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In Three Books.




A LARGE cask of wine had been dropped and
broken, in the street. The accident had
happened in getting it out of a cart; the cask had
tumbled out with a run, the hoops had burst,
and it lay on the stones just outside the door of
the wine-shop, shattered like a walnut-shell.

All the people within reach had suspended
their business, or their idleness, to run to the
spot and drink the wine. The rough, irregular
stones of the street, pointing every way, and
designed, one might have thought, expressly to
lame all living creatures that approached them,
had dammed it into little pools; these were
surrounded, each by its own jostling group or
crowd, according to its size. Some men kneeled
down, made scoops of their two hands joined,
and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent
over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had
all run out between their fingers. Others, men
and women, dipped in the puddles with little
mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with
handkerchiefs from women's heads, which were
squeezed dry into infants' mouths; others made
small mud-embankments, to stem the wine as it
ran; others, directed by lookers-on up at high
windows, darted here and there, to cut off little
streams of wine that started away in new directions;
others, devoted, themselves to the sodden
and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even
champing the moister wine-rotted fragments
with eager relish. There was no drainage to
carry off the wine, and not only did it all get
taken up, but so much mud got taken up along
with it, that there might have been a scavenger in
the street, if anybody acquainted with it could
have believed in such a miraculous presence.

A shrill sound of laughter and of amused
voicesvoices of men, women, and children
resounded in the street while this wine-game
lasted. There was little roughness in the sport,
and much playfulness. There was a special
companionship in it, an observable inclination
on the part of every one to join some other one,
which led, especially among the luckier or
lighter-hearted, to frolicsome embraces, drinking
of healths, shaking of hands, and even joining of
hands and dancing, a dozen together. When
the wine was gone, and the places where it had
been most abundant were raked into a gridiron-
pattem by fingers, these demonstrations ceased,
as suddenly as they had broken out. The man
who had left his saw sticking in the firewood he
was cutting, set it in motion again; the woman
who had left on a door-step the little pot of hot
ashes, at which she had been trying to soften
the pain in her own starved fingers and toes, or
in those of her child, returned to it; men with
bare arms, matted locks, and cadaverous faces,
who had emerged into the winter light from
cellars, moved away to descend again; and a
gloom gathered on the scene that appeared more
natural to it than sunshine.

The wine was red wine, and had stained the
ground of the narrow street in the suburb of
Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled.
It had stained many hands, too, and many faces,
and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes.
The hands of the man who sawed the wood, left
red marks on the billets; and the forehead of
the woman who nursed her baby, was stained
with the stain of the old rag she wound about
her head again. Those who had been greedy
with the staves of the cask, had acquired a
tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall
joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long
squalid bag of a nightcap than in it, scrawled
upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy
wine leesBLOOD.

The time was to come, when that wine too
would be spilled on the street-stones, and when
the stain of it would be red upon many there.

And now that the cloud settled on Saint
Antoine, which a momentary gleam had driven from
his sacred countenance, the darkness of it was
heavycold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and
want, were the lords in waiting on the saintly
presencenobles of great power all of them;
but, most especially the last. Samples of a
people that had undergone a terrible grinding
and re-grinding in the mill, and certainly not in
the fabulous mill which ground old people
young, shivered at every corner, passed in and
out at every doorway, looked from every window,
fluttered in every vestige of a garment that
the wind shook. The mill which had worked
them down, was the mill that grinds young
people old; the children had ancient faces and
grave voices; and upon them, and upon the