Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, trans. Isabel F. Hapgood
Part 23 out of 36
which replace the glance in the case of certain wretched men,
which seem unconscious of reality, and in which flames the reflection
of terrors and of catastrophes. He was not looking at a spectacle,
he was seeing a vision. He tried to rise, to flee, to make
his escape; he could not move his feet. Sometimes, the things
that you see seize upon you and hold you fast. He remained nailed
to the spot, petrified, stupid, asking himself, athwart confused
and inexpressible anguish, what this sepulchral persecution signified,
and whence had come that pandemonium which was pursuing him.
All at once, he raised his hand to his brow, a gesture habitual
to those whose memory suddenly returns; he remembered that this was,
in fact, the usual itinerary, that it was customary to make this
detour in order to avoid all possibility of encountering royalty on
the road to Fontainebleau, and that, five and thirty years before,
he had himself passed through that barrier.
Cosette was no less terrified, but in a different way. She did
not understand; what she beheld did not seem to her to be possible;
at length she cried:--
"Father! What are those men in those carts?"
Jean Valjean replied: "Convicts."
"Whither are they going?"
"To the galleys."
At that moment, the cudgelling, multiplied by a hundred hands,
became zealous, blows with the flat of the sword were mingled
with it, it was a perfect storm of whips and clubs; the convicts
bent before it, a hideous obedience was evoked by the torture,
and all held their peace, darting glances like chained wolves.
Cosette trembled in every limb; she resumed:--
"Father, are they still men?"
"Sometimes," answered the unhappy man.
It was the chain-gang, in fact, which had set out before daybreak
from Bicetre, and had taken the road to Mans in order to avoid
Fontainebleau, where the King then was. This caused the horrible
journey to last three or four days longer; but torture may surely
be prolonged with the object of sparing the royal personage a sight of it.
Jean Valjean returned home utterly overwhelmed. Such encounters
are shocks, and the memory that they leave behind them resembles
a thorough shaking up.
Nevertheless, Jean Valjean did not observe that, on his way back
to the Rue de Babylone with Cosette, the latter was plying him
with other questions on the subject of what they had just seen;
perhaps he was too much absorbed in his own dejection to notice
her words and reply to them. But when Cosette was leaving him
in the evening, to betake herself to bed, he heard her say in a
low voice, and as though talking to herself: "It seems to me,
that if I were to find one of those men in my pathway, oh, my God,
I should die merely from the sight of him close at hand."
Fortunately, chance ordained that on the morrow of that tragic day,
there was some official solemnity apropos of I know not what,--
fetes in Paris, a review in the Champ de Mars, jousts on the Seine,
theatrical performances in the Champs-Elysees, fireworks at
the Arc de l'Etoile, illuminations everywhere. Jean Valjean did
violence to his habits, and took Cosette to see these rejoicings,
for the purpose of diverting her from the memory of the day before,
and of effacing, beneath the smiling tumult of all Paris,
the abominable thing which had passed before her. The review
with which the festival was spiced made the presence of uniforms
perfectly natural; Jean Valjean donned his uniform of a national
guard with the vague inward feeling of a man who is betaking himself
to shelter. However, this trip seemed to attain its object.
Cosette, who made it her law to please her father, and to whom,
moreover, all spectacles were a novelty, accepted this diversion
with the light and easy good grace of youth, and did not pout too
disdainfully at that flutter of enjoyment called a public fete;
so that Jean Valjean was able to believe that he had succeeded,
and that no trace of that hideous vision remained.
Some days later, one morning, when the sun was shining brightly,
and they were both on the steps leading to the garden, another infraction
of the rules which Jean Valjean seemed to have imposed upon himself,
and to the custom of remaining in her chamber which melancholy had
caused Cosette to adopt, Cosette, in a wrapper, was standing erect
in that negligent attire of early morning which envelops young girls
in an adorable way and which produces the effect of a cloud drawn over
a star; and, with her head bathed in light, rosy after a good sleep,
submitting to the gentle glances of the tender old man, she was picking
a daisy to pieces. Cosette did not know the delightful legend,
I love a little, passionately, etc.--who was there who could
have taught her? She was handling the flower instinctively,
innocently, without a suspicion that to pluck a daisy apart is to
do the same by a heart. If there were a fourth, and smiling Grace
called Melancholy, she would have worn the air of that Grace.
Jean Valjean was fascinated by the contemplation of those tiny
fingers on that flower, and forgetful of everything in the radiance
emitted by that child. A red-breast was warbling in the thicket,
on one side. White cloudlets floated across the sky, so gayly,
that one would have said that they had just been set at liberty.
Cosette went on attentively tearing the leaves from her flower;
she seemed to be thinking about something; but whatever it was,
it must be something charming; all at once she turned her head
over her shoulder with the delicate languor of a swan, and said
to Jean Valjean: "Father, what are the galleys like?"
BOOK FOURTH.--SUCCOR FROM BELOW MAY TURN OUT TO BE SUCCOR FROM ON
A WOUND WITHOUT, HEALING WITHIN
Thus their life clouded over by degrees.
But one diversion, which had formerly been a happiness, remained to them,
which was to carry bread to those who were hungry, and clothing to those
who were cold. Cosette often accompanied Jean Valjean on these visits
to the poor, on which they recovered some remnants of their former
free intercourse; and sometimes, when the day had been a good one,
and they had assisted many in distress, and cheered and warmed
many little children, Cosette was rather merry in the evening.
It was at this epoch that they paid their visit to the Jondrette den.
On the day following that visit, Jean Valjean made his appearance
in the pavilion in the morning, calm as was his wont, but with a
large wound on his left arm which was much inflamed, and very angry,
which resembled a burn, and which he explained in some way or other.
This wound resulted in his being detained in the house for a month
with fever. He would not call in a doctor. When Cosette urged him,
"Call the dog-doctor," said he.
Cosette dressed the wound morning and evening with so divine an air
and such angelic happiness at being of use to him, that Jean Valjean
felt all his former joy returning, his fears and anxieties dissipating,
and he gazed at Cosette, saying: "Oh! what a kindly wound!
Oh! what a good misfortune!"
Cosette on perceiving that her father was ill, had deserted the pavilion
and again taken a fancy to the little lodging and the back courtyard.
She passed nearly all her days beside Jean Valjean and read to him
the books which he desired. Generally they were books of travel.
Jean Valjean was undergoing a new birth; his happiness was reviving
in these ineffable rays; the Luxembourg, the prowling young stranger,
Cosette's coldness,--all these clouds upon his soul were growing dim.
He had reached the point where he said to himself: "I imagined all that.
I am an old fool."
His happiness was so great that the horrible discovery of the Thenardiers
made in the Jondrette hovel, unexpected as it was, had, after a fashion,
glided over him unnoticed. He had succeeded in making his escape;
all trace of him was lost--what more did he care for! he only thought
of those wretched beings to pity them. "Here they are in prison,
and henceforth they will be incapacitated for doing any harm,"
he thought, "but what a lamentable family in distress!"
As for the hideous vision of the Barriere du Maine, Cosette had
not referred to it again.
Sister Sainte-Mechtilde had taught Cosette music in the convent;
Cosette had the voice of a linnet with a soul, and sometimes,
in the evening, in the wounded man's humble abode, she warbled
melancholy songs which delighted Jean Valjean.
Spring came; the garden was so delightful at that season of the year,
that Jean Valjean said to Cosette:--
"You never go there; I want you to stroll in it."
"As you like, father," said Cosette.
And for the sake of obeying her father, she resumed her walks
in the garden, generally alone, for, as we have mentioned,
Jean Valjean, who was probably afraid of being seen through the fence,
hardly ever went there.
Jean Valjean's wound had created a diversion.
When Cosette saw that her father was suffering less, that he
was convalescing, and that he appeared to be happy, she experienced
a contentment which she did not even perceive, so gently and naturally
had it come. Then, it was in the month of March, the days were
growing longer, the winter was departing, the winter always bears
away with it a portion of our sadness; then came April, that daybreak
of summer, fresh as dawn always is, gay like every childhood;
a little inclined to weep at times like the new-born being that it is.
In that month, nature has charming gleams which pass from the sky,
from the trees, from the meadows and the flowers into the heart
Cosette was still too young to escape the penetrating influence
of that April joy which bore so strong a resemblance to herself.
Insensibly, and without her suspecting the fact, the blackness
departed from her spirit. In spring, sad souls grow light,
as light falls into cellars at midday. Cosette was no longer sad.
However, though this was so, she did not account for it to herself.
In the morning, about ten o'clock, after breakfast, when she had
succeeded in enticing her father into the garden for a quarter
of an hour, and when she was pacing up and down in the sunlight
in front of the steps, supporting his left arm for him, she did
not perceive that she laughed every moment and that she was happy.
Jean Valjean, intoxicated, beheld her growing fresh and rosy once more.
"Oh! What a good wound!" he repeated in a whisper.
And he felt grateful to the Thenardiers.
His wound once healed, he resumed his solitary twilight strolls.
It is a mistake to suppose that a person can stroll alone in
that fashion in the uninhabited regions of Paris without meeting
with some adventure.
MOTHER PLUTARQUE FINDS NO DIFFICULTY IN EXPLAINING A PHENOMENON
One evening, little Gavroche had had nothing to eat; he remembered
that he had not dined on the preceding day either; this was becoming
tiresome. He resolved to make an effort to secure some supper.
He strolled out beyond the Salpetriere into deserted regions;
that is where windfalls are to be found; where there is no one,
one always finds something. He reached a settlement which appeared
to him to be the village of Austerlitz.
In one of his preceding lounges he had noticed there an old garden
haunted by an old man and an old woman, and in that garden, a passable
apple-tree. Beside the apple-tree stood a sort of fruit-house,
which was not securely fastened, and where one might contrive to get
an apple. One apple is a supper; one apple is life. That which was
Adam's ruin might prove Gavroche's salvation. The garden abutted
on a solitary, unpaved lane, bordered with brushwood while awaiting
the arrival of houses; the garden was separated from it by a hedge.
Gavroche directed his steps towards this garden; he found the lane,
he recognized the apple-tree, he verified the fruit-house, he examined
the hedge; a hedge means merely one stride. The day was declining,
there was not even a cat in the lane, the hour was propitious.
Gavroche began the operation of scaling the hedge, then suddenly paused.
Some one was talking in the garden. Gavroche peeped through one of
the breaks in the hedge.
A couple of paces distant, at the foot of the hedge on the other side,
exactly at the point where the gap which he was meditating would
have been made, there was a sort of recumbent stone which formed
a bench, and on this bench was seated the old man of the garden,
while the old woman was standing in front of him. The old woman
was grumbling. Gavroche, who was not very discreet, listened.
"Monsieur Mabeuf!" said the old woman.
"Mabeuf!" thought Gavroche, "that name is a perfect farce."
The old man who was thus addressed, did not stir. The old
The old man, without raising his eyes from the ground, made up
his mind to answer:--
"What is it, Mother Plutarque?"
"Mother Plutarque!" thought Gavroche, "another farcical name."
Mother Plutarque began again, and the old man was forced to accept
"The landlord is not pleased."
"We owe three quarters rent."
"In three months, we shall owe him for four quarters."
"He says that he will turn you out to sleep."
"I will go."
"The green-grocer insists on being paid. She will no longer
leave her fagots. What will you warm yourself with this winter?
We shall have no wood."
"There is the sun."
"The butcher refuses to give credit; he will not let us have any
"That is quite right. I do not digest meat well. It is too heavy."
"What shall we have for dinner?"
"The baker demands a settlement, and says, `no money, no bread.'"
"That is well."
"What will you eat?"
"We have apples in the apple-room."
"But, Monsieur, we can't live like that without money."
"I have none."
The old woman went away, the old man remained alone. He fell
into thought. Gavroche became thoughtful also. It was almost dark.
The first result of Gavroche's meditation was, that instead
of scaling the hedge, he crouched down under it. The branches
stood apart a little at the foot of the thicket.
"Come," exclaimed Gavroche mentally, "here's a nook!" and he curled up
in it. His back was almost in contact with Father Mabeuf's bench.
He could hear the octogenarian breathe.
Then, by way of dinner, he tried to sleep.
It was a cat-nap, with one eye open. While he dozed, Gavroche kept
on the watch.
The twilight pallor of the sky blanched the earth, and the lane
formed a livid line between two rows of dark bushes.
All at once, in this whitish band, two figures made their appearance.
One was in front, the other some distance in the rear.
"There come two creatures," muttered Gavroche.
The first form seemed to be some elderly bourgeois, who was bent
and thoughtful, dressed more than plainly, and who was walking slowly
because of his age, and strolling about in the open evening air.
The second was straight, firm, slender. It regulated its pace
by that of the first; but in the voluntary slowness of its gait,
suppleness and agility were discernible. This figure had also
something fierce and disquieting about it, the whole shape was
that of what was then called an elegant; the hat was of good shape,
the coat black, well cut, probably of fine cloth, and well fitted
in at the waist. The head was held erect with a sort of robust grace,
and beneath the hat the pale profile of a young man could be made
out in the dim light. The profile had a rose in its mouth.
This second form was well known to Gavroche; it was Montparnasse.
He could have told nothing about the other, except that he was
a respectable old man.
Gavroche immediately began to take observations.
One of these two pedestrians evidently had a project connected with
the other. Gavroche was well placed to watch the course of events.
The bedroom had turned into a hiding-place at a very opportune moment.
Montparnasse on the hunt at such an hour, in such a place,
betokened something threatening. Gavroche felt his gamin's heart
moved with compassion for the old man.
What was he to do? Interfere? One weakness coming to the aid
of another! It would be merely a laughing matter for Montparnasse.
Gavroche did not shut his eyes to the fact that the old man,
in the first place, and the child in the second, would make but two
mouthfuls for that redoubtable ruffian eighteen years of age.
While Gavroche was deliberating, the attack took place,
abruptly and hideously. The attack of the tiger on the wild ass,
the attack of the spider on the fly. Montparnasse suddenly tossed
away his rose, bounded upon the old man, seized him by the collar,
grasped and clung to him, and Gavroche with difficulty restrained
a scream. A moment later one of these men was underneath
the other, groaning, struggling, with a knee of marble upon
his breast. Only, it was not just what Gavroche had expected.
The one who lay on the earth was Montparnasse; the one who was on top
was the old man. All this took place a few paces distant from Gavroche.
The old man had received the shock, had returned it, and that
in such a terrible fashion, that in a twinkling, the assailant
and the assailed had exchanged roles.
"Here's a hearty veteran!" thought Gavroche.
He could not refrain from clapping his hands. But it was applause
wasted. It did not reach the combatants, absorbed and deafened
as they were, each by the other, as their breath mingled in the struggle.
Silence ensued. Montparnasse ceased his struggles. Gavroche indulged
in this aside: "Can he be dead!"
The goodman had not uttered a word, nor given vent to a cry.
He rose to his feet, and Gavroche heard him say to Montparnasse:--
Montparnasse rose, but the goodman held him fast.
Montparnasse's attitude was the humiliated
and furious attitude of the wolf who has been caught by a sheep.
Gavroche looked on and listened, making an effort to reinforce
his eyes with his ears. He was enjoying himself immensely.
He was repaid for his conscientious anxiety in the character
of a spectator. He was able to catch on the wing a dialogue
which borrowed from the darkness an indescribably tragic accent.
The goodman questioned, Montparnasse replied.
"How old are you?"
"You are strong and healthy. Why do you not work?"
"It bores me."
"What is your trade?"
"Speak seriously. Can anything be done for you? What would you
like to be?"
A pause ensued. The old man seemed absorbed in profound thought.
He stood motionless, and did not relax his hold on Montparnasse.
Every moment the vigorous and agile young ruffian indulged in the
twitchings of a wild beast caught in a snare. He gave a jerk,
tried a crook of the knee, twisted his limbs desperately, and made
efforts to escape.
The old man did not appear to notice it, and held both his arms
with one hand, with the sovereign indifference of absolute force.
The old man's revery lasted for some time, then, looking steadily
at Montparnasse, he addressed to him in a gentle voice,
in the midst of the darkness where they stood, a solemn harangue,
of which Gavroche did not lose a single syllable:--
"My child, you are entering, through indolence, on one of the most
laborious of lives. Ah! You declare yourself to be an idler! prepare
to toil. There is a certain formidable machine, have you seen it?
It is the rolling-mill. You must be on your guard against it,
it is crafty and ferocious; if it catches hold of the skirt of
your coat, you will be drawn in bodily. That machine is laziness.
Stop while there is yet time, and save yourself! Otherwise, it is
all over with you; in a short time you will be among the gearing.
Once entangled, hope for nothing more. Toil, lazybones! there is no
more repose for you! The iron hand of implacable toil has seized you.
You do not wish to earn your living, to have a task, to fulfil a duty!
It bores you to be like other men? Well! You will be different.
Labor is the law; he who rejects it will find ennui his torment.
You do not wish to be a workingman, you will be a slave.
Toil lets go of you on one side only to grasp you again on
the other. You do not desire to be its friend, you shall be its
negro slave. Ah! You would have none of the honest weariness
of men, you shall have the sweat of the damned. Where others sing,
you will rattle in your throat. You will see afar off, from below,
other men at work; it will seem to you that they are resting.
The laborer, the harvester, the sailor, the blacksmith, will appear
to you in glory like the blessed spirits in paradise. What radiance
surrounds the forge! To guide the plough, to bind the sheaves,
is joy. The bark at liberty in the wind, what delight! Do you,
lazy idler, delve, drag on, roll, march! Drag your halter.
You are a beast of burden in the team of hell! Ah! To do nothing
is your object. Well, not a week, not a day, not an hour shall
you have free from oppression. You will be able to lift nothing
without anguish. Every minute that passes will make your muscles crack.
What is a feather to others will be a rock to you. The simplest
things will become steep acclivities. Life will become monstrous
all about you. To go, to come, to breathe, will be just so many
terrible labors. Your lungs will produce on you the effect of weighing
a hundred pounds. Whether you shall walk here rather than there,
will become a problem that must be solved. Any one who wants to go
out simply gives his door a push, and there he is in the open air.
If you wish to go out, you will be obliged to pierce your wall.
What does every one who wants to step into the street do? He goes
down stairs; you will tear up your sheets, little by little you
will make of them a rope, then you will climb out of your window,
and you will suspend yourself by that thread over an abyss, and it
will be night, amid storm, rain, and the hurricane, and if the
rope is too short, but one way of descending will remain to you,
to fall. To drop hap-hazard into the gulf, from an unknown height,
on what? On what is beneath, on the unknown. Or you will crawl up
a chimney-flue, at the risk of burning; or you will creep through
a sewer-pipe, at the risk of drowning; I do not speak of the holes
that you will be obliged to mask, of the stones which you will have
to take up and replace twenty times a day, of the plaster that you
will have to hide in your straw pallet. A lock presents itself;
the bourgeois has in his pocket a key made by a locksmith. If you
wish to pass out, you will be condemned to execute a terrible work
of art; you will take a large sou, you will cut it in two plates;
with what tools? You will have to invent them. That is your business.
Then you will hollow out the interior of these plates, taking great
care of the outside, and you will make on the edges a thread, so that
they can be adjusted one upon the other like a box and its cover.
The top and bottom thus screwed together, nothing will be suspected.
To the overseers it will be only a sou; to you it will be a box.
What will you put in this box? A small bit of steel. A watch-spring,
in which you will have cut teeth, and which will form a saw.
With this saw, as long as a pin, and concealed in a sou, you will
cut the bolt of the lock, you will sever bolts, the padlock of
your chain, and the bar at your window, and the fetter on your leg.
This masterpiece finished, this prodigy accomplished, all these miracles
of art, address, skill, and patience executed, what will be your
recompense if it becomes known that you are the author? The dungeon.
There is your future. What precipices are idleness and pleasure!
Do you know that to do nothing is a melancholy resolution?
To live in idleness on the property of society! to be useless,
that is to say, pernicious! This leads straight to the depth
of wretchedness. Woe to the man who desires to be a parasite!
He will become vermin! Ah! So it does not please you to work?
Ah! You have but one thought, to drink well, to eat well,
to sleep well. You will drink water, you will eat black bread,
you will sleep on a plank with a fetter whose cold touch you
will feel on your flesh all night long, riveted to your limbs.
You will break those fetters, you will flee. That is well.
You will crawl on your belly through the brushwood, and you will eat
grass like the beasts of the forest. And you will be recaptured.
And then you will pass years in a dungeon, riveted to a wall,
groping for your jug that you may drink, gnawing at a horrible
loaf of darkness which dogs would not touch, eating beans that
the worms have eaten before you. You will be a wood-louse in
a cellar. Ah! Have pity on yourself, you miserable young child,
who were sucking at nurse less than twenty years ago, and who have,
no doubt, a mother still alive! I conjure you, listen to me,
I entreat you. You desire fine black cloth, varnished shoes,
to have your hair curled and sweet-smelling oils on your locks,
to please low women, to be handsome. You will be shaven clean,
and you will wear a red blouse and wooden shoes. You want rings
on your fingers, you will have an iron necklet on your neck.
If you glance at a woman, you will receive a blow. And you will
enter there at the age of twenty. And you will come out at fifty!
You will enter young, rosy, fresh, with brilliant eyes, and all
your white teeth, and your handsome, youthful hair; you will come
out broken, bent, wrinkled, toothless, horrible, with white locks!
Ah! my poor child, you are on the wrong road; idleness is
counselling you badly; the hardest of all work is thieving.
Believe me, do not undertake that painful profession of an idle man.
It is not comfortable to become a rascal. It is less disagreeable
to be an honest man. Now go, and ponder on what I have said
to you. By the way, what did you want of me? My purse? Here it
And the old man, releasing Montparnasse, put his purse in the
latter's hand; Montparnasse weighed it for a moment, after which
he allowed it to slide gently into the back pocket of his coat,
with the same mechanical precaution as though he had stolen it.
All this having been said and done, the goodman turned his back
and tranquilly resumed his stroll.
"The blockhead!" muttered Montparnasse.
Who was this goodman? The reader has, no doubt, already divined.
Montparnasse watched him with amazement, as he disappeared in the dusk.
This contemplation was fatal to him.
While the old man was walking away, Gavroche drew near.
Gavroche had assured himself, with a sidelong glance, that Father
Mabeuf was still sitting on his bench, probably sound asleep.
Then the gamin emerged from his thicket, and began to crawl after
Montparnasse in the dark, as the latter stood there motionless.
In this manner he came up to Montparnasse without being seen or heard,
gently insinuated his hand into the back pocket of that frock-coat
of fine black cloth, seized the purse, withdrew his hand, and having
recourse once more to his crawling, he slipped away like an adder
through the shadows. Montparnasse, who had no reason to be on his guard,
and who was engaged in thought for the first time in his life,
perceived nothing. When Gavroche had once more attained the point
where Father Mabeuf was, he flung the purse over the hedge, and fled
as fast as his legs would carry him.
The purse fell on Father Mabeuf's foot. This commotion roused him.
He bent over and picked up the purse.
He did not understand in the least, and opened it.
The purse had two compartments; in one of them there was some
small change; in the other lay six napoleons.
M. Mabeuf, in great alarm, referred the matter to his housekeeper.
"That has fallen from heaven," said Mother Plutarque.
BOOK FIFTH.--THE END OF WHICH DOES NOT RESEMBLE THE BEGINNING
SOLITUDE AND THE BARRACKS COMBINED
Cosette's grief, which had been so poignant and lively four or five
months previously, had, without her being conscious of the fact,
entered upon its convalescence. Nature, spring, youth, love for
her father, the gayety of the birds and flowers, caused something
almost resembling forgetfulness to filter gradually, drop by drop,
into that soul, which was so virgin and so young. Was the fire wholly
extinct there? Or was it merely that layers of ashes had formed?
The truth is, that she hardly felt the painful and burning spot
One day she suddenly thought of Marius: "Why!" said she, "I no
longer think of him."
That same week, she noticed a very handsome officer of lancers,
with a wasp-like waist, a delicious uniform, the cheeks of a young girl,
a sword under his arm, waxed mustaches, and a glazed schapka,
passing the gate. Moreover, he had light hair, prominent blue eyes,
a round face, was vain, insolent and good-looking; quite the reverse
of Marius. He had a cigar in his mouth. Cosette thought that this
officer doubtless belonged to the regiment in barracks in the Rue
On the following day, she saw him pass again. She took note
of the hour.
From that time forth, was it chance? she saw him pass nearly every day.
The officer's comrades perceived that there was, in that "badly kept"
garden, behind that malicious rococo fence, a very pretty creature,
who was almost always there when the handsome lieutenant,--who is not
unknown to the reader, and whose name was Theodule Gillenormand,--
"See here!" they said to him, "there's a little creature there
who is making eyes at you, look."
"Have I the time," replied the lancer, "to look at all the girls
who look at me?"
This was at the precise moment when Marius was descending heavily
towards agony, and was saying: "If I could but see her before I die!"--
Had his wish been realized, had he beheld Cosette at that moment
gazing at the lancer, he would not have been able to utter a word,
and he would have expired with grief.
Whose fault was it? No one's.
Marius possessed one of those temperaments which bury themselves
in sorrow and there abide; Cosette was one of those persons
who plunge into sorrow and emerge from it again.
Cosette was, moreover, passing through that dangerous period,
the fatal phase of feminine revery abandoned to itself, in which
the isolated heart of a young girl resembles the tendrils of the
vine which cling, as chance directs, to the capital of a marble
column or to the post of a wine-shop: A rapid and decisive moment,
critical for every orphan, be she rich or poor, for wealth does not
prevent a bad choice; misalliances are made in very high circles,
real misalliance is that of souls; and as many an unknown young man,
without name, without birth, without fortune, is a marble column
which bears up a temple of grand sentiments and grand ideas, so such
and such a man of the world satisfied and opulent, who has polished
boots and varnished words, if looked at not outside, but inside,
a thing which is reserved for his wife, is nothing more than a
block obscurely haunted by violent, unclean, and vinous passions;
the post of a drinking-shop.
What did Cosette's soul contain? Passion calmed or lulled to sleep;
something limpid, brilliant, troubled to a certain depth,
and gloomy lower down. The image of the handsome officer was
reflected in the surface. Did a souvenir linger in the depths?--
Quite at the bottom?--Possibly. Cosette did not know.
A singular incident supervened.
During the first fortnight in April, Jean Valjean took a journey.
This, as the reader knows, happened from time to time, at very
long intervals. He remained absent a day or two days at the utmost.
Where did he go? No one knew, not even Cosette. Once only,
on the occasion of one of these departures, she had accompanied him
in a hackney-coach as far as a little blind-alley at the corner
of which she read: Impasse de la Planchette. There he alighted,
and the coach took Cosette back to the Rue de Babylone. It was
usually when money was lacking in the house that Jean Valjean took
these little trips.
So Jean Valjean was absent. He had said: "I shall return
in three days."
That evening, Cosette was alone in the drawing-room. In order to get
rid of her ennui, she had opened her piano-organ, and had begun
to sing, accompanying herself the while, the chorus from Euryanthe:
"Hunters astray in the wood!" which is probably the most beautiful
thing in all the sphere of music. When she had finished, she remained
wrapped in thought.
All at once, it seemed to her that she heard the sound of footsteps
in the garden.
It could not be her father, he was absent; it could not be Toussaint,
she was in bed, and it was ten o'clock at night.
She stepped to the shutter of the drawing-room, which was closed,
and laid her ear against it.
It seemed to her that it was the tread of a man, and that he was
walking very softly.
She mounted rapidly to the first floor, to her own chamber,
opened a small wicket in her shutter, and peeped into the garden.
The moon was at the full. Everything could be seen as plainly as
There was no one there.
She opened the window. The garden was absolutely calm, and all
that was visible was that the street was deserted as usual.
Cosette thought that she had been mistaken. She thought that she
had heard a noise. It was a hallucination produced by the melancholy
and magnificent chorus of Weber, which lays open before the mind
terrified depths, which trembles before the gaze like a dizzy forest,
and in which one hears the crackling of dead branches beneath
the uneasy tread of the huntsmen of whom one catches a glimpse
through the twilight.
She thought no more about it.
Moreover, Cosette was not very timid by nature. There flowed
in her veins some of the blood of the bohemian and the adventuress
who runs barefoot. It will be remembered that she was more of a lark
than a dove. There was a foundation of wildness and bravery in her.
On the following day, at an earlier hour, towards nightfall, she was
strolling in the garden. In the midst of the confused thoughts
which occupied her, she fancied that she caught for an instant a sound
similar to that of the preceding evening, as though some one were
walking beneath the trees in the dusk, and not very far from her;
but she told herself that nothing so closely resembles a step on
the grass as the friction of two branches which have moved from side
to side, and she paid no heed to it. Besides, she could see nothing.
She emerged from "the thicket"; she had still to cross a small lawn
to regain the steps.
The moon, which had just risen behind her, cast Cosette's shadow
in front of her upon this lawn, as she came out from the shrubbery.
Cosette halted in alarm.
Beside her shadow, the moon outlined distinctly upon the turf
another shadow, which was particularly startling and terrible,
a shadow which had a round hat.
It was the shadow of a man, who must have been standing on the border
of the clump of shrubbery, a few paces in the rear of Cosette.
She stood for a moment without the power to speak, or cry, or call,
or stir, or turn her head.
Then she summoned up all her courage, and turned round resolutely.
There was no one there.
She glanced on the ground. The figure had disappeared.
She re-entered the thicket, searched the corners boldly, went as far
as the gate, and found nothing.
She felt herself absolutely chilled with terror. Was this
another hallucination? What! Two days in succession!
One hallucination might pass, but two hallucinations?
The disquieting point about it was, that the
shadow had assuredly not been a phantom. Phantoms do not wear round hats.
On the following day Jean Valjean returned. Cosette told him what
she thought she had heard and seen. She wanted to be reassured
and to see her father shrug his shoulders and say to her:
"You are a little goose."
Jean Valjean grew anxious.
"It cannot be anything," said he.
He left her under some pretext, and went into the garden, and she
saw him examining the gate with great attention.
During the night she woke up; this time she was sure, and she distinctly
heard some one walking close to the flight of steps beneath her window.
She ran to her little wicket and opened it. In point of fact,
there was a man in the garden, with a large club in his hand.
Just as she was about to scream, the moon lighted up the man's profile.
It was her father. She returned to her bed, saying to herself:
"He is very uneasy!"
Jean Valjean passed that night and the two succeeding nights
in the garden. Cosette saw him through the hole in her shutter.
On the third night, the moon was on the wane, and had begun
to rise later; at one o'clock in the morning, possibly, she heard
a loud burst of laughter and her father's voice calling her:--
She jumped out of bed, threw on her dressing-gown, and opened
Her father was standing on the grass-plot below.
"I have waked you for the purpose of reassuring you," said he;
"look, there is your shadow with the round hat."
And he pointed out to her on the turf a shadow cast by the moon,
and which did indeed, bear considerable resemblance to the spectre of a
man wearing a round hat. It was the shadow produced by a chimney-pipe
of sheet iron, with a hood, which rose above a neighboring roof.
Cosette joined in his laughter, all her lugubrious suppositions
were allayed, and the next morning, as she was at breakfast
with her father, she made merry over the sinister garden haunted
by the shadows of iron chimney-pots.
Jean Valjean became quite tranquil once more; as for Cosette,
she did not pay much attention to the question whether the chimney-pot
was really in the direction of the shadow which she had seen,
or thought she had seen, and whether the moon had been in the same
spot in the sky.
She did not question herself as to the peculiarity of a chimney-pot
which is afraid of being caught in the act, and which retires
when some one looks at its shadow, for the shadow had taken
the alarm when Cosette had turned round, and Cosette had thought
herself very sure of this. Cosette's serenity was fully restored.
The proof appeared to her to be complete, and it quite vanished
from her mind, whether there could possibly be any one walking
in the garden during the evening or at night.
A few days later, however, a fresh incident occurred.
ENRICHED WITH COMMENTARIES BY TOUSSAINT
In the garden, near the railing on the street, there was a stone bench,
screened from the eyes of the curious by a plantation of yoke-elms,
but which could, in case of necessity, be reached by an arm from
the outside, past the trees and the gate.
One evening during that same month of April, Jean Valjean had
gone out; Cosette had seated herself on this bench after sundown.
The breeze was blowing briskly in the trees, Cosette was meditating;
an objectless sadness was taking possession of her little by little,
that invincible sadness evoked by the evening, and which arises,
perhaps, who knows, from the mystery of the tomb which is ajar at
Perhaps Fantine was within that shadow.
Cosette rose, slowly made the tour of the garden, walking on
the grass drenched in dew, and saying to herself, through the
species of melancholy somnambulism in which she was plunged:
"Really, one needs wooden shoes for the garden at this hour.
One takes cold."
She returned to the bench.
As she was about to resume her seat there, she observed on the
spot which she had quitted, a tolerably large stone which had,
evidently, not been there a moment before.
Cosette gazed at the stone, asking herself what it meant. All at once
the idea occurred to her that the stone had not reached the bench
all by itself, that some one had placed it there, that an arm had been
thrust through the railing, and this idea appeared to alarm her.
This time, the fear was genuine; the stone was there. No doubt
was possible; she did not touch it, fled without glancing behind her,
took refuge in the house, and immediately closed with shutter,
bolt, and bar the door-like window opening on the flight of steps.
She inquired of Toussaint:--
"Has my father returned yet?"
"Not yet, Mademoiselle."
[We have already noted once for all the fact that Toussaint stuttered.
May we be permitted to dispense with it for the future. The musical
notation of an infirmity is repugnant to us.]
Jean Valjean, a thoughtful man, and given to nocturnal strolls,
often returned quite late at night.
"Toussaint," went on Cosette, "are you careful to thoroughly
barricade the shutters opening on the garden, at least with bars,
in the evening, and to put the little iron things in the little
rings that close them?"
"Oh! be easy on that score, Miss."
Toussaint did not fail in her duty, and Cosette was well aware
of the fact, but she could not refrain from adding:--
"It is so solitary here."
"So far as that is concerned," said Toussaint, "it is true.
We might be assassinated before we had time to say ouf!
And Monsieur does not sleep in the house, to boot.
But fear nothing, Miss, I fasten the shutters up like prisons.
Lone women! That is enough to make one shudder, I believe you!
Just imagine, what if you were to see men enter your chamber at
night and say: `Hold your tongue!' and begin to cut your throat.
It's not the dying so much; you die, for one must die, and that's
all right; it's the abomination of feeling those people touch you.
And then, their knives; they can't be able to cut well with them!
Ah, good gracious!"
"Be quiet," said Cosette. "Fasten everything thoroughly."
Cosette, terrified by the melodrama improvised by Toussaint,
and possibly, also, by the recollection of the apparitions of the
past week, which recurred to her memory, dared not even say to her:
"Go and look at the stone which has been placed on the bench!"
for fear of opening the garden gate and allowing "the men" to enter.
She saw that all the doors and windows were carefully fastened,
made Toussaint go all over the house from garret to cellar, locked herself
up in her own chamber, bolted her door, looked under her couch,
went to bed and slept badly. All night long she saw that big stone,
as large as a mountain and full of caverns.
At sunrise,--the property of the rising sun is to make us laugh
at all our terrors of the past night, and our laughter is in direct
proportion to our terror which they have caused,--at sunrise Cosette,
when she woke, viewed her fright as a nightmare, and said to herself:
"What have I been thinking of? It is like the footsteps that I
thought I heard a week or two ago in the garden at night!
It is like the shadow of the chimney-pot! Am I becoming a coward?"
The sun, which was glowing through the crevices in her shutters,
and turning the damask curtains crimson, reassured her to such an extent
that everything vanished from her thoughts, even the stone.
"There was no more a stone on the bench than there was a man in a round
hat in the garden; I dreamed about the stone, as I did all the rest."
She dressed herself, descended to the garden, ran to the bench,
and broke out in a cold perspiration. The stone was there.
But this lasted only for a moment. That which is terror by night
is curiosity by day.
"Bah!" said she, "come, let us see what it is."
She lifted the stone, which was tolerably large. Beneath it was
something which resembled a letter. It was a white envelope.
Cosette seized it. There was no address on one side, no seal
on the other. Yet the envelope, though unsealed, was not empty.
Papers could be seen inside.
Cosette examined it. It was no longer alarm, it was no longer curiosity;
it was a beginning of anxiety.
Cosette drew from the envelope its contents, a little notebook
of paper, each page of which was numbered and bore a few lines
in a very fine and rather pretty handwriting, as Cosette thought.
Cosette looked for a name; there was none. To whom was this addressed?
To her, probably, since a hand had deposited the packet on her bench.
From whom did it come? An irresistible fascination took possession
of her; she tried to turn away her eyes from the leaflets which were
trembling in her hand, she gazed at the sky, the street, the acacias
all bathed in light, the pigeons fluttering over a neighboring roof,
and then her glance suddenly fell upon the manuscript, and she said
to herself that she must know what it contained.
This is what she read.
A HEART BENEATH A STONE
The reduction of the universe to a single being, the expansion
of a single being even to God, that is love.
Love is the salutation of the angels to the stars.
How sad is the soul, when it is sad through love!
What a void in the absence of the being who, by herself alone fills
the world! Oh! how true it is that the beloved being becomes God.
One could comprehend that God might be jealous of this had not God
the Father of all evidently made creation for the soul, and the soul
The glimpse of a smile beneath a white crape bonnet with a lilac
curtain is sufficient to cause the soul to enter into the palace
God is behind everything, but everything
hides God. Things are black, creatures
are opaque. To love a being is to render that being transparent.
Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the
attitude of the body may be, the soul is on its knees.
Parted lovers beguile absence by a thousand chimerical devices,
which possess, however, a reality of their own. They are
prevented from seeing each other, they cannot write to each other;
they discover a multitude of mysterious means to correspond.
They send each other the song of the birds, the perfume of the flowers,
the smiles of children, the light of the sun, the sighings
of the breeze, the rays of stars, all creation. And why not?
All the works of God are made to serve love. Love is sufficiently
potent to charge all nature with its messages.
Oh Spring! Thou art a letter that I write to her.
The future belongs to hearts even more than it does to minds.
Love, that is the only thing that can occupy and fill eternity.
In the infinite, the inexhaustible is requisite.
Love participates of the soul itself. It is of the same nature.
Like it, it is the divine spark; like it, it is incorruptible,
indivisible, imperishable. It is a point of fire that exists
within us, which is immortal and infinite, which nothing can confine,
and which nothing can extinguish. We feel it burning even to the
very marrow of our bones, and we see it beaming in the very depths
Oh Love! Adorations! voluptuousness of two minds which understand each
other, of two hearts which exchange with each other, of two glances which
penetrate each other! You will come to me, will you not, bliss! strolls
by twos in the solitudes! Blessed and radiant days! I have sometimes
dreamed that from time to time hours detached themselves from the
lives of the angels and came here below to traverse the destinies of men.
God can add nothing to the happiness of those who love, except to give
them endless duration. After a life of love, an eternity of love is,
in fact, an augmentation; but to increase in intensity even the
ineffable felicity which love bestows on the soul even in this world,
is impossible, even to God. God is the plenitude of heaven;
love is the plenitude of man.
You look at a star for two reasons, because it is luminous,
and because it is impenetrable. You have beside you a sweeter
radiance and a greater mystery, woman.
All of us, whoever we may be, have our respirable beings. We lack air
and we stifle. Then we die. To die for lack of love is horrible.
Suffocation of the soul.
When love has fused and mingled two beings in a sacred
and angelic unity, the secret of life has been discovered
so far as they are concerned; they are no longer anything
more than the two boundaries of the same destiny; they
are no longer anything but the two wings of the same spirit. Love, soar.
On the day when a woman as she passes before you emits light as she walks,
you are lost, you love. But one thing remains for you to do:
to think of her so intently that she is constrained to think of you.
What love commences can be finished by God alone.
True love is in despair and is enchanted over a glove lost
or a handkerchief found, and eternity is required for its
devotion and its hopes. It is composed both of the infinitely
great and the infinitely little.
If you are a stone, be adamant; if you are a plant, be the
sensitive plant; if you are a man, be love.
Nothing suffices for love. We have happiness, we desire paradise;
we possess paradise, we desire heaven.
Oh ye who love each other, all this is contained in love.
Understand how to find it there. Love has contemplation as well
as heaven, and more than heaven, it has voluptuousness.
"Does she still come to the Luxembourg?" "No, sir." "This is the church
where she attends mass, is it not?" "She no longer comes here."
"Does she still live in this house?" "She has moved away."
"Where has she gone to dwell?"
"She did not say."
What a melancholy thing not to know the address of one's soul!
Love has its childishness, other passions have their pettinesses.
Shame on the passions which belittle man! Honor to the one which
makes a child of him!
There is one strange thing, do you know it? I dwell in the night.
There is a being who carried off my sky when she went away.
Oh! would that we were lying side by side in the same grave,
hand in hand, and from time to time, in the darkness, gently caressing
a finger,--that would suffice for my eternity!
Ye who suffer because ye love, love yet more. To die of love,
is to live in it.
Love. A sombre and starry transfiguration is mingled with this torture.
There is ecstasy in agony.
Oh joy of the birds! It is because they have nests that they sing.
Love is a celestial respiration of the air of paradise.
Deep hearts, sage minds, take life as God has made it; it is a
long trial, an incomprehensible preparation for an unknown destiny.
This destiny, the true one, begins for a man with the first step
inside the tomb. Then something appears to him, and he begins to
distinguish the definitive. The definitive, meditate upon that word.
The living perceive the infinite; the definitive permits itself
to be seen only by the dead. In the meanwhile, love and suffer,
hope and contemplate. Woe, alas! to him who shall have loved
only bodies, forms, appearances! Death will deprive him of all.
Try to love souls, you will find them again.
I encountered in the street, a very poor young man who was in love.
His hat was old, his coat was worn, his elbows were in holes;
water trickled through his shoes, and the stars through his soul.
What a grand thing it is to be loved! What a far grander thing
it is to love! The heart becomes heroic, by dint of passion.
It is no longer composed of anything but what is pure; it no longer
rests on anything that is not elevated and great. An unworthy
thought can no more germinate in it, than a nettle on a glacier.
The serene and lofty soul, inaccessible to vulgar passions and emotions,
dominating the clouds and the shades of this world, its follies,
its lies, its hatreds, its vanities, its miseries, inhabits the blue
of heaven, and no longer feels anything but profound and subterranean
shocks of destiny, as the crests of mountains feel the shocks
If there did not exist some one who loved, the sun would become extinct.
COSETTE AFTER THE LETTER
As Cosette read, she gradually fell into thought. At the very moment
when she raised her eyes from the last line of the note-book,
the handsome officer passed triumphantly in front of the gate,--
it was his hour; Cosette thought him hideous.
She resumed her contemplation of the book. It was written in the
most charming of chirography, thought Cosette; in the same hand,
but with divers inks, sometimes very black, again whitish,
as when ink has been added to the inkstand, and consequently on
different days. It was, then, a mind which had unfolded itself there,
sigh by sigh, irregularly, without order, without choice,
without object, hap-hazard. Cosette had never read anything like it.
This manuscript, in which she already perceived more light than
obscurity, produced upon her the effect of a half-open sanctuary.
Each one of these mysterious lines shone before her eyes and inundated
her heart with a strange radiance. The education which she had
received had always talked to her of the soul, and never of love,
very much as one might talk of the firebrand and not of the flame.
This manuscript of fifteen pages suddenly and sweetly revealed
to her all of love, sorrow, destiny, life, eternity, the beginning,
the end. It was as if a hand had opened and suddenly flung upon
her a handful of rays of light. In these few lines she felt
a passionate, ardent, generous, honest nature, a sacred will,
an immense sorrow, and an immense despair, a suffering heart,
an ecstasy fully expanded. What was this manuscript? A letter.
A letter without name, without address, without date, without signature,
pressing and disinterested, an enigma composed of truths, a message
of love made to be brought by an angel and read by a virgin,
an appointment made beyond the bounds of earth, the love-letter of
a phantom to a shade. It was an absent one, tranquil and dejected,
who seemed ready to take refuge in death and who sent to the absent love,
his lady, the secret of fate, the key of life, love. This had been
written with one foot in the grave and one finger in heaven.
These lines, which had fallen one by one on the paper, were what
might be called drops of soul.
Now, from whom could these pages come? Who could have penned them?
Cosette did not hesitate a moment. One man only.
Day had dawned once more in her spirit; all had reappeared.
She felt an unheard-of joy, and a profound anguish. It was he! he
who had written! he was there! it was he whose arm had been thrust
through that railing! While she was forgetful of him, he had found
her again! But had she forgotten him? No, never! She was foolish
to have thought so for a single moment. She had always loved him,
always adored him. The fire had been smothered, and had smouldered
for a time, but she saw all plainly now; it had but made headway,
and now it had burst forth afresh, and had inflamed her whole being.
This note-book was like a spark which had fallen from that other soul
into hers. She felt the conflagration starting up once more.
She imbued herself thoroughly with every word of the manuscript:
"Oh yes!" said she, "how perfectly I recognize all that! That is
what I had already read in his eyes." As she was finishing it
for the third time, Lieutenant Theodule passed the gate once more,
and rattled his spurs upon the pavement. Cosette was forced
to raise her eyes. She thought him insipid, silly, stupid,
useless, foppish, displeasing, impertinent, and extremely ugly.
The officer thought it his duty to smile at her.
She turned away as in shame and indignation. She would gladly
have thrown something at his head.
She fled, re-entered the house, and shut herself up in her
chamber to peruse the manuscript once more, to learn it by heart,
and to dream. When she had thoroughly mastered it she kissed
it and put it in her bosom.
All was over, Cosette had fallen back into deep, seraphic love.
The abyss of Eden had yawned once more.
All day long, Cosette remained in a sort of bewilderment.
She scarcely thought, her ideas were in the state of a tangled
skein in her brain, she could not manage to conjecture anything,
she hoped through a tremor, what? vague things. She dared make
herself no promises, and she did not wish to refuse herself anything.
Flashes of pallor passed over her countenance, and shivers ran through
her frame. It seemed to her, at intervals, that she was entering
the land of chimaeras; she said to herself: "Is this reality?"
Then she felt of the dear paper within her bosom under her gown,
she pressed it to her heart, she felt its angles against her flesh;
and if Jean Valjean had seen her at the moment, he would have shuddered
in the presence of that luminous and unknown joy, which overflowed
from beneath her eyelids.--"Oh yes!" she thought, "it is certainly he!
This comes from him, and is for me!"
And she told herself that an intervention of the angels,
a celestial chance, had given him back to her.
Oh transfiguration of love! Oh dreams! That celestial chance,
that intervention of the angels, was a pellet of bread tossed
by one thief to another thief, from the Charlemagne Courtyard
to the Lion's Ditch, over the roofs of La Force.
OLD PEOPLE ARE MADE TO GO OUT OPPORTUNELY
When evening came, Jean Valjean went out; Cosette dressed herself.
She arranged her hair in the most becoming manner, and she put on
a dress whose bodice had received one snip of the scissors too much,
and which, through this slope, permitted a view of the beginning
of her throat, and was, as young girls say, "a trifle indecent."
It was not in the least indecent, but it was prettier than usual.
She made her toilet thus without knowing why she did so.
Did she mean to go out? No.
Was she expecting a visitor? No.
At dusk, she went down to the garden. Toussaint was busy
in her kitchen, which opened on the back yard.
She began to stroll about under the trees, thrusting aside
the branches from time to time with her hand, because there
were some which hung very low.
In this manner she reached the bench.
The stone was still there.
She sat down, and gently laid her white hand on this stone as though
she wished to caress and thank it.
All at once, she experienced that indefinable impression which one
undergoes when there is some one standing behind one, even when she
does not see the person.
She turned her head and rose to her feet.
It was he.
His head was bare. He appeared to have grown thin and pale.
His black clothes were hardly discernible. The twilight threw
a wan light on his fine brow, and covered his eyes in shadows.
Beneath a veil of incomparable sweetness, he had something about
him that suggested death and night. His face was illuminated
by the light of the dying day, and by the thought of a soul that is
He seemed to be not yet a ghost, and he was no longer a man.
He had flung away his hat in the thicket, a few paces distant.
Cosette, though ready to swoon, uttered no cry. She retreated slowly,
for she felt herself attracted. He did not stir. By virtue
of something ineffable and melancholy which enveloped him,
she felt the look in his eyes which she could not see.
Cosette, in her retreat, encountered a tree and leaned against it.
Had it not been for this tree, she would have fallen.
Then she heard his voice, that voice which she had really never heard,
barely rising above the rustle of the leaves, and murmuring:--
"Pardon me, here I am. My heart is full. I could not live on as I
was living, and I have come. Have you read what I placed there
on the bench? Do you recognize me at all? Have no fear of me.
It is a long time, you remember the day, since you looked at me
at the Luxembourg, near the Gladiator. And the day when you passed
before me? It was on the 16th of June and the 2d of July. It is nearly
a year ago. I have not seen you for a long time. I inquired of the
woman who let the chairs, and she told me that she no longer saw you.
You lived in the Rue de l'Ouest, on the third floor, in the front
apartments of a new house,--you see that I know! I followed you.
What else was there for me to do? And then you disappeared.
I thought I saw you pass once, while I was reading the newspapers
under the arcade of the Odeon. I ran after you. But no. It was
a person who had a bonnet like yours. At night I came hither.
Do not be afraid, no one sees me. I come to gaze upon your windows
near at hand. I walk very softly, so that you may not hear,
for you might be alarmed. The other evening I was behind you,
you turned round, I fled. Once, I heard you singing. I was happy.
Did it affect you because I heard you singing through the shutters?
That could not hurt you. No, it is not so? You see, you are
my angel! Let me come sometimes; I think that I am going to die.
If you only knew! I adore you. Forgive me, I speak to you, but I
do not know what I am saying; I may have displeased you; have I
"Oh! my mother!" said she.
And she sank down as though on the point of death.
He grasped her, she fell, he took her in his arms, he pressed her close,
without knowing what he was doing. He supported her, though he was
tottering himself. It was as though his brain were full of smoke;
lightnings darted between his lips; his ideas vanished; it seemed
to him that he was accomplishing some religious act, and that he
was committing a profanation. Moreover, he had not the least passion
for this lovely woman whose force he felt against his breast.
He was beside himself with love.
She took his hand and laid it on her heart. He felt the paper there,
"You love me, then?"
She replied in a voice so low that it was no longer anything more
than a barely audible breath:--
"Hush! Thou knowest it!"
And she hid her blushing face on the breast of the superb
and intoxicated young man.
He fell upon the bench, and she beside him. They had no words more.
The stars were beginning to gleam. How did it come to pass that their
lips met? How comes it to pass that the birds sing, that snow melts,
that the rose unfolds, that May expands, that the dawn grows white
behind the black trees on the shivering crest of the hills?
A kiss, and that was all.
Both started, and gazed into the darkness with sparkling eyes.
They felt neither the cool night, nor the cold stone, nor the
damp earth, nor the wet grass; they looked at each other, and their
hearts were full of thoughts. They had clasped hands unconsciously.
She did not ask him, she did not even wonder, how he had entered there,
and how he had made his way into the garden. It seemed so simple
to her that he should be there!
From time to time, Marius' knee touched Cosette's knee, and both shivered.
At intervals, Cosette stammered a word. Her soul fluttered
on her lips like a drop of dew on a flower.
Little by little they began to talk to each other. Effusion followed
silence, which is fulness. The night was serene and splendid overhead.
These two beings, pure as spirits, told each other everything,
their dreams, their intoxications, their ecstasies, their chimaeras,
their weaknesses, how they had adored each other from afar,
how they had longed for each other, their despair when they
had ceased to see each other. They confided to each other in an
ideal intimacy, which nothing could augment, their most secret and
most mysterious thoughts. They related to each other, with candid
faith in their illusions, all that love, youth, and the remains of
childhood which still lingered about them, suggested to their minds.
Their two hearts poured themselves out into each other in such wise,
that at the expiration of a quarter of an hour, it was the young
man who had the young girl's soul, and the young girl who had
the young man's soul. Each became permeated with the other,
they were enchanted with each other, they dazzled each other.
When they had finished, when they had told each other everything,
she laid her head on his shoulder and asked him:--
"What is your name?"
"My name is Marius," said he. "And yours?"
"My name is Cosette."
BOOK SIXTH.--LITTLE GAVROCHE
THE MALICIOUS PLAYFULNESS OF THE WIND
Since 1823, when the tavern of Montfermeil was on the way to shipwreck
and was being gradually engulfed, not in the abyss of a bankruptcy,
but in the cesspool of petty debts, the Thenardier pair had had two
other children; both males. That made five; two girls and three boys.
Madame Thenardier had got rid of the last two, while they were still
young and very small, with remarkable luck.
Got rid of is the word. There was but a mere fragment of nature
in that woman. A phenomenon, by the way, of which there
is more than one example extant. Like the Marechale de La
Mothe-Houdancourt, the Thenardier was a mother to her daughters only.
There her maternity ended. Her hatred of the human race began
with her own sons. In the direction of her sons her evil
disposition was uncompromising, and her heart had a lugubrious
wall in that quarter. As the reader has seen, she detested
the eldest; she cursed the other two. Why? Because. The most
terrible of motives, the most unanswerable of retorts--Because.
"I have no need of a litter of squalling brats," said this mother.
Let us explain how the Thenardiers had succeeded in getting rid of
their last two children; and even in drawing profit from the operation.
The woman Magnon, who was mentioned a few pages further back, was the
same one who had succeeded in making old Gillenormand support the two
children which she had had. She lived on the Quai des Celestins,
at the corner of this ancient street of the Petit-Musc which afforded
her the opportunity of changing her evil repute into good odor.
The reader will remember the great epidemic of croup which ravaged
the river districts of the Seine in Paris thirty-five years ago,
and of which science took advantage to make experiments on a grand
scale as to the efficacy of inhalations of alum, so beneficially
replaced at the present day by the external tincture of iodine.
During this epidemic, the Magnon lost both her boys, who were still
very young, one in the morning, the other in the evening of the same day.
This was a blow. These children were precious to their mother;
they represented eighty francs a month. These eighty francs were
punctually paid in the name of M. Gillenormand, by collector of his rents,
M. Barge, a retired tip-staff, in the Rue du Roi-de-Sicile. The
children dead, the income was at an end. The Magnon sought an expedient.
In that dark free-masonry of evil of which she formed a part,
everything is known, all secrets are kept, and all lend mutual aid.
Magnon needed two children; the Thenardiers had two. The same sex,
the same age. A good arrangement for the one, a good investment
for the other. The little Thenardiers became little Magnons.
Magnon quitted the Quai des Celestins and went to live in the
Rue Clocheperce. In Paris, the identity which binds an individual
to himself is broken between one street and another.
The registry office being in no way warned, raised no objections,
and the substitution was effected in the most simple manner
in the world. Only, the Thenardier exacted for this loan of
her children, ten francs a month, which Magnon promised to pay,
and which she actually did pay. It is unnecessary to add that
M. Gillenormand continued to perform his compact. He came to see
the children every six months. He did not perceive the change.
"Monsieur," Magnon said to him, "how much they resemble you!"
Thenardier, to whom avatars were easy, seized this occasion
to become Jondrette. His two daughters and Gavroche had hardly
had time to discover that they had two little brothers. When a
certain degree of misery is reached, one is overpowered with a sort
of spectral indifference, and one regards human beings as though
they were spectres. Your nearest relations are often no more for
you than vague shadowy forms, barely outlined against a nebulous
background of life and easily confounded again with the invisible.
On the evening of the day when she had handed over her two little
ones to Magnon, with express intention of renouncing them forever,
the Thenardier had felt, or had appeared to feel, a scruple. She said
to her husband: "But this is abandoning our children!" Thenardier,
masterful and phlegmatic, cauterized the scruple with this saying:
"Jean Jacques Rousseau did even better!" From scruples, the mother
proceeded to uneasiness: "But what if the police were to annoy us?
Tell me, Monsieur Thenardier, is what we have done permissible?"
Thenardier replied: "Everything is permissible. No one will see
anything but true blue in it. Besides, no one has any interest in
looking closely after children who have not a sou."
Magnon was a sort of fashionable woman in the sphere of crime.
She was careful about her toilet. She shared her lodgings,
which were furnished in an affected and wretched style, with a clever
gallicized English thief. This English woman, who had become
a naturalized Parisienne, recommended by very wealthy relations,
intimately connected with the medals in the Library and Mademoiselle
Mar's diamonds, became celebrated later on in judicial accounts.
She was called Mamselle Miss.
The two little creatures who had fallen to Magnon had no reason to
complain of their lot. Recommended by the eighty francs, they were
well cared for, as is everything from which profit is derived;
they were neither badly clothed, nor badly fed; they were treated
almost like "little gentlemen,"--better by their false mother than
by their real one. Magnon played the lady, and talked no thieves'
slang in their presence.
Thus passed several years. Thenardier augured well from the fact.
One day, he chanced to say to Magnon as she handed him his monthly
stipend of ten francs: "The father must give them some education."
All at once, these two poor children, who had up to that time been
protected tolerably well, even by their evil fate, were abruptly
hurled into life and forced to begin it for themselves.
A wholesale arrest of malefactors, like that in the Jondrette garret,
necessarily complicated by investigations and subsequent incarcerations,
is a veritable disaster for that hideous and occult counter-society
which pursues its existence beneath public society; an adventure of this
description entails all sorts of catastrophes in that sombre world.
The Thenardier catastrophe involved the catastrophe of Magnon.
One day, a short time after Magnon had handed to Eponine the note
relating to the Rue Plumet, a sudden raid was made by the police
in the Rue Clocheperce; Magnon was seized, as was also Mamselle Miss;
and all the inhabitants of the house, which was of a suspicious character,
were gathered into the net. While this was going on, the two little
boys were playing in the back yard, and saw nothing of the raid.
When they tried to enter the house again, they found the door
fastened and the house empty. A cobbler opposite called them to him,
and delivered to them a paper which "their mother" had left for them.
On this paper there was an address: M. Barge, collector of rents,
Rue du Roi-de-Sicile, No. 8. The proprietor of the stall said to them:
"You cannot live here any longer. Go there. It is near by.
The first street on the left. Ask your way from this paper."
The children set out, the elder leading the younger, and holding
in his hand the paper which was to guide them. It was cold,
and his benumbed little fingers could not close very firmly,
and they did not keep a very good hold on the paper. At the
corner of the Rue Clocheperce, a gust of wind tore it from him,
and as night was falling, the child was not able to find it again.
They began to wander aimlessly through the streets.
IN WHICH LITTLE GAVROCHE EXTRACTS PROFIT FROM NAPOLEON THE GREAT
Spring in Paris is often traversed by harsh and piercing breezes which
do not precisely chill but freeze one; these north winds which sadden
the most beautiful days produce exactly the effect of those puffs
of cold air which enter a warm room through the cracks of a badly
fitting door or window. It seems as though the gloomy door of winter
had remained ajar, and as though the wind were pouring through it.
In the spring of 1832, the epoch when the first great epidemic
of this century broke out in Europe, these north gales were more
harsh and piercing than ever. It was a door even more glacial than
that of winter which was ajar. It was the door of the sepulchre.
In these winds one felt the breath of the cholera.
From a meteorological point of view, these cold winds possessed
this peculiarity, that they did not preclude a strong electric tension.
Frequent storms, accompanied by thunder and lightning, burst forth
at this epoch.
One evening, when these gales were blowing rudely, to such a degree
that January seemed to have returned and that the bourgeois had
resumed their cloaks, Little Gavroche, who was always shivering
gayly under his rags, was standing as though in ecstasy before a
wig-maker's shop in the vicinity of the Orme-Saint-Gervais. He was
adorned with a woman's woollen shawl, picked up no one knows where,
and which he had converted into a neck comforter. Little Gavroche
appeared to be engaged in intent admiration of a wax bride,
in a low-necked dress, and crowned with orange-flowers, who was
revolving in the window, and displaying her smile to passers-by,
between two argand lamps; but in reality, he was taking an observation
of the shop, in order to discover whether he could not "prig"
from the shop-front a cake of soap, which he would then proceed
to sell for a sou to a "hair-dresser" in the suburbs. He had often
managed to breakfast off of such a roll. He called his species
of work, for which he possessed special aptitude, "shaving barbers."
While contemplating the bride, and eyeing the cake of soap,
he muttered between his teeth: "Tuesday. It was not Tuesday.
Was it Tuesday? Perhaps it was Tuesday. Yes, it was Tuesday."
No one has ever discovered to what this monologue referred.
Yes, perchance, this monologue had some connection with the last
occasion on which he had dined, three days before, for it was now Friday.
The barber in his shop, which was warmed by a good stove, was shaving
a customer and casting a glance from time to time at the enemy,
that freezing and impudent street urchin both of whose hands were
in his pockets, but whose mind was evidently unsheathed.
While Gavroche was scrutinizing the shop-window and the cakes of
windsor soap, two children of unequal stature, very neatly dressed,
and still smaller than himself, one apparently about seven years
of age, the other five, timidly turned the handle and entered
the shop, with a request for something or other, alms possibly,
in a plaintive murmur which resembled a groan rather than a prayer.
They both spoke at once, and their words were unintelligible because
sobs broke the voice of the younger, and the teeth of the elder were
chattering with cold. The barber wheeled round with a furious look,
and without abandoning his razor, thrust back the elder with his left
hand and the younger with his knee, and slammed his door, saying:
"The idea of coming in and freezing everybody for nothing!"
The two children resumed their march in tears. In the meantime,
a cloud had risen; it had begun to rain.
Little Gavroche ran after them and accosted them:--
"What's the matter with you, brats?"
"We don't know where we are to sleep," replied the elder.
"Is that all?" said Gavroche. "A great matter, truly. The idea
of bawling about that. They must be greenies!"
And adopting, in addition to his superiority, which was rather bantering,
an accent of tender authority and gentle patronage:--
"Come along with me, young 'uns!"
"Yes, sir," said the elder.
And the two children followed him as they would have followed
an archbishop. They had stopped crying.
Gavroche led them up the Rue Saint-Antoine in the direction
of the Bastille.
As Gavroche walked along, he cast an indignant backward glance
at the barber's shop.
"That fellow has no heart, the whiting," he muttered.
"He's an Englishman."
 Merlan: a sobriquet given to hairdressers because they are
white with powder.
A woman who caught sight of these three marching in a file,
with Gavroche at their head, burst into noisy laughter. This laugh
was wanting in respect towards the group.
"Good day, Mamselle Omnibus," said Gavroche to her.
An instant later, the wig-maker occurred to his mind once more,
and he added:--
"I am making a mistake in the beast; he's not a whiting,
he's a serpent. Barber, I'll go and fetch a locksmith, and I'll
have a bell hung to your tail."
This wig-maker had rendered him aggressive. As he strode over
a gutter, he apostrophized a bearded portress who was worthy
to meet Faust on the Brocken, and who had a broom in her hand.
"Madam," said he, "so you are going out with your horse?"
And thereupon, he spattered the polished boots of a pedestrian.
"You scamp!" shouted the furious pedestrian.
Gavroche elevated his nose above his shawl.
"Is Monsieur complaining?"
"Of you!" ejaculated the man.
"The office is closed," said Gavroche, "I do not receive any
In the meanwhile, as he went on up the street, he perceived a
beggar-girl, thirteen or fourteen years old, and clad in so short
a gown that her knees were visible, lying thoroughly chilled
under a porte-cochere. The little girl was getting to be too old
for such a thing. Growth does play these tricks. The petticoat
becomes short at the moment when nudity becomes indecent.
"Poor girl!" said Gavroche. "She hasn't even trousers. Hold on,
And unwinding all the comfortable woollen which he had around his neck,
he flung it on the thin and purple shoulders of the beggar-girl,
where the scarf became a shawl once more.
The child stared at him in astonishment, and received the shawl
in silence. When a certain stage of distress has been reached
in his misery, the poor man no longer groans over evil, no longer
returns thanks for good.
That done: "Brrr!" said Gavroche, who was shivering more than
Saint Martin, for the latter retained one-half of his cloak.
At this brrr! the downpour of rain, redoubled in its spite,
became furious. The wicked skies punish good deeds.
"Ah, come now!" exclaimed Gavroche, "what's the meaning of this?
It's re-raining! Good Heavens, if it goes on like this, I shall stop
And he set out on the march once more.
"It's all right," he resumed, casting a glance at the beggar-girl,
as she coiled up under the shawl, "she's got a famous peel."
And looking up at the clouds he exclaimed:--
The two children followed close on his heels.
As they were passing one of these heavy grated lattices,
which indicate a baker's shop, for bread is put behind
bars like gold, Gavroche turned round:--
"Ah, by the way, brats, have we dined?"
"Monsieur," replied the elder, "we have had nothing to eat since
"So you have neither father nor mother?" resumed Gavroche majestically.
"Excuse us, sir, we have a papa and a mamma, but we don't know
where they are."
"Sometimes that's better than knowing where they are," said Gavroche,
who was a thinker.
"We have been wandering about these two hours," continued the elder,
"we have hunted for things at the corners of the streets, but we
have found nothing."
"I know," ejaculated Gavroche, "it's the dogs who eat everything."
He went on, after a pause:--
"Ah! we have lost our authors. We don't know what we have done
with them. This should not be, gamins. It's stupid to let old people
stray off like that. Come now! we must have a snooze all the same."
However, he asked them no questions. What was more simple than
that they should have no dwelling place!
The elder of the two children, who had almost entirely recovered
the prompt heedlessness of childhood, uttered this exclamation:--
"It's queer, all the same. Mamma told us that she would take us
to get a blessed spray on Palm Sunday."
"Bosh," said Gavroche.
"Mamma," resumed the elder, "is a lady who lives with Mamselle Miss."
"Tanflute!" retorted Gavroche.
Meanwhile he had halted, and for the last two minutes he had been
feeling and fumbling in all sorts of nooks which his rags contained.
At last he tossed his head with an air intended to be merely satisfied,
but which was triumphant, in reality.
"Let us be calm, young 'uns. Here's supper for three."
And from one of his pockets he drew forth a sou.
Without allowing the two urchins time for amazement, he pushed
both of them before him into the baker's shop, and flung his sou
on the counter, crying:--
"Boy! five centimes' worth of bread."
The baker, who was the proprietor in person, took up a loaf and a knife.
"In three pieces, my boy!" went on Gavroche.
And he added with dignity:--
"There are three of us."
And seeing that the baker, after scrutinizing the three customers,
had taken down a black loaf, he thrust his finger far up his nose
with an inhalation as imperious as though he had had a pinch of the
great Frederick's snuff on the tip of his thumb, and hurled this
indignant apostrophe full in the baker's face:--
Those of our readers who might be tempted to espy in this
interpellation of Gavroche's to the baker a Russian or a Polish word,
or one of those savage cries which the Yoways and the Botocudos hurl
at each other from bank to bank of a river, athwart the solitudes,
are warned that it is a word which they [our readers] utter every day,
and which takes the place of the phrase: "Qu'est-ce que c'est
que cela?" The baker understood perfectly, and replied:--
"Well! It's bread, and very good bread of the second quality."
"You mean larton brutal [black bread]!" retorted Gavroche,
calmly and coldly disdainful. "White bread, boy! white bread
[larton savonne]! I'm standing treat."
The baker could not repress a smile, and as he cut the white bread
he surveyed them in a compassionate way which shocked Gavroche.
"Come, now, baker's boy!" said he, "what are you taking our measure
like that for?"
All three of them placed end to end would have hardly made a measure.
When the bread was cut, the baker threw the sou into his drawer,
and Gavroche said to the two children:--
The little boys stared at him in surprise.
Gavroche began to laugh.
"Ah! hullo, that's so! they don't understand yet, they're too small."
And he repeated:--
At the same time, he held out a piece of bread to each of them.
And thinking that the elder, who seemed to him the more worthy
of his conversation, deserved some special encouragement and ought
to be relieved from all hesitation to satisfy his appetite, he added,
as be handed him the largest share:--
"Ram that into your muzzle."
One piece was smaller than the others; he kept this for himself.
The poor children, including Gavroche, were famished.
As they tore their bread apart in big mouthfuls, they blocked up
the shop of the baker, who, now that they had paid their money,
looked angrily at them.
"Let's go into the street again," said Gavroche.
They set off once more in the direction of the Bastille.
From time to time, as they passed the lighted shop-windows,
the smallest halted to look at the time on a leaden watch
which was suspended from his neck by a cord.
"Well, he is a very green 'un," said Gavroche.
Then, becoming thoughtful, he muttered between his teeth:--
"All the same, if I had charge of the babes I'd lock 'em up better
Just as they were finishing their morsel of bread, and had reached
the angle of that gloomy Rue des Ballets, at the other end
of which the low and threatening wicket of La Force was visible:--
"Hullo, is that you, Gavroche?" said some one.
"Hullo, is that you, Montparnasse?" said Gavroche.
A man had just accosted the street urchin, and the man was no
other than Montparnasse in disguise, with blue spectacles,
but recognizable to Gavroche.
"The bow-wows!" went on Gavroche, "you've got a hide the color
of a linseed plaster, and blue specs like a doctor. You're putting
on style, 'pon my word!"
"Hush!" ejaculated Montparnasse, "not so loud."
And he drew Gavroche hastily out of range of the lighted shops.
The two little ones followed mechanically, holding each other
by the hand.
When they were ensconced under the arch of a portecochere,
sheltered from the rain and from all eyes:--
"Do you know where I'm going?" demanded Montparnasse.
"To the Abbey of Ascend-with-Regret," replied Gavroche.
 The scaffold.
And Montparnasse went on:--
"I'm going to find Babet."
"Ah!" exclaimed Gavroche, "so her name is Babet."
Montparnasse lowered his voice:--
"Not she, he."
"I thought he was buckled."
"He has undone the buckle," replied Montparnasse.
And he rapidly related to the gamin how, on the morning of that very day,
Babet, having been transferred to La Conciergerie, had made his escape,
by turning to the left instead of to the right in "the police office."
Gavroche expressed his admiration for this skill.
"What a dentist!" he cried.
Montparnasse added a few details as to Babet's flight, and ended with:--
"Oh! That's not all."
Gavroche, as he listened, had seized a cane that Montparnasse
held in his hand, and mechanically pulled at the upper part,
and the blade of a dagger made its appearance.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, pushing the dagger back in haste, "you have
brought along your gendarme disguised as a bourgeois."
"The deuce!" resumed Gavroche, "so you're going to have a bout
with the bobbies?"
"You can't tell," replied Montparnasse with an indifferent air.
"It's always a good thing to have a pin about one."
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