Les Misérables by Victor Hugo 6


It was hither that Marius had come on the first occasion of his
absenting himself from Paris. It was hither that he had come every time
that M. Gillenormand had said: "He is sleeping out."

Lieutenant Theodule was absolutely put out of countenance by this
unexpected encounter with a sepulchre; he experienced a singular and
disagreeable sensation which he was incapable of analyzing, and which
was composed of respect for the tomb, mingled with respect for the
colonel. He retreated, leaving Marius alone in the cemetery, and
there was discipline in this retreat. Death appeared to him with large
epaulets, and he almost made the military salute to him. Not knowing
what to write to his aunt, he decided not to write at all; and it is
probable that nothing would have resulted from the discovery made
by Theodule as to the love affairs of Marius, if, by one of those
mysterious arrangements which are so frequent in chance, the scene at
Vernon had not had an almost immediate counter-shock at Paris.

Marius returned from Vernon on the third day, in the middle of the
morning, descended at his grandfather's door, and, wearied by the two
nights spent in the diligence, and feeling the need of repairing his
loss of sleep by an hour at the swimming-school, he mounted rapidly to
his chamber, took merely time enough to throw off his travelling-coat,
and the black ribbon which he wore round his neck, and went off to the

M. Gillenormand, who had risen betimes like all old men in good health,
had heard his entrance, and had made haste to climb, as quickly as his
old legs permitted, the stairs to the upper story where Marius lived,
in order to embrace him, and to question him while so doing, and to find
out where he had been.

But the youth had taken less time to descend than the old man had to
ascend, and when Father Gillenormand entered the attic, Marius was no
longer there.

The bed had not been disturbed, and on the bed lay, outspread, but not
defiantly the great-coat and the black ribbon.

"I like this better," said M. Gillenormand.

And a moment later, he made his entrance into the salon, where
Mademoiselle Gillenormand was already seated, busily embroidering her

The entrance was a triumphant one.

M. Gillenormand held in one hand the great-coat, and in the other the
neck-ribbon, and exclaimed:--

"Victory! We are about to penetrate the mystery! We are going to
learn the most minute details; we are going to lay our finger on the
debaucheries of our sly friend! Here we have the romance itself. I have
the portrait!"

In fact, a case of black shagreen, resembling a medallion portrait, was
suspended from the ribbon.

The old man took this case and gazed at it for some time without opening
it, with that air of enjoyment, rapture, and wrath, with which a poor
hungry fellow beholds an admirable dinner which is not for him, pass
under his very nose.

"For this evidently is a portrait. I know all about such things. That is
worn tenderly on the heart. How stupid they are! Some abominable fright
that will make us shudder, probably! Young men have such bad taste

"Let us see, father," said the old spinster.

The case opened by the pressure of a spring. They found in it nothing
but a carefully folded paper.

"From the same to the same," said M. Gillenormand, bursting with
laughter. "I know what it is. A billet-doux."

"Ah! let us read it!" said the aunt.

And she put on her spectacles. They unfolded the paper and read as

"For my son.--The Emperor made me a Baron on the battlefield of
Waterloo. Since the Restoration disputes my right to this title which I
purchased with my blood, my son shall take it and bear it. That he will
be worthy of it is a matter of course."

The feelings of father and daughter cannot be described. They felt
chilled as by the breath of a death's-head. They did not exchange a

Only, M. Gillenormand said in a low voice and as though speaking to

"It is the slasher's handwriting."

The aunt examined the paper, turned it about in all directions, then put
it back in its case.

At the same moment a little oblong packet, enveloped in blue paper, fell
from one of the pockets of the great-coat. Mademoiselle Gillenormand
picked it up and unfolded the blue paper.

It contained Marius' hundred cards. She handed one of them to M.
Gillenormand, who read: Le Baron Marius Pontmercy.

The old man rang the bell. Nicolette came. M. Gillenormand took the
ribbon, the case, and the coat, flung them all on the floor in the
middle of the room, and said:--

"Carry those duds away."

A full hour passed in the most profound silence. The old man and the old
spinster had seated themselves with their backs to each other, and were
thinking, each on his own account, the same things, in all probability.

At the expiration of this hour, Aunt Gillenormand said:--"A pretty state
of things!"

A few moments later, Marius made his appearance. He entered. Even before
he had crossed the threshold, he saw his grandfather holding one of
his own cards in his hand, and on catching sight of him, the latter
exclaimed with his air of bourgeois and grinning superiority which was
something crushing:--

"Well! well! well! well! well! so you are a baron now. I present you my
compliments. What is the meaning of this?"

Marius reddened slightly and replied:--

"It means that I am the son of my father."

M. Gillenormand ceased to laugh, and said harshly:--

"I am your father."

"My father," retorted Marius, with downcast eyes and a severe air, "was
a humble and heroic man, who served the Republic and France gloriously,
who was great in the greatest history that men have ever made, who
lived in the bivouac for a quarter of a century, beneath grape-shot and
bullets, in snow and mud by day, beneath rain at night, who captured two
flags, who received twenty wounds, who died forgotten and abandoned, and
who never committed but one mistake, which was to love too fondly two
ingrates, his country and myself."

This was more than M. Gillenormand could bear to hear. At the word
republic, he rose, or, to speak more correctly, he sprang to his feet.
Every word that Marius had just uttered produced on the visage of the
old Royalist the effect of the puffs of air from a forge upon a blazing
brand. From a dull hue he had turned red, from red, purple, and from
purple, flame-colored.

"Marius!" he cried. "Abominable child! I do not know what your father
was! I do not wish to know! I know nothing about that, and I do not know
him! But what I do know is, that there never was anything but scoundrels
among those men! They were all rascals, assassins, red-caps, thieves! I
say all! I say all! I know not one! I say all! Do you hear me, Marius!
See here, you are no more a baron than my slipper is! They were all
bandits in the service of Robespierre! All who served B-u-o-naparte were
brigands! They were all traitors who betrayed, betrayed, betrayed their
legitimate king! All cowards who fled before the Prussians and the
English at Waterloo! That is what I do know! Whether Monsieur your
father comes in that category, I do not know! I am sorry for it, so much
the worse, your humble servant!"

In his turn, it was Marius who was the firebrand and M. Gillenormand
who was the bellows. Marius quivered in every limb, he did not know what
would happen next, his brain was on fire. He was the priest who beholds
all his sacred wafers cast to the winds, the fakir who beholds a
passer-by spit upon his idol. It could not be that such things had been
uttered in his presence. What was he to do? His father had just been
trampled under foot and stamped upon in his presence, but by whom? By
his grandfather. How was he to avenge the one without outraging the
other? It was impossible for him to insult his grandfather and it was
equally impossible for him to leave his father unavenged. On the one
hand was a sacred grave, on the other hoary locks.

He stood there for several moments, staggering as though intoxicated,
with all this whirlwind dashing through his head; then he raised
his eyes, gazed fixedly at his grandfather, and cried in a voice of

"Down with the Bourbons, and that great hog of a Louis XVIII.!"

Louis XVIII. had been dead for four years; but it was all the same to

The old man, who had been crimson, turned whiter than his hair. He
wheeled round towards a bust of M. le Duc de Berry, which stood on the
chimney-piece, and made a profound bow, with a sort of peculiar majesty.
Then he paced twice, slowly and in silence, from the fireplace to the
window and from the window to the fireplace, traversing the whole length
of the room, and making the polished floor creak as though he had been a
stone statue walking.

On his second turn, he bent over his daughter, who was watching this
encounter with the stupefied air of an antiquated lamb, and said to her
with a smile that was almost calm: "A baron like this gentleman, and a
bourgeois like myself cannot remain under the same roof."

And drawing himself up, all at once, pallid, trembling, terrible, with
his brow rendered more lofty by the terrible radiance of wrath, he
extended his arm towards Marius and shouted to him:--

"Be off!"

Marius left the house.

On the following day, M. Gillenormand said to his daughter:

"You will send sixty pistoles every six months to that blood-drinker,
and you will never mention his name to me."

Having an immense reserve fund of wrath to get rid of, and not knowing
what to do with it, he continued to address his daughter as you instead
of thou for the next three months.

Marius, on his side, had gone forth in indignation. There was one
circumstance which, it must be admitted, aggravated his exasperation.
There are always petty fatalities of the sort which complicate domestic
dramas. They augment the grievances in such cases, although, in reality,
the wrongs are not increased by them. While carrying Marius' "duds"
precipitately to his chamber, at his grandfather's command, Nicolette
had, inadvertently, let fall, probably, on the attic staircase, which
was dark, that medallion of black shagreen which contained the paper
penned by the colonel. Neither paper nor case could afterwards be found.
Marius was convinced that "Monsieur Gillenormand"--from that day forth
he never alluded to him otherwise--had flung "his father's testament" in
the fire. He knew by heart the few lines which the colonel had written,
and, consequently, nothing was lost. But the paper, the writing, that
sacred relic,--all that was his very heart. What had been done with it?

Marius had taken his departure without saying whither he was going, and
without knowing where, with thirty francs, his watch, and a few clothes
in a hand-bag. He had entered a hackney-coach, had engaged it by the
hour, and had directed his course at hap-hazard towards the Latin

What was to become of Marius?



At that epoch, which was, to all appearances indifferent, a certain
revolutionary quiver was vaguely current. Breaths which had started
forth from the depths of '89 and '93 were in the air. Youth was on
the point, may the reader pardon us the word, of moulting. People were
undergoing a transformation, almost without being conscious of it,
through the movement of the age. The needle which moves round the
compass also moves in souls. Each person was taking that step in advance
which he was bound to take. The Royalists were becoming liberals,
liberals were turning democrats. It was a flood tide complicated with
a thousand ebb movements; the peculiarity of ebbs is to create
intermixtures; hence the combination of very singular ideas; people
adored both Napoleon and liberty. We are making history here. These
were the mirages of that period. Opinions traverse phases. Voltairian
royalism, a quaint variety, had a no less singular sequel, Bonapartist

Other groups of minds were more serious. In that direction, they
sounded principles, they attached themselves to the right. They
grew enthusiastic for the absolute, they caught glimpses of infinite
realizations; the absolute, by its very rigidity, urges spirits towards
the sky and causes them to float in illimitable space. There is nothing
like dogma for bringing forth dreams. And there is nothing like dreams
for engendering the future. Utopia to-day, flesh and blood to-morrow.

These advanced opinions had a double foundation. A beginning of mystery
menaced "the established order of things," which was suspicious and
underhand. A sign which was revolutionary to the highest degree. The
second thoughts of power meet the second thoughts of the populace in
the mine. The incubation of insurrections gives the retort to the
premeditation of coups d'etat.

There did not, as yet, exist in France any of those vast underlying
organizations, like the German tugendbund and Italian Carbonarism; but
here and there there were dark underminings, which were in process of
throwing off shoots. The Cougourde was being outlined at Aix; there
existed at Paris, among other affiliations of that nature, the society
of the Friends of the A B C.

What were these Friends of the A B C? A society which had for its object
apparently the education of children, in reality the elevation of man.

They declared themselves the Friends of the A B C,--the Abaisse,--the
debased,--that is to say, the people. They wished to elevate the people.
It was a pun which we should do wrong to smile at. Puns are sometimes
serious factors in politics; witness the Castratus ad castra, which made
a general of the army of Narses; witness: Barbari et Barberini; witness:
Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram, etc., etc.

The Friends of the A B C were not numerous, it was a secret society in
the state of embryo, we might almost say a coterie, if coteries ended in
heroes. They assembled in Paris in two localities, near the fish-market,
in a wine-shop called Corinthe, of which more will be heard later on,
and near the Pantheon in a little cafe in the Rue Saint-Michel called
the Cafe Musain, now torn down; the first of these meeting-places was
close to the workingman, the second to the students.

The assemblies of the Friends of the A B C were usually held in a back
room of the Cafe Musain.

This hall, which was tolerably remote from the cafe, with which it was
connected by an extremely long corridor, had two windows and an exit
with a private stairway on the little Rue des Gres. There they smoked
and drank, and gambled and laughed. There they conversed in very loud
tones about everything, and in whispers of other things. An old map
of France under the Republic was nailed to the wall,--a sign quite
sufficient to excite the suspicion of a police agent.

The greater part of the Friends of the A B C were students, who were
on cordial terms with the working classes. Here are the names of the
principal ones. They belong, in a certain measure, to history: Enjolras,
Combeferre, Jean Prouvaire, Feuilly, Courfeyrac, Bahorel, Lesgle or
Laigle, Joly, Grantaire.

These young men formed a sort of family, through the bond of friendship.
All, with the exception of Laigle, were from the South.

[Illustration: Friends of the A B C  3b4-1-abc-friends]

This was a remarkable group. It vanished in the invisible depths which
lie behind us. At the point of this drama which we have now reached,
it will not perhaps be superfluous to throw a ray of light upon these
youthful heads, before the reader beholds them plunging into the shadow
of a tragic adventure.

Enjolras, whose name we have mentioned first of all,--the reader shall
see why later on,--was an only son and wealthy.

Enjolras was a charming young man, who was capable of being terrible. He
was angelically handsome. He was a savage Antinous. One would have said,
to see the pensive thoughtfulness of his glance, that he had already,
in some previous state of existence, traversed the revolutionary
apocalypse. He possessed the tradition of it as though he had been a
witness. He was acquainted with all the minute details of the great
affair. A pontifical and warlike nature, a singular thing in a youth. He
was an officiating priest and a man of war; from the immediate point of
view, a soldier of the democracy; above the contemporary movement, the
priest of the ideal. His eyes were deep, his lids a little red, his
lower lip was thick and easily became disdainful, his brow was lofty. A
great deal of brow in a face is like a great deal of horizon in a view.
Like certain young men at the beginning of this century and the end of
the last, who became illustrious at an early age, he was endowed with
excessive youth, and was as rosy as a young girl, although subject to
hours of pallor. Already a man, he still seemed a child. His two and
twenty years appeared to be but seventeen; he was serious, it did not
seem as though he were aware there was on earth a thing called woman.
He had but one passion--the right; but one thought--to overthrow
the obstacle. On Mount Aventine, he would have been Gracchus; in the
Convention, he would have been Saint-Just. He hardly saw the roses, he
ignored spring, he did not hear the carolling of the birds; the bare
throat of Evadne would have moved him no more than it would have moved
Aristogeiton; he, like Harmodius, thought flowers good for nothing
except to conceal the sword. He was severe in his enjoyments. He
chastely dropped his eyes before everything which was not the Republic.
He was the marble lover of liberty. His speech was harshly inspired,
and had the thrill of a hymn. He was subject to unexpected outbursts of
soul. Woe to the love-affair which should have risked itself beside him!
If any grisette of the Place Cambrai or the Rue Saint-Jean-de-Beauvais,
seeing that face of a youth escaped from college, that page's mien,
those long, golden lashes, those blue eyes, that hair billowing in the
wind, those rosy cheeks, those fresh lips, those exquisite teeth, had
conceived an appetite for that complete aurora, and had tried her beauty
on Enjolras, an astounding and terrible glance would have promptly shown
her the abyss, and would have taught her not to confound the mighty
cherub of Ezekiel with the gallant Cherubino of Beaumarchais.

By the side of Enjolras, who represented the logic of the Revolution,
Combeferre represented its philosophy. Between the logic of the
Revolution and its philosophy there exists this difference--that its
logic may end in war, whereas its philosophy can end only in peace.
Combeferre complemented and rectified Enjolras. He was less lofty, but
broader. He desired to pour into all minds the extensive principles of
general ideas: he said: "Revolution, but civilization"; and around the
mountain peak he opened out a vast view of the blue sky. The Revolution
was more adapted for breathing with Combeferre than with Enjolras.
Enjolras expressed its divine right, and Combeferre its natural right.
The first attached himself to Robespierre; the second confined himself
to Condorcet. Combeferre lived the life of all the rest of the world
more than did Enjolras. If it had been granted to these two young men to
attain to history, the one would have been the just, the other the wise
man. Enjolras was the more virile, Combeferre the more humane. Homo and
vir, that was the exact effect of their different shades. Combeferre was
as gentle as Enjolras was severe, through natural whiteness. He loved
the word citizen, but he preferred the word man. He would gladly
have said: Hombre, like the Spanish. He read everything, went to
the theatres, attended the courses of public lecturers, learned the
polarization of light from Arago, grew enthusiastic over a lesson in
which Geoffrey Sainte-Hilaire explained the double function of the
external carotid artery, and the internal, the one which makes the face,
and the one which makes the brain; he kept up with what was going
on, followed science step by step, compared Saint-Simon with Fourier,
deciphered hieroglyphics, broke the pebble which he found and reasoned
on geology, drew from memory a silkworm moth, pointed out the faulty
French in the Dictionary of the Academy, studied Puysegur and Deleuze,
affirmed nothing, not even miracles; denied nothing, not even ghosts;
turned over the files of the Moniteur, reflected. He declared that the
future lies in the hand of the schoolmaster, and busied himself with
educational questions. He desired that society should labor without
relaxation at the elevation of the moral and intellectual level, at
coining science, at putting ideas into circulation, at increasing the
mind in youthful persons, and he feared lest the present poverty of
method, the paltriness from a literary point of view confined to two
or three centuries called classic, the tyrannical dogmatism of official
pedants, scholastic prejudices and routines should end by converting our
colleges into artificial oyster beds. He was learned, a purist, exact,
a graduate of the Polytechnic, a close student, and at the same time,
thoughtful "even to chimaeras," so his friends said. He believed in
all dreams, railroads, the suppression of suffering in chirurgical
operations, the fixing of images in the dark chamber, the electric
telegraph, the steering of balloons. Moreover, he was not much alarmed
by the citadels erected against the human mind in every direction, by
superstition, despotism, and prejudice. He was one of those who think
that science will eventually turn the position. Enjolras was a chief,
Combeferre was a guide. One would have liked to fight under the one and
to march behind the other. It is not that Combeferre was not capable of
fighting, he did not refuse a hand-to-hand combat with the obstacle, and
to attack it by main force and explosively; but it suited him better to
bring the human race into accord with its destiny gradually, by means of
education, the inculcation of axioms, the promulgation of positive laws;
and, between two lights, his preference was rather for illumination than
for conflagration. A conflagration can create an aurora, no doubt, but
why not await the dawn? A volcano illuminates, but daybreak furnishes a
still better illumination. Possibly, Combeferre preferred the whiteness
of the beautiful to the blaze of the sublime. A light troubled by smoke,
progress purchased at the expense of violence, only half satisfied this
tender and serious spirit. The headlong precipitation of a people into
the truth, a '93, terrified him; nevertheless, stagnation was still
more repulsive to him, in it he detected putrefaction and death; on the
whole, he preferred scum to miasma, and he preferred the torrent to the
cesspool, and the falls of Niagara to the lake of Montfaucon. In
short, he desired neither halt nor haste. While his tumultuous friends,
captivated by the absolute, adored and invoked splendid revolutionary
adventures, Combeferre was inclined to let progress, good progress, take
its own course; he may have been cold, but he was pure; methodical, but
irreproachable; phlegmatic, but imperturbable. Combeferre would have
knelt and clasped his hands to enable the future to arrive in all
its candor, and that nothing might disturb the immense and virtuous
evolution of the races. The good must be innocent, he repeated
incessantly. And in fact, if the grandeur of the Revolution consists
in keeping the dazzling ideal fixedly in view, and of soaring thither
athwart the lightnings, with fire and blood in its talons, the beauty
of progress lies in being spotless; and there exists between Washington,
who represents the one, and Danton, who incarnates the other, that
difference which separates the swan from the angel with the wings of an

Jean Prouvaire was a still softer shade than Combeferre. His name
was Jehan, owing to that petty momentary freak which mingled with the
powerful and profound movement whence sprang the very essential study
of the Middle Ages. Jean Prouvaire was in love; he cultivated a pot
of flowers, played on the flute, made verses, loved the people, pitied
woman, wept over the child, confounded God and the future in the same
confidence, and blamed the Revolution for having caused the fall of a
royal head, that of Andre Chenier. His voice was ordinarily delicate,
but suddenly grew manly. He was learned even to erudition, and almost an
Orientalist. Above all, he was good; and, a very simple thing to those
who know how nearly goodness borders on grandeur, in the matter of
poetry, he preferred the immense. He knew Italian, Latin, Greek, and
Hebrew; and these served him only for the perusal of four poets: Dante,
Juvenal, AEschylus, and Isaiah. In French, he preferred Corneille to
Racine, and Agrippa d'Aubigne to Corneille. He loved to saunter through
fields of wild oats and corn-flowers, and busied himself with clouds
nearly as much as with events. His mind had two attitudes, one on
the side towards man, the other on that towards God; he studied or
he contemplated. All day long, he buried himself in social questions,
salary, capital, credit, marriage, religion, liberty of thought,
education, penal servitude, poverty, association, property, production
and sharing, the enigma of this lower world which covers the human
ant-hill with darkness; and at night, he gazed upon the planets, those
enormous beings. Like Enjolras, he was wealthy and an only son. He spoke
softly, bowed his head, lowered his eyes, smiled with embarrassment,
dressed badly, had an awkward air, blushed at a mere nothing, and was
very timid. Yet he was intrepid.

Feuilly was a workingman, a fan-maker, orphaned both of father and
mother, who earned with difficulty three francs a day, and had but
one thought, to deliver the world. He had one other preoccupation, to
educate himself; he called this also, delivering himself. He had taught
himself to read and write; everything that he knew, he had learned by
himself. Feuilly had a generous heart. The range of his embrace was
immense. This orphan had adopted the peoples. As his mother had
failed him, he meditated on his country. He brooded with the profound
divination of the man of the people, over what we now call the idea of
the nationality, had learned history with the express object of raging
with full knowledge of the case. In this club of young Utopians,
occupied chiefly with France, he represented the outside world. He had
for his specialty Greece, Poland, Hungary, Roumania, Italy. He uttered
these names incessantly, appropriately and inappropriately, with the
tenacity of right. The violations of Turkey on Greece and Thessaly, of
Russia on Warsaw, of Austria on Venice, enraged him. Above all things,
the great violence of 1772 aroused him. There is no more sovereign
eloquence than the true in indignation; he was eloquent with that
eloquence. He was inexhaustible on that infamous date of 1772, on the
subject of that noble and valiant race suppressed by treason, and that
three-sided crime, on that monstrous ambush, the prototype and pattern
of all those horrible suppressions of states, which, since that time,
have struck many a noble nation, and have annulled their certificate of
birth, so to speak. All contemporary social crimes have their origin in
the partition of Poland. The partition of Poland is a theorem of which
all present political outrages are the corollaries. There has not been
a despot, nor a traitor for nearly a century back, who has not signed,
approved, counter-signed, and copied, ne variatur, the partition of
Poland. When the record of modern treasons was examined, that was the
first thing which made its appearance. The congress of Vienna consulted
that crime before consummating its own. 1772 sounded the onset; 1815
was the death of the game. Such was Feuilly's habitual text. This
poor workingman had constituted himself the tutor of Justice, and she
recompensed him by rendering him great. The fact is, that there is
eternity in right. Warsaw can no more be Tartar than Venice can be
Teuton. Kings lose their pains and their honor in the attempt to make
them so. Sooner or later, the submerged part floats to the surface and
reappears. Greece becomes Greece again, Italy is once more Italy. The
protest of right against the deed persists forever. The theft of a
nation cannot be allowed by prescription. These lofty deeds of rascality
have no future. A nation cannot have its mark extracted like a pocket

Courfeyrac had a father who was called M. de Courfeyrac. One of
the false ideas of the bourgeoisie under the Restoration as regards
aristocracy and the nobility was to believe in the particle. The
particle, as every one knows, possesses no significance. But the
bourgeois of the epoch of la Minerve estimated so highly that poor de,
that they thought themselves bound to abdicate it. M. de Chauvelin
had himself called M. Chauvelin; M. de Caumartin, M. Caumartin; M. de
Constant de Robecque, Benjamin Constant; M. de Lafayette, M. Lafayette.
Courfeyrac had not wished to remain behind the rest, and called himself
plain Courfeyrac.

We might almost, so far as Courfeyrac is concerned, stop here,
and confine ourselves to saying with regard to what remains: "For
Courfeyrac, see Tholomyes."

Courfeyrac had, in fact, that animation of youth which may be called
the beaute du diable of the mind. Later on, this disappears like the
playfulness of the kitten, and all this grace ends, with the bourgeois,
on two legs, and with the tomcat, on four paws.

This sort of wit is transmitted from generation to generation of the
successive levies of youth who traverse the schools, who pass it from
hand to hand, quasi cursores, and is almost always exactly the same;
so that, as we have just pointed out, any one who had listened to
Courfeyrac in 1828 would have thought he heard Tholomyes in 1817. Only,
Courfeyrac was an honorable fellow. Beneath the apparent similarities
of the exterior mind, the difference between him and Tholomyes was very
great. The latent man which existed in the two was totally different
in the first from what it was in the second. There was in Tholomyes a
district attorney, and in Courfeyrac a paladin.

Enjolras was the chief, Combeferre was the guide, Courfeyrac was the
centre. The others gave more light, he shed more warmth; the truth is,
that he possessed all the qualities of a centre, roundness and radiance.

Bahorel had figured in the bloody tumult of June, 1822, on the occasion
of the burial of young Lallemand.

Bahorel was a good-natured mortal, who kept bad company, brave, a
spendthrift, prodigal, and to the verge of generosity, talkative, and
at times eloquent, bold to the verge of effrontery; the best fellow
possible; he had daring waistcoats, and scarlet opinions; a wholesale
blusterer, that is to say, loving nothing so much as a quarrel, unless
it were an uprising; and nothing so much as an uprising, unless it were
a revolution; always ready to smash a window-pane, then to tear up the
pavement, then to demolish a government, just to see the effect of it;
a student in his eleventh year. He had nosed about the law, but did not
practise it. He had taken for his device: "Never a lawyer," and for his
armorial bearings a nightstand in which was visible a square cap. Every
time that he passed the law-school, which rarely happened, he buttoned
up his frock-coat,--the paletot had not yet been invented,--and took
hygienic precautions. Of the school porter he said: "What a fine
old man!" and of the dean, M. Delvincourt: "What a monument!" In his
lectures he espied subjects for ballads, and in his professors occasions
for caricature. He wasted a tolerably large allowance, something like
three thousand francs a year, in doing nothing.

He had peasant parents whom he had contrived to imbue with respect for
their son.

He said of them: "They are peasants and not bourgeois; that is the
reason they are intelligent."

Bahorel, a man of caprice, was scattered over numerous cafes; the others
had habits, he had none. He sauntered. To stray is human. To saunter
is Parisian. In reality, he had a penetrating mind and was more of a
thinker than appeared to view.

He served as a connecting link between the Friends of the A B C and
other still unorganized groups, which were destined to take form later

In this conclave of young heads, there was one bald member.

The Marquis d'Avaray, whom Louis XVIII. made a duke for having assisted
him to enter a hackney-coach on the day when he emigrated, was wont
to relate, that in 1814, on his return to France, as the King was
disembarking at Calais, a man handed him a petition.

"What is your request?" said the King.

"Sire, a post-office."

"What is your name?"


The King frowned, glanced at the signature of the petition and beheld
the name written thus: LESGLE. This non-Bonoparte orthography touched
the King and he began to smile. "Sire," resumed the man with the
petition, "I had for ancestor a keeper of the hounds surnamed
Lesgueules. This surname furnished my name. I am called Lesgueules, by
contraction Lesgle, and by corruption l'Aigle." This caused the King
to smile broadly. Later on he gave the man the posting office of Meaux,
either intentionally or accidentally.

The bald member of the group was the son of this Lesgle, or Legle, and
he signed himself, Legle [de Meaux]. As an abbreviation, his companions
called him Bossuet.

Bossuet was a gay but unlucky fellow. His specialty was not to succeed
in anything. As an offset, he laughed at everything. At five and twenty
he was bald. His father had ended by owning a house and a field; but
he, the son, had made haste to lose that house and field in a bad
speculation. He had nothing left. He possessed knowledge and wit, but
all he did miscarried. Everything failed him and everybody deceived him;
what he was building tumbled down on top of him. If he were splitting
wood, he cut off a finger. If he had a mistress, he speedily discovered
that he had a friend also. Some misfortune happened to him every moment,
hence his joviality. He said: "I live under falling tiles." He was
not easily astonished, because, for him, an accident was what he had
foreseen, he took his bad luck serenely, and smiled at the teasing of
fate, like a person who is listening to pleasantries. He was poor, but
his fund of good humor was inexhaustible. He soon reached his last sou,
never his last burst of laughter. When adversity entered his doors, he
saluted this old acquaintance cordially, he tapped all catastrophes on
the stomach; he was familiar with fatality to the point of calling it by
its nickname: "Good day, Guignon," he said to it.

These persecutions of fate had rendered him inventive. He was full of
resources. He had no money, but he found means, when it seemed good to
him, to indulge in "unbridled extravagance." One night, he went so far
as to eat a "hundred francs" in a supper with a wench, which inspired
him to make this memorable remark in the midst of the orgy: "Pull off my
boots, you five-louis jade."

Bossuet was slowly directing his steps towards the profession of a
lawyer; he was pursuing his law studies after the manner of Bahorel.
Bossuet had not much domicile, sometimes none at all. He lodged now with
one, now with another, most often with Joly. Joly was studying medicine.
He was two years younger than Bossuet.

Joly was the "malade imaginaire" junior. What he had won in medicine was
to be more of an invalid than a doctor. At three and twenty he thought
himself a valetudinarian, and passed his life in inspecting his tongue
in the mirror. He affirmed that man becomes magnetic like a needle, and
in his chamber he placed his bed with its head to the south, and the
foot to the north, so that, at night, the circulation of his blood
might not be interfered with by the great electric current of the globe.
During thunder storms, he felt his pulse. Otherwise, he was the gayest
of them all. All these young, maniacal, puny, merry incoherences lived
in harmony together, and the result was an eccentric and agreeable
being whom his comrades, who were prodigal of winged consonants, called
Jolllly. "You may fly away on the four L's," Jean Prouvaire said to

Joly had a trick of touching his nose with the tip of his cane, which is
an indication of a sagacious mind.

All these young men who differed so greatly, and who, on the whole, can
only be discussed seriously, held the same religion: Progress.

All were the direct sons of the French Revolution. The most giddy of
them became solemn when they pronounced that date: '89. Their fathers in
the flesh had been, either royalists, doctrinaires, it matters not what;
this confusion anterior to themselves, who were young, did not concern
them at all; the pure blood of principle ran in their veins. They
attached themselves, without intermediate shades, to incorruptible right
and absolute duty.

Affiliated and initiated, they sketched out the ideal underground.

Among all these glowing hearts and thoroughly convinced minds, there was
one sceptic. How came he there? By juxtaposition. This sceptic's name
was Grantaire, and he was in the habit of signing himself with this
rebus: R. Grantaire was a man who took good care not to believe in
anything. Moreover, he was one of the students who had learned the most
during their course at Paris; he knew that the best coffee was to be had
at the Cafe Lemblin, and the best billiards at the Cafe Voltaire, that
good cakes and lasses were to be found at the Ermitage, on the Boulevard
du Maine, spatchcocked chickens at Mother Sauget's, excellent matelotes
at the Barriere de la Cunette, and a certain thin white wine at the
Barriere du Com pat. He knew the best place for everything; in
addition, boxing and foot-fencing and some dances; and he was a thorough
single-stick player. He was a tremendous drinker to boot. He was
inordinately homely: the prettiest boot-stitcher of that day, Irma
Boissy, enraged with his homeliness, pronounced sentence on him as
follows: "Grantaire is impossible"; but Grantaire's fatuity was not to
be disconcerted. He stared tenderly and fixedly at all women, with the
air of saying to them all: "If I only chose!" and of trying to make his
comrades believe that he was in general demand.

All those words: rights of the people, rights of man, the social
contract, the French Revolution, the Republic, democracy, humanity,
civilization, religion, progress, came very near to signifying nothing
whatever to Grantaire. He smiled at them. Scepticism, that caries of the
intelligence, had not left him a single whole idea. He lived with irony.
This was his axiom: "There is but one certainty, my full glass." He
sneered at all devotion in all parties, the father as well as the
brother, Robespierre junior as well as Loizerolles. "They are greatly in
advance to be dead," he exclaimed. He said of the crucifix: "There is a
gibbet which has been a success." A rover, a gambler, a libertine,
often drunk, he displeased these young dreamers by humming incessantly:
"J'aimons les filles, et j'aimons le bon vin." Air: Vive Henri IV.

However, this sceptic had one fanaticism. This fanaticism was neither a
dogma, nor an idea, nor an art, nor a science; it was a man: Enjolras.
Grantaire admired, loved, and venerated Enjolras. To whom did this
anarchical scoffer unite himself in this phalanx of absolute minds? To
the most absolute. In what manner had Enjolras subjugated him? By his
ideas? No. By his character. A phenomenon which is often observable.
A sceptic who adheres to a believer is as simple as the law of
complementary colors. That which we lack attracts us. No one loves the
light like the blind man. The dwarf adores the drum-major. The toad
always has his eyes fixed on heaven. Why? In order to watch the bird in
its flight. Grantaire, in whom writhed doubt, loved to watch faith
soar in Enjolras. He had need of Enjolras. That chaste, healthy, firm,
upright, hard, candid nature charmed him, without his being clearly
aware of it, and without the idea of explaining it to himself having
occurred to him. He admired his opposite by instinct. His soft,
yielding, dislocated, sickly, shapeless ideas attached themselves
to Enjolras as to a spinal column. His moral backbone leaned on that
firmness. Grantaire in the presence of Enjolras became some one once
more. He was, himself, moreover, composed of two elements, which were,
to all appearance, incompatible. He was ironical and cordial. His
indifference loved. His mind could get along without belief, but his
heart could not get along without friendship. A profound contradiction;
for an affection is a conviction. His nature was thus constituted. There
are men who seem to be born to be the reverse, the obverse, the wrong
side. They are Pollux, Patrocles, Nisus, Eudamidas, Ephestion, Pechmeja.
They only exist on condition that they are backed up with another man;
their name is a sequel, and is only written preceded by the conjunction
and; and their existence is not their own; it is the other side of an
existence which is not theirs. Grantaire was one of these men. He was
the obverse of Enjolras.

One might almost say that affinities begin with the letters of the
alphabet. In the series O and P are inseparable. You can, at will,
pronounce O and P or Orestes and Pylades.

Grantaire, Enjolras' true satellite, inhabited this circle of young men;
he lived there, he took no pleasure anywhere but there; he followed them
everywhere. His joy was to see these forms go and come through the fumes
of wine. They tolerated him on account of his good humor.

Enjolras, the believer, disdained this sceptic; and, a sober man
himself, scorned this drunkard. He accorded him a little lofty pity.
Grantaire was an unaccepted Pylades. Always harshly treated by Enjolras,
roughly repulsed, rejected yet ever returning to the charge, he said of
Enjolras: "What fine marble!"


On a certain afternoon, which had, as will be seen hereafter, some
coincidence with the events heretofore related, Laigle de Meaux was to
be seen leaning in a sensual manner against the doorpost of the Cafe
Musain. He had the air of a caryatid on a vacation; he carried nothing
but his revery, however. He was staring at the Place Saint-Michel.
To lean one's back against a thing is equivalent to lying down while
standing erect, which attitude is not hated by thinkers. Laigle de Meaux
was pondering without melancholy, over a little misadventure which
had befallen him two days previously at the law-school, and which had
modified his personal plans for the future, plans which were rather
indistinct in any case.

Revery does not prevent a cab from passing by, nor the dreamer from
taking note of that cab. Laigle de Meaux, whose eyes were straying about
in a sort of diffuse lounging, perceived, athwart his somnambulism, a
two-wheeled vehicle proceeding through the place, at a foot pace and
apparently in indecision. For whom was this cabriolet? Why was it
driving at a walk? Laigle took a survey. In it, beside the coachman, sat
a young man, and in front of the young man lay a rather bulky hand-bag.
The bag displayed to passers-by the following name inscribed in large
black letters on a card which was sewn to the stuff: MARIUS PONTMERCY.

This name caused Laigle to change his attitude. He drew himself up and
hurled this apostrophe at the young man in the cabriolet:--

"Monsieur Marius Pontmercy!"

The cabriolet thus addressed came to a halt.

The young man, who also seemed deeply buried in thought, raised his

"Hey?" said he.

"You are M. Marius Pontmercy?"


"I was looking for you," resumed Laigle de Meaux.

"How so?" demanded Marius; for it was he: in fact, he had just quitted
his grandfather's, and had before him a face which he now beheld for the
first time. "I do not know you."

"Neither do I know you," responded Laigle.

Marius thought he had encountered a wag, the beginning of a
mystification in the open street. He was not in a very good humor at the
moment. He frowned. Laigle de Meaux went on imperturbably:--

"You were not at the school day before yesterday."

"That is possible."

"That is certain."

"You are a student?" demanded Marius.

"Yes, sir. Like yourself. Day before yesterday, I entered the school, by
chance. You know, one does have such freaks sometimes. The professor was
just calling the roll. You are not unaware that they are very ridiculous
on such occasions. At the third call, unanswered, your name is erased
from the list. Sixty francs in the gulf."

Marius began to listen.

"It was Blondeau who was making the call. You know Blondeau, he has a
very pointed and very malicious nose, and he delights to scent out the
absent. He slyly began with the letter P. I was not listening, not being
compromised by that letter. The call was not going badly. No erasures;
the universe was present. Blondeau was grieved. I said to myself:
'Blondeau, my love, you will not get the very smallest sort of an
execution to-day.' All at once Blondeau calls, 'Marius Pontmercy!' No
one answers. Blondeau, filled with hope, repeats more loudly: 'Marius
Pontmercy!' And he takes his pen. Monsieur, I have bowels of compassion.
I said to myself hastily: 'Here's a brave fellow who is going to get
scratched out. Attention. Here is a veritable mortal who is not exact.
He's not a good student. Here is none of your heavy-sides, a student who
studies, a greenhorn pedant, strong on letters, theology, science, and
sapience, one of those dull wits cut by the square; a pin by profession.
He is an honorable idler who lounges, who practises country jaunts, who
cultivates the grisette, who pays court to the fair sex, who is at
this very moment, perhaps, with my mistress. Let us save him. Death to
Blondeau!' At that moment, Blondeau dipped his pen in, all black with
erasures in the ink, cast his yellow eyes round the audience room, and
repeated for the third time: 'Marius Pontmercy!' I replied: 'Present!'
This is why you were not crossed off."

"Monsieur!--" said Marius.

"And why I was," added Laigle de Meaux.

"I do not understand you," said Marius.

Laigle resumed:--

"Nothing is more simple. I was close to the desk to reply, and close
to the door for the purpose of flight. The professor gazed at me with a
certain intensity. All of a sudden, Blondeau, who must be the malicious
nose alluded to by Boileau, skipped to the letter L. L is my letter. I
am from Meaux, and my name is Lesgle."

"L'Aigle!" interrupted Marius, "what fine name!"

"Monsieur, Blondeau came to this fine name, and called: 'Laigle!' I
reply: 'Present!' Then Blondeau gazes at me, with the gentleness of a
tiger, and says to me: 'If you are Pontmercy, you are not Laigle.' A
phrase which has a disobliging air for you, but which was lugubrious
only for me. That said, he crossed me off."

Marius exclaimed:--

"I am mortified, sir--"

"First of all," interposed Laigle, "I demand permission to embalm
Blondeau in a few phrases of deeply felt eulogium. I will assume that he
is dead. There will be no great change required in his gauntness, in
his pallor, in his coldness, and in his smell. And I say: 'Erudimini
qui judicatis terram. Here lies Blondeau, Blondeau the Nose, Blondeau
Nasica, the ox of discipline, bos disciplinae, the bloodhound of the
password, the angel of the roll-call, who was upright, square exact,
rigid, honest, and hideous. God crossed him off as he crossed me off.'"

Marius resumed:--

"I am very sorry--"

"Young man," said Laigle de Meaux, "let this serve you as a lesson. In
future, be exact."

"I really beg you a thousand pardons."

"Do not expose your neighbor to the danger of having his name erased

"I am extremely sorry--"

Laigle burst out laughing.

"And I am delighted. I was on the brink of becoming a lawyer. This
erasure saves me. I renounce the triumphs of the bar. I shall not defend
the widow, and I shall not attack the orphan. No more toga, no more
stage. Here is my erasure all ready for me. It is to you that I am
indebted for it, Monsieur Pontmercy. I intend to pay a solemn call of
thanks upon you. Where do you live?"

"In this cab," said Marius.

"A sign of opulence," retorted Laigle calmly. "I congratulate you. You
have there a rent of nine thousand francs per annum."

At that moment, Courfeyrac emerged from the cafe.

Marius smiled sadly.

"I have paid this rent for the last two hours, and I aspire to get rid
of it; but there is a sort of history attached to it, and I don't know
where to go."

"Come to my place, sir," said Courfeyrac.

"I have the priority," observed Laigle, "but I have no home."

"Hold your tongue, Bossuet," said Courfeyrac.

"Bossuet," said Marius, "but I thought that your name was Laigle."

"De Meaux," replied Laigle; "by metaphor, Bossuet."

Courfeyrac entered the cab.

"Coachman," said he, "hotel de la Porte-Saint-Jacques."

And that very evening, Marius found himself installed in a chamber of
the hotel de la Porte-Saint-Jacques side by side with Courfeyrac.


In a few days, Marius had become Courfeyrac's friend. Youth is the
season for prompt welding and the rapid healing of scars. Marius
breathed freely in Courfeyrac's society, a decidedly new thing for him.
Courfeyrac put no questions to him. He did not even think of such a
thing. At that age, faces disclose everything on the spot. Words are
superfluous. There are young men of whom it can be said that their
countenances chatter. One looks at them and one knows them.

One morning, however, Courfeyrac abruptly addressed this interrogation
to him:--

"By the way, have you any political opinions?"

"The idea!" said Marius, almost affronted by the question.

"What are you?"

"A democrat-Bonapartist."

"The gray hue of a reassured rat," said Courfeyrac.

On the following day, Courfeyrac introduced Marius at the Cafe Musain.
Then he whispered in his ear, with a smile: "I must give you your entry
to the revolution." And he led him to the hall of the Friends of the A B
C. He presented him to the other comrades, saying this simple word which
Marius did not understand: "A pupil."

Marius had fallen into a wasps'-nest of wits. However, although he was
silent and grave, he was, none the less, both winged and armed.

Marius, up to that time solitary and inclined to soliloquy, and to
asides, both by habit and by taste, was a little fluttered by this covey
of young men around him. All these various initiatives solicited his
attention at once, and pulled him about. The tumultuous movements of
these minds at liberty and at work set his ideas in a whirl. Sometimes,
in his trouble, they fled so far from him, that he had difficulty in
recovering them. He heard them talk of philosophy, of literature, of
art, of history, of religion, in unexpected fashion. He caught glimpses
of strange aspects; and, as he did not place them in proper perspective,
he was not altogether sure that it was not chaos that he grasped. On
abandoning his grandfather's opinions for the opinions of his father,
he had supposed himself fixed; he now suspected, with uneasiness, and
without daring to avow it to himself, that he was not. The angle
at which he saw everything began to be displaced anew. A certain
oscillation set all the horizons of his brains in motion. An odd
internal upsetting. He almost suffered from it.

It seemed as though there were no "consecrated things" for those young
men. Marius heard singular propositions on every sort of subject, which
embarrassed his still timid mind.

A theatre poster presented itself, adorned with the title of a tragedy
from the ancient repertory called classic: "Down with tragedy dear to
the bourgeois!" cried Bahorel. And Marius heard Combeferre reply:--

"You are wrong, Bahorel. The bourgeoisie loves tragedy, and the
bourgeoisie must be left at peace on that score. Bewigged tragedy has
a reason for its existence, and I am not one of those who, by order of
AEschylus, contest its right to existence. There are rough outlines in
nature; there are, in creation, ready-made parodies; a beak which is not
a beak, wings which are not wings, gills which are not gills, paws which
are not paws, a cry of pain which arouses a desire to laugh, there is
the duck. Now, since poultry exists by the side of the bird, I do
not see why classic tragedy should not exist in the face of antique

Or chance decreed that Marius should traverse Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
between Enjolras and Courfeyrac.

Courfeyrac took his arm:--

"Pay attention. This is the Rue Platriere, now called Rue Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, on account of a singular household which lived in it sixty
years ago. This consisted of Jean-Jacques and Therese. From time
to time, little beings were born there. Therese gave birth to them,
Jean-Jacques represented them as foundlings."

And Enjolras addressed Courfeyrac roughly:--

"Silence in the presence of Jean-Jacques! I admire that man. He denied
his own children, that may be; but he adopted the people."

Not one of these young men articulated the word: The Emperor.
Jean Prouvaire alone sometimes said Napoleon; all the others said
"Bonaparte." Enjolras pronounced it "Buonaparte."

Marius was vaguely surprised. Initium sapientiae.


One of the conversations among the young men, at which Marius was
present and in which he sometimes joined, was a veritable shock to his

This took place in the back room of the Cafe Musain. Nearly all the
Friends of the A B C had convened that evening. The argand lamp was
solemnly lighted. They talked of one thing and another, without passion
and with noise. With the exception of Enjolras and Marius, who held
their peace, all were haranguing rather at hap-hazard. Conversations
between comrades sometimes are subject to these peaceable tumults. It
was a game and an uproar as much as a conversation. They tossed words
to each other and caught them up in turn. They were chattering in all

No woman was admitted to this back room, except Louison, the dish-washer
of the cafe, who passed through it from time to time, to go to her
washing in the "lavatory."

Grantaire, thoroughly drunk, was deafening the corner of which he had
taken possession, reasoning and contradicting at the top of his lungs,
and shouting:--

"I am thirsty. Mortals, I am dreaming: that the tun of Heidelberg has an
attack of apoplexy, and that I am one of the dozen leeches which will
be applied to it. I want a drink. I desire to forget life. Life is a
hideous invention of I know not whom. It lasts no time at all, and is
worth nothing. One breaks one's neck in living. Life is a theatre set in
which there are but few practicable entrances. Happiness is an antique
reliquary painted on one side only. Ecclesiastes says: 'All is vanity.'
I agree with that good man, who never existed, perhaps. Zero not wishing
to go stark naked, clothed himself in vanity. O vanity! The patching up
of everything with big words! a kitchen is a laboratory, a dancer is a
professor, an acrobat is a gymnast, a boxer is a pugilist, an apothecary
is a chemist, a wigmaker is an artist, a hodman is an architect, a
jockey is a sportsman, a wood-louse is a pterigybranche. Vanity has a
right and a wrong side; the right side is stupid, it is the negro with
his glass beads; the wrong side is foolish, it is the philosopher with
his rags. I weep over the one and I laugh over the other. What are
called honors and dignities, and even dignity and honor, are generally
of pinchbeck. Kings make playthings of human pride. Caligula made a
horse a consul; Charles II. made a knight of a sirloin. Wrap yourself
up now, then, between Consul Incitatus and Baronet Roastbeef. As for
the intrinsic value of people, it is no longer respectable in the least.
Listen to the panegyric which neighbor makes of neighbor. White on white
is ferocious; if the lily could speak, what a setting down it would give
the dove! A bigoted woman prating of a devout woman is more venomous
than the asp and the cobra. It is a shame that I am ignorant, otherwise
I would quote to you a mass of things; but I know nothing. For instance,
I have always been witty; when I was a pupil of Gros, instead of
daubing wretched little pictures, I passed my time in pilfering apples;
rapin[24] is the masculine of rapine. So much for myself; as for
the rest of you, you are worth no more than I am. I scoff at your
perfections, excellencies, and qualities. Every good quality tends
towards a defect; economy borders on avarice, the generous man is next
door to the prodigal, the brave man rubs elbows with the braggart; he
who says very pious says a trifle bigoted; there are just as many vices
in virtue as there are holes in Diogenes' cloak. Whom do you admire, the
slain or the slayer, Caesar or Brutus? Generally men are in favor of the
slayer. Long live Brutus, he has slain! There lies the virtue. Virtue,
granted, but madness also. There are queer spots on those great men. The
Brutus who killed Caesar was in love with the statue of a little boy.
This statue was from the hand of the Greek sculptor Strongylion,
who also carved that figure of an Amazon known as the Beautiful Leg,
Eucnemos, which Nero carried with him in his travels. This Strongylion
left but two statues which placed Nero and Brutus in accord. Brutus was
in love with the one, Nero with the other. All history is nothing but
wearisome repetition. One century is the plagiarist of the other. The
battle of Marengo copies the battle of Pydna; the Tolbiac of Clovis and
the Austerlitz of Napoleon are as like each other as two drops of water.
I don't attach much importance to victory. Nothing is so stupid as to
conquer; true glory lies in convincing. But try to prove something! If
you are content with success, what mediocrity, and with conquering, what
wretchedness! Alas, vanity and cowardice everywhere. Everything obeys
success, even grammar. Si volet usus, says Horace. Therefore I disdain
the human race. Shall we descend to the party at all? Do you wish me
to begin admiring the peoples? What people, if you please? Shall it be
Greece? The Athenians, those Parisians of days gone by, slew Phocion,
as we might say Coligny, and fawned upon tyrants to such an extent that
Anacephorus said of Pisistratus: "His urine attracts the bees." The most
prominent man in Greece for fifty years was that grammarian Philetas,
who was so small and so thin that he was obliged to load his shoes with
lead in order not to be blown away by the wind. There stood on the great
square in Corinth a statue carved by Silanion and catalogued by Pliny;
this statue represented Episthates. What did Episthates do? He invented
a trip. That sums up Greece and glory. Let us pass on to others. Shall I
admire England? Shall I admire France? France? Why? Because of Paris?
I have just told you my opinion of Athens. England? Why? Because of
London? I hate Carthage. And then, London, the metropolis of luxury, is
the headquarters of wretchedness. There are a hundred deaths a year of
hunger in the parish of Charing-Cross alone. Such is Albion. I add,
as the climax, that I have seen an Englishwoman dancing in a wreath of
roses and blue spectacles. A fig then for England! If I do not admire
John Bull, shall I admire Brother Jonathan? I have but little taste for
that slave-holding brother. Take away Time is money, what remains of
England? Take away Cotton is king, what remains of America? Germany is
the lymph, Italy is the bile. Shall we go into ecstasies over Russia?
Voltaire admired it. He also admired China. I admit that Russia has its
beauties, among others, a stout despotism; but I pity the despots.
Their health is delicate. A decapitated Alexis, a poignarded Peter,
a strangled Paul, another Paul crushed flat with kicks, divers Ivans
strangled, with their throats cut, numerous Nicholases and Basils
poisoned, all this indicates that the palace of the Emperors of Russia
is in a condition of flagrant insalubrity. All civilized peoples offer
this detail to the admiration of the thinker; war; now, war, civilized
war, exhausts and sums up all the forms of ruffianism, from the
brigandage of the Trabuceros in the gorges of Mont Jaxa to the marauding
of the Comanche Indians in the Doubtful Pass. 'Bah!' you will say to
me, 'but Europe is certainly better than Asia?' I admit that Asia is a
farce; but I do not precisely see what you find to laugh at in the Grand
Lama, you peoples of the west, who have mingled with your fashions and
your elegances all the complicated filth of majesty, from the dirty
chemise of Queen Isabella to the chamber-chair of the Dauphin. Gentlemen
of the human race, I tell you, not a bit of it! It is at Brussels that
the most beer is consumed, at Stockholm the most brandy, at Madrid the
most chocolate, at Amsterdam the most gin, at London the most wine, at
Constantinople the most coffee, at Paris the most absinthe; there are
all the useful notions. Paris carries the day, in short. In Paris,
even the rag-pickers are sybarites; Diogenes would have loved to be a
rag-picker of the Place Maubert better than to be a philosopher at the
Piraeus. Learn this in addition; the wineshops of the ragpickers
are called bibines; the most celebrated are the Saucepan and The
Slaughter-House. Hence, tea-gardens, goguettes, caboulots, bouibuis,
mastroquets, bastringues, manezingues, bibines of the rag-pickers,
caravanseries of the caliphs, I certify to you, I am a voluptuary, I eat
at Richard's at forty sous a head, I must have Persian carpets to roll
naked Cleopatra in! Where is Cleopatra? Ah! So it is you, Louison. Good

Thus did Grantaire, more than intoxicated, launch into speech, catching
at the dish-washer in her passage, from his corner in the back room of
the Cafe Musain.

Bossuet, extending his hand towards him, tried to impose silence on him,
and Grantaire began again worse than ever:--

"Aigle de Meaux, down with your paws. You produce on me no effect with
your gesture of Hippocrates refusing Artaxerxes' bric-a-brac. I excuse
you from the task of soothing me. Moreover, I am sad. What do you wish
me to say to you? Man is evil, man is deformed; the butterfly is a
success, man is a failure. God made a mistake with that animal. A
crowd offers a choice of ugliness. The first comer is a wretch,
Femme--woman--rhymes with infame,--infamous. Yes, I have the spleen,
complicated with melancholy, with homesickness, plus hypochondria, and
I am vexed and I rage, and I yawn, and I am bored, and I am tired to
death, and I am stupid! Let God go to the devil!"

"Silence then, capital R!" resumed Bossuet, who was discussing a point
of law behind the scenes, and who was plunged more than waist high in a
phrase of judicial slang, of which this is the conclusion:--

"--And as for me, although I am hardly a legist, and at the most, an
amateur attorney, I maintain this: that, in accordance with the terms
of the customs of Normandy, at Saint-Michel, and for each year, an
equivalent must be paid to the profit of the lord of the manor, saving
the rights of others, and by all and several, the proprietors as well
as those seized with inheritance, and that, for all emphyteuses, leases,
freeholds, contracts of domain, mortgages--"

"Echo, plaintive nymph," hummed Grantaire.

Near Grantaire, an almost silent table, a sheet of paper, an inkstand
and a pen between two glasses of brandy, announced that a vaudeville was
being sketched out.

This great affair was being discussed in a low voice, and the two heads
at work touched each other: "Let us begin by finding names. When one has
the names, one finds the subject."

"That is true. Dictate. I will write."

"Monsieur Dorimon."

"An independent gentleman?"

"Of course."

"His daughter, Celestine."

"--tine. What next?"

"Colonel Sainval."

"Sainval is stale. I should say Valsin."

Beside the vaudeville aspirants, another group, which was also taking
advantage of the uproar to talk low, was discussing a duel. An old
fellow of thirty was counselling a young one of eighteen, and explaining
to him what sort of an adversary he had to deal with.

"The deuce! Look out for yourself. He is a fine swordsman. His play is
neat. He has the attack, no wasted feints, wrist, dash, lightning, a
just parade, mathematical parries, bigre! and he is left-handed."

In the angle opposite Grantaire, Joly and Bahorel were playing dominoes,
and talking of love.

"You are in luck, that you are," Joly was saying. "You have a mistress
who is always laughing."

"That is a fault of hers," returned Bahorel. "One's mistress does wrong
to laugh. That encourages one to deceive her. To see her gay removes
your remorse; if you see her sad, your conscience pricks you."

"Ingrate! a woman who laughs is such a good thing! And you never

"That is because of the treaty which we have made. On forming our little
Holy Alliance we assigned ourselves each our frontier, which we never
cross. What is situated on the side of winter belongs to Vaud, on the
side of the wind to Gex. Hence the peace."

"Peace is happiness digesting."

"And you, Jolllly, where do you stand in your entanglement with
Mamselle--you know whom I mean?"

"She sulks at me with cruel patience."

"Yet you are a lover to soften the heart with gauntness."


"In your place, I would let her alone."

"That is easy enough to say."

"And to do. Is not her name Musichetta?"

"Yes. Ah! my poor Bahorel, she is a superb girl, very literary, with
tiny feet, little hands, she dresses well, and is white and dimpled,
with the eyes of a fortune-teller. I am wild over her."

"My dear fellow, then in order to please her, you must be elegant,
and produce effects with your knees. Buy a good pair of trousers of
double-milled cloth at Staub's. That will assist."

"At what price?" shouted Grantaire.

The third corner was delivered up to a poetical discussion. Pagan
mythology was giving battle to Christian mythology. The question was
about Olympus, whose part was taken by Jean Prouvaire, out of pure

Jean Prouvaire was timid only in repose. Once excited, he burst forth,
a sort of mirth accentuated his enthusiasm, and he was at once both
laughing and lyric.

"Let us not insult the gods," said he. "The gods may not have taken
their departure. Jupiter does not impress me as dead. The gods are
dreams, you say. Well, even in nature, such as it is to-day, after the
flight of these dreams, we still find all the grand old pagan myths.
Such and such a mountain with the profile of a citadel, like the
Vignemale, for example, is still to me the headdress of Cybele; it has
not been proved to me that Pan does not come at night to breathe into
the hollow trunks of the willows, stopping up the holes in turn with his
fingers, and I have always believed that Io had something to do with the
cascade of Pissevache."

In the last corner, they were talking politics. The Charter which had
been granted was getting roughly handled. Combeferre was upholding it
weakly. Courfeyrac was energetically making a breach in it. On the table
lay an unfortunate copy of the famous Touquet Charter. Courfeyrac had
seized it, and was brandishing it, mingling with his arguments the
rattling of this sheet of paper.

"In the first place, I won't have any kings; if it were only from an
economical point of view, I don't want any; a king is a parasite. One
does not have kings gratis. Listen to this: the dearness of kings. At
the death of Francois I., the national debt of France amounted to an
income of thirty thousand livres; at the death of Louis XIV. it was two
milliards, six hundred millions, at twenty-eight livres the mark, which
was equivalent in 1760, according to Desmarets, to four milliards, five
hundred millions, which would to-day be equivalent to twelve milliards.
In the second place, and no offence to Combeferre, a charter granted is
but a poor expedient of civilization. To save the transition, to soften
the passage, to deaden the shock, to cause the nation to pass insensibly
from the monarchy to democracy by the practice of constitutional
fictions,--what detestable reasons all those are! No! no! let us never
enlighten the people with false daylight. Principles dwindle and pale
in your constitutional cellar. No illegitimacy, no compromise, no grant
from the king to the people. In all such grants there is an Article 14.
By the side of the hand which gives there is the claw which snatches
back. I refuse your charter point-blank. A charter is a mask; the lie
lurks beneath it. A people which accepts a charter abdicates. The law is
only the law when entire. No! no charter!"

It was winter; a couple of fagots were crackling in the fireplace. This
was tempting, and Courfeyrac could not resist. He crumpled the poor
Touquet Charter in his fist, and flung it in the fire. The paper
flashed up. Combeferre watched the masterpiece of Louis XVIII. burn
philosophically, and contented himself with saying:--

"The charter metamorphosed into flame."

And sarcasms, sallies, jests, that French thing which is called entrain,
and that English thing which is called humor, good and bad taste,
good and bad reasons, all the wild pyrotechnics of dialogue, mounting
together and crossing from all points of the room, produced a sort of
merry bombardment over their heads.


The shocks of youthful minds among themselves have this admirable
property, that one can never foresee the spark, nor divine the lightning
flash. What will dart out presently? No one knows. The burst of laughter
starts from a tender feeling.

At the moment of jest, the serious makes its entry. Impulses depend on
the first chance word. The spirit of each is sovereign, jest suffices
to open the field to the unexpected. These are conversations with
abrupt turns, in which the perspective changes suddenly. Chance is the
stage-manager of such conversations.

A severe thought, starting oddly from a clash of words, suddenly
traversed the conflict of quips in which Grantaire, Bahorel, Prouvaire,
Bossuet, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac were confusedly fencing.

How does a phrase crop up in a dialogue? Whence comes it that it
suddenly impresses itself on the attention of those who hear it? We
have just said, that no one knows anything about it. In the midst of the
uproar, Bossuet all at once terminated some apostrophe to Combeferre,
with this date:--

"June 18th, 1815, Waterloo."

At this name of Waterloo, Marius, who was leaning his elbows on a table,
beside a glass of water, removed his wrist from beneath his chin, and
began to gaze fixedly at the audience.

"Pardieu!" exclaimed Courfeyrac ("Parbleu" was falling into disuse
at this period), "that number 18 is strange and strikes me. It is
Bonaparte's fatal number. Place Louis in front and Brumaire behind, you
have the whole destiny of the man, with this significant peculiarity,
that the end treads close on the heels of the commencement."

Enjolras, who had remained mute up to that point, broke the silence and
addressed this remark to Combeferre:--

"You mean to say, the crime and the expiation."

This word crime overpassed the measure of what Marius, who was already
greatly agitated by the abrupt evocation of Waterloo, could accept.

He rose, walked slowly to the map of France spread out on the wall, and
at whose base an island was visible in a separate compartment, laid his
finger on this compartment and said:--

"Corsica, a little island which has rendered France very great."

This was like a breath of icy air. All ceased talking. They felt that
something was on the point of occurring.

Bahorel, replying to Bossuet, was just assuming an attitude of the torso
to which he was addicted. He gave it up to listen.

Enjolras, whose blue eye was not fixed on any one, and who seemed to be
gazing at space, replied, without glancing at Marius:--

"France needs no Corsica to be great. France is great because she is
France. Quia nomina leo."

Marius felt no desire to retreat; he turned towards Enjolras, and his
voice burst forth with a vibration which came from a quiver of his very

"God forbid that I should diminish France! But amalgamating Napoleon
with her is not diminishing her. Come! let us argue the question. I am
a new comer among you, but I will confess that you amaze me. Where do we
stand? Who are we? Who are you? Who am I? Let us come to an explanation
about the Emperor. I hear you say Buonaparte, accenting the u like the
Royalists. I warn you that my grandfather does better still; he
says Buonaparte'. I thought you were young men. Where, then, is your
enthusiasm? And what are you doing with it? Whom do you admire, if you
do not admire the Emperor? And what more do you want? If you will
have none of that great man, what great men would you like? He had
everything. He was complete. He had in his brain the sum of human
faculties. He made codes like Justinian, he dictated like Caesar, his
conversation was mingled with the lightning-flash of Pascal, with the
thunderclap of Tacitus, he made history and he wrote it, his bulletins
are Iliads, he combined the cipher of Newton with the metaphor of
Mahomet, he left behind him in the East words as great as the pyramids,
at Tilsit he taught Emperors majesty, at the Academy of Sciences he
replied to Laplace, in the Council of State be held his own against
Merlin, he gave a soul to the geometry of the first, and to the
chicanery of the last, he was a legist with the attorneys and sidereal
with the astronomers; like Cromwell blowing out one of two candles, he
went to the Temple to bargain for a curtain tassel; he saw everything;
he knew everything; which did not prevent him from laughing
good-naturedly beside the cradle of his little child; and all at once,
frightened Europe lent an ear, armies put themselves in motion, parks of
artillery rumbled, pontoons stretched over the rivers, clouds of cavalry
galloped in the storm, cries, trumpets, a trembling of thrones in every
direction, the frontiers of kingdoms oscillated on the map, the sound
of a superhuman sword was heard, as it was drawn from its sheath; they
beheld him, him, rise erect on the horizon with a blazing brand in his
hand, and a glow in his eyes, unfolding amid the thunder, his two wings,
the grand army and the old guard, and he was the archangel of war!"

All held their peace, and Enjolras bowed his head. Silence always
produces somewhat the effect of acquiescence, of the enemy being driven
to the wall. Marius continued with increased enthusiasm, and almost
without pausing for breath:--

"Let us be just, my friends! What a splendid destiny for a nation to be
the Empire of such an Emperor, when that nation is France and when it
adds its own genius to the genius of that man! To appear and to reign,
to march and to triumph, to have for halting-places all capitals, to
take his grenadiers and to make kings of them, to decree the falls of
dynasties, and to transfigure Europe at the pace of a charge; to make
you feel that when you threaten you lay your hand on the hilt of the
sword of God; to follow in a single man, Hannibal, Caesar, Charlemagne;
to be the people of some one who mingles with your dawns the startling
announcement of a battle won, to have the cannon of the Invalides to
rouse you in the morning, to hurl into abysses of light prodigious words
which flame forever, Marengo, Arcola, Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram! To cause
constellations of victories to flash forth at each instant from the
zenith of the centuries, to make the French Empire a pendant to the
Roman Empire, to be the great nation and to give birth to the grand
army, to make its legions fly forth over all the earth, as a mountain
sends out its eagles on all sides to conquer, to dominate, to strike
with lightning, to be in Europe a sort of nation gilded through glory,
to sound athwart the centuries a trumpet-blast of Titans, to conquer
the world twice, by conquest and by dazzling, that is sublime; and what
greater thing is there?"

"To be free," said Combeferre.

Marius lowered his head in his turn; that cold and simple word had
traversed his epic effusion like a blade of steel, and he felt it
vanishing within him. When he raised his eyes, Combeferre was no longer
there. Probably satisfied with his reply to the apotheosis, he had
just taken his departure, and all, with the exception of Enjolras,
had followed him. The room had been emptied. Enjolras, left alone with
Marius, was gazing gravely at him. Marius, however, having rallied his
ideas to some extent, did not consider himself beaten; there lingered in
him a trace of inward fermentation which was on the point, no doubt, of
translating itself into syllogisms arrayed against Enjolras, when all of
a sudden, they heard some one singing on the stairs as he went. It was
Combeferre, and this is what he was singing:--

               "Si Cesar m'avait donne[25]
                 La gloire et la guerre,
               Et qu'il me fallait quitter
                 L'amour de ma mere,
               Je dirais au grand Cesar:
                 Reprends ton sceptre et ton char,
               J'aime mieux ma mere, o gue!
                 J'aime mieux ma mere!"

The wild and tender accents with which Combeferre sang communicated to
this couplet a sort of strange grandeur. Marius, thoughtfully, and
with his eyes diked on the ceiling, repeated almost mechanically: "My

At that moment, he felt Enjolras' hand on his shoulder.

"Citizen," said Enjolras to him, "my mother is the Republic."


That evening left Marius profoundly shaken, and with a melancholy shadow
in his soul. He felt what the earth may possibly feel, at the moment
when it is torn open with the iron, in order that grain may be deposited
within it; it feels only the wound; the quiver of the germ and the joy
of the fruit only arrive later.

Marius was gloomy. He had but just acquired a faith; must he then reject
it already? He affirmed to himself that he would not. He declared to
himself that he would not doubt, and he began to doubt in spite of
himself. To stand between two religions, from one of which you have
not as yet emerged, and another into which you have not yet entered, is
intolerable; and twilight is pleasing only to bat-like souls. Marius
was clear-eyed, and he required the true light. The half-lights of doubt
pained him. Whatever may have been his desire to remain where he was,
he could not halt there, he was irresistibly constrained to continue, to
advance, to examine, to think, to march further. Whither would this lead
him? He feared, after having taken so many steps which had brought him
nearer to his father, to now take a step which should estrange him from
that father. His discomfort was augmented by all the reflections which
occurred to him. An escarpment rose around him. He was in accord neither
with his grandfather nor with his friends; daring in the eyes of
the one, he was behind the times in the eyes of the others, and he
recognized the fact that he was doubly isolated, on the side of age and
on the side of youth. He ceased to go to the Cafe Musain.

In the troubled state of his conscience, he no longer thought of
certain serious sides of existence. The realities of life do not allow
themselves to be forgotten. They soon elbowed him abruptly.

One morning, the proprietor of the hotel entered Marius' room and said
to him:--

"Monsieur Courfeyrac answered for you."


"But I must have my money."

"Request Courfeyrac to come and talk with me," said Marius.

Courfeyrac having made his appearance, the host left them. Marius then
told him what it had not before occurred to him to relate, that he was
the same as alone in the world, and had no relatives.

"What is to become of you?" said Courfeyrac.

"I do not know in the least," replied Marius.

"What are you going to do?"

"I do not know."

"Have you any money?"

"Fifteen francs."

"Do you want me to lend you some?"


"Have you clothes?"

"Here is what I have."

"Have you trinkets?"

"A watch."


"Gold; here it is."

"I know a clothes-dealer who will take your frock-coat and a pair of

"That is good."

"You will then have only a pair of trousers, a waistcoat, a hat and a

"And my boots."

"What! you will not go barefoot? What opulence!"

"That will be enough."

"I know a watchmaker who will buy your watch."

"That is good."

"No; it is not good. What will you do after that?"

"Whatever is necessary. Anything honest, that is to say."

"Do you know English?"


"Do you know German?"


"So much the worse."


"Because one of my friends, a publisher, is getting up a sort of an
encyclopaedia, for which you might have translated English or German
articles. It is badly paid work, but one can live by it."

"I will learn English and German."

"And in the meanwhile?"

"In the meanwhile I will live on my clothes and my watch."

The clothes-dealer was sent for. He paid twenty francs for the cast-off
garments. They went to the watchmaker's. He bought the watch for
forty-five francs.

"That is not bad," said Marius to Courfeyrac, on their return to the
hotel, "with my fifteen francs, that makes eighty."

"And the hotel bill?" observed Courfeyrac.

"Hello, I had forgotten that," said Marius.

The landlord presented his bill, which had to be paid on the spot. It
amounted to seventy francs.

"I have ten francs left," said Marius.

"The deuce," exclaimed Courfeyrac, "you will eat up five francs while
you are learning English, and five while learning German. That will be
swallowing a tongue very fast, or a hundred sous very slowly."

In the meantime Aunt Gillenormand, a rather good-hearted person at
bottom in difficulties, had finally hunted up Marius' abode.

One morning, on his return from the law-school, Marius found a letter
from his aunt, and the sixty pistoles, that is to say, six hundred
francs in gold, in a sealed box.

Marius sent back the thirty louis to his aunt, with a respectful letter,
in which he stated that he had sufficient means of subsistence and that
he should be able thenceforth to supply all his needs. At that moment,
he had three francs left.

His aunt did not inform his grandfather of this refusal for fear of
exasperating him. Besides, had he not said: "Let me never hear the name
of that blood-drinker again!"

Marius left the hotel de la Porte Saint-Jacques, as he did not wish to
run in debt there.



[Illustration: Excellence of Misfortune  3b5-1-misfortune]

Life became hard for Marius. It was nothing to eat his clothes and his
watch. He ate of that terrible, inexpressible thing that is called de la
vache enrage; that is to say, he endured great hardships and privations.
A terrible thing it is, containing days without bread, nights without
sleep, evenings without a candle, a hearth without a fire, weeks without
work, a future without hope, a coat out at the elbows, an old hat which
evokes the laughter of young girls, a door which one finds locked on one
at night because one's rent is not paid, the insolence of the porter
and the cook-shop man, the sneers of neighbors, humiliations, dignity
trampled on, work of whatever nature accepted, disgusts, bitterness,
despondency. Marius learned how all this is eaten, and how such are
often the only things which one has to devour. At that moment of his
existence when a man needs his pride, because he needs love, he felt
that he was jeered at because he was badly dressed, and ridiculous
because he was poor. At the age when youth swells the heart with
imperial pride, he dropped his eyes more than once on his dilapidated
boots, and he knew the unjust shame and the poignant blushes of
wretchedness. Admirable and terrible trial from which the feeble emerge
base, from which the strong emerge sublime. A crucible into which
destiny casts a man, whenever it desires a scoundrel or a demi-god.

For many great deeds are performed in petty combats. There are instances
of bravery ignored and obstinate, which defend themselves step by
step in that fatal onslaught of necessities and turpitudes. Noble and
mysterious triumphs which no eye beholds, which are requited with no
renown, which are saluted with no trumpet blast. Life, misfortune,
isolation, abandonment, poverty, are the fields of battle which have
their heroes; obscure heroes, who are, sometimes, grander than the
heroes who win renown.

Firm and rare natures are thus created; misery, almost always a
step-mother, is sometimes a mother; destitution gives birth to might of
soul and spirit; distress is the nurse of pride; unhappiness is a good
milk for the magnanimous.

There came a moment in Marius' life, when he swept his own landing, when
he bought his sou's worth of Brie cheese at the fruiterer's, when he
waited until twilight had fallen to slip into the baker's and purchase
a loaf, which he carried off furtively to his attic as though he had
stolen it. Sometimes there could be seen gliding into the butcher's shop
on the corner, in the midst of the bantering cooks who elbowed him, an
awkward young man, carrying big books under his arm, who had a timid yet
angry air, who, on entering, removed his hat from a brow whereon stood
drops of perspiration, made a profound bow to the butcher's astonished
wife, asked for a mutton cutlet, paid six or seven sous for it, wrapped
it up in a paper, put it under his arm, between two books, and went
away. It was Marius. On this cutlet, which he cooked for himself, he
lived for three days.

On the first day he ate the meat, on the second he ate the fat, on the
third he gnawed the bone. Aunt Gillenormand made repeated attempts, and
sent him the sixty pistoles several times. Marius returned them on every
occasion, saying that he needed nothing.

He was still in mourning for his father when the revolution which we
have just described was effected within him. From that time forth, he
had not put off his black garments. But his garments were quitting him.
The day came when he had no longer a coat. The trousers would go next.
What was to be done? Courfeyrac, to whom he had, on his side, done some
good turns, gave him an old coat. For thirty sous, Marius got it turned
by some porter or other, and it was a new coat. But this coat was green.
Then Marius ceased to go out until after nightfall. This made his coat
black. As he wished always to appear in mourning, he clothed himself
with the night.

In spite of all this, he got admitted to practice as a lawyer. He was
supposed to live in Courfeyrac's room, which was decent, and where
a certain number of law-books backed up and completed by several
dilapidated volumes of romance, passed as the library required by the
regulations. He had his letters addressed to Courfeyrac's quarters.

When Marius became a lawyer, he informed his grandfather of the fact
in a letter which was cold but full of submission and respect. M.
Gillenormand trembled as he took the letter, read it, tore it in four
pieces, and threw it into the waste-basket. Two or three days later,
Mademoiselle Gillenormand heard her father, who was alone in his room,
talking aloud to himself. He always did this whenever he was greatly
agitated. She listened, and the old man was saying: "If you were not a
fool, you would know that one cannot be a baron and a lawyer at the same


It is the same with wretchedness as with everything else. It ends by
becoming bearable. It finally assumes a form, and adjusts itself. One
vegetates, that is to say, one develops in a certain meagre fashion,
which is, however, sufficient for life. This is the mode in which the
existence of Marius Pontmercy was arranged:

He had passed the worst straits; the narrow pass was opening out a
little in front of him. By dint of toil, perseverance, courage, and
will, he had managed to draw from his work about seven hundred francs a
year. He had learned German and English; thanks to Courfeyrac, who had
put him in communication with his friend the publisher, Marius filled
the modest post of utility man in the literature of the publishing
house. He drew up prospectuses, translated newspapers, annotated
editions, compiled biographies, etc.; net product, year in and year
out, seven hundred francs. He lived on it. How? Not so badly. We will

Marius occupied in the Gorbeau house, for an annual sum of thirty
francs, a den minus a fireplace, called a cabinet, which contained only
the most indispensable articles of furniture. This furniture belonged
to him. He gave three francs a month to the old principal tenant to come
and sweep his hole, and to bring him a little hot water every morning,
a fresh egg, and a penny roll. He breakfasted on this egg and roll. His
breakfast varied in cost from two to four sous, according as eggs
were dear or cheap. At six o'clock in the evening he descended the
Rue Saint-Jacques to dine at Rousseau's, opposite Basset's, the
stamp-dealer's, on the corner of the Rue des Mathurins. He ate no soup.
He took a six-sou plate of meat, a half-portion of vegetables for three
sous, and a three-sou dessert. For three sous he got as much bread as
he wished. As for wine, he drank water. When he paid at the desk
where Madam Rousseau, at that period still plump and rosy majestically
presided, he gave a sou to the waiter, and Madam Rousseau gave him a
smile. Then he went away. For sixteen sous he had a smile and a dinner.

This Restaurant Rousseau, where so few bottles and so many water carafes
were emptied, was a calming potion rather than a restaurant. It no
longer exists. The proprietor had a fine nickname: he was called
Rousseau the Aquatic.

Thus, breakfast four sous, dinner sixteen sous; his food cost him twenty
sous a day; which made three hundred and sixty-five francs a year. Add
the thirty francs for rent, and the thirty-six francs to the old woman,
plus a few trifling expenses; for four hundred and fifty francs, Marius
was fed, lodged, and waited on. His clothing cost him a hundred francs,
his linen fifty francs, his washing fifty francs; the whole did not
exceed six hundred and fifty francs. He was rich. He sometimes lent ten
francs to a friend. Courfeyrac had once been able to borrow sixty francs
of him. As far as fire was concerned, as Marius had no fireplace, he had
"simplified matters."

Marius always had two complete suits of clothes, the one old, "for every
day"; the other, brand new for special occasions. Both were black. He
had but three shirts, one on his person, the second in the commode, and
the third in the washerwoman's hands. He renewed them as they wore out.
They were always ragged, which caused him to button his coat to the

It had required years for Marius to attain to this flourishing
condition. Hard years; difficult, some of them, to traverse, others to
climb. Marius had not failed for a single day. He had endured everything
in the way of destitution; he had done everything except contract debts.
He did himself the justice to say that he had never owed any one a sou.
A debt was, to him, the beginning of slavery. He even said to himself,
that a creditor is worse than a master; for the master possesses only
your person, a creditor possesses your dignity and can administer to
it a box on the ear. Rather than borrow, he went without food. He had
passed many a day fasting. Feeling that all extremes meet, and that,
if one is not on one's guard, lowered fortunes may lead to baseness of
soul, he kept a jealous watch on his pride. Such and such a formality
or action, which, in any other situation would have appeared merely a
deference to him, now seemed insipidity, and he nerved himself against
it. His face wore a sort of severe flush. He was timid even to rudeness.

During all these trials he had felt himself encouraged and even
uplifted, at times, by a secret force that he possessed within himself.
The soul aids the body, and at certain moments, raises it. It is the
only bird which bears up its own cage.

Besides his father's name, another name was graven in Marius' heart,
the name of Thenardier. Marius, with his grave and enthusiastic nature,
surrounded with a sort of aureole the man to whom, in his thoughts,
he owed his father's life,--that intrepid sergeant who had saved the
colonel amid the bullets and the cannon-balls of Waterloo. He never
separated the memory of this man from the memory of his father, and
he associated them in his veneration. It was a sort of worship in two
steps, with the grand altar for the colonel and the lesser one for
Thenardier. What redoubled the tenderness of his gratitude towards
Thenardier, was the idea of the distress into which he knew that
Thenardier had fallen, and which had engulfed the latter. Marius had
learned at Montfermeil of the ruin and bankruptcy of the unfortunate
inn-keeper. Since that time, he had made unheard-of efforts to find
traces of him and to reach him in that dark abyss of misery in which
Thenardier had disappeared. Marius had beaten the whole country; he
had gone to Chelles, to Bondy, to Gourney, to Nogent, to Lagny. He had
persisted for three years, expending in these explorations the little
money which he had laid by. No one had been able to give him any news of
Thenardier: he was supposed to have gone abroad. His creditors had also
sought him, with less love than Marius, but with as much assiduity, and
had not been able to lay their hands on him. Marius blamed himself, and
was almost angry with himself for his lack of success in his researches.
It was the only debt left him by the colonel, and Marius made it a
matter of honor to pay it. "What," he thought, "when my father lay dying
on the field of battle, did Thenardier contrive to find him amid the
smoke and the grape-shot, and bear him off on his shoulders, and yet he
owed him nothing, and I, who owe so much to Thenardier, cannot join him
in this shadow where he is lying in the pangs of death, and in my
turn bring him back from death to life! Oh! I will find him!" To find
Thenardier, in fact, Marius would have given one of his arms, to rescue
him from his misery, he would have sacrificed all his blood. To see
Thenardier, to render Thenardier some service, to say to him: "You do
not know me; well, I do know you! Here I am. Dispose of me!" This was
Marius' sweetest and most magnificent dream.


At this epoch, Marius was twenty years of age. It was three years since
he had left his grandfather. Both parties had remained on the same
terms, without attempting to approach each other, and without seeking to
see each other. Besides, what was the use of seeing each other? Marius
was the brass vase, while Father Gillenormand was the iron pot.

We admit that Marius was mistaken as to his grandfather's heart. He had
imagined that M. Gillenormand had never loved him, and that that crusty,
harsh, and smiling old fellow who cursed, shouted, and stormed
and brandished his cane, cherished for him, at the most, only that
affection, which is at once slight and severe, of the dotards of comedy.
Marius was in error. There are fathers who do not love their children;
there exists no grandfather who does not adore his grandson. At bottom,
as we have said, M. Gillenormand idolized Marius. He idolized him after
his own fashion, with an accompaniment of snappishness and boxes on the
ear; but, this child once gone, he felt a black void in his heart;
he would allow no one to mention the child to him, and all the while
secretly regretted that he was so well obeyed. At first, he hoped that
this Buonapartist, this Jacobin, this terrorist, this Septembrist, would
return. But the weeks passed by, years passed; to M. Gillenormand's
great despair, the "blood-drinker" did not make his appearance. "I could
not do otherwise than turn him out," said the grandfather to himself,
and he asked himself: "If the thing were to do over again, would I do
it?" His pride instantly answered "yes," but his aged head, which he
shook in silence, replied sadly "no." He had his hours of depression.
He missed Marius. Old men need affection as they need the sun. It is
warmth. Strong as his nature was, the absence of Marius had wrought some
change in him. Nothing in the world could have induced him to take a
step towards "that rogue"; but he suffered. He never inquired about him,
but he thought of him incessantly. He lived in the Marais in a more and
more retired manner; he was still merry and violent as of old, but
his merriment had a convulsive harshness, and his violences always
terminated in a sort of gentle and gloomy dejection. He sometimes said:
"Oh! if he only would return, what a good box on the ear I would give

As for his aunt, she thought too little to love much; Marius was no
longer for her much more than a vague black form; and she eventually
came to occupy herself with him much less than with the cat or the
paroquet which she probably had. What augmented Father Gillenormand's
secret suffering was, that he locked it all up within his breast, and
did not allow its existence to be divined. His sorrow was like those
recently invented furnaces which consume their own smoke. It sometimes
happened that officious busybodies spoke to him of Marius, and asked
him: "What is your grandson doing?" "What has become of him?" The old
bourgeois replied with a sigh, that he was a sad case, and giving a
fillip to his cuff, if he wished to appear gay: "Monsieur le Baron de
Pontmercy is practising pettifogging in some corner or other."

While the old man regretted, Marius applauded himself. As is the case
with all good-hearted people, misfortune had eradicated his bitterness.
He only thought of M. Gillenormand in an amiable light, but he had set
his mind on not receiving anything more from the man who had been
unkind to his father. This was the mitigated translation of his first
indignation. Moreover, he was happy at having suffered, and at suffering
still. It was for his father's sake. The hardness of his life satisfied
and pleased him. He said to himself with a sort of joy that--it was
certainly the least he could do; that it was an expiation;--that, had
it not been for that, he would have been punished in some other way and
later on for his impious indifference towards his father, and such a
father! that it would not have been just that his father should have all
the suffering, and he none of it; and that, in any case, what were his
toils and his destitution compared with the colonel's heroic life? that,
in short, the only way for him to approach his father and resemble him,
was to be brave in the face of indigence, as the other had been valiant
before the enemy; and that that was, no doubt, what the colonel had
meant to imply by the words: "He will be worthy of it." Words which
Marius continued to wear, not on his breast, since the colonel's writing
had disappeared, but in his heart.

And then, on the day when his grandfather had turned him out of doors,
he had been only a child, now he was a man. He felt it. Misery, we
repeat, had been good for him. Poverty in youth, when it succeeds, has
this magnificent property about it, that it turns the whole will towards
effort, and the whole soul towards aspiration. Poverty instantly lays
material life bare and renders it hideous; hence inexpressible bounds
towards the ideal life. The wealthy young man has a hundred coarse and
brilliant distractions, horse races, hunting, dogs, tobacco, gaming,
good repasts, and all the rest of it; occupations for the baser side
of the soul, at the expense of the loftier and more delicate sides.
The poor young man wins his bread with difficulty; he eats; when he has
eaten, he has nothing more but meditation. He goes to the spectacles
which God furnishes gratis; he gazes at the sky, space, the stars,
flowers, children, the humanity among which he is suffering, the
creation amid which he beams. He gazes so much on humanity that he
perceives its soul, he gazes upon creation to such an extent that he
beholds God. He dreams, he feels himself great; he dreams on, and feels
himself tender. From the egotism of the man who suffers he passes to the
compassion of the man who meditates. An admirable sentiment breaks forth
in him, forgetfulness of self and pity for all. As he thinks of the
innumerable enjoyments which nature offers, gives, and lavishes to souls
which stand open, and refuses to souls that are closed, he comes to
pity, he the millionnaire of the mind, the millionnaire of money. All
hatred departs from his heart, in proportion as light penetrates his
spirit. And is he unhappy? No. The misery of a young man is never
miserable. The first young lad who comes to hand, however poor he may
be, with his strength, his health, his rapid walk, his brilliant eyes,
his warmly circulating blood, his black hair, his red lips, his white
teeth, his pure breath, will always arouse the envy of an aged emperor.
And then, every morning, he sets himself afresh to the task of earning
his bread; and while his hands earn his bread, his dorsal column
gains pride, his brain gathers ideas. His task finished, he returns to
ineffable ecstasies, to contemplation, to joys; he beholds his feet set
in afflictions, in obstacles, on the pavement, in the nettles, sometimes
in the mire; his head in the light. He is firm, serene, gentle, peaceful,
attentive, serious, content with little, kindly; and he thanks God for
having bestowed on him those two forms of riches which many a rich
man lacks: work, which makes him free; and thought, which makes him

This is what had happened with Marius. To tell the truth, he inclined a
little too much to the side of contemplation. From the day when he had
succeeded in earning his living with some approach to certainty, he had
stopped, thinking it good to be poor, and retrenching time from his work
to give to thought; that is to say, he sometimes passed entire days
in meditation, absorbed, engulfed, like a visionary, in the mute
voluptuousness of ecstasy and inward radiance. He had thus propounded
the problem of his life: to toil as little as possible at material
labor, in order to toil as much as possible at the labor which is
impalpable; in other words, to bestow a few hours on real life, and to
cast the rest to the infinite. As he believed that he lacked nothing, he
did not perceive that contemplation, thus understood, ends by becoming
one of the forms of idleness; that he was contenting himself with
conquering the first necessities of life, and that he was resting from
his labors too soon.

It was evident that, for this energetic and enthusiastic nature, this
could only be a transitory state, and that, at the first shock against
the inevitable complications of destiny, Marius would awaken.

In the meantime, although he was a lawyer, and whatever Father
Gillenormand thought about the matter, he was not practising, he was
not even pettifogging. Meditation had turned him aside from pleading. To
haunt attorneys, to follow the court, to hunt up cases--what a bore! Why
should he do it? He saw no reason for changing the manner of gaining his
livelihood! The obscure and ill-paid publishing establishment had come
to mean for him a sure source of work which did not involve too much
labor, as we have explained, and which sufficed for his wants.

One of the publishers for whom he worked, M. Magimel, I think, offered
to take him into his own house, to lodge him well, to furnish him with
regular occupation, and to give him fifteen hundred francs a year. To be
well lodged! Fifteen hundred francs! No doubt. But renounce his liberty!
Be on fixed wages! A sort of hired man of letters! According to Marius'
opinion, if he accepted, his position would become both better and worse
at the same time, he acquired comfort, and lost his dignity; it was a
fine and complete unhappiness converted into a repulsive and ridiculous
state of torture: something like the case of a blind man who should
recover the sight of one eye. He refused.

Marius dwelt in solitude. Owing to his taste for remaining outside of
everything, and through having been too much alarmed, he had not entered
decidedly into the group presided over by Enjolras. They had remained
good friends; they were ready to assist each other on occasion in every
possible way; but nothing more. Marius had two friends: one young,
Courfeyrac; and one old, M. Mabeuf. He inclined more to the old man.
In the first place, he owed to him the revolution which had taken
place within him; to him he was indebted for having known and loved his
father. "He operated on me for a cataract," he said.

The churchwarden had certainly played a decisive part.

It was not, however, that M. Mabeuf had been anything but the calm and
impassive agent of Providence in this connection. He had enlightened
Marius by chance and without being aware of the fact, as does a candle
which some one brings; he had been the candle and not the some one.

As for Marius' inward political revolution, M. Mabeuf was totally
incapable of comprehending it, of willing or of directing it.

As we shall see M. Mabeuf again, later on, a few words will not be


On the day when M. Mabeuf said to Marius: "Certainly I approve of
political opinions," he expressed the real state of his mind. All
political opinions were matters of indifference to him, and he approved
them all, without distinction, provided they left him in peace, as the
Greeks called the Furies "the beautiful, the good, the charming," the
Eumenides. M. Mabeuf's political opinion consisted in a passionate love
for plants, and, above all, for books. Like all the rest of the world,
he possessed the termination in ist, without which no one could exist at
that time, but he was neither a Royalist, a Bonapartist, a Chartist,
an Orleanist, nor an Anarchist; he was a bouquinist, a collector of old
books. He did not understand how men could busy themselves with
hating each other because of silly stuff like the charter, democracy,
legitimacy, monarchy, the republic, etc., when there were in the world
all sorts of mosses, grasses, and shrubs which they might be looking at,
and heaps of folios, and even of 32mos, which they might turn over. He
took good care not to become useless; having books did not prevent his
reading, being a botanist did not prevent his being a gardener. When
he made Pontmercy's acquaintance, this sympathy had existed between the
colonel and himself--that what the colonel did for flowers, he did for
fruits. M. Mabeuf had succeeded in producing seedling pears as savory
as the pears of St. Germain; it is from one of his combinations,
apparently, that the October Mirabelle, now celebrated and no less
perfumed than the summer Mirabelle, owes its origin. He went to mass
rather from gentleness than from piety, and because, as he loved the
faces of men, but hated their noise, he found them assembled and silent
only in church. Feeling that he must be something in the State, he had
chosen the career of warden. However, he had never succeeded in loving
any woman as much as a tulip bulb, nor any man as much as an Elzevir.
He had long passed sixty, when, one day, some one asked him: "Have you
never been married?" "I have forgotten," said he. When it sometimes
happened to him--and to whom does it not happen?--to say: "Oh! if I were
only rich!" it was not when ogling a pretty girl, as was the case with
Father Gillenormand, but when contemplating an old book. He lived alone
with an old housekeeper. He was somewhat gouty, and when he was asleep,
his aged fingers, stiffened with rheumatism, lay crooked up in the folds
of his sheets. He had composed and published a Flora of the Environs of
Cauteretz, with colored plates, a work which enjoyed a tolerable
measure of esteem and which sold well. People rang his bell, in the Rue
Mesieres, two or three times a day, to ask for it. He drew as much as
two thousand francs a year from it; this constituted nearly the whole of
his fortune. Although poor, he had had the talent to form for himself,
by dint of patience, privations, and time, a precious collection of rare
copies of every sort. He never went out without a book under his arm,
and he often returned with two. The sole decoration of the four rooms
on the ground floor, which composed his lodgings, consisted of framed
herbariums, and engravings of the old masters. The sight of a sword or
a gun chilled his blood. He had never approached a cannon in his life,
even at the Invalides. He had a passable stomach, a brother who was a
cure, perfectly white hair, no teeth, either in his mouth or his mind, a
trembling in every limb, a Picard accent, an infantile laugh, the air of
an old sheep, and he was easily frightened. Add to this, that he had no
other friendship, no other acquaintance among the living, than an old
bookseller of the Porte-Saint-Jacques, named Royal. His dream was to
naturalize indigo in France.

His servant was also a sort of innocent. The poor good old woman was a
spinster. Sultan, her cat, which might have mewed Allegri's miserere in
the Sixtine Chapel, had filled her heart and sufficed for the quantity
of passion which existed in her. None of her dreams had ever proceeded
as far as man. She had never been able to get further than her cat. Like
him, she had a mustache. Her glory consisted in her caps, which were
always white. She passed her time, on Sundays, after mass, in counting
over the linen in her chest, and in spreading out on her bed the dresses
in the piece which she bought and never had made up. She knew how to
read. M. Mabeuf had nicknamed her Mother Plutarque.

M. Mabeuf had taken a fancy to Marius, because Marius, being young and
gentle, warmed his age without startling his timidity. Youth combined
with gentleness produces on old people the effect of the sun without
wind. When Marius was saturated with military glory, with gunpowder,
with marches and countermarches, and with all those prodigious battles
in which his father had given and received such tremendous blows of the
sword, he went to see M. Mabeuf, and M. Mabeuf talked to him of his hero
from the point of view of flowers.

His brother the cure died about 1830, and almost immediately, as when
the night is drawing on, the whole horizon grew dark for M. Mabeuf. A
notary's failure deprived him of the sum of ten thousand francs, which
was all that he possessed in his brother's right and his own. The
Revolution of July brought a crisis to publishing. In a period of
embarrassment, the first thing which does not sell is a Flora. The Flora
of the Environs of Cauteretz stopped short. Weeks passed by without a
single purchaser. Sometimes M. Mabeuf started at the sound of the bell.
"Monsieur," said Mother Plutarque sadly, "it is the water-carrier."
In short, one day, M. Mabeuf quitted the Rue Mesieres, abdicated the
functions of warden, gave up Saint-Sulpice, sold not a part of his
books, but of his prints,--that to which he was the least attached,--and
installed himself in a little house on the Rue Montparnasse, where,
however, he remained but one quarter for two reasons: in the first
place, the ground floor and the garden cost three hundred francs, and he
dared not spend more than two hundred francs on his rent; in the second,
being near Faton's shooting-gallery, he could hear the pistol-shots;
which was intolerable to him.

He carried off his Flora, his copper-plates, his herbariums, his
portfolios, and his books, and established himself near the Salpetriere,
in a sort of thatched cottage of the village of Austerlitz, where,
for fifty crowns a year, he got three rooms and a garden enclosed by a
hedge, and containing a well. He took advantage of this removal to sell
off nearly all his furniture. On the day of his entrance into his new
quarters, he was very gay, and drove the nails on which his engravings
and herbariums were to hang, with his own hands, dug in his garden the
rest of the day, and at night, perceiving that Mother Plutarque had a
melancholy air, and was very thoughtful, he tapped her on the shoulder
and said to her with a smile: "We have the indigo!"

Only two visitors, the bookseller of the Porte-Saint-Jacques and Marius,
were admitted to view the thatched cottage at Austerlitz, a brawling
name which was, to tell the truth, extremely disagreeable to him.

However, as we have just pointed out, brains which are absorbed in some
bit of wisdom, or folly, or, as it often happens, in both at once, are
but slowly accessible to the things of actual life. Their own destiny
is a far-off thing to them. There results from such concentration a
passivity, which, if it were the outcome of reasoning, would resemble
philosophy. One declines, descends, trickles away, even crumbles away,
and yet is hardly conscious of it one's self. It always ends, it is
true, in an awakening, but the awakening is tardy. In the meantime, it
seems as though we held ourselves neutral in the game which is going on
between our happiness and our unhappiness. We are the stake, and we look
on at the game with indifference.

It is thus that, athwart the cloud which formed about him, when all his
hopes were extinguished one after the other, M. Mabeuf remained rather
puerilely, but profoundly serene. His habits of mind had the regular
swing of a pendulum. Once mounted on an illusion, he went for a very
long time, even after the illusion had disappeared. A clock does not
stop short at the precise moment when the key is lost.

M. Mabeuf had his innocent pleasures. These pleasures were inexpensive
and unexpected; the merest chance furnished them. One day, Mother
Plutarque was reading a romance in one corner of the room. She was
reading aloud, finding that she understood better thus. To read aloud is
to assure one's self of what one is reading. There are people who read
very loud, and who have the appearance of giving themselves their word
of honor as to what they are perusing.

It was with this sort of energy that Mother Plutarque was reading the
romance which she had in hand. M. Mabeuf heard her without listening to

In the course of her reading, Mother Plutarque came to this phrase. It
was a question of an officer of dragoons and a beauty:--

"--The beauty pouted, and the dragoon--"

Here she interrupted herself to wipe her glasses.

"Bouddha and the Dragon," struck in M. Mabeuf in a low voice. "Yes, it
is true that there was a dragon, which, from the depths of its cave,
spouted flame through his maw and set the heavens on fire. Many stars
had already been consumed by this monster, which, besides, had the claws
of a tiger. Bouddha went into its den and succeeded in converting the
dragon. That is a good book that you are reading, Mother Plutarque.
There is no more beautiful legend in existence."

And M. Mabeuf fell into a delicious revery.


Marius liked this candid old man who saw himself gradually falling into
the clutches of indigence, and who came to feel astonishment, little
by little, without, however, being made melancholy by it. Marius met
Courfeyrac and sought out M. Mabeuf. Very rarely, however; twice a month
at most.

Marius' pleasure consisted in taking long walks alone on the outer
boulevards, or in the Champs-de-Mars, or in the least frequented alleys
of the Luxembourg. He often spent half a day in gazing at a market
garden, the beds of lettuce, the chickens on the dung-heap, the horse
turning the water-wheel. The passers-by stared at him in surprise, and
some of them thought his attire suspicious and his mien sinister. He was
only a poor young man dreaming in an objectless way.

It was during one of his strolls that he had hit upon the Gorbeau house,
and, tempted by its isolation and its cheapness, had taken up his abode
there. He was known there only under the name of M. Marius.

Some of his father's old generals or old comrades had invited him to go
and see them, when they learned about him. Marius had not refused their
invitations. They afforded opportunities of talking about his father.
Thus he went from time to time, to Comte Pajol, to General Bellavesne,
to General Fririon, to the Invalides. There was music and dancing there.
On such evenings, Marius put on his new coat. But he never went to
these evening parties or balls except on days when it was freezing cold,
because he could not afford a carriage, and he did not wish to arrive
with boots otherwise than like mirrors.

He said sometimes, but without bitterness: "Men are so made that in a
drawing-room you may be soiled everywhere except on your shoes. In order
to insure a good reception there, only one irreproachable thing is asked
of you; your conscience? No, your boots."

All passions except those of the heart are dissipated by revery. Marius'
political fevers vanished thus. The Revolution of 1830 assisted in the
process, by satisfying and calming him. He remained the same, setting
aside his fits of wrath. He still held the same opinions. Only, they had
been tempered. To speak accurately, he had no longer any opinions, he
had sympathies. To what party did he belong? To the party of humanity.
Out of humanity he chose France; out of the Nation he chose the people;
out of the people he chose the woman. It was to that point above all,
that his pity was directed. Now he preferred an idea to a deed, a
poet to a hero, and he admired a book like Job more than an event like
Marengo. And then, when, after a day spent in meditation, he returned
in the evening through the boulevards, and caught a glimpse through
the branches of the trees of the fathomless space beyond, the nameless
gleams, the abyss, the shadow, the mystery, all that which is only human
seemed very petty indeed to him.

He thought that he had, and he really had, in fact, arrived at the truth
of life and of human philosophy, and he had ended by gazing at nothing
but heaven, the only thing which Truth can perceive from the bottom of
her well.

This did not prevent him from multiplying his plans, his combinations,
his scaffoldings, his projects for the future. In this state of revery,
an eye which could have cast a glance into Marius' interior would have
been dazzled with the purity of that soul. In fact, had it been given to
our eyes of the flesh to gaze into the consciences of others, we should
be able to judge a man much more surely according to what he dreams,
than according to what he thinks. There is will in thought, there is
none in dreams. Revery, which is utterly spontaneous, takes and keeps,
even in the gigantic and the ideal, the form of our spirit. Nothing
proceeds more directly and more sincerely from the very depth of our
soul, than our unpremeditated and boundless aspirations towards
the splendors of destiny. In these aspirations, much more than in
deliberate, rational coordinated ideas, is the real character of a man
to be found. Our chimeras are the things which the most resemble us.
Each one of us dreams of the unknown and the impossible in accordance
with his nature.

Towards the middle of this year 1831, the old woman who waited on Marius
told him that his neighbors, the wretched Jondrette family, had been
turned out of doors. Marius, who passed nearly the whole of his days out
of the house, hardly knew that he had any neighbors.

"Why are they turned out?" he asked.

"Because they do not pay their rent; they owe for two quarters."

"How much is it?"

"Twenty francs," said the old woman.

Marius had thirty francs saved up in a drawer.

"Here," he said to the old woman, "take these twenty-five francs. Pay
for the poor people and give them five francs, and do not tell them that
it was I."


It chanced that the regiment to which Lieutenant Theodule belonged came
to perform garrison duty in Paris. This inspired Aunt Gillenormand with
a second idea. She had, on the first occasion, hit upon the plan of
having Marius spied upon by Theodule; now she plotted to have Theodule
take Marius' place.

At all events and in case the grandfather should feel the vague need of
a young face in the house,--these rays of dawn are sometimes sweet to
ruin,--it was expedient to find another Marius. "Take it as a simple
erratum," she thought, "such as one sees in books. For Marius, read

A grandnephew is almost the same as a grandson; in default of a lawyer
one takes a lancer.

One morning, when M. Gillenormand was about to read something in the
Quotidienne, his daughter entered and said to him in her sweetest voice;
for the question concerned her favorite:--

"Father, Theodule is coming to present his respects to you this

"Who's Theodule?"

"Your grandnephew."

"Ah!" said the grandfather.

Then he went back to his reading, thought no more of his grandnephew,
who was merely some Theodule or other, and soon flew into a rage, which
almost always happened when he read. The "sheet" which he held, although
Royalist, of course, announced for the following day, without any
softening phrases, one of these little events which were of daily
occurrence at that date in Paris: "That the students of the schools
of law and medicine were to assemble on the Place du Pantheon, at
midday,--to deliberate." The discussion concerned one of the questions
of the moment, the artillery of the National Guard, and a conflict
between the Minister of War and "the citizen's militia," on the subject
of the cannon parked in the courtyard of the Louvre. The students were
to "deliberate" over this. It did not take much more than this to swell
M. Gillenormand's rage.

He thought of Marius, who was a student, and who would probably go with
the rest, to "deliberate, at midday, on the Place du Pantheon."

As he was indulging in this painful dream, Lieutenant Theodule entered
clad in plain clothes as a bourgeois, which was clever of him, and
was discreetly introduced by Mademoiselle Gillenormand. The lancer had
reasoned as follows: "The old druid has not sunk all his money in a life
pension. It is well to disguise one's self as a civilian from time to

Mademoiselle Gillenormand said aloud to her father:--

"Theodule, your grandnephew."

And in a low voice to the lieutenant:--

"Approve of everything."

And she withdrew.

The lieutenant, who was but little accustomed to such venerable
encounters, stammered with some timidity: "Good day, uncle,"--and made
a salute composed of the involuntary and mechanical outline of the
military salute finished off as a bourgeois salute.

"Ah! so it's you; that is well, sit down," said the old gentleman.

That said, he totally forgot the lancer.

Theodule seated himself, and M. Gillenormand rose.

M. Gillenormand began to pace back and forth, his hands in his pockets,
talking aloud, and twitching, with his irritated old fingers, at the two
watches which he wore in his two fobs.

"That pack of brats! they convene on the Place du Pantheon! by my life!
urchins who were with their nurses but yesterday! If one were to squeeze
their noses, milk would burst out. And they deliberate to-morrow, at
midday. What are we coming to? What are we coming to? It is clear that
we are making for the abyss. That is what the descamisados have brought
us to! To deliberate on the citizen artillery! To go and jabber in the
open air over the jibes of the National Guard! And with whom are they to
meet there? Just see whither Jacobinism leads. I will bet anything you
like, a million against a counter, that there will be no one there but
returned convicts and released galley-slaves. The Republicans and the
galley-slaves,--they form but one nose and one handkerchief. Carnot used
to say: 'Where would you have me go, traitor?' Fouche replied: 'Wherever
you please, imbecile!' That's what the Republicans are like."

"That is true," said Theodule.

M. Gillenormand half turned his head, saw Theodule, and went on:--

"When one reflects that that scoundrel was so vile as to turn carbonaro!
Why did you leave my house? To go and become a Republican! Pssst! In
the first place, the people want none of your republic, they have common
sense, they know well that there always have been kings, and that there
always will be; they know well that the people are only the people,
after all, they make sport of it, of your republic--do you understand,
idiot? Is it not a horrible caprice? To fall in love with Pere Duchesne,
to make sheep's-eyes at the guillotine, to sing romances, and play on
the guitar under the balcony of '93--it's enough to make one spit on all
these young fellows, such fools are they! They are all alike. Not one
escapes. It suffices for them to breathe the air which blows through the
street to lose their senses. The nineteenth century is poison. The
first scamp that happens along lets his beard grow like a goat's,
thinks himself a real scoundrel, and abandons his old relatives. He's
a Republican, he's a romantic. What does that mean, romantic? Do me the
favor to tell me what it is. All possible follies. A year ago, they ran
to Hernani. Now, I just ask you, Hernani! antitheses! abominations
which are not even written in French! And then, they have cannons in the
courtyard of the Louvre. Such are the rascalities of this age!"

"You are right, uncle," said Theodule.

M. Gillenormand resumed:--

"Cannons in the courtyard of the Museum! For what purpose? Do you want
to fire grape-shot at the Apollo Belvedere? What have those cartridges
to do with the Venus de Medici? Oh! the young men of the present day are
all blackguards! What a pretty creature is their Benjamin Constant! And
those who are not rascals are simpletons! They do all they can to make
themselves ugly, they are badly dressed, they are afraid of women, in
the presence of petticoats they have a mendicant air which sets the
girls into fits of laughter; on my word of honor, one would say the poor
creatures were ashamed of love. They are deformed, and they complete
themselves by being stupid; they repeat the puns of Tiercelin and
Potier, they have sack coats, stablemen's waistcoats, shirts of coarse
linen, trousers of coarse cloth, boots of coarse leather, and their
rigmarole resembles their plumage. One might make use of their jargon
to put new soles on their old shoes. And all this awkward batch of brats
has political opinions, if you please. Political opinions should be
strictly forbidden. They fabricate systems, they recast society, they
demolish the monarchy, they fling all laws to the earth, they put the
attic in the cellar's place and my porter in the place of the King, they
turn Europe topsy-turvy, they reconstruct the world, and all their love
affairs consist in staring slily at the ankles of the laundresses as
these women climb into their carts. Ah! Marius! Ah! you blackguard! to
go and vociferate on the public place! to discuss, to debate, to take
measures! They call that measures, just God! Disorder humbles itself
and becomes silly. I have seen chaos, I now see a mess. Students
deliberating on the National Guard,--such a thing could not be seen
among the Ogibewas nor the Cadodaches! Savages who go naked, with their
noddles dressed like a shuttlecock, with a club in their paws, are less
of brutes than those bachelors of arts! The four-penny monkeys! And they
set up for judges! Those creatures deliberate and ratiocinate! The
end of the world is come! This is plainly the end of this miserable
terraqueous globe! A final hiccough was required, and France has emitted
it. Deliberate, my rascals! Such things will happen so long as they go
and read the newspapers under the arcades of the Odeon. That costs them
a sou, and their good sense, and their intelligence, and their heart and
their soul, and their wits. They emerge thence, and decamp from their
families. All newspapers are pests; all, even the Drapeau Blanc! At
bottom, Martainville was a Jacobin. Ah! just Heaven! you may boast of
having driven your grandfather to despair, that you may!"

"That is evident," said Theodule.

And profiting by the fact that M. Gillenormand was taking breath, the
lancer added in a magisterial manner:--

"There should be no other newspaper than the Moniteur, and no other book
than the Annuaire Militaire."

M. Gillenormand continued:--

"It is like their Sieyes! A regicide ending in a senator; for that is
the way they always end. They give themselves a scar with the address
of thou as citizens, in order to get themselves called, eventually,
Monsieur le Comte. Monsieur le Comte as big as my arm, assassins of
September. The philosopher Sieyes! I will do myself the justice to say,
that I have never had any better opinion of the philosophies of all
those philosophers, than of the spectacles of the grimacer of Tivoli!
One day I saw the Senators cross the Quai Malplaquet in mantles of
violet velvet sown with bees, with hats a la Henri IV. They were
hideous. One would have pronounced them monkeys from the tiger's court.
Citizens, I declare to you, that your progress is madness, that your
humanity is a dream, that your revolution is a crime, that your republic
is a monster, that your young and virgin France comes from the brothel,
and I maintain it against all, whoever you may be, whether journalists,
economists, legists, or even were you better judges of liberty, of
equality, and fraternity than the knife of the guillotine! And that I
announce to you, my fine fellows!"

"Parbleu!" cried the lieutenant, "that is wonderfully true."

M. Gillenormand paused in a gesture which he had begun, wheeled round,
stared Lancer Theodule intently in the eyes, and said to him:--

"You are a fool."



Marius was, at this epoch, a handsome young man, of medium stature,
with thick and intensely black hair, a lofty and intelligent brow,
well-opened and passionate nostrils, an air of calmness and sincerity,
and with something indescribably proud, thoughtful, and innocent over
his whole countenance. His profile, all of whose lines were rounded,
without thereby losing their firmness, had a certain Germanic sweetness,
which has made its way into the French physiognomy by way of Alsace
and Lorraine, and that complete absence of angles which rendered
the Sicambres so easily recognizable among the Romans, and which
distinguishes the leonine from the aquiline race. He was at that period
of life when the mind of men who think is composed, in nearly equal
parts, of depth and ingenuousness. A grave situation being given, he
had all that is required to be stupid: one more turn of the key, and he
might be sublime. His manners were reserved, cold, polished, not very
genial. As his mouth was charming, his lips the reddest, and his teeth
the whitest in the world, his smile corrected the severity of his face,
as a whole. At certain moments, that pure brow and that voluptuous smile
presented a singular contrast. His eyes were small, but his glance was

At the period of his most abject misery, he had observed that young
girls turned round when he passed by, and he fled or hid, with death in
his soul. He thought that they were staring at him because of his old
clothes, and that they were laughing at them; the fact is, that they
stared at him because of his grace, and that they dreamed of him.

This mute misunderstanding between him and the pretty passers-by had
made him shy. He chose none of them for the excellent reason that
he fled from all of them. He lived thus indefinitely,--stupidly, as
Courfeyrac said.

Courfeyrac also said to him: "Do not aspire to be venerable" [they
called each other thou; it is the tendency of youthful friendships to
slip into this mode of address]. "Let me give you a piece of advice,
my dear fellow. Don't read so many books, and look a little more at the
lasses. The jades have some good points about them, O Marius! By dint of
fleeing and blushing, you will become brutalized."

On other occasions, Courfeyrac encountered him and said:--"Good morning,
Monsieur l'Abbe!"

When Courfeyrac had addressed to him some remark of this nature, Marius
avoided women, both young and old, more than ever for a week to come,
and he avoided Courfeyrac to boot.

Nevertheless, there existed in all the immensity of creation, two women
whom Marius did not flee, and to whom he paid no attention whatever. In
truth, he would have been very much amazed if he had been informed
that they were women. One was the bearded old woman who swept out his
chamber, and caused Courfeyrac to say: "Seeing that his servant woman
wears his beard, Marius does not wear his own beard." The other was a
sort of little girl whom he saw very often, and whom he never looked at.

For more than a year, Marius had noticed in one of the walks of the
Luxembourg, the one which skirts the parapet of the Pepiniere, a man
and a very young girl, who were almost always seated side by side on the
same bench, at the most solitary end of the alley, on the Rue de l'Ouest
side. Every time that that chance which meddles with the strolls of
persons whose gaze is turned inwards, led Marius to that walk,--and it
was nearly every day,--he found this couple there. The man appeared to
be about sixty years of age; he seemed sad and serious; his whole person
presented the robust and weary aspect peculiar to military men who have
retired from the service. If he had worn a decoration, Marius would have
said: "He is an ex-officer." He had a kindly but unapproachable air,
and he never let his glance linger on the eyes of any one. He wore
blue trousers, a blue frock coat and a broad-brimmed hat, which always
appeared to be new, a black cravat, a quaker shirt, that is to say, it
was dazzlingly white, but of coarse linen. A grisette who passed near
him one day, said: "Here's a very tidy widower." His hair was very

The first time that the young girl who accompanied him came and seated
herself on the bench which they seemed to have adopted, she was a sort
of child thirteen or fourteen years of age, so thin as to be almost
homely, awkward, insignificant, and with a possible promise of
handsome eyes. Only, they were always raised with a sort of displeasing
assurance. Her dress was both aged and childish, like the dress of the
scholars in a convent; it consisted of a badly cut gown of black merino.
They had the air of being father and daughter.

Marius scanned this old man, who was not yet aged, and this little
girl, who was not yet a person, for a few days, and thereafter paid no
attention to them. They, on their side, did not appear even to see him.
They conversed together with a peaceful and indifferent air. The girl
chattered incessantly and merrily. The old man talked but little, and,
at times, he fixed on her eyes overflowing with an ineffable paternity.

Marius had acquired the mechanical habit of strolling in that walk. He
invariably found them there.

This is the way things went:--

Marius liked to arrive by the end of the alley which was furthest from
their bench; he walked the whole length of the alley, passed in front
of them, then returned to the extremity whence he had come, and began
again. This he did five or six times in the course of his promenade,
and the promenade was taken five or six times a week, without its
having occurred to him or to these people to exchange a greeting. That
personage, and that young girl, although they appeared,--and perhaps
because they appeared,--to shun all glances, had, naturally, caused some
attention on the part of the five or six students who strolled along
the Pepiniere from time to time; the studious after their lectures,
the others after their game of billiards. Courfeyrac, who was among the
last, had observed them several times, but, finding the girl homely, he
had speedily and carefully kept out of the way. He had fled, discharging
at them a sobriquet, like a Parthian dart. Impressed solely with
the child's gown and the old man's hair, he had dubbed the daughter
Mademoiselle Lanoire, and the father, Monsieur Leblanc, so that as no
one knew them under any other title, this nickname became a law in the
default of any other name. The students said: "Ah! Monsieur Leblanc is
on his bench." And Marius, like the rest, had found it convenient to
call this unknown gentleman Monsieur Leblanc.

We shall follow their example, and we shall say M. Leblanc, in order to
facilitate this tale.

So Marius saw them nearly every day, at the same hour, during the first
year. He found the man to his taste, but the girl insipid.


During the second year, precisely at the point in this history which the
reader has now reached, it chanced that this habit of the Luxembourg was
interrupted, without Marius himself being quite aware why, and nearly
six months elapsed, during which he did not set foot in the alley. One
day, at last, he returned thither once more; it was a serene summer
morning, and Marius was in joyous mood, as one is when the weather is
fine. It seemed to him that he had in his heart all the songs of the
birds that he was listening to, and all the bits of blue sky of which he
caught glimpses through the leaves of the trees.

He went straight to "his alley," and when he reached the end of it he
perceived, still on the same bench, that well-known couple. Only, when
he approached, it certainly was the same man; but it seemed to him that
it was no longer the same girl. The person whom he now beheld was a tall
and beautiful creature, possessed of all the most charming lines of a
woman at the precise moment when they are still combined with all the
most ingenuous graces of the child; a pure and fugitive moment, which
can be expressed only by these two words,--"fifteen years." She had
wonderful brown hair, shaded with threads of gold, a brow that seemed
made of marble, cheeks that seemed made of rose-leaf, a pale flush,
an agitated whiteness, an exquisite mouth, whence smiles darted like
sunbeams, and words like music, a head such as Raphael would have given
to Mary, set upon a neck that Jean Goujon would have attributed to a
Venus. And, in order that nothing might be lacking to this bewitching
face, her nose was not handsome--it was pretty; neither straight nor
curved, neither Italian nor Greek; it was the Parisian nose, that is
to say, spiritual, delicate, irregular, pure,--which drives painters to
despair, and charms poets.

When Marius passed near her, he could not see her eyes, which were
constantly lowered. He saw only her long chestnut lashes, permeated with
shadow and modesty.

This did not prevent the beautiful child from smiling as she listened
to what the white-haired old man was saying to her, and nothing could
be more fascinating than that fresh smile, combined with those drooping

For a moment, Marius thought that she was another daughter of the same
man, a sister of the former, no doubt. But when the invariable habit of
his stroll brought him, for the second time, near the bench, and he had
examined her attentively, he recognized her as the same. In six months
the little girl had become a young maiden; that was all. Nothing is more
frequent than this phenomenon. There is a moment when girls blossom out
in the twinkling of an eye, and become roses all at once. One left
them children but yesterday; today, one finds them disquieting to the

This child had not only grown, she had become idealized. As three days
in April suffice to cover certain trees with flowers, six months had
sufficed to clothe her with beauty. Her April had arrived.

One sometimes sees people, who, poor and mean, seem to wake up, pass
suddenly from indigence to luxury, indulge in expenditures of all sorts,
and become dazzling, prodigal, magnificent, all of a sudden. That is
the result of having pocketed an income; a note fell due yesterday. The
young girl had received her quarterly income.

And then, she was no longer the school-girl with her felt hat, her
merino gown, her scholar's shoes, and red hands; taste had come to her
with beauty; she was a well-dressed person, clad with a sort of rich
and simple elegance, and without affectation. She wore a dress of black
damask, a cape of the same material, and a bonnet of white crape. Her
white gloves displayed the delicacy of the hand which toyed with the
carved, Chinese ivory handle of a parasol, and her silken shoe outlined
the smallness of her foot. When one passed near her, her whole toilette
exhaled a youthful and penetrating perfume.

As for the man, he was the same as usual.

The second time that Marius approached her, the young girl raised her
eyelids; her eyes were of a deep, celestial blue, but in that veiled
azure, there was, as yet, nothing but the glance of a child. She looked
at Marius indifferently, as she would have stared at the brat running
beneath the sycamores, or the marble vase which cast a shadow on the
bench, and Marius, on his side, continued his promenade, and thought
about something else.

He passed near the bench where the young girl sat, five or six times,
but without even turning his eyes in her direction.

On the following days, he returned, as was his wont, to the Luxembourg;
as usual, he found there "the father and daughter;" but he paid no
further attention to them. He thought no more about the girl now that
she was beautiful than he had when she was homely. He passed very near
the bench where she sat, because such was his habit.


One day, the air was warm, the Luxembourg was inundated with light
and shade, the sky was as pure as though the angels had washed it that
morning, the sparrows were giving vent to little twitters in the depths
of the chestnut-trees. Marius had thrown open his whole soul to nature,
he was not thinking of anything, he simply lived and breathed, he passed
near the bench, the young girl raised her eyes to him, the two glances

What was there in the young girl's glance on this occasion? Marius could
not have told. There was nothing and there was everything. It was a
strange flash.

She dropped her eyes, and he pursued his way.

What he had just seen was no longer the ingenuous and simple eye of a
child; it was a mysterious gulf which had half opened, then abruptly
closed again.

There comes a day when the young girl glances in this manner. Woe to him
who chances to be there!

That first gaze of a soul which does not, as yet, know itself, is
like the dawn in the sky. It is the awakening of something radiant
and strange. Nothing can give any idea of the dangerous charm of that
unexpected gleam, which flashes suddenly and vaguely forth from adorable
shadows, and which is composed of all the innocence of the present, and
of all the passion of the future. It is a sort of undecided tenderness
which reveals itself by chance, and which waits. It is a snare which
the innocent maiden sets unknown to herself, and in which she captures
hearts without either wishing or knowing it. It is a virgin looking like
a woman.

It is rare that a profound revery does not spring from that glance,
where it falls. All purities and all candors meet in that celestial
and fatal gleam which, more than all the best-planned tender glances of
coquettes, possesses the magic power of causing the sudden blossoming,
in the depths of the soul, of that sombre flower, impregnated with
perfume and with poison, which is called love.

That evening, on his return to his garret, Marius cast his eyes over
his garments, and perceived, for the first time, that he had been so
slovenly, indecorous, and inconceivably stupid as to go for his walk in
the Luxembourg with his "every-day clothes," that is to say, with a
hat battered near the band, coarse carter's boots, black trousers
which showed white at the knees, and a black coat which was pale at the


On the following day, at the accustomed hour, Marius drew from his
wardrobe his new coat, his new trousers, his new hat, and his new
boots; he clothed himself in this complete panoply, put on his gloves, a
tremendous luxury, and set off for the Luxembourg.

On the way thither, he encountered Courfeyrac, and pretended not to see
him. Courfeyrac, on his return home, said to his friends:--

"I have just met Marius' new hat and new coat, with Marius inside
them. He was going to pass an examination, no doubt. He looked utterly

On arriving at the Luxembourg, Marius made the tour of the fountain
basin, and stared at the swans; then he remained for a long time in
contemplation before a statue whose head was perfectly black with mould,
and one of whose hips was missing. Near the basin there was a bourgeois
forty years of age, with a prominent stomach, who was holding by the
hand a little urchin of five, and saying to him: "Shun excess, my son,
keep at an equal distance from despotism and from anarchy." Marius
listened to this bourgeois. Then he made the circuit of the basin once
more. At last he directed his course towards "his alley," slowly, and as
if with regret. One would have said that he was both forced to go there
and withheld from doing so. He did not perceive it himself, and thought
that he was doing as he always did.

On turning into the walk, he saw M. Leblanc and the young girl at the
other end, "on their bench." He buttoned his coat up to the very top,
pulled it down on his body so that there might be no wrinkles, examined,
with a certain complaisance, the lustrous gleams of his trousers, and
marched on the bench. This march savored of an attack, and certainly
of a desire for conquest. So I say that he marched on the bench, as I
should say: "Hannibal marched on Rome."

However, all his movements were purely mechanical, and he had
interrupted none of the habitual preoccupations of his mind and labors.
At that moment, he was thinking that the Manuel du Baccalaureat was
a stupid book, and that it must have been drawn up by rare idiots, to
allow of three tragedies of Racine and only one comedy of Moliere being
analyzed therein as masterpieces of the human mind. There was a piercing
whistling going on in his ears. As he approached the bench, he held
fast to the folds in his coat, and fixed his eyes on the young girl. It
seemed to him that she filled the entire extremity of the alley with a
vague blue light.

In proportion as he drew near, his pace slackened more and more. On
arriving at some little distance from the bench, and long before he had
reached the end of the walk, he halted, and could not explain to himself
why he retraced his steps. He did not even say to himself that he would
not go as far as the end. It was only with difficulty that the young
girl could have perceived him in the distance and noted his fine
appearance in his new clothes. Nevertheless, he held himself very erect,
in case any one should be looking at him from behind.

He attained the opposite end, then came back, and this time he
approached a little nearer to the bench. He even got to within three
intervals of trees, but there he felt an indescribable impossibility of
proceeding further, and he hesitated. He thought he saw the young girl's
face bending towards him. But he exerted a manly and violent effort,
subdued his hesitation, and walked straight ahead. A few seconds later,
he rushed in front of the bench, erect and firm, reddening to the very
ears, without daring to cast a glance either to the right or to the
left, with his hand thrust into his coat like a statesman. At the moment
when he passed,--under the cannon of the place,--he felt his heart beat
wildly. As on the preceding day, she wore her damask gown and her crape
bonnet. He heard an ineffable voice, which must have been "her voice."
She was talking tranquilly. She was very pretty. He felt it, although he
made no attempt to see her. "She could not, however," he thought, "help
feeling esteem and consideration for me, if she only knew that I am
the veritable author of the dissertation on Marcos Obregon de la Ronde,
which M. Francois de Neufchateau put, as though it were his own, at the
head of his edition of Gil Blas." He went beyond the bench as far as the
extremity of the walk, which was very near, then turned on his heel and
passed once more in front of the lovely girl. This time, he was very
pale. Moreover, all his emotions were disagreeable. As he went further
from the bench and the young girl, and while his back was turned to her,
he fancied that she was gazing after him, and that made him stumble.

He did not attempt to approach the bench again; he halted near the
middle of the walk, and there, a thing which he never did, he sat down,
and reflecting in the most profoundly indistinct depths of his spirit,
that after all, it was hard that persons whose white bonnet and black
gown he admired should be absolutely insensible to his splendid trousers
and his new coat.

At the expiration of a quarter of an hour, he rose, as though he were
on the point of again beginning his march towards that bench which was
surrounded by an aureole. But he remained standing there, motionless.
For the first time in fifteen months, he said to himself that that
gentleman who sat there every day with his daughter, had, on his side,
noticed him, and probably considered his assiduity singular.

For the first time, also, he was conscious of some irreverence in
designating that stranger, even in his secret thoughts, by the sobriquet
of M. le Blanc.

He stood thus for several minutes, with drooping head, tracing figures
in the sand, with the cane which he held in his hand.

Then he turned abruptly in the direction opposite to the bench, to M.
Leblanc and his daughter, and went home.

That day he forgot to dine. At eight o'clock in the evening he perceived
this fact, and as it was too late to go down to the Rue Saint-Jacques,
he said: "Never mind!" and ate a bit of bread.

He did not go to bed until he had brushed his coat and folded it up with
great care.


On the following day, Ma'am Bougon, as Courfeyrac styled the old
portress-principal-tenant, housekeeper of the Gorbeau hovel, Ma'am
Bougon, whose name was, in reality, Madame Burgon, as we have found
out, but this iconoclast, Courfeyrac, respected nothing,--Ma'am Bougon
observed, with stupefaction, that M. Marius was going out again in his
new coat.

He went to the Luxembourg again, but he did not proceed further than his
bench midway of the alley. He seated himself there, as on the preceding
day, surveying from a distance, and clearly making out, the white
bonnet, the black dress, and above all, that blue light. He did not stir
from it, and only went home when the gates of the Luxembourg closed. He
did not see M. Leblanc and his daughter retire. He concluded that they
had quitted the garden by the gate on the Rue de l'Ouest. Later on,
several weeks afterwards, when he came to think it over, he could never
recall where he had dined that evening.

On the following day, which was the third, Ma'am Bougon was
thunderstruck. Marius went out in his new coat. "Three days in
succession!" she exclaimed.

She tried to follow him, but Marius walked briskly, and with immense
strides; it was a hippopotamus undertaking the pursuit of a chamois.
She lost sight of him in two minutes, and returned breathless,
three-quarters choked with asthma, and furious. "If there is any sense,"
she growled, "in putting on one's best clothes every day, and making
people run like this!"

Marius betook himself to the Luxembourg.

The young girl was there with M. Leblanc. Marius approached as near as
he could, pretending to be busy reading a book, but he halted afar off,
then returned and seated himself on his bench, where he spent four hours
in watching the house-sparrows who were skipping about the walk, and who
produced on him the impression that they were making sport of him.

A fortnight passed thus. Marius went to the Luxembourg no longer for the
sake of strolling there, but to seat himself always in the same spot,
and that without knowing why. Once arrived there, he did not stir.
He put on his new coat every morning, for the purpose of not showing
himself, and he began all over again on the morrow.

She was decidedly a marvellous beauty. The only remark approaching a
criticism, that could be made, was, that the contradiction between
her gaze, which was melancholy, and her smile, which was merry, gave
a rather wild effect to her face, which sometimes caused this sweet
countenance to become strange without ceasing to be charming.


On one of the last days of the second week, Marius was seated on his
bench, as usual, holding in his hand an open book, of which he had not
turned a page for the last two hours. All at once he started. An event
was taking place at the other extremity of the walk. Leblanc and his
daughter had just left their seat, and the daughter had taken her
father's arm, and both were advancing slowly, towards the middle of the
alley where Marius was. Marius closed his book, then opened it again,
then forced himself to read; he trembled; the aureole was coming
straight towards him. "Ah! good Heavens!" thought he, "I shall not have
time to strike an attitude." Still the white-haired man and the girl
advanced. It seemed to him that this lasted for a century, and that it
was but a second. "What are they coming in this direction for?" he asked
himself. "What! She will pass here? Her feet will tread this sand, this
walk, two paces from me?" He was utterly upset, he would have liked to
be very handsome, he would have liked to own the cross. He heard the
soft and measured sound of their approaching footsteps. He imagined that
M. Leblanc was darting angry glances at him. "Is that gentleman going to
address me?" he thought to himself. He dropped his head; when he raised
it again, they were very near him. The young girl passed, and as she
passed, she glanced at him. She gazed steadily at him, with a pensive
sweetness which thrilled Marius from head to foot. It seemed to him
that she was reproaching him for having allowed so long a time to elapse
without coming as far as her, and that she was saying to him: "I am
coming myself." Marius was dazzled by those eyes fraught with rays and

He felt his brain on fire. She had come to him, what joy! And then, how
she had looked at him! She appeared to him more beautiful than he had
ever seen her yet. Beautiful with a beauty which was wholly feminine and
angelic, with a complete beauty which would have made Petrarch sing and
Dante kneel. It seemed to him that he was floating free in the azure
heavens. At the same time, he was horribly vexed because there was dust
on his boots.

He thought he felt sure that she had looked at his boots too.

He followed her with his eyes until she disappeared. Then he started
up and walked about the Luxembourg garden like a madman. It is possible
that, at times, he laughed to himself and talked aloud. He was so dreamy
when he came near the children's nurses, that each one of them thought
him in love with her.

He quitted the Luxembourg, hoping to find her again in the street.

He encountered Courfeyrac under the arcades of the Odeon, and said to
him: "Come and dine with me." They went off to Rousseau's and spent
six francs. Marius ate like an ogre. He gave the waiter six sous. At
dessert, he said to Courfeyrac. "Have you read the paper? What a fine
discourse Audry de Puyraveau delivered!"

He was desperately in love.

After dinner, he said to Courfeyrac: "I will treat you to the play."
They went to the Porte-Sainte-Martin to see Frederick in l'Auberge des
Adrets. Marius was enormously amused.

At the same time, he had a redoubled attack of shyness. On emerging
from the theatre, he refused to look at the garter of a modiste who was
stepping across a gutter, and Courfeyrac, who said: "I should like to
put that woman in my collection," almost horrified him.

Courfeyrac invited him to breakfast at the Cafe Voltaire on the
following morning. Marius went thither, and ate even more than on the
preceding evening. He was very thoughtful and very merry. One would
have said that he was taking advantage of every occasion to laugh
uproariously. He tenderly embraced some man or other from the provinces,
who was presented to him. A circle of students formed round the table,
and they spoke of the nonsense paid for by the State which was uttered
from the rostrum in the Sorbonne, then the conversation fell upon the
faults and omissions in Guicherat's dictionaries and grammars. Marius
interrupted the discussion to exclaim: "But it is very agreeable, all
the same to have the cross!"

"That's queer!" whispered Courfeyrac to Jean Prouvaire.

"No," responded Prouvaire, "that's serious."

It was serious; in fact, Marius had reached that first violent and
charming hour with which grand passions begin.

A glance had wrought all this.

When the mine is charged, when the conflagration is ready, nothing is
more simple. A glance is a spark.

It was all over with him. Marius loved a woman. His fate was entering
the unknown.

The glance of women resembles certain combinations of wheels, which are
tranquil in appearance yet formidable. You pass close to them every
day, peaceably and with impunity, and without a suspicion of anything. A
moment arrives when you forget that the thing is there. You go and come,
dream, speak, laugh. All at once you feel yourself clutched; all is
over. The wheels hold you fast, the glance has ensnared you. It has
caught you, no matter where or how, by some portion of your thought
which was fluttering loose, by some distraction which had attacked you.
You are lost. The whole of you passes into it. A chain of mysterious
forces takes possession of you. You struggle in vain; no more human
succor is possible. You go on falling from gearing to gearing, from
agony to agony, from torture to torture, you, your mind, your fortune,
your future, your soul; and, according to whether you are in the power
of a wicked creature, or of a noble heart, you will not escape from this
terrifying machine otherwise than disfigured with shame, or transfigured
by passion.


Isolation, detachment from everything, pride, independence, the taste
of nature, the absence of daily and material activity, the life within
himself, the secret conflicts of chastity, a benevolent ecstasy towards
all creation, had prepared Marius for this possession which is called
passion. His worship of his father had gradually become a religion,
and, like all religions, it had retreated to the depths of his soul.
Something was required in the foreground. Love came.

A full month elapsed, during which Marius went every day to the
Luxembourg. When the hour arrived, nothing could hold him back.--"He
is on duty," said Courfeyrac. Marius lived in a state of delight. It is
certain that the young girl did look at him.

He had finally grown bold, and approached the bench. Still, he did not
pass in front of it any more, in obedience to the instinct of timidity
and to the instinct of prudence common to lovers. He considered it
better not to attract "the attention of the father." He combined his
stations behind the trees and the pedestals of the statues with a
profound diplomacy, so that he might be seen as much as possible by the
young girl and as little as possible by the old gentleman. Sometimes, he
remained motionless by the half-hour together in the shade of a Leonidas
or a Spartacus, holding in his hand a book, above which his eyes, gently
raised, sought the beautiful girl, and she, on her side, turned her
charming profile towards him with a vague smile. While conversing in the
most natural and tranquil manner in the world with the white-haired man,
she bent upon Marius all the reveries of a virginal and passionate eye.
Ancient and time-honored manoeuvre which Eve understood from the very
first day of the world, and which every woman understands from the very
first day of her life! her mouth replied to one, and her glance replied
to another.

It must be supposed, that M. Leblanc finally noticed something, for
often, when Marius arrived, he rose and began to walk about. He had
abandoned their accustomed place and had adopted the bench by the
Gladiator, near the other end of the walk, as though with the object
of seeing whether Marius would pursue them thither. Marius did not
understand, and committed this error. "The father" began to grow
inexact, and no longer brought "his daughter" every day. Sometimes, he
came alone. Then Marius did not stay. Another blunder.

Marius paid no heed to these symptoms. From the phase of timidity, he
had passed, by a natural and fatal progress, to the phase of blindness.
His love increased. He dreamed of it every night. And then, an
unexpected bliss had happened to him, oil on the fire, a redoubling of
the shadows over his eyes. One evening, at dusk, he had found, on
the bench which "M. Leblanc and his daughter" had just quitted, a
handkerchief, a very simple handkerchief, without embroidery, but white,
and fine, and which seemed to him to exhale ineffable perfume. He seized
it with rapture. This handkerchief was marked with the letters U. F.
Marius knew nothing about this beautiful child,--neither her family
name, her Christian name nor her abode; these two letters were the first
thing of her that he had gained possession of, adorable initials, upon
which he immediately began to construct his scaffolding. U was evidently
the Christian name. "Ursule!" he thought, "what a delicious name!" He
kissed the handkerchief, drank it in, placed it on his heart, on his
flesh, during the day, and at night, laid it beneath his lips that he
might fall asleep on it.

"I feel that her whole soul lies within it!" he exclaimed.

This handkerchief belonged to the old gentleman, who had simply let it
fall from his pocket.

In the days which followed the finding of this treasure, he only
displayed himself at the Luxembourg in the act of kissing the
handkerchief and laying it on his heart. The beautiful child understood
nothing of all this, and signified it to him by imperceptible signs.

"O modesty!" said Marius.


Since we have pronounced the word modesty, and since we conceal nothing,
we ought to say that once, nevertheless, in spite of his ecstasies, "his
Ursule" caused him very serious grief. It was on one of the days when
she persuaded M. Leblanc to leave the bench and stroll along the walk.
A brisk May breeze was blowing, which swayed the crests of the
plaintain-trees. The father and daughter, arm in arm, had just passed
Marius' bench. Marius had risen to his feet behind them, and was
following them with his eyes, as was fitting in the desperate situation
of his soul.

All at once, a gust of wind, more merry than the rest, and probably
charged with performing the affairs of Springtime, swept down from
the nursery, flung itself on the alley, enveloped the young girl in
a delicious shiver, worthy of Virgil's nymphs, and the fawns of
Theocritus, and lifted her dress, the robe more sacred than that of
Isis, almost to the height of her garter. A leg of exquisite shape
appeared. Marius saw it. He was exasperated and furious.

The young girl had hastily thrust down her dress, with a divinely
troubled motion, but he was none the less angry for all that. He was
alone in the alley, it is true. But there might have been some one
there. And what if there had been some one there! Can any one comprehend
such a thing? What she had just done is horrible!--Alas, the poor child
had done nothing; there had been but one culprit, the wind; but Marius,
in whom quivered the Bartholo who exists in Cherubin, was determined to
be vexed, and was jealous of his own shadow. It is thus, in fact, that
the harsh and capricious jealousy of the flesh awakens in the human
heart, and takes possession of it, even without any right. Moreover,
setting aside even that jealousy, the sight of that charming leg had
contained nothing agreeable for him; the white stocking of the first
woman he chanced to meet would have afforded him more pleasure.

When "his Ursule," after having reached the end of the walk, retraced
her steps with M. Leblanc, and passed in front of the bench on which
Marius had seated himself once more, Marius darted a sullen and
ferocious glance at her. The young girl gave way to that slight
straightening up with a backward movement, accompanied by a raising of
the eyelids, which signifies: "Well, what is the matter?"

This was "their first quarrel."

Marius had hardly made this scene at her with his eyes, when some one
crossed the walk. It was a veteran, very much bent, extremely wrinkled,
and pale, in a uniform of the Louis XV. pattern, bearing on his breast
the little oval plaque of red cloth, with the crossed swords, the
soldier's cross of Saint-Louis, and adorned, in addition, with a
coat-sleeve, which had no arm within it, with a silver chin and a wooden
leg. Marius thought he perceived that this man had an extremely well
satisfied air. It even struck him that the aged cynic, as he hobbled
along past him, addressed to him a very fraternal and very merry wink,
as though some chance had created an understanding between them, and as
though they had shared some piece of good luck together. What did that
relic of Mars mean by being so contented? What had passed between
that wooden leg and the other? Marius reached a paroxysm of
jealousy.--"Perhaps he was there!" he said to himself; "perhaps he
saw!"--And he felt a desire to exterminate the veteran.

With the aid of time, all points grow dull. Marius' wrath against
"Ursule," just and legitimate as it was, passed off. He finally pardoned
her; but this cost him a great effort; he sulked for three days.

Nevertheless, in spite of all this, and because of all this, his passion
augmented and grew to madness.


The reader has just seen how Marius discovered, or thought that he
discovered, that She was named Ursule.

Appetite grows with loving. To know that her name was Ursule was a great
deal; it was very little. In three or four weeks, Marius had devoured
this bliss. He wanted another. He wanted to know where she lived.

He had committed his first blunder, by falling into the ambush of the
bench by the Gladiator. He had committed a second, by not remaining at
the Luxembourg when M. Leblanc came thither alone. He now committed a
third, and an immense one. He followed "Ursule."

She lived in the Rue de l'Ouest, in the most unfrequented spot, in a
new, three-story house, of modest appearance.

From that moment forth, Marius added to his happiness of seeing her at
the Luxembourg the happiness of following her home.

His hunger was increasing. He knew her first name, at least, a charming
name, a genuine woman's name; he knew where she lived; he wanted to know
who she was.

One evening, after he had followed them to their dwelling, and had seen
them disappear through the carriage gate, he entered in their train and
said boldly to the porter:--

"Is that the gentleman who lives on the first floor, who has just come

"No," replied the porter. "He is the gentleman on the third floor."

Another step gained. This success emboldened Marius.

"On the front?" he asked.

"Parbleu!" said the porter, "the house is only built on the street."

"And what is that gentleman's business?" began Marius again.

"He is a gentleman of property, sir. A very kind man who does good to
the unfortunate, though not rich himself."

"What is his name?" resumed Marius.

The porter raised his head and said:--

"Are you a police spy, sir?"

Marius went off quite abashed, but delighted. He was getting on.

"Good," thought he, "I know that her name is Ursule, that she is the
daughter of a gentleman who lives on his income, and that she lives
there, on the third floor, in the Rue de l'Ouest."

On the following day, M. Leblanc and his daughter made only a very
brief stay in the Luxembourg; they went away while it was still broad
daylight. Marius followed them to the Rue de l'Ouest, as he had taken up
the habit of doing. On arriving at the carriage entrance M. Leblanc made
his daughter pass in first, then paused, before crossing the threshold,
and stared intently at Marius.

On the next day they did not come to the Luxembourg. Marius waited for
them all day in vain.

At nightfall, he went to the Rue de l'Ouest, and saw a light in the
windows of the third story.

He walked about beneath the windows until the light was extinguished.

The next day, no one at the Luxembourg. Marius waited all day, then went
and did sentinel duty under their windows. This carried him on to ten
o'clock in the evening.

His dinner took care of itself. Fever nourishes the sick man, and love
the lover.

He spent a week in this manner. M. Leblanc no longer appeared at the

Marius indulged in melancholy conjectures; he dared not watch the porte
cochere during the day; he contented himself with going at night to gaze
upon the red light of the windows. At times he saw shadows flit across
them, and his heart began to beat.

On the eighth day, when he arrived under the windows, there was no light
in them.

"Hello!" he said, "the lamp is not lighted yet. But it is dark. Can they
have gone out?" He waited until ten o'clock. Until midnight. Until one
in the morning. Not a light appeared in the windows of the third story,
and no one entered the house.

He went away in a very gloomy frame of mind.

On the morrow,--for he only existed from morrow to morrow, there was,
so to speak, no to-day for him,--on the morrow, he found no one at the
Luxembourg; he had expected this. At dusk, he went to the house.

No light in the windows; the shades were drawn; the third floor was
totally dark.

Marius rapped at the porte cochere, entered, and said to the porter:--

"The gentleman on the third floor?"

"Has moved away," replied the porter.

Marius reeled and said feebly:--

"How long ago?"


"Where is he living now?"

"I don't know anything about it."

"So he has not left his new address?"


And the porter, raising his eyes, recognized Marius.

"Come! So it's you!" said he; "but you are decidedly a spy then?"



Human societies all have what is called in theatrical parlance, a third
lower floor. The social soil is everywhere undermined, sometimes for
good, sometimes for evil. These works are superposed one upon the other.
There are superior mines and inferior mines. There is a top and a
bottom in this obscure sub-soil, which sometimes gives way beneath
civilization, and which our indifference and heedlessness trample under
foot. The Encyclopedia, in the last century, was a mine that was
almost open to the sky. The shades, those sombre hatchers of primitive
Christianity, only awaited an opportunity to bring about an explosion
under the Caesars and to inundate the human race with light. For in the
sacred shadows there lies latent light. Volcanoes are full of a shadow
that is capable of flashing forth. Every form begins by being night. The
catacombs, in which the first mass was said, were not alone the cellar
of Rome, they were the vaults of the world.

Beneath the social construction, that complicated marvel of a structure,
there are excavations of all sorts. There is the religious mine, the
philosophical mine, the economic mine, the revolutionary mine. Such and
such a pick-axe with the idea, such a pick with ciphers. Such another
with wrath. People hail and answer each other from one catacomb to
another. Utopias travel about underground, in the pipes. There they
branch out in every direction. They sometimes meet, and fraternize
there. Jean-Jacques lends his pick to Diogenes, who lends him his
lantern. Sometimes they enter into combat there. Calvin seizes Socinius
by the hair. But nothing arrests nor interrupts the tension of all these
energies toward the goal, and the vast, simultaneous activity, which
goes and comes, mounts, descends, and mounts again in these obscurities,
and which immense unknown swarming slowly transforms the top and the
bottom and the inside and the outside. Society hardly even suspects this
digging which leaves its surface intact and changes its bowels. There
are as many different subterranean stages as there are varying works,
as there are extractions. What emerges from these deep excavations? The

The deeper one goes, the more mysterious are the toilers. The work
is good, up to a degree which the social philosophies are able to
recognize; beyond that degree it is doubtful and mixed; lower down,
it becomes terrible. At a certain depth, the excavations are no longer
penetrable by the spirit of civilization, the limit breathable by man
has been passed; a beginning of monsters is possible.

The descending scale is a strange one; and each one of the rungs of this
ladder corresponds to a stage where philosophy can find foothold, and
where one encounters one of these workmen, sometimes divine, sometimes
misshapen. Below John Huss, there is Luther; below Luther, there is
Descartes; below Descartes, there is Voltaire; below Voltaire, there
is Condorcet; below Condorcet, there is Robespierre; below Robespierre,
there is Marat; below Marat there is Babeuf. And so it goes on. Lower
down, confusedly, at the limit which separates the indistinct from the
invisible, one perceives other gloomy men, who perhaps do not exist as
yet. The men of yesterday are spectres; those of to-morrow are forms.
The eye of the spirit distinguishes them but obscurely. The embryonic
work of the future is one of the visions of philosophy.

A world in limbo, in the state of foetus, what an unheard-of spectre!

Saint-Simon, Owen, Fourier, are there also, in lateral galleries.

Surely, although a divine and invisible chain unknown to themselves,
binds together all these subterranean pioneers who, almost always, think
themselves isolated, and who are not so, their works vary greatly, and
the light of some contrasts with the blaze of others. The first are
paradisiacal, the last are tragic. Nevertheless, whatever may be the
contrast, all these toilers, from the highest to the most nocturnal,
from the wisest to the most foolish, possess one likeness, and this
is it: disinterestedness. Marat forgets himself like Jesus. They
throw themselves on one side, they omit themselves, they think not of
themselves. They have a glance, and that glance seeks the absolute. The
first has the whole heavens in his eyes; the last, enigmatical though he
may be, has still, beneath his eyelids, the pale beam of the infinite.
Venerate the man, whoever he may be, who has this sign--the starry eye.

The shadowy eye is the other sign.

With it, evil commences. Reflect and tremble in the presence of any one
who has no glance at all. The social order has its black miners.

There is a point where depth is tantamount to burial, and where light
becomes extinct.

Below all these mines which we have just mentioned, below all these
galleries, below this whole immense, subterranean, venous system of
progress and utopia, much further on in the earth, much lower than
Marat, lower than Babeuf, lower, much lower, and without any connection
with the upper levels, there lies the last mine. A formidable spot. This
is what we have designated as the le troisieme dessous. It is the grave
of shadows. It is the cellar of the blind. Inferi.

This communicates with the abyss.


There disinterestedness vanishes. The demon is vaguely outlined; each
one is for himself. The _I_ in the eyes howls, seeks, fumbles, and
gnaws. The social Ugolino is in this gulf.

The wild spectres who roam in this grave, almost beasts, almost
phantoms, are not occupied with universal progress; they are ignorant
both of the idea and of the word; they take no thought for anything
but the satisfaction of their individual desires. They are almost
unconscious, and there exists within them a sort of terrible
obliteration. They have two mothers, both step-mothers, ignorance and
misery. They have a guide, necessity; and for all forms of satisfaction,
appetite. They are brutally voracious, that is to say, ferocious, not
after the fashion of the tyrant, but after the fashion of the tiger.
From suffering these spectres pass to crime; fatal affiliation, dizzy
creation, logic of darkness. That which crawls in the social third lower
level is no longer complaint stifled by the absolute; it is the protest
of matter. Man there becomes a dragon. To be hungry, to be thirsty--that
is the point of departure; to be Satan--that is the point reached. From
that vault Lacenaire emerges.

We have just seen, in Book Fourth, one of the compartments of the
upper mine, of the great political, revolutionary, and philosophical
excavation. There, as we have just said, all is pure, noble, dignified,
honest. There, assuredly, one might be misled; but error is worthy of
veneration there, so thoroughly does it imply heroism. The work there
effected, taken as a whole has a name: Progress.

The moment has now come when we must take a look at other depths,
hideous depths. There exists beneath society, we insist upon this point,
and there will exist, until that day when ignorance shall be dissipated,
the great cavern of evil.

This cavern is below all, and is the foe of all. It is hatred, without
exception. This cavern knows no philosophers; its dagger has never cut
a pen. Its blackness has no connection with the sublime blackness of the
inkstand. Never have the fingers of night which contract beneath this
stifling ceiling, turned the leaves of a book nor unfolded a newspaper.
Babeuf is a speculator to Cartouche; Marat is an aristocrat to
Schinderhannes. This cavern has for its object the destruction of

Of everything. Including the upper superior mines, which it execrates.
It not only undermines, in its hideous swarming, the actual social
order; it undermines philosophy, it undermines human thought, it
undermines civilization, it undermines revolution, it undermines
progress. Its name is simply theft, prostitution, murder, assassination.
It is darkness, and it desires chaos. Its vault is formed of ignorance.

All the others, those above it, have but one object--to suppress it.
It is to this point that philosophy and progress tend, with all their
organs simultaneously, by their amelioration of the real, as well as by
their contemplation of the absolute. Destroy the cavern Ignorance and
you destroy the lair Crime.

Let us condense, in a few words, a part of what we have just written.
The only social peril is darkness.

Humanity is identity. All men are made of the same clay. There is no
difference, here below, at least, in predestination. The same shadow
in front, the same flesh in the present, the same ashes afterwards. But
ignorance, mingled with the human paste, blackens it. This incurable
blackness takes possession of the interior of a man and is there
converted into evil.


A quartette of ruffians, Claquesous, Gueulemer, Babet, and Montparnasse
governed the third lower floor of Paris, from 1830 to 1835.

Gueulemer was a Hercules of no defined position. For his lair he had the
sewer of the Arche-Marion. He was six feet high, his pectoral muscles
were of marble, his biceps of brass, his breath was that of a cavern,
his torso that of a colossus, his head that of a bird. One thought one
beheld the Farnese Hercules clad in duck trousers and a cotton velvet
waistcoat. Gueulemer, built after this sculptural fashion, might have
subdued monsters; he had found it more expeditious to be one. A low
brow, large temples, less than forty years of age, but with crow's-feet,
harsh, short hair, cheeks like a brush, a beard like that of a wild
boar; the reader can see the man before him. His muscles called for
work, his stupidity would have none of it. He was a great, idle force.
He was an assassin through coolness. He was thought to be a creole. He
had, probably, somewhat to do with Marshal Brune, having been a porter
at Avignon in 1815. After this stage, he had turned ruffian.

The diaphaneity of Babet contrasted with the grossness of Gueulemer.
Babet was thin and learned. He was transparent but impenetrable.
Daylight was visible through his bones, but nothing through his eyes. He
declared that he was a chemist. He had been a jack of all trades. He had
played in vaudeville at Saint-Mihiel. He was a man of purpose, a fine
talker, who underlined his smiles and accentuated his gestures. His
occupation consisted in selling, in the open air, plaster busts and
portraits of "the head of the State." In addition to this, he extracted
teeth. He had exhibited phenomena at fairs, and he had owned a booth
with a trumpet and this poster: "Babet, Dental Artist, Member of the
Academies, makes physical experiments on metals and metalloids, extracts
teeth, undertakes stumps abandoned by his brother practitioners. Price:
one tooth, one franc, fifty centimes; two teeth, two francs; three
teeth, two francs, fifty. Take advantage of this opportunity." This Take
advantage of this opportunity meant: Have as many teeth extracted as
possible. He had been married and had had children. He did not know what
had become of his wife and children. He had lost them as one loses his
handkerchief. Babet read the papers, a striking exception in the world
to which he belonged. One day, at the period when he had his family with
him in his booth on wheels, he had read in the Messager, that a woman
had just given birth to a child, who was doing well, and had a calf's
muzzle, and he exclaimed: "There's a fortune! my wife has not the wit to
present me with a child like that!"

Later on he had abandoned everything, in order to "undertake Paris."
This was his expression.

Who was Claquesous? He was night. He waited until the sky was daubed
with black, before he showed himself. At nightfall he emerged from the
hole whither he returned before daylight. Where was this hole? No one
knew. He only addressed his accomplices in the most absolute darkness,
and with his back turned to them. Was his name Claquesous? Certainly
not. If a candle was brought, he put on a mask. He was a ventriloquist.
Babet said: "Claquesous is a nocturne for two voices." Claquesous was
vague, terrible, and a roamer. No one was sure whether he had a name,
Claquesous being a sobriquet; none was sure that he had a voice, as his
stomach spoke more frequently than his voice; no one was sure that he
had a face, as he was never seen without his mask. He disappeared as
though he had vanished into thin air; when he appeared, it was as though
he sprang from the earth.

A lugubrious being was Montparnasse. Montparnasse was a child; less than
twenty years of age, with a handsome face, lips like cherries, charming
black hair, the brilliant light of springtime in his eyes; he had all
vices and aspired to all crimes.

The digestion of evil aroused in him an appetite for worse. It was the
street boy turned pickpocket, and a pickpocket turned garroter. He was
genteel, effeminate, graceful, robust, sluggish, ferocious. The rim of
his hat was curled up on the left side, in order to make room for a tuft
of hair, after the style of 1829. He lived by robbery with violence.
His coat was of the best cut, but threadbare. Montparnasse was a
fashion-plate in misery and given to the commission of murders. The
cause of all this youth's crimes was the desire to be well-dressed. The
first grisette who had said to him: "You are handsome!" had cast the
stain of darkness into his heart, and had made a Cain of this Abel.
Finding that he was handsome, he desired to be elegant: now, the
height of elegance is idleness; idleness in a poor man means crime. Few
prowlers were so dreaded as Montparnasse. At eighteen, he had already
numerous corpses in his past. More than one passer-by lay with
outstretched arms in the presence of this wretch, with his face in a
pool of blood. Curled, pomaded, with laced waist, the hips of a woman,
the bust of a Prussian officer, the murmur of admiration from the
boulevard wenches surrounding him, his cravat knowingly tied, a bludgeon
in his pocket, a flower in his buttonhole; such was this dandy of the


These four ruffians formed a sort of Proteus, winding like a serpent
among the police, and striving to escape Vidocq's indiscreet glances
"under divers forms, tree, flame, fountain," lending each other their
names and their traps, hiding in their own shadows, boxes with
secret compartments and refuges for each other, stripping off their
personalities, as one removes his false nose at a masked ball, sometimes
simplifying matters to the point of consisting of but one individual,
sometimes multiplying themselves to such a point that Coco-Latour
himself took them for a whole throng.

These four men were not four men; they were a sort of mysterious robber
with four heads, operating on a grand scale on Paris; they were that
monstrous polyp of evil, which inhabits the crypt of society.

Thanks to their ramifications, and to the network underlying their
relations, Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse were charged
with the general enterprise of the ambushes of the department of
the Seine. The inventors of ideas of that nature, men with nocturnal
imaginations, applied to them to have their ideas executed. They
furnished the canvas to the four rascals, and the latter undertook the
preparation of the scenery. They labored at the stage setting. They were
always in a condition to lend a force proportioned and suitable to
all crimes which demanded a lift of the shoulder, and which were
sufficiently lucrative. When a crime was in quest of arms, they
under-let their accomplices. They kept a troupe of actors of the shadows
at the disposition of all underground tragedies.

They were in the habit of assembling at nightfall, the hour when they
woke up, on the plains which adjoin the Salpetriere. There they held
their conferences. They had twelve black hours before them; they
regulated their employment accordingly.

Patron-Minette,--such was the name which was bestowed in the
subterranean circulation on the association of these four men. In the
fantastic, ancient, popular parlance, which is vanishing day by day,
Patron-Minette signifies the morning, the same as entre chien et
loup--between dog and wolf--signifies the evening. This appellation,
Patron-Minette, was probably derived from the hour at which their work
ended, the dawn being the vanishing moment for phantoms and for the
separation of ruffians. These four men were known under this title.
When the President of the Assizes visited Lacenaire in his prison, and
questioned him concerning a misdeed which Lacenaire denied, "Who did
it?" demanded the President. Lacenaire made this response, enigmatical
so far as the magistrate was concerned, but clear to the police:
"Perhaps it was Patron-Minette."

A piece can sometimes be divined on the enunciation of the personages;
in the same manner a band can almost be judged from the list of ruffians
composing it. Here are the appellations to which the principal members
of Patron-Minette answered,--for the names have survived in special

Panchaud, alias Printanier, alias Bigrenaille.

Brujon. [There was a Brujon dynasty; we cannot refrain from
interpolating this word.]

Boulatruelle, the road-mender already introduced.



Homere-Hogu, a negro.

Mardisoir. (Tuesday evening.)

Depeche. (Make haste.)

Fauntleroy, alias Bouquetiere (the Flower Girl).

Glorieux, a discharged convict.

Barrecarrosse (Stop-carriage), called Monsieur Dupont.




Kruideniers, called Bizarro.

Mangedentelle. (Lace-eater.)

Les-pieds-en-l'Air. (Feet in the air.)

Demi-Liard, called Deux-Milliards.

Etc., etc.

We pass over some, and not the worst of them. These names have faces
attached. They do not express merely beings, but species. Each one of
these names corresponds to a variety of those misshapen fungi from the
under side of civilization.

Those beings, who were not very lavish with their countenances, were not
among the men whom one sees passing along the streets. Fatigued by the
wild nights which they passed, they went off by day to sleep, sometimes
in the lime-kilns, sometimes in the abandoned quarries of Montmatre or
Montrouge, sometimes in the sewers. They ran to earth.

What became of these men? They still exist. They have always existed.
Horace speaks of them: Ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolae, mendici,
mimae; and so long as society remains what it is, they will remain what
they are. Beneath the obscure roof of their cavern, they are continually
born again from the social ooze. They return, spectres, but always
identical; only, they no longer bear the same names and they are
no longer in the same skins. The individuals extirpated, the tribe

They always have the same faculties. From the vagrant to the tramp, the
race is maintained in its purity. They divine purses in pockets, they
scent out watches in fobs. Gold and silver possess an odor for them.
There exist ingenuous bourgeois, of whom it might be said, that they
have a "stealable" air. These men patiently pursue these bourgeois. They
experience the quivers of a spider at the passage of a stranger or of a
man from the country.

These men are terrible, when one encounters them, or catches a glimpse
of them, towards midnight, on a deserted boulevard. They do not seem
to be men but forms composed of living mists; one would say that they
habitually constitute one mass with the shadows, that they are in
no wise distinct from them, that they possess no other soul than the
darkness, and that it is only momentarily and for the purpose of living
for a few minutes a monstrous life, that they have separated from the

What is necessary to cause these spectres to vanish? Light. Light in
floods. Not a single bat can resist the dawn. Light up society from



Summer passed, then the autumn; winter came. Neither M. Leblanc nor the
young girl had again set foot in the Luxembourg garden. Thenceforth,
Marius had but one thought,--to gaze once more on that sweet and
adorable face. He sought constantly, he sought everywhere; he found
nothing. He was no longer Marius, the enthusiastic dreamer, the firm,
resolute, ardent man, the bold defier of fate, the brain which erected
future on future, the young spirit encumbered with plans, with projects,
with pride, with ideas and wishes; he was a lost dog. He fell into a
black melancholy. All was over. Work disgusted him, walking tired him.
Vast nature, formerly so filled with forms, lights, voices, counsels,
perspectives, horizons, teachings, now lay empty before him. It seemed
to him that everything had disappeared.

He thought incessantly, for he could not do otherwise; but he no longer
took pleasure in his thoughts. To everything that they proposed to him
in a whisper, he replied in his darkness: "What is the use?"

He heaped a hundred reproaches on himself. "Why did I follow her? I
was so happy at the mere sight of her! She looked at me; was not that
immense? She had the air of loving me. Was not that everything? I wished
to have, what? There was nothing after that. I have been absurd. It is
my own fault," etc., etc. Courfeyrac, to whom he confided nothing,--it
was his nature,--but who made some little guess at everything,--that was
his nature,--had begun by congratulating him on being in love, though he
was amazed at it; then, seeing Marius fall into this melancholy state,
he ended by saying to him: "I see that you have been simply an animal.
Here, come to the Chaumiere."

Once, having confidence in a fine September sun, Marius had allowed
himself to be taken to the ball at Sceaux by Courfeyrac, Bossuet, and
Grantaire, hoping, what a dream! that he might, perhaps, find her there.
Of course he did not see the one he sought.--"But this is the place,
all the same, where all lost women are found," grumbled Grantaire in an
aside. Marius left his friends at the ball and returned home on foot,
alone, through the night, weary, feverish, with sad and troubled eyes,
stunned by the noise and dust of the merry wagons filled with singing
creatures on their way home from the feast, which passed close to
him, as he, in his discouragement, breathed in the acrid scent of the
walnut-trees, along the road, in order to refresh his head.

He took to living more and more alone, utterly overwhelmed, wholly given
up to his inward anguish, going and coming in his pain like the wolf in
the trap, seeking the absent one everywhere, stupefied by love.

On another occasion, he had an encounter which produced on him a
singular effect. He met, in the narrow streets in the vicinity of the
Boulevard des Invalides, a man dressed like a workingman and wearing a
cap with a long visor, which allowed a glimpse of locks of very
white hair. Marius was struck with the beauty of this white hair, and
scrutinized the man, who was walking slowly and as though absorbed in
painful meditation. Strange to say, he thought that he recognized M.
Leblanc. The hair was the same, also the profile, so far as the cap
permitted a view of it, the mien identical, only more depressed. But why
these workingman's clothes? What was the meaning of this? What signified
that disguise? Marius was greatly astonished. When he recovered himself,
his first impulse was to follow the man; who knows whether he did not
hold at last the clue which he was seeking? In any case, he must see the
man near at hand, and clear up the mystery. But the idea occurred to him
too late, the man was no longer there. He had turned into some little
side street, and Marius could not find him. This encounter occupied
his mind for three days and then was effaced. "After all," he said to
himself, "it was probably only a resemblance."


Marius had not left the Gorbeau house. He paid no attention to any one

At that epoch, to tell the truth, there were no other inhabitants in the
house, except himself and those Jondrettes whose rent he had once paid,
without, moreover, ever having spoken to either father, mother, or
daughters. The other lodgers had moved away or had died, or had been
turned out in default of payment.

One day during that winter, the sun had shown itself a little in the
afternoon, but it was the 2d of February, that ancient Candlemas
day whose treacherous sun, the precursor of a six weeks' cold spell,
inspired Mathieu Laensberg with these two lines, which have with justice
remained classic:--

           Qu'il luise ou qu'il luiserne,
           L'ours rentre dans en sa caverne.[26]

Marius had just emerged from his: night was falling. It was the hour for
his dinner; for he had been obliged to take to dining again, alas! oh,
infirmities of ideal passions!

He had just crossed his threshold, where Ma'am Bougon was sweeping at
the moment, as she uttered this memorable monologue:--

"What is there that is cheap now? Everything is dear. There is nothing
in the world that is cheap except trouble; you can get that for nothing,
the trouble of the world!"

Marius slowly ascended the boulevard towards the barrier, in order to
reach the Rue Saint-Jacques. He was walking along with drooping head.

All at once, he felt some one elbow him in the dusk; he wheeled round,
and saw two young girls clad in rags, the one tall and slim, the other a
little shorter, who were passing rapidly, all out of breath, in terror,
and with the appearance of fleeing; they had been coming to meet him,
had not seen him, and had jostled him as they passed. Through the
twilight, Marius could distinguish their livid faces, their wild heads,
their dishevelled hair, their hideous bonnets, their ragged petticoats,
and their bare feet. They were talking as they ran. The taller said in a
very low voice:--

"The bobbies have come. They came near nabbing me at the half-circle."
The other answered: "I saw them. I bolted, bolted, bolted!"

Through this repulsive slang, Marius understood that gendarmes or the
police had come near apprehending these two children, and that the
latter had escaped.

They plunged among the trees of the boulevard behind him, and there
created, for a few minutes, in the gloom, a sort of vague white spot,
then disappeared.

Marius had halted for a moment.

He was about to pursue his way, when his eye lighted on a little grayish
package lying on the ground at his feet. He stooped and picked it up. It
was a sort of envelope which appeared to contain papers.

"Good," he said to himself, "those unhappy girls dropped it."

He retraced his steps, he called, he did not find them; he reflected
that they must already be far away, put the package in his pocket, and
went off to dine.

On the way, he saw in an alley of the Rue Mouffetard, a child's coffin,
covered with a black cloth resting on three chairs, and illuminated by a
candle. The two girls of the twilight recurred to his mind.

"Poor mothers!" he thought. "There is one thing sadder than to see one's
children die; it is to see them leading an evil life."

Then those shadows which had varied his melancholy vanished from his
thoughts, and he fell back once more into his habitual preoccupations.
He fell to thinking once more of his six months of love and happiness
in the open air and the broad daylight, beneath the beautiful trees of

"How gloomy my life has become!" he said to himself. "Young girls are
always appearing to me, only formerly they were angels and now they are


That evening, as he was undressing preparatory to going to bed, his hand
came in contact, in the pocket of his coat, with the packet which he
had picked up on the boulevard. He had forgotten it. He thought that it
would be well to open it, and that this package might possibly contain
the address of the young girls, if it really belonged to them, and, in
any case, the information necessary to a restitution to the person who
had lost it.

He opened the envelope.

It was not sealed and contained four letters, also unsealed.

They bore addresses.

All four exhaled a horrible odor of tobacco.

The first was addressed: "To Madame, Madame la Marquise de Grucheray,
the place opposite the Chamber of Deputies, No.--"

Marius said to himself, that he should probably find in it the
information which he sought, and that, moreover, the letter being open,
it was probable that it could be read without impropriety.

It was conceived as follows:--

Madame la Marquise: The virtue of clemency and piety is that which most
closely unites sosiety. Turn your Christian spirit and cast a look of
compassion on this unfortunate Spanish victim of loyalty and attachment
to the sacred cause of legitimacy, who has given with his blood,
consecrated his fortune, evverything, to defend that cause, and to-day
finds himself in the greatest missery. He doubts not that your honorable
person will grant succor to preserve an existence exteremely painful for
a military man of education and honor full of wounds, counts in advance
on the humanity which animates you and on the interest which Madame la
Marquise bears to a nation so unfortunate. Their prayer will not be in
vain, and their gratitude will preserve theirs charming souvenir.

 My respectful sentiments, with which I have the honor to be
                                 Don Alvares, Spanish Captain
                                 of Cavalry, a royalist who
                                 has take refuge in France,
                                 who finds himself on travells
                                 for his country, and the
                                 resources are lacking him to
                                 continue his travells.

No address was joined to the signature. Marius hoped to find the address
in the second letter, whose superscription read: A Madame, Madame la
Comtesse de Montvernet, Rue Cassette, No. 9. This is what Marius read in

 Madame la Comtesse:  It is an unhappy mother of a family of six
 children the last of which is only eight months old.  I sick
 since my last confinement, abandoned by my husband five months ago,
 haveing no resources in the world the most frightful indigance.

 In the hope of Madame la Comtesse, she has the honor to be,
 Madame, with profound respect,
                                        Mistress Balizard.

Marius turned to the third letter, which was a petition like the
preceding; he read:--

        Monsieur Pabourgeot, Elector, wholesale stocking merchant,
           Rue Saint-Denis on the corner of the Rue aux Fers.

 I permit myself to address you this letter to beg you to grant me
 the pretious favor of your simpaties and to interest yourself in a man
 of letters who has just sent a drama to the Theatre-Francais. The subject
 is historical, and the action takes place in Auvergne in the time
 of the Empire; the style, I think, is natural, laconic, and may have
 some merit.  There are couplets to be sung in four places.  The comic,
 the serious, the unexpected, are mingled in a variety of characters,
 and a tinge of romanticism lightly spread through all the intrigue
 which proceeds misteriously, and ends, after striking altarations,
 in the midst of many beautiful strokes of brilliant scenes.

 My principal object is to satisfi the desire which progressively
 animates the man of our century, that is to say, the fashion,
 that capritious and bizarre weathervane which changes at almost
 every new wind.

 In spite of these qualities I have reason to fear that jealousy,
 the egotism of priviliged authors, may obtaine my exclusion from
 the theatre, for I am not ignorant of the mortifications with which
 new-comers are treated.

 Monsiuer Pabourgeot, your just reputation as an enlightened protector
 of men of litters emboldens me to send you my daughter who will
 explain our indigant situation to you, lacking bread and fire
 in this wynter season.  When I say to you that I beg you to accept
 the dedication of my drama which I desire to make to you and of all
 those that I shall make, is to prove to you how great is my ambition
 to have the honor of sheltering myself under your protection,
 and of adorning my writings with your name.  If you deign to honor
 me with the most modest offering, I shall immediately occupy myself
 in making a piesse of verse to pay you my tribute of gratitude.
 Which I shall endeavor to render this piesse as perfect as possible,
 will be sent to you before it is inserted at the beginning of the
 drama and delivered on the stage.
                             To Monsieur
                                and Madame Pabourgeot,
                                   My most respectful complements,
                                      Genflot, man of letters.
       P. S. Even if it is only forty sous.

 Excuse me for sending my daughter and not presenting myself,
 but sad motives connected with the toilet do not permit me,
 alas! to go out.

Finally, Marius opened the fourth letter. The address ran: To the
benevolent Gentleman of the church of Saint-Jacquesdu-haut-Pas. It
contained the following lines:--

 Benevolent Man:  If you deign to accompany my daughter, you will
 behold a misserable calamity, and I will show you my certificates.

 At the aspect of these writings your generous soul will be moved
 with a sentiment of obvious benevolence, for true philosophers
 always feel lively emotions.

 Admit, compassionate man, that it is necessary to suffer the most
 cruel need, and that it is very painful, for the sake of obtaining
 a little relief, to get oneself attested by the authorities as though
 one were not free to suffer and to die of inanition while waiting
 to have our misery relieved.  Destinies are very fatal for several
 and too prodigal or too protecting for others.

 I await your presence or your offering, if you deign to make one,
 and I beseech you to accept the respectful sentiments with which I
 have the honor to be,
                       truly magnanimous man,
                         your very humble
                           and very obedient servant,
                                        P. Fabantou, dramatic artist.

After perusing these four letters, Marius did not find himself much
further advanced than before.

In the first place, not one of the signers gave his address.

Then, they seemed to come from four different individuals, Don Alveras,
Mistress Balizard, the poet Genflot, and dramatic artist Fabantou; but
the singular thing about these letters was, that all four were written
by the same hand.

What conclusion was to be drawn from this, except that they all come
from the same person?

Moreover, and this rendered the conjecture all the more probable, the
coarse and yellow paper was the same in all four, the odor of tobacco
was the same, and, although an attempt had been made to vary the
style, the same orthographical faults were reproduced with the greatest
tranquillity, and the man of letters Genflot was no more exempt from
them than the Spanish captain.

It was waste of trouble to try to solve this petty mystery. Had it not
been a chance find, it would have borne the air of a mystification.
Marius was too melancholy to take even a chance pleasantry well, and to
lend himself to a game which the pavement of the street seemed desirous
of playing with him. It seemed to him that he was playing the part of
the blind man in blind man's buff between the four letters, and that
they were making sport of him.

Nothing, however, indicated that these letters belonged to the two
young girls whom Marius had met on the boulevard. After all, they were
evidently papers of no value. Marius replaced them in their envelope,
flung the whole into a corner and went to bed. About seven o'clock in
the morning, he had just risen and breakfasted, and was trying to settle
down to work, when there came a soft knock at his door.

As he owned nothing, he never locked his door, unless occasionally,
though very rarely, when he was engaged in some pressing work. Even when
absent he left his key in the lock. "You will be robbed," said Ma'am
Bougon. "Of what?" said Marius. The truth is, however, that he had, one
day, been robbed of an old pair of boots, to the great triumph of Ma'am

There came a second knock, as gentle as the first.

"Come in," said Marius.

The door opened.

"What do you want, Ma'am Bougon?" asked Marius, without raising his eyes
from the books and manuscripts on his table.

A voice which did not belong to Ma'am Bougon replied:--

"Excuse me, sir--"

It was a dull, broken, hoarse, strangled voice, the voice of an old man,
roughened with brandy and liquor.

Marius turned round hastily, and beheld a young girl.


[Illustration: Rose in Misery  3b8-4-rose-in-misery]

A very young girl was standing in the half-open door. The dormer window
of the garret, through which the light fell, was precisely opposite
the door, and illuminated the figure with a wan light. She was a frail,
emaciated, slender creature; there was nothing but a chemise and a
petticoat upon that chilled and shivering nakedness. Her girdle was a
string, her head ribbon a string, her pointed shoulders emerged from her
chemise, a blond and lymphatic pallor, earth-colored collar-bones, red
hands, a half-open and degraded mouth, missing teeth, dull, bold, base
eyes; she had the form of a young girl who has missed her youth, and the
look of a corrupt old woman; fifty years mingled with fifteen; one of
those beings which are both feeble and horrible, and which cause those
to shudder whom they do not cause to weep.

Marius had risen, and was staring in a sort of stupor at this being, who
was almost like the forms of the shadows which traverse dreams.

The most heart-breaking thing of all was, that this young girl had not
come into the world to be homely. In her early childhood she must even
have been pretty. The grace of her age was still struggling against the
hideous, premature decrepitude of debauchery and poverty. The remains of
beauty were dying away in that face of sixteen, like the pale sunlight
which is extinguished under hideous clouds at dawn on a winter's day.

That face was not wholly unknown to Marius. He thought he remembered
having seen it somewhere.

"What do you wish, Mademoiselle?" he asked.

The young girl replied in her voice of a drunken convict:--

"Here is a letter for you, Monsieur Marius."

She called Marius by his name; he could not doubt that he was the person
whom she wanted; but who was this girl? How did she know his name?

Without waiting for him to tell her to advance, she entered. She entered
resolutely, staring, with a sort of assurance that made the heart bleed,
at the whole room and the unmade bed. Her feet were bare. Large holes
in her petticoat permitted glimpses of her long legs and her thin knees.
She was shivering.

She held a letter in her hand, which she presented to Marius.

Marius, as he opened the letter, noticed that the enormous wafer which
sealed it was still moist. The message could not have come from a
distance. He read:--

 My amiable neighbor, young man:  I have learned of your goodness to me,
 that you paid my rent six months ago.  I bless you, young man.
 My eldest daughter will tell you that we have been without a morsel
 of bread for two days, four persons and my spouse ill.  If I am
 not deseaved in my opinion, I think I may hope that your generous
 heart will melt at this statement and the desire will subjugate you
 to be propitious to me by daigning to lavish on me a slight favor.

 I am with the distinguished consideration which is due to the
 benefactors of humanity,--


 P.S. My eldest daughter will await your orders, dear Monsieur Marius.

This letter, coming in the very midst of the mysterious adventure which
had occupied Marius' thoughts ever since the preceding evening, was like
a candle in a cellar. All was suddenly illuminated.

This letter came from the same place as the other four. There was the
same writing, the same style, the same orthography, the same paper, the
same odor of tobacco.

There were five missives, five histories, five signatures, and a single
signer. The Spanish Captain Don Alvares, the unhappy Mistress Balizard,
the dramatic poet Genflot, the old comedian Fabantou, were all four
named Jondrette, if, indeed, Jondrette himself were named Jondrette.

Marius had lived in the house for a tolerably long time, and he had had,
as we have said, but very rare occasion to see, to even catch a glimpse
of, his extremely mean neighbors. His mind was elsewhere, and where the
mind is, there the eyes are also. He had been obliged more than once to
pass the Jondrettes in the corridor or on the stairs; but they were mere
forms to him; he had paid so little heed to them, that, on the preceding
evening, he had jostled the Jondrette girls on the boulevard, without
recognizing them, for it had evidently been they, and it was with great
difficulty that the one who had just entered his room had awakened in
him, in spite of disgust and pity, a vague recollection of having met
her elsewhere.

Now he saw everything clearly. He understood that his neighbor
Jondrette, in his distress, exercised the industry of speculating on the
charity of benevolent persons, that he procured addresses, and that he
wrote under feigned names to people whom he judged to be wealthy and
compassionate, letters which his daughters delivered at their risk
and peril, for this father had come to such a pass, that he risked his
daughters; he was playing a game with fate, and he used them as the
stake. Marius understood that probably, judging from their flight on the
evening before, from their breathless condition, from their terror
and from the words of slang which he had overheard, these unfortunate
creatures were plying some inexplicably sad profession, and that the
result of the whole was, in the midst of human society, as it is now
constituted, two miserable beings who were neither girls nor women, a
species of impure and innocent monsters produced by misery.

Sad creatures, without name, or sex, or age, to whom neither good nor
evil were any longer possible, and who, on emerging from childhood,
have already nothing in this world, neither liberty, nor virtue, nor
responsibility. Souls which blossomed out yesterday, and are faded
to-day, like those flowers let fall in the streets, which are soiled
with every sort of mire, while waiting for some wheel to crush them.
Nevertheless, while Marius bent a pained and astonished gaze on her, the
young girl was wandering back and forth in the garret with the audacity
of a spectre. She kicked about, without troubling herself as to her
nakedness. Occasionally her chemise, which was untied and torn, fell
almost to her waist. She moved the chairs about, she disarranged the
toilet articles which stood on the commode, she handled Marius' clothes,
she rummaged about to see what there was in the corners.

"Hullo!" said she, "you have a mirror!"

And she hummed scraps of vaudevilles, as though she had been alone,
frolicsome refrains which her hoarse and guttural voice rendered

An indescribable constraint, weariness, and humiliation were perceptible
beneath this hardihood. Effrontery is a disgrace.

Nothing could be more melancholy than to see her sport about the room,
and, so to speak, flit with the movements of a bird which is frightened
by the daylight, or which has broken its wing. One felt that under other
conditions of education and destiny, the gay and over-free mien of this
young girl might have turned out sweet and charming. Never, even among
animals, does the creature born to be a dove change into an osprey. That
is only to be seen among men.

Marius reflected, and allowed her to have her way.

She approached the table.

"Ah!" said she, "books!"

A flash pierced her glassy eye. She resumed, and her accent expressed
the happiness which she felt in boasting of something, to which no human
creature is insensible:--

"I know how to read, I do!"

She eagerly seized a book which lay open on the table, and read with
tolerable fluency:--

"--General Bauduin received orders to take the chateau of Hougomont
which stands in the middle of the plain of Waterloo, with five
battalions of his brigade."

She paused.

"Ah! Waterloo! I know about that. It was a battle long ago. My father
was there. My father has served in the armies. We are fine Bonapartists
in our house, that we are! Waterloo was against the English."

She laid down the book, caught up a pen, and exclaimed:--

"And I know how to write, too!"

She dipped her pen in the ink, and turning to Marius:--

"Do you want to see? Look here, I'm going to write a word to show you."

And before he had time to answer, she wrote on a sheet of white paper,
which lay in the middle of the table: "The bobbies are here."

Then throwing down the pen:--

"There are no faults of orthography. You can look. We have received an
education, my sister and I. We have not always been as we are now. We
were not made--"

Here she paused, fixed her dull eyes on Marius, and burst out laughing,
saying, with an intonation which contained every form of anguish,
stifled by every form of cynicism:--


And she began to hum these words to a gay air:--

      "J'ai faim, mon pere."      I am hungry, father.
       Pas de fricot.             I have no food.
       J'ai froid, ma mere.       I am cold, mother.
       Pas de tricot.             I have no clothes.
       Grelotte,                  Lolotte!
            Lolotte!                   Shiver,
            Sanglote,                  Sob,
            Jacquot!"                  Jacquot!"

She had hardly finished this couplet, when she exclaimed:--

"Do you ever go to the play, Monsieur Marius? I do. I have a little
brother who is a friend of the artists, and who gives me tickets
sometimes. But I don't like the benches in the galleries. One is cramped
and uncomfortable there. There are rough people there sometimes; and
people who smell bad."

Then she scrutinized Marius, assumed a singular air and said:--

"Do you know, Mr. Marius, that you are a very handsome fellow?"

And at the same moment the same idea occurred to them both, and made
her smile and him blush. She stepped up to him, and laid her hand on his
shoulder: "You pay no heed to me, but I know you, Mr. Marius. I meet you
here on the staircase, and then I often see you going to a person named
Father Mabeuf who lives in the direction of Austerlitz, sometimes when I
have been strolling in that quarter. It is very becoming to you to have
your hair tumbled thus."

She tried to render her voice soft, but only succeeded in making it very
deep. A portion of her words was lost in the transit from her larynx to
her lips, as though on a piano where some notes are missing.

Marius had retreated gently.

"Mademoiselle," said he, with his cool gravity, "I have here a package
which belongs to you, I think. Permit me to return it to you."

And he held out the envelope containing the four letters.

She clapped her hands and exclaimed:--

"We have been looking everywhere for that!"

Then she eagerly seized the package and opened the envelope, saying as
she did so:--

"Dieu de Dieu! how my sister and I have hunted! And it was you who found
it! On the boulevard, was it not? It must have been on the boulevard?
You see, we let it fall when we were running. It was that brat of a
sister of mine who was so stupid. When we got home, we could not find it
anywhere. As we did not wish to be beaten, as that is useless, as that
is entirely useless, as that is absolutely useless, we said that we had
carried the letters to the proper persons, and that they had said to us:
'Nix.' So here they are, those poor letters! And how did you find out
that they belonged to me? Ah! yes, the writing. So it was you that we
jostled as we passed last night. We couldn't see. I said to my sister:
'Is it a gentleman?' My sister said to me: 'I think it is a gentleman.'"

In the meanwhile she had unfolded the petition addressed to "the
benevolent gentleman of the church of Saint-Jacquesdu-Haut-Pas."

"Here!" said she, "this is for that old fellow who goes to mass. By the
way, this is his hour. I'll go and carry it to him. Perhaps he will give
us something to breakfast on."

Then she began to laugh again, and added:--

"Do you know what it will mean if we get a breakfast today? It will mean
that we shall have had our breakfast of the day before yesterday, our
breakfast of yesterday, our dinner of to-day, and all that at once, and
this morning. Come! Parbleu! if you are not satisfied, dogs, burst!"

This reminded Marius of the wretched girl's errand to himself. He
fumbled in his waistcoat pocket, and found nothing there.

The young girl went on, and seemed to have no consciousness of Marius'

"I often go off in the evening. Sometimes I don't come home again. Last
winter, before we came here, we lived under the arches of the bridges.
We huddled together to keep from freezing. My little sister cried. How
melancholy the water is! When I thought of drowning myself, I said
to myself: 'No, it's too cold.' I go out alone, whenever I choose, I
sometimes sleep in the ditches. Do you know, at night, when I walk along
the boulevard, I see the trees like forks, I see houses, all black and
as big as Notre Dame, I fancy that the white walls are the river, I say
to myself: 'Why, there's water there!' The stars are like the lamps in
illuminations, one would say that they smoked and that the wind blew
them out, I am bewildered, as though horses were breathing in my ears;
although it is night, I hear hand-organs and spinning-machines, and I
don't know what all. I think people are flinging stones at me, I flee
without knowing whither, everything whirls and whirls. You feel very
queer when you have had no food."

And then she stared at him with a bewildered air.

By dint of searching and ransacking his pockets, Marius had finally
collected five francs sixteen sous. This was all he owned in the world
for the moment. "At all events," he thought, "there is my dinner for
to-day, and to-morrow we will see." He kept the sixteen sous, and handed
the five francs to the young girl.

She seized the coin.

"Good!" said she, "the sun is shining!"

And, as though the sun had possessed the property of melting the
avalanches of slang in her brain, she went on:--

"Five francs! the shiner! a monarch! in this hole! Ain't this fine!
You're a jolly thief! I'm your humble servant! Bravo for the good
fellows! Two days' wine! and meat! and stew! we'll have a royal feast!
and a good fill!"

She pulled her chemise up on her shoulders, made a low bow to Marius,
then a familiar sign with her hand, and went towards the door, saying:--

"Good morning, sir. It's all right. I'll go and find my old man."

As she passed, she caught sight of a dry crust of bread on the commode,
which was moulding there amid the dust; she flung herself upon it and
bit into it, muttering:--

"That's good! it's hard! it breaks my teeth!"

Then she departed.


Marius had lived for five years in poverty, in destitution, even in
distress, but he now perceived that he had not known real misery. True
misery he had but just had a view of. It was its spectre which had just
passed before his eyes. In fact, he who has only beheld the misery of
man has seen nothing; the misery of woman is what he must see; he who
has seen only the misery of woman has seen nothing; he must see the
misery of the child.

When a man has reached his last extremity, he has reached his last
resources at the same time. Woe to the defenceless beings who surround
him! Work, wages, bread, fire, courage, good will, all fail him
simultaneously. The light of day seems extinguished without, the moral
light within; in these shadows man encounters the feebleness of the
woman and the child, and bends them violently to ignominy.

Then all horrors become possible. Despair is surrounded with fragile
partitions which all open on either vice or crime.

Health, youth, honor, all the shy delicacies of the young body, the
heart, virginity, modesty, that epidermis of the soul, are manipulated
in sinister wise by that fumbling which seeks resources, which
encounters opprobrium, and which accommodates itself to it. Fathers,
mothers, children, brothers, sisters, men, women, daughters, adhere
and become incorporated, almost like a mineral formation, in that dusky
promiscuousness of sexes, relationships, ages, infamies, and innocences.
They crouch, back to back, in a sort of hut of fate. They exchange
woe-begone glances. Oh, the unfortunate wretches! How pale they are! How
cold they are! It seems as though they dwelt in a planet much further
from the sun than ours.

This young girl was to Marius a sort of messenger from the realm of sad
shadows. She revealed to him a hideous side of the night.

Marius almost reproached himself for the preoccupations of revery and
passion which had prevented his bestowing a glance on his neighbors up
to that day. The payment of their rent had been a mechanical movement,
which any one would have yielded to; but he, Marius, should have done
better than that. What! only a wall separated him from those abandoned
beings who lived gropingly in the dark outside the pale of the rest of
the world, he was elbow to elbow with them, he was, in some sort, the
last link of the human race which they touched, he heard them live, or
rather, rattle in the death agony beside him, and he paid no heed to
them! Every day, every instant, he heard them walking on the other side
of the wall, he heard them go, and come, and speak, and he did not even
lend an ear! And groans lay in those words, and he did not even listen
to them, his thoughts were elsewhere, given up to dreams, to impossible
radiances, to loves in the air, to follies; and all the while, human
creatures, his brothers in Jesus Christ, his brothers in the people,
were agonizing in vain beside him! He even formed a part of their
misfortune, and he aggravated it. For if they had had another neighbor
who was less chimerical and more attentive, any ordinary and charitable
man, evidently their indigence would have been noticed, their signals of
distress would have been perceived, and they would have been taken hold
of and rescued! They appeared very corrupt and very depraved, no
doubt, very vile, very odious even; but those who fall without becoming
degraded are rare; besides, there is a point where the unfortunate and
the infamous unite and are confounded in a single word, a fatal word,
the miserable; whose fault is this? And then should not the charity be
all the more profound, in proportion as the fall is great?

While reading himself this moral lesson, for there were occasions on
which Marius, like all truly honest hearts, was his own pedagogue and
scolded himself more than he deserved, he stared at the wall which
separated him from the Jondrettes, as though he were able to make his
gaze, full of pity, penetrate that partition and warm these wretched
people. The wall was a thin layer of plaster upheld by lathes and beams,
and, as the reader had just learned, it allowed the sound of voices and
words to be clearly distinguished. Only a man as dreamy as Marius could
have failed to perceive this long before. There was no paper pasted on
the wall, either on the side of the Jondrettes or on that of Marius; the
coarse construction was visible in its nakedness. Marius examined the
partition, almost unconsciously; sometimes revery examines, observes,
and scrutinizes as thought would. All at once he sprang up; he had just
perceived, near the top, close to the ceiling, a triangular hole, which
resulted from the space between three lathes. The plaster which should
have filled this cavity was missing, and by mounting on the commode,
a view could be had through this aperture into the Jondrettes' attic.
Commiseration has, and should have, its curiosity. This aperture formed
a sort of peep-hole. It is permissible to gaze at misfortune like a
traitor in order to succor it.[27]

"Let us get some little idea of what these people are like," thought
Marius, "and in what condition they are."

He climbed upon the commode, put his eye to the crevice, and looked.


Cities, like forests, have their caverns in which all the most wicked
and formidable creatures which they contain conceal themselves. Only,
in cities, that which thus conceals itself is ferocious, unclean, and
petty, that is to say, ugly; in forests, that which conceals itself is
ferocious, savage, and grand, that is to say, beautiful. Taking one lair
with another, the beast's is preferable to the man's. Caverns are better
than hovels.

What Marius now beheld was a hovel.

Marius was poor, and his chamber was poverty-stricken, but as his
poverty was noble, his garret was neat. The den upon which his eye now
rested was abject, dirty, fetid, pestiferous, mean, sordid. The only
furniture consisted of a straw chair, an infirm table, some old bits of
crockery, and in two of the corners, two indescribable pallets; all
the light was furnished by a dormer window of four panes, draped with
spiders' webs. Through this aperture there penetrated just enough light
to make the face of a man appear like the face of a phantom. The walls
had a leprous aspect, and were covered with seams and scars, like a
visage disfigured by some horrible malady; a repulsive moisture exuded
from them. Obscene sketches roughly sketched with charcoal could be
distinguished upon them.

The chamber which Marius occupied had a dilapidated brick pavement; this
one was neither tiled nor planked; its inhabitants stepped directly
on the antique plaster of the hovel, which had grown black under the
long-continued pressure of feet. Upon this uneven floor, where the dirt
seemed to be fairly incrusted, and which possessed but one virginity,
that of the broom, were capriciously grouped constellations of old
shoes, socks, and repulsive rags; however, this room had a fireplace,
so it was let for forty francs a year. There was every sort of thing
in that fireplace, a brazier, a pot, broken boards, rags suspended
from nails, a bird-cage, ashes, and even a little fire. Two brands were
smouldering there in a melancholy way.

One thing which added still more to the horrors of this garret was, that
it was large. It had projections and angles and black holes, the lower
sides of roofs, bays, and promontories. Hence horrible, unfathomable
nooks where it seemed as though spiders as big as one's fist, wood-lice
as large as one's foot, and perhaps even--who knows?--some monstrous
human beings, must be hiding.

One of the pallets was near the door, the other near the window. One
end of each touched the fireplace and faced Marius. In a corner near the
aperture through which Marius was gazing, a colored engraving in a black
frame was suspended to a nail on the wall, and at its bottom, in large
letters, was the inscription: THE DREAM. This represented a sleeping
woman, and a child, also asleep, the child on the woman's lap, an eagle
in a cloud, with a crown in his beak, and the woman thrusting the
crown away from the child's head, without awaking the latter; in the
background, Napoleon in a glory, leaning on a very blue column with a
yellow capital ornamented with this inscription:


Beneath this frame, a sort of wooden panel, which was no longer than it
was broad, stood on the ground and rested in a sloping attitude against
the wall. It had the appearance of a picture with its face turned to
the wall, of a frame probably showing a daub on the other side, of some
pier-glass detached from a wall and lying forgotten there while waiting
to be rehung.

Near the table, upon which Marius descried a pen, ink, and paper, sat
a man about sixty years of age, small, thin, livid, haggard, with a
cunning, cruel, and uneasy air; a hideous scoundrel.

If Lavater had studied this visage, he would have found the vulture
mingled with the attorney there, the bird of prey and the pettifogger
rendering each other mutually hideous and complementing each other; the
pettifogger making the bird of prey ignoble, the bird of prey making the
pettifogger horrible.

This man had a long gray beard. He was clad in a woman's chemise, which
allowed his hairy breast and his bare arms, bristling with gray hair,
to be seen. Beneath this chemise, muddy trousers and boots through which
his toes projected were visible.

He had a pipe in his mouth and was smoking. There was no bread in the
hovel, but there was still tobacco.

He was writing probably some more letters like those which Marius had

On the corner of the table lay an ancient, dilapidated, reddish volume,
and the size, which was the antique 12mo of reading-rooms, betrayed a
romance. On the cover sprawled the following title, printed in large

As the man wrote, he talked aloud, and Marius heard his words:--

"The idea that there is no equality, even when you are dead! Just look
at Pere Lachaise! The great, those who are rich, are up above, in the
acacia alley, which is paved. They can reach it in a carriage. The
little people, the poor, the unhappy, well, what of them? they are put
down below, where the mud is up to your knees, in the damp places. They
are put there so that they will decay the sooner! You cannot go to see
them without sinking into the earth."

He paused, smote the table with his fist, and added, as he ground his

"Oh! I could eat the whole world!"

A big woman, who might be forty years of age, or a hundred, was
crouching near the fireplace on her bare heels.

She, too, was clad only in a chemise and a knitted petticoat patched
with bits of old cloth. A coarse linen apron concealed the half of her
petticoat. Although this woman was doubled up and bent together, it
could be seen that she was of very lofty stature. She was a sort of
giant, beside her husband. She had hideous hair, of a reddish blond
which was turning gray, and which she thrust back from time to time,
with her enormous shining hands, with their flat nails.

Beside her, on the floor, wide open, lay a book of the same form as the
other, and probably a volume of the same romance.

On one of the pallets, Marius caught a glimpse of a sort of tall pale
young girl, who sat there half naked and with pendant feet, and who did
not seem to be listening or seeing or living.

No doubt the younger sister of the one who had come to his room.

She seemed to be eleven or twelve years of age. On closer scrutiny it
was evident that she really was fourteen. She was the child who had
said, on the boulevard the evening before: "I bolted, bolted, bolted!"

She was of that puny sort which remains backward for a long time,
then suddenly starts up rapidly. It is indigence which produces these
melancholy human plants. These creatures have neither childhood nor
youth. At fifteen years of age they appear to be twelve, at sixteen they
seem twenty. To-day a little girl, to-morrow a woman. One might say
that they stride through life, in order to get through with it the more

At this moment, this being had the air of a child.

Moreover, no trace of work was revealed in that dwelling; no handicraft,
no spinning-wheel, not a tool. In one corner lay some ironmongery of
dubious aspect. It was the dull listlessness which follows despair and
precedes the death agony.

Marius gazed for a while at this gloomy interior, more terrifying than
the interior of a tomb, for the human soul could be felt fluttering
there, and life was palpitating there. The garret, the cellar, the lowly
ditch where certain indigent wretches crawl at the very bottom of the
social edifice, is not exactly the sepulchre, but only its antechamber;
but, as the wealthy display their greatest magnificence at the entrance
of their palaces, it seems that death, which stands directly side by
side with them, places its greatest miseries in that vestibule.

The man held his peace, the woman spoke no word, the young girl did
not even seem to breathe. The scratching of the pen on the paper was

The man grumbled, without pausing in his writing. "Canaille! canaille!
everybody is canaille!"

This variation to Solomon's exclamation elicited a sigh from the woman.

"Calm yourself, my little friend," she said. "Don't hurt yourself, my
dear. You are too good to write to all those people, husband."

Bodies press close to each other in misery, as in cold, but hearts draw
apart. This woman must have loved this man, to all appearance, judging
from the amount of love within her; but probably, in the daily and
reciprocal reproaches of the horrible distress which weighed on the
whole group, this had become extinct. There no longer existed in her
anything more than the ashes of affection for her husband. Nevertheless,
caressing appellations had survived, as is often the case. She called
him: My dear, my little friend, my good man, etc., with her mouth while
her heart was silent.

The man resumed his writing.


Marius, with a load upon his breast, was on the point of descending
from the species of observatory which he had improvised, when a sound
attracted his attention and caused him to remain at his post.

The door of the attic had just burst open abruptly. The eldest girl made
her appearance on the threshold. On her feet, she had large, coarse,
men's shoes, bespattered with mud, which had splashed even to her red
ankles, and she was wrapped in an old mantle which hung in tatters.
Marius had not seen it on her an hour previously, but she had probably
deposited it at his door, in order that she might inspire the more pity,
and had picked it up again on emerging. She entered, pushed the door to
behind her, paused to take breath, for she was completely breathless,
then exclaimed with an expression of triumph and joy:--

"He is coming!"

The father turned his eyes towards her, the woman turned her head, the
little sister did not stir.

"Who?" demanded her father.

"The gentleman!"

"The philanthropist?"


"From the church of Saint-Jacques?"


"That old fellow?"


"And he is coming?"

"He is following me."

"You are sure?"

"I am sure."

"There, truly, he is coming?"

"He is coming in a fiacre."

"In a fiacre. He is Rothschild."

The father rose.

"How are you sure? If he is coming in a fiacre, how is it that you
arrive before him? You gave him our address at least? Did you tell him
that it was the last door at the end of the corridor, on the right? If
he only does not make a mistake! So you found him at the church? Did he
read my letter? What did he say to you?"

"Ta, ta, ta," said the girl, "how you do gallop on, my good man! See
here: I entered the church, he was in his usual place, I made him a
reverence, and I handed him the letter; he read it and said to me:
'Where do you live, my child?' I said: 'Monsieur, I will show you.' He
said to me: 'No, give me your address, my daughter has some purchases to
make, I will take a carriage and reach your house at the same time that
you do.' I gave him the address. When I mentioned the house, he seemed
surprised and hesitated for an instant, then he said: 'Never mind, I
will come.' When the mass was finished, I watched him leave the church
with his daughter, and I saw them enter a carriage. I certainly did tell
him the last door in the corridor, on the right."

"And what makes you think that he will come?"

"I have just seen the fiacre turn into the Rue Petit-Banquier. That is
what made me run so."

"How do you know that it was the same fiacre?"

"Because I took notice of the number, so there!"

"What was the number?"


"Good, you are a clever girl."

The girl stared boldly at her father, and showing the shoes which she
had on her feet:--

"A clever girl, possibly; but I tell you I won't put these shoes on
again, and that I won't, for the sake of my health, in the first place,
and for the sake of cleanliness, in the next. I don't know anything
more irritating than shoes that squelch, and go ghi, ghi, ghi, the whole
time. I prefer to go barefoot."

"You are right," said her father, in a sweet tone which contrasted with
the young girl's rudeness, "but then, you will not be allowed to enter
churches, for poor people must have shoes to do that. One cannot go
barefoot to the good God," he added bitterly.

Then, returning to the subject which absorbed him:--

"So you are sure that he will come?"

"He is following on my heels," said she.

The man started up. A sort of illumination appeared on his countenance.

"Wife!" he exclaimed, "you hear. Here is the philanthropist. Extinguish
the fire."

The stupefied mother did not stir.

The father, with the agility of an acrobat, seized a broken-nosed jug
which stood on the chimney, and flung the water on the brands.

Then, addressing his eldest daughter:--

"Here you! Pull the straw off that chair!"

His daughter did not understand.

He seized the chair, and with one kick he rendered it seatless. His leg
passed through it.

As he withdrew his leg, he asked his daughter:--

"Is it cold?"

"Very cold. It is snowing."

The father turned towards the younger girl who sat on the bed near the
window, and shouted to her in a thundering voice:--

"Quick! get off that bed, you lazy thing! will you never do anything?
Break a pane of glass!"

The little girl jumped off the bed with a shiver.

"Break a pane!" he repeated.

The child stood still in bewilderment.

"Do you hear me?" repeated her father, "I tell you to break a pane!"

The child, with a sort of terrified obedience, rose on tiptoe, and
struck a pane with her fist. The glass broke and fell with a loud

"Good," said the father.

He was grave and abrupt. His glance swept rapidly over all the crannies
of the garret. One would have said that he was a general making the
final preparation at the moment when the battle is on the point of

The mother, who had not said a word so far, now rose and demanded in
a dull, slow, languid voice, whence her words seemed to emerge in a
congealed state:--

"What do you mean to do, my dear?"

"Get into bed," replied the man.

His intonation admitted of no deliberation. The mother obeyed, and threw
herself heavily on one of the pallets.

In the meantime, a sob became audible in one corner.

"What's that?" cried the father.

The younger daughter exhibited her bleeding fist, without quitting the
corner in which she was cowering. She had wounded herself while breaking
the window; she went off, near her mother's pallet and wept silently.

It was now the mother's turn to start up and exclaim:--

"Just see there! What follies you commit! She has cut herself breaking
that pane for you!"

"So much the better!" said the man. "I foresaw that."

"What? So much the better?" retorted his wife.

"Peace!" replied the father, "I suppress the liberty of the press."

Then tearing the woman's chemise which he was wearing, he made a strip
of cloth with which he hastily swathed the little girl's bleeding wrist.

That done, his eye fell with a satisfied expression on his torn chemise.

"And the chemise too," said he, "this has a good appearance."

An icy breeze whistled through the window and entered the room. The
outer mist penetrated thither and diffused itself like a whitish sheet
of wadding vaguely spread by invisible fingers. Through the broken pane
the snow could be seen falling. The snow promised by the Candlemas sun
of the preceding day had actually come.

The father cast a glance about him as though to make sure that he had
forgotten nothing. He seized an old shovel and spread ashes over the wet
brands in such a manner as to entirely conceal them.

Then drawing himself up and leaning against the chimney-piece:--

"Now," said he, "we can receive the philanthropist."


The big girl approached and laid her hand in her father's.

"Feel how cold I am," said she.

"Bah!" replied the father, "I am much colder than that."

The mother exclaimed impetuously:--

"You always have something better than any one else, so you do! even bad

"Down with you!" said the man.

The mother, being eyed after a certain fashion, held her tongue.

Silence reigned for a moment in the hovel. The elder girl was removing
the mud from the bottom of her mantle, with a careless air; her younger
sister continued to sob; the mother had taken the latter's head between
her hands, and was covering it with kisses, whispering to her the

"My treasure, I entreat you, it is nothing of consequence, don't cry,
you will anger your father."

"No!" exclaimed the father, "quite the contrary! sob! sob! that's

Then turning to the elder:--

"There now! He is not coming! What if he were not to come! I shall have
extinguished my fire, wrecked my chair, torn my shirt, and broken my
pane all for nothing."

"And wounded the child!" murmured the mother.

"Do you know," went on the father, "that it's beastly cold in this
devil's garret! What if that man should not come! Oh! See there, you! He
makes us wait! He says to himself: 'Well! they will wait for me!
That's what they're there for.' Oh! how I hate them, and with what joy,
jubilation, enthusiasm, and satisfaction I could strangle all those rich
folks! all those rich folks! These men who pretend to be charitable,
who put on airs, who go to mass, who make presents to the priesthood,
preachy, preachy, in their skullcaps, and who think themselves above
us, and who come for the purpose of humiliating us, and to bring us
'clothes,' as they say! old duds that are not worth four sous! And
bread! That's not what I want, pack of rascals that they are, it's
money! Ah! money! Never! Because they say that we would go off and drink
it up, and that we are drunkards and idlers! And they! What are they,
then, and what have they been in their time! Thieves! They never could
have become rich otherwise! Oh! Society ought to be grasped by the four
corners of the cloth and tossed into the air, all of it! It would all
be smashed, very likely, but at least, no one would have anything,
and there would be that much gained! But what is that blockhead of
a benevolent gentleman doing? Will he come? Perhaps the animal has
forgotten the address! I'll bet that that old beast--"

At that moment there came a light tap at the door, the man rushed to it
and opened it, exclaiming, amid profound bows and smiles of adoration:--

"Enter, sir! Deign to enter, most respected benefactor, and your
charming young lady, also."

A man of ripe age and a young girl made their appearance on the
threshold of the attic.

Marius had not quitted his post. His feelings for the moment surpassed
the powers of the human tongue.

It was She!

Whoever has loved knows all the radiant meanings contained in those
three letters of that word: She.

It was certainly she. Marius could hardly distinguish her through the
luminous vapor which had suddenly spread before his eyes. It was that
sweet, absent being, that star which had beamed upon him for six months;
it was those eyes, that brow, that mouth, that lovely vanished face
which had created night by its departure. The vision had been eclipsed,
now it reappeared.

It reappeared in that gloom, in that garret, in that misshapen attic, in
all that horror.

Marius shuddered in dismay. What! It was she! The palpitations of his
heart troubled his sight. He felt that he was on the brink of bursting
into tears! What! He beheld her again at last, after having sought her
so long! It seemed to him that he had lost his soul, and that he had
just found it again.

She was the same as ever, only a little pale; her delicate face was
framed in a bonnet of violet velvet, her figure was concealed beneath
a pelisse of black satin. Beneath her long dress, a glimpse could be
caught of her tiny foot shod in a silken boot.

She was still accompanied by M. Leblanc.

She had taken a few steps into the room, and had deposited a tolerably
bulky parcel on the table.

The eldest Jondrette girl had retired behind the door, and was staring
with sombre eyes at that velvet bonnet, that silk mantle, and that
charming, happy face.


The hovel was so dark, that people coming from without felt on entering
it the effect produced on entering a cellar. The two new-comers
advanced, therefore, with a certain hesitation, being hardly able
to distinguish the vague forms surrounding them, while they could be
clearly seen and scrutinized by the eyes of the inhabitants of the
garret, who were accustomed to this twilight.

M. Leblanc approached, with his sad but kindly look, and said to
Jondrette the father:--

"Monsieur, in this package you will find some new clothes and some
woollen stockings and blankets."

"Our angelic benefactor overwhelms us," said Jondrette, bowing to the
very earth.

Then, bending down to the ear of his eldest daughter, while the two
visitors were engaged in examining this lamentable interior, he added in
a low and rapid voice:--

"Hey? What did I say? Duds! No money! They are all alike! By the way,
how was the letter to that old blockhead signed?"

"Fabantou," replied the girl.

"The dramatic artist, good!"

It was lucky for Jondrette, that this had occurred to him, for at the
very moment, M. Leblanc turned to him, and said to him with the air of a
person who is seeking to recall a name:--

"I see that you are greatly to be pitied, Monsieur--"

"Fabantou," replied Jondrette quickly.

"Monsieur Fabantou, yes, that is it. I remember."

"Dramatic artist, sir, and one who has had some success."

Here Jondrette evidently judged the moment propitious for capturing the
"philanthropist." He exclaimed with an accent which smacked at the same
time of the vainglory of the mountebank at fairs, and the humility of
the mendicant on the highway:--

"A pupil of Talma! Sir! I am a pupil of Talma! Fortune formerly smiled
on me--Alas! Now it is misfortune's turn. You see, my benefactor, no
bread, no fire. My poor babes have no fire! My only chair has no seat! A
broken pane! And in such weather! My spouse in bed! Ill!"

"Poor woman!" said M. Leblanc.

"My child wounded!" added Jondrette.

The child, diverted by the arrival of the strangers, had fallen to
contemplating "the young lady," and had ceased to sob.

"Cry! bawl!" said Jondrette to her in a low voice.

At the same time he pinched her sore hand. All this was done with the
talent of a juggler.

The little girl gave vent to loud shrieks.

The adorable young girl, whom Marius, in his heart, called "his Ursule,"
approached her hastily.

"Poor, dear child!" said she.

"You see, my beautiful young lady," pursued Jondrette "her bleeding
wrist! It came through an accident while working at a machine to earn
six sous a day. It may be necessary to cut off her arm."

"Really?" said the old gentleman, in alarm.

The little girl, taking this seriously, fell to sobbing more violently
than ever.

"Alas! yes, my benefactor!" replied the father.

For several minutes, Jondrette had been scrutinizing "the benefactor"
in a singular fashion. As he spoke, he seemed to be examining the other
attentively, as though seeking to summon up his recollections. All at
once, profiting by a moment when the new-comers were questioning the
child with interest as to her injured hand, he passed near his wife,
who lay in her bed with a stupid and dejected air, and said to her in a
rapid but very low tone:--

"Take a look at that man!"

Then, turning to M. Leblanc, and continuing his lamentations:--

"You see, sir! All the clothing that I have is my wife's chemise! And
all torn at that! In the depths of winter! I can't go out for lack of a
coat. If I had a coat of any sort, I would go and see Mademoiselle Mars,
who knows me and is very fond of me. Does she not still reside in the
Rue de la Tour-des-Dames? Do you know, sir? We played together in the
provinces. I shared her laurels. Celimene would come to my succor, sir!
Elmire would bestow alms on Belisaire! But no, nothing! And not a sou in
the house! My wife ill, and not a sou! My daughter dangerously injured,
not a sou! My wife suffers from fits of suffocation. It comes from her
age, and besides, her nervous system is affected. She ought to have
assistance, and my daughter also! But the doctor! But the apothecary!
How am I to pay them? I would kneel to a penny, sir! Such is the
condition to which the arts are reduced. And do you know, my charming
young lady, and you, my generous protector, do you know, you who breathe
forth virtue and goodness, and who perfume that church where my daughter
sees you every day when she says her prayers?--For I have brought up my
children religiously, sir. I did not want them to take to the theatre.
Ah! the hussies! If I catch them tripping! I do not jest, that I don't!
I read them lessons on honor, on morality, on virtue! Ask them! They
have got to walk straight. They are none of your unhappy wretches who
begin by having no family, and end by espousing the public. One is
Mamselle Nobody, and one becomes Madame Everybody. Deuce take it! None
of that in the Fabantou family! I mean to bring them up virtuously, and
they shall be honest, and nice, and believe in God, by the sacred name!
Well, sir, my worthy sir, do you know what is going to happen to-morrow?
To-morrow is the fourth day of February, the fatal day, the last day of
grace allowed me by my landlord; if by this evening I have not paid my
rent, to-morrow my oldest daughter, my spouse with her fever, my child
with her wound,--we shall all four be turned out of here and thrown into
the street, on the boulevard, without shelter, in the rain, in the snow.
There, sir. I owe for four quarters--a whole year! that is to say, sixty

Jondrette lied. Four quarters would have amounted to only forty francs,
and he could not owe four, because six months had not elapsed since
Marius had paid for two.

M. Leblanc drew five francs from his pocket and threw them on the table.

Jondrette found time to mutter in the ear of his eldest daughter:--

"The scoundrel! What does he think I can do with his five francs?
That won't pay me for my chair and pane of glass! That's what comes of
incurring expenses!"

In the meanwhile, M. Leblanc had removed the large brown great-coat
which he wore over his blue coat, and had thrown it over the back of the

"Monsieur Fabantou," he said, "these five francs are all that I have
about me, but I shall now take my daughter home, and I will return this
evening,--it is this evening that you must pay, is it not?"

Jondrette's face lighted up with a strange expression. He replied

"Yes, respected sir. At eight o'clock, I must be at my landlord's."

"I will be here at six, and I will fetch you the sixty francs."

"My benefactor!" exclaimed Jondrette, overwhelmed. And he added, in a
low tone: "Take a good look at him, wife!"

M. Leblanc had taken the arm of the young girl, once more, and had
turned towards the door.

"Farewell until this evening, my friends!" said he.

"Six o'clock?" said Jondrette.

"Six o'clock precisely."

At that moment, the overcoat lying on the chair caught the eye of the
elder Jondrette girl.

"You are forgetting your coat, sir," said she.

Jondrette darted an annihilating look at his daughter, accompanied by a
formidable shrug of the shoulders.

M. Leblanc turned back and said, with a smile:--

"I have not forgotten it, I am leaving it."

"O my protector!" said Jondrette, "my august benefactor, I melt into
tears! Permit me to accompany you to your carriage."

"If you come out," answered M. Leblanc, "put on this coat. It really is
very cold."

Jondrette did not need to be told twice. He hastily donned the brown
great-coat. And all three went out, Jondrette preceding the two


Marius had lost nothing of this entire scene, and yet, in reality, had
seen nothing. His eyes had remained fixed on the young girl, his heart
had, so to speak, seized her and wholly enveloped her from the moment of
her very first step in that garret. During her entire stay there, he
had lived that life of ecstasy which suspends material perceptions and
precipitates the whole soul on a single point. He contemplated, not that
girl, but that light which wore a satin pelisse and a velvet bonnet. The
star Sirius might have entered the room, and he would not have been any
more dazzled.

While the young girl was engaged in opening the package, unfolding the
clothing and the blankets, questioning the sick mother kindly, and the
little injured girl tenderly, he watched her every movement, he sought
to catch her words. He knew her eyes, her brow, her beauty, her form,
her walk, he did not know the sound of her voice. He had once fancied
that he had caught a few words at the Luxembourg, but he was not
absolutely sure of the fact. He would have given ten years of his life
to hear it, in order that he might bear away in his soul a little of
that music. But everything was drowned in the lamentable exclamations
and trumpet bursts of Jondrette. This added a touch of genuine wrath
to Marius' ecstasy. He devoured her with his eyes. He could not believe
that it really was that divine creature whom he saw in the midst of
those vile creatures in that monstrous lair. It seemed to him that he
beheld a humming-bird in the midst of toads.

When she took her departure, he had but one thought, to follow her, to
cling to her trace, not to quit her until he learned where she
lived, not to lose her again, at least, after having so miraculously
re-discovered her. He leaped down from the commode and seized his hat.
As he laid his hand on the lock of the door, and was on the point of
opening it, a sudden reflection caused him to pause. The corridor was
long, the staircase steep, Jondrette was talkative, M. Leblanc had,
no doubt, not yet regained his carriage; if, on turning round in the
corridor, or on the staircase, he were to catch sight of him, Marius,
in that house, he would, evidently, take the alarm, and find means to
escape from him again, and this time it would be final. What was he
to do? Should he wait a little? But while he was waiting, the carriage
might drive off. Marius was perplexed. At last he accepted the risk and
quitted his room.

There was no one in the corridor. He hastened to the stairs. There was
no one on the staircase. He descended in all haste, and reached the
boulevard in time to see a fiacre turning the corner of the Rue du
Petit-Banquier, on its way back to Paris.

Marius rushed headlong in that direction. On arriving at the angle of
the boulevard, he caught sight of the fiacre again, rapidly descending
the Rue Mouffetard; the carriage was already a long way off, and there
was no means of overtaking it; what! run after it? Impossible; and
besides, the people in the carriage would assuredly notice an individual
running at full speed in pursuit of a fiacre, and the father would
recognize him. At that moment, wonderful and unprecedented good luck,
Marius perceived an empty cab passing along the boulevard. There was but
one thing to be done, to jump into this cab and follow the fiacre. That
was sure, efficacious, and free from danger.

Marius made the driver a sign to halt, and called to him:--

"By the hour?"

Marius wore no cravat, he had on his working-coat, which was destitute
of buttons, his shirt was torn along one of the plaits on the bosom.

The driver halted, winked, and held out his left hand to Marius, rubbing
his forefinger gently with his thumb.

"What is it?" said Marius.

"Pay in advance," said the coachman.

Marius recollected that he had but sixteen sous about him.

"How much?" he demanded.

"Forty sous."

"I will pay on my return."

The driver's only reply was to whistle the air of La Palisse and to whip
up his horse.

Marius stared at the retreating cabriolet with a bewildered air. For the
lack of four and twenty sous, he was losing his joy, his happiness,
his love! He had seen, and he was becoming blind again. He reflected
bitterly, and it must be confessed, with profound regret, on the five
francs which he had bestowed, that very morning, on that miserable girl.
If he had had those five francs, he would have been saved, he would have
been born again, he would have emerged from the limbo and darkness, he
would have made his escape from isolation and spleen, from his widowed
state; he might have re-knotted the black thread of his destiny to that
beautiful golden thread, which had just floated before his eyes and
had broken at the same instant, once more! He returned to his hovel in

He might have told himself that M. Leblanc had promised to return in
the evening, and that all he had to do was to set about the matter more
skilfully, so that he might follow him on that occasion; but, in his
contemplation, it is doubtful whether he had heard this.

As he was on the point of mounting the staircase, he perceived, on the
other side of the boulevard, near the deserted wall skirting the Rue De
la Barriere-des-Gobelins, Jondrette, wrapped in the "philanthropist's"
great-coat, engaged in conversation with one of those men of disquieting
aspect who have been dubbed by common consent, prowlers of the barriers;
people of equivocal face, of suspicious monologues, who present the
air of having evil minds, and who generally sleep in the daytime, which
suggests the supposition that they work by night.

These two men, standing there motionless and in conversation, in the
snow which was falling in whirlwinds, formed a group that a policeman
would surely have observed, but which Marius hardly noticed.

Still, in spite of his mournful preoccupation, he could not refrain from
saying to himself that this prowler of the barriers with whom Jondrette
was talking resembled a certain Panchaud, alias Printanier, alias
Bigrenaille, whom Courfeyrac had once pointed out to him as a very
dangerous nocturnal roamer. This man's name the reader has learned in
the preceding book. This Panchaud, alias Printanier, alias Bigrenaille,
figured later on in many criminal trials, and became a notorious rascal.
He was at that time only a famous rascal. To-day he exists in the state
of tradition among ruffians and assassins. He was at the head of
a school towards the end of the last reign. And in the evening, at
nightfall, at the hour when groups form and talk in whispers, he was
discussed at La Force in the Fosse-aux-Lions. One might even, in
that prison, precisely at the spot where the sewer which served the
unprecedented escape, in broad daylight, of thirty prisoners, in 1843,
passes under the culvert, read his name, PANCHAUD, audaciously carved
by his own hand on the wall of the sewer, during one of his attempts at
flight. In 1832, the police already had their eye on him, but he had not
as yet made a serious beginning.


Marius ascended the stairs of the hovel with slow steps; at the moment
when he was about to re-enter his cell, he caught sight of the elder
Jondrette girl following him through the corridor. The very sight of
this girl was odious to him; it was she who had his five francs, it was
too late to demand them back, the cab was no longer there, the fiacre
was far away. Moreover, she would not have given them back. As for
questioning her about the residence of the persons who had just been
there, that was useless; it was evident that she did not know, since the
letter signed Fabantou had been addressed "to the benevolent gentleman
of the church of Saint-Jacquesdu-Haut-Pas."

Marius entered his room and pushed the door to after him.

It did not close; he turned round and beheld a hand which held the door
half open.

"What is it?" he asked, "who is there?"

It was the Jondrette girl.

"Is it you?" resumed Marius almost harshly, "still you! What do you want
with me?"

She appeared to be thoughtful and did not look at him. She no longer had
the air of assurance which had characterized her that morning. She did
not enter, but held back in the darkness of the corridor, where Marius
could see her through the half-open door.

"Come now, will you answer?" cried Marius. "What do you want with me?"

She raised her dull eyes, in which a sort of gleam seemed to flicker
vaguely, and said:--

"Monsieur Marius, you look sad. What is the matter with you?"

"With me!" said Marius.

"Yes, you."

"There is nothing the matter with me."

"Yes, there is!"


"I tell you there is!"

"Let me alone!"

Marius gave the door another push, but she retained her hold on it.

"Stop," said she, "you are in the wrong. Although you are not rich, you
were kind this morning. Be so again now. You gave me something to eat,
now tell me what ails you. You are grieved, that is plain. I do not want
you to be grieved. What can be done for it? Can I be of any service?
Employ me. I do not ask for your secrets, you need not tell them to me,
but I may be of use, nevertheless. I may be able to help you, since I
help my father. When it is necessary to carry letters, to go to houses,
to inquire from door to door, to find out an address, to follow any one,
I am of service. Well, you may assuredly tell me what is the matter with
you, and I will go and speak to the persons; sometimes it is enough if
some one speaks to the persons, that suffices to let them understand
matters, and everything comes right. Make use of me."

An idea flashed across Marius' mind. What branch does one disdain when
one feels that one is falling?

He drew near to the Jondrette girl.

"Listen--" he said to her.

She interrupted him with a gleam of joy in her eyes.

"Oh yes, do call me thou! I like that better."

"Well," he resumed, "thou hast brought hither that old gentleman and his


"Dost thou know their address?"


"Find it for me."

The Jondrette's dull eyes had grown joyous, and they now became gloomy.

"Is that what you want?" she demanded.


"Do you know them?"


"That is to say," she resumed quickly, "you do not know her, but you
wish to know her."

This them which had turned into her had something indescribably
significant and bitter about it.

"Well, can you do it?" said Marius.

"You shall have the beautiful lady's address."

There was still a shade in the words "the beautiful lady" which troubled
Marius. He resumed:--

"Never mind, after all, the address of the father and daughter. Their
address, indeed!"

She gazed fixedly at him.

"What will you give me?"

"Anything you like."

"Anything I like?"


"You shall have the address."

She dropped her head; then, with a brusque movement, she pulled to the
door, which closed behind her.

Marius found himself alone.

He dropped into a chair, with his head and both elbows on his bed,
absorbed in thoughts which he could not grasp, and as though a prey to
vertigo. All that had taken place since the morning, the appearance of
the angel, her disappearance, what that creature had just said to him, a
gleam of hope floating in an immense despair,--this was what filled his
brain confusedly.

All at once he was violently aroused from his revery.

He heard the shrill, hard voice of Jondrette utter these words, which
were fraught with a strange interest for him:--

"I tell you that I am sure of it, and that I recognized him."

Of whom was Jondrette speaking? Whom had he recognized? M. Leblanc? The
father of "his Ursule"? What! Did Jondrette know him? Was Marius about
to obtain in this abrupt and unexpected fashion all the information
without which his life was so dark to him? Was he about to learn at last
who it was that he loved, who that young girl was? Who her father
was? Was the dense shadow which enwrapped them on the point of being
dispelled? Was the veil about to be rent? Ah! Heavens!

He bounded rather than climbed upon his commode, and resumed his post
near the little peep-hole in the partition wall.

Again he beheld the interior of Jondrette's hovel.


Nothing in the aspect of the family was altered, except that the wife
and daughters had levied on the package and put on woollen stockings and
jackets. Two new blankets were thrown across the two beds.

Jondrette had evidently just returned. He still had the breathlessness
of out of doors. His daughters were seated on the floor near the
fireplace, the elder engaged in dressing the younger's wounded hand. His
wife had sunk back on the bed near the fireplace, with a face indicative
of astonishment. Jondrette was pacing up and down the garret with long
strides. His eyes were extraordinary.

The woman, who seemed timid and overwhelmed with stupor in the presence
of her husband, turned to say:--

"What, really? You are sure?"

"Sure! Eight years have passed! But I recognize him! Ah! I recognize
him. I knew him at once! What! Didn't it force itself on you?"


"But I told you: 'Pay attention!' Why, it is his figure, it is his face,
only older,--there are people who do not grow old, I don't know how they
manage it,--it is the very sound of his voice. He is better dressed,
that is all! Ah! you mysterious old devil, I've got you, that I have!"

He paused, and said to his daughters:--

"Get out of here, you!--It's queer that it didn't strike you!"

They arose to obey.

The mother stammered:--

"With her injured hand."

"The air will do it good," said Jondrette. "Be off."

It was plain that this man was of the sort to whom no one offers to
reply. The two girls departed.

At the moment when they were about to pass through the door, the father
detained the elder by the arm, and said to her with a peculiar accent:--

"You will be here at five o'clock precisely. Both of you. I shall need

Marius redoubled his attention.

On being left alone with his wife, Jondrette began to pace the room
again, and made the tour of it two or three times in silence. Then he
spent several minutes in tucking the lower part of the woman's chemise
which he wore into his trousers.

All at once, he turned to the female Jondrette, folded his arms and

"And would you like to have me tell you something? The young lady--"

"Well, what?" retorted his wife, "the young lady?"

Marius could not doubt that it was really she of whom they were
speaking. He listened with ardent anxiety. His whole life was in his

But Jondrette had bent over and spoke to his wife in a whisper. Then he
straightened himself up and concluded aloud:--

"It is she!"

"That one?" said his wife.

"That very one," said the husband.

No expression can reproduce the significance of the mother's words.
Surprise, rage, hate, wrath, were mingled and combined in one monstrous
intonation. The pronunciation of a few words, the name, no doubt, which
her husband had whispered in her ear, had sufficed to rouse this huge,
somnolent woman, and from being repulsive she became terrible.

"It is not possible!" she cried. "When I think that my daughters are
going barefoot, and have not a gown to their backs! What! A satin
pelisse, a velvet bonnet, boots, and everything; more than two hundred
francs' worth of clothes! so that one would think she was a lady! No,
you are mistaken! Why, in the first place, the other was hideous, and
this one is not so bad-looking! She really is not bad-looking! It can't
be she!"

"I tell you that it is she. You will see."

At this absolute assertion, the Jondrette woman raised her large, red,
blonde face and stared at the ceiling with a horrible expression.
At that moment, she seemed to Marius even more to be feared than her
husband. She was a sow with the look of a tigress.

"What!" she resumed, "that horrible, beautiful young lady, who gazed at
my daughters with an air of pity,--she is that beggar brat! Oh! I should
like to kick her stomach in for her!"

She sprang off of the bed, and remained standing for a moment, her
hair in disorder, her nostrils dilating, her mouth half open, her fists
clenched and drawn back. Then she fell back on the bed once more. The
man paced to and fro and paid no attention to his female.

After a silence lasting several minutes, he approached the female
Jondrette, and halted in front of her, with folded arms, as he had done
a moment before:--

"And shall I tell you another thing?"

"What is it?" she asked.

He answered in a low, curt voice:--

"My fortune is made."

The woman stared at him with the look that signifies: "Is the person who
is addressing me on the point of going mad?"

He went on:--

"Thunder! It was not so very long ago that I was a parishioner of
the parish of
die-of-hunger-if-you-have-a-fire,-die-of-cold-if-you-have-bread! I have
had enough of misery! my share and other people's share! I am not joking
any longer, I don't find it comic any more, I've had enough of puns,
good God! no more farces, Eternal Father! I want to eat till I am full,
I want to drink my fill! to gormandize! to sleep! to do nothing! I want
to have my turn, so I do, come now! before I die! I want to be a bit of
a millionnaire!"

He took a turn round the hovel, and added:--

"Like other people."

"What do you mean by that?" asked the woman.

He shook his head, winked, screwed up one eye, and raised his voice like
a medical professor who is about to make a demonstration:--

"What do I mean by that? Listen!"

"Hush!" muttered the woman, "not so loud! These are matters which must
not be overheard."

"Bah! Who's here? Our neighbor? I saw him go out a little while ago.
Besides, he doesn't listen, the big booby. And I tell you that I saw him
go out."

Nevertheless, by a sort of instinct, Jondrette lowered his voice,
although not sufficiently to prevent Marius hearing his words. One
favorable circumstance, which enabled Marius not to lose a word of this
conversation was the falling snow which deadened the sound of vehicles
on the boulevard.

This is what Marius heard:--

"Listen carefully. The Croesus is caught, or as good as caught! That's
all settled already. Everything is arranged. I have seen some people. He
will come here this evening at six o'clock. To bring sixty francs, the
rascal! Did you notice how I played that game on him, my sixty francs,
my landlord, my fourth of February? I don't even owe for one quarter!
Isn't he a fool! So he will come at six o'clock! That's the hour when
our neighbor goes to his dinner. Mother Bougon is off washing dishes in
the city. There's not a soul in the house. The neighbor never comes home
until eleven o'clock. The children shall stand on watch. You shall help
us. He will give in."

"And what if he does not give in?" demanded his wife.

Jondrette made a sinister gesture, and said:--

"We'll fix him."

And he burst out laughing.

This was the first time Marius had seen him laugh. The laugh was cold
and sweet, and provoked a shudder.

Jondrette opened a cupboard near the fireplace, and drew from it an old
cap, which he placed on his head, after brushing it with his sleeve.

"Now," said he, "I'm going out. I have some more people that I must see.
Good ones. You'll see how well the whole thing will work. I shall be
away as short a time as possible, it's a fine stroke of business, do you
look after the house."

And with both fists thrust into the pockets of his trousers, he stood
for a moment in thought, then exclaimed:--

"Do you know, it's mighty lucky, by the way, that he didn't recognize
me! If he had recognized me on his side, he would not have come back
again. He would have slipped through our fingers! It was my beard that
saved us! my romantic beard! my pretty little romantic beard!"

And again he broke into a laugh.

He stepped to the window. The snow was still falling, and streaking the
gray of the sky.

"What beastly weather!" said he.

Then lapping his overcoat across his breast:--

"This rind is too large for me. Never mind," he added, "he did a
devilish good thing in leaving it for me, the old scoundrel! If it
hadn't been for that, I couldn't have gone out, and everything would
have gone wrong! What small points things hang on, anyway!"

And pulling his cap down over his eyes, he quitted the room.

He had barely had time to take half a dozen steps from the door, when
the door opened again, and his savage but intelligent face made its
appearance once more in the opening.

"I came near forgetting," said he. "You are to have a brazier of
charcoal ready."

And he flung into his wife's apron the five-franc piece which the
"philanthropist" had left with him.

"A brazier of charcoal?" asked his wife.


"How many bushels?"

"Two good ones."

"That will come to thirty sous. With the rest I will buy something for

"The devil, no."


"Don't go and spend the hundred-sou piece."


"Because I shall have to buy something, too."



"How much shall you need?"

"Whereabouts in the neighborhood is there an ironmonger's shop?"

"Rue Mouffetard."

"Ah! yes, at the corner of a street; I can see the shop."

"But tell me how much you will need for what you have to purchase?"

"Fifty sous--three francs."

"There won't be much left for dinner."

"Eating is not the point to-day. There's something better to be done."

"That's enough, my jewel."

At this word from his wife, Jondrette closed the door again, and this
time, Marius heard his step die away in the corridor of the hovel, and
descend the staircase rapidly.

At that moment, one o'clock struck from the church of Saint-Medard.


Marius, dreamer as he was, was, as we have said, firm and energetic by
nature. His habits of solitary meditation, while they had developed in
him sympathy and compassion, had, perhaps, diminished the faculty for
irritation, but had left intact the power of waxing indignant; he had
the kindliness of a brahmin, and the severity of a judge; he took pity
upon a toad, but he crushed a viper. Now, it was into a hole of vipers
that his glance had just been directed, it was a nest of monsters that
he had beneath his eyes.

"These wretches must be stamped upon," said he.

Not one of the enigmas which he had hoped to see solved had been
elucidated; on the contrary, all of them had been rendered more dense,
if anything; he knew nothing more about the beautiful maiden of the
Luxembourg and the man whom he called M. Leblanc, except that Jondrette
was acquainted with them. Athwart the mysterious words which had been
uttered, the only thing of which he caught a distinct glimpse was the
fact that an ambush was in course of preparation, a dark but terrible
trap; that both of them were incurring great danger, she probably, her
father certainly; that they must be saved; that the hideous plots of the
Jondrettes must be thwarted, and the web of these spiders broken.

He scanned the female Jondrette for a moment. She had pulled an old
sheet-iron stove from a corner, and she was rummaging among the old heap
of iron.

He descended from the commode as softly as possible, taking care not to
make the least noise. Amid his terror as to what was in preparation, and
in the horror with which the Jondrettes had inspired him, he experienced
a sort of joy at the idea that it might be granted to him perhaps to
render a service to the one whom he loved.

But how was it to be done? How warn the persons threatened? He did not
know their address. They had reappeared for an instant before his eyes,
and had then plunged back again into the immense depths of Paris. Should
he wait for M. Leblanc at the door that evening at six o'clock, at the
moment of his arrival, and warn him of the trap? But Jondrette and his
men would see him on the watch, the spot was lonely, they were stronger
than he, they would devise means to seize him or to get him away, and
the man whom Marius was anxious to save would be lost. One o'clock had
just struck, the trap was to be sprung at six. Marius had five hours
before him.

There was but one thing to be done.

He put on his decent coat, knotted a silk handkerchief round his neck,
took his hat, and went out, without making any more noise than if he had
been treading on moss with bare feet.

Moreover, the Jondrette woman continued to rummage among her old iron.

Once outside of the house, he made for the Rue du Petit-Banquier.

He had almost reached the middle of this street, near a very low wall
which a man can easily step over at certain points, and which abuts on
a waste space, and was walking slowly, in consequence of his preoccupied
condition, and the snow deadened the sound of his steps; all at once he
heard voices talking very close by. He turned his head, the street was
deserted, there was not a soul in it, it was broad daylight, and yet he
distinctly heard voices.

It occurred to him to glance over the wall which he was skirting.

There, in fact, sat two men, flat on the snow, with their backs against
the wall, talking together in subdued tones.

These two persons were strangers to him; one was a bearded man in a
blouse, and the other a long-haired individual in rags. The bearded man
had on a fez, the other's head was bare, and the snow had lodged in his

By thrusting his head over the wall, Marius could hear their remarks.

The hairy one jogged the other man's elbow and said:--

"--With the assistance of Patron-Minette, it can't fail."

"Do you think so?" said the bearded man.

And the long-haired one began again:--

"It's as good as a warrant for each one, of five hundred balls, and the
worst that can happen is five years, six years, ten years at the most!"

The other replied with some hesitation, and shivering beneath his fez:--

"That's a real thing. You can't go against such things."

"I tell you that the affair can't go wrong," resumed the long-haired
man. "Father What's-his-name's team will be already harnessed."

Then they began to discuss a melodrama that they had seen on the
preceding evening at the Gaite Theatre.

Marius went his way.

It seemed to him that the mysterious words of these men, so strangely
hidden behind that wall, and crouching in the snow, could not but bear
some relation to Jondrette's abominable projects. That must be the

He directed his course towards the faubourg Saint-Marceau and asked at
the first shop he came to where he could find a commissary of police.

He was directed to Rue de Pontoise, No. 14.

Thither Marius betook himself.

As he passed a baker's shop, he bought a two-penny roll, and ate it,
foreseeing that he should not dine.

On the way, he rendered justice to Providence. He reflected that had he
not given his five francs to the Jondrette girl in the morning, he
would have followed M. Leblanc's fiacre, and consequently have remained
ignorant of everything, and that there would have been no obstacle to
the trap of the Jondrettes and that M. Leblanc would have been lost, and
his daughter with him, no doubt.


On arriving at No. 14, Rue de Pontoise, he ascended to the first floor
and inquired for the commissary of police.

"The commissary of police is not here," said a clerk; "but there is an
inspector who takes his place. Would you like to speak to him? Are you
in haste?"

"Yes," said Marius.

The clerk introduced him into the commissary's office. There stood a
tall man behind a grating, leaning against a stove, and holding up with
both hands the tails of a vast topcoat, with three collars. His face
was square, with a thin, firm mouth, thick, gray, and very ferocious
whiskers, and a look that was enough to turn your pockets inside out.
Of that glance it might have been well said, not that it penetrated, but
that it searched.

This man's air was not much less ferocious nor less terrible than
Jondrette's; the dog is, at times, no less terrible to meet than the

"What do you want?" he said to Marius, without adding "monsieur."

"Is this Monsieur le Commissaire de Police?"

"He is absent. I am here in his stead."

"The matter is very private."

"Then speak."

"And great haste is required."

"Then speak quick."

This calm, abrupt man was both terrifying and reassuring at one and the
same time. He inspired fear and confidence. Marius related the adventure
to him: That a person with whom he was not acquainted otherwise than by
sight, was to be inveigled into a trap that very evening; that, as he
occupied the room adjoining the den, he, Marius Pontmercy, a lawyer,
had heard the whole plot through the partition; that the wretch who
had planned the trap was a certain Jondrette; that there would be
accomplices, probably some prowlers of the barriers, among others a
certain Panchaud, alias Printanier, alias Bigrenaille; that Jondrette's
daughters were to lie in wait; that there was no way of warning the
threatened man, since he did not even know his name; and that, finally,
all this was to be carried out at six o'clock that evening, at the most
deserted point of the Boulevard de l'Hopital, in house No. 50-52.

At the sound of this number, the inspector raised his head, and said

"So it is in the room at the end of the corridor?"

"Precisely," answered Marius, and he added: "Are you acquainted with
that house?"

The inspector remained silent for a moment, then replied, as he warmed
the heel of his boot at the door of the stove:--


He went on, muttering between his teeth, and not addressing Marius so
much as his cravat:--

"Patron-Minette must have had a hand in this."

This word struck Marius.

"Patron-Minette," said he, "I did hear that word pronounced, in fact."

And he repeated to the inspector the dialogue between the long-haired
man and the bearded man in the snow behind the wall of the Rue du

The inspector muttered:--

"The long-haired man must be Brujon, and the bearded one Demi-Liard,
alias Deux-Milliards."

He had dropped his eyelids again, and became absorbed in thought.

"As for Father What's-his-name, I think I recognize him. Here, I've
burned my coat. They always have too much fire in these cursed stoves.
Number 50-52. Former property of Gorbeau."

Then he glanced at Marius.

"You saw only that bearded and that long-haired man?"

"And Panchaud."

"You didn't see a little imp of a dandy prowling about the premises?"


"Nor a big lump of matter, resembling an elephant in the Jardin des


"Nor a scamp with the air of an old red tail?"


"As for the fourth, no one sees him, not even his adjutants, clerks, and
employees. It is not surprising that you did not see him."

"No. Who are all those persons?" asked Marius.

The inspector answered:--

"Besides, this is not the time for them."

He relapsed into silence, then resumed:--

"50-52. I know that barrack. Impossible to conceal ourselves inside
it without the artists seeing us, and then they will get off simply
by countermanding the vaudeville. They are so modest! An audience
embarrasses them. None of that, none of that. I want to hear them sing
and make them dance."

This monologue concluded, he turned to Marius, and demanded, gazing at
him intently the while:--

"Are you afraid?"

"Of what?" said Marius.

"Of these men?"

"No more than yourself!" retorted Marius rudely, who had begun to notice
that this police agent had not yet said "monsieur" to him.

The inspector stared still more intently at Marius, and continued with
sententious solemnity:--

"There, you speak like a brave man, and like an honest man. Courage does
not fear crime, and honesty does not fear authority."

Marius interrupted him:--

"That is well, but what do you intend to do?"

The inspector contented himself with the remark:--

"The lodgers have pass-keys with which to get in at night. You must have

"Yes," said Marius.

"Have you it about you?"


"Give it to me," said the inspector.

Marius took his key from his waistcoat pocket, handed it to the
inspector and added:--

"If you will take my advice, you will come in force."

The inspector cast on Marius such a glance as Voltaire might have
bestowed on a provincial academician who had suggested a rhyme to him;
with one movement he plunged his hands, which were enormous, into the
two immense pockets of his top-coat, and pulled out two small steel
pistols, of the sort called "knock-me-downs." Then he presented them to
Marius, saying rapidly, in a curt tone:--

"Take these. Go home. Hide in your chamber, so that you may be supposed
to have gone out. They are loaded. Each one carries two balls. You will
keep watch; there is a hole in the wall, as you have informed me. These
men will come. Leave them to their own devices for a time. When you
think matters have reached a crisis, and that it is time to put a stop
to them, fire a shot. Not too soon. The rest concerns me. A shot into
the ceiling, the air, no matter where. Above all things, not too soon.
Wait until they begin to put their project into execution; you are a
lawyer; you know the proper point." Marius took the pistols and put them
in the side pocket of his coat.

"That makes a lump that can be seen," said the inspector. "Put them in
your trousers pocket."

Marius hid the pistols in his trousers pockets.

"Now," pursued the inspector, "there is not a minute more to be lost by
any one. What time is it? Half-past two. Seven o'clock is the hour?"

"Six o'clock," answered Marius.

"I have plenty of time," said the inspector, "but no more than enough.
Don't forget anything that I have said to you. Bang. A pistol shot."

"Rest easy," said Marius.

And as Marius laid his hand on the handle of the door on his way out,
the inspector called to him:--

"By the way, if you have occasion for my services between now and then,
come or send here. You will ask for Inspector Javert."


A few moments later, about three o'clock, Courfeyrac chanced to be
passing along the Rue Mouffetard in company with Bossuet. The snow had
redoubled in violence, and filled the air. Bossuet was just saying to

"One would say, to see all these snow-flakes fall, that there was a
plague of white butterflies in heaven." All at once, Bossuet caught
sight of Marius coming up the street towards the barrier with a peculiar

"Hold!" said Bossuet. "There's Marius."

"I saw him," said Courfeyrac. "Don't let's speak to him."


"He is busy."

"With what?"

"Don't you see his air?"

"What air?"

"He has the air of a man who is following some one."

"That's true," said Bossuet.

"Just see the eyes he is making!" said Courfeyrac.

"But who the deuce is he following?"

"Some fine, flowery bonneted wench! He's in love."

"But," observed Bossuet, "I don't see any wench nor any flowery bonnet
in the street. There's not a woman round."

Courfeyrac took a survey, and exclaimed:--

"He's following a man!"

A man, in fact, wearing a gray cap, and whose gray beard could be
distinguished, although they only saw his back, was walking along about
twenty paces in advance of Marius.

This man was dressed in a great-coat which was perfectly new and too
large for him, and in a frightful pair of trousers all hanging in rags
and black with mud.

Bossuet burst out laughing.

"Who is that man?"

"He?" retorted Courfeyrac, "he's a poet. Poets are very fond of wearing
the trousers of dealers in rabbit skins and the overcoats of peers of

"Let's see where Marius will go," said Bossuet; "let's see where the man
is going, let's follow them, hey?"

"Bossuet!" exclaimed Courfeyrac, "eagle of Meaux! You are a prodigious
brute. Follow a man who is following another man, indeed!"

They retraced their steps.

Marius had, in fact, seen Jondrette passing along the Rue Mouffetard,
and was spying on his proceedings.

Jondrette walked straight ahead, without a suspicion that he was already
held by a glance.

He quitted the Rue Mouffetard, and Marius saw him enter one of the most
terrible hovels in the Rue Gracieuse; he remained there about a quarter
of an hour, then returned to the Rue Mouffetard. He halted at
an ironmonger's shop, which then stood at the corner of the Rue
Pierre-Lombard, and a few minutes later Marius saw him emerge from the
shop, holding in his hand a huge cold chisel with a white wood handle,
which he concealed beneath his great-coat. At the top of the Rue
Petit-Gentilly he turned to the left and proceeded rapidly to the Rue du
Petit-Banquier. The day was declining; the snow, which had ceased for a
moment, had just begun again. Marius posted himself on the watch at the
very corner of the Rue du Petit-Banquier, which was deserted, as usual,
and did not follow Jondrette into it. It was lucky that he did so,
for, on arriving in the vicinity of the wall where Marius had heard the
long-haired man and the bearded man conversing, Jondrette turned round,
made sure that no one was following him, did not see him, then sprang
across the wall and disappeared.

The waste land bordered by this wall communicated with the back yard of
an ex-livery stable-keeper of bad repute, who had failed and who still
kept a few old single-seated berlins under his sheds.

Marius thought that it would be wise to profit by Jondrette's absence to
return home; moreover, it was growing late; every evening, Ma'am Bougon
when she set out for her dish-washing in town, had a habit of locking
the door, which was always closed at dusk. Marius had given his key to
the inspector of police; it was important, therefore, that he should
make haste.

Evening had arrived, night had almost closed in; on the horizon and in
the immensity of space, there remained but one spot illuminated by the
sun, and that was the moon.

It was rising in a ruddy glow behind the low dome of Salpetriere.

Marius returned to No. 50-52 with great strides. The door was still open
when he arrived. He mounted the stairs on tip-toe and glided along the
wall of the corridor to his chamber. This corridor, as the reader will
remember, was bordered on both sides by attics, all of which were, for
the moment, empty and to let. Ma'am Bougon was in the habit of leaving
all the doors open. As he passed one of these attics, Marius thought
he perceived in the uninhabited cell the motionless heads of four men,
vaguely lighted up by a remnant of daylight, falling through a dormer

Marius made no attempt to see, not wishing to be seen himself. He
succeeded in reaching his chamber without being seen and without making
any noise. It was high time. A moment later he heard Ma'am Bougon take
her departure, locking the door of the house behind her.


Marius seated himself on his bed. It might have been half-past five
o'clock. Only half an hour separated him from what was about to happen.
He heard the beating of his arteries as one hears the ticking of a watch
in the dark. He thought of the double march which was going on at that
moment in the dark,--crime advancing on one side, justice coming up on
the other. He was not afraid, but he could not think without a shudder
of what was about to take place. As is the case with all those who are
suddenly assailed by an unforeseen adventure, the entire day produced
upon him the effect of a dream, and in order to persuade himself that he
was not the prey of a nightmare, he had to feel the cold barrels of the
steel pistols in his trousers pockets.

It was no longer snowing; the moon disengaged itself more and more
clearly from the mist, and its light, mingled with the white reflection
of the snow which had fallen, communicated to the chamber a sort of
twilight aspect.

There was a light in the Jondrette den. Marius saw the hole in the wall
shining with a reddish glow which seemed bloody to him.

It was true that the light could not be produced by a candle. However,
there was not a sound in the Jondrette quarters, not a soul was moving
there, not a soul speaking, not a breath; the silence was glacial and
profound, and had it not been for that light, he might have thought
himself next door to a sepulchre.

Marius softly removed his boots and pushed them under his bed.

Several minutes elapsed. Marius heard the lower door turn on its hinges;
a heavy step mounted the staircase, and hastened along the corridor; the
latch of the hovel was noisily lifted; it was Jondrette returning.

Instantly, several voices arose. The whole family was in the garret.
Only, it had been silent in the master's absence, like wolf whelps in
the absence of the wolf.

"It's I," said he.

"Good evening, daddy," yelped the girls.

"Well?" said the mother.

"All's going first-rate," responded Jondrette, "but my feet are beastly
cold. Good! You have dressed up. You have done well! You must inspire

"All ready to go out."

"Don't forget what I told you. You will do everything sure?"

"Rest easy."

"Because--" said Jondrette. And he left the phrase unfinished.

Marius heard him lay something heavy on the table, probably the chisel
which he had purchased.

"By the way," said Jondrette, "have you been eating here?"

"Yes," said the mother. "I got three large potatoes and some salt. I
took advantage of the fire to cook them."

"Good," returned Jondrette. "To-morrow I will take you out to dine with
me. We will have a duck and fixings. You shall dine like Charles the
Tenth; all is going well!"

Then he added:--

"The mouse-trap is open. The cats are there."

He lowered his voice still further, and said:--

"Put this in the fire."

Marius heard a sound of charcoal being knocked with the tongs or some
iron utensil, and Jondrette continued:--

"Have you greased the hinges of the door so that they will not squeak?"

"Yes," replied the mother.

"What time is it?"

"Nearly six. The half-hour struck from Saint-Medard a while ago."

"The devil!" ejaculated Jondrette; "the children must go and watch. Come
you, do you listen here."

A whispering ensued.

Jondrette's voice became audible again:--

"Has old Bougon left?"

"Yes," said the mother.

"Are you sure that there is no one in our neighbor's room?"

"He has not been in all day, and you know very well that this is his
dinner hour."

"You are sure?"


"All the same," said Jondrette, "there's no harm in going to see whether
he is there. Here, my girl, take the candle and go there."

Marius fell on his hands and knees and crawled silently under his bed.

Hardly had he concealed himself, when he perceived a light through the
crack of his door.

"P'pa," cried a voice, "he is not in here."

He recognized the voice of the eldest daughter.

"Did you go in?" demanded her father.

"No," replied the girl, "but as his key is in the door, he must be out."

The father exclaimed:--

"Go in, nevertheless."

The door opened, and Marius saw the tall Jondrette come in with a candle
in her hand. She was as she had been in the morning, only still more
repulsive in this light.

She walked straight up to the bed. Marius endured an indescribable
moment of anxiety; but near the bed there was a mirror nailed to the
wall, and it was thither that she was directing her steps. She raised
herself on tiptoe and looked at herself in it. In the neighboring room,
the sound of iron articles being moved was audible.

She smoothed her hair with the palm of her hand, and smiled into the
mirror, humming with her cracked and sepulchral voice:--

          Nos amours ont dure toute une semaine,[28]
          Mais que du bonheur les instants sont courts!
          S'adorer huit jours, c' etait bien la peine!
          Le temps des amours devait durer toujours!
          Devrait durer toujours! devrait durer toujours!

In the meantime, Marius trembled. It seemed impossible to him that she
should not hear his breathing.

She stepped to the window and looked out with the half-foolish way she

"How ugly Paris is when it has put on a white chemise!" said she.

She returned to the mirror and began again to put on airs before it,
scrutinizing herself full-face and three-quarters face in turn.

"Well!" cried her father, "what are you about there?"

"I am looking under the bed and the furniture," she replied, continuing
to arrange her hair; "there's no one here."

"Booby!" yelled her father. "Come here this minute! And don't waste any
time about it!"

"Coming! Coming!" said she. "One has no time for anything in this

She hummed:--

          Vous me quittez pour aller a la gloire;[29]
          Mon triste coeur suivra partout.

She cast a parting glance in the mirror and went out, shutting the door
behind her.

A moment more, and Marius heard the sound of the two young girls' bare
feet in the corridor, and Jondrette's voice shouting to them:--

"Pay strict heed! One on the side of the barrier, the other at the
corner of the Rue du Petit-Banquier. Don't lose sight for a moment of
the door of this house, and the moment you see anything, rush here on
the instant! as hard as you can go! You have a key to get in."

The eldest girl grumbled:--

"The idea of standing watch in the snow barefoot!"

"To-morrow you shall have some dainty little green silk boots!" said the

They ran down stairs, and a few seconds later the shock of the outer
door as it banged to announced that they were outside.

There now remained in the house only Marius, the Jondrettes and
probably, also, the mysterious persons of whom Marius had caught a
glimpse in the twilight, behind the door of the unused attic.


Marius decided that the moment had now arrived when he must resume his
post at his observatory. In a twinkling, and with the agility of his
age, he had reached the hole in the partition.

He looked.

The interior of the Jondrette apartment presented a curious aspect, and
Marius found an explanation of the singular light which he had noticed.
A candle was burning in a candlestick covered with verdigris, but
that was not what really lighted the chamber. The hovel was completely
illuminated, as it were, by the reflection from a rather large
sheet-iron brazier standing in the fireplace, and filled with burning
charcoal, the brazier prepared by the Jondrette woman that morning. The
charcoal was glowing hot and the brazier was red; a blue flame flickered
over it, and helped him to make out the form of the chisel purchased by
Jondrette in the Rue Pierre-Lombard, where it had been thrust into the
brazier to heat. In one corner, near the door, and as though prepared
for some definite use, two heaps were visible, which appeared to be, the
one a heap of old iron, the other a heap of ropes. All this would have
caused the mind of a person who knew nothing of what was in preparation,
to waver between a very sinister and a very simple idea. The lair thus
lighted up more resembled a forge than a mouth of hell, but Jondrette,
in this light, had rather the air of a demon than of a smith.

The heat of the brazier was so great, that the candle on the table was
melting on the side next the chafing-dish, and was drooping over. An old
dark-lantern of copper, worthy of Diogenes turned Cartouche, stood on
the chimney-piece.

The brazier, placed in the fireplace itself, beside the nearly extinct
brands, sent its vapors up the chimney, and gave out no odor.

The moon, entering through the four panes of the window, cast its
whiteness into the crimson and flaming garret; and to the poetic spirit
of Marius, who was dreamy even in the moment of action, it was like a
thought of heaven mingled with the misshapen reveries of earth.

A breath of air which made its way in through the open pane, helped to
dissipate the smell of the charcoal and to conceal the presence of the

The Jondrette lair was, if the reader recalls what we have said of the
Gorbeau building, admirably chosen to serve as the theatre of a violent
and sombre deed, and as the envelope for a crime. It was the most
retired chamber in the most isolated house on the most deserted
boulevard in Paris. If the system of ambush and traps had not already
existed, they would have been invented there.

The whole thickness of a house and a multitude of uninhabited rooms
separated this den from the boulevard, and the only window that existed
opened on waste lands enclosed with walls and palisades.

Jondrette had lighted his pipe, seated himself on the seatless chair,
and was engaged in smoking. His wife was talking to him in a low tone.

If Marius had been Courfeyrac, that is to say, one of those men who
laugh on every occasion in life, he would have burst with laughter when
his gaze fell on the Jondrette woman. She had on a black bonnet with
plumes not unlike the hats of the heralds-at-arms at the coronation of
Charles X., an immense tartan shawl over her knitted petticoat, and the
man's shoes which her daughter had scorned in the morning. It was this
toilette which had extracted from Jondrette the exclamation: "Good! You
have dressed up. You have done well. You must inspire confidence!"

As for Jondrette, he had not taken off the new surtout, which was too
large for him, and which M. Leblanc had given him, and his costume
continued to present that contrast of coat and trousers which
constituted the ideal of a poet in Courfeyrac's eyes.

All at once, Jondrette lifted up his voice:--

"By the way! Now that I think of it. In this weather, he will come in a
carriage. Light the lantern, take it and go down stairs. You will stand
behind the lower door. The very moment that you hear the carriage stop,
you will open the door, instantly, he will come up, you will light the
staircase and the corridor, and when he enters here, you will go down
stairs again as speedily as possible, you will pay the coachman, and
dismiss the fiacre."

"And the money?" inquired the woman.

Jondrette fumbled in his trousers pocket and handed her five francs.

"What's this?" she exclaimed.

Jondrette replied with dignity:--

"That is the monarch which our neighbor gave us this morning."

And he added:--

"Do you know what? Two chairs will be needed here."

"What for?"

"To sit on."

Marius felt a cold chill pass through his limbs at hearing this mild
answer from Jondrette.

"Pardieu! I'll go and get one of our neighbor's."

And with a rapid movement, she opened the door of the den, and went out
into the corridor.

Marius absolutely had not the time to descend from the commode, reach
his bed, and conceal himself beneath it.

"Take the candle," cried Jondrette.

"No," said she, "it would embarrass me, I have the two chairs to carry.
There is moonlight."

Marius heard Mother Jondrette's heavy hand fumbling at his lock in the
dark. The door opened. He remained nailed to the spot with the shock and
with horror.

The Jondrette entered.

The dormer window permitted the entrance of a ray of moonlight between
two blocks of shadow. One of these blocks of shadow entirely covered the
wall against which Marius was leaning, so that he disappeared within it.

Mother Jondrette raised her eyes, did not see Marius, took the two
chairs, the only ones which Marius possessed, and went away, letting the
door fall heavily to behind her.

She re-entered the lair.

"Here are the two chairs."

"And here is the lantern. Go down as quick as you can."

She hastily obeyed, and Jondrette was left alone.

He placed the two chairs on opposite sides of the table, turned the
chisel in the brazier, set in front of the fireplace an old screen which
masked the chafing-dish, then went to the corner where lay the pile
of rope, and bent down as though to examine something. Marius then
recognized the fact, that what he had taken for a shapeless mass was a
very well-made rope-ladder, with wooden rungs and two hooks with which
to attach it.

This ladder, and some large tools, veritable masses of iron, which were
mingled with the old iron piled up behind the door, had not been in the
Jondrette hovel in the morning, and had evidently been brought thither
in the afternoon, during Marius' absence.

"Those are the utensils of an edge-tool maker," thought Marius.

Had Marius been a little more learned in this line, he would have
recognized in what he took for the engines of an edge-tool maker,
certain instruments which will force a lock or pick a lock, and others
which will cut or slice, the two families of tools which burglars call
cadets and fauchants.

The fireplace and the two chairs were exactly opposite Marius. The
brazier being concealed, the only light in the room was now furnished
by the candle; the smallest bit of crockery on the table or on the
chimney-piece cast a large shadow. There was something indescribably
calm, threatening, and hideous about this chamber. One felt that there
existed in it the anticipation of something terrible.

Jondrette had allowed his pipe to go out, a serious sign of
preoccupation, and had again seated himself. The candle brought out the
fierce and the fine angles of his countenance. He indulged in scowls and
in abrupt unfoldings of the right hand, as though he were responding to
the last counsels of a sombre inward monologue. In the course of one of
these dark replies which he was making to himself, he pulled the table
drawer rapidly towards him, took out a long kitchen knife which was
concealed there, and tried the edge of its blade on his nail. That done,
he put the knife back in the drawer and shut it.

Marius, on his side, grasped the pistol in his right pocket, drew it out
and cocked it.

The pistol emitted a sharp, clear click, as he cocked it.

Jondrette started, half rose, listened a moment, then began to laugh and

"What a fool I am! It's the partition cracking!"

Marius kept the pistol in his hand.


Suddenly, the distant and melancholy vibration of a clock shook the
panes. Six o'clock was striking from Saint-Medard.

Jondrette marked off each stroke with a toss of his head. When the sixth
had struck, he snuffed the candle with his fingers.

Then he began to pace up and down the room, listened at the corridor,
walked on again, then listened once more.

"Provided only that he comes!" he muttered, then he returned to his

He had hardly reseated himself when the door opened.

Mother Jondrette had opened it, and now remained in the corridor making
a horrible, amiable grimace, which one of the holes of the dark-lantern
illuminated from below.

"Enter, sir," she said.

"Enter, my benefactor," repeated Jondrette, rising hastily.

M. Leblanc made his appearance.

He wore an air of serenity which rendered him singularly venerable.

He laid four louis on the table.

"Monsieur Fabantou," said he, "this is for your rent and your most
pressing necessities. We will attend to the rest hereafter."

"May God requite it to you, my generous benefactor!" said Jondrette.

And rapidly approaching his wife:--

"Dismiss the carriage!"

She slipped out while her husband was lavishing salutes and offering
M. Leblanc a chair. An instant later she returned and whispered in his

"'Tis done."

The snow, which had not ceased falling since the morning, was so deep
that the arrival of the fiacre had not been audible, and they did not
now hear its departure.

Meanwhile, M. Leblanc had seated himself.

Jondrette had taken possession of the other chair, facing M. Leblanc.

Now, in order to form an idea of the scene which is to follow, let the
reader picture to himself in his own mind, a cold night, the solitudes
of the Salpetriere covered with snow and white as winding-sheets in
the moonlight, the taper-like lights of the street lanterns which shone
redly here and there along those tragic boulevards, and the long rows
of black elms, not a passer-by for perhaps a quarter of a league around,
the Gorbeau hovel, at its highest pitch of silence, of horror, and of
darkness; in that building, in the midst of those solitudes, in the
midst of that darkness, the vast Jondrette garret lighted by a single
candle, and in that den two men seated at a table, M. Leblanc tranquil,
Jondrette smiling and alarming, the Jondrette woman, the female wolf,
in one corner, and, behind the partition, Marius, invisible, erect, not
losing a word, not missing a single movement, his eye on the watch, and
pistol in hand.

However, Marius experienced only an emotion of horror, but no fear. He
clasped the stock of the pistol firmly and felt reassured. "I shall be
able to stop that wretch whenever I please," he thought.

He felt that the police were there somewhere in ambuscade, waiting for
the signal agreed upon and ready to stretch out their arm.

Moreover, he was in hopes, that this violent encounter between Jondrette
and M. Leblanc would cast some light on all the things which he was
interested in learning.


Hardly was M. Leblanc seated, when he turned his eyes towards the
pallets, which were empty.

"How is the poor little wounded girl?" he inquired.

"Bad," replied Jondrette with a heart-broken and grateful smile, "very
bad, my worthy sir. Her elder sister has taken her to the Bourbe to
have her hurt dressed. You will see them presently; they will be back

"Madame Fabantou seems to me to be better," went on M. Leblanc, casting
his eyes on the eccentric costume of the Jondrette woman, as she stood
between him and the door, as though already guarding the exit, and gazed
at him in an attitude of menace and almost of combat.

"She is dying," said Jondrette. "But what do you expect, sir! She has so
much courage, that woman has! She's not a woman, she's an ox."

The Jondrette, touched by his compliment, deprecated it with the
affected airs of a flattered monster.

"You are always too good to me, Monsieur Jondrette!"

"Jondrette!" said M. Leblanc, "I thought your name was Fabantou?"

"Fabantou, alias Jondrette!" replied the husband hurriedly. "An artistic

And launching at his wife a shrug of the shoulders which M. Leblanc did
not catch, he continued with an emphatic and caressing inflection of

"Ah! we have had a happy life together, this poor darling and I! What
would there be left for us if we had not that? We are so wretched, my
respectable sir! We have arms, but there is no work! We have the will,
no work! I don't know how the government arranges that, but, on my word
of honor, sir, I am not Jacobin, sir, I am not a bousingot.[30] I don't
wish them any evil, but if I were the ministers, on my most sacred word,
things would be different. Here, for instance, I wanted to have my
girls taught the trade of paper-box makers. You will say to me: 'What!
a trade?' Yes! A trade! A simple trade! A bread-winner! What a fall,
my benefactor! What a degradation, when one has been what we have been!
Alas! There is nothing left to us of our days of prosperity! One thing
only, a picture, of which I think a great deal, but which I am willing
to part with, for I must live! Item, one must live!"

While Jondrette thus talked, with an apparent incoherence which
detracted nothing from the thoughtful and sagacious expression of his
physiognomy, Marius raised his eyes, and perceived at the other end of
the room a person whom he had not seen before. A man had just entered,
so softly that the door had not been heard to turn on its hinges. This
man wore a violet knitted vest, which was old, worn, spotted, cut and
gaping at every fold, wide trousers of cotton velvet, wooden shoes on
his feet, no shirt, had his neck bare, his bare arms tattooed, and his
face smeared with black. He had seated himself in silence on the nearest
bed, and, as he was behind Jondrette, he could only be indistinctly

That sort of magnetic instinct which turns aside the gaze, caused M.
Leblanc to turn round almost at the same moment as Marius. He could not
refrain from a gesture of surprise which did not escape Jondrette.

"Ah! I see!" exclaimed Jondrette, buttoning up his coat with an air of
complaisance, "you are looking at your overcoat? It fits me! My faith,
but it fits me!"

"Who is that man?" said M. Leblanc.

"Him?" ejaculated Jondrette, "he's a neighbor of mine. Don't pay any
attention to him."

The neighbor was a singular-looking individual. However, manufactories
of chemical products abound in the Faubourg Saint-Marceau. Many of the
workmen might have black faces. Besides this, M. Leblanc's whole person
was expressive of candid and intrepid confidence.

He went on:--

"Excuse me; what were you saying, M. Fabantou?"

"I was telling you, sir, and dear protector," replied Jondrette placing
his elbows on the table and contemplating M. Leblanc with steady and
tender eyes, not unlike the eyes of the boa-constrictor, "I was telling
you, that I have a picture to sell."

A slight sound came from the door. A second man had just entered and
seated himself on the bed, behind Jondrette.

Like the first, his arms were bare, and he had a mask of ink or

Although this man had, literally, glided into the room, he had not been
able to prevent M. Leblanc catching sight of him.

"Don't mind them," said Jondrette, "they are people who belong in the
house. So I was saying, that there remains in my possession a valuable
picture. But stop, sir, take a look at it."

He rose, went to the wall at the foot of which stood the panel which we
have already mentioned, and turned it round, still leaving it supported
against the wall. It really was something which resembled a picture, and
which the candle illuminated, somewhat. Marius could make nothing out of
it, as Jondrette stood between the picture and him; he only saw a coarse
daub, and a sort of principal personage colored with the harsh crudity
of foreign canvasses and screen paintings.

"What is that?" asked M. Leblanc.

Jondrette exclaimed:--

"A painting by a master, a picture of great value, my benefactor! I am
as much attached to it as I am to my two daughters; it recalls souvenirs
to me! But I have told you, and I will not take it back, that I am so
wretched that I will part with it."

Either by chance, or because he had begun to feel a dawning uneasiness,
M. Leblanc's glance returned to the bottom of the room as he examined
the picture.

There were now four men, three seated on the bed, one standing near the
door-post, all four with bare arms and motionless, with faces smeared
with black. One of those on the bed was leaning against the wall, with
closed eyes, and it might have been supposed that he was asleep. He
was old; his white hair contrasting with his blackened face produced a
horrible effect. The other two seemed to be young; one wore a beard, the
other wore his hair long. None of them had on shoes; those who did not
wear socks were barefooted.

Jondrette noticed that M. Leblanc's eye was fixed on these men.

"They are friends. They are neighbors," said he. "Their faces are black
because they work in charcoal. They are chimney-builders. Don't trouble
yourself about them, my benefactor, but buy my picture. Have pity on
my misery. I will not ask you much for it. How much do you think it is

"Well," said M. Leblanc, looking Jondrette full in the eye, and with the
manner of a man who is on his guard, "it is some signboard for a tavern,
and is worth about three francs."

Jondrette replied sweetly:--

"Have you your pocket-book with you? I should be satisfied with a
thousand crowns."

M. Leblanc sprang up, placed his back against the wall, and cast a rapid
glance around the room. He had Jondrette on his left, on the side next
the window, and the Jondrette woman and the four men on his right, on
the side next the door. The four men did not stir, and did not even seem
to be looking on.

Jondrette had again begun to speak in a plaintive tone, with so vague
an eye, and so lamentable an intonation, that M. Leblanc might have
supposed that what he had before him was a man who had simply gone mad
with misery.

"If you do not buy my picture, my dear benefactor," said Jondrette, "I
shall be left without resources; there will be nothing left for me but
to throw myself into the river. When I think that I wanted to have my
two girls taught the middle-class paper-box trade, the making of boxes
for New Year's gifts! Well! A table with a board at the end to keep the
glasses from falling off is required, then a special stove is needed, a
pot with three compartments for the different degrees of strength of
the paste, according as it is to be used for wood, paper, or stuff, a
paring-knife to cut the cardboard, a mould to adjust it, a hammer to
nail the steels, pincers, how the devil do I know what all? And all that
in order to earn four sous a day! And you have to work fourteen hours a
day! And each box passes through the workwoman's hands thirteen times!
And you can't wet the paper! And you mustn't spot anything! And you must
keep the paste hot. The devil, I tell you! Four sous a day! How do you
suppose a man is to live?"

As he spoke, Jondrette did not look at M. Leblanc, who was observing
him. M. Leblanc's eye was fixed on Jondrette, and Jondrette's eye was
fixed on the door. Marius' eager attention was transferred from one
to the other. M. Leblanc seemed to be asking himself: "Is this man an
idiot?" Jondrette repeated two or three distinct times, with all manner
of varying inflections of the whining and supplicating order: "There
is nothing left for me but to throw myself into the river! I went down
three steps at the side of the bridge of Austerlitz the other day for
that purpose."

All at once his dull eyes lighted up with a hideous flash; the little
man drew himself up and became terrible, took a step toward M. Leblanc
and cried in a voice of thunder: "That has nothing to do with the
question! Do you know me?"


The door of the garret had just opened abruptly, and allowed a view of
three men clad in blue linen blouses, and masked with masks of black
paper. The first was thin, and had a long, iron-tipped cudgel; the
second, who was a sort of colossus, carried, by the middle of the
handle, with the blade downward, a butcher's pole-axe for slaughtering
cattle. The third, a man with thick-set shoulders, not so slender as
the first, held in his hand an enormous key stolen from the door of some

It appeared that the arrival of these men was what Jondrette had been
waiting for. A rapid dialogue ensued between him and the man with the
cudgel, the thin one.

"Is everything ready?" said Jondrette.

"Yes," replied the thin man.

"Where is Montparnasse?"

"The young principal actor stopped to chat with your girl."


"The eldest."

"Is there a carriage at the door?"


"Is the team harnessed?"


"With two good horses?"


"Is it waiting where I ordered?"


"Good," said Jondrette.

M. Leblanc was very pale. He was scrutinizing everything around him in
the den, like a man who understands what he has fallen into, and his
head, directed in turn toward all the heads which surrounded him, moved
on his neck with an astonished and attentive slowness, but there
was nothing in his air which resembled fear. He had improvised
an intrenchment out of the table; and the man, who but an instant
previously, had borne merely the appearance of a kindly old man, had
suddenly become a sort of athlete, and placed his robust fist on the
back of his chair, with a formidable and surprising gesture.

This old man, who was so firm and so brave in the presence of such a
danger, seemed to possess one of those natures which are as courageous
as they are kind, both easily and simply. The father of a woman whom we
love is never a stranger to us. Marius felt proud of that unknown man.

Three of the men, of whom Jondrette had said: "They are
chimney-builders," had armed themselves from the pile of old iron, one
with a heavy pair of shears, the second with weighing-tongs, the third
with a hammer, and had placed themselves across the entrance without
uttering a syllable. The old man had remained on the bed, and had merely
opened his eyes. The Jondrette woman had seated herself beside him.

Marius decided that in a few seconds more the moment for intervention
would arrive, and he raised his right hand towards the ceiling, in the
direction of the corridor, in readiness to discharge his pistol.

Jondrette having terminated his colloquy with the man with the cudgel,
turned once more to M. Leblanc, and repeated his question, accompanying
it with that low, repressed, and terrible laugh which was peculiar to

"So you do not recognize me?"

M. Leblanc looked him full in the face, and replied:--


Then Jondrette advanced to the table. He leaned across the candle,
crossing his arms, putting his angular and ferocious jaw close to M.
Leblanc's calm face, and advancing as far as possible without forcing M.
Leblanc to retreat, and, in this posture of a wild beast who is about to
bite, he exclaimed:--

"My name is not Fabantou, my name is not Jondrette, my name is
Thenardier. I am the inn-keeper of Montfermeil! Do you understand?
Thenardier! Now do you know me?"

An almost imperceptible flush crossed M. Leblanc's brow, and he replied
with a voice which neither trembled nor rose above its ordinary level,
with his accustomed placidity:--

"No more than before."

Marius did not hear this reply. Any one who had seen him at that moment
through the darkness would have perceived that he was haggard,
stupid, thunder-struck. At the moment when Jondrette said: "My name is
Thenardier," Marius had trembled in every limb, and had leaned against
the wall, as though he felt the cold of a steel blade through his heart.
Then his right arm, all ready to discharge the signal shot, dropped
slowly, and at the moment when Jondrette repeated, "Thenardier, do you
understand?" Marius's faltering fingers had come near letting the pistol
fall. Jondrette, by revealing his identity, had not moved M. Leblanc,
but he had quite upset Marius. That name of Thenardier, with which M.
Leblanc did not seem to be acquainted, Marius knew well. Let the reader
recall what that name meant to him! That name he had worn on his heart,
inscribed in his father's testament! He bore it at the bottom of his
mind, in the depths of his memory, in that sacred injunction: "A certain
Thenardier saved my life. If my son encounters him, he will do him all
the good that lies in his power." That name, it will be remembered,
was one of the pieties of his soul; he mingled it with the name of
his father in his worship. What! This man was that Thenardier, that
inn-keeper of Montfermeil whom he had so long and so vainly sought! He
had found him at last, and how? His father's saviour was a ruffian!
That man, to whose service Marius was burning to devote himself, was
a monster! That liberator of Colonel Pontmercy was on the point
of committing a crime whose scope Marius did not, as yet, clearly
comprehend, but which resembled an assassination! And against whom,
great God! what a fatality! What a bitter mockery of fate! His father
had commanded him from the depths of his coffin to do all the good in
his power to this Thenardier, and for four years Marius had cherished
no other thought than to acquit this debt of his father's, and at the
moment when he was on the eve of having a brigand seized in the very
act of crime by justice, destiny cried to him: "This is Thenardier!"
He could at last repay this man for his father's life, saved amid a
hail-storm of grape-shot on the heroic field of Waterloo, and repay it
with the scaffold! He had sworn to himself that if ever he found that
Thenardier, he would address him only by throwing himself at his feet;
and now he actually had found him, but it was only to deliver him over
to the executioner! His father said to him: "Succor Thenardier!" And he
replied to that adored and sainted voice by crushing Thenardier! He was
about to offer to his father in his grave the spectacle of that man who
had torn him from death at the peril of his own life, executed on the
Place Saint-Jacques through the means of his son, of that Marius to whom
he had entrusted that man by his will! And what a mockery to have so
long worn on his breast his father's last commands, written in his own
hand, only to act in so horribly contrary a sense! But, on the other
hand, now look on that trap and not prevent it! Condemn the victim and
to spare the assassin! Could one be held to any gratitude towards so
miserable a wretch? All the ideas which Marius had cherished for the
last four years were pierced through and through, as it were, by this
unforeseen blow.

He shuddered. Everything depended on him. Unknown to themselves, he
held in his hand all those beings who were moving about there before his
eyes. If he fired his pistol, M. Leblanc was saved, and Thenardier lost;
if he did not fire, M. Leblanc would be sacrificed, and, who knows?
Thenardier would escape. Should he dash down the one or allow the other
to fall? Remorse awaited him in either case.

What was he to do? What should he choose? Be false to the most imperious
souvenirs, to all those solemn vows to himself, to the most sacred duty,
to the most venerated text! Should he ignore his father's testament,
or allow the perpetration of a crime! On the one hand, it seemed to him
that he heard "his Ursule" supplicating for her father and on the other,
the colonel commending Thenardier to his care. He felt that he was going
mad. His knees gave way beneath him. And he had not even the time for
deliberation, so great was the fury with which the scene before his eyes
was hastening to its catastrophe. It was like a whirlwind of which he
had thought himself the master, and which was now sweeping him away. He
was on the verge of swooning.

In the meantime, Thenardier, whom we shall henceforth call by no other
name, was pacing up and down in front of the table in a sort of frenzy
and wild triumph.

He seized the candle in his fist, and set it on the chimney-piece with
so violent a bang that the wick came near being extinguished, and the
tallow bespattered the wall.

Then he turned to M. Leblanc with a horrible look, and spit out these

"Done for! Smoked brown! Cooked! Spitchcocked!"

And again he began to march back and forth, in full eruption.

"Ah!" he cried, "so I've found you again at last, Mister philanthropist!
Mister threadbare millionnaire! Mister giver of dolls! you old
ninny! Ah! so you don't recognize me! No, it wasn't you who came to
Montfermeil, to my inn, eight years ago, on Christmas eve, 1823! It
wasn't you who carried off that Fantine's child from me! The Lark! It
wasn't you who had a yellow great-coat! No! Nor a package of duds in
your hand, as you had this morning here! Say, wife, it seems to be his
mania to carry packets of woollen stockings into houses! Old charity
monger, get out with you! Are you a hosier, Mister millionnaire? You
give away your stock in trade to the poor, holy man! What bosh! merry
Andrew! Ah! and you don't recognize me? Well, I recognize you, that I
do! I recognized you the very moment you poked your snout in here. Ah!
you'll find out presently, that it isn't all roses to thrust yourself
in that fashion into people's houses, under the pretext that they are
taverns, in wretched clothes, with the air of a poor man, to whom one
would give a sou, to deceive persons, to play the generous, to take away
their means of livelihood, and to make threats in the woods, and you
can't call things quits because afterwards, when people are ruined, you
bring a coat that is too large, and two miserable hospital blankets, you
old blackguard, you child-stealer!"

He paused, and seemed to be talking to himself for a moment. One would
have said that his wrath had fallen into some hole, like the Rhone;
then, as though he were concluding aloud the things which he had been
saying to himself in a whisper, he smote the table with his fist, and

"And with his goody-goody air!"

And, apostrophizing M. Leblanc:--

"Parbleu! You made game of me in the past! You are the cause of all my
misfortunes! For fifteen hundred francs you got a girl whom I had, and
who certainly belonged to rich people, and who had already brought in a
great deal of money, and from whom I might have extracted enough to live
on all my life! A girl who would have made up to me for everything that
I lost in that vile cook-shop, where there was nothing but one continual
row, and where, like a fool, I ate up my last farthing! Oh! I wish all
the wine folks drank in my house had been poison to those who drank it!
Well, never mind! Say, now! You must have thought me ridiculous when you
went off with the Lark! You had your cudgel in the forest. You were the
stronger. Revenge. I'm the one to hold the trumps to-day! You're in a
sorry case, my good fellow! Oh, but I can laugh! Really, I laugh! Didn't
he fall into the trap! I told him that I was an actor, that my name was
Fabantou, that I had played comedy with Mamselle Mars, with Mamselle
Muche, that my landlord insisted on being paid tomorrow, the 4th of
February, and he didn't even notice that the 8th of January, and not the
4th of February is the time when the quarter runs out! Absurd idiot!
And the four miserable Philippes which he has brought me! Scoundrel!
He hadn't the heart even to go as high as a hundred francs! And how
he swallowed my platitudes! That did amuse me. I said to myself:
'Blockhead! Come, I've got you! I lick your paws this morning, but I'll
gnaw your heart this evening!'"

Thenardier paused. He was out of breath. His little, narrow chest panted
like a forge bellows. His eyes were full of the ignoble happiness of a
feeble, cruel, and cowardly creature, which finds that it can, at last,
harass what it has feared, and insult what it has flattered, the joy of
a dwarf who should be able to set his heel on the head of Goliath, the
joy of a jackal which is beginning to rend a sick bull, so nearly dead
that he can no longer defend himself, but sufficiently alive to suffer

M. Leblanc did not interrupt him, but said to him when he paused:--

"I do not know what you mean to say. You are mistaken in me. I am a very
poor man, and anything but a millionnaire. I do not know you. You are
mistaking me for some other person."

"Ah!" roared Thenardier hoarsely, "a pretty lie! You stick to that
pleasantry, do you! You're floundering, my old buck! Ah! You don't
remember! You don't see who I am?"

"Excuse me, sir," said M. Leblanc with a politeness of accent, which at
that moment seemed peculiarly strange and powerful, "I see that you are
a villain!"

Who has not remarked the fact that odious creatures possess a
susceptibility of their own, that monsters are ticklish! At this word
"villain," the female Thenardier sprang from the bed, Thenardier grasped
his chair as though he were about to crush it in his hands. "Don't you
stir!" he shouted to his wife; and, turning to M. Leblanc:--

"Villain! Yes, I know that you call us that, you rich gentlemen! Stop!
it's true that I became bankrupt, that I am in hiding, that I have no
bread, that I have not a single sou, that I am a villain! It's three
days since I have had anything to eat, so I'm a villain! Ah! you folks
warm your feet, you have Sakoski boots, you have wadded great-coats,
like archbishops, you lodge on the first floor in houses that have
porters, you eat truffles, you eat asparagus at forty francs the bunch
in the month of January, and green peas, you gorge yourselves, and when
you want to know whether it is cold, you look in the papers to see what
the engineer Chevalier's thermometer says about it. We, it is we who are
thermometers. We don't need to go out and look on the quay at the corner
of the Tour de l'Horologe, to find out the number of degrees of cold;
we feel our blood congealing in our veins, and the ice forming round our
hearts, and we say: 'There is no God!' And you come to our caverns, yes
our caverns, for the purpose of calling us villains! But we'll devour
you! But we'll devour you, poor little things! Just see here, Mister
millionnaire: I have been a solid man, I have held a license, I have
been an elector, I am a bourgeois, that I am! And it's quite possible
that you are not!"

Here Thenardier took a step towards the men who stood near the door, and
added with a shudder:--

"When I think that he has dared to come here and talk to me like a

Then addressing M. Leblanc with a fresh outburst of frenzy:--

"And listen to this also, Mister philanthropist! I'm not a suspicious
character, not a bit of it! I'm not a man whose name nobody knows, and
who comes and abducts children from houses! I'm an old French soldier,
I ought to have been decorated! I was at Waterloo, so I was! And in the
battle I saved a general called the Comte of I don't know what. He told
me his name, but his beastly voice was so weak that I didn't hear. All I
caught was Merci [thanks]. I'd rather have had his name than his thanks.
That would have helped me to find him again. The picture that you see
here, and which was painted by David at Bruqueselles,--do you know what
it represents? It represents me. David wished to immortalize that
feat of prowess. I have that general on my back, and I am carrying him
through the grape-shot. There's the history of it! That general never
did a single thing for me; he was no better than the rest! But none the
less, I saved his life at the risk of my own, and I have the certificate
of the fact in my pocket! I am a soldier of Waterloo, by all the furies!
And now that I have had the goodness to tell you all this, let's have an
end of it. I want money, I want a deal of money, I must have an enormous
lot of money, or I'll exterminate you, by the thunder of the good God!"

Marius had regained some measure of control over his anguish, and was
listening. The last possibility of doubt had just vanished. It certainly
was the Thenardier of the will. Marius shuddered at that reproach of
ingratitude directed against his father, and which he was on the point
of so fatally justifying. His perplexity was redoubled.

Moreover, there was in all these words of Thenardier, in his accent, in
his gesture, in his glance which darted flames at every word, there
was, in this explosion of an evil nature disclosing everything, in that
mixture of braggadocio and abjectness, of pride and pettiness, of rage
and folly, in that chaos of real griefs and false sentiments, in
that immodesty of a malicious man tasting the voluptuous delights
of violence, in that shameless nudity of a repulsive soul, in that
conflagration of all sufferings combined with all hatreds, something
which was as hideous as evil, and as heart-rending as the truth.

The picture of the master, the painting by David which he had proposed
that M. Leblanc should purchase, was nothing else, as the reader has
divined, than the sign of his tavern painted, as it will be remembered,
by himself, the only relic which he had preserved from his shipwreck at

As he had ceased to intercept Marius' visual ray, Marius could examine
this thing, and in the daub, he actually did recognize a battle, a
background of smoke, and a man carrying another man. It was the group
composed of Pontmercy and Thenardier; the sergeant the rescuer, the
colonel rescued. Marius was like a drunken man; this picture restored
his father to life in some sort; it was no longer the signboard of the
wine-shop at Montfermeil, it was a resurrection; a tomb had yawned, a
phantom had risen there. Marius heard his heart beating in his temples,
he had the cannon of Waterloo in his ears, his bleeding father, vaguely
depicted on that sinister panel terrified him, and it seemed to him that
the misshapen spectre was gazing intently at him.

When Thenardier had recovered his breath, he turned his bloodshot eyes
on M. Leblanc, and said to him in a low, curt voice:--

"What have you to say before we put the handcuffs on you?"

M. Leblanc held his peace.

In the midst of this silence, a cracked voice launched this lugubrious
sarcasm from the corridor:--

"If there's any wood to be split, I'm there!"

It was the man with the axe, who was growing merry.

At the same moment, an enormous, bristling, and clayey face made its
appearance at the door, with a hideous laugh which exhibited not teeth,
but fangs.

It was the face of the man with the butcher's axe.

"Why have you taken off your mask?" cried Thenardier in a rage.

"For fun," retorted the man.

For the last few minutes M. Leblanc had appeared to be watching and
following all the movements of Thenardier, who, blinded and dazzled by
his own rage, was stalking to and fro in the den with full confidence
that the door was guarded, and of holding an unarmed man fast, he being
armed himself, of being nine against one, supposing that the female
Thenardier counted for but one man.

During his address to the man with the pole-axe, he had turned his back
to M. Leblanc.

M. Leblanc seized this moment, overturned the chair with his foot and
the table with his fist, and with one bound, with prodigious agility,
before Thenardier had time to turn round, he had reached the window. To
open it, to scale the frame, to bestride it, was the work of a second
only. He was half out when six robust fists seized him and dragged
him back energetically into the hovel. These were the three
"chimney-builders," who had flung themselves upon him. At the same time
the Thenardier woman had wound her hands in his hair.

At the trampling which ensued, the other ruffians rushed up from the
corridor. The old man on the bed, who seemed under the influence
of wine, descended from the pallet and came reeling up, with a
stone-breaker's hammer in his hand.

One of the "chimney-builders," whose smirched face was lighted up by
the candle, and in whom Marius recognized, in spite of his daubing,
Panchaud, alias Printanier, alias Bigrenaille, lifted above M. Leblanc's
head a sort of bludgeon made of two balls of lead, at the two ends of a
bar of iron.

Marius could not resist this sight. "My father," he thought, "forgive

And his finger sought the trigger of his pistol.

The shot was on the point of being discharged when Thenardier's voice

"Don't harm him!"

This desperate attempt of the victim, far from exasperating Thenardier,
had calmed him. There existed in him two men, the ferocious man and
the adroit man. Up to that moment, in the excess of his triumph in the
presence of the prey which had been brought down, and which did not
stir, the ferocious man had prevailed; when the victim struggled and
tried to resist, the adroit man reappeared and took the upper hand.

"Don't hurt him!" he repeated, and without suspecting it, his first
success was to arrest the pistol in the act of being discharged, and to
paralyze Marius, in whose opinion the urgency of the case disappeared,
and who, in the face of this new phase, saw no inconvenience in waiting
a while longer.

Who knows whether some chance would not arise which would deliver him
from the horrible alternative of allowing Ursule's father to perish, or
of destroying the colonel's saviour?

A herculean struggle had begun. With one blow full in the chest, M.
Leblanc had sent the old man tumbling, rolling in the middle of the
room, then with two backward sweeps of his hand he had overthrown two
more assailants, and he held one under each of his knees; the wretches
were rattling in the throat beneath this pressure as under a granite
millstone; but the other four had seized the formidable old man by both
arms and the back of his neck, and were holding him doubled up over the
two "chimney-builders" on the floor.

Thus, the master of some and mastered by the rest, crushing those
beneath him and stifling under those on top of him, endeavoring in vain
to shake off all the efforts which were heaped upon him, M. Leblanc
disappeared under the horrible group of ruffians like the wild boar
beneath a howling pile of dogs and hounds.

They succeeded in overthrowing him upon the bed nearest the window, and
there they held him in awe. The Thenardier woman had not released her
clutch on his hair.

"Don't you mix yourself up in this affair," said Thenardier. "You'll
tear your shawl."

The Thenardier obeyed, as the female wolf obeys the male wolf, with a

"Now," said Thenardier, "search him, you other fellows!"

M. Leblanc seemed to have renounced the idea of resistance.

They searched him.

He had nothing on his person except a leather purse containing six
francs, and his handkerchief.

Thenardier put the handkerchief into his own pocket.

"What! No pocket-book?" he demanded.

"No, nor watch," replied one of the "chimney-builders."

"Never mind," murmured the masked man who carried the big key, in the
voice of a ventriloquist, "he's a tough old fellow."

Thenardier went to the corner near the door, picked up a bundle of ropes
and threw them at the men.

"Tie him to the leg of the bed," said he.

And, catching sight of the old man who had been stretched across the
room by the blow from M. Leblanc's fist, and who made no movement, he

"Is Boulatruelle dead?"

"No," replied Bigrenaille, "he's drunk."

"Sweep him into a corner," said Thenardier.

Two of the "chimney-builders" pushed the drunken man into the corner
near the heap of old iron with their feet.

"Babet," said Thenardier in a low tone to the man with the cudgel, "why
did you bring so many; they were not needed."

"What can you do?" replied the man with the cudgel, "they all wanted to
be in it. This is a bad season. There's no business going on."

The pallet on which M. Leblanc had been thrown was a sort of hospital
bed, elevated on four coarse wooden legs, roughly hewn.

M. Leblanc let them take their own course.

The ruffians bound him securely, in an upright attitude, with his feet
on the ground at the head of the bed, the end which was most remote from
the window, and nearest to the fireplace.

When the last knot had been tied, Thenardier took a chair and seated
himself almost facing M. Leblanc.

Thenardier no longer looked like himself; in the course of a few moments
his face had passed from unbridled violence to tranquil and cunning

Marius found it difficult to recognize in that polished smile of a man
in official life the almost bestial mouth which had been foaming but a
moment before; he gazed with amazement on that fantastic and alarming
metamorphosis, and he felt as a man might feel who should behold a tiger
converted into a lawyer.

"Monsieur--" said Thenardier.

And dismissing with a gesture the ruffians who still kept their hands on
M. Leblanc:--

"Stand off a little, and let me have a talk with the gentleman."

All retired towards the door.

He went on:--

"Monsieur, you did wrong to try to jump out of the window. You might
have broken your leg. Now, if you will permit me, we will converse
quietly. In the first place, I must communicate to you an observation
which I have made which is, that you have not uttered the faintest cry."

Thenardier was right, this detail was correct, although it had escaped
Marius in his agitation. M. Leblanc had barely pronounced a few words,
without raising his voice, and even during his struggle with the six
ruffians near the window he had preserved the most profound and singular

Thenardier continued:--

"Mon Dieu! You might have shouted 'stop thief' a bit, and I should not
have thought it improper. 'Murder!' That, too, is said occasionally,
and, so far as I am concerned, I should not have taken it in bad part.
It is very natural that you should make a little row when you find
yourself with persons who don't inspire you with sufficient confidence.
You might have done that, and no one would have troubled you on that
account. You would not even have been gagged. And I will tell you why.
This room is very private. That's its only recommendation, but it has
that in its favor. You might fire off a mortar and it would produce
about as much noise at the nearest police station as the snores of a
drunken man. Here a cannon would make a boum, and the thunder would make
a pouf. It's a handy lodging. But, in short, you did not shout, and
it is better so. I present you my compliments, and I will tell you the
conclusion that I draw from that fact: My dear sir, when a man shouts,
who comes? The police. And after the police? Justice. Well! You have not
made an outcry; that is because you don't care to have the police and
the courts come in any more than we do. It is because,--I have long
suspected it,--you have some interest in hiding something. On our side
we have the same interest. So we can come to an understanding."

As he spoke thus, it seemed as though Thenardier, who kept his eyes
fixed on M. Leblanc, were trying to plunge the sharp points which darted
from the pupils into the very conscience of his prisoner. Moreover, his
language, which was stamped with a sort of moderated, subdued insolence
and crafty insolence, was reserved and almost choice, and in that
rascal, who had been nothing but a robber a short time previously, one
now felt "the man who had studied for the priesthood."

The silence preserved by the prisoner, that precaution which had been
carried to the point of forgetting all anxiety for his own life, that
resistance opposed to the first impulse of nature, which is to utter
a cry, all this, it must be confessed, now that his attention had
been called to it, troubled Marius, and affected him with painful

Thenardier's well-grounded observation still further obscured for Marius
the dense mystery which enveloped that grave and singular person on whom
Courfeyrac had bestowed the sobriquet of Monsieur Leblanc.

But whoever he was, bound with ropes, surrounded with executioners, half
plunged, so to speak, in a grave which was closing in upon him to the
extent of a degree with every moment that passed, in the presence
of Thenardier's wrath, as in the presence of his sweetness, this man
remained impassive; and Marius could not refrain from admiring at such a
moment the superbly melancholy visage.

Here, evidently, was a soul which was inaccessible to terror, and which
did not know the meaning of despair. Here was one of those men who
command amazement in desperate circumstances. Extreme as was the crisis,
inevitable as was the catastrophe, there was nothing here of the agony
of the drowning man, who opens his horror-filled eyes under the water.

Thenardier rose in an unpretending manner, went to the fireplace, shoved
aside the screen, which he leaned against the neighboring pallet, and
thus unmasked the brazier full of glowing coals, in which the prisoner
could plainly see the chisel white-hot and spotted here and there with
tiny scarlet stars.

Then Thenardier returned to his seat beside M. Leblanc.

"I continue," said he. "We can come to an understanding. Let us arrange
this matter in an amicable way. I was wrong to lose my temper just now,
I don't know what I was thinking of, I went a great deal too far, I said
extravagant things. For example, because you are a millionnaire, I told
you that I exacted money, a lot of money, a deal of money. That would
not be reasonable. Mon Dieu, in spite of your riches, you have expenses
of your own--who has not? I don't want to ruin you, I am not a greedy
fellow, after all. I am not one of those people who, because they have
the advantage of the position, profit by the fact to make themselves
ridiculous. Why, I'm taking things into consideration and making a
sacrifice on my side. I only want two hundred thousand francs."

M. Leblanc uttered not a word.

Thenardier went on:--

"You see that I put not a little water in my wine; I'm very moderate. I
don't know the state of your fortune, but I do know that you don't stick
at money, and a benevolent man like yourself can certainly give two
hundred thousand francs to the father of a family who is out of luck.
Certainly, you are reasonable, too; you haven't imagined that I should
take all the trouble I have to-day and organized this affair this
evening, which has been labor well bestowed, in the opinion of these
gentlemen, merely to wind up by asking you for enough to go and drink
red wine at fifteen sous and eat veal at Desnoyer's. Two hundred
thousand francs--it's surely worth all that. This trifle once out of
your pocket, I guarantee you that that's the end of the matter, and that
you have no further demands to fear. You will say to me: 'But I haven't
two hundred thousand francs about me.' Oh! I'm not extortionate. I don't
demand that. I only ask one thing of you. Have the goodness to write
what I am about to dictate to you."

Here Thenardier paused; then he added, emphasizing his words, and
casting a smile in the direction of the brazier:--

"I warn you that I shall not admit that you don't know how to write."

A grand inquisitor might have envied that smile.

Thenardier pushed the table close to M. Leblanc, and took an inkstand,
a pen, and a sheet of paper from the drawer which he left half open, and
in which gleamed the long blade of the knife.

He placed the sheet of paper before M. Leblanc.

"Write," said he.

The prisoner spoke at last.

"How do you expect me to write? I am bound."

"That's true, excuse me!" ejaculated Thenardier, "you are quite right."

And turning to Bigrenaille:--

"Untie the gentleman's right arm."

Panchaud, alias Printanier, alias Bigrenaille, executed Thenardier's

When the prisoner's right arm was free, Thenardier dipped the pen in the
ink and presented it to him.

"Understand thoroughly, sir, that you are in our power, at our
discretion, that no human power can get you out of this, and that we
shall be really grieved if we are forced to proceed to disagreeable
extremities. I know neither your name, nor your address, but I warn you,
that you will remain bound until the person charged with carrying the
letter which you are about to write shall have returned. Now, be so good
as to write."

"What?" demanded the prisoner.

"I will dictate."

M. Leblanc took the pen.

Thenardier began to dictate:--

"My daughter--"

The prisoner shuddered, and raised his eyes to Thenardier.

"Put down 'My dear daughter'--" said Thenardier.

M. Leblanc obeyed.

Thenardier continued:--

"Come instantly--"

He paused:--

"You address her as thou, do you not?"

"Who?" asked M. Leblanc.

"Parbleu!" cried Thenardier, "the little one, the Lark."

M. Leblanc replied without the slightest apparent emotion:--

"I do not know what you mean."

"Go on, nevertheless," ejaculated Thenardier, and he continued to

"Come immediately, I am in absolute need of thee. The person who will
deliver this note to thee is instructed to conduct thee to me. I am
waiting for thee. Come with confidence."

M. Leblanc had written the whole of this.

Thenardier resumed:--

"Ah! erase 'come with confidence'; that might lead her to suppose that
everything was not as it should be, and that distrust is possible."

M. Leblanc erased the three words.

"Now," pursued Thenardier, "sign it. What's your name?"

The prisoner laid down the pen and demanded:--

"For whom is this letter?"

"You know well," retorted Thenardier, "for the little one I just told
you so."

It was evident that Thenardier avoided naming the young girl in
question. He said "the Lark," he said "the little one," but he did not
pronounce her name--the precaution of a clever man guarding his secret
from his accomplices. To mention the name was to deliver the whole
"affair" into their hands, and to tell them more about it than there was
any need of their knowing.

He went on:--

"Sign. What is your name?"

"Urbain Fabre," said the prisoner.

Thenardier, with the movement of a cat, dashed his hand into his pocket
and drew out the handkerchief which had been seized on M. Leblanc. He
looked for the mark on it, and held it close to the candle.

"U. F. That's it. Urbain Fabre. Well, sign it U. F."

The prisoner signed.

"As two hands are required to fold the letter, give it to me, I will
fold it."

That done, Thenardier resumed:--

"Address it, 'Mademoiselle Fabre,' at your house. I know that you live
a long distance from here, near Saint-Jacquesdu-Haut-Pas, because you go
to mass there every day, but I don't know in what street. I see that
you understand your situation. As you have not lied about your name, you
will not lie about your address. Write it yourself."

The prisoner paused thoughtfully for a moment, then he took the pen and

"Mademoiselle Fabre, at M. Urbain Fabre's, Rue Saint-Dominique-D'Enfer,
No. 17."

Thenardier seized the letter with a sort of feverish convulsion.

"Wife!" he cried.

The Thenardier woman hastened to him.

"Here's the letter. You know what you have to do. There is a carriage at
the door. Set out at once, and return ditto."

And addressing the man with the meat-axe:--

"Since you have taken off your nose-screen, accompany the mistress. You
will get up behind the fiacre. You know where you left the team?"

"Yes," said the man.

And depositing his axe in a corner, he followed Madame Thenardier.

As they set off, Thenardier thrust his head through the half-open door,
and shouted into the corridor:--

"Above all things, don't lose the letter! remember that you carry two
hundred thousand francs with you!"

The Thenardier's hoarse voice replied:--

"Be easy. I have it in my bosom."

A minute had not elapsed, when the sound of the cracking of a whip was
heard, which rapidly retreated and died away.

"Good!" growled Thenardier. "They're going at a fine pace. At such a
gallop, the bourgeoise will be back inside three-quarters of an hour."

He drew a chair close to the fireplace, folding his arms, and presenting
his muddy boots to the brazier.

"My feet are cold!" said he.

Only five ruffians now remained in the den with Thenardier and the

These men, through the black masks or paste which covered their faces,
and made of them, at fear's pleasure, charcoal-burners, negroes, or
demons, had a stupid and gloomy air, and it could be felt that they
perpetrated a crime like a bit of work, tranquilly, without either wrath
or mercy, with a sort of ennui. They were crowded together in one corner
like brutes, and remained silent.

Thenardier warmed his feet.

The prisoner had relapsed into his taciturnity. A sombre calm had
succeeded to the wild uproar which had filled the garret but a few
moments before.

The candle, on which a large "stranger" had formed, cast but a dim
light in the immense hovel, the brazier had grown dull, and all those
monstrous heads cast misshapen shadows on the walls and ceiling.

No sound was audible except the quiet breathing of the old drunken man,
who was fast asleep.

Marius waited in a state of anxiety that was augmented by every trifle.
The enigma was more impenetrable than ever.

Who was this "little one" whom Thenardier had called the Lark? Was she
his "Ursule"? The prisoner had not seemed to be affected by that word,
"the Lark," and had replied in the most natural manner in the world:
"I do not know what you mean." On the other hand, the two letters U. F.
were explained; they meant Urbain Fabre; and Ursule was no longer named
Ursule. This was what Marius perceived most clearly of all.

A sort of horrible fascination held him nailed to his post, from which
he was observing and commanding this whole scene. There he stood,
almost incapable of movement or reflection, as though annihilated by the
abominable things viewed at such close quarters. He waited, in the hope
of some incident, no matter of what nature, since he could not collect
his thoughts and did not know upon what course to decide.

"In any case," he said, "if she is the Lark, I shall see her, for the
Thenardier woman is to bring her hither. That will be the end, and then
I will give my life and my blood if necessary, but I will deliver her!
Nothing shall stop me."

Nearly half an hour passed in this manner. Thenardier seemed to be
absorbed in gloomy reflections, the prisoner did not stir. Still, Marius
fancied that at intervals, and for the last few moments, he had heard a
faint, dull noise in the direction of the prisoner.

All at once, Thenardier addressed the prisoner:

"By the way, Monsieur Fabre, I might as well say it to you at once."

These few words appeared to be the beginning of an explanation. Marius
strained his ears.

"My wife will be back shortly, don't get impatient. I think that the
Lark really is your daughter, and it seems to me quite natural that you
should keep her. Only, listen to me a bit. My wife will go and hunt her
up with your letter. I told my wife to dress herself in the way she did,
so that your young lady might make no difficulty about following her.
They will both enter the carriage with my comrade behind. Somewhere,
outside the barrier, there is a trap harnessed to two very good horses.
Your young lady will be taken to it. She will alight from the fiacre.
My comrade will enter the other vehicle with her, and my wife will come
back here to tell us: 'It's done.' As for the young lady, no harm will
be done to her; the trap will conduct her to a place where she will be
quiet, and just as soon as you have handed over to me those little two
hundred thousand francs, she will be returned to you. If you have me
arrested, my comrade will give a turn of his thumb to the Lark, that's

The prisoner uttered not a syllable. After a pause, Thenardier

"It's very simple, as you see. There'll be no harm done unless you wish
that there should be harm done. I'm telling you how things stand. I warn
you so that you may be prepared."

He paused: the prisoner did not break the silence, and Thenardier

"As soon as my wife returns and says to me: 'The Lark is on the way,' we
will release you, and you will be free to go and sleep at home. You see
that our intentions are not evil."

Terrible images passed through Marius' mind. What! That young girl whom
they were abducting was not to be brought back? One of those monsters
was to bear her off into the darkness? Whither? And what if it were she!

It was clear that it was she. Marius felt his heart stop beating.

What was he to do? Discharge the pistol? Place all those scoundrels in
the hands of justice? But the horrible man with the meat-axe would, none
the less, be out of reach with the young girl, and Marius reflected on
Thenardier's words, of which he perceived the bloody significance: "If
you have me arrested, my comrade will give a turn of his thumb to the

Now, it was not alone by the colonel's testament, it was by his own
love, it was by the peril of the one he loved, that he felt himself

This frightful situation, which had already lasted above half an hour,
was changing its aspect every moment.

Marius had sufficient strength of mind to review in succession all the
most heart-breaking conjectures, seeking hope and finding none.

The tumult of his thoughts contrasted with the funereal silence of the

In the midst of this silence, the door at the bottom of the staircase
was heard to open and shut again.

The prisoner made a movement in his bonds.

"Here's the bourgeoise," said Thenardier.

He had hardly uttered the words, when the Thenardier woman did in fact
rush hastily into the room, red, panting, breathless, with flaming eyes,
and cried, as she smote her huge hands on her thighs simultaneously:--

"False address!"

The ruffian who had gone with her made his appearance behind her and
picked up his axe again.

She resumed:--

"Nobody there! Rue Saint-Dominique, No. 17, no Monsieur Urbain Fabre!
They know not what it means!"

She paused, choking, then went on:--

"Monsieur Thenardier! That old fellow has duped you! You are too good,
you see! If it had been me, I'd have chopped the beast in four quarters
to begin with! And if he had acted ugly, I'd have boiled him alive! He
would have been obliged to speak, and say where the girl is, and where
he keeps his shiners! That's the way I should have managed matters!
People are perfectly right when they say that men are a deal stupider
than women! Nobody at No. 17. It's nothing but a big carriage gate! No
Monsieur Fabre in the Rue Saint-Dominique! And after all that racing
and fee to the coachman and all! I spoke to both the porter and the
portress, a fine, stout woman, and they know nothing about him!"

Marius breathed freely once more.

She, Ursule or the Lark, he no longer knew what to call her, was safe.

While his exasperated wife vociferated, Thenardier had seated himself on
the table.

For several minutes he uttered not a word, but swung his right foot,
which hung down, and stared at the brazier with an air of savage revery.

Finally, he said to the prisoner, with a slow and singularly ferocious

"A false address? What did you expect to gain by that?"

"To gain time!" cried the prisoner in a thundering voice, and at the
same instant he shook off his bonds; they were cut. The prisoner was
only attached to the bed now by one leg.

Before the seven men had time to collect their senses and dash forward,
he had bent down into the fireplace, had stretched out his hand to the
brazier, and had then straightened himself up again, and now Thenardier,
the female Thenardier, and the ruffians, huddled in amazement at the
extremity of the hovel, stared at him in stupefaction, as almost free
and in a formidable attitude, he brandished above his head the red-hot
chisel, which emitted a threatening glow.

The judicial examination to which the ambush in the Gorbeau house
eventually gave rise, established the fact that a large sou piece, cut
and worked in a peculiar fashion, was found in the garret, when the
police made their descent on it. This sou piece was one of those marvels
of industry, which are engendered by the patience of the galleys in
the shadows and for the shadows, marvels which are nothing else than
instruments of escape. These hideous and delicate products of wonderful
art are to jewellers' work what the metaphors of slang are to poetry.
There are Benvenuto Cellinis in the galleys, just as there are Villons
in language. The unhappy wretch who aspires to deliverance finds means
sometimes without tools, sometimes with a common wooden-handled knife,
to saw a sou into two thin plates, to hollow out these plates without
affecting the coinage stamp, and to make a furrow on the edge of the sou
in such a manner that the plates will adhere again. This can be screwed
together and unscrewed at will; it is a box. In this box he hides a
watch-spring, and this watch-spring, properly handled, cuts good-sized
chains and bars of iron. The unfortunate convict is supposed to possess
merely a sou; not at all, he possesses liberty. It was a large sou of
this sort which, during the subsequent search of the police, was found
under the bed near the window. They also found a tiny saw of blue steel
which would fit the sou.

It is probable that the prisoner had this sou piece on his person at the
moment when the ruffians searched him, that he contrived to conceal
it in his hand, and that afterward, having his right hand free, he
unscrewed it, and used it as a saw to cut the cords which fastened him,
which would explain the faint noise and almost imperceptible movements
which Marius had observed.

As he had not been able to bend down, for fear of betraying himself, he
had not cut the bonds of his left leg.

The ruffians had recovered from their first surprise.

"Be easy," said Bigrenaille to Thenardier. "He still holds by one leg,
and he can't get away. I'll answer for that. I tied that paw for him."

In the meanwhile, the prisoner had begun to speak:--

"You are wretches, but my life is not worth the trouble of defending it.
When you think that you can make me speak, that you can make me write
what I do not choose to write, that you can make me say what I do not
choose to say--"

He stripped up his left sleeve, and added:--

"See here."

At the same moment he extended his arm, and laid the glowing chisel
which he held in his left hand by its wooden handle on his bare flesh.

The crackling of the burning flesh became audible, and the odor peculiar
to chambers of torture filled the hovel.

[Illustration: Red Hot Chisel  3b8-20-red-hot-chisel]

Marius reeled in utter horror, the very ruffians shuddered, hardly a
muscle of the old man's face contracted, and while the red-hot iron
sank into the smoking wound, impassive and almost august, he fixed on
Thenardier his beautiful glance, in which there was no hatred, and where
suffering vanished in serene majesty.

With grand and lofty natures, the revolts of the flesh and the senses
when subjected to physical suffering cause the soul to spring forth, and
make it appear on the brow, just as rebellions among the soldiery force
the captain to show himself.

"Wretches!" said he, "have no more fear of me than I have for you!"

And, tearing the chisel from the wound, he hurled it through the window,
which had been left open; the horrible, glowing tool disappeared into
the night, whirling as it flew, and fell far away on the snow.

The prisoner resumed:--

"Do what you please with me." He was disarmed.

"Seize him!" said Thenardier.

Two of the ruffians laid their hands on his shoulder, and the masked
man with the ventriloquist's voice took up his station in front of him,
ready to smash his skull at the slightest movement.

At the same time, Marius heard below him, at the base of the partition,
but so near that he could not see who was speaking, this colloquy
conducted in a low tone:--

"There is only one thing left to do."

"Cut his throat."

"That's it."

It was the husband and wife taking counsel together.

Thenardier walked slowly towards the table, opened the drawer, and
took out the knife. Marius fretted with the handle of his pistol.
Unprecedented perplexity! For the last hour he had had two voices in his
conscience, the one enjoining him to respect his father's testament, the
other crying to him to rescue the prisoner. These two voices continued
uninterruptedly that struggle which tormented him to agony. Up to that
moment he had cherished a vague hope that he should find some means
of reconciling these two duties, but nothing within the limits of
possibility had presented itself.

However, the peril was urgent, the last bounds of delay had been
reached; Thenardier was standing thoughtfully a few paces distant from
the prisoner.

Marius cast a wild glance about him, the last mechanical resource of
despair. All at once a shudder ran through him.

At his feet, on the table, a bright ray of light from the full moon
illuminated and seemed to point out to him a sheet of paper. On this
paper he read the following line written that very morning, in large
letters, by the eldest of the Thenardier girls:--


An idea, a flash, crossed Marius' mind; this was the expedient of which
he was in search, the solution of that frightful problem which was
torturing him, of sparing the assassin and saving the victim.

He knelt down on his commode, stretched out his arm, seized the sheet of
paper, softly detached a bit of plaster from the wall, wrapped the paper
round it, and tossed the whole through the crevice into the middle of
the den.

It was high time. Thenardier had conquered his last fears or his last
scruples, and was advancing on the prisoner.

"Something is falling!" cried the Thenardier woman.

"What is it?" asked her husband.

The woman darted forward and picked up the bit of plaster. She handed it
to her husband.

"Where did this come from?" demanded Thenardier.

"Pardie!" ejaculated his wife, "where do you suppose it came from?
Through the window, of course."

"I saw it pass," said Bigrenaille.

Thenardier rapidly unfolded the paper and held it close to the candle.

"It's in Eponine's handwriting. The devil!"

He made a sign to his wife, who hastily drew near, and showed her the
line written on the sheet of paper, then he added in a subdued voice:--

"Quick! The ladder! Let's leave the bacon in the mousetrap and decamp!"

"Without cutting that man's throat?" asked, the Thenardier woman.

"We haven't the time."

"Through what?" resumed Bigrenaille.

"Through the window," replied Thenardier. "Since Ponine has thrown the
stone through the window, it indicates that the house is not watched on
that side."

The mask with the ventriloquist's voice deposited his huge key on the
floor, raised both arms in the air, and opened and clenched his fists,
three times rapidly without uttering a word.

This was the signal like the signal for clearing the decks for action on
board ship.

The ruffians who were holding the prisoner released him; in the
twinkling of an eye the rope ladder was unrolled outside the window, and
solidly fastened to the sill by the two iron hooks.

The prisoner paid no attention to what was going on around him. He
seemed to be dreaming or praying.

As soon as the ladder was arranged, Thenardier cried:

"Come! the bourgeoise first!"

And he rushed headlong to the window.

But just as he was about to throw his leg over, Bigrenaille seized him
roughly by the collar.

"Not much, come now, you old dog, after us!"

"After us!" yelled the ruffians.

"You are children," said Thenardier, "we are losing time. The police are
on our heels."

"Well," said the ruffians, "let's draw lots to see who shall go down

Thenardier exclaimed:--

"Are you mad! Are you crazy! What a pack of boobies! You want to waste
time, do you? Draw lots, do you? By a wet finger, by a short straw! With
written names! Thrown into a hat!--"

"Would you like my hat?" cried a voice on the threshold.

All wheeled round. It was Javert.

He had his hat in his hand, and was holding it out to them with a smile.