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Parisian rag-picker

Anecdotes Home

An old chiffonnier (or rag picker) died in Paris in a
state apparently of the most abject poverty. His only relation was a niece,
who lived as servant with a greengrocer. This girl always assisted her
uncle as far as her slender means would permit. When she heard of his
death, which took place suddenly, she was upon the point of marriage with a
journeyman baker, to whom she had been long attached. The nuptial day was
fixed, but Suzette had not yet bought her wedding clothes. She hastened to
tell her lover that their marriage must be deferred, as she wanted the
price of her bridal finery to lay her uncle decently in the grave. Her
mistress ridiculed the idea, and exhorted her to leave the old man to be
buried by charity. Suzette refused. The consequence was a quarrel, in which
the young woman lost at once her place and her lover, who sided with her
mistress. She hastened to the miserable garret where her uncle had expired,
and by the sacrifice not only of her wedding attire, but of nearly all the
rest of her slender wardrobe, she had the old man decently interred. Her
pious task fulfilled, she sat alone in her uncle's room weeping bitterly,
when the master of her faithless lover, a young good-looking man, entered.
"So, my good Suzette, I find you have lost your place!" cried he, "I am
come to offer you one for life--will you marry me?" "I, Sir? you are
joking." "No, indeed, I want a wife, and I am sure I can't find a better."
"But everybody will laugh at you for marrying a poor girl like me," "Oh! if
that is your only objection we shall soon get over it; come, come along; my
mother is prepared to receive you." Suzette hesitated no longer; but she
wished to take with her a memorial of her deceased uncle: it was a cat
that he had kept for many years. The old man was so fond of the animal
that he was determined even death should not separate them, and he had
caused her to be stuffed and placed near his bed. As Suzette took puss
down, she uttered an exclamation of surprise at finding her so heavy. The
lover hastened to open the animal, when out fell a shower of gold. There
were a thousand louis concealed in the body of the cat, and this sum, which
the old man had contrived to amass, became the just reward of the worthy
girl and her disinterested lover.

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