The priest, having heard that the “Jewess” was about to die, came to offer the consolation of his religion and administer the last sacrament. Was she a Jewess? He did not know. But in any case, he wished to try to save her soul.
Hardly had he knocked at the door when old Judas appeared on the threshold, breathing hard, his eyes aflame, his long beard agitated, like rippling water, and he hurled blasphemies in an unknown language, extending his skinny arms in order to prevent the priest from entering.
The priest attempted to speak, offered his purse and his aid, but the old man kept on abusing him, making gestures with his hands as if throwing; stones at him.
Then the priest retired, followed by the curses of the beggar.
The companion of old Judas died the following day. He buried her himself, in front of her door. They were people of so little account that no one took any interest in them.
Then they saw the man take his pigs out again to the lake and up the hillsides. And he also began begging again to get food. But the people gave him hardly anything, as there was so much gossip about him. Every one knew, moreover, how he had treated the priest.
Then he disappeared. That was during Holy Week, but no one paid any attention to him.
But on Easter Sunday the boys and girls who had gone walking out to the lake heard a great noise in the hut. The door was locked; but the boys broke it in, and the two pigs ran out, jumping like gnats. No one ever saw them again.
The whole crowd went in; they saw some old rags on the floor, the beggar’s hat, some bones, clots of dried blood and bits of flesh in the hollows of the skull.
His pigs had devoured him.
“This happened on Good Friday, monsieur.” Joseph concluded his story, “three hours after noon.”
“How do you know that?” I asked him.
“There is no doubt about that,” he replied.
I did not attempt to make him understand that it could easily happen that the famished animals had eaten their master, after he had died suddenly in his hut.
As for the cross on the wall, it had appeared one morning, and no one knew what hand traced it in that strange color.
Since then no one doubted any longer that the Wandering Jew had died on this spot.
I myself believed it for one hour.
THE LITTLE CASK
He was a tall man of forty or thereabout, this Jules Chicot, the innkeeper of Spreville, with a red face and a round stomach, and said by those who knew him to be a smart business man. He stopped his buggy in front of Mother Magloire’s farmhouse, and, hitching the horse to the gatepost, went in at the gate.
Chicot owned some land adjoining that of the old woman, which he had been coveting for a long while, and had tried in vain to buy a score of times, but she had always obstinately refused to part with it.