“She had the courage of a lion, and an angel’s resignation, She always said to me, in her low, faint voice, broken by a dry and frequent cough: ’I have not long to live, breathing, as I do, lime and vitriol all day long. I spit blood, and have spasms that make me faint.’
“‘Why not change your trade?’ have I said to her.
“‘Where will I find the time to make another apprenticeship?’ she would answer; ’and it is now too late. I feel that I am done for. It is not my fault,’ added the good creature, ’for I did not choose my employment. My father would have it so; luckily he can do without me. And then, you see, when one is dead, one cares for nothing, and has no fear of “slop wages."’
“Victorine uttered that sad, common phrase very sincerely, and with a sort of satisfaction. Therefore she died repeating: ‘At last!’
“It is painful to think that the labor by which the poor man earns his daily bread, often becomes a long suicide! I said this the other day to Agricola; he answered me that there were many other fatal employments; those who prepare aquafortis, white lead, or minium, for instance, are sure to take incurable maladies of which they die.
“‘Do you know,’ added Agricola, ’what they say when they start for those fatal works?’—Why, ‘We are going to the slaughter-house.’
“That made me tremble with its terrible truth.
“‘And all this takes place in our day,’ said I to him, with an aching heart; ’and it is well-known. And, out of so many of the rich and powerful, no one thinks of the mortality which decimates his brothers, thus forced to eat homicidal bread!’
“‘What can you expect, my poor sister,’ answered Agricola. ’When men are to be incorporated, that they may get killed in war, all pains are taken with them. But when they are to be organized, so as to live in peace, no one cares about it, except M. Hardy, my master. People say, ’Pooh! hunger, misery, and suffering of the laboring classes—what is that to us? that is not politics.’ ‘They are wrong,’ added Agricola; ’it is more than politics.’
“As Victorine had not left anything to pay for the church service, there was only the presentation of the body under the porch; for there is not even a plain mass for the poor. Besides, as they could not give eighteen francs to the curate, no priest accompanied the pauper’s coffin to the common grave. If funerals, thus abridged and cut short, are sufficient in a religious point of view, why invent other and longer forms? Is it from cupidity?—If, on the other hand, they are not sufficient, why make the poor man the only victim of this insufficiency? But why trouble ourselves about the pomp, the incense, the chants, of which they are either too sparing or too liberal? Of what use? and for what purpose? They are vain, terrestrial things, for which the soul recks nothing, when, radiant, it ascends towards its