The Wandering Jew— Volume 2

Contents:
Author: Eugène Sue

Chapter XXXV. The Interview.

When Adrienne de Cardoville entered the saloon where Agricola expected her, she was dressed with extremely elegant simplicity. A robe of deep blue, perfectly fitted to her shape, embroidered in front with interlacings of black silk, according to the then fashion, outlined her nymph-like figure, and her rounded bosom. A French cambric collar, fastened by a large Scotch pebble, set as a brooch, served her for a necklace. Her magnificent golden hair formed a framework for her fair countenance, with an incredible profusion of long and light spiral tresses, which reached nearly to her waist.

Agricola, in order to save explanations with his father, and to make him believe that he had indeed gone to the workshop of M. Hardy, had been obliged to array himself in his working dress; he had put on a new blouse though, and the collar of his shirt, of stout linen, very white, fell over upon a black cravat, negligently tied; his gray trousers allowed his well polished boots to be seen; and he held between his muscular hands a cap of fine woolen cloth, quite new. To sum up, his blue blouse, embroidered with red, showing off the nervous chest of the young blacksmith, and indicating his robust shoulders, falling down in graceful folds, put not the least constraint upon his free and easy gait, and became him much better than either frock-coat or dress-coat would have done. While awaiting Miss de Cardoville, Agricola mechanically examined a magnificent silver vase, admirably graven. A small tablet, of the same metal, fitted into a cavity of its antique stand, bore the words—"Chased by JEAN MARIE, working chaser, 1831."

Adrienne had stepped so lightly upon the carpet of her saloon, only separated from another apartment by the doors, that Agricola had not perceived the young lady’s entrance. He started, and turned quickly round, upon hearing a silver and brilliant voice say to him—

"That is a beautiful vase, is it not, sir?"

"Very beautiful, madame," answered Agricola greatly embarrassed.

"You may see from it that I like what is equitable." added Miss de Cardoville, pointing with her finger to the little silver tablet;—"an artist puts his name upon his painting; an author publishes his on the title-page of his book; and I contend that an artisan ought also to have his name connected with his workmanship."

"Oh, madame, so this name?"

"Is that of the poor chaser who executed this masterpiece, at the order of a rich goldsmith. When the latter sold me the vase, he was amazed at my eccentricity, he would have almost said at my injustice, when, after having made him tell me the name of the author of this production, I ordered his name to be inscribed upon it, instead of that of the goldsmith, which had already been affixed to the stand. In the absence of the rich profits, let the artisan enjoy the fame of his skill. Is it not just, sir?"

It would have been impossible for Adrienne to commence the conversation more graciously: so that the blacksmith, already beginning to feel a little more at ease, answered:

"Being a mechanic myself, madame, I cannot but be doubly affected by such a proof of your sense of equity and justice."

"Since you are a mechanic, sir," resumed Adrienne, "I cannot but felicitate myself on having so suitable a hearer. But please to be seated."

With a gesture full of affability, she pointed to an armchair of purple silk embroidered with gold, sitting down herself upon a tete-d-tete of the same materials.

Seeing Agricola’s hesitation, who again cast down his eyes with embarrassment, Adrienne, to encourage him, showed him Frisky, and said to him gayly: "This poor little animal, to which I am very much attached, will always afford me a lively remembrance of your obliging complaisance, sir. And this visit seems to me to be of happy augury; I know not what good presentiment whispers to me, that perhaps I shall have the pleasure of being useful to you in some affair."

"Madame," said Agricola, resolutely, "my name is Baudoin: a blacksmith in the employment of M. Hardy, at Pressy, near the city. Yesterday you offered me your purse and I refused it: to-day, I have come to request of you perhaps ten or twenty times the sum that you had generously proposed. I have said thus much all at once, madame, because it causes me the greatest effort. The words blistered my lips, but now I shall be more at ease."

"I appreciate the delicacy of your scruples, sir," said Adrienne; "but if you knew me, you would address me without fear. How much do you require?"

"I do not know, madame," answered Agricola.

"I beg your pardon. You don’t know what sum?"

"No madame; and I come to you to request, not only the sum necessary to me, but also information as to what that sum is."

"Let us see, sir," said Adrienne, smiling, "explain this to me. In spite of my good will, you feel that I cannot divine, all at once, what it is that is required."

"Madame, in two words, I can state the truth. I have a food old mother, who in her youth, broke her health by excessive labor, to enable her to bring me up; and not only me, but a poor abandoned child whom she had picked up. It is my turn now to maintain her; and that I have the happiness of doing. But in order to do so, I have only my labor. If I am dragged from my employment, my mother will be without support."

"Your mother cannot want for anything now, sir, since I interest myself for her."

"You will interest yourself for her, madame?" said Agricola.

"Certainly," replied Adrienne.

"But you don’t know her," exclaimed the blacksmith.

"Now I do; yes."

"Oh, madame!" said Agricola, with emotion, after a moment’s silence. "I understand you. But indeed you have a noble heart. Mother Bunch was right."

"Mother Bunch?" said Adrienne, looking at Agricola with a very surprised air; for what he said to her was an enigma.

The blacksmith, who blushed not for his friends, replied frankly.

"Madame, permit me to explain, to you. Mother Bunch is a poor and very industrious young workwoman, with whom I have been brought up. She is deformed, which is the reason why she is called Mother Bunch. But though, on the one hand, she is sunk, as low as you are highly elevated on the other, yet as regards the heart—as to delicacy—oh, lady, I am certain that your heart is of equal worth with hers! That was at once her own thought, after I had related to her in what manner, yesterday, you had presented me with that beautiful flower."

"I can assure you, sir," said Adrienne, sincerely touched, "that this comparison flatters and honors me more than anything else that you could say to me,—a heart that remains good and delicate, in spite of cruel misfortunes, is so rare a treasure; while it is very easy to be good, when we have youth and beauty, and to be delicate and generous, when we are rich. I accept, then, your comparison; but on condition that you will quickly put me in a situation to deserve it. Pray go on, therefore."

In spite of the gracious cordiality of Miss de Cardoville, there was always observable in her so much of that natural dignity which arises from independence of character, so much elevation of soul and nobleness of sentiment that Agricola, forgetting the ideal physical beauty of his protectress, rather experienced for her the emotions of an affectionate and kindly, though profound respect, which offered a singular and striking contrast with the youth and gayety of the lovely being who inspired him with this sentiment.

"If my mother alone, madame, were exposed to the rigor which I dread. I should not be so greatly disquieted with the fear of a compulsory suspension of my employment. Among poor people, the poor help one another; and my mother is worshipped by all the inmates of our house, our excellent neighbors, who would willingly succor her. But, they themselves are far from being well off; and as they would incur privations by assisting her, their little benefit would still be more painful to my mother than the endurance even of misery by herself. And besides, it is not only for my mother that my exertions are required, but for my father, whom we have not seen for eighteen years, and who has just arrived from Siberia, where he remained during all that time, from zealous devotion to his former general, now Marshal Simon."

"Marshal Simon!" said Adrienne, quickly, with an expression of much surprise.

"Do you know the marshal, madame?"

"I do not personally know him, but he married a lady of our family."

"What joy!" exclaimed the blacksmith, "then the two young ladies, his daughters, whom my father has brought from Russia, are your relations!"

"Has Marshal Simon two daughters?" asked Adrienne, more and more astonished and interested.

"Yes, madame, two little angels of fifteen or sixteen, and so pretty, so sweet; they are twins so very much alike, as to be mistaken for one another. Their mother died in exile; and the little she possessed having been confiscated, they have come hither with my father, from the depths of Siberia, travelling very wretchedly; but he tried to make them forget so many privations by the fervency of his devotion and his tenderness. My excellent father! you will not believe, madame, that, with the courage of a lion, he has all the love and tenderness of a mother."

"And where are the dear children, sir?" asked Adrienne.

"At our home, madame. It is that which renders my position so very hard; that which has given me courage to come to you; it is not but that my labor would be sufficient for our little household, even thus augmented; but that I am about to be arrested."

"About to be arrested? For what?"

"Pray, madame, have the goodness to read this letter, which has been sent by some one to Mother Bunch."

Agricola gave to Miss de Cardoville the anonymous letter which had been received by the workwoman.

After having read the letter, Adrienne said to the blacksmith, with surprise, "It appears, sir, you are a poet!"

"I have neither the ambition nor the pretension to be one, madame. Only, when I return to my mother after a day’s toil, and often, even while forging my iron, in order to divert and relax my attention, I amuse myself with rhymes, sometimes composing an ode, sometimes a song."

"And your song of the Freed Workman, which is mentioned in this letter, is, therefore, very disaffected—very dangerous?"

"Oh, no, madame; quite the contrary. For myself, I have the good fortune to be employed in the factory of M. Hardy, who renders the condition of his workpeople as happy as that of their less fortunate comrades is the reverse; and I had limited myself to attempt, in favor of the great mass of the working classes, an equitable, sincere, warm, and earnest claim— nothing more. But you are aware, perhaps, Madame, that in times of conspiracy, and commotion, people are often incriminated and imprisoned on very slight grounds. Should such a misfortune befall me, what will become of my mother, my father, and the two orphans whom we are bound to regard as part of our family until the return of their father, Marshal Simon? It is on this account, madame, that, if I remain, I run the risk of being arrested. I have come to you to request you to provide surety for me; so that I should not be compelled to exchange the workshop for the prison, in which case I can answer for it that the fruits of my labor will suffice for all."

"Thank the stars!" said Adrienne, gayly, "this affair will arrange itself quite easily. Henceforth, Mr. Poet, you shall draw your inspirations in the midst of good fortune instead of adversity. Sad muse! But first of all, bonds shall be given for you."

"Oh, madame, you have saved us!"

"To continue," said Adrienne, "the physician of our family is intimately connected with a very important minister (understand that, as you like," said she, smiling, "you will not deceive yourself much). The doctor exercises very great influence over this great statesman; for he has always had the happiness of recommending to him, on account of his health; the sweets and repose of private life, to the very eve of the day on which his portfolio was taken from him. Keep yourself, then, perfectly at ease. If the surety be insufficient, we shall be able to devise some other means.

"Madame," said Agricola, with great emotion, "I am indebted to you for the repose, perhaps for the life of my mother. Believe that I shall ever be grateful."

"That is all quite simple. Now for another thing. It is proper that those who have too much should have the right of coming to the aid of those who have too little. Marshal Simon’s daughters are members of my family, and they will reside here with me, which will be more suitable. You will apprise your worthy mother of this; and in the evening, besides going to thank her for the hospitality which she has shown to my young relations, I shall fetch them home."

At this moment Georgette, throwing open the door which separated the room from an adjacent apartment, hurriedly entered, with an affrighted look, exclaiming:

"Oh, madame, something extraordinary is going on in the street."

"How so? Explain yourself," said Adrienne.

"I went to conduct my dressmaker to the little garden-gate," said Georgette; "where I saw some ill-looking men, attentively examining the walls and windows of the little out-building belonging to the pavilion, as if they wished to spy out some one."

"Madame," said Agricola, with chagrin, "I have not been deceived. They are after me."

"What say you?"

"I thought I was followed, from the moment when I left the Rue St. Merry: and now it is beyond doubt. They must have seen me enter your house; and are on the watch to arrest me. Well, now that your interest has been acquired for my mother,—now that I have no farther uneasiness for Marshal Simon’s daughters,—rather than hazard your exposure to anything the least unpleasant, I run to deliver myself up."

"Beware of that sir," said Adrienne, quickly. "Liberty is too precious to be voluntarily sacrificed. Besides, Georgette may have been mistaken. But in any case, I entreat you not to surrender yourself. Take my advice, and escape being arrested. That, I think, will greatly facilitate my measures; for I am of opinion that justice evinces a great desire to keep possession of those upon whom she has once pounced."

"Madame," said Hebe, now also entering with a terrified look, "a man knocked at the little door, and inquired if a young man in a blue blouse has not entered here. He added, that the person whom he seeks is named Agricola Baudoin, and that he has something to tell him of great importance."

"That’s my name," said Agricola; "but the important information is a trick to draw me out."

"Evidently," said Adrienne; "and therefore we must play off trick for trick. What did you answer, child?" added she, addressing herself to Hebe.

"I answered, that I didn’t know what he was talking about."

"Quite right," said Adrienne: "and the man who put the question?"

"He went away, madame."

"Without doubt to come back again, soon," said Agricola.

"That is very probable," said Adrienne, "and therefore, sir, it is necessary for you to remain here some hours with resignation. I am unfortunately obliged to go immediately to the Princess Saint-Dizier, my aunt, for an important interview, which can no longer be delayed, and is rendered more pressing still by what you have told me concerning the daughters of Marshal Simon. Remain here, then, sir; since if you go out, you will certainly be arrested."

"Madame, pardon my refusal; but I must say once more that I ought not to accept this generous offer."

"Why?"

"They have tried to draw me out, in order to avoid penetrating with the power of the law into your dwelling but if I go not out, they will come in; and never will I expose you to anything so disagreeable. Now that I am no longer uneasy about my mother, what signifies prison?"

"And the grief that your mother will feel, her uneasiness, and her fears,—nothing? Think of your father; and that poor work-woman who loves you as a brother, and whom I value as a sister;—say, sir, do you forget them also? Believe me, it is better to spare those torments to your family. Remain here; and before the evening I am certain, either by giving surety, or some other means, of delivering you from these annoyances."

"But, madame, supposing that I do accept your generous offer, they will come and find me here."

"Not at all. There is in this pavilion, which was formerly the abode of a nobleman’s left-handed wife,—you see, sir," said Adrienne, smiling, "that live in a very profane place—there is here a secret place of concealment, so wonderfully well-contrived, that it can defy all searches. Georgette will conduct you to it. You will be very well accommodated. You will even be able to write some verses for me, if the place inspire you."

"Oh, madame! how great is your goodness! how have I merited it?"

"Oh, sir, I will tell you. Admitting that your character and your position do not entitle you to any interest;—admitting that I may not owe a sacred debt to your father for the touching regards and cares he has bestowed upon the daughters of Marshal Simon, my relations—do you forget Frisky, sir?" asked Adrienne, laughing, -"Frisky, there, whom you have restored to my fondles? Seriously, if I laugh," continued this singular and extravagant creature, "it is because I know that you are entirely out of danger, and that I feel an increase of happiness. Therefore, sir, write for me quickly your address, and your mother’s, in this pocket-book; follow Georgette; and spin me some pretty verses, if you do not bore yourself too much in that prison to which you fly."

While Georgette conducted the blacksmith to the hiding-place, Hebe brought her mistress a small gray beaver hat with a gray feather; for Adrienne had to cross the park to reach the house occupied by the Princess Saint-Dizier.

A quarter of an hour after this scene, Florine entered mysteriously the apartment of Mrs. Grivois, the first woman of the princess.

"Well?" demanded Mrs. Grivois of the young woman.

"Here are the notes which I have taken this morning," said Florine, putting a paper into the duenna’s hand. "Happily, I have a good memory."

"At what time exactly did she return home this morning?" asked the duenna, quickly.

"Who, madame?"

"Miss Adrienne."

"She did not go out, madame. We put her in the bath at nine o’clock."

"But before nine o’clock she came home, after having passed the night out of her house. Eight o’clock was the time at which she returned, however."

Florine looked at Mrs. Grivois with profound astonishment, and said—

"I do not understand you, madame."

"What’s that? Madame did not come home this morning at eight o’clock? Dare you lie?"

"I was ill yesterday, and did not come down till nine this morning, in order to assist Georgette and Hebe help our young lady from the bath. I know nothing of what passed previously, I swear to you, madame."

"That alters the case. You must ferret out what I allude to from your companions. They don’t distrust you, and will tell you all."

"Yes, madame."

"What has your mistress done this morning since you saw her?"

"Madame dictated a letter to Georgette for M. Norval, I requested permission to send it off, as a pretext for going out, and for writing down all I recollected."

"Very well. And this letter?"

"Jerome had to go out, and I gave it him to put in the post-office."

"Idiot!" exclaimed Mrs. Grivois: "couldn’t you bring it to me?"

"But, as madame dictated it aloud to Georgette, as is her custom, I knew the contents of the letter; and I have written it in my notes."

"That’s not the same thing. It is likely there was need to delay sending off this letter; the princess will be very much displeased."

"I thought I did right, madame."

"I know that it is not good will that fails you. For these six months I have been satisfied with you. But this time you have committed a very great mistake."

"Be indulgent, madame! what I do is sufficiently painful!" The girl stifled a sigh.

Mrs. Grivois looked fixedly at her, and said in a sardonic tone:

"Very well, my dear, do not continue it. If you have scruples, you are free. Go your way."

"You well know that I am not free, madame," said Florine, reddening; and with tears in her eyes she added: "I am dependent upon M. Rodin, who placed me here."

"Wherefore these regrets, then?"

"In spite of one’s self, one feels remorse. Madame is so good, and so confiding."

"She is all perfection, certainly! But you are not here to sing her praises. What occurred afterwards?"

"The working-man who yesterday found and brought back Frisky, came early this morning and requested permission to speak with my young lady."

"And is this working-man still in her house?"

"I don’t know. He came in when I was going out with the letter."

"You must contrive to learn what it was this workingman came about."

"Yes, madame."

"Has your mistress seemed preoccupied, uneasy, or afraid of the interview which she is to have to-day with the princess? She conceals so little of what she thinks, that you ought to know."

"She has been as gay as usual. She has even jested about the interview!"

"Oh! jested, has she?" said the tire-woman, muttering between her teeth, without Florine being able to hear her: "`They laugh most who laugh last.’ In spite of her audacious and diabolical character, she would tremble, and would pray for mercy, if she knew what awaits her this day." Then addressing Florine, she continued -

"Return, and keep yourself, I advise you, from those fine scruples, which will be quite enough to do you a bad turn. Do not forget!"

"I cannot forget that I belong not to myself, madame."

"Anyway, let it be so. Farewell."

Florine quitted the mansion and crossed the park to regain the summerhouse, while Mrs Grivois went immediately to the Princess Saint-Dizier."

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Chicago: Eugène Sue, "Chapter XXXV. The Interview.," The Wandering Jew— Volume 2, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Stanley Young in The Wandering Jew—Volume 2 (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed April 16, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9R8B486PEW2IN6S.

MLA: Sue, Eugène. "Chapter XXXV. The Interview." The Wandering Jew— Volume 2, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Stanley Young, in The Wandering Jew—Volume 2, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 16 Apr. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9R8B486PEW2IN6S.

Harvard: Sue, E, 'Chapter XXXV. The Interview.' in The Wandering Jew— Volume 2, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, The Wandering Jew—Volume 2, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 16 April 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=9R8B486PEW2IN6S.