The Wandering Jew — Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,953 pages of information about The Wandering Jew — Complete.

And all laugh, and knock glasses together, and challenge the next man, and drink out of the glass of the nearest woman.  Jacques had taken off the mask and peruke of Goodman Cholera.  His thin, leaden features, his deadly paleness, the lurid brilliancy of his hollow eyes, showed the incessant progress of the slow malady which was consuming this unfortunate man, brought by excesses to the last extremity of weakness.  Though he felt the slow fire devouring his entrails, he concealed his pain beneath a forced and nervous smile.

To the left of Jacques was Morok, whose fatal influence was ever on the increase, and to his right the girl disguised as pleasure.  She was named Mariette.  By her side sat Ninny Moulin, in all his majestic bulk, who often pretended to be looking for his napkin under the table, in order to have the opportunity of pressing the knees of his other neighbor, Modeste, the representative of love.  Most of the guests were grouped according to their several tastes, each tender pair together, and the bachelors where they could.  They had reached the second course, and the excellence of the wine, the good cheer, the gay speeches, and even the singularity of the occasion, had raised their spirits to a high degree of excitement, as may be gathered from the extraordinary incidents of the following scene.

[39] We read in the Constitutionnel, Saturday March 31st, 1832:  “The Parisians readily conform to that part of the official instructions with regard to the cholera, which prescribes, as a preservation from the disease, not to be afraid, to amuse one’s self, etc.  The pleasures of Mid-Lent have been as brilliant and as mad as those of the carnival itself.  For a long time past there had not been so many balls at this period of the year.  Even the cholera has been made the subject of an itinerant caricature.”


The defiance.

Two or three times, without being remarked by the guests, one of the waiters had come to whisper to his fellows, and point with expressive gesture to the ceiling.  But his comrades had taken small account of his observations or fears, not wishing, doubtless, to disturb the guests, whose mad gayety seemed ever on the increase.

“Who can doubt now of the superiority of our manner of treating this impertinent Cholera?  Has he dared even to touch our sacred battalion?” said a magnificent mountebank-Turk, one of the standard-bearers of the masquerade.

“Here is all the mystery,” answered another.  “It is very simple.  Only laugh in the face of the plague, and it will run away from you.”

“And right enough too, for very stupid work it does,” added a pretty little Columbine, emptying her glass.

“You are right, my darling; it is intolerably stupid work,” answered the Clown belonging to the Columbine; “here you are very quiet, enjoying life, and all on a sudden you die with an atrocious grimace.  Well! what then?  Clever, isn’t it?  I ask you, what does it prove?”

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The Wandering Jew — Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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