EUGENIE THE HUNCHBACK
In one of the suburbs of the gay city of Paris, lived a little girl named Eugenie. She did not live in a nice house with a beautiful garden, but right up the top of a high house in which a number of other families also lodged. Her father was a baker, and was usually at work all night and asleep all day, so she did not see much of him. Her mother did not seem to be very fond of her little girl; in fact, her harsh tones and angry glances often made Eugenie very frightened and sad. Eugenie had four brothers and a married sister who lived in another part of Paris.
From the room at the top of the house, where they all lived, to the front door, was a long, polished oak staircase – very hard and slippery.
One hot summer day Eugenie’s mother went out and left her in the room alone, warning her particularly not to go down the stairs. But the room was so hot, Eugenie thought she would just look down the long flight of stairs. She did so, and then she thought she would go a little way down, and then – well, then she just tumbled right to the bottom on to the hard stone pavement, and the neighbours ran together to pick up an insensible girl. They carried her to a doctor, and at length, she came to herself. There were no
bones broken but the doctor feared her spine might be injured, and time alone would tell.
The doctor’s worst fears were realised; Eugenie grew up a little hunchback, and suffered a great deal of pain. She was not a good-tempered girl, the pain helped to make her fretful and discontented. Her mother, too, became more and more harsh, and made her poor daughter feel that she was not wanted, as she was never likely to be able to earn her living.
One day matters came to a crisis by her mother saying impatiently to the restless child, “Don’t let me see your face again today!” So, feeling very lonely and miserable, Eugenie descended those dreadful stairs and stood in the doorway looking into the street. She had not been there long before a girl whom she knew came tripping along.
“Why, Eugenie,” said she, “what’s the matter? You do look miserable. Are you unhappy? Well, come with me to the Sunday School.” When they arrived, there was only one chair vacant in the class to which Eugenie’s friend belonged. The girl sat down on it herself and left Eugenie standing, and feeling very awkward and strange amid her new surroundings. But the kind lady who taught the class put her arm round the little stranger and nestled her up beside her, Eugenie’s cheek resting against the sealskin jacket which the teacher wore. Eugenie had never been so happy before in her life, and she came to the conclusion there could not possibly be a nicer and kinder lady in the whole world.
Every Sunday Eugenie found her way to the Sunday School which was connected with the McAll Mission.
Sunday after Sunday she read from the Bible and listened to the words of the teacher. Little by little, the Holy Spirit taught her that much as her teacher loved her, the Lord Jesus Christ loved her a great deal more, until at last she could say, “He loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Her back did not get better; it grew worse; but her face was much happier and brighter, because her heart was filled with a peace and joy which only Jesus can give.
These were happy days for Eugenie; but, alas! trials were in store for her. Her father’s employment took him to a distant part of Paris, and so she had to say good-bye to her kind friends at the McAll Mission.
All alone amid uncongenial surroundings the days sped slowly on, her back often causing her pain, but she knew there was an Ear on high that heard her prayer, and a Heart that sympathized with the forlorn hunchback. So two years passed, and then it was decided to open a Sunday School in the very locality where Eugenie lived. A gentleman went to see if he could find a suitable house for the purpose, but, in vain, and at last, feeling somewhat discouraged, he was about to return home, when he thought he would call on Eugenie. He found her living in wretched surroundings, in a dirty garret. The only articles to sit upon were a three-legged stool with one of the legs gone, and an iron pot.
Eugenie was, indeed, pleased to see her old friends, and sorry to hear of the fruitless search, but said, “You will find a hall! I have asked God for two things – one is that you should come and see me – and the other, that we might have a hall in this district of Paris. God has answered the first part of the prayer, and He will answer the second part as well, because,” said Eugenie, with real faith, “when God begins a thing He will always finish it.”
She was right, for within a few days a suitable house was found and hired. When it was opened, one of the most happy and useful teachers in the School was Eugenie – she was now almost seventeen.
About this time her old friend took her to a doctor to see if there was anything that could be done for her injured back. He examined her and said that her case was hopeless. She would grow worse and worse, and about the age of twenty-one would probably die. His opinion was correct. Eugenie did grow worse and worse, and at length was no longer able to descend the stairs and walk to the hall.
All the pleasure of her life seemed taken away, she felt she was no good for anybody; she could only mope alone in her room, nurse her sorrows and hope for the end.
Her complaint made her feel depressed, but though she thought she was no longer any good, God was now going to use her more than ever He had before.
One day her faithful friend called upon her to see if he could not give her a cheering word. As he listened to the complaint of her apparent uselessness, he looked round the dirty, untidy room, with a significant glance, and asked her if she was quite sure that there was nothing she could do. Eugenie understood him, though nothing more was said.
A year passed, and then the helpers at the Mission received a message that Eugenie’s father was dying. Would somebody call to see him? The invitation was quickly responded to; but how different a scene did Eugenie’s room present. It was clean and tidy, and her poor father lay in bed, dying.
“Are you afraid to die? asked the visitor.
“No,” said the man. But this was an answer many a man might give not fully realizing what he said, so another question was asked.
“Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?”
“Yes,” whispered the man, his voice rapidly failing. The visitor longed to know if it was a real heart-trust the dying man had in his Saviour. This anxiety was soon set at rest, for on looking at Eugenie’s face it was seen to be radiant with joy. The visitor read the whole story of the dying man’s conversion in his hunchback daughter’s face.
A short prayer was offered at the bedside, during which the very presence of God was felt in the room, and the visitor realised that indescribable feeling of mingled joy and awe that the Spirit of God
oftimes gives. It was felt that the dying man’s spirit responded to the fervent supplication.
“Who was it told you of Him?” asked the visitor.
The dying man slowly lifted his hand and placed it upon the head of Eugenie. It was his last effort. The arm fell, and Eugenie’s father was gone to be with Jesus.
The poor, sickly hunchback who fancied she was no good to anybody, was used as the means not only of her father’s conversion, but to bring the Gospel light to two of her brothers, one of whom became a missionary.
The poor cripple’s sufferings now increased; she was soon confined to her bed; and often sadly cast down, thinking that her life was a useless one. The gentleman who had watched over her so carefully, had, however, a plan in his mind. One day he visited the Sunday School, and going to a class of big girls, he told them of Eugenic, and said, “Now, look here, girls, would you not like to visit her in turn, and now and again take her a few flowers to cheer her up and make her feel she is not alone in the world.”
He had two motives in this kindly plan: one was to brighten Eugenie’s monotonous life, and the other that she might have opportunity, by the Spirit’s blessing, of sowing the precious seed of God’s Word in the hearts of the careless girls. This plan was in the line of God’s gracious purposes; and no less than ten out of twelve girls who visited her, were brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Eugenie’s pen was as useful as her tongue, for a letter which was sent to her married sister, was blessed to her conversion.
Thus, this poor cripple, weak in body but fervent in spirit, was the instrument God used for the ingathering of many precious souls.
The doctor’s forecast proved literally true, for Eugenie died on her twenty-first birthday.
In a great cemetery of Paris, her body was laid to rest in a pauper’s grave. It was a cold cheerless day: the heavens were dull and the atmosphere heavy, but number of friends who had known the hunchback in life came to the funeral. The gentleman who buried her, in his address, said, “It’s a gloomy day, but God sometimes sends bright, sunshiny spots; and it’s a cold sinful world which we are in but God, in people like Eugenie, sends His bright little bits of sunshine into our midst.”