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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Chastisement
By Eugène Sue (1804–1857)
 
From ‘The Wandering Jew’

IT is night. The moon shines and the stars glimmer in the midst of a serene but cheerless sky; the sharp whistlings of the north wind—that fatal dry and icy breeze—ever and anon burst forth in violent gusts. With its harsh and cutting breath it sweeps the Heights of Montmartre. On the highest point of the hills a man is standing. His long shadow is cast upon the stony, moonlit ground. He gazes on the immense city which lies outspread beneath his feet,—Paris,—with the dark outline of its towers, cupolas, domes, and steeples, standing out from the limpid blue of the horizon, while from the midst of the ocean of masonry rises a luminous vapor, that reddens the starry azure of the sky. It is the distant reflection of the thousand fires which at night, the hour of pleasures, light up so joyously the noisy capital.  1
  “No,” said the wayfarer: “it is not to be. The Lord will not exact it. Is not twice enough?  2
  “Five centuries ago, the avenging hand of the Almighty drove me hither from the uttermost confines of Asia. A solitary traveler, I had left behind me more grief, despair, disaster, and death, than the innumerable armies of a hundred devastating conquerors. I entered this town, and it too was decimated.  3
  “Again, two centuries ago, the inexorable hand which leads me through the world brought me once more hither; and then, as the time before, the plague, which the Almighty attaches to my steps, again ravaged this city, and fell first on my brethren, already worn out with labor and misery.  4
  “My brethren—mine!—the cobbler of Jerusalem, the artisan accursed by the Lord, who in my person condemned the whole race of workmen, ever suffering, ever disinherited, ever in slavery, toiling on like me, without rest or pause, without recompense or hope, till men, women, and children, young and old, all die beneath the same iron yoke,—that murderous yoke, which others take in their turn, thus to be borne from age to age on the submissive and bruised shoulders of the masses.  5
  “And now, for the third time in five centuries, I reach the summit of one of the hills that overlook the city. And perhaps I again bring with me fear, desolation, and death.  6
  “Yet this city, intoxicated with the sounds of its joys and its nocturnal revelries, does not know—oh! does not know that I am at its gates.  7
  “But no, no! my presence will not be a new calamity. The Lord, in his impenetrable views, has hitherto led me through France so as to avoid the humblest hamlet; and the sound of the funeral knell has not accompanied my passage.  8
  “And moreover, the spectre has left me—the green, livid spectre, with its hollow bloodshot eyes. When I touched the soil of France, its damp and icy hand was no longer clasped in mine—and it disappeared.  9
  “And yet I feel that the atmosphere of death is around me.  10
  “The sharp whistlings of that fatal wind cease not, which, catching me in their whirl, seem to propagate blasting and mildew as they blow.  11
  “But perhaps the wrath of the Lord is appeased, and my presence here is only a threat—to be communicated in some way to those whom it should intimidate.  12
  “Yes; for otherwise he would smite with a fearful blow, by first scattering terror and death here in the heart of the country, in the bosom of this immense city!  13
  “Oh! no, no! the Lord will be merciful. No! he will not condemn me to this new torture.  14
  “Alas! in this city, my brethren are more numerous and miserable than elsewhere. And should I be their messenger of death?  15
  “No! the Lord will have pity. For, alas! the seven descendants of my sister have at length met in this town. And to them likewise should I be the messenger of death, instead of the help they so much need?  16
  “For that woman, who like me wanders from one border of the earth to the other, after having once more rent asunder the nets of their enemies, has gone forth upon her endless journey.  17
  “In vain she foresaw that new misfortunes threatened my sister’s family. The invisible hand that drives me on, drives her on also.  18
  “Carried away, as of old, by the irresistible whirlwind, at the moment of leaving my kindred to their fate, she in vain cried with supplicating tone: ‘Let me at least, O Lord, complete my task!’—‘GO ON!’—‘A few days, in mercy, only a few poor days!’—‘GO ON!’—‘I leave those I love on the brink of the abyss!’—‘GO ON! GO ON!’  19
  “And the wandering star again started on its eternal round. And her voice, passing through space, called me to the assistance of my own.  20
  “When that voice reached me, I knew that the descendants of my sister were still exposed to frightful perils. Those perils are even now on the increase.  21
  “Tell me, O Lord! will they escape the scourge which for so many centuries has weighed down our race?  22
  “Wilt thou pardon me in them? wilt thou punish me in them? Oh that they might obey the last will of their ancestor!  23
  “Oh that they might join together their charitable hearts, their valor and their strength, their noble intelligence, and their great riches!  24
  “They would then labor for the future happiness of humanity—they would thus, perhaps, redeem me from my eternal punishment!  25
  “The words of the Son of Man, ‘LOVE YE ONE ANOTHER,’ will be their only end, their only means.  26
  “By the help of those all-powerful words they will fight and conquer the false priests who have renounced the precepts of love, peace, and hope, for lessons of hatred, violence, and despair; those false priests who, kept in pay by the powerful and happy of this world, their accomplices in every age, instead of asking here below for some slight share of well-being for my unfortunate brethren, dare in thy name, O Lord God, to assert that the poor are condemned to endless suffering in this world, and that the desire or the hope to suffer less is a crime in thine eyes,—because the happiness of the few, and the misery of nearly the whole human race, is (oh, blasphemy!) according to thy will. Is not the very contrary of those murderous words alone worthy of Divinity!  27
  “In mercy, hear me, Lord! Rescue from their enemies the descendants of my sister—the artisan as the king’s son. Do not let them destroy the germ of so mighty and fruitful an association, which, with thy blessing, would make an epoch in the annals of human happiness!  28
  “Let me unite them, O Lord, since others would divide them; defend them, since others attack: let me give hope to those who have ceased to hope, courage to those who are brought low with fear; let me raise up the falling, and sustain those who persevere in the way of the righteous!  29
  “And peradventure their struggles, devotion, virtue, and grief may expiate my fault—that of a man whom misfortune alone rendered unjust and wicked.  30
  “Oh! since thy Almighty hand hath led me hither,—to what end I know not,—lay aside thy wrath, I beseech thee; let me be no longer the instrument of thy vengeance!  31
  “Enough of woe upon the earth! for the last two years, thy creatures have fallen by thousands upon my track. The world is decimated. A veil of mourning extends over all the globe.  32
  “From Asia to the icy Pole, they died upon the path of the wanderer. Dost thou not hear the long-drawn sigh that rises from the earth unto thee, O Lord?  33
  “Mercy for all! mercy for me! Let me but unite the descendants of my sister for a single day, and they will be saved!”  34
  As he pronounced these words, the wayfarer sank upon his knees, and raised to heaven his supplicating hands. Suddenly the wind blew with redoubled violence; its sharp whistlings were changed into the roar of a tempest.  35
  The traveler shuddered; in a voice of terror he exclaimed:—  36
  “The blast of death rises in its fury—the whirlwind carries me on. Lord! thou art then deaf to my prayer?  37
  “The spectre! oh, the spectre! it is again here! its green face twitching with convulsive spasms—its red eyes rolling in their orbits. Begone! begone!—its hand, oh! its icy hand has again laid hold of mine. Have mercy, heaven!”—“GO ON!”  38
  “O Lord! the pestilence—the terrible plague—must I carry it into this city? And my brethren will perish the first—they, who are so sorely smitten even now! Mercy!”—“GO ON!”  39
  “And the descendants of my sister. Mercy! Mercy!”—“GO ON!”  40
  “O Lord, have pity!—I can no longer keep my ground; the spectre drags me to the slope of the hill; my walk is rapid as the deadly blast that rages behind me; already do I behold the city gates. Have mercy, Lord, on the descendants of my sister! Spare them; do not make me their executioner; let them triumph over their enemies!”—“GO ON! “GO ON!”  41
  “The ground flies beneath my feet; there is the city gate. Lord, it is yet time! Oh, mercy for that sleeping town! Let it not waken to cries of terror, despair, and death! Lord, I am on the threshold. Must it be?—Yes, it is done. Paris, the plague is in thy bosom. The curse—oh, the eternal curse!”—“GO ON! GO ON! GO ON!”  42
 
 
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