Part 25 out of 36
they went through the agonies of death, and what can man do in hell,
they sang; for song lingers where there is no longer any hope.
In the waters of Malta, when a galley was approaching, the song could
be heard before the sound of the oars. Poor Survincent, the poacher,
who had gone through the prison-cellar of the Chatelet, said:
"It was the rhymes that kept me up." Uselessness of poetry.
What is the good of rhyme?
It is in this cellar that nearly all the slang songs had
their birth. It is from the dungeon of the Grand-Chatelet of Paris
that comes the melancholy refrain of the Montgomery galley:
"Timaloumisaine, timaloumison." The majority of these
Icicaille est la theatre Here is the theatre
Du petit dardant. Of the little archer (Cupid).
Do what you will, you cannot annihilate that eternal relic
in the heart of man, love.
In this world of dismal deeds, people keep their secrets.
The secret is the thing above all others. The secret, in the eyes
of these wretches, is unity which serves as a base of union.
To betray a secret is to tear from each member of this fierce
community something of his own personality. To inform against,
in the energetic slang dialect, is called: "to eat the bit."
As though the informer drew to himself a little of the substance
of all and nourished himself on a bit of each one's flesh.
What does it signify to receive a box on the ear?
Commonplace metaphor replies: "It is to see thirty-six candles."
Here slang intervenes and takes it up: Candle, camoufle.
Thereupon, the ordinary tongue gives camouflet as the synonym
for soufflet. Thus, by a sort of infiltration from below upwards,
with the aid of metaphor, that incalculable, trajectory slang
mounts from the cavern to the Academy; and Poulailler saying:
"I light my camoufle," causes Voltaire to write: "Langleviel La
Beaumelle deserves a hundred camouflets."
 Smoke puffed in the face of a person asleep.
Researches in slang mean discoveries at every step. Study and
investigation of this strange idiom lead to the mysterious point
of intersection of regular society with society which is accursed.
The thief also has his food for cannon, stealable matter, you, I,
whoever passes by; le pantre. (Pan, everybody.)
Slang is language turned convict.
That the thinking principle of man be thrust down ever so low, that it
can be dragged and pinioned there by obscure tyrannies of fatality,
that it can be bound by no one knows what fetters in that abyss,
is sufficient to create consternation.
Oh, poor thought of miserable wretches!
Alas! will no one come to the succor of the human soul in that darkness?
Is it her destiny there to await forever the mind, the liberator,
the immense rider of Pegasi and hippo-griffs, the combatant of heroes
of the dawn who shall descend from the azure between two wings,
the radiant knight of the future? Will she forever summon in vain
to her assistance the lance of light of the ideal? Is she condemned
to hear the fearful approach of Evil through the density of the gulf,
and to catch glimpses, nearer and nearer at hand, beneath the
hideous water of that dragon's head, that maw streaked with foam,
and that writhing undulation of claws, swellings, and rings?
Must it remain there, without a gleam of light, without hope,
given over to that terrible approach, vaguely scented out
by the monster, shuddering, dishevelled, wringing its arms,
forever chained to the rock of night, a sombre Andromeda white
and naked amid the shadows!
SLANG WHICH WEEPS AND SLANG WHICH LAUGHS
As the reader perceives, slang in its entirety, slang of four hundred
years ago, like the slang of to-day, is permeated with that sombre,
symbolical spirit which gives to all words a mien which is now mournful,
now menacing. One feels in it the wild and ancient sadness of those
vagrants of the Court of Miracles who played at cards with packs
of their own, some of which have come down to us. The eight of clubs,
for instance, represented a huge tree bearing eight enormous
trefoil leaves, a sort of fantastic personification of the forest.
At the foot of this tree a fire was burning, over which three hares
were roasting a huntsman on a spit, and behind him, on another fire,
hung a steaming pot, whence emerged the head of a dog. Nothing can be
more melancholy than these reprisals in painting, by a pack of cards,
in the presence of stakes for the roasting of smugglers and of the
cauldron for the boiling of counterfeiters. The diverse forms
assumed by thought in the realm of slang, even song, even raillery,
even menace, all partook of this powerless and dejected character.
All the songs, the melodies of some of which have been collected,
were humble and lamentable to the point of evoking tears.
The pegre is always the poor pegre, and he is always the hare
in hiding, the fugitive mouse, the flying bird. He hardly complains,
he contents himself with sighing; one of his moans has come
down to us: "I do not understand how God, the father of men,
can torture his children and his grandchildren and hear them cry,
without himself suffering torture." The wretch, whenever he has
time to think, makes himself small before the low, and frail in the
presence of society; he lies down flat on his face, he entreats,
he appeals to the side of compassion; we feel that he is conscious
of his guilt.
 Je n'entrave que le dail comment meck, le daron des orgues,
peut atiger ses momes et ses momignards et les locher criblant sans
etre agite lui-meme.
Towards the middle of the last century a change took place,
prison songs and thieves' ritournelles assumed, so to speak, an insolent
and jovial mien. The plaintive malure was replaced by the larifla.
We find in the eighteenth century, in nearly all the songs of
the galleys and prisons, a diabolical and enigmatical gayety.
We hear this strident and lilting refrain which we should say had
been lighted up by a phosphorescent gleam, and which seems to have
been flung into the forest by a will-o'-the-wisp playing the fife:--
This was sung in a cellar or in a nook of the forest while cutting
a man's throat.
A serious symptom. In the eighteenth century, the ancient
melancholy of the dejected classes vanishes. They began to laugh.
They rally the grand meg and the grand dab. Given Louis XV.
they call the King of France "le Marquis de Pantin." And behold,
they are almost gay. A sort of gleam proceeds from these miserable
wretches, as though their consciences were not heavy within them
any more. These lamentable tribes of darkness have no longer
merely the desperate audacity of actions, they possess the heedless
audacity of mind. A sign that they are losing the sense of their
criminality, and that they feel, even among thinkers and dreamers,
some indefinable support which the latter themselves know not of.
A sign that theft and pillage are beginning to filter into doctrines
and sophisms, in such a way as to lose somewhat of their ugliness,
while communicating much of it to sophisms and doctrines. A sign,
in short, of some outbreak which is prodigious and near unless some
diversion shall arise.
Let us pause a moment. Whom are we accusing here? Is it the
eighteenth century? Is it philosophy? Certainly not. The work
of the eighteenth century is healthy and good and wholesome.
The encyclopedists, Diderot at their head; the physiocrates,
Turgot at their head; the philosophers, Voltaire at their head;
the Utopians, Rousseau at their head,--these are four sacred legions.
Humanity's immense advance towards the light is due to them.
They are the four vanguards of the human race, marching towards
the four cardinal points of progress. Diderot towards the beautiful,
Turgot towards the useful, Voltaire towards the true, Rousseau
towards the just. But by the side of and above the philosophers,
there were the sophists, a venomous vegetation mingled with a
healthy growth, hemlock in the virgin forest. While the executioner
was burning the great books of the liberators of the century
on the grand staircase of the court-house, writers now forgotten
were publishing, with the King's sanction, no one knows what strangely
disorganizing writings, which were eagerly read by the unfortunate.
Some of these publications, odd to say, which were patronized
by a prince, are to be found in the Secret Library. These facts,
significant but unknown, were imperceptible on the surface.
Sometimes, in the very obscurity of a fact lurks its danger.
It is obscure because it is underhand. Of all these writers,
the one who probably then excavated in the masses the most unhealthy
gallery was Restif de La Bretonne.
This work, peculiar to the whole of Europe, effected more ravages
in Germany than anywhere else. In Germany, during a given period,
summed up by Schiller in his famous drama The Robbers, theft and pillage
rose up in protest against property and labor, assimilated certain
specious and false elementary ideas, which, though just in appearance,
were absurd in reality, enveloped themselves in these ideas,
disappeared within them, after a fashion, assumed an abstract name,
passed into the state of theory, and in that shape circulated
among the laborious, suffering, and honest masses, unknown even to
the imprudent chemists who had prepared the mixture, unknown even
to the masses who accepted it. Whenever a fact of this sort
presents itself, the case is grave. Suffering engenders wrath;
and while the prosperous classes blind themselves or fall asleep,
which is the same thing as shutting one's eyes, the hatred of the
unfortunate classes lights its torch at some aggrieved or ill-made
spirit which dreams in a corner, and sets itself to the scrutiny
of society. The scrutiny of hatred is a terrible thing.
Hence, if the ill-fortune of the times so wills it, those fearful
commotions which were formerly called jacqueries, beside which purely
political agitations are the merest child's play, which are no
longer the conflict of the oppressed and the oppressor, but the
revolt of discomfort against comfort. Then everything crumbles.
Jacqueries are earthquakes of the people.
It is this peril, possibly imminent towards the close of the
eighteenth century, which the French Revolution, that immense
act of probity, cut short.
The French Revolution, which is nothing else than the idea armed
with the sword, rose erect, and, with the same abrupt movement,
closed the door of ill and opened the door of good.
It put a stop to torture, promulgated the truth, expelled miasma,
rendered the century healthy, crowned the populace.
It may be said of it that it created man a second time, by giving
him a second soul, the right.
The nineteenth century has inherited and profited by its work,
and to-day, the social catastrophe to which we lately alluded is
simply impossible. Blind is he who announces it! Foolish is he
who fears it! Revolution is the vaccine of Jacquerie.
Thanks to the Revolution, social conditions have changed.
Feudal and monarchical maladies no longer run in our blood.
There is no more of the Middle Ages in our constitution. We no
longer live in the days when terrible swarms within made irruptions,
when one heard beneath his feet the obscure course of a dull rumble,
when indescribable elevations from mole-like tunnels appeared
on the surface of civilization, where the soil cracked open,
where the roofs of caverns yawned, and where one suddenly beheld
monstrous heads emerging from the earth.
The revolutionary sense is a moral sense. The sentiment of right,
once developed, develops the sentiment of duty. The law of all
is liberty, which ends where the liberty of others begins,
according to Robespierre's admirable definition. Since '89, the
whole people has been dilating into a sublime individual; there is
not a poor man, who, possessing his right, has not his ray of sun;
the die-of-hunger feels within him the honesty of France; the dignity
of the citizen is an internal armor; he who is free is scrupulous;
he who votes reigns. Hence incorruptibility; hence the miscarriage
of unhealthy lusts; hence eyes heroically lowered before temptations.
The revolutionary wholesomeness is such, that on a day of deliverance,
a 14th of July, a 10th of August, there is no longer any populace.
The first cry of the enlightened and increasing throngs is:
death to thieves! Progress is an honest man; the ideal and the
absolute do not filch pocket-handkerchiefs. By whom were the wagons
containing the wealth of the Tuileries escorted in 1848? By the
rag-pickers of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Rags mounted guard over
the treasure. Virtue rendered these tatterdemalions resplendent.
In those wagons in chests, hardly closed, and some, even, half-open,
amid a hundred dazzling caskets, was that ancient crown of France,
studded with diamonds, surmounted by the carbuncle of royalty,
by the Regent diamond, which was worth thirty millions. Barefooted,
they guarded that crown.
Hence, no more Jacquerie. I regret it for the sake of the skilful.
The old fear has produced its last effects in that quarter;
and henceforth it can no longer be employed in politics. The principal
spring of the red spectre is broken. Every one knows it now.
The scare-crow scares no longer. The birds take liberties with
the mannikin, foul creatures alight upon it, the bourgeois laugh
THE TWO DUTIES: TO WATCH AND TO HOPE
This being the case, is all social danger dispelled? Certainly not.
There is no Jacquerie; society may rest assured on that point;
blood will no longer rush to its head. But let society take heed to
the manner in which it breathes. Apoplexy is no longer to be feared,
but phthisis is there. Social phthisis is called misery.
One can perish from being undermined as well as from being struck
Let us not weary of repeating, and sympathetic souls must not forget
that this is the first of fraternal obligations, and selfish hearts
must understand that the first of political necessities consists
in thinking first of all of the disinherited and sorrowing throngs,
in solacing, airing, enlightening, loving them, in enlarging
their horizon to a magnificent extent, in lavishing upon them
education in every form, in offering them the example of labor,
never the example of idleness, in diminishing the individual burden
by enlarging the notion of the universal aim, in setting a limit
to poverty without setting a limit to wealth, in creating vast
fields of public and popular activity, in having, like Briareus,
a hundred hands to extend in all directions to the oppressed
and the feeble, in employing the collective power for that grand
duty of opening workshops for all arms, schools for all aptitudes,
and laboratories for all degrees of intelligence, in augmenting salaries,
diminishing trouble, balancing what should be and what is, that is
to say, in proportioning enjoyment to effort and a glut to need;
in a word, in evolving from the social apparatus more light and more
comfort for the benefit of those who suffer and those who are ignorant.
And, let us say it, all this is but the beginning. The true
question is this: labor cannot be a law without being a right.
We will not insist upon this point; this is not the proper place
If nature calls itself Providence, society should call itself foresight.
Intellectual and moral growth is no less indispensable than
material improvement. To know is a sacrament, to think is
the prime necessity, truth is nourishment as well as grain.
A reason which fasts from science and wisdom grows thin. Let us
enter equal complaint against stomachs and minds which do not eat.
If there is anything more heart-breaking than a body perishing
for lack of bread, it is a soul which is dying from hunger for the light.
The whole of progress tends in the direction of solution.
Some day we shall be amazed. As the human race mounts upward,
the deep layers emerge naturally from the zone of distress.
The obliteration of misery will be accomplished by a simple elevation
We should do wrong were we to doubt this blessed consummation.
The past is very strong, it is true, at the present moment. It censures.
This rejuvenation of a corpse is surprising. Behold, it is walking
and advancing. It seems a victor; this dead body is a conqueror.
He arrives with his legions, superstitions, with his sword, despotism,
with his banner, ignorance; a while ago, he won ten battles.
He advances, he threatens, he laughs, he is at our doors. Let us
not despair, on our side. Let us sell the field on which Hannibal
What have we to fear, we who believe?
No such thing as a back-flow of ideas exists any more than there
exists a return of a river on its course.
But let those who do not desire a future reflect on this matter.
When they say "no" to progress, it is not the future but themselves
that they are condemning. They are giving themselves a sad malady;
they are inoculating themselves with the past. There is but one way
of rejecting To-morrow, and that is to die.
Now, no death, that of the body as late as possible, that of the
soul never,--this is what we desire.
Yes, the enigma will utter its word, the sphinx will speak,
the problem will be solved.
Yes, the people, sketched out by the eighteenth century, will be
finished by the nineteenth. He who doubts this is an idiot!
The future blossoming, the near blossoming forth of universal
well-being, is a divinely fatal phenomenon.
Immense combined propulsions direct human affairs and conduct
them within a given time to a logical state, that is to say,
to a state of equilibrium; that is to say, to equity. A force
composed of earth and heaven results from humanity and governs it;
this force is a worker of miracles; marvellous issues are no more
difficult to it than extraordinary vicissitudes. Aided by science,
which comes from one man, and by the event, which comes from another,
it is not greatly alarmed by these contradictions in the attitude
of problems, which seem impossibilities to the vulgar herd.
It is no less skilful at causing a solution to spring forth from the
reconciliation of ideas, than a lesson from the reconciliation of facts,
and we may expect anything from that mysterious power of progress,
which brought the Orient and the Occident face to face one fine day,
in the depths of a sepulchre, and made the imaums converse with
Bonaparte in the interior of the Great Pyramid.
In the meantime, let there be no halt, no hesitation, no pause
in the grandiose onward march of minds. Social philosophy consists
essentially in science and peace. Its object is, and its result
must be, to dissolve wrath by the study of antagonisms. It examines,
it scrutinizes, it analyzes; then it puts together once more,
it proceeds by means of reduction, discarding all hatred.
More than once, a society has been seen to give way before the wind
which is let loose upon mankind; history is full of the shipwrecks
of nations and empires; manners, customs, laws, religions,--and some
fine day that unknown force, the hurricane, passes by and bears them
all away. The civilizations of India, of Chaldea, of Persia, of Syria,
of Egypt, have disappeared one after the other. Why? We know not.
What are the causes of these disasters? We do not know.
Could these societies have been saved? Was it their fault?
Did they persist in the fatal vice which destroyed them?
What is the amount of suicide in these terrible deaths of a
nation and a race? Questions to which there exists no reply.
Darkness enwraps condemned civilizations. They sprung a leak,
then they sank. We have nothing more to say; and it is with a sort
of terror that we look on, at the bottom of that sea which is called
the past, behind those colossal waves, at the shipwreck of those
immense vessels, Babylon, Nineveh, Tarsus, Thebes, Rome, beneath the
fearful gusts which emerge from all the mouths of the shadows.
But shadows are there, and light is here. We are not acquainted
with the maladies of these ancient civilizations, we do not know
the infirmities of our own. Everywhere upon it we have the right
of light, we contemplate its beauties, we lay bare its defects.
Where it is ill, we probe; and the sickness once diagnosed,
the study of the cause leads to the discovery of the remedy.
Our civilization, the work of twenty centuries, is its law and
its prodigy; it is worth the trouble of saving. It will be saved.
It is already much to have solaced it; its enlightenment is yet
another point. All the labors of modern social philosophies must
converge towards this point. The thinker of to-day has a great duty--
to auscultate civilization.
We repeat, that this auscultation brings encouragement; it is by this
persistence in encouragement that we wish to conclude these pages,
an austere interlude in a mournful drama. Beneath the social mortality,
we feel human imperishableness. The globe does not perish,
because it has these wounds, craters, eruptions, sulphur pits,
here and there, nor because of a volcano which ejects its pus.
The maladies of the people do not kill man.
And yet, any one who follows the course of social clinics shakes
his head at times. The strongest, the tenderest, the most logical
have their hours of weakness.
Will the future arrive? It seems as though we might almost
put this question, when we behold so much terrible darkness.
Melancholy face-to-face encounter of selfish and wretched. On the
part of the selfish, the prejudices, shadows of costly education,
appetite increasing through intoxication, a giddiness of prosperity
which dulls, a fear of suffering which, in some, goes as far
as an aversion for the suffering, an implacable satisfaction,
the I so swollen that it bars the soul; on the side of the
wretched covetousness, envy, hatred of seeing others enjoy,
the profound impulses of the human beast towards assuaging its desires,
hearts full of mist, sadness, need, fatality, impure and simple ignorance.
Shall we continue to raise our eyes to heaven? is the luminous
point which we distinguish there one of those which vanish?
The ideal is frightful to behold, thus lost in the depths, small,
isolated, imperceptible, brilliant, but surrounded by those great,
black menaces, monstrously heaped around it; yet no more in danger
than a star in the maw of the clouds.
BOOK EIGHTH.--ENCHANTMENTS AND DESOLATIONS
The reader has probably understood that Eponine, having recognized
through the gate, the inhabitant of that Rue Plumet whither
Magnon had sent her, had begun by keeping the ruffians away from
the Rue Plumet, and had then conducted Marius thither, and that,
after many days spent in ecstasy before that gate, Marius, drawn on
by that force which draws the iron to the magnet and a lover towards
the stones of which is built the house of her whom he loves,
had finally entered Cosette's garden as Romeo entered the garden
of Juliet. This had even proved easier for him than for Romeo;
Romeo was obliged to scale a wall, Marius had only to use a little
force on one of the bars of the decrepit gate which vacillated
in its rusty recess, after the fashion of old people's teeth.
Marius was slender and readily passed through.
As there was never any one in the street, and as Marius never
entered the garden except at night, he ran no risk of being seen.
Beginning with that blessed and holy hour when a kiss betrothed
these two souls, Marius was there every evening. If, at that period
of her existence, Cosette had fallen in love with a man in the least
unscrupulous or debauched, she would have been lost; for there are
generous natures which yield themselves, and Cosette was one of them.
One of woman's magnanimities is to yield. Love, at the height where
it is absolute, is complicated with some indescribably celestial
blindness of modesty. But what dangers you run, O noble souls!
Often you give the heart, and we take the body. Your heart remains
with you, you gaze upon it in the gloom with a shudder. Love has
no middle course; it either ruins or it saves. All human destiny
lies in this dilemma. This dilemma, ruin, or safety, is set forth
no more inexorably by any fatality than by love. Love is life,
if it is not death. Cradle; also coffin. The same sentiment says
"yes" and "no" in the human heart. Of all the things that God
has made, the human heart is the one which sheds the most light,
alas! and the most darkness.
God willed that Cosette's love should encounter one of the loves
Throughout the whole of the month of May of that year 1832,
there were there, in every night, in that poor, neglected garden,
beneath that thicket which grew thicker and more fragrant day by day,
two beings composed of all chastity, all innocence, overflowing with
all the felicity of heaven, nearer to the archangels than to mankind,
pure, honest, intoxicated, radiant, who shone for each other amid
the shadows. It seemed to Cosette that Marius had a crown, and to
Marius that Cosette had a nimbus. They touched each other, they gazed
at each other, they clasped each other's hands, they pressed close
to each other; but there was a distance which they did not pass.
Not that they respected it; they did not know of its existence.
Marius was conscious of a barrier, Cosette's innocence; and Cosette
of a support, Marius' loyalty. The first kiss had also been
the last. Marius, since that time, had not gone further than to touch
Cosette's hand, or her kerchief, or a lock of her hair, with his lips.
For him, Cosette was a perfume and not a woman. He inhaled her.
She refused nothing, and he asked nothing. Cosette was happy,
and Marius was satisfied. They lived in this ecstatic state which
can be described as the dazzling of one soul by another soul.
It was the ineffable first embrace of two maiden souls in the ideal.
Two swans meeting on the Jungfrau.
At that hour of love, an hour when voluptuousness is absolutely mute,
beneath the omnipotence of ecstasy, Marius, the pure and seraphic Marius,
would rather have gone to a woman of the town than have raised
Cosette's robe to the height of her ankle. Once, in the moonlight,
Cosette stooped to pick up something on the ground, her bodice fell
apart and permitted a glimpse of the beginning of her throat.
Marius turned away his eyes.
What took place between these two beings? Nothing. They adored
At night, when they were there, that garden seemed a living and a
sacred spot. All flowers unfolded around them and sent them incense;
and they opened their souls and scattered them over the flowers.
The wanton and vigorous vegetation quivered, full of strength
and intoxication, around these two innocents, and they uttered words
of love which set the trees to trembling.
What words were these? Breaths. Nothing more. These breaths
sufficed to trouble and to touch all nature round about.
Magic power which we should find it difficult to understand were we
to read in a book these conversations which are made to be borne away
and dispersed like smoke wreaths by the breeze beneath the leaves.
Take from those murmurs of two lovers that melody which proceeds
from the soul and which accompanies them like a lyre, and what
remains is nothing more than a shade; you say: "What! is that all!"
eh! yes, childish prattle, repetitions, laughter at nothing,
nonsense, everything that is deepest and most sublime in the world!
The only things which are worth the trouble of saying and hearing!
The man who has never heard, the man who has never uttered
these absurdities, these paltry remarks, is an imbecile
and a malicious fellow. Cosette said to Marius:--
"Dost thou know?--"
[In all this and athwart this celestial maidenliness, and without
either of them being able to say how it had come about, they had
begun to call each other thou.]
"Dost thou know? My name is Euphrasie."
"Euphrasie? Why, no, thy name is Cosette."
"Oh! Cosette is a very ugly name that was given to me when I
was a little thing. But my real name is Euphrasie. Dost thou
like that name--Euphrasie?"
"Yes. But Cosette is not ugly."
"Do you like it better than Euphrasie?"
"Then I like it better too. Truly, it is pretty, Cosette.
Call me Cosette."
And the smile that she added made of this dialogue an idyl worthy
of a grove situated in heaven. On another occasion she gazed
intently at him and exclaimed:--
"Monsieur, you are handsome, you are good-looking, you are witty,
you are not at all stupid, you are much more learned than I am,
but I bid you defiance with this word: I love you!"
And Marius, in the very heavens, thought he heard a strain sung
by a star.
Or she bestowed on him a gentle tap because he coughed, and she
said to him:--
"Don't cough, sir; I will not have people cough on my domain without
my permission. It's very naughty to cough and to disturb me.
I want you to be well, because, in the first place, if you were
not well, I should be very unhappy. What should I do then?"
And this was simply divine.
Once Marius said to Cosette:--
"Just imagine, I thought at one time that your name was Ursule."
This made both of them laugh the whole evening.
In the middle of another conversation, he chanced to exclaim:--
"Oh! One day, at the Luxembourg, I had a good mind to finish
breaking up a veteran!" But he stopped short, and went no further.
He would have been obliged to speak to Cosette of her garter,
and that was impossible. This bordered on a strange theme, the flesh,
before which that immense and innocent love recoiled with a sort
of sacred fright.
Marius pictured life with Cosette to himself like this,
without anything else; to come every evening to the Rue Plumet,
to displace the old and accommodating bar of the chief-justice's gate,
to sit elbow to elbow on that bench, to gaze through the trees at
the scintillation of the on-coming night, to fit a fold of the knee
of his trousers into the ample fall of Cosette's gown, to caress
her thumb-nail, to call her thou, to smell of the same flower,
one after the other, forever, indefinitely. During this time,
clouds passed above their heads. Every time that the wind blows it
bears with it more of the dreams of men than of the clouds of heaven.
This chaste, almost shy love was not devoid of gallantry,
by any means. To pay compliments to the woman whom a man loves
is the first method of bestowing caresses, and he is half audacious
who tries it. A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.
Voluptuousness mingles there with its sweet tiny point, while it
hides itself. The heart draws back before voluptuousness only to
love the more. Marius' blandishments, all saturated with fancy,
were, so to speak, of azure hue. The birds when they fly up yonder,
in the direction of the angels, must hear such words. There were
mingled with them, nevertheless, life, humanity, all the positiveness
of which Marius was capable. It was what is said in the bower,
a prelude to what will be said in the chamber; a lyrical effusion,
strophe and sonnet intermingled, pleasing hyperboles of cooing,
all the refinements of adoration arranged in a bouquet and exhaling
a celestial perfume, an ineffable twitter of heart to heart.
"Oh!" murmured Marius, "how beautiful you are! I dare not look at you.
It is all over with me when I contemplate you. You are a grace.
I know not what is the matter with me. The hem of your gown,
when the tip of your shoe peeps from beneath, upsets me. And then,
what an enchanted gleam when you open your thought even but a little!
You talk astonishingly good sense. It seems to me at times
that you are a dream. Speak, I listen, I admire. Oh Cosette!
how strange it is and how charming! I am really beside myself.
You are adorable, Mademoiselle. I study your feet with the microscope
and your soul with the telescope."
And Cosette answered:--
"I have been loving a little more all the time that has passed
since this morning."
Questions and replies took care of themselves in this dialogue,
which always turned with mutual consent upon love, as the little
pith figures always turn on their peg.
Cosette's whole person was ingenuousness, ingenuity, transparency,
whiteness, candor, radiance. It might have been said of Cosette
that she was clear. She produced on those who saw her the
sensation of April and dawn. There was dew in her eyes.
Cosette was a condensation of the auroral light in the form of a woman.
It was quite simple that Marius should admire her, since he adored her.
But the truth is, that this little school-girl, fresh from the convent,
talked with exquisite penetration and uttered, at times, all sorts
of true and delicate sayings. Her prattle was conversation.
She never made a mistake about anything, and she saw things justly.
The woman feels and speaks with the tender instinct of the heart,
which is infallible.
No one understands so well as a woman, how to say things that are,
at once, both sweet and deep. Sweetness and depth, they are the whole
of woman; in them lies the whole of heaven.
In this full felicity, tears welled up to their eyes every instant.
A crushed lady-bug, a feather fallen from a nest, a branch of
hawthorn broken, aroused their pity, and their ecstasy, sweetly mingled
with melancholy, seemed to ask nothing better than to weep.
The most sovereign symptom of love is a tenderness that is, at times,
And, in addition to this,--all these contradictions are the lightning
play of love,--they were fond of laughing, they laughed readily
and with a delicious freedom, and so familiarly that they sometimes
presented the air of two boys.
Still, though unknown to hearts intoxicated with purity, nature is always
present and will not be forgotten. She is there with her brutal and
sublime object; and however great may be the innocence of souls, one feels
in the most modest private interview, the adorable and mysterious
shade which separates a couple of lovers from a pair of friends.
They idolized each other.
The permanent and the immutable are persistent. People live,
they smile, they laugh, they make little grimaces with the tips of
their lips, they interlace their fingers, they call each other thou,
and that does not prevent eternity.
Two lovers hide themselves in the evening, in the twilight,
in the invisible, with the birds, with the roses; they fascinate
each other in the darkness with their hearts which they throw
into their eyes, they murmur, they whisper, and in the meantime,
immense librations of the planets fill the infinite universe.
THE BEWILDERMENT OF PERFECT HAPPINESS
They existed vaguely, frightened at their happiness. They did not notice
the cholera which decimated Paris precisely during that very month.
They had confided in each other as far as possible, but this
had not extended much further than their names. Marius had told
Cosette that he was an orphan, that his name was Marius Pontmercy,
that he was a lawyer, that he lived by writing things for publishers,
that his father had been a colonel, that the latter had been a hero,
and that he, Marius, was on bad terms with his grandfather who
was rich. He had also hinted at being a baron, but this had produced
no effect on Cosette. She did not know the meaning of the word.
Marius was Marius. On her side, she had confided to him that she
had been brought up at the Petit-Picpus convent, that her mother,
like his own, was dead, that her father's name was M. Fauchelevent,
that he was very good, that he gave a great deal to the poor,
but that he was poor himself, and that he denied himself everything
though he denied her nothing.
Strange to say, in the sort of symphony which Marius had lived
since he had been in the habit of seeing Cosette, the past,
even the most recent past, had become so confused and distant
to him, that what Cosette told him satisfied him completely.
It did not even occur to him to tell her about the nocturnal
adventure in the hovel, about Thenardier, about the burn,
and about the strange attitude and singular flight of her father.
Marius had momentarily forgotten all this; in the evening he did
not even know that there had been a morning, what he had done,
where he had breakfasted, nor who had spoken to him; he had songs
in his ears which rendered him deaf to every other thought;
he only existed at the hours when he saw Cosette. Then, as he
was in heaven, it was quite natural that he should forget earth.
Both bore languidly the indefinable burden of immaterial pleasures.
Thus lived these somnambulists who are called lovers.
Alas! Who is there who has not felt all these things? Why does
there come an hour when one emerges from this azure, and why does
life go on afterwards?
Loving almost takes the place of thinking. Love is an ardent
forgetfulness of all the rest. Then ask logic of passion if you will.
There is no more absolute logical sequence in the human heart than
there is a perfect geometrical figure in the celestial mechanism.
For Cosette and Marius nothing existed except Marius and Cosette.
The universe around them had fallen into a hole. They lived in a
golden minute. There was nothing before them, nothing behind.
It hardly occurred to Marius that Cosette had a father. His brain
was dazzled and obliterated. Of what did these lovers talk then?
We have seen, of the flowers, and the swallows, the setting sun and
the rising moon, and all sorts of important things. They had told
each other everything except everything. The everything of lovers
is nothing. But the father, the realities, that lair, the ruffians,
that adventure, to what purpose? And was he very sure that this
nightmare had actually existed? They were two, and they adored
each other, and beyond that there was nothing. Nothing else existed.
It is probable that this vanishing of hell in our rear is inherent
to the arrival of paradise. Have we beheld demons? Are there any?
Have we trembled? Have we suffered? We no longer know. A rosy cloud
hangs over it.
So these two beings lived in this manner, high aloft, with all
that improbability which is in nature; neither at the nadir nor at
the zenith, between man and seraphim, above the mire, below the ether,
in the clouds; hardly flesh and blood, soul and ecstasy from head
to foot; already too sublime to walk the earth, still too heavily
charged with humanity to disappear in the blue, suspended like atoms
which are waiting to be precipitated; apparently beyond the bounds
of destiny; ignorant of that rut; yesterday, to-day, to-morrow;
amazed, rapturous, floating, soaring; at times so light that they
could take their flight out into the infinite; almost prepared to soar
away to all eternity. They slept wide-awake, thus sweetly lulled.
Oh! splendid lethargy of the real overwhelmed by the ideal.
Sometimes, beautiful as Cosette was, Marius shut his eyes in
her presence. The best way to look at the soul is through closed eyes.
Marius and Cosette never asked themselves whither this was to lead them.
They considered that they had already arrived. It is a strange
claim on man's part to wish that love should lead to something.
THE BEGINNING OF SHADOW
Jean Valjean suspected nothing.
Cosette, who was rather less dreamy than Marius, was gay,
and that sufficed for Jean Valjean's happiness. The thoughts which
Cosette cherished, her tender preoccupations, Marius' image which
filled her heart, took away nothing from the incomparable purity
of her beautiful, chaste, and smiling brow. She was at the age when
the virgin bears her love as the angel his lily. So Jean Valjean
was at ease. And then, when two lovers have come to an understanding,
things always go well; the third party who might disturb their love
is kept in a state of perfect blindness by a restricted number
of precautions which are always the same in the case of all lovers.
Thus, Cosette never objected to any of Jean Valjean's proposals.
Did she want to take a walk? "Yes, dear little father." Did she
want to stay at home? Very good. Did he wish to pass the evening
with Cosette? She was delighted. As he always went to bed at ten
o'clock, Marius did not come to the garden on such occasions until
after that hour, when, from the street, he heard Cosette open the
long glass door on the veranda. Of course, no one ever met Marius
in the daytime. Jean Valjean never even dreamed any longer that
Marius was in existence. Only once, one morning, he chanced to say
to Cosette: "Why, you have whitewash on your back!" On the previous
evening, Marius, in a transport, had pushed Cosette against the wall.
Old Toussaint, who retired early, thought of nothing but her sleep,
and was as ignorant of the whole matter as Jean Valjean.
Marius never set foot in the house. When he was with Cosette,
they hid themselves in a recess near the steps, in order that they
might neither be seen nor heard from the street, and there they sat,
frequently contenting themselves, by way of conversation,
with pressing each other's hands twenty times a minute as they
gazed at the branches of the trees. At such times, a thunderbolt
might have fallen thirty paces from them, and they would not have
noticed it, so deeply was the revery of the one absorbed and sunk
in the revery of the other.
Limpid purity. Hours wholly white; almost all alike. This sort
of love is a recollection of lily petals and the plumage of the dove.
The whole extent of the garden lay between them and the street.
Every time that Marius entered and left, he carefully adjusted the bar
of the gate in such a manner that no displacement was visible.
He usually went away about midnight, and returned
to Courfeyrac's lodgings. Courfeyrac said to Bahorel:--
"Would you believe it? Marius comes home nowadays at one o'clock
in the morning."
"What do you expect? There's always a petard in a seminary fellow."
At times, Courfeyrac folded his arms, assumed a serious air,
and said to Marius:--
"You are getting irregular in your habits, young man."
Courfeyrac, being a practical man, did not take in good part
this reflection of an invisible paradise upon Marius; he was not
much in the habit of concealed passions; it made him impatient,
and now and then he called upon Marius to come back to reality.
One morning, he threw him this admonition:--
"My dear fellow, you produce upon me the effect of being located
in the moon, the realm of dreams, the province of illusions,
capital, soap-bubble. Come, be a good boy, what's her name?"
But nothing could induce Marius "to talk." They might have torn
out his nails before one of the two sacred syllables of which that
ineffable name, Cosette, was composed. True love is as luminous
as the dawn and as silent as the tomb. Only, Courfeyrac saw this
change in Marius, that his taciturnity was of the beaming order.
During this sweet month of May, Marius and Cosette learned to know
these immense delights. To dispute and to say you for thou,
simply that they might say thou the better afterwards. To talk at
great length with very minute details, of persons in whom they took
not the slightest interest in the world; another proof that in that
ravishing opera called love, the libretto counts for almost nothing;
For Marius, to listen to Cosette discussing finery;
For Cosette, to listen to Marius talk in politics;
To listen, knee pressed to knee, to the carriages rolling along
the Rue de Babylone;
To gaze upon the same planet in space, or at the same glowworm
gleaming in the grass;
To hold their peace together; a still greater delight than conversation;
In the meantime, divers complications were approaching.
One evening, Marius was on his way to the rendezvous, by way of the
Boulevard des Invalides. He habitually walked with drooping head.
As he was on the point of turning the corner of the Rue Plumet,
he heard some one quite close to him say:--
"Good evening, Monsieur Marius."
He raised his head and recognized Eponine.
This produced a singular effect upon him. He had not thought
of that girl a single time since the day when she had conducted
him to the Rue Plumet, he had not seen her again, and she had
gone completely out of his mind. He had no reasons for anything
but gratitude towards her, he owed her his happiness, and yet,
it was embarrassing to him to meet her.
It is an error to think that passion, when it is pure and happy,
leads man to a state of perfection; it simply leads him, as we
have noted, to a state of oblivion. In this situation, man forgets
to be bad, but he also forgets to be good. Gratitude, duty,
matters essential and important to be remembered, vanish. At any
other time, Marius would have behaved quite differently to Eponine.
Absorbed in Cosette, he had not even clearly put it to himself
that this Eponine was named Eponine Thenardier, and that she bore
the name inscribed in his father's will, that name, for which,
but a few months before, he would have so ardently sacrificed himself.
We show Marius as he was. His father himself was fading out of his
soul to some extent, under the splendor of his love.
He replied with some embarrassment:--
"Ah! so it's you, Eponine?"
"Why do you call me you? Have I done anything to you?"
"No," he answered.
Certainly, he had nothing against her. Far from it. Only, he felt
that he could not do otherwise, now that he used thou to Cosette,
than say you to Eponine.
As he remained silent, she exclaimed:--
Then she paused. It seemed as though words failed that creature
formerly so heedless and so bold. She tried to smile and could not.
Then she resumed:--
Then she paused again, and remained with downcast eyes.
"Good evening, Mr. Marius," said she suddenly and abruptly;
and away she went.
A CAB RUNS IN ENGLISH AND BARKS IN SLANG
The following day was the 3d of June, 1832, a date which it
is necessary to indicate on account of the grave events
which at that epoch hung on the horizon of Paris in the state
of lightning-charged clouds. Marius, at nightfall, was pursuing
the same road as on the preceding evening, with the same thoughts
of delight in his heart, when he caught sight of Eponine approaching,
through the trees of the boulevard. Two days in succession--
this was too much. He turned hastily aside, quitted the boulevard,
changed his course and went to the Rue Plumet through the Rue Monsieur.
This caused Eponine to follow him to the Rue Plumet, a thing
which she had not yet done. Up to that time, she had contented
herself with watching him on his passage along the boulevard
without ever seeking to encounter him. It was only on the evening
before that she had attempted to address him.
So Eponine followed him, without his suspecting the fact.
She saw him displace the bar and slip into the garden.
She approached the railing, felt of the bars one after the other,
and readily recognized the one which Marius had moved.
She murmured in a low voice and in gloomy accents:--
"None of that, Lisette!"
She seated herself on the underpinning of the railing, close beside
the bar, as though she were guarding it. It was precisely
at the point where the railing touched the neighboring wall.
There was a dim nook there, in which Eponine was entirely concealed.
She remained thus for more than an hour, without stirring
and without breathing, a prey to her thoughts.
Towards ten o'clock in the evening, one of the two or three persons
who passed through the Rue Plumet, an old, belated bourgeois who
was making haste to escape from this deserted spot of evil repute,
as he skirted the garden railings and reached the angle which it
made with the wall, heard a dull and threatening voice saying:--
"I'm no longer surprised that he comes here every evening."
The passer-by cast a glance around him, saw no one, dared not peer
into the black niche, and was greatly alarmed. He redoubled his pace.
This passer-by had reason to make haste, for a very few
instants later, six men, who were marching separately
and at some distance from each other, along the wall,
and who might have been taken for a gray patrol, entered the Rue Plumet.
The first to arrive at the garden railing halted, and waited
for the others; a second later, all six were reunited.
These men began to talk in a low voice.
"This is the place," said one of them.
"Is there a cab [dog] in the garden?" asked another.
"I don't know. In any case, I have fetched a ball that we'll make
"Have you some putty to break the pane with?"
"The railing is old," interpolated a fifth, who had the voice
of a ventriloquist.
"So much the better," said the second who had spoken. "It won't
screech under the saw, and it won't be hard to cut."
The sixth, who had not yet opened his lips, now began to inspect
the gate, as Eponine had done an hour earlier, grasping each bar
in succession, and shaking them cautiously.
Thus he came to the bar which Marius had loosened. As he was on the
point of grasping this bar, a hand emerged abruptly from the darkness,
fell upon his arm; he felt himself vigorously thrust aside by a
push in the middle of his breast, and a hoarse voice said to him,
but not loudly:--
"There's a dog."
At the same moment, he perceived a pale girl standing before him.
The man underwent that shock which the unexpected always brings.
He bristled up in hideous wise; nothing is so formidable to behold as
ferocious beasts who are uneasy; their terrified air evokes terror.
He recoiled and stammered:--
"What jade is this?"
It was, in fact, Eponine, who had addressed Thenardier.
At the apparition of Eponine, the other five, that is to say,
Claquesous, Guelemer, Babet, Brujon, and Montparnasse had noiselessly
drawn near, without precipitation, without uttering a word,
with the sinister slowness peculiar to these men of the night.
Some indescribable but hideous tools were visible in their hands.
Guelemer held one of those pairs of curved pincers which prowlers
"Ah, see here, what are you about there? What do you want with us?
Are you crazy?" exclaimed Thenardier, as loudly as one can exclaim
and still speak low; "what have you come here to hinder our work for?"
Eponine burst out laughing, and threw herself on his neck.
"I am here, little father, because I am here. Isn't a person
allowed to sit on the stones nowadays? It's you who ought not
to be here. What have you come here for, since it's a biscuit?
I told Magnon so. There's nothing to be done here. But embrace me,
my good little father! It's a long time since I've seen you!
So you're out?"
Thenardier tried to disentangle himself from Eponine's arms,
"That's good. You've embraced me. Yes, I'm out. I'm not in.
Now, get away with you."
But Eponine did not release her hold, and redoubled her caresses.
"But how did you manage it, little pa? You must have been very
clever to get out of that. Tell me about it! And my mother?
Where is mother? Tell me about mamma."
"She's well. I don't know, let me alone, and be off, I tell you.
"I won't go, so there now," pouted Eponine like a spoiled child;
"you send me off, and it's four months since I saw you, and I've
hardly had time to kiss you."
And she caught her father round the neck again.
"Come, now, this is stupid!" said Babet.
"Make haste!" said Guelemer, "the cops may pass."
The ventriloquist's voice repeated his distich:--
"Nous n' sommes pas le jour de l'an, "This isn't New Year's day
A becoter papa, maman." To peck at pa and ma."
Eponine turned to the five ruffians.
"Why, it's Monsieur Brujon. Good day, Monsieur Babet. Good day,
Monsieur Claquesous. Don't you know me, Monsieur Guelemer?
How goes it, Montparnasse?"
"Yes, they know you!" ejaculated Thenardier. "But good day,
good evening, sheer off! leave us alone!"
"It's the hour for foxes, not for chickens," said Montparnasse.
"You see the job we have on hand here," added Babet.
Eponine caught Montparnasse's hand.
"Take care," said he, "you'll cut yourself, I've a knife open."
"My little Montparnasse," responded Eponine very gently, "you must
have confidence in people. I am the daughter of my father, perhaps.
Monsieur Babet, Monsieur Guelemer, I'm the person who was charged
to investigate this matter."
It is remarkable that Eponine did not talk slang. That frightful
tongue had become impossible to her since she had known Marius.
She pressed in her hand, small, bony, and feeble as that of a skeleton,
Guelemer's huge, coarse fingers, and continued:--
"You know well that I'm no fool. Ordinarily, I am believed.
I have rendered you service on various occasions. Well, I have
made inquiries; you will expose yourselves to no purpose, you see.
I swear to you that there is nothing in this house."
"There are lone women," said Guelemer.
"No, the persons have moved away."
"The candles haven't, anyway!" ejaculated Babet.
And he pointed out to Eponine, across the tops of the trees, a light
which was wandering about in the mansard roof of the pavilion.
It was Toussaint, who had stayed up to spread out some linen
Eponine made a final effort.
"Well," said she, "they're very poor folks, and it's a hovel
where there isn't a sou."
"Go to the devil!" cried Thenardier. "When we've turned the house
upside down and put the cellar at the top and the attic below,
we'll tell you what there is inside, and whether it's francs or sous
And he pushed her aside with the intention of entering.
"My good friend, Mr. Montparnasse," said Eponine, "I entreat you,
you are a good fellow, don't enter."
"Take care, you'll cut yourself," replied Montparnasse.
Thenardier resumed in his decided tone:--
"Decamp, my girl, and leave men to their own affairs!"
Eponine released Montparnasse's hand, which she had grasped again,
"So you mean to enter this house?"
"Rather!" grinned the ventriloquist.
Then she set her back against the gate, faced the six ruffians
who were armed to the teeth, and to whom the night lent the visages
of demons, and said in a firm, low voice:--
"Well, I don't mean that you shall."
They halted in amazement. The ventriloquist, however, finished his grin.
She went on:--
"Friends! Listen well. This is not what you want. Now I'm talking.
In the first place, if you enter this garden, if you lay a hand on
this gate, I'll scream, I'll beat on the door, I'll rouse everybody,
I'll have the whole six of you seized, I'll call the police."
"She'd do it, too," said Thenardier in a low tone to Brujon
and the ventriloquist.
She shook her head and added:--
"Beginning with my father!"
Thenardier stepped nearer.
"Not so close, my good man!" said she.
He retreated, growling between his teeth:--
"Why, what's the matter with her?"
And he added:--
She began to laugh in a terrible way:--
"As you like, but you shall not enter here. I'm not the daughter
of a dog, since I'm the daughter of a wolf. There are six of you,
what matters that to me? You are men. Well, I'm a woman.
You don't frighten me. I tell you that you shan't enter this house,
because it doesn't suit me. If you approach, I'll bark. I told you,
I'm the dog, and I don't care a straw for you. Go your way,
you bore me! Go where you please, but don't come here, I forbid it!
You can use your knives. I'll use kicks; it's all the same to me,
She advanced a pace nearer the ruffians, she was terrible, she burst
"Pardine! I'm not afraid. I shall be hungry this summer, and I shall
be cold this winter. Aren't they ridiculous, these ninnies of men,
to think they can scare a girl! What! Scare? Oh, yes, much!
Because you have finical poppets of mistresses who hide under the bed
when you put on a big voice, forsooth! I ain't afraid of anything,
that I ain't!"
She fastened her intent gaze upon Thenardier and said:--
"Not even of you, father!"
Then she continued, as she cast her blood-shot, spectre-like eyes
upon the ruffians in turn:--
"What do I care if I'm picked up to-morrow morning on the pavement
of the Rue Plumet, killed by the blows of my father's club,
or whether I'm found a year from now in the nets at Saint-Cloud
or the Isle of Swans in the midst of rotten old corks and drowned dogs?"
She was forced to pause; she was seized by a dry cough, her breath
came from her weak and narrow chest like the death-rattle.
"I have only to cry out, and people will come, and then slap, bang!
There are six of you; I represent the whole world."
Thenardier made a movement towards her.
"Don't approach!" she cried.
He halted, and said gently:--
"Well, no; I won't approach, but don't speak so loud. So you intend
to hinder us in our work, my daughter? But we must earn our living
all the same. Have you no longer any kind feeling for your father?"
"You bother me," said Eponine.
"But we must live, we must eat--"
So saying, she seated herself on the underpinning of the fence
"Mon bras si dodu, "My arm so plump,
Ma jambe bien faite My leg well formed,
Et le temps perdu." And time wasted."
She had set her elbow on her knee and her chin in her hand,
and she swung her foot with an air of indifference. Her tattered
gown permitted a view of her thin shoulder-blades. The neighboring
street lantern illuminated her profile and her attitude.
Nothing more resolute and more surprising could be seen.
The six rascals, speechless and gloomy at being held in check
by a girl, retreated beneath the shadow cast by the lantern,
and held counsel with furious and humiliated shrugs.
In the meantime she stared at them with a stern but peaceful air.
"There's something the matter with her," said Babet. "A reason.
Is she in love with the dog? It's a shame to miss this, anyway.
Two women, an old fellow who lodges in the back-yard, and curtains
that ain't so bad at the windows. The old cove must be a Jew.
I think the job's a good one."
"Well, go in, then, the rest of you," exclaimed Montparnasse.
"Do the job. I'll stay here with the girl, and if she fails us--"
He flashed the knife, which he held open in his hand, in the light
of the lantern.
Thenardier said not a word, and seemed ready for whatever
the rest pleased.
Brujon, who was somewhat of an oracle, and who had, as the reader knows,
"put up the job," had not as yet spoken. He seemed thoughtful.
He had the reputation of not sticking at anything, and it was
known that he had plundered a police post simply out of bravado.
Besides this he made verses and songs, which gave him great authority.
Babet interrogated him:--
"You say nothing, Brujon?"
Brujon remained silent an instant longer, then he shook his head
in various ways, and finally concluded to speak:--
"See here; this morning I came across two sparrows fighting,
this evening I jostled a woman who was quarrelling. All that's bad.
They went away.
As they went, Montparnasse muttered:--
"Never mind! if they had wanted, I'd have cut her throat."
"I wouldn't. I don't hit a lady."
At the corner of the street they halted and exchanged the following
enigmatical dialogue in a low tone:--
"Where shall we go to sleep to-night?"
"Under Pantin [Paris]."
"Have you the key to the gate, Thenardier?"
Eponine, who never took her eyes off of them, saw them retreat
by the road by which they had come. She rose and began to creep
after them along the walls and the houses. She followed them thus
as far as the boulevard.
There they parted, and she saw these six men plunge into the gloom,
where they appeared to melt away.
THINGS OF THE NIGHT
After the departure of the ruffians, the Rue Plumet resumed its tranquil,
nocturnal aspect. That which had just taken place in this street
would not have astonished a forest. The lofty trees, the copses,
the heaths, the branches rudely interlaced, the tall grass,
exist in a sombre manner; the savage swarming there catches glimpses
of sudden apparitions of the invisible; that which is below
man distinguishes, through the mists, that which is beyond man;
and the things of which we living beings are ignorant there
meet face to face in the night. Nature, bristling and wild,
takes alarm at certain approaches in which she fancies that she
feels the supernatural. The forces of the gloom know each other,
and are strangely balanced by each other. Teeth and claws fear what
they cannot grasp. Blood-drinking bestiality, voracious appetites,
hunger in search of prey, the armed instincts of nails and jaws
which have for source and aim the belly, glare and smell out
uneasily the impassive spectral forms straying beneath a shroud,
erect in its vague and shuddering robe, and which seem to them
to live with a dead and terrible life. These brutalities,
which are only matter, entertain a confused fear of having to deal
with the immense obscurity condensed into an unknown being.
A black figure barring the way stops the wild beast short.
That which emerges from the cemetery intimidates and disconcerts
that which emerges from the cave; the ferocious fear the sinister;
wolves recoil when they encounter a ghoul.
MARIUS BECOMES PRACTICAL ONCE MORE TO THE EXTENT OF GIVING COSETTE
While this sort of a dog with a human face was mounting guard
over the gate, and while the six ruffians were yielding to a girl,
Marius was by Cosette's side.
Never had the sky been more studded with stars and more charming,
the trees more trembling, the odor of the grass more penetrating;
never had the birds fallen asleep among the leaves with a sweeter noise;
never had all the harmonies of universal serenity responded more
thoroughly to the inward music of love; never had Marius been
more captivated, more happy, more ecstatic.
But he had found Cosette sad; Cosette had been weeping. Her eyes
This was the first cloud in that wonderful dream.
Marius' first word had been: "What is the matter?"
And she had replied: "This."
Then she had seated herself on the bench near the steps, and while
he tremblingly took his place beside her, she had continued:--
"My father told me this morning to hold myself in readiness,
because he has business, and we may go away from here."
Marius shivered from head to foot.
When one is at the end of one's life, to die means to go away;
when one is at the beginning of it, to go away means to die.
For the last six weeks, Marius had little by little, slowly, by degrees,
taken possession of Cosette each day. As we have already explained,
in the case of first love, the soul is taken long before the body;
later on, one takes the body long before the soul; sometimes one
does not take the soul at all; the Faublas and the Prudhommes add:
"Because there is none"; but the sarcasm is, fortunately, a blasphemy.
So Marius possessed Cosette, as spirits possess, but he enveloped her
with all his soul, and seized her jealously with incredible conviction.
He possessed her smile, her breath, her perfume, the profound radiance
of her blue eyes, the sweetness of her skin when he touched her hand,
the charming mark which she had on her neck, all her thoughts.
Therefore, he possessed all Cosette's dreams.
He incessantly gazed at, and he sometimes touched lightly with
his breath, the short locks on the nape of her neck, and he declared
to himself that there was not one of those short hairs which did
not belong to him, Marius. He gazed upon and adored the things
that she wore, her knot of ribbon, her gloves, her sleeves,
her shoes, her cuffs, as sacred objects of which he was the master.
He dreamed that he was the lord of those pretty shell combs which
she wore in her hair, and he even said to himself, in confused
and suppressed stammerings of voluptuousness which did not make
their way to the light, that there was not a ribbon of her gown,
not a mesh in her stockings, not a fold in her bodice, which was
not his. Beside Cosette he felt himself beside his own property,
his own thing, his own despot and his slave. It seemed as though they
had so intermingled their souls, that it would have been impossible
to tell them apart had they wished to take them back again.--"This
is mine." "No, it is mine." "I assure you that you are mistaken.
This is my property." "What you are taking as your own is myself."--
Marius was something that made a part of Cosette, and Cosette
was something which made a part of Marius. Marius felt Cosette
within him. To have Cosette, to possess Cosette, this, to him,
was not to be distinguished from breathing. It was in the midst
of this faith, of this intoxication, of this virgin possession,
unprecedented and absolute, of this sovereignty, that these words:
"We are going away," fell suddenly, at a blow, and that the harsh voice
of reality cried to him: "Cosette is not yours!"
Marius awoke. For six weeks Marius had been living, as we have said,
outside of life; those words, going away! caused him to re-enter
He found not a word to say. Cosette merely felt that his hand
was very cold. She said to him in her turn: "What is the matter?"
He replied in so low a tone that Cosette hardly heard him:--
"I did not understand what you said."
She began again:--
"This morning my father told me to settle all my little affairs
and to hold myself in readiness, that he would give me his linen
to put in a trunk, that he was obliged to go on a journey, that we
were to go away, that it is necessary to have a large trunk for me
and a small one for him, and that all is to be ready in a week
from now, and that we might go to England."
"But this is outrageous!" exclaimed Marius.
It is certain, that, at that moment, no abuse of power, no violence,
not one of the abominations of the worst tyrants, no action of Busiris,
of Tiberius, or of Henry VIII., could have equalled this in atrocity,
in the opinion of Marius; M. Fauchelevent taking his daughter off
to England because he had business there.
He demanded in a weak voice:--
"And when do you start?"
"He did not say when."
"And when shall you return?"
"He did not say when."
Marius rose and said coldly:--
"Cosette, shall you go?"
Cosette turned toward him her beautiful eyes, all filled with anguish,
and replied in a sort of bewilderment:--
"To England. Shall you go?"
"Why do you say you to me?"
"I ask you whether you will go?"
"What do you expect me to do?" she said, clasping her hands.
"So, you will go?"
"If my father goes."
"So, you will go?"
Cosette took Marius' hand, and pressed it without replying.
"Very well," said Marius, "then I will go elsewhere."
Cosette felt rather than understood the meaning of these words.
She turned so pale that her face shone white through the gloom.
"What do you mean?"
Marius looked at her, then raised his eyes to heaven,
and answered: "Nothing."
When his eyes fell again, he saw Cosette smiling at him.
The smile of a woman whom one loves possesses a visible radiance,
even at night.
"How silly we are! Marius, I have an idea."
"What is it?"
"If we go away, do you go too! I will tell you where! Come and
join me wherever I am."
Marius was now a thoroughly roused man. He had fallen back
into reality. He cried to Cosette:--
"Go away with you! Are you mad? Why, I should have to have money,
and I have none! Go to England? But I am in debt now, I owe,
I don't know how much, more than ten louis to Courfeyrac, one of
my friends with whom you are not acquainted! I have an old hat
which is not worth three francs, I have a coat which lacks buttons
in front, my shirt is all ragged, my elbows are torn, my boots let
in the water; for the last six weeks I have not thought about it,
and I have not told you about it. You only see me at night,
and you give me your love; if you were to see me in the daytime,
you would give me a sou! Go to England! Eh! I haven't enough to pay
for a passport!"
He threw himself against a tree which was close at hand, erect,
his brow pressed close to the bark, feeling neither the wood which
flayed his skin, nor the fever which was throbbing in his temples,
and there he stood motionless, on the point of falling, like the
statue of despair.
He remained a long time thus. One could remain for eternity
in such abysses. At last he turned round. He heard behind him
a faint stifled noise, which was sweet yet sad.
It was Cosette sobbing.
She had been weeping for more than two hours beside Marius
as he meditated.
He came to her, fell at her knees, and slowly prostrating himself,
he took the tip of her foot which peeped out from beneath her robe,
and kissed it.
She let him have his way in silence. There are moments when a
woman accepts, like a sombre and resigned goddess, the religion
"Do not weep," he said.
"Not when I may be going away, and you cannot come!"
He went on:--
"Do you love me?"
She replied, sobbing, by that word from paradise which is never
more charming than amid tears:--
"I adore you!"
He continued in a tone which was an indescribable caress:--
"Do not weep. Tell me, will you do this for me, and cease to weep?"
"Do you love me?" said she.
He took her hand.
"Cosette, I have never given my word of honor to any one,
because my word of honor terrifies me. I feel that my father
is by my side. Well, I give you my most sacred word of honor,
that if you go away I shall die."
In the tone with which he uttered these words there lay a melancholy
so solemn and so tranquil, that Cosette trembled. She felt that
chill which is produced by a true and gloomy thing as it passes by.
The shock made her cease weeping.
"Now, listen," said he, "do not expect me to-morrow."
"Do not expect me until the day after to-morrow."
"You will see."
"A day without seeing you! But that is impossible!"
"Let us sacrifice one day in order to gain our whole lives, perhaps."
And Marius added in a low tone and in an aside:--
"He is a man who never changes his habits, and he has never received
any one except in the evening."
"Of what man are you speaking?" asked Cosette.
"I? I said nothing."
"What do you hope, then?"
"Wait until the day after to-morrow."
"You wish it?"
She took his head in both her hands, raising herself on tiptoe
in order to be on a level with him, and tried to read his hope
in his eyes.
"Now that I think of it, you ought to know my address:
something might happen, one never knows; I live with that friend
named Courfeyrac, Rue de la Verrerie, No. 16."
He searched in his pocket, pulled out his penknife, and with the
blade he wrote on the plaster of the wall:--
"16 Rue de la Verrerie."
In the meantime, Cosette had begun to gaze into his eyes once more.
"Tell me your thought, Marius; you have some idea. Tell it to me.
Oh! tell me, so that I may pass a pleasant night."
"This is my idea: that it is impossible that God should mean
to part us. Wait; expect me the day after to-morrow."
"What shall I do until then?" said Cosette.
"You are outside, you go, and come! How happy men are!
I shall remain entirely alone! Oh! How sad I shall
be! What is it that you are going to do to-morrow evening? tell me."
"I am going to try something."
"Then I will pray to God and I will think of you here, so that you
may be successful. I will question you no further, since you
do not wish it. You are my master. I shall pass the evening
to-morrow in singing that music from Euryanthe that you love,
and that you came one evening to listen to, outside my shutters.
But day after to-morrow you will come early. I shall expect
you at dusk, at nine o'clock precisely, I warn you. Mon Dieu!
how sad it is that the days are so long! On the stroke of nine,
do you understand, I shall be in the garden."
"And I also."
And without having uttered it, moved by the same thought,
impelled by those electric currents which place lovers in
continual communication, both being intoxicated with delight
even in their sorrow, they fell into each other's arms,
without perceiving that their lips met while their uplifted
eyes, overflowing with rapture and full of tears, gazed upon the stars.
When Marius went forth, the street was deserted. This was the
moment when Eponine was following the ruffians to the boulevard.
While Marius had been dreaming with his head pressed to the tree,
an idea had crossed his mind; an idea, alas! that he himself judged
to be senseless and impossible. He had come to a desperate decision.
THE OLD HEART AND THE YOUNG HEART IN THE PRESENCE OF EACH OTHER
At that epoch, Father Gillenormand was well past his ninety-first
birthday. He still lived with Mademoiselle Gillenormand in the Rue
des Filles-du-Calvaire, No. 6, in the old house which he owned.
He was, as the reader will remember, one of those antique old men
who await death perfectly erect, whom age bears down without bending,
and whom even sorrow cannot curve.
Still, his daughter had been saying for some time: "My father
is sinking." He no longer boxed the maids' ears; he no longer thumped
the landing-place so vigorously with his cane when Basque was slow
in opening the door. The Revolution of July had exasperated him
for the space of barely six months. He had viewed, almost tranquilly,
that coupling of words, in the Moniteur: M. Humblot-Conte, peer
of France. The fact is, that the old man was deeply dejected.
He did not bend, he did not yield; this was no more a characteristic
of his physical than of his moral nature, but he felt himself giving
way internally. For four years he had been waiting for Marius,
with his foot firmly planted, that is the exact word, in the conviction
that that good-for-nothing young scamp would ring at his door
some day or other; now he had reached the point, where, at certain
gloomy hours, he said to himself, that if Marius made him wait
much longer--It was not death that was insupportable to him;
it was the idea that perhaps he should never see Marius again.
The idea of never seeing Marius again had never entered his
brain until that day; now the thought began to recur to him,
and it chilled him. Absence, as is always the case in genuine
and natural sentiments, had only served to augment the grandfather's
love for the ungrateful child, who had gone off like a flash.
It is during December nights, when the cold stands at ten degrees,
that one thinks oftenest of the son.
M. Gillenormand was, or thought himself, above all things,
incapable of taking a single step, he--the grandfather,
towards his grandson; "I would die rather," he said to himself.
He did not consider himself as the least to blame; but he thought
of Marius only with profound tenderness, and the mute despair
of an elderly, kindly old man who is about to vanish in the dark.
He began to lose his teeth, which added to his sadness.
M. Gillenormand, without however acknowledging it to himself,
for it would have rendered him furious and ashamed, had never loved
a mistress as he loved Marius.
He had had placed in his chamber, opposite the head of his bed,
so that it should be the first thing on which his eyes fell on waking,
an old portrait of his other daughter, who was dead, Madame Pontmercy,
a portrait which had been taken when she was eighteen. He gazed
incessantly at that portrait. One day, he happened to say, as he
gazed upon it:--
"I think the likeness is strong."
"To my sister?" inquired Mademoiselle Gillenormand. "Yes, certainly."
"The old man added:--
"And to him also."
Once as he sat with his knees pressed together, and his eyes
almost closed, in a despondent attitude, his daughter ventured
to say to him:--
"Father, are you as angry with him as ever?"
She paused, not daring to proceed further.
"With whom?" he demanded.
"With that poor Marius."
He raised his aged head, laid his withered and emaciated fist on
the table, and exclaimed in his most irritated and vibrating tone:--
"Poor Marius, do you say! That gentleman is a knave, a wretched
scoundrel, a vain little ingrate, a heartless, soulless, haughty,
and wicked man!"
And he turned away so that his daughter might not see the tear
that stood in his eye.
Three days later he broke a silence which had lasted four hours,
to say to his daughter point-blank:--
"I had the honor to ask Mademoiselle Gillenormand never to mention
him to me."
Aunt Gillenormand renounced every effort, and pronounced this
acute diagnosis: "My father never cared very much for my sister
after her folly. It is clear that he detests Marius."
"After her folly" meant: "after she had married the colonel."
However, as the reader has been able to conjecture, Mademoiselle
Gillenormand had failed in her attempt to substitute her favorite,
the officer of lancers, for Marius. The substitute, Theodule,
had not been a success. M. Gillenormand had not accepted the quid
pro quo. A vacancy in the heart does not accommodate itself to a
stop-gap. Theodule, on his side, though he scented the inheritance,
was disgusted at the task of pleasing. The goodman bored the lancer;
and the lancer shocked the goodman. Lieutenant Theodule was gay,
no doubt, but a chatter-box, frivolous, but vulgar; a high liver,
but a frequenter of bad company; he had mistresses, it is true,
and he had a great deal to say about them, it is true also;
but he talked badly. All his good qualities had a defect.
M. Gillenormand was worn out with hearing him tell about the love
affairs that he had in the vicinity of the barracks in the Rue
de Babylone. And then, Lieutenant Gillenormand sometimes came
in his uniform, with the tricolored cockade. This rendered him
downright intolerable. Finally, Father Gillenormand had said to
his daughter: "I've had enough of that Theodule. I haven't much
taste for warriors in time of peace. Receive him if you choose.
I don't know but I prefer slashers to fellows that drag their swords.
The clash of blades in battle is less dismal, after all, than the
clank of the scabbard on the pavement. And then, throwing out your
chest like a bully and lacing yourself like a girl, with stays under
your cuirass, is doubly ridiculous. When one is a veritable man,
one holds equally aloof from swagger and from affected airs. He is
neither a blusterer nor a finnicky-hearted man. Keep your Theodule
It was in vain that his daughter said to him: "But he is your
grandnephew, nevertheless,"--it turned out that M. Gillenormand, who was
a grandfather to the very finger-tips, was not in the least a grand-uncle.
In fact, as he had good sense, and as he had compared the two,
Theodule had only served to make him regret Marius all the more.
One evening,--it was the 24th of June, which did not prevent
Father Gillenormand having a rousing fire on the hearth,--he had
dismissed his daughter, who was sewing in a neighboring apartment.
He was alone in his chamber, amid its pastoral scenes, with his
feet propped on the andirons, half enveloped in his huge screen of
coromandel lacquer, with its nine leaves, with his elbow resting on
a table where burned two candles under a green shade, engulfed in his
tapestry armchair, and in his hand a book which he was not reading.
He was dressed, according to his wont, like an incroyable,
and resembled an antique portrait by Garat. This would have made
people run after him in the street, had not his daughter covered
him up, whenever he went out, in a vast bishop's wadded cloak,
which concealed his attire. At home, he never wore a dressing gown,
except when he rose and retired. "It gives one a look of age,"
Father Gillenormand was thinking of Marius lovingly and bitterly;
and, as usual, bitterness predominated. His tenderness once
soured always ended by boiling and turning to indignation.
He had reached the point where a man tries to make up his mind and
to accept that which rends his heart. He was explaining to himself
that there was no longer any reason why Marius should return,
that if he intended to return, he should have done it long ago,
that he must renounce the idea. He was trying to accustom himself
to the thought that all was over, and that he should die without
having beheld "that gentleman" again. But his whole nature revolted;
his aged paternity would not consent to this. "Well!" said he,--
this was his doleful refrain,--"he will not return!" His bald head
had fallen upon his breast, and he fixed a melancholy and irritated
gaze upon the ashes on his hearth.
In the very midst of his revery, his old servant Basque entered,
"Can Monsieur receive M. Marius?"
The old man sat up erect, pallid, and like a corpse which rises
under the influence of a galvanic shock. All his blood had retreated
to his heart. He stammered:--
"M. Marius what?"
"I don't know," replied Basque, intimidated and put out of countenance
by his master's air; "I have not seen him. Nicolette came in and
said to me: `There's a young man here; say that it is M. Marius.'"
Father Gillenormand stammered in a low voice:--
"Show him in."
And he remained in the same attitude, with shaking head, and his eyes
fixed on the door. It opened once more. A young man entered.
It was Marius.
Marius halted at the door, as though waiting to be bidden to enter.
His almost squalid attire was not perceptible in the obscurity
caused by the shade. Nothing could be seen but his calm, grave,
but strangely sad face.
It was several minutes before Father Gillenormand, dulled with amazement
and joy, could see anything except a brightness as when one is in
the presence of an apparition. He was on the point of swooning;
he saw Marius through a dazzling light. It certainly was he,
it certainly was Marius.
At last! After the lapse of four years! He grasped him entire,
so to speak, in a single glance. He found him noble, handsome,
distinguished, well-grown, a complete man, with a suitable
mien and a charming air. He felt a desire to open his arms,
to call him, to fling himself forward; his heart melted with rapture,
affectionate words swelled and overflowed his breast; at length
all his tenderness came to the light and reached his lips, and,
by a contrast which constituted the very foundation of his nature,
what came forth was harshness. He said abruptly:--
"What have you come here for?"
Marius replied with embarrassment:--
M. Gillenormand would have liked to have Marius throw himself
into his arms. He was displeased with Marius and with himself.
He was conscious that he was brusque, and that Marius was cold.
It caused the goodman unendurable and irritating anxiety to feel
so tender and forlorn within, and only to be able to be hard outside.
Bitterness returned. He interrupted Marius in a peevish tone:--
"Then why did you come?"
That "then" signified: If you do not come to embrace me.
Marius looked at his grandfather, whose pallor gave him a face
"Have you come to beg my pardon? Do you acknowledge your faults?"
He thought he was putting Marius on the right road, and that "the child"
would yield. Marius shivered; it was the denial of his father
that was required of him; he dropped his eyes and replied:--
"Then," exclaimed the old man impetuously, with a grief that was
poignant and full of wrath, "what do you want of me?"
Marius clasped his hands, advanced a step, and said in a feeble
and trembling voice:--
"Sir, have pity on me."
These words touched M. Gillenormand; uttered a little sooner,
they would have rendered him tender, but they came too late.
The grandfather rose; he supported himself with both hands on his cane;
his lips were white, his brow wavered, but his lofty form towered
above Marius as he bowed.
"Pity on you, sir! It is youth demanding pity of the old man
of ninety-one! You are entering into life, I am leaving it;
you go to the play, to balls, to the cafe, to the billiard-hall;
you have wit, you please the women, you are a handsome fellow;
as for me, I spit on my brands in the heart of summer; you are rich
with the only riches that are really such, I possess all the poverty
of age; infirmity, isolation! You have your thirty-two teeth,
a good digestion, bright eyes, strength, appetite, health, gayety,
a forest of black hair; I have no longer even white hair,
I have lost my teeth, I am losing my legs, I am losing my memory;
there are three names of streets that I confound incessantly,
the Rue Charlot, the Rue du Chaume, and the Rue Saint-Claude,
that is what I have come to; you have before you the whole future,
full of sunshine, and I am beginning to lose my sight, so far am
I advancing into the night; you are in love, that is a matter
of course, I am beloved by no one in all the world; and you ask pity
of me! Parbleu! Moliere forgot that. If that is the way you jest
at the courthouse, Messieurs the lawyers, I sincerely compliment you.
You are droll."
And the octogenarian went on in a grave and angry voice:--
"Come, now, what do you want of me?"
"Sir," said Marius, "I know that my presence is displeasing to you,
but I have come merely to ask one thing of you, and then I shall go
"You are a fool!" said the old man. "Who said that you were
to go away?"
This was the translation of the tender words which lay at the bottom
of his heart:--
"Ask my pardon! Throw yourself on my neck!"
M. Gillenormand felt that Marius would leave him in a few moments,
that his harsh reception had repelled the lad, that his hardness was
driving him away; he said all this to himself, and it augmented his grief;
and as his grief was straightway converted into wrath, it increased
his harshness. He would have liked to have Marius understand,
and Marius did not understand, which made the goodman furious.