Les Misérables by Victor Hugo 9


Enjolras had been to make a reconnaissance. He had made his way out
through Mondetour lane, gliding along close to the houses.

The insurgents, we will remark, were full of hope. The manner in which
they had repulsed the attack of the preceding night had caused them to
almost disdain in advance the attack at dawn. They waited for it with
a smile. They had no more doubt as to their success than as to their
cause. Moreover, succor was, evidently, on the way to them. They
reckoned on it. With that facility of triumphant prophecy which is one
of the sources of strength in the French combatant, they divided the
day which was at hand into three distinct phases. At six o'clock in the
morning a regiment "which had been labored with," would turn; at noon,
the insurrection of all Paris; at sunset, revolution.

They heard the alarm bell of Saint-Merry, which had not been silent for
an instant since the night before; a proof that the other barricade, the
great one, Jeanne's, still held out.

All these hopes were exchanged between the different groups in a sort of
gay and formidable whisper which resembled the warlike hum of a hive of

Enjolras reappeared. He returned from his sombre eagle flight into outer
darkness. He listened for a moment to all this joy with folded arms, and
one hand on his mouth. Then, fresh and rosy in the growing whiteness of
the dawn, he said:

"The whole army of Paris is to strike. A third of the army is bearing
down upon the barricades in which you now are. There is the National
Guard in addition. I have picked out the shakos of the fifth of the
line, and the standard-bearers of the sixth legion. In one hour you will
be attacked. As for the populace, it was seething yesterday, to-day
it is not stirring. There is nothing to expect; nothing to hope for.
Neither from a faubourg nor from a regiment. You are abandoned."

These words fell upon the buzzing of the groups, and produced on them
the effect caused on a swarm of bees by the first drops of a storm. A
moment of indescribable silence ensued, in which death might have been
heard flitting by.

This moment was brief.

A voice from the obscurest depths of the groups shouted to Enjolras:

"So be it. Let us raise the barricade to a height of twenty feet, and
let us all remain in it. Citizens, let us offer the protests of corpses.
Let us show that, if the people abandon the republicans, the republicans
do not abandon the people."

These words freed the thought of all from the painful cloud of
individual anxieties. It was hailed with an enthusiastic acclamation.

No one ever has known the name of the man who spoke thus; he was some
unknown blouse-wearer, a stranger, a man forgotten, a passing hero, that
great anonymous, always mingled in human crises and in social geneses
who, at a given moment, utters in a supreme fashion the decisive word,
and who vanishes into the shadows after having represented for a minute,
in a lightning flash, the people and God.

This inexorable resolution so thoroughly impregnated the air of the
6th of June, 1832, that, almost at the very same hour, on the barricade
Saint-Merry, the insurgents were raising that clamor which has become a
matter of history and which has been consigned to the documents in the
case:--"What matters it whether they come to our assistance or not? Let
us get ourselves killed here, to the very last man."

As the reader sees, the two barricades, though materially isolated, were
in communication with each other.


After the man who decreed the "protest of corpses" had spoken, and had
given this formula of their common soul, there issued from all mouths a
strangely satisfied and terrible cry, funereal in sense and triumphant
in tone:

"Long live death! Let us all remain here!"

"Why all?" said Enjolras.

"All! All!"

Enjolras resumed:

"The position is good; the barricade is fine. Thirty men are enough. Why
sacrifice forty?"

They replied:

"Because not one will go away."

"Citizens," cried Enjolras, and there was an almost irritated vibration
in his voice, "this republic is not rich enough in men to indulge in
useless expenditure of them. Vain-glory is waste. If the duty of some is
to depart, that duty should be fulfilled like any other."

Enjolras, the man-principle, had over his co-religionists that sort of
omnipotent power which emanates from the absolute. Still, great as was
this omnipotence, a murmur arose. A leader to the very finger-tips,
Enjolras, seeing that they murmured, insisted. He resumed haughtily:

"Let those who are afraid of not numbering more than thirty say so."

The murmurs redoubled.

"Besides," observed a voice in one group, "it is easy enough to talk
about leaving. The barricade is hemmed in."

"Not on the side of the Halles," said Enjolras. "The Rue Mondetour is
free, and through the Rue des Precheurs one can reach the Marche des

"And there," went on another voice, "you would be captured. You would
fall in with some grand guard of the line or the suburbs; they will spy
a man passing in blouse and cap. 'Whence come you?' 'Don't you belong to
the barricade?' And they will look at your hands. You smell of powder.

Enjolras, without making any reply, touched Combeferre's shoulder, and
the two entered the tap-room.

They emerged thence a moment later. Enjolras held in his outstretched
hands the four uniforms which he had laid aside. Combeferre followed,
carrying the shoulder-belts and the shakos.

"With this uniform," said Enjolras, "you can mingle with the ranks and
escape; here is enough for four." And he flung on the ground, deprived
of its pavement, the four uniforms.

No wavering took place in his stoical audience. Combeferre took the

"Come," said he, "you must have a little pity. Do you know what the
question is here? It is a question of women. See here. Are there
women or are there not? Are there children or are there not? Are there
mothers, yes or no, who rock cradles with their foot and who have a lot
of little ones around them? Let that man of you who has never beheld a
nurse's breast raise his hand. Ah! you want to get yourselves killed, so
do I--I, who am speaking to you; but I do not want to feel the phantoms
of women wreathing their arms around me. Die, if you will, but
don't make others die. Suicides like that which is on the brink of
accomplishment here are sublime; but suicide is narrow, and does not
admit of extension; and as soon as it touches your neighbors, suicide
is murder. Think of the little blond heads; think of the white locks.
Listen, Enjolras has just told me that he saw at the corner of the Rue
du Cygne a lighted casement, a candle in a poor window, on the fifth
floor, and on the pane the quivering shadow of the head of an old woman,
who had the air of having spent the night in watching. Perhaps she is
the mother of some one of you. Well, let that man go, and make haste, to
say to his mother: 'Here I am, mother!' Let him feel at ease, the task
here will be performed all the same. When one supports one's relatives
by one's toil, one has not the right to sacrifice one's self. That
is deserting one's family. And those who have daughters! what are you
thinking of? You get yourselves killed, you are dead, that is well. And
tomorrow? Young girls without bread--that is a terrible thing. Man begs,
woman sells. Ah! those charming and gracious beings, so gracious and so
sweet, who have bonnets of flowers, who fill the house with purity, who
sing and prattle, who are like a living perfume, who prove the existence
of angels in heaven by the purity of virgins on earth, that Jeanne,
that Lise, that Mimi, those adorable and honest creatures who are your
blessings and your pride, ah! good God, they will suffer hunger! What do
you want me to say to you? There is a market for human flesh; and it
is not with your shadowy hands, shuddering around them, that you
will prevent them from entering it! Think of the street, think of the
pavement covered with passers-by, think of the shops past which women
go and come with necks all bare, and through the mire. These women,
too, were pure once. Think of your sisters, those of you who have them.
Misery, prostitution, the police, Saint-Lazare--that is what those
beautiful, delicate girls, those fragile marvels of modesty, gentleness
and loveliness, fresher than lilacs in the month of May, will come to.
Ah! you have got yourselves killed! You are no longer on hand! That
is well; you have wished to release the people from Royalty, and you
deliver over your daughters to the police. Friends, have a care, have
mercy. Women, unhappy women, we are not in the habit of bestowing much
thought on them. We trust to the women not having received a man's
education, we prevent their reading, we prevent their thinking, we
prevent their occupying themselves with politics; will you prevent them
from going to the dead-house this evening, and recognizing your bodies?
Let us see, those who have families must be tractable, and shake hands
with us and take themselves off, and leave us here alone to attend to
this affair. I know well that courage is required to leave, that it is
hard; but the harder it is, the more meritorious. You say: 'I have a
gun, I am at the barricade; so much the worse, I shall remain there.' So
much the worse is easily said. My friends, there is a morrow; you will
not be here to-morrow, but your families will; and what sufferings! See,
here is a pretty, healthy child, with cheeks like an apple, who babbles,
prattles, chatters, who laughs, who smells sweet beneath your kiss,--and
do you know what becomes of him when he is abandoned? I have seen one,
a very small creature, no taller than that. His father was dead. Poor
people had taken him in out of charity, but they had bread only for
themselves. The child was always hungry. It was winter. He did not cry.
You could see him approach the stove, in which there was never any fire,
and whose pipe, you know, was of mastic and yellow clay. His breathing
was hoarse, his face livid, his limbs flaccid, his belly prominent. He
said nothing. If you spoke to him, he did not answer. He is dead. He was
taken to the Necker Hospital, where I saw him. I was house-surgeon in
that hospital. Now, if there are any fathers among you, fathers whose
happiness it is to stroll on Sundays holding their child's tiny hand in
their robust hand, let each one of those fathers imagine that this child
is his own. That poor brat, I remember, and I seem to see him now, when
he lay nude on the dissecting table, how his ribs stood out on his skin
like the graves beneath the grass in a cemetery. A sort of mud was found
in his stomach. There were ashes in his teeth. Come, let us examine
ourselves conscientiously and take counsel with our heart. Statistics
show that the mortality among abandoned children is fifty-five per cent.
I repeat, it is a question of women, it concerns mothers, it concerns
young girls, it concerns little children. Who is talking to you of
yourselves? We know well what you are; we know well that you are all
brave, parbleu! we know well that you all have in your souls the joy and
the glory of giving your life for the great cause; we know well that you
feel yourselves elected to die usefully and magnificently, and that each
one of you clings to his share in the triumph. Very well. But you are
not alone in this world. There are other beings of whom you must think.
You must not be egoists."

All dropped their heads with a gloomy air.

Strange contradictions of the human heart at its most sublime moments.
Combeferre, who spoke thus, was not an orphan. He recalled the mothers
of other men, and forgot his own. He was about to get himself killed. He
was "an egoist."

Marius, fasting, fevered, having emerged in succession from all hope,
and having been stranded in grief, the most sombre of shipwrecks, and
saturated with violent emotions and conscious that the end was near,
had plunged deeper and deeper into that visionary stupor which always
precedes the fatal hour voluntarily accepted.

A physiologist might have studied in him the growing symptoms of that
febrile absorption known to, and classified by, science, and which is
to suffering what voluptuousness is to pleasure. Despair, also, has its
ecstasy. Marius had reached this point. He looked on at everything as
from without; as we have said, things which passed before him seemed far
away; he made out the whole, but did not perceive the details. He beheld
men going and coming as through a flame. He heard voices speaking as at
the bottom of an abyss.

But this moved him. There was in this scene a point which pierced and
roused even him. He had but one idea now, to die; and he did not wish to
be turned aside from it, but he reflected, in his gloomy somnambulism,
that while destroying himself, he was not prohibited from saving some
one else.

He raised his voice.

"Enjolras and Combeferre are right," said he; "no unnecessary sacrifice.
I join them, and you must make haste. Combeferre has said convincing
things to you. There are some among you who have families, mothers,
sisters, wives, children. Let such leave the ranks."

No one stirred.

"Married men and the supporters of families, step out of the ranks!"
repeated Marius.

His authority was great. Enjolras was certainly the head of the
barricade, but Marius was its savior.

"I order it," cried Enjolras.

"I entreat you," said Marius.

Then, touched by Combeferre's words, shaken by Enjolras' order, touched
by Marius' entreaty, these heroic men began to denounce each other.--"It
is true," said one young man to a full grown man, "you are the father
of a family. Go."--"It is your duty rather," retorted the man, "you have
two sisters whom you maintain."--And an unprecedented controversy broke
forth. Each struggled to determine which should not allow himself to be
placed at the door of the tomb.

"Make haste," said Courfeyrac, "in another quarter of an hour it will be
too late."

"Citizens," pursued Enjolras, "this is the Republic, and universal
suffrage reigns. Do you yourselves designate those who are to go."

They obeyed. After the expiration of a few minutes, five were
unanimously selected and stepped out of the ranks.

"There are five of them!" exclaimed Marius.

There were only four uniforms.

"Well," began the five, "one must stay behind."

And then a struggle arose as to who should remain, and who should find
reasons for the others not remaining. The generous quarrel began afresh.

"You have a wife who loves you."--"You have your aged mother."--" You
have neither father nor mother, and what is to become of your three
little brothers?"--"You are the father of five children."--"You have a
right to live, you are only seventeen, it is too early for you to die."

These great revolutionary barricades were assembling points for heroism.
The improbable was simple there. These men did not astonish each other.

"Be quick," repeated Courfeyrac.

Men shouted to Marius from the groups:

"Do you designate who is to remain."

"Yes," said the five, "choose. We will obey you."

Marius did not believe that he was capable of another emotion. Still,
at this idea, that of choosing a man for death, his blood rushed back
to his heart. He would have turned pale, had it been possible for him to
become any paler.

He advanced towards the five, who smiled upon him, and each, with his
eyes full of that grand flame which one beholds in the depths of history
hovering over Thermopylae, cried to him:

"Me! me! me!"

And Marius stupidly counted them; there were still five of them! Then
his glance dropped to the four uniforms.

At that moment, a fifth uniform fell, as if from heaven, upon the other

The fifth man was saved.

Marius raised his eyes and recognized M. Fauchelevent.

Jean Valjean had just entered the barricade.

He had arrived by way of Mondetour lane, whither by dint of inquiries
made, or by instinct, or chance. Thanks to his dress of a National
Guardsman, he had made his way without difficulty.

The sentinel stationed by the insurgents in the Rue Mondetour had no
occasion to give the alarm for a single National Guardsman, and he had
allowed the latter to entangle himself in the street, saying to himself:
"Probably it is a reinforcement, in any case it is a prisoner." The
moment was too grave to admit of the sentinel abandoning his duty and
his post of observation.

At the moment when Jean Valjean entered the redoubt, no one had noticed
him, all eyes being fixed on the five chosen men and the four uniforms.
Jean Valjean also had seen and heard, and he had silently removed his
coat and flung it on the pile with the rest.

The emotion aroused was indescribable.

"Who is this man?" demanded Bossuet.

"He is a man who saves others," replied Combeferre.

Marius added in a grave voice:

"I know him."

This guarantee satisfied every one.

Enjolras turned to Jean Valjean.

"Welcome, citizen."

And he added:

"You know that we are about to die."

Jean Valjean, without replying, helped the insurgent whom he was saving
to don his uniform.


The situation of all in that fatal hour and that pitiless place, had as
result and culminating point Enjolras' supreme melancholy.

Enjolras bore within him the plenitude of the revolution; he was
incomplete, however, so far as the absolute can be so; he had too much
of Saint-Just about him, and not enough of Anacharsis Cloots; still,
his mind, in the society of the Friends of the A B C, had ended by
undergoing a certain polarization from Combeferre's ideas; for some time
past, he had been gradually emerging from the narrow form of dogma, and
had allowed himself to incline to the broadening influence of progress,
and he had come to accept, as a definitive and magnificent evolution,
the transformation of the great French Republic, into the immense
human republic. As far as the immediate means were concerned, a violent
situation being given, he wished to be violent; on that point, he never
varied; and he remained of that epic and redoubtable school which is
summed up in the words: "Eighty-three." Enjolras was standing erect on
the staircase of paving-stones, one elbow resting on the stock of
his gun. He was engaged in thought; he quivered, as at the passage of
prophetic breaths; places where death is have these effects of tripods.
A sort of stifled fire darted from his eyes, which were filled with an
inward look. All at once he threw back his head, his blond locks fell
back like those of an angel on the sombre quadriga made of stars, they
were like the mane of a startled lion in the flaming of an halo, and
Enjolras cried:

"Citizens, do you picture the future to yourselves? The streets of
cities inundated with light, green branches on the thresholds, nations
sisters, men just, old men blessing children, the past loving the
present, thinkers entirely at liberty, believers on terms of full
equality, for religion heaven, God the direct priest, human conscience
become an altar, no more hatreds, the fraternity of the workshop and the
school, for sole penalty and recompense fame, work for all, right for
all, peace over all, no more bloodshed, no more wars, happy mothers! To
conquer matter is the first step; to realize the ideal is the second.
Reflect on what progress has already accomplished. Formerly, the
first human races beheld with terror the hydra pass before their eyes,
breathing on the waters, the dragon which vomited flame, the griffin who
was the monster of the air, and who flew with the wings of an eagle
and the talons of a tiger; fearful beasts which were above man. Man,
nevertheless, spread his snares, consecrated by intelligence, and
finally conquered these monsters. We have vanquished the hydra, and
it is called the locomotive; we are on the point of vanquishing the
griffin, we already grasp it, and it is called the balloon. On the day
when this Promethean task shall be accomplished, and when man shall have
definitely harnessed to his will the triple Chimaera of antiquity, the
hydra, the dragon and the griffin, he will be the master of water, fire,
and of air, and he will be for the rest of animated creation that which
the ancient gods formerly were to him. Courage, and onward! Citizens,
whither are we going? To science made government, to the force of things
become the sole public force, to the natural law, having in itself its
sanction and its penalty and promulgating itself by evidence, to a dawn
of truth corresponding to a dawn of day. We are advancing to the union
of peoples; we are advancing to the unity of man. No more fictions;
no more parasites. The real governed by the true, that is the goal.
Civilization will hold its assizes at the summit of Europe, and,
later on, at the centre of continents, in a grand parliament of the
intelligence. Something similar has already been seen. The amphictyons
had two sittings a year, one at Delphos the seat of the gods, the other
at Thermopylae, the place of heroes. Europe will have her amphictyons;
the globe will have its amphictyons. France bears this sublime future in
her breast. This is the gestation of the nineteenth century. That which
Greece sketched out is worthy of being finished by France. Listen to me,
you, Feuilly, valiant artisan, man of the people. I revere you. Yes, you
clearly behold the future, yes, you are right. You had neither father
nor mother, Feuilly; you adopted humanity for your mother and right
for your father. You are about to die, that is to say to triumph, here.
Citizens, whatever happens to-day, through our defeat as well as
through our victory, it is a revolution that we are about to create.
As conflagrations light up a whole city, so revolutions illuminate the
whole human race. And what is the revolution that we shall cause? I have
just told you, the Revolution of the True. From a political point of
view, there is but a single principle; the sovereignty of man over
himself. This sovereignty of myself over myself is called Liberty. Where
two or three of these sovereignties are combined, the state begins. But
in that association there is no abdication. Each sovereignty concedes a
certain quantity of itself, for the purpose of forming the common right.
This quantity is the same for all of us. This identity of concession
which each makes to all, is called Equality. Common right is nothing
else than the protection of all beaming on the right of each. This
protection of all over each is called Fraternity. The point of
intersection of all these assembled sovereignties is called society.
This intersection being a junction, this point is a knot. Hence what
is called the social bond. Some say social contract; which is the same
thing, the word contract being etymologically formed with the idea of a
bond. Let us come to an understanding about equality; for, if liberty
is the summit, equality is the base. Equality, citizens, is not wholly a
surface vegetation, a society of great blades of grass and tiny oaks; a
proximity of jealousies which render each other null and void; legally
speaking, it is all aptitudes possessed of the same opportunity;
politically, it is all votes possessed of the same weight; religiously,
it is all consciences possessed of the same right. Equality has an
organ: gratuitous and obligatory instruction. The right to the alphabet,
that is where the beginning must be made. The primary school imposed
on all, the secondary school offered to all, that is the law. From an
identical school, an identical society will spring. Yes, instruction!
light! light! everything comes from light, and to it everything returns.
Citizens, the nineteenth century is great, but the twentieth century
will be happy. Then, there will be nothing more like the history of old,
we shall no longer, as to-day, have to fear a conquest, an invasion,
a usurpation, a rivalry of nations, arms in hand, an interruption of
civilization depending on a marriage of kings, on a birth in hereditary
tyrannies, a partition of peoples by a congress, a dismemberment because
of the failure of a dynasty, a combat of two religions meeting face
to face, like two bucks in the dark, on the bridge of the infinite; we
shall no longer have to fear famine, farming out, prostitution arising
from distress, misery from the failure of work and the scaffold and the
sword, and battles and the ruffianism of chance in the forest of events.
One might almost say: There will be no more events. We shall be happy.
The human race will accomplish its law, as the terrestrial globe
accomplishes its law; harmony will be re-established between the soul
and the star; the soul will gravitate around the truth, as the planet
around the light. Friends, the present hour in which I am addressing
you, is a gloomy hour; but these are terrible purchases of the future.
A revolution is a toll. Oh! the human race will be delivered, raised up,
consoled! We affirm it on this barrier. Whence should proceed that cry
of love, if not from the heights of sacrifice? Oh my brothers, this is
the point of junction, of those who think and of those who suffer; this
barricade is not made of paving-stones, nor of joists, nor of bits of
iron; it is made of two heaps, a heap of ideas, and a heap of woes. Here
misery meets the ideal. The day embraces the night, and says to it: 'I
am about to die, and thou shalt be born again with me.' From the embrace
of all desolations faith leaps forth. Sufferings bring hither their
agony and ideas their immortality. This agony and this immortality are
about to join and constitute our death. Brothers, he who dies here dies
in the radiance of the future, and we are entering a tomb all flooded
with the dawn."

Enjolras paused rather than became silent; his lips continued to move
silently, as though he were talking to himself, which caused them all
to gaze attentively at him, in the endeavor to hear more. There was no
applause; but they whispered together for a long time. Speech being a
breath, the rustling of intelligences resembles the rustling of leaves.


Let us narrate what was passing in Marius' thoughts.

Let the reader recall the state of his soul. We have just recalled it,
everything was a vision to him now. His judgment was disturbed. Marius,
let us insist on this point, was under the shadow of the great, dark
wings which are spread over those in the death agony. He felt that he
had entered the tomb, it seemed to him that he was already on the other
side of the wall, and he no longer beheld the faces of the living except
with the eyes of one dead.

How did M. Fauchelevent come there? Why was he there? What had he come
there to do? Marius did not address all these questions to himself.
Besides, since our despair has this peculiarity, that it envelops others
as well as ourselves, it seemed logical to him that all the world should
come thither to die.

Only, he thought of Cosette with a pang at his heart.

However, M. Fauchelevent did not speak to him, did not look at him, and
had not even the air of hearing him, when Marius raised his voice to
say: "I know him."

As far as Marius was concerned, this attitude of M. Fauchelevent was
comforting, and, if such a word can be used for such impressions,
we should say that it pleased him. He had always felt the absolute
impossibility of addressing that enigmatical man, who was, in his eyes,
both equivocal and imposing. Moreover, it had been a long time since
he had seen him; and this still further augmented the impossibility for
Marius' timid and reserved nature.

The five chosen men left the barricade by way of Mondetour lane; they
bore a perfect resemblance to members of the National Guard. One of them
wept as he took his leave. Before setting out, they embraced those who

When the five men sent back to life had taken their departure, Enjolras
thought of the man who had been condemned to death.

He entered the tap-room. Javert, still bound to the post, was engaged in

"Do you want anything?" Enjolras asked him.

Javert replied: "When are you going to kill me?"

"Wait. We need all our cartridges just at present."

"Then give me a drink," said Javert.

Enjolras himself offered him a glass of water, and, as Javert was
pinioned, he helped him to drink.

"Is that all?" inquired Enjolras.

"I am uncomfortable against this post," replied Javert. "You are not
tender to have left me to pass the night here. Bind me as you please,
but you surely might lay me out on a table like that other man."

And with a motion of the head, he indicated the body of M. Mabeuf.

There was, as the reader will remember, a long, broad table at the
end of the room, on which they had been running bullets and making
cartridges. All the cartridges having been made, and all the powder
used, this table was free.

At Enjolras' command, four insurgents unbound Javert from the post.
While they were loosing him, a fifth held a bayonet against his breast.

Leaving his arms tied behind his back, they placed about his feet a
slender but stout whip-cord, as is done to men on the point of mounting
the scaffold, which allowed him to take steps about fifteen inches in
length, and made him walk to the table at the end of the room, where
they laid him down, closely bound about the middle of the body.

By way of further security, and by means of a rope fastened to his neck,
they added to the system of ligatures which rendered every attempt
at escape impossible, that sort of bond which is called in prisons a
martingale, which, starting at the neck, forks on the stomach, and meets
the hands, after passing between the legs.

While they were binding Javert, a man standing on the threshold was
surveying him with singular attention. The shadow cast by this man made
Javert turn his head. He raised his eyes, and recognized Jean Valjean.
He did not even start, but dropped his lids proudly and confined himself
to the remark: "It is perfectly simple."


The daylight was increasing rapidly. Not a window was opened, not a door
stood ajar; it was the dawn but not the awaking. The end of the Rue de
la Chanvrerie, opposite the barricade, had been evacuated by the
troops, as we have stated it seemed to be free, and presented itself to
passers-by with a sinister tranquillity. The Rue Saint-Denis was as
dumb as the avenue of Sphinxes at Thebes. Not a living being in the
cross-roads, which gleamed white in the light of the sun. Nothing is so
mournful as this light in deserted streets. Nothing was to be seen, but
there was something to be heard. A mysterious movement was going on at
a certain distance. It was evident that the critical moment was
approaching. As on the previous evening, the sentinels had come in; but
this time all had come.

The barricade was stronger than on the occasion of the first attack.
Since the departure of the five, they had increased its height still

On the advice of the sentinel who had examined the region of the
Halles, Enjolras, for fear of a surprise in the rear, came to a serious
decision. He had the small gut of the Mondetour lane, which had been
left open up to that time, barricaded. For this purpose, they tore up
the pavement for the length of several houses more. In this manner,
the barricade, walled on three streets, in front on the Rue de
la Chanvrerie, to the left on the Rues du Cygne and de la Petite
Truanderie, to the right on the Rue Mondetour, was really almost
impregnable; it is true that they were fatally hemmed in there. It
had three fronts, but no exit.--"A fortress but a rat hole too," said
Courfeyrac with a laugh.

Enjolras had about thirty paving-stones "torn up in excess," said
Bossuet, piled up near the door of the wine-shop.

The silence was now so profound in the quarter whence the attack must
needs come, that Enjolras had each man resume his post of battle.

An allowance of brandy was doled out to each.

Nothing is more curious than a barricade preparing for an assault. Each
man selects his place as though at the theatre. They jostle, and elbow
and crowd each other. There are some who make stalls of paving-stones.
Here is a corner of the wall which is in the way, it is removed; here
is a redan which may afford protection, they take shelter behind it.
Left-handed men are precious; they take the places that are inconvenient
to the rest. Many arrange to fight in a sitting posture. They wish to be
at ease to kill, and to die comfortably. In the sad war of June, 1848,
an insurgent who was a formidable marksman, and who was firing from the
top of a terrace upon a roof, had a reclining-chair brought there for
his use; a charge of grape-shot found him out there.

As soon as the leader has given the order to clear the decks for action,
all disorderly movements cease; there is no more pulling from one
another; there are no more coteries; no more asides, there is no more
holding aloof; everything in their spirits converges in, and changes
into, a waiting for the assailants. A barricade before the arrival of
danger is chaos; in danger, it is discipline itself. Peril produces

As soon as Enjolras had seized his double-barrelled rifle, and had
placed himself in a sort of embrasure which he had reserved for himself,
all the rest held their peace. A series of faint, sharp noises resounded
confusedly along the wall of paving-stones. It was the men cocking their

Moreover, their attitudes were prouder, more confident than ever; the
excess of sacrifice strengthens; they no longer cherished any hope,
but they had despair, despair,--the last weapon, which sometimes gives
victory; Virgil has said so. Supreme resources spring from extreme
resolutions. To embark in death is sometimes the means of escaping a
shipwreck; and the lid of the coffin becomes a plank of safety.

As on the preceding evening, the attention of all was directed, we
might almost say leaned upon, the end of the street, now lighted up and

They had not long to wait. A stir began distinctly in the Saint-Leu
quarter, but it did not resemble the movement of the first attack. A
clashing of chains, the uneasy jolting of a mass, the click of brass
skipping along the pavement, a sort of solemn uproar, announced that
some sinister construction of iron was approaching. There arose a tremor
in the bosoms of these peaceful old streets, pierced and built for the
fertile circulation of interests and ideas, and which are not made for
the horrible rumble of the wheels of war.

The fixity of eye in all the combatants upon the extremity of the street
became ferocious.

A cannon made its appearance.

Artillery-men were pushing the piece; it was in firing trim; the
fore-carriage had been detached; two upheld the gun-carriage, four were
at the wheels; others followed with the caisson. They could see the
smoke of the burning lint-stock.

"Fire!" shouted Enjolras.

The whole barricade fired, the report was terrible; an avalanche of
smoke covered and effaced both cannon and men; after a few seconds, the
cloud dispersed, and the cannon and men re-appeared; the gun-crew had
just finished rolling it slowly, correctly, without haste, into position
facing the barricade. Not one of them had been struck. Then the captain
of the piece, bearing down upon the breech in order to raise the muzzle,
began to point the cannon with the gravity of an astronomer levelling a

"Bravo for the cannoneers!" cried Bossuet.

And the whole barricade clapped their hands.

A moment later, squarely planted in the very middle of the street,
astride of the gutter, the piece was ready for action. A formidable pair
of jaws yawned on the barricade.

"Come, merrily now!" ejaculated Courfeyrac. "That's the brutal part of
it. After the fillip on the nose, the blow from the fist. The army is
reaching out its big paw to us. The barricade is going to be severely
shaken up. The fusillade tries, the cannon takes."

"It is a piece of eight, new model, brass," added Combeferre. "Those
pieces are liable to burst as soon as the proportion of ten parts of tin
to one hundred of brass is exceeded. The excess of tin renders them too
tender. Then it comes to pass that they have caves and chambers when
looked at from the vent hole. In order to obviate this danger, and
to render it possible to force the charge, it may become necessary
to return to the process of the fourteenth century, hooping, and to
encircle the piece on the outside with a series of unwelded steel bands,
from the breech to the trunnions. In the meantime, they remedy this
defect as best they may; they manage to discover where the holes are
located in the vent of a cannon, by means of a searcher. But there is a
better method, with Gribeauval's movable star."

"In the sixteenth century," remarked Bossuet, "they used to rifle

"Yes," replied Combeferre, "that augments the projectile force, but
diminishes the accuracy of the firing. In firing at short range,
the trajectory is not as rigid as could be desired, the parabola is
exaggerated, the line of the projectile is no longer sufficiently
rectilinear to allow of its striking intervening objects, which is,
nevertheless, a necessity of battle, the importance of which increases
with the proximity of the enemy and the precipitation of the discharge.
This defect of the tension of the curve of the projectile in the rifled
cannon of the sixteenth century arose from the smallness of the charge;
small charges for that sort of engine are imposed by the ballistic
necessities, such, for instance, as the preservation of the
gun-carriage. In short, that despot, the cannon, cannot do all that
it desires; force is a great weakness. A cannon-ball only travels
six hundred leagues an hour; light travels seventy thousand leagues a
second. Such is the superiority of Jesus Christ over Napoleon."

"Reload your guns," said Enjolras.

How was the casing of the barricade going to behave under the
cannon-balls? Would they effect a breach? That was the question. While
the insurgents were reloading their guns, the artillery-men were loading
the cannon.

The anxiety in the redoubt was profound.

The shot sped the report burst forth.

"Present!" shouted a joyous voice.

And Gavroche flung himself into the barricade just as the ball dashed
against it.

He came from the direction of the Rue du Cygne, and he had nimbly
climbed over the auxiliary barricade which fronted on the labyrinth of
the Rue de la Petite Truanderie.

Gavroche produced a greater sensation in the barricade than the

The ball buried itself in the mass of rubbish. At the most there was an
omnibus wheel broken, and the old Anceau cart was demolished. On seeing
this, the barricade burst into a laugh.

"Go on!" shouted Bossuet to the artillerists.


They flocked round Gavroche. But he had no time to tell anything. Marius
drew him aside with a shudder.

"What are you doing here?"

"Hullo!" said the child, "what are you doing here yourself?"

And he stared at Marius intently with his epic effrontery. His eyes grew
larger with the proud light within them.

It was with an accent of severity that Marius continued:

"Who told you to come back? Did you deliver my letter at the address?"

Gavroche was not without some compunctions in the matter of that letter.
In his haste to return to the barricade, he had got rid of it rather
than delivered it. He was forced to acknowledge to himself that he had
confided it rather lightly to that stranger whose face he had not been
able to make out. It is true that the man was bareheaded, but that was
not sufficient. In short, he had been administering to himself little
inward remonstrances and he feared Marius' reproaches. In order to
extricate himself from the predicament, he took the simplest course; he
lied abominably.

"Citizen, I delivered the letter to the porter. The lady was asleep. She
will have the letter when she wakes up."

Marius had had two objects in sending that letter: to bid farewell to
Cosette and to save Gavroche. He was obliged to content himself with the
half of his desire.

The despatch of his letter and the presence of M. Fauchelevent in the
barricade, was a coincidence which occurred to him. He pointed out M.
Fauchelevent to Gavroche.

"Do you know that man?"

"No," said Gavroche.

Gavroche had, in fact, as we have just mentioned, seen Jean Valjean only
at night.

The troubled and unhealthy conjectures which had outlined themselves in
Marius' mind were dissipated. Did he know M. Fauchelevent's opinions?
Perhaps M. Fauchelevent was a republican. Hence his very natural
presence in this combat.

In the meanwhile, Gavroche was shouting, at the other end of the
barricade: "My gun!"

Courfeyrac had it returned to him.

Gavroche warned "his comrades" as he called them, that the barricade was
blocked. He had had great difficulty in reaching it. A battalion of the
line whose arms were piled in the Rue de la Petite Truanderie was on
the watch on the side of the Rue du Cygne; on the opposite side, the
municipal guard occupied the Rue des Precheurs. The bulk of the army was
facing them in front.

This information given, Gavroche added:

"I authorize you to hit 'em a tremendous whack."

Meanwhile, Enjolras was straining his ears and watching at his

The assailants, dissatisfied, no doubt, with their shot, had not
repeated it.

A company of infantry of the line had come up and occupied the end of
the street behind the piece of ordnance. The soldiers were tearing up
the pavement and constructing with the stones a small, low wall, a
sort of side-work not more than eighteen inches high, and facing the
barricade. In the angle at the left of this epaulement, there was
visible the head of the column of a battalion from the suburbs massed in
the Rue Saint-Denis.

Enjolras, on the watch, thought he distinguished the peculiar sound
which is produced when the shells of grape-shot are drawn from the
caissons, and he saw the commander of the piece change the elevation
and incline the mouth of the cannon slightly to the left. Then the
cannoneers began to load the piece. The chief seized the lint-stock
himself and lowered it to the vent.

"Down with your heads, hug the wall!" shouted Enjolras, "and all on your
knees along the barricade!"

The insurgents who were straggling in front of the wine-shop, and
who had quitted their posts of combat on Gavroche's arrival, rushed
pell-mell towards the barricade; but before Enjolras' order could be
executed, the discharge took place with the terrifying rattle of a round
of grape-shot. This is what it was, in fact.

The charge had been aimed at the cut in the redoubt, and had there
rebounded from the wall; and this terrible rebound had produced two dead
and three wounded.

If this were continued, the barricade was no longer tenable. The
grape-shot made its way in.

A murmur of consternation arose.

"Let us prevent the second discharge," said Enjolras.

And, lowering his rifle, he took aim at the captain of the gun, who, at
that moment, was bearing down on the breach of his gun and rectifying
and definitely fixing its pointing.

The captain of the piece was a handsome sergeant of artillery, very
young, blond, with a very gentle face, and the intelligent air peculiar
to that predestined and redoubtable weapon which, by dint of perfecting
itself in horror, must end in killing war.

Combeferre, who was standing beside Enjolras, scrutinized this young

"What a pity!" said Combeferre. "What hideous things these butcheries
are! Come, when there are no more kings, there will be no more war.
Enjolras, you are taking aim at that sergeant, you are not looking at
him. Fancy, he is a charming young man; he is intrepid; it is evident
that he is thoughtful; those young artillery-men are very well educated;
he has a father, a mother, a family; he is probably in love; he is not
more than five and twenty at the most; he might be your brother."

"He is," said Enjolras.

"Yes," replied Combeferre, "he is mine too. Well, let us not kill him."

"Let me alone. It must be done."

And a tear trickled slowly down Enjolras' marble cheek.

At the same moment, he pressed the trigger of his rifle. The flame
leaped forth. The artillery-man turned round twice, his arms extended in
front of him, his head uplifted, as though for breath, then he fell with
his side on the gun, and lay there motionless. They could see his back,
from the centre of which there flowed directly a stream of blood. The
ball had traversed his breast from side to side. He was dead.

He had to be carried away and replaced by another. Several minutes were
thus gained, in fact.


Opinions were exchanged in the barricade. The firing from the gun was
about to begin again. Against that grape-shot, they could not hold out
a quarter of an hour longer. It was absolutely necessary to deaden the

Enjolras issued this command:

"We must place a mattress there."

"We have none," said Combeferre, "the wounded are lying on them."

Jean Valjean, who was seated apart on a stone post, at the corner of the
tavern, with his gun between his knees, had, up to that moment, taken
no part in anything that was going on. He did not appear to hear the
combatants saying around him: "Here is a gun that is doing nothing."

At the order issued by Enjolras, he rose.

It will be remembered that, on the arrival of the rabble in the Rue
de la Chanvrerie, an old woman, foreseeing the bullets, had placed her
mattress in front of her window. This window, an attic window, was on
the roof of a six-story house situated a little beyond the barricade.
The mattress, placed cross-wise, supported at the bottom on two poles
for drying linen, was upheld at the top by two ropes, which, at that
distance, looked like two threads, and which were attached to two nails
planted in the window frames. These ropes were distinctly visible, like
hairs, against the sky.

"Can some one lend me a double-barrelled rifle?" said Jean Valjean.

Enjolras, who had just re-loaded his, handed it to him.

Jean Valjean took aim at the attic window and fired.

One of the mattress ropes was cut.

The mattress now hung by one thread only.

Jean Valjean fired the second charge. The second rope lashed the panes
of the attic window. The mattress slipped between the two poles and fell
into the street.

The barricade applauded.

All voices cried:

"Here is a mattress!"

"Yes," said Combeferre, "but who will go and fetch it?"

The mattress had, in fact, fallen outside the barricade, between
besiegers and besieged. Now, the death of the sergeant of artillery
having exasperated the troop, the soldiers had, for several minutes,
been lying flat on their stomachs behind the line of paving-stones which
they had erected, and, in order to supply the forced silence of
the piece, which was quiet while its service was in course of
reorganization, they had opened fire on the barricade. The insurgents
did not reply to this musketry, in order to spare their ammunition The
fusillade broke against the barricade; but the street, which it filled,
was terrible.

Jean Valjean stepped out of the cut, entered the street, traversed the
storm of bullets, walked up to the mattress, hoisted it upon his back,
and returned to the barricade.

He placed the mattress in the cut with his own hands. He fixed it there
against the wall in such a manner that the artillery-men should not see

That done, they awaited the next discharge of grape-shot.

It was not long in coming.

The cannon vomited forth its package of buck-shot with a roar. But there
was no rebound. The effect which they had foreseen had been attained.
The barricade was saved.

"Citizen," said Enjolras to Jean Valjean, "the Republic thanks you."

Bossuet admired and laughed. He exclaimed:

"It is immoral that a mattress should have so much power. Triumph of
that which yields over that which strikes with lightning. But never
mind, glory to the mattress which annuls a cannon!"


At that moment, Cosette awoke.

Her chamber was narrow, neat, unobtrusive, with a long sash-window,
facing the East on the back court-yard of the house.

Cosette knew nothing of what was going on in Paris. She had not been
there on the preceding evening, and she had already retired to her
chamber when Toussaint had said:

"It appears that there is a row."

Cosette had slept only a few hours, but soundly. She had had sweet
dreams, which possibly arose from the fact that her little bed was very
white. Some one, who was Marius, had appeared to her in the light. She
awoke with the sun in her eyes, which, at first, produced on her the
effect of being a continuation of her dream. Her first thought on
emerging from this dream was a smiling one. Cosette felt herself
thoroughly reassured. Like Jean Valjean, she had, a few hours
previously, passed through that reaction of the soul which absolutely
will not hear of unhappiness. She began to cherish hope, with all her
might, without knowing why. Then she felt a pang at her heart. It was
three days since she had seen Marius. But she said to herself that he
must have received her letter, that he knew where she was, and that
he was so clever that he would find means of reaching her.--And that
certainly to-day, and perhaps that very morning.--It was broad daylight,
but the rays of light were very horizontal; she thought that it was very
early, but that she must rise, nevertheless, in order to receive Marius.

She felt that she could not live without Marius, and that, consequently,
that was sufficient and that Marius would come. No objection was valid.
All this was certain. It was monstrous enough already to have suffered
for three days. Marius absent three days, this was horrible on the part
of the good God. Now, this cruel teasing from on high had been gone
through with. Marius was about to arrive, and he would bring good news.
Youth is made thus; it quickly dries its eyes; it finds sorrow useless
and does not accept it. Youth is the smile of the future in the presence
of an unknown quantity, which is itself. It is natural to it to be
happy. It seems as though its respiration were made of hope.

Moreover, Cosette could not remember what Marius had said to her on
the subject of this absence which was to last only one day, and what
explanation of it he had given her. Every one has noticed with what
nimbleness a coin which one has dropped on the ground rolls away and
hides, and with what art it renders itself undiscoverable. There are
thoughts which play us the same trick; they nestle away in a corner of
our brain; that is the end of them; they are lost; it is impossible to
lay the memory on them. Cosette was somewhat vexed at the useless little
effort made by her memory. She told herself, that it was very naughty
and very wicked of her, to have forgotten the words uttered by Marius.

She sprang out of bed and accomplished the two ablutions of soul and
body, her prayers and her toilet.

One may, in a case of exigency, introduce the reader into a nuptial
chamber, not into a virginal chamber. Verse would hardly venture it,
prose must not.

It is the interior of a flower that is not yet unfolded, it is whiteness
in the dark, it is the private cell of a closed lily, which must not be
gazed upon by man so long as the sun has not gazed upon it. Woman in the
bud is sacred. That innocent bud which opens, that adorable half-nudity
which is afraid of itself, that white foot which takes refuge in a
slipper, that throat which veils itself before a mirror as though
a mirror were an eye, that chemise which makes haste to rise up and
conceal the shoulder for a creaking bit of furniture or a passing
vehicle, those cords tied, those clasps fastened, those laces drawn,
those tremors, those shivers of cold and modesty, that exquisite
affright in every movement, that almost winged uneasiness where there
is no cause for alarm, the successive phases of dressing, as charming as
the clouds of dawn,--it is not fitting that all this should be narrated,
and it is too much to have even called attention to it.

The eye of man must be more religious in the presence of the rising of a
young girl than in the presence of the rising of a star. The possibility
of hurting should inspire an augmentation of respect. The down on the
peach, the bloom on the plum, the radiated crystal of the snow, the wing
of the butterfly powdered with feathers, are coarse compared to that
chastity which does not even know that it is chaste. The young girl is
only the flash of a dream, and is not yet a statue. Her bed-chamber is
hidden in the sombre part of the ideal. The indiscreet touch of a glance
brutalizes this vague penumbra. Here, contemplation is profanation.

We shall, therefore, show nothing of that sweet little flutter of
Cosette's rising.

An oriental tale relates how the rose was made white by God, but that
Adam looked upon her when she was unfolding, and she was ashamed and
turned crimson. We are of the number who fall speechless in the presence
of young girls and flowers, since we think them worthy of veneration.

Cosette dressed herself very hastily, combed and dressed her hair, which
was a very simple matter in those days, when women did not swell out
their curls and bands with cushions and puffs, and did not put crinoline
in their locks. Then she opened the window and cast her eyes around her
in every direction, hoping to descry some bit of the street, an angle of
the house, an edge of pavement, so that she might be able to watch for
Marius there. But no view of the outside was to be had. The back court
was surrounded by tolerably high walls, and the outlook was only on
several gardens. Cosette pronounced these gardens hideous: for the first
time in her life, she found flowers ugly. The smallest scrap of the
gutter of the street would have met her wishes better. She decided to
gaze at the sky, as though she thought that Marius might come from that

All at once, she burst into tears. Not that this was fickleness of
soul; but hopes cut in twain by dejection--that was her case. She had a
confused consciousness of something horrible. Thoughts were rife in the
air, in fact. She told herself that she was not sure of anything, that
to withdraw herself from sight was to be lost; and the idea that Marius
could return to her from heaven appeared to her no longer charming but

Then, as is the nature of these clouds, calm returned to her, and hope
and a sort of unconscious smile, which yet indicated trust in God.

Every one in the house was still asleep. A country-like silence reigned.
Not a shutter had been opened. The porter's lodge was closed. Toussaint
had not risen, and Cosette, naturally, thought that her father was
asleep. She must have suffered much, and she must have still been
suffering greatly, for she said to herself, that her father had been
unkind; but she counted on Marius. The eclipse of such a light was
decidedly impossible. Now and then, she heard sharp shocks in the
distance, and she said: "It is odd that people should be opening and
shutting their carriage gates so early." They were the reports of the
cannon battering the barricade.

A few feet below Cosette's window, in the ancient and perfectly black
cornice of the wall, there was a martin's nest; the curve of this nest
formed a little projection beyond the cornice, so that from above it
was possible to look into this little paradise. The mother was there,
spreading her wings like a fan over her brood; the father fluttered
about, flew away, then came back, bearing in his beak food and kisses.
The dawning day gilded this happy thing, the great law, "Multiply," lay
there smiling and august, and that sweet mystery unfolded in the
glory of the morning. Cosette, with her hair in the sunlight, her
soul absorbed in chimeras, illuminated by love within and by the dawn
without, bent over mechanically, and almost without daring to avow to
herself that she was thinking at the same time of Marius, began to gaze
at these birds, at this family, at that male and female, that mother and
her little ones, with the profound trouble which a nest produces on a


The assailants' fire continued. Musketry and grape-shot alternated, but
without committing great ravages, to tell the truth. The top alone of
the Corinthe facade suffered; the window on the first floor, and the
attic window in the roof, riddled with buck-shot and biscaiens, were
slowly losing their shape. The combatants who had been posted there had
been obliged to withdraw. However, this is according to the tactics
of barricades; to fire for a long while, in order to exhaust the
insurgents' ammunition, if they commit the mistake of replying. When it
is perceived, from the slackening of their fire, that they have no more
powder and ball, the assault is made. Enjolras had not fallen into this
trap; the barricade did not reply.

At every discharge by platoons, Gavroche puffed out his cheek with his
tongue, a sign of supreme disdain.

"Good for you," said he, "rip up the cloth. We want some lint."

Courfeyrac called the grape-shot to order for the little effect which it
produced, and said to the cannon:

"You are growing diffuse, my good fellow."

One gets puzzled in battle, as at a ball. It is probable that this
silence on the part of the redoubt began to render the besiegers uneasy,
and to make them fear some unexpected incident, and that they felt the
necessity of getting a clear view behind that heap of paving-stones, and
of knowing what was going on behind that impassable wall which received
blows without retorting. The insurgents suddenly perceived a helmet
glittering in the sun on a neighboring roof. A fireman had placed his
back against a tall chimney, and seemed to be acting as sentinel. His
glance fell directly down into the barricade.

"There's an embarrassing watcher," said Enjolras.

Jean Valjean had returned Enjolras' rifle, but he had his own gun.

Without saying a word, he took aim at the fireman, and, a second later,
the helmet, smashed by a bullet, rattled noisily into the street. The
terrified soldier made haste to disappear. A second observer took his
place. This one was an officer. Jean Valjean, who had re-loaded his
gun, took aim at the newcomer and sent the officer's casque to join the
soldier's. The officer did not persist, and retired speedily. This time
the warning was understood. No one made his appearance thereafter on
that roof; and the idea of spying on the barricade was abandoned.

"Why did you not kill the man?" Bossuet asked Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean made no reply.


Bossuet muttered in Combeferre's ear:

"He did not answer my question."

"He is a man who does good by gun-shots," said Combeferre.

Those who have preserved some memory of this already distant epoch
know that the National Guard from the suburbs was valiant against
insurrections. It was particularly zealous and intrepid in the days of
June, 1832. A certain good dram-shop keeper of Pantin des Vertus or
la Cunette, whose "establishment" had been closed by the riots, became
leonine at the sight of his deserted dance-hall, and got himself killed
to preserve the order represented by a tea-garden. In that bourgeois and
heroic time, in the presence of ideas which had their knights, interests
had their paladins. The prosiness of the originators detracted nothing
from the bravery of the movement. The diminution of a pile of crowns
made bankers sing the Marseillaise. They shed their blood lyrically for
the counting-house; and they defended the shop, that immense diminutive
of the fatherland, with Lacedaemonian enthusiasm.

At bottom, we will observe, there was nothing in all this that was not
extremely serious. It was social elements entering into strife, while
awaiting the day when they should enter into equilibrium.

Another sign of the times was the anarchy mingled with governmentalism
[the barbarous name of the correct party]. People were for order in
combination with lack of discipline.

The drum suddenly beat capricious calls, at the command of such or
such a Colonel of the National Guard; such and such a captain went into
action through inspiration; such and such National Guardsmen fought,
"for an idea," and on their own account. At critical moments, on "days"
they took counsel less of their leaders than of their instincts. There
existed in the army of order, veritable guerilleros, some of the sword,
like Fannicot, others of the pen, like Henri Fonfrede.

Civilization, unfortunately, represented at this epoch rather by an
aggregation of interests than by a group of principles, was or thought
itself, in peril; it set up the cry of alarm; each, constituting himself
a centre, defended it, succored it, and protected it with his own head;
and the first comer took it upon himself to save society.

Zeal sometimes proceeded to extermination. A platoon of the National
Guard would constitute itself on its own authority a private council of
war, and judge and execute a captured insurgent in five minutes. It
was an improvisation of this sort that had slain Jean Prouvaire. Fierce
Lynch law, with which no one party had any right to reproach the rest,
for it has been applied by the Republic in America, as well as by the
monarchy in Europe. This Lynch law was complicated with mistakes. On one
day of rioting, a young poet, named Paul Aime Garnier, was pursued
in the Place Royale, with a bayonet at his loins, and only escaped by
taking refuge under the porte-cochere of No. 6. They shouted:--"There's
another of those Saint-Simonians!" and they wanted to kill him. Now, he
had under his arm a volume of the memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon.
A National Guard had read the words Saint-Simon on the book, and had
shouted: "Death!"

On the 6th of June, 1832, a company of the National Guards from the
suburbs, commanded by the Captain Fannicot, above mentioned, had itself
decimated in the Rue de la Chanvrerie out of caprice and its own good
pleasure. This fact, singular though it may seem, was proved at the
judicial investigation opened in consequence of the insurrection of
1832. Captain Fannicot, a bold and impatient bourgeois, a sort of
condottiere of the order of those whom we have just characterized,
a fanatical and intractable governmentalist, could not resist the
temptation to fire prematurely, and the ambition of capturing the
barricade alone and unaided, that is to say, with his company.
Exasperated by the successive apparition of the red flag and the old
coat which he took for the black flag, he loudly blamed the generals and
chiefs of the corps, who were holding council and did not think that the
moment for the decisive assault had arrived, and who were allowing "the
insurrection to fry in its own fat," to use the celebrated expression
of one of them. For his part, he thought the barricade ripe, and as that
which is ripe ought to fall, he made the attempt.

He commanded men as resolute as himself, "raging fellows," as a witness
said. His company, the same which had shot Jean Prouvaire the poet, was
the first of the battalion posted at the angle of the street. At the
moment when they were least expecting it, the captain launched his men
against the barricade. This movement, executed with more good will than
strategy, cost the Fannicot company dear. Before it had traversed two
thirds of the street it was received by a general discharge from the
barricade. Four, the most audacious, who were running on in front,
were mown down point-blank at the very foot of the redoubt, and this
courageous throng of National Guards, very brave men but lacking in
military tenacity, were forced to fall back, after some hesitation,
leaving fifteen corpses on the pavement. This momentary hesitation gave
the insurgents time to re-load their weapons, and a second and very
destructive discharge struck the company before it could regain the
corner of the street, its shelter. A moment more, and it was caught
between two fires, and it received the volley from the battery piece
which, not having received the order, had not discontinued its firing.

The intrepid and imprudent Fannicot was one of the dead from this
grape-shot. He was killed by the cannon, that is to say, by order.

This attack, which was more furious than serious, irritated
Enjolras.--"The fools!" said he. "They are getting their own men killed
and they are using up our ammunition for nothing."

Enjolras spoke like the real general of insurrection which he
was. Insurrection and repression do not fight with equal weapons.
Insurrection, which is speedily exhausted, has only a certain number
of shots to fire and a certain number of combatants to expend. An empty
cartridge-box, a man killed, cannot be replaced. As repression has the
army, it does not count its men, and, as it has Vincennes, it does not
count its shots. Repression has as many regiments as the barricade has
men, and as many arsenals as the barricade has cartridge-boxes. Thus
they are struggles of one against a hundred, which always end in
crushing the barricade; unless the revolution, uprising suddenly,
flings into the balance its flaming archangel's sword. This does happen
sometimes. Then everything rises, the pavements begin to seethe, popular
redoubts abound. Paris quivers supremely, the quid divinum is given
forth, a 10th of August is in the air, a 29th of July is in the air, a
wonderful light appears, the yawning maw of force draws back, and the
army, that lion, sees before it, erect and tranquil, that prophet,


In the chaos of sentiments and passions which defend a barricade, there
is a little of everything; there is bravery, there is youth, honor,
enthusiasm, the ideal, conviction, the rage of the gambler, and, above
all, intermittences of hope.

One of these intermittences, one of these vague quivers of hope suddenly
traversed the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie at the moment when
it was least expected.

"Listen," suddenly cried Enjolras, who was still on the watch, "it seems
to me that Paris is waking up."

It is certain that, on the morning of the 6th of June, the insurrection
broke out afresh for an hour or two, to a certain extent. The obstinacy
of the alarm peal of Saint-Merry reanimated some fancies. Barricades
were begun in the Rue du Poirier and the Rue des Gravilliers. In front
of the Porte Saint-Martin, a young man, armed with a rifle, attacked
alone a squadron of cavalry. In plain sight, on the open boulevard, he
placed one knee on the ground, shouldered his weapon, fired, killed the
commander of the squadron, and turned away, saying: "There's another who
will do us no more harm."

He was put to the sword. In the Rue Saint-Denis, a woman fired on the
National Guard from behind a lowered blind. The slats of the blind could
be seen to tremble at every shot. A child fourteen years of age
was arrested in the Rue de la Cossonerie, with his pockets full of
cartridges. Many posts were attacked. At the entrance to the Rue
Bertin-Poiree, a very lively and utterly unexpected fusillade welcomed
a regiment of cuirrassiers, at whose head marched Marshal General
Cavaignac de Barague. In the Rue Planche-Mibray, they threw old pieces
of pottery and household utensils down on the soldiers from the roofs; a
bad sign; and when this matter was reported to Marshal Soult, Napoleon's
old lieutenant grew thoughtful, as he recalled Suchet's saying at
Saragossa: "We are lost when the old women empty their pots de chambre
on our heads."

These general symptoms which presented themselves at the moment when
it was thought that the uprising had been rendered local, this fever
of wrath, these sparks which flew hither and thither above those deep
masses of combustibles which are called the faubourgs of Paris,--all
this, taken together, disturbed the military chiefs. They made haste to
stamp out these beginnings of conflagration.

They delayed the attack on the barricades Maubuee, de la Chanvrerie and
Saint-Merry until these sparks had been extinguished, in order that they
might have to deal with the barricades only and be able to finish
them at one blow. Columns were thrown into the streets where there was
fermentation, sweeping the large, sounding the small, right and left,
now slowly and cautiously, now at full charge. The troops broke in
the doors of houses whence shots had been fired; at the same time,
manoeuvres by the cavalry dispersed the groups on the boulevards. This
repression was not effected without some commotion, and without that
tumultuous uproar peculiar to collisions between the army and the
people. This was what Enjolras had caught in the intervals of the
cannonade and the musketry. Moreover, he had seen wounded men passing
the end of the street in litters, and he said to Courfeyrac:--"Those
wounded do not come from us."

Their hope did not last long; the gleam was quickly eclipsed. In less
than half an hour, what was in the air vanished, it was a flash of
lightning unaccompanied by thunder, and the insurgents felt that sort of
leaden cope, which the indifference of the people casts over obstinate
and deserted men, fall over them once more.

The general movement, which seemed to have assumed a vague outline, had
miscarried; and the attention of the minister of war and the strategy of
the generals could now be concentrated on the three or four barricades
which still remained standing.

The sun was mounting above the horizon.

An insurgent hailed Enjolras.

"We are hungry here. Are we really going to die like this, without
anything to eat?"

Enjolras, who was still leaning on his elbows at his embrasure, made an
affirmative sign with his head, but without taking his eyes from the end
of the street.


Courfeyrac, seated on a paving-stone beside Enjolras, continued to
insult the cannon, and each time that that gloomy cloud of projectiles
which is called grape-shot passed overhead with its terrible sound he
assailed it with a burst of irony.

"You are wearing out your lungs, poor, brutal, old fellow, you pain me,
you are wasting your row. That's not thunder, it's a cough."

And the bystanders laughed.

Courfeyrac and Bossuet, whose brave good humor increased with the peril,
like Madame Scarron, replaced nourishment with pleasantry, and, as wine
was lacking, they poured out gayety to all.

"I admire Enjolras," said Bossuet. "His impassive temerity astounds
me. He lives alone, which renders him a little sad, perhaps; Enjolras
complains of his greatness, which binds him to widowhood. The rest of us
have mistresses, more or less, who make us crazy, that is to say, brave.
When a man is as much in love as a tiger, the least that he can do is to
fight like a lion. That is one way of taking our revenge for the capers
that mesdames our grisettes play on us. Roland gets himself killed for
Angelique; all our heroism comes from our women. A man without a woman
is a pistol without a trigger; it is the woman that sets the man off.
Well, Enjolras has no woman. He is not in love, and yet he manages to be
intrepid. It is a thing unheard of that a man should be as cold as ice
and as bold as fire."

Enjolras did not appear to be listening, but had any one been near him,
that person would have heard him mutter in a low voice: "Patria."

Bossuet was still laughing when Courfeyrac exclaimed:


And assuming the tone of an usher making an announcement, he added:

"My name is Eight-Pounder."

In fact, a new personage had entered on the scene. This was a second
piece of ordnance.

The artillery-men rapidly performed their manoeuvres in force and placed
this second piece in line with the first.

This outlined the catastrophe.

A few minutes later, the two pieces, rapidly served, were firing
point-blank at the redoubt; the platoon firing of the line and of the
soldiers from the suburbs sustained the artillery.

Another cannonade was audible at some distance. At the same time that
the two guns were furiously attacking the redoubt from the Rue de la
Chanvrerie, two other cannons, trained one from the Rue Saint-Denis,
the other from the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher, were riddling the Saint-Merry
barricade. The four cannons echoed each other mournfully.

The barking of these sombre dogs of war replied to each other.

One of the two pieces which was now battering the barricade on the Rue
de la Chanvrerie was firing grape-shot, the other balls.

The piece which was firing balls was pointed a little high, and the aim
was calculated so that the ball struck the extreme edge of the upper
crest of the barricade, and crumbled the stone down upon the insurgents,
mingled with bursts of grape-shot.

The object of this mode of firing was to drive the insurgents from
the summit of the redoubt, and to compel them to gather close in the
interior, that is to say, this announced the assault.

The combatants once driven from the crest of the barricade by balls,
and from the windows of the cabaret by grape-shot, the attacking columns
could venture into the street without being picked off, perhaps, even,
without being seen, could briskly and suddenly scale the redoubt, as on
the preceding evening, and, who knows? take it by surprise.

"It is absolutely necessary that the inconvenience of those guns
should be diminished," said Enjolras, and he shouted: "Fire on the

All were ready. The barricade, which had long been silent, poured forth
a desperate fire; seven or eight discharges followed, with a sort of
rage and joy; the street was filled with blinding smoke, and, at the end
of a few minutes, athwart this mist all streaked with flame, two thirds
of the gunners could be distinguished lying beneath the wheels of the
cannons. Those who were left standing continued to serve the pieces with
severe tranquillity, but the fire had slackened.

"Things are going well now," said Bossuet to Enjolras. "Success."

Enjolras shook his head and replied:

"Another quarter of an hour of this success, and there will not be any
cartridges left in the barricade."

It appears that Gavroche overheard this remark.


Courfeyrac suddenly caught sight of some one at the base of the
barricade, outside in the street, amid the bullets.

Gavroche had taken a bottle basket from the wine-shop, had made his
way out through the cut, and was quietly engaged in emptying the full
cartridge-boxes of the National Guardsmen who had been killed on the
slope of the redoubt, into his basket.

"What are you doing there?" asked Courfeyrac.

Gavroche raised his face:--

"I'm filling my basket, citizen."

"Don't you see the grape-shot?"

Gavroche replied:

"Well, it is raining. What then?"

Courfeyrac shouted:--"Come in!"

"Instanter," said Gavroche.

And with a single bound he plunged into the street.

It will be remembered that Fannicot's company had left behind it a trail
of bodies. Twenty corpses lay scattered here and there on the pavement,
through the whole length of the street. Twenty cartouches for Gavroche
meant a provision of cartridges for the barricade.

The smoke in the street was like a fog. Whoever has beheld a cloud which
has fallen into a mountain gorge between two peaked escarpments can
imagine this smoke rendered denser and thicker by two gloomy rows of
lofty houses. It rose gradually and was incessantly renewed; hence a
twilight which made even the broad daylight turn pale. The combatants
could hardly see each other from one end of the street to the other,
short as it was.

This obscurity, which had probably been desired and calculated on by the
commanders who were to direct the assault on the barricade, was useful
to Gavroche.

Beneath the folds of this veil of smoke, and thanks to his small size,
he could advance tolerably far into the street without being seen. He
rifled the first seven or eight cartridge-boxes without much danger.

He crawled flat on his belly, galloped on all fours, took his basket
in his teeth, twisted, glided, undulated, wound from one dead body to
another, and emptied the cartridge-box or cartouche as a monkey opens a

They did not dare to shout to him to return from the barricade, which
was quite near, for fear of attracting attention to him.

On one body, that of a corporal, he found a powder-flask.

"For thirst," said he, putting it in his pocket.

By dint of advancing, he reached a point where the fog of the fusillade
became transparent. So that the sharpshooters of the line ranged on
the outlook behind their paving-stone dike and the sharpshooters of the
banlieue massed at the corner of the street suddenly pointed out to each
other something moving through the smoke.

At the moment when Gavroche was relieving a sergeant, who was lying near
a stone door-post, of his cartridges, a bullet struck the body.

"Fichtre!" ejaculated Gavroche. "They are killing my dead men for me."

A second bullet struck a spark from the pavement beside him.--A third
overturned his basket.

Gavroche looked and saw that this came from the men of the banlieue.

He sprang to his feet, stood erect, with his hair flying in the wind,
his hands on his hips, his eyes fixed on the National Guardsmen who were
firing, and sang:

      "On est laid a Nanterre,       "Men are ugly at Nanterre,
       C'est la faute a Voltaire;     'Tis the  fault of Voltaire;
       Et bete a Palaiseau,           And dull at Palaiseau,
       C'est la faute a Rousseau."    'Tis the fault of Rousseau."

Then he picked up his basket, replaced the cartridges which had fallen
from it, without missing a single one, and, advancing towards the
fusillade, set about plundering another cartridge-box. There a fourth
bullet missed him, again. Gavroche sang:

       "Je ne suis pas notaire,      "I am not a notary,
        C'est la faute a Voltaire;    'Tis the fault of Voltaire;
        Je suis un petit oiseau,      I'm a little bird,
        C'est la faute a Rousseau."   'Tis the fault of Rousseau."

A fifth bullet only succeeded in drawing from him a third couplet.

       "Joie est mon caractere,      "Joy is my character,
        C'est la faute a Voltaire;    'Tis the fault of Voltaire;
        Misere est mon trousseau,     Misery is my trousseau,
        C'est la faute a Rousseau."   'Tis the fault of Rousseau."

Thus it went on for some time.

It was a charming and terrible sight. Gavroche, though shot at, was
teasing the fusillade. He had the air of being greatly diverted. It was
the sparrow pecking at the sportsmen. To each discharge he retorted
with a couplet. They aimed at him constantly, and always missed him. The
National Guardsmen and the soldiers laughed as they took aim at him. He
lay down, sprang to his feet, hid in the corner of a doorway, then made
a bound, disappeared, re-appeared, scampered away, returned, replied to
the grape-shot with his thumb at his nose, and, all the while, went on
pillaging the cartouches, emptying the cartridge-boxes, and filling his
basket. The insurgents, panting with anxiety, followed him with their
eyes. The barricade trembled; he sang. He was not a child, he was not
a man; he was a strange gamin-fairy. He might have been called the
invulnerable dwarf of the fray. The bullets flew after him, he was more
nimble than they. He played a fearful game of hide and seek with death;
every time that the flat-nosed face of the spectre approached, the
urchin administered to it a fillip.

One bullet, however, better aimed or more treacherous than the rest,
finally struck the will-o'-the-wisp of a child. Gavroche was seen to
stagger, then he sank to the earth. The whole barricade gave vent to a
cry; but there was something of Antaeus in that pygmy; for the gamin
to touch the pavement is the same as for the giant to touch the earth;
Gavroche had fallen only to rise again; he remained in a sitting
posture, a long thread of blood streaked his face, he raised both arms
in the air, glanced in the direction whence the shot had come, and began
to sing:

      "Je suis tombe par terre,     "I have fallen to the earth,
       C'est la faute a Voltaire;    'Tis the fault of Voltaire;
       Le nez dans le ruisseau,      With my nose in the gutter,
       C'est la faute a . . . "      'Tis the fault of . . . "

He did not finish. A second bullet from the same marksman stopped him
short. This time he fell face downward on the pavement, and moved no
more. This grand little soul had taken its flight.


At that same moment, in the garden of the Luxembourg,--for the gaze of
the drama must be everywhere present,--two children were holding each
other by the hand. One might have been seven years old, the other five.
The rain having soaked them, they were walking along the paths on
the sunny side; the elder was leading the younger; they were pale and
ragged; they had the air of wild birds. The smaller of them said: "I am
very hungry."

The elder, who was already somewhat of a protector, was leading his
brother with his left hand and in his right he carried a small stick.

They were alone in the garden. The garden was deserted, the gates had
been closed by order of the police, on account of the insurrection. The
troops who had been bivouacking there had departed for the exigencies of

How did those children come there? Perhaps they had escaped from some
guard-house which stood ajar; perhaps there was in the vicinity, at
the Barriere d'Enfer; or on the Esplanade de l'Observatoire, or in the
neighboring carrefour, dominated by the pediment on which could be read:
Invenerunt parvulum pannis involutum, some mountebank's booth from which
they had fled; perhaps they had, on the preceding evening, escaped the
eye of the inspectors of the garden at the hour of closing, and had
passed the night in some one of those sentry-boxes where people read the
papers? The fact is, they were stray lambs and they seemed free. To be
astray and to seem free is to be lost. These poor little creatures were,
in fact, lost.

These two children were the same over whom Gavroche had been put to
some trouble, as the reader will recollect. Children of the Thenardiers,
leased out to Magnon, attributed to M. Gillenormand, and now leaves
fallen from all these rootless branches, and swept over the ground by
the wind. Their clothing, which had been clean in Magnon's day, and
which had served her as a prospectus with M. Gillenormand, had been
converted into rags.

Henceforth these beings belonged to the statistics as "Abandoned
children," whom the police take note of, collect, mislay and find again
on the pavements of Paris.

It required the disturbance of a day like that to account for these
miserable little creatures being in that garden. If the superintendents
had caught sight of them, they would have driven such rags forth. Poor
little things do not enter public gardens; still, people should reflect
that, as children, they have a right to flowers.

These children were there, thanks to the locked gates. They were there
contrary to the regulations. They had slipped into the garden and there
they remained. Closed gates do not dismiss the inspectors, oversight
is supposed to continue, but it grows slack and reposes; and the
inspectors, moved by the public anxiety and more occupied with the
outside than the inside, no longer glanced into the garden, and had not
seen the two delinquents.

It had rained the night before, and even a little in the morning. But
in June, showers do not count for much. An hour after a storm, it can
hardly be seen that the beautiful blonde day has wept. The earth, in
summer, is as quickly dried as the cheek of a child. At that period of
the solstice, the light of full noonday is, so to speak, poignant. It
takes everything. It applies itself to the earth, and superposes itself
with a sort of suction. One would say that the sun was thirsty. A shower
is but a glass of water; a rainstorm is instantly drunk up. In the
morning everything was dripping, in the afternoon everything is powdered

Nothing is so worthy of admiration as foliage washed by the rain and
wiped by the rays of sunlight; it is warm freshness. The gardens and
meadows, having water at their roots, and sun in their flowers, become
perfuming-pans of incense, and smoke with all their odors at
once. Everything smiles, sings and offers itself. One feels gently
intoxicated. The springtime is a provisional paradise, the sun helps man
to have patience.

There are beings who demand nothing further; mortals, who, having
the azure of heaven, say: "It is enough!" dreamers absorbed in the
wonderful, dipping into the idolatry of nature, indifferent to good and
evil, contemplators of cosmos and radiantly forgetful of man, who do not
understand how people can occupy themselves with the hunger of these,
and the thirst of those, with the nudity of the poor in winter, with the
lymphatic curvature of the little spinal column, with the pallet, the
attic, the dungeon, and the rags of shivering young girls, when they
can dream beneath the trees; peaceful and terrible spirits they, and
pitilessly satisfied. Strange to say, the infinite suffices them. That
great need of man, the finite, which admits of embrace, they ignore.
The finite which admits of progress and sublime toil, they do not
think about. The indefinite, which is born from the human and divine
combination of the infinite and the finite, escapes them. Provided that
they are face to face with immensity, they smile. Joy never, ecstasy
forever. Their life lies in surrendering their personality in
contemplation. The history of humanity is for them only a detailed
plan. All is not there; the true All remains without; what is the use
of busying oneself over that detail, man? Man suffers, that is quite
possible; but look at Aldebaran rising! The mother has no more milk, the
new-born babe is dying. I know nothing about that, but just look at this
wonderful rosette which a slice of wood-cells of the pine presents under
the microscope! Compare the most beautiful Mechlin lace to that if you
can! These thinkers forget to love. The zodiac thrives with them to such
a point that it prevents their seeing the weeping child. God eclipses
their souls. This is a family of minds which are, at once, great and
petty. Horace was one of them; so was Goethe. La Fontaine perhaps;
magnificent egoists of the infinite, tranquil spectators of sorrow, who
do not behold Nero if the weather be fair, for whom the sun conceals the
funeral pile, who would look on at an execution by the guillotine in the
search for an effect of light, who hear neither the cry nor the sob, nor
the death rattle, nor the alarm peal, for whom everything is well, since
there is a month of May, who, so long as there are clouds of purple
and gold above their heads, declare themselves content, and who are
determined to be happy until the radiance of the stars and the songs of
the birds are exhausted.

These are dark radiances. They have no suspicion that they are to be
pitied. Certainly they are so. He who does not weep does not see. They
are to be admired and pitied, as one would both pity and admire a being
at once night and day, without eyes beneath his lashes but with a star
on his brow.

The indifference of these thinkers, is, according to some, a superior
philosophy. That may be; but in this superiority there is some
infirmity. One may be immortal and yet limp: witness Vulcan. One may
be more than man and less than man. There is incomplete immensity in
nature. Who knows whether the sun is not a blind man?

But then, what? In whom can we trust? Solem quis dicere falsum audeat?
Who shall dare to say that the sun is false? Thus certain geniuses,
themselves, certain Very-Lofty mortals, man-stars, may be mistaken? That
which is on high at the summit, at the crest, at the zenith, that which
sends down so much light on the earth, sees but little, sees badly, sees
not at all? Is not this a desperate state of things? No. But what is
there, then, above the sun? The god.

On the 6th of June, 1832, about eleven o'clock in the morning, the
Luxembourg, solitary and depopulated, was charming. The quincunxes and
flower-beds shed forth balm and dazzling beauty into the sunlight. The
branches, wild with the brilliant glow of midday, seemed endeavoring
to embrace. In the sycamores there was an uproar of linnets, sparrows
triumphed, woodpeckers climbed along the chestnut trees, administering
little pecks on the bark. The flower-beds accepted the legitimate
royalty of the lilies; the most august of perfumes is that which
emanates from whiteness. The peppery odor of the carnations was
perceptible. The old crows of Marie de Medici were amorous in the tall
trees. The sun gilded, empurpled, set fire to and lighted up the tulips,
which are nothing but all the varieties of flame made into flowers. All
around the banks of tulips the bees, the sparks of these flame-flowers,
hummed. All was grace and gayety, even the impending rain; this relapse,
by which the lilies of the valley and the honeysuckles were destined to
profit, had nothing disturbing about it; the swallows indulged in the
charming threat of flying low. He who was there aspired to happiness;
life smelled good; all nature exhaled candor, help, assistance,
paternity, caress, dawn. The thoughts which fell from heaven were as
sweet as the tiny hand of a baby when one kisses it.

The statues under the trees, white and nude, had robes of shadow pierced
with light; these goddesses were all tattered with sunlight; rays hung
from them on all sides. Around the great fountain, the earth was already
dried up to the point of being burnt. There was sufficient breeze to
raise little insurrections of dust here and there. A few yellow leaves,
left over from the autumn, chased each other merrily, and seemed to be
playing tricks on each other.

This abundance of light had something indescribably reassuring about it.
Life, sap, heat, odors overflowed; one was conscious, beneath creation,
of the enormous size of the source; in all these breaths permeated with
love, in this interchange of reverberations and reflections, in this
marvellous expenditure of rays, in this infinite outpouring of liquid
gold, one felt the prodigality of the inexhaustible; and, behind this
splendor as behind a curtain of flame, one caught a glimpse of God, that
millionaire of stars.

Thanks to the sand, there was not a speck of mud; thanks to the rain,
there was not a grain of ashes. The clumps of blossoms had just been
bathed; every sort of velvet, satin, gold and varnish, which springs
from the earth in the form of flowers, was irreproachable. This
magnificence was cleanly. The grand silence of happy nature filled the
garden. A celestial silence that is compatible with a thousand sorts of
music, the cooing of nests, the buzzing of swarms, the flutterings of
the breeze. All the harmony of the season was complete in one gracious
whole; the entrances and exits of spring took place in proper order; the
lilacs ended; the jasmines began; some flowers were tardy, some insects
in advance of their time; the van-guard of the red June butterflies
fraternized with the rear-guard of the white butterflies of May. The
plantain trees were getting their new skins. The breeze hollowed out
undulations in the magnificent enormity of the chestnut-trees. It
was splendid. A veteran from the neighboring barracks, who was gazing
through the fence, said: "Here is the Spring presenting arms and in full

All nature was breakfasting; creation was at table; this was its hour;
the great blue cloth was spread in the sky, and the great green cloth
on earth; the sun lighted it all up brilliantly. God was serving
the universal repast. Each creature had his pasture or his mess. The
ring-dove found his hemp-seed, the chaffinch found his millet, the
goldfinch found chickweed, the red-breast found worms, the green finch
found flies, the fly found infusoriae, the bee found flowers. They ate
each other somewhat, it is true, which is the misery of evil mixed with
good; but not a beast of them all had an empty stomach.

The two little abandoned creatures had arrived in the vicinity of the
grand fountain, and, rather bewildered by all this light, they tried to
hide themselves, the instinct of the poor and the weak in the presence
of even impersonal magnificence; and they kept behind the swans' hutch.

Here and there, at intervals, when the wind blew, shouts, clamor, a sort
of tumultuous death rattle, which was the firing, and dull blows, which
were discharges of cannon, struck the ear confusedly. Smoke hung over
the roofs in the direction of the Halles. A bell, which had the air of
an appeal, was ringing in the distance.

These children did not appear to notice these noises. The little one
repeated from time to time: "I am hungry."

Almost at the same instant with the children, another couple approached
the great basin. They consisted of a goodman, about fifty years of age,
who was leading by the hand a little fellow of six. No doubt, a father
and his son. The little man of six had a big brioche.

At that epoch, certain houses abutting on the river, in the Rues Madame
and d'Enfer, had keys to the Luxembourg garden, of which the lodgers
enjoyed the use when the gates were shut, a privilege which was
suppressed later on. This father and son came from one of these houses,
no doubt.

The two poor little creatures watched "that gentleman" approaching, and
hid themselves a little more thoroughly.

He was a bourgeois. The same person, perhaps, whom Marius had one day
heard, through his love fever, near the same grand basin, counselling
his son "to avoid excesses." He had an affable and haughty air, and a
mouth which was always smiling, since it did not shut. This mechanical
smile, produced by too much jaw and too little skin, shows the teeth
rather than the soul. The child, with his brioche, which he had bitten
into but had not finished eating, seemed satiated. The child was dressed
as a National Guardsman, owing to the insurrection, and the father had
remained clad as a bourgeois out of prudence.

Father and son halted near the fountain where two swans were sporting.
This bourgeois appeared to cherish a special admiration for the swans.
He resembled them in this sense, that he walked like them.

For the moment, the swans were swimming, which is their principal
talent, and they were superb.

If the two poor little beings had listened and if they had been of an
age to understand, they might have gathered the words of this grave man.
The father was saying to his son:

"The sage lives content with little. Look at me, my son. I do not love
pomp. I am never seen in clothes decked with gold lace and stones; I
leave that false splendor to badly organized souls."

Here the deep shouts which proceeded from the direction of the Halles
burst out with fresh force of bell and uproar.

"What is that?" inquired the child.

The father replied:

"It is the Saturnalia."

All at once, he caught sight of the two little ragged boys behind the
green swan-hutch.

"There is the beginning," said he.

And, after a pause, he added:

"Anarchy is entering this garden."

In the meanwhile, his son took a bite of his brioche, spit it out, and,
suddenly burst out crying.

"What are you crying about?" demanded his father.

"I am not hungry any more," said the child.

The father's smile became more accentuated.

"One does not need to be hungry in order to eat a cake."

"My cake tires me. It is stale."

"Don't you want any more of it?"


The father pointed to the swans.

"Throw it to those palmipeds."

The child hesitated. A person may not want any more of his cake; but
that is no reason for giving it away.

The father went on:

"Be humane. You must have compassion on animals."

And, taking the cake from his son, he flung it into the basin.

The cake fell very near the edge.

The swans were far away, in the centre of the basin, and busy with some
prey. They had seen neither the bourgeois nor the brioche.

The bourgeois, feeling that the cake was in danger of being wasted, and
moved by this useless shipwreck, entered upon a telegraphic agitation,
which finally attracted the attention of the swans.

They perceived something floating, steered for the edge like ships, as
they are, and slowly directed their course toward the brioche, with the
stupid majesty which befits white creatures.

"The swans [cygnes] understand signs [signes]," said the bourgeois,
delighted to make a jest.

At that moment, the distant tumult of the city underwent another sudden
increase. This time it was sinister. There are some gusts of wind which
speak more distinctly than others. The one which was blowing at that
moment brought clearly defined drum-beats, clamors, platoon firing, and
the dismal replies of the tocsin and the cannon. This coincided with a
black cloud which suddenly veiled the sun.

The swans had not yet reached the brioche.

"Let us return home," said the father, "they are attacking the

He grasped his son's hand again. Then he continued:

"From the Tuileries to the Luxembourg, there is but the distance which
separates Royalty from the peerage; that is not far. Shots will soon
rain down."

He glanced at the cloud.

"Perhaps it is rain itself that is about to shower down; the sky
is joining in; the younger branch is condemned. Let us return home

"I should like to see the swans eat the brioche," said the child.

The father replied:

"That would be imprudent."

And he led his little bourgeois away.

The son, regretting the swans, turned his head back toward the basin
until a corner of the quincunxes concealed it from him.

In the meanwhile, the two little waifs had approached the brioche at
the same time as the swans. It was floating on the water. The smaller of
them stared at the cake, the elder gazed after the retreating bourgeois.

Father and son entered the labyrinth of walks which leads to the grand
flight of steps near the clump of trees on the side of the Rue Madame.

As soon as they had disappeared from view, the elder child hastily
flung himself flat on his stomach on the rounding curb of the basin, and
clinging to it with his left hand, and leaning over the water, on the
verge of falling in, he stretched out his right hand with his stick
towards the cake. The swans, perceiving the enemy, made haste, and in so
doing, they produced an effect of their breasts which was of service to
the little fisher; the water flowed back before the swans, and one of
these gentle concentric undulations softly floated the brioche towards
the child's wand. Just as the swans came up, the stick touched the cake.
The child gave it a brisk rap, drew in the brioche, frightened away the
swans, seized the cake, and sprang to his feet. The cake was wet;
but they were hungry and thirsty. The elder broke the cake into two
portions, a large one and a small one, took the small one for himself,
gave the large one to his brother, and said to him:

"Ram that into your muzzle."


Marius dashed out of the barricade, Combeferre followed him. But he
was too late. Gavroche was dead. Combeferre brought back the basket of
cartridges; Marius bore the child.

"Alas!" he thought, "that which the father had done for his father, he
was requiting to the son; only, Thenardier had brought back his father
alive; he was bringing back the child dead."

When Marius re-entered the redoubt with Gavroche in his arms, his face,
like the child, was inundated with blood.

At the moment when he had stooped to lift Gavroche, a bullet had grazed
his head; he had not noticed it.

Courfeyrac untied his cravat and with it bandaged Marius' brow.

They laid Gavroche on the same table with Mabeuf, and spread over the
two corpses the black shawl. There was enough of it for both the old man
and the child.

Combeferre distributed the cartridges from the basket which he had
brought in.

This gave each man fifteen rounds to fire.

Jean Valjean was still in the same place, motionless on his stone post.
When Combeferre offered him his fifteen cartridges, he shook his head.

"Here's a rare eccentric," said Combeferre in a low voice to Enjolras.
"He finds a way of not fighting in this barricade."

"Which does not prevent him from defending it," responded Enjolras.

"Heroism has its originals," resumed Combeferre.

And Courfeyrac, who had overheard, added:

"He is another sort from Father Mabeuf."

One thing which must be noted is, that the fire which was battering the
barricade hardly disturbed the interior. Those who have never traversed
the whirlwind of this sort of war can form no idea of the singular
moments of tranquillity mingled with these convulsions. Men go and
come, they talk, they jest, they lounge. Some one whom we know heard a
combatant say to him in the midst of the grape-shot: "We are here as
at a bachelor breakfast." The redoubt of the Rue de la Chanvrerie, we
repeat, seemed very calm within. All mutations and all phases had been,
or were about to be, exhausted. The position, from critical, had become
menacing, and, from menacing, was probably about to become desperate. In
proportion as the situation grew gloomy, the glow of heroism empurpled
the barricade more and more. Enjolras, who was grave, dominated it,
in the attitude of a young Spartan sacrificing his naked sword to the
sombre genius, Epidotas.

Combeferre, wearing an apron, was dressing the wounds: Bossuet and
Feuilly were making cartridges with the powder-flask picked up by
Gavroche on the dead corporal, and Bossuet said to Feuilly: "We are soon
to take the diligence for another planet"; Courfeyrac was disposing and
arranging on some paving-stones which he had reserved for himself near
Enjolras, a complete arsenal, his sword-cane, his gun, two holster
pistols, and a cudgel, with the care of a young girl setting a small
dunkerque in order. Jean Valjean stared silently at the wall opposite
him. An artisan was fastening Mother Hucheloup's big straw hat on his
head with a string, "for fear of sun-stroke," as he said. The young
men from the Cougourde d'Aix were chatting merrily among themselves,
as though eager to speak patois for the last time. Joly, who had taken
Widow Hucheloup's mirror from the wall, was examining his tongue in it.
Some combatants, having discovered a few crusts of rather mouldy bread,
in a drawer, were eagerly devouring them. Marius was disturbed with
regard to what his father was about to say to him.


We must insist upon one psychological fact peculiar to barricades.
Nothing which is characteristic of that surprising war of the streets
should be omitted.

Whatever may have been the singular inward tranquillity which we have
just mentioned, the barricade, for those who are inside it, remains,
none the less, a vision.

There is something of the apocalypse in civil war, all the mists of the
unknown are commingled with fierce flashes, revolutions are sphinxes,
and any one who has passed through a barricade thinks he has traversed a

The feelings to which one is subject in these places we have pointed out
in the case of Marius, and we shall see the consequences; they are both
more and less than life. On emerging from a barricade, one no longer
knows what one has seen there. One has been terrible, but one knows
it not. One has been surrounded with conflicting ideas which had human
faces; one's head has been in the light of the future. There were
corpses lying prone there, and phantoms standing erect. The hours were
colossal and seemed hours of eternity. One has lived in death. Shadows
have passed by. What were they?

One has beheld hands on which there was blood; there was a deafening
horror; there was also a frightful silence; there were open mouths which
shouted, and other open mouths which held their peace; one was in the
midst of smoke, of night, perhaps. One fancied that one had touched the
sinister ooze of unknown depths; one stares at something red on one's
finger nails. One no longer remembers anything.

Let us return to the Rue de la Chanvrerie.

All at once, between two discharges, the distant sound of a clock
striking the hour became audible.

"It is midday," said Combeferre.

The twelve strokes had not finished striking when Enjolras sprang to his
feet, and from the summit of the barricade hurled this thundering shout:

"Carry stones up into the houses; line the windowsills and the
roofs with them. Half the men to their guns, the other half to the
paving-stones. There is not a minute to be lost."

A squad of sappers and miners, axe on shoulder, had just made their
appearance in battle array at the end of the street.

This could only be the head of a column; and of what column? The
attacking column, evidently; the sappers charged with the demolition of
the barricade must always precede the soldiers who are to scale it.

They were, evidently, on the brink of that moment which M.
Clermont-Tonnerre, in 1822, called "the tug of war."

Enjolras' order was executed with the correct haste which is peculiar
to ships and barricades, the only two scenes of combat where escape
is impossible. In less than a minute, two thirds of the stones which
Enjolras had had piled up at the door of Corinthe had been carried up to
the first floor and the attic, and before a second minute had elapsed,
these stones, artistically set one upon the other, walled up the
sash-window on the first floor and the windows in the roof to half their
height. A few loop-holes carefully planned by Feuilly, the principal
architect, allowed of the passage of the gun-barrels. This armament of
the windows could be effected all the more easily since the firing of
grape-shot had ceased. The two cannons were now discharging ball
against the centre of the barrier in order to make a hole there, and, if
possible, a breach for the assault.

When the stones destined to the final defence were in place, Enjolras
had the bottles which he had set under the table where Mabeuf lay,
carried to the first floor.

"Who is to drink that?" Bossuet asked him.

"They," replied Enjolras.

Then they barricaded the window below, and held in readiness the iron
cross-bars which served to secure the door of the wine-shop at night.

The fortress was complete. The barricade was the rampart, the wine-shop
was the dungeon. With the stones which remained they stopped up the

As the defenders of a barricade are always obliged to be sparing of
their ammunition, and as the assailants know this, the assailants
combine their arrangements with a sort of irritating leisure, expose
themselves to fire prematurely, though in appearance more than in
reality, and take their ease. The preparations for attack are always
made with a certain methodical deliberation; after which, the lightning

This deliberation permitted Enjolras to take a review of everything and
to perfect everything. He felt that, since such men were to die, their
death ought to be a masterpiece.

He said to Marius: "We are the two leaders. I will give the last orders
inside. Do you remain outside and observe."

Marius posted himself on the lookout upon the crest of the barricade.

Enjolras had the door of the kitchen, which was the ambulance, as the
reader will remember, nailed up.

"No splashing of the wounded," he said.

He issued his final orders in the tap-room in a curt, but profoundly
tranquil tone; Feuilly listened and replied in the name of all.

"On the first floor, hold your axes in readiness to cut the staircase.
Have you them?"

"Yes," said Feuilly.

"How many?"

"Two axes and a pole-axe."

"That is good. There are now twenty-six combatants of us on foot. How
many guns are there?"


"Eight too many. Keep those eight guns loaded like the rest and at
hand. Swords and pistols in your belts. Twenty men to the barricade. Six
ambushed in the attic windows, and at the window on the first floor to
fire on the assailants through the loop-holes in the stones. Let not a
single worker remain inactive here. Presently, when the drum beats the
assault, let the twenty below stairs rush to the barricade. The first to
arrive will have the best places."

These arrangements made, he turned to Javert and said:

"I am not forgetting you."

And, laying a pistol on the table, he added:

"The last man to leave this room will smash the skull of this spy."

"Here?" inquired a voice.

"No, let us not mix their corpses with our own. The little barricade of
the Mondetour lane can be scaled. It is only four feet high. The man is
well pinioned. He shall be taken thither and put to death."

There was some one who was more impassive at that moment than Enjolras,
it was Javert. Here Jean Valjean made his appearance.

He had been lost among the group of insurgents. He stepped forth and
said to Enjolras:

"You are the commander?"


"You thanked me a while ago."

"In the name of the Republic. The barricade has two saviors, Marius
Pontmercy and yourself."

"Do you think that I deserve a recompense?"


"Well, I request one."

"What is it?"

"That I may blow that man's brains out."

Javert raised his head, saw Jean Valjean, made an almost imperceptible
movement, and said:

"That is just."

As for Enjolras, he had begun to re-load his rifle; he cut his eyes
about him:

"No objections."

And he turned to Jean Valjean:

"Take the spy."

Jean Valjean did, in fact, take possession of Javert, by seating
himself on the end of the table. He seized the pistol, and a faint click
announced that he had cocked it.

Almost at the same moment, a blast of trumpets became audible.

"Take care!" shouted Marius from the top of the barricade.

Javert began to laugh with that noiseless laugh which was peculiar to
him, and gazing intently at the insurgents, he said to them:

"You are in no better case than I am."

"All out!" shouted Enjolras.

The insurgents poured out tumultuously, and, as they went, received in
the back,--may we be permitted the expression,--this sally of Javert's:

"We shall meet again shortly!"


When Jean Valjean was left alone with Javert, he untied the rope which
fastened the prisoner across the middle of the body, and the knot of
which was under the table. After this he made him a sign to rise.

Javert obeyed with that indefinable smile in which the supremacy of
enchained authority is condensed.

Jean Valjean took Javert by the martingale, as one would take a beast of
burden by the breast-band, and, dragging the latter after him, emerged
from the wine-shop slowly, because Javert, with his impeded limbs, could
take only very short steps.

Jean Valjean had the pistol in his hand.

In this manner they crossed the inner trapezium of the barricade. The
insurgents, all intent on the attack, which was imminent, had their
backs turned to these two.

Marius alone, stationed on one side, at the extreme left of the
barricade, saw them pass. This group of victim and executioner was
illuminated by the sepulchral light which he bore in his own soul.

Jean Valjean with some difficulty, but without relaxing his hold for
a single instant, made Javert, pinioned as he was, scale the little
entrenchment in the Mondetour lane.

When they had crossed this barrier, they found themselves alone in the
lane. No one saw them. Among the heap they could distinguish a livid
face, streaming hair, a pierced hand and the half nude breast of a
woman. It was Eponine. The corner of the houses hid them from the
insurgents. The corpses carried away from the barricade formed a
terrible pile a few paces distant.

Javert gazed askance at this body, and, profoundly calm, said in a low

"It strikes me that I know that girl."

Then he turned to Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean thrust the pistol under his arm and fixed on Javert a look
which it required no words to interpret: "Javert, it is I."

Javert replied:

"Take your revenge."

Jean Valjean drew from his pocket a knife, and opened it.

"A clasp-knife!" exclaimed Javert, "you are right. That suits you

Jean Valjean cut the martingale which Javert had about his neck, then he
cut the cords on his wrists, then, stooping down, he cut the cord on his
feet; and, straightening himself up, he said to him:

"You are free."

Javert was not easily astonished. Still, master of himself though
he was, he could not repress a start. He remained open-mouthed and

Jean Valjean continued:

"I do not think that I shall escape from this place. But if, by chance,
I do, I live, under the name of Fauchelevent, in the Rue de l'Homme
Arme, No. 7."

Javert snarled like a tiger, which made him half open one corner of his
mouth, and he muttered between his teeth:

"Have a care."

"Go," said Jean Valjean.

Javert began again:

"Thou saidst Fauchelevent, Rue de l'Homme Arme?"

"Number 7."

Javert repeated in a low voice:--"Number 7."

He buttoned up his coat once more, resumed the military stiffness
between his shoulders, made a half turn, folded his arms and, supporting
his chin on one of his hands, he set out in the direction of the Halles.
Jean Valjean followed him with his eyes:

A few minutes later, Javert turned round and shouted to Jean Valjean:

"You annoy me. Kill me, rather."

Javert himself did not notice that he no longer addressed Jean Valjean
as "thou."

"Be off with you," said Jean Valjean.

Javert retreated slowly. A moment later he turned the corner of the Rue
des Precheurs.

When Javert had disappeared, Jean Valjean fired his pistol in the air.

Then he returned to the barricade and said:

"It is done."

In the meanwhile, this is what had taken place.

Marius, more intent on the outside than on the interior, had not, up to
that time, taken a good look at the pinioned spy in the dark background
of the tap-room.

When he beheld him in broad daylight, striding over the barricade in
order to proceed to his death, he recognized him. Something suddenly
recurred to his mind. He recalled the inspector of the Rue de Pontoise,
and the two pistols which the latter had handed to him and which he,
Marius, had used in this very barricade, and not only did he recall his
face, but his name as well.

This recollection was misty and troubled, however, like all his ideas.

It was not an affirmation that he made, but a question which he put to

"Is not that the inspector of police who told me that his name was

Perhaps there was still time to intervene in behalf of that man. But, in
the first place, he must know whether this was Javert.

Marius called to Enjolras, who had just stationed himself at the other
extremity of the barricade:



"What is the name of yonder man?"

"What man?"

"The police agent. Do you know his name?"

"Of course. He told us."

"What is it?"


Marius sprang to his feet.

At that moment, they heard the report of the pistol.

Jean Valjean re-appeared and cried: "It is done."

A gloomy chill traversed Marius' heart.


The death agony of the barricade was about to begin.

Everything contributed to its tragic majesty at that supreme moment; a
thousand mysterious crashes in the air, the breath of armed masses set
in movement in the streets which were not visible, the intermittent
gallop of cavalry, the heavy shock of artillery on the march, the firing
by squads, and the cannonades crossing each other in the labyrinth
of Paris, the smokes of battle mounting all gilded above the roofs,
indescribable and vaguely terrible cries, lightnings of menace
everywhere, the tocsin of Saint-Merry, which now had the accents of a
sob, the mildness of the weather, the splendor of the sky filled with
sun and clouds, the beauty of the day, and the alarming silence of the

For, since the preceding evening, the two rows of houses in the Rue
de la Chanvrerie had become two walls; ferocious walls, doors closed,
windows closed, shutters closed.

In those days, so different from those in which we live, when the hour
was come, when the people wished to put an end to a situation, which had
lasted too long, with a charter granted or with a legal country, when
universal wrath was diffused in the atmosphere, when the city consented
to the tearing up of the pavements, when insurrection made the
bourgeoisie smile by whispering its password in its ear, then the
inhabitant, thoroughly penetrated with the revolt, so to speak, was
the auxiliary of the combatant, and the house fraternized with the
improvised fortress which rested on it. When the situation was not
ripe, when the insurrection was not decidedly admitted, when the masses
disowned the movement, all was over with the combatants, the city was
changed into a desert around the revolt, souls grew chilled, refuges
were nailed up, and the street turned into a defile to help the army to
take the barricade.

A people cannot be forced, through surprise, to walk more quickly than
it chooses. Woe to whomsoever tries to force its hand! A people does not
let itself go at random. Then it abandons the insurrection to itself.
The insurgents become noxious, infected with the plague. A house is an
escarpment, a door is a refusal, a facade is a wall. This wall hears,
sees and will not. It might open and save you. No. This wall is a judge.
It gazes at you and condemns you. What dismal things are closed houses.
They seem dead, they are living. Life which is, as it were, suspended
there, persists there. No one has gone out of them for four and twenty
hours, but no one is missing from them. In the interior of that rock,
people go and come, go to bed and rise again; they are a family party
there; there they eat and drink; they are afraid, a terrible thing! Fear
excuses this fearful lack of hospitality; terror is mixed with it, an
extenuating circumstance. Sometimes, even, and this has been actually
seen, fear turns to passion; fright may change into fury, as prudence
does into rage; hence this wise saying: "The enraged moderates." There
are outbursts of supreme terror, whence springs wrath like a mournful
smoke.--"What do these people want? What have they come there to do?
Let them get out of the scrape. So much the worse for them. It is their
fault. They are only getting what they deserve. It does not concern
us. Here is our poor street all riddled with balls. They are a pack of
rascals. Above all things, don't open the door."--And the house assumes
the air of a tomb. The insurgent is in the death-throes in front of
that house; he sees the grape-shot and naked swords drawing near; if
he cries, he knows that they are listening to him, and that no one will
come; there stand walls which might protect him, there are men who might
save him; and these walls have ears of flesh, and these men have bowels
of stone.

Whom shall he reproach?

No one and every one.

The incomplete times in which we live.

It is always at its own risk and peril that Utopia is converted into
revolution, and from philosophical protest becomes an armed protest, and
from Minerva turns to Pallas.

The Utopia which grows impatient and becomes revolt knows what awaits
it; it almost always comes too soon. Then it becomes resigned, and
stoically accepts catastrophe in lieu of triumph. It serves those who
deny it without complaint, even excusing them, and even disculpates
them, and its magnanimity consists in consenting to abandonment. It is
indomitable in the face of obstacles and gentle towards ingratitude.

Is this ingratitude, however?

Yes, from the point of view of the human race.

No, from the point of view of the individual.

Progress is man's mode of existence. The general life of the human race
is called Progress, the collective stride of the human race is called
Progress. Progress advances; it makes the great human and terrestrial
journey towards the celestial and the divine; it has its halting
places where it rallies the laggard troop, it has its stations where it
meditates, in the presence of some splendid Canaan suddenly unveiled
on its horizon, it has its nights when it sleeps; and it is one of the
poignant anxieties of the thinker that he sees the shadow resting on the
human soul, and that he gropes in darkness without being able to awaken
that slumbering Progress.

"God is dead, perhaps," said Gerard de Nerval one day to the writer of
these lines, confounding progress with God, and taking the interruption
of movement for the death of Being.

He who despairs is in the wrong. Progress infallibly awakes, and, in
short, we may say that it marches on, even when it is asleep, for it has
increased in size. When we behold it erect once more, we find it taller.
To be always peaceful does not depend on progress any more than it does
on the stream; erect no barriers, cast in no boulders; obstacles make
water froth and humanity boil. Hence arise troubles; but after these
troubles, we recognize the fact that ground has been gained. Until
order, which is nothing else than universal peace, has been established,
until harmony and unity reign, progress will have revolutions as its

What, then, is progress? We have just enunciated it; the permanent life
of the peoples.

Now, it sometimes happens, that the momentary life of individuals offers
resistance to the eternal life of the human race.

Let us admit without bitterness, that the individual has his distinct
interests, and can, without forfeiture, stipulate for his interest, and
defend it; the present has its pardonable dose of egotism; momentary
life has its rights, and is not bound to sacrifice itself constantly to
the future. The generation which is passing in its turn over the earth,
is not forced to abridge it for the sake of the generations, its equal,
after all, who will have their turn later on.--"I exist," murmurs that
some one whose name is All. "I am young and in love, I am old and I
wish to repose, I am the father of a family, I toil, I prosper, I am
successful in business, I have houses to lease, I have money in the
government funds, I am happy, I have a wife and children, I have all
this, I desire to live, leave me in peace."--Hence, at certain hours, a
profound cold broods over the magnanimous vanguard of the human race.

Utopia, moreover, we must admit, quits its radiant sphere when it makes
war. It, the truth of to-morrow, borrows its mode of procedure, battle,
from the lie of yesterday. It, the future, behaves like the past. It,
pure idea, becomes a deed of violence. It complicates its heroism with
a violence for which it is just that it should be held to answer; a
violence of occasion and expedient, contrary to principle, and for which
it is fatally punished. The Utopia, insurrection, fights with the old
military code in its fist; it shoots spies, it executes traitors; it
suppresses living beings and flings them into unknown darkness. It makes
use of death, a serious matter. It seems as though Utopia had no longer
any faith in radiance, its irresistible and incorruptible force. It
strikes with the sword. Now, no sword is simple. Every blade has two
edges; he who wounds with the one is wounded with the other.

Having made this reservation, and made it with all severity, it is
impossible for us not to admire, whether they succeed or not, those the
glorious combatants of the future, the confessors of Utopia. Even when
they miscarry, they are worthy of veneration; and it is, perhaps, in
failure, that they possess the most majesty. Victory, when it is in
accord with progress, merits the applause of the people; but a heroic
defeat merits their tender compassion. The one is magnificent, the other
sublime. For our own part, we prefer martyrdom to success. John Brown is
greater than Washington, and Pisacane is greater than Garibaldi.

It certainly is necessary that some one should take the part of the

We are unjust towards these great men who attempt the future, when they

Revolutionists are accused of sowing fear abroad. Every barricade seems
a crime. Their theories are incriminated, their aim suspected, their
ulterior motive is feared, their conscience denounced. They are
reproached with raising, erecting, and heaping up, against the reigning
social state, a mass of miseries, of griefs, of iniquities, of wrongs,
of despairs, and of tearing from the lowest depths blocks of shadow
in order therein to embattle themselves and to combat. People shout
to them: "You are tearing up the pavements of hell!" They might reply:
"That is because our barricade is made of good intentions."

The best thing, assuredly, is the pacific solution. In short, let us
agree that when we behold the pavement, we think of the bear, and it is
a good will which renders society uneasy. But it depends on society
to save itself, it is to its own good will that we make our appeal.
No violent remedy is necessary. To study evil amiably, to prove its
existence, then to cure it. It is to this that we invite it.

However that may be, even when fallen, above all when fallen, these men,
who at every point of the universe, with their eyes fixed on France, are
striving for the grand work with the inflexible logic of the ideal,
are august; they give their life a free offering to progress; they
accomplish the will of providence; they perform a religious act. At the
appointed hour, with as much disinterestedness as an actor who answers
to his cue, in obedience to the divine stage-manager, they enter the
tomb. And this hopeless combat, this stoical disappearance they accept
in order to bring about the supreme and universal consequences, the
magnificent and irresistibly human movement begun on the 14th of July,
1789; these soldiers are priests. The French revolution is an act of

Moreover, there are, and it is proper to add this distinction to the
distinctions already pointed out in another chapter,--there are accepted
revolutions, revolutions which are called revolutions; there are refused
revolutions, which are called riots.

An insurrection which breaks out, is an idea which is passing its
examination before the people. If the people lets fall a black ball, the
idea is dried fruit; the insurrection is a mere skirmish.

Waging war at every summons and every time that Utopia desires it, is
not the thing for the peoples. Nations have not always and at every hour
the temperament of heroes and martyrs.

They are positive. A priori, insurrection is repugnant to them, in the
first place, because it often results in a catastrophe, in the second
place, because it always has an abstraction as its point of departure.

Because, and this is a noble thing, it is always for the ideal, and for
the ideal alone, that those who sacrifice themselves do thus sacrifice
themselves. An insurrection is an enthusiasm. Enthusiasm may wax wroth;
hence the appeal to arms. But every insurrection, which aims at a
government or a regime, aims higher. Thus, for instance, and we
insist upon it, what the chiefs of the insurrection of 1832, and, in
particular, the young enthusiasts of the Rue de la Chanvrerie were
combating, was not precisely Louis Philippe. The majority of them,
when talking freely, did justice to this king who stood midway between
monarchy and revolution; no one hated him. But they attacked the younger
branch of the divine right in Louis Philippe as they had attacked its
elder branch in Charles X.; and that which they wished to overturn in
overturning royalty in France, was, as we have explained, the usurpation
of man over man, and of privilege over right in the entire universe.
Paris without a king has as result the world without despots. This is
the manner in which they reasoned. Their aim was distant no doubt,
vague perhaps, and it retreated in the face of their efforts; but it was

Thus it is. And we sacrifice ourselves for these visions, which are
almost always illusions for the sacrificed, but illusions with which,
after all, the whole of human certainty is mingled. We throw ourselves
into these tragic affairs and become intoxicated with that which we are
about to do. Who knows? We may succeed. We are few in number, we have a
whole army arrayed against us; but we are defending right, the natural
law, the sovereignty of each one over himself from which no abdication
is possible, justice and truth, and in case of need, we die like the
three hundred Spartans. We do not think of Don Quixote but of Leonidas.
And we march straight before us, and once pledged, we do not draw
back, and we rush onwards with head held low, cherishing as our hope an
unprecedented victory, revolution completed, progress set free again,
the aggrandizement of the human race, universal deliverance; and in the
event of the worst, Thermopylae.

These passages of arms for the sake of progress often suffer shipwreck,
and we have just explained why. The crowd is restive in the presence of
the impulses of paladins. Heavy masses, the multitudes which are fragile
because of their very weight, fear adventures; and there is a touch of
adventure in the ideal.

Moreover, and we must not forget this, interests which are not very
friendly to the ideal and the sentimental are in the way. Sometimes the
stomach paralyzes the heart.

The grandeur and beauty of France lies in this, that she takes less from
the stomach than other nations: she more easily knots the rope about her
loins. She is the first awake, the last asleep. She marches forwards.
She is a seeker.

This arises from the fact that she is an artist.

The ideal is nothing but the culminating point of logic, the same as the
beautiful is nothing but the summit of the true. Artistic peoples are
also consistent peoples. To love beauty is to see the light. That is why
the torch of Europe, that is to say of civilization, was first borne by
Greece, who passed it on to Italy, who handed it on to France. Divine,
illuminating nations of scouts! Vitaelampada tradunt.

It is an admirable thing that the poetry of a people is the element of
its progress. The amount of civilization is measured by the quantity
of imagination. Only, a civilizing people should remain a manly people.
Corinth, yes; Sybaris, no. Whoever becomes effeminate makes himself a
bastard. He must be neither a dilettante nor a virtuoso: but he must be
artistic. In the matter of civilization, he must not refine, but he must
sublime. On this condition, one gives to the human race the pattern of
the ideal.

The modern ideal has its type in art, and its means is science. It is
through science that it will realize that august vision of the poets,
the socially beautiful. Eden will be reconstructed by A+B. At the point
which civilization has now reached, the exact is a necessary element
of the splendid, and the artistic sentiment is not only served, but
completed by the scientific organ; dreams must be calculated. Art, which
is the conqueror, should have for support science, which is the walker;
the solidity of the creature which is ridden is of importance. The
modern spirit is the genius of Greece with the genius of India as its
vehicle; Alexander on the elephant.

Races which are petrified in dogma or demoralized by lucre are unfit to
guide civilization. Genuflection before the idol or before money wastes
away the muscles which walk and the will which advances. Hieratic or
mercantile absorption lessens a people's power of radiance, lowers its
horizon by lowering its level, and deprives it of that intelligence,
at once both human and divine of the universal goal, which makes
missionaries of nations. Babylon has no ideal; Carthage has no ideal.
Athens and Rome have and keep, throughout all the nocturnal darkness of
the centuries, halos of civilization.

France is in the same quality of race as Greece and Italy. She is
Athenian in the matter of beauty, and Roman in her greatness. Moreover,
she is good. She gives herself. Oftener than is the case with other
races, is she in the humor for self-devotion and sacrifice. Only, this
humor seizes upon her, and again abandons her. And therein lies the
great peril for those who run when she desires only to walk, or who walk
on when she desires to halt. France has her relapses into materialism,
and, at certain instants, the ideas which obstruct that sublime brain
have no longer anything which recalls French greatness and are of the
dimensions of a Missouri or a South Carolina. What is to be done in
such a case? The giantess plays at being a dwarf; immense France has her
freaks of pettiness. That is all.

To this there is nothing to say. Peoples, like planets, possess the
right to an eclipse. And all is well, provided that the light
returns and that the eclipse does not degenerate into night. Dawn and
resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is identical
with the persistence of the _I_.

Let us state these facts calmly. Death on the barricade or the tomb in
exile, is an acceptable occasion for devotion. The real name of
devotion is disinterestedness. Let the abandoned allow themselves to
be abandoned, let the exiled allow themselves to be exiled, and let us
confine ourselves to entreating great nations not to retreat too far,
when they do retreat. One must not push too far in descent under pretext
of a return to reason.

Matter exists, the minute exists, interest exists, the stomach exists;
but the stomach must not be the sole wisdom. The life of the moment has
its rights, we admit, but permanent life has its rights also. Alas! the
fact that one is mounted does not preclude a fall. This can be seen in
history more frequently than is desirable: A nation is great, it tastes
the ideal, then it bites the mire, and finds it good; and if it be asked
how it happens that it has abandoned Socrates for Falstaff, it replies:
"Because I love statesmen."

One word more before returning to our subject, the conflict.

A battle like the one which we are engaged in describing is nothing else
than a convulsion towards the ideal. Progress trammelled is sickly, and
is subject to these tragic epilepsies. With that malady of progress,
civil war, we have been obliged to come in contact in our passage. This
is one of the fatal phases, at once act and entr'acte of that drama
whose pivot is a social condemnation, and whose veritable title is


The cry to which we frequently give utterance is our whole thought; and,
at the point of this drama which we have now reached, the idea which it
contains having still more than one trial to undergo, it is, perhaps,
permitted to us, if not to lift the veil from it, to at least allow its
light to shine through.

The book which the reader has under his eye at this moment is, from
one end to the other, as a whole and in detail, whatever may be its
intermittences, exceptions and faults, the march from evil to good, from
the unjust to the just, from night to day, from appetite to conscience,
from rottenness to life, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God.
Point of departure: matter; point of arrival: the soul. The hydra at the
beginning, the angel at the end.


All at once, the drum beat the charge.

The attack was a hurricane. On the evening before, in the darkness,
the barricade had been approached silently, as by a boa. Now, in broad
daylight, in that widening street, surprise was decidedly impossible,
rude force had, moreover, been unmasked, the cannon had begun the
roar, the army hurled itself on the barricade. Fury now became skill.
A powerful detachment of infantry of the line, broken at regular
intervals, by the National Guard and the Municipal Guard on foot,
and supported by serried masses which could be heard though not seen,
debauched into the street at a run, with drums beating, trumpets
braying, bayonets levelled, the sappers at their head, and,
imperturbable under the projectiles, charged straight for the barricade
with the weight of a brazen beam against a wall.

The wall held firm.

The insurgents fired impetuously. The barricade once scaled had a mane
of lightning flashes. The assault was so furious, that for one moment,
it was inundated with assailants; but it shook off the soldiers as the
lion shakes off the dogs, and it was only covered with besiegers as
the cliff is covered with foam, to re-appear, a moment later, beetling,
black and formidable.

The column, forced to retreat, remained massed in the street,
unprotected but terrible, and replied to the redoubt with a terrible
discharge of musketry. Any one who has seen fireworks will recall the
sheaf formed of interlacing lightnings which is called a bouquet. Let
the reader picture to himself this bouquet, no longer vertical but
horizontal, bearing a bullet, buck-shot or a biscaien at the tip of each
one of its jets of flame, and picking off dead men one after another
from its clusters of lightning. The barricade was underneath it.

On both sides, the resolution was equal. The bravery exhibited there
was almost barbarous and was complicated with a sort of heroic ferocity
which began by the sacrifice of self.

This was the epoch when a National Guardsman fought like a Zouave.
The troop wished to make an end of it, insurrection was desirous of
fighting. The acceptance of the death agony in the flower of youth and
in the flush of health turns intrepidity into frenzy. In this fray, each
one underwent the broadening growth of the death hour. The street was
strewn with corpses.

The barricade had Enjolras at one of its extremities and Marius at the
other. Enjolras, who carried the whole barricade in his head, reserved
and sheltered himself; three soldiers fell, one after the other, under
his embrasure, without having even seen him; Marius fought unprotected.
He made himself a target. He stood with more than half his body above
the breastworks. There is no more violent prodigal than the avaricious
man who takes the bit in his teeth; there is no man more terrible in
action than a dreamer. Marius was formidable and pensive. In battle he
was as in a dream. One would have pronounced him a phantom engaged in
firing a gun.

The insurgents' cartridges were giving out; but not their sarcasms. In
this whirlwind of the sepulchre in which they stood, they laughed.

Courfeyrac was bare-headed.

"What have you done with your hat?" Bossuet asked him.

Courfeyrac replied:

"They have finally taken it away from me with cannon-balls."

Or they uttered haughty comments.

"Can any one understand," exclaimed Feuilly bitterly, "those men,--[and
he cited names, well-known names, even celebrated names, some belonging
to the old army]--who had promised to join us, and taken an oath to aid
us, and who had pledged their honor to it, and who are our generals, and
who abandon us!"

And Combeferre restricted himself to replying with a grave smile.

"There are people who observe the rules of honor as one observes the
stars, from a great distance."

The interior of the barricade was so strewn with torn cartridges that
one would have said that there had been a snowstorm.

The assailants had numbers in their favor; the insurgents had position.
They were at the top of a wall, and they thundered point-blank upon
the soldiers tripping over the dead and wounded and entangled in
the escarpment. This barricade, constructed as it was and admirably
buttressed, was really one of those situations where a handful of men
hold a legion in check. Nevertheless, the attacking column, constantly
recruited and enlarged under the shower of bullets, drew inexorably
nearer, and now, little by little, step by step, but surely, the army
closed in around the barricade as the vice grasps the wine-press.

One assault followed another. The horror of the situation kept

Then there burst forth on that heap of paving-stones, in that Rue de la
Chanvrerie, a battle worthy of a wall of Troy. These haggard, ragged,
exhausted men, who had had nothing to eat for four and twenty hours, who
had not slept, who had but a few more rounds to fire, who were fumbling
in their pockets which had been emptied of cartridges, nearly all
of whom were wounded, with head or arm bandaged with black and
blood-stained linen, with holes in their clothes from which the blood
trickled, and who were hardly armed with poor guns and notched swords,
became Titans. The barricade was ten times attacked, approached,
assailed, scaled, and never captured.

In order to form an idea of this struggle, it is necessary to imagine
fire set to a throng of terrible courages, and then to gaze at the
conflagration. It was not a combat, it was the interior of a furnace;
there mouths breathed the flame; there countenances were extraordinary.
The human form seemed impossible there, the combatants flamed forth
there, and it was formidable to behold the going and coming in that red
glow of those salamanders of the fray.

The successive and simultaneous scenes of this grand slaughter we
renounce all attempts at depicting. The epic alone has the right to fill
twelve thousand verses with a battle.

One would have pronounced this that hell of Brahmanism, the most
redoubtable of the seventeen abysses, which the Veda calls the Forest of

They fought hand to hand, foot to foot, with pistol shots, with blows of
the sword, with their fists, at a distance, close at hand, from above,
from below, from everywhere, from the roofs of the houses, from the
windows of the wine-shop, from the cellar windows, whither some had
crawled. They were one against sixty.

The facade of Corinthe, half demolished, was hideous. The window,
tattooed with grape-shot, had lost glass and frame and was nothing now
but a shapeless hole, tumultuously blocked with paving-stones.

Bossuet was killed; Feuilly was killed; Courfeyrac was killed;
Combeferre, transfixed by three blows from a bayonet in the breast at
the moment when he was lifting up a wounded soldier, had only time to
cast a glance to heaven when he expired.

Marius, still fighting, was so riddled with wounds, particularly in the
head, that his countenance disappeared beneath the blood, and one would
have said that his face was covered with a red kerchief.

Enjolras alone was not struck. When he had no longer any weapon, he
reached out his hands to right and left and an insurgent thrust some arm
or other into his fist. All he had left was the stumps of four swords;
one more than Francois I. at Marignan. Homer says: "Diomedes cuts
the throat of Axylus, son of Teuthranis, who dwelt in happy Arisba;
Euryalus, son of Mecistaeus, exterminates Dresos and Opheltios,
Esepius, and that Pedasus whom the naiad Abarbarea bore to the blameless
Bucolion; Ulysses overthrows Pidytes of Percosius; Antilochus, Ablerus;
Polypaetes, Astyalus; Polydamas, Otos, of Cyllene; and Teucer, Aretaon.
Meganthios dies under the blows of Euripylus' pike. Agamemnon, king
of the heroes, flings to earth Elatos, born in the rocky city which
is laved by the sounding river Satnois." In our old poems of exploits,
Esplandian attacks the giant marquis Swantibore with a cobbler's
shoulder-stick of fire, and the latter defends himself by stoning the
hero with towers which he plucks up by the roots. Our ancient mural
frescoes show us the two Dukes of Bretagne and Bourbon, armed,
emblazoned and crested in war-like guise, on horseback and approaching
each other, their battle-axes in hand, masked with iron, gloved with
iron, booted with iron, the one caparisoned in ermine, the other draped
in azure: Bretagne with his lion between the two horns of his crown,
Bourbon helmeted with a monster fleur de lys on his visor. But, in order
to be superb, it is not necessary to wear, like Yvon, the ducal morion,
to have in the fist, like Esplandian, a living flame, or, like Phyles,
father of Polydamas, to have brought back from Ephyra a good suit of
mail, a present from the king of men, Euphetes; it suffices to give
one's life for a conviction or a loyalty. This ingenuous little
soldier, yesterday a peasant of Bauce or Limousin, who prowls with his
clasp-knife by his side, around the children's nurses in the Luxembourg
garden, this pale young student bent over a piece of anatomy or a book,
a blond youth who shaves his beard with scissors,--take both of them,
breathe upon them with a breath of duty, place them face to face in the
Carrefour Boucherat or in the blind alley Planche-Mibray, and let the
one fight for his flag, and the other for his ideal, and let both of
them imagine that they are fighting for their country; the struggle will
be colossal; and the shadow which this raw recruit and this sawbones
in conflict will produce in that grand epic field where humanity
is striving, will equal the shadow cast by Megaryon, King of Lycia,
tiger-filled, crushing in his embrace the immense body of Ajax, equal to
the gods.


When there were no longer any of the leaders left alive, except Enjolras
and Marius at the two extremities of the barricade, the centre, which
had so long sustained Courfeyrac, Joly, Bossuet, Feuilly and Combeferre,
gave way. The cannon, though it had not effected a practicable breach,
had made a rather large hollow in the middle of the redoubt; there, the
summit of the wall had disappeared before the balls, and had crumbled
away; and the rubbish which had fallen, now inside, now outside, had,
as it accumulated, formed two piles in the nature of slopes on the two
sides of the barrier, one on the inside, the other on the outside. The
exterior slope presented an inclined plane to the attack.

A final assault was there attempted, and this assault succeeded. The
mass bristling with bayonets and hurled forward at a run, came up with
irresistible force, and the serried front of battle of the attacking
column made its appearance through the smoke on the crest of the
battlements. This time, it was decisive. The group of insurgents who
were defending the centre retreated in confusion.

Then the gloomy love of life awoke once more in some of them. Many,
finding themselves under the muzzles of this forest of guns, did not
wish to die. This is a moment when the instinct of self-preservation
emits howls, when the beast re-appears in men. They were hemmed in by
the lofty, six-story house which formed the background of their redoubt.
This house might prove their salvation. The building was barricaded, and
walled, as it were, from top to bottom. Before the troops of the line
had reached the interior of the redoubt, there was time for a door to
open and shut, the space of a flash of lightning was sufficient for
that, and the door of that house, suddenly opened a crack and closed
again instantly, was life for these despairing men. Behind this house,
there were streets, possible flight, space. They set to knocking at that
door with the butts of their guns, and with kicks, shouting, calling,
entreating, wringing their hands. No one opened. From the little window
on the third floor, the head of the dead man gazed down upon them.

But Enjolras and Marius, and the seven or eight rallied about them,
sprang forward and protected them. Enjolras had shouted to the soldiers:
"Don't advance!" and as an officer had not obeyed, Enjolras had killed
the officer. He was now in the little inner court of the redoubt, with
his back planted against the Corinthe building, a sword in one hand,
a rifle in the other, holding open the door of the wine-shop which he
barred against assailants. He shouted to the desperate men:--"There is
but one door open; this one."--And shielding them with his body, and
facing an entire battalion alone, he made them pass in behind him. All
precipitated themselves thither. Enjolras, executing with his rifle,
which he now used like a cane, what single-stick players call a "covered
rose" round his head, levelled the bayonets around and in front of him,
and was the last to enter; and then ensued a horrible moment, when the
soldiers tried to make their way in, and the insurgents strove to bar
them out. The door was slammed with such violence, that, as it fell back
into its frame, it showed the five fingers of a soldier who had been
clinging to it, cut off and glued to the post.

Marius remained outside. A shot had just broken his collar bone, he
felt that he was fainting and falling. At that moment, with eyes already
shut, he felt the shock of a vigorous hand seizing him, and the swoon
in which his senses vanished, hardly allowed him time for the thought,
mingled with a last memory of Cosette:--"I am taken prisoner. I shall be

Enjolras, not seeing Marius among those who had taken refuge in the
wine-shop, had the same idea. But they had reached a moment when each
man has not the time to meditate on his own death. Enjolras fixed the
bar across the door, and bolted it, and double-locked it with key and
chain, while those outside were battering furiously at it, the soldiers
with the butts of their muskets, the sappers with their axes. The
assailants were grouped about that door. The siege of the wine-shop was
now beginning.

The soldiers, we will observe, were full of wrath.

The death of the artillery-sergeant had enraged them, and then, a still
more melancholy circumstance. During the few hours which had preceded
the attack, it had been reported among them that the insurgents were
mutilating their prisoners, and that there was the headless body of
a soldier in the wine-shop. This sort of fatal rumor is the usual
accompaniment of civil wars, and it was a false report of this kind
which, later on, produced the catastrophe of the Rue Transnonain.

When the door was barricaded, Enjolras said to the others:

"Let us sell our lives dearly."

Then he approached the table on which lay Mabeuf and Gavroche. Beneath
the black cloth two straight and rigid forms were visible, one large,
the other small, and the two faces were vaguely outlined beneath the
cold folds of the shroud. A hand projected from beneath the winding
sheet and hung near the floor. It was that of the old man.

Enjolras bent down and kissed that venerable hand, just as he had kissed
his brow on the preceding evening.

These were the only two kisses which he had bestowed in the course of
his life.

Let us abridge the tale. The barricade had fought like a gate of Thebes;
the wine-shop fought like a house of Saragossa. These resistances are
dogged. No quarter. No flag of truce possible. Men are willing to die,
provided their opponent will kill them.

When Suchet says:--"Capitulate,"--Palafox replies: "After the war with
cannon, the war with knives." Nothing was lacking in the capture by
assault of the Hucheloup wine-shop; neither paving-stones raining from
the windows and the roof on the besiegers and exasperating the soldiers
by crushing them horribly, nor shots fired from the attic-windows and
the cellar, nor the fury of attack, nor, finally, when the door yielded,
the frenzied madness of extermination. The assailants, rushing into the
wine-shop, their feet entangled in the panels of the door which had been
beaten in and flung on the ground, found not a single combatant there.
The spiral staircase, hewn asunder with the axe, lay in the middle of
the tap-room, a few wounded men were just breathing their last, every
one who was not killed was on the first floor, and from there, through
the hole in the ceiling, which had formed the entrance of the stairs,
a terrific fire burst forth. It was the last of their cartridges. When
they were exhausted, when these formidable men on the point of death had
no longer either powder or ball, each grasped in his hands two of the
bottles which Enjolras had reserved, and of which we have spoken, and
held the scaling party in check with these frightfully fragile clubs.
They were bottles of aquafortis.

We relate these gloomy incidents of carnage as they occurred. The
besieged man, alas! converts everything into a weapon. Greek fire did
not disgrace Archimedes, boiling pitch did not disgrace Bayard. All war
is a thing of terror, and there is no choice in it. The musketry of the
besiegers, though confined and embarrassed by being directed from below
upwards, was deadly. The rim of the hole in the ceiling was speedily
surrounded by heads of the slain, whence dripped long, red and smoking
streams, the uproar was indescribable; a close and burning smoke almost
produced night over this combat. Words are lacking to express horror
when it has reached this pitch. There were no longer men in this
conflict, which was now infernal. They were no longer giants matched
with colossi. It resembled Milton and Dante rather than Homer. Demons
attacked, spectres resisted.

It was heroism become monstrous.


At length, by dint of mounting on each other's backs, aiding themselves
with the skeleton of the staircase, climbing up the walls, clinging to
the ceiling, slashing away at the very brink of the trap-door, the last
one who offered resistance, a score of assailants, soldiers, National
Guardsmen, municipal guardsmen, in utter confusion, the majority
disfigured by wounds in the face during that redoubtable ascent, blinded
by blood, furious, rendered savage, made an irruption into the apartment
on the first floor. There they found only one man still on his feet,
Enjolras. Without cartridges, without sword, he had nothing in his hand
now but the barrel of his gun whose stock he had broken over the head
of those who were entering. He had placed the billiard table between his
assailants and himself; he had retreated into the corner of the room,
and there, with haughty eye, and head borne high, with this stump of a
weapon in his hand, he was still so alarming as to speedily create an
empty space around him. A cry arose:

"He is the leader! It was he who slew the artillery-man. It is well that
he has placed himself there. Let him remain there. Let us shoot him down
on the spot."

"Shoot me," said Enjolras.

And flinging away his bit of gun-barrel, and folding his arms, he
offered his breast.

The audacity of a fine death always affects men. As soon as Enjolras
folded his arms and accepted his end, the din of strife ceased in
the room, and this chaos suddenly stilled into a sort of sepulchral
solemnity. The menacing majesty of Enjolras disarmed and motionless,
appeared to oppress this tumult, and this young man, haughty, bloody,
and charming, who alone had not a wound, who was as indifferent as an
invulnerable being, seemed, by the authority of his tranquil glance, to
constrain this sinister rabble to kill him respectfully. His beauty, at
that moment augmented by his pride, was resplendent, and he was fresh
and rosy after the fearful four and twenty hours which had just elapsed,
as though he could no more be fatigued than wounded. It was of him,
possibly, that a witness spoke afterwards, before the council of
war: "There was an insurgent whom I heard called Apollo." A National
Guardsman who had taken aim at Enjolras, lowered his gun, saying: "It
seems to me that I am about to shoot a flower."

Twelve men formed into a squad in the corner opposite Enjolras, and
silently made ready their guns.

Then a sergeant shouted:

"Take aim!"

An officer intervened.


And addressing Enjolras:

"Do you wish to have your eyes bandaged?"


"Was it you who killed the artillery sergeant?"


Grantaire had waked up a few moments before.

Grantaire, it will be remembered, had been asleep ever since the
preceding evening in the upper room of the wine-shop, seated on a chair
and leaning on the table.

He realized in its fullest sense the old metaphor of "dead drunk." The
hideous potion of absinthe-porter and alcohol had thrown him into a
lethargy. His table being small, and not suitable for the barricade,
he had been left in possession of it. He was still in the same posture,
with his breast bent over the table, his head lying flat on his arms,
surrounded by glasses, beer-jugs and bottles. His was the overwhelming
slumber of the torpid bear and the satiated leech. Nothing had had any
effect upon it, neither the fusillade, nor the cannon-balls, nor the
grape-shot which had made its way through the window into the room where
he was. Nor the tremendous uproar of the assault. He merely replied to
the cannonade, now and then, by a snore. He seemed to be waiting there
for a bullet which should spare him the trouble of waking. Many corpses
were strewn around him; and, at the first glance, there was nothing to
distinguish him from those profound sleepers of death.

Noise does not rouse a drunken man; silence awakens him. The fall
of everything around him only augmented Grantaire's prostration; the
crumbling of all things was his lullaby. The sort of halt which the
tumult underwent in the presence of Enjolras was a shock to this heavy
slumber. It had the effect of a carriage going at full speed, which
suddenly comes to a dead stop. The persons dozing within it wake up.
Grantaire rose to his feet with a start, stretched out his arms, rubbed
his eyes, stared, yawned, and understood.

A fit of drunkenness reaching its end resembles a curtain which is torn
away. One beholds, at a single glance and as a whole, all that it has
concealed. All suddenly presents itself to the memory; and the drunkard
who has known nothing of what has been taking place during the last
twenty-four hours, has no sooner opened his eyes than he is perfectly
informed. Ideas recur to him with abrupt lucidity; the obliteration
of intoxication, a sort of steam which has obscured the brain, is
dissipated, and makes way for the clear and sharply outlined importunity
of realities.

Relegated, as he was, to one corner, and sheltered behind the
billiard-table, the soldiers whose eyes were fixed on Enjolras, had not
even noticed Grantaire, and the sergeant was preparing to repeat his
order: "Take aim!" when all at once, they heard a strong voice shout
beside them:

"Long live the Republic! I'm one of them."

Grantaire had risen. The immense gleam of the whole combat which he
had missed, and in which he had had no part, appeared in the brilliant
glance of the transfigured drunken man.

He repeated: "Long live the Republic!" crossed the room with a firm
stride and placed himself in front of the guns beside Enjolras.

"Finish both of us at one blow," said he.

And turning gently to Enjolras, he said to him:

"Do you permit it?"

Enjolras pressed his hand with a smile.

This smile was not ended when the report resounded.

Enjolras, pierced by eight bullets, remained leaning against the wall,
as though the balls had nailed him there. Only, his head was bowed.

Grantaire fell at his feet, as though struck by a thunderbolt.

A few moments later, the soldiers dislodged the last remaining
insurgents, who had taken refuge at the top of the house. They fired
into the attic through a wooden lattice. They fought under the very
roof. They flung bodies, some of them still alive, out through the
windows. Two light-infantrymen, who tried to lift the shattered omnibus,
were slain by two shots fired from the attic. A man in a blouse was
flung down from it, with a bayonet wound in the abdomen, and breathed
his last on the ground. A soldier and an insurgent slipped together
on the sloping slates of the roof, and, as they would not release each
other, they fell, clasped in a ferocious embrace. A similar conflict
went on in the cellar. Shouts, shots, a fierce trampling. Then silence.
The barricade was captured.

The soldiers began to search the houses round about, and to pursue the


Marius was, in fact, a prisoner.

The hand which had seized him from behind and whose grasp he had felt
at the moment of his fall and his loss of consciousness was that of Jean

Jean Valjean had taken no other part in the combat than to expose
himself in it. Had it not been for him, no one, in that supreme phase
of agony, would have thought of the wounded. Thanks to him, everywhere
present in the carnage, like a providence, those who fell were picked
up, transported to the tap-room, and cared for. In the intervals, he
reappeared on the barricade. But nothing which could resemble a blow,
an attack or even personal defence proceeded from his hands. He held his
peace and lent succor. Moreover he had received only a few scratches.
The bullets would have none of him. If suicide formed part of what he
had meditated on coming to this sepulchre, to that spot, he had
not succeeded. But we doubt whether he had thought of suicide, an
irreligious act.

Jean Valjean, in the thick cloud of the combat, did not appear to see
Marius; the truth is, that he never took his eyes from the latter. When
a shot laid Marius low, Jean Valjean leaped forward with the agility of
a tiger, fell upon him as on his prey, and bore him off.

The whirlwind of the attack was, at that moment, so violently
concentrated upon Enjolras and upon the door of the wine-shop, that
no one saw Jean Valjean sustaining the fainting Marius in his arms,
traverse the unpaved field of the barricade and disappear behind the
angle of the Corinthe building.

The reader will recall this angle which formed a sort of cape on the
street; it afforded shelter from the bullets, the grape-shot, and all
eyes, and a few square feet of space. There is sometimes a chamber
which does not burn in the midst of a conflagration, and in the midst of
raging seas, beyond a promontory or at the extremity of a blind alley
of shoals, a tranquil nook. It was in this sort of fold in the interior
trapezium of the barricade, that Eponine had breathed her last.

There Jean Valjean halted, let Marius slide to the ground, placed his
back against the wall, and cast his eyes about him.

The situation was alarming.

For an instant, for two or three perhaps, this bit of wall was a
shelter, but how was he to escape from this massacre? He recalled the
anguish which he had suffered in the Rue Polonceau eight years before,
and in what manner he had contrived to make his escape; it was difficult
then, to-day it was impossible. He had before him that deaf and
implacable house, six stories in height, which appeared to be inhabited
only by a dead man leaning out of his window; he had on his right the
rather low barricade, which shut off the Rue de la Petite Truanderie;
to pass this obstacle seemed easy, but beyond the crest of the barrier a
line of bayonets was visible. The troops of the line were posted on the
watch behind that barricade. It was evident, that to pass the barricade
was to go in quest of the fire of the platoon, and that any head which
should run the risk of lifting itself above the top of that wall of
stones would serve as a target for sixty shots. On his left he had the
field of battle. Death lurked round the corner of that wall.

What was to be done?

Only a bird could have extricated itself from this predicament.

And it was necessary to decide on the instant, to devise some expedient,
to come to some decision. Fighting was going on a few paces away;
fortunately, all were raging around a single point, the door of the
wine-shop; but if it should occur to one soldier, to one single soldier,
to turn the corner of the house, or to attack him on the flank, all was

Jean Valjean gazed at the house facing him, he gazed at the barricade at
one side of him, then he looked at the ground, with the violence of the
last extremity, bewildered, and as though he would have liked to pierce
a hole there with his eyes.

By dint of staring, something vaguely striking in such an agony began
to assume form and outline at his feet, as though it had been a power
of glance which made the thing desired unfold. A few paces distant he
perceived, at the base of the small barrier so pitilessly guarded and
watched on the exterior, beneath a disordered mass of paving-stones
which partly concealed it, an iron grating, placed flat and on a level
with the soil. This grating, made of stout, transverse bars, was about
two feet square. The frame of paving-stones which supported it had been
torn up, and it was, as it were, unfastened.

Through the bars a view could be had of a dark aperture, something like
the flue of a chimney, or the pipe of a cistern. Jean Valjean darted
forward. His old art of escape rose to his brain like an illumination.
To thrust aside the stones, to raise the grating, to lift Marius, who
was as inert as a dead body, upon his shoulders, to descend, with this
burden on his loins, and with the aid of his elbows and knees into that
sort of well, fortunately not very deep, to let the heavy trap, upon
which the loosened stones rolled down afresh, fall into its place behind
him, to gain his footing on a flagged surface three metres below the
surface,--all this was executed like that which one does in dreams, with
the strength of a giant and the rapidity of an eagle; this took only a
few minutes.

Jean Valjean found himself with Marius, who was still unconscious, in a
sort of long, subterranean corridor.

There reigned profound peace, absolute silence, night.

The impression which he had formerly experienced when falling from the
wall into the convent recurred to him. Only, what he was carrying to-day
was not Cosette; it was Marius. He could barely hear the formidable
tumult in the wine-shop, taken by assault, like a vague murmur overhead.



Paris casts twenty-five millions yearly into the water. And this without
metaphor. How, and in what manner? Day and night. With what object? With
no object. With what intention? With no intention. Why? For no
reason. By means of what organ? By means of its intestine. What is its
intestine? The sewer.

Twenty-five millions is the most moderate approximative figure which the
valuations of special science have set upon it.

Science, after having long groped about, now knows that the most
fecundating and the most efficacious of fertilizers is human manure.
The Chinese, let us confess it to our shame, knew it before us. Not
a Chinese peasant--it is Eckberg who says this,--goes to town without
bringing back with him, at the two extremities of his bamboo pole, two
full buckets of what we designate as filth. Thanks to human dung, the
earth in China is still as young as in the days of Abraham. Chinese
wheat yields a hundred fold of the seed. There is no guano comparable
in fertility with the detritus of a capital. A great city is the most
mighty of dung-makers. Certain success would attend the experiment
of employing the city to manure the plain. If our gold is manure, our
manure, on the other hand, is gold.

What is done with this golden manure? It is swept into the abyss.

Fleets of vessels are despatched, at great expense, to collect the dung
of petrels and penguins at the South Pole, and the incalculable element
of opulence which we have on hand, we send to the sea. All the human and
animal manure which the world wastes, restored to the land instead of
being cast into the water, would suffice to nourish the world.

Those heaps of filth at the gate-posts, those tumbrils of mud which
jolt through the street by night, those terrible casks of the street
department, those fetid drippings of subterranean mire, which the
pavements hide from you,--do you know what they are? They are the meadow
in flower, the green grass, wild thyme, thyme and sage, they are game,
they are cattle, they are the satisfied bellows of great oxen in the
evening, they are perfumed hay, they are golden wheat, they are the
bread on your table, they are the warm blood in your veins, they are
health, they are joy, they are life. This is the will of that mysterious
creation which is transformation on earth and transfiguration in heaven.

Restore this to the great crucible; your abundance will flow forth from
it. The nutrition of the plains furnishes the nourishment of men.

You have it in your power to lose this wealth, and to consider me
ridiculous to boot. This will form the master-piece of your ignorance.

Statisticians have calculated that France alone makes a deposit of
half a milliard every year, in the Atlantic, through the mouths of her
rivers. Note this: with five hundred millions we could pay one quarter
of the expenses of our budget. The cleverness of man is such that he
prefers to get rid of these five hundred millions in the gutter. It is
the very substance of the people that is carried off, here drop by
drop, there wave after wave, the wretched outpour of our sewers into the
rivers, and the gigantic collection of our rivers into the ocean. Every
hiccough of our sewers costs us a thousand francs. From this spring two
results, the land impoverished, and the water tainted. Hunger arising
from the furrow, and disease from the stream.

It is notorious, for example, that at the present hour, the Thames is
poisoning London.

So far as Paris is concerned, it has become indispensable of late, to
transport the mouths of the sewers down stream, below the last bridge.

A double tubular apparatus, provided with valves and sluices, sucking up
and driving back, a system of elementary drainage, simple as the lungs
of a man, and which is already in full working order in many communities
in England, would suffice to conduct the pure water of the fields into
our cities, and to send back to the fields the rich water of the cities,
and this easy exchange, the simplest in the world, would retain among us
the five hundred millions now thrown away. People are thinking of other

The process actually in use does evil, with the intention of doing good.
The intention is good, the result is melancholy. Thinking to purge the
city, the population is blanched like plants raised in cellars. A sewer
is a mistake. When drainage, everywhere, with its double function,
restoring what it takes, shall have replaced the sewer, which is a
simple impoverishing washing, then, this being combined with the data
of a now social economy, the product of the earth will be increased
tenfold, and the problem of misery will be singularly lightened. Add the
suppression of parasitism, and it will be solved.

In the meanwhile, the public wealth flows away to the river, and leakage
takes place. Leakage is the word. Europe is being ruined in this manner
by exhaustion.

As for France, we have just cited its figures. Now, Paris contains one
twenty-fifth of the total population of France, and Parisian guano being
the richest of all, we understate the truth when we value the loss on
the part of Paris at twenty-five millions in the half milliard which
France annually rejects. These twenty-five millions, employed in
assistance and enjoyment, would double the splendor of Paris. The
city spends them in sewers. So that we may say that Paris's great
prodigality, its wonderful festival, its Beaujon folly, its orgy, its
stream of gold from full hands, its pomp, its luxury, its magnificence,
is its sewer system.

It is in this manner that, in the blindness of a poor political economy,
we drown and allow to float down stream and to be lost in the gulfs the
well-being of all. There should be nets at Saint-Cloud for the public

Economically considered, the matter can be summed up thus: Paris is
a spendthrift. Paris, that model city, that patron of well-arranged
capitals, of which every nation strives to possess a copy, that
metropolis of the ideal, that august country of the initiative, of
impulse and of effort, that centre and that dwelling of minds, that
nation-city, that hive of the future, that marvellous combination of
Babylon and Corinth, would make a peasant of the Fo-Kian shrug his
shoulders, from the point of view which we have just indicated.

Imitate Paris and you will ruin yourselves.

Moreover, and particularly in this immemorial and senseless waste, Paris
is itself an imitator.

These surprising exhibitions of stupidity are not novel; this is no
young folly. The ancients did like the moderns. "The sewers of Rome,"
says Liebig, "have absorbed all the well-being of the Roman peasant."
When the Campagna of Rome was ruined by the Roman sewer, Rome exhausted
Italy, and when she had put Italy in her sewer, she poured in Sicily,
then Sardinia, then Africa. The sewer of Rome has engulfed the world.
This cess-pool offered its engulfment to the city and the universe. Urbi
et orbi. Eternal city, unfathomable sewer.

Rome sets the example for these things as well as for others.

Paris follows this example with all the stupidity peculiar to
intelligent towns.

For the requirements of the operation upon the subject of which we have
just explained our views, Paris has beneath it another Paris; a Paris
of sewers; which has its streets, its cross-roads, its squares, its
blind-alleys, its arteries, and its circulation, which is of mire and
minus the human form.

For nothing must be flattered, not even a great people; where there
is everything there is also ignominy by the side of sublimity; and,
if Paris contains Athens, the city of light, Tyre, the city of might,
Sparta, the city of virtue, Nineveh, the city of marvels, it also
contains Lutetia, the city of mud.

However, the stamp of its power is there also, and the Titanic sink of
Paris realizes, among monuments, that strange ideal realized in humanity
by some men like Macchiavelli, Bacon and Mirabeau, grandiose vileness.

The sub-soil of Paris, if the eye could penetrate its surface, would
present the aspect of a colossal madrepore. A sponge has no more
partitions and ducts than the mound of earth for a circuit of six
leagues round about, on which rests the great and ancient city. Not to
mention its catacombs, which are a separate cellar, not to mention
the inextricable trellis-work of gas pipes, without reckoning the vast
tubular system for the distribution of fresh water which ends in the
pillar fountains, the sewers alone form a tremendous, shadowy net-work
under the two banks; a labyrinth which has its slope for its guiding

There appears, in the humid mist, the rat which seems the product to
which Paris has given birth.


Let the reader imagine Paris lifted off like a cover, the subterranean
net-work of sewers, from a bird's eye view, will outline on the banks
a species of large branch grafted on the river. On the right bank, the
belt sewer will form the trunk of this branch, the secondary ducts will
form the branches, and those without exit the twigs.

This figure is but a summary one and half exact, the right angle, which
is the customary angle of this species of subterranean ramifications,
being very rare in vegetation.

A more accurate image of this strange geometrical plan can be formed
by supposing that one is viewing some eccentric oriental alphabet,
as intricate as a thicket, against a background of shadows, and the
misshapen letters should be welded one to another in apparent confusion,
and as at haphazard, now by their angles, again by their extremities.

Sinks and sewers played a great part in the Middle Ages, in the Lower
Empire and in the Orient of old. The masses regarded these beds of
decomposition, these monstrous cradles of death, with a fear that was
almost religious. The vermin ditch of Benares is no less conducive to
giddiness than the lions' ditch of Babylon. Teglath-Phalasar, according
to the rabbinical books, swore by the sink of Nineveh. It was from the
sewer of Munster that John of Leyden produced his false moon, and it
was from the cess-pool of Kekscheb that oriental menalchme, Mokanna, the
veiled prophet of Khorassan, caused his false sun to emerge.

The history of men is reflected in the history of sewers. The
Germoniae[58] narrated Rome. The sewer of Paris has been an ancient and
formidable thing. It has been a sepulchre, it has served as an asylum.
Crime, intelligence, social protest, liberty of conscience, thought,
theft, all that human laws persecute or have persecuted, is hidden in
that hole; the maillotins in the fourteenth century, the tire-laine of
the fifteenth, the Huguenots in the sixteenth, Morin's illuminated in
the seventeenth, the chauffeurs [brigands] in the eighteenth. A
hundred years ago, the nocturnal blow of the dagger emerged thence, the
pickpocket in danger slipped thither; the forest had its cave, Paris had
its sewer. Vagrancy, that Gallic picareria, accepted the sewer as the
adjunct of the Cour des Miracles, and at evening, it returned thither,
fierce and sly, through the Maubuee outlet, as into a bed-chamber.

It was quite natural, that those who had the blind-alley Vide-Gousset,
[Empty-Pocket] or the Rue Coupe-Gorge [Cut-Throat], for the scene of
their daily labor, should have for their domicile by night the culvert
of the Chemin-Vert, or the catch basin of Hurepoix. Hence a throng of
souvenirs. All sorts of phantoms haunt these long, solitary
corridors; everywhere is putrescence and miasma; here and there are
breathing-holes, where Villon within converses with Rabelais without.

The sewer in ancient Paris is the rendezvous of all exhaustions and
of all attempts. Political economy therein spies a detritus, social
philosophy there beholds a residuum.

The sewer is the conscience of the city. Everything there converges
and confronts everything else. In that livid spot there are shades, but
there are no longer any secrets. Each thing bears its true form, or at
least, its definitive form. The mass of filth has this in its favor,
that it is not a liar. Ingenuousness has taken refuge there. The mask
of Basil is to be found there, but one beholds its cardboard and its
strings and the inside as well as the outside, and it is accentuated
by honest mud. Scapin's false nose is its next-door neighbor. All the
uncleannesses of civilization, once past their use, fall into this
trench of truth, where the immense social sliding ends. They are
there engulfed, but they display themselves there. This mixture is a
confession. There, no more false appearances, no plastering over is
possible, filth removes its shirt, absolute denudation puts to the rout
all illusions and mirages, there is nothing more except what really
exists, presenting the sinister form of that which is coming to an end.
There, the bottom of a bottle indicates drunkenness, a basket-handle
tells a tale of domesticity; there the core of an apple which has
entertained literary opinions becomes an apple-core once more; the
effigy on the big sou becomes frankly covered with verdigris, Caiphas'
spittle meets Falstaff's puking, the louis-d'or which comes from
the gaming-house jostles the nail whence hangs the rope's end of the
suicide. A livid foetus rolls along, enveloped in the spangles which
danced at the Opera last Shrove-Tuesday, a cap which has pronounced
judgment on men wallows beside a mass of rottenness which was formerly
Margoton's petticoat; it is more than fraternization, it is equivalent
to addressing each other as thou. All which was formerly rouged, is
washed free. The last veil is torn away. A sewer is a cynic. It tells

The sincerity of foulness pleases us, and rests the soul. When one has
passed one's time in enduring upon earth the spectacle of the great airs
which reasons of state, the oath, political sagacity, human justice,
professional probity, the austerities of situation, incorruptible robes
all assume, it solaces one to enter a sewer and to behold the mire which
befits it.

This is instructive at the same time. We have just said that history
passes through the sewer. The Saint-Barthelemys filter through there,
drop by drop, between the paving-stones. Great public assassinations,
political and religious butcheries, traverse this underground passage
of civilization, and thrust their corpses there. For the eye of the
thinker, all historic murderers are to be found there, in that hideous
penumbra, on their knees, with a scrap of their winding-sheet for
an apron, dismally sponging out their work. Louis XI. is there with
Tristan, Francois I. with Duprat, Charles IX. is there with his mother,
Richelieu is there with Louis XIII., Louvois is there, Letellier is
there, Hebert and Maillard are there, scratching the stones, and trying
to make the traces of their actions disappear. Beneath these vaults one
hears the brooms of spectres. One there breathes the enormous fetidness
of social catastrophes. One beholds reddish reflections in the corners.
There flows a terrible stream, in which bloody hands have been washed.

The social observer should enter these shadows. They form a part of
his laboratory. Philosophy is the microscope of the thought. Everything
desires to flee from it, but nothing escapes it. Tergiversation is
useless. What side of oneself does one display in evasions? the shameful
side. Philosophy pursues with its glance, probes the evil, and does
not permit it to escape into nothingness. In the obliteration of things
which disappear, in the watching of things which vanish, it recognizes
all. It reconstructs the purple from the rag, and the woman from the
scrap of her dress. From the cess-pool, it re-constitutes the city; from
mud, it reconstructs manners; from the potsherd it infers the amphora
or the jug. By the imprint of a finger-nail on a piece of parchment, it
recognizes the difference which separates the Jewry of the Judengasse
from the Jewry of the Ghetto. It re-discovers in what remains that
which has been, good, evil, the true, the blood-stain of the palace,
the ink-blot of the cavern, the drop of sweat from the brothel, trials
undergone, temptations welcomed, orgies cast forth, the turn which
characters have taken as they became abased, the trace of prostitution
in souls of which their grossness rendered them capable, and on the
vesture of the porters of Rome the mark of Messalina's elbowing.


The sewer of Paris in the Middle Ages was legendary. In the sixteenth
century, Henri II. attempted a bore, which failed. Not a hundred years
ago, the cess-pool, Mercier attests the fact, was abandoned to itself,
and fared as best it might.

Such was this ancient Paris, delivered over to quarrels, to indecision,
and to gropings. It was tolerably stupid for a long time. Later on, '89
showed how understanding comes to cities. But in the good, old times,
the capital had not much head. It did not know how to manage its own
affairs either morally or materially, and could not sweep out filth
any better than it could abuses. Everything presented an obstacle,
everything raised a question. The sewer, for example, was refractory to
every itinerary. One could no more find one's bearings in the sewer
than one could understand one's position in the city; above the
unintelligible, below the inextricable; beneath the confusion of tongues
there reigned the confusion of caverns; Daedalus backed up Babel.

Sometimes the Paris sewer took a notion to overflow, as though this
misunderstood Nile were suddenly seized with a fit of rage. There
occurred, infamous to relate, inundations of the sewer. At times, that
stomach of civilization digested badly, the cess-pool flowed back into
the throat of the city, and Paris got an after-taste of her own filth.
These resemblances of the sewer to remorse had their good points; they
were warnings; very badly accepted, however; the city waxed indignant
at the audacity of its mire, and did not admit that the filth should
return. Drive it out better.

The inundation of 1802 is one of the actual memories of Parisians of
the age of eighty. The mud spread in cross-form over the Place des
Victoires, where stands the statue of Louis XIV.; it entered the Rue
Saint-Honore by the two mouths to the sewer in the Champs-Elysees,
the Rue Saint-Florentin through the Saint-Florentin sewer, the Rue
Pierre-a-Poisson through the sewer de la Sonnerie, the Rue Popincourt,
through the sewer of the Chemin-Vert, the Rue de la Roquette, through
the sewer of the Rue de Lappe; it covered the drain of the Rue des
Champs-Elysees to the height of thirty-five centimetres; and, to the
South, through the vent of the Seine, performing its functions in
inverse sense, it penetrated the Rue Mazarine, the Rue de l'Echaude, and
the Rue des Marais, where it stopped at a distance of one hundred and
nine metres, a few paces distant from the house in which Racine had
lived, respecting, in the seventeenth century, the poet more than the
King. It attained its maximum depth in the Rue Saint-Pierre, where
it rose to the height of three feet above the flag-stones of the
water-spout, and its maximum length in the Rue Saint-Sabin, where it
spread out over a stretch two hundred and thirty-eight metres in length.

At the beginning of this century, the sewer of Paris was still a
mysterious place. Mud can never enjoy a good fame; but in this case its
evil renown reached the verge of the terrible. Paris knew, in a confused
way, that she had under her a terrible cavern. People talked of it as
of that monstrous bed of Thebes in which swarmed centipedes fifteen long
feet in length, and which might have served Behemoth for a bathtub.
The great boots of the sewermen never ventured further than certain
well-known points. We were then very near the epoch when the scavenger's
carts, from the summit of which Sainte-Foix fraternized with the Marquis
de Crequi, discharged their loads directly into the sewer. As for
cleaning out,--that function was entrusted to the pouring rains which
encumbered rather than swept away. Rome left some poetry to her sewer,
and called it the Gemoniae; Paris insulted hers, and entitled it the
Polypus-Hole. Science and superstition were in accord, in horror. The
Polypus hole was no less repugnant to hygiene than to legend. The goblin
was developed under the fetid covering of the Mouffetard sewer; the
corpses of the Marmousets had been cast into the sewer de la Barillerie;
Fagon attributed the redoubtable malignant fever of 1685 to the great
hiatus of the sewer of the Marais, which remained yawning until 1833 in
the Rue Saint-Louis, almost opposite the sign of the Gallant Messenger.
The mouth of the sewer of the Rue de la Mortellerie was celebrated for
the pestilences which had their source there; with its grating of iron,
with points simulating a row of teeth, it was like a dragon's maw
in that fatal street, breathing forth hell upon men. The popular
imagination seasoned the sombre Parisian sink with some indescribably
hideous intermixture of the infinite. The sewer had no bottom. The sewer
was the lower world. The idea of exploring these leprous regions did not
even occur to the police. To try that unknown thing, to cast the plummet
into that shadow, to set out on a voyage of discovery in that abyss--who
would have dared? It was alarming. Nevertheless, some one did present
himself. The cess-pool had its Christopher Columbus.

One day, in 1805, during one of the rare apparitions which the Emperor
made in Paris, the Minister of the Interior, some Decres or Cretet or
other, came to the master's intimate levee. In the Carrousel there was
audible the clanking of swords of all those extraordinary soldiers of
the great Republic, and of the great Empire; then Napoleon's door was
blocked with heroes; men from the Rhine, from the Escaut, from the
Adige, and from the Nile; companions of Joubert, of Desaix, of Marceau,
of Hoche, of Kleber; the aerostiers of Fleurus, the grenadiers of
Mayence, the pontoon-builders of Genoa, hussars whom the Pyramids had
looked down upon, artillerists whom Junot's cannon-ball had spattered
with mud, cuirassiers who had taken by assault the fleet lying at anchor
in the Zuyderzee; some had followed Bonaparte upon the bridge of Lodi,
others had accompanied Murat in the trenches of Mantua, others had
preceded Lannes in the hollow road of Montebello. The whole army of that
day was present there, in the court-yard of the Tuileries, represented
by a squadron or a platoon, and guarding Napoleon in repose; and that
was the splendid epoch when the grand army had Marengo behind it and
Austerlitz before it.--"Sire," said the Minister of the Interior to
Napoleon, "yesterday I saw the most intrepid man in your Empire."--"What
man is that?" said the Emperor brusquely, "and what has he done?"--"He
wants to do something, Sire."--"What is it?"--"To visit the sewers of

This man existed and his name was Bruneseau.


The visit took place. It was a formidable campaign; a nocturnal battle
against pestilence and suffocation. It was, at the same time, a voyage
of discovery. One of the survivors of this expedition, an intelligent
workingman, who was very young at the time, related curious details with
regard to it, several years ago, which Bruneseau thought himself obliged
to omit in his report to the prefect of police, as unworthy of official
style. The processes of disinfection were, at that epoch, extremely
rudimentary. Hardly had Bruneseau crossed the first articulations of
that subterranean network, when eight laborers out of the twenty refused
to go any further. The operation was complicated; the visit entailed the
necessity of cleaning; hence it was necessary to cleanse and at the same
time, to proceed; to note the entrances of water, to count the gratings
and the vents, to lay out in detail the branches, to indicate the
currents at the point where they parted, to define the respective bounds
of the divers basins, to sound the small sewers grafted on the principal
sewer, to measure the height under the key-stone of each drain, and the
width, at the spring of the vaults as well as at the bottom, in order
to determine the arrangements with regard to the level of each
water-entrance, either of the bottom of the arch, or on the soil of the
street. They advanced with toil. The lanterns pined away in the foul
atmosphere. From time to time, a fainting sewerman was carried out.
At certain points, there were precipices. The soil had given away, the
pavement had crumbled, the sewer had changed into a bottomless well;
they found nothing solid; a man disappeared suddenly; they had great
difficulty in getting him out again. On the advice of Fourcroy, they
lighted large cages filled with tow steeped in resin, from time to time,
in spots which had been sufficiently disinfected. In some places, the
wall was covered with misshapen fungi,--one would have said tumors; the
very stone seemed diseased within this unbreathable atmosphere.

Bruneseau, in his exploration, proceeded down hill. At the point of
separation of the two water-conduits of the Grand-Hurleur, he deciphered
upon a projecting stone the date of 1550; this stone indicated the
limits where Philibert Delorme, charged by Henri II. with visiting the
subterranean drains of Paris, had halted. This stone was the mark of
the sixteenth century on the sewer; Bruneseau found the handiwork of
the seventeenth century once more in the Ponceau drain of the old Rue
Vielle-du-Temple, vaulted between 1600 and 1650; and the handiwork of
the eighteenth in the western section of the collecting canal, walled
and vaulted in 1740. These two vaults, especially the less ancient, that
of 1740, were more cracked and decrepit than the masonry of the belt
sewer, which dated from 1412, an epoch when the brook of fresh water of
Menilmontant was elevated to the dignity of the Grand Sewer of Paris, an
advancement analogous to that of a peasant who should become first valet
de chambre to the King; something like Gros-Jean transformed into Lebel.

Here and there, particularly beneath the Court-House, they thought they
recognized the hollows of ancient dungeons, excavated in the very sewer
itself. Hideous place! An iron neck-collar was hanging in one of these
cells. They walled them all up. Some of their finds were singular; among
others, the skeleton of an ourang-outan, who had disappeared from the
Jardin des Plantes in 1800, a disappearance probably connected with
the famous and indisputable apparition of the devil in the Rue des
Bernardins, in the last year of the eighteenth century. The poor devil
had ended by drowning himself in the sewer.

Beneath this long, arched drain which terminated at the Arche-Marion,
a perfectly preserved rag-picker's basket excited the admiration of all
connoisseurs. Everywhere, the mire, which the sewermen came to handle
with intrepidity, abounded in precious objects, jewels of gold and
silver, precious stones, coins. If a giant had filtered this cesspool,
he would have had the riches of centuries in his lair. At the point
where the two branches of the Rue du Temple and of the Rue Sainte-Avoye
separate, they picked up a singular Huguenot medal in copper, bearing on
one side the pig hooded with a cardinal's hat, and on the other, a wolf
with a tiara on his head.

The most surprising encounter was at the entrance to the Grand Sewer.
This entrance had formerly been closed by a grating of which nothing but
the hinges remained. From one of these hinges hung a dirty and shapeless
rag which, arrested there in its passage, no doubt, had floated there
in the darkness and finished its process of being torn apart. Bruneseau
held his lantern close to this rag and examined it. It was of very fine
batiste, and in one of the corners, less frayed than the rest, they
made out a heraldic coronet and embroidered above these seven letters:
LAVBESP. The crown was the coronet of a Marquis, and the seven letters
signified Laubespine. They recognized the fact, that what they had
before their eyes was a morsel of the shroud of Marat. Marat in his
youth had had amorous intrigues. This was when he was a member of the
household of the Comte d'Artois, in the capacity of physician to the
Stables. From these love affairs, historically proved, with a great
lady, he had retained this sheet. As a waif or a souvenir. At his death,
as this was the only linen of any fineness which he had in his house,
they buried him in it. Some old women had shrouded him for the tomb in
that swaddling-band in which the tragic Friend of the people had enjoyed
voluptuousness. Bruneseau passed on. They left that rag where it hung;
they did not put the finishing touch to it. Did this arise from scorn
or from respect? Marat deserved both. And then, destiny was there
sufficiently stamped to make them hesitate to touch it. Besides, the
things of the sepulchre must be left in the spot which they select. In
short, the relic was a strange one. A Marquise had slept in it; Marat
had rotted in it; it had traversed the Pantheon to end with the rats
of the sewer. This chamber rag, of which Watteau would formerly have
joyfully sketched every fold, had ended in becoming worthy of the fixed
gaze of Dante.

The whole visit to the subterranean stream of filth of Paris lasted
seven years, from 1805 to 1812. As he proceeded, Bruneseau drew,
directed, and completed considerable works; in 1808 he lowered the arch
of the Ponceau, and, everywhere creating new lines, he pushed the
sewer, in 1809, under the Rue Saint-Denis as far as the fountain of
the Innocents; in 1810, under the Rue Froidmanteau and under the
Salpetriere; in 1811 under the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Peres, under the Rue
du Mail, under the Rue de l'Echarpe, under the Place Royale; in 1812,
under the Rue de la Paix, and under the Chaussee d'Antin. At the same
time, he had the whole net-work disinfected and rendered healthful. In
the second year of his work, Bruneseau engaged the assistance of his
son-in-law Nargaud.

It was thus that, at the beginning of the century, ancient society
cleansed its double bottom, and performed the toilet of its sewer. There
was that much clean, at all events.

Tortuous, cracked, unpaved, full of fissures, intersected by gullies,
jolted by eccentric elbows, mounting and descending illogically, fetid,
wild, fierce, submerged in obscurity, with cicatrices on its pavements
and scars on its walls, terrible,--such was, retrospectively viewed, the
antique sewer of Paris. Ramifications in every direction, crossings,
of trenches, branches, goose-feet, stars, as in military mines, coecum,
blind alleys, vaults lined with saltpetre, pestiferous pools, scabby
sweats, on the walls, drops dripping from the ceilings, darkness;
nothing could equal the horror of this old, waste crypt, the digestive
apparatus of Babylon, a cavern, ditch, gulf pierced with streets, a
titanic mole-burrow, where the mind seems to behold that enormous blind
mole, the past, prowling through the shadows, in the filth which has
been splendor.

This, we repeat, was the sewer of the past.


To-day the sewer is clean, cold, straight, correct. It almost realizes
the ideal of what is understood in England by the word "respectable." It
is proper and grayish; laid out by rule and line; one might almost say
as though it came out of a bandbox. It resembles a tradesman who has
become a councillor of state. One can almost see distinctly there. The
mire there comports itself with decency. At first, one might readily
mistake it for one of those subterranean corridors, which were so common
in former days, and so useful in flights of monarchs and princes, in
those good old times, "when the people loved their kings." The present
sewer is a beautiful sewer; the pure style reigns there; the classical
rectilinear alexandrine which, driven out of poetry, appears to have
taken refuge in architecture, seems mingled with all the stones of
that long, dark and whitish vault; each outlet is an arcade; the Rue de
Rivoli serves as pattern even in the sewer. However, if the geometrical
line is in place anywhere, it is certainly in the drainage trench of
a great city. There, everything should be subordinated to the shortest
road. The sewer has, nowadays, assumed a certain official aspect. The
very police reports, of which it sometimes forms the subject, no longer
are wanting in respect towards it. The words which characterize it in
administrative language are sonorous and dignified. What used to be
called a gut is now called a gallery; what used to be called a hole is
now called a surveying orifice. Villon would no longer meet with his
ancient temporary provisional lodging. This net-work of cellars has its
immemorial population of prowlers, rodents, swarming in greater numbers
than ever; from time to time, an aged and veteran rat risks his head at
the window of the sewer and surveys the Parisians; but even these vermin
grow tame, so satisfied are they with their subterranean palace. The
cesspool no longer retains anything of its primitive ferocity. The rain,
which in former days soiled the sewer, now washes it. Nevertheless, do
not trust yourself too much to it. Miasmas still inhabit it. It is
more hypocritical than irreproachable. The prefecture of police and
the commission of health have done their best. But, in spite of all the
processes of disinfection, it exhales, a vague, suspicious odor like
Tartuffe after confession.

Let us confess, that, taking it all in all, this sweeping is a homage
which the sewer pays to civilization, and as, from this point of view,
Tartuffe's conscience is a progress over the Augean stables, it is
certain that the sewers of Paris have been improved.

It is more than progress; it is transmutation. Between the ancient
and the present sewer there is a revolution. What has effected this

The man whom all the world forgets, and whom we have mentioned,


The excavation of the sewer of Paris has been no slight task. The last
ten centuries have toiled at it without being able to bring it to a
termination, any more than they have been able to finish Paris. The
sewer, in fact, receives all the counter-shocks of the growth of Paris.
Within the bosom of the earth, it is a sort of mysterious polyp with a
thousand antennae, which expands below as the city expands above. Every
time that the city cuts a street, the sewer stretches out an arm. The
old monarchy had constructed only twenty-three thousand three hundred
metres of sewers; that was where Paris stood in this respect on the
first of January, 1806. Beginning with this epoch, of which we shall
shortly speak, the work was usefully and energetically resumed and
prosecuted; Napoleon built--the figures are curious--four thousand eight
hundred and four metres; Louis XVIII., five thousand seven hundred
and nine; Charles X., ten thousand eight hundred and thirty-six;
Louis-Philippe, eighty-nine thousand and twenty; the Republic of
1848, twenty-three thousand three hundred and eighty-one; the present
government, seventy thousand five hundred; in all, at the present time,
two hundred and twenty-six thousand six hundred and ten metres;
sixty leagues of sewers; the enormous entrails of Paris. An obscure
ramification ever at work; a construction which is immense and ignored.

As the reader sees, the subterranean labyrinth of Paris is to-day
more than ten times what it was at the beginning of the century. It is
difficult to form any idea of all the perseverance and the efforts which
have been required to bring this cess-pool to the point of relative
perfection in which it now is. It was with great difficulty that the
ancient monarchical provostship and, during the last ten years of
the eighteenth century, the revolutionary mayoralty, had succeeded in
perforating the five leagues of sewer which existed previous to 1806.
All sorts of obstacles hindered this operation, some peculiar to the
soil, others inherent in the very prejudices of the laborious population
of Paris. Paris is built upon a soil which is singularly rebellious to
the pick, the hoe, the bore, and to human manipulation. There is nothing
more difficult to pierce and to penetrate than the geological formation
upon which is superposed the marvellous historical formation called
Paris; as soon as work in any form whatsoever is begun and adventures
upon this stretch of alluvium, subterranean resistances abound. There
are liquid clays, springs, hard rocks, and those soft and deep quagmires
which special science calls moutardes.[59] The pick advances laboriously
through the calcareous layers alternating with very slender threads of
clay, and schistose beds in plates incrusted with oyster-shells, the
contemporaries of the pre-Adamite oceans. Sometimes a rivulet suddenly
bursts through a vault that has been begun, and inundates the laborers;
or a layer of marl is laid bare, and rolls down with the fury of a
cataract, breaking the stoutest supporting beams like glass. Quite
recently, at Villette, when it became necessary to pass the collecting
sewer under the Saint-Martin canal without interrupting navigation or
emptying the canal, a fissure appeared in the basin of the canal, water
suddenly became abundant in the subterranean tunnel, which was beyond
the power of the pumping engines; it was necessary to send a diver to
explore the fissure which had been made in the narrow entrance of the
grand basin, and it was not without great difficulty that it was stopped
up. Elsewhere near the Seine, and even at a considerable distance
from the river, as for instance, at Belleville, Grand-Rue and Lumiere
Passage, quicksands are encountered in which one sticks fast, and in
which a man sinks visibly. Add suffocation by miasmas, burial by slides,
and sudden crumbling of the earth. Add the typhus, with which the
workmen become slowly impregnated. In our own day, after having
excavated the gallery of Clichy, with a banquette to receive the
principal water-conduit of Ourcq, a piece of work which was executed in
a trench ten metres deep; after having, in the midst of land-slides, and
with the aid of excavations often putrid, and of shoring up, vaulted
the Bievre from the Boulevard de l'Hopital, as far as the Seine; after
having, in order to deliver Paris from the floods of Montmartre and in
order to provide an outlet for that river-like pool nine hectares in
extent, which crouched near the Barriere des Martyrs, after having, let
us state, constructed the line of sewers from the Barriere Blanche to
the road of Aubervilliers, in four months, working day and night, at a
depth of eleven metres; after having--a thing heretofore unseen--made a
subterranean sewer in the Rue Barre-du-Bec, without a trench, six
metres below the surface, the superintendent, Monnot, died. After having
vaulted three thousand metres of sewer in all quarters of the city, from
the Rue Traversiere-Saint-Antoine to the Rue de l'Ourcine, after having
freed the Carrefour Censier-Mouffetard from inundations of rain by means
of the branch of the Arbalete, after having built the Saint-Georges
sewer, on rock and concrete in the fluid sands, after having directed
the formidable lowering of the flooring of the vault timber in the
Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth branch, Duleau the engineer died. There are no
bulletins for such acts of bravery as these, which are more useful,
nevertheless, than the brutal slaughter of the field of battle.

The sewers of Paris in 1832 were far from being what they are to-day.
Bruneseau had given the impulse, but the cholera was required to
bring about the vast reconstruction which took place later on. It is
surprising to say, for example, that in 1821, a part of the belt sewer,
called the Grand Canal, as in Venice, still stood stagnating uncovered
to the sky, in the Rue des Gourdes. It was only in 1821 that the city
of Paris found in its pocket the two hundred and sixty-thousand eighty
francs and six centimes required for covering this mass of filth. The
three absorbing wells, of the Combat, the Cunette, and Saint-Mande, with
their discharging mouths, their apparatus, their cesspools, and their
depuratory branches, only date from 1836. The intestinal sewer of Paris
has been made over anew, and, as we have said, it has been extended more
than tenfold within the last quarter of a century.

Thirty years ago, at the epoch of the insurrection of the 5th and 6th of
June, it was still, in many localities, nearly the same ancient sewer.
A very great number of streets which are now convex were then sunken
causeways. At the end of a slope, where the tributaries of a street or
cross-roads ended, there were often to be seen large, square gratings
with heavy bars, whose iron, polished by the footsteps of the throng,
gleamed dangerous and slippery for vehicles, and caused horses to fall.
The official language of the Roads and Bridges gave to these gratings
the expressive name of Cassis.[60]

In 1832, in a number of streets, in the Rue de l'Etoile, the Rue
Saint-Louis, the Rue du Temple, the Rue Vielle-duTemple, the Rue
Notre-Dame de Nazareth, the Rue Folie-Mericourt, the Quai aux Fleurs,
the Rue du Petit-Muse, the Rue du Normandie, the Rue Pont-Aux-Biches,
the Rue des Marais, the Faubourg Saint-Martin, the Rue Notre Dame
des-Victoires, the Faubourg Montmartre, the Rue Grange-Bateliere, in the
Champs-Elysees, the Rue Jacob, the Rue de Tournon, the ancient gothic
sewer still cynically displayed its maw. It consisted of enormous
voids of stone catch-basins sometimes surrounded by stone posts, with
monumental effrontery.

Paris in 1806 still had nearly the same sewers numerically as stated in
1663; five thousand three hundred fathoms. After Bruneseau, on the 1st
of January, 1832, it had forty thousand three hundred metres. Between
1806 and 1831, there had been built, on an average, seven hundred and
fifty metres annually, afterwards eight and even ten thousand metres of
galleries were constructed every year, in masonry, of small stones, with
hydraulic mortar which hardens under water, on a cement foundation. At
two hundred francs the metre, the sixty leagues of Paris' sewers of the
present day represent forty-eight millions.

In addition to the economic progress which we have indicated at the
beginning, grave problems of public hygiene are connected with that
immense question: the sewers of Paris.

Paris is the centre of two sheets, a sheet of water and a sheet of air.
The sheet of water, lying at a tolerably great depth underground, but
already sounded by two bores, is furnished by the layer of green clay
situated between the chalk and the Jurassic lime-stone; this layer may
be represented by a disk five and twenty leagues in circumference; a
multitude of rivers and brooks ooze there; one drinks the Seine, the
Marne, the Yonne, the Oise, the Aisne, the Cher, the Vienne and the
Loire in a glass of water from the well of Grenelle. The sheet of water
is healthy, it comes from heaven in the first place and next from the
earth; the sheet of air is unhealthy, it comes from the sewer. All the
miasms of the cess-pool are mingled with the breath of the city; hence
this bad breath. The air taken from above a dung-heap, as has been
scientifically proved, is purer than the air taken from above Paris. In
a given time, with the aid of progress, mechanisms become perfected, and
as light increases, the sheet of water will be employed to purify the
sheet of air; that is to say, to wash the sewer. The reader knows, that
by "washing the sewer" we mean: the restitution of the filth to the
earth; the return to the soil of dung and of manure to the fields.
Through this simple act, the entire social community will experience a
diminution of misery and an augmentation of health. At the present hour,
the radiation of diseases from Paris extends to fifty leagues around the
Louvre, taken as the hub of this pestilential wheel.

We might say that, for ten centuries, the cess-pool has been the disease
of Paris. The sewer is the blemish which Paris has in her blood. The
popular instinct has never been deceived in it. The occupation of
sewermen was formerly almost as perilous, and almost as repugnant to the
people, as the occupation of knacker, which was so long held in horror
and handed over to the executioner. High wages were necessary to induce
a mason to disappear in that fetid mine; the ladder of the cess-pool
cleaner hesitated to plunge into it; it was said, in proverbial form:
"to descend into the sewer is to enter the grave;" and all sorts of
hideous legends, as we have said, covered this colossal sink with
terror; a dread sink-hole which bears the traces of the revolutions
of the globe as of the revolutions of man, and where are to be found
vestiges of all cataclysms from the shells of the Deluge to the rag of



It was in the sewers of Paris that Jean Valjean found himself.

Still another resemblance between Paris and the sea. As in the ocean,
the diver may disappear there.

The transition was an unheard-of one. In the very heart of the city,
Jean Valjean had escaped from the city, and, in the twinkling of an eye,
in the time required to lift the cover and to replace it, he had passed
from broad daylight to complete obscurity, from midday to midnight, from
tumult to silence, from the whirlwind of thunders to the stagnation of
the tomb, and, by a vicissitude far more tremendous even than that of
the Rue Polonceau, from the most extreme peril to the most absolute

An abrupt fall into a cavern; a disappearance into the secret trap-door
of Paris; to quit that street where death was on every side, for that
sort of sepulchre where there was life, was a strange instant. He
remained for several seconds as though bewildered; listening, stupefied.
The waste-trap of safety had suddenly yawned beneath him. Celestial
goodness had, in a manner, captured him by treachery. Adorable
ambuscades of providence!

Only, the wounded man did not stir, and Jean Valjean did not know
whether that which he was carrying in that grave was a living being or a
dead corpse.

His first sensation was one of blindness. All of a sudden, he could see
nothing. It seemed to him too, that, in one instant, he had become deaf.
He no longer heard anything. The frantic storm of murder which had been
let loose a few feet above his head did not reach him, thanks to the
thickness of the earth which separated him from it, as we have said,
otherwise than faintly and indistinctly, and like a rumbling, in the
depths. He felt that the ground was solid under his feet; that was all;
but that was enough. He extended one arm and then the other, touched
the walls on both sides, and perceived that the passage was narrow; he
slipped, and thus perceived that the pavement was wet. He cautiously put
forward one foot, fearing a hole, a sink, some gulf; he discovered that
the paving continued. A gust of fetidness informed him of the place in
which he stood.

After the lapse of a few minutes, he was no longer blind. A little light
fell through the man-hole through which he had descended, and his eyes
became accustomed to this cavern. He began to distinguish something. The
passage in which he had burrowed--no other word can better express the
situation--was walled in behind him. It was one of those blind alleys,
which the special jargon terms branches. In front of him there was
another wall, a wall like night. The light of the air-hole died out ten
or twelve paces from the point where Jean Valjean stood, and barely cast
a wan pallor on a few metres of the damp walls of the sewer. Beyond,
the opaqueness was massive; to penetrate thither seemed horrible, an
entrance into it appeared like an engulfment. A man could, however,
plunge into that wall of fog and it was necessary so to do. Haste was
even requisite. It occurred to Jean Valjean that the grating which he
had caught sight of under the flag-stones might also catch the eye of
the soldiery, and that everything hung upon this chance. They also might
descend into that well and search it. There was not a minute to be lost.
He had deposited Marius on the ground, he picked him up again,--that is
the real word for it,--placed him on his shoulders once more, and set
out. He plunged resolutely into the gloom.

The truth is, that they were less safe than Jean Valjean fancied. Perils
of another sort and no less serious were awaiting them, perchance. After
the lightning-charged whirlwind of the combat, the cavern of miasmas and
traps; after chaos, the sewer. Jean Valjean had fallen from one circle
of hell into another.

When he had advanced fifty paces, he was obliged to halt. A problem
presented itself. The passage terminated in another gut which he
encountered across his path. There two ways presented themselves. Which
should he take? Ought he to turn to the left or to the right? How was he
to find his bearings in that black labyrinth? This labyrinth, to which
we have already called the reader's attention, has a clue, which is its
slope. To follow to the slope is to arrive at the river.

This Jean Valjean instantly comprehended.

He said to himself that he was probably in the sewer des Halles; that
if he were to choose the path to the left and follow the slope, he would
arrive, in less than a quarter of an hour, at some mouth on the Seine
between the Pont au Change and the Pont-Neuf, that is to say, he would
make his appearance in broad daylight on the most densely peopled spot
in Paris. Perhaps he would come out on some man-hole at the intersection
of streets. Amazement of the passers-by at beholding two bleeding men
emerge from the earth at their feet. Arrival of the police, a call to
arms of the neighboring post of guards. Thus they would be seized before
they had even got out. It would be better to plunge into that labyrinth,
to confide themselves to that black gloom, and to trust to Providence
for the outcome.

He ascended the incline, and turned to the right.

When he had turned the angle of the gallery, the distant glimmer of an
air-hole disappeared, the curtain of obscurity fell upon him once more,
and he became blind again. Nevertheless, he advanced as rapidly as
possible. Marius' two arms were passed round his neck, and the former's
feet dragged behind him. He held both these arms with one hand, and
groped along the wall with the other. Marius' cheek touched his, and
clung there, bleeding. He felt a warm stream which came from Marius
trickling down upon him and making its way under his clothes. But a
humid warmth near his ear, which the mouth of the wounded man touched,
indicated respiration, and consequently, life. The passage along which
Jean Valjean was now proceeding was not so narrow as the first. Jean
Valjean walked through it with considerable difficulty. The rain of the
preceding day had not, as yet, entirely run off, and it created a little
torrent in the centre of the bottom, and he was forced to hug the wall
in order not to have his feet in the water.

Thus he proceeded in the gloom. He resembled the beings of the night
groping in the invisible and lost beneath the earth in veins of shadow.

Still, little by little, whether it was that the distant air-holes
emitted a little wavering light in this opaque gloom, or whether his
eyes had become accustomed to the obscurity, some vague vision returned
to him, and he began once more to gain a confused idea, now of the wall
which he touched, now of the vault beneath which he was passing. The
pupil dilates in the dark, and the soul dilates in misfortune and ends
by finding God there.

It was not easy to direct his course.

The line of the sewer re-echoes, so to speak, the line of the streets
which lie above it. There were then in Paris two thousand two hundred
streets. Let the reader imagine himself beneath that forest of gloomy
branches which is called the sewer. The system of sewers existing at
that epoch, placed end to end, would have given a length of eleven
leagues. We have said above, that the actual net-work, thanks to the
special activity of the last thirty years, was no less than sixty
leagues in extent.

Jean Valjean began by committing a blunder. He thought that he was
beneath the Rue Saint-Denis, and it was a pity that it was not so. Under
the Rue Saint-Denis there is an old stone sewer which dates from Louis
XIII. and which runs straight to the collecting sewer, called the Grand
Sewer, with but a single elbow, on the right, on the elevation of the
ancient Cour des Miracles, and a single branch, the Saint-Martin sewer,
whose four arms describe a cross. But the gut of the Petite-Truanderie
the entrance to which was in the vicinity of the Corinthe wine-shop has
never communicated with the sewer of the Rue Saint-Denis; it ended
at the Montmartre sewer, and it was in this that Jean Valjean was
entangled. There opportunities of losing oneself abound. The Montmartre
sewer is one of the most labyrinthine of the ancient network.
Fortunately, Jean Valjean had left behind him the sewer of the markets
whose geometrical plan presents the appearance of a multitude of
parrots' roosts piled on top of each other; but he had before him more
than one embarrassing encounter and more than one street corner--for
they are streets--presenting itself in the gloom like an interrogation
point; first, on his left, the vast sewer of the Platriere, a sort of
Chinese puzzle, thrusting out and entangling its chaos of Ts and Zs
under the Post-Office and under the rotunda of the Wheat Market, as far
as the Seine, where it terminates in a Y; secondly, on his right, the
curving corridor of the Rue du Cadran with its three teeth, which
are also blind courts; thirdly, on his left, the branch of the
Mail, complicated, almost at its inception, with a sort of fork, and
proceeding from zig-zag to zig-zag until it ends in the grand crypt of
the outlet of the Louvre, truncated and ramified in every direction; and
lastly, the blind alley of a passage of the Rue des Jeuneurs, without
counting little ducts here and there, before reaching the belt sewer,
which alone could conduct him to some issue sufficiently distant to be

Had Jean Valjean had any idea of all that we have here pointed out, he
would speedily have perceived, merely by feeling the wall, that he was
not in the subterranean gallery of the Rue Saint-Denis. Instead of the
ancient stone, instead of the antique architecture, haughty and royal
even in the sewer, with pavement and string courses of granite and
mortar costing eight hundred livres the fathom, he would have felt under
his hand contemporary cheapness, economical expedients, porous stone
filled with mortar on a concrete foundation, which costs two hundred
francs the metre, and the bourgeoise masonry known as a petits
materiaux--small stuff; but of all this he knew nothing.

He advanced with anxiety, but with calmness, seeing nothing, knowing
nothing, buried in chance, that is to say, engulfed in providence.

By degrees, we will admit, a certain horror seized upon him. The gloom
which enveloped him penetrated his spirit. He walked in an enigma. This
aqueduct of the sewer is formidable; it interlaces in a dizzy fashion.
It is a melancholy thing to be caught in this Paris of shadows. Jean
Valjean was obliged to find and even to invent his route without seeing
it. In this unknown, every step that he risked might be his last. How
was he to get out? should he find an issue? should he find it in time?
would that colossal subterranean sponge with its stone cavities, allow
itself to be penetrated and pierced? should he there encounter some
unexpected knot in the darkness? should he arrive at the inextricable
and the impassable? would Marius die there of hemorrhage and he of
hunger? should they end by both getting lost, and by furnishing two
skeletons in a nook of that night? He did not know. He put all these
questions to himself without replying to them. The intestines of Paris
form a precipice. Like the prophet, he was in the belly of the monster.

All at once, he had a surprise. At the most unforeseen moment, and
without having ceased to walk in a straight line, he perceived that he
was no longer ascending; the water of the rivulet was beating against
his heels, instead of meeting him at his toes. The sewer was now
descending. Why? Was he about to arrive suddenly at the Seine? This
danger was a great one, but the peril of retreating was still greater.
He continued to advance.

It was not towards the Seine that he was proceeding. The ridge which
the soil of Paris forms on its right bank empties one of its water-sheds
into the Seine and the other into the Grand Sewer. The crest of this
ridge which determines the division of the waters describes a very
capricious line. The culminating point, which is the point of
separation of the currents, is in the Sainte-Avoye sewer, beyond the Rue
Michelle-Comte, in the sewer of the Louvre, near the boulevards, and
in the Montmartre sewer, near the Halles. It was this culminating point
that Jean Valjean had reached. He was directing his course towards the
belt sewer; he was on the right path. But he did not know it.

Every time that he encountered a branch, he felt of its angles, and if
he found that the opening which presented itself was smaller than the
passage in which he was, he did not enter but continued his route,
rightly judging that every narrower way must needs terminate in a blind
alley, and could only lead him further from his goal, that is to say,
the outlet. Thus he avoided the quadruple trap which was set for him in
the darkness by the four labyrinths which we have just enumerated.

At a certain moment, he perceived that he was emerging from beneath
the Paris which was petrified by the uprising, where the barricades had
suppressed circulation, and that he was entering beneath the living and
normal Paris. Overhead he suddenly heard a noise as of thunder, distant
but continuous. It was the rumbling of vehicles.

He had been walking for about half an hour, at least according to the
calculation which he made in his own mind, and he had not yet thought of
rest; he had merely changed the hand with which he was holding Marius.
The darkness was more profound than ever, but its very depth reassured

All at once, he saw his shadow in front of him. It was outlined on
a faint, almost indistinct reddish glow, which vaguely empurpled the
flooring vault underfoot, and the vault overhead, and gilded to his
right and to his left the two viscous walls of the passage. Stupefied,
he turned round.

Behind him, in the portion of the passage which he had just passed
through, at a distance which appeared to him immense, piercing the dense
obscurity, flamed a sort of horrible star which had the air of surveying

It was the gloomy star of the police which was rising in the sewer.

In the rear of that star eight or ten forms were moving about in a
confused way, black, upright, indistinct, horrible.


On the day of the sixth of June, a battue of the sewers had been
ordered. It was feared that the vanquished might have taken to them for
refuge, and Prefect Gisquet was to search occult Paris while General
Bugeaud swept public Paris; a double and connected operation which
exacted a double strategy on the part of the public force, represented
above by the army and below by the police. Three squads of agents and
sewermen explored the subterranean drain of Paris, the first on the
right bank, the second on the left bank, the third in the city. The
agents of police were armed with carabines, with bludgeons, swords and

That which was directed at Jean Valjean at that moment, was the lantern
of the patrol of the right bank.

This patrol had just visited the curving gallery and the three blind
alleys which lie beneath the Rue du Cadran. While they were passing
their lantern through the depths of these blind alleys, Jean Valjean had
encountered on his path the entrance to the gallery, had perceived
that it was narrower than the principal passage and had not penetrated
thither. He had passed on. The police, on emerging from the gallery
du Cadran, had fancied that they heard the sound of footsteps in the
direction of the belt sewer. They were, in fact, the steps of Jean
Valjean. The sergeant in command of the patrol had raised his lantern,
and the squad had begun to gaze into the mist in the direction whence
the sound proceeded.

This was an indescribable moment for Jean Valjean.

Happily, if he saw the lantern well, the lantern saw him but ill. It
was light and he was shadow. He was very far off, and mingled with the
darkness of the place. He hugged the wall and halted. Moreover, he did
not understand what it was that was moving behind him. The lack of sleep
and food, and his emotions had caused him also to pass into the state of
a visionary. He beheld a gleam, and around that gleam, forms. What was
it? He did not comprehend.

Jean Valjean having paused, the sound ceased.

The men of the patrol listened, and heard nothing, they looked and saw
nothing. They held a consultation.

There existed at that epoch at this point of the Montmartre sewer a sort
of cross-roads called de service, which was afterwards suppressed, on
account of the little interior lake which formed there, swallowing up
the torrent of rain in heavy storms. The patrol could form a cluster in
this open space. Jean Valjean saw these spectres form a sort of circle.
These bull-dogs' heads approached each other closely and whispered

The result of this council held by the watch dogs was, that they had
been mistaken, that there had been no noise, that it was useless to get
entangled in the belt sewer, that it would only be a waste of time,
but that they ought to hasten towards Saint-Merry; that if there
was anything to do, and any "bousingot" to track out, it was in that

From time to time, parties re-sole their old insults. In 1832, the word
bousingot formed the interim between the word jacobin, which had become
obsolete, and the word demagogue which has since rendered such excellent

The sergeant gave orders to turn to the left, towards the watershed of
the Seine.

If it had occurred to them to separate into two squads, and to go in
both directions, Jean Valjean would have been captured. All hung on
that thread. It is probable that the instructions of the prefecture,
foreseeing a possibility of combat and insurgents in force, had
forbidden the patrol to part company. The patrol resumed its march,
leaving Jean Valjean behind it. Of all this movement, Jean Valjean
perceived nothing, except the eclipse of the lantern which suddenly
wheeled round.

Before taking his departure, the Sergeant, in order to acquit his
policeman's conscience, discharged his gun in the direction of Jean
Valjean. The detonation rolled from echo to echo in the crypt, like the
rumbling of that titanic entrail. A bit of plaster which fell into the
stream and splashed up the water a few paces away from Jean Valjean,
warned him that the ball had struck the arch over his head.

Slow and measured steps resounded for some time on the timber work,
gradually dying away as they retreated to a greater distance; the group
of black forms vanished, a glimmer of light oscillated and floated,
communicating to the vault a reddish glow which grew fainter, then
disappeared; the silence became profound once more, the obscurity became
complete, blindness and deafness resumed possession of the shadows;
and Jean Valjean, not daring to stir as yet, remained for a long time
leaning with his back against the wall, with straining ears, and dilated
pupils, watching the disappearance of that phantom patrol.


This justice must be rendered to the police of that period, that even in
the most serious public junctures, it imperturbably fulfilled its duties
connected with the sewers and surveillance. A revolt was, in its eyes,
no pretext for allowing malefactors to take the bit in their own mouths,
and for neglecting society for the reason that the government was in
peril. The ordinary service was performed correctly in company with the
extraordinary service, and was not troubled by the latter. In the midst
of an incalculable political event already begun, under the pressure of
a possible revolution, a police agent, "spun" a thief without allowing
himself to be distracted by insurrection and barricades.

It was something precisely parallel which took place on the afternoon
of the 6th of June on the banks of the Seine, on the slope of the right
shore, a little beyond the Pont des Invalides.

There is no longer any bank there now. The aspect of the locality has

On that bank, two men, separated by a certain distance, seemed to be
watching each other while mutually avoiding each other. The one who was
in advance was trying to get away, the one in the rear was trying to
overtake the other.

It was like a game of checkers played at a distance and in silence.
Neither seemed to be in any hurry, and both walked slowly, as though
each of them feared by too much haste to make his partner redouble his

One would have said that it was an appetite following its prey, and
purposely without wearing the air of doing so. The prey was crafty and
on its guard.

The proper relations between the hunted pole-cat and the hunting dog
were observed. The one who was seeking to escape had an insignificant
mien and not an impressive appearance; the one who was seeking to seize
him was rude of aspect, and must have been rude to encounter.

The first, conscious that he was the more feeble, avoided the second;
but he avoided him in a manner which was deeply furious; any one who
could have observed him would have discerned in his eyes the sombre
hostility of flight, and all the menace that fear contains.

The shore was deserted; there were no passers-by; not even a boatman nor
a lighter-man was in the skiffs which were moored here and there.

It was not easy to see these two men, except from the quay opposite, and
to any person who had scrutinized them at that distance, the man who was
in advance would have appeared like a bristling, tattered, and equivocal
being, who was uneasy and trembling beneath a ragged blouse, and the
other like a classic and official personage, wearing the frock-coat of
authority buttoned to the chin.

Perchance the reader might recognize these two men, if he were to see
them closer at hand.

What was the object of the second man?

Probably to succeed in clothing the first more warmly.

When a man clothed by the state pursues a man in rags, it is in order
to make of him a man who is also clothed by the state. Only, the whole
question lies in the color. To be dressed in blue is glorious; to be
dressed in red is disagreeable.

There is a purple from below.

It is probably some unpleasantness and some purple of this sort which
the first man is desirous of shirking.

If the other allowed him to walk on, and had not seized him as yet, it
was, judging from all appearances, in the hope of seeing him lead up to
some significant meeting-place and to some group worth catching. This
delicate operation is called "spinning."

What renders this conjecture entirely probable is that the buttoned-up
man, on catching sight from the shore of a hackney-coach on the quay
as it was passing along empty, made a sign to the driver; the driver
understood, evidently recognized the person with whom he had to deal,
turned about and began to follow the two men at the top of the quay,
at a foot-pace. This was not observed by the slouching and tattered
personage who was in advance.

The hackney-coach rolled along the trees of the Champs-Elysees. The
bust of the driver, whip in hand, could be seen moving along above the

One of the secret instructions of the police authorities to their agents
contains this article: "Always have on hand a hackney-coach, in case of

While these two men were manoeuvring, each on his own side, with
irreproachable strategy, they approached an inclined plane on the quay
which descended to the shore, and which permitted cab-drivers arriving
from Passy to come to the river and water their horses. This inclined
plane was suppressed later on, for the sake of symmetry; horses may die
of thirst, but the eye is gratified.

It is probable that the man in the blouse had intended to ascend
this inclined plane, with a view to making his escape into the
Champs-Elysees, a place ornamented with trees, but, in return, much
infested with policemen, and where the other could easily exercise

This point on the quay is not very far distant from the house brought to
Paris from Moret in 1824, by Colonel Brack, and designated as "the house
of Francois I." A guard house is situated close at hand.

To the great surprise of his watcher, the man who was being tracked did
not mount by the inclined plane for watering. He continued to advance
along the quay on the shore.

His position was visibly becoming critical.

What was he intending to do, if not to throw himself into the Seine?

Henceforth, there existed no means of ascending to the quay; there was
no other inclined plane, no staircase; and they were near the spot,
marked by the bend in the Seine towards the Pont de Jena, where the
bank, growing constantly narrower, ended in a slender tongue, and
was lost in the water. There he would inevitably find himself blocked
between the perpendicular wall on his right, the river on his left and
in front of him, and the authorities on his heels.

It is true that this termination of the shore was hidden from sight by a
heap of rubbish six or seven feet in height, produced by some demolition
or other. But did this man hope to conceal himself effectually behind
that heap of rubbish, which one need but skirt? The expedient would
have been puerile. He certainly was not dreaming of such a thing. The
innocence of thieves does not extend to that point.

The pile of rubbish formed a sort of projection at the water's edge,
which was prolonged in a promontory as far as the wall of the quay.

The man who was being followed arrived at this little mound and went
round it, so that he ceased to be seen by the other.

The latter, as he did not see, could not be seen; he took advantage of
this fact to abandon all dissimulation and to walk very rapidly. In a
few moments, he had reached the rubbish heap and passed round it. There
he halted in sheer amazement. The man whom he had been pursuing was no
longer there.

Total eclipse of the man in the blouse.

The shore, beginning with the rubbish heap, was only about thirty paces
long, then it plunged into the water which beat against the wall of the
quay. The fugitive could not have thrown himself into the Seine without
being seen by the man who was following him. What had become of him?

The man in the buttoned-up coat walked to the extremity of the shore,
and remained there in thought for a moment, his fists clenched, his eyes
searching. All at once he smote his brow. He had just perceived, at the
point where the land came to an end and the water began, a large iron
grating, low, arched, garnished with a heavy lock and with three massive
hinges. This grating, a sort of door pierced at the base of the quay,
opened on the river as well as on the shore. A blackish stream passed
under it. This stream discharged into the Seine.

Beyond the heavy, rusty iron bars, a sort of dark and vaulted corridor
could be descried. The man folded his arms and stared at the grating
with an air of reproach.

As this gaze did not suffice, he tried to thrust it aside; he shook
it, it resisted solidly. It is probable that it had just been opened,
although no sound had been heard, a singular circumstance in so rusty a
grating; but it is certain that it had been closed again. This indicated
that the man before whom that door had just opened had not a hook but a

This evidence suddenly burst upon the mind of the man who was trying to
move the grating, and evoked from him this indignant ejaculation:

"That is too much! A government key!"

Then, immediately regaining his composure, he expressed a whole world
of interior ideas by this outburst of monosyllables accented almost
ironically: "Come! Come! Come! Come!"

That said, and in the hope of something or other, either that he should
see the man emerge or other men enter, he posted himself on the watch
behind a heap of rubbish, with the patient rage of a pointer.

The hackney-coach, which regulated all its movements on his, had, in its
turn, halted on the quay above him, close to the parapet. The coachman,
foreseeing a prolonged wait, encased his horses' muzzles in the bag of
oats which is damp at the bottom, and which is so familiar to Parisians,
to whom, be it said in parenthesis, the Government sometimes applies it.
The rare passers-by on the Pont de Jena turned their heads, before they
pursued their way, to take a momentary glance at these two motionless
items in the landscape, the man on the shore, the carriage on the quay.


Jean Valjean had resumed his march and had not again paused.

This march became more and more laborious. The level of these vaults
varies; the average height is about five feet, six inches, and has been
calculated for the stature of a man; Jean Valjean was forced to bend
over, in order not to strike Marius against the vault; at every step
he had to bend, then to rise, and to feel incessantly of the wall. The
moisture of the stones, and the viscous nature of the timber framework
furnished but poor supports to which to cling, either for hand or foot.
He stumbled along in the hideous dung-heap of the city. The intermittent
gleams from the air-holes only appeared at very long intervals, and were
so wan that the full sunlight seemed like the light of the moon; all
the rest was mist, miasma, opaqueness, blackness. Jean Valjean was both
hungry and thirsty; especially thirsty; and this, like the sea, was a
place full of water where a man cannot drink. His strength, which was
prodigious, as the reader knows, and which had been but little decreased
by age, thanks to his chaste and sober life, began to give way,
nevertheless. Fatigue began to gain on him; and as his strength
decreased, it made the weight of his burden increase. Marius, who was,
perhaps, dead, weighed him down as inert bodies weigh. Jean Valjean
held him in such a manner that his chest was not oppressed, and so that
respiration could proceed as well as possible. Between his legs he felt
the rapid gliding of the rats. One of them was frightened to such a
degree that he bit him. From time to time, a breath of fresh air reached
him through the vent-holes of the mouths of the sewer, and re-animated

It might have been three hours past midday when he reached the

He was, at first, astonished at this sudden widening. He found himself,
all at once, in a gallery where his outstretched hands could not reach
the two walls, and beneath a vault which his head did not touch. The
Grand Sewer is, in fact, eight feet wide and seven feet high.

At the point where the Montmartre sewer joins the Grand Sewer, two other
subterranean galleries, that of the Rue de Provence, and that of the
Abattoir, form a square. Between these four ways, a less sagacious man
would have remained undecided. Jean Valjean selected the broadest, that
is to say, the belt-sewer. But here the question again came up--should
he descend or ascend? He thought that the situation required haste, and
that he must now gain the Seine at any risk. In other terms, he must
descend. He turned to the left.

It was well that he did so, for it is an error to suppose that the
belt-sewer has two outlets, the one in the direction of Bercy, the other
towards Passy, and that it is, as its name indicates, the subterranean
girdle of the Paris on the right bank. The Grand Sewer, which is, it
must be remembered, nothing else than the old brook of Menilmontant,
terminates, if one ascends it, in a blind sack, that is to say, at its
ancient point of departure which was its source, at the foot of the
knoll of Menilmontant. There is no direct communication with the
branch which collects the waters of Paris beginning with the Quartier
Popincourt, and which falls into the Seine through the Amelot sewer
above the ancient Isle Louviers. This branch, which completes the
collecting sewer, is separated from it, under the Rue Menilmontant
itself, by a pile which marks the dividing point of the waters, between
upstream and downstream. If Jean Valjean had ascended the gallery he
would have arrived, after a thousand efforts, and broken down with
fatigue, and in an expiring condition, in the gloom, at a wall. He would
have been lost.

In case of necessity, by retracing his steps a little way, and entering
the passage of the Filles-du-Calvaire, on condition that he did not
hesitate at the subterranean crossing of the Carrefour Boucherat, and by
taking the corridor Saint-Louis, then the Saint-Gilles gut on the left,
then turning to the right and avoiding the Saint-Sebastian gallery, he
might have reached the Amelot sewer, and thence, provided that he did
not go astray in the sort of F which lies under the Bastille, he might
have attained the outlet on the Seine near the Arsenal. But in order
to do this, he must have been thoroughly familiar with the enormous
madrepore of the sewer in all its ramifications and in all its openings.
Now, we must again insist that he knew nothing of that frightful drain
which he was traversing; and had any one asked him in what he was, he
would have answered: "In the night."

His instinct served him well. To descend was, in fact, possible safety.

He left on his right the two narrow passages which branch out in the
form of a claw under the Rue Laffitte and the Rue Saint-Georges and the
long, bifurcated corridor of the Chaussee d'Antin.

A little beyond an affluent, which was, probably, the Madeleine branch,
he halted. He was extremely weary. A passably large air-hole, probably
the man-hole in the Rue d'Anjou, furnished a light that was almost
vivid. Jean Valjean, with the gentleness of movement which a brother
would exercise towards his wounded brother, deposited Marius on the
banquette of the sewer. Marius' blood-stained face appeared under the
wan light of the air-hole like the ashes at the bottom of a tomb. His
eyes were closed, his hair was plastered down on his temples like a
painter's brushes dried in red wash; his hands hung limp and dead. A
clot of blood had collected in the knot of his cravat; his limbs were
cold, and blood was clotted at the corners of his mouth; his shirt had
thrust itself into his wounds, the cloth of his coat was chafing the
yawning gashes in the living flesh. Jean Valjean, pushing aside the
garments with the tips of his fingers, laid his hand upon Marius'
breast; his heart was still beating. Jean Valjean tore up his shirt,
bandaged the young man's wounds as well as he was able and stopped the
flowing blood; then bending over Marius, who still lay unconscious
and almost without breathing, in that half light, he gazed at him with
inexpressible hatred.

On disarranging Marius' garments, he had found two things in his
pockets, the roll which had been forgotten there on the preceding
evening, and Marius' pocketbook. He ate the roll and opened the
pocketbook. On the first page he found the four lines written by Marius.
The reader will recall them:

"My name is Marius Pontmercy. Carry my body to my grandfather, M.
Gillenormand, Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, No. 6, in the Marais."

Jean Valjean read these four lines by the light of the air-hole, and
remained for a moment as though absorbed in thought, repeating in a low
tone: "Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, number 6, Monsieur Gillenormand." He
replaced the pocketbook in Marius' pocket. He had eaten, his strength
had returned to him; he took Marius up once more upon his back, placed
the latter's head carefully on his right shoulder, and resumed his
descent of the sewer.

The Grand Sewer, directed according to the course of the valley of
Menilmontant, is about two leagues long. It is paved throughout a
notable portion of its extent.

This torch of the names of the streets of Paris, with which we are
illuminating for the reader Jean Valjean's subterranean march, Jean
Valjean himself did not possess. Nothing told him what zone of the city
he was traversing, nor what way he had made. Only the growing pallor of
the pools of light which he encountered from time to time indicated to
him that the sun was withdrawing from the pavement, and that the day
would soon be over; and the rolling of vehicles overhead, having become
intermittent instead of continuous, then having almost ceased, he
concluded that he was no longer under central Paris, and that he
was approaching some solitary region, in the vicinity of the outer
boulevards, or the extreme outer quays. Where there are fewer houses and
streets, the sewer has fewer air-holes. The gloom deepened around Jean
Valjean. Nevertheless, he continued to advance, groping his way in the

Suddenly this darkness became terrible.


He felt that he was entering the water, and that he no longer had a
pavement under his feet, but only mud.

It sometimes happens, that on certain shores of Bretagne or Scotland a
man, either a traveller or a fisherman, while walking at low tide on the
beach far from shore, suddenly notices that for several minutes past,
he has been walking with some difficulty. The beach under foot is
like pitch; his soles stick fast to it; it is no longer sand, it is
bird-lime. The strand is perfectly dry, but at every step that he takes,
as soon as the foot is raised, the print is filled with water. The
eye, however, has perceived no change; the immense beach is smooth and
tranquil, all the sand has the same aspect, nothing distinguishes the
soil that is solid from that which is not solid; the joyous little
cloud of sand-lice continues to leap tumultuously under the feet of the

The man pursues his way, he walks on, turns towards the land, endeavors
to approach the shore. He is not uneasy. Uneasy about what? Only he is
conscious that the heaviness of his feet seems to be increasing at every
step that he takes. All at once he sinks in. He sinks in two or three
inches. Decidedly, he is not on the right road; he halts to get his
bearings. Suddenly he glances at his feet; his feet have disappeared.
The sand has covered them. He draws his feet out of the sand, he tries
to retrace his steps, he turns back, he sinks in more deeply than
before. The sand is up to his ankles, he tears himself free from it
and flings himself to the left, the sand reaches to mid-leg, he flings
himself to the right, the sand comes up to his knees. Then, with
indescribable terror, he recognizes the fact that he is caught in a
quicksand, and that he has beneath him that frightful medium in which
neither man can walk nor fish can swim. He flings away his burden, if he
have one, he lightens himself, like a ship in distress; it is too late,
the sand is above his knees.

He shouts, he waves his hat, or his handkerchief, the sand continually
gains on him; if the beach is deserted, if the land is too far away, if
the bank of sand is too ill-famed, there is no hero in the neighborhood,
all is over, he is condemned to be engulfed. He is condemned to that
terrible interment, long, infallible, implacable, which it is impossible
to either retard or hasten, which lasts for hours, which will not come
to an end, which seizes you erect, free, in the flush of health, which
drags you down by the feet, which, at every effort that you attempt, at
every shout that you utter, draws you a little lower, which has the air
of punishing you for your resistance by a redoubled grasp, which forces
a man to return slowly to earth, while leaving him time to survey the
horizon, the trees, the verdant country, the smoke of the villages on
the plain, the sails of the ships on the sea, the birds which fly
and sing, the sun and the sky. This engulfment is the sepulchre which
assumes a tide, and which mounts from the depths of the earth towards
a living man. Each minute is an inexorable layer-out of the dead. The
wretched man tries to sit down, to lie down, to climb; every movement
that he makes buries him deeper; he straightens himself up, he sinks; he
feels that he is being swallowed up; he shrieks, implores, cries to the
clouds, wrings his hands, grows desperate. Behold him in the sand up
to his belly, the sand reaches to his breast, he is only a bust now.
He uplifts his hands, utters furious groans, clenches his nails on the
beach, tries to cling fast to that ashes, supports himself on his elbows
in order to raise himself from that soft sheath, and sobs frantically;
the sand mounts higher. The sand has reached his shoulders, the sand
reaches to his throat; only his face is visible now. His mouth cries
aloud, the sand fills it; silence. His eyes still gaze forth, the sand
closes them, night. Then his brow decreases, a little hair quivers above
the sand; a hand projects, pierces the surface of the beach, waves and
disappears. Sinister obliteration of a man.

Sometimes a rider is engulfed with his horse; sometimes the carter is
swallowed up with his cart; all founders in that strand. It is shipwreck
elsewhere than in the water. It is the earth drowning a man. The earth,
permeated with the ocean, becomes a pitfall. It presents itself in the
guise of a plain, and it yawns like a wave. The abyss is subject to
these treacheries.

This melancholy fate, always possible on certain sea beaches, was also
possible, thirty years ago, in the sewers of Paris.

Before the important works, undertaken in 1833, the subterranean drain
of Paris was subject to these sudden slides.

The water filtered into certain subjacent strata, which were
particularly friable; the foot-way, which was of flag-stones, as in
the ancient sewers, or of cement on concrete, as in the new galleries,
having no longer an underpinning, gave way. A fold in a flooring of this
sort means a crack, means crumbling. The framework crumbled away for a
certain length. This crevice, the hiatus of a gulf of mire, was called a
fontis, in the special tongue. What is a fontis? It is the quicksands of
the seashore suddenly encountered under the surface of the earth; it is
the beach of Mont Saint-Michel in a sewer. The soaked soil is in a
state of fusion, as it were; all its molecules are in suspension in soft
medium; it is not earth and it is not water. The depth is sometimes very
great. Nothing can be more formidable than such an encounter. If the
water predominates, death is prompt, the man is swallowed up; if earth
predominates, death is slow.

Can any one picture to himself such a death? If being swallowed by the
earth is terrible on the seashore, what is it in a cess-pool? Instead of
the open air, the broad daylight, the clear horizon, those vast sounds,
those free clouds whence rains life, instead of those barks descried
in the distance, of that hope under all sorts of forms, of probable
passers-by, of succor possible up to the very last moment,--instead
of all this, deafness, blindness, a black vault, the inside of a tomb
already prepared, death in the mire beneath a cover! slow suffocation
by filth, a stone box where asphyxia opens its claw in the mire and
clutches you by the throat; fetidness mingled with the death-rattle;
slime instead of the strand, sulfuretted hydrogen in place of the
hurricane, dung in place of the ocean! And to shout, to gnash one's
teeth, and to writhe, and to struggle, and to agonize, with that
enormous city which knows nothing of it all, over one's head!

Inexpressible is the horror of dying thus! Death sometimes redeems
his atrocity by a certain terrible dignity. On the funeral pile, in
shipwreck, one can be great; in the flames as in the foam, a superb
attitude is possible; one there becomes transfigured as one perishes.
But not here. Death is filthy. It is humiliating to expire. The supreme
floating visions are abject. Mud is synonymous with shame. It is
petty, ugly, infamous. To die in a butt of Malvoisie, like Clarence, is
permissible; in the ditch of a scavenger, like Escoubleau, is horrible.
To struggle therein is hideous; at the same time that one is going
through the death agony, one is floundering about. There are shadows
enough for hell, and mire enough to render it nothing but a slough, and
the dying man knows not whether he is on the point of becoming a spectre
or a frog.

Everywhere else the sepulchre is sinister; here it is deformed.

The depth of the fontis varied, as well as their length and their
density, according to the more or less bad quality of the sub-soil.
Sometimes a fontis was three or four feet deep, sometimes eight or ten;
sometimes the bottom was unfathomable. Here the mire was almost solid,
there almost liquid. In the Luniere fontis, it would have taken a man a
day to disappear, while he would have been devoured in five minutes by
the Philippeaux slough. The mire bears up more or less, according to its
density. A child can escape where a man will perish. The first law of
safety is to get rid of every sort of load. Every sewerman who felt the
ground giving way beneath him began by flinging away his sack of tools,
or his back-basket, or his hod.

The fontis were due to different causes: the friability of the soil;
some landslip at a depth beyond the reach of man; the violent summer
rains; the incessant flooding of winter; long, drizzling showers.
Sometimes the weight of the surrounding houses on a marly or sandy soil
forced out the vaults of the subterranean galleries and caused them to
bend aside, or it chanced that a flooring vault burst and split under
this crushing thrust. In this manner, the heaping up of the Parthenon,
obliterated, a century ago, a portion of the vaults of Saint-Genevieve
hill. When a sewer was broken in under the pressure of the houses, the
mischief was sometimes betrayed in the street above by a sort of space,
like the teeth of a saw, between the paving-stones; this crevice was
developed in an undulating line throughout the entire length of the
cracked vault, and then, the evil being visible, the remedy could be
promptly applied. It also frequently happened, that the interior ravages
were not revealed by any external scar, and in that case, woe to the
sewermen. When they entered without precaution into the sewer, they were
liable to be lost. Ancient registers make mention of several scavengers
who were buried in fontis in this manner. They give many names; among
others, that of the sewerman who was swallowed up in a quagmire under
the man-hole of the Rue Careme-Prenant, a certain Blaise Poutrain; this
Blaise Poutrain was the brother of Nicholas Poutrain, who was the last
grave-digger of the cemetery called the Charnier des Innocents, in 1785,
the epoch when that cemetery expired.

There was also that young and charming Vicomte d'Escoubleau, of whom we
have just spoken, one of the heroes of the siege of Lerida, where they
delivered the assault in silk stockings, with violins at their head.
D'Escoubleau, surprised one night at his cousin's, the Duchess de
Sourdis', was drowned in a quagmire of the Beautreillis sewer, in which
he had taken refuge in order to escape from the Duke. Madame de Sourdis,
when informed of his death, demanded her smelling-bottle, and forgot to
weep, through sniffling at her salts. In such cases, there is no love
which holds fast; the sewer extinguishes it. Hero refuses to wash the
body of Leander. Thisbe stops her nose in the presence of Pyramus and
says: "Phew!"


Jean Valjean found himself in the presence of a fontis.

This sort of quagmire was common at that period in the subsoil of the
Champs-Elysees, difficult to handle in the hydraulic works and a bad
preservative of the subterranean constructions, on account of its
excessive fluidity. This fluidity exceeds even the inconsistency of the
sands of the Quartier Saint-Georges, which could only be conquered by
a stone construction on a concrete foundation, and the clayey strata,
infected with gas, of the Quartier des Martyrs, which are so liquid
that the only way in which a passage was effected under the gallery des
Martyrs was by means of a cast-iron pipe. When, in 1836, the old stone
sewer beneath the Faubourg Saint-Honore, in which we now see Jean
Valjean, was demolished for the purpose of reconstructing it, the
quicksand, which forms the subsoil of the Champs-Elysees as far as the
Seine, presented such an obstacle, that the operation lasted nearly
six months, to the great clamor of the dwellers on the riverside,
particularly those who had hotels and carriages. The work was more than
unhealthy; it was dangerous. It is true that they had four months and a
half of rain, and three floods of the Seine.

The fontis which Jean Valjean had encountered was caused by the downpour
of the preceding day. The pavement, badly sustained by the subjacent
sand, had given way and had produced a stoppage of the water.
Infiltration had taken place, a slip had followed. The dislocated bottom
had sunk into the ooze. To what extent? Impossible to say. The obscurity
was more dense there than elsewhere. It was a pit of mire in a cavern of

Jean Valjean felt the pavement vanishing beneath his feet. He entered
this slime. There was water on the surface, slime at the bottom. He must
pass it. To retrace his steps was impossible. Marius was dying, and Jean
Valjean exhausted. Besides, where was he to go? Jean Valjean advanced.
Moreover, the pit seemed, for the first few steps, not to be very deep.
But in proportion as he advanced, his feet plunged deeper. Soon he had
the slime up to his calves and water above his knees. He walked on,
raising Marius in his arms, as far above the water as he could. The mire
now reached to his knees, and the water to his waist. He could no longer
retreat. This mud, dense enough for one man, could not, obviously,
uphold two. Marius and Jean Valjean would have stood a chance of
extricating themselves singly. Jean Valjean continued to advance,
supporting the dying man, who was, perhaps, a corpse.

The water came up to his arm-pits; he felt that he was sinking; it was
only with difficulty that he could move in the depth of ooze which
he had now reached. The density, which was his support, was also
an obstacle. He still held Marius on high, and with an unheard-of
expenditure of force, he advanced still; but he was sinking. He had only
his head above the water now and his two arms holding up Marius. In the
old paintings of the deluge there is a mother holding her child thus.

He sank still deeper, he turned his face to the rear, to escape the
water, and in order that he might be able to breathe; anyone who had
seen him in that gloom would have thought that what he beheld was a
mask floating on the shadows; he caught a faint glimpse above him of the
drooping head and livid face of Marius; he made a desperate effort and
launched his foot forward; his foot struck something solid; a point of
support. It was high time.

He straightened himself up, and rooted himself upon that point of
support with a sort of fury. This produced upon him the effect of the
first step in a staircase leading back to life.

The point of support, thus encountered in the mire at the supreme
moment, was the beginning of the other water-shed of the pavement, which
had bent but had not given way, and which had curved under the water
like a plank and in a single piece. Well built pavements form a vault
and possess this sort of firmness. This fragment of the vaulting, partly
submerged, but solid, was a veritable inclined plane, and, once on this
plane, he was safe. Jean Valjean mounted this inclined plane and reached
the other side of the quagmire.

As he emerged from the water, he came in contact with a stone and fell
upon his knees. He reflected that this was but just, and he remained
there for some time, with his soul absorbed in words addressed to God.

He rose to his feet, shivering, chilled, foul-smelling, bowed beneath
the dying man whom he was dragging after him, all dripping with slime,
and his soul filled with a strange light.


He set out on his way once more.

However, although he had not left his life in the fontis, he seemed
to have left his strength behind him there. That supreme effort had
exhausted him. His lassitude was now such that he was obliged to pause
for breath every three or four steps, and lean against the wall. Once
he was forced to seat himself on the banquette in order to alter Marius'
position, and he thought that he should have to remain there. But if his
vigor was dead, his energy was not. He rose again.

He walked on desperately, almost fast, proceeded thus for a hundred
paces, almost without drawing breath, and suddenly came in contact with
the wall. He had reached an elbow of the sewer, and, arriving at the
turn with head bent down, he had struck the wall. He raised his eyes,
and at the extremity of the vault, far, very far away in front of him,
he perceived a light. This time it was not that terrible light; it was
good, white light. It was daylight. Jean Valjean saw the outlet.

A damned soul, who, in the midst of the furnace, should suddenly
perceive the outlet of Gehenna, would experience what Jean Valjean felt.
It would fly wildly with the stumps of its burned wings towards that
radiant portal. Jean Valjean was no longer conscious of fatigue, he no
longer felt Marius' weight, he found his legs once more of steel, he ran
rather than walked. As he approached, the outlet became more and more
distinctly defined. It was a pointed arch, lower than the vault, which
gradually narrowed, and narrower than the gallery, which closed in as
the vault grew lower. The tunnel ended like the interior of a funnel;
a faulty construction, imitated from the wickets of penitentiaries,
logical in a prison, illogical in a sewer, and which has since been

Jean Valjean reached the outlet.

There he halted.

It certainly was the outlet, but he could not get out.

The arch was closed by a heavy grating, and the grating, which, to all
appearance, rarely swung on its rusty hinges, was clamped to its stone
jamb by a thick lock, which, red with rust, seemed like an enormous
brick. The keyhole could be seen, and the robust latch, deeply sunk in
the iron staple. The door was plainly double-locked. It was one of those
prison locks which old Paris was so fond of lavishing.

Beyond the grating was the open air, the river, the daylight, the shore,
very narrow but sufficient for escape. The distant quays, Paris, that
gulf in which one so easily hides oneself, the broad horizon, liberty.
On the right, down stream, the bridge of Jena was discernible, on the
left, upstream, the bridge of the Invalides; the place would have been a
propitious one in which to await the night and to escape. It was one
of the most solitary points in Paris; the shore which faces the
Grand-Caillou. Flies were entering and emerging through the bars of the

It might have been half-past eight o'clock in the evening. The day was

Jean Valjean laid Marius down along the wall, on the dry portion of the
vaulting, then he went to the grating and clenched both fists round the
bars; the shock which he gave it was frenzied, but it did not move. The
grating did not stir. Jean Valjean seized the bars one after the other,
in the hope that he might be able to tear away the least solid, and to
make of it a lever wherewith to raise the door or to break the lock. Not
a bar stirred. The teeth of a tiger are not more firmly fixed in their
sockets. No lever; no prying possible. The obstacle was invincible.
There was no means of opening the gate.

Must he then stop there? What was he to do? What was to become of him?
He had not the strength to retrace his steps, to recommence the journey
which he had already taken. Besides, how was he to again traverse that
quagmire whence he had only extricated himself as by a miracle? And
after the quagmire, was there not the police patrol, which assuredly
could not be twice avoided? And then, whither was he to go? What
direction should he pursue? To follow the incline would not conduct
him to his goal. If he were to reach another outlet, he would find it
obstructed by a plug or a grating. Every outlet was, undoubtedly, closed
in that manner. Chance had unsealed the grating through which he had
entered, but it was evident that all the other sewer mouths were barred.
He had only succeeded in escaping into a prison.

All was over. Everything that Jean Valjean had done was useless.
Exhaustion had ended in failure.

They were both caught in the immense and gloomy web of death, and Jean
Valjean felt the terrible spider running along those black strands and
quivering in the shadows. He turned his back to the grating, and fell
upon the pavement, hurled to earth rather than seated, close to Marius,
who still made no movement, and with his head bent between his knees.
This was the last drop of anguish.

Of what was he thinking during this profound depression? Neither of
himself nor of Marius. He was thinking of Cosette.


In the midst of this prostration, a hand was laid on his shoulder, and a
low voice said to him:

"Half shares."

Some person in that gloom? Nothing so closely resembles a dream as
despair. Jean Valjean thought that he was dreaming. He had heard no
footsteps. Was it possible? He raised his eyes.

A man stood before him.

This man was clad in a blouse; his feet were bare; he held his shoes
in his left hand; he had evidently removed them in order to reach Jean
Valjean, without allowing his steps to be heard.

Jean Valjean did not hesitate for an instant. Unexpected as was this
encounter, this man was known to him. The man was Thenardier.

Although awakened, so to speak, with a start, Jean Valjean, accustomed
to alarms, and steeled to unforeseen shocks that must be promptly
parried, instantly regained possession of his presence of mind.
Moreover, the situation could not be made worse, a certain degree of
distress is no longer capable of a crescendo, and Thenardier himself
could add nothing to this blackness of this night.

A momentary pause ensued.

Thenardier, raising his right hand to a level with his forehead, formed
with it a shade, then he brought his eyelashes together, by screwing up
his eyes, a motion which, in connection with a slight contraction of the
mouth, characterizes the sagacious attention of a man who is endeavoring
to recognize another man. He did not succeed. Jean Valjean, as we have
just stated, had his back turned to the light, and he was, moreover,
so disfigured, so bemired, so bleeding that he would have been
unrecognizable in full noonday. On the contrary, illuminated by the
light from the grating, a cellar light, it is true, livid, yet precise
in its lividness, Thenardier, as the energetic popular metaphor
expresses it, immediately "leaped into" Jean Valjean's eyes. This
inequality of conditions sufficed to assure some advantage to Jean
Valjean in that mysterious duel which was on the point of beginning
between the two situations and the two men. The encounter took place
between Jean Valjean veiled and Thenardier unmasked.

Jean Valjean immediately perceived that Thenardier did not recognize

They surveyed each other for a moment in that half-gloom, as though
taking each other's measure. Thenardier was the first to break the

"How are you going to manage to get out?"

Jean Valjean made no reply. Thenardier continued:

"It's impossible to pick the lock of that gate. But still you must get
out of this."

"That is true," said Jean Valjean.

"Well, half shares then."

"What do you mean by that?"

"You have killed that man; that's all right. I have the key."

Thenardier pointed to Marius. He went on:

"I don't know you, but I want to help you. You must be a friend."

Jean Valjean began to comprehend. Thenardier took him for an assassin.

Thenardier resumed:

"Listen, comrade. You didn't kill that man without looking to see what
he had in his pockets. Give me my half. I'll open the door for you."

And half drawing from beneath his tattered blouse a huge key, he added:

"Do you want to see how a key to liberty is made? Look here."

Jean Valjean "remained stupid"--the expression belongs to the elder
Corneille--to such a degree that he doubted whether what he beheld was
real. It was providence appearing in horrible guise, and his good angel
springing from the earth in the form of Thenardier.

Thenardier thrust his fist into a large pocket concealed under his
blouse, drew out a rope and offered it to Jean Valjean.

"Hold on," said he, "I'll give you the rope to boot."

"What is the rope for?"

"You will need a stone also, but you can find one outside. There's a
heap of rubbish."

"What am I to do with a stone?"

"Idiot, you'll want to sling that stiff into the river, you'll need a
stone and a rope, otherwise it would float on the water."

Jean Valjean took the rope. There is no one who does not occasionally
accept in this mechanical way.

Thenardier snapped his fingers as though an idea had suddenly occurred
to him.

"Ah, see here, comrade, how did you contrive to get out of that slough
yonder? I haven't dared to risk myself in it. Phew! you don't smell

After a pause he added:

"I'm asking you questions, but you're perfectly right not to answer.
It's an apprenticeship against that cursed quarter of an hour before the
examining magistrate. And then, when you don't talk at all, you run no
risk of talking too loud. That's no matter, as I can't see your face and
as I don't know your name, you are wrong in supposing that I don't know
who you are and what you want. I twig. You've broken up that gentleman
a bit; now you want to tuck him away somewhere. The river, that great
hider of folly, is what you want. I'll get you out of your scrape.
Helping a good fellow in a pinch is what suits me to a hair."

While expressing his approval of Jean Valjean's silence, he endeavored
to force him to talk. He jostled his shoulder in an attempt to catch a
sight of his profile, and he exclaimed, without, however, raising his

"Apropos of that quagmire, you're a hearty animal. Why didn't you toss
the man in there?"

Jean Valjean preserved silence.

Thenardier resumed, pushing the rag which served him as a cravat to the
level of his Adam's apple, a gesture which completes the capable air of
a serious man:

"After all, you acted wisely. The workmen, when they come to-morrow to
stop up that hole, would certainly have found the stiff abandoned there,
and it might have been possible, thread by thread, straw by straw, to
pick up the scent and reach you. Some one has passed through the sewer.
Who? Where did he get out? Was he seen to come out? The police are full
of cleverness. The sewer is treacherous and tells tales of you. Such a
find is a rarity, it attracts attention, very few people make use of
the sewers for their affairs, while the river belongs to everybody. The
river is the true grave. At the end of a month they fish up your man
in the nets at Saint-Cloud. Well, what does one care for that? It's
carrion! Who killed that man? Paris. And justice makes no inquiries. You
have done well."

The more loquacious Thenardier became, the more mute was Jean Valjean.

Again Thenardier shook him by the shoulder.

"Now let's settle this business. Let's go shares. You have seen my key,
show me your money."

Thenardier was haggard, fierce, suspicious, rather menacing, yet

There was one singular circumstance; Thenardier's manners were not
simple; he had not the air of being wholly at his ease; while affecting
an air of mystery, he spoke low; from time to time he laid his finger on
his mouth, and muttered, "hush!" It was difficult to divine why. There
was no one there except themselves. Jean Valjean thought that other
ruffians might possibly be concealed in some nook, not very far off, and
that Thenardier did not care to share with them.

Thenardier resumed:

"Let's settle up. How much did the stiff have in his bags?"

Jean Valjean searched his pockets.

It was his habit, as the reader will remember, to always have some
money about him. The mournful life of expedients to which he had been
condemned imposed this as a law upon him. On this occasion, however,
he had been caught unprepared. When donning his uniform of a National
Guardsman on the preceding evening, he had forgotten, dolefully absorbed
as he was, to take his pocket-book. He had only some small change in his
fob. He turned out his pocket, all soaked with ooze, and spread out on
the banquette of the vault one louis d'or, two five-franc pieces, and
five or six large sous.

Thenardier thrust out his lower lip with a significant twist of the

"You knocked him over cheap," said he.

He set to feeling the pockets of Jean Valjean and Marius, with the
greatest familiarity. Jean Valjean, who was chiefly concerned in keeping
his back to the light, let him have his way.

While handling Marius' coat, Thenardier, with the skill of a pickpocket,
and without being noticed by Jean Valjean, tore off a strip which he
concealed under his blouse, probably thinking that this morsel of
stuff might serve, later on, to identify the assassinated man and the
assassin. However, he found no more than the thirty francs.

"That's true," said he, "both of you together have no more than that."

And, forgetting his motto: "half shares," he took all.

He hesitated a little over the large sous. After due reflection, he took
them also, muttering:

"Never mind! You cut folks' throats too cheap altogether."

That done, he once more drew the big key from under his blouse.

"Now, my friend, you must leave. It's like the fair here, you pay when
you go out. You have paid, now clear out."

And he began to laugh.

Had he, in lending to this stranger the aid of his key, and in making
some other man than himself emerge from that portal, the pure and
disinterested intention of rescuing an assassin? We may be permitted to
doubt this.

Thenardier helped Jean Valjean to replace Marius on his shoulders, then
he betook himself to the grating on tiptoe, and barefooted, making Jean
Valjean a sign to follow him, looked out, laid his finger on his mouth,
and remained for several seconds, as though in suspense; his inspection
finished, he placed the key in the lock. The bolt slipped back and the
gate swung open. It neither grated nor squeaked. It moved very softly.

It was obvious that this gate and those hinges, carefully oiled, were
in the habit of opening more frequently than was supposed. This
softness was suspicious; it hinted at furtive goings and comings, silent
entrances and exits of nocturnal men, and the wolf-like tread of crime.

The sewer was evidently an accomplice of some mysterious band. This
taciturn grating was a receiver of stolen goods.

Thenardier opened the gate a little way, allowing just sufficient space
for Jean Valjean to pass out, closed the grating again, gave the key
a double turn in the lock and plunged back into the darkness, without
making any more noise than a breath. He seemed to walk with the velvet
paws of a tiger.

A moment later, that hideous providence had retreated into the

Jean Valjean found himself in the open air.


He allowed Marius to slide down upon the shore.

They were in the open air!

The miasmas, darkness, horror lay behind him. The pure, healthful,
living, joyous air that was easy to breathe inundated him. Everywhere
around him reigned silence, but that charming silence when the sun has
set in an unclouded azure sky. Twilight had descended; night was drawing
on, the great deliverer, the friend of all those who need a mantle of
darkness that they may escape from an anguish. The sky presented itself
in all directions like an enormous calm. The river flowed to his feet
with the sound of a kiss. The aerial dialogue of the nests bidding each
other good night in the elms of the Champs-Elysees was audible. A few
stars, daintily piercing the pale blue of the zenith, and visible to
revery alone, formed imperceptible little splendors amid the immensity.
Evening was unfolding over the head of Jean Valjean all the sweetness of
the infinite.

It was that exquisite and undecided hour which says neither yes nor no.
Night was already sufficiently advanced to render it possible to lose
oneself at a little distance and yet there was sufficient daylight to
permit of recognition at close quarters.

For several seconds, Jean Valjean was irresistibly overcome by that
august and caressing serenity; such moments of oblivion do come to men;
suffering refrains from harassing the unhappy wretch; everything is
eclipsed in the thoughts; peace broods over the dreamer like night; and,
beneath the twilight which beams and in imitation of the sky which is
illuminated, the soul becomes studded with stars. Jean Valjean could
not refrain from contemplating that vast, clear shadow which rested
over him; thoughtfully he bathed in the sea of ecstasy and prayer in the
majestic silence of the eternal heavens. Then he bent down swiftly
to Marius, as though the sentiment of duty had returned to him, and,
dipping up water in the hollow of his hand, he gently sprinkled a
few drops on the latter's face. Marius' eyelids did not open; but his
half-open mouth still breathed.

Jean Valjean was on the point of dipping his hand in the river once
more, when, all at once, he experienced an indescribable embarrassment,
such as a person feels when there is some one behind him whom he does
not see.

We have already alluded to this impression, with which everyone is

He turned round.

Some one was, in fact, behind him, as there had been a short while

A man of lofty stature, enveloped in a long coat, with folded arms,
and bearing in his right fist a bludgeon of which the leaden head was
visible, stood a few paces in the rear of the spot where Jean Valjean
was crouching over Marius.

With the aid of the darkness, it seemed a sort of apparition. An
ordinary man would have been alarmed because of the twilight, a
thoughtful man on account of the bludgeon. Jean Valjean recognized

The reader has divined, no doubt, that Thenardier's pursuer was no other
than Javert. Javert, after his unlooked-for escape from the barricade,
had betaken himself to the prefecture of police, had rendered a
verbal account to the Prefect in person in a brief audience, had then
immediately gone on duty again, which implied--the note, the reader will
recollect, which had been captured on his person--a certain surveillance
of the shore on the right bank of the Seine near the Champs-Elysees,
which had, for some time past, aroused the attention of the police.
There he had caught sight of Thenardier and had followed him. The reader
knows the rest.

Thus it will be easily understood that that grating, so obligingly
opened to Jean Valjean, was a bit of cleverness on Thenardier's part.
Thenardier intuitively felt that Javert was still there; the man spied
upon has a scent which never deceives him; it was necessary to fling
a bone to that sleuth-hound. An assassin, what a godsend! Such an
opportunity must never be allowed to slip. Thenardier, by putting Jean
Valjean outside in his stead, provided a prey for the police, forced
them to relinquish his scent, made them forget him in a bigger
adventure, repaid Javert for his waiting, which always flatters a spy,
earned thirty francs, and counted with certainty, so far as he himself
was concerned, on escaping with the aid of this diversion.

Jean Valjean had fallen from one danger upon another.

These two encounters, this falling one after the other, from Thenardier
upon Javert, was a rude shock.

Javert did not recognize Jean Valjean, who, as we have stated, no longer
looked like himself. He did not unfold his arms, he made sure of his
bludgeon in his fist, by an imperceptible movement, and said in a curt,
calm voice:

"Who are you?"


"Who is 'I'?"

"Jean Valjean."

Javert thrust his bludgeon between his teeth, bent his knees, inclined
his body, laid his two powerful hands on the shoulders of Jean Valjean,
which were clamped within them as in a couple of vices, scrutinized
him, and recognized him. Their faces almost touched. Javert's look was

Jean Valjean remained inert beneath Javert's grasp, like a lion
submitting to the claws of a lynx.

"Inspector Javert," said he, "you have me in your power. Moreover, I
have regarded myself as your prisoner ever since this morning. I did not
give you my address with any intention of escaping from you. Take me.
Only grant me one favor."

Javert did not appear to hear him. He kept his eyes riveted on Jean
Valjean. His chin being contracted, thrust his lips upwards towards
his nose, a sign of savage revery. At length he released Jean Valjean,
straightened himself stiffly up without bending, grasped his bludgeon
again firmly, and, as though in a dream, he murmured rather than uttered
this question:

"What are you doing here? And who is this man?"

He still abstained from addressing Jean Valjean as thou.

Jean Valjean replied, and the sound of his voice appeared to rouse

"It is with regard to him that I desire to speak to you. Dispose of me
as you see fit; but first help me to carry him home. That is all that I
ask of you."

Javert's face contracted as was always the case when any one seemed to
think him capable of making a concession. Nevertheless, he did not say

Again he bent over, drew from his pocket a handkerchief which
he moistened in the water and with which he then wiped Marius'
blood-stained brow.

"This man was at the barricade," said he in a low voice and as though
speaking to himself. "He is the one they called Marius."

A spy of the first quality, who had observed everything, listened to
everything, and taken in everything, even when he thought that he was to
die; who had played the spy even in his agony, and who, with his elbows
leaning on the first step of the sepulchre, had taken notes.

He seized Marius' hand and felt his pulse.

"He is wounded," said Jean Valjean.

"He is a dead man," said Javert.

Jean Valjean replied:

"No. Not yet."

"So you have brought him thither from the barricade?" remarked Javert.

His preoccupation must indeed have been very profound for him not to
insist on this alarming rescue through the sewer, and for him not to
even notice Jean Valjean's silence after his question.

Jean Valjean, on his side, seemed to have but one thought. He resumed:

"He lives in the Marais, Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, with his
grandfather. I do not recollect his name."

Jean Valjean fumbled in Marius' coat, pulled out his pocket-book, opened
it at the page which Marius had pencilled, and held it out to Javert.

There was still sufficient light to admit of reading. Besides this,
Javert possessed in his eye the feline phosphorescence of night
birds. He deciphered the few lines written by Marius, and muttered:
"Gillenormand, Rue des Filles-du Calvaire, No. 6."

Then he exclaimed: "Coachman!"

The reader will remember that the hackney-coach was waiting in case of

Javert kept Marius' pocket-book.

A moment later, the carriage, which had descended by the inclined plane
of the watering-place, was on the shore. Marius was laid upon the back
seat, and Javert seated himself on the front seat beside Jean Valjean.

The door slammed, and the carriage drove rapidly away, ascending the
quays in the direction of the Bastille.

They quitted the quays and entered the streets. The coachman, a black
form on his box, whipped up his thin horses. A glacial silence reigned
in the carriage. Marius, motionless, with his body resting in the
corner, and his head drooping on his breast, his arms hanging, his legs
stiff, seemed to be awaiting only a coffin; Jean Valjean seemed made of
shadow, and Javert of stone, and in that vehicle full of night, whose
interior, every time that it passed in front of a street lantern,
appeared to be turned lividly wan, as by an intermittent flash of
lightning, chance had united and seemed to be bringing face to face
the three forms of tragic immobility, the corpse, the spectre, and the


At every jolt over the pavement, a drop of blood trickled from Marius'

Night had fully closed in when the carriage arrived at No. 6, Rue des

Javert was the first to alight; he made sure with one glance of the
number on the carriage gate, and, raising the heavy knocker of beaten
iron, embellished in the old style, with a male goat and a satyr
confronting each other, he gave a violent peal. The gate opened a little
way and Javert gave it a push. The porter half made his appearance
yawning, vaguely awake, and with a candle in his hand.

Everyone in the house was asleep. People go to bed betimes in the
Marais, especially on days when there is a revolt. This good, old
quarter, terrified at the Revolution, takes refuge in slumber, as
children, when they hear the Bugaboo coming, hide their heads hastily
under their coverlet.

In the meantime Jean Valjean and the coachman had taken Marius out of
the carriage, Jean Valjean supporting him under the armpits, and the
coachman under the knees.

As they thus bore Marius, Jean Valjean slipped his hand under the
latter's clothes, which were broadly rent, felt his breast, and assured
himself that his heart was still beating. It was even beating a little
less feebly, as though the movement of the carriage had brought about a
certain fresh access of life.

Javert addressed the porter in a tone befitting the government, and the
presence of the porter of a factious person.

"Some person whose name is Gillenormand?"

"Here. What do you want with him?"

"His son is brought back."

"His son?" said the porter stupidly.

"He is dead."

Jean Valjean, who, soiled and tattered, stood behind Javert, and whom
the porter was surveying with some horror, made a sign to him with his
head that this was not so.

The porter did not appear to understand either Javert's words or Jean
Valjean's sign.

Javert continued:

"He went to the barricade, and here he is."

"To the barricade?" ejaculated the porter.

"He has got himself killed. Go waken his father."

The porter did not stir.

"Go along with you!" repeated Javert.

And he added:

"There will be a funeral here to-morrow."

For Javert, the usual incidents of the public highway were categorically
classed, which is the beginning of foresight and surveillance, and each
contingency had its own compartment; all possible facts were arranged
in drawers, as it were, whence they emerged on occasion, in variable
quantities; in the street, uproar, revolt, carnival, and funeral.

The porter contented himself with waking Basque. Basque woke Nicolette;
Nicolette roused great-aunt Gillenormand.

As for the grandfather, they let him sleep on, thinking that he would
hear about the matter early enough in any case.

Marius was carried up to the first floor, without any one in the other
parts of the house being aware of the fact, and deposited on an old sofa
in M. Gillenormand's antechamber; and while Basque went in search of a
physician, and while Nicolette opened the linen-presses, Jean Valjean
felt Javert touch him on the shoulder. He understood and descended the
stairs, having behind him the step of Javert who was following him.

The porter watched them take their departure as he had watched their
arrival, in terrified somnolence.

They entered the carriage once more, and the coachman mounted his box.

"Inspector Javert," said Jean, "grant me yet another favor."

"What is it?" demanded Javert roughly.

"Let me go home for one instant. Then you shall do whatever you like
with me."

Javert remained silent for a few moments, with his chin drawn back into
the collar of his great-coat, then he lowered the glass and front:

"Driver," said he, "Rue de l'Homme Arme, No. 7."


They did not open their lips again during the whole space of their ride.

What did Jean Valjean want? To finish what he had begun; to warn
Cosette, to tell her where Marius was, to give her, possibly, some other
useful information, to take, if he could, certain final measures. As
for himself, so far as he was personally concerned, all was over; he had
been seized by Javert and had not resisted; any other man than himself
in like situation would, perhaps, have had some vague thoughts connected
with the rope which Thenardier had given him, and of the bars of the
first cell that he should enter; but, let us impress it upon the
reader, after the Bishop, there had existed in Jean Valjean a profound
hesitation in the presence of any violence, even when directed against

Suicide, that mysterious act of violence against the unknown which may
contain, in a measure, the death of the soul, was impossible to Jean

At the entrance to the Rue de l'Homme Arme, the carriage halted, the way
being too narrow to admit of the entrance of vehicles. Javert and Jean
Valjean alighted.

The coachman humbly represented to "monsieur l'Inspecteur," that the
Utrecht velvet of his carriage was all spotted with the blood of the
assassinated man, and with mire from the assassin. That is the way he
understood it. He added that an indemnity was due him. At the same time,
drawing his certificate book from his pocket, he begged the inspector to
have the goodness to write him "a bit of an attestation."

Javert thrust aside the book which the coachman held out to him, and

"How much do you want, including your time of waiting and the drive?"

"It comes to seven hours and a quarter," replied the man, "and my velvet
was perfectly new. Eighty francs, Mr. Inspector."

Javert drew four napoleons from his pocket and dismissed the carriage.

Jean Valjean fancied that it was Javert's intention to conduct him on
foot to the post of the Blancs-Manteaux or to the post of the Archives,
both of which are close at hand.

They entered the street. It was deserted as usual. Javert followed Jean
Valjean. They reached No. 7. Jean Valjean knocked. The door opened.

"It is well," said Javert. "Go up stairs."

He added with a strange expression, and as though he were exerting an
effort in speaking in this manner:

"I will wait for you here."

Jean Valjean looked at Javert. This mode of procedure was but little in
accord with Javert's habits. However, he could not be greatly surprised
that Javert should now have a sort of haughty confidence in him, the
confidence of the cat which grants the mouse liberty to the length of
its claws, seeing that Jean Valjean had made up his mind to surrender
himself and to make an end of it. He pushed open the door, entered the
house, called to the porter who was in bed and who had pulled the cord
from his couch: "It is I!" and ascended the stairs.

On arriving at the first floor, he paused. All sorrowful roads
have their stations. The window on the landing-place, which was a
sash-window, was open. As in many ancient houses, the staircase got its
light from without and had a view on the street. The street-lantern,
situated directly opposite, cast some light on the stairs, and thus
effected some economy in illumination.

Jean Valjean, either for the sake of getting the air, or mechanically,
thrust his head out of this window. He leaned out over the street. It
is short, and the lantern lighted it from end to end. Jean Valjean was
overwhelmed with amazement; there was no longer any one there.

Javert had taken his departure.


Basque and the porter had carried Marius into the drawing-room, as he
still lay stretched out, motionless, on the sofa upon which he had been
placed on his arrival. The doctor who had been sent for had hastened
thither. Aunt Gillenormand had risen.

Aunt Gillenormand went and came, in affright, wringing her hands and
incapable of doing anything but saying: "Heavens! is it possible?" At
times she added: "Everything will be covered with blood." When her first
horror had passed off, a certain philosophy of the situation penetrated
her mind, and took form in the exclamation: "It was bound to end in this
way!" She did not go so far as: "I told you so!" which is customary on
this sort of occasion. At the physician's orders, a camp bed had been
prepared beside the sofa. The doctor examined Marius, and after having
found that his pulse was still beating, that the wounded man had no very
deep wound on his breast, and that the blood on the corners of his lips
proceeded from his nostrils, he had him placed flat on the bed, without
a pillow, with his head on the same level as his body, and even a
trifle lower, and with his bust bare in order to facilitate respiration.
Mademoiselle Gillenormand, on perceiving that they were undressing
Marius, withdrew. She set herself to telling her beads in her own

The trunk had not suffered any internal injury; a bullet, deadened by
the pocket-book, had turned aside and made the tour of his ribs with a
hideous laceration, which was of no great depth, and consequently, not
dangerous. The long, underground journey had completed the dislocation
of the broken collar-bone, and the disorder there was serious. The arms
had been slashed with sabre cuts. Not a single scar disfigured his face;
but his head was fairly covered with cuts; what would be the result of
these wounds on the head? Would they stop short at the hairy cuticle, or
would they attack the brain? As yet, this could not be decided. A grave
symptom was that they had caused a swoon, and that people do not always
recover from such swoons. Moreover, the wounded man had been exhausted
by hemorrhage. From the waist down, the barricade had protected the
lower part of the body from injury.

Basque and Nicolette tore up linen and prepared bandages; Nicolette
sewed them, Basque rolled them. As lint was lacking, the doctor, for
the time being, arrested the bleeding with layers of wadding. Beside
the bed, three candles burned on a table where the case of surgical
instruments lay spread out. The doctor bathed Marius' face and hair with
cold water. A full pail was reddened in an instant. The porter, candle
in hand, lighted them.

The doctor seemed to be pondering sadly. From time to time, he made a
negative sign with his head, as though replying to some question which
he had inwardly addressed to himself.

A bad sign for the sick man are these mysterious dialogues of the doctor
with himself.

At the moment when the doctor was wiping Marius' face, and lightly
touching his still closed eyes with his finger, a door opened at the end
of the drawing-room, and a long, pallid figure made its appearance.

This was the grandfather.

The revolt had, for the past two days, deeply agitated, enraged and
engrossed the mind of M. Gillenormand. He had not been able to sleep
on the previous night, and he had been in a fever all day long. In the
evening, he had gone to bed very early, recommending that everything in
the house should be well barred, and he had fallen into a doze through
sheer fatigue.

Old men sleep lightly; M. Gillenormand's chamber adjoined the
drawing-room, and in spite of all the precautions that had been taken,
the noise had awakened him. Surprised at the rift of light which he
saw under his door, he had risen from his bed, and had groped his way

He stood astonished on the threshold, one hand on the handle of the
half-open door, with his head bent a little forward and quivering,
his body wrapped in a white dressing-gown, which was straight and as
destitute of folds as a winding-sheet; and he had the air of a phantom
who is gazing into a tomb.

He saw the bed, and on the mattress that young man, bleeding, white with
a waxen whiteness, with closed eyes and gaping mouth, and pallid lips,
stripped to the waist, slashed all over with crimson wounds, motionless
and brilliantly lighted up.

The grandfather trembled from head to foot as powerfully as ossified
limbs can tremble, his eyes, whose corneae were yellow on account of
his great age, were veiled in a sort of vitreous glitter, his whole
face assumed in an instant the earthy angles of a skull, his arms fell
pendent, as though a spring had broken, and his amazement was betrayed
by the outspreading of the fingers of his two aged hands, which quivered
all over, his knees formed an angle in front, allowing, through
the opening in his dressing-gown, a view of his poor bare legs, all
bristling with white hairs, and he murmured:


"Sir," said Basque, "Monsieur has just been brought back. He went to the
barricade, and . . ."

"He is dead!" cried the old man in a terrible voice. "Ah! The rascal!"

Then a sort of sepulchral transformation straightened up this
centenarian as erect as a young man.

"Sir," said he, "you are the doctor. Begin by telling me one thing. He
is dead, is he not?"

The doctor, who was at the highest pitch of anxiety, remained silent.

M. Gillenormand wrung his hands with an outburst of terrible laughter.

"He is dead! He is dead! He is dead! He has got himself killed on
the barricades! Out of hatred to me! He did that to spite me! Ah! You
blood-drinker! This is the way he returns to me! Misery of my life, he
is dead!"

He went to the window, threw it wide open as though he were stifling,
and, erect before the darkness, he began to talk into the street, to the

"Pierced, sabred, exterminated, slashed, hacked in pieces! Just look at
that, the villain! He knew well that I was waiting for him, and that I
had had his room arranged, and that I had placed at the head of my bed
his portrait taken when he was a little child! He knew well that he had
only to come back, and that I had been recalling him for years, and that
I remained by my fireside, with my hands on my knees, not knowing what
to do, and that I was mad over it! You knew well, that you had but to
return and to say: 'It is I,' and you would have been the master of the
house, and that I should have obeyed you, and that you could have done
whatever you pleased with your old numskull of a grandfather! you knew
that well, and you said:

"No, he is a Royalist, I will not go! And you went to the barricades,
and you got yourself killed out of malice! To revenge yourself for what
I said to you about Monsieur le Duc de Berry. It is infamous! Go to bed
then and sleep tranquilly! he is dead, and this is my awakening."

The doctor, who was beginning to be uneasy in both quarters, quitted
Marius for a moment, went to M. Gillenormand, and took his arm.
The grandfather turned round, gazed at him with eyes which seemed
exaggerated in size and bloodshot, and said to him calmly:

"I thank you, sir. I am composed, I am a man, I witnessed the death of
Louis XVI., I know how to bear events. One thing is terrible and that is
to think that it is your newspapers which do all the mischief. You will
have scribblers, chatterers, lawyers, orators, tribunes, discussions,
progress, enlightenment, the rights of man, the liberty of the press,
and this is the way that your children will be brought home to you. Ah!
Marius! It is abominable! Killed! Dead before me! A barricade! Ah, the
scamp! Doctor, you live in this quarter, I believe? Oh! I know you well.
I see your cabriolet pass my window. I am going to tell you. You are
wrong to think that I am angry. One does not fly into a rage against a
dead man. That would be stupid. This is a child whom I have reared.
I was already old while he was very young. He played in the Tuileries
garden with his little shovel and his little chair, and in order that
the inspectors might not grumble, I stopped up the holes that he made in
the earth with his shovel, with my cane. One day he exclaimed: Down with
Louis XVIII.! and off he went. It was no fault of mine. He was all rosy
and blond. His mother is dead. Have you ever noticed that all little
children are blond? Why is it so? He is the son of one of those brigands
of the Loire, but children are innocent of their fathers' crimes.
I remember when he was no higher than that. He could not manage
to pronounce his Ds. He had a way of talking that was so sweet and
indistinct that you would have thought it was a bird chirping. I
remember that once, in front of the Hercules Farnese, people formed a
circle to admire him and marvel at him, he was so handsome, was that
child! He had a head such as you see in pictures. I talked in a deep
voice, and I frightened him with my cane, but he knew very well that it
was only to make him laugh. In the morning, when he entered my room, I
grumbled, but he was like the sunlight to me, all the same. One cannot
defend oneself against those brats. They take hold of you, they hold you
fast, they never let you go again. The truth is, that there never was a
cupid like that child. Now, what can you say for your Lafayettes, your
Benjamin Constants, and your Tirecuir de Corcelles who have killed him?
This cannot be allowed to pass in this fashion."

He approached Marius, who still lay livid and motionless, and to whom
the physician had returned, and began once more to wring his hands. The
old man's pallid lips moved as though mechanically, and permitted the
passage of words that were barely audible, like breaths in the death

"Ah! heartless lad! Ah! clubbist! Ah! wretch! Ah! Septembrist!"

Reproaches in the low voice of an agonizing man, addressed to a corpse.

Little by little, as it is always indispensable that internal eruptions
should come to the light, the sequence of words returned, but the
grandfather appeared no longer to have the strength to utter them, his
voice was so weak, and extinct, that it seemed to come from the other
side of an abyss:

"It is all the same to me, I am going to die too, that I am. And
to think that there is not a hussy in Paris who would not have been
delighted to make this wretch happy! A scamp who, instead of amusing
himself and enjoying life, went off to fight and get himself shot down
like a brute! And for whom? Why? For the Republic! Instead of going to
dance at the Chaumiere, as it is the duty of young folks to do! What's
the use of being twenty years old? The Republic, a cursed pretty folly!
Poor mothers, beget fine boys, do! Come, he is dead. That will make two
funerals under the same carriage gate. So you have got yourself arranged
like this for the sake of General Lamarque's handsome eyes! What had
that General Lamarque done to you? A slasher! A chatter-box! To get
oneself killed for a dead man! If that isn't enough to drive any one
mad! Just think of it! At twenty! And without so much as turning his
head to see whether he was not leaving something behind him! That's the
way poor, good old fellows are forced to die alone, now-adays. Perish
in your corner, owl! Well, after all, so much the better, that is what
I was hoping for, this will kill me on the spot. I am too old, I am
a hundred years old, I am a hundred thousand years old, I ought, by
rights, to have been dead long ago. This blow puts an end to it. So all
is over, what happiness! What is the good of making him inhale ammonia
and all that parcel of drugs? You are wasting your trouble, you fool of
a doctor! Come, he's dead, completely dead. I know all about it, I
am dead myself too. He hasn't done things by half. Yes, this age is
infamous, infamous and that's what I think of you, of your ideas, of
your systems, of your masters, of your oracles, of your doctors, of your
scape-graces of writers, of your rascally philosophers, and of all the
revolutions which, for the last sixty years, have been frightening
the flocks of crows in the Tuileries! But you were pitiless in getting
yourself killed like this, I shall not even grieve over your death, do
you understand, you assassin?"

At that moment, Marius slowly opened his eyes, and his glance, still
dimmed by lethargic wonder, rested on M. Gillenormand.

"Marius!" cried the old man. "Marius! My little Marius! my child! my
well-beloved son! You open your eyes, you gaze upon me, you are alive,

And he fell fainting.



Javert passed slowly down the Rue de l'Homme Arme.

He walked with drooping head for the first time in his life, and
likewise, for the first time in his life, with his hands behind his

Up to that day, Javert had borrowed from Napoleon's attitudes, only that
which is expressive of resolution, with arms folded across the chest;
that which is expressive of uncertainty--with the hands behind the
back--had been unknown to him. Now, a change had taken place; his whole
person, slow and sombre, was stamped with anxiety.

He plunged into the silent streets.

Nevertheless, he followed one given direction.

He took the shortest cut to the Seine, reached the Quai des Ormes,
skirted the quay, passed the Greve, and halted at some distance from
the post of the Place du Chatelet, at the angle of the Pont Notre-Dame.
There, between the Notre-Dame and the Pont au Change on the one hand,
and the Quai de la Megisserie and the Quai aux Fleurs on the other, the
Seine forms a sort of square lake, traversed by a rapid.

This point of the Seine is dreaded by mariners. Nothing is more
dangerous than this rapid, hemmed in, at that epoch, and irritated by
the piles of the mill on the bridge, now demolished. The two bridges,
situated thus close together, augment the peril; the water hurries in
formidable wise through the arches. It rolls in vast and terrible waves;
it accumulates and piles up there; the flood attacks the piles of the
bridges as though in an effort to pluck them up with great liquid ropes.
Men who fall in there never re-appear; the best of swimmers are drowned

Javert leaned both elbows on the parapet, his chin resting in both
hands, and, while his nails were mechanically twined in the abundance of
his whiskers, he meditated.

A novelty, a revolution, a catastrophe had just taken place in the
depths of his being; and he had something upon which to examine himself.

Javert was undergoing horrible suffering.

For several hours, Javert had ceased to be simple. He was troubled;
that brain, so limpid in its blindness, had lost its transparency; that
crystal was clouded. Javert felt duty divided within his conscience, and
he could not conceal the fact from himself. When he had so unexpectedly
encountered Jean Valjean on the banks of the Seine, there had been in
him something of the wolf which regains his grip on his prey, and of the
dog who finds his master again.

He beheld before him two paths, both equally straight, but he beheld
two; and that terrified him; him, who had never in all his life known
more than one straight line. And, the poignant anguish lay in this, that
the two paths were contrary to each other. One of these straight lines
excluded the other. Which of the two was the true one?

His situation was indescribable.

To owe his life to a malefactor, to accept that debt and to repay it; to
be, in spite of himself, on a level with a fugitive from justice, and to
repay his service with another service; to allow it to be said to him,
"Go," and to say to the latter in his turn: "Be free"; to sacrifice to
personal motives duty, that general obligation, and to be conscious,
in those personal motives, of something that was also general, and,
perchance, superior, to betray society in order to remain true to his
conscience; that all these absurdities should be realized and should
accumulate upon him,--this was what overwhelmed him.

One thing had amazed him,--this was that Jean Valjean should have done
him a favor, and one thing petrified him,--that he, Javert, should have
done Jean Valjean a favor.

Where did he stand? He sought to comprehend his position, and could no
longer find his bearings.

What was he to do now? To deliver up Jean Valjean was bad; to leave Jean
Valjean at liberty was bad. In the first case, the man of authority fell
lower than the man of the galleys, in the second, a convict rose above
the law, and set his foot upon it. In both cases, dishonor for him,
Javert. There was disgrace in any resolution at which he might arrive.
Destiny has some extremities which rise perpendicularly from the
impossible, and beyond which life is no longer anything but a precipice.
Javert had reached one of those extremities.

One of his anxieties consisted in being constrained to think. The very
violence of all these conflicting emotions forced him to it. Thought was
something to which he was unused, and which was peculiarly painful.

In thought there always exists a certain amount of internal rebellion;
and it irritated him to have that within him.

Thought on any subject whatever, outside of the restricted circle of his
functions, would have been for him in any case useless and a fatigue;
thought on the day which had just passed was a torture. Nevertheless, it
was indispensable that he should take a look into his conscience, after
such shocks, and render to himself an account of himself.

What he had just done made him shudder. He, Javert, had seen fit to
decide, contrary to all the regulations of the police, contrary to the
whole social and judicial organization, contrary to the entire code,
upon a release; this had suited him; he had substituted his own affairs
for the affairs of the public; was not this unjustifiable? Every time
that he brought himself face to face with this deed without a name which
he had committed, he trembled from head to foot. Upon what should he
decide? One sole resource remained to him; to return in all haste to
the Rue de l'Homme Arme, and commit Jean Valjean to prison. It was clear
that that was what he ought to do. He could not.

Something barred his way in that direction.

Something? What? Is there in the world, anything outside of the
tribunals, executory sentences, the police and the authorities? Javert
was overwhelmed.

A galley-slave sacred! A convict who could not be touched by the law!
And that the deed of Javert!

Was it not a fearful thing that Javert and Jean Valjean, the man made to
proceed with vigor, the man made to submit,--that these two men who were
both the things of the law, should have come to such a pass, that both
of them had set themselves above the law? What then! such enormities
were to happen and no one was to be punished! Jean Valjean, stronger
than the whole social order, was to remain at liberty, and he, Javert,
was to go on eating the government's bread!

His revery gradually became terrible.

He might, athwart this revery, have also reproached himself on
the subject of that insurgent who had been taken to the Rue des
Filles-du-Calvaire; but he never even thought of that. The lesser fault
was lost in the greater. Besides, that insurgent was, obviously, a dead
man, and, legally, death puts an end to pursuit.

Jean Valjean was the load which weighed upon his spirit.

Jean Valjean disconcerted him. All the axioms which had served him as
points of support all his life long, had crumbled away in the presence
of this man. Jean Valjean's generosity towards him, Javert, crushed him.
Other facts which he now recalled, and which he had formerly treated
as lies and folly, now recurred to him as realities. M. Madeleine
re-appeared behind Jean Valjean, and the two figures were superposed in
such fashion that they now formed but one, which was venerable. Javert
felt that something terrible was penetrating his soul--admiration for
a convict. Respect for a galley-slave--is that a possible thing? He
shuddered at it, yet could not escape from it. In vain did he struggle,
he was reduced to confess, in his inmost heart, the sublimity of that
wretch. This was odious.

A benevolent malefactor, merciful, gentle, helpful, clement, a convict,
returning good for evil, giving back pardon for hatred, preferring pity
to vengeance, preferring to ruin himself rather than to ruin his enemy,
saving him who had smitten him, kneeling on the heights of virtue, more
nearly akin to an angel than to a man. Javert was constrained to admit
to himself that this monster existed.

Things could not go on in this manner.

Certainly, and we insist upon this point, he had not yielded without
resistance to that monster, to that infamous angel, to that hideous
hero, who enraged almost as much as he amazed him. Twenty times, as he
sat in that carriage face to face with Jean Valjean, the legal tiger had
roared within him. A score of times he had been tempted to fling himself
upon Jean Valjean, to seize him and devour him, that is to say, to
arrest him. What more simple, in fact? To cry out at the first post that
they passed:--"Here is a fugitive from justice, who has broken his ban!"
to summon the gendarmes and say to them: "This man is yours!" then to
go off, leaving that condemned man there, to ignore the rest and not to
meddle further in the matter. This man is forever a prisoner of the law;
the law may do with him what it will. What could be more just? Javert
had said all this to himself; he had wished to pass beyond, to act, to
apprehend the man, and then, as at present, he had not been able to do
it; and every time that his arm had been raised convulsively towards
Jean Valjean's collar, his hand had fallen back again, as beneath an
enormous weight, and in the depths of his thought he had heard a voice,
a strange voice crying to him:--"It is well. Deliver up your savior.
Then have the basin of Pontius Pilate brought and wash your claws."

Then his reflections reverted to himself and beside Jean Valjean
glorified he beheld himself, Javert, degraded.

A convict was his benefactor!

But then, why had he permitted that man to leave him alive? He had
the right to be killed in that barricade. He should have asserted that
right. It would have been better to summon the other insurgents to his
succor against Jean Valjean, to get himself shot by force.

His supreme anguish was the loss of certainty. He felt that he had been
uprooted. The code was no longer anything more than a stump in his hand.
He had to deal with scruples of an unknown species. There had taken
place within him a sentimental revelation entirely distinct from legal
affirmation, his only standard of measurement hitherto. To remain in his
former uprightness did not suffice. A whole order of unexpected facts
had cropped up and subjugated him. A whole new world was dawning on
his soul: kindness accepted and repaid, devotion, mercy, indulgence,
violences committed by pity on austerity, respect for persons, no more
definitive condemnation, no more conviction, the possibility of a tear
in the eye of the law, no one knows what justice according to God,
running in inverse sense to justice according to men. He perceived amid
the shadows the terrible rising of an unknown moral sun; it horrified
and dazzled him. An owl forced to the gaze of an eagle.

He said to himself that it was true that there were exceptional cases,
that authority might be put out of countenance, that the rule might
be inadequate in the presence of a fact, that everything could not
be framed within the text of the code, that the unforeseen compelled
obedience, that the virtue of a convict might set a snare for the virtue
of the functionary, that destiny did indulge in such ambushes, and
he reflected with despair that he himself had not even been fortified
against a surprise.

He was forced to acknowledge that goodness did exist. This convict had
been good. And he himself, unprecedented circumstance, had just been
good also. So he was becoming depraved.

He found that he was a coward. He conceived a horror of himself.

Javert's ideal, was not to be human, to be grand, to be sublime; it was
to be irreproachable.

Now, he had just failed in this.

How had he come to such a pass? How had all this happened? He could not
have told himself. He clasped his head in both hands, but in spite of
all that he could do, he could not contrive to explain it to himself.

He had certainly always entertained the intention of restoring Jean
Valjean to the law of which Jean Valjean was the captive, and of which
he, Javert, was the slave. Not for a single instant while he held him
in his grasp had he confessed to himself that he entertained the idea of
releasing him. It was, in some sort, without his consciousness, that his
hand had relaxed and had let him go free.

All sorts of interrogation points flashed before his eyes. He put
questions to himself, and made replies to himself, and his replies
frightened him. He asked himself: "What has that convict done, that
desperate fellow, whom I have pursued even to persecution, and who has
had me under his foot, and who could have avenged himself, and who
owed it both to his rancor and to his safety, in leaving me my life, in
showing mercy upon me? His duty? No. Something more. And I in showing
mercy upon him in my turn--what have I done? My duty? No. Something
more. So there is something beyond duty?" Here he took fright; his
balance became disjointed; one of the scales fell into the abyss, the
other rose heavenward, and Javert was no less terrified by the one which
was on high than by the one which was below. Without being in the least
in the world what is called Voltairian or a philosopher, or incredulous,
being, on the contrary, respectful by instinct, towards the established
church, he knew it only as an august fragment of the social whole; order
was his dogma, and sufficed for him; ever since he had attained to man's
estate and the rank of a functionary, he had centred nearly all his
religion in the police. Being,--and here we employ words without the
least irony and in their most serious acceptation, being, as we have
said, a spy as other men are priests. He had a superior, M. Gisquet; up
to that day he had never dreamed of that other superior, God.

This new chief, God, he became unexpectedly conscious of, and he felt
embarrassed by him. This unforeseen presence threw him off his bearings;
he did not know what to do with this superior, he, who was not ignorant
of the fact that the subordinate is bound always to bow, that he must
not disobey, nor find fault, nor discuss, and that, in the presence of a
superior who amazes him too greatly, the inferior has no other resource
than that of handing in his resignation.

But how was he to set about handing in his resignation to God?

However things might stand,--and it was to this point that he reverted
constantly,--one fact dominated everything else for him, and that was,
that he had just committed a terrible infraction of the law. He had just
shut his eyes on an escaped convict who had broken his ban. He had just
set a galley-slave at large. He had just robbed the laws of a man who
belonged to them. That was what he had done. He no longer understood
himself. The very reasons for his action escaped him; only their vertigo
was left with him. Up to that moment he had lived with that blind faith
which gloomy probity engenders. This faith had quitted him, this probity
had deserted him. All that he had believed in melted away. Truths which
he did not wish to recognize were besieging him, inexorably. Henceforth,
he must be a different man. He was suffering from the strange pains of
a conscience abruptly operated on for the cataract. He saw that which
it was repugnant to him to behold. He felt himself emptied, useless, put
out of joint with his past life, turned out, dissolved. Authority was
dead within him. He had no longer any reason for existing.

A terrible situation! to be touched.

To be granite and to doubt! to be the statue of Chastisement cast in one
piece in the mould of the law, and suddenly to become aware of the fact
that one cherishes beneath one's breast of bronze something absurd
and disobedient which almost resembles a heart! To come to the pass of
returning good for good, although one has said to oneself up to that day
that that good is evil! to be the watch-dog, and to lick the intruder's
hand! to be ice and melt! to be the pincers and to turn into a hand!
to suddenly feel one's fingers opening! to relax one's grip,--what a
terrible thing!

The man-projectile no longer acquainted with his route and retreating!

To be obliged to confess this to oneself: infallibility is not
infallible, there may exist error in the dogma, all has not been said
when a code speaks, society is not perfect, authority is complicated
with vacillation, a crack is possible in the immutable, judges are but
men, the law may err, tribunals may make a mistake! to behold a rift in
the immense blue pane of the firmament!

That which was passing in Javert was the Fampoux of a rectilinear
conscience, the derailment of a soul, the crushing of a probity which
had been irresistibly launched in a straight line and was breaking
against God. It certainly was singular that the stoker of order, that
the engineer of authority, mounted on the blind iron horse with its
rigid road, could be unseated by a flash of light! that the immovable,
the direct, the correct, the geometrical, the passive, the perfect,
could bend! that there should exist for the locomotive a road to

God, always within man, and refractory, He, the true conscience, to the
false; a prohibition to the spark to die out; an order to the ray to
remember the sun; an injunction to the soul to recognize the veritable
absolute when confronted with the fictitious absolute, humanity
which cannot be lost; the human heart indestructible; that splendid
phenomenon, the finest, perhaps, of all our interior marvels, did Javert
understand this? Did Javert penetrate it? Did Javert account for it
to himself? Evidently he did not. But beneath the pressure of that
incontestable incomprehensibility he felt his brain bursting.

He was less the man transfigured than the victim of this prodigy. In all
this he perceived only the tremendous difficulty of existence. It seemed
to him that, henceforth, his respiration was repressed forever. He was
not accustomed to having something unknown hanging over his head.

Up to this point, everything above him had been, to his gaze, merely a
smooth, limpid and simple surface; there was nothing incomprehensible,
nothing obscure; nothing that was not defined, regularly disposed,
linked, precise, circumscribed, exact, limited, closed, fully provided
for; authority was a plane surface; there was no fall in it, no
dizziness in its presence. Javert had never beheld the unknown except
from below. The irregular, the unforeseen, the disordered opening of
chaos, the possible slip over a precipice--this was the work of the
lower regions, of rebels, of the wicked, of wretches. Now Javert threw
himself back, and he was suddenly terrified by this unprecedented
apparition: a gulf on high.

What! one was dismantled from top to bottom! one was disconcerted,
absolutely! In what could one trust! That which had been agreed upon was
giving way! What! the defect in society's armor could be discovered by
a magnanimous wretch! What! an honest servitor of the law could suddenly
find himself caught between two crimes--the crime of allowing a man to
escape and the crime of arresting him! everything was not settled in
the orders given by the State to the functionary! There might be
blind alleys in duty! What,--all this was real! was it true that an
ex-ruffian, weighed down with convictions, could rise erect and end by
being in the right? Was this credible? were there cases in which the law
should retire before transfigured crime, and stammer its excuses?--Yes,
that was the state of the case! and Javert saw it! and Javert had
touched it! and not only could he not deny it, but he had taken part
in it. These were realities. It was abominable that actual facts could
reach such deformity. If facts did their duty, they would confine
themselves to being proofs of the law; facts--it is God who sends them.
Was anarchy, then, on the point of now descending from on high?

Thus,--and in the exaggeration of anguish, and the optical illusion
of consternation, all that might have corrected and restrained this
impression was effaced, and society, and the human race, and the
universe were, henceforth, summed up in his eyes, in one simple and
terrible feature,--thus the penal laws, the thing judged, the force due
to legislation, the decrees of the sovereign courts, the magistracy,
the government, prevention, repression, official cruelty, wisdom, legal
infallibility, the principle of authority, all the dogmas on which rest
political and civil security, sovereignty, justice, public truth, all
this was rubbish, a shapeless mass, chaos; he himself, Javert, the spy
of order, incorruptibility in the service of the police, the bull-dog
providence of society, vanquished and hurled to earth; and, erect, at
the summit of all that ruin, a man with a green cap on his head and a
halo round his brow; this was the astounding confusion to which he had
come; this was the fearful vision which he bore within his soul.

Was this to be endured? No.

A violent state, if ever such existed. There were only two ways of
escaping from it. One was to go resolutely to Jean Valjean, and restore
to his cell the convict from the galleys. The other . . .

Javert quitted the parapet, and, with head erect this time, betook
himself, with a firm tread, towards the station-house indicated by a
lantern at one of the corners of the Place du Chatelet.

On arriving there, he saw through the window a sergeant of police, and
he entered. Policemen recognize each other by the very way in which they
open the door of a station-house. Javert mentioned his name, showed his
card to the sergeant, and seated himself at the table of the post on
which a candle was burning. On a table lay a pen, a leaden inkstand and
paper, provided in the event of possible reports and the orders of the
night patrols. This table, still completed by its straw-seated chair,
is an institution; it exists in all police stations; it is invariably
ornamented with a box-wood saucer filled with sawdust and a wafer box
of cardboard filled with red wafers, and it forms the lowest stage of
official style. It is there that the literature of the State has its

Javert took a pen and a sheet of paper, and began to write. This is what
he wrote:


 "In the first place:  I beg Monsieur le Prefet to cast his eyes
 on this.

 "Secondly:  prisoners, on arriving after examination, take off
 their shoes and stand barefoot on the flagstones while they are
 being searched.  Many of them cough on their return to prison.
 This entails hospital expenses.

 "Thirdly:  the mode of keeping track of a man with relays of police
 agents from distance to distance, is good, but, on important occasions,
 it is requisite that at least two agents should never lose sight
 of each other, so that, in case one agent should, for any cause,
 grow weak in his service, the other may supervise him and take
 his place.

 "Fourthly:  it is inexplicable why the special regulation of the prison
 of the Madelonettes interdicts the prisoner from having a chair,
 even by paying for it.

 "Fifthly:  in the Madelonettes there are only two bars to the canteen,
 so that the canteen woman can touch the prisoners with her hand.

 "Sixthly:  the prisoners called barkers, who summon the other
 prisoners to the parlor, force the prisoner to pay them two sous
 to call his name distinctly.  This is a theft.

 "Seventhly:  for a broken thread ten sous are withheld in the
 weaving shop; this is an abuse of the contractor, since the cloth
 is none the worse for it.

 "Eighthly:  it is annoying for visitors to La Force to be
 obliged to traverse the boys' court in order to reach the parlor
 of Sainte-Marie-l'Egyptienne.

 "Ninthly:  it is a fact that any day gendarmes can be overheard
 relating in the court-yard of the prefecture the interrogations put
 by the magistrates to prisoners.  For a gendarme, who should be
 sworn to secrecy, to repeat what he has heard in the examination
 room is a grave disorder.

 "Tenthly:  Mme. Henry is an honest woman; her canteen is very neat;
 but it is bad to have a woman keep the wicket to the mouse-trap
 of the secret cells.  This is unworthy of the Conciergerie of a
 great civilization."

 Javert wrote these lines in his calmest and most correct chirography,
 not omitting a single comma, and making the paper screech under his pen.
 Below the last line he signed:

                                    "Inspector of the 1st class.
       "The Post of the Place du Chatelet.
                 "June 7th, 1832, about one o'clock in the morning."

Javert dried the fresh ink on the paper, folded it like a letter, sealed
it, wrote on the back: Note for the administration, left it on the
table, and quitted the post. The glazed and grated door fell to behind

Again he traversed the Place du Chatelet diagonally, regained the quay,
and returned with automatic precision to the very point which he had
abandoned a quarter of an hour previously, leaned on his elbows and
found himself again in the same attitude on the same paving-stone of the
parapet. He did not appear to have stirred.

The darkness was complete. It was the sepulchral moment which follows
midnight. A ceiling of clouds concealed the stars. Not a single light
burned in the houses of the city; no one was passing; all of the streets
and quays which could be seen were deserted; Notre-Dame and the towers
of the Court-House seemed features of the night. A street lantern
reddened the margin of the quay. The outlines of the bridges lay
shapeless in the mist one behind the other. Recent rains had swollen the

The spot where Javert was leaning was, it will be remembered, situated
precisely over the rapids of the Seine, perpendicularly above that
formidable spiral of whirlpools which loose and knot themselves again
like an endless screw.

Javert bent his head and gazed. All was black. Nothing was to be
distinguished. A sound of foam was audible; but the river could not be
seen. At moments, in that dizzy depth, a gleam of light appeared, and
undulated vaguely, water possessing the power of taking light, no one
knows whence, and converting it into a snake. The light vanished, and
all became indistinct once more. Immensity seemed thrown open there.
What lay below was not water, it was a gulf. The wall of the quay,
abrupt, confused, mingled with the vapors, instantly concealed from
sight, produced the effect of an escarpment of the infinite. Nothing was
to be seen, but the hostile chill of the water and the stale odor of
the wet stones could be felt. A fierce breath rose from this abyss. The
flood in the river, divined rather than perceived, the tragic whispering
of the waves, the melancholy vastness of the arches of the bridge, the
imaginable fall into that gloomy void, into all that shadow was full of

Javert remained motionless for several minutes, gazing at this opening
of shadow; he considered the invisible with a fixity that resembled
attention. The water roared. All at once he took off his hat and placed
it on the edge of the quay. A moment later, a tall black figure, which
a belated passer-by in the distance might have taken for a phantom,
appeared erect upon the parapet of the quay, bent over towards the
Seine, then drew itself up again, and fell straight down into the
shadows; a dull splash followed; and the shadow alone was in the secret
of the convulsions of that obscure form which had disappeared beneath
the water.



Some time after the events which we have just recorded, Sieur
Boulatruelle experienced a lively emotion.

Sieur Boulatruelle was that road-mender of Montfermeil whom the reader
has already seen in the gloomy parts of this book.

Boulatruelle, as the reader may, perchance, recall, was a man who
was occupied with divers and troublesome matters. He broke stones and
damaged travellers on the highway.

Road-mender and thief as he was, he cherished one dream; he believed in
the treasures buried in the forest of Montfermeil. He hoped some day to
find the money in the earth at the foot of a tree; in the meanwhile, he
lived to search the pockets of passers-by.

Nevertheless, for an instant, he was prudent. He had just escaped
neatly. He had been, as the reader is aware, picked up in Jondrette's
garret in company with the other ruffians. Utility of a vice: his
drunkenness had been his salvation. The authorities had never been able
to make out whether he had been there in the quality of a robber or a
man who had been robbed. An order of nolle prosequi, founded on his well
authenticated state of intoxication on the evening of the ambush, had
set him at liberty. He had taken to his heels. He had returned to his
road from Gagny to Lagny, to make, under administrative supervision,
broken stone for the good of the state, with downcast mien, in a very
pensive mood, his ardor for theft somewhat cooled; but he was addicted
none the less tenderly to the wine which had recently saved him.

As for the lively emotion which he had experienced a short time after
his return to his road-mender's turf-thatched cot, here it is:

One morning, Boulatruelle, while on his way as was his wont, to his
work, and possibly also to his ambush, a little before daybreak caught
sight, through the branches of the trees, of a man, whose back alone
he saw, but the shape of whose shoulders, as it seemed to him at that
distance and in the early dusk, was not entirely unfamiliar to him.
Boulatruelle, although intoxicated, had a correct and lucid memory, a
defensive arm that is indispensable to any one who is at all in conflict
with legal order.

"Where the deuce have I seen something like that man yonder?" he said
to himself. But he could make himself no answer, except that the man
resembled some one of whom his memory preserved a confused trace.

However, apart from the identity which he could not manage to catch,
Boulatruelle put things together and made calculations. This man did
not belong in the country-side. He had just arrived there. On foot,
evidently. No public conveyance passes through Montfermeil at that hour.
He had walked all night. Whence came he? Not from a very great distance;
for he had neither haversack, nor bundle. From Paris, no doubt. Why was
he in these woods? why was he there at such an hour? what had he come
there for?

Boulatruelle thought of the treasure. By dint of ransacking his memory,
he recalled in a vague way that he had already, many years before, had
a similar alarm in connection with a man who produced on him the effect
that he might well be this very individual.

"By the deuce," said Boulatruelle, "I'll find him again. I'll discover
the parish of that parishioner. This prowler of Patron-Minette has a
reason, and I'll know it. People can't have secrets in my forest if I
don't have a finger in the pie."

He took his pick-axe which was very sharply pointed.

"There now," he grumbled, "is something that will search the earth and a

And, as one knots one thread to another thread, he took up the line of
march at his best pace in the direction which the man must follow, and
set out across the thickets.

When he had compassed a hundred strides, the day, which was already
beginning to break, came to his assistance. Footprints stamped in the
sand, weeds trodden down here and there, heather crushed, young branches
in the brushwood bent and in the act of straightening themselves up
again with the graceful deliberation of the arms of a pretty woman who
stretches herself when she wakes, pointed out to him a sort of track. He
followed it, then lost it. Time was flying. He plunged deeper into the
woods and came to a sort of eminence. An early huntsman who was passing
in the distance along a path, whistling the air of Guillery, suggested
to him the idea of climbing a tree. Old as he was, he was agile. There
stood close at hand a beech-tree of great size, worthy of Tityrus and of
Boulatruelle. Boulatruelle ascended the beech as high as he was able.

The idea was a good one. On scrutinizing the solitary waste on the side
where the forest is thoroughly entangled and wild, Boulatruelle suddenly
caught sight of his man.

Hardly had he got his eye upon him when he lost sight of him.

The man entered, or rather, glided into, an open glade, at a
considerable distance, masked by large trees, but with which
Boulatruelle was perfectly familiar, on account of having noticed, near
a large pile of porous stones, an ailing chestnut-tree bandaged with
a sheet of zinc nailed directly upon the bark. This glade was the one
which was formerly called the Blaru-bottom. The heap of stones, destined
for no one knows what employment, which was visible there thirty years
ago, is doubtless still there. Nothing equals a heap of stones in
longevity, unless it is a board fence. They are temporary expedients.
What a reason for lasting!

Boulatruelle, with the rapidity of joy, dropped rather than descended
from the tree. The lair was unearthed, the question now was to seize the
beast. That famous treasure of his dreams was probably there.

It was no small matter to reach that glade. By the beaten paths, which
indulge in a thousand teasing zigzags, it required a good quarter of an
hour. In a bee-line, through the underbrush, which is peculiarly dense,
very thorny, and very aggressive in that locality, a full half hour was
necessary. Boulatruelle committed the error of not comprehending this.
He believed in the straight line; a respectable optical illusion which
ruins many a man. The thicket, bristling as it was, struck him as the
best road.

"Let's take to the wolves' Rue de Rivoli," said he.

Boulatruelle, accustomed to taking crooked courses, was on this occasion
guilty of the fault of going straight.

He flung himself resolutely into the tangle of undergrowth.

He had to deal with holly bushes, nettles, hawthorns, eglantines,
thistles, and very irascible brambles. He was much lacerated.

At the bottom of the ravine he found water which he was obliged to

At last he reached the Blaru-bottom, after the lapse of forty minutes,
sweating, soaked, breathless, scratched, and ferocious.

There was no one in the glade. Boulatruelle rushed to the heap of
stones. It was in its place. It had not been carried off.

As for the man, he had vanished in the forest. He had made his escape.
Where? in what direction? into what thicket? Impossible to guess.

And, heartrending to say, there, behind the pile of stones, in front of
the tree with the sheet of zinc, was freshly turned earth, a pick-axe,
abandoned or forgotten, and a hole.

The hole was empty.

"Thief!" shrieked Boulatruelle, shaking his fist at the horizon.


For a long time, Marius was neither dead nor alive. For many weeks he
lay in a fever accompanied by delirium, and by tolerably grave cerebral
symptoms, caused more by the shocks of the wounds on the head than by
the wounds themselves.

He repeated Cosette's name for whole nights in the melancholy loquacity
of fever, and with the sombre obstinacy of agony. The extent of some of
the lesions presented a serious danger, the suppuration of large wounds
being always liable to become re-absorbed, and consequently, to kill
the sick man, under certain atmospheric conditions; at every change of
weather, at the slightest storm, the physician was uneasy.

"Above all things," he repeated, "let the wounded man be subjected to no
emotion." The dressing of the wounds was complicated and difficult,
the fixation of apparatus and bandages by cerecloths not having been
invented as yet, at that epoch. Nicolette used up a sheet "as big as the
ceiling," as she put it, for lint. It was not without difficulty
that the chloruretted lotions and the nitrate of silver overcame the
gangrene. As long as there was any danger, M. Gillenormand, seated in
despair at his grandson's pillow, was, like Marius, neither alive nor

Every day, sometimes twice a day, a very well dressed gentleman with
white hair,--such was the description given by the porter,--came to
inquire about the wounded man, and left a large package of lint for the

Finally, on the 7th of September, four months to a day, after the
sorrowful night when he had been brought back to his grandfather in a
dying condition, the doctor declared that he would answer for Marius.
Convalescence began. But Marius was forced to remain for two months more
stretched out on a long chair, on account of the results called up by
the fracture of his collar-bone. There always is a last wound like that
which will not close, and which prolongs the dressings indefinitely, to
the great annoyance of the sick person.

However, this long illness and this long convalescence saved him
from all pursuit. In France, there is no wrath, not even of a public
character, which six months will not extinguish. Revolts, in the present
state of society, are so much the fault of every one, that they are
followed by a certain necessity of shutting the eyes.

Let us add, that the inexcusable Gisquet order, which enjoined doctors
to lodge information against the wounded, having outraged public
opinion, and not opinion alone, but the King first of all, the wounded
were covered and protected by this indignation; and, with the exception
of those who had been made prisoners in the very act of combat, the
councils of war did not dare to trouble any one. So Marius was left in

M. Gillenormand first passed through all manner of anguish, and then
through every form of ecstasy. It was found difficult to prevent his
passing every night beside the wounded man; he had his big arm-chair
carried to Marius' bedside; he required his daughter to take the
finest linen in the house for compresses and bandages. Mademoiselle
Gillenormand, like a sage and elderly person, contrived to spare the
fine linen, while allowing the grandfather to think that he was obeyed.
M. Gillenormand would not permit any one to explain to him, that for the
preparation of lint batiste is not nearly so good as coarse linen,
nor new linen as old linen. He was present at all the dressings of the
wounds from which Mademoiselle Gillenormand modestly absented herself.
When the dead flesh was cut away with scissors, he said: "Aie! aie!"
Nothing was more touching than to see him with his gentle, senile palsy,
offer the wounded man a cup of his cooling-draught. He overwhelmed the
doctor with questions. He did not observe that he asked the same ones
over and over again.

On the day when the doctor announced to him that Marius was out of
danger, the good man was in a delirium. He made his porter a present of
three louis. That evening, on his return to his own chamber, he danced
a gavotte, using his thumb and forefinger as castanets, and he sang the
following song:

      "Jeanne est nee a Fougere     "Amour, tu vis en elle;
       Vrai nid d'une bergere;       Car c'est dans sa prunelle
       J'adore son jupon,            Que tu mets ton carquois.
           Fripon.                       Narquois!

                "Moi, je la chante, et j'aime,
                 Plus que Diane meme,
                 Jeanne et ses durs tetons

"Love, thou dwellest in her; For 'tis in her eyes that thou placest thy
quiver, sly scamp!

"As for me, I sing her, and I love, more than Diana herself, Jeanne and
her firm Breton breasts."

Then he knelt upon a chair, and Basque, who was watching him through the
half-open door, made sure that he was praying.

Up to that time, he had not believed in God.

At each succeeding phase of improvement, which became more and more
pronounced, the grandfather raved. He executed a multitude of mechanical
actions full of joy; he ascended and descended the stairs, without
knowing why. A pretty female neighbor was amazed one morning at
receiving a big bouquet; it was M. Gillenormand who had sent it to
her. The husband made a jealous scene. M. Gillenormand tried to draw
Nicolette upon his knees. He called Marius, "M. le Baron." He shouted:
"Long live the Republic!"

Every moment, he kept asking the doctor: "Is he no longer in danger?"
He gazed upon Marius with the eyes of a grandmother. He brooded over him
while he ate. He no longer knew himself, he no longer rendered himself
an account of himself. Marius was the master of the house, there was
abdication in his joy, he was the grandson of his grandson.

In the state of joy in which he then was, he was the most venerable of
children. In his fear lest he might fatigue or annoy the convalescent,
he stepped behind him to smile. He was content, joyous, delighted,
charming, young. His white locks added a gentle majesty to the gay
radiance of his visage. When grace is mingled with wrinkles, it is
adorable. There is an indescribable aurora in beaming old age.

As for Marius, as he allowed them to dress his wounds and care for him,
he had but one fixed idea: Cosette.

After the fever and delirium had left him, he did not again pronounce
her name, and it might have been supposed that he no longer thought of
her. He held his peace, precisely because his soul was there.

He did not know what had become of Cosette; the whole affair of the
Rue de la Chanvrerie was like a cloud in his memory; shadows that were
almost indistinct, floated through his mind, Eponine, Gavroche, Mabeuf,
the Thenardiers, all his friends gloomily intermingled with the smoke
of the barricade; the strange passage of M. Fauchelevent through that
adventure produced on him the effect of a puzzle in a tempest; he
understood nothing connected with his own life, he did not know how nor
by whom he had been saved, and no one of those around him knew this; all
that they had been able to tell him was, that he had been brought home
at night in a hackney-coach, to the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire; past,
present, future were nothing more to him than the mist of a vague idea;
but in that fog there was one immovable point, one clear and precise
outline, something made of granite, a resolution, a will; to find
Cosette once more. For him, the idea of life was not distinct from the
idea of Cosette. He had decreed in his heart that he would not accept
the one without the other, and he was immovably resolved to exact of
any person whatever, who should desire to force him to live,--from his
grandfather, from fate, from hell,--the restitution of his vanished

He did not conceal from himself the fact that obstacles existed.

Let us here emphasize one detail, he was not won over and was but little
softened by all the solicitude and tenderness of his grandfather. In
the first place, he was not in the secret; then, in his reveries of
an invalid, which were still feverish, possibly, he distrusted this
tenderness as a strange and novel thing, which had for its object his
conquest. He remained cold. The grandfather absolutely wasted his poor
old smile. Marius said to himself that it was all right so long as he,
Marius, did not speak, and let things take their course; but that when
it became a question of Cosette, he would find another face, and that
his grandfather's true attitude would be unmasked. Then there would
be an unpleasant scene; a recrudescence of family questions, a
confrontation of positions, every sort of sarcasm and all manner of
objections at one and the same time, Fauchelevent, Coupelevent, fortune,
poverty, a stone about his neck, the future. Violent resistance;
conclusion: a refusal. Marius stiffened himself in advance.

And then, in proportion as he regained life, the old ulcers of his
memory opened once more, he reflected again on the past, Colonel
Pontmercy placed himself once more between M. Gillenormand and him,
Marius, he told himself that he had no true kindness to expect from
a person who had been so unjust and so hard to his father. And
with health, there returned to him a sort of harshness towards his
grandfather. The old man was gently pained by this. M. Gillenormand,
without however allowing it to appear, observed that Marius, ever since
the latter had been brought back to him and had regained consciousness,
had not once called him father. It is true that he did not say
"monsieur" to him; but he contrived not to say either the one or the
other, by means of a certain way of turning his phrases. Obviously, a
crisis was approaching.

As almost always happens in such cases, Marius skirmished before giving
battle, by way of proving himself. This is called "feeling the ground."
One morning it came to pass that M. Gillenormand spoke slightingly of
the Convention, apropos of a newspaper which had fallen into his
hands, and gave vent to a Royalist harangue on Danton, Saint-Juste and
Robespierre.--"The men of '93 were giants," said Marius with severity.
The old man held his peace, and uttered not a sound during the remainder
of that day.

Marius, who had always present to his mind the inflexible grandfather of
his early years, interpreted this silence as a profound concentration
of wrath, augured from it a hot conflict, and augmented his preparations
for the fray in the inmost recesses of his mind.

He decided that, in case of a refusal, he would tear off his bandages,
dislocate his collar-bone, that he would lay bare all the wounds which
he had left, and would reject all food. His wounds were his munitions of
war. He would have Cosette or die.

He awaited the propitious moment with the crafty patience of the sick.

That moment arrived.


One day, M. Gillenormand, while his daughter was putting in order the
phials and cups on the marble of the commode, bent over Marius and said
to him in his tenderest accents: "Look here, my little Marius, if I were
in your place, I would eat meat now in preference to fish. A fried sole
is excellent to begin a convalescence with, but a good cutlet is needed
to put a sick man on his feet."

Marius, who had almost entirely recovered his strength, collected
the whole of it, drew himself up into a sitting posture, laid his two
clenched fists on the sheets of his bed, looked his grandfather in the
face, assumed a terrible air, and said:

"This leads me to say something to you."

"What is it?"

"That I wish to marry."

"Agreed," said his grandfather.--And he burst out laughing.

"How agreed?"

"Yes, agreed. You shall have your little girl."

Marius, stunned and overwhelmed with the dazzling shock, trembled in
every limb.

M. Gillenormand went on:

"Yes, you shall have her, that pretty little girl of yours. She comes
every day in the shape of an old gentleman to inquire after you. Ever
since you were wounded, she has passed her time in weeping and making
lint. I have made inquiries. She lives in the Rue de l'Homme Arme, No.
7. Ah! There we have it! Ah! so you want her! Well, you shall have
her. You're caught. You had arranged your little plot, you had said to
yourself:--'I'm going to signify this squarely to my grandfather, to
that mummy of the Regency and of the Directory, to that ancient beau,
to that Dorante turned Geronte; he has indulged in his frivolities also,
that he has, and he has had his love affairs, and his grisettes and his
Cosettes; he has made his rustle, he has had his wings, he has eaten of
the bread of spring; he certainly must remember it.' Ah! you take the
cockchafer by the horns. That's good. I offer you a cutlet and you
answer me: 'By the way, I want to marry.' There's a transition for
you! Ah! you reckoned on a bickering! You do not know that I am an old
coward. What do you say to that? You are vexed? You did not expect to
find your grandfather still more foolish than yourself, you are wasting
the discourse which you meant to bestow upon me, Mr. Lawyer, and that's
vexatious. Well, so much the worse, rage away. I'll do whatever
you wish, and that cuts you short, imbecile! Listen. I have made my
inquiries, I'm cunning too; she is charming, she is discreet, it is not
true about the lancer, she has made heaps of lint, she's a jewel, she
adores you, if you had died, there would have been three of us, her
coffin would have accompanied mine. I have had an idea, ever since you
have been better, of simply planting her at your bedside, but it is only
in romances that young girls are brought to the bedsides of handsome
young wounded men who interest them. It is not done. What would your
aunt have said to it? You were nude three quarters of the time, my good
fellow. Ask Nicolette, who has not left you for a moment, if there was
any possibility of having a woman here. And then, what would the doctor
have said? A pretty girl does not cure a man of fever. In short, it's
all right, let us say no more about it, all's said, all's done, it's all
settled, take her. Such is my ferocity. You see, I perceived that you
did not love me. I said to myself: 'Here now, I have my little Cosette
right under my hand, I'm going to give her to him, he will be obliged
to love me a little then, or he must tell the reason why.' Ah! so you
thought that the old man was going to storm, to put on a big voice,
to shout no, and to lift his cane at all that aurora. Not a bit of it.
Cosette, so be it; love, so be it; I ask nothing better. Pray take the
trouble of getting married, sir. Be happy, my well-beloved child."

That said, the old man burst forth into sobs.

And he seized Marius' head, and pressed it with both arms against his
breast, and both fell to weeping. This is one of the forms of supreme

"Father!" cried Marius.

"Ah, so you love me!" said the old man.

An ineffable moment ensued. They were choking and could not speak.

At length the old man stammered:

"Come! his mouth is unstopped at last. He has said: 'Father' to me."

Marius disengaged his head from his grandfather's arms, and said gently:

"But, father, now that I am quite well, it seems to me that I might see

"Agreed again, you shall see her to-morrow."



"Why not to-day?"

"Well, to-day then. Let it be to-day. You have called me 'father' three
times, and it is worth it. I will attend to it. She shall be brought
hither. Agreed, I tell you. It has already been put into verse. This is
the ending of the elegy of the 'Jeune Malade' by Andre Chenier, by Andre
Chenier whose throat was cut by the ras . . . by the giants of '93."

M. Gillenormand fancied that he detected a faint frown on the part of
Marius, who, in truth, as we must admit, was no longer listening to him,
and who was thinking far more of Cosette than of 1793.

The grandfather, trembling at having so inopportunely introduced Andre
Chenier, resumed precipitately:

"Cut his throat is not the word. The fact is that the great
revolutionary geniuses, who were not malicious, that is incontestable,
who were heroes, pardi! found that Andre Chenier embarrassed them
somewhat, and they had him guillot . . . that is to say, those great
men on the 7th of Thermidor, besought Andre Chenier, in the interests of
public safety, to be so good as to go . . ."

M. Gillenormand, clutched by the throat by his own phrase, could not
proceed. Being able neither to finish it nor to retract it, while his
daughter arranged the pillow behind Marius, who was overwhelmed with so
many emotions, the old man rushed headlong, with as much rapidity as
his age permitted, from the bed-chamber, shut the door behind him, and,
purple, choking and foaming at the mouth, his eyes starting from his
head, he found himself nose to nose with honest Basque, who was blacking
boots in the anteroom. He seized Basque by the collar, and shouted full
in his face in fury:--"By the hundred thousand Javottes of the devil,
those ruffians did assassinate him!"

"Who, sir?"

"Andre Chenier!"

"Yes, sir," said Basque in alarm.


Cosette and Marius beheld each other once more.

What that interview was like we decline to say. There are things which
one must not attempt to depict; the sun is one of them.

The entire family, including Basque and Nicolette, were assembled in
Marius' chamber at the moment when Cosette entered it.

Precisely at that moment, the grandfather was on the point of blowing
his nose; he stopped short, holding his nose in his handkerchief, and
gazing over it at Cosette.

She appeared on the threshold; it seemed to him that she was surrounded
by a glory.

"Adorable!" he exclaimed.

Then he blew his nose noisily.

Cosette was intoxicated, delighted, frightened, in heaven. She was as
thoroughly alarmed as any one can be by happiness. She stammered all
pale, yet flushed, she wanted to fling herself into Marius' arms, and
dared not. Ashamed of loving in the presence of all these people. People
are pitiless towards happy lovers; they remain when the latter most
desire to be left alone. Lovers have no need of any people whatever.

With Cosette, and behind her, there had entered a man with white hair
who was grave yet smiling, though with a vague and heartrending smile.
It was "Monsieur Fauchelevent"; it was Jean Valjean.

He was very well dressed, as the porter had said, entirely in black, in
perfectly new garments, and with a white cravat.

The porter was a thousand leagues from recognizing in this correct
bourgeois, in this probable notary, the fear-inspiring bearer of the
corpse, who had sprung up at his door on the night of the 7th of June,
tattered, muddy, hideous, haggard, his face masked in blood and mire,
supporting in his arms the fainting Marius; still, his porter's scent
was aroused. When M. Fauchelevent arrived with Cosette, the porter had
not been able to refrain from communicating to his wife this aside: "I
don't know why it is, but I can't help fancying that I've seen that face

M. Fauchelevent in Marius' chamber, remained apart near the door. He
had under his arm, a package which bore considerable resemblance to an
octavo volume enveloped in paper. The enveloping paper was of a greenish
hue, and appeared to be mouldy.

"Does the gentleman always have books like that under his arm?"
Mademoiselle Gillenormand, who did not like books, demanded in a low
tone of Nicolette.

"Well," retorted M. Gillenormand, who had overheard her, in the same
tone, "he's a learned man. What then? Is that his fault? Monsieur
Boulard, one of my acquaintances, never walked out without a book under
his arm either, and he always had some old volume hugged to his heart
like that."

And, with a bow, he said aloud:

"Monsieur Tranchelevent . . ."

Father Gillenormand did not do it intentionally, but inattention to
proper names was an aristocratic habit of his.

"Monsieur Tranchelevent, I have the honor of asking you, on behalf of my
grandson, Baron Marius Pontmercy, for the hand of Mademoiselle."

Monsieur Tranchelevent bowed.

"That's settled," said the grandfather.

And, turning to Marius and Cosette, with both arms extended in blessing,
he cried:

"Permission to adore each other!"

They did not require him to repeat it twice. So much the worse! the
chirping began. They talked low. Marius, resting on his elbow on his
reclining chair, Cosette standing beside him. "Oh, heavens!" murmured
Cosette, "I see you once again! it is thou! it is you! The idea of going
and fighting like that! But why? It is horrible. I have been dead for
four months. Oh! how wicked it was of you to go to that battle! What had
I done to you? I pardon you, but you will never do it again. A little
while ago, when they came to tell us to come to you, I still thought
that I was about to die, but it was from joy. I was so sad! I have not
taken the time to dress myself, I must frighten people with my looks!
What will your relatives say to see me in a crumpled collar? Do speak!
You let me do all the talking. We are still in the Rue de l'Homme Arme.
It seems that your shoulder was terrible. They told me that you could
put your fist in it. And then, it seems that they cut your flesh with
the scissors. That is frightful. I have cried till I have no eyes left.
It is queer that a person can suffer like that. Your grandfather has a
very kindly air. Don't disturb yourself, don't rise on your elbow, you
will injure yourself. Oh! how happy I am! So our unhappiness is over!
I am quite foolish. I had things to say to you, and I no longer know in
the least what they were. Do you still love me? We live in the Rue de
l'Homme Arme. There is no garden. I made lint all the time; stay, sir,
look, it is your fault, I have a callous on my fingers."

"Angel!" said Marius.

Angel is the only word in the language which cannot be worn out. No
other word could resist the merciless use which lovers make of it.

Then as there were spectators, they paused and said not a word more,
contenting themselves with softly touching each other's hands.

M. Gillenormand turned towards those who were in the room and cried:

"Talk loud, the rest of you. Make a noise, you people behind the scenes.
Come, a little uproar, the deuce! so that the children can chatter at
their ease."

And, approaching Marius and Cosette, he said to them in a very low

"Call each other thou. Don't stand on ceremony."

Aunt Gillenormand looked on in amazement at this irruption of light
in her elderly household. There was nothing aggressive about this
amazement; it was not the least in the world like the scandalized and
envious glance of an owl at two turtle-doves, it was the stupid eye of a
poor innocent seven and fifty years of age; it was a life which had been
a failure gazing at that triumph, love.

"Mademoiselle Gillenormand senior," said her father to her, "I told you
that this is what would happen to you."

He remained silent for a moment, and then added:

"Look at the happiness of others."

Then he turned to Cosette.

"How pretty she is! how pretty she is! She's a Greuze. So you are going
to have that all to yourself, you scamp! Ah! my rogue, you are getting
off nicely with me, you are happy; if I were not fifteen years too old,
we would fight with swords to see which of us should have her. Come now!
I am in love with you, mademoiselle. It's perfectly simple. It is your
right. You are in the right. Ah! what a sweet, charming little wedding
this will make! Our parish is Saint-Denis du Saint Sacrament, but I will
get a dispensation so that you can be married at Saint-Paul. The church
is better. It was built by the Jesuits. It is more coquettish. It is
opposite the fountain of Cardinal de Birague. The masterpiece of Jesuit
architecture is at Namur. It is called Saint-Loup. You must go there
after you are married. It is worth the journey. Mademoiselle, I am quite
of your mind, I think girls ought to marry; that is what they are made
for. There is a certain Sainte-Catherine whom I should always like to
see uncoiffed.[62] It's a fine thing to remain a spinster, but it is
chilly. The Bible says: Multiply. In order to save the people, Jeanne
d'Arc is needed; but in order to make people, what is needed is Mother
Goose. So, marry, my beauties. I really do not see the use in remaining
a spinster! I know that they have their chapel apart in the church,
and that they fall back on the Society of the Virgin; but, sapristi, a
handsome husband, a fine fellow, and at the expiration of a year, a
big, blond brat who nurses lustily, and who has fine rolls of fat on his
thighs, and who musses up your breast in handfuls with his little rosy
paws, laughing the while like the dawn,--that's better than holding a
candle at vespers, and chanting Turris eburnea!"

The grandfather executed a pirouette on his eighty-year-old heels, and
began to talk again like a spring that has broken loose once more:

           "Ainsi, bornant les cours de tes revasseries,
            Alcippe, il est donc vrai, dans peu tu te maries."[63]

"By the way!"

"What is it, father?"

"Have not you an intimate friend?"

"Yes, Courfeyrac."

"What has become of him?"

"He is dead."

"That is good."

He seated himself near them, made Cosette sit down, and took their four
hands in his aged and wrinkled hands:

"She is exquisite, this darling. She's a masterpiece, this Cosette!
She is a very little girl and a very great lady. She will only be a
Baroness, which is a come down for her; she was born a Marquise. What
eyelashes she has! Get it well fixed in your noddles, my children, that
you are in the true road. Love each other. Be foolish about it. Love is
the folly of men and the wit of God. Adore each other. Only," he added,
suddenly becoming gloomy, "what a misfortune! It has just occurred to
me! More than half of what I possess is swallowed up in an annuity; so
long as I live, it will not matter, but after my death, a score of years
hence, ah! my poor children, you will not have a sou! Your beautiful
white hands, Madame la Baronne, will do the devil the honor of pulling
him by the tail."[64]

At this point they heard a grave and tranquil voice say:

"Mademoiselle Euphrasie Fauchelevent possesses six hundred thousand

It was the voice of Jean Valjean.

So far he had not uttered a single word, no one seemed to be aware that
he was there, and he had remained standing erect and motionless, behind
all these happy people.

"What has Mademoiselle Euphrasie to do with the question?" inquired the
startled grandfather.

"I am she," replied Cosette.

"Six hundred thousand francs?" resumed M. Gillenormand.

"Minus fourteen or fifteen thousand francs, possibly," said Jean

And he laid on the table the package which Mademoiselle Gillenormand had
mistaken for a book.

Jean Valjean himself opened the package; it was a bundle of bank-notes.
They were turned over and counted. There were five hundred notes for a
thousand francs each, and one hundred and sixty-eight of five hundred.
In all, five hundred and eighty-four thousand francs.

"This is a fine book," said M. Gillenormand.

"Five hundred and eighty-four thousand francs!" murmured the aunt.

"This arranges things well, does it not, Mademoiselle Gillenormand
senior?" said the grandfather. "That devil of a Marius has ferreted out
the nest of a millionaire grisette in his tree of dreams! Just trust
to the love affairs of young folks now, will you! Students find
studentesses with six hundred thousand francs. Cherubino works better
than Rothschild."

"Five hundred and eighty-four thousand francs!" repeated Mademoiselle
Gillenormand, in a low tone. "Five hundred and eighty-four! one might as
well say six hundred thousand!"

As for Marius and Cosette, they were gazing at each other while this was
going on; they hardly heeded this detail.


The reader has, no doubt, understood, without necessitating a lengthy
explanation, that Jean Valjean, after the Champmathieu affair, had been
able, thanks to his first escape of a few days' duration, to come to
Paris and to withdraw in season, from the hands of Laffitte, the
sum earned by him, under the name of Monsieur Madeleine, at
Montreuil-sur-Mer; and that fearing that he might be recaptured,--which
eventually happened--he had buried and hidden that sum in the forest
of Montfermeil, in the locality known as the Blaru-bottom. The sum,
six hundred and thirty thousand francs, all in bank-bills, was not very
bulky, and was contained in a box; only, in order to preserve the
box from dampness, he had placed it in a coffer filled with chestnut
shavings. In the same coffer he had placed his other treasures, the
Bishop's candlesticks. It will be remembered that he had carried off
the candlesticks when he made his escape from Montreuil-sur-Mer. The man
seen one evening for the first time by Boulatruelle, was Jean Valjean.
Later on, every time that Jean Valjean needed money, he went to get it
in the Blaru-bottom. Hence the absences which we have mentioned. He had
a pickaxe somewhere in the heather, in a hiding-place known to himself
alone. When he beheld Marius convalescent, feeling that the hour was at
hand, when that money might prove of service, he had gone to get it;
it was he again, whom Boulatruelle had seen in the woods, but on
this occasion, in the morning instead of in the evening. Boulatreulle
inherited his pickaxe.

The actual sum was five hundred and eighty-four thousand, five hundred
francs. Jean Valjean withdrew the five hundred francs for himself.--"We
shall see hereafter," he thought.

The difference between that sum and the six hundred and thirty thousand
francs withdrawn from Laffitte represented his expenditure in ten years,
from 1823 to 1833. The five years of his stay in the convent had cost
only five thousand francs.

Jean Valjean set the two candlesticks on the chimney-piece, where they
glittered to the great admiration of Toussaint.

Moreover, Jean Valjean knew that he was delivered from Javert. The
story had been told in his presence, and he had verified the fact in
the Moniteur, how a police inspector named Javert had been found drowned
under a boat belonging to some laundresses, between the Pont au Change
and the Pont-Neuf, and that a writing left by this man, otherwise
irreproachable and highly esteemed by his superiors, pointed to a fit
of mental aberration and a suicide.--"In fact," thought Jean Valjean,
"since he left me at liberty, once having got me in his power, he must
have been already mad."


Everything was made ready for the wedding. The doctor, on being
consulted, declared that it might take place in February. It was then
December. A few ravishing weeks of perfect happiness passed.

The grandfather was not the least happy of them all. He remained for a
quarter of an hour at a time gazing at Cosette.

"The wonderful, beautiful girl!" he exclaimed. "And she has so sweet and
good an air! she is, without exception, the most charming girl that I
have ever seen in my life. Later on, she'll have virtues with an odor of
violets. How graceful! one cannot live otherwise than nobly with such
a creature. Marius, my boy, you are a Baron, you are rich, don't go to
pettifogging, I beg of you."

Cosette and Marius had passed abruptly from the sepulchre to paradise.
The transition had not been softened, and they would have been stunned,
had they not been dazzled by it.

"Do you understand anything about it?" said Marius to Cosette.

"No," replied Cosette, "but it seems to me that the good God is caring
for us."

Jean Valjean did everything, smoothed away every difficulty, arranged
everything, made everything easy. He hastened towards Cosette's
happiness with as much ardor, and, apparently with as much joy, as
Cosette herself.

As he had been a mayor, he understood how to solve that delicate
problem, with the secret of which he alone was acquainted, Cosette's
civil status. If he were to announce her origin bluntly, it might
prevent the marriage, who knows? He extricated Cosette from all
difficulties. He concocted for her a family of dead people, a sure means
of not encountering any objections. Cosette was the only scion of an
extinct family; Cosette was not his own daughter, but the daughter of
the other Fauchelevent. Two brothers Fauchelevent had been gardeners to
the convent of the Petit-Picpus. Inquiry was made at that convent; the
very best information and the most respectable references abounded; the
good nuns, not very apt and but little inclined to fathom questions of
paternity, and not attaching any importance to the matter, had never
understood exactly of which of the two Fauchelevents Cosette was the
daughter. They said what was wanted and they said it with zeal. An
acte de notoriete was drawn up. Cosette became in the eyes of the law,
Mademoiselle Euphrasie Fauchelevent. She was declared an orphan, both
father and mother being dead. Jean Valjean so arranged it that he was
appointed, under the name of Fauchelevent, as Cosette's guardian, with
M. Gillenormand as supervising guardian over him.

As for the five hundred and eighty thousand francs, they constituted
a legacy bequeathed to Cosette by a dead person, who desired to
remain unknown. The original legacy had consisted of five hundred and
ninety-four thousand francs; but ten thousand francs had been expended
on the education of Mademoiselle Euphrasie, five thousand francs of that
amount having been paid to the convent. This legacy, deposited in
the hands of a third party, was to be turned over to Cosette at her
majority, or at the date of her marriage. This, taken as a whole, was
very acceptable, as the reader will perceive, especially when the sum
due was half a million. There were some peculiarities here and there,
it is true, but they were not noticed; one of the interested parties
had his eyes blindfolded by love, the others by the six hundred thousand

Cosette learned that she was not the daughter of that old man whom she
had so long called father. He was merely a kinsman; another Fauchelevent
was her real father. At any other time this would have broken her heart.
But at the ineffable moment which she was then passing through, it cast
but a slight shadow, a faint cloud, and she was so full of joy that the
cloud did not last long. She had Marius. The young man arrived, the old
man was effaced; such is life.

And then, Cosette had, for long years, been habituated to seeing enigmas
around her; every being who has had a mysterious childhood is always
prepared for certain renunciations.

Nevertheless, she continued to call Jean Valjean: Father.

Cosette, happy as the angels, was enthusiastic over Father Gillenormand.
It is true that he overwhelmed her with gallant compliments and
presents. While Jean Valjean was building up for Cosette a normal
situation in society and an unassailable status, M. Gillenormand was
superintending the basket of wedding gifts. Nothing so amused him as
being magnificent. He had given to Cosette a robe of Binche guipure
which had descended to him from his own grandmother.

"These fashions come up again," said he, "ancient things are the
rage, and the young women of my old age dress like the old women of my

He rifled his respectable chests of drawers in Coromandel lacquer, with
swelling fronts, which had not been opened for years.--"Let us hear the
confession of these dowagers," he said, "let us see what they have in
their paunches." He noisily violated the pot-bellied drawers of all
his wives, of all his mistresses and of all his grandmothers. Pekins,
damasks, lampas, painted moires, robes of shot gros de Tours, India
kerchiefs embroidered in gold that could be washed, dauphines without a
right or wrong side, in the piece, Genoa and Alencon point lace,
parures in antique goldsmith's work, ivory bon-bon boxes ornamented
with microscopic battles, gewgaws and ribbons--he lavished everything on
Cosette. Cosette, amazed, desperately in love with Marius, and wild with
gratitude towards M. Gillenormand, dreamed of a happiness without limit
clothed in satin and velvet. Her wedding basket seemed to her to be
upheld by seraphim. Her soul flew out into the azure depths, with wings
of Mechlin lace.

The intoxication of the lovers was only equalled, as we have already
said, by the ecstasy of the grandfather. A sort of flourish of trumpets
went on in the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire.

Every morning, a fresh offering of bric-a-brac from the grandfather to
Cosette. All possible knickknacks glittered around her.

One day Marius, who was fond of talking gravely in the midst of his
bliss, said, apropos of I know not what incident:

"The men of the revolution are so great, that they have the prestige of
the ages, like Cato and like Phocion, and each one of them seems to me
an antique memory."

"Moire antique!" exclaimed the old gentleman. "Thanks, Marius. That is
precisely the idea of which I was in search."

And on the following day, a magnificent dress of tea-rose colored moire
antique was added to Cosette's wedding presents.

From these fripperies, the grandfather extracted a bit of wisdom.

"Love is all very well; but there must be something else to go with
it. The useless must be mingled with happiness. Happiness is only the
necessary. Season that enormously with the superfluous for me. A
palace and her heart. Her heart and the Louvre. Her heart and the grand
waterworks of Versailles. Give me my shepherdess and try to make her a
duchess. Fetch me Phyllis crowned with corn-flowers, and add a hundred
thousand francs income. Open for me a bucolic perspective as far as you
can see, beneath a marble colonnade. I consent to the bucolic and also
to the fairy spectacle of marble and gold. Dry happiness resembles dry
bread. One eats, but one does not dine. I want the superfluous, the
useless, the extravagant, excess, that which serves no purpose. I
remember to have seen, in the Cathedral of Strasburg, a clock, as tall
as a three-story house which marked the hours, which had the kindness to
indicate the hour, but which had not the air of being made for that; and
which, after having struck midday, or midnight,--midday, the hour of the
sun, or midnight, the hour of love,--or any other hour that you like,
gave you the moon and the stars, the earth and the sea, birds and
fishes, Phoebus and Phoebe, and a host of things which emerged from a
niche, and the twelve apostles, and the Emperor Charles the Fifth, and
Eponine, and Sabinus, and a throng of little gilded goodmen, who played
on the trumpet to boot. Without reckoning delicious chimes which it
sprinkled through the air, on every occasion, without any one's knowing
why. Is a petty bald clock-face which merely tells the hour equal to
that? For my part, I am of the opinion of the big clock of Strasburg,
and I prefer it to the cuckoo clock from the Black Forest."

M. Gillenormand talked nonsense in connection with the wedding, and all
the fripperies of the eighteenth century passed pell-mell through his

"You are ignorant of the art of festivals. You do not know how to
organize a day of enjoyment in this age," he exclaimed. "Your nineteenth
century is weak. It lacks excess. It ignores the rich, it ignores the
noble. In everything it is clean-shaven. Your third estate is insipid,
colorless, odorless, and shapeless. The dreams of your bourgeois who
set up, as they express it: a pretty boudoir freshly decorated, violet,
ebony and calico. Make way! Make way! the Sieur Curmudgeon is marrying
Mademoiselle Clutch-penny. Sumptuousness and splendor. A louis d'or has
been stuck to a candle. There's the epoch for you. My demand is that I
may flee from it beyond the Sarmatians. Ah! in 1787, I predict that all
was lost, from the day when I beheld the Duc de Rohan, Prince de Leon,
Duc de Chabot, Duc de Montbazon, Marquis de Sonbise, Vicomte de Thouars,
peer of France, go to Longchamps in a tapecu! That has borne its fruits.
In this century, men attend to business, they gamble on 'Change, they
win money, they are stingy. People take care of their surfaces and
varnish them; every one is dressed as though just out of a band-box,
washed, soaped, scraped, shaved, combed, waked, smoothed, rubbed,
brushed, cleaned on the outside, irreproachable, polished as a pebble,
discreet, neat, and at the same time, death of my life, in the depths of
their consciences they have dung-heaps and cesspools that are enough to
make a cow-herd who blows his nose in his fingers, recoil. I grant to
this age the device: 'Dirty Cleanliness.' Don't be vexed, Marius, give
me permission to speak; I say no evil of the people as you see, I am
always harping on your people, but do look favorably on my dealing a bit
of a slap to the bourgeoisie. I belong to it. He who loves well lashes
well. Thereupon, I say plainly, that now-a-days people marry, but that
they no longer know how to marry. Ah! it is true, I regret the grace
of the ancient manners. I regret everything about them, their elegance,
their chivalry, those courteous and delicate ways, that joyous luxury
which every one possessed, music forming part of the wedding, a symphony
above stairs, a beating of drums below stairs, the dances, the joyous
faces round the table, the fine-spun gallant compliments, the songs, the
fireworks, the frank laughter, the devil's own row, the huge knots of
ribbon. I regret the bride's garter. The bride's garter is cousin to the
girdle of Venus. On what does the war of Troy turn? On Helen's garter,
parbleu! Why did they fight, why did Diomed the divine break over
the head of Meriones that great brazen helmet of ten points? why did
Achilles and Hector hew each other up with vast blows of their lances?
Because Helen allowed Paris to take her garter. With Cosette's garter,
Homer would construct the Iliad. He would put in his poem, a loquacious
old fellow, like me, and he would call him Nestor. My friends, in bygone
days, in those amiable days of yore, people married wisely; they had a
good contract, and then they had a good carouse. As soon as Cujas had
taken his departure, Gamacho entered. But, in sooth! the stomach is
an agreeable beast which demands its due, and which wants to have its
wedding also. People supped well, and had at table a beautiful neighbor
without a guimpe so that her throat was only moderately concealed. Oh!
the large laughing mouths, and how gay we were in those days! youth was
a bouquet; every young man terminated in a branch of lilacs or a tuft
of roses; whether he was a shepherd or a warrior; and if, by chance,
one was a captain of dragoons, one found means to call oneself Florian.
People thought much of looking well. They embroidered and tinted
themselves. A bourgeois had the air of a flower, a Marquis had the air
of a precious stone. People had no straps to their boots, they had no
boots. They were spruce, shining, waved, lustrous, fluttering, dainty,
coquettish, which did not at all prevent their wearing swords by their
sides. The humming-bird has beak and claws. That was the day of the
Galland Indies. One of the sides of that century was delicate, the other
was magnificent; and by the green cabbages! people amused themselves.
To-day, people are serious. The bourgeois is avaricious, the bourgeoise
is a prude; your century is unfortunate. People would drive away the
Graces as being too low in the neck. Alas! beauty is concealed as
though it were ugliness. Since the revolution, everything, including the
ballet-dancers, has had its trousers; a mountebank dancer must be grave;
your rigadoons are doctrinarian. It is necessary to be majestic. People
would be greatly annoyed if they did not carry their chins in their
cravats. The ideal of an urchin of twenty when he marries, is to
resemble M. Royer-Collard. And do you know what one arrives at with
that majesty? at being petty. Learn this: joy is not only joyous; it is
great. But be in love gayly then, what the deuce! marry, when you marry,
with fever and giddiness, and tumult, and the uproar of happiness! Be
grave in church, well and good. But, as soon as the mass is finished,
sarpejou! you must make a dream whirl around the bride. A marriage
should be royal and chimerical; it should promenade its ceremony from
the cathedral of Rheims to the pagoda of Chanteloup. I have a horror
of a paltry wedding. Ventregoulette! be in Olympus for that one day,
at least. Be one of the gods. Ah! people might be sylphs. Games and
Laughter, argiraspides; they are stupids. My friends, every recently
made bridegroom ought to be Prince Aldobrandini. Profit by that unique
minute in life to soar away to the empyrean with the swans and the
eagles, even if you do have to fall back on the morrow into the
bourgeoisie of the frogs. Don't economize on the nuptials, do not prune
them of their splendors; don't scrimp on the day when you beam. The
wedding is not the housekeeping. Oh! if I were to carry out my fancy,
it would be gallant, violins would be heard under the trees. Here is
my programme: sky-blue and silver. I would mingle with the festival
the rural divinities, I would convoke the Dryads and the Nereids. The
nuptials of Amphitrite, a rosy cloud, nymphs with well dressed locks
and entirely naked, an Academician offering quatrains to the goddess, a
chariot drawn by marine monsters.

     "Triton trottait devant, et tirait de sa conque
      Des sons si ravissants qu'il ravissait quiconque!"[65]

--there's a festive programme, there's a good one, or else I know
nothing of such matters, deuce take it!"

While the grandfather, in full lyrical effusion, was listening to
himself, Cosette and Marius grew intoxicated as they gazed freely at
each other.

Aunt Gillenormand surveyed all this with her imperturbable placidity.
Within the last five or six months she had experienced a certain amount
of emotions. Marius returned, Marius brought back bleeding, Marius
brought back from a barricade, Marius dead, then living, Marius
reconciled, Marius betrothed, Marius wedding a poor girl, Marius wedding
a millionairess. The six hundred thousand francs had been her last
surprise. Then, her indifference of a girl taking her first communion
returned to her. She went regularly to service, told her beads, read her
euchology, mumbled Aves in one corner of the house, while I love you
was being whispered in the other, and she beheld Marius and Cosette in a
vague way, like two shadows. The shadow was herself.

There is a certain state of inert asceticism in which the soul,
neutralized by torpor, a stranger to that which may be designated as the
business of living, receives no impressions, either human, or pleasant
or painful, with the exception of earthquakes and catastrophes. This
devotion, as Father Gillenormand said to his daughter, corresponds to
a cold in the head. You smell nothing of life. Neither any bad, nor any
good odor.

Moreover, the six hundred thousand francs had settled the elderly
spinster's indecision. Her father had acquired the habit of taking her
so little into account, that he had not consulted her in the matter of
consent to Marius' marriage. He had acted impetuously, according to his
wont, having, a despot-turned slave, but a single thought,--to satisfy
Marius. As for the aunt,--it had not even occurred to him that the aunt
existed, and that she could have an opinion of her own, and, sheep as
she was, this had vexed her. Somewhat resentful in her inmost soul, but
impassive externally, she had said to herself: "My father has settled
the question of the marriage without reference to me; I shall settle the
question of the inheritance without consulting him." She was rich, in
fact, and her father was not. She had reserved her decision on this
point. It is probable that, had the match been a poor one, she would
have left him poor. "So much the worse for my nephew! he is wedding a
beggar, let him be a beggar himself!" But Cosette's half-million pleased
the aunt, and altered her inward situation so far as this pair of lovers
were concerned. One owes some consideration to six hundred thousand
francs, and it was evident that she could not do otherwise than leave
her fortune to these young people, since they did not need it.

It was arranged that the couple should live with the grandfather--M.
Gillenormand insisted on resigning to them his chamber, the finest in
the house. "That will make me young again," he said. "It's an old plan
of mine. I have always entertained the idea of having a wedding in my

He furnished this chamber with a multitude of elegant trifles. He had
the ceiling and walls hung with an extraordinary stuff, which he had by
him in the piece, and which he believed to have emanated from Utrecht
with a buttercup-colored satin ground, covered with velvet auricula
blossoms.--"It was with that stuff," said he, "that the bed of the
Duchesse d'Anville at la Roche-Guyon was draped."--On the chimney-piece,
he set a little figure in Saxe porcelain, carrying a muff against her
nude stomach.

M. Gillenormand's library became the lawyer's study, which Marius
needed; a study, it will be remembered, being required by the council of
the order.


The lovers saw each other every day. Cosette came with M.
Fauchelevent.--"This is reversing things," said Mademoiselle
Gillenormand, "to have the bride come to the house to do the courting
like this." But Marius' convalescence had caused the habit to become
established, and the arm-chairs of the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire,
better adapted to interviews than the straw chairs of the Rue de l'Homme
Arme, had rooted it. Marius and M. Fauchelevent saw each other, but did
not address each other. It seemed as though this had been agreed upon.
Every girl needs a chaperon. Cosette could not have come without
M. Fauchelevent. In Marius' eyes, M. Fauchelevent was the condition
attached to Cosette. He accepted it. By dint of discussing political
matters, vaguely and without precision, from the point of view of the
general amelioration of the fate of all men, they came to say a little
more than "yes" and "no." Once, on the subject of education, which
Marius wished to have free and obligatory, multiplied under all forms
lavished on every one, like the air and the sun in a word, respirable
for the entire population, they were in unison, and they almost
conversed. M. Fauchelevent talked well, and even with a certain
loftiness of language--still he lacked something indescribable. M.
Fauchelevent possessed something less and also something more, than a
man of the world.

Marius, inwardly, and in the depths of his thought, surrounded with
all sorts of mute questions this M. Fauchelevent, who was to him simply
benevolent and cold. There were moments when doubts as to his own
recollections occurred to him. There was a void in his memory, a black
spot, an abyss excavated by four months of agony.--Many things had been
lost therein. He had come to the point of asking himself whether it were
really a fact that he had seen M. Fauchelevent, so serious and so calm a
man, in the barricade.

This was not, however, the only stupor which the apparitions and the
disappearances of the past had left in his mind. It must not be supposed
that he was delivered from all those obsessions of the memory which
force us, even when happy, even when satisfied, to glance sadly behind
us. The head which does not turn backwards towards horizons that have
vanished contains neither thought nor love. At times, Marius clasped his
face between his hands, and the vague and tumultuous past traversed the
twilight which reigned in his brain. Again he beheld Mabeuf fall, he
heard Gavroche singing amid the grape-shot, he felt beneath his lips the
cold brow of Eponine; Enjolras, Courfeyrac, Jean Prouvaire, Combeferre,
Bossuet, Grantaire, all his friends rose erect before him, then
dispersed into thin air. Were all those dear, sorrowful, valiant,
charming or tragic beings merely dreams? had they actually existed? The
revolt had enveloped everything in its smoke. These great fevers create
great dreams. He questioned himself; he felt himself; all these vanished
realities made him dizzy. Where were they all then? was it really true
that all were dead? A fall into the shadows had carried off all except
himself. It all seemed to him to have disappeared as though behind the
curtain of a theatre. There are curtains like this which drop in life.
God passes on to the following act.

And he himself--was he actually the same man? He, the poor man, was
rich; he, the abandoned, had a family; he, the despairing, was to marry
Cosette. It seemed to him that he had traversed a tomb, and that he had
entered into it black and had emerged from it white, and in that tomb
the others had remained. At certain moments, all these beings of the
past, returned and present, formed a circle around him, and overshadowed
him; then he thought of Cosette, and recovered his serenity; but nothing
less than this felicity could have sufficed to efface that catastrophe.

M. Fauchelevent almost occupied a place among these vanished beings.
Marius hesitated to believe that the Fauchelevent of the barricade was
the same as this Fauchelevent in flesh and blood, sitting so gravely
beside Cosette. The first was, probably, one of those nightmares
occasioned and brought back by his hours of delirium. However,
the natures of both men were rigid, no question from Marius to M.
Fauchelevent was possible. Such an idea had not even occurred to him. We
have already indicated this characteristic detail.

Two men who have a secret in common, and who, by a sort of tacit
agreement, exchange not a word on the subject, are less rare than is
commonly supposed.

Once only, did Marius make the attempt. He introduced into the
conversation the Rue de la Chanvrerie, and, turning to M. Fauchelevent,
he said to him:

"Of course, you are acquainted with that street?"

"What street?"

"The Rue de la Chanvrerie."

"I have no idea of the name of that street," replied M. Fauchelevent, in
the most natural manner in the world.

The response which bore upon the name of the street and not upon the
street itself, appeared to Marius to be more conclusive than it really

"Decidedly," thought he, "I have been dreaming. I have been subject to
a hallucination. It was some one who resembled him. M. Fauchelevent was
not there."'


Marius' enchantment, great as it was, could not efface from his mind
other pre-occupations.

While the wedding was in preparation, and while awaiting the date fixed
upon, he caused difficult and scrupulous retrospective researches to be

He owed gratitude in various quarters; he owed it on his father's
account, he owed it on his own.

There was Thenardier; there was the unknown man who had brought him,
Marius, back to M. Gillenormand.

Marius endeavored to find these two men, not intending to marry, to
be happy, and to forget them, and fearing that, were these debts of
gratitude not discharged, they would leave a shadow on his life, which
promised so brightly for the future.

It was impossible for him to leave all these arrears of suffering behind
him, and he wished, before entering joyously into the future, to obtain
a quittance from the past.

That Thenardier was a villain detracted nothing from the fact that he
had saved Colonel Pontmercy. Thenardier was a ruffian in the eyes of all
the world except Marius.

And Marius, ignorant of the real scene in the battle field of Waterloo,
was not aware of the peculiar detail, that his father, so far as
Thenardier was concerned was in the strange position of being indebted
to the latter for his life, without being indebted to him for any

None of the various agents whom Marius employed succeeded in discovering
any trace of Thenardier. Obliteration appeared to be complete in
that quarter. Madame Thenardier had died in prison pending the trial.
Thenardier and his daughter Azelma, the only two remaining of that
lamentable group, had plunged back into the gloom. The gulf of the
social unknown had silently closed above those beings. On the surface
there was not visible so much as that quiver, that trembling, those
obscure concentric circles which announce that something has fallen in,
and that the plummet may be dropped.

Madame Thenardier being dead, Boulatruelle being eliminated from the
case, Claquesous having disappeared, the principal persons accused
having escaped from prison, the trial connected with the ambush in the
Gorbeau house had come to nothing.

That affair had remained rather obscure. The bench of Assizes had been
obliged to content themselves with two subordinates. Panchaud, alias
Printanier, alias Bigrenaille, and Demi-Liard, alias Deux-Milliards, who
had been inconsistently condemned, after a hearing of both sides of
the case, to ten years in the galleys. Hard labor for life had been the
sentence pronounced against the escaped and contumacious accomplices.

Thenardier, the head and leader, had been, through contumacy, likewise
condemned to death.

This sentence was the only information remaining about Thenardier,
casting upon that buried name its sinister light like a candle beside a

Moreover, by thrusting Thenardier back into the very remotest depths,
through a fear of being re-captured, this sentence added to the density
of the shadows which enveloped this man.

As for the other person, as for the unknown man who had saved Marius,
the researches were at first to some extent successful, then came to
an abrupt conclusion. They succeeded in finding the carriage which had
brought Marius to the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire on the evening of the
6th of June.

The coachman declared that, on the 6th of June, in obedience to the
commands of a police-agent, he had stood from three o'clock in the
afternoon until nightfall on the Quai des Champs-Elysees, above the
outlet of the Grand Sewer; that, towards nine o'clock in the evening,
the grating of the sewer, which abuts on the bank of the river, had
opened; that a man had emerged therefrom, bearing on his shoulders
another man, who seemed to be dead; that the agent, who was on the watch
at that point, had arrested the living man and had seized the dead man;
that, at the order of the police-agent, he, the coachman, had taken "all
those folks" into his carriage; that they had first driven to the Rue
des Filles-du-Calvaire; that they had there deposited the dead man; that
the dead man was Monsieur Marius, and that he, the coachman, recognized
him perfectly, although he was alive "this time"; that afterwards, they
had entered the vehicle again, that he had whipped up his horses; a few
paces from the gate of the Archives, they had called to him to halt;
that there, in the street, they had paid him and left him, and that the
police-agent had led the other man away; that he knew nothing more; that
the night had been very dark.

Marius, as we have said, recalled nothing. He only remembered that he
had been seized from behind by an energetic hand at the moment when he
was falling backwards into the barricade; then, everything vanished so
far as he was concerned.

He had only regained consciousness at M. Gillenormand's.

He was lost in conjectures.

He could not doubt his own identity. Still, how had it come to pass
that, having fallen in the Rue de la Chanvrerie, he had been picked
up by the police-agent on the banks of the Seine, near the Pont des

Some one had carried him from the Quartier des Halles to the
Champs-Elysees. And how? Through the sewer. Unheard-of devotion!

Some one? Who?

This was the man for whom Marius was searching.

Of this man, who was his savior, nothing; not a trace; not the faintest

Marius, although forced to preserve great reserve, in that direction,
pushed his inquiries as far as the prefecture of police. There, no more
than elsewhere, did the information obtained lead to any enlightenment.

The prefecture knew less about the matter than did the hackney-coachman.
They had no knowledge of any arrest having been made on the 6th of June
at the mouth of the Grand Sewer.

No report of any agent had been received there upon this matter, which
was regarded at the prefecture as a fable. The invention of this fable
was attributed to the coachman.

A coachman who wants a gratuity is capable of anything, even of
imagination. The fact was assured, nevertheless, and Marius could not
doubt it, unless he doubted his own identity, as we have just said.

Everything about this singular enigma was inexplicable.

What had become of that man, that mysterious man, whom the coachman had
seen emerge from the grating of the Grand Sewer bearing upon his back
the unconscious Marius, and whom the police-agent on the watch had
arrested in the very act of rescuing an insurgent? What had become of
the agent himself?

Why had this agent preserved silence? Had the man succeeded in making
his escape? Had he bribed the agent? Why did this man give no sign of
life to Marius, who owed everything to him? His disinterestedness was no
less tremendous than his devotion. Why had not that man appeared again?
Perhaps he was above compensation, but no one is above gratitude. Was he
dead? Who was the man? What sort of a face had he? No one could tell him

The coachman answered: "The night was very dark." Basque and Nicolette,
all in a flutter, had looked only at their young master all covered with

The porter, whose candle had lighted the tragic arrival of Marius, had
been the only one to take note of the man in question, and this is the
description that he gave:

"That man was terrible."

Marius had the blood-stained clothing which he had worn when he had been
brought back to his grandfather preserved, in the hope that it would
prove of service in his researches.

On examining the coat, it was found that one skirt had been torn in a
singular way. A piece was missing.

One evening, Marius was speaking in the presence of Cosette and Jean
Valjean of the whole of that singular adventure, of the innumerable
inquiries which he had made, and of the fruitlessness of his efforts.
The cold countenance of "Monsieur Fauchelevent" angered him.

He exclaimed, with a vivacity which had something of wrath in it:

"Yes, that man, whoever he may have been, was sublime. Do you know what
he did, sir? He intervened like an archangel. He must have flung himself
into the midst of the battle, have stolen me away, have opened the
sewer, have dragged me into it and have carried me through it! He
must have traversed more than a league and a half in those frightful
subterranean galleries, bent over, weighed down, in the dark, in the
cess-pool,--more than a league and a half, sir, with a corpse upon his
back! And with what object? With the sole object of saving the corpse.
And that corpse I was. He said to himself: 'There may still be a
glimpse of life there, perchance; I will risk my own existence for that
miserable spark!' And his existence he risked not once but twenty times!
And every step was a danger. The proof of it is, that on emerging from
the sewer, he was arrested. Do you know, sir, that that man did all
this? And he had no recompense to expect. What was I? An insurgent.
What was I? One of the conquered. Oh! if Cosette's six hundred thousand
francs were mine . . ."

"They are yours," interrupted Jean Valjean.

"Well," resumed Marius, "I would give them all to find that man once

Jean Valjean remained silent.



The night of the 16th to the 17th of February, 1833, was a blessed
night. Above its shadows heaven stood open. It was the wedding night of
Marius and Cosette.

The day had been adorable.

It had not been the grand festival dreamed by the grandfather, a fairy
spectacle, with a confusion of cherubim and Cupids over the heads of the
bridal pair, a marriage worthy to form the subject of a painting to be
placed over a door; but it had been sweet and smiling.

The manner of marriage in 1833 was not the same as it is to-day. France
had not yet borrowed from England that supreme delicacy of carrying off
one's wife, of fleeing, on coming out of church, of hiding oneself with
shame from one's happiness, and of combining the ways of a bankrupt with
the delights of the Song of Songs. People had not yet grasped to the
full the chastity, exquisiteness, and decency of jolting their paradise
in a posting-chaise, of breaking up their mystery with clic-clacs, of
taking for a nuptial bed the bed of an inn, and of leaving behind them,
in a commonplace chamber, at such a night, the most sacred of
the souvenirs of life mingled pell-mell with the tete-a-tete of the
conductor of the diligence and the maid-servant of the inn.

In this second half of the nineteenth century in which we are now
living, the mayor and his scarf, the priest and his chasuble, the law
and God no longer suffice; they must be eked out by the Postilion de
Lonjumeau; a blue waistcoat turned up with red, and with bell buttons,
a plaque like a vantbrace, knee-breeches of green leather, oaths to the
Norman horses with their tails knotted up, false galloons, varnished
hat, long powdered locks, an enormous whip and tall boots. France does
not yet carry elegance to the length of doing like the English nobility,
and raining down on the post-chaise of the bridal pair a hail storm
of slippers trodden down at heel and of worn-out shoes, in memory of
Churchill, afterwards Marlborough, or Malbrouck, who was assailed on
his wedding-day by the wrath of an aunt which brought him good luck.
Old shoes and slippers do not, as yet, form a part of our nuptial
celebrations; but patience, as good taste continues to spread, we shall
come to that.

In 1833, a hundred years ago, marriage was not conducted at a full trot.

Strange to say, at that epoch, people still imagined that a wedding was
a private and social festival, that a patriarchal banquet does not
spoil a domestic solemnity, that gayety, even in excess, provided it be
honest, and decent, does happiness no harm, and that, in short, it is a
good and a venerable thing that the fusion of these two destinies whence
a family is destined to spring, should begin at home, and that the
household should thenceforth have its nuptial chamber as its witness.

And people were so immodest as to marry in their own homes.

The marriage took place, therefore, in accordance with this now
superannuated fashion, at M. Gillenormand's house.

Natural and commonplace as this matter of marrying is, the banns to
publish, the papers to be drawn up, the mayoralty, and the church
produce some complication. They could not get ready before the 16th of

Now, we note this detail, for the pure satisfaction of being exact, it
chanced that the 16th fell on Shrove Tuesday. Hesitations, scruples,
particularly on the part of Aunt Gillenormand.

"Shrove Tuesday!" exclaimed the grandfather, "so much the better. There
is a proverb:

                "'Mariage un Mardi gras
                  N'aura point enfants ingrats.'[66]

Let us proceed. Here goes for the 16th! Do you want to delay, Marius?"

"No, certainly not!" replied the lover.

"Let us marry, then," cried the grandfather.

Accordingly, the marriage took place on the 16th, notwithstanding the
public merrymaking. It rained that day, but there is always in the sky
a tiny scrap of blue at the service of happiness, which lovers see, even
when the rest of creation is under an umbrella.

On the preceding evening, Jean Valjean handed to Marius, in the presence
of M. Gillenormand, the five hundred and eighty-four thousand francs.

As the marriage was taking place under the regime of community of
property, the papers had been simple.

Henceforth, Toussaint was of no use to Jean Valjean; Cosette inherited
her and promoted her to the rank of lady's maid.

As for Jean Valjean, a beautiful chamber in the Gillenormand house had
been furnished expressly for him, and Cosette had said to him in such
an irresistible manner: "Father, I entreat you," that she had almost
persuaded him to promise that he would come and occupy it.

A few days before that fixed on for the marriage, an accident happened
to Jean Valjean; he crushed the thumb of his right hand. This was not a
serious matter; and he had not allowed any one to trouble himself
about it, nor to dress it, nor even to see his hurt, not even Cosette.
Nevertheless, this had forced him to swathe his hand in a linen bandage,
and to carry his arm in a sling, and had prevented his signing. M.
Gillenormand, in his capacity of Cosette's supervising-guardian, had
supplied his place.

We will not conduct the reader either to the mayor's office or to the
church. One does not follow a pair of lovers to that extent, and one is
accustomed to turn one's back on the drama as soon as it puts a wedding
nosegay in its buttonhole. We will confine ourselves to noting an
incident which, though unnoticed by the wedding party, marked the
transit from the Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire to the church of Saint-Paul.

At that epoch, the northern extremity of the Rue Saint-Louis was in
process of repaving. It was barred off, beginning with the Rue du
Pare-Royal. It was impossible for the wedding carriages to go directly
to Saint-Paul. They were obliged to alter their course, and the simplest
way was to turn through the boulevard. One of the invited guests
observed that it was Shrove Tuesday, and that there would be a jam
of vehicles.--"Why?" asked M. Gillenormand--"Because of the
maskers."--"Capital," said the grandfather, "let us go that way. These
young folks are on the way to be married; they are about to enter the
serious part of life. This will prepare them for seeing a bit of the

They went by way of the boulevard. The first wedding coach held Cosette
and Aunt Gillenormand, M. Gillenormand and Jean Valjean. Marius, still
separated from his betrothed according to usage, did not come until
the second. The nuptial train, on emerging from the Rue des
Filles-du-Calvaire, became entangled in a long procession of vehicles
which formed an endless chain from the Madeleine to the Bastille, and
from the Bastille to the Madeleine. Maskers abounded on the boulevard.
In spite of the fact that it was raining at intervals, Merry-Andrew,
Pantaloon and Clown persisted. In the good humor of that winter of 1833,
Paris had disguised itself as Venice. Such Shrove Tuesdays are no
longer to be seen now-a-days. Everything which exists being a scattered
Carnival, there is no longer any Carnival.

The sidewalks were overflowing with pedestrians and the windows with
curious spectators. The terraces which crown the peristyles of the
theatres were bordered with spectators. Besides the maskers, they stared
at that procession--peculiar to Shrove Tuesday as to Longchamps,--of
vehicles of every description, citadines, tapissieres, carioles,
cabriolets marching in order, rigorously riveted to each other by the
police regulations, and locked into rails, as it were. Any one in
these vehicles is at once a spectator and a spectacle. Police-sergeants
maintained, on the sides of the boulevard, these two interminable
parallel files, moving in contrary directions, and saw to it that
nothing interfered with that double current, those two brooks of
carriages, flowing, the one down stream, the other up stream, the
one towards the Chaussee d'Antin, the other towards the Faubourg
Saint-Antoine. The carriages of the peers of France and of the
Ambassadors, emblazoned with coats of arms, held the middle of the way,
going and coming freely. Certain joyous and magnificent trains, notably
that of the Boeuf Gras, had the same privilege. In this gayety of Paris,
England cracked her whip; Lord Seymour's post-chaise, harassed by a
nickname from the populace, passed with great noise.

In the double file, along which the municipal guards galloped like
sheep-dogs, honest family coaches, loaded down with great-aunts and
grandmothers, displayed at their doors fresh groups of children in
disguise, Clowns of seven years of age, Columbines of six, ravishing
little creatures, who felt that they formed an official part of the
public mirth, who were imbued with the dignity of their harlequinade,
and who possessed the gravity of functionaries.

From time to time, a hitch arose somewhere in the procession of
vehicles; one or other of the two lateral files halted until the knot
was disentangled; one carriage delayed sufficed to paralyze the whole
line. Then they set out again on the march.

The wedding carriages were in the file proceeding towards the Bastille,
and skirting the right side of the Boulevard. At the top of the
Pont-aux-Choux, there was a stoppage. Nearly at the same moment, the
other file, which was proceeding towards the Madeleine, halted also. At
that point of the file there was a carriage-load of maskers.

These carriages, or to speak more correctly, these wagon-loads of
maskers are very familiar to Parisians. If they were missing on a Shrove
Tuesday, or at the Mid-Lent, it would be taken in bad part, and people
would say: "There's something behind that. Probably the ministry
is about to undergo a change." A pile of Cassandras, Harlequins and
Columbines, jolted along high above the passers-by, all possible
grotesquenesses, from the Turk to the savage, Hercules supporting
Marquises, fishwives who would have made Rabelais stop up his ears just
as the Maenads made Aristophanes drop his eyes, tow wigs, pink tights,
dandified hats, spectacles of a grimacer, three-cornered hats of Janot
tormented with a butterfly, shouts directed at pedestrians, fists on
hips, bold attitudes, bare shoulders, immodesty unchained; a chaos of
shamelessness driven by a coachman crowned with flowers; this is what
that institution was like.

Greece stood in need of the chariot of Thespis, France stands in need of
the hackney-coach of Vade.

Everything can be parodied, even parody. The Saturnalia, that grimace of
antique beauty, ends, through exaggeration after exaggeration, in Shrove
Tuesday; and the Bacchanal, formerly crowned with sprays of vine leaves
and grapes, inundated with sunshine, displaying her marble breast in a
divine semi-nudity, having at the present day lost her shape under
the soaked rags of the North, has finally come to be called the

The tradition of carriage-loads of maskers runs back to the most ancient
days of the monarchy. The accounts of Louis XI. allot to the bailiff of
the palace "twenty sous, Tournois, for three coaches of mascarades
in the cross-roads." In our day, these noisy heaps of creatures are
accustomed to have themselves driven in some ancient cuckoo carriage,
whose imperial they load down, or they overwhelm a hired landau, with
its top thrown back, with their tumultuous groups. Twenty of them ride
in a carriage intended for six. They cling to the seats, to the rumble,
on the cheeks of the hood, on the shafts. They even bestride the
carriage lamps. They stand, sit, lie, with their knees drawn up in a
knot, and their legs hanging. The women sit on the men's laps. Far
away, above the throng of heads, their wild pyramid is visible. These
carriage-loads form mountains of mirth in the midst of the rout. Colle,
Panard and Piron flow from it, enriched with slang. This carriage which
has become colossal through its freight, has an air of conquest. Uproar
reigns in front, tumult behind. People vociferate, shout, howl, there
they break forth and writhe with enjoyment; gayety roars; sarcasm flames
forth, joviality is flaunted like a red flag; two jades there drag farce
blossomed forth into an apotheosis; it is the triumphal car of laughter.

A laughter that is too cynical to be frank. In truth, this laughter is
suspicious. This laughter has a mission. It is charged with proving the
Carnival to the Parisians.

These fishwife vehicles, in which one feels one knows not what shadows,
set the philosopher to thinking. There is government therein. There one
lays one's finger on a mysterious affinity between public men and public

It certainly is sad that turpitude heaped up should give a sum total
of gayety, that by piling ignominy upon opprobrium the people should
be enticed, that the system of spying, and serving as caryatids to
prostitution should amuse the rabble when it confronts them, that the
crowd loves to behold that monstrous living pile of tinsel rags, half
dung, half light, roll by on four wheels howling and laughing, that they
should clap their hands at this glory composed of all shames, that there
would be no festival for the populace, did not the police promenade in
their midst these sorts of twenty-headed hydras of joy. But what can be
done about it? These be-ribboned and be-flowered tumbrils of mire are
insulted and pardoned by the laughter of the public. The laughter of all
is the accomplice of universal degradation. Certain unhealthy festivals
disaggregate the people and convert them into the populace. And
populaces, like tyrants, require buffoons. The King has Roquelaure,
the populace has the Merry-Andrew. Paris is a great, mad city on every
occasion that it is a great sublime city. There the Carnival forms
part of politics. Paris,--let us confess it--willingly allows infamy to
furnish it with comedy. She only demands of her masters--when she has
masters--one thing: "Paint me the mud." Rome was of the same mind. She
loved Nero. Nero was a titanic lighterman.

Chance ordained, as we have just said, that one of these shapeless
clusters of masked men and women, dragged about on a vast calash, should
halt on the left of the boulevard, while the wedding train halted on the
right. The carriage-load of masks caught sight of the wedding carriage
containing the bridal party opposite them on the other side of the

"Hullo!" said a masker, "here's a wedding."

"A sham wedding," retorted another. "We are the genuine article."

And, being too far off to accost the wedding party, and fearing also,
the rebuke of the police, the two maskers turned their eyes elsewhere.

At the end of another minute, the carriage-load of maskers had their
hands full, the multitude set to yelling, which is the crowd's caress
to masquerades; and the two maskers who had just spoken had to face the
throng with their comrades, and did not find the entire repertory of
projectiles of the fishmarkets too extensive to retort to the enormous
verbal attacks of the populace. A frightful exchange of metaphors took
place between the maskers and the crowd.

In the meanwhile, two other maskers in the same carriage, a Spaniard
with an enormous nose, an elderly air, and huge black moustache, and a
gaunt fishwife, who was quite a young girl, masked with a loup,[67] had
also noticed the wedding, and while their companions and the passers-by
were exchanging insults, they had held a dialogue in a low voice.

Their aside was covered by the tumult and was lost in it. The gusts of
rain had drenched the front of the vehicle, which was wide open; the
breezes of February are not warm; as the fishwife, clad in a low-necked
gown, replied to the Spaniard, she shivered, laughed and coughed.

Here is their dialogue:

"Say, now."

"What, daddy?"

"Do you see that old cove?"

"What old cove?"

"Yonder, in the first wedding-cart, on our side."

"The one with his arm hung up in a black cravat?"



"I'm sure that I know him."


"I'm willing that they should cut my throat, and I'm ready to swear that
I never said either you, thou, or I, in my life, if I don't know that
Parisian." [pantinois.]

"Paris in Pantin to-day."

"Can you see the bride if you stoop down?"


"And the bridegroom?"

"There's no bridegroom in that trap."


"Unless it's the old fellow."

"Try to get a sight of the bride by stooping very low."

"I can't."

"Never mind, that old cove who has something the matter with his paw I
know, and that I'm positive."

"And what good does it do to know him?"

"No one can tell. Sometimes it does!"

"I don't care a hang for old fellows, that I don't!"

"I know him."

"Know him, if you want to."

"How the devil does he come to be one of the wedding party?"

"We are in it, too."

"Where does that wedding come from?"

"How should I know?"


"Well, what?"

"There's one thing you ought to do."

"What's that?"

"Get off of our trap and spin that wedding."

"What for?"

"To find out where it goes, and what it is. Hurry up and jump down,
trot, my girl, your legs are young."

"I can't quit the vehicle."

"Why not?"

"I'm hired."

"Ah, the devil!"

"I owe my fishwife day to the prefecture."

"That's true."

"If I leave the cart, the first inspector who gets his eye on me will
arrest me. You know that well enough."

"Yes, I do."

"I'm bought by the government for to-day."

"All the same, that old fellow bothers me."

"Do the old fellows bother you? But you're not a young girl."

"He's in the first carriage."


"In the bride's trap."

"What then?"

"So he is the father."

"What concern is that of mine?"

"I tell you that he's the father."

"As if he were the only father."



"I can't go out otherwise than masked. Here I'm concealed, no one knows
that I'm here. But to-morrow, there will be no more maskers. It's Ash
Wednesday. I run the risk of being nabbed. I must sneak back into my
hole. But you are free."

"Not particularly."

"More than I am, at any rate."

"Well, what of that?"

"You must try to find out where that wedding-party went to."

"Where it went?"


"I know."

"Where is it going then?"

"To the Cadran-Bleu."

"In the first place, it's not in that direction."

"Well! to la Rapee."

"Or elsewhere."

"It's free. Wedding-parties are at liberty."

"That's not the point at all. I tell you that you must try to learn for
me what that wedding is, who that old cove belongs to, and where that
wedding pair lives."

"I like that! that would be queer. It's so easy to find out a
wedding-party that passed through the street on a Shrove Tuesday, a week
afterwards. A pin in a hay-mow! It ain't possible!"

"That don't matter. You must try. You understand me, Azelma."

The two files resumed their movement on both sides of the boulevard, in
opposite directions, and the carriage of the maskers lost sight of the
"trap" of the bride.