Les Misérables by Victor Hugo 1


By Victor Hugo

Translated by Isabel F. Hapgood

Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.
No. 13, Astor Place
New York

Copyright 1887

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         I.  M. Myriel
        II.  M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome
       III.  A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop
        IV.  Works corresponding to Words
         V.  Monseigneur Bienvenu made his Cassocks last too long
        VI.  Who guarded his House for him
       VII.  Cravatte
      VIII.  Philosophy after Drinking
        IX.  The Brother as depicted by the Sister
         X.  The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light
        XI.  A Restriction
       XII.  The Solitude of Monseigneur Welcome
      XIII.  What he believed
       XIV.  What he thought


         I.  The Evening of a Day of Walking
        II.  Prudence counselled to Wisdom
       III.  The Heroism of Passive Obedience
        IV.  Details concerning the Cheese-Dairies of Pontarlier
         V.  Tranquillity
        VI.  Jean Valjean
       VII.  The Interior of Despair
      VIII.  Billows and Shadows
        IX.  New Troubles
         X.  The Man aroused
        XI.  What he does
       XII.  The Bishop works
      XIII.  Little Gervais


         I.  The Year 1817
        II.  A Double Quartette
       III.  Four and Four
        IV.  Tholomyes is so Merry that he sings a Spanish Ditty
         V.  At Bombardas
        VI.  A Chapter in which they adore Each Other
       VII.  The Wisdom of Tholomyes
      VIII.  The Death of a Horse
        IX.  A Merry End to Mirth


         I.  One Mother meets Another Mother
        II.  First Sketch of Two Unprepossessing Figures
       III.  The Lark


         I.  The History of a Progress in Black Glass Trinkets
        II.  Madeleine
       III.  Sums deposited with Laffitte
        IV.  M. Madeleine in Mourning
         V.  Vague Flashes on the Horizon
        VI.  Father Fauchelevent
       VII.  Fauchelevent becomes a Gardener in Paris
      VIII.  Madame Victurnien expends Thirty Francs on Morality
        IX.  Madame Victurnien's Success
         X.  Result of the Success
        XI.  Christus nos Liberavit
       XII.  M. Bamatabois's Inactivity
      XIII.  The Solution of Some Questions connected with the
                 Municipal Police


         I.  The Beginning of Repose
        II.  How Jean may become Champ


         I.  Sister Simplice
        II.  The Perspicacity of Master Scaufflaire
       III.  A Tempest in a Skull
        IV.  Forms assumed by Suffering during Sleep
         V.  Hindrances
        VI.  Sister Simplice put to the Proof
       VII.  The Traveller on his Arrival takes Precautions
                 for Departure
      VIII.  An Entrance by Favor
        IX.  A Place where Convictions are in Process of Formation
         X.  The System of Denials
        XI.  Champmathieu more and more Astonished


         I.  In what Mirror M. Madeleine contemplates his Hair
        II.  Fantine Happy
       III.  Javert Satisfied
        IV.  Authority reasserts its Rights
         V.  A Suitable Tomb



         I.  What is met with on the Way from Nivelles
        II.  Hougomont
       III.  The Eighteenth of June, 1815
        IV.  A
         V.  The Quid Obscurum of Battles
        VI.  Four o'clock in the Afternoon
       VII.  Napoleon in a Good Humor
      VIII.  The Emperor puts a Question to the Guide Lacoste
        IX.  The Unexpected
         X.  The Plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean
        XI.  A Bad Guide to Napoleon; a Good Guide to Bulow
       XII.  The Guard
      XIII.  The Catastrophe
       XIV.  The Last Square
        XV.  Cambronne
       XVI.  Quot Libras in Duce?
      XVII.  Is Waterloo to be considered Good?
     XVIII.  A Recrudescence of Divine Right
       XIX.  The Battle-Field at Night


         I.  Number 24,601 becomes Number 9,430
        II.  In which the reader will peruse Two Verses which are
               of the Devil's Composition possibly
       III.  The Ankle-Chain must have undergone a Certain Preparatory
             Manipulation to be thus broken with a Blow from a Hammer


         I.  The Water Question at Montfermeil
        II.  Two Complete Portraits
       III.  Men must have Wine, and Horses must have Water
        IV.  Entrance on the Scene of a Doll
         V.  The Little One All Alone
        VI.  Which possibly proves Boulatruelle's Intelligence
       VII.  Cosette Side by Side with the Stranger in the Dark
      VIII.  The Unpleasantness of receiving into One's House a Poor
               Man who may be a Rich Man
        IX.  Thenardier at his Manoeuvres
         X.  He who seeks to better himself may render his Situation Worse
        XI.  Number 9,430 reappears, and Cosette wins it in the Lottery


         I.  Master Gorbeau
        II.  A Nest for Owl and a Warbler
       III.  Two Misfortunes make One Piece of Good Fortune
        IV.  The Remarks of the Principal Tenant
         V.  A Five-Franc Piece falls on the Ground and produces a Tumult


         I.  The Zigzags of Strategy
        II.  It is Lucky that the Pont d'Austerlitz bears
       III.  To Wit, the Plan of Paris in 1727
        IV.  The Gropings of Flight
         V.  Which would be Impossible with Gas Lanterns
        VI.  The Beginning of an Enigma
       VII.  Continuation of the Enigma
      VIII.  The Enigma becomes Doubly Mysterious
        IX.  The Man with the Bell
         X.  Which explains how Javert got on the Scent


         I.  Number 62 Rue Petit-Picpus
        II.  The Obedience of Martin Verga
       III.  Austerities
        IV.  Gayeties
         V.  Distractions
        VI.  The Little Convent
       VII.  Some Silhouettes of this Darkness
      VIII.  Post Corda Lapides
        IX.  A Century under a Guimpe
         X.  Origin of the Perpetual Adoration
        XI.  End of the Petit-Picpus


         I.  The Convent as an Abstract Idea
        II.  The Convent as an Historical Fact
       III.  On What Conditions One can respect the Past
        IV.  The Convent from the Point of View of Principles
         V.  Prayer
        VI.  The Absolute Goodness of Prayer
       VII.  Precautions to be observed in Blame
      VIII.  Faith, Law


         I.  Which treats of the Manner of entering a Convent
        II.  Fauchelevent in the Presence of a Difficulty
       III.  Mother Innocente
        IV.  In which Jean Valjean has quite the Air of having read
               Austin Castillejo
         V.  It is not Necessary to be Drunk in order to be Immortal
        VI.  Between Four Planks
       VII.  In which will be found the Origin of the Saying: Don't
               lose the Card
      VIII.  A Successful Interrogatory
        IX.  Cloistered



          I.  Parvulus
         II.  Some of his Particular Characteristics
        III.  He is Agreeable
         IV.  He may be of Use
          V.  His Frontiers
         VI.  A Bit of History
        VII.  The Gamin should have his Place in the Classifications
                 of India
       VIII.  In which the Reader will find a Charming Saying of the
                 Last King
         IX.  The Old Soul of Gaul
          X.  Ecce Paris, ecce Homo
         XI.  To Scoff, to Reign
        XII.  The Future Latent in the People
       XIII.  Little Gavroche


          I.  Ninety Years and Thirty-two Teeth
         II.  Like Master, Like House
        III.  Luc-Esprit
         IV.  A Centenarian Aspirant
          V.  Basque and Nicolette
         VI.  In which Magnon and her Two Children are seen
        VII.  Rule: Receive No One except in the Evening
       VIII.  Two do not make a Pair


          I.  An Ancient Salon
         II.  One of the Red Spectres of that Epoch
        III.  Requiescant
         IV.  End of the Brigand
          V.  The Utility of going to Mass, in order to become a
         VI.  The Consequences of having met a Warden
        VII.  Some Petticoat
       VIII.  Marble against Granite


          I.  A Group which barely missed becoming Historic
         II.  Blondeau's Funeral Oration by Bossuet
        III.  Marius' Astonishments
         IV.  The Back Room of the Cafe Musain
          V.  Enlargement of Horizon
         VI.  Res Angusta


          I.  Marius Indigent
         II.  Marius Poor
        III.  Marius Grown Up
         IV.  M. Mabeuf
          V.  Poverty a Good Neighbor for Misery
         VI.  The Substitute


          I.  The Sobriquet; Mode of Formation of Family Names
         II.  Lux Facta Est
        III.  Effect of the Spring
         IV.  Beginning of a Great Malady
          V.  Divers Claps of Thunder fall on Ma'am Bougon
         VI.  Taken Prisoner
        VII.  Adventures of the Letter U delivered over to Conjectures
       VIII.  The Veterans themselves can be Happy
         IX.  Eclipse


          I.  Mines and Miners
         II.  The Lowest Depths
        III.  Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse
         IV.  Composition of the Troupe


          I.  Marius, while seeking a Girl in a Bonnet encounters a
                 Man in a Cap
         II.  Treasure Trove
        III.  Quadrifrons
         IV.  A Rose in Misery
          V.  A Providential Peep-Hole
         VI.  The Wild Man in his Lair
        VII.  Strategy and Tactics
       VIII.  The Ray of Light in the Hovel
         IX.  Jondrette comes near Weeping
          X.  Tariff of Licensed Cabs, Two Francs an Hour
         XI.  Offers of Service from Misery to Wretchedness
        XII.  The Use made of M. Leblanc's Five-Franc Piece
       XIII.  Solus cum Solo, in Loco Remoto, non cogitabuntur
                 orare Pater Noster
        XIV.  In which a Police Agent bestows Two Fistfuls on a Lawyer
         XV.  Jondrette makes his Purchases
        XVI.  In which will be found the Words to an English Air
                  which was in Fashion in 1832
       XVII.  The Use made of Marius' Five-Franc Piece
      XVIII.  Marius' Two Chairs form a Vis-a-Vis
        XIX.  Occupying One's Self with Obscure Depths
         XX.  The Trap
        XXI.  One should always begin by arresting the Victims
       XXII.  The Little One who was crying in Volume Two



        I.  Well Cut
       II.  Badly Sewed
      III.  Louis Philippe
       IV.  Cracks beneath the Foundation
        V.  Facts whence History springs and which History ignores
       VI.  Enjolras and his Lieutenants


        I.  The Lark's Meadow
       II.  Embryonic Formation of Crimes in the Incubation of Prisons
      III.  Apparition to Father Mabeuf
       IV.  An Apparition to Marius


        I.  The House with a Secret
       II.  Jean Valjean as a National Guard
      III.  Foliis ac Frondibus
       IV.  Change of Gate
        V.  The Rose perceives that it is an Engine of War
       VI.  The Battle Begun
      VII.  To One Sadness oppose a Sadness and a Half
     VIII.  The Chain-Gang


        I.  A Wound without, Healing within
       II.  Mother Plutarque finds no Difficulty in explaining a Phenomenon


        I.  Solitude and Barracks Combined
       II.  Cosette's Apprehensions
      III.  Enriched with Commentaries by Toussaint
       IV.  A Heart beneath a Stone
        V.  Cosette after the Letter
       VI.  Old People are made to go out opportunely


        I.  The Malicious Playfulness of the Wind
       II.  In which Little Gavroche extracts Profit from Napoleon the Great
      III.  The Vicissitudes of Flight


        I.  Origin
       II.  Roots
      III.  Slang which weeps and Slang which laughs
       IV.  The Two Duties: To Watch and to Hope


        I.  Full Light
       II.  The Bewilderment of Perfect Happiness
      III.  The Beginning of Shadow
       IV.  A Cab runs in English and barks in Slang
        V.  Things of the Night
       VI.  Marius becomes Practical once more to the Extent of
                Giving Cosette his Address
      VII. The Old Heart and the Young Heart in the Presence
                of Each Other


        I.  Jean Valjean
       II.  Marius
      III.  M. Mabeuf


        I.  The Surface of the Question
       II.  The Root of the Matter
      III.  A Burial; an Occasion to be born again
       IV.  The Ebullitions of Former Days
        V.  Originality of Paris


        I.  Some Explanations with Regard to the Origin of Gavroche's
                Poetry.  The Influence of an Academician on this Poetry
       II.  Gavroche on the March
      III.  Just Indignation of a Hair-dresser
       IV.  The Child is amazed at the Old Man
        V.  The Old Man
       VI.  Recruits


        I.  History of Corinthe from its Foundation
       II.  Preliminary Gayeties
      III.  Night begins to descend upon Grantaire
       IV.  An Attempt to console the Widow Hucheloup
        V.  Preparations
       VI.  Waiting
      VII.  The Man recruited in the Rue des Billettes
     VIII.  Many Interrogation Points with Regard to a Certain
                Le Cabuc, whose Name may not have been Le Cabuc


        I.  From the Rue Plumet to the Quartier Saint-Denis
       II.  An Owl's View of Paris
      III.  The Extreme Edge


        I.  The Flag: Act First
       II.  The Flag: Act Second
      III.  Gavroche would have done better to accept Enjolras' Carbine
       IV.  The Barrel of Powder
        V.  End of the Verses of Jean Prouvaire
       VI.  The Agony of Death after the Agony of Life
      VII.  Gavroche as a Profound Calculator of Distances


        I.  A Drinker is a Babbler
       II.  The Street Urchin an Enemy of Light
      III.  While Cosette and Toussaint are Asleep
       IV.  Gavroche's Excess of Zeal



         I.  The Charybdis of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and the
               Scylla of the Faubourg du Temple
        II.  What Is to Be Done in the Abyss if One Does Not Converse
       III.  Light and Shadow
        IV.  Minus Five, Plus One
         V.  The Horizon Which One Beholds from the Summit of a Barricade
        VI.  Marius Haggard, Javert Laconic
       VII.  The Situation Becomes Aggravated
      VIII.  The Artillery-men Compel People to Take Them Seriously
        IX.  Employment of the Old Talents of a Poacher and That
               Infallible Marksmanship Which Influenced the
               Condemnation of 1796
         X.  Dawn
        XI.  The Shot Which Misses Nothing and Kills No One
       XII.  Disorder a Partisan of Order
      XIII.  Passing Gleams
       XIV.  Wherein Will Appear the Name of Enjolras' Mistress
        XV.  Gavroche Outside
       XVI.  How from a Brother One Becomes a Father
      XVII.  Mortuus Pater Filium Moriturum Expectat
     XVIII.  The Vulture Becomes Prey
       XIX.  Jean Valjean Takes His Revenge
        XX.  The Dead Are in the Right and the Living Are Not in the Wrong
       XXI.  The Heroes
      XXII.  Foot to Foot
     XXIII.  Orestes Fasting and Pylades Drunk
      XXIV.  Prisoner


         I.  The Land Impoverished by the Sea
        II.  Ancient History of the Sewer
       III.  Bruneseau
        IV.  Bruneseau
         V.  Present Progress
        VI.  Future Progress


         I.  The Sewer and Its Surprises
        II.  Explanation
       III.  The "Spun" Man
        IV.  He Also Bears His Cross
         V.  In the Case of Sand, as in That of Woman, There Is a
               Fineness Which Is Treacherous
        VI.  The Fontis
       VII.  One Sometimes Runs Aground When One Fancies That
               One Is Disembarking
      VIII.  The Torn Coat-Tail
        IX.  Marius Produces on Some One Who Is a Judge of the
               Matter, the Effect of Being Dead
         X.  Return of the Son Who Was Prodigal of His Life
        XI.  Concussion in the Absolute
       XII.  The Grandfather


         I.  Javert


         I.  In Which the Tree with the Zinc Plaster Appears Again
        II.  Marius, Emerging from Civil War, Makes Ready for
               Domestic War
       III.  Marius Attacked
        IV.  Mademoiselle Gillenormand Ends by No Longer Thinking
               It a Bad Thing That M. Fauchelevent Should Have
               Entered With Something Under His Arm
         V.  Deposit Your Money in a Forest Rather than with a Notary
        VI.  The Two Old Men Do Everything, Each One After His
               Own Fashion, to Render Cosette Happy
       VII.  The Effects of Dreams Mingled with Happiness
      VIII.  Two Men Impossible to Find


         I.  The 16th of February, 1833
        II.  Jean Valjean Still Wears His Arm in a Sling
       III.  The Inseparable
        IV.  The Immortal Liver


         I.  The Seventh Circle and the Eighth Heaven
        II.  The Obscurities Which a Revelation Can Contain


         I.  The Lower Chamber
        II.  Another Step Backwards
       III.  They Recall the Garden of the Rue Plumet
        IV.  Attraction and Extinction


         I.  Pity for the Unhappy, but Indulgence for the Happy
        II.  Last Flickerings of a Lamp Without Oil
       III.  A Pen Is Heavy to the Man Who Lifted the
               Fauchelevent's Cart
        IV.  A Bottle of Ink Which Only Succeeded in Whitening
         V.  A Night Behind Which There Is Day
        VI.  The Grass Covers and the Rain Effaces




So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of
damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the
civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine
destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century--the
degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through
hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light--are unsolved;
so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world;--in
other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance
and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Miserables cannot
fail to be of use.





In 1815, M. Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of D---- He was
an old man of about seventy-five years of age; he had occupied the see
of D---- since 1806.

Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance
of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous, if merely
for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here the various
rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him from the very
moment when he arrived in the diocese. True or false, that which is said
of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all
in their destinies, as that which they do. M. Myriel was the son of a
councillor of the Parliament of Aix; hence he belonged to the nobility
of the bar. It was said that his father, destining him to be the heir of
his own post, had married him at a very early age, eighteen or twenty,
in accordance with a custom which is rather widely prevalent in
parliamentary families. In spite of this marriage, however, it was said
that Charles Myriel created a great deal of talk. He was well formed,
though rather short in stature, elegant, graceful, intelligent; the
whole of the first portion of his life had been devoted to the world and
to gallantry.

The Revolution came; events succeeded each other with precipitation; the
parliamentary families, decimated, pursued, hunted down, were dispersed.
M. Charles Myriel emigrated to Italy at the very beginning of the
Revolution. There his wife died of a malady of the chest, from which she
had long suffered. He had no children. What took place next in the fate
of M. Myriel? The ruin of the French society of the olden days, the fall
of his own family, the tragic spectacles of '93, which were, perhaps,
even more alarming to the emigrants who viewed them from a distance,
with the magnifying powers of terror,--did these cause the ideas of
renunciation and solitude to germinate in him? Was he, in the midst of
these distractions, these affections which absorbed his life, suddenly
smitten with one of those mysterious and terrible blows which sometimes
overwhelm, by striking to his heart, a man whom public catastrophes
would not shake, by striking at his existence and his fortune? No one
could have told: all that was known was, that when he returned from
Italy he was a priest.

In 1804, M. Myriel was the Cure of B---- [Brignolles]. He was already
advanced in years, and lived in a very retired manner.

About the epoch of the coronation, some petty affair connected with
his curacy--just what, is not precisely known--took him to Paris.
Among other powerful persons to whom he went to solicit aid for his
parishioners was M. le Cardinal Fesch. One day, when the Emperor
had come to visit his uncle, the worthy Cure, who was waiting in the
anteroom, found himself present when His Majesty passed. Napoleon,
on finding himself observed with a certain curiosity by this old man,
turned round and said abruptly:--

"Who is this good man who is staring at me?"

"Sire," said M. Myriel, "you are looking at a good man, and I at a great
man. Each of us can profit by it."

That very evening, the Emperor asked the Cardinal the name of the Cure,
and some time afterwards M. Myriel was utterly astonished to learn that
he had been appointed Bishop of D----

What truth was there, after all, in the stories which were invented as
to the early portion of M. Myriel's life? No one knew. Very few families
had been acquainted with the Myriel family before the Revolution.

M. Myriel had to undergo the fate of every newcomer in a little town,
where there are many mouths which talk, and very few heads which think.
He was obliged to undergo it although he was a bishop, and because
he was a bishop. But after all, the rumors with which his name
was connected were rumors only,--noise, sayings, words; less than
words--palabres, as the energetic language of the South expresses it.

However that may be, after nine years of episcopal power and of
residence in D----, all the stories and subjects of conversation which
engross petty towns and petty people at the outset had fallen into
profound oblivion. No one would have dared to mention them; no one would
have dared to recall them.

M. Myriel had arrived at D---- accompanied by an elderly spinster,
Mademoiselle Baptistine, who was his sister, and ten years his junior.

Their only domestic was a female servant of the same age as Mademoiselle
Baptistine, and named Madame Magloire, who, after having been the
servant of M. le Cure, now assumed the double title of maid to
Mademoiselle and housekeeper to Monseigneur.

Mademoiselle Baptistine was a long, pale, thin, gentle creature; she
realized the ideal expressed by the word "respectable"; for it seems
that a woman must needs be a mother in order to be venerable. She
had never been pretty; her whole life, which had been nothing but a
succession of holy deeds, had finally conferred upon her a sort of
pallor and transparency; and as she advanced in years she had acquired
what may be called the beauty of goodness. What had been leanness in
her youth had become transparency in her maturity; and this diaphaneity
allowed the angel to be seen. She was a soul rather than a virgin. Her
person seemed made of a shadow; there was hardly sufficient body to
provide for sex; a little matter enclosing a light; large eyes forever
drooping;--a mere pretext for a soul's remaining on the earth.

Madame Magloire was a little, fat, white old woman, corpulent and
bustling; always out of breath,--in the first place, because of her
activity, and in the next, because of her asthma.

On his arrival, M. Myriel was installed in the episcopal palace with
the honors required by the Imperial decrees, which class a bishop
immediately after a major-general. The mayor and the president paid the
first call on him, and he, in turn, paid the first call on the general
and the prefect.

The installation over, the town waited to see its bishop at work.


The episcopal palace of D---- adjoins the hospital.

The episcopal palace was a huge and beautiful house, built of stone at
the beginning of the last century by M. Henri Puget, Doctor of Theology
of the Faculty of Paris, Abbe of Simore, who had been Bishop of D---- in
1712. This palace was a genuine seignorial residence. Everything about
it had a grand air,--the apartments of the Bishop, the drawing-rooms,
the chambers, the principal courtyard, which was very large, with walks
encircling it under arcades in the old Florentine fashion, and gardens
planted with magnificent trees. In the dining-room, a long and superb
gallery which was situated on the ground-floor and opened on the
gardens, M. Henri Puget had entertained in state, on July 29, 1714, My
Lords Charles Brulart de Genlis, archbishop; Prince d'Embrun; Antoine
de Mesgrigny, the capuchin, Bishop of Grasse; Philippe de Vendome, Grand
Prior of France, Abbe of Saint Honore de Lerins; Francois de Berton de
Crillon, bishop, Baron de Vence; Cesar de Sabran de Forcalquier, bishop,
Seignor of Glandeve; and Jean Soanen, Priest of the Oratory, preacher in
ordinary to the king, bishop, Seignor of Senez. The portraits of these
seven reverend personages decorated this apartment; and this memorable
date, the 29th of July, 1714, was there engraved in letters of gold on a
table of white marble.

The hospital was a low and narrow building of a single story, with a
small garden.

Three days after his arrival, the Bishop visited the hospital. The visit
ended, he had the director requested to be so good as to come to his

"Monsieur the director of the hospital," said he to him, "how many sick
people have you at the present moment?"

"Twenty-six, Monseigneur."

"That was the number which I counted," said the Bishop.

"The beds," pursued the director, "are very much crowded against each

"That is what I observed."

"The halls are nothing but rooms, and it is with difficulty that the air
can be changed in them."

"So it seems to me."

"And then, when there is a ray of sun, the garden is very small for the

"That was what I said to myself."

"In case of epidemics,--we have had the typhus fever this year; we
had the sweating sickness two years ago, and a hundred patients at
times,--we know not what to do."

"That is the thought which occurred to me."

"What would you have, Monseigneur?" said the director. "One must resign
one's self."

This conversation took place in the gallery dining-room on the

The Bishop remained silent for a moment; then he turned abruptly to the
director of the hospital.

"Monsieur," said he, "how many beds do you think this hall alone would

"Monseigneur's dining-room?" exclaimed the stupefied director.

The Bishop cast a glance round the apartment, and seemed to be taking
measures and calculations with his eyes.

"It would hold full twenty beds," said he, as though speaking to
himself. Then, raising his voice:--

"Hold, Monsieur the director of the hospital, I will tell you something.
There is evidently a mistake here. There are thirty-six of you, in five
or six small rooms. There are three of us here, and we have room for
sixty. There is some mistake, I tell you; you have my house, and I have
yours. Give me back my house; you are at home here."

On the following day the thirty-six patients were installed in the
Bishop's palace, and the Bishop was settled in the hospital.

M. Myriel had no property, his family having been ruined by the
Revolution. His sister was in receipt of a yearly income of five hundred
francs, which sufficed for her personal wants at the vicarage. M. Myriel
received from the State, in his quality of bishop, a salary of fifteen
thousand francs. On the very day when he took up his abode in the
hospital, M. Myriel settled on the disposition of this sum once for
all, in the following manner. We transcribe here a note made by his own


  For the little seminary . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    1,500 livres
  Society of the  mission . . . . . . . . . . . . . .      100   "
  For the Lazarists of Montdidier . . . . . . . . . .      100   "
  Seminary for foreign missions in Paris  . . . . . .      200   "
  Congregation of the Holy Spirit . . . . . . . . . .      150   "
  Religious establishments of the Holy Land . . . . .      100   "
  Charitable maternity societies  . . . . . . . . . .      300   "
  Extra, for that of Arles  . . . . . . . . . . . . .       50   "
  Work for the amelioration of prisons  . . . . . . .      400   "
  Work for the relief and delivery of prisoners . . .      500   "
  To liberate fathers of families incarcerated for debt  1,000   "
  Addition to the salary of the poor teachers of the
       diocese  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    2,000   "
  Public granary of the Hautes-Alpes  . . . . . . . .      100   "
  Congregation of the ladies of D----, of Manosque, and of
       Sisteron, for the gratuitous instruction of poor
       girls  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    1,500   "
  For the poor  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    6,000   "
  My personal expenses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    1,000   "
       Total  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   15,000   "

M. Myriel made no change in this arrangement during the entire period
that he occupied the see of D---- As has been seen, he called it
regulating his household expenses.

This arrangement was accepted with absolute submission by Mademoiselle
Baptistine. This holy woman regarded Monseigneur of D---- as at one and
the same time her brother and her bishop, her friend according to the
flesh and her superior according to the Church. She simply loved and
venerated him. When he spoke, she bowed; when he acted, she yielded her
adherence. Their only servant, Madame Magloire, grumbled a little. It
will be observed that Monsieur the Bishop had reserved for himself
only one thousand livres, which, added to the pension of Mademoiselle
Baptistine, made fifteen hundred francs a year. On these fifteen hundred
francs these two old women and the old man subsisted.

And when a village curate came to D----, the Bishop still found means to
entertain him, thanks to the severe economy of Madame Magloire, and to
the intelligent administration of Mademoiselle Baptistine.

One day, after he had been in D---- about three months, the Bishop

"And still I am quite cramped with it all!"

"I should think so!" exclaimed Madame Magloire. "Monseigneur has not
even claimed the allowance which the department owes him for the expense
of his carriage in town, and for his journeys about the diocese. It was
customary for bishops in former days."

"Hold!" cried the Bishop, "you are quite right, Madame Magloire."

And he made his demand.

Some time afterwards the General Council took this demand under
consideration, and voted him an annual sum of three thousand francs,
under this heading: Allowance to M. the Bishop for expenses of carriage,
expenses of posting, and expenses of pastoral visits.

This provoked a great outcry among the local burgesses; and a senator
of the Empire, a former member of the Council of the Five Hundred
which favored the 18 Brumaire, and who was provided with a magnificent
senatorial office in the vicinity of the town of D----, wrote to M.
Bigot de Preameneu, the minister of public worship, a very angry and
confidential note on the subject, from which we extract these authentic

"Expenses of carriage? What can be done with it in a town of less than
four thousand inhabitants? Expenses of journeys? What is the use
of these trips, in the first place? Next, how can the posting be
accomplished in these mountainous parts? There are no roads. No one
travels otherwise than on horseback. Even the bridge between Durance and
Chateau-Arnoux can barely support ox-teams. These priests are all thus,
greedy and avaricious. This man played the good priest when he
first came. Now he does like the rest; he must have a carriage and a
posting-chaise, he must have luxuries, like the bishops of the olden
days. Oh, all this priesthood! Things will not go well, M. le Comte,
until the Emperor has freed us from these black-capped rascals. Down
with the Pope! [Matters were getting embroiled with Rome.] For my part,
I am for Caesar alone." Etc., etc.

On the other hand, this affair afforded great delight to Madame
Magloire. "Good," said she to Mademoiselle Baptistine; "Monseigneur
began with other people, but he has had to wind up with himself, after
all. He has regulated all his charities. Now here are three thousand
francs for us! At last!"

That same evening the Bishop wrote out and handed to his sister a
memorandum conceived in the following terms:--


  For furnishing meat soup to the patients in the hospital. 1,500 livres
  For the maternity charitable society of Aix . . . . . . .   250   "
  For the maternity charitable society of Draguignan  . . .   250   "
  For foundlings  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   500   "
  For orphans   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   500   "
       Total  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,000   "

Such was M. Myriel's budget.

As for the chance episcopal perquisites, the fees for marriage bans,
dispensations, private baptisms, sermons, benedictions, of churches or
chapels, marriages, etc., the Bishop levied them on the wealthy with all
the more asperity, since he bestowed them on the needy.

After a time, offerings of money flowed in. Those who had and those who
lacked knocked at M. Myriel's door,--the latter in search of the alms
which the former came to deposit. In less than a year the Bishop had
become the treasurer of all benevolence and the cashier of all those
in distress. Considerable sums of money passed through his hands, but
nothing could induce him to make any change whatever in his mode of
life, or add anything superfluous to his bare necessities.

Far from it. As there is always more wretchedness below than there
is brotherhood above, all was given away, so to speak, before it was
received. It was like water on dry soil; no matter how much money he
received, he never had any. Then he stripped himself.

The usage being that bishops shall announce their baptismal names at the
head of their charges and their pastoral letters, the poor people of the
country-side had selected, with a sort of affectionate instinct, among
the names and prenomens of their bishop, that which had a meaning for
them; and they never called him anything except Monseigneur Bienvenu
[Welcome]. We will follow their example, and will also call him thus
when we have occasion to name him. Moreover, this appellation pleased

"I like that name," said he. "Bienvenu makes up for the Monseigneur."

We do not claim that the portrait herewith presented is probable; we
confine ourselves to stating that it resembles the original.


The Bishop did not omit his pastoral visits because he had converted his
carriage into alms. The diocese of D---- is a fatiguing one. There are
very few plains and a great many mountains; hardly any roads, as we have
just seen; thirty-two curacies, forty-one vicarships, and two hundred
and eighty-five auxiliary chapels. To visit all these is quite a task.

The Bishop managed to do it. He went on foot when it was in the
neighborhood, in a tilted spring-cart when it was on the plain, and on
a donkey in the mountains. The two old women accompanied him. When the
trip was too hard for them, he went alone.

One day he arrived at Senez, which is an ancient episcopal city. He was
mounted on an ass. His purse, which was very dry at that moment, did not
permit him any other equipage. The mayor of the town came to receive
him at the gate of the town, and watched him dismount from his ass,
with scandalized eyes. Some of the citizens were laughing around him.
"Monsieur the Mayor," said the Bishop, "and Messieurs Citizens, I
perceive that I shock you. You think it very arrogant in a poor priest
to ride an animal which was used by Jesus Christ. I have done so from
necessity, I assure you, and not from vanity."

In the course of these trips he was kind and indulgent, and talked
rather than preached. He never went far in search of his arguments and
his examples. He quoted to the inhabitants of one district the example
of a neighboring district. In the cantons where they were harsh to the
poor, he said: "Look at the people of Briancon! They have conferred on
the poor, on widows and orphans, the right to have their meadows mown
three days in advance of every one else. They rebuild their houses for
them gratuitously when they are ruined. Therefore it is a country which
is blessed by God. For a whole century, there has not been a single
murderer among them."

In villages which were greedy for profit and harvest, he said: "Look at
the people of Embrun! If, at the harvest season, the father of a family
has his son away on service in the army, and his daughters at service in
the town, and if he is ill and incapacitated, the cure recommends him to
the prayers of the congregation; and on Sunday, after the mass, all the
inhabitants of the village--men, women, and children--go to the poor
man's field and do his harvesting for him, and carry his straw and his
grain to his granary." To families divided by questions of money and
inheritance he said: "Look at the mountaineers of Devolny, a country so
wild that the nightingale is not heard there once in fifty years.
Well, when the father of a family dies, the boys go off to seek their
fortunes, leaving the property to the girls, so that they may find
husbands." To the cantons which had a taste for lawsuits, and where the
farmers ruined themselves in stamped paper, he said: "Look at those good
peasants in the valley of Queyras! There are three thousand souls of
them. Mon Dieu! it is like a little republic. Neither judge nor bailiff
is known there. The mayor does everything. He allots the imposts,
taxes each person conscientiously, judges quarrels for nothing, divides
inheritances without charge, pronounces sentences gratuitously; and he
is obeyed, because he is a just man among simple men." To villages where
he found no schoolmaster, he quoted once more the people of Queyras: "Do
you know how they manage?" he said. "Since a little country of a
dozen or fifteen hearths cannot always support a teacher, they have
school-masters who are paid by the whole valley, who make the round
of the villages, spending a week in this one, ten days in that, and
instruct them. These teachers go to the fairs. I have seen them there.
They are to be recognized by the quill pens which they wear in the cord
of their hat. Those who teach reading only have one pen; those who teach
reading and reckoning have two pens; those who teach reading, reckoning,
and Latin have three pens. But what a disgrace to be ignorant! Do like
the people of Queyras!"

Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples, he
invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases and
many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence of Jesus
Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.


His conversation was gay and affable. He put himself on a level with the
two old women who had passed their lives beside him. When he laughed,
it was the laugh of a schoolboy. Madame Magloire liked to call him Your
Grace [Votre Grandeur]. One day he rose from his arm-chair, and went
to his library in search of a book. This book was on one of the upper
shelves. As the bishop was rather short of stature, he could not
reach it. "Madame Magloire," said he, "fetch me a chair. My greatness
[grandeur] does not reach as far as that shelf."

One of his distant relatives, Madame la Comtesse de Lo, rarely allowed
an opportunity to escape of enumerating, in his presence, what she
designated as "the expectations" of her three sons. She had numerous
relatives, who were very old and near to death, and of whom her sons
were the natural heirs. The youngest of the three was to receive from a
grand-aunt a good hundred thousand livres of income; the second was the
heir by entail to the title of the Duke, his uncle; the eldest was to
succeed to the peerage of his grandfather. The Bishop was accustomed to
listen in silence to these innocent and pardonable maternal boasts. On
one occasion, however, he appeared to be more thoughtful than usual,
while Madame de Lo was relating once again the details of all these
inheritances and all these "expectations." She interrupted herself
impatiently: "Mon Dieu, cousin! What are you thinking about?" "I am
thinking," replied the Bishop, "of a singular remark, which is to be
found, I believe, in St. Augustine,--'Place your hopes in the man from
whom you do not inherit.'"

At another time, on receiving a notification of the decease of a
gentleman of the country-side, wherein not only the dignities of the
dead man, but also the feudal and noble qualifications of all his
relatives, spread over an entire page: "What a stout back Death has!"
he exclaimed. "What a strange burden of titles is cheerfully imposed
on him, and how much wit must men have, in order thus to press the tomb
into the service of vanity!"

He was gifted, on occasion, with a gentle raillery, which almost always
concealed a serious meaning. In the course of one Lent, a youthful vicar
came to D----, and preached in the cathedral. He was tolerably eloquent.
The subject of his sermon was charity. He urged the rich to give to the
poor, in order to avoid hell, which he depicted in the most frightful
manner of which he was capable, and to win paradise, which he
represented as charming and desirable. Among the audience there was
a wealthy retired merchant, who was somewhat of a usurer, named M.
Geborand, who had amassed two millions in the manufacture of coarse
cloth, serges, and woollen galloons. Never in his whole life had M.
Geborand bestowed alms on any poor wretch. After the delivery of that
sermon, it was observed that he gave a sou every Sunday to the poor old
beggar-women at the door of the cathedral. There were six of them to
share it. One day the Bishop caught sight of him in the act of bestowing
this charity, and said to his sister, with a smile, "There is M.
Geborand purchasing paradise for a sou."

When it was a question of charity, he was not to be rebuffed even by
a refusal, and on such occasions he gave utterance to remarks which
induced reflection. Once he was begging for the poor in a drawing-room
of the town; there was present the Marquis de Champtercier, a wealthy
and avaricious old man, who contrived to be, at one and the same time,
an ultra-royalist and an ultra-Voltairian. This variety of man has
actually existed. When the Bishop came to him, he touched his arm, "You
must give me something, M. le Marquis." The Marquis turned round and
answered dryly, "I have poor people of my own, Monseigneur." "Give them
to me," replied the Bishop.

One day he preached the following sermon in the cathedral:--

"My very dear brethren, my good friends, there are thirteen hundred
and twenty thousand peasants' dwellings in France which have but three
openings; eighteen hundred and seventeen thousand hovels which have but
two openings, the door and one window; and three hundred and forty-six
thousand cabins besides which have but one opening, the door. And this
arises from a thing which is called the tax on doors and windows. Just
put poor families, old women and little children, in those buildings,
and behold the fevers and maladies which result! Alas! God gives air to
men; the law sells it to them. I do not blame the law, but I bless God.
In the department of the Isere, in the Var, in the two departments
of the Alpes, the Hautes, and the Basses, the peasants have not even
wheelbarrows; they transport their manure on the backs of men; they have
no candles, and they burn resinous sticks, and bits of rope dipped in
pitch. That is the state of affairs throughout the whole of the hilly
country of Dauphine. They make bread for six months at one time; they
bake it with dried cow-dung. In the winter they break this bread up with
an axe, and they soak it for twenty-four hours, in order to render it
eatable. My brethren, have pity! behold the suffering on all sides of

Born a Provencal, he easily familiarized himself with the dialect of the
south. He said, "En be! moussu, ses sage?" as in lower Languedoc; "Onte
anaras passa?" as in the Basses-Alpes; "Puerte un bouen moutu embe un
bouen fromage grase," as in upper Dauphine. This pleased the people
extremely, and contributed not a little to win him access to all
spirits. He was perfectly at home in the thatched cottage and in the
mountains. He understood how to say the grandest things in the most
vulgar of idioms. As he spoke all tongues, he entered into all hearts.

Moreover, he was the same towards people of the world and towards
the lower classes. He condemned nothing in haste and without taking
circumstances into account. He said, "Examine the road over which the
fault has passed."

Being, as he described himself with a smile, an ex-sinner, he had none
of the asperities of austerity, and he professed, with a good deal
of distinctness, and without the frown of the ferociously virtuous, a
doctrine which may be summed up as follows:--

"Man has upon him his flesh, which is at once his burden and his
temptation. He drags it with him and yields to it. He must watch it,
check it, repress it, and obey it only at the last extremity. There may
be some fault even in this obedience; but the fault thus committed is
venial; it is a fall, but a fall on the knees which may terminate in

"To be a saint is the exception; to be an upright man is the rule. Err,
fall, sin if you will, but be upright.

"The least possible sin is the law of man. No sin at all is the dream
of the angel. All which is terrestrial is subject to sin. Sin is a

When he saw everyone exclaiming very loudly, and growing angry very
quickly, "Oh! oh!" he said, with a smile; "to all appearance, this is
a great crime which all the world commits. These are hypocrisies
which have taken fright, and are in haste to make protest and to put
themselves under shelter."

He was indulgent towards women and poor people, on whom the burden of
human society rest. He said, "The faults of women, of children, of the
feeble, the indigent, and the ignorant, are the fault of the husbands,
the fathers, the masters, the strong, the rich, and the wise."

He said, moreover, "Teach those who are ignorant as many things as
possible; society is culpable, in that it does not afford instruction
gratis; it is responsible for the night which it produces. This soul
is full of shadow; sin is therein committed. The guilty one is not the
person who has committed the sin, but the person who has created the

It will be perceived that he had a peculiar manner of his own of judging
things: I suspect that he obtained it from the Gospel.

One day he heard a criminal case, which was in preparation and on the
point of trial, discussed in a drawing-room. A wretched man, being at
the end of his resources, had coined counterfeit money, out of love for
a woman, and for the child which he had had by her. Counterfeiting was
still punishable with death at that epoch. The woman had been arrested
in the act of passing the first false piece made by the man. She was
held, but there were no proofs except against her. She alone could
accuse her lover, and destroy him by her confession. She denied; they
insisted. She persisted in her denial. Thereupon an idea occurred to
the attorney for the crown. He invented an infidelity on the part of
the lover, and succeeded, by means of fragments of letters cunningly
presented, in persuading the unfortunate woman that she had a rival, and
that the man was deceiving her. Thereupon, exasperated by jealousy, she
denounced her lover, confessed all, proved all.

The man was ruined. He was shortly to be tried at Aix with his
accomplice. They were relating the matter, and each one was expressing
enthusiasm over the cleverness of the magistrate. By bringing jealousy
into play, he had caused the truth to burst forth in wrath, he had
educed the justice of revenge. The Bishop listened to all this in
silence. When they had finished, he inquired,--

"Where are this man and woman to be tried?"

"At the Court of Assizes."

He went on, "And where will the advocate of the crown be tried?"

A tragic event occurred at D---- A man was condemned to death for
murder. He was a wretched fellow, not exactly educated, not exactly
ignorant, who had been a mountebank at fairs, and a writer for the
public. The town took a great interest in the trial. On the eve of the
day fixed for the execution of the condemned man, the chaplain of the
prison fell ill. A priest was needed to attend the criminal in his
last moments. They sent for the cure. It seems that he refused to come,
saying, "That is no affair of mine. I have nothing to do with that
unpleasant task, and with that mountebank: I, too, am ill; and besides,
it is not my place." This reply was reported to the Bishop, who said,
"Monsieur le Cure is right: it is not his place; it is mine."

He went instantly to the prison, descended to the cell of the
"mountebank," called him by name, took him by the hand, and spoke to
him. He passed the entire day with him, forgetful of food and sleep,
praying to God for the soul of the condemned man, and praying the
condemned man for his own. He told him the best truths, which are also
the most simple. He was father, brother, friend; he was bishop only to
bless. He taught him everything, encouraged and consoled him. The man
was on the point of dying in despair. Death was an abyss to him. As he
stood trembling on its mournful brink, he recoiled with horror. He
was not sufficiently ignorant to be absolutely indifferent. His
condemnation, which had been a profound shock, had, in a manner, broken
through, here and there, that wall which separates us from the mystery
of things, and which we call life. He gazed incessantly beyond this
world through these fatal breaches, and beheld only darkness. The Bishop
made him see light.

On the following day, when they came to fetch the unhappy wretch, the
Bishop was still there. He followed him, and exhibited himself to the
eyes of the crowd in his purple camail and with his episcopal cross upon
his neck, side by side with the criminal bound with cords.

He mounted the tumbril with him, he mounted the scaffold with him. The
sufferer, who had been so gloomy and cast down on the preceding day, was
radiant. He felt that his soul was reconciled, and he hoped in God. The
Bishop embraced him, and at the moment when the knife was about to fall,
he said to him: "God raises from the dead him whom man slays; he whom
his brothers have rejected finds his Father once more. Pray, believe,
enter into life: the Father is there." When he descended from the
scaffold, there was something in his look which made the people draw
aside to let him pass. They did not know which was most worthy of
admiration, his pallor or his serenity. On his return to the humble
dwelling, which he designated, with a smile, as his palace, he said to
his sister, "I have just officiated pontifically."

Since the most sublime things are often those which are the least
understood, there were people in the town who said, when commenting on
this conduct of the Bishop, "It is affectation."

This, however, was a remark which was confined to the drawing-rooms.
The populace, which perceives no jest in holy deeds, was touched, and
admired him.

As for the Bishop, it was a shock to him to have beheld the guillotine,
and it was a long time before he recovered from it.

In fact, when the scaffold is there, all erected and prepared, it has
something about it which produces hallucination. One may feel a certain
indifference to the death penalty, one may refrain from pronouncing upon
it, from saying yes or no, so long as one has not seen a guillotine with
one's own eyes: but if one encounters one of them, the shock is violent;
one is forced to decide, and to take part for or against. Some admire
it, like de Maistre; others execrate it, like Beccaria. The guillotine
is the concretion of the law; it is called vindicte; it is not neutral,
and it does not permit you to remain neutral. He who sees it shivers
with the most mysterious of shivers. All social problems erect their
interrogation point around this chopping-knife. The scaffold is a
vision. The scaffold is not a piece of carpentry; the scaffold is not
a machine; the scaffold is not an inert bit of mechanism constructed of
wood, iron and cords.

It seems as though it were a being, possessed of I know not what sombre
initiative; one would say that this piece of carpenter's work saw, that
this machine heard, that this mechanism understood, that this wood,
this iron, and these cords were possessed of will. In the frightful
meditation into which its presence casts the soul the scaffold appears
in terrible guise, and as though taking part in what is going on. The
scaffold is the accomplice of the executioner; it devours, it eats
flesh, it drinks blood; the scaffold is a sort of monster fabricated
by the judge and the carpenter, a spectre which seems to live with a
horrible vitality composed of all the death which it has inflicted.

Therefore, the impression was terrible and profound; on the day
following the execution, and on many succeeding days, the Bishop
appeared to be crushed. The almost violent serenity of the funereal
moment had disappeared; the phantom of social justice tormented him. He,
who generally returned from all his deeds with a radiant satisfaction,
seemed to be reproaching himself. At times he talked to himself, and
stammered lugubrious monologues in a low voice. This is one which his
sister overheard one evening and preserved: "I did not think that it was
so monstrous. It is wrong to become absorbed in the divine law to such a
degree as not to perceive human law. Death belongs to God alone. By what
right do men touch that unknown thing?"

In course of time these impressions weakened and probably vanished.
Nevertheless, it was observed that the Bishop thenceforth avoided
passing the place of execution.

M. Myriel could be summoned at any hour to the bedside of the sick and
dying. He did not ignore the fact that therein lay his greatest duty and
his greatest labor. Widowed and orphaned families had no need to summon
him; he came of his own accord. He understood how to sit down and hold
his peace for long hours beside the man who had lost the wife of his
love, of the mother who had lost her child. As he knew the moment for
silence he knew also the moment for speech. Oh, admirable consoler! He
sought not to efface sorrow by forgetfulness, but to magnify and dignify
it by hope. He said:--

"Have a care of the manner in which you turn towards the dead. Think
not of that which perishes. Gaze steadily. You will perceive the living
light of your well-beloved dead in the depths of heaven." He knew that
faith is wholesome. He sought to counsel and calm the despairing man, by
pointing out to him the resigned man, and to transform the grief which
gazes upon a grave by showing him the grief which fixes its gaze upon a


The private life of M. Myriel was filled with the same thoughts as his
public life. The voluntary poverty in which the Bishop of D---- lived,
would have been a solemn and charming sight for any one who could have
viewed it close at hand.

Like all old men, and like the majority of thinkers, he slept little.
This brief slumber was profound. In the morning he meditated for an
hour, then he said his mass, either at the cathedral or in his own
house. His mass said, he broke his fast on rye bread dipped in the milk
of his own cows. Then he set to work.

A Bishop is a very busy man: he must every day receive the secretary
of the bishopric, who is generally a canon, and nearly every day his
vicars-general. He has congregations to reprove, privileges to grant,
a whole ecclesiastical library to examine,--prayer-books, diocesan
catechisms, books of hours, etc.,--charges to write, sermons to
authorize, cures and mayors to reconcile, a clerical correspondence, an
administrative correspondence; on one side the State, on the other the
Holy See; and a thousand matters of business.

What time was left to him, after these thousand details of business, and
his offices and his breviary, he bestowed first on the necessitous,
the sick, and the afflicted; the time which was left to him from the
afflicted, the sick, and the necessitous, he devoted to work. Sometimes
he dug in his garden; again, he read or wrote. He had but one word
for both these kinds of toil; he called them gardening. "The mind is a
garden," said he.

Towards mid-day, when the weather was fine, he went forth and took a
stroll in the country or in town, often entering lowly dwellings. He
was seen walking alone, buried in his own thoughts, his eyes cast down,
supporting himself on his long cane, clad in his wadded purple garment
of silk, which was very warm, wearing purple stockings inside his coarse
shoes, and surmounted by a flat hat which allowed three golden tassels
of large bullion to droop from its three points.

It was a perfect festival wherever he appeared. One would have said that
his presence had something warming and luminous about it. The children
and the old people came out to the doorsteps for the Bishop as for the
sun. He bestowed his blessing, and they blessed him. They pointed out
his house to any one who was in need of anything.

[Illustration: The Comfortor  1b1-5-comfortor]

Here and there he halted, accosted the little boys and girls, and smiled
upon the mothers. He visited the poor so long as he had any money; when
he no longer had any, he visited the rich.

As he made his cassocks last a long while, and did not wish to have it
noticed, he never went out in the town without his wadded purple cloak.
This inconvenienced him somewhat in summer.

On his return, he dined. The dinner resembled his breakfast.

At half-past eight in the evening he supped with his sister, Madame
Magloire standing behind them and serving them at table. Nothing could
be more frugal than this repast. If, however, the Bishop had one of his
cures to supper, Madame Magloire took advantage of the opportunity to
serve Monseigneur with some excellent fish from the lake, or with some
fine game from the mountains. Every cure furnished the pretext for
a good meal: the Bishop did not interfere. With that exception, his
ordinary diet consisted only of vegetables boiled in water, and oil
soup. Thus it was said in the town, when the Bishop does not indulge in
the cheer of a cure, he indulges in the cheer of a trappist.

After supper he conversed for half an hour with Mademoiselle Baptistine
and Madame Magloire; then he retired to his own room and set to writing,
sometimes on loose sheets, and again on the margin of some folio. He was
a man of letters and rather learned. He left behind him five or six
very curious manuscripts; among others, a dissertation on this verse in
Genesis, In the beginning, the spirit of God floated upon the waters.
With this verse he compares three texts: the Arabic verse which says,
The winds of God blew; Flavius Josephus who says, A wind from above was
precipitated upon the earth; and finally, the Chaldaic paraphrase of
Onkelos, which renders it, A wind coming from God blew upon the face of
the waters. In another dissertation, he examines the theological works
of Hugo, Bishop of Ptolemais, great-grand-uncle to the writer of this
book, and establishes the fact, that to this bishop must be attributed
the divers little works published during the last century, under the
pseudonym of Barleycourt.

Sometimes, in the midst of his reading, no matter what the book might
be which he had in his hand, he would suddenly fall into a profound
meditation, whence he only emerged to write a few lines on the pages of
the volume itself. These lines have often no connection whatever with
the book which contains them. We now have under our eyes a note written
by him on the margin of a quarto entitled Correspondence of Lord Germain
with Generals Clinton, Cornwallis, and the Admirals on the American
station. Versailles, Poincot, book-seller; and Paris, Pissot,
bookseller, Quai des Augustins.

Here is the note:--

"Oh, you who are!

"Ecclesiastes calls you the All-powerful; the Maccabees call you the
Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you liberty; Baruch calls
you Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth; John calls you
Light; the Books of Kings call you Lord; Exodus calls you Providence;
Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation calls you God; man
calls you Father; but Solomon calls you Compassion, and that is the most
beautiful of all your names."

Toward nine o'clock in the evening the two women retired and betook
themselves to their chambers on the first floor, leaving him alone until
morning on the ground floor.

It is necessary that we should, in this place, give an exact idea of the
dwelling of the Bishop of D----


The house in which he lived consisted, as we have said, of a ground
floor, and one story above; three rooms on the ground floor, three
chambers on the first, and an attic above. Behind the house was a
garden, a quarter of an acre in extent. The two women occupied the
first floor; the Bishop was lodged below. The first room, opening on the
street, served him as dining-room, the second was his bedroom, and the
third his oratory. There was no exit possible from this oratory, except
by passing through the bedroom, nor from the bedroom, without passing
through the dining-room. At the end of the suite, in the oratory, there
was a detached alcove with a bed, for use in cases of hospitality.
The Bishop offered this bed to country curates whom business or the
requirements of their parishes brought to D----

The pharmacy of the hospital, a small building which had been added
to the house, and abutted on the garden, had been transformed into
a kitchen and cellar. In addition to this, there was in the garden a
stable, which had formerly been the kitchen of the hospital, and in
which the Bishop kept two cows. No matter what the quantity of milk they
gave, he invariably sent half of it every morning to the sick people in
the hospital. "I am paying my tithes," he said.

His bedroom was tolerably large, and rather difficult to warm in bad
weather. As wood is extremely dear at D----, he hit upon the idea of
having a compartment of boards constructed in the cow-shed. Here he
passed his evenings during seasons of severe cold: he called it his
winter salon.

In this winter salon, as in the dining-room, there was no other
furniture than a square table in white wood, and four straw-seated
chairs. In addition to this the dining-room was ornamented with an
antique sideboard, painted pink, in water colors. Out of a similar
sideboard, properly draped with white napery and imitation lace, the
Bishop had constructed the altar which decorated his oratory.

His wealthy penitents and the sainted women of D---- had more than once
assessed themselves to raise the money for a new altar for Monseigneur's
oratory; on each occasion he had taken the money and had given it to
the poor. "The most beautiful of altars," he said, "is the soul of an
unhappy creature consoled and thanking God."

In his oratory there were two straw prie-Dieu, and there was an
arm-chair, also in straw, in his bedroom. When, by chance, he received
seven or eight persons at one time, the prefect, or the general, or the
staff of the regiment in garrison, or several pupils from the little
seminary, the chairs had to be fetched from the winter salon in the
stable, the prie-Dieu from the oratory, and the arm-chair from the
bedroom: in this way as many as eleven chairs could be collected for the
visitors. A room was dismantled for each new guest.

It sometimes happened that there were twelve in the party; the Bishop
then relieved the embarrassment of the situation by standing in front
of the chimney if it was winter, or by strolling in the garden if it was

There was still another chair in the detached alcove, but the straw was
half gone from it, and it had but three legs, so that it was of service
only when propped against the wall. Mademoiselle Baptistine had also in
her own room a very large easy-chair of wood, which had formerly been
gilded, and which was covered with flowered pekin; but they had been
obliged to hoist this bergere up to the first story through the window,
as the staircase was too narrow; it could not, therefore, be reckoned
among the possibilities in the way of furniture.

Mademoiselle Baptistine's ambition had been to be able to purchase a set
of drawing-room furniture in yellow Utrecht velvet, stamped with a rose
pattern, and with mahogany in swan's neck style, with a sofa. But this
would have cost five hundred francs at least, and in view of the fact
that she had only been able to lay by forty-two francs and ten sous for
this purpose in the course of five years, she had ended by renouncing
the idea. However, who is there who has attained his ideal?

Nothing is more easy to present to the imagination than the Bishop's
bedchamber. A glazed door opened on the garden; opposite this was the
bed,--a hospital bed of iron, with a canopy of green serge; in the
shadow of the bed, behind a curtain, were the utensils of the toilet,
which still betrayed the elegant habits of the man of the world: there
were two doors, one near the chimney, opening into the oratory; the
other near the bookcase, opening into the dining-room. The bookcase was
a large cupboard with glass doors filled with books; the chimney was of
wood painted to represent marble, and habitually without fire. In the
chimney stood a pair of firedogs of iron, ornamented above with two
garlanded vases, and flutings which had formerly been silvered
with silver leaf, which was a sort of episcopal luxury; above the
chimney-piece hung a crucifix of copper, with the silver worn off, fixed
on a background of threadbare velvet in a wooden frame from which the
gilding had fallen; near the glass door a large table with an inkstand,
loaded with a confusion of papers and with huge volumes; before the
table an arm-chair of straw; in front of the bed a prie-Dieu, borrowed
from the oratory.

Two portraits in oval frames were fastened to the wall on each side of
the bed. Small gilt inscriptions on the plain surface of the cloth at
the side of these figures indicated that the portraits represented,
one the Abbe of Chaliot, bishop of Saint Claude; the other, the Abbe
Tourteau, vicar-general of Agde, abbe of Grand-Champ, order of Citeaux,
diocese of Chartres. When the Bishop succeeded to this apartment, after
the hospital patients, he had found these portraits there, and had left
them. They were priests, and probably donors--two reasons for respecting
them. All that he knew about these two persons was, that they had
been appointed by the king, the one to his bishopric, the other to his
benefice, on the same day, the 27th of April, 1785. Madame Magloire
having taken the pictures down to dust, the Bishop had discovered these
particulars written in whitish ink on a little square of paper, yellowed
by time, and attached to the back of the portrait of the Abbe of
Grand-Champ with four wafers.

At his window he had an antique curtain of a coarse woollen stuff, which
finally became so old, that, in order to avoid the expense of a new one,
Madame Magloire was forced to take a large seam in the very middle
of it. This seam took the form of a cross. The Bishop often called
attention to it: "How delightful that is!" he said.

All the rooms in the house, without exception, those on the ground
floor as well as those on the first floor, were white-washed, which is a
fashion in barracks and hospitals.

However, in their latter years, Madame Magloire discovered beneath the
paper which had been washed over, paintings, ornamenting the apartment
of Mademoiselle Baptistine, as we shall see further on. Before becoming
a hospital, this house had been the ancient parliament house of the
Bourgeois. Hence this decoration. The chambers were paved in red bricks,
which were washed every week, with straw mats in front of all the beds.
Altogether, this dwelling, which was attended to by the two women, was
exquisitely clean from top to bottom. This was the sole luxury which the
Bishop permitted. He said, "That takes nothing from the poor."

It must be confessed, however, that he still retained from his former
possessions six silver knives and forks and a soup-ladle, which
Madame Magloire contemplated every day with delight, as they glistened
splendidly upon the coarse linen cloth. And since we are now painting
the Bishop of D---- as he was in reality, we must add that he had said
more than once, "I find it difficult to renounce eating from silver

To this silverware must be added two large candlesticks of massive
silver, which he had inherited from a great-aunt. These candlesticks
held two wax candles, and usually figured on the Bishop's chimney-piece.
When he had any one to dinner, Madame Magloire lighted the two candles
and set the candlesticks on the table.

In the Bishop's own chamber, at the head of his bed, there was a small
cupboard, in which Madame Magloire locked up the six silver knives and
forks and the big spoon every night. But it is necessary to add, that
the key was never removed.

The garden, which had been rather spoiled by the ugly buildings which
we have mentioned, was composed of four alleys in cross-form, radiating
from a tank. Another walk made the circuit of the garden, and skirted
the white wall which enclosed it. These alleys left behind them four
square plots rimmed with box. In three of these, Madame Magloire
cultivated vegetables; in the fourth, the Bishop had planted some
flowers; here and there stood a few fruit-trees. Madame Magloire had
once remarked, with a sort of gentle malice: "Monseigneur, you who turn
everything to account, have, nevertheless, one useless plot. It would be
better to grow salads there than bouquets." "Madame Magloire," retorted
the Bishop, "you are mistaken. The beautiful is as useful as the
useful." He added after a pause, "More so, perhaps."

This plot, consisting of three or four beds, occupied the Bishop
almost as much as did his books. He liked to pass an hour or two there,
trimming, hoeing, and making holes here and there in the earth, into
which he dropped seeds. He was not as hostile to insects as a gardener
could have wished to see him. Moreover, he made no pretensions to
botany; he ignored groups and consistency; he made not the slightest
effort to decide between Tournefort and the natural method; he took part
neither with the buds against the cotyledons, nor with Jussieu against
Linnaeus. He did not study plants; he loved flowers. He respected
learned men greatly; he respected the ignorant still more; and, without
ever failing in these two respects, he watered his flower-beds every
summer evening with a tin watering-pot painted green.

The house had not a single door which could be locked. The door of the
dining-room, which, as we have said, opened directly on the cathedral
square, had formerly been ornamented with locks and bolts like the door
of a prison. The Bishop had had all this ironwork removed, and this door
was never fastened, either by night or by day, with anything except the
latch. All that the first passerby had to do at any hour, was to give it
a push. At first, the two women had been very much tried by this door,
which was never fastened, but Monsieur de D---- had said to them, "Have
bolts put on your rooms, if that will please you." They had ended by
sharing his confidence, or by at least acting as though they shared it.
Madame Magloire alone had frights from time to time. As for the Bishop,
his thought can be found explained, or at least indicated, in the three
lines which he wrote on the margin of a Bible, "This is the shade of
difference: the door of the physician should never be shut, the door of
the priest should always be open."

On another book, entitled Philosophy of the Medical Science, he had
written this other note: "Am not I a physician like them? I also have my
patients, and then, too, I have some whom I call my unfortunates."

Again he wrote: "Do not inquire the name of him who asks a shelter of
you. The very man who is embarrassed by his name is the one who needs

It chanced that a worthy cure, I know not whether it was the cure of
Couloubroux or the cure of Pompierry, took it into his head to ask
him one day, probably at the instigation of Madame Magloire, whether
Monsieur was sure that he was not committing an indiscretion, to a
certain extent, in leaving his door unfastened day and night, at the
mercy of any one who should choose to enter, and whether, in short,
he did not fear lest some misfortune might occur in a house so little
guarded. The Bishop touched his shoulder, with gentle gravity, and
said to him, "Nisi Dominus custodierit domum, in vanum vigilant qui
custodiunt eam," Unless the Lord guard the house, in vain do they watch
who guard it.

Then he spoke of something else.

He was fond of saying, "There is a bravery of the priest as well as
the bravery of a colonel of dragoons,--only," he added, "ours must be


It is here that a fact falls naturally into place, which we must not
omit, because it is one of the sort which show us best what sort of a
man the Bishop of D---- was.

After the destruction of the band of Gaspard Bes, who had infested the
gorges of Ollioules, one of his lieutenants, Cravatte, took refuge in
the mountains. He concealed himself for some time with his bandits, the
remnant of Gaspard Bes's troop, in the county of Nice; then he made his
way to Piedmont, and suddenly reappeared in France, in the vicinity
of Barcelonette. He was first seen at Jauziers, then at Tuiles. He hid
himself in the caverns of the Joug-de-l'Aigle, and thence he descended
towards the hamlets and villages through the ravines of Ubaye and

He even pushed as far as Embrun, entered the cathedral one night,
and despoiled the sacristy. His highway robberies laid waste the
country-side. The gendarmes were set on his track, but in vain. He
always escaped; sometimes he resisted by main force. He was a bold
wretch. In the midst of all this terror the Bishop arrived. He was
making his circuit to Chastelar. The mayor came to meet him, and urged
him to retrace his steps. Cravatte was in possession of the mountains
as far as Arche, and beyond; there was danger even with an escort; it
merely exposed three or four unfortunate gendarmes to no purpose.

"Therefore," said the Bishop, "I intend to go without escort."

"You do not really mean that, Monseigneur!" exclaimed the mayor.

"I do mean it so thoroughly that I absolutely refuse any gendarmes, and
shall set out in an hour."

"Set out?"

"Set out."



"Monseigneur, you will not do that!"

"There exists yonder in the mountains," said the Bishop, "a tiny
community no bigger than that, which I have not seen for three years.
They are my good friends, those gentle and honest shepherds. They own
one goat out of every thirty that they tend. They make very pretty
woollen cords of various colors, and they play the mountain airs on
little flutes with six holes. They need to be told of the good God now
and then. What would they say to a bishop who was afraid? What would
they say if I did not go?"

"But the brigands, Monseigneur?"

"Hold," said the Bishop, "I must think of that. You are right. I may
meet them. They, too, need to be told of the good God."

"But, Monseigneur, there is a band of them! A flock of wolves!"

"Monsieur le maire, it may be that it is of this very flock of wolves
that Jesus has constituted me the shepherd. Who knows the ways of

"They will rob you, Monseigneur."

"I have nothing."

"They will kill you."

"An old goodman of a priest, who passes along mumbling his prayers? Bah!
To what purpose?"

"Oh, mon Dieu! what if you should meet them!"

"I should beg alms of them for my poor."

"Do not go, Monseigneur. In the name of Heaven! You are risking your

"Monsieur le maire," said the Bishop, "is that really all? I am not in
the world to guard my own life, but to guard souls."

They had to allow him to do as he pleased. He set out, accompanied only
by a child who offered to serve as a guide. His obstinacy was bruited
about the country-side, and caused great consternation.

He would take neither his sister nor Madame Magloire. He traversed the
mountain on mule-back, encountered no one, and arrived safe and sound
at the residence of his "good friends," the shepherds. He remained
there for a fortnight, preaching, administering the sacrament, teaching,
exhorting. When the time of his departure approached, he resolved to
chant a Te Deum pontifically. He mentioned it to the cure. But what was
to be done? There were no episcopal ornaments. They could only place at
his disposal a wretched village sacristy, with a few ancient chasubles
of threadbare damask adorned with imitation lace.

"Bah!" said the Bishop. "Let us announce our Te Deum from the pulpit,
nevertheless, Monsieur le Cure. Things will arrange themselves."

They instituted a search in the churches of the neighborhood. All the
magnificence of these humble parishes combined would not have sufficed
to clothe the chorister of a cathedral properly.

While they were thus embarrassed, a large chest was brought and
deposited in the presbytery for the Bishop, by two unknown horsemen, who
departed on the instant. The chest was opened; it contained a cope of
cloth of gold, a mitre ornamented with diamonds, an archbishop's cross,
a magnificent crosier,--all the pontifical vestments which had been
stolen a month previously from the treasury of Notre Dame d'Embrun. In
the chest was a paper, on which these words were written, "From Cravatte
to Monseigneur Bienvenu."

"Did not I say that things would come right of themselves?" said the
Bishop. Then he added, with a smile, "To him who contents himself with
the surplice of a curate, God sends the cope of an archbishop."

"Monseigneur," murmured the cure, throwing back his head with a smile.
"God--or the Devil."

The Bishop looked steadily at the cure, and repeated with authority,

When he returned to Chastelar, the people came out to stare at him as at
a curiosity, all along the road. At the priest's house in Chastelar he
rejoined Mademoiselle Baptistine and Madame Magloire, who were waiting
for him, and he said to his sister: "Well! was I in the right? The poor
priest went to his poor mountaineers with empty hands, and he returns
from them with his hands full. I set out bearing only my faith in God; I
have brought back the treasure of a cathedral."

That evening, before he went to bed, he said again: "Let us never fear
robbers nor murderers. Those are dangers from without, petty dangers.
Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices are the
real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves. What matters it
what threatens our head or our purse! Let us think only of that which
threatens our soul."

Then, turning to his sister: "Sister, never a precaution on the part
of the priest, against his fellow-man. That which his fellow does, God
permits. Let us confine ourselves to prayer, when we think that a danger
is approaching us. Let us pray, not for ourselves, but that our brother
may not fall into sin on our account."

However, such incidents were rare in his life. We relate those of which
we know; but generally he passed his life in doing the same things at
the same moment. One month of his year resembled one hour of his day.

As to what became of "the treasure" of the cathedral of Embrun, we
should be embarrassed by any inquiry in that direction. It consisted of
very handsome things, very tempting things, and things which were very
well adapted to be stolen for the benefit of the unfortunate. Stolen
they had already been elsewhere. Half of the adventure was completed; it
only remained to impart a new direction to the theft, and to cause it
to take a short trip in the direction of the poor. However, we make no
assertions on this point. Only, a rather obscure note was found among
the Bishop's papers, which may bear some relation to this matter, and
which is couched in these terms, "The question is, to decide whether
this should be turned over to the cathedral or to the hospital."


The senator above mentioned was a clever man, who had made his own way,
heedless of those things which present obstacles, and which are called
conscience, sworn faith, justice, duty: he had marched straight to his
goal, without once flinching in the line of his advancement and his
interest. He was an old attorney, softened by success; not a bad man by
any means, who rendered all the small services in his power to his sons,
his sons-in-law, his relations, and even to his friends, having wisely
seized upon, in life, good sides, good opportunities, good windfalls.
Everything else seemed to him very stupid. He was intelligent, and just
sufficiently educated to think himself a disciple of Epicurus; while he
was, in reality, only a product of Pigault-Lebrun. He laughed willingly
and pleasantly over infinite and eternal things, and at the "Crotchets
of that good old fellow the Bishop." He even sometimes laughed at him
with an amiable authority in the presence of M. Myriel himself, who
listened to him.

On some semi-official occasion or other, I do not recollect what,
Count*** [this senator] and M. Myriel were to dine with the prefect.
At dessert, the senator, who was slightly exhilarated, though still
perfectly dignified, exclaimed:--

"Egad, Bishop, let's have a discussion. It is hard for a senator and a
bishop to look at each other without winking. We are two augurs. I am
going to make a confession to you. I have a philosophy of my own."

"And you are right," replied the Bishop. "As one makes one's philosophy,
so one lies on it. You are on the bed of purple, senator."

The senator was encouraged, and went on:--

"Let us be good fellows."

"Good devils even," said the Bishop.

"I declare to you," continued the senator, "that the Marquis d'Argens,
Pyrrhon, Hobbes, and M. Naigeon are no rascals. I have all the
philosophers in my library gilded on the edges."

"Like yourself, Count," interposed the Bishop.

The senator resumed:--

"I hate Diderot; he is an ideologist, a declaimer, and a revolutionist,
a believer in God at bottom, and more bigoted than Voltaire. Voltaire
made sport of Needham, and he was wrong, for Needham's eels prove that
God is useless. A drop of vinegar in a spoonful of flour paste supplies
the fiat lux. Suppose the drop to be larger and the spoonful bigger;
you have the world. Man is the eel. Then what is the good of the Eternal
Father? The Jehovah hypothesis tires me, Bishop. It is good for nothing
but to produce shallow people, whose reasoning is hollow. Down with that
great All, which torments me! Hurrah for Zero which leaves me in peace!
Between you and me, and in order to empty my sack, and make confession
to my pastor, as it behooves me to do, I will admit to you that I
have good sense. I am not enthusiastic over your Jesus, who preaches
renunciation and sacrifice to the last extremity. 'Tis the counsel of an
avaricious man to beggars. Renunciation; why? Sacrifice; to what end?
I do not see one wolf immolating himself for the happiness of another
wolf. Let us stick to nature, then. We are at the top; let us have a
superior philosophy. What is the advantage of being at the top, if
one sees no further than the end of other people's noses? Let us live
merrily. Life is all. That man has another future elsewhere, on high,
below, anywhere, I don't believe; not one single word of it. Ah!
sacrifice and renunciation are recommended to me; I must take heed to
everything I do; I must cudgel my brains over good and evil, over the
just and the unjust, over the fas and the nefas. Why? Because I shall
have to render an account of my actions. When? After death. What a fine
dream! After my death it will be a very clever person who can catch me.
Have a handful of dust seized by a shadow-hand, if you can. Let us tell
the truth, we who are initiated, and who have raised the veil of Isis:
there is no such thing as either good or evil; there is vegetation.
Let us seek the real. Let us get to the bottom of it. Let us go into it
thoroughly. What the deuce! let us go to the bottom of it! We must scent
out the truth; dig in the earth for it, and seize it. Then it gives you
exquisite joys. Then you grow strong, and you laugh. I am square on the
bottom, I am. Immortality, Bishop, is a chance, a waiting for dead men's
shoes. Ah! what a charming promise! trust to it, if you like! What a
fine lot Adam has! We are souls, and we shall be angels, with blue wings
on our shoulder-blades. Do come to my assistance: is it not Tertullian
who says that the blessed shall travel from star to star? Very well. We
shall be the grasshoppers of the stars. And then, besides, we shall
see God. Ta, ta, ta! What twaddle all these paradises are! God is a
nonsensical monster. I would not say that in the Moniteur, egad! but I
may whisper it among friends. Inter pocula. To sacrifice the world to
paradise is to let slip the prey for the shadow. Be the dupe of the
infinite! I'm not such a fool. I am a nought. I call myself Monsieur le
Comte Nought, senator. Did I exist before my birth? No. Shall I exist
after death? No. What am I? A little dust collected in an organism. What
am I to do on this earth? The choice rests with me: suffer or enjoy.
Whither will suffering lead me? To nothingness; but I shall have
suffered. Whither will enjoyment lead me? To nothingness; but I shall
have enjoyed myself. My choice is made. One must eat or be eaten. I
shall eat. It is better to be the tooth than the grass. Such is my
wisdom. After which, go whither I push thee, the grave-digger is there;
the Pantheon for some of us: all falls into the great hole. End. Finis.
Total liquidation. This is the vanishing-point. Death is death, believe
me. I laugh at the idea of there being any one who has anything to tell
me on that subject. Fables of nurses; bugaboo for children; Jehovah for
men. No; our to-morrow is the night. Beyond the tomb there is nothing
but equal nothingness. You have been Sardanapalus, you have been Vincent
de Paul--it makes no difference. That is the truth. Then live your life,
above all things. Make use of your _I_ while you have it. In truth,
Bishop, I tell you that I have a philosophy of my own, and I have my
philosophers. I don't let myself be taken in with that nonsense.
Of course, there must be something for those who are down,--for the
barefooted beggars, knife-grinders, and miserable wretches. Legends,
chimeras, the soul, immortality, paradise, the stars, are provided for
them to swallow. They gobble it down. They spread it on their dry bread.
He who has nothing else has the good. God. That is the least he can
have. I oppose no objection to that; but I reserve Monsieur Naigeon for
myself. The good God is good for the populace."

The Bishop clapped his hands.

"That's talking!" he exclaimed. "What an excellent and really marvellous
thing is this materialism! Not every one who wants it can have it. Ah!
when one does have it, one is no longer a dupe, one does not stupidly
allow one's self to be exiled like Cato, nor stoned like Stephen, nor
burned alive like Jeanne d'Arc. Those who have succeeded in procuring
this admirable materialism have the joy of feeling themselves
irresponsible, and of thinking that they can devour everything without
uneasiness,--places, sinecures, dignities, power, whether well or
ill acquired, lucrative recantations, useful treacheries, savory
capitulations of conscience,--and that they shall enter the tomb with
their digestion accomplished. How agreeable that is! I do not say that
with reference to you, senator. Nevertheless, it is impossible for me
to refrain from congratulating you. You great lords have, so you say, a
philosophy of your own, and for yourselves, which is exquisite, refined,
accessible to the rich alone, good for all sauces, and which seasons
the voluptuousness of life admirably. This philosophy has been
extracted from the depths, and unearthed by special seekers. But you are
good-natured princes, and you do not think it a bad thing that belief in
the good God should constitute the philosophy of the people, very much
as the goose stuffed with chestnuts is the truffled turkey of the poor."


In order to furnish an idea of the private establishment of the
Bishop of D----, and of the manner in which those two sainted women
subordinated their actions, their thoughts, their feminine instincts
even, which are easily alarmed, to the habits and purposes of the
Bishop, without his even taking the trouble of speaking in order to
explain them, we cannot do better than transcribe in this place a letter
from Mademoiselle Baptistine to Madame the Vicomtess de Boischevron, the
friend of her childhood. This letter is in our possession.

                                        D----, Dec. 16, 18--.
MY GOOD MADAM: Not a day passes without our speaking of you. It is our
established custom; but there is another reason besides. Just imagine,
while washing and dusting the ceilings and walls, Madam Magloire has
made some discoveries; now our two chambers hung with antique paper
whitewashed over, would not discredit a chateau in the style of yours.
Madam Magloire has pulled off all the paper. There were things beneath.
My drawing-room, which contains no furniture, and which we use for
spreading out the linen after washing, is fifteen feet in height,
eighteen square, with a ceiling which was formerly painted and gilded,
and with beams, as in yours. This was covered with a cloth while this
was the hospital. And the woodwork was of the era of our grandmothers.
But my room is the one you ought to see. Madam Magloire has discovered,
under at least ten thicknesses of paper pasted on top, some paintings,
which without being good are very tolerable. The subject is Telemachus
being knighted by Minerva in some gardens, the name of which escapes
me. In short, where the Roman ladies repaired on one single night. What
shall I say to you? I have Romans, and Roman ladies [here occurs an
illegible word], and the whole train. Madam Magloire has cleaned it all
off; this summer she is going to have some small injuries repaired, and
the whole revarnished, and my chamber will be a regular museum. She has
also found in a corner of the attic two wooden pier-tables of ancient
fashion. They asked us two crowns of six francs each to regild them, but
it is much better to give the money to the poor; and they are very ugly
besides, and I should much prefer a round table of mahogany.

I am always very happy. My brother is so good. He gives all he has to
the poor and sick. We are very much cramped. The country is trying in
the winter, and we really must do something for those who are in need.
We are almost comfortably lighted and warmed. You see that these are
great treats.

My brother has ways of his own. When he talks, he says that a bishop
ought to be so. Just imagine! the door of our house is never fastened.
Whoever chooses to enter finds himself at once in my brother's room. He
fears nothing, even at night. That is his sort of bravery, he says.

He does not wish me or Madame Magloire feel any fear for him. He exposes
himself to all sorts of dangers, and he does not like to have us even
seem to notice it. One must know how to understand him.

He goes out in the rain, he walks in the water, he travels in winter. He
fears neither suspicious roads nor dangerous encounters, nor night.

Last year he went quite alone into a country of robbers. He would
not take us. He was absent for a fortnight. On his return nothing had
happened to him; he was thought to be dead, but was perfectly well, and
said, "This is the way I have been robbed!" And then he opened a trunk
full of jewels, all the jewels of the cathedral of Embrun, which the
thieves had given him.

When he returned on that occasion, I could not refrain from scolding him
a little, taking care, however, not to speak except when the carriage
was making a noise, so that no one might hear me.

At first I used to say to myself, "There are no dangers which will stop
him; he is terrible." Now I have ended by getting used to it. I make a
sign to Madam Magloire that she is not to oppose him. He risks himself
as he sees fit. I carry off Madam Magloire, I enter my chamber, I pray
for him and fall asleep. I am at ease, because I know that if anything
were to happen to him, it would be the end of me. I should go to the
good God with my brother and my bishop. It has cost Madam Magloire
more trouble than it did me to accustom herself to what she terms his
imprudences. But now the habit has been acquired. We pray together, we
tremble together, and we fall asleep. If the devil were to enter this
house, he would be allowed to do so. After all, what is there for us
to fear in this house? There is always some one with us who is stronger
than we. The devil may pass through it, but the good God dwells here.

This suffices me. My brother has no longer any need of saying a word to
me. I understand him without his speaking, and we abandon ourselves to
the care of Providence. That is the way one has to do with a man who
possesses grandeur of soul.

I have interrogated my brother with regard to the information which you
desire on the subject of the Faux family. You are aware that he knows
everything, and that he has memories, because he is still a very
good royalist. They really are a very ancient Norman family of the
generalship of Caen. Five hundred years ago there was a Raoul de Faux, a
Jean de Faux, and a Thomas de Faux, who were gentlemen, and one of whom
was a seigneur de Rochefort. The last was Guy-Etienne-Alexandre, and was
commander of a regiment, and something in the light horse of Bretagne.
His daughter, Marie-Louise, married Adrien-Charles de Gramont, son of
the Duke Louis de Gramont, peer of France, colonel of the French guards,
and lieutenant-general of the army. It is written Faux, Fauq, and

Good Madame, recommend us to the prayers of your sainted relative,
Monsieur the Cardinal. As for your dear Sylvanie, she has done well in
not wasting the few moments which she passes with you in writing to me.
She is well, works as you would wish, and loves me.

That is all that I desire. The souvenir which she sent through you
reached me safely, and it makes me very happy. My health is not so very
bad, and yet I grow thinner every day. Farewell; my paper is at an end,
and this forces me to leave you. A thousand good wishes.


P.S. Your grand nephew is charming. Do you know that he will soon be
five years old? Yesterday he saw some one riding by on horseback who
had on knee-caps, and he said, "What has he got on his knees?" He is a
charming child! His little brother is dragging an old broom about the
room, like a carriage, and saying, "Hu!"

As will be perceived from this letter, these two women understood how to
mould themselves to the Bishop's ways with that special feminine genius
which comprehends the man better than he comprehends himself. The Bishop
of D----, in spite of the gentle and candid air which never deserted
him, sometimes did things that were grand, bold, and magnificent,
without seeming to have even a suspicion of the fact. They trembled, but
they let him alone. Sometimes Madame Magloire essayed a remonstrance in
advance, but never at the time, nor afterwards. They never interfered
with him by so much as a word or sign, in any action once entered upon.
At certain moments, without his having occasion to mention it, when he
was not even conscious of it himself in all probability, so perfect was
his simplicity, they vaguely felt that he was acting as a bishop; then
they were nothing more than two shadows in the house. They served him
passively; and if obedience consisted in disappearing, they disappeared.
They understood, with an admirable delicacy of instinct, that certain
cares may be put under constraint. Thus, even when believing him to be
in peril, they understood, I will not say his thought, but his nature,
to such a degree that they no longer watched over him. They confided him
to God.

Moreover, Baptistine said, as we have just read, that her brother's end
would prove her own. Madame Magloire did not say this, but she knew it.


At an epoch a little later than the date of the letter cited in the
preceding pages, he did a thing which, if the whole town was to be
believed, was even more hazardous than his trip across the mountains
infested with bandits.

In the country near D---- a man lived quite alone. This man, we will
state at once, was a former member of the Convention. His name was G----

Member of the Convention, G---- was mentioned with a sort of horror in
the little world of D---- A member of the Convention--can you imagine
such a thing? That existed from the time when people called each other
thou, and when they said "citizen." This man was almost a monster.
He had not voted for the death of the king, but almost. He was a
quasi-regicide. He had been a terrible man. How did it happen that such
a man had not been brought before a provost's court, on the return of
the legitimate princes? They need not have cut off his head, if you
please; clemency must be exercised, agreed; but a good banishment for
life. An example, in short, etc. Besides, he was an atheist, like all
the rest of those people. Gossip of the geese about the vulture.

Was G---- a vulture after all? Yes; if he were to be judged by the
element of ferocity in this solitude of his. As he had not voted for the
death of the king, he had not been included in the decrees of exile, and
had been able to remain in France.

He dwelt at a distance of three-quarters of an hour from the city, far
from any hamlet, far from any road, in some hidden turn of a very wild
valley, no one knew exactly where. He had there, it was said, a sort
of field, a hole, a lair. There were no neighbors, not even passers-by.
Since he had dwelt in that valley, the path which led thither had
disappeared under a growth of grass. The locality was spoken of as
though it had been the dwelling of a hangman.

Nevertheless, the Bishop meditated on the subject, and from time to time
he gazed at the horizon at a point where a clump of trees marked the
valley of the former member of the Convention, and he said, "There is a
soul yonder which is lonely."

And he added, deep in his own mind, "I owe him a visit."

But, let us avow it, this idea, which seemed natural at the first blush,
appeared to him after a moment's reflection, as strange, impossible, and
almost repulsive. For, at bottom, he shared the general impression, and
the old member of the Convention inspired him, without his being clearly
conscious of the fact himself, with that sentiment which borders on
hate, and which is so well expressed by the word estrangement.

Still, should the scab of the sheep cause the shepherd to recoil? No.
But what a sheep!

The good Bishop was perplexed. Sometimes he set out in that direction;
then he returned.

Finally, the rumor one day spread through the town that a sort of young
shepherd, who served the member of the Convention in his hovel, had come
in quest of a doctor; that the old wretch was dying, that paralysis was
gaining on him, and that he would not live over night.--"Thank God!"
some added.

The Bishop took his staff, put on his cloak, on account of his too
threadbare cassock, as we have mentioned, and because of the evening
breeze which was sure to rise soon, and set out.

The sun was setting, and had almost touched the horizon when the Bishop
arrived at the excommunicated spot. With a certain beating of the heart,
he recognized the fact that he was near the lair. He strode over a
ditch, leaped a hedge, made his way through a fence of dead boughs,
entered a neglected paddock, took a few steps with a good deal of
boldness, and suddenly, at the extremity of the waste land, and behind
lofty brambles, he caught sight of the cavern.

It was a very low hut, poor, small, and clean, with a vine nailed
against the outside.

Near the door, in an old wheel-chair, the arm-chair of the peasants,
there was a white-haired man, smiling at the sun.

Near the seated man stood a young boy, the shepherd lad. He was offering
the old man a jar of milk.

While the Bishop was watching him, the old man spoke: "Thank you," he
said, "I need nothing." And his smile quitted the sun to rest upon the

The Bishop stepped forward. At the sound which he made in walking, the
old man turned his head, and his face expressed the sum total of the
surprise which a man can still feel after a long life.

"This is the first time since I have been here," said he, "that any one
has entered here. Who are you, sir?"

The Bishop answered:--

"My name is Bienvenu Myriel."

"Bienvenu Myriel? I have heard that name. Are you the man whom the
people call Monseigneur Welcome?"

"I am."

The old man resumed with a half-smile

"In that case, you are my bishop?"

"Something of that sort."

"Enter, sir."

The member of the Convention extended his hand to the Bishop, but the
Bishop did not take it. The Bishop confined himself to the remark:--

"I am pleased to see that I have been misinformed. You certainly do not
seem to me to be ill."

"Monsieur," replied the old man, "I am going to recover."

He paused, and then said:--

"I shall die three hours hence."

Then he continued:--

"I am something of a doctor; I know in what fashion the last hour draws
on. Yesterday, only my feet were cold; to-day, the chill has ascended to
my knees; now I feel it mounting to my waist; when it reaches the heart,
I shall stop. The sun is beautiful, is it not? I had myself wheeled
out here to take a last look at things. You can talk to me; it does not
fatigue me. You have done well to come and look at a man who is on
the point of death. It is well that there should be witnesses at that
moment. One has one's caprices; I should have liked to last until the
dawn, but I know that I shall hardly live three hours. It will be night
then. What does it matter, after all? Dying is a simple affair. One has
no need of the light for that. So be it. I shall die by starlight."

The old man turned to the shepherd lad:--

"Go to thy bed; thou wert awake all last night; thou art tired."

The child entered the hut.

The old man followed him with his eyes, and added, as though speaking to

"I shall die while he sleeps. The two slumbers may be good neighbors."

The Bishop was not touched as it seems that he should have been. He
did not think he discerned God in this manner of dying; let us say the
whole, for these petty contradictions of great hearts must be indicated
like the rest: he, who on occasion, was so fond of laughing at "His
Grace," was rather shocked at not being addressed as Monseigneur, and he
was almost tempted to retort "citizen." He was assailed by a fancy for
peevish familiarity, common enough to doctors and priests, but which
was not habitual with him. This man, after all, this member of the
Convention, this representative of the people, had been one of the
powerful ones of the earth; for the first time in his life, probably,
the Bishop felt in a mood to be severe.

Meanwhile, the member of the Convention had been surveying him with a
modest cordiality, in which one could have distinguished, possibly, that
humility which is so fitting when one is on the verge of returning to

The Bishop, on his side, although he generally restrained his curiosity,
which, in his opinion, bordered on a fault, could not refrain from
examining the member of the Convention with an attention which, as it
did not have its course in sympathy, would have served his conscience as
a matter of reproach, in connection with any other man. A member of the
Convention produced on him somewhat the effect of being outside the pale
of the law, even of the law of charity. G----, calm, his body almost
upright, his voice vibrating, was one of those octogenarians who form
the subject of astonishment to the physiologist. The Revolution had
many of these men, proportioned to the epoch. In this old man one was
conscious of a man put to the proof. Though so near to his end, he
preserved all the gestures of health. In his clear glance, in his firm
tone, in the robust movement of his shoulders, there was something
calculated to disconcert death. Azrael, the Mohammedan angel of the
sepulchre, would have turned back, and thought that he had mistaken
the door. G---- seemed to be dying because he willed it so. There was
freedom in his agony. His legs alone were motionless. It was there that
the shadows held him fast. His feet were cold and dead, but his head
survived with all the power of life, and seemed full of light. G----,
at this solemn moment, resembled the king in that tale of the Orient who
was flesh above and marble below.

There was a stone there. The Bishop sat down. The exordium was abrupt.

"I congratulate you," said he, in the tone which one uses for a
reprimand. "You did not vote for the death of the king, after all."

The old member of the Convention did not appear to notice the bitter
meaning underlying the words "after all." He replied. The smile had
quite disappeared from his face.

"Do not congratulate me too much, sir. I did vote for the death of the

It was the tone of austerity answering the tone of severity.

"What do you mean to say?" resumed the Bishop.

"I mean to say that man has a tyrant,--ignorance. I voted for the death
of that tyrant. That tyrant engendered royalty, which is authority
falsely understood, while science is authority rightly understood. Man
should be governed only by science."

"And conscience," added the Bishop.

"It is the same thing. Conscience is the quantity of innate science
which we have within us."

Monseigneur Bienvenu listened in some astonishment to this language,
which was very new to him.

The member of the Convention resumed:--

"So far as Louis XVI. was concerned, I said 'no.' I did not think that I
had the right to kill a man; but I felt it my duty to exterminate evil.
I voted the end of the tyrant, that is to say, the end of prostitution
for woman, the end of slavery for man, the end of night for the child.
In voting for the Republic, I voted for that. I voted for fraternity,
concord, the dawn. I have aided in the overthrow of prejudices and
errors. The crumbling away of prejudices and errors causes light. We
have caused the fall of the old world, and the old world, that vase of
miseries, has become, through its upsetting upon the human race, an urn
of joy."

"Mixed joy," said the Bishop.

"You may say troubled joy, and to-day, after that fatal return of the
past, which is called 1814, joy which has disappeared! Alas! The work
was incomplete, I admit: we demolished the ancient regime in deeds; we
were not able to suppress it entirely in ideas. To destroy abuses is not
sufficient; customs must be modified. The mill is there no longer; the
wind is still there."

"You have demolished. It may be of use to demolish, but I distrust a
demolition complicated with wrath."

"Right has its wrath, Bishop; and the wrath of right is an element of
progress. In any case, and in spite of whatever may be said, the French
Revolution is the most important step of the human race since the advent
of Christ. Incomplete, it may be, but sublime. It set free all the
unknown social quantities; it softened spirits, it calmed, appeased,
enlightened; it caused the waves of civilization to flow over the
earth. It was a good thing. The French Revolution is the consecration of

The Bishop could not refrain from murmuring:--

"Yes? '93!"

The member of the Convention straightened himself up in his chair with
an almost lugubrious solemnity, and exclaimed, so far as a dying man is
capable of exclamation:--

"Ah, there you go; '93! I was expecting that word. A cloud had been
forming for the space of fifteen hundred years; at the end of fifteen
hundred years it burst. You are putting the thunderbolt on its trial."

The Bishop felt, without, perhaps, confessing it, that something within
him had suffered extinction. Nevertheless, he put a good face on the
matter. He replied:--

"The judge speaks in the name of justice; the priest speaks in the name
of pity, which is nothing but a more lofty justice. A thunderbolt should
commit no error." And he added, regarding the member of the Convention
steadily the while, "Louis XVII.?"

The conventionary stretched forth his hand and grasped the Bishop's arm.

"Louis XVII.! let us see. For whom do you mourn? is it for the innocent
child? very good; in that case I mourn with you. Is it for the royal
child? I demand time for reflection. To me, the brother of Cartouche,
an innocent child who was hung up by the armpits in the Place de Greve,
until death ensued, for the sole crime of having been the brother
of Cartouche, is no less painful than the grandson of Louis XV., an
innocent child, martyred in the tower of the Temple, for the sole crime
of having been grandson of Louis XV."

"Monsieur," said the Bishop, "I like not this conjunction of names."

"Cartouche? Louis XV.? To which of the two do you object?"

A momentary silence ensued. The Bishop almost regretted having come, and
yet he felt vaguely and strangely shaken.

The conventionary resumed:--

"Ah, Monsieur Priest, you love not the crudities of the true. Christ
loved them. He seized a rod and cleared out the Temple. His scourge,
full of lightnings, was a harsh speaker of truths. When he cried,
'Sinite parvulos,' he made no distinction between the little children.
It would not have embarrassed him to bring together the Dauphin of
Barabbas and the Dauphin of Herod. Innocence, Monsieur, is its own
crown. Innocence has no need to be a highness. It is as august in rags
as in fleurs de lys."

"That is true," said the Bishop in a low voice.

"I persist," continued the conventionary G---- "You have mentioned Louis
XVII. to me. Let us come to an understanding. Shall we weep for all the
innocent, all martyrs, all children, the lowly as well as the exalted?
I agree to that. But in that case, as I have told you, we must go back
further than '93, and our tears must begin before Louis XVII. I will
weep with you over the children of kings, provided that you will weep
with me over the children of the people."

"I weep for all," said the Bishop.

"Equally!" exclaimed conventionary G----; "and if the balance must
incline, let it be on the side of the people. They have been suffering

Another silence ensued. The conventionary was the first to break it. He
raised himself on one elbow, took a bit of his cheek between his thumb
and his forefinger, as one does mechanically when one interrogates and
judges, and appealed to the Bishop with a gaze full of all the forces of
the death agony. It was almost an explosion.

"Yes, sir, the people have been suffering a long while. And hold! that
is not all, either; why have you just questioned me and talked to me
about Louis XVII.? I know you not. Ever since I have been in these parts
I have dwelt in this enclosure alone, never setting foot outside, and
seeing no one but that child who helps me. Your name has reached me in
a confused manner, it is true, and very badly pronounced, I must admit;
but that signifies nothing: clever men have so many ways of imposing on
that honest goodman, the people. By the way, I did not hear the sound of
your carriage; you have left it yonder, behind the coppice at the fork
of the roads, no doubt. I do not know you, I tell you. You have told me
that you are the Bishop; but that affords me no information as to your
moral personality. In short, I repeat my question. Who are you? You are
a bishop; that is to say, a prince of the church, one of those gilded
men with heraldic bearings and revenues, who have vast prebends,--the
bishopric of D---- fifteen thousand francs settled income, ten thousand
in perquisites; total, twenty-five thousand francs,--who have kitchens,
who have liveries, who make good cheer, who eat moor-hens on Friday, who
strut about, a lackey before, a lackey behind, in a gala coach, and
who have palaces, and who roll in their carriages in the name of Jesus
Christ who went barefoot! You are a prelate,--revenues, palace, horses,
servants, good table, all the sensualities of life; you have this like
the rest, and like the rest, you enjoy it; it is well; but this says
either too much or too little; this does not enlighten me upon the
intrinsic and essential value of the man who comes with the probable
intention of bringing wisdom to me. To whom do I speak? Who are you?"

The Bishop hung his head and replied, "Vermis sum--I am a worm."

"A worm of the earth in a carriage?" growled the conventionary.

It was the conventionary's turn to be arrogant, and the Bishop's to be

The Bishop resumed mildly:--

"So be it, sir. But explain to me how my carriage, which is a few paces
off behind the trees yonder, how my good table and the moor-hens which I
eat on Friday, how my twenty-five thousand francs income, how my palace
and my lackeys prove that clemency is not a duty, and that '93 was not

The conventionary passed his hand across his brow, as though to sweep
away a cloud.

"Before replying to you," he said, "I beseech you to pardon me. I have
just committed a wrong, sir. You are at my house, you are my guest, I
owe you courtesy. You discuss my ideas, and it becomes me to confine
myself to combating your arguments. Your riches and your pleasures are
advantages which I hold over you in the debate; but good taste dictates
that I shall not make use of them. I promise you to make no use of them
in the future."

"I thank you," said the Bishop.

G---- resumed.

"Let us return to the explanation which you have asked of me. Where were
we? What were you saying to me? That '93 was inexorable?"

"Inexorable; yes," said the Bishop. "What think you of Marat clapping
his hands at the guillotine?"

"What think you of Bossuet chanting the Te Deum over the dragonnades?"

The retort was a harsh one, but it attained its mark with the directness
of a point of steel. The Bishop quivered under it; no reply occurred to
him; but he was offended by this mode of alluding to Bossuet. The best
of minds will have their fetiches, and they sometimes feel vaguely
wounded by the want of respect of logic.

The conventionary began to pant; the asthma of the agony which is
mingled with the last breaths interrupted his voice; still, there was a
perfect lucidity of soul in his eyes. He went on:--

"Let me say a few words more in this and that direction; I am willing.
Apart from the Revolution, which, taken as a whole, is an immense human
affirmation, '93 is, alas! a rejoinder. You think it inexorable, sir;
but what of the whole monarchy, sir? Carrier is a bandit; but what name
do you give to Montrevel? Fouquier-Tainville is a rascal; but what
is your opinion as to Lamoignon-Baville? Maillard is terrible; but
Saulx-Tavannes, if you please? Duchene senior is ferocious; but what
epithet will you allow me for the elder Letellier? Jourdan-Coupe-Tete
is a monster; but not so great a one as M. the Marquis de Louvois. Sir,
sir, I am sorry for Marie Antoinette, archduchess and queen; but I am
also sorry for that poor Huguenot woman, who, in 1685, under Louis the
Great, sir, while with a nursing infant, was bound, naked to the waist,
to a stake, and the child kept at a distance; her breast swelled with
milk and her heart with anguish; the little one, hungry and pale, beheld
that breast and cried and agonized; the executioner said to the woman, a
mother and a nurse, 'Abjure!' giving her her choice between the death of
her infant and the death of her conscience. What say you to that torture
of Tantalus as applied to a mother? Bear this well in mind sir: the
French Revolution had its reasons for existence; its wrath will be
absolved by the future; its result is the world made better. From its
most terrible blows there comes forth a caress for the human race. I
abridge, I stop, I have too much the advantage; moreover, I am dying."

And ceasing to gaze at the Bishop, the conventionary concluded his
thoughts in these tranquil words:--

"Yes, the brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are
over, this fact is recognized,--that the human race has been treated
harshly, but that it has progressed."

The conventionary doubted not that he had successively conquered all the
inmost intrenchments of the Bishop. One remained, however, and from this
intrenchment, the last resource of Monseigneur Bienvenu's resistance,
came forth this reply, wherein appeared nearly all the harshness of the

"Progress should believe in God. Good cannot have an impious servitor.
He who is an atheist is but a bad leader for the human race."

The former representative of the people made no reply. He was seized
with a fit of trembling. He looked towards heaven, and in his glance a
tear gathered slowly. When the eyelid was full, the tear trickled down
his livid cheek, and he said, almost in a stammer, quite low, and to
himself, while his eyes were plunged in the depths:--

"O thou! O ideal! Thou alone existest!"

The Bishop experienced an indescribable shock.

After a pause, the old man raised a finger heavenward and said:--

"The infinite is. He is there. If the infinite had no person, person
would be without limit; it would not be infinite; in other words, it
would not exist. There is, then, an _I_. That _I_ of the infinite is

The dying man had pronounced these last words in a loud voice, and with
the shiver of ecstasy, as though he beheld some one. When he had spoken,
his eyes closed. The effort had exhausted him. It was evident that he
had just lived through in a moment the few hours which had been left to
him. That which he had said brought him nearer to him who is in death.
The supreme moment was approaching.

The Bishop understood this; time pressed; it was as a priest that he had
come: from extreme coldness he had passed by degrees to extreme emotion;
he gazed at those closed eyes, he took that wrinkled, aged and ice-cold
hand in his, and bent over the dying man.

"This hour is the hour of God. Do you not think that it would be
regrettable if we had met in vain?"

The conventionary opened his eyes again. A gravity mingled with gloom
was imprinted on his countenance.

"Bishop," said he, with a slowness which probably arose more from his
dignity of soul than from the failing of his strength, "I have passed my
life in meditation, study, and contemplation. I was sixty years of age
when my country called me and commanded me to concern myself with its
affairs. I obeyed. Abuses existed, I combated them; tyrannies existed,
I destroyed them; rights and principles existed, I proclaimed and
confessed them. Our territory was invaded, I defended it; France was
menaced, I offered my breast. I was not rich; I am poor. I have been one
of the masters of the state; the vaults of the treasury were encumbered
with specie to such a degree that we were forced to shore up the walls,
which were on the point of bursting beneath the weight of gold and
silver; I dined in Dead Tree Street, at twenty-two sous. I have succored
the oppressed, I have comforted the suffering. I tore the cloth from
the altar, it is true; but it was to bind up the wounds of my country. I
have always upheld the march forward of the human race, forward towards
the light, and I have sometimes resisted progress without pity. I have,
when the occasion offered, protected my own adversaries, men of your
profession. And there is at Peteghem, in Flanders, at the very spot
where the Merovingian kings had their summer palace, a convent of
Urbanists, the Abbey of Sainte Claire en Beaulieu, which I saved in
1793. I have done my duty according to my powers, and all the good
that I was able. After which, I was hunted down, pursued, persecuted,
blackened, jeered at, scorned, cursed, proscribed. For many years past,
I with my white hair have been conscious that many people think they
have the right to despise me; to the poor ignorant masses I present the
visage of one damned. And I accept this isolation of hatred, without
hating any one myself. Now I am eighty-six years old; I am on the point
of death. What is it that you have come to ask of me?"

"Your blessing," said the Bishop.

And he knelt down.

When the Bishop raised his head again, the face of the conventionary had
become august. He had just expired.

The Bishop returned home, deeply absorbed in thoughts which cannot
be known to us. He passed the whole night in prayer. On the following
morning some bold and curious persons attempted to speak to him about
member of the Convention G----; he contented himself with pointing

From that moment he redoubled his tenderness and brotherly feeling
towards all children and sufferers.

Any allusion to "that old wretch of a G----" caused him to fall into a
singular preoccupation. No one could say that the passage of that soul
before his, and the reflection of that grand conscience upon his, did
not count for something in his approach to perfection.

This "pastoral visit" naturally furnished an occasion for a murmur of
comment in all the little local coteries.

"Was the bedside of such a dying man as that the proper place for a
bishop? There was evidently no conversion to be expected. All those
revolutionists are backsliders. Then why go there? What was there to be
seen there? He must have been very curious indeed to see a soul carried
off by the devil."

One day a dowager of the impertinent variety who thinks herself
spiritual, addressed this sally to him, "Monseigneur, people are
inquiring when Your Greatness will receive the red cap!"--"Oh! oh!
that's a coarse color," replied the Bishop. "It is lucky that those who
despise it in a cap revere it in a hat."


We should incur a great risk of deceiving ourselves, were we to conclude
from this that Monseigneur Welcome was "a philosophical bishop," or a
"patriotic cure." His meeting, which may almost be designated as his
union, with conventionary G----, left behind it in his mind a sort of
astonishment, which rendered him still more gentle. That is all.

Although Monseigneur Bienvenu was far from being a politician, this is,
perhaps, the place to indicate very briefly what his attitude was in the
events of that epoch, supposing that Monseigneur Bienvenu ever dreamed
of having an attitude.

Let us, then, go back a few years.

Some time after the elevation of M. Myriel to the episcopate, the
Emperor had made him a baron of the Empire, in company with many other
bishops. The arrest of the Pope took place, as every one knows, on the
night of the 5th to the 6th of July, 1809; on this occasion, M. Myriel
was summoned by Napoleon to the synod of the bishops of France and Italy
convened at Paris. This synod was held at Notre-Dame, and assembled
for the first time on the 15th of June, 1811, under the presidency
of Cardinal Fesch. M. Myriel was one of the ninety-five bishops who
attended it. But he was present only at one sitting and at three or four
private conferences. Bishop of a mountain diocese, living so very close
to nature, in rusticity and deprivation, it appeared that he imported
among these eminent personages, ideas which altered the temperature of
the assembly. He very soon returned to D---- He was interrogated as to
this speedy return, and he replied: "I embarrassed them. The outside air
penetrated to them through me. I produced on them the effect of an open

On another occasion he said, "What would you have? Those gentlemen are
princes. I am only a poor peasant bishop."

The fact is that he displeased them. Among other strange things, it is
said that he chanced to remark one evening, when he found himself at
the house of one of his most notable colleagues: "What beautiful clocks!
What beautiful carpets! What beautiful liveries! They must be a great
trouble. I would not have all those superfluities, crying incessantly
in my ears: 'There are people who are hungry! There are people who are
cold! There are poor people! There are poor people!'"

Let us remark, by the way, that the hatred of luxury is not an
intelligent hatred. This hatred would involve the hatred of the arts.
Nevertheless, in churchmen, luxury is wrong, except in connection with
representations and ceremonies. It seems to reveal habits which have
very little that is charitable about them. An opulent priest is a
contradiction. The priest must keep close to the poor. Now, can one come
in contact incessantly night and day with all this distress, all these
misfortunes, and this poverty, without having about one's own person a
little of that misery, like the dust of labor? Is it possible to imagine
a man near a brazier who is not warm? Can one imagine a workman who is
working near a furnace, and who has neither a singed hair, nor blackened
nails, nor a drop of sweat, nor a speck of ashes on his face? The first
proof of charity in the priest, in the bishop especially, is poverty.

This is, no doubt, what the Bishop of D---- thought.

It must not be supposed, however, that he shared what we call the "ideas
of the century" on certain delicate points. He took very little part
in the theological quarrels of the moment, and maintained silence on
questions in which Church and State were implicated; but if he had
been strongly pressed, it seems that he would have been found to be an
ultramontane rather than a gallican. Since we are making a portrait, and
since we do not wish to conceal anything, we are forced to add that he
was glacial towards Napoleon in his decline. Beginning with 1813, he
gave in his adherence to or applauded all hostile manifestations. He
refused to see him, as he passed through on his return from the island
of Elba, and he abstained from ordering public prayers for the Emperor
in his diocese during the Hundred Days.

Besides his sister, Mademoiselle Baptistine, he had two brothers, one a
general, the other a prefect. He wrote to both with tolerable frequency.
He was harsh for a time towards the former, because, holding a command
in Provence at the epoch of the disembarkation at Cannes, the general
had put himself at the head of twelve hundred men and had pursued the
Emperor as though the latter had been a person whom one is desirous
of allowing to escape. His correspondence with the other brother, the
ex-prefect, a fine, worthy man who lived in retirement at Paris, Rue
Cassette, remained more affectionate.

Thus Monseigneur Bienvenu also had his hour of party spirit, his hour
of bitterness, his cloud. The shadow of the passions of the moment
traversed this grand and gentle spirit occupied with eternal things.
Certainly, such a man would have done well not to entertain any
political opinions. Let there be no mistake as to our meaning: we are
not confounding what is called "political opinions" with the grand
aspiration for progress, with the sublime faith, patriotic, democratic,
humane, which in our day should be the very foundation of every generous
intellect. Without going deeply into questions which are only indirectly
connected with the subject of this book, we will simply say this: It
would have been well if Monseigneur Bienvenu had not been a Royalist,
and if his glance had never been, for a single instant, turned away from
that serene contemplation in which is distinctly discernible, above the
fictions and the hatreds of this world, above the stormy vicissitudes of
human things, the beaming of those three pure radiances, truth, justice,
and charity.

While admitting that it was not for a political office that God created
Monseigneur Welcome, we should have understood and admired his protest
in the name of right and liberty, his proud opposition, his just but
perilous resistance to the all-powerful Napoleon. But that which pleases
us in people who are rising pleases us less in the case of people who
are falling. We only love the fray so long as there is danger, and in
any case, the combatants of the first hour have alone the right to be
the exterminators of the last. He who has not been a stubborn accuser in
prosperity should hold his peace in the face of ruin. The denunciator of
success is the only legitimate executioner of the fall. As for us, when
Providence intervenes and strikes, we let it work. 1812 commenced to
disarm us. In 1813 the cowardly breach of silence of that taciturn
legislative body, emboldened by catastrophe, possessed only traits which
aroused indignation. And it was a crime to applaud, in 1814, in the
presence of those marshals who betrayed; in the presence of that senate
which passed from one dunghill to another, insulting after having
deified; in the presence of that idolatry which was loosing its footing
and spitting on its idol,--it was a duty to turn aside the head. In
1815, when the supreme disasters filled the air, when France was seized
with a shiver at their sinister approach, when Waterloo could be dimly
discerned opening before Napoleon, the mournful acclamation of the army
and the people to the condemned of destiny had nothing laughable in it,
and, after making all allowance for the despot, a heart like that of
the Bishop of D----, ought not perhaps to have failed to recognize the
august and touching features presented by the embrace of a great nation
and a great man on the brink of the abyss.

With this exception, he was in all things just, true, equitable,
intelligent, humble and dignified, beneficent and kindly, which is only
another sort of benevolence. He was a priest, a sage, and a man. It must
be admitted, that even in the political views with which we have just
reproached him, and which we are disposed to judge almost with severity,
he was tolerant and easy, more so, perhaps, than we who are speaking
here. The porter of the town-hall had been placed there by the Emperor.
He was an old non-commissioned officer of the old guard, a member of the
Legion of Honor at Austerlitz, as much of a Bonapartist as the eagle.
This poor fellow occasionally let slip inconsiderate remarks, which the
law then stigmatized as seditious speeches. After the imperial profile
disappeared from the Legion of Honor, he never dressed himself in his
regimentals, as he said, so that he should not be obliged to wear his
cross. He had himself devoutly removed the imperial effigy from the
cross which Napoleon had given him; this made a hole, and he would not
put anything in its place. "I will die," he said, "rather than wear the
three frogs upon my heart!" He liked to scoff aloud at Louis XVIII. "The
gouty old creature in English gaiters!" he said; "let him take himself
off to Prussia with that queue of his." He was happy to combine in the
same imprecation the two things which he most detested, Prussia and
England. He did it so often that he lost his place. There he was, turned
out of the house, with his wife and children, and without bread. The
Bishop sent for him, reproved him gently, and appointed him beadle in
the cathedral.

In the course of nine years Monseigneur Bienvenu had, by dint of holy
deeds and gentle manners, filled the town of D----with a sort of
tender and filial reverence. Even his conduct towards Napoleon had been
accepted and tacitly pardoned, as it were, by the people, the good and
weakly flock who adored their emperor, but loved their bishop.


A bishop is almost always surrounded by a full squadron of little abbes,
just as a general is by a covey of young officers. This is what
that charming Saint Francois de Sales calls somewhere "les pretres
blancs-becs," callow priests. Every career has its aspirants, who form
a train for those who have attained eminence in it. There is no power
which has not its dependents. There is no fortune which has not its
court. The seekers of the future eddy around the splendid present. Every
metropolis has its staff of officials. Every bishop who possesses the
least influence has about him his patrol of cherubim from the seminary,
which goes the round, and maintains good order in the episcopal palace,
and mounts guard over monseigneur's smile. To please a bishop is
equivalent to getting one's foot in the stirrup for a sub-diaconate.
It is necessary to walk one's path discreetly; the apostleship does not
disdain the canonship.

Just as there are bigwigs elsewhere, there are big mitres in the Church.
These are the bishops who stand well at Court, who are rich, well
endowed, skilful, accepted by the world, who know how to pray, no doubt,
but who know also how to beg, who feel little scruple at making a whole
diocese dance attendance in their person, who are connecting links
between the sacristy and diplomacy, who are abbes rather than priests,
prelates rather than bishops. Happy those who approach them! Being
persons of influence, they create a shower about them, upon the
assiduous and the favored, and upon all the young men who understand
the art of pleasing, of large parishes, prebends, archidiaconates,
chaplaincies, and cathedral posts, while awaiting episcopal honors. As
they advance themselves, they cause their satellites to progress also;
it is a whole solar system on the march. Their radiance casts a gleam
of purple over their suite. Their prosperity is crumbled up behind
the scenes, into nice little promotions. The larger the diocese of the
patron, the fatter the curacy for the favorite. And then, there is Rome.
A bishop who understands how to become an archbishop, an archbishop who
knows how to become a cardinal, carries you with him as conclavist;
you enter a court of papal jurisdiction, you receive the pallium, and
behold! you are an auditor, then a papal chamberlain, then monsignor,
and from a Grace to an Eminence is only a step, and between the Eminence
and the Holiness there is but the smoke of a ballot. Every skull-cap may
dream of the tiara. The priest is nowadays the only man who can become a
king in a regular manner; and what a king! the supreme king. Then what a
nursery of aspirations is a seminary! How many blushing choristers,
how many youthful abbes bear on their heads Perrette's pot of milk!
Who knows how easy it is for ambition to call itself vocation? in good
faith, perchance, and deceiving itself, devotee that it is.

Monseigneur Bienvenu, poor, humble, retiring, was not accounted among
the big mitres. This was plain from the complete absence of young
priests about him. We have seen that he "did not take" in Paris. Not a
single future dreamed of engrafting itself on this solitary old man.
Not a single sprouting ambition committed the folly of putting forth its
foliage in his shadow. His canons and grand-vicars were good old men,
rather vulgar like himself, walled up like him in this diocese, without
exit to a cardinalship, and who resembled their bishop, with this
difference, that they were finished and he was completed. The
impossibility of growing great under Monseigneur Bienvenu was so well
understood, that no sooner had the young men whom he ordained left the
seminary than they got themselves recommended to the archbishops of Aix
or of Auch, and went off in a great hurry. For, in short, we repeat it,
men wish to be pushed. A saint who dwells in a paroxysm of abnegation
is a dangerous neighbor; he might communicate to you, by contagion,
an incurable poverty, an anchylosis of the joints, which are useful in
advancement, and in short, more renunciation than you desire; and
this infectious virtue is avoided. Hence the isolation of Monseigneur
Bienvenu. We live in the midst of a gloomy society. Success; that is the
lesson which falls drop by drop from the slope of corruption.

Be it said in passing, that success is a very hideous thing. Its false
resemblance to merit deceives men. For the masses, success has almost
the same profile as supremacy. Success, that Menaechmus of talent, has
one dupe,--history. Juvenal and Tacitus alone grumble at it. In our
day, a philosophy which is almost official has entered into its
service, wears the livery of success, and performs the service of its
antechamber. Succeed: theory. Prosperity argues capacity. Win in the
lottery, and behold! you are a clever man. He who triumphs is venerated.
Be born with a silver spoon in your mouth! everything lies in that. Be
lucky, and you will have all the rest; be happy, and people will think
you great. Outside of five or six immense exceptions, which compose
the splendor of a century, contemporary admiration is nothing but
short-sightedness. Gilding is gold. It does no harm to be the first
arrival by pure chance, so long as you do arrive. The common herd is an
old Narcissus who adores himself, and who applauds the vulgar herd.
That enormous ability by virtue of which one is Moses, Aeschylus, Dante,
Michael Angelo, or Napoleon, the multitude awards on the spot, and by
acclamation, to whomsoever attains his object, in whatsoever it may
consist. Let a notary transfigure himself into a deputy: let a false
Corneille compose Tiridate; let a eunuch come to possess a harem; let a
military Prudhomme accidentally win the decisive battle of an epoch;
let an apothecary invent cardboard shoe-soles for the army of the
Sambre-and-Meuse, and construct for himself, out of this cardboard, sold
as leather, four hundred thousand francs of income; let a pork-packer
espouse usury, and cause it to bring forth seven or eight millions, of
which he is the father and of which it is the mother; let a preacher
become a bishop by force of his nasal drawl; let the steward of a fine
family be so rich on retiring from service that he is made minister
of finances,--and men call that Genius, just as they call the face
of Mousqueton Beauty, and the mien of Claude Majesty. With the
constellations of space they confound the stars of the abyss which are
made in the soft mire of the puddle by the feet of ducks.


We are not obliged to sound the Bishop of D---- on the score of
orthodoxy. In the presence of such a soul we feel ourselves in no mood
but respect. The conscience of the just man should be accepted on his
word. Moreover, certain natures being given, we admit the possible
development of all beauties of human virtue in a belief that differs
from our own.

What did he think of this dogma, or of that mystery? These secrets of
the inner tribunal of the conscience are known only to the tomb, where
souls enter naked. The point on which we are certain is, that the
difficulties of faith never resolved themselves into hypocrisy in his
case. No decay is possible to the diamond. He believed to the extent
of his powers. "Credo in Patrem," he often exclaimed. Moreover, he
drew from good works that amount of satisfaction which suffices to the
conscience, and which whispers to a man, "Thou art with God!"

The point which we consider it our duty to note is, that outside of and
beyond his faith, as it were, the Bishop possessed an excess of love. It
was in that quarter, quia multum amavit,--because he loved much--that
he was regarded as vulnerable by "serious men," "grave persons" and
"reasonable people"; favorite locutions of our sad world where egotism
takes its word of command from pedantry. What was this excess of love?
It was a serene benevolence which overflowed men, as we have already
pointed out, and which, on occasion, extended even to things. He lived
without disdain. He was indulgent towards God's creation. Every man,
even the best, has within him a thoughtless harshness which he reserves
for animals. The Bishop of D---- had none of that harshness, which is
peculiar to many priests, nevertheless. He did not go as far as the
Brahmin, but he seemed to have weighed this saying of Ecclesiastes: "Who
knoweth whither the soul of the animal goeth?" Hideousness of aspect,
deformity of instinct, troubled him not, and did not arouse his
indignation. He was touched, almost softened by them. It seemed as
though he went thoughtfully away to seek beyond the bounds of life which
is apparent, the cause, the explanation, or the excuse for them. He
seemed at times to be asking God to commute these penalties. He examined
without wrath, and with the eye of a linguist who is deciphering a
palimpsest, that portion of chaos which still exists in nature. This
revery sometimes caused him to utter odd sayings. One morning he was in
his garden, and thought himself alone, but his sister was walking behind
him, unseen by him: suddenly he paused and gazed at something on the
ground; it was a large, black, hairy, frightful spider. His sister heard
him say:--

"Poor beast! It is not its fault!"

Why not mention these almost divinely childish sayings of kindness?
Puerile they may be; but these sublime puerilities were peculiar to
Saint Francis d'Assisi and of Marcus Aurelius. One day he sprained his
ankle in his effort to avoid stepping on an ant. Thus lived this just
man. Sometimes he fell asleep in his garden, and then there was nothing
more venerable possible.

Monseigneur Bienvenu had formerly been, if the stories anent his youth,
and even in regard to his manhood, were to be believed, a passionate,
and, possibly, a violent man. His universal suavity was less an instinct
of nature than the result of a grand conviction which had filtered into
his heart through the medium of life, and had trickled there slowly,
thought by thought; for, in a character, as in a rock, there may exist
apertures made by drops of water. These hollows are uneffaceable; these
formations are indestructible.

In 1815, as we think we have already said, he reached his seventy-fifth
birthday, but he did not appear to be more than sixty. He was not tall;
he was rather plump; and, in order to combat this tendency, he was fond
of taking long strolls on foot; his step was firm, and his form was
but slightly bent, a detail from which we do not pretend to draw any
conclusion. Gregory XVI., at the age of eighty, held himself erect and
smiling, which did not prevent him from being a bad bishop. Monseigneur
Welcome had what the people term a "fine head," but so amiable was he
that they forgot that it was fine.

When he conversed with that infantile gayety which was one of his
charms, and of which we have already spoken, people felt at their ease
with him, and joy seemed to radiate from his whole person. His fresh and
ruddy complexion, his very white teeth, all of which he had preserved,
and which were displayed by his smile, gave him that open and easy air
which cause the remark to be made of a man, "He's a good fellow"; and
of an old man, "He is a fine man." That, it will be recalled, was the
effect which he produced upon Napoleon. On the first encounter, and to
one who saw him for the first time, he was nothing, in fact, but a fine
man. But if one remained near him for a few hours, and beheld him in the
least degree pensive, the fine man became gradually transfigured, and
took on some imposing quality, I know not what; his broad and serious
brow, rendered august by his white locks, became august also by virtue
of meditation; majesty radiated from his goodness, though his goodness
ceased not to be radiant; one experienced something of the emotion which
one would feel on beholding a smiling angel slowly unfold his wings,
without ceasing to smile. Respect, an unutterable respect, penetrated
you by degrees and mounted to your heart, and one felt that one had
before him one of those strong, thoroughly tried, and indulgent souls
where thought is so grand that it can no longer be anything but gentle.

As we have seen, prayer, the celebration of the offices of religion,
alms-giving, the consolation of the afflicted, the cultivation of a bit
of land, fraternity, frugality, hospitality, renunciation, confidence,
study, work, filled every day of his life. Filled is exactly the word;
certainly the Bishop's day was quite full to the brim, of good words and
good deeds. Nevertheless, it was not complete if cold or rainy weather
prevented his passing an hour or two in his garden before going to bed,
and after the two women had retired. It seemed to be a sort of rite with
him, to prepare himself for slumber by meditation in the presence of
the grand spectacles of the nocturnal heavens. Sometimes, if the two old
women were not asleep, they heard him pacing slowly along the walks at
a very advanced hour of the night. He was there alone, communing with
himself, peaceful, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the
serenity of the ether, moved amid the darkness by the visible splendor
of the constellations and the invisible splendor of God, opening his
heart to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown. At such moments,
while he offered his heart at the hour when nocturnal flowers offer
their perfume, illuminated like a lamp amid the starry night, as he
poured himself out in ecstasy in the midst of the universal radiance of
creation, he could not have told himself, probably, what was passing in
his spirit; he felt something take its flight from him, and something
descend into him. Mysterious exchange of the abysses of the soul with
the abysses of the universe!

He thought of the grandeur and presence of God; of the future eternity,
that strange mystery; of the eternity past, a mystery still more
strange; of all the infinities, which pierced their way into all
his senses, beneath his eyes; and, without seeking to comprehend the
incomprehensible, he gazed upon it. He did not study God; he was dazzled
by him. He considered those magnificent conjunctions of atoms, which
communicate aspects to matter, reveal forces by verifying them, create
individualities in unity, proportions in extent, the innumerable in the
infinite, and, through light, produce beauty. These conjunctions are
formed and dissolved incessantly; hence life and death.

He seated himself on a wooden bench, with his back against a decrepit
vine; he gazed at the stars, past the puny and stunted silhouettes
of his fruit-trees. This quarter of an acre, so poorly planted, so
encumbered with mean buildings and sheds, was dear to him, and satisfied
his wants.

What more was needed by this old man, who divided the leisure of his
life, where there was so little leisure, between gardening in the
daytime and contemplation at night? Was not this narrow enclosure, with
the heavens for a ceiling, sufficient to enable him to adore God in his
most divine works, in turn? Does not this comprehend all, in fact? and
what is there left to desire beyond it? A little garden in which to
walk, and immensity in which to dream. At one's feet that which can be
cultivated and plucked; over head that which one can study and meditate
upon: some flowers on earth, and all the stars in the sky.


One last word.

Since this sort of details might, particularly at the present moment,
and to use an expression now in fashion, give to the Bishop of D---- a
certain "pantheistical" physiognomy, and induce the belief, either
to his credit or discredit, that he entertained one of those personal
philosophies which are peculiar to our century, which sometimes spring
up in solitary spirits, and there take on a form and grow until they
usurp the place of religion, we insist upon it, that not one of
those persons who knew Monseigneur Welcome would have thought himself
authorized to think anything of the sort. That which enlightened this
man was his heart. His wisdom was made of the light which comes from

No systems; many works. Abstruse speculations contain vertigo; no,
there is nothing to indicate that he risked his mind in apocalypses. The
apostle may be daring, but the bishop must be timid. He would probably
have felt a scruple at sounding too far in advance certain problems
which are, in a manner, reserved for terrible great minds. There is a
sacred horror beneath the porches of the enigma; those gloomy openings
stand yawning there, but something tells you, you, a passer-by in life,
that you must not enter. Woe to him who penetrates thither!

Geniuses in the impenetrable depths of abstraction and pure speculation,
situated, so to speak, above all dogmas, propose their ideas to
God. Their prayer audaciously offers discussion. Their adoration
interrogates. This is direct religion, which is full of anxiety and
responsibility for him who attempts its steep cliffs.

Human meditation has no limits. At his own risk and peril, it analyzes
and digs deep into its own bedazzlement. One might almost say, that by
a sort of splendid reaction, it with it dazzles nature; the mysterious
world which surrounds us renders back what it has received; it is
probable that the contemplators are contemplated. However that may be,
there are on earth men who--are they men?--perceive distinctly at the
verge of the horizons of revery the heights of the absolute, and who
have the terrible vision of the infinite mountain. Monseigneur Welcome
was one of these men; Monseigneur Welcome was not a genius. He would
have feared those sublimities whence some very great men even, like
Swedenborg and Pascal, have slipped into insanity. Certainly, these
powerful reveries have their moral utility, and by these arduous paths
one approaches to ideal perfection. As for him, he took the path which
shortens,--the Gospel's.

He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah's
mantle; he projected no ray of future upon the dark groundswell of
events; he did not seek to condense in flame the light of things; he
had nothing of the prophet and nothing of the magician about him. This
humble soul loved, and that was all.

That he carried prayer to the pitch of a superhuman aspiration is
probable: but one can no more pray too much than one can love too much;
and if it is a heresy to pray beyond the texts, Saint Theresa and Saint
Jerome would be heretics.

He inclined towards all that groans and all that expiates. The universe
appeared to him like an immense malady; everywhere he felt fever,
everywhere he heard the sound of suffering, and, without seeking to
solve the enigma, he strove to dress the wound. The terrible spectacle
of created things developed tenderness in him; he was occupied only
in finding for himself, and in inspiring others with the best way to
compassionate and relieve. That which exists was for this good and rare
priest a permanent subject of sadness which sought consolation.

There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction
of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness which reigned
everywhere was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other; he
declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was the
whole of his doctrine. One day, that man who believed himself to be a
"philosopher," the senator who has already been alluded to, said to the
Bishop: "Just survey the spectacle of the world: all war against
all; the strongest has the most wit. Your love each other is
nonsense."--"Well," replied Monseigneur Welcome, without contesting the
point, "if it is nonsense, the soul should shut itself up in it, as the
pearl in the oyster." Thus he shut himself up, he lived there, he
was absolutely satisfied with it, leaving on one side the prodigious
questions which attract and terrify, the fathomless perspectives of
abstraction, the precipices of metaphysics--all those profundities
which converge, for the apostle in God, for the atheist in nothingness;
destiny, good and evil, the way of being against being, the conscience
of man, the thoughtful somnambulism of the animal, the transformation
in death, the recapitulation of existences which the tomb contains, the
incomprehensible grafting of successive loves on the persistent _I_,
the essence, the substance, the Nile, and the Ens, the soul, nature,
liberty, necessity; perpendicular problems, sinister obscurities, where
lean the gigantic archangels of the human mind; formidable abysses,
which Lucretius, Manou, Saint Paul, Dante, contemplate with eyes
flashing lightning, which seems by its steady gaze on the infinite to
cause stars to blaze forth there.

Monseigneur Bienvenu was simply a man who took note of the exterior of
mysterious questions without scrutinizing them, and without troubling
his own mind with them, and who cherished in his own soul a grave
respect for darkness.



Early in the month of October, 1815, about an hour before sunset, a
man who was travelling on foot entered the little town of D----The few
inhabitants who were at their windows or on their thresholds at the
moment stared at this traveller with a sort of uneasiness. It was
difficult to encounter a wayfarer of more wretched appearance. He was
a man of medium stature, thickset and robust, in the prime of life.
He might have been forty-six or forty-eight years old. A cap with a
drooping leather visor partly concealed his face, burned and tanned by
sun and wind, and dripping with perspiration. His shirt of coarse yellow
linen, fastened at the neck by a small silver anchor, permitted a view
of his hairy breast: he had a cravat twisted into a string; trousers of
blue drilling, worn and threadbare, white on one knee and torn on the
other; an old gray, tattered blouse, patched on one of the elbows with
a bit of green cloth sewed on with twine; a tightly packed soldier
knapsack, well buckled and perfectly new, on his back; an enormous,
knotty stick in his hand; iron-shod shoes on his stockingless feet; a
shaved head and a long beard.

The sweat, the heat, the journey on foot, the dust, added I know not
what sordid quality to this dilapidated whole. His hair was closely cut,
yet bristling, for it had begun to grow a little, and did not seem to
have been cut for some time.

No one knew him. He was evidently only a chance passer-by. Whence came
he? From the south; from the seashore, perhaps, for he made his entrance
into D---- by the same street which, seven months previously, had
witnessed the passage of the Emperor Napoleon on his way from Cannes
to Paris. This man must have been walking all day. He seemed very much
fatigued. Some women of the ancient market town which is situated below
the city had seen him pause beneath the trees of the boulevard Gassendi,
and drink at the fountain which stands at the end of the promenade. He
must have been very thirsty: for the children who followed him saw him
stop again for a drink, two hundred paces further on, at the fountain in
the market-place.

On arriving at the corner of the Rue Poichevert, he turned to the left,
and directed his steps toward the town-hall. He entered, then came out
a quarter of an hour later. A gendarme was seated near the door, on the
stone bench which General Drouot had mounted on the 4th of March to read
to the frightened throng of the inhabitants of D---- the proclamation
of the Gulf Juan. The man pulled off his cap and humbly saluted the

The gendarme, without replying to his salute, stared attentively at him,
followed him for a while with his eyes, and then entered the town-hall.

There then existed at D---- a fine inn at the sign of the Cross of
Colbas. This inn had for a landlord a certain Jacquin Labarre, a man
of consideration in the town on account of his relationship to another
Labarre, who kept the inn of the Three Dauphins in Grenoble, and had
served in the Guides. At the time of the Emperor's landing, many rumors
had circulated throughout the country with regard to this inn of the
Three Dauphins. It was said that General Bertrand, disguised as a
carter, had made frequent trips thither in the month of January, and
that he had distributed crosses of honor to the soldiers and handfuls
of gold to the citizens. The truth is, that when the Emperor entered
Grenoble he had refused to install himself at the hotel of the
prefecture; he had thanked the mayor, saying, "I am going to the house
of a brave man of my acquaintance"; and he had betaken himself to the
Three Dauphins. This glory of the Labarre of the Three Dauphins was
reflected upon the Labarre of the Cross of Colbas, at a distance of five
and twenty leagues. It was said of him in the town, "That is the cousin
of the man of Grenoble."

The man bent his steps towards this inn, which was the best in the
country-side. He entered the kitchen, which opened on a level with the
street. All the stoves were lighted; a huge fire blazed gayly in the
fireplace. The host, who was also the chief cook, was going from one
stew-pan to another, very busily superintending an excellent dinner
designed for the wagoners, whose loud talking, conversation, and
laughter were audible from an adjoining apartment. Any one who has
travelled knows that there is no one who indulges in better cheer than
wagoners. A fat marmot, flanked by white partridges and heather-cocks,
was turning on a long spit before the fire; on the stove, two huge carps
from Lake Lauzet and a trout from Lake Alloz were cooking.

The host, hearing the door open and seeing a newcomer enter, said,
without raising his eyes from his stoves:--

"What do you wish, sir?"

"Food and lodging," said the man.

"Nothing easier," replied the host. At that moment he turned his head,
took in the traveller's appearance with a single glance, and added, "By
paying for it."

The man drew a large leather purse from the pocket of his blouse, and
answered, "I have money."

"In that case, we are at your service," said the host.

The man put his purse back in his pocket, removed his knapsack from
his back, put it on the ground near the door, retained his stick in his
hand, and seated himself on a low stool close to the fire. D---- is in
the mountains. The evenings are cold there in October.

But as the host went back and forth, he scrutinized the traveller.

"Will dinner be ready soon?" said the man.

"Immediately," replied the landlord.

While the newcomer was warming himself before the fire, with his back
turned, the worthy host, Jacquin Labarre, drew a pencil from his pocket,
then tore off the corner of an old newspaper which was lying on a small
table near the window. On the white margin he wrote a line or two,
folded it without sealing, and then intrusted this scrap of paper to
a child who seemed to serve him in the capacity both of scullion and
lackey. The landlord whispered a word in the scullion's ear, and the
child set off on a run in the direction of the town-hall.

The traveller saw nothing of all this.

Once more he inquired, "Will dinner be ready soon?"

"Immediately," responded the host.

The child returned. He brought back the paper. The host unfolded it
eagerly, like a person who is expecting a reply. He seemed to read it
attentively, then tossed his head, and remained thoughtful for a moment.
Then he took a step in the direction of the traveller, who appeared to
be immersed in reflections which were not very serene.

"I cannot receive you, sir," said he.

The man half rose.

"What! Are you afraid that I will not pay you? Do you want me to pay you
in advance? I have money, I tell you."

"It is not that."

"What then?"

"You have money--"

"Yes," said the man.

"And I," said the host, "have no room."

The man resumed tranquilly, "Put me in the stable."

"I cannot."


"The horses take up all the space."

"Very well!" retorted the man; "a corner of the loft then, a truss of
straw. We will see about that after dinner."

"I cannot give you any dinner."

This declaration, made in a measured but firm tone, struck the stranger
as grave. He rose.

"Ah! bah! But I am dying of hunger. I have been walking since sunrise. I
have travelled twelve leagues. I pay. I wish to eat."

"I have nothing," said the landlord.

The man burst out laughing, and turned towards the fireplace and the
stoves: "Nothing! and all that?"

"All that is engaged."

"By whom?"

"By messieurs the wagoners."

"How many are there of them?"


"There is enough food there for twenty."

"They have engaged the whole of it and paid for it in advance."

The man seated himself again, and said, without raising his voice, "I am
at an inn; I am hungry, and I shall remain."

Then the host bent down to his ear, and said in a tone which made him
start, "Go away!"

At that moment the traveller was bending forward and thrusting some
brands into the fire with the iron-shod tip of his staff; he turned
quickly round, and as he opened his mouth to reply, the host gazed
steadily at him and added, still in a low voice: "Stop! there's enough
of that sort of talk. Do you want me to tell you your name? Your name is
Jean Valjean. Now do you want me to tell you who you are? When I saw you
come in I suspected something; I sent to the town-hall, and this was the
reply that was sent to me. Can you read?"

So saying, he held out to the stranger, fully unfolded, the paper which
had just travelled from the inn to the town-hall, and from the town-hall
to the inn. The man cast a glance upon it. The landlord resumed after a

"I am in the habit of being polite to every one. Go away!"

The man dropped his head, picked up the knapsack which he had deposited
on the ground, and took his departure.

He chose the principal street. He walked straight on at a venture,
keeping close to the houses like a sad and humiliated man. He did not
turn round a single time. Had he done so, he would have seen the host
of the Cross of Colbas standing on his threshold, surrounded by all
the guests of his inn, and all the passers-by in the street, talking
vivaciously, and pointing him out with his finger; and, from the glances
of terror and distrust cast by the group, he might have divined that his
arrival would speedily become an event for the whole town.

He saw nothing of all this. People who are crushed do not look behind
them. They know but too well the evil fate which follows them.

Thus he proceeded for some time, walking on without ceasing, traversing
at random streets of which he knew nothing, forgetful of his fatigue,
as is often the case when a man is sad. All at once he felt the pangs
of hunger sharply. Night was drawing near. He glanced about him, to see
whether he could not discover some shelter.

The fine hostelry was closed to him; he was seeking some very humble
public house, some hovel, however lowly.

Just then a light flashed up at the end of the streets; a pine branch
suspended from a cross-beam of iron was outlined against the white sky
of the twilight. He proceeded thither.

It proved to be, in fact, a public house. The public house which is in
the Rue de Chaffaut.

The wayfarer halted for a moment, and peeped through the window into the
interior of the low-studded room of the public house, illuminated by a
small lamp on a table and by a large fire on the hearth. Some men were
engaged in drinking there. The landlord was warming himself. An iron
pot, suspended from a crane, bubbled over the flame.

The entrance to this public house, which is also a sort of an inn, is by
two doors. One opens on the street, the other upon a small yard filled
with manure. The traveller dare not enter by the street door. He slipped
into the yard, halted again, then raised the latch timidly and opened
the door.

"Who goes there?" said the master.

"Some one who wants supper and bed."

"Good. We furnish supper and bed here."

He entered. All the men who were drinking turned round. The lamp
illuminated him on one side, the firelight on the other. They examined
him for some time while he was taking off his knapsack.

The host said to him, "There is the fire. The supper is cooking in the
pot. Come and warm yourself, comrade."

He approached and seated himself near the hearth. He stretched out his
feet, which were exhausted with fatigue, to the fire; a fine odor was
emitted by the pot. All that could be distinguished of his face, beneath
his cap, which was well pulled down, assumed a vague appearance
of comfort, mingled with that other poignant aspect which habitual
suffering bestows.

It was, moreover, a firm, energetic, and melancholy profile. This
physiognomy was strangely composed; it began by seeming humble, and
ended by seeming severe. The eye shone beneath its lashes like a fire
beneath brushwood.

One of the men seated at the table, however, was a fishmonger who,
before entering the public house of the Rue de Chaffaut, had been to
stable his horse at Labarre's. It chanced that he had that very morning
encountered this unprepossessing stranger on the road between Bras
d'Asse and--I have forgotten the name. I think it was Escoublon. Now,
when he met him, the man, who then seemed already extremely weary, had
requested him to take him on his crupper; to which the fishmonger had
made no reply except by redoubling his gait. This fishmonger had been
a member half an hour previously of the group which surrounded Jacquin
Labarre, and had himself related his disagreeable encounter of the
morning to the people at the Cross of Colbas. From where he sat he made
an imperceptible sign to the tavern-keeper. The tavern-keeper went to
him. They exchanged a few words in a low tone. The man had again become
absorbed in his reflections.

The tavern-keeper returned to the fireplace, laid his hand abruptly on
the shoulder of the man, and said to him:--

"You are going to get out of here."

The stranger turned round and replied gently, "Ah! You know?--"


"I was sent away from the other inn."

"And you are to be turned out of this one."

"Where would you have me go?"


The man took his stick and his knapsack and departed.

As he went out, some children who had followed him from the Cross of
Colbas, and who seemed to be lying in wait for him, threw stones at him.
He retraced his steps in anger, and threatened them with his stick: the
children dispersed like a flock of birds.

He passed before the prison. At the door hung an iron chain attached to
a bell. He rang.

The wicket opened.

"Turnkey," said he, removing his cap politely, "will you have the
kindness to admit me, and give me a lodging for the night?"

A voice replied:--

"The prison is not an inn. Get yourself arrested, and you will be

The wicket closed again.

He entered a little street in which there were many gardens. Some of
them are enclosed only by hedges, which lends a cheerful aspect to the
street. In the midst of these gardens and hedges he caught sight of a
small house of a single story, the window of which was lighted up. He
peered through the pane as he had done at the public house. Within was a
large whitewashed room, with a bed draped in printed cotton stuff, and
a cradle in one corner, a few wooden chairs, and a double-barrelled gun
hanging on the wall. A table was spread in the centre of the room. A
copper lamp illuminated the tablecloth of coarse white linen, the pewter
jug shining like silver, and filled with wine, and the brown, smoking
soup-tureen. At this table sat a man of about forty, with a merry and
open countenance, who was dandling a little child on his knees. Close by
a very young woman was nursing another child. The father was laughing,
the child was laughing, the mother was smiling.

The stranger paused a moment in revery before this tender and calming
spectacle. What was taking place within him? He alone could have
told. It is probable that he thought that this joyous house would be
hospitable, and that, in a place where he beheld so much happiness, he
would find perhaps a little pity.

He tapped on the pane with a very small and feeble knock.

They did not hear him.

He tapped again.

He heard the woman say, "It seems to me, husband, that some one is

"No," replied the husband.

He tapped a third time.

The husband rose, took the lamp, and went to the door, which he opened.

He was a man of lofty stature, half peasant, half artisan. He wore a
huge leather apron, which reached to his left shoulder, and which a
hammer, a red handkerchief, a powder-horn, and all sorts of objects
which were upheld by the girdle, as in a pocket, caused to bulge out. He
carried his head thrown backwards; his shirt, widely opened and turned
back, displayed his bull neck, white and bare. He had thick eyelashes,
enormous black whiskers, prominent eyes, the lower part of his face
like a snout; and besides all this, that air of being on his own ground,
which is indescribable.

"Pardon me, sir," said the wayfarer, "Could you, in consideration of
payment, give me a plate of soup and a corner of that shed yonder in the
garden, in which to sleep? Tell me; can you? For money?"

"Who are you?" demanded the master of the house.

The man replied: "I have just come from Puy-Moisson. I have walked all
day long. I have travelled twelve leagues. Can you?--if I pay?"

"I would not refuse," said the peasant, "to lodge any respectable man
who would pay me. But why do you not go to the inn?"

"There is no room."

"Bah! Impossible. This is neither a fair nor a market day. Have you been
to Labarre?"



The traveller replied with embarrassment: "I do not know. He did not
receive me."

"Have you been to What's-his-name's, in the Rue Chaffaut?"

The stranger's embarrassment increased; he stammered, "He did not
receive me either."

The peasant's countenance assumed an expression of distrust; he surveyed
the newcomer from head to feet, and suddenly exclaimed, with a sort of

"Are you the man?--"

He cast a fresh glance upon the stranger, took three steps backwards,
placed the lamp on the table, and took his gun down from the wall.

Meanwhile, at the words, Are you the man? the woman had risen, had
clasped her two children in her arms, and had taken refuge precipitately
behind her husband, staring in terror at the stranger, with her bosom
uncovered, and with frightened eyes, as she murmured in a low tone,

All this took place in less time than it requires to picture it to
one's self. After having scrutinized the man for several moments, as one
scrutinizes a viper, the master of the house returned to the door and

"Clear out!"

"For pity's sake, a glass of water," said the man.

"A shot from my gun!" said the peasant.

Then he closed the door violently, and the man heard him shoot two large
bolts. A moment later, the window-shutter was closed, and the sound of a
bar of iron which was placed against it was audible outside.

Night continued to fall. A cold wind from the Alps was blowing. By the
light of the expiring day the stranger perceived, in one of the gardens
which bordered the street, a sort of hut, which seemed to him to be
built of sods. He climbed over the wooden fence resolutely, and found
himself in the garden. He approached the hut; its door consisted of a
very low and narrow aperture, and it resembled those buildings which
road-laborers construct for themselves along the roads. He thought
without doubt, that it was, in fact, the dwelling of a road-laborer; he
was suffering from cold and hunger, but this was, at least, a shelter
from the cold. This sort of dwelling is not usually occupied at night.
He threw himself flat on his face, and crawled into the hut. It was warm
there, and he found a tolerably good bed of straw. He lay, for a moment,
stretched out on this bed, without the power to make a movement, so
fatigued was he. Then, as the knapsack on his back was in his way, and
as it furnished, moreover, a pillow ready to his hand, he set about
unbuckling one of the straps. At that moment, a ferocious growl became
audible. He raised his eyes. The head of an enormous dog was outlined in
the darkness at the entrance of the hut.

It was a dog's kennel.

He was himself vigorous and formidable; he armed himself with his staff,
made a shield of his knapsack, and made his way out of the kennel in the
best way he could, not without enlarging the rents in his rags.

He left the garden in the same manner, but backwards, being obliged,
in order to keep the dog respectful, to have recourse to that manoeuvre
with his stick which masters in that sort of fencing designate as la
rose couverte.

When he had, not without difficulty, repassed the fence, and found
himself once more in the street, alone, without refuge, without shelter,
without a roof over his head, chased even from that bed of straw and
from that miserable kennel, he dropped rather than seated himself on a
stone, and it appears that a passer-by heard him exclaim, "I am not even
a dog!"

He soon rose again and resumed his march. He went out of the town,
hoping to find some tree or haystack in the fields which would afford
him shelter.

He walked thus for some time, with his head still drooping. When he felt
himself far from every human habitation, he raised his eyes and gazed
searchingly about him. He was in a field. Before him was one of those
low hills covered with close-cut stubble, which, after the harvest,
resemble shaved heads.

The horizon was perfectly black. This was not alone the obscurity of
night; it was caused by very low-hanging clouds which seemed to rest
upon the hill itself, and which were mounting and filling the whole
sky. Meanwhile, as the moon was about to rise, and as there was still
floating in the zenith a remnant of the brightness of twilight, these
clouds formed at the summit of the sky a sort of whitish arch, whence a
gleam of light fell upon the earth.

The earth was thus better lighted than the sky, which produces a
particularly sinister effect, and the hill, whose contour was poor and
mean, was outlined vague and wan against the gloomy horizon. The whole
effect was hideous, petty, lugubrious, and narrow.

There was nothing in the field or on the hill except a deformed tree,
which writhed and shivered a few paces distant from the wayfarer.

This man was evidently very far from having those delicate habits of
intelligence and spirit which render one sensible to the mysterious
aspects of things; nevertheless, there was something in that sky,
in that hill, in that plain, in that tree, which was so profoundly
desolate, that after a moment of immobility and revery he turned back
abruptly. There are instants when nature seems hostile.

He retraced his steps; the gates of D---- were closed. D----, which had
sustained sieges during the wars of religion, was still surrounded
in 1815 by ancient walls flanked by square towers which have been
demolished since. He passed through a breach and entered the town again.

It might have been eight o'clock in the evening. As he was not
acquainted with the streets, he recommenced his walk at random.

In this way he came to the prefecture, then to the seminary. As he
passed through the Cathedral Square, he shook his fist at the church.

At the corner of this square there is a printing establishment. It is
there that the proclamations of the Emperor and of the Imperial Guard
to the army, brought from the Island of Elba and dictated by Napoleon
himself, were printed for the first time.

Worn out with fatigue, and no longer entertaining any hope, he lay down
on a stone bench which stands at the doorway of this printing office.

At that moment an old woman came out of the church. She saw the man
stretched out in the shadow. "What are you doing there, my friend?" said

He answered harshly and angrily: "As you see, my good woman, I am
sleeping." The good woman, who was well worthy the name, in fact, was
the Marquise de R----

"On this bench?" she went on.

"I have had a mattress of wood for nineteen years," said the man;
"to-day I have a mattress of stone."

"You have been a soldier?"

"Yes, my good woman, a soldier."

"Why do you not go to the inn?"

"Because I have no money."

"Alas!" said Madame de R----, "I have only four sous in my purse."

"Give it to me all the same."

The man took the four sous. Madame de R---- continued: "You cannot
obtain lodgings in an inn for so small a sum. But have you tried? It is
impossible for you to pass the night thus. You are cold and hungry, no
doubt. Some one might have given you a lodging out of charity."

"I have knocked at all doors."


"I have been driven away everywhere."

The "good woman" touched the man's arm, and pointed out to him on the
other side of the street a small, low house, which stood beside the
Bishop's palace.

"You have knocked at all doors?"


"Have you knocked at that one?"


"Knock there."


That evening, the Bishop of D----, after his promenade through the town,
remained shut up rather late in his room. He was busy over a great work
on Duties, which was never completed, unfortunately. He was carefully
compiling everything that the Fathers and the doctors have said on this
important subject. His book was divided into two parts: firstly, the
duties of all; secondly, the duties of each individual, according to the
class to which he belongs. The duties of all are the great duties. There
are four of these. Saint Matthew points them out: duties towards God
(Matt. vi.); duties towards one's self (Matt. v. 29, 30); duties towards
one's neighbor (Matt. vii. 12); duties towards animals (Matt. vi. 20,
25). As for the other duties the Bishop found them pointed out and
prescribed elsewhere: to sovereigns and subjects, in the Epistle to the
Romans; to magistrates, to wives, to mothers, to young men, by Saint
Peter; to husbands, fathers, children and servants, in the Epistle
to the Ephesians; to the faithful, in the Epistle to the Hebrews; to
virgins, in the Epistle to the Corinthians. Out of these precepts he was
laboriously constructing a harmonious whole, which he desired to present
to souls.

At eight o'clock he was still at work, writing with a good deal of
inconvenience upon little squares of paper, with a big book open on his
knees, when Madame Magloire entered, according to her wont, to get the
silver-ware from the cupboard near his bed. A moment later, the Bishop,
knowing that the table was set, and that his sister was probably
waiting for him, shut his book, rose from his table, and entered the

The dining-room was an oblong apartment, with a fireplace, which had a
door opening on the street (as we have said), and a window opening on
the garden.

Madame Magloire was, in fact, just putting the last touches to the

As she performed this service, she was conversing with Mademoiselle

A lamp stood on the table; the table was near the fireplace. A wood fire
was burning there.

One can easily picture to one's self these two women, both of whom
were over sixty years of age. Madame Magloire small, plump, vivacious;
Mademoiselle Baptistine gentle, slender, frail, somewhat taller than her
brother, dressed in a gown of puce-colored silk, of the fashion of 1806,
which she had purchased at that date in Paris, and which had lasted
ever since. To borrow vulgar phrases, which possess the merit of giving
utterance in a single word to an idea which a whole page would hardly
suffice to express, Madame Magloire had the air of a peasant, and
Mademoiselle Baptistine that of a lady. Madame Magloire wore a white
quilted cap, a gold Jeannette cross on a velvet ribbon upon her neck,
the only bit of feminine jewelry that there was in the house, a very
white fichu puffing out from a gown of coarse black woollen stuff, with
large, short sleeves, an apron of cotton cloth in red and green checks,
knotted round the waist with a green ribbon, with a stomacher of the
same attached by two pins at the upper corners, coarse shoes on her
feet, and yellow stockings, like the women of Marseilles. Mademoiselle
Baptistine's gown was cut on the patterns of 1806, with a short waist,
a narrow, sheath-like skirt, puffed sleeves, with flaps and buttons.
She concealed her gray hair under a frizzed wig known as the baby wig.
Madame Magloire had an intelligent, vivacious, and kindly air; the two
corners of her mouth unequally raised, and her upper lip, which was
larger than the lower, imparted to her a rather crabbed and imperious
look. So long as Monseigneur held his peace, she talked to him
resolutely with a mixture of respect and freedom; but as soon as
Monseigneur began to speak, as we have seen, she obeyed passively like
her mistress. Mademoiselle Baptistine did not even speak. She confined
herself to obeying and pleasing him. She had never been pretty, even
when she was young; she had large, blue, prominent eyes, and a long
arched nose; but her whole visage, her whole person, breathed forth an
ineffable goodness, as we stated in the beginning. She had always been
predestined to gentleness; but faith, charity, hope, those three virtues
which mildly warm the soul, had gradually elevated that gentleness to
sanctity. Nature had made her a lamb, religion had made her an angel.
Poor sainted virgin! Sweet memory which has vanished!

Mademoiselle Baptistine has so often narrated what passed at the
episcopal residence that evening, that there are many people now living
who still recall the most minute details.

At the moment when the Bishop entered, Madame Magloire was talking with
considerable vivacity. She was haranguing Mademoiselle Baptistine on
a subject which was familiar to her and to which the Bishop was also
accustomed. The question concerned the lock upon the entrance door.

It appears that while procuring some provisions for supper, Madame
Magloire had heard things in divers places. People had spoken of a
prowler of evil appearance; a suspicious vagabond had arrived who must
be somewhere about the town, and those who should take it into their
heads to return home late that night might be subjected to unpleasant
encounters. The police was very badly organized, moreover, because there
was no love lost between the Prefect and the Mayor, who sought to injure
each other by making things happen. It behooved wise people to play the
part of their own police, and to guard themselves well, and care must be
taken to duly close, bar and barricade their houses, and to fasten the
doors well.

Madame Magloire emphasized these last words; but the Bishop had just
come from his room, where it was rather cold. He seated himself in front
of the fire, and warmed himself, and then fell to thinking of other
things. He did not take up the remark dropped with design by Madame
Magloire. She repeated it. Then Mademoiselle Baptistine, desirous of
satisfying Madame Magloire without displeasing her brother, ventured to
say timidly:--

"Did you hear what Madame Magloire is saying, brother?"

"I have heard something of it in a vague way," replied the Bishop. Then
half-turning in his chair, placing his hands on his knees, and raising
towards the old servant woman his cordial face, which so easily grew
joyous, and which was illuminated from below by the firelight,--"Come,
what is the matter? What is the matter? Are we in any great danger?"

Then Madame Magloire began the whole story afresh, exaggerating it a
little without being aware of the fact. It appeared that a Bohemian, a
bare-footed vagabond, a sort of dangerous mendicant, was at that moment
in the town. He had presented himself at Jacquin Labarre's to obtain
lodgings, but the latter had not been willing to take him in. He had
been seen to arrive by the way of the boulevard Gassendi and roam about
the streets in the gloaming. A gallows-bird with a terrible face.

"Really!" said the Bishop.

This willingness to interrogate encouraged Madame Magloire; it seemed
to her to indicate that the Bishop was on the point of becoming alarmed;
she pursued triumphantly:--

"Yes, Monseigneur. That is how it is. There will be some sort of
catastrophe in this town to-night. Every one says so. And withal, the
police is so badly regulated" (a useful repetition). "The idea of living
in a mountainous country, and not even having lights in the streets at
night! One goes out. Black as ovens, indeed! And I say, Monseigneur, and
Mademoiselle there says with me--"

"I," interrupted his sister, "say nothing. What my brother does is well

Madame Magloire continued as though there had been no protest:--

"We say that this house is not safe at all; that if Monseigneur will
permit, I will go and tell Paulin Musebois, the locksmith, to come and
replace the ancient locks on the doors; we have them, and it is only the
work of a moment; for I say that nothing is more terrible than a
door which can be opened from the outside with a latch by the first
passer-by; and I say that we need bolts, Monseigneur, if only for this
night; moreover, Monseigneur has the habit of always saying 'come in';
and besides, even in the middle of the night, O mon Dieu! there is no
need to ask permission."

At that moment there came a tolerably violent knock on the door.

"Come in," said the Bishop.


The door opened.

It opened wide with a rapid movement, as though some one had given it an
energetic and resolute push.

A man entered.

We already know the man. It was the wayfarer whom we have seen wandering
about in search of shelter.

He entered, advanced a step, and halted, leaving the door open behind
him. He had his knapsack on his shoulders, his cudgel in his hand, a
rough, audacious, weary, and violent expression in his eyes. The fire on
the hearth lighted him up. He was hideous. It was a sinister apparition.

Madame Magloire had not even the strength to utter a cry. She trembled,
and stood with her mouth wide open.

Mademoiselle Baptistine turned round, beheld the man entering, and half
started up in terror; then, turning her head by degrees towards the
fireplace again, she began to observe her brother, and her face became
once more profoundly calm and serene.

The Bishop fixed a tranquil eye on the man.

As he opened his mouth, doubtless to ask the new-comer what he desired,
the man rested both hands on his staff, directed his gaze at the old man
and the two women, and without waiting for the Bishop to speak, he said,
in a loud voice:--

"See here. My name is Jean Valjean. I am a convict from the galleys.
I have passed nineteen years in the galleys. I was liberated four days
ago, and am on my way to Pontarlier, which is my destination. I have
been walking for four days since I left Toulon. I have travelled a dozen
leagues to-day on foot. This evening, when I arrived in these parts, I
went to an inn, and they turned me out, because of my yellow passport,
which I had shown at the town-hall. I had to do it. I went to an inn.
They said to me, 'Be off,' at both places. No one would take me. I
went to the prison; the jailer would not admit me. I went into a dog's
kennel; the dog bit me and chased me off, as though he had been a man.
One would have said that he knew who I was. I went into the fields,
intending to sleep in the open air, beneath the stars. There were no
stars. I thought it was going to rain, and I re-entered the town, to
seek the recess of a doorway. Yonder, in the square, I meant to sleep
on a stone bench. A good woman pointed out your house to me, and said
to me, 'Knock there!' I have knocked. What is this place? Do you keep
an inn? I have money--savings. One hundred and nine francs fifteen sous,
which I earned in the galleys by my labor, in the course of nineteen
years. I will pay. What is that to me? I have money. I am very weary;
twelve leagues on foot; I am very hungry. Are you willing that I should

"Madame Magloire," said the Bishop, "you will set another place."

The man advanced three paces, and approached the lamp which was on
the table. "Stop," he resumed, as though he had not quite understood;
"that's not it. Did you hear? I am a galley-slave; a convict. I come
from the galleys." He drew from his pocket a large sheet of yellow
paper, which he unfolded. "Here's my passport. Yellow, as you see. This
serves to expel me from every place where I go. Will you read it? I know
how to read. I learned in the galleys. There is a school there for those
who choose to learn. Hold, this is what they put on this passport: 'Jean
Valjean, discharged convict, native of'--that is nothing to you--'has
been nineteen years in the galleys: five years for house-breaking
and burglary; fourteen years for having attempted to escape on four
occasions. He is a very dangerous man.' There! Every one has cast me
out. Are you willing to receive me? Is this an inn? Will you give me
something to eat and a bed? Have you a stable?"

"Madame Magloire," said the Bishop, "you will put white sheets on the
bed in the alcove." We have already explained the character of the two
women's obedience.

Madame Magloire retired to execute these orders.

The Bishop turned to the man.

"Sit down, sir, and warm yourself. We are going to sup in a few moments,
and your bed will be prepared while you are supping."

At this point the man suddenly comprehended. The expression of his face,
up to that time sombre and harsh, bore the imprint of stupefaction,
of doubt, of joy, and became extraordinary. He began stammering like a
crazy man:--

"Really? What! You will keep me? You do not drive me forth? A convict!
You call me sir! You do not address me as thou? 'Get out of here, you
dog!' is what people always say to me. I felt sure that you would expel
me, so I told you at once who I am. Oh, what a good woman that was who
directed me hither! I am going to sup! A bed with a mattress and sheets,
like the rest of the world! a bed! It is nineteen years since I have
slept in a bed! You actually do not want me to go! You are good
people. Besides, I have money. I will pay well. Pardon me, monsieur the
inn-keeper, but what is your name? I will pay anything you ask. You are
a fine man. You are an inn-keeper, are you not?"

"I am," replied the Bishop, "a priest who lives here."

"A priest!" said the man. "Oh, what a fine priest! Then you are not
going to demand any money of me? You are the cure, are you not? the cure
of this big church? Well! I am a fool, truly! I had not perceived your

As he spoke, he deposited his knapsack and his cudgel in a corner,
replaced his passport in his pocket, and seated himself. Mademoiselle
Baptistine gazed mildly at him. He continued:

"You are humane, Monsieur le Cure; you have not scorned me. A good
priest is a very good thing. Then you do not require me to pay?"

"No," said the Bishop; "keep your money. How much have you? Did you not
tell me one hundred and nine francs?"

"And fifteen sous," added the man.

"One hundred and nine francs fifteen sous. And how long did it take you
to earn that?"

"Nineteen years."

"Nineteen years!"

The Bishop sighed deeply.

The man continued: "I have still the whole of my money. In four days I
have spent only twenty-five sous, which I earned by helping unload some
wagons at Grasse. Since you are an abbe, I will tell you that we had a
chaplain in the galleys. And one day I saw a bishop there. Monseigneur
is what they call him. He was the Bishop of Majore at Marseilles. He is
the cure who rules over the other cures, you understand. Pardon me,
I say that very badly; but it is such a far-off thing to me! You
understand what we are! He said mass in the middle of the galleys, on an
altar. He had a pointed thing, made of gold, on his head; it glittered
in the bright light of midday. We were all ranged in lines on the three
sides, with cannons with lighted matches facing us. We could not see
very well. He spoke; but he was too far off, and we did not hear. That
is what a bishop is like."

While he was speaking, the Bishop had gone and shut the door, which had
remained wide open.

Madame Magloire returned. She brought a silver fork and spoon, which she
placed on the table.

"Madame Magloire," said the Bishop, "place those things as near the fire
as possible." And turning to his guest: "The night wind is harsh on the
Alps. You must be cold, sir."

Each time that he uttered the word sir, in his voice which was so gently
grave and polished, the man's face lighted up. Monsieur to a convict is
like a glass of water to one of the shipwrecked of the Medusa. Ignominy
thirsts for consideration.

"This lamp gives a very bad light," said the Bishop.

Madame Magloire understood him, and went to get the two silver
candlesticks from the chimney-piece in Monseigneur's bed-chamber, and
placed them, lighted, on the table.

"Monsieur le Cure," said the man, "you are good; you do not despise me.
You receive me into your house. You light your candles for me. Yet I
have not concealed from you whence I come and that I am an unfortunate

The Bishop, who was sitting close to him, gently touched his hand. "You
could not help telling me who you were. This is not my house; it is
the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters
whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer, you are
hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say
that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except the man
who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much
more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours. What need
have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me you had one which
I knew."

The man opened his eyes in astonishment.

"Really? You knew what I was called?"

"Yes," replied the Bishop, "you are called my brother."

"Stop, Monsieur le Cure," exclaimed the man. "I was very hungry when
I entered here; but you are so good, that I no longer know what has
happened to me."

The Bishop looked at him, and said,--

"You have suffered much?"

"Oh, the red coat, the ball on the ankle, a plank to sleep on, heat,
cold, toil, the convicts, the thrashings, the double chain for nothing,
the cell for one word; even sick and in bed, still the chain! Dogs, dogs
are happier! Nineteen years! I am forty-six. Now there is the yellow
passport. That is what it is like."

"Yes," resumed the Bishop, "you have come from a very sad place.
Listen. There will be more joy in heaven over the tear-bathed face of a
repentant sinner than over the white robes of a hundred just men. If you
emerge from that sad place with thoughts of hatred and of wrath against
mankind, you are deserving of pity; if you emerge with thoughts of
good-will and of peace, you are more worthy than any one of us."

In the meantime, Madame Magloire had served supper: soup, made with
water, oil, bread, and salt; a little bacon, a bit of mutton, figs, a
fresh cheese, and a large loaf of rye bread. She had, of her own accord,
added to the Bishop's ordinary fare a bottle of his old Mauves wine.

The Bishop's face at once assumed that expression of gayety which is
peculiar to hospitable natures. "To table!" he cried vivaciously. As was
his custom when a stranger supped with him, he made the man sit on his
right. Mademoiselle Baptistine, perfectly peaceable and natural, took
her seat at his left.

The Bishop asked a blessing; then helped the soup himself, according to
his custom. The man began to eat with avidity.

All at once the Bishop said: "It strikes me there is something missing
on this table."

Madame Magloire had, in fact, only placed the three sets of forks and
spoons which were absolutely necessary. Now, it was the usage of the
house, when the Bishop had any one to supper, to lay out the whole
six sets of silver on the table-cloth--an innocent ostentation. This
graceful semblance of luxury was a kind of child's play, which was full
of charm in that gentle and severe household, which raised poverty into

Madame Magloire understood the remark, went out without saying a word,
and a moment later the three sets of silver forks and spoons demanded by
the Bishop were glittering upon the cloth, symmetrically arranged before
the three persons seated at the table.


Now, in order to convey an idea of what passed at that table, we cannot
do better than to transcribe here a passage from one of Mademoiselle
Baptistine's letters to Madame Boischevron, wherein the conversation
between the convict and the Bishop is described with ingenious

". . . This man paid no attention to any one. He ate with the voracity
of a starving man. However, after supper he said:

"'Monsieur le Cure of the good God, all this is far too good for me; but
I must say that the carters who would not allow me to eat with them keep
a better table than you do.'

"Between ourselves, the remark rather shocked me. My brother replied:--

"'They are more fatigued than I.'

"'No,' returned the man, 'they have more money. You are poor; I see that
plainly. You cannot be even a curate. Are you really a cure? Ah, if the
good God were but just, you certainly ought to be a cure!'

"'The good God is more than just,' said my brother.

"A moment later he added:--

"'Monsieur Jean Valjean, is it to Pontarlier that you are going?'

"'With my road marked out for me.'

"I think that is what the man said. Then he went on:--

"'I must be on my way by daybreak to-morrow. Travelling is hard. If the
nights are cold, the days are hot.'

"'You are going to a good country,' said my brother. 'During the
Revolution my family was ruined. I took refuge in Franche-Comte at
first, and there I lived for some time by the toil of my hands. My will
was good. I found plenty to occupy me. One has only to choose. There are
paper mills, tanneries, distilleries, oil factories, watch factories
on a large scale, steel mills, copper works, twenty iron foundries at
least, four of which, situated at Lods, at Chatillon, at Audincourt, and
at Beure, are tolerably large.'

"I think I am not mistaken in saying that those are the names which my
brother mentioned. Then he interrupted himself and addressed me:--

"'Have we not some relatives in those parts, my dear sister?'

"I replied,--

"'We did have some; among others, M. de Lucenet, who was captain of the
gates at Pontarlier under the old regime.'

"'Yes,' resumed my brother; 'but in '93, one had no longer any
relatives, one had only one's arms. I worked. They have, in the
country of Pontarlier, whither you are going, Monsieur Valjean, a
truly patriarchal and truly charming industry, my sister. It is their
cheese-dairies, which they call fruitieres.'

"Then my brother, while urging the man to eat, explained to him, with
great minuteness, what these fruitieres of Pontarlier were; that they
were divided into two classes: the big barns which belong to the rich,
and where there are forty or fifty cows which produce from seven to
eight thousand cheeses each summer, and the associated fruitieres, which
belong to the poor; these are the peasants of mid-mountain, who hold
their cows in common, and share the proceeds. 'They engage the services
of a cheese-maker, whom they call the grurin; the grurin receives the
milk of the associates three times a day, and marks the quantity on
a double tally. It is towards the end of April that the work of the
cheese-dairies begins; it is towards the middle of June that the
cheese-makers drive their cows to the mountains.'

"The man recovered his animation as he ate. My brother made him drink
that good Mauves wine, which he does not drink himself, because he says
that wine is expensive. My brother imparted all these details with that
easy gayety of his with which you are acquainted, interspersing his
words with graceful attentions to me. He recurred frequently to that
comfortable trade of grurin, as though he wished the man to understand,
without advising him directly and harshly, that this would afford him
a refuge. One thing struck me. This man was what I have told you. Well,
neither during supper, nor during the entire evening, did my brother
utter a single word, with the exception of a few words about Jesus when
he entered, which could remind the man of what he was, nor of what my
brother was. To all appearances, it was an occasion for preaching him
a little sermon, and of impressing the Bishop on the convict, so that a
mark of the passage might remain behind. This might have appeared to any
one else who had this, unfortunate man in his hands to afford a chance
to nourish his soul as well as his body, and to bestow upon him
some reproach, seasoned with moralizing and advice, or a little
commiseration, with an exhortation to conduct himself better in the
future. My brother did not even ask him from what country he came,
nor what was his history. For in his history there is a fault, and my
brother seemed to avoid everything which could remind him of it. To such
a point did he carry it, that at one time, when my brother was speaking
of the mountaineers of Pontarlier, who exercise a gentle labor near
heaven, and who, he added, are happy because they are innocent, he
stopped short, fearing lest in this remark there might have escaped him
something which might wound the man. By dint of reflection, I think
I have comprehended what was passing in my brother's heart. He was
thinking, no doubt, that this man, whose name is Jean Valjean, had his
misfortune only too vividly present in his mind; that the best thing
was to divert him from it, and to make him believe, if only momentarily,
that he was a person like any other, by treating him just in his
ordinary way. Is not this indeed, to understand charity well? Is there
not, dear Madame, something truly evangelical in this delicacy which
abstains from sermon, from moralizing, from allusions? and is not the
truest pity, when a man has a sore point, not to touch it at all? It has
seemed to me that this might have been my brother's private thought. In
any case, what I can say is that, if he entertained all these ideas, he
gave no sign of them; from beginning to end, even to me he was the same
as he is every evening, and he supped with this Jean Valjean with the
same air and in the same manner in which he would have supped with M.
Gedeon le Provost, or with the curate of the parish.

"Towards the end, when he had reached the figs, there came a knock at
the door. It was Mother Gerbaud, with her little one in her arms. My
brother kissed the child on the brow, and borrowed fifteen sous which I
had about me to give to Mother Gerbaud. The man was not paying much
heed to anything then. He was no longer talking, and he seemed very much
fatigued. After poor old Gerbaud had taken her departure, my brother
said grace; then he turned to the man and said to him, 'You must be
in great need of your bed.' Madame Magloire cleared the table very
promptly. I understood that we must retire, in order to allow this
traveller to go to sleep, and we both went up stairs. Nevertheless, I
sent Madame Magloire down a moment later, to carry to the man's bed a
goat skin from the Black Forest, which was in my room. The nights are
frigid, and that keeps one warm. It is a pity that this skin is old; all
the hair is falling out. My brother bought it while he was in Germany,
at Tottlingen, near the sources of the Danube, as well as the little
ivory-handled knife which I use at table.

"Madame Magloire returned immediately. We said our prayers in the
drawing-room, where we hang up the linen, and then we each retired to
our own chambers, without saying a word to each other."


After bidding his sister good night, Monseigneur Bienvenu took one of
the two silver candlesticks from the table, handed the other to his
guest, and said to him,--

"Monsieur, I will conduct you to your room."

The man followed him.

As might have been observed from what has been said above, the house was
so arranged that in order to pass into the oratory where the alcove was
situated, or to get out of it, it was necessary to traverse the Bishop's

At the moment when he was crossing this apartment, Madame Magloire was
putting away the silverware in the cupboard near the head of the bed.
This was her last care every evening before she went to bed.

The Bishop installed his guest in the alcove. A fresh white bed had been
prepared there. The man set the candle down on a small table.

"Well," said the Bishop, "may you pass a good night. To-morrow morning,
before you set out, you shall drink a cup of warm milk from our cows."

"Thanks, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the man.

Hardly had he pronounced these words full of peace, when all of a
sudden, and without transition, he made a strange movement, which would
have frozen the two sainted women with horror, had they witnessed it.
Even at this day it is difficult for us to explain what inspired him at
that moment. Did he intend to convey a warning or to throw out a menace?
Was he simply obeying a sort of instinctive impulse which was obscure
even to himself? He turned abruptly to the old man, folded his arms, and
bending upon his host a savage gaze, he exclaimed in a hoarse voice:--

"Ah! really! You lodge me in your house, close to yourself like this?"

He broke off, and added with a laugh in which there lurked something

"Have you really reflected well? How do you know that I have not been an

The Bishop replied:--

"That is the concern of the good God."

Then gravely, and moving his lips like one who is praying or talking
to himself, he raised two fingers of his right hand and bestowed his
benediction on the man, who did not bow, and without turning his head or
looking behind him, he returned to his bedroom.

When the alcove was in use, a large serge curtain drawn from wall to
wall concealed the altar. The Bishop knelt before this curtain as he
passed and said a brief prayer. A moment later he was in his garden,
walking, meditating, contemplating, his heart and soul wholly absorbed
in those grand and mysterious things which God shows at night to the
eyes which remain open.

As for the man, he was actually so fatigued that he did not even profit
by the nice white sheets. Snuffing out his candle with his nostrils
after the manner of convicts, he dropped, all dressed as he was, upon
the bed, where he immediately fell into a profound sleep.

Midnight struck as the Bishop returned from his garden to his apartment.

A few minutes later all were asleep in the little house.


Towards the middle of the night Jean Valjean woke.

Jean Valjean came from a poor peasant family of Brie. He had not learned
to read in his childhood. When he reached man's estate, he became a
tree-pruner at Faverolles. His mother was named Jeanne Mathieu; his
father was called Jean Valjean or Vlajean, probably a sobriquet, and a
contraction of viola Jean, "here's Jean."

Jean Valjean was of that thoughtful but not gloomy disposition which
constitutes the peculiarity of affectionate natures. On the whole,
however, there was something decidedly sluggish and insignificant about
Jean Valjean in appearance, at least. He had lost his father and mother
at a very early age. His mother had died of a milk fever, which had not
been properly attended to. His father, a tree-pruner, like himself, had
been killed by a fall from a tree. All that remained to Jean Valjean
was a sister older than himself,--a widow with seven children, boys and
girls. This sister had brought up Jean Valjean, and so long as she had a
husband she lodged and fed her young brother.

The husband died. The eldest of the seven children was eight years old.
The youngest, one.

Jean Valjean had just attained his twenty-fifth year. He took the
father's place, and, in his turn, supported the sister who had brought
him up. This was done simply as a duty and even a little churlishly
on the part of Jean Valjean. Thus his youth had been spent in rude and
ill-paid toil. He had never known a "kind woman friend" in his native
parts. He had not had the time to fall in love.

He returned at night weary, and ate his broth without uttering a word.
His sister, mother Jeanne, often took the best part of his repast from
his bowl while he was eating,--a bit of meat, a slice of bacon, the
heart of the cabbage,--to give to one of her children. As he went on
eating, with his head bent over the table and almost into his soup, his
long hair falling about his bowl and concealing his eyes, he had the air
of perceiving nothing and allowing it. There was at Faverolles, not
far from the Valjean thatched cottage, on the other side of the lane,
a farmer's wife named Marie-Claude; the Valjean children, habitually
famished, sometimes went to borrow from Marie-Claude a pint of milk, in
their mother's name, which they drank behind a hedge or in some alley
corner, snatching the jug from each other so hastily that the little
girls spilled it on their aprons and down their necks. If their mother
had known of this marauding, she would have punished the delinquents
severely. Jean Valjean gruffly and grumblingly paid Marie-Claude for
the pint of milk behind their mother's back, and the children were not

In pruning season he earned eighteen sous a day; then he hired out as
a hay-maker, as laborer, as neat-herd on a farm, as a drudge. He did
whatever he could. His sister worked also but what could she do with
seven little children? It was a sad group enveloped in misery, which was
being gradually annihilated. A very hard winter came. Jean had no work.
The family had no bread. No bread literally. Seven children!

One Sunday evening, Maubert Isabeau, the baker on the Church Square at
Faverolles, was preparing to go to bed, when he heard a violent blow on
the grated front of his shop. He arrived in time to see an arm passed
through a hole made by a blow from a fist, through the grating and the
glass. The arm seized a loaf of bread and carried it off. Isabeau ran
out in haste; the robber fled at the full speed of his legs. Isabeau ran
after him and stopped him. The thief had flung away the loaf, but his
arm was still bleeding. It was Jean Valjean.

This took place in 1795. Jean Valjean was taken before the tribunals
of the time for theft and breaking and entering an inhabited house at
night. He had a gun which he used better than any one else in the world,
he was a bit of a poacher, and this injured his case. There exists a
legitimate prejudice against poachers. The poacher, like the smuggler,
smacks too strongly of the brigand. Nevertheless, we will remark
cursorily, there is still an abyss between these races of men and the
hideous assassin of the towns. The poacher lives in the forest, the
smuggler lives in the mountains or on the sea. The cities make ferocious
men because they make corrupt men. The mountain, the sea, the forest,
make savage men; they develop the fierce side, but often without
destroying the humane side.

Jean Valjean was pronounced guilty. The terms of the Code were explicit.
There occur formidable hours in our civilization; there are moments when
the penal laws decree a shipwreck. What an ominous minute is that in
which society draws back and consummates the irreparable abandonment
of a sentient being! Jean Valjean was condemned to five years in the

On the 22d of April, 1796, the victory of Montenotte, won by the
general-in-chief of the army of Italy, whom the message of the Directory
to the Five Hundred, of the 2d of Floreal, year IV., calls Buona-Parte,
was announced in Paris; on that same day a great gang of galley-slaves
was put in chains at Bicetre. Jean Valjean formed a part of that gang.
An old turnkey of the prison, who is now nearly eighty years old, still
recalls perfectly that unfortunate wretch who was chained to the end of
the fourth line, in the north angle of the courtyard. He was seated on
the ground like the others. He did not seem to comprehend his position,
except that it was horrible. It is probable that he, also, was
disentangling from amid the vague ideas of a poor man, ignorant of
everything, something excessive. While the bolt of his iron collar was
being riveted behind his head with heavy blows from the hammer, he wept,
his tears stifled him, they impeded his speech; he only managed to
say from time to time, "I was a tree-pruner at Faverolles." Then still
sobbing, he raised his right hand and lowered it gradually seven times,
as though he were touching in succession seven heads of unequal heights,
and from this gesture it was divined that the thing which he had done,
whatever it was, he had done for the sake of clothing and nourishing
seven little children.

He set out for Toulon. He arrived there, after a journey of twenty-seven
days, on a cart, with a chain on his neck. At Toulon he was clothed in
the red cassock. All that had constituted his life, even to his name,
was effaced; he was no longer even Jean Valjean; he was number 24,601.
What became of his sister? What became of the seven children? Who
troubled himself about that? What becomes of the handful of leaves from
the young tree which is sawed off at the root?

It is always the same story. These poor living beings, these creatures
of God, henceforth without support, without guide, without refuge,
wandered away at random,--who even knows?--each in his own direction
perhaps, and little by little buried themselves in that cold mist which
engulfs solitary destinies; gloomy shades, into which disappear in
succession so many unlucky heads, in the sombre march of the human race.
They quitted the country. The clock-tower of what had been their village
forgot them; the boundary line of what had been their field forgot them;
after a few years' residence in the galleys, Jean Valjean himself forgot
them. In that heart, where there had been a wound, there was a scar.
That is all. Only once, during all the time which he spent at Toulon,
did he hear his sister mentioned. This happened, I think, towards
the end of the fourth year of his captivity. I know not through what
channels the news reached him. Some one who had known them in their
own country had seen his sister. She was in Paris. She lived in a poor
street Rear Saint-Sulpice, in the Rue du Gindre. She had with her only
one child, a little boy, the youngest. Where were the other six? Perhaps
she did not know herself. Every morning she went to a printing office,
No. 3 Rue du Sabot, where she was a folder and stitcher. She was obliged
to be there at six o'clock in the morning--long before daylight in
winter. In the same building with the printing office there was a
school, and to this school she took her little boy, who was seven years
old. But as she entered the printing office at six, and the school only
opened at seven, the child had to wait in the courtyard, for the school
to open, for an hour--one hour of a winter night in the open air! They
would not allow the child to come into the printing office, because he
was in the way, they said. When the workmen passed in the morning, they
beheld this poor little being seated on the pavement, overcome with
drowsiness, and often fast asleep in the shadow, crouched down and
doubled up over his basket. When it rained, an old woman, the portress,
took pity on him; she took him into her den, where there was a pallet, a
spinning-wheel, and two wooden chairs, and the little one slumbered in a
corner, pressing himself close to the cat that he might suffer less from
cold. At seven o'clock the school opened, and he entered. That is what
was told to Jean Valjean.

They talked to him about it for one day; it was a moment, a flash,
as though a window had suddenly been opened upon the destiny of those
things whom he had loved; then all closed again. He heard nothing more
forever. Nothing from them ever reached him again; he never beheld
them; he never met them again; and in the continuation of this mournful
history they will not be met with any more.

Towards the end of this fourth year Jean Valjean's turn to escape
arrived. His comrades assisted him, as is the custom in that sad place.
He escaped. He wandered for two days in the fields at liberty, if being
at liberty is to be hunted, to turn the head every instant, to quake at
the slightest noise, to be afraid of everything,--of a smoking roof,
of a passing man, of a barking dog, of a galloping horse, of a striking
clock, of the day because one can see, of the night because one cannot
see, of the highway, of the path, of a bush, of sleep. On the evening
of the second day he was captured. He had neither eaten nor slept for
thirty-six hours. The maritime tribunal condemned him, for this crime,
to a prolongation of his term for three years, which made eight years.
In the sixth year his turn to escape occurred again; he availed himself
of it, but could not accomplish his flight fully. He was missing at
roll-call. The cannon were fired, and at night the patrol found him
hidden under the keel of a vessel in process of construction; he
resisted the galley guards who seized him. Escape and rebellion. This
case, provided for by a special code, was punished by an addition of
five years, two of them in the double chain. Thirteen years. In the
tenth year his turn came round again; he again profited by it; he
succeeded no better. Three years for this fresh attempt. Sixteen years.
Finally, I think it was during his thirteenth year, he made a last
attempt, and only succeeded in getting retaken at the end of four
hours of absence. Three years for those four hours. Nineteen years. In
October, 1815, he was released; he had entered there in 1796, for having
broken a pane of glass and taken a loaf of bread.

Room for a brief parenthesis. This is the second time, during his
studies on the penal question and damnation by law, that the author of
this book has come across the theft of a loaf of bread as the point of
departure for the disaster of a destiny. Claude Gueux had stolen a loaf;
Jean Valjean had stolen a loaf. English statistics prove the fact that
four thefts out of five in London have hunger for their immediate cause.

Jean Valjean had entered the galleys sobbing and shuddering; he emerged
impassive. He had entered in despair; he emerged gloomy.

What had taken place in that soul?


Let us try to say it.

It is necessary that society should look at these things, because it is
itself which creates them.

He was, as we have said, an ignorant man, but he was not a fool. The
light of nature was ignited in him. Unhappiness, which also possesses a
clearness of vision of its own, augmented the small amount of daylight
which existed in this mind. Beneath the cudgel, beneath the chain, in
the cell, in hardship, beneath the burning sun of the galleys, upon the
plank bed of the convict, he withdrew into his own consciousness and

He constituted himself the tribunal.

He began by putting himself on trial.

He recognized the fact that he was not an innocent man unjustly
punished. He admitted that he had committed an extreme and blameworthy
act; that that loaf of bread would probably not have been refused to
him had he asked for it; that, in any case, it would have been better to
wait until he could get it through compassion or through work; that
it is not an unanswerable argument to say, "Can one wait when one is
hungry?" That, in the first place, it is very rare for any one to die of
hunger, literally; and next, that, fortunately or unfortunately, man
is so constituted that he can suffer long and much, both morally and
physically, without dying; that it is therefore necessary to have
patience; that that would even have been better for those poor little
children; that it had been an act of madness for him, a miserable,
unfortunate wretch, to take society at large violently by the collar,
and to imagine that one can escape from misery through theft; that that
is in any case a poor door through which to escape from misery through
which infamy enters; in short, that he was in the wrong.

Then he asked himself--

Whether he had been the only one in fault in his fatal history. Whether
it was not a serious thing, that he, a laborer, out of work, that he, an
industrious man, should have lacked bread. And whether, the fault once
committed and confessed, the chastisement had not been ferocious and
disproportioned. Whether there had not been more abuse on the part of
the law, in respect to the penalty, than there had been on the part
of the culprit in respect to his fault. Whether there had not been an
excess of weights in one balance of the scale, in the one which contains
expiation. Whether the over-weight of the penalty was not equivalent
to the annihilation of the crime, and did not result in reversing the
situation, of replacing the fault of the delinquent by the fault of the
repression, of converting the guilty man into the victim, and the debtor
into the creditor, and of ranging the law definitely on the side of the
man who had violated it.

Whether this penalty, complicated by successive aggravations for
attempts at escape, had not ended in becoming a sort of outrage
perpetrated by the stronger upon the feebler, a crime of society against
the individual, a crime which was being committed afresh every day, a
crime which had lasted nineteen years.

He asked himself whether human society could have the right to force its
members to suffer equally in one case for its own unreasonable lack
of foresight, and in the other case for its pitiless foresight; and to
seize a poor man forever between a defect and an excess, a default of
work and an excess of punishment.

Whether it was not outrageous for society to treat thus precisely those
of its members who were the least well endowed in the division of goods
made by chance, and consequently the most deserving of consideration.

These questions put and answered, he judged society and condemned it.

He condemned it to his hatred.

He made it responsible for the fate which he was suffering, and he said
to himself that it might be that one day he should not hesitate to call
it to account. He declared to himself that there was no equilibrium
between the harm which he had caused and the harm which was being done
to him; he finally arrived at the conclusion that his punishment was
not, in truth, unjust, but that it most assuredly was iniquitous.

Anger may be both foolish and absurd; one can be irritated wrongfully;
one is exasperated only when there is some show of right on one's side
at bottom. Jean Valjean felt himself exasperated.

And besides, human society had done him nothing but harm; he had never
seen anything of it save that angry face which it calls Justice, and
which it shows to those whom it strikes. Men had only touched him to
bruise him. Every contact with them had been a blow. Never, since
his infancy, since the days of his mother, of his sister, had he ever
encountered a friendly word and a kindly glance. From suffering to
suffering, he had gradually arrived at the conviction that life is a
war; and that in this war he was the conquered. He had no other weapon
than his hate. He resolved to whet it in the galleys and to bear it away
with him when he departed.

There was at Toulon a school for the convicts, kept by the Ignorantin
friars, where the most necessary branches were taught to those of the
unfortunate men who had a mind for them. He was of the number who had
a mind. He went to school at the age of forty, and learned to read,
to write, to cipher. He felt that to fortify his intelligence was to
fortify his hate. In certain cases, education and enlightenment can
serve to eke out evil.

This is a sad thing to say; after having judged society, which had
caused his unhappiness, he judged Providence, which had made society,
and he condemned it also.

Thus during nineteen years of torture and slavery, this soul mounted and
at the same time fell. Light entered it on one side, and darkness on the

Jean Valjean had not, as we have seen, an evil nature. He was still good
when he arrived at the galleys. He there condemned society, and felt
that he was becoming wicked; he there condemned Providence, and was
conscious that he was becoming impious.

It is difficult not to indulge in meditation at this point.

Does human nature thus change utterly and from top to bottom? Can the
man created good by God be rendered wicked by man? Can the soul be
completely made over by fate, and become evil, fate being evil? Can
the heart become misshapen and contract incurable deformities and
infirmities under the oppression of a disproportionate unhappiness,
as the vertebral column beneath too low a vault? Is there not in every
human soul, was there not in the soul of Jean Valjean in particular, a
first spark, a divine element, incorruptible in this world, immortal in
the other, which good can develop, fan, ignite, and make to glow with
splendor, and which evil can never wholly extinguish?

Grave and obscure questions, to the last of which every physiologist
would probably have responded no, and that without hesitation, had
he beheld at Toulon, during the hours of repose, which were for Jean
Valjean hours of revery, this gloomy galley-slave, seated with folded
arms upon the bar of some capstan, with the end of his chain thrust into
his pocket to prevent its dragging, serious, silent, and thoughtful,
a pariah of the laws which regarded the man with wrath, condemned by
civilization, and regarding heaven with severity.

Certainly,--and we make no attempt to dissimulate the fact,--the
observing physiologist would have beheld an irremediable misery; he
would, perchance, have pitied this sick man, of the law's making; but
he would not have even essayed any treatment; he would have turned aside
his gaze from the caverns of which he would have caught a glimpse within
this soul, and, like Dante at the portals of hell, he would have effaced
from this existence the word which the finger of God has, nevertheless,
inscribed upon the brow of every man,--hope.

Was this state of his soul, which we have attempted to analyze, as
perfectly clear to Jean Valjean as we have tried to render it for
those who read us? Did Jean Valjean distinctly perceive, after their
formation, and had he seen distinctly during the process of their
formation, all the elements of which his moral misery was composed? Had
this rough and unlettered man gathered a perfectly clear perception of
the succession of ideas through which he had, by degrees, mounted and
descended to the lugubrious aspects which had, for so many years, formed
the inner horizon of his spirit? Was he conscious of all that passed
within him, and of all that was working there? That is something
which we do not presume to state; it is something which we do not even
believe. There was too much ignorance in Jean Valjean, even after his
misfortune, to prevent much vagueness from still lingering there. At
times he did not rightly know himself what he felt. Jean Valjean was in
the shadows; he suffered in the shadows; he hated in the shadows; one
might have said that he hated in advance of himself. He dwelt habitually
in this shadow, feeling his way like a blind man and a dreamer. Only, at
intervals, there suddenly came to him, from without and from within, an
access of wrath, a surcharge of suffering, a livid and rapid flash which
illuminated his whole soul, and caused to appear abruptly all around
him, in front, behind, amid the gleams of a frightful light, the hideous
precipices and the sombre perspective of his destiny.

The flash passed, the night closed in again; and where was he? He no
longer knew. The peculiarity of pains of this nature, in which
that which is pitiless--that is to say, that which is
brutalizing--predominates, is to transform a man, little by little, by
a sort of stupid transfiguration, into a wild beast; sometimes into a
ferocious beast.

Jean Valjean's successive and obstinate attempts at escape would alone
suffice to prove this strange working of the law upon the human soul.
Jean Valjean would have renewed these attempts, utterly useless and
foolish as they were, as often as the opportunity had presented itself,
without reflecting for an instant on the result, nor on the experiences
which he had already gone through. He escaped impetuously, like the wolf
who finds his cage open. Instinct said to him, "Flee!" Reason would have
said, "Remain!" But in the presence of so violent a temptation, reason
vanished; nothing remained but instinct. The beast alone acted. When
he was recaptured, the fresh severities inflicted on him only served to
render him still more wild.

One detail, which we must not omit, is that he possessed a physical
strength which was not approached by a single one of the denizens of the
galleys. At work, at paying out a cable or winding up a capstan, Jean
Valjean was worth four men. He sometimes lifted and sustained enormous
weights on his back; and when the occasion demanded it, he replaced that
implement which is called a jack-screw, and was formerly called orgueil
[pride], whence, we may remark in passing, is derived the name of the
Rue Montorgueil, near the Halles [Fishmarket] in Paris. His comrades had
nicknamed him Jean the Jack-screw. Once, when they were repairing the
balcony of the town-hall at Toulon, one of those admirable caryatids of
Puget, which support the balcony, became loosened, and was on the point
of falling. Jean Valjean, who was present, supported the caryatid with
his shoulder, and gave the workmen time to arrive.

His suppleness even exceeded his strength. Certain convicts who were
forever dreaming of escape, ended by making a veritable science of force
and skill combined. It is the science of muscles. An entire system of
mysterious statics is daily practised by prisoners, men who are forever
envious of the flies and birds. To climb a vertical surface, and to find
points of support where hardly a projection was visible, was play to
Jean Valjean. An angle of the wall being given, with the tension of his
back and legs, with his elbows and his heels fitted into the unevenness
of the stone, he raised himself as if by magic to the third story. He
sometimes mounted thus even to the roof of the galley prison.

He spoke but little. He laughed not at all. An excessive emotion was
required to wring from him, once or twice a year, that lugubrious laugh
of the convict, which is like the echo of the laugh of a demon. To all
appearance, he seemed to be occupied in the constant contemplation of
something terrible.

He was absorbed, in fact.

Athwart the unhealthy perceptions of an incomplete nature and a crushed
intelligence, he was confusedly conscious that some monstrous thing was
resting on him. In that obscure and wan shadow within which he crawled,
each time that he turned his neck and essayed to raise his glance,
he perceived with terror, mingled with rage, a sort of frightful
accumulation of things, collecting and mounting above him, beyond the
range of his vision,--laws, prejudices, men, and deeds,--whose outlines
escaped him, whose mass terrified him, and which was nothing else than
that prodigious pyramid which we call civilization. He distinguished,
here and there in that swarming and formless mass, now near him, now
afar off and on inaccessible table-lands, some group, some detail,
vividly illuminated; here the galley-sergeant and his cudgel; there the
gendarme and his sword; yonder the mitred archbishop; away at the top,
like a sort of sun, the Emperor, crowned and dazzling. It seemed to him
that these distant splendors, far from dissipating his night, rendered
it more funereal and more black. All this--laws, prejudices, deeds, men,
things--went and came above him, over his head, in accordance with the
complicated and mysterious movement which God imparts to civilization,
walking over him and crushing him with I know not what peacefulness
in its cruelty and inexorability in its indifference. Souls which have
fallen to the bottom of all possible misfortune, unhappy men lost in the
lowest of those limbos at which no one any longer looks, the reproved of
the law, feel the whole weight of this human society, so formidable for
him who is without, so frightful for him who is beneath, resting upon
their heads.

In this situation Jean Valjean meditated; and what could be the nature
of his meditation?

If the grain of millet beneath the millstone had thoughts, it would,
doubtless, think that same thing which Jean Valjean thought.

All these things, realities full of spectres, phantasmagories full of
realities, had eventually created for him a sort of interior state which
is almost indescribable.

At times, amid his convict toil, he paused. He fell to thinking. His
reason, at one and the same time riper and more troubled than of yore,
rose in revolt. Everything which had happened to him seemed to him
absurd; everything that surrounded him seemed to him impossible. He said
to himself, "It is a dream." He gazed at the galley-sergeant standing a
few paces from him; the galley-sergeant seemed a phantom to him. All of
a sudden the phantom dealt him a blow with his cudgel.

Visible nature hardly existed for him. It would almost be true to say
that there existed for Jean Valjean neither sun, nor fine summer days,
nor radiant sky, nor fresh April dawns. I know not what vent-hole
daylight habitually illumined his soul.

To sum up, in conclusion, that which can be summed up and translated
into positive results in all that we have just pointed out, we will
confine ourselves to the statement that, in the course of nineteen
years, Jean Valjean, the inoffensive tree-pruner of Faverolles, the
formidable convict of Toulon, had become capable, thanks to the manner
in which the galleys had moulded him, of two sorts of evil action:
firstly, of evil action which was rapid, unpremeditated, dashing,
entirely instinctive, in the nature of reprisals for the evil which
he had undergone; secondly, of evil action which was serious, grave,
consciously argued out and premeditated, with the false ideas which
such a misfortune can furnish. His deliberate deeds passed through
three successive phases, which natures of a certain stamp can alone
traverse,--reasoning, will, perseverance. He had for moving causes his
habitual wrath, bitterness of soul, a profound sense of indignities
suffered, the reaction even against the good, the innocent, and the
just, if there are any such. The point of departure, like the point
of arrival, for all his thoughts, was hatred of human law; that hatred
which, if it be not arrested in its development by some providential
incident, becomes, within a given time, the hatred of society, then
the hatred of the human race, then the hatred of creation, and which
manifests itself by a vague, incessant, and brutal desire to do harm to
some living being, no matter whom. It will be perceived that it was
not without reason that Jean Valjean's passport described him as a very
dangerous man.

From year to year this soul had dried away slowly, but with fatal
sureness. When the heart is dry, the eye is dry. On his departure from
the galleys it had been nineteen years since he had shed a tear.


A man overboard!

What matters it? The vessel does not halt. The wind blows. That sombre
ship has a path which it is forced to pursue. It passes on.

The man disappears, then reappears; he plunges, he rises again to the
surface; he calls, he stretches out his arms; he is not heard. The
vessel, trembling under the hurricane, is wholly absorbed in its own
workings; the passengers and sailors do not even see the drowning man;
his miserable head is but a speck amid the immensity of the waves. He
gives vent to desperate cries from out of the depths. What a spectre is
that retreating sail! He gazes and gazes at it frantically. It retreats,
it grows dim, it diminishes in size. He was there but just now, he was
one of the crew, he went and came along the deck with the rest, he had
his part of breath and of sunlight, he was a living man. Now, what has
taken place? He has slipped, he has fallen; all is at an end.

He is in the tremendous sea. Under foot he has nothing but what flees
and crumbles. The billows, torn and lashed by the wind, encompass him
hideously; the tossings of the abyss bear him away; all the tongues of
water dash over his head; a populace of waves spits upon him; confused
openings half devour him; every time that he sinks, he catches glimpses
of precipices filled with night; frightful and unknown vegetations seize
him, knot about his feet, draw him to them; he is conscious that he is
becoming an abyss, that he forms part of the foam; the waves toss him
from one to another; he drinks in the bitterness; the cowardly ocean
attacks him furiously, to drown him; the enormity plays with his agony.
It seems as though all that water were hate.

Nevertheless, he struggles.

He tries to defend himself; he tries to sustain himself; he makes
an effort; he swims. He, his petty strength all exhausted instantly,
combats the inexhaustible.

Where, then, is the ship? Yonder. Barely visible in the pale shadows of
the horizon.

The wind blows in gusts; all the foam overwhelms him. He raises his eyes
and beholds only the lividness of the clouds. He witnesses, amid his
death-pangs, the immense madness of the sea. He is tortured by this
madness; he hears noises strange to man, which seem to come from beyond
the limits of the earth, and from one knows not what frightful region

There are birds in the clouds, just as there are angels above human
distresses; but what can they do for him? They sing and fly and float,
and he, he rattles in the death agony.

He feels himself buried in those two infinities, the ocean and the sky,
at one and the same time: the one is a tomb; the other is a shroud.

Night descends; he has been swimming for hours; his strength is
exhausted; that ship, that distant thing in which there were men, has
vanished; he is alone in the formidable twilight gulf; he sinks, he
stiffens himself, he twists himself; he feels under him the monstrous
billows of the invisible; he shouts.

There are no more men. Where is God?

He shouts. Help! Help! He still shouts on.

Nothing on the horizon; nothing in heaven.

He implores the expanse, the waves, the seaweed, the reef; they are
deaf. He beseeches the tempest; the imperturbable tempest obeys only the

Around him darkness, fog, solitude, the stormy and nonsentient tumult,
the undefined curling of those wild waters. In him horror and fatigue.
Beneath him the depths. Not a point of support. He thinks of the gloomy
adventures of the corpse in the limitless shadow. The bottomless cold
paralyzes him. His hands contract convulsively; they close, and grasp
nothingness. Winds, clouds, whirlwinds, gusts, useless stars! What is
to be done? The desperate man gives up; he is weary, he chooses the
alternative of death; he resists not; he lets himself go; he abandons
his grip; and then he tosses forevermore in the lugubrious dreary depths
of engulfment.

Oh, implacable march of human societies! Oh, losses of men and of
souls on the way! Ocean into which falls all that the law lets slip!
Disastrous absence of help! Oh, moral death!

The sea is the inexorable social night into which the penal laws fling
their condemned. The sea is the immensity of wretchedness.

The soul, going down stream in this gulf, may become a corpse. Who shall
resuscitate it?


When the hour came for him to take his departure from the galleys, when
Jean Valjean heard in his ear the strange words, Thou art free! the
moment seemed improbable and unprecedented; a ray of vivid light, a ray
of the true light of the living, suddenly penetrated within him. But it
was not long before this ray paled. Jean Valjean had been dazzled by
the idea of liberty. He had believed in a new life. He very speedily
perceived what sort of liberty it is to which a yellow passport is

And this was encompassed with much bitterness. He had calculated that
his earnings, during his sojourn in the galleys, ought to amount to
a hundred and seventy-one francs. It is but just to add that he had
forgotten to include in his calculations the forced repose of Sundays
and festival days during nineteen years, which entailed a diminution
of about eighty francs. At all events, his hoard had been reduced by
various local levies to the sum of one hundred and nine francs fifteen
sous, which had been counted out to him on his departure. He had
understood nothing of this, and had thought himself wronged. Let us say
the word--robbed.

On the day following his liberation, he saw, at Grasse, in front of
an orange-flower distillery, some men engaged in unloading bales. He
offered his services. Business was pressing; they were accepted. He set
to work. He was intelligent, robust, adroit; he did his best; the master
seemed pleased. While he was at work, a gendarme passed, observed
him, and demanded his papers. It was necessary to show him the yellow
passport. That done, Jean Valjean resumed his labor. A little while
before he had questioned one of the workmen as to the amount which they
earned each day at this occupation; he had been told thirty sous. When
evening arrived, as he was forced to set out again on the following day,
he presented himself to the owner of the distillery and requested to be
paid. The owner did not utter a word, but handed him fifteen sous. He
objected. He was told, "That is enough for thee." He persisted. The
master looked him straight between the eyes, and said to him "Beware of
the prison."

There, again, he considered that he had been robbed.

Society, the State, by diminishing his hoard, had robbed him wholesale.
Now it was the individual who was robbing him at retail.

Liberation is not deliverance. One gets free from the galleys, but not
from the sentence.

That is what happened to him at Grasse. We have seen in what manner he
was received at D----


As the Cathedral clock struck two in the morning, Jean Valjean awoke.

What woke him was that his bed was too good. It was nearly twenty years
since he had slept in a bed, and, although he had not undressed, the
sensation was too novel not to disturb his slumbers.

He had slept more than four hours. His fatigue had passed away. He was
accustomed not to devote many hours to repose.

He opened his eyes and stared into the gloom which surrounded him; then
he closed them again, with the intention of going to sleep once more.

When many varied sensations have agitated the day, when various matters
preoccupy the mind, one falls asleep once, but not a second time.
Sleep comes more easily than it returns. This is what happened to Jean
Valjean. He could not get to sleep again, and he fell to thinking.

He was at one of those moments when the thoughts which one has in one's
mind are troubled. There was a sort of dark confusion in his brain. His
memories of the olden time and of the immediate present floated there
pell-mell and mingled confusedly, losing their proper forms, becoming
disproportionately large, then suddenly disappearing, as in a muddy and
perturbed pool. Many thoughts occurred to him; but there was one which
kept constantly presenting itself afresh, and which drove away all
others. We will mention this thought at once: he had observed the six
sets of silver forks and spoons and the ladle which Madame Magloire had
placed on the table.

Those six sets of silver haunted him.--They were there.--A few paces
distant.--Just as he was traversing the adjoining room to reach the
one in which he then was, the old servant-woman had been in the act
of placing them in a little cupboard near the head of the bed.--He had
taken careful note of this cupboard.--On the right, as you entered from
the dining-room.--They were solid.--And old silver.--From the ladle one
could get at least two hundred francs.--Double what he had earned in
nineteen years.--It is true that he would have earned more if "the
administration had not robbed him."

His mind wavered for a whole hour in fluctuations with which there was
certainly mingled some struggle. Three o'clock struck. He opened his
eyes again, drew himself up abruptly into a sitting posture, stretched
out his arm and felt of his knapsack, which he had thrown down on a
corner of the alcove; then he hung his legs over the edge of the bed,
and placed his feet on the floor, and thus found himself, almost without
knowing it, seated on his bed.

He remained for a time thoughtfully in this attitude, which would have
been suggestive of something sinister for any one who had seen him
thus in the dark, the only person awake in that house where all were
sleeping. All of a sudden he stooped down, removed his shoes and placed
them softly on the mat beside the bed; then he resumed his thoughtful
attitude, and became motionless once more.

Throughout this hideous meditation, the thoughts which we have above
indicated moved incessantly through his brain; entered, withdrew,
re-entered, and in a manner oppressed him; and then he thought, also,
without knowing why, and with the mechanical persistence of revery, of
a convict named Brevet, whom he had known in the galleys, and whose
trousers had been upheld by a single suspender of knitted cotton. The
checkered pattern of that suspender recurred incessantly to his mind.

He remained in this situation, and would have so remained indefinitely,
even until daybreak, had not the clock struck one--the half or quarter
hour. It seemed to him that that stroke said to him, "Come on!"

He rose to his feet, hesitated still another moment, and listened; all
was quiet in the house; then he walked straight ahead, with short steps,
to the window, of which he caught a glimpse. The night was not very
dark; there was a full moon, across which coursed large clouds driven by
the wind. This created, outdoors, alternate shadow and gleams of light,
eclipses, then bright openings of the clouds; and indoors a sort of
twilight. This twilight, sufficient to enable a person to see his way,
intermittent on account of the clouds, resembled the sort of livid light
which falls through an air-hole in a cellar, before which the passersby
come and go. On arriving at the window, Jean Valjean examined it. It had
no grating; it opened in the garden and was fastened, according to the
fashion of the country, only by a small pin. He opened it; but as a
rush of cold and piercing air penetrated the room abruptly, he closed
it again immediately. He scrutinized the garden with that attentive gaze
which studies rather than looks. The garden was enclosed by a tolerably
low white wall, easy to climb. Far away, at the extremity, he perceived
tops of trees, spaced at regular intervals, which indicated that the
wall separated the garden from an avenue or lane planted with trees.

Having taken this survey, he executed a movement like that of a man who
has made up his mind, strode to his alcove, grasped his knapsack, opened
it, fumbled in it, pulled out of it something which he placed on the
bed, put his shoes into one of his pockets, shut the whole thing up
again, threw the knapsack on his shoulders, put on his cap, drew the
visor down over his eyes, felt for his cudgel, went and placed it in the
angle of the window; then returned to the bed, and resolutely seized the
object which he had deposited there. It resembled a short bar of
iron, pointed like a pike at one end. It would have been difficult to
distinguish in that darkness for what employment that bit of iron could
have been designed. Perhaps it was a lever; possibly it was a club.

In the daytime it would have been possible to recognize it as nothing
more than a miner's candlestick. Convicts were, at that period,
sometimes employed in quarrying stone from the lofty hills which environ
Toulon, and it was not rare for them to have miners' tools at their
command. These miners' candlesticks are of massive iron, terminated at
the lower extremity by a point, by means of which they are stuck into
the rock.

He took the candlestick in his right hand; holding his breath and trying
to deaden the sound of his tread, he directed his steps to the door of
the adjoining room, occupied by the Bishop, as we already know.

On arriving at this door, he found it ajar. The Bishop had not closed


Jean Valjean listened. Not a sound.

He gave the door a push.

He pushed it gently with the tip of his finger, lightly, with the
furtive and uneasy gentleness of a cat which is desirous of entering.

The door yielded to this pressure, and made an imperceptible and silent
movement, which enlarged the opening a little.

He waited a moment; then gave the door a second and a bolder push.

It continued to yield in silence. The opening was now large enough to
allow him to pass. But near the door there stood a little table, which
formed an embarrassing angle with it, and barred the entrance.

Jean Valjean recognized the difficulty. It was necessary, at any cost,
to enlarge the aperture still further.

He decided on his course of action, and gave the door a third push, more
energetic than the two preceding. This time a badly oiled hinge suddenly
emitted amid the silence a hoarse and prolonged cry.

Jean Valjean shuddered. The noise of the hinge rang in his ears with
something of the piercing and formidable sound of the trump of the Day
of Judgment.

In the fantastic exaggerations of the first moment he almost imagined
that that hinge had just become animated, and had suddenly assumed a
terrible life, and that it was barking like a dog to arouse every one,
and warn and to wake those who were asleep. He halted, shuddering,
bewildered, and fell back from the tips of his toes upon his heels. He
heard the arteries in his temples beating like two forge hammers, and
it seemed to him that his breath issued from his breast with the roar
of the wind issuing from a cavern. It seemed impossible to him that the
horrible clamor of that irritated hinge should not have disturbed the
entire household, like the shock of an earthquake; the door, pushed by
him, had taken the alarm, and had shouted; the old man would rise at
once; the two old women would shriek out; people would come to their
assistance; in less than a quarter of an hour the town would be in an
uproar, and the gendarmerie on hand. For a moment he thought himself

He remained where he was, petrified like the statue of salt, not daring
to make a movement. Several minutes elapsed. The door had fallen wide
open. He ventured to peep into the next room. Nothing had stirred there.
He lent an ear. Nothing was moving in the house. The noise made by the
rusty hinge had not awakened any one.

This first danger was past; but there still reigned a frightful tumult
within him. Nevertheless, he did not retreat. Even when he had thought
himself lost, he had not drawn back. His only thought now was to finish
as soon as possible. He took a step and entered the room.

This room was in a state of perfect calm. Here and there vague and
confused forms were distinguishable, which in the daylight were papers
scattered on a table, open folios, volumes piled upon a stool, an
arm-chair heaped with clothing, a prie-Dieu, and which at that hour
were only shadowy corners and whitish spots. Jean Valjean advanced with
precaution, taking care not to knock against the furniture. He could
hear, at the extremity of the room, the even and tranquil breathing of
the sleeping Bishop.

He suddenly came to a halt. He was near the bed. He had arrived there
sooner than he had thought for.

Nature sometimes mingles her effects and her spectacles with our actions
with sombre and intelligent appropriateness, as though she desired to
make us reflect. For the last half-hour a large cloud had covered the
heavens. At the moment when Jean Valjean paused in front of the bed,
this cloud parted, as though on purpose, and a ray of light, traversing
the long window, suddenly illuminated the Bishop's pale face. He was
sleeping peacefully. He lay in his bed almost completely dressed, on
account of the cold of the Basses-Alps, in a garment of brown wool,
which covered his arms to the wrists. His head was thrown back on the
pillow, in the careless attitude of repose; his hand, adorned with the
pastoral ring, and whence had fallen so many good deeds and so many
holy actions, was hanging over the edge of the bed. His whole face
was illumined with a vague expression of satisfaction, of hope, and of
felicity. It was more than a smile, and almost a radiance. He bore upon
his brow the indescribable reflection of a light which was invisible.
The soul of the just contemplates in sleep a mysterious heaven.

A reflection of that heaven rested on the Bishop.

It was, at the same time, a luminous transparency, for that heaven was
within him. That heaven was his conscience.

[Illustration: The Fall  1b2-10-the-fall]

At the moment when the ray of moonlight superposed itself, so to speak,
upon that inward radiance, the sleeping Bishop seemed as in a glory. It
remained, however, gentle and veiled in an ineffable half-light. That
moon in the sky, that slumbering nature, that garden without a quiver,
that house which was so calm, the hour, the moment, the silence, added
some solemn and unspeakable quality to the venerable repose of this man,
and enveloped in a sort of serene and majestic aureole that white
hair, those closed eyes, that face in which all was hope and all was
confidence, that head of an old man, and that slumber of an infant.

There was something almost divine in this man, who was thus august,
without being himself aware of it.

Jean Valjean was in the shadow, and stood motionless, with his iron
candlestick in his hand, frightened by this luminous old man. Never had
he beheld anything like this. This confidence terrified him. The
moral world has no grander spectacle than this: a troubled and
uneasy conscience, which has arrived on the brink of an evil action,
contemplating the slumber of the just.

That slumber in that isolation, and with a neighbor like himself, had
about it something sublime, of which he was vaguely but imperiously

No one could have told what was passing within him, not even himself. In
order to attempt to form an idea of it, it is necessary to think of the
most violent of things in the presence of the most gentle. Even on
his visage it would have been impossible to distinguish anything with
certainty. It was a sort of haggard astonishment. He gazed at it, and
that was all. But what was his thought? It would have been impossible to
divine it. What was evident was, that he was touched and astounded. But
what was the nature of this emotion?

His eye never quitted the old man. The only thing which was clearly
to be inferred from his attitude and his physiognomy was a strange
indecision. One would have said that he was hesitating between the two
abysses,--the one in which one loses one's self and that in which one
saves one's self. He seemed prepared to crush that skull or to kiss that

At the expiration of a few minutes his left arm rose slowly towards
his brow, and he took off his cap; then his arm fell back with the same
deliberation, and Jean Valjean fell to meditating once more, his cap in
his left hand, his club in his right hand, his hair bristling all over
his savage head.

The Bishop continued to sleep in profound peace beneath that terrifying

The gleam of the moon rendered confusedly visible the crucifix over the
chimney-piece, which seemed to be extending its arms to both of them,
with a benediction for one and pardon for the other.

Suddenly Jean Valjean replaced his cap on his brow; then stepped rapidly
past the bed, without glancing at the Bishop, straight to the cupboard,
which he saw near the head; he raised his iron candlestick as though to
force the lock; the key was there; he opened it; the first thing which
presented itself to him was the basket of silverware; he seized it,
traversed the chamber with long strides, without taking any precautions
and without troubling himself about the noise, gained the door,
re-entered the oratory, opened the window, seized his cudgel, bestrode
the window-sill of the ground-floor, put the silver into his knapsack,
threw away the basket, crossed the garden, leaped over the wall like a
tiger, and fled.


The next morning at sunrise Monseigneur Bienvenu was strolling in his
garden. Madame Magloire ran up to him in utter consternation.

"Monseigneur, Monseigneur!" she exclaimed, "does your Grace know where
the basket of silver is?"

"Yes," replied the Bishop.

"Jesus the Lord be blessed!" she resumed; "I did not know what had
become of it."

The Bishop had just picked up the basket in a flower-bed. He presented
it to Madame Magloire.

"Here it is."

"Well!" said she. "Nothing in it! And the silver?"

"Ah," returned the Bishop, "so it is the silver which troubles you? I
don't know where it is."

"Great, good God! It is stolen! That man who was here last night has
stolen it."

In a twinkling, with all the vivacity of an alert old woman, Madame
Magloire had rushed to the oratory, entered the alcove, and returned
to the Bishop. The Bishop had just bent down, and was sighing as he
examined a plant of cochlearia des Guillons, which the basket had broken
as it fell across the bed. He rose up at Madame Magloire's cry.

"Monseigneur, the man is gone! The silver has been stolen!"

As she uttered this exclamation, her eyes fell upon a corner of the
garden, where traces of the wall having been scaled were visible. The
coping of the wall had been torn away.

"Stay! yonder is the way he went. He jumped over into Cochefilet Lane.
Ah, the abomination! He has stolen our silver!"

The Bishop remained silent for a moment; then he raised his grave eyes,
and said gently to Madame Magloire:--

"And, in the first place, was that silver ours?"

Madame Magloire was speechless. Another silence ensued; then the Bishop
went on:--

"Madame Magloire, I have for a long time detained that silver
wrongfully. It belonged to the poor. Who was that man? A poor man,

"Alas! Jesus!" returned Madame Magloire. "It is not for my sake, nor for
Mademoiselle's. It makes no difference to us. But it is for the sake of
Monseigneur. What is Monseigneur to eat with now?"

The Bishop gazed at her with an air of amazement.

"Ah, come! Are there no such things as pewter forks and spoons?"

Madame Magloire shrugged her shoulders.

"Pewter has an odor."

"Iron forks and spoons, then."

Madame Magloire made an expressive grimace.

"Iron has a taste."

"Very well," said the Bishop; "wooden ones then."

A few moments later he was breakfasting at the very table at which
Jean Valjean had sat on the previous evening. As he ate his breakfast,
Monseigneur Welcome remarked gayly to his sister, who said nothing, and
to Madame Magloire, who was grumbling under her breath, that one really
does not need either fork or spoon, even of wood, in order to dip a bit
of bread in a cup of milk.

"A pretty idea, truly," said Madame Magloire to herself, as she went and
came, "to take in a man like that! and to lodge him close to one's self!
And how fortunate that he did nothing but steal! Ah, mon Dieu! it makes
one shudder to think of it!"

As the brother and sister were about to rise from the table, there came
a knock at the door.

"Come in," said the Bishop.

The door opened. A singular and violent group made its appearance on the
threshold. Three men were holding a fourth man by the collar. The three
men were gendarmes; the other was Jean Valjean.

A brigadier of gendarmes, who seemed to be in command of the group, was
standing near the door. He entered and advanced to the Bishop, making a
military salute.

"Monseigneur--" said he.

At this word, Jean Valjean, who was dejected and seemed overwhelmed,
raised his head with an air of stupefaction.

"Monseigneur!" he murmured. "So he is not the cure?"

"Silence!" said the gendarme. "He is Monseigneur the Bishop."

In the meantime, Monseigneur Bienvenu had advanced as quickly as his
great age permitted.

"Ah! here you are!" he exclaimed, looking at Jean Valjean. "I am glad to
see you. Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which
are of silver like the rest, and for which you can certainly get two
hundred francs. Why did you not carry them away with your forks and

Jean Valjean opened his eyes wide, and stared at the venerable Bishop
with an expression which no human tongue can render any account of.

"Monseigneur," said the brigadier of gendarmes, "so what this man said
is true, then? We came across him. He was walking like a man who is
running away. We stopped him to look into the matter. He had this

"And he told you," interposed the Bishop with a smile, "that it had been
given to him by a kind old fellow of a priest with whom he had passed
the night? I see how the matter stands. And you have brought him back
here? It is a mistake."

"In that case," replied the brigadier, "we can let him go?"

"Certainly," replied the Bishop.

The gendarmes released Jean Valjean, who recoiled.

"Is it true that I am to be released?" he said, in an almost
inarticulate voice, and as though he were talking in his sleep.

"Yes, thou art released; dost thou not understand?" said one of the

"My friend," resumed the Bishop, "before you go, here are your
candlesticks. Take them."

He stepped to the chimney-piece, took the two silver candlesticks, and
brought them to Jean Valjean. The two women looked on without uttering
a word, without a gesture, without a look which could disconcert the

Jean Valjean was trembling in every limb. He took the two candlesticks
mechanically, and with a bewildered air.

"Now," said the Bishop, "go in peace. By the way, when you return, my
friend, it is not necessary to pass through the garden. You can always
enter and depart through the street door. It is never fastened with
anything but a latch, either by day or by night."

Then, turning to the gendarmes:--

"You may retire, gentlemen."

The gendarmes retired.

Jean Valjean was like a man on the point of fainting.

The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:--

"Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money
in becoming an honest man."

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything,
remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered
them. He resumed with solemnity:--

"Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It
is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and
the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God."


Jean Valjean left the town as though he were fleeing from it. He set out
at a very hasty pace through the fields, taking whatever roads and paths
presented themselves to him, without perceiving that he was incessantly
retracing his steps. He wandered thus the whole morning, without having
eaten anything and without feeling hungry. He was the prey of a throng
of novel sensations. He was conscious of a sort of rage; he did not
know against whom it was directed. He could not have told whether he was
touched or humiliated. There came over him at moments a strange emotion
which he resisted and to which he opposed the hardness acquired during
the last twenty years of his life. This state of mind fatigued him.
He perceived with dismay that the sort of frightful calm which the
injustice of his misfortune had conferred upon him was giving way within
him. He asked himself what would replace this. At times he would have
actually preferred to be in prison with the gendarmes, and that things
should not have happened in this way; it would have agitated him less.
Although the season was tolerably far advanced, there were still a few
late flowers in the hedge-rows here and there, whose odor as he passed
through them in his march recalled to him memories of his childhood.
These memories were almost intolerable to him, it was so long since they
had recurred to him.

Unutterable thoughts assembled within him in this manner all day long.

As the sun declined to its setting, casting long shadows athwart the
soil from every pebble, Jean Valjean sat down behind a bush upon a large
ruddy plain, which was absolutely deserted. There was nothing on the
horizon except the Alps. Not even the spire of a distant village. Jean
Valjean might have been three leagues distant from D---- A path which
intersected the plain passed a few paces from the bush.

In the middle of this meditation, which would have contributed not
a little to render his rags terrifying to any one who might have
encountered him, a joyous sound became audible.

He turned his head and saw a little Savoyard, about ten years of age,
coming up the path and singing, his hurdy-gurdy on his hip, and his
marmot-box on his back.

One of those gay and gentle children, who go from land to land affording
a view of their knees through the holes in their trousers.

Without stopping his song, the lad halted in his march from time to
time, and played at knuckle-bones with some coins which he had in his
hand--his whole fortune, probably.

Among this money there was one forty-sou piece.

The child halted beside the bush, without perceiving Jean Valjean, and
tossed up his handful of sous, which, up to that time, he had caught
with a good deal of adroitness on the back of his hand.

This time the forty-sou piece escaped him, and went rolling towards the
brushwood until it reached Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean set his foot upon it.

In the meantime, the child had looked after his coin and had caught
sight of him.

He showed no astonishment, but walked straight up to the man.

The spot was absolutely solitary. As far as the eye could see there was
not a person on the plain or on the path. The only sound was the tiny,
feeble cries of a flock of birds of passage, which was traversing the
heavens at an immense height. The child was standing with his back to
the sun, which cast threads of gold in his hair and empurpled with its
blood-red gleam the savage face of Jean Valjean.

"Sir," said the little Savoyard, with that childish confidence which is
composed of ignorance and innocence, "my money."

"What is your name?" said Jean Valjean.

"Little Gervais, sir."

"Go away," said Jean Valjean.

"Sir," resumed the child, "give me back my money."

Jean Valjean dropped his head, and made no reply.

The child began again, "My money, sir."

Jean Valjean's eyes remained fixed on the earth.

"My piece of money!" cried the child, "my white piece! my silver!"

It seemed as though Jean Valjean did not hear him. The child grasped him
by the collar of his blouse and shook him. At the same time he made an
effort to displace the big iron-shod shoe which rested on his treasure.

"I want my piece of money! my piece of forty sous!"

The child wept. Jean Valjean raised his head. He still remained seated.
His eyes were troubled. He gazed at the child, in a sort of amazement,
then he stretched out his hand towards his cudgel and cried in a
terrible voice, "Who's there?"

"I, sir," replied the child. "Little Gervais! I! Give me back my forty
sous, if you please! Take your foot away, sir, if you please!"

Then irritated, though he was so small, and becoming almost menacing:--

"Come now, will you take your foot away? Take your foot away, or we'll

"Ah! It's still you!" said Jean Valjean, and rising abruptly to his
feet, his foot still resting on the silver piece, he added:--

"Will you take yourself off!"

The frightened child looked at him, then began to tremble from head to
foot, and after a few moments of stupor he set out, running at the top
of his speed, without daring to turn his neck or to utter a cry.

Nevertheless, lack of breath forced him to halt after a certain
distance, and Jean Valjean heard him sobbing, in the midst of his own

At the end of a few moments the child had disappeared.

The sun had set.

The shadows were descending around Jean Valjean. He had eaten nothing
all day; it is probable that he was feverish.

He had remained standing and had not changed his attitude after the
child's flight. The breath heaved his chest at long and irregular
intervals. His gaze, fixed ten or twelve paces in front of him, seemed
to be scrutinizing with profound attention the shape of an ancient
fragment of blue earthenware which had fallen in the grass. All at once
he shivered; he had just begun to feel the chill of evening.

He settled his cap more firmly on his brow, sought mechanically to
cross and button his blouse, advanced a step and stopped to pick up his

At that moment he caught sight of the forty-sou piece, which his foot
had half ground into the earth, and which was shining among the pebbles.
It was as though he had received a galvanic shock. "What is this?"
he muttered between his teeth. He recoiled three paces, then halted,
without being able to detach his gaze from the spot which his foot had
trodden but an instant before, as though the thing which lay glittering
there in the gloom had been an open eye riveted upon him.

At the expiration of a few moments he darted convulsively towards the
silver coin, seized it, and straightened himself up again and began to
gaze afar off over the plain, at the same time casting his eyes towards
all points of the horizon, as he stood there erect and shivering, like a
terrified wild animal which is seeking refuge.

He saw nothing. Night was falling, the plain was cold and vague, great
banks of violet haze were rising in the gleam of the twilight.

He said, "Ah!" and set out rapidly in the direction in which the child
had disappeared. After about thirty paces he paused, looked about him
and saw nothing.

Then he shouted with all his might:--

"Little Gervais! Little Gervais!"

He paused and waited.

There was no reply.

The landscape was gloomy and deserted. He was encompassed by space.
There was nothing around him but an obscurity in which his gaze was
lost, and a silence which engulfed his voice.

An icy north wind was blowing, and imparted to things around him a
sort of lugubrious life. The bushes shook their thin little arms with
incredible fury. One would have said that they were threatening and
pursuing some one.

He set out on his march again, then he began to run; and from time to
time he halted and shouted into that solitude, with a voice which was
the most formidable and the most disconsolate that it was possible to
hear, "Little Gervais! Little Gervais!"

Assuredly, if the child had heard him, he would have been alarmed and
would have taken good care not to show himself. But the child was no
doubt already far away.

He encountered a priest on horseback. He stepped up to him and said:--

"Monsieur le Cure, have you seen a child pass?"

"No," said the priest.

"One named Little Gervais?"

"I have seen no one."

He drew two five-franc pieces from his money-bag and handed them to the

"Monsieur le Cure, this is for your poor people. Monsieur le Cure, he
was a little lad, about ten years old, with a marmot, I think, and a
hurdy-gurdy. One of those Savoyards, you know?"

"I have not seen him."

"Little Gervais? There are no villages here? Can you tell me?"

"If he is like what you say, my friend, he is a little stranger. Such
persons pass through these parts. We know nothing of them."

Jean Valjean seized two more coins of five francs each with violence,
and gave them to the priest.

"For your poor," he said.

Then he added, wildly:--

"Monsieur l'Abbe, have me arrested. I am a thief."

The priest put spurs to his horse and fled in haste, much alarmed.

Jean Valjean set out on a run, in the direction which he had first

In this way he traversed a tolerably long distance, gazing, calling,
shouting, but he met no one. Two or three times he ran across the plain
towards something which conveyed to him the effect of a human being
reclining or crouching down; it turned out to be nothing but brushwood
or rocks nearly on a level with the earth. At length, at a spot where
three paths intersected each other, he stopped. The moon had risen. He
sent his gaze into the distance and shouted for the last time, "Little
Gervais! Little Gervais! Little Gervais!" His shout died away in the
mist, without even awakening an echo. He murmured yet once more, "Little
Gervais!" but in a feeble and almost inarticulate voice. It was his last
effort; his legs gave way abruptly under him, as though an invisible
power had suddenly overwhelmed him with the weight of his evil
conscience; he fell exhausted, on a large stone, his fists clenched in
his hair and his face on his knees, and he cried, "I am a wretch!"

Then his heart burst, and he began to cry. It was the first time that he
had wept in nineteen years.

When Jean Valjean left the Bishop's house, he was, as we have seen,
quite thrown out of everything that had been his thought hitherto. He
could not yield to the evidence of what was going on within him. He
hardened himself against the angelic action and the gentle words of the
old man. "You have promised me to become an honest man. I buy your soul.
I take it away from the spirit of perversity; I give it to the good

This recurred to his mind unceasingly. To this celestial kindness
he opposed pride, which is the fortress of evil within us. He was
indistinctly conscious that the pardon of this priest was the greatest
assault and the most formidable attack which had moved him yet; that his
obduracy was finally settled if he resisted this clemency; that if he
yielded, he should be obliged to renounce that hatred with which the
actions of other men had filled his soul through so many years, and
which pleased him; that this time it was necessary to conquer or to be
conquered; and that a struggle, a colossal and final struggle, had been
begun between his viciousness and the goodness of that man.

In the presence of these lights, he proceeded like a man who is
intoxicated. As he walked thus with haggard eyes, did he have a distinct
perception of what might result to him from his adventure at D----? Did
he understand all those mysterious murmurs which warn or importune the
spirit at certain moments of life? Did a voice whisper in his ear that
he had just passed the solemn hour of his destiny; that there no longer
remained a middle course for him; that if he were not henceforth the
best of men, he would be the worst; that it behooved him now, so to
speak, to mount higher than the Bishop, or fall lower than the convict;
that if he wished to become good be must become an angel; that if he
wished to remain evil, he must become a monster?

Here, again, some questions must be put, which we have already put
to ourselves elsewhere: did he catch some shadow of all this in his
thought, in a confused way? Misfortune certainly, as we have said, does
form the education of the intelligence; nevertheless, it is doubtful
whether Jean Valjean was in a condition to disentangle all that we have
here indicated. If these ideas occurred to him, he but caught glimpses
of, rather than saw them, and they only succeeded in throwing him into
an unutterable and almost painful state of emotion. On emerging from
that black and deformed thing which is called the galleys, the Bishop
had hurt his soul, as too vivid a light would have hurt his eyes on
emerging from the dark. The future life, the possible life which offered
itself to him henceforth, all pure and radiant, filled him with tremors
and anxiety. He no longer knew where he really was. Like an owl, who
should suddenly see the sun rise, the convict had been dazzled and
blinded, as it were, by virtue.

That which was certain, that which he did not doubt, was that he was no
longer the same man, that everything about him was changed, that it was
no longer in his power to make it as though the Bishop had not spoken to
him and had not touched him.

In this state of mind he had encountered little Gervais, and had robbed
him of his forty sous. Why? He certainly could not have explained it;
was this the last effect and the supreme effort, as it were, of the
evil thoughts which he had brought away from the galleys,--a remnant of
impulse, a result of what is called in statics, acquired force? It
was that, and it was also, perhaps, even less than that. Let us say it
simply, it was not he who stole; it was not the man; it was the beast,
who, by habit and instinct, had simply placed his foot upon that money,
while the intelligence was struggling amid so many novel and hitherto
unheard-of thoughts besetting it.

When intelligence re-awakened and beheld that action of the brute, Jean
Valjean recoiled with anguish and uttered a cry of terror.

[Illustration: Awakened  1b2-11-awakened]

It was because,--strange phenomenon, and one which was possible only
in the situation in which he found himself,--in stealing the money from
that child, he had done a thing of which he was no longer capable.

However that may be, this last evil action had a decisive effect on
him; it abruptly traversed that chaos which he bore in his mind, and
dispersed it, placed on one side the thick obscurity, and on the other
the light, and acted on his soul, in the state in which it then was, as
certain chemical reagents act upon a troubled mixture by precipitating
one element and clarifying the other.

First of all, even before examining himself and reflecting, all
bewildered, like one who seeks to save himself, he tried to find the
child in order to return his money to him; then, when he recognized the
fact that this was impossible, he halted in despair. At the moment when
he exclaimed "I am a wretch!" he had just perceived what he was, and he
was already separated from himself to such a degree, that he seemed to
himself to be no longer anything more than a phantom, and as if he had,
there before him, in flesh and blood, the hideous galley-convict, Jean
Valjean, cudgel in hand, his blouse on his hips, his knapsack filled
with stolen objects on his back, with his resolute and gloomy visage,
with his thoughts filled with abominable projects.

Excess of unhappiness had, as we have remarked, made him in some sort
a visionary. This, then, was in the nature of a vision. He actually saw
that Jean Valjean, that sinister face, before him. He had almost reached
the point of asking himself who that man was, and he was horrified by

His brain was going through one of those violent and yet perfectly calm
moments in which revery is so profound that it absorbs reality. One no
longer beholds the object which one has before one, and one sees, as
though apart from one's self, the figures which one has in one's own

Thus he contemplated himself, so to speak, face to face, and at the same
time, athwart this hallucination, he perceived in a mysterious depth a
sort of light which he at first took for a torch. On scrutinizing
this light which appeared to his conscience with more attention, he
recognized the fact that it possessed a human form and that this torch
was the Bishop.

His conscience weighed in turn these two men thus placed before it,--the
Bishop and Jean Valjean. Nothing less than the first was required to
soften the second. By one of those singular effects, which are peculiar
to this sort of ecstasies, in proportion as his revery continued, as the
Bishop grew great and resplendent in his eyes, so did Jean Valjean grow
less and vanish. After a certain time he was no longer anything more
than a shade. All at once he disappeared. The Bishop alone remained; he
filled the whole soul of this wretched man with a magnificent radiance.

Jean Valjean wept for a long time. He wept burning tears, he sobbed with
more weakness than a woman, with more fright than a child.

As he wept, daylight penetrated more and more clearly into his soul; an
extraordinary light; a light at once ravishing and terrible. His past
life, his first fault, his long expiation, his external brutishness, his
internal hardness, his dismissal to liberty, rejoicing in manifold plans
of vengeance, what had happened to him at the Bishop's, the last thing
that he had done, that theft of forty sous from a child, a crime all the
more cowardly, and all the more monstrous since it had come after the
Bishop's pardon,--all this recurred to his mind and appeared clearly
to him, but with a clearness which he had never hitherto witnessed.
He examined his life, and it seemed horrible to him; his soul, and it
seemed frightful to him. In the meantime a gentle light rested over this
life and this soul. It seemed to him that he beheld Satan by the light
of Paradise.

How many hours did he weep thus? What did he do after he had wept?
Whither did he go! No one ever knew. The only thing which seems to be
authenticated is that that same night the carrier who served Grenoble at
that epoch, and who arrived at D---- about three o'clock in the morning,
saw, as he traversed the street in which the Bishop's residence was
situated, a man in the attitude of prayer, kneeling on the pavement in
the shadow, in front of the door of Monseigneur Welcome.



1817 is the year which Louis XVIII., with a certain royal assurance
which was not wanting in pride, entitled the twenty-second of his reign.
It is the year in which M. Bruguiere de Sorsum was celebrated. All the
hairdressers' shops, hoping for powder and the return of the royal bird,
were besmeared with azure and decked with fleurs-de-lys. It was the
candid time at which Count Lynch sat every Sunday as church-warden in
the church-warden's pew of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in his costume of a
peer of France, with his red ribbon and his long nose and the majesty
of profile peculiar to a man who has performed a brilliant action.
The brilliant action performed by M. Lynch was this: being mayor of
Bordeaux, on the 12th of March, 1814, he had surrendered the city a
little too promptly to M. the Duke d'Angouleme. Hence his peerage. In
1817 fashion swallowed up little boys of from four to six years of
age in vast caps of morocco leather with ear-tabs resembling Esquimaux
mitres. The French army was dressed in white, after the mode of the
Austrian; the regiments were called legions; instead of numbers they
bore the names of departments; Napoleon was at St. Helena; and since
England refused him green cloth, he was having his old coats turned.
In 1817 Pelligrini sang; Mademoiselle Bigottini danced; Potier reigned;
Odry did not yet exist. Madame Saqui had succeeded to Forioso. There
were still Prussians in France. M. Delalot was a personage. Legitimacy
had just asserted itself by cutting off the hand, then the head, of
Pleignier, of Carbonneau, and of Tolleron. The Prince de Talleyrand,
grand chamberlain, and the Abbe Louis, appointed minister of finance,
laughed as they looked at each other, with the laugh of the two augurs;
both of them had celebrated, on the 14th of July, 1790, the mass of
federation in the Champ de Mars; Talleyrand had said it as bishop, Louis
had served it in the capacity of deacon. In 1817, in the side-alleys
of this same Champ de Mars, two great cylinders of wood might have
been seen lying in the rain, rotting amid the grass, painted blue, with
traces of eagles and bees, from which the gilding was falling. These
were the columns which two years before had upheld the Emperor's
platform in the Champ de Mai. They were blackened here and there with
the scorches of the bivouac of Austrians encamped near Gros-Caillou. Two
or three of these columns had disappeared in these bivouac fires, and
had warmed the large hands of the Imperial troops. The Field of May had
this remarkable point: that it had been held in the month of June and in
the Field of March (Mars). In this year, 1817, two things were popular:
the Voltaire-Touquet and the snuff-box a la Charter. The most recent
Parisian sensation was the crime of Dautun, who had thrown his brother's
head into the fountain of the Flower-Market.

They had begun to feel anxious at the Naval Department, on account of
the lack of news from that fatal frigate, The Medusa, which was destined
to cover Chaumareix with infamy and Gericault with glory. Colonel Selves
was going to Egypt to become Soliman-Pasha. The palace of Thermes, in
the Rue de La Harpe, served as a shop for a cooper. On the platform of
the octagonal tower of the Hotel de Cluny, the little shed of boards,
which had served as an observatory to Messier, the naval astronomer
under Louis XVI., was still to be seen. The Duchesse de Duras read to
three or four friends her unpublished Ourika, in her boudoir furnished
by X. in sky-blue satin. The N's were scratched off the Louvre. The
bridge of Austerlitz had abdicated, and was entitled the bridge of the
King's Garden [du Jardin du Roi], a double enigma, which disguised the
bridge of Austerlitz and the Jardin des Plantes at one stroke. Louis
XVIII., much preoccupied while annotating Horace with the corner of his
finger-nail, heroes who have become emperors, and makers of wooden shoes
who have become dauphins, had two anxieties,--Napoleon and Mathurin
Bruneau. The French Academy had given for its prize subject, The
Happiness procured through Study. M. Bellart was officially eloquent.
In his shadow could be seen germinating that future advocate-general of
Broe, dedicated to the sarcasms of Paul-Louis Courier. There was a false
Chateaubriand, named Marchangy, in the interim, until there should be a
false Marchangy, named d'Arlincourt. Claire d'Albe and Malek-Adel were
masterpieces; Madame Cottin was proclaimed the chief writer of the
epoch. The Institute had the academician, Napoleon Bonaparte, stricken
from its list of members. A royal ordinance erected Angouleme into a
naval school; for the Duc d'Angouleme, being lord high admiral, it was
evident that the city of Angouleme had all the qualities of a seaport;
otherwise the monarchical principle would have received a wound. In
the Council of Ministers the question was agitated whether vignettes
representing slack-rope performances, which adorned Franconi's
advertising posters, and which attracted throngs of street urchins,
should be tolerated. M. Paer, the author of Agnese, a good sort of
fellow, with a square face and a wart on his cheek, directed the little
private concerts of the Marquise de Sasenaye in the Rue Ville l'Eveque.
All the young girls were singing the Hermit of Saint-Avelle, with words
by Edmond Geraud. The Yellow Dwarf was transferred into Mirror. The Cafe
Lemblin stood up for the Emperor, against the Cafe Valois, which upheld
the Bourbons. The Duc de Berri, already surveyed from the shadow by
Louvel, had just been married to a princess of Sicily. Madame de Stael
had died a year previously. The body-guard hissed Mademoiselle Mars.
The grand newspapers were all very small. Their form was restricted,
but their liberty was great. The Constitutionnel was constitutional.
La Minerve called Chateaubriand Chateaubriant. That made the good
middle-class people laugh heartily at the expense of the great writer.
In journals which sold themselves, prostituted journalists, insulted the
exiles of 1815. David had no longer any talent, Arnault had no longer
any wit, Carnot was no longer honest, Soult had won no battles; it is
true that Napoleon had no longer any genius. No one is ignorant of the
fact that letters sent to an exile by post very rarely reached him, as
the police made it their religious duty to intercept them. This is no
new fact; Descartes complained of it in his exile. Now David, having, in
a Belgian publication, shown some displeasure at not receiving letters
which had been written to him, it struck the royalist journals as
amusing; and they derided the prescribed man well on this occasion. What
separated two men more than an abyss was to say, the regicides, or
to say the voters; to say the enemies, or to say the allies; to say
Napoleon, or to say Buonaparte. All sensible people were agreed that the
era of revolution had been closed forever by King Louis XVIII., surnamed
"The Immortal Author of the Charter." On the platform of the Pont-Neuf,
the word Redivivus was carved on the pedestal that awaited the statue of
Henry IV. M. Piet, in the Rue Therese, No. 4, was making the rough draft
of his privy assembly to consolidate the monarchy. The leaders of the
Right said at grave conjunctures, "We must write to Bacot." MM. Canuel,
O'Mahoney, and De Chappedelaine were preparing the sketch, to some
extent with Monsieur's approval, of what was to become later on "The
Conspiracy of the Bord de l'Eau"--of the waterside. L'Epingle Noire was
already plotting in his own quarter. Delaverderie was conferring with
Trogoff. M. Decazes, who was liberal to a degree, reigned. Chateaubriand
stood every morning at his window at No. 27 Rue Saint-Dominique, clad in
footed trousers, and slippers, with a madras kerchief knotted over his
gray hair, with his eyes fixed on a mirror, a complete set of dentist's
instruments spread out before him, cleaning his teeth, which were
charming, while he dictated The Monarchy according to the Charter to
M. Pilorge, his secretary. Criticism, assuming an authoritative tone,
preferred Lafon to Talma. M. de Feletez signed himself A.; M. Hoffmann
signed himself Z. Charles Nodier wrote Therese Aubert. Divorce was
abolished. Lyceums called themselves colleges. The collegians, decorated
on the collar with a golden fleur-de-lys, fought each other apropos of
the King of Rome. The counter-police of the chateau had denounced to her
Royal Highness Madame, the portrait, everywhere exhibited, of M. the
Duc d'Orleans, who made a better appearance in his uniform of a
colonel-general of hussars than M. the Duc de Berri, in his uniform of
colonel-general of dragoons--a serious inconvenience. The city of
Paris was having the dome of the Invalides regilded at its own expense.
Serious men asked themselves what M. de Trinquelague would do on such or
such an occasion; M. Clausel de Montals differed on divers points
from M. Clausel de Coussergues; M. de Salaberry was not satisfied. The
comedian Picard, who belonged to the Academy, which the comedian Moliere
had not been able to do, had The Two Philiberts played at the Odeon,
upon whose pediment the removal of the letters still allowed THEATRE OF
THE EMPRESS to be plainly read. People took part for or against Cugnet
de Montarlot. Fabvier was factious; Bavoux was revolutionary. The
Liberal, Pelicier, published an edition of Voltaire, with the following
title: Works of Voltaire, of the French Academy. "That will attract
purchasers," said the ingenious editor. The general opinion was that M.
Charles Loyson would be the genius of the century; envy was beginning to
gnaw at him--a sign of glory; and this verse was composed on him:--

     "Even when Loyson steals, one feels that he has paws."

As Cardinal Fesch refused to resign, M. de Pins, Archbishop of Amasie,
administered the diocese of Lyons. The quarrel over the valley of Dappes
was begun between Switzerland and France by a memoir from Captain,
afterwards General Dufour. Saint-Simon, ignored, was erecting his
sublime dream. There was a celebrated Fourier at the Academy of Science,
whom posterity has forgotten; and in some garret an obscure Fourier,
whom the future will recall. Lord Byron was beginning to make his mark;
a note to a poem by Millevoye introduced him to France in these terms:
a certain Lord Baron. David d'Angers was trying to work in marble. The
Abbe Caron was speaking, in terms of praise, to a private gathering of
seminarists in the blind alley of Feuillantines, of an unknown priest,
named Felicite-Robert, who, at a latter date, became Lamennais. A thing
which smoked and clattered on the Seine with the noise of a swimming dog
went and came beneath the windows of the Tuileries, from the Pont Royal
to the Pont Louis XV.; it was a piece of mechanism which was not
good for much; a sort of plaything, the idle dream of a dream-ridden
inventor; an utopia--a steamboat. The Parisians stared indifferently at
this useless thing. M. de Vaublanc, the reformer of the Institute by
a coup d'etat, the distinguished author of numerous academicians,
ordinances, and batches of members, after having created them, could
not succeed in becoming one himself. The Faubourg Saint-Germain and the
pavilion de Marsan wished to have M. Delaveau for prefect of police, on
account of his piety. Dupuytren and Recamier entered into a quarrel in
the amphitheatre of the School of Medicine, and threatened each other
with their fists on the subject of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Cuvier,
with one eye on Genesis and the other on nature, tried to please bigoted
reaction by reconciling fossils with texts and by making mastodons
flatter Moses.

M. Francois de Neufchateau, the praiseworthy cultivator of the memory
of Parmentier, made a thousand efforts to have pomme de terre [potato]
pronounced parmentiere, and succeeded therein not at all. The Abbe
Gregoire, ex-bishop, ex-conventionary, ex-senator, had passed, in the
royalist polemics, to the state of "Infamous Gregoire." The locution of
which we have made use--passed to the state of--has been condemned as a
neologism by M. Royer Collard. Under the third arch of the Pont de Jena,
the new stone with which, the two years previously, the mining aperture
made by Blucher to blow up the bridge had been stopped up, was still
recognizable on account of its whiteness. Justice summoned to its bar a
man who, on seeing the Comte d'Artois enter Notre Dame, had said aloud:
"Sapristi! I regret the time when I saw Bonaparte and Talma enter the
Bel Sauvage, arm in arm." A seditious utterance. Six months in prison.
Traitors showed themselves unbuttoned; men who had gone over to the
enemy on the eve of battle made no secret of their recompense, and
strutted immodestly in the light of day, in the cynicism of riches and
dignities; deserters from Ligny and Quatre-Bras, in the brazenness of
their well-paid turpitude, exhibited their devotion to the monarchy in
the most barefaced manner.

This is what floats up confusedly, pell-mell, for the year 1817, and is
now forgotten. History neglects nearly all these particulars, and cannot
do otherwise; the infinity would overwhelm it. Nevertheless, these
details, which are wrongly called trivial,--there are no trivial facts
in humanity, nor little leaves in vegetation,--are useful. It is of
the physiognomy of the years that the physiognomy of the centuries is
composed. In this year of 1817 four young Parisians arranged "a fine


These Parisians came, one from Toulouse, another from Limoges, the third
from Cahors, and the fourth from Montauban; but they were students; and
when one says student, one says Parisian: to study in Paris is to be
born in Paris.

These young men were insignificant; every one has seen such faces; four
specimens of humanity taken at random; neither good nor bad, neither
wise nor ignorant, neither geniuses nor fools; handsome, with that
charming April which is called twenty years. They were four Oscars; for,
at that epoch, Arthurs did not yet exist. Burn for him the perfumes of
Araby! exclaimed romance. Oscar advances. Oscar, I shall behold him!
People had just emerged from Ossian; elegance was Scandinavian and
Caledonian; the pure English style was only to prevail later, and
the first of the Arthurs, Wellington, had but just won the battle of

These Oscars bore the names, one of Felix Tholomyes, of Toulouse; the
second, Listolier, of Cahors; the next, Fameuil, of Limoges; the last,
Blachevelle, of Montauban. Naturally, each of them had his mistress.
Blachevelle loved Favourite, so named because she had been in England;
Listolier adored Dahlia, who had taken for her nickname the name of a
flower; Fameuil idolized Zephine, an abridgment of Josephine; Tholomyes
had Fantine, called the Blonde, because of her beautiful, sunny hair.

Favourite, Dahlia, Zephine, and Fantine were four ravishing young women,
perfumed and radiant, still a little like working-women, and not yet
entirely divorced from their needles; somewhat disturbed by intrigues,
but still retaining on their faces something of the serenity of toil,
and in their souls that flower of honesty which survives the first fall
in woman. One of the four was called the young, because she was
the youngest of them, and one was called the old; the old one was
twenty-three. Not to conceal anything, the three first were more
experienced, more heedless, and more emancipated into the tumult of life
than Fantine the Blonde, who was still in her first illusions.

Dahlia, Zephine, and especially Favourite, could not have said as much.
There had already been more than one episode in their romance, though
hardly begun; and the lover who had borne the name of Adolph in the
first chapter had turned out to be Alphonse in the second, and Gustave
in the third. Poverty and coquetry are two fatal counsellors; one scolds
and the other flatters, and the beautiful daughters of the people have
both of them whispering in their ear, each on its own side. These badly
guarded souls listen. Hence the falls which they accomplish, and the
stones which are thrown at them. They are overwhelmed with splendor of
all that is immaculate and inaccessible. Alas! what if the Jungfrau were

Favourite having been in England, was admired by Dahlia and Zephine. She
had had an establishment of her own very early in life. Her father was
an old unmarried professor of mathematics, a brutal man and a braggart,
who went out to give lessons in spite of his age. This professor, when
he was a young man, had one day seen a chambermaid's gown catch on
a fender; he had fallen in love in consequence of this accident. The
result had been Favourite. She met her father from time to time, and he
bowed to her. One morning an old woman with the air of a devotee,
had entered her apartments, and had said to her, "You do not know me,
Mamemoiselle?" "No." "I am your mother." Then the old woman opened the
sideboard, and ate and drank, had a mattress which she owned brought in,
and installed herself. This cross and pious old mother never spoke to
Favourite, remained hours without uttering a word, breakfasted, dined,
and supped for four, and went down to the porter's quarters for company,
where she spoke ill of her daughter.

It was having rosy nails that were too pretty which had drawn Dahlia to
Listolier, to others perhaps, to idleness. How could she make such nails
work? She who wishes to remain virtuous must not have pity on her hands.
As for Zephine, she had conquered Fameuil by her roguish and caressing
little way of saying "Yes, sir."

The young men were comrades; the young girls were friends. Such loves
are always accompanied by such friendships.

Goodness and philosophy are two distinct things; the proof of this
is that, after making all due allowances for these little irregular
households, Favourite, Zephine, and Dahlia were philosophical young
women, while Fantine was a good girl.

Good! some one will exclaim; and Tholomyes? Solomon would reply that
love forms a part of wisdom. We will confine ourselves to saying that
the love of Fantine was a first love, a sole love, a faithful love.

She alone, of all the four, was not called "thou" by a single one of

Fantine was one of those beings who blossom, so to speak, from the dregs
of the people. Though she had emerged from the most unfathomable depths
of social shadow, she bore on her brow the sign of the anonymous and the
unknown. She was born at M. sur M. Of what parents? Who can say? She had
never known father or mother. She was called Fantine. Why Fantine? She
had never borne any other name. At the epoch of her birth the Directory
still existed. She had no family name; she had no family; no baptismal
name; the Church no longer existed. She bore the name which pleased
the first random passer-by, who had encountered her, when a very small
child, running bare-legged in the street. She received the name as she
received the water from the clouds upon her brow when it rained. She was
called little Fantine. No one knew more than that. This human creature
had entered life in just this way. At the age of ten, Fantine quitted
the town and went to service with some farmers in the neighborhood. At
fifteen she came to Paris "to seek her fortune." Fantine was beautiful,
and remained pure as long as she could. She was a lovely blonde, with
fine teeth. She had gold and pearls for her dowry; but her gold was on
her head, and her pearls were in her mouth.

She worked for her living; then, still for the sake of her living,--for
the heart, also, has its hunger,--she loved.

She loved Tholomyes.

An amour for him; passion for her. The streets of the Latin quarter,
filled with throngs of students and grisettes, saw the beginning of
their dream. Fantine had long evaded Tholomyes in the mazes of the hill
of the Pantheon, where so many adventurers twine and untwine, but in
such a way as constantly to encounter him again. There is a way of
avoiding which resembles seeking. In short, the eclogue took place.

Blachevelle, Listolier, and Fameuil formed a sort of group of which
Tholomyes was the head. It was he who possessed the wit.

Tholomyes was the antique old student; he was rich; he had an income of
four thousand francs; four thousand francs! a splendid scandal on
Mount Sainte-Genevieve. Tholomyes was a fast man of thirty, and badly
preserved. He was wrinkled and toothless, and he had the beginning of a
bald spot, of which he himself said with sadness, the skull at thirty,
the knee at forty. His digestion was mediocre, and he had been attacked
by a watering in one eye. But in proportion as his youth disappeared,
gayety was kindled; he replaced his teeth with buffooneries, his hair
with mirth, his health with irony, his weeping eye laughed incessantly.
He was dilapidated but still in flower. His youth, which was packing
up for departure long before its time, beat a retreat in good order,
bursting with laughter, and no one saw anything but fire. He had had a
piece rejected at the Vaudeville. He made a few verses now and then. In
addition to this he doubted everything to the last degree, which is a
vast force in the eyes of the weak. Being thus ironical and bald, he
was the leader. Iron is an English word. Is it possible that irony is
derived from it?

One day Tholomyes took the three others aside, with the gesture of an
oracle, and said to them:--

"Fantine, Dahlia, Zephine, and Favourite have been teasing us for nearly
a year to give them a surprise. We have promised them solemnly that we
would. They are forever talking about it to us, to me in particular,
just as the old women in Naples cry to Saint Januarius, 'Faccia
gialluta, fa o miracolo, Yellow face, perform thy miracle,' so our
beauties say to me incessantly, 'Tholomyes, when will you bring forth
your surprise?' At the same time our parents keep writing to us.
Pressure on both sides. The moment has arrived, it seems to me; let us
discuss the question."

Thereupon, Tholomyes lowered his voice and articulated something so
mirthful, that a vast and enthusiastic grin broke out upon the four
mouths simultaneously, and Blachevelle exclaimed, "That is an idea."

A smoky tap-room presented itself; they entered, and the remainder of
their confidential colloquy was lost in shadow.

The result of these shades was a dazzling pleasure party which took
place on the following Sunday, the four young men inviting the four
young girls.


It is hard nowadays to picture to one's self what a pleasure-trip of
students and grisettes to the country was like, forty-five years ago.
The suburbs of Paris are no longer the same; the physiognomy of what
may be called circumparisian life has changed completely in the last
half-century; where there was the cuckoo, there is the railway car;
where there was a tender-boat, there is now the steamboat; people speak
of Fecamp nowadays as they spoke of Saint-Cloud in those days. The Paris
of 1862 is a city which has France for its outskirts.

The four couples conscientiously went through with all the country
follies possible at that time. The vacation was beginning, and it was a
warm, bright, summer day. On the preceding day, Favourite, the only one
who knew how to write, had written the following to Tholomyes in the
name of the four: "It is a good hour to emerge from happiness." That
is why they rose at five o'clock in the morning. Then they went to
Saint-Cloud by the coach, looked at the dry cascade and exclaimed, "This
must be very beautiful when there is water!" They breakfasted at the
Tete-Noir, where Castaing had not yet been; they treated themselves to a
game of ring-throwing under the quincunx of trees of the grand fountain;
they ascended Diogenes' lantern, they gambled for macaroons at the
roulette establishment of the Pont de Sevres, picked bouquets at
Pateaux, bought reed-pipes at Neuilly, ate apple tarts everywhere, and
were perfectly happy.

The young girls rustled and chatted like warblers escaped from their
cage. It was a perfect delirium. From time to time they bestowed little
taps on the young men. Matutinal intoxication of life! adorable years!
the wings of the dragonfly quiver. Oh, whoever you may be, do you not
remember? Have you rambled through the brushwood, holding aside the
branches, on account of the charming head which is coming on behind you?
Have you slid, laughing, down a slope all wet with rain, with a beloved
woman holding your hand, and crying, "Ah, my new boots! what a state
they are in!"

Let us say at once that that merry obstacle, a shower, was lacking in
the case of this good-humored party, although Favourite had said as they
set out, with a magisterial and maternal tone, "The slugs are crawling
in the paths,--a sign of rain, children."

All four were madly pretty. A good old classic poet, then famous, a good
fellow who had an Eleonore, M. le Chevalier de Labouisse, as he strolled
that day beneath the chestnut-trees of Saint-Cloud, saw them pass about
ten o'clock in the morning, and exclaimed, "There is one too many of
them," as he thought of the Graces. Favourite, Blachevelle's friend, the
one aged three and twenty, the old one, ran on in front under the great
green boughs, jumped the ditches, stalked distractedly over bushes, and
presided over this merry-making with the spirit of a young female faun.
Zephine and Dahlia, whom chance had made beautiful in such a way that
they set each off when they were together, and completed each other,
never left each other, more from an instinct of coquetry than from
friendship, and clinging to each other, they assumed English poses; the
first keepsakes had just made their appearance, melancholy was dawning
for women, as later on, Byronism dawned for men; and the hair of the
tender sex began to droop dolefully. Zephine and Dahlia had their hair
dressed in rolls. Listolier and Fameuil, who were engaged in discussing
their professors, explained to Fantine the difference that existed
between M. Delvincourt and M. Blondeau.

Blachevelle seemed to have been created expressly to carry Favourite's
single-bordered, imitation India shawl of Ternaux's manufacture, on his
arm on Sundays.

Tholomyes followed, dominating the group. He was very gay, but one felt
the force of government in him; there was dictation in his joviality;
his principal ornament was a pair of trousers of elephant-leg pattern of
nankeen, with straps of braided copper wire; he carried a stout rattan
worth two hundred francs in his hand, and, as he treated himself to
everything, a strange thing called a cigar in his mouth. Nothing was
sacred to him; he smoked.

"That Tholomyes is astounding!" said the others, with veneration. "What
trousers! What energy!"

As for Fantine, she was a joy to behold. Her splendid teeth had
evidently received an office from God,--laughter. She preferred to carry
her little hat of sewed straw, with its long white strings, in her hand
rather than on her head. Her thick blond hair, which was inclined to
wave, and which easily uncoiled, and which it was necessary to fasten
up incessantly, seemed made for the flight of Galatea under the
willows. Her rosy lips babbled enchantingly. The corners of her mouth
voluptuously turned up, as in the antique masks of Erigone, had an
air of encouraging the audacious; but her long, shadowy lashes drooped
discreetly over the jollity of the lower part of the face as though to
call a halt. There was something indescribably harmonious and striking
about her entire dress. She wore a gown of mauve barege, little reddish
brown buskins, whose ribbons traced an X on her fine, white, open-worked
stockings, and that sort of muslin spencer, a Marseilles invention,
whose name, canezou, a corruption of the words quinze aout, pronounced
after the fashion of the Canebiere, signifies fine weather, heat, and
midday. The three others, less timid, as we have already said,
wore low-necked dresses without disguise, which in summer, beneath
flower-adorned hats, are very graceful and enticing; but by the side
of these audacious outfits, blond Fantine's canezou, with its
transparencies, its indiscretion, and its reticence, concealing and
displaying at one and the same time, seemed an alluring godsend of
decency, and the famous Court of Love, presided over by the Vicomtesse
de Cette, with the sea-green eyes, would, perhaps, have awarded the
prize for coquetry to this canezou, in the contest for the prize of
modesty. The most ingenious is, at times, the wisest. This does happen.

Brilliant of face, delicate of profile, with eyes of a deep blue, heavy
lids, feet arched and small, wrists and ankles admirably formed, a white
skin which, here and there allowed the azure branching of the veins to
be seen, joy, a cheek that was young and fresh, the robust throat of the
Juno of AEgina, a strong and supple nape of the neck, shoulders modelled
as though by Coustou, with a voluptuous dimple in the middle, visible
through the muslin; a gayety cooled by dreaminess; sculptural and
exquisite--such was Fantine; and beneath these feminine adornments and
these ribbons one could divine a statue, and in that statue a soul.

Fantine was beautiful, without being too conscious of it. Those rare
dreamers, mysterious priests of the beautiful who silently confront
everything with perfection, would have caught a glimpse in this little
working-woman, through the transparency of her Parisian grace, of the
ancient sacred euphony. This daughter of the shadows was thoroughbred.
She was beautiful in the two ways--style and rhythm. Style is the form
of the ideal; rhythm is its movement.

We have said that Fantine was joy; she was also modesty.

To an observer who studied her attentively, that which breathed from
her athwart all the intoxication of her age, the season, and her
love affair, was an invincible expression of reserve and modesty. She
remained a little astonished. This chaste astonishment is the shade
of difference which separates Psyche from Venus. Fantine had the long,
white, fine fingers of the vestal virgin who stirs the ashes of the
sacred fire with a golden pin. Although she would have refused nothing
to Tholomyes, as we shall have more than ample opportunity to see, her
face in repose was supremely virginal; a sort of serious and almost
austere dignity suddenly overwhelmed her at certain times, and there
was nothing more singular and disturbing than to see gayety become so
suddenly extinct there, and meditation succeed to cheerfulness without
any transition state. This sudden and sometimes severely accentuated
gravity resembled the disdain of a goddess. Her brow, her nose, her
chin, presented that equilibrium of outline which is quite distinct
from equilibrium of proportion, and from which harmony of countenance
results; in the very characteristic interval which separates the base
of the nose from the upper lip, she had that imperceptible and charming
fold, a mysterious sign of chastity, which makes Barberousse fall in
love with a Diana found in the treasures of Iconia.

Love is a fault; so be it. Fantine was innocence floating high over


That day was composed of dawn, from one end to the other. All nature
seemed to be having a holiday, and to be laughing. The flower-beds of
Saint-Cloud perfumed the air; the breath of the Seine rustled the
leaves vaguely; the branches gesticulated in the wind, bees pillaged the
jasmines; a whole bohemia of butterflies swooped down upon the yarrow,
the clover, and the sterile oats; in the august park of the King of
France there was a pack of vagabonds, the birds.

The four merry couples, mingled with the sun, the fields, the flowers,
the trees, were resplendent.

And in this community of Paradise, talking, singing, running, dancing,
chasing butterflies, plucking convolvulus, wetting their pink, open-work
stockings in the tall grass, fresh, wild, without malice, all received,
to some extent, the kisses of all, with the exception of Fantine,
who was hedged about with that vague resistance of hers composed of
dreaminess and wildness, and who was in love. "You always have a queer
look about you," said Favourite to her.

Such things are joys. These passages of happy couples are a profound
appeal to life and nature, and make a caress and light spring forth from
everything. There was once a fairy who created the fields and forests
expressly for those in love,--in that eternal hedge-school of lovers,
which is forever beginning anew, and which will last as long as there
are hedges and scholars. Hence the popularity of spring among thinkers.
The patrician and the knife-grinder, the duke and the peer, the limb
of the law, the courtiers and townspeople, as they used to say in olden
times, all are subjects of this fairy. They laugh and hunt, and there
is in the air the brilliance of an apotheosis--what a transfiguration
effected by love! Notaries' clerks are gods. And the little cries,
the pursuits through the grass, the waists embraced on the fly, those
jargons which are melodies, those adorations which burst forth in the
manner of pronouncing a syllable, those cherries torn from one mouth by
another,--all this blazes forth and takes its place among the celestial
glories. Beautiful women waste themselves sweetly. They think that this
will never come to an end. Philosophers, poets, painters, observe these
ecstasies and know not what to make of it, so greatly are they dazzled
by it. The departure for Cythera! exclaims Watteau; Lancret, the painter
of plebeians, contemplates his bourgeois, who have flitted away into the
azure sky; Diderot stretches out his arms to all these love idyls, and
d'Urfe mingles druids with them.

After breakfast the four couples went to what was then called the King's
Square to see a newly arrived plant from India, whose name escapes our
memory at this moment, and which, at that epoch, was attracting all
Paris to Saint-Cloud. It was an odd and charming shrub with a long stem,
whose numerous branches, bristling and leafless and as fine as threads,
were covered with a million tiny white rosettes; this gave the shrub the
air of a head of hair studded with flowers. There was always an admiring
crowd about it.

After viewing the shrub, Tholomyes exclaimed, "I offer you asses!" and
having agreed upon a price with the owner of the asses, they returned
by way of Vanvres and Issy. At Issy an incident occurred. The truly
national park, at that time owned by Bourguin the contractor, happened
to be wide open. They passed the gates, visited the manikin anchorite in
his grotto, tried the mysterious little effects of the famous cabinet
of mirrors, the wanton trap worthy of a satyr become a millionaire or of
Turcaret metamorphosed into a Priapus. They had stoutly shaken the swing
attached to the two chestnut-trees celebrated by the Abbe de Bernis.
As he swung these beauties, one after the other, producing folds in the
fluttering skirts which Greuze would have found to his taste, amid peals
of laughter, the Toulousan Tholomyes, who was somewhat of a Spaniard,
Toulouse being the cousin of Tolosa, sang, to a melancholy chant, the
old ballad gallega, probably inspired by some lovely maid dashing in
full flight upon a rope between two trees:--

      "Soy de Badajoz,        "Badajoz is my home,
       Amor me llama,          And Love is my name;
       Toda mi alma,           To my eyes in flame,
       Es en mi ojos,          All my soul doth come;
       Porque ensenas,         For instruction meet
       A tuas piernas.         I receive at thy feet"

Fantine alone refused to swing.

"I don't like to have people put on airs like that," muttered Favourite,
with a good deal of acrimony.

After leaving the asses there was a fresh delight; they crossed the
Seine in a boat, and proceeding from Passy on foot they reached the
barrier of l'Etoile. They had been up since five o'clock that morning,
as the reader will remember; but bah! there is no such thing as fatigue
on Sunday, said Favourite; on Sunday fatigue does not work.

About three o'clock the four couples, frightened at their happiness,
were sliding down the Russian mountains, a singular edifice which then
occupied the heights of Beaujon, and whose undulating line was visible
above the trees of the Champs Elysees.

From time to time Favourite exclaimed:--

"And the surprise? I claim the surprise."

"Patience," replied Tholomyes.


The Russian mountains having been exhausted, they began to think about
dinner; and the radiant party of eight, somewhat weary at last, became
stranded in Bombarda's public house, a branch establishment which had
been set up in the Champs-Elysees by that famous restaurant-keeper,
Bombarda, whose sign could then be seen in the Rue de Rivoli, near
Delorme Alley.

A large but ugly room, with an alcove and a bed at the end (they had
been obliged to put up with this accommodation in view of the Sunday
crowd); two windows whence they could survey beyond the elms, the quay
and the river; a magnificent August sunlight lightly touching the panes;
two tables; upon one of them a triumphant mountain of bouquets, mingled
with the hats of men and women; at the other the four couples seated
round a merry confusion of platters, dishes, glasses, and bottles; jugs
of beer mingled with flasks of wine; very little order on the table,
some disorder beneath it;

               "They made beneath the table
     A noise, a clatter of the feet that was abominable,"

says Moliere.

This was the state which the shepherd idyl, begun at five o'clock in
the morning, had reached at half-past four in the afternoon. The sun was
setting; their appetites were satisfied.

The Champs-Elysees, filled with sunshine and with people, were nothing
but light and dust, the two things of which glory is composed. The
horses of Marly, those neighing marbles, were prancing in a cloud
of gold. Carriages were going and coming. A squadron of magnificent
body-guards, with their clarions at their head, were descending the
Avenue de Neuilly; the white flag, showing faintly rosy in the setting
sun, floated over the dome of the Tuileries. The Place de la Concorde,
which had become the Place Louis XV. once more, was choked with happy
promenaders. Many wore the silver fleur-de-lys suspended from the
white-watered ribbon, which had not yet wholly disappeared from
button-holes in the year 1817. Here and there choruses of little girls
threw to the winds, amid the passersby, who formed into circles and
applauded, the then celebrated Bourbon air, which was destined to strike
the Hundred Days with lightning, and which had for its refrain:--

               "Rendez-nous notre pere de Gand,
                    Rendez-nous notre pere."

               "Give us back our father from Ghent,
                    Give us back our father."

Groups of dwellers in the suburbs, in Sunday array, sometimes even
decorated with the fleur-de-lys, like the bourgeois, scattered over the
large square and the Marigny square, were playing at rings and revolving
on the wooden horses; others were engaged in drinking; some journeyman
printers had on paper caps; their laughter was audible. Every thing
was radiant. It was a time of undisputed peace and profound royalist
security; it was the epoch when a special and private report of Chief
of Police Angeles to the King, on the subject of the suburbs of Paris,
terminated with these lines:--

"Taking all things into consideration, Sire, there is nothing to be
feared from these people. They are as heedless and as indolent as cats.
The populace is restless in the provinces; it is not in Paris. These are
very pretty men, Sire. It would take all of two of them to make one
of your grenadiers. There is nothing to be feared on the part of the
populace of Paris the capital. It is remarkable that the stature of
this population should have diminished in the last fifty years; and
the populace of the suburbs is still more puny than at the time of the
Revolution. It is not dangerous. In short, it is an amiable rabble."

Prefects of the police do not deem it possible that a cat can transform
itself into a lion; that does happen, however, and in that lies the
miracle wrought by the populace of Paris. Moreover, the cat so despised
by Count Angles possessed the esteem of the republics of old. In their
eyes it was liberty incarnate; and as though to serve as pendant to
the Minerva Aptera of the Piraeus, there stood on the public square in
Corinth the colossal bronze figure of a cat. The ingenuous police of the
Restoration beheld the populace of Paris in too "rose-colored" a light;
it is not so much of "an amiable rabble" as it is thought. The Parisian
is to the Frenchman what the Athenian was to the Greek: no one sleeps
more soundly than he, no one is more frankly frivolous and lazy than
he, no one can better assume the air of forgetfulness; let him not be
trusted nevertheless; he is ready for any sort of cool deed; but when
there is glory at the end of it, he is worthy of admiration in every
sort of fury. Give him a pike, he will produce the 10th of August; give
him a gun, you will have Austerlitz. He is Napoleon's stay and Danton's
resource. Is it a question of country, he enlists; is it a question of
liberty, he tears up the pavements. Beware! his hair filled with wrath,
is epic; his blouse drapes itself like the folds of a chlamys. Take
care! he will make of the first Rue Grenetat which comes to hand Caudine
Forks. When the hour strikes, this man of the faubourgs will grow in
stature; this little man will arise, and his gaze will be terrible, and
his breath will become a tempest, and there will issue forth from that
slender chest enough wind to disarrange the folds of the Alps. It is,
thanks to the suburban man of Paris, that the Revolution, mixed with
arms, conquers Europe. He sings; it is his delight. Proportion his song
to his nature, and you will see! As long as he has for refrain nothing
but la Carmagnole, he only overthrows Louis XVI.; make him sing the
Marseillaise, and he will free the world.

This note jotted down on the margin of Angles' report, we will return to
our four couples. The dinner, as we have said, was drawing to its close.


Chat at table, the chat of love; it is as impossible to reproduce one as
the other; the chat of love is a cloud; the chat at table is smoke.

Fameuil and Dahlia were humming. Tholomyes was drinking. Zephine was
laughing, Fantine smiling, Listolier blowing a wooden trumpet which he
had purchased at Saint-Cloud.

Favourite gazed tenderly at Blachevelle and said:--

"Blachevelle, I adore you."

This called forth a question from Blachevelle:--

"What would you do, Favourite, if I were to cease to love you?"

"I!" cried Favourite. "Ah! Do not say that even in jest! If you were
to cease to love me, I would spring after you, I would scratch you,
I should rend you, I would throw you into the water, I would have you

Blachevelle smiled with the voluptuous self-conceit of a man who is
tickled in his self-love. Favourite resumed:--

"Yes, I would scream to the police! Ah! I should not restrain myself,
not at all! Rabble!"

Blachevelle threw himself back in his chair, in an ecstasy, and closed
both eyes proudly.

Dahlia, as she ate, said in a low voice to Favourite, amid the uproar:--

"So you really idolize him deeply, that Blachevelle of yours?"

"I? I detest him," replied Favourite in the same tone, seizing her fork
again. "He is avaricious. I love the little fellow opposite me in my
house. He is very nice, that young man; do you know him? One can see
that he is an actor by profession. I love actors. As soon as he comes
in, his mother says to him: 'Ah! mon Dieu! my peace of mind is gone.
There he goes with his shouting. But, my dear, you are splitting my
head!' So he goes up to rat-ridden garrets, to black holes, as high as
he can mount, and there he sets to singing, declaiming, how do I know
what? so that he can be heard down stairs! He earns twenty sous a day at
an attorney's by penning quibbles. He is the son of a former precentor
of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas. Ah! he is very nice. He idolizes me so,
that one day when he saw me making batter for some pancakes, he said to
me: 'Mamselle, make your gloves into fritters, and I will eat them.' It
is only artists who can say such things as that. Ah! he is very nice.
I am in a fair way to go out of my head over that little fellow. Never
mind; I tell Blachevelle that I adore him--how I lie! Hey! How I do

Favourite paused, and then went on:--

"I am sad, you see, Dahlia. It has done nothing but rain all summer; the
wind irritates me; the wind does not abate. Blachevelle is very stingy;
there are hardly any green peas in the market; one does not know what to
eat. I have the spleen, as the English say, butter is so dear! and then
you see it is horrible, here we are dining in a room with a bed in it,
and that disgusts me with life."


In the meantime, while some sang, the rest talked together tumultuously
all at once; it was no longer anything but noise. Tholomyes intervened.

"Let us not talk at random nor too fast," he exclaimed. "Let us reflect,
if we wish to be brilliant. Too much improvisation empties the mind in
a stupid way. Running beer gathers no froth. No haste, gentlemen. Let us
mingle majesty with the feast. Let us eat with meditation; let us make
haste slowly. Let us not hurry. Consider the springtime; if it makes
haste, it is done for; that is to say, it gets frozen. Excess of zeal
ruins peach-trees and apricot-trees. Excess of zeal kills the grace and
the mirth of good dinners. No zeal, gentlemen! Grimod de la Reyniere
agrees with Talleyrand."

A hollow sound of rebellion rumbled through the group.

"Leave us in peace, Tholomyes," said Blachevelle.

"Down with the tyrant!" said Fameuil.

"Bombarda, Bombance, and Bambochel!" cried Listolier.

"Sunday exists," resumed Fameuil.

"We are sober," added Listolier.

"Tholomyes," remarked Blachevelle, "contemplate my calmness [mon

"You are the Marquis of that," retorted Tholomyes.

This mediocre play upon words produced the effect of a stone in a pool.
The Marquis de Montcalm was at that time a celebrated royalist. All the
frogs held their peace.

"Friends," cried Tholomyes, with the accent of a man who had recovered
his empire, "Come to yourselves. This pun which has fallen from the
skies must not be received with too much stupor. Everything which falls
in that way is not necessarily worthy of enthusiasm and respect. The pun
is the dung of the mind which soars. The jest falls, no matter where;
and the mind after producing a piece of stupidity plunges into the azure
depths. A whitish speck flattened against the rock does not prevent the
condor from soaring aloft. Far be it from me to insult the pun! I honor
it in proportion to its merits; nothing more. All the most august, the
most sublime, the most charming of humanity, and perhaps outside of
humanity, have made puns. Jesus Christ made a pun on St. Peter, Moses on
Isaac, AEschylus on Polynices, Cleopatra on Octavius. And observe that
Cleopatra's pun preceded the battle of Actium, and that had it not been
for it, no one would have remembered the city of Toryne, a Greek name
which signifies a ladle. That once conceded, I return to my exhortation.
I repeat, brothers, I repeat, no zeal, no hubbub, no excess; even in
witticisms, gayety, jollities, or plays on words. Listen to me. I have
the prudence of Amphiaraus and the baldness of Caesar. There must be a
limit, even to rebuses. Est modus in rebus.

"There must be a limit, even to dinners. You are fond of apple
turnovers, ladies; do not indulge in them to excess. Even in the matter
of turnovers, good sense and art are requisite. Gluttony chastises the
glutton, Gula punit Gulax. Indigestion is charged by the good God with
preaching morality to stomachs. And remember this: each one of our
passions, even love, has a stomach which must not be filled too full. In
all things the word finis must be written in good season; self-control
must be exercised when the matter becomes urgent; the bolt must be drawn
on appetite; one must set one's own fantasy to the violin, and carry
one's self to the post. The sage is the man who knows how, at a given
moment, to effect his own arrest. Have some confidence in me, for I
have succeeded to some extent in my study of the law, according to
the verdict of my examinations, for I know the difference between the
question put and the question pending, for I have sustained a thesis in
Latin upon the manner in which torture was administered at Rome at the
epoch when Munatius Demens was quaestor of the Parricide; because I
am going to be a doctor, apparently it does not follow that it is
absolutely necessary that I should be an imbecile. I recommend you to
moderation in your desires. It is true that my name is Felix Tholomyes;
I speak well. Happy is he who, when the hour strikes, takes a heroic
resolve, and abdicates like Sylla or Origenes."

Favourite listened with profound attention.

"Felix," said she, "what a pretty word! I love that name. It is Latin;
it means prosper."

Tholomyes went on:--

"Quirites, gentlemen, caballeros, my friends. Do you wish never to feel
the prick, to do without the nuptial bed, and to brave love? Nothing
more simple. Here is the receipt: lemonade, excessive exercise, hard
labor; work yourself to death, drag blocks, sleep not, hold vigil,
gorge yourself with nitrous beverages, and potions of nymphaeas; drink
emulsions of poppies and agnus castus; season this with a strict diet,
starve yourself, and add thereto cold baths, girdles of herbs, the
application of a plate of lead, lotions made with the subacetate of
lead, and fomentations of oxycrat."

"I prefer a woman," said Listolier.

"Woman," resumed Tholomyes; "distrust her. Woe to him who yields himself
to the unstable heart of woman! Woman is perfidious and disingenuous.
She detests the serpent from professional jealousy. The serpent is the
shop over the way."

"Tholomyes!" cried Blachevelle, "you are drunk!"

"Pardieu," said Tholomyes.

"Then be gay," resumed Blachevelle.

"I agree to that," responded Tholomyes.

And, refilling his glass, he rose.

"Glory to wine! Nunc te, Bacche, canam! Pardon me ladies; that is
Spanish. And the proof of it, senoras, is this: like people, like cask.
The arrobe of Castile contains sixteen litres; the cantaro of Alicante,
twelve; the almude of the Canaries, twenty-five; the cuartin of the
Balearic Isles, twenty-six; the boot of Tzar Peter, thirty. Long
live that Tzar who was great, and long live his boot, which was still
greater! Ladies, take the advice of a friend; make a mistake in your
neighbor if you see fit. The property of love is to err. A love
affair is not made to crouch down and brutalize itself like an English
serving-maid who has callouses on her knees from scrubbing. It is not
made for that; it errs gayly, our gentle love. It has been said, error
is human; I say, error is love. Ladies, I idolize you all. O Zephine, O
Josephine, face more than irregular, you would be charming were you not
all askew. You have the air of a pretty face upon which some one has
sat down by mistake. As for Favourite, O nymphs and muses! one day
when Blachevelle was crossing the gutter in the Rue Guerin-Boisseau,
he espied a beautiful girl with white stockings well drawn up, which
displayed her legs. This prologue pleased him, and Blachevelle fell
in love. The one he loved was Favourite. O Favourite, thou hast Ionian
lips. There was a Greek painter named Euphorion, who was surnamed the
painter of the lips. That Greek alone would have been worthy to paint
thy mouth. Listen! before thee, there was never a creature worthy of the
name. Thou wert made to receive the apple like Venus, or to eat it like
Eve; beauty begins with thee. I have just referred to Eve; it is thou
who hast created her. Thou deservest the letters-patent of the beautiful
woman. O Favourite, I cease to address you as 'thou,' because I pass
from poetry to prose. You were speaking of my name a little while ago.
That touched me; but let us, whoever we may be, distrust names. They may
delude us. I am called Felix, and I am not happy. Words are liars. Let
us not blindly accept the indications which they afford us. It would be
a mistake to write to Liege [2] for corks, and to Pau for gloves. Miss
Dahlia, were I in your place, I would call myself Rosa. A flower should
smell sweet, and woman should have wit. I say nothing of Fantine; she
is a dreamer, a musing, thoughtful, pensive person; she is a phantom
possessed of the form of a nymph and the modesty of a nun, who has
strayed into the life of a grisette, but who takes refuge in illusions,
and who sings and prays and gazes into the azure without very well
knowing what she sees or what she is doing, and who, with her eyes fixed
on heaven, wanders in a garden where there are more birds than are in
existence. O Fantine, know this: I, Tholomyes, I am all illusion; but
she does not even hear me, that blond maid of Chimeras! as for the rest,
everything about her is freshness, suavity, youth, sweet morning light.
O Fantine, maid worthy of being called Marguerite or Pearl, you are a
woman from the beauteous Orient. Ladies, a second piece of advice: do
not marry; marriage is a graft; it takes well or ill; avoid that risk.
But bah! what am I saying? I am wasting my words. Girls are incurable
on the subject of marriage, and all that we wise men can say will not
prevent the waistcoat-makers and the shoe-stitchers from dreaming
of husbands studded with diamonds. Well, so be it; but, my beauties,
remember this, you eat too much sugar. You have but one fault, O woman,
and that is nibbling sugar. O nibbling sex, your pretty little white
teeth adore sugar. Now, heed me well, sugar is a salt. All salts are
withering. Sugar is the most desiccating of all salts; it sucks the
liquids of the blood through the veins; hence the coagulation, and then
the solidification of the blood; hence tubercles in the lungs, hence
death. That is why diabetes borders on consumption. Then, do not crunch
sugar, and you will live. I turn to the men: gentlemen, make conquest,
rob each other of your well-beloved without remorse. Chassez across.
In love there are no friends. Everywhere where there is a pretty woman
hostility is open. No quarter, war to the death! a pretty woman is a
casus belli; a pretty woman is flagrant misdemeanor. All the invasions
of history have been determined by petticoats. Woman is man's right.
Romulus carried off the Sabines; William carried off the Saxon women;
Caesar carried off the Roman women. The man who is not loved soars like
a vulture over the mistresses of other men; and for my own part, to all
those unfortunate men who are widowers, I throw the sublime proclamation
of Bonaparte to the army of Italy: "Soldiers, you are in need of
everything; the enemy has it."

Tholomyes paused.

"Take breath, Tholomyes," said Blachevelle.

At the same moment Blachevelle, supported by Listolier and Fameuil,
struck up to a plaintive air, one of those studio songs composed of
the first words which come to hand, rhymed richly and not at all, as
destitute of sense as the gesture of the tree and the sound of the wind,
which have their birth in the vapor of pipes, and are dissipated and
take their flight with them. This is the couplet by which the group
replied to Tholomyes' harangue:--

           "The father turkey-cocks so grave
            Some money to an agent gave,
            That master good Clermont-Tonnerre
            Might be made pope on Saint Johns' day fair.
            But this good Clermont could not be
            Made pope, because no priest was he;
            And then their agent, whose wrath burned,
            With all their money back returned."

This was not calculated to calm Tholomyes' improvisation; he emptied his
glass, filled, refilled it, and began again:--

"Down with wisdom! Forget all that I have said. Let us be neither prudes
nor prudent men nor prudhommes. I propose a toast to mirth; be merry.
Let us complete our course of law by folly and eating! Indigestion and
the digest. Let Justinian be the male, and Feasting, the female! Joy in
the depths! Live, O creation! The world is a great diamond. I am happy.
The birds are astonishing. What a festival everywhere! The nightingale
is a gratuitous Elleviou. Summer, I salute thee! O Luxembourg! O
Georgics of the Rue Madame, and of the Allee de l'Observatoire! O
pensive infantry soldiers! O all those charming nurses who, while they
guard the children, amuse themselves! The pampas of America would please
me if I had not the arcades of the Odeon. My soul flits away into the
virgin forests and to the savannas. All is beautiful. The flies buzz in
the sun. The sun has sneezed out the humming bird. Embrace me, Fantine!"

He made a mistake and embraced Favourite.