The Wandering Jew— Volume 7

Author: Eugène Sue

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, perhaps?"

"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 1s 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 coldhearted 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.


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Chicago: Eugène Sue, "Chapter LI the Secret.," The Wandering Jew— Volume 7, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Stanley Young in The Wandering Jew—Volume 7 (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Sue, Eugène. "Chapter LI the Secret." The Wandering Jew— Volume 7, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Stanley Young, in The Wandering Jew—Volume 7, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Sue, E, 'Chapter LI the Secret.' in The Wandering Jew— Volume 7, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, The Wandering Jew—Volume 7, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from