The Wandering Jew
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The prologue of the text describes two figures who cry out to each other across the Bering Straits. One is the Wandering Jew, the other his sister, Hérodiade. The Wandering Jew also represents the cholera epidemic— wherever he goes, cholera follows in his wake.
The Wandering Jew and Hérodiade are condemned to wander the earth until the entire Rennepont family has disappeared from the earth. The connection is that the descendants of the sister are also the descendants of Marius de Rennepont, Huguenots persecuted under Louis XIV by the Jesuits. The brother and sister are compelled to protect this very family from all harm. After this first introduction, the two appear only very rarely.
The Rennepont family is unaware that these protective éminences grises exist, but they benefit from their protection in various ways, be it by being saved from scalping by the Native Americans, or from languishing in prison.