Les Misérables by Victor Hugo 10


To realize one's dream. To whom is this accorded? There must be
elections for this in heaven; we are all candidates, unknown to
ourselves; the angels vote. Cosette and Marius had been elected.

Cosette, both at the mayor's office and at church, was dazzling and
touching. Toussaint, assisted by Nicolette, had dressed her.

Cosette wore over a petticoat of white taffeta, her robe of Binche
guipure, a veil of English point, a necklace of fine pearls, a wreath
of orange flowers; all this was white, and, from the midst of that
whiteness she beamed forth. It was an exquisite candor expanding and
becoming transfigured in the light. One would have pronounced her a
virgin on the point of turning into a goddess.

Marius' handsome hair was lustrous and perfumed; here and there, beneath
the thick curls, pale lines--the scars of the barricade--were visible.

The grandfather, haughty, with head held high, amalgamating more than
ever in his toilet and his manners all the elegances of the epoch of
Barras, escorted Cosette. He took the place of Jean Valjean, who, on
account of his arm being still in a sling, could not give his hand to
the bride.

Jean Valjean, dressed in black, followed them with a smile.

"Monsieur Fauchelevent," said the grandfather to him, "this is a fine
day. I vote for the end of afflictions and sorrows. Henceforth, there
must be no sadness anywhere. Pardieu, I decree joy! Evil has no right to
exist. That there should be any unhappy men is, in sooth, a disgrace
to the azure of the sky. Evil does not come from man, who is good at
bottom. All human miseries have for their capital and central government
hell, otherwise, known as the Devil's Tuileries. Good, here I am
uttering demagogical words! As far as I am concerned, I have no longer
any political opinions; let all me be rich, that is to say, mirthful,
and I confine myself to that."

When, at the conclusion of all the ceremonies, after having pronounced
before the mayor and before the priest all possible "yesses," after
having signed the registers at the municipality and at the sacristy,
after having exchanged their rings, after having knelt side by side
under the pall of white moire in the smoke of the censer, they arrived,
hand in hand, admired and envied by all, Marius in black, she in white,
preceded by the suisse, with the epaulets of a colonel, tapping the
pavement with his halberd, between two rows of astonished spectators, at
the portals of the church, both leaves of which were thrown wide open,
ready to enter their carriage again, and all being finished, Cosette
still could not believe that it was real. She looked at Marius, she
looked at the crowd, she looked at the sky: it seemed as though she
feared that she should wake up from her dream. Her amazed and uneasy air
added something indescribably enchanting to her beauty. They entered the
same carriage to return home, Marius beside Cosette; M. Gillenormand
and Jean Valjean sat opposite them; Aunt Gillenormand had withdrawn one
degree, and was in the second vehicle.

"My children," said the grandfather, "here you are, Monsieur le Baron
and Madame la Baronne, with an income of thirty thousand livres."

And Cosette, nestling close to Marius, caressed his ear with an angelic
whisper: "So it is true. My name is Marius. I am Madame Thou."

These two creatures were resplendent. They had reached that irrevocable
and irrecoverable moment, at the dazzling intersection of all youth and
all joy. They realized the verses of Jean Prouvaire; they were forty
years old taken together. It was marriage sublimated; these two children
were two lilies. They did not see each other, they did not contemplate
each other. Cosette perceived Marius in the midst of a glory; Marius
perceived Cosette on an altar. And on that altar, and in that glory, the
two apotheoses mingling, in the background, one knows not how, behind a
cloud for Cosette, in a flash for Marius, there was the ideal thing, the
real thing, the meeting of the kiss and the dream, the nuptial pillow.
All the torments through which they had passed came back to them in
intoxication. It seemed to them that their sorrows, their sleepless
nights, their tears, their anguish, their terrors, their despair,
converted into caresses and rays of light, rendered still more charming
the charming hour which was approaching; and that their griefs were but
so many handmaidens who were preparing the toilet of joy. How good it is
to have suffered! Their unhappiness formed a halo round their happiness.
The long agony of their love was terminating in an ascension.

It was the same enchantment in two souls, tinged with voluptuousness
in Marius, and with modesty in Cosette. They said to each other in low
tones: "We will go back to take a look at our little garden in the Rue
Plumet." The folds of Cosette's gown lay across Marius.

Such a day is an ineffable mixture of dream and of reality. One
possesses and one supposes. One still has time before one to divine. The
emotion on that day, of being at mid-day and of dreaming of midnight
is indescribable. The delights of these two hearts overflowed upon the
crowd, and inspired the passers-by with cheerfulness.

People halted in the Rue Saint-Antoine, in front of Saint-Paul, to gaze
through the windows of the carriage at the orange-flowers quivering on
Cosette's head.

Then they returned home to the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire. Marius,
triumphant and radiant, mounted side by side with Cosette the staircase
up which he had been borne in a dying condition. The poor, who had
trooped to the door, and who shared their purses, blessed them. There
were flowers everywhere. The house was no less fragrant than the church;
after the incense, roses. They thought they heard voices carolling in
the infinite; they had God in their hearts; destiny appeared to them
like a ceiling of stars; above their heads they beheld the light of a
rising sun. All at once, the clock struck. Marius glanced at Cosette's
charming bare arm, and at the rosy things which were vaguely visible
through the lace of her bodice, and Cosette, intercepting Marius'
glance, blushed to her very hair.

Quite a number of old family friends of the Gillenormand family had
been invited; they pressed about Cosette. Each one vied with the rest in
saluting her as Madame la Baronne.

The officer, Theodule Gillenormand, now a captain, had come from
Chartres, where he was stationed in garrison, to be present at the
wedding of his cousin Pontmercy. Cosette did not recognize him.

He, on his side, habituated as he was to have women consider him
handsome, retained no more recollection of Cosette than of any other

"How right I was not to believe in that story about the lancer!" said
Father Gillenormand, to himself.

Cosette had never been more tender with Jean Valjean. She was in unison
with Father Gillenormand; while he erected joy into aphorisms and
maxims, she exhaled goodness like a perfume. Happiness desires that all
the world should be happy.

She regained, for the purpose of addressing Jean Valjean, inflections of
voice belonging to the time when she was a little girl. She caressed him
with her smile.

A banquet had been spread in the dining-room.

Illumination as brilliant as the daylight is the necessary seasoning of
a great joy. Mist and obscurity are not accepted by the happy. They do
not consent to be black. The night, yes; the shadows, no. If there is no
sun, one must be made.

The dining-room was full of gay things. In the centre, above the white
and glittering table, was a Venetian lustre with flat plates, with all
sorts of colored birds, blue, violet, red, and green, perched amid the
candles; around the chandelier, girandoles, on the walls, sconces with
triple and quintuple branches; mirrors, silverware, glassware, plate,
porcelain, faience, pottery, gold and silversmith's work, all was
sparkling and gay. The empty spaces between the candelabra were filled
in with bouquets, so that where there was not a light, there was a

In the antechamber, three violins and a flute softly played quartettes
by Haydn.

Jean Valjean had seated himself on a chair in the drawing-room, behind
the door, the leaf of which folded back upon him in such a manner as to
nearly conceal him. A few moments before they sat down to table, Cosette
came, as though inspired by a sudden whim, and made him a deep courtesy,
spreading out her bridal toilet with both hands, and with a tenderly
roguish glance, she asked him:

"Father, are you satisfied?"

"Yes," said Jean Valjean, "I am content!"

"Well, then, laugh."

Jean Valjean began to laugh.

A few moments later, Basque announced that dinner was served.

The guests, preceded by M. Gillenormand with Cosette on his arm, entered
the dining-room, and arranged themselves in the proper order around the

Two large arm-chairs figured on the right and left of the bride, the
first for M. Gillenormand, the other for Jean Valjean. M. Gillenormand
took his seat. The other arm-chair remained empty.

They looked about for M. Fauchelevent.

He was no longer there.

M. Gillenormand questioned Basque.

"Do you know where M. Fauchelevent is?"

"Sir," replied Basque, "I do, precisely. M. Fauchelevent told me to say
to you, sir, that he was suffering, his injured hand was paining him
somewhat, and that he could not dine with Monsieur le Baron and Madame
la Baronne. That he begged to be excused, that he would come to-morrow.
He has just taken his departure."

That empty arm-chair chilled the effusion of the wedding feast for a
moment. But, if M. Fauchelevent was absent, M. Gillenormand was present,
and the grandfather beamed for two. He affirmed that M. Fauchelevent had
done well to retire early, if he were suffering, but that it was only a
slight ailment. This declaration sufficed. Moreover, what is an obscure
corner in such a submersion of joy? Cosette and Marius were passing
through one of those egotistical and blessed moments when no other
faculty is left to a person than that of receiving happiness. And then,
an idea occurred to M. Gillenormand.--"Pardieu, this armchair is empty.
Come hither, Marius. Your aunt will permit it, although she has a
right to you. This armchair is for you. That is legal and delightful.
Fortunatus beside Fortunata."--Applause from the whole table. Marius
took Jean Valjean's place beside Cosette, and things fell out so that
Cosette, who had, at first, been saddened by Jean Valjean's absence,
ended by being satisfied with it. From the moment when Marius took his
place, and was the substitute, Cosette would not have regretted God
himself. She set her sweet little foot, shod in white satin, on Marius'

The arm-chair being occupied, M. Fauchelevent was obliterated; and
nothing was lacking.

And, five minutes afterward, the whole table from one end to the other,
was laughing with all the animation of forgetfulness.

At dessert, M. Gillenormand, rising to his feet, with a glass of
champagne in his hand--only half full so that the palsy of his eighty
years might not cause an overflow,--proposed the health of the married

"You shall not escape two sermons," he exclaimed. "This morning you
had one from the cure, this evening you shall have one from your
grandfather. Listen to me; I will give you a bit of advice: Adore each
other. I do not make a pack of gyrations, I go straight to the mark,
be happy. In all creation, only the turtle-doves are wise. Philosophers
say: 'Moderate your joys.' I say: 'Give rein to your joys.' Be as
much smitten with each other as fiends. Be in a rage about it. The
philosophers talk stuff and nonsense. I should like to stuff their
philosophy down their gullets again. Can there be too many perfumes,
too many open rose-buds, too many nightingales singing, too many green
leaves, too much aurora in life? can people love each other too much?
can people please each other too much? Take care, Estelle, thou art too
pretty! Have a care, Nemorin, thou art too handsome! Fine stupidity,
in sooth! Can people enchant each other too much, cajole each other too
much, charm each other too much? Can one be too much alive, too happy?
Moderate your joys. Ah, indeed! Down with the philosophers! Wisdom
consists in jubilation. Make merry, let us make merry. Are we happy
because we are good, or are we good because we are happy? Is the Sancy
diamond called the Sancy because it belonged to Harley de Sancy, or
because it weighs six hundred carats? I know nothing about it, life is
full of such problems; the important point is to possess the Sancy and
happiness. Let us be happy without quibbling and quirking. Let us obey
the sun blindly. What is the sun? It is love. He who says love, says
woman. Ah! ah! behold omnipotence--women. Ask that demagogue of a Marius
if he is not the slave of that little tyrant of a Cosette. And of his
own free will, too, the coward! Woman! There is no Robespierre who keeps
his place but woman reigns. I am no longer Royalist except towards that
royalty. What is Adam? The kingdom of Eve. No '89 for Eve. There has
been the royal sceptre surmounted by a fleur-de-lys, there has been the
imperial sceptre surmounted by a globe, there has been the sceptre of
Charlemagne, which was of iron, there has been the sceptre of Louis the
Great, which was of gold,--the revolution twisted them between its thumb
and forefinger, ha'penny straws; it is done with, it is broken, it lies
on the earth, there is no longer any sceptre, but make me a revolution
against that little embroidered handkerchief, which smells of patchouli!
I should like to see you do it. Try. Why is it so solid? Because it is a
gewgaw. Ah! you are the nineteenth century? Well, what then? And we
have been as foolish as you. Do not imagine that you have effected
much change in the universe, because your trip-gallant is called the
cholera-morbus, and because your pourree is called the cachuca. In fact,
the women must always be loved. I defy you to escape from that. These
friends are our angels. Yes, love, woman, the kiss forms a circle from
which I defy you to escape; and, for my own part, I should be only
too happy to re-enter it. Which of you has seen the planet Venus, the
coquette of the abyss, the Celimene of the ocean, rise in the infinite,
calming all here below? The ocean is a rough Alcestis. Well, grumble
as he will, when Venus appears he is forced to smile. That brute beast
submits. We are all made so. Wrath, tempest, claps of thunder, foam to
the very ceiling. A woman enters on the scene, a planet rises; flat on
your face! Marius was fighting six months ago; to-day he is married.
That is well. Yes, Marius, yes, Cosette, you are in the right. Exist
boldly for each other, make us burst with rage that we cannot do the
same, idealize each other, catch in your beaks all the tiny blades of
felicity that exist on earth, and arrange yourselves a nest for life.
Pardi, to love, to be loved, what a fine miracle when one is young!
Don't imagine that you have invented that. I, too, have had my dream, I,
too, have meditated, I, too, have sighed; I, too, have had a moonlight
soul. Love is a child six thousand years old. Love has the right to a
long white beard. Methusalem is a street arab beside Cupid. For sixty
centuries men and women have got out of their scrape by loving. The
devil, who is cunning, took to hating man; man, who is still more
cunning, took to loving woman. In this way he does more good than
the devil does him harm. This craft was discovered in the days of
the terrestrial paradise. The invention is old, my friends, but it is
perfectly new. Profit by it. Be Daphnis and Chloe, while waiting to
become Philemon and Baucis. Manage so that, when you are with each
other, nothing shall be lacking to you, and that Cosette may be the sun
for Marius, and that Marius may be the universe to Cosette. Cosette, let
your fine weather be the smile of your husband; Marius, let your rain
be your wife's tears. And let it never rain in your household. You have
filched the winning number in the lottery; you have gained the great
prize, guard it well, keep it under lock and key, do not squander it,
adore each other and snap your fingers at all the rest. Believe what I
say to you. It is good sense. And good sense cannot lie. Be a religion
to each other. Each man has his own fashion of adoring God. Saperlotte!
the best way to adore God is to love one's wife. I love thee! that's
my catechism. He who loves is orthodox. The oath of Henri IV. places
sanctity somewhere between feasting and drunkenness. Ventre-saint-gris!
I don't belong to the religion of that oath. Woman is forgotten in it.
This astonishes me on the part of Henri IV. My friends, long live women!
I am old, they say; it's astonishing how much I feel in the mood to
be young. I should like to go and listen to the bagpipes in the woods.
Children who contrive to be beautiful and contented,--that intoxicates
me. I would like greatly to get married, if any one would have me. It is
impossible to imagine that God could have made us for anything but this:
to idolize, to coo, to preen ourselves, to be dove-like, to be dainty,
to bill and coo our loves from morn to night, to gaze at one's image in
one's little wife, to be proud, to be triumphant, to plume oneself; that
is the aim of life. There, let not that displease you which we used to
think in our day, when we were young folks. Ah! vertu-bamboche! what
charming women there were in those days, and what pretty little faces
and what lovely lasses! I committed my ravages among them. Then love
each other. If people did not love each other, I really do not see what
use there would be in having any springtime; and for my own part, I
should pray the good God to shut up all the beautiful things that he
shows us, and to take away from us and put back in his box, the flowers,
the birds, and the pretty maidens. My children, receive an old man's

The evening was gay, lively and agreeable. The grandfather's sovereign
good humor gave the key-note to the whole feast, and each person
regulated his conduct on that almost centenarian cordiality. They danced
a little, they laughed a great deal; it was an amiable wedding. Goodman
Days of Yore might have been invited to it. However, he was present in
the person of Father Gillenormand.

There was a tumult, then silence.

The married pair disappeared.

A little after midnight, the Gillenormand house became a temple.

Here we pause. On the threshold of wedding nights stands a smiling angel
with his finger on his lips.

The soul enters into contemplation before that sanctuary where the
celebration of love takes place.

There should be flashes of light athwart such houses. The joy which
they contain ought to make its escape through the stones of the walls in
brilliancy, and vaguely illuminate the gloom. It is impossible that this
sacred and fatal festival should not give off a celestial radiance to
the infinite. Love is the sublime crucible wherein the fusion of the man
and the woman takes place; the being one, the being triple, the being
final, the human trinity proceeds from it. This birth of two souls into
one, ought to be an emotion for the gloom. The lover is the priest;
the ravished virgin is terrified. Something of that joy ascends to God.
Where true marriage is, that is to say, where there is love, the ideal
enters in. A nuptial bed makes a nook of dawn amid the shadows. If it
were given to the eye of the flesh to scan the formidable and charming
visions of the upper life, it is probable that we should behold the
forms of night, the winged unknowns, the blue passers of the invisible,
bend down, a throng of sombre heads, around the luminous house,
satisfied, showering benedictions, pointing out to each other the virgin
wife gently alarmed, sweetly terrified, and bearing the reflection of
human bliss upon their divine countenances. If at that supreme hour, the
wedded pair, dazzled with voluptuousness and believing themselves alone,
were to listen, they would hear in their chamber a confused rustling of
wings. Perfect happiness implies a mutual understanding with the angels.
That dark little chamber has all heaven for its ceiling. When two
mouths, rendered sacred by love, approach to create, it is impossible
that there should not be, above that ineffable kiss, a quivering
throughout the immense mystery of stars.

These felicities are the true ones. There is no joy outside of these
joys. Love is the only ecstasy. All the rest weeps.

To love, or to have loved,--this suffices. Demand nothing more. There
is no other pearl to be found in the shadowy folds of life. To love is a


What had become of Jean Valjean?

Immediately after having laughed, at Cosette's graceful command, when
no one was paying any heed to him, Jean Valjean had risen and had gained
the antechamber unperceived. This was the very room which, eight months
before, he had entered black with mud, with blood and powder, bringing
back the grandson to the grandfather. The old wainscoting was garlanded
with foliage and flowers; the musicians were seated on the sofa on which
they had laid Marius down. Basque, in a black coat, knee-breeches, white
stockings and white gloves, was arranging roses round all of the dishes
that were to be served. Jean Valjean pointed to his arm in its sling,
charged Basque to explain his absence, and went away.

The long windows of the dining-room opened on the street. Jean Valjean
stood for several minutes, erect and motionless in the darkness, beneath
those radiant windows. He listened. The confused sounds of the banquet
reached his ear. He heard the loud, commanding tones of the grandfather,
the violins, the clatter of the plates, the bursts of laughter, and
through all that merry uproar, he distinguished Cosette's sweet and
joyous voice.

He quitted the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, and returned to the Rue de
l'Homme Arme.

In order to return thither, he took the Rue Saint-Louis, the Rue
Culture-Sainte-Catherine, and the Blancs-Manteaux; it was a little
longer, but it was the road through which, for the last three months,
he had become accustomed to pass every day on his way from the Rue de
l'Homme Arme to the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, in order to avoid the
obstructions and the mud in the Rue Vielle-du-Temple.

This road, through which Cosette had passed, excluded for him all
possibility of any other itinerary.

Jean Valjean entered his lodgings. He lighted his candle and mounted
the stairs. The apartment was empty. Even Toussaint was no longer there.
Jean Valjean's step made more noise than usual in the chambers. All the
cupboards stood open. He penetrated to Cosette's bedroom. There were no
sheets on the bed. The pillow, covered with ticking, and without a case
or lace, was laid on the blankets folded up on the foot of the mattress,
whose covering was visible, and on which no one was ever to sleep again.
All the little feminine objects which Cosette was attached to had been
carried away; nothing remained except the heavy furniture and the four
walls. Toussaint's bed was despoiled in like manner. One bed only was
made up, and seemed to be waiting some one, and this was Jean Valjean's

Jean Valjean looked at the walls, closed some of the cupboard doors, and
went and came from one room to another.

Then he sought his own chamber once more, and set his candle on a table.

He had disengaged his arm from the sling, and he used his right hand as
though it did not hurt him.

He approached his bed, and his eyes rested, was it by chance? was it
intentionally? on the inseparable of which Cosette had been jealous, on
the little portmanteau which never left him. On his arrival in the Rue
de l'Homme Arme, on the 4th of June, he had deposited it on a round
table near the head of his bed. He went to this table with a sort of
vivacity, took a key from his pocket, and opened the valise.

From it he slowly drew forth the garments in which, ten years before,
Cosette had quitted Montfermeil; first the little gown, then the black
fichu, then the stout, coarse child's shoes which Cosette might almost
have worn still, so tiny were her feet, then the fustian bodice, which
was very thick, then the knitted petticoat, next the apron with pockets,
then the woollen stockings. These stockings, which still preserved the
graceful form of a tiny leg, were no longer than Jean Valjean's hand.
All this was black of hue. It was he who had brought those garments to
Montfermeil for her. As he removed them from the valise, he laid them on
the bed. He fell to thinking. He called up memories. It was in winter,
in a very cold month of December, she was shivering, half-naked, in
rags, her poor little feet were all red in their wooden shoes. He, Jean
Valjean, had made her abandon those rags to clothe herself in these
mourning habiliments. The mother must have felt pleased in her grave, to
see her daughter wearing mourning for her, and, above all, to see that
she was properly clothed, and that she was warm. He thought of that
forest of Montfermeil; they had traversed it together, Cosette and he;
he thought of what the weather had been, of the leafless trees, of the
wood destitute of birds, of the sunless sky; it mattered not, it was
charming. He arranged the tiny garments on the bed, the fichu next to
the petticoat, the stockings beside the shoes, and he looked at them,
one after the other. She was no taller than that, she had her big doll
in her arms, she had put her louis d'or in the pocket of that apron, she
had laughed, they walked hand in hand, she had no one in the world but

Then his venerable, white head fell forward on the bed, that stoical old
heart broke, his face was engulfed, so to speak, in Cosette's garments,
and if any one had passed up the stairs at that moment, he would have
heard frightful sobs.


The old and formidable struggle, of which we have already witnessed so
many phases, began once more.

Jacob struggled with the angel but one night. Alas! how many times have
we beheld Jean Valjean seized bodily by his conscience, in the darkness,
and struggling desperately against it!

Unheard-of conflict! At certain moments the foot slips; at other moments
the ground crumbles away underfoot. How many times had that conscience,
mad for the good, clasped and overthrown him! How many times had the
truth set her knee inexorably upon his breast! How many times, hurled
to earth by the light, had he begged for mercy! How many times had
that implacable spark, lighted within him, and upon him by the Bishop,
dazzled him by force when he had wished to be blind! How many times
had he risen to his feet in the combat, held fast to the rock, leaning
against sophism, dragged in the dust, now getting the upper hand of his
conscience, again overthrown by it! How many times, after an equivoque,
after the specious and treacherous reasoning of egotism, had he heard
his irritated conscience cry in his ear: "A trip! you wretch!" How many
times had his refractory thoughts rattled convulsively in his throat,
under the evidence of duty! Resistance to God. Funereal sweats. What
secret wounds which he alone felt bleed! What excoriations in his
lamentable existence! How many times he had risen bleeding, bruised,
broken, enlightened, despair in his heart, serenity in his soul!
and, vanquished, he had felt himself the conqueror. And, after having
dislocated, broken, and rent his conscience with red-hot pincers, it had
said to him, as it stood over him, formidable, luminous, and tranquil:
"Now, go in peace!"

But on emerging from so melancholy a conflict, what a lugubrious peace,

Nevertheless, that night Jean Valjean felt that he was passing through
his final combat.

A heart-rending question presented itself.

Predestinations are not all direct; they do not open out in a straight
avenue before the predestined man; they have blind courts, impassable
alleys, obscure turns, disturbing crossroads offering the choice of many
ways. Jean Valjean had halted at that moment at the most perilous of
these crossroads.

He had come to the supreme crossing of good and evil. He had that
gloomy intersection beneath his eyes. On this occasion once more, as had
happened to him already in other sad vicissitudes, two roads opened out
before him, the one tempting, the other alarming.

Which was he to take?

He was counselled to the one which alarmed him by that mysterious index
finger which we all perceive whenever we fix our eyes on the darkness.

Once more, Jean Valjean had the choice between the terrible port and the
smiling ambush.

Is it then true? the soul may recover; but not fate. Frightful thing! an
incurable destiny!

This is the problem which presented itself to him:

In what manner was Jean Valjean to behave in relation to the happiness
of Cosette and Marius? It was he who had willed that happiness, it was
he who had brought it about; he had, himself, buried it in his entrails,
and at that moment, when he reflected on it, he was able to enjoy the
sort of satisfaction which an armorer would experience on recognizing
his factory mark on a knife, on withdrawing it, all smoking, from his
own breast.

Cosette had Marius, Marius possessed Cosette. They had everything, even
riches. And this was his doing.

But what was he, Jean Valjean, to do with this happiness, now that
it existed, now that it was there? Should he force himself on this
happiness? Should he treat it as belonging to him? No doubt, Cosette did
belong to another; but should he, Jean Valjean, retain of Cosette all
that he could retain? Should he remain the sort of father, half seen but
respected, which he had hitherto been? Should he, without saying a
word, bring his past to that future? Should he present himself there,
as though he had a right, and should he seat himself, veiled, at that
luminous fireside? Should he take those innocent hands into his tragic
hands, with a smile? Should he place upon the peaceful fender of the
Gillenormand drawing-room those feet of his, which dragged behind them
the disgraceful shadow of the law? Should he enter into participation in
the fair fortunes of Cosette and Marius? Should he render the obscurity
on his brow and the cloud upon theirs still more dense? Should he
place his catastrophe as a third associate in their felicity? Should he
continue to hold his peace? In a word, should he be the sinister mute of
destiny beside these two happy beings?

We must have become habituated to fatality and to encounters with it, in
order to have the daring to raise our eyes when certain questions appear
to us in all their horrible nakedness. Good or evil stands behind
this severe interrogation point. What are you going to do? demands the

This habit of trial Jean Valjean possessed. He gazed intently at the

He examined the pitiless problem under all its aspects.

Cosette, that charming existence, was the raft of this shipwreck. What
was he to do? To cling fast to it, or to let go his hold?

If he clung to it, he should emerge from disaster, he should ascend
again into the sunlight, he should let the bitter water drip from his
garments and his hair, he was saved, he should live.

And if he let go his hold?

Then the abyss.

Thus he took sad council with his thoughts. Or, to speak more correctly,
he fought; he kicked furiously internally, now against his will, now
against his conviction.

Happily for Jean Valjean that he had been able to weep. That relieved
him, possibly. But the beginning was savage. A tempest, more furious
than the one which had formerly driven him to Arras, broke loose within
him. The past surged up before him facing the present; he compared
them and sobbed. The silence of tears once opened, the despairing man

He felt that he had been stopped short.

Alas! in this fight to the death between our egotism and our duty, when
we thus retreat step by step before our immutable ideal, bewildered,
furious, exasperated at having to yield, disputing the ground, hoping
for a possible flight, seeking an escape, what an abrupt and sinister
resistance does the foot of the wall offer in our rear!

To feel the sacred shadow which forms an obstacle!

The invisible inexorable, what an obsession!

Then, one is never done with conscience. Make your choice, Brutus; make
your choice, Cato. It is fathomless, since it is God. One flings into
that well the labor of one's whole life, one flings in one's fortune,
one flings in one's riches, one flings in one's success, one flings in
one's liberty or fatherland, one flings in one's well-being, one flings
in one's repose, one flings in one's joy! More! more! more! Empty the
vase! tip the urn! One must finish by flinging in one's heart.

Somewhere in the fog of the ancient hells, there is a tun like that.

Is not one pardonable, if one at last refuses! Can the inexhaustible
have any right? Are not chains which are endless above human strength?
Who would blame Sisyphus and Jean Valjean for saying: "It is enough!"

The obedience of matter is limited by friction; is there no limit to the
obedience of the soul? If perpetual motion is impossible, can perpetual
self-sacrifice be exacted?

The first step is nothing, it is the last which is difficult. What was
the Champmathieu affair in comparison with Cosette's marriage and of
that which it entailed? What is a re-entrance into the galleys, compared
to entrance into the void?

Oh, first step that must be descended, how sombre art thou! Oh, second
step, how black art thou!

How could he refrain from turning aside his head this time?

Martyrdom is sublimation, corrosive sublimation. It is a torture which
consecrates. One can consent to it for the first hour; one seats oneself
on the throne of glowing iron, one places on one's head the crown of hot
iron, one accepts the globe of red hot iron, one takes the sceptre of
red hot iron, but the mantle of flame still remains to be donned, and
comes there not a moment when the miserable flesh revolts and when one
abdicates from suffering?

At length, Jean Valjean entered into the peace of exhaustion.

He weighed, he reflected, he considered the alternatives, the mysterious
balance of light and darkness.

Should he impose his galleys on those two dazzling children, or should
he consummate his irremediable engulfment by himself? On one side lay
the sacrifice of Cosette, on the other that of himself.

At what solution should he arrive? What decision did he come to?

What resolution did he take? What was his own inward definitive response
to the unbribable interrogatory of fatality? What door did he decide to
open? Which side of his life did he resolve upon closing and condemning?
Among all the unfathomable precipices which surrounded him, which was
his choice? What extremity did he accept? To which of the gulfs did he
nod his head?

His dizzy revery lasted all night long.

He remained there until daylight, in the same attitude, bent double over
that bed, prostrate beneath the enormity of fate, crushed, perchance,
alas! with clenched fists, with arms outspread at right angles, like a
man crucified who has been un-nailed, and flung face down on the earth.
There he remained for twelve hours, the twelve long hours of a long
winter's night, ice-cold, without once raising his head, and without
uttering a word. He was as motionless as a corpse, while his thoughts
wallowed on the earth and soared, now like the hydra, now like the
eagle. Any one to behold him thus motionless would have pronounced him
dead; all at once he shuddered convulsively, and his mouth, glued to
Cosette's garments, kissed them; then it could be seen that he was

Who could see? Since Jean Valjean was alone, and there was no one there.

The One who is in the shadows.


[Illustration: Last Drop from the Cup  5b7-1-last-drop]


The days that follow weddings are solitary. People respect the
meditations of the happy pair. And also, their tardy slumbers, to some
degree. The tumult of visits and congratulations only begins later on.
On the morning of the 17th of February, it was a little past midday when
Basque, with napkin and feather-duster under his arm, busy in setting
his antechamber to rights, heard a light tap at the door. There had been
no ring, which was discreet on such a day. Basque opened the door, and
beheld M. Fauchelevent. He introduced him into the drawing-room, still
encumbered and topsy-turvy, and which bore the air of a field of battle
after the joys of the preceding evening.

"Dame, sir," remarked Basque, "we all woke up late."

"Is your master up?" asked Jean Valjean.

"How is Monsieur's arm?" replied Basque.

"Better. Is your master up?"

"Which one? the old one or the new one?"

"Monsieur Pontmercy."

"Monsieur le Baron," said Basque, drawing himself up.

A man is a Baron most of all to his servants. He counts for something
with them; they are what a philosopher would call, bespattered with the
title, and that flatters them. Marius, be it said in passing, a militant
republican as he had proved, was now a Baron in spite of himself. A
small revolution had taken place in the family in connection with
this title. It was now M. Gillenormand who clung to it, and Marius who
detached himself from it. But Colonel Pontmercy had written: "My son
will bear my title." Marius obeyed. And then, Cosette, in whom the woman
was beginning to dawn, was delighted to be a Baroness.

"Monsieur le Baron?" repeated Basque. "I will go and see. I will tell
him that M. Fauchelevent is here."

"No. Do not tell him that it is I. Tell him that some one wishes to
speak to him in private, and mention no name."

"Ah!" ejaculated Basque.

"I wish to surprise him."

"Ah!" ejaculated Basque once more, emitting his second "ah!" as an
explanation of the first.

And he left the room.

Jean Valjean remained alone.

The drawing-room, as we have just said, was in great disorder. It seemed
as though, by lending an air, one might still hear the vague noise of
the wedding. On the polished floor lay all sorts of flowers which
had fallen from garlands and head-dresses. The wax candles, burned
to stumps, added stalactites of wax to the crystal drops of the
chandeliers. Not a single piece of furniture was in its place. In the
corners, three or four arm-chairs, drawn close together in a circle,
had the appearance of continuing a conversation. The whole effect was
cheerful. A certain grace still lingers round a dead feast. It has been
a happy thing. On the chairs in disarray, among those fading flowers,
beneath those extinct lights, people have thought of joy. The sun
had succeeded to the chandelier, and made its way gayly into the

Several minutes elapsed. Jean Valjean stood motionless on the spot where
Basque had left him. He was very pale. His eyes were hollow, and so
sunken in his head by sleeplessness that they nearly disappeared in
their orbits. His black coat bore the weary folds of a garment that
has been up all night. The elbows were whitened with the down which the
friction of cloth against linen leaves behind it.

Jean Valjean stared at the window outlined on the polished floor at his
feet by the sun.

There came a sound at the door, and he raised his eyes.

Marius entered, his head well up, his mouth smiling, an indescribable
light on his countenance, his brow expanded, his eyes triumphant. He had
not slept either.

"It is you, father!" he exclaimed, on catching sight of Jean Valjean;
"that idiot of a Basque had such a mysterious air! But you have come too
early. It is only half past twelve. Cosette is asleep."

That word: "Father," said to M. Fauchelevent by Marius, signified:
supreme felicity. There had always existed, as the reader knows, a lofty
wall, a coldness and a constraint between them; ice which must be broken
or melted. Marius had reached that point of intoxication when the wall
was lowered, when the ice dissolved, and when M. Fauchelevent was to
him, as to Cosette, a father.

He continued: his words poured forth, as is the peculiarity of divine
paroxysms of joy.

"How glad I am to see you! If you only knew how we missed you yesterday!
Good morning, father. How is your hand? Better, is it not?"

And, satisfied with the favorable reply which he had made to himself, he

"We have both been talking about you. Cosette loves you so dearly! You
must not forget that you have a chamber here, We want nothing more to
do with the Rue de l'Homme Arme. We will have no more of it at all. How
could you go to live in a street like that, which is sickly, which is
disagreeable, which is ugly, which has a barrier at one end, where one
is cold, and into which one cannot enter? You are to come and install
yourself here. And this very day. Or you will have to deal with Cosette.
She means to lead us all by the nose, I warn you. You have your own
chamber here, it is close to ours, it opens on the garden; the trouble
with the clock has been attended to, the bed is made, it is all ready,
you have only to take possession of it. Near your bed Cosette has placed
a huge, old, easy-chair covered with Utrecht velvet and she has said to
it: 'Stretch out your arms to him.' A nightingale comes to the clump of
acacias opposite your windows, every spring. In two months more you will
have it. You will have its nest on your left and ours on your right. By
night it will sing, and by day Cosette will prattle. Your chamber faces
due South. Cosette will arrange your books for you, your Voyages of
Captain Cook and the other,--Vancouver's and all your affairs. I believe
that there is a little valise to which you are attached, I have fixed
upon a corner of honor for that. You have conquered my grandfather, you
suit him. We will live together. Do you play whist? you will overwhelm
my grandfather with delight if you play whist. It is you who shall take
Cosette to walk on the days when I am at the courts, you shall give her
your arm, you know, as you used to, in the Luxembourg. We are absolutely
resolved to be happy. And you shall be included in it, in our happiness,
do you hear, father? Come, will you breakfast with us to-day?"

"Sir," said Jean Valjean, "I have something to say to you. I am an

The limit of shrill sounds perceptible can be overleaped, as well in
the case of the mind as in that of the ear. These words: "I am an
ex-convict," proceeding from the mouth of M. Fauchelevent and entering
the ear of Marius overshot the possible. It seemed to him that something
had just been said to him; but he did not know what. He stood with his
mouth wide open.

Then he perceived that the man who was addressing him was frightful.
Wholly absorbed in his own dazzled state, he had not, up to that moment,
observed the other man's terrible pallor.

Jean Valjean untied the black cravat which supported his right arm,
unrolled the linen from around his hand, bared his thumb and showed it
to Marius.

"There is nothing the matter with my hand," said he.

Marius looked at the thumb.

"There has not been anything the matter with it," went on Jean Valjean.

There was, in fact, no trace of any injury.

Jean Valjean continued:

"It was fitting that I should be absent from your marriage. I absented
myself as much as was in my power. So I invented this injury in order
that I might not commit a forgery, that I might not introduce a flaw
into the marriage documents, in order that I might escape from signing."

Marius stammered.

"What is the meaning of this?"

"The meaning of it is," replied Jean Valjean, "that I have been in the

"You are driving me mad!" exclaimed Marius in terror.

"Monsieur Pontmercy," said Jean Valjean, "I was nineteen years in the
galleys. For theft. Then, I was condemned for life for theft, for a
second offence. At the present moment, I have broken my ban."

In vain did Marius recoil before the reality, refuse the fact, resist
the evidence, he was forced to give way. He began to understand, and, as
always happens in such cases, he understood too much. An inward shudder
of hideous enlightenment flashed through him; an idea which made him
quiver traversed his mind. He caught a glimpse of a wretched destiny for
himself in the future.

"Say all, say all!" he cried. "You are Cosette's father!"

And he retreated a couple of paces with a movement of indescribable

Jean Valjean elevated his head with so much majesty of attitude that he
seemed to grow even to the ceiling.

"It is necessary that you should believe me here, sir; although our oath
to others may not be received in law . . ."

Here he paused, then, with a sort of sovereign and sepulchral authority,
he added, articulating slowly, and emphasizing the syllables:

". . . You will believe me. I the father of Cosette! before God, no.
Monsieur le Baron Pontmercy, I am a peasant of Faverolles. I earned my
living by pruning trees. My name is not Fauchelevent, but Jean Valjean.
I am not related to Cosette. Reassure yourself."

Marius stammered:

"Who will prove that to me?"

"I. Since I tell you so."

Marius looked at the man. He was melancholy yet tranquil. No lie could
proceed from such a calm. That which is icy is sincere. The truth could
be felt in that chill of the tomb.

"I believe you," said Marius.

Jean Valjean bent his head, as though taking note of this, and

"What am I to Cosette? A passer-by. Ten years ago, I did not know that
she was in existence. I love her, it is true. One loves a child whom one
has seen when very young, being old oneself. When one is old, one feels
oneself a grandfather towards all little children. You may, it seems to
me, suppose that I have something which resembles a heart. She was an
orphan. Without either father or mother. She needed me. That is why I
began to love her. Children are so weak that the first comer, even a man
like me, can become their protector. I have fulfilled this duty towards
Cosette. I do not think that so slight a thing can be called a good
action; but if it be a good action, well, say that I have done it.
Register this attenuating circumstance. To-day, Cosette passes out of my
life; our two roads part. Henceforth, I can do nothing for her. She is
Madame Pontmercy. Her providence has changed. And Cosette gains by the
change. All is well. As for the six hundred thousand francs, you do not
mention them to me, but I forestall your thought, they are a deposit.
How did that deposit come into my hands? What does that matter? I
restore the deposit. Nothing more can be demanded of me. I complete
the restitution by announcing my true name. That concerns me. I have a
reason for desiring that you should know who I am."

And Jean Valjean looked Marius full in the face.

All that Marius experienced was tumultuous and incoherent. Certain gusts
of destiny produce these billows in our souls.

We have all undergone moments of trouble in which everything within us
is dispersed; we say the first things that occur to us, which are
not always precisely those which should be said. There are sudden
revelations which one cannot bear, and which intoxicate like baleful
wine. Marius was stupefied by the novel situation which presented itself
to him, to the point of addressing that man almost like a person who was
angry with him for this avowal.

"But why," he exclaimed, "do you tell me all this? Who forces you to
do so? You could have kept your secret to yourself. You are neither
denounced, nor tracked nor pursued. You have a reason for wantonly
making such a revelation. Conclude. There is something more. In what
connection do you make this confession? What is your motive?"

"My motive?" replied Jean Valjean in a voice so low and dull that one
would have said that he was talking to himself rather than to Marius.
"From what motive, in fact, has this convict just said 'I am a convict'?
Well, yes! the motive is strange. It is out of honesty. Stay, the
unfortunate point is that I have a thread in my heart, which keeps me
fast. It is when one is old that that sort of thread is particularly
solid. All life falls in ruin around one; one resists. Had I been able
to tear out that thread, to break it, to undo the knot or to cut it, to
go far away, I should have been safe. I had only to go away; there are
diligences in the Rue Bouloy; you are happy; I am going. I have tried
to break that thread, I have jerked at it, it would not break, I tore my
heart with it. Then I said: 'I cannot live anywhere else than here.' I
must stay. Well, yes, you are right, I am a fool, why not simply
remain here? You offer me a chamber in this house, Madame Pontmercy is
sincerely attached to me, she said to the arm-chair: 'Stretch out your
arms to him,' your grandfather demands nothing better than to have me, I
suit him, we shall live together, and take our meals in common, I shall
give Cosette my arm . . . Madame Pontmercy, excuse me, it is a habit, we
shall have but one roof, one table, one fire, the same chimney-corner
in winter, the same promenade in summer, that is joy, that is happiness,
that is everything. We shall live as one family. One family!"

At that word, Jean Valjean became wild. He folded his arms, glared at
the floor beneath his feet as though he would have excavated an abyss
therein, and his voice suddenly rose in thundering tones:

"As one family! No. I belong to no family. I do not belong to yours.
I do not belong to any family of men. In houses where people are among
themselves, I am superfluous. There are families, but there is nothing
of the sort for me. I am an unlucky wretch; I am left outside. Did I
have a father and mother? I almost doubt it. On the day when I gave that
child in marriage, all came to an end. I have seen her happy, and that
she is with a man whom she loves, and that there exists here a kind old
man, a household of two angels, and all joys in that house, and that it
was well, I said to myself: 'Enter thou not.' I could have lied, it is
true, have deceived you all, and remained Monsieur Fauchelevent. So long
as it was for her, I could lie; but now it would be for myself, and I
must not. It was sufficient for me to hold my peace, it is true, and all
would go on. You ask me what has forced me to speak? a very odd thing;
my conscience. To hold my peace was very easy, however. I passed the
night in trying to persuade myself to it; you questioned me, and what I
have just said to you is so extraordinary that you have the right to do
it; well, yes, I have passed the night in alleging reasons to myself,
and I gave myself very good reasons, I have done what I could. But there
are two things in which I have not succeeded; in breaking the thread
that holds me fixed, riveted and sealed here by the heart, or in
silencing some one who speaks softly to me when I am alone. That is why
I have come hither to tell you everything this morning. Everything or
nearly everything. It is useless to tell you that which concerns only
myself; I keep that to myself. You know the essential points. So I have
taken my mystery and have brought it to you. And I have disembowelled my
secret before your eyes. It was not a resolution that was easy to take.
I struggled all night long. Ah! you think that I did not tell myself
that this was no Champmathieu affair, that by concealing my name I was
doing no one any injury, that the name of Fauchelevent had been given to
me by Fauchelevent himself, out of gratitude for a service rendered to
him, and that I might assuredly keep it, and that I should be happy in
that chamber which you offer me, that I should not be in any one's way,
that I should be in my own little corner, and that, while you would have
Cosette, I should have the idea that I was in the same house with her.
Each one of us would have had his share of happiness. If I continued to
be Monsieur Fauchelevent, that would arrange everything. Yes, with the
exception of my soul. There was joy everywhere upon my surface, but the
bottom of my soul remained black. It is not enough to be happy, one must
be content. Thus I should have remained Monsieur Fauchelevent, thus
I should have concealed my true visage, thus, in the presence of your
expansion, I should have had an enigma, thus, in the midst of your full
noonday, I should have had shadows, thus, without crying ''ware,' I
should have simply introduced the galleys to your fireside, I should
have taken my seat at your table with the thought that if you knew who
I was, you would drive me from it, I should have allowed myself to
be served by domestics who, had they known, would have said: 'How
horrible!' I should have touched you with my elbow, which you have a
right to dislike, I should have filched your clasps of the hand! There
would have existed in your house a division of respect between venerable
white locks and tainted white locks; at your most intimate hours, when
all hearts thought themselves open to the very bottom to all the rest,
when we four were together, your grandfather, you two and myself, a
stranger would have been present! I should have been side by side with
you in your existence, having for my only care not to disarrange the
cover of my dreadful pit. Thus, I, a dead man, should have thrust myself
upon you who are living beings. I should have condemned her to myself
forever. You and Cosette and I would have had all three of our heads in
the green cap! Does it not make you shudder? I am only the most crushed
of men; I should have been the most monstrous of men. And I should have
committed that crime every day! And I should have had that face of night
upon my visage every day! every day! And I should have communicated to
you a share in my taint every day! every day! to you, my dearly beloved,
my children, to you, my innocent creatures! Is it nothing to hold one's
peace? is it a simple matter to keep silence? No, it is not simple.
There is a silence which lies. And my lie, and my fraud and my
indignity, and my cowardice and my treason and my crime, I should have
drained drop by drop, I should have spit it out, then swallowed it
again, I should have finished at midnight and have begun again at
midday, and my 'good morning' would have lied, and my 'good night' would
have lied, and I should have slept on it, I should have eaten it, with
my bread, and I should have looked Cosette in the face, and I should
have responded to the smile of the angel by the smile of the damned
soul, and I should have been an abominable villain! Why should I do
it? in order to be happy. In order to be happy. Have I the right to be
happy? I stand outside of life, Sir."

Jean Valjean paused. Marius listened. Such chains of ideas and of
anguishes cannot be interrupted. Jean Valjean lowered his voice once
more, but it was no longer a dull voice--it was a sinister voice.

"You ask why I speak? I am neither denounced, nor pursued, nor tracked,
you say. Yes! I am denounced! yes! I am tracked! By whom? By myself.
It is I who bar the passage to myself, and I drag myself, and I push
myself, and I arrest myself, and I execute myself, and when one holds
oneself, one is firmly held."

And, seizing a handful of his own coat by the nape of the neck and
extending it towards Marius:

"Do you see that fist?" he continued. "Don't you think that it holds
that collar in such a wise as not to release it? Well! conscience
is another grasp! If one desires to be happy, sir, one must never
understand duty; for, as soon as one has comprehended it, it is
implacable. One would say that it punished you for comprehending it;
but no, it rewards you; for it places you in a hell, where you feel God
beside you. One has no sooner lacerated his own entrails than he is at
peace with himself."

And, with a poignant accent, he added:

"Monsieur Pontmercy, this is not common sense, I am an honest man. It is
by degrading myself in your eyes that I elevate myself in my own. This
has happened to me once before, but it was less painful then; it was
a mere nothing. Yes, an honest man. I should not be so if, through my
fault, you had continued to esteem me; now that you despise me, I am so.
I have that fatality hanging over me that, not being able to ever have
anything but stolen consideration, that consideration humiliates me,
and crushes me inwardly, and, in order that I may respect myself, it is
necessary that I should be despised. Then I straighten up again. I am
a galley-slave who obeys his conscience. I know well that that is most
improbable. But what would you have me do about it? it is the fact.
I have entered into engagements with myself; I keep them. There are
encounters which bind us, there are chances which involve us in duties.
You see, Monsieur Pontmercy, various things have happened to me in the
course of my life."

Again Jean Valjean paused, swallowing his saliva with an effort, as
though his words had a bitter after-taste, and then he went on:

"When one has such a horror hanging over one, one has not the right to
make others share it without their knowledge, one has not the right to
make them slip over one's own precipice without their perceiving it,
one has not the right to let one's red blouse drag upon them, one has no
right to slyly encumber with one's misery the happiness of others. It is
hideous to approach those who are healthy, and to touch them in the dark
with one's ulcer. In spite of the fact that Fauchelevent lent me his
name, I have no right to use it; he could give it to me, but I could not
take it. A name is an _I_. You see, sir, that I have thought somewhat, I
have read a little, although I am a peasant; and you see that I
express myself properly. I understand things. I have procured myself an
education. Well, yes, to abstract a name and to place oneself under it
is dishonest. Letters of the alphabet can be filched, like a purse or a
watch. To be a false signature in flesh and blood, to be a living false
key, to enter the house of honest people by picking their lock, never
more to look straightforward, to forever eye askance, to be infamous
within the _I_, no! no! no! no! no! It is better to suffer, to bleed, to
weep, to tear one's skin from the flesh with one's nails, to pass nights
writhing in anguish, to devour oneself body and soul. That is why I have
just told you all this. Wantonly, as you say."

He drew a painful breath, and hurled this final word:

"In days gone by, I stole a loaf of bread in order to live; to-day, in
order to live, I will not steal a name."

"To live!" interrupted Marius. "You do not need that name in order to

"Ah! I understand the matter," said Jean Valjean, raising and lowering
his head several times in succession.

A silence ensued. Both held their peace, each plunged in a gulf of
thoughts. Marius was sitting near a table and resting the corner of his
mouth on one of his fingers, which was folded back. Jean Valjean was
pacing to and fro. He paused before a mirror, and remained motionless.
Then, as though replying to some inward course of reasoning, he said, as
he gazed at the mirror, which he did not see:

"While, at present, I am relieved."

He took up his march again, and walked to the other end of the
drawing-room. At the moment when he turned round, he perceived that
Marius was watching his walk. Then he said, with an inexpressible

"I drag my leg a little. Now you understand why!"

Then he turned fully round towards Marius:

"And now, sir, imagine this: I have said nothing, I have remained
Monsieur Fauchelevent, I have taken my place in your house, I am one of
you, I am in my chamber, I come to breakfast in the morning in slippers,
in the evening all three of us go to the play, I accompany Madame
Pontmercy to the Tuileries, and to the Place Royale, we are together,
you think me your equal; one fine day you are there, and I am there, we
are conversing, we are laughing; all at once, you hear a voice shouting
this name: 'Jean Valjean!' and behold, that terrible hand, the police,
darts from the darkness, and abruptly tears off my mask!"

Again he paused; Marius had sprung to his feet with a shudder. Jean
Valjean resumed:

"What do you say to that?"

Marius' silence answered for him.

Jean Valjean continued:

"You see that I am right in not holding my peace. Be happy, be
in heaven, be the angel of an angel, exist in the sun, be content
therewith, and do not trouble yourself about the means which a poor
damned wretch takes to open his breast and force his duty to come forth;
you have before you, sir, a wretched man."

Marius slowly crossed the room, and, when he was quite close to Jean
Valjean, he offered the latter his hand.

But Marius was obliged to step up and take that hand which was not
offered, Jean Valjean let him have his own way, and it seemed to Marius
that he pressed a hand of marble.

"My grandfather has friends," said Marius; "I will procure your pardon."

"It is useless," replied Jean Valjean. "I am believed to be dead, and
that suffices. The dead are not subjected to surveillance. They are
supposed to rot in peace. Death is the same thing as pardon."

And, disengaging the hand which Marius held, he added, with a sort of
inexorable dignity:

"Moreover, the friend to whom I have recourse is the doing of my duty;
and I need but one pardon, that of my conscience."

At that moment, a door at the other end of the drawing-room opened
gently half way, and in the opening Cosette's head appeared. They saw
only her sweet face, her hair was in charming disorder, her eyelids were
still swollen with sleep. She made the movement of a bird, which thrusts
its head out of its nest, glanced first at her husband, then at Jean
Valjean, and cried to them with a smile, so that they seemed to behold a
smile at the heart of a rose:

"I will wager that you are talking politics. How stupid that is, instead
of being with me!"

Jean Valjean shuddered.

"Cosette! . . ." stammered Marius.

And he paused. One would have said that they were two criminals.

Cosette, who was radiant, continued to gaze at both of them. There was
something in her eyes like gleams of paradise.

"I have caught you in the very act," said Cosette. "Just now, I heard my
father Fauchelevent through the door saying: 'Conscience . . . doing my
duty . . .' That is politics, indeed it is. I will not have it. People
should not talk politics the very next day. It is not right."

"You are mistaken. Cosette," said Marius, "we are talking business. We
are discussing the best investment of your six hundred thousand
francs . . ."

"That is not it at all," interrupted Cosette. "I am coming. Does any
body want me here?"

And, passing resolutely through the door, she entered the drawing-room.
She was dressed in a voluminous white dressing-gown, with a thousand
folds and large sleeves which, starting from the neck, fell to her feet.
In the golden heavens of some ancient gothic pictures, there are these
charming sacks fit to clothe the angels.

She contemplated herself from head to foot in a long mirror, then
exclaimed, in an outburst of ineffable ecstasy:

"There was once a King and a Queen. Oh! how happy I am!"

That said, she made a curtsey to Marius and to Jean Valjean.

"There," said she, "I am going to install myself near you in an
easy-chair, we breakfast in half an hour, you shall say anything you
like, I know well that men must talk, and I will be very good."

Marius took her by the arm and said lovingly to her:

"We are talking business."

"By the way," said Cosette, "I have opened my window, a flock of
pierrots has arrived in the garden,--Birds, not maskers. To-day is
Ash-Wednesday; but not for the birds."

"I tell you that we are talking business, go, my little Cosette, leave
us alone for a moment. We are talking figures. That will bore you."

"You have a charming cravat on this morning, Marius. You are very
dandified, monseigneur. No, it will not bore me."

"I assure you that it will bore you."

"No. Since it is you. I shall not understand you, but I shall listen
to you. When one hears the voices of those whom one loves, one does not
need to understand the words that they utter. That we should be here
together--that is all that I desire. I shall remain with you, bah!"

"You are my beloved Cosette! Impossible."



"Very good," said Cosette. "I was going to tell you some news. I could
have told you that your grandfather is still asleep, that your aunt is
at mass, that the chimney in my father Fauchelevent's room smokes, that
Nicolette has sent for the chimney-sweep, that Toussaint and Nicolette
have already quarrelled, that Nicolette makes sport of Toussaint's
stammer. Well, you shall know nothing. Ah! it is impossible? you shall
see, gentlemen, that I, in my turn, can say: It is impossible. Then who
will be caught? I beseech you, my little Marius, let me stay here with
you two."

"I swear to you, that it is indispensable that we should be alone."

"Well, am I anybody?"

Jean Valjean had not uttered a single word. Cosette turned to him:

"In the first place, father, I want you to come and embrace me. What do
you mean by not saying anything instead of taking my part? who gave me
such a father as that? You must perceive that my family life is very
unhappy. My husband beats me. Come, embrace me instantly."

Jean Valjean approached.

Cosette turned toward Marius.

"As for you, I shall make a face at you."

Then she presented her brow to Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean advanced a step toward her.

Cosette recoiled.

"Father, you are pale. Does your arm hurt you?"

"It is well," said Jean Valjean.

"Did you sleep badly?"


"Are you sad?"


"Embrace me if you are well, if you sleep well, if you are content, I
will not scold you."

And again she offered him her brow.

Jean Valjean dropped a kiss upon that brow whereon rested a celestial


Jean Valjean obeyed. It was the smile of a spectre.

"Now, defend me against my husband."

"Cosette! . . ." ejaculated Marius.

"Get angry, father. Say that I must stay. You can certainly talk before
me. So you think me very silly. What you say is astonishing! business,
placing money in a bank a great matter truly. Men make mysteries out of
nothing. I am very pretty this morning. Look at me, Marius."

And with an adorable shrug of the shoulders, and an indescribably
exquisite pout, she glanced at Marius.

"I love you!" said Marius.

"I adore you!" said Cosette.

And they fell irresistibly into each other's arms.

"Now," said Cosette, adjusting a fold of her dressing-gown, with a
triumphant little grimace, "I shall stay."

"No, not that," said Marius, in a supplicating tone. "We have to finish

"Still no?"

Marius assumed a grave tone:

"I assure you, Cosette, that it is impossible."

"Ah! you put on your man's voice, sir. That is well, I go. You, father,
have not upheld me. Monsieur my father, monsieur my husband, you are
tyrants. I shall go and tell grandpapa. If you think that I am going to
return and talk platitudes to you, you are mistaken. I am proud. I shall
wait for you now. You shall see, that it is you who are going to be
bored without me. I am going, it is well."

And she left the room.

Two seconds later, the door opened once more, her fresh and rosy head
was again thrust between the two leaves, and she cried to them:

"I am very angry indeed."

The door closed again, and the shadows descended once more.

It was as though a ray of sunlight should have suddenly traversed the
night, without itself being conscious of it.

Marius made sure that the door was securely closed.

"Poor Cosette!" he murmured, "when she finds out . . ."

At that word Jean Valjean trembled in every limb. He fixed on Marius a
bewildered eye.

"Cosette! oh yes, it is true, you are going to tell Cosette about this.
That is right. Stay, I had not thought of that. One has the strength for
one thing, but not for another. Sir, I conjure you, I entreat now, sir,
give me your most sacred word of honor, that you will not tell her. Is
it not enough that you should know it? I have been able to say it myself
without being forced to it, I could have told it to the universe, to the
whole world,--it was all one to me. But she, she does not know what
it is, it would terrify her. What, a convict! we should be obliged to
explain matters to her, to say to her: 'He is a man who has been in the
galleys.' She saw the chain-gang pass by one day. Oh! My God!" . . . He
dropped into an arm-chair and hid his face in his hands.

His grief was not audible, but from the quivering of his shoulders it
was evident that he was weeping. Silent tears, terrible tears.

There is something of suffocation in the sob. He was seized with a sort
of convulsion, he threw himself against the back of the chair as though
to gain breath, letting his arms fall, and allowing Marius to see his
face inundated with tears, and Marius heard him murmur, so low that his
voice seemed to issue from fathomless depths:

"Oh! would that I could die!"

"Be at your ease," said Marius, "I will keep your secret for myself
alone." And, less touched, perhaps, than he ought to have been, but
forced, for the last hour, to familiarize himself with something
as unexpected as it was dreadful, gradually beholding the convict
superposed before his very eyes, upon M. Fauchelevent, overcome,
little by little, by that lugubrious reality, and led, by the natural
inclination of the situation, to recognize the space which had just been
placed between that man and himself, Marius added:

"It is impossible that I should not speak a word to you with regard to
the deposit which you have so faithfully and honestly remitted. That is
an act of probity. It is just that some recompense should be bestowed on
you. Fix the sum yourself, it shall be counted out to you. Do not fear
to set it very high."

"I thank you, sir," replied Jean Valjean, gently.

He remained in thought for a moment, mechanically passing the tip of his
fore-finger across his thumb-nail, then he lifted up his voice:

"All is nearly over. But one last thing remains for me . . ."

"What is it?"

Jean Valjean struggled with what seemed a last hesitation, and, without
voice, without breath, he stammered rather than said:

"Now that you know, do you think, sir, you, who are the master, that I
ought not to see Cosette any more?"

"I think that would be better," replied Marius coldly.

"I shall never see her more," murmured Jean Valjean. And he directed his
steps towards the door.

He laid his hand on the knob, the latch yielded, the door opened. Jean
Valjean pushed it open far enough to pass through, stood motionless for
a second, then closed the door again and turned to Marius.

He was no longer pale, he was livid. There were no longer any tears
in his eyes, but only a sort of tragic flame. His voice had regained a
strange composure.

"Stay, sir," he said. "If you will allow it, I will come to see her. I
assure you that I desire it greatly. If I had not cared to see Cosette,
I should not have made to you the confession that I have made, I should
have gone away; but, as I desired to remain in the place where Cosette
is, and to continue to see her, I had to tell you about it honestly. You
follow my reasoning, do you not? it is a matter easily understood. You
see, I have had her with me for more than nine years. We lived first
in that hut on the boulevard, then in the convent, then near the
Luxembourg. That was where you saw her for the first time. You remember
her blue plush hat. Then we went to the Quartier des Invalides, where
there was a railing on a garden, the Rue Plumet. I lived in a little
back court-yard, whence I could hear her piano. That was my life. We
never left each other. That lasted for nine years and some months. I
was like her own father, and she was my child. I do not know whether
you understand, Monsieur Pontmercy, but to go away now, never to see her
again, never to speak to her again, to no longer have anything, would
be hard. If you do not disapprove of it, I will come to see Cosette from
time to time. I will not come often. I will not remain long. You shall
give orders that I am to be received in the little waiting-room. On the
ground floor. I could enter perfectly well by the back door, but that
might create surprise perhaps, and it would be better, I think, for me
to enter by the usual door. Truly, sir, I should like to see a little
more of Cosette. As rarely as you please. Put yourself in my place,
I have nothing left but that. And then, we must be cautious. If I
no longer come at all, it would produce a bad effect, it would be
considered singular. What I can do, by the way, is to come in the
afternoon, when night is beginning to fall."

"You shall come every evening," said Marius, "and Cosette will be
waiting for you."

"You are kind, sir," said Jean Valjean.

Marius saluted Jean Valjean, happiness escorted despair to the door, and
these two men parted.


Marius was quite upset.

The sort of estrangement which he had always felt towards the man beside
whom he had seen Cosette, was now explained to him. There was something
enigmatic about that person, of which his instinct had warned him.

This enigma was the most hideous of disgraces, the galleys. This M.
Fauchelevent was the convict Jean Valjean.

To abruptly find such a secret in the midst of one's happiness resembles
the discovery of a scorpion in a nest of turtledoves.

Was the happiness of Marius and Cosette thenceforth condemned to such a
neighborhood? Was this an accomplished fact? Did the acceptance of that
man form a part of the marriage now consummated? Was there nothing to be

Had Marius wedded the convict as well?

In vain may one be crowned with light and joy, in vain may one taste the
grand purple hour of life, happy love, such shocks would force even the
archangel in his ecstasy, even the demigod in his glory, to shudder.

As is always the case in changes of view of this nature, Marius asked
himself whether he had nothing with which to reproach himself. Had he
been wanting in divination? Had he been wanting in prudence? Had he
involuntarily dulled his wits? A little, perhaps. Had he entered upon
this love affair, which had ended in his marriage to Cosette, without
taking sufficient precautions to throw light upon the surroundings? He
admitted,--it is thus, by a series of successive admissions of ourselves
in regard to ourselves, that life amends us, little by little,--he
admitted the chimerical and visionary side of his nature, a sort of
internal cloud peculiar to many organizations, and which, in paroxysms
of passion and sorrow, dilates as the temperature of the soul changes,
and invades the entire man, to such a degree as to render him nothing
more than a conscience bathed in a mist. We have more than once
indicated this characteristic element of Marius' individuality.

He recalled that, in the intoxication of his love, in the Rue Plumet,
during those six or seven ecstatic weeks, he had not even spoke to
Cosette of that drama in the Gorbeau hovel, where the victim had taken
up such a singular line of silence during the struggle and the ensuing
flight. How had it happened that he had not mentioned this to Cosette?
Yet it was so near and so terrible! How had it come to pass that he had
not even named the Thenardiers, and, particularly, on the day when he
had encountered Eponine? He now found it almost difficult to explain his
silence of that time. Nevertheless, he could account for it. He recalled
his benumbed state, his intoxication with Cosette, love absorbing
everything, that catching away of each other into the ideal, and perhaps
also, like the imperceptible quantity of reason mingled with this
violent and charming state of the soul, a vague, dull instinct impelling
him to conceal and abolish in his memory that redoubtable adventure,
contact with which he dreaded, in which he did not wish to play any
part, his agency in which he had kept secret, and in which he could be
neither narrator nor witness without being an accuser.

Moreover, these few weeks had been a flash of lightning; there had been
no time for anything except love.

In short, having weighed everything, turned everything over in his mind,
examined everything, whatever might have been the consequences if he had
told Cosette about the Gorbeau ambush, even if he had discovered that
Jean Valjean was a convict, would that have changed him, Marius? Would
that have changed her, Cosette? Would he have drawn back? Would he have
adored her any the less? Would he have refrained from marrying her? No.
Then there was nothing to regret, nothing with which he need reproach
himself. All was well. There is a deity for those drunken men who are
called lovers. Marius blind, had followed the path which he would have
chosen had he been in full possession of his sight. Love had bandaged
his eyes, in order to lead him whither? To paradise.

But this paradise was henceforth complicated with an infernal

Marius' ancient estrangement towards this man, towards this Fauchelevent
who had turned into Jean Valjean, was at present mingled with horror.

In this horror, let us state, there was some pity, and even a certain

This thief, this thief guilty of a second offence, had restored that
deposit. And what a deposit! Six hundred thousand francs.

He alone was in the secret of that deposit. He might have kept it all,
he had restored it all.

Moreover, he had himself revealed his situation. Nothing forced him to
this. If any one learned who he was, it was through himself. In this
avowal there was something more than acceptance of humiliation, there
was acceptance of peril. For a condemned man, a mask is not a mask, it
is a shelter. A false name is security, and he had rejected that false
name. He, the galley-slave, might have hidden himself forever in an
honest family; he had withstood this temptation. And with what motive?
Through a conscientious scruple. He himself explained this with the
irresistible accents of truth. In short, whatever this Jean Valjean
might be, he was, undoubtedly, a conscience which was awakening. There
existed some mysterious re-habilitation which had begun; and, to all
appearances, scruples had for a long time already controlled this man.
Such fits of justice and goodness are not characteristic of vulgar
natures. An awakening of conscience is grandeur of soul.

Jean Valjean was sincere. This sincerity, visible, palpable,
irrefragable, evident from the very grief that it caused him, rendered
inquiries useless, and conferred authority on all that that man had

Here, for Marius, there was a strange reversal of situations. What
breathed from M. Fauchelevent? distrust. What did Jean Valjean inspire?

In the mysterious balance of this Jean Valjean which the pensive Marius
struck, he admitted the active principle, he admitted the passive
principle, and he tried to reach a balance.

But all this went on as in a storm. Marius, while endeavoring to form a
clear idea of this man, and while pursuing Jean Valjean, so to speak, in
the depths of his thought, lost him and found him again in a fatal mist.

The deposit honestly restored, the probity of the confession--these were
good. This produced a lightening of the cloud, then the cloud became
black once more.

Troubled as were Marius' memories, a shadow of them returned to him.

After all, what was that adventure in the Jondrette attic? Why had that
man taken to flight on the arrival of the police, instead of entering a

Here Marius found the answer. Because that man was a fugitive from
justice, who had broken his ban.

Another question: Why had that man come to the barricade?

For Marius now once more distinctly beheld that recollection which had
re-appeared in his emotions like sympathetic ink at the application of
heat. This man had been in the barricade. He had not fought there. What
had he come there for? In the presence of this question a spectre sprang
up and replied: "Javert."

Marius recalled perfectly now that funereal sight of Jean Valjean
dragging the pinioned Javert out of the barricade, and he still heard
behind the corner of the little Rue Mondetour that frightful pistol
shot. Obviously, there was hatred between that police spy and the
galley-slave. The one was in the other's way. Jean Valjean had gone to
the barricade for the purpose of revenging himself. He had arrived late.
He probably knew that Javert was a prisoner there. The Corsican vendetta
has penetrated to certain lower strata and has become the law there; it
is so simple that it does not astonish souls which are but half turned
towards good; and those hearts are so constituted that a criminal, who
is in the path of repentance, may be scrupulous in the matter of theft
and unscrupulous in the matter of vengeance. Jean Valjean had killed
Javert. At least, that seemed to be evident.

This was the final question, to be sure; but to this there was no reply.
This question Marius felt like pincers. How had it come to pass that
Jean Valjean's existence had elbowed that of Cosette for so long a

What melancholy sport of Providence was that which had placed that child
in contact with that man? Are there then chains for two which are forged
on high? and does God take pleasure in coupling the angel with the
demon? So a crime and an innocence can be room-mates in the mysterious
galleys of wretchedness? In that defiling of condemned persons which
is called human destiny, can two brows pass side by side, the one
ingenuous, the other formidable, the one all bathed in the divine
whiteness of dawn, the other forever blemished by the flash of an
eternal lightning? Who could have arranged that inexplicable pairing
off? In what manner, in consequence of what prodigy, had any community
of life been established between this celestial little creature and that
old criminal?

Who could have bound the lamb to the wolf, and, what was still more
incomprehensible, have attached the wolf to the lamb? For the wolf loved
the lamb, for the fierce creature adored the feeble one, for, during
the space of nine years, the angel had had the monster as her point of
support. Cosette's childhood and girlhood, her advent in the daylight,
her virginal growth towards life and light, had been sheltered by
that hideous devotion. Here questions exfoliated, so to speak, into
innumerable enigmas, abysses yawned at the bottoms of abysses, and
Marius could no longer bend over Jean Valjean without becoming dizzy.
What was this man-precipice?

The old symbols of Genesis are eternal; in human society, such as it now
exists, and until a broader day shall effect a change in it, there will
always be two men, the one superior, the other subterranean; the one
which is according to good is Abel; the other which is according to evil
is Cain. What was this tender Cain? What was this ruffian religiously
absorbed in the adoration of a virgin, watching over her, rearing her,
guarding her, dignifying her, and enveloping her, impure as he was
himself, with purity?

What was that cess-pool which had venerated that innocence to such a
point as not to leave upon it a single spot? What was this Jean Valjean
educating Cosette? What was this figure of the shadows which had for its
only object the preservation of the rising of a star from every shadow
and from every cloud?

That was Jean Valjean's secret; that was also God's secret.

In the presence of this double secret, Marius recoiled. The one, in some
sort, reassured him as to the other. God was as visible in this affair
as was Jean Valjean. God has his instruments. He makes use of the tool
which he wills. He is not responsible to men. Do we know how God sets
about the work? Jean Valjean had labored over Cosette. He had, to some
extent, made that soul. That was incontestable. Well, what then? The
workman was horrible; but the work was admirable. God produces his
miracles as seems good to him. He had constructed that charming Cosette,
and he had employed Jean Valjean. It had pleased him to choose this
strange collaborator for himself. What account have we to demand of him?
Is this the first time that the dung-heap has aided the spring to create
the rose?

Marius made himself these replies, and declared to himself that they
were good. He had not dared to press Jean Valjean on all the points
which we have just indicated, but he did not confess to himself that he
did not dare to do it. He adored Cosette, he possessed Cosette, Cosette
was splendidly pure. That was sufficient for him. What enlightenment did
he need? Cosette was a light. Does light require enlightenment? He had
everything; what more could he desire? All,--is not that enough? Jean
Valjean's personal affairs did not concern him.

And bending over the fatal shadow of that man, he clung fast,
convulsively, to the solemn declaration of that unhappy wretch: "I
am nothing to Cosette. Ten years ago I did not know that she was in

Jean Valjean was a passer-by. He had said so himself. Well, he had
passed. Whatever he was, his part was finished.

Henceforth, there remained Marius to fulfil the part of Providence to
Cosette. Cosette had sought the azure in a person like herself, in her
lover, her husband, her celestial male. Cosette, as she took her flight,
winged and transfigured, left behind her on the earth her hideous and
empty chrysalis, Jean Valjean.

In whatever circle of ideas Marius revolved, he always returned to a
certain horror for Jean Valjean. A sacred horror, perhaps, for, as we
have just pointed out, he felt a quid divinum in that man. But do what
he would, and seek what extenuation he would, he was certainly forced to
fall back upon this: the man was a convict; that is to say, a being who
has not even a place in the social ladder, since he is lower than the
very lowest rung. After the very last of men comes the convict. The
convict is no longer, so to speak, in the semblance of the living. The
law has deprived him of the entire quantity of humanity of which it can
deprive a man.

Marius, on penal questions, still held to the inexorable system, though
he was a democrat and he entertained all the ideas of the law on the
subject of those whom the law strikes. He had not yet accomplished all
progress, we admit. He had not yet come to distinguish between that
which is written by man and that which is written by God, between law
and right. He had not examined and weighed the right which man takes to
dispose of the irrevocable and the irreparable. He was not shocked by
the word vindicte. He found it quite simple that certain breaches of the
written law should be followed by eternal suffering, and he accepted,
as the process of civilization, social damnation. He still stood at this
point, though safe to advance infallibly later on, since his nature was
good, and, at bottom, wholly formed of latent progress.

In this stage of his ideas, Jean Valjean appeared to him hideous and
repulsive. He was a man reproved, he was the convict. That word was
for him like the sound of the trump on the Day of Judgment; and, after
having reflected upon Jean Valjean for a long time, his final gesture
had been to turn away his head. Vade retro.

Marius, if we must recognize and even insist upon the fact, while
interrogating Jean Valjean to such a point that Jean Valjean had said:
"You are confessing me," had not, nevertheless, put to him two or three
decisive questions.

It was not that they had not presented themselves to his mind, but that
he had been afraid of them. The Jondrette attic? The barricade? Javert?
Who knows where these revelations would have stopped? Jean Valjean did
not seem like a man who would draw back, and who knows whether Marius,
after having urged him on, would not have himself desired to hold him

Has it not happened to all of us, in certain supreme conjunctures, to
stop our ears in order that we may not hear the reply, after we have
asked a question? It is especially when one loves that one gives way
to these exhibitions of cowardice. It is not wise to question sinister
situations to the last point, particularly when the indissoluble side of
our life is fatally intermingled with them. What a terrible light might
have proceeded from the despairing explanations of Jean Valjean, and who
knows whether that hideous glare would not have darted forth as far
as Cosette? Who knows whether a sort of infernal glow would not have
lingered behind it on the brow of that angel? The spattering of a
lightning-flash is of the thunder also. Fatality has points of juncture
where innocence itself is stamped with crime by the gloomy law of the
reflections which give color. The purest figures may forever preserve
the reflection of a horrible association. Rightly or wrongly, Marius
had been afraid. He already knew too much. He sought to dull his senses
rather than to gain further light.

In dismay he bore off Cosette in his arms and shut his eyes to Jean

That man was the night, the living and horrible night. How should he
dare to seek the bottom of it? It is a terrible thing to interrogate
the shadow. Who knows what its reply will be? The dawn may be blackened
forever by it.

In this state of mind the thought that that man would, henceforth, come
into any contact whatever with Cosette was a heartrending perplexity to

He now almost reproached himself for not having put those formidable
questions, before which he had recoiled, and from which an implacable
and definitive decision might have sprung. He felt that he was too good,
too gentle, too weak, if we must say the word. This weakness had led him
to an imprudent concession. He had allowed himself to be touched. He
had been in the wrong. He ought to have simply and purely rejected
Jean Valjean. Jean Valjean played the part of fire, and that is what he
should have done, and have freed his house from that man.

He was vexed with himself, he was angry with that whirlwind of emotions
which had deafened, blinded, and carried him away. He was displeased
with himself.

What was he to do now? Jean Valjean's visits were profoundly repugnant
to him. What was the use in having that man in his house? What did the
man want? Here, he became dismayed, he did not wish to dig down, he did
not wish to penetrate deeply; he did not wish to sound himself. He
had promised, he had allowed himself to be drawn into a promise; Jean
Valjean held his promise; one must keep one's word even to a convict,
above all to a convict. Still, his first duty was to Cosette. In short,
he was carried away by the repugnance which dominated him.

Marius turned over all this confusion of ideas in his mind, passing
from one to the other, and moved by all of them. Hence arose a profound

It was not easy for him to hide this trouble from Cosette, but love is a
talent, and Marius succeeded in doing it.

However, without any apparent object, he questioned Cosette, who was as
candid as a dove is white and who suspected nothing; he talked of her
childhood and her youth, and he became more and more convinced that that
convict had been everything good, paternal and respectable that a man
can be towards Cosette. All that Marius had caught a glimpse of and had
surmised was real. That sinister nettle had loved and protected that


[Illustration: The Twilight Decline  5b8-1-decline]


On the following day, at nightfall, Jean Valjean knocked at the carriage
gate of the Gillenormand house. It was Basque who received him. Basque
was in the courtyard at the appointed hour, as though he had received
his orders. It sometimes happens that one says to a servant: "You will
watch for Mr. So and So, when he arrives."

Basque addressed Jean Valjean without waiting for the latter to approach

"Monsieur le Baron has charged me to inquire whether monsieur desires to
go upstairs or to remain below?"

"I will remain below," replied Jean Valjean.

Basque, who was perfectly respectful, opened the door of the
waiting-room and said:

"I will go and inform Madame."

The room which Jean Valjean entered was a damp, vaulted room on the
ground floor, which served as a cellar on occasion, which opened on the
street, was paved with red squares and was badly lighted by a grated

This chamber was not one of those which are harassed by the
feather-duster, the pope's head brush, and the broom. The dust rested
tranquilly there. Persecution of the spiders was not organized there. A
fine web, which spread far and wide, and was very black and ornamented
with dead flies, formed a wheel on one of the window-panes. The room,
which was small and low-ceiled, was furnished with a heap of empty
bottles piled up in one corner.

The wall, which was daubed with an ochre yellow wash, was scaling off in
large flakes. At one end there was a chimney-piece painted in black
with a narrow shelf. A fire was burning there; which indicated that Jean
Valjean's reply: "I will remain below," had been foreseen.

Two arm-chairs were placed at the two corners of the fireplace. Between
the chairs an old bedside rug, which displayed more foundation thread
than wool, had been spread by way of a carpet.

The chamber was lighted by the fire on the hearth and the twilight
falling through the window.

Jean Valjean was fatigued. For days he had neither eaten nor slept. He
threw himself into one of the arm-chairs.

Basque returned, set a lighted candle on the chimney-piece and retired.
Jean Valjean, his head drooping and his chin resting on his breast,
perceived neither Basque nor the candle.

All at once, he drew himself up with a start. Cosette was standing
beside him.

He had not seen her enter, but he had felt that she was there.

He turned round. He gazed at her. She was adorably lovely. But what he
was contemplating with that profound gaze was not her beauty but her

"Well," exclaimed Cosette, "father, I knew that you were peculiar, but
I never should have expected this. What an idea! Marius told me that you
wish me to receive you here."

"Yes, it is my wish."

"I expected that reply. Good. I warn you that I am going to make a scene
for you. Let us begin at the beginning. Embrace me, father."

And she offered him her cheek.

Jean Valjean remained motionless.

"You do not stir. I take note of it. Attitude of guilt. But never mind,
I pardon you. Jesus Christ said: Offer the other cheek. Here it is."

And she presented her other cheek.

Jean Valjean did not move. It seemed as though his feet were nailed to
the pavement.

"This is becoming serious," said Cosette. "What have I done to you? I
declare that I am perplexed. You owe me reparation. You will dine with

"I have dined."

"That is not true. I will get M. Gillenormand to scold you. Grandfathers
are made to reprimand fathers. Come. Go upstairs with me to the
drawing-room. Immediately."


Here Cosette lost ground a little. She ceased to command and passed to

"But why? and you choose the ugliest chamber in the house in which to
see me. It's horrible here."

"Thou knowest . . ."

Jean Valjean caught himself up.

"You know, madame, that I am peculiar, I have my freaks."

Cosette struck her tiny hands together.

"Madame! . . . You know! . . . more novelties! What is the meaning of

Jean Valjean directed upon her that heartrending smile to which he
occasionally had recourse:

"You wished to be Madame. You are so."

"Not for you, father."

"Do not call me father."


"Call me 'Monsieur Jean.' 'Jean,' if you like."

"You are no longer my father? I am no longer Cosette? 'Monsieur Jean'?
What does this mean? why, these are revolutions, aren't they? what has
taken place? come, look me in the face. And you won't live with us!
And you won't have my chamber! What have I done to you? Has anything


"Well then?"

"Everything is as usual."

"Why do you change your name?"

"You have changed yours, surely."

He smiled again with the same smile as before and added:

"Since you are Madame Pontmercy, I certainly can be Monsieur Jean."

"I don't understand anything about it. All this is idiotic. I shall ask
permission of my husband for you to be 'Monsieur Jean.' I hope that he
will not consent to it. You cause me a great deal of pain. One does
have freaks, but one does not cause one's little Cosette grief. That is
wrong. You have no right to be wicked, you who are so good."

He made no reply.

She seized his hands with vivacity, and raising them to her face with
an irresistible movement, she pressed them against her neck beneath her
chin, which is a gesture of profound tenderness.

"Oh!" she said to him, "be good!"

And she went on:

"This is what I call being good: being nice and coming and living
here,--there are birds here as there are in the Rue Plumet,--living with
us, quitting that hole of a Rue de l'Homme Arme, not giving us riddles
to guess, being like all the rest of the world, dining with us,
breakfasting with us, being my father."

He loosed her hands.

"You no longer need a father, you have a husband."

Cosette became angry.

"I no longer need a father! One really does not know what to say to
things like that, which are not common sense!"

"If Toussaint were here," resumed Jean Valjean, like a person who is
driven to seek authorities, and who clutches at every branch, "she would
be the first to agree that it is true that I have always had ways of my
own. There is nothing new in this. I always have loved my black corner."

"But it is cold here. One cannot see distinctly. It is abominable, that
it is, to wish to be Monsieur Jean! I will not have you say 'you' to me.

"Just now, as I was coming hither," replied Jean Valjean, "I saw a piece
of furniture in the Rue Saint Louis. It was at a cabinet-maker's. If I
were a pretty woman, I would treat myself to that bit of furniture. A
very neat toilet table in the reigning style. What you call rosewood, I
think. It is inlaid. The mirror is quite large. There are drawers. It is

"Hou! the villainous bear!" replied Cosette.

And with supreme grace, setting her teeth and drawing back her lips, she
blew at Jean Valjean. She was a Grace copying a cat.

"I am furious," she resumed. "Ever since yesterday, you have made me
rage, all of you. I am greatly vexed. I don't understand. You do not
defend me against Marius. Marius will not uphold me against you. I am
all alone. I arrange a chamber prettily. If I could have put the good
God there I would have done it. My chamber is left on my hands. My
lodger sends me into bankruptcy. I order a nice little dinner of
Nicolette. We will have nothing to do with your dinner, Madame. And my
father Fauchelevent wants me to call him 'Monsieur Jean,' and to receive
him in a frightful, old, ugly cellar, where the walls have beards, and
where the crystal consists of empty bottles, and the curtains are of
spiders' webs! You are singular, I admit, that is your style, but people
who get married are granted a truce. You ought not to have begun being
singular again instantly. So you are going to be perfectly contented in
your abominable Rue de l'Homme Arme. I was very desperate indeed there,
that I was. What have you against me? You cause me a great deal of
grief. Fi!"

And, becoming suddenly serious, she gazed intently at Jean Valjean and

"Are you angry with me because I am happy?"

Ingenuousness sometimes unconsciously penetrates deep. This question,
which was simple for Cosette, was profound for Jean Valjean. Cosette had
meant to scratch, and she lacerated.

Jean Valjean turned pale.

He remained for a moment without replying, then, with an inexpressible
intonation, and speaking to himself, he murmured:

"Her happiness was the object of my life. Now God may sign my dismissal.
Cosette, thou art happy; my day is over."

"Ah, you have said thou to me!" exclaimed Cosette.

And she sprang to his neck.

Jean Valjean, in bewilderment, strained her wildly to his breast. It
almost seemed to him as though he were taking her back.

"Thanks, father!" said Cosette.

This enthusiastic impulse was on the point of becoming poignant for Jean
Valjean. He gently removed Cosette's arms, and took his hat.

"Well?" said Cosette.

"I leave you, Madame, they are waiting for you."

And, from the threshold, he added:

"I have said thou to you. Tell your husband that this shall not happen
again. Pardon me."

Jean Valjean quitted the room, leaving Cosette stupefied at this
enigmatical farewell.


On the following day, at the same hour, Jean Valjean came.

Cosette asked him no questions, was no longer astonished, no longer
exclaimed that she was cold, no longer spoke of the drawing-room, she
avoided saying either "father" or "Monsieur Jean." She allowed herself
to be addressed as you. She allowed herself to be called Madame. Only,
her joy had undergone a certain diminution. She would have been sad, if
sadness had been possible to her.

It is probable that she had had with Marius one of those conversations
in which the beloved man says what he pleases, explains nothing, and
satisfies the beloved woman. The curiosity of lovers does not extend
very far beyond their own love.

The lower room had made a little toilet. Basque had suppressed the
bottles, and Nicolette the spiders.

All the days which followed brought Jean Valjean at the same hour. He
came every day, because he had not the strength to take Marius' words
otherwise than literally. Marius arranged matters so as to be absent at
the hours when Jean Valjean came. The house grew accustomed to the novel
ways of M. Fauchelevent. Toussaint helped in this direction: "Monsieur
has always been like that," she repeated. The grandfather issued this
decree:--"He's an original." And all was said. Moreover, at the age of
ninety-six, no bond is any longer possible, all is merely juxtaposition;
a newcomer is in the way. There is no longer any room; all habits are
acquired. M. Fauchelevent, M. Tranchelevent, Father Gillenormand
asked nothing better than to be relieved from "that gentleman." He
added:--"Nothing is more common than those originals. They do all sorts
of queer things. They have no reason. The Marquis de Canaples was still
worse. He bought a palace that he might lodge in the garret. These are
fantastic appearances that people affect."

No one caught a glimpse of the sinister foundation. And moreover, who
could have guessed such a thing? There are marshes of this description
in India. The water seems extraordinary, inexplicable, rippling though
there is no wind, and agitated where it should be calm. One gazes at the
surface of these causeless ebullitions; one does not perceive the hydra
which crawls on the bottom.

Many men have a secret monster in this same manner, a dragon which gnaws
them, a despair which inhabits their night. Such a man resembles
other men, he goes and comes. No one knows that he bears within him a
frightful parasitic pain with a thousand teeth, which lives within the
unhappy man, and of which he is dying. No one knows that this man is a
gulf. He is stagnant but deep. From time to time, a trouble of which
the onlooker understands nothing appears on his surface. A mysterious
wrinkle is formed, then vanishes, then re-appears; an air-bubble rises
and bursts. It is the breathing of the unknown beast.

Certain strange habits: arriving at the hour when other people are
taking their leave, keeping in the background when other people
are displaying themselves, preserving on all occasions what may be
designated as the wall-colored mantle, seeking the solitary walk,
preferring the deserted street, avoiding any share in conversation,
avoiding crowds and festivals, seeming at one's ease and living poorly,
having one's key in one's pocket, and one's candle at the porter's
lodge, however rich one may be, entering by the side door, ascending
the private staircase,--all these insignificant singularities, fugitive
folds on the surface, often proceed from a formidable foundation.

Many weeks passed in this manner. A new life gradually took possession
of Cosette: the relations which marriage creates, visits, the care
of the house, pleasures, great matters. Cosette's pleasures were not
costly, they consisted in one thing: being with Marius. The great
occupation of her life was to go out with him, to remain with him. It
was for them a joy that was always fresh, to go out arm in arm, in the
face of the sun, in the open street, without hiding themselves, before
the whole world, both of them completely alone.

Cosette had one vexation. Toussaint could not get on with Nicolette, the
soldering of two elderly maids being impossible, and she went away.
The grandfather was well; Marius argued a case here and there; Aunt
Gillenormand peacefully led that life aside which sufficed for her,
beside the new household. Jean Valjean came every day.

The address as thou disappeared, the you, the "Madame," the "Monsieur
Jean," rendered him another person to Cosette. The care which he had
himself taken to detach her from him was succeeding. She became more and
more gay and less and less tender. Yet she still loved him sincerely,
and he felt it.

One day she said to him suddenly: "You used to be my father, you are
no longer my father, you were my uncle, you are no longer my uncle, you
were Monsieur Fauchelevent, you are Jean. Who are you then? I don't
like all this. If I did not know how good you are, I should be afraid of

He still lived in the Rue de l'Homme Arme, because he could not make up
his mind to remove to a distance from the quarter where Cosette dwelt.

At first, he only remained a few minutes with Cosette, and then went

Little by little he acquired the habit of making his visits less brief.
One would have said that he was taking advantage of the authorization of
the days which were lengthening, he arrived earlier and departed later.

One day Cosette chanced to say "father" to him. A flash of joy
illuminated Jean Valjean's melancholy old countenance. He caught her
up: "Say Jean."--"Ah! truly," she replied with a burst of laughter,
"Monsieur Jean."--"That is right," said he. And he turned aside so that
she might not see him wipe his eyes.


This was the last time. After that last flash of light, complete
extinction ensued. No more familiarity, no more good-morning with a
kiss, never more that word so profoundly sweet: "My father!" He was at
his own request and through his own complicity driven out of all his
happinesses one after the other; and he had this sorrow, that after
having lost Cosette wholly in one day, he was afterwards obliged to lose
her again in detail.

The eye eventually becomes accustomed to the light of a cellar. In
short, it sufficed for him to have an apparition of Cosette every day.
His whole life was concentrated in that one hour.

He seated himself close to her, he gazed at her in silence, or he talked
to her of years gone by, of her childhood, of the convent, of her little
friends of those bygone days.

One afternoon,--it was on one of those early days in April, already
warm and fresh, the moment of the sun's great gayety, the gardens which
surrounded the windows of Marius and Cosette felt the emotion of waking,
the hawthorn was on the point of budding, a jewelled garniture of
gillyflowers spread over the ancient walls, snapdragons yawned through
the crevices of the stones, amid the grass there was a charming
beginning of daisies, and buttercups, the white butterflies of the
year were making their first appearance, the wind, that minstrel of the
eternal wedding, was trying in the trees the first notes of that grand,
auroral symphony which the old poets called the springtide,--Marius said
to Cosette:--"We said that we would go back to take a look at our garden
in the Rue Plumet. Let us go thither. We must not be ungrateful."--And
away they flitted, like two swallows towards the spring. This garden of
the Rue Plumet produced on them the effect of the dawn. They already
had behind them in life something which was like the springtime of their
love. The house in the Rue Plumet being held on a lease, still belonged
to Cosette. They went to that garden and that house. There they
found themselves again, there they forgot themselves. That
evening, at the usual hour, Jean Valjean came to the Rue des
Filles-du-Calvaire.--"Madame went out with Monsieur and has not yet
returned," Basque said to him. He seated himself in silence, and waited
an hour. Cosette did not return. He departed with drooping head.

Cosette was so intoxicated with her walk to "their garden," and so
joyous at having "lived a whole day in her past," that she talked of
nothing else on the morrow. She did not notice that she had not seen
Jean Valjean.

"In what way did you go thither?" Jean Valjean asked her."

"On foot."

"And how did you return?"

"In a hackney carriage."

For some time, Jean Valjean had noticed the economical life led by the
young people. He was troubled by it. Marius' economy was severe, and
that word had its absolute meaning for Jean Valjean. He hazarded a

"Why do you not have a carriage of your own? A pretty coupe would only
cost you five hundred francs a month. You are rich."

"I don't know," replied Cosette.

"It is like Toussaint," resumed Jean Valjean. "She is gone. You have not
replaced her. Why?"

"Nicolette suffices."

"But you ought to have a maid."

"Have I not Marius?"

"You ought to have a house of your own, your own servants, a carriage, a
box at the theatre. There is nothing too fine for you. Why not profit by
your riches? Wealth adds to happiness."

Cosette made no reply.

Jean Valjean's visits were not abridged. Far from it. When it is the
heart which is slipping, one does not halt on the downward slope.

When Jean Valjean wished to prolong his visit and to induce
forgetfulness of the hour, he sang the praises of Marius; he pronounced
him handsome, noble, courageous, witty, eloquent, good. Cosette outdid
him. Jean Valjean began again. They were never weary. Marius--that word
was inexhaustible; those six letters contained volumes. In this manner,
Jean Valjean contrived to remain a long time.

It was so sweet to see Cosette, to forget by her side! It alleviated his
wounds. It frequently happened that Basque came twice to announce:
"M. Gillenormand sends me to remind Madame la Baronne that dinner is

On those days, Jean Valjean was very thoughtful on his return home.

Was there, then, any truth in that comparison of the chrysalis which
had presented itself to the mind of Marius? Was Jean Valjean really a
chrysalis who would persist, and who would come to visit his butterfly?

One day he remained still longer than usual. On the following day he
observed that there was no fire on the hearth.--"Hello!" he thought. "No
fire."--And he furnished the explanation for himself.--"It is perfectly
simple. It is April. The cold weather has ceased."

"Heavens! how cold it is here!" exclaimed Cosette when she entered.

"Why, no," said Jean Valjean.

"Was it you who told Basque not to make a fire then?"

"Yes, since we are now in the month of May."

"But we have a fire until June. One is needed all the year in this

"I thought that a fire was unnecessary."

"That is exactly like one of your ideas!" retorted Cosette.

On the following day there was a fire. But the two arm-chairs were
arranged at the other end of the room near the door. "--What is the
meaning of this?" thought Jean Valjean.

He went for the arm-chairs and restored them to their ordinary place
near the hearth.

This fire lighted once more encouraged him, however. He prolonged the
conversation even beyond its customary limits. As he rose to take his
leave, Cosette said to him:

"My husband said a queer thing to me yesterday."

"What was it?"

"He said to me: 'Cosette, we have an income of thirty thousand livres.
Twenty-seven that you own, and three that my grandfather gives me.' I
replied: 'That makes thirty.' He went on: 'Would you have the courage to
live on the three thousand?' I answered: 'Yes, on nothing. Provided
that it was with you.' And then I asked: 'Why do you say that to me?' He
replied: 'I wanted to know.'"

Jean Valjean found not a word to answer. Cosette probably expected some
explanation from him; he listened in gloomy silence. He went back to the
Rue de l'Homme Arme; he was so deeply absorbed that he mistook the
door and instead of entering his own house, he entered the adjoining
dwelling. It was only after having ascended nearly two stories that he
perceived his error and went down again.

His mind was swarming with conjectures. It was evident that Marius had
his doubts as to the origin of the six hundred thousand francs, that
he feared some source that was not pure, who knows? that he had even,
perhaps, discovered that the money came from him, Jean Valjean, that he
hesitated before this suspicious fortune, and was disinclined to take
it as his own,--preferring that both he and Cosette should remain poor,
rather than that they should be rich with wealth that was not clean.

Moreover, Jean Valjean began vaguely to surmise that he was being shown
the door.

On the following day, he underwent something like a shock on entering
the ground-floor room. The arm-chairs had disappeared. There was not a
single chair of any sort.

"Ah, what's this!" exclaimed Cosette as she entered, "no chairs! Where
are the arm-chairs?"

"They are no longer here," replied Jean Valjean.

"This is too much!"

Jean Valjean stammered:

"It was I who told Basque to remove them."

"And your reason?"

"I have only a few minutes to stay to-day."

"A brief stay is no reason for remaining standing."

"I think that Basque needed the chairs for the drawing-room."


"You have company this evening, no doubt."

"We expect no one."

Jean Valjean had not another word to say.

Cosette shrugged her shoulders.

"To have the chairs carried off! The other day you had the fire put out.
How odd you are!"

"Adieu!" murmured Jean Valjean.

He did not say: "Adieu, Cosette." But he had not the strength to say:
"Adieu, Madame."

He went away utterly overwhelmed.

This time he had understood.

On the following day he did not come. Cosette only observed the fact in
the evening.

"Why," said she, "Monsieur Jean has not been here today."

And she felt a slight twinge at her heart, but she hardly perceived it,
being immediately diverted by a kiss from Marius.

On the following day he did not come.

Cosette paid no heed to this, passed her evening and slept well that
night, as usual, and thought of it only when she woke. She was so happy!
She speedily despatched Nicolette to M. Jean's house to inquire whether
he were ill, and why he had not come on the previous evening. Nicolette
brought back the reply of M. Jean that he was not ill. He was busy. He
would come soon. As soon as he was able. Moreover, he was on the point
of taking a little journey. Madame must remember that it was his custom
to take trips from time to time. They were not to worry about him. They
were not to think of him.

Nicolette on entering M. Jean's had repeated to him her mistress' very
words. That Madame had sent her to inquire why M. Jean bad not come on
the preceding evening."--It is two days since I have been there," said
Jean Valjean gently.

But the remark passed unnoticed by Nicolette, who did not report it to


During the last months of spring and the first months of summer in 1833,
the rare passersby in the Marais, the petty shopkeepers, the loungers on
thresholds, noticed an old man neatly clad in black, who emerged every
day at the same hour, towards nightfall, from the Rue de l'Homme Arme,
on the side of the Rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, passed in front
of the Blancs Manteaux, gained the Rue Culture-Sainte-Catherine, and,
on arriving at the Rue de l'Echarpe, turned to the left, and entered the
Rue Saint-Louis.

There he walked at a slow pace, with his head strained forward, seeing
nothing, hearing nothing, his eye immovably fixed on a point which
seemed to be a star to him, which never varied, and which was no
other than the corner of the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire. The nearer he
approached the corner of the street the more his eye lighted up; a sort
of joy illuminated his pupils like an inward aurora, he had a fascinated
and much affected air, his lips indulged in obscure movements, as though
he were talking to some one whom he did not see, he smiled vaguely and
advanced as slowly as possible. One would have said that, while desirous
of reaching his destination, he feared the moment when he should be
close at hand. When only a few houses remained between him and that
street which appeared to attract him his pace slackened, to such a
degree that, at times, one might have thought that he was no longer
advancing at all. The vacillation of his head and the fixity of his
eyeballs suggested the thought of the magnetic needle seeking the pole.
Whatever time he spent on arriving, he was obliged to arrive at last; he
reached the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire; then he halted, he trembled, he
thrust his head with a sort of melancholy timidity round the corner of
the last house, and gazed into that street, and there was in that tragic
look something which resembled the dazzling light of the impossible,
and the reflection from a paradise that was closed to him. Then a tear,
which had slowly gathered in the corner of his lids, and had become
large enough to fall, trickled down his cheek, and sometimes stopped at
his mouth. The old man tasted its bitter flavor. Thus he remained for
several minutes as though made of stone, then he returned by the same
road and with the same step, and, in proportion as he retreated, his
glance died out.

Little by little, this old man ceased to go as far as the corner of the
Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire; he halted half way in the Rue Saint-Louis;
sometimes a little further off, sometimes a little nearer.

One day he stopped at the corner of the Rue Culture-Sainte-Catherine and
looked at the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire from a distance. Then he
shook his head slowly from right to left, as though refusing himself
something, and retraced his steps.

Soon he no longer came as far as the Rue Saint-Louis. He got as far as
the Rue Pavee, shook his head and turned back; then he went no
further than the Rue des Trois-Pavillons; then he did not overstep the
Blancs-Manteaux. One would have said that he was a pendulum which was
no longer wound up, and whose oscillations were growing shorter before
ceasing altogether.

Every day he emerged from his house at the same hour, he undertook the
same trip, but he no longer completed it, and, perhaps without
himself being aware of the fact, he constantly shortened it. His whole
countenance expressed this single idea: What is the use?--His eye was
dim; no more radiance. His tears were also exhausted; they no longer
collected in the corner of his eye-lid; that thoughtful eye was dry. The
old man's head was still craned forward; his chin moved at times; the
folds in his gaunt neck were painful to behold. Sometimes, when the
weather was bad, he had an umbrella under his arm, but he never opened

The good women of the quarter said: "He is an innocent." The children
followed him and laughed.



It is a terrible thing to be happy! How content one is! How
all-sufficient one finds it! How, being in possession of the false
object of life, happiness, one forgets the true object, duty!

Let us say, however, that the reader would do wrong were he to blame

Marius, as we have explained, before his marriage, had put no questions
to M. Fauchelevent, and, since that time, he had feared to put any to
Jean Valjean. He had regretted the promise into which he had allowed
himself to be drawn. He had often said to himself that he had done
wrong in making that concession to despair. He had confined himself to
gradually estranging Jean Valjean from his house and to effacing him,
as much as possible, from Cosette's mind. He had, in a manner, always
placed himself between Cosette and Jean Valjean, sure that, in this
way, she would not perceive nor think of the latter. It was more than
effacement, it was an eclipse.

Marius did what he considered necessary and just. He thought that he had
serious reasons which the reader has already seen, and others which will
be seen later on, for getting rid of Jean Valjean without harshness, but
without weakness.

Chance having ordained that he should encounter, in a case which he had
argued, a former employee of the Laffitte establishment, he had acquired
mysterious information, without seeking it, which he had not been
able, it is true, to probe, out of respect for the secret which he had
promised to guard, and out of consideration for Jean Valjean's perilous
position. He believed at that moment that he had a grave duty to
perform: the restitution of the six hundred thousand francs to some
one whom he sought with all possible discretion. In the meanwhile, he
abstained from touching that money.

As for Cosette, she had not been initiated into any of these secrets;
but it would be harsh to condemn her also.

There existed between Marius and her an all-powerful magnetism, which
caused her to do, instinctively and almost mechanically, what Marius
wished. She was conscious of Marius' will in the direction of "Monsieur
Jean," she conformed to it. Her husband had not been obliged to say
anything to her; she yielded to the vague but clear pressure of his
tacit intentions, and obeyed blindly. Her obedience in this instance
consisted in not remembering what Marius forgot. She was not obliged to
make any effort to accomplish this. Without her knowing why herself, and
without his having any cause to accuse her of it, her soul had become
so wholly her husband's that that which was shrouded in gloom in Marius'
mind became overcast in hers.

Let us not go too far, however; in what concerns Jean Valjean, this
forgetfulness and obliteration were merely superficial. She was rather
heedless than forgetful. At bottom, she was sincerely attached to the
man whom she had so long called her father; but she loved her husband
still more dearly. This was what had somewhat disturbed the balance of
her heart, which leaned to one side only.

It sometimes happened that Cosette spoke of Jean Valjean and expressed
her surprise. Then Marius calmed her: "He is absent, I think. Did not
he say that he was setting out on a journey?"--"That is true," thought
Cosette. "He had a habit of disappearing in this fashion. But not for so
long." Two or three times she despatched Nicolette to inquire in the
Rue de l'Homme Arme whether M. Jean had returned from his journey. Jean
Valjean caused the answer "no" to be given.

Cosette asked nothing more, since she had but one need on earth, Marius.

Let us also say that, on their side, Cosette and Marius had also
been absent. They had been to Vernon. Marius had taken Cosette to his
father's grave.

Marius gradually won Cosette away from Jean Valjean. Cosette allowed it.

Moreover that which is called, far too harshly in certain cases, the
ingratitude of children, is not always a thing so deserving of reproach
as it is supposed. It is the ingratitude of nature. Nature, as we have
elsewhere said, "looks before her." Nature divides living beings into
those who are arriving and those who are departing. Those who are
departing are turned towards the shadows, those who are arriving towards
the light. Hence a gulf which is fatal on the part of the old, and
involuntary on the part of the young. This breach, at first insensible,
increases slowly, like all separations of branches. The boughs, without
becoming detached from the trunk, grow away from it. It is no fault of
theirs. Youth goes where there is joy, festivals, vivid lights, love.
Old age goes towards the end. They do not lose sight of each other, but
there is no longer a close connection. Young people feel the cooling
off of life; old people, that of the tomb. Let us not blame these poor


One day, Jean Valjean descended his staircase, took three steps in the
street, seated himself on a post, on that same stone post where Gavroche
had found him meditating on the night between the 5th and the 6th of
June; he remained there a few moments, then went up stairs again. This
was the last oscillation of the pendulum. On the following day he did
not leave his apartment. On the day after that, he did not leave his

His portress, who prepared his scanty repasts, a few cabbages or
potatoes with bacon, glanced at the brown earthenware plate and

"But you ate nothing yesterday, poor, dear man!"

"Certainly I did," replied Jean Valjean.

"The plate is quite full."

"Look at the water jug. It is empty."

"That proves that you have drunk; it does not prove that you have

"Well," said Jean Valjean, "what if I felt hungry only for water?"

"That is called thirst, and, when one does not eat at the same time, it
is called fever."

"I will eat to-morrow."

"Or at Trinity day. Why not to-day? Is it the thing to say: 'I will eat
to-morrow'? The idea of leaving my platter without even touching it! My
ladyfinger potatoes were so good!"

Jean Valjean took the old woman's hand:

"I promise you that I will eat them," he said, in his benevolent voice.

"I am not pleased with you," replied the portress.

Jean Valjean saw no other human creature than this good woman. There are
streets in Paris through which no one ever passes, and houses to which
no one ever comes. He was in one of those streets and one of those

While he still went out, he had purchased of a coppersmith, for a few
sous, a little copper crucifix which he had hung up on a nail opposite
his bed. That gibbet is always good to look at.

A week passed, and Jean Valjean had not taken a step in his room. He
still remained in bed. The portress said to her husband:--"The good man
upstairs yonder does not get up, he no longer eats, he will not last
long. That man has his sorrows, that he has. You won't get it out of my
head that his daughter has made a bad marriage."

The porter replied, with the tone of marital sovereignty:

"If he's rich, let him have a doctor. If he is not rich, let him go
without. If he has no doctor he will die."

"And if he has one?"

"He will die," said the porter.

The portress set to scraping away the grass from what she called her
pavement, with an old knife, and, as she tore out the blades, she

"It's a shame. Such a neat old man! He's as white as a chicken."

She caught sight of the doctor of the quarter as he passed the end of
the street; she took it upon herself to request him to come up stairs.

"It's on the second floor," said she. "You have only to enter. As the
good man no longer stirs from his bed, the door is always unlocked."

The doctor saw Jean Valjean and spoke with him.

When he came down again the portress interrogated him:

"Well, doctor?"

"Your sick man is very ill indeed."

"What is the matter with him?"

"Everything and nothing. He is a man who, to all appearances, has lost
some person who is dear to him. People die of that."

"What did he say to you?"

"He told me that he was in good health."

"Shall you come again, doctor?"

"Yes," replied the doctor. "But some one else besides must come."


One evening Jean Valjean found difficulty in raising himself on his
elbow; he felt of his wrist and could not find his pulse; his breath
was short and halted at times; he recognized the fact that he was weaker
than he had ever been before. Then, no doubt under the pressure of some
supreme preoccupation, he made an effort, drew himself up into a sitting
posture and dressed himself. He put on his old workingman's clothes. As
he no longer went out, he had returned to them and preferred them. He
was obliged to pause many times while dressing himself; merely putting
his arms through his waistcoat made the perspiration trickle from his

Since he had been alone, he had placed his bed in the antechamber, in
order to inhabit that deserted apartment as little as possible.

He opened the valise and drew from it Cosette's outfit.

He spread it out on his bed.

The Bishop's candlesticks were in their place on the chimney-piece. He
took from a drawer two wax candles and put them in the candlesticks.
Then, although it was still broad daylight,--it was summer,--he lighted
them. In the same way candles are to be seen lighted in broad daylight
in chambers where there is a corpse.

Every step that he took in going from one piece of furniture to another
exhausted him, and he was obliged to sit down. It was not ordinary
fatigue which expends the strength only to renew it; it was the remnant
of all movement possible to him, it was life drained which flows away
drop by drop in overwhelming efforts and which will never be renewed.

The chair into which he allowed himself to fall was placed in front of
that mirror, so fatal for him, so providential for Marius, in which
he had read Cosette's reversed writing on the blotting book. He caught
sight of himself in this mirror, and did not recognize himself. He was
eighty years old; before Marius' marriage, he would have hardly been
taken for fifty; that year had counted for thirty. What he bore on his
brow was no longer the wrinkles of age, it was the mysterious mark of
death. The hollowing of that pitiless nail could be felt there. His
cheeks were pendulous; the skin of his face had the color which would
lead one to think that it already had earth upon it; the corners of his
mouth drooped as in the mask which the ancients sculptured on tombs. He
gazed into space with an air of reproach; one would have said that he
was one of those grand tragic beings who have cause to complain of some

He was in that condition, the last phase of dejection, in which sorrow
no longer flows; it is coagulated, so to speak; there is something on
the soul like a clot of despair.

Night had come. He laboriously dragged a table and the old arm-chair to
the fireside, and placed upon the table a pen, some ink and some paper.

That done, he had a fainting fit. When he recovered consciousness, he
was thirsty. As he could not lift the jug, he tipped it over painfully
towards his mouth, and swallowed a draught.

As neither the pen nor the ink had been used for a long time, the point
of the pen had curled up, the ink had dried away, he was forced to rise
and put a few drops of water in the ink, which he did not accomplish
without pausing and sitting down two or three times, and he was
compelled to write with the back of the pen. He wiped his brow from time
to time.

Then he turned towards the bed, and, still seated, for he could not
stand, he gazed at the little black gown and all those beloved objects.

These contemplations lasted for hours which seemed minutes.

All at once he shivered, he felt that a child was taking possession of
him; he rested his elbows on the table, which was illuminated by the
Bishop's candles and took up the pen. His hand trembled. He wrote slowly
the few following lines:

"Cosette, I bless thee. I am going to explain to thee. Thy husband was
right in giving me to understand that I ought to go away; but there is
a little error in what he believed, though he was in the right. He is
excellent. Love him well even after I am dead. Monsieur Pontmercy, love
my darling child well. Cosette, this paper will be found; this is what
I wish to say to thee, thou wilt see the figures, if I have the strength
to recall them, listen well, this money is really thine. Here is the
whole matter: White jet comes from Norway, black jet comes from England,
black glass jewellery comes from Germany. Jet is the lightest, the most
precious, the most costly. Imitations can be made in France as well as
in Germany. What is needed is a little anvil two inches square, and a
lamp burning spirits of wine to soften the wax. The wax was formerly
made with resin and lampblack, and cost four livres the pound. I
invented a way of making it with gum shellac and turpentine. It does not
cost more than thirty sous, and is much better. Buckles are made with
a violet glass which is stuck fast, by means of this wax, to a little
framework of black iron. The glass must be violet for iron jewellery,
and black for gold jewellery. Spain buys a great deal of it. It is the
country of jet . . ."

Here he paused, the pen fell from his fingers, he was seized by one of
those sobs which at times welled up from the very depths of his being;
the poor man clasped his head in both hands, and meditated.

"Oh!" he exclaimed within himself [lamentable cries, heard by God
alone], "all is over. I shall never see her more. She is a smile which
passed over me. I am about to plunge into the night without even seeing
her again. Oh! one minute, one instant, to hear her voice, to touch her
dress, to gaze upon her, upon her, the angel! and then to die! It is
nothing to die, what is frightful is to die without seeing her. She
would smile on me, she would say a word to me, would that do any harm to
any one? No, all is over, and forever. Here I am all alone. My God! My
God! I shall never see her again!" At that moment there came a knock at
the door.


That same day, or to speak more accurately, that same evening, as Marius
left the table, and was on the point of withdrawing to his study, having
a case to look over, Basque handed him a letter saying: "The person who
wrote the letter is in the antechamber."

Cosette had taken the grandfather's arm and was strolling in the garden.

A letter, like a man, may have an unprepossessing exterior. Coarse
paper, coarsely folded--the very sight of certain missives is

The letter which Basque had brought was of this sort.

Marius took it. It smelled of tobacco. Nothing evokes a memory like an
odor. Marius recognized that tobacco. He looked at the superscription:
"To Monsieur, Monsieur le Baron Pommerci. At his hotel." The recognition
of the tobacco caused him to recognize the writing as well. It may be
said that amazement has its lightning flashes.

Marius was, as it were, illuminated by one of these flashes.

The sense of smell, that mysterious aid to memory, had just revived a
whole world within him. This was certainly the paper, the fashion
of folding, the dull tint of ink; it was certainly the well-known
handwriting, especially was it the same tobacco.

The Jondrette garret rose before his mind.

Thus, strange freak of chance! one of the two scents which he had so
diligently sought, the one in connection with which he had lately again
exerted so many efforts and which he supposed to be forever lost, had
come and presented itself to him of its own accord.

He eagerly broke the seal, and read:

 "Monsieur le Baron:--If the Supreme Being had given me the talents,
 I might have been baron Thenard, member of the Institute [academy
 of ciences], but I am not.  I only bear the same as him, happy if
 this memory recommends me to the eccellence of your kindnesses.
 The benefit with which you will honor me will be reciprocle.
 I am in possession of a secret concerning an individual.
 This individual concerns you.  I hold the secret at your disposal
 desiring to have the honor to be huseful to you.  I will furnish
 you with the simple means of driving from your honorabel family
 that individual who has no right there, madame la baronne being
 of lofty birth.  The sanctuary of virtue cannot cohabit longer
 with crime without abdicating.

 "I awate in the entichamber the orders of monsieur le baron.

                                               "With respect."

The letter was signed "Thenard."

This signature was not false. It was merely a trifle abridged.

Moreover, the rigmarole and the orthography completed the revelation.
The certificate of origin was complete.

Marius' emotion was profound. After a start of surprise, he underwent a
feeling of happiness. If he could now but find that other man of whom he
was in search, the man who had saved him, Marius, there would be nothing
left for him to desire.

He opened the drawer of his secretary, took out several bank-notes,
put them in his pocket, closed the secretary again, and rang the bell.
Basque half opened the door.

"Show the man in," said Marius.

Basque announced:

"Monsieur Thenard."

A man entered.

A fresh surprise for Marius. The man who entered was an utter stranger
to him.

This man, who was old, moreover, had a thick nose, his chin swathed in a
cravat, green spectacles with a double screen of green taffeta over his
eyes, and his hair was plastered and flattened down on his brow on
a level with his eyebrows like the wigs of English coachmen in "high
life." His hair was gray. He was dressed in black from head to foot, in
garments that were very threadbare but clean; a bunch of seals depending
from his fob suggested the idea of a watch. He held in his hand an old
hat! He walked in a bent attitude, and the curve in his spine augmented
the profundity of his bow.

The first thing that struck the observer was, that this personage's
coat, which was too ample although carefully buttoned, had not been made
for him.

Here a short digression becomes necessary.

There was in Paris at that epoch, in a low-lived old lodging in the Rue
Beautreillis, near the Arsenal, an ingenious Jew whose profession was
to change villains into honest men. Not for too long, which might have
proved embarrassing for the villain. The change was on sight, for a day
or two, at the rate of thirty sous a day, by means of a costume which
resembled the honesty of the world in general as nearly as possible.
This costumer was called "the Changer"; the pickpockets of Paris
had given him this name and knew him by no other. He had a tolerably
complete wardrobe. The rags with which he tricked out people were almost
probable. He had specialties and categories; on each nail of his
shop hung a social status, threadbare and worn; here the suit of a
magistrate, there the outfit of a Cure, beyond the outfit of a banker,
in one corner the costume of a retired military man, elsewhere
the habiliments of a man of letters, and further on the dress of a

This creature was the costumer of the immense drama which knavery plays
in Paris. His lair was the green-room whence theft emerged, and into
which roguery retreated. A tattered knave arrived at this dressing-room,
deposited his thirty sous and selected, according to the part which
he wished to play, the costume which suited him, and on descending the
stairs once more, the knave was a somebody. On the following day, the
clothes were faithfully returned, and the Changer, who trusted the
thieves with everything, was never robbed. There was one inconvenience
about these clothes, they "did not fit"; not having been made for those
who wore them, they were too tight for one, too loose for another and
did not adjust themselves to any one. Every pickpocket who exceeded or
fell short of the human average was ill at his ease in the Changer's
costumes. It was necessary that one should not be either too fat or
too lean. The changer had foreseen only ordinary men. He had taken the
measure of the species from the first rascal who came to hand, who is
neither stout nor thin, neither tall nor short. Hence adaptations which
were sometimes difficult and from which the Changer's clients extricated
themselves as best they might. So much the worse for the exceptions!
The suit of the statesman, for instance, black from head to foot, and
consequently proper, would have been too large for Pitt and too small
for Castelcicala. The costume of a statesman was designated as follows
in the Changer's catalogue; we copy:

"A coat of black cloth, trowsers of black wool, a silk waistcoat, boots
and linen." On the margin there stood: ex-ambassador, and a note
which we also copy: "In a separate box, a neatly frizzed peruke, green
glasses, seals, and two small quills an inch long, wrapped in cotton."
All this belonged to the statesman, the ex-ambassador. This whole
costume was, if we may so express ourselves, debilitated; the seams were
white, a vague button-hole yawned at one of the elbows; moreover, one of
the coat buttons was missing on the breast; but this was only detail; as
the hand of the statesman should always be thrust into his coat and laid
upon his heart, its function was to conceal the absent button.

If Marius had been familiar with the occult institutions of Paris, he
would instantly have recognized upon the back of the visitor whom
Basque had just shown in, the statesman's suit borrowed from the
pick-me-down-that shop of the Changer.

Marius' disappointment on beholding another man than the one whom he
expected to see turned to the newcomer's disadvantage.

He surveyed him from head to foot, while that personage made exaggerated
bows, and demanded in a curt tone:

"What do you want?"

The man replied with an amiable grin of which the caressing smile of a
crocodile will furnish some idea:

"It seems to me impossible that I should not have already had the honor
of seeing Monsieur le Baron in society. I think I actually did meet
monsieur personally, several years ago, at the house of Madame la
Princesse Bagration and in the drawing-rooms of his Lordship the Vicomte
Dambray, peer of France."

It is always a good bit of tactics in knavery to pretend to recognize
some one whom one does not know.

Marius paid attention to the manner of this man's speech. He spied
on his accent and gesture, but his disappointment increased; the
pronunciation was nasal and absolutely unlike the dry, shrill tone which
he had expected.

He was utterly routed.

"I know neither Madame Bagration nor M. Dambray," said he. "I have never
set foot in the house of either of them in my life."

The reply was ungracious. The personage, determined to be gracious at
any cost, insisted.

"Then it must have been at Chateaubriand's that I have seen Monsieur! I
know Chateaubriand very well. He is very affable. He sometimes says to
me: 'Thenard, my friend . . . won't you drink a glass of wine with me?'"

Marius' brow grew more and more severe:

"I have never had the honor of being received by M. de Chateaubriand.
Let us cut it short. What do you want?"

The man bowed lower at that harsh voice.

"Monsieur le Baron, deign to listen to me. There is in America, in a
district near Panama, a village called la Joya. That village is composed
of a single house, a large, square house of three stories, built of
bricks dried in the sun, each side of the square five hundred feet in
length, each story retreating twelve feet back of the story below, in
such a manner as to leave in front a terrace which makes the circuit
of the edifice, in the centre an inner court where the provisions and
munitions are kept; no windows, loopholes, no doors, ladders, ladders
to mount from the ground to the first terrace, and from the first to the
second, and from the second to the third, ladders to descend into the
inner court, no doors to the chambers, trap-doors, no staircases to the
chambers, ladders; in the evening the traps are closed, the ladders
are withdrawn carbines and blunderbusses trained from the loopholes;
no means of entering, a house by day, a citadel by night, eight hundred
inhabitants,--that is the village. Why so many precautions? because the
country is dangerous; it is full of cannibals. Then why do people go
there? because the country is marvellous; gold is found there."

"What are you driving at?" interrupted Marius, who had passed from
disappointment to impatience.

"At this, Monsieur le Baron. I am an old and weary diplomat. Ancient
civilization has thrown me on my own devices. I want to try savages."


"Monsieur le Baron, egotism is the law of the world. The proletarian
peasant woman, who toils by the day, turns round when the diligence
passes by, the peasant proprietress, who toils in her field, does not
turn round. The dog of the poor man barks at the rich man, the dog
of the rich man barks at the poor man. Each one for himself.
Self-interest--that's the object of men. Gold, that's the loadstone."

"What then? Finish."

"I should like to go and establish myself at la Joya. There are three
of us. I have my spouse and my young lady; a very beautiful girl. The
journey is long and costly. I need a little money."

"What concern is that of mine?" demanded Marius.

The stranger stretched his neck out of his cravat, a gesture
characteristic of the vulture, and replied with an augmented smile.

"Has not Monsieur le Baron perused my letter?"

There was some truth in this. The fact is, that the contents of the
epistle had slipped Marius' mind. He had seen the writing rather than
read the letter. He could hardly recall it. But a moment ago a fresh
start had been given him. He had noted that detail: "my spouse and my
young lady."

He fixed a penetrating glance on the stranger. An examining judge could
not have done the look better. He almost lay in wait for him.

He confined himself to replying:

"State the case precisely."

The stranger inserted his two hands in both his fobs, drew himself up
without straightening his dorsal column, but scrutinizing Marius in his
turn, with the green gaze of his spectacles.

"So be it, Monsieur le Baron. I will be precise. I have a secret to sell
to you."

"A secret?"

"A secret."

"Which concerns me?"


"What is the secret?"

Marius scrutinized the man more and more as he listened to him.

"I commence gratis," said the stranger. "You will see that I am


"Monsieur le Baron, you have in your house a thief and an assassin."

Marius shuddered.

"In my house? no," said he.

The imperturbable stranger brushed his hat with his elbow and went on:

"An assassin and a thief. Remark, Monsieur le Baron, that I do not here
speak of ancient deeds, deeds of the past which have lapsed, which can
be effaced by limitation before the law and by repentance before God.
I speak of recent deeds, of actual facts as still unknown to justice
at this hour. I continue. This man has insinuated himself into your
confidence, and almost into your family under a false name. I am about
to tell you his real name. And to tell it to you for nothing."

"I am listening."

"His name is Jean Valjean."

"I know it."

"I am going to tell you, equally for nothing, who he is."

"Say on."

"He is an ex-convict."

"I know it."

"You know it since I have had the honor of telling you."

"No. I knew it before."

Marius' cold tone, that double reply of "I know it," his laconicism,
which was not favorable to dialogue, stirred up some smouldering wrath
in the stranger. He launched a furious glance on the sly at Marius,
which was instantly extinguished. Rapid as it was, this glance was of
the kind which a man recognizes when he has once beheld it; it did not
escape Marius. Certain flashes can only proceed from certain souls;
the eye, that vent-hole of the thought, glows with it; spectacles hide
nothing; try putting a pane of glass over hell!

The stranger resumed with a smile:

"I will not permit myself to contradict Monsieur le Baron. In any case,
you ought to perceive that I am well informed. Now what I have to tell
you is known to myself alone. This concerns the fortune of Madame la
Baronne. It is an extraordinary secret. It is for sale--I make you the
first offer of it. Cheap. Twenty thousand francs."

"I know that secret as well as the others," said Marius.

The personage felt the necessity of lowering his price a trifle.

"Monsieur le Baron, say ten thousand francs and I will speak."

"I repeat to you that there is nothing which you can tell me. I know
what you wish to say to me."

A fresh flash gleamed in the man's eye. He exclaimed:

"But I must dine to-day, nevertheless. It is an extraordinary secret,
I tell you. Monsieur le Baron, I will speak. I speak. Give me twenty

Marius gazed intently at him:

"I know your extraordinary secret, just as I knew Jean Valjean's name,
just as I know your name."

"My name?"


"That is not difficult, Monsieur le Baron. I had the honor to write to
you and to tell it to you. Thenard."




"Who's that?"

In danger the porcupine bristles up, the beetle feigns death, the old
guard forms in a square; this man burst into laughter.

Then he flicked a grain of dust from the sleeve of his coat with a

Marius continued:

"You are also Jondrette the workman, Fabantou the comedian, Genflot the
poet, Don Alvares the Spaniard, and Mistress Balizard."

"Mistress what?"

"And you kept a pot-house at Montfermeil."

"A pot-house! Never."

"And I tell you that your name is Thenardier."

"I deny it."

"And that you are a rascal. Here."

And Marius drew a bank-note from his pocket and flung it in his face.

"Thanks! Pardon me! five hundred francs! Monsieur le Baron!"

And the man, overcome, bowed, seized the note and examined it.

"Five hundred francs!" he began again, taken aback. And he stammered in
a low voice: "An honest rustler."[69]

Then brusquely:

"Well, so be it!" he exclaimed. "Let us put ourselves at our ease."

And with the agility of a monkey, flinging back his hair, tearing off
his spectacles, and withdrawing from his nose by sleight of hand the two
quills of which mention was recently made, and which the reader has also
met with on another page of this book, he took off his face as the man
takes off his hat.

His eye lighted up; his uneven brow, with hollows in some places and
bumps in others, hideously wrinkled at the top, was laid bare, his nose
had become as sharp as a beak; the fierce and sagacious profile of the
man of prey reappeared.

"Monsieur le Baron is infallible," he said in a clear voice whence all
nasal twang had disappeared, "I am Thenardier."

And he straightened up his crooked back.

Thenardier, for it was really he, was strangely surprised; he would have
been troubled, had he been capable of such a thing. He had come to bring
astonishment, and it was he who had received it. This humiliation had
been worth five hundred francs to him, and, taking it all in all, he
accepted it; but he was none the less bewildered.

He beheld this Baron Pontmercy for the first time, and, in spite of
his disguise, this Baron Pontmercy recognized him, and recognized
him thoroughly. And not only was this Baron perfectly informed as to
Thenardier, but he seemed well posted as to Jean Valjean. Who was this
almost beardless young man, who was so glacial and so generous, who knew
people's names, who knew all their names, and who opened his purse to
them, who bullied rascals like a judge, and who paid them like a dupe?

Thenardier, the reader will remember, although he had been Marius'
neighbor, had never seen him, which is not unusual in Paris; he had
formerly, in a vague way, heard his daughters talk of a very poor young
man named Marius who lived in the house. He had written to him, without
knowing him, the letter with which the reader is acquainted.

No connection between that Marius and M. le Baron Pontmercy was possible
in his mind.

As for the name Pontmercy, it will be recalled that, on the battlefield
of Waterloo, he had only heard the last two syllables, for which he
always entertained the legitimate scorn which one owes to what is merely
an expression of thanks.

However, through his daughter Azelma, who had started on the scent of
the married pair on the 16th of February, and through his own personal
researches, he had succeeded in learning many things, and, from the
depths of his own gloom, he had contrived to grasp more than one
mysterious clew. He had discovered, by dint of industry, or, at least,
by dint of induction, he had guessed who the man was whom he had
encountered on a certain day in the Grand Sewer. From the man he had
easily reached the name. He knew that Madame la Baronne Pontmercy was
Cosette. But he meant to be discreet in that quarter.

Who was Cosette? He did not know exactly himself. He did, indeed, catch
an inkling of illegitimacy, the history of Fantine had always seemed to
him equivocal; but what was the use of talking about that? in order to
cause himself to be paid for his silence? He had, or thought he had,
better wares than that for sale. And, according to all appearances, if
he were to come and make to the Baron Pontmercy this revelation--and
without proof: "Your wife is a bastard," the only result would be to
attract the boot of the husband towards the loins of the revealer.

From Thenardier's point of view, the conversation with Marius had not
yet begun. He ought to have drawn back, to have modified his strategy,
to have abandoned his position, to have changed his front; but nothing
essential had been compromised as yet, and he had five hundred francs
in his pocket. Moreover, he had something decisive to say, and, even
against this very well-informed and well-armed Baron Pontmercy, he felt
himself strong. For men of Thenardier's nature, every dialogue is
a combat. In the one in which he was about to engage, what was his
situation? He did not know to whom he was speaking, but he did know of
what he was speaking, he made this rapid review of his inner forces, and
after having said: "I am Thenardier," he waited.

Marius had become thoughtful. So he had hold of Thenardier at last.
That man whom he had so greatly desired to find was before him. He could
honor Colonel Pontmercy's recommendation.

He felt humiliated that that hero should have owned anything to this
villain, and that the letter of change drawn from the depths of the tomb
by his father upon him, Marius, had been protested up to that day. It
also seemed to him, in the complex state of his mind towards Thenardier,
that there was occasion to avenge the Colonel for the misfortune of
having been saved by such a rascal. In any case, he was content. He
was about to deliver the Colonel's shade from this unworthy creditor
at last, and it seemed to him that he was on the point of rescuing his
father's memory from the debtors' prison. By the side of this duty there
was another--to elucidate, if possible, the source of Cosette's fortune.
The opportunity appeared to present itself. Perhaps Thenardier knew
something. It might prove useful to see the bottom of this man.

He commenced with this.

Thenardier had caused the "honest rustler" to disappear in his fob, and
was gazing at Marius with a gentleness that was almost tender.

Marius broke the silence.

"Thenardier, I have told you your name. Now, would you like to have me
tell you your secret--the one that you came here to reveal to me? I have
information of my own, also. You shall see that I know more about it
than you do. Jean Valjean, as you have said, is an assassin and a thief.
A thief, because he robbed a wealthy manufacturer, whose ruin he brought
about. An assassin, because he assassinated police-agent Javert."

"I don't understand, sir," ejaculated Thenardier.

"I will make myself intelligible. In a certain arrondissement of the Pas
de Calais, there was, in 1822, a man who had fallen out with justice,
and who, under the name of M. Madeleine, had regained his status and
rehabilitated himself. This man had become a just man in the full force
of the term. In a trade, the manufacture of black glass goods, he
made the fortune of an entire city. As far as his personal fortune was
concerned he made that also, but as a secondary matter, and in some
sort, by accident. He was the foster-father of the poor. He founded
hospitals, opened schools, visited the sick, dowered young girls,
supported widows, and adopted orphans; he was like the guardian angel of
the country. He refused the cross, he was appointed Mayor. A liberated
convict knew the secret of a penalty incurred by this man in former
days; he denounced him, and had him arrested, and profited by the arrest
to come to Paris and cause the banker Laffitte,--I have the fact from
the cashier himself,--by means of a false signature, to hand over to
him the sum of over half a million which belonged to M. Madeleine. This
convict who robbed M. Madeleine was Jean Valjean. As for the other fact,
you have nothing to tell me about it either. Jean Valjean killed the
agent Javert; he shot him with a pistol. I, the person who is speaking
to you, was present."

Thenardier cast upon Marius the sovereign glance of a conquered man who
lays his hand once more upon the victory, and who has just regained, in
one instant, all the ground which he has lost. But the smile returned
instantly. The inferior's triumph in the presence of his superior must
be wheedling.

Thenardier contented himself with saying to Marius:

"Monsieur le Baron, we are on the wrong track."

And he emphasized this phrase by making his bunch of seals execute an
expressive whirl.

"What!" broke forth Marius, "do you dispute that? These are facts."

"They are chimeras. The confidence with which Monsieur le Baron honors
me renders it my duty to tell him so. Truth and justice before all
things. I do not like to see folks accused unjustly. Monsieur le Baron,
Jean Valjean did not rob M. Madeleine and Jean Valjean did not kill

"This is too much! How is this?"

"For two reasons."

"What are they? Speak."

"This is the first: he did not rob M. Madeleine, because it is Jean
Valjean himself who was M. Madeleine."

"What tale are you telling me?"

"And this is the second: he did not assassinate Javert, because the
person who killed Javert was Javert."

"What do you mean to say?"

"That Javert committed suicide."

"Prove it! prove it!" cried Marius beside himself.

Thenardier resumed, scanning his phrase after the manner of the ancient
Alexandrine measure:


"But prove it!"

Thenardier drew from his pocket a large envelope of gray paper, which
seemed to contain sheets folded in different sizes.

"I have my papers," he said calmly.

And he added:

"Monsieur le Baron, in your interests I desired to know Jean Valjean
thoroughly. I say that Jean Valjean and M. Madeleine are one and the
same man, and I say that Javert had no other assassin than Javert. If
I speak, it is because I have proofs. Not manuscript proofs--writing is
suspicious, handwriting is complaisant,--but printed proofs."

As he spoke, Thenardier extracted from the envelope two copies of
newspapers, yellow, faded, and strongly saturated with tobacco. One of
these two newspapers, broken at every fold and falling into rags, seemed
much older than the other.

"Two facts, two proofs," remarked Thenardier. And he offered the two
newspapers, unfolded, to Marius.

The reader is acquainted with these two papers. One, the most ancient, a
number of the Drapeau Blanc of the 25th of July, 1823, the text of
which can be seen in the first volume, established the identity of M.
Madeleine and Jean Valjean.

The other, a Moniteur of the 15th of June, 1832, announced the suicide
of Javert, adding that it appeared from a verbal report of Javert to the
prefect that, having been taken prisoner in the barricade of the Rue de
la Chanvrerie, he had owed his life to the magnanimity of an insurgent
who, holding him under his pistol, had fired into the air, instead of
blowing out his brains.

Marius read. He had evidence, a certain date, irrefragable proof, these
two newspapers had not been printed expressly for the purpose of backing
up Thenardier's statements; the note printed in the Moniteur had been an
administrative communication from the Prefecture of Police. Marius could
not doubt.

The information of the cashier-clerk had been false, and he himself had
been deceived.

Jean Valjean, who had suddenly grown grand, emerged from his cloud.
Marius could not repress a cry of joy.

"Well, then this unhappy wretch is an admirable man! the whole of that
fortune really belonged to him! he is Madeleine, the providence of a
whole countryside! he is Jean Valjean, Javert's savior! he is a hero! he
is a saint!"

"He's not a saint, and he's not a hero!" said Thenardier. "He's an
assassin and a robber."

And he added, in the tone of a man who begins to feel that he possesses
some authority:

"Let us be calm."

Robber, assassin--those words which Marius thought had disappeared and
which returned, fell upon him like an ice-cold shower-bath.

"Again!" said he.

"Always," ejaculated Thenardier. "Jean Valjean did not rob Madeleine,
but he is a thief. He did not kill Javert, but he is a murderer."

"Will you speak," retorted Marius, "of that miserable theft, committed
forty years ago, and expiated, as your own newspapers prove, by a whole
life of repentance, of self-abnegation and of virtue?"

"I say assassination and theft, Monsieur le Baron, and I repeat that I
am speaking of actual facts. What I have to reveal to you is absolutely
unknown. It belongs to unpublished matter. And perhaps you will find in
it the source of the fortune so skilfully presented to Madame la Baronne
by Jean Valjean. I say skilfully, because, by a gift of that nature it
would not be so very unskilful to slip into an honorable house whose
comforts one would then share, and, at the same stroke, to conceal one's
crime, and to enjoy one's theft, to bury one's name and to create for
oneself a family."

"I might interrupt you at this point," said Marius, "but go on."

"Monsieur le Baron, I will tell you all, leaving the recompense to your
generosity. This secret is worth massive gold. You will say to me: 'Why
do not you apply to Jean Valjean?' For a very simple reason; I know
that he has stripped himself, and stripped himself in your favor, and I
consider the combination ingenious; but he has no longer a son, he would
show me his empty hands, and, since I am in need of some money for
my trip to la Joya, I prefer you, you who have it all, to him who has
nothing. I am a little fatigued, permit me to take a chair."

Marius seated himself and motioned to him to do the same.

Thenardier installed himself on a tufted chair, picked up his two
newspapers, thrust them back into their envelope, and murmured as he
pecked at the Drapeau Blanc with his nail: "It cost me a good deal of
trouble to get this one."

That done he crossed his legs and stretched himself out on the back of
the chair, an attitude characteristic of people who are sure of what
they are saying, then he entered upon his subject gravely, emphasizing
his words:

"Monsieur le Baron, on the 6th of June, 1832, about a year ago, on the
day of the insurrection, a man was in the Grand Sewer of Paris, at the
point where the sewer enters the Seine, between the Pont des Invalides
and the Pont de Jena."

Marius abruptly drew his chair closer to that of Thenardier. Thenardier
noticed this movement and continued with the deliberation of an orator
who holds his interlocutor and who feels his adversary palpitating under
his words:

"This man, forced to conceal himself, and for reasons, moreover, which
are foreign to politics, had adopted the sewer as his domicile and had
a key to it. It was, I repeat, on the 6th of June; it might have been
eight o'clock in the evening. The man hears a noise in the sewer.
Greatly surprised, he hides himself and lies in wait. It was the sound
of footsteps, some one was walking in the dark, and coming in his
direction. Strange to say, there was another man in the sewer besides
himself. The grating of the outlet from the sewer was not far off.
A little light which fell through it permitted him to recognize the
newcomer, and to see that the man was carrying something on his back.
He was walking in a bent attitude. The man who was walking in a bent
attitude was an ex-convict, and what he was dragging on his shoulders
was a corpse. Assassination caught in the very act, if ever there was
such a thing. As for the theft, that is understood; one does not kill
a man gratis. This convict was on his way to fling the body into the
river. One fact is to be noticed, that before reaching the exit
grating, this convict, who had come a long distance in the sewer, must,
necessarily, have encountered a frightful quagmire where it seems as
though he might have left the body, but the sewermen would have found
the assassinated man the very next day, while at work on the quagmire,
and that did not suit the assassin's plans. He had preferred to
traverse that quagmire with his burden, and his exertions must have been
terrible, for it is impossible to risk one's life more completely; I
don't understand how he could have come out of that alive."

Marius' chair approached still nearer. Thenardier took advantage of this
to draw a long breath. He went on:

"Monsieur le Baron, a sewer is not the Champ de Mars. One lacks
everything there, even room. When two men are there, they must meet.
That is what happened. The man domiciled there and the passer-by were
forced to bid each other good-day, greatly to the regret of both. The
passer-by said to the inhabitant:--"You see what I have on my back, I
must get out, you have the key, give it to me." That convict was a man
of terrible strength. There was no way of refusing. Nevertheless, the
man who had the key parleyed, simply to gain time. He examined the dead
man, but he could see nothing, except that the latter was young, well
dressed, with the air of being rich, and all disfigured with blood.
While talking, the man contrived to tear and pull off behind, without
the assassin perceiving it, a bit of the assassinated man's coat. A
document for conviction, you understand; a means of recovering the trace
of things and of bringing home the crime to the criminal. He put
this document for conviction in his pocket. After which he opened the
grating, made the man go out with his embarrassment on his back, closed
the grating again, and ran off, not caring to be mixed up with the
remainder of the adventure and above all, not wishing to be present
when the assassin threw the assassinated man into the river. Now you
comprehend. The man who was carrying the corpse was Jean Valjean; the
one who had the key is speaking to you at this moment; and the piece of
the coat . . ."

Thenardier completed his phrase by drawing from his pocket, and holding,
on a level with his eyes, nipped between his two thumbs and his two
forefingers, a strip of torn black cloth, all covered with dark spots.

Marius had sprung to his feet, pale, hardly able to draw his breath,
with his eyes riveted on the fragment of black cloth, and, without
uttering a word, without taking his eyes from that fragment, he
retreated to the wall and fumbled with his right hand along the wall for
a key which was in the lock of a cupboard near the chimney.

He found the key, opened the cupboard, plunged his arm into it without
looking, and without his frightened gaze quitting the rag which
Thenardier still held outspread.

But Thenardier continued:

"Monsieur le Baron, I have the strongest of reasons for believing that
the assassinated young man was an opulent stranger lured into a trap by
Jean Valjean, and the bearer of an enormous sum of money."

"The young man was myself, and here is the coat!" cried Marius, and he
flung upon the floor an old black coat all covered with blood.

Then, snatching the fragment from the hands of Thenardier, he crouched
down over the coat, and laid the torn morsel against the tattered skirt.
The rent fitted exactly, and the strip completed the coat.

Thenardier was petrified.

This is what he thought: "I'm struck all of a heap."

Marius rose to his feet trembling, despairing, radiant.

He fumbled in his pocket and stalked furiously to Thenardier, presenting
to him and almost thrusting in his face his fist filled with bank-notes
for five hundred and a thousand francs.

"You are an infamous wretch! you are a liar, a calumniator, a villain.
You came to accuse that man, you have only justified him; you wanted to
ruin him, you have only succeeded in glorifying him. And it is you who
are the thief! And it is you who are the assassin! I saw you, Thenardier
Jondrette, in that lair on the Rue de l'Hopital. I know enough about
you to send you to the galleys and even further if I choose. Here are a
thousand francs, bully that you are!"

And he flung a thousand franc note at Thenardier.

"Ah! Jondrette Thenardier, vile rascal! Let this serve you as a lesson,
you dealer in second-hand secrets, merchant of mysteries, rummager of
the shadows, wretch! Take these five hundred francs and get out of here!
Waterloo protects you."

"Waterloo!" growled Thenardier, pocketing the five hundred francs along
with the thousand.

"Yes, assassin! You there saved the life of a Colonel. . ."

"Of a General," said Thenardier, elevating his head.

"Of a Colonel!" repeated Marius in a rage. "I wouldn't give a ha'penny
for a general. And you come here to commit infamies! I tell you that
you have committed all crimes. Go! disappear! Only be happy, that is all
that I desire. Ah! monster! here are three thousand francs more. Take
them. You will depart to-morrow, for America, with your daughter;
for your wife is dead, you abominable liar. I shall watch over your
departure, you ruffian, and at that moment I will count out to you
twenty thousand francs. Go get yourself hung elsewhere!"

"Monsieur le Baron!" replied Thenardier, bowing to the very earth,
"eternal gratitude." And Thenardier left the room, understanding
nothing, stupefied and delighted with this sweet crushing beneath sacks
of gold, and with that thunder which had burst forth over his head in

Struck by lightning he was, but he was also content; and he would
have been greatly angered had he had a lightning rod to ward off such
lightning as that.

Let us finish with this man at once.

Two days after the events which we are at this moment narrating, he set
out, thanks to Marius' care, for America under a false name, with his
daughter Azelma, furnished with a draft on New York for twenty thousand

The moral wretchedness of Thenardier, the bourgeois who had missed
his vocation, was irremediable. He was in America what he had been in
Europe. Contact with an evil man sometimes suffices to corrupt a good
action and to cause evil things to spring from it. With Marius' money,
Thenardier set up as a slave-dealer.

As soon as Thenardier had left the house, Marius rushed to the garden,
where Cosette was still walking.

"Cosette! Cosette!" he cried. "Come! come quick! Let us go. Basque, a
carriage! Cosette, come. Ah! My God! It was he who saved my life! Let us
not lose a minute! Put on your shawl."

Cosette thought him mad and obeyed.

He could not breathe, he laid his hand on his heart to restrain its
throbbing. He paced back and forth with huge strides, he embraced

"Ah! Cosette! I am an unhappy wretch!" said he.

Marius was bewildered. He began to catch a glimpse in Jean Valjean of
some indescribably lofty and melancholy figure. An unheard-of virtue,
supreme and sweet, humble in its immensity, appeared to him. The convict
was transfigured into Christ.

Marius was dazzled by this prodigy. He did not know precisely what he
beheld, but it was grand.

In an instant, a hackney-carriage stood in front of the door.

Marius helped Cosette in and darted in himself.

"Driver," said he, "Rue de l'Homme Arme, Number 7."

The carriage drove off.

"Ah! what happiness!" ejaculated Cosette. "Rue de l'Homme Arme, I did
not dare to speak to you of that. We are going to see M. Jean."

"Thy father! Cosette, thy father more than ever. Cosette, I guess it.
You told me that you had never received the letter that I sent you by
Gavroche. It must have fallen into his hands. Cosette, he went to the
barricade to save me. As it is a necessity with him to be an angel, he
saved others also; he saved Javert. He rescued me from that gulf to give
me to you. He carried me on his back through that frightful sewer. Ah! I
am a monster of ingratitude. Cosette, after having been your providence,
he became mine. Just imagine, there was a terrible quagmire enough to
drown one a hundred times over, to drown one in mire. Cosette! he made
me traverse it. I was unconscious; I saw nothing, I heard nothing, I
could know nothing of my own adventure. We are going to bring him back,
to take him with us, whether he is willing or not, he shall never leave
us again. If only he is at home! Provided only that we can find him,
I will pass the rest of my life in venerating him. Yes, that is how it
should be, do you see, Cosette? Gavroche must have delivered my letter
to him. All is explained. You understand."

Cosette did not understand a word.

"You are right," she said to him.

Meanwhile the carriage rolled on.


Jean Valjean turned round at the knock which he heard on his door.

"Come in," he said feebly.

The door opened.

Cosette and Marius made their appearance.

Cosette rushed into the room.

Marius remained on the threshold, leaning against the jamb of the door.

"Cosette!" said Jean Valjean.

And he sat erect in his chair, his arms outstretched and trembling,
haggard, livid, gloomy, an immense joy in his eyes.

Cosette, stifling with emotion, fell upon Jean Valjean's breast.

"Father!" said she.

Jean Valjean, overcome, stammered:

"Cosette! she! you! Madame! it is thou! Ah! my God!"

And, pressed close in Cosette's arms, he exclaimed:

"It is thou! thou art here! Thou dost pardon me then!"

Marius, lowering his eyelids, in order to keep his tears from flowing,
took a step forward and murmured between lips convulsively contracted to
repress his sobs:

"My father!"

"And you also, you pardon me!" Jean Valjean said to him.

Marius could find no words, and Jean Valjean added:


Cosette tore off her shawl and tossed her hat on the bed.

"It embarrasses me," said she.

And, seating herself on the old man's knees, she put aside his white
locks with an adorable movement, and kissed his brow.

Jean Valjean, bewildered, let her have her own way.

Cosette, who only understood in a very confused manner, redoubled her
caresses, as though she desired to pay Marius' debt.

Jean Valjean stammered:

"How stupid people are! I thought that I should never see her again.
Imagine, Monsieur Pontmercy, at the very moment when you entered, I
was saying to myself: 'All is over. Here is her little gown, I am a
miserable man, I shall never see Cosette again,' and I was saying that
at the very moment when you were mounting the stairs. Was not I an
idiot? Just see how idiotic one can be! One reckons without the good
God. The good God says:

"'You fancy that you are about to be abandoned, stupid! No. No, things
will not go so. Come, there is a good man yonder who is in need of an
angel.' And the angel comes, and one sees one's Cosette again! and one
sees one's little Cosette once more! Ah! I was very unhappy."

For a moment he could not speak, then he went on:

"I really needed to see Cosette a little bit now and then. A heart needs
a bone to gnaw. But I was perfectly conscious that I was in the way. I
gave myself reasons: 'They do not want you, keep in your own course,
one has not the right to cling eternally.' Ah! God be praised, I see her
once more! Dost thou know, Cosette, thy husband is very handsome? Ah!
what a pretty embroidered collar thou hast on, luckily. I am fond of
that pattern. It was thy husband who chose it, was it not? And then,
thou shouldst have some cashmere shawls. Let me call her thou, Monsieur
Pontmercy. It will not be for long."

And Cosette began again:

"How wicked of you to have left us like that! Where did you go? Why have
you stayed away so long? Formerly your journeys only lasted three or
four days. I sent Nicolette, the answer always was: 'He is absent.' How
long have you been back? Why did you not let us know? Do you know that
you are very much changed? Ah! what a naughty father! he has been ill,
and we have not known it! Stay, Marius, feel how cold his hand is!"

"So you are here! Monsieur Pontmercy, you pardon me!" repeated Jean

At that word which Jean Valjean had just uttered once more, all that was
swelling Marius' heart found vent.

He burst forth:

"Cosette, do you hear? he has come to that! he asks my forgiveness! And
do you know what he has done for me, Cosette? He has saved my life. He
has done more--he has given you to me. And after having saved me, and
after having given you to me, Cosette, what has he done with himself? He
has sacrificed himself. Behold the man. And he says to me the ingrate,
to me the forgetful, to me the pitiless, to me the guilty one: Thanks!
Cosette, my whole life passed at the feet of this man would be too
little. That barricade, that sewer, that furnace, that cesspool,--all
that he traversed for me, for thee, Cosette! He carried me away through
all the deaths which he put aside before me, and accepted for himself.
Every courage, every virtue, every heroism, every sanctity he possesses!
Cosette, that man is an angel!"

"Hush! hush!" said Jean Valjean in a low voice. "Why tell all that?"

"But you!" cried Marius with a wrath in which there was veneration, "why
did you not tell it to me? It is your own fault, too. You save people's
lives, and you conceal it from them! You do more, under the pretext of
unmasking yourself, you calumniate yourself. It is frightful."

"I told the truth," replied Jean Valjean.

"No," retorted Marius, "the truth is the whole truth; and that you did
not tell. You were Monsieur Madeleine, why not have said so? You saved
Javert, why not have said so? I owed my life to you, why not have said

"Because I thought as you do. I thought that you were in the right. It
was necessary that I should go away. If you had known about that affair,
of the sewer, you would have made me remain near you. I was therefore
forced to hold my peace. If I had spoken, it would have caused
embarrassment in every way."

"It would have embarrassed what? embarrassed whom?" retorted Marius. "Do
you think that you are going to stay here? We shall carry you off. Ah!
good heavens! when I reflect that it was by an accident that I have
learned all this. You form a part of ourselves. You are her father,
and mine. You shall not pass another day in this dreadful house. Do not
imagine that you will be here to-morrow."

"To-morrow," said Jean Valjean, "I shall not be here, but I shall not be
with you."

"What do you mean?" replied Marius. "Ah! come now, we are not going to
permit any more journeys. You shall never leave us again. You belong to
us. We shall not loose our hold of you."

"This time it is for good," added Cosette. "We have a carriage at the
door. I shall run away with you. If necessary, I shall employ force."

And she laughingly made a movement to lift the old man in her arms.

"Your chamber still stands ready in our house," she went on. "If you
only knew how pretty the garden is now! The azaleas are doing very
well there. The walks are sanded with river sand; there are tiny violet
shells. You shall eat my strawberries. I water them myself. And no
more 'madame,' no more 'Monsieur Jean,' we are living under a Republic,
everybody says thou, don't they, Marius? The programme is changed. If
you only knew, father, I have had a sorrow, there was a robin redbreast
which had made her nest in a hole in the wall, and a horrible cat ate
her. My poor, pretty, little robin red-breast which used to put her head
out of her window and look at me! I cried over it. I should have liked
to kill the cat. But now nobody cries any more. Everybody laughs,
everybody is happy. You are going to come with us. How delighted
grandfather will be! You shall have your plot in the garden, you shall
cultivate it, and we shall see whether your strawberries are as fine as
mine. And, then, I shall do everything that you wish, and then, you will
obey me prettily."

Jean Valjean listened to her without hearing her. He heard the music of
her voice rather than the sense of her words; one of those large tears
which are the sombre pearls of the soul welled up slowly in his eyes.

He murmured:

"The proof that God is good is that she is here."

"Father!" said Cosette.

Jean Valjean continued:

"It is quite true that it would be charming for us to live together.
Their trees are full of birds. I would walk with Cosette. It is sweet to
be among living people who bid each other 'good-day,' who call to each
other in the garden. People see each other from early morning. We
should each cultivate our own little corner. She would make me eat her
strawberries. I would make her gather my roses. That would be charming.
Only . . ."

He paused and said gently:

"It is a pity."

The tear did not fall, it retreated, and Jean Valjean replaced it with a

Cosette took both the old man's hands in hers.

"My God!" said she, "your hands are still colder than before. Are you
ill? Do you suffer?"

"I? No," replied Jean Valjean. "I am very well. Only . . ."

He paused.

"Only what?"

"I am going to die presently."

Cosette and Marius shuddered.

"To die!" exclaimed Marius.

"Yes, but that is nothing," said Jean Valjean.

He took breath, smiled and resumed:

"Cosette, thou wert talking to me, go on, so thy little robin red-breast
is dead? Speak, so that I may hear thy voice."

Marius gazed at the old man in amazement.

Cosette uttered a heartrending cry.

"Father! my father! you will live. You are going to live. I insist upon
your living, do you hear?"

Jean Valjean raised his head towards her with adoration.

"Oh! yes, forbid me to die. Who knows? Perhaps I shall obey. I was on
the verge of dying when you came. That stopped me, it seemed to me that
I was born again."

"You are full of strength and life," cried Marius. "Do you imagine that
a person can die like this? You have had sorrow, you shall have no more.
It is I who ask your forgiveness, and on my knees! You are going to
live, and to live with us, and to live a long time. We take possession
of you once more. There are two of us here who will henceforth have no
other thought than your happiness."

"You see," resumed Cosette, all bathed in tears, "that Marius says that
you shall not die."

Jean Valjean continued to smile.

"Even if you were to take possession of me, Monsieur Pontmercy, would
that make me other than I am? No, God has thought like you and myself,
and he does not change his mind; it is useful for me to go. Death is
a good arrangement. God knows better than we what we need. May you be
happy, may Monsieur Pontmercy have Cosette, may youth wed the morning,
may there be around you, my children, lilacs and nightingales; may your
life be a beautiful, sunny lawn, may all the enchantments of heaven fill
your souls, and now let me, who am good for nothing, die; it is certain
that all this is right. Come, be reasonable, nothing is possible now, I
am fully conscious that all is over. And then, last night, I drank that
whole jug of water. How good thy husband is, Cosette! Thou art much
better off with him than with me."

A noise became audible at the door.

It was the doctor entering.

"Good-day, and farewell, doctor," said Jean Valjean. "Here are my poor

Marius stepped up to the doctor. He addressed to him only this single
word: "Monsieur? . . ." But his manner of pronouncing it contained a
complete question.

The doctor replied to the question by an expressive glance.

"Because things are not agreeable," said Jean Valjean, "that is no
reason for being unjust towards God."

A silence ensued.

All breasts were oppressed.

Jean Valjean turned to Cosette. He began to gaze at her as though he
wished to retain her features for eternity.

In the depths of the shadow into which he had already descended, ecstasy
was still possible to him when gazing at Cosette. The reflection of that
sweet face lighted up his pale visage.

The doctor felt of his pulse.

"Ah! it was you that he wanted!" he murmured, looking at Cosette and

And bending down to Marius' ear, he added in a very low voice:

"Too late."

Jean Valjean surveyed the doctor and Marius serenely, almost without
ceasing to gaze at Cosette.

These barely articulate words were heard to issue from his mouth:

"It is nothing to die; it is dreadful not to live."

All at once he rose to his feet. These accesses of strength are
sometimes the sign of the death agony. He walked with a firm step to
the wall, thrusting aside Marius and the doctor who tried to help him,
detached from the wall a little copper crucifix which was suspended
there, and returned to his seat with all the freedom of movement of
perfect health, and said in a loud voice, as he laid the crucifix on the

"Behold the great martyr."

Then his chest sank in, his head wavered, as though the intoxication of
the tomb were seizing hold upon him.

His hands, which rested on his knees, began to press their nails into
the stuff of his trousers.

Cosette supported his shoulders, and sobbed, and tried to speak to him,
but could not.

Among the words mingled with that mournful saliva which accompanies
tears, they distinguished words like the following:

"Father, do not leave us. Is it possible that we have found you only to
lose you again?"

It might be said that agony writhes. It goes, comes, advances towards
the sepulchre, and returns towards life. There is groping in the action
of dying.

Jean Valjean rallied after this semi-swoon, shook his brow as though
to make the shadows fall away from it and became almost perfectly lucid
once more.

He took a fold of Cosette's sleeve and kissed it.

"He is coming back! doctor, he is coming back," cried Marius.

"You are good, both of you," said Jean Valjean. "I am going to tell you
what has caused me pain. What has pained me, Monsieur Pontmercy, is that
you have not been willing to touch that money. That money really belongs
to your wife. I will explain to you, my children, and for that reason,
also, I am glad to see you. Black jet comes from England, white jet
comes from Norway. All this is in this paper, which you will read. For
bracelets, I invented a way of substituting for slides of soldered sheet
iron, slides of iron laid together. It is prettier, better and less
costly. You will understand how much money can be made in that way. So
Cosette's fortune is really hers. I give you these details, in order
that your mind may be set at rest."

The portress had come upstairs and was gazing in at the half-open door.
The doctor dismissed her.

But he could not prevent this zealous woman from exclaiming to the dying
man before she disappeared: "Would you like a priest?"

"I have had one," replied Jean Valjean.

And with his finger he seemed to indicate a point above his head where
one would have said that he saw some one.

It is probable, in fact, that the Bishop was present at this death

Cosette gently slipped a pillow under his loins.

Jean Valjean resumed:

"Have no fear, Monsieur Pontmercy, I adjure you. The six hundred
thousand francs really belong to Cosette. My life will have been wasted
if you do not enjoy them! We managed to do very well with those glass
goods. We rivalled what is called Berlin jewellery. However, we could
not equal the black glass of England. A gross, which contains twelve
hundred very well cut grains, only costs three francs."

When a being who is dear to us is on the point of death, we gaze upon
him with a look which clings convulsively to him and which would fain
hold him back.

Cosette gave her hand to Marius, and both, mute with anguish, not
knowing what to say to the dying man, stood trembling and despairing
before him.

Jean Valjean sank moment by moment. He was failing; he was drawing near
to the gloomy horizon.

His breath had become intermittent; a little rattling interrupted it.
He found some difficulty in moving his forearm, his feet had lost all
movement, and in proportion as the wretchedness of limb and feebleness
of body increased, all the majesty of his soul was displayed and spread
over his brow. The light of the unknown world was already visible in his

His face paled and smiled. Life was no longer there, it was something

His breath sank, his glance grew grander. He was a corpse on which the
wings could be felt.

He made a sign to Cosette to draw near, then to Marius; the last minute
of the last hour had, evidently, arrived.

He began to speak to them in a voice so feeble that it seemed to come
from a distance, and one would have said that a wall now rose between
them and him.

"Draw near, draw near, both of you. I love you dearly. Oh! how good it
is to die like this! And thou lovest me also, my Cosette. I knew well
that thou still felt friendly towards thy poor old man. How kind it was
of thee to place that pillow under my loins! Thou wilt weep for me a
little, wilt thou not? Not too much. I do not wish thee to have any real
griefs. You must enjoy yourselves a great deal, my children. I forgot
to tell you that the profit was greater still on the buckles without
tongues than on all the rest. A gross of a dozen dozens cost ten francs
and sold for sixty. It really was a good business. So there is no
occasion for surprise at the six hundred thousand francs, Monsieur
Pontmercy. It is honest money. You may be rich with a tranquil mind.
Thou must have a carriage, a box at the theatres now and then, and
handsome ball dresses, my Cosette, and then, thou must give good dinners
to thy friends, and be very happy. I was writing to Cosette a while ago.
She will find my letter. I bequeath to her the two candlesticks which
stand on the chimney-piece. They are of silver, but to me they are gold,
they are diamonds; they change candles which are placed in them into
wax-tapers. I do not know whether the person who gave them to me is
pleased with me yonder on high. I have done what I could. My children,
you will not forget that I am a poor man, you will have me buried in the
first plot of earth that you find, under a stone to mark the spot. This
is my wish. No name on the stone. If Cosette cares to come for a little
while now and then, it will give me pleasure. And you too, Monsieur
Pontmercy. I must admit that I have not always loved you. I ask your
pardon for that. Now she and you form but one for me. I feel very
grateful to you. I am sure that you make Cosette happy. If you only
knew, Monsieur Pontmercy, her pretty rosy cheeks were my delight; when I
saw her in the least pale, I was sad. In the chest of drawers, there is
a bank-bill for five hundred francs. I have not touched it. It is for
the poor. Cosette, dost thou see thy little gown yonder on the bed? dost
thou recognize it? That was ten years ago, however. How time flies! We
have been very happy. All is over. Do not weep, my children, I am not
going very far, I shall see you from there, you will only have to
look at night, and you will see me smile. Cosette, dost thou remember
Montfermeil? Thou wert in the forest, thou wert greatly terrified; dost
thou remember how I took hold of the handle of the water-bucket? That
was the first time that I touched thy poor, little hand. It was so cold!
Ah! your hands were red then, mademoiselle, they are very white now. And
the big doll! dost thou remember? Thou didst call her Catherine. Thou
regrettedest not having taken her to the convent! How thou didst make
me laugh sometimes, my sweet angel! When it had been raining, thou didst
float bits of straw on the gutters, and watch them pass away. One day
I gave thee a willow battledore and a shuttlecock with yellow, blue and
green feathers. Thou hast forgotten it. Thou wert roguish so young! Thou
didst play. Thou didst put cherries in thy ears. Those are things of
the past. The forests through which one has passed with one's child, the
trees under which one has strolled, the convents where one has concealed
oneself, the games, the hearty laughs of childhood, are shadows. I
imagined that all that belonged to me. In that lay my stupidity. Those
Thenardiers were wicked. Thou must forgive them. Cosette, the moment
has come to tell thee the name of thy mother. She was called Fantine.
Remember that name--Fantine. Kneel whenever thou utterest it. She
suffered much. She loved thee dearly. She had as much unhappiness as
thou hast had happiness. That is the way God apportions things. He is
there on high, he sees us all, and he knows what he does in the midst of
his great stars. I am on the verge of departure, my children. Love each
other well and always. There is nothing else but that in the world: love
for each other. You will think sometimes of the poor old man who died
here. Oh my Cosette, it is not my fault, indeed, that I have not seen
thee all this time, it cut me to the heart; I went as far as the corner
of the street, I must have produced a queer effect on the people who
saw me pass, I was like a madman, I once went out without my hat. I no
longer see clearly, my children, I had still other things to say, but
never mind. Think a little of me. Come still nearer. I die happy. Give
me your dear and well-beloved heads, so that I may lay my hands upon

Cosette and Marius fell on their knees, in despair, suffocating with
tears, each beneath one of Jean Valjean's hands. Those august hands no
longer moved.

He had fallen backwards, the light of the candles illuminated him.

His white face looked up to heaven, he allowed Cosette and Marius to
cover his hands with kisses.

He was dead.

The night was starless and extremely dark. No doubt, in the gloom, some
immense angel stood erect with wings outspread, awaiting that soul.

[Illustration: Darkness  5b9-1-Darkness]


In the cemetery of Pere-Lachaise, in the vicinity of the common grave,
far from the elegant quarter of that city of sepulchres, far from all
the tombs of fancy which display in the presence of eternity all the
hideous fashions of death, in a deserted corner, beside an old wall,
beneath a great yew tree over which climbs the wild convolvulus, amid
dandelions and mosses, there lies a stone. That stone is no more exempt
than others from the leprosy of time, of dampness, of the lichens and
from the defilement of the birds. The water turns it green, the air
blackens it. It is not near any path, and people are not fond of
walking in that direction, because the grass is high and their feet
are immediately wet. When there is a little sunshine, the lizards
come thither. All around there is a quivering of weeds. In the spring,
linnets warble in the trees.

This stone is perfectly plain. In cutting it the only thought was the
requirements of the tomb, and no other care was taken than to make the
stone long enough and narrow enough to cover a man.

No name is to be read there.

Only, many years ago, a hand wrote upon it in pencil these four lines,
which have become gradually illegible beneath the rain and the dust, and
which are, to-day, probably effaced:

           Il dort. Quoique le sort fut pour lui bien etrange,
           Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n'eut plus son ange.
           La chose simplement d'elle-meme arriva,
           Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s'en va.[70]


Publisher of the Italian translation of Les Miserables in Milan.

                               HAUTEVILLE-HOUSE, October 18, 1862.

You are right, sir, when you tell me that Les Miserables is written for
all nations. I do not know whether it will be read by all, but I wrote
it for all. It is addressed to England as well as to Spain, to Italy as
well as to France, to Germany as well as to Ireland, to Republics which
have slaves as well as to Empires which have serfs. Social problems
overstep frontiers. The sores of the human race, those great sores which
cover the globe, do not halt at the red or blue lines traced upon the
map. In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place
where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of
the book which should instruct him and of the hearth which should warm
him, the book of Les Miserables knocks at the door and says: "Open to
me, I come for you."

At the hour of civilization through which we are now passing, and which
is still so sombre, the miserable's name is Man; he is agonizing in all
climes, and he is groaning in all languages.

Your Italy is no more exempt from the evil than is our France. Your
admirable Italy has all miseries on the face of it. Does not banditism,
that raging form of pauperism, inhabit your mountains? Few nations are
more deeply eaten by that ulcer of convents which I have endeavored to
fathom. In spite of your possessing Rome, Milan, Naples, Palermo, Turin,
Florence, Sienna, Pisa, Mantua, Bologna, Ferrara, Genoa, Venice, a
heroic history, sublime ruins, magnificent ruins, and superb cities,
you are, like ourselves, poor. You are covered with marvels and vermin.
Assuredly, the sun of Italy is splendid, but, alas, azure in the sky
does not prevent rags on man.

Like us, you have prejudices, superstitions, tyrannies, fanaticisms,
blind laws lending assistance to ignorant customs. You taste nothing of
the present nor of the future without a flavor of the past being mingled
with it. You have a barbarian, the monk, and a savage, the lazzarone.
The social question is the same for you as for us. There are a few less
deaths from hunger with you, and a few more from fever; your social
hygiene is not much better than ours; shadows, which are Protestant in
England, are Catholic in Italy; but, under different names, the vescovo
is identical with the bishop, and it always means night, and of pretty
nearly the same quality. To explain the Bible badly amounts to the same
thing as to understand the Gospel badly.

Is it necessary to emphasize this? Must this melancholy parallelism
be yet more completely verified? Have you not indigent persons? Glance
below. Have you not parasites? Glance up. Does not that hideous balance,
whose two scales, pauperism and parasitism, so mournfully preserve their
mutual equilibrium, oscillate before you as it does before us? Where
is your army of schoolmasters, the only army which civilization

Where are your free and compulsory schools? Does every one know how to
read in the land of Dante and of Michael Angelo? Have you made public
schools of your barracks? Have you not, like ourselves, an opulent
war-budget and a paltry budget of education? Have not you also that
passive obedience which is so easily converted into soldierly obedience?
military establishment which pushes the regulations to the extreme of
firing upon Garibaldi; that is to say, upon the living honor of Italy?
Let us subject your social order to examination, let us take it where it
stands and as it stands, let us view its flagrant offences, show me the
woman and the child. It is by the amount of protection with which these
two feeble creatures are surrounded that the degree of civilization
is to be measured. Is prostitution less heartrending in Naples than in
Paris? What is the amount of truth that springs from your laws, and what
amount of justice springs from your tribunals? Do you chance to be so
fortunate as to be ignorant of the meaning of those gloomy words: public
prosecution, legal infamy, prison, the scaffold, the executioner, the
death penalty? Italians, with you as with us, Beccaria is dead and
Farinace is alive. And then, let us scrutinize your state reasons.
Have you a government which comprehends the identity of morality and
politics? You have reached the point where you grant amnesty to heroes!
Something very similar has been done in France. Stay, let us pass
miseries in review, let each one contribute his pile, you are as rich
as we. Have you not, like ourselves, two condemnations, religious
condemnation pronounced by the priest, and social condemnation decreed
by the judge? Oh, great nation of Italy, thou resemblest the great
nation of France! Alas! our brothers, you are, like ourselves,

From the depths of the gloom wherein you dwell, you do not see much more
distinctly than we the radiant and distant portals of Eden. Only, the
priests are mistaken. These holy portals are before and not behind us.

I resume. This book, Les Miserables, is no less your mirror than ours.
Certain men, certain castes, rise in revolt against this book,--I
understand that. Mirrors, those revealers of the truth, are hated; that
does not prevent them from being of use.

As for myself, I have written for all, with a profound love for my own
country, but without being engrossed by France more than by any other
nation. In proportion as I advance in life, I grow more simple, and I
become more and more patriotic for humanity.

This is, moreover, the tendency of our age, and the law of radiance
of the French Revolution; books must cease to be exclusively French,
Italian, German, Spanish, or English, and become European, I say more,
human, if they are to correspond to the enlargement of civilization.

Hence a new logic of art, and of certain requirements of composition
which modify everything, even the conditions, formerly narrow, of taste
and language, which must grow broader like all the rest.

In France, certain critics have reproached me, to my great delight,
with having transgressed the bounds of what they call "French taste"; I
should be glad if this eulogium were merited.

In short, I am doing what I can, I suffer with the same universal
suffering, and I try to assuage it, I possess only the puny forces of a
man, and I cry to all: "Help me!"

This, sir, is what your letter prompts me to say; I say it for you and
for your country. If I have insisted so strongly, it is because of one
phrase in your letter. You write:--

"There are Italians, and they are numerous, who say: 'This book, Les
Miserables, is a French book. It does not concern us. Let the French
read it as a history, we read it as a romance.'"--Alas! I repeat,
whether we be Italians or Frenchmen, misery concerns us all. Ever since
history has been written, ever since philosophy has meditated, misery
has been the garment of the human race; the moment has at length arrived
for tearing off that rag, and for replacing, upon the naked limbs of the
Man-People, the sinister fragment of the past with the grand purple robe
of the dawn.

If this letter seems to you of service in enlightening some minds and
in dissipating some prejudices, you are at liberty to publish it,
sir. Accept, I pray you, a renewed assurance of my very distinguished

                                                  VICTOR HUGO.



[Footnote 1: Patois of the French Alps: chat de maraude, rascally

[Footnote 2: Liege: a cork-tree. Pau: a jest on peau, skin.]

[Footnote 3: She belonged to that circle where cuckoos and carriages
share the same fate; and a jade herself, she lived, as jades live, for
the space of a morning (or jade).]

[Footnote 4: An ex-convict.]

[Footnote 5: This parenthesis is due to Jean Valjean.]

[Footnote 6: A bullet as large as an egg.]

[Footnote 7: Walter Scott, Lamartine, Vaulabelle, Charras, Quinet,

[Footnote 8: This is the inscription:--

                       D. O. M.
                    CY A ETE ECRASE
                       PAR MALHEUR
                    SOUS UN CHARIOT,
                    MONSIEUR BERNARD
                    DE BRYE MARCHAND
               A BRUXELLE LE [Illegible]
                      FEVRIER 1637.]

[Footnote 9: A heavy rifled gun.]

[Footnote 10: "A battle terminated, a day finished, false measures
repaired, greater successes assured for the morrow,--all was lost by a
moment of panic, terror."--Napoleon, Dictees de Sainte Helene.]

[Footnote 11: Five winning numbers in a lottery]

[Footnote 12: Literally "made cuirs"; i. e., pronounced a t or an s at
the end of words where the opposite letter should occur, or used either
one of them where neither exists.]

[Footnote 13: Lawyer Corbeau, perched on a docket, held in his beak a
writ of execution; Lawyer Renard, attracted by the smell, addressed him
nearly as follows, etc.]

[Footnote 14:          This is the factory of Goblet Junior:
          Come choose your jugs and crocks,
          Flower-pots, pipes, bricks.
          The Heart sells Diamonds to every comer.]

[Footnote 15: On the boughs hang three bodies of unequal merits: Dismas
and Gesmas, between is the divine power. Dismas seeks the heights,
Gesmas, unhappy man, the lowest regions; the highest power will preserve
us and our effects. If you repeat this verse, you will not lose your
things by theft.]

[Footnote 16: Instead of porte cochere and porte batarde.]

[Footnote 17: Jesus-my-God-bandy-leg--down with the moon!]

[Footnote 18: Chicken: slang allusion to the noise made in calling

[Footnote 19: Louis XVIII. is represented in comic pictures of that day
as having a pear-shaped head.]

[Footnote 20: Tuck into your trousers the shirt-tail that is hanging
out. Let it not be said that patriots have hoisted the white flag.]

[Footnote 21: In order to re-establish the shaken throne firmly on
its base, soil (Des solles), greenhouse and house (Decazes) must be

[Footnote 22: Suspendu, suspended; pendu, hung.]

[Footnote 23: L'Aile, wing.]

[Footnote 24: The slang term for a painter's assistant.]

[Footnote 25: If Cesar had given me glory and war, and I were obliged
to quit my mother's love, I would say to great Caesar, "Take back thy
sceptre and thy chariot; I prefer the love of my mother."]

[Footnote 26: Whether the sun shines brightly or dim, the bear returns
to his cave.]

[Footnote 27: The peep-hole is a Judas in French. Hence the half-punning

[Footnote 28: Our love has lasted a whole week, but how short are the
instants of happiness! To adore each other for eight days was hardly
worth the while! The time of love should last forever.]

[Footnote 29: You leave me to go to glory; my sad heart will follow you

[Footnote 30: A democrat.]

[Footnote 31: King Bootkick went a-hunting after crows, mounted on two
stilts. When one passed beneath them, one paid him two sous.]

[Footnote 32: In olden times, fouriers were the officials who preceded
the Court and allotted the lodgings.]

[Footnote 33: A game of ninepins, in which one side of the ball is
smaller than the other, so that it does not roll straight, but describes
a curve on the ground.]

[Footnote 34: From April 19 to May 20.]

[Footnote 35: Merlan: a sobriquet given to hairdressers because they are
white with powder.]

[Footnote 36: The scaffold.]

[Footnote 37: Argot of the Temple.]

[Footnote 38: Argot of the barriers.]

[Footnote 39: The Last Day of a Condemned Man.]

[Footnote 40: "Vous trouverez dans ces potains-la, une foultitude de
raisons pour que je me libertise."]

[Footnote 41: It must be observed, however, that mac in Celtic means

[Footnote 42: Smoke puffed in the face of a person asleep.]

[Footnote 43: Je n'entrave que le dail comment meck, le daron des
orgues, peut atiger ses momes et ses momignards et les locher criblant
sans etre agite lui-meme.]

[Footnote 44: At night one sees nothing, by day one sees very well;
the bourgeois gets flurried over an apocryphal scrawl, practice virtue,
tutu, pointed hat!]

[Footnote 45: Chien, dog, trigger.]

[Footnote 46: Here is the morn appearing. When shall we go to the
forest, Charlot asked Charlotte. Tou, tou, tou, for Chatou, I have but
one God, one King, one half-farthing, and one boot. And these two poor
little wolves were as tipsy as sparrows from having drunk dew and thyme
very early in the morning. And these two poor little things were as
drunk as thrushes in a vineyard; a tiger laughed at them in his cave.
The one cursed, the other swore. When shall we go to the forest? Charlot
asked Charlotte.]

[Footnote 47: There swings the horrible skeleton of a poor lover who
hung himself.]

[Footnote 48: She astounds at ten paces, she frightens at two, a wart
inhabits her hazardous nose; you tremble every instant lest she should
blow it at you, and lest, some fine day, her nose should tumble into her

[Footnote 49: Matelote: a culinary preparation of various fishes.
Gibelotte: stewed rabbits.]

[Footnote 50: Treat if you can, and eat if you dare.]

[Footnote 51: Bipede sans plume: biped without feathers--pen.]

[Footnote 52: Municipal officer of Toulouse.]

[Footnote 53: Do you remember our sweet life, when we were both so
young, and when we had no other desire in our hearts than to be well
dressed and in love? When, by adding your age to my age, we could
not count forty years between us, and when, in our humble and tiny
household, everything was spring to us even in winter. Fair days!
Manuel was proud and wise, Paris sat at sacred banquets, Foy launched
thunderbolts, and your corsage had a pin on which I pricked myself.
Everything gazed upon you. A briefless lawyer, when I took you to the
Prado to dine, you were so beautiful that the roses seemed to me to turn
round, and I heard them say: Is she not beautiful! How good she smells!
What billowing hair! Beneath her mantle she hides a wing. Her charming
bonnet is hardly unfolded. I wandered with thee, pressing thy supple
arm. The passers-by thought that love bewitched had wedded, in our happy
couple, the gentle month of April to the fair month of May. We lived
concealed, content, with closed doors, devouring love, that sweet
forbidden fruit. My mouth had not uttered a thing when thy heart had
already responded. The Sorbonne was the bucolic spot where I adored thee
from eve till morn. 'Tis thus that an amorous soul applies the chart of
the Tender to the Latin country. O Place Maubert! O Place Dauphine!
When in the fresh spring-like hut thou didst draw thy stocking on thy
delicate leg, I saw a star in the depths of the garret. I have read
a great deal of Plato, but nothing of it remains by me; better than
Malebranche and then Lamennais thou didst demonstrate to me celestial
goodness with a flower which thou gavest to me, I obeyed thee, thou
didst submit to me; oh gilded garret! to lace thee! to behold thee going
and coming from dawn in thy chemise, gazing at thy young brow in thine
ancient mirror! And who, then, would forego the memory of those days of
aurora and the firmament, of flowers, of gauze and of moire, when love
stammers a charming slang? Our gardens consisted of a pot of tulips;
thou didst mask the window with thy petticoat; I took the earthenware
bowl and I gave thee the Japanese cup. And those great misfortunes which
made us laugh! Thy cuff scorched, thy boa lost! And that dear portrait
of the divine Shakespeare which we sold one evening that we might sup! I
was a beggar and thou wert charitable. I kissed thy fresh round arms
in haste. A folio Dante served us as a table on which to eat merrily a
centime's worth of chestnuts. The first time that, in my joyous den, I
snatched a kiss from thy fiery lip, when thou wentest forth, dishevelled
and blushing, I turned deathly pale and I believed in God. Dost thou
recall our innumerable joys, and all those fichus changed to rags? Oh!
what sighs from our hearts full of gloom fluttered forth to the heavenly

[Footnote 54: My nose is in tears, my friend Bugeaud, lend me thy
gendarmes that I may say a word to them. With a blue capote and a
chicken in his shako, here's the banlieue, co-cocorico.]

[Footnote 55: Love letters.]

[Footnote 56:

               "The bird slanders in the elms,
                And pretends that yesterday, Atala
                Went off with a Russian,
                    Where fair maids go.
                         Lon la.

My friend Pierrot, thou pratest, because Mila knocked at her pane the
other day and called me. The jades are very charming, their poison which
bewitched me would intoxicate Monsieur Orfila. I'm fond of love and its
bickerings, I love Agnes, I love Pamela, Lise burned herself in setting
me aflame. In former days when I saw the mantillas of Suzette and of
Zeila, my soul mingled with their folds. Love, when thou gleamest in
the dark thou crownest Lola with roses, I would lose my soul for that.
Jeanne, at thy mirror thou deckest thyself! One fine day, my heart flew
forth. I think that it is Jeanne who has it. At night, when I come from
the quadrilles, I show Stella to the stars, and I say to them: "Behold
her." Where fair maids go, lon la.]

[Footnote 57: But some prisons still remain, and I am going to put
a stop to this sort of public order. Does any one wish to play at
skittles? The whole ancient world fell in ruin, when the big ball
rolled. Good old folks, let us smash with our crutches that Louvre where
the monarchy displayed itself in furbelows. We have forced its gates. On
that day, King Charles X. did not stick well and came unglued.]

[Footnote 58: Steps on the Aventine Hill, leading to the Tiber, to which
the bodies of executed criminals were dragged by hooks to be thrown into
the Tiber.]

[Footnote 59: Mustards.]

[Footnote 60: From casser, to break: break-necks.]

[Footnote 61: "Jeanne was born at Fougere, a true shepherd's nest; I
adore her petticoat, the rogue."]

[Footnote 62: In allusion to the expression, coiffer Sainte-Catherine,
"to remain unmarried."]

[Footnote 63: "Thus, hemming in the course of thy musings, Alcippus, it
is true that thou wilt wed ere long."]

[Footnote 64: Tirer le diable par la queue, "to live from hand to

[Footnote 65: "Triton trotted on before, and drew from his conch-shell
sounds so ravishing that he delighted everyone!"]

[Footnote 66: "A Shrove-Tuesday marriage will have no ungrateful

[Footnote 67: A short mask.]

[Footnote 68: In allusion to the story of Prometheus.]

[Footnote 69: Un fafiot serieux. Fafiot is the slang term for a
bank-bill, derived from its rustling noise.]

[Footnote 70: He sleeps. Although his fate was very strange, he lived.
He died when he had no longer his angel. The thing came to pass simply,
of itself, as the night comes when day is gone.]