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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 136 pages of information about The Wandering Jew Volume 09.

[38] It is notorious, that at this unhappy period several persons were massacred, under a false accusation of poisoning the fountains, etc.

CHAPTER XIX.

The cholera masquerade.[39]

A stream of people, who preceded the masquerade, made a sudden irruption through the arch into the square, uttering loud cheers as they advanced.  Children were also there, blowing horns, whilst some hooted and others hissed.

The quarryman, Ciboule, and their band, attracted by this new spectacle, rushed tumultuously towards the arch.  Instead of the two eating-houses, which now (1845) stand on either side of the Rue d’Arcole, there was then only one, situated to the left of the vaulted passage, and much celebrated amongst the joyous community of students, for the excellence both of its cookery and its wines.  At the first blare of the trumpets, sounded by the outriders in livery who preceded the masquerade, the windows of the great room of the eating-house were thrown open, and several waiters, with their napkins under their arms, leaned forward, impatient to witness the arrival of the singular guests they were expecting.

At length, the grotesque procession made its appearance in the thick of an immense uproar.  The train comprised a chariot, escorted by men and women on horseback, clad in rich and elegant fancy dresses.  Most of these maskers belonged to the middle and easy classes of society.  The report had spread that masquerade was in preparation, for the purpose of daring the cholera, and, by this joyous demonstration, to revive the courage of the affrighted populace.  Immediately, artists, young men about town, students, and so on, responded to the appeal, and though till now unknown one to the other, they easily fraternized together.  Many brought their mistresses, to complete the show.  A subscription had been opened to defray the expenses, and, that morning, after a splendid breakfast at the other end of Paris, the joyous troop had started bravely on their march, to finish the day by a dinner in the square of Notre Dame.

We say bravely, for it required a singular turn of mind, a rare firmness of character, in young women, to traverse, in this fashion, a great city plunged in consternation and terror—­to fall in at every step with litters loaded with the dying, and carriages filled with the dead—­to defy, as it were, in a spirit of strange pleasantry, the plague that was detonating the Parisians.  It is certain that, in Paris alone, and there only amongst a peculiar class, could such an idea have ever been conceived or realized.  Two men, grotesquely disguised as postilions at a funeral, with formidable false noses, rose-colored crape hat-bands and large favors of roses and crape bows at their buttonholes, rode before the vehicle.  Upon the platform of the car were groups of allegorical personages, representing wine, pleasure, love, play.  The mission of these symbolical beings was, by means of jokes, sarcasms, and mockeries, to plague the life out of Goodman Cholera, a sort of funeral and burlesque Cassander, whom they ridiculed and made game of in a hundred ways.  The moral of the play was this:  “To brave Cholera in security, let us drink, laugh, game, and make love!”

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