Some minutes after the meeting of Mother Bunch with the Bacchanal Queen, the two sisters were alone together in a small room in the tavern.
“Let me kiss you again,” said Cephyse to the young sempstress; “at least now we are alone, you will not be afraid?”
In the effort of the Bacchanal Queen to clasp Mother Bunch in her arms, the cloak fell from the form of the latter. At sight of those miserable garments, which she had hardly had time to observe on the Place du Chatelet, in the midst of the crowd, Cephyse clasped her hands, and could not repress an exclamation of painful surprise. Then, approaching her sister, that she might contemplate her more closely, she took her thin, icy palms between her own plump hands, and examined for some minutes, with increasing grief, the suffering, pale, unhappy creature, ground down by watching and privations, and half-clothed in a poor, patched cotton gown.
“Oh, sister! to see you thus!” Unable to articulate another word, the Bacchanal Queen threw herself on the other’s neck, and burst into tears. Then, in the midst of her sobs, she added: “Pardon! pardon!”
“What is the matter, my dear Cephyse?” said the young sewing-girl, deeply moved, and gently disengaging herself from the embrace of her sister. “Why do you ask my pardon?”
“Why?” resumed Cephyse, raising her countenance, bathed in tears, and purple with shame; “is it not shameful of me to be dressed in all this frippery, and throwing away so much money in follies, while you are thus miserably clad, and in need of everything—perhaps dying of want, for I have never seen your poor face look so pale and worn.”
“Be at ease, dear sister! I am not ill. I was up rather late last night, and that makes me a little pale—but pray do not cry—it grieves me.”
The Bacchanal Queen had but just arrived, radiant in the midst of the intoxicated crowd, and yet it was Mother Bunch who was now employed in consoling her!
An incident occurred, which made the contrast still more striking. Joyous cries were heard suddenly in the next apartment, and these words were repeated with enthusiasm: “Long live the Bacchanal Queen!”
Mother Bunch trembled, and her eyes filled with tears, as she saw her sister with her face buried in her hands, as if overwhelmed with shame. “Cephyse,” she said, “I entreat you not to grieve so. You will make me regret the delight of this meeting, which is indeed happiness to me! It is so long since I saw you! But tell me—what ails you?”
“You despise me perhaps—you are right,” said the Bacchanal Queen, drying her tears.
“Despise you? for what?”
“Because I lead the life I do, instead of having the courage to support misery along with you.”
The grief of Cephyse was so heart-breaking, that Mother Bunch, always good and indulgent, wishing to console her, and raise her a little in her own estimation, said to her tenderly: “In supporting it bravely for a whole year, my good Cephyse, you have had more merit and courage than I should have in bearing with it my whole life.”