Part 34 out of 36
before the mayor and before the priest all possible "yesses," after
having signed the registers at the municipality and at the sacristy,
after having exchanged their rings, after having knelt side by side
under the pall of white moire in the smoke of the censer, they arrived,
hand in hand, admired and envied by all, Marius in black, she in white,
preceded by the suisse, with the epaulets of a colonel, tapping the
pavement with his halberd, between two rows of astonished spectators,
at the portals of the church, both leaves of which were thrown
wide open, ready to enter their carriage again, and all being finished,
Cosette still could not believe that it was real. She looked at Marius,
she looked at the crowd, she looked at the sky: it seemed as though
she feared that she should wake up from her dream. Her amazed and
uneasy air added something indescribably enchanting to her beauty.
They entered the same carriage to return home, Marius beside Cosette;
M. Gillenormand and Jean Valjean sat opposite them; Aunt Gillenormand
had withdrawn one degree, and was in the second vehicle.
"My children," said the grandfather, "here you are, Monsieur le Baron
and Madame la Baronne, with an income of thirty thousand livres."
And Cosette, nestling close to Marius, caressed his ear with an
angelic whisper: "So it is true. My name is Marius. I am Madame Thou."
These two creatures were resplendent. They had reached that
irrevocable and irrecoverable moment, at the dazzling intersection
of all youth and all joy. They realized the verses of Jean Prouvaire;
they were forty years old taken together. It was marriage sublimated;
these two children were two lilies. They did not see each other,
they did not contemplate each other. Cosette perceived Marius
in the midst of a glory; Marius perceived Cosette on an altar.
And on that altar, and in that glory, the two apotheoses mingling,
in the background, one knows not how, behind a cloud for Cosette,
in a flash for Marius, there was the ideal thing, the real thing,
the meeting of the kiss and the dream, the nuptial pillow.
All the torments through which they had passed came back to them
in intoxication. It seemed to them that their sorrows, their sleepless
nights, their tears, their anguish, their terrors, their despair,
converted into caresses and rays of light, rendered still more charming
the charming hour which was approaching; and that their griefs
were but so many handmaidens who were preparing the toilet of joy.
How good it is to have suffered! Their unhappiness formed a halo
round their happiness. The long agony of their love was terminating
in an ascension.
It was the same enchantment in two souls, tinged with voluptuousness
in Marius, and with modesty in Cosette. They said to each other
in low tones: "We will go back to take a look at our little garden
in the Rue Plumet." The folds of Cosette's gown lay across Marius.
Such a day is an ineffable mixture of dream and of reality.
One possesses and one supposes. One still has time before one to divine.
The emotion on that day, of being at mid-day and of dreaming
of midnight is indescribable. The delights of these two hearts
overflowed upon the crowd, and inspired the passers-by with cheerfulness.
People halted in the Rue Saint-Antoine, in front of Saint-Paul,
to gaze through the windows of the carriage at the orange-flowers
quivering on Cosette's head.
Then they returned home to the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire. Marius,
triumphant and radiant, mounted side by side with Cosette the staircase
up which he had been borne in a dying condition. The poor, who had
trooped to the door, and who shared their purses, blessed them.
There were flowers everywhere. The house was no less fragrant
than the church; after the incense, roses. They thought they heard
voices carolling in the infinite; they had God in their hearts;
destiny appeared to them like a ceiling of stars; above their heads
they beheld the light of a rising sun. All at once, the clock struck.
Marius glanced at Cosette's charming bare arm, and at the rosy
things which were vaguely visible through the lace of her bodice,
and Cosette, intercepting Marius' glance, blushed to her very hair.
Quite a number of old family friends of the Gillenormand family
had been invited; they pressed about Cosette. Each one vied
with the rest in saluting her as Madame la Baronne.
The officer, Theodule Gillenormand, now a captain, had come
from Chartres, where he was stationed in garrison, to be present
at the wedding of his cousin Pontmercy. Cosette did not recognize him.
He, on his side, habituated as he was to have women consider him handsome,
retained no more recollection of Cosette than of any other woman.
"How right I was not to believe in that story about the lancer!"
said Father Gillenormand, to himself.
Cosette had never been more tender with Jean Valjean.
She was in unison with Father Gillenormand; while he erected joy
into aphorisms and maxims, she exhaled goodness like a perfume.
Happiness desires that all the world should be happy.
She regained, for the purpose of addressing Jean Valjean,
inflections of voice belonging to the time when she was a little girl.
She caressed him with her smile.
A banquet had been spread in the dining-room.
Illumination as brilliant as the daylight is the necessary seasoning
of a great joy. Mist and obscurity are not accepted by the happy.
They do not consent to be black. The night, yes; the shadows, no.
If there is no sun, one must be made.
The dining-room was full of gay things. In the centre, above the white
and glittering table, was a Venetian lustre with flat plates, with all
sorts of colored birds, blue, violet, red, and green, perched amid
the candles; around the chandelier, girandoles, on the walls, sconces with
triple and quintuple branches; mirrors, silverware, glassware, plate,
porcelain, faience, pottery, gold and silversmith's work, all was
sparkling and gay. The empty spaces between the candelabra were filled
in with bouquets, so that where there was not a light, there was a flower.
In the antechamber, three violins and a flute softly played
quartettes by Haydn.
Jean Valjean had seated himself on a chair in the drawing-room,
behind the door, the leaf of which folded back upon him in such
a manner as to nearly conceal him. A few moments before they sat
down to table, Cosette came, as though inspired by a sudden whim,
and made him a deep courtesy, spreading out her bridal toilet
with both hands, and with a tenderly roguish glance, she asked him:
"Father, are you satisfied?"
"Yes," said Jean Valjean, "I am content!"
"Well, then, laugh."
Jean Valjean began to laugh.
A few moments later, Basque announced that dinner was served.
The guests, preceded by M. Gillenormand with Cosette on his arm,
entered the dining-room, and arranged themselves in the proper order
around the table.
Two large arm-chairs figured on the right and left of the bride,
the first for M. Gillenormand, the other for Jean Valjean.
M. Gillenormand took his seat. The other arm-chair remained empty.
They looked about for M. Fauchelevent.
He was no longer there.
M. Gillenormand questioned Basque.
"Do you know where M. Fauchelevent is?"
"Sir," replied Basque, "I do, precisely. M. Fauchelevent told
me to say to you, sir, that he was suffering, his injured hand
was paining him somewhat, and that he could not dine with Monsieur
le Baron and Madame la Baronne. That he begged to be excused,
that he would come to-morrow. He has just taken his departure."
That empty arm-chair chilled the effusion of the wedding
feast for a moment. But, if M. Fauchelevent was absent,
M. Gillenormand was present, and the grandfather beamed for two.
He affirmed that M. Fauchelevent had done well to retire early,
if he were suffering, but that it was only a slight ailment.
This declaration sufficed. Moreover, what is an obscure corner
in such a submersion of joy? Cosette and Marius were passing
through one of those egotistical and blessed moments when no other
faculty is left to a person than that of receiving happiness.
And then, an idea occurred to M. Gillenormand.--"Pardieu, this
armchair is empty. Come hither, Marius. Your aunt will permit it,
although she has a right to you. This armchair is for you.
That is legal and delightful. Fortunatus beside Fortunata."--
Applause from the whole table. Marius took Jean Valjean's place
beside Cosette, and things fell out so that Cosette, who had,
at first, been saddened by Jean Valjean's absence, ended by being
satisfied with it. From the moment when Marius took his place,
and was the substitute, Cosette would not have regretted God himself.
She set her sweet little foot, shod in white satin, on Marius' foot.
The arm-chair being occupied, M. Fauchelevent was obliterated;
and nothing was lacking.
And, five minutes afterward, the whole table from one end to the other,
was laughing with all the animation of forgetfulness.
At dessert, M. Gillenormand, rising to his feet, with a glass
of champagne in his hand--only half full so that the palsy of his
eighty years might not cause an overflow,--proposed the health
of the married pair.
"You shall not escape two sermons," he exclaimed. "This morning
you had one from the cure, this evening you shall have one from
your grandfather. Listen to me; I will give you a bit of advice:
Adore each other. I do not make a pack of gyrations, I go straight
to the mark, be happy. In all creation, only the turtle-doves are wise.
Philosophers say: `Moderate your joys.' I say: `Give rein
to your joys.' Be as much smitten with each other as fiends.
Be in a rage about it. The philosophers talk stuff and nonsense.
I should like to stuff their philosophy down their gullets again.
Can there be too many perfumes, too many open rose-buds, too many
nightingales singing, too many green leaves, too much aurora
in life? can people love each other too much? can people please
each other too much? Take care, Estelle, thou art too pretty!
Have a care, Nemorin, thou art too handsome! Fine stupidity, in sooth!
Can people enchant each other too much, cajole each other too much,
charm each other too much? Can one be too much alive, too happy?
Moderate your joys. Ah, indeed! Down with the philosophers!
Wisdom consists in jubilation. Make merry, let us make merry.
Are we happy because we are good, or are we good because we are happy?
Is the Sancy diamond called the Sancy because it belonged
to Harley de Sancy, or because it weighs six hundred carats?
I know nothing about it, life is full of such problems; the important
point is to possess the Sancy and happiness. Let us be happy
without quibbling and quirking. Let us obey the sun blindly.
What is the sun? It is love. He who says love, says woman.
Ah! ah! behold omnipotence--women. Ask that demagogue of a Marius
if he is not the slave of that little tyrant of a Cosette. And of
his own free will, too, the coward! Woman! There is no Robespierre
who keeps his place but woman reigns. I am no longer Royalist
except towards that royalty. What is Adam? The kingdom of Eve.
No '89 for Eve. There has been the royal sceptre surmounted by a
fleur-de-lys, there has been the imperial sceptre surmounted by a globe,
there has been the sceptre of Charlemagne, which was of iron,
there has been the sceptre of Louis the Great, which was of gold,--
the revolution twisted them between its thumb and forefinger,
ha'penny straws; it is done with, it is broken, it lies on the earth,
there is no longer any sceptre, but make me a revolution against
that little embroidered handkerchief, which smells of patchouli!
I should like to see you do it. Try. Why is it so solid? Because it
is a gewgaw. Ah! you are the nineteenth century? Well, what then?
And we have been as foolish as you. Do not imagine that you have
effected much change in the universe, because your trip-gallant is called
the cholera-morbus, and because your pourree is called the cachuca.
In fact, the women must always be loved. I defy you to escape from that.
These friends are our angels. Yes, love, woman, the kiss forms
a circle from which I defy you to escape; and, for my own part,
I should be only too happy to re-enter it. Which of you has
seen the planet Venus, the coquette of the abyss, the Celimene
of the ocean, rise in the infinite, calming all here below?
The ocean is a rough Alcestis. Well, grumble as he will, when Venus
appears he is forced to smile. That brute beast submits. We are all
made so. Wrath, tempest, claps of thunder, foam to the very ceiling.
A woman enters on the scene, a planet rises; flat on your face!
Marius was fighting six months ago; to-day he is married.
That is well. Yes, Marius, yes, Cosette, you are in the right.
Exist boldly for each other, make us burst with rage that we cannot
do the same, idealize each other, catch in your beaks all the tiny
blades of felicity that exist on earth, and arrange yourselves a nest
for life. Pardi, to love, to be loved, what a fine miracle when one
is young! Don't imagine that you have invented that. I, too, have had
my dream, I, too, have meditated, I, too, have sighed; I, too,
have had a moonlight soul. Love is a child six thousand years old.
Love has the right to a long white beard. Methusalem is a street
arab beside Cupid. For sixty centuries men and women have got
out of their scrape by loving. The devil, who is cunning, took to
hating man; man, who is still more cunning, took to loving woman.
In this way he does more good than the devil does him harm.
This craft was discovered in the days of the terrestrial paradise.
The invention is old, my friends, but it is perfectly new. Profit by it.
Be Daphnis and Chloe, while waiting to become Philemon and Baucis.
Manage so that, when you are with each other, nothing shall
be lacking to you, and that Cosette may be the sun for Marius,
and that Marius may be the universe to Cosette. Cosette, let your
fine weather be the smile of your husband; Marius, let your rain
be your wife's tears. And let it never rain in your household.
You have filched the winning number in the lottery; you have
gained the great prize, guard it well, keep it under lock and key,
do not squander it, adore each other and snap your fingers at
all the rest. Believe what I say to you. It is good sense.
And good sense cannot lie. Be a religion to each other.
Each man has his own fashion of adoring God. Saperlotte! the best
way to adore God is to love one's wife. I love thee! that's
my catechism. He who loves is orthodox. The oath of Henri IV.
places sanctity somewhere between feasting and drunkenness.
Ventre-saint-gris! I don't belong to the religion of that oath.
Woman is forgotten in it. This astonishes me on the part
of Henri IV. My friends, long live women! I am old, they say;
it's astonishing how much I feel in the mood to be young. I should
like to go and listen to the bagpipes in the woods. Children who
contrive to be beautiful and contented,--that intoxicates me.
I would like greatly to get married, if any one would have me.
It is impossible to imagine that God could have made us for anything
but this: to idolize, to coo, to preen ourselves, to be dove-like,
to be dainty, to bill and coo our loves from morn to night, to gaze
at one's image in one's little wife, to be proud, to be triumphant,
to plume oneself; that is the aim of life. There, let not that displease
you which we used to think in our day, when we were young folks.
Ah! vertu-bamboche! what charming women there were in those days,
and what pretty little faces and what lovely lasses! I committed
my ravages among them. Then love each other. If people did
not love each other, I really do not see what use there would
be in having any springtime; and for my own part, I should pray
the good God to shut up all the beautiful things that he shows us,
and to take away from us and put back in his box, the flowers,
the birds, and the pretty maidens. My children, receive an old man's
The evening was gay, lively and agreeable. The grandfather's
sovereign good humor gave the key-note to the whole feast, and each
person regulated his conduct on that almost centenarian cordiality.
They danced a little, they laughed a great deal; it was an
amiable wedding. Goodman Days of Yore might have been invited
to it. However, he was present in the person of Father Gillenormand.
There was a tumult, then silence.
The married pair disappeared.
A little after midnight, the Gillenormand house became a temple.
Here we pause. On the threshold of wedding nights stands a smiling
angel with his finger on his lips.
The soul enters into contemplation before that sanctuary where
the celebration of love takes place.
There should be flashes of light athwart such houses. The joy
which they contain ought to make its escape through the stones
of the walls in brilliancy, and vaguely illuminate the gloom.
It is impossible that this sacred and fatal festival should not give
off a celestial radiance to the infinite. Love is the sublime
crucible wherein the fusion of the man and the woman takes place;
the being one, the being triple, the being final, the human trinity
proceeds from it. This birth of two souls into one, ought to be
an emotion for the gloom. The lover is the priest; the ravished
virgin is terrified. Something of that joy ascends to God.
Where true marriage is, that is to say, where there is love, the ideal
enters in. A nuptial bed makes a nook of dawn amid the shadows.
If it were given to the eye of the flesh to scan the formidable
and charming visions of the upper life, it is probable that we
should behold the forms of night, the winged unknowns, the blue
passers of the invisible, bend down, a throng of sombre heads,
around the luminous house, satisfied, showering benedictions,
pointing out to each other the virgin wife gently alarmed,
sweetly terrified, and bearing the reflection of human bliss upon
their divine countenances. If at that supreme hour, the wedded pair,
dazzled with voluptuousness and believing themselves alone,
were to listen, they would hear in their chamber a confused rustling
of wings. Perfect happiness implies a mutual understanding with
the angels. That dark little chamber has all heaven for its ceiling.
When two mouths, rendered sacred by love, approach to create,
it is impossible that there should not be, above that ineffable kiss,
a quivering throughout the immense mystery of stars.
These felicities are the true ones. There is no joy outside
of these joys. Love is the only ecstasy. All the rest weeps.
To love, or to have loved,--this suffices. Demand nothing more.
There is no other pearl to be found in the shadowy folds of life.
To love is a fulfilment.
What had become of Jean Valjean?
Immediately after having laughed, at Cosette's graceful command,
when no one was paying any heed to him, Jean Valjean had risen
and had gained the antechamber unperceived. This was the very
room which, eight months before, he had entered black with mud,
with blood and powder, bringing back the grandson to the grandfather.
The old wainscoting was garlanded with foliage and flowers;
the musicians were seated on the sofa on which they had laid
Marius down. Basque, in a black coat, knee-breeches, white stockings
and white gloves, was arranging roses round all of the dishes that
were to be served. Jean Valjean pointed to his arm in its sling,
charged Basque to explain his absence, and went away.
The long windows of the dining-room opened on the street.
Jean Valjean stood for several minutes, erect and motionless
in the darkness, beneath those radiant windows. He listened.
The confused sounds of the banquet reached his ear. He heard the loud,
commanding tones of the grandfather, the violins, the clatter of
the plates, the bursts of laughter, and through all that merry uproar,
he distinguished Cosette's sweet and joyous voice.
He quitted the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, and returned to the Rue
de l'Homme Arme.
In order to return thither, he took the Rue Saint-Louis, the Rue
Culture-Sainte-Catherine, and the Blancs-Manteaux; it was a little longer,
but it was the road through which, for the last three months,
he had become accustomed to pass every day on his way from the
Rue de l'Homme Arme to the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, in order
to avoid the obstructions and the mud in the Rue Vielle-du-Temple.
This road, through which Cosette had passed, excluded for him
all possibility of any other itinerary.
Jean Valjean entered his lodgings. He lighted his candle and
mounted the stairs. The apartment was empty. Even Toussaint
was no longer there. Jean Valjean's step made more noise
than usual in the chambers. All the cupboards stood open.
He penetrated to Cosette's bedroom. There were no sheets on the bed.
The pillow, covered with ticking, and without a case or lace,
was laid on the blankets folded up on the foot of the mattress,
whose covering was visible, and on which no one was ever to sleep again.
All the little feminine objects which Cosette was attached to had
been carried away; nothing remained except the heavy furniture
and the four walls. Toussaint's bed was despoiled in like manner.
One bed only was made up, and seemed to be waiting some one,
and this was Jean Valjean's bed.
Jean Valjean looked at the walls, closed some of the cupboard doors,
and went and came from one room to another.
Then he sought his own chamber once more, and set his candle
on a table.
He had disengaged his arm from the sling, and he used his right
hand as though it did not hurt him.
He approached his bed, and his eyes rested, was it by chance?
was it intentionally? on the inseparable of which Cosette had
been jealous, on the little portmanteau which never left him.
On his arrival in the Rue de l'Homme Arme, on the 4th of June,
he had deposited it on a round table near the head of his bed.
He went to this table with a sort of vivacity, took a key from
his pocket, and opened the valise.
From it he slowly drew forth the garments in which, ten years before,
Cosette had quitted Montfermeil; first the little gown, then the
black fichu, then the stout, coarse child's shoes which Cosette
might almost have worn still, so tiny were her feet, then the
fustian bodice, which was very thick, then the knitted petticoat,
next the apron with pockets, then the woollen stockings.
These stockings, which still preserved the graceful form of a tiny leg,
were no longer than Jean Valjean's hand. All this was black of hue.
It was he who had brought those garments to Montfermeil for her.
As he removed them from the valise, he laid them on the bed.
He fell to thinking. He called up memories. It was in winter,
in a very cold month of December, she was shivering, half-naked,
in rags, her poor little feet were all red in their wooden shoes.
He, Jean Valjean, had made her abandon those rags to clothe herself
in these mourning habiliments. The mother must have felt pleased in
her grave, to see her daughter wearing mourning for her, and, above all,
to see that she was properly clothed, and that she was warm.
He thought of that forest of Montfermeil; they had traversed
it together, Cosette and he; he thought of what the weather had been,
of the leafless trees, of the wood destitute of birds, of the
sunless sky; it mattered not, it was charming. He arranged the tiny
garments on the bed, the fichu next to the petticoat, the stockings
beside the shoes, and he looked at them, one after the other.
She was no taller than that, she had her big doll in her arms,
she had put her louis d'or in the pocket of that apron, she had laughed,
they walked hand in hand, she had no one in the world but him.
Then his venerable, white head fell forward on the bed,
that stoical old heart broke, his face was engulfed, so to speak,
in Cosette's garments, and if any one had passed up the stairs
at that moment, he would have heard frightful sobs.
THE IMMORTAL LIVER
 In allusion to the story of Prometheus.
The old and formidable struggle, of which we have already witnessed
so many phases, began once more.
Jacob struggled with the angel but one night. Alas! how many
times have we beheld Jean Valjean seized bodily by his conscience,
in the darkness, and struggling desperately against it!
Unheard-of conflict! At certain moments the foot slips; at other
moments the ground crumbles away underfoot. How many times had
that conscience, mad for the good, clasped and overthrown him!
How many times had the truth set her knee inexorably upon his breast!
How many times, hurled to earth by the light, had he begged for mercy!
How many times had that implacable spark, lighted within him,
and upon him by the Bishop, dazzled him by force when he had
wished to be blind! How many times had he risen to his feet
in the combat, held fast to the rock, leaning against sophism,
dragged in the dust, now getting the upper hand of his conscience,
again overthrown by it! How many times, after an equivoque,
after the specious and treacherous reasoning of egotism, had he heard
his irritated conscience cry in his ear: "A trip! you wretch!"
How many times had his refractory thoughts rattled convulsively
in his throat, under the evidence of duty! Resistance to God.
Funereal sweats. What secret wounds which he alone felt bleed!
What excoriations in his lamentable existence! How many times
he had risen bleeding, bruised, broken, enlightened, despair in
his heart, serenity in his soul! and, vanquished, he had felt
himself the conqueror. And, after having dislocated, broken,
and rent his conscience with red-hot pincers, it had said to him,
as it stood over him, formidable, luminous, and tranquil: "Now, go
But on emerging from so melancholy a conflict, what a lugubrious
Nevertheless, that night Jean Valjean felt that he was passing
through his final combat.
A heart-rending question presented itself.
Predestinations are not all direct; they do not open out in a
straight avenue before the predestined man; they have blind courts,
impassable alleys, obscure turns, disturbing crossroads offering
the choice of many ways. Jean Valjean had halted at that moment
at the most perilous of these crossroads.
He had come to the supreme crossing of good and evil. He had that
gloomy intersection beneath his eyes. On this occasion once more,
as had happened to him already in other sad vicissitudes, two roads
opened out before him, the one tempting, the other alarming.
Which was he to take?
He was counselled to the one which alarmed him by that mysterious
index finger which we all perceive whenever we fix our eyes
on the darkness.
Once more, Jean Valjean had the choice between the terrible port
and the smiling ambush.
Is it then true? the soul may recover; but not fate. Frightful thing!
an incurable destiny!
This is the problem which presented itself to him:
In what manner was Jean Valjean to behave in relation to the happiness
of Cosette and Marius? It was he who had willed that happiness,
it was he who had brought it about; he had, himself, buried it
in his entrails, and at that moment, when he reflected on it,
he was able to enjoy the sort of satisfaction which an armorer
would experience on recognizing his factory mark on a knife,
on withdrawing it, all smoking, from his own breast.
Cosette had Marius, Marius possessed Cosette. They had everything,
even riches. And this was his doing.
But what was he, Jean Valjean, to do with this happiness,
now that it existed, now that it was there? Should he force himself
on this happiness? Should he treat it as belonging to him?
No doubt, Cosette did belong to another; but should he, Jean Valjean,
retain of Cosette all that he could retain? Should he remain the sort
of father, half seen but respected, which he had hitherto been?
Should he, without saying a word, bring his past to that future?
Should he present himself there, as though he had a right,
and should he seat himself, veiled, at that luminous fireside?
Should he take those innocent hands into his tragic hands,
with a smile? Should he place upon the peaceful fender of the
Gillenormand drawing-room those feet of his, which dragged
behind them the disgraceful shadow of the law? Should he enter
into participation in the fair fortunes of Cosette and Marius?
Should he render the obscurity on his brow and the cloud upon theirs
still more dense? Should he place his catastrophe as a third
associate in their felicity? Should he continue to hold his peace?
In a word, should he be the sinister mute of destiny beside these two
We must have become habituated to fatality and to encounters with it,
in order to have the daring to raise our eyes when certain questions
appear to us in all their horrible nakedness. Good or evil stands
behind this severe interrogation point. What are you going to do?
demands the sphinx.
This habit of trial Jean Valjean possessed. He gazed intently
at the sphinx.
He examined the pitiless problem under all its aspects.
Cosette, that charming existence, was the raft of this shipwreck.
What was he to do? To cling fast to it, or to let go his hold?
If he clung to it, he should emerge from disaster, he should ascend
again into the sunlight, he should let the bitter water drip from
his garments and his hair, he was saved, he should live.
And if he let go his hold?
Then the abyss.
Thus he took sad council with his thoughts. Or, to speak more correctly,
he fought; he kicked furiously internally, now against his will,
now against his conviction.
Happily for Jean Valjean that he had been able to weep.
That relieved him, possibly. But the beginning was savage.
A tempest, more furious than the one which had formerly driven him
to Arras, broke loose within him. The past surged up before him
facing the present; he compared them and sobbed. The silence
of tears once opened, the despairing man writhed.
He felt that he had been stopped short.
Alas! in this fight to the death between our egotism and our duty,
when we thus retreat step by step before our immutable ideal,
bewildered, furious, exasperated at having to yield, disputing the ground,
hoping for a possible flight, seeking an escape, what an abrupt
and sinister resistance does the foot of the wall offer in our rear!
To feel the sacred shadow which forms an obstacle!
The invisible inexorable, what an obsession!
Then, one is never done with conscience. Make your choice, Brutus;
make your choice, Cato. It is fathomless, since it is God.
One flings into that well the labor of one's whole life, one flings in
one's fortune, one flings in one's riches, one flings in one's success,
one flings in one's liberty or fatherland, one flings in one's
well-being, one flings in one's repose, one flings in one's joy!
More! more! more! Empty the vase! tip the urn! One must finish
by flinging in one's heart.
Somewhere in the fog of the ancient hells, there is a tun like that.
Is not one pardonable, if one at last refuses! Can the inexhaustible
have any right? Are not chains which are endless above human strength?
Who would blame Sisyphus and Jean Valjean for saying: "It is enough!"
The obedience of matter is limited by friction; is there no limit
to the obedience of the soul? If perpetual motion is impossible,
can perpetual self-sacrifice be exacted?
The first step is nothing, it is the last which is difficult.
What was the Champmathieu affair in comparison with Cosette's marriage
and of that which it entailed? What is a re-entrance into the galleys,
compared to entrance into the void?
Oh, first step that must be descended, how sombre art thou!
Oh, second step, how black art thou!
How could he refrain from turning aside his head this time?
Martyrdom is sublimation, corrosive sublimation. It is a torture
which consecrates. One can consent to it for the first hour;
one seats oneself on the throne of glowing iron, one places on one's
head the crown of hot iron, one accepts the globe of red hot iron,
one takes the sceptre of red hot iron, but the mantle of flame still
remains to be donned, and comes there not a moment when the miserable
flesh revolts and when one abdicates from suffering?
At length, Jean Valjean entered into the peace of exhaustion.
He weighed, he reflected, he considered the alternatives,
the mysterious balance of light and darkness.
Should he impose his galleys on those two dazzling children,
or should he consummate his irremediable engulfment by himself?
On one side lay the sacrifice of Cosette, on the other that of himself.
At what solution should he arrive? What decision did he come to?
What resolution did he take? What was his own inward definitive
response to the unbribable interrogatory of fatality? What door
did he decide to open? Which side of his life did he resolve upon
closing and condemning? Among all the unfathomable precipices which
surrounded him, which was his choice? What extremity did he accept?
To which of the gulfs did he nod his head?
His dizzy revery lasted all night long.
He remained there until daylight, in the same attitude,
bent double over that bed, prostrate beneath the enormity
of fate, crushed, perchance, alas! with clenched fists, with arms
outspread at right angles, like a man crucified who has been
un-nailed, and flung face down on the earth. There he remained
for twelve hours, the twelve long hours of a long winter's night,
ice-cold, without once raising his head, and without uttering a word.
He was as motionless as a corpse, while his thoughts wallowed
on the earth and soared, now like the hydra, now like the eagle.
Any one to behold him thus motionless would have pronounced him dead;
all at once he shuddered convulsively, and his mouth, glued to
Cosette's garments, kissed them; then it could be seen that he was alive.
Who could see? Since Jean Valjean was alone, and there was no
The One who is in the shadows.
BOOK SEVENTH.--THE LAST DRAUGHT FROM THE CUP
THE SEVENTH CIRCLE AND THE EIGHTH HEAVEN
The days that follow weddings are solitary. People respect the
meditations of the happy pair. And also, their tardy slumbers,
to some degree. The tumult of visits and congratulations only begins
later on. On the morning of the 17th of February, it was a little
past midday when Basque, with napkin and feather-duster under his arm,
busy in setting his antechamber to rights, heard a light tap at
the door. There had been no ring, which was discreet on such a day.
Basque opened the door, and beheld M. Fauchelevent. He introduced him
into the drawing-room, still encumbered and topsy-turvy, and which bore
the air of a field of battle after the joys of the preceding evening.
"Dame, sir," remarked Basque, "we all woke up late."
"Is your master up?" asked Jean Valjean.
"How is Monsieur's arm?" replied Basque.
"Better. Is your master up?"
"Which one? the old one or the new one?"
"Monsieur le Baron," said Basque, drawing himself up.
A man is a Baron most of all to his servants. He counts for something
with them; they are what a philosopher would call, bespattered with
the title, and that flatters them. Marius, be it said in passing,
a militant republican as he had proved, was now a Baron in spite
of himself. A small revolution had taken place in the family
in connection with this title. It was now M. Gillenormand
who clung to it, and Marius who detached himself from it.
But Colonel Pontmercy had written: "My son will bear my title."
Marius obeyed. And then, Cosette, in whom the woman was beginning
to dawn, was delighted to be a Baroness.
"Monsieur le Baron?" repeated Basque. "I will go and see.
I will tell him that M. Fauchelevent is here."
"No. Do not tell him that it is I. Tell him that some one wishes
to speak to him in private, and mention no name."
"Ah!" ejaculated Basque.
"I wish to surprise him."
"Ah!" ejaculated Basque once more, emitting his second "ah!"
as an explanation of the first.
And he left the room.
Jean Valjean remained alone.
The drawing-room, as we have just said, was in great disorder.
It seemed as though, by lending an air, one might still hear the vague
noise of the wedding. On the polished floor lay all sorts of flowers
which had fallen from garlands and head-dresses. The wax candles,
burned to stumps, added stalactites of wax to the crystal drops of
the chandeliers. Not a single piece of furniture was in its place.
In the corners, three or four arm-chairs, drawn close together
in a circle, had the appearance of continuing a conversation.
The whole effect was cheerful. A certain grace still lingers
round a dead feast. It has been a happy thing. On the chairs
in disarray, among those fading flowers, beneath those extinct lights,
people have thought of joy. The sun had succeeded to the chandelier,
and made its way gayly into the drawing-room.
Several minutes elapsed. Jean Valjean stood motionless on the spot
where Basque had left him. He was very pale. His eyes were hollow,
and so sunken in his head by sleeplessness that they nearly
disappeared in their orbits. His black coat bore the weary folds
of a garment that has been up all night. The elbows were whitened
with the down which the friction of cloth against linen leaves behind it.
Jean Valjean stared at the window outlined on the polished floor
at his feet by the sun.
There came a sound at the door, and he raised his eyes.
Marius entered, his head well up, his mouth smiling, an indescribable
light on his countenance, his brow expanded, his eyes triumphant.
He had not slept either.
"It is you, father!" he exclaimed, on catching sight of Jean Valjean;
"that idiot of a Basque had such a mysterious air! But you have come
too early. It is only half past twelve. Cosette is asleep."
That word: "Father," said to M. Fauchelevent by Marius, signified:
supreme felicity. There had always existed, as the reader knows,
a lofty wall, a coldness and a constraint between them;
ice which must be broken or melted. Marius had reached that point
of intoxication when the wall was lowered, when the ice dissolved,
and when M. Fauchelevent was to him, as to Cosette, a father.
He continued: his words poured forth, as is the peculiarity
of divine paroxysms of joy.
"How glad I am to see you! If you only knew how we missed you yesterday!
Good morning, father. How is your hand? Better, is it not?"
And, satisfied with the favorable reply which he had made to himself,
"We have both been talking about you. Cosette loves you so dearly!
You must not forget that you have a chamber here, We want nothing more
to do with the Rue de l'Homme Arme. We will have no more of it at all.
How could you go to live in a street like that, which is sickly,
which is disagreeable, which is ugly, which has a barrier at one end,
where one is cold, and into which one cannot enter? You are to come
and install yourself here. And this very day. Or you will have to deal
with Cosette. She means to lead us all by the nose, I warn you.
You have your own chamber here, it is close to ours, it opens on
the garden; the trouble with the clock has been attended to, the bed
is made, it is all ready, you have only to take possession of it.
Near your bed Cosette has placed a huge, old, easy-chair covered
with Utrecht velvet and she has said to it: `Stretch out your arms
to him.' A nightingale comes to the clump of acacias opposite
your windows, every spring. In two months more you will have it.
You will have its nest on your left and ours on your right. By night
it will sing, and by day Cosette will prattle. Your chamber faces
due South. Cosette will arrange your books for you, your Voyages
of Captain Cook and the other,--Vancouver's and all your affairs.
I believe that there is a little valise to which you are attached,
I have fixed upon a corner of honor for that. You have conquered
my grandfather, you suit him. We will live together. Do you
play whist? you will overwhelm my grandfather with delight if you
play whist. It is you who shall take Cosette to walk on the days
when I am at the courts, you shall give her your arm, you know,
as you used to, in the Luxembourg. We are absolutely resolved
to be happy. And you shall be included in it, in our happiness,
do you hear, father? Come, will you breakfast with us to-day?"
"Sir," said Jean Valjean, "I have something to say to you.
I am an ex-convict."
The limit of shrill sounds perceptible can be overleaped, as well
in the case of the mind as in that of the ear. These words:
"I am an ex-convict," proceeding from the mouth of M. Fauchelevent
and entering the ear of Marius overshot the possible. It seemed to him
that something had just been said to him; but he did not know what.
He stood with his mouth wide open.
Then he perceived that the man who was addressing him was frightful.
Wholly absorbed in his own dazzled state, he had not, up to that moment,
observed the other man's terrible pallor.
Jean Valjean untied the black cravat which supported his right arm,
unrolled the linen from around his hand, bared his thumb and showed
it to Marius.
"There is nothing the matter with my hand," said he.
Marius looked at the thumb.
"There has not been anything the matter with it," went on Jean Valjean.
There was, in fact, no trace of any injury.
Jean Valjean continued:
"It was fitting that I should be absent from your marriage.
I absented myself as much as was in my power. So I invented this
injury in order that I might not commit a forgery, that I might
not introduce a flaw into the marriage documents, in order that I
might escape from signing."
"What is the meaning of this?"
"The meaning of it is," replied Jean Valjean, "that I have been
in the galleys."
"You are driving me mad!" exclaimed Marius in terror.
"Monsieur Pontmercy," said Jean Valjean, "I was nineteen years in
the galleys. For theft. Then, I was condemned for life for theft,
for a second offence. At the present moment, I have broken my ban."
In vain did Marius recoil before the reality, refuse the fact,
resist the evidence, he was forced to give way. He began to understand,
and, as always happens in such cases, he understood too much.
An inward shudder of hideous enlightenment flashed through him;
an idea which made him quiver traversed his mind. He caught
a glimpse of a wretched destiny for himself in the future.
"Say all, say all!" he cried. "You are Cosette's father!"
And he retreated a couple of paces with a movement
of indescribable horror.
Jean Valjean elevated his head with so much majesty of attitude
that he seemed to grow even to the ceiling.
"It is necessary that you should believe me here, sir; although our
oath to others may not be received in law . . ."
Here he paused, then, with a sort of sovereign and sepulchral authority,
he added, articulating slowly, and emphasizing the syllables:
". . . You will believe me. I the father of Cosette! before God, no.
Monsieur le Baron Pontmercy, I am a peasant of Faverolles.
I earned my living by pruning trees. My name is not Fauchelevent,
but Jean Valjean. I am not related to Cosette. Reassure yourself."
"Who will prove that to me?"
"I. Since I tell you so."
Marius looked at the man. He was melancholy yet tranquil. No lie
could proceed from such a calm. That which is icy is sincere.
The truth could be felt in that chill of the tomb.
"I believe you," said Marius.
Jean Valjean bent his head, as though taking note of this,
"What am I to Cosette? A passer-by. Ten years ago, I did not know
that she was in existence. I love her, it is true. One loves a child
whom one has seen when very young, being old oneself. When one is old,
one feels oneself a grandfather towards all little children.
You may, it seems to me, suppose that I have something which resembles
a heart. She was an orphan. Without either father or mother.
She needed me. That is why I began to love her. Children are
so weak that the first comer, even a man like me, can become
their protector. I have fulfilled this duty towards Cosette.
I do not think that so slight a thing can be called a good action;
but if it be a good action, well, say that I have done it.
Register this attenuating circumstance. To-day, Cosette passes
out of my life; our two roads part. Henceforth, I can do nothing
for her. She is Madame Pontmercy. Her providence has changed.
And Cosette gains by the change. All is well. As for the six
hundred thousand francs, you do not mention them to me, but I
forestall your thought, they are a deposit. How did that deposit
come into my hands? What does that matter? I restore the deposit.
Nothing more can be demanded of me. I complete the restitution
by announcing my true name. That concerns me. I have a reason
for desiring that you should know who I am."
And Jean Valjean looked Marius full in the face.
All that Marius experienced was tumultuous and incoherent.
Certain gusts of destiny produce these billows in our souls.
We have all undergone moments of trouble in which everything
within us is dispersed; we say the first things that occur to us,
which are not always precisely those which should be said.
There are sudden revelations which one cannot bear, and which
intoxicate like baleful wine. Marius was stupefied by the novel
situation which presented itself to him, to the point of addressing
that man almost like a person who was angry with him for this avowal.
"But why," he exclaimed, "do you tell me all this? Who forces
you to do so? You could have kept your secret to yourself.
You are neither denounced, nor tracked nor pursued. You have a
reason for wantonly making such a revelation. Conclude. There is
something more. In what connection do you make this confession?
What is your motive?"
"My motive?" replied Jean Valjean in a voice so low and dull that one
would have said that he was talking to himself rather than to Marius.
"From what motive, in fact, has this convict just said `I am a
convict'? Well, yes! the motive is strange. It is out of honesty.
Stay, the unfortunate point is that I have a thread in my heart,
which keeps me fast. It is when one is old that that sort of
thread is particularly solid. All life falls in ruin around one;
one resists. Had I been able to tear out that thread, to break it,
to undo the knot or to cut it, to go far away, I should have been safe.
I had only to go away; there are diligences in the Rue Bouloy;
you are happy; I am going. I have tried to break that thread,
I have jerked at it, it would not break, I tore my heart with it.
Then I said: `I cannot live anywhere else than here.' I must stay.
Well, yes, you are right, I am a fool, why not simply remain here?
You offer me a chamber in this house, Madame Pontmercy is sincerely
attached to me, she said to the arm-chair: `Stretch out your arms
to him,' your grandfather demands nothing better than to have me,
I suit him, we shall live together, and take our meals in common,
I shall give Cosette my arm . . . Madame Pontmercy, excuse me, it is
a habit, we shall have but one roof, one table, one fire, the same
chimney-corner in winter, the same promenade in summer, that is joy,
that is happiness, that is everything. We shall live as one family.
At that word, Jean Valjean became wild. He folded his arms,
glared at the floor beneath his feet as though he would have excavated
an abyss therein, and his voice suddenly rose in thundering tones:
"As one family! No. I belong to no family. I do not belong to yours.
I do not belong to any family of men. In houses where people
are among themselves, I am superfluous. There are families,
but there is nothing of the sort for me. I am an unlucky wretch;
I am left outside. Did I have a father and mother? I almost doubt it.
On the day when I gave that child in marriage, all came to an end.
I have seen her happy, and that she is with a man whom she loves,
and that there exists here a kind old man, a household of two angels,
and all joys in that house, and that it was well, I said to myself:
`Enter thou not.' I could have lied, it is true, have deceived you all,
and remained Monsieur Fauchelevent. So long as it was for her,
I could lie; but now it would be for myself, and I must not. It was
sufficient for me to hold my peace, it is true, and all would go on.
You ask me what has forced me to speak? a very odd thing; my conscience.
To hold my peace was very easy, however. I passed the night in trying
to persuade myself to it; you questioned me, and what I have just
said to you is so extraordinary that you have the right to do it;
well, yes, I have passed the night in alleging reasons to myself,
and I gave myself very good reasons, I have done what I could.
But there are two things in which I have not succeeded; in breaking
the thread that holds me fixed, riveted and sealed here by the heart,
or in silencing some one who speaks softly to me when I am alone.
That is why I have come hither to tell you everything this morning.
Everything or nearly everything. It is useless to tell you
that which concerns only myself; I keep that to myself. You know
the essential points. So I have taken my mystery and have brought
it to you. And I have disembowelled my secret before your eyes.
It was not a resolution that was easy to take. I struggled all
night long. Ah! you think that I did not tell myself that this
was no Champmathieu affair, that by concealing my name I was doing
no one any injury, that the name of Fauchelevent had been given
to me by Fauchelevent himself, out of gratitude for a service
rendered to him, and that I might assuredly keep it, and that I
should be happy in that chamber which you offer me, that I should
not be in any one's way, that I should be in my own little corner,
and that, while you would have Cosette, I should have the idea that I
was in the same house with her. Each one of us would have had his
share of happiness. If I continued to be Monsieur Fauchelevent,
that would arrange everything. Yes, with the exception of my soul.
There was joy everywhere upon my surface, but the bottom of my soul
remained black. It is not enough to be happy, one must be content.
Thus I should have remained Monsieur Fauchelevent, thus I should have
concealed my true visage, thus, in the presence of your expansion,
I should have had an enigma, thus, in the midst of your full noonday,
I should have had shadows, thus, without crying `'ware,' I should
have simply introduced the galleys to your fireside, I should have
taken my seat at your table with the thought that if you knew
who I was, you would drive me from it, I should have allowed myself
to be served by domestics who, had they known, would have said:
`How horrible!' I should have touched you with my elbow,
which you have a right to dislike, I should have filched your clasps
of the hand! There would have existed in your house a division
of respect between venerable white locks and tainted white locks;
at your most intimate hours, when all hearts thought themselves open
to the very bottom to all the rest, when we four were together,
your grandfather, you two and myself, a stranger would have been present!
I should have been side by side with you in your existence,
having for my only care not to disarrange the cover of my dreadful pit.
Thus, I, a dead man, should have thrust myself upon you who are
living beings. I should have condemned her to myself forever.
You and Cosette and I would have had all three of our heads in
the green cap! Does it not make you shudder? I am only the most
crushed of men; I should have been the most monstrous of men.
And I should have committed that crime every day! And I should
have had that face of night upon my visage every day! every day!
And I should have communicated to you a share in my taint every
day! every day! to you, my dearly beloved, my children, to you,
my innocent creatures! Is it nothing to hold one's peace? is it
a simple matter to keep silence? No, it is not simple. There is
a silence which lies. And my lie, and my fraud and my indignity,
and my cowardice and my treason and my crime, I should have drained
drop by drop, I should have spit it out, then swallowed it again,
I should have finished at midnight and have begun again at midday,
and my `good morning' would have lied, and my `good night'
would have lied, and I should have slept on it, I should have eaten it,
with my bread, and I should have looked Cosette in the face,
and I should have responded to the smile of the angel by the smile
of the damned soul, and I should have been an abominable villain!
Why should I do it? in order to be happy. In order to be happy.
Have I the right to be happy? I stand outside of life,
Jean Valjean paused. Marius listened. Such chains of ideas and of
anguishes cannot be interrupted. Jean Valjean lowered his voice
once more, but it was no longer a dull voice--it was a sinister voice.
"You ask why I speak? I am neither denounced, nor pursued, nor tracked,
you say. Yes! I am denounced! yes! I am tracked! By whom?
By myself. It is I who bar the passage to myself, and I drag myself,
and I push myself, and I arrest myself, and I execute myself,
and when one holds oneself, one is firmly held."
And, seizing a handful of his own coat by the nape of the neck
and extending it towards Marius:
"Do you see that fist?" he continued. "Don't you think that
it holds that collar in such a wise as not to release it?
Well! conscience is another grasp! If one desires to be happy,
sir, one must never understand duty; for, as soon as one has
comprehended it, it is implacable. One would say that it
punished you for comprehending it; but no, it rewards you; for it
places you in a hell, where you feel God beside you. One has
no sooner lacerated his own entrails than he is at peace with himself."
And, with a poignant accent, he added:
"Monsieur Pontmercy, this is not common sense, I am an honest man.
It is by degrading myself in your eyes that I elevate myself in my own.
This has happened to me once before, but it was less painful then;
it was a mere nothing. Yes, an honest man. I should not be so if,
through my fault, you had continued to esteem me; now that you
despise me, I am so. I have that fatality hanging over me that,
not being able to ever have anything but stolen consideration,
that consideration humiliates me, and crushes me inwardly, and,
in order that I may respect myself, it is necessary that I should
be despised. Then I straighten up again. I am a galley-slave who
obeys his conscience. I know well that that is most improbable.
But what would you have me do about it? it is the fact. I have entered
into engagements with myself; I keep them. There are encounters
which bind us, there are chances which involve us in duties.
You see, Monsieur Pontmercy, various things have happened to me in
the course of my life."
Again Jean Valjean paused, swallowing his saliva with an effort,
as though his words had a bitter after-taste, and then he went on:
"When one has such a horror hanging over one, one has not the right
to make others share it without their knowledge, one has not the right
to make them slip over one's own precipice without their perceiving it,
one has not the right to let one's red blouse drag upon them,
one has no right to slyly encumber with one's misery the happiness
of others. It is hideous to approach those who are healthy,
and to touch them in the dark with one's ulcer. In spite of the fact
that Fauchelevent lent me his name, I have no right to use it;
he could give it to me, but I could not take it. A name is an _I_.
You see, sir, that I have thought somewhat, I have read a little,
although I am a peasant; and you see that I express myself properly.
I understand things. I have procured myself an education. Well, yes,
to abstract a name and to place oneself under it is dishonest.
Letters of the alphabet can be filched, like a purse or a watch.
To be a false signature in flesh and blood, to be a living false key,
to enter the house of honest people by picking their lock,
never more to look straightforward, to forever eye askance,
to be infamous within the _I_, no! no! no! no! no! It is better
to suffer, to bleed, to weep, to tear one's skin from the flesh
with one's nails, to pass nights writhing in anguish, to devour
oneself body and soul. That is why I have just told you all this.
Wantonly, as you say."
He drew a painful breath, and hurled this final word:
"In days gone by, I stole a loaf of bread in order to live;
to-day, in order to live, I will not steal a name."
"To live!" interrupted Marius. "You do not need that name in order
"Ah! I understand the matter," said Jean Valjean, raising and
lowering his head several times in succession.
A silence ensued. Both held their peace, each plunged in a gulf
of thoughts. Marius was sitting near a table and resting the
corner of his mouth on one of his fingers, which was folded back.
Jean Valjean was pacing to and fro. He paused before a mirror,
and remained motionless. Then, as though replying to some inward
course of reasoning, he said, as he gazed at the mirror, which he did
"While, at present, I am relieved."
He took up his march again, and walked to the other end of the
drawing-room. At the moment when he turned round, he perceived that Marius
was watching his walk. Then he said, with an inexpressible intonation:
"I drag my leg a little. Now you understand why!"
Then he turned fully round towards Marius:
"And now, sir, imagine this: I have said nothing, I have remained
Monsieur Fauchelevent, I have taken my place in your house,
I am one of you, I am in my chamber, I come to breakfast in the
morning in slippers, in the evening all three of us go to the play,
I accompany Madame Pontmercy to the Tuileries, and to the Place Royale,
we are together, you think me your equal; one fine day you are there,
and I am there, we are conversing, we are laughing; all at once,
you hear a voice shouting this name: `Jean Valjean!' and behold,
that terrible hand, the police, darts from the darkness, and abruptly
tears off my mask!"
Again he paused; Marius had sprung to his feet with a shudder.
Jean Valjean resumed:
"What do you say to that?"
Marius' silence answered for him.
Jean Valjean continued:
"You see that I am right in not holding my peace. Be happy, be in heaven,
be the angel of an angel, exist in the sun, be content therewith,
and do not trouble yourself about the means which a poor damned
wretch takes to open his breast and force his duty to come forth;
you have before you, sir, a wretched man."
Marius slowly crossed the room, and, when he was quite close
to Jean Valjean, he offered the latter his hand.
But Marius was obliged to step up and take that hand which was
not offered, Jean Valjean let him have his own way, and it seemed
to Marius that he pressed a hand of marble.
"My grandfather has friends," said Marius; "I will procure your pardon."
"It is useless," replied Jean Valjean. "I am believed to be dead,
and that suffices. The dead are not subjected to surveillance.
They are supposed to rot in peace. Death is the same thing
And, disengaging the hand which Marius held, he added, with a sort
of inexorable dignity:
"Moreover, the friend to whom I have recourse is the doing of my duty;
and I need but one pardon, that of my conscience."
At that moment, a door at the other end of the drawing-room opened
gently half way, and in the opening Cosette's head appeared.
They saw only her sweet face, her hair was in charming disorder,
her eyelids were still swollen with sleep. She made the movement
of a bird, which thrusts its head out of its nest, glanced first at
her husband, then at Jean Valjean, and cried to them with a smile,
so that they seemed to behold a smile at the heart of a rose:
"I will wager that you are talking politics. How stupid that is,
instead of being with me!"
Jean Valjean shuddered.
"Cosette! . . ." stammered Marius.
And he paused. One would have said that they were two criminals.
Cosette, who was radiant, continued to gaze at both of them.
There was something in her eyes like gleams of paradise.
"I have caught you in the very act," said Cosette. "Just now,
I heard my father Fauchelevent through the door saying: `Conscience .
. . doing my duty . . .' That is politics, indeed it is. I will
not have it. People should not talk politics the very next day.
It is not right."
"You are mistaken. Cosette," said Marius, "we are talking business.
We are discussing the best investment of your six hundred thousand
francs . . ."
"That is not it at all " interrupted Cosette. "I am coming.
Does any body want me here?"
And, passing resolutely through the door, she entered the drawing-room.
She was dressed in a voluminous white dressing-gown, with a thousand
folds and large sleeves which, starting from the neck, fell to
her feet. In the golden heavens of some ancient gothic pictures,
there are these charming sacks fit to clothe the angels.
She contemplated herself from head to foot in a long mirror,
then exclaimed, in an outburst of ineffable ecstasy:
"There was once a King and a Queen. Oh! how happy I am!"
That said, she made a curtsey to Marius and to Jean Valjean.
"There," said she, "I am going to install myself near you in an
easy-chair, we breakfast in half an hour, you shall say anything
you like, I know well that men must talk, and I will be very good."
Marius took her by the arm and said lovingly to her:
"We are talking business."
"By the way," said Cosette, "I have opened my window, a flock
of pierrots has arrived in the garden,--Birds, not maskers.
To-day is Ash-Wednesday; but not for the birds."
"I tell you that we are talking business, go, my little Cosette,
leave us alone for a moment. We are talking figures. That will
"You have a charming cravat on this morning, Marius. You are
very dandified, monseigneur. No, it will not bore me."
"I assure you that it will bore you."
"No. Since it is you. I shall not understand you, but I shall
listen to you. When one hears the voices of those whom one loves,
one does not need to understand the words that they utter.
That we should be here together--that is all that I desire.
I shall remain with you, bah!"
"You are my beloved Cosette! Impossible."
"Very good," said Cosette. "I was going to tell you some news.
I could have told you that your grandfather is still asleep,
that your aunt is at mass, that the chimney in my father Fauchelevent's
room smokes, that Nicolette has sent for the chimney-sweep, that
Toussaint and Nicolette have already quarrelled, that Nicolette
makes sport of Toussaint's stammer. Well, you shall know nothing.
Ah! it is impossible? you shall see, gentlemen, that I, in my turn,
can say: It is impossible. Then who will be caught? I beseech you,
my little Marius, let me stay here with you two."
"I swear to you, that it is indispensable that we should be alone."
"Well, am I anybody?"
Jean Valjean had not uttered a single word. Cosette turned to him:
"In the first place, father, I want you to come and embrace me.
What do you mean by not saying anything instead of taking my part? who
gave me such a father as that? You must perceive that my family life
is very unhappy. My husband beats me. Come, embrace me instantly."
Jean Valjean approached.
Cosette turned toward Marius.
"As for you, I shall make a face at you."
Then she presented her brow to Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean advanced a step toward her.
"Father, you are pale. Does your arm hurt you?"
"It is well," said Jean Valjean.
"Did you sleep badly?"
"Are you sad?"
"Embrace me if you are well, if you sleep well, if you are content,
I will not scold you."
And again she offered him her brow.
Jean Valjean dropped a kiss upon that brow whereon rested
a celestial gleam.
Jean Valjean obeyed. It was the smile of a spectre.
"Now, defend me against my husband."
"Cosette! . . ." ejaculated Marius.
"Get angry, father. Say that I must stay. You can certainly
talk before me. So you think me very silly. What you say is
astonishing! business, placing money in a bank a great matter truly.
Men make mysteries out of nothing. I am very pretty this morning.
Look at me, Marius."
And with an adorable shrug of the shoulders, and an indescribably
exquisite pout, she glanced at Marius.
"I love you!" said Marius.
"I adore you!" said Cosette.
And they fell irresistibly into each other's arms.
"Now," said Cosette, adjusting a fold of her dressing-gown,
with a triumphant little grimace, "I shall stay."
"No, not that," said Marius, in a supplicating tone. "We have
to finish something."
Marius assumed a grave tone:
"I assure you, Cosette, that it is impossible."
"Ah! you put on your man's voice, sir. That is well, I go.
You, father, have not upheld me. Monsieur my father, monsieur
my husband, you are tyrants. I shall go and tell grandpapa.
If you think that I am going to return and talk platitudes to you,
you are mistaken. I am proud. I shall wait for you now.
You shall see, that it is you who are going to be bored without me.
I am going, it is well."
And she left the room.
Two seconds later, the door opened once more, her fresh and rosy
head was again thrust between the two leaves, and she cried to them:
"I am very angry indeed."
The door closed again, and the shadows descended once more.
It was as though a ray of sunlight should have suddenly traversed
the night, without itself being conscious of it.
Marius made sure that the door was securely closed.
"Poor Cosette!" he murmured, "when she finds out . . ."
At that word Jean Valjean trembled in every limb. He fixed
on Marius a bewildered eye.
"Cosette! oh yes, it is true, you are going to tell Cosette about this.
That is right. Stay, I had not thought of that. One has the
strength for one thing, but not for another. Sir, I conjure you,
I entreat now, sir, give me your most sacred word of honor, that you
will not tell her. Is it not enough that you should know it?
I have been able to say it myself without being forced to it,
I could have told it to the universe, to the whole world,--it was
all one to me. But she, she does not know what it is, it would
terrify her. What, a convict! we should be obliged to explain matters
to her, to say to her: `He is a man who has been in the galleys.'
She saw the chain-gang pass by one day. Oh! My God!" . . . He
dropped into an arm-chair and hid his face in his hands.
His grief was not audible, but from the quivering of his shoulders
it was evident that he was weeping. Silent tears, terrible tears.
There is something of suffocation in the sob. He was seized with a
sort of convulsion, he threw himself against the back of the chair
as though to gain breath, letting his arms fall, and allowing Marius
to see his face inundated with tears, and Marius heard him murmur,
so low that his voice seemed to issue from fathomless depths:
"Oh! would that I could die!"
"Be at your ease," said Marius, "I will keep your secret for
myself alone." x And, less touched, perhaps, than he ought to
have been, but forced, for the last hour, to familiarize himself
with something as unexpected as it was dreadful, gradually beholding
the convict superposed before his very eyes, upon M. Fauchelevent,
overcome, little by little, by that lugubrious reality, and led,
by the natural inclination of the situation, to recognize the space
which had just been placed between that man and himself, Marius added:
"It is impossible that I should not speak a word to you with regard
to the deposit which you have so faithfully and honestly remitted.
That is an act of probity. It is just that some recompense should be
bestowed on you. Fix the sum yourself, it shall be counted out to you.
Do not fear to set it very high."
"I thank you, sir," replied Jean Valjean, gently.
He remained in thought for a moment, mechanically passing the tip
of his fore-finger across his thumb-nail, then he lifted up his voice:
"All is nearly over. But one last thing remains for me . . ."
"What is it?"
Jean Valjean struggled with what seemed a last hesitation, and,
without voice, without breath, he stammered rather than said:
"Now that you know, do you think, sir, you, who are the master,
that I ought not to see Cosette any more?"
"I think that would be better," replied Marius coldly.
"I shall never see her more," murmured Jean Valjean. And he
directed his steps towards the door.
He laid his hand on the knob, the latch yielded, the door opened.
Jean Valjean pushed it open far enough to pass through, stood motionless
for a second, then closed the door again and turned to Marius.
He was no longer pale, he was livid. There were no longer any
tears in his eyes, but only a sort of tragic flame. His voice
had regained a strange composure.
"Stay, sir," he said. "If you will allow it, I will come to see her.
I assure you that I desire it greatly. If I had not cared to
see Cosette, I should not have made to you the confession that I
have made, I should have gone away; but, as I desired to remain
in the place where Cosette is, and to continue to see her,
I had to tell you about it honestly. You follow my reasoning,
do you not? it is a matter easily understood. You see, I have had
her with me for more than nine years. We lived first in that hut
on the boulevard, then in the convent, then near the Luxembourg.
That was where you saw her for the first time. You remember
her blue plush hat. Then we went to the Quartier des Invalides,
where there was a railing on a garden, the Rue Plumet. I lived
in a little back court-yard, whence I could hear her piano.
That was my life. We never left each other. That lasted for nine
years and some months. I was like her own father, and she was
my child. I do not know whether you understand, Monsieur Pontmercy,
but to go away now, never to see her again, never to speak to
her again, to no longer have anything, would be hard. If you do not
disapprove of it, I will come to see Cosette from time to time.
I will not come often. I will not remain long. You shall give
orders that I am to be received in the little waiting-room. On
the ground floor. I could enter perfectly well by the back door,
but that might create surprise perhaps, and it would be better,
I think, for me to enter by the usual door. Truly, sir, I should
like to see a little more of Cosette. As rarely as you please.
Put yourself in my place, I have nothing left but that. And then,
we must be cautious. If I no longer come at all, it would produce
a bad effect, it would be considered singular. What I can do,
by the way, is to come in the afternoon, when night is beginning
"You shall come every evening," said Marius, "and Cosette will
be waiting for you."
"You are kind, sir," said Jean Valjean.
Marius saluted Jean Valjean, happiness escorted despair to the door,
and these two men parted.
THE OBSCURITIES WHICH A REVELATION CAN CONTAIN
Marius was quite upset.
The sort of estrangement which he had always felt towards the man
beside whom he had seen Cosette, was now explained to him.
There was something enigmatic about that person, of which his
instinct had warned him.
This enigma was the most hideous of disgraces, the galleys.
This M. Fauchelevent was the convict Jean Valjean.
To abruptly find such a secret in the midst of one's happiness
resembles the discovery of a scorpion in a nest of turtledoves.
Was the happiness of Marius and Cosette thenceforth condemned
to such a neighborhood? Was this an accomplished fact? Did the
acceptance of that man form a part of the marriage now consummated?
Was there nothing to be done?
Had Marius wedded the convict as well?
In vain may one be crowned with light and joy, in vain may one taste
the grand purple hour of life, happy love, such shocks would force
even the archangel in his ecstasy, even the demigod in his glory,
As is always the case in changes of view of this nature, Marius asked
himself whether he had nothing with which to reproach himself.
Had he been wanting in divination? Had he been wanting in prudence?
Had he involuntarily dulled his wits? A little, perhaps. Had he
entered upon this love affair, which had ended in his marriage
to Cosette, without taking sufficient precautions to throw light
upon the surroundings? He admitted,--it is thus, by a series
of successive admissions of ourselves in regard to ourselves,
that life amends us, little by little,--he admitted the chimerical
and visionary side of his nature, a sort of internal cloud peculiar
to many organizations, and which, in paroxysms of passion and sorrow,
dilates as the temperature of the soul changes, and invades the
entire man, to such a degree as to render him nothing more than a
conscience bathed in a mist. We have more than once indicated this
characteristic element of Marius' individuality.
He recalled that, in the intoxication of his love, in the Rue Plumet,
during those six or seven ecstatic weeks, he had not even spoke
to Cosette of that drama in the Gorbeau hovel, where the victim
had taken up such a singular line of silence during the struggle
and the ensuing flight. How had it happened that he had not
mentioned this to Cosette? Yet it was so near and so terrible!
How had it come to pass that he had not even named the Thenardiers,
and, particularly, on the day when he had encountered Eponine?
He now found it almost difficult to explain his silence of that time.
Nevertheless, he could account for it. He recalled his benumbed
state, his intoxication with Cosette, love absorbing everything,
that catching away of each other into the ideal, and perhaps also,
like the imperceptible quantity of reason mingled with this violent
and charming state of the soul, a vague, dull instinct impelling him
to conceal and abolish in his memory that redoubtable adventure,
contact with which he dreaded, in which he did not wish to play
any part, his agency in which he had kept secret, and in which he
could be neither narrator nor witness without being an accuser.
Moreover, these few weeks had been a flash of lightning; there had
been no time for anything except love.
In short, having weighed everything, turned everything over in his mind,
examined everything, whatever might have been the consequences if he
had told Cosette about the Gorbeau ambush, even if he had discovered
that Jean Valjean was a convict, would that have changed him, Marius?
Would that have changed her, Cosette? Would he have drawn back?
Would he have adored her any the less? Would he have refrained
from marrying her? No. Then there was nothing to regret,
nothing with which he need reproach himself. All was well.
There is a deity for those drunken men who are called lovers.
Marius blind, had followed the path which he would have chosen had he
been in full possession of his sight. Love had bandaged his eyes,
in order to lead him whither? To paradise.
But this paradise was henceforth complicated
with an infernal accompaniment.
Marius' ancient estrangement towards this man, towards this Fauchelevent
who had turned into Jean Valjean, was at present mingled with horror.
In this horror, let us state, there was some pity, and even
a certain surprise.
This thief, this thief guilty of a second offence, had restored
that deposit. And what a deposit! Six hundred thousand francs.
He alone was in the secret of that deposit. He might have kept
it all, he had restored it all.
Moreover, he had himself revealed his situation. Nothing forced him
to this. If any one learned who he was, it was through himself.
In this avowal there was something more than acceptance of humiliation,
there was acceptance of peril. For a condemned man, a mask is not
a mask, it is a shelter. A false name is security, and he had rejected
that false name. He, the galley-slave, might have hidden himself
forever in an honest family; he had withstood this temptation.
And with what motive? Through a conscientious scruple.
He himself explained this with the irresistible accents of truth.
In short, whatever this Jean Valjean might be, he was, undoubtedly,
a conscience which was awakening. There existed some mysterious
re-habilitation which had begun; and, to all appearances,
scruples had for a long time already controlled this man. Such fits
of justice and goodness are not characteristic of vulgar natures.
An awakening of conscience is grandeur of soul.
Jean Valjean was sincere. This sincerity, visible, palpable,
irrefragable, evident from the very grief that it caused him, rendered
inquiries useless, and conferred authority on all that that man had said.
Here, for Marius, there was a strange reversal of situations.
What breathed from M. Fauchelevent? distrust. What did Jean Valjean
In the mysterious balance of this Jean Valjean which the pensive
Marius struck, he admitted the active principle, he admitted
the passive principle, and he tried to reach a balance.
But all this went on as in a storm. Marius, while endeavoring
to form a clear idea of this man, and while pursuing Jean Valjean,
so to speak, in the depths of his thought, lost him and found him
again in a fatal mist.
The deposit honestly restored, the probity of the confession--
these were good. This produced a lightening of the cloud,
then the cloud became black once more.
Troubled as were Marius' memories, a shadow of them returned to him.
After all, what was that adventure in the Jondrette attic?
Why had that man taken to flight on the arrival of the police,
instead of entering a complaint?
Here Marius found the answer. Because that man was a fugitive
from justice, who had broken his ban.
Another question: Why had that man come to the barricade?
For Marius now once more distinctly beheld that recollection
which had re-appeared in his emotions like sympathetic ink at
the application of heat. This man had been in the barricade.
He had not fought there. What had he come there for? In the presence
of this question a spectre sprang up and replied: "Javert."
Marius recalled perfectly now that funereal sight of Jean Valjean
dragging the pinioned Javert out of the barricade, and he still
heard behind the corner of the little Rue Mondetour that frightful
pistol shot. Obviously, there was hatred between that police spy
and the galley-slave. The one was in the other's way. Jean Valjean
had gone to the barricade for the purpose of revenging himself.
He had arrived late. He probably knew that Javert was a prisoner there.
The Corsican vendetta has penetrated to certain lower strata and has
become the law there; it is so simple that it does not astonish
souls which are but half turned towards good; and those hearts are
so constituted that a criminal, who is in the path of repentance,
may be scrupulous in the matter of theft and unscrupulous in the
matter of vengeance. Jean Valjean had killed Javert. At least,
that seemed to be evident.
This was the final question, to be sure; but to this there was
no reply. This question Marius felt like pincers. How had it come
to pass that Jean Valjean's existence had elbowed that of Cosette
for so long a period?
What melancholy sport of Providence was that which had placed
that child in contact with that man? Are there then chains
for two which are forged on high? and does God take pleasure
in coupling the angel with the demon? So a crime and an innocence
can be room-mates in the mysterious galleys of wretchedness?
In that defiling of condemned persons which is called human destiny,
can two brows pass side by side, the one ingenuous, the other
formidable, the one all bathed in the divine whiteness of dawn,
the other forever blemished by the flash of an eternal lightning?
Who could have arranged that inexplicable pairing off? In what manner,
in consequence of what prodigy, had any community of life been
established between this celestial little creature and that old criminal?
Who could have bound the lamb to the wolf, and, what was still
more incomprehensible, have attached the wolf to the lamb?
For the wolf loved the lamb, for the fierce creature adored
the feeble one, for, during the space of nine years, the angel
had had the monster as her point of support. Cosette's childhood
and girlhood, her advent in the daylight, her virginal growth towards
life and light, had been sheltered by that hideous devotion.
Here questions exfoliated, so to speak, into innumerable enigmas,
abysses yawned at the bottoms of abysses, and Marius could no longer bend
over Jean Valjean without becoming dizzy. What was this man-precipice?
The old symbols of Genesis are eternal; in human society, such as it
now exists, and until a broader day shall effect a change in it,
there will always be two men, the one superior, the other subterranean;
the one which is according to good is Abel; the other which is
according to evil is Cain. What was this tender Cain? What was
this ruffian religiously absorbed in the adoration of a virgin,
watching over her, rearing her, guarding her, dignifying her,
and enveloping her, impure as he was himself, with purity?
What was that cess-pool which had venerated that innocence to such
a point as not to leave upon it a single spot? What was this Jean
Valjean educating Cosette? What was this figure of the shadows
which had for its only object the preservation of the rising
of a star from every shadow and from every cloud?
That was Jean Valjean's secret; that was also God's secret.
In the presence of this double secret, Marius recoiled. The one,
in some sort, reassured him as to the other. God was as visible
in this affair as was Jean Valjean. God has his instruments.
He makes use of the tool which he wills. He is not responsible
to men. Do we know how God sets about the work? Jean Valjean
had labored over Cosette. He had, to some extent, made that soul.
That was incontestable. Well, what then? The workman was horrible;
but the work was admirable. God produces his miracles as seems
good to him. He had constructed that charming Cosette, and he had
employed Jean Valjean. It had pleased him to choose this strange
collaborator for himself. What account have we to demand of him?
Is this the first time that the dung-heap has aided the spring to create
Marius made himself these replies, and declared to himself that they
were good. He had not dared to press Jean Valjean on all the points
which we have just indicated, but he did not confess to himself that
he did not dare to do it. He adored Cosette, he possessed Cosette,
Cosette was splendidly pure. That was sufficient for him.
What enlightenment did he need? Cosette was a light. Does light require
enlightenment? He had everything; what more could he desire? All,--
is not that enough? Jean Valjean's personal affairs did not concern him.
And bending over the fatal shadow of that man, he clung fast,
convulsively, to the solemn declaration of that unhappy wretch:
"I am nothing to Cosette. Ten years ago I did not know that she
was in existence."
Jean Valjean was a passer-by. He had said so himself.
Well, he had passed. Whatever he was, his part was finished.
Henceforth, there remained Marius to fulfil the part of Providence
to Cosette. Cosette had sought the azure in a person like herself,
in her lover, her husband, her celestial male. Cosette, as she took
her flight, winged and transfigured, left behind her on the earth
her hideous and empty chrysalis, Jean Valjean.
In whatever circle of ideas Marius revolved, he always returned
to a certain horror for Jean Valjean. A sacred horror, perhaps, for,
as we have just pointed out, he felt a quid divinum in that man.
But do what he would, and seek what extenuation he would, he was
certainly forced to fall back upon this: the man was a convict;
that is to say, a being who has not even a place in the social ladder,
since he is lower than the very lowest rung. After the very last
of men comes the convict. The convict is no longer, so to speak,
in the semblance of the living. The law has deprived him of the entire
quantity of humanity of which it can deprive a man.
Marius, on penal questions, still held to the inexorable system,
though he was a democrat and he entertained all the ideas of the
law on the subject of those whom the law strikes. He had not yet
accomplished all progress, we admit. He had not yet come to distinguish
between that which is written by man and that which is written by God,
between law and right. He had not examined and weighed the right
which man takes to dispose of the irrevocable and the irreparable.
He was not shocked by the word vindicte. He found it quite simple
that certain breaches of the written law should be followed by
eternal suffering, and he accepted, as the process of civilization,
social damnation. He still stood at this point, though safe to advance
infallibly later on, since his nature was good, and, at bottom,
wholly formed of latent progress.
In this stage of his ideas, Jean Valjean appeared to him hideous
and repulsive. He was a man reproved, he was the convict.
That word was for him like the sound of the trump on the Day
of Judgment; and, after having reflected upon Jean Valjean for
a long time, his final gesture had been to turn away his head.
Marius, if we must recognize and even insist upon the fact,
while interrogating Jean Valjean to such a point that Jean Valjean
had said: "You are confessing me," had not, nevertheless, put to
him two or three decisive questions.
It was not that they had not presented themselves to his mind,
but that he had been afraid of them. The Jondrette attic?
The barricade? Javert? Who knows where these revelations would
have stopped? Jean Valjean did not seem like a man who would
draw back, and who knows whether Marius, after having urged him on,
would not have himself desired to hold him back?
Has it not happened to all of us, in certain supreme conjunctures,
to stop our ears in order that we may not hear the reply, after we have
asked a question? It is especially when one loves that one gives way
to these exhibitions of cowardice. It is not wise to question sinister
situations to the last point, particularly when the indissoluble side
of our life is fatally intermingled with them. What a terrible light
might have proceeded from the despairing explanations of Jean Valjean,
and who knows whether that hideous glare would not have darted
forth as far as Cosette? Who knows whether a sort of infernal
glow would not have lingered behind it on the brow of that angel?
The spattering of a lightning-flash is of the thunder also.
Fatality has points of juncture where innocence itself is stamped
with crime by the gloomy law of the reflections which give color.
The purest figures may forever preserve the reflection of a
horrible association. Rightly or wrongly, Marius had been afraid.
He already knew too much. He sought to dull his senses rather
than to gain further light.
In dismay he bore off Cosette in his arms and shut his eyes
to Jean Valjean.
That man was the night, the living and horrible night.
How should he dare to seek the bottom of it? It is a terrible thing
to interrogate the shadow. Who knows what its reply will be?
The dawn may be blackened forever by it.
In this state of mind the thought that that man would, henceforth,
come into any contact whatever with Cosette was a heartrending
perplexity to Marius.
He now almost reproached himself for not having put those
formidable questions, before which he had recoiled, and from
which an implacable and definitive decision might have sprung.
He felt that he was too good, too gentle, too weak, if we must say
the word. This weakness had led him to an imprudent concession.
He had allowed himself to be touched. He had been in the wrong.
He ought to have simply and purely rejected Jean Valjean. Jean Valjean
played the part of fire, and that is what he should have done,
and have freed his house from that man.
He was vexed with himself, he was angry with that whirlwind
of emotions which had deafened, blinded, and carried him away.
He was displeased with himself.
What was he to do now? Jean Valjean's visits were profoundly repugnant
to him. What was the use in having that man in his house? What did
the man want? Here, he became dismayed, he did not wish to dig down,
he did not wish to penetrate deeply; he did not wish to sound himself.
He had promised, he had allowed himself to be drawn into a promise;
Jean Valjean held his promise; one must keep one's word even to a convict,
above all to a convict. Still, his first duty was to Cosette.
In short, he was carried away by the repugnance which dominated him.
Marius turned over all this confusion of ideas in his mind,
passing from one to the other, and moved by all of them.
Hence arose a profound trouble.
It was not easy for him to hide this trouble from Cosette, but love
is a talent, and Marius succeeded in doing it.
However, without any apparent object, he questioned Cosette,
who was as candid as a dove is white and who suspected nothing;
he talked of her childhood and her youth, and he became more
and more convinced that that convict had been everything good,
paternal and respectable that a man can be towards Cosette.
All that Marius had caught a glimpse of and had surmised was real.
That sinister nettle had loved and protected that lily.
BOOK EIGHTH.--FADING AWAY OF THE TWILIGHT
THE LOWER CHAMBER
On the following day, at nightfall, Jean Valjean knocked at the carriage
gate of the Gillenormand house. It was Basque who received him.
Basque was in the courtyard at the appointed hour, as though he had
received his orders. It sometimes happens that one says to a servant:
"You will watch for Mr. So and So, when he arrives."
Basque addressed Jean Valjean without waiting for the latter
to approach him:
"Monsieur le Baron has charged me to inquire whether monsieur
desires to go upstairs or to remain below?"
"I will remain below," replied Jean Valjean.
Basque, who was perfectly respectful, opened the door of the
waiting-room and said:
"I will go and inform Madame."
The room which Jean Valjean entered was a damp, vaulted room on the ground
floor, which served as a cellar on occasion, which opened on the street,
was paved with red squares and was badly lighted by a grated window.
This chamber was not one of those which are harassed by
the feather-duster, the pope's head brush, and the broom.
The dust rested tranquilly there. Persecution of the spiders
was not organized there. A fine web, which spread far and wide,
and was very black and ornamented with dead flies, formed a wheel
on one of the window-panes. The room, which was small and low-ceiled,
was furnished with a heap of empty bottles piled up in one corner.
The wall, which was daubed with an ochre yellow wash, was scaling
off in large flakes. At one end there was a chimney-piece
painted in black with a narrow shelf. A fire was burning there;
which indicated that Jean Valjean's reply: "I will remain below,"
had been foreseen.
Two arm-chairs were placed at the two corners of the fireplace.
Between the chairs an old bedside rug, which displayed more foundation
thread than wool, had been spread by way of a carpet.
The chamber was lighted by the fire on the hearth and the twilight
falling through the window.
Jean Valjean was fatigued. For days he had neither eaten nor slept.
He threw himself into one of the arm-chairs.
Basque returned, set a lighted candle on the chimney-piece and retired.
Jean Valjean, his head drooping and his chin resting on his breast,
perceived neither Basque nor the candle.
All at once, he drew himself up with a start. Cosette was standing
He had not seen her enter, but he had felt that she was there.
He turned round. He gazed at her. She was adorably lovely.
But what he was contemplating with that profound gaze was not her
beauty but her soul.
"Well," exclaimed Cosette, "father, I knew that you were peculiar,
but I never should have expected this. What an idea! Marius told
me that you wish me to receive you here."
"Yes, it is my wish."
"I expected that reply. Good. I warn you that I am going to make
a scene for you. Let us begin at the beginning. Embrace me, father."
And she offered him her cheek.
Jean Valjean remained motionless.
"You do not stir. I take note of it. Attitude of guilt.
But never mind, I pardon you. Jesus Christ said: Offer the
other cheek. Here it is."
And she presented her other cheek.
Jean Valjean did not move. It seemed as though his feet were nailed
to the pavement.
"This is becoming serious," said Cosette. "What have I done to you?
I declare that I am perplexed. You owe me reparation. You will dine
"I have dined."
"That is not true. I will get M. Gillenormand to scold you.
Grandfathers are made to reprimand fathers. Come. Go upstairs
with me to the drawing-room. Immediately."
Here Cosette lost ground a little. She ceased to command and passed
"But why? and you choose the ugliest chamber in the house in which
to see me. It's horrible here."
"Thou knowest . . ."
Jean Valjean caught himself up.
"You know, madame, that I am peculiar, I have my freaks."
Cosette struck her tiny hands together.
"Madame! . . . You know! . . . more novelties! What is the meaning
Jean Valjean directed upon her that heartrending smile to which he
occasionally had recourse:
"You wished to be Madame. You are so."
"Not for you, father."
"Do not call me father."
"Call me `Monsieur Jean.' `Jean,' if you like."
"You are no longer my father? I am no longer Cosette?
`Monsieur Jean'? What does this mean? why, these are revolutions,
aren't they? what has taken place? come, look me in the face.
And you won't live with us! And you won't have my chamber!