Les Misérables by Victor Hugo 2


"The dinners are better at Edon's than at Bombarda's," exclaimed

"I prefer Bombarda to Edon," declared Blachevelle. "There is more
luxury. It is more Asiatic. Look at the room downstairs; there are
mirrors [glaces] on the walls."

"I prefer them [glaces, ices] on my plate," said Favourite.

Blachevelle persisted:--

"Look at the knives. The handles are of silver at Bombarda's and of bone
at Edon's. Now, silver is more valuable than bone."

"Except for those who have a silver chin," observed Tholomyes.

He was looking at the dome of the Invalides, which was visible from
Bombarda's windows.

A pause ensued.

"Tholomyes," exclaimed Fameuil, "Listolier and I were having a
discussion just now."

"A discussion is a good thing," replied Tholomyes; "a quarrel is

"We were disputing about philosophy."


"Which do you prefer, Descartes or Spinoza?"

"Desaugiers," said Tholomyes.

This decree pronounced, he took a drink, and went on:--

"I consent to live. All is not at an end on earth since we can still
talk nonsense. For that I return thanks to the immortal gods. We lie.
One lies, but one laughs. One affirms, but one doubts. The unexpected
bursts forth from the syllogism. That is fine. There are still human
beings here below who know how to open and close the surprise box of the
paradox merrily. This, ladies, which you are drinking with so tranquil
an air is Madeira wine, you must know, from the vineyard of Coural das
Freiras, which is three hundred and seventeen fathoms above the level of
the sea. Attention while you drink! three hundred and seventeen fathoms!
and Monsieur Bombarda, the magnificent eating-house keeper, gives you
those three hundred and seventeen fathoms for four francs and fifty

Again Fameuil interrupted him:--

"Tholomyes, your opinions fix the law. Who is your favorite author?"



"No; Choux."

And Tholomyes continued:--

"Honor to Bombarda! He would equal Munophis of Elephanta if he could but
get me an Indian dancing-girl, and Thygelion of Chaeronea if he could
bring me a Greek courtesan; for, oh, ladies! there were Bombardas in
Greece and in Egypt. Apuleius tells us of them. Alas! always the same,
and nothing new; nothing more unpublished by the creator in creation!
Nil sub sole novum, says Solomon; amor omnibus idem, says Virgil; and
Carabine mounts with Carabin into the bark at Saint-Cloud, as Aspasia
embarked with Pericles upon the fleet at Samos. One last word. Do you
know what Aspasia was, ladies? Although she lived at an epoch when women
had, as yet, no soul, she was a soul; a soul of a rosy and purple
hue, more ardent hued than fire, fresher than the dawn. Aspasia was
a creature in whom two extremes of womanhood met; she was the goddess
prostitute; Socrates plus Manon Lescaut. Aspasia was created in case a
mistress should be needed for Prometheus."

Tholomyes, once started, would have found some difficulty in stopping,
had not a horse fallen down upon the quay just at that moment. The
shock caused the cart and the orator to come to a dead halt. It was a
Beauceron mare, old and thin, and one fit for the knacker, which was
dragging a very heavy cart. On arriving in front of Bombarda's, the
worn-out, exhausted beast had refused to proceed any further. This
incident attracted a crowd. Hardly had the cursing and indignant carter
had time to utter with proper energy the sacramental word, Matin (the
jade), backed up with a pitiless cut of the whip, when the jade fell,
never to rise again. On hearing the hubbub made by the passersby,
Tholomyes' merry auditors turned their heads, and Tholomyes took
advantage of the opportunity to bring his allocution to a close with
this melancholy strophe:--

      "Elle etait de ce monde ou coucous et carrosses [3]
          Ont le meme destin;
      Et, rosse, elle a vecu ce que vivant les rosses,
          L'espace d'un matin!"

"Poor horse!" sighed Fantine.

And Dahlia exclaimed:--

"There is Fantine on the point of crying over horses. How can one be
such a pitiful fool as that!"

At that moment Favourite, folding her arms and throwing her head back,
looked resolutely at Tholomyes and said:--

"Come, now! the surprise?"

"Exactly. The moment has arrived," replied Tholomyes. "Gentlemen,
the hour for giving these ladies a surprise has struck. Wait for us a
moment, ladies."

"It begins with a kiss," said Blachevelle.

"On the brow," added Tholomyes.

Each gravely bestowed a kiss on his mistress's brow; then all four filed
out through the door, with their fingers on their lips.

Favourite clapped her hands on their departure.

"It is beginning to be amusing already," said she.

"Don't be too long," murmured Fantine; "we are waiting for you."


When the young girls were left alone, they leaned two by two on the
window-sills, chatting, craning out their heads, and talking from one
window to the other.

They saw the young men emerge from the Cafe Bombarda arm in arm. The
latter turned round, made signs to them, smiled, and disappeared in
that dusty Sunday throng which makes a weekly invasion into the

"Don't be long!" cried Fantine.

"What are they going to bring us?" said Zephine.

"It will certainly be something pretty," said Dahlia.

"For my part," said Favourite, "I want it to be of gold."

Their attention was soon distracted by the movements on the shore of the
lake, which they could see through the branches of the large trees, and
which diverted them greatly.

It was the hour for the departure of the mail-coaches and diligences.
Nearly all the stage-coaches for the south and west passed through the
Champs-Elysees. The majority followed the quay and went through the
Passy Barrier. From moment to moment, some huge vehicle, painted yellow
and black, heavily loaded, noisily harnessed, rendered shapeless
by trunks, tarpaulins, and valises, full of heads which immediately
disappeared, rushed through the crowd with all the sparks of a forge,
with dust for smoke, and an air of fury, grinding the pavements,
changing all the paving-stones into steels. This uproar delighted the
young girls. Favourite exclaimed:--

"What a row! One would say that it was a pile of chains flying away."

It chanced that one of these vehicles, which they could only see with
difficulty through the thick elms, halted for a moment, then set out
again at a gallop. This surprised Fantine.

"That's odd!" said she. "I thought the diligence never stopped."

Favourite shrugged her shoulders.

"This Fantine is surprising. I am coming to take a look at her out of
curiosity. She is dazzled by the simplest things. Suppose a case: I am
a traveller; I say to the diligence, 'I will go on in advance; you shall
pick me up on the quay as you pass.' The diligence passes, sees me,
halts, and takes me. That is done every day. You do not know life, my

In this manner a certain time elapsed. All at once Favourite made a
movement, like a person who is just waking up.

"Well," said she, "and the surprise?"

"Yes, by the way," joined in Dahlia, "the famous surprise?"

"They are a very long time about it!" said Fantine.

As Fantine concluded this sigh, the waiter who had served them at dinner
entered. He held in his hand something which resembled a letter.

"What is that?" demanded Favourite.

The waiter replied:--

"It is a paper that those gentlemen left for these ladies."

"Why did you not bring it at once?"

"Because," said the waiter, "the gentlemen ordered me not to deliver it
to the ladies for an hour."

Favourite snatched the paper from the waiter's hand. It was, in fact, a

"Stop!" said she; "there is no address; but this is what is written on

                 "THIS IS THE SURPRISE."

She tore the letter open hastily, opened it, and read [she knew how to


"You must know that we have parents. Parents--you do not know much about
such things. They are called fathers and mothers by the civil code,
which is puerile and honest. Now, these parents groan, these old folks
implore us, these good men and these good women call us prodigal sons;
they desire our return, and offer to kill calves for us. Being virtuous,
we obey them. At the hour when you read this, five fiery horses will
be bearing us to our papas and mammas. We are pulling up our stakes, as
Bossuet says. We are going; we are gone. We flee in the arms of Lafitte
and on the wings of Caillard. The Toulouse diligence tears us from
the abyss, and the abyss is you, O our little beauties! We return to
society, to duty, to respectability, at full trot, at the rate of three
leagues an hour. It is necessary for the good of the country that we
should be, like the rest of the world, prefects, fathers of families,
rural police, and councillors of state. Venerate us. We are sacrificing
ourselves. Mourn for us in haste, and replace us with speed. If this
letter lacerates you, do the same by it. Adieu.

"For the space of nearly two years we have made you happy. We bear you
no grudge for that.                                 "Signed:
                                            FELIX THOLOMYES.

"Postscriptum. The dinner is paid for."

The four young women looked at each other.

Favourite was the first to break the silence.

"Well!" she exclaimed, "it's a very pretty farce, all the same."

"It is very droll," said Zephine.

"That must have been Blachevelle's idea," resumed Favourite. "It makes
me in love with him. No sooner is he gone than he is loved. This is an
adventure, indeed."

"No," said Dahlia; "it was one of Tholomyes' ideas. That is evident.

"In that case," retorted Favourite, "death to Blachevelle, and long live

"Long live Tholomyes!" exclaimed Dahlia and Zephine.

And they burst out laughing.

Fantine laughed with the rest.

An hour later, when she had returned to her room, she wept. It was
her first love affair, as we have said; she had given herself to this
Tholomyes as to a husband, and the poor girl had a child.



There was, at Montfermeil, near Paris, during the first quarter of this
century, a sort of cook-shop which no longer exists. This cook-shop was
kept by some people named Thenardier, husband and wife. It was situated
in Boulanger Lane. Over the door there was a board nailed flat against
the wall. Upon this board was painted something which resembled a
man carrying another man on his back, the latter wearing the big gilt
epaulettes of a general, with large silver stars; red spots represented
blood; the rest of the picture consisted of smoke, and probably
represented a battle. Below ran this inscription: AT THE SIGN OF
SERGEANT OF WATERLOO (Au Sargent de Waterloo).

Nothing is more common than a cart or a truck at the door of a hostelry.
Nevertheless, the vehicle, or, to speak more accurately, the fragment of
a vehicle, which encumbered the street in front of the cook-shop of the
Sergeant of Waterloo, one evening in the spring of 1818, would certainly
have attracted, by its mass, the attention of any painter who had passed
that way.

It was the fore-carriage of one of those trucks which are used in wooded
tracts of country, and which serve to transport thick planks and the
trunks of trees. This fore-carriage was composed of a massive iron
axle-tree with a pivot, into which was fitted a heavy shaft, and
which was supported by two huge wheels. The whole thing was compact,
overwhelming, and misshapen. It seemed like the gun-carriage of an
enormous cannon. The ruts of the road had bestowed on the wheels, the
fellies, the hub, the axle, and the shaft, a layer of mud, a hideous
yellowish daubing hue, tolerably like that with which people are fond
of ornamenting cathedrals. The wood was disappearing under mud, and the
iron beneath rust. Under the axle-tree hung, like drapery, a huge chain,
worthy of some Goliath of a convict. This chain suggested, not the
beams, which it was its office to transport, but the mastodons and
mammoths which it might have served to harness; it had the air of the
galleys, but of cyclopean and superhuman galleys, and it seemed to have
been detached from some monster. Homer would have bound Polyphemus with
it, and Shakespeare, Caliban.

Why was that fore-carriage of a truck in that place in the street? In
the first place, to encumber the street; next, in order that it might
finish the process of rusting. There is a throng of institutions in the
old social order, which one comes across in this fashion as one walks
about outdoors, and which have no other reasons for existence than the

The centre of the chain swung very near the ground in the middle, and in
the loop, as in the rope of a swing, there were seated and grouped, on
that particular evening, in exquisite interlacement, two little girls;
one about two years and a half old, the other, eighteen months; the
younger in the arms of the other. A handkerchief, cleverly knotted about
them, prevented their falling out. A mother had caught sight of that
frightful chain, and had said, "Come! there's a plaything for my

The two children, who were dressed prettily and with some elegance, were
radiant with pleasure; one would have said that they were two roses amid
old iron; their eyes were a triumph; their fresh cheeks were full of
laughter. One had chestnut hair; the other, brown. Their innocent faces
were two delighted surprises; a blossoming shrub which grew near wafted
to the passers-by perfumes which seemed to emanate from them; the child
of eighteen months displayed her pretty little bare stomach with the
chaste indecency of childhood. Above and around these two delicate
heads, all made of happiness and steeped in light, the gigantic
fore-carriage, black with rust, almost terrible, all entangled in curves
and wild angles, rose in a vault, like the entrance of a cavern. A few
paces apart, crouching down upon the threshold of the hostelry, the
mother, not a very prepossessing woman, by the way, though touching
at that moment, was swinging the two children by means of a long cord,
watching them carefully, for fear of accidents, with that animal and
celestial expression which is peculiar to maternity. At every backward
and forward swing the hideous links emitted a strident sound, which
resembled a cry of rage; the little girls were in ecstasies; the setting
sun mingled in this joy, and nothing could be more charming than this
caprice of chance which had made of a chain of Titans the swing of

As she rocked her little ones, the mother hummed in a discordant voice a
romance then celebrated:--

                 "It must be, said a warrior."

Her song, and the contemplation of her daughters, prevented her hearing
and seeing what was going on in the street.

In the meantime, some one had approached her, as she was beginning the
first couplet of the romance, and suddenly she heard a voice saying very
near her ear:--

"You have two beautiful children there, Madame."

                 "To the fair and tender Imogene--"

replied the mother, continuing her romance; then she turned her head.

A woman stood before her, a few paces distant. This woman also had a
child, which she carried in her arms.

She was carrying, in addition, a large carpet-bag, which seemed very

This woman's child was one of the most divine creatures that it is
possible to behold. It was a girl, two or three years of age. She could
have entered into competition with the two other little ones, so far as
the coquetry of her dress was concerned; she wore a cap of fine linen,
ribbons on her bodice, and Valenciennes lace on her cap. The folds of
her skirt were raised so as to permit a view of her white, firm, and
dimpled leg. She was admirably rosy and healthy. The little beauty
inspired a desire to take a bite from the apples of her cheeks. Of her
eyes nothing could be known, except that they must be very large, and
that they had magnificent lashes. She was asleep.

She slept with that slumber of absolute confidence peculiar to her
age. The arms of mothers are made of tenderness; in them children sleep

As for the mother, her appearance was sad and poverty-stricken. She
was dressed like a working-woman who is inclined to turn into a peasant
again. She was young. Was she handsome? Perhaps; but in that attire it
was not apparent. Her hair, a golden lock of which had escaped, seemed
very thick, but was severely concealed beneath an ugly, tight, close,
nun-like cap, tied under the chin. A smile displays beautiful teeth when
one has them; but she did not smile. Her eyes did not seem to have been
dry for a very long time. She was pale; she had a very weary and rather
sickly appearance. She gazed upon her daughter asleep in her arms with
the air peculiar to a mother who has nursed her own child. A large blue
handkerchief, such as the Invalides use, was folded into a fichu, and
concealed her figure clumsily. Her hands were sunburnt and all dotted
with freckles, her forefinger was hardened and lacerated with the
needle; she wore a cloak of coarse brown woollen stuff, a linen gown,
and coarse shoes. It was Fantine.

It was Fantine, but difficult to recognize. Nevertheless, on
scrutinizing her attentively, it was evident that she still retained
her beauty. A melancholy fold, which resembled the beginning of irony,
wrinkled her right cheek. As for her toilette, that aerial toilette of
muslin and ribbons, which seemed made of mirth, of folly, and of music,
full of bells, and perfumed with lilacs had vanished like that beautiful
and dazzling hoar-frost which is mistaken for diamonds in the sunlight;
it melts and leaves the branch quite black.

Ten months had elapsed since the "pretty farce."

What had taken place during those ten months? It can be divined.

After abandonment, straightened circumstances. Fantine had immediately
lost sight of Favourite, Zephine and Dahlia; the bond once broken on the
side of the men, it was loosed between the women; they would have been
greatly astonished had any one told them a fortnight later, that they
had been friends; there no longer existed any reason for such a thing.
Fantine had remained alone. The father of her child gone,--alas! such
ruptures are irrevocable,--she found herself absolutely isolated, minus
the habit of work and plus the taste for pleasure. Drawn away by her
liaison with Tholomyes to disdain the pretty trade which she knew, she
had neglected to keep her market open; it was now closed to her. She had
no resource. Fantine barely knew how to read, and did not know how to
write; in her childhood she had only been taught to sign her name;
she had a public letter-writer indite an epistle to Tholomyes, then a
second, then a third. Tholomyes replied to none of them. Fantine heard
the gossips say, as they looked at her child: "Who takes those children
seriously! One only shrugs one's shoulders over such children!" Then she
thought of Tholomyes, who had shrugged his shoulders over his child,
and who did not take that innocent being seriously; and her heart grew
gloomy toward that man. But what was she to do? She no longer knew to
whom to apply. She had committed a fault, but the foundation of her
nature, as will be remembered, was modesty and virtue. She was vaguely
conscious that she was on the verge of falling into distress, and of
gliding into a worse state. Courage was necessary; she possessed it, and
held herself firm. The idea of returning to her native town of M. sur
M. occurred to her. There, some one might possibly know her and give her
work; yes, but it would be necessary to conceal her fault. In a confused
way she perceived the necessity of a separation which would be more
painful than the first one. Her heart contracted, but she took her
resolution. Fantine, as we shall see, had the fierce bravery of life.
She had already valiantly renounced finery, had dressed herself in
linen, and had put all her silks, all her ornaments, all her ribbons,
and all her laces on her daughter, the only vanity which was left to
her, and a holy one it was. She sold all that she had, which produced
for her two hundred francs; her little debts paid, she had only about
eighty francs left. At the age of twenty-two, on a beautiful spring
morning, she quitted Paris, bearing her child on her back. Any one who
had seen these two pass would have had pity on them. This woman had,
in all the world, nothing but her child, and the child had, in all the
world, no one but this woman. Fantine had nursed her child, and this had
tired her chest, and she coughed a little.

We shall have no further occasion to speak of M. Felix Tholomyes. Let us
confine ourselves to saying, that, twenty years later, under King Louis
Philippe, he was a great provincial lawyer, wealthy and influential, a
wise elector, and a very severe juryman; he was still a man of pleasure.

Towards the middle of the day, after having, from time to time, for the
sake of resting herself, travelled, for three or four sous a league, in
what was then known as the Petites Voitures des Environs de Paris, the
"little suburban coach service," Fantine found herself at Montfermeil,
in the alley Boulanger.

As she passed the Thenardier hostelry, the two little girls, blissful
in the monster swing, had dazzled her in a manner, and she had halted in
front of that vision of joy.

Charms exist. These two little girls were a charm to this mother.

She gazed at them in much emotion. The presence of angels is an
announcement of Paradise. She thought that, above this inn, she beheld
the mysterious HERE of Providence. These two little creatures were
evidently happy. She gazed at them, she admired them, in such emotion
that at the moment when their mother was recovering her breath between
two couplets of her song, she could not refrain from addressing to her
the remark which we have just read:--

"You have two pretty children, Madame."

The most ferocious creatures are disarmed by caresses bestowed on their

The mother raised her head and thanked her, and bade the wayfarer
sit down on the bench at the door, she herself being seated on the
threshold. The two women began to chat.

"My name is Madame Thenardier," said the mother of the two little girls.
"We keep this inn."

Then, her mind still running on her romance, she resumed humming between
her teeth:--

                 "It must be so; I am a knight,
                  And I am off to Palestine."

This Madame Thenardier was a sandy-complexioned woman, thin and
angular--the type of the soldier's wife in all its unpleasantness; and
what was odd, with a languishing air, which she owed to her perusal
of romances. She was a simpering, but masculine creature. Old romances
produce that effect when rubbed against the imagination of cook-shop
woman. She was still young; she was barely thirty. If this crouching
woman had stood upright, her lofty stature and her frame of a
perambulating colossus suitable for fairs, might have frightened the
traveller at the outset, troubled her confidence, and disturbed what
caused what we have to relate to vanish. A person who is seated instead
of standing erect--destinies hang upon such a thing as that.

The traveller told her story, with slight modifications.

That she was a working-woman; that her husband was dead; that her
work in Paris had failed her, and that she was on her way to seek it
elsewhere, in her own native parts; that she had left Paris that morning
on foot; that, as she was carrying her child, and felt fatigued, she had
got into the Villemomble coach when she met it; that from Villemomble
she had come to Montfermeil on foot; that the little one had walked a
little, but not much, because she was so young, and that she had been
obliged to take her up, and the jewel had fallen asleep.

At this word she bestowed on her daughter a passionate kiss, which woke
her. The child opened her eyes, great blue eyes like her mother's, and
looked at--what? Nothing; with that serious and sometimes severe air of
little children, which is a mystery of their luminous innocence in
the presence of our twilight of virtue. One would say that they feel
themselves to be angels, and that they know us to be men. Then the child
began to laugh; and although the mother held fast to her, she slipped to
the ground with the unconquerable energy of a little being which wished
to run. All at once she caught sight of the two others in the swing,
stopped short, and put out her tongue, in sign of admiration.

Mother Thenardier released her daughters, made them descend from the
swing, and said:--

"Now amuse yourselves, all three of you."

Children become acquainted quickly at that age, and at the expiration
of a minute the little Thenardiers were playing with the new-comer at
making holes in the ground, which was an immense pleasure.

The new-comer was very gay; the goodness of the mother is written in the
gayety of the child; she had seized a scrap of wood which served her
for a shovel, and energetically dug a cavity big enough for a fly. The
grave-digger's business becomes a subject for laughter when performed by
a child.

The two women pursued their chat.

"What is your little one's name?"


For Cosette, read Euphrasie. The child's name was Euphrasie. But out
of Euphrasie the mother had made Cosette by that sweet and graceful
instinct of mothers and of the populace which changes Josepha into
Pepita, and Francoise into Sillette. It is a sort of derivative which
disarranges and disconcerts the whole science of etymologists. We have
known a grandmother who succeeded in turning Theodore into Gnon.

"How old is she?"

"She is going on three."

"That is the age of my eldest."

In the meantime, the three little girls were grouped in an attitude of
profound anxiety and blissfulness; an event had happened; a big worm
had emerged from the ground, and they were afraid; and they were in
ecstasies over it.

Their radiant brows touched each other; one would have said that there
were three heads in one aureole.

"How easily children get acquainted at once!" exclaimed Mother
Thenardier; "one would swear that they were three sisters!"

This remark was probably the spark which the other mother had been
waiting for. She seized the Thenardier's hand, looked at her fixedly,
and said:--

"Will you keep my child for me?"

The Thenardier made one of those movements of surprise which signify
neither assent nor refusal.

Cosette's mother continued:--

"You see, I cannot take my daughter to the country. My work will not
permit it. With a child one can find no situation. People are ridiculous
in the country. It was the good God who caused me to pass your inn. When
I caught sight of your little ones, so pretty, so clean, and so happy,
it overwhelmed me. I said: 'Here is a good mother. That is just the
thing; that will make three sisters.' And then, it will not be long
before I return. Will you keep my child for me?"

"I must see about it," replied the Thenardier.

"I will give you six francs a month."

Here a man's voice called from the depths of the cook-shop:--

"Not for less than seven francs. And six months paid in advance."

"Six times seven makes forty-two," said the Thenardier.

"I will give it," said the mother.

"And fifteen francs in addition for preliminary expenses," added the
man's voice.

"Total, fifty-seven francs," said Madame Thenardier. And she hummed
vaguely, with these figures:--

                 "It must be, said a warrior."

"I will pay it," said the mother. "I have eighty francs. I shall have
enough left to reach the country, by travelling on foot. I shall
earn money there, and as soon as I have a little I will return for my

The man's voice resumed:--

"The little one has an outfit?"

"That is my husband," said the Thenardier.

"Of course she has an outfit, the poor treasure.--I understood perfectly
that it was your husband.--And a beautiful outfit, too! a senseless
outfit, everything by the dozen, and silk gowns like a lady. It is here,
in my carpet-bag."

"You must hand it over," struck in the man's voice again.

"Of course I shall give it to you," said the mother. "It would be very
queer if I were to leave my daughter quite naked!"

The master's face appeared.

"That's good," said he.

The bargain was concluded. The mother passed the night at the inn, gave
up her money and left her child, fastened her carpet-bag once more, now
reduced in volume by the removal of the outfit, and light henceforth
and set out on the following morning, intending to return soon. People
arrange such departures tranquilly; but they are despairs!

A neighbor of the Thenardiers met this mother as she was setting out,
and came back with the remark:--

"I have just seen a woman crying in the street so that it was enough to
rend your heart."

When Cosette's mother had taken her departure, the man said to the

"That will serve to pay my note for one hundred and ten francs which
falls due to-morrow; I lacked fifty francs. Do you know that I should
have had a bailiff and a protest after me? You played the mouse-trap
nicely with your young ones."

"Without suspecting it," said the woman.


The mouse which had been caught was a pitiful specimen; but the cat
rejoices even over a lean mouse.

Who were these Thenardiers?

Let us say a word or two of them now. We will complete the sketch later

These beings belonged to that bastard class composed of coarse people
who have been successful, and of intelligent people who have descended
in the scale, which is between the class called "middle" and the class
denominated as "inferior," and which combines some of the defects of the
second with nearly all the vices of the first, without possessing
the generous impulse of the workingman nor the honest order of the

They were of those dwarfed natures which, if a dull fire chances to warm
them up, easily become monstrous. There was in the woman a substratum
of the brute, and in the man the material for a blackguard. Both were
susceptible, in the highest degree, of the sort of hideous progress
which is accomplished in the direction of evil. There exist crab-like
souls which are continually retreating towards the darkness,
retrograding in life rather than advancing, employing experience to
augment their deformity, growing incessantly worse, and becoming more
and more impregnated with an ever-augmenting blackness. This man and
woman possessed such souls.

Thenardier, in particular, was troublesome for a physiognomist. One can
only look at some men to distrust them; for one feels that they are
dark in both directions. They are uneasy in the rear and threatening
in front. There is something of the unknown about them. One can no more
answer for what they have done than for what they will do. The shadow
which they bear in their glance denounces them. From merely hearing them
utter a word or seeing them make a gesture, one obtains a glimpse of
sombre secrets in their past and of sombre mysteries in their future.

This Thenardier, if he himself was to be believed, had been a soldier--a
sergeant, he said. He had probably been through the campaign of 1815,
and had even conducted himself with tolerable valor, it would seem. We
shall see later on how much truth there was in this. The sign of his
hostelry was in allusion to one of his feats of arms. He had painted it
himself; for he knew how to do a little of everything, and badly.

It was at the epoch when the ancient classical romance which, after
having been Clelie, was no longer anything but Lodoiska, still noble,
but ever more and more vulgar, having fallen from Mademoiselle de
Scuderi to Madame Bournon-Malarme, and from Madame de Lafayette to
Madame Barthelemy-Hadot, was setting the loving hearts of the portresses
of Paris aflame, and even ravaging the suburbs to some extent. Madame
Thenardier was just intelligent enough to read this sort of books. She
lived on them. In them she drowned what brains she possessed. This had
given her, when very young, and even a little later, a sort of pensive
attitude towards her husband, a scamp of a certain depth, a ruffian
lettered to the extent of the grammar, coarse and fine at one and the
same time, but, so far as sentimentalism was concerned, given to the
perusal of Pigault-Lebrun, and "in what concerns the sex," as he said
in his jargon--a downright, unmitigated lout. His wife was twelve or
fifteen years younger than he was. Later on, when her hair, arranged in
a romantically drooping fashion, began to grow gray, when the Magaera
began to be developed from the Pamela, the female Thenardier was nothing
but a coarse, vicious woman, who had dabbled in stupid romances. Now,
one cannot read nonsense with impunity. The result was that her eldest
daughter was named Eponine; as for the younger, the poor little thing
came near being called Gulnare; I know not to what diversion, effected
by a romance of Ducray-Dumenil, she owed the fact that she merely bore
the name of Azelma.

However, we will remark by the way, everything was not ridiculous and
superficial in that curious epoch to which we are alluding, and which
may be designated as the anarchy of baptismal names. By the side of
this romantic element which we have just indicated there is the social
symptom. It is not rare for the neatherd's boy nowadays to bear the name
of Arthur, Alfred, or Alphonse, and for the vicomte--if there are
still any vicomtes--to be called Thomas, Pierre, or Jacques. This
displacement, which places the "elegant" name on the plebeian and the
rustic name on the aristocrat, is nothing else than an eddy of equality.
The irresistible penetration of the new inspiration is there as
everywhere else. Beneath this apparent discord there is a great and a
profound thing,--the French Revolution.


It is not all in all sufficient to be wicked in order to prosper. The
cook-shop was in a bad way.

Thanks to the traveller's fifty-seven francs, Thenardier had been able
to avoid a protest and to honor his signature. On the following month
they were again in need of money. The woman took Cosette's outfit to
Paris, and pawned it at the pawnbroker's for sixty francs. As soon
as that sum was spent, the Thenardiers grew accustomed to look on the
little girl merely as a child whom they were caring for out of charity;
and they treated her accordingly. As she had no longer any clothes, they
dressed her in the cast-off petticoats and chemises of the Thenardier
brats; that is to say, in rags. They fed her on what all the rest
had left--a little better than the dog, a little worse than the cat.
Moreover, the cat and the dog were her habitual table-companions;
Cosette ate with them under the table, from a wooden bowl similar to

The mother, who had established herself, as we shall see later on, at M.
sur M., wrote, or, more correctly, caused to be written, a letter every
month, that she might have news of her child. The Thenardiers replied
invariably, "Cosette is doing wonderfully well."

At the expiration of the first six months the mother sent seven francs
for the seventh month, and continued her remittances with tolerable
regularity from month to month. The year was not completed when
Thenardier said: "A fine favor she is doing us, in sooth! What does she
expect us to do with her seven francs?" and he wrote to demand twelve
francs. The mother, whom they had persuaded into the belief that her
child was happy, "and was coming on well," submitted, and forwarded the
twelve francs.

Certain natures cannot love on the one hand without hating on the other.
Mother Thenardier loved her two daughters passionately, which caused her
to hate the stranger.

It is sad to think that the love of a mother can possess villainous
aspects. Little as was the space occupied by Cosette, it seemed to
her as though it were taken from her own, and that that little child
diminished the air which her daughters breathed. This woman, like many
women of her sort, had a load of caresses and a burden of blows and
injuries to dispense each day. If she had not had Cosette, it is certain
that her daughters, idolized as they were, would have received the whole
of it; but the stranger did them the service to divert the blows to
herself. Her daughters received nothing but caresses. Cosette could not
make a motion which did not draw down upon her head a heavy shower of
violent blows and unmerited chastisement. The sweet, feeble being, who
should not have understood anything of this world or of God, incessantly
punished, scolded, ill-used, beaten, and seeing beside her two little
creatures like herself, who lived in a ray of dawn!

Madame Thenardier was vicious with Cosette. Eponine and Azelma were
vicious. Children at that age are only copies of their mother. The size
is smaller; that is all.

A year passed; then another.

People in the village said:--

"Those Thenardiers are good people. They are not rich, and yet they are
bringing up a poor child who was abandoned on their hands!"

They thought that Cosette's mother had forgotten her.

In the meanwhile, Thenardier, having learned, it is impossible to say by
what obscure means, that the child was probably a bastard, and that the
mother could not acknowledge it, exacted fifteen francs a month, saying
that "the creature" was growing and "eating," and threatening to send
her away. "Let her not bother me," he exclaimed, "or I'll fire her brat
right into the middle of her secrets. I must have an increase." The
mother paid the fifteen francs.

From year to year the child grew, and so did her wretchedness.

As long as Cosette was little, she was the scape-goat of the two other
children; as soon as she began to develop a little, that is to say,
before she was even five years old, she became the servant of the

Five years old! the reader will say; that is not probable. Alas! it is
true. Social suffering begins at all ages. Have we not recently seen the
trial of a man named Dumollard, an orphan turned bandit, who, from the
age of five, as the official documents state, being alone in the world,
"worked for his living and stole"?

Cosette was made to run on errands, to sweep the rooms, the courtyard,
the street, to wash the dishes, to even carry burdens. The Thenardiers
considered themselves all the more authorized to behave in this manner,
since the mother, who was still at M. sur M., had become irregular in
her payments. Some months she was in arrears.

If this mother had returned to Montfermeil at the end of these three
years, she would not have recognized her child. Cosette, so pretty and
rosy on her arrival in that house, was now thin and pale. She had an
indescribably uneasy look. "The sly creature," said the Thenardiers.

Injustice had made her peevish, and misery had made her ugly. Nothing
remained to her except her beautiful eyes, which inspired pain, because,
large as they were, it seemed as though one beheld in them a still
larger amount of sadness.

It was a heart-breaking thing to see this poor child, not yet six years
old, shivering in the winter in her old rags of linen, full of holes,
sweeping the street before daylight, with an enormous broom in her tiny
red hands, and a tear in her great eyes.

[Illustration: Cossette Sweeping  1b4-1-cossette-sweeping]

She was called the Lark in the neighborhood. The populace, who are fond
of these figures of speech, had taken a fancy to bestow this name on
this trembling, frightened, and shivering little creature, no bigger
than a bird, who was awake every morning before any one else in the
house or the village, and was always in the street or the fields before

Only the little lark never sang.



And in the meantime, what had become of that mother who according to
the people at Montfermeil, seemed to have abandoned her child? Where was
she? What was she doing?

After leaving her little Cosette with the Thenardiers, she had continued
her journey, and had reached M. sur M.

This, it will be remembered, was in 1818.

Fantine had quitted her province ten years before. M. sur M. had changed
its aspect. While Fantine had been slowly descending from wretchedness
to wretchedness, her native town had prospered.

About two years previously one of those industrial facts which are the
grand events of small districts had taken place.

This detail is important, and we regard it as useful to develop it at
length; we should almost say, to underline it.

From time immemorial, M. sur M. had had for its special industry the
imitation of English jet and the black glass trinkets of Germany. This
industry had always vegetated, on account of the high price of the raw
material, which reacted on the manufacture. At the moment when Fantine
returned to M. sur M., an unheard-of transformation had taken place
in the production of "black goods." Towards the close of 1815 a man,
a stranger, had established himself in the town, and had been inspired
with the idea of substituting, in this manufacture, gum-lac for resin,
and, for bracelets in particular, slides of sheet-iron simply laid
together, for slides of soldered sheet-iron.

This very small change had effected a revolution.

This very small change had, in fact, prodigiously reduced the cost of
the raw material, which had rendered it possible in the first place, to
raise the price of manufacture, a benefit to the country; in the second
place, to improve the workmanship, an advantage to the consumer; in the
third place, to sell at a lower price, while trebling the profit, which
was a benefit to the manufacturer.

Thus three results ensued from one idea.

In less than three years the inventor of this process had become rich,
which is good, and had made every one about him rich, which is better.
He was a stranger in the Department. Of his origin, nothing was known;
of the beginning of his career, very little. It was rumored that he had
come to town with very little money, a few hundred francs at the most.

It was from this slender capital, enlisted in the service of an
ingenious idea, developed by method and thought, that he had drawn his
own fortune, and the fortune of the whole countryside.

On his arrival at M. sur M. he had only the garments, the appearance,
and the language of a workingman.

It appears that on the very day when he made his obscure entry into
the little town of M. sur M., just at nightfall, on a December evening,
knapsack on back and thorn club in hand, a large fire had broken out
in the town-hall. This man had rushed into the flames and saved, at the
risk of his own life, two children who belonged to the captain of the
gendarmerie; this is why they had forgotten to ask him for his passport.
Afterwards they had learned his name. He was called Father Madeleine.


He was a man about fifty years of age, who had a preoccupied air, and
who was good. That was all that could be said about him.

Thanks to the rapid progress of the industry which he had so admirably
re-constructed, M. sur M. had become a rather important centre of trade.
Spain, which consumes a good deal of black jet, made enormous purchases
there each year. M. sur M. almost rivalled London and Berlin in this
branch of commerce. Father Madeleine's profits were such, that at the
end of the second year he was able to erect a large factory, in which
there were two vast workrooms, one for the men, and the other for women.
Any one who was hungry could present himself there, and was sure of
finding employment and bread. Father Madeleine required of the men good
will, of the women pure morals, and of all, probity. He had separated
the work-rooms in order to separate the sexes, and so that the women and
girls might remain discreet. On this point he was inflexible. It was the
only thing in which he was in a manner intolerant. He was all the more
firmly set on this severity, since M. sur M., being a garrison town,
opportunities for corruption abounded. However, his coming had been a
boon, and his presence was a godsend. Before Father Madeleine's arrival,
everything had languished in the country; now everything lived with
a healthy life of toil. A strong circulation warmed everything and
penetrated everywhere. Slack seasons and wretchedness were unknown.
There was no pocket so obscure that it had not a little money in it; no
dwelling so lowly that there was not some little joy within it.

Father Madeleine gave employment to every one. He exacted but one thing:
Be an honest man. Be an honest woman.

As we have said, in the midst of this activity of which he was the cause
and the pivot, Father Madeleine made his fortune; but a singular thing
in a simple man of business, it did not seem as though that were his
chief care. He appeared to be thinking much of others, and little of
himself. In 1820 he was known to have a sum of six hundred and thirty
thousand francs lodged in his name with Laffitte; but before reserving
these six hundred and thirty thousand francs, he had spent more than a
million for the town and its poor.

The hospital was badly endowed; he founded six beds there. M. sur M. is
divided into the upper and the lower town. The lower town, in which he
lived, had but one school, a miserable hovel, which was falling to ruin:
he constructed two, one for girls, the other for boys. He allotted a
salary from his own funds to the two instructors, a salary twice as
large as their meagre official salary, and one day he said to some one
who expressed surprise, "The two prime functionaries of the state are
the nurse and the schoolmaster." He created at his own expense an infant
school, a thing then almost unknown in France, and a fund for aiding old
and infirm workmen. As his factory was a centre, a new quarter, in which
there were a good many indigent families, rose rapidly around him; he
established there a free dispensary.

At first, when they watched his beginnings, the good souls said, "He's
a jolly fellow who means to get rich." When they saw him enriching
the country before he enriched himself, the good souls said, "He is
an ambitious man." This seemed all the more probable since the man was
religious, and even practised his religion to a certain degree, a thing
which was very favorably viewed at that epoch. He went regularly to
low mass every Sunday. The local deputy, who nosed out all rivalry
everywhere, soon began to grow uneasy over this religion. This deputy
had been a member of the legislative body of the Empire, and shared the
religious ideas of a father of the Oratoire, known under the name
of Fouche, Duc d'Otrante, whose creature and friend he had been. He
indulged in gentle raillery at God with closed doors. But when he beheld
the wealthy manufacturer Madeleine going to low mass at seven o'clock,
he perceived in him a possible candidate, and resolved to outdo him; he
took a Jesuit confessor, and went to high mass and to vespers. Ambition
was at that time, in the direct acceptation of the word, a race to the
steeple. The poor profited by this terror as well as the good God, for
the honorable deputy also founded two beds in the hospital, which made

Nevertheless, in 1819 a rumor one morning circulated through the town
to the effect that, on the representations of the prefect and in
consideration of the services rendered by him to the country, Father
Madeleine was to be appointed by the King, mayor of M. sur M. Those who
had pronounced this new-comer to be "an ambitious fellow," seized with
delight on this opportunity which all men desire, to exclaim, "There!
what did we say!" All M. sur M. was in an uproar. The rumor was well
founded. Several days later the appointment appeared in the Moniteur. On
the following day Father Madeleine refused.

In this same year of 1819 the products of the new process invented by
Madeleine figured in the industrial exhibition; when the jury made their
report, the King appointed the inventor a chevalier of the Legion of
Honor. A fresh excitement in the little town. Well, so it was the cross
that he wanted! Father Madeleine refused the cross.

Decidedly this man was an enigma. The good souls got out of their
predicament by saying, "After all, he is some sort of an adventurer."

We have seen that the country owed much to him; the poor owed him
everything; he was so useful and he was so gentle that people had been
obliged to honor and respect him. His workmen, in particular, adored
him, and he endured this adoration with a sort of melancholy gravity.
When he was known to be rich, "people in society" bowed to him, and
he received invitations in the town; he was called, in town, Monsieur
Madeleine; his workmen and the children continued to call him Father
Madeleine, and that was what was most adapted to make him smile. In
proportion as he mounted, throve, invitations rained down upon him.
"Society" claimed him for its own. The prim little drawing-rooms on
M. sur M., which, of course, had at first been closed to the artisan,
opened both leaves of their folding-doors to the millionnaire. They made
a thousand advances to him. He refused.

This time the good gossips had no trouble. "He is an ignorant man, of
no education. No one knows where he came from. He would not know how to
behave in society. It has not been absolutely proved that he knows how
to read."

When they saw him making money, they said, "He is a man of business."
When they saw him scattering his money about, they said, "He is an
ambitious man." When he was seen to decline honors, they said, "He is
an adventurer." When they saw him repulse society, they said, "He is a

In 1820, five years after his arrival in M. sur M., the services which
he had rendered to the district were so dazzling, the opinion of
the whole country round about was so unanimous, that the King again
appointed him mayor of the town. He again declined; but the prefect
resisted his refusal, all the notabilities of the place came to implore
him, the people in the street besought him; the urging was so vigorous
that he ended by accepting. It was noticed that the thing which seemed
chiefly to bring him to a decision was the almost irritated apostrophe
addressed to him by an old woman of the people, who called to him from
her threshold, in an angry way: "A good mayor is a useful thing. Is he
drawing back before the good which he can do?"

This was the third phase of his ascent. Father Madeleine had become
Monsieur Madeleine. Monsieur Madeleine became Monsieur le Maire.


On the other hand, he remained as simple as on the first day. He had
gray hair, a serious eye, the sunburned complexion of a laborer, the
thoughtful visage of a philosopher. He habitually wore a hat with a
wide brim, and a long coat of coarse cloth, buttoned to the chin. He
fulfilled his duties as mayor; but, with that exception, he lived in
solitude. He spoke to but few people. He avoided polite attentions;
he escaped quickly; he smiled to relieve himself of the necessity of
talking; he gave, in order to get rid of the necessity for smiling, The
women said of him, "What a good-natured bear!" His pleasure consisted in
strolling in the fields.

He always took his meals alone, with an open book before him, which he
read. He had a well-selected little library. He loved books; books
are cold but safe friends. In proportion as leisure came to him with
fortune, he seemed to take advantage of it to cultivate his mind. It had
been observed that, ever since his arrival at M. sur M.. his language
had grown more polished, more choice, and more gentle with every passing
year. He liked to carry a gun with him on his strolls, but he rarely
made use of it. When he did happen to do so, his shooting was something
so infallible as to inspire terror. He never killed an inoffensive
animal. He never shot at a little bird.

Although he was no longer young, it was thought that he was still
prodigiously strong. He offered his assistance to any one who was in
need of it, lifted a horse, released a wheel clogged in the mud, or
stopped a runaway bull by the horns. He always had his pockets full
of money when he went out; but they were empty on his return. When he
passed through a village, the ragged brats ran joyously after him, and
surrounded him like a swarm of gnats.

It was thought that he must, in the past, have lived a country life,
since he knew all sorts of useful secrets, which he taught to the
peasants. He taught them how to destroy scurf on wheat, by sprinkling it
and the granary and inundating the cracks in the floor with a solution
of common salt; and how to chase away weevils by hanging up orviot in
bloom everywhere, on the walls and the ceilings, among the grass and in
the houses.

He had "recipes" for exterminating from a field, blight, tares, foxtail,
and all parasitic growths which destroy the wheat. He defended a rabbit
warren against rats, simply by the odor of a guinea-pig which he placed
in it.

One day he saw some country people busily engaged in pulling up nettles;
he examined the plants, which were uprooted and already dried, and said:
"They are dead. Nevertheless, it would be a good thing to know how to
make use of them. When the nettle is young, the leaf makes an excellent
vegetable; when it is older, it has filaments and fibres like hemp and
flax. Nettle cloth is as good as linen cloth. Chopped up, nettles are
good for poultry; pounded, they are good for horned cattle. The seed of
the nettle, mixed with fodder, gives gloss to the hair of animals; the
root, mixed with salt, produces a beautiful yellow coloring-matter.
Moreover, it is an excellent hay, which can be cut twice. And what is
required for the nettle? A little soil, no care, no culture. Only the
seed falls as it is ripe, and it is difficult to collect it. That
is all. With the exercise of a little care, the nettle could be made
useful; it is neglected and it becomes hurtful. It is exterminated. How
many men resemble the nettle!" He added, after a pause: "Remember this,
my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are
only bad cultivators."

The children loved him because he knew how to make charming little
trifles of straw and cocoanuts.

When he saw the door of a church hung in black, he entered: he sought
out funerals as other men seek christenings. Widowhood and the grief of
others attracted him, because of his great gentleness; he mingled with
the friends clad in mourning, with families dressed in black, with
the priests groaning around a coffin. He seemed to like to give to his
thoughts for text these funereal psalmodies filled with the vision of
the other world. With his eyes fixed on heaven, he listened with a
sort of aspiration towards all the mysteries of the infinite, those sad
voices which sing on the verge of the obscure abyss of death.

He performed a multitude of good actions, concealing his agency in them
as a man conceals himself because of evil actions. He penetrated houses
privately, at night; he ascended staircases furtively. A poor wretch
on returning to his attic would find that his door had been opened,
sometimes even forced, during his absence. The poor man made a clamor
over it: some malefactor had been there! He entered, and the first
thing he beheld was a piece of gold lying forgotten on some piece of
furniture. The "malefactor" who had been there was Father Madeleine.

He was affable and sad. The people said: "There is a rich man who has
not a haughty air. There is a happy man who has not a contented air."

Some people maintained that he was a mysterious person, and that no
one ever entered his chamber, which was a regular anchorite's cell,
furnished with winged hour-glasses and enlivened by cross-bones and
skulls of dead men! This was much talked of, so that one of the elegant
and malicious young women of M. sur M. came to him one day, and asked:
"Monsieur le Maire, pray show us your chamber. It is said to be a
grotto." He smiled, and introduced them instantly into this "grotto."
They were well punished for their curiosity. The room was very simply
furnished in mahogany, which was rather ugly, like all furniture of
that sort, and hung with paper worth twelve sous. They could see nothing
remarkable about it, except two candlesticks of antique pattern which
stood on the chimney-piece and appeared to be silver, "for they were
hall-marked," an observation full of the type of wit of petty towns.

Nevertheless, people continued to say that no one ever got into the
room, and that it was a hermit's cave, a mysterious retreat, a hole, a

It was also whispered about that he had "immense" sums deposited with
Laffitte, with this peculiar feature, that they were always at his
immediate disposal, so that, it was added, M. Madeleine could make his
appearance at Laffitte's any morning, sign a receipt, and carry off his
two or three millions in ten minutes. In reality, "these two or three
millions" were reducible, as we have said, to six hundred and thirty or
forty thousand francs.


At the beginning of 1820 the newspapers announced the death of M.
Myriel, Bishop of D----, surnamed "Monseigneur Bienvenu," who had died
in the odor of sanctity at the age of eighty-two.

The Bishop of D---- to supply here a detail which the papers
omitted--had been blind for many years before his death, and content to
be blind, as his sister was beside him.

Let us remark by the way, that to be blind and to be loved, is, in fact,
one of the most strangely exquisite forms of happiness upon this earth,
where nothing is complete. To have continually at one's side a woman, a
daughter, a sister, a charming being, who is there because you need her
and because she cannot do without you; to know that we are indispensable
to a person who is necessary to us; to be able to incessantly measure
one's affection by the amount of her presence which she bestows on us,
and to say to ourselves, "Since she consecrates the whole of her time
to me, it is because I possess the whole of her heart"; to behold her
thought in lieu of her face; to be able to verify the fidelity of one
being amid the eclipse of the world; to regard the rustle of a gown
as the sound of wings; to hear her come and go, retire, speak, return,
sing, and to think that one is the centre of these steps, of this
speech; to manifest at each instant one's personal attraction; to feel
one's self all the more powerful because of one's infirmity; to become
in one's obscurity, and through one's obscurity, the star around which
this angel gravitates,--few felicities equal this. The supreme happiness
of life consists in the conviction that one is loved; loved for
one's own sake--let us say rather, loved in spite of one's self; this
conviction the blind man possesses. To be served in distress is to be
caressed. Does he lack anything? No. One does not lose the sight when
one has love. And what love! A love wholly constituted of virtue! There
is no blindness where there is certainty. Soul seeks soul, gropingly,
and finds it. And this soul, found and tested, is a woman. A hand
sustains you; it is hers: a mouth lightly touches your brow; it is her
mouth: you hear a breath very near you; it is hers. To have everything
of her, from her worship to her pity, never to be left, to have that
sweet weakness aiding you, to lean upon that immovable reed, to
touch Providence with one's hands, and to be able to take it in
one's arms,--God made tangible,--what bliss! The heart, that obscure,
celestial flower, undergoes a mysterious blossoming. One would not
exchange that shadow for all brightness! The angel soul is there,
uninterruptedly there; if she departs, it is but to return again; she
vanishes like a dream, and reappears like reality. One feels warmth
approaching, and behold! she is there. One overflows with serenity, with
gayety, with ecstasy; one is a radiance amid the night. And there are
a thousand little cares. Nothings, which are enormous in that void. The
most ineffable accents of the feminine voice employed to lull you, and
supplying the vanished universe to you. One is caressed with the soul.
One sees nothing, but one feels that one is adored. It is a paradise of

It was from this paradise that Monseigneur Welcome had passed to the

The announcement of his death was reprinted by the local journal of M.
sur M. On the following day, M. Madeleine appeared clad wholly in black,
and with crape on his hat.

This mourning was noticed in the town, and commented on. It seemed
to throw a light on M. Madeleine's origin. It was concluded that some
relationship existed between him and the venerable Bishop. "He has gone
into mourning for the Bishop of D----" said the drawing-rooms; this
raised M. Madeleine's credit greatly, and procured for him, instantly
and at one blow, a certain consideration in the noble world of M. sur
M. The microscopic Faubourg Saint-Germain of the place meditated raising
the quarantine against M. Madeleine, the probable relative of a bishop.
M. Madeleine perceived the advancement which he had obtained, by the
more numerous courtesies of the old women and the more plentiful smiles
of the young ones. One evening, a ruler in that petty great world, who
was curious by right of seniority, ventured to ask him, "M. le Maire is
doubtless a cousin of the late Bishop of D----?"

He said, "No, Madame."

"But," resumed the dowager, "you are wearing mourning for him."

He replied, "It is because I was a servant in his family in my youth."

Another thing which was remarked, was, that every time that he
encountered in the town a young Savoyard who was roaming about the
country and seeking chimneys to sweep, the mayor had him summoned,
inquired his name, and gave him money. The little Savoyards told each
other about it: a great many of them passed that way.


Little by little, and in the course of time, all this opposition
subsided. There had at first been exercised against M. Madeleine,
in virtue of a sort of law which all those who rise must submit to,
blackening and calumnies; then they grew to be nothing more than
ill-nature, then merely malicious remarks, then even this entirely
disappeared; respect became complete, unanimous, cordial, and towards
1821 the moment arrived when the word "Monsieur le Maire" was pronounced
at M. sur M. with almost the same accent as "Monseigneur the Bishop"
had been pronounced in D---- in 1815. People came from a distance of ten
leagues around to consult M. Madeleine. He put an end to differences,
he prevented lawsuits, he reconciled enemies. Every one took him for the
judge, and with good reason. It seemed as though he had for a soul the
book of the natural law. It was like an epidemic of veneration, which in
the course of six or seven years gradually took possession of the whole

One single man in the town, in the arrondissement, absolutely escaped
this contagion, and, whatever Father Madeleine did, remained his
opponent as though a sort of incorruptible and imperturbable instinct
kept him on the alert and uneasy. It seems, in fact, as though there
existed in certain men a veritable bestial instinct, though pure and
upright, like all instincts, which creates antipathies and sympathies,
which fatally separates one nature from another nature, which does not
hesitate, which feels no disquiet, which does not hold its peace,
and which never belies itself, clear in its obscurity, infallible,
imperious, intractable, stubborn to all counsels of the intelligence
and to all the dissolvents of reason, and which, in whatever manner
destinies are arranged, secretly warns the man-dog of the presence of
the man-cat, and the man-fox of the presence of the man-lion.

It frequently happened that when M. Madeleine was passing along a
street, calm, affectionate, surrounded by the blessings of all, a man of
lofty stature, clad in an iron-gray frock-coat, armed with a heavy
cane, and wearing a battered hat, turned round abruptly behind him, and
followed him with his eyes until he disappeared, with folded arms and
a slow shake of the head, and his upper lip raised in company with
his lower to his nose, a sort of significant grimace which might be
translated by: "What is that man, after all? I certainly have seen him
somewhere. In any case, I am not his dupe."

This person, grave with a gravity which was almost menacing, was one
of those men who, even when only seen by a rapid glimpse, arrest the
spectator's attention.

His name was Javert, and he belonged to the police.

At M. sur M. he exercised the unpleasant but useful functions of an
inspector. He had not seen Madeleine's beginnings. Javert owed the post
which he occupied to the protection of M. Chabouillet, the secretary of
the Minister of State, Comte Angeles, then prefect of police at Paris.
When Javert arrived at M. sur M. the fortune of the great manufacturer
was already made, and Father Madeleine had become Monsieur Madeleine.

Certain police officers have a peculiar physiognomy, which is
complicated with an air of baseness mingled with an air of authority.
Javert possessed this physiognomy minus the baseness.

It is our conviction that if souls were visible to the eyes, we should
be able to see distinctly that strange thing that each one individual
of the human race corresponds to some one of the species of the animal
creation; and we could easily recognize this truth, hardly perceived
by the thinker, that from the oyster to the eagle, from the pig to the
tiger, all animals exist in man, and that each one of them is in a man.
Sometimes even several of them at a time.

Animals are nothing else than the figures of our virtues and our vices,
straying before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls. God shows
them to us in order to induce us to reflect. Only since animals are mere
shadows, God has not made them capable of education in the full sense
of the word; what is the use? On the contrary, our souls being realities
and having a goal which is appropriate to them, God has bestowed on
them intelligence; that is to say, the possibility of education. Social
education, when well done, can always draw from a soul, of whatever sort
it may be, the utility which it contains.

This, be it said, is of course from the restricted point of view of the
terrestrial life which is apparent, and without prejudging the profound
question of the anterior or ulterior personality of the beings which are
not man. The visible _I_ in nowise authorizes the thinker to deny the
latent _I_. Having made this reservation, let us pass on.

Now, if the reader will admit, for a moment, with us, that in every man
there is one of the animal species of creation, it will be easy for us
to say what there was in Police Officer Javert.

The peasants of Asturias are convinced that in every litter of wolves
there is one dog, which is killed by the mother because, otherwise, as
he grew up, he would devour the other little ones.

Give to this dog-son of a wolf a human face, and the result will be

Javert had been born in prison, of a fortune-teller, whose husband was
in the galleys. As he grew up, he thought that he was outside the pale
of society, and he despaired of ever re-entering it. He observed that
society unpardoningly excludes two classes of men,--those who attack
it and those who guard it; he had no choice except between these
two classes; at the same time, he was conscious of an indescribable
foundation of rigidity, regularity, and probity, complicated with an
inexpressible hatred for the race of bohemians whence he was sprung. He
entered the police; he succeeded there. At forty years of age he was an

During his youth he had been employed in the convict establishments of
the South.

Before proceeding further, let us come to an understanding as to the
words, "human face," which we have just applied to Javert.

The human face of Javert consisted of a flat nose, with two deep
nostrils, towards which enormous whiskers ascended on his cheeks. One
felt ill at ease when he saw these two forests and these two caverns
for the first time. When Javert laughed,--and his laugh was rare and
terrible,--his thin lips parted and revealed to view not only his teeth,
but his gums, and around his nose there formed a flattened and savage
fold, as on the muzzle of a wild beast. Javert, serious, was a watchdog;
when he laughed, he was a tiger. As for the rest, he had very little
skull and a great deal of jaw; his hair concealed his forehead and
fell over his eyebrows; between his eyes there was a permanent, central
frown, like an imprint of wrath; his gaze was obscure; his mouth pursed
up and terrible; his air that of ferocious command.

This man was composed of two very simple and two very good sentiments,
comparatively; but he rendered them almost bad, by dint of exaggerating
them,--respect for authority, hatred of rebellion; and in his eyes,
murder, robbery, all crimes, are only forms of rebellion. He enveloped
in a blind and profound faith every one who had a function in the state,
from the prime minister to the rural policeman. He covered with scorn,
aversion, and disgust every one who had once crossed the legal threshold
of evil. He was absolute, and admitted no exceptions. On the one hand,
he said, "The functionary can make no mistake; the magistrate is never
the wrong." On the other hand, he said, "These men are irremediably
lost. Nothing good can come from them." He fully shared the opinion of
those extreme minds which attribute to human law I know not what power
of making, or, if the reader will have it so, of authenticating, demons,
and who place a Styx at the base of society. He was stoical, serious,
austere; a melancholy dreamer, humble and haughty, like fanatics. His
glance was like a gimlet, cold and piercing. His whole life hung on
these two words: watchfulness and supervision. He had introduced a
straight line into what is the most crooked thing in the world;
he possessed the conscience of his usefulness, the religion of his
functions, and he was a spy as other men are priests. Woe to the man
who fell into his hands! He would have arrested his own father, if
the latter had escaped from the galleys, and would have denounced his
mother, if she had broken her ban. And he would have done it with that
sort of inward satisfaction which is conferred by virtue. And, withal,
a life of privation, isolation, abnegation, chastity, with never
a diversion. It was implacable duty; the police understood, as the
Spartans understood Sparta, a pitiless lying in wait, a ferocious
honesty, a marble informer, Brutus in Vidocq.

Javert's whole person was expressive of the man who spies and who
withdraws himself from observation. The mystical school of Joseph de
Maistre, which at that epoch seasoned with lofty cosmogony those things
which were called the ultra newspapers, would not have failed to declare
that Javert was a symbol. His brow was not visible; it disappeared
beneath his hat: his eyes were not visible, since they were lost under
his eyebrows: his chin was not visible, for it was plunged in his
cravat: his hands were not visible; they were drawn up in his sleeves:
and his cane was not visible; he carried it under his coat. But when the
occasion presented itself, there was suddenly seen to emerge from all
this shadow, as from an ambuscade, a narrow and angular forehead, a
baleful glance, a threatening chin, enormous hands, and a monstrous

In his leisure moments, which were far from frequent, he read, although
he hated books; this caused him to be not wholly illiterate. This could
be recognized by some emphasis in his speech.

As we have said, he had no vices. When he was pleased with himself,
he permitted himself a pinch of snuff. Therein lay his connection with

The reader will have no difficulty in understanding that Javert was the
terror of that whole class which the annual statistics of the Ministry
of Justice designates under the rubric, Vagrants. The name of Javert
routed them by its mere utterance; the face of Javert petrified them at

Such was this formidable man.

Javert was like an eye constantly fixed on M. Madeleine. An eye full of
suspicion and conjecture. M. Madeleine had finally perceived the fact;
but it seemed to be of no importance to him. He did not even put a
question to Javert; he neither sought nor avoided him; he bore that
embarrassing and almost oppressive gaze without appearing to notice it.
He treated Javert with ease and courtesy, as he did all the rest of the

It was divined, from some words which escaped Javert, that he had
secretly investigated, with that curiosity which belongs to the race,
and into which there enters as much instinct as will, all the anterior
traces which Father Madeleine might have left elsewhere. He seemed to
know, and he sometimes said in covert words, that some one had gleaned
certain information in a certain district about a family which had
disappeared. Once he chanced to say, as he was talking to himself, "I
think I have him!" Then he remained pensive for three days, and uttered
not a word. It seemed that the thread which he thought he held had

Moreover, and this furnishes the necessary corrective for the too
absolute sense which certain words might present, there can be nothing
really infallible in a human creature, and the peculiarity of instinct
is that it can become confused, thrown off the track, and defeated.
Otherwise, it would be superior to intelligence, and the beast would be
found to be provided with a better light than man.

Javert was evidently somewhat disconcerted by the perfect naturalness
and tranquillity of M. Madeleine.

One day, nevertheless, his strange manner appeared to produce an
impression on M. Madeleine. It was on the following occasion.


One morning M. Madeleine was passing through an unpaved alley of M. sur
M.; he heard a noise, and saw a group some distance away. He approached.
An old man named Father Fauchelevent had just fallen beneath his cart,
his horse having tumbled down.

This Fauchelevent was one of the few enemies whom M. Madeleine had at
that time. When Madeleine arrived in the neighborhood, Fauchelevent, an
ex-notary and a peasant who was almost educated, had a business which
was beginning to be in a bad way. Fauchelevent had seen this simple
workman grow rich, while he, a lawyer, was being ruined. This had filled
him with jealousy, and he had done all he could, on every occasion,
to injure Madeleine. Then bankruptcy had come; and as the old man had
nothing left but a cart and a horse, and neither family nor children, he
had turned carter.

The horse had two broken legs and could not rise. The old man was caught
in the wheels. The fall had been so unlucky that the whole weight of the
vehicle rested on his breast. The cart was quite heavily laden. Father
Fauchelevent was rattling in the throat in the most lamentable manner.
They had tried, but in vain, to drag him out. An unmethodical effort,
aid awkwardly given, a wrong shake, might kill him. It was impossible to
disengage him otherwise than by lifting the vehicle off of him.
Javert, who had come up at the moment of the accident, had sent for a

M. Madeleine arrived. People stood aside respectfully.

"Help!" cried old Fauchelevent. "Who will be good and save the old man?"

M. Madeleine turned towards those present:--

"Is there a jack-screw to be had?"

"One has been sent for," answered the peasant.

"How long will it take to get it?"

"They have gone for the nearest, to Flachot's place, where there is a
farrier; but it makes no difference; it will take a good quarter of an

"A quarter of an hour!" exclaimed Madeleine.

It had rained on the preceding night; the soil was soaked.

The cart was sinking deeper into the earth every moment, and crushing
the old carter's breast more and more. It was evident that his ribs
would be broken in five minutes more.

"It is impossible to wait another quarter of an hour," said Madeleine to
the peasants, who were staring at him.

"We must!"

"But it will be too late then! Don't you see that the cart is sinking?"


"Listen," resumed Madeleine; "there is still room enough under the cart
to allow a man to crawl beneath it and raise it with his back. Only half
a minute, and the poor man can be taken out. Is there any one here who
has stout loins and heart? There are five louis d'or to be earned!"

Not a man in the group stirred.

"Ten louis," said Madeleine.

The persons present dropped their eyes. One of them muttered: "A man
would need to be devilish strong. And then he runs the risk of getting

"Come," began Madeleine again, "twenty louis."

The same silence.

"It is not the will which is lacking," said a voice.

M. Madeleine turned round, and recognized Javert. He had not noticed him
on his arrival.

Javert went on:--

"It is strength. One would have to be a terrible man to do such a thing
as lift a cart like that on his back."

Then, gazing fixedly at M. Madeleine, he went on, emphasizing every word
that he uttered:--

"Monsieur Madeleine, I have never known but one man capable of doing
what you ask."

Madeleine shuddered.

Javert added, with an air of indifference, but without removing his eyes
from Madeleine:--

"He was a convict."

"Ah!" said Madeleine.

"In the galleys at Toulon."

Madeleine turned pale.

Meanwhile, the cart continued to sink slowly. Father Fauchelevent
rattled in the throat, and shrieked:--

"I am strangling! My ribs are breaking! a screw! something! Ah!"

Madeleine glanced about him.

"Is there, then, no one who wishes to earn twenty louis and save the
life of this poor old man?"

No one stirred. Javert resumed:--

"I have never known but one man who could take the place of a screw, and
he was that convict."

"Ah! It is crushing me!" cried the old man.

Madeleine raised his head, met Javert's falcon eye still fixed upon
him, looked at the motionless peasants, and smiled sadly. Then, without
saying a word, he fell on his knees, and before the crowd had even had
time to utter a cry, he was underneath the vehicle.

A terrible moment of expectation and silence ensued.

They beheld Madeleine, almost flat on his stomach beneath that terrible
weight, make two vain efforts to bring his knees and his elbows
together. They shouted to him, "Father Madeleine, come out!" Old
Fauchelevent himself said to him, "Monsieur Madeleine, go away! You see
that I am fated to die! Leave me! You will get yourself crushed also!"
Madeleine made no reply.

All the spectators were panting. The wheels had continued to sink, and
it had become almost impossible for Madeleine to make his way from under
the vehicle.

Suddenly the enormous mass was seen to quiver, the cart rose slowly, the
wheels half emerged from the ruts. They heard a stifled voice crying,
"Make haste! Help!" It was Madeleine, who had just made a final effort.

They rushed forwards. The devotion of a single man had given force and
courage to all. The cart was raised by twenty arms. Old Fauchelevent was

Madeleine rose. He was pale, though dripping with perspiration. His
clothes were torn and covered with mud. All wept. The old man kissed
his knees and called him the good God. As for him, he bore upon
his countenance an indescribable expression of happy and celestial
suffering, and he fixed his tranquil eye on Javert, who was still
staring at him.


Fauchelevent had dislocated his kneepan in his fall. Father Madeleine
had him conveyed to an infirmary which he had established for his
workmen in the factory building itself, and which was served by two
sisters of charity. On the following morning the old man found a
thousand-franc bank-note on his night-stand, with these words in Father
Madeleine's writing: "I purchase your horse and cart." The cart was
broken, and the horse was dead. Fauchelevent recovered, but his knee
remained stiff. M. Madeleine, on the recommendation of the sisters of
charity and of his priest, got the good man a place as gardener in a
female convent in the Rue Saint-Antoine in Paris.

Some time afterwards, M. Madeleine was appointed mayor. The first time
that Javert beheld M. Madeleine clothed in the scarf which gave him
authority over the town, he felt the sort of shudder which a watch-dog
might experience on smelling a wolf in his master's clothes. From
that time forth he avoided him as much as he possibly could. When the
requirements of the service imperatively demanded it, and he could
not do otherwise than meet the mayor, he addressed him with profound

This prosperity created at M. sur M. by Father Madeleine had, besides
the visible signs which we have mentioned, another symptom which was
none the less significant for not being visible. This never deceives.
When the population suffers, when work is lacking, when there is no
commerce, the tax-payer resists imposts through penury, he exhausts and
oversteps his respite, and the state expends a great deal of money in
the charges for compelling and collection. When work is abundant, when
the country is rich and happy, the taxes are paid easily and cost the
state nothing. It may be said, that there is one infallible thermometer
of the public misery and riches,--the cost of collecting the taxes.
In the course of seven years the expense of collecting the taxes had
diminished three-fourths in the arrondissement of M. sur M., and this
led to this arrondissement being frequently cited from all the rest by
M. de Villele, then Minister of Finance.

Such was the condition of the country when Fantine returned thither. No
one remembered her. Fortunately, the door of M. Madeleine's factory was
like the face of a friend. She presented herself there, and was admitted
to the women's workroom. The trade was entirely new to Fantine; she
could not be very skilful at it, and she therefore earned but little by
her day's work; but it was sufficient; the problem was solved; she was
earning her living.


When Fantine saw that she was making her living, she felt joyful for a
moment. To live honestly by her own labor, what mercy from heaven! The
taste for work had really returned to her. She bought a looking-glass,
took pleasure in surveying in it her youth, her beautiful hair, her fine
teeth; she forgot many things; she thought only of Cosette and of the
possible future, and was almost happy. She hired a little room and
furnished on credit on the strength of her future work--a lingering
trace of her improvident ways. As she was not able to say that she was
married she took good care, as we have seen, not to mention her little

At first, as the reader has seen, she paid the Thenardiers promptly. As
she only knew how to sign her name, she was obliged to write through a
public letter-writer.

She wrote often, and this was noticed. It began to be said in an
undertone, in the women's workroom, that Fantine "wrote letters" and
that "she had ways about her."

There is no one for spying on people's actions like those who are
not concerned in them. Why does that gentleman never come except at
nightfall? Why does Mr. So-and-So never hang his key on its nail on
Tuesday? Why does he always take the narrow streets? Why does Madame
always descend from her hackney-coach before reaching her house? Why
does she send out to purchase six sheets of note paper, when she has a
"whole stationer's shop full of it?" etc. There exist beings who, for
the sake of obtaining the key to these enigmas, which are, moreover, of
no consequence whatever to them, spend more money, waste more time,
take more trouble, than would be required for ten good actions, and
that gratuitously, for their own pleasure, without receiving any other
payment for their curiosity than curiosity. They will follow up such and
such a man or woman for whole days; they will do sentry duty for hours
at a time on the corners of the streets, under alley-way doors at night,
in cold and rain; they will bribe errand-porters, they will make the
drivers of hackney-coaches and lackeys tipsy, buy a waiting-maid, suborn
a porter. Why? For no reason. A pure passion for seeing, knowing,
and penetrating into things. A pure itch for talking. And often
these secrets once known, these mysteries made public, these enigmas
illuminated by the light of day, bring on catastrophies, duels,
failures, the ruin of families, and broken lives, to the great joy
of those who have "found out everything," without any interest in the
matter, and by pure instinct. A sad thing.

Certain persons are malicious solely through a necessity for talking.
Their conversation, the chat of the drawing-room, gossip of the
anteroom, is like those chimneys which consume wood rapidly; they need
a great amount of combustibles; and their combustibles are furnished by
their neighbors.

So Fantine was watched.

In addition, many a one was jealous of her golden hair and of her white

It was remarked that in the workroom she often turned aside, in the
midst of the rest, to wipe away a tear. These were the moments when she
was thinking of her child; perhaps, also, of the man whom she had loved.

Breaking the gloomy bonds of the past is a mournful task.

It was observed that she wrote twice a month at least, and that she
paid the carriage on the letter. They managed to obtain the address:
Monsieur, Monsieur Thenardier, inn-keeper at Montfermeil. The public
writer, a good old man who could not fill his stomach with red wine
without emptying his pocket of secrets, was made to talk in the
wine-shop. In short, it was discovered that Fantine had a child. "She
must be a pretty sort of a woman." An old gossip was found, who made the
trip to Montfermeil, talked to the Thenardiers, and said on her return:
"For my five and thirty francs I have freed my mind. I have seen the

The gossip who did this thing was a gorgon named Madame Victurnien, the
guardian and door-keeper of every one's virtue. Madame Victurnien was
fifty-six, and re-enforced the mask of ugliness with the mask of age.
A quavering voice, a whimsical mind. This old dame had once been
young--astonishing fact! In her youth, in '93, she had married a
monk who had fled from his cloister in a red cap, and passed from
the Bernardines to the Jacobins. She was dry, rough, peevish, sharp,
captious, almost venomous; all this in memory of her monk, whose widow
she was, and who had ruled over her masterfully and bent her to his
will. She was a nettle in which the rustle of the cassock was visible.
At the Restoration she had turned bigot, and that with so much energy
that the priests had forgiven her her monk. She had a small property,
which she bequeathed with much ostentation to a religious community.
She was in high favor at the episcopal palace of Arras. So this Madame
Victurnien went to Montfermeil, and returned with the remark, "I have
seen the child."

All this took time. Fantine had been at the factory for more than a
year, when, one morning, the superintendent of the workroom handed her
fifty francs from the mayor, told her that she was no longer employed
in the shop, and requested her, in the mayor's name, to leave the

This was the very month when the Thenardiers, after having demanded
twelve francs instead of six, had just exacted fifteen francs instead of

Fantine was overwhelmed. She could not leave the neighborhood; she was
in debt for her rent and furniture. Fifty francs was not sufficient
to cancel this debt. She stammered a few supplicating words. The
superintendent ordered her to leave the shop on the instant. Besides,
Fantine was only a moderately good workwoman. Overcome with shame, even
more than with despair, she quitted the shop, and returned to her room.
So her fault was now known to every one.

She no longer felt strong enough to say a word. She was advised to
see the mayor; she did not dare. The mayor had given her fifty francs
because he was good, and had dismissed her because he was just. She
bowed before the decision.


So the monk's widow was good for something.

But M. Madeleine had heard nothing of all this. Life is full of just
such combinations of events. M. Madeleine was in the habit of almost
never entering the women's workroom.

At the head of this room he had placed an elderly spinster, whom
the priest had provided for him, and he had full confidence in this
superintendent,--a truly respectable person, firm, equitable, upright,
full of the charity which consists in giving, but not having in the same
degree that charity which consists in understanding and in forgiving.
M. Madeleine relied wholly on her. The best men are often obliged
to delegate their authority. It was with this full power, and the
conviction that she was doing right, that the superintendent had
instituted the suit, judged, condemned, and executed Fantine.

As regards the fifty francs, she had given them from a fund which M.
Madeleine had intrusted to her for charitable purposes, and for giving
assistance to the workwomen, and of which she rendered no account.

Fantine tried to obtain a situation as a servant in the neighborhood;
she went from house to house. No one would have her. She could not
leave town. The second-hand dealer, to whom she was in debt for her
furniture--and what furniture!--said to her, "If you leave, I will have
you arrested as a thief." The householder, whom she owed for her rent,
said to her, "You are young and pretty; you can pay." She divided the
fifty francs between the landlord and the furniture-dealer, returned to
the latter three-quarters of his goods, kept only necessaries, and found
herself without work, without a trade, with nothing but her bed, and
still about fifty francs in debt.

She began to make coarse shirts for soldiers of the garrison, and earned
twelve sous a day. Her daughter cost her ten. It was at this point that
she began to pay the Thenardiers irregularly.

However, the old woman who lighted her candle for her when she returned
at night, taught her the art of living in misery. Back of living on
little, there is the living on nothing. These are the two chambers; the
first is dark, the second is black.

Fantine learned how to live without fire entirely in the winter; how to
give up a bird which eats a half a farthing's worth of millet every
two days; how to make a coverlet of one's petticoat, and a petticoat of
one's coverlet; how to save one's candle, by taking one's meals by
the light of the opposite window. No one knows all that certain feeble
creatures, who have grown old in privation and honesty, can get out of
a sou. It ends by being a talent. Fantine acquired this sublime talent,
and regained a little courage.

At this epoch she said to a neighbor, "Bah! I say to myself, by only
sleeping five hours, and working all the rest of the time at my sewing,
I shall always manage to nearly earn my bread. And, then, when one is
sad, one eats less. Well, sufferings, uneasiness, a little bread on one
hand, trouble on the other,--all this will support me."

It would have been a great happiness to have her little girl with her in
this distress. She thought of having her come. But what then! Make her
share her own destitution! And then, she was in debt to the Thenardiers!
How could she pay them? And the journey! How pay for that?

The old woman who had given her lessons in what may be called the life
of indigence, was a sainted spinster named Marguerite, who was pious
with a true piety, poor and charitable towards the poor, and even
towards the rich, knowing how to write just sufficiently to sign herself
Marguerite, and believing in God, which is science.

There are many such virtuous people in this lower world; some day they
will be in the world above. This life has a morrow.

At first, Fantine had been so ashamed that she had not dared to go out.

When she was in the street, she divined that people turned round behind
her, and pointed at her; every one stared at her and no one greeted her;
the cold and bitter scorn of the passers-by penetrated her very flesh
and soul like a north wind.

It seems as though an unfortunate woman were utterly bare beneath the
sarcasm and the curiosity of all in small towns. In Paris, at least, no
one knows you, and this obscurity is a garment. Oh! how she would have
liked to betake herself to Paris! Impossible!

She was obliged to accustom herself to disrepute, as she had accustomed
herself to indigence. Gradually she decided on her course. At the
expiration of two or three months she shook off her shame, and began to
go about as though there were nothing the matter. "It is all the same to
me," she said.

She went and came, bearing her head well up, with a bitter smile, and
was conscious that she was becoming brazen-faced.

Madame Victurnien sometimes saw her passing, from her window, noticed
the distress of "that creature" who, "thanks to her," had been "put back
in her proper place," and congratulated herself. The happiness of the
evil-minded is black.

Excess of toil wore out Fantine, and the little dry cough which troubled
her increased. She sometimes said to her neighbor, Marguerite, "Just
feel how hot my hands are!"

Nevertheless, when she combed her beautiful hair in the morning with
an old broken comb, and it flowed about her like floss silk, she
experienced a moment of happy coquetry.


She had been dismissed towards the end of the winter; the summer passed,
but winter came again. Short days, less work. Winter: no warmth,
no light, no noonday, the evening joining on to the morning, fogs,
twilight; the window is gray; it is impossible to see clearly at it. The
sky is but a vent-hole. The whole day is a cavern. The sun has the air
of a beggar. A frightful season! Winter changes the water of heaven and
the heart of man into a stone. Her creditors harrassed her.

Fantine earned too little. Her debts had increased. The Thenardiers, who
were not promptly paid, wrote to her constantly letters whose contents
drove her to despair, and whose carriage ruined her. One day they wrote
to her that her little Cosette was entirely naked in that cold weather,
that she needed a woollen skirt, and that her mother must send at least
ten francs for this. She received the letter, and crushed it in her
hands all day long. That evening she went into a barber's shop at the
corner of the street, and pulled out her comb. Her admirable golden hair
fell to her knees.

"What splendid hair!" exclaimed the barber.

"How much will you give me for it?" said she.

"Ten francs."

"Cut it off."

She purchased a knitted petticoat and sent it to the Thenardiers. This
petticoat made the Thenardiers furious. It was the money that they
wanted. They gave the petticoat to Eponine. The poor Lark continued to

Fantine thought: "My child is no longer cold. I have clothed her with my
hair." She put on little round caps which concealed her shorn head, and
in which she was still pretty.

Dark thoughts held possession of Fantine's heart.

When she saw that she could no longer dress her hair, she began to hate
every one about her. She had long shared the universal veneration for
Father Madeleine; yet, by dint of repeating to herself that it was he
who had discharged her, that he was the cause of her unhappiness, she
came to hate him also, and most of all. When she passed the factory in
working hours, when the workpeople were at the door, she affected to
laugh and sing.

An old workwoman who once saw her laughing and singing in this fashion
said, "There's a girl who will come to a bad end."

She took a lover, the first who offered, a man whom she did not love,
out of bravado and with rage in her heart. He was a miserable scamp,
a sort of mendicant musician, a lazy beggar, who beat her, and who
abandoned her as she had taken him, in disgust.

She adored her child.

The lower she descended, the darker everything grew about her, the more
radiant shone that little angel at the bottom of her heart. She said,
"When I get rich, I will have my Cosette with me;" and she laughed. Her
cough did not leave her, and she had sweats on her back.

One day she received from the Thenardiers a letter couched in the
following terms: "Cosette is ill with a malady which is going the rounds
of the neighborhood. A miliary fever, they call it. Expensive drugs are
required. This is ruining us, and we can no longer pay for them. If you
do not send us forty francs before the week is out, the little one will
be dead."

She burst out laughing, and said to her old neighbor: "Ah! they are
good! Forty francs! the idea! That makes two napoleons! Where do they
think I am to get them? These peasants are stupid, truly."

Nevertheless she went to a dormer window in the staircase and read the
letter once more. Then she descended the stairs and emerged, running and
leaping and still laughing.

Some one met her and said to her, "What makes you so gay?"

She replied: "A fine piece of stupidity that some country people have
written to me. They demand forty francs of me. So much for you, you

As she crossed the square, she saw a great many people collected around
a carriage of eccentric shape, upon the top of which stood a man dressed
in red, who was holding forth. He was a quack dentist on his rounds,
who was offering to the public full sets of teeth, opiates, powders and

Fantine mingled in the group, and began to laugh with the rest at
the harangue, which contained slang for the populace and jargon for
respectable people. The tooth-puller espied the lovely, laughing girl,
and suddenly exclaimed: "You have beautiful teeth, you girl there, who
are laughing; if you want to sell me your palettes, I will give you a
gold napoleon apiece for them."

"What are my palettes?" asked Fantine.

"The palettes," replied the dental professor, "are the front teeth, the
two upper ones."

"How horrible!" exclaimed Fantine.

"Two napoleons!" grumbled a toothless old woman who was present. "Here's
a lucky girl!"

Fantine fled and stopped her ears that she might not hear the hoarse
voice of the man shouting to her: "Reflect, my beauty! two napoleons;
they may prove of service. If your heart bids you, come this evening to
the inn of the Tillac d'Argent; you will find me there."

Fantine returned home. She was furious, and related the occurrence to
her good neighbor Marguerite: "Can you understand such a thing? Is he
not an abominable man? How can they allow such people to go about the
country! Pull out my two front teeth! Why, I should be horrible! My hair
will grow again, but my teeth! Ah! what a monster of a man! I should
prefer to throw myself head first on the pavement from the fifth story!
He told me that he should be at the Tillac d'Argent this evening."

"And what did he offer?" asked Marguerite.

"Two napoleons."

"That makes forty francs."

"Yes," said Fantine; "that makes forty francs."

She remained thoughtful, and began her work. At the expiration of a
quarter of an hour she left her sewing and went to read the Thenardiers'
letter once more on the staircase.

On her return, she said to Marguerite, who was at work beside her:--

"What is a miliary fever? Do you know?"

"Yes," answered the old spinster; "it is a disease."

"Does it require many drugs?"

"Oh! terrible drugs."

"How does one get it?"

"It is a malady that one gets without knowing how."

"Then it attacks children?"

"Children in particular."

"Do people die of it?"

"They may," said Marguerite.

Fantine left the room and went to read her letter once more on the

That evening she went out, and was seen to turn her steps in the
direction of the Rue de Paris, where the inns are situated.

The next morning, when Marguerite entered Fantine's room before
daylight,--for they always worked together, and in this manner used only
one candle for the two,--she found Fantine seated on her bed, pale and
frozen. She had not lain down. Her cap had fallen on her knees.
Her candle had burned all night, and was almost entirely consumed.
Marguerite halted on the threshold, petrified at this tremendous
wastefulness, and exclaimed:--

"Lord! the candle is all burned out! Something has happened."

Then she looked at Fantine, who turned toward her her head bereft of its

Fantine had grown ten years older since the preceding night.

"Jesus!" said Marguerite, "what is the matter with you, Fantine?"

"Nothing," replied Fantine. "Quite the contrary. My child will not die
of that frightful malady, for lack of succor. I am content."

So saying, she pointed out to the spinster two napoleons which were
glittering on the table.

"Ah! Jesus God!" cried Marguerite. "Why, it is a fortune! Where did you
get those louis d'or?"

"I got them," replied Fantine.

At the same time she smiled. The candle illuminated her countenance. It
was a bloody smile. A reddish saliva soiled the corners of her lips, and
she had a black hole in her mouth.

The two teeth had been extracted.

She sent the forty francs to Montfermeil.

After all it was a ruse of the Thenardiers to obtain money. Cosette was
not ill.

Fantine threw her mirror out of the window. She had long since quitted
her cell on the second floor for an attic with only a latch to fasten
it, next the roof; one of those attics whose extremity forms an angle
with the floor, and knocks you on the head every instant. The poor
occupant can reach the end of his chamber as he can the end of his
destiny, only by bending over more and more.

She had no longer a bed; a rag which she called her coverlet, a mattress
on the floor, and a seatless chair still remained. A little rosebush
which she had, had dried up, forgotten, in one corner. In the other
corner was a butter-pot to hold water, which froze in winter, and in
which the various levels of the water remained long marked by these
circles of ice. She had lost her shame; she lost her coquetry. A final
sign. She went out, with dirty caps. Whether from lack of time or from
indifference, she no longer mended her linen. As the heels wore out,
she dragged her stockings down into her shoes. This was evident from the
perpendicular wrinkles. She patched her bodice, which was old and worn
out, with scraps of calico which tore at the slightest movement. The
people to whom she was indebted made "scenes" and gave her no peace.
She found them in the street, she found them again on her staircase. She
passed many a night weeping and thinking. Her eyes were very bright,
and she felt a steady pain in her shoulder towards the top of the
left shoulder-blade. She coughed a great deal. She deeply hated Father
Madeleine, but made no complaint. She sewed seventeen hours a day; but
a contractor for the work of prisons, who made the prisoners work at a
discount, suddenly made prices fall, which reduced the daily earnings
of working-women to nine sous. Seventeen hours of toil, and nine sous a
day! Her creditors were more pitiless than ever. The second-hand dealer,
who had taken back nearly all his furniture, said to her incessantly,
"When will you pay me, you hussy?" What did they want of her, good God!
She felt that she was being hunted, and something of the wild beast
developed in her. About the same time, Thenardier wrote to her that he
had waited with decidedly too much amiability and that he must have a
hundred francs at once; otherwise he would turn little Cosette out of
doors, convalescent as she was from her heavy illness, into the cold and
the streets, and that she might do what she liked with herself, and die
if she chose. "A hundred francs," thought Fantine. "But in what trade
can one earn a hundred sous a day?"

"Come!" said she, "let us sell what is left."

The unfortunate girl became a woman of the town.


What is this history of Fantine? It is society purchasing a slave.

From whom? From misery.

From hunger, cold, isolation, destitution. A dolorous bargain. A soul
for a morsel of bread. Misery offers; society accepts.

The sacred law of Jesus Christ governs our civilization, but it does
not, as yet, permeate it; it is said that slavery has disappeared from
European civilization. This is a mistake. It still exists; but it weighs
only upon the woman, and it is called prostitution.

It weighs upon the woman, that is to say, upon grace, weakness, beauty,
maternity. This is not one of the least of man's disgraces.

At the point in this melancholy drama which we have now reached, nothing
is left to Fantine of that which she had formerly been.

She has become marble in becoming mire. Whoever touches her feels cold.
She passes; she endures you; she ignores you; she is the severe and
dishonored figure. Life and the social order have said their last word
for her. All has happened to her that will happen to her. She has
felt everything, borne everything, experienced everything, suffered
everything, lost everything, mourned everything. She is resigned, with
that resignation which resembles indifference, as death resembles sleep.
She no longer avoids anything. Let all the clouds fall upon her, and all
the ocean sweep over her! What matters it to her? She is a sponge that
is soaked.

At least, she believes it to be so; but it is an error to imagine that
fate can be exhausted, and that one has reached the bottom of anything

Alas! What are all these fates, driven on pell-mell? Whither are they
going? Why are they thus?

He who knows that sees the whole of the shadow.

He is alone. His name is God.


There is in all small towns, and there was at M. sur M. in particular,
a class of young men who nibble away an income of fifteen hundred
francs with the same air with which their prototypes devour two hundred
thousand francs a year in Paris. These are beings of the great neuter
species: impotent men, parasites, cyphers, who have a little land, a
little folly, a little wit; who would be rustics in a drawing-room, and
who think themselves gentlemen in the dram-shop; who say, "My fields,
my peasants, my woods"; who hiss actresses at the theatre to prove that
they are persons of taste; quarrel with the officers of the garrison
to prove that they are men of war; hunt, smoke, yawn, drink, smell of
tobacco, play billiards, stare at travellers as they descend from the
diligence, live at the cafe, dine at the inn, have a dog which eats the
bones under the table, and a mistress who eats the dishes on the table;
who stick at a sou, exaggerate the fashions, admire tragedy, despise
women, wear out their old boots, copy London through Paris, and Paris
through the medium of Pont-A-Mousson, grow old as dullards, never work,
serve no use, and do no great harm.

M. Felix Tholomyes, had he remained in his own province and never beheld
Paris, would have been one of these men.

If they were richer, one would say, "They are dandies;" if they were
poorer, one would say, "They are idlers." They are simply men without
employment. Among these unemployed there are bores, the bored, dreamers,
and some knaves.

At that period a dandy was composed of a tall collar, a big cravat, a
watch with trinkets, three vests of different colors, worn one on top of
the other--the red and blue inside; of a short-waisted olive coat, with
a codfish tail, a double row of silver buttons set close to each other
and running up to the shoulder; and a pair of trousers of a lighter
shade of olive, ornamented on the two seams with an indefinite, but
always uneven, number of lines, varying from one to eleven--a limit
which was never exceeded. Add to this, high shoes with little irons
on the heels, a tall hat with a narrow brim, hair worn in a tuft, an
enormous cane, and conversation set off by puns of Potier. Over all,
spurs and a mustache. At that epoch mustaches indicated the bourgeois,
and spurs the pedestrian.

The provincial dandy wore the longest of spurs and the fiercest of

It was the period of the conflict of the republics of South America with
the King of Spain, of Bolivar against Morillo. Narrow-brimmed hats were
royalist, and were called morillos; liberals wore hats with wide brims,
which were called bolivars.

Eight or ten months, then, after that which is related in the preceding
pages, towards the first of January, 1823, on a snowy evening, one of
these dandies, one of these unemployed, a "right thinker," for he wore
a morillo, and was, moreover, warmly enveloped in one of those large
cloaks which completed the fashionable costume in cold weather, was
amusing himself by tormenting a creature who was prowling about in a
ball-dress, with neck uncovered and flowers in her hair, in front of
the officers' cafe. This dandy was smoking, for he was decidedly

Each time that the woman passed in front of him, he bestowed on her,
together with a puff from his cigar, some apostrophe which he considered
witty and mirthful, such as, "How ugly you are!--Will you get out of my
sight?--You have no teeth!" etc., etc. This gentleman was known as M.
Bamatabois. The woman, a melancholy, decorated spectre which went and
came through the snow, made him no reply, did not even glance at him,
and nevertheless continued her promenade in silence, and with a sombre
regularity, which brought her every five minutes within reach of this
sarcasm, like the condemned soldier who returns under the rods. The
small effect which he produced no doubt piqued the lounger; and taking
advantage of a moment when her back was turned, he crept up behind her
with the gait of a wolf, and stifling his laugh, bent down, picked up a
handful of snow from the pavement, and thrust it abruptly into her back,
between her bare shoulders. The woman uttered a roar, whirled round,
gave a leap like a panther, and hurled herself upon the man, burying her
nails in his face, with the most frightful words which could fall from
the guard-room into the gutter. These insults, poured forth in a voice
roughened by brandy, did, indeed, proceed in hideous wise from a mouth
which lacked its two front teeth. It was Fantine.

At the noise thus produced, the officers ran out in throngs from the
cafe, passers-by collected, and a large and merry circle, hooting and
applauding, was formed around this whirlwind composed of two beings,
whom there was some difficulty in recognizing as a man and a woman: the
man struggling, his hat on the ground; the woman striking out with feet
and fists, bareheaded, howling, minus hair and teeth, livid with wrath,

Suddenly a man of lofty stature emerged vivaciously from the crowd,
seized the woman by her satin bodice, which was covered with mud, and
said to her, "Follow me!"

The woman raised her head; her furious voice suddenly died away. Her
eyes were glassy; she turned pale instead of livid, and she trembled
with a quiver of terror. She had recognized Javert.

The dandy took advantage of the incident to make his escape.


Javert thrust aside the spectators, broke the circle, and set out
with long strides towards the police station, which is situated at the
extremity of the square, dragging the wretched woman after him. She
yielded mechanically. Neither he nor she uttered a word. The cloud of
spectators followed, jesting, in a paroxysm of delight. Supreme misery
an occasion for obscenity.

On arriving at the police station, which was a low room, warmed by a
stove, with a glazed and grated door opening on the street, and guarded
by a detachment, Javert opened the door, entered with Fantine, and shut
the door behind him, to the great disappointment of the curious, who
raised themselves on tiptoe, and craned their necks in front of the
thick glass of the station-house, in their effort to see. Curiosity is a
sort of gluttony. To see is to devour.

On entering, Fantine fell down in a corner, motionless and mute,
crouching down like a terrified dog.

The sergeant of the guard brought a lighted candle to the table. Javert
seated himself, drew a sheet of stamped paper from his pocket, and began
to write.

This class of women is consigned by our laws entirely to the discretion
of the police. The latter do what they please, punish them, as seems
good to them, and confiscate at their will those two sorry things which
they entitle their industry and their liberty. Javert was impassive; his
grave face betrayed no emotion whatever. Nevertheless, he was seriously
and deeply preoccupied. It was one of those moments when he was
exercising without control, but subject to all the scruples of a severe
conscience, his redoubtable discretionary power. At that moment he was
conscious that his police agent's stool was a tribunal. He was entering
judgment. He judged and condemned. He summoned all the ideas which could
possibly exist in his mind, around the great thing which he was doing.
The more he examined the deed of this woman, the more shocked he felt.
It was evident that he had just witnessed the commission of a crime.
He had just beheld, yonder, in the street, society, in the person of a
freeholder and an elector, insulted and attacked by a creature who was
outside all pales. A prostitute had made an attempt on the life of a
citizen. He had seen that, he, Javert. He wrote in silence.

When he had finished he signed the paper, folded it, and said to the
sergeant of the guard, as he handed it to him, "Take three men and
conduct this creature to jail."

Then, turning to Fantine, "You are to have six months of it." The
unhappy woman shuddered.

"Six months! six months of prison!" she exclaimed. "Six months in which
to earn seven sous a day! But what will become of Cosette? My daughter!
my daughter! But I still owe the Thenardiers over a hundred francs; do
you know that, Monsieur Inspector?"

She dragged herself across the damp floor, among the muddy boots of all
those men, without rising, with clasped hands, and taking great strides
on her knees.

"Monsieur Javert," said she, "I beseech your mercy. I assure you that
I was not in the wrong. If you had seen the beginning, you would have
seen. I swear to you by the good God that I was not to blame! That
gentleman, the bourgeois, whom I do not know, put snow in my back. Has
any one the right to put snow down our backs when we are walking along
peaceably, and doing no harm to any one? I am rather ill, as you see.
And then, he had been saying impertinent things to me for a long time:
'You are ugly! you have no teeth!' I know well that I have no longer
those teeth. I did nothing; I said to myself, 'The gentleman is amusing
himself.' I was honest with him; I did not speak to him. It was at that
moment that he put the snow down my back. Monsieur Javert, good Monsieur
Inspector! is there not some person here who saw it and can tell you
that this is quite true? Perhaps I did wrong to get angry. You know that
one is not master of one's self at the first moment. One gives way to
vivacity; and then, when some one puts something cold down your
back just when you are not expecting it! I did wrong to spoil that
gentleman's hat. Why did he go away? I would ask his pardon. Oh, my God!
It makes no difference to me whether I ask his pardon. Do me the favor
to-day, for this once, Monsieur Javert. Hold! you do not know that in
prison one can earn only seven sous a day; it is not the government's
fault, but seven sous is one's earnings; and just fancy, I must pay
one hundred francs, or my little girl will be sent to me. Oh, my God!
I cannot have her with me. What I do is so vile! Oh, my Cosette! Oh, my
little angel of the Holy Virgin! what will become of her, poor creature?
I will tell you: it is the Thenardiers, inn-keepers, peasants; and such
people are unreasonable. They want money. Don't put me in prison! You
see, there is a little girl who will be turned out into the street to
get along as best she may, in the very heart of the winter; and you must
have pity on such a being, my good Monsieur Javert. If she were older,
she might earn her living; but it cannot be done at that age. I am not a
bad woman at bottom. It is not cowardliness and gluttony that have made
me what I am. If I have drunk brandy, it was out of misery. I do not
love it; but it benumbs the senses. When I was happy, it was only
necessary to glance into my closets, and it would have been evident that
I was not a coquettish and untidy woman. I had linen, a great deal of
linen. Have pity on me, Monsieur Javert!"

She spoke thus, rent in twain, shaken with sobs, blinded with tears,
her neck bare, wringing her hands, and coughing with a dry, short cough,
stammering softly with a voice of agony. Great sorrow is a divine and
terrible ray, which transfigures the unhappy. At that moment Fantine had
become beautiful once more. From time to time she paused, and tenderly
kissed the police agent's coat. She would have softened a heart of
granite; but a heart of wood cannot be softened.

"Come!" said Javert, "I have heard you out. Have you entirely finished?
You will get six months. Now march! The Eternal Father in person could
do nothing more."

At these solemn words, "the Eternal Father in person could do nothing
more," she understood that her fate was sealed. She sank down,
murmuring, "Mercy!"

Javert turned his back.

The soldiers seized her by the arms.

A few moments earlier a man had entered, but no one had paid any heed
to him. He shut the door, leaned his back against it, and listened to
Fantine's despairing supplications.

At the instant when the soldiers laid their hands upon the unfortunate
woman, who would not rise, he emerged from the shadow, and said:--

"One moment, if you please."

Javert raised his eyes and recognized M. Madeleine. He removed his hat,
and, saluting him with a sort of aggrieved awkwardness:--

"Excuse me, Mr. Mayor--"

The words "Mr. Mayor" produced a curious effect upon Fantine. She rose
to her feet with one bound, like a spectre springing from the earth,
thrust aside the soldiers with both arms, walked straight up to M.
Madeleine before any one could prevent her, and gazing intently at him,
with a bewildered air, she cried:--

"Ah! so it is you who are M. le Maire!"

Then she burst into a laugh, and spit in his face.

M. Madeleine wiped his face, and said:--

"Inspector Javert, set this woman at liberty."

Javert felt that he was on the verge of going mad. He experienced at
that moment, blow upon blow and almost simultaneously, the most violent
emotions which he had ever undergone in all his life. To see a woman of
the town spit in the mayor's face was a thing so monstrous that, in his
most daring flights of fancy, he would have regarded it as a sacrilege
to believe it possible. On the other hand, at the very bottom of his
thought, he made a hideous comparison as to what this woman was, and as
to what this mayor might be; and then he, with horror, caught a glimpse
of I know not what simple explanation of this prodigious attack. But
when he beheld that mayor, that magistrate, calmly wipe his face and
say, "Set this woman at liberty," he underwent a sort of intoxication
of amazement; thought and word failed him equally; the sum total of
possible astonishment had been exceeded in his case. He remained mute.

The words had produced no less strange an effect on Fantine. She raised
her bare arm, and clung to the damper of the stove, like a person who
is reeling. Nevertheless, she glanced about her, and began to speak in a
low voice, as though talking to herself:--

"At liberty! I am to be allowed to go! I am not to go to prison for six
months! Who said that? It is not possible that any one could have said
that. I did not hear aright. It cannot have been that monster of a
mayor! Was it you, my good Monsieur Javert, who said that I was to be
set free? Oh, see here! I will tell you about it, and you will let me
go. That monster of a mayor, that old blackguard of a mayor, is the
cause of all. Just imagine, Monsieur Javert, he turned me out! all
because of a pack of rascally women, who gossip in the workroom. If that
is not a horror, what is? To dismiss a poor girl who is doing her
work honestly! Then I could no longer earn enough, and all this misery
followed. In the first place, there is one improvement which these
gentlemen of the police ought to make, and that is, to prevent prison
contractors from wronging poor people. I will explain it to you, you
see: you are earning twelve sous at shirt-making, the price falls to
nine sous; and it is not enough to live on. Then one has to become
whatever one can. As for me, I had my little Cosette, and I was actually
forced to become a bad woman. Now you understand how it is that that
blackguard of a mayor caused all the mischief. After that I stamped on
that gentleman's hat in front of the officers' cafe; but he had spoiled
my whole dress with snow. We women have but one silk dress for evening
wear. You see that I did not do wrong deliberately--truly, Monsieur
Javert; and everywhere I behold women who are far more wicked than I,
and who are much happier. O Monsieur Javert! it was you who gave orders
that I am to be set free, was it not? Make inquiries, speak to my
landlord; I am paying my rent now; they will tell you that I am
perfectly honest. Ah! my God! I beg your pardon; I have unintentionally
touched the damper of the stove, and it has made it smoke."

M. Madeleine listened to her with profound attention. While she was
speaking, he fumbled in his waistcoat, drew out his purse and opened
it. It was empty. He put it back in his pocket. He said to Fantine, "How
much did you say that you owed?"

Fantine, who was looking at Javert only, turned towards him:--

"Was I speaking to you?"

Then, addressing the soldiers:--

"Say, you fellows, did you see how I spit in his face? Ah! you old
wretch of a mayor, you came here to frighten me, but I'm not afraid of
you. I am afraid of Monsieur Javert. I am afraid of my good Monsieur

So saying, she turned to the inspector again:--

"And yet, you see, Mr. Inspector, it is necessary to be just. I
understand that you are just, Mr. Inspector; in fact, it is perfectly
simple: a man amuses himself by putting snow down a woman's back, and
that makes the officers laugh; one must divert themselves in some way;
and we--well, we are here for them to amuse themselves with, of course!
And then, you, you come; you are certainly obliged to preserve order,
you lead off the woman who is in the wrong; but on reflection, since you
are a good man, you say that I am to be set at liberty; it is for
the sake of the little one, for six months in prison would prevent my
supporting my child. 'Only, don't do it again, you hussy!' Oh! I won't
do it again, Monsieur Javert! They may do whatever they please to me
now; I will not stir. But to-day, you see, I cried because it hurt me.
I was not expecting that snow from the gentleman at all; and then as I
told you, I am not well; I have a cough; I seem to have a burning ball
in my stomach, and the doctor tells me, 'Take care of yourself.' Here,
feel, give me your hand; don't be afraid--it is here."

She no longer wept, her voice was caressing; she placed Javert's coarse
hand on her delicate, white throat and looked smilingly at him.

All at once she rapidly adjusted her disordered garments, dropped the
folds of her skirt, which had been pushed up as she dragged herself
along, almost to the height of her knee, and stepped towards the door,
saying to the soldiers in a low voice, and with a friendly nod:--

"Children, Monsieur l'Inspecteur has said that I am to be released, and
I am going."

She laid her hand on the latch of the door. One step more and she would
be in the street.

Javert up to that moment had remained erect, motionless, with his eyes
fixed on the ground, cast athwart this scene like some displaced statue,
which is waiting to be put away somewhere.

The sound of the latch roused him. He raised his head with an expression
of sovereign authority, an expression all the more alarming in
proportion as the authority rests on a low level, ferocious in the wild
beast, atrocious in the man of no estate.

"Sergeant!" he cried, "don't you see that that jade is walking off! Who
bade you let her go?"

"I," said Madeleine.

Fantine trembled at the sound of Javert's voice, and let go of the latch
as a thief relinquishes the article which he has stolen. At the sound
of Madeleine's voice she turned around, and from that moment forth she
uttered no word, nor dared so much as to breathe freely, but her glance
strayed from Madeleine to Javert, and from Javert to Madeleine in turn,
according to which was speaking.

It was evident that Javert must have been exasperated beyond measure
before he would permit himself to apostrophize the sergeant as he
had done, after the mayor's suggestion that Fantine should be set at
liberty. Had he reached the point of forgetting the mayor's presence?
Had he finally declared to himself that it was impossible that any
"authority" should have given such an order, and that the mayor must
certainly have said one thing by mistake for another, without intending
it? Or, in view of the enormities of which he had been a witness for the
past two hours, did he say to himself, that it was necessary to recur to
supreme resolutions, that it was indispensable that the small should
be made great, that the police spy should transform himself into a
magistrate, that the policeman should become a dispenser of justice, and
that, in this prodigious extremity, order, law, morality, government,
society in its entirety, was personified in him, Javert?

However that may be, when M. Madeleine uttered that word, _I_, as we
have just heard, Police Inspector Javert was seen to turn toward the
mayor, pale, cold, with blue lips, and a look of despair, his whole body
agitated by an imperceptible quiver and an unprecedented occurrence, and
say to him, with downcast eyes but a firm voice:--

"Mr. Mayor, that cannot be."

"Why not?" said M. Madeleine.

"This miserable woman has insulted a citizen."

"Inspector Javert," replied the mayor, in a calm and conciliating tone,
"listen. You are an honest man, and I feel no hesitation in explaining
matters to you. Here is the true state of the case: I was passing
through the square just as you were leading this woman away; there were
still groups of people standing about, and I made inquiries and learned
everything; it was the townsman who was in the wrong and who should have
been arrested by properly conducted police."

Javert retorted:--

"This wretch has just insulted Monsieur le Maire."

"That concerns me," said M. Madeleine. "My own insult belongs to me, I
think. I can do what I please about it."

"I beg Monsieur le Maire's pardon. The insult is not to him but to the

"Inspector Javert," replied M. Madeleine, "the highest law is
conscience. I have heard this woman; I know what I am doing."

"And I, Mr. Mayor, do not know what I see."

"Then content yourself with obeying."

"I am obeying my duty. My duty demands that this woman shall serve six
months in prison."

M. Madeleine replied gently:--

"Heed this well; she will not serve a single day."

At this decisive word, Javert ventured to fix a searching look on the
mayor and to say, but in a tone of voice that was still profoundly

"I am sorry to oppose Monsieur le Maire; it is for the first time in my
life, but he will permit me to remark that I am within the bounds of my
authority. I confine myself, since Monsieur le Maire desires it, to the
question of the gentleman. I was present. This woman flung herself
on Monsieur Bamatabnois, who is an elector and the proprietor of that
handsome house with a balcony, which forms the corner of the esplanade,
three stories high and entirely of cut stone. Such things as there are
in the world! In any case, Monsieur le Maire, this is a question of
police regulations in the streets, and concerns me, and I shall detain
this woman Fantine."

Then M. Madeleine folded his arms, and said in a severe voice which no
one in the town had heard hitherto:--

"The matter to which you refer is one connected with the municipal
police. According to the terms of articles nine, eleven, fifteen, and
sixty-six of the code of criminal examination, I am the judge. I order
that this woman shall be set at liberty."

Javert ventured to make a final effort.

"But, Mr. Mayor--"

"I refer you to article eighty-one of the law of the 13th of December,
1799, in regard to arbitrary detention."

"Monsieur le Maire, permit me--"

"Not another word."


"Leave the room," said M. Madeleine.

Javert received the blow erect, full in the face, in his breast, like
a Russian soldier. He bowed to the very earth before the mayor and left
the room.

Fantine stood aside from the door and stared at him in amazement as he

Nevertheless, she also was the prey to a strange confusion. She had just
seen herself a subject of dispute between two opposing powers. She had
seen two men who held in their hands her liberty, her life, her soul,
her child, in combat before her very eyes; one of these men was drawing
her towards darkness, the other was leading her back towards the light.
In this conflict, viewed through the exaggerations of terror, these two
men had appeared to her like two giants; the one spoke like her demon,
the other like her good angel. The angel had conquered the demon, and,
strange to say, that which made her shudder from head to foot was
the fact that this angel, this liberator, was the very man whom she
abhorred, that mayor whom she had so long regarded as the author of all
her woes, that Madeleine! And at the very moment when she had insulted
him in so hideous a fashion, he had saved her! Had she, then, been
mistaken? Must she change her whole soul? She did not know; she
trembled. She listened in bewilderment, she looked on in affright, and
at every word uttered by M. Madeleine she felt the frightful shades of
hatred crumble and melt within her, and something warm and ineffable,
indescribable, which was both joy, confidence and love, dawn in her

When Javert had taken his departure, M. Madeleine turned to her and said
to her in a deliberate voice, like a serious man who does not wish to
weep and who finds some difficulty in speaking:--

"I have heard you. I knew nothing about what you have mentioned. I
believe that it is true, and I feel that it is true. I was even ignorant
of the fact that you had left my shop. Why did you not apply to me? But
here; I will pay your debts, I will send for your child, or you shall go
to her. You shall live here, in Paris, or where you please. I undertake
the care of your child and yourself. You shall not work any longer if
you do not like. I will give all the money you require. You shall be
honest and happy once more. And listen! I declare to you that if all
is as you say,--and I do not doubt it,--you have never ceased to be
virtuous and holy in the sight of God. Oh! poor woman."

This was more than Fantine could bear. To have Cosette! To leave this
life of infamy. To live free, rich, happy, respectable with Cosette; to
see all these realities of paradise blossom of a sudden in the midst of
her misery. She stared stupidly at this man who was talking to her, and
could only give vent to two or three sobs, "Oh! Oh! Oh!"

Her limbs gave way beneath her, she knelt in front of M. Madeleine, and
before he could prevent her he felt her grasp his hand and press her
lips to it.

Then she fainted.



M. Madeleine had Fantine removed to that infirmary which he had
established in his own house. He confided her to the sisters, who put
her to bed. A burning fever had come on. She passed a part of the night
in delirium and raving. At length, however, she fell asleep.

On the morrow, towards midday, Fantine awoke. She heard some one
breathing close to her bed; she drew aside the curtain and saw M.
Madeleine standing there and looking at something over her head. His
gaze was full of pity, anguish, and supplication. She followed its
direction, and saw that it was fixed on a crucifix which was nailed to
the wall.

Thenceforth, M. Madeleine was transfigured in Fantine's eyes. He seemed
to her to be clothed in light. He was absorbed in a sort of prayer. She
gazed at him for a long time without daring to interrupt him. At last
she said timidly:--

"What are you doing?"

M. Madeleine had been there for an hour. He had been waiting for Fantine
to awake. He took her hand, felt of her pulse, and replied:--

"How do you feel?"

"Well, I have slept," she replied; "I think that I am better, It is

He answered, responding to the first question which she had put to him
as though he had just heard it:--

"I was praying to the martyr there on high."

And he added in his own mind, "For the martyr here below."

M. Madeleine had passed the night and the morning in making inquiries.
He knew all now. He knew Fantine's history in all its heart-rending
details. He went on:--

"You have suffered much, poor mother. Oh! do not complain; you now have
the dowry of the elect. It is thus that men are transformed into angels.
It is not their fault they do not know how to go to work otherwise.
You see this hell from which you have just emerged is the first form of
heaven. It was necessary to begin there."

He sighed deeply. But she smiled on him with that sublime smile in which
two teeth were lacking.

That same night, Javert wrote a letter. The next morning be posted it
himself at the office of M. sur M. It was addressed to Paris, and the
superscription ran: To Monsieur Chabouillet, Secretary of Monsieur le
Prefet of Police. As the affair in the station-house had been bruited
about, the post-mistress and some other persons who saw the letter
before it was sent off, and who recognized Javert's handwriting on the
cover, thought that he was sending in his resignation.

M. Madeleine made haste to write to the Thenardiers. Fantine owed
them one hundred and twenty francs. He sent them three hundred francs,
telling them to pay themselves from that sum, and to fetch the child
instantly to M. sur M., where her sick mother required her presence.

This dazzled Thenardier. "The devil!" said the man to his wife; "don't
let's allow the child to go. This lark is going to turn into a milch
cow. I see through it. Some ninny has taken a fancy to the mother."

He replied with a very well drawn-up bill for five hundred and some odd
francs. In this memorandum two indisputable items figured up over three
hundred francs,--one for the doctor, the other for the apothecary
who had attended and physicked Eponine and Azelma through two long
illnesses. Cosette, as we have already said, had not been ill. It was
only a question of a trifling substitution of names. At the foot of the
memorandum Thenardier wrote, Received on account, three hundred francs.

M. Madeleine immediately sent three hundred francs more, and wrote,
"Make haste to bring Cosette."

"Christi!" said Thenardier, "let's not give up the child."

In the meantime, Fantine did not recover. She still remained in the

The sisters had at first only received and nursed "that woman" with
repugnance. Those who have seen the bas-reliefs of Rheims will recall
the inflation of the lower lip of the wise virgins as they survey the
foolish virgins. The ancient scorn of the vestals for the ambubajae is
one of the most profound instincts of feminine dignity; the sisters
felt it with the double force contributed by religion. But in a few days
Fantine disarmed them. She said all kinds of humble and gentle things,
and the mother in her provoked tenderness. One day the sisters heard
her say amid her fever: "I have been a sinner; but when I have my child
beside me, it will be a sign that God has pardoned me. While I was
leading a bad life, I should not have liked to have my Cosette with me;
I could not have borne her sad, astonished eyes. It was for her sake
that I did evil, and that is why God pardons me. I shall feel the
benediction of the good God when Cosette is here. I shall gaze at her;
it will do me good to see that innocent creature. She knows nothing at
all. She is an angel, you see, my sisters. At that age the wings have
not fallen off."

M. Madeleine went to see her twice a day, and each time she asked him:--

"Shall I see my Cosette soon?"

He answered:--

"To-morrow, perhaps. She may arrive at any moment. I am expecting her."

And the mother's pale face grew radiant.

"Oh!" she said, "how happy I am going to be!"

We have just said that she did not recover her health. On the contrary,
her condition seemed to become more grave from week to week. That
handful of snow applied to her bare skin between her shoulder-blades had
brought about a sudden suppression of perspiration, as a consequence of
which the malady which had been smouldering within her for many years
was violently developed at last. At that time people were beginning to
follow the fine Laennec's fine suggestions in the study and treatment of
chest maladies. The doctor sounded Fantine's chest and shook his head.

M. Madeleine said to the doctor:--


"Has she not a child which she desires to see?" said the doctor.


"Well! Make haste and get it here!"

M. Madeleine shuddered.

Fantine inquired:--

"What did the doctor say?"

M. Madeleine forced himself to smile.

"He said that your child was to be brought speedily. That that would
restore your health."

"Oh!" she rejoined, "he is right! But what do those Thenardiers mean
by keeping my Cosette from me! Oh! she is coming. At last I behold
happiness close beside me!"

In the meantime Thenardier did not "let go of the child," and gave a
hundred insufficient reasons for it. Cosette was not quite well enough
to take a journey in the winter. And then, there still remained some
petty but pressing debts in the neighborhood, and they were collecting
the bills for them, etc., etc.

"I shall send some one to fetch Cosette!" said Father Madeleine. "If
necessary, I will go myself."

He wrote the following letter to Fantine's dictation, and made her sign

          You will deliver Cosette to this person.
          You will be paid for all the little things.
          I have the honor to salute you with respect.

In the meantime a serious incident occurred. Carve as we will the
mysterious block of which our life is made, the black vein of destiny
constantly reappears in it.


One morning M. Madeleine was in his study, occupied in arranging in
advance some pressing matters connected with the mayor's office, in case
he should decide to take the trip to Montfermeil, when he was informed
that Police Inspector Javert was desirous of speaking with him.
Madeleine could not refrain from a disagreeable impression on hearing
this name. Javert had avoided him more than ever since the affair of the
police-station, and M. Madeleine had not seen him.

"Admit him," he said.

Javert entered.

M. Madeleine had retained his seat near the fire, pen in hand, his eyes
fixed on the docket which he was turning over and annotating, and which
contained the trials of the commission on highways for the infraction of
police regulations. He did not disturb himself on Javert's account. He
could not help thinking of poor Fantine, and it suited him to be glacial
in his manner.

Javert bestowed a respectful salute on the mayor, whose back was turned
to him. The mayor did not look at him, but went on annotating this

Javert advanced two or three paces into the study, and halted, without
breaking the silence.

If any physiognomist who had been familiar with Javert, and who had
made a lengthy study of this savage in the service of civilization,
this singular composite of the Roman, the Spartan, the monk, and the
corporal, this spy who was incapable of a lie, this unspotted police
agent--if any physiognomist had known his secret and long-cherished
aversion for M. Madeleine, his conflict with the mayor on the subject of
Fantine, and had examined Javert at that moment, he would have said to
himself, "What has taken place?" It was evident to any one acquainted
with that clear, upright, sincere, honest, austere, and ferocious
conscience, that Javert had but just gone through some great interior
struggle. Javert had nothing in his soul which he had not also in his
countenance. Like violent people in general, he was subject to abrupt
changes of opinion. His physiognomy had never been more peculiar and
startling. On entering he bowed to M. Madeleine with a look in which
there was neither rancor, anger, nor distrust; he halted a few paces in
the rear of the mayor's arm-chair, and there he stood, perfectly erect,
in an attitude almost of discipline, with the cold, ingenuous roughness
of a man who has never been gentle and who has always been patient; he
waited without uttering a word, without making a movement, in genuine
humility and tranquil resignation, calm, serious, hat in hand, with
eyes cast down, and an expression which was half-way between that of a
soldier in the presence of his officer and a criminal in the presence
of his judge, until it should please the mayor to turn round. All the
sentiments as well as all the memories which one might have attributed
to him had disappeared. That face, as impenetrable and simple as
granite, no longer bore any trace of anything but a melancholy
depression. His whole person breathed lowliness and firmness and an
indescribable courageous despondency.

At last the mayor laid down his pen and turned half round.

"Well! What is it? What is the matter, Javert?"

Javert remained silent for an instant as though collecting his ideas,
then raised his voice with a sort of sad solemnity, which did not,
however, preclude simplicity.

"This is the matter, Mr. Mayor; a culpable act has been committed."

"What act?"

"An inferior agent of the authorities has failed in respect, and in the
gravest manner, towards a magistrate. I have come to bring the fact to
your knowledge, as it is my duty to do."

"Who is the agent?" asked M. Madeleine.

"I," said Javert.



"And who is the magistrate who has reason to complain of the agent?"

"You, Mr. Mayor."

M. Madeleine sat erect in his arm-chair. Javert went on, with a severe
air and his eyes still cast down.

"Mr. Mayor, I have come to request you to instigate the authorities to
dismiss me."

M. Madeleine opened his mouth in amazement. Javert interrupted him:--

"You will say that I might have handed in my resignation, but that does
not suffice. Handing in one's resignation is honorable. I have failed in
my duty; I ought to be punished; I must be turned out."

And after a pause he added:--

"Mr. Mayor, you were severe with me the other day, and unjustly. Be so
to-day, with justice."

"Come, now! Why?" exclaimed M. Madeleine. "What nonsense is this?
What is the meaning of this? What culpable act have you been guilty of
towards me? What have you done to me? What are your wrongs with regard
to me? You accuse yourself; you wish to be superseded--"

"Turned out," said Javert.

"Turned out; so it be, then. That is well. I do not understand."

"You shall understand, Mr. Mayor."

Javert sighed from the very bottom of his chest, and resumed, still
coldly and sadly:--

"Mr. Mayor, six weeks ago, in consequence of the scene over that woman,
I was furious, and I informed against you."

"Informed against me!"

"At the Prefecture of Police in Paris."

M. Madeleine, who was not in the habit of laughing much oftener than
Javert himself, burst out laughing now:--

"As a mayor who had encroached on the province of the police?"

"As an ex-convict."

The mayor turned livid.

Javert, who had not raised his eyes, went on:--

"I thought it was so. I had had an idea for a long time; a resemblance;
inquiries which you had caused to be made at Faverolles; the strength
of your loins; the adventure with old Fauchelevant; your skill in
marksmanship; your leg, which you drag a little;--I hardly know what
all,--absurdities! But, at all events, I took you for a certain Jean

"A certain--What did you say the name was?"

"Jean Valjean. He was a convict whom I was in the habit of seeing twenty
years ago, when I was adjutant-guard of convicts at Toulon. On leaving
the galleys, this Jean Valjean, as it appears, robbed a bishop; then he
committed another theft, accompanied with violence, on a public highway
on the person of a little Savoyard. He disappeared eight years ago, no
one knows how, and he has been sought, I fancied. In short, I did this
thing! Wrath impelled me; I denounced you at the Prefecture!"

M. Madeleine, who had taken up the docket again several moments before
this, resumed with an air of perfect indifference:--

"And what reply did you receive?"

"That I was mad."


"Well, they were right."

"It is lucky that you recognize the fact."

"I am forced to do so, since the real Jean Valjean has been found."

The sheet of paper which M. Madeleine was holding dropped from his
hand; he raised his head, gazed fixedly at Javert, and said with his
indescribable accent:--


Javert continued:--

"This is the way it is, Mr. Mayor. It seems that there was in the
neighborhood near Ailly-le-Haut-Clocher an old fellow who was called
Father Champmathieu. He was a very wretched creature. No one paid any
attention to him. No one knows what such people subsist on. Lately, last
autumn, Father Champmathieu was arrested for the theft of some cider
apples from--Well, no matter, a theft had been committed, a wall scaled,
branches of trees broken. My Champmathieu was arrested. He still had
the branch of apple-tree in his hand. The scamp is locked up. Up to
this point it was merely an affair of a misdemeanor. But here is where
Providence intervened.

"The jail being in a bad condition, the examining magistrate finds it
convenient to transfer Champmathieu to Arras, where the departmental
prison is situated. In this prison at Arras there is an ex-convict named
Brevet, who is detained for I know not what, and who has been appointed
turnkey of the house, because of good behavior. Mr. Mayor, no sooner had
Champmathieu arrived than Brevet exclaims: 'Eh! Why, I know that man!
He is a fagot![4] Take a good look at me, my good man! You are Jean
Valjean!' 'Jean Valjean! who's Jean Valjean?' Champmathieu feigns
astonishment. 'Don't play the innocent dodge,' says Brevet. 'You are
Jean Valjean! You have been in the galleys of Toulon; it was twenty
years ago; we were there together.' Champmathieu denies it. Parbleu! You
understand. The case is investigated. The thing was well ventilated for
me. This is what they discovered: This Champmathieu had been, thirty
years ago, a pruner of trees in various localities, notably at
Faverolles. There all trace of him was lost. A long time afterwards he
was seen again in Auvergne; then in Paris, where he is said to have been
a wheelwright, and to have had a daughter, who was a laundress; but that
has not been proved. Now, before going to the galleys for theft, what
was Jean Valjean? A pruner of trees. Where? At Faverolles. Another fact.
This Valjean's Christian name was Jean, and his mother's surname was
Mathieu. What more natural to suppose than that, on emerging from the
galleys, he should have taken his mother's name for the purpose of
concealing himself, and have called himself Jean Mathieu? He goes to
Auvergne. The local pronunciation turns Jean into Chan--he is called
Chan Mathieu. Our man offers no opposition, and behold him transformed
into Champmathieu. You follow me, do you not? Inquiries were made at
Faverolles. The family of Jean Valjean is no longer there. It is not
known where they have gone. You know that among those classes a family
often disappears. Search was made, and nothing was found. When such
people are not mud, they are dust. And then, as the beginning of the
story dates thirty years back, there is no longer any one at Faverolles
who knew Jean Valjean. Inquiries were made at Toulon. Besides Brevet,
there are only two convicts in existence who have seen Jean Valjean;
they are Cochepaille and Chenildieu, and are sentenced for life.
They are taken from the galleys and confronted with the pretended
Champmathieu. They do not hesitate; he is Jean Valjean for them as well
as for Brevet. The same age,--he is fifty-four,--the same height, the
same air, the same man; in short, it is he. It was precisely at this
moment that I forwarded my denunciation to the Prefecture in Paris. I
was told that I had lost my reason, and that Jean Valjean is at Arras,
in the power of the authorities. You can imagine whether this surprised
me, when I thought that I had that same Jean Valjean here. I write to
the examining judge; he sends for me; Champmathieu is conducted to me--"

"Well?" interposed M. Madeleine.

Javert replied, his face incorruptible, and as melancholy as ever:--

"Mr. Mayor, the truth is the truth. I am sorry; but that man is Jean
Valjean. I recognized him also."

M. Madeleine resumed in, a very low voice:--

"You are sure?"

Javert began to laugh, with that mournful laugh which comes from
profound conviction.

"O! Sure!"

He stood there thoughtfully for a moment, mechanically taking pinches of
powdered wood for blotting ink from the wooden bowl which stood on the
table, and he added:--

"And even now that I have seen the real Jean Valjean, I do not see how I
could have thought otherwise. I beg your pardon, Mr. Mayor."

Javert, as he addressed these grave and supplicating words to the man,
who six weeks before had humiliated him in the presence of the whole
station-house, and bade him "leave the room,"--Javert, that haughty man,
was unconsciously full of simplicity and dignity,--M. Madeleine made no
other reply to his prayer than the abrupt question:--

"And what does this man say?"

"Ah! Indeed, Mr. Mayor, it's a bad business. If he is Jean Valjean, he
has his previous conviction against him. To climb a wall, to break a
branch, to purloin apples, is a mischievous trick in a child; for a
man it is a misdemeanor; for a convict it is a crime. Robbing
and housebreaking--it is all there. It is no longer a question of
correctional police; it is a matter for the Court of Assizes. It is no
longer a matter of a few days in prison; it is the galleys for life. And
then, there is the affair with the little Savoyard, who will return, I
hope. The deuce! there is plenty to dispute in the matter, is there not?
Yes, for any one but Jean Valjean. But Jean Valjean is a sly dog. That
is the way I recognized him. Any other man would have felt that things
were getting hot for him; he would struggle, he would cry out--the
kettle sings before the fire; he would not be Jean Valjean, et
cetera. But he has not the appearance of understanding; he says, 'I am
Champmathieu, and I won't depart from that!' He has an astonished air,
he pretends to be stupid; it is far better. Oh! the rogue is clever! But
it makes no difference. The proofs are there. He has been recognized by
four persons; the old scamp will be condemned. The case has been taken
to the Assizes at Arras. I shall go there to give my testimony. I have
been summoned."

M. Madeleine had turned to his desk again, and taken up his docket, and
was turning over the leaves tranquilly, reading and writing by turns,
like a busy man. He turned to Javert:--

"That will do, Javert. In truth, all these details interest me but
little. We are wasting our time, and we have pressing business on hand.
Javert, you will betake yourself at once to the house of the woman
Buseaupied, who sells herbs at the corner of the Rue Saint-Saulve. You
will tell her that she must enter her complaint against carter Pierre
Chesnelong. The man is a brute, who came near crushing this woman and
her child. He must be punished. You will then go to M. Charcellay,
Rue Montre-de-Champigny. He complained that there is a gutter on the
adjoining house which discharges rain-water on his premises, and is
undermining the foundations of his house. After that, you will verify
the infractions of police regulations which have been reported to me in
the Rue Guibourg, at Widow Doris's, and Rue du Garraud-Blanc, at Madame
Renee le Bosse's, and you will prepare documents. But I am giving you a
great deal of work. Are you not to be absent? Did you not tell me that
you were going to Arras on that matter in a week or ten days?"

"Sooner than that, Mr. Mayor."

"On what day, then?"

"Why, I thought that I had said to Monsieur le Maire that the case was
to be tried to-morrow, and that I am to set out by diligence to-night."

M. Madeleine made an imperceptible movement.

"And how long will the case last?"

"One day, at the most. The judgment will be pronounced to-morrow evening
at latest. But I shall not wait for the sentence, which is certain; I
shall return here as soon as my deposition has been taken."

"That is well," said M. Madeleine.

And he dismissed Javert with a wave of the hand.

Javert did not withdraw.

"Excuse me, Mr. Mayor," said he.

"What is it now?" demanded M. Madeleine.

"Mr. Mayor, there is still something of which I must remind you."

"What is it?"

"That I must be dismissed."

M. Madeleine rose.

"Javert, you are a man of honor, and I esteem you. You exaggerate your
fault. Moreover, this is an offence which concerns me. Javert, you
deserve promotion instead of degradation. I wish you to retain your

Javert gazed at M. Madeleine with his candid eyes, in whose depths his
not very enlightened but pure and rigid conscience seemed visible, and
said in a tranquil voice:--

"Mr. Mayor, I cannot grant you that."

"I repeat," replied M. Madeleine, "that the matter concerns me."

But Javert, heeding his own thought only, continued:--

"So far as exaggeration is concerned, I am not exaggerating. This is the
way I reason: I have suspected you unjustly. That is nothing. It is our
right to cherish suspicion, although suspicion directed above ourselves
is an abuse. But without proofs, in a fit of rage, with the object
of wreaking my vengeance, I have denounced you as a convict, you, a
respectable man, a mayor, a magistrate! That is serious, very serious. I
have insulted authority in your person, I, an agent of the authorities!
If one of my subordinates had done what I have done, I should have
declared him unworthy of the service, and have expelled him. Well? Stop,
Mr. Mayor; one word more. I have often been severe in the course of my
life towards others. That is just. I have done well. Now, if I were not
severe towards myself, all the justice that I have done would become
injustice. Ought I to spare myself more than others? No! What! I should
be good for nothing but to chastise others, and not myself! Why, I
should be a blackguard! Those who say, 'That blackguard of a Javert!'
would be in the right. Mr. Mayor, I do not desire that you should treat
me kindly; your kindness roused sufficient bad blood in me when it was
directed to others. I want none of it for myself. The kindness which
consists in upholding a woman of the town against a citizen, the police
agent against the mayor, the man who is down against the man who is
up in the world, is what I call false kindness. That is the sort of
kindness which disorganizes society. Good God! it is very easy to be
kind; the difficulty lies in being just. Come! if you had been what I
thought you, I should not have been kind to you, not I! You would have
seen! Mr. Mayor, I must treat myself as I would treat any other man.
When I have subdued malefactors, when I have proceeded with vigor
against rascals, I have often said to myself, 'If you flinch, if I ever
catch you in fault, you may rest at your ease!' I have flinched, I
have caught myself in a fault. So much the worse! Come, discharged,
cashiered, expelled! That is well. I have arms. I will till the soil; it
makes no difference to me. Mr. Mayor, the good of the service demands an
example. I simply require the discharge of Inspector Javert."

All this was uttered in a proud, humble, despairing, yet convinced tone,
which lent indescribable grandeur to this singular, honest man.

"We shall see," said M. Madeleine.

And he offered him his hand.

Javert recoiled, and said in a wild voice:--

"Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, but this must not be. A mayor does not offer his
hand to a police spy."

He added between his teeth:--

"A police spy, yes; from the moment when I have misused the police. I am
no more than a police spy."

Then he bowed profoundly, and directed his steps towards the door.

There he wheeled round, and with eyes still downcast:--

"Mr. Mayor," he said, "I shall continue to serve until I am superseded."

He withdrew. M. Madeleine remained thoughtfully listening to the firm,
sure step, which died away on the pavement of the corridor.



The incidents the reader is about to peruse were not all known at M. sur
M. But the small portion of them which became known left such a memory
in that town that a serious gap would exist in this book if we did
not narrate them in their most minute details. Among these details the
reader will encounter two or three improbable circumstances, which we
preserve out of respect for the truth.

On the afternoon following the visit of Javert, M. Madeleine went to see
Fantine according to his wont.

Before entering Fantine's room, he had Sister Simplice summoned.

The two nuns who performed the services of nurse in the infirmary,
Lazariste ladies, like all sisters of charity, bore the names of Sister
Perpetue and Sister Simplice.

Sister Perpetue was an ordinary villager, a sister of charity in a
coarse style, who had entered the service of God as one enters any other
service. She was a nun as other women are cooks. This type is not
so very rare. The monastic orders gladly accept this heavy peasant
earthenware, which is easily fashioned into a Capuchin or an Ursuline.
These rustics are utilized for the rough work of devotion. The
transition from a drover to a Carmelite is not in the least violent;
the one turns into the other without much effort; the fund of ignorance
common to the village and the cloister is a preparation ready at hand,
and places the boor at once on the same footing as the monk: a little
more amplitude in the smock, and it becomes a frock. Sister Perpetue
was a robust nun from Marines near Pontoise, who chattered her patois,
droned, grumbled, sugared the potion according to the bigotry or the
hypocrisy of the invalid, treated her patients abruptly, roughly, was
crabbed with the dying, almost flung God in their faces, stoned their
death agony with prayers mumbled in a rage; was bold, honest, and ruddy.

Sister Simplice was white, with a waxen pallor. Beside Sister Perpetue,
she was the taper beside the candle. Vincent de Paul has divinely traced
the features of the Sister of Charity in these admirable words, in which
he mingles as much freedom as servitude: "They shall have for their
convent only the house of the sick; for cell only a hired room; for
chapel only their parish church; for cloister only the streets of the
town and the wards of the hospitals; for enclosure only obedience; for
gratings only the fear of God; for veil only modesty." This ideal was
realized in the living person of Sister Simplice: she had never been
young, and it seemed as though she would never grow old. No one could
have told Sister Simplice's age. She was a person--we dare not say a
woman--who was gentle, austere, well-bred, cold, and who had never lied.
She was so gentle that she appeared fragile; but she was more solid than
granite. She touched the unhappy with fingers that were charmingly pure
and fine. There was, so to speak, silence in her speech; she said just
what was necessary, and she possessed a tone of voice which would
have equally edified a confessional or enchanted a drawing-room. This
delicacy accommodated itself to the serge gown, finding in this harsh
contact a continual reminder of heaven and of God. Let us emphasize
one detail. Never to have lied, never to have said, for any interest
whatever, even in indifference, any single thing which was not the
truth, the sacred truth, was Sister Simplice's distinctive trait; it was
the accent of her virtue. She was almost renowned in the congregation
for this imperturbable veracity. The Abbe Sicard speaks of Sister
Simplice in a letter to the deaf-mute Massieu. However pure and sincere
we may be, we all bear upon our candor the crack of the little, innocent
lie. She did not. Little lie, innocent lie--does such a thing exist? To
lie is the absolute form of evil. To lie a little is not possible: he
who lies, lies the whole lie. To lie is the very face of the demon.
Satan has two names; he is called Satan and Lying. That is what she
thought; and as she thought, so she did. The result was the whiteness
which we have mentioned--a whiteness which covered even her lips and her
eyes with radiance. Her smile was white, her glance was white. There was
not a single spider's web, not a grain of dust, on the glass window of
that conscience. On entering the order of Saint Vincent de Paul, she had
taken the name of Simplice by special choice. Simplice of Sicily, as we
know, is the saint who preferred to allow both her breasts to be torn
off rather than to say that she had been born at Segesta when she had
been born at Syracuse--a lie which would have saved her. This patron
saint suited this soul.

Sister Simplice, on her entrance into the order, had had two faults
which she had gradually corrected: she had a taste for dainties, and she
liked to receive letters. She never read anything but a book of prayers
printed in Latin, in coarse type. She did not understand Latin, but she
understood the book.

This pious woman had conceived an affection for Fantine, probably
feeling a latent virtue there, and she had devoted herself almost
exclusively to her care.

M. Madeleine took Sister Simplice apart and recommended Fantine to her
in a singular tone, which the sister recalled later on.

On leaving the sister, he approached Fantine.

Fantine awaited M. Madeleine's appearance every day as one awaits a ray
of warmth and joy. She said to the sisters, "I only live when Monsieur
le Maire is here."

She had a great deal of fever that day. As soon as she saw M. Madeleine
she asked him:--

"And Cosette?"

He replied with a smile:--


M. Madeleine was the same as usual with Fantine. Only he remained an
hour instead of half an hour, to Fantine's great delight. He urged every
one repeatedly not to allow the invalid to want for anything. It was
noticed that there was a moment when his countenance became very sombre.
But this was explained when it became known that the doctor had bent
down to his ear and said to him, "She is losing ground fast."

Then he returned to the town-hall, and the clerk observed him
attentively examining a road map of France which hung in his study. He
wrote a few figures on a bit of paper with a pencil.


From the town-hall he betook himself to the extremity of the town, to a
Fleming named Master Scaufflaer, French Scaufflaire, who let out "horses
and cabriolets as desired."

In order to reach this Scaufflaire, the shortest way was to take the
little-frequented street in which was situated the parsonage of the
parish in which M. Madeleine resided. The cure was, it was said, a
worthy, respectable, and sensible man. At the moment when M. Madeleine
arrived in front of the parsonage there was but one passer-by in the
street, and this person noticed this: After the mayor had passed the
priest's house he halted, stood motionless, then turned about, and
retraced his steps to the door of the parsonage, which had an iron
knocker. He laid his hand quickly on the knocker and lifted it; then
he paused again and stopped short, as though in thought, and after
the lapse of a few seconds, instead of allowing the knocker to fall
abruptly, he placed it gently, and resumed his way with a sort of haste
which had not been apparent previously.

M. Madeleine found Master Scaufflaire at home, engaged in stitching a
harness over.

"Master Scaufflaire," he inquired, "have you a good horse?"

"Mr. Mayor," said the Fleming, "all my horses are good. What do you mean
by a good horse?"

"I mean a horse which can travel twenty leagues in a day."

"The deuce!" said the Fleming. "Twenty leagues!"


"Hitched to a cabriolet?"


"And how long can he rest at the end of his journey?"

"He must be able to set out again on the next day if necessary."

"To traverse the same road?"


"The deuce! the deuce! And it is twenty leagues?"

M. Madeleine drew from his pocket the paper on which he had pencilled
some figures. He showed it to the Fleming. The figures were 5, 6, 8 1/2.

"You see," he said, "total, nineteen and a half; as well say twenty

"Mr. Mayor," returned the Fleming, "I have just what you want. My little
white horse--you may have seen him pass occasionally; he is a small
beast from Lower Boulonnais. He is full of fire. They wanted to make
a saddle-horse of him at first. Bah! He reared, he kicked, he laid
everybody flat on the ground. He was thought to be vicious, and no one
knew what to do with him. I bought him. I harnessed him to a carriage.
That is what he wanted, sir; he is as gentle as a girl; he goes like the
wind. Ah! indeed he must not be mounted. It does not suit his ideas to
be a saddle-horse. Every one has his ambition. 'Draw? Yes. Carry? No.'
We must suppose that is what he said to himself."

"And he will accomplish the trip?"

"Your twenty leagues all at a full trot, and in less than eight hours.
But here are the conditions."

"State them."

"In the first place, you will give him half an hour's breathing spell
midway of the road; he will eat; and some one must be by while he is
eating to prevent the stable boy of the inn from stealing his oats; for
I have noticed that in inns the oats are more often drunk by the stable
men than eaten by the horses."

"Some one will be by."

"In the second place--is the cabriolet for Monsieur le Maire?"


"Does Monsieur le Maire know how to drive?"


"Well, Monsieur le Maire will travel alone and without baggage, in order
not to overload the horse?"


"But as Monsieur le Maire will have no one with him, he will be obliged
to take the trouble himself of seeing that the oats are not stolen."

"That is understood."

"I am to have thirty francs a day. The days of rest to be paid for
also--not a farthing less; and the beast's food to be at Monsieur le
Maire's expense."

M. Madeleine drew three napoleons from his purse and laid them on the

"Here is the pay for two days in advance."

"Fourthly, for such a journey a cabriolet would be too heavy, and would
fatigue the horse. Monsieur le Maire must consent to travel in a little
tilbury that I own."

"I consent to that."

"It is light, but it has no cover."

"That makes no difference to me."

"Has Monsieur le Maire reflected that we are in the middle of winter?"

M. Madeleine did not reply. The Fleming resumed:--

"That it is very cold?"

M. Madeleine preserved silence.

Master Scaufflaire continued:--

"That it may rain?"

M. Madeleine raised his head and said:--

"The tilbury and the horse will be in front of my door to-morrow morning
at half-past four o'clock."

"Of course, Monsieur le Maire," replied Scaufflaire; then, scratching a
speck in the wood of the table with his thumb-nail, he resumed with that
careless air which the Flemings understand so well how to mingle with
their shrewdness:--

"But this is what I am thinking of now: Monsieur le Maire has not told
me where he is going. Where is Monsieur le Maire going?"

He had been thinking of nothing else since the beginning of the
conversation, but he did not know why he had not dared to put the

"Are your horse's forelegs good?" said M. Madeleine.

"Yes, Monsieur le Maire. You must hold him in a little when going down
hill. Are there many descends between here and the place whither you are

"Do not forget to be at my door at precisely half-past four o'clock
to-morrow morning," replied M. Madeleine; and he took his departure.

The Fleming remained "utterly stupid," as he himself said some time

The mayor had been gone two or three minutes when the door opened again;
it was the mayor once more.

He still wore the same impassive and preoccupied air.

"Monsieur Scaufflaire," said he, "at what sum do you estimate the value
of the horse and tilbury which you are to let to me,--the one bearing
the other?"

"The one dragging the other, Monsieur le Maire," said the Fleming, with
a broad smile.

"So be it. Well?"

"Does Monsieur le Maire wish to purchase them or me?"

"No; but I wish to guarantee you in any case. You shall give me back
the sum at my return. At what value do you estimate your horse and

"Five hundred francs, Monsieur le Maire."

"Here it is."

M. Madeleine laid a bank-bill on the table, then left the room; and this
time he did not return.

Master Scaufflaire experienced a frightful regret that he had not said a
thousand francs. Besides the horse and tilbury together were worth but a
hundred crowns.

The Fleming called his wife, and related the affair to her. "Where the
devil could Monsieur le Maire be going?" They held counsel together.
"He is going to Paris," said the wife. "I don't believe it," said the

M. Madeleine had forgotten the paper with the figures on it, and it lay
on the chimney-piece. The Fleming picked it up and studied it. "Five,
six, eight and a half? That must designate the posting relays." He
turned to his wife:--

"I have found out."


"It is five leagues from here to Hesdin, six from Hesdin to Saint-Pol,
eight and a half from Saint-Pol to Arras. He is going to Arras."

Meanwhile, M. Madeleine had returned home. He had taken the longest way
to return from Master Scaufflaire's, as though the parsonage door had
been a temptation for him, and he had wished to avoid it. He ascended
to his room, and there he shut himself up, which was a very simple act,
since he liked to go to bed early. Nevertheless, the portress of the
factory, who was, at the same time, M. Madeleine's only servant, noticed
that the latter's light was extinguished at half-past eight, and she
mentioned it to the cashier when he came home, adding:--

"Is Monsieur le Maire ill? I thought he had a rather singular air."

This cashier occupied a room situated directly under M. Madeleine's
chamber. He paid no heed to the portress's words, but went to bed and
to sleep. Towards midnight he woke up with a start; in his sleep he had
heard a noise above his head. He listened; it was a footstep pacing back
and forth, as though some one were walking in the room above him. He
listened more attentively, and recognized M. Madeleine's step. This
struck him as strange; usually, there was no noise in M. Madeleine's
chamber until he rose in the morning. A moment later the cashier heard
a noise which resembled that of a cupboard being opened, and then shut
again; then a piece of furniture was disarranged; then a pause ensued;
then the step began again. The cashier sat up in bed, quite awake now,
and staring; and through his window-panes he saw the reddish gleam of a
lighted window reflected on the opposite wall; from the direction of the
rays, it could only come from the window of M. Madeleine's chamber. The
reflection wavered, as though it came rather from a fire which had
been lighted than from a candle. The shadow of the window-frame was not
shown, which indicated that the window was wide open. The fact that this
window was open in such cold weather was surprising. The cashier fell
asleep again. An hour or two later he waked again. The same step was
still passing slowly and regularly back and forth overhead.

The reflection was still visible on the wall, but now it was pale and
peaceful, like the reflection of a lamp or of a candle. The window was
still open.

This is what had taken place in M. Madeleine's room.


The reader has, no doubt, already divined that M. Madeleine is no other
than Jean Valjean.

We have already gazed into the depths of this conscience; the moment has
now come when we must take another look into it. We do so not without
emotion and trepidation. There is nothing more terrible in existence
than this sort of contemplation. The eye of the spirit can nowhere find
more dazzling brilliance and more shadow than in man; it can fix itself
on no other thing which is more formidable, more complicated, more
mysterious, and more infinite. There is a spectacle more grand than the
sea; it is heaven: there is a spectacle more grand than heaven; it is
the inmost recesses of the soul.

To make the poem of the human conscience, were it only with reference to
a single man, were it only in connection with the basest of men, would
be to blend all epics into one superior and definitive epic. Conscience
is the chaos of chimeras, of lusts, and of temptations; the furnace of
dreams; the lair of ideas of which we are ashamed; it is the pandemonium
of sophisms; it is the battlefield of the passions. Penetrate, at
certain hours, past the livid face of a human being who is engaged
in reflection, and look behind, gaze into that soul, gaze into that
obscurity. There, beneath that external silence, battles of giants,
like those recorded in Homer, are in progress; skirmishes of dragons and
hydras and swarms of phantoms, as in Milton; visionary circles, as in
Dante. What a solemn thing is this infinity which every man bears within
him, and which he measures with despair against the caprices of his
brain and the actions of his life!

Alighieri one day met with a sinister-looking door, before which he
hesitated. Here is one before us, upon whose threshold we hesitate. Let
us enter, nevertheless.

We have but little to add to what the reader already knows of what had
happened to Jean Valjean after the adventure with Little Gervais. From
that moment forth he was, as we have seen, a totally different man. What
the Bishop had wished to make of him, that he carried out. It was more
than a transformation; it was a transfiguration.

He succeeded in disappearing, sold the Bishop's silver, reserving only
the candlesticks as a souvenir, crept from town to town, traversed
France, came to M. sur M., conceived the idea which we have mentioned,
accomplished what we have related, succeeded in rendering himself safe
from seizure and inaccessible, and, thenceforth, established at M. sur
M., happy in feeling his conscience saddened by the past and the first
half of his existence belied by the last, he lived in peace, reassured
and hopeful, having henceforth only two thoughts,--to conceal his name
and to sanctify his life; to escape men and to return to God.

These two thoughts were so closely intertwined in his mind that
they formed but a single one there; both were equally absorbing and
imperative and ruled his slightest actions. In general, they conspired
to regulate the conduct of his life; they turned him towards the gloom;
they rendered him kindly and simple; they counselled him to the same
things. Sometimes, however, they conflicted. In that case, as the reader
will remember, the man whom all the country of M. sur M. called M.
Madeleine did not hesitate to sacrifice the first to the second--his
security to his virtue. Thus, in spite of all his reserve and all his
prudence, he had preserved the Bishop's candlesticks, worn mourning for
him, summoned and interrogated all the little Savoyards who passed that
way, collected information regarding the families at Faverolles, and
saved old Fauchelevent's life, despite the disquieting insinuations of
Javert. It seemed, as we have already remarked, as though he thought,
following the example of all those who have been wise, holy, and just,
that his first duty was not towards himself.

At the same time, it must be confessed, nothing just like this had yet
presented itself.

Never had the two ideas which governed the unhappy man whose sufferings
we are narrating, engaged in so serious a struggle. He understood this
confusedly but profoundly at the very first words pronounced by Javert,
when the latter entered his study. At the moment when that name, which
he had buried beneath so many layers, was so strangely articulated,
he was struck with stupor, and as though intoxicated with the sinister
eccentricity of his destiny; and through this stupor he felt that
shudder which precedes great shocks. He bent like an oak at the approach
of a storm, like a soldier at the approach of an assault. He felt
shadows filled with thunders and lightnings descending upon his head.
As he listened to Javert, the first thought which occurred to him was to
go, to run and denounce himself, to take that Champmathieu out of prison
and place himself there; this was as painful and as poignant as an
incision in the living flesh. Then it passed away, and he said to
himself, "We will see! We will see!" He repressed this first, generous
instinct, and recoiled before heroism.

It would be beautiful, no doubt, after the Bishop's holy words, after
so many years of repentance and abnegation, in the midst of a penitence
admirably begun, if this man had not flinched for an instant, even in
the presence of so terrible a conjecture, but had continued to walk with
the same step towards this yawning precipice, at the bottom of which
lay heaven; that would have been beautiful; but it was not thus. We must
render an account of the things which went on in this soul, and we can
only tell what there was there. He was carried away, at first, by
the instinct of self-preservation; he rallied all his ideas in haste,
stifled his emotions, took into consideration Javert's presence, that
great danger, postponed all decision with the firmness of terror, shook
off thought as to what he had to do, and resumed his calmness as a
warrior picks up his buckler.

He remained in this state during the rest of the day, a whirlwind
within, a profound tranquillity without. He took no "preservative
measures," as they may be called. Everything was still confused, and
jostling together in his brain. His trouble was so great that he could
not perceive the form of a single idea distinctly, and he could have
told nothing about himself, except that he had received a great blow.

He repaired to Fantine's bed of suffering, as usual, and prolonged his
visit, through a kindly instinct, telling himself that he must behave
thus, and recommend her well to the sisters, in case he should be
obliged to be absent himself. He had a vague feeling that he might be
obliged to go to Arras; and without having the least in the world made
up his mind to this trip, he said to himself that being, as he was,
beyond the shadow of any suspicion, there could be nothing out of the
way in being a witness to what was to take place, and he engaged the
tilbury from Scaufflaire in order to be prepared in any event.

He dined with a good deal of appetite.

On returning to his room, he communed with himself.

He examined the situation, and found it unprecedented; so unprecedented
that in the midst of his revery he rose from his chair, moved by some
inexplicable impulse of anxiety, and bolted his door. He feared
lest something more should enter. He was barricading himself against

A moment later he extinguished his light; it embarrassed him.

It seemed to him as though he might be seen.

By whom?

Alas! That on which he desired to close the door had already entered;
that which he desired to blind was staring him in the face,--his

His conscience; that is to say, God.

Nevertheless, he deluded himself at first; he had a feeling of security
and of solitude; the bolt once drawn, he thought himself impregnable;
the candle extinguished, he felt himself invisible. Then he took
possession of himself: he set his elbows on the table, leaned his head
on his hand, and began to meditate in the dark.

"Where do I stand? Am not I dreaming? What have I heard? Is it really
true that I have seen that Javert, and that he spoke to me in that
manner? Who can that Champmathieu be? So he resembles me! Is it
possible? When I reflect that yesterday I was so tranquil, and so far
from suspecting anything! What was I doing yesterday at this hour? What
is there in this incident? What will the end be? What is to be done?"

This was the torment in which he found himself. His brain had lost its
power of retaining ideas; they passed like waves, and he clutched his
brow in both hands to arrest them.

Nothing but anguish extricated itself from this tumult which overwhelmed
his will and his reason, and from which he sought to draw proof and

His head was burning. He went to the window and threw it wide open.
There were no stars in the sky. He returned and seated himself at the

The first hour passed in this manner.

Gradually, however, vague outlines began to take form and to fix
themselves in his meditation, and he was able to catch a glimpse with
precision of the reality,--not the whole situation, but some of
the details. He began by recognizing the fact that, critical and
extraordinary as was this situation, he was completely master of it.

This only caused an increase of his stupor.

Independently of the severe and religious aim which he had assigned to
his actions, all that he had made up to that day had been nothing but a
hole in which to bury his name. That which he had always feared most of
all in his hours of self-communion, during his sleepless nights, was to
ever hear that name pronounced; he had said to himself, that that would
be the end of all things for him; that on the day when that name made
its reappearance it would cause his new life to vanish from about
him, and--who knows?--perhaps even his new soul within him, also. He
shuddered at the very thought that this was possible. Assuredly, if any
one had said to him at such moments that the hour would come when that
name would ring in his ears, when the hideous words, Jean Valjean, would
suddenly emerge from the darkness and rise in front of him, when that
formidable light, capable of dissipating the mystery in which he had
enveloped himself, would suddenly blaze forth above his head, and that
that name would not menace him, that that light would but produce
an obscurity more dense, that this rent veil would but increase the
mystery, that this earthquake would solidify his edifice, that this
prodigious incident would have no other result, so far as he was
concerned, if so it seemed good to him, than that of rendering his
existence at once clearer and more impenetrable, and that, out of his
confrontation with the phantom of Jean Valjean, the good and worthy
citizen Monsieur Madeleine would emerge more honored, more peaceful, and
more respected than ever--if any one had told him that, he would have
tossed his head and regarded the words as those of a madman. Well, all
this was precisely what had just come to pass; all that accumulation of
impossibilities was a fact, and God had permitted these wild fancies to
become real things!

His revery continued to grow clearer. He came more and more to an
understanding of his position.

It seemed to him that he had but just waked up from some inexplicable
dream, and that he found himself slipping down a declivity in the middle
of the night, erect, shivering, holding back all in vain, on the very
brink of the abyss. He distinctly perceived in the darkness a stranger,
a man unknown to him, whom destiny had mistaken for him, and whom she
was thrusting into the gulf in his stead; in order that the gulf might
close once more, it was necessary that some one, himself or that other
man, should fall into it: he had only let things take their course.

The light became complete, and he acknowledged this to himself: That
his place was empty in the galleys; that do what he would, it was still
awaiting him; that the theft from little Gervais had led him back to it;
that this vacant place would await him, and draw him on until he filled
it; that this was inevitable and fatal; and then he said to himself,
"that, at this moment, he had a substitute; that it appeared that a
certain Champmathieu had that ill luck, and that, as regards himself,
being present in the galleys in the person of that Champmathieu, present
in society under the name of M. Madeleine, he had nothing more to fear,
provided that he did not prevent men from sealing over the head of
that Champmathieu this stone of infamy which, like the stone of the
sepulchre, falls once, never to rise again."

All this was so strange and so violent, that there suddenly took place
in him that indescribable movement, which no man feels more than two
or three times in the course of his life, a sort of convulsion of the
conscience which stirs up all that there is doubtful in the heart, which
is composed of irony, of joy, and of despair, and which may be called an
outburst of inward laughter.

He hastily relighted his candle.

"Well, what then?" he said to himself; "what am I afraid of? What is
there in all that for me to think about? I am safe; all is over. I had
but one partly open door through which my past might invade my life,
and behold that door is walled up forever! That Javert, who has been
annoying me so long; that terrible instinct which seemed to have divined
me, which had divined me--good God! and which followed me everywhere;
that frightful hunting-dog, always making a point at me, is thrown
off the scent, engaged elsewhere, absolutely turned from the trail:
henceforth he is satisfied; he will leave me in peace; he has his Jean
Valjean. Who knows? it is even probable that he will wish to leave town!
And all this has been brought about without any aid from me, and I count
for nothing in it! Ah! but where is the misfortune in this? Upon my
honor, people would think, to see me, that some catastrophe had happened
to me! After all, if it does bring harm to some one, that is not my
fault in the least: it is Providence which has done it all; it is
because it wishes it so to be, evidently. Have I the right to disarrange
what it has arranged? What do I ask now? Why should I meddle? It does
not concern me; what! I am not satisfied: but what more do I want? The
goal to which I have aspired for so many years, the dream of my nights,
the object of my prayers to Heaven,--security,--I have now attained; it
is God who wills it; I can do nothing against the will of God, and why
does God will it? In order that I may continue what I have begun, that I
may do good, that I may one day be a grand and encouraging example, that
it may be said at last, that a little happiness has been attached to
the penance which I have undergone, and to that virtue to which I have
returned. Really, I do not understand why I was afraid, a little while
ago, to enter the house of that good cure, and to ask his advice; this
is evidently what he would have said to me: It is settled; let things
take their course; let the good God do as he likes!"

Thus did he address himself in the depths of his own conscience, bending
over what may be called his own abyss; he rose from his chair, and began
to pace the room: "Come," said he, "let us think no more about it; my
resolve is taken!" but he felt no joy.

Quite the reverse.

One can no more prevent thought from recurring to an idea than one can
the sea from returning to the shore: the sailor calls it the tide; the
guilty man calls it remorse; God upheaves the soul as he does the ocean.

After the expiration of a few moments, do what he would, he resumed the
gloomy dialogue in which it was he who spoke and he who listened, saying
that which he would have preferred to ignore, and listened to that which
he would have preferred not to hear, yielding to that mysterious power
which said to him: "Think!" as it said to another condemned man, two
thousand years ago, "March on!"

Before proceeding further, and in order to make ourselves fully
understood, let us insist upon one necessary observation.

It is certain that people do talk to themselves; there is no living
being who has not done it. It may even be said that the word is never
a more magnificent mystery than when it goes from thought to conscience
within a man, and when it returns from conscience to thought; it is in
this sense only that the words so often employed in this chapter, he
said, he exclaimed, must be understood; one speaks to one's self, talks
to one's self, exclaims to one's self without breaking the external
silence; there is a great tumult; everything about us talks except the
mouth. The realities of the soul are none the less realities because
they are not visible and palpable.

So he asked himself where he stood. He interrogated himself upon that
"settled resolve." He confessed to himself that all that he had just
arranged in his mind was monstrous, that "to let things take their
course, to let the good God do as he liked," was simply horrible; to
allow this error of fate and of men to be carried out, not to hinder it,
to lend himself to it through his silence, to do nothing, in short,
was to do everything! that this was hypocritical baseness in the last
degree! that it was a base, cowardly, sneaking, abject, hideous crime!

For the first time in eight years, the wretched man had just tasted the
bitter savor of an evil thought and of an evil action.

He spit it out with disgust.

He continued to question himself. He asked himself severely what he had
meant by this, "My object is attained!" He declared to himself that
his life really had an object; but what object? To conceal his name?
To deceive the police? Was it for so petty a thing that he had done all
that he had done? Had he not another and a grand object, which was the
true one--to save, not his person, but his soul; to become honest and
good once more; to be a just man? Was it not that above all, that alone,
which he had always desired, which the Bishop had enjoined upon him--to
shut the door on his past? But he was not shutting it! great God! he was
re-opening it by committing an infamous action! He was becoming a thief
once more, and the most odious of thieves! He was robbing another of
his existence, his life, his peace, his place in the sunshine. He was
becoming an assassin. He was murdering, morally murdering, a wretched
man. He was inflicting on him that frightful living death, that death
beneath the open sky, which is called the galleys. On the other hand,
to surrender himself to save that man, struck down with so melancholy
an error, to resume his own name, to become once more, out of duty, the
convict Jean Valjean, that was, in truth, to achieve his resurrection,
and to close forever that hell whence he had just emerged; to fall back
there in appearance was to escape from it in reality. This must be
done! He had done nothing if he did not do all this; his whole life was
useless; all his penitence was wasted. There was no longer any need of
saying, "What is the use?" He felt that the Bishop was there, that the
Bishop was present all the more because he was dead, that the Bishop
was gazing fixedly at him, that henceforth Mayor Madeleine, with all his
virtues, would be abominable to him, and that the convict Jean Valjean
would be pure and admirable in his sight; that men beheld his mask, but
that the Bishop saw his face; that men saw his life, but that the Bishop
beheld his conscience. So he must go to Arras, deliver the false Jean
Valjean, and denounce the real one. Alas! that was the greatest of
sacrifices, the most poignant of victories, the last step to take; but
it must be done. Sad fate! he would enter into sanctity only in the eyes
of God when he returned to infamy in the eyes of men.

"Well," said he, "let us decide upon this; let us do our duty; let us
save this man." He uttered these words aloud, without perceiving that he
was speaking aloud.

He took his books, verified them, and put them in order. He flung in
the fire a bundle of bills which he had against petty and embarrassed
tradesmen. He wrote and sealed a letter, and on the envelope it might
have been read, had there been any one in his chamber at the moment,
To Monsieur Laffitte, Banker, Rue d'Artois, Paris. He drew from his
secretary a pocket-book which contained several bank-notes and the
passport of which he had made use that same year when he went to the

Any one who had seen him during the execution of these various acts,
into which there entered such grave thought, would have had no suspicion
of what was going on within him. Only occasionally did his lips move; at
other times he raised his head and fixed his gaze upon some point of the
wall, as though there existed at that point something which he wished to
elucidate or interrogate.

When he had finished the letter to M. Laffitte, he put it into his
pocket, together with the pocket-book, and began his walk once more.

His revery had not swerved from its course. He continued to see his duty
clearly, written in luminous letters, which flamed before his eyes and
changed its place as he altered the direction of his glance:--

"Go! Tell your name! Denounce yourself!"

In the same way he beheld, as though they had passed before him in
visible forms, the two ideas which had, up to that time, formed
the double rule of his soul,--the concealment of his name, the
sanctification of his life. For the first time they appeared to him as
absolutely distinct, and he perceived the distance which separated them.
He recognized the fact that one of these ideas was, necessarily, good,
while the other might become bad; that the first was self-devotion, and
that the other was personality; that the one said, my neighbor, and that
the other said, myself; that one emanated from the light, and the other
from darkness.

They were antagonistic. He saw them in conflict. In proportion as
he meditated, they grew before the eyes of his spirit. They had now
attained colossal statures, and it seemed to him that he beheld within
himself, in that infinity of which we were recently speaking, in the
midst of the darkness and the lights, a goddess and a giant contending.

He was filled with terror; but it seemed to him that the good thought
was getting the upper hand.

He felt that he was on the brink of the second decisive crisis of his
conscience and of his destiny; that the Bishop had marked the first
phase of his new life, and that Champmathieu marked the second. After
the grand crisis, the grand test.

But the fever, allayed for an instant, gradually resumed possession
of him. A thousand thoughts traversed his mind, but they continued to
fortify him in his resolution.

One moment he said to himself that he was, perhaps, taking the matter
too keenly; that, after all, this Champmathieu was not interesting, and
that he had actually been guilty of theft.

He answered himself: "If this man has, indeed, stolen a few apples, that
means a month in prison. It is a long way from that to the galleys. And
who knows? Did he steal? Has it been proved? The name of Jean Valjean
overwhelms him, and seems to dispense with proofs. Do not the attorneys
for the Crown always proceed in this manner? He is supposed to be a
thief because he is known to be a convict."

In another instant the thought had occurred to him that, when he
denounced himself, the heroism of his deed might, perhaps, be taken into
consideration, and his honest life for the last seven years, and what he
had done for the district, and that they would have mercy on him.

But this supposition vanished very quickly, and he smiled bitterly as he
remembered that the theft of the forty sous from little Gervais put him
in the position of a man guilty of a second offence after conviction,
that this affair would certainly come up, and, according to the precise
terms of the law, would render him liable to penal servitude for life.

He turned aside from all illusions, detached himself more and more from
earth, and sought strength and consolation elsewhere. He told himself
that he must do his duty; that perhaps he should not be more unhappy
after doing his duty than after having avoided it; that if he allowed
things to take their own course, if he remained at M. sur M., his
consideration, his good name, his good works, the deference and
veneration paid to him, his charity, his wealth, his popularity, his
virtue, would be seasoned with a crime. And what would be the taste of
all these holy things when bound up with this hideous thing? while, if
he accomplished his sacrifice, a celestial idea would be mingled with
the galleys, the post, the iron necklet, the green cap, unceasing toil,
and pitiless shame.

At length he told himself that it must be so, that his destiny was thus
allotted, that he had not authority to alter the arrangements made on
high, that, in any case, he must make his choice: virtue without and
abomination within, or holiness within and infamy without.

The stirring up of these lugubrious ideas did not cause his courage to
fail, but his brain grow weary. He began to think of other things, of
indifferent matters, in spite of himself.

The veins in his temples throbbed violently; he still paced to and fro;
midnight sounded first from the parish church, then from the town-hall;
he counted the twelve strokes of the two clocks, and compared the sounds
of the two bells; he recalled in this connection the fact that, a few
days previously, he had seen in an ironmonger's shop an ancient clock
for sale, upon which was written the name, Antoine-Albin de Romainville.

He was cold; he lighted a small fire; it did not occur to him to close
the window.

In the meantime he had relapsed into his stupor; he was obliged to make
a tolerably vigorous effort to recall what had been the subject of his
thoughts before midnight had struck; he finally succeeded in doing this.

"Ah! yes," he said to himself, "I had resolved to inform against

And then, all of a sudden, he thought of Fantine.

"Hold!" said he, "and what about that poor woman?"

Here a fresh crisis declared itself.

Fantine, by appearing thus abruptly in his revery, produced the effect
of an unexpected ray of light; it seemed to him as though everything
about him were undergoing a change of aspect: he exclaimed:--

"Ah! but I have hitherto considered no one but myself; it is proper for
me to hold my tongue or to denounce myself, to conceal my person or
to save my soul, to be a despicable and respected magistrate, or an
infamous and venerable convict; it is I, it is always I and nothing
but I: but, good God! all this is egotism; these are diverse forms
of egotism, but it is egotism all the same. What if I were to think a
little about others? The highest holiness is to think of others; come,
let us examine the matter. The _I_ excepted, the _I_ effaced, the _I_
forgotten, what would be the result of all this? What if I denounce
myself? I am arrested; this Champmathieu is released; I am put back in
the galleys; that is well--and what then? What is going on here? Ah!
here is a country, a town, here are factories, an industry, workers,
both men and women, aged grandsires, children, poor people! All this I
have created; all these I provide with their living; everywhere where
there is a smoking chimney, it is I who have placed the brand on the
hearth and meat in the pot; I have created ease, circulation, credit;
before me there was nothing; I have elevated, vivified, informed with
life, fecundated, stimulated, enriched the whole country-side; lacking
me, the soul is lacking; I take myself off, everything dies: and this
woman, who has suffered so much, who possesses so many merits in spite
of her fall; the cause of all whose misery I have unwittingly been! And
that child whom I meant to go in search of, whom I have promised to her
mother; do I not also owe something to this woman, in reparation for
the evil which I have done her? If I disappear, what happens? The mother
dies; the child becomes what it can; that is what will take place, if
I denounce myself. If I do not denounce myself? come, let us see how it
will be if I do not denounce myself."

After putting this question to himself, he paused; he seemed to undergo
a momentary hesitation and trepidation; but it did not last long, and he
answered himself calmly:--

"Well, this man is going to the galleys; it is true, but what the deuce!
he has stolen! There is no use in my saying that he has not been guilty
of theft, for he has! I remain here; I go on: in ten years I shall have
made ten millions; I scatter them over the country; I have nothing of
my own; what is that to me? It is not for myself that I am doing it;
the prosperity of all goes on augmenting; industries are aroused and
animated; factories and shops are multiplied; families, a hundred
families, a thousand families, are happy; the district becomes
populated; villages spring up where there were only farms before;
farms rise where there was nothing; wretchedness disappears, and
with wretchedness debauchery, prostitution, theft, murder; all vices
disappear, all crimes: and this poor mother rears her child; and behold
a whole country rich and honest! Ah! I was a fool! I was absurd!
what was that I was saying about denouncing myself? I really must pay
attention and not be precipitate about anything. What! because it would
have pleased me to play the grand and generous; this is melodrama, after
all; because I should have thought of no one but myself, the idea! for
the sake of saving from a punishment, a trifle exaggerated, perhaps,
but just at bottom, no one knows whom, a thief, a good-for-nothing,
evidently, a whole country-side must perish! a poor woman must die in
the hospital! a poor little girl must die in the street! like dogs; ah,
this is abominable! And without the mother even having seen her child
once more, almost without the child's having known her mother; and
all that for the sake of an old wretch of an apple-thief who, most
assuredly, has deserved the galleys for something else, if not for
that; fine scruples, indeed, which save a guilty man and sacrifice the
innocent, which save an old vagabond who has only a few years to live at
most, and who will not be more unhappy in the galleys than in his hovel,
and which sacrifice a whole population, mothers, wives, children. This
poor little Cosette who has no one in the world but me, and who is, no
doubt, blue with cold at this moment in the den of those Thenardiers;
those peoples are rascals; and I was going to neglect my duty towards
all these poor creatures; and I was going off to denounce myself; and I
was about to commit that unspeakable folly! Let us put it at the worst:
suppose that there is a wrong action on my part in this, and that my
conscience will reproach me for it some day, to accept, for the good of
others, these reproaches which weigh only on myself; this evil action
which compromises my soul alone; in that lies self-sacrifice; in that
alone there is virtue."

He rose and resumed his march; this time, he seemed to be content.

Diamonds are found only in the dark places of the earth; truths are
found only in the depths of thought. It seemed to him, that, after
having descended into these depths, after having long groped among the
darkest of these shadows, he had at last found one of these diamonds,
one of these truths, and that he now held it in his hand, and he was
dazzled as he gazed upon it.

"Yes," he thought, "this is right; I am on the right road; I have the
solution; I must end by holding fast to something; my resolve is taken;
let things take their course; let us no longer vacillate; let us no
longer hang back; this is for the interest of all, not for my own; I am
Madeleine, and Madeleine I remain. Woe to the man who is Jean Valjean!
I am no longer he; I do not know that man; I no longer know anything; it
turns out that some one is Jean Valjean at the present moment; let him
look out for himself; that does not concern me; it is a fatal name which
was floating abroad in the night; if it halts and descends on a head, so
much the worse for that head."

He looked into the little mirror which hung above his chimney-piece, and

"Hold! it has relieved me to come to a decision; I am quite another man

He proceeded a few paces further, then he stopped short.

"Come!" he said, "I must not flinch before any of the consequences of
the resolution which I have once adopted; there are still threads which
attach me to that Jean Valjean; they must be broken; in this very room
there are objects which would betray me, dumb things which would bear
witness against me; it is settled; all these things must disappear."

He fumbled in his pocket, drew out his purse, opened it, and took out a
small key; he inserted the key in a lock whose aperture could hardly
be seen, so hidden was it in the most sombre tones of the design which
covered the wall-paper; a secret receptacle opened, a sort of
false cupboard constructed in the angle between the wall and the
chimney-piece; in this hiding-place there were some rags--a blue linen
blouse, an old pair of trousers, an old knapsack, and a huge thorn
cudgel shod with iron at both ends. Those who had seen Jean Valjean at
the epoch when he passed through D----in October, 1815, could easily
have recognized all the pieces of this miserable outfit.

He had preserved them as he had preserved the silver candlesticks, in
order to remind himself continually of his starting-point, but he
had concealed all that came from the galleys, and he had allowed the
candlesticks which came from the Bishop to be seen.

He cast a furtive glance towards the door, as though he feared that it
would open in spite of the bolt which fastened it; then, with a quick
and abrupt movement, he took the whole in his arms at once, without
bestowing so much as a glance on the things which he had so religiously
and so perilously preserved for so many years, and flung them all, rags,
cudgel, knapsack, into the fire.

[Illustration: Candlesticks Into the Fire  1b7-3-into-the-fire]

He closed the false cupboard again, and with redoubled precautions,
henceforth unnecessary, since it was now empty, he concealed the door
behind a heavy piece of furniture, which he pushed in front of it.

After the lapse of a few seconds, the room and the opposite wall were
lighted up with a fierce, red, tremulous glow. Everything was on fire;
the thorn cudgel snapped and threw out sparks to the middle of the

As the knapsack was consumed, together with the hideous rags which it
contained, it revealed something which sparkled in the ashes. By bending
over, one could have readily recognized a coin,--no doubt the forty-sou
piece stolen from the little Savoyard.

He did not look at the fire, but paced back and forth with the same

All at once his eye fell on the two silver candlesticks, which shone
vaguely on the chimney-piece, through the glow.

"Hold!" he thought; "the whole of Jean Valjean is still in them. They
must be destroyed also."

He seized the two candlesticks.

There was still fire enough to allow of their being put out of shape,
and converted into a sort of unrecognizable bar of metal.

He bent over the hearth and warmed himself for a moment. He felt a sense
of real comfort. "How good warmth is!" said he.

He stirred the live coals with one of the candlesticks.

A minute more, and they were both in the fire.

At that moment it seemed to him that he heard a voice within him
shouting: "Jean Valjean! Jean Valjean!"

His hair rose upright: he became like a man who is listening to some
terrible thing.

"Yes, that's it! finish!" said the voice. "Complete what you are about!
Destroy these candlesticks! Annihilate this souvenir! Forget the Bishop!
Forget everything! Destroy this Champmathieu, do! That is right! Applaud
yourself! So it is settled, resolved, fixed, agreed: here is an old man
who does not know what is wanted of him, who has, perhaps, done nothing,
an innocent man, whose whole misfortune lies in your name, upon whom
your name weighs like a crime, who is about to be taken for you, who
will be condemned, who will finish his days in abjectness and horror.
That is good! Be an honest man yourself; remain Monsieur le Maire;
remain honorable and honored; enrich the town; nourish the indigent;
rear the orphan; live happy, virtuous, and admired; and, during this
time, while you are here in the midst of joy and light, there will be a
man who will wear your red blouse, who will bear your name in ignominy,
and who will drag your chain in the galleys. Yes, it is well arranged
thus. Ah, wretch!"

The perspiration streamed from his brow. He fixed a haggard eye on the
candlesticks. But that within him which had spoken had not finished. The
voice continued:--

"Jean Valjean, there will be around you many voices, which will make a
great noise, which will talk very loud, and which will bless you, and
only one which no one will hear, and which will curse you in the dark.
Well! listen, infamous man! All those benedictions will fall back before
they reach heaven, and only the malediction will ascend to God."

This voice, feeble at first, and which had proceeded from the most
obscure depths of his conscience, had gradually become startling and
formidable, and he now heard it in his very ear. It seemed to him that
it had detached itself from him, and that it was now speaking outside
of him. He thought that he heard the last words so distinctly, that he
glanced around the room in a sort of terror.

"Is there any one here?" he demanded aloud, in utter bewilderment.

Then he resumed, with a laugh which resembled that of an idiot:--

"How stupid I am! There can be no one!"

There was some one; but the person who was there was of those whom the
human eye cannot see.

He placed the candlesticks on the chimney-piece.

Then he resumed his monotonous and lugubrious tramp, which troubled the
dreams of the sleeping man beneath him, and awoke him with a start.

This tramping to and fro soothed and at the same time intoxicated him.
It sometimes seems, on supreme occasions, as though people moved about
for the purpose of asking advice of everything that they may encounter
by change of place. After the lapse of a few minutes he no longer knew
his position.

He now recoiled in equal terror before both the resolutions at which he
had arrived in turn. The two ideas which counselled him appeared to him
equally fatal. What a fatality! What conjunction that that Champmathieu
should have been taken for him; to be overwhelmed by precisely the means
which Providence seemed to have employed, at first, to strengthen his

There was a moment when he reflected on the future. Denounce himself,
great God! Deliver himself up! With immense despair he faced all that
he should be obliged to leave, all that he should be obliged to take up
once more. He should have to bid farewell to that existence which was so
good, so pure, so radiant, to the respect of all, to honor, to liberty.
He should never more stroll in the fields; he should never more hear the
birds sing in the month of May; he should never more bestow alms on the
little children; he should never more experience the sweetness of having
glances of gratitude and love fixed upon him; he should quit that house
which he had built, that little chamber! Everything seemed charming to
him at that moment. Never again should he read those books; never more
should he write on that little table of white wood; his old portress,
the only servant whom he kept, would never more bring him his coffee
in the morning. Great God! instead of that, the convict gang, the iron
necklet, the red waistcoat, the chain on his ankle, fatigue, the cell,
the camp bed all those horrors which he knew so well! At his age,
after having been what he was! If he were only young again! but to
be addressed in his old age as "thou" by any one who pleased; to
be searched by the convict-guard; to receive the galley-sergeant's
cudgellings; to wear iron-bound shoes on his bare feet; to have to
stretch out his leg night and morning to the hammer of the roundsman who
visits the gang; to submit to the curiosity of strangers, who would be
told: "That man yonder is the famous Jean Valjean, who was mayor of
M. sur M."; and at night, dripping with perspiration, overwhelmed with
lassitude, their green caps drawn over their eyes, to remount, two by
two, the ladder staircase of the galleys beneath the sergeant's whip.
Oh, what misery! Can destiny, then, be as malicious as an intelligent
being, and become as monstrous as the human heart?

And do what he would, he always fell back upon the heartrending dilemma
which lay at the foundation of his revery: "Should he remain in paradise
and become a demon? Should he return to hell and become an angel?"

What was to be done? Great God! what was to be done?

The torment from which he had escaped with so much difficulty was
unchained afresh within him. His ideas began to grow confused once
more; they assumed a kind of stupefied and mechanical quality which is
peculiar to despair. The name of Romainville recurred incessantly to his
mind, with the two verses of a song which he had heard in the past.
He thought that Romainville was a little grove near Paris, where young
lovers go to pluck lilacs in the month of April.

He wavered outwardly as well as inwardly. He walked like a little child
who is permitted to toddle alone.

At intervals, as he combated his lassitude, he made an effort to recover
the mastery of his mind. He tried to put to himself, for the last time,
and definitely, the problem over which he had, in a manner, fallen
prostrate with fatigue: Ought he to denounce himself? Ought he to hold
his peace? He could not manage to see anything distinctly. The vague
aspects of all the courses of reasoning which had been sketched out by
his meditations quivered and vanished, one after the other, into smoke.
He only felt that, to whatever course of action he made up his mind,
something in him must die, and that of necessity, and without his being
able to escape the fact; that he was entering a sepulchre on the
right hand as much as on the left; that he was passing through a death
agony,--the agony of his happiness, or the agony of his virtue.

Alas! all his resolution had again taken possession of him. He was no
further advanced than at the beginning.

Thus did this unhappy soul struggle in its anguish. Eighteen hundred
years before this unfortunate man, the mysterious Being in whom are
summed up all the sanctities and all the sufferings of humanity had also
long thrust aside with his hand, while the olive-trees quivered in
the wild wind of the infinite, the terrible cup which appeared to Him
dripping with darkness and overflowing with shadows in the depths all
studded with stars.


Three o'clock in the morning had just struck, and he had been walking
thus for five hours, almost uninterruptedly, when he at length allowed
himself to drop into his chair.

There he fell asleep and had a dream.

This dream, like the majority of dreams, bore no relation to the
situation, except by its painful and heart-rending character, but it
made an impression on him. This nightmare struck him so forcibly that he
wrote it down later on. It is one of the papers in his own handwriting
which he has bequeathed to us. We think that we have here reproduced the
thing in strict accordance with the text.

Of whatever nature this dream may be, the history of this night would
be incomplete if we were to omit it: it is the gloomy adventure of an
ailing soul.

Here it is. On the envelope we find this line inscribed, "The Dream I
had that Night."

"I was in a plain; a vast, gloomy plain, where there was no grass. It
did not seem to me to be daylight nor yet night.

"I was walking with my brother, the brother of my childish years,
the brother of whom, I must say, I never think, and whom I now hardly

"We were conversing and we met some passers-by. We were talking of a
neighbor of ours in former days, who had always worked with her window
open from the time when she came to live on the street. As we talked we
felt cold because of that open window.

"There were no trees in the plain. We saw a man passing close to us. He
was entirely nude, of the hue of ashes, and mounted on a horse which was
earth color. The man had no hair; we could see his skull and the veins
on it. In his hand he held a switch which was as supple as a vine-shoot
and as heavy as iron. This horseman passed and said nothing to us.

"My brother said to me, 'Let us take to the hollow road.'

"There existed a hollow way wherein one saw neither a single shrub nor
a spear of moss. Everything was dirt-colored, even the sky. After
proceeding a few paces, I received no reply when I spoke: I perceived
that my brother was no longer with me.

"I entered a village which I espied. I reflected that it must be
Romainville. (Why Romainville?)[5]

"The first street that I entered was deserted. I entered a second
street. Behind the angle formed by the two streets, a man was standing
erect against the wall. I said to this Man:--

"'What country is this? Where am I?' The man made no reply. I saw the
door of a house open, and I entered.

"The first chamber was deserted. I entered the second. Behind the door
of this chamber a man was standing erect against the wall. I inquired of
this man, 'Whose house is this? Where am I?' The man replied not.

"The house had a garden. I quitted the house and entered the garden.
The garden was deserted. Behind the first tree I found a man standing
upright. I said to this man, 'What garden is this? Where am I?' The man
did not answer.

"I strolled into the village, and perceived that it was a town. All
the streets were deserted, all the doors were open. Not a single living
being was passing in the streets, walking through the chambers or
strolling in the gardens. But behind each angle of the walls, behind
each door, behind each tree, stood a silent man. Only one was to be seen
at a time. These men watched me pass.

"I left the town and began to ramble about the fields.

"After the lapse of some time I turned back and saw a great crowd coming
up behind me. I recognized all the men whom I had seen in that town.
They had strange heads. They did not seem to be in a hurry, yet they
walked faster than I did. They made no noise as they walked. In an
instant this crowd had overtaken and surrounded me. The faces of these
men were earthen in hue.

"Then the first one whom I had seen and questioned on entering the town
said to me:--

"'Whither are you going! Do you not know that you have been dead this
long time?'

"I opened my mouth to reply, and I perceived that there was no one near

He woke. He was icy cold. A wind which was chill like the breeze of dawn
was rattling the leaves of the window, which had been left open on their
hinges. The fire was out. The candle was nearing its end. It was still
black night.

He rose, he went to the window. There were no stars in the sky even yet.

From his window the yard of the house and the street were visible. A
sharp, harsh noise, which made him drop his eyes, resounded from the

Below him he perceived two red stars, whose rays lengthened and
shortened in a singular manner through the darkness.

As his thoughts were still half immersed in the mists of sleep, "Hold!"
said he, "there are no stars in the sky. They are on earth now."

But this confusion vanished; a second sound similar to the first roused
him thoroughly; he looked and recognized the fact that these two stars
were the lanterns of a carriage. By the light which they cast he was
able to distinguish the form of this vehicle. It was a tilbury harnessed
to a small white horse. The noise which he had heard was the trampling
of the horse's hoofs on the pavement.

"What vehicle is this?" he said to himself. "Who is coming here so early
in the morning?"

At that moment there came a light tap on the door of his chamber.

He shuddered from head to foot, and cried in a terrible voice:--

"Who is there?"

Some one said:--

"I, Monsieur le Maire."

He recognized the voice of the old woman who was his portress.

"Well!" he replied, "what is it?"

"Monsieur le Maire, it is just five o'clock in the morning."

"What is that to me?"

"The cabriolet is here, Monsieur le Maire."

"What cabriolet?"

"The tilbury."

"What tilbury?"

"Did not Monsieur le Maire order a tilbury?"

"No," said he.

"The coachman says that he has come for Monsieur le Maire."

"What coachman?"

"M. Scaufflaire's coachman."

"M. Scaufflaire?"

That name sent a shudder over him, as though a flash of lightning had
passed in front of his face.

"Ah! yes," he resumed; "M. Scaufflaire!"

If the old woman could have seen him at that moment, she would have been

A tolerably long silence ensued. He examined the flame of the candle
with a stupid air, and from around the wick he took some of the burning
wax, which he rolled between his fingers. The old woman waited for him.
She even ventured to uplift her voice once more:--

"What am I to say, Monsieur le Maire?"

"Say that it is well, and that I am coming down."


The posting service from Arras to M. sur M. was still operated at this
period by small mail-wagons of the time of the Empire. These mail-wagons
were two-wheeled cabriolets, upholstered inside with fawn-colored
leather, hung on springs, and having but two seats, one for the postboy,
the other for the traveller. The wheels were armed with those long,
offensive axles which keep other vehicles at a distance, and which
may still be seen on the road in Germany. The despatch box, an immense
oblong coffer, was placed behind the vehicle and formed a part of it.
This coffer was painted black, and the cabriolet yellow.

These vehicles, which have no counterparts nowadays, had something
distorted and hunchbacked about them; and when one saw them passing in
the distance, and climbing up some road to the horizon, they resembled
the insects which are called, I think, termites, and which, though with
but little corselet, drag a great train behind them. But they travelled
at a very rapid rate. The post-wagon which set out from Arras at one
o'clock every night, after the mail from Paris had passed, arrived at M.
sur M. a little before five o'clock in the morning.

That night the wagon which was descending to M. sur M. by the Hesdin
road, collided at the corner of a street, just as it was entering the
town, with a little tilbury harnessed to a white horse, which was going
in the opposite direction, and in which there was but one person, a man
enveloped in a mantle. The wheel of the tilbury received quite a violent
shock. The postman shouted to the man to stop, but the traveller paid no
heed and pursued his road at full gallop.

"That man is in a devilish hurry!" said the postman.

The man thus hastening on was the one whom we have just seen struggling
in convulsions which are certainly deserving of pity.

Whither was he going? He could not have told. Why was he hastening?
He did not know. He was driving at random, straight ahead. Whither?
To Arras, no doubt; but he might have been going elsewhere as well.
At times he was conscious of it, and he shuddered. He plunged into the
night as into a gulf. Something urged him forward; something drew him
on. No one could have told what was taking place within him; every one
will understand it. What man is there who has not entered, at least once
in his life, into that obscure cavern of the unknown?

However, he had resolved on nothing, decided nothing, formed no plan,
done nothing. None of the actions of his conscience had been decisive.
He was, more than ever, as he had been at the first moment.

Why was he going to Arras?

He repeated what he had already said to himself when he had hired
Scaufflaire's cabriolet: that, whatever the result was to be, there was
no reason why he should not see with his own eyes, and judge of matters
for himself; that this was even prudent; that he must know what took
place; that no decision could be arrived at without having observed and
scrutinized; that one made mountains out of everything from a distance;
that, at any rate, when he should have seen that Champmathieu, some
wretch, his conscience would probably be greatly relieved to allow him
to go to the galleys in his stead; that Javert would indeed be there;
and that Brevet, that Chenildieu, that Cochepaille, old convicts who
had known him; but they certainly would not recognize him;--bah! what an
idea! that Javert was a hundred leagues from suspecting the truth; that
all conjectures and all suppositions were fixed on Champmathieu, and
that there is nothing so headstrong as suppositions and conjectures;
that accordingly there was no danger.

That it was, no doubt, a dark moment, but that he should emerge from it;
that, after all, he held his destiny, however bad it might be, in his
own hand; that he was master of it. He clung to this thought.

At bottom, to tell the whole truth, he would have preferred not to go to

Nevertheless, he was going thither.

As he meditated, he whipped up his horse, which was proceeding at that
fine, regular, and even trot which accomplishes two leagues and a half
an hour.

In proportion as the cabriolet advanced, he felt something within him
draw back.

At daybreak he was in the open country; the town of M. sur M. lay far
behind him. He watched the horizon grow white; he stared at all the
chilly figures of a winter's dawn as they passed before his eyes,
but without seeing them. The morning has its spectres as well as the
evening. He did not see them; but without his being aware of it, and by
means of a sort of penetration which was almost physical, these black
silhouettes of trees and of hills added some gloomy and sinister quality
to the violent state of his soul.

Each time that he passed one of those isolated dwellings which sometimes
border on the highway, he said to himself, "And yet there are people
there within who are sleeping!"

The trot of the horse, the bells on the harness, the wheels on the road,
produced a gentle, monotonous noise. These things are charming when one
is joyous, and lugubrious when one is sad.

It was broad daylight when he arrived at Hesdin. He halted in front of
the inn, to allow the horse a breathing spell, and to have him given
some oats.

The horse belonged, as Scaufflaire had said, to that small race of the
Boulonnais, which has too much head, too much belly, and not enough neck
and shoulders, but which has a broad chest, a large crupper, thin, fine
legs, and solid hoofs--a homely, but a robust and healthy race. The
excellent beast had travelled five leagues in two hours, and had not a
drop of sweat on his loins.

He did not get out of the tilbury. The stableman who brought the oats
suddenly bent down and examined the left wheel.

"Are you going far in this condition?" said the man.

He replied, with an air of not having roused himself from his revery:--


"Have you come from a great distance?" went on the man.

"Five leagues."


"Why do you say, 'Ah?'"

The man bent down once more, was silent for a moment, with his eyes
fixed on the wheel; then he rose erect and said:--

"Because, though this wheel has travelled five leagues, it certainly
will not travel another quarter of a league."

He sprang out of the tilbury.

"What is that you say, my friend?"

"I say that it is a miracle that you should have travelled five leagues
without you and your horse rolling into some ditch on the highway. Just
see here!"

The wheel really had suffered serious damage. The shock administered by
the mail-wagon had split two spokes and strained the hub, so that the
nut no longer held firm.

"My friend," he said to the stableman, "is there a wheelwright here?"

"Certainly, sir."

"Do me the service to go and fetch him."

"He is only a step from here. Hey! Master Bourgaillard!"

Master Bourgaillard, the wheelwright, was standing on his own threshold.
He came, examined the wheel and made a grimace like a surgeon when the
latter thinks a limb is broken.

"Can you repair this wheel immediately?"

"Yes, sir."

"When can I set out again?"



"There is a long day's work on it. Are you in a hurry, sir?"

"In a very great hurry. I must set out again in an hour at the latest."

"Impossible, sir."

"I will pay whatever you ask."


"Well, in two hours, then."

"Impossible to-day. Two new spokes and a hub must be made. Monsieur will
not be able to start before to-morrow morning."

"The matter cannot wait until to-morrow. What if you were to replace
this wheel instead of repairing it?"

"How so?"

"You are a wheelwright?"

"Certainly, sir."

"Have you not a wheel that you can sell me? Then I could start again at

"A spare wheel?"


"I have no wheel on hand that would fit your cabriolet. Two wheels make
a pair. Two wheels cannot be put together hap-hazard."

"In that case, sell me a pair of wheels."

"Not all wheels fit all axles, sir."

"Try, nevertheless."

"It is useless, sir. I have nothing to sell but cart-wheels. We are but
a poor country here."

"Have you a cabriolet that you can let me have?"

The wheelwright had seen at the first glance that the tilbury was a
hired vehicle. He shrugged his shoulders.

"You treat the cabriolets that people let you so well! If I had one, I
would not let it to you!"

"Well, sell it to me, then."

"I have none."

"What! not even a spring-cart? I am not hard to please, as you see."

"We live in a poor country. There is, in truth," added the wheelwright,
"an old calash under the shed yonder, which belongs to a bourgeois of
the town, who gave it to me to take care of, and who only uses it on the
thirty-sixth of the month--never, that is to say. I might let that
to you, for what matters it to me? But the bourgeois must not see it
pass--and then, it is a calash; it would require two horses."

"I will take two post-horses."

"Where is Monsieur going?"

"To Arras."

"And Monsieur wishes to reach there to-day?"

"Yes, of course."

"By taking two post-horses?"

"Why not?"

"Does it make any difference whether Monsieur arrives at four o'clock
to-morrow morning?"

"Certainly not."

"There is one thing to be said about that, you see, by taking
post-horses--Monsieur has his passport?"


"Well, by taking post-horses, Monsieur cannot reach Arras before
to-morrow. We are on a cross-road. The relays are badly served, the
horses are in the fields. The season for ploughing is just beginning;
heavy teams are required, and horses are seized upon everywhere, from
the post as well as elsewhere. Monsieur will have to wait three or four
hours at the least at every relay. And, then, they drive at a walk.
There are many hills to ascend."

"Come then, I will go on horseback. Unharness the cabriolet. Some one
can surely sell me a saddle in the neighborhood."

"Without doubt. But will this horse bear the saddle?"

"That is true; you remind me of that; he will not bear it."


"But I can surely hire a horse in the village?"

"A horse to travel to Arras at one stretch?"


"That would require such a horse as does not exist in these parts. You
would have to buy it to begin with, because no one knows you. But you
will not find one for sale nor to let, for five hundred francs, or for a

"What am I to do?"

"The best thing is to let me repair the wheel like an honest man, and
set out on your journey to-morrow."

"To-morrow will be too late."

"The deuce!"

"Is there not a mail-wagon which runs to Arras? When will it pass?"

"To-night. Both the posts pass at night; the one going as well as the
one coming."

"What! It will take you a day to mend this wheel?"

"A day, and a good long one."

"If you set two men to work?"

"If I set ten men to work."

"What if the spokes were to be tied together with ropes?"

"That could be done with the spokes, not with the hub; and the felly is
in a bad state, too."

"Is there any one in this village who lets out teams?"


"Is there another wheelwright?"

The stableman and the wheelwright replied in concert, with a toss of the


He felt an immense joy.

It was evident that Providence was intervening. That it was it who had
broken the wheel of the tilbury and who was stopping him on the road.
He had not yielded to this sort of first summons; he had just made every
possible effort to continue the journey; he had loyally and scrupulously
exhausted all means; he had been deterred neither by the season, nor
fatigue, nor by the expense; he had nothing with which to reproach
himself. If he went no further, that was no fault of his. It did not
concern him further. It was no longer his fault. It was not the act of
his own conscience, but the act of Providence.

He breathed again. He breathed freely and to the full extent of his
lungs for the first time since Javert's visit. It seemed to him that the
hand of iron which had held his heart in its grasp for the last twenty
hours had just released him.

It seemed to him that God was for him now, and was manifesting Himself.

He said himself that he had done all he could, and that now he had
nothing to do but retrace his steps quietly.

If his conversation with the wheelwright had taken place in a chamber
of the inn, it would have had no witnesses, no one would have heard him,
things would have rested there, and it is probable that we should not
have had to relate any of the occurrences which the reader is about
to peruse; but this conversation had taken place in the street. Any
colloquy in the street inevitably attracts a crowd. There are always
people who ask nothing better than to become spectators. While he was
questioning the wheelwright, some people who were passing back and forth
halted around them. After listening for a few minutes, a young lad, to
whom no one had paid any heed, detached himself from the group and ran

At the moment when the traveller, after the inward deliberation which we
have just described, resolved to retrace his steps, this child returned.
He was accompanied by an old woman.

"Monsieur," said the woman, "my boy tells me that you wish to hire a

These simple words uttered by an old woman led by a child made the
perspiration trickle down his limbs. He thought that he beheld the hand
which had relaxed its grasp reappear in the darkness behind him, ready
to seize him once more.

He answered:--

"Yes, my good woman; I am in search of a cabriolet which I can hire."

And he hastened to add:--

"But there is none in the place."

"Certainly there is," said the old woman.

"Where?" interpolated the wheelwright.

"At my house," replied the old woman.

He shuddered. The fatal hand had grasped him again.

The old woman really had in her shed a sort of basket spring-cart.
The wheelwright and the stable-man, in despair at the prospect of the
traveller escaping their clutches, interfered.

"It was a frightful old trap; it rests flat on the axle; it is an actual
fact that the seats were suspended inside it by leather thongs; the rain
came into it; the wheels were rusted and eaten with moisture; it
would not go much further than the tilbury; a regular ramshackle old
stage-wagon; the gentleman would make a great mistake if he trusted
himself to it," etc., etc.

All this was true; but this trap, this ramshackle old vehicle, this
thing, whatever it was, ran on its two wheels and could go to Arras.

He paid what was asked, left the tilbury with the wheelwright to be
repaired, intending to reclaim it on his return, had the white horse
put to the cart, climbed into it, and resumed the road which he had been
travelling since morning.

At the moment when the cart moved off, he admitted that he had felt, a
moment previously, a certain joy in the thought that he should not
go whither he was now proceeding. He examined this joy with a sort of
wrath, and found it absurd. Why should he feel joy at turning back?
After all, he was taking this trip of his own free will. No one was
forcing him to it.

And assuredly nothing would happen except what he should choose.

As he left Hesdin, he heard a voice shouting to him: "Stop! Stop!" He
halted the cart with a vigorous movement which contained a feverish and
convulsive element resembling hope.

It was the old woman's little boy.

"Monsieur," said the latter, "it was I who got the cart for you."


"You have not given me anything."

He who gave to all so readily thought this demand exorbitant and almost

"Ah! it's you, you scamp?" said he; "you shall have nothing."

He whipped up his horse and set off at full speed.

He had lost a great deal of time at Hesdin. He wanted to make it good.
The little horse was courageous, and pulled for two; but it was the
month of February, there had been rain; the roads were bad. And then,
it was no longer the tilbury. The cart was very heavy, and in addition,
there were many ascents.

He took nearly four hours to go from Hesdin to Saint-Pol; four hours for
five leagues.

At Saint-Pol he had the horse unharnessed at the first inn he came to
and led to the stable; as he had promised Scaufflaire, he stood beside
the manger while the horse was eating; he thought of sad and confusing

The inn-keeper's wife came to the stable.

"Does not Monsieur wish to breakfast?"

"Come, that is true; I even have a good appetite."

He followed the woman, who had a rosy, cheerful face; she led him to the
public room where there were tables covered with waxed cloth.

"Make haste!" said he; "I must start again; I am in a hurry."

A big Flemish servant-maid placed his knife and fork in all haste; he
looked at the girl with a sensation of comfort.

"That is what ailed me," he thought; "I had not breakfasted."

His breakfast was served; he seized the bread, took a mouthful, and then
slowly replaced it on the table, and did not touch it again.

A carter was eating at another table; he said to this man:--

"Why is their bread so bitter here?"

The carter was a German and did not understand him.

He returned to the stable and remained near the horse.

An hour later he had quitted Saint-Pol and was directing his course
towards Tinques, which is only five leagues from Arras.

What did he do during this journey? Of what was he thinking? As in the
morning, he watched the trees, the thatched roofs, the tilled fields
pass by, and the way in which the landscape, broken at every turn of the
road, vanished; this is a sort of contemplation which sometimes
suffices to the soul, and almost relieves it from thought. What is more
melancholy and more profound than to see a thousand objects for the
first and the last time? To travel is to be born and to die at every
instant; perhaps, in the vaguest region of his mind, he did make
comparisons between the shifting horizon and our human existence: all
the things of life are perpetually fleeing before us; the dark and
bright intervals are intermingled; after a dazzling moment, an eclipse;
we look, we hasten, we stretch out our hands to grasp what is passing;
each event is a turn in the road, and, all at once, we are old; we feel
a shock; all is black; we distinguish an obscure door; the gloomy
horse of life, which has been drawing us halts, and we see a veiled and
unknown person unharnessing amid the shadows.

Twilight was falling when the children who were coming out of school
beheld this traveller enter Tinques; it is true that the days were still
short; he did not halt at Tinques; as he emerged from the village, a
laborer, who was mending the road with stones, raised his head and said
to him:--

"That horse is very much fatigued."

The poor beast was, in fact, going at a walk.

"Are you going to Arras?" added the road-mender.


"If you go on at that rate you will not arrive very early."

He stopped his horse, and asked the laborer:--

"How far is it from here to Arras?"

"Nearly seven good leagues."

"How is that? the posting guide only says five leagues and a quarter."

"Ah!" returned the road-mender, "so you don't know that the road is
under repair? You will find it barred a quarter of an hour further on;
there is no way to proceed further."


"You will take the road on the left, leading to Carency; you will cross
the river; when you reach Camblin, you will turn to the right; that is
the road to Mont-Saint-Eloy which leads to Arras."

"But it is night, and I shall lose my way."

"You do not belong in these parts?"


"And, besides, it is all cross-roads; stop! sir," resumed the
road-mender; "shall I give you a piece of advice? your horse is tired;
return to Tinques; there is a good inn there; sleep there; you can reach
Arras to-morrow."

"I must be there this evening."

"That is different; but go to the inn all the same, and get an extra
horse; the stable-boy will guide you through the cross-roads."

He followed the road-mender's advice, retraced his steps, and, half an
hour later, he passed the same spot again, but this time at full speed,
with a good horse to aid; a stable-boy, who called himself a postilion,
was seated on the shaft of the cariole.

Still, he felt that he had lost time.

Night had fully come.

They turned into the cross-road; the way became frightfully bad; the
cart lurched from one rut to the other; he said to the postilion:--

"Keep at a trot, and you shall have a double fee."

In one of the jolts, the whiffle-tree broke.

"There's the whiffle-tree broken, sir," said the postilion; "I don't
know how to harness my horse now; this road is very bad at night; if
you wish to return and sleep at Tinques, we could be in Arras early
to-morrow morning."

He replied, "Have you a bit of rope and a knife?"

"Yes, sir."

He cut a branch from a tree and made a whiffle-tree of it.

This caused another loss of twenty minutes; but they set out again at a

The plain was gloomy; low-hanging, black, crisp fogs crept over the
hills and wrenched themselves away like smoke: there were whitish gleams
in the clouds; a strong breeze which blew in from the sea produced a
sound in all quarters of the horizon, as of some one moving furniture;
everything that could be seen assumed attitudes of terror. How many
things shiver beneath these vast breaths of the night!

He was stiff with cold; he had eaten nothing since the night before;
he vaguely recalled his other nocturnal trip in the vast plain in
the neighborhood of D----, eight years previously, and it seemed but

The hour struck from a distant tower; he asked the boy:--

"What time is it?"

"Seven o'clock, sir; we shall reach Arras at eight; we have but three
leagues still to go."

At that moment, he for the first time indulged in this reflection,
thinking it odd the while that it had not occurred to him sooner: that
all this trouble which he was taking was, perhaps, useless; that he did
not know so much as the hour of the trial; that he should, at least,
have informed himself of that; that he was foolish to go thus straight
ahead without knowing whether he would be of any service or not; then
he sketched out some calculations in his mind: that, ordinarily, the
sittings of the Court of Assizes began at nine o'clock in the morning;
that it could not be a long affair; that the theft of the apples would
be very brief; that there would then remain only a question of identity,
four or five depositions, and very little for the lawyers to say; that
he should arrive after all was over.

The postilion whipped up the horses; they had crossed the river and left
Mont-Saint-Eloy behind them.

The night grew more profound.