. Then a brilliant reflection, like the blaze of a conflagration, steals over the snow of the desert, purples the summits of the mountains of ice, and imparts a dark red hue to the black rocks of both continents.
After attaining this magnificent brilliancy, the Northern Lights fade away gradually, and their vivid glow is lost in a luminous fog.
Just then, by a wondrous mirage an effect very common in high latitudes, the American Coast, though separated from Siberia by a broad arm of the sea, loomed so close that a bridge might seemingly be thrown from one world to other.
Then human forms appeared in the transparent azure haze overspreading both forelands.
On the Siberian Cape, a man on his knees, stretched his arms towards America, with an expression of inconceivable despair.
On the American promontory, a young and handsome woman replied to the man's despairing gesture by pointing to heaven.
For some seconds, these two tall figures stood out, pale and shadowy, in the farewell gleams of the Aurora.
But the fog thickens, and all is lost in the darkness.
Whence came the two beings, who met thus amidst polar glaciers, at the extremities of the Old and New worlds?
Who were the two creatures, brought near for a moment by a deceitful mirage, but who seemed eternally separated?
Though it is still day, a brass lamp, with four burners, illumines the cracked walls of a large loft, whose solitary window is closed against outer light. A ladder, with its top rungs coming up through an open trap leads to it.
Here and there at random on the floor lie iron chains, spiked collars, saw-toothed snaffles, muzzles bristling with nails, and long iron rods set in wooden handles. In one corner stands a portable furnace, such as tinkers use to melt their spelter; charcoal and dry chips fill it, so that a spark would suffice to kindle this furnace in a minute.
Not far from this collection of ugly instruments, putting one in mind of a torturer's kit of tools, there are some articles of defence and offence of a bygone age. A coat of mail, with links so flexible, close, and light, that it resembles steel tissue, hangs from a box beside iron cuishes and arm-pieces, in good condition, even to being properly fitted with straps. A mace, and two long three-cornered-headed pikes, with ash handles, strong, and light at the same time; spotted with lately-shed blood, complete the armory, modernized somewhat by the presence of two Tyrolese rifles, loaded and primed.
Along with this arsenal of murderous weapons and out-of-date instruments, is strangely mingled a collection of very different objects, being small glass-lidded boxes, full of rosaries, chaplets, medals, AGNUS DEI, holy water bottles, framed pictures of saints, etc., not to forget a goodly number of those chapbooks, struck off in Friburg on coarse bluish paper, in which you can hear about miracles of our own time, or "Jesus Christ's Letter to a true believer," containing awful predictions, as for the years 1831 and '32, about impious revolutionary France.
One of those canvas daubs, with which strolling showmen adorn their booths, hangs from a rafter, no doubt to prevent its being spoilt by too long rolling up. It bore the following legend:
"THE DOWNRIGHT TRUE AND MOST MEMORABLE CONVERSION OF IGNATIUS MOROK,
KNOWN AS THE PROPHET, HAPPENING IN FRIBURG, 1828TH YEAR OF GRACE."
This picture, of a size larger than natural, of gaudy color, and in bad taste, is divided into three parts, each presenting an important phase in the life of the convert, surnamed "The Prophet." In the first, behold a long-bearded man, the hair almost white, with uncouth face, and clad in reindeer skin, like the Siberian savage. His black foreskin cap is topped with a raven's head; his features express terror. Bent forward in his sledge, which half-a-dozen huge tawny dogs draw over the snow, he is fleeing from the pursuit of a pack of foxes, wolves, and big bears, whose gaping jaws, and formidable teeth, seem quite capable of devouring man, sledge, and dogs, a hundred times over. Beneath this section, reads:
"IN 1810, MOROK, THE IDOLATER, FLED FROM WILD BEASTS."
In the second picture, Morok, decently clad in a catechumen's white gown kneels, with clasped hands, to a man who wears a white neckcloth, and flowing black robe. In a corner, a tall angel, of repulsive aspect, holds a trumpet in one hand, and flourishes a flaming sword with the other, while the words which follow flow out of his mouth, in red letters on a black ground:
"MOROK, THE IDOLATER, FLED FROM WILD BEASTS; BUT WILD BEASTS WILL FLEE
FROM IGNATIUS MOROK, CONVERTED AND BAPTIZED IN FRIBURG."
Thus, in the last compartment, the new convert proudly, boastfully, and triumphantly parades himself in a flowing robe of blue; head up, left arm akimbo, right hand outstretched, he seems to scare the wits out of a multitude of lions, tigers, hyenas, and bears, who, with sheathed claws, and masked teeth, crouch at his feet, awestricken, and submissive.
Under this, is the concluding moral:
"IGNATIUS MOROK BEING CONVERTED, WILD BEASTS CROUCH BEFORE HIM."
Not far from this canvas are several parcels of halfpenny books, likewise from the Friburg press, which relate by what an astounding miracle Morok, the Idolater, acquired a supernatural power almost divine, the moment he was converted—a power which the wildest animal could not resist, and which was testified to every day by the lion tamer's performances, "given less to display his courage than to show his praise unto the Lord."
Through the trap-door which opens into the loft, reek up puffs of a rank, sour, penetrating odor. From time to time are heard sonorous growls and deep breathings, followed by a dull sound, as of great bodies stretching themselves heavily along the floor.
A man is alone in this loft. It is Morok, the tamer of wild beasts, surnamed the Prophet.
He is forty years old, of middle height, with lank limbs, and an exceedingly spare frame; he is wrapped in a long, blood-red pelisse, lined with black fur; his complexion, fair by nature is bronzed by the wandering life he has led from childhood; his hair, of that dead yellow peculiar to certain races of the Polar countries, falls straight and stiff down his shoulders; and his thin, sharp, hooked nose, and prominent cheek-bones, surmount a long beard, bleached almost to whiteness. Peculiarly marking the physiognomy of this man is the wide open eye, with its tawny pupil ever encircled by a rim of white. This fixed, extraordinary look, exercises a real fascination over animals—which, however, does not prevent the Prophet from also employing, to tame them, the terrible arsenal around him.
Seated at a table, he has just opened the false bottom of a box, filled with chaplets and other toys, for the use of the devout. Beneath this false bottom, secured by a secret lock, are several sealed envelopes, with no other address than a number, combined with a letter of the alphabet. The Prophet takes one of these packets, conceals it in the pocket of his pelisse, and, closing the secret fastening of the false bottom, replaces the box upon a shelf.
This scene occurs about four o'clock in the afternoon, in the White Falcon, the only hostelry in the little village of Mockern, situated near Leipsic, as you come from the north towards France.
After a few moments, the loft is shaken by a hoarse roaring from below.
"Judas! be quiet!" exclaims the Prophet, in a menacing tone, as he turns his head towards the trap door.
Another deep growl is heard, formidable as distant thunder.
"Lie down, Cain!" cries Morok, starting from his seat.
A third roar, of inexpressible ferocity, bursts suddenly on the ear.
"Death! Will you have done," cries the Prophet, rushing towards the trap door, and addressing a third invisible animal, which bears this ghastly name.
Notwithstanding the habitual authority of his voice—notwithstanding his reiterated threats—the brute-tamer cannot obtain silence: on the contrary, the barking of several dogs is soon added to the roaring of the wild beasts. Morok seizes a pike, and approaches the ladder; he is about to descend, when he sees some one issuing from the aperture.
The new-comer has a brown, sun-burnt face; he wears a gray hat, bell crowned and broad-brimmed, with a short jacket, and wide trousers of green cloth; his dusty leathern gaiters show that he has walked some distance; a game-bag is fastened by straps to his back.
"The devil take the brutes!" cried he, as he set foot on the floor; "one would think they'd forgotten me in three days. Judas thrust his paw through the bars of his cage, and Death danced like a fury. They don't know me any more, it seems?"
This was said in German. Morok answered in the same language, but with a slightly foreign accent.
"Good or bad news, Karl?" he inquired, with some uneasiness.
"You've met them!"
"Yesterday; two leagues from Wittenberg."
"Heaven be praised!" cried Morok, clasping his hands with intense satisfaction.
"Oh, of course, 'tis the direct road from Russia to France, 'twas a thousand to one that we should find them somewhere between Wittenberg and Leipsic."
"And the description?"
"Very close: two young girls in mourning; horse, white; the old man has long moustache, blue forage-cap; gray topcoat and a Siberian dog at his heels."
"And where did you leave them?"
"A league hence. They will be here within the hour."
"And in this inn—since it is the only one in the village," said Morok, with a pensive air.
"And night drawing on," added Karl.
"Did you get the old man to talk?"
"Him!—you don't suppose it!"
"Go, and try yourself."
"And for what reason?"
"You shall know all about it. Yesterday, as if I had fallen in with them by chance, I followed them to the place where they stopped for the night. I spoke in German to the tall old man, accosting him, as is usual with wayfarers, 'Good-day, and a pleasant journey, comrade!' But, for an answer, he looked askant at me, and pointed with, the end of his stick to the other side of the road."
"He is a Frenchman, and, perhaps, does not understand German."
"He speaks it, at least as well as you; for at the inn I heard him ask the host for whatever he and the young girls wanted."
"And did you not again attempt to engage him in conversation?"
"Once only; but I met with such a rough reception, that for fear of making mischief, I did not try again. Besides, between ourselves, I can tell you this man has a devilish ugly look; believe me, in spite of his gray moustache, he looks so vigorous and resolute, though with no more flesh on him than a carcass, that I don't know whether he or my mate Giant Goliath, would have the best of it in a struggle. I know not your plans: only take care, master—take care!"
"My black panther of Java was also very vigorous and very vicious," said Morok, with a grim, disdainful, smile.
"What, Death? Yes; in truth; and she is vigorous and vicious as ever. Only to you she is almost mild."
"And thus I will break this tall old man; notwithstanding his strength and surliness."
"Humph! humph! be on your guard, master. You are clever, you are as brave as any one; but, believe me, you will never make a lamb out of the old wolf that will be here presently."
"Does not my lion, Cain—does not my tiger, Judas, crouch in terror before me?"
"Yes, I believe you there—because you have means—"
"Because I have faith: that is all—and it is all," said Morok, imperiously interrupting Karl, and accompanying these words with such a look, that the other hung his head and was silent.
"Why should not he whom the Lord upholds in his struggle with wild beasts, be also upheld in his struggle with men, when those men are perverse and impious?" added the Prophet, with a triumphant, inspired air.
Whether from belief in his master's conviction, or from inability to engage in a controversy with him on so delicate a subject, Karl answered the Prophet, humbly: "you are wiser than I am, master; what you do must be well done."
"Did you follow this old man and these two young girls all day long?" resumed the Prophet, after a moment's silence.
"Yes; but at a distance. As I know the country well, I sometimes cut across a valley, sometimes over a hill, keeping my eye upon the road, where they were always to be seen. The last time I saw them, I was hid behind the water-mill by the potteries. As they were on the highway for this place, and night was drawing on, I quickened my pace to get here before them, and be the bearer of what you call good news."
"Very good—yes—very good: and you shall be rewarded; for if these people had escaped me—"
The Prophet started, and did not conclude the sentence. The expression of his face, and the tones of his voice, indicated the importance of the intelligence which had just been brought him.
"In truth," rejoined Karl, "it may be worth attending to; for that Russian courier, all plastered with lace, who came, without slacking bridle, from St. Petersburg to Leipsic, only to see you, rode so fast, perhaps, for the purpose—"
Morok abruptly interrupted Karl, and said:
"Who told you that the arrival of the courier had anything to do with these travellers? You are mistaken; you should only know what I choose to tell you."
"Well, master, forgive me, and let's say no more about it. So! I will get rid of my game-bag, and go help Goliath to feed the brutes, for their supper time draws near, if it is not already past. Does our big giant grow lazy, master?"
"Goliath is gone out; he must not know that you are returned; above all, the tall old man and the maidens must not see you here—it would make them suspect something."
"Where do you wish me to go, then?"
"Into the loft, at the end of the stable, and wait my orders; you may this night have to set out for Leipsic."
"As you please; I have some provisions left in my pouch, and can sup in the loft whilst I rest myself."
"Master, remember what I told you. Beware of that old fellow with the gray moustache; I think he's devilish tough; I'm up to these things—he's an ugly customer—be on your guard!"
"Be quite easy! I am always on my guard," said Morok.
"Then good luck to you, master!"—and Karl, having reached the ladder, suddenly disappeared.
After making a friendly farewell gesture to his servant, the Prophet walked up and down for some time, with an air of deep meditation; then, approaching the box which contained the papers, he took out a pretty long letter, and read it over and over with profound attention. From time to time he rose and went to the closed window, which looked upon the inner court of the inn, and appealed to listen anxiously; for he waited with impatience the arrival of the three persons whose approach had just been announced to him.
While the above scene was passing in the White Falcon at Mockern, the three persons whose arrival Morok was so anxiously expecting, travelled on leisurely in the midst of smiling meadows, bounded on one side by a river, the current of which turned a mill; and on the other by the highway leading to the village, which was situated on an eminence, at about a league's distance.
The sky was beautifully serene; the bubbling of the river, beaten by the mill-wheel and sparkling with foam, alone broke upon the silence of an evening profoundly calm. Thick willows, bending over the river, covered it with their green transparent shadow; whilst, further on, the stream reflected so splendidly the blue heavens and the glowing tints of the west, that, but for the hills which rose between it and the sky, the gold and azure of the water would have mingled in one dazzling sheet with the gold and azure of the firmament. The tall reeds on the bank bent their black velvet heads beneath the light breath of the breeze that rises at the close of day—for the sun was gradually sinking behind a broad streak of purple clouds, fringed with fire. The tinkling bells of a flock of sheep sounded from afar in the clear and sonorous air.
Along a path trodden in the grass of the meadow, two girls, almost children—for they had but just completed their fifteenth year—were riding on a white horse of medium size, seated upon a large saddle with a back to it, which easily took them both in, for their figures were slight and delicate.
A man of tall stature, with a sun-burnt face, and long gray moustache, was leading the horse by the bridle, and ever and anon turned towards the girls, with an air of solicitude at once respectful and paternal. He leaned upon a long staff; his still robust shoulders carried a soldier's knapsack; his dusty shoes, and step that began to drag a little, showed that he had walked a long way.
One of those dogs which the tribes of Northern Siberia harness to their sledges—a sturdy animal, nearly of the size, form, and hairy coat of the wolf—followed closely in the steps of the leader of this little caravan, never quitting, as it is commonly said, the heels of his master.
Nothing could be more charming than the group formed by the girls. One held with her left hand the flowing reins, and with her right encircled the waist of her sleeping sister, whose head reposed on her shoulder. Each step of the horse gave a graceful swaying to these pliant forms, and swung their little feet, which rested on a wooden ledge in lieu of a stirrup.
These twin sisters, by a sweet maternal caprice, had been called Rose and Blanche; they were now orphans, as might be seen by their sad mourning vestments, already much worn. Extremely, like in feature, and of the same size, it was necessary to be in the constant habit of seeing them, to distinguish one from the other. The portrait of her who slept not, might serve them for both of them; the only difference at the moment being, that Rose was awake and discharging for that day the duties of elder sister—duties thus divided between then, according to the fancy of their guide, who, being an old soldier of the empire, and a martinet, had judged fit thus to alternate obedience and command between the orphans.
Greuze would have been inspired by the sight of those sweet faces, coifed in close caps of black velvet, from beneath which strayed a profusion of thick ringlets of a light chestnut color, floating down their necks and shoulders, and setting, as in a frame, their round, firm, rosy, satin like cheeks. A carnation, bathed in dew, is of no richer softness than their blooming lips; the wood violet's tender blue would appear dark beside the limpid azure of their large eyes, in which are depicted the sweetness of their characters, and the innocence of their age; a pure and white forehead, small nose, dimpled chin, complete these graceful countenances, which present a delightful blending of candor and gentleness.
You should have seen them too, when, on the threatening of rain or storm, the old soldier carefully wrapped them both in a large pelisse of reindeer fur, and pulled over their heads the ample hood of this impervious garment; then nothing could be more lovely than those fresh and smiling little faces, sheltered beneath the dark-colored cowl.
But now the evening was fine and calm; the heavy cloak hung in folds about the knees of the sisters, and the hood rested on the back of their saddle.
Rose, still encircling with her right arm the waist of her sleeping sister, contemplated her with an expression of ineffable tenderness, akin to maternal; for Rose was the eldest for the day, and an elder sister is almost a mother.
Not only, did the orphans idolize each other; but, by a psychological phenomenon, frequent with twins, they were almost always simultaneously affected; the emotion of one was reflected instantly in the countenance of the other; the same cause would make both of them start or blush, so closely did their young hearts beat in unison; all ingenuous joys, all bitter griefs were mutually felt, and shared in a moment between them.
In their infancy, simultaneously attacked by a severe illness, like two flowers on the same steam, they had drooped, grown pale, and languished together; but together also had they again found the pure, fresh hues of health.
Need it be said, that those mysterious, indissoluble links which united the twins, could not have been broken without striking a mortal blow at the existence of the poor children?
Thus the sweet birds called love-birds, only living in pairs, as if endowed with a common life, pine, despond, and die, when parted by a barbarous hand.
The guide of the orphans, a man of about fifty-five, distinguished by his military air and gait, preserved the immortal type of the warriors of the republic and the empire—some heroic of the people, who became, in one campaign, the first soldiers in the world—to prove what the people can do, have done, and will renew, when the rulers of their choice place in them confidence, strength, and their hope.
This soldier, guide of the sisters, and formerly a horse-grenadier of the Imperial Guard, had been nicknamed Dagobert. His grave, stern countenance was strongly marked; his long, gray, and thick moustache completely concealed his upper lip, and united with a large imperial, which almost covered his chin; his meagre cheeks, brick-colored, and tanned as parchment, were carefully shaven; thick eyebrows, still black, overhung and shaded his light blue eyes; gold ear-rings reached down to his white-edged military stock; his topcoat, of coarse gray cloth, was confined at the waist by a leathern belt; and a blue foraging cap, with a red tuft falling on his left shoulder, covered his bald head.
Once endowed with the strength of Hercules, and having still the heart of a lion—kind and patient, because he was courageous and strong—Dagobert, notwithstanding his rough exterior, evinced for his orphan charges an exquisite solicitude, a watchful kindness, and a tenderness almost maternal. Yes, motherly; for the heroism of affection dwells alike in the mother's heart and the soldiers.
Stoically calm, and repressing all emotion, the unchangeable coolness of Dagobert never failed him; and, though few were less given to drollery, he was now and then highly comic, by reason of the imperturbable gravity with which he did everything.
From time to time, as they journeyed on, Dagobert would turn to bestow a caress or friendly word on the good white home upon which the orphans were mounted. Its furrowed sides and long teeth betrayed a venerable age. Two deep scars, one on the flank and the other on the chest, proved that his horse had been present in hot battles; nor was it without an act of pride that he sometimes shook his old military bridle, the brass stud of which was still adorned with an embossed eagle. His pace was regular, careful, and steady; his coat sleek, and his bulk moderate; the abundant foam, which covered his bit, bore witness to that health which horses acquire by the constant, but not excessive, labor of a long journey, performed by short stages. Although he had been more than six months on the road, this excellent animal carried the orphans, with a tolerably heavy portmanteau fastened to the saddle, as freely as on the day they started.
If we have spoken of the excessive length of the horse's teeth—the unquestionable evidence of great age—it is chiefly because he often displayed them, for the sole purpose of acting up to his name (he was called Jovial), by playing a mischievous trick, of which the dog was the victim.
This latter, who, doubtless for the sake of contrast, was called Spoil-sport (Rabat-joie), being always at his master's heels, found himself within the reach of Jovial, who from time to time nipped him delicately by the nape of the neck, lifted him from the ground, and carried him thus for a moment. The dog, protected by his thick coat, and no doubt long accustomed to the practical jokes of his companion, submitted to all this with stoical complacency; save that, when he thought the jest had lasted long enough, he would turn his head and growl. Jovial understood him at the first hint, and hastened to set him down again. At other times, just to avoid monotony, Jovial would gently bite the knapsack of the soldier, who seemed, as well as the dog, to be perfectly accustomed to his pleasantries.
These details will give a notion of the excellent understanding that existed between the twin sisters, the old soldier, the horse, and the dog.
The little caravan proceeded on its ways anxious to reach, before night, the village of Mockern, which was now visible on the summit of a hill. Ever and anon, Dagobert looked around him, and seemed to be gathering up old recollections; by degrees, his countenance became clouded, and when he was at a little distance from the mill, the noise of which had arrested his attention, he stopped, and drew his long moustache several times between his finger and thumb, the only sign which revealed in him any strong and concentrated feeling.
Jovial, having stopped short behind his master, Blanche, awakened suddenly by the shock, raised her head; her first look sought her sister, on whom she smiled sweetly; then both exchanged glances of surprise, on seeing Dagobert motionless, with his hands clasped and resting on his long staff, apparently affected by some painful and deep emotion.
The orphans just chanced to be at the foot of a little mound, the summit of which was buried in the thick foliage of a huge oak, planted half way down the slope. Perceiving that Dagobert continued motionless and absorbed in thought, Rose leaned over her saddle, and, placing her little white hand on the shoulder of their guide, whose back was turned towards her, said to him, in a soft voice, "Whatever is the matter with you, Dagobert?"
The veteran turned; to the great astonishment of the sisters, they perceived a large tear, which traced its humid furrow down his tanned cheek, and lost itself in his thick moustache.
"You weeping—you!" cried Rose and Blanche together, deeply moved. "Tell us, we beseech, what is the matter?"
After a moments hesitation, the soldier brushed his horny hand across his eyes, and said to the orphans in a faltering voice, whilst he pointed to the old oak beside them: "I shall make you sad, my poor children: and yet what I'm going to tell you has something sacred in it. Well, eighteen years ago, on the eve of the great battle of Leipsic, I carried your father to this very tree. He had two sabre-cuts on the head, a musket ball in his shoulder; and it was here that he and I—who had got two thrust of a lance for my share—were taken prisoners; and by whom, worse luck?—why, a renegado! By a Frenchman—an emigrant marquis, then colonel in the service of Russia—and who afterwards—but one day you shall know all."
The veteran paused; then, pointing with his staff to the village of Mockern, he added: "Yes, yes, I can recognize the spot. Yonder are the heights where your brave father—who commanded us, and the Poles of the Guard—overthrew the Russian Cuirassiers, after having carried the battery. Ah, my children!" continued the soldier, with the utmost simplicity, "I wish you had, seen your brave father, at the head of our brigade of horse, rushing on in a desperate charge in the thick of a shower of shells!—There was nothing like it—not a soul so grand as he!"
Whilst Dagobert thus expressed, in his own way, his regrets and recollections, the two orphans—by a spontaneous movement, glided gently from the horse, and holding each other by the hand, went together to kneel at the foot of the old oak. And there, closely pressed in each other's arms, they began to weep; whilst the soldier, standing behind them, with his hands crossed on his long staff, rested his bald front upon it.
"Come, come you must not fret," said he softly, when, after a pause of a few minutes, he saw tears run down the blooming cheeks of Rose and Blanche, still on their knees. "Perhaps we may find General Simon in Paris," added he; "I will explain all that to you this evening at the inn. I purposely waited for this day, to tell you many things about your father; it was an idea of mine, because this day is a sort of anniversary."
"We weep because we think also of our mother," said Rose.
"Of our mother, whom we shall only see again in heaven," added Blanche.
The soldier raised the orphans, took each by the hand, and gazing from one to the other with ineffable affection, rendered still the more touching by the contrast of his rude features, "You must not give way thus, my children," said he; "it is true your mother was the best of women. When she lived in Poland, they called her the Pearl of Warsaw—it ought to have been the Pearl of the Whole World—for in the whole world you could not have found her match. No—no!"
The voice of Dagobert faltered; he paused, and drew his long gray moustache between finger and thumb, as was his habit. "Listen, my girls," he resumed, when he had mastered his emotion; "your mother could give you none but the best advice, eh?"
"Well, what instructions did she give you before she died? To think often of her, but without grieving?"
"It is true; she told us than our Father in heaven, always good to poor mothers whose children are left on earth, would permit her to hear us from above," said Blanche.
"And that her eyes would be ever fixed upon us," added Rose.
And the two, by a spontaneous impulse, replete with the most touching grace, joined hands, raised their innocent looks to heaven, and exclaimed, with that beautiful faith natural to their age: "Is it not so, mother?—thou seest us?—thou hearest us?"
"Since your mother sees and hears you," said Dagobert, much moved, "do not grieve her by fretting. She forbade you to do so."
"You are right, Dagobert. We will not cry any more."—And the orphans dried their eyes.
Dagobert, in the opinion of the devout, would have passed for a very heathen. In Spain, he had found pleasure in cutting down those monks of all orders and colors, who, bearing crucifix in one hand, and poniard in the other, fought not for liberty—the Inquisition had strangled her centuries ago—but, for their monstrous privileges. Yet, in forty years, Dagobert had witnessed so many sublime and awful scenes—he had been so many times face to face with death—that the instinct of natural religion, common to every simple, honest heart, had always remained uppermost in his soul. Therefore, though he did not share in the consoling faith of the two sisters, he would have held as criminal any attempt to weaken its influence.
Seeing them this downcast, he thus resumed: "That's right, my pretty ones: I prefer to hear you chat as you did this morning and yesterday—laughing at times, and answering me when I speak, instead of being so much engrossed with your own talk. Yes, yes, my little ladies! you seem to have had famous secrets together these last two days—so, much the better, if it amuses you."
The sisters colored, and exchanged a subdued smile, which contrasted with the tears that yet filled their eyes, and Rose said to the soldier, with a little embarrassment. "No, I assure you, Dagobert, we talk of nothing in particular."
"Well, well; I don't wish to know it. Come, rest yourselves, a few moments more, and then we must start again; for it grows late, and we have to reach Mockern before night, so that we may be early on the road to-morrow."
"Have we still a long, long way to go?" asked Rose.
"What, to reach Paris? Yes, my children; some hundred days' march. We don't travel quick, but we get on; and we travel cheap, because we have a light purse. A closet for you, a straw mattress and a blanket at your door for me, with Spoil-sport on my feet, and a clean litter for old Jovial, these are our whole traveling expenses. I say nothing about food, because you two together don't eat more than a mouse, and I have learnt in Egypt and Spain to be hungry only when it suits."
"Not forgetting that, to save still more, you do all the cooking for us, and will not even let us assist."
"And to think, good Dagobert, that you wash almost every evening at our resting-place. As if it were not for us to—"
"You!" said the soldier, interrupting Blanche, "I, allow you to chap your pretty little hands in soap-suds! Pooh! don't a soldier on a campaign always wash his own linen? Clumsy as you see me, I was the best washerwoman in my squadron—and what a hand at ironing! Not to make a brag of it."
"Yes, yes—you can iron well—very well."
"Only sometimes, there will be a little singe," said Rose, smiling.
"Hah! when the iron is too hot. Zounds! I may bring it as near my cheek as I please; my skin is so tough that I don't feel the heat," said Dagobert, with imperturbable gravity.
"We are only jesting, good Dagobert!"
"Then, children, if you think that I know my trade as a washerwoman, let me continue to have your custom: it is cheaper; and, on a journey, poor people like us should save where we can, for we must, at all events, keep enough to reach Paris. Once there, our papers and the medal you wear will do the rest—I hope so, at least."
"This medal is sacred to us; mother gave it to us on her death-bed."
"Therefore, take great care that you do not lose it: see, from time to time, that you have it safe."
"Here it is," said Blanche, as she drew from her bosom a small bronze medal, which she wore suspended from her neck by a chain of the same material. The medal bore on its faces the following inscriptions:
L. C. D. J.
Pray for me!
February the, 13th, 1682.
Rue Saint Francois, No. 3,
In a century and a half
you will be.
February the 13th, 1832.
PRAY FOR ME!
"What does it mean, Dagobert?" resumed Blanche, as she examined the mournful inscriptions. "Mother was not able to tell us."
"We will discuss all that this evening; at the place where we sleep," answered Dagobert. "It grows late, let us be moving. Put up the medal carefully, and away!—We have yet nearly an hour's march to arrive at quarters. Come, my poor pets, once more look at the mound where your brave father fell—and then—to horse! to horse!"
The orphans gave a last pious glance at the spot which had recalled to their guide such painful recollections, and, with his aid, remounted Jovial.
This venerable animal had not for one moment dreamed of moving; but, with the consummate forethought of a veteran, he had made the best use of his time, by taking from that foreign soil a large contribution of green and tender grass, before the somewhat envious eyes of Spoil-sport, who had comfortably established himself in the meadow, with his snout protruding between his fore-paws. On the signal of departure, the dog resumed his post behind his master, and Dagobert, trying the ground with the end of his long staff, led the horse carefully along by the bridle, for the meadow was growing more and more marshy; indeed, after advancing a few steps, he was obliged to turn off to the left, in order to regain the high-road.
On reaching Mockern, Dagobert asked for the least expensive inn, and was told there was only one in the village—the White Falcon.
"Let us go then to the White Falcon," observed the soldier.
Already had Morok several times opened with impatience the window shutters of the loft, to look out upon the inn-yard, watching for the arrival of the orphans and the soldier. Not seeing them, he began once more to walk slowly up and down, with his head bent forward, and his arms folded on his bosom, meditating on the best means to carry out the plan he had conceived. The ideas which possessed his mind, were, doubtless, of a painful character, for his countenance grew even more gloomy than usual.
Notwithstanding his ferocious appearance, he was by no means deficient in intelligence. The courage displayed in his taming exercises (which he gravely attributed to his recent conversion), a solemn and mystical style of speech, and a hypocritical affectation of austerity, had given him a species of influence over the people he visited in his travels. Long before his conversion, as may well be supposed, Morok had been familiar with the habits of wild beasts. In fact born in the north of Siberia, he had been, from his boyhood, one of the boldest hunters of bears and reindeer; later, in 1810, he had abandoned this profession, to serve as guide to a Russian engineer, who was charged with an exploring expedition to the Polar regions. He afterwards followed him to St. Petersburg, and there, after some vicissitudes of fortune, Morok became one of the imperial couriers—these iron automata, that the least caprice of the despot hurls in a frail sledge through the immensity of the empire, from Persia to the Frozen Sea. For these men, who travel night and day, with the rapidity of lightning there are neither seasons nor obstacles, fatigues nor danger; living projectiles, they must either be broken to pieces, or reach the intended mark. One may conceive the boldness, the vigor, and the resignation, of men accustomed to such a life.
It is useless to relate here, by what series of singular circumstances Morok was induced to exchange his rough pursuit for another profession, and at last to enter, as catechumen, a religious house at Friburg; after which, being duly and properly converted, he began his nomadic excursions, with his menagerie of unknown origin.
Morok continued to walk up and down the loft. Night had come. The three persons whose arrival he so impatiently expected had not yet made their appearance. His walk became more and more nervous and irregular.
On a sudden he stopped abruptly; leaned his head towards the window; and listened. His ear was quick as a savage's.
"They are here!" he exclaimed and his fox like eye shone with diabolic joy. He had caught the sound of footsteps—a man's and a horse's. Hastening to the window-shutter of the loft, he opened it cautiously, and saw the two young girls on horseback, and the old soldier who served them as a guide, enter the inn-yard together.
The night had set in, dark and cloudy; a high wind made the lights flicker in the lanterns which were used to receive the new guests. But the description given to Morok had been so exact, that it was impossible to mistake them. Sure of his prey, he closed the window. Having remained in meditation for another quarter of an hour—for the purpose, no doubt, of thoroughly digesting his projects—he leaned over the aperture, from which projected the ladder, and called, "Goliath!"
"Master!" replied a hoarse voice.
"Come up to me."
"Here I am—just come from the slaughter-house with the meat."
The steps of the ladder creaked as an enormous head appeared on a level with the floor. The new-comer, who was more than six feet high, and gifted with herculean proportions, had been well-named Goliath. He was hideous. His squinting eyes were deep set beneath a low and projecting forehead; his reddish hair and beard, thick and coarse as horse-hair, gave his features a stamp of bestial ferocity; between his broad jaws, armed with teeth which resembled fangs, he held by one corner a piece of raw beef weighing ten or twelve pounds, finding it, no doubt, easier to carry in that fashion, whilst he used his hands to ascend the ladder, which bent beneath his weight.
At length the whole of this tall and huge body issued from the aperture. Judging by his bull-neck, the astonishing breadth of his chest and shoulders, and the vast bulk of his arms and legs, this giant need not have feared to wrestle single-handed with a bear. He wore an old pair of blue trousers with red stripes, faced with tanned sheep's-skin, and a vest, or rather cuirass, of thick leather, which was here and there slashed by the sharp claws of the animals.
When he was fairly on the floor, Goliath unclasped his fangs, opened his mouth, and let fall the great piece of beef, licking his blood-stained lips with greediness. Like many other mountebanks, this species of monster had began by eating raw meat at the fairs for the amusement of the public. Thence having gradually acquired a taste for this barbarous food, and uniting pleasure with profit, he engaged himself to perform the prelude to the exercises of Morok, by devouring, in the presence of the crowd, several pounds of raw flesh.
"My share and Death's are below stairs, and here are those of Cain and Judas," said Goliath, pointing to the chunk of beef. "Where is the cleaver, that I may cut it in two?—No preference here—beast or man—every gullet must have it's own."
Then, rolling up one of the sleeves of his vest, he exhibited a fore-arm hairy as skin of a wolf, and knotted with veins as large as one's thumb.
"I say, master, where's the cleaver?"—He again began, as he cast round his eyes in search of that instrument. But instead of replying to this inquiry, the Prophet put many questions to his disciple.
"Were you below when just now some new travellers arrived at the inn?"
"Yes, master; I was coming from the slaughter-house."
"Who are these travellers?"
"Two young lasses mounted on a white horse, and an old fellow with a big moustache. But the cleaver?—my beasts are hungry and so am I—the cleaver!"
"Do you know where they have lodged these travellers?"
"The host took them to the far end of the court-yard."
"The building, which overlooks the fields?"
"Yes, master—but the cleaver—"
A burst of frightful roaring shook the loft, and interrupted Goliath.
"Hark to them!" he exclaimed; "hunger has driven the beasts wild. If I could roar, I should do as they do. I have never seen Judas and Cain as they are to-night; they leap in their cages as if they'd knock all to pieces. As for Death, her eyes shine more than usual like candles—poor Death!"
"So these girls are lodged in the building at the end of the court-yard," resumed Morok, without attending to the observations of Goliath.
"Yes, yes—but in the devil's name, where is the cleaver? Since Karl went away I have to do all the work, and that makes our meals very late."
"Did the old man remain with the young girls?" asked Morok.
Goliath, amazed that, notwithstanding his importunities, his master should still appear to neglect the animals' supper, regarded the Prophet with an increase of stupid astonishment.
"Answer, you brute!"
"If I am a brute, I have a brute's strength," said Goliath, in a surly tone, "and brute against brute, I have not always come the worst off."
"I ask if the old man remained with the girls," repeated Morok.
"Well, then—no!" returned the giant. "The old man, after leading his horse to the stable, asked for a tub and some water, took his stand under the porch—and there—by the light of a lantern—he is washing out clothes. A man with a gray moustache!—paddling in soap-suds like a washerwoman—it's as if I were to feed canaries!" added Goliath, shrugging his shoulders with disdain. "But now I've answered you, master, let me attend to the beasts' supper,"—and, looking round for something, he added, "where is the cleaver?"
After a moment of thoughtful silence, the Prophet said to Goliath, "You will give no food to the beasts this evening."
At first the giant could not understand these words, the idea was so incomprehensible to him.
"What is your pleasure, master?" said he.
"I forbid you to give any food to the beasts this evening."
Goliath did not answer, but he opened wide his squinting eyes, folded his hands, and drew back a couple of steps.
"Well, dost hear me?" said Morok, with impatience. "Is it plain enough?"
"Not feed? when our meat is there, and supper is already three hours after time!" cried Goliath, with ever-increasing amazement.
"Obey, and hold your tongue."
"You must wish something bad to happen this evening. Hunger makes the beasts furious—and me also."
"So much the better!"
"It'll drive 'em mad."
"So much the better!"
"How, so much the better?—But—"
"It is enough!"
"But, devil take me, I am as hungry as the beasts!"
"Eat then—who prevents it? Your supper is ready, as you devour it raw."
"I never eat without my beasts, nor they without me."
"I tell you again, that, if you dare give any food to the beasts—I will turn you away."
Goliath uttered a low growl as hoarse as a bear's, and looked at the Prophet with a mixture of anger and stupefaction.
Morok, having given his orders, walked up and down the loft, appearing to reflect. Then, addressing himself to Goliath, who was still plunged in deep perplexity, he said to him.
"Do you remember the burgomaster's, where I went to get my passport signed?—To-day his wife bought some books and a chaplet."
"Yes," answered the giant shortly.
"Go and ask his servant if I may be sure to find the burgomaster early to-morrow morning."
"I may, perhaps, have something important to communicate; at all events, say that I beg him not to leave home without seeing me."
"Good! but may I feed the beasts before I go to the burgomaster's?—only the panther, who is most hungry? Come, master; only poor Death? just a little morsel to satisfy her; Cain and I and Judas can wait."
"It is the panther, above all, that I forbid you to feed. Yes, her, above all the rest."
"By the horns of the devil!" cried Goliath, "what is the matter with you to-day? I can make nothing of it. It is a pity that Karl's not here; he, being cunning, would help me to understand why you prevent the beasts from eating when they are hungry."
"You have no need to understand it."
"Will not Karl soon come back?"
"He has already come back."
"Where is he, then?"
"What can be going on here? There is something in the wind. Karl goes, and returns, and goes again, and—"
"We are not talking of Karl, but of you; though hungry as a wolf you are cunning as a fox, and, when it suits you, as cunning as Karl." And, changing on the sudden his tone and manner, Morok slapped the giant cordially on the shoulder.
"What! am I cunning?"
"The proof is, that there are ten florins to earn to-night—and you will be keen enough to earn them, I am sure."
"Why, on those terms, yes—I am awake," said the giant, smiling with a stupid, self-satisfied air. "What must I do for ten florins?"
"You shall see."
"Is it hard work?"
"You shall see. Begin by going to the burgomaster's—but first light the fire in that stove." He pointed to it with his finger.
"Yes, master," said Goliath, somewhat consoled for the delay of his supper by the hope of gaining ten florins.
"Put that iron bar in the stove," added the Prophet, "to make it red-hot."
"You will leave it there; go to the burgomaster's, and return here to wait for me."
"You will keep the fire up in the stove."
Morok took a step away, but recollecting himself, he resumed: "You say the old man is busy washing under the porch?"
"Forget nothing: the iron bar in the fire—the burgomaster—and return here to wait my orders." So saying, Morok descended by the trap-door and disappeared.
Goliath had not been mistaken, for Dagobert was washing with that imperturbable gravity with which he did everything else.
When we remember the habits of a soldier a-field, we need not be astonished at this apparent eccentricity. Dagobert only thought of sparing the scanty purse of the orphans, and of saving them all care and trouble; so every evening when they came to a halt he devoted himself to all sorts of feminine occupations. But he was not now serving his apprenticeship in these matters; many times, during his campaigns, he had industriously repaired the damage and disorder which a day of battle always brings to the garments of the soldier; for it is not enough to receive a sabre-cut—the soldier has also to mend his uniform; for the stroke which grazes the skin makes likewise a corresponding fissure in the cloth.
Therefore, in the evening or on the morrow of a hard-fought engagement, you will see the best soldiers (always distinguished by their fine military appearance) take from their cartridge-box or knapsack a housewife, furnished with needles, thread, scissors, buttons, and other such gear, and apply themselves to all kinds of mending and darning, with a zeal that the most industrious workwoman might envy.
We could not find a better opportunity to explain the name of Dagobert, given to Francis Baudoin (the guide of the orphans) at a time when he was considered one of the handsomest and bravest horse-grenadiers of the Imperial Guard.
They had been fighting hard all day, without any decisive advantage. In the evening, the company to which our hero belonged was sent as outliers to occupy the ruins of a deserted village. Videttes being posted, half the troopers remained in saddle, whilst the others, having picketed their horses, were able to take a little rest. Our hero had charged valiantly that day without receiving any wound—for he counted as a mere memento the deep scratch on his thigh, which a kaiserlitz had inflicted in awkwardly attempting an upward thrust with the bayonet.
"You donkey! my new breeches!" the grenadier had exclaimed, when he saw the wide yawning rent, which he instantly avenged by running the Austrian through, with a thrust scientifically administered. For, if he showed a stoical indifference on the subject of injury to his skin, it was not so with regard to the ripping up of his best parade uniform.
He undertook, therefore, the same evening, at the bivouac, to repair this accident. Selecting his best needle and thread from the stores of his housewife, and arming his finger with a thimble, he began to play the tailor by the light of the watch-fire, having first drawn off his cavalry-boots, and also (if it must be confessed) the injured garment itself, which he turned the wrong side out the better to conceal the stitches.
This partial undress was certainly a breach of discipline: but the captain, as he went his round, could not forbear laughing at the sight of the veteran soldier, who, gravely seated, in a squatting position, with his grenadier cap on, his regimental coat on his back, his boots by his side, and his galligaskins in his lap, was sewing with all the coolness of a tailor upon his own shop-board.
Suddenly, a musket-shot is heard, and the videttes fall back upon the detachment, calling to arms. "To horse!" cries the captain, in a voice of thunder.
In a moment, the troopers are in their saddles, the unfortunate clothes mender having to lead the first rank; there is no time to turn the unlucky garment, so he slips it on, as well as he can, wrong side out, and leaps upon his horse, without even stopping to put on his boots.
A party of Cossacks, profiting by the cover of a neighboring wood, had attempted to surprise the detachment: the fight was bloody, and our hero foamed with rage, for he set much value on his equipments, and the day had been fatal to him. Thinking of his torn clothes and lost boots, he hacked away with more fury than ever; a bright moon illumined the scene of action, and his comrades were able to appreciate the brilliant valor of our grenadier, who killed two Cossacks, and took an officer prisoner, with his own hand.
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