The Wandering Jew
Eugenio Sue [Eugène Sue], “The Wandering Jew,” 1846. Spanish translator unknown. Translated from the Spanish by Academic Language Experts team.
As Adriana did not wish to prolong this situation and thus make it more embarrassing and ridiculous than it already was, she herself went to the door and opened it, to the great astonishment of Filemon, who took two steps back.
Despite her intense annoyance, Miss Cardoville could not help smiling when she saw Rosa Pompon’s peculiar lover and observed all the objects he carried in his hand or under his arm.
Filemon, a great rogue, dark-haired and ruddy, wore a white beret on his head as he had just arrived from a journey. His thick black beard tumbled abundantly over his light-blue waistcoat à la Robespierre, and a very short olive-colored frock-coat and enormous trousers with an extravagantly oversized plaid pattern completed his outfit. As for the accessories that had made Adriana smile, they consisted of: 1) under Filemon’s arm, a piece of luggage from which protruded the feet and head of a goose; and 2) a huge white rabbit, very much alive, locked in a cage the student carried in his hand.
“Oh, what a darling white rabbit! How red its eyes are!”
Those were admittedly Rosa Pompon’s first words, even though Filemon, to whom they were not addressed, had just returned from a long absence; but rather than grumbling at being thrown over for his long-eared, ruby-eyed companion, the student smiled contentedly to see that the surprise he had brought his mistress was going over so well.
All this had occurred quickly.
While Rosa Pompon, kneeling next to the cage, exclaimed her admiration for the rabbit, Filemon, his attention drawn by Miss Cardoville’s gentility, put his hand on his beret and greeted her respectfully, standing upright by the wall.
Adriana returned his greeting with a most courteous, dignified graciousness, and immediately descended the stairs and disappeared.
Filemon, dazzled by her beauty and impressed by her noble, distinguished air, and above all eager to know how the devil Rosa Pompon could have such acquaintances, said to her in his tender, amorous jargon:
“Tell me, Mon-Mon’s darling kitty, who is that beautiful lady?”
“A friend from school... you great lecher...” said Rosa Pompon, playing with the rabbit.
And then looking sidelong at a box Filemon had set down next to the cage and bag:
“I’ll bet that box is some of your family’s grape syrup that you’ve brought me from home.”
“Mon-Mon has brought his darling kitty something better than that,” Filemon said, landing two vigorous kisses on the cheeks of Rosa Pompon, who had finally stood up. “Mon-mon brings her his heart.”
“Well, that’s no news!” said the grisette, touching her left thumb to the tip of her nose, spreading the other fingers and wiggling her hand.
Filemon responded to the taunt by lovingly embracing her body, and the merry couple closed the door to the room.
END OF VOLUME EIGHT
During Adriana’s conversation with Rosa Pompon, a touching scene had played out between La Mayeux and Agricol, both of them surprised at Miss Cardoville’s graciousness towards the grisette.
The moment Adriana left the room, Agricol kneeled by La Mayeux’s bed and said to her with deep emotion:
“We’re alone... I can finally tell you what is in my heart... Look... You see?... It’s a terrible thing you’ve done... You were dying of poverty... and despair... and never sent for me to help you!...”
“No... There’s no excuse. What in God’s name is the use of our calling each other brother and sister... and for fifteen years repeatedly proving our sincerest affection... if on the day misfortune arrives you could decide to end your life, not caring about anyone you were leaving behind... not thinking that killing yourself meant telling them ‘You mean nothing to me’?”
“Forgive me, Agricol... It’s true... I hadn’t thought of that...,” said La Mayeux, lowering her eyes. “But... poverty... the lack of work...”
“Poverty... the lack of work!... But what about me?... Wasn’t I here?...”
“But why despair? This generous young lady has taken you into her home, appreciating your value and treating you as a friend, and just when you have the greatest assurance of happiness... of a happy future, you poor child... you suddenly leave Miss Cardoville’s house, causing us all the most horrific anxiety about what became of you.”
“I... I... was afraid of being a burden... to my benefactress,” stammered La Mayeux.
“You, a burden... to Miss Cardoville... to that generous, kind lady?”
“I was afraid of being indiscreet,” said La Mayeux, increasingly embarrassed.
Instead of answering his adoptive sister, Agricol stayed quiet for some moments and watched and contemplated her, and then exclaimed suddenly as if answering a question he had asked himself:
“She’ll forgive me for disobeying her. Yes, I’m sure of it.”
And then addressing La Mayeux, who watched with growing surprise, he said in a laconic, emotional voice:
“I’m too honest. I can’t continue like this: I’m criticizing you, reproaching you... and I’m not thinking of what I’m saying... I’m thinking of something else.”
“What are you thinking then, Agricol?”
“My heart boils when I think how I’ve wronged you...”
“I don’t understand, my friend... You have never wronged me at all.”
“No... Haven’t I?... Ever... Not even in the smallest way? For instance, by giving in to a hateful habit from childhood, I, who loved you so long as a sister and respected you... I insulted you a hundred times a day...”
“You insulted me?”
“What else was it when I gave you a thoroughly ridiculous nickname... instead of calling you by your name?”
On hearing these words, La Mayeux eyed the blacksmith with fright, fearing he knew her secret despite Miss Cardoville’s assurances to the contrary; she calmed down, though, thinking that Agricol might have realized how humiliating it must have been to constantly hear herself called by the name Mayeux. So she responded by making an effort to smile.
“How can you trouble yourself over so small a thing? It was, as you say, Agricol, a habit from childhood... Your sweet, tender mother, who treated me as a daughter... called me La Mayeux, you know that.”
“And did my mother also go... to consult you about my future marriage, and talk to you about my fiancée’s remarkable beauty, and beg you to see that young woman and examine her character, in hopes that your affectionate instincts towards me would warn you... if my choice had been bad? Tell me, was it my mother who was so cruel?... No: I’m the one who broke your heart.”
La Mayeux’s fears reawoke: there was no longer any doubt, Agricol knew her secret. She was dying of confusion but made one last effort not to believe it, and replied in a weak, soft voice.
“Indeed... Agricol... It was not your mother who made that request... It was you... and... I’ve been so grateful to you for that sign of trust.”
“Grateful to me, you poor thing?” replied the blacksmith with tears in his eyes. “No, that’s not true... Because I mistreated you horribly... It was my fault... Without knowing it... Oh my God!”
“But...” said La Mayeux in a barely intelligible voice. “Why do you think that?”
“Why? You loved me,” exclaimed the blacksmith, trembling with emotion, and he hugged La Mayeux to his breast in a brotherly embrace.
“Oh my God!” murmured the unhappy wretch, trying to cover her face with her hands. “He knows everything.”
“Yes... I know everything,” replied the blacksmith with a look of indescribable tenderness and respect.
“Yes, I know everything and I don’t want you to feel ashamed of a sentiment that honors me and in which I rejoice; yes, I know everything, and I tell myself happily and proudly that the best and most noble heart that ever existed was mine, is mine... and will always be mine. Come, Magdalena! Reserve shame for evil passions: raise your head, lift your eyes, and look at me... You know whether my face has ever lied... You know if it has ever shown a false feeling... Well, then! Look at me, I say, look at me... and you will read in my features how proud I am—do you hear me?—legitimately proud of your love...”
Confused with grief and overwhelmed by the confusion, she had not yet dared look up at Agricol; but his words revealed such sincere concern and his shaking voice bespoke such tender emotion that the unhappy creature saw her shame vanish bit by bit, especially when Agricol added with increasing elation:
“No, calm yourself, my good and noble Magdalena, regarding that honorable love... I will be worthy of it, and it will give you, believe me, moments of happiness as numerous as the tears I’ve made you shed... From now on, why should you find in this love a reason for estrangement, confusion, or fear? What is love, as your admirable heart understands it? Is it not an exchange of sacrifices and tenderness, a deep reciprocal esteem, a mutual blind trust? Well, Magdalena! We will have that devotion, that tenderness, that trust in each other, yes, even more than before. A thousand times in the past, your secret caused you fear and self-doubt, but from now on you will find me so glad to fill your good and valiant heart entirely that you will be happy at the happiness you will bring me... What I’m saying may be selfish... It could well be, but there’s no choice... I don’t know how to lie.”
The more the blacksmith talked, the more La Mayeux took heart... What she had most feared about her secret being revealed was that it would inspire jests, scorn, or a humiliating pity; but far from that, Agricol’s manly face and guileless features showed joy and happiness: La Mayeux knew he was incapable of deceit. And so La Mayeux exclaimed without any confusion this time, but quite the opposite... with a kind of pride:
“The consoling part of any pure, sincere passion is—Oh my God!—that it always eventually earns a tender interest, once it has managed to withstand the first storms: such passion always will honor the heart that inspires it and the heart that feels it. Thanks to you, Agricol, thanks to your kind words, which make me think better of myself, I feel that instead of being ashamed of this love, I should revel in it... My benefactress is right... And you are also right: So why should I be ashamed? Isn’t my love holy and true? Taking part in your life, loving you, telling you, and proving it with constant affection. What more can I desire? And yet shame and fear, together with the dizziness caused by poverty, drove me to suicide! But (look, my friend), allowances should be made when someone who was doomed to mockery right from childhood finds it hard to trust people... and in any case... that secret was supposed to go with me to the grave, unless it was revealed to you by some unforeseeable chance... Then in that case, you’re right: trusting myself, trusting you... I should not have been afraid of anything; but you must be indulgent with me. A lack of confidence, a cruel lack of self-confidence unfortunately makes one doubt others... Let’s forget about that... Look, Agricol, my generous brother, I’ll tell you what you just told me... Look at me, my face has never lied either... So look!... See whether my eyes avoid yours... Look and see whether I have ever appeared more content in my life... and yet a short time ago I was going to die.”
La Mayeux was right.
Even Agricol himself had not expected his words to produce an effect so quickly: despite the deep traces that her poverty, woes, and illness had imprinted on the young woman’s face, at that moment she was radiant with a heightened, serene happiness while her blue eyes, as gentle and pure as her soul, gazed into Agricol’s eyes with no embarrassment whatsoever.
“Oh, thank you, thank you!” exclaimed the blacksmith giddily. “When I see you so calmed and so happy, Magdalena... What you make me feel is gratitude.”
“Yes, calmed, and yes, happy,” replied La Mayeux. “Yes, happy forever because now you will know my most secret thoughts... Yes, happy, because this day that began so dismally is ending like a divine dream: far from being afraid, I look at you with hope, with delight; I am reunited with my generous benefactress, and I am at ease about the future of my poor sister... Oh! We’ll see her at once, won’t we? Because she too must share in my happiness.”
With La Mayeux so happy, the blacksmith would not and could not let her know what had happened to Cefisa and decided to wait and tell her later, very delicately. And so he replied:
“Since Cefisa is stronger than you, she is more overwhelmed by what happened and, as I was just told, it would be wise to leave her in absolute peace all day.”
“I’ll wait, then. I’ve no shortage of things to distract my imagination. I have so much to tell you!...”
“Dear, sweet Magdalena!”
“Listen, my friend,” exclaimed La Mayeux, interrupting Agricol and weeping with joy. “I can’t begin to say—can you believe it?—what it feels like when you call me Magdalena... It’s like a thing so soft, so sweet, so healing, that it makes my heart expand...”
“You poor child! How you must have suffered, my God!” exclaimed the blacksmith with inexpressible compassion on seeing her look so happy, so grateful to hear herself called by her humble name...
“Just know, my friend, that to me, hearing that word from your mouth is a glimpse at a new existence. If you knew the hopes, the delights that I can see in an instant for the future! If you knew the dearest ambitions of my feelings!... Your wife, that enchanting Angela... with her angelic face... Oh, I’ll tell you again: Look at me and you will see that this sweet name is sweet to my lips and to my heart... Yes, your enchanting and kind Angela will also call me Magdalena... and your children... Agricol... Your children, poor beloved little creatures... I’ll be Magdalena to them, too... their good Magdalena... And given the love I’ll feel for them, won’t they be mine as much as they are their mother’s? Because I demand a share of the maternal attentions: they’ll belong to the three of us, won’t they, Agricol? Oh! Let me... let me cry: look... Tears are so good when they are cried without bitterness, when there is no need to hide them!... Heaven be praised! Thanks to you, my friend... the source of these tears is not yet exhausted.”
For several moments, this scene had been observed by an unseen witness: the blacksmith and La Mayeux were too caught up in their emotions to notice Miss Cardoville standing on the threshold of the door.
As La Mayeux was saying, that day which had begun with dreary prospects for everyone had turned into a day of ineffable happiness for them all.
Adriana, too, was radiant: Djalma had been faithful to her, Djalma loved her passionately.
The odious appearances that had misled and tormented her at the same time were no doubt some new scheme of Rodin’s, and Miss Cardoville had no choice but to uncover the purpose of that plot. There was still another satisfaction in store for her...
Nothing instills a greater discernment of happiness... than being happy oneself. La Mayeux’s last utterance alerted Adriana that there was no longer any secret between the blacksmith and the workwoman; and so she could not resist saying as she entered:
“Oh! This is the most beautiful day of my life... because I am not the only one who is happy.”
Agricol and La Mayeux promptly turned their heads.
“Miss,” said the blacksmith, “I know I promised but I couldn’t conceal from Magdalena that I knew she loves me.”
“Now that I’m not ashamed of this love in front of Agricol, how could I be ashamed in front of you, Miss? In front of you, who recently told me, ‘Be proud of that love... It is noble and pure’?” said La Mayeux, and her happiness gave her the energy to stand up and take Agricol by the arm.
“That’s fine, my friend!” said Adriana, approaching her and taking her arm, to support her too. “I’m going to say one thing to excuse an indiscretion for which you might reproach me... I told your secret to Mr. Agricol...”
“Do you know why, Magdalena?” said the blacksmith, interrupting Adriana. “This is further proof of the delicate generosity this young lady never fails to show. ‘I have long hesitated to convey this secret to you,’ she told me this morning, ‘but I have decided to tell you. We are going to your adoptive sister. You have been the best of brothers to her, but without knowing it, without meaning to, you often offend her cruelly. Now you know her secret... I trust your heart to keep it faithfully and save that poor girl a thousand sufferings... sufferings all the more bitter because they come from you, and because she must suffer them in silence. So when you speak to her of your wife, of your happiness, tread lightly so as not to wound that noble, kind, tender heart’... Yes, Magdalena: This is why the young lady committed what she calls an indiscretion.”
“I lack words, Miss, to thank you now and always...” said La Mayeux.
“You see, my friend,” Adriana replied, “how sometimes the wicked are undone by their own machinations. They were afraid of your devoted affection for me; they had sent poor Florina to steal your diary...”
“To shame me into leaving your home, Miss, when I learned that my most intimate thoughts were a matter of public derision... I have no doubt about that now,” said La Mayeux.
“You are right, my child. That dreadful wickedness that nearly caused your death will now cause their humiliation. Their scheme is discovered... This and happily