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Title: Les Misérables, v. 3-5 - Fantine - Cosette - Marius - The Idyll and the Epic - Jean Valjean
Author: Hugo, Victor
Language: English
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[Illustration: MARIUS]



      BOOK I.


        I. PARVULUS

      BOOK II.



      BOOK III.



      BOOK IV.



      BOOK V.


       IV. M. MABŒUF

      BOOK VI.


       IX. ECLIPSE

      BOOK VII.



      BOOK VIII.


       XX. THE TRAP


Drawn by G. Jeanniot.

Drawn by G. Jeanniot.






Paris has a child and the forest has a bird; the bird is called a
sparrow, the child is called a gamin. Couple these two ideas, the one
which is all furnace, the other all dawn; bring the two sparks, Paris
and childhood, into collision, and a little being is produced,--a
_homuncio_, as Plautus would say.

This little being is joyous; he does not eat every day, and he goes
to the theatre every night if he thinks proper. He has no shirt on
his body, no shoes on his feet, and no covering on his head; he is
like the flies, which have none of those things. He is from seven to
thirteen years of age, lives in gangs, rambles about the streets,
lodges in the open air, wears an old pair of his father's trousers,
which descend lower than his heels, an old hat belonging to some other
father, which comes below his ears, and one yellow list brace. He runs,
watches, begs, kills time, colors pipes, swears like a fiend, haunts
the wine-shop, knows thieves, is familiar with women of the town, talks
slang, sings filthy songs, and has nothing bad in his heart; for he has
in his soul a pearl, Innocence; and pearls are not dissolved by mud.
So long as the man is a child, God desires that he should be innocent.
If we were to ask the enormous city, "What is this creature?" it would
reply, "It is my little one."



The gamin of Paris is the dwarf of the giantess. Let us not exaggerate:
this cherub of the gutter has sometimes a shirt, but in that case has
only one; he has shoes at times, but then they have no soles; he has
at times a home, and likes it, for he finds his mother there; but he
prefers the street, because he finds liberty there. He has games of
his own, and his own tricks, of which hatred of the respectable class
constitutes the basis, and he has metaphors of his own,--thus, to be
dead, he calls eating dandelions by the root. He has trades of his
own,--fetching hackney coaches, letting down steps, imposing tolls
from one side of the street to the other in heavy showers, which he
calls making _ponts des arts_, and shouting out speeches made by the
authorities in favor of the French people. He has also a currency
of his own, composed of all the little pieces of copper that can be
picked up in the streets. This curious money, which takes the name of
_loques,_ has an unvarying and well-established value in this childish

Lastly, he has a fauna of his own, which he studiously observes in
every hole and corner,--the Lady-bird, the death's-head moth, the
daddy long-legs, and the "devil," a black insect which threatens by
writhing its tail, and which is armed with two horns. He has his
fabulous monster, which has scales on its belly and is not a lizard,
and spots on its back but is not a frog; it lives in holes in old
lime-kilns and dried-up wells; it is black, hairy, slimy, and crawls
about, at one moment slowly, at another quickly; it utters no sound,
but looks so terrible that no one has ever seen it. This monster he
calls _le sourde,_ and looking for it under stones is a pleasure of a
formidable nature. Another pleasure is suddenly to raise a paving-stone
and look at the woodlice. Every region of Paris is interesting for the
celebrated "finds" which may be made in them; thus, there are earwigs
in the timber-yards of the Ursulines, centipedes at the Panthéon, and
tadpoles in the ditches of the Champs de Mars.

As for witticisms, this child is as full of them as Talleyrand; but
though no less cynical, he is more honest. He is gifted with an
unforeseen joviality, and startles the shop-keeper by his mad laugh.
His range extends from genteel comedy to farce. A funeral passes, and
among the persons following is a physician. "Hilloh!" shouts a gamin,
"when did the doctors begin to carry home their own work?"

Another is in a crowd. A serious man, adorned with spectacles and
watch-seals, turns indignantly: "You scoundrel, what do you mean by
taking my wife's waist?" "I, sir? Search me!"



At night, thanks to a few half-pence which he always contrives to
procure, the _homuncio_ enters a theatre. On crossing this magical
threshold he becomes transfigured; he was a gamin, and he becomes the
_titi_. Theatres are like overturned vessels, which have their hold in
the air, and the titis congregate in the hold. The titi is to the gamin
as the butterfly to the chrysalis,--the same being, but now flying and
hovering. It is sufficient for him to be present, with his radiant
happiness, his power of enthusiasm and delight, and the clapping of his
hands, which resembles the flapping of wings; and the narrow, fetid,
obscure, dirty, unhealthy, hideous, abominable hold is at once called

Give a being what is useless, and deprive him of what is necessary, and
you will have the gamin. He possesses some literary intuition, and his
tastes,--we confess it with all proper regret,--are not classical. He
is by nature but little of an academician.

This being bawls, shouts, ridicules, and fights; wears patches like
a babe, and rags like a philosopher; fishes in the gutter, sports in
the sewers, extracts gayety from filth, grins and bites, whistles
and sings, applauds and hisses, tempers the Hallelujah Chorus with
Matanturlurette, hums every known tune, finds without looking, knows
what he is ignorant of, is a Spartan in filching, is foolish even to
wisdom, is lyrical even to dirt, would squat upon Olympus, wallows on
the dungheap and emerges covered with stars. The gamin of Paris is the
boy Rabelais.

He is not satisfied with his trousers if they have no watch-pockets.

He is surprised at little, and frightened by less; he sings down
superstitions, reduces exaggerations, puts out his tongue at ghosts,
depoetizes stilts, and introduces caricature into the most serious
affairs. It is not that he is prosaic, far from it; but he substitutes
a farcical phantasmagoria for solemn vision. If Adamastor were to
appear to him, the gamin would say, "Hilloh, old Bogy!"



Paris begins with the badaud and ends with the gamin: two beings
of which no other city is capable; the passive acceptance which is
satisfied with looking, and the inexhaustible initiative; Prudhomme
and Fouillou. Paris alone has that in its natural history: all the
monarchy is in the badaud, all the anarchy is in the gamin. This pale
child of the faubourgs of Paris lives, and is developed, and grows up
in suffering, a thoughtful witness in the presence of social realities
and human things. He believes himself reckless, but is not so: he looks
on, ready to laugh, but also ready for something else. Whoever you may
be who call yourself prejudice, abuses, ignominy, oppression, iniquity,
despotism, injustice, fanaticism, or tyranny, take care of the yawning

This little fellow will grow. Of what clay is he made? Of anything.
Take a handful of mud, a breath, and you have Adam. It is sufficient
for a God to pass, and God has ever passed over the gamin. Fortune
toils for this little being, though by the word fortune we mean to some
extent chance. Will this pygmy, moulded in the coarse common clay,
ignorant, uneducated, brutal, violent, and of the populace, be an
Ionian or a Bœotian? Wait a while, _dum currit rota_, and the genius
of Paris, that demon which creates children of accident and men of
destiny, will behave exactly contrary to the Latin potter, and make an
amphora out of the earthenware jar.



The gamin loves the town, but he loves solitude as well, for there
is something of the sage in him: he is _urbis amator_ like Fuscus,
and _ruris amator_ like Flaccus. To wander about dreamily, that is,
to lounge, is an excellent employment of time for the philosopher,
particularly in that slightly bastard sort of country, ugly enough,
but strange and composed of two natures, that surrounds certain large
cities, and notably Paris. Observing the suburbs is looking at an
amphibious scene; it is the end of the trees and the beginning of the
roofs, the end of the grass and the beginning of the pavement, the end
of the furrows and the beginning of the shops, the end of the beaten
paths and the beginning of passions, the end of the divine murmur and
the beginning of human reason, and all this produces an extraordinary
interest; and such is the motive of the apparently objectless walks of
the dreamer in those unattractive parts which the passer-by at once
brands with the title of "dull."

The author of these lines was for a long time a prowler about the
suburbs of Paris, and it is a source of profound recollection for him.
The worn grass, the stony path, the chalk, the marl, the plaster, the
rough monotony of ploughed and fallow land, the young market-garden
plants suddenly noticed in a hollow, the mixture of the wild and the
tame, the vast deserted nooks in which the garrison drummers hold their
noisy school, these Thebaïds by day and cut-throat dens by night, the
tottering mill turning in the wind, the drawing-wheels of the quarries,
the wine-shops at the corners of the cemeteries, the mysterious charm
of the tall dark walls cutting at right angles immense open fields
bathed in sunshine and full of butterflies,--all this attracted him.

Hardly any one knows those singular spots,--la Glacière, la Cimette,
the hideous wall of Grenelle pock-marked with bullets, the Mont
Parnasse, the Fosse aux Loups, the Tombe Issoire, or the Pierre Plate
de Chatillon, where there is an old exhausted quarry, which is now
only employed to grow mushrooms, and is closed by a heap of rotten
boards flush with the ground. The Campagna of Rome is an idea, and
the banlieue of Paris is another: to see in what an horizon offers
us nought but fields, houses, or trees, is to remain on the surface;
for all the aspects of things are the thoughts of God. The spot where
a plain forms its junction with a town is always imprinted with a
species of penetrating melancholy; for nature and humanity address you
simultaneously, and local peculiarities make their appearance there.

Any one who has wandered as we have in those solitudes contiguous to
our suburbs which might be called the Limbos of Paris has seen here
and there, at the most deserted spot, and at the most unexpected
moment, behind a scrubby hedge, or in the corner of some melancholy
wall, children grouped tumultuously, fetid, muddy, dusty, unkempt, and
ragged, playing together, wreathed with corn-flowers. They are the
little runagates of poor families: this external boulevard is their
breathing medium, and the banlieue belongs to them, and they eternally
play truant in it. They ingenuously sing there their repertory of
unclean songs. They are there, or, to speak more correctly, they dwell
there, far from any eye, in the gentle warmth of May or June. Circling
round a hole in the ground and snapping marbles, like irresponsible,
freed, and happy beings, so soon as they perceive you they remember
that they have a trade and must gain their livelihood, and they offer
to sell you an old wool stocking full of may-bugs, or a spray of lilac.
Such a meeting with chance children is one of the charming and yet
poignant graces of the environs of Paris.

Sometimes there are girls among the heap of boys,--are they their
sisters?--almost grown up, thin, feverish, sunburnt and freckled,
crowned with wheat-ears and poppies, gay, haggard, and barefooted. You
may see them eating cherries among the wheat, and at night hear them
laugh. These groups, warmly illumined by the bright light of mid-day,
or seen in the twilight, for a long time occupy the dreamer, and these
visions are mingled with his dreams.

Paris is the centre, the banlieue is the circumference,--that is, the
whole earth, for these children. They never venture beyond it, and can
no more leave the Parisian atmosphere than fish can live out of water.
With them there is nothing beyond two leagues from the barrière; Ivry,
Gentilly, Arcueil, Belleville, Aubervilliers, Ménilmontant, Choisy le
Roi, Bellancourt, Meudon, Issy, Vauvres, Sèvres, Puteaux, Neuilly,
Gennevilliers, Colombes, Romainville, Chalon, Asnières, Bougival,
Nanterre, Enghien, Noisy-le-sec, Nogent, Gournay, Drancy, and Gonesse,
--at these places their universe ends.



At the epoch almost contemporary with the action of this book there
was not, as at the present day, a policeman at every street corner (a
blessing which we have no time to discuss), and wandering children
abounded in Paris. Statistics give us an average of two hundred and
sixty shelterless children picked up annually by the police of that
day in unenclosed fields, in houses building, and under the arches
of bridges. One of these nests, which became famous, produced "the
swallows of the Rue d'Arcole." This, by the way, is the most disastrous
of social symptoms, for all the crimes of the man begin with the
vagabondage of the lad.

We must except Paris, however, and in a relative degree, and in spite
of the statistics we have just quoted, the exception is fair. While in
any other great city a vagabond child is a ruined man, while nearly
everywhere the boy left to himself is to some extent devoted and left
to a species of fatal immersion in public vice, which destroys honor
and conscience within him, the gamin of Paris, though externally so
injured, is internally almost intact. It is a magnificent thing to be
able to say, and one revealed in the splendid probity of our popular
revolutions, that a certain incorruptibility emanates from the idea
which is in the atmosphere of Paris, as from the salt which is in the
ocean water. Breathing Paris preserves the soul.

But what we have just stated does not in any way decrease the
heart-contraction which we feel every time we meet one of these lads,
around whom we fancy that we can see the threads of the broken family
fluttering. In our present civilization, which is still so incomplete,
it is not a very abnormal fact that families thus broken up should not
know what becomes of their children, and allow their own flesh and
blood to fall upon the highway. Hence come these obscure destinies; and
this sad thing has become proverbial, and is known as "being cast on
the pavement of Paris."

Let us remark parenthetically that such desertion of children was
not discouraged by the old monarchy. A little of the Bohemian and
Egyptian element in the lower classes suited the higher spheres, and
the powerful ones profited by it. Hatred of national education was
a dogma; of what good were half-lights? Such was the sentence, and
the vagabond boy is the corollary of the ignorant boy. Besides, the
monarchy sometimes wanted lads, and then it skimmed the streets. In
the reign of Louis XIV., to go no farther back, the King wished,
rightly enough, to create a fleet. The idea was good; but let us look
at the means. No fleet is possible unless you have by the side of the
sailing-vessels, which are the plaything of the winds, vessels which
can be sent wherever may be necessary, or be used as tugs, impelled
by oars or steam; and in those days galleys were to the navy what
steam-vessels now are. Hence galleys were needed; but galleys are only
moved through the galley-slave, and hence the latter must be procured.
Colbert ordered the Provincial intendants and parliaments to produce
as many convicts as they could, and the magistrates displayed great
complaisance in the matter. A man kept on his hat when a procession
passed; that was a Huguenot attitude, and he was sent to the galleys.
A boy was met in the street; provided that he was fifteen years of age
and had no place to sleep in, he was sent to the galleys. It was a
great reign, a great age.

In the reign of Louis XV. children disappeared in Paris; the police
carried them off and no one knew for what mysterious employment.
Monstrous conjectures were whispered as to the King's purple baths. It
sometimes happened that when boys ran short, the exempts seized such as
had parents, and the parents, in their despair, attacked the exempts.
In such a case Parliament interfered and hanged--whom, the exempts? No,
the fathers.



The Parisian gamin almost forms a caste, and we might say that a boy
does not become so by wishing. The word _gamin_ was printed for the
first time, and passed from the populace into literature, in 1834. It
made its first appearance in a work called "Claude Gueux." The scandal
was great, but the word has remained. The elements that constitute the
consideration of gamins among one another are very varied. We knew
and petted one, who was greatly respected and admired because he had
seen a man fall off the towers of Notre Dame; another, because he had
managed to enter the back-yard in which the statues of the dome of the
Invalides were temporarily deposited, and steal lead off them; another,
because he had seen a diligence upset; another, because he knew a
soldier who had all but put out the eye of a civilian. This explains
the exclamation of the Parisian gamin, at which the vulgar laughed
without understanding its depth: "Dieu de Dieu! how unlucky I am! Just
think that I never saw anybody fall from a fifth floor!" Assuredly it
was a neat remark of the peasant's: "Father So-and-so, your wife has
died of her illness: why did you not send for a doctor?"--

"What would you have, sir? We poor people die of ourselves." But if all
the passiveness of the peasant is contained in this remark, all the
free-thinking anarchy of the faubourien will be found in the following:
A man condemned to death is listening to the confessor in the cart, and
the child of Paris protests,--"He is talking to the skull-cap. Oh, the

A certain boldness in religious matters elevates the gamin, and it is
important for him to be strong-minded. Being present at executions is
a duty with him. He points at the guillotine and laughs at it, and
calls it by all sorts of pet names,--end of the soup; the grumbler;
the sky-blue mother; the last mouthful, etc. In order to lose none
of the sight, he climbs up walls, escalades balconies, mounts trees,
hangs to gratings, and clings to chimney-pots. A gamin is born to be
a slater, as another is to be a sailor, and he is no more frightened
at a roof than at a mast. No holiday is equal to the Grève, and Samson
and the Abbé Montes are the real popular fêtes. The sufferer is hooted
to encourage him, and is sometimes admired. Lacenaire, when a gamin,
seeing the frightful Dautrem die bravely, uttered a remark which
contained his future,--"I was jealous of him." In gamindom Voltaire is
unknown, but Papavoine is famous. Politicians and murderers are mingled
in the same legend, and traditions exist as to the last garments of
all. They know that Tolleron had a nightcap on, Avril a fur cap, Louvel
a round hat; that old Delaporte was bald and bareheaded, Castaing
rosy-cheeked and good-looking, and that Boriès had a romantic beard;
Jean Martin kept his braces on, and Lecouffé and his mother abused
each other. "Don't quarrel about your basket," a gamin shouted to them.
Another little fellow climbed up a lamp-post on the quay, in order to
watch Debacker pass, and a gendarme posted there frowned at him. "Let
me climb up, M'sieu le Gendarme;" and to soften the man in authority,
he added,--"I shall not fall." "What do I care whether you fall or
not?" the gendarme replied.

Among the gamins a memorable accident is highly esteemed, and a lad
attains the summit of consideration if he give himself a deep cut "to
the bone." The fist is no small element of success, and one of the
things which a gamin is very fond of saying is, "I am precious strong."
To be left-handed renders you enviable, while squinting is held in
great esteem.



In summer he is metamorphosed into a frog, and from afternoon to
nightfall, before the Austerlitz and Jena bridges, from the top of
coal-rafts and washer-women's boats, dives into the Seine, with all
possible infractions of the laws of decency and of the police. Still,
the police are on the watch, and hence results a highly dramatic
situation, which once gave rise to a paternal and memorable cry.
This cry, which became celebrated about 1830, is a strategic warning
from gamin to gamin; it can be scanned like a verse of Homer, with
a notation almost as indescribable as the Eleusiac song of the
Panathenæa, in which the ancient Evohé may be traced.--"Ohe, Titi,
ohéée, here's the sergeant, pack up your traps, and be off through the

Sometimes this gad-fly--that is the name he gives himself--can read,
sometimes he can write, and draw after a fashion. He does not hesitate
to acquire, by some mysterious mutual instruction, all the talents
which may be useful to the public cause. From 1815 to 1830 he imitated
the cry of a turkey; from 1830 to 1848 he drew a pear upon the walls.
One summer evening, Louis Philippe, returning home on foot, saw a
very little scamp struggling to raise himself high enough to draw
with charcoal a gigantic pear on the pillar of the Neuilly gates,
and the King, with that kindness which he inherited from Henri IV.,
helped the gamin to finish the pear and gave him a louis, saying, "The
pear is on that too." The gamin likes a commotion, and any violent
condition pleases him. He execrates the curés. One day in the Rue de
l'Université, one of these young scamps put his finger to his nose in
front of the driveway of No. 69. "Why are you doing that at that gate?"
a passer-by asked him. The lad answered, "A curé lives there." The
Papal Nuncio in fact resided there. Still, however great the gamin's
Voltairianism may be, if the opportunity is offered him of being a
chorister, he may possibly accept, and in that case assists civilly
at mass. There are two things of which he is the Tantalus, and which
he constantly desires without ever being able to attain them,--to
overthrow the government and have his trousers reseated. The gamin in
a perfect state is acquainted with all the police of Paris, and when
he meets one, can always give a name to his face. He numbers them on
his fingers, studies their names, and has his special notes about
each. He reads the minds of the police like an open book, and will say
curiously and without hesitating,--"So-and-so is a _traitor_, So-and-so
is _very wicked_, So-and-so is _great,_ So-and-so is _ridiculous_" (the
italicized words have all a peculiar meaning in his mouth). This one
believes that the Pont Neuf belongs to him, and prevents _the world_
from walking on the cornice outside the parapet; another has a mania
for pulling the ears of _persons_, etc. etc.



This lad may be traced in Poquelin, a son of the Halles, and again
in Beaumarchais; for gaminerie is a tinge of the Gallic temper. When
blended with common sense, it at times adds strength, in the same way
as alcohol when mixed with wine; at other times it is a fault. Homer,
it is true, repeats himself, and we might say that Voltaire plays the
gamin. Camille Desmoulins was a faubourien. Championnet, who abused
miracles, issued from the pavement of Paris; when quite a lad, he
"inundated the porticos" of St. Jean de Beauvais and St. Étienne du
Mont, and was on such familiar terms with the shrine of Saint Geneviève
as eventually to give his orders to the vial of Saint Januarius.

The Parisian gamin is respectful, ironical, and insolent. He has bad
teeth because he is badly fed and his stomach suffers, and fine eyes
because he has talent. He would hop up the steps of Paradise in the
very presence of Jehovah. He is clever at the savate, and all creeds
are possible to him. He plays in the gutter, and draws himself up at
the sound of an émeute; his effrontery cannot be subdued by grape-shot;
he was a vagabond and becomes a hero, and, like the little Theban,
he shakes the lion's skin. Barra the drummer was a Parisian gamin; he
shouted, "Forward!" and in an instant became a giant. This child of the
mud is also the child of the ideal; to see this we need only measure
the distance between Molière and Barra.

In a word, the gamin is a being who amuses himself because he is



The gamin of Paris at the present day, like the Græculus of Rome in
former time, is the youthful people with the wrinkle of the old world
on its forehead. The gamin is a grace for a nation, and at the same
time a malady,--a malady which must be cured. In what way? By light;
for light is sanitary and illumining.

All the generous social irradiations issue from science, letters, the
arts, and instruction. Make men, make men. Enlighten them in order that
they may warm you. Sooner or later the splendid question of universal
instruction will be asked with the irresistible authority of absolute
truth; and then those who govern under the surveillance of French ideas
will have to make a choice between children of France and gamins of
Paris, between flames in light and will-o'-the-wisps in the darkness.

The gamin expresses Paris, and Paris expresses the world. For Paris is
a total; it is the ceiling of the human race, and the whole of this
prodigious city is an epitome of dead manners and living manners.
The man who sees Paris imagines that he sees universal history, with
sky and constellations in the intervals. Paris has a Capitol, the
Town Hall; a Parthenon, Notre Dame; a Mons Aventinus, the Faubourg
St. Antoine; an Asinarium, the Sorbonne; a Pantheon, the Panthéon; a
Via Sacra, the Boulevard des Italians; a Tower of the Winds, public
opinion; and ridicule has been substituted for the Gemoniæ. Its majo
is called the "faraud," its Transteverine is called the faubourien,
its hammal the "fort de la Halle," its lazzarone the "pegre," and its
cockney the "Gandin." All that is elsewhere is in Paris. Dumarsais'
fish-fag can give a reply to the herb-seller of Euripides; Vejanus the
discobolus lives again in the rope-dancer Forioso; Therapontigonus
Miles could walk arm-in-arm with Grenadier Vadeboncœur; Damasippus the
broker would be happy among the dealers in _bric-à-brac;_ Vincennes
would hold Socrates under lock, just as the Agora would pounce on
Diderot; Grimod de la Reynière discovered roast-beef with tallow, in
the same way as Curtillus invented roast hedgehog. We have seen the
trapeze of which we read in Plautus reappear under the balloon of the
Arc de l'Étoile; the sword-swallower of Pœcile met by Apuleius is a
swallower of sabres on the Pont Neuf; Rameau's nephew and Curculion
the parasite form a pair; Ergasites would have himself introduced to
Cambaceres by d'Aigre feuille; the four fops of Rome, Alcesimarchus,
Phœdromus, Dicabolus, and Argiryppus descend the Courtille in Labatut's
post-chaise; Aulus Gellius stopped before Congrio no longer than
Charles Nodier did before Punchinello; Marton is not a tigress, but
Pardalisca was not a dragon. Pantolabus humbugs Nomentamus the gourmet
at the Café Anglais; Hermogenes is the Tenor in the Champs Élysées,
and Thrasius the beggar, dressed as Bobêche, carries round the hat for
him; the troublesome fellow who catches hold of your coat-button in
the Tuileries makes you repeat after two thousand years the apostrophe
of Thesperon,--_Quis properantem me prehendit pallio_? The wine of
Suresne is a parody of the wine of Alba; Père Lachaise exhales in the
night showers the same gleams as the Esquiliæ; and the poor man's grave
bought for five years is quite equal to the hired coffin of the slave.

Seek for anything which Paris has not. The tub of Trophonius contains
nothing which is not in Mesmer's trough; Ergaphilas is resuscitated
in Cagliostro; the Brahmin Vasaphanta is incarcerated in the Count
de St. Germain; and the cemetery of Saint Médard performs quite as
good miracles as the Oumoumie Mosque at Damascus. Paris has an Æsop
in Mayeux, and a Canidia in Mademoiselle Lenormand; it is startled as
Delphi was by the flaming realities of the vision; it makes tables
turn as Dodona did tripods; it places a grisette upon a throne as
Rome placed a courtesan; and, after all, if Louis XV. is worse than
Claudius, Madame Dubarry is better than Messalina. Paris combines in
an extraordinary type what has lived and what we have elbowed,--Greek
nudity, the Hebrew ulcer, and Gascon puns. It mixes up Diogenes, Job,
and Paillasse, dresses a ghost in old numbers of the _Constitutionnel,_
and makes Chodrucnito a Duclos. Although Plutarch says that "the
tyrant never goes to sleep," Rome, under Sylla as under Domitian,
was resigned, and liked to mix water with its wine. The Tiber was a
Lethe, if we may believe the somewhat doctrinaire eulogium which Varus
Vibiscus made of it: _Contra Gracchos Tiberim habemus. Bibere Tiberim,
id est seditionem oblivisci_. Paris drinks a million quarts of water a
day; but that does not prevent it from beating the tattoo and ringing
the alarm-bell when the opportunity offers.

With this exception, Paris is good-natured. It accepts everything
royally; it is not difficult in the matter of its Venus; its Callipyge
is a Hottentot; provided that it laughs, it forgives; ugliness amuses
it, deformity does it good, and vice distracts it; if you are droll
you may be a scoundrel; even hypocrisy, that supreme cynicism, does
not revolt it; it is so literary that it does not hold its nose on
passing Basile, and is no more scandalized by Tartuffe's prayer than
Horace was terrified by the "hiccough" of Priapus. No feature of the
human face is wanting in the profile of Paris; the Mabille ball is
not the Polyhymnian dance of the Janiculum, but the wardrobe-dealer
has her eyes fixed on the Lorette there, exactly as the procuress
Staphyla watched the Virgin Planesium. The Barrière des Combats is not
a Coliseum, but people are as ferocious there as if Cæsar were looking
on. The Syrian hostess has more grace than Mother Saguet; but if Virgil
frequented the Roman wine-shop, David of Angers, Balzac, and Charlet
have seated themselves in Parisian pot-houses. Paris reigns, geniuses
flash in it, and red-tails prosper. Adonaïs passes through it in his
twelve-wheeled car of thunder and lightning, and Silenus makes his
entrance on his barrel. For Silenus read Ramponneau.

Paris is the synonym of Cosmos; Paris is Athens, Rome, Sybaris,
Jerusalem, and Pantin. All civilizations are found there abridged,
but so are all barbarisms. Paris would be very sorry not to have a
guillotine; a little of the Place de Grève is useful, for what would
this eternal festival be without that seasoning? The laws have wisely
provided for that, and, thanks to them, the knife drains drops of blood
upon this Mardi-Gras.



There are no limits to Paris; and no other city has held this sway,
which at times derides those whom it holds in subjection. "To please
you, O Athenians!" Alexander exclaimed. Paris makes more than the
law, for it sets the fashion; and it makes more than fashion, for it
produces routine. Paris may be stupid, if it think proper; at times
it indulges in that luxury, and then the universe is stupid with it;
but Paris soon wakes up, rubs its eyes, says, "How stupid I am!" and
laughs in the face of the human race. What a marvel such a city is!
How strange it is to find this grandeur and this buffoonery side by
side; to see how all this majesty is not deranged by this parody, and
the same mouth to-day blowing the trumpet of the last judgment, and
to-morrow a penny whistle! Paris has a sovereign gayety; but the gayety
is lightning, and its farce holds a sceptre. Its hurricane at times
issues from a furnace; its explosions, its days, its masterpieces,
its prodigies, its epics, go to the end of the world, and so do its
cock-and-bull tales. Its laugh is the crater of a volcano which
bespatters the world, and its jokes are sparks of fire. It imposes
upon nations its caricatures as well as its ideal, and the loftiest
monuments of human civilization accept its ironies and lend their
eternity to its jokes. It is superb; it has a prodigious July 14, which
delivers the globe; its night of August 4 dissolves in three hours a
thousand years of feudalism; it makes with its logic the muscle of the
unanimous will; it multiplies itself in every form of sublimity; it
fills with its lustre Washington, Kosciusko, Bolivar, Bozzaris, Riégo,
Bem, Manin, Lopez, John Brown, and Garibaldi. It is found wherever
the future bursts into a flash,--at Boston in 1779, at the Isle of
Leon in 1820, at Pesth in 1848, at Palermo in 1860; it whispers the
powerful watchword "Liberty" in the ear of the American abolitionists
assembled at Harper's Ferry, and in that of the patriots of Ancona
assembled in the darkness before the Gozzi inn, on the sea-shore; it
creates Canaris, it creates Quiroga, it creates Pisacane, it radiates
grandeur upon the earth; it was by going whither its blast impelled
him that Byron died at Missolonghi, and Mazet at Barcelona; it is
a tribune under the feet of Mirabeau, and a crater under those of
Robespierre; its books, plays, art, science, literature, and philosophy
are the manuals of the human race; it has Pascal, Regnier, Corneille,
Descartes, and Jean Jacques; Voltaire for any moment, Molière for all
ages; it makes the universal mouth speak its language; it constructs
in every mind the idea of progress; the liberating dogmas which it
fuses are well-tried friends for generations, and it is with the mind
of its thinkers and its poets that all the heroes of all nations have
been formed since 1789. Still, this does not prevent it from playing
the gamin; and the enormous genius which is called Paris, while
transfiguring the world with its light, draws Bouginier's nose with
charcoal on the wail of the Temple of Theseus, and writes Crédeville
Voleur upon the Pyramids.

Paris constantly shows its teeth, and when it is not scolding it is
laughing; such is Paris. The smoke from its chimneys constitutes the
ideas of the universe; it is a pile of mud and stones if you like, but
it is, before all, a moral being. It is more than grand, it is immense;
and why? Because it dares. Daring is the price paid for progress. All
sublime contests are more or less the rewards of boldness. For the
Revolution to take place, it was not enough that Montesquieu should
foresee it, Diderot preach it, Beaumarchais announce it, Condorcet
calculate it, Arouet prepare it, and Rousseau premeditate it,--it was
necessary that Danton should dare it.

The cry "Audace!" is a _Fiat lux_. In order that the human race may
progress, it must have proved lessons of courage permanently before
it. Rashness dazzles history, and is one of the great brightnesses of
man. The dawn dares when it breaks. To attempt, to brave, persist,
and persevere, to be faithful to one's self, to wrestle with destiny,
to astound the catastrophe by the slight fear which it causes us, at
one moment to confront unjust power, at another to insult intoxicated
victory, to hold firm and withstand,--such is the example which people
need and which electrifies them. The same formidable flash goes from
the torch of Prometheus to the short clay pipe of Cambronne.



As for the Parisian people, even when full grown, it is always the
gamin. Depicting the lad is depicting the city, and that is the reason
why we have studied the eagle in the sparrow.

The Parisian race, we say again, is found most truly in the faubourg;
there it is pure-blooded, there we find the real physiognomy, there
the people work and suffer, and toil and suffering are the two faces
of the man. There are there immense numbers of strange beings, among
whom may be found the wildest types, from the porter of la Râpée to the
quarryman of Montfauçon. _Fœx urbis_, Cicero exclaims; "Mob," Burke
adds, indignantly; a crowd, a multitude, a population,--these words
are quickly uttered; but no matter! what do I care that they go about
barefoot? They cannot read; all the worse. Will you abandon them on
that account? Will you convert their distress into a curse? Cannot
light penetrate these masses? Let us revert to that cry of light,
and insist upon it, light, light! who knows whether this opaqueness
may not become transparent? For are not revolutions themselves
transfigurations? Come, philosophers, teach, enlighten, illumine,
think aloud, speak loudly, run joyfully into the sunshine, fraternize
with the public places, announce the glad tidings, spread alphabets
around, proclaim the right, sing the Marseillaise, sow enthusiasm, and
pluck green branches from the oaks. Make a whirlwind of the idea. This
crowd may be sublimated, so let us learn how to make use of that vast
conflagration of principles and virtues which crackles and bursts into
a flame at certain hours. These bare feet, these naked arms, these
rags, this ignorance, this abjectness, this darkness, may be employed
for the conquest of the ideal. Look through the people, and you will
perceive the truth; the vile sand which you trample under foot, when
cast into the furnace and melted will become splendid crystal, and by
its aid Galileo and Newton discover planets.



Eight or nine years after the events recorded in the second portion of
this story, there might be noticed on the Boulevard du Temple and in
the regions of the Château d'Eau, a boy of about eleven or twelve years
of age, who would have tolerably well realized the ideal of a gamin
as sketched above, had he not had, with the smile of his age on his
lips, a heart absolutely gloomy and void. This child was dressed in a
man's trousers, but he had not got them from his father, and a woman's
jacket, which did not come from his mother. Some persons had clothed
him in rags out of charity. Yet he had a father and a mother, but his
father did not think of him and his mother did not love him. He was one
of those children worthy of pity before all, who have father and mother
and are orphans.

This child was never so comfortable anywhere as in the street, for
the paving-stones were less hard to him than his mother's heart. His
parents had kicked him out into life, and he had simply tried his
wings. He was a noisy, pale, active, sharp, impudent lad, with a
cunning and sickly look. He came and went, sang, played at hop-scotch,
searched the gutters, pilfered a little, but gayly, like cats and
sparrows, laughed when he was called a scamp, and felt angry when
called a thief. He had no bed, no bread, no fire, no love: but he was
happy because he was free. When these poor beings are men, the mill
of social order nearly always crushes them: but so long as they are
children they escape because they are small. The slightest hole saves

Still, abandoned as this child was, it happened every two or three
months that he said,--"Well, I'll go and see mamma." Then he quitted
the boulevard, the circus, the Porte St. Martin, went along the quay,
crossed the bridge, reached the Salpêtrière, and arrived where? Exactly
at that double No. 50-52, which the reader knows,--the Maison Gorbeau.
At this period No. 50-52, which was habitually deserted and eternally
decorated with a bill of "Lodgings to Let," was, strange to say,
inhabited by several persons who had no acquaintance with each other,
as is always the case in Paris. All belonged to that indigent class
which begins with the last small tradesman in difficulties, and is
prolonged from wretchedness to wretchedness to those two beings to whom
all the material things of civilization descend,--the scavenger and the

The chief lodger of Jean Valjean's day was dead, and her place had been
taken by another exactly like her. I forget now what philosopher said,
"There is never any want of old women." This new old woman was called
Madame Burgon, and had nothing remarkable in her life save a dynasty of
three parrots, which had successively reigned over her soul. The most
wretched of all the persons inhabiting the house were a family of four
persons, father, mother, and two nearly grown-up daughters, all four
living in the same attic, one of the cells to which we have alluded.

This family offered at the first glance nothing very peculiar beyond
its poverty; and the father, on hiring the room, stated that his
name was Jondrette. A short time after he moved in, which had borne
a striking resemblance--to employ the memorable remark of the chief
lodger--to the coming in of nothing at all, this Jondrette had said to
the woman, who, like her predecessor, was also portress and swept the
stairs, "Mother So-and-so, if any one were to ask by chance for a Pole,
or an Italian, or perhaps a Spaniard, I am the party."

This was the family of the merry little vagabond. He joined it, and
found distress, and, what is sadder still, not a smile; a cold hearth
and cold heart. When he entered, they asked him, "Where do you come
from?" and he answered, "From the street:" when he went away, "Where
are you going?" and he answered, "To the street." His mother would
say to him, "What do you want here?" The boy lived in this absence
of affection like the pale grass which grows in cellars. He was not
hurt by its being so, and was not angry with any one: he did not know
exactly how a father and mother ought to be. Moreover, his mother loved
his sisters.

We have forgotten to mention that on the boulevard the lad was called
Little Gavroche. Why was he called Gavroche? Probably because his
father's name was Jondrette. Breaking the thread seems the instinct of
some wretched families. The room which the Jondrettes occupied at the
Maison Gorbeau was the last in the passage, and the cell next to it was
occupied by a very poor young man of the name of Monsieur Marius. Let
us state who this Monsieur Marius was.





There are still a few persons residing in the Rue Boucherat, Rue de
Normandie, and Rue de Saintonge, who can remember a gentleman of the
name of M. Gillenormand, and speak kindly about him. This good man was
old when they were young. This profile has not entirely disappeared,
with those who look sadly at the vague congregation of shadows called
the past, from the labyrinth of streets near the Temple, which in the
reign of Louis XIV. received the names of all the provinces of France,
exactly in the same way as in our time the names of all the capitals
of Europe have been given to the streets in the new Tivoli quarter; a
progression, by the bye, in which progress is visible.

M. Gillenormand, who was most lively in 1831, was one of those men
who have become curious to look on solely because they have lived a
long time, and are strange because they once resembled everybody and
now no longer resemble any one. He was a peculiar old man, and most
certainly the man of another age, the genuine, perfect bourgeois of
the 18th century, who carried his honest old bourgeoisie with the same
air as Marquises did their marquisate. He had passed his ninetieth
year, walked upright, talked loudly, saw clearly, drank heartily, and
ate, slept, and snored. He still had his two-and-thirty teeth, and
only wore spectacles to read with. He was of an amorous temper, but
said that for the last ten years he had decidedly and entirely given
up the sex. "He could not please," he said: and he did not add "I am
too old," but "I am too poor. If I were not ruined--he, he, he!" In
fact, all that was left him was an income of about fifteen thousand
francs. His dream was to make a large inheritance, and have one hundred
thousand francs a year, in order to keep mistresses. As we see, he
did not belong to that weak variety of octogenarians, who, like M. de
Voltaire, were dying all their life; his longevity was not that of the
cracked jug, and this jolly old gentleman had constantly enjoyed good
health. He was superficial, rapidly and easily angered, and he would
storm at the slightest thing, most usually an absurd trifle. When he
was contradicted, he raised his cane and thrashed his people, as folk
used to do in the great age. He had a daughter, upwards of fifty years
of age and unmarried, whom he gave a hearty thrashing to when he was
in a passion, and whom he would have liked to whip, for he fancied her
eight years of age. He boxed his servant's ears energetically, and
would say, "Ah, carrion!" One of his oaths was, "By the _pantoflouche_
of the _pantouflochade_!" His tranquillity was curious; he was shaved
every morning by a barber who had been mad and who detested him, for
he was jealous of M. Gillenormand on account of his wife, who was a
pretty little coquette. M. Gillenormand admired his own discernment in
everything, and declared himself extremely sagacious. Here is one of
his remarks,--"I have in truth some penetration. I am able to say, when
a flea bites me, from what woman I caught it." The words he employed
most frequently were "the sensitive man" and "nature," but he did not
give to the latter word the vast acceptation of our age. But there was
a certain amount of homeliness in his satirical remarks. "Nature," he
would say, "anxious that civilization may have a little of everything,
even gives it specimens of amusing barbarism. Europe has specimens of
Asia and Africa in a reduced size; the cat is a drawing-room tiger,
the lizard a pocket crocodile. The ballet girls at the opera are
pink savages; they do not eat men, but they live on them: the little
magicians change them into oysters and swallow them. The Caribs
only leave the bones, and they only leave the shells. Such are our
manners; we do not devour, but we nibble; we do not exterminate, but we



He lived in the Marais, at No. 6 Rue des Filles de Calvaire, and the
house belonged to him. This house has since been pulled down and
rebuilt, and the number has probably been changed in the numbering
revolutions which the streets of Paris undergo. He occupied an old
and vast suite of rooms on the first floor, furnished up to the
ceiling with large Gobelins and Beauvais tapestry, representing
shepherd scenes; the subjects of the ceiling and panels were repeated
in miniature upon the chairs. He surrounded his bed with an immense
screen of Coromandel lacquer-work; long curtains hung from the windows,
and made very splendid, large, broken folds. The garden immediately
under the windows was reached by a flight of twelve or fifteen steps
running from one of them, which the old gentleman went up and down
very nimbly. In addition to a library adjoining his bed-room, he had
a boudoir, which he was very fond of, a gallant withdrawing-room
hung with a magnificent fleur-de-lysed tapestry, made in the galleys
of Louis XIV., which M. de Vivonne had ordered of his convicts for
his mistress. M. Gillenormand inherited this from a stern maternal
great-aunt, who died at the age of one hundred. He had had two wives.
His manners were midway between those of the courtier, which he had
never been, and of the barrister, which he might have been. He was gay
and pleasing when he liked; in his youth he had been one of those men
who are always deceived by their wives and never by their mistresses,
because they are at once the most disagreeable husbands and the most
charming lovers imaginable. He was a connoisseur of pictures, and had
in his bed-room a marvellous portrait of somebody unknown, painted by
Jordaens with bold strokes of the brush, and with an infinitude of
details. M. Gillenormand's coat was not in the style of Louis XV.,
or even Louis XVI., but it was in the style of the exquisites of the
Directory. He had believed himself quite a youth at that time, and
followed the fashions. His coat was of light cloth with large cuffs, a
long codfish tail, and large steel buttons. Add to these knee-breeches
and buckle-shoes. He always had his hands in his fobs, and said
authoritatively, "The French Revolution is a collection of ruffians."



At the age of sixteen, when at the opera one night, he had the honor of
being examined simultaneously by two beauties, at that time, celebrated
and sung by Voltaire,--la Camargo, and la Salle. Caught between two
fires, he beat an heroic retreat towards a little dancing--girl of
the name of Naheury, sixteen years of age, like himself, obscure as a
cat, of whom he was enamoured. He abounded in recollections, and would
exclaim, "How pretty that Guimard-Guimardini-Guimardinette was, the
last time I saw her at Longchamps, with her hair dressed in 'sustained
feelings,' her 'come and see them' of turquoises, her dress of the
color of 'newly-arrived people,' and her muff of 'agitation.'" He had
worn in his youth a jacket of Nain-Londeur, to which he was fond of
alluding: "I was dressed like a Turk of the Levantine Levant." Madame
Boufflers, seeing him accidentally when he was twenty years of age,
declared him to be "a charming madcap." He was scandalized at all
the names he saw in politics and power, and considered them low and
bourgeois. He read the journals, the _newspapers,_ the _gazettes_, as
he called them, and burst into a laugh. "Oh!" he would say, "who are
these people? Corbière! Humann! Casimir Périer! There's a ministry for
you! I can imagine this in a paper,--M. Gillenormand, Minister; it
would be a farce, but they are so stupid that it might easily happen."
He lightly called everything by its proper or improper name, and was
not checked by the presence of ladies; and he uttered coarseness,
obscenity, and filth with a peculiarly calm and slightly amazed accent
in which was elegance. Such was the loose manner of the age. It is to
be remarked that the season of circumlocution in verse was that of
crudities in prose. His grandfather had predicted that he would be a
man of genius, and gave him the two significant Christian names, Luc



He gained prizes in his youth at the college of Moulins, in which town
he was born, and was crowned by the hand of the Due de Nivernais,
whom he called the Due de Nevers. Neither the Convention, the death
of Louis XVI., Napoleon, nor the return of the Bourbons, had effaced
the recollection of this coronation. The Due de Nevers was to him the
grand figure of the age. "What a charming nobleman!" he would say, "and
how well his blue ribbon became him!" In the eyes of M. Gillenormand,
Catherine II. repaired the crime of the division of Poland by
purchasing of Bestucheff, for three thousand roubles, the secret of the
elixir of gold, and on this point he would grow animated. "The elixir
of gold!" he would exclaim. "Bestucheff's yellow tincture and the
drops of General Lamotte were, in the 18th century, at one louis the
half-ounce bottle, the grand remedy for love catastrophes, the panacea
against Venus. Louis XV. sent two hundred bottles of it to the Pope."
He would have been greatly exasperated had he been told that the gold
elixir is nothing but perchloride of iron. M. Gillenormand adored the
Bourbons, and held 1789 in horror; he incessantly described in what
way he had escaped during the Reign of Terror, and how he had been
obliged to display great gayety and wit in order not to have his head
cut off. If any young man dared in his presence to praise the Republic,
he turned blue, and grew so angry as almost to faint. Sometimes he
alluded to his ninety years, and said, "I trust that I shall not see
ninety-three twice." At other times, he informed persons that he
intended to live to be a hundred.



He had his theories; here is one of them: "When a man passionately
loves women, and himself has a wife for whom he cares little,--a wife
that is ugly, legitimate, full of her rights, reliant on the Code, and
jealous when she likes to be so, he has only one way of getting out
of the hobble and living at peace; it is to leave his purse--strings
to his wife. This abdication renders him free; the wife is henceforth
occupied, grows passionately fond of handling specie, verdigrises her
fingers, undertakes to instruct the peasants and train the farmers,
harangues the notaries, visits their offices, follows the course of
lawsuits, draws up leases, dictates contracts, knows she is absolute,
sells, buys, regulates, orders, promises and compromises, yields,
concedes and recedes, arranges, deranges, saves, and squanders; she
commits follies, and this affords her supreme personal pleasure and
consolation. While her husband disregards her she has the satisfaction
of ruining her husband." This theory M. Gillenormand applied to
himself, and it became his history. His wife, the second one, managed
his fortune in such a manner that one fine day when he found himself
a widower, he had just enough to live on, by buying an annuity, three
fourths of which would expire with him. He had not hesitated, for he
did not care much about leaving anything to his heir, and, besides,
he had seen that patrimonies had their adventures, and, for instance,
became "National Property;" he had seen the avatars of the three per
cent consols, and put but little faith in the great Book. "All that
is Rue Quincampoix!" he would say. His house in the Rue des Filles du
Calvaire belonged, as we stated, to him, and he had, two servants,
"a he and a she." When a servant came into his house M. Gillenormand
rechristened him, and gave the men the name of their province, Nîmois,
Comtois, Poitevin, or Picard. His last valet was a fat cunning man of
fifty-five, incapable of running twenty yards; but as he was born at
Bayonne, M. Gillenormand called him Basque. As for the maid-servants,
he called them all Nicolette (even la Magnon, to whom we shall
allude directly). One day a bold cook, a Cordon Bleu, of the proud
concierge race, presented herself "What wages do you expect a month?"
M. Gillenormand asked her. "Thirty francs." "What is your name?"
"Olympie." "I will give you forty, and call you Nicolette."



In Gillenormand sorrow was translated into choler; he was furious at
being in despair. He had every prejudice and took every license. One
of the things of which he composed his external relief and internal
satisfaction was, as we have indicated, having remained a gay fellow,
and passing energetically for such. He called this having a "royal
renown," but this renown at times brought him into singular scrapes.
One day a big baby, wrapped in rags and crying lustily, was brought
to him in a basket, which a maid-servant, discharged six months
previously, attributed to him. M. Gillenormand was at that time past
his eighty-fourth year, and people around him became indignant and
clamorous. "Does the impudent wench expect to make anybody believe
this? What audacity! What an abominable calumny!" M. Gillenormand,
however, did not feel at all angry. He looked at the brat with the
amiable smile of a man flattered by the calumny, and said to the
company, "Well, what is the matter? Is there anything so wonderful
in it, that you should stand there like stuck pigs and display your
ignorance? M. le Duc d'Angoulême, bastard of his Majesty Charles IX.,
married at the age of eighty-five a girl of fifteen; Monsieur Virginal,
Marquis d'Alleuze, and brother of Cardinal de Sourdis, Archbishop of
Bordeaux, had at the age of eighty-three by the lady's-maid of Madame
Jacquin, the President's wife, a genuine love-child, who was a Knight
of Malta, and Member of the Privy Council. One of the great men of
this age, Abbé Tabaraud, is the son of a man of eighty-seven years of
age. These things are common enough. And then take the Bible! After
this, I declare that this little gentleman is none of mine; but take
care of him, for it is not his fault." The creature, the aforesaid
Magnon, sent him a second parcel the next year, also a boy, and M.
Gillenormand thought it time to capitulate. He sent the two brats to
their mother, agreeing to pay eighty francs a month for their support,
but on condition that the mother was not to begin again. He added, "I
expect that the mother will treat them well, and I shall go and see
them now and then," which he did. He had a brother, a priest, who was
for three-and-thirty years Rector of the Poitiers academy, and died
at the age of seventy-nine. "I lost him when quite young," he would
say. This brother, who is not much remembered, was a great miser, who,
as he was a priest, thought himself bound to give alms to the poor he
met, but he never gave them aught but bad or called-in money, thus
finding means of going to Hades by the road to Paradise. As for M.
Gillenormand the elder, he gave alms readily and handsomely; he was
benevolent, brusque, and charitable, and had he been rich his downfall
would have been magnificent. He liked everything that concerned him
to be done grandly; even when he was swindled one day, having been
plundered in the matter of an inheritance by a man of business in a
clumsy and obvious manner, he made the solemn remark, "Sir, that was
done very awkwardly, and I feel ashamed of such clumsiness. Everything
has degenerated in this age, even the swindlers. Morbleu! a man of
my stamp ought not to be robbed in that way; I was plundered as if I
were in a wood, but badly plundered, _sylvœ sint consule dignœ!_" He
had married twice, as we said; by his first wife he had a girl, who
remained an old maid, and by the second another girl, who died at the
age of thirty, and who married through love, or chance, or otherwise, a
soldier of fortune who had served in the armies of the Republic and the
Empire, won the cross at Austerlitz, and his colonel's commission at
Waterloo. "He is the disgrace of my family," the old gentleman used to
say. He took a great dial of snuff, and had a peculiarly graceful way
of shaking his shirt-frill with the back of his hand. He believed very
little in God.



Such was M. Luc Esprit Gillenormand, who had not lost his hair,
which was rather gray than white, and always wore it in dog's
ears,--altogether venerable. He was a man of the 18th century,
frivolous and great. In 1814, and the early years of the
Restoration, M. Gillenormand, who was still a youth,--he was only
seventy-four,--resided in the Rue Sirvandoni, Faubourg St. Germain.
He only retired to the Marais on leaving society, that is to say,
long after his eightieth year, and on leaving the world he immured
himself in his habits; the chief one, and in that he was invariable,
was to keep his door closed by day and receive nobody, no matter the
nature of his business, till night. He dined at five, and then his
door was thrown open; it was the fashion of his century, and he did
not like to give it up. "Day is low," he would say, "and only deserves
closed shutters." People of fashion light up their wit when the zenith
illumines its stars, and he barricaded himself against everybody, even
had it been the King; such was old-time elegance.



As for M. Gillenormand's two daughters, they were born at an interval
of ten years. In their youth they had been very little alike, and
both in character and face were as little sisters as was possible.
The younger was a charming creature, who turned to the light, loved
flowers, poetry, and music, was enthusiastic, ethereal, and mentally
betrothed from her youth up to some heroic figure. The elder had her
chimera too; she saw in the azure an army-contractor, some fat and
very rich man, a splendidly stupid husband, a million converted into
a man, or else a prefect; the reception at the prefecture, an usher
in the ante-room with a chain round his neck, the official balls, the
addresses at the mansion-house to be "Madame la Prefête,"--all this
buzzed in her imagination. The two sisters wandered each in her own
reverie, at the period when they were girls, and both had wings,--the
one those of an angel, the other those of a goose.

No ambition is fully realized, at least not in this nether world, and
no paradise becomes earthly in our age. The younger married the man of
her dreams, but she was dead, while the elder did not marry. At the
period when she enters into our narrative, she was an old virtue, an
incombustible prude, with one of the most acute noses and most obtuse
intellects imaginable. It is a characteristic fact that, beyond her
family, no one had ever known her family name; she was called Mlle.
Gillenormand the elder. In the matter of cant, Mlle. Gillenormand could
have given points to a Miss. It was modesty pushed to the verge of the
impure. She had one frightful reminiscence in her life,--one day a man
saw her garter.

Age had only heightened this pitiless modesty,--her chemisette was
never sufficiently opaque, and never was high enough. She multiplied
brooches and pins at places where no one dreamed of looking. The
peculiarity of prudery is to station the more sentries the less the
fortress is menaced. Still, let who will explain these old mysteries of
innocence, she allowed herself to be kissed without displeasure by an
officer in the Lancers, who was her grand-nephew, and Théodule by name.
In spite of this favored Lancer, however, the ticket of "Prude," which
we have set upon her, suited her exactly. Mlle. Gillenormand's was a
species of twilight soul, and prudery is a semi-virtue and a semi-vice.
She added to prudery the congenial lining of bigotry; she belonged to
the Sisterhood of the Virgin, wore a white veil on certain saints'
days, muttered special orisons, revered "the holy blood," venerated
"the sacred heart," remained for hours in contemplation before a
rococo-Jesuit altar in a closed chapel, and allowed her soul to soar
among the little marble clouds and through the large beams of gilt

She had a chapel friend, an old maid like herself, of the name of Mlle.
Vaubois, absolutely imbecile, and by whose side Mlle. Gillenormand had
the pleasure of being an eagle. Beyond Agnus Deis and Ave Marias, Mlle.
Vaubois knew nothing except the different ways of making preserves.
Perfect of her kind, she was the ermine of stupidity, without a single
spot of intelligence. We must add that Mlle. Gillenormand rather
gained than lost by growing old. She had never been wicked, which is a
relative goodness; and then years abrade angles, and time had softened
her. She had an obscure melancholy, of which she did not herself
possess the secret, and about her entire person there was the stupor
of a finished life which has not begun. She kept house for her father;
such families, consisting of an old man and an old maid, are not rare,
and have the ever-touching appearance of two weaknesses supporting each

There was also in this house a child,--a little boy,--who was always
trembling and dumb in the old gentleman's presence. M. Gillenormand
never spoke to this boy except with a stern voice, and at times with
upraised cane. "Come here, sir,--scamp, scoundrel, come here,--answer
me, fellow,--let me see you, vagabond!" etc., etc. He adored him; it
was his grandson, and we shall meet him again.

Book III.




When M. Gillenormand lived in the Rue Servandoni, he frequented
several very good and highly noble salons. Although a bourgeois, M.
Gillenormand was welcome in them, and as he had a two-fold stock
of wit, namely, that which he had, and that attributed to him, he
was sought after and made much of. There are some people who desire
influence and to be talked about, no matter what price they pay;
and when they cannot be oracles, they make themselves buffoons.
M. Gillenormand was not of that nature; and his domination in the
Royalist drawing-rooms which he frequented did not cost him any of his
self-respect. He was an oracle everywhere; and at times he held his own
against M. de Bonald, and even M. Bengy-Puy-Vallée.

About 1817, he invariably spent two afternoons a week at the house of
the Baronne de T----, a worthy and respectable person whose husband
had been, under Louis XVI., Ambassador to Berlin. The Baron de T----,
who, when alive, was passionately devoted to magnetic ecstasies and
visions, died abroad a ruined man, leaving as his sole fortune ten
MS. volumes bound in red Morocco and gilt-edged, which contained very
curious memoirs about Mesmer and his trough. Madame de T---- did not
publish these memoirs through dignity, and lived on a small annuity,
which survived no one knew how. Madame de T---- lived away from Court,
"which was a very mixed society," as she said, in noble, proud, and
poor isolation. Some friends collected twice a week round her widow's
fire, and this constituted a pure Royalist salon. Tea was drunk,
and people uttered there, according as the wind blew to elegiacs or
dithyrambics, groans or cries of horror about the age, the charter, the
Buonapartists, the prostitution of the Cordon Bleu to untitled persons,
and the Jacobinism of Louis XVIII.; and they also whispered about the
hopes which Monsieur, afterwards Charles X., produced.

Low songs, in which Napoleon was called Nicholas, were greeted here
with transports of delight. Duchesses, the most charming and delicate
of ladies, went into ecstasies there about couplets like the following,
which were addressed to the "Federals":

    "Renfoncez dans vos culottes
    Le bout d'chemise qui vous pend.
    Qu'on n'dis pas qu'les patriotes
    Ont arboré l'drapeau blanc!"

They amused themselves with puns which they fancied tremendous, with
innocent jokes which they supposed venomous, with quatrains and even
distichs; here is one on the Dessolles Ministry, the moderate cabinet
of which Mons. Decazes and Deserre formed part:--

    "Pour raffermir le trône ébranlé sur sa base,
    Il faut changer de sol, et de serre et de case;"

or else they played upon the list of the House of Peers, "an abominably
Jacobin chamber," and combined names on this list so as to form, for
instance, phrases like the following: "Damas, Sabran, Gouvion de St.
Cyr." In this society the Revolution was parodied, and they had some
desire to sharpen the same passions in the contrary sense, and sang
their _ça, ira_.

    "Ah! ça ira! ça ira! ça ira!
    Les buonapartist' à la lanterne!"

Songs are like the guillotine,--they cut off indiscriminately to-day
this head, and to-morrow that. It is only a variation. In the Fualdès
affair, which belongs to this period (1816), they sided with Bastide
and Jansion, because Fualdès was "buonapartiste," They called the
Liberals friends and brothers, and that was the last degree of insult.
Like some church-steeples, the salon of the Baronne de T---- had
two cocks: one was M. Gillenormand, the other the Comte de Lamothe
Valois, of whom they whispered with a species of respect,--"You know?
the Lamothe of the necklace business,"--parties have these singular

Let us add this; in the bourgeoisie, honored situations are lessened by
too facile relations, and care must be taken as to who is admitted.
In the same way as there is a loss of caloric in the vicinity of
cold persons, there is a diminution of respect on the approach of
despised persons. The old high society held itself above this law,
as above all others; Marigny, brother of the Pompadour, visited the
Prince de Soubise, not although, but because, he was her brother. Du
Barry, godfather of the Vaubernier, is most welcome at the house of
the Maréchal de Richelieu. That world is Olympus, and Mercury and the
Prince de Guemenée are at home in it. A robber is admitted to it,
provided he be a god.

The Comte de Lamothe, who, in 1815, was seventy-five years of age, had
nothing remarkable about him beyond his silent and sententious air, his
angular and cold face, his perfectly polite manners, his coat buttoned
up to the chin, and his constantly crossed legs, covered with trousers
of the color of burnt Sienna. His face was the same color as his
trousers. This M. de Lamothe was esteemed in this salon on account of
his "celebrity," and, strange to say, but true, on account of his name
of Valois.

As for M. Gillenormand, the respect felt for him was of perfectly
good alloy. He was an authority; in spite of his levity, he had a
certain imposing, worthy, honest, and haughty manner, which did not
at all injure his gayety, and his great age added to it. A man is not
a century with impunity, and years eventually form a venerable fence
around a head. He made remarks, too, which had all the sparkle of the
old régime. Thus, when the King of Prussia, after restoring Louis
XVIII., paid him a visit under the name of the Comte de Ruppin, he
was received by the descendant of Louis XIV. somewhat as if he were
Marquis de Brandebourg, and with the most delicate impertinence. M.
Gillenormand approved of it. "All kings who are not King of France,"
he said, "are provincial kings." One day the following question was
asked, and answer given in his presence,--"What has been done about the
editor of the _Courrier Français?"_ "He is to be changed." "There's a
_c_ too much," M. Gillenormand dryly observed. At an anniversary Te
Deum for the return of the Bourbons, on seeing M. de Talleyrand pass,
he said,--"There's his Excellency the Devil."

M. Gillenormand was generally accompanied by his daughter, a tall young
lady, who at that time was forty and looked fifty; and by a pretty boy
of nine years of age, red and white, fresh, with happy, confident eyes,
who never appeared in this drawing-room without hearing all the voices
buzz around him,--"How pretty he is! What a pity, poor boy!" This lad
was the one to whom we referred just now, and he was called "poor boy"
because he had for father "a brigand of the Loire." This brigand was
that son-in-law of M. Gillenormand, who has already been mentioned, and
whom the old gentleman called the "disgrace of his family."



Any one who had passed at that period through the little town of
Vernon, and walked on the handsome stone bridge, which, let us hope,
will soon be succeeded by some hideous wire bridge, would have noticed,
on looking over the parapet, a man of about fifty, wearing a leathern
cap, and trousers and jacket of coarse gray cloth, to which something
yellow, which had been a red ribbon, was sewn, with a face tanned by
the sun, and almost black, and hair almost white, with a large scar on
his forehead and running down his cheek, bowed and prematurely aged,
walking almost every day, spade and pick in hand, in one of the walled
enclosures near the bridge, which border, like a belt of terraces, the
left bank of the Seine. There are delicious enclosures full of flowers,
of which you might say, were they much larger, "They are gardens,"
and if they were a little smaller, "They are bouquets." All these
enclosures join the river at one end and a house at the other. The
man in the jacket and wooden shoes, to whom we have alluded, occupied
in 1817 the narrowest of these enclosures and the smallest of these
houses. He lived there alone and solitary, silently and poorly, with a
woman who was neither young nor old, neither pretty nor ugly, neither
peasant nor bourgeoise, who waited on him. The square of land which
he called his garden was celebrated in the town for the beauty of the
flowers he cultivated, and they were his occupation.

Through his toil, perseverance, attention, and watering-pot, he had
succeeded in creating after the Creator; and he had invented sundry
tulips and dahlias which seemed to have been forgotten by nature. He
was ingenious, and preceded Soulange Bodin in the formation of small
patches of peat-soil for the growth of the rare and precious shrubs
of America and China. From daybreak in summer he was in his walks,
pricking out, clipping, hoeing, watering, or moving among his flowers,
with an air of kindness, sorrow, and gentleness. At times he would
stand thoughtful and motionless for hours, listening to the song of
a bird in a tree, the prattle of a child in a house, or else gazing
at a drop of dew on a blade of grass, which the sun converted into a
carbuncle. He lived very poorly, and drank more milk than wine: a child
made him give way, and his servant scolded him. He was timid to such an
extent that he seemed stern, went out rarely, and saw no one but the
poor, who tapped at his window, and his curé, Abbé Mabœuf, a good old
man. Still, if the inhabitants of the town or strangers, curious to see
his roses or tulips, came and tapped at his little door, he opened it
with a smile. He was the brigand of the Loire.

Any one who, at the same time, read military memoirs and biographies,
the _Moniteur_ and the bulletins of the great army, might have been
struck by a name which pretty often turns up, that of George Pontmercy.
When quite a lad this Pontmercy was a private in the Saintonge
regiment, and when the Revolution broke out, this regiment formed
part of the army of the Rhine, for the regiments of the Monarchy kept
their provincial names even after the fall of the Monarchy, and were
not brigaded till 1794. Pontmercy fought at Spires, Worms, Neustadt,
Turkheim, Alzey, and at Mayence, where he was one of the two hundred
who formed Houchard's rear-guard. He, with eleven others, held out
against the corps of the Prince of Hesse behind the old rampart of
Andernach, and did not fall back on the main body until the enemy's
guns had opened a breach from the parapet to the talus. He was under
Kléber at Marchiennes, and at the fight of Mont Palissel, where his
arm was broken by a rifle-ball; then he went to the frontier of Italy,
and was one of the thirty who defended the Col de Tenda with Joubert.
Joubert was appointed adjutant-general, and Pontmercy sub-lieutenant;
he was by Berthier's side amid the grape-shot on that day of Lodi which
made Bonaparte say, "Berthier was gunner, trooper, and grenadier." He
saw his old general Joubert fall at Novi at the moment when he was
shouting, with uplifted sabre, "Forward!" Having embarked with his
company on board a cutter which sailed from Genoa to some little port
of the coast, he fell into a wasps' nest of seven or eight English
sail. The Genoese commandant wished to throw his guns into the sea,
hide the soldiers in the hold, and pass like a merchant vessel; but
Pontmercy had the tricolor flag hoisted at the peak, and proudly
passed under the guns of the British frigates. Twenty leagues farther
on, his audacity increasing, he attacked and captured a large English
transport conveying troops to Sicily, and so laden with men and horses
that the vessel's deck was almost flush with the sea. In 1805 he
belonged to Malher's division, which took Gunzbourg from the Archduke
Ferdinand, and at Wettingen he caught in his arms, amid a shower of
bullets, Colonel Maupilet, who was mortally wounded at the head of
the 9th Dragoons. He distinguished himself at Austerlitz in that
admirable march in columns of companies performed under the enemy's
fire; and when the Russian Imperial Horse Guards destroyed one of the
battalions of the 4th line Infantry, Pontmercy was among those who
took their revenge, and drove back these Guards. For this the Emperor
gave him the Cross. Pontmercy saw in turn Wurmser made prisoner at
Mantua, Mélas at Alessandria, and Mack at Ulm, and he belonged to
the 8th corps of the grand army which Mortier commanded, and which
took Hamburg. Then he joined the 55th regiment of the line, which was
the old regiment of Flanders; at Eylau, he was in the cemetery where
the heroic Captain Louis Hugo, uncle of the author of this book,
withstood, with his company of eighty-three men, for two hours, the
whole effort of the enemy's army. Pontmercy was one of the three who
left this cemetery alive. He was at Friedland; then he saw Moscow, the
Beresina, Lutzen, Bautzen, Dresden, Wacha, Leipsic, and the defiles
of Gelnhausen; then at Montmereil, Château-Thierry, Craon, the banks
of the Marne, the banks of the Aisne, and the formidable position
of Laon. At Arnay le Duc, as captain, he sabred ten Cossacks, and
saved not his general, but his corporal; he was cut to pieces on this
occasion, and seven-and-twenty splinters were taken out of his left arm
alone. Eight days before the capitulation of Paris he exchanged with
a comrade and entered the cavalry; for he had what was called under
the old régime a "double hand;" that is to say, an equal aptitude in
handling, as private, a sabre or musket, as officer, a squadron or a
company. From this aptitude, improved by military education, special
arms sprang, for instance, the dragoons, who are at once cavalry and
infantry. He accompanied Napoleon to Elba, and at Waterloo was a Major
of cuirassiers in Dubois' brigade. It was he who took the colors of the
Limburg battalion, and himself threw them at the Emperor's feet. He was
covered with blood; for, on seizing the colors, he received a sabre-cut
across the face. The Emperor, who was pleased, cried out to him, "You
are a Colonel, a Baron, and officer of the Legion of Honor!" Pontmercy
answered,--"Sire, I thank you on behalf of my widow." An hour later he
fell into the ravine of Ohain. And now who was this George Pontmercy?
He was the same brigand of the Loire.

We have already seen some portion of his history. After Waterloo,
Pontmercy, drawn as we remember out of the sunken road of Ohain,
succeeded in rejoining the army, and dragged himself from ambulance
to ambulance as far as the cantonments of the Loire. The Restoration
put him on half-pay, and then sent him to Vernon, under honorable
surveillance. King Louis XVIII., regarding all that was done in the
Hundred Days as if it had not happened, recognized neither his quality
as officer of the Legion of Honor, nor his commission as Colonel, nor
his title as Baron. He for his part neglected no opportunity to sign
himself, "Colonel Baron de Pontmercy." He had only one old blue coat,
and never went out without attaching to it the rosette of the Legion
of Honor. The King's attorney advised him that he would be tried for
illegally wearing this decoration; and when this hint was given him by
an officious intermediator, Pontmercy replied, with a bitter smile,
"I do not know whether it is I that no longer understand French, or
whether you are not speaking it, but the fact remains the same: I do
not understand you." Then he went out for eight days in succession with
his rosette, and the authorities did not venture to interfere with
him. Twice or thrice the Minister of War or the General commanding
the department wrote to him with the following superscription: "M. le
Commandant Pontmercy," and he sent back the letters unopened. At the
same moment Napoleon at St. Helena was treating in the same fashion
the missives of Sir Hudson Lowe, addressed to "General Bonaparte."
If we may be forgiven the remark, Pontmercy finished by having the
same saliva in his mouth as the Emperor. There were also at Rome,
Carthaginian prisoners who refused to salute Flaminius, and had a
little of Hannibal's soul in them.

One morning he met the King's attorney in a street of Vernon, went up
to him, and said, "Monsieur le Procureur du Roi, am I allowed to wear
my scar?"

He had nothing but his scanty half-pay as Major, and he had taken the
smallest house in Vernon, where he lived alone, in what way we have
just seen. Under the Empire and between two wars he found time to
marry Mlle. Gillenormand. The old bourgeois, who was indignant in his
heart, concluded with a sigh and saying, "The greatest families are
forced into it." In 1815, Madame Pontmercy, a most admirable woman in
every respect, and worthy of her husband, died, leaving a child. This
child would have been the Colonel's delight in his solitude; but the
grandfather imperiously claimed him, declaring that if he were not
given up to him he would disinherit him. The father yielded for the
sake of the little one, and, unable to love his son, he took to loving

He had, however, given up everything, and did not join the opposition
or conspire. He shared his thoughts between the innocent things he did
and the great things he had done, and he spent his time in hoping for
a carnation or calling to mind Austerlitz. M. Gillenormand kept up no
relations with his son-in-law; the Colonel was to him a "bandit," and
he was for the Colonel an "ass." M. Gillenormand never spoke about the
Colonel, except at times to make mocking allusions to "his barony." It
was expressly stipulated that Pontmercy should never attempt to see his
son or speak to him, under penalty of having him thrown on his hands
disinherited. To the Gillenormands, Pontmercy was a plague patient, and
they intended to bring up the child after their fashion. The Colonel
perhaps did wrong in accepting these terms, but he endured them, in the
belief that he was acting rightly, and only sacrificing himself.

The inheritance of the grandfather was a small matter, but that of
Mlle. Gillenormand the elder was considerable, for this aunt was very
rich on her mother's side, and her sister's son was her natural heir.
The boy, who was called Marius, knew that he had a father, but nothing
more, and no one opened his lips to him on the subject. Still, in the
society to which his grandfather took him, the whisperings and winks
eventually produced light in the boy's mind; he understood something at
last, and, as he naturally accepted, by a species of infiltration and
slow penetration, the ideas and opinions which were, so to speak, his
breathing medium, he gradually came to think of his father only with

While he was thus growing up in this way, the Colonel every two or
three months came furtively to Paris, like a convict who is breaking
his ban, and posted himself at St. Sulpice, at the hour when Aunt
Gillenormand took Marius to Mass. Trembling lest the aunt should turn
round, concealed behind a pillar, motionless, and scarce daring to
breathe, he looked at this boy; the scarred warrior was frightened at
this old maid.

Prom this very circumstance emanated his friendship with the Abbé
Mabœuf, Curé of Vernon. This worthy priest had a brother, churchwarden
of St. Sulpice, who had several times noticed this man contemplating
his child, and the scar on his cheek, and the heavy tear in his eye.
This man, who looked so thoroughly a man, and who wept like a child,
struck the churchwarden, and this face adhered to his memory. One day
when he went to Vernon to see his brother he met on the bridge Colonel
Pontmercy, and recognized his man of St. Sulpice. The churchwarden
told the affair to the Curé, and both made some excuse to pay a visit
to the Colonel. This visit led to others; and the Colonel, though at
first very close, eventually opened his heart, and the Curé and the
churchwarden learned the whole story, and how Pontmercy sacrificed his
own happiness to the future of his child. The result was that the Curé
felt a veneration and tenderness for him, and the Colonel, on his side,
took the Curé into his affection. By the way, when both are equally
sincere and good, no men amalgamate more easily than an old priest and
an old soldier, for they are the same men at the bottom. One devotes
himself to his country down here, the other to his country up there;
that is the sole difference.

Twice a year, on January 1st, and Saint George's day, Marius wrote his
father letters dictated by his aunt, and which looked as if copied from
a handbook, for that was all M. Gillenormand tolerated; and the father
sent very affectionate replies, which the grandfather thrust into his
pocket without reading.



The salon of Madame de T---- was all that Marius Pontmercy knew of the
world, and it was the sole opening by which he could look out into
life. This opening was gloomy, and more cold than heat, more night
than day, reached him through this trap. This boy, who was all joy and
light on entering the strange world, became thus, in a short time, sad,
and what is more contrary still to his age, serious. Surrounded by all
these imposing and singular persons, he looked about him with serious
astonishment, and all contributed to augment his stupor. There were in
Madame de T----'s drawing-room old, noble, and very venerable ladies,
who called themselves Mathau, Noé, Levis (pronounced Levi), and Cambis,
(pronounced Cambyse). These ancient faces and these Biblical names were
mingled in the boy's mind with his Old Testament, which he learned by
heart, and when they were all present, seated in a circle round an
expiring fire, scarce illumined by a green-shaded lamp, with their
severe faces, their gray or white hair, their long dresses of another
age, in which only mournful colors could be seen, and uttering at
lengthened intervals words at once majestic and stern, little Marius
regarded them with wandering eyes and fancied that he saw not women,
but patriarchs, and Magi,--not real beings, but ghosts.

With these ghosts were mingled several priests, habitués of this old
salon, and a few gentlemen: the Marquis de Sass----, secretary to
Madame de Berry; the Vicomte de Val----, who published odes under the
pseudonym of Charles Antoine; the Prince de Beauff----, who, though
still young, had a gray head and a pretty, clever wife, whose dress
of scarlet velvet, with gold embroidery, cut very low in the neck,
startled this gloom; the Marquis de C----, d'E----, the Frenchman, who
was most acquainted with "graduated politeness;" the Comte d'Am----,
a gentleman with a benevolent chin; and the Chevalier de Port de Guy,
the pillar of the library of the Louvre, called the King's Cabinet. M.
de Port de Guy, bald and rather aging than old, used to tell how in
1793, when he was sixteen years of age, he was placed in the hulks as
refractory, and chained to an octogenarian, the Bishop of Mirepoix,
also a refractory, but as priest, while he was so as soldier. It
was at Toulon, and their duty was to go at night to collect on the
scaffold the heads and bodies of persons guillotined during the day.
They carried these dripping trunks on their backs, and their red
jackets had behind the nape of the neck a crust of blood, which was
dry in the morning and moist at night. These tragical narratives
abounded in the salon of Madame de T----, and through cursing Marat
they came to applaud Trestaillon. A few deputies of the "introuvable"
sort played their rubber of whist there; for instance, M. Thibord
du Chalard, M. Lemarchant de Gomicourt, and the celebrated jester of
the right division, M. Cornet Dincourt. The Bailiff of Ferrette, with
his knee-breeches and thin legs, at times passed through this room,
when proceeding to M. de Talleyrand's; he had been a companion of the
Comte d'Artois, and acting in the opposite way to Aristotle reclining
on Campaspe, he had made the Guimard crawl on all fours, and thus
displayed to ages a philosopher avenged by a bailiff.

As for the priests, there was the Abbé Halma, the same to whom M.
Larose, his fellow-contributor on _la Foudre_, said, "Stuff, who is
not fifty years of age? a few hobble-de-hoys, perhaps." Then came the
Abbé Letourneur, preacher to the King; the Abbé Frayssinous, who at
that time was neither Bishop, Count, Minister, nor Peer, and who wore a
soutane, from which buttons were absent; and the Abbé Keravenant, Curé
of St. Germain des Prés. To them must be added the Papal Nuncio, at
that date Monsignore Macchi, Archbishop of Nisibi, afterwards Cardinal,
and remarkable for his long pensive nose; and another Monsignore, whose
titles ran as follow: Abbate Palmieri, domestic Prelate, one of the
seven Prothonotaries sharing in the Holy See, Canon of the glorious
Liberian Basilica, and advocate of the Saints, _postulatore Dei Santi_,
an office relating to matters of canonization, and meaning very nearly,
Referendary to the department of Paradise. Finally, two Cardinals, M.
de la Luzerne, and M. de Cl---- T----. The Cardinal de Luzerne was
an author, and was destined to have the honor a few years later of
signing articles in the _Conservateur_ side by side with Chateaubriand;
M. de Cl---- T----, was Archbishop of Toulouse, and frequently spent
the summer in Paris with his nephew the Marquis de T----, who had been
Minister of the Navy and of War. The Cardinal de Cl---- T---- was a
merry little old gentleman, who displayed his red stockings under
his tucked-up cassock. His specialty was hating the Encyclopædia and
playing madly at billiards; and persons who on summer evenings passed
along the Rue M----, where M. de Cl---- T---- then resided, stopped to
listen to the sound of the balls and the sharp voice of the Cardinal
crying to his Conclavist Monseigneur Cottret, Bishop _in partibus_
of Caryste, "Mark me a carom, Abbé." The Cardinal de Cl---- T----
had been introduced to Madame de T---- by his most intimate friend,
M. de Roquelaure, ex-Bishop of Senlis and one of the Forty. M. de
Roquelaure was remarkable for his great height and his assiduity at
the Academy. Through the glass door of the room adjoining the library,
in which the French Academy at that time met, curious persons could
contemplate every Thursday the ex-Bishop of Senlis, usually standing
with hair freshly powdered, in violet stockings, and turning his back
to the door, apparently to display his little collar the better. All
these ecclesiastics, although mostly courtiers as much as churchmen,
added to the gravity of the salon, to which five Peers of France, the
Marquis de Vib----, the Marquis de Tal----, the Marquis d'Herb----,
the Vicomte Damb----, and the Duc de Val----, imparted the lordly
tone. This Duc de Val----, though Prince de Mon----, that is to say,
a foreign sovereign prince, had so lofty an idea of France and the
Peerage, that he looked at everything through them. It was he who said,
"The Cardinals are the French Peers of Rome, and the Lords are the
French Peers of England." Still, as in the present age the Revolution
must be everywhere, this feudal salon was ruled, as we have seen, by M.
Gillenormand, a bourgeois.

It was the essence and quintessence of white Parisian society, and
reputations, even Royalist ones, were kept in quarantine there, for
there is always anarchy in reputation. Had Chateaubriand come in he
would have produced the effect of Père Duchêne. Some converts, however,
entered this orthodox society through a spirit of toleration. Thus
the Comte Beug---- was admitted for the purpose of correction. The
"noble" salons of the present day in no way resemble the one which I am
describing, for the Royalists of to-day, let us say it in their praise,
are demagogues. At Madame de T----'s the society was superior, and the
taste exquisite and haughty beneath a grand bloom of politeness. The
habits there displayed all sorts of involuntary refinement, which was
the ancient régime itself, which lived though interred. Some of these
habits, especially in conversation, seemed whimsical, and superficial
persons would have taken for provincialism what was merely antiquated.
They called a lady "Madame la Générale," and "Madame la Colonelle" had
not entirely been laid aside. The charming Madame de Léon, doubtless
remembering the Duchesses de Longueville and de Chevreuse, preferred
that appellation to her title of Princess, and the Marquise de Créquy
was also called "Madame la Colonelle."

It was this small high society which invented at the Tuileries the
refinement of always speaking of the King in the third person, and
never saying, "Your Majesty," as that qualification had been "sullied
by the usurper." Facts and men were judged there, and the age was
ridiculed--which saved the trouble of comprehending it. They assisted
one another in amazement, and communicated mutually the amount of
enlightenment they possessed. Methusalem instructed Epimenides,--the
deaf put the blind straight. The time which had elapsed since Coblenz
was declared not to have passed, and in the same way as Louis XVIII.
was _Dei gratia_ in the twenty-fifth year of his reign, the _émigrés_
were _de jure_ in the twenty-fifth year of their adolescence.

Everything harmonized there: no one was too lively, the speech was
like a breath, and the newspapers, in accordance with the salon,
seemed a papyrus. The liveries in the ante-room were old, and these
personages who had completely passed away were served by footmen of the
same character. All this had the air of having lived a long time and
obstinately struggling against the tomb. To Conserve, Conservation,
Conservative, represented nearly their entire dictionary, and "to be in
good odor" was the point. There were really aromatics in the opinions
of these venerable groups, and their ideas smelt of vervain. It was
a mummy world, in which the masters were embalmed and the servants
stuffed. A worthy old Marchioness, ruined by the emigration, who had
only one woman-servant left, continued to say, "My people."

What did they do in Madame de T----'s salon? They were ultra. This
remark, though what it represent has possibly not disappeared, has no
meaning at the present day, so let us explain it To be ultra is going
beyond; it is attacking the sceptre in the name of the throne and
the mitre in the name of the altar; it is mismanaging the affair you
have in hand; it is kicking over the traces; it is disputing with the
executioner about the degree of roasting which heretics should undergo;
it is reproaching the idol for its want of idolatry; it is insulting
through excess of respect; it is finding in the Pope insufficient
Papism, in the King too little royalty, and too much light in the
night; it is being dissatisfied with alabaster, snow, the swan, and the
lily, on behalf of whiteness; it is being a partisan of things to such
a pitch that you become their enemy; it is being so strong for, that
you become against.

The ultra spirit specially characterizes the first phase of the
Restoration. Nothing in history ever resembled that quarter of an hour
which begins in 1814 and terminates in 1820, with the accession of M.
de Villèle, the practical man of the Right. These six years were an
extraordinary moment, at once noisy and silent, silent and gloomy,
enlightened, as it were, by a beam of dawn, and covered, at the same
time, by the darkness of the great catastrophe which still filled the
horizon, and was slowly sinking into the past. There was in this
light and this shadow an old society and a new society, buffoon and
melancholy, juvenile and senile, and rubbing its eyes, for nothing
is so like a re-awaking as a return. There were groups that regarded
France angrily and which France regarded ironically; the streets full
of honest old Marquis-owls, returned and returning, "ci-devants,"
stupefied by everything; brave and noble gentlemen smiling at being in
France and also weeping at it, ravished at seeing their country again,
and in despair at not finding their monarchy; the nobility of the
Crusades spitting on the nobility of the Empire, that is to say, of the
sword; historic races that had lost all feeling of history; the sons of
the companions of Charlemagne disdaining the companions of Napoleon.
The swords, as we have said, hurled insults at one another; the sword
of Fontenoy was ridiculous, and only a bar of rusty iron; the sword of
Marengo was odious, and only a sabre. The olden times misunderstood
yesterday, and no one had a feeling of what is great or what is
ridiculous. Some one was found to call Bonaparte Scapin. This world no
longer exists, and nothing connected with it, let us repeat, remains
at the present day. When we draw out of it some figure hap-hazard, and
try to bring it to bear again mentally, it seems to us as strange as
the antediluvian world; and, in fact, it was also swallowed up by a
deluge and disappeared under two revolutions. What waves ideas are! How
quickly do they cover whatever they have a mission to destroy and bury,
and how promptly do they produce unknown depths!

Such was the physiognomy of the salon in those distant and candid days
when M. Martainville had more wit than Voltaire. These salons had
a literature and politics of their own: people in them believed in
Fiévée, and M. Agier laid down the law there. M. Colnet, the publisher
and bookseller of the Quai Malaquais, was commented on, and Napoleon
was fully the ogre of Corsica there. At a later date the introduction
into history of M. le Marquis de Buonaparté, Lieutenant-General of the
armies of the King, was a concession to the spirit of the age. These
salons did not long remain pure, and in 1818 a few doctrinaires, a very
alarming tinge, began to culminate in them. In matters of which the
ultras were very proud, the doctrinaires were somewhat ashamed; they
had wit, they had silence, their political dogma was properly starched
with hauteur, and they must succeed. They carried white neck-cloths and
buttoned coats to an excessive length, though it was useful. The fault
or misfortune of the doctrinaire party was in creating old youth: they
assumed the posture of sages, and dreamed of grafting a temperate power
upon the absolute and excessive principle. They opposed, and at times
with rare sense, demolishing liberalism by conservative liberalism;
and they might be heard saying: "Have mercy on Royalism, for it has
rendered more than one service. It brought back traditions, worship,
religion, and respect. It is faithful, true, chivalrous, loving, and
devoted, and has blended, though reluctantly, the secular grandeurs of
the Monarchy with the new grandeurs of the nation. It is wrong in not
understanding the Revolution, the Empire, glory, liberty, young ideas,
young generations, and the age; but do we not sometimes act quite as
wrongly against it? The Revolution of which we are the heirs ought
to be on good terms with everything. Attacking the Royalists is the
contrary of liberalism; what a fault and what blindness! Revolutionary
France fails in its respect to historic France; that is to say, to its
mother, to itself. After September 5th, the nobility of the Monarchy
were treated like the nobility of the Empire after July 8th; they were
unjust to the eagle and we are unjust to the _fleur-de-lys_. There must
be, then, always something to proscribe! Is it very useful to ungild
the crown of Louis XIV., and scratch off the escutcheon of Henri IV.?
We sneer at M. de Vaublanc, who effaced the N's from the bridge of
Jena; but he only did what we are doing. Bouvines belongs to us as
much as Marengo, and the _fleur-de-lys_ are ours, like the N's. They
constitute our patrimony; then why should we diminish it? The country
must be no more denied in the past than in the present; why should we
not have a grudge with the whole of history? Why should we not love
the whole of France?" It was thus that the doctrinaires criticised and
protected the Royalists, who were dissatisfied at being criticised, and
furious at being protected.

The ultras marked the first epoch of the Revolution, and the
Congregation characterized the second; skill succeeded impetuosity. Let
us close our sketch at this point.

In the course of his narrative, the author of this book found on his
road this curious moment of contemporary history, and thought himself
bound to take a passing glance at it, and retrace some of the singular
features of this society, which is unknown at the present day. But
he has done so rapidly, and without any bitter or derisive idea, for
affectionate and respectful reminiscences, connected with his mother,
attach him to this past. Moreover, let him add, this little world had a
grandeur of its own, and though we may smile at it, we cannot despise
or hate it. It was the France of other days.

Marius Pontmercy, like most children, received some sort of education.
When he left the hands of Aunt Gillenormand, his grandfather intrusted
him to a worthy professor of the finest classical innocence. This
young mind, just expanding, passed from a prude to a pedant. Marius
spent some years at college, and then entered the law-school; he was
royalist, fanatic, and austere. He loved but little his grandfather,
whose gayety and cynicism ruffled him, and he was gloomy as regarded
his father. In other respects, he was an ardent yet cold, noble,
generous, proud, religious, and exalted youth; worthy almost to
harshness, and fierce almost to savageness.



The conclusion of Marius's classical studies coincided with M.
Gillenormand's retirement from society; the old gentleman bade farewell
to the Faubourg St. Germain and Madame de T----'s drawing-room, and
proceeded to establish himself in the Marais at his house in the Rue
des Filles du Calvaire. His servants were, in addition to the porter,
that Nicolette who succeeded Magnon, and that wheezing, short-winded
Basque, to whom we have already alluded. In 1827 Marius attained his
seventeenth year; on coming home one evening he saw his grandfather
holding a letter in his hand.

"Marius," said M. Gillenormand, "you will start to-morrow for Vernon."

"What for?" Marius asked.

"To see your father."

Marius trembled, for he had thought of everything excepting this,--that
he might one day be obliged to see his father. Nothing could be more
unexpected, more surprising, and, let us add, more disagreeable for
him. It was estrangement forced into approximation, and it was not an
annoyance so much as a drudgery. Marius, in addition to his motives of
political antipathy, was convinced that his father, the trooper, as M.
Gillenormand called him in his good-tempered days, did not love him;
that was evident, as he had abandoned him thus and left him to others.
Not feeling himself beloved, he did not love; and he said to himself
that nothing could be more simple. He was so stupefied that he did not
question his grandfather, but M. Gillenormand continued,--

"It seems that he is ill, and asks for you."

And after a silence he added,--

"Start to-morrow morning. I believe there is a coach which leaves at
six o'clock and gets to Vernon at nightfall. Go by it, for he says that
the matter presses."

Then he crumpled up the letter and put it in his pocket. Marius
could have started the same night, and have been with his father
the next morning; a diligence at that time used to run at night to
Rouen, passing through Vernon. But neither M. Gillenormand nor Marius
dreamed of inquiring. On the evening of the following day Marius
arrived at Vernon, and asked the first passer-by for the house of
"Monsieur Pontmercy;" for in his mind he was of the same opinion as
the Restoration, and did not recognize either his father's Barony or
Colonelcy. The house was shown him; he rang, and a woman holding a
small hand-lamp opened the door for him.

"Monsieur Pontmercy?" Marius asked.

The woman stood motionless.

"Is this his house?" Marius continued.

The woman shook her head in the affirmative.

"Can I speak to him?"

The woman made a negative sign.

"Why, I am his son," Marius added; "and he expects me."

"He no longer expects you," the woman said.

Then he noticed that she was crying; she pointed to the door of a
parlor, and he went in. In this room, which was lighted by a tallow
candle placed on the mantel-piece, there were three men, one standing,
one on his knees, and one lying full length upon the floor in his
shirt. The one on the floor was the Colonel; the other two were a
physician and a priest praying. The Colonel had been attacked by a
brain fever three days before, and having a foreboding of evil, he
wrote to M. Gillenormand, asking for his son. The illness grew worse,
and on the evening of Marius' arrival at Vernon the Colonel had an
attack of delirium. He leaped out of bed, in spite of the maid-servant,
crying, "My son does not arrive, I will go to meet him." Then he left
his bed-room, and fell on the floor of the ante-room; he had just
expired. The physician and the curé were sent for, but both arrived too
late; the son had also arrived too late. By the twilight gleam of the
candle, a heavy tear, which had fallen from the Colonel's dead eye,
could be noticed on his pallid cheek. The eye was lustreless, but the
tear had not dried up. This tear was his son's delay.

Marius gazed upon this man whom he saw for the first time and the
last, upon this venerable and manly face, these open eyes which no
longer saw, this white hair, and the robust limbs upon which could
be distinguished here and there brown lines which were sabre-cuts,
and red stars which were bullet-holes. He gazed at the gigantic scar
which imprinted heroism on this face, upon which God had imprinted
gentleness. He thought that this man was his father, and that this man
was dead, and he remained cold. The sorrow he felt was such as he would
have felt in the presence of any other man whom he might have seen
lying dead before him.

Mourning and lamentation were in this room. The maid-servant was
weeping in a corner, the priest was praying, and could be heard
sobbing, the physician wiped his eyes, and the corpse itself wept. The
physician, priest, and woman looked at Marius through their affliction
without saying a word, for he was the stranger. Marius, who was so
little affected, felt ashamed and embarrassed at his attitude, and he
let the hat which he held in his hand fall on the ground, in order to
induce a belief that sorrow deprived him of the strength to hold it. At
the same time he felt a species of remorse, and despised himself for
acting thus. But was it his fault? he had no cause to love his father.

The Colonel left nothing, and the sale of the furniture scarce covered
the funeral expenses. The maid-servant found a scrap of paper, which
she handed to Marius. On it were the following lines, written by the

"_For my son_. The Emperor made me a Baron on the field of Waterloo,
and as the Restoration contests this title, which I purchased with
my blood, my son will assume it and wear it. Of course he will be
worthy of it." On the back the Colonel had added, "At this same battle
of Waterloo a sergeant saved my life; his name is Thénardier, and I
believe that he has recently kept a small inn in a village near Paris,
either Chelles or Montfermeil. If my son meet this Thénardier he will
do all he can for him."

Not through any affection for his father, but owing to that vague
respect for death which is ever so imperious in the heart of man,
Marius took this paper and put it away. Nothing was left of the
Colonel. M. Gillenormand had his sword and uniform sold to the Jews;
the neighbors plundered the garden and carried off the rare flowers,
while the others became brambles and died. Marius remained only
forty-eight hours in Vernon. After the funeral he returned to Paris and
his legal studies, thinking no more of his father than if he had never
existed. In two days the Colonel was buried, and in three forgotten.

Marius had a crape on his hat, and that was all.



Marius had retained the religious habits of his childhood. One
Sunday, when he went to hear Mass at St. Sulpice, in the Chapel of
the Virgin to which his aunt took him when a boy, being on that day
more than usually absent and thoughtful, he placed himself behind
a pillar, and knelt, without paying attention to the fact, upon a
Utrecht velvet chair, on the back of which was written, "Monsieur
Mabœuf, Churchwarden." The Mass had scarce begun when an old gentleman
presented himself, and said to Marius,--

"This is my place, sir."

Marius at once stepped aside, and the old gentleman took his seat. When
Mass was ended Marius stood pensively for a few moments, till the old
gentleman came up to him and said,--

"I ask your pardon, sir, for having disturbed you just now, and for
troubling you afresh at this moment; but you must have considered me
ill-bred, and so I wish to explain the matter to you."

"It is unnecessary, sir," said Marius.

"No, it is not," the old man continued, "for I do not wish you to
have a bad opinion of me. I am attached to this seat, and it seems
to me that the Mass is better here, and I will tell you my reason.
To this spot I saw during ten years, at regular intervals of two or
three months, a poor worthy father come, who had no other opportunity
or way of seeing his son, because they were separated through family
arrangements. He came at the hour when he knew that his son would
be brought to Mass. The boy did not suspect that his father was
here--perhaps did not know, the innocent, that he had a father. The
latter kept behind a pillar so that he might not be seen, looked at his
child and wept; for the poor man adored him, as I could see. This spot
has become, so to speak, sanctified for me, and I have fallen into the
habit of hearing Mass here. I prefer it to the bench to which I should
have a right as churchwarden. I even knew the unfortunate gentleman
slightly. He had a father-in-law, a rich aunt, and other relatives,
who threatened to disinherit the boy if the father ever saw him, and
he sacrificed himself that his son might one day be rich and happy.
They were separated through political opinions, and though I certainly
approve of such opinions, there are persons who do not know where to
stop. Good gracious! because a man was at Waterloo he is not a monster;
a father should not be separated from his child on that account. He
was one of Bonaparte's colonels, and is dead, I believe. He lived at
Vernon, where I have a brother who is curé, and his name was something
like Pontmarie or Montpercy. He had, on my word, a great sabre-cut."

"Pontmercy," Marius said, turning pale.

"Precisely, Pontmercy; did you know him?"

"He was my father, sir."

The old churchwarden clasped his hands and exclaimed,--

"Ah! you are the boy! Yes, yes, he would be a man now. Well, poor boy!
you may say that you had a father who loved you dearly."

Marius offered his arm to the old gentleman and conducted him to his
house. The next day he said to M. Gillenormand,--

"Some friends of mine have arranged a shooting-party; will you allow me
to go away for three days?"

"Four," the grandfather answered; "go and amuse yourself." And he
whispered to his daughter with a wink, "Some love affair!"



Where Marius went we shall learn presently. He was away three days,
then returned to Paris, went straight to the library of the Law-school
and asked for a file of the _Moniteur_. He read it; he read all the
histories of the Republic and the Empire; the Memorial of St. Helena,
all the memoirs, journals, bulletins, and proclamations,--he fairly
devoured them. The first time he came across his father's name in a
bulletin of the grand army he had a fever for a whole week. He called
upon the generals under whom George Pontmercy had served; among others,
Count H----. The churchwarden, whom he saw again, told him of the life
at Vernon, the Colonel's retirement, his flowers, and his solitude.
Marius had at last a perfect knowledge of this rare, sublime, and
gentle man, this species of lion-lamb, who had been his father.

While occupied with this study, which filled all his moments as well as
all his thoughts, he scarce ever saw the Gillenormands. He appeared at
meals, but when sought for after them he could not be found. His aunt
sulked, but old Gillenormand smiled. "Stuff, stuff, it is the right
age!" At times the old man would add, "Confound it! I thought that it
was an affair of gallantry, but it seems that it is a passion." It was
a passion in truth, for Marius was beginning to adore his father.

At the same time an extraordinary change took place in his ideas,
and the phases of this change were numerous and successive. As this
is the history of many minds in our day, we deem it useful to follow
these phases step by step, and indicate them all. The history he had
just read startled him, and the first effect was bedazzlement. The
Republic, the Empire, had hitherto been to him but monstrous words,--
the Republic a guillotine in the twilight; the Empire a sabre in the
night. He had looked into it, and where he had only expected to find
a chaos of darkness he had seen, with a species of extraordinary
surprise, mingled with fear and delight, stars flashing,--Mirabeau,
Vergniaud, St. Just, Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins, and Danton,--and
a sun rise, Napoleon. He knew not where he was, and he recoiled,
blinded by the brilliancy. Gradually, when the first surprise had worn
off, he accustomed himself to this radiance. He regarded the deed
without dizziness, and examined persons without terror; the Revolution
and the Empire stood out in luminous perspective before his visionary
eyeballs; he saw each of these two groups of events and facts contained
in two enormous facts: the Revolution in the sovereignty of civic right
restored to the masses, the Empire in the sovereignty of the French
idea imposed on Europe; he saw the great figure of the people emerge
from the Revolution, the great figure of France from the Empire, and
he declared to himself on his conscience that all this was good.

What his bedazzlement neglected in this first appreciation, which was
far too synthetical, we do not think it necessary to indicate here. We
are describing the state of a mind advancing, and all progress is not
made in one march. This said, once for all, as to what precedes and
what is to follow, we will continue.

He then perceived that up to this moment he had no more understood his
country than he had his father. He had known neither the one nor the
other, and he had spread a species of voluntary night over his eyes.
He now saw; and on one side he admired, on the other he adored. He was
full of regret and remorse, and he thought with despair that he could
only tell to a tomb all that he had in his mind. Oh, if his father were
alive, if he had him still, if God in His compassion and His goodness
had allowed this father to be still alive, how he would have flown, how
he would have cried to his father,--"Father, here I am, it is I! I have
the same heart as you! I am your son!" How he would have kissed his
white head, bathed his hair with his tears, gazed at his scar, pressed
his hand, adored his clothes, and embraced his feet! Oh, why did this
father die so soon, before justice had been done him, before he had
known his son's love? Marius had a constant sob in his heart, which
said at every moment, "Alas!" At the same time he became more truly
serious, more truly grave, more sure of his faith and his thoughts.
At each instant beams of light arrived to complete his reason, and
a species of internal growth went on within him. He felt a natural
aggrandizement produced by the two things so new to him,--his father
and his country.

As a door can be easily opened when we hold the key, he explained
to himself what he had hated, and understood what he had abhorred.
Henceforth he saw clearly the providential, divine, and human meaning,
the great things which he had been taught to detest, and the great men
whom he had been instructed to curse. When he thought of his previous
opinions, which were but of yesterday, and which yet seemed to him
so old, he felt indignant and smiled. From the rehabilitation of his
father he had naturally passed to that of Napoleon; but the latter,
we must say, was not effected without labor. From childhood he had
been imbued with the judgments of the party of 1814 about Bonaparte;
now, all the prejudices of the Restoration, all its interests, and
all its instincts, tended to disfigure Napoleon, and it execrated
him, even more than Robespierre. It had worked rather cleverly upon
the weariness of the nation and the hatred of mothers. Bonaparte had
become a species of almost fabulous monster, and in order to depict
him to the imagination of the people, which, as we said just now,
resembles that of children, the party of 1814 brought forward in turn
all the frightful masques, from that which is terrible while remaining
grand, down to that which is terrible while becoming grotesque,--from
Tiberius down to old Bogy. Hence, in speaking of Bonaparte, people were
at liberty to sob or burst with laughter, provided that hatred sung
the bass. Marius had never had on the subject of--that man, as he was
called--any other ideas but these in his mind, and they were combined
with his natural tenacity. He was a headstrong little man, who hated

On reading history, on studying before all documents and materials, the
veil which hid Napoleon from Marius's sight was gradually rent asunder;
he caught a glimpse of something immense, and suspected that up to this
moment he had been mistaken about Bonaparte, as about all the rest;
each day he saw more clearly, and he began climbing slowly, step by
step, at the beginning almost reluctantly, but then with intoxication,
and as if attracted by an irresistible fascination, first the gloomy
steps, then the dimly-lighted steps, and at last the luminous and
splendid steps of enthusiasm.

One night he was alone in his little garret, his candle was lighted,
and he was reading at a table by the open window. All sorts of reveries
reached him from the space, and were mingled with his thoughts. What
a spectacle is night! We hear dull sounds and know not whence they
come; we see Jupiter, which is twelve hundred times larger than the
earth glowing like a fire-ball; the blue is black, the stars sparkle,
and the whole forms a formidable sight. He was reading the bulletins
of the grand army, those Homeric strophes written on the battle-field;
he saw in them at intervals the image of his father, and ever that
of the Emperor; the whole of the great Empire was before him; he
felt, as it were, a tide within him swelling and mounting; it seemed
at moments as if his father passed close to him like a breath, and
whispered in his ear; little by little he grew strange, he fancied
he could hear drums, cannon, and bugles, the measured tread of the
battalions, and the hollow distant gallop of the cavalry; from time
to time his eyes were raised and surveyed the colossal constellations
flashing in the profundities, and then they fell again upon the book,
and he saw in that other colossal things stirring confusedly. His heart
was contracted, he was transported, trembling, and gasping; and all
alone, without knowing what was within him or what he obeyed, he rose,
stretched his arms out of the window, looked fixedly at the shadow, the
silence, the dark infinitude, the eternal immensity, and shouted, "Long
live the Emperor!"

From this moment it was all over. The ogre of Corsica, the usurper,
the tyrant, the monster who was the lover of his own sisters, the
actor who took lessons of Talma, the prisoner of Jaffa, the tiger,
Buonaparte,--all this faded away and made room in his mind for a
radiance in which the pale marble phantom of Cæsar stood out serenely
at an inaccessible height. The Emperor had never been to his father
more than the beloved captain whom a man admires and for whom he
devotes himself; but to Marius he was far more. He was the predestined
constructor of the French group which succeeded the Roman group in
the dominion of the universe; he was the prodigious architect of
an earthquake, the successor of Charlemagne, Louis XI., Henri IV.,
Richelieu, Louis XIV., and the Committee of Public Safety. He had
doubtless his spots, his faults, and even his crimes, that is to say,
he was a man; but he was august in his faults, brilliant in his spots,
and powerful in his crime. He was the predestined man who compelled
all nations to say,--"The great nation." He was even more; he was the
very incarnation of France, conquering Europe by the sword he held,
and the world by the lustre which he emitted. Marius saw in Bonaparte
the dazzling spectre which will ever stand on the frontier and guard
the future. He was a despot, but a dictator,--a despot resulting from
a republic and completing a revolution. Napoleon became for him the
man-people, as the Saviour is the man-God.

As we see, after the fashion of all new converts to a religion, his
conversion intoxicated him and he dashed into faith and went too far.
His nature was so; once upon an incline, it was impossible to check
himself. Fanaticism for the sword seized upon him, and complicated
in his mind the enthusiasm for the idea. He did not perceive that he
admired force as well as genius, that is to say, filled up the two
shrines of his idolatry,--on one side that which is divine, on the
other that which is brutal. He also deceived himself on several other
points, though in a different way; he admitted everything. There is a
way of encountering error by going to meet the truth, and by a sort
of violent good faith, which accepts everything unconditionally. Upon
the new path he had entered, while judging the wrongs of the ancient
régime and measuring the glory of Napoleon, he neglected attenuating

However this might be, a prodigious step was made; where he had once
seen the downfall of monarchy he now saw the accession of France. The
points of his moral compass were changed, and what had once been sunset
was now sunrise; and all these revolutions took place in turns, without
his family suspecting it. When, in this mysterious labor, he had
entirely lost his old Bourbonic and Ultra skin, when he had pulled off
the aristocrat, the Jacobite, and the Royalist, when he was a perfect
Revolutionist, profoundly democratic, and almost republican, he went to
an engraver's and ordered one hundred cards, with the address, "Baron
Marius Pontmercy." This was but the logical consequence of the change
which had taken place in him,--a change in which everything gravitated
round his father. Still, as he knew nobody and could not show his cards
at any porter's lodge, he put them in his pocket.

By another natural consequence, in proportion as he drew nearer to his
father, his memory, and the things for which the Colonel had fought
during five-and-twenty years, he drew away from his grandfather. As we
said, M. Gillenormand's humor had not suited him for a long time past,
and there already existed between them all the dissonances produced
by the contact of a grave young man with a frivolous old man. The
gayety of Géronte offends and exasperates the melancholy of Werther.
So long as the same political opinions and ideas had been common to
them, Marius met his grandfather upon them as on a bridge; but when the
bridge fell there was a great gulf between them. And then, before all
else, Marius had indescribable attacks of revolt when he reflected
that it was M. Gillenormand who, through stupid motives, pitilessly
tore him from the Colonel, thus depriving father of son, and son of
father. Through his reverence for his father, Marius had almost grown
to have an aversion for his grandfather.

Nothing of this, however, was revealed in his demeanor; he merely
became colder than before, laconic at meals, and rarely at home. When
his aunt scolded him for it he was very gentle, and alleged as excuse
his studies, examinations, conferences, etc. The grandfather, however,
still adhered to his infallible diagnostic,--"He is in love; I know the
symptoms." Marius was absent every now and then.

"Where can he go?" the aunt asked.

In one of his trips, which were always very short, he went to
Montfermeil in order to obey his father's intimation, and sought for
the ex-Sergeant of Waterloo, Thénardier the landlord. Thénardier had
failed, the public-house was shut up, and no one knew what had become
of him. In making this search Marius remained away for four days.

"He is decidedly getting out of order," said the grandfather.

They also fancied they could notice that he wore under his shirt
something fastened round his neck by a black ribbon.



We have alluded to a lancer: he was a great-grand-nephew of M.
Gillenormand's, on the father's side, who led a garrison life, far away
from the domestic hearth. Lieutenant Théodule Gillenormand fulfilled
all the conditions required for a man to be a pretty officer: he
had a young lady's waist, a victorious way of clanking his sabre,
and turned-up moustaches. He came very rarely to Paris, so rarely
that Marius had never seen him, and the two cousins only knew each
other by name. Théodule was, we think we said, the favorite of Aunt
Gillenormand, who preferred him because she never saw him; for not
seeing people allows of every possible perfection being attributed to

One morning Mlle. Gillenormand the elder returned to her apartments, as
much affected as her general placidity would allow. Marius had again
asked his grandfather's permission to make a short trip, adding that
he wished to start that same evening. "Go," the grandfather answered;
and he added to himself, as he pursed up his eye, "Another relapse of
sleeping from home." Mile. Gillenormand went up to her room greatly
puzzled, and cast to the stair-case case this exclamation, "It's too
much!" and this question, "But where is it that he goes?" She caught a
glimpse of some more or less illicit love adventure, of a woman in the
shadow, a meeting, a mystery, and would not have felt vexed to have a
closer peep at it through her spectacles. Scenting a mystery is like
the first bite at a piece of scandal, and holy souls do not detest
it. In the secret compartments of bigotry there is some curiosity for

She was, therefore, suffering from a vague appetite to learn a story.
In order to distract this curiosity, which agitated her a little beyond
her wont, she took refuge in her talents, and began festooning with
cotton upon cotton one of those embroideries of the Empire and the
Restoration, in which there are a great many cabriolet wheels. It was
a clumsy job, and the workwoman was awkward. She had been sitting over
it for some hours when the door opened. Mlle. Gillenormand raised her
nose, and saw Lieutenant Théodule before her, making his regulation
salute. She uttered a cry of delight; for a woman may be old, a prude,
devout, and an aunt, but she is always glad to see a lancer enter her

"You here, Théodule!" she exclaimed.

"In passing, my dear aunt."

"Well, kiss me."

"There," said Théodule, as he kissed her. Aunt Gillenormand walked to
her secretaire and opened it.

"You will stop the week out?"

"My dear aunt, I am off again to-night."



"Stay, my little Théodule, I beg of you."

"The heart says Yes, but duty says No. The story is very simple; we are
changing garrison; we were at Melun, and are sent to Gaillon. In order
to go to the new garrison we were obliged to pass through Paris, and I
said to myself, 'I will go and see my aunt.'"

"And here's for your trouble."

And she slipped ten louis into his hand.

"You mean to say for my pleasure, dear aunt."

Théodule kissed her a second time, and she had the pleasure of having
her neck slightly grazed by his gold-laced collar.

"Are you travelling on horseback, with your regiment?"

"No, my aunt: I have come to see you by special permission. My servant
is leading my horse, and I shall travel by the diligence. By the way,
there is one thing I want to ask you."

"What is it?"

"It appears that my cousin Marius Pontmercy is going on a journey too?"

"How do you know that?" the aunt said, her curiosity being greatly

"On reaching Paris I went to the coach-office to take my place in the


"A traveller had already taken a seat in the Impériale, and I saw his
name in the way-bill: it was Marius Pontmercy."

"Oh, the scamp!" the aunt exclaimed. "Ah! your cousin is not a
steady lad like you. To think that he is going to pass the night in a

"Like myself."

"You do it through duty, but he does it through disorder."

"The deuce!" said Théodule.

Here an event occurred to Mlle. Gillenormand the elder: she had an
idea. If she had been a man she would have struck her forehead. She
addressed Théodule.

"You are aware that your cousin does not know you?"

"I have seen him, but he never deigned to notice me."

"Where is the diligence going to?"

"To Andelys."

"Is Marius going there?"

"Unless he stops on the road, like myself. I get out at Vernon, to take
the Gaillon coach. I know nothing about Marius's route."

"Marius! what an odious name! What an idea it was to call him that!
Well, your name, at least, is Théodule."

"I would rather it was Alfred," the officer said.

"Listen, Théodule; Marius absents himself from the house."

"Eh, eh!"

"He goes about the country."

"Ah, ah!"

"He sleeps out."

"Oh, oh!"

"We should like to know the meaning of all this."

Théodule replied, with the calmness of a bronze man, "Some petticoat!"

And with that inward chuckle which evidences a certainty, he added, "a

"That is evident!" the aunt exclaimed, who believed that she heard M.
Gillenormand speaking, and who felt his conviction issue irresistibly
from that word "girl," accentuated almost in the same way by
grand-uncle and grand-nephew. She continued,--

"Do us a pleasure by following Marius a little. As he does not know
you, that will be an easy matter. Since there is a girl in the case,
try to get a look at her, and write and tell us all about it, for it
will amuse grandfather."

Théodule had no excessive inclination for this sort of watching, but
he was greatly affected by the ten louis, and he believed he could see
a possible continuation of such gifts. He accepted the commission, and
said, "As you please, aunt," and added in an aside, "I am a Duenna now!"

Mlle. Gillenormand kissed him.

"You would not play such tricks as that, Théodule, for you obey
discipline, are the slave of duty, and a scrupulous man, and would
never leave your family to go and see one of those creatures."

The lancer made the satisfied grimace of Cartouche when praised for his

Marius, on the evening that followed this dialogue, got into the
diligence, not suspecting that he was watched. As for the watcher, the
first thing he did was to fall asleep, and his sleep was complete and
conscientious. Argus snored the whole night. At daybreak the guard
shouted, "Vernon; passengers for Vernon, get out here!" and Lieutenant
Théodule got out.

"All right," he growled, still half asleep, "I get out here."

Then his memory growing gradually clearer, he thought of his aunt,
the ten louis, and the account he had promised to render of Marius's
sayings and doings. This made him laugh.

"He is probably no longer in the coach," he thought, while buttoning
up his jacket. "He may have stopped at Poissy, he may have stopped at
Triel; if he did not get out at Meulan, he may have done so at Mantes,
unless he stopped at Rolleboise, or only went as far as Passy, with the
choice of turning on his left to Évreux, or on his right to Laroche
Guyon. Run after him, my aunt. What the deuce shall I write to the old

At this moment the leg of a black trouser appeared against the
window-pane of the _coupé_.

"Can it be Marius?" the Lieutenant said.

It was Marius. A little peasant girl was offering flowers to the
passengers, and crying, "Bouquets for your ladies." Marius went up to
her, and bought the finest flowers in her basket.

"By Jove!" said Théodule, as he leaped out of the _coupé_, "the affair
is growing piquant. Who the deuce is he going to carry those flowers
to? She must be a deucedly pretty woman to deserve so handsome a
bouquet. I must have a look at her."

And then he began following Marius, no longer by order, but through
personal curiosity, like those dogs which hunt on their own account.
Marius paid no attention to Théodule. Some elegant women were getting
out of the diligence, but he did not look at them; he seemed to see
nothing around him.

"He must be preciously in love," Théodule thought. Marius proceeded
towards the church.

"That's glorious!" Théodule said to himself; "the church, that's the
thing. Rendezvous spiced with a small amount of Mass are the best.
Nothing is so exquisite as an ogle exchanged in the presence of the

On reaching the church, Marius did not go in, but disappeared behind
one of the buttresses of the apse.

"The meeting outside," Théodule said; "now for a look at the girl."

And he walked on tiptoe up to the corner which Marius had gone round,
and on reaching it stopped in stupefaction. Marius, with his forehead
in both his hands, was kneeling in the grass upon a tomb, and had
spread his flowers out over it. At the head of the grave was a cross
of black wood, with this name in white letters,--"COLONEL BARON
PONTMERCY." Marius could be heard sobbing.

The girl was a tomb.



It is hither that Marius had come the first time that he absented
himself from Paris; it was to this spot he retired each time that
M. Gillenormand said,--"He sleeps out." Lieutenant Théodule was
absolutely discountenanced by this unexpected elbowing of a tomb, and
felt a disagreeable and singular sensation, which he was incapable
of analyzing, and which was composed of respect for a tomb, mingled
with respect for a colonel. He fell back, leaving Marius alone in the
cemetery, and there was discipline in this retreat; death appeared
to him wearing heavy epaulettes, and he almost gave it the military
salute. Not knowing what to write to his aunt, he resolved not to write
at all; and there would probably have been no result from Théodule's
discovery of Marius's amour had not, by one of those mysterious
arrangements so frequent in accident, the scene at Vernon had almost
immediately a sort of counterpart in Paris.

Marius returned from Vernon very early on the morning of the third
day, and wearied by two nights spent in a diligence, and feeling
the necessity of repairing his want of sleep by an hour's swimming
exercise, he hurried up to his room, only took the time to take off
his travelling coat and the black ribbon which he had round his neck,
and went to the bath. M. Gillenormand, who rose at an early hour like
all old men who are in good health, heard him come in, and hastened
as quick as his old legs would carry him up the stairs leading to
Marius's garret, in order to welcome him back, and try and discover his
movements. But the young man had taken less time in descending than the
octogenarian in ascending, and when Father Gillenormand entered the
garret Marius was no longer there. The bed had been unoccupied, and on
it lay the coat and black ribbon unsuspectingly.

"I prefer that," said M. Gillenormand, and a moment later he entered
the drawing-room, where Mlle. Gillenormand the elder was already seated
embroidering her cabriolet wheels. The entrance was triumphant; M.
Gillenormand held in one hand the coat, in the other the neck-ribbon,
and shouted,--

"Victory! we are going to penetrate the mystery, we are going to know
the cream of the joke, we are going to lay our hands on the libertinage
of our cunning gentleman. Here is the romance itself, for I have the

In fact, a box of shagreen leather, much like a miniature, was
suspended from the ribbon. The old man took hold of this box, and
looked at it for some time without opening, with the air of pleasure,
eagerness, and anger of a poor starving fellow who sees a splendid
dinner, of which he will have no share, carried past under his nose.

"It is evidently a portrait, and I am up to that sort of thing. It
is worn tenderly on the heart,--what asses they are! Some abominable
wench, who will probably make me shudder; for young men have such bad
tastes now-a-days."

"Let us look, father," the old maid said.

The box opened by pressing a spring, but they only found in it a
carefully folded-up paper.

"_From the same to the same_" said M. Gillenormand, bursting into a
laugh. "I know what it is,--a billet-doux!"

"Indeed! let us read it," said the aunt; and she put on her spectacles.
They unfolded the paper and read as follows,--

"_For my son_. The Emperor made me a Baron on the field of Waterloo,
and as the Restoration contests this title which I purchased with my
blood, my son will assume it and wear it; of course he will be worthy
of it."

What the father and daughter felt, it is not possible to describe; but
they were chilled as if by the breath of a death's-head. They did not
exchange a syllable. M. Gillenormand merely said in a low voice, and as
if speaking to himself, "It is that trooper's handwriting." The aunt
examined the slip of paper, turned it about in all directions, and then
placed it again in the box.

At the same instant a small square packet wrapped up in blue paper fell
from a pocket of the great-coat. Mlle. Gillenormand picked it up and
opened the blue paper. It contained Marius's one hundred cards, and she
passed one to M. Gillenormand, who read, "Baron Marius Pontmercy." The
old man rang, and Nicolette came in. M. Gillenormand took the ribbon,
the box, and the coat, threw them on the ground in the middle of the
room, and said,--

"Remove that rubbish."

A long hour passed in the deepest silence; the old man and the old
maid were sitting back to back and thinking, probably both of the
same things. At the end of this hour, Mlle. Gillenormand said,--"Very
pretty!" A few minutes after, Marius came in; even before he crossed
the threshold he perceived his grandfather holding one of his cards in
his hand. On seeing Marius he exclaimed, with his air of bourgeois and
grimacing superiority, which had something crushing about it,--

"Stay! stay! stay! stay! stay! You are a Baron at present; I must
congratulate you. What does this mean?"

Marius blushed slightly, and answered,--

"It means that I am my father's son."

M. Gillenormand left off laughing, and said harshly, "I am your father."

"My father," Marius continued with downcast eyes and a stern air,
"was an humble and heroic man, who gloriously served the Republic of
France, who was great in the greatest history which men have ever
made, who lived for a quarter of a century in a bivouac, by day under
a shower of grape-shot and bullets, and at night in snow, mud, wind,
and rain. He was a man who took two flags, received twenty wounds, died
in forgetfulness and abandonment, and who had never committed but one
fault, that of loving too dearly two ungrateful beings,--his country
and myself."

This was more than M. Gillenormand could bear; at the word Republic he
had risen, or, more correctly, sprung up. Each of the words that Marius
had just uttered had produced on the old gentleman's face the same
effect as the blast of a forge-bellows upon a burning log. From gloomy
he became red, from red, purple, and from purple, flaming.

"Marius," he shouted, "you abominable boy! I know not who your father
was, and do not wish to know. I know nothing about it, but what I do
know is, that there never were any but scoundrels among all those
people; they were all rogues, assassins, red-caps, robbers! I say all,
I say all! I know nobody! I say all; do you understand me, Marius? You
must know that you are as much a Baron as my slipper is! They were
all bandits who served Robespierre! they were all brigands who served
B-u-o-naparté! all traitors who betrayed, betrayed, betrayed their
legitimate king! all cowards who ran away from the Prussians and the
English at Waterloo! That is what I know. If Monsieur your father was
among them, I am ignorant of the fact, and am sorry for it. I am your
humble servant!"

In his turn, Marius became the brand, and M. Gillenormand the
bellows. Marius trembled all over, he knew not what to do, and his
head was a-glow. He was the priest who sees his consecrated wafers
cast to the wind, the Fakir who notices a passer-by spit on his
idol. It was impossible that such things could be said with impunity
in his presence, but what was he to do? His father had just been
trampled under foot, and insulted in his presence; but by whom? By
his grandfather. How was he to avenge the one without outraging the
other? It was impossible for him to insult his grandfather, and equally
impossible for him not to avenge his father. On one side was a sacred
tomb, on the other was white hair. He tottered for a few moments like a
drunken man, then raised his eyes, looked fixedly at his grandfather,
and shouted in a thundering voice,--

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

Louis XVIII. had been dead four years, but that made no difference
to him. The old man, who had been scarlet, suddenly became whiter
than his hair. He turned to a bust of the Duc de Berry which was
on the mantel-piece, and bowed to it profoundly with a sort of
singular majesty. Then he walked twice, slowly and silently, from the
mantel-piece to the window, and from the window to the mantel-piece,
crossing the whole room, and making the boards creak as if he were a
walking marble statue. The second time he leaned over his daughter, who
was looking at the disturbance with the stupor of an old sheep, and
said to her with a smile which was almost calm,--

"A Baron like this gentleman and a bourgeois like myself can no longer
remain beneath the same roof."

And suddenly drawing himself up, livid, trembling, and terrible, with
his forehead dilated by the fearful radiance of passion, he stretched
out his arm toward Marius, and shouted, "Begone!"

Marius left the house, and on the morrow M. Gillenormand said to his

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

Having an immense amount of fury to expend, and not knowing what to
do with it, he continued to address his daughter as "you" instead of
"thou" for upwards of three months.

Marius, on his side, left the house indignant, and a circumstance
aggravated his exasperation. There are always small fatalities of this
nature to complicate domestic dramas: the anger is augmented although
the wrongs are not in reality increased. In hurriedly conveying, by
the grandfather's order, Marius's rubbish to his bed-room, Nicolette,
without noticing the fact, let fall, probably on the attic stairs,
which were dark, the black shagreen case in which was the paper written
by the Colonel. As neither could be found, Marius felt convinced that
"Monsieur Gillenormand"--he never called him otherwise from that
date--had thrown "his father's will" into the fire. He knew by heart
the few lines written by the Colonel, and consequently nothing was
lost: but the paper, the writing, this sacred relic,--all this was his
heart. What had been done with it?

Marius went away without saying where he was going and without knowing,
with thirty francs, his watch, and some clothes in a carpet-bag. He
jumped into a cabriolet, engaged it by the hour, and proceeded at
random towards the Pays Latin. What would become of Marius?





At this epoch, which was apparently careless, a certain revolutionary
quivering was vaguely felt. There were breezes in the air which
returned from the depths of '89 and '92; and the young men, if we may
be forgiven the expression, were in the moulting stage. Men became
transformed, almost without suspecting it, by the mere movement of
time, for the hand which moves round the clock-face also moves in
the mind. Each took the forward step he had to take; the Royalists
became liberals, and the Liberals democrats. It was like a rising tide
complicated by a thousand ebbs, and it is the peculiarity of ebbs to
cause things to mingle. Hence came very singular combinations of ideas,
and men adored liberty and Napoleon at the same time. We are writing
history here, and such were the mirages of that period. Opinions pass
through phases, and Voltairian royalism, a strange variety, had a no
less strange pendant in Bonapartist liberalism.

Other groups of minds were more serious; at one spot principles
were sounded, and at another men clung to their rights. They became
impassioned for the absolute, and obtained glimpses of infinite
realizations; for the absolute, through its very rigidity, causes
minds to float in the illimitable ether. There is nothing like the
dogma to originate a dream, and nothing like a dream to engender the
future; the Utopia of to-day is flesh and bone to-morrow. Advanced
opinions had a false bottom, and a commencement of mystery threatened
"established order," which was suspicious and cunning. This is a most
revolutionary sign. The after-thought of the authorities meets in the
sap the after-thought of the people, and the incubation of revolutions
is the reply to the premeditation of Coups d'État. There were not as
yet in France any of those vast subjacent organizations, like the
Tugenbund of Germany or the Carbonari of Italy; but here and there were
dark subterranean passages with extensive ramifications. The Cougourde
was started at Aix; and there was at Paris, among other affiliations of
this nature, the society of the Friends of the A. B. C.

Who were the Friends of the A. B. C.? A society whose ostensible object
was the education of children, but the real one the elevation of men.
They called themselves friends of the A. B. C.; the _Abaissé_ was the
nation, and they wished to raise it. It would be wrong to laugh at this
pun, for puns at times are serious in politics; witnesses of this are
the _Castratus ad castra_, which made Narses general of an army; the
_Barbari_ and _Barberini; fueros fuegos; tu es Petrus et super hanc
Petram_, etc., etc. The Friends of the A. B. C. were few in number; it
was a secret society, in a state of embryo, and we might almost call it
a coterie, if coteries produced heroes. They assembled at two places
in Paris,--at a cabaret called _Corinthe_ near the Halles, to which
we shall revert hereafter; and near the Panthéon, in a small café on
the Place St. Michel, known as the Café Musain, and now demolished: the
first of these meeting-places was contiguous to the workmen, and the
second to the students. The ordinary discussions of the Friends of the
A. B. C. were held in a back room of the Café Musain. This room, some
distance from the coffee-room, with which it communicated by a very
long passage, had two windows and an issue by a secret staircase into
the little Rue des Grés. They smoked, drank, played, and laughed there;
they spoke very loudly about everything, and in a whisper about the
other thing. On the wall hung an old map of France under the Republic,
which would have been a sufficient hint for a police-agent.

Most of the Friends of the A. B. C. were students, who maintained
a cordial understanding with a few workmen. Here are the names
of the principal members, which belong in a certain measure to
history,--Enjolras, Combeferre, Jean Prouvaire, Feuilly, Courfeyrac,
Bahorel, Lesgle or Laigle, Joly, and Grantaire. These young men formed
a species of family through their friendship, and all came from the
South, excepting Laigle. This group is remarkable, although it has
vanished in the invisible depths which are behind us. At the point
of this drama which we have now attained, it will not be labor lost,
perhaps, to throw a ray of light upon these heads, before the reader
watches them enter the shadows of a tragical adventure.

Enjolras, whom we named first, it will be seen afterwards why, was an
only son, and rich. He was a charming young man, capable of becoming
terrible; he was angelically beautiful, and looked like a stern
Antinous. On noticing the pensive depth of his glance you might have
fancied that he had gone through the revolutionary apocalypse in some
preceding existence. He knew the traditions of it like an eye-witness,
and was acquainted with all the minor details of the great thing. His
was a pontifical and warlike nature, strange in a young man; he was a
churchman and a militant; from the immediate point of view a soldier of
democracy, but, above the contemporary movement, a priest of the ideal.
He had a slightly red eyelid, a thick and easily disdainful lower lip,
and a lofty forehead; a good deal of forehead on a face is like a good
deal of sky in an horizon. Like certain young men of the beginning of
the present century and the end of the last, who became illustrious
at an early age, he looked excessively young, and was as fresh as a
school-girl, though he had his hours of pallor. Although a man, he
seemed still a boy, and his two-and-twenty years looked like only
seventeen; he was serious, and did not appear to know that there was
on the earth a being called woman. He had only one passion, justice,
and only one thought, overthrowing the obstacle. On the Mons Aventinus,
he would have been Gracchus; in the Convention, he would have been St.
Just. He scarcely noticed roses, was ignorant of spring, and did not
hear the birds sing; the bare throat of Evadne would have affected him
as little as it did Aristogiton; to him, as to Harmodius, flowers were
only good to conceal the sword. He was severe in his pleasures, and
before all that was not the Republic he chastely lowered his eyes; he
was the marble lover of liberty. His language had a sharp inspiration
and a species of rhythmic strain. Woe to the love which risked itself
in his direction! If any grisette of the Place Cambray or the Rue St.
Jean de Beauvais, seeing this figure just escaped from college, with a
neck like that of a page, long light lashes, blue eyes, hair floating
wildly in the breeze, pink cheeks, cherry lips, and exquisite teeth,
had felt a longing for all this dawn, and tried the effect of her
charms upon Enjolras, a formidable look of surprise would have suddenly
shown her the abyss, and taught her not to confound the avenging cherub
of Ezekiel with the gallant cherub of Beaumarchais.

By the side of Enjolras, who represented the logic of the Revolution,
Combeferre represented its philosophy. Between the logic and the
philosophy of revolutions there is this difference, that the logic
may conclude in war, while its philosophy can only lead to peace.
Combeferre completed and rectified Enjolras; he was not so tall, but
broader. He wished that the extended principles of general ideas should
be poured over minds, and said, "Revolution but civilization!" and he
opened the vast blue horizon around the peaked mountain. Hence there
was something accessible and practicable in all Combeferre's views;
and the Revolution with him was fitter to breathe than with Enjolras.
Enjolras expressed its divine right and Combeferre its natural right;
and while the former clung to Robespierre, the latter bordered upon
Condorcet. Combeferre loved more than Enjolras the ordinary life of
mankind; and if these two young men had gained a place in history, the
one would have been the just man, the other the sage. Enjolras was
more manly, Combeferre more humane, and the distinction between them
was that between _homo_ and _vir_. Combeferre was gentle as Enjolras
was stern, through natural whiteness; he loved the word citizen,
but preferred man, and would willingly have said _Hombre_, like the
Spaniards. He read everything, went to the theatres, attended the
public lectures, learned from Arago the polarization of light, and grew
quite excited about a lecture in which Geoffroy St. Hilaire explained
the double functions of the external and internal carotid arteries, the
one which makes the face, and the other which produces the brain; he
was conversant with, and followed, science step by step, confronted St.
Simon with Fourier, deciphered hieroglyphics, broke pebbles which he
found, drew from memory a bombyx butterfly, pointed out the errors in
French in the Dictionary of the Academy, studied Puységur and Deleuze,
affirmed nothing, not even miracles, denied nothing, not even ghosts,
turned over the file of the _Moniteur_ and reflected. He declared that
the future is in the hand of the schoolmaster, and busied himself with
educational questions. He wished that society should labor without
relaxation at the elevation of the intellectual and moral standard,
at coining science, bringing ideas into circulation, and making the
minds of youth grow; and he feared that the present poverty of methods,
the wretchedness from the literary point of view of confining studies
to two or three centuries called classical, the tyrannical dogmatism
of official pedants, scholastic prejudices, and routine would in
the end convert our colleges into artificial oyster-beds. He was
learned, a purist, polite, and polytechnic, a delver, and at the time
pensive, "even to a chimera," as his friends said. He believed in all
dreams,--railways, the suppression of suffering in surgical operations,
fixing the image of the camera obscura, electric telegraphy, and the
steering of balloons. He was but slightly terrified by the citadels
built on all sides against the human race by superstitions, despotisms,
and prejudices; for he was one of those men who think that science will
in the end turn the position. Enjolras was a chief, and Combeferre
a guide; you would have liked to fight under one and march with the
other. Not that Combeferre was incapable of fighting, he did not refuse
to seize obstacles round the waist and attack them by main force; but
it pleased him better to bring the human race into harmony with its
destiny gradually, by the instruction of axioms and the promulgation
of positive laws; and with a choice between two lights, his inclination
was for illumination rather than fire. A fire may certainly produce a
dawn, but why not wait for daybreak? A volcano illumines, but the sun
does so far better. Combeferre perhaps preferred the whiteness of the
beautiful to the flashing of the sublime; and a brightness clouded by
smoke, a progress purchased by violence, only half satisfied his tender
and serious mind. A headlong hurling of a people into the truth, a
'93, startled him; still, stagnation was more repulsive to him, for he
smelt in it putrefaction and death. Altogether he liked foam better
than miasma, and preferred the torrent to the sewer, and the Falls of
Niagara to the Lake of Montfauçon. In a word, he desired neither halt
nor haste; and while his tumultuous friends, who were chivalrously
attracted by the absolute, adored and summoned the splendid
revolutionary adventurer, Combeferre inclined to leave progress, right
progress, to act: it might be cold but it was pure, methodical but
irreproachable, and phlegmatic but imperturbable. Combeferre would
have knelt down and prayed that this future might arrive with all its
candor, and that nothing might disturb the immense virtuous evolution
of the peoples. "The good must be innocent," he repeated incessantly.
And in truth, if the grandeur of the revolution is to look fixedly at
the dazzling ideal, and fly toward it through the lightning, with blood
and fire in the claws, the beauty of progress is to be unspotted; and
there is between Washington, who represents the one, and Danton, who
is the incarnation of the other, the same difference as that which
separates the angel with the swan's wings from the angel with the
eagle's wings.

Jean Prouvaire was of an even softer tinge than Combeferre; he was
called "Jehan," through that little momentary fantasy which was
blended with the powerful and profound movement from which issued
the study of the Middle Ages, so essential. Jean Prouvaire was in
love, cultivated a pot of flowers, played the flute, wrote verses,
loved the people, pitied women, wept over children, confounded in the
same confidence the future and God, and blamed the Revolution for
having caused a royal head to fall, that of André Chénier. He had a
voice which was habitually delicate, and suddenly became masculine;
he was erudite, and almost an Orientalist. He was good before all,
and through a motive which those will easily understand who know how
closely goodness borders on grandeur,--he loved immensity in poetry. He
knew Italian, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and he employed his knowledge
to read only four poets,--Dante, Juvenal, Æschylus, and Isaiah. In
French he preferred Corneille to Racine, and Agrippa d'Aubigné to
Corneille. He was fond of strolling about the fields of wild oats and
corn-flowers, and occupied himself with clouds almost as much as with
events. His mind had two attitudes,--one turned to man, the other to
God; he either studied or contemplated. The whole day long he studied
social questions,--wages, capital, credit, marriage, religion, liberty
of thought, liberty of love, education, the penal code, wretchedness,
partnership, property, production, and division, that enigma of the
lower world which casts a shadow over the human ant-heap, and at night
he looked at the stars, those enormous beings. Like Enjolras, he was
rich, and an only son; he talked softly, hung his head, looked down,
smiled with an embarrassed air, dressed badly, had an awkward gait,
blushed at a nothing, and was very timid; with all that he was intrepid.

Feuilly was a journeyman fan-maker, doubly an orphan, who laboriously
earned three francs a day, and had only one idea,--to deliver the
world. He had another preoccupation as well, instructing himself, which
he called self-deliverance. He had taught himself to read and write,
and all that he knew he had learned alone. Feuilly had a generous
heart, and hugged the world. This orphan had adopted the peoples,
and as he had no mother, he meditated on his country. He had wished
that there should not be in the world a man who had no country, and
he brooded over what we now call the "idea of nationalities" with the
profound divination of the man of the people. He had studied history
expressly that he might be indignant with a knowledge of the fact, and
in this youthful assembly of Utopians who were specially interested
about France, he represented the foreign element. His specialty was
Greece, Poland, Roumania, Hungary, and Italy; he pronounced these
names incessantly, in season and out of season, with the tenacity of
right. The violations committed by Turkey on Greece and Thessaly, of
Russia on Warsaw, and Austria on Venice, exasperated him, and above
all the great highway robbery of 1772 aroused him. There can be no
more sovereign eloquence than truth in indignation; and he was eloquent
with that eloquence. He never left off talking about the infamous
date 1772, the noble and valiant people suppressed by treachery, this
crime committed by three accomplices, and the monstrous ambush, which
is the prototype and pattern of all those frightful suppressions of
states, which have since struck several nations, and have, so to speak,
erased their name from the baptismal register. All the social assaults
of the present day emanate from the division of Poland, and it is a
theorem to which all our political crimes are corollaries. There is
not a despot or a traitor who for a century past has not revised,
confirmed, countersigned, and margined with the words _ne varietur_,
the division of Poland. When we consult the list of modern treasons
this appears the first, and the Congress of Vienna consulted this crime
ere it consummated its own; 1772 sounds the view-halloo, and 1815
witnesses the quarry of the stag. Such was Feuilly's usual text. This
poor workman had made himself the guardian of Justice, and she rewarded
him by making him grand. In truth, there is an eternity in justice,
and Warsaw can no more be Tartar than Venice can be Teutonic. Kings
lose their time and their honor over such things. Sooner or later the
submerged country floats on the surface and reappears. Greece becomes
Greece once more, and Italy, Italy. The protest of right against deeds
persists forever, and there is no law of limitations for the robbery of
a nation. Such superior swindles have no future, and the mark cannot
be taken out of a nation like a handkerchief.

Courfeyrac had a father who was known as M. de Courfeyrac. One of the
incorrect ideas of the bourgeoisie of the Restoration in the matter
of the aristocracy and the nobility was a belief in the particle. The
particle, as we know, has no meaning but the bourgeois of the time of
the _Minerve_ esteemed this poor _de_ so highly that persons thought
themselves obliged to abdicate it. M. de Chauvelin called himself M.
Chauvelin; M. de Caumartin, M. Caumartin; M. de Constant de Rebecque,
Benjamin Constant, and M. de Lafayette, M. Lafayette. Courfeyrac was
unwilling to remain behindhand, and called himself Courfeyrac quite
short. As concerns this gentleman, we might almost stop here and
content ourselves with saying as to the rest, in Courfeyrac you see
Tholomyès; Courfeyrac, in fact, had those sallies of youth which might
be called a mental _beauté du diable_. At a later date this expires
like the prettiness of the kitten; and all this grace produces, upon
two feet the bourgeois, and on four paws the tom-cat.

The generations which pass through the schools, and the successive
levies of youth, transmit this species of wit from one to the other,
and pass it from hand to hand, _quasi cursores_, nearly always the
same; so that, as we have said, the first comer who had listened to
Courfeyrac in 1828 might have fancied he was hearing Tholomyès in 1817.
The only thing was that Courfeyrac was an honest fellow, and beneath
an apparent external similitude, the difference between Tholomyès and
himself was great, and the latent man who existed within them was quite
different in the former from what it was in the latter. In Tholomyès
there was an attorney, and in Courfeyrac a Paladin; Enjolras was the
chief, Combeferre the guide, and Courfeyrac the centre. The others gave
more light, but he produced more heat; and he had in truth all the
qualities of a centre, in the shape of roundness and radiation.

Bahorel had been mixed up in the sanguinary tumult of June, 1822, on
the occasion of the burial of young Lallemand. Bahorel was a being of
good temper and bad company, brave and a spendthrift, prodigal and
generous, chattering and eloquent, bold and insolent, and the very best
clay for the devils moulding imaginable. He displayed daring waistcoats
and scarlet opinions; he was a turbulent on a grand scale, that is
to say, that he liked nothing so much as a quarrel unless it were an
émeute, and nothing so much as an émeute except a revolution. He was
ever ready to break a pane of glass, tear up the paving-stones, and
demolish a government, in order to see the effect; he was a student
in his eleventh year. He sniffed at the law, but did not practise it,
and he had taken as his motto, "Never a lawyer," and as his coat of
arms a night-table surmounted by a square cap. Whenever he passed in
front of the law-school, which rarely happened to him, he buttoned up
his frock-coat and took hygienic precautions. He said of the school
gate, "What a fierce old man!" and of the Dean M. Devincourt, "What a
monument!" He found in his lectures a subject for coarse songs, and
in his professors an occasion for laughter. He spent in doing nothing
a very considerable allowance, something like three thousand francs.
His parents were peasants in whom he had inculcated a respect for their
son. He used to say of them, "They are peasants, and not towns-people,
that is why they are so intelligent." Bahorel, as a capricious man,
visited several cafés; and while the others had habits he had none. He
strolled about: to err is human, to stroll is Parisian. Altogether, he
had a penetrating mind, and thought more than people fancied. He served
as the connecting link between the Friends of the A. B. C. and other
groups which were still unformed, but which were to be constituted at a
later date.

There was in this assembly of young men a bald-headed member. The
Marquis d'Avaray, whom Louis XVIII. made a duke because he helped him
to get into a hired cab on the day when he emigrated, used to tell how,
when the King landed in 1814 at Calais upon his return to France, a man
handed him a petition.

"What do you want?" the King said.

"A postmastership, Sire."

"What is your name?"


The King frowned, but looked at the signature of the petition, and
read the name thus written, LESGLE. This, anything but Bonapartist
orthography, touched the King, and he began smiling. "Sire," the man
with the petition went on, "my ancestor was a whipper-in of the name
of Lesgueules, and my name came from that. I called myself Lesgueules,
by contraction Lesgle, and by corruption L'Aigle." This remark caused
the King to smile still more, and at a later date he gave the man the
post-office at Meaux, purposely or through a mistake. The bald Mentor
of the group was son of this Lesgle or Legle, and signed himself Legle
(of Meaux.) His comrades, to shorten this, called him Bossuet.

Bossuet was a merry fellow, who was unlucky, and his specialty was to
succeed in nothing. _Per contra_, he laughed at everything. At the
age of five-and-twenty he was bald; his father left him a house and a
field; but the son knew nothing so pressing as to lose them both in a
swindling speculation, and nothing was left him. He had learning and
sense, but miscarried; he failed in everything, and everything cozened
him; whatever he built up broke down under him. If he chopped wood,
he cut his fingers; and if he had a mistress, he speedily discovered
that she had also a friend. At every moment some misfortune happened to
him, and hence came his joviality; and he used to say, "I live under
the roof of falling tiles." Feeling but slight astonishment, for every
accident was foreseen by him, he accepted ill-luck serenely, and smiled
at the pin-pricks of destiny like a man who is listening to a good
joke. He was poor, but his wallet of good-temper was inexhaustible; he
speedily reached his last halfpenny, but never his last laugh. When
adversity entered his room he bowed to his old acquaintance cordially;
he tickled catastrophes in the ribs, and was so familiar with fatality
as to call it by a nickname.

These persecutions of fate had rendered him inventive, and he was full
of resources. He had no money, but contrived to make "an unbridled
outlay" whenever he thought proper. One night he went so far as to
devour a hundred francs in a supper with a girl, which inspired him in
the middle of the orgie with the memorable remark, "Fille de cinq Louis
(Saint Louis), pull off my boots." Bossuet was advancing slowly to the
legal profession, and studied law much after the fashion of Bahorel.
Bossuet had but little domicile, at times none at all, and he lived
first with one and then with the other, but most frequently with Joly.

Joly was a student of medicine, of two years' younger standing than
Bossuet, and was the young imaginary sick man. What he had gained by
his medical studies was to be more a patient than a doctor, for at the
age of twenty-three he fancied himself a valetudinarian, and spent
his life in looking at his tongue in a mirror. He declared that a man
becomes magnetized like a needle, and in his room he placed his bed
with the head to the south and the feet to the north, so that at night
the circulation of his blood might not be impeded by the great magnetic
current of the globe. In storms he felt his pulse, but for all that was
the gayest of all. All these incoherences, youth, mania, dyspepsia, and
fun, lived comfortably together, and the result was an eccentric and
agreeable being, whom his comrades, lavish of liquid consonants, called
Jolllly. Joly was accustomed to touch his nose with the end of his
cane, which is the sign of a sagacious mind.

All these young men, who differed so greatly, and of whom, after all,
we must speak seriously, had the same religion,--Progress. They were
all the direct sons of the French Revolution, and the lightest among
them became serious when pronouncing the date of '89. Their fathers in
the flesh were, or had been, _feuilleants_, royalists, or doctrinaires,
but that was of little consequence; this pell-mell, anterior to
themselves, who were young, did not concern them, and the pure blood
of principles flowed in their veins; they attached themselves, without
any intermediate tinge, to incorruptible right and absolute duty.
Confederates and initiated, they secretly sketched the ideal.

Amid all these impassioned hearts and convinced minds there was a
sceptic. How did he get there? Through juxtaposition. The name of
this sceptic was Grantaire, and he usually wrote it after the manner
of a rebus: R--(Grand R., i. e. Grantaire). Grantaire was a man who
carefully avoided believing in anything; he was, however, one of these
students who had learned the most during a Parisian residence. He knew
that the best coffee was at Lemblier's, and the best billiard-table
at the Café Voltaire; that excellent cakes and agreeable girls could
be found at the Hermitage on the Boulevard du Maine, spatch-cocks at
Mother Saquet's, excellent matelottes at the Barrière de la Cunette,
and a peculiar white wine at the Barrière du Combat. Besides all
this, he was a mighty drinker. He was abominably ugly, and Irma
Boissy, the prettiest boot-stitcher of that day, in her indignation
at his ugliness, passed the verdict,--"Grantaire is impossible." But
Grantaire's fatuity was not disconcerted by this. He looked tenderly
and fixedly at every woman, and assumed an expression of "If I only
liked!" and he tried to make his companions believe that he was in
general request with the sex.

All such words as rights of the people, rights of man, the social
contract, the French Revolution, republic, democracy, humanity,
civilization, progress, had as good as no meaning with Grantaire, and
he smiled at them. Scepticism, that curse of the intellect, had not
left him one whole idea in his mind. He lived in irony, and his axiom
was, "There is only one thing certain, my full glass." He ridiculed
every act of devotion in every party,--the brother as much as the
father, young Robespierre as heartily as Loizerolles. "They made great
progress by dying," he would exclaim; and would say of the crucifix,
"There is a gallows which was successful." Idler, gambler, libertine,
and often intoxicated, he annoyed these young democrats by incessantly
singing, "_J'aimons les filles et j'aimons le bon vin_" to the tune of
"Long live Henri IV."

This sceptic, however, had a fanaticism; it was neither an idea, a
dogma, an act, nor a sense: it was a man,--Enjolras. Grantaire admired,
loved, and revered Enjolras. Whom did this anarchical doubter cling to
in this phalanx of absolute minds? To the most absolute. In what way
did Enjolras subjugate him,--by ideas? No, but by character. This is a
frequently-observed phenomenon, and a sceptic who clings to a believer
is as simple as the law of complementary colors. What we do not possess
attracts us; no one loves daylight like the blind man; the dwarf adores
the drum-major, and the frog has its eyes constantly fixed on heaven
to see the bird fly. Grantaire, in whom doubt grovelled, liked to see
faith soaring in Enjolras, and he felt the want of him, without clearly
understanding it, or even dreaming of explaining the fact to himself.
This chaste, healthy, firm, upright, harsh, and candid nature charmed
him, and he instinctively admired his opposite. His soft, yielding,
dislocated, sickly, and shapeless ideas attached themselves to Enjolras
as to a spinal column, and his mental vertebra supported itself by
this firmness. Grantaire, by the side of Enjolras, became somebody
again; and he was, moreover, himself composed of two apparently
irreconcilable elements,--he was ironical and cordial. His mind could
do without belief, but his heart could not do without friendship. This
is a profound contradiction, for an affection is a conviction; but his
nature was so. There are some men apparently born to be the reverse
of the coin, and their names are Pollux, Patroclus, Nisus, Eudamidas,
Ephestion, and Pechmeja. They only live on the condition of being
backed by another man; their name is a continuation, and is never
written except preceded by the conjunction _and_; their existence is
not their own, but is the other side of a destiny which is not theirs.
Grantaire was one of these men.

We might almost say that affinities commence with the letters of
the alphabet, and in the series, O and P are almost inseparable. You
may, as you please, say O and P, or Orestes and Pylades. Grantaire,
a true satellite of Enjolras, dwelt in this circle of young men; he
lived there, he solely enjoyed himself there, and he followed them
everywhere. His delight was to see their shadows coming and going
through the fumes of wine, and he was tolerated for his pleasant
humor. Enjolras, as a believer, disdained this sceptic, and as a sober
man loathed this drunkard, but he granted him a little haughty pity.
Grantaire was an unaccepted Pylades: constantly repulsed by Enjolras,
harshly rejected, and yet returning, he used to say of him, "What a
splendid statue!"



On a certain afternoon, which, as we shall see, has some coincidence
with the events recorded above, Laigle de Meaux was sensually leaning
against the door-post of the Café Musain. He looked like a caryatid out
for a holiday, and having nothing to carry but his reverie. Leaning on
one's shoulder is a mode of lying down upright which is not disliked by
dreamers. Laigle de Meaux was thinking, without melancholy, of a slight
misadventure which had occurred to him on the previous day but one at
the Law-school, and modified his personal plans for the future, which,
as it was, were somewhat indistinct.

Reverie does not prevent a cabriolet from passing, or a dreamer from
noticing the cabriolet. Laigle, whose eyes were absently wandering, saw
through this somnambulism a two-wheeled vehicle moving across the Place
St. Michel at a foot-pace and apparently undecided. What did this cab
want? Why was it going so slowly? Laigle looked at it, and saw inside a
young man seated by the side of the driver, and in front of the young
man a carpet-bag. The bag displayed to passers-by this name, written in
large black letters on the card sewn to the cloth, MARIUS PONTMERCY.
This name made Laigle change his attitude: he drew himself up, and
shouted to the young man in the cab, "M. Marius Pontmercy!"

The cab stopped, on being thus hailed, and the young man, who also
appeared to be thinking deeply, raised his eyes.

"Hilloh!" he said.

"Are you M. Pontmercy?"


"I was looking for you," Laigle of Meaux continued.

"How so?" asked Marius, for it was really he, who had just left his
grandfather's and had before him a face which he saw for the first
time. "I do not know you."

"And I don't know you either."

Marius fancied that he had to do with a practical joker, and, as he was
not in the best of tempers at the moment, frowned. Laigle imperturbably

"You were not at lecture the day before yesterday!"

"Very possibly."

"It is certain."

"Are you a student?" Marius asked.

"Yes, sir, like yourself. The day before yesterday I entered the
Law-school by chance; as you know, a man has an idea like that
sometimes. The Professor was engaged in calling over the names, and you
are aware how ridiculously strict they are in the school at the present
moment. Upon the third call remaining unanswered, your name is erased
from the list, and sixty francs are gone."

Marius began to listen, and Laigle continued,--

"It was Blondeau who was calling over. You know Blondeau has a pointed
and most malicious nose, and scents the absent with delight. He
craftily began with the letter P, and I did not listen, because I was
not compromised by that letter. The roll-call went on capitally, there
was no erasure, and the universe was present. Blondeau was sad, and
I said to myself aside, 'Blondeau, my love, you will not perform the
slightest execution to-day,' All at once Blondeau calls out, 'Marius
Pontmercy!' No one answered, and so Blondeau, full of hope, repeats in
a louder voice,'Marius Pontmercy!' and takes up his pen. I have bowels,
sir, and said to myself hurriedly, 'The name of a good fellow is going
to be erased. Attention! he is not a proper student, a student who
studies, a reading man, a pedantic sap, strong in science, literature,
theology, and philosophy. No, he is an honorable idler, who lounges
about, enjoys the country, cultivates the grisette, pays his court to
the ladies, and is perhaps with my mistress at this moment. I must save
him: death to Blondeau!' At this moment Blondeau dipped his pen, black
with erasures, into the ink, looked round his audience, and repeated
for the third time, 'Marius Pontmercy!' I answered,'Here!' and so your
name was not erased."

"Sir!" Marius exclaimed.

"And mine was," Laigle of Meaux added.

"I do not understand you," said Marius.

Laigle continued,--

"And yet it was very simple. I was near the desk to answer, and near
the door to bolt. The Professor looked at me with a certain fixedness,
and suddenly Blondeau, who must be the crafty nose to which Boileau
refers, leaps to the letter L, which is my letter, for I come from
Meaux, and my name is L'Aigle."

"L'Aigle!" Marius interrupted, "what a glorious name!"

"Blondeau arrives, sir, at that glorious name, and exclaims 'L'Aigle!'
I answer,'Here!' Then Blondeau looks at me with the gentleness of a
tiger, smiles, and says,--'If you are Pontmercy you are not Laigle, 'a
phrase which appears offensive to you, but which was only lugubrious
for me. After saying this, he erased me."

Marius exclaimed,--

"I am really mortified, sir--"

"Before all," Laigle interrupted, "I ask leave to embalm Blondeau
in a few phrases of heart-felt praise. I will suppose him dead, and
there will not be much to alter in his thinness, paleness, coldness,
stiffness, and smell, and I say, _Erudimini qui judicatis terram_. Here
lies Blondeau the nosy, Blondeau Nasica, the ox of discipline, _bos
disciplinœ_, the mastiff of duty, the angel of the roll-call, who was
straight, square, exact, rigid, honest, and hideous. God erased him as
he erased me."

Marius continued, "I am most grieved--"

"Young man," said Laigle, "let this serve you as a lesson; in future be

"I offer you a thousand apologies."

"And do not run the risk of getting your neighbor erased."

"I am in despair--"

Laigle burst into a laugh. "And I am enchanted. I was on the downward
road to become a lawyer, and this erasure saves me. I renounce the
triumphs of the bar. I will not defend the orphan or attack the widow.
I have obtained my expulsion, and I am indebted to you for it, M.
Pontmercy. I intend to pay you a solemn visit of thanks. Where do you

"In this cab," said Marius.

"A sign of opulence," Laigle remarked calmly; "I congratulate you, for
you have apartments at nine thousand francs a year."

At this moment Courfeyrac came out of the café Marius smiled sadly.

"I have been in this lodging for two hours, and am eager to leave it;
but I do not know where to go."

"Come home with me," Courfeyrac said to him.

"I ought to have the priority," Laigle observed; "but then I have no

"Hold your tongue, Bossuet," Courfeyrac remarked.

"Bossuet!" said Marius. "Why, you told me your name was Laigle."

"Of Meaux," Laigle answered; "metaphorically, Bossuet."

Courfeyrac got into the cab.

"Hôtel de la Porte St Jacques, driver," he said.

The same evening Marius was installed in a room in this house, next
door to Courfeyrac.



In a few days Marius was a friend of Courfeyrac, for youth is the
season of prompt weldings and rapid cicatrizations. Marius by the side
of Courfeyrac breathed freely, a great novelty for him. Courfeyrac
asked him no questions, and did not even think of doing so, for at that
age faces tell everything at once, and words are unnecessary. There are
some young men of whose countenances you may say that they gossip,--you
look at them and know them. One morning, however, Courfeyrac suddenly
asked him the question,--

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

"Of course!" said Marius, almost offended by the question.

"What are you?"

"Bonapartist democrat."

"The gray color of the reassured mouse," Courfeyrac remarked.

On the next day he led Marius to the Café Musain, and whispered in his
ear with a smile, "I must introduce you to the Revolution," and he led
him to the room of the Friends of the A. B. C. He introduced him to his
companions, saying in a low voice, "A pupil," which Marius did not at
all comprehend Marius had fallen into a mental wasps' nest, but though
he was silent and grave, he was not the less winged and armed.

Marius, hitherto solitary, and muttering soliloquies and asides through
habit and taste, was somewhat startled by the swarm of young men around
him. The tumultuous movement of all these minds at liberty and at work
made his ideas whirl, and at times, in his confusion, they flew so
far from him that he had a difficulty in finding them again. He heard
philosophy, literature, art, history, and religion spoken of in an
unexpected way; he caught a glimpse of strange aspects, and as he did
not place them in perspective, he was not sure that he was not gazing
at chaos. On giving up his grandfather's opinions for those of his
father, he believed himself settled; but he now suspected, anxiously,
and not daring to confess it to himself, that it was not so. The angle
in which he looked at everything was beginning to be displaced afresh,
and a certain oscillation shook all the horizons of his brain. It was a
strange internal moving of furniture, and it almost made him ill.

It seemed as if there were no "sacred things" for these young men,
and Marius heard singular remarks about all sorts of matters which
were offensive to his still timid mind. A play-bill came under notice,
adorned with the title of an old stock tragedy, of the so-called
classical school. "Down with the tragedy dear to the bourgeois!"
Bahorel shouted, and Marius heard Combeferre reply,--

"You are wrong, Bahorel. The cits love tragedy, and they must be left
at peace upon that point. Periwigged tragedy has a motive, and I am
not one of those who for love of Æschylus contests its right to exist.
There are sketches in nature and ready-made parodies in creation; a
beak which is no beak, wings which are no wings, gills which are no
gills, feet which are no feet, a dolorous cry which makes you inclined
to laugh,--there you have the duck. Now, since poultry exist by the
side of the bird, I do not see why classic tragedy should not exist
face to face with ancient tragedy."

Or else it happened accidentally that Marius passed along the Rue Jean
Jacques Rousseau between Enjolras and Courfeyrac, and the latter seized
his arm.

"Pay attention I this is the Rue Plûtrière, now called Rue Jean Jacques
Rousseau, on account of a singular family that lived here sixty years
back, and they were Jean Jacques and Thérèse. From time to time little
creatures were born; Thérèse fondled them, and Jean Jacques took them
to the Foundling."

And Enjolras reproved Courfeyrac.

"Silence before Jean Jacques! I admire that man. I grant that he
abandoned his children, but he adopted the people."

Not one of these young men ever uttered the words,--the Emperor;
Jean Prouvaire alone sometimes said Napoleon; all the rest spoke of
Bonaparte. Enjolras pronounced it _Buonaparte_. Marius was vaguely
astonished.--_Initium sapientiœ_



One of the conversations among the young men at which Marius was
present, and in which he mingled now and then, was a thorough shock
for his mind. It came off in the back room of the Café Musain, and
nearly all the Friends of the A. B. C. were collected on that occasion,
and the chandelier was solemnly lighted. They talked about one thing
and another, without passion and with noise, and with the exception
of Enjolras and Marius, who were silent, each harangued somewhat
hap-hazard. Conversations among chums at times display these peaceful
tumults. It was a game and a jumble as much as a conversation; words
were thrown and caught up, and students were talking in all the four

No female was admitted into this back room, excepting Louison, the
washer-up of caps, who crossed it from time to time to go from the
wash-house to the "laboratory." Grantaire, who was perfectly tipsy, was
deafening the corner he had seized upon, by shouting things, reasonable
and unreasonable, in a thundering voice:--

"I am thirsty, mortals; I have dreamed that the tun of Heidelberg had
a fit of apoplexy, and that I was one of the dozen leeches applied to
it. I want to drink, for I desire to forget life. Life is a hideous
invention of somebody whom I am unacquainted with. It lasts no time and
is worth nothing, and a man breaks his neck to live. Life is a scenery
in which there are no practicables, and happiness is an old side-scene
only painted on one side. Ecclesiastes says, 'All is vanity,' and I
agree with the worthy gentleman, who possibly never existed. Zero, not
liking to go about naked, clothed itself in vanity. Oh, vanity! the
dressing up of everything in big words! A kitchen is a laboratory, a
dancer a professor, a mountebank a gymnast, a boxer a pugilist, an
apothecary a chemist, a barber an artist, a bricklayer an architect,
a jockey a sportsman, and a woodlouse a pterygibranch. Vanity has an
obverse and a reverse; the obverse is stupid,--it is the negro with
his glass beads; the reverse is ridiculous,--it is the philosopher
in his rags. I weep over the one and laugh at the other. What are
called honors and dignities, and even honor and dignity, are generally
pinchbeck. Kings make a toy of human pride. Caligula made a horse a
consul, and Charles II. knighted a sirloin of beef. Drape yourselves,
therefore, between the consul Incitatus and the baronet Roastbeef. As
to the intrinsic value of people, it is not one bit more respectable;
just listen to the panegyric which one neighbor makes of another. White
upon white is ferocious. If the lily could talk, how it would run down
the dove; and a bigoted woman talking of a pious woman is more venomous
than the asp and the whip-snake. It is a pity that I am an ignoramus,
for I would quote a multitude of things; but I know nothing. But for
all that I have always had sense; when I was a pupil of Gros, instead
of daubing sketches, I spent my time in prigging apples. _Rapin_ is
the male of _rapine_. So much for myself; but you others are as good
as I, and I laugh at your perfections, excellency, and qualities, for
every quality has its defect. The saving man is akin to the miser, the
generous man is very nearly related to the prodigal, and the brave
man trenches on the braggart. When you call a man very pious, you
mean that he is a little bigoted, and there are just as many vices
in virtue as there are holes in the mantle of Diogenes. Which do you
admire, the killed or the killer, Cæsar or Brutus? People generally
stick up for the killer: Long live Brutus! for he was a murderer. Such
is virtue; it may be virtue, but it is folly at the same time. There
are some queer spots on these great men; the Brutus who killed Cæsar
was in love with the statue of a boy. This statue was made by the Greek
sculptor Strongylion, who also produced that figure of an Amazon called
Finelegs, Euchnemys, which Nero carried about with him when travelling.
This Strongylion only left two statues, which brought Brutus and Nero
into harmony; Brutus was in love with one and Nero with the other.
History is but one long repetition, and one century is a plagiarism of
another. The battle of Marengo is a copy of the battle of Pydna; the
Tolbiae of Clovis and the Austerlitz of Napoleon are as much alike as
two drops of blood. I set but little value on victory. Nothing is so
stupid as conquering; the true glory is convincing. But try to prove
anything; you satisfy yourself with success; what mediocrity! and
with conquering; what a wretched trifle! Alas! vanity and cowardice
are everywhere, and everything obeys success, even grammar. _Si volet
usus_, as Horace says. Hence I despise the whole human race. Suppose
we descend from universals to particulars? Would you wish me to begin
admiring the peoples? What people, if you please? Is it Greece,--the
Athenians? Parisians of former time killed Phocion, as you might say
Coligny, and adulated tyrants to such a pitch that Anacephorus said
of Pisistratus, 'His urine attracts the bees.' The most considerable
man in Greece for fifty years was the grammarian Philetas, who was so
short and small that he was obliged to put lead in his shoes to keep
the wind from blowing him away. On the great square of Corinth there
was a statue sculptured by Selamon, and catalogued by Pliny, and it
represented Episthatus. What did Episthatus achieve? He invented the
cross-buttock. There you have a summary of Greece and glory, and now
let us pass to others. Should I admire England? Should I admire France?
France, why,--on account of Paris? I have just told you my opinion of
the Athenians. England, why,--on account, of London? I hate Carthage,
and, besides, Loudon, the metropolis of luxury, is the headquarters of
misery: in the single parish of Charing Cross one hundred persons die
annually of starvation. Such is Albion, and I will add, as crowning
point, that I have seen an Englishwoman dancing in a wreath of roses
and with blue spectacles. So, a groan for England. If I do not admire
John Bull, ought I to admire Brother Jonathan with his peculiar
institution? Take away 'Time is money,' and what remains of England?
Take away 'Cotton is king,' and what remains of America? Germany is
lymph and Italy bile. Shall we go into ecstasies about Russia? Voltaire
admired that country, and he also admired China. I allow that Russia
has its beauties, among others a powerful despotism; but I pity the
despots, for they have a delicate health. An Alexis decapitated, a
Peter stabbed, a Paul strangled, another Paul flattened out with
boot-heels, sundry Ivans butchered, several Nicholases and Basils
poisoned,--all this proves that the palace of the Emperor of Russia is
in a flagrantly unhealthy condition. All the civilized nations offer to
the admiration of the thinker one detail, war: now, war, civilized war,
exhausts and collects all the forms of banditism, from the brigandages
of the trabuceros in the gorges of Mont Jaxa down to the forays of the
Comanche Indians in the Doubtful Pass. 'Stuff!' you will say to me,
'Europe is better than Asia after all,' I allow that Asia is absurd,
but I do not exactly see what cause you have to laugh at the Grand
Lama, you great western nations, who have blended with your fashions
and elegances all the complicated filth of majesty, from the dirty
chemise of Queen Isabelle down to the _chaise percée_ of the Dauphin.
At Brussels the most beer is consumed, at Stockholm the most brandy, at
Madrid the most chocolate, at Amsterdam the most gin, at London the
most wine, at Constantinople the most coffee, and at Paris the most
absinthe,--these are all useful notions. Paris, after all, bears away
the bell, for in that city the very rag-pickers are sybarites: and
Diogenes would as soon have been a rag-picker on the Place Maubert as
a philosopher at the Piræus. Learn this fact also: the wine-shops of
the rag-pickers are called 'bibines,' and the most celebrated are the
_Casserole_ and the _Abattoir_. Therefore O restaurants, wine-shops,
music-halls, tavern-keepers, brandy and absinthe dispensers,
boozing-kens of the rag-pickers, and caravansaries of caliphs, I call
you to witness, I am a voluptuary. I dine at Richard's for fifty sous,
and I want Persian carpets in which to roll the naked Cleopatra. Where
is Cleopatra? Ah, it is you, Louison. Good-evening."

Thus poured forth Grantaire, more than drunk, as he seized the
plate-washer as she passed his corner. Bossuet, stretching out his
hand toward him, strove to make him be silent, but Grantaire broke out

"Eagle of Meaux, down with your paws! You produce no effect upon
me with your gesture of Hippocrates refusing the _bric-à-brac_
of Artaxerxes. You need not attempt to calm me; and besides, I
am melancholy. What would you have me say? Man is bad, man is a
deformity; the butterfly is a success, but man a mistake. God made
a failure with that animal. A crowd is a choice of uglinesses: the
first comer is a scoundrel. _Femme_ rhymes with _infâme._ Yes, I have
the spleen, complicated with melancholy, home-sickness, and a dash
of hypochondria, and I fret, I rage, I yawn, I weary myself, I bore
myself, and I find it horribly dull."

"Silence, Big R," Bossuet remarked again, who was discussing a legal
point with some chums, and was sunk to his waist in a sentence of
judicial slang, of which the following is the end:--

"For my part, although I am scarce an authority, and at the most an
amateur lawyer, I assert this, that, according to the terms of the
customs of Normandy, upon the Michaelmas day and in every year an
equivalent must be paid to the lord of the manor, by all and singular,
both by landowners and tenants, and that for every freehold, long
lease, mortgage--"

"Echo, plaintive nymph!" Grantaire hummed, dose to Grantaire, at an
almost silent table, a quire of paper, an inkstand, and a pen between
two small glasses announced that a farce was being sketched out. This
great affair was discussed in a low voice, and the heads of the workers
almost touched.

"Let us begin with the names, for when you have the names you have the

"That is true: dictate, and I will write."

"Monsieur Dorimon?"

"An annuitant?"

"Of course. His daughter Celestine."

"-tine. Who next?"

"Colonel Sainval."

"Sainval is worn out. Say Valsin."

By the side of these theatrical aspirants another group, which also
took advantage of the noise to talk low, were discussing a duel.
An old student of thirty was advising a young man of eighteen, and
explaining with what sort of adversary he had to deal.

"Hang it! you will have to be careful, for he is a splendid swordsman.
He can attack, makes no useless feints, has a strong wrist, brilliancy,
and mathematical parries. And then he is left-handed."

In the corner opposite to Grantaire, Joly and Bahorel were playing at
dominos and talking of love affairs.

"You are happy," said Joly; "you have a mistress who is always

"It is a fault she commits," Bahorel answered; "a man's mistress does
wrong to laugh, for it encourages him to deceive her, for seeing her
gay saves you from remorse. If you see her sad you have scruples of

"Ungrateful man! a woman who laughs is so nice, and you never quarrel."

"That results from the treaty we made; on forming our little holy
alliance, we gave each other a frontier which we never step beyond.
Hence comes peace."

"Peace is digesting happiness."

"And you, Jolllly, how does your quarrel stand with Mamselle--you know
whom I mean?"

"Oh! she still sulks with a cruel patience."

"And yet you are a lover of most touching thinness."


"In your place, I would leave her."

"It's easy to say that."

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

"Yes; ah, my dear Bahorel, she is a superb girl, very literary, with
little hands and feet, dresses with taste, is white and plump, and has
eyes like a gypsy fortune-teller. I am wild about her."

"My dear boy, you must please her; be fashionable, and make your knees
effective. Buy fine trousers of Staub."

"At how much?" cried Grantaire.

In the third corner a poetical, discussion was going on, and Pagan
Mythology was quarrelling with Christian Mythology. The point was
Olympus, whose defence Jean Prouvaire undertook through his romantic
nature. Jean Prouvaire was only timid when in repose; once excited, he
broke out into a species of gayety, accentuated his enthusiasm, and he
was at once laughing and lyrical.

"Let us not insult the gods," he said, "for perhaps they have not all
departed, and Jupiter does not produce the effect of a dead man upon
me. The gods are dreams, you say; well, even in nature such as it is at
the present day, and after the flight of these dreams, we find again
all the old Pagan myths. A mountain with the profile of a citadel, like
the Vignemale, for instance, is still for me the head-dress of Cybele.
It has not yet been proved to me that Pan does not come at night to
whistle in the hollow trunks of the willows, while stopping their holes
with his fingers in turn, and I have ever believed that he had some
connection with the cascade of Pissevache."

In the last corner politics were being discussed, and the conceded
charter was abused. Combeferre supported it feebly, while Courfeyrac
attacked it energetically. There was on the table an unlucky copy of
the Charte Touquet. Courfeyrac had seized it and was shaking it, mixing
with his argument the rustling of this sheet of paper.

"In the first place, I do not want kings; even from the economic point
of view alone I do not want them, for a king is a parasite, and there
are no gratis monarchs. Listen to this,--kings are an expensive
luxury. On the death of Francis I. the public debt of France was thirty
thousand livres; on the death of Louis XIV. it was two milliards six
hundred millions, at twenty-eight livres the marc, which in 1740 was
equivalent, according to Desmarets, to four milliards five hundred
millions, and at the present day would be equal to twelve milliards.
In the second place,--no offence to Combeferre,--a conceded charter
is a bad expedient of civilization, for saving the transaction,
softening the passage, deadening the shock, making the nation pass
insensibly from monarchy to democracy by the practice of constitutional
fictions,--all these are detestable fictions. No, no; let us never
give the people a false light, and principles pine and grow pale
in your constitutional cellar. No bastardizing, no compromise, no
concession, from a king to people! In all these concessions there is
an Article XIV., and by the side of the hand that gives is the claw
that takes back again. I distinctly refuse your charter; for a charter
is a mask, and there is falsehood behind it. A people that accepts a
charter abdicates, and right is only right when entire. No charter,
then, I say."

It was winter time, and two logs were crackling on the hearth; this was
tempting, and Courfeyrac did not resist. He crumpled up the poor Charte
Touquet and threw it in the fire; the paper blazed, and Combeferre
philosophically watched the masterpiece of Louis XVIII. burning,
contenting himself with saying,--

"The charter metamorphosed into flame."

And sarcasms, sallies, jests, that French thing which is called
_entrain_, that English thing which is called humor, good taste and
bad, sound and unsound reasoning, all the rockets of dialogue ascending
together and crossing each other in all parts of the room, produced
above their heads a species of merry explosion.



The collision of young minds has this admirable thing about it, that
the spark can never be foreseen or the lightning divined. What will
shoot forth presently, no one knows. The burst of laughter is heard,
and at the next moment seriousness makes its entrance. The impetus is
given by the first word that comes, and everybody's fancy reigns. A
joke suffices to open an unforeseen subject. The conversation takes a
sudden turn, and the perspective changes all at once. Chance is the
scene-shifter of conversations. A stern thought, which strangely issued
from a clash of words, suddenly flashed through the medley in which
Grantaire, Bahorel, Prouvaire, Bossuet, Combeferre, and Courfeyrac were
blindly slashing and pointing. How is it that a phrase suddenly springs
up in conversation, and underlines itself at once in the attention of
those who trace it? As we have just said, no one knows. In the midst
of the general confusion Bossuet concluded some remark he made to
Combeferre with the date, "June 18, 1815, Waterloo."

At this name of Waterloo, Marius, who had been leaning over a glass
of water, removed his hand from under his chin, and began looking
intently at the company.

"Pardieu!" Courfeyrac exclaimed (_Parbleu_ at this period was beginning
to grow out of fashion). "That number eighteen is strange, and strikes
me, for it is Bonaparte's fatal number. Place Louis before and Brumaire
behind, and you have the man's whole destiny, with this expressive
peculiarity, that the beginning is closely pursued by the end."

Enjolras, who had hitherto been dumb, now broke the silence, and said,--

"Courfeyrac, you mean the crime by the expiation."

This word _crime_ exceeded the measure which Marius, who was already
greatly affected by this sudden reference to Waterloo, could accept. He
rose, walked slowly to the map of France hanging on the wall, on the
bottom of which could be seen an island in a separate compartment; he
placed his finger on this and said,--

"Corsica, a small island which made France very great."

This was the breath of frozen air; all broke off, for they felt that
something was about to begin. Bahorel, who was assuming a victorious
attitude in answering Bossuet, gave it up in order to listen; and
Enjolras, whose blue eye was fixed on no one and seemed to be examining
space, answered without looking at Marius,--

"France requires no Corsica to be great. France is great because she is
France, _quia nominor leo._"

Marius felt no desire to give way; he turned to Enjolras, and his
voice had a strange vibration, produced by his internal emotion.

"Heaven forbid that I should diminish France; but it is not diminishing
her to amalgamate Napoleon with her. Come, let us talk; I am a
new-comer among you, but I confess that you astonish me. Where are we?
who are we? who are you? who am I? Let us come to an understanding
about the Emperor. I hear you call him Buonaparte, laying a stress on
the _u_, like the Royalists, but I must tell you that toy grandfather
does better still, for he says, 'Buonaparté'. I fancied you young men,
but where do you keep your enthusiasm, and what do you do with it? Whom
do you admire, if it is not the Emperor, and what more do you want?
If you will not have that great man, what great man would you have?
He had everything; he was complete, and in his brain was the cube of
human faculties. He made codes like Justinian, and dictated like Cæsar;
his conversation blended the lightning of Pascal with the thunder of
Tacitus; he made history and wrote it, and his bulletins are Iliads; he
combined the figures of Newton with the metaphor of Mahomet. He left
behind him in the East words great as the Pyramids; at Tilsit he taught
majesty to Emperors; at the Academy of Sciences he answered Laplace;
at the Council of State he held his own against Merlin; he gave a
soul to the geometry of one and to the sophistry of others; he was
legist with the lawyers, sidereal with the astronomers. Like Cromwell,
blowing out one of two candles, he went to the Temple to bargain for
a curtain tassel; he saw everything, knew everything, but that did
not prevent him from laughing heartily by the cradle of his new-born
son. And all at once startled Europe listened, armies set out, parks
of artillery rolled along, bridges of boats were thrown over rivers,
clouds of cavalry galloped in the hurricane, and shouts, bugles, and
the crashing of thrones could be heard all around! The frontiers of
kingdoms oscillated on the map, the sound of a super-human sword being
drawn from its scabbard could be heard, and he was seen, standing erect
on the horizon, with a gleam in his hand, and a splendor in his eyes,
opening in the thunder his two wings, the grand army and the old Guard.
He was the archangel of war!"

All were silent, and Enjolras hung his head. Silence always produces
to some extent the effect of acquiescence, or a species of setting the
back against the wall. Marius, almost without drawing breath, continued
with increased enthusiasm,--

"Let us be just, my friends! What a splendid destiny it is for a
people to be the empire of such an Emperor, when that people is France
and adds its genius to the genius of that man! To appear and reign;
to march and triumph; to have as bivouacs every capital; to select
grenadiers and make kings of them; to decree the downfall of dynasties;
to transfigure Europe at double-quick step; to feel when you threaten
that you lay your hand on the sword-hilt of God; to follow in one
man Hannibal, Cæsar, and Charlemagne; to be the people of a ruler
who accompanies your every daybreak with the brilliant announcement
of a battle gained; to be aroused in the morning by the guns of the
Invalides; to cast into the abysses of light prodigious words which are
eternally luminous,--Marengo, Areola, Austerlitz, Jena, and Wagram! to
produce at each moment on the zenith of centuries constellations of
victories: to make the French Empire a counterpart of the Roman Empire;
to be the great nation, and give birth to the great army; to send
legions all over the world, as the mountain sends its eagles in all
directions to conquer, rule, and crush; to be in Europe a people gilded
by glory; to sound a Titanic flourish of trumpets through history; to
conquer the world twice, by conquest and by amazement,--all this is
sublime, and what is there greater?"

"To be free!" said Combeferre.

Marius in his turn hung his head. This simple and cold remark had
traversed his epical effusion like a steel blade, and he felt it
fainting away within him. When he raised his eyes, Combeferre was no
longer present; probably satisfied with his reply to the apotheosis,
he had left the room, and all excepting Enjolras had followed him.
Enjolras, alone with Marius, was looking at him gravely. Marius,
however, having slightly collected his ideas, did not confess himself
defeated, and he was in all probability about to begin afresh upon
Enjolras, when he suddenly heard some one singing on the staircase. It
was Combeferre, and this is what he sung:--

    "Si César m'avait donné
        La gloire et la guerre,
    Et qu'il me fallut quitter
        L'amour de ma mère,
    Je dirais an grand César:
    Reprends ton sceptre et ton char,
    J'aime mieux ma mère, ô gué!
        J'aime mieux ma mère!"

The tender and solemn accent with which Combeferre sang this verse
imparted to it a species of strange grandeur. Marius, with his eye
pensively fixed on the ceiling, repeated almost mechanically, "My

At this moment he felt Enjolras' hand on his shoulder.

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



This evening left a sad obscurity and a profound shock in the mind of
Marius, and he felt what the earth probably feels when it is opened by
the plough-share that the grain may be deposited; it only feels the
wound, and the joy of giving birth does not arrive till later.

Marius was gloomy; he had only just made himself a faith, and must he
reject it again? He declared to himself that he would not: he resolved
not to doubt, and began doubting involuntarily. To stand between two
religions, one of which you have not yet lost, and the other which
you have not yet entered, is unendurable, and twilight only pleases
bat-like souls. Marius had an open eyeball and wanted true light; and
the semi-lustre of doubt hurt him. Whatever might be his desire to
remain where he was and cling to it, he was invincibly constrained to
continue, to advance, to think, to go farther. Whither would this lead
him? He feared lest, after taking so many steps which had drawn him
near his father, he was now going to take steps which would carry him
away from him. His discomfort increased with all the reflections that
occurred to him, and an escarpment became formed around him. He agreed
neither with his grandfather nor his friends; he was rash for the one
and backward for the others; and he found himself doubly isolated,--on
the side of old age and on the side of youth. He left off going to the
Café Musain.

In the troubled state of his conscience he did not think at all of
certain serious sides of existence; but the realities of life will not
allow themselves to be forgotten, and so they suddenly came to jog his
memory. One morning the landlord came into Marius's room, and said to

"Monsieur Courfeyrac recommended you?"


"But I want my money."

"Ask Courfeyrac to come and speak to me," said. Marius.

When Courfeyrac arrived the landlord left them, and Marius told his
friend what he had not dreamed of telling him yet,--that he was, so to
speak, alone in the world, and had no relations.

"What will become of you?" said Courfeyrac.

"I do not know," Marius answered.

"What do you intend doing?"

"I do not know."

"Have you any money?"

"Fifteen francs."

"Are you willing to borrow from me?"


"Have you clothes?"

"There they are."

"Any jewelry?"

"A gold watch."

"I know a second-hand clothesman who will take your overcoat and a pair
of trousers."

"Very good."

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

"And my boots."

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

"That will be enough."

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

"All right."

"No, it is not all right; what will you do after?"

"Anything I can that is honest."

"Do you know English?"


"Or German?"


"All the worse."

"Why so?"

"Because a friend of mine, a publisher, is preparing a sort of
Encyclopædia, for which you could have translated English or German
articles. The pay is bad, but it is possible to live on it."

"I will learn English and German."

"And in the mean while?"

"I will eat my clothes and my watch."

"The clothes-dealer was sent for, and gave twenty francs for the coat
and trousers; next they went to the jeweller's, who bought the watch
for forty-five francs.

"That's not so bad," said Marius to Courfeyrac, on returning to the
hotel; "with my fifteen francs that makes eighty."

"And your bill here?" Courfeyrac observed.

"Oh, I forgot that," said Marius.

The landlord presented his bill, which Marius was bound to pay at once;
it amounted to seventy francs.

"I have ten francs left," said Marius.

"The deuce!" Courfeyrac replied; "you will spend five francs while
learning English, and five while learning German. That will be
swallowing a language very quickly, or a five-franc piece very slowly."

In the mean time Aunt Gillenormand, who was a good soul in the main
upon sad occasions, discovered her nephew's abode, and one morning,
when Marius returned from college, he found a letter from his aunt and
the "sixty pistoles," that is to say, six hundred francs in gold, in
a sealed-up box. Marius sent the thirty louis back to his aunt with a
respectful note, in which he stated that he would be able in future
to take care of himself--at that moment he had just three francs
left. The aunt did not tell grandpapa of this refusal, through fear
of raising his exasperation to the highest pitch; besides, had he not
said, "Never mention that blood-drinker's name in my presence"? Marius
quitted the Hôtel of the Porte St. Jacques, as he did not wish to run
into debt.





Life became severe for Marius: eating his clothes and his watch was
nothing, but he also went through that indescribable course which is
called "roughing it." This is a horrible thing, which contains days
without bread, nights without sleep, evenings without candle, a house
without fire, weeks without work, a future without hope, a threadbare
coat, an old hat at which the girls laugh, the door which you find
locked at night because you have not paid your rent, the insolence
of the porter and the eating-house keeper, the grins of neighbors,
humiliations, dignity trampled under foot, any sort of Work accepted,
disgust, bitterness, and desperation. Marius learned how all this is
devoured, and how it is often the only thing which a man has to eat. At
that moment of life when a man requires pride because he requires love,
he felt himself derided because he was meanly dressed, and ridiculous
because he was poor. At the age when youth swells the heart with an
imperial pride, he looked down more than once at his worn-out boots,
and knew the unjust shame and burning blushes of wretchedness. It is an
admirable and terrible trial, from which the weak come forth infamous
and the strong sublime. It is the crucible into which destiny throws a
man whenever it wishes to have a scoundrel or a demigod.

For man's great actions are performed in minor struggles. There are
obstinate and unknown braves who defend themselves inch by inch
in the shadows against the fatal invasion of want and turpitude.
They are noble and mysterious triumphs which no eye sees, no renown
rewards, and no flourish of trumpets salutes. Life, misfortune,
isolation, abandonment, and poverty are battle-fields which have their
heroes,--obscure heroes who are at times greater than illustrious
heroes. Firm and exceptional natures are thus created: misery, which
is nearly always a step-mother, is at times a mother: want brings
forth the power of soul and mind: distress is the nurse of pride, and
misfortune is an excellent milk for the magnanimous.

There was a time in Marius's life when he swept his own landing, when
he bought a halfpenny-worth of Brie cheese of the fruiterer, when he
waited till nightfall to go into the baker's and buy a loaf, which
he carried stealthily to his garret as if he had stolen it. At times
there might have been seen slipping into the butcher's shop at the
corner, among the gossiping cooks who elbowed him, a young awkward
man with books under his arm, who had a timid and impetuous air, who
on entering removed his hat from his dripping forehead, made a deep
bow to the astonished butcher's wife, another to the foreman, asked
for a mutton-chop, paid three or four pence, wrapped the chop in
paper, placed it between two books under his arm, and went away. It
was Marius; and on this chop, which he cooked himself, he lived for
three days. On the first day he ate the lean, on the second he ate
the fat, and on the third he gnawed the bone. Several times did Aunt
Gillenormand make tentatives and send him the sixty pistoles, but
Marius always returned them, saying that he wanted for nothing.

He was still in mourning for his father when the revolution we have
described took place within him, and since then he had not left off
black clothes, but the clothes left him. A day arrived when he had no
coat, though his trousers would still pass muster. What was he to do?
Courfeyrac, to whom he on his side rendered several services, gave him
an old coat. For thirty sous Marius had it turned by some porter, and
it became a new coat. But it was green, and Marius henceforth did not
go out till nightfall, which caused his coat to appear black. As he
still wished to be in mourning, he wrapped himself in the night.

Through all this he contrived to pass his examination. He was supposed
to inhabit Courfeyrac's rooms, which were decent, and where a certain
number of legal tomes, supported by broken-backed volumes of novels,
represented the library prescribed by the regulations. He had his
letters addressed to Courfeyrac's lodgings. When Marius was called to
the bar, he informed his grandfather of the fact in a cold letter,
which, however, was full of submission and respect, M. Gillenormand
took the letter with a trembling hand, read it, tore it in four
parts, and threw them into the basket. Two or three days later Mlle.
Gillenormand heard her father, who was alone in his room, talking
aloud, which always happened when he was agitated. She listened and
heard the old gentleman say, "If you were not an ass, you would know
that you cannot be at the same time a Baron and a lawyer."



It is the same with misery as with everything else,--in the end it
becomes possible, it assumes a shape. A man vegetates, that is to say,
is developed in a certain poor way, which is, however, sufficient for
life. This is the sort of existence which Marius Pontmercy had secured.

He had got out of the narrowest part, and the defile had grown slightly
wider before him. By labor, courage, perseverance, and his will, he
contrived to earn about seven hundred francs a year by his work. He
had taught himself English and German, and, thanks to Courfeyrac, who
introduced him to his friend the publisher, he filled the modest post
of hack in his office. He wrote prospectuses, translated newspapers,
annotated editions, compiled biographies, and one year with another his
net receipts were seven hundred francs. He lived upon them,--how? Not
badly, as we shall show.

Marius occupied at No. 50-52, for the annual rent of thirty francs, a
garret without a fire-place, which was called a "cabinet," and only
contained the indispensable articles of furniture, and this furniture
was his own. He paid three francs a month to the old principal lodger
for sweeping out his room, and bringing him every morning a little
hot water, a new-laid egg, and a sou roll. On this roll and egg he
breakfasted, and the outlay varied from two to four sous, according as
eggs were dear or cheap. At six in the evening he went to the line St.
Jacques to dine at Rousseau's, exactly opposite Bassets, the print-shop
at the corner of the Rue des Mathurins. He did not eat soup, but he
ordered a plate of meat for six sous, half a plate of vegetables for
three sous, and dessert three sous. For three sous he had as much
bread as he liked, and for wine he drank water. On paying at the bar,
where Madame Rousseau, at that period a fat and good-looking dame,
was majestically enthroned, he gave a sou for the waiter and Madame
Rousseau gave him a smile. Then he went away; for sixteen sous he had
a smile and a dinner. This Rousseau restaurant, where so few bottles
and so many water-jugs were emptied, was rather a sedative than a
restorer. It no longer exists, but the master used to have a wonderful
nickname,--he was called Rousseau the aquatic.

Thus, with breakfast four sous, dinner sixteen, his food cost him three
hundred and sixty-five francs a year. Add thirty francs for rent and
the thirty-six francs for the old woman, and a few minor expenses,
and for four hundred and fifty francs Marius was boarded, lodged, and
served. His clothes cost him a hundred francs, his linen fifty, his
washing fifty, but the whole did not exceed six hundred and fifty
francs. He had fifty left, and was rich: at times he would lend ten
francs to a friend, and Courfeyrac once actually borrowed sixty francs
of him. As for heating, as Marius had no chimney, he "simplified" it.
Marius always had two complete suits; one old, for every-day wear,
and the other new, for occasions, and both were black. He had but
three shirts,--one on, one in the drawer, and one at the wash,--and he
renewed them as they became worn out. As they were usually torn, he had
a fashion of buttoning up his coat to the chin.

It had taken Marius years to reach this flourishing condition,--rude
and difficult years, in which he underwent great struggles; but he had
not failed to himself a single day. As regarded want, he had suffered
everything and he had done everything except run into debt. He gave
himself the credit of never having owed a farthing to any one, for
to him debt was the beginning of slavery. He said to himself that a
creditor is worse than a master; for a master only holds your person,
while a creditor holds your dignity and may insult it. Sooner than
borrow he did not eat, and he had known many days of fasting. Knowing
that unless a man is careful, reduction of fortune may lead to baseness
of soul, he jealously watched over his pride: many a remark or action
which, under other circumstances, he would have regarded as deference,
now seemed to him platitudes, and he refrained from them. He ventured
nothing, as he did not wish to fall back; he had on his face a stern
blush, and he was timid almost to rudeness. In all his trials he felt
encouraged, and to some extent supported, by a secret force within
him; for the soul helps the body and at times raises it, and is the
only bird that upholds its cage.

By the side of his father's name, another name was engraved on Marius's
heart, that of Thénardier. Marius, in his grave and enthusiastic
nature, enveloped in a species of glory the man to whom he owed his
father's life, that intrepid sergeant who saved his colonel among the
balls and bullets of Waterloo. He never separated the memory of this
roan from that of his father, and he associated them in his veneration:
it was a species of shrine with two steps,--the high altar for the
Colonel, the low one for Thénardier. What doubled the tenderness of
his gratitude was the thought of the misfortune into which he knew
that Thénardier had fallen and was swallowed up. Marius had learned at
Montfermeil the ruin and bankruptcy of the unfortunate landlord, and
since then had made extraordinary efforts to find his trail, and try to
reach him in the frightful abyss of misery through which Thénardier had
disappeared. Marius went everywhere: he visited Chelles, Bondy, Gournay
Nogent, and Lagny; and obstinately continued his search for three
years, spending in these explorations the little money he saved. No one
was able to give him the slightest information of Thénardier, and it
was supposed he had gone to a foreign country. His creditors had sought
him too, with less love, but quite as much perseverance, as Marius,
and had been unable to lay hands on him. Marius accused and felt angry
with himself for not succeeding in his search; it was the only debt
the Colonel left him, and he felt bound in honor to pay it. "What!"
he thought, "when my father lay dying on the battle-field, Thénardier
contrived to find him in the midst of the smoke and grape-shot, and
carried him off on his shoulders, although he owed him nothing; while
I, who owe so much to Thénardier, am unable to come up with him in the
shadow where he is dying of want, and in my turn bring him back from
death to life. Oh, I will find him!" In fact, Marius would have given
one of his arms to find Thénardier, and his last drop of blood to save
him from want; and his sweetest and most magnificent dream was to see
Thénardier, do him some service, and say to him,--"You do not know me,
but I know you: I am here, dispose of me as you please."



At this period Marius was twenty years of age, and he had left his
grandfather's house for three. They remained on the same terms, without
attempting a reconciliation or trying to meet. What good would it have
been to meet,--to come into collision again? Which of them would have
got the better? Marius was the bronze vessel, but Father Gillenormand
was the iron pot.

We are bound to say that Marius was mistaken as to his grandfather's
heart; he imagined that M. Gillenormand had never loved him, and
that this sharp, harsh, laughing old gentleman, who cursed, shouted,
stormed, and raised his cane, only felt for him at the most that light
and severe affection of the Gerontes in the play. Marius was mistaken;
there are fathers who do not love their children; but there is not a
grandfather who does not adore his grandson. In his heart, as we said,
M. Gillenormand idolized Marius: he idolized him, it is true, after his
fashion, with an accompaniment of abuse and even of blows, but when the
lad had disappeared he felt a black gap in his heart; he insisted upon
his name not being mentioned, but regretted that he was so strictly
obeyed. At the outset he hoped that this Buonapartist, this Jacobin,
this terrorist, this Septembrist would return; but weeks passed, months
passed, years passed, and, to the great despair of M. Gillenormand,
the blood-drinker did not reappear. "I could not do otherwise, though,
than turn him out," the grandfather said; and asked himself, "If it
were to be done again, would I do it?" His pride at once answered Yes;
but his old head, which he silently shook, sorrowfully answered, No. He
had his hours of depression, for he missed Marius, and old men require
affection as much as they do the sun to warm them. However strong he
might naturally be, the absence of Marius had changed something in him;
for no consideration in the world would he have taken a step towards
the "little scamp," but he suffered. He lived in greater retirement
than ever at the Marais; he was still gay and violent as of yore, but
his gayety had a convulsive harshness, as if it contained grief and
passion, and his violence generally terminated with a sort of gentle
and sombre depression. He would say to himself at times,--"Oh, if he
were to come back, what a hearty box of the ears I would give him!"

As for the aunt, she thought too little to love much; to her Marius
was only a black and vague profile, and in the end she paid much less
attention to him than to the cat or the parrot which it is probable she
possessed. What added to Father Gillenormand's secret suffering was
that he shut it up within himself, and did not allow it to be divined.
His chagrin was like one of those newly-invented furnaces which
consume their own smoke. At times it happened that officious friends
would speak to him about Marius, and ask, "How is your grandson, and
what is he doing?" The old bourgeois would answer, with a sigh if he
were sad, or with a flip to his frill if he wished to appear gay,
"Monsieur le Baron Pontmercy practises law in some corner."

While the old gentleman regretted, Marius applauded himself. As is the
case with all good hearts, misfortune had freed him from bitterness;
he thought of M. Gillenormand gently, but he was resolved never to
accept anything from a man _who had been unjust to his father_. This
was the mitigated translation of his first indignation. Moreover, he
was glad that he had suffered, and was still suffering, for he did so
for his father. The hardness of his life satisfied and pleased him,
and he said to himself with a sort of joy that _it was the least he_
could do, and that it was an expiation; that, were it not so, he would
have been punished more hereafter for his impious indifference toward
his father, and such a father,--that it would not have been just for
his father to have all the suffering and he none; and, besides, what
were his toil and want when compared with the Colonel's heroic life?
Lastly, that his only way of approaching his father, and resembling
him, was to be valiant against indigence, as he had been brave against
the enemy, and that this was doubtless what the Colonel meant by the
words, _He will be worthy of it_,--words which Marius continued to
bear, not on his chest, as the Colonel's letter had disappeared, but
in his heart. And then, again, on the day when his grandfather turned
him out he was only a boy, while now he was a man and felt he was so.
Misery--we lay a stress on the fact--had been kind to him; for poverty
in youth, when it succeeds, has the magnificent result of turning the
whole will to effort and the whole soul to aspiration. Poverty at
once lays bare material life and renders it hideous; and hence come
indescribable soarings toward the ideal life. The rich young man has
a thousand brilliant and coarse amusements,--races, shooting, dogs,
tobacco, gambling, good dinners, and so on, which are occupations
of the lower part of the mind at the expense of the higher and more
delicate part. The poor young man has to work for his bread, and
when he has eaten, he has only reverie left him. He goes to the free
spectacles which God gives; he looks at the sky, space, the stars,
the flowers, the children, the humanity in which he is suffering,
and the creation in which he radiates. He looks so much at humanity
that he sees the soul, and so much at creation that he sees God. He
dreams, and feels himself great; he dreams again, and feels himself
tender. From the egotism of the man who suffers, he passes to the
compassion of the man who contemplates, and an admirable feeling is
aroused in him,--forgetfulness of self and pity for all. On thinking
of the numberless enjoyments which nature offers, gives, and lavishes
on open minds, and refuses to closed minds, he, the millionnaire of
intellect, learns to pity the millionnaire of money. Hatred departs
from his heart in proportion as brightness enters his mind. Moreover,
was he unhappy? No, for the wretchedness of a young man is never
wretched. Take the first lad who passes, however poor he may be, with
his health, his strength, his quick step, his sparkling eyes, his
blood circulating warmly, his black hair, his ruddy cheeks, his coral
lips, his white teeth, and his pure breath, and he will ever be an
object of envy to an old Emperor. And then, each morning he goes to
earn his livelihood, and while his hands earn bread, his spine gains
pride, and his brain ideas. When his work is ended, he returns to
ineffable ecstasy, to contemplation, and joy; he lives with his feet in
affliction, in obstacles, on the pavement, in the brambles, or at times
in the mud, but his head is in the light He is firm, serene, gentle,
peaceful, attentive, serious, satisfied with a little, and benevolent;
and he blesses God for having given him two riches which rich men often
want,--labor which makes him free, and thought that renders him worthy.

This is what went on in Marius, and, truth to tell, he inclined almost
too much to the side of contemplation. From the day when he felt
tolerably certain of a livelihood, he stopped there, thinking it good
to be poor, and taking from labor hours which he gave to thought. That
is to say, he spent entire days now and then in dreaming, plunged like
a visionary into the silent delights of ecstasy. He had thus arranged
the problem of his life; to toil as little as possible at the material
task in order to work as much as possible on the impalpable task,--in
other words, to devote a few hours to real life, and throw the rest
into infinity. He did not perceive, as he fancied that he wanted for
nothing, that contemplation, thus understood, ended by becoming one of
the forms of indolence; that he had contented himself with subduing the
absolute necessities of life, and that he was resting too soon.

It was evident that for such a generous and energetic nature as
his, this could only be a transitional state, and that at the first
collision with the inevitable complications of destiny Marius would
wake up. In the mean while, though, he was called a barrister, and
whatever Father Gillenormand might think, he did not practise. Reverie
had turned him away from pleading. It was a bore to flatter attorneys,
attend regularly at the palace and seek for briefs. And why should he
do so? He saw no reason to change his means of existence; his obscure
task was certain, he had but little labor over it, and, as we have
explained, he considered his income satisfactory. One of the publishers
for whom he worked, M. Magimel, I think, offered to take him into his
house, lodge him comfortably, find him regular work, and pay him one
thousand five hundred francs a year. To be comfortably lodged and
have one thousand five hundred francs a year! doubtless agreeable
things, but then, to resign his liberty, to be a hired servant, a
sort of literary clerk! In the opinion of Marius, if he accepted, his
position would become better and worse; he would gain comfort and lose
dignity; he would exchange a complete and fine misfortune for an ugly
and ridiculous constraint; it would be something like a blind man who
became one-eyed. So he declined the offer.

Marius lived in solitude; through the inclination he had to remain
outside everything, and also through the commotion he had undergone, he
held aloof from the society presided over by Enjolras. They remained
excellent friends, and ready to help each other when the opportunity
offered, but nothing more. Marius had two friends, one, young
Courfeyrac, the other, old M. Mabœuf, and he inclined to the latter.
In the first place, he owed to him the revolution which had taken
place in him, and his knowledge and love of his father. "He operated
on me for the cataract," he would say. Certainly, this churchwarden
had been decisive: but for all that, M. Mabœuf had only been in this
affair the calm and impassive agent of Providence. He had enlightened
Marius accidentally and unconsciously, just as a candle does which some
one brings into a room; but he had been the candle, and not the some
one. As for the internal political revolution which had taken place in
Marius, M. Mabœuf was entirely incapable of understanding, wishing, or
directing it. As we shall meet M. Mabœuf again hereafter, a few remarks
about him will not be thrown away.



On the day when M. Mabœuf said to Marius, "I certainly approve of
political opinions," he expressed the real state of his mind. All
political opinions were a matter of indifference to him, and he
approved of them all without distinction, that they might leave him at
peace, just as the Greeks called the Furies--"the lovely, the kind, the
exquisite"--the Eumenides. M. Mabœuf's political opinion was to love
plants passionately and books even more. He possessed, like everybody
else, his termination in _ist,_ without which no one could have lived
at that day; but he was neither Royalist, Bonapartist, Chartist,
Orleanist, nor Anarchist,--he was a botanist.

He did not understand how men could come to hate each other for trifles
like the charter, democracy, legitimacy, monarchy, the republic, etc.,
when there were in the world all sorts of mosses, grasses, and plants
which they could look at, and piles of folios, and even 32mos, whose
pages they could turn over. He was very careful not to be useless: his
having books did not prevent him reading them, and being a botanist
did not prevent him being a gardener. When he knew Colonel Pontmercy,
there was this sympathy between them, that the Colonel did for flowers
what he did for fruits, M. Mabœuf had succeeded in producing pears as
sweet as those of St. Germain; it is one of those combinations from
which sprang, as it seems, the autumn Mirabelle plum, which is still
celebrated, and no less perfumed than the summer one. He attended Mass
more through gentleness than devotion, and because, while he loved
men's faces but hated their noise, he found them at church congregated
and silent; and feeling that he must hold some position in the State,
he selected that of churchwarden. He had never succeeded in loving any
woman so much as a tulip bulb, or any man so much as an Elzevir. He had
long passed his sixtieth year, when some one asked him one day, "How is
it that you never married?" "I forgot it," he said. When he happened
to say,--and to whom does it not happen?--"Oh, if I were rich!" it
was not when ogling a pretty girl, like Father Gillenormand, but when
contemplating a quarto. He lived alone with an old housekeeper; he was
rather gouty, and when he slept, his old chalk-stoned fingers formed
an arch in the folds of the sheets. He had written and published a
"Flora of the Environs of Cauteretz," with colored plates,--a work of
some merit, of which he possessed the plates, and sold it himself.
People rang at his door in the Rue Mézières two or three times a day
to buy a copy; he made a profit of about two thousand francs a year
by the book, and that was nearly his whole fortune. Although poor, he
had contrived by patience and privations, and with time, to form a
valuable collection of all sorts of rare examples. He never went out
without a book under his arm, and frequently returned with two. The
sole ornaments of his four rooms on the ground-floor, which, with a
small garden, formed his lodging, were herbals and engravings by old
masters. The sight of a musket or a sabre froze him, and in his life
he had never walked up to a cannon, not even at the Invalides. He had
a tolerable stomach, a brother a curé very white hair, no teeth left
in his mouth or in his mind, a tremor all over him, a Picard accent, a
childish laugh, and the air of an old sheep. With all he had no other
friend among the living than an old bookseller at the Porte St. Jacques
of the name of Royol; and the dream of his life was to naturalize
indigo in France.

His maid-servant was also a variety of innocence. The good woman was an
old maid, and Sultan, her tom-cat, who might have meowed the Allegri
Miserere in the Sistine Chapel, filled her heart, and sufficed for
the amount of passion within her. Not one of her dreams had ever gone
so far as a man, and had not got beyond her cat; like him, she had
moustaches. Her glory was perfectly white caps, and she spent her time
on Sunday, after Mass, in counting the linen in her box, and spreading
on her bed the gowns which she bought in the piece, and never had made
up. She knew how to read, and M. Mabœuf had christened her Mother

M. Mabœuf had taken a fancy to Marius, because the young man, being
young and gentle, warmed his old age without startling his timidity.
Youth, combined with gentleness, produces on aged people the effect
of sun without wind. When Marius was saturated with military glory,
gunpowder, marches and counter-marches, and all the prodigious battles
in which his father gave and received such mighty sabre-cuts, he went
to see M. Mabœuf, who talked to him about the hero in his connection
with flowers.

About the year 1830 his brother the curé died, and almost immediately
after, as when night arrives, the entire horizon became dark for M.
Mabœuf. The bankruptcy of a notary despoiled him of ten thousand
francs, all he possessed of his brother's capital and his own, while
the revolution of July produced a crisis in the book trade. In times
of pressure the first thing which does not sell is a _Flora_, and that
of the Environs of Cauteretz stopped dead. Weeks passed without a
purchaser. At times M. Mabœuf started at the sound of the house bell,
but Mother Plutarch would say to him sadly, "It is the water-carrier,
sir." In a word, M. Mabœuf left the Rue Mézières one day, abdicated
his office as churchwarden, gave up St. Sulpice, sold a portion, not
of his books, but of his engravings, for which he cared least, and
installed himself in a small house on the Boulevard Montparnasse,
where, however, he only remained three months, for two reasons,--in the
first place, the ground-floor and garden cost three hundred francs,
and he did not dare set aside more than two hundred francs for rent;
and secondly, as he was close to the Fatou shooting-gallery, he heard
pistol-shots, which he could not endure. He carried off his _Flora_,
his copper-plates, his herbals, port-folios, and books and settled down
near the Salpêtrière, in a sort of hut, in the village of Austerlitz,
where he rented for fifty crowns a year three rooms, a garden enclosed
by a hedge, and a well. He took advantage of this removal to sell
nearly all his furniture. On the day when he entered his new house he
was in very good spirits, and drove in with his own hands the nails on
which to hang the engravings; he dug in his garden for the rest of the
day, and at night, seeing that Mother Plutarch had an anxious look and
was thoughtful, he tapped her on the shoulder and said with a smile,
"We have the indigo!" Only two visitors, the publisher and Marius, were
allowed admission to his hut of Austerlitz,--a rackety name, by the
way, which was most disagreeable to him.

As we have remarked, things of this world permeate very slowly brains
absorbed in wisdom, or mania, or, as often happens, in both at
once, and their own destiny is remote from them. The result of such
concentrations is a passiveness which, were it of a reasoning nature,
would resemble philosophy. Men decline, sink, glide out, and even
collapse, without exactly noticing, though this always ends with a
re-awaking, but one of a tardy character. In the mean while it appears
as if they are neutral in the game which is being played between their
happiness and misery; they are the stakes, and look on at the game with
indifference. It was thus that M. Mabœuf remained rather childishly
but most profoundly serene, in the obscurity that was enveloping him
gradually, and while his hopes were being extinguished in turn. The
habits of his mind had the regular movement of a clock, and when he
was once wound up by an illusion he went for a very long time, even
when the illusion had disappeared. A clock does not stop at the precise
moment when the key is lost.

M. Mabœuf had innocent pleasures, which cost but little and were
unexpected, and the slightest accident supplied him with them. One day
Mother Plutarch was reading a novel in the corner of the room; she was
reading aloud, for she fancied that she understood better in that way.
There are some persons who read very loud, and look as if they were
pledging themselves their word of honor about what they are reading.
Mother Plutarch read her novel with an energy of this nature, and M.
Mabœuf listened to her without hearing. While reading, Mother Plutarch
came to the following passage, relating to a bold dragoon and a gushing
young lady:--

"La belle bouda, et Le Dragon--"

Here she broke off to wipe her spectacles.

"Bouddha and the dragon," M. Mabœuf repeated in a low voice; "yes, that
is true; there was a dragon, which lived in a cavern, belched flames,
and set fire to the sky. Several stars had already been burned up by
this monster, which had tiger-claws, by the bye, when Bouddha went into
its den and succeeded in converting the dragon. That is an excellent
book you are reading, Mother Plutarch, and there cannot be a finer

And M. Mabœuf fell into a delicious reverie.



Marius felt a liking for this candid old man, who saw himself slowly
assailed by poverty and yet was not depressed by it. Marius met
Courfeyrac and sought M. Mabœuf--very rarely, however--once or twice
a month at the most. Marius's delight was to take long walks alone,
either on the external boulevards at the Champ de Mars, or in the
least frequented walks of the Luxembourg. He often spent half a day in
looking at a kitchen-garden, the patches of lettuce, the fowls on the
dungheap, and the horse turning the wheel of the chain-pump. Passers-by
looked at him with surprise, and some thought his dress suspicious and
his face dangerous, while it was only a poor young man thinking without
an object It was in one of these walks that he discovered the Maison
Gorbeau, and the isolation and the cheapness tempting him, he took a
room there. He was only known by the name of M. Marius.

Some of his father's old generals and old comrades invited him to
come and see them, when they knew him, and Marius did not refuse, for
there were opportunities to speak about his father. He called thus
from time to time upon Count Pajol, General Bellavesne, and General
Fririon at the Invalides. There was generally music and dancing, and on
such evenings Marius put on his best suit; but he never went to such
parties except on days when it was freezing tremendously hard, for
he could not pay for a vehicle, and he would not go unless his boots
were like looking-glasses. He would say at times, though not at all
bitterly, "Men are so constituted that in a drawing-room you may have
mud everywhere except on your boots. In order to give you a proper
reception only one irreproachable thing is expected from you--is it
your conscience? No, your boots."

All passions, saving those of the heart, are dissipated in reverie.
The political fever of Marius had vanished, and the revolution of 1830
had aided in this, by satisfying and calming him. He had remained the
same, except in his passion; he still held the same opinions, but they
were softened down. Properly speaking, he no longer had opinions, but
sympathies. To what party did he belong? To that of humanity. For
humanity he selected France; in the nation he chose the people; and in
the people, woman, and his pity was mainly given to her. At the present
time he preferred an idea to a fact, a poet to a hero, and he admired
a book like Job even more than an event like Marengo; and when after a
day of meditation he returned along the boulevard and saw through the
trees the illimitable space, the nameless gleams, the abyss, shadow,
and mystery, all that was only human seemed to him infinitely little.
He believed that he had--and probably he had--reached the truth of life
and of human philosophy; and ended by gazing at nothing but the sky,
the only thing which truth can see from the bottom of her well.

This did not prevent him from multiplying plans, combinations,
scaffolding, and projects for the future. In this state of reverie,
any eye which had seen into Marius's interior would have been dazzled
by the purity of his mind. In fact, if our eyes of the flesh were
allowed to peer into the consciences of our neighbor, a man could be
judged far more surely from what he dreams than from what he thinks.
There is a volition in thought, but there is none in a dream, and
the latter, which is entirely spontaneous, assumes and retains, even
in the gigantic and the ideal, the image of our mind. Nothing issues
more directly and more sincerely from the bottom of our soul than
our unreflecting and disproportioned aspirations for the splendors
of destiny. The true character of every man could be found in these
aspirations far more certainly than in arranged, reasoned, and
co-ordinated ideas. Our chimeras are the things which most resemble
ourselves, and each man dreams of the unknown and the impossible
according to his nature.

About the middle of the year 1831 the old woman who waited on Marius
told him that his neighbors, the wretched Jondrette family, were going
to be turned out. Marius, who spent nearly his whole time out of doors,
scarce knew that he had neighbors.

"Why are they turned out?" he asked.

"Because they do not pay their rent, and owe two quarters."

"How much is it?"

"Twenty francs," said the old woman.

Marius had thirty francs in reserve in a drawer.

"Here are twenty-five francs," he said to the woman; "pay the rent of
the poor people, give them five francs, and do not tell them where the
money comes from."



Accident decreed that the regiment to which Théodule belonged should
be quartered in Paris. This was an opportunity for Aunt Gillenormand
to have a second idea; her first one had been to set Théodule watching
Marius, and she now plotted to make him succeed him. In the event
of the grandfather feeling a vague want for a youthful face in the
house--for such rays of dawn are sometimes sweet to ruins--it was
expedient to find another Marius. "Well," she thought, "it is only
a simple erratum, such as I notice in books, for _Marius_ read
_Théodule._ A grand-nephew is much the same as a grandson, after all,
and in default of a barrister you can take a lancer."

One morning when M. Gillenormand was going to read something like the
_Quotidienne_, his daughter came in and said in her softest voice, for
the interests of her favorite were at stake,--

"Papa, Théodule is coming this morning to pay his respects to you."

"Who's Théodule?"

"Your grand-nephew."

"Ah!" said the old gentleman.

Then he began reading, thought no more of the grand-nephew, who was
only some Théodule, and soon became angry, which nearly always happened
when he read. The paper he held, a Royalist one we need hardly say,
announced for the morrow, without any amenity, one of the daily
events of Paris at the time, that the pupils of the schools of law
and medicine would assemble in the Place du Panthéon--to deliberate.
The affair was one of the questions of the moment, the artillery of
the National Guard, and a conflict between the war minister and the
"Citizen Militia," on the subject of guns parked in the courtyard of
the Louvre. The students were going to "deliberate" on this, and it did
not require much more to render M. Gillenormand furious. He thought of
Marius, who was a student, and who would probably go, like the others,
"to deliberate at mid-day in the Place du Panthéon."

While he was making these painful reflections lieutenant Théodule came
in, dressed in mufti, which was clever, and was discreetly introduced
by Mlle. Gillenormand. The lancer had reasoned thus: "The old Druid has
not sunk all his money in annuities, and so it is worth the while to
disguise one's self as a _pékin_ now and then." Mlle. Gillenormand said
aloud to her father,--

"Théodule, your grand-nephew."

And in a whisper to the Lieutenant,--"Assent to everything."

And she retired.

The Lieutenant, but little accustomed to such venerable meetings,
stammered, with some timidity, "Good-morning, uncle," and made a bow
which was composed of the involuntary and mechanical military salute
blended with a bourgeois greeting.

"Ah, it's you, very good, sit down," said the ancestor, and after
saying this he utterly forgot the lancer. Théodule sat down, and M.
Gillenormand got up. He began walking up and down the room, with his
hands in his pockets, talking aloud, and feeling with his old irritated
fingers the two watches which he wore in his two fobs.

"That heap of scamps! so they are going to meet in the Place du
Panthéon! _Vertu de ma mie_! little ragamuffins who were at nurse
yesterday! if you were to squeeze their noses the milk would run out!
And they are going to deliberate to-morrow! Where are we going? Where
are we going? It is clear that we are going to the abyss, and the
_descamisados_ have led us to it. The citizen artillery! deliberate
about the citizen artillery! go and chatter in the open air about the
squibs of the National Guard! And whom will they meet there? Just let
us see to what Jacobinism leads. I will wager whatever you like, a
million against a counter, that there will be only liberated convicts
and pickpockets there; for the Republicans and the galley-slaves are
like one nose and one handkerchief. Carnot used to say, 'Where do
you want me to go, traitor?' and Fouché answer, 'Wherever you like,
imbecile!' That is what the Republicans are."

"That is true," said Théodule.

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

"And then to think that that scamp had the villany to become a
Republican! For what have you left my house? To become a Republican!
Pest! In the first place, the people do not want your republic, for
they are sensible, and know very well that there always have been
kings, and always will be, and they know, after all, that the people
are only the people, and they laugh at your republic, do you hear,
idiot? Is not such a caprice horrible,--to fall in love with Père
Duchêne, to ogle the guillotine, to sing romances, and play the
guitar under the balcony of '93? Why, all these young men ought to be
spat upon, for they are so stupid! They are all caught, and not one
escapes, and they need only inhale the air of the street to go mad.
The 19th century is poison; the first-comer lets his goat's beard
grow, fully believes that he is a clever dog, and looks down on his
old parents,--for that is republican, it is romantic. Just be good
enough to tell me what that word romantic means? Every folly possible.
A year ago they went to see _Hernani_. Just let me ask you--_Hernani!_
antitheses, abominations, which are not even written in French. And
then there are cannon in the court-yard of the Louvre; such is the
brigand-age of the present age."

"You are right, uncle," said Théodule.

M. Gillenormand continued,--

"Guns in the court-yard of the Museum! what to do? Cannon, what do you
want of me? Do you wish to fire grape-shot at the Apollo Belvidere?
What have serge-cartridges to do with the Venus de Medici? Oh, the
young men of the present day are ragamuffins, and this Benjamin
Constant is not much! And those who are not villains are gawkies!
They do all they can to make themselves ugly; they dress badly, they
are afraid of women, and they have an imploring air about a petticoat
that makes the wenches burst out laughing; on my word of honor, you
might call them love's paupers, ashamed to beg. They are deformed, and
perfect it by being stupid; they repeat the jokes of Tiercelin and
Potier; they wear sack-coats, hostlers' waistcoats, trousers of coarse
cloth, boots of coarse leather, and their chatter resembles their
plumage,--their jargon might be employed to sole their boots. And all
these silly lads have political opinions, and it ought to be strictly
prohibited. They manufacture systems, they remodel society, they
demolish the monarchy, upset all laws, put the garret in the place of
the cellar, and my porter in the place of the king; they upset Europe
from one end to the other, build up the world again, and their amours
consist in looking sheepishly at the legs of the washerwomen as they
get into their carts. Ah, Marius! ah, scoundrel! to go and vociferate
in the public square! to discuss, debate, and form measures--they call
them measures. Great gods! why, disorder is decreasing and becoming
silly. I have seen chaos and I now see a puddle. Scholars deliberating
about the National Guard! Why, that could not be seen among the
Ojibbeways or the Cadodaches! The savages who go about naked, with
their noddles dressed like a racket-bat, and with a club in their paw,
are not such brutes as these bachelors, twopenny-halfpenny brats, who
dare to decree and order, deliberate and argue! Why, it is the end of
the world; it is evidently the end of this wretched globe; it wanted
a final shove, and France has given it. Deliberate, my scamps! These
things will happen so long as they go to read the papers under the
arcades of the Odéon; it costs them a son, and their common sense,
and their intelligence, and their heart, and their soul, and their
mind. They leave that place, and then bolt from their family. All the
newspapers are poison, even the _Drapeau Blanc,_ and Martainville was
a Jacobin at heart. Ah, just Heaven! you can boast of having rendered
your grandfather desperate!"

"That is quite plain," said Théodule.

And taking advantage of the moment during which M. Gillenormand was
recovering breath, the lancer added magisterially,--

"There ought to be no other paper but the _Moniteur,_ and no other book
but the Army List."

M. Gillenormand went on,--

"It is just like their Sièyes,--a regicide who became a senator!
for they always end with that. They scar themselves with citizen
familiarity, that they may be called in the long run Monsieur le Comte.
Monsieur le Comte with a vengeance! slaughterers of September! The
philosopher Sièyes! I do myself the justice of saying that I never
cared any more for the philosophy of all these philosophers than I
did for the spectacles of the grimacers at Tivoli. One day I saw the
Senators pass along the Quay Malaquais, in violet velvet cloaks studded
with bees, and wearing Henri IV. hats; they were hideous, and looked
like the apes of the tigers' court. Citizens, I declare to you that
your progress is a madness, that your humanity is a dream, that your
Revolution is a crime, that your Republic is a monster, that your young
Virgin France emerges from a brothel; and I sustain it against you all.
No matter whether you are journalists, social economists, lawyers, and
greater connoisseurs of liberty, equality, and fraternity, than the
cut-throat of the guillotine! I tell you this plainly, my good fellows."

"Parbleu!" the Lieutenant cried, "that is admirably true!"

M. Gillenormand interrupted a gesture which he had begun, turned round,
gazed intently at Théodule the lancer, between the eyes, and said to

"You are an ass!"





Marius at this period was a handsome young man of middle height, with
very black hair, a lofty and intelligent forehead, open and impassioned
nostrils, a sincere and calm air, and something haughty, pensive, and
innocent was spread over his whole face. His profile, in which all
the lines were rounded without ceasing to be firm, had that Germanic
gentleness which entered France through Alsace and Lorraine, and that
absence of angles which renders it so easy to recognize the Sicambri
among the Romans, and distinguishes the leonine from the aquiline race.
He had reached the season of life when the mind of men is composed of
depth and simplicity in nearly equal proportions. A serious situation
being given, he had all that was necessary to be stupid, but, with one
more turn of the screw, he could be sublime. His manner was reserved,
cold, polite, and unexpansive; but, as his mouth was beautiful, his
lips bright vermilion, and his teeth the whitest in the world, his
smile corrected any severity in his countenance. At certain moments
this chaste forehead and voluptuous smile offered a strange contrast.
He had a small eye and a noble glance.

In the period of his greatest need he remarked that people turned to
look at him when he passed, and he hurried away or hid himself, with
death in his soul. He thought that they were looking at his shabby
clothes and laughing at them; but the fact is, they were looking at
his face, and thinking about it. This silent misunderstanding between
himself and pretty passers-by had rendered him savage, and he did not
select one from the simple reason that he fled from all. He lived thus
indefinitely--stupidity, said Courfeyrac, who also added,--"Do not
aspire to be venerable, and take one bit of advice, my dear fellow. Do
not read so many books, and look at the wenches a little more, for they
have some good about them. Oh, Marius! you will grow brutalized if you
go on shunning women and blushing."

On other occasions, Courfeyrac, when he I met him, would say,
"Good-morning, Abbé." When Courfeyrac had made any remark of this
nature, Marius for a whole week would shun women, young and old more
than ever, and Courfeyrac in the bargain. There were, however, in the
whole immense creation, two women whom Marius did not shun, or to whom
he paid no attention. To tell the truth, he would have been greatly
surprised had any one told him that they were women. One was the
hairy-faced old woman who swept his room, and induced Courfeyrac to
remark,--"Seeing that his servant wears her beard, Marius does not
wear his;" the other was a young girl whom he saw very frequently and
did not look at. For more than a year Marius had noticed in a deserted
walk of the Luxembourg--the one which is bordered by the Parapet de la
Pepinière--a man and a very young lady nearly always seated side by
side at the most solitary end of the walk, near the Rue de l'Ouest.
Whenever that chance, which mingles with the promenades of people whose
eye is turned inwards, led Marius to this walk, and that was nearly
daily, he met this couple again. The man seemed to be about sixty
years of age; he appeared sad and serious, and the whole of his person
presented the robust and fatigued appearance of military men who have
retired from service. If he had worn a decoration, Marius would have
said, "He is an old officer." He looked kind, but unapproachable, and
never fixed his eye on that of another person. He wore blue trousers,
a coat of the same color, and a broad-brimmed hat, all of which were
constantly new, a black cravat, and a quaker's, that is to say,
dazzlingly white, but very coarse shirt. A grisette who passed him one
day said, "What a nice strong widower!" His hair was very white.

The first time that the young lady who accompanied him sat down
with him upon the bench, which they seemed to have adopted, she was
about thirteen or fourteen, so thin as to be almost ugly, awkward,
insignificant, and promising to have perhaps very fine eyes some day;
still they were always raised to the old gentleman with a species of
displeasing assurance. She wore the garb, at once old and childish,
of boarders at a convent,--a badly-cut dress of coarse black merino.
They looked like father and daughter. Marius examined for two or three
days the old man, who was not yet aged, and this little girl, who was
not yet a maiden, and then paid no further attention to them. They,
on their side, seemed not even to see him, and talked together with a
peaceful and careless air. The girl talked incessantly and gayly, the
old man spoke but little, and at times he fixed upon her eyes filled
with ineffable paternity. Marius had formed the mechanical habit of
walking in this alley, and invariably found them there. This is how
matters went on:--

Marius generally arrived by the end of the walk farthest from the
bench; he walked the whole length, passed them, then turned back to
the end by which he had arrived, and began again. He took this walk
five or six times nearly every day in the week, but these persons and
himself never even exchanged a bow. The man and the girl, though they
appeared, and perhaps because they appeared, to shun observation, had
naturally aroused to some little extent the attention of some students,
who walked from time to time along La Pepinière,--the studious after
lectures, the others after their game of billiards. Courfeyrac, who
belonged to the latter, had watched them for some time, but finding the
girl ugly, he got away from them very rapidly, firing at them like a
Parthian a sobriquet. Being solely struck by the dress of the girl and
the old man's hair, he christened the former Mlle. Lanoire, and the
father Monsieur Leblanc, so that, as no one knew them otherwise, this
name adhered to them in the absence of a better one. The students said,
"Ah, M. Leblanc is at his bench;" and Marius, like the rest, found it
convenient to call this strange gentleman M. Leblanc. We will follow
their example. Marius saw them nearly daily, at the same hour, during a
year; he considered the man agreeable, but the girl rather insipid.



In the second year, just at the point of our story which the reader
has how reached, it happened that Marius broke off his daily walk in
the Luxembourg, without exactly knowing why, and was nearly six months
without setting foot in the garden. One day, however, he returned to
it; it was a beauteous summer day, and Marius was joyous, as men are
when the weather is fine. He felt as if he had in his heart all the
birds' songs that he heard, and all the patches of blue sky of which he
caught a glimpse between the leaves. He went straight to "his walk,"
and when he reached the end he noticed the well-known couple seated on
the same bench; but when he drew near he found that while it was the
same man, it did not seem to be the same girl. The person he now saw
was a tall and lovely creature, possessing the charming outlines of the
woman, at the precise moment when they are still combined with the most
simple graces of the child,--a fugitive and pure moment which can alone
be rendered by the two words "fifteen years." He saw admirable auburn
hair tinted with streaks of gold, a forehead that seemed made of
marble, cheeks that seemed made of a rose-leaf,--a pale flesh tint,--an
exquisite mouth, from which a smile issued like a flash and words
like music, and a head which Raphael would have given to a Virgin,
set upon a neck which Jean Goujon would have given to a Venus. And,
that nothing might be wanting in this ravishing face, the nose was not
beautiful, but pretty, neither straight nor bent, neither Italian nor
Greek; it was the Parisian nose, that is to say, something witty, fine,
irregular, and pure, which is the despair of painters and the charm of

When Marius passed her he could not see her eyes, which she constantly
drooped; he only saw her long brown eyelashes, pervaded with shade and
modesty. This did not prevent the lovely girl from smiling while she
listened to the white-haired man who was speaking to her, and nothing
could be so ravishing as this fresh smile with the downcast eyes. At
the first moment Marius thought that it was another daughter of the
old gentleman's,--a sister of the former. But when the invariable
habit of his walk brought him again to the bench, and he examined her
attentively, he perceived that it was the same girl. In six months the
girl had become a maiden, that was all; and nothing is more frequent
than this phenomenon. There is a moment in which girls expand in
the twinkling of an eye and all at once become roses; yesterday you
left them children, to-day, you find them objects of anxiety. This
girl had not only grown, but was idealized; as three days in April
suffice to cover some trees with flowers, six months had sufficed
to clothe her with beauty; her April had arrived. We sometimes see
poor and insignificant persons suddenly wake up, pass from indigence
to opulence, lay out money in all sorts of extravagance, and become
brilliant, prodigal, and magnificent. The reason is that they have just
received their dividends; and the girl had been paid six months' income.

And then she was no longer the boarding--school Miss, with her plush
bonnet, merino dress, thick shoes, and red hands; taste had come to her
with beauty, and she was well dressed, with a species of simple, rich,
and unaffected elegance. She wore a black brocade dress, a cloak of the
same material, and a white crape bonnet; her white gloves displayed
the elegance of her hand, which was playing with the ivory handle of a
parasol, and her satin boot revealed the smallness of her foot; when
you passed her, her whole toilette exhaled a youthful and penetrating
perfume. As for the man, he was still the same. The second time that
Marius passed, the girl raised her eyelids, and he could see that her
eyes were of a deep cerulean blue, but in this veiled azure there was
only the glance of a child. She looked at Marius carelessly, as she
would have looked at the child playing under the sycamores, or the
marble vase that threw a shadow over the bench; and Marius continued
his walk, thinking of something else. He passed the bench four or
five times, but did not once turn his eyes toward the young lady. On
the following days he returned as usual to the Luxembourg; as usual
he found the "father and daughter" there, but he paid no further
attention to them. He thought no more of the girl now that she was
lovely than he had done when she was ugly; and though he always passed
very close to the bench on which she was sitting, it was solely the
result of habit.



One day the air was warm, the Luxembourg was inundated with light
and shade, the sky was as pure as if the angels had washed it that
morning, the sparrows were twittering shrilly in the foliage of the
chestnut-trees, and Marius opened his whole soul to nature. He was
thinking of nothing; he loved and breathed; he passed by the bench;
the young lad; raised her eyes to him and their two glances met. What
was there this time in her look? Marius could not have said: there was
nothing and there was everything; it was a strange flash. She let her
eyes fall, and he continued his walk. What he had just seen was not the
simple and ingenuous eye of a child, but a mysterious gulf, the mouth
of which had opened and then suddenly closed again. There is a day on
which every maiden looks in this way, and woe to the man on whom her
glance falls!

This first glance of a soul which does not yet know itself is like dawn
in the heavens; it is the awakening of something radiant and unknown.
Nothing can express the mysterious charm of this unexpected flash which
suddenly illumines the adorable darkness, and is composed of all the
innocence of the present and all the passion of the future. It is a
sort of undecided tenderness, which reveals itself accidentally and
waits; it is a snare which innocence sets unconsciously, and in which
it captures hearts without wishing or knowing it. It is a virgin who
looks at you like a woman. It is rare for a profound reverie not to
spring up wherever this flame falls; all purity and all candor are
blended in this heavenly and fatal beam, which possesses, more than
the best-managed ogles of coquettes, the magic power of suddenly
causing that dangerous flower, full of perfume and poison, called love,
suddenly to expand in the soul.

On returning to his garret in the evening, Marius took a glance
at his clothes, and perceived for the first time that he had been
guilty of the extraordinary impropriety and stupidity of walking
in the Luxembourg in his "every-day dress;" that is to say, with a
broken-brimmed hat, clumsy boots, black trousers white at the knees,
and a black coat pale at the elbows.



The next day, at the accustomed hour, Marius took out of the drawers
his new coat, his new trousers, his new hat, and his new boots;
he dressed himself in this complete panoply, put on gloves,--an
extraordinary luxury,--and went off to the Luxembourg. On the road he
met Courfeyrac, and pretended not to see him. Courfeyrac on reaching
home said to his friends,--

"I have just met Marius's new hat and new coat and Marius inside them.
He was going, I fancy, to pass some examination, for he looked so

On reaching the Luxembourg Marius walked round the basin and gazed
at the swans; then he stood for a long time contemplating a statue
all black with mould, and which had lost one hip. Near the basin was
a comfortable bourgeois of about forty, holding by the hand a little
boy, and saying to him,--"Avoid all excesses, my son; keep at an
equal distance from despotism and anarchy." Marius listened to this
bourgeois, then walked once again round the basin, and at length
proceeded toward "his walk" slowly, and as if regretfully. He seemed
to be at once forced and prevented from going, but he did not explain
this to himself, and fancied he was behaving as he did every day. On
turning into the walk he saw M. Leblanc and the young lady at the other
end, seated on "their bench." He buttoned up his coat to the top,
pulled it down so that it should make no creases, examined with some
complacency the lustre of his trousers, and marched upon the bench.
There was attack in this march, and assuredly a desire for conquest,
and hence I say that he marched upon this bench, as I would say
Hannibal marched on Rome.

Still, all his movements were mechanical, and he had not in any way
altered the habitual preoccupation of his mind and labors. He was
thinking at this moment that the _Manuel de Baccalaureat_ was a stupid
book, and that it must have been edited by wondrous ignoramuses, who
analyzed as masterpieces of the human mind three tragedies of Racine
and only one comedy of Molière. He had a shrill whistling in his ear,
and while approaching the bench he pulled down his coat, and his eyes
were fixed on the maiden. He fancied that she filled the whole end of
the walk with a vague blue light. As he drew nearer his pace gradually
decreased. On coming within a certain distance of the bench, though
still some distance from the end of the walk, he stopped, and did not
know how it was that he turned back. The young lady was scarce able to
notice him, and see how well he looked in his new suit. Still he held
himself very erect, for fear any one behind might be looking at him.

He reached the opposite end, then returned, and this time approached
a little nearer to the bench. He even got within the distance of
three trees, but then he felt an impossibility of going farther,
and hesitated. He fancied he could see the young lady's face turned
toward him; however, he made a masculine, violent effort, subdued his
hesitation, and continued to advance. A few moments after he passed in
front of the bench, upright and firm, but red up to the ears, and not
daring to take a glance either to the right or left, and with his hand
thrust into his coat like a statesman. At the moment when he passed
under the guns of the fort he felt his heart beat violently. She was
dressed as on the previous day, and he heard an ineffable voice which
must "be her voice." She was talking quietly, and was very beautiful;
he felt it, though he did not attempt to look at her, "and yet," he
thought, "she could not fail to have esteem and consideration for me
if she knew that I am the real author of the dissertation on Marcos
Obregon de La Ronda, which M. Francois de Neufchâteau appropriated, at
the beginning of his edition of _Gil Bias_."

He passed the bench, went to the end of the walk which was close by,
then turned and again passed the young lady. This time he was very
pale, and his feelings were most disagreeable. He went away from the
bench and the maiden, and while turning his back, he fancied that she
was looking at him, and this made him totter. He did not again attempt
to pass the bench; he stopped at about the middle of the walk and then
sat down,--a most unusual thing for him,--taking side glances, and
thinking in the innermost depths of his mind that after all it was
difficult for a person whose white bonnet and black dress he admired to
be absolutely insensible to his showy trousers and new coat. At the end
of a quarter of an hour he rose, as if about to walk toward this bench
which was surrounded by a glory, but he remained motionless. For the
first time in fifteen months he said to himself that the gentleman who
sat there daily with his daughter must have noticed him, and probably
considered his assiduity strange. For the first time, too, he felt
it was rather irreverent to designate this stranger, even in his own
thoughts, by the nickname of M. Leblanc.

He remained thus for some minutes with hanging head, making sketches in
the sand with the stick he held in his hand. Then he suddenly turned in
the direction opposed to the bench and went home. That day he forgot to
go to dinner; he noticed the fact at eight in the evening, and, as it
was too late to go to the Rue St. Jacques, he ate a lump of bread. He
did not go to bed till he had brushed and carefully folded up his coat.



The next day, Mame Bougon,--it was thus that Courfeyrac called the
old portress, principal lodger, and charwoman, of No. 50-52, though
her real name was Madame Bourgon, as we have stated; but that scamp
of a Courfeyrac respected nothing,--Mame Bougon, to her stupefaction,
noticed that Marius again went out in his best coat. He returned to
the Luxembourg, but did not go beyond his half-way bench; he sat down
there, as on the previous day, regarding from a distance, and seeing
distinctly, the white bonnet, the black dress, and, above all, the
blue radiance. He did not move or return home till the gates of the
Luxembourg were closed. He did not see M. Leblanc and his daughter go
away, and hence concluded that they left the garden by the gate in
the Rue de l'Ouest. Some weeks after, when reflecting on the subject,
he could never remember where he dined that day. On the next day, the
third, Mame Bougon received another thunder-stroke; Marius went out in
his new coat. "Three days running!" she exclaimed. She tried to follow
him, but Marius walked quickly, and with immense strides: it was a
hippopotamus attempting to overtake a chamois. She lost him out of
sight in two minutes, and went back panting, three parts choked by her
asthma, and furious. "What sense is there," she growled, "in putting on
one's best coat every day, and making people run like that!"

Marius had gone to the Luxembourg, where M. Leblanc and the young lady
were already. Marius approached as near to them as he could, while
pretending to read his book, though still a long distance off, and
then sat down on his bench, where he spent four hours in watching the
sparrows, which he fancied were ridiculing him, hopping about in the
walk. A fortnight passed in this way; Marius no longer went to the
Luxembourg to walk, but always to sit down at the same spot, without
knowing why. Arriving, he did not stir. He every morning put on his new
coat, although he did not show himself, and began again on the morrow.
She was decidedly, marvellously beautiful; the sole remark resembling
a criticism that could be made was that the contradiction between her
glance, which was sad, and her smile, which was joyous, gave her face
a slightly startled look, which at times caused this gentle face to
become strange without ceasing to be charming.



On one of the last days of the second week Marius was as usual seated
on his bench, holding in his hand an open book in which he had not
turned a page for several months, when he suddenly started; an event
was occurring at the end of the walk. M. Leblanc and his daughter had
left their bench, the girl was holding her father's arm, and both were
proceeding slowly toward the middle of the walk where Marius was. He
shut his book, then opened it again and tried to read, but he trembled,
and the glory came straight toward him. "Oh, Heaven!" he thought, "I
shall not have the time to assume an attitude." The white-haired man
and the girl, however, advanced; it seemed to him as if this lasted
an age, and it was only a second. "What do they want here?" he asked
himself. "What! she is going to pass here; her feet will tread this
sand, this walk, two paces from me!" He was quite upset; he would
have liked to be very handsome, and have the cross. He heard the soft
measured sound of their footsteps approaching him, and he imagined
that M. Leblanc glanced at him irritably. "Is this gentleman going to
speak to me?" he thought. He hung his head, and when he raised it
again they were close to him. The girl passed, and in passing looked
at him,--looked at him intently, with a thoughtful gentleness which
made Marius shudder from head to foot. It seemed to him as if she
reproached him for keeping away from her so long, and was saying, "I
have come instead." Marius was dazzled by these eyeballs full of beams
and abysses. He felt that his brain was on fire. She had come toward
him--what joy!--and then, she had looked at him. She appeared to him
lovelier than she had ever been,--lovely with a beauty at once feminine
and angelic, a perfect beauty, which would have made Petrarch sing and
Dante kneel. He felt as if he were floating in the blue sky, but at the
same time he was horribly annoyed because he had dust on his boots, and
he felt sure that she had looked at his boots too.

He looked after her till she disappeared, and then walked about the
garden like a maniac. He probably at times laughed to himself and
talked aloud. He was so pensive near the nursery-maids that each of
them fancied him in love with her. He quitted the Luxembourg, hoping
to meet her again in the street. He met Courfeyrac under the arcades
of the Pantheon, and said to him, "Come and dine with me." They went
to Rousseau's and spent six francs. Marius ate like an ogre, and gave
six sous to the waiter. After dinner he said to Courfeyrac, "Have
you read the papers? What a fine speech Audry de Puyraveau made!"
He was distractedly in love. He then said to Courfeyrac, "Let us go
to the theatre,--I'll pay." They went to the Porte St. Martin to
see Frederick in the "Auberge des Adrets," and Marius was mightily
amused. At the same time he became more virtuous than ever. On leaving
the theatre he refused to look at the garter of a dressmaker who was
striding across a gutter, and Courfeyrac happening to say, "I should
like to place that woman in my collection," he almost felt horrified.
Courfeyrac invited him to breakfast next morning at the Café Voltaire.
He went there, and ate even more than on the previous day. He was
thoughtful and very gay, and seemed to take every opportunity to laugh
noisily. A party of students collected round the table and spoke of the
absurdities paid for by the State, which are produced from the pulpit
of the Sorbonne, and then the conversation turned to the faults and
gaps in dictionaries. Marius interrupted the discussion by exclaiming,
"And yet it is very agreeable to have the cross."

"That is funny!" Courfeyrac whispered to Jean Prouvaire.

"No, it is serious," the other answered.

It was in truth serious; Marius had reached that startling and charming
hour which commences great passions. A look had effected all this. When
the mine is loaded, when the fire is ready, nothing is more simple,
and a glance is a spark. It was all over; Marius loved a woman, and
his destiny was entering the unknown. The glance of a woman resembles
certain wheels which are apparently gentle but are formidable: you
daily pass by their side with impunity, and without suspecting
anything, and the moment arrives when you even forget that the thing
is there. You come, you go, you dream, you speak, you laugh, and all
in a minute you feel yourself caught, and it is all over with you. The
wheel holds you, the glance has caught you; it has caught, no matter
where or how, by some part of your thought which dragged after you, or
by some inattention on your part. You are lost, and your whole body
will be drawn in; a series of mysterious forces seizes you, and you
struggle in vain, for human aid is no longer possible. You pass from
cog-wheel to cog-wheel, from agony to agony, from torture to torture,
--you and your mind, your fortune, your future, and your soul; and,
according as you are in the power of a wicked creature or of a noble
heart, you will issue from this frightful machinery either disfigured
by shame or transfigured by passion.



Isolation, separation from everything, pride, independence, a taste for
nature, the absence of daily and material labor, the soul-struggles
of chastity, and his benevolent ecstasy in the presence of creation,
had prepared Marius for that possession which is called passion. His
reverence for his father had gradually become a religion, and, like all
religions, withdrew into the depths of the soul: something was wanting
for the foreground, and love came. A whole month passed, during which
Marius went daily to the Luxembourg: when the hour arrived nothing
could stop him. "He is on duty," Courfeyrac said. Marius lived in
rapture, and it is certain that the young lady looked at him. In the
end he had grown bolder, and went nearer the bench; still he did not
pass in front of it, obeying at once the timid instincts and prudent
instincts of lovers. He thought it advisable not to attract the
father's attention, and hence arranged his stations behind trees and
the pedestals of statues, with profound Machiavellism, so as to be
seen as much as possible by the young lady and as little as possible
by the old gentleman. At times he would be standing for half an hour
motionless in the shadow of some Leonidas or Spartacus, holding in one
hand a book, over which his eyes, gently raised, sought the lovely
girl; and she, for her part, turned her charming profile toward him
with a vague smile. While talking most naturally and quietly with the
white-haired man, she fixed upon Marius all the reveries of a virginal
and impassioned glance. It is an old and immemorial trick which Eve
knew from the first day of the world, and which every woman knows from
the first day of her life. Her mouth replied to the one and her eye
answered the other.

It must be supposed, however, that M. Leblanc eventually noticed
something, for frequently when Marius arrived he got up and began
walking. He left their accustomed seat, and adopted at the other end of
the walk the bench close to the Gladiator, as if to see whether Marius
would follow them. Marius did not understand it, and committed this
fault. "The father" began to become unpunctual, and no longer brought
"his daughter" every day. At times he came alone, and then Marius did
not stop, and this was another fault. Marius paid no attention to these
symptoms: from the timid phase he had passed by a natural and fatal
progress into a blind phase. His love was growing, and he dreamed of
it every night, and then an unexpected happiness occurred to him, like
oil on fire, and redoubled the darkness over his eyes. One evening at
twilight he found on the bench which "M. Leblanc and his daughter" had
just quitted, a simple, unembroidered handkerchief, which, however, was
white and pure, and seemed to him to exhale ineffable odors. He seized
it with transport, and noticed that it was marked with the letters "U.
F." Marius knew nothing about the lovely girl, neither her family, her
name, nor her abode; these two letters were the first thing of hers
which he seized,--adorable initials, upon which he at once began to
erect his scaffolding. "U" was evidently the Christian name: "Ursule!"
he thought; "what a delicious name!" He kissed the handkerchief, smelt
it, placed it on his heart during the day, and at night upon his lips
to go to sleep.

"I can see her whole soul!" he exclaimed.

This handkerchief belonged to the old gentleman, who had simply let it
fall from his pocket. On the following days, when Marius went to the
Luxembourg, he kissed the handkerchief, and pressed it to his heart.
The lovely girl did not understand what this meant, and expressed her
surprise by imperceptible signs.

"Oh, modesty!" said Marius.



Since we have uttered the word _modesty_, and as we conceal nothing,
we are bound to say, however, that notwithstanding his ecstasy, on
one occasion "his Ursule" caused him serious vexation. It was on one
of the days when she induced M. Leblanc to leave the bench and walk
about. There was a sharp spring breeze which shook the tops of the
plane-trees; and father and daughter, arm in arm, had just passed in
front of Marius, who rose and watched them, as was fitting for a man in
his condition. All at once a puff of wind, more merry than the rest,
and probably ordered to do the business of spring, dashed along the
walk, enveloped the maiden in a delicious rustling worthy of the nymphs
of Virgil and the Fauns of Theocritus, and raised her dress--that dress
more sacred than that of Isis--almost as high as her garter. A leg of
exquisite shape became visible. Marius saw it, and he was exasperated
and furious. The maiden rapidly put down her dress, with a divinely
startled movement, but he was not the less indignant. There was no
one in the walk, it was true, but there might have been somebody; and
if that somebody had been there! Is such a thing conceivable? What
she has just done is horrible! Alas! the poor girl had done nothing,
and there was only one culprit, the wind; but Marius, in whom faintly
quivered the Bartholo which is in Cherubino, was determined to be
dissatisfied, and was jealous of his shadow; it is thus, in fact,
that the bitter and strange jealousy of the flesh is aroused in the
human heart, and dominates it, even unjustly. Besides, apart from his
jealousy, the sight of this charming leg was not at all agreeable to
him, and any other woman's white stocking would have caused him more

When "his Ursule," after reaching the end of the walk, turned back
with M. Leblanc, and passed in front of the bench on which Marius was
sitting, he gave her a stern, savage glance. The girl drew herself
slightly up, and raised her eyelids, which means, "Well, what is the
matter now?" This was their first quarrel. Marius had scarce finished
upbraiding her in this way with his eyes, when some one crossed the
walk. It was a bending invalid, all wrinkled and white, wearing the
uniform of Louis XV., having on his chest the little oval red cloth
badge with crossed swords, the soldier's cross of Saint Louis, and
decorated besides with an empty coat-sleeve, a silver chin, and a
wooden leg. Marius fancied he could notice that this man had an air
of satisfaction; it seemed to him that the old cynic, while hobbling
past him, gave him a fraternal and extremely jovial wink, as if some
accident had enabled them to enjoy in common some good thing. Why was
this relic of Mars so pleased? What had occurred, between this wooden
leg and the other? Marius attained the paroxysm of jealousy, "He was
perhaps there," he said to himself; "perhaps he saw," and he felt
inclined to exterminate the invalid.

With the help of time every point grows blunted, and Marius's anger
with "Ursule," though so just and legitimate, passed away. He ended by
pardoning her; but it was a mighty effort, and he sulked with her for
three days. Still, through all this, and owing to all this, his passion
increased, and became insane.



We have seen how Marius discovered, or fancied he had discovered, that
her name was Ursule. Appetite comes while loving, and to know that her
name was Ursule was a great deal already, but it was little. In three
or four weeks Marius had devoured this happiness and craved another; he
wished to know where she lived. He had made the first fault in falling
into the trap of the Gladiator's bench; he had committed a second by
not remaining at the Luxembourg when M. Leblanc went there alone;
and he now committed a third, an immense one,--he followed "Ursule."
She lived in the Rue de l'Ouest, in the most isolated part, in a new
three-storied house of modest appearance. From this moment Marius added
to his happiness of seeing her at the Luxembourg the happiness of
following her home. His hunger increased; he knew what her name was,
her Christian name at least, the charming, the real name of a woman;
he knew where she lived; and he now wanted to know who she was. One
evening after following them home, and watching them disappear in the
gateway, he went in after them, and valiantly addressed the porter.

"Is that the gentleman of the first floor who has just come in?"

"No," the porter answered, "it is the gentleman of the third floor."

Another step made! This success emboldened Marius.

"Front?" he asked.

"Hang it!" said the porter, "our rooms all look on the street."

"And what is the gentleman?" Marius continued.

"He lives on his property. He is a very good man, who does a deal of
good to the unhappy, though he is not rich."

"What is his name?" Marius added.

The porter raised his head and said,--

"Are you a police spy, sir?"

Marius went off much abashed, but highly delighted, for he was

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

On the morrow M. Leblanc and his daughter made but a short appearance
at the Luxembourg, and went away in broad daylight. Marius followed
them to the Rue de l'Ouest, as was his habit, and on reaching the
gateway M. Leblanc made his daughter go in first, then stopped, turned,
and looked intently at Marius. The next day they did not come to the
Luxembourg, and Marius waited in vain the whole day. At nightfall he
went to the Rue de l'Ouest, and noticed a light in the third-floor
windows, and he walked about beneath these windows till the light
was extinguished. The next day there was no one at the Luxembourg;
Marius waited all day, and then went to keep his night-watch under the
windows. This took him till ten o'clock, and his dinner became what
it could; for fever nourishes the sick man and love the lover. Eight
days passed in this way, and M. Leblanc and his daughter did not again
appear at the Luxembourg. Marius made sorrowful conjectures, for he did
not dare watch the gateway by day; he contented himself with going at
night to contemplate the reddish brightness of the window-panes. He saw
shadows pass now and then, and his heart beat.

On the eighth day, when he arrived beneath the windows, there was no
light. "What!" he said to himself, "the lamp is not lighted! can they
have gone out?" He waited till ten o'clock, till midnight, till one
o'clock, but no light was kindled at the third-floor windows, and
nobody entered the house. He went away with very gloomy thoughts.
On the morrow--for he only lived from morrow to morrow, and he had
no to-day, so to speak--he saw nobody at the Luxembourg, as he
expected, and at nightfall he went to the house. There was no light
at the windows, the shutters were closed, and the third floor was all
darkness. Marius rapped, walked in, and said to the porter,--

"The gentleman on the third floor?"

"Moved," the porter answered.

Marius tottered, and asked feebly,--

"Since when?"


"Where is he living now?"

"I do not know."

"Then he did not leave his new address?"


And the porter, raising his nose, recognized Marius.

"What! it's you, is it?" he said; "why, you must really be a police





Human societies have ever what is called in theatres "un troisième
dessous," and the social soil is everywhere undermined, here for good
and there for evil. These works are upon one another; there are upper
mines and lower mines, and there is a top and bottom in this obscure
sub-soil, which at times gives way beneath the weight of civilization,
and which our indifference and carelessness trample under foot. The
Encyclopædia was in the last century an almost open mine, and the
darkness, that gloomy brooder of primitive Christianity, only awaited
an occasion to explode beneath the Cæsars and inundate the human race
with light. For in the sacred darkness there is latent light, and the
volcanoes are full of a shadow which is capable of flashing, and all
lava begins by being night. The catacombs in which the first Mass was
read were not merely the cellar of Rome but also the vault of the world.

There are all sorts of excavations beneath the social building, that
marvel complicated by a hovel; there is the religious mine, the
philosophic mine, the political mine, the social economic mine, and the
revolutionary mine. One man picks with the idea, another with figure,
another with auger, and they call to and answer each other from the
catacombs. Utopias move in subterranean passages and ramify in all
directions; they meet there at times and fraternize. Jean Jacques
lends his pick to Diogenes, who lends him his lantern in turn; at
times, though, they fight, and Calvin clutches Socinus by the hair. But
nothing arrests or interrupts the tension of all their energies toward
the object, and the vast simultaneous energy, which comes and goes,
ascends, descends, and reascends, in the obscurity, and which slowly
substitutes top for bottom and inside for out; it is an immense and
unknown ant-heap. Society hardly suspects this excavation, which leaves
no traces on its surface and yet changes its insides; and there are as
many different works and varying extractions as there are subterranean
tiers. What issues from all these deep excavations? The future.

The deeper we go the more mysterious the mines become. To a certain
point which the social philosopher is able to recognize the labor is
good; beyond that point it is doubtful and mixed, and lower still
it becomes terrible. At a certain depth the excavations can no
longer be endured by the spirit of civilization, and man's limit of
breathing is passed: a commencement of monsters becomes possible.
The descending ladder is strange, and each rung corresponds with a
stage upon which philosophy can land, and meet one of these miners,
who are sometimes divine, at others deformed. Below John Huss there
is Luther; below Luther, Descartes; below Descartes, Voltaire; below
Voltaire, Condorcet; below Condorcet, Robespierre; below Robespierre,
Marat; and below Marat, Babeuf; and so it goes on. Lower still we
notice confusedly, at the limit which separates the indistinct from the
invisible, other gloomy men, who perhaps do not yet exist: those of
yesterday are spectres, those of the morrow grubs. The mental eye can
only distinguish them obscurely, and the embryonic labor of the future
is one of the visions of the philosopher. A world in limbo at the fœtus
stage--what an extraordinary sketch! St Simon, Owen, and Founder are
also there in the side-passages.

Assuredly, although a divine and invisible chain connects together
without their cognizance all these subterranean miners, who nearly
always fancy themselves isolated but are not so, their labors vary
greatly, and the light of the one contrasts with the dazzle of the
other: some are celestial and others tragical. Still, however great
the contrast may be, all these laborers, from the highest to the most
nocturnal, from the wisest down to the maddest, have a similitude
in their disinterestedness: they leave themselves on one side, omit
themselves, do not think of themselves, and see something different
from themselves. They have a glance, and that glance seeks the
absolute; the first has heaven in his eyes, and the last, however
enigmatical he may be, has beneath Ids eyebrow the pale brightness of
infinity. Venerate every man, no matter what he may be doing,--any
man who has the sign, a starry eyeball. The dark eyeball is the other
sign, and with it evil begins. Before the man who has this look, think
and tremble. Social order has its black miners. There is a point where
profundity is burial and where light is extinguished. Below all these
mines which we have indicated,--below all these galleries, below all
this immense subterranean arterial system of progress and Utopia, far
deeper in the ground, below Marat, below Babeuf, much, much lower,
there is the last passage, which has no connection with the upper
drifts. It is a formidable spot, and what we termed the _troisième
dessous_. It is the grave of darkness and the cave of the blind,
_Inferi_, and communicates with the abysses.



Here disinterestedness fades away, and the dream is vaguely sketched.
Every one for himself. The eyeless I yells, seeks, gropes, and
groans: the social Ugolino is in this gulf. The ferocious shadows
which prowl about this grave, almost brutes, almost phantoms, do
not trouble themselves about human progress; they are ignorant of
ideas and language, and thus they care for nought beyond individual
gratification. They are almost unconscious, and there is within them
a species of frightful obliteration. They have two mothers, both
step-mothers,--ignorance and wretchedness. They have for their guide
want, and for all power of satisfaction appetite; they are brutally
voracious, that is to say, ferocious,--not after the fashion of the
tyrant, but that of the tiger. From suffering these grubs pass to
crime,--it is a fetal affiliation, a ghastly propagation, the logic of
darkness; what crawls in the lowest passage is no longer the stifled
demand of the absolute, but the protest of matter. Man becomes a dragon
then; his starting-point is to be hungry and thirsty, and his terminus
is to be Satan. Lacenaire issued from this cave.

We have just seen one of the compartments of the upper mine, the great
political, revolutionary, and philosophic sap. There, as we said, all
is noble, pure, worthy, and honest: men may be mistaken in it, and are
mistaken, but the error must be revered, because it implies so much
heroism, and the work performed there has a name,--Progress. The moment
has now arrived to take a glance at other and hideous depths. There is
beneath society, and there ever will be, till the day when ignorance
is dissipated, the great cavern of evil. This cavern is below all the
rest, and the enemy of all; it is hatred without exception. This cavern
knows no philosophers, and its dagger never made a pen, while its
blackness bears no relation with the sublime blackness of the inkstand.
The fingers of night, which clench beneath this asphyxiating roof,
never opened a book or unfolded a newspaper. Babeuf is to Cartouche a
person who takes advantage of his knowledge, and Marat an aristocrat
in the sight of Schinderhannes, and the object of this cavern is the
overthrow of everything.

Of everything,--including the upper levels, which it execrates. It not
only undermines in its hideous labor the existing social order, but it
undermines philosophy, science, the law, human thought, civilization,
revolution, and progress, and it calls itself most simply, robbery,
prostitution, murder, and assassination. It is darkness, and desires
chaos, and its roof is composed of ignorance. All the other mines
above it have only one object, to suppress it; and philosophy and
progress strive for this with all their organs simultaneously, by the
amelioration of the real, as well as the contemplation of the ideal.
Destroy the cave, Ignorance, and you destroy the mole, Crime. Let us
condense in a few words a portion of what we have just written. The
sole social evil is darkness; humanity is identity, for all men are
of the same clay, and in this nether world, at least, there is no
difference in predestination; we are the same shadow before, the same
flesh during, and the same ashes afterwards: but ignorance, mixed with
the human paste, blackens it, and this incurable blackness enters man
and becomes Evil there.



A quartette of bandits, Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse,
governed, from 1830 to 1835, the lowest depths of Paris. Gueulemer was
a Hercules out of place, and his den was the Arche-Marion sewer. He was
six feet high, had lungs of marble, muscles of bronze, the respiration
of a cavern, the bust of a colossus, and a bird's skull. You fancied
you saw the Farnèse Hercules, attired in ticking trousers and a
cotton-velvet jacket. Gueulemer built in this mould might have subdued
monsters, but he had found it shorter to be one. A low forehead, wide
temples, under forty years of age, but with crow's-feet, rough short
hair, and a bushy beard,--you can see the man. His muscles demanded
work, and his stupidity would not accept it: he was a great slothful
strength, and an assassin through nonchalance. People believed him to
be a Creole, and he had probably laid his hands upon Marshal Brune when
massacred, as he was a porter at Avignon in 1815. From that stage he
had become a bandit.

Babet's transparency contrasted with the meat of Gueulemer; he was
thin and learned,--transparent but impenetrable: you might see the
light through his bones, but not through his eyes. He called himself a
chemist, had been a clown with Bobêche and a harlequin with Bobino, and
had played in the vaudeville at St. Mihiel. He was a man of intentions,
and a fine speaker, who underlined his smiles and placed his gestures
between inverted commas. His trade was to sell in the open air plaster
busts and portraits of the "chief of the State," and, in addition, he
pulled teeth out. He had shown phenomena at fairs, and possessed a
booth with a trumpet and the following show-board,--"Babet, dentist,
and member of the academies, performs physical experiments on metals
and metalloids, extirpates teeth, and undertakes stumps given up by
the profession. Terms: one tooth, one franc fifty centimes; two teeth,
two francs; three teeth, two francs fifty centimes. Take advantage of
the opportunity." (The last sentence meant, Have as many teeth pulled
out as possible.) He was married and had children, but did not know
what had become of wife or children: he had lost them, just as another
man loses his handkerchief. Babet was a high exception in the obscure
world to which he belonged, for he read the newspapers. One day, at the
time when he still had his family with him in his caravan, he read in
the _Moniteur_ that a woman had just been delivered of a child with a
calf's snout, and exclaimed, "There's a fortune! My wife would not have
the sense to produce me a child like that!" Since then he had given up
everything to "undertake Paris:" the expression is his own.

What was Claquesous? He was night; and never showed himself till the
sky was bedaubed with blackness. In the evening he emerged from a
hole, to which he returned before daybreak. Where was this hole? No one
knew. In the greatest darkness, and when alone with his accomplices,
he turned his back when he spoke to them. Was his name Claquesous? No:
he said, "My name is Not-at-all." If a candle were brought in he put
on a mask, and he was a ventriloquist into the bargain, and Babet used
to say, "Claquesous is a night-bird with two voices." Claquesous was
vague, wandering, and terrible: no one was sure that he had a name,
for Claquesous was a nickname; no one was sure that he had a voice,
for his stomach spoke more frequently than his mouth; and no one was
sure that he had a face, as nothing had ever been seen but his mask. He
disappeared like a ghost, and when he appeared he seemed to issue from
the ground.

Montparnasse was a sorry sight. He was a lad not yet twenty, with a
pretty face, lips that resembled cherries, beautiful black hair, and
the brightness of spring in his eyes: he had every vice, and aspired to
every crime, and the digestion of evil gave him an appetite for worse.
He was the gamin turned pickpocket, and the pickpocket had become a
garroter. He was genteel, effeminate, graceful, robust, soft, and
ferocious. The left-hand brim of his hat was turned up to make room for
the tuft of hair, in the style of 1829. He lived by robbery committed
with violence, and his coat was cut in the latest fashion, though worn
at the seams. Montparnasse was an engraving of the fashions, in a state
of want, and committing murders. The cause of all the attacks made by
this young man was a longing to be well dressed: the first grisette
who said to him, "You are handsome," put the black spot in his heart,
and made a Cain of this Abel. Finding himself good-looking, he wished
to be elegant, and the first stage of elegance is idleness: but the
idleness of the poor man is crime. Few prowlers were so formidable
as Montparnasse, and at the age of eighteen he had several corpses
behind him. More than one wayfarer lay in the shadow of this villain
with outstretched arms, and with his face in a pool of blood. Curled,
pomaded, with his waist pinched in, the hips of a woman, the bust of a
Prussian officer, the buzz of admiration of the girls of the boulevard
around him, a carefully-tied cravat, a life-preserver in his pocket,
and a flower in his buttonhole,--such was this dandy of the tomb.



These four bandits formed a species of Proteus, winding through the
police ranks and striving to escape the indiscreet glances of Vidocq
"under various shapes,--tree, flame, and fountain,"--borrowing one
another's names and tricks, asylums for one another, laying aside
their personality as a man removes a false nose at a masquerade; at
times simplifying themselves so as to be only one man, at others
multiplying themselves to such an extent that Coco-Latour himself took
them for a mob. These four men were not four men; they were a species
of four-headed robber working Paris on a grand scale; the monstrous
polype of evil inhabiting the crypt of society. Owing to their
ramifications and the subjacent network of their relations, Babet,
Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse had the general direction of
all the foul play in the department of the Seine. The finders of ideas
in this style, the men with nocturnal imaginations, applied to them
to execute them; the four villains were supplied with the canvas, and
they produced the scenery. They were always in a position to supply a
proportionate and proper staff for every robbery which was sufficiently
lucrative and required a stout arm. If a crime were in want of persons
to carry it out, they sub-let the accomplices, and they always had a
band of actors at the service of all the tragedies of the caverns.

They generally met at nightfall, the hour when they awoke, on the
steppes that border the Salpêtrière. There they conferred, and,
as they had the twelve dark hours before them, they settled their
employment. _Patron Minette_ was the name given in the subterranean
lurking-places to the association of these four men. In the old and
fantastic popular language, which is daily dying out, Patron Minette
signifies the morning, just as "between dog and wolf" signifies night.
This appellation was probably derived from the hour when their work
finished, for dawn is the moment for spectres to fade away and for
bandits to part. These four men were known by this title. When the
President of the Assizes visited Lacenaire in prison, he questioned
him about a crime which the murderer denied. "Who committed it?" the
President asked; and Lacenaire gave this answer, which was enigmatical
for the magistrate, but clear for the police,--"It is, perhaps, Patron

The plot of a play may be at times divined from the list of names; and
a party of bandits may perhaps be appreciated in the same way. Here are
the names to which the principal members of Patron Minette answered,
exactly as they survive in special memoirs.

Panchaud called Spring, _alias_ Bigrenaille, Brujon (there was a
dynasty of Brujons, about whom we may still say a word); Boulatruelle,
the road-mender, of whom we have caught a glimpse; Laveuve; Finistère;
Homer-Hogu, a negro; Tuesday night; Make haste; Fauntleroy, _alias_
Flower-girl; Glorious, a liberated convict; Stop the coach, _alias_
Monsieur Dupont; The Southern Esplanade; Poussagrive; Carmagnolet;
Kruideniers, _alias_ Bizarro; Lace-eater; Feet in the air; Half
farthing, _alias_ Two Milliards, etc. etc.

These names have faces, and express not merely beings but species. Each
of these names responds to a variety of the poisonous fungi which grow
beneath human civilization. These beings, very careful about showing
their faces, were not of those whom we may see passing by day, for at
that period, weary of their night wanderings, they went to sleep in the
lime-kilns, the deserted quarries of Montmartre or Montrouge, or even
in the snow. They ran to earth.

What has become of these men? They still exist, and have ever existed.
Horace alludes to them in his _Ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolœ,
mendici, mimœ_, and so as long as society is what it is they will be
what they are. Under the obscure vault of their cellar they are even
born again from the social leakage; they return as spectres, but ever
identical. The only difference is that they no longer bear the same
names and are no longer in the same skins; though the individuals are
extirpated, the tribe exists. They have always the same qualities,
and from vagrant to prowler, the race ever remains pure. They guess
purses in pockets and scent watches in fobs; and gold and silver have
a peculiar smell for them. There are simple cits of whom we might say
that they have a robbable look, and these men patiently follow these
cits. When a foreigner or a countryman passes, they quiver like the
spider in its web.

These men, when we catch a glimpse of them upon a deserted boulevard
at midnight, are frightful; they do not seem to be men, but forms made
of living fog; we might say that they are habitually a portion of the
darkness, that they are not distinct, that they have no other soul but
shadow, and that they have become detached from night momentarily, and
in order to live a monstrous life for a few moments. What is required
to make these phantoms vanish? light, floods of light. Not a single bat
can resist the dawn. Light up the lower strata of society.





Summer passed away, then autumn and winter arrived. Neither M. Leblanc
nor the young lady had set foot again in the Luxembourg, while Marius
had but one thought, that of seeing again this sweet and adorable face.
He sought it ever, he sought it everywhere, but found nothing. He was
no longer Marius the enthusiastic dreamer, the resolute, ardent, and
firm man, the bold challenger of destiny, the brain that built up
future upon future, the young mind encumbered with plans, projects,
pride, ideas, and resolves,--he was a lost dog. He fell into a dark
sorrow, and it was all over with him; work was repulsive, walking
fatigued him, and solitude wearied him. Mighty nature, once so full
of forms, brightness, voices, counsel, perspectives, horizons, and
instruction, was now a vacuum before him; and he felt as if everything
had disappeared. He still thought, for he could not do otherwise, but
no longer took pleasure in his thoughts. To all that they incessantly
proposed to him in whispers, he answered in the shadow, "What use is
it?" He made himself a hundred reproaches. "Why did I follow her? I
was so happy merely in seeing her! She looked at me, and was not that
immense? She looked as if she loved me, and was not that everything? I
wanted to have what? There is nothing beyond that, and I was absurd. It
is my fault," etc. etc. Courfeyrac, to whom he confided nothing, as was
his nature, but who guessed pretty nearly all, for that was his nature
too, had begun by congratulating him on being in love, and made sundry
bad jokes about it. Then, on seeing Marius in this melancholy state, he
ended by saying to him, "I see that you have simply been a fool; come
to the Chaumière."

Once, putting confidence in a splendid September sun, Marius allowed
himself to be taken to the ball of Sceaux by Courfeyrac, Bossuet, and
Grantaire, hoping--what a dream!--that he might find her there. Of
course he did not see the lady whom he sought; "and yet this is the
place where all the lost women can be found," Grantaire growled aside.
Marius left his friends at the ball, and returned afoot, alone, tired,
feverish, with eyes troubled and sad, in the night, stunned with noise
and dust by the many vehicles full of singing beings who were returning
from the holiday, and who passed him. He was discouraged, and in order
to relieve his aching head, inhaled the sharp smell of the walnut-trees
on the road-side. He began living again more than ever in solitude,
crushed, giving way to his internal agony, walking up and down like
a wolf caught in a trap, everywhere seeking the absent one, and
brutalized by love.

Another time he had a meeting which produced a strange effect upon
him. In the little streets adjoining the Boulevard des Invalides he
passed a man dressed like a workman, and wearing a deep-peaked cap,
under which white locks peered out. Marius was struck by the beauty of
this white hair, and looked at the man, who was walking slowly, and as
if absorbed in painful meditation. Strange to say, he fancied that he
could recognize M. Leblanc,--it was the same hair, the same profile, as
far as the peak allowed him to see, and the same gait, though somewhat
more melancholy. But why this work-man's clothing? What was the meaning
of this disguise? Marius was greatly surprised, and when he came to
himself again his first impulse was to follow this man, for he might,
perhaps, hold the clew which he had so long been seeking. At any rate,
he must have a close look at the man, and clear up the enigma; but he
hit on this idea too late, for the man was no longer there. He had
turned into some side street, and Marius was unable to find him again.
This meeting troubled him for some days, and then faded away. "After
all," he said to himself, "it is probably only a resemblance."



Marius still lived at the Gorbeau house, but he paid no attention to
his fellow-lodgers. At this, period, in truth, there were no other
tenants in the house but himself and those Jondrettes whose rent he had
once paid, without ever having spoken to father, mother, or daughters.
The other lodgers had removed, were dead, or turned out for not paying
their rent. On one day of this winter the sun had shown itself a little
during the afternoon, but it was Feb. 2, that old Candlemas day, whose
treacherous sun, the precursor of a six weeks' frost, inspired Matthew
Laensberg with these two lines, which have justly become classical,--

    "Qu'il luise oil qu'il luiserne
    L'ours rentre en sa caverne."

Marius had just left his cavern, for night was falling. It was the hour
to go and dine, for he had been obliged to revert to that practice,
such is the infirmity of ideal passions. He had just crossed the
threshold of his door, which Mame Bougon was sweeping at this very
moment, while uttering the memorable soliloquy,--

"What is there cheap at present? Everything is dear. There is only
trouble which is cheap, and it may be had for nothing."

Marius slowly walked along the boulevard, in the direction of the Rue
St. Jacques. He walked thoughtfully with hanging head. All at once he
felt himself elbowed in the fog. He turned and saw two girls in rags,
one tall and thin, the other not quite so tall, who passed hurriedly,
panting, frightened, and as if running away; they were coming toward
him, and ran against him as they passed. Marius noticed in the twilight
their livid faces, uncovered heads, dishevelled hair, their ragged
petticoats, and bare feet. While running they talked together, and the
elder said,--

"The slops came, and nearly caught me."

And the other answered, "I saw them, and so I bolted, bolted, bolted."

Marius understood, from this sinister slang, that the police had nearly
caught the two girls, and that they had managed to escape. They buried
themselves beneath the trees behind him, and for a few minutes produced
a sort of vague whiteness in the obscurity. Marius had stopped for a
moment, and was just going on, when he noticed a small gray packet
lying at his feet. He stooped down and picked it up; it was a sort of
envelope, apparently containing papers.

"Why," he said, "these poor girls must have let it fall."

He turned back and called to them, but could not find them. He thought
they must be some distance off, so he thrust the parcel into his
pocket and went to dinner. On his way he saw in a lane turning out
of the Rue Mouffetard, a child's coffin, covered with a black pall,
laid on three chairs, and illumined by a candle. The two girls in the
twilight reverted to his thoughts.

"Poor mothers!" he thought, "there is something even more sad than to
see one's children die,--it is to see them live badly."

Then these shadows, which varied his melancholy, left his thoughts, and
he fell back into his usual reflections. He began thinking of his six
months of love and happiness in the open air and broad daylight under
the glorious Luxembourg trees.

"How sad my life has become!" he said to himself; "girls constantly
appear to me, but formerly they were angels, and now they are ghouls."



At night, as he undressed to go to bed, his hand felt in his coat
pocket the parcel which he had picked up in the boulevard and
forgotten. He thought that it would be as well to open it, as the
packet might contain the girls' address, if it belonged to them, or
in any case the necessary information to restore it to the person to
whom it belonged. He opened the envelope, which was not sealed, and
contained four letters, also unsealed. The addresses were on all four,
and they exhaled a frightful perfume of tobacco. The first letter was
addressed,--"To Madame, Madame la Marquise de Grucheray, on the Square
opposite the Chamber of Deputies." Marius said to himself that he
would probably find the information he wanted, and as the letter was
not sealed he could read it without impropriety. It was drawn up as

"MADAME LA MARQUISE,--The virtue of clemency and piety is that which
unites sosiety most closely. Move your Christian feelings, and dain a
glance of compasion at this unfortunate Spaniard, and victim to his
loyalty and atachment to the sacred cause of legitimacy, who shed his
blood, devoted the whole of his fortune to defend this cause, and is
now in the greatest missery. He does not doubt that you, honnored lady,
will grant some asistence to preserve an existence entirely painful
for a soldier of honor and edducation, who is covered with wounds, and
he reckons before hand on the humanity which annimates you, and the
interest which your ladyship takes in so unhapy a nacion. Their prayer
will not be in vain, and His gratitude will retain her charming memory.

"With the most respectful feelings, I have the honor to be, madame,


_Spanish captain of cavvalry, a Royalist refugee in France, who is
travelling for his country, and who wants the means to continue his

No address was attached to the signature, but Marius hoped to find it
in the second letter, of which the superscription was,--"To Madame,
Madame la Comtesse de Montvernet, Rue Cassette, No. 9. This is what
Marius read:--

"MADAME LA COMTESSE,--It is a unhapy mother of a familly of six
children, of which the yungest is only eight months old; I ill since my
last confinement, deserted by my husband, and hawing no ressourse in
the world, living in the most frightful indijance.

"Trusting in your ladyship, she has the honor to be, madame, with
profound respect,


Marius passed to the third letter, which was, like the preceding, a
petition, and he read in it:--

"MONSIEUR PABOURGEOT, _Elector, wholesale dealer in caps, Rue St.
Denis, at the corner of the Rue Aux-Fers:_

"I venture to adress this letter to you, to ask you to grant me the
pretious favor of your sympathies, and to interest you in a litterary
man, who has just sent a drama to the Théâtre Français. The subject is
historical, and the scene takes place in Auvergne in the time of the
Empire; the style, I believe, is natural, laconic, and may posess some
merit. There are couplets for singing at four places. The comic, the
serious, and the unexpected elements are blended in it with a variety
of characters, and a tinge of romance is lightly spread through the
whole plot, which moves misteriously, and the finale takes place amid
several brilliant tableaux. My principal desire is to satisfy the
desire which progressively animates sosiety, that is to say, fashion,
that capritious and vague whirligig which changes with nearly every

"In spite of these quallities, I have reason to fear that jealousy and
the selfishness of privileged authors may obtain my exclusion from
the stage, for I am not unaware of the vexation which is caused to

"Monsieur Pabourgeot, your just reputation as the enlightened protector
of litterary men, emboldens me to send to you my daughter, who will
explain to you our indijant situation, wanting for bread and fire
in this winter season. To tell you that I wish you to accept the
homage which I desire to make to you of my drama, and all those that
may succeed it, is to prove to you how much I desire the honor of
sheltering myself under your ægis, and adorning my writings with your
name. If you dain to honor me with the most modest offering, I will at
once set to work writing a coppy of verses, by which to pay you my debt
of grattitude. These verses, which I will try to render as perfect as
possible, will be sent to you before they are insirted in the beginning
of the drama, and produced on the stage.

"My most respectful homage to Monsieur and Madame Pabourgeot,

"GENFLOT, _man of letters._

"P.S. If it was only forty sous. I appologize for sending my daughter,
and not paying my respects personaly, but sad reasons of dress do not
allow me, alas! to go out."

Marius then opened the last letter, which was addressed "To the
Benevolent gentleman of the church of St. Jacques du Haut-pas," and it
contained the following few lines:--

"BENEVOLENT MAN,--If you will dain to accompany my daughter you will
witness a misserable calamity, and I will show you my certificates.

"At the sight of these dokuments your generous soul will be moved
by a feeling of sensitive benevolence, for true philosophers always
experience lively emotions.

"Allow, compasionate man, that a man must experience the most cruel
want, and that it is very painful to obtain any relief, by having it
attested by the authorities, as if a man were not at liberty to suffer
and die of inanicion, while waiting till our missery is releaved. Fate
is too cruel to some and too lavish or protecting for others. I await
your presence or your offering, if you dain to make one, and I beg you
to believe in the grateful feelings with which I have the honor of
being, really magnamious sir,

"Your very humble, and most obedient servant, "P. FABANTOU, _dramatic

After reading these four letters Marius did not find himself much
more advanced than before. In the first place not one of the writers
gave his address; and next they appeared to come from four different
individuals,--"Don Alvarez, Madame Balizard, the poet Genflot, and the
dramatic artist Fabantou;" but these letters offered this peculiarity,
that they were all in the same handwriting. What could be concluded
from this, save that they came from the same person? Moreover--and this
rendered the conjecture even more probable--the paper, which was coarse
and yellow, was the same for all four, the tobacco smell was the same,
and though an attempt had evidently been made to vary the handwriting,
the same orthographical mistakes were reproduced with the most profound
tranquillity, and Genflot, the man of letters, was no more exempt from
them than the Spanish captain. To strive and divine this mystery was
time thrown away, and if he had not picked it up it would have looked
like a mystification; Marius was too sad to take kindly even a jest
of accident, and lend himself to a game which the street pavement
appeared desirous to play with him. He felt as if he were playing at
blind-man's-buff among these four letters and they were mocking him.
Nothing, besides, indicated that these letters belonged to the girls
whom Marius had met in the boulevard. After all they were papers
evidently of no value. Marius returned them to the envelope, threw the
lot into a corner, and went to bed.

At about seven in the morning he had got up and breakfasted, and was
trying to set to work, when there came a gentle tap at the door. As he
possessed nothing he never took out his key, except very rarely when he
had a pressing job to finish. As a rule, even when out, he left the key
in the lock. "You will be robbed," said Mame Bougon. "Of what?" Marius
asked. It is a fact, however, that one day a pair of old boots were
stolen, to the great triumph of Mame Bougon. There was a second knock,
quite as gentle as the first.

"Come in," said Marius.

The door opened.

"What is the matter, Mame Bougon?" Marius continued, without taking his
eyes off the books and manuscripts on his table.

A voice which was not Mame Bougon's replied,--"I beg your pardon, sir."

It was a hollow, cracked, choking voice,--the voice of an old man,
rendered hoarse by dram-drinking and exposure to the cold. Marius
turned sharply and noticed a girl.



A very young girl was standing in the half-open door. The sky-light,
through which light entered, was exactly opposite the door, and threw
upon this face a sallow gleam. She was a pale, wretched, fleshless
creature, and had only a chemise and a petticoat upon her shivering and
frozen nudity. For waist-belt she had a piece of string, for head-dress
another; pointed shoulders emerged from her chemise; she was of a
yellow lymphatic pallor, cadaverous collar-bones, hands red, mouth half
open and degraded, with few teeth, the eye was sunken and hollow, and
she had the outline of an abortive girl and the look of a corrupted old
woman, or fifty years blended with fifteen. She was one of those beings
who are at once weak and horrible, and who make those shudder whom they
do not cause to weep.

Marius had risen, and was gazing with a species of stupor at this
being, who almost resembled the shadows that traverse dreams. What was
most crushing of all was, that this girl had not come into the world to
be ugly, and in her childhood she must even have been pretty. The grace
of youth was still struggling with the hideous and premature senility
of debauchery and poverty. A remnant of beauty was expiring on this
countenance of sixteen, like the pallid sun which dies out under the
frightful clouds on the dawn of a winter's day. This face was not
absolutely strange to Marius, and he fancied that he had already seen
it somewhere.

"What do you want, miss?" he asked.

The girl replied, with her drunken galley-slave's voice,--

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

She addressed him by name, and hence he could not doubt but that she
had business with him; but who was this girl, and how did she know
his name? Without waiting for any authority, she walked in, walked in
boldly, looking around her with a sort of assurance that contracted the
heart, at the whole room and the unmade bed. Her feet were bare, and
large holes in her petticoat displayed her long legs and thin knees.
She was shivering, and held in her hand a letter, which she offered
to Marius. On opening the letter, he noticed that the large, clumsy
wafer was still damp, which proved that the missive had not come a long
distance, and he read:--

"MY AMIABLE NEIGHBOR AND YOUNG SIR,--I have herd of your kindness to
me, and that you paid my half-year's rent six months ago. I bless you
for it, young sir. My eldest daughter will tell you that we have been
without a morsel of bread for two days,--four persons, and my wife ill.
If I am not deseived in my opinion, I dare to hope that your generous
heart will be affected by this statement, and will subject you to the
desire to be propicious to me, by daining to lavish on me a trifling

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


"P. S. My daughter will wait for your orders, my dear Monsieur Marius."

This letter, in the midst of the obscure adventure which had been
troubling Marius since the previous evening, was like a candle in a
cellar; all was suddenly lit up. This letter came from where the other
letters came. It was the same handwriting, the same style, the same
orthography, the same paper, and the same tobacco smell. They were
five letters, five stories, five names, five signatures, and only one
writer. The Spanish captain Don Alvarez, the unhappy mother Balizard,
the dramatic author Genflot, and the old comedian Fabantou, were all
four Jondrette, if, indeed, Jondrette's name were really Jondrette.

During the lengthened period that Marius had lived in this house, he
had, as we stated, but rare occasions to see, or even catch a glimpse
of, his very low neighbors; His mind was elsewhere, and where the mind
is there is the eye. He must have passed the Jondrettes more than
once in the passage and on the stairs, but they were to him merely
shadows. He had paid so little attention to them, that on the previous
evening he had run against the Jondrette girls on the boulevard without
recognizing them, for it was evidently they, and it was with great
difficulty that the girl, who had just entered the room, aroused
in him, through disgust and pity, a vague fancy that he had met her
somewhere before.

Now he saw everything clearly. He comprehended that his neighbor
Jondrette had hit upon the trade in his distress of working upon the
charity of benevolent persons, that he procured addresses and wrote
under supposititious names, to people whom he supposed to be rich and
charitable, letters which his children delivered at their risk and
peril, for this father had attained such a stage that he hazarded
his daughters; he was gambling with destiny and staked them. Marius
comprehended that, in all probability, judging from their flight of the
previous evening, their panting, their terror, and the slang words he
overheard, these unfortunates carried on some other dark trades, and
the result of all this was, in the heart of human society such as it is
constituted, two wretched beings, who were neither children, nor girls,
nor women, but a species of impure and innocent monsters, which were
the produce of wretchedness; melancholy beings without age, name, or
sex, to whom neither good nor evil is any longer possible, and who, on
emerging from childhood, have nothing left in the world, not liberty,
nor virtue, nor responsibility; souls that expanded yesterday and are
faded to-day, like the flowers which have fallen in the street and are
plashed by the mud while waiting till a wheel crushes them.

While Marius was bending on the young girl an astonished and painful
glance, she was walking about the garret with the boldness of a
spectre, and without troubling herself in the slightest about her
state of nudity. At some moments her unfastened and torn chemise fell
almost to her waist. She moved the chairs about, disturbed the toilette
articles on the chest of drawers, felt Marius's clothes, and rummaged
in every corner.

"Why," she said, "you have a looking-glass!"

And she hummed, as if she had been alone, bits of vaudeville songs and
wild choruses, which her guttural and hoarse voice rendered mournful.
But beneath this boldness there was something constrained, alarmed, and
humiliated, for effrontery is a disgrace. Nothing could well be more
sad than to see her fluttering about the room with the movement of a
broken-winged bird startled by a dog. It was palpable that with other
conditions of education and destiny, the gay and free demeanor of this
girl might have been something gentle and charming. Among animals, the
creature born to be a dove is never changed into an osprey; that is
only possible with men. Marius was thinking, and left her alone, and
she walked up to the table.

"Ah!" she said, "books."

A gleam darted from her glassy eye: she continued, and her accent
expressed the attitude of being able to boast of something to which no
human creature is insensible,--

"I know how to read."

She quickly seized the book lying on the table, and read rather

"General Bauduin received orders to carry with the five battalions of
his brigade the Château of Hougomont, which is in the centre of the
plain of Waterloo--"

She broke off.

"Ah, Waterloo, I know all about that. It was a battle in which my
father was engaged, for he served in the army. We are thorough
Bonapartists, we are. Waterloo was fought against the English."

She laid down the book, took up a pen, and exclaimed, "And I can write,

She dipped the pen in the ink, and turned to Marius, saying,--

"Would you like a proof? Stay, I will write a line to show you."

And ere he had time to answer she wrote on a sheet of white paper in
the middle of the table, "_Here are the slops_." Then throwing down the
pen, she added,--

"There are no errors in spelling, as you can see, for my sister and I
were well educated. We have not always been what we are now, we were
not made--"

Here she stopped, fixed her glassy eye on Marius, and burst into a
laugh, as she said, with an intonation which contained every possible
agony, blended with every possible cynicism,--


And then she began humming these words, to a lively air,--

    "J'ai faim, mon père,
    Pas de fricot.
    J'ai froid, ma mère,
    Pas de tricot.

She had scarce completed this verse, ere she exclaimed,--

"Do you ever go to the play, Monsieur Marius? I do so. I have a brother
who is a friend of the actors, and gives me tickets every now and then.
I don't care for the gallery much, though, for you are so squeezed up;
at times too there are noisy people there, and others who smell bad."

Then she stared at Marius, gave him a strange look, and said to him,--

"Do you know, M. Marius, that you are a very good-looking fellow!"

And at the same moment the same thought occurred to both, which made
her smile and him blush. She walked up to him, and laid a hand upon
his shoulder,--"You don't pay any attention to me, but I know you,
M. Marius. I meet you here on the staircase, and then I see you go
into the house of the one called Father Mabœuf, who lives over at
Austerlitz, sometimes when I go that way. Your curly hair becomes you
very well."

Her voice tried to be very soft, and only succeeded in being very low;
a part of her words was lost in the passage from the larynx to the
lips, as on a piano-forte some keys of which are broken. Marius had
gently recoiled.

"I have a packet," he said, with his cold gravity, "which, I believe,
belongs to you. Allow me to deliver it to you."

And he handed her the envelope which contained the four letters; she
clapped her hands and said,--

"We looked for it everywhere."

Then she quickly seized the parcel and undid the envelope, while

"Lord of Lords! how my sister and I did look for it! And so you found
it,--on the boulevard, did you not? It must have been there. You see,
it was dropped while we were running, and it was my brat of a sister
who was such an ass. When we got home we could not find it, and as we
did not wish to be beaten,--which is unnecessary, which is entirely
unnecessary, which is absolutely unnecessary,--we said at home that
we had delivered the letters, and that the answer was Nix! And here
are the poor letters! Well, and how did you know that they were mine?
Ob, yes, by the writing. So, then, it was you that we ran against last
night? We could not see anything, and I said to my sister, 'Is it a
gentleman?' and she answered, 'Yes, I think it is a gentleman.'"

While saying this she had unfolded the petition addressed "To the
Benevolent gentleman of the church of St. Jacques du Haut-pas."

"Hilloh!" she said, "this is the one for the old swell who goes to
Mass. Why, 't is just the hour, and I will carry it to him. He will
perhaps give us something for breakfast."

Then she burst into a laugh, and added,--

"Do you know what it will be if we breakfast to-day? We shall have our
breakfast of the day before yesterday, our dinner of the day before
yesterday, our breakfast of yesterday, our dinner of yesterday, all at
once this morning. Well, hang it all! if you are not satisfied, rot,

This reminded Marius of what the hapless girl had come to get from
him; he fumbled in his waistcoat, but found nothing. The girl went on,
and seemed speaking as if no longer conscious of the presence of Marius.

"Sometimes I go out at night. Sometimes I do not come home. Before we
came here last winter we lived under the arches of the bridges, and
kept close together not to be frozen. My little sister cried. How sad
the water is! When I thought of drowning myself, I said, 'No, it is
too cold,' I go about all alone when I like, and sleep at times in
ditches. Do you know, at night, when I walk along the boulevard, I see
trees like forks, I see black houses as tall as the towers of Notre
Dame, I fancy that the white walls are the river, and I say to myself,
'Why, there is water!' The stars are like illumination lamps, and you
might say that they smoke, and the wind puts them out I feel stunned,
as if my hair was lashing my ears; however the night may be, I hear
barrel-organs and spinning machinery, but what do I know? I fancy that
stones are being thrown at me, and I run away unconsciously, for all
turns round me. When you have not eaten it is funny."

And she gazed at him with haggard eyes.

After feeling in the depths of all his pockets, Marius succeeded in
getting together five francs sixteen sous; it was at this moment
all that he possessed in the world. "Here is my to-days dinner," he
thought, "and to-morrow will take care of itself." He kept the sixteen
sous, and gave the girl the five-franc piece, which she eagerly

"Good!" she said, "there is sunshine."

And, as if the sunshine had the property of melting in her brain
avalanches of slang, she went on,--

"Five francs! a shiner! a monarch! in this crib! that's stunning! Well,
you 're a nice kid, and I do the humble to you. Two days' drink and a
bully feed,--a feast; we 're well fixed. Hurrah, pals!"

She pulled her chemise up over her shoulders, gave Marius a deep
courtesy and a familiar wave of the hand, and walked toward the door,

"Good day, sir; but no matter, I'll go and find my old swell."

As she passed she noticed on the drawers an old crust of dry bread
mouldering in the dust; she caught it up, and bit into it savagely,

"It is good, it is hard; it breaks my teeth!"

Then she left the room.



Marius had lived for the past five years in poverty, want, and even
distress, but he now saw that he had never known what real misery was,
and he had just witnessed it; it was the phantom which bad just passed
before him. For, in truth, he who has only seen man's misery has seen
nothing, he must see woman's misery; while he who has seen woman's
misery has seen nothing, for he must see the misery of the child. When
man has reached the last extremity he has also reached the limit of
his resources; and then, woe to the defenceless beings that surround
him! Work, wages, bread, fire, courage, and food will all fail him at
once; the light of day seems extinguished outside, the moral light is
extinguished within him. In these shadows man comes across the weakness
of the wife and the child, and violently bends them to ignominy.

In such a case every horror is possible, and despair is surrounded by
thin partitions which all open upon vice and crime. Health, youth,
honor, the sacred and retiring delicacy of the still innocent flesh,
the heart-virginity and modesty, that epidermis of the soul, are
foully clutched by this groping hand, which seeks resources, finds
opprobrium, and puts up with it.

Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, men, women, and girls, adhere
and are aggregated almost like a mineral formation in this misty
promiscuity of sexes, relations, ages, infamies, and innocencies.
Leaning against each other, they crouch in a species of den of destiny,
and look at each other lamentably. Oh, the unfortunates! how pale they
are! how cold they are! It seems as if they belong to a planet much
farther from the sun than our own.

This girl was to Marius a sort of emissary from the darkness, and she
revealed to him a hideous side of night. Marius almost reproached
himself for the preoccupations of reverie and passion which, up to this
day, had prevented him from taking a glance at his neighbors. To have
paid their rent was a mechanical impulse, which any one might have had;
but he, Marius, ought to have done better. What, only a wall separated
himself from these abandoned creatures, who lived groping in night,
beyond the pale of other living beings! He elbowed them, he was to some
extent the last link of the human race which they could touch; he heard
them living, or rather dying, by his side, and he paid no attention to
them! Every moment of the day he heard them, through the wall, coming,
going, and talking--and he did not listen! and in their words were
groans, and he did not hear them! His thoughts were elsewhere,--engaged
with dreams, impossible sun-beams, loves in the air, and follies; and
yet, human creatures, his brethren in Christ, his brethren in the
people, were slowly dying by his side, dying unnecessarily! He even
formed part of their misfortune, and he aggravated it. For, if they had
had another neighbor, a neighbor more attentive, less chimerical, an
ordinary and charitable man, their indigence would evidently have been
noticed, their signals of distress perceived, and they might perhaps
have been picked up and saved long before. They doubtless seemed very
depraved, very corrupt, very vile, and indeed very odious; but persons
who fall without being degraded are rare; besides, there is a stage
where the unfortunate and the infamous are mingled and confounded in
one word,--a fatal word, "Les Misérables," and with whom lies the
fault? And then, again, should not the charity be the greater the
deeper the fall is?

While reading himself this lecture,--for there were occasions on
which Marius was his own pedagogue, and reproached himself more than
he deserved,--he looked at the wall which separated him from the
Jondrettes, as if his pitying glance could pass through the partition
and warm the unhappy beings. The wall was a thin coating of plaster
supported by laths and beams, and which, as we have stated, allowed
the murmurs of words and voices to be distinctly heard. A man must be
a dreamer like Marius not to have noticed the fact before. No paper
was hung on either side of the wall, and its clumsy construction was
plainly visible. Almost unconsciously Marius examined this partition;
for at times reverie examines, scrutinizes, and observes much as
thought does. All at once he rose, for he had just noticed near the
ceiling a triangular hole produced by the gap between three laths. The
plaster which once covered this hole had fallen off, and by getting on
his chest of drawers he could see through this aperture into the room
of the Jondrettes. Commiseration has, and should have, its curiosity,
and it is permissible to regard misfortune traitorously when we wish to
relieve it. "Let me see," thought Marius, "what these people are like,
and what state they are in." He clambered on the drawers, put his eye
to the hole, and looked.



Cities, like forests, have their dens, in which everything that is
most wicked and formidable conceals itself. The only difference is,
that what hides itself thus in cities is ferocious, unclean, and
little, that is to say, ugly; what conceals itself in the forests is
ferocious, savage, and grand, that is to say, beautiful. Den for den,
those of the beasts are preferable to those of men; and caverns are
better than hiding-places. What Marius saw was a low den. Marius was
poor, and his room was indigent; but in the same way as his poverty
was noble his room was clean. The garret into which he was now looking
was abject, dirty, fetid, infectious, dark, and sordid. The furniture
only consisted of a straw-bottomed chair, a rickety table, some old
broken glass, and in the corners two indescribable beds. The only light
came through a sky-light with four panes of glass and festooned with
spider-webs. Through this came just sufficient light for the face of a
man to seem the face of a spectre. The walls had a leprous look, and
were covered with gashes and scars, like a face disfigured by some
horrible disease, and a dim moisture oozed from them. Obscene designs,
clumsily drawn in charcoal, could be distinguished on them.

The room which Marius occupied had a broken-brick flooring, but in
this one people walked on the old plaster of the hovel, grown black
under the feet. Upon this uneven flooring, in which the dust was, so to
speak, incrusted, and which bad but one virginity, that of the broom,
were capriciously grouped constellations of old shoes, boots, and
frightful rags; this room, however, had a chimney, and for this reason
was let at forty francs a year. There was something of everything in
this fire-place,--a chafing-dish, a pot, some broken planks, rags
hanging from nails, a bird-cage, ashes, and even a little fire,
for two logs were smoking there sadly. A thing which augmented the
horror of this garret was the fact of its being large; it had angles,
nooks, black holes under the roof, bays, and promontories. Hence
came frightful inscrutable corners, in which it seemed as if spiders
large as a fist, woodlice as large as a foot, and possibly some human
monsters, must lurk.

One of the beds was near the door, the other near the window, but
the ends of both ran down to the mantel-piece, and faced Marius. In
a corner near the hole through which Marius was peeping, a colored
engraving in a black wood frame, under which was written in large
letters, THE DREAM, hung against the wall. It represented a sleeping
woman and a sleeping child, the child lying on the woman's knees, an
eagle in the clouds with a crown in its beak, and the woman removing
the crown from the child's head, without awaking it, however; in
the background Napoleon, surrounded by a glory, was leaning against
a dark blue column with a yellow capital, that bore the following


Below this frame a sort of wooden panel, longer than it was wide, was
placed on the ground and leaning against the wall. It looked like a
picture turned from the spectator, or some sign-board detached from a
wall and forgotten there while waiting to be hung again. At the table,
on which Marius noticed pen, ink, and paper, a man was seated of about
sixty years of age, short, thin, livid, haggard, with a sharp, cruel,
and listless look,--a hideous scamp. If Lavater had examined this face
he would have found in it the vulture blended with the attorney's
clerk; the bird of prey and the man of trickery rendering each other
more ugly and more perfect,--the man of trickery rendering the bird
of prey ignoble, and the bird of prey rendering the man of trickery
horrible. This man had a long gray beard, and wore a woman's chemise,
which allowed his hairy chest, and naked arms bristling with gray
hairs, to be seen. Under this chemise might be noticed muddy trousers,
and boots out of which his toes stuck. He had a pipe in his mouth, and
Was smoking; there was no bread in the garret, but there was still
tobacco. He was writing, probably some letter like those which Marius
had read. On one corner of the table could be seen an old broken-backed
volume, the form of which, the old 12mo of circulating libraries,
indicated a romance; on the cover figured the following title, printed
DUMINIL, 1814. While writing, the man was talking aloud, and Marius
heard his words:--

"Only to think that there is no equality, even when a man is dead!
Just look at Père Lachaise! The great ones, those who are rich, are up
above, in the Acacia Avenue which is paved, and reach it in a coach.
The little folk, the poor people, the wretched,--they are put down at
the bottom where there is mud up to your knees, in holes and damp, and
they are placed there that they may rot all the sooner. You can't go to
see them without sinking into the ground."

Here he stopped, smote the table with his fist, and added, while be
gnashed his teeth,--

"Oh! I could eat the world!"

A stout woman, who might be forty or one hundred, was crouched up near
the chimney-piece on her naked heels. She too was only dressed in a
chemise and a cotton petticoat, pieced with patches of old cloth, and
an apron of coarse canvas concealed one half of the petticoat. Though
this woman was sitting all of a heap, you could see that she was
very tall, and a species of giantess by her husband's side. She had
frightful hair, of a reddish auburn, beginning to turn gray, which she
thrust back every now and then with the enormous strong hands with
flat nails. By her side, on the ground, was lying an open volume, of
the same form as the other, probably part of the same romance. On one
of the beds Marius caught a glimpse of a long, ghastly young girl,
sitting up almost naked, and with hanging feet, who did not seem to
hear, see, or live; she was, doubtless, the younger sister of the one
who had come to him. She appeared to be eleven or twelve years of age,
but on examining her attentively it could be seen that she was at least
fourteen; it was the girl who said on the boulevard the previous night,
"I bolted, bolted, bolted." She was of that sickly class who keep down
for a long time and then shoot up quickly and suddenly. It is indigence
which produces these human plants, and these creatures have neither
infancy nor adolescence. At fifteen they seem twelve, and at sixteen
they appear twenty: to-day it is a little girl, to-morrow a woman; we
might almost say that they stride through life in order to reach the
end more rapidly; at this moment, however, she had the look of a child.

In this lodging there was not the slightest sign of work; not a loom,
a spinning-wheel, or a single tool, but in one corner were some iron
implements of dubious appearance. It was that dull indolence which
follows despair and precedes death. Marius gazed for some time at
this mournful interior, which was more terrifying than the interior
of a tomb, for the human soul could be seen stirring in it and life
palpitating. The garret, the cellar, the hole in which some indigent
people crawl in the lowest part of the social edifice, is not exactly
the sepulchre, but it is the antechamber to it; but like those rich
men who display their greatest magnificence at the entrance to their
palace, it seems that death, which is close at hand, places all its
greatest wretchedness in this vestibule. The man was silent, the woman
did not speak, and the girl did not seem to breathe; the pen could be
heard moving across the paper. The man growled, without ceasing to
write, "Scoundrels, scoundrels, all are scoundrels!"

The variation upon Solomon's exclamation drew a sigh from the wife.

"Calm yourself, my love," she said, "do not hurt yourself, darling. You
are too good to write to all those people, dear husband."

In misery bodies draw more closely together, as in cold weather, but
hearts are estranged. This woman, to all appearance, must have loved
this man with the amount of love within her, but probably this had
been extinguished in the daily and mutual reproaches of the frightful
distress that pressed upon the whole family, and she now had only
the ashes of affection for her husband within her. Still, caressing
appellations, as frequently happens, had survived: she called him
_darling, pet, husband_, with her lips, but her heart was silent. The
man continued to write.



Marius, with an aching heart, was just going to descend from the
species of observatory which he had improvised, when a noise attracted
his attention and made him remain at his post. The door of the garret
was suddenly opened, and the elder daughter appeared on the threshold.
She had on her feet clumsy men's shoes covered with mud, which had even
plashed her red ankles, and she was covered with an old ragged cloak,
which Marius had not noticed an hour previously, and which she had
probably left at his door in order to inspire greater sympathy, and
put on again when she went out. She came in, shut the door after her,
stopped to catch breath, for she was panting, and then cried, with an
expression of triumph and joy,--

"He is coming!"

The father turned his eyes to her, the mother turned her head, and the
little girl did not move.

"Who?" the father asked.

"The gentleman."

"The philanthropist?"


"From the church of St. Jacques?"

"Yes. He is following me."

"Are you sure?"

"He is coming in a hackney coach, I tell you."

"A hackney coach! Why, it is Rothschild!"

The father rose.

"Why are you sure? If he is coming in a coach, how is it that you got
here before him? Did you give him the address, and are you certain you
told him the last door on the right in the passage? I only hope he will
not make a mistake. Did you find him at church? Did he read my letter,
and what did he say to you?"

"Ta, ta, ta," said the girl, "how you gallop, my good man! I went into
the church, he was at his usual place; I made a courtesy and handed
him the letter; he read it, and said to me, 'Where do you live, my
child?' I said, I will show you the way, sir;' he said, 'No, give me
your address, for my daughter has some purchases to make. I will take
a hackney coach, and be at your abode as soon as you.' I gave him
the address, and when I mentioned the house he seemed surprised, and
hesitated for a moment, but then said, 'No matter, I will go.' When
Mass was over I saw him leave the church and get into a coach with his
daughter. And I carefully told him the last door on the right at the
end of the passage."

"And what tells you that he will come?"

"I have just seen the coach turn into the Rue du Petit Banquier, and
that is why I ran."

"How do you know it is the same coach?"

"Because I noticed the number, of course."

"What was it?"

"Four hundred and forty."

"Good I you are a clever girl."

The girl looked boldly at her father, and said, as she pointed to the
shoes on her feet,--

"It is possible that I am a clever girl; but I say that I will not put
on those shoes again; in the first place, on account of my health, and
secondly, for the sake of decency. I know nothing more annoying than
shoes which are too big for you, and go ghi, ghi, ghi, along the road.
I would sooner be barefooted."

"You are right," the father replied, in a gentle voice, which
contrasted with the girl's rudeness; "but the poor are not admitted
into churches unless they wear shoes; God's presence must not be
entered barefoot," he added bitterly. Then he returned to the object
that occupied him.

"And so you are sure that he will come?"

"He is at my heels," she replied.

The man drew himself up, and there was a species of illumination on his

"Wife," he cried, "you hear! Here is the philanthropist; put out the

The stupefied mother did not stir, but the father, with the agility of
a mountebank, seized the cracked pot, which stood on the chimney-piece,
and threw water on the logs. Then he said to his elder daughter,--

"Pull the straw out of the chair."

As his daughter did not understand him, he seized the chair and kicked
the seat out; his leg passed through it, and while drawing it out, he
asked the girl,--

"Is it cold?"

"Very cold; it is snowing."

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

"Come off the bed directly, idler; you never will do anything: break a
pane of glass!"

The little girl jumped off the bed, shivering.

"Break a pane!" he continued.

The girl was quite stunned, and did not move.

"Do you hear me?" the father repeated; "I tell you to break a pane."

The child, with a sort of terrified obedience, stood on tip-toe and
broke a pane with her fist; the glass fell with a great crash.

"All right!" said the father.

He was serious and active, and his eye rapidly surveyed every corner
of the garret; he was like a general who makes his final preparations
at the moment when an action is about to begin. The mother, who had
not yet said a word, rose and asked in a slow, dull voice, the words
seeming to issue as if frozen,--

"Darling, what do you intend to do?"

"Go to bed!" the man replied.

The tone admitted of no deliberation, the mother obeyed, and threw
herself heavily on one of the beds. A sobbing was now audible in a

"What is that?" the father cried.

The younger girl, without leaving the gloom in which she was crouching,
showed her bleeding hand. In breaking the glass she had cut herself;
she had crawled close to her mother's bed, and was now crying
silently. It was the mother's turn to draw herself up and cry:--

"You see what nonsensical acts you commit! She has cut herself in
breaking the window."

"All the better," said the man; "I expected it."

"How all the better?" the woman continued.

"Silence!" the father replied. "I suppress the liberty of the press."

Then, tearing the chemise which he wore, he made a bandage, with which
he quickly wrapped up the girl's bleeding hand; this done, his eye
settled on the torn shirt with satisfaction.

"And the shirt too!" he said; "all this looks well."

An icy blast blew through the pane and entered the room. The external
fog penetrated it, and dilated like a white wadding pulled open by
invisible fingers. The snow could be seen falling through the broken
pane, and the cold promised by the Candlemas sun had really arrived.
The father took a look around him, as if to make sure that he had
forgotten nothing, then he fetched an old shovel and strewed the ashes
over the wet logs so as to conceal them entirely. Then getting up and
leaning against the chimney-piece, he said,--

"Now we can receive the philanthropist."



The elder girl walked up to her father and laid her hand in his.

"Just feel how cold I am!" she said.

"Stuff!" the father answered; "I am much colder than that."

The mother cried impetuously,--

"You always have everything more than others, even evil."

"Off with you!" said the man.

The mother, looked at by him in a certain way, held her tongue, and
there was a momentary silence in the den. The elder girl was carelessly
removing the mud from the edge of her cloak, and her younger sister
continued to sob. The mother had taken her head between her hands, and
covered it with kisses, while whispering,--

"Pray do not go on so, my treasure; it will be nothing, so don't cry,
or you will vex your father."

"No," the father cried, "on the contrary, sob away, for that does good."

Then he turned to the elder girl,--

"Why, he is not coming! Suppose he were not to come! I should have
broken my pane, put out my fire, unseated my chair, and torn my shirt
all for nothing."

"And hurt the little one," the mother murmured.

"Do you know," the father continued, "that it is infernally cold in
this devil's own garret? Suppose the man did not come! But no, he is
keeping us waiting, and says to himself, 'Well, they will wait my
pleasure, they are sent into the world for that!' Oh, how I hate the
rich, and with what joy, jubilation, enthusiasm, and satisfaction would
I strangle them all! All the rich, I say,--those pretended charitable
men who play the devout, attend Mass, keep in with the priests and
believe themselves above us, and who come to humiliate us and bring
us clothes! How they talk! They bring us old rubbish not worth four
sous, and bread; but it is not _that_ I want, you pack of scoundrels,
but money. Ah, money! Never! because they say that we would go and
drink, and that we are drunkards and idlers. And they--what are they,
pray, and what have they been in their time? Thieves, for they could
not have grown rich without that. Oh, society ought to be taken by the
four corners of a table-cloth and the whole lot thrown into the air!
All would be broken, very possibly, but at any rate no one would have
anything, and that would be so much gained! But what is your humbug
of a benevolent gentleman about? Will he come? Perhaps the ass has
forgotten the address. I will bet that the old brute--"

At this moment there was a gentle tap at the door; the man rushed
forward and opened it, while exclaiming with deep bows and smiles of

"Come in, sir; deign to enter, my respected benefactor, as well as your
charming daughter."

A man of middle age and a young lady stood in the doorway; Marius had
not left his post, and what he felt at this moment is beyond the human

It was SHE; and any one who has loved knows the radiant meaning
conveyed in the three letters that form the word SHE. It was certainly
she, though Marius could hardly distinguish her through the luminous
vapor which had suddenly spread over his eyes. It was the gentle
creature he had lost, the star which had gleamed on him for six
months; it was the forehead, the mouth,--the lovely mouth which
had produced night by departing. The eclipse was over, and she now
reappeared,--reappeared in this darkness, in this attic, in this filthy
den, in this horror. Marius trembled. What! it was she! The palpitation
of his heart affected his sight, and he felt ready to burst into tears.
What! he saw her again after seeking her so long! It seemed to him as
if he had lost his soul and had just found it again. She was still
the same, though perhaps a little paler; her delicate face was framed
in a violet velvet bonnet, and her waist was hidden by a black satin
pelisse; a glimpse of her little foot in a silk boot could be caught
under her long dress. She was accompanied by M. Leblanc, and she walked
into the room and placed a rather large parcel on the table. The elder
girl had withdrawn behind the door, and looked with a jealous eye at
the velvet bonnet, the satin pelisse, and the charming, happy face.



The garret was so dark that persons who came into it felt much as if
they were going into a cellar. The two new-comers, therefore, advanced
with some degree of hesitation, scarce distinguishing the vague forms
around them, while they were perfectly seen and examined by the eyes
of the denizens in the attic, who were accustomed to this gloom. M.
Leblanc walked up to Father Jondrette, with his sad and gentle smile,
and said,--

"You will find in this parcel, sir, new apparel, woollen stockings, and

"Our angelic benefactor overwhelms us," Jondrette said, bowing to
the ground; then, bending down to the ear of his elder daughter, he
added in a hurried whisper, while the two visitors were examining this
lamentable interior,--

"Did I not say so,--clothes, but no money? They are all alike. By the
way, how was the letter to the old ass signed?"


"The actor,--all right."

It was lucky that Jondrette asked this, for at the same moment M.
Leblanc turned to him, and said with the air of a person who is trying
to remember the name,--

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

"Fabantou," Jondrette quickly added.

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

"An actor, sir, who has been successful in his time."

Here Jondrette evidently believed the moment arrived to trap his
philanthropist, and he shouted in a voice which had some of the bombast
of the country showman, and the humility of the professional beggar,
--"A pupil of Talma, sir! I am a pupil of Talma! Fortune smiled upon
me formerly, but now, alas! the turn of misfortune has arrived. You
see, my benefactor, we have no bread, no fire. My poor children have
no fire. My sole chair without a seat! a pane of glass broken, in such
weather as this! my wife in bed, ill!"

"Poor woman!" said M. Leblanc.

"My child hurt," Jondrette added.

The child, distracted by the arrival of the strangers, was staring at
the "young lady," and ceased sobbing.

"Cry, I tell you; roar!" Jondrette whispered to her. At the same time
he squeezed her bad hand. All this was done with the talent of a
conjurer. The little one uttered piercing cries, and the adorable girl
whom Marius called in his heart "his Ursule," eagerly went up to her.

"Poor dear child!" she said.

"You see, respected young lady," Jondrette continued, "her hand is
bleeding. It is the result of an accident which happened to her while
working at a factory to earn six sous a day. It is possible that her
arm will have to be cut off."

"Really?" the old gentleman said in alarm.

The little girl, taking this remark seriously, began sobbing again her

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

For some minutes past Jondrette had been looking at the
"philanthropist" in a peculiar way, and while speaking seemed to be
scrutinizing him attentively, as if trying to collect his remembrances.
All at once, profiting by a moment during which the new-comers were
questioning the little girl about her injured hand, he passed close to
his wife, who was tying in her bed with a surprised and stupid air, and
said to her in a hurried whisper,--

"Look at that man!"

Then he turned to M. Leblanc, and continued his lamentations.

"Look, sir! my sole clothing consists of a chemise of my wife's, all
torn, in the heart of winter. I cannot go out for want of a coat, and
if I had the smallest bit of a coat I would go and call on Mademoiselle
Mars, who knows me, and is much attached to me. Does she still live
in the Rue de la Tour des Dames? Do you know, sir, that we played
together in the provinces, and that I shared her laurels? Célimène
would come to my help, sir, and Elmire give alms to Belisarius. But
no, nothing, and not a halfpenny piece in the house! my wife ill,--not
a son! my daughter dangerously injured,--not a son! My wife suffers
from shortness of breath; it comes from her age, and then the nervous
system is mixed up in it. She requires assistance, and so does my
daughter. But the physician and the apothecary, how are they to be
paid if I have not a farthing? I would kneel down before a penny, sir.
You see to what the arts are reduced! And do you know, my charming
young lady, and you my generous protector, who exhale virtue and
goodness, and who perfume the church where my poor child sees you daily
when she goes to say her prayers,--for I am bringing up my daughters
religiously, sir, and did not wish them to turn to the stage. Ah,
the jades, let me see them trip! I do not jest, sir; I give them
lectures on honor, morality, and virtue. Just ask them,--they must go
straight,--for they have a father. They are not wretched girls who
begin by having no family, and finish by marrying the public. Such a
girl is Miss Nobody, and becomes Madame i All-the-World. There must be
nothing of that sort in the Fabantou family! I intend to educate them
virtuously, and they must be respectable, and honest, and believe in
God,--confound it! Well, sir, worthy sir, do you know what will happen
to-morrow? To-morrow is the fatal 4th of February, the last respite
my landlord has granted me, and if I do not pay my rent by to-night,
my eldest daughter, myself, my wife with her fever, my child with her
wound, will be all four of us turned out of here into the street,
shelterless in the rain and snow. That is the state of the case, sir! I
owe four quarters,--a year's rent,--that is to say, sixty francs."

Jondrette lied, for four quarters would only have been forty francs,
and he could not owe four, as it was not six months since Marius had
paid two for him. M. Leblanc took a five-franc piece from his pocket
and threw it on the table. Jondrette had time to growl in his grown-up
daughter's ear,--

"The scamp! what does he expect me to do with his five francs? They
will not pay for the chair and pane of glass! There's the result of
making an outlay!"

In the mean while M. Leblanc had taken off a heavy brown coat, which he
wore over his blue one, and thrown it on the back of a chair.

"Monsieur Fabantou," he said, "I have only these five francs about
me, but I will take my daughter home and return to-night. Is it not
to-night that you have to pay?"

Jondrette's face was lit up with a strange expression, and he hurriedly

"Yes, respected sir, I must be with my landlord by eight o'clock."

"I will be here by six, and bring you the sixty francs."

"My benefactor!" Jondrette exclaimed wildly; and he added in a

"Look at him carefully, wife."

M. Leblanc had given his arm to the lovely young lady, and was turning
to the door.

"Till this evening, my friends," he said.

"At six o'clock?" Jondrette asked.

"At six o'clock precisely."

At this moment the overcoat left on the back of the chair caught the
eye of the elder girl.

"Sir," she said, "you are forgetting your greatcoat."

Jondrette gave his daughter a crushing glance, accompanied by a
formidable shrug of the shoulders, but M. Leblanc turned and replied

"I do not forget it, I leave it."

"Oh, my protector," said Jondrette, "my august benefactor, I am melting
into tears! Permit me to conduct you to your coach."

"If you go out," M. Leblanc remarked, "put on that overcoat, for it is
really very cold."

Jondrette did not let this be said twice, but eagerly put on the
brown coat. Then they all three went out, Jondrette preceding the two



Marius had lost nothing of all this scene, and yet in reality he had
seen nothing. His eyes remained fixed on the maiden, his heart had, so
to speak, seized and entirely enfolded her from her first step into
the garret. During the whole time she had been there he had lived that
life of ecstasy which suspends material perceptions and concentrates
the whole mind upon one point. He contemplated not the girl, but the
radiance which was dressed in a satin pelisse and a velvet bonnet.
Had the planet Sirius entered the room he would not have been more
dazzled. While she was opening the parcel, and unfolding the clothes
and blankets, questioning the sick mother kindly, and the little
wounded girl tenderly, he watched her every movement, and tried to
hear her words. Though he knew her eyes, her forehead, her beauty, her
waist, and her walk, he did not know the sound of her voice. He fancied
that he had caught a few words once at the Luxembourg, but he was not
absolutely sure. He would have given ten years of his life to hear her,
and to carry off in his soul a little of this music; but all was lost
in the lamentable braying of Jondrette's trumpet. This mingled a real
anger with Marius's ravishment, and he devoured her with his eyes, for
he could not imagine that it was really this divine creature whom he
perceived among these unclean beings in this monstrous den; he fancied
that he saw a humming-bird among frogs.

When she left the room he had but one thought,--to follow her, to
attach himself to her trail, not to leave her till he knew where she
lived, or at least not to lose her again after having so miraculously
found her. He leaped off the drawers, and seized his hat, but just as
he laid his hand on the latch and was going out a reflection arrested
him; the passage was long, the staircase steep, Jondrette chattering,
and M. Leblanc had doubtless not yet got into his coach again. If,
turning in the passage or on the stairs, he were to perceive him,
Marius, in this house, he would assuredly be alarmed, and find means to
escape him again, and so all would be over for the second time. What
was to be done,--wait awhile? But during this delay the vehicle might
start off. Marius was perplexed, but at length risked it, and left the
room. There was no one in the passage, and he ran to the stairs, and as
there was no one upon them he hurried down and reached the boulevard
just in time to see a hackney coach turning the corner of the Rue du
Petit Banquier, on its road to Paris.

Marius rushed in that direction, and on reaching the corner of the
boulevard saw the hackney coach again rapidly rolling along the Rue
Mouffetard; it was already some distance off, and he had no means of
overtaking it. Running after it was an impossibility; and besides, a
man running at full speed after the vehicle would be seen from it, and
the father would recognize him. At this moment, by an extraordinary
and marvellous accident, Marius perceived a cab passing along the
boulevard, empty. There was only one thing to be done,--get into this
cab and follow the hackney coach; that was sure, efficacious, and
without danger. Marius made the driver a sign to stop, and shouted to
him, "By the hour!" Marius had no cravat on, he wore his old working
coat, from which buttons were missing, and one of the plaits of his
shirt was torn. The driver stopped, winked, and held out to Marius his
left hand as he gently rubbed his forefinger with his thumb.

"What do you mean?" Marius asked.

"Payment in advance," said the coachman.

Marius remembered that he had only sixteen sous in his pocket.

"How much is it?"

"Forty sous."

"I will pay on returning."

The driver, in reply, whistled the air of La Palisse, and lashed his
horse. Marius watched the cab go off with a haggard look; for the want
of twenty-four sous he lost his joy, his happiness, his love! He fell
back into night! He had seen, and was becoming blind again. He thought
bitterly, and, we must add, with deep regret, of the five francs which
he had given that very morning to the wretched girl. If he still had
them, he would be saved, would emerge from limbo and darkness, and be
drawn from isolation, spleen, and widowhood; he would have reattached
the black thread of his destiny to the beauteous golden thread which
had just floated before his eyes only to be broken again! He returned
to his garret in despair. He might have said to himself that M. Leblanc
had promised to return that evening, and that then he must contrive to
follow him better; but in his contemplation he had scarce heard him.

Just as he was going up the stairs he noticed on the other side of
the wall, and against the deserted wall of the Rue de la Barrière des
Gobelins, Jondrette, wrapped up in the "philanthropist's" overcoat, and
conversing with one of those ill-looking men who are usually called
prowlers at the barrière; men with equivocal faces and suspicious
soliloquies, who look as if they entertain evil thoughts, and most
usually sleep by day, which leads to the supposition that they work
at night. These two men, standing to talk in the snow, which was
falling heavily, formed a group which a policeman would certainly
have observed, but which Marius scarce noticed. Still, though his
preoccupation was so painful, he could not help saying to himself that
the man to whom Jondrette was talking was like a certain Panchaud,
_alias_ Printanier, _alias_ Bigrenaille, whom Courfeyrac had once
pointed out to him, and who was regarded in the quarter as a very
dangerous night-bird. This Panchaud afterwards figured in several
criminal trials, and eventually became a celebrated villain, though at
this time he was only a famous villain. At the present day he is in a
traditionary state among the bandits and burglars. He was the model
toward the end of the last reign, and people used to talk about him
in the Lion's den at La Force, at nightfall, at the hour when groups
assemble and converse in whispers. In this prison, and at the exact
spot where the sewer, which served as the way of escape for the thirty
prisoners in 1843, opened, this name, PANCHAUD, might be seen daringly
cut in the wall over the sewer, in one of his attempted escapes. In
1832 the police already had their eye on him, but he had not yet fairly
made a start.



Marius ascended the stairs slowly, and at the moment when he was going
to enter his cell he perceived behind him, in the passage, the elder
of Jondrette's girls following him. This girl was odious in his sight,
for it was she who had his five francs; but it was too late to ask them
back from her, for both the hackney coach and the cab were now far
away. Besides, she would not return them to him. As for questioning her
about the abode of the persons who had been here just now, that was
useless, and it was plain that she did not know, for the letter signed
Fabantou was addressed "To the benevolent gentleman of the church of
St. Jacques du Haut-pas." Marius went into his room and threw the door
to after him, but it did not close; he turned and saw a hand in the

"Who's that?" he asked.

It was the girl.

"Oh it's you!" Marius continued almost harshly,--"always you! What do
you want of me?"

She seemed thoughtful, and made no answer, and she no longer had her
boldness of the morning; she did not come in, but stood in the dark
passage, where Marius perceived her through the half-open door.

"Well, answer!" said Marius; "what do you want of me?"

She raised her dull eye, in which a sort of lustre seemed to be vaguely
illumined, and said,--

"Monsieur Marius, you look sad; what is the matter with you?"


"Yes, there is!"

"Leave me alone!"

Marius pushed the door again, but she still held it.

"Stay," she said; "you are wrong. Though you are not rich, you were
kind this morning, and be so again now. You gave me food, and now tell
me what is the matter with you. It is easy to see that you are in
sorrow, and I do not wish you to be so. What can I do to prevent it,
and can I be of any service to you? Employ me; I do not ask for your
secrets, and you need not tell them to me, but I may be of use to you.
Surely I can help you, as I help my father. When there are any letters
to deliver, or any address to be found by following people, or asking
from door to door, I am employed. Well, you can tell me what is the
matter with you, and I will go and speak to persons. Now and then it
is sufficient for some one to speak to persons in order to find out
things, and all is arranged. Employ me."

An idea crossed Marius's mind, for no branch is despised when we feel
ourselves falling. He walked up to the girl.

"Listen to me," he said; "you brought an old gentleman and his daughter


"Do you know their address?"


"Find it for me."

The girl's eye, which was dull, had become joyous, but now it became

"Is that what you want?" she asked.


"Do you know them?"


"That is to say," she added quickly, "you don't know her, but you would
like to know her."

This "them," which became "her," had something most significant and
bitter about it.

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

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

In these words there was again a meaning which annoyed Marius, so he
went on,--

"Well, no matter! the father and daughter's address,--their address, I

She looked at him fixedly.

"What will you give me for it?"

"Whatever you like."

"Whatever I like? You shall have the address."

She hung her head, and then closed the door with a hurried gesture;
Marius was alone again. He fell into a chair, with his head and elbows
on his bed, sunk in thoughts which he could not grasp, and suffering
from a dizziness. All that had happened since the morning,--the
apparition of the angel, her disappearance, and what this creature
had just said to him, a gleam of hope floating in an immense despair,
--this is what confusedly filled his brain. All at once he was
violently dragged out of his reverie, for he heard Jondrette's loud,
hard voice uttering words full of the strangest interest for him.

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

Of whom was Jondrette talking, and whom had he recognized? M. Leblanc,
the father of "his Ursule." What! did Jondrette know him? Was Marius
going to obtain, in this sudden and unexpected fashion, all the
information without which his life was obscure for himself? Was he
at last going to know who she was whom he loved, and who her father
was? Was the thick cloud that covered them on the point of clearing
off? Would the veil be rent asunder? Oh, heavens! He bounded rather
than ascended upon the chest of drawers and resumed his place at the
aperture in the partition: once more he saw the interior of Jondrette's



There was no change in the appearance of the family, save that mother
and daughters had put on stockings and flannel waistcoats taken out
of the parcel, and two new blankets were thrown on the beds. The man
had evidently just returned, for he was out of breath; his daughters
were seated near the chimney-piece on the ground, the elder tying
up the younger's hand. The mother was crouching on the bed near the
fire-place, with an astonished face, while Jondrette was walking up and
down the room with long strides and extraordinary eyes. The woman, who
seemed frightened and struck with stupor before him, ventured to say,--

"What, really, are you sure?"

"Sure! it is eight years ago, but I can recognize him! I recognized him
at once. What I did it not strike you?"


"And yet I said to you, 'Pay attention!' Why, it is his figure, his
face, very little older,--for there are some people who never age,
though I do not know how they manage it,--and the sound of his voice.
He is better dressed, that's all! Ah! you mysterious old villain, I
hold you!"

He stopped and said to his daughters,--

"Be off, you two!--It is funny that it did not strike you."

They rose to obey, and the mother stammered,--

"With her bad hand?"

"The air will do it good," said Jondrette. "Off with you!"

It was evident that this man was one of those who are not answered. The
girls went out, but just as they passed the door the father clutched
the elder by the arm, and said, with a peculiar accent,--

"You will be here at five o'clock precisely, both of you, for I shall
want you."

Marius redoubled his attention. When left alone with his wife,
Jondrette began walking up and down room again, and took two or three
turns in silence. Then he spent several minutes thrusting the tail of
the chemise which he wore into his trousers. All at once he turned to
his wife, folded his arms, and exclaimed,--

"And shall I tell you something? The young lady--"

"Well, what?" the wife retorted.

Marius could not doubt, they were really talking about her. He listened
with ardent anxiety, and all his life was in his ears. But Jondrette
had stooped down, and was whispering to his wife. Then he rose, and
ended aloud,--

"It is she."

"That one?" the wife asked.

"That one!" said the husband.

No expression could render all there was in the mother's _that one_;
it was surprise, rage, hatred, and passion mingled and combined in a
monstrous intonation. A few words, doubtless a name which her husband
whispered in her ear, were sufficient to arouse this fat, crushed
woman, and to make her more than repulsive and frightful.

"It is not possible," she exclaimed; "when I think that my daughters
go about barefooted, and have not a gown to put on! What! a satin
pelisse, a velvet bonnet, clothes worth more than two hundred francs,
so that you might take her for a lady! No, you are mistaken; and then,
the other was hideous, while this one is not ugly, indeed, rather
good-looking. Oh, it cannot be!"

"And I tell you that it is; you will see."

At this absolute assertion the woman raised her large red and white
face and looked at the ceiling with a hideous expression. At this
moment she appeared to Marius even more formidable than her husband,
for she was a sow with the glance of a tigress.

"What!" she continued, "that horrible young lady who looked at my
daughters with an air of pity is that vagabond! Oh! I should like to
jump on her stomach with wooden shoes."

She leaped off the bed, and stood for a moment unkempt, with swollen
nostrils, parted lips, and clenched fists; then she fell back again on
the bed. The husband walked up and down and paid no attention to his
wife. After a short silence he went up to her and stood in front of her
with folded arms, as he had done a few moments previously.

"And shall I tell you something else?"

"What?" she asked.

He replied in a low, guttural voice, "That my fortune is made."

The wife looked at him in the way which means, "Can the man who is
talking to me have suddenly gone mad?" He continued,--

"Thunder! I have been a long time a parishioner of the parish of
die-of-hunger-if-you-are-cold, and die-of-cold-if-you-have-bread! I
have had enough of that misery! I am not jesting, for I no longer
consider this comical. I have had enough jokes, good God! and want no
more farces, by the Eternal Father! I wish to eat when I am hungry, and
drink when I am thirsty: to gorge, sleep, and do nothing. I want to
have my turn now, and mean to be a bit of a millionnaire before I rot!"
He walked up and down the room and added, "like the rest!"

"What do you mean?" his wife asked.

He shook his head, winked, and raised his voice like a street quack who
is going to furnish a proof.

"What I mean? Listen!"

"Not so loud," said his wife, "if it is business which ought not to be

"Nonsense! by whom,--by the neighbor? I saw him go out just now.
Besides, what does that long-legged ass listen to? And then, I tell
you I saw him go out." Still, by a species of instinct Jondrette
lowered his voice, though not so low that his remarks escaped Marius. A
favorable circumstance was that the fallen snow deadened the sound of
the vehicles on the boulevard. This is what Marius heard:--

"Listen carefully. The Crœsus is trapped, or as good as trapped. It
is done, arranged, and I have seen the people. He will come at six
this evening to bring the sixty francs, the vagabond! Did you notice
how I blabbed to him about my sixty francs, my landlord, my February
4th? Why, it is not a quarter-day, the ass. Well, he will come at
six o'clock, and at that hour the neighbor has gone to dinner, and
Mother Bourgon is washing up dishes in town, so there will be no one
in the house. The neighbor never comes in before eleven o'clock. The
little ones will be on the watch, you will help us, and he will make a

"And suppose he does not?" the wife asked.

Jondrette made a sinister gesture, and said, "We will do it for him."

And he burst into a laugh: it was the first time that Marius saw him
laugh, and this laugh was cold and gentle, and produced a shudder.
Jondrette opened a cupboard near the fire-place, and took out an old
cap, which he put on his head, after brushing it with his cuff.

"Now," he said, "I am going out, for I have some more people to see,
good men. I shall be away as short a time as possible, for it is a
famous affair; and do you keep house."

And he stood thoughtfully with his hands in his trousers' pockets and
suddenly exclaimed,--

"Do you know that it is very lucky he did not recognize me, for if he
had done so he would not have returned, and would have slipped from
us. It was my beard that saved us,--my romantic beard, my pretty little

And he laughed again. He went to the window; the snow was still
falling, and striping the gray sky.

"What filthy weather!" he said.

Then he buttoned up his great-coat.

"The skin is too big, but no matter," he added. "It was devilish lucky
that the old villain left it for me, for had he not I could not have
gone out, and the whole affair would have been spoiled. On what slight
accidents things depend!"

And pulling his cap over his eyes, he went out, but had only gone a
short distance when the door opened again, and his sharp, intelligent
face reappeared in the aperture.

"I forgot," he said; "you will get a chafing-dish of charcoal ready."

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

"How many bushels of charcoal?" the wife asked.

"Two, at least."

"That will cost thirty sous, and with the rest I will buy some grub."

"Hang it, no!"


"Don't spend the five _balls."_

"Why not?"

"Because I have something to buy too."



"How much do you want?"

"Where is the nearest ironmonger's?"

"In the Rue Mouffetard."

"Ah, yes, at the corner of a street. I remember the shop."

"But tell me how much you want for what you have to buy."

"From fifty sous to three francs."

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

"Don't bother about eating to-day; there is something better to do."

"That's enough, my jewel."

Jondrette closed the door again, and then Marius heard his steps as
he went along the passage and down the stairs. It struck one at this
moment from St. Médard's.



Marius, dreamer though he was, possessed, as we have said, a firm and
energetic nature. His habits of solitary contemplation, by developing
compassion and sympathy within him, had perhaps diminished the power
of being irritated, but left intact the power of becoming indignant:
he had the benevolence of a brahmin and the sternness of a judge, and
while he pitied a toad he crushed a viper. At present he had a nest
of vipers before him, and he said, "I must set my foot upon these
villains." Not one of the enigmas which he hoped to see cleared up was
solved; on the contrary, they had become more dense, and he had learned
no more about the pretty girl of the Luxembourg and the man whom he
called M. Leblanc, save that Jondrette knew them. Through the dark
words which had been uttered he only saw one thing distinctly, that a
snare was preparing,--an obscure but terrible snare; that they both ran
an imminent danger, she probably, and the father certainly; and that he
must save them, and foil the hideous combinations of the Jondrettes by
destroying their spider's web.

He watched the woman for a moment; she had taken an old sheet-iron
furnace from the corner, and was rummaging among the scraps of old
iron. He got off the chest of drawers as gently as he could, and
careful not to make any noise. In his terror at what was preparing, and
the horror with which the Jondrettes filled him, he felt a species of
joy at the idea that it might perhaps be in his power to render such a
service to her whom he loved. But what was he to do? Should he warn the
menaced persons? Where was he to find them? for he did not know their
address. They had reappeared to him momentarily, and then plunged again
into the immense profundities of Paris. Should he wait for M. Leblanc
at the gate at the moment when he arrived that evening and warn him of
the snare? But Jondrette and his comrades would see him on the watch.
The place was deserted, they would be stronger than he, they would find
means to get him out of the way, and the man whom Marius wished to save
would be lost. It had just struck one, and as the snare was laid for
six o'clock, Marius had five hours before him. There was only one thing
to be done; he put on his best coat, tied a handkerchief round his
neck, took his hat, and went out, making no more noise than if he were
walking barefoot on moss; besides, the woman was still rummaging the
old iron.

Once outside the house, he turned into the Rue du Petit Banquier.
About the middle of the street he found himself near a very low wall,
which it was possible to bestride in some places, and which surrounded
unoccupied ground. He was walking slowly, deep in thought as he was,
and the snow deadened his footsteps, when all at once he heard voices
talking close to him. He turned his head, but the street was deserted;
it was open day, and yet he distinctly heard the voices. He thought
of looking over the wall, and really saw two men seated in the snow,
and conversing in a low voice. They were strangers to him: one was a
bearded man in a blouse, and the other a hairy man in rags. The bearded
man wore a Greek cap, while the other was bareheaded, and had snow in
his hair. By thrusting out his head over them Marius could hear the
hairy man say to the other, with a nudge,--

"With Patron Minette it cannot fail."

"Do you think so?" asked the bearded man; and the hairy man added,--

"It will be five hundred balls for each, and the worst that can happen
is five years, six years, or ten at the most."

The other replied with some hesitation, and shuddering under his Greek

"That is a reality; and people must not go to meet things of that sort."

"I tell you that the affair cannot fail," the hairy man continued.
"Father What's-his-name's trap will be all ready."

Then they began talking of a melodrama which they had seen on the
previous evening at the Gaité.

Marius walked on; but it seemed to him that the obscure remarks of
these men, so strangely concealed behind this wall, and crouching
in the snow, must have some connection with Jondrette's abominable
scheme; that must be the _affair_. He went toward the Faubourg St.
Marceau, and asked at the first shop he came to where he could find
a police commissary. He was told at No. 14, Rue de Pontoise, and he
proceeded there. As he passed a baker's he bought a two-sous roll and
ate it, as he foresaw that he should not dine. On the way he rendered
justice to Providence. He thought that if he had not given the five
francs in the morning to the girl, he should have followed M. Leblanc's
hackney coach and consequently known nothing. There would, in that
case, have been no obstacle to Jondrettes ambuscade, and M. Leblanc
would have been lost, and doubtless his daughter with him.



On reaching No. 14, Rue de Pontoise, he went up to the first floor and
asked for the commissary.

"He is not in at present," said a clerk, "but there is an inspector to
represent him. Will you speak to him? Is your business pressing?"

"Yes," said Marius.

The clerk led him to the commissary's office. A very tall man was
leaning here against the fender of a stove, and holding up with both
hands the skirts of a mighty coat with three capes. He had a square
face, thin and firm lips, thick grayish whiskers, and a look of turning
your pockets inside out. Of this look you might have said, not that it
penetrated, but that it searched. This man did not appear much less
ferocious or formidable than Jondrette; for sometimes it is just as
dangerous to meet the dog as the wolf.

"What do you want?" he asked Marius, without adding, "sir."

"The police commissary."

"He is absent, but I represent him."

"It is a very secret affair."

"Then speak."

"And very urgent."

"In that case speak quick."

This man, who was calm and quick, was at once terrifying and
reassuring. He inspired both fear and confidence. Marius told him of
his adventure; that a person whom he only knew by sight was to be drawn
that very evening into a trap; that he, Marius Pontmercy, lawyer,
residing in the next room to the den, had heard the whole plot through
the partition; that the scoundrel's name who invented the snare was
Jondrette; that he would have accomplices, probably prowlers at the
barrières, among others one Panchaud, _alias_ Printanier, _alias_
Bigrenaille; that Jondrette's daughters would be on the watch; that
there were no means of warning the threatened man, as not even his name
was known; and that, lastly, all this would come off at six in the
evening, at the most deserted spot on the Boulevard de l'Hôpital, in
the house No. 50-52.

At this number the Inspector raised his head, and said coldly,--

"It must be in the room at the end of the passage."

"Exactly," Marius replied; and added, "do you know the house?"

The Inspector remained silent for a moment, and then answered, while
warming his boot-heel at the door of the stove,--

"Apparently so."

He went on between his teeth, talking less to Marius than his cravat.

"Patron Minette must be mixed up in this."

This remark struck Marius.

"Patron Minette!" he said; "yes, I heard that name mentioned."

And he told the Inspector of the dialogue between the hairy man and the
bearded man in the snow behind the wall in the Rue du Petit Banquier.
The Inspector growled,--

"The hairy man must be Burgon, and the bearded man, Demi-liard, _alias_
Deux Milliards."

He was again looking down and meditating. "As for Father
What's-his-name, I guess who he is. There, I have burnt my great-coat;
they always make too large a fire in these cursed stoves. No. 50-52,
formerly the property of one Gorbeau."

Then he looked at Marius.

"You only saw the hairy man and the bearded man?"

"And Panchaud."

"You did not see a small dandy prowling about there?"


"Nor a heavy lump of a fellow resembling the elephant in the Jardin-des


"Nor a scamp who looks like an old red-tail?"


"As for the fourth, no one sees him, not even his adjutants,
assistants, and those he employs. It is not surprising, therefore, that
you did not perceive him."

"No. Who are all these men?" Marius asked.

The Inspector continued: "Besides, it is not their hour." He fell into
silence, and presently added,--"50-52. I know the shanty. It is
impossible for us to hide ourselves in the interior without the actors
perceiving us, and then they would escape by putting off the farce.
They are so modest, and frightened at an audience. That won't do, for I
want to hear them sing and make them dance."

This soliloquy ended, he turned to Marius, and asked, as he looked at
him searchingly,--

"Would you be afraid?"

"Of what?" Marius asked.

"Of these men."

"No more than I am of you," Marius answered roughly, for he was
beginning to notice that this policeman had not yet said, "sir."

The Inspector looked at Marius more intently still, and continued, with
a sort of sententious solemnity,--

"You speak like a brave man and like an honest man. Courage does not
fear crime, nor honesty the authorities."

Marius interrupted him,--

"That is all very well, but what do you intend doing?"

The Inspector restricted himself to saying,--

"The lodgers in that house have latch-keys to let themselves in at
night. You have one?"

"Yes," said Marius.

"Have you it about you?"


"Give it to me," the Inspector said.

Marius took the key out of his waistcoat pocket, handed it to the
Inspector, and added,--

"If you take my advice you will bring a strong force."

The Inspector gave Marius such a glance as Voltaire would have given
a Provincial Academician who proposed a rhyme to him; then he thrust
both hands into his immense coat-pockets and produced two small steel
pistols, of the sort called "knock-me-downs." He handed them to Marius,
saying sharply and quickly,--

"Take these. Go home. Conceal yourself in your room, and let them
suppose you out. They are loaded, both with two bullets. You will
watch, as you tell me there is a hole in the wall. People will arrive;
let them go on a little. When you fancy the matter ripe, and you
think it time to stop it, you will fire a pistol, but not too soon.
The rest concerns me. A shot in the air, in the ceiling, I don't care
where,--but, mind, not too soon. Wait till the commencement of the
execution. You are a lawyer, and know what that means."

Marius took the pistols and placed them in a side pocket of his coat.

"They bulge that way, and attract attention," said the Inspector; "put
them in your trousers' pockets."

Marius did so.

"And now," the Inspector continued, "there is not a moment for any one
to lose. What o'clock is it? Half-past two. You said seven?"

"Six o'clock," Marius corrected.

"I have time," the Inspector added; "but only just time. Do not forget
anything I have said to you. A pistol-shot."

"All right." Marius replied.

And as he pat his hand on the latch to leave the room the Inspector
shouted to him,--

"By the way, if you should want me between this and then, come or send
here. Ask for Inspector Javert."



At about three o'clock Courfeyrac happened to pass along the Rue
Mouffetard, accompanied by Bossuet. The snow was thicker than ever, and
filled the air, and Bossuet had just said to Courfeyrac,--

"To see all these flakes of snow fall, we might, say that the sky is
suffering from a plague of white butterflies."

All at once Bossuet noticed Marius coming up the street toward the
barrière with a peculiar look.

"Hilloh!" said Bossuet, "there's Marius."

"I saw him," said Courfeyrac; "but we won't speak to him."

"Why not?"

"He is busy."

"At what?"

"Do you not see that he looks as if he were following some one?"

"That is true," said Bossuet.

"Only see what eyes he makes!" Courfeyrac added.

"But whom the deuce is he following?"

"Some Mimi-Goton with flowers in her cap. He is in love."

"But," Bossuet observed, "I do not see any Mimi or any Goton, or any
cap trimmed with flowers, in the street. There is not a single woman."

Courfeyrac looked, and exclaimed, "He is following a man."

A man wearing a cap, and whose gray beard could be distinguished,
although his back was turned, was walking about twenty yards ahead of
Marius. This man was dressed in a perfectly new great-coat, which was
too large for him, and a frightful pair of ragged trousers all black
with mud. Bossuet burst into a laugh.

"Who can the man be?"

"That?" Courfeyrac replied; "oh, he is a poet. Poets are fond of
wearing the trousers of rabbit-skin pedlers and the coats of the Peers
of France."

"Let us see where Marius is going," said Bossuet, "and where this man
is going. Suppose we follow them, eh?"

"Bossuet!" Courfeyrac exclaimed, "Eagle of Meaux, you are a prodigious
brute to think of following a man who is following a man."

They turned back. Marius had really seen Jondrette in the Rue
Mouffetard, and was following him. Jondrette was walking along, not
at all suspecting that an eye was already fixed upon him. He left
the Rue Mouffetard, and Marius saw him enter one of the most hideous
lodging-houses in the Rue Gracieuse, where he remained for about a
quarter of an hour, and then returned to the Rue Mouffetard. He stopped
at an ironmonger's shop, which was at that period at the corner of
the Rue Pierre-Lombard; and a few minutes after Marius saw him come
out of the shop, holding a large cold-chisel set in a wooden handle,
which he hid under his great coat. He then turned to his left and
hurried toward the Rue du Petit Banquier. Day was dying; the snow,
which had ceased for a moment, had begun again, and Marius concealed
himself at the corner of the Rue du Petit Banquier, which was deserted
as usual, and did not follow Jondrette. It was lucky that he acted
thus, for Jondrette, on reaching the spot where Marius had listened to
the conversation of the hairy man and the bearded man, looked round,
made sure that he was not followed, clambered over the wall, and
disappeared. The unused ground which this wall enclosed communicated
with the back yard of a livery-stable-keeper of bad repute, who had
been a bankrupt, and still had a few vehicles standing under sheds.

Marius thought it would be as well to take advantage of Jondrette's
absence and return home. Besides, time was slipping away, and every
evening Mame Bougon, when she went to wash up dishes in town, was
accustomed to close the gate, and, as Marius had given his latch-key to
the Inspector, it was important that he should be in time. Night had
nearly set in along the whole horizon, and in the whole immensity there
was only one point still illumined by the sun, and that was the moon,
which was rising red behind the low dome of the Salpêtrière. Marius
hurried to No. 50-52, and the gate was still open when he arrived. He
went up the stairs on tip-toe, and glided along the passage-wall to
his room. This passage, it will be remembered, was bordered on either
side by rooms which were now to let, and Mame Bougon, as a general
rule, left the doors open. While passing one of these doors, Marius
fancied that he could see in the uninhabited room four men's heads
vaguely lit up by a remnant of daylight which fell through a window.
Marius did not attempt to see, as he did not wish to be seen himself;
and he managed to re-enter his room noiselessly and unseen. It was
high time, for a moment after he heard Mame Bougon going out, and the
house-gate shutting.



Marius sat down on his bed: it might be about half-past five, and only
half an hour separated him from what was about to happen. He heard his
arteries beat as you hear the ticking of a clock in the darkness, and
he thought of the double march which was taking place at this moment in
the shadows,--crime advancing on one side, and justice coming up on the
other. He was not frightened, but he could not think without a certain
tremor of the things that were going to happen, like all those who are
suddenly assailed by a surprising adventure. This whole day produced
on him the effect of a dream, and in order not to believe himself the
prey of a nightmare he was obliged to feel in his pockets the cold
barrels of the pistols. It no longer snowed; the moon, now very bright,
dissipated the mist, and its rays, mingled with the white reflection
from the fallen snow, imparted a twilight appearance to the room. There
was a light in Jondrette's room, and Marius could see the hole in the
partition glowing with a ruddy brilliancy that appeared to him the
color of blood. It was evident that this light could not be produced
by a candle. There was no movement in the den, no one stirred there,
no one spoke, there was not a breath; the silence was chilling and
profound, and had it not been for the light, Marius might have fancied
himself close to a grave. He gently took off his boots and thrust them
under the bed. Several minutes elapsed, and then Marius heard the
house-gate creaking on its hinges, a heavy quick step ran up the stairs
and along the passage, the hasp of the door was noisily raised; it was
Jondrette returned home. All at once several voices were raised, and it
was plain that the whole family were at home. They were merely silent
in the master's absence, like the whelps in the absence of the wolves.

"It is I," he said.

"Good evening, pappy," the girls yelped.

"Well?" the wife asked.

"All is well," Jondrette answered, "but I am cold as a starved dog.
That's right, I am glad to see that you are dressed, for it inspires

"All ready to go out."

"You will not forget anything that I told you? You will do it all

"Of course."

"Because--" Jondrette began, but did not complete the sentence.

Marius heard him lay something heavy on the table, probably the chisel
which he had bought.

"Well," Jondrette continued, "have you been eating here?"

"Yes," said the mother; "I bought three large potatoes and some salt.
I took advantage of the fire to roast them."

"Good!" Jondrette remarked; "to-morrow you will dine with me: we will
have a duck and trimmings, and you will feed like Charles the Tenth."

Then he added, lowering his voice,--

"The mousetrap is open, and the cats are here."

He again lowered his voice and said,--

"Put this in the fire."

Marius heard a clicking of coals stirred with pincers or some iron
tool, and Jondrette ask,--

"Have you tallowed the hinges of the door, so that they may make no

"Yes," the mother answered.

"What o'clock is it?"

"Close on six. It has struck the half-hour at St. Médard."

"Hang it!" said Jondrette, "the girls must go on the watch. Come here
and listen to me."

There was a whispering, and then Jondrette's voice was again uplifted.

"Has Mame Bougon gone?"

"Yes," the mother answered.

"Are you sure there is nobody in the neighbor's room?"

"He has not come in all day, and you know that this is his dinner hour."

"Are you sure?"


"No matter," Jondrette added; "there is no harm in going to see whether
he is in. Daughter, take the candle and go."

Marius fell on his hands and knees and silently crawled under the bed;
he had scarce done so ere he saw light through the cracks of his door.

"Papa," a voice exclaimed, "he is out."

He recognized the elder girl's voice.

"Have you been in his room?" the lather asked.

"No," the girl replied; "but as his key is in his door he has gone out"

The father shouted,--

"Go in, all the same."

The door opened, and Marius saw the girl come in, candle in hand. She
was the same as in the morning, save that she was even more fearful
in this light. She walked straight up to the bed, and Marius suffered
a moment of intense anxiety; but there was a looking-glass hanging
from a nail by the bedside, and it was to that she proceeded. She
stood on tip-toe and looked at herself; a noise of iron being moved
could be heard in the other room. She smoothed her hair with her hand,
and smiled in the glass while singing, in her cracked and sepulchral

    "Nos amours out duré toute une semaine,
    Mais que du bonheur les instants sont courts,
    S'adorer huit jours c'était bien la peine!
    Le temps des amours devrait durer toujours!
    Devrait durer toujours! devrait durer toujours."

Still Marius trembled, for he thought that she could not help hearing
his breathing. She walked to the window and looked out, while saying
aloud with the half-crazy look she had,--

"How ugly Paris is when it has put on a white sheet!"

She returned to the glass, and began taking a fresh look at herself,
first full face and then three-quarters.

"Well," asked the father, "what are you doing there?"

"I am looking under the bed and the furniture," she said, as she
continued to smooth her hair; "but there is nobody."

"You she-devil!" the father yelled. "Come here directly, and lose no

"Coming, coming," she said; "there's no time to do anything here."

Then she hummed,--

    "Vous me quittez pour aller à la gloire,
    Mon triste cœur suivra partout vos pas."

She took a parting glance at the glass and went off, closing the door
after her. A moment later Marius heard the sound of the girls' naked
feet pattering along the passage, and Jondrette's voice shouting to

"Pay attention! One at the barrière, and the other at the corner of the
Rue du Petit Banquier. Do not for a minute lose sight of the door of
the house, and if you see anything come back at once--at once; you have
a key to let yourselves in."

The elder daughter grumbled,--

"To stand sentry barefooted in the snow, what a treat!"

"To-morrow you shall have beetle-colored silk boots," the father said.

They went down the stain, and a few seconds later the sound of the gate
closing below announced that they had reached the street. The only
persons in the house now were Marius, the Jondrettes, and probably,
too, the mysterious beings of whom Marius had caught a glimpse in the
gloom behind the door of the unoccupied room.



Marius judged that the moment had arrived for him to return to his
observatory. In a second, and with the agility of his age, he was
at the hole in the partition, and peeped through. The interior of
Jondrette's lodging offered a strange appearance, and Marius was
able to account for the peculiar light he had noticed. A candle was
burning in a verdigrised candlestick, but it was not this which really
illumined the room; the whole den was lit up with the ruddy glow of
a brazier standing in the fire-place, and filled with incandescent
charcoal; it was the heating-dish which the wife had prepared in the
morning. The charcoal was glowing and the heating-dish red; a bluish
flame played round it, and rendered it easy to recognize the shape of
the chisel purchased by Jondrette, which was heating in the charcoal.
In a corner, near the door, could be seen two heaps,--one apparently of
old iron, the other of ropes, arranged for some anticipated purpose.
All this, to a person who did not know what was going to occur, would
have made his mind vacillate between a very simple and a very sinister
idea. The room, thus lit up, resembled a forge more than a mouth
of hell; but Jondrette, in this light, was more like a demon than a

The heat of the coal-fire was so great that the candle on the table
was melted and guttering on the side turned toward it. An old copper
dark-lantern, worthy of a Diogenes who had turned Cartouche, was
standing on the mantel-piece. The heating-dish, which stood in the
fire-place close to the decaying logs, sent its smoke up the chimney,
and thus produced no smell. The moon, which found its way through the
skylight, poured its whiteness on the purple and flashing garret, and
to the poetic mind of Marius, who was a dreamer even in the moment of
action, it was like a thought of heaven mingled with the shapeless
dreams of earth. A breath of air, that penetrated through the broken
pane, also helped to dissipate the smell of charcoal and conceal the
heating-dish. Jondrette's den, if our readers remember what we have
said about the house, was admirably selected to serve as the scene
of a violent and dark deed, and as a covert for crime. It was the
farthest room in the most isolated house on the most deserted Parisian
boulevard; and if ambushes did not exist they would have been invented
there. The whole length of a house and a number of uninhabited rooms
separated this lair from the boulevard, and the only window in it
looked out on fields enclosed by walls and fences. Jondrette had lit
his pipe, was seated on the bottomless chair and smoking, and his wife
was speaking to him in a low voice.

If Marius had been Courfeyrac, that is to say, one of those men who
laugh at every opportunity, he would have burst into a roar when his
eye fell on Mother Jondrette. She had on a bonnet with black feathers,
like the hats worn by the heralds at the coronation of Charles X., an
immense tartan shawl over her cotton skirt, and the man's shoes which
her daughter had disdained in the morning. It was this attire which
drew from Jondrette the exclamation, "That's right; I am glad to see
that you are dressed, for it inspires confidence." As for Jondrette, he
had not taken off the new coat which M. Leblanc had given him, and his
dress continued to offer that contrast between trousers and coat which
constituted in Courfeyrac's sight the ideal of the poet. All at once
Jondrette raised his voice:--

"By the way, in such weather as this he will come in a hackney coach.
Light your lamp and go down, and keep behind the front gate; when
you hear the vehicle stop you will open the gate at once, light him
upstairs and along the passage, and when he has come in here you will
go down as quickly as you can, pay the coachman, and discharge him."

"Where is the money to come from?" the woman asked.

Jondrette felt in his pocket, and gave her five francs.

"What is this?" she exclaimed.

"The monarch which our neighbor gave us this morning," responded
Jondrette with dignity, and added, "we shall want two chairs, though."

"What for?"

"Why, to sit down!"

Marius shuddered on hearing the woman make the quiet answer,--

"Well, I will go and fetch our neighbor's."

And with a rapid movement she opened the door and stepped into the
passage. Marius had not really the time to get off the drawers and hide
under his bed.

"Take the candle!" Jondrette shouted.

"No," she said, "it would bother me, for I have two chairs to carry.
Besides, the moon is shining."

Marius heard the heavy hand of Mother Jondrette fumbling for his
key in the darkness. The door opened, and he remained nailed to his
post by alarm and stupor. The woman came in; the sky-light sent a
moonbeam between two large patches of shade, and one of these patches
entirely covered the wall against which Marius was standing, so that
he disappeared. Mother Jondrette did not see Marius, took the two
chairs,--the only two that Marius possessed,--and went off, noisily
slamming the door after her. She re-entered the den.

"Here are the two chairs."

"And here is the lantern," the husband said; "make haste down."

She hastily obeyed, and Jondrette remained alone.

He placed the chairs on either side of the table, turned the chisel
in the heating-dish, placed in front of the fire-place an old screen,
which concealed the charcoal-pan, and then went to the corner where
the heap of rope lay, and stooped down as if examining something.
Marius then perceived that what he had taken for a shapeless heap was a
rope-ladder, very well made with wooden rungs, and two hooks to hang
it by. This ladder and a few large tools, perfect crowbars, which were
mingled with the heap of old iron in the corner, had not been there in
the morning, and had evidently been brought in the afternoon, during
the absence of Marius.

"They are edge-tool makers' implements", Marius thought.

Had he been a little better acquainted with the trade he would
have recognized, in what he took for tool-makers' gear, certain
instruments that could force or pick a lock, and others that could cut
or pierce,--the two families of sinister tools which burglars call
"cadets" and "fauchants." The fire-place, the table, and the two chairs
were exactly opposite Marius, and as the charcoal-pan was concealed,
the room was only illumined by the candle, and the smallest article on
the table or the chimney-piece cast a long shadow; a cracked water-jug
hid half a wall. There was in this room a hideous and menacing calm,
and an expectation of something awful could be felt. Jondrette had let
his pipe go out,--a sign of deep thought,--and had just sat down again.
The candle caused the stern and fierce angles of his face to stand out;
he was frowning, and suddenly thrust out his right hand now and then,
as if answering the final counsels of a dark internal soliloquy. In one
of the obscure replies he made to himself he opened the table-drawer,
took out a long carving-knife hidden in it, and felt its edge on his
thumb-nail. This done, he put the knife in the drawer, which he closed
again. Marius, on his side, drew the pistol from his pocket and cocked
it, which produced a sharp, clicking sound. Jondrette started, and half
rose from his chair.

"Who's that?" he shouted.

Marius held his breath. Jondrette listened for a moment, and then said

"What an ass I am! It is the partition creaking."

Marius kept the pistol in his hand.



At this moment the distant and melancholy vibration of a bell shook
the windows; six o'clock was striking at St. Médard. Jondrette marked
each stroke by a shake of the head, and when he had counted the last he
snuffed the candle with his fingers. Then he began walking up and down
the room, listened at the door, began walking again, and then listened
once more. "If he comes!" he growled, and then returned to his chair.
He was hardly seated ere the door opened. Mother Jondrette had opened
it, and remained in the passage making a horrible grimace, which one of
the holes in the dark lantern lit up from below.

"Step in, sir," she said.

"Enter, my benefactor!" Jondrette repeated as he hurriedly rose.

M. Leblanc appeared with that air of serenity which rendered him
singularly venerable. He laid four louis on the table.

"Monsieur Fabantou, here is the money for your rent, and something more
to put you a little straight. After that we will see."

"May Heaven repay you, my generous: benefactor!" said Jondrette, and
then rapidly approached his wife.

"Dismiss the coach."

She slipped away, while her husband made an infinitude of bows, and
offered a chair to M. Leblanc. A moment after she returned, and
whispered in his ear, "All right!"

The snow, which had not ceased to fall since morning, was now so thick
that neither the arrival nor the departure of the coach had been heard.
M. Leblanc had seated himself, and Jondrette now took possession of
the chair opposite to him. And now the reader, in order to form an
idea of the scene which is about to be acted, will kindly imagine
the freezing night, the solitudes of the Salpêtrière covered with
snow and white in the moonlight, like an immense winding-sheet, and
the light of the lamps throwing a red glow here and there over these
tragic boulevards and the long rows of black elms: not a passer-by for
a quarter of a league round, and the Maison Gorbeau at its highest
point of silence, horror, and night. In this house, amid this solitude
and darkness, is Jondrette's spacious garret lit by a candle, and in
this den two men are sitting at a table,--M. Leblanc calm, Jondrette
smiling and terrible. Mother Jondrette, the she-wolf, is in a corner,
and behind the partition, Marius, invisible, but not losing a word or
a movement, with his eye on the watch, and pistols in hand. Marius,
however, only felt an emotion of horror, but no fear: he clutched the
butt of the pistol, and said to himself, feeling reassured, "I can
stop the scoundrel whenever I like." He felt that the police were
somewhere in ambush, waiting for the appointed signal, and all ready
to aid. In addition, he hoped that from this violent encounter between
Jondrette and M. Leblanc some light would be thrown on all that he had
an interest in knowing.



M. Leblanc was scarce seated ere he turned his eyes to the beds, which
were empty.

"How is the poor little wounded girl?" he asked.

"Very bad," Jondrette replied with a heart-broken and grateful smile.
"Very bad, my good sir. Her elder sister has taken her to La Bourbe
to have her hand dressed. But you will see them, as they will return
almost immediately."

"Madame Fabantou seems to me better?" M. Leblanc continued, taking a
glance at the strange garb of Mother Jondrette, who, standing between
him and the door, as if already guarding the outlet, was looking at him
in a menacing and almost combative posture.

"She is dying," Jondrette said. "But what would you have, sir? That
woman has so much courage. She is not a woman, but an ox."

Mother Jondrette, affected by the compliment, protested with the
affectation of a flattered monster,--

"You are always too kind to me, Monsieur Jondrette."

"Jondrette?" said M. Leblanc; "why, I thought your name was Fabantou."

"Fabantou _alias_ Jondrette," the husband quickly replied,--"a
professional name."

And throwing at his wife a shrug of the shoulders which M. Leblanc did
not see, he continued with an emphatic and caressing inflection of

"Ah! that poor dear and I have ever lived happily together, for what
would be left us if we had not that, we are so wretched, respectable
sir? I have arms, but no labor; a heart, but no work. I do not know
how the Government manage it, but, on my word of honor, sir, I am no
Jacobin, I wish them no harm; but if I were the ministers, on my most
sacred word, things would go differently. For instance, I wished my
daughters to learn the trade of making paper boxes. You will say to me,
'What! a trade?' Yes, a trade, a simple trade, a bread-winner. What
a fall, my benefactor! What degradation, after persons have been in
such circumstances as we were! But, alas! nothing is left us from our
prosperous days. Nothing but one article,--a picture, to which I cling,
but which I am ready to part with, as we must live."

While Jondrette was saying this with a sort of apparent disorder,
which did not in any way alter the thoughtful and sagacious expression
of his face, Marius raised his eyes and saw some one at the back of
the room whom he had not seen before. A man had just entered, but so
softly that the hinges had not been heard to creak. This man had on
a violet knitted jacket, old, worn, stained, and full of holes, wide
cotton-velvet trousers, thick socks on his feet, and no shirt; his neck
was bare, his arms were naked and tattooed, and his face was daubed
with black. He seated himself silently, and with folded arms, on the
nearest bed, and as he was behind Mother Jondrette, he could be but
dimly distinguished. That sort of magnetic instinct which warns the eye
caused M. Leblanc to turn almost at the same moment as Marius. He could
not suppress a start of surprise, which Jondrette noticed.

"Ah, I see," Jondrette exclaimed, as he buttoned his coat complacently,
"you are looking at your surtout? It fits me, really fits me capitally."

"Who is that man?" M. Leblanc asked.

"That?" said Jondrette; "oh, a neighbor; pay no attention to him."

The neighbor looked singular, but chemical factories abound in the
Faubourg St. Marceau, and a workman may easily have a black face. M.
Leblanc's whole person displayed a confident and intrepid candor as he

"I beg your pardon, but what were you saying, M. Fabantou?"

"I was saying, Monsieur, and dear protector," Jondrette replied, as he
placed his elbows on the table and gazed at M. Leblanc with fixed and
tender eyes, very like those of a boa-constrictor,--"I was saying that
I had a picture to sell."

There was a slight noise at the door; a second man came in and seated
himself on the bed behind Mother Jondrette. Like the first, he had
bare arms and a mask, either of ink or soot. Though this man literally
glided into the room, he could not prevent M. Leblanc noticing him.

"Take no heed," said Jondrette; "they are men living in the house. I
was saying that I had a valuable picture left; look here, sir."

He rose, walked to the wall, against which the panel to which we
have already referred was leaning, and turned it round, while still
letting it rest on the wall. It was something, in fact, that resembled
a picture, and which the candle almost illumined. Marius could
distinguish nothing, as Jondrette was standing between him and the
picture; but he fancied he could catch a glimpse of a coarse daub, and
a sort of principal character standing out of the canvas with the bold
crudity of a showman's pictures and screen paintings.

"What is that?" M. Leblanc asked.

Jondrette exclaimed,--

"A masterpiece, a most valuable picture, my benefactor! I am as much
attached to it as I am to my daughters, for it recalls dear memories.
But, as I told you,--and I will not go back from my word,--I am
willing to dispose of it, as we are in such poverty."

Either by accident, or some vague feeling of anxiety, M. Leblanc's
eye, while examining the picture, returned to the end of the room.
There were now four men there, three seated on the bed and one leaning
against the door-post, but all four bare-armed, motionless, and with
blackened faces. One of those on the bed was leaning against the wall
with closed eyes and apparently asleep; this one was old, and the white
hair on the blackened face was horrible. The other two were young,--one
was hairy, the other bearded. Not a single one had shoes, and those
who did not wear socks were barefooted. Jondrette remarked that M.
Leblanc's eyes rested on these men.

"They are friends, neighbors," he said; "their faces are black because
they work about the coal. They are chimney-menders. Do not trouble
yourself about them, sir, but buy my picture. Have pity on my misery. I
will not ask much for it; what value do you set upon it?"

"Well," M. Leblanc said, looking Jondrette full in the face, like a man
setting himself on guard, "it is some pot-house sign, and worth about
three francs."

Jondrette replied gently,--

"Have you your pocket-book about you? I shall be satisfied with a
thousand crowns."

M. Leblanc rose, set his back against the wall, and took a hurried
glance round the room. He had Jondrette on his left by the window,
and on his right the woman and the four men by the door. The four men
did not stir, and did not even appear to see him. Jondrette had begun
talking again with a plaintive accent, and with such a wandering eye
that M. Leblanc might fairly believe that he simply had before him a
man driven mad by misery.

"If you do not buy my picture, dear benefactor," Jondrette said, "I
have no resource remaining, and nothing is left me but to throw myself
into the river. When I think that I wished my two daughters to learn
how to make paper boxes for new-year's gifts--Well, for that you
require a table with a backboard to prevent the glasses falling on the
ground, a stove made expressly, a pot with three compartments for the
three different degrees of strength which the glue must have, according
as it is used for wood, paper, and cloth; a board to cut pasteboard
on, a hammer, a pair of pincers, and the deuce knows what, and all
that to gain four sous a day! And you must work fourteen hours; and
each box passes thirteen times through the hands of the work-girl; and
moistening the paper, and not spoiling anything; and keeping the glue
hot--the devil! I tell you, four sous a day! How do you expect them to

While speaking, Jondrette did not look at M. Leblanc, who was watching
him. M. Leblanc's eye was fixed on Jondrette, and Jondrette's on the
door, while Marius's gasping attention went from one to the other. M.
Leblanc seemed to be asking himself. Is he a lunatic? And Jondrette
repeated twice or thrice with all sorts of varied inflections in the
suppliant style, "All that is left me is to throw myself into the
river! The other day I went for that purpose down three steps by the
side of the bridge of Austerlitz." All at once his eyes glistened
with a hideous radiance, the little man drew himself up and became
frightful, he walked a step toward M. Leblanc, and shouted in a
thundering voice,--

"All this is not the question! Do you recognize me?"



The attic door was torn open, and three men in blue cloth blouses and
wearing masks of black paper came in. The first was thin, and carried
an iron--shod cudgel; the second, who was a species of Colossus, held a
butcher's pole-axe by the middle of the handle, with the hatchet down;
while the third, a broad-shouldered fellow, not so thin as the first
but not stout as the second, was armed with an enormous key stolen
from some prison-gate. It seemed as if Jondrette had been awaiting the
arrival of these men, and a hurried conversation took place between him
and the man with the cudgel.

"Is all ready?" asked Jondrette.

"Yes," the thin man replied.

"Where is Montparnasse?"

"That jeune premier has stopped to talk to your eldest daughter."

"Is there a coach down there?"


"With two good horses?"


"Is it waiting where I ordered?"


"All right," said Jondrette.

M. Leblanc was very pale. He looked all round the room like a man who
understands into what a snare he has fallen, and his head, turned
toward all the heads that surrounded him, moved on his neck with
an attentive and surprised slowness, but there was nothing in his
appearance that resembled fear. He had formed an improvised bulwark
of the table, and this man, who a moment before merely looked like an
old man, had suddenly become an athlete, and laid his robust fist on
the back of his chair with a formidable and surprising gesture. This
old man, so firm and brave in the presence of such a danger, seemed to
possess one of those natures which are courageous in the same way as
they are good,--easily and simply. The father of a woman we love is
never a stranger to us, and Marius felt proud of this unknown man.

Three of the men whom Jondrette called chimney-menders had taken from
the mass of iron, one a large pair of shears, another a crowbar for
moving weights, and the third a hammer, and posted themselves in front
of the door without saying a word. The old man remained on the bed,
merely opening his eyes, and Mother Jondrette was sitting by his side.
Marius thought that the moment for interference was at hand, and raised
his right hand to the ceiling in the direction of the passage, ready to
fire his pistol. Jondrette, after finishing his colloquy with the three
men, turned again to M. Leblanc, and repeated the question with that
low, restrained, and terrible laugh of his,--

"Do you not recognize me?"

M. Leblanc looked him in the face and answered, "No!"

Jondrette then went up to the table; he bent over the candle with
folded arms, and placed his angular and ferocious face as close as he
could to M. Leblanc's placid face, and in this posture of a wild beast
which is going to bite he exclaimed,--

"My name is not Fabantou or Jondrette, but my name is Thénardier, the
landlord of the inn at Montfermeil! Do you hear me,--Thénardier? Now do
you recognize me?"

An almost imperceptible flush shot athwart M. Leblanc's forehead, and
he answered, with his ordinary placidity, and without the slightest
tremor in his voice,--

"No more than before."

Marius did not hear this answer, and any one who had seen him at this
moment in the darkness would have found him haggard, stunned, and
crushed. At the moment when Jondrette said, "My name is Thénardier,"
Marius trembled in all his limbs, and he leaned against the wall, as
if he felt a cold sword-blade thrust through his heart. Then his right
hand, raised in readiness to fire, slowly dropped, and at the moment
when Jondrette repeated, "Do you hear me,--Thénardier?" Marius's
relaxing fingers almost let the pistol fall. Jondrette, by revealing
who he was, did not affect M. Leblanc, but he stunned Marius, for
he knew this name of Thénardier, which was apparently unknown to M.
Leblanc. Only remember what that name was for him! He had carried it
in his heart, recorded in his father's will! He bore it in the deepest
shrine of his memory in the sacred recommendation,--"A man of the name
of Thénardier saved my life; if my son meet this man he will do all he
can for him." This name, it will be remembered, was one of the pieties
of his soul, and he blended it with his father's name in his worship.
What! this man was Thénardier, the landlord of Montfermeil, whom he had
so long and so vainly sought! He found him now, and in what a state!
His father's savior was a bandit! This man, to whom Marius burned to
devote himself, was a monster! The liberator of Colonel Pontmercy was
on the point of committing a crime whose outline Marius could not yet
see very distinctly, but which resembled an assassination! And on
whom? Great Heaven, what a fatality; what a bitter mockery of fate!
His father commanded him from his tomb to do all in his power for
Thénardier. During four years Marius had had no other idea but to pay
this debt of his father's; and at the very moment when he was about to
deliver over to justice a brigand in the act of crime, destiny cried
to him, "It is Thénardier!" and he was at length about to requite this
man for saving his father's life amid a hailstorm of grape-shot on the
heroic field of Waterloo, by sending him to the scaffold! He had vowed
that if ever he found this Thénardier he would throw himself at his
feet; and he had found him, but for the purpose of handing him over to
the executioner! His father said to him, "Help Thénardier," and he was
about to answer that adored and sacred voice by crushing Thénardier;
to show his father in his grave the spectacle of the man who had
dragged him from death at the peril of his own life being executed on
the Place St. Jacques by the agency of his son, that Marius to whom he
bequeathed this name! And then what a derision it was to have so long
carried in his heart the last wishes of his father in order to perform
exactly the contrary! But, on the other hand, how could he witness
a murder and not prevent it? What! should he condemn the victim and
spare the assassin? Could he be bound by any ties of gratitude to such
a villain? All the ideas which Marius had entertained for four years
were, as it were, run through the body by this unexpected stroke. He
trembled; all depended on him; and he held in his hands the unconscious
beings who were moving before his eyes. If he fired the pistol, M.
Leblanc was saved and Thénardier lost; if he did not fire, M. Leblanc
was sacrificed and Thénardier might, perhaps, escape. Must he hunt
down the one, or let the other fall? There was remorse on either side.
What should he do? Which should he choose,--be a defaulter to the most
imperious recollections, to so many profound pledges taken to himself,
to the most sacred duty, to the most venerated commands, disobey his
father's will, or let a crime be accomplished? On one side he fancied
he could hear "his Ursule" imploring him for her father, on the other
the Colonel recommending Thénardier to him. He felt as if he were
going mad. His knees gave way under him, and he had not even time to
deliberate, as the scene he had before him was being performed with
such furious precipitation. It was a tornado of which he had fancied
himself the master, but which was carrying him away: he was on the
verge of fainting.

In the mean while Thénardier (we will not call him otherwise in
future) was walking up and down before the table with a sort of wild
and frenzied triumph. He seized the candlestick and placed it on the
chimney-piece with such a violent blow that the candle nearly went out,
and the tallow spattered the wall. Then he turned round furiously to M.
Leblanc and spat forth these words:--

"Done brown! grilled, fricasseed! spatch-cocked!"

And he began walking again with a tremendous explosion.

"Ah! I have found you again, my excellent philanthropist, my
millionnaire with the threadbare coat, the giver of dolls, the old
niggard! Ah, you do not recognize me! I suppose it was n't you who came
to my inn at Montfermeil just eight years ago, on the Christmas night
of 1823! It was n't you who carried off Fantine's child, the Lark! It
was n't you who wore a yellow watchman's coat, and had a parcel of
clothes in your hand, just as you had this morning! Tell me, wife!
It is his mania, it appears, to carry to houses bundles of woollen
stockings,--the old charitable humbug! Are you a cap-maker, my Lord
Millionnaire? You give your profits to the poor--what a holy man!
what a mountebank! Ah, you do not recognize me! Well, I recognize you,
and did so directly you thrust your muzzle in here. Ah, you will be
taught that it is not a rosy game to go like that to people's houses,
under the excuse that they are inns, with such a wretched coat and
poverty-stricken look that they feel inclined to give you a son, and
then, to play the generous, rob them of their bread-winner and threaten
them in the woods! I'll teach you that you won't get off by bringing
people when they are ruined a coat that is too large, and two paltry
hospital blankets, you old scamp, you child-stealer!"

He stopped, and for a moment seemed to be speaking to himself. It
appeared as if his fury fell into some hole, like the Rhone: then, as
if finishing aloud the things he had just been saying to himself, he
struck the table with his fist, and cried,--

"With his simple look!"

Then he apostrophized M. Leblanc.

"By heaven! you made a fool of me formerly, and are the cause of all my
misfortunes. You got for fifteen hundred francs a girl who certainly
belonged to rich parents, who had already brought me in a deal of
money, and from whom I should have got an annuity! That girl would have
made up to me all I lost in that wretched pot-house, where I threw away
like an ass all my blessed savings! Oh, I wish that what was drunk at
my house were poison to those who drank it! However, no matter! Tell
me, I suppose you thought me a precious fool when you went off with the
Lark! You had your cudgel in the forest, and were the stronger. To-day
I shall have my revenge, for I hold all the trumps; you are done, my
good fellow! Oh, how I laugh when I think that he fell into the trap!
I told him that I was an actor, that my name was Fabantou, that I
had played comedy with Mamselle Mars, with Mamselle Muche, and that
my landlord insisted on being paid the next day; and he did not even
remember that January 8 and not February 4 is quarter-day,--the absurd
idiot! And he has brought me these four paltry philippes, the ass!
He had not the pluck to go as far as five hundred francs. And how he
swallowed my platitudes! It amused me, and I said to myself, 'There's
an ass for you! Well, I have got you; this morning I licked your paws,
and to-night I shall gnaw your heart!'"

Thénardier stopped, out of breath. His little narrow chest panted like
a forge-bellows; his eye was full of the ignoble happiness of a weak,
cruel, and cowardly creature who is at length able to trample on the
man he feared, and insult him whom he flattered; it is the joy of a
dwarf putting his heel on the head of Goliath, the joy of a jackal
beginning to rend a sick bull so near death as to be unable to defend
itself, but with enough vitality to still suffer. M. Leblanc did not
interrupt him, but said, when he ceased speaking,--

"I do not know what you mean, and you are mistaken. I am a very poor
man, and anything but a millionnaire. I do not know you, and you take
me for somebody else."

"Ah!" Thénardier said hoarsely, "a fine dodge! So you adhere to that
joke, eh, old fellow? Ah, you do not remember, you do not see who I am!"

"Pardon me, sir," M. Leblanc replied, with a polite accent, which had
something strange and grand about it at such a moment, "I see that you
are a bandit."

We may remind those who have not noticed the fact, that odious beings
possess a susceptibility, and that monsters are ticklish. At the word
"bandit," Mother Thénardier leaped from the bed, and her husband
clutched a chair as if about to break it in his hand. "Don't stir,
you!" he shouted to his wife, and then turning to M. Leblanc, said,--

"Bandit! yes, I know that you rich swells call us so. It is true that
I have been bankrupt. I am in hiding, I have no bread, I have not a
farthing, and I am a bandit! For three days I have eaten nothing, and
I am a bandit! Ah, you fellows warm your toes, your wear pumps made by
Sakoski, you have wadded coats like archbishops, you live on the first
floors of houses where a porter is kept, you eat truffles, asparagus
at forty francs the bundle in January, and green peas. You stuff
yourselves, and when you want to know whether it is cold you look in
the newspaper to see what Chevalier's thermometer marks; but we are the
thermometers. We have no call to go and look at the corner of the Jour
d'Horloge how many degrees of cold there are, for we feel the blood
stopped in our veins, and the ice reach our hearts, and we say, 'There
is no God!' and you come into our caverns,--yes, our caverns,--to
call us bandits! But we will eat you, we will devour you, poor little
chap! Monsieur le Millionnaire, learn this: I was an established man,
I held a license, I was an elector, and am still a citizen, while you,
perhaps, are not one!"

Here Thénardier advanced a step toward the men near the door, and added
with a quiver,--

"When I think that he dares to come and address me like a cobbler!"

Then he turned upon M. Leblanc with a fresh outburst of frenzy,--

"And know this, too, my worthy philanthropist, I am not a doubtful
man, or one whose name is unknown, and carries off children from
houses! I am an ex-French soldier, and ought to have the cross! I was
at Waterloo, and in the battle I saved the life of a General called
the Comte de--I don't know what. He told me his name, but his dog of
a voice was so feeble that I did not understand it. I only understood
_Merci_. I should have liked his name better than his thanks. It
would have helped me find him, by all that's great and glorious! The
picture you see here, and which was painted by David at Bruqueselles,
do you know whom it represents? It represents me, for David wished
to immortalize the exploit. I have the General on my back, and I am
carrying him through the grape-shot. That is the story! The General
never did anything for me, and he is no better than the rest; but,
for all that, I saved his life at the peril of my own, and I have
my pockets filled with certificates of the fact. I am a soldier of
Waterloo! And now that I have had the goodness to tell you all this,
let us come to a finish; I want money, I want a deal of money, an
enormous amount of money, or I shall exterminate you, by the thunder of

Marius had gained a little mastery over his agony, and was listening.
The last possibility of doubt had vanished, and it was really the
Thénardier of the will. Marius shuddered at the charge of ingratitude
cast at his father, and which he was on the point of justifying so
fatally, and his perplexities were redoubled. Besides, there was in
Thénardier's every word, in his accent and gestures, in his glance,
which caused flames to issue from every word, in this explosion of an
evil nature displaying everything, in this admixture of boasting and
abjectness, pride and meanness, rage and folly, in this chaos of real
griefs and false sentiments, in this impudence of a wicked man enjoying
the pleasure of violence, in this daring nudity of an ugly soul, and
in this conflagration of every suffering combined with every hatred,
something which was hideous as evil and poignant as truth.

The masterpiece, the picture by David, which he offered M. Leblanc,
was, as the reader will have perceived, nought else than his
public-house sign, painted by himself, and the sole relic he had
preserved from his shipwreck at Montfermeil. As he had stepped aside
Marius was now enabled to look at this thing, and in the daub he really
recognized a battle, a background of smoke, and one man carrying
another. It was the group of Thénardier and Pontmercy,--the savior
sergeant and the saved colonel. Marius felt as if intoxicated, for
this picture represented to some extent his loving father; it was no
longer an inn sign-board but a resurrection; a tomb opened, a phantom
rose. Marius heard his heart ringing at his temples; he had the guns
of Waterloo in his ears; his bleeding father vaguely painted on this
ill-omened board startled him, and he fancied that the shapeless figure
was gazing fixedly at him. When Thénardier regained breath he fastened
his bloodshot eyes on M. Leblanc, and said to him in a low, sharp

"What have you to say before we put the screw on you?"

M. Leblanc was silent. In the midst of this silence a hoarse voice
uttered this grim sarcasm in the passage,--

"If there's any wood to be chopped, I'm your man."

It was the fellow with the pole-axe amusing himself. At the same time
an immense, hairy, earth-colored face appeared in the door with a
frightful grin, which displayed not teeth but tusks. It was the face of
the man with the pole-axe.

"Why have you taken off your mask?" Thénardier asked him furiously.

"To laugh," the man answered.

For some minutes past M. Leblanc seemed to be watching and following
every movement of Thénardier, who, blinded and dazzled by his own rage,
was walking up and down the room, in the confidence of knowing the door
guarded, of holding an unarmed man, and of being nine against one, even
supposing that his wife only counted for one man. In his speech to the
man with the pole-axe he turned his back to M. Leblanc; the latter
seizing the moment, upset the chair with his foot, the table with his
fist, and with one bound, ere Thénardier was able to turn, he was at
the window. To open it and bestride the sill took only a second, and
he was half out, when six powerful hands seized him and energetically
dragged him back into the room. The three "chimney-sweeps" had rushed
upon him, and at the same time Mother Thénardier seized him by the
hair. At the noise which ensued the other bandits ran in from the
passage, and the old man on the bed, who seemed the worse for liquor,
came up tottering with a road-mender's hammer in his hand. One of the
sweeps, whose blackened face the candle lit up, and in whom Marius
recognized, in spite of the blackening, Panchaud _alias_ Printanier
_alias_ Bigrenaille, raised above M. Leblanc's head a species of
life-preserver, made of two lumps of lead at the ends of an iron bar.
Marius could not resist this sight. "My father," he thought, "forgive
me!" and his finger sought the trigger. He was on the point of firing,
when Thénardier cried,--

"Do not hurt him!"

This desperate attempt of the victim, far from exasperating Thénardier,
had calmed him. There were two men in him,--the ferocious man and the
skilful man. Up to this moment, in the exuberance of triumph, and while
standing before his motionless victim, the ferocious man had prevailed;
but when the victim made an effort and appeared inclined to struggle,
the skilful man reappeared and took the mastery.

"Do him no harm!" he repeated; and his first service was, though he
little suspected it, that he stopped the discharge of the pistol and
paralyzed Marius, to whom the affair did not appear so urgent, and
who in the presence of this new phase saw no harm in waiting a little
longer. Who knew whether some accident might not occur which would
deliver him from the frightful alternative of letting Ursule's father
perish, or destroying the Colonels savior? A herculean struggle had
commenced. With one blow of his fist in the chest M. Leblanc sent
the old man rolling in the middle of the room, and then with two
back-handers knocked down two other assailants, and held one under
each of his knees. The villains groaned under this pressure as under
a granite mill-stone; but the four others had seized the formidable
old man by the arms and neck, and were holding him down upon the two
"chimney-menders." Thus, master of two, and mastered by the others,
crushing those beneath him, and crushed by those above him, M. Leblanc
disappeared beneath this horrible group of bandits, like a boar
attacked by a howling pack of dogs. They succeeded in throwing him on
to the bed nearest the window, and held him down. Mother Thénardier did
not once let go his hair.

"Don't you interfere," Thénardier said to her; "you will tear your

The woman obeyed, as the she-wolf obeys the wolf, with a snarl.

"You fellows," Thénardier continued, "can search him."

M. Leblanc appeared to have given up all thought of resistance, and
they searched him. He had nothing about him but a leathern purse
containing six francs and his handkerchief. Thénardier put the latter
in his own pocket.

"What! no pocket-book?" he asked.

"No, and no watch," one of the "chimney-menders" replied.

"No matter," the masked man who held the large key muttered in the
voice of a ventriloquist, "he is a tough old bird."

Thénardier went to the corner near the door, and took up some ropes,
which he threw to them.

"Fasten him to the foot of the bed," he said; and noticing the old man
whom M. Leblanc had knocked down still motionless on the floor, he

"Is Boulatruelle dead?"

"No," Bigrenaille answered, "he's drunk."

"Sweep him into a corner," Thénardier said.

Two of the "chimney-menders" thrust the drunkard with their feet to the
side of the old iron.

"Babet, why did you bring so many?" Thénardier said in a whisper to the
man with the cudgel; "it was unnecessary."

"They all wanted to be in it," the man answered, "for the season is
bad, and there's nothing doing."

The bed upon which M. Leblanc had been thrown was a sort of hospital
bed, on four clumsy wooden legs. M. Leblanc made no resistance. The
bandits tied him firmly in an upright posture to the end of the bed,
farthest from the window and nearest the chimney-piece. When the last
knot was tied, Thénardier took a chair and sat down almost facing
the prisoner. He was no longer the same man; in a few minutes his
countenance had passed from frenzied violence to tranquil and cunning
gentleness. Marius had a difficulty in recognizing in this polite smile
of an official the almost bestial mouth which had been foaming a moment
previously; he regarded this fantastic and alarming metamorphosis with
stupor, and he felt as a man would feel who saw a tiger changed into an

"Sir," said Thénardier, and made a sign to the bandits who still held
M. Leblanc to fall back;--"leave me to talk with the gentleman," he
said. All withdrew to the door, and he resumed,--

"You did wrong to try and jump out of the window, for you might
have broken a leg. Now, with your permission, we will talk quietly;
and, in the first place, I will communicate to you a thing I have
noticed,--that you have not yet uttered the slightest cry."

Thénardier was right; the fact was so, although it had escaped Marius
in his trouble. M. Leblanc had merely said a few words without raising
his voice, and even in his struggle near the window with the six
bandits he had preserved the profoundest and most singular silence.
Thénardier went on,--

"Good heavens! you might have cried 'Thieves!' a little while, and
I should not have thought it improper. Such a thing as 'Murder!' is
shouted on such occasions; I should not have taken it in ill part. It
is very simple that a man should make a bit of a row when he finds
himself with persons who do not inspire him with sufficient confidence.
If you had done so we should not have interfered with you or thought
of gagging you, and I will tell you the reason why. This room is very
deaf; it has only that in its favor, but it has that. It is a cellar;
you might explode a bombshell here and it would not produce the effect
of a drunkard's snore at the nearest post Here cannon would go _Boum!_
and thunder _Pouf!_ It is a convenient lodging. But still, you did not
cry out; all the better, and I compliment you on it, and will tell you
what conclusion I draw from the fact. My dear sir, when a man cries
for help, who come? The police; and after the police? Justice. Well,
you did not cry out, and so you are no more desirous than we are for
the arrival of the police. The fact is--and I have suspected it for
some time--that you have some interest in hiding something; for our
part, we have the same interest, and so we may be able to come to an

While saying this, Thénardier was trying to drive the sharp points
that issued from his eyes into his prisoner's conscience. Besides,
his language, marked with a sort of moderate and cunning insolence,
was reserved and almost chosen, and in this villain who was just
before only a bandit could now be seen "the man who had studied for
the priesthood." The silence which the prisoner had maintained, this
precaution which went so far as the very forgetfulness of care for
his life, this resistance so opposed to the first movement of nature,
which is to utter a cry, troubled and painfully amazed Marius, so soon
as his attention was drawn to it. Thénardier's well-founded remark but
rendered denser the mysterious gloom behind which was concealed the
grave and peculiar face to which Courfeyrac had thrown the sobriquet
of M. Leblanc. But whoever this man might be, though bound with cords,
surrounded by bandits, and half buried, so to speak, in a grave where
the earth fell upon him at every step,--whether in the presence of
Thénardier furious or of Thénardier gentle,--he remained impassive,
and Marius could not refrain from admiring this face so superbly
melancholy at such a moment. His was evidently a soul inaccessible to
terror, and ignorant of what it is to be alarmed. He was one of those
men who master the amazement produced by desperate situations. However
extreme the crisis might be, however inevitable the catastrophe, he had
none of the agony of the drowning man, who opens horrible eyes under
water. Thénardier rose without any affectation, removed the screen
from before the fire-place, and thus unmasked the heating-pan full of
burning charcoal, in which the prisoner could perfectly see the chisel
at a white heat, and studded here and there with small red stars. Then
he came back and sat down near M. Leblanc.

"I will continue," he said; "we can come to an understanding, so let
us settle this amicably. I did wrong to let my temper carry me away
just now; I do not know where my senses were; I went much too far and
uttered absurdities. For instance, because you are a millionnaire, I
told you that I insisted on money, a great deal of money, an immense
sum of money, and that was not reasonable. Good heavens! you may be
rich, but you have burdens, for who is there that has not? I do not
wish to ruin you, for, after all, I am not an insatiable fellow. I am
not one of those men who, because they have advantage of position,
employ it to be ridiculous. Come, I will make a sacrifice on my side,
and be satisfied with two hundred thousand francs."

M. Leblanc did not utter a syllable, and so Thénardier continued,--

"You see that I put plenty of water in my wine. I do not know the
amount of your fortune, but I am aware that you do not care for money,
and a benevolent man like you can easily give two hundred thousand
francs to an unfortunate parent. Of course, you are reasonable too; you
cannot have supposed that I would take all that trouble this morning,
and organize this affair to-night,--which is a well-done job, in the
opinion of these gentlemen,--merely to ask you for enough money to
go and drink fifteen sous wine and eat veal at Desnoyer's. But two
hundred thousand francs, that's worth the trouble; once that trifle
has come out of your pocket I will guarantee that you have nothing
more to apprehend. You will say, 'But I have not two hundred thousand
francs about me.' Oh, I am not unreasonable, and I do not insist on
that. I only ask one thing of you: be good enough to write what I shall

Here Thénardier stopped, but added, laying a stress on the words and
casting a smile at the heating-dish,--

"I warn you that I shall not accept the excuse that you cannot write."

A Grand Inquisitor might have envied that smile. Thénardier pushed the
table close up to M. Leblanc, and took pen, ink, and paper out of the
drawer, which he left half open, and in which the long knife-blade
flashed. He laid the sheet of paper before M. Leblanc.

"Write!" he said.

The prisoner at last spoke.

"How can you expect me to write? My arms are tied."

"That is true; I beg your pardon," said Thénardier, "you are quite
right;" and turning to Bigrenaille, he added, "Unfasten the gentleman's
right arm."

Panchaud _alias_ Printanier _alias_ Bigrenaille obeyed Thénardier's
orders, and when the prisoner's hand was free, Thénardier dipped the
pen in the ink and handed it to him.

"Make up your mind, sir, that you are in our absolute power; no human
interference can liberate you, and we should really be sorry to be
forced to proceed to disagreeable extremities. I know neither your name
nor your address, but I warn you that you will remain tied up here
until the person commissioned to deliver the letter you are going to
write has returned. Now be good enough to write."

"What?" the prisoner asked.

Thénardier began dictating: "My daughter."

The prisoner started, and raised his eyes to Thénardier,--

"Make it, 'My dear daughter,'" said Thénardier.

M. Leblanc obeyed.

Thénardier continued,--

"Come to me at once, for I want you particularly. The person who
delivers this letter to you has instructions to bring you to me. I am
waiting. Come in perfect confidence."

M. Leblanc wrote this down.

Thénardier resumed,--"By the way, efface that 'Come in perfect
confidence,' for it might lead to a supposition that the affair is not
perfectly simple, and create distrust."

M. Leblanc erased the words.

"Now," Thénardier added, "sign it. What is your name?"

The prisoner laid down the pen, and asked,--

"For whom is this letter?"

"You know very well," Thénardier answered; "for the little one; I just
told you so."

It was evident that Thénardier avoided mentioning the name of the girl
in question: he called her "the Lark," he called her "the little one,"
but he did not pronounce her name. It was the precaution of a clever
man who keeps his secret from his accomplices, and mentioning the name
would have told them the whole affair, and taught them more than there
was any occasion for them to know. So he repeated,--

"Sign it. What is your name?"

"Urbain Fabre," said the prisoner.

Thénardier, with the movement of a cat, thrust his hand into his pocket
and drew out the handkerchief found on M. Leblanc. He sought for the
mark, and held it to the candle.

"'U. F.,' all right, Urbain Fabre. Well, sign it 'U. F.'"

The prisoner did so.

"As two hands are needed to fold a letter, give it to me and I will do

This done, Thénardier added,--

"Write the address, 'Mademoiselle Fabre,' at your house. I know that
you live somewhere near here in the neighborhood of St. Jacques du
Haut-pas, as you attend Mass there every day, but I do not know in
what street. I see that you understand your situation, and as you have
not told a falsehood about your name, you will not do so about your
address. Write it yourself."

The prisoner remained pensive for a moment, and then took up the pen
and wrote,--

"Mademoiselle Fabre, at M. Urbain Fabre's, No. 17, Rue St. Dominique

Thénardier seized the letter with a sort of feverish convulsion.

"Wife!" he shouted, and the woman came up. "Here is the letter, and
you know what you have to do. There is a hackney coach down below,
so be off at once, and return ditto." Then he turned to the man with
the pole-axe, and said, "As you have taken off your muffler, you can
accompany her. Get up behind the coach. You know where you left it?"

"Yes," said the man; and depositing the axe in a corner, he followed
the woman. As they were going away Thénardier thrust his head out of
the door and shouted down the passage,--

"Mind and do not lose the letter! Remember you have two hundred
thousand francs about you."

The woman's hoarse voice replied,--

"Don't be frightened, I have put it in my stomach."

A minute had not elapsed when the crack of a whip could be heard
rapidly retiring.

"All right," Thénardier growled, "they are going at a good pace; with a
gallop like that she will be back in three quarters of an hour."

He drew up a chair to the fire-side, and sat down with folded arms, and
holding his muddy boots to the heating-pan.

"My feet are cold," he said.

Only five bandits remained in the den with Thénardier and the prisoner.
These men, through the masks or soot that covered their faces and
rendered them, with a choice of horror, charcoal-burners, negroes, or
demons, had a heavy, dull look, and it was plain that they performed
a crime like a job, tranquilly, without passion or pity, and with a
sort of _ennui_. They were heaped up in a corner like brutes, and were
silent. Thénardier was warming his feet. The prisoner had fallen back
into his taciturnity; a sinister calmness had succeeded the formidable
noise which had filled the garret a few moments previously. The candle,
on which a large mushroom had formed, scarce lit up the immense room;
the heating-dish had grown black, and all these monstrous heads cast
misshapen shadows upon the walls and the ceiling. No other sound was
audible save the regular breathing of the old drunkard, who was asleep.
Marius was waiting in a state of anxiety which everything tended to
augment. The enigma was more impenetrable than ever; who was this
"little one," whom Thénardier had also called "the Lark,"--was she
"his Ursule"? The prisoner had not seemed affected by this name of
the Lark, and had answered with the most natural air in the world,
"I do not know what you mean." On the other hand, the two letters
"U. F." were explained; they were Urbain Fabre, and Ursule's name was
no longer Ursule. This is what Marius saw most clearly. A sort of
frightful fascination kept him nailed to the spot, whence he surveyed
and commanded the whole scene. He stood there almost incapable of
reflection and movement, as if annihilated by the frightful things
which he saw close to him; and he waited, hoping for some incident, no
matter its nature, unable to collect his thoughts, and not knowing what
to do.

"In any case," he said, "if she is the Lark, I shall see her, for
Mother Thénardier will bring her here. In that case I will give my life
and blood, should it be necessary, to save her, and nothing shall stop

Nearly half an hour passed in this way; Thénardier seemed absorbed in
dark thoughts, and the prisoner did not stir. Still Marius fancied that
he could hear at intervals a low, dull sound in the direction of the
prisoner. All at once Thénardier addressed his victim.

"By the way, M. Fabre," he said, "I may as well tell you something at

As these few words seemed the commencement of an explanation, Marius
listened carefully. Thénardier continued,--

"My wife will be back soon, so do not be impatient. I believe that the
Lark is really your daughter, and think it very simple that you should
keep her; but listen to me for a moment. My wife will go to her with
your letter, and I told Madame Thénardier to dress herself in the way
you saw, that your young lady might make no difficulty about following
her. They will both get into the hackney coach with my comrade behind;
near a certain barrier there is a trap drawn by two excellent horses;
your young lady will be driven up to it in the hackney coach, and
get into the trap with my pal, while my wife returns here to report
progress. As for your young lady, no harm will be done her; she will
be taken to a place where she will be all safe, and so soon as you
have handed me the trifle of two hundred thousand francs she will be
restored to you. If you have me arrested, my pal will settle the Lark,
that's all."

The prisoner did not utter a word, and after a pause Thénardier

"It is simple enough, as you see, and there will be no harm, unless you
like to make harm. I have told you all about it, and warned you, that
you might know."

He stopped, but the prisoner did not interrupt the silence, and
Thénardier added,--

"So soon as my wife has returned and said to me, 'The Lark is under
way,' we will release you, and you can sleep at home if you like. You
see that we have no ill intentions."

Frightful images passed across the mind of Marius. What! they were not
going to bring the girl here! One of the monsters was going to carry
her off in the darkness!--where? Oh, if it were she! and it was plain
that it was she. Marius felt the beating of his heart stop; what should
he do? Fire the pistol and deliver all these villains into the hands of
justice? But the hideous man with the pole-axe could not be the less
out of reach with the girl, and Marius thought of Thénardier's words,
whose sanguinary meaning he could read,--"If you have me arrested, my
pal will settle the Lark;" now he felt himself checked, not only by the
Colonel's will, but by his love and the peril of her whom he loved. The
frightful situation, which had already lasted above an hour, changed
its aspect at every moment, and Marius had the strength to review in
turn all the most frightful conjectures, while seeking a hope and
finding none. The tumult of his thoughts contrasted with the lugubrious
silence of the den. In the midst of this silence the sound of the
staircase door being opened and shut became audible. The prisoner gave
a start in his bonds.

"Here's my wife," said Thénardier.

He had scarce finished speaking when Mother Thénardier rushed into the
room, red, out of breath, and with flashing eyes, and shouted as she
struck her thighs with her two big hands,--

"A false address!"

The brigand who had accompanied her appeared behind, and took up his
pole-axe again.

"A false address?" Thénardier repeated, and she went on,--

"No Monsieur Urbain Fabre known at No. 17, Rue St. Dominique. They
never heard of him."

She stopped to snort, and then continued,--

"Monsieur Thénardier, that old cove has made a fool of you; for you are
too good-hearted, I keep on telling you. I would have cut his throat
to begin with! and if he had sulked I would have boiled him alive!
that would have made him speak and tell us where his daughter is, and
where he keeps his money. That is how I should have managed the affair.
People are right when they say that men are more stupid than women.
Nobody at No. 17, it is a large gateway. No Monsieur Fabre at No. 17,
and we went at a gallop, with a fee for the driver and all! I spoke to
the porter and his wife, who is a fine, tall woman, and they did not
know anybody of the name."

Marius breathed again, for She, Ursule, or the Lark--he no longer knew
her name--was saved. While the exasperated woman was vociferating,
Thénardier sat down at the table; he remained for some minutes without
saying a word, balancing his right leg and looking at the heating-dish
with an air of savage reverie. At last he said to the prisoner slowly,
and with a peculiarly ferocious accent,--

"A false address? Why, what did you expect?"

"To gain time!" the prisoner thundered.

And at the same moment he shook off his bonds, which were cut through:
the prisoner was only fastened to the bed by one leg. Ere the seven
men had time to look about them and rush forward, he had stretched out
his hand toward the fire-place, and the Thénardiers and the brigands,
driven back by surprise to the end of the room, saw him almost free,
and in a formidable attitude, waving round his head the red-hot chisel,
from which a sinister glare shot.

In the judicial inquiry that followed this affair it was stated that
a large sou, cut and worked in a peculiar manner, was found in the
garret when the police made their descent upon it. It was one of
those marvels of industry which the patience of the bagne engenders
in the darkness and for the darkness,--marvels which are nought but
instruments of escape. These hideous and yet delicate products of
a prodigious art are in the jewelry trade what slang metaphors are
in poetry; for there are Benvenuto Cellinis at the bagne, in the
same way as there are Villons in language. The wretch who aspires to
deliverance, finds means, without tools, or, at the most, with an old
knife, to saw a son in two, hollow out the two parts without injuring
the dies, and form a thread in the edge of the son, so that the son may
be reproduced. It screws and unscrews at pleasure, and is a box; and
in this box a watch-spring saw is concealed, which, if well managed,
will cut through fetters and iron bars. It is believed that the unhappy
convict possesses only a son; but, not at all,--he possesses liberty.
It was a son of this nature which was found by the police under the
bed near the window, and a small saw of blue steel, which could be
easily concealed in the sou, was also discovered. It is probable that
at the moment when the bandits searched the prisoner he had the double
sou about him, and hid it in his palm; and his right hand being at
liberty afterwards, he unscrewed it, and employed the saw to cut the
ropes. This would explain the slight noise and the almost imperceptible
movements which Marius had noticed. As, however, he was unable to stoop
down for fear of betraying himself, he had not cut the cord on his left
leg. The bandits gradually recovered from their surprise.

"Be easy," said Bigrenaille to Thénardier, "he is still held by one
leg, and will not fly away. I put the pack-thread round that paw."

Here the prisoner raised his voice,--

"You are villains, but my life is not worth so much trouble to defend.
As for imagining that you could make me speak, make me write what I do
not wish to write, or make me say what I do not intend to say--"

He pulled up the sleeve of his left arm and added,--

"Look here!"

At the same time he stretched out his arm and placed on the naked flesh
the red-hot chisel, which he held in his right hand by the wooden
handle. Then could be heard the frizzling of the burnt flesh, and the
smell peculiar to torture-rooms spread through the garret. Marius
tottered in horror, and the brigands themselves shuddered; but the face
of the strange old man was scarce contracted, and while the red-hot
steel was burying itself in the smoking wound, he--impassive and almost
august--fixed on Thénardier his beautiful glance, in which there was no
hatred, and in which suffering disappeared in a serene majesty. For in
great and lofty natures the revolt of the flesh and of the senses when
suffering from physical pain makes the soul appear on the brow, in the
same way as the mutiny of troops compels the captain to show himself.

"Villains," he said, "be no more frightened of me than I am of you."

And tearing the chisel out of the wound, he hurled it through the
window, winch had been left open. The horrible red-hot tool whirled
through the night, and fell some distance off in the snow, which hissed
at the contact. The prisoner continued,--

"Do to me what you like."

He was defenceless.

"Seize him," said Thénardier.

Two of the brigands laid their hands on his shoulders, and the masked
man with the ventriloquist voice stood in front of him, ready to dash
out his brains with a blow of the key at the slightest movement on his
part. At the same time Marius heard below him, but so close that he
could not see the speakers, the following remarks exchanged in a low

"There is only one thing to be done."

"Cut his throat!"


It was the husband and wife holding council, and then Thénardier
walked slowly to the table, opened the drawer, and took out the knife.
Marius clutched the handle of the pistol in a state of extraordinary
perplexity. For above an hour he had heard two voices in his
conscience, one telling him to respect his father's will, while the
other cried to him to succor the prisoner. These two voices continued
their struggle uninterruptedly, and caused him an agony. He had vaguely
hoped up to this moment to find some mode of reconciling these two
duties, but nothing possible had occurred to him. Still the peril
pressed; the last moment of delay was passed, for Thénardier, knife
in hand, was reflecting a few paces from the prisoner. Marius looked
wildly around him, which is the last mechanical resource of despair.
All at once he started; at his feet on his table a bright moonbeam lit
up and seemed to point out to him a sheet of paper. On this sheet he
read this line, written in large letters that very morning by the elder
of Thénardier's daughters,--"_Here are the Slops._" An idea, a flash,
crossed Marius's mind; this was the solution of the frightful problem
that tortured him, sparing the assassin and saving the victim. He knelt
down on the chest-of-drawers, stretched forth his arm, seized the
paper, softly detached a lump of plaster from the partition, wrapped it
up in the paper, and threw it through the hole into the middle of the
den. It was high time, for Thénardier had overcome his last fears, or
his last scruples, and was going toward the prisoner.

"There's something falling," his wife cried.

"What is it?" her husband asked.

The woman had bounded forward, and picked up the lump of plaster
wrapped in paper, which she handed to her husband.

"How did it get here?" Thénardier asked.

"Why, hang it!" his wife asked, "how do you expect that it did? Through
the window, of course."

"I saw it pass," said Bigrenaille.

Thénardier rapidly unfolded the paper, and held it close to the candle.

"Éponine's handwriting--The devil!"

He made a signal to his wife, who hurried up to him, and showed her
the line written on the paper, then added in a hollow voice,--

"Quick, the ladder! we must leave the bacon in the trap, and bolt."

"Without cutting the man's throat?" the Megæra asked.

"We haven't the time."

"Which way?" Bigrenaille remarked.

"By the window," Thénardier replied; "as Ponine threw the stone through
the window, that's a proof that the house is not beset on that side."

The mask with the ventriloquist voice laid his key on the ground,
raised his arms in the air, and opened and shut his hands thrice
rapidly, without saying a word. This was like the signal for clearing
for action aboard ship; the brigands who held the prisoner let him
go, and in a twinkling the rope-ladder was dropped out of window and
securely fastened to the sill by the two iron hooks. The prisoner paid
no attention to what was going on around him; he seemed to be thinking
or praying. So soon as the ladder was fixed, Thénardier cried,--

"The lady first."

And he dashed at the window; but as he was stepping out, Bigrenaille
roughly seized him by the collar.

"No, no, my old joker, after us!" he said.

"After us!" the bandits yelled.

"You are children," said Thénardier; "we are losing time, and the
police are at our heels."

"Very well, then," said one of the bandits, "let us draw lots as to who
shall go first."

Thénardier exclaimed,--

"Are you mad? are you drunk? Why, what a set of humbugs; lose time, I
suppose, draw lots, eh,--with a wet finger, a short straw, write our
names and put them in a cap--"

"Would you like my hat?" a voice said at the door.

All turned; it was Javert, who held his hat in his hand and offered it



Javert posted his men at nightfall, and ambushed himself behind the
trees of the Rue de la Barrière des Gobelins, which joins No. 50-52
on the other side of the boulevard. He had begun by opening his
"pocket," in order to thrust into it the two girls ordered to watch
the approaches to the den, but he had only "nailed" Azelma. As for
Éponine, she was not at her post; she had disappeared, and he had not
been able to seize her. Then Javert took up his post, and listened for
the appointed signal. The departure and return of the hackney coach
greatly perplexed him; at length he grew impatient, and feeling sure
that there "was a nest there," and of being in "luck's way," and having
recognized several of the bandits who went in, he resolved to enter
without waiting for the pistol-shot. It will be remembered that he had
Marius's latch-key.

He arrived just in time.

The startled bandits dashed at the weapons, which they had thrown into
corners at the moment of their attempted escape; and in less than
a second these seven men, formidable to look at, were grouped in a
posture of defence,--one with his pole-axe, another with his key, a
third with his life-preserver, the others with crowbar, shears, and
hammer, and Thénardier with his knife in his fist. The woman picked up
an enormous paving-stone which lay in the angle of the room and served
her daughter as a footstool. Javert restored his hat to his head, and
walked into the room with folded arms, his cane hanging from his wrist,
and his sword in his scabbard.

"Halt!" he shouted; "you will not leave by the window but by the door,
which is not so unhealthy. You are seven and we are fifteen, so do not
let us quarrel like water-carriers, but behave like gentlemen."

Bigrenaille drew a pistol from under his blouse, and placed it in
Thénardier's hand, as he whispered,--

"It is Javert, and I dare not fire at that man. Dare you?"

"I should think so," Thénardier answered.

"Well, fire!"

Thénardier took the pistol and aimed at Javert; the Inspector, who was
only three paces from him, looked at him fixedly, and contented himself
with saying,--

"Don't fire, for the pistol won't go off."

Thénardier pulled the trigger; there was a flash in the pan.

"Did I not tell you so?" Javert remarked.

Bigrenaille threw his life-preserver at Javert's feet. "You are the
Emperor of the devils, and I surrender."

"And you?" Javert asked the other bandits.

They answered, "We too."

Javert remarked calmly,--

"That is all right; I begged you to behave like gentlemen."

"I only ask one thing," Bigrenaille remarked,--"that my tobacco may
n't be stopped while I'm in solitary confinement."

"Granted," said Javert.

Then he turned and shouted, "You can come in now!"

A squad of police, sword in hand, and agents armed with bludgeons and
sticks, rushed in at Javert's summons, and bound the robbers. This
crowd of men, scarce illumined by the candle, filled the den with

"Handcuff them all!" Javert cried.

"Just come this way!" a voice shouted, which was not that of a man,
but of which no one could have said, "It is a woman's voice." Mother
Thénardier had intrenched herself in one of the angles of the window,
and it was she from whom this roar had come. The police and the
agents fell back; she had thrown off her shawl and kept her bonnet
on: her husband, crouching behind her, almost disappeared under the
fallen shawl, and she covered him with her body, while raising the
paving-stone above her head with both hands, like a giantess about to
heave a rock.

"Heads below!" she screeched.

All fell back upon the passage, and there was a large open space in
the centre of the garret. The hag took a glance at the bandits, who
had suffered themselves to be bound, and muttered, in a hoarse and
guttural voice,--"The cowards!"

Javert smiled, and walked into the open space which the woman guarded
with her eyes.

"Don't come nearer," she shrieked, "or I'll smash you. Be off!"

"What a grenadier!" said Javert; "the mother! You have a beard like a
man, but I have claws like a woman."

And he continued to advance. Mother Thénardier, with flying hair and
terrible looks, straddled her legs, bent back, and wildly hurled
the paving-stone at Javert. He stooped, the stone passed over him,
struck the wall, from which it dislodged a mass of plaster, and then
ricochetted from angle to angle till it fell exhausted at Javert's
feet. At the same moment Javert reached the Thénardiers; one of his
large hands settled on the wife's shoulder, the other on the husband's

"Handcuffs here!" he shouted.

The policemen flocked in, and in a few seconds Javert's orders were
carried out. The woman, quite crushed, looked at her own and her
husband's manacled hands, fell on the ground, and bursting into tears,

"My daughters!"

"Oh, they are all right!" said Javert.

By this time the police had noticed the drunken man sleeping behind the
door, and shook him; he woke up and stammered,--

"Is it all over, Jondrette?"

"Yes," Javert answered.

The six bound bandits were standing together, with their spectral
faces, three daubed with black, and three masked.

"Keep on your masks," said Javert

And, passing them in review, like a Frederick II. at a Potsdam parade,
he said to the three "sweeps,"--

"Good-day, Bigrenaille." "Good-day, Brujon." "Good-day, Deux Milliards."

Then turning to the three masks he said to the man with the pole-axe,
"Good-day, Gueulemer," and to the man with the cudgel, "Good-day,
Babet," and to the ventriloquist, "Here's luck, Claquesous!"

At this moment he noticed the prisoner, who had not said a word since
the arrival of the police, and held his head down.

"Untie the gentleman," said Javert, "and let no one leave the room."

After saying this he sat down in a lordly way at the table, on which
the candle and the inkstand were still standing, took a stamped paper
from his pocket, and began writing his report. When he had written a
few lines, which are always the same formula, he raised his eyes.

"Bring the gentleman here whom these gentlemen had tied up."

The agents look around.

"Well," Javert asked, "where is he?"

The prisoner of the bandits, M. Leblanc, M. Urbain Fabre, the father
of Ursule or the Lark, had disappeared. The door was guarded, but the
window was not. So soon as he found himself released, and while Javert
was writing, he took advantage of the trouble, the tumult, the crowd,
the darkness, and the moment when attention was not fixed upon him,
to rush to the window. An agent ran up and looked out; he could see
nobody, but the rope-ladder was still trembling.

"The devil!" said Javert between his teeth; "he must have been the best
of the lot."



On the day after that in which these events occurred in the house on
the Boulevard de l'Hôpital, a lad, who apparently came from the bridge
of Austerlitz, was trudging along the right-hand walk in the direction
of the Barrière de Fontainebleau, at about nightfall. This boy was
pale, thin, dressed in rags, wearing canvas trousers in the month of
February, and singing at the top of his lungs. At the corner of the Rue
du Petit Banquier an old woman was stooping down and fumbling in a pile
of rubbish by the lamplight; the lad ran against her as he passed, and
fell back, with the exclamation,--

"My eye! why, I took that for an enormous, an enormous dog!"

He uttered the word _enormous_ the second time with a sonorous twang
which might be expressed by capitals,--"an enormous, an ENORMOUS dog."
The old woman drew herself up furiously.

"You young devil!" she growled, "if I had not been stooping, I know
where my foot would have been now."

The lad was already some distance off.

"Kisss! kisss!" he said; "after all, I may not have been mistaken."

The old woman, choked with indignation, drew herself up to her full
height, and the street lantern fully lit up her livid face, which was
hollowed by angles and wrinkles, and crow's-feet connecting the corners
of the mouth. The body was lost in the darkness, and her head alone
could be seen; she looked like a mask of Decrepitude lit up by a flash
darting through the night. The lad looked at her.

"Madame," he said, "yours is not the style of beauty which would suit

He went his way, and began singing again,--

    "Le Roi Coup de sabot
    S'en allait à la chasse,
    À la chasse aux corbeaux."

At the end of these three lines he broke off. He had reached No. 50-52,
and finding the gate closed, he began giving it re-echoing and heroic
kicks, which indicated rather the shoes of the man which he wore than
the feet of the boy which he had. By this time the same old woman whom
he had met at the corner of the Rue du Petit Banquier ran up after him,
uttering shouts, and making the most extraordinary gestures.

"What's the matter? what's the matter? O Lord to God! the gate is being
broken down, and the house broken into!"

The kicks continued, and the old woman puffed.

"Is that the way houses are treated at present?"

All at once she stopped, for she had recognized the gamin.

"Why, it is that Satan!"

"Hilloh! it's the old woman," said the boy. "Good evening, my dear
Burgonmuche, I have come to see my ancestors."

The old woman answered with a composite grimace, an admirable
improvisation of hatred deriving advantage from decrepitude and
ugliness, which was unfortunately lost in the darkness,--"There's
nobody here, scamp!"

"Nonsense," the boy said. "Where's father?"

"At La Force."

"Hilloh! and mother?"

"At St. Lazare."

"Very fine! and my sisters?"

"At the Madelonnettes."

The lad scratched the back of his ear, looked at Mame Bougon, and said,

Then he turned on his heels, and a moment later the old woman, who was
standing in the gateway, heard him singing in his clear young voice, as
he went off under the elms which were quivering in the winter breeze,--

    "Le Roi Coupdesabot
    S'en allait à la chasse,
    À la chasse aux corbeaux.
    Monté sur des échasses,
    Quand on passait dessous,
    On lui payait deux sous."


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Les Misérables, v. 3-5 - Fantine - Cosette - Marius - The Idyll and the Epic - Jean Valjean" ***

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