The Works of Victor Hugo

Translated by Isabel F. Hapgood


I. M. Myriel
II. M. Myriel becomes M. Welcome
III. A Hard Bishopric for a Good Bishop
IV. Works corresponding to Words
V. Monseigneur Bienvenu made his Cassocks last too long
VI. Who guarded his House for him
VII. Cravatte
VIII. Philosophy after Drinking
IX. The Brother as depicted by the Sister
X. The Bishop in the Presence of an Unknown Light
XI. A Restriction
XII. The Solitude of Monseigneur Welcome
XIII. What he believed
XIV. What he thought
I. The Evening of a Day of Walking
II. Prudence counselled to Wisdom
III. The Heroism of Passive Obedience
IV. Details concerning the Cheese-Dairies of Pontarlier
V. Tranquillity
VI. Jean Valjean
VII. The Interior of Despair
VIII. Billows and Shadows
IX. New Troubles
X. The Man aroused
XI. What he does
XII. The Bishop works
XIII. Little Gervais
I. The Year 1817
II. A Double Quartette
III. Four and Four
IV. Tholomyes is so Merry that he sings a Spanish Ditty
V. At Bombardas
VI. A Chapter in which they adore Each Other
VII. The Wisdom of Tholomyes
VIII. The Death of a Horse
IX. A Merry End to Mirth
I. One Mother meets Another Mother
II. First Sketch of Two Unprepossessing Figures
III. The Lark
I. The History of a Progress in Black Glass Trinkets
II. Madeleine
III. Sums deposited with Laffitte
IV. M. Madeleine in Mourning
V. Vague Flashes on the Horizon
VI. Father Fauchelevent
VII. Fauchelevent becomes a Gardener in Paris
VIII. Madame Victurnien expends Thirty Francs on Morality
IX. Madame Victurnien's Success
X. Result of the Success
XI. Christus nos Liberavit
XII. M. Bamatabois's Inactivity
XIII. The Solution of Some Questions connected with the
Municipal Police
I. The Beginning of Repose
II. How Jean may become Champ
I. Sister Simplice
II. The Perspicacity of Master Scaufflaire
III. A Tempest in a Skull
IV. Forms assumed by Suffering during Sleep
V. Hindrances
VI. Sister Simplice put to the Proof
VII. The Traveller on his Arrival takes Precautions
for Departure
VIII. An Entrance by Favor
IX. A Place where Convictions are in Process of Formation
X. The System of Denials
XI. Champmathieu more and more Astonished
I. In what Mirror M. Madeleine contemplates his Hair
II. Fantine Happy
III. Javert Satisfied
IV. Authority reasserts its Rights
V. A Suitable Tomb

I. What is met with on the Way from Nivelles
II. Hougomont
III. The Eighteenth of June, 1815
V. The Quid Obscurum of Battles
VI. Four o'clock in the Afternoon
VII. Napoleon in a Good Humor
VIII. The Emperor puts a Question to the Guide Lacoste
IX. The Unexpected
X. The Plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean
XI. A Bad Guide to Napoleon; a Good Guide to Bulow
XII. The Guard
XIII. The Catastrophe
XIV. The Last Square
XV. Cambronne
XVI. Quot Libras in Duce?
XVII. Is Waterloo to be considered Good?
XVIII. A Recrudescence of Divine Right
XIX. The Battle-Field at Night
I. Number 24,601 becomes Number 9,430
II. In which the reader will peruse Two Verses which are
of the Devil's Composition possibly
III. The Ankle-Chain must have undergone a Certain Preparatory
Manipulation to be thus broken with a Blow from a Hammer
I. The Water Question at Montfermeil
II. Two Complete Portraits
III. Men must have Wine, and Horses must have Water
IV. Entrance on the Scene of a Doll
V. The Little One All Alone
VI. Which possibly proves Boulatruelle's Intelligence
VII. Cosette Side by Side with the Stranger in the Dark
VIII. The Unpleasantness of receiving into One's House a Poor
Man who may be a Rich Man
IX. Thenardier at his Manoeuvres
X. He who seeks to better himself may render his Situation Worse
XI. Number 9,430 reappears, and Cosette wins it in the Lottery
I. Master Gorbeau
II. A Nest for Owl and a Warbler
III. Two Misfortunes make One Piece ofh would be Impossible with Gas Lanterns
VI. The Beginning of an Enigma
VII. Continuation of the Enigma
VIII. The Enigma becomes Doubly Mysterious
IX. The Man with the Bell
X. Which explains how Javert got on the Scent
I. Number 62 Rue Petit-Picpus
II. The Obedience of Martin Verga
III. Austerities
IV. Gayeties
V. Distractions
VI. The Little Convent
VII. Some Silhouettes of this Darkness
VIII. Post Corda Lapides
IX. A Century under a Guimpe
X. Origin of the Perpetual Adoration
XI. End of the Petit-Picpus
I. The Convent as an Abstract Idea
II. The Convent as an Historical Fact
III. On What Conditions One can respect the Past
IV. The Convent from the Point of View of Principles
V. Prayer
VI. The Absolute Goodness of Prayer
VII. Precautions to be observed in Blame
VIII. Faith, Law
I. Which treats of the Manner of entering a Convent
II. Fauchelevent in the Presence of a Difficulty
III. Mother Innocente
IV. In which Jean Valjean has quite the Air of having read
Austin Castillejo
V. It is not Necessary to be Drunk in order to be Immortal
VI. Between Four Planks
VII. In which will be found the Origin of the Saying: Don't
lose the Card
VIII. A Successful Interrogatory
IX. Cloistered

I. Parvulus
II. Some of his Particular Characteristics
III. He is Agreeable
IV. He may be of Use
V. His Frontiers
VI. A Bit of History
VII. The Gamin should have his Place in the Classifications
of India
VIII. In which the Reader will find a Charming Saying of the
Last King
IX. The Old Soul of Gaul
X. Ecce Paris, ecce Homo
XI. To Scoff, to Reign
XII. The Future Latent in the People
XIII. Little Gavroche
I. Ninety Years and Thirty-two Teeth
II. Like Master, Like House
III. Luc-Esprit
IV. A Centenarian Aspirant
V. Basque and Nicolette
VI. In which Magnon and her Two Children are seen
VII. Rule: Receive No One except in the Evening
VIII. Two do not make a Pair
I. An Ancient Salon
II. One of the Red Spectres of that Epoch
III. Requiescant
IV. End of the Brigand
V. The Utility of going to Mass, in order to become a
VI. The Consequences of having met a Warden
VII. Some Petticoat
VIII. Marble against Granite
I. A Group which barely missed becoming Historic
II. Blondeau's Funeral Oration by Bossuet
III. Marius' Astonishments
IV. The Back Room of the Cafe Musain
V. Enlargement of Horizon
VI. Res Angusta
I. Marius Indigent
II. Marius Poor
III. Marius Grown Up
IV. M. Mabeuf
V. Poverty a Good Neighbor for Misery
VI. The Substitute
I. The Sobriquet; Mode of Formation of Family Names
II. Lux Facta Est
III. Effect of the Spring
IV. Beginning of a Great Malady
V. Divers Claps of Thunder fall on Ma'am Bougon
VI. Taken Prisoner
VII. Adventures of the Letter U delivered over to Conjectures
VIII. The Veterans themselves can be Happy
IX. Eclipse
I. Mines and Miners
II. The Lowest Depths
III. Babet, Gueulemer, Claquesous, and Montparnasse
IV. Composition of the Troupe
I. Marius, while seeking a Girl in a Bonnet encounters a
Man in a Cap
II. Treasure Trove
III. Quadrifrons
IV. A Rose in Misery
V. A Providential Peep-Hole
VI. The Wild Man in his Lair
VII. Strategy and Tactics
VIII. The Ray of Light in the Hovel
IX. Jondrette comes near Weeping
X. Tariff of Licensed Cabs, Two Francs an Hour
XI. Offers of Service from Misery to Wretchedness
XII. The Use made of M. Leblanc's Five-Franc Piece
XIII. Solus cum Solo, in Loco Remoto, non cogitabuntur
orare Pater Noster
XIV. In which a Police Agent bestows Two Fistfuls on a Lawyer
XV. Jondrette makes his Purchases
XVI. In which will be found the Words to an English Air
which was in Fashion in 1832
XVII. The Use made of Marius' Five-Franc Piece
XVIII. Marius' Two Chairs form a Vis-a-Vis
XIX. Occupying One's Self with Obscure Depths
XX. The Trap
XXI. One should always begin by arresting the Victims
XXII. The Little One who was crying in Volume Two

I. Well Cut
II. Badly Sewed
III. Louis Philippe
IV. Cracks beneath the Foundation
V. Facts whence History springs and which History ignores
VI. Enjolras and his Lieutenants
I. The Lark's Meadow
II. Embryonic Formation of Crimes in the Incubation of Prisons
III. Apparition to Father Mabeuf
IV. An Apparition to Marius
I. The House with a Secret
II. Jean Valjean as a National Guard
III. Foliis ac Frondibus
IV. Change of Gate
V. The Rose perceives that it is an Engine of War
VI. The Battle Begun
VII. To One Sadness oppose a Sadness and a Half
VIII. The Chain-Gang
I. A Wound without, Healing within
II. Mother Plutarque finds no Difficulty in explaining a Phenomenon
I. Solitude and Barracks Combined
II. Cosette's Apprehensions
III. Enriched with Commentaries by Toussaint
IV. A Heart beneath a Stone
V. Cosette after the Letter
VI. Old People are made to go out opportunely
I. The Malicious Playfulness of the Wind
II. In which Little Gavroche extracts Profit from Napoleon the Great
III. The Vicissitudes of Flight
I. Origin
II. Roots
III. Slang which weeps and Slang which laughs
IV. The Two Duties: To Watch and to Hope
I. Full Light
II. The Bewilderment of Perfect Happiness
III. The Beginning of Shadow
IV. A Cab runs in English and barks in Slang
V. Things of the Night
VI. Marius becomes Practical once more to the Extent of
Giving Cosette his Address
VII. The Old Heart and the Young Heart in the Presence
of Each Other
I. Jean Valjean
II. Marius
III. M. Mabeuf
I. The Surface of the Question
II. The Root of the Matter
III. A Burial; an Occasion to be born again
IV. The Ebullitions of Former Days
V. Originality of Paris
I. Some Explanations with Regard to the Origin of Gavroche's
Poetry. The Influence of an Academician on this Poetry
II. Gavroche on the March
III. Just Indignation of a Hair-dresser
IV. The Child is amazed at the Old Man
V. The Old Man
VI. Recruits
I. History of Corinthe from its Foundation
II. Preliminary Gayeties
III. Night begins to descend upon Grantaire
IV. An Attempt to console the Widow Hucheloup
V. Preparations
VI. Waiting
VII. The Man recruited in the Rue des Billettes
VIII. Many Interrogation Points with Regard to a Certain
Le Cabuc, whose Name may not have been Le Cabuc
I. From the Rue Plumet to the Quartier Saint-Denis
II. An Owl's View of Paris
III. The Extreme Edge
I. The Flag: Act First
II. The Flag: Act Second
III. Gavroche would have done better to accept Enjolras' Carbine
IV. The Barrel of Powder
V. End of the Verses of Jean Prouvaire
VI. The Agony of Death after the Agony of Life
VII. Gavroche as a Profound Calculator of Distances
I. A Drinker is a Babbler
II. The Street Urchin an Enemy of Light
III. While Cosette and Toussaint are Asleep
IV. Gavroche's Excess of Zeal

I. The Charybdis of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine and the
Scylla of the Faubourg du Temple
II. What Is to Be Done in the Abyss if One Does Not Converse
III. Light and Shadow
IV. Minus Five, Plus One
V. The Horizon Which One Beholds from the Summit of a Barricade
VI. Marius Haggard, Javert Laconic
VII. The Situation Becomes Aggravated
VIII. The Artillery-men Compel People to Take Them Seriously
IX. Employment of the Old Talents of a Poacher and That
Infallible Marksmanship Which Influenced the
Condemnation of 1796
X. Dawn
XI. The Shot Which Misses Nothing and Kills No One
XII. Disorder a Partisan of Order
XIII. Passing Gleams
XIV. Wherein Will Appear the Name of Enjolras' Mistress
XV. Gavroche Outside
XVI. How from a Brother One Becomes a Father
XVII. Mortuus Pater Filium Moriturum Expectat
XVIII. The Vulture Becomes Prey
XIX. Jean Valjean Takes His Revenge
XX. The Dead Are in the Right and the Living Are Not in the Wrong
XXI. The Heroes
XXII. Foot to Foot
XXIII. Orestes Fasting and Pylades Drunk
XXIV. Prisoner
I. The Land Impoverished by the Sea
II. Ancient History of the Sewer
III. Bruneseau
V. Present Progress
VI. Future Progress
I. The Sewer and Its Surprises
II. Explanation
III. The "Spun" Man
IV. He Also Bears His Cross
V. In the Case of Sand, as in That of Woman, There Is a
Fineness Which Is Treacherous
VI. The Fontis
VII. One Sometimes Runs Aground When One Fancies That
One Is Disembarking
VIII. The Torn Coat-Tail
IX. Marius Produces on Some One Who Is a Judge of the
Matter, the Effect of Being Dead
X. Return of the Son Who Was Prodigal of His Life
XI. Concussion in the Absolute
XII. The Grandfather
I. In Which the Tree with the Zinc Plaster Appears Again
II. Marius, Emerging from Civil War, Makes Ready for
Domestic War
III. Marius Attacked
IV. Mademoiselle Gillenormand Ends by No Longer Thinking
It a Bad Thing That M. Fauchelevent Should Have
Entered With Something Under His Arm
V. Deposit Your Money in a Forest Rather than with a Notary
VI. The Two Old Men Do Everything, Each One After His
Own Fashion, to Render Cosette Happy
VII. The Effects of Dreams Mingled with Happiness
VIII. Two Men Impossible to Find
I. The 16th of February, 1833
II. Jean Valjean Still Wears His Arm in a Sling
III. The Inseparable
IV. The Immortal Liver
I. The Seventh Circle and the Eighth Heaven
II. The Obscurities Which a Revelation Can Contain
I. The Lower Chamber
II. Another Step Backwards
III. They Recall the Garden of the Rue Plumet
IV. Attraction and Extinction
I. Pity for the Unhappy, but Indulgence for the Happy
II. Last Flickerings of a Lamp Without Oil
III. A Pen Is Heavy to the Man Who Lifted the
Fauchelevent's Cart
IV. A Bottle of Ink Which Only Succeeded in Whitening
V. A Night Behind Which There Is Day
VI. The Grass Covers and the Rain Effaces

Les Miserables




So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of
damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid
the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to
divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century--
the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman
through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light--
are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part
of the world;--in other words, and with a still wider significance,
so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature
of Les Miserables cannot fail to be of use.


In 1815, M. Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of D----
He was an old man of about seventy-five years of age; he had occupied
the see of D---- since 1806.
Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real
substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous,
if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here
the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him
from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese. True or false,
that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in
their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do.
M. Myriel was the son of a councillor of the Parliament of Aix;
hence he belonged to the nobility of the bar. It was said that
his father, destining him to be the heir of his own post, had married
him at a very early age, eighteen or twenty, in accordance with a
custom which is rather widely prevalent in parliamentary families.
In spite of this marriage, however, it was said that Charles Myriel
created a great deal of talk. He was well formed, though rather short
in stature, elegant, graceful, intelligent; the whole of the first
portion of his life had been devoted to the world and to gallantry.
The Revolution came; events succeeded each other with precipitation;
the parliamentary families, decimated, pursued, hunted down,
were dispersed. M. Charles Myriel emigrated to Italy at the very
beginning of the Revolution. There his wife died of a malady of
the chest, from which she had long suffered. He had no children.
What took place next in the fate of M. Myriel? The ruin of the French
society of the olden days, the fall of his own family, the tragic
spectacles of '93, which were, perhaps, even more alarming to the
emigrants who viewed them from a distance, with the magnifying powers
of terror,--did these cause the ideas of renunciation and solitude
to germinate in him? Was he, in the midst of these distractions,
these affections which absorbed his life, suddenly smitten with one
of those mysterious and terrible blows which sometimes overwhelm,
by striking to his heart, a man whom public catastrophes would
not shake, by striking at his existence and his fortune? No one
could have told: all that was known was, that when he returned
from Italy he was a priest.
In 1804, M. Myriel was the Cure of B---- [Brignolles]. He was already
advanced in years, and lived in a very retired manner.
About the epoch of the coronation, some petty affair connected
with his curacy--just what, is not precisely known--took him
to Paris. Among other powerful persons to whom he went to solicit
aid for his parishioners was M. le Cardinal Fesch. One day,
when the Emperor had come to visit his uncle, the worthy Cure,
who was waiting in the anteroom, found himself present when His
Majesty passed. Napoleon, on finding himself observed with a certain
curiosity by this old man, turned round and said abruptly:--
"Who is this good man who is staring at me?"
"Sire," said M. Myriel, "you are looking at a good man, and I
at a great man. Each of us can profit by it."
That very evening, the Emperor asvery newcomer in a little town,
where there are many mouths which talk, and very few heads which think.
He was obliged to undergo it although he was a bishop, and because he
was a bishop. But after all, the rumors with which his name was
connected were rumors only,--noise, sayings, words; less than words--
palabres, as the energetic language of the South expresses it.
However that may be, after nine years of episcopal power and of
residence in D----, all the stories and subjects of conversation
which engross petty towns and petty people at the outset had fallen
into profound oblivion. No one would have dared to mention them;
no one would have dared to recall them.
M. Myriel had arrived at D---- accompanied by an elderly spinster,
Mademoiselle Baptistine, who was his sister, and ten years his junior.
Their only domestic was a female servant of the same age
as Mademoiselle Baptistine, and named Madame Magloire, who,
after having been the servant of M. le Cure, now assumed
the double title of maid to Mademoiselle and housekeeper to Monseigneur.
Mademoiselle Baptistine was a long, pale, thin, gentle creature;
she realized the ideal expressed by the word "respectable"; for it
seems that a woman must needs be a mother in order to be venerable.
She had never been pretty; her whole life, which had been nothing
but a succession of holy deeds, had finally conferred upon her
a sort of pallor and transparency; and as she advanced in years
she had acquired what may be called the beauty of goodness.
What had been leanness in her youth had become transparency in
her maturity; and this diaphaneity allowed the angel to be seen.
She was a soul rather than a virgin. Her person seemed made
of a shadow; there was hardly sufficient body to provide for sex;
a little matter enclosing a light; large eyes forever drooping;--
a mere pretext for a soul's remaining on the earth.
Madame Magloire was a little, fat, white old woman, corpulent
and bustling; always out of breath,--in the first place,
because of her activity, and in the next, because of her asthma.
On his arrival, M. Myriel was installed in the episcopal palace with
the honors required by the Imperial decrees, which class a bishop
immediately after a major-general. The mayor and the president
paid the first call on him, and he, in turn, paid the first call
on the general and the prefect.
The installation over, the town waited to see its bishop at work.


The episcopal palace of D---- adjoins the hospital.
The episcopal palace was a huge and beautiful house, built of stone
at the beginning of the last century by M. Henri Puget, Doctor of
Theology of the Faculty of Paris, Abbe of Simore, who had been Bishop
of D---- in 1712. This palace was a genuine seignorial residence.
Everything about it had a grand air,--the apartments of the Bishop,
the drawing-rooms, the chambers, the principal courtyard, which was
very large, with walks encircling it under arcades in the old
Florentine fashion, and gardens planted with magnificent trees.
In the dining-room, a long and superb gallery which was situated
on the ground-floor and opened on the gardens, M. Henri Puget had
entertained in state, on July 29, 1714, My Lords Charles Brulart
de Genlis, archbishop; Prince d'Embrun; Antoine de Mesgrigny,
the capuchin, Bishop of Grasse; Philippe de Vendome, Grand Prior
of France, Abbe of Saint Honore de Lerins; Francois de Berton
de Crillon, bishop, Baron de Vence; Cesar de Sabran de Forcalquier,
bishop, Seignor of Glandeve; and Jean Soanen, Priest of the Oratory,
preacher in ordinary to the king, bishop, Seignor of Senez.
The portraits of these seven reverend personages decorated this apartment;
and this memorable date, the 29th of July, 1714, was there engraved
in letters of gold on a table of white marble.
The hospital was a low and narrow building of a single story,
with a small garden.
Three days after his arrival, the Bishop visited the hospital.
The visit ended, he had the director requested to be so good as to
come to his house.
"Monsieur the director of the hospital," said he to him, "how many
sick people have you at the present moment?"
"Twenty-six, Monseigneur."
"That was the number which I counted," said the Bishop.
"The beds," pursued the director, "are very much crowded against
each other."
"That is what I observed."
"The halls are nothing but rooms, and it is with difficulty
that the air can be changed in them."
"So it seems to me."
"And then, when there is a ray of sun, the garden is very small
for the convalescents."
"That was what I said to myself."
"In case of epidemics,--we have had the typhus fever this year;
we had the sweating sickness two years ago, and a hundred patients
at times,--we know not what to do."
"That is the thought which occurred to me."
"What would you have, Monseigneur?" said the director. "One must
resign one's self."
This conversation took place in the gallery dining-room on the
The Bishop remained silent for a moment; then he turned abruptly
to the director of the hospital.
"Monsieur," said he, "how many beds do you think this hall alone
would hold?"
"Monseigneur's dining-room?" exclaimed the stupefied director.
The Bishop cast a glance round the apartment, and seemed to be
taking measures and calculations with his eyes.
"It would hold full twenty beds," said he, as though speaking
to himself. Then, raising his voice:--
"Hold, Monsieur the director of the hospital, I will tell you something.
There is evidently a mistake here. There are thirty-six of you,
in five or six small rooms. There are three of us here,
and we have room for sixty. There is some mistake, I tell you;
you have my house, and I have yours. Give me back my house;
you are at home here."
On the following day the thirty-six patients were installed
in the Bishop's palace, and the Bishop was settled in the hospital.
M. Myriel had no property, his family having been ruined by
the Revolution. His sister was in receipt of a yearly income
of five hundred francs, which sufficed for her personal wants at
the vicarage. M. Myriel received from the State, in his quality
of bishop, a salary of fifteen thousand francs. On the very day
when he took up his abode in the hospital, M. Myriel settled on
the disposition of this sum once for all, in the following manner.
We transcribe here a note made by his own hand:--

For the little seminary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,500 livres
Society of the mission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 "
For the Lazarists of Montdidier . . . . . . . . . . 100 "
Seminary for foreign missions in Paris . . . . . . 200 "
Congregation of the Holy Spirit . . . . . . . . . . 150 "
Religious establishments of the Holy Land . . . . . 100 "
Charitable maternity societies . . . . . . . . . . 300 "
Extra, for that of Arles . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 "
Work for the amelioration of prisons . . . . . . . 400 "
Work for the relief and delivery of prisoners . . . 500 "
To liberate fathers of families incarcerated for debt 1,000 "
Addition to the salary of the poor teachers of the
diocese . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,000 "
Public granary of the Hautes-Alpes . . . . . . . . 100 "
Congregation of the ladies of D----, of Manosque, and of
Sisteron, for the gratuitous instruction of poor
girls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,500 "
For the poor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6,000 "
My personal expenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,000 "
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,000 "

M. Myriel made no change in this arrangement during the entire
period that he occupied the see of D---- As has been seen, he called
it regulating his household expenses.
This arrangement was accepted with absolute submission by
Mademoiselle Baptistine. This holy woman regarded Monseigneur of D----
as at one and the same time her brother and her bishop, her friend
according to the flesh and her superior according to the Church.
She simply loved and venerated him. When he spoke, she bowed;
when he acted, she yielded her adherence. Their only servant,
Madame Magloire, grumbled a little. It will be observed that
Monsieur the Bishop had reserved for himself only one thousand
livres, which, added to the pension of Mademoiselle Baptistine,
made fifteen hundred francs a year. On these fifteen hundred
francs these two old women and the old man subsisted.
And when a village curate came to D----, the Bishop still found means
to entertain him, thanks to the severe economy of Madame Magloire,
and to the intelligent administration of Mademoiselle Baptistine.
One day, after he had been in D---- about three months, the Bishop said:--
"And still I am quite cramped with it all!"
"I should think so!" exclaimed Madame Magloire. "Monseigneur has
not even claimed the allowance which the department owes him
for the expense of his carriage in town, and for his journeys
about the diocese. It was customary for bishops in former days."
"Hold!" cried the Bishop, "you are quite right, Madame Magloire."
And he made his demand.
Some time afterwards the General Council took this demand under
consideration, and voted him an annual sum of three thousand francs,
under this heading: Allowance to M. the Bishop for expenses
of carriage, expenses of posting, and expenses of pastoral visits.
This provoked a great outcry among the local burgesses;
and a senator of the Empire, a former member of the Council
of the Five Hundred which favored the 18 Brumaire, and who was
provided with a magnificent senatorial office in the vicinity
of the town of D----, wrote to M. Bigot de Preameneu,
the minister of public worship, a very angry and confidential
note on the subject, from which we extract these authentic lines:--

"Expenses of carriage? What can be done with it in a town of less
than four thousand inhabitants? Expenses of journeys? What is the
use of these trips, in the first place? Next, how can the posting
be accomplished in these mountainous parts? There are no roads.
No one travels otherwise than on horseback. Even the bridge
between Durance and Chateau-Arnoux can barely support ox-teams.
These priests are all thus, greedy and avaricious. This man played
the good priest when he first came. Now he does like the rest;
he must have a carriage and a posting-chaise, he must have luxuries,
like the bishops of the olden days. Oh, all this priesthood!
Things will not go well, M. le Comte, until the Emperor has freed us
from these black-capped rascals. Down with the Pope! [Matters were
getting embroiled with Rome.] For my part, I am for Caesar alone."
Etc., etc.

On the other hand, this affair afforded great delight to Madame Magloire.
"Good," said she to Mademoiselle Baptistine; "Monseigneur began with
other people, but he has had to wind up with himself, after all.
He has regulated all his charities. Now here are three thousand
francs for us! At last!"
That same evening the Bishop wrote out and handed to his sister
a memorandum conceived in the following terms:--
For furnishing meat soup to the patients in the hospital. 1,500 livres
For the maternity charitable society of Aix . . . . . . . 250 "
For the maternity charitable society of Draguignan . . . 250 "
For foundlings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 "
For orphans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 "
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,000 "

Such was M. Myriel's budget.
As for the chance episcopal perquisites, the fees for marriage bans,
dispensations, private baptisms, sermons, benedictions, of churches
or chapels, marriages, etc., the Bishop levied them on the wealthy
with all the more asperity, since he bestowed them on the needy.
After a time, offerings of money flowed in. Those who had and
those who lacked knocked at M. Myriel's door,--the latter in search
of the alms which the former came to deposit. In less than a year
the Bishop had become the treasurer of all benevolence and the cashier
of all those in distress. Considerable sums of money passed through
his hands, but nothing could induce him to make any change whatever
in his mode of life, or add anything superfluous to his bare necessities.
Far from it. As there is always more wretchedness below than there
is brotherhood above, all was given away, so to speak, before it
was received. It was like water on dry soil; no matter how much
money he received, he never had any. Then he stripped himself.
The usage being that bishops shall announce their baptismal
names at the head of their charges and their pastoral letters,
the poor people of the country-side had selected, with a sort of
affectionate instinct, among the names and prenomens of their bishop,
that which had a meaning for them; and they never called him
anything except Monseigneur Bienvenu [Welcome]. We will follow
their example, and will also call him thus when we have occasion
to name him. Moreover, this appellation pleased him.
"I like that name," said he. "Bienvenu makes up for the Monseigneur."
We do not claim that the portrait herewith presented is probable;
we confine ourselves to stating that it resembles the original.


The Bishop did not omit his pastoral visits because he had converted
his carriage into alms. The diocese of D---- is a fatiguing one.
There are very few plains and a great many mountains; hardly any roads,
as we have just seen; thirty-two curacies, forty-one vicarships,
and two hundred and eighty-five auxiliary chapels. To visit all
these is quite a task.
The Bishop managed to do it. He went on foot when it was in
the neighborhood, in a tilted spring-cart when it was on the plain,
and on a donkey in the mountains. The two old women accompanied him.
When the trip was too hard for them, he went alone.
One day he arrived at Senez, which is an ancient episcopal city.
He was mounted on an ass. His purse, which was very dry at that moment,
did not permit him any other equipage. The mayor of the town came
to receive him at the gate of the town, and watched him dismount
from his ass, with scandalized eyes. Some of the citizens were
laughing around him. "Monsieur the Mayor," said the Bishop,
"and Messieurs Citizens, I perceive that I shock you. You think
it very arrogant in a poor priest to ride an animal which was used
by Jesus Christ. I have done so from necessity, I assure you,
and not from vanity."
In the course of these trips he was kind and indulgent, and talked
rather than preached. He never went far in search of his arguments
and his examples. He quoted to the inhabitants of one district
the example of a neighboring district. In the cantons where they
were harsh to the poor, he said: "Look at the people of Briancon!
They have conferred on the poor, on widows and orphans, the right
to have their meadows mown three days in advance of every one else.
They rebuild their houses for them gratuitously when they are ruined.
Therefore it is a country which is blessed by God. For a whole century,
there has not been a single murderer among them."
In villages which were greedy for profit and harvest, he said:
"Look at the people of Embrun! If, at the harvest season, the father
of a family has his son away on service in the army, and his daughters
at service in the town, and if he is ill and incapacitated, the cure
recommends him to the prayers of the congregation; and on Sunday,
after the mass, all the inhabitants of the village--men, women,
and children--go to the poor man's field and do his harvesting
for him, and carry his straw ek their fortunes,
leaving the property to the girls, so that they may find husbands."
To the cantons which had a taste for lawsuits, and where the farmers
ruined themselves in stamped paper, he said: "Look at those good peasants
in the valley of Queyras! There are three thousand souls of them.
Mon Dieu! it is like a little republic. Neither judge nor bailiff
is known there. The mayor does everything. He allots the imposts,
taxes each person conscientiously, judges quarrels for nothing,
divides inheritances without charge, pronounces sentences gratuitously;
and he is obeyed, because he is a just man among simple men."
To villages where he found no schoolmaster, he quoted once more the
people of Queyras: "Do you know how they manage?" he said. "Since a
little country of a dozen or fifteen hearths cannot always support
a teacher, they have school-masters who are paid by the whole valley,
who make the round of the villages, spending a week in this one,
ten days in that, and instruct them. These teachers go to the fairs.
I have seen them there. They are to be recognized by the quill
pens which they wear in the cord of their hat. Those who teach
reading only have one pen; those who teach reading and reckoning
have two pens; those who teach reading, reckoning, and Latin have
three pens. But what a disgrace to be ignorant! Do like the people
of Queyras!"
Thus he discoursed gravely and paternally; in default of examples,
he invented parables, going directly to the point, with few phrases
and many images, which characteristic formed the real eloquence
of Jesus Christ. And being convinced himself, he was persuasive.


His conversation was gay and affable. He put himself on a level
with the two old women who had passed their lives beside him.
When he laughed, it was the laugh of a schoolboy. Madame Magloire
liked to call him Your Grace [Votre Grandeur]. One day he rose
from his arm-chair, and went to his library in search of a book.
This book was on one of the upper shelves. As the bishop was rather
short of stature, he could not reach it. "Madame Magloire," said he,
"fetch me a chair. My greatness [grandeur] does not reach as far as
that shelf."
One of his distant relatives, Madame la Comtesse de Lo, rarely
allowed an opportunity to escape of enumerating, in his presence,
what she designated as "the expectations" of her three sons.
She had numerous relatives, who were very old and near to death,
and of whom her sons were the natural heirs. The youngest of the
three was to receive from a grand-aunt a good hundred thousand
livres of income; the second was the heir by entail to the title
of the Duke, his uncle; the eldest was to succeed to the peerage
of his grandfather. The Bishop was accustomed to listen in silence
to these innocent and pardonable maternal boasts. On one occasion,
however, he appeared to be more thoughtful than usual, while Madame
de Lo was relating once again the details of all these inheritances
and all these "expectations." She interrupted herself impatiently:
"Mon Dieu, cousin! What are you thinking about?" "I am thinking,"
replied the Bishop, "of a singular remark, which is to be found,
I believe, in St. Augustine,--`Place your hopes in the man from whom
you do not inherit.'"
At another time, on receiving a notification of the decease of
a gentleman of the country-side, wherein not only the dignities
of the dead man, but also the feudal and noble qualifications
of all his relatives, spread over an entire page: "What a stout
back Death has!" he exclaimed. "What a strange burden of titles
is cheerfully imposed on him, and how much wit must men have,
in order thus to press the tomb into the service of vanity!"
He was gifted, on occasion, with a gentle raillery, which almost
always concealed a serious meaning. In the course of one Lent,
a youthful vicar came to D----, and preached in the cathedral.
He was tolerably eloquent. The subject of his sermon was charity.
He urged the rich to give to the poor, in order to avoid hell,
which he depicted in the most frightful manner of which he was capable,
and to win paradise, which he represented as charming and desirable.
Among the audience there was a wealthy retired merchant, who was
somewhat of a usurer, named M. Geborand, who had amassed two millions
in the manufacture of coarse cloth, serges, and woollen galloons.
Never in his whole life had M. Geborand bestowed alms on any poor wretch.
After the delivery of that sermon, it was observed that he gave a sou
every Sunday to the poor old beggar-women at the door of the cathedral.
There were six of them to share it. One day the Bishop caught sight
of him in the act of bestowing this charity, and said to his sister,
with a smile, "There is M. Geborand purchasing paradise for
a sou."
When it was a question of charity, he was not to be rebuffed even
by a refusal, and on such occasions he gave utterance to remarks
which induced reflection. Once he was begging for the poor in a
drawing-room of the town; there was present the Marquis de Champtercier,
a wealthy and avaricious old man, who contrived to be, at one
and the same time, an ultra-royalist and an ultra-Voltairian. This
variety of man has actually existed. When the Bishop came to him,
he touched his arm, "You must give me something, M. le Marquis."
The Marquis turned round and answered dryly, "I have poor people
of my own, Monseigneur." "Give them to me," replied the Bishop.
One day he preached the following sermon in the cathedral:--

"My very dear brethren, my good friends, there are thirteen hundred
and twenty thousand peasants' dwellings in France which have but
three openings; eighteen hundred and seventeen thousand hovels which
have but two openings, the door and one window; and three hundred
and forty-six thousand cabins besides which have but one opening,
the door. And this arises from a thing which is called the tax
on doors and windows. Just put poor families, old women and little
children, in those buildings, and behold the fevers and maladies
which result! Alas! God gives air to men; the law sells it to them.
I do not blame the law, but I bless God. In the department
of the Isere, in the Var, in the two departments of the Alpes,
the Hautes, and the Basses, the peasants have not even wheelbarrows;
they transport their manure on the backs of men; they have no candles,
and they burn resinous sticks, and bits of rope dipped in pitch.
That is the state of affairs throughout the whole of the hilly
country of Dauphine. They make bread for six months at one time;
they bake it with dried cow-dung. In the winter they break this
bread up with an axe, and they soak it for twenty-four hours,
in order to render it eatable. My brethren, have pity! behold
the suffering on all sides of you!"
Born a Provencal, he easily familiarized himself with the dialect of
the south. He said, "En be! moussu, ses sage?" as in lower Languedoc;
"Onte anaras passa?" as in the Basses-Alpes; "Puerte un bouen moutu
embe un bouen fromage grase," as in upper Dauphine. This pleased
the people extremely, and contributed not a little to win him
access to all spirits. He was perfectly at home in the thatched
cottage and in the mountains. He understood how to say the grandest
things in the most vulgar of idioms. As he spoke all tongues,
he entered into all hearts.
Moreover, he was the same towards people of the world and towards
the lower classes. He condemned nothing in haste and without
taking circumstances into account. He said, "Examine the road
over which the fault has passed."
Being, as he described himself with a smile, an ex-sinner, he had none
of the asperities of austerity, and he professed, with a good deal
of distinctness, and without the frown of the ferociously virtuous,
a doctrine which may be summed up as follows:--
"Man has upon him his flesh, which is at once his burden
and his temptation. He drags it with him and yields to it.
He must watch it, cheek it, repress it, and obey it only at the
last extremity. There may be some fault even in this obedience;
but the fault thus committed is venial; it is a fall, but a fall
on the knees which may terminate in prayer.
"To be a saint is the exception; to be an upright man is the rule.
Err, fall, sin if you will, but be upright.
"The least possible sin is the law of man. No sin at all is the
dream of the angel. All which is terrestrial is subject to sin.
Sin is a gravitation."
When he saw everyone exclaiming very loudly, and growing angry
very quickly, "Oh! oh!" he said, with a smile; "to all appearance,
this is a great crime which all the world commits. These are
hypocrisies which have taken fright, and are in haste to make
protest and to put themselves under shelter."
He was indulgent towards women and poor people, on whom the burden
of human society rest. He said, "The faults of women, of children,
of the feeble, the indigent, and the ignorant, are the fault
of the husbands, the fathers, the masters, the strong, the rich,
and the wise."
He said, moreover, "Teach those who are ignorant as many things
as possible; society is culpable, in that it does not afford
instruction gratis; it is responsible for the night which it produces.
This soul is full of shadow; sin is therein committed. The guilty
one is not the person who has committed the sin, but the person
who has created the shadow."
It will be perceived that he had a peculiar manner of his own
of judging things: I suspect that he obtained it from the Gospel.
One day he heard a criminal case, which was in preparation and on
the point of trial, discussed in a drawing-room. A wretched man,
being at the end of his resources, had coined counterfeit money,
out of love for a woman, and for the child which he had had by her.
Counterfeiting was still punishable with death at that epoch.
The woman had been arrested in the act of passing the first false
piece made by the man. She was held, but there were no proofs
except against her. She alone could accuse her lover, and destroy
him by her confession. She denied; they insisted. She persisted in
her denial. Thereupon an idea occurred to the attorney for the crown.
He invented an infidelity on the part of the lover, and succeeded,
by means of fragments of letters cunningly presented, in persuading
the unfortunate woman that she had a rival, and that the man was
deceiving her. Thereupon, exasperated by jealousy, she denounced
her lover, confessed all, proved all.
The man was ruined. He was shortly to be tried at Aix with
his accomplice. They were relating the matter, and each one was
expressing enthusiasm over the cleverness of the magistrate.
By bringing jealousy into play, he had caused the truth to burst
forth in wrath, he had educed the justice of revenge. The Bishop
listened to all this in silence. When they had finished, he inquired,--
"Where are this man and woman to be tried?"
"At the Court of Assizes."
He went on, "And where will the advocate of the crown be tried?"
A tragic event occurred at D---- A man was condemned to death
for murder. He was a wretched fellow, not exactly educated,
not exactly ignorant, who had been a mountebank at fairs, and a writer
for the public. The town took a great interest in the trial.
On the eve of the day fixed for the execution of the condemned man,
the chaplain of the prison fell ill. A priest was needed to attend
the criminal in his last moments. They sent for the cure.
It seems that he refused to come, saying, "That is no affair
of mine. I have nothing to do with that unpleasant task, and with
that mountebank: I, too, am ill; and besides, it is not my place."
This reply was reported to the Bishop, who said, "Monsieur le Cure
is right: it is not his place; it is mine."
He went instantly to the prison, descended to the cell of the
"mountebank," called him by name, took him by the hand, and spoke to him.
He passed the entire day with him, forgetful of food and sleep,
praying to God for the soul of the condemned man, and praying the
condemned man for his own. He told him the best truths, which are
also the most simple. He was father, brother, friend; he was bishop
only to bless. He taught him everything, encouraged and consoled him.
The man was on the point of dying in despair. Death was an abyss to him.
As he stood trembling on its mournful brink, he recoiled with horror.
He was not sufficiently ignorant to be absolutely indifferent.
His condemnation, which had been a profound shock, had, in a manner,
broken through, here and there, that wall which separates us
from the mystery of things, and which we call life. He gazed
incessantly beyond this world through these fatal breaches,
and beheld only darkness. The Bishop made him see light.
On the following day, when they came to fetch the unhappy wretch,
the Bishop was still there. He followed him, and exhibited himself
to the eyes of the crowd in his purple camail and with his episcopal
cross upon his neck, side by side with the criminal bound with cords.
He mounted the tumbril with him, he mounted the scaffold with him.
The sufferer, who had been so gloomy and cast down on the preceding day,
was radiant. He felt that his soul was reconciled, and he hoped
in God. The Bishop embraced him, and at the moment when the knife
was about to fall, he said to him: "God raises from the dead him
whom man slays; he whom his brothers have rejected finds his Father
once more. Pray, believe, enter into life: the Father is there."
When he descended from the scaffold, there was something in his look
which made the people draw aside to let him pass. They did not know
which was most worthy of admiration, his pallor or his serenity.
On his return to the humble dwelling, which he designated,
with a smile, as his palace, he said to his sister, "I have just
officiated pontifically."
Since the most sublime things are often those which are the
least understood, there were people in the town who said,
when commenting on this conduct of the Bishop, "It is affectation."
This, however, was a remark which was confined to the drawing-rooms.
The populace, which perceives no jest in holy deeds, was touched,
and admired him.
As for the Bishop, it was a shock to him to have beheld the guillotine,
and it was a long time before he recovered from it.
In fact, when the scaffold is there, all erected and prepared,
it has something about it which produces hallucination.
One may feel a certain indifference to the death penalty,
one may refrain from pronouncing upon it, from saying yes or no,
so long as one has not seen a guillotine with one's own eyes:
but if one encounters one of them, the shock is violent;
one is forced to decide, and to take part for or against.
Some admire it, like de Maistre; others execrate it, like Beccaria.
The guillotine is the concretion of the law; it is called vindicte;
it is not neutral, and it does not permit you to remain neutral.
He who sees it shivers with the most mysterious of shivers.
All social problems erect their interrogation point around
this chopping-knife. The scaffold is a vision. The scaffold
is not a piece of carpentry; the scaffold is not a machine;
the scaffold is not an inert bit of mechanism constructed of wood,
iron and cords.
It seems as though it were a being, possessed of I know not what
sombre initiative; one would say that this piece of carpenter's
work saw, that this machine heard, that this mechanism understood,
that this wood, this iron, and these cords were possessed of will.
In the frightful meditation into which its presence casts the soul
the scaffold appears in terrible guise, and as though taking part in
what is going on. The scaffold is the accomplice of the executioner;
it devours, it eats flesh, it drinks blood; the scaffold is a sort
of monster fabricated by the judge and the carpenter, a spectre
which seems to live with a horrible vitality composed of all the death
which it has inflicted.
Therefore, the impression was terribll his deeds
with a radiant satisfaction, seemed to be reproaching himself.
At times he talked to himself, and stammered lugubrious monologues
in a low voice. This is one which his sister overheard one evening
and preserved: "I did not think that it was so monstrous.
It is wrong to become absorbed in the divine law to such a degree
as not to perceive human law. Death belongs to God alone.
By what right do men touch that unknown thing?"
In course of time these impressions weakened and probably vanished.
Nevertheless, it was observed that the Bishop thenceforth avoided
passing the place of execution.
M. Myriel could be summoned at any hour to the bedside of the sick
and dying. He did not ignore the fact that therein lay his greatest
duty and his greatest labor. Widowed and orphaned families had
no need to summon him; he came of his own accord. He understood
how to sit down and hold his peace for long hours beside the man
who had lost the wife of his love, of the mother who had lost
her child. As he knew the moment for silence he knew also the moment
for speech. Oh, admirable consoler! He sought not to efface sorrow
by forgetfulness, but to magnify and dignify it by hope. He said:--
"Have a care of the manner in which you turn towards the dead.
Think not of that which perishes. Gaze steadily. You will perceive
the living light of your well-beloved dead in the depths of heaven."
He knew that faith is wholesome. He sought to counsel and calm
the despairing man, by pointing out to him the resigned man,
and to transform the grief which gazes upon a grave by showing him
the grief which fixes its gaze upon a star.



The private life of M. Myriel was filled with the same thoughts
as his public life. The voluntary poverty in which the Bishop
of D---- lived, would have been a solemn and charming sight
for any one who could have viewed it close at hand.
Like all old men, and like the majority of thinkers, he slept little.
This brief slumber was profound. In the morning he meditated for an hour,
then he said his mass, either at the cathedral or in his own house.
His mass said, he broke his fast on rye bread dipped in the milk
of his own cows. Then he set to work.
A Bishop is a very busy man: he must every day receive the
secretary of the bishopric, who is generally a canon, and nearly
every day his vicars-general. He has congregations to reprove,
privileges to grant, a whole ecclesiastical library to examine,--
prayer-books, diocesan catechisms, books of hours, etc.,--charges
to write, sermons to authorize, cures and mayors to reconcile,
a clerical correspondence, an administrative correspondence;
on one side the State, on the other the Holy See; and a thousand
matters of business.
What time was left to him, after these thousand details of business,
and his offices and his breviary, he bestowed first on the necessitous,
the sick, and the afflicted; the time which was left to him from
the afflicted, the sick, and the necessitous, he devoted to work.
Sometimes he dug in his garden; again, he read or wrote. He had
but one word for both these kinds of toil; he called them gardening.
"The mind is a garden," said he.
Towards mid-day, when the weather was fine, he went forth and took
a stroll in the country or in town, often entering lowly dwellings.
He was seen walking alone, buried in his own thoughts, his eyes
cast down, supporting himself on his long cane, clad in his wadded
purple garment of silk, which was very warm, wearing purple stockings
inside his coarse shoes, and surmounted by a flat hat which allowed
three golden tassels of large bullion to droop from its three points.
It was a perfect festival wherever he appeared. One would have said
that his presence had something warming and luminous about it.
The children and the old people came out to the doorsteps for the Bishop
as for the sun. He bestowed his blessing, and they blessed him.
They pointed out his house to any one who was in need of anything.
Here and there he halted, accosted the little boys and girls,
and smiled upon the mothers. He visited the poor so long as he
had any money; when he no longer had any, he visited the rich.
As he made his cassocks last a long while, and did not wish to
have it noticed, he never went out in the town without his wadded
purple cloak. This inconvenienced him somewhat in summer.
On his return, he dined. The dinner resembled his breakfast.
At half-past eight in the evening he supped with his sister,
Madame Magloire standing behind them and serving them at table.
Nothing could be more frugal than this repast. If, however, the Bishop
had one of his cures to supper, Madame Magloire took advantage
of the opportunity to serve Monseigneur with some excellent fish
from the lake, or with some fine game from the mountains. Every cure
furnished the pretext for a good meal: the Bishop did not interfere.
With that exception, his ordinary diet consisted only of vegetables
boiled in water, and oil soup. Thus it was said in the town,
when the Bishop does not indulge in the cheer of a cure, he indulges
in the cheer of a trappist.
After supper he conversed for half an hour with Mademoiselle Baptistine
and Madame Magloire; then he retired to his own room and set to writing,
sometimes on loose sheets, and again on the margin of some folio.
He was a man of letters and rather learned. He left behind him
five or six very curious manuscripts; among others, a dissertation
on this verse in Genesis, In the beginning, the spirit of God
floated upon the waters. With this verse he compares three texts:
the Arabic verse which says, The winds of God blew; Flavius Josephus
who says, A wind from above was precipitated upon the earth;
and finally, the Chaldaic paraphrase of Onkelos, which renders it,
A wind coming from God blew upon the face of the waters.
In another dissertation, he examines the theological works of Hugo,
Bishop of Ptolemais, great-grand-uncle to the writer of this book,
and establishes the fact, that to this bishop must be attributed
the divers little works published during the last century, under the
pseudonym of Barleycourt.
Sometimes, in the midst of his reading, no matter what the book
might be which he had in his hand, he would suddenly fall into
a profound meditation, whence he only emerged to write a few
lines on the pages of the volume itself. These lines have often
no connection whatever with the book which contains them. We now
have under our eyes a note written by him on the margin of a quarto
entitled Correspondence of Lord Germain with Generals Clinton,
Cornwallis, and the Admirals on the American station. Versailles,
Poincot, book-seller; and Paris, Pissot, bookseller, Quai des Augustins.
Here is the note:--
"Oh, you who are!
"Ecclesiastes calls you the All-powerful; the Maccabees call you
the Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you liberty;
Baruch calls you Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth;
John calls you Light; the Books of Kings call you Lord; Exodus calls
you Providence; Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation
calls you God; man calls you Father; but Solomon calls you Compassion,
and that is the most beautiful of all your names."
Toward nine o'clock in the evening the two women retired and betook
themselves to their chambers on the first floor, leaving him alone
until morning on the ground floor.
It is necessary that we should, in this place, give an exact idea
of the dwelling of the Bishop of D----


The house in which he lived consisted, as we have said, of a ground floor,
and one story above; three rooms on the ground floor, three chambers
on the first, and an attic above. Behind the house was a garden,
a quarter of an acre in extent. The two women occupied the first floor;
the Bishop was lodged below. The first room, opening on the street,
served him as dining-room, the second was his bedroom, and the
third his oratory. There was no exit possible from this oratory,
except by passing through the bedroom, nor from the bedroom,
without passing through the dining-room. At the end of the suite,
in the oratory, there was a detached alcove with a bed, for use
in cases of hospitality. The Bishop offered this bed to country
curates whom business or the requirements of their parishes brought
to D----
The pharmacy of the hospital, a small building which had been added
to the house, and abutted on the garden, had been transformed into
a kitchen and cellar. In addition to this, there was in the garden
a stable, which had formerly been the kitchen of the hospital,
and in which the Bishop kept two cows. No matter what the quantity
of milk they gave, he invariably sent half of it every morning
to the sick people in the hospital. "I am paying my tithes,"
he said.
His bedroom was tolerably large, and rather difficult to warm
in bad weather. As wood is extremely dear at D----, he hit upon
the idea of having a compartment of boards constructed in the
cow-shed. Here he passed his evenings during seasons of severe cold:
he called it his winter salon.
In this winter salon, as in the dining-room, there was no other furniture
than a square table in white wood, and four straw-seated chairs.
In addition to this the dining-room was ornamented with an
antique sideboard, painted pink, in water colors. Out of a similar
sideboard, properly draped with white napery and imitation lace,
the Bishop had constructed the altar which decorated his oratory.
His wealthy penitents and the sainted women of D---- had more than
once assessed themselves to raise the money for a new altar for
Monseigneur's oratory; on each occasion he had taken the money and
had given it to the poor. "The most beautiful of altars," he said,
"is the soul of an unhappy creature consoled and thanking God."
In his oratory there were two straw prie-Dieu, and there was
an arm-chair, also in straw, in his bedroom. When, by chance,
he received seven or eight persons at one time, the prefect,
or the general, or the staff of the regiment in garrison, or several
pupils from the little seminary, the chairs had to be fetched from
the winter salon in the stable, the prie-Dieu from the oratory,
and the arm-chair from the bedroom: in this way as many as eleven
chairs could be collected for the visitors. A room was dismantled
for each new guest.
It sometimes happened that there were twelve in the party;
the Bishop then relieved the embarrassment of the situation by
standing in front of the chimney if it was winter, or by strolling
in the garden if it was summer.
There was still another chair in the detached alcove, but the straw
was half gone from it, and it had but three legs, so that it was of
service only when propped against the wall. Mademoiselle Baptistine
had also in her own room a very large easy-chair of wood, which had
formerly been gilded, and which was covered with flowered pekin;
but they had been obliged to hoist this bergere up to the first story
through the window, as the staircase was too narrow; it could not,
therefore, be reckoned among the possibilities in the way of furniture.
Mademoiselle Baptistine's ambition had been to be able to purchase
a set of drawing-room furniture in yellow Utrecht velvet,
stamped with a rose pattern, and with mahogany in swan's neck style,
with a sofa. But this would have cost five hundred francs at least,
and in view of the fact that she had only been able to lay by forty-two
francs and ten sous for this purpose in the course of five years,
she had ended by renouncing the idea. However, who is there who has
attained his ideal?
Nothing is more easy to present to the imagination than the Bishop's
bedchamber. A glazed door opened on the garden; opposite this was
the bed,--a hospital bed of iron, with a canopy of green serge; in the
shadow of the bed, behind a curtain, were the utensils of the toilet,
which still betrayed the elegant habits of the man of the world:
there were two doors, one near the chimney, opening into the oratory;
the other near the bookcase, opening into the dining-room. The bookcase
was a large cupboard with glass doors filled with books; the chimney
was of wood painted to represent marble, and habitually without fire.
In the chimney stood a pair of firedogs of iron, ornamented above
with two garlanded vases, and flutings which had formerly been
silvered with silver leaf, which was a sort of episcopal luxury;
above the chimney-piece hung a crucifix of copper, with the silver
worn off, fixed on a background of threadbare velvet in a wooden
frame from which the gilding had fallen; near the glass door
a large table with an inkstand, loaded with a confusion of papers
and with huge volumes; before the table an arm-chair of straw;
in front of the bed a prie-Dieu, borrowed from the oratory.
Two portraits in oval frames were fastened to the wall on each side
of the bed. Small gilt inscriptions on the plain surface of the cloth
at the side of these figures indicated that the portraits represented,
one the Abbe of Chaliot, bishop of Saint Claude; the other, the Abbe
Tourteau, vicar-general of Agde, abbe of Grand-Champ, order of Citeaux,
diocese of Chartres. When the Bishop succeeded to this apartment,
after the hospital patients, he had found these portraits there,
and had left them. They were priests, and probably donors--two reasons
for respecting them. All that he knew about these two persons was,
that they had been appointed by the king, the one to his bishopric,
the other to his benefice, on the same day, the 27th of April,
1785. Madame Magloire having taken the pictures down to dust,
the Bishop had discovered these particulars written in whitish
ink on a little square of paper, yellowed by time, and attached
to the back of the portrait of the Abbe of Grand-Champ with four wafers.
At his window he had an antique curtain of a coarse woollen stuff,
which finally became so old, that, in order to avoid the expense
of a new one, Madame Magloire was forced to take a large seam
in the very middle of it. This seam took the form of a cross.
The Bishop often called attention to it: "How delightful that is!"
he said.
All the rooms in the house, without exception, those on the ground
floor as well as those on the first floor, were white-washed,
which is a fashion in barracks and hospitals.
However, in their latter years, Madame Magloire discovered beneath
the paper which had been washed over, paintings, ornamenting the
apartment of Mademoiselle Baptistine, as we shall see further on.
Before becoming a hospital, this house had been the ancient
parliament house of the Bourgeois. Hence this decoration.
The chambers were paved in red bricks, which were washed every week,
with straw mats in front of all the beds. Altogether, this dwelling,
which was attended to by the two women, was exquisitely clean from top
to bottom. This was the sole luxury which the Bishop permitted.
He said, "That takes nothing from the poor."
It must be confessed, however, that he still retained from his
former possessions six silver knives and forks and a soup-ladle,
which Madame Magloire contemplated every day with delight,
as they glistened splendidly upon the coarse linen cloth.
And since we are now painting the Bishop of D---- as he was in reality,
we must add that he had said more than once, "I find it difficult
to renounce eating from silver dishes."
To this silverware must be added two large candlesticks of
massive silver, which he had inherited from a great-aunt. These
candlesticks held two wax candles, and usually figured on the Bishop's
chimney-piece. When he had any one to dinner, Madame Magloire
lighted the two candles and set the candlesticks on the table.
In the Bishop's own chamber, at the head of his bed, there was
a small cupboard, in which Madame Magloire locked up the six
silver knives and forks and the big spoon every night.
But it is necessary to add, that the key was never removed.
The garden, ur square plots rimmed with box. In three of these,
Madame Magloire cultivated vegetables; in the fourth, the Bishop
had planted some flowers; here and there stood a few fruit-trees.
Madame Magloire had once remarked, with a sort of gentle malice:
"Monseigneur, you who turn everything to account, have, nevertheless, one
useless plot. It would be better to grow salads there than bouquets."
"Madame Magloire," retorted the Bishop, "you are mistaken.
The beautiful is as useful as the useful." He added after a pause,
"More so, perhaps."
This plot, consisting of three or four beds, occupied the Bishop almost
as much as did his books. He liked to pass an hour or two there,
trimming, hoeing, and making holes here and there in the earth,
into which he dropped seeds. He was not as hostile to insects
as a gardener could have wished to see him. Moreover, he made no
pretensions to botany; he ignored groups and consistency; he made not
the slightest effort to decide between Tournefort and the natural method;
he took part neither with the buds against the cotyledons, nor with
Jussieu against Linnaeus. He did not study plants; he loved flowers.
He respected learned men greatly; he respected the ignorant still more;
and, without ever failing in these two respects, he watered his
flower-beds every summer evening with a tin watering-pot painted green.
The house had not a single door which could be locked. The door
of the dining-room, which, as we have said, opened directly on the
cathedral square, had formerly been ornamented with locks and bolts
like the door of a prison. The Bishop had had all this ironwork removed,
and this door was never fastened, either by night or by day,
with anything except the latch. All that the first passerby had
to do at any hour, was to give it a push. At first, the two women
had been very much tried by this door, which was never fastened,
but Monsieur de D---- had said to them, "Have bolts put on your rooms,
if that will please you." They had ended by sharing his confidence,
or by at least acting as though they shared it. Madame Magloire
alone had frights from time to time. As for the Bishop, his thought
can be found explained, or at least indicated, in the three lines
which he wrote on the margin of a Bible, "This is the shade
of difference: the door of the physician should never be shut,
the door of the priest should always be open."
On another book, entitled Philosophy of the Medical Science,
he had written this other note: "Am not I a physician like them?
I also have my patients, and then, too, I have some whom I call
my unfortunates."
Again he wrote: "Do not inquire the name of him who asks a shelter
of you. The very man who is embarrassed by his name is the one
who needs shelter."
It chanced that a worthy cure, I know not whether it was the cure
of Couloubroux or the cure of Pompierry, took it into his head
to ask him one day, probably at the instigation of Madame Magloire,
whether Monsieur was sure that he was not committing an indiscretion,
to a certain extent, in leaving his door unfastened day and night,
at the mercy of any one who should choose to enter, and whether,
in short, he did not fear lest some misfortune might occur
in a house so little guarded. The Bishop touched his shoulder,
with gentle gravity, and said to him, "Nisi Dominus custodierit domum,
in vanum vigilant qui custodiunt eam," Unless the Lord guard the house,
in vain do they watch who guard it.
Then he spoke of something else.
He was fond of saying, "There is a bravery of the priest as well
as the bravery of a colonel of dragoons,--only," he added,
"ours must be tranquil."


It is here that a fact falls naturally into place, which we must
not omit, because it is one of the sort which show us best what sort
of a man the Bishop of D---- was.
After the destruction of the band of Gaspard Bes, who had infested
the gorges of Ollioules, one of his lieutenants, Cravatte, took refuge
in the mountains. He concealed himself for some time with his bandits,
the remnant of Gaspard Bes's troop, in the county of Nice;
then he made his way to Piedmont, and suddenly reappeared in France,
in the vicinity of Barcelonette. He was first seen at Jauziers,
then at Tuiles. He hid himself in the caverns of the Joug-de-l'Aigle,
and thence he descended towards the hamlets and villages through
the ravines of Ubaye and Ubayette.
He even pushed as far as Embrun, entered the cathedral one night,
and despoiled the sacristy. His highway robberies laid waste the
country-side. The gendarmes were set on his track, but in vain.
He always escaped; sometimes he resisted by main force. He was a
bold wretch. In the midst of all this terror the Bishop arrived.
He was making his circuit to Chastelar. The mayor came to meet him,
and urged him to retrace his steps. Cravatte was in possession
of the mountains as far as Arche, and beyond; there was danger even
with an escort; it merely exposed three or four unfortunate gendarmes
to no purpose.
"Therefore," said the Bishop, "I intend to go without escort."
"You do not really mean that, Monseigneur!" exclaimed the mayor.
"I do mean it so thoroughly that I absolutely refuse any gendarmes,
and shall set out in an hour."
"Set out?"
"Set out."
"Monseigneur, you will not do that!"
"There exists yonder in the mountains," said the Bishop, a tiny
community no bigger than that, which I have not seen for three years.
They are my good friends, those gentle and honest shepherds. They own
one goat out of every thirty that they tend. They make very pretty
woollen cords of various colors, and they play the mountain airs
on little flutes with six holes. They need to be told of the good
God now and then. What would they say to a bishop who was afraid?
What would they say if I did not go?"
"But the brigands, Monseigneur?"
"Hold," said the Bishop, "I must think of that. You are right.
I may meet them. They, too, need to be told of the good God."
"But, Monseigneur, there is a band of them! A flock of wolves!"
"Monsieur le maire, it may be that it is of this very flock
of wolves that Jesus has constituted me the shepherd. Who knows
the ways of Providence?"
"They will rob you, Monseigneur."
"I have nothing."
"They will kill you."
"An old goodman of a priest, who passes along mumbling his prayers?
Bah! To what purpose?"
"Oh, mon Dieu! what if you should meet them!"
"I should beg alms of them for my poor."
"Do not go, Monseigneur. In the name of Heaven! You are risking
your life!"
"Monsieur le maire," said the Bishop, "is that really all?
I am not in the world to guard my own life, but to guard souls."
They had to allow him to do as he pleased. He set out, accompanied
only by a child who offered to serve as a guide. His obstinacy
was bruited about the country-side, and caused great consternation.
He would take neither his sister nor Madame Magloire. He traversed
the mountain on mule-back, encountered no one, and arrived safe
and sound at the residence of his "good friends," the shepherds.
He remained there for a fortnight, preaching, administering the sacrament,
teaching, exhorting. When the time of his departure approached,
he resolved to chant a Te Deum pontifically. He mentioned it to
the cure. But what was to be done? There were no episcopal ornaments.
They could only place at his disposal a wretched village sacristy, with
a few ancient chasubles of threadbare damask adorned with imitation lace.
"Bah!" said the Bishop. "Let us announce our Te Deum from the pulpit,
nevertheless, Monsieur le Cure. Things will arrange themselves."
They instituted a search in the churches of the neighborhood.
All the magnificence of these humble parishes combined would not have
sufficed to clothe the chorister of a cathedral properly.
While they were thus embarrassed, a large chest was brought and
deposited in the presbytery for the Bishop, by two unknown horsemen,
who departed on the instant. The chest was opened; it contained
a cope of cloth of gold, a mitre ornamented with diamonds,
an archbishop's cross, a magnificent crosier,--all the pontifical
vestments which had been stolen a month previously from the treasury
of Notre Dame d'Embrun. In the chest was a paper, on which
these words were written, "From Cravatte to Monseigneur Bienvenu."
"Did not I say that things would come right of themselves?" said
the Bishop. Then he added, with a smile, "To him who contents himself
with the surplice of a curate, God sends the cope of an archbishop."
"Monseigneur," murmured the cure, throwing back his head with a smile.
"God--or the Devil."
The Bishop looked steadily at the cure, and repeated
with authority, "God!"
When he returned to Chastelar, the people came out to stare at him
as at a curiosity, all along the road. At the priest's house in
Chastelar he rejoined Mademoiselle Baptistine and Madame Magloire,
who were waiting for him, and he said to his sister: "Well! was
I in the right? The poor priest went to his poor mountaineers
with empty hands, and he returns from them with his hands full.
I set out bearing only my faith in God; I have brought back the
treasure of a cathedral."
That evening, before he went to bed, he said again: "Let us
never fear robbers nor murderers. Those are dangers from without,
petty dangers. Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers;
vices are the real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves.
What matters it what threatens our head or our purse! Let us think
only of that which threatens our soul."
Then, turning to his sister: "Sister, never a precaution on the part
of the priest, against his fellow-man. That which his fellow does,
God permits. Let us confine ourselves to prayer, when we think
that a danger is approaching us. Let us pray, not for ourselves,
but that our brother may not fall into sin on our account."
However, such incidents were rare in his life. We relate those
of which we know; but generally he passed his life in doing the
same things at the same moment. One month of his year resembled
one hour of his day.
As to what became of "the treasure" of the cathedral of Embrun,
we should be embarrassed by any inquiry in that direction.
It consisted of very handsome things, very tempting things,
and things which were very well adapted to be stolen for the benefit
of the unfortunate. Stolen they had already been elsewhere.
Half of the adventure was completed; it only remained to impart
a new direction to the theft, and to cause it to take a short trip
in the direction of the poor. However, we make no assertions
on this point. Only, a rather obscure note was found among
the Bishop's papers, which may bear some relation to this matter,
and which is couched in these terms, "The question is, to decide
whether this should be turned over to the cathedral or to the hospital."


The senator above mentioned was a clever man, who had made
his own way, heedless of those things which present obstacles,
and which are called conscience, sworn faith, justice, duty: he had
marched straight to his goal, without once flinching in the line
of his advancement and his interest. He was an old attorney,
softened by success; not a bad man by any means, who rendered
all the small services in his power to his sons, his sons-in-law,
his relations, and even to his friends, having wisely seized upon,
in life, good sides, good opportunities, good windfalls.
Everything else seemed to him very stupid. He was intelligent,
and just sufficiently educated to think himself a disciple of Epicurus;
while he was, in reality, only a product of Pigault-Lebrun. He
laughed willingly and pleasantly over infinite and eternal things,
and at the "Crotchets of that good old fellow the Bishop."
He even sometimes laughed at him with an amiable authority in the
presence of M. Myriel himself, who listened to him.
On some semi-official occasion or other, I do not recollect what,
Count*** [this senator] and M. Myriel were to dine with the prefect.
At dessert, the senator, who was slightly exhilarated, though still
perfectly dignified, exclaimed:--
"Egad, Bishop, let's have a discussion. It is hard for a senator and
a bishop to look at each other without winking. We are two augurs.
I am going to make a confession to you. I have a philosophy of my own."
"And you are right," replied the Bishop. "As one makes one's philosophy,
so one lies on it. You are on the bed of purple, senator."
The senator was encouraged, and went on:--
"Let us be good fellows."
"Good devils even," said the Bishop.
"I declare to you," continued the senator, "that the Marquis
d'Argens, Pyrrhon, Hobbes, and M. Naigeon are no rascals.
I have all the philosophers in my library gilded on the edges."
"Like yourself, Count," interposed the Bishop.
The senator resumed:--
"I hate Diderot; he is an ideologist, a declaimer, and a revolutionist,
a believer in God at bottom, and more bigoted than Voltaire.
Voltaire made sport of Needham, and he was wrong, for Needham's
eels prove that God is useless. A drop of vinegar in a spoonful
of flour paste supplies the fiat lux. Suppose the drop to be larger
and the spoonful bigger; you have the world. Man is the eel.
Then what is the good of the Eternal Father? The Jehovah hypothesis
tires me, Bishop. It is good for nothing but to produce shallow people,
whose reasoning is hollow. Down with that great All, which torments me!
Hurrah for Zero which leaves me in peace! Between you and me,
and in order to empty my sack, and make confession to my pastor,
as it behooves me to do, I will admit to you that I have good sense.
I am not enthusiastic over your Jesus, who preaches renunciation and
sacrifice to the last extremity. 'Tis the counsel of an avaricious
man to beggars. Renunciation; why? Sacrifice; to what end?
I do not see one wolf immolating himself for the happiness of
another wolf. Let us stick to nature, then. We are at the top;
let us have a superior philosophy. What is the advantage of
being at the top, if one sees no further than the end of other
people's noses? Let us live merrily. Life is all. That man has
another future elsewhere, on high, below, anywhere, I don't believe;
not one single word of it. Ah! sacrifice and renunciation are
recommended to me; I must take heed to everything I do; I must
cudgel my brains over good and evil, over the just and the unjust,
over the fas and the nefas. Why? Because I shall have to render
an account of my actions. When? After death. What a fine dream!
After my death it will be a very clever person who can catch me.
Have a handful of dust seized by a shadow-hand, if you can.
Let us tell the truth, we who are initiated, and who have raised
the veil of Isis: there is no such thing as either good or evil;
there is vegetation. Let us seek the real. Let us get to the bottom
of it. Let us go into it thoroughly. What the deuce! let us go
to the bottom of it! We must scent out the truth; dig in the
earth for it, and seize it. Then it gives you exquisite joys.
Then you grow strong, and you laugh. I am square on the bottom,
I am. Immortality, Bishop, is a chance, a waiting for dead
men's shoes. Ah! what a charming promise! trust to it, if you like!
What a fine lot Adam has! We are souls, and we shall be angels,
with blue wings on our shoulder-blades. Do come to my assistance:
is it not Tertullian who says that the blessed shall travel from star
to star? Very well. We shall be the grasshoppers of the stars.
And then, besides, we shall see God. Ta, ta, ta! What twaddle all
these paradises are! God is a nonsensical monster. I would not say
that in the Moniteur, egad! but I may whisper it among friends.
Inter pocula. To sacrifice the world to paradise is to let
slip the prey for the shadow. Be the dupe of the infinite!
I'm not such a fool. I am a nought. I call myself Monsieur le
Comte Nought, senator. Did I exist before my birth? No nothingness; but I shall have enjoyed myself. My choice is made.
One must eat or be eaten. I shall eat. It is better to be the tooth
than the grass. Such is my wisdom. After which, go whither I
push thee, the grave-digger is there; the Pantheon for some of us:
all falls into the great hole. End. Finis. Total liquidation.
This is the vanishing-point. Death is death, believe me.
I laugh at the idea of there being any one who has anything to tell
me on that subject. Fables of nurses; bugaboo for children;
Jehovah for men. No; our to-morrow is the night. Beyond the tomb
there is nothing but equal nothingness. You have been Sardanapalus,
you have been Vincent de Paul--it makes no difference. That is
the truth. Then live your life, above all things. Make use of
your _I_ while you have it. In truth, Bishop, I tell you that I
have a philosophy of my own, and I have my philosophers. I don't
let myself be taken in with that nonsense. Of course, there must
be something for those who are down,--for the barefooted beggars,
knife-grinders, and miserable wretches. Legends, chimeras, the soul,
immortality, paradise, the stars, are provided for them to swallow.
They gobble it down. They spread it on their dry bread.
He who has nothing else has the good. God. That is the least
he can have. I oppose no objection to that; but I reserve
Monsieur Naigeon for myself. The good God is good for the
The Bishop clapped his hands.
"That's talking!" he exclaimed. "What an excellent and really
marvellous thing is this materialism! Not every one who wants it
can have it. Ah! when one does have it, one is no longer a dupe,
one does not stupidly allow one's self to be exiled like Cato,
nor stoned like Stephen, nor burned alive like Jeanne d'Arc. Those
who have succeeded in procuring this admirable materialism have the joy
of feeling themselves irresponsible, and of thinking that they can devour
everything without uneasiness,--places, sinecures, dignities, power,
whether well or ill acquired, lucrative recantations, useful treacheries,
savory capitulations of conscience,--and that they shall enter
the tomb with their digestion accomplished. How agreeable that is!
I do not say that with reference to you, senator. Nevertheless, it is
impossible for me to refrain from congratulating you. You great
lords have, so you say, a philosophy of your own, and for yourselves,
which is exquisite, refined, accessible to the rich alone,
good for all sauces, and which seasons the voluptuousness of
life admirably. This philosophy has been extracted from the depths,
and unearthed by special seekers. But you are good-natured princes,
and you do not think it a bad thing that belief in the good
God should constitute the philosophy of the people, very much
as the goose stuffed with chestnuts is the truffled turkey of the poor."


In order to furnish an idea of the private establishment of the Bishop
of D----, and of the manner in which those two sainted women subordinated
their actions, their thoughts, their feminine instincts even,
which are easily alarmed, to the habits and purposes of the Bishop,
without his even taking the trouble of speaking in order to explain them,
we cannot do better than transcribe in this place a letter from
Mademoiselle Baptistine to Madame the Vicomtess de Boischevron,
the friend of her childhood. This letter is in our possession.

D----, Dec. 16, 18--.
MY GOOD MADAM: Not a day passes without our speaking of you.
It is our established custom; but there is another reason besides.
Just imagine, while washing and dusting the ceilings and walls,
Madam Magloire has made some discoveries; now our two chambers hung
with antique paper whitewashed over, would not discredit a chateau
in the style of yours. Madam Magloire has pulled off all the paper.
There were things beneath. My drawing-room, which contains no furniture,
and which we use for spreading out the linen after washing,
is fifteen feet in height, eighteen square, with a ceiling which
was formerly painted and gilded, and with beams, as in yours.
This was covered with a cloth while this was the hospital.
And the woodwork was of the era of our grandmothers. But my room
is the one you ought to see. Madam Magloire has discovered,
under at least ten thicknesses of paper pasted on top, some paintings,
which without being good are very tolerable. The subject is
Telemachus being knighted by Minerva in some gardens, the name
of which escapes me. In short, where the Roman ladies repaired
on one single night. What shall I say to you? I have Romans,
and Roman ladies [here occurs an illegible word], and the whole train.
Madam Magloire has cleaned it all off; this summer she is going
to have some small injuries repaired, and the whole revarnished,
and my chamber will be a regular museum. She has also found in a
corner of the attic two wooden pier-tables of ancient fashion.
They asked us two crowns of six francs each to regild them,
but it is much better to give the money to the poor; and they
are very ugly besides, and I should much prefer a round table
of mahogany.
I am always very happy. My brother is so good. He gives all he
has to the poor and sick. We are very much cramped. The country
is trying in the winter, and we really must do something for those
who are in need. We are almost comfortably lighted and warmed.
You see that these are great treats.
My brother has ways of his own. When he talks, he says that a bishop
ought to be so. Just imagine! the door of our house is never fastened.
Whoever chooses to enter finds himself at once in my brother's room.
He fears nothing, even at night. That is his sort of bravery,
he says.
He does not wish me or Madame Magloire feel any fear for him.
He exposes himself to all sorts of dangers, and he does not like to
have us even seem to notice it. One must know how to understand him.
He goes out in the rain, he walks in the water, he travels in winter.
He fears neither suspicious roads nor dangerous encounters,
nor night.
Last year he went quite alone into a country of robbers. He would
not take us. He was absent for a fortnight. On his return nothing
had happened to him; he was thought to be dead, but was perfectly well,
and said, "This is the way I have been robbed!" And then he opened
a trunk full of jewels, all the jewels of the cathedral of Embrun,
which the thieves had given him.
When he returned on that occasion, I could not refrain from
scolding him a little, taking care, however, not to speak except
when the carriage was making a noise, so that no one might hear me.
At first I used to say to myself, "There are no dangers which will
stop him; he is terrible." Now I have ended by getting used to it.
I make a sign to Madam Magloire that she is not to oppose him.
He risks himself as he sees fit. I carry off Madam Magloire,
I enter my chamber, I pray for him and fall asleep. I am at ease,
because I know that if anything were to happen to him, it would
be the end of me. I should go to the good God with my brother
and my bishop. It has cost Madam Magloire more trouble than it did
me to accustom herself to what she terms his imprudences. But now
the habit has been acquired. We pray together, we tremble together,
and we fall asleep. If the devil were to enter this house,
he would be allowed to do so. After all, what is there for us
to fear in this house? There is always some one with us who is
stronger than we. The devil may pass through it, but the good God
dwells here.
This suffices me. My brother has no longer any need of saying
a word to me. I understand him without his speaking, and we
abandon ourselves to the care of Providence. That is the way
one has to do with a man who possesses grandeur of soul.
I have interrogated my brother with regard to the information
which you desire on the subject of the Faux family. You are aware
that he knows everything, and that he has memories, because he
is still a very good royalist. They really are a very ancient
Norman family of the generalship of Caen. Five hundred years ago
there was a Raoul de Faux, a Jean de Faux, and a Thomas de Faux,
who were gentlemen, and one of whom was a seigneur de Rochefort.
The last was Guy-Etienne-Alexandre, and was commander of a regiment,
and something in the light horse of Bretagne. His daughter,
Marie-Louise, married Adrien-Charles de Gramont, son of the Duke
Louis de Gramont, peer of France, colonel of the French guards,
and lieutenant-general of the army. It is written Faux, Fauq,
and Faoucq.
Good Madame, recommend us to the prayers of your sainted relative,
Monsieur the Cardinal. As for your dear Sylvanie, she has done well
in not wasting the few moments which she passes with you in writing
to me. She is well, works as you would wish, and loves me.
That is all that I desire. The souvenir which she sent through you
reached me safely, and it makes me very happy. My health is not
so very bad, and yet I grow thinner every day. Farewell; my paper
is at an end, and this forces me to leave you. A thousand good wishes.

P.S. Your grand nephew is charming. Do you know that he will soon
be five years old? Yesterday he saw some one riding by on horseback
who had on knee-caps, and he said, "What has he got on his knees?"
He is a charming child! His little brother is dragging an old broom
about the room, like a carriage, and saying, "Hu!"

As will be perceived from this letter, these two women understood
how to mould themselves to the Bishop's ways with that special feminine
genius which comprehends the man better than he comprehends himself.
The Bishop of D----, in spite of the gentle and candid air which
never deserted him, sometimes did things that were grand, bold,
and magnificent, without seeming to have even a suspicion of the fact.
They trembled, but they let him alone. Sometimes Madame Magloire essayed
a remonstrance in advance, but never at the time, nor afterwards.
They never interfered with him by so much as a word or sign,
in any action once entered upon. At certain moments, without his
having occasion to mention it, when he was not even conscious
of it himself in all probability, so perfect was his simplicity,
they vaguely felt that he was acting as a bishop; then they were
nothing more than two shadows in the house. They served him passively;
and if obedience consisted in disappearing, they disappeared.
They understood, with an admirable delicacy of instinct, that certain
cares may be put under constraint. Thus, even when believing
him to be in peril, they understood, I will not say his thought,
but his nature, to such a degree that they no longer watched over him.
They confided him to God.
Moreover, Baptistine said, as we have just read, that her brother's
end would prove her own. Madame Magloire did not say this,
but she knew it.


At an epoch a little later than the date of the letter cited
in the preceding pages, he did a thing which, if the whole town
was to be believed, was even more hazardous than his trip across
the mountains infested with bandits.
In the country near D---- a man lived quite alone. This man,
we will state at once, was a former member of the Convention.
His name was G----
Member of the Convention, G---- was mentioned with a sort of horror
in the little world of D---- A member of the Convention--can you
imagine such a thing? That existed from the time when people
called each other thou, and when they said "citizen." This man
was almost a monster. He had not voted for the death of the king,
but almost. He was a quasi-regicide. He had been a terrible man.
How did it happen that such a man had not been brought before
a provost's court, on the return of the legitimate princes?
They need not have cut off his head, if you please; clemency must
be exercised, agreed; but a good banishment for life. An example,
in short, etc. Besides, he was an atheist, like all the rest of
those people. Gossip of the geese about the vulture.
Was G---- a vulture after all? Yes; if he were to be judged by the
element of ferocity in this solitude of his. As he had not voted
for the death of the king, he had not been included in the decrees
of exile, and had been able to remain in France.
He dwelt at a distance of three-quarters of an hour from the city,
far from any hamlet, far from any road, in some hidden turn
of a very wild valley, no one knew exactly where. He had there,
it was said, a sort of field, a hole, a lair. There were no neighbors,
not even passers-by. Since he had dwelt in that valley, the path
which led thither had disappeared under a growth of grass.
The locality was spoken of as though it had been the dwelling of
a hangman.
Nevertheless, the Bishop meditated on the subject, and from time
to time he gazed at the horizon at a point where a clump of trees
marked the valley of the former member of the Convention, and he said,
"There is a soul yonder which is lonely."
And he added, deep in his own mind, "I owe him a visit."
But, let us avow it, this idea, which seemed natural at the first blush,
appeared to him after a moment's reflection, as strange, impossible,
and almost repulsive. For, at bottom, he shared the general impression,
and the old member of the Convention inspired him, without his being
clearly conscious of the fact himself, with that sentiment which
borders on hate, and which is so well expressed by the word estrangement.
Still, should the scab of the sheep cause the shepherd to recoil?
No. But what a sheep!
The good Bishop was perplexed. Sometimes he set out in that direction;
then he returned.
Finally, the rumor one day spread through the town that a sort of
young shepherd, who served the member of the Convention in his hovel,
had come in quest of a doctor; that the old wretch was dying,
that paralysis was gaining on him, and that he would not live over
night.--"Thank God!" some added.
The Bishop took his staff, put on his cloak, on account of his too
threadbare cassock, as we have mentioned, and because of the evening
breeze which was sure to rise soon, and set out.
The sun was setting, and had almost touched the horizon when the
Bishop arrived at the excommunicated spot. With a certain beating
of the heart, he recognized the fact that he was near the lair.
He strode over a ditch, leaped a hedge, made his way through a fence
of dead boughs, entered a neglected paddock, took a few steps
with a good deal of boldness, and suddenly, at the extremity of the
waste land, and behind lofty brambles, he caught sight of the cavern.
It was a very low hut, poor, small, and clean, with a vine nailed
against the outside.
Near the door, in an old wheel-chair, the arm-chair of the peasants,
there was a white-haired man, smiling at the sun.
Near the seated man stood a young boy, the shepherd lad.
He was offering the old man a jar of milk.
While the Bishop was watching him, the old man spoke: "Thank you,"
he said, "I need nothing." And his smile quitted the sun to rest
upon the child.
The Bishop stepped forward. At the sound which he made in walking,
the old man turned his head, and his face expressed the sum total
of the surprise which a man can still feel after a long life.
"This is the first time since I have been here," said he, "that any
one has entered here. Who are you, sir?"
The Bishop answered:--
"My name is Bienvenu Myriel."
"Bienvenu Myriel? I have heard that name. Are you the man whom
the people call Monseigneur Welcome?"
"I am."
The old man resumed with a half-smile
"In that case, you are my bishop?"
"Something of that sort."
"Enter, sir."
The member of the Convention extended his hand to the Bishop,
but the Bishop did not take it. The Bishop confined himself
to the remark:--
"I am pleased to see that I have been misinforme my feet were cold; to-day, the chill
has ascended to my knees; now I feel it mounting to my waist;
when it reaches the heart, I shall stop. The sun is beautiful,
is it not? I had myself wheeled out here to take a last look
at things. You can talk to me; it does not fatigue me. You have
done well to come and look at a man who is on the point of death.
It is well that there should be witnesses at that moment. One has
one's caprices; I should have liked to last until the dawn, but I
know that I shall hardly live three hours. It will be night then.
What does it matter, after all? Dying is a simple affair.
One has no need of the light for that. So be it. I shall die
by starlight."
The old man turned to the shepherd lad:--
"Go to thy bed; thou wert awake all last night; thou art tired."
The child entered the hut.
The old man followed him with his eyes, and added, as though
speaking to himself:--
"I shall die while he sleeps. The two slumbers may be good neighbors."
The Bishop was not touched as it seems that he should have been.
He did not think he discerned God in this manner of dying; let us
say the whole, for these petty contradictions of great hearts must
be indicated like the rest: he, who on occasion, was so fond of
laughing at "His Grace," was rather shocked at not being addressed
as Monseigneur, and he was almost tempted to retort "citizen."
He was assailed by a fancy for peevish familiarity, common enough
to doctors and priests, but which was not habitual with him.
This man, after all, this member of the Convention, this representative
of the people, had been one of the powerful ones of the earth;
for the first time in his life, probably, the Bishop felt in a mood to
be severe.
Meanwhile, the member of the Convention had been
surveying him with a modest cordiality, in which one
could have distinguished, possibly, that humility
which is so fitting when one is on the verge of returning to dust.
The Bishop, on his side, although he generally restrained his curiosity,
which, in his opinion, bordered on a fault, could not refrain from
examining the member of the Convention with an attention which,
as it did not have its course in sympathy, would have served his
conscience as a matter of reproach, in connection with any other man.
A member of the Convention produced on him somewhat the effect of being
outside the pale of the law, even of the law of charity. G----, calm,
his body almost upright, his voice vibrating, was one of those
octogenarians who form the subject of astonishment to the physiologist.
The Revolution had many of these men, proportioned to the epoch.
In this old man one was conscious of a man put to the proof.
Though so near to his end, he preserved all the gestures of health.
In his clear glance, in his firm tone, in the robust movement of
his shoulders, there was something calculated to disconcert death.
Azrael, the Mohammedan angel of the sepulchre, would have turned back,
and thought that he had mistaken the door. G---- seemed to be dying
because he willed it so. There was freedom in his agony. His legs
alone were motionless. It was there that the shadows held him fast.
His feet were cold and dead, but his head survived with all the power
of life, and seemed full of light. G----, at this solemn moment,
resembled the king in that tale of the Orient who was flesh above
and marble below.
There was a stone there. The Bishop sat down. The exordium
was abrupt.
"I congratulate you," said he, in the tone which one uses for
a reprimand. "You did not vote for the death of the king, after all."
The old member of the Convention did not appear to notice the
bitter meaning underlying the words "after all." He replied.
The smile had quite disappeared from his face.
"Do not congratulate me too much, sir. I did vote for the death
of the tyrant."
It was the tone of austerity answering the tone of severity.
"What do you mean to say?" resumed the Bishop.
"I mean to say that man has a tyrant,--ignorance. I voted for the death
of that tyrant. That tyrant engendered royalty, which is authority
falsely understood, while science is authority rightly understood.
Man should be governed only by science."
"And conscience," added the Bishop.
"It is the same thing. Conscience is the quantity of innate science
which we have within us."
Monseigneur Bienvenu listened in some astonishment to this language,
which was very new to him.
The member of the Convention resumed:--
"So far as Louis XVI. was concerned, I said `no.' I did not think
that I had the right to kill a man; but I felt it my duty to
exterminate evil. I voted the end of the tyrant, that is to say,
the end of prostitution for woman, the end of slavery for man,
the end of night for the child. In voting for the Republic,
I voted for that. I voted for fraternity, concord, the dawn.
I have aided in the overthrow of prejudices and errors. The crumbling
away of prejudices and errors causes light. We have caused the
fall of the old world, and the old world, that vase of miseries,
has become, through its upsetting upon the human race, an urn
of joy."
"Mixed joy," said the Bishop.
"You may say troubled joy, and to-day, after that fatal return
of the past, which is called 1814, joy which has disappeared!
Alas! The work was incomplete, I admit: we demolished the ancient
regime in deeds; we were not able to suppress it entirely in ideas.
To destroy abuses is not sufficient; customs must be modified.
The mill is there no longer; the wind is still there."
"You have demolished. It may be of use to demolish, but I distrust
a demolition complicated with wrath."
"Right has its wrath, Bishop; and the wrath of right is an element
of progress. In any case, and in spite of whatever may be said,
the French Revolution is the most important step of the human race
since the advent of Christ. Incomplete, it may be, but sublime.
It set free all the unknown social quantities; it softened spirits,
it calmed, appeased, enlightened; it caused the waves of civilization
to flow over the earth. It was a good thing. The French Revolution is
the consecration of humanity."
The Bishop could not refrain from murmuring:--
"Yes? '93!"
The member of the Convention straightened himself up in his
chair with an almost lugubrious solemnity, and exclaimed,
so far as a dying man is capable of exclamation:--
"Ah, there you go; '93! I was expecting that word. A cloud had
been forming for the space of fifteen hundred years; at the end
of fifteen hundred years it burst. You are putting the thunderbolt
on its trial."
The Bishop felt, without, perhaps, confessing it, that something
within him had suffered extinction. Nevertheless, he put a good
face on the matter. He replied:--
"The judge speaks in the name of justice; the priest speaks
in the name of pity, which is nothing but a more lofty justice.
A thunderbolt should commit no error." And he added, regarding the
member of the Convention steadily the while, "Louis XVII.?"
The conventionary stretched forth his hand and grasped the Bishop's arm.
"Louis XVII.! let us see. For whom do you mourn? is it for
the innocent child? very good; in that case I mourn with you.
Is it for the royal child? I demand time for reflection.
To me, the brother of Cartouche, an innocent child who was hung
up by the armpits in the Place de Greve, until death ensued,
for the sole crime of having been the brother of Cartouche, is no
less painful than the grandson of Louis XV., an innocent child,
martyred in the tower of the Temple, for the sole crime of having
been grandson of Louis XV."
"Monsieur," said the Bishop, "I like not this conjunction of names."
"Cartouche? Louis XV.? To which of the two do you object?"
A momentary silence ensued. The Bishop almost regretted having come,
and yet he felt vaguely and strangely shaken.
The conventionary resumed:--
"Ah, Monsieur Priest, you love not the crudities of the true.
Christ loved them. He seized a rod and cleared out the Temple.
His scourge, full of lightnings, was a harsh speaker of truths.
When he cried, `Sinite parvulos,' he made no distinction between the
little children. It would not have embarrassed him to bring together
the Dauphin of Barabbas and the Dauphin of Herod. Innocence, Monsieur,
is its own crown. Innocence has no need to be a highness.
It is as august in rags as in fleurs de lys."
"That is true," said the Bishop in a low voice.
"I persist," continued the conventionary G---- "You have mentioned
Louis XVII. to me. Let us come to an understanding. Shall we
weep for all the innocent, all martyrs, all children, the lowly
as well as the exalted? I agree to that. But in that case, as I
have told you, we must go back further than '93, and our tears must
begin before Louis XVII. I will weep with you over the children
of kings, provided that you will weep with me over the children
of the people."
"I weep for all," said the Bishop.
"Equally!" exclaimed conventionary G----; "and if the balance
must incline, let it be on the side of the people. They have been
suffering longer."
Another silence ensued. The conventionary was the first to break it.
He raised himself on one elbow, took a bit of his cheek between
his thumb and his forefinger, as one does mechanically when one
interrogates and judges, and appealed to the Bishop with a gaze full
of all the forces of the death agony. It was almost an explosion.
"Yes, sir, the people have been suffering a long while. And hold!
that is not all, either; why have you just questioned me and talked
to me about Louis XVII.? I know you not. Ever since I have been
in these parts I have dwelt in this enclosure alone, never setting
foot outside, and seeing no one but that child who helps me.
Your name has reached me in a confused manner, it is true, and very
badly pronounced, I must admit; but that signifies nothing: clever men
have so many ways of imposing on that honest goodman, the people.
By the way, I did not hear the sound of your carriage; you have left
it yonder, behind the coppice at the fork of the roads, no doubt.
I do not know you, I tell you. You have told me that you are the Bishop;
but that affords me no information as to your moral personality.
In short, I repeat my question. Who are you? You are a bishop;
that is to say, a prince of the church, one of those gilded men
with heraldic bearings and revenues, who have vast prebends,--
the bishopric of D---- fifteen thousand francs settled income,
ten thousand in perquisites; total, twenty-five thousand francs,--
who have kitchens, who have liveries, who make good cheer,
who eat moor-hens on Friday, who strut about, a lackey before,
a lackey behind, in a gala coach, and who have palaces, and who roll
in their carriages in the name of Jesus Christ who went barefoot!
You are a prelate,--revenues, palace, horses, servants, good table,
all the sensualities of life; you have this like the rest,
and like the rest, you enjoy it; it is well; but this says
either too much or too little; this does not enlighten me upon
the intrinsic and essential value of the man who comes with the
probable intention of bringing wisdom to me. To whom do I speak?
Who are you?"
The Bishop hung his head and replied, "Vermis sum--I am a worm."
"A worm of the earth in a carriage?" growled the conventionary.
It was the conventionary's turn to be arrogant, and the Bishop's
to be humble.
The Bishop resumed mildly:--
"So be it, sir. But explain to me how my carriage, which is a few
paces off behind the trees yonder, how my good table and the moor-hens
which I eat on Friday, how my twenty-five thousand francs income,
how my palace and my lackeys prove that clemency is not a duty,
and that '93 was not inexorable.
The conventionary passed his hand across his brow, as though
to sweep away a cloud.
"Before replying to you," he said, "I beseech you to pardon me.
I have just committed a wrong, sir. You are at my house, you are
my guest, I owe you courtesy. You discuss my ideas, and it becomes
me to confine myself to combating your arguments. Your riches and
your pleasures are advantages which I hold over you in the debate;
but good taste dictates that I shall not make use of them. I promise
you to make no use of them in the future."
"I thank you," said the Bishop.
G---- resumed.
"Let us return to the explanation which you have asked of me.
Where were we? What were you saying to me? That '93 was inexorable?"
"Inexorable; yes," said the Bishop. "What think you of Marat
clapping his hands at the guillotine?"
"What think you of Bossuet chanting the Te Deum over the dragonnades?"
The retort was a harsh one, but it attained its mark with the
directness of a point of steel. The Bishop quivered under it;
no reply occurred to him; but he was offended by this mode of alluding
to Bossuet. The best of minds will have their fetiches, and they
sometimes feel vaguely wounded by the want of respect of logic.
The conventionary began to pant; the asthma of the agony
which is mingled with the last breaths interrupted his voice;
still, there was a perfect lucidity of soul in his eyes. He went on:--
"Let me say a few words more in this and that direction;
I am willing. Apart from the Revolution, which, taken as a whole,
is an immense human affirmation, '93 is, alas! a rejoinder.
You think it inexorable, sir; but what of the whole monarchy, sir?
Carrier is a bandit; but what name do you give to Montrevel?
Fouquier-Tainville is a rascal; but what is your opinion as to
Lamoignon-Baville? Maillard is terrible; but Saulx-Tavannes,
if you please? Duchene senior is ferocious; but what epithet
will you allow me for the elder Letellier? Jourdan-Coupe-Tete is
a monster; but not so great a one as M. the Marquis de Louvois.
Sir, sir, I am sorry for Marie Antoinette, archduchess and queen;
but I am also sorry for that poor Huguenot woman, who, in 1685,
under Louis the Great, sir, while with a nursing infant, was bound,
naked to the waist, to a stake, and the child kept at a distance;
her breast swelled with milk and her heart with anguish;
the little one, hungry and pale, beheld that breast and cried
and agonized; the executioner said to the woman, a mother and a nurse,
`Abjure!' giving her her choice between the death of her infant
and the death of her conscience. What say you to that torture
of Tantalus as applied to a mother? Bear this well in mind sir:
the French Revolution had its reasons for existence; its wrath will
be absolved by the future; its result is the world made better.
From its most terrible blows there comes forth a caress for the
human race. I abridge, I stop, I have too much the advantage;
moreover, I am dying."
And ceasing to gaze at the Bishop, the conventionary concluded
his thoughts in these tranquil words:--
"Yes, the brutalities of progress are called revolutions.
When they are over, this fact is recognized,--that the human race
has been treated harshly, but that it has progressed."
The conventionary doubted not that he had successively conquered
all the inmost intrenchments of the Bishop. One remained, however,
and from this intrenchment, the last resource of Monseigneur
Bienvenu's resistance, came forth this reply, wherein appeared
nearly all the harshness of the beginning:--
"Progress should believe in God. Good cannot have an impious servitor.
He who is an atheist is but a bad leader for the human race."
The former representative of the people made no reply. He was seized
with a fit of trembling. He looked towards heaven, and in his glance
a tear gathered slowly. When the eyelid was full, the tear trickled
down his livid cheek, and he said, almost in a stammer, quite low,
and to himself, while his eyes were plunged in the depths:--
"O thou! O ideal! Thou alone existest!"
The Bishop experienced an indescribable shock.
After a pause, the old man raised a finger heavenward and said:--
"The infinite is. He is there. If the infinite had no person,
person would be without limit; it would. The effort had exhausted him.
It was evident that he had just lived through in a moment the
few hours which had been left to him. That which he had said
brought him nearer to him who is in death. The supreme moment
was approaching.
The Bishop understood this; time pressed; it was as a priest that
he had come: from extreme coldness he had passed by degrees to
extreme emotion; he gazed at those closed eyes, he took that wrinkled,
aged and ice-cold hand in his, and bent over the dying man.
"This hour is the hour of God. Do you not think that it would
be regrettable if we had met in vain?"
The conventionary opened his eyes again. A gravity mingled
with gloom was imprinted on his countenance.
"Bishop," said he, with a slowness which probably arose more
from his dignity of soul than from the failing of his strength,
"I have passed my life in meditation, study, and contemplation.
I was sixty years of age when my country called me and commanded
me to concern myself with its affairs. I obeyed. Abuses existed,
I combated them; tyrannies existed, I destroyed them; rights and
principles existed, I proclaimed and confessed them. Our territory
was invaded, I defended it; France was menaced, I offered my breast.
I was not rich; I am poor. I have been one of the masters of
the state; the vaults of the treasury were encumbered with specie
to such a degree that we were forced to shore up the walls,
which were on the point of bursting beneath the weight of gold
and silver; I dined in Dead Tree Street, at twenty-two sous.
I have succored the oppressed, I have comforted the suffering.
I tore the cloth from the altar, it is true; but it was to bind up
the wounds of my country. I have always upheld the march forward
of the human race, forward towards the light, and I have sometimes
resisted progress without pity. I have, when the occasion offered,
protected my own adversaries, men of your profession. And there
is at Peteghem, in Flanders, at the very spot where the Merovingian
kings had their summer palace, a convent of Urbanists, the Abbey
of Sainte Claire en Beaulieu, which I saved in 1793. I have done
my duty according to my powers, and all the good that I was able.
After which, I was hunted down, pursued, persecuted, blackened,
jeered at, scorned, cursed, proscribed. For many years past,
I with my white hair have been conscious that many people think they
have the right to despise me; to the poor ignorant masses I present
the visage of one damned. And I accept this isolation of hatred,
without hating any one myself. Now I am eighty-six years old;
I am on the point of death. What is it that you have come to ask
of me?"
"Your blessing," said the Bishop.
And he knelt down.
When the Bishop raised his head again, the face of the conventionary
had become august. He had just expired.
The Bishop returned home, deeply absorbed in thoughts which
cannot be known to us. He passed the whole night in prayer.
On the following morning some bold and curious persons attempted
to speak to him about member of the Convention G----; he contented
himself with pointing heavenward.
From that moment he redoubled his tenderness and brotherly feeling
towards all children and sufferers.
Any allusion to "that old wretch of a G----" caused him to fall
into a singular preoccupation. No one could say that the passage
of that soul before his, and the reflection of that grand conscience
upon his, did not count for something in his approach to perfection.
This "pastoral visit" naturally furnished an occasion for a murmur
of comment in all the little local coteries.
"Was the bedside of such a dying man as that the proper place
for a bishop? There was evidently no conversion to be expected.
All those revolutionists are backsliders. Then why go there?
What was there to be seen there? He must have been very curious indeed
to see a soul carried off by the devil."
One day a dowager of the impertinent variety who thinks
herself spiritual, addressed this sally to him, "Monseigneur,
people are inquiring when Your Greatness will receive the red
cap!"--"Oh! oh! that's a coarse color," replied the Bishop.
"It is lucky that those who despise it in a cap revere it in a hat."


We should incur a great risk of deceiving ourselves, were we to conclude
from this that Monseigneur Welcome was "a philosophical bishop,"
or a "patriotic cure." His meeting, which may almost be designated
as his union, with conventionary G----, left behind it in his mind
a sort of astonishment, which rendered him still more gentle.
That is all.
Although Monseigneur Bienvenu was far from being a politician,
this is, perhaps, the place to indicate very briefly what his
attitude was in the events of that epoch, supposing that Monseigneur
Bienvenu ever dreamed of having an attitude.
Let us, then, go back a few years.
Some time after the elevation of M. Myriel to the episcopate,
the Emperor had made him a baron of the Empire, in company with many
other bishops. The arrest of the Pope took place, as every one knows,
on the night of the 5th to the 6th of July, 1809; on this occasion,
M. Myriel was summoned by Napoleon to the synod of the bishops
of France and Italy convened at Paris. This synod was held at
Notre-Dame, and assembled for the first time on the 15th of June,
1811, under the presidency of Cardinal Fesch. M. Myriel was one
of the ninety-five bishops who attended it. But he was present
only at one sitting and at three or four private conferences.
Bishop of a mountain diocese, living so very close to nature,
in rusticity and deprivation, it appeared that he imported among
these eminent personages, ideas which altered the temperature
of the assembly. He very soon returned to D---- He was interrogated
as to this speedy return, and he replied: "I embarrassed them.
The outside air penetrated to them through me. I produced on them
the effect of an open door."
On another occasion he said, "What would you have? Those gentlemen
are princes. I am only a poor peasant bishop."
The fact is that he displeased them. Among other strange things,
it is said that he chanced to remark one evening, when he found
himself at the house of one of his most notable colleagues: "What
beautiful clocks! What beautiful carpets! What beautiful liveries!
They must be a great trouble. I would not have all those superfluities,
crying incessantly in my ears: `There are people who are hungry!
There are people who are cold! There are poor people! There are
poor people!'"
Let us remark, by the way, that the hatred of luxury is not
an intelligent hatred. This hatred would involve the hatred of
the arts. Nevertheless, in churchmen, luxury is wrong, except in
connection with representations and ceremonies. It seems to reveal
habits which have very little that is charitable about them.
An opulent priest is a contradiction. The priest must keep close
to the poor. Now, can one come in contact incessantly night and day
with all this distress, all these misfortunes, and this poverty,
without having about one's own person a little of that misery,
like the dust of labor? Is it possible to imagine a man near a brazier
who is not warm? Can one imagine a workman who is working near
a furnace, and who has neither a singed hair, nor blackened nails,
nor a drop of sweat, nor a speck of ashes on his face? The first
proof of charity in the priest, in the bishop especially, is poverty.
This is, no doubt, what the Bishop of D---- thought.
It must not be supposed, however, that he shared what we call the "ideas
of the century" on certain delicate points. He took very little part
in the theological quarrels of the moment, and maintained silence
on questions in which Church and State were implicated; but if he
had been strongly pressed, it seems that he would have been found
to be an ultramontane rather than a gallican. Since we are making
a portrait, and since we do not wish to conceal anything, we are
forced to add that he was glacial towards Napoleon in his decline.
Beginning with 1813, he gave in his adherence to or applauded all
hostile manifestations. He refused to see him, as he passed through
on his return from the island of Elba, and he abstained from ordering
public prayers for the Emperor in his diocese during the Hundred Days.
Besides his sister, Mademoiselle Baptistine, he had two brothers,
one a general, the other a prefect. He wrote to both with tolerable
frequency. He was harsh for a time towards the former, because,
holding a command in Provence at the epoch of the disembarkation
at Cannes, the general had put himself at the head of twelve hundred
men and had pursued the Emperor as though the latter had been a person
whom one is desirous of allowing to escape. His correspondence
with the other brother, the ex-prefect, a fine, worthy man who
lived in retirement at Paris, Rue Cassette, remained more affectionate.
Thus Monseigneur Bienvenu also had his hour of party spirit, his hour
of bitterness, his cloud. The shadow of the passions of the moment
traversed this grand and gentle spirit occupied with eternal things.
Certainly, such a man would have done well not to entertain any
political opinions. Let there be no mistake as to our meaning:
we are not confounding what is called "political opinions" with the
grand aspiration for progress, with the sublime faith, patriotic,
democratic, humane, which in our day should be the very foundation
of every generous intellect. Without going deeply into questions
which are only indirectly connected with the subject of this book,
we will simply say this: It would have been well if Monseigneur
Bienvenu had not been a Royalist, and if his glance had never been,
for a single instant, turned away from that serene contemplation
in which is distinctly discernible, above the fictions and the hatreds
of this world, above the stormy vicissitudes of human things,
the beaming of those three pure radiances, truth, justice, and charity.
While admitting that it was not for a political office that God
created Monseigneur Welcome, we should have understood and admired
his protest in the name of right and liberty, his proud opposition,
his just but perilous resistance to the all-powerful Napoleon.
But that which pleases us in people who are rising pleases us less
in the case of people who are falling. We only love the fray
so long as there is danger, and in any case, the combatants
of the first hour have alone the right to be the exterminators
of the last. He who has not been a stubborn accuser in prosperity
should hold his peace in the face of ruin. The denunciator
of success is the only legitimate executioner of the fall.
As for us, when Providence intervenes and strikes, we let it work.
1812 commenced to disarm us. In 1813 the cowardly breach of silence
of that taciturn legislative body, emboldened by catastrophe,
possessed only traits which aroused indignation. And it was a crime
to applaud, in 1814, in the presence of those marshals who betrayed;
in the presence of that senate which passed from one dunghill
to another, insulting after having deified; in the presence of that
idolatry which was loosing its footing and spitting on its idol,--
it was a duty to turn aside the head. In 1815, when the supreme
disasters filled the air, when France was seized with a shiver
at their sinister approach, when Waterloo could be dimly discerned
opening before Napoleon, the mournful acclamation of the army
and the people to the condemned of destiny had nothing laughable
in it, and, after making all allowance for the despot, a heart
like that of the Bishop of D----, ought not perhaps to have failed
to recognize the august and touching features presented by the embrace
of a great nation and a great man on the brink of the abyss.
With this exception, he was in all things just, true, equitable,
intelligent, humble and dignified, beneficent and kindly,
which is only another sort of benevolence. He was a priest,
a sage, and a man. It must be admitted, that even in the political
views with which we have just reproached him, and which we are
disposed to judge almost with severity, he was tolerant and easy,
more so, perhaps, than we who are speaking here. The porter of
the town-hall had been placed there by the Emperor. He was an old
non-commissioned officer of the old guard, a member of the Legion
of Honor at Austerlitz, as much of a Bonapartist as the eagle.
This poor fellow occasionally let slip inconsiderate remarks,
which the law then stigmatized as seditious speeches. After the
imperial profile disappeared from the Legion of Honor, he never
dressed himself in his regimentals, as he said, so that he should
not be obliged to wear his cross. He had himself devoutly removed
the imperial effigy from the cross which Napoleon had given him;
this made a hole, and he would not put anything in its place.
"I will die," he said, "rather than wear the three frogs upon
my heart!" He liked to scoff aloud at Louis XVIII. "The gouty
old creature in English gaiters!" he said; "let him take himself
off to Prussia with that queue of his." He was happy to combine
in the same imprecation the two things which he most detested,
Prussia and England. He did it so often that he lost his place.
There he was, turned out of the house, with his wife and children,
and without bread. The Bishop sent for him, reproved him gently,
and appointed him beadle in the cathedral.
In the course of nine years Monseigneur Bienvenu had, by dint
of holy deeds and gentle manners, filled the town of D----
with a sort of tender and filial reverence. Even his conduct
towards Napoleon had been accepted and tacitly pardoned, as it were,
by the people, the good and weakly flock who adored their emperor,
but loved their bishop.


A bishop is almost always surrounded by a full squadron of
little abbes, just as a general is by a covey of young officers.
This is what that charming Saint Francois de Sales calls somewhere "les
pretres blancs-becs," callow priests. Every career has its aspirants,
who form a train for those who have attained eminence in it.
There is no power which has not its dependents. There is no fortune
which has not its court. The seekers of the future eddy around
the splendid present. Every metropolis has its staff of officials.
Every bishop who possesses the least influence has about him
his patrol of cherubim from the seminary, which goes the round,
and maintains good order in the episcopal palace, and mounts guard
over monseigneur's smile. To please a bishop is equivalent to getting
one's foot in the stirrup for a sub-diaconate. It is necessary to walk
one's path discreetly; the apostleship does not disdain the canonship.
Just as there are bigwigs elsewhere, there are big mitres in the Church.
These are the bishops who stand well at Court, who are rich,
well endowed, skilful, accepted by the world, who know how to pray,
no doubt, but who know also how to beg, who feel little scruple
at making a whole diocese dance attendance in their person,
who are connecting links between the sacristy and diplomacy,
who are abbes rather than priests, prelates rather than bishops.
Happy those who approach them! Being persons of influence,
they create a shower about them, upon the assiduous and the favored,
and upon all the young men who understand the art of pleasing,
of large parishes, prebends, archidiaconates, chaplaincies,
and cathedral posts, while awaiting episcopal honors. As they
advance themselves, they cause their satellites to progress also;
it is a whole solar system on the march. Their radiance casts a gleam
of purple over their suite. Their prosperity is crumbled up behind
the scenes, into nice little promotions. The larger the diocese
of the patron, the fatter the curacy for the favorite. And then,
there is Rome. A bishop who understands how to become an archbishop,
an archbishop who knows how to become a cardinal, carries you
with him as conclavist; Every skull-cap may dream of the tiara.
The priest is nowadays the only man who can become a king in a
regular manner; and what a king! the supreme king. Then what a
nursery of aspirations is a seminary! How many blushing choristers,
how many youthful abbes bear on their heads Perrette's pot of milk!
Who knows how easy it is for ambition to call itself vocation?
in good faith, perchance, and deceiving itself, devotee that
it is.
Monseigneur Bienvenu, poor, humble, retiring, was not accounted
among the big mitres. This was plain from the complete absence
of young priests about him. We have seen that he "did not take"
in Paris. Not a single future dreamed of engrafting itself on
this solitary old man. Not a single sprouting ambition committed
the folly of putting forth its foliage in his shadow. His canons
and grand-vicars were good old men, rather vulgar like himself,
walled up like him in this diocese, without exit to a cardinalship,
and who resembled their bishop, with this difference, that they
were finished and he was completed. The impossibility of growing
great under Monseigneur Bienvenu was so well understood, that no
sooner had the young men whom he ordained left the seminary than they
got themselves recommended to the archbishops of Aix or of Auch,
and went off in a great hurry. For, in short, we repeat it,
men wish to be pushed. A saint who dwells in a paroxysm of abnegation
is a dangerous neighbor; he might communicate to you, by contagion,
an incurable poverty, an anchylosis of the joints, which are useful
in advancement, and in short, more renunciation than you desire;
and this infectious virtue is avoided. Hence the isolation of
Monseigneur Bienvenu. We live in the midst of a gloomy society.
Success; that is the lesson which falls drop by drop from the slope
of corruption.
Be it said in passing, that success is a very hideous thing. Its false
resemblance to merit deceives men. For the masses, success has almost
the same profile as supremacy. Success, that Menaechmus of talent,
has one dupe,--history. Juvenal and Tacitus alone grumble at it.
In our day, a philosophy which is almost official has entered into
its service, wears the livery of success, and performs the service
of its antechamber. Succeed: theory. Prosperity argues capacity.
Win in the lottery, and behold! you are a clever man. He who
triumphs is venerated. Be born with a silver spoon in your mouth!
everything lies in that. Be lucky, and you will have all the rest;
be happy, and people will think you great. Outside of five or six
immense exceptions, which compose the splendor of a century,
contemporary admiration is nothing but short-sightedness. Gilding
is gold. It does no harm to be the first arrival by pure chance,
so long as you do arrive. The common herd is an old Narcissus who
adores himself, and who applauds the vulgar herd. That enormous ability
by virtue of which one is Moses, Aeschylus, Dante, Michael Angelo,
or Napoleon, the multitude awards on the spot, and by acclamation,
to whomsoever attains his object, in whatsoever it may consist.
Let a notary transfigure himself into a deputy: let a false
Corneille compose Tiridate; let a eunuch come to possess a harem;
let a military Prudhomme accidentally win the decisive battle of
an epoch; let an apothecary invent cardboard shoe-soles for the army
of the Sambre-and-Meuse, and construct for himself, out of this
cardboard, sold as leather, four hundred thousand francs of income;
let a pork-packer espouse usury, and cause it to bring forth seven
or eight millions, of which he is the father and of which it is
the mother; let a preacher become a bishop by force of his nasal drawl;
let the steward of a fine family be so rich on retiring from service
that he is made minister of finances,--and men call that Genius,
just as they call the face of Mousqueton Beauty, and the mien
of Claude Majesty. With the constellations of space they confound
the stars of the abyss which are made in the soft mire of the puddle
by the feet of ducks.


We are not obliged to sound the Bishop of D---- on the score
of orthodoxy. In the presence of such a soul we feel ourselves
in no mood but respect. The conscience of the just man should
be accepted on his word. Moreover, certain natures being given,
we admit the possible development of all beauties of human virtue
in a belief that differs from our own.
What did he think of this dogma, or of that mystery? These secrets
of the inner tribunal of the conscience are known only to the tomb,
where souls enter naked. The point on which we are certain is,
that the difficulties of faith never resolved themselves into
hypocrisy in his case. No decay is possible to the diamond.
He believed to the extent of his powers. "Credo in Patrem,"
he often exclaimed. Moreover, he drew from good works that amount
of satisfaction which suffices to the conscience, and which whispers
to a man, "Thou art with God!"
The point which we consider it our duty to note is, that outside
of and beyond his faith, as it were, the Bishop possessed an excess
of love. In was in that quarter, quia multum amavit,--because he
loved much--that he was regarded as vulnerable by "serious men,"
"grave persons" and "reasonable people"; favorite locutions of our
sad world where egotism takes its word of command from pedantry.
What was this excess of love? It was a serene benevolence
which overflowed men, as we have already pointed out, and which,
on occasion, extended even to things. He lived without disdain.
He was indulgent towards God's creation. Every man, even the best,
has within him a thoughtless harshness which he reserves for animals.
The Bishop of D---- had none of that harshness, which is peculiar
to many priests, nevertheless. He did not go as far as the Brahmin,
but he seemed to have weighed this saying of Ecclesiastes: "Who knoweth
whither the soul of the animal goeth?" Hideousness of aspect,
deformity of instinct, troubled him not, and did not arouse
his indignation. He was touched, almost softened by them.
It seemed as though he went thoughtfully away to seek beyond
the bounds of life which is apparent, the cause, the explanation,
or the excuse for them. He seemed at times to be asking God to
commute these penalties. He examined without wrath, and with the
eye of a linguist who is deciphering a palimpsest, that portion
of chaos which still exists in nature. This revery sometimes
caused him to utter odd sayings. One morning he was in his garden,
and thought himself alone, but his sister was walking behind him,
unseen by him: suddenly he paused and gazed at something on the ground;
it was a large, black, hairy, frightful spider. His sister heard
him say:--
"Poor beast! It is not its fault!"
Why not mention these almost divinely childish sayings of kindness?
Puerile they may be; but these sublime puerilities were peculiar
to Saint Francis d'Assisi and of Marcus Aurelius. One day he
sprained his ankle in his effort to avoid stepping on an ant.
Thus lived this just man. Sometimes he fell asleep in his garden,
and then there was nothing more venerable possible.
Monseigneur Bienvenu had formerly been, if the stories anent
his youth, and even in regard to his manhood, were to be believed,
a passionate, and, possibly, a violent man. His universal suavity
was less an instinct of nature than the result of a grand conviction
which had filtered into his heart through the medium of life,
and had trickled there slowly, thought by thought; for, in a character,
as in a rock, there may exist apertures made by drops of water.
These hollows are uneffaceable; these formations are indestructible.
In 1815, as we think we have already said, he reached his seventy-fifth
birthday, but he did not appear to be more than sixty. He was
not tall; he was rather plump; and, in order to combat this tendency,
he was fond of taking long strolls on foot; his step was firm,
and his form was but slightly bent, a detail from which we do not
pretend to draw any conclusion. Gregory XVI., at the age of eighty,
held himself erect and smiling, which did not prevent him from
being a bad bishop. Monseigneur Welcome had what the people term
a "fine head," but so amiable was he that they forgot that it was fine.
When he conversed with that infantile gayety which was one of his charms,
and of which we have already spoken, people felt at their ease with him,
and joy seemed to radiate from his whole person. His fresh and
ruddy complexion, his very white teeth, all of which he had preserved,
and which were displayed by his smile, gave him that open and easy
air which cause the remark to be made of a man, "He's a good fellow";
and of an old man, "He is a fine man." That, it will be recalled,
was the effect which he produced upon Napoleon. On the first encounter,
and to one who saw him for the first time, he was nothing, in fact,
but a fine man. But if one remained near him for a few hours,
and beheld him in the least degree pensive, the fine man became
gradually transfigured, and took on some imposing quality,
I know not what; his broad and serious brow, rendered august
by his white locks, became august also by virtue of meditation;
majesty radiated from his goodness, though his goodness ceased not
to be radiant; one experienced something of the emotion which one
would feel on beholding a smiling angel slowly unfold his wings,
without ceasing to smile. Respect, an unutterable respect,
penetrated you by degrees and mounted to your heart, and one felt
that one had before him one of those strong, thoroughly tried,
and indulgent souls where thought is so grand that it can no longer
be anything but gentle.
As we have seen, prayer, the celebration of the offices of religion,
alms-giving, the consolation of the afflicted, the cultivation
of a bit of land, fraternity, frugality, hospitality, renunciation,
confidence, study, work, filled every day of his life. Filled is
exactly the word; certainly the Bishop's day was quite full to the brim,
of good words and good deeds. Nevertheless, it was not complete
if cold or rainy weather prevented his passing an hour or two in his
garden before going to bed, and after the two women had retired.
It seemed to be a sort of rite with him, to prepare himself for
slumber by meditation in the presence of the grand spectacles of the
nocturnal heavens. Sometimes, if the two old women were not asleep,
they heard him pacing slowly along the walks at a very advanced
hour of the night. He was there alone, communing with himself,
peaceful, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the
serenity of the ether, moved amid the darkness by the visible
splendor of the constellations and the invisible splendor of God,
opening his heart to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown.
At such moments, while he offered his heart at the hour when
nocturnal flowers offer their perfume, illuminated like a lamp amid
the starry night, as he poured himself out in ecstasy in the midst
of the universal radiance of creation, he could not have told himself,
probably, what was passing in his spirit; he felt something take
its flight from him, and something descend into him. Mysterious
exchange of the abysses of the soul with the abysses of the universe!
He thought of the grandeur and presence of God; of the future eternity,
that strange mystery; of the eternity past, a mystery still
more strange; of all the infinities, which pierced their way into
all his senses, beneath his eyes; and, without seeking to comprehend
the incomprehensible, he gazed upon it. He did not study God;
he was dazzled by him. He considered those magnificent conjunctions
of atoms, which communicate aspects to matter, reveal forces by
verifying them, create individualities in unity, proportions in extent,
the innumerable in the infinite, and, through light, produce beauty.
These conjunctions are formed and dissolved incessantly;
hence life and death.
He seated himself on a wooden bench, with his back against a
decrepit vine; he gazed at the stars, past the puny and stunted
silhouettes of his fruit-trees. This quarter of an acre,
so poorly planted, so encumbered with mean buildings and sheds,
was dear to him, and satisfied his wants.
What more was needed by this old man, who divided the leisure
of his life, where there was so little leisure, between gardening
in the daytime and contemplation at night? Was not this narrow
enclosure, with the heavens for a ceiling, sufficient to enable
him to adore God in his most divine works, in turn? Does not this
comprehend all, in fact? and what is there left to desire beyond it?
A little garden in which to walk, and immensity in which to dream.
At one's feet that which can be cultivated and plucked; over head
that which one can study and meditate upon: some flowers on earth,
and all the stars in the sky.


One last word.
Since this sort of details might, particularly at the present moment,
and to use an expression now in fashion, give to the Bishop of D----
a certain "pantheistical" physiognomy, and induce the belief,
either to his credit or discredit, that he entertained one of
those personal philosophies which are peculiar to our century,
which sometimes spring up in solitary spirits, and there take on a form
and grow until they usurp the place of religion, we insist upon it,
that not one of those persons who knew Monseigneur Welcome would
have thought himself authorized to think anything of the sort.
That which enlightened this man was his heart. His wisdom was made
of the light which comes from there.
No systems; many works. Abstruse speculations contain vertigo; no,
there is nothing to indicate that he risked his mind in apocalypses.
The apostle may be daring, but the bishop must be timid. He would
probably have felt a scruple at sounding too far in advance certain
problems which are, in a manner, reserved for terrible great minds.
There is a sacred horror beneath the porches of the enigma;
those gloomy openings stand yawning there, but something
tells you, you, a passer-by in life, that you must not enter.
Woe to him who penetrates thither!
Geniuses in the impenetrable depths of abstraction and pure
speculation, situated, so to speak, above all dogmas, propose their
ideas to God. Their prayer audaciously offers discussion.
Their adoration interrogates. This is direct religion, which is
full of anxiety and responsibility for him who attempts its steep cliffs.
Human meditation has no limits. At his own risk and peril, it analyzes
and digs deep into its own bedazzlement. One might almost say,
that by a sort of splendid reaction, it with it dazzles nature;
the mysterious world which surrounds us renders back what it
has received; it is probable that the contemplators are contemplated.
However that may be, there are on earth men who--are they men?--
perceive distinctly at the verge of the horizons of revery the
heights of the absolute, and who have the terrible vision of the
infinite mountain. Monseigneur Welcome was one of these men;
Monseigneur Welcome was not a genius. He would have feared those
sublimities whence some very great men even, like Swedenborg and Pascal,
have slipped into insanity. Certainly, these powerful reveries
have their moral utility, and by these arduous paths one approaches
to ideal perfection. As for him, he took the path which shortens,--
the Gospel's.
He did not attempt to impart to his chasuble the folds of Elijah's mantle;
he projected no ray of future upon the dark groundswell of events;
he did not see to condense in flame the light of things; he had
nothing of the prophet and nothing of the magician about him.
This humble soul loved, and that was all.
That he carried prayer to the pitch of a superhuman aspiration
is probable: but one can no more pray too much than one can
love too much; and if it is a heresy to pray beyond the texts,
Saint Theresa and Saint Jerome would be heretics.
He inclined towards all that gs developed tenderness in him;
he was occupied only in finding for himself, and in inspiring others
with the best way to compassionate and relieve. That which exists
was for this good and rare priest a permanent subject of sadness
which sought consolation.
There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction
of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness which reigned
everywhere was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other;
he declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was
the whole of his doctrine. One day, that man who believed himself
to be a "philosopher," the senator who has already been alluded to,
said to the Bishop: "Just survey the spectacle of the world:
all war against all; the strongest has the most wit. Your love
each other is nonsense."--"Well," replied Monseigneur Welcome,
without contesting the point, "if it is nonsense, the soul should shut
itself up in it, as the pearl in the oyster." Thus he shut himself up,
he lived there, he was absolutely satisfied with it, leaving on one side
the prodigious questions which attract and terrify, the fathomless
perspectives of abstraction, the precipices of metaphysics--all those
profundities which converge, for the apostle in God, for the atheist
in nothingness; destiny, good and evil, the way of being against being,
the conscience of man, the thoughtful somnambulism of the animal,
the transformation in death, the recapitulation of existences
which the tomb contains, the incomprehensible grafting of successive
loves on the persistent _I_, the essence, the substance, the Nile,
and the Ens, the soul, nature, liberty, necessity; perpendicular problems,
sinister obscurities, where lean the gigantic archangels of the
human mind; formidable abysses, which Lucretius, Manou, Saint Paul,
Dante, contemplate with eyes flashing lightning, which seems
by its steady gaze on the infinite to cause stars to blaze forth there.
Monseigneur Bienvenu was simply a man who took note of the exterior
of mysterious questions without scrutinizing them, and without
troubling his own mind with them, and who cherished in his own
soul a grave respect for darkness.



Early in the month of October, 1815, about an hour before sunset,
a man who was travelling on foot entered the little town of D----
The few inhabitants who were at their windows or on their thresholds
at the moment stared at this traveller with a sort of uneasiness.
It was difficult to encounter a wayfarer of more wretched appearance.
He was a man of medium stature, thickset and robust, in the prime
of life. He might have been forty-six or forty-eight years old.
A cap with a drooping leather visor partly concealed his face,
burned and tanned by sun and wind, and dripping with perspiration.
His shirt of coarse yellow linen, fastened at the neck by a small
silver anchor, permitted a view of his hairy breast: he had a cravat
twisted into a string; trousers of blue drilling, worn and threadbare,
white on one knee and torn on the other; an old gray, tattered blouse,
patched on one of the elbows with a bit of green cloth sewed on
with twine; a tightly packed soldier knapsack, well buckled and
perfectly new, on his back; an enormous, knotty stick in his hand;
iron-shod shoes on his stockingless feet; a shaved head and a long
The sweat, the heat, the journey on foot, the dust, added I know
not what sordid quality to this dilapidated whole. His hair was
closely cut, yet bristling, for it had begun to grow a little,
and did not seem to have been cut for some time.
No one knew him. He was evidently only a chance passer-by. Whence
came he? From the south; from the seashore, perhaps, for he made his
entrance into D---- by the same street which, seven months previously,
had witnessed the passage of the Emperor Napoleon on his way
from Cannes to Paris. This man must have been walking all day.
He seemed very much fatigued. Some women of the ancient market town
which is situated below the city had seen him pause beneath the trees
of the boulevard Gassendi, and drink at the fountain which stands
at the end of the promenade. He must have been very thirsty:
for the children who followed him saw him stop again for a drink,
two hundred paces further on, at the fountain in the market-place.
On arriving at the corner of the Rue Poichevert, he turned to the left,
and directed his steps toward the town-hall. He entered, then came
out a quarter of an hour later. A gendarme was seated near the door,
on the stone bench which General Drouot had mounted on the 4th
of March to read to the frightened throng of the inhabitants of D----
the proclamation of the Gulf Juan. The man pulled off his cap
and humbly saluted the gendarme.
The gendarme, without replying to his salute, stared attentively
at him, followed him for a while with his eyes, and then entered
the town-hall.
There then existed at D---- a fine inn at the sign of the Cross
of Colbas. This inn had for a landlord a certain Jacquin Labarre,
a man of consideration in the town on account of his relationship
to another Labarre, who kept the inn of the Three Dauphins in Grenoble,
and had served in the Guides. At the time of the Emperor's landing,
many rumors had circulated throughout the country with regard to this
inn of the Three Dauphins. It was said that General Bertrand,
disguised as a carter, had made frequent trips thither in the month
of January, and that he had distributed crosses of honor to the
soldiers and handfuls of gold to the citizens. The truth is,
that when the Emperor entered Grenoble he had refused to install
himself at the hotel of the prefecture; he had thanked the mayor,
saying, "I am going to the house of a brave man of my acquaintance";
and he had betaken himself to the Three Dauphins. This glory
of the Labarre of the Three Dauphins was reflected upon the Labarre
of the Cross of Colbas, at a distance of five and twenty leagues.
It was said of him in the town, "That is the cousin of the man
of Grenoble."
The man bent his steps towards this inn, which was the best in
the country-side. He entered the kitchen, which opened on a level
with the street. All the stoves were lighted; a huge fire blazed
gayly in the fireplace. The host, who was also the chief cook,
was going from one stew-pan to another, very busily superintending
an excellent dinner designed for the wagoners, whose loud talking,
conversation, and laughter were audible from an adjoining apartment.
Any one who has travelled knows that there is no one who indulges
in better cheer than wagoners. A fat marmot, flanked by white
partridges and heather-cocks, was turning on a long spit before
the fire; on the stove, two huge carps from Lake Lauzet and a trout
from Lake Alloz were cooking.
The host, hearing the door open and seeing a newcomer enter,
said, without raising his eyes from his stoves:--
"What do you wish, sir?"
"Food and lodging," said the man.
"Nothing easier," replied the host. At that moment he turned his head,
took in the traveller's appearance with a single glance, and added,
"By paying for it."
The man drew a large leather purse from the pocket of his blouse,
and answered, "I have money."
"In that case, we are at your service," said the host.
The man put his purse back in his pocket, removed his knapsack from
his back, put it on the ground near the door, retained his stick
in his hand, and seated himself on a low stool close to the fire.
D---- is in the mountains. The evenings are cold there in October.
But as the host went back and forth, he scrutinized the traveller.
"Will dinner be ready soon?" said the man.
"Immediately," replied the landlord.
While the newcomer was warming himself before the fire, with his back
turned, the worthy host, Jacquin Labarre, drew a pencil from his pocket,
then tore off the corner of an old newspaper which was lying on a small
table near the window. On the white margin he wrote a line or two,
folded it without sealing, and then intrusted this scrap of paper
to a child who seemed to serve him in the capacity both of scullion
and lackey. The landlord whispered a word in the scullion's ear,
and the child set off on a run in the direction of the town-hall.
The traveller saw nothing of all this.
Once more he inquired, "Will dinner be ready soon?"
"Immediately," responded the host.
The child returned. He brought back the paper. The host unfolded
it eagerly, like a person who is expecting a reply. He seemed to
read it attentively, then tossed his head, and remained thoughtful
for a moment. Then he took a step in the direction of the traveller,
who appeared to be immersed in reflections which were not very serene.
"I cannot receive you, sir," said he.
The man half rose.
"What! Are you afraid that I will not pay you? Do you want me
to pay you in advance? I have money, I tell you."
"It is not that."
"What then?"
"You have money--"
"Yes," said the man.
"And I," said the host, "have no room."
The man resumed tranquilly, "Put me in the stable."
"I cannot."
"The horses take up all the space."
"Very well!" retorted the man; "a corner of the loft then, a truss
of straw. We will see about that after dinner."
"I cannot give you any dinner."
This declaration, made in a measured but firm tone, struck the
stranger as grave. He rose.
"Ah! bah! But I am dying of hunger. I have been walking since sunrise.
I have travelled twelve leagues. I pay. I wish to eat."
"I have nothing," said the landlord.
The man burst out laughing, and turned towards the fireplace
and the stoves: "Nothing! and all that?"
"All that is engaged."
"By whom?"
"By messieurs the wagoners."
"How many are there of them?"
"There is enough food there for twenty."
"They have engaged the whole of it and paid for it in advance."
The man seated himself again, and said, without raising his voice,
"I am at an inn; I am hungry, and I shall remain."
Then the host bent down to his ear, and said in a tone which made
him start, "Go away!"
At that moment the traveller was bending forward and thrusting
some brands into the fire with the iron-shod tip of his staff;
he turned quickly round, and as he opened his mouth to reply,
the host gazed steadily at him and added, still in a low voice:
"Stop! there's enough of that sort of talk. Do you want me to tell
you your name? Your name is Jean Valjean. Now do you want me to tell
you who you are? When I saw you come in I suspected something;
I sent to the town-hall, and this was the reply that was sent to me.
Can you read?"
So saying, he held out to the stranger, fully unfolded, the paper
which had just travelled from the inn to the town-hall, and from
the town-hall to the inn. The man cast a glance upon it.
The landlord resumed after a pause.
"I am in the habit of being polite to every one. Go away!"
The man dropped his head, picked up the knapsack which he had
deposited on the ground, and took his departure.
He chose the principal street. He walked straight on at a venture,
keeping close to the houses like a sad and humiliated man.
He did not turn round a single time. Had he done so, he would have
seen the host of the Cross of Colbas standing on his threshold,
surrounded by all the guests of his inn, and all the passers-by in
the street, talking vivaciously, and pointing him out with his finger;
and, from the glances of terror and distrust cast by the group,
he might have divined that his arrival would speedily become an event
for the whole town.
He saw nothing of all this. People who are crushed do not look
behind them. They know but too well the evil fate which follows them.
Thus he proceeded for some time, walking on without ceasing,
traversing at random streets of which he knew nothing, forgetful of
his fatigue, as is often the case when a man is sad. All at once
he felt the pangs of hunger sharply. Night was drawing near.
He glanced about him, to see whether he could not discover some shelter.
The fine hostelry was closed to him; he was seeking some very humble
public house, some hovel, however lowly.
Just then a light flashed up at the end of the streets; a pine
branch suspended from a cross-beam of iron was outlined against
the white sky of the twilight. He proceeded thither.
It proved to be, in fact, a public house. The public house
which is in the Rue de Chaffaut.
The wayfarer halted for a moment, and peeped through the window into
the interior of the low-studded room of the public house, illuminated by
a small lamp on a table and by a large fire on the hearth. Some men
were engaged in drinking there. The landlord was warming himself.
An iron pot, suspended from a crane, bubbled over the flame.
The entrance to this public house, which is also a sort of an inn,
is by two doors. One opens on the street, the other upon a small yard
filled with manure. The traveller dare not enter by the street door.
He slipped into the yard, halted again, then raised the latch timidly
and opened the door.
"Who goes there?" said the master.
"Some one who wants supper and bed."
"Good. We furnish supper and bed here."
He entered. All the men who were drinking turned round.
The lamp illuminated him on one side, the firelight on the other.
They examined him for some time while he was taking off his knapsack.
The host said to him, "There is the fire. The supper is cooking
in the pot. Come and warm yourself, comrade."
He approached and seated himself near the hearth. He stretched
out his feet, which were exhausted with fatigue, to the fire;
a fine odor was emitted by the pot. All that could be distinguished
of his face, beneath his cap, which was well pulled down,
assumed a vague appearance of comfort, mingled with that other
poignant aspect which habitual suffering bestows.
It was, moreover, a firm, energetic, and melancholy profile.
This physiognomy was strangely composed; it began by seeming humble,
and ended by seeming severe. The eye shone beneath its lashes
like a fire beneath brushwood.
One of the men seated at the table, however, was a fishmonger who,
before entering the public house of the Rue de Chaffaut,
had been to stable his horse at Labarre's. It chanced that he
had that very morning encountered this unprepossessing stranger
on the road between Bras d'Asse and--I have forgotten the name.
I think it was Escoublon. Now, when he met him, the man, who then
seemed already extremely weary, had requested him to take him
on his crupper; to which the fishmonger had made no reply except
by redoubling his gait. This fishmonger had been a member half
an hour previously of the group which surrounded Jacquin Labarre,
and had himself related his disagreeable encounter of the morning
to the people at the Cross of Colbas. From where he sat he made
an imperceptible sign to the tavern-keeper. The tavern-keeper went
to him. They exchanged a few words in a low tone. The man had
again become absorbed in his reflections.
The tavern-keeper returned to the fireplace, laid his hand abruptly
on the shoulder of the man, and said to him:--
"You are going to get out of here."
The stranger turned round and replied gently, "Ah! You know?--"
"I was sent away from the other inn."
"And you are to be turned out of this one."
"Where would you have me go?"
The man took his stick and his knapsack and departed.
As he went out, some children who had followed him from the Cross
of Colbas, and who seemed to be lying in wait for him, threw stones
at him. He retraced his steps in anger, and threatened them
with his stick: the children dispersed like a flock of birds.
He passed before the prison. At the door hung an iron chain
attached to a bell. He rang.
The wicket opened.
"Turnkey," said he, removing his cap politely, "will you have
the kindness to admit me, and give me a lodging for the night?"
A voice replied:--
"The prison is not an inn. Get yourself arrested, and you will
be w
of which was lighted up. He peered through the pane as he had
done at the public house. Within was a large whitewashed room,
with a bed draped in printed cotton stuff, and a cradle in one corner,
a few wooden chairs, and a double-barrelled gun hanging on the wall.
A table was spread in the centre of the room. A copper lamp
illuminated the tablecloth of coarse white linen, the pewter
jug shining like silver, and filled with wine, and the brown,
smoking soup-tureen. At this table sat a man of about forty,
with a merry and open countenance, who was dandling a little child
on his knees. Close by a very young woman was nursing another child.
The father was laughing, the child was laughing, the mother
was smiling.
The stranger paused a moment in revery before this tender
and calming spectacle. What was taking place within him?
He alone could have told. It is probable that he thought that
this joyous house would be hospitable, and that, in a place
where he beheld so much happiness, he would find perhaps a little pity.
He tapped on the pane with a very small and feeble knock.
They did not hear him.
He tapped again.
He heard the woman say, "It seems to me, husband, that some one
is knocking."
"No," replied the husband.
He tapped a third time.
The husband rose, took the lamp, and went to the door, which he opened.
He was a man of lofty stature, half peasant, half artisan.
He wore a huge leather apron, which reached to his left shoulder,
and which a hammer, a red handkerchief, a powder-horn, and all
sorts of objects which were upheld by the girdle, as in a pocket,
caused to bulge out. He carried his head thrown backwards;
his shirt, widely opened and turned back, displayed his bull neck,
white and bare. He had thick eyelashes, enormous black whiskers,
prominent eyes, the lower part of his face like a snout;
and besides all this, that air of being on his own ground,
which is indescribable.
"Pardon me, sir," said the wayfarer, "Could you, in consideration
of payment, give me a plate of soup and a corner of that shed
yonder in the garden, in which to sleep? Tell me; can you?
For money?"
"Who are you?" demanded the master of the house.
The man replied: "I have just come from Puy-Moisson. I have
walked all day long. I have travelled twelve leagues. Can you?--
if I pay?"
"I would not refuse," said the peasant, "to lodge any respectable
man who would pay me. But why do you not go to the inn?"
"There is no room."
"Bah! Impossible. This is neither a fair nor a market day.
Have you been to Labarre?"
The traveller replied with embarrassment: "I do not know.
He did not receive me."
"Have you been to What's-his-name's, in the Rue Chaffaut?"
The stranger's embarrassment increased; he stammered, "He did
not receive me either."
The peasant's countenance assumed an expression of distrust;
he surveyed the newcomer from head to feet, and suddenly exclaimed,
with a sort of shudder:--
"Are you the man?--"
He cast a fresh glance upon the stranger, took three steps backwards,
placed the lamp on the table, and took his gun down from the wall.
Meanwhile, at the words, Are you the man? the woman had risen,
had clasped her two children in her arms, and had taken refuge
precipitately behind her husband, staring in terror at the stranger,
with her bosom uncovered, and with frightened eyes, as she murmured
in a low tone, "Tso-maraude."[1]

[1] Patois of the French Alps: chat de maraude, rascally marauder.

All this took place in less time than it requires to picture it
to one's self. After having scrutinized the man for several moments,
as one scrutinizes a viper, the master of the house returned
to the door and said:--
"Clear out!"
"For pity's sake, a glass of water," said the man.
"A shot from my gun!" said the peasant.
Then he closed the door violently, and the man heard him shoot
two large bolts. A moment later, the window-shutter was closed,
and the sound of a bar of iron which was placed against it was
audible outside.
Night continued to fall. A cold wind from the Alps was blowing.
By the light of the expiring day the stranger perceived,
in one of the gardens which bordered the street, a sort of hut,
which seemed to him to be built of sods. He climbed over the wooden
fence resolutely, and found himself in the garden. He approached
the hut; its door consisted of a very low and narrow aperture,
and it resembled those buildings which road-laborers construct for
themselves along the roads. He thought without doubt, that it was,
in fact, the dwelling of a road-laborer; he was suffering from cold
and hunger, but this was, at least, a shelter from the cold.
This sort of dwelling is not usually occupied at night. He threw
himself flat on his face, and crawled into the hut. It was warm there,
and he found a tolerably good bed of straw. He lay, for a moment,
stretched out on this bed, without the power to make a movement,
so fatigued was he. Then, as the knapsack on his back was in
his way, and as it furnished, moreover, a pillow ready to his hand,
he set about unbuckling one of the straps. At that moment,
a ferocious growl became audible. He raised his eyes. The head
of an enormous dog was outlined in the darkness at the entrance of
the hut.
It was a dog's kennel.
He was himself vigorous and formidable; he armed himself with his staff,
made a shield of his knapsack, and made his way out of the kennel
in the best way he could, not without enlarging the rents in his rags.
He left the garden in the same manner, but backwards, being obliged,
in order to keep the dog respectful, to have recourse to that
manoeuvre with his stick which masters in that sort of fencing
designate as la rose couverte.
When he had, not without difficulty, repassed the fence, and found
himself once more in the street, alone, without refuge, without shelter,
without a roof over his head, chased even from that bed of straw
and from that miserable kennel, he dropped rather than seated himself
on a stone, and it appears that a passer-by heard him exclaim,
"I am not even a dog!"
He soon rose again and resumed his march. He went out of the town,
hoping to find some tree or haystack in the fields which would afford
him shelter.
He walked thus for some time, with his head still drooping.
When he felt himself far from every human habitation, he raised
his eyes and gazed searchingly about him. He was in a field.
Before him was one of those low hills covered with close-cut stubble,
which, after the harvest, resemble shaved heads.
The horizon was perfectly black. This was not alone the obscurity
of night; it was caused by very low-hanging clouds which seemed
to rest upon the hill itself, and which were mounting and filling
the whole sky. Meanwhile, as the moon was about to rise, and as
there was still floating in the zenith a remnant of the brightness
of twilight, these clouds formed at the summit of the sky a sort
of whitish arch, whence a gleam of light fell upon the earth.
The earth was thus better lighted than the sky, which produces
a particularly sinister effect, and the hill, whose contour was poor
and mean, was outlined vague and wan against the gloomy horizon.
The whole effect was hideous, petty, lugubrious, and narrow.
There was nothing in the field or on the hill except a deformed tree,
which writhed and shivered a few paces distant from the wayfarer.
This man was evidently very far from having those delicate habits
of intelligence and spirit which render one sensible to the mysterious
aspects of things; nevertheless, there was something in that sky,
in that hill, in that plain, in that tree, which was so profoundly
desolate, that after a moment of immobility and revery he turned
back abruptly. There are instants when nature seems hostile.
He retraced his steps; the gates of D---- were closed. D----, which had
sustained sieges during the wars of religion, was still surrounded
in 1815 by ancient walls flanked by square towers which have been
demolished since. He passed through a breach and entered the town again.
It might have been eight o'clock in the evening. As he was not
acquainted with the streets, he recommenced his walk at random.
In this way he came to the prefecture, then to the seminary.
As he passed through the Cathedral Square, he shook his fist at
the church.
At the corner of this square there is a printing establishment.
It is there that the proclamations of the Emperor and of the Imperial
Guard to the army, brought from the Island of Elba and dictated
by Napoleon himself, were printed for the first time.
Worn out with fatigue, and no longer entertaining any hope,
he lay down on a stone bench which stands at the doorway of this
printing office.
At that moment an old woman came out of the church. She saw the man
stretched out in the shadow. "What are you doing there, my friend?"
said she.
He answered harshly and angrily: "As you see, my good woman,
I am sleeping." The good woman, who was well worthy the name,
in fact, was the Marquise de R----
"On this bench?" she went on.
"I have had a mattress of wood for nineteen years," said the man;
"to-day I have a mattress of stone."
"You have been a soldier?"
"Yes, my good woman, a soldier."
"Why do you not go to the inn?"
"Because I have no money."
"Alas!" said Madame de R----, "I have only four sous in my purse."
"Give it to me all the same."
The man took the four sous. Madame de R---- continued: "You cannot
obtain lodgings in an inn for so small a sum. But have you tried?
It is impossible for you to pass the night thus. You are cold
and hungry, no doubt. Some one might have given you a lodging out
of charity."
"I have knocked at all doors."
"I have been driven away everywhere."
The "good woman" touched the man's arm, and pointed out to him
on the other side of the street a small, low house, which stood
beside the Bishop's palace.
"You have knocked at all doors?"
"Have you knocked at that one?"
"Knock there."


That evening, the Bishop of D----, after his promenade through the town,
remained shut up rather late in his room. He was busy over a great
work on Duties, which was never completed, unfortunately. He was
carefully compiling everything that the Fathers and the doctors
have said on this important subject. His book was divided into
two parts: firstly, the duties of all; secondly, the duties
of each individual, according to the class to which he belongs.
The duties of all are the great duties. There are four of these.
Saint Matthew points them out: duties towards God (Matt. vi.);
duties towards one's self (Matt. v. 29, 30); duties towards one's
neighbor (Matt. vii. 12); duties towards animals (Matt. vi.
20, 25). As for the other duties the Bishop found them pointed out
and prescribed elsewhere: to sovereigns and subjects, in the Epistle
to the Romans; to magistrates, to wives, to mothers, to young men,
by Saint Peter; to husbands, fathers, children and servants,
in the Epistle to the Ephesians; to the faithful, in the Epistle
to the Hebrews; to virgins, in the Epistle to the Corinthians.
Out of these precepts he was laboriously constructing a harmonious whole,
which he desired to present to souls.
At eight o'clock he was still at work, writing with a good deal
of inconvenience upon little squares of paper, with a big book open
on his knees, when Madame Magloire entered, according to her wont,
to get the silver-ware from the cupboard near his bed. A moment later,
the Bishop, knowing that the table was set, and that his sister
was probably waiting for him, shut his book, rose from his table,
and entered the dining-room.
The dining-room was an oblong apartment, with a fireplace,
which had a door opening on the street (as we have said),
and a window opening on the garden.
Madame Magloire was, in fact, just putting the last touches
to the table.
As she performed this service, she was conversing
with Mademoiselle Baptistine.
A lamp stood on the table; the table was near the fireplace.
A wood fire was burning there.
One can easily picture to one's self these two women, both of whom
were over sixty years of age. Madame Magloire small, plump, vivacious;
Mademoiselle Baptistine gentle, slender, frail, somewhat taller
than her brother, dressed in a gown of puce-colored silk, of the
fashion of 1806, which she had purchased at that date in Paris,
and which had lasted ever since. To borrow vulgar phrases,
which possess the merit of giving utterance in a single word to an idea
which a whole page would hardly suffice to express, Madame Magloire
had the air of a peasant, and Mademoiselle Baptistine that of a lady.
Madame Magloire wore a white quilted cap, a gold Jeannette cross
on a velvet ribbon upon her neck, the only bit of feminine jewelry
that there was in the house, a very white fichu puffing out from a gown
of coarse black woollen stuff, with large, short sleeves, an apron
of cotton cloth in red and green checks, knotted round the waist
with a green ribbon, with a stomacher of the same attached by two pins
at the upper corners, coarse shoes on her feet, and yellow stockings,
like the women of Marseilles. Mademoiselle Baptistine's gown
was cut on the patterns of 1806, with a short waist, a narrow,
sheath-like skirt, puffed sleeves, with flaps and buttons.
She concealed her gray hair under a frizzed wig known as the baby wig.
Madame Magloire had an intelligent, vivacious, and kindly air;
the two corners of her mouth unequally raised, and her upper lip,
which was larger than the lower, imparted to her a rather crabbed
and imperious look. So long as Monseigneur held his peace,
she talked to him resolutely with a mixture of respect and freedom;
but as soon as Monseigneur began to speak, as we have seen,
she obeyed passively like her mistress. Mademoiselle Baptistine did
not even speak. She confined herself to obeying and pleasing him.
She had never been pretty, even when she was young; she had large,
blue, prominent eyes, and a long arched nose; but her whole visage,
her whole person, breathed forth an ineffable goodness, as we stated
in the beginning. She had always been predestined to gentleness;
but faith, charity, hope, those three virtues which mildly warm the soul,
had gradually elevated that gentleness to sanctity. Nature had made
her a lamb, religion had made her an angel. Poor sainted virgin!
Sweet memory which has vanished!
Mademoiselle Baptistine has so often narrated what passed at
the episcopal residence that evening, that there are many people
now living who still recall the most minute details.
At the moment when the Bishop entered, Madame Magloire was talking
with considerable vivacity. She was haranguing Mademoiselle Baptistine
on a subject which was familiar to her and to which the Bishop was
also accustomed. The question concerned the lock upon the entrance door.
It appears that while procuring some provisions for supper,
Madame Magloire had heard things in divers places. People had spoken
of a prowler of evil appearance; a suspicious vagabond had arrived
who must be somewhere about the town, and those who should take it
into their heads to return home late that night might be subjected
to unpleasant encounters. The police was very badly organized,
moreover, because there was no love lost between the Prefect and
the Mayor, who sought to injure each other by making things happen.
It behooved wise people to play the part of their own police,
and to guard themselves well, and care must be taken to duly close,
bar and barricade their houses, and to fasten the doors well.
Madame Magloire emphasized these last words; but the Bishop had just
come from his room, where it was rather cold. He seated himself
in front of the fire, and warmed himself, and then fell to thinking
of other things. He did not take up the remark dropped with design
by Madame Magloire. She repeated it. Then Mademoiselle Baptistine,
desirous of satisfying Madame Magloire w cordial face,
which so easily grew joyous, and which was illuminated from below
by the firelight,--"Come, what is the matter? What is the matter?
Are we in any great danger?"
Then Madame Magloire began the whole story afresh, exaggerating it
a little without being aware of the fact. It appeared that
a Bohemian, a bare-footed vagabond, a sort of dangerous mendicant,
was at that moment in the town. He had presented himself at Jacquin
Labarre's to obtain lodgings, but the latter had not been willing
to take him in. He had been seen to arrive by the way of the
boulevard Gassendi and roam about the streets in the gloaming.
A gallows-bird with a terrible face.
"Really!" said the Bishop.
This willingness to interrogate encouraged Madame Magloire;
it seemed to her to indicate that the Bishop was on the point
of becoming alarmed; she pursued triumphantly:--
"Yes, Monseigneur. That is how it is. There will be some sort
of catastrophe in this town to-night. Every one says so. And withal,
the police is so badly regulated" (a useful repetition). "The idea
of living in a mountainous country, and not even having lights
in the streets at night! One goes out. Black as ovens, indeed!
And I say, Monseigneur, and Mademoiselle there says with me--"
"I," interrupted his sister, "say nothing. What my brother does
is well done."
Madame Magloire continued as though there had been no protest:--
"We say that this house is not safe at all; that if Monseigneur
will permit, I will go and tell Paulin Musebois, the locksmith,
to come and replace the ancient locks on the doors; we have them,
and it is only the work of a moment; for I say that nothing is more
terrible than a door which can be opened from the outside with a latch
by the first passer-by; and I say that we need bolts, Monseigneur,
if only for this night; moreover, Monseigneur has the habit of always
saying `come in'; and besides, even in the middle of the night,
O mon Dieu! there is no need to ask permission."
At that moment there came a tolerably violent knock on the door.
"Come in," said the Bishop.


The door opened.
It opened wide with a rapid movement, as though some one had given
it an energetic and resolute push.
A man entered.
We already know the man. It was the wayfarer whom we have seen
wandering about in search of shelter.
He entered, advanced a step, and halted, leaving the door open
behind him. He had his knapsack on his shoulders, his cudgel
in his hand, a rough, audacious, weary, and violent expression in
his eyes. The fire on the hearth lighted him up. He was hideous.
It was a sinister apparition.
Madame Magloire had not even the strength to utter a cry.
She trembled, and stood with her mouth wide open.
Mademoiselle Baptistine turned round, beheld the man entering,
and half started up in terror; then, turning her head by degrees
towards the fireplace again, she began to observe her brother,
and her face became once more profoundly calm and serene.
The Bishop fixed a tranquil eye on the man.
As he opened his mouth, doubtless to ask the new-comer what he desired,
the man rested both hands on his staff, directed his gaze at the old
man and the two women, and without waiting for the Bishop to speak,
he said, in a loud voice:--
"See here. My name is Jean Valjean. I am a convict from the galleys.
I have passed nineteen years in the galleys. I was liberated four
days ago, and am on my way to Pontarlier, which is my destination.
I have been walking for four days since I left Toulon. I have
travelled a dozen leagues to-day on foot. This evening, when I
arrived in these parts, I went to an inn, and they turned me out,
because of my yellow passport, which I had shown at the town-hall.
I had to do it. I went to an inn. They said to me, `Be off,'
at both places. No one would take me. I went to the prison;
the jailer would not admit me. I went into a dog's kennel;
the dog bit me and chased me off, as though he had been a man.
One would have said that he knew who I was. I went into the fields,
intending to sleep in the open air, beneath the stars. There were
no stars. I thought it was going to rain, and I re-entered
the town, to seek the recess of a doorway. Yonder, in the square,
I meant to sleep on a stone bench. A good woman pointed out your
house to me, and said to me, `Knock there!' I have knocked.
What is this place? Do you keep an inn? I have money--savings.
One hundred and nine francs fifteen sous, which I earned
in the galleys by my labor, in the course of nineteen years.
I will pay. What is that to me? I have money. I am very weary;
twelve leagues on foot; I am very hungry. Are you willing that I
should remain?"
"Madame Magloire," said the Bishop, "you will set another place."
The man advanced three paces, and approached the lamp which was on
the table. "Stop," he resumed, as though he had not quite understood;
"that's not it. Did you hear? I am a galley-slave; a convict.
I come from the galleys." He drew from his pocket a large sheet
of yellow paper, which he unfolded. "Here's my passport. Yellow,
as you see. This serves to expel me from every place where I go.
Will you read it? I know how to read. I learned in the galleys.
There is a school there for those who choose to learn. Hold, this is
what they put on this passport: `Jean Valjean, discharged convict,
native of'--that is nothing to you--`has been nineteen years
in the galleys: five years for house-breaking and burglary;
fourteen years for having attempted to escape on four occasions.
He is a very dangerous man.' There! Every one has cast me out.
Are you willing to receive me? Is this an inn? Will you give me
something to eat and a bed? Have you a stable?"
"Madame Magloire," said the Bishop, "you will put white sheets on
the bed in the alcove." We have already explained the character
of the two women's obedience.
Madame Magloire retired to execute these orders.
The Bishop turned to the man.
"Sit down, sir, and warm yourself. We are going to sup
in a few moments, and your bed will be prepared while you are supping."
At this point the man suddenly comprehended. The expression
of his face, up to that time sombre and harsh, bore the imprint
of stupefaction, of doubt, of joy, and became extraordinary.
He began stammering like a crazy man:--
"Really? What! You will keep me? You do not drive me forth?
A convict! You call me sir! You do not address me as thou?
`Get out of here, you dog!' is what people always say to me. I felt sure
that you would expel me, so I told you at once who I am. Oh, what a
good woman that was who directed me hither! I am going to sup!
A bed with a mattress and sheets, like the rest of the world! a bed!
It is nineteen years since I have slept in a bed! You actually do
not want me to go! You are good people. Besides, I have money.
I will pay well. Pardon me, monsieur the inn-keeper, but what is
your name? I will pay anything you ask. You are a fine man.
You are an inn-keeper, are you not?"
"I am," replied the Bishop, "a priest who lives here."
"A priest!" said the man. "Oh, what a fine priest! Then you are
not going to demand any money of me? You are the cure, are you
not? the cure of this big church? Well! I am a fool, truly!
I had not perceived your skull-cap."
As he spoke, he deposited his knapsack and his cudgel in a corner,
replaced his passport in his pocket, and seated himself.
Mademoiselle Baptistine gazed mildly at him. He continued:
"You are humane, Monsieur le Cure; you have not scorned me.
A good priest is a very good thing. Then you do not require me
to pay?"
"No," said the Bishop; "keep your money. How much have you?
Did you not tell me one hundred and nine francs?"
"And fifteen sous," added the man.
"One hundred and nine francs fifteen sous. And how long did it
take you to earn that?"
"Nineteen years."
"Nineteen years!"
The Bishop sighed deeply.
The man continued: "I have still the whole of my money.
In four days I have spent only twenty-five sous, which I earned
by helping unload some wagons at Grasse. Since you are an abbe,
I will tell you that we had a chaplain in the galleys. And one day
I saw a bishop there. Monseigneur is what they call him. He was
the Bishop of Majore at Marseilles. He is the cure who rules over
the other cures, you understand. Pardon me, I say that very badly;
but it is such a far-off thing to me! You understand what we are!
He said mass in the middle of the galleys, on an altar. He had a
pointed thing, made of gold, on his head; it glittered in the bright
light of midday. We were all ranged in lines on the three sides,
with cannons with lighted matches facing us. We could not see
very well. He spoke; but he was too far off, and we did not hear.
That is what a bishop is like."
While he was speaking, the Bishop had gone and shut the door,
which had remained wide open.
Madame Magloire returned. She brought a silver fork and spoon,
which she placed on the table.
"Madame Magloire," said the Bishop, "place those things as near
the fire as possible." And turning to his guest: "The night wind
is harsh on the Alps. You must be cold, sir."
Each time that he uttered the word sir, in his voice which was so gently
grave and polished, the man's face lighted up. Monsieur to a convict
is like a glass of water to one of the shipwrecked of the Medusa.
Ignominy thirsts for consideration.
"This lamp gives a very bad light," said the Bishop.
Madame Magloire understood him, and went to get the two silver
candlesticks from the chimney-piece in Monseigneur's bed-chamber,
and placed them, lighted, on the table.
"Monsieur le Cure," said the man, "you are good; you do not despise me.
You receive me into your house. You light your candles for me.
Yet I have not concealed from you whence I come and that I am an
unfortunate man."
The Bishop, who was sitting close to him, gently touched his hand.
"You could not help telling me who you were. This is not my house;
it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him
who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief.
You suffer, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome.
And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house.
No one is at home here, except the man who needs a refuge.
I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home
here than I am myself. Everything here is yours. What need have I
to know your name? Besides, before you told me you had one which
I knew."
The man opened his eyes in astonishment.
"Really? You knew what I was called?"
"Yes," replied the Bishop, "you are called my brother."
"Stop, Monsieur le Cure," exclaimed the man. "I was very hungry
when I entered here; but you are so good, that I no longer know
what has happened to me."
The Bishop looked at him, and said,--
"You have suffered much?"
"Oh, the red coat, the ball on the ankle, a plank to sleep on,
heat, cold, toil, the convicts, the thrashings, the double
chain for nothing, the cell for one word; even sick and in bed,
still the chain! Dogs, dogs are happier! Nineteen years! I am
forty-six. Now there is the yellow passport. That is what it is like."
"Yes," resumed the Bishop, "you have come from a very sad place.
Listen. There will be more joy in heaven over the tear-bathed face
of a repentant sinner than over the white robes of a hundred just men.
If you emerge from that sad place with thoughts of hatred and of wrath
against mankind, you are deserving of pity; if you emerge with thoughts
of good-will and of peace, you are more worthy than any one of us."
In the meantime, Madame Magloire had served supper: soup, made with
water, oil, bread, and salt; a little bacon, a bit of mutton, figs, a
fresh cheese, and a large loaf of rye bread. She had, of her own accord,
added to the Bishop's ordinary fare a bottle of his old Mauves wine.
The Bishop's face at once assumed that expression of gayety which is
peculiar to hospitable natures. "To table!" he cried vivaciously.
As was his custom when a stranger supped with him, he made the man
sit on his right. Mademoiselle Baptistine, perfectly peaceable
and natural, took her seat at his left.
The Bishop asked a blessing; then helped the soup himself,
according to his custom. The man began to eat with avidity.
All at once the Bishop said: "It strikes me there is something
missing on this table."
Madame Magloire had, in fact, only placed the three sets of forks
and spoons which were absolutely necessary. Now, it was the usage
of the house, when the Bishop had any one to supper, to lay out the
whole six sets of silver on the table-cloth--an innocent ostentation.
This graceful semblance of luxury was a kind of child's play,
which was full of charm in that gentle and severe household,
which raised poverty into dignity.
Madame Magloire understood the remark, went out without saying a word,
and a moment later the three sets of silver forks and spoons demanded
by the Bishop were glittering upon the cloth, symmetrically arranged
before the three persons seated at the table.


Now, in order to convey an idea of what passed at that table,
we cannot do better than to transcribe here a passage from one
of Mademoiselle Baptistine's letters to Madame Boischevron,
wherein the conversation between the convict and the Bishop
is described with ingenious minuteness.

". . . This man paid no attention to any one. He ate with the
voracity of a starving man. However, after supper he said:
"`Monsieur le Cure of the good God, all this is far too good for me;
but I must say that the carters who would not allow me to eat with
them keep a better table than you do.'
"Between ourselves, the remark rather shocked me. My brother replied:--
"`They are more fatigued than I.'
"`No,' returned the man, `they have more money. You are poor;
I see that plainly. You cannot be even a curate. Are you really
a cure? Ah, if the good God were but just, you certainly ought
to be a cure!'
"`The good God is more than just,' said my brother.
"A moment later he added:--
"`Monsieur Jean Valjean, is it to Pontarlier that you are going?'
"`With my road marked out for me.'
"I think that is what the man said. Then he went on:--
"`I must be on my way by daybreak to-morrow. Travelling is hard.
If the nights are cold, the days are hot.'
"`You are going to a good country,' said my brother. `During the
Revolution my family was ruined. I took refuge in Franche-Comte
at first, and there I lived for some time by the toil of my hands.
My will was good. I found plenty to occupy me. One has only to choose.
There are paper mills, tanneries, distilleries, oil factories,
watch factories on a large scale, steel mills, copper works,
twenty iron foundries at least, four of which, situated at Lods,
at Chatillon, at Audincourt, and at Beure, are tolerably large.'
"I think I am not mistaken in saying that those are the names which
my brother mentioned. Then he interrupted himself and addressed me:--
"`Have we not some relatives in those parts, my dear sister?'
"I replied,--
"`We did have some; among others, M. de Lucenet, who was captain
of the gates at Pontarlier under the old regime.'
"`Yes,' resumed my brother; `but in '93, one had no longer
any relatives, one had only one's arms. I worked. They have,
in the country of Pontarlier, whither you are going, Monsieur Valjean,
a truly patriarchal and truly charming industry, my sister.
It is their cheese-dairies, which they call fruitieres.'
"Then my brother, while urging the man to eat, explained to him,
with great minuteness, what these fruitieres of Pontarlier were;
that they were divided into two classes: the big barns which belong
to the rich, and where there are forty or fifty cows which produce
from seven to eight thousand cheeses each summer, and the associated
fruitieres, which belong to the poor; these are end
of April that the work of the cheese-dairies begins; it is towards
the middle of June that the cheese-makers drive their cows to
the mountains.'
"The man recovered his animation as he ate. My brother made him
drink that good Mauves wine, which he does not drink himself,
because he says that wine is expensive. My brother imparted all these
details with that easy gayety of his with which you are acquainted,
interspersing his words with graceful attentions to me. He recurred
frequently to that comfortable trade of grurin, as though he wished
the man to understand, without advising him directly and harshly,
that this would afford him a refuge. One thing struck me.
This man was what I have told you. Well, neither during supper,
nor during the entire evening, did my brother utter a single word,
with the exception of a few words about Jesus when he entered,
which could remind the man of what he was, nor of what my brother was.
To all appearances, it was an occasion for preaching him a little sermon,
and of impressing the Bishop on the convict, so that a mark of the
passage might remain behind. This might have appeared to any one else
who had this, unfortunate man in his hands to afford a chance to nourish
his soul as well as his body, and to bestow upon him some reproach,
seasoned with moralizing and advice, or a little commiseration,
with an exhortation to conduct himself better in the future.
My brother did not even ask him from what country he came,
nor what was his history. For in his history there is a fault,
and my brother seemed to avoid everything which could remind him
of it. To such a point did he carry it, that at one time, when my
brother was speaking of the mountaineers of Pontarlier, who exercise
a gentle labor near heaven, and who, he added, are happy because
they are innocent, he stopped short, fearing lest in this remark
there might have escaped him something which might wound the man.
By dint of reflection, I think I have comprehended what was passing
in my brother's heart. He was thinking, no doubt, that this man,
whose name is Jean Valjean, had his misfortune only too vividly
present in his mind; that the best thing was to divert him from it,
and to make him believe, if only momentarily, that he was a person
like any other, by treating him just in his ordinary way. Is not
this indeed, to understand charity well? Is there not, dear Madame,
something truly evangelical in this delicacy which abstains from sermon,
from moralizing, from allusions? and is not the truest pity,
when a man has a sore point, not to touch it at all? It has seemed
to me that this might have been my brother's private thought.
In any case, what I can say is that, if he entertained all these ideas,
he gave no sign of them; from beginning to end, even to me he
was the same as he is every evening, and he supped with this Jean
Valjean with the same air and in the same manner in which he would
have supped with M. Gedeon le Provost, or with the curate of
the parish.
"Towards the end, when he had reached the figs, there came a knock
at the door. It was Mother Gerbaud, with her little one in her arms.
My brother kissed the child on the brow, and borrowed fifteen sous
which I had about me to give to Mother Gerbaud. The man was not paying
much heed to anything then. He was no longer talking, and he seemed
very much fatigued. After poor old Gerbaud had taken her departure,
my brother said grace; then he turned to the man and said to him,
`You must be in great need of your bed.' Madame Magloire cleared
the table very promptly. I understood that we must retire,
in order to allow this traveller to go to sleep, and we both went
up stairs. Nevertheless, I sent Madame Magloire down a moment later,
to carry to the man's bed a goat skin from the Black Forest,
which was in my room. The nights are frigid, and that keeps one warm.
It is a pity that this skin is old; all the hair is falling out.
My brother bought it while he was in Germany, at Tottlingen, near the
sources of the Danube, as well as the little ivory-handled knife
which I use at table.
"Madame Magloire returned immediately. We said our prayers in the
drawing-room, where we hang up the linen, and then we each retired
to our own chambers, without saying a word to each other."


After bidding his sister good night, Monseigneur Bienvenu took
one of the two silver candlesticks from the table, handed the
other to his guest, and said to him,--
"Monsieur, I will conduct you to your room."
The man followed him.
As might have been observed from what has been said above,
the house was so arranged that in order to pass into the oratory
where the alcove was situated, or to get out of it, it was necessary
to traverse the Bishop's bedroom.
At the moment when he was crossing this apartment, Madame Magloire was
putting away the silverware in the cupboard near the head of the bed.
This was her last care every evening before she went to bed.
The Bishop installed his guest in the alcove. A fresh white bed had
been prepared there. The man set the candle down on a small table.
"Well," said the Bishop, "may you pass a good night. To-morrow morning,
before you set out, you shall drink a cup of warm milk from our cows."
"Thanks, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the man.
Hardly had he pronounced these words full of peace, when all
of a sudden, and without transition, he made a strange movement,
which would have frozen the two sainted women with horror,
had they witnessed it. Even at this day it is difficult for us
to explain what inspired him at that moment. Did he intend to
convey a warning or to throw out a menace? Was he simply obeying
a sort of instinctive impulse which was obscure even to himself?
He turned abruptly to the old man, folded his arms, and bending
upon his host a savage gaze, he exclaimed in a hoarse voice:--
"Ah! really! You lodge me in your house, close to yourself like this?"
He broke off, and added with a laugh in which there lurked
something monstrous:--
"Have you really reflected well? How do you know that I have not
been an assassin?"
The Bishop replied:--
"That is the concern of the good God."
Then gravely, and moving his lips like one who is praying or talking
to himself, he raised two fingers of his right hand and bestowed
his benediction on the man, who did not bow, and without turning
his head or looking behind him, he returned to his bedroom.
When the alcove was in use, a large serge curtain drawn from
wall to wall concealed the altar. The Bishop knelt before this
curtain as he passed and said a brief prayer. A moment later he
was in his garden, walking, meditating, conteplating, his heart
and soul wholly absorbed in those grand and mysterious things
which God shows at night to the eyes which remain open.
As for the man, he was actually so fatigued that he did not even profit
by the nice white sheets. Snuffing out his candle with his nostrils
after the manner of convicts, he dropped, all dressed as he was,
upon the bed, where he immediately fell into a profound sleep.
Midnight struck as the Bishop returned from his garden to his apartment.
A few minutes later all were asleep in the little house.


Towards the middle of the night Jean Valjean woke.
Jean Valjean came from a poor peasant family of Brie. He had not learned
to read in his childhood. When he reached man's estate, be became
a tree-pruner at Faverolles. His mother was named Jeanne Mathieu;
his father was called Jean Valjean or Vlajean, probably a sobriquet,
and a contraction of viola Jean, "here's Jean."
Jean Valjean was of that thoughtful but not gloomy disposition
which constitutes the peculiarity of affectionate natures.
On the whole, however, there was something decidedly sluggish
and insignificant about Jean Valjean in appearance, at least.
He had lost his father and mother at a very early age. His mother
had died of a milk fever, which had not been properly attended to.
His father, a tree-pruner, like himself, had been killed by a fall
from a tree. All that remained to Jean Valjean was a sister older
than himself,--a widow with seven children, boys and girls.
This sister had brought up Jean Valjean, and so long as she had a
husband she lodged and fed her young brother.
The husband died. The eldest of the seven children was eight
years old. The youngest, one.
Jean Valjean had just attained his twenty-fifth year. He took
the father's place, and, in his turn, supported the sister who had
brought him up. This was done simply as a duty and even a little
churlishly on the part of Jean Valjean. Thus his youth had been spent
in rude and ill-paid toil. He had never known a "kind woman friend"
in his native parts. He had not had the time to fall in love.
He returned at night weary, and ate his broth without uttering a word.
His sister, mother Jeanne, often took the best part of his repast
from his bowl while he was eating,--a bit of meat, a slice of bacon,
the heart of the cabbage,--to give to one of her children.
As he went on eating, with his head bent over the table and almost
into his soup, his long hair falling about his bowl and concealing
his eyes, he had the air of perceiving nothing and allowing it.
There was at Faverolles, not far from the Valjean thatched cottage,
on the other side of the lane, a farmer's wife named Marie-Claude;
the Valjean children, habitually famished, sometimes went to borrow
from Marie-Claude a pint of milk, in their mother's name, which they
drank behind a hedge or in some alley corner, snatching the jug
from each other so hastily that the little girls spilled it on
their aprons and down their necks. If their mother had known of
this marauding, she would have punished the delinquents severely.
Jean Valjean gruffly and grumblingly paid Marie-Claude for the
pint of milk behind their mother's back, and the children were
not punished.
In pruning season he earned eighteen sous a day; then he hired out
as a hay-maker, as laborer, as neat-herd on a farm, as a drudge.
He did whatever he could. His sister worked also but what could she
do with seven little children? It was a sad group enveloped in misery,
which was being gradually annihilated. A very hard winter came.
Jean had no work. The family had no bread. No bread literally.
Seven children!
One Sunday evening, Maubert Isabeau, the baker on the Church
Square at Faverolles, was preparing to go to bed, when he heard
a violent blow on the grated front of his shop. He arrived in time
to see an arm passed through a hole made by a blow from a fist,
through the grating and the glass. The arm seized a loaf of bread
and carried it off. Isabeau ran out in haste; the robber fled at
the full speed of his legs. Isabeau ran after him and stopped him.
The thief had flung away the loaf, but his arm was still bleeding.
It was Jean Valjean.
This took place in 1795. Jean Valjean was taken before the tribunals
of the time for theft and breaking and entering an inhabited
house at night. He had a gun which he used better than any one
else in the world, he was a bit of a poacher, and this injured
his case. There exists a legitimate prejudice against poachers.
The poacher, like the smuggler, smacks too strongly of the brigand.
Nevertheless, we will remark cursorily, there is still an abyss
between these races of men and the hideous assassin of the towns.
The poacher lives in the forest, the smuggler lives in the mountains
or on the sea. The cities make ferocious men because they make
corrupt men. The mountain, the sea, the forest, make savage men;
they develop the fierce side, but often without destroying the
humane side.
Jean Valjean was pronounced guilty. The terms of the Code
were explicit. There occur formidable hours in our civilization;
there are moments when the penal laws decree a shipwreck.
What an ominous minute is that in which society draws back and
consummates the irreparable abandonment of a sentient being!
Jean Valjean was condemned to five years in the galleys.
On the 22d of April, 1796, the victory of Montenotte, won by the
general-in-chief of the army of Italy, whom the message of the
Directory to the Five Hundred, of the 2d of Floreal, year IV., calls
Buona-Parte, was announced in Paris; on that same day a great gang
of galley-slaves was put in chains at Bicetre. Jean Valjean formed
a part of that gang. An old turnkey of the prison, who is now nearly
eighty years old, still recalls perfectly that unfortunate wretch
who was chained to the end of the fourth line, in the north angle
of the courtyard. He was seated on the ground like the others.
He did not seem to comprehend his position, except that it was horrible.
It is probable that he, also, was disentangling from amid the vague
ideas of a poor man, ignorant of everything, something excessive.
While the bolt of his iron collar was being riveted behind his head
with heavy blows from the hammer, he wept, his tears stifled him,
they impeded his speech; he only managed to say from time to time,
"I was a tree-pruner at Faverolles." Then still sobbing, he raised
his right hand and lowered it gradually seven times, as though
he were touching in succession seven heads of unequal heights,
and from this gesture it was divined that the thing which he had done,
whatever it was, he had done for the sake of clothing and nourishing
seven little children.
He set out for Toulon. He arrived there, after a journey of
twenty-seven days, on a cart, with a chain on his neck. At Toulon
he was clothed in the red cassock. All that had constituted
his life, even to his name, was effaced; he was no longer even
Jean Valjean; he was number 24,601. What became of his sister?
What became of the seven children? Who troubled himself about that?
What becomes of the handful of leaves from the young tree which
is sawed off at the root?
It is always the same story. These poor living beings,
these creatures of God, henceforth without support, without guide,
without refuge, wandered away at random,--who even knows?--
each in his own direction perhaps, and little by little buried
themselves in that cold mist which engulfs solitary destinies;
gloomy shades, into which disappear in succession so many unlucky heads,
in the sombre march of the human race. They quitted the country.
The clock-tower of what had been their village forgot them; the boundary
line of what had been their field forgot them; after a few years'
residence in the galleys, Jean Valjean himself forgot them.
In that heart, where there had been a wound, there was a scar.
That is all. Only once, during all the time which he spent at Toulon,
did he hear his sister mentioned. This happened, I think,
towards the end of the fourth year of his captivity. I know not
through what channels the news reached him. Some one who had known
them in their own country had seen his sister. She was in Paris.
She lived in a poor street Rear Saint-Sulpice, in the Rue du Gindre.
She had with her only one child, a little boy, the youngest.
Where were the other six? Perhaps she did not know herself.
Every morning she went to a printing office, No. 3 Rue du Sabot,
where she was a folder and stitcher. She was obliged to be there
at six o'clock in the morning--long before daylight in winter.
In the same building with the printing office there was a school,
and to this school she took her little boy, who was seven years old.
But as she entered the printing office at six, and the school only
opened at seven, the child had to wait in the courtyard, for the school
to open, for an hour--one hour of a winter night in the open air!
They would not allow the child to come into the printing office,
because he was in the way, they said. When the workmen passed in
the morning, they beheld this poor little being seated on the pavement,
overcome with drowsiness, and often fast asleep in the shadow,
crouched down and doubled up over his basket. When it rained,
an old woman, the portress, took pity on him; she tooks told to Jean
They talked to him about it for one day; it was a moment, a flash,
as though a window had suddenly been opened upon the destiny of
those things whom he had loved; then all closed again. He heard
nothing more forever. Nothing from them ever reached him again;
he never beheld them; he never met them again; and in the continuation
of this mournful history they will not be met with any more.
Towards the end of this fourth year Jean Valjean's turn to escape
arrived. His comrades assisted him, as is the custom in that sad place.
He escaped. He wandered for two days in the fields at liberty,
if being at liberty is to be hunted, to turn the head every instant,
to quake at the slightest noise, to be afraid of everything,--of a
smoking roof, of a passing man, of a barking dog, of a galloping horse,
of a striking clock, of the day because one can see, of the night
because one cannot see, of the highway, of the path, of a bush,
of sleep. On the evening of the second day he was captured.
He had neither eaten nor slept for thirty-six hours. The maritime
tribunal condemned him, for this crime, to a prolongation of his
term for three years, which made eight years. In the sixth year
his turn to escape occurred again; he availed himself of it,
but could not accomplish his flight fully. He was missing at
roll-call. The cannon were fired, and at night the patrol found
him hidden under the keel of a vessel in process of construction;
he resisted the galley guards who seized him. Escape and rebellion.
This case, provided for by a special code, was punished by an addition
of five years, two of them in the double chain. Thirteen years.
In the tenth year his turn came round again; he again profited by it;
he succeeded no better. Three years for this fresh attempt.
Sixteen years. Finally, I think it was during his thirteenth year,
he made a last attempt, and only succeeded in getting retaken at
the end of four hours of absence. Three years for those four hours.
Nineteen years. In October, 1815, he was released; he had entered
there in 1796, for having broken a pane of glass and taken a loaf
of bread.
Room for a brief parenthesis. This is the second time,
during his studies on the penal question and damnation by law,
that the author of this book has come across the theft of a loaf
of bread as the point of departure for the disaster of a destiny.
Claude Gaux had stolen a loaf; Jean Valjean had stolen a loaf.
English statistics prove the fact that four thefts out of five in
London have hunger for their immediate cause.
Jean Valjean had entered the galleys sobbing and shuddering;
he emerged impassive. He had entered in despair; he emerged gloomy.
What had taken place in that soul?


Let us try to say it.
It is necessary that society should look at these things, because it
is itself which creates them.
He was, as we have said, an ignorant man, but he was not a fool.
The light of nature was ignited in him. Unhappiness, which also
possesses a clearness of vision of its own, augmented the small
amount of daylight which existed in this mind. Beneath the cudgel,
beneath the chain, in the cell, in hardship, beneath the burning sun
of the galleys, upon the plank bed of the convict, he withdrew into
his own consciousness and meditated.
He constituted himself the tribunal.
He began by putting himself on trial.
He recognized the fact that he was not an innocent man unjustly punished.
He admitted that he had committed an extreme and blameworthy act;
that that loaf of bread would probably not have been refused to him
had he asked for it; that, in any case, it would have been better
to wait until he could get it through compassion or through work;
that it is not an unanswerable argument to say, "Can one wait when one
is hungry?" That, in the first place, it is very rare for any one to die
of hunger, literally; and next, that, fortunately or unfortunately,
man is so constituted that he can suffer long and much, both morally
and physically, without dying; that it is therefore necessary to
have patience; that that would even have been better for those poor
little children; that it had been an act of madness for him, a miserable,
unfortunate wretch, to take society at large violently by the collar,
and to imagine that one can escape from misery through theft;
that that is in any case a poor door through which to escape from
misery through which infamy enters; in short, that he was in the wrong.
Then he asked himself--
Whether he had been the only one in fault in his fatal history.
Whether it was not a serious thing, that he, a laborer, out of work,
that he, an industrious man, should have lacked bread. And whether,
the fault once committed and confessed, the chastisement had not been
ferocious and disproportioned. Whether there had not been more abuse
on the part of the law, in respect to the penalty, than there had been
on the part of the culprit in respect to his fault. Whether there
had not been an excess of weights in one balance of the scale,
in the one which contains expiation. Whether the over-weight
of the penalty was not equivalent to the annihilation of the crime,
and did not result in reversing the situation, of replacing the fault
of the delinquent by the fault of the repression, of converting
the guilty man into the victim, and the debtor into the creditor,
and of ranging the law definitely on the side of the man who had
violated it.
Whether this penalty, complicated by successive aggravations for
attempts at escape, had not ended in becoming a sort of outrage
perpetrated by the stronger upon the feebler, a crime of society
against the individual, a crime which was being committed afresh
every day, a crime which had lasted nineteen years.
He asked himself whether human society could have the right to force
its members to suffer equally in one case for its own unreasonable
lack of foresight, and in the other case for its pitiless foresight;
and to seize a poor man forever between a defect and an excess,
a default of work and an excess of punishment.
Whether it was not outrageous for society to treat thus precisely
those of its members who were the least well endowed in the division
of goods made by chance, and consequently the most deserving
of consideration.
These questions put and answered, he judged society and condemned it.
He condemned it to his hatred.
He made it responsible for the fate which he was suffering, and he said
to himself that it might be that one day he should not hesitate to call
it to account. He declared to himself that there was no equilibrium
between the harm which he had caused and the harm which was being
done to him; he finally arrived at the conclusion that his punishment
was not, in truth, unjust, but that it most assuredly was iniquitous.
Anger may be both foolish and absurd; one can be irritated wrongfully;
one is exasperated only when there is some show of right on one's
side at bottom. Jean Valjean felt himself exasperated.
And besides, human society had done him nothing but harm; he had never
seen anything of it save that angry face which it calls Justice,
and which it shows to those whom it strikes. Men had only touched
him to bruise him. Every contact with them had been a blow.
Never, since his infancy, since the days of his mother, of his sister,
had he ever encountered a friendly word and a kindly glance.
From suffering to suffering, he had gradually arrived at the conviction
that life is a war; and that in this war he was the conquered.
He had no other weapon than his hate. He resolved to whet it
in the galleys and to bear it away with him when he departed.
There was at Toulon a school for the convicts, kept by the
Ignorantin friars, where the most necessary branches were taught
to those of the unfortunate men who had a mind for them. He was of
the number who had a mind. He went to school at the age of forty,
and learned to read, to write, to cipher. He felt that to fortify
his intelligence was to fortify his hate. In certain cases,
education and enlightenment can serve to eke out evil.
This is a sad thing to say; after having judged society, which had
caused his unhappiness, he judged Providence, which had made society,
and he condemned it also.
Thus during nineteen years of torture and slavery, this soul
mounted and at the same time fell. Light entered it on one side,
and darkness on the other.
Jean Valjean had not, as we have seen, an evil nature. He was still
good when he arrived at the galleys. He there condemned society,
and felt that he was becoming wicked; he there condemned Providence,
and was conscious that he was becoming impious.
It is difficult not to indulge in meditation at this point.
Does human nature thus change utterly and from top to bottom?
Can the man created good by God be rendered wicked by man?
Can the soul be completely made over by fate, and become evil,
fate being evil? Can the heart become misshapen and contract
incurable deformities and infirmities under the oppression of a
disproportionate unhappiness, as the vertebral column beneath
too low a vault? Is there not in every human soul, was there
not in the soul of Jean Valjean in particular, a first spark,
a divine element, incorruptible in this world, immortal in the other,
which good can develop, fan, ignite, and make to glow with splendor,
and which evil can never wholly extinguish?
Grave and obscure questions, to the last of which every physiologist
would probably have responded no, and that without hesitation,
had he beheld at Toulon, during the hours of repose, which were
for Jean Valjean hours of revery, this gloomy galley-slave, seated
with folded arms upon the bar of some capstan, with the end of his
chain thrust into his pocket to prevent its dragging, serious, silent,
and thoughtful, a pariah of the laws which regarded the man with wrath,
condemned by civilization, and regarding heaven with severity.
Certainly,--and we make no attempt to dissimulate the fact,--
the observing physiologist would have beheld an irremediable misery;
he would, perchance, have pitied this sick man, of the law's making;
but he would not have even essayed any treatment; he would have
turned aside his gaze from the caverns of which he would have caught
a glimpse within this soul, and, like Dante at the portals of hell,
he would have effaced from this existence the word which the finger
of God has, nevertheless, inscribed upon the brow of every man,--hope.
Was this state of his soul, which we have attempted to analyze,
as perfectly clear to Jean Valjean as we have tried to render it
for those who read us? Did Jean Valjean distinctly perceive,
after their formation, and had he seen distinctly during the process
of their formation, all the elements of which his moral misery
was composed? Had this rough and unlettered man gathered a perfectly
clear perception of the succession of ideas through which he had,
by degrees, mounted and descended to the lugubrious aspects which had,
for so many years, formed the inner horizon of his spirit?
Was he conscious of all that passed within him, and of all that was
working there? That is something which we do not presume to state;
it is something which we do not even believe. There was too much
ignorance in Jean Valjean, even after his misfortune, to prevent much
vagueness from still lingering there. At times he did not rightly know
himself what he felt. Jean Valjean was in the shadows; he suffered
in the shadows; he hated in the shadows; one might have said that he
hated in advance of himself. He dwelt habitually in this shadow,
feeling his way like a blind man and a dreamer. Only, at intervals,
there suddenly came to him, from without and from within, an access
of wrath, a surcharge of suffering, a livid and rapid flash which
illuminated his whole soul, and caused to appear abruptly all
around him, in front, behind, amid the gleams of a frightful light,
the hideous precipices and the sombre perspective of his destiny.
The flash passed, the night closed in again; and where was he?
He no longer knew. The peculiarity of pains of this nature,
in which that which is pitiless--that is to say, that which
is brutalizing--predominates, is to transform a man, little by
little, by a sort of stupid transfiguration, into a wild beast;
sometimes into a ferocious beast.
Jean Valjean's successive and obstinate attempts at escape would
alone suffice to prove this strange working of the law upon
the human soul. Jean Valjean would have renewed these attempts,
utterly useless and foolish as they were, as often as the opportunity
had presented itself, without reflecting for an instant on the result,
nor on the experiences which he had already gone through.
He escaped impetuously, like the wolf who finds his cage open.
Instinct said to him, "Flee!" Reason would have said, "Remain!"
But in the presence of so violent a temptation, reason vanished;
nothing remained but instinct. The beast alone acted. When he
was recaptured, the fresh severities inflicted on him only served
to render him still more wild.
One detail, which we must not omit, is that he possessed a physical
strength which was not approached by a single one of the denizens of
the galleys. At work, at paying out a cable or winding up a capstan,
Jean Valjean was worth four men. He sometimes lifted and sustained
enormous weights on his back; and when the occasion demanded it,
he replaced that implement which is called a jack-screw, and was
formerly called orgueil [pride], whence, we may remark in passing,
is derived the name of the Rue Montorgueil, near the Halles [Fishmarket]
in Paris. His comrades had nicknamed him Jean the Jack-screw. Once,
when they were repairing the balcony of the town-hall at Toulon,
one of those admirable caryatids of Puget, which support the balcony,
became loosened, and was on the point of falling. Jean Valjean,
who was present, supported the caryatid with his shoulder, and gave
the workmen time to arrive.
His suppleness even exceeded his strength. Certain convicts
who were forever dreaming of escape, ended by making a veritable
science of force and skill combined. It is the science of muscles.
An entire system of mysterious statics is daily practised
by prisoners, men who are forever envious of the flies and birds.
To climb a vertical surface, and to find points of support
where hardly a projection was visible, was play to Jean Valjean.
An angle of the wall being given, with the tension of his back
and legs, with his elbows and his heels fitted into the unevenness
of the stone, he raised himself as if by magic to the third story.
He sometimes mounted thus even to the roof of the galley prison.
He spoke but little. He laughed not at all. An excessive emotion
was required to wring from him, once or twice a year, that lugubrious
laugh of the convict, which is like the echo of the laugh of a demon.
To all appearance, he seemed to be occupied in the constant
contemplation of something terrible.
He was absorbed, in fact.
Athwart the unhealthy perceptions of an incomplete nature and
a crushed intelligence, he was confusedly conscious that some
monstrous thing was resting on him. In that obscure and wan
shadow within which he crawled, each time that he turned his
neck and essayed to raise his glance, he perceived with terror,
mingled with rage, a sort of frightful accumulation of things,
collecting and mounting above him, beyond the range of his vision,--
laws, prejudices, men, and deeds,--whose outlines escaped him,
whose mass terrified him, and which was nothing else than that
prodigious pyramid which we call civilization. He distinguished,
here and there in that swarming and formless mass, now near him,
now afar off and on inaccessible table-lands, some group, some detail,
vividly illuminated; here the galley-sergeant and his cudgel;
there the gendarme and his sword; yonder the mitred archbishop;
away at the top, like a sort of sun, the Emperor, crowned and dazzling.
which God imparts to civilization, walking over him and crushing him
with I know not what peacefulness in its cruelty and inexorability
in its indifference. Souls which have fallen to the bottom of all
possible misfortune, unhappy men lost in the lowest of those limbos at
which no one any longer looks, the reproved of the law, feel the whole
weight of this human society, so formidable for him who is without,
so frightful for him who is beneath, resting upon their heads.
In this situation Jean Valjean meditated; and what could
be the nature of his meditation?
If the grain of millet beneath the millstone had thoughts,
it would, doubtless, think that same thing which Jean Valjean thought.
All these things, realities full of spectres, phantasmagories full
of realities, had eventually created for him a sort of interior
state which is almost indescribable.
At times, amid his convict toil, he paused. He fell to thinking.
His reason, at one and the same time riper and more troubled
than of yore, rose in revolt. Everything which had happened
to him seemed to him absurd; everything that surrounded him
seemed to him impossible. He said to himself, "It is a dream."
He gazed at the galley-sergeant standing a few paces from him;
the galley-sergeant seemed a phantom to him. All of a sudden the
phantom dealt him a blow with his cudgel.
Visible nature hardly existed for him. It would almost be
true to say that there existed for Jean Valjean neither sun,
nor fine summer days, nor radiant sky, nor fresh April dawns.
I know not what vent-hole daylight habitually illumined his soul.
To sum up, in conclusion, that which can be summed up and translated
into positive results in all that we have just pointed out,
we will confine ourselves to the statement that, in the course
of nineteen years, Jean Valjean, the inoffensive tree-pruner
of Faverolles, the formidable convict of Toulon, had become capable,
thanks to the manner in which the galleys had moulded him, of two
sorts of evil action: firstly, of evil action which was rapid,
unpremeditated, dashing, entirely instinctive, in the nature of
reprisals for the evil which he had undergone; secondly, of evil action
which was serious, grave, consciously argued out and premeditated,
with the false ideas which such a misfortune can furnish. His deliberate
deeds passed through three successive phases, which natures of a
certain stamp can alone traverse,--reasoning, will, perseverance.
He had for moving causes his habitual wrath, bitterness of soul,
a profound sense of indignities suffered, the reaction even against
the good, the innocent, and the just, if there are any such.
The point of departure, like the point of arrival, for all his thoughts,
was hatred of human law; that hatred which, if it be not arrested
in its development by some providential incident, becomes, within a
given time, the hatred of society, then the hatred of the human race,
then the hatred of creation, and which manifests itself by a vague,
incessant, and brutal desire to do harm to some living being,
no matter whom. It will be perceived that it was not without
reason that Jean Valjean's passport described him as a very dangerous man.
From year to year this soul had dried away slowly, but with fatal
sureness. When the heart is dry, the eye is dry. On his departure
from the galleys it had been nineteen years since he had shed a tear.


A man overboard!
What matters it? The vessel does not halt. The wind blows.
That sombre ship has a path which it is forced to pursue.
It passes on.
The man disappears, then reappears; he plunges, he rises again to
the surface; he calls, he stretches out his arms; he is not heard.
The vessel, trembling under the hurricane, is wholly absorbed in its
own workings; the passengers and sailors do not even see the drowning man;
his miserable head is but a speck amid the immensity of the waves.
He gives vent to desperate cries from out of the depths. What a spectre
is that retreating sail! He gazes and gazes at it frantically.
It retreats, it grows dim, it diminishes in size. He was there
but just now, he was one of the crew, he went and came along
the deck with the rest, he had his part of breath and of sunlight,
he was a living man. Now, what has taken place? He has slipped,
he has fallen; all is at an end.
He is in the tremendous sea. Under foot he has nothing but what
flees and crumbles. The billows, torn and lashed by the wind,
encompass him hideously; the tossings of the abyss bear him away;
all the tongues of water dash over his head; a populace of waves
spits upon him; confused openings half devour him; every time
that he sinks, he catches glimpses of precipices filled with night;
frightful and unknown vegetations seize him, knot about his feet,
draw him to them; he is conscious that he is becoming an abyss,
that he forms part of the foam; the waves toss him from one to another;
he drinks in the bitterness; the cowardly ocean attacks him furiously,
to drown him; the enormity plays with his agony. It seems as though all
that water were hate.
Nevertheless, he struggles.
He tries to defend himself; he tries to sustain himself; he makes
an effort; he swims. He, his petty strength all exhausted instantly,
combats the inexhaustible.
Where, then, is the ship? Yonder. Barely visible in the pale
shadows of the horizon.
The wind blows in gusts; all the foam overwhelms him.
He raises his eyes and beholds only the lividness of the clouds.
He witnesses, amid his death-pangs, the immense madness of the sea.
He is tortured by this madness; he hears noises strange to man,
which seem to come from beyond the limits of the earth, and from one
knows not what frightful region beyond.
There are birds in the clouds, just as there are angels above
human distresses; but what can they do for him? They sing and fly
and float, and he, he rattles in the death agony.
He feels himself buried in those two infinities, the ocean and the sky,
at one and the same time: the one is a tomb; the other is a shroud.
Night descends; he has been swimming for hours; his strength
is exhausted; that ship, that distant thing in which there were men,
has vanished; he is alone in the formidable twilight gulf;
he sinks, he stiffens himself, he twists himself; he feels under
him the monstrous billows of the invisible; he shouts.
There are no more men. Where is God?
He shouts. Help! Help! He still shouts on.
Nothing on the horizon; nothing in heaven.
He implores the expanse, the waves, the seaweed, the reef;
they are deaf. He beseeches the tempest; the imperturbable tempest
obeys only the infinite.
Around him darkness, fog, solitude, the stormy and nonsentient tumult,
the undefined curling of those wild waters. In him horror and fatigue.
Beneath him the depths. Not a point of support. He thinks
of the gloomy adventures of the corpse in the limitless shadow.
The bottomless cold paralyzes him. His hands contract convulsively;
they close, and grasp nothingness. Winds, clouds, whirlwinds, gusts,
useless stars! What is to be done? The desperate man gives up;
he is weary, he chooses the alternative of death; he resists not;
he lets himself go; he abandons his grip; and then he tosses forevermore
in the lugubrious dreary depths of engulfment.
Oh, implacable march of human societies! Oh, losses of men and of
souls on the way! Ocean into which falls all that the law lets slip!
Disastrous absence of help! Oh, moral death!
The sea is the inexorable social night into which the penal laws
fling their condemned. The sea is the immensity of wretchedness.
The soul, going down stream in this gulf, may become a corpse.
Who shall resuscitate it?


When the hour came for him to take his departure from the galleys,
when Jean Valjean heard in his ear the strange words, Thou art free!
the moment seemed improbable and unprecedented; a ray of vivid light,
a ray of the true light of the living, suddenly penetrated within him.
But it was not long before this ray paled. Jean Valjean had been
dazzled by the idea of liberty. He had believed in a new life.
He very speedily perceived what sort of liberty it is to which a yellow
passport is provided.
And this was encompassed with much bitterness. He had calculated
that his earnings, during his sojourn in the galleys, ought to amount
to a hundred and seventy-one francs. It is but just to add that he had
forgotten to include in his calculations the forced repose of Sundays
and festival days during nineteen years, which entailed a diminution
of about eighty francs. At all events, his hoard had been reduced
by various local levies to the sum of one hundred and nine francs
fifteen sous, which had been counted out to him on his departure.
He had understood nothing of this, and had thought himself wronged.
Let us say the word--robbed.
On the day following his liberation, he saw, at Grasse, in front
of an orange-flower distillery, some men engaged in unloading bales.
He offered his services. Business was pressing; they were accepted.
He set to work. He was intelligent, robust, adroit; he did his best;
the master seemed pleased. While he was at work, a gendarme passed,
observed him, and demanded his papers. It was necessary to show him
the yellow passport. That done, Jean Valjean resumed his labor.
A little while before he had questioned one of the workmen
as to the amount which they earned each day at this occupation;
he had been told thirty sous. When evening arrived, as he was
forced to set out again on the following day, he presented himself
to the owner of the distillery and requested to be paid. The owner
did not utter a word, but handed him fifteen sous. He objected.
He was told, "That is enough for thee." He persisted. The master
looked him straight between the eyes, and said to him "Beware of
the prison."
There, again, he considered that he had been robbed.
Society, the State, by diminishing his hoard, had robbed him wholesale.
Now it was the individual who was robbing him at retail.
Liberation is not deliverance. One gets free from the galleys,
but not from the sentence.
That is what happened to him at Grasse. We have seen in what manner
he was received at D----


As the Cathedral clock struck two in the morning, Jean Valjean awoke.
What woke him was that his bed was too good. It was nearly twenty
years since he had slept in a bed, and, although he had not undressed,
the sensation was too novel not to disturb his slumbers.
He had slept more than four hours. His fatigue had passed away.
He was accustomed not to devote many hours to repose.
He opened his eyes and stared into the gloom which surrounded him;
then he closed them again, with the intention of going to sleep
once more.
When many varied sensations have agitated the day, when various matters
preoccupy the mind, one falls asleep once, but not a second time.
Sleep comes more easily than it returns. This is what happened
to Jean Valjean. He could not get to sleep again, and he fell
to thinking.
He was at one of those moments when the thoughts which one has in one's
mind are troubled. There was a sort of dark confusion in his brain.
His memories of the olden time and of the immediate present floated
there pell-mell and mingled confusedly, losing their proper forms,
becoming disproportionately large, then suddenly disappearing,
as in a muddy and perturbed pool. Many thoughts occurred to him;
but there was one which kept constantly presenting itself afresh,
and which drove away all others. We will mention this thought at once:
he had observed the six sets of silver forks and spoons and the ladle
which Madame Magloire had placed on the table.
Those six sets of silver haunted him.--They were there.--A few
paces distant.--Just as he was traversing the adjoining room to reach
the one in which he then was, the old servant-woman had been in the
act of placing them in a little cupboard near the head of the bed.--
He had taken careful note of this cupboard.--On the right, as you
entered from the dining-room.--They were solid.--And old silver.--
From the ladle one could get at least two hundred francs.--
Double what he had earned in nineteen years.--It is true that he
would have earned more if "the administration had not robbed him."
His mind wavered for a whole hour in fluctuations with which there
was certainly mingled some struggle. Three o'clock struck. He opened
his eyes again, drew himself up abruptly into a sitting posture,
stretched out his arm and felt of his knapsack, which he had thrown
down on a corner of the alcove; then he hung his legs over the edge
of the bed, and placed his feet on the floor, and thus found himself,
almost without knowing it, seated on his bed.
He remained for a time thoughtfully in this attitude, which would
have been suggestive of something sinister for any one who had seen
him thus in the dark, the only person awake in that house where all
were sleeping. All of a sudden he stooped down, removed his shoes
and placed them softly on the mat beside the bed; then he resumed
his thoughtful attitude, and became motionless once more.
Throughout this hideous meditation, the thoughts which we have above
indicated moved incessantly through his brain; entered, withdrew,
re-entered, and in a manner oppressed him; and then he thought, also,
without knowing why, and with the mechanical persistence of revery,
of a convict named Brevet, whom he had known in the galleys, and whose
trousers had been upheld by a single suspender of knitted cotton.
The checkered pattern of that suspender recurred incessantly to his mind.
He remained in this situation, and would have so remained indefinitely,
even until daybreak, had not the clock struck one--the half
or quarter hour. It seemed to him that that stroke said to him,
"Come on!"
He rose to his feet, hesitated still another moment, and listened;
all was quiet in the house; then he walked straight ahead,
with short steps, to the window, of which he caught a glimpse.
The night was not very dark; there was a full moon, across which
coursed large clouds driven by the wind. This created, outdoors,
alternate shadow and gleams of light, eclipses, then bright openings
of the clouds; and indoors a sort of twilight. This twilight,
sufficient to enable a person to see his way, intermittent on
account of the clouds, resembled the sort of livid light which falls
through an air-hole in a cellar, before which the passersby come
and go. On arriving at the window, Jean Valjean examined it.
It had no grating; it opened in the garden and was fastened,
according to the fashion of the country, only by a small pin.
He opened it; but as a rush of cold and piercing air penetrated
the room abruptly, he closed it again immediately. He scrutinized
the garden with that attentive gaze which studies rather than looks.
The garden was enclosed by a tolerably low white wall, easy to climb.
Far away, at the extremity, he perceived tops of trees, spaced at
regular intervals, which indicated that the wall separated the garden
from an avenue or lane planted with trees.
Having taken this survey, he executed a movement like that of a man
who has made up his mind, strode to his alcove, grasped his knapsack,
opened it, fumbled in it, pulled out of it something which he placed
on the bed, put his shoes into one of his pockets, shut the whole
thing up again, threw the knapsack on his shoulders, put on his cap,
drew the visor down over his eyes, felt for his cudgel, went and
placed it in the angle of the window; then returned to the bed,
and resolutely seized the object which he had deposited there.
It resembled a short bar of iron, pointed like a pike at one end.
It would have been difficult to distinguish in that darkness
for what employment that bit of iron could have been designed.
Perhaps it was a lever; possibly it was a club.
In the daytime it would have been possible to recognize it as nothated at the lower extremity by a point, by means of which
they are stuck into the rock.
He took the candlestick in his right hand; holding his breath
and trying to deaden the sound of his tread, he directed his
steps to the door of the adjoining room, occupied by the Bishop,
as we already know.
On arriving at this door, he found it ajar. The Bishop had not
closed it.


Jean Valjean listened. Not a sound.
He gave the door a push.
He pushed it gently with the tip of his finger, lightly, with the
furtive and uneasy gentleness of a cat which is desirous of entering.
The door yielded to this pressure, and made an imperceptible
and silent movement, which enlarged the opening a little.
He waited a moment; then gave the door a second and a bolder push.
It continued to yield in silence. The opening was now large enough
to allow him to pass. But near the door there stood a little table,
which formed an embarrassing angle with it, and barred the entrance.
Jean Valjean recognized the difficulty. It was necessary, at any cost,
to enlarge the aperture still further.
He decided on his course of action, and gave the door a third push,
more energetic than the two preceding. This time a badly oiled hinge
suddenly emitted amid the silence a hoarse and prolonged cry.
Jean Valjean shuddered. The noise of the hinge rang in his ears
with something of the piercing and formidable sound of the trump
of the Day of Judgment.
In the fantastic exaggerations of the first moment he almost imagined
that that hinge had just become animated, and had suddenly assumed
a terrible life, and that it was barking like a dog to arouse every one,
and warn and to wake those who were asleep. He halted, shuddering,
bewildered, and fell back from the tips of his toes upon his heels.
He heard the arteries in his temples beating like two forge hammers,
and it seemed to him that his breath issued from his breast with
the roar of the wind issuing from a cavern. It seemed impossible
to him that the horrible clamor of that irritated hinge should not
have disturbed the entire household, like the shock of an earthquake;
the door, pushed by him, had taken the alarm, and had shouted;
the old man would rise at once; the two old women would shriek out;
people would come to their assistance; in less than a quarter of an
hour the town would be in an uproar, and the gendarmerie on hand.
For a moment he thought himself lost.
He remained where he was, petrified like the statue of salt,
not daring to make a movement. Several minutes elapsed. The door
had fallen wide open. He ventured to peep into the next room.
Nothing had stirred there. He lent an ear. Nothing was moving
in the house. The noise made by the rusty hinge had not awakened
any one.
This first danger was past; but there still reigned a frightful
tumult within him. Nevertheless, he did not retreat. Even when he
had thought himself lost, he had not drawn back. His only thought
now was to finish as soon as possible. He took a step and entered
the room.
This room was in a state of perfect calm. Here and there vague
and confused forms were distinguishable, which in the daylight were
papers scattered on a table, open folios, volumes piled upon a stool,
an arm-chair heaped with clothing, a prie-Dieu, and which at that hour
were only shadowy corners and whitish spots. Jean Valjean advanced
with precaution, taking care not to knock against the furniture.
He could hear, at the extremity of the room, the even and tranquil
breathing of the sleeping Bishop.
He suddenly came to a halt. He was near the bed. He had arrived
there sooner than he had thought for.
Nature sometimes mingles her effects and her spectacles with our
actions with sombre and intelligent appropriateness, as though she
desired to make us reflect. For the last half-hour a large cloud
had covered the heavens. At the moment when Jean Valjean paused
in front of the bed, this cloud parted, as though on purpose,
and a ray of light, traversing the long window, suddenly illuminated
the Bishop's pale face. He was sleeping peacefully. He lay in
his bed almost completely dressed, on account of the cold of the
Basses-Alps, in a garment of brown wool, which covered his arms to
the wrists. His head was thrown back on the pillow, in the careless
attitude of repose; his hand, adorned with the pastoral ring,
and whence had fallen so many good deeds and so many holy actions,
was hanging over the edge of the bed. His whole face was illumined
with a vague expression of satisfaction, of hope, and of felicity.
It was more than a smile, and almost a radiance. He bore upon his
brow the indescribable reflection of a light which was invisible.
The soul of the just contemplates in sleep a mysterious heaven.
A reflection of that heaven rested on the Bishop.
It was, at the same time, a luminous transparency, for that heaven
was within him. That heaven was his conscience.
At the moment when the ray of moonlight superposed itself, so to speak,
upon that inward radiance, the sleeping Bishop seemed as in a glory.
It remained, however, gentle and veiled in an ineffable half-light. That
moon in the sky, that slumbering nature, that garden without a quiver,
that house which was so calm, the hour, the moment, the silence,
added some solemn and unspeakable quality to the venerable repose
of this man, and enveloped in a sort of serene and majestic aureole
that white hair, those closed eyes, that face in which all was hope
and all was confidence, that head of an old man, and that slumber
of an infant.
There was something almost divine in this man, who was thus august,
without being himself aware of it.
Jean Valjean was in the shadow, and stood motionless, with his iron
candlestick in his hand, frightened by this luminous old man.
Never had he beheld anything like this. This confidence terrified him.
The moral world has no grander spectacle than this: a troubled and
uneasy conscience, which has arrived on the brink of an evil action,
contemplating the slumber of the just.
That slumber in that isolation, and with a neighbor like himself,
had about it something sublime, of which he was vaguely but
imperiously conscious.
No one could have told what was passing within him, not even himself.
In order to attempt to form an idea of it, it is necessary to think
of the most violent of things in the presence of the most gentle.
Even on his visage it would have been impossible to distinguish
anything with certainty. It was a sort of haggard astonishment.
He gazed at it, and that was all. But what was his thought?
It would have been impossible to divine it. What was evident was,
that he was touched and astounded. But what was the nature of this
His eye never quitted the old man. The only thing which was clearly to be
inferred from his attitude and his physiognomy was a strange indecision.
One would have said that he was hesitating between the two abysses,--
the one in which one loses one's self and that in which one saves
one's self. He seemed prepared to crush that skull or to kiss that hand.
At the expiration of a few minutes his left arm rose slowly towards
his brow, and he took off his cap; then his arm fell back with the
same deliberation, and Jean Valjean fell to meditating once more,
his cap in his left hand, his club in his right hand, his hair
bristling all over his savage head.
The Bishop continued to sleep in profound peace beneath that
terrifying gaze.
The gleam of the moon rendered confusedly visible the crucifix
over the chimney-piece, which seemed to be extending its arms
to both of them, with a benediction for one and pardon for the other.
Suddenly Jean Valjean replaced his cap on his brow; then stepped
rapidly past the bed, without glancing at the Bishop, straight to
the cupboard, which he saw near the head; he raised his iron
candlestick as though to force the lock; the key was there;
he opened it; the first thing which presented itself to him was
the basket of silverware; he seized it, traversed the chamber with
long strides, without taking any precautions and without troubling
himself about the noise, gained the door, re-entered the oratory,
opened the window, seized his cudgel, bestrode the window-sill
of the ground-floor, put the silver into his knapsack, threw away
the basket, crossed the garden, leaped over the wall like a tiger,
and fled.


The next morning at sunrise Monseigneur Bienvenu was strolling
in his garden. Madame Magloire ran up to him in utter consternation.
"Monseigneur, Monseigneur!" she exclaimed, "does your Grace know
where the basket of silver is?"
"Yes," replied the Bishop.
"Jesus the Lord be blessed!" she resumed; "I did not know what had
become of it."
The Bishop had just picked up the basket in a flower-bed. He
presented it to Madame Magloire.
"Here it is."
"Well!" said she. "Nothing in it! And the silver?"
"Ah," returned the Bishop, "so it is the silver which troubles you?
I don't know where it is."
"Great, good God! It is stolen! That man who was here last night
has stolen it."
In a twinkling, with all the vivacity of an alert old woman,
Madame Magloire had rushed to the oratory, entered the alcove,
and returned to the Bishop. The Bishop had just bent down,
and was sighing as he examined a plant of cochlearia des Guillons,
which the basket had broken as it fell across the bed. He rose up
at Madame Magloire's cry.
"Monseigneur, the man is gone! The silver has been stolen!"
As she uttered this exclamation, her eyes fell upon a corner of
the garden, where traces of the wall having been scaled were visible.
The coping of the wall had been torn away.
"Stay! yonder is the way he went. He jumped over into
Cochefilet Lane. Ah, the abomination! He has stolen our silver!"
The Bishop remained silent for a moment; then he raised his grave eyes,
and said gently to Madame Magloire:--
"And, in the first place, was that silver ours?"
Madame Magloire was speechless. Another silence ensued; then the
Bishop went on:--
"Madame Magloire, I have for a long time detained that silver wrongfully.
It belonged to the poor. Who was that man? A poor man, evidently."
"Alas! Jesus!" returned Madame Magloire. "It is not for my sake,
nor for Mademoiselle's. It makes no difference to us. But it is
for the sake of Monseigneur. What is Monseigneur to eat with now?"
The Bishop gazed at her with an air of amazement.
"Ah, come! Are there no such things as pewter forks and spoons?"
Madame Magloire shrugged her shoulders.
"Pewter has an odor."
"Iron forks and spoons, then."
Madame Magloire made an expressive grimace.
"Iron has a taste."
"Very well," said the Bishop; "wooden ones then."
A few moments later he was breakfasting at the very table at which Jean
Valjean had sat on the previous evening. As he ate his breakfast,
Monseigneur Welcome remarked gayly to his sister, who said nothing,
and to Madame Magloire, who was grumbling under her breath,
that one really does not need either fork or spoon, even of wood,
in order to dip a bit of bread in a cup of milk.
"A pretty idea, truly," said Madame Magloire to herself, as she
went and came, "to take in a man like that! and to lodge him close
to one's self! And how fortunate that he did nothing but steal!
Ah, mon Dieu! it makes one shudder to think of it!"
As the brother and sister were about to rise from the table,
there came a knock at the door.
"Come in," said the Bishop.
The door opened. A singular and violent group made its appearance
on the threshold. Three men were holding a fourth man by the collar.
The three men were gendarmes; the other was Jean Valjean.
A brigadier of gendarmes, who seemed to be in command of the group,
was standing near the door. He entered and advanced to the Bishop,
making a military salute.
"Monseigneur--" said he.
At this word, Jean Valjean, who was dejected and seemed overwhelmed,
raised his head with an air of stupefaction.
"Monseigneur!" he murmured. "So he is not the cure?"
"Silence!" said the gendarme. "He is Monseigneur the Bishop."
In the meantime, Monseigneur Bienvenu had advanced as quickly
as his great age permitted.
"Ah! here you are!" he exclaimed, looking at Jean Valjean.
"I am glad to see you. Well, but how is this? I gave you
the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest,
and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs.
Why did you not carry them away with your forks and spoons?"
Jean Valjean opened his eyes wide, and stared at the venerable Bishop
with an expression which no human tongue can render any account of.
"Monseigneur," said the brigadier of gendarmes, "so what this man
said is true, then? We came across him. He was walking like a man
who is running away. We stopped him to look into the matter.
He had this silver--"
"And he told you," interposed the Bishop with a smile, "that it
had been given to him by a kind old fellow of a priest with whom
he had passed the night? I see how the matter stands. And you
have brought him back here? It is a mistake."
"In that case," replied the brigadier, "we can let him go?"
"Certainly," replied the Bishop.
The gendarmes released Jean Valjean, who recoiled.
"Is it true that I am to be released?" he said, in an almost
inarticulate voice, and as though he were talking in his sleep.
"Yes, thou art released; dost thou not understand?" said one
of the gendarmes.
"My friend," resumed the Bishop, "before you go, here are
your candlesticks. Take them."
He stepped to the chimney-piece, took the two silver candlesticks,
and brought them to Jean Valjean. The two women looked on without
uttering a word, without a gesture, without a look which could
disconcert the Bishop.
Jean Valjean was trembling in every limb. He took the two
candlesticks mechanically, and with a bewildered air.
"Now," said the Bishop, "go in peace. By the way, when you return,
my friend, it is not necessary to pass through the garden.
You can always enter and depart through the street door. It is never
fastened with anything but a latch, either by day or by night."
Then, turning to the gendarmes:--
"You may retire, gentlemen."
The gendarmes retired.
Jean Valjean was like a man on the point of fainting.
The Bishop drew near to him, and said in a low voice:--
"Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this
money in becoming an honest man."
Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything,
remained speechless. The Bishop had emphasized the words when he
uttered them. He resumed with solemnity:--
"Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good.
It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black
thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God."


Jean Valjean left the town as though he were fleeing from it.
He set out at a very hasty pace through the fields, taking whatever
roads and paths presented themselves to him, without perceiving
that he was incessantly retracing his steps. He wandered thus the
whole morning, without having eaten anything and without feeling hungry.
He was the prey of a throng of novel sensations. He was conscious
of a sort of rage; he did not know against whom it was directed.
He could not have told whether he was touched or humiliated.
There came over him at moments a strange emotion which he resisted
and to which he opposed the hardness acquired during the last twenty
years of his life. This state of mind fatigued him. He perceived
with dismay that the sort of frightful calm which the injustice
of his misfortune had conferred upon him was giving way within him.
He asked himself what would replace this. At times he would have
actually preferred to be in prison with the gendarmes, and that things
should not have happened in this way; it would have agitated him less.
Although the season was tolerably far advanced, there were still
a few late flowers in the hedge-rows hed to its setting, casting long shadows athwart the soil
from every pebble, Jean Valjean sat down behind a bush upon a large
ruddy plain, which was absolutely deserted. There was nothing on the
horizon except the Alps. Not even the spire of a distant village.
Jean Valjean might have been three leagues distant from D----
A path which intersected the plain passed a few paces from the bush.
In the middle of this meditation, which would have contributed
not a little to render his rags terrifying to any one who might
have encountered him, a joyous sound became audible.
He turned his head and saw a little Savoyard, about ten years
of age, coming up the path and singing, his hurdy-gurdy on his hip,
and his marmot-box on his back,
One of those gay and gentle children, who go from land to land
affording a view of their knees through the holes in their trousers.
Without stopping his song, the lad halted in his march from time
to time, and played at knuckle-bones with some coins which he
had in his hand--his whole fortune, probably.
Among this money there was one forty-sou piece.
The child halted beside the bush, without perceiving Jean Valjean,
and tossed up his handful of sous, which, up to that time, he had
caught with a good deal of adroitness on the back of his hand.
This time the forty-sou piece escaped him, and went rolling towards
the brushwood until it reached Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean set his foot upon it.
In the meantime, the child had looked after his coin and had caught
sight of him.
He showed no astonishment, but walked straight up to the man.
The spot was absolutely solitary. As far as the eye could see
there was not a person on the plain or on the path. The only
sound was the tiny, feeble cries of a flock of birds of passage,
which was traversing the heavens at an immense height. The child
was standing with his back to the sun, which cast threads of gold
in his hair and empurpled with its blood-red gleam the savage face
of Jean Valjean.
"Sir," said the little Savoyard, with that childish confidence
which is composed of ignorance and innocence, "my money."
"What is your name?" said Jean Valjean.
"Little Gervais, sir."
"Go away," said Jean Valjean.
"Sir," resumed the child, "give me back my money."
Jean Valjean dropped his head, and made no reply.
The child began again, "My money, sir."
Jean Valjean's eyes remained fixed on the earth.
"My piece of money!" cried the child, "my white piece! my silver!"
It seemed as though Jean Valjean did not hear him. The child grasped
him by the collar of his blouse and shook him. At the same time
he made an effort to displace the big iron-shod shoe which rested
on his treasure.
"I want my piece of money! my piece of forty sous!"
The child wept. Jean Valjean raised his head. He still
remained seated. His eyes were troubled. He gazed at
the child, in a sort of amazement, then he stretched out
his hand towards his cudgel and cried in a terrible voice, "Who's there?"
"I, sir," replied the child. "Little Gervais! I! Give me back my
forty sous, if you please! Take your foot away, sir, if you please!"
Then irritated, though he was so small, and becoming almost menacing:--
"Come now, will you take your foot away? Take your foot away,
or we'll see!"
"Ah! It's still you!" said Jean Valjean, and rising abruptly
to his feet, his foot still resting on the silver piece, he added:--
"Will you take yourself off!"
The frightened child looked at him, then began to tremble from
head to foot, and after a few moments of stupor he set out,
running at the top of his speed, without daring to turn his neck
or to utter a cry.
Nevertheless, lack of breath forced him to halt after a certain distance,
and Jean Valjean heard him sobbing, in the midst of his own revery.
At the end of a few moments the child had disappeared.
The sun had set.
The shadows were descending around Jean Valjean. He had eaten
nothing all day; it is probable that he was feverish.
He had remained standing and had not changed his attitude after the
child's flight. The breath heaved his chest at long and irregular
intervals. His gaze, fixed ten or twelve paces in front of him,
seemed to be scrutinizing with profound attention the shape of an
ancient fragment of blue earthenware which had fallen in the grass.
All at once he shivered; he had just begun to feel the chill of evening.
He settled his cap more firmly on his brow, sought mechanically
to cross and button his blouse, advanced a step and stopped to pick
up his cudgel.
At that moment he caught sight of the forty-sou piece, which his
foot had half ground into the earth, and which was shining among
the pebbles. It was as though he had received a galvanic shock.
"What is this?" he muttered between his teeth. He recoiled
three paces, then halted, without being able to detach his gaze
from the spot which his foot had trodden but an instant before,
as though the thing which lay glittering there in the gloom had been
an open eye riveted upon him.
At the expiration of a few moments he darted convulsively towards
the silver coin, seized it, and straightened himself up again
and began to gaze afar off over the plain, at the same time casting
his eyes towards all points of the horizon, as he stood there erect
and shivering, like a terrified wild animal which is seeking refuge.
He saw nothing. Night was falling, the plain was cold and vague,
great banks of violet haze were rising in the gleam of the twilight.
He said, "Ah!" and set out rapidly in the direction in which
the child had disappeared. After about thirty paces he paused,
looked about him and saw nothing.
Then he shouted with all his might:--
"Little Gervais! Little Gervais!"
He paused and waited.
There was no reply.
The landscape was gloomy and deserted. He was encompassed by space.
There was nothing around him but an obscurity in which his gaze
was lost, and a silence which engulfed his voice.
An icy north wind was blowing, and imparted to things around him
a sort of lugubrious life. The bushes shook their thin little
arms with incredible fury. One would have said that they were
threatening and pursuing some one.
He set out on his march again, then he began to run; and from time
to time he halted and shouted into that solitude, with a voice
which was the most formidable and the most disconsolate that it
was possible to hear, "Little Gervais! Little Gervais!"
Assuredly, if the child had heard him, he would have been alarmed
and would have taken good care not to show himself. But the child
was no doubt already far away.
He encountered a priest on horseback. He stepped up to him and said:--
"Monsieur le Cure, have you seen a child pass?"
"No," said the priest.
"One named Little Gervais?"
"I have seen no one."
He drew two five-franc pieces from his money-bag and handed them
to the priest.
"Monsieur le Cure, this is for your poor people. Monsieur le Cure,
he was a little lad, about ten years old, with a marmot, I think,
and a hurdy-gurdy. One of those Savoyards, you know?"
"I have not seen him."
"Little Gervais? There are no villages here? Can you tell me?"
"If he is like what you say, my friend, he is a little stranger.
Such persons pass through these parts. We know nothing of them."
Jean Valjean seized two more coins of five francs each with violence,
and gave them to the priest.
"For your poor," he said.
Then he added, wildly:--
"Monsieur l'Abbe, have me arrested. I am a thief."
The priest put spurs to his horse and fled in haste, much alarmed.
Jean Valjean set out on a run, in the direction which he had
first taken.
In this way he traversed a tolerably long distance, gazing,
calling, shouting, but he met no one. Two or three times he ran
across the plain towards something which conveyed to him the effect
of a human being reclining or crouching down; it turned out to be
nothing but brushwood or rocks nearly on a level with the earth.
At length, at a spot where three paths intersected each other,
he stopped. The moon had risen. He sent his gaze into the distance
and shouted for the last time, "Little Gervais! Little Gervais!
Little Gervais!" His shout died away in the mist, without even
awakening an echo. He murmured yet once more, "Little Gervais!"
but in a feeble and almost inarticulate voice. It was his last effort;
his legs gave way abruptly under him, as though an invisible power
had suddenly overwhelmed him with the weight of his evil conscience;
he fell exhausted, on a large stone, his fists clenched in his hair
and his face on his knees, and he cried, "I am a wretch!"
Then his heart burst, and he began to cry. It was the first time
that he had wept in nineteen years.
When Jean Valjean left the Bishop's house, he was, as we have seen,
quite thrown out of everything that had been his thought hitherto.
He could not yield to the evidence of what was going on within him.
He hardened himself against the angelic action and the gentle words
of the old man. "You have promised me to become an honest man.
I buy your soul. I take it away from the spirit of perversity;
I give it to the good God."
This recurred to his mind unceasingly. To this celestial kindness
he opposed pride, which is the fortress of evil within us.
He was indistinctly conscious that the pardon of this priest
was the greatest assault and the most formidable attack which
had moved him yet; that his obduracy was finally settled if he
resisted this clemency; that if he yielded, he should be obliged
to renounce that hatred with which the actions of other men had
filled his soul through so many years, and which pleased him;
that this time it was necessary to conquer or to be conquered;
and that a struggle, a colossal and final struggle, had been begun
between his viciousness and the goodness of that man.
In the presence of these lights, he proceeded like a man who
is intoxicated. As he walked thus with haggard eyes, did he
have a distinct perception of what might result to him from his
adventure at D----? Did he understand all those mysterious murmurs
which warn or importune the spirit at certain moments of life?
Did a voice whisper in his ear that he had just passed the solemn
hour of his destiny; that there no longer remained a middle
course for him; that if he were not henceforth the best of men,
he would be the worst; that it behooved him now, so to speak,
to mount higher than the Bishop, or fall lower than the convict;
that if he wished to become good be must become an angel; that if he
wished to remain evil, he must become a monster?
Here, again, some questions must be put, which we have already put
to ourselves elsewhere: did he catch some shadow of all this in
his thought, in a confused way? Misfortune certainly, as we have said,
does form the education of the intelligence; nevertheless, it is
doubtful whether Jean Valjean was in a condition to disentangle
all that we have here indicated. If these ideas occurred to him,
he but caught glimpses of, rather than saw them, and they only
succeeded in throwing him into an unutterable and almost painful
state of emotion. On emerging from that black and deformed
thing which is called the galleys, the Bishop had hurt his soul,
as too vivid a light would have hurt his eyes on emerging from
the dark. The future life, the possible life which offered itself
to him henceforth, all pure and radiant, filled him with tremors
and anxiety. He no longer knew where he really was. Like an owl,
who should suddenly see the sun rise, the convict had been dazzled
and blinded, as it were, by virtue.
That which was certain, that which he did not doubt, was that he
was no longer the same man, that everything about him was changed,
that it was no longer in his power to make it as though the Bishop
had not spoken to him and had not touched him.
In this state of mind he had encountered little Gervais, and had robbed
him of his forty sous. Why? He certainly could not have explained it;
was this the last effect and the supreme effort, as it were,
of the evil thoughts which he had brought away from the galleys,--
a remnant of impulse, a result of what is called in statics,
acquired force? It was that, and it was also, perhaps, even less
than that. Let us say it simply, it was not he who stole;
it was not the man; it was the beast, who, by habit and instinct,
had simply placed his foot upon that money, while the intelligence
was struggling amid so many novel and hitherto unheard-of thoughts
besetting it.
When intelligence re-awakened and beheld that action of the brute,
Jean Valjean recoiled with anguish and uttered a cry of terror.
It was because,--strange phenomenon, and one which was possible only
in the situation in which he found himself,--in stealing the money
from that child, he had done a thing of which he was no longer capable.
However that may be, this last evil action had a decisive effect
on him; it abruptly traversed that chaos which he bore in his mind,
and dispersed it, placed on one side the thick obscurity, and on
the other the light, and acted on his soul, in the state in which it
then was, as certain chemical reagents act upon a troubled mixture
by precipitating one element and clarifying the other.
First of all, even before examining himself and reflecting,
all bewildered, like one who seeks to save himself, he tried to
find the child in order to return his money to him; then, when he
recognized the fact that this was impossible, he halted in despair.
At the moment when he exclaimed "I am a wretch!" he had just
perceived what he was, and he was already separated from himself
to such a degree, that he seemed to himself to be no longer
anything more than a phantom, and as if he had, there before him,
in flesh and blood, the hideous galley-convict, Jean Valjean,
cudgel in hand, his blouse on his hips, his knapsack filled with
stolen objects on his back, with his resolute and gloomy visage,
with his thoughts filled with abominable projects.
Excess of unhappiness had, as we have remarked, made him in some
sort a visionary. This, then, was in the nature of a vision.
He actually saw that Jean Valjean, that sinister face, before him.
He had almost reached the point of asking himself who that man was,
and he was horrified by him.
His brain was going through one of those violent and yet perfectly
calm moments in which revery is so profound that it absorbs reality.
One no longer beholds the object which one has before one, and one sees,
as though apart from one's self, the figures which one has in one's
own mind.
Thus he contemplated himself, so to speak, face to face,
and at the same time, athwart this hallucination, he perceived
in a mysterious depth a sort of light which he at first took
for a torch. On scrutinizing this light which appeared
to his conscience with more attention, he recognized the
fact that it possessed a human form and that this torch was the Bishop.
His conscience weighed in turn these two men thus placed before it,--
the Bishop and Jean Valjean. Nothing less than the first was
required to soften the second. By one of those singular effects,
which are peculiar to this sort of ecstasies, in proportion as his
revery continued, as the Bishop grew great and resplendent in his eyes,
so did Jean Valjean grow less and vanish. After a certain time he
was no longer anything more than a shade. All at once he disappeared.
The Bishop alone remained; he filled the whole soul of this wretched
man with a magnificent radiance.
Jean Valjean wept for a long time. He wept burning tears, he sobbed
with more weakness than a woman, with more fright than a child.
As he wept, daylight penetrated more and more clearly into his soul;
an extraordinary light; a light at once ravishing and terrible.
His past life, his first fault, his long expiation, his external
brutishness, his internal hardness, his dismissal to liberty,
rejoicing in manifold plans of vengeance, what had happened to him
at the Bishop's, the last thing that he had done, that theft of forty
sous from a ch him; his soul, and it seemed frightful to him.
In the meantime a gentle light rested over this life and this soul.
It seemed to him that he beheld Satan by the light of Paradise.
How many hours did he weep thus? What did he do after he had wept?
Whither did he go! No one ever knew. The only thing which seems
to be authenticated is that that same night the carrier who served
Grenoble at that epoch, and who arrived at D---- about three o'clock
in the morning, saw, as he traversed the street in which the
Bishop's residence was situated, a man in the attitude of prayer,
kneeling on the pavement in the shadow, in front of the door
of Monseigneur Welcome.



1817 is the year which Louis XVIII., with a certain royal assurance
which was not wanting in pride, entitled the twenty-second of his reign.
It is the year in which M. Bruguiere de Sorsum was celebrated.
All the hairdressers' shops, hoping for powder and the return of the
royal bird, were besmeared with azure and decked with fleurs-de-lys.
It was the candid time at which Count Lynch sat every Sunday as
church-warden in the church-warden's pew of Saint-Germain-des-Pres,
in his costume of a peer of France, with his red ribbon and his
long nose and the majesty of profile peculiar to a man who has
performed a brilliant action. The brilliant action performed
by M. Lynch was this: being mayor of Bordeaux, on the 12th
of March, 1814, he had surrendered the city a little too promptly
to M. the Duke d'Angouleme. Hence his peerage. In 1817 fashion
swallowed up little boys of from four to six years of age in vast
caps of morocco leather with ear-tabs resembling Esquimaux mitres.
The French army was dressed in white, after the mode of the Austrian;
the regiments were called legions; instead of numbers they bore the
names of departments; Napoleon was at St. Helena; and since England
refused him green cloth, he was having his old coats turned.
In 1817 Pelligrini sang; Mademoiselle Bigottini danced; Potier reigned;
Odry did not yet exist. Madame Saqui had succeeded to Forioso.
There were still Prussians in France. M. Delalot was a personage.
Legitimacy had just asserted itself by cutting off the hand,
then the head, of Pleignier, of Carbonneau, and of Tolleron.
The Prince de Talleyrand, grand chamberlain, and the Abbe Louis,
appointed minister of finance, laughed as they looked at each other,
with the laugh of the two augurs; both of them had celebrated,
on the 14th of July, 1790, the mass of federation in the Champ de Mars;
Talleyrand had said it as bishop, Louis had served it in the capacity
of deacon. In 1817, in the side-alleys of this same Champ de Mars,
two great cylinders of wood might have been seen lying in the rain,
rotting amid the grass, painted blue, with traces of eagles and bees,
from which the gilding was falling. These were the columns which two
years before had upheld the Emperor's platform in the Champ de Mai.
They were blackened here and there with the scorches of the bivouac
of Austrians encamped near Gros-Caillou. Two or three of these
columns had disappeared in these bivouac fires, and had warmed
the large hands of the Imperial troops. The Field of May had this
remarkable point: that it had been held in the month of June
and in the Field of March (Mars). In this year, 1817, two things
were popular: the Voltaire-Touquet and the snuff-box a la Charter.
The most recent Parisian sensation was the crime of Dautun,
who had thrown his brother's head into the fountain of the
They had begun to feel anxious at the Naval Department, on account
of the lack of news from that fatal frigate, The Medusa, which was
destined to cover Chaumareix with infamy and Gericault with glory.
Colonel Selves was going to Egypt to become Soliman-Pasha. The palace
of Thermes, in the Rue de La Harpe, served as a shop for a cooper.
On the platform of the octagonal tower of the Hotel de Cluny,
the little shed of boards, which had served as an observatory to Messier,
the naval astronomer under Louis XVI., was still to be seen.
The Duchesse de Duras read to three or four friends her unpublished
Ourika, in her boudoir furnished by X. in sky-blue satin. The N's
were scratched off the Louvre. The bridge of Austerlitz had abdicated,
and was entitled the bridge of the King's Garden [du Jardin du Roi],
a double enigma, which disguised the bridge of Austerlitz and the
Jardin des Plantes at one stroke. Louis XVIII., much preoccupied
while annotating Horace with the corner of his finger-nail, heroes
who have become emperors, and makers of wooden shoes who have
become dauphins, had two anxieties,--Napoleon and Mathurin Bruneau.
The French Academy had given for its prize subject, The Happiness
procured through Study. M. Bellart was officially eloquent.
In his shadow could be seen germinating that future advocate-general
of Broe, dedicated to the sarcasms of Paul-Louis Courier.
There was a false Chateaubriand, named Marchangy, in the interim,
until there should be a false Marchangy, named d'Arlincourt.
Claire d'Albe and Malek-Adel were masterpieces; Madame Cottin
was proclaimed the chief writer of the epoch. The Institute
had the academician, Napoleon Bonaparte, stricken from its list
of members. A royal ordinance erected Angouleme into a naval school;
for the Duc d'Angouleme, being lord high admiral, it was evident
that the city of Angouleme had all the qualities of a seaport;
otherwise the monarchical principle would have received a wound.
In the Council of Ministers the question was agitated whether
vignettes representing slack-rope performances, which adorned
Franconi's advertising posters, and which attracted throngs of
street urchins, should be tolerated. M. Paer, the author of Agnese,
a good sort of fellow, with a square face and a wart on his cheek,
directed the little private concerts of the Marquise de Sasenaye
in the Rue Ville l'Eveque. All the young girls were singing the
Hermit of Saint-Avelle, with words by Edmond Geraud. The Yellow
Dwarf was transferred into Mirror. The Cafe Lemblin stood up for
the Emperor, against the Cafe Valois, which upheld the Bourbons.
The Duc de Berri, already surveyed from the shadow by Louvel,
had just been married to a princess of Sicily. Madame de Stael had
died a year previously. The body-guard hissed Mademoiselle Mars.
The grand newspapers were all very small. Their form was restricted,
but their liberty was great. The Constitutionnel was constitutional.
La Minerve called Chateaubriand Chateaubriant. That t made the good
middle-class people laugh heartily at the expense of the great writer.
In journals which sold themselves, prostituted journalists,
insulted the exiles of 1815. David had no longer any talent,
Arnault had no longer any wit, Carnot was no longer honest, Soult had
won no battles; it is true that Napoleon had no longer any genius.
No one is ignorant of the fact that letters sent to an exile by post
very rarely reached him, as the police made it their religious
duty to intercept them. This is no new fact; Descartes complained
of it in his exile. Now David, having, in a Belgian publication,
shown some displeasure at not receiving letters which had been
written to him, it struck the royalist journals as amusing;
and they derided the prescribed man well on this occasion.
What separated two men more than an abyss was to say, the regicides,
or to say the voters; to say the enemies, or to say the allies;
to say Napoleon, or to say Buonaparte. All sensible people were
agreed that the era of revolution had been closed forever by King
Louis XVIII., surnamed "The Immortal Author of the Charter."
On the platform of the Pont-Neuf, the word Redivivus was carved
on the pedestal that awaited the statue of Henry IV. M. Piet,
in the Rue Therese, No. 4, was making the rough draft of his privy
assembly to consolidate the monarchy. The leaders of the Right
said at grave conjunctures, "We must write to Bacot." MM. Canuel,
O'Mahoney, and De Chappedelaine were preparing the sketch,
to some extent with Monsieur's approval, of what was to become
later on "The Conspiracy of the Bord de l'Eau"--of the waterside.
L'Epingle Noire was already plotting in his own quarter.
Delaverderie was conferring with Trogoff. M. Decazes, who was
liberal to a degree, reigned. Chateaubriand stood every morning at
his window at No. 27 Rue Saint-Dominique, clad in footed trousers,
and slippers, with a madras kerchief knotted over his gray hair,
with his eyes fixed on a mirror, a complete set of dentist's instruments
spread out before him, cleaning his teeth, which were charming,
while he dictated The Monarchy according to the Charter to M. Pilorge,
his secretary. Criticism, assuming an authoritative tone,
preferred Lafon to Talma. M. de Feletez signed himself A.;
M. Hoffmann signed himself Z. Charles Nodier wrote Therese Aubert.
Divorce was abolished. Lyceums called themselves colleges.
The collegians, decorated on the collar with a golden fleur-de-lys,
fought each other apropos of the King of Rome. The counter-police
of the chateau had denounced to her Royal Highness Madame, the portrait,
everywhere exhibited, of M. the Duc d'Orleans, who made a better
appearance in his uniform of a colonel-general of hussars than
M. the Duc de Berri, in his uniform of colonel-general of dragoons--
a serious inconvenience. The city of Paris was having the dome
of the Invalides regilded at its own expense. Serious men asked
themselves what M. de Trinquelague would do on such or such an occasion;
M. Clausel de Montals differed on divers points from M. Clausel
de Coussergues; M. de Salaberry was not satisfied. The comedian Picard,
who belonged to the Academy, which the comedian Moliere had not been
able to do, had The Two Philiberts played at the Odeon, upon whose
pediment the removal of the letters still allowed THEATRE OF THE
EMPRESS to be plainly read. People took part for or against Cugnet
de Montarlot. Fabvier was factious; Bavoux was revolutionary.
The Liberal, Pelicier, published an edition of Voltaire, with the
following title: Works of Voltaire, of the French Academy.
"That will attract purchasers," said the ingenious editor. The general
opinion was that M. Charles Loyson would be the genius of the century;
envy was beginning to gnaw at him--a sign of glory; and this verse was
composed on him:--

"Even when Loyson steals, one feels that he has paws."

As Cardinal Fesch refused to resign, M. de Pins, Archbishop of Amasie,
administered the diocese of Lyons. The quarrel over the valley
of Dappes was begun between Switzerland and France by a memoir
from Captain, afterwards General Dufour. Saint-Simon, ignored,
was erecting his sublime dream. There was a celebrated Fourier
at the Academy of Science, whom posterity has forgotten; and in
some garret an obscure Fourier, whom the future will recall.
Lord Byron was beginning to make his mark; a note to a poem
by Millevoye introduced him to France in these terms: a certain
Lord Baron. David d'Angers was trying to work in marble. The Abbe
Caron was speaking, in terms of praise, to a private gathering of
seminarists in the blind alley of Feuillantines, of an unknown priest,
named Felicite-Robert, who, at a latter date, became Lamennais.
A thing which smoked and clattered on the Seine with the noise of
a swimming dog went and came beneath the windows of the Tuileries,
from the Pont Royal to the Pont Louis XV.; it was a piece of mechanism
which was not good for much; a sort of plaything, the idle dream
of a dream-ridden inventor; an utopia--a steamboat. The Parisians
stared indifferently at this useless thing. M. de Vaublanc,
the reformer of the Institute by a coup d'etat, the distinguished
author of numerous academicians, ordinances, and batches of members,
after having created them, could not succeed in becoming one himself.
The Faubourg Saint-Germain and the pavilion de Marsan wished to
have M. Delaveau for prefect of police, on account of his piety.
Dupuytren and Recamier entered into a quarrel in the amphitheatre
of the School of Medicine, and threatened each other with their fists
on the subject of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Cuvier, with one
eye on Genesis and the other on nature, tried to please bigoted
reaction by reconciling fossils with texts and by making mastodons
flatter Moses.
M. Francois de Neufchateau, the praiseworthy cultivator of the memory
of Parmentier, made a thousand efforts to have pomme de terre
[potato] pronounced parmentiere, and succeeded therein not at all.
The Abbe Gregoire, ex-bishop, ex-conventionary, ex-senator, had passed,
in the royalist polemics, to the state of "Infamous Gregoire."
The locution of which we have made use--passed to the state of--has been
condemned as a neologism by M. Royer Collard. Under the third arch
of the Pont de Jena, the new stone with which, the two years previously,
the mining aperture made by Blucher to blow up the bridge had been
stopped up, was still recognizable on account of its whiteness.
Justice summoned to its bar a man who, on seeing the Comte d'Artois
enter Notre Dame, had said aloud: "Sapristi! I regret the time
when I saw Bonaparte and Talma enter the Bel Sauvage, arm in arm."
A seditious utterance. Six months in prison. Traitors showed
themselves unbuttoned; men who had gone over to the enemy on the eve
of battle made no secret of their recompense, and strutted immodestly
in the light of day, in the cynicism of riches and dignities;
deserters from Ligny and Quatre-Bras, in the brazenness of their
well-paid turpitude, exhibited their devotion to the monarchy in the
most barefaced manner.
This is what floats up confusedly, pell-mell, for the year 1817,
and is now forgotten. History neglects nearly all these particulars,
and cannot do otherwise; the infinity would overwhelm it.
Nevertheless, these details, which are wrongly called trivial,--
there are no trivial facts in humanity, nor little leaves
in vegetation,--are useful. It is of the physiognomy of the
years that the physiognomy of the centuries is composed.
In this year of 1817 four young Parisians arranged "a fine farce."


These Parisians came, one from Toulouse, another from Limoges,
the third from Cahors, and the fourth from Montauban; but they
were students; and when one says student, one says Parisian:
to study in Paris is to be born in Paris.
These young men were insignificant; every one has seen such faces;
four specimens of humanity taken at random; neither good nor bad,
neither wise nor ignorant, neither geniuses nor fools; handsome,
with that charming April which is called twenty years. They were
four Oscars; for, at that epoch, Arthurs did not yet exist.
Burn for him the perfumes of Araby! exclaimed romance.
Oscar advances. Oscar, I shall behold him! People had just
emerged from Ossian; elegance was Scandinavian and Caledonian;
the pure English style was only to prevail later, and the first
of the Arthurs, Wellington, had but just won the battle of Waterloo.
These Oscars bore the names, one of Felix Tholomyes, of Toulouse;
the second, Listolier, of Cahors; the next, Fameuil, of Limoges;
the last, Blachevelle, of Montauban. Naturally, each of them
had his mistress. Blachevelle loved Favourite, so named because
she had been in England; Listolier adored Dahlia, who had taken
for her nickname the name of a flower; Fameuil idolized Zephine,
an abridgment of Josephine; Tholomyes had Fantine, called the Blonde,
because of her beautiful, sunny hair.
Favourite, Dahlia, Zephine, and Fantine were four ravishing young women,
perfumed and radiant, still a little like working-women, and not yet
entirely divorced from their needles; somewhat disturbed by intrigues,
but still retaining on their faces something of the serenity
of toil, and in their souls that flower of honesty which survives
the first fall in woman. One of the four was called the young,
because she was the youngest of them, and one was callourite, could not have said as much.
There had already been more than one episode in their romance,
though hardly begun; and the lover who had borne the name of Adolph
in the first chapter had turned out to be Alphonse in the second,
and Gustave in the third. Poverty and coquetry are two fatal counsellors;
one scolds and the other flatters, and the beautiful daughters
of the people have both of them whispering in their ear, each on
its own side. These badly guarded souls listen. Hence the falls
which they accomplish, and the stones which are thrown at them.
They are overwhelmed with splendor of all that is immaculate
and inaccessible. Alas! what if the Jungfrau were hungry?
Favourite having been in England, was admired by Dahlia and Zephine.
She had had an establishment of her own very early in life.
Her father was an old unmarried professor of mathematics, a brutal man
and a braggart, who went out to give lessons in spite of his age.
This professor, when he was a young man, had one day seen a chambermaid's
gown catch on a fender; he had fallen in love in consequence of
this accident. The result had been Favourite. She met her father
from time to time, and he bowed to her. One morning an old woman
with the air of a devotee, had entered her apartments, and had said
to her, "You do not know me, Mamemoiselle?" "No." "I am your mother."
Then the old woman opened the sideboard, and ate and drank,
had a mattress which she owned brought in, and installed herself.
This cross and pious old mother never spoke to Favourite, remained hours
without uttering a word, breakfasted, dined, and supped for four,
and went down to the porter's quarters for company, where she spoke
ill of her daughter.
It was having rosy nails that were too pretty which had drawn
Dahlia to Listolier, to others perhaps, to idleness. How could
she make such nails work? She who wishes to remain virtuous must
not have pity on her hands. As for Zephine, she had conquered
Fameuil by her roguish and caressing little way of saying "Yes, sir."
The young men were comrades; the young girls were friends.
Such loves are always accompanied by such friendships.
Goodness and philosophy are two distinct things; the proof
of this is that, after making all due allowances for these
little irregular households, Favourite, Zephine, and Dahlia
were philosophical young women, while Fantine was a good girl.
Good! some one will exclaim; and Tholomyes? Solomon would reply
that love forms a part of wisdom. We will confine ourselves
to saying that the love of Fantine was a first love, a sole love,
a faithful love.
She alone, of all the four, was not called "thou" by a single
one of them.
Fantine was one of those beings who blossom, so to speak,
from the dregs of the people. Though she had emerged from the most
unfathomable depths of social shadow, she bore on her brow the sign
of the anonymous and the unknown. She was born at M. sur M. Of
what parents? Who can say? She had never known father or mother.
She was called Fantine. Why Fantine? She had never borne any
other name. At the epoch of her birth the Directory still existed.
She had no family name; she had no family; no baptismal name;
the Church no longer existed. She bore the name which pleased the first
random passer-by, who had encountered her, when a very small child,
running bare-legged in the street. She received the name as she
received the water from the clouds upon her brow when it rained.
She was called little Fantine. No one knew more than that. This human
creature had entered life in just this way. At the age of ten,
Fantine quitted the town and went to service with some farmers in
the neighborhood. At fifteen she came to Paris "to seek her fortune."
Fantine was beautiful, and remained pure as long as she could.
She was a lovely blonde, with fine teeth. She had gold and pearls
for her dowry; but her gold was on her head, and her pearls were in
her mouth.
She worked for her living; then, still for the sake of her living,--
for the heart, also, has its hunger,--she loved.
She loved Tholomyes.
An amour for him; passion for her. The streets of the Latin quarter,
filled with throngs of students and grisettes, saw the beginning
of their dream. Fantine had long evaded Tholomyes in the mazes
of the hill of the Pantheon, where so many adventurers twine
and untwine, but in such a way as constantly to encounter him again.
There is a way of avoiding which resembles seeking. In short,
the eclogue took place.
Blachevelle, Listolier, and Fameuil formed a sort of group
of which Tholomyes was the head. It was he who possessed the wit.
Tholomyes was the antique old student; he was rich; he had an income
of four thousand francs; four thousand francs! a splendid scandal
on Mount Sainte-Genevieve. Tholomyes was a fast man of thirty,
and badly preserved. He was wrinkled and toothless, and he had
the beginning of a bald spot, of which he himself said with sadness,
the skull at thirty, the knee at forty. His digestion was mediocre,
and he had been attacked by a watering in one eye. But in proportion
as his youth disappeared, gayety was kindled; he replaced his teeth
with buffooneries, his hair with mirth, his health with irony, his weeping
eye laughed incessantly. He was dilapidated but still in flower.
His youth, which was packing up for departure long before its time,
beat a retreat in good order, bursting with laughter, and no one saw
anything but fire. He had had a piece rejected at the Vaudeville.
He made a few verses now and then. In addition to this he doubted
everything to the last degree, which is a vast force in the eyes
of the weak. Being thus ironical and bald, he was the leader.
Iron is an English word. Is it possible that irony is derived
from it?
One day Tholomyes took the three others aside, with the gesture
of an oracle, and said to them:--
"Fantine, Dahlia, Zephine, and Favourite have been teasing us
for nearly a year to give them a surprise. We have promised them
solemnly that we would. They are forever talking about it to us, to me
in particular, just as the old women in Naples cry to Saint Januarius,
`Faccia gialluta, fa o miracolo, Yellow face, perform thy miracle,'
so our beauties say to me incessantly, `Tholomyes, when will you bring
forth your surprise?' At the same time our parents keep writing to us.
Pressure on both sides. The moment has arrived, it seems to me;
let us discuss the question."
Thereupon, Tholomyes lowered his voice and articulated something
so mirthful, that a vast and enthusiastic grin broke out upon the four
mouths simultaneously, and Blachevelle exclaimed, "That is an idea."
A smoky tap-room presented itself; they entered, and the remainder
of their confidential colloquy was lost in shadow.
The result of these shades was a dazzling pleasure party which took
place on the following Sunday, the four young men inviting the four
young girls.


It is hard nowadays to picture to one's self what a pleasure-trip of
students and grisettes to the country was like, forty-five years ago.
The suburbs of Paris are no longer the same; the physiognomy of what
may be called circumparisian life has changed completely in the
last half-century; where there was the cuckoo, there is the railway car;
where there was a tender-boat, there is now the steamboat; people speak
of Fecamp nowadays as they spoke of Saint-Cloud in those days.
The Paris of 1862 is a city which has France for its outskirts.
The four couples conscientiously went through with all the country
follies possible at that time. The vacation was beginning, and it
was a warm, bright, summer day. On the preceding day, Favourite,
the only one who knew how to write, had written the following
to Tholomyes in the name of the four: "It is a good hour to emerge
from happiness." That is why they rose at five o'clock in the morning.
Then they went to Saint-Cloud by the coach, looked at the dry cascade
and exclaimed, "This must be very beautiful when there is water!"
They breakfasted at the Tete-Noir, where Castaing had not yet been;
they treated themselves to a game of ring-throwing under the
quincunx of trees of the grand fountain; they ascended Diogenes'
lantern, they gambled for macaroons at the roulette establishment
of the Pont de Sevres, picked bouquets at Pateaux, bought reed-pipes
at Neuilly, ate apple tarts everywhere, and were perfectly happy.
The young girls rustled and chatted like warblers escaped from
their cage. It was a perfect delirium. From time to time they
bestowed little taps on the young men. Matutinal intoxication of life!
adorable years! the wings of the dragonfly quiver. Oh, whoever you
may be, do you not remember? Have you rambled through the brushwood,
holding aside the branches, on account of the charming head
which is coming on behind you? Have you slid, laughing, down a
slope all wet with rain, with a beloved woman holding your hand,
and crying, "Ah, my new boots! what a state they are in!"
Let us say at once that that merry obstacle, a shower, was lacking
in the case of this good-humored party, although Favourite had said
as they set out, with a magisterial and maternal tone, "The slugs
are crawling in the paths,--a sign of rain, children."
All four were madly pretty. A good old classic poet, then famous,
a good fellow who had an Eleonore, M. le Chevalier de Labouisse,
as he strolled that day beneath the chestnut-trees of Saint-Cloud,
saw them pass about ten o'clock in the morning, and exclaimed,
"There is one too many of them," as he thought of the Graces.
Favourite, Blachevelle's friend, the one aged three and twenty,
the old one, ran on in front under the great green boughs,
jumped the ditches, stalked distractedly over bushes, and presided
over this merry-making with the spirit of a young female faun.
Zephine and Dahlia, whom chance had made beautiful in such a way
that they set each off when they were together, and completed
each other, never left each other, more from an instinct of coquetry
than from friendship, and clinging to each other, they assumed
English poses; the first keepsakes had just made their appearance,
melancholy was dawning for women, as later on, Byronism dawned for men;
and the hair of the tender sex began to droop dolefully. Zephine and
Dahlia had their hair dressed in rolls. Listolier and Fameuil,
who were engaged in discussing their professors, explained to Fantine
the difference that existed between M. Delvincourt and M. Blondeau.
Blachevelle seemed to have been created expressly to carry Favourite's
single-bordered, imitation India shawl of Ternaux's manufacture,
on his arm on Sundays.
Tholomyes followed, dominating the group. He was very gay, but one felt
the force of government in him; there was dictation in his joviality;
his principal ornament was a pair of trousers of elephant-leg pattern
of nankeen, with straps of braided copper wire; he carried a stout
rattan worth two hundred francs in his hand, and, as he treated
himself to everything, a strange thing called a cigar in his mouth.
Nothing was sacred to him; he smoked.
"That Tholomyes is astounding!" said the others, with veneration.
"What trousers! What energy!"
As for Fantine, she was a joy to behold. Her splendid teeth had
evidently received an office from God,--laughter. She preferred
to carry her little hat of sewed straw, with its long white strings,
in her hand rather than on her head. Her thick blond hair,
which was inclined to wave, and which easily uncoiled, and which it
was necessary to fasten up incessantly, seemed made for the flight
of Galatea under the willows. Her rosy lips babbled enchantingly.
The corners of her mouth voluptuously turned up, as in the antique masks
of Erigone, had an air of encouraging the audacious; but her long,
shadowy lashes drooped discreetly over the jollity of the lower
part of the face as though to call a halt. There was something
indescribably harmonious and striking about her entire dress.
She wore a gown of mauve barege, little reddish brown buskins,
whose ribbons traced an X on her fine, white, open-worked stockings,
and that sort of muslin spencer, a Marseilles invention, whose name,
canezou, a corruption of the words quinze aout, pronounced after the
fashion of the Canebiere, signifies fine weather, heat, and midday.
The three others, less timid, as we have already said, wore low-necked
dresses without disguise, which in summer, beneath flower-adorned
hats, are very graceful and enticing; but by the side of these
audacious outfits, blond Fantine's canezou, with its transparencies,
its indiscretion, and its reticence, concealing and displaying
at one and the same time, seemed an alluring godsend of decency,
and the famous Court of Love, presided over by the Vicomtesse de Cette,
with the sea-green eyes, would, perhaps, have awarded the prize for
coquetry to this canezou, in the contest for the prize of modesty.
The most ingenious is, at times, the wisest. This does happen.
Brilliant of face, delicate of profile, with eyes of a deep blue,
heavy lids, feet arched and small, wrists and ankles admirably formed,
a white skin which, here and there allowed the azure branching
of the veins to be seen, joy, a cheek that was young and fresh,
the robust throat of the Juno of AEgina, a strong and supple nape
of the neck, shoulders modelled as though by Coustou, with a
voluptuous dimple in the middle, visible through the muslin; a gayety
cooled by dreaminess; sculptural and exquisite--such was Fantine;
and beneath these feminine adornments and these ribbons one could
divine a statue, and in that statue a soul.
Fantine was beautiful, without being too conscious of it.
Those rare dreamers, mysterious priests of the beautiful who silently
confront everything with perfection, would have caught a glimpse
in this little working-woman, through the transparency of her
Parisian grace, of the ancient sacred euphony. This daughter of
the shadows was thoroughbred. She was beautiful in the two ways--
style and rhythm. Style is the form of the ideal; rhythm is its movement.
We have said that Fantine was joy; she was also modesty.
To an observer who studied her attentively, that which breathed from
her athwart all the intoxication of her age, the season, and her
love affair, was an invincible expression of reserve and modesty.
She remained a little astonished. This chaste astonishment
is the shade of difference which separates Psyche from Venus.
Fantine had the long, white, fine fingers of the vestal virgin who
stirs the ashes of the sacred fire with a golden pin. Although she
would have refused nothing to Tholomyes, as we shall have more than
ample opportunity to see, her face in repose was supremely virginal;
a sort of serious and almost austere dignity suddenly overwhelmed
her at certain times, and there was nothing more singular and
disturbing than to see gayety become so suddenly extinct there,
and meditation succeed to cheerfulness without any transition state.
This sudden and sometimes severely accentuated gravity resembled the
disdain of a goddess. Her brow, her nose, her chin, presented that
equilibrium of outline which is quite distinct from equilibrium
of proportion, and from which harmony of countenance results;
in the very characteristic interval which separates the base of the nose
from the upper lip, she had that imperceptible and charming fold,
a mysterious sign of chastity, which makes Barberousse fall in love
with a Diana found in the treasures of Iconia.
Love is a fault; so be it. Fantine was innocence floating high
over fault.


That day was composed of dawn, from one end to the other.
All nature seemed to be having a holiday, and to be laughing.
The flower-beds of Saint-Cloud perfumed the air; the breath of the Seine
rustled the leaves vaguely; the branches gesticulated in the wind,
bees pillaged the jasmines; a whole bohemia of butterflies swooped
down upon the yarrow, ing, running, dancing,
chasing butterflies, plucking convolvulus, wetting their pink,
open-work stockings in the tall grass, fresh, wild, without malice,
all received, to some extent, the kisses of all, with the exception
of Fantine, who was hedged about with that vague resistance of
hers composed of dreaminess and wildness, and who was in love.
"You always have a queer look about you," said Favourite to her.
Such things are joys. These passages of happy couples are a
profound appeal to life and nature, and make a caress and light
spring forth from everything. There was once a fairy who created
the fields and forests expressly for those in love,--in that
eternal hedge-school of lovers, which is forever beginning anew,
and which will last as long as there are hedges and scholars.
Hence the popularity of spring among thinkers. The patrician
and the knife-grinder, the duke and the peer, the limb of the law,
the courtiers and townspeople, as they used to say in olden times,
all are subjects of this fairy. They laugh and hunt, and there is
in the air the brilliance of an apotheosis--what a transfiguration
effected by love! Notaries' clerks are gods. And the little cries,
the pursuits through the grass, the waists embraced on the fly,
those jargons which are melodies, those adorations which burst
forth in the manner of pronouncing a syllable, those cherries
torn from one mouth by another,--all this blazes forth and takes
its place among the celestial glories. Beautiful women waste
themselves sweetly. They think that this will never come to an end.
Philosophers, poets, painters, observe these ecstasies and know not
what to make of it, so greatly are they dazzled by it. The departure
for Cythera! exclaims Watteau; Lancret, the painter of plebeians,
contemplates his bourgeois, who have flitted away into the azure sky;
Diderot stretches out his arms to all these love idyls, and d'Urfe
mingles druids with them.
After breakfast the four couples went to what was then called the King's
Square to see a newly arrived plant from India, whose name escapes
our memory at this moment, and which, at that epoch, was attracting
all Paris to Saint-Cloud. It was an odd and charming shrub with a
long stem, whose numerous branches, bristling and leafless and as
fine as threads, were covered with a million tiny white rosettes;
this gave the shrub the air of a head of hair studded with flowers.
There was always an admiring crowd about it.
After viewing the shrub, Tholomyes exclaimed, "I offer you asses!"
and having agreed upon a price with the owner of the asses, they
returned by way of Vanvres and Issy. At Issy an incident occurred.
The truly national park, at that time owned by Bourguin the contractor,
happened to be wide open. They passed the gates, visited the manikin
anchorite in his grotto, tried the mysterious little effects of
the famous cabinet of mirrors, the wanton trap worthy of a satyr
become a millionaire or of Turcaret metamorphosed into a Priapus.
They had stoutly shaken the swing attached to the two chestnut-trees
celebrated by the Abbe de Bernis. As he swung these beauties,
one after the other, producing folds in the fluttering skirts
which Greuze would have found to his taste, amid peals of laughter,
the Toulousan Tholomyes, who was somewhat of a Spaniard,
Toulouse being the cousin of Tolosa, sang, to a melancholy chant,
the old ballad gallega, probably inspired by some lovely maid dashing
in full flight upon a rope between two trees:--
"Soy de Badajoz, "Badajoz is my home,
Amor me llama, And Love is my name;
Toda mi alma, To my eyes in flame,
Es en mi ojos, All my soul doth come;
Porque ensenas, For instruction meet
A tuas piernas. I receive at thy feet"

Fantine alone refused to swing.
"I don't like to have people put on airs like that," muttered Favourite,
with a good deal of acrimony.
After leaving the asses there was a fresh delight; they crossed the
Seine in a boat, and proceeding from Passy on foot they reached the
barrier of l'Etoile. They had been up since five o'clock that morning,
as the reader will remember; but bah! there is no such thing
as fatigue on Sunday, said Favourite; on Sunday fatigue does not work.
About three o'clock the four couples, frightened at their happiness,
were sliding down the Russian mountains, a singular edifice which
then occupied the heights of Beaujon, and whose undulating line
was visible above the trees of the Champs Elysees.
From time to time Favourite exclaimed:--
"And the surprise? I claim the surprise."
"Patience," replied Tholomyes.


The Russian mountains having been exhausted, they began to think about
dinner; and the radiant party of eight, somewhat weary at last, became
stranded in Bombarda's public house, a branch establishment which had been
set up in the Champs-Elysees by that famous restaurant-keeper, Bombarda,
whose sign could then be seen in the Rue de Rivoli, near Delorme Alley.
A large but ugly room, with an alcove and a bed at the end (they
had been obliged to put up with this accommodation in view of the
Sunday crowd); two windows whence they could survey beyond the elms,
the quay and the river; a magnificent August sunlight lightly
touching the panes; two tables; upon one of them a triumphant
mountain of bouquets, mingled with the hats of men and women;
at the other the four couples seated round a merry confusion
of platters, dishes, glasses, and bottles; jugs of beer mingled
with flasks of wine; very little order on the table, some disorder
beneath it;
"They made beneath the table
A noise, a clatter of the feet that was abominable,"
says Moliere.
This was the state which the shepherd idyl, begun at five o'clock
in the morning, had reached at half-past four in the afternoon.
The sun was setting; their appetites were satisfied.
The Champs-Elysees, filled with sunshine and with people, were nothing
but light and dust, the two things of which glory is composed.
The horses of Marly, those neighing marbles, were prancing in
a cloud of gold. Carriages were going and coming. A squadron
of magnificent body-guards, with their clarions at their head,
were descending the Avenue de Neuilly; the white flag, showing faintly
rosy in the setting sun, floated over the dome of the Tuileries.
The Place de la Concorde, which had become the Place Louis XV.
once more, was choked with happy promenaders. Many wore the silver
fleur-de-lys suspended from the white-watered ribbon, which had
not yet wholly disappeared from button-holes in the year 1817.
Here and there choruses of little girls threw to the winds,
amid the passersby, who formed into circles and applauded, the then
celebrated Bourbon air, which was destined to strike the Hundred
Days with lightning, and which had for its refrain:--
"Rendez-nous notre pere de Gand,
Rendez-nous notre pere."
"Give us back our father from Ghent,
Give us back our father."

Groups of dwellers in the suburbs, in Sunday array, sometimes even
decorated with the fleur-de-lys, like the bourgeois, scattered over
the large square and the Marigny square, were playing at rings
and revolving on the wooden horses; others were engaged in drinking;
some journeyman printers had on paper caps; their laughter was audible.
Every thing was radiant. It was a time of undisputed peace
and profound royalist security; it was the epoch when a special
and private report of Chief of Police Angeles to the King,
on the subject of the suburbs of Paris, terminated with these lines:--
"Taking all things into consideration, Sire, there is nothing to be
feared from these people. They are as heedless and as indolent as cats.
The populace is restless in the provinces; it is not in Paris.
These are very pretty men, Sire. It would take all of two of them
to make one of your grenadiers. There is nothing to be feared on
the part of the populace of Paris the capital. It is remarkable
that the stature of this population should have diminished in the
last fifty years; and the populace of the suburbs is still more
puny than at the time of the Revolution. It is not dangerous.
In short, it is an amiable rabble."
Prefects of the police do not deem it possible that a cat can transform
itself into a lion; that does happen, however, and in that lies
the miracle wrought by the populace of Paris. Moreover, the cat so
despised by Count Angles possessed the esteem of the republics of old.
In their eyes it was liberty incarnate; and as though to serve
as pendant to the Minerva Aptera of the Piraeus, there stood on
the public square in Corinth the colossal bronze figure of a cat.
The ingenuous police of the Restoration beheld the populace of Paris
in too "rose-colored" a light; it is not so much of "an amiable rabble"
as it is thought. The Parisian is to the Frenchman what the Athenian
was to the Greek: no one sleeps more soundly than he, no one is
more frankly frivolous and lazy than he, no one can better assume
the air of forgetfulness; let him not be trusted nevertheless;
he is ready for any sort of cool deed; but when there is glory at
the end of it, he is worthy of admiration in every sort of fury.
Give him a pike, he will produce the 10th of August; give him a gun,
you will have Austerlitz. He is Napoleon's stay and Danton's resource.
Is it a question of country, he enlists; is it a question of liberty,
he tears up the pavements. Beware! his hair filled with wrath, is epic;
his blouse drapes itself like the folds of a chlamys. Take care! he
will make of the first Rue Grenetat which comes to hand Caudine Forks.
When the hour strikes, this man of the faubourgs will grow in stature;
this little man will arise, and his gaze will be terrible, and his
breath will become a tempest, and there will issue forth from that
slender chest enough wind to disarrange the folds of the Alps.
It is, thanks to the suburban man of Paris, that the Revolution,
mixed with arms, conquers Europe. He sings; it is his delight.
Proportion his song to his nature, and you will see! As long as he
has for refrain nothing but la Carmagnole, he only overthrows
Louis XVI.; make him sing the Marseillaise, and he will free
the world.
This note jotted down on the margin of Angles' report, we will return
to our four couples. The dinner, as we have said, was drawing
to its close.


Chat at table, the chat of love; it is as impossible to reproduce
one as the other; the chat of love is a cloud; the chat at table
is smoke.
Fameuil and Dahlia were humming. Tholomyes was drinking.
Zephine was laughing, Fantine smiling, Listolier blowing a wooden
trumpet which he had purchased at Saint-Cloud.
Favourite gazed tenderly at Blachevelle and said:--
"Blachevelle, I adore you."
This called forth a question from Blachevelle:--
"What would you do, Favourite, if I were to cease to love you?"
"I!" cried Favourite. "Ah! Do not say that even in jest!
If you were to cease to love me, I would spring after you, I would
scratch you, I should rend you, I would throw you into the water,
I would have you arrested."
Blachevelle smiled with the voluptuous self-conceit of a man
who is tickled in his self-love. Favourite resumed:--
"Yes, I would scream to the police! Ah! I should not restrain myself,
not at all! Rabble!"
Blachevelle threw himself back in his chair, in an ecstasy,
and closed both eyes proudly.
Dahlia, as she ate, said in a low voice to Favourite, amid the uproar:--
"So you really idolize him deeply, that Blachevelle of yours?"
"I? I detest him," replied Favourite in the same tone, seizing her
fork again. "He is avaricious. I love the little fellow opposite
me in my house. He is very nice, that young man; do you know him?
One can see that he is an actor by profession. I love actors.
As soon as he comes in, his mother says to him: `Ah! mon Dieu! my
peace of mind is gone. There he goes with his shouting. But, my dear,
you are splitting my head!' So he goes up to rat-ridden garrets,
to black holes, as high as he can mount, and there he sets to singing,
declaiming, how do I know what? so that he can be heard down stairs!
He earns twenty sous a day at an attorney's by penning quibbles.
He is the son of a former precentor of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas.
Ah! he is very nice. He idolizes me so, that one day when he saw
me making batter for some pancakes, he said to me: `Mamselle, make
your gloves into fritters, and I will eat them.' It is only
artists who can say such things as that. Ah! he is very nice.
I am in a fair way to go out of my head over that little fellow.
Never mind; I tell Blachevelle that I adore him--how I lie! Hey! How I
do lie!"
Favourite paused, and then went on:--
"I am sad, you see, Dahlia. It has done nothing but rain all summer;
the wind irritates me; the wind does not abate. Blachevelle is
very stingy; there are hardly any green peas in the market;
one does not know what to eat. I have the spleen, as the English say,
butter is so dear! and then you see it is horrible, here we are
dining in a room with a bed in it, and that disgusts me with life."


In the meantime, while some sang, the rest talked together
tumultuously all at once; it was no longer anything but noise.
Tholomyes intervened.
"Let us not talk at random nor too fast," he exclaimed.
"Let us reflect, if we wish to be brilliant. Too much improvisation
empties the mind in a stupid way. Running beer gathers no froth.
No haste, gentlemen. Let us mingle majesty with the feast. Let us
eat with meditation; let us make haste slowly. Let us not hurry.
Consider the springtime; if it makes haste, it is done for;
that is to say, it gets frozen. Excess of zeal ruins peach-trees
and apricot-trees. Excess of zeal kills the grace and the mirth
of good dinners. No zeal, gentlemen! Grimod de la Reyniere agrees
with Talleyrand."
A hollow sound of rebellion rumbled through the group.
"Leave us in peace, Tholomyes," said Blachevelle.
"Down with the tyrant!" said Fameuil.
"Bombarda, Bombance, and Bambochel!" cried Listolier.
"Sunday exists," resumed Fameuil.
"We are sober," added Listolier.
"Tholomyes," remarked Blachevelle, "contemplate my calmness [mon calme]."
"You are the Marquis of that," retorted Tholomyes.
This mediocre play upon words produced the effect of a stone in a pool.
The Marquis de Montcalm was at that time a celebrated royalist.
All the frogs held their peace.
"Friends," cried Tholomyes, with the accent of a man who had
recovered his empire, "Come to yourselves. This pun which has
fallen from the skies must not be received with too much stupor.
Everything which falls in that way is not necessarily worthy of
enthusiasm and respect. The pun is the dung of the mind which soars.
The jest falls, no matter where; and the mind after producing a piece
of stupidity plunges into the azure depths. A whitish speck flattened
against the rock does not prevent the condor from soaring aloft.
Far be it from me to insult the pun! I honor it in proportion
to its merits; nothing more. All the most august, the most sublime,
the most charming of humanity, and perhaps outside of humanity,
have made puns. Jesus Christ made a pun on St. Peter, Moses on Isaac,
AEschylus on Polynices, Cleopatra on Octavius. And observe that
Cleopatra's pun preceded the battle of Actium, and that had it
not been for it, no one would have remembered the city of Toryne,
a Greek name which signifies a ladle. That once conceded, I return
to my exhortation. I repeat, brothers, I repeat, no zeal, no hubbub,
no excess; even in witticisms, gayety, jollities, or plays on words.
Listen to me. I have the prudence of Amphiaraus and the baldness
of Caesar. There must be a limit, even to rebuses. Est modus
in rebus.
"There must be a limit, even to dinners. You this: each one of our passions, even love, has a stomach
which must not be filled too full. In all things the word finis
must be written in good season; self-control must be exercised
when the matter becomes urgent; the bolt must be drawn on appetite;
one must set one's own fantasy to the violin, and carry one's self
to the post. The sage is the man who knows how, at a given moment,
to effect his own arrest. Have some confidence in me, for I have
succeeded to some extent in my study of the law, according to the
verdict of my examinations, for I know the difference between the
question put and the question pending, for I have sustained a thesis
in Latin upon the manner in which torture was administered at Rome
at the epoch when Munatius Demens was quaestor of the Parricide;
because I am going to be a doctor, apparently it does not follow
that it is absolutely necessary that I should be an imbecile.
I recommend you to moderation in your desires. It is true that my
name is Felix Tholomyes; I speak well. Happy is he who, when the
hour strikes, takes a heroic resolve, and abdicates like Sylla
or Origenes."
Favourite listened with profound attention.
"Felix," said she, "what a pretty word! I love that name.
It is Latin; it means prosper."
Tholomyes went on:--
"Quirites, gentlemen, caballeros, my friends. Do you wish never to
feel the prick, to do without the nuptial bed, and to brave love?
Nothing more simple. Here is the receipt: lemonade, excessive exercise,
hard labor; work yourself to death, drag blocks, sleep not, hold vigil,
gorge yourself with nitrous beverages, and potions of nymphaeas;
drink emulsions of poppies and agnus castus; season this with
a strict diet, starve yourself, and add thereto cold baths,
girdles of herbs, the application of a plate of lead, lotions made
with the subacetate of lead, and fomentations of oxycrat."
"I prefer a woman," said Listolier.
"Woman," resumed Tholomyes; "distrust her. Woe to him who yields
himself to the unstable heart of woman! Woman is perfidious
and disingenuous. She detests the serpent from professional jealousy.
The serpent is the shop over the way."
"Tholomyes!" cried Blachevelle, "you are drunk!"
"Pardieu," said Tholomyes.
"Then be gay," resumed Blachevelle.
"I agree to that," responded Tholomyes.
And, refilling his glass, he rose.
"Glory to wine! Nunc te, Bacche, canam! Pardon me ladies;
that is Spanish. And the proof of it, senoras, is this: like people,
like cask. The arrobe of Castile contains sixteen litres; the cantaro
of Alicante, twelve; the almude of the Canaries, twenty-five;
the cuartin of the Balearic Isles, twenty-six; the boot of
Tzar Peter, thirty. Long live that Tzar who was great, and long
live his boot, which was still greater! Ladies, take the advice
of a friend; make a mistake in your neighbor if you see fit.
The property of love is to err. A love affair is not made to crouch
down and brutalize itself like an English serving-maid who has
callouses on her knees from scrubbing. It is not made for that;
it errs gayly, our gentle love. It has been said, error is human;
I say, error is love. Ladies, I idolize you all. O Zephine,
O Josephine, face more than irregular, you would be charming were you
not all askew. You have the air of a pretty face upon which some one
has sat down by mistake. As for Favourite, O nymphs and muses! one day
when Blachevelle was crossing the gutter in the Rue Guerin-Boisseau,
he espied a beautiful girl with white stockings well drawn up,
which displayed her legs. This prologue pleased him, and Blachevelle
fell in love. The one he loved was Favourite. O Favourite,
thou hast Ionian lips. There was a Greek painter named Euphorion,
who was surnamed the painter of the lips. That Greek alone would
have been worthy to paint thy mouth. Listen! before thee, there was
never a creature worthy of the name. Thou wert made to receive the
apple like Venus, or to eat it like Eve; beauty begins with thee.
I have just referred to Eve; it is thou who hast created her.
Thou deservest the letters-patent of the beautiful woman. O Favourite,
I cease to address you as `thou,' because I pass from poetry to prose.
You were speaking of my name a little while ago. That touched me;
but let us, whoever we may be, distrust names. They may delude us.
I am called Felix, and I am not happy. Words are liars. Let us
not blindly accept the indications which they afford us. It would
be a mistake to write to Liege[2] for corks, and to Pau for gloves.
Miss Dahlia, were I in your place, I would call myself Rosa.
A flower should smell sweet, and woman should have wit. I say nothing
of Fantine; she is a dreamer, a musing, thoughtful, pensive person;
she is a phantom possessed of the form of a nymph and the modesty
of a nun, who has strayed into the life of a grisette, but who takes
refuge in illusions, and who sings and prays and gazes into the
azure without very well knowing what she sees or what she is doing,
and who, with her eyes fixed on heaven, wanders in a garden where
there are more birds than are in existence. O Fantine, know this:
I, Tholomyes, I am all illusion; but she does not even hear me,
that blond maid of Chimeras! as for the rest, everything about her
is freshness, suavity, youth, sweet morning light. O Fantine,
maid worthy of being called Marguerite or Pearl, you are a woman
from the beauteous Orient. Ladies, a second piece of advice:
do not marry; marriage is a graft; it takes well or ill;
avoid that risk. But bah! what am I saying? I am wasting my words.
Girls are incurable on the subject of marriage, and all that we
wise men can say will not prevent the waistcoat-makers and the
shoe-stitchers from dreaming of husbands studded with diamonds.
Well, so be it; but, my beauties, remember this, you eat too much sugar.
You have but one fault, O woman, and that is nibbling sugar.
O nibbling sex, your pretty little white teeth adore sugar.
Now, heed me well, sugar is a salt. All salts are withering.
Sugar is the most desiccating of all salts; it sucks the liquids
of the blood through the veins; hence the coagulation, and then the
solidification of the blood; hence tubercles in the lungs, hence death.
That is why diabetes borders on consumption. Then, do not crunch sugar,
and you will live. I turn to the men: gentlemen, make conquest,
rob each other of your well-beloved without remorse. Chassez across.
In love there are no friends. Everywhere where there is a pretty
woman hostility is open. No quarter, war to the death! a pretty
woman is a casus belli; a pretty woman is flagrant misdemeanor.
All the invasions of history have been determined by petticoats.
Woman is man's right. Romulus carried off the Sabines; William carried
off the Saxon women; Caesar carried off the Roman women. The man
who is not loved soars like a vulture over the mistresses of other men;
and for my own part, to all those unfortunate men who are widowers,
I throw the sublime proclamation of Bonaparte to the army of Italy:
"Soldiers, you are in need of everything; the enemy has it."

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

Tholomyes paused.
"Take breath, Tholomyes," said Blachevelle.
At the same moment Blachevelle, supported by Listolier and Fameuil,
struck up to a plaintive air, one of those studio songs composed
of the first words which come to hand, rhymed richly and not at all,
as destitute of sense as the gesture of the tree and the sound
of the wind, which have their birth in the vapor of pipes, and are
dissipated and take their flight with them. This is the couplet
by which the group replied to Tholomyes' harangue:--

"The father turkey-cocks so grave
Some money to an agent gave,
That master good Clermont-Tonnerre
Might be made pope on Saint Johns' day fair.
But this good Clermont could not be
Made pope, because no priest was he;
And then their agent, whose wrath burned,
With all their money back returned."

This was not calculated to calm Tholomyes' improvisation; he emptied
his glass, filled, refilled it, and began again:--
"Down with wisdom! Forget all that I have said. Let us be neither
prudes nor prudent men nor prudhommes. I propose a toast to mirth;
be merry. Let us complete our course of law by folly and eating!
Indigestion and the digest. Let Justinian be the male, and Feasting,
the female! Joy in the depths! Live, O creation! The world
is a great diamond. I am happy. The birds are astonishing.
What a festival everywhere! The nightingale is a gratuitous Elleviou.
Summer, I salute thee! O Luxembourg! O Georgics of the Rue Madame,
and of the Allee de l'Observatoire! O pensive infantry soldiers!
O all those charming nurses who, while they guard the children,
amuse themselves! The pampas of America would please me if I had not
the arcades of the Odeon. My soul flits away into the virgin forests
and to the savannas. All is beautiful. The flies buzz in the sun.
The sun has sneezed out the humming bird. Embrace me, Fantine!"
He made a mistake and embraced Favourite.


"The dinners are better at Edon's than at Bombarda's," exclaimed Zephine.
"I prefer Bombarda to Edon," declared Blachevelle. "There is
more luxury. It is more Asiatic. Look at the room downstairs;
there are mirrors [glaces] on the walls."
"I prefer them [glaces, ices] on my plate," said Favourite.
Blachevelle persisted:--
"Look at the knives. The handles are of silver at Bombarda's
and of bone at Edon's. Now, silver is more valuable than bone."
"Except for those who have a silver chin," observed Tholomyes.
He was looking at the dome of the Invalides, which was visible
from Bombarda's windows.
A pause ensued.
"Tholomyes," exclaimed Fameuil, "Listolier and I were having
a discussion just now."
"A discussion is a good thing," replied Tholomyes; "a quarrel
is better."
"We were disputing about philosophy."
"Which do you prefer, Descartes or Spinoza?"
"Desaugiers," said Tholomyes.
This decree pronounced, he took a drink, and went on:--
"I consent to live. All is not at an end on earth since we can still
talk nonsense. For that I return thanks to the immortal gods.
We lie. One lies, but one laughs. One affirms, but one doubts.
The unexpected bursts forth from the syllogism. That is fine.
There are still human beings here below who know how to open
and close the surprise box of the paradox merrily. This, ladies,
which you are drinking with so tranquil an air is Madeira wine,
you must know, from the vineyard of Coural das Freiras, which is
three hundred and seventeen fathoms above the level of the sea.
Attention while you drink! three hundred and seventeen fathoms!
and Monsieur Bombarda, the magnificent eating-house keeper, gives you
those three hundred and seventeen fathoms for four francs and
fifty centimes."
Again Fameuil interrupted him:--
"Tholomyes, your opinions fix the law. Who is your favorite author?"
"No; Choux."
And Tholomyes continued:--
"Honor to Bombarda! He would equal Munophis of Elephanta if he
could but get me an Indian dancing-girl, and Thygelion of Chaeronea
if he could bring me a Greek courtesan; for, oh, ladies! there
were Bombardas in Greece and in Egypt. Apuleius tells us of them.
Alas! always the same, and nothing new; nothing more unpublished
by the creator in creation! Nil sub sole novum, says Solomon;
amor omnibus idem, says Virgil; and Carabine mounts with Carabin into
the bark at Saint-Cloud, as Aspasia embarked with Pericles upon the
fleet at Samos. One last word. Do you know what Aspasia was, ladies?
Although she lived at an epoch when women had, as yet, no soul,
she was a soul; a soul of a rosy and purple hue, more ardent hued
than fire, fresher than the dawn. Aspasia was a creature in whom
two extremes of womanhood met; she was the goddess prostitute;
Socrates plus Manon Lescaut. Aspasia was created in case a mistress
should be needed for Prometheus."
Tholomyes, once started, would have found some difficulty in stopping,
had not a horse fallen down upon the quay just at that moment.
The shock caused the cart and the orator to come to a dead halt.
It was a Beauceron mare, old and thin, and one fit for the knacker,
which was dragging a very heavy cart. On arriving in front of Bombarda's,
the worn-out, exhausted beast had refused to proceed any further.
This incident attracted a crowd. Hardly had the cursing and indignant
carter had time to utter with proper energy the sacramental word,
Matin (the jade), backed up with a pitiless cut of the whip,
when the jade fell, never to rise again. On hearing the hubbub made
by the passersby, Tholomyes' merry auditors turned their heads,
and Tholomyes took advantage of the opportunity to bring his allocution
to a close with this melancholy strophe:--
"Elle etait de ce monde ou coucous et carrosses[3]
Ont le meme destin;
Et, rosse, elle a vecu ce que vivant les rosses,
L'espace d'un matin!"

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

"Poor horse!" sighed Fantine.
And Dahlia exclaimed:--
"There is Fantine on the point of crying over horses. How can
one be such a pitiful fool as that!"
At that moment Favourite, folding her arms and throwing her head back,
looked resolutely at Tholomyes and said:--
"Come, now! the surprise?"
"Exactly. The moment has arrived," replied Tholomyes.
"Gentlemen, the hour for giving these ladies a surprise has struck.
Wait for us a moment, ladies."
"It begins with a kiss," said Blachevelle.
"On the brow," added Tholomyes.
Each gravely bestowed a kiss on his mistress's brow; then all four
filed out through the door, with their fingers on their lips.
Favourite clapped her hands on their departure.
"It is beginning to be amusing already," said she.
"Don't be too long," murmured Fantine; "we are waiting for you."


When the young girls were left alone, they leaned two by two on
the window-sills, chatting, craning out their heads, and talking
from one window to the other.
They saw the young men emerge from the Cafe Bombarda arm in arm.
The latter turned round, made signs to them, smiled, and disappeared
in that dusty Sunday throng which makes a weekly invasion into the
"Don't be long!" cried Fantine.
"What are they going to bring us?" said Zephine.
"It will certainly be something pretty," said Dahlia.
"For my part," said Favourite, "I want it to be of gold."
Their attention was soon distracted by the movements on the shore
of the lake, which they could see through the branches of the
large trees, and which diverted them greatly.
It was the hour for the departure of the mail-coaches and diligences.
Nearly all the stage-coaches for the south and west passed through
the Champs-Elysees. The majority followed the quay and went through
the Passy Barrier. From moment to moment, some huge vehicle,
painted yellow and black, heavily loaded, noisily harnessed,
rendered shapeless by trunks, tarpaulins, and valises, full of heads
which immediately disappeared, rushed through the crowd with all
the sparks of a forge, with dust for smoke, and an air of fury,
grinding the pavements, changing all the paving-stones into steels.
This uproar delighted the young girls. Favourite exclaimed:--
"What a row! One would say that it was a pile of chains flying away."
It chanced that one of these vehicles, which they could only see
with difficulty through the thick elms, halted for a moment,
then set out again at a gallop. This surprised Fantine.
"That's odd!" said she. "I thought the diligence never stopped."
Favourite shrugged her shoulders.
"This Fantine is surprising. I am coming to take a look at her out
of curiosity. She is dazzled by the simapsed. All at once Favourite made
a movement, like a person who is just waking up.
"Well," said she, "and the surprise?"
"Yes, by the way," joined in Dahlia, "the famous surprise?"
"They are a very long time about it!" said Fantine.
As Fantine concluded this sigh, the waiter who had served them
at dinner entered. He held in his hand something which resembled
a letter.
"What is that?" demanded Favourite.
The waiter replied:--
"It is a paper that those gentlemen left for these ladies."
"Why did you not bring it at once?"
"Because," said the waiter, "the gentlemen ordered me not to deliver
it to the ladies for an hour."
Favourite snatched the paper from the waiter's hand. It was,
in fact, a letter.
"Stop!" said she; "there is no address; but this is what is written
on it--"


She tore the letter open hastily, opened it, and read [she knew
how to read]:--
"You must know that we have parents. Parents--you do not know much
about such things. They are called fathers and mothers by the
civil code, which is puerile and honest. Now, these parents groan,
these old folks implore us, these good men and these good women call us
prodigal sons; they desire our return, and offer to kill calves for us.
Being virtuous, we obey them. At the hour when you read this,
five fiery horses will be bearing us to our papas and mammas. We are
pulling up our stakes, as Bossuet says. We are going; we are gone.
We flee in the arms of Lafitte and on the wings of Caillard.
The Toulouse diligence tears us from the abyss, and the abyss
is you, O our little beauties! We return to society, to duty,
to respectability, at full trot, at the rate of three leagues an hour.
It is necessary for the good of the country that we should be,
like the rest of the world, prefects, fathers of families, rural police,
and councillors of state. Venerate us. We are sacrificing ourselves.
Mourn for us in haste, and replace us with speed. If this letter
lacerates you, do the same by it. Adieu.
"For the space of nearly two years we have made you happy.
We bear you no grudge for that.
"Postscriptum. The dinner is paid for."

The four young women looked at each other.
Favourite was the first to break the silence.
"Well!" she exclaimed, "it's a very pretty farce, all the same."
"It is very droll," said Zephine.
"That must have been Blachevelle's idea," resumed Favourite.
"It makes me in love with him. No sooner is he gone than he is loved.
This is an adventure, indeed."
"No," said Dahlia; "it was one of Tholomyes' ideas. That is evident.
"In that case," retorted Favourite, "death to Blachevelle, and long
live Tholomyes!"
"Long live Tholomyes!" exclaimed Dahlia and Zephine.
And they burst out laughing.
Fantine laughed with the rest.
An hour later, when she had returned to her room, she wept.
It was her first love affair, as we have said; she had given herself
to this Tholomyes as to a husband, and the poor girl had a child.



There was, at Montfermeil, near Paris, during the first quarter
of this century, a sort of cook-shop which no longer exists.
This cook-shop was kept by some people named Thenardier,
husband and wife. It was situated in Boulanger Lane. Over the door
there was a board nailed flat against the wall. Upon this board
was painted something which resembled a man carrying another man on
his back, the latter wearing the big gilt epaulettes of a general,
with large silver stars; red spots represented blood; the rest of
the picture consisted of smoke, and probably represented a battle.
Below ran this inscription: AT THE SIGN OF SERGEANT OF WATERLOO
(Au Sargent de Waterloo).
Nothing is more common than a cart or a truck at the door of
a hostelry. Nevertheless, the vehicle, or, to speak more accurately,
the fragment of a vehicle, which encumbered the street in front
of the cook-shop of the Sergeant of Waterloo, one evening in the
spring of 1818, would certainly have attracted, by its mass,
the attention of any painter who had passed that way.
It was the fore-carriage of one of those trucks which are used
in wooded tracts of country, and which serve to transport thick
planks and the trunks of trees. This fore-carriage was composed
of a massive iron axle-tree with a pivot, into which was fitted
a heavy shaft, and which was supported by two huge wheels.
The whole thing was compact, overwhelming, and misshapen.
It seemed like the gun-carriage of an enormous cannon. The ruts of
the road had bestowed on the wheels, the fellies, the hub, the axle,
and the shaft, a layer of mud, a hideous yellowish daubing hue,
tolerably like that with which people are fond of ornamenting cathedrals.
The wood was disappearing under mud, and the iron beneath rust.
Under the axle-tree hung, like drapery, a huge chain, worthy of
some Goliath of a convict. This chain suggested, not the beams,
which it was its office to transport, but the mastodons and mammoths
which it might have served to harness; it had the air of the galleys,
but of cyclopean and superhuman galleys, and it seemed to have been
detached from some monster. Homer would have bound Polyphemus with it,
and Shakespeare, Caliban.
Why was that fore-carriage of a truck in that place in the street?
In the first place, to encumber the street; next, in order
that it might finish the process of rusting. There is a throng
of institutions in the old social order, which one comes across
in this fashion as one walks about outdoors, and which have
no other reasons for existence than the above.
The centre of the chain swung very near the ground in the middle,
and in the loop, as in the rope of a swing, there were seated
and grouped, on that particular evening, in exquisite interlacement,
two little girls; one about two years and a half old, the other,
eighteen months; the younger in the arms of the other. A handkerchief,
cleverly knotted about them, prevented their falling out.
A mother had caught sight of that frightful chain, and had said,
"Come! there's a plaything for my children."
The two children, who were dressed prettily and with some elegance,
were radiant with pleasure; one would have said that they were two
roses amid old iron; their eyes were a triumph; their fresh cheeks
were full of laughter. One had chestnut hair; the other, brown.
Their innocent faces were two delighted surprises; a blossoming
shrub which grew near wafted to the passers-by perfumes which seemed
to emanate from them; the child of eighteen months displayed her
pretty little bare stomach with the chaste indecency of childhood.
Above and around these two delicate heads, all made of happiness
and steeped in light, the gigantic fore-carriage, black with rust,
almost terrible, all entangled in curves and wild angles,
rose in a vault, like the entrance of a cavern. A few paces apart,
crouching down upon the threshold of the hostelry, the mother,
not a very prepossessing woman, by the way, though touching at
that moment, was swinging the two children by means of a long cord,
watching them carefully, for fear of accidents, with that animal
and celestial expression which is peculiar to maternity. At every
backward and forward swing the hideous links emitted a strident sound,
which resembled a cry of rage; the little girls were in ecstasies;
the setting sun mingled in this joy, and nothing could be more charming
than this caprice of chance which had made of a chain of Titans the
swing of cherubim.
As she rocked her little ones, the mother hummed in a discordant
voice a romance then celebrated:--

"It must be, said a warrior."

Her song, and the contemplation of her daughters, prevented her
hearing and seeing what was going on in the street.
In the meantime, some one had approached her, as she was beginning
the first couplet of the romance, and suddenly she heard a voice
saying very near her ear:--
"You have two beautiful children there, Madame."

"To the fair and tender Imogene--"

replied the mother, continuing her romance; then she turned her head.
A woman stood before her, a few paces distant. This woman also
had a child, which she carried in her arms.
She was carrying, in addition, a large carpet-bag, which seemed
very heavy.
This woman's child was one of the most divine creatures that it
is possible to behold. lt was a girl, two or three years of age.
She could have entered into competition with the two other little ones,
so far as the coquetry of her dress was concerned; she wore a cap of
fine linen, ribbons on her bodice, and Valenciennes lace on her cap.
The folds of her skirt were raised so as to permit a view of her
white, firm, and dimpled leg. She was admirably rosy and healthy.
The little beauty inspired a desire to take a bite from the apples
of her cheeks. Of her eyes nothing could be known, except that
they must be very large, and that they had magnificent lashes.
She was asleep.
She slept with that slumber of absolute confidence peculiar
to her age. The arms of mothers are made of tenderness; in them
children sleep profoundly.
As for the mother, her appearance was sad and poverty-stricken.
She was dressed like a working-woman who is inclined to turn into
a peasant again. She was young. Was she handsome? Perhaps; but in
that attire it was not apparent. Her hair, a golden lock of which
had escaped, seemed very thick, but was severely concealed beneath
an ugly, tight, close, nun-like cap, tied under the chin. A smile
displays beautiful teeth when one has them; but she did not smile.
Her eyes did not seem to have been dry for a very long time.
She was pale; she had a very weary and rather sickly appearance.
She gazed upon her daughter asleep in her arms with the air peculiar
to a mother who has nursed her own child. A large blue handkerchief,
such as the Invalides use, was folded into a fichu, and concealed her
figure clumsily. Her hands were sunburnt and all dotted with freckles,
her forefinger was hardened and lacerated with the needle; she wore
a cloak of coarse brown woollen stuff, a linen gown, and coarse shoes.
It was Fantine.
It was Fantine, but difficult to recognize. Nevertheless, on scrutinizing
her attentively, it was evident that she still retained her beauty.
A melancholy fold, which resembled the beginning of irony,
wrinkled her right cheek. As for her toilette, that aerial toilette
of muslin and ribbons, which seemed made of mirth, of folly,
and of music, full of bells, and perfumed with lilacs had vanished
like that beautiful and dazzling hoar-frost which is mistaken
for diamonds in the sunlight; it melts and leaves the branch quite black.
Ten months had elapsed since the "pretty farce."
What had taken place during those ten months? It can be divined.
After abandonment, straightened circumstances. Fantine had
immediately lost sight of Favourite, Zephine and Dahlia; the bond
once broken on the side of the men, it was loosed between the women;
they would have been greatly astonished had any one told them
a fortnight later, that they had been friends; there no longer
existed any reason for such a thing. Fantine had remained alone.
The father of her child gone,--alas! such ruptures are irrevocable,--
she found herself absolutely isolated, minus the habit of work and plus
the taste for pleasure. Drawn away by her liaison with Tholomyes
to disdain the pretty trade which she knew, she had neglected to keep
her market open; it was now closed to her. She had no resource.
Fantine barely knew how to read, and did not know how to write;
in her childhood she had only been taught to sign her name;
she had a public letter-writer indite an epistle to Tholomyes,
then a second, then a third. Tholomyes replied to none of them.
Fantine heard the gossips say, as they looked at her child:
"Who takes those children seriously! One only shrugs one's shoulders
over such children!" Then she thought of Tholomyes, who had shrugged
his shoulders over his child, and who did not take that innocent
being seriously; and her heart grew gloomy toward that man.
But what was she to do? She no longer knew to whom to apply.
She had committed a fault, but the foundation of her nature,
as will be remembered, was modesty and virtue. She was vaguely
conscious that she was on the verge of falling into distress,
and of gliding into a worse state. Courage was necessary;
she possessed it, and held herself firm. The idea of returning to
her native town of M. sur M. occurred to her. There, some one might
possibly know her and give her work; yes, but it would be necessary
to conceal her fault. In a confused way she perceived the necessity
of a separation which would be more painful than the first one.
Her heart contracted, but she took her resolution. Fantine, as we
shall see, had the fierce bravery of life. She had already
valiantly renounced finery, had dressed herself in linen, and had
put all her silks, all her ornaments, all her ribbons, and all
her laces on her daughter, the only vanity which was left to her,
and a holy one it was. She sold all that she had, which produced
for her two hundred francs; her little debts paid, she had only
about eighty francs left. At the age of twenty-two, on a beautiful
spring morning, she quitted Paris, bearing her child on her back.
Any one who had seen these two pass would have had pity on them.
This woman had, in all the world, nothing but her child, and the
child had, in all the world, no one but this woman. Fantine had
nursed her child, and this had tired her chest, and she coughed
a little.
We shall have no further occasion to speak of M. Felix Tholomyes.
Let us confine ourselves to saying, that, twenty years later,
under King Louis Philippe, he was a great provincial lawyer,
wealthy and influential, a wise elector, and a very severe juryman;
he was still a man of pleasure.
Towards the middle of the day, after having, from time to time,
for the sake of resting herself, travelled, for three or four sous
a league, in what was then known as the Petites Voitures des Environs
de Paris, the "little suburban coach service," Fantine found herself
at Montfermeil, in the alley Boulanger.
As she passed the Thenardier hostelry, the two little girls,
blissful in the monster swing, had dazzled her in a manner, and she
had halted in front of that vision of joy.
Charms exist. These two little girls were a charm to this mother.
She gazed at them in much emotion. The presence of angels is
an announcement of Paradise. She thought that, above this inn,
she beheld the mysterious HERE of Providence. These two little
creatures were evidently happy. She gazed at them, she admired them,
in such emotion that at the moment when their mother was recovering
her breath between two couplets of her song, she could not refrain
from addressing to her the remark which we have just read:--
"You have two pretty children, Madame."
The most ferocious creatures are disarmed by caresses bestowed
on their young.
The mother raised her head and thanked her, and bade the wayfarer
sit down on the bench at the door, she herself being seated
on the threshold. The two women began to chat.
"My name is Madame Thenardier," said the mother of the two little girls.
"We keep this inn."
Then, her mind still running on her romance, she resumed humming
between her teeth:--

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

This Madame Thenardier was a sandy-complexioned woman, thin and angular--
the type of the soldier's wife in all its unpleasantness;
and what was odd, with a languishing air, which shee of a perambulating colossus suitable for fairs, might have
frightened the traveller at the outset, troubled her confidence,
and disturbed what caused what we have to relate to vanish.
A person who is seated instead of standing erect--destinies hang upon
such a thing as that.
The traveller told her story, with slight modifications.
That she was a working-woman; that her husband was dead;
that her work in Paris had failed her, and that she was on her way
to seek it elsewhere, in her own native parts; that she had left
Paris that morning on foot; that, as she was carrying her child,
and felt fatigued, she had got into the Villemomble coach when she
met it; that from Villemomble she had come to Montfermeil on foot;
that the little one had walked a little, but not much, because she
was so young, and that she had been obliged to take her up,
and the jewel had fallen asleep.
At this word she bestowed on her daughter a passionate kiss,
which woke her. The child opened her eyes, great blue eyes like
her mother's, and looked at--what? Nothing; with that serious
and sometimes severe air of little children, which is a mystery
of their luminous innocence in the presence of our twilight
of virtue. One would say that they feel themselves to be angels,
and that they know us to be men. Then the child began to laugh;
and although the mother held fast to her, she slipped to the ground
with the unconquerable energy of a little being which wished to run.
All at once she caught sight of the two others in the swing,
stopped short, and put out her tongue, in sign of admiration.
Mother Thenardier released her daughters, made them descend from
the swing, and said:--
"Now amuse yourselves, all three of you."
Children become acquainted quickly at that age, and at the expiration
of a minute the little Thenardiers were playing with the new-comer
at making holes in the ground, which was an immense pleasure.
The new-comer was very gay; the goodness of the mother is written
in the gayety of the child; she had seized a scrap of wood
which served her for a shovel, and energetically dug a cavity big
enough for a fly. The grave-digger's business becomes a subject
for laughter when performed by a child.
The two women pursued their chat.
"What is your little one's name?"
For Cosette, read Euphrasie. The child's name was Euphrasie.
But out of Euphrasie the mother had made Cosette by that sweet
and graceful instinct of mothers and of the populace which changes
Josepha into Pepita, and Francoise into Sillette. It is a sort
of derivative which disarranges and disconcerts the whole science
of etymologists. We have known a grandmother who succeeded in turning
Theodore into Gnon.
"How old is she?"
"She is going on three."
"That is the age of my eldest."
In the meantime, the three little girls were grouped in an attitude
of profound anxiety and blissfulness; an event had happened;
a big worm had emerged from the ground, and they were afraid;
and they were in ecstasies over it.
Their radiant brows touched each other; one would have said
that there were three heads in one aureole.
"How easily children get acquainted at once!" exclaimed Mother Thenardier;
"one would swear that they were three sisters!"
This remark was probably the spark which the other mother had been
waiting for. She seized the Thenardier's hand, looked at her fixedly,
and said:--
"Will you keep my child for me?"
The Thenardier made one of those movements of surprise which signify
neither assent nor refusal.
Cosette's mother continued:--
"You see, I cannot take my daughter to the country. My work
will not permit it. With a child one can find no situation.
People are ridiculous in the country. It was the good God who caused
me to pass your inn. When I caught sight of your little ones,
so pretty, so clean, and so happy, it overwhelmed me. I said:
`Here is a good mother. That is just the thing; that will make
three sisters.' And then, it will not be long before I return.
Will you keep my child for me?"
"I must see about it," replied the Thenardier.
"I will give you six francs a month."
Here a man's voice called from the depths of the cook-shop:--
"Not for less than seven francs. And six months paid in advance."
"Six times seven makes forty-two," said the Thenardier.
"I will give it," said the mother.
"And fifteen francs in addition for preliminary expenses,"
added the man's voice.
"Total, fifty-seven francs," said Madame Thenardier. And she
hummed vaguely, with these figures:--

"It must be, said a warrior."

"I will pay it," said the mother. "I have eighty francs. I shall
have enough left to reach the country, by travelling on foot.
I shall earn money there, and as soon as I have a little I will return
for my darling."
The man's voice resumed:--
"The little one has an outfit?"
"That is my husband," said the Thenardier.
"Of course she has an outfit, the poor treasure.--I understood
perfectly that it was your husband.--And a beautiful outfit,
too! a senseless outfit, everything by the dozen, and silk gowns
like a lady. It is here, in my carpet-bag."
"You must hand it over," struck in the man's voice again.
"Of course I shall give it to you," said the mother. "It would
be very queer if I were to leave my daughter quite naked!"
The master's face appeared.
"That's good," said he.
The bargain was concluded. The mother passed the night at the inn,
gave up her money and left her child, fastened her carpet-bag
once more, now reduced in volume by the removal of the outfit,
and light henceforth and set out on the following morning,
intending to return soon. People arrange such departures tranquilly;
but they are despairs!
A neighbor of the Thenardiers met this mother as she was setting out,
and came back with the remark:--
"I have just seen a woman crying in the street so that it was enough
to rend your heart."
When Cosette's mother had taken her departure, the man said
to the woman:--
"That will serve to pay my note for one hundred and ten francs
which falls due to-morrow; I lacked fifty francs. Do you know
that I should have had a bailiff and a protest after me?
You played the mouse-trap nicely with your young ones."
"Without suspecting it," said the woman.


The mouse which had been caught was a pitiful specimen; but the cat
rejoices even over a lean mouse.
Who were these Thenardiers?
Let us say a word or two of them now. We will complete the sketch
later on.
These beings belonged to that bastard class composed of coarse
people who have been successful, and of intelligent people who have
descended in the scale, which is between the class called "middle"
and the class denominated as "inferior," and which combines some
of the defects of the second with nearly all the vices of the first,
without possessing the generous impulse of the workingman nor
the honest order of the bourgeois.
They were of those dwarfed natures which, if a dull fire chances
to warm them up, easily become monstrous. There was in the woman a
substratum of the brute, and in the man the material for a blackguard.
Both were susceptible, in the highest degree, of the sort of hideous
progress which is accomplished in the direction of evil. There exist
crab-like souls which are continually retreating towards the darkness,
retrograding in life rather than advancing, employing experience
to augment their deformity, growing incessantly worse, and becoming
more and more impregnated with an ever-augmenting blackness.
This man and woman possessed such souls.
Thenardier, in particular, was troublesome for a physiognomist.
One can only look at some men to distrust them; for one feels that
they are dark in both directions. They are uneasy in the rear and
threatening in front. There is something of the unknown about them.
One can no more answer for what they have done than for what they
will do. The shadow which they bear in their glance denounces them.
From merely hearing them utter a word or seeing them make a gesture,
one obtains a glimpse of sombre secrets in their past and of sombre
mysteries in their future.
This Thenardier, if he himself was to be believed, had been a soldier--
a sergeant, he said. He had probably been through the campaign of 1815,
and had even conducted himself with tolerable valor, it would seem.
We shall see later on how much truth there was in this. The sign
of his hostelry was in allusion to one of his feats of arms.
He had painted it himself; for he knew how to do a little of everything,
and badly.
It was at the epoch when the ancient classical romance which, after having
been Clelie, was no longer anything but Lodoiska, still noble, but ever
more and more vulgar, having fallen from Mademoiselle de Scuderi
to Madame Bournon-Malarme, and from Madame de Lafayette to Madame
Barthelemy-Hadot, was setting the loving hearts of the portresses
of Paris aflame, and even ravaging the suburbs to some extent.
Madame Thenardier was just intelligent enough to read this sort of books.
She lived on them. In them she drowned what brains she possessed.
This had given her, when very young, and even a little later, a sort
of pensive attitude towards her husband, a scamp of a certain depth,
a ruffian lettered to the extent of the grammar, coarse and fine at
one and the same time, but, so far as sentimentalism was concerned,
given to the perusal of Pigault-Lebrun, and "in what concerns the sex,"
as he said in his jargon--a downright, unmitigated lout. His wife was
twelve or fifteen years younger than he was. Later on, when her hair,
arranged in a romantically drooping fashion, began to grow gray,
when the Magaera began to be developed from the Pamela, the female
Thenardier was nothing but a coarse, vicious woman, who had dabbled
in stupid romances. Now, one cannot read nonsense with impunity.
The result was that her eldest daughter was named Eponine; as for
the younger, the poor little thing came near being called Gulnare;
I know not to what diversion, effected by a romance of Ducray-Dumenil,
she owed the fact that she merely bore the name of Azelma.
However, we will remark by the way, everything was not ridiculous
and superficial in that curious epoch to which we are alluding,
and which may be designated as the anarchy of baptismal names.
By the side of this romantic element which we have just indicated
there is the social symptom. It is not rare for the neatherd's
boy nowadays to bear the name of Arthur, Alfred, or Alphonse,
and for the vicomte--if there are still any vicomtes--to be called
Thomas, Pierre, or Jacques. This displacement, which places the
"elegant" name on the plebeian and the rustic name on the aristocrat,
is nothing else than an eddy of equality. The irresistible
penetration of the new inspiration is there as everywhere else.
Beneath this apparent discord there is a great and a profound thing,--
the French Revolution.


It is not all in all sufficient to be wicked in order to prosper.
The cook-shop was in a bad way.
Thanks to the traveller's fifty-seven francs, Thenardier had been
able to avoid a protest and to honor his signature. On the following
month they were again in need of money. The woman took Cosette's
outfit to Paris, and pawned it at the pawnbroker's for sixty francs.
As soon as that sum was spent, the Thenardiers grew accustomed
to look on the little girl merely as a child whom they were caring
for out of charity; and they treated her accordingly. As she had
no longer any clothes, they dressed her in the cast-off petticoats
and chemises of the Thenardier brats; that is to say, in rags.
They fed her on what all the rest had left--a little better than the dog,
a little worse than the cat. Moreover, the cat and the dog were her
habitual table-companions; Cosette ate with them under the table,
from a wooden bowl similar to theirs.
The mother, who had established herself, as we shall see later on,
at M. sur M., wrote, or, more correctly, caused to be written,
a letter every month, that she might have news of her child.
The Thenardiers replied invariably, "Cosette is doing wonderfully well."
At the expiration of the first six months the mother sent seven
francs for the seventh month, and continued her remittances
with tolerable regularity from month to month. The year was not
completed when Thenardier said: "A fine favor she is doing us,
in sooth! What does she expect us to do with her seven francs?"
and he wrote to demand twelve francs. The mother, whom they had
persuaded into the belief that her child was happy, "and was coming
on well," submitted, and forwarded the twelve francs.
Certain natures cannot love on the one hand without hating on
the other. Mother Thenardier loved her two daughters passionately,
which caused her to hate the stranger.
It is sad to think that the love of a mother can possess
villainous aspects. Little as was the space occupied by Cosette,
it seemed to her as though it were taken from her own, and that
that little child diminished the air which her daughters breathed.
This woman, like many women of her sort, had a load of caresses
and a burden of blows and injuries to dispense each day.
If she had not had Cosette, it is certain that her daughters,
idolized as they were, would have received the whole of it;
but the stranger did them the service to divert the blows to herself.
Her daughters received nothing but caresses. Cosette could not make
a motion which did not draw down upon her head a heavy shower of
violent blows and unmerited chastisement. The sweet, feeble being,
who should not have understood anything of this world or of God,
incessantly punished, scolded, ill-used, beaten, and seeing beside
her two little creatures like herself, who lived in a ray of dawn!
Madame Thenardier was vicious with Cosette. Eponine and Azelma
were vicious. Children at that age are only copies of their mother.
The size is smaller; that is all.
A year passed; then another.
People in the village said:--
"Those Thenardiers are good people. They are not rich, and yet they
are bringing up a poor child who was abandoned on their hands!"
They thought that Cosette's mother had forgotten her.
In the meanwhile, Thenardier, having learned, it is impossible
to say by what obscure means, that the child was probably a bastard,
and that the mother could not acknowledge it, exacted fifteen francs
a month, saying that "the creature" was growing and "eating," and
threatening to send her away. "Let her not bother me," he exclaimed,
"or I'll fire her brat right into the middle of her secrets.
I must have an increase." The mother paid the fifteen francs.
From year to year the child grew, and so did her wretchedness.
As long as Cosette was little, she was the scape-goat of the
two other children; as soon as she began to develop a little,
that is to say, before she was even five years old, she became
the servant of the household.
Five years old! the reader will say; that is not probable.
Alas! it is true. Social suffering begins at all ages.
Have we not recently seen the trial of a man named Dumollard,
an orphan turned bandit, who, from the age of five, as the official
documents state, being alone in the world, "worked for his living
and stole"?
Cosette was made to run on errands, to sweep the rooms, the courtyard,
the street, to wash the dishes, to even carry burdens. The Thenardiers
considered themselves all the more authorized to behave in this manner,
since the mother, who was still at M. sur M., had become irregular
in her payments. Some months she was in arrears.
If this mother had returned to Montfermeil at the end of these three
years, she would not have recognized her child. Cosette, so pretty
and rosy on her arrival in that house, was now thin and pale.
She had an indescribably uneasy look. "The sly creature,"
said the Thenardiers.
Injustice had made her peevish, and misery had made her ugly.
Nothing remained to herles, sweeping the street before daylight, with an enormous
broom in her tiny red hands, and a tear in her great eyes.
She was called the Lark in the neighborhood. The populace, who are
fond of these figures of speech, had taken a fancy to bestow this
name on this trembling, frightened, and shivering little creature,
no bigger than a bird, who was awake every morning before any one
else in the house or the village, and was always in the street
or the fields before daybreak.
Only the little lark never sang.



And in the meantime, what had become of that mother who according
to the people at Montfermeil, seemed to have abandoned her child?
Where was she? What was she doing?
After leaving her little Cosette with the Thenardiers, she had
continued her journey, and had reached M. sur M.
This, it will be remembered, was in 1818.
Fantine had quitted her province ten years before. M. sur M. had
changed its aspect. While Fantine had been slowly descending
from wretchedness to wretchedness, her native town had prospered.
About two years previously one of those industrial facts which are
the grand events of small districts had taken place.
This detail is important, and we regard it as useful to develop it
at length; we should almost say, to underline it.
From time immemorial, M. sur M. had had for its special industry
the imitation of English jet and the black glass trinkets of Germany.
This industry had always vegetated, on account of the high
price of the raw material, which reacted on the manufacture.
At the moment when Fantine returned to M. sur M., an unheard-of
transformation had taken place in the production of "black goods."
Towards the close of 1815 a man, a stranger, had established himself
in the town, and had been inspired with the idea of substituting,
in this manufacture, gum-lac for resin, and, for bracelets in particular,
slides of sheet-iron simply laid together, for slides of soldered
This very small change had effected a revolution.
This very small change had, in fact, prodigiously reduced the cost
of the raw material, which had rendered it possible in the first place,
to raise the price of manufacture, a benefit to the country;
in the second place, to improve the workmanship, an advantage
to the consumer; in the third place, to sell at a lower price,
while trebling the profit, which was a benefit to the manufacturer.
Thus three results ensued from one idea.
In less than three years the inventor of this process had
become rich, which is good, and had made every one about him rich,
which is better. He was a stranger in the Department. Of his origin,
nothing was known; of the beginning of his career, very little.
It was rumored that he had come to town with very little money,
a few hundred francs at the most.
It was from this slender capital, enlisted in the service of an
ingenious idea, developed by method and thought, that he had drawn
his own fortune, and the fortune of the whole countryside.
On his arrival at M. sur M. he had only the garments, the appearance,
and the language of a workingman.
It appears that on the very day when he made his obscure entry into
the little town of M. sur M., just at nightfall, on a December evening,
knapsack on back and thorn club in hand, a large fire had broken
out in the town-hall. This man had rushed into the flames and saved,
at the risk of his own life, two children who belonged to the
captain of the gendarmerie; this is why they had forgotten to ask
him for his passport. Afterwards they had learned his name.
He was called Father Madeleine.


He was a man about fifty years of age, who had a preoccupied air,
and who was good. That was all that could be said about him.
Thanks to the rapid progress of the industry which he had so
admirably re-constructed, M. sur M. had become a rather important
centre of trade. Spain, which consumes a good deal of black jet,
made enormous purchases there each year. M. sur M. almost rivalled
London and Berlin in this branch of commerce. Father Madeleine's
profits were such, that at the end of the second year he was able
to erect a large factory, in which there were two vast workrooms,
one for the men, and the other for women. Any one who was hungry
could present himself there, and was sure of finding employment
and bread. Father Madeleine required of the men good will,
of the women pure morals, and of all, probity. He had separated
the work-rooms in order to separate the sexes, and so that the women
and girls might remain discreet. On this point he was inflexible.
It was the only thing in which he was in a manner intolerant.
He was all the more firmly set on this severity, since M. sur M.,
being a garrison town, opportunities for corruption abounded.
However, his coming had been a boon, and his presence was a godsend.
Before Father Madeleine's arrival, everything had languished
in the country; now everything lived with a healthy life of toil.
A strong circulation warmed everything and penetrated everywhere.
Slack seasons and wretchedness were unknown. There was no pocket so
obscure that it had not a little money in it; no dwelling so lowly that
there was not some little joy within it.
Father Madeleine gave employment to every one. He exacted
but one thing: Be an honest man. Be an honest woman.
As we have said, in the midst of this activity of which he was the
cause and the pivot, Father Madeleine made his fortune; but a singular
thing in a simple man of business, it did not seem as though that
were his chief care. He appeared to be thinking much of others,
and little of himself. In 1820 he was known to have a sum of six
hundred and thirty thousand francs lodged in his name with Laffitte;
but before reserving these six hundred and thirty thousand francs,
he had spent more than a million for the town and its poor.
The hospital was badly endowed; he founded six beds there. M. sur
M. is divided into the upper and the lower town. The lower town,
in which he lived, had but one school, a miserable hovel, which was
falling to ruin: he constructed two, one for girls, the other for boys.
He allotted a salary from his own funds to the two instructors,
a salary twice as large as their meagre official salary, and one
day he said to some one who expressed surprise, "The two prime
functionaries of the state are the nurse and the schoolmaster."
He created at his own expense an infant school, a thing then almost
unknown in France, and a fund for aiding old and infirm workmen.
As his factory was a centre, a new quarter, in which there were a good
many indigent families, rose rapidly around him; he established there
a free dispensary.
At first, when they watched his beginnings, the good souls said,
"He's a jolly fellow who means to get rich." When they saw him
enriching the country before he enriched himself, the good souls said,
"He is an ambitious man." This seemed all the more probable
since the man was religious, and even practised his religion
to a certain degree, a thing which was very favorably viewed
at that epoch. He went regularly to low mass every Sunday.
The local deputy, who nosed out all rivalry everywhere, soon began
to grow uneasy over this religion. This deputy had been a member
of the legislative body of the Empire, and shared the religious
ideas of a father of the Oratoire, known under the name of Fouche,
Duc d'Otrante, whose creature and friend he had been. He indulged
in gentle raillery at God with closed doors. But when he beheld
the wealthy manufacturer Madeleine going to low mass at seven o'clock,
he perceived in him a possible candidate, and resolved to outdo him;
he took a Jesuit confessor, and went to high mass and to vespers.
Ambition was at that time, in the direct acceptation of the word,
a race to the steeple. The poor profited by this terror as well
as the good God, for the honorable deputy also founded two beds in
the hospital, which made twelve.
Nevertheless, in 1819 a rumor one morning circulated through the
town to the effect that, on the representations of the prefect
and in consideration of the services rendered by him to the country,
Father Madeleine was to be appointed by the King, mayor of M. sur
M. Those who had pronounced this new-comer to be "an ambitious fellow,"
seized with delight on this opportunity which all men desire,
to exclaim, "There! what did we say!" All M. sur M. was in an uproar.
The rumor was well founded. Several days later the appointment appeared
in the Moniteur. On the following day Father Madeleine refused.
In this same year of 1819 the products of the new process invented
by Madeleine figured in the industrial exhibition; when the jury
made their report, the King appointed the inventor a chevalier
of the Legion of Honor. A fresh excitement in the little town.
Well, so it was the cross that he wanted! Father Madeleine refused
the cross.
Decidedly this man was an enigma. The good souls got out of their
predicament by saying, "After all, he is some sort of an adventurer."
We have seen that the country owed much to him; the poor owed
him everything; he was so useful and he was so gentle that people had been
obliged to honor and respect him. His workmen, in particular, adored him,
and he endured this adoration with a sort of melancholy gravity.
When he was known to be rich, "people in society" bowed to him,
and he received invitations in the town; he was called, in town,
Monsieur Madeleine; his workmen and the children continued to call him
Father Madeleine, and that was what was most adapted to make him smile.
In proportion as he mounted, throve, invitations rained down upon him.
"Society" claimed him for its own. The prim little drawing-rooms on
M. sur M., which, of course, had at first been closed to the artisan,
opened both leaves of their folding-doors to the millionnaire.
They made a thousand advances to him. He refused.
This time the good gossips had no trouble. "He is an ignorant man,
of no education. No one knows where he came from. He would not
know how to behave in society. It has not been absolutely proved
that he knows how to read."
When they saw him making money, they said, "He is a man of business."
When they saw him scattering his money about, they said, "He is
an ambitious man." When he was seen to decline honors, they said,
"He is an adventurer." When they saw him repulse society, they said,
"He is a brute."
In 1820, five years after his arrival in M. sur M., the services
which he had rendered to the district were so dazzling, the opinion
of the whole country round about was so unanimous, that the King
again appointed him mayor of the town. He again declined;
but the prefect resisted his refusal, all the notabilities of the
place came to implore him, the people in the street besought him;
the urging was so vigorous that he ended by accepting.
It was noticed that the thing which seemed chiefly to bring him
to a decision was the almost irritated apostrophe addressed to him
by an old woman of the people, who called to him from her threshold,
in an angry way: "A good mayor is a useful thing. Is he drawing
back before the good which he can do?"
This was the third phase of his ascent. Father Madeleine had become
Monsieur Madeleine. Monsieur Madeleine became Monsieur le Maire.


On the other hand, he remained as simple as on the first day.
He had gray hair, a serious eye, the sunburned complexion of a laborer,
the thoughtful visage of a philosopher. He habitually wore a hat with
a wide brim, and a long coat of coarse cloth, buttoned to the chin.
He fulfilled his duties as mayor; but, with that exception, he lived
in solitude. He spoke to but few people. He avoided polite attentions;
he escaped quickly; he smiled to relieve himself of the necessity
of talking; he gave, in order to get rid of the necessity for smiling,
The women said of him, "What a good-natured bear!" His pleasure
consisted in strolling in the fields.
He always took his meals alone, with an open book before him,
which he read. He had a well-selected little library. He loved books;
books are cold but safe friends. In proportion as leisure came
to him with fortune, he seemed to take advantage of it to cultivate
his mind. It had been observed that, ever since his arrival
at M. sur M.. his language had grown more polished, more choice,
and more gentle with every passing year. He liked to carry
a gun with him on his strolls, but he rarely made use of it.
When he did happen to do so, his shooting was something so infallible
as to inspire terror. He never killed an inoffensive animal.
He never shot at a little bird.
Although he was no longer young, it was thought that he was still
prodigiously strong. He offered his assistance to any one who was
in need of it, lifted a horse, released a wheel clogged in the mud,
or stopped a runaway bull by the horns. He always had his pockets
full of money when he went out; but they were empty on his return.
When he passed through a village, the ragged brats ran joyously
after him, and surrounded him like a swarm of gnats.
It was thought that he must, in the past, have lived a country life,
since he knew all sorts of useful secrets, which he taught
to the peasants. He taught them how to destroy scurf on wheat,
by sprinkling it and the granary and inundating the cracks in
the floor with a solution of common salt; and how to chase away
weevils by hanging up orviot in bloom everywhere, on the walls
and the ceilings, among the grass and in the houses.
He had "recipes" for exterminating from a field, blight, tares,
foxtail, and all parasitic growths which destroy the wheat.
He defended a rabbit warren against rats, simply by the odor
of a guinea-pig which he placed in it.
One day he saw some country people busily engaged in pulling up nettles;
he examined the plants, which were uprooted and already dried,
and said: "They are dead. Nevertheless, it would be a good thing
to know how to make use of them. When the nettle is young, the leaf
makes an excellent vegetable; when it is older, it has filaments and
fibres like hemp and flax. Nettle cloth is as good as linen cloth.
Chopped up, nettles are good for poultry; pounded, they are good
for horned cattle. The seed of the nettle, mixed with fodder,
gives gloss to the hair of animals; the root, mixed with salt,
produces a beautiful yellow coloring-matter. Moreover, it is an
excellent hay, which can be cut twice. And what is required for
the nettle? A little soil, no care, no culture. Only the seed falls
as it is ripe, and it is difficult to collect it. That is all.
With the exercise of a little care, the nettle could be made useful;
it is neglected and it becomes hurtful. It is exterminated. How many
men resemble the nettle!" He added, after a pause: "Remember this,
my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men.
There are only bad cultivators."
The children loved him because he knew how to make charming little
trifles of straw and cocoanuts.
When he saw the door of a church hung in black, he entered:
he sought out funerals as other men seek christenings. Widowhood and
the grief of others attracted him, because of his great gentleness;
he mingled with the friends clad in mourning, with families
dressed in black, with the priests groaning around a coffin.
He seemed to like to give to his thoughts for text these funereal
psalmodies filled with the vision of the other world. With his eyes
fixed on heaven, he listened with a sort of aspiration towards
all the mysteries of the infinite, those sad voices which sing
on the verge of the obscure abyss of death.
He performed a multitude of good actions, concealing his agency in them
as a man conceals himself because of evil actions. He penetrated
houses privately, at night; he ascended staircases furtively.
A poor wretch on returning to his attic would find that hisen
there was Father Madeleine.
He was affable and sad. The people said: "There is a rich man who has
not a haughty air. There is a happy man who has not a contented air."
Some people maintained that he was a mysterious person, and that no
one ever entered his chamber, which was a regular anchorite's cell,
furnished with winged hour-glasses and enlivened by cross-bones
and skulls of dead men! This was much talked of, so that one
of the elegant and malicious young women of M. sur M. came to him
one day, and asked: "Monsieur le Maire, pray show us your chamber.
It is said to be a grotto." He smiled, and introduced them instantly
into this "grotto." They were well punished for their curiosity.
The room was very simply furnished in mahogany, which was rather ugly,
like all furniture of that sort, and hung with paper worth twelve sous.
They could see nothing remarkable about it, except two candlesticks
of antique pattern which stood on the chimney-piece and appeared
to be silver, "for they were hall-marked," an observation full
of the type of wit of petty towns.
Nevertheless, people continued to say that no one ever got into
the room, and that it was a hermit's cave, a mysterious retreat,
a hole, a tomb.
It was also whispered about that he had "immense" sums deposited
with Laffitte, with this peculiar feature, that they were always
at his immediate disposal, so that, it was added, M. Madeleine could
make his appearance at Laffitte's any morning, sign a receipt,
and carry off his two or three millions in ten minutes. In reality,
"these two or three millions" were reducible, as we have said,
to six hundred and thirty or forty thousand francs.


At the beginning of 1820 the newspapers announced the death
of M. Myriel, Bishop of D----, surnamed "Monseigneur Bienvenu,"
who had died in the odor of sanctity at the age of eighty-two.
The Bishop of D---- --to supply here a detail which the papers omitted--
had been blind for many years before his death, and content to be blind,
as his sister was beside him.
Let us remark by the way, that to be blind and to be loved, is,
in fact, one of the most strangely exquisite forms of happiness
upon this earth, where nothing is complete. To have continually at
one's side a woman, a daughter, a sister, a charming being, who is
there because you need her and because she cannot do without you;
to know that we are indispensable to a person who is necessary to us;
to be able to incessantly measure one's affection by the amount
of her presence which she bestows on us, and to say to ourselves,
"Since she consecrates the whole of her time to me, it is because I
possess the whole of her heart"; to behold her thought in lieu
of her face; to be able to verify the fidelity of one being amid
the eclipse of the world; to regard the rustle of a gown as the sound
of wings; to hear her come and go, retire, speak, return, sing,
and to think that one is the centre of these steps, of this speech;
to manifest at each instant one's personal attraction; to feel
one's self all the more powerful because of one's infirmity;
to become in one's obscurity, and through one's obscurity, the star
around which this angel gravitates,--few felicities equal this.
The supreme happiness of life consists in the conviction that one
is loved; loved for one's own sake--let us say rather, loved in
spite of one's self; this conviction the blind man possesses.
To be served in distress is to be caressed. Does he lack anything?
No. One does not lose the sight when one has love. And what love!
A love wholly constituted of virtue! There is no blindness where
there is certainty. Soul seeks soul, gropingly, and finds it.
And this soul, found and tested, is a woman. A hand sustains you;
it is hers: a mouth lightly touches your brow; it is her mouth:
you hear a breath very near you; it is hers. To have everything
of her, from her worship to her pity, never to be left, to have
that sweet weakness aiding you, to lean upon that immovable reed,
to touch Providence with one's hands, and to be able to take
it in one's arms,--God made tangible,--what bliss! The heart,
that obscure, celestial flower, undergoes a mysterious blossoming.
One would not exchange that shadow for all brightness!
The angel soul is there, uninterruptedly there; if she departs,
it is but to return again; she vanishes like a dream, and reappears
like reality. One feels warmth approaching, and behold! she is there.
One overflows with serenity, with gayety, with ecstasy; one is a
radiance amid the night. And there are a thousand little cares.
Nothings, which are enormous in that void. The most ineffable
accents of the feminine voice employed to lull you, and supplying
the vanished universe to you. One is caressed with the soul.
One sees nothing, but one feels that one is adored. It is a paradise
of shadows.
It was from this paradise that Monseigneur Welcome had passed
to the other.
The announcement of his death was reprinted by the local journal
of M. sur M. On the following day, M. Madeleine appeared clad
wholly in black, and with crape on his hat.
This mourning was noticed in the town, and commented on. It seemed
to throw a light on M. Madeleine's origin. It was concluded that some
relationship existed between him and the venerable Bishop. "He has
gone into mourning for the Bishop of D----" said the drawing-rooms;
this raised M. Madeleine's credit greatly, and procured for him,
instantly and at one blow, a certain consideration in the noble
world of M. sur M. The microscopic Faubourg Saint-Germain of the
place meditated raising the quarantine against M. Madeleine,
the probable relative of a bishop. M. Madeleine perceived the
advancement which he had obtained, by the more numerous courtesies
of the old women and the more plentiful smiles of the young ones.
One evening, a ruler in that petty great world, who was curious
by right of seniority, ventured to ask him, "M. le Maire is doubtless
a cousin of the late Bishop of D----?"
He said, "No, Madame."
"But," resumed the dowager, "you are wearing mourning for him."
He replied, "It is because I was a servant in his family in my youth."
Another thing which was remarked, was, that every time that he
encountered in the town a young Savoyard who was roaming about the
country and seeking chimneys to sweep, the mayor had him summoned,
inquired his name, and gave him money. The little Savoyards told
each other about it: a great many of them passed that way.


Little by little, and in the course of time, all this opposition
subsided. There had at first been exercised against M. Madeleine,
in virtue of a sort of law which all those who rise must submit to,
blackening and calumnies; then they grew to be nothing more
than ill-nature, then merely malicious remarks, then even this
entirely disappeared; respect became complete, unanimous, cordial,
and towards 1821 the moment arrived when the word "Monsieur le Maire"
was pronounced at M. sur M. with almost the same accent as "Monseigneur
the Bishop" had been pronounced in D---- in 1815. People came from
a distance of ten leagues around to consult M. Madeleine. He put
an end to differences, he prevented lawsuits, he reconciled enemies.
Every one took him for the judge, and with good reason.
It seemed as though he had for a soul the book of the natural law.
It was like an epidemic of veneration, which in the course
of six or seven years gradually took possession of the whole district.
One single man in the town, in the arrondissement, absolutely escaped
this contagion, and, whatever Father Madeleine did, remained his
opponent as though a sort of incorruptible and imperturbable
instinct kept him on the alert and uneasy. It seems, in fact,
as though there existed in certain men a veritable bestial instinct,
though pure and upright, like all instincts, which creates antipathies
and sympathies, which fatally separates one nature from another nature,
which does not hesitate, which feels no disquiet, which does not hold
its peace, and which never belies itself, clear in its obscurity,
infallible, imperious, intractable, stubborn to all counsels of the
intelligence and to all the dissolvents of reason, and which, in whatever
manner destinies are arranged, secretly warns the man-dog of the
presence of the man-cat, and the man-fox of the presence of the man-lion.
It frequently happened that when M. Madeleine was passing along
a street, calm, affectionate, surrounded by the blessings of all,
a man of lofty stature, clad in an iron-gray frock-coat, armed
with a heavy cane, and wearing a battered hat, turned round abruptly
behind him, and followed him with his eyes until he disappeared,
with folded arms and a slow shake of the head, and his upper lip
raised in company with his lower to his nose, a sort of significant
grimace which might be translated by: "What is that man, after all?
I certainly have seen him somewhere. In any case, I am not
his dupe."
This person, grave with a gravity which was almost menacing,
was one of those men who, even when only seen by a rapid glimpse,
arrest the spectator's attention.
His name was Javert, and he belonged to the police.
At M. sur M. he exercised the unpleasant but useful functions of
an inspector. He had not seen Madeleine's beginnings. Javert owed
the post which he occupied to the protection of M. Chabouillet,
the secretary of the Minister of State, Comte Angeles, then prefect
of police at Paris. When Javert arrived at M. sur M. the fortune
of the great manufacturer was already made, and Father Madeleine
had become Monsieur Madeleine.
Certain police officers have a peculiar physiognomy, which is
complicated with an air of baseness mingled with an air of authority.
Javert possessed this physiognomy minus the baseness.
It is our conviction that if souls were visible to the eyes,
we should be able to see distinctly that strange thing that each one
individual of the human race corresponds to some one of the species
of the animal creation; and we could easily recognize this truth,
hardly perceived by the thinker, that from the oyster to the eagle,
from the pig to the tiger, all animals exist in man, and that each
one of them is in a man. Sometimes even several of them at a time.
Animals are nothing else than the figures of our virtues and our vices,
straying before our eyes, the visible phantoms of our souls.
God shows them to us in order to induce us to reflect. Only since
animals are mere shadows, God has not made them capable of education
in the full sense of the word; what is the use? On the contrary,
our souls being realities and having a goal which is appropriate
to them, God has bestowed on them intelligence; that is to say,
the possibility of education. Social education, when well done,
can always draw from a soul, of whatever sort it may be, the utility
which it contains.
This, be it said, is of course from the restricted point of view
of the terrestrial life which is apparent, and without prejudging
the profound question of the anterior or ulterior personality of
the beings which are not man. The visible _I_ in nowise authorizes
the thinker to deny the latent _I_. Having made this reservation,
let us pass on.
Now, if the reader will admit, for a moment, with us, that in every
man there is one of the animal species of creation, it will be easy
for us to say what there was in Police Officer Javert.
The peasants of Asturias are convinced that in every litter of
wolves there is one dog, which is killed by the mother because,
otherwise, as he grew up, he would devour the other little ones.
Give to this dog-son of a wolf a human face, and the result will
be Javert.
Javert had been born in prison, of a fortune-teller, whose husband
was in the galleys. As he grew up, he thought that he was outside
the pale of society, and he despaired of ever re-entering it.
He observed that society unpardoningly excludes two classes of men,--
those who attack it and those who guard it; he had no choice except
between these two classes; at the same time, he was conscious of
an indescribable foundation of rigidity, regularity, and probity,
complicated with an inexpressible hatred for the race of bohemians
whence he was sprung. He entered the police; he succeeded there.
At forty years of age he was an inspector.
During his youth he had been employed in the convict establishments
of the South.
Before proceeding further, let us come to an understanding
as to the words, "human face," which we have just applied to Javert.
The human face of Javert consisted of a flat nose, with two deep
nostrils, towards which enormous whiskers ascended on his cheeks.
One felt ill at ease when he saw these two forests and these two
caverns for the first time. When Javert laughed,--and his laugh
was rare and terrible,--his thin lips parted and revealed to view
not only his teeth, but his gums, and around his nose there formed
a flattened and savage fold, as on the muzzle of a wild beast.
Javert, serious, was a watchdog; when he laughed, he was a tiger.
As for the rest, he had very little skull and a great deal of jaw;
his hair concealed his forehead and fell over his eyebrows;
between his eyes there was a permanent, central frown, like an imprint
of wrath; his gaze was obscure; his mouth pursed up and terrible;
his air that of ferocious command.
This man was composed of two very simple and two very good
sentiments, comparatively; but he rendered them almost bad, by dint
of exaggerating them,--respect for authority, hatred of rebellion;
and in his eyes, murder, robbery, all crimes, are only forms
of rebellion. He enveloped in a blind and profound faith every
one who had a function in the state, from the prime minister to
the rural policeman. He covered with scorn, aversion, and disgust
every one who had once crossed the legal threshold of evil.
He was absolute, and admitted no exceptions. On the one hand,
he said, "The functionary can make no mistake; the magistrate
is never the wrong." On the other hand, he said, "These men are
irremediably lost. Nothing good can come from them." He fully
shared the opinion of those extreme minds which attribute to human
law I know not what power of making, or, if the reader will have
it so, of authenticating, demons, and who place a Styx at the base
of society. He was stoical, serious, austere; a melancholy dreamer,
humble and haughty, like fanatics. His glance was like a gimlet,
cold and piercing. His whole life hung on these two words:
watchfulness and supervision. He had introduced a straight line
into what is the most crooked thing in the world; he possessed
the conscience of his usefulness, the religion of his functions,
and he was a spy as other men are priests. Woe to the man who fell
into his hands! He would have arrested his own father, if the latter
had escaped from the galleys, and would have denounced his mother,
if she had broken her ban. And he would have done it with that sort
of inward satisfaction which is conferred by virtue. And, withal,
a life of privation, isolation, abnegation, chastity, with never
a diversion. It was implacable duty; the police understood,
as the Spartans understood Sparta, a pitiless lying in wait,
a ferocious honesty, a marble informer, Brutus in Vidocq.
Javert's whole person was expressive of the man who spies and
who withdraws himself from observation. The mystical school
of Joseph de Maistre, which at that epoch seasoned with lofty
cosmogony those things which were called the ultra newspapers,
would not have failed to declare that Javert was a symbol.
His brow was not visible; it disappeared beneath his hat:
his eyes were not visible, since they were lost under his eyebrows:
his chin was not visible, for it was plunged in his cravat:
his hands were not visible; they were drawn up in his sleeves:
and his cane was not visible; he carried it under his coat.
But when the occasion presented itself, there was suddenly seen
tobe not wholly illiterate.
This could be recognized by some emphasis in his speech.
As we have said, he had no vices. When he was pleased with himself,
he permitted himself a pinch of snuff. Therein lay his connection
with humanity.
The reader will have no difficulty in understanding that Javert
was the terror of that whole class which the annual statistics
of the Ministry of Justice designates under the rubric, Vagrants.
The name of Javert routed them by its mere utterance; the face
of Javert petrified them at sight.
Such was this formidable man.
Javert was like an eye constantly fixed on M. Madeleine. An eye full
of suspicion and conjecture. M. Madeleine had finally perceived
the fact; but it seemed to be of no importance to him. He did not
even put a question to Javert; he neither sought nor avoided him;
he bore that embarrassing and almost oppressive gaze without
appearing to notice it. He treated Javert with ease and courtesy,
as he did all the rest of the world.
It was divined, from some words which escaped Javert, that he had
secretly investigated, with that curiosity which belongs to the race,
and into which there enters as much instinct as will, all the
anterior traces which Father Madeleine might have left elsewhere.
He seemed to know, and he sometimes said in covert words,
that some one had gleaned certain information in a certain
district about a family which had disappeared. Once he chanced
to say, as he was talking to himself, "I think I have him!"
Then he remained pensive for three days, and uttered not a word.
It seemed that the thread which he thought he held had broken.
Moreover, and this furnishes the necessary corrective for the too
absolute sense which certain words might present, there can be
nothing really infallible in a human creature, and the peculiarity
of instinct is that it can become confused, thrown off the track,
and defeated. Otherwise, it would be superior to intelligence,
and the beast would be found to be provided with a better light
than man.
Javert was evidently somewhat disconcerted by the perfect naturalness
and tranquillity of M. Madeleine.
One day, nevertheless, his strange manner appeared to produce
an impression on M. Madeleine. It was on the following occasion.


One morning M. Madeleine was passing through an unpaved alley of
M. sur M.; he heard a noise, and saw a group some distance away.
He approached. An old man named Father Fauchelevent had just fallen
beneath his cart, his horse having tumbled down.
This Fauchelevent was one of the few enemies whom M. Madeleine had at
that time. When Madeleine arrived in the neighborhood, Fauchelevent,
an ex-notary and a peasant who was almost educated, had a business
which was beginning to be in a bad way. Fauchelevent had seen this
simple workman grow rich, while he, a lawyer, was being ruined.
This had filled him with jealousy, and he had done all he could,
on every occasion, to injure Madeleine. Then bankruptcy had come;
and as the old man had nothing left but a cart and a horse,
and neither family nor children, he had turned carter.
The horse had two broken legs and could not rise. The old man was
caught in the wheels. The fall had been so unlucky that the whole
weight of the vehicle rested on his breast. The cart was quite
heavily laden. Father Fauchelevent was rattling in the throat
in the most lamentable manner. They had tried, but in vain,
to drag him out. An unmethodical effort, aid awkwardly given,
a wrong shake, might kill him. It was impossible to disengage him
otherwise than by lifting the vehicle off of him. Javert, who had
come up at the moment of the accident, had sent for a jack-screw.
M. Madeleine arrived. People stood aside respectfully.
"Help!" cried old Fauchelevent. "Who will be good and save
the old man?"
M.Madeleine turned towards those present:--
"Is there a jack-screw to be had?"
"One has been sent for," answered the peasant.
"How long will it take to get it?"
"They have gone for the nearest, to Flachot's place, where there
is a farrier; but it makes no difference; it will take a good
quarter of an hour."
"A quarter of an hour!" exclaimed Madeleine.
It had rained on the preceding night; the soil was soaked.
The cart was sinking deeper into the earth every moment,
and crushing the old carter's breast more and more.
It was evident that his ribs would be broken in five minutes more.
"It is impossible to wait another quarter of an hour," said Madeleine
to the peasants, who were staring at him.
"We must!"
"But it will be too late then! Don't you see that the cart is sinking?"
"Listen," resumed Madeleine; "there is still room enough under the
cart to allow a man to crawl beneath it and raise it with his back.
Only half a minute, and the poor man can be taken out. Is there
any one here who has stout loins and heart? There are five louis
d'or to be earned!"
Not a man in the group stirred.
"Ten louis," said Madeleine.
The persons present dropped their eyes. One of them muttered:
"A man would need to be devilish strong. And then he runs the risk
of getting crushed!"
"Come," began Madeleine again, "twenty louis."
The same silence.
"It is not the will which is lacking," said a voice.
M. Madeleine turned round, and recognized Javert. He had not
noticed him on his arrival.
Javert went on:--
"It is strength. One would have to be a terrible man to do such
a thing as lift a cart like that on his back."
Then, gazing fixedly at M. Madeleine, he went on, emphasizing every
word that he uttered:--
"Monsieur Madeleine, I have never known but one man capable of doing
what you ask."
Madeleine shuddered.
Javert added, with an air of indifference, but without removing
his eyes from Madeleine:--
"He was a convict."
"Ah!" said Madeleine.
"In the galleys at Toulon."
Madeleine turned pale.
Meanwhile, the cart continued to sink slowly. Father Fauchelevent
rattled in the throat, and shrieked:--
"I am strangling! My ribs are breaking! a screw! something! Ah!"
Madeleine glanced about him.
"Is there, then, no one who wishes to earn twenty louis and save
the life of this poor old man?"
No one stirred. Javert resumed:--
"I have never known but one man who could take the place of a screw,
and he was that convict."
"Ah! It is crushing me!" cried the old man.
Madeleine raised his head, met Javert's falcon eye still fixed
upon him, looked at the motionless peasants, and smiled sadly.
Then, without saying a word, he fell on his knees, and before the
crowd had even had time to utter a cry, he was underneath the vehicle.
A terrible moment of expectation and silence ensued.
They beheld Madeleine, almost flat on his stomach beneath that
terrible weight, make two vain efforts to bring his knees and his
elbows together. They shouted to him, "Father Madeleine, come out!"
Old Fauchelevent himself said to him, "Monsieur Madeleine, go away!
You see that I am fated to die! Leave me! You will get yourself
crushed also!" Madeleine made no reply.
All the spectators were panting. The wheels had continued to sink,
and it had become almost impossible for Madeleine to make his way
from under the vehicle.
Suddenly the enormous mass was seen to quiver, the cart rose slowly,
the wheels half emerged from the ruts. They heard a stifled
voice crying, "Make haste! Help!" It was Madeleine, who had just
made a final effort.
They rushed forwards. The devotion of a single man had given
force and courage to all. The cart was raised by twenty arms.
Old Fauchelevent was saved.
Madeleine rose. He was pale, though dripping with perspiration.
His clothes were torn and covered with mud. All wept. The old
man kissed his knees and called him the good God. As for him,
he bore upon his countenance an indescribable expression of happy
and celestial suffering, and he fixed his tranquil eye on Javert,
who was still staring at him.


Fauchelevent had dislocated his kneepan in his fall. Father Madeleine
had him conveyed to an infirmary which he had established for his
workmen in the factory building itself, and which was served by two
sisters of charity. On the following morning the old man found
a thousand-franc bank-note on his night-stand, with these words
in Father Madeleine's writing: "I purchase your horse and cart."
The cart was broken, and the horse was dead. Fauchelevent recovered,
but his knee remained stiff. M. Madeleine, on the recommendation
of the sisters of charity and of his priest, got the good man a place
as gardener in a female convent in the Rue Saint-Antoine in Paris.
Some time afterwards, M. Madeleine was appointed mayor. The first
time that Javert beheld M. Madeleine clothed in the scarf which gave
him authority over the town, he felt the sort of shudder which a
watch-dog might experience on smelling a wolf in his master's clothes.
From that time forth he avoided him as much as he possibly could.
When the requirements of the service imperatively demanded it,
and he could not do otherwise than meet the mayor, he addressed him
with profound respect.
This prosperity created at M. sur M. by Father Madeleine had,
besides the visible signs which we have mentioned, another symptom
which was none the less significant for not being visible.
This never deceives. When the population suffers, when work
is lacking, when there is no commerce, the tax-payer resists imposts
through penury, he exhausts and oversteps his respite, and the
state expends a great deal of money in the charges for compelling
and collection. When work is abundant, when the country is rich
and happy, the taxes are paid easily and cost the state nothing.
It may be said, that there is one infallible thermometer of the
public misery and riches,--the cost of collecting the taxes.
In the course of seven years the expense of collecting the taxes
had diminished three-fourths in the arrondissement of M. sur M.,
and this led to this arrondissement being frequently cited from all
the rest by M. de Villele, then Minister of Finance.
Such was the condition of the country when Fantine returned thither.
No one remembered her. Fortunately, the door of M. Madeleine's
factory was like the face of a friend. She presented herself there,
and was admitted to the women's workroom. The trade was entirely
new to Fantine; she could not be very skilful at it, and she
therefore earned but little by her day's work; but it was sufficient;
the problem was solved; she was earning her living.


When Fantine saw that she was making her living, she felt joyful
for a moment. To live honestly by her own labor, what mercy
from heaven! The taste for work had really returned to her.
She bought a looking-glass, took pleasure in surveying in it her youth,
her beautiful hair, her fine teeth; she forgot many things; she thought
only of Cosette and of the possible future, and was almost happy.
She hired a little room and furnished on credit on the strength
of her future work--a lingering trace of her improvident ways.
As she was not able to say that she was married she took good care,
as we have seen, not to mention her little girl.
At first, as the reader has seen, she paid the Thenardiers promptly.
As she only knew how to sign her name, she was obliged to write
through a public letter-writer.
She wrote often, and this was noticed. It began to be said in
an undertone, in the women's workroom, that Fantine "wrote letters"
and that "she had ways about her."
There is no one for spying on people's actions like those who are
not concerned in them. Why does that gentleman never come except
at nightfall? Why does Mr. So-and-So never hang his key on its
nail on Tuesday? Why does he always take the narrow streets?
Why does Madame always descend from her hackney-coach before
reaching her house? Why does she send out to purchase six sheets
of note paper, when she has a "whole stationer's shop full of it?"
etc. There exist beings who, for the sake of obtaining the key
to these enigmas, which are, moreover, of no consequence whatever
to them, spend more money, waste more time, take more trouble,
than would be required for ten good actions, and that gratuitously,
for their own pleasure, without receiving any other payment
for their curiosity than curiosity. They will follow up such
and such a man or woman for whole days; they will do sentry duty
for hours at a time on the corners of the streets, under alley-way
doors at night, in cold and rain; they will bribe errand-porters,
they will make the drivers of hackney-coaches and lackeys tipsy,
buy a waiting-maid, suborn a porter. Why? For no reason.
A pure passion for seeing, knowing, and penetrating into things.
A pure itch for talking. And often these secrets once known,
these mysteries made public, these enigmas illuminated by the
light of day, bring on catastrophies, duels, failures, the ruin
of families, and broken lives, to the great joy of those who have
"found out everything," without any interest in the matter,
and by pure instinct. A sad thing.
Certain persons are malicious solely through a necessity for talking.
Their conversation, the chat of the drawing-room, gossip of
the anteroom, is like those chimneys which consume wood rapidly;
they need a great amount of combustibles; and their combustibles
are furnished by their neighbors.
So Fantine was watched.
In addition, many a one was jealous of her golden hair and of her
white teeth.
It was remarked that in the workroom she often turned aside,
in the midst of the rest, to wipe away a tear. These were the
moments when she was thinking of her child; perhaps, also, of the
man whom she had loved.
Breaking the gloomy bonds of the past is a mournful task.
It was observed that she wrote twice a month at least, and that she
paid the carriage on the letter. They managed to obtain the address:
Monsieur, Monsieur Thenardier, inn-keeper at Montfermeil.
The public writer, a good old man who could not fill his stomach
with red wine without emptying his pocket of secrets, was made to talk
in the wine-shop. In short, it was discovered that Fantine had a child.
"She must be a pretty sort of a woman." An old gossip was found,
who made the trip to Montfermeil, talked to the Thenardiers, and said
on her return: "For my five and thirty francs I have freed my mind.
I have seen the child."
The gossip who did this thing was a gorgon named Madame Victurnien,
the guardian and door-keeper of every one's virtue.
Madame Victurnien was fifty-six, and re-enforced the mask of ugliness
with the mask of age. A quavering voice, a whimsical mind.
This old dame had once been young--astonishing fact! In her youth,
in '93, she had married a monk who had fled from his cloister
in a red cap, and passed from the Bernardines to the Jacobins.
She was dry, rough, peevish, sharp, captious, almost venomous;
all this in memory of her monk, whose widow she was, and who
had ruled over her masterfully and bent her to his will.
She was a nettle in which the rustle of the cassock was visible.
At the Restoration she had turned bigot, and that with so much energy
that the priests had forgiven her her monk. She had a small property,
which she bequeathed with much ostentation to a religious community.
She was in high favor at the episcopal palace of Arras. So this
Madame Victurnien went to Montfermeil, and returned with the remark,
"I have seen the child."
All this took time. Fantine had been at the factory for more than
a year, when, one morning, the superintendent of the workroom handed
her fifty francs from the mayor, told her that she was no longer
employed in the shop, and requested her, in the mayor's name,
to leave the neighborhood.
This was the very month when the Thenardiers, after having demanded
twelve francs instead of six, had just exacted fifteen francs
instead of twelve.
Fantine was overwhelmed. She could not lewith shame, even more than with despair, she quitted the shop,
and returned to her room. So her fault was now known to every one.
She no longer felt strong enough to say a word. She was advised to see
the mayor; she did not dare. The mayor had given her fifty francs
because he was good, and had dismissed her because he was just.
She bowed before the decision.


So the monk's widow was good for something.
But M. Madeleine had heard nothing of all this. Life is full
of just such combinations of events. M. Madeleine was in the habit
of almost never entering the women's workroom.
At the head of this room he had placed an elderly spinster,
whom the priest had provided for him, and he had full confidence
in this superintendent,--a truly respectable person, firm, equitable,
upright, full of the charity which consists in giving, but not having
in the same degree that charity which consists in understanding and
in forgiving. M. Madeleine relied wholly on her. The best men are
often obliged to delegate their authority. It was with this full power,
and the conviction that she was doing right, that the superintendent
had instituted the suit, judged, condemned, and executed Fantine.
As regards the fifty francs, she had given them from a fund
which M. Madeleine had intrusted to her for charitable purposes,
and for giving assistance to the workwomen, and of which she
rendered no account.
Fantine tried to obtain a situation as a servant in the neighborhood;
she went from house to house. No one would have her. She could
not leave town. The second-hand dealer, to whom she was in debt
for her furniture--and what furniture!--said to her, "If you leave,
I will have you arrested as a thief." The householder, whom she
owed for her rent, said to her, "You are young and pretty;
you can pay." She divided the fifty francs between the landlord
and the furniture-dealer, returned to the latter three-quarters
of his goods, kept only necessaries, and found herself without work,
without a trade, with nothing but her bed, and still about fifty
francs in debt.
She began to make coarse shirts for soldiers of the garrison,
and earned twelve sous a day. Her daughter cost her ten. It was
at this point that she began to pay the Thenardiers irregularly.
However, the old woman who lighted her candle for her when she
returned at night, taught her the art of living in misery.
Back of living on little, there is the living on nothing.
These are the two chambers; the first is dark, the second is black.
Fantine learned how to live without fire entirely in the winter;
how to give up a bird which eats a half a farthing's worth of
millet every two days; how to make a coverlet of one's petticoat,
and a petticoat of one's coverlet; how to save one's candle,
by taking one's meals by the light of the opposite window.
No one knows all that certain feeble creatures, who have grown old
in privation and honesty, can get out of a sou. It ends by being
a talent. Fantine acquired this sublime talent, and regained a
little courage.
At this epoch she said to a neighbor, "Bah! I say to myself, by only
sleeping five hours, and working all the rest of the time at my sewing,
I shall always manage to nearly earn my bread. And, then, when one
is sad, one eats less. Well, sufferings, uneasiness, a little
bread on one hand, trouble on the other,--all this will support me."
It would have been a great happiness to have her little girl with her
in this distress. She thought of having her come. But what then!
Make her share her own destitution! And then, she was in debt
to the Thenardiers! How could she pay them? And the journey!
How pay for that?
The old woman who had given her lessons in what may be called
the life of indigence, was a sainted spinster named Marguerite,
who was pious with a true piety, poor and charitable towards the poor,
and even towards the rich, knowing how to write just sufficiently
to sign herself Marguerite, and believing in God, which is science.
There are many such virtuous people in this lower world; some day
they will be in the world above. This life has a morrow.
At first, Fantine had been so ashamed that she had not dared to go out.
When she was in the street, she divined that people turned round
behind her, and pointed at her; every one stared at her and no one
greeted her; the cold and bitter scorn of the passers-by penetrated
her very flesh and soul like a north wind.
It seems as though an unfortunate woman were utterly bare beneath
the sarcasm and the curiosity of all in small towns. In Paris,
at least, no one knows you, and this obscurity is a garment.
Oh! how she would have liked to betake herself to Paris! Impossible!
She was obliged to accustom herself to disrepute, as she had accustomed
herself to indigence. Gradually she decided on her course.
At the expiration of two or three months she shook off her shame,
and began to go about as though there were nothing the matter.
"It is all the same to me," she said.
She went and came, bearing her head well up, with a bitter smile,
and was conscious that she was becoming brazen-faced.
Madame Victurnien sometimes saw her passing, from her window,
noticed the distress of "that creature" who, "thanks to her,"
had been "put back in her proper place," and congratulated herself.
The happiness of the evil-minded is black.
Excess of toil wore out Fantine, and the little dry cough which
troubled her increased. She sometimes said to her neighbor,
Marguerite, "Just feel how hot my hands are!"
Nevertheless, when she combed her beautiful hair in the morning
with an old broken comb, and it flowed about her like floss silk,
she experienced a moment of happy coquetry.


She had been dismissed towards the end of the winter; the summer passed,
but winter came again. Short days, less work. Winter: no warmth,
no light, no noonday, the evening joining on to the morning,
fogs, twilight; the window is gray; it is impossible to see
clearly at it. The sky is but a vent-hole. The whole day is
a cavern. The sun has the air of a beggar. A frightful season!
Winter changes the water of heaven and the heart of man into a stone.
Her creditors harrassed her.
Fantine earned too little. Her debts had increased. The Thenardiers,
who were not promptly paid, wrote to her constantly letters whose
contents drove her to despair, and whose carriage ruined her.
One day they wrote to her that her little Cosette was entirely
naked in that cold weather, that she needed a woollen skirt,
and that her mother must send at least ten francs for this.
She received the letter, and crushed it in her hands all day long.
That evening she went into a barber's shop at the corner of the street,
and pulled out her comb. Her admirable golden hair fell to
her knees.
"What splendid hair!" exclaimed the barber.
"How much will you give me for it?" said she.
"Ten francs."
"Cut it off."
She purchased a knitted petticoat and sent it to the Thenardiers.
This petticoat made the Thenardiers furious. It was the money that
they wanted. They gave the petticoat to Eponine. The poor Lark
continued to shiver.
Fantine thought: "My child is no longer cold. I have clothed
her with my hair." She put on little round caps which concealed
her shorn head, and in which she was still pretty.
Dark thoughts held possession of Fantine's heart.
When she saw that she could no longer dress her hair, she began
to hate every one about her. She had long shared the universal
veneration for Father Madeleine; yet, by dint of repeating to herself
that it was he who had discharged her, that he was the cause
of her unhappiness, she came to hate him also, and most of all.
When she passed the factory in working hours, when the workpeople
were at the door, she affected to laugh and sing.
An old workwoman who once saw her laughing and singing in this
fashion said, "There's a girl who will come to a bad end.
She took a lover, the first who offered, a man whom she did not love,
out of bravado and with rage in her heart. He was a miserable scamp,
a sort of mendicant musician, a lazy beggar, who beat her, and who
abandoned her as she had taken him, in disgust.
She adored her child.
The lower she descended, the darker everything grew about her,
the more radiant shone that little angel at the bottom of her heart.
She said, "When I get rich, I will have my Cosette with me;"
and she laughed. Her cough did not leave her, and she had sweats on
her back.
One day she received from the Thenardiers a letter couched in the
following terms: "Cosette is ill with a malady which is going
the rounds of the neighborhood. A miliary fever, they call it.
Expensive drugs are required. This is ruining us, and we can no
longer pay for them. If you do not send us forty francs before
the week is out, the little one will be dead."
She burst out laughing, and said to her old neighbor: "Ah! they
are good! Forty francs! the idea! That makes two napoleons!
Where do they think I am to get them? These peasants are stupid, truly."
Nevertheless she went to a dormer window in the staircase and read
the letter once more. Then she descended the stairs and emerged,
running and leaping and still laughing.
Some one met her and said to her, "What makes you so gay?"
She replied: "A fine piece of stupidity that some country people
have written to me. They demand forty francs of me. So much for you,
you peasants!"
As she crossed the square, she saw a great many people collected
around a carriage of eccentric shape, upon the top of which stood
a man dressed in red, who was holding forth. He was a quack
dentist on his rounds, who was offering to the public full sets
of teeth, opiates, powders and elixirs.
Fantine mingled in the group, and began to laugh with the rest
at the harangue, which contained slang for the populace and jargon
for respectable people. The tooth-puller espied the lovely,
laughing girl, and suddenly exclaimed: "You have beautiful teeth,
you girl there, who are laughing; if you want to sell me your palettes,
I will give you a gold napoleon apiece for them."
"What are my palettes?" asked Fantine.
"The palettes," replied the dental professor, "are the front teeth,
the two upper ones."
"How horrible!" exclaimed Fantine.
"Two napoleons!" grumbled a toothless old woman who was present.
"Here's a lucky girl!"
Fantine fled and stopped her ears that she might not hear the hoarse
voice of the man shouting to her: "Reflect, my beauty! two napoleons;
they may prove of service. If your heart bids you, come this
evening to the inn of the Tillac d'Argent; you will find me there."
Fantine returned home. She was furious, and related the occurrence
to her good neighbor Marguerite: "Can you understand such a thing?
Is he not an abominable man? How can they allow such people to go about
the country! Pull out my two front teeth! Why, I should be horrible!
My hair will grow again, but my teeth! Ah! what a monster of a man!
I should prefer to throw myself head first on the pavement from the
fifth story! He told me that he should be at the Tillac d'Argent
this evening."
"And what did he offer?" asked Marguerite.
"Two napoleons."
"That makes forty francs."
"Yes," said Fantine; "that makes forty francs."
She remained thoughtful, and began her work. At the expiration
of a quarter of an hour she left her sewing and went to read
the Thenardiers' letter once more on the staircase.
On her return, she said to Marguerite, who was at work beside her:--
"What is a miliary fever? Do you know?"
"Yes," answered the old spinster; "it is a disease."
"Does it require many drugs?"
"Oh! terrible drugs."
"How does one get it?"
"It is a malady that one gets without knowing how."
"Then it attacks children?"
"Children in particular."
"Do people die of it?"
"They may," said Marguerite.
Fantine left the room and went to read her letter once more on
the staircase.
That evening she went out, and was seen to turn her steps in the
direction of the Rue de Paris, where the inns are situated.
The next morning, when Marguerite entered Fantine's room
before daylight,--for they always worked together, and in this
manner used only one candle for the two,--she found Fantine
seated on her bed, pale and frozen. She had not lain down.
Her cap had fallen on her knees. Her candle had burned all night,
and was almost entirely consumed. Marguerite halted on the threshold,
petrified at this tremendous wastefulness, and exclaimed:--
"Lord! the candle is all burned out! Something has happened."
Then she looked at Fantine, who turned toward her her head bereft
of its hair.
Fantine had grown ten years older since the preceding night.
"Jesus!" said Marguerite, "what is the matter with you, Fantine?"
"Nothing," replied Fantine. "Quite the contrary. My child will
not die of that frightful malady, for lack of succor. I am content."
So saying, she pointed out to the spinster two napoleons which were
glittering on the table.
"Ah! Jesus God!" cried Marguerite. "Why, it is a fortune!
Where did you get those louis d'or?"
"I got them," replied Fantine.
At the same time she smiled. The candle illuminated her countenance.
It was a bloody smile. A reddish saliva soiled the corners of her lips,
and she had a black hole in her mouth.
The two teeth had been extracted.
She sent the forty francs to Montfermeil.
After all it was a ruse of the Thenardiers to obtain money.
Cosette was not ill.
Fantine threw her mirror out of the window. She had long since
quitted her cell on the second floor for an attic with only a latch
to fasten it, next the roof; one of those attics whose extremity forms
an angle with the floor, and knocks you on the head every instant.
The poor occupant can reach the end of his chamber as he can
the end of his destiny, only by bending over more and more.
She had no longer a bed; a rag which she called her coverlet,
a mattress on the floor, and a seatless chair still remained.
A little rosebush which she had, had dried up, forgotten, in one corner.
In the other corner was a butter-pot to hold water, which froze
in winter, and in which the various levels of the water remained
long marked by these circles of ice. She had lost her shame;
she lost her coquetry. A final sign. She went out, with dirty caps.
Whether from lack of time or from indifference, she no longer mended
her linen. As the heels wore out, she dragged her stockings down
into her shoes. This was evident from the perpendicular wrinkles.
She patched her bodice, which was old and worn out, with scraps
of calico which tore at the slightest movement. The people
to whom she was indebted made "scenes" and gave her no peace.
She found them in the street, she found them again on her staircase.
She passed many a night weeping and thinking. Her eyes were
very bright, and she felt a steady pain in her shoulder towards
the top of the left shoulder-blade. She coughed a great deal.
She deeply hated Father Madeleine, but made no complaint. She sewed
seventeen hours a day; but a contractor for the work of prisons,
who made the prisoners work at a discount, suddenly made prices fall,
which reduced the daily earnings of working-women to nine sous.
Seventeen hours of toil, and nine sous a day! Her creditors were more
pitiless than ever. The second-hand dealer, who had taken back nearly
all his furniture, said to her incessantly, "When will you pay me,
you hussy?" What did they want of her, good God! She felt that she
was being hunted, and something of the wild beast developed in her.
About the same time, Thenardier wrote to her that he had waited
with decidedly too much amiability and that he must have a hundred
francs at once; otherwise he would turn little Cosette out of doors,
convalescent as she was from her heavy illness, into the cold
and the streets, and that she might do what she liked with herself,
and die if she chose. "A hundred francsom misery.
From hunger, cold, isolation, destitution. A dolorous bargain.
A soul for a morsel of bread. Misery offers; society accepts.
The sacred law of Jesus Christ governs our civilization, but it
does not, as yet, permeate it; it is said that slavery has disappeared
from European civilization. This is a mistake. It still exists;
but it weighs only upon the woman, and it is called prostitution.
It weighs upon the woman, that is to say, upon grace, weakness,
beauty, maternity. This is not one of the least of man's disgraces.
At the point in this melancholy drama which we have now reached,
nothing is left to Fantine of that which she had formerly been.
She has become marble in becoming mire. Whoever touches her feels cold.
She passes; she endures you; she ignores you; she is the severe
and dishonored figure. Life and the social order have said their
last word for her. All has happened to her that will happen to her.
She has felt everything, borne everything, experienced everything,
suffered everything, lost everything, mourned everything.
She is resigned, with that resignation which resembles indifference,
as death resembles sleep. She no longer avoids anything.
Let all the clouds fall upon her, and all the ocean sweep over her!
What matters it to her? She is a sponge that is soaked.
At least, she believes it to be so; but it is an error to imagine
that fate can be exhausted, and that one has reached the bottom
of anything whatever.
Alas! What are all these fates, driven on pell-mell? Whither
are they going? Why are they thus?
He who knows that sees the whole of the shadow.
He is alone. His name is God.


There is in all small towns, and there was at M. sur M. in particular,
a class of young men who nibble away an income of fifteen hundred
francs with the same air with which their prototypes devour
two hundred thousand francs a year in Paris. These are beings
of the great neuter species: impotent men, parasites, cyphers,
who have a little land, a little folly, a little wit; who would
be rustics in a drawing-room, and who think themselves gentlemen
in the dram-shop; who say, "My fields, my peasants, my woods";
who hiss actresses at the theatre to prove that they are persons
of taste; quarrel with the officers of the garrison to prove that
they are men of war; hunt, smoke, yawn, drink, smell of tobacco,
play billiards, stare at travellers as they descend from the diligence,
live at the cafe, dine at the inn, have a dog which eats the bones
under the table, and a mistress who eats the dishes on the table;
who stick at a sou, exaggerate the fashions, admire tragedy,
despise women, wear out their old boots, copy London through Paris,
and Paris through the medium of Pont-A-Mousson, grow old as dullards,
never work, serve no use, and do no great harm.
M. Felix Tholomyes, had he remained in his own province and never
beheld Paris, would have been one of these men.
If they were richer, one would say, "They are dandies;" if they
were poorer, one would say, "They are idlers." They are simply
men without employment. Among these unemployed there are bores,
the bored, dreamers, and some knaves.
At that period a dandy was composed of a tall collar, a big cravat,
a watch with trinkets, three vests of different colors, worn one
on top of the other--the red and blue inside; of a short-waisted
olive coat, with a codfish tail, a double row of silver buttons
set close to each other and running up to the shoulder; and a pair
of trousers of a lighter shade of olive, ornamented on the two
seams with an indefinite, but always uneven, number of lines,
varying from one to eleven--a limit which was never exceeded.
Add to this, high shoes with little irons on the heels, a tall
hat with a narrow brim, hair worn in a tuft, an enormous cane,
and conversation set off by puns of Potier. Over all, spurs and
a mustache. At that epoch mustaches indicated the bourgeois,
and spurs the pedestrian.
The provincial dandy wore the longest of spurs and the fiercest
of mustaches.
It was the period of the conflict of the republics of South
America with the King of Spain, of Bolivar against Morillo.
Narrow-brimmed hats were royalist, and were called morillos;
liberals wore hats with wide brims, which were called bolivars.
Eight or ten months, then, after that which is related in the
preceding pages, towards the first of January, 1823, on a snowy evening,
one of these dandies, one of these unemployed, a "right thinker,"
for he wore a morillo, and was, moreover, warmly enveloped in one
of those large cloaks which completed the fashionable costume
in cold weather, was amusing himself by tormenting a creature
who was prowling about in a ball-dress, with neck uncovered and
flowers in her hair, in front of the officers' cafe. This dandy
was smoking, for he was decidedly fashionable.
Each time that the woman passed in front of him, he bestowed on her,
together with a puff from his cigar, some apostrophe which he
considered witty and mirthful, such as, "How ugly you are!--
Will you get out of my sight?--You have no teeth!" etc., etc.
This gentleman was known as M. Bamatabois. The woman, a melancholy,
decorated spectre which went and came through the snow,
made him no reply, did not even glance at him, and nevertheless
continued her promenade in silence, and with a sombre regularity,
which brought her every five minutes within reach of this sarcasm,
like the condemned soldier who returns under the rods. The small
effect which he produced no doubt piqued the lounger; and taking
advantage of a moment when her back was turned, he crept up behind
her with the gait of a wolf, and stifling his laugh, bent down,
picked up a handful of snow from the pavement, and thrust it abruptly
into her back, between her bare shoulders. The woman uttered a roar,
whirled round, gave a leap like a panther, and hurled herself upon
the man, burying her nails in his face, with the most frightful words
which could fall from the guard-room into the gutter. These insults,
poured forth in a voice roughened by brandy, did, indeed, proceed in
hideous wise from a mouth which lacked its two front teeth.
It was Fantine.
At the noise thus produced, the officers ran out in throngs from
the cafe, passers-by collected, and a large and merry circle,
hooting and applauding, was formed around this whirlwind composed
of two beings, whom there was some difficulty in recognizing
as a man and a woman: the man struggling, his hat on the ground;
the woman striking out with feet and fists, bareheaded, howling,
minus hair and teeth, livid with wrath, horrible.
Suddenly a man of lofty stature emerged vivaciously from the crowd,
seized the woman by her satin bodice, which was covered with mud,
and said to her, "Follow me!"
The woman raised her head; her furious voice suddenly died away.
Her eyes were glassy; she turned pale instead of livid, and she
trembled with a quiver of terror. She had recognized Javert.
The dandy took advantage of the incident to make his escape.


Javert thrust aside the spectators, broke the circle, and set out
with long strides towards the police station, which is situated at
the extremity of the square, dragging the wretched woman after him.
She yielded mechanically. Neither he nor she uttered a word.
The cloud of spectators followed, jesting, in a paroxysm of delight.
Supreme misery an occasion for obscenity.
On arriving at the police station, which was a low room, warmed by
a stove, with a glazed and grated door opening on the street, and guarded
by a detachment, Javert opened the door, entered with Fantine, and shut
the door behind him, to the great disappointment of the curious,
who raised themselves on tiptoe, and craned their necks in front
of the thick glass of the station-house, in their effort to see.
Curiosity is a sort of gluttony. To see is to devour.
On entering, Fantine fell down in a corner, motionless and mute,
crouching down like a terrified dog.
The sergeant of the guard brought a lighted candle to the table.
Javert seated himself, drew a sheet of stamped paper from his pocket,
and began to write.
This class of women is consigned by our laws entirely to the discretion
of the police. The latter do what they please, punish them,
as seems good to them, and confiscate at their will those two
sorry things which they entitle their industry and their liberty.
Javert was impassive; his grave face betrayed no emotion whatever.
Nevertheless, he was seriously and deeply preoccupied. It was
one of those moments when he was exercising without control,
but subject to all the scruples of a severe conscience, his redoubtable
discretionary power. At that moment he was conscious that his
police agent's stool was a tribunal. He was entering judgment.
He judged and condemned. He summoned all the ideas which could
possibly exist in his mind, around the great thing which he was doing.
The more he examined the deed of this woman, the more shocked he felt.
It was evident that he had just witnessed the commission of a crime.
He had just beheld, yonder, in the street, society, in the person
of a freeholder and an elector, insulted and attacked by a creature
who was outside all pales. A prostitute had made an attempt on
the life of a citizen. He had seen that, he, Javert. He wrote
in silence.
When he had finished he signed the paper, folded it, and said
to the sergeant of the guard, as he handed it to him, "Take three
men and conduct this creature to jail."
Then, turning to Fantine, "You are to have six months of it."
The unhappy woman shuddered.
"Six months! six months of prison!" she exclaimed. "Six months
in which to earn seven sous a day! But what will become of Cosette?
My daughter! my daughter! But I still owe the Thenardiers over a
hundred francs; do you know that, Monsieur Inspector?"
She dragged herself across the damp floor, among the muddy boots
of all those men, without rising, with clasped hands, and taking
great strides on her knees.
"Monsieur Javert," said she, "I beseech your mercy. I assure
you that I was not in the wrong. If you had seen the beginning,
you would have seen. I swear to you by the good God that I was
not to blame! That gentleman, the bourgeois, whom I do not know,
put snow in my back. Has any one the right to put snow down our backs
when we are walking along peaceably, and doing no harm to any one?
I am rather ill, as you see. And then, he had been saying impertinent
things to me for a long time: `You are ugly! you have no teeth!'
I know well that I have no longer those teeth. I did nothing;
I said to myself, `The gentleman is amusing himself.' I was
honest with him; I did not speak to him. It was at that moment
that he put the snow down my back. Monsieur Javert, good Monsieur
Inspector! is there not some person here who saw it and can tell
you that this is quite true? Perhaps I did wrong to get angry.
You know that one is not master of one's self at the first moment.
One gives way to vivacity; and then, when some one puts something
cold down your back just when you are not expecting it! I did wrong
to spoil that gentleman's hat. Why did he go away? I would ask
his pardon. Oh, my God! It makes no difference to me whether I ask
his pardon. Do me the favor to-day, for this once, Monsieur Javert.
Hold! you do not know that in prison one can earn only seven sous a day;
it is not the government's fault, but seven sous is one's earnings;
and just fancy, I must pay one hundred francs, or my little girl
will be sent to me. Oh, my God! I cannot have her with me.
What I do is so vile! Oh, my Cosette! Oh, my little angel of the Holy
Virgin! what will become of her, poor creature? I will tell you:
it is the Thenardiers, inn-keepers, peasants; and such people
are unreasonable. They want money. Don't put me in prison!
You see, there is a little girl who will be turned out into the street
to get along as best she may, in the very heart of the winter;
and you must have pity on such a being, my good Monsieur Javert.
If she were older, she might earn her living; but it cannot be done
at that age. I am not a bad woman at bottom. It is not cowardliness
and gluttony that have made me what I am. If I have drunk brandy,
it was out of misery. I do not love it; but it benumbs the senses.
When I was happy, it was only necessary to glance into my closets,
and it would have been evident that I was not a coquettish and
untidy woman. I had linen, a great deal of linen. Have pity on me,
Monsieur Javert!"
She spoke thus, rent in twain, shaken with sobs, blinded with tears,
her neck bare, wringing her hands, and coughing with a dry,
short cough, stammering softly with a voice of agony. Great sorrow
is a divine and terrible ray, which transfigures the unhappy.
At that moment Fantine had become beautiful once more. From time
to time she paused, and tenderly kissed the police agent's coat.
She would have softened a heart of granite; but a heart of wood cannot
be softened.
"Come!" said Javert, "I have heard you out. Have you entirely finished?
You will get six months. Now march! The Eternal Father in person
could do nothing more."
At these solemn words, "the Eternal Father in person could
do nothing more," she understood that her fate was sealed.
She sank down, murmuring, "Mercy!"
Javert turned his back.
The soldiers seized her by the arms.
A few moments earlier a man had entered, but no one had paid
any heed to him. He shut the door, leaned his back against it,
and listened to Fantine's despairing supplications.
At the instant when the soldiers laid their hands upon the
unfortunate woman, who would not rise, he emerged from the shadow,
and said:--
"One moment, if you please."
Javert raised his eyes and recognized M. Madeleine. He removed
his hat, and, saluting him with a sort of aggrieved awkwardness:--
"Excuse me, Mr. Mayor--"
The words "Mr. Mayor" produced a curious effect upon Fantine.
She rose to her feet with one bound, like a spectre springing from
the earth, thrust aside the soldiers with both arms, walked straight
up to M. Madeleine before any one could prevent her, and gazing
intently at him, with a bewildered air, she cried:--
"Ah! so it is you who are M. le Maire!"
Then she burst into a laugh, and spit in his face.
M. Madeleine wiped his face, and said:--
"Inspector Javert, set this woman at liberty."
Javert felt that he was on the verge of going mad. He experienced
at that moment, blow upon blow and almost simultaneously, the most
violent emotions which he had ever undergone in all his life.
To see a woman of the town spit in the mayor's face was a
thing so monstrous that, in his most daring flights of fancy,
he would have regarded it as a sacrilege to believe it possible.
On the other hand, at the very bottom of his thought, he made
a hideous comparison as to what this woman was, and as to what this
mayor might be; and then he, with horror, caught a glimpse of I
know not what simple explanation of this prodigious attack.
But when he beheld that mayor, that magistrate, calmly wipe his
face and say, "Set this woman at liberty," he underwent a sort
of intoxication of amazement; thought and word failed him equally;
the sum total of possible astonishment had been exceeded in his case.
He remained mute.
The words had produced no less strange an effect on Fantine.
She raised her bare arm, and clung to the damper of the stove,
like a person who is reeling. Nevertheless, she glanced about her,
and began to speak in a low voice, as though talking to herself:--
"At liberty! I am to be allowed to go! I am not to go to prison
for six months! Who said that? It is not possible that any one
could have said that. I did not hear aright. It cannot have been
that monster of a mayor! Was it you, my good Monsieur Javert,
who said that I was to be set free? Oh, see here! I will tell
you about it, and rl who is doing her work honestly!
Then I could no longer earn enough, and all this misery followed.
In the first place, there is one improvement which these gentlemen
of the police ought to make, and that is, to prevent prison
contractors from wronging poor people. I will explain it to you,
you see: you are earning twelve sous at shirt-making, the
price falls to nine sous; and it is not enough to live on.
Then one has to become whatever one can. As for me, I had my
little Cosette, and I was actually forced to become a bad woman.
Now you understand how it is that that blackguard of a mayor caused
all the mischief. After that I stamped on that gentleman's hat
in front of the officers' cafe; but he had spoiled my whole dress
with snow. We women have but one silk dress for evening wear.
You see that I did not do wrong deliberately--truly, Monsieur Javert;
and everywhere I behold women who are far more wicked than I,
and who are much happier. O Monsieur Javert! it was you who gave
orders that I am to be set free, was it not? Make inquiries,
speak to my landlord; I am paying my rent now; they will tell
you that I am perfectly honest. Ah! my God! I beg your pardon;
I have unintentionally touched the damper of the stove, and it has made
it smoke."
M. Madeleine listened to her with profound attention. While she
was speaking, he fumbled in his waistcoat, drew out his purse
and opened it. It was empty. He put it back in his pocket.
He said to Fantine, "How much did you say that you owed?"
Fantine, who was looking at Javert only, turned towards him:--
"Was I speaking to you?"
Then, addressing the soldiers:--
"Say, you fellows, did you see how I spit in his face?
Ah! you old wretch of a mayor, you came here to frighten me,
but I'm not afraid of you. I am afraid of Monsieur Javert.
I am afraid of my good Monsieur Javert!"
So saying, she turned to the inspector again:--
"And yet, you see, Mr. Inspector, it is necessary to be just.
I understand that you are just, Mr. Inspector; in fact, it is
perfectly simple: a man amuses himself by putting snow down a
woman's back, and that makes the officers laugh; one must divert
themselves in some way; and we--well, we are here for them to amuse
themselves with, of course! And then, you, you come; you are
certainly obliged to preserve order, you lead off the woman who is
in the wrong; but on reflection, since you are a good man, you say
that I am to be set at liberty; it is for the sake of the little one,
for six months in prison would prevent my supporting my child.
`Only, don't do it again, you hussy!' Oh! I won't do it again,
Monsieur Javert! They may do whatever they please to me now;
I will not stir. But to-day, you see, I cried because it hurt me.
I was not expecting that snow from the gentleman at all; and then
as I told you, I am not well; I have a cough; I seem to have a
burning ball in my stomach, and the doctor tells me, `Take care
of yourself.' Here, feel, give me your hand; don't be afraid--
it is here."
She no longer wept, her voice was caressing; she placed Javert's
coarse hand on her delicate, white throat and looked smilingly
at him.
All at once she rapidly adjusted her disordered garments, dropped the
folds of her skirt, which had been pushed up as she dragged herself along,
almost to the height of her knee, and stepped towards the door,
saying to the soldiers in a low voice, and with a friendly nod:--
"Children, Monsieur l'Inspecteur has said that I am to be released,
and I am going."
She laid her hand on the latch of the door. One step more and she
would be in the street.
Javert up to that moment had remained erect, motionless, with his
eyes fixed on the ground, cast athwart this scene like some
displaced statue, which is waiting to be put away somewhere.
The sound of the latch roused him. He raised his head with an
expression of sovereign authority, an expression all the more
alarming in proportion as the authority rests on a low level,
ferocious in the wild beast, atrocious in the man of no estate.
"Sergeant!" he cried, "don't you see that that jade is walking off!
Who bade you let her go?"
"I," said Madeleine.
Fantine trembled at the sound of Javert's voice, and let go of the
latch as a thief relinquishes the article which he has stolen.
At the sound of Madeleine's voice she turned around, and from that moment
forth she uttered no word, nor dared so much as to breathe freely,
but her glance strayed from Madeleine to Javert, and from Javert
to Madeleine in turn, according to which was speaking.
It was evident that Javert must have been exasperated beyond
measure before he would permit himself to apostrophize the sergeant
as he had done, after the mayor's suggestion that Fantine should
be set at liberty. Had he reached the point of forgetting the
mayor's presence? Had he finally declared to himself that it was
impossible that any "authority" should have given such an order,
and that the mayor must certainly have said one thing by mistake
for another, without intending it? Or, in view of the enormities
of which he had been a witness for the past two hours, did he say
to himself, that it was necessary to recur to supreme resolutions,
that it was indispensable that the small should be made great,
that the police spy should transform himself into a magistrate,
that the policeman should become a dispenser of justice, and that,
in this prodigious extremity, order, law, morality, government,
society in its entirety, was personified in him, Javert?
However that may be, when M. Madeleine uttered that word, _I_, as we
have just heard, Police Inspector Javert was seen to turn toward
the mayor, pale, cold, with blue lips, and a look of despair,
his whole body agitated by an imperceptible quiver and an unprecedented
occurrence, and say to him, with downcast eyes but a firm voice:--
"Mr. Mayor, that cannot be."
"Why not?" said M. Madeleine.
"This miserable woman has insulted a citizen."
"Inspector Javert," replied the mayor, in a calm and conciliating
tone, "listen. You are an honest man, and I feel no hesitation
in explaining matters to you. Here is the true state of the case:
I was passing through the square just as you were leading this
woman away; there were still groups of people standing about,
and I made inquiries and learned everything; it was the townsman
who was in the wrong and who should have been arrested by properly
conducted police."
Javert retorted:--
"This wretch has just insulted Monsieur le Maire."
"That concerns me," said M. Madeleine. "My own insult belongs to me,
I think. I can do what I please about it."
"I beg Monsieur le Maire's pardon. The insult is not to him
but to the law."
"Inspector Javert," replied M. Madeleine, "the highest law
is conscience. I have heard this woman; I know what I am doing."
"And I, Mr. Mayor, do not know what I see."
"Then content yourself with obeying."
"I am obeying my duty. My duty demands that this woman shall serve
six months in prison."
M. Madeleine replied gently:--
"Heed this well; she will not serve a single day."
At this decisive word, Javert ventured to fix a searching look
on the mayor and to say, but in a tone of voice that was still
profoundly respectful:--
"I am sorry to oppose Monsieur le Maire; it is for the first time
in my life, but he will permit me to remark that I am within the
bounds of my authority. I confine myself, since Monsieur le Maire
desires it, to the question of the gentleman. I was present.
This woman flung herself on Monsieur Bamatabnois, who is an
elector and the proprietor of that handsome house with a balcony,
which forms the corner of the esplanade, three stories high and
entirely of cut stone. Such things as there are in the world!
In any case, Monsieur le Maire, this is a question of police
regulations in the streets, and concerns me, and I shall detain
this woman Fantine."
Then M. Madeleine folded his arms, and said in a severe voice
which no one in the town had heard hitherto:--
"The matter to which you refer is one connected with the
municipal police. According to the terms of articles nine,
eleven, fifteen, and sixty-six of the code of criminal examination,
I am the judge. I order that this woman shall be set at liberty."
Javert ventured to make a final effort.
"But, Mr. Mayor--"
"I refer you to article eighty-one of the law of the 13th
of December, 1799, in regard to arbitrary detention."
"Monsieur le Maire, permit me--"
"Not another word."
"Leave the room," said M. Madeleine.
Javert received the blow erect, full in the face, in his breast,
like a Russian soldier. He bowed to the very earth before the mayor
and left the room.
Fantine stood aside from the door and stared at him in amazement
as he passed.
Nevertheless, she also was the prey to a strange confusion. She had
just seen herself a subject of dispute between two opposing powers.
She had seen two men who held in their hands her liberty, her life,
her soul, her child, in combat before her very eyes; one of these men
was drawing her towards darkness, the other was leading her back
towards the light. In this conflict, viewed through the exaggerations
of terror, these two men had appeared to her like two giants;
the one spoke like her demon, the other like her good angel.
The angel had conquered the demon, and, strange to say, that which
made her shudder from head to foot was the fact that this angel,
this liberator, was the very man whom she abhorred, that mayor whom she
had so long regarded as the author of all her woes, that Madeleine!
And at the very moment when she had insulted him in so hideous
a fashion, he had saved her! Had she, then, been mistaken?
Must she change her whole soul? She did not know; she trembled.
She listened in bewilderment, she looked on in affright, and at every
word uttered by M. Madeleine she felt the frightful shades of hatred
crumble and melt within her, and something warm and ineffable,
indescribable, which was both joy, confidence and love, dawn in
her heart.
When Javert had taken his departure, M. Madeleine turned to her
and said to her in a deliberate voice, like a serious man who does
not wish to weep and who finds some difficulty in speaking:--
"I have heard you. I knew nothing about what you have mentioned.
I believe that it is true, and I feel that it is true. I was even
ignorant of the fact that you had left my shop. Why did you not apply
to me? But here; I will pay your debts, I will send for your child,
or you shall go to her. You shall live here, in Paris, or where
you please. I undertake the care of your child and yourself. You shall
not work any longer if you do not like. I will give all the money
you require. You shall be honest and happy once more. And listen!
I declare to you that if all is as you say,--and I do not doubt it,--
you have never ceased to be virtuous and holy in the sight of God.
Oh! poor woman."
This was more than Fantine could bear. To have Cosette! To leave this
life of infamy. To live free, rich, happy, respectable with Cosette;
to see all these realities of paradise blossom of a sudden in the
midst of her misery. She stared stupidly at this man who was talking
to her, and could only give vent to two or three sobs, "Oh! Oh! Oh!"
Her limbs gave way beneath her, she knelt in front of M. Madeleine,
and before he could prevent her he felt her grasp his hand and press
her lips to it.
Then she fainted.



M. Madeleine had Fantine removed to that infirmary which he had
established in his own house. He confided her to the sisters,
who put her to bed. A burning fever had come on. She passed a part
of the night in delirium and raving. At length, however, she fell asleep.
On the morrow, towards midday, Fantine awoke. She heard some one
breathing close to her bed; she drew aside the curtain and saw
M. Madeleine standing there and looking at something over her head.
His gaze was full of pity, anguish, and supplication. She followed
its direction, and saw that it was fixed on a crucifix which was
nailed to the wall.
Thenceforth, M. Madeleine was transfigured in Fantine's eyes. He seemed
to her to be clothed in light. He was absorbed in a sort of prayer.
She gazed at him for a long time without daring to interrupt him.
At last she said timidly:--
"What are you doing?"
M. Madeleine had been there for an hour. He had been waiting
for Fantine to awake. He took her hand, felt of her pulse,
and replied:--
"How do you feel?"
"Well, I have slept," she replied; "I think that I am better,
It is nothing."
He answered, responding to the first question which she had put
to him as though he had just heard it:--
"I was praying to the martyr there on high."
And he added in his own mind, "For the martyr here below."
M. Madeleine had passed the night and the
morning in making inquiries. He knew all now.
He knew Fantine's history in all its heart-rending details. He went on:--
"You have suffered much, poor mother. Oh! do not complain; you now
have the dowry of the elect. It is thus that men are transformed
into angels. It is not their fault they do not know how to go to
work otherwise. You see this hell from which you have just emerged
is the first form of heaven. It was necessary to begin there."
He sighed deeply. But she smiled on him with that sublime smile
in which two teeth were lacking.
That same night, Javert wrote a letter. The next morning be posted
it himself at the office of M. sur M. It was addressed to Paris,
and the superscription ran: To Monsieur Chabouillet, Secretary of
Monsieur le Prefet of Police. As the affair in the station-house
had been bruited about, the post-mistress and some other persons
who saw the letter before it was sent off, and who recognized
Javert's handwriting on the cover, thought that he was sending
in his resignation.
M.Madeleine made haste to write to the Thenardiers. Fantine owed them
one hundred and twenty francs. He sent them three hundred francs,
telling them to pay themselves from that sum, and to fetch the child
instantly to M. sur M., where her sick mother required her presence.
This dazzled Thenardier. "The devil!" said the man to his wife;
"don't let's allow the child to go. This lark is going to turn
into a milch cow. I see through it. Some ninny has taken a fancy
to the mother."
He replied with a very well drawn-up bill for five hundred and some
odd francs. In this memorandum two indisputable items figured up
over three hundred francs,--one for the doctor, the other for the
apothecary who had attended and physicked Eponine and Azelma through two
long illnesses. Cosette, as we have already said, had not been ill.
It was only a question of a trifling substitution of names.
At the foot of the memorandum Thenardier wrote, Received on account,
three hundred francs.
M. Madeleine immediately sent three hundred francs more, and wrote,
"Make haste to bring Cosette."
"Christi!" said Thenardier, "let's not give up the child."
In the meantime, Fantine did not recover. She still remained
in the infirmary.
The sisters had at first only received and nursed "that woman"
with repugnance. Those who have seen the bas-reliefs of Rheims
will recall the inflation of the lower lip of the wise virgins
as they survey the foolish virgins. The ancient scorn of the
vestals for the ambubajae is one of the most profound instincts
of feminine dignity; the sisters felt it with the double force
contributed by religion. But in a few days Fantine disarmed them.
She said all kinds of humble and gentle things, and the mother
in her provoked tenderness. One day the sisters heard her say
amid her fever: "I have been a sinner; but when I have my
child beside me, it will be a sign that God has pardoned me.
While I was leading a bad life, I should not have liked to have my
Cosette with me; I could not have borne her sad, astonished eyes.
It was for her sake that I did evil, and that is why God pardons me.a day, and each time she asked him:--
"Shall I see my Cosette soon?"
He answered:--
"To-morrow, perhaps. She may arrive at any moment. I am expecting her."
And the mother's pale face grew radiant.
"Oh!" she said, "how happy I am going to be!"
We have just said that she did not recover her health. On the contrary,
her condition seemed to become more grave from week to week.
That handful of snow applied to her bare skin between her
shoulder-blades had brought about a sudden suppression of perspiration,
as a consequence of which the malady which had been smouldering
within her for many years was violently developed at last.
At that time people were beginning to follow the fine Laennec's
fine suggestions in the study and treatment of chest maladies.
The doctor sounded Fantine's chest and shook his head.
M. Madeleine said to the doctor:--
"Has she not a child which she desires to see?" said the doctor.
"Well! Make haste and get it here!"
M. Madeleine shuddered.
Fantine inquired:--
"What did the doctor say?"
M. Madeleine forced himself to smile.
"He said that your child was to be brought speedily. That that
would restore your health."
"Oh!" she rejoined, "he is right! But what do those Thenardiers
mean by keeping my Cosette from me! Oh! she is coming. At last I
behold happiness close beside me!"
In the meantime Thenardier did not "let go of the child," and gave
a hundred insufficient reasons for it. Cosette was not quite well
enough to take a journey in the winter. And then, there still
remained some petty but pressing debts in the neighborhood,
and they were collecting the bills for them, etc., etc.
"I shall send some one to fetch Cosette!" said Father Madeleine.
"If necessary, I will go myself."
He wrote the following letter to Fantine's dictation, and made
her sign it:--

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

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


One morning M. Madeleine was in his study, occupied in arranging
in advance some pressing matters connected with the mayor's office,
in case he should decide to take the trip to Montfermeil, when he
was informed that Police Inspector Javert was desirous of speaking
with him. Madeleine could not refrain from a disagreeable impression
on hearing this name. Javert had avoided him more than ever since
the affair of the police-station, and M. Madeleine had not seen him.
"Admit him," he said.
Javert entered.
M. Madeleine had retained his seat near the fire, pen in hand,
his eyes fixed on the docket which he was turning over and annotating,
and which contained the trials of the commission on highways for
the infraction of police regulations. He did not disturb himself
on Javert's account. He could not help thinking of poor Fantine,
and it suited him to be glacial in his manner.
Javert bestowed a respectful salute on the mayor, whose back
was turned to him. The mayor did not look at him, but went
on annotating this docket.
Javert advanced two or three paces into the study, and halted,
without breaking the silence.
If any physiognomist who had been familiar with Javert,
and who had made a lengthy study of this savage in the service
of civilization, this singular composite of the Roman, the Spartan,
the monk, and the corporal, this spy who was incapable of a lie,
this unspotted police agent--if any physiognomist had known his
secret and long-cherished aversion for M. Madeleine, his conflict
with the mayor on the subject of Fantine, and had examined Javert at
that moment, he would have said to himself, "What has taken place?"
It was evident to any one acquainted with that clear, upright, sincere,
honest, austere, and ferocious conscience, that Javert had but just
gone through some great interior struggle. Javert had nothing
in his soul which he had not also in his countenance. Like violent
people in general, he was subject to abrupt changes of opinion.
His physiognomy had never been more peculiar and startling.
On entering he bowed to M. Madeleine with a look in which there was
neither rancor, anger, nor distrust; he halted a few paces in the
rear of the mayor's arm-chair, and there he stood, perfectly erect,
in an attitude almost of discipline, with the cold, ingenuous roughness
of a man who has never been gentle and who has always been patient;
he waited without uttering a word, without making a movement,
in genuine humility and tranquil resignation, calm, serious, hat in
hand, with eyes cast down, and an expression which was half-way between
that of a soldier in the presence of his officer and a criminal
in the presence of his judge, until it should please the mayor
to turn round. All the sentiments as well as all the memories
which one might have attributed to him had disappeared. That face,
as impenetrable and simple as granite, no longer bore any trace
of anything but a melancholy depression. His whole person breathed
lowliness and firmness and an indescribable courageous despondency.
At last the mayor laid down his pen and turned half round.
"Well! What is it? What is the matter, Javert?"
Javert remained silent for an instant as though collecting
his ideas, then raised his voice with a sort of sad solemnity,
which did not, however, preclude simplicity.
"This is the matter, Mr. Mayor; a culpable act has been committed."
"What act?"
"An inferior agent of the authorities has failed in respect,
and in the gravest manner, towards a magistrate. I have come
to bring the fact to your knowledge, as it is my duty to do."
"Who is the agent?" asked M. Madeleine.
"I," said Javert.
"And who is the magistrate who has reason to complain of the agent?"
"You, Mr. Mayor."
M. Madeleine sat erect in his arm-chair. Javert went on, with a
severe air and his eyes still cast down.
"Mr. Mayor, I have come to request you to instigate the authorities
to dismiss me."
M. Madeleine opened his mouth in amazement. Javert interrupted him:--
"You will say that I might have handed in my resignation, but that
does not suffice. Handing in one's resignation is honorable.
I have failed in my duty; I ought to be punished; I must be turned out."
And after a pause he added:--
"Mr. Mayor, you were severe with me the other day, and unjustly.
Be so to-day, with justice."
"Come, now! Why?" exclaimed M. Madeleine. "What nonsense is this?
What is the meaning of this? What culpable act have you been guilty
of towards me? What have you done to me? What are your wrongs
with regard to me? You accuse yourself; you wish to be superseded--"
"Turned out," said Javert.
"Turned out; so it be, then. That is well. I do not understand."
"You shall understand, Mr. Mayor."
Javert sighed from the very bottom of his chest, and resumed,
still coldly and sadly:--
"Mr. Mayor, six weeks ago, in consequence of the scene over that woman,
I was furious, and I informed against you."
"Informed against me!"
"At the Prefecture of Police in Paris."
M. Madeleine, who was not in the habit of laughing much oftener
than Javert himself, burst out laughing now:--
"As a mayor who had encroached on the province of the police?"
"As an ex-convict."
The mayor turned livid.
Javert, who had not raised his eyes, went on:--
"I thought it was so. I had had an idea for a long time;
a resemblance; inquiries which you had caused to be made at Faverolles;
the strength of your loins; the adventure with old Fauchelevant;
your skill in marksmanship; your leg, which you drag a little;--
I hardly know what all,--absurdities! But, at all events, I took you
for a certain Jean Valjean."
"A certain--What did you say the name was?"
"Jean Valjean. He was a convict whom I was in the habit of seeing
twenty years ago, when I was adjutant-guard of convicts at Toulon.
On leaving the galleys, this Jean Valjean, as it appears, robbed a bishop;
then he committed another theft, accompanied with violence, on a public
highway on the person of a little Savoyard. He disappeared eight
years ago, no one knows how, and he has been sought, I fancied.
In short, I did this thing! Wrath impelled me; I denounced you
at the Prefecture!"
M. Madeleine, who had taken up the docket again several moments
before this, resumed with an air of perfect indifference:--
"And what reply did you receive?"
"That I was mad."
"Well, they were right."
"It is lucky that you recognize the fact."
"I am forced to do so, since the real Jean Valjean has been found."
The sheet of paper which M. Madeleine was holding dropped from
his hand; he raised his head, gazed fixedly at Javert, and said
with his indescribable accent:--
Javert continued:--
"This is the way it is, Mr. Mayor. It seems that there was in
the neighborhood near Ailly-le-Haut-Clocher an old fellow who was
called Father Champmathieu. He was a very wretched creature.
No one paid any attention to him. No one knows what such people
subsist on. Lately, last autumn, Father Champmathieu was arrested
for the theft of some cider apples from--Well, no matter, a theft
had been committed, a wall scaled, branches of trees broken.
My Champmathieu was arrested. He still had the branch of apple-tree
in his hand. The scamp is locked up. Up to this point it was merely
an affair of a misdemeanor. But here is where Providence intervened.
"The jail being in a bad condition, the examining magistrate finds it
convenient to transfer Champmathieu to Arras, where the departmental
prison is situated. In this prison at Arras there is an ex-convict
named Brevet, who is detained for I know not what, and who has
been appointed turnkey of the house, because of good behavior.
Mr. Mayor, no sooner had Champmathieu arrived than Brevet exclaims:
`Eh! Why, I know that man! He is a fagot![4] Take a good look at me,
my good man! You are Jean Valjean!' `Jean Valjean! who's Jean Valjean?'
Champmathieu feigns astonishment. `Don't play the innocent dodge,'
says Brevet. `You are Jean Valjean! You have been in the galleys
of Toulon; it was twenty years ago; we were there together.'
Champmathieu denies it. Parbleu! You understand. The case
is investigated. The thing was well ventilated for me. This is
what they discovered: This Champmathieu had been, thirty years ago,
a pruner of trees in various localities, notably at Faverolles.
There all trace of him was lost. A long time afterwards he was seen
again in Auvergne; then in Paris, where he is said to have been
a wheelwright, and to have had a daughter, who was a laundress;
but that has not been proved. Now, before going to the galleys for theft,
what was Jean Valjean? A pruner of trees. Where? At Faverolles.
Another fact. This Valjean's Christian name was Jean, and his
mother's surname was Mathieu. What more natural to suppose than that,
on emerging from the galleys, he should have taken his mother's
name for the purpose of concealing himself, and have called himself
Jean Mathieu? He goes to Auvergne. The local pronunciation turns Jean
into Chan--he is called Chan Mathieu. Our man offers no opposition,
and behold him transformed into Champmathieu. You follow me,
do you not? Inquiries were made at Faverolles. The family of Jean
Valjean is no longer there. It is not known where they have gone.
You know that among those classes a family often disappears.
Search was made, and nothing was found. When such people are not mud,
they are dust. And then, as the beginning of the story dates thirty
years back, there is no longer any one at Faverolles who knew
Jean Valjean. Inquiries were made at Toulon. Besides Brevet,
there are only two convicts in existence who have seen Jean Valjean;
they are Cochepaille and Chenildieu, and are sentenced for life.
They are taken from the galleys and confronted with the
pretended Champmathieu. They do not hesitate; he is Jean Valjean
for them as well as for Brevet. The same age,--he is fifty-four,--
the same height, the same air, the same man; in short, it is he.
It was precisely at this moment that I forwarded my denunciation
to the Prefecture in Paris. I was told that I had lost my reason,
and that Jean Valjean is at Arras, in the power of the authorities.
You can imagine whether this surprised me, when I thought that I
had that same Jean Valjean here. I write to the examining judge;
he sends for me; Champmathieu is conducted to me--"

[4] An ex-convict.

"Well?" interposed M. Madeleine.
Javert replied, his face incorruptible, and as melancholy as ever:--
"Mr. Mayor, the truth is the truth. I am sorry; but that man
is Jean Valjean. I recognized him also."
M. Madeleine resumed in, a very low voice:--
"You are sure?"
Javert began to laugh, with that mournful laugh which comes from
profound conviction.
"O! Sure!"
He stood there thoughtfully for a moment, mechanically taking
pinches of powdered wood for blotting ink from the wooden bowl
which stood on the table, and he added:--
"And even now that I have seen the real Jean Valjean, I do not see
how I could have thought otherwise. I beg your pardon, Mr. Mayor."
Javert, as he addressed these grave and supplicating words to the man,
who six weeks before had humiliated him in the presence of the whole
station-house, and bade him "leave the room,"--Javert, that haughty man,
was unconsciously full of simplicity and dignity,--M. Madeleine
made no other reply to his prayer than the abrupt question:--
"And what does this man say?"
"Ah! Indeed, Mr. Mayor, it's a bad business. If he is Jean Valjean,
he has his previous conviction against him. To climb a wall, to break
a branch, to purloin apples, is a mischievous trick in a child;
for a man it is a misdemeanor; for a convict it is a crime.
Robbing and housebreaking--it is all there. It is no longer a question
of correctional police; it is a matter for the Court of Assizes.
It is no longer a matter of a few days in prison; it is the galleys
for life. And then, there is the affair with the little Savoyard,
who will return, I hope. The deuce! there is plenty to dispute
in the matter, is there not? Yes, for any one but Jean Valjean.
But Jean Valjean is a sly dog. That is the way I recognized him.
Any other man would have felt that things were getting hot for him;
he would struggle, he would cry out--the kettle sings before the fire;
he would not be Jean Valjean, et cetera. But he has not the appearance
of understanding; he says, `I am Champmathieu, and I won't depart
from that!' He has an astonished air, he pretends to be stupid;
it is far better. Oh! the rogue is clever! But it makes no difference.
The proofs are there. He has been recognized by four persons;
the old scamp will be condemned. The case has been taken to the
Assizes at Arras. I shall go there to give my testimony. I have
been summoned."
M. Madeleine had turned to his desk again, and taken up his docket,
and was turning over the leaves tranquilly, reading and writing
by turns, like a busy man. He turned to Javert:--
"That will do, Javert. In truth, all these details interest me
but little. We are wasting our time, and we have pressing business
on hand. Javert, you will betake yourself at once to the house
of the woman Buseaupied, who sells herbs at the corner of the Rue
Saint-Saulve. You will tell her that she must enter her complaint
against carter Pierre Chesnelong. The man is a brute, who came near
crushing this woman and her child. He must be punished. You will
then go to M. Charcellay, Rue Montre-de-Champigny. He complained that
there is a gutter on the adjoining house which discharges rain-water
on his premises, and is undermining the foundations of his house.
After that, you will verify the infractions of police regulater in a week or ten days?"
"Sooner than that, Mr. Mayor."
"On what day, then?"
"Why, I thought that I had said to Monsieur le Maire that the case
was to be tried to-morrow, and that I am to set out by diligence to-night."
M. Madeleine made an imperceptible movement.
"And how long will the case last?"
"One day, at the most. The judgment will be pronounced to-morrow evening
at latest. But I shall not wait for the sentence, which is certain;
I shall return here as soon as my deposition has been taken."
"That is well," said M. Madeleine.
And he dismissed Javert with a wave of the hand.
Javert did not withdraw.
"Excuse me, Mr. Mayor," said he.
"What is it now?" demanded M. Madeleine.
"Mr. Mayor, there is still something of which I must remind you."
"What is it?"
"That I must be dismissed."
M. Madeleine rose.
"Javert, you are a man of honor, and I esteem you. You exaggerate
your fault. Moreover, this is an offence which concerns me.
Javert, you deserve promotion instead of degradation. I wish
you to retain your post."
Javert gazed at M. Madeleine with his candid eyes, in whose depths
his not very enlightened but pure and rigid conscience seemed visible,
and said in a tranquil voice:--
"Mr. Mayor, I cannot grant you that."
"I repeat," replied M. Madeleine, "that the matter concerns me."
But Javert, heeding his own thought only, continued:--
"So far as exaggeration is concerned, I am not exaggerating. This is
the way I reason: I have suspected you unjustly. That is nothing.
It is our right to cherish suspicion, although suspicion directed
above ourselves is an abuse. But without proofs, in a fit of rage,
with the object of wreaking my vengeance, I have denounced you
as a convict, you, a respectable man, a mayor, a magistrate!
That is serious, very serious. I have insulted authority in your person,
I, an agent of the authorities! If one of my subordinates had done
what I have done, I should have declared him unworthy of the service,
and have expelled him. Well? Stop, Mr. Mayor; one word more.
I have often been severe in the course of my life towards others.
That is just. I have done well. Now, if I were not severe towards
myself, all the justice that I have done would become injustice.
Ought I to spare myself more than others? No! What! I should be good
for nothing but to chastise others, and not myself! Why, I should
be a blackguard! Those who say, `That blackguard of a Javert!'
would be in the right. Mr. Mayor, I do not desire that you should
treat me kindly; your kindness roused sufficient bad blood in me
when it was directed to others. I want none of it for myself.
The kindness which consists in upholding a woman of the town against
a citizen, the police agent against the mayor, the man who is down
against the man who is up in the world, is what I call false kindness.
That is the sort of kindness which disorganizes society. Good God!
it is very easy to be kind; the difficulty lies in being just.
Come! if you had been what I thought you, I should not have been kind
to you, not I! You would have seen! Mr. Mayor, I must treat myself
as I would treat any other man. When I have subdued malefactors,
when I have proceeded with vigor against rascals, I have often said
to myself, `If you flinch, if I ever catch you in fault, you may rest
at your ease!' I have flinched, I have caught myself in a fault.
So much the worse! Come, discharged, cashiered, expelled! That is well.
I have arms. I will till the soil; it makes no difference to me.
Mr. Mayor, the good of the service demands an example. I simply
require the discharge of Inspector Javert."
All this was uttered in a proud, humble, despairing, yet convinced tone,
which lent indescribable grandeur to this singular, honest man.
"We shall see," said M. Madeleine.
And he offered him his hand.
Javert recoiled, and said in a wild voice:--
"Excuse me, Mr. Mayor, but this must not be. A mayor does not offer
his hand to a police spy."
He added between his teeth:--
"A police spy, yes; from the moment when I have misused the police.
I am no more than a police spy."
Then he bowed profoundly, and directed his steps towards the door.
There he wheeled round, and with eyes still downcast:--
"Mr. Mayor," he said, "I shall continue to serve until I am superseded."
He withdrew. M. Madeleine remained thoughtfully listening to the firm,
sure step, which died away on the pavement of the corridor.



The incidents the reader is about to peruse were not all known
at M. sur M. But the small portion of them which became known left
such a memory in that town that a serious gap would exist in this
book if we did not narrate them in their most minute details.
Among these details the reader will encounter two or three improbable
circumstances, which we preserve out of respect for the truth.
On the afternoon following the visit of Javert, M. Madeleine went
to see Fantine according to his wont.
Before entering Fantine's room, he had Sister Simplice summoned.
The two nuns who performed the services of nurse in the infirmary,
Lazariste ladies, like all sisters of charity, bore the names of
Sister Perpetue and Sister Simplice.
Sister Perpetue was an ordinary villager, a sister of charity
in a coarse style, who had entered the service of God as one enters
any other service. She was a nun as other women are cooks.
This type is not so very rare. The monastic orders gladly accept this
heavy peasant earthenware, which is easily fashioned into a Capuchin
or an Ursuline. These rustics are utilized for the rough work
of devotion. The transition from a drover to a Carmelite is not in
the least violent; the one turns into the other without much effort;
the fund of ignorance common to the village and the cloister is
a preparation ready at hand, and places the boor at once on the
same footing as the monk: a little more amplitude in the smock,
and it becomes a frock. Sister Perpetue was a robust nun from
Marines near Pontoise, who chattered her patois, droned, grumbled,
sugared the potion according to the bigotry or the hypocrisy of
the invalid, treated her patients abruptly, roughly, was crabbed
with the dying, almost flung God in their faces, stoned their
death agony with prayers mumbled in a rage; was bold, honest, and ruddy.
Sister Simplice was white, with a waxen pallor. Beside Sister Perpetue,
she was the taper beside the candle. Vincent de Paul has divinely
traced the features of the Sister of Charity in these admirable words,
in which he mingles as much freedom as servitude: "They shall have for
their convent only the house of the sick; for cell only a hired room;
for chapel only their parish church; for cloister only the streets of
the town and the wards of the hospitals; for enclosure only obedience;
for gratings only the fear of God; for veil only modesty." This ideal
was realized in the living person of Sister Simplice: she had never
been young, and it seemed as though she would never grow old.
No one could have told Sister Simplice's age. She was a person--
we dare not say a woman--who was gentle, austere, well-bred, cold,
and who had never lied. She was so gentle that she appeared fragile;
but she was more solid than granite. She touched the unhappy
with fingers that were charmingly pure and fine. There was,
so to speak, silence in her speech; she said just what was necessary,
and she possessed a tone of voice which would have equally edified
a confessional or enchanted a drawing-room. This delicacy accommodated
itself to the serge gown, finding in this harsh contact a continual
reminder of heaven and of God. Let us emphasize one detail.
Never to have lied, never to have said, for any interest whatever,
even in indifference, any single thing which was not the truth,
the sacred truth, was Sister Simplice's distinctive trait;
it was the accent of her virtue. She was almost renowned in the
congregation for this imperturbable veracity. The Abbe Sicard
speaks of Sister Simplice in a letter to the deaf-mute Massieu.
However pure and sincere we may be, we all bear upon our candor
the crack of the little, innocent lie. She did not. Little lie,
innocent lie--does such a thing exist? To lie is the absolute
form of evil. To lie a little is not possible: he who lies,
lies the whole lie. To lie is the very face of the demon. Satan has
two names; he is called Satan and Lying. That is what she thought;
and as she thought, so she did. The result was the whiteness which
we have mentioned--a whiteness which covered even her lips and her
eyes with radiance. Her smile was white, her glance was white.
There was not a single spider's web, not a grain of dust, on the glass
window of that conscience. On entering the order of Saint Vincent
de Paul, she had taken the name of Simplice by special choice.
Simplice of Sicily, as we know, is the saint who preferred to
allow both her breasts to be torn off rather than to say that she
had been born at Segesta when she had been born at Syracuse--
a lie which would have saved her. This patron saint suited
this soul.
Sister Simplice, on her entrance into the order, had had two
faults which she had gradually corrected: she had a taste
for dainties, and she liked to receive letters. She never read
anything but a book of prayers printed in Latin, in coarse type.
She did not understand Latin, but she understood the book.
This pious woman had conceived an affection for Fantine,
probably feeling a latent virtue there, and she had devoted
herself almost exclusively to her care.
M. Madeleine took Sister Simplice apart and recommended Fantine
to her in a singular tone, which the sister recalled later on.
On leaving the sister, he approached Fantine.
Fantine awaited M. Madeleine's appearance every day as one awaits
a ray of warmth and joy. She said to the sisters, "I only live
when Monsieur le Maire is here."
She had a great deal of fever that day. As soon as she saw
M. Madeleine she asked him:--
"And Cosette?"
He replied with a smile:--
M. Madeleine was the same as usual with Fantine. Only he remained
an hour instead of half an hour, to Fantine's great delight.
He urged every one repeatedly not to allow the invalid to want
for anything. It was noticed that there was a moment when his
countenance became very sombre. But this was explained when it became
known that the doctor had bent down to his ear and said to him,
"She is losing ground fast."
Then he returned to the town-hall, and the clerk observed him
attentively examining a road map of France which hung in his study.
He wrote a few figures on a bit of paper with a pencil.


From the town-hall he betook himself to the extremity of the town,
to a Fleming named Master Scaufflaer, French Scaufflaire, who let
out "horses and cabriolets as desired."
In order to reach this Scaufflaire, the shortest way was to take
the little-frequented street in which was situated the parsonage
of the parish in which M. Madeleine resided. The cure was,
it was said, a worthy, respectable, and sensible man. At the moment
when M. Madeleine arrived in front of the parsonage there was but one
passer-by in the street, and this person noticed this: After the
mayor had passed the priest's house he halted, stood motionless,
then turned about, and retraced his steps to the door of the parsonage,
which had an iron knocker. He laid his hand quickly on the knocker
and lifted it; then he paused again and stopped short, as though
in thought, and after the lapse of a few seconds, instead of allowing
the knocker to fall abruptly, he placed it gently, and resumed
his way with a sort of haste which had not been apparent previously.
M. Madeleine found Master Scaufflaire at home, engaged in stitching
a harness over.
"Master Scaufflaire," he inquired, "have you a good horse?"
"Mr. Mayor," said the Fleming, "all my horses are good. What do
you mean by a good horse?"
"I mean a horse which can travel twenty leagues in a day."
"The deuce!" said the Fleming. "Twenty leagues!"
"Hitched to a cabriolet?"
"And how long can he rest at the end of his journey?"
"He must be able to set out again on the next day if necessary."
"To traverse the same road?"
"The deuce! the deuce! And it is twenty leagues?"
M. Madeleine drew from his pocket the paper on which he had
pencilled some figures. He showed it to the Fleming. The figures
were 5, 6, 8 1/2.
"You see," he said, "total, nineteen and a half; as well say
twenty leagues."
"Mr. Mayor," returned the Fleming, "I have just what you want.
My little white horse--you may have seen him pass occasionally;
he is a small beast from Lower Boulonnais. He is full of fire.
They wanted to make a saddle-horse of him at first. Bah! He reared,
he kicked, he laid everybody flat on the ground. He was thought
to be vicious, and no one knew what to do with him. I bought him.
I harnessed him to a carriage. That is what he wanted, sir; he is
as gentle as a girl; he goes like the wind. Ah! indeed he must not
be mounted. It does not suit his ideas to be a saddle-horse. Every
one has his ambition. `Draw? Yes. Carry? No.' We must suppose that
is what he said to himself."
"And he will accomplish the trip?"
"Your twenty leagues all at a full trot, and in less than eight hours.
But here are the conditions."
"State them."
"In the first place. you will give him half an hour's breathing
spell midway of the road; he will eat; and some one must be by while
he is eating to prevent the stable boy of the inn from stealing
his oats; for I have noticed that in inns the oats are more often
drunk by the stable men than eaten by the horses."
"Some one will be by."
"In the second place--is the cabriolet for Monsieur le Maire?"
"Does Monsieur le Maire know how to drive?"
"Well, Monsieur le Maire will travel alone and without baggage,
in order not to overload the horse?"
"But as Monsieur le Maire will have no one with him, he will be obliged
to take the trouble himself of seeing that the oats are not stolen."
"That is understood."
"I am to have thirty francs a day. The days of rest to be paid
for also--not a farthing less; and the beast's food to be at
Monsieur le Maire's expense."
M. Madeleine drew three napoleons from his purse and laid them
on the table.
"Here is the pay for two days in advance."
"Fourthly, for such a journey a cabriolet would be too heavy,
and would fatigue the horse. Monsieur le Maire must consent
to travel in a little tilbury that I own."
"I consent to that."
"It is light, but it has no cover."
"That makes no difference to me."
"Has Monsieur le Maire reflected that we are in the middle of winter?"
M. Madeleine did not reply. The Fleming resumed:--
"That it is very cold?"
M. Madeleine preserved silence.
Master Scaufflaire continued:--
"That it may rain?"
M. Madeleine raised his head and said:--
"The tilbury and the horse will be in front of my door to-morrow
morning at half-past four o'clock."
"Of course, Monsieur le Maire," replied Scaufflaire; then,
scratching a speck in the wood of the table with his thumb-nail,
he resumed with that careless air which the Flemings understand
so well how to mingle with their shrewdness:--
"But this is what I am thinking of now: Monsieur le Maire has
not told me where he is going. Where is Monsieur le Maire going?"
He had been thinking of nothing else
since the beginning of the conversation,
but he did not know why he had not dared to put the question.
"Are your horse's forelegs good?" said M. Madeleine.
"Yes, Monsieur le Maire. You must hold him in a little when going
down hill. Are there many descends between here and the place
whither you are going?"
"Do not forget to be at my door at precisely half-past four o'clock
to-morrow morning," replied M. Madeleine; and he took his departure.
The Fleming remained "utterilbury which you are to let to me,--
the one bearing the other?"
"The one dragging the other, Monsieur le Maire," said the Fleming,
with a broad smile.
"So be it. Well?"
"Does Monsieur le Maire wish to purchase them or me?"
"No; but I wish to guarantee you in any case. You shall give me
back the sum at my return. At what value do you estimate your horse
and cabriolet?"
"Five hundred francs, Monsieur le Maire."
"Here it is."
M. Madeleine laid a bank-bill on the table, then left the room;
and this time he did not return.
Master Scaufflaire experienced a frightful regret that he had not
said a thousand francs. Besides the horse and tilbury together
were worth but a hundred crowns.
The Fleming called his wife, and related the affair to her.
"Where the devil could Monsieur le Maire be going?" They held
counsel together. "He is going to Paris," said the wife. "I don't
believe it," said the husband.
M. Madeleine had forgotten the paper with the figures on it, and it
lay on the chimney-piece. The Fleming picked it up and studied it.
"Five, six, eight and a half? That must designate the posting relays."
He turned to his wife:--
"I have found out."
"It is five leagues from here to Hesdin, six from Hesdin to Saint-Pol,
eight and a half from Saint-Pol to Arras. He is going to Arras."
Meanwhile, M. Madeleine had returned home. He had taken the longest way
to return from Master Scaufflaire's, as though the parsonage door had
been a temptation for him, and he had wished to avoid it. He ascended
to his room, and there he shut himself up, which was a very simple act,
since he liked to go to bed early. Nevertheless, the portress of
the factory, who was, at the same time, M. Madeleine's only servant,
noticed that the latter's light was extinguished at half-past eight,
and she mentioned it to the cashier when he came home, adding:--
"Is Monsieur le Maire ill? I thought he had a rather singular air."
This cashier occupied a room situated directly under M. Madeleine's
chamber. He paid no heed to the portress's words, but went
to bed and to sleep. Towards midnight he woke up with a start;
in his sleep he had heard a noise above his head. He listened;
it was a footstep pacing back and forth, as though some one were
walking in the room above him. He listened more attentively,
and recognized M. Madeleine's step. This struck him as strange;
usually, there was no noise in M. Madeleine's chamber until he rose
in the morning. A moment later the cashier heard a noise which
resembled that of a cupboard being opened, and then shut again;
then a piece of furniture was disarranged; then a pause ensued;
then the step began again. The cashier sat up in bed, quite awake now,
and staring; and through his window-panes he saw the reddish
gleam of a lighted window reflected on the opposite wall;
from the direction of the rays, it could only come from the window
of M. Madeleine's chamber. The reflection wavered, as though it
came rather from a fire which had been lighted than from a candle.
The shadow of the window-frame was not shown, which indicated
that the window was wide open. The fact that this window was open
in such cold weather was surprising. The cashier fell asleep again.
An hour or two later he waked again. The same step was still
passing slowly and regularly back and forth overhead.
The reflection was still visible on the wall, but now it was pale
and peaceful, like the reflection of a lamp or of a candle.
The window was still open.
This is what had taken place in M. Madeleine's room.


The reader has, no doubt, already divined that M. Madeleine
is no other than Jean Valjean.
We have already gazed into the depths of this conscience;
the moment has now come when we must take another look into it.
We do so not without emotion and trepidation. There is nothing
more terrible in existence than this sort of contemplation.
The eye of the spirit can nowhere find more dazzling brilliance
and more shadow than in man; it can fix itself on no other thing
which is more formidable, more complicated, more mysterious,
and more infinite. There is a spectacle more grand than the sea;
it is heaven: there is a spectacle more grand than heaven; it is the
inmost recesses of the soul.
To make the poem of the human conscience, were it only with reference
to a single man, were it only in connection with the basest of men,
would be to blend all epics into one superior and definitive epic.
Conscience is the chaos of chimeras, of lusts, and of temptations;
the furnace of dreams; the lair of ideas of which we are ashamed;
it is the pandemonium of sophisms; it is the battlefield of the passions.
Penetrate, at certain hours, past the livid face of a human being
who is engaged in reflection, and look behind, gaze into that soul,
gaze into that obscurity. There, beneath that external silence,
battles of giants, like those recorded in Homer, are in progress;
skirmishes of dragons and hydras and swarms of phantoms, as in Milton;
visionary circles, as in Dante. What a solemn thing is this
infinity which every man bears within him, and which he measures
with despair against the caprices of his brain and the actions of
his life!
Alighieri one day met with a sinister-looking door, before which
he hesitated. Here is one before us, upon whose threshold we hesitate.
Let us enter, nevertheless.
We have but little to add to what the reader already knows of what had
happened to Jean Valjean after the adventure with Little Gervais.
From that moment forth he was, as we have seen, a totally different man.
What the Bishop had wished to make of him, that he carried out.
It was more than a transformation; it was a transfiguration.
He succeeded in disappearing, sold the Bishop's silver, reserving only
the candlesticks as a souvenir, crept from town to town, traversed France,
came to M. sur M., conceived the idea which we have mentioned,
accomplished what we have related, succeeded in rendering himself
safe from seizure and inaccessible, and, thenceforth, established at
M. sur M., happy in feeling his conscience saddened by the past and
the first half of his existence belied by the last, he lived in peace,
reassured and hopeful, having henceforth only two thoughts,--to conceal
his name and to sanctify his life; to escape men and to return to God.
These two thoughts were so closely intertwined in his mind that
they formed but a single one there; both were equally absorbing
and imperative and ruled his slightest actions. In general,
they conspired to regulate the conduct of his life; they turned
him towards the gloom; they rendered him kindly and simple;
they counselled him to the same things. Sometimes, however,
they conflicted. In that case, as the reader will remember,
the man whom all the country of M. sur M. called M. Madeleine did
not hesitate to sacrifice the first to the second--his security to
his virtue. Thus, in spite of all his reserve and all his prudence,
he had preserved the Bishop's candlesticks, worn mourning for him,
summoned and interrogated all the little Savoyards who passed
that way, collected information regarding the families at Faverolles,
and saved old Fauchelevent's life, despite the disquieting
insinuations of Javert. It seemed, as we have already remarked,
as though he thought, following the example of all those who have
been wise, holy, and just, that his first duty was not towards himself.
At the same time, it must be confessed, nothing just like this
had yet presented itself.
Never had the two ideas which governed the unhappy man whose
sufferings we are narrating, engaged in so serious a struggle.
He understood this confusedly but profoundly at the very first words
pronounced by Javert, when the latter entered his study. At the
moment when that name, which he had buried beneath so many layers,
was so strangely articulated, he was struck with stupor, and as
though intoxicated with the sinister eccentricity of his destiny;
and through this stupor he felt that shudder which precedes
great shocks. He bent like an oak at the approach of a storm,
like a soldier at the approach of an assault. He felt shadows
filled with thunders and lightnings descending upon his head.
As he listened to Javert, the first thought which occurred to him
was to go, to run and denounce himself, to take that Champmathieu
out of prison and place himself there; this was as painful and as
poignant as an incision in the living flesh. Then it passed away,
and he said to himself, "We will see! We will see!" He repressed
this first, generous instinct, and recoiled before heroism.
It would be beautiful, no doubt, after the Bishop's holy words,
after so many years of repentance and abnegation, in the midst
of a penitence admirably begun, if this man had not flinched for
an instant, even in the presence of so terrible a conjecture, but had
continued to walk with the same step towards this yawning precipice,
at the bottom of which lay heaven; that would have been beautiful;
but it was not thus. We must render an account of the things which
went on in this soul, and we can only tell what there was there.
He was carried away, at first, by the instinct of self-preservation;
he rallied all his ideas in haste, stifled his emotions, took into
consideration Javert's presence, that great danger, postponed all
decision with the firmness of terror, shook off thought as to
what he had to do, and resumed his calmness as a warrior picks up
his buckler.
He remained in this state during the rest of the day, a whirlwind within,
a profound tranquillity without. He took no "preservative measures,"
as they may be called. Everything was still confused, and jostling
together in his brain. His trouble was so great that he could not
perceive the form of a single idea distinctly, and he could have
told nothing about himself, except that he had received a great blow.
He repaired to Fantine's bed of suffering, as usual, and prolonged
his visit, through a kindly instinct, telling himself that he must
behave thus, and recommend her well to the sisters, in case he should
be obliged to be absent himself. He had a vague feeling that he
might be obliged to go to Arras; and without having the least in the
world made up his mind to this trip, he said to himself that being,
as he was, beyond the shadow of any suspicion, there could be nothing
out of the way in being a witness to what was to take place, and he
engaged the tilbury from Scaufflaire in order to be prepared in any event.
He dined with a good deal of appetite.
On returning to his room, he communed with himself.
He examined the situation, and found it unprecedented;
so unprecedented that in the midst of his revery he rose from
his chair, moved by some inexplicable impulse of anxiety,
and bolted his door. He feared lest something more should enter.
He was barricading himself against possibilities.
A moment later he extinguished his light; it embarrassed him.
lt seemed to him as though he might be seen.
By whom?
Alas! That on which he desired to close the door had already entered;
that which he desired to blind was staring him in the face,--
his conscience.
His conscience; that is to say, God.
Nevertheless, he deluded himself at first; he had a feeling of security
and of solitude; the bolt once drawn, he thought himself impregnable;
the candle extinguished, he felt himself invisible. Then he
took possession of himself: he set his elbows on the table,
leaned his head on his hand, and began to meditate in the dark.
"Where do I stand? Am not I dreaming? What have I heard? Is it
really true that I have seen that Javert, and that he spoke to me
in that manner? Who can that Champmathieu be? So he resembles me!
Is it possible? When I reflect that yesterday I was so tranquil,
and so far from suspecting anything! What was I doing yesterday at
this hour? What is there in this incident? What will the end be?
What is to be done?"
This was the torment in which he found himself. His brain
had lost its power of retaining ideas; they passed like waves,
and he clutched his brow in both hands to arrest them.
Nothing but anguish extricated itself from this tumult which
overwhelmed his will and his reason, and from which he sought
to draw proof and resolution.
His head was burning. He went to the window and threw it wide open.
There were no stars in the sky. He returned and seated himself at
the table.
The first hour passed in this manner.
Gradually, however, vague outlines began to take form and to fix
themselves in his meditation, and he was able to catch a glimpse
with precision of the reality,--not the whole situation,
but some of the details. He began by recognizing the fact that,
critical and extraordinary as was this situation, he was completely
master of it.
This only caused an increase of his stupor.
Independently of the severe and religious aim which he had assigned
to his actions, all that he had made up to that day had been
nothing but a hole in which to bury his name. That which he had
always feared most of all in his hours of self-communion, during
his sleepless nights, was to ever hear that name pronounced;
he had said to himself, that that would be the end of all things
for him; that on the day when that name made its reappearance it
would cause his new life to vanish from about him, and--who knows?--
perhaps even his new soul within him, also. He shuddered at the
very thought that this was possible. Assuredly, if any one had said
to him at such moments that the hour would come when that name
would ring in his ears, when the hideous words, Jean Valjean,
would suddenly emerge from the darkness and rise in front of him,
when that formidable light, capable of dissipating the mystery
in which he had enveloped himself, would suddenly blaze forth above
his head, and that that name would not menace him, that that light
would but produce an obscurity more dense, that this rent veil
would but increase the mystery, that this earthquake would solidify
his edifice, that this prodigious incident would have no other result,
so far as he was concerned, if so it seemed good to him, than that
of rendering his existence at once clearer and more impenetrable,
and that, out of his confrontation with the phantom of Jean Valjean,
the good and worthy citizen Monsieur Madeleine would emerge more honored,
more peaceful, and more respected than ever--if any one had told
him that, he would have tossed his head and regarded the words
as those of a madman. Well, all this was precisely what had just
come to pass; all that accumulation of impossibilities was a fact,
and God had permitted these wild fancies to become real things!
His revery continued to grow clearer. He came more and more
to an understanding of his position.
It seemed to him that he had but just waked up from some inexplicable
dream, and that he found himself slipping down a declivity in the
middle of the night, erect, shivering, holding back all in vain,
on the very brink of the abyss. He distinctly perceived in the
darkness a stranger, a man unknown to him, whom destiny had mistaken
for him, and whom she was thrusting into the gulf in his stead;
in order that the gulf might close once more, it was necessary
that some one, himself or that other man, should fall into it:
he had only let things take their course.
The light became complete, and he acknowledged this to himself:
That his place was empty in the galleys; that do what he would,
it was still awaiting him; that the theft from little Gervais had led
him back to it; that this vacant place would await him, and draw him
on until he filled it; that this was inevitable and fatal; and then
he said to himself, "that, at this moment, be had a substitute;
that it appeared that a certain Champmathieu had that ill luck,
and that, as regards himself, being present in the galleys in the
person of that Champmathieu, present in society under the name
of M. Madeleine, he had nothing more to fear, provided that he ich no man feels
more than two or three times in the course of his life, a sort of
convulsion of the conscience which stirs up all that there is doubtful
in the heart, which is composed of irony, of joy, and of despair,
and which may be called an outburst of inward laughter.
He hastily relighted his candle.
"Well, what then?" he said to himself; "what am I afraid of?
What is there in all that for me to think about? I am safe;
all is over. I had but one partly open door through which my past
might invade my life, and behold that door is walled up forever!
That Javert, who has been annoying me so long; that terrible
instinct which seemed to have divined me, which had divined me--
good God! and which followed me everywhere; that frightful
hunting-dog, always making a point at me, is thrown off the scent,
engaged elsewhere, absolutely turned from the trail: henceforth he
is satisfied; he will leave me in peace; he has his Jean Valjean.
Who knows? it is even probable that he will wish to leave town!
And all this has been brought about without any aid from me, and I
count for nothing in it! Ah! but where is the misfortune in this?
Upon my honor, people would think, to see me, that some catastrophe
had happened to me! After all, if it does bring harm to some one,
that is not my fault in the least: it is Providence which has done
it all; it is because it wishes it so to be, evidently. Have I
the right to disarrange what it has arranged? What do I ask now?
Why should I meddle? It does not concern me; what! I am not satisfied:
but what more do I want? The goal to which I have aspired for
so many years, the dream of my nights, the object of my prayers
to Heaven,--security,--I have now attained; it is God who wills it;
I can do nothing against the will of God, and why does God will it?
In order that I may continue what I have begun, that I may do good,
that I may one day be a grand and encouraging example, that it
may be said at last, that a little happiness has been attached
to the penance which I have undergone, and to that virtue to which I
have returned. Really, I do not understand why I was afraid,
a little while ago, to enter the house of that good cure, and to
ask his advice; this is evidently what he would have said to me:
It is settled; let things take their course; let the good God do as he
Thus did he address himself in the depths of his own conscience,
bending over what may be called his own abyss; he rose from his chair,
and began to pace the room: "Come," said he, "let us think no more
about it; my resolve is taken!" but he felt no joy.
Quite the reverse.
One can no more prevent thought from recurring to an idea than one can
the sea from returning to the shore: the sailor calls it the tide;
the guilty man calls it remorse; God upheaves the soul as he does
the ocean.
After the expiration of a few moments, do what he would,
he resumed the gloomy dialogue in which it was he who spoke and he
who listened, saying that which he would have preferred to ignore,
and listened to that which he would have preferred not to hear,
yielding to that mysterious power which said to him: "Think!" as it
said to another condemned man, two thousand years ago, "March on!"
Before proceeding further, and in order to make ourselves
fully understood, let us insist upon one necessary observation.
It is certain that people do talk to themselves; there is no living
being who has not done it. It may even be said that the word is
never a more magnificent mystery than when it goes from thought
to conscience within a man, and when it returns from conscience
to thought; it is in this sense only that the words so often
employed in this chapter, he said, he exclaimed, must be understood;
one speaks to one's self, talks to one's self, exclaims to one's
self without breaking the external silence; there is a great tumult;
everything about us talks except the mouth. The realities of the
soul are none the less realities because they are not visible
and palpable.
So he asked himself where he stood. He interrogated himself upon that
"settled resolve." He confessed to himself that all that he had just
arranged in his mind was monstrous, that "to let things take their course,
to let the good God do as he liked," was simply horrible; to allow
this error of fate and of men to be carried out, not to hinder it,
to lend himself to it through his silence, to do nothing, in short,
was to do everything! that this was hypocritical baseness in the last
degree! that it was a base, cowardly, sneaking, abject, hideous crime!
For the first time in eight years, the wretched man had just tasted
the bitter savor of an evil thought and of an evil action.
He spit it out with disgust.
He continued to question himself. He asked himself severely
what he had meant by this, "My object is attained!" He declared
to himself that his life really had an object; but what object?
To conceal his name? To deceive the police? Was it for so petty
a thing that he had done all that he had done? Had he not another
and a grand object, which was the true one--to save, not his person,
but his soul; to become honest and good once more; to be a just man?
Was it not that above all, that alone, which he had always desired,
which the Bishop had enjoined upon him--to shut the door on his past?
But he was not shutting it! great God! he was re-opening it by
committing an infamous action! He was becoming a thief once more,
and the most odious of thieves! He was robbing another of
his existence, his life, his peace, his place in the sunshine.
He was becoming an assassin. He was murdering, morally murdering,
a wretched man. He was inflicting on him that frightful living death,
that death beneath the open sky, which is called the galleys.
On the other hand, to surrender himself to save that man,
struck down with so melancholy an error, to resume his own name,
to become once more, out of duty, the convict Jean Valjean, that was,
in truth, to achieve his resurrection, and to close forever that
hell whence he had just emerged; to fall back there in appearance
was to escape from it in reality. This must be done! He had done
nothing if he did not do all this; his whole life was useless;
all his penitence was wasted. There was no longer any need
of saying, "What is the use?" He felt that the Bishop was there,
that the Bishop was present all the more because he was dead, that the
Bishop was gazing fixedly at him, that henceforth Mayor Madeleine,
with all his virtues, would be abominable to him, and that the
convict Jean Valjean would be pure and admirable in his sight;
that men beheld his mask, but that the Bishop saw his face;
that men saw his life, but that the Bishop beheld his conscience.
So he must go to Arras, deliver the false Jean Valjean, and denounce
the real one. Alas! that was the greatest of sacrifices, the most
poignant of victories, the last step to take; but it must be done.
Sad fate! he would enter into sanctity only in the eyes of God
when he returned to infamy in the eyes of men.
"Well, said he, "let us decide upon this; let us do our duty; let us
save this man." He uttered these words aloud, without perceiving
that he was speaking aloud.
He took his books, verified them, and put them in order.
He flung in the fire a bundle of bills which he had against
petty and embarrassed tradesmen. He wrote and sealed a letter,
and on the envelope it might have been read, had there been
any one in his chamber at the moment, To Monsieur Laffitte,
Banker, Rue d'Artois, Paris. He drew from his secretary a
pocket-book which contained several bank-notes and the passport
of which he had made use that same year when he went to the elections.
Any one who had seen him during the execution of these various acts,
into which there entered such grave thought, would have had no
suspicion of what was going on within him. Only occasionally did
his lips move; at other times he raised his head and fixed his gaze
upon some point of the wall, as though there existed at that point
something which he wished to elucidate or interrogate.
When he had finished the letter to M. Laffitte, he put it into
his pocket, together with the pocket-book, and began his walk once more.
His revery had not swerved from its course. He continued to see his
duty clearly, written in luminous letters, which flamed before his
eyes and changed its place as he altered the direction of his glance:--
"Go! Tell your name! Denounce yourself!"
In the same way he beheld, as though they had passed before him
in visible forms, the two ideas which had, up to that time,
formed the double rule of his soul,--the concealment of his name,
the sanctification of his life. For the first time they appeared
to him as absolutely distinct, and he perceived the distance
which separated them. He recognized the fact that one of these
ideas was, necessarily, good, while the other might become bad;
that the first was self-devotion, and that the other was personality;
that the one said, my neighbor, and that the other said, myself;
that one emanated from the light, and the other from darkness.
They were antagonistic. He saw them in conflict. In proportion
as he meditated, they grew before the eyes of his spirit.
They had now attained colossal statures, and it seemed to him
that he beheld within himself, in that infinity of which we were
recently speaking, in the midst of the darkness and the lights,
a goddess and a giant contending.
He was filled with terror; but it seemed to him that the good
thought was getting the upper hand.
He felt that he was on the brink of the second decisive crisis of his
conscience and of his destiny; that the Bishop had marked the first
phase of his new life, and that Champmathieu marked the second.
After the grand crisis, the grand test.
But the fever, allayed for an instant, gradually resumed possession
of him. A thousand thoughts traversed his mind, but they continued
to fortify him in his resolution.
One moment he said to himself that he was, perhaps, taking the matter
too keenly; that, after all, this Champmathieu was not interesting,
and that he had actually been guilty of theft.
He answered himself: "If this man has, indeed, stolen a few apples,
that means a month in prison. It is a long way from that to the galleys.
And who knows? Did he steal? Has it been proved? The name of
Jean Valjean overwhelms him, and seems to dispense with proofs.
Do not the attorneys for the Crown always proceed in this manner?
He is supposed to be a thief because he is known to be a convict."
In another instant the thought had occurred to him that, when he
denounced himself, the heroism of his deed might, perhaps, be taken
into consideration, and his honest life for the last seven years,
and what he had done for the district, and that they would have mercy
on him.
But this supposition vanished very quickly, and he smiled bitterly as he
remembered that the theft of the forty sous from little Gervais put him
in the position of a man guilty of a second offence after conviction,
that this affair would certainly come up, and, according to the precise
terms of the law, would render him liable to penal servitude for life.
He turned aside from all illusions, detached himself more and
more from earth, and sought strength and consolation elsewhere.
He told himself that he must do his duty; that perhaps he should not
be more unhappy after doing his duty than after having avoided it;
that if he allowed things to take their own course, if he remained
at M. sur M., his consideration, his good name, his good works,
the deference and veneration paid to him, his charity, his wealth,
his popularity, his virtue, would be seasoned with a crime.
And what would be the taste of all these holy things when bound up
with this hideous thing? while, if he accomplished his sacrifice,
a celestial idea would be mingled with the galleys, the post,
the iron necklet, the green cap, unceasing toil, and pitiless shame.
At length he told himself that it must be so, that his destiny was
thus allotted, that he had not authority to alter the arrangements made
on high, that, in any case, he must make his choice: virtue without
and abomination within, or holiness within and infamy without.
The stirring up of these lugubrious ideas did not cause his courage
to fail, but his brain grow weary. He began to think of other things,
of indifferent matters, in spite of himself.
The veins in his temples throbbed violently; he still paced to and fro;
midnight sounded first from the parish church, then from the town-hall;
he counted the twelve strokes of the two clocks, and compared
the sounds of the two bells; he recalled in this connection the
fact that, a few days previously, he had seen in an ironmonger's
shop an ancient clock for sale, upon which was written the name,
Antoine-Albin de Romainville.
He was cold; he lighted a small fire; it did not occur to him
to close the window.
In the meantime he had relapsed into his stupor; he was obliged
to make a tolerably vigorous effort to recall what had been the
subject of his thoughts before midnight had struck; he finally
succeeded in doing this.
"Ah! yes," he said to himself, "I had resolved to inform against myself."
And then, all of a sudden, he thought of Fantine.
"Hold!" said he, "and what about that poor woman?"
Here a fresh crisis declared itself.
Fantine, by appearing thus abruptly in his revery, produced the effect
of an unexpected ray of light; it seemed to him as though everything
about him were undergoing a change of aspect: he exclaimed:--
"Ah! but I have hitherto considered no one but myself; it is proper
for me to hold my tongue or to denounce myself, to conceal my person
or to save my soul, to be a despicable and respected magistrate,
or an infamous and venerable convict; it is I, it is always I
and nothing but I: but, good God! all this is egotism; these are
diverse forms of egotism, but it is egotism all the same.
What if I were to think a little about others? The highest
holiness is to think of others; come, let us examine the matter.
The _I_ excepted, the _I_ effaced, the _I_ forgotten, what would be
the result of all this? What if I denounce myself? I am arrested;
this Champmathieu is released; I am put back in the galleys; that is well--
and what then? What is going on here? Ah! here is a country,
a town, here are factories, an industry, workers, both men and women,
aged grandsires, children, poor people! All this I have created;
all these I provide with their living; everywhere where there is
a smoking chimney, it is I who have placed the brand on the hearth
and meat in the pot; I have created ease, circulation, credit;
before me there was nothing; I have elevated, vivified, informed
with life, fecundated, stimulated, enriched the whole country-side;
lacking me, the soul is lacking; I take myself off, everything dies:
and this woman, who has suffered so much, who possesses so many
merits in spite of her fall; the cause of all whose misery I have
unwittingly been! And that child whom I meant to go in search of,
whom I have promised to her mother; do I not also owe something
to this woman, in reparation for the evil which I have done her?
If I disappear, what happens? The mother dies; the child becomes
what it can; that is what will take place, if I denounce myself.
If I do not denounce myself? come, let us see how it will be if I do not
denounce myself."
After putting this question to himself, he paused; he seemed to undergo
a momentary hesitation and trepidation; but it did not last long,
and he answered himself calmly:--
"Well, this man is going to the galleys; it is true, but what the
deuce! he has stolen! There is no use in my saying that he has
not been guilty of theft, for he has! I remain here; I go on:
in ten years I shall have made ten millions; I scatter them
over the country; I have nothing of my own; what is that to me?
It is not for myself that I am doing it; the prosperity of
all goes on augmenting; tchedness disappears,
and with wretchedness debauchery, prostitution, theft, murder;
all vices disappear, all crimes: and this poor mother rears her child;
and behold a whole country rich and honest! Ah! I was a fool!
I was absurd! what was that I was saying about denouncing myself?
I really must pay attention and not be precipitate about anything.
What! because it would have pleased me to play the grand and generous;
this is melodrama, after all; because I should have thought of no
one but myself, the idea! for the sake of saving from a punishment,
a trifle exaggerated, perhaps, but just at bottom, no one knows whom,
a thief, a good-for-nothing, evidently, a whole country-side must
perish! a poor woman must die in the hospital! a poor little
girl must die in the street! like dogs; ah, this is abominable!
And without the mother even having seen her child once more,
almost without the child's having known her mother; and all that for
the sake of an old wretch of an apple-thief who, most assuredly,
has deserved the galleys for something else, if not for that;
fine scruples, indeed, which save a guilty man and sacrifice the innocent,
which save an old vagabond who has only a few years to live at most,
and who will not be more unhappy in the galleys than in his hovel,
and which sacrifice a whole population, mothers, wives, children.
This poor little Cosette who has no one in the world but me,
and who is, no doubt, blue with cold at this moment in the den
of those Thenardiers; those peoples are rascals; and I was going to
neglect my duty towards all these poor creatures; and I was going off
to denounce myself; and I was about to commit that unspeakable folly!
Let us put it at the worst: suppose that there is a wrong action
on my part in this, and that my conscience will reproach me for it
some day, to accept, for the good of others, these reproaches
which weigh only on myself; this evil action which compromises
my soul alone; in that lies self-sacrifice; in that alone there
is virtue."
He rose and resumed his march; this time, he seemed to be content.
Diamonds are found only in the dark places of the earth;
truths are found only in the depths of thought. It seemed
to him, that, after having descended into these depths,
after having long groped among the darkest of these shadows,
he had at last found one of these diamonds, one of these truths, and
that he now held it in his hand, and he was dazzled as he gazed upon it.
"Yes," he thought, "this is right; I am on the right road; I have
the solution; I must end by holding fast to something; my resolve
is taken; let things take their course; let us no longer vacillate;
let us no longer hang back; this is for the interest of all,
not for my own; I am Madeleine, and Madeleine I remain. Woe to the
man who is Jean Valjean! I am no longer he; I do not know that man;
I no longer know anything; it turns out that some one is Jean
Valjean at the present moment; let him look out for himself;
that does not concern me; it is a fatal name which was floating
abroad in the night; if it halts and descends on a head, so much
the worse for that head."
He looked into the little mirror which hung above his chimney-piece,
and said:--
"Hold! it has relieved me to come to a decision; I am quite another
man now."
He proceeded a few paces further, then he stopped short.
"Come!" he said, "I must not flinch before any of the consequences
of the resolution which I have once adopted; there are still
threads which attach me to that Jean Valjean; they must be broken;
in this very room there are objects which would betray me,
dumb things which would bear witness against me; it is settled;
all these things must disappear."
He fumbled in his pocket, drew out his purse, opened it, and took
out a small key; he inserted the key in a lock whose aperture could
hardly be seen, so hidden was it in the most sombre tones of the
design which covered the wall-paper; a secret receptacle opened,
a sort of false cupboard constructed in the angle between the wall
and the chimney-piece; in this hiding-place there were some rags--
a blue linen blouse, an old pair of trousers, an old knapsack,
and a huge thorn cudgel shod with iron at both ends. Those who
had seen Jean Valjean at the epoch when he passed through D----
in October, 1815, could easily have recognized all the pieces of this
miserable outfit.
He had preserved them as he had preserved the silver candlesticks,
in order to remind himself continually of his starting-point, but he
had concealed all that came from the galleys, and he had allowed
the candlesticks which came from the Bishop to be seen.
He cast a furtive glance towards the door, as though he feared that
it would open in spite of the bolt which fastened it; then, with a
quick and abrupt movement, he took the whole in his arms at once,
without bestowing so much as a glance on the things which he
had so religiously and so perilously preserved for so many years,
and flung them all, rags, cudgel, knapsack, into the fire.
He closed the false cupboard again, and with redoubled precautions,
henceforth unnecessary, since it was now empty, he concealed the
door behind a heavy piece of furniture, which he pushed in front
of it.
After the lapse of a few seconds, the room and the opposite wall
were lighted up with a fierce, red, tremulous glow. Everything was
on fire; the thorn cudgel snapped and threw out sparks to the middle
of the chamber.
As the knapsack was consumed, together with the hideous rags which
it contained, it revealed something which sparkled in the ashes.
By bending over, one could have readily recognized a coin,--no doubt
the forty-sou piece stolen from the little Savoyard.
He did not look at the fire, but paced back and forth with the
same step.
All at once his eye fell on the two silver candlesticks, which shone
vaguely on the chimney-piece, through the glow.
"Hold!" he thought; "the whole of Jean Valjean is still in them.
They must be destroyed also."
He seized the two candlesticks.
There was still fire enough to allow of their being put out of shape,
and converted into a sort of unrecognizable bar of metal.
He bent over the hearth and warmed himself for a moment. He felt
a sense of real comfort. "How good warmth is!" said he.
He stirred the live coals with one of the candlesticks.
A minute more, and they were both in the fire.
At that moment it seemed to him that he heard a voice within
him shouting: "Jean Valjean! Jean Valjean!"
His hair rose upright: he became like a man who is listening
to some terrible thing.
"Yes, that's it! finish!" said the voice. "Complete what you
are about! Destroy these candlesticks! Annihilate this souvenir!
Forget the Bishop! Forget everything! Destroy this Champmathieu, do!
That is right! Applaud yourself! So it is settled, resolved,
fixed, agreed: here is an old man who does not know what is
wanted of him, who has, perhaps, done nothing, an innocent man,
whose whole misfortune lies in your name, upon whom your name weighs
like a crime, who is about to be taken for you, who will be condemned,
who will finish his days in abjectness and horror. That is good!
Be an honest man yourself; remain Monsieur le Maire; remain honorable
and honored; enrich the town; nourish the indigent; rear the orphan;
live happy, virtuous, and admired; and, during this time, while you are
here in the midst of joy and light, there will be a man who will wear
your red blouse, who will bear your name in ignominy, and who will drag
your chain in the galleys. Yes, it is well arranged thus. Ah, wretch!"
The perspiration streamed from his brow. He fixed a haggard
eye on the candlesticks. But that within him which had spoken
had not finished. The voice continued:--
"Jean Valjean, there will be around you many voices, which will make
a great noise, which will talk very loud, and which will bless you,
and only one which no one will hear, and which will curse you
in the dark. Well! listen, infamous man! All those benedictions
will fall back before they reach heaven, and only the malediction
will ascend to God."
This voice, feeble at first, and which had proceeded from the most
obscure depths of his conscience, had gradually become startling
and formidable, and he now heard it in his very ear. It seemed
to him that it had detached itself from him, and that it was now
speaking outside of him. He thought that he heard the last words
so distinctly, that he glanced around the room in a sort of terror.
"Is there any one here?" he demanded aloud, in utter bewilderment.
Then he resumed, with a laugh which resembled that of an idiot:--
"How stupid I am! There can be no one!"
There was some one; but the person who was there was of those whom
the human eye cannot see.
He placed the candlesticks on the chimney-piece.
Then he resumed his monotonous and lugubrious tramp, which troubled
the dreams of the sleeping man beneath him, and awoke him with a start.
This tramping to and fro soothed and at the same time intoxicated him.
It sometimes seems, on supreme occasions, as though people moved
about for the purpose of asking advice of everything that they may
encounter by change of place. After the lapse of a few minutes he
no longer knew his position.
He now recoiled in equal terror before both the resolutions at which he
had arrived in turn. The two ideas which counselled him appeared
to him equally fatal. What a fatality! What conjunction that that
Champmathieu should have been taken for him; to be overwhelmed
by precisely the means which Providence seemed to have employed,
at first, to strengthen his position!
There was a moment when he reflected on the future. Denounce himself,
great God! Deliver himself up! With immense despair he faced all
that he should be obliged to leave, all that he should be obliged
to take up once more. He should have to bid farewell to that existence
which was so good, so pure, so radiant, to the respect of all,
to honor, to liberty. He should never more stroll in the fields;
he should never more hear the birds sing in the month of May;
he should never more bestow alms on the little children;
he should never more experience the sweetness of having glances
of gratitude and love fixed upon him; he should quit that house
which he had built, that little chamber! Everything seemed charming
to him at that moment. Never again should he read those books;
never more should he write on that little table of white wood;
his old portress, the only servant whom he kept, would never more
bring him his coffee in the morning. Great God! instead of that,
the convict gang, the iron necklet, the red waistcoat, the chain
on his ankle, fatigue, the cell, the camp bed all those horrors
which he knew so well! At his age, after having been what he was!
If he were only young again! but to be addressed in his old age as
"thou" by any one who pleased; to be searched by the convict-guard;
to receive the galley-sergeant's cudgellings; to wear iron-bound
shoes on his bare feet; to have to stretch out his leg night
and morning to the hammer of the roundsman who visits the gang;
to submit to the curiosity of strangers, who would be told: "That man
yonder is the famous Jean Valjean, who was mayor of M. sur M.";
and at night, dripping with perspiration, overwhelmed with lassitude,
their green caps drawn over their eyes, to remount, two by two,
the ladder staircase of the galleys beneath the sergeant's whip.
Oh, what misery! Can destiny, then, be as malicious as an intelligent
being, and become as monstrous as the human heart?
And do what he would, he always fell back upon the heartrending
dilemma which lay at the foundation of his revery: "Should he
remain in paradise and become a demon? Should he return to hell
and become an angel?"
What was to be done? Great God! what was to be done?
The torment from which he had escaped with so much difficulty
was unchained afresh within him. His ideas began to grow confused
once more; they assumed a kind of stupefied and mechanical quality
which is peculiar to despair. The name of Romainville recurred
incessantly to his mind, with the two verses of a song which he had
heard in the past. He thought that Romainville was a little grove
near Paris, where young lovers go to pluck lilacs in the month of April.
He wavered outwardly as well as inwardly. He walked like a little
child who is permitted to toddle alone.
At intervals, as he combated his lassitude, he made an effort
to recover the mastery of his mind. He tried to put to himself,
for the last time, and definitely, the problem over which he had,
in a manner, fallen prostrate with fatigue: Ought he to
denounce himself? Ought he to hold his peace? He could not manage
to see anything distinctly. The vague aspects of all the courses
of reasoning which had been sketched out by his meditations quivered
and vanished, one after the other, into smoke. He only felt that,
to whatever course of action he made up his mind, something in him
must die, and that of necessity, and without his being able to
escape the fact; that he was entering a sepulchre on the right hand
as much as on the left; that he was passing through a death agony,--
the agony of his happiness, or the agony of his virtue.
Alas! all his resolution had again taken possession of him.
He was no further advanced than at the beginning.
Thus did this unhappy soul struggle in its anguish.
Eighteen hundred years before this unfortunate man, the mysterious
Being in whom are summed up all the sanctities and all the
sufferings of humanity had also long thrust aside with his hand,
while the olive-trees quivered in the wild wind of the infinite,
the terrible cup which appeared to Him dripping with darkness
and overflowing with shadows in the depths all studded with stars.


Three o'clock in the morning had just struck, and he had been
walking thus for five hours, almost uninterruptedly, when he
at length allowed himself to drop into his chair.
There he fell asleep and had a dream.
This dream, like the majority of dreams, bore no relation to
the situation, except by its painful and heart-rending character,
but it made an impression on him. This nightmare struck him so
forcibly that he wrote it down later on. It is one of the papers
in his own handwriting which he has bequeathed to us. We think
that we have here reproduced the thing in strict accordance with the text.
Of whatever nature this dream may be, the history of this night
would be incomplete if we were to omit it: it is the gloomy
adventure of an ailing soul.
Here it is. On the envelope we find this line inscribed, "The Dream
I had that Night."
"I was in a plain; a vast, gloomy plain, where there was no grass.
It did not seem to me to be daylight nor yet night.
"I was walking with my brother, the brother of my childish years,
the brother of whom, I must say, I never think, and whom I now
hardly remember.
"We were conversing and we met some passers-by. We were talking
of a neighbor of ours in former days, who had always worked with her
window open from the time when she came to live on the street.
As we talked we felt cold because of that open window.
"There were no trees in the plain. We saw a man passing close to us.
He was entirely nude, of the hue of ashes, and mounted on a horse
which was earth color. The man had no hair; we could see his skull
and the veins on it. In his hand he held a switch which was as
supple as a vine-shoot and as heavy as iron. This horseman passed
and said nothing to us.
"My brother said to me, `Let us take to the hollow road.'
"There existed a hollow way wherein one saw neither a single shrub
nor a spear of moss. Everything was dirt-colored, even the sky.
After proceeding a few paces, I received no reply when I spoke:
I perceived that my brother was no longer with me.
"I entered a village which I espied. I reflected that it must
be Romainville. (Why Romainville?)[5]

[5] This parenthesis is dw the door of a house open, and I entered.
"The first chamber was deserted. I entered the second. Behind the
door of this chamber a man was standing erect against the wall.
I inquired of this man, `Whose house is this? Where am I?'
The man replied not.
"The house had a garden. I quitted the house and entered the garden.
The garden was deserted. Behind the first tree I found a man
standing upright. I said to this man, `What garden is this?
Where am I?' The man did not answer.
"I strolled into the village, and perceived that it was a town.
All the streets were deserted, all the doors were open. Not a single
living being was passing in the streets, walking through the chambers
or strolling in the gardens. But behind each angle of the walls,
behind each door, behind each tree, stood a silent man. Only one was
to be seen at a time. These men watched me pass.
"I left the town and began to ramble about the fields.
"After the lapse of some time I turned back and saw a great crowd coming
up behind me. I recognized all the men whom I had seen in that town.
They had strange heads. They did not seem to be in a hurry, yet they
walked faster than I did. They made no noise as they walked.
In an instant this crowd had overtaken and surrounded me.
The faces of these men were earthen in hue.
"Then the first one whom I had seen and questioned on entering
the town said to me:--
"`Whither are you going! Do you not know that you have been dead
this long time?'
"I opened my mouth to reply, and I perceived that there was no
one near me."

He woke. He was icy cold. A wind which was chill like the breeze
of dawn was rattling the leaves of the window, which had been left
open on their hinges. The fire was out. The candle was nearing
its end. It was still black night.
He rose, he went to the window. There were no stars in the sky
even yet.
From his window the yard of the house and the street were visible.
A sharp, harsh noise, which made him drop his eyes, resounded from
the earth.
Below him he perceived two red stars, whose rays lengthened
and shortened in a singular manner through the darkness.
As his thoughts were still half immersed in the mists of sleep,
"Hold!" said he, "there are no stars in the sky. They are on
earth now."
But this confusion vanished; a second sound similar to the first
roused him thoroughly; he looked and recognized the fact that these
two stars were the lanterns of a carriage. By the light which
they cast he was able to distinguish the form of this vehicle.
It was a tilbury harnessed to a small white horse. The noise which
he had heard was the trampling of the horse's hoofs on the pavement.
"What vehicle is this?" he said to himself. "Who is coming here
so early in the morning?"
At that moment there came a light tap on the door of his chamber.
He shuddered from head to foot, and cried in a terrible voice:--
"Who is there?"
Some one said:--
"I, Monsieur le Maire."
He recognized the voice of the old woman who was his portress.
"Well!" he replied, "what is it?"
"Monsieur le Maire, it is just five o'clock in the morning."
"What is that to me?"
"The cabriolet is here, Monsieur le Maire."
"What cabriolet?"
"The tilbury."
"What tilbury?"
"Did not Monsieur le Maire order a tilbury?"
"No," said he.
"The coachman says that he has come for Monsieur le Maire."
"What coachman?"
"M. Scaufflaire's coachman."
"M. Scaufflaire?"
That name sent a shudder over him, as though a flash of lightning
had passed in front of his face.
"Ah! yes," he resumed; "M. Scaufflaire!"
If the old woman could have seen him at that moment, she would
have been frightened.
A tolerably long silence ensued. He examined the flame of the candle
with a stupid air, and from around the wick he took some of the
burning wax, which he rolled between his fingers. The old woman
waited for him. She even ventured to uplift her voice once more:--
"What am I to say, Monsieur le Maire?"
"Say that it is well, and that I am coming down."


The posting service from Arras to M. sur M. was still operated
at this period by small mail-wagons of the time of the Empire.
These mail-wagons were two-wheeled cabriolets, upholstered inside
with fawn-colored leather, hung on springs, and having but two seats,
one for the postboy, the other for the traveller. The wheels were
armed with those long, offensive axles which keep other vehicles
at a distance, and which may still be seen on the road in Germany.
The despatch box, an immense oblong coffer, was placed behind the
vehicle and formed a part of it. This coffer was painted black,
and the cabriolet yellow.
These vehicles, which have no counterparts nowadays, had something
distorted and hunchbacked about them; and when one saw them passing
in the distance, and climbing up some road to the horizon, they
resembled the insects which are called, I think, termites, and which,
though with but little corselet, drag a great train behind them.
But they travelled at a very rapid rate. The post-wagon which set out
from Arras at one o'clock every night, after the mail from Paris had
passed, arrived at M. sur M. a little before five o'clock in the morning.
That night the wagon which was descending to M. sur M. by the Hesdin road,
collided at the corner of a street, just as it was entering the town,
with a little tilbury harnessed to a white horse, which was going
in the opposite direction, and in which there was but one person,
a man enveloped in a mantle. The wheel of the tilbury received
quite a violent shock. The postman shouted to the man to stop,
but the traveller paid no heed and pursued his road at full gallop.
"That man is in a devilish hurry!" said the postman.
The man thus hastening on was the one whom we have just seen
struggling in convulsions which are certainly deserving of pity.
Whither was he going? He could not have told. Why was he hastening?
He did not know. He was driving at random, straight ahead. Whither?
To Arras, no doubt; but he might have been going elsewhere as well.
At times he was conscious of it, and he shuddered. He plunged into
the night as into a gulf. Something urged him forward; something drew
him on. No one could have told what was taking place within him;
every one will understand it. What man is there who has not entered,
at least once in his life, into that obscure cavern of the unknown?
However, he had resolved on nothing, decided nothing, formed no plan,
done nothing. None of the actions of his conscience had been decisive.
He was, more than ever, as he had been at the first moment.
Why was he going to Arras?
He repeated what he had already said to himself when he had hired
Scaufflaire's cabriolet: that, whatever the result was to be,
there was no reason why he should not see with his own eyes,
and judge of matters for himself; that this was even prudent;
that he must know what took place; that no decision could be arrived
at without having observed and scrutinized; that one made mountains
out of everything from a distance; that, at any rate, when he
should have seen that Champmathieu, some wretch, his conscience
would probably be greatly relieved to allow him to go to the galleys
in his stead; that Javert would indeed be there; and that Brevet,
that Chenildieu, that Cochepaille, old convicts who had known him;
but they certainly would not recognize him;--bah! what an idea!
that Javert was a hundred leagues from suspecting the truth;
that all conjectures and all suppositions were fixed on Champmathieu,
and that there is nothing so headstrong as suppositions and conjectures;
that accordingly there was no danger.
That it was, no doubt, a dark moment, but that he should emerge
from it; that, after all, he held his destiny, however bad it might be,
in his own hand; that he was master of it. He clung to this thought.
At bottom, to tell the whole truth, he would have preferred not
to go to Arras.
Nevertheless, he was going thither.
As he meditated, he whipped up his horse, which was proceeding at
that fine, regular, and even trot which accomplishes two leagues
and a half an hour.
In proportion as the cabriolet advanced, he felt something within
him draw back.
At daybreak he was in the open country; the town of M. sur M. lay
far behind him. He watched the horizon grow white; he stared at all
the chilly figures of a winter's dawn as they passed before his eyes,
but without seeing them. The morning has its spectres as well as
the evening. He did not see them; but without his being aware of it,
and by means of a sort of penetration which was almost physical,
these black silhouettes of trees and of hills added some gloomy
and sinister quality to the violent state of his soul.
Each time that he passed one of those isolated dwellings which
sometimes border on the highway, he said to himself, "And yet
there are people there within who are sleeping!"
The trot of the horse, the bells on the harness, the wheels
on the road, produced a gentle, monotonous noise. These things
are charming when one is joyous, and lugubrious when one is sad.
It was broad daylight when he arrived at Hesdin. He halted in front
of the inn, to allow the horse a breathing spell, and to have him
given some oats.
The horse belonged, as Scaufflaire had said, to that small race
of the Boulonnais, which has too much head, too much belly,
and not enough neck and shoulders, but which has a broad chest,
a large crupper, thin, fine legs, and solid hoofs--a homely,
but a robust and healthy race. The excellent beast had travelled
five leagues in two hours, and had not a drop of sweat on his loins.
He did not get out of the tilbury. The stableman who brought
the oats suddenly bent down and examined the left wheel.
"Are you going far in this condition?" said the man.
He replied, with an air of not having roused himself from his revery:--
"Have you come from a great distance?" went on the man.
"Five leagues."
"Why do you say, `Ah?'"
The man bent down once more, was silent for a moment, with his eyes
fixed on the wheel; then he rose erect and said:--
"Because, though this wheel has travelled five leagues, it certainly
will not travel another quarter of a league."
He sprang out of the tilbury.
"What is that you say, my friend?"
"I say that it is a miracle that you should have travelled five leagues
without you and your horse rolling into some ditch on the highway.
Just see here!"
The wheel really had suffered serious damage. The shock administered
by the mail-wagon had split two spokes and strained the hub,
so that the nut no longer held firm.
"My friend," he said to the stableman, "is there a wheelwright here?"
"Certainly, sir."
"Do me the service to go and fetch him."
"He is only a step from here. Hey! Master Bourgaillard!"
Master Bourgaillard, the wheelwright, was standing on his own threshold.
He came, examined the wheel and made a grimace like a surgeon
when the latter thinks a limb is broken.
"Can you repair this wheel immediately?"
"Yes, sir."
"When can I set out again?"
"There is a long day's work on it. Are you in a hurry, sir?"
"In a very great hurry. I must set out again in an hour at the latest."
"Impossible, sir."
"I will pay whatever you ask."
"Well, in two hours, then."
"Impossible to-day. Two new spokes and a hub must be made.
Monsieur will not be able to start before to-morrow morning."
"The matter cannot wait until to-morrow. What if you were to replace
this wheel instead of repairing it?"
"How so?"
"You are a wheelwright?"
"Certainly, sir."
"Have you not a wheel that you can sell me? Then I could start
again at once."
"A spare wheel?"
"I have no wheel on hand that would fit your cabriolet. Two wheels
make a pair. Two wheels cannot be put together hap-hazard."
"In that case, sell me a pair of wheels."
"Not all wheels fit all axles, sir."
"Try, nevertheless."
"It is useless, sir. I have nothing to sell but cart-wheels. We
are but a poor country here."
"Have you a cabriolet that you can let me have?"
The wheelwright had seen at the first glance that the tilbury
was a hired vehicle. He shrugged his shoulders.
"You treat the cabriolets that people let you so well! If I had one,
I would not let it to you!"
"Well, sell it to me, then."
"I have none."
"What! not even a spring-cart? I am not hard to please, as you see."
"We live in a poor country. There is, in truth," added the wheelwright,
"an old calash under the shed yonder, which belongs to a bourgeois
of the town, who gave it to me to take care of, and who only uses it
on the thirty-sixth of the month--never, that is to say. I might
let that to you, for what matters it to me? But the bourgeois must
not see it pass--and then, it is a calash; it would require two horses."
"I will take two post-horses."
"Where is Monsieur going?"
"To Arras."
"And Monsieur wishes to reach there to-day?"
"Yes, of course."
"By taking two post-horses?"
"Why not?"
"Does it make any difference whether Monsieur arrives at four
o'clock to-morrow morning?"
"Certainly not."
"There is one thing to be said about that, you see, by taking post-horses--
Monsieur has his passport?"
"Well, by taking post-horses, Monsieur cannot reach Arras before
to-morrow. We are on a cross-road. The relays are badly served,
the horses are in the fields. The season for ploughing is
just beginning; heavy teams are required, and horses are seized
upon everywhere, from the post as well as elsewhere. Monsieur will
have to wait three or four hours at the least at every relay.
And, then, they drive at a walk. There are many hills to ascend."
"Come then, I will go on horseback. Unharness the cabriolet.
Some one can surely sell me a saddle in the neighborhood."
"Without doubt. But will this horse bear the saddle?"
"That is true; you remind me of that; he will not bear it."
"But I can surely hire a horse in the village?"
"A horse to travel to Arras at one stretch?"
"That would require such a horse as does not exist in these parts.
You would have to buy it to begin with, because no one knows you.
But you will not find one for sale nor to let, for five hundred francs,
or for a thousand."
"What am I to do?"
"The best thing is to let me repair the wheel like an honest man,
and set out on your journey to-morrow."
"To-morrow will be too late."
"The deuce!"
"Is there not a mail-wagon which runs to Arras? When will it pass?"
"To-night. Both the posts pass at night; the one going as well
as the one coming."
"What! It will take you a day to mend this wheel?"
"A day, and a good long one."
"If you set two men to work?"
"If I set ten men to work."
"What if the spokes were to be tied together with ropes?"
"That could be done with the spokes, not with the hub; and the felly
is in a bad state, too."
"Is there any one in this village who lets out teams?"
"Is there another wheelwright?"
The stableman and the wheelwright replied in concert, with a toss
of the head
He felt an immense joy.
It was evident that Providence was intervening. That it was it
who had broken the wheel of the tilbury and who was stopping him
on the road. He had not yielded to this sort of first summons;
he had just made every possible effort to continue the journey;
he had loyally and scrupulously exhausted all means; he had been
deterred neither by the season, nor fatigue, nor by the expense;
he had nothing with which to reproach himself. If he went no further,
that was no fault of his. It did not concern him further.
It was no longer his fault. It was not the act of his own conscience,
but the act of Providence.
He breathed again. He breathed freely and to the full extent
of his lungs for the first time since Javert's visit. It seemed
to him that the hand of iron which had held his heart in its grasp
for the last twenty hours had just released him.
It seemed to him that God was for hire, and it is probable that we should not
have had to relate any of the occurrences which the reader is about
to peruse; but this conversation had taken place in the street.
Any colloquy in the street inevitably attracts a crowd. There are
always people who ask nothing better than to become spectators.
While he was questioning the wheelwright, some people who were
passing back and forth halted around them. After listening
for a few minutes, a young lad, to whom no one had paid any heed,
detached himself from the group and ran off.
At the moment when the traveller, after the inward deliberation
which we have just described, resolved to retrace his steps,
this child returned. He was accompanied by an old woman.
"Monsieur," said the woman, "my boy tells me that you wish to hire
a cabriolet."
These simple words uttered by an old woman led by a child made
the perspiration trickle down his limbs. He thought that he beheld
the hand which had relaxed its grasp reappear in the darkness
behind him, ready to seize him once more.
He answered:--
"Yes, my good woman; I am in search of a cabriolet which I can hire."
And he hastened to add:--
"But there is none in the place."
"Certainly there is," said the old woman.
"Where?" interpolated the wheelwright.
"At my house," replied the old woman.
He shuddered. The fatal hand had grasped him again.
The old woman really had in her shed a sort of basket spring-cart.
The wheelwright and the stable-man, in despair at the prospect
of the traveller escaping their clutches, interfered.
"It was a frightful old trap; it rests flat on the axle; it is an
actual fact that the seats were suspended inside it by leather thongs;
the rain came into it; the wheels were rusted and eaten with moisture;
it would not go much further than the tilbury; a regular ramshackle
old stage-wagon; the gentleman would make a great mistake if he
trusted himself to it," etc., etc.
All this was true; but this trap, this ramshackle old vehicle,
this thing, whatever it was, ran on its two wheels and could go
to Arras.
He paid what was asked, left the tilbury with the wheelwright
to be repaired, intending to reclaim it on his return,
had the white horse put to the cart, climbed into it, and resumed
the road which he had been travelling since morning.
At the moment when the cart moved off, he admitted that he had felt,
a moment previously, a certain joy in the thought that he should not
go whither he was now proceeding. He examined this joy with a sort
of wrath, and found it absurd. Why should he feel joy at turning back?
After all, he was taking this trip of his own free will.
No one was forcing him to it.
And assuredly nothing would happen except what he should choose.
As he left Hesdin, he heard a voice shouting to him: "Stop! Stop!"
He halted the cart with a vigorous movement which contained
a feverish and convulsive element resembling hope.
It was the old woman's little boy.
"Monsieur," said the latter, "it was I who got the cart for you."
"You have not given me anything."
He who gave to all so readily thought this demand exorbitant
and almost odious.
"Ah! it's you, you scamp?" said he; "you shall have nothing."
He whipped up his horse and set off at full speed.
He had lost a great deal of time at Hesdin. He wanted to make it good.
The little horse was courageous, and pulled for two; but it was
the month of February, there had been rain; the roads were bad.
And then, it was no longer the tilbury. The cart was very heavy,
and in addition, there were many ascents.
He took nearly four hours to go from Hesdin to Saint-Pol; four hours
for five leagues.
At Saint-Pol he had the horse unharnessed at the first inn he
came to and led to the stable; as he had promised Scaufflaire,
he stood beside the manger while the horse was eating; he thought
of sad and confusing things.
The inn-keeper's wife came to the stable.
"Does not Monsieur wish to breakfast?"
"Come, that is true; I even have a good appetite."
He followed the woman, who had a rosy, cheerful face; she led him
to the public room where there were tables covered with waxed cloth.
"Make haste!" said he; "I must start again; I am in a hurry."
A big Flemish servant-maid placed his knife and fork in all haste;
he looked at the girl with a sensation of comfort.
"That is what ailed me," he thought; "I had not breakfasted."
His breakfast was served; he seized the bread, took a mouthful,
and then slowly replaced it on the table, and did not touch it again.
A carter was eating at another table; he said to this man:--
"Why is their bread so bitter here?"
The carter was a German and did not understand him.
He returned to the stable and remained near the horse.
An hour later he had quitted Saint-Pol and was directing his course
towards Tinques, which is only five leagues from Arras.
What did he do during this journey? Of what was he thinking?
As in the morning, he watched the trees, the thatched roofs,
the tilled fields pass by, and the way in which the landscape,
broken at every turn of the road, vanished; this is a sort of
contemplation which sometimes suffices to the soul, and almost
relieves it from thought. What is more melancholy and more profound
than to see a thousand objects for the first and the last time?
To travel is to be born and to die at every instant; perhaps, in the
vaguest region of his mind, be did make comparisons between the
shifting horizon and our human existence: all the things of life
are perpetually fleeing before us; the dark and bright intervals
are intermingled; after a dazzling moment, an eclipse; we look,
we hasten, we stretch out our hands to grasp what is passing;
each event is a turn in the road, and, all at once, we are old;
we feel a shock; all is black; we distinguish an obscure door;
the gloomy horse of life, which has been drawing us halts, and we see a
veiled and unknown person unharnessing amid the shadows.
Twilight was falling when the children who were coming out of school
beheld this traveller enter Tinques; it is true that the days
were still short; he did not halt at Tinques; as he emerged from
the village, a laborer, who was mending the road with stones,
raised his head and said to him:--
"That horse is very much fatigued."
The poor beast was, in fact, going at a walk.
"Are you going to Arras?" added the road-mender.
"If you go on at that rate you will not arrive very early."
He stopped his horse, and asked the laborer:--
"How far is it from here to Arras?"
"Nearly seven good leagues."
"How is that? the posting guide only says five leagues and a quarter."
"Ah!" returned the road-mender, "so you don't know that the road
is under repair? You will find it barred a quarter of an hour
further on; there is no way to proceed further."
"You will take the road on the left, leading to Carency; you will
cross the river; when you reach Camblin, you will turn to the right;
that is the road to Mont-Saint-Eloy which leads to Arras."
"But it is night, and I shall lose my way."
"You do not belong in these parts?"
"And, besides, it is all cross-roads; stop! sir," resumed the road-mender;
"shall I give you a piece of advice? your horse is tired;
return to Tinques; there is a good inn there; sleep there;
you can reach Arras to-morrow."
"I must be there this evening."
"That is different; but go to the inn all the same, and get an
extra horse; the stable-boy will guide you through the cross-roads."
He followed the road-mender's advice, retraced his steps, and,
half an hour later, he passed the same spot again, but this time
at full speed, with a good horse to aid; a stable-boy, who called
himself a postilion, was seated on the shaft of the cariole.
Still, he felt that he had lost time.
Night had fully come.
They turned into the cross-road; the way became frightfully bad;
the cart lurched from one rut to the other; he said to the postilion:--
"Keep at a trot, and you shall have a double fee."
In one of the jolts, the whiffle-tree broke.
"There's the whiffle-tree broken, sir," said the postilion; "I don't
know how to harness my horse now; this road is very bad at night;
if you wish to return and sleep at Tinques, we could be in Arras
early to-morrow morning."
He replied, "Have you a bit of rope and a knife?"
"Yes, sir."
He cut a branch from a tree and made a whiffle-tree of it.
This caused another loss of twenty minutes; but they set out again
at a gallop.
The plain was gloomy; low-hanging, black, crisp fogs crept over the hills
and wrenched themselves away like smoke: there were whitish gleams
in the clouds; a strong breeze which blew in from the sea produced
a sound in all quarters of the horizon, as of some one moving furniture;
everything that could be seen assumed attitudes of terror.
How many things shiver beneath these vast breaths of the night!
He was stiff with cold; he had eaten nothing since the night before;
he vaguely recalled his other nocturnal trip in the vast plain
in the neighborhood of D----, eight years previously, and it seemed
but yesterday.
The hour struck from a distant tower; he asked the boy:--
"What time is it?"
"Seven o'clock, sir; we shall reach Arras at eight; we have
but three leagues still to go."
At that moment, he for the first time indulged in this reflection,
thinking it odd the while that it had not occurred to him sooner:
that all this trouble which he was taking was, perhaps, useless;
that he did not know so much as the hour of the trial; that he should,
at least, have informed himself of that; that he was foolish to go
thus straight ahead without knowing whether he would be of any
service or not; then he sketched out some calculations in his mind:
that, ordinarily, the sittings of the Court of Assizes began at
nine o'clock in the morning; that it could not be a long affair;
that the theft of the apples would be very brief; that there would
then remain only a question of identity, four or five depositions,
and very little for the lawyers to say; that he should arrive after
all was over.
The postilion whipped up the horses; they had crossed the river
and left Mont-Saint-Eloy behind them.
The night grew more profound.


But at that moment Fantine was joyous.
She had passed a very bad night; her cough was frightful; her fever
had doubled in intensity; she had had dreams: in the morning,
when the doctor paid his visit, she was delirious; he assumed
an alarmed look, and ordered that he should be informed as soon
as M. Madeleine arrived.
All the morning she was melancholy, said but little, and laid
plaits in her sheets, murmuring the while, in a low voice,
calculations which seemed to be calculations of distances.
Her eyes were hollow and staring. They seemed almost extinguished
at intervals, then lighted up again and shone like stars.
It seems as though, at the approach of a certain dark hour,
the light of heaven fills those who are quitting the light of earth.
Each time that Sister Simplice asked her how she felt,
she replied invariably, "Well. I should like to see M. Madeleine."
Some months before this, at the moment when Fantine had just lost
her last modesty, her last shame, and her last joy, she was the shadow
of herself; now she was the spectre of herself. Physical suffering
had completed the work of moral suffering. This creature of five
and twenty had a wrinkled brow, flabby cheeks, pinched nostrils,
teeth from which the gums had receded, a leaden complexion,
a bony neck, prominent shoulder-blades, frail limbs, a clayey skin,
and her golden hair was growing out sprinkled with gray.
Alas! how illness improvises old-age!
At mid-day the physician returned, gave some directions,
inquired whether the mayor had made his appearance at the infirmary,
and shook his head.
M. Madeleine usually came to see the invalid at three o'clock. As
exactness is kindness, he was exact.
About half-past two, Fantine began to be restless. In the course
of twenty minutes, she asked the nun more than ten times, "What time
is it, sister?"
Three o'clock struck. At the third stroke, Fantine sat up in bed;
she who could, in general, hardly turn over, joined her yellow,
fleshless hands in a sort of convulsive clasp, and the nun heard her
utter one of those profound sighs which seem to throw off dejection.
Then Fantine turned and looked at the door.
No one entered; the door did not open.
She remained thus for a quarter of an hour, her eyes riveted on
the door, motionless and apparently holding her breath. The sister
dared not speak to her. The clock struck a quarter past three.
Fantine fell back on her pillow.
She said nothing, but began to plait the sheets once more.
Half an hour passed, then an hour, no one came; every time the
clock struck, Fantine started up and looked towards the door,
then fell back again.
Her thought was clearly perceptible, but she uttered no name, she made
no complaint, she blamed no one. But she coughed in a melancholy way.
One would have said that something dark was descending upon her.
She was livid and her lips were blue. She smiled now and then.
Five o'clock struck. Then the sister heard her say, very low and gently,
"He is wrong not to come to-day, since I am going away to-morrow."
Sister Simplice herself was surprised at M. Madeleine's delay.
In the meantime, Fantine was staring at the tester of her bed.
She seemed to be endeavoring to recall something. All at once she
began to sing in a voice as feeble as a breath. The nun listened.
This is what Fantine was singing:--

"Lovely things we will buy
As we stroll the faubourgs through.
Roses are pink, corn-flowers are blue,
I love my love, corn-flowers are blue.

"Yestere'en the Virgin Mary came near my stove, in a broidered
mantle clad, and said to me, `Here, hide 'neath my veil the child
whom you one day begged from me. Haste to the city, buy linen,
buy a needle, buy thread.'

"Lovely things we will buy
As we stroll the faubourgs through.

"Dear Holy Virgin, beside my stove I have set a cradle
with ribbons decked. God may give me his loveliest star;
I prefer the child thou hast granted me. `Madame, what shall
I do with this linen fine?'--`Make of it clothes for thy new-born babe.'

"Roses are pink and corn-flowers are blue,
I love my love, and corn-flowers are blue.

"`Wash this linen.'--`Where?'--`In the stream. Make of it,
soiling not, spoiling not, a petticoat fair with its bodice fine,
which I will embroider and fill with flowers.'--`Madame, the
child is no longer here; what is to be done?'--`Then make of it
a winding-sheet in which to bury me.'

"Lovely things we will buy
As we stroll the faubourgs through,
Roses are pink, corn-flowers are blue,
I love my love, corn-flowers are blue."

This song was an old cradle romance with which she had, in former days,
lulled her little Cosette to sleep, and which had never recurred
to her mind in all the five years during which she had been parted
from her child. She sang it in so sad a voice, and to so sweet an air,
that it was enough to make any one, even a nun, weep. The sister,
accustomed as she was to austerities, felt a tear spring to her eyes.
The clock struck six. Fantine did not seem to hear it. She no
longer seemed to pay attention to anything about her.
Sister Simplice sent a serving-maid to inquire of the portress
of the factory, whether the mayor had returned, and if he would
not come to the infirmary soon. The girl returned in a few minutes.
Fantine was still motionless and seemed absorbed in her own thoughts.
The servant informed Sister Simplice in a very low tone, that the mayor
had set out that morning before six o'clock, in a little tilbury harnessed
to a white horse, cold as the weather was; that he had gone alone,
without even a driver; that no one knew what road he had taken;
that people said he had bturned
to Fantine's bed, the sister interrogating, the servant conjecturing,
Fantine, with the feverish vivacity of certain organic maladies,
which unite the free movements of health with the frightful
emaciation of death, had raised herself to her knees in bed,
with her shrivelled hands resting on the bolster, and her head
thrust through the opening of the curtains, and was listening.
All at once she cried:--
"You are speaking of M. Madeleine! Why are you talking so low?
What is he doing? Why does he not come?"
Her voice was so abrupt and hoarse that the two women thought they
heard the voice of a man; they wheeled round in affright.
"Answer me!" cried Fantine.
The servant stammered:--
"The portress told me that he could not come to-day."
"Be calm, my child," said the sister; "lie down again."
Fantine, without changing her attitude, continued in a loud voice,
and with an accent that was both imperious and heart-rending:--
"He cannot come? Why not? You know the reason. You are whispering
it to each other there. I want to know it."
The servant-maid hastened to say in the nun's ear, "Say that he
is busy with the city council."
Sister Simplice blushed faintly, for it was a lie that the maid
had proposed to her.
On the other hand, it seemed to her that the mere communication of the
truth to the invalid would, without doubt, deal her a terrible blow,
and that this was a serious matter in Fantine's present state.
Her flush did not last long; the sister raised her calm, sad eyes
to Fantine, and said, "Monsieur le Maire has gone away."
Fantine raised herself and crouched on her heels in the bed:
her eyes sparkled; indescribable joy beamed from that melancholy face.
"Gone!" she cried; "he has gone to get Cosette."
Then she raised her arms to heaven, and her white face became ineffable;
her lips moved; she was praying in a low voice.
When her prayer was finished, "Sister," she said, "I am willing to lie
down again; I will do anything you wish; I was naughty just now;
I beg your pardon for having spoken so loud; it is very wrong
to talk loudly; I know that well, my good sister, but, you see,
I am very happy: the good God is good; M. Madeleine is good;
just think! he has gone to Montfermeil to get my little Cosette."
She lay down again, with the nun's assistance, helped the nun
to arrange her pillow, and kissed the little silver cross which she
wore on her neck, and which Sister Simplice had given her.
"My child," said the sister, "try to rest now, and do not talk
any more."
Fantine took the sister's hand in her moist hands, and the latter
was pained to feel that perspiration.
"He set out this morning for Paris; in fact, he need not even go
through Paris; Montfermeil is a little to the left as you come thence.
Do you remember how he said to me yesterday, when I spoke
to him of Cosette, Soon, soon? He wants to give me a surprise,
you know! he made me sign a letter so that she could be taken from
the Thenardiers; they cannot say anything, can they? they will give
back Cosette, for they have been paid; the authorities will not
allow them to keep the child since they have received their pay.
Do not make signs to me that I must not talk, sister! I am
extremely happy; I am doing well; I am not ill at all any more;
I am going to see Cosette again; I am even quite hungry; it is
nearly five years since I saw her last; you cannot imagine how much
attached one gets to children, and then, she will be so pretty;
you will see! If you only knew what pretty little rosy fingers
she had! In the first place, she will have very beautiful hands;
she had ridiculous hands when she was only a year old; like this!
she must be a big girl now; she is seven years old; she is quite
a young lady; I call her Cosette, but her name is really Euphrasie.
Stop! this morning I was looking at the dust on the chimney-piece,
and I had a sort of idea come across me, like that, that I should
see Cosette again soon. Mon Dieu! how wrong it is not to see one's
children for years! One ought to reflect that life is not eternal.
Oh, how good M. le Maire is to go! it is very cold! it is true;
he had on his cloak, at least? he will be here to-morrow, will he
not? to-morrow will be a festival day; to-morrow morning, sister,
you must remind me to put on my little cap that has lace on it.
What a place that Montfermeil is! I took that journey on foot once;
it was very long for me, but the diligences go very quickly! he
will be here to-morrow with Cosette: how far is it from here
to Montfermeil?"
The sister, who had no idea of distances, replied, "Oh, I think
that be will be here to-morrow."
"To-morrow! to-morrow!" said Fantine, "I shall see Cosette to-morrow!
you see, good sister of the good God, that I am no longer ill;
I am mad; I could dance if any one wished it."
A person who had seen her a quarter of an hour previously would
not have understood the change; she was all rosy now; she spoke
in a lively and natural voice; her whole face was one smile;
now and then she talked, she laughed softly; the joy of a mother
is almost infantile.
"Well," resumed the nun, "now that you are happy, mind me,
and do not talk any more."
Fantine laid her head on her pillow and said in a low voice:
"Yes, lie down again; be good, for you are going to have your child;
Sister Simplice is right; every one here is right."
And then, without stirring, without even moving her head, she began
to stare all about her with wide-open eyes and a joyous air,
and she said nothing more.
The sister drew the curtains together again, hoping that she would
fall into a doze. Between seven and eight o'clock the doctor came;
not hearing any sound, he thought Fantine was asleep, entered softly,
and approached the bed on tiptoe; he opened the curtains a little,
and, by the light of the taper, he saw Fantine's big eyes gazing
at him.
She said to him, "She will be allowed to sleep beside
me in a little bed, will she not, sir?"
The doctor thought that she was delirious. She added:--
"See! there is just room."
The doctor took Sister Simplice aside, and she explained
matters to him; that M. Madeleine was absent for a day or two,
and that in their doubt they had not thought it well to undeceive
the invalid, who believed that the mayor had gone to Montfermeil;
that it was possible, after all, that her guess was correct:
the doctor approved.
He returned to Fantine's bed, and she went on:--
"You see, when she wakes up in the morning, I shall be able to say
good morning to her, poor kitten, and when I cannot sleep at night,
I can hear her asleep; her little gentle breathing will do me good."
"Give me your hand," said the doctor.
She stretched out her arm, and exclaimed with a laugh:--
"Ah, hold! in truth, you did not know it; I am cured; Cosette will
arrive to-morrow."
The doctor was surprised; she was better; the pressure on her chest
had decreased; her pulse had regained its strength; a sort of life
had suddenly supervened and reanimated this poor, worn-out creature.
"Doctor," she went on, "did the sister tell you that M. le Maire
has gone to get that mite of a child?"
The doctor recommended silence, and that all painful emotions should
be avoided; he prescribed an infusion of pure chinchona, and, in case
the fever should increase again during the night, a calming potion.
As he took his departure, he said to the sister:--
"She is doing better; if good luck willed that the mayor should
actually arrive to-morrow with the child, who knows? there are
crises so astounding; great joy has been known to arrest maladies;
I know well that this is an organic disease, and in an advanced state,
but all those things are such mysteries: we may be able to save her."



It was nearly eight o'clock in the evening when the cart, which we
left on the road, entered the porte-cochere of the Hotel de la Poste
in Arras; the man whom we have been following up to this moment
alighted from it, responded with an abstracted air to the attentions
of the people of the inn, sent back the extra horse, and with his
own hands led the little white horse to the stable; then he opened
the door of a billiard-room which was situated on the ground floor,
sat down there, and leaned his elbows on a table; he had taken
fourteen hours for the journey which he had counted on making in six;
he did himself the justice to acknowledge that it was not his fault,
but at bottom, he was not sorry.
The landlady of the hotel entered.
"Does Monsieur wish a bed? Does Monsieur require supper?"
He made a sign of the head in the negative.
"The stableman says that Monsieur's horse is extremely fatigued."
Here he broke his silence.
"Will not the horse be in a condition to set out again to-morrow morning?"
"Oh, Monsieur! he must rest for two days at least."
He inquired:--
"Is not the posting-station located here?"
"Yes, sir."
The hostess conducted him to the office; he showed his passport,
and inquired whether there was any way of returning that same night
to M. sur M. by the mail-wagon; the seat beside the post-boy chanced
to be vacant; he engaged it and paid for it. "Monsieur," said
the clerk, "do not fail to be here ready to start at precisely
one o'clock in the morning."
This done, he left the hotel and began to wander about the town.
He was not acquainted with Arras; the streets were dark, and he
walked on at random; but he seemed bent upon not asking the way
of the passers-by. He crossed the little river Crinchon, and found
himself in a labyrinth of narrow alleys where he lost his way.
A citizen was passing along with a lantern. After some hesitation,
he decided to apply to this man, not without having first glanced
behind and in front of him, as though he feared lest some one should
hear the question which he was about to put.
"Monsieur," said he, "where is the court-house, if you please."
"You do not belong in town, sir?" replied the bourgeois,
who was an oldish man; "well, follow me. I happen to be
going in the direction of the court-house, that is to say,
in the direction of the hotel of the prefecture; for the
court-house is undergoing repairs just at this moment, and
the courts are holding their sittings provisionally in the prefecture."
"Is it there that the Assizes are held?" he asked.
"Certainly, sir; you see, the prefecture of to-day was the bishop's
palace before the Revolution. M. de Conzie, who was bishop in '82,
built a grand hall there. It is in this grand hall that the court
is held."
On the way, the bourgeois said to him:--
"If Monsieur desires to witness a case, it is rather late.
The sittings generally close at six o'clock."
When they arrived on the grand square, however, the man pointed
out to him four long windows all lighted up, in the front of a vast
and gloomy building.
"Upon my word, sir, you are in luck; you have arrived in season.
Do you see those four windows? That is the Court of Assizes.
There is light there, so they are not through. The matter must have
been greatly protracted, and they are holding an evening session.
Do you take an interest in this affair? Is it a criminal case?
Are you a witness?"
He replied:--
"I have not come on any business; I only wish to speak to one
of the lawyers."
"That is different," said the bourgeois. "Stop, sir; here is the door
where the sentry stands. You have only to ascend the grand staircase."
He conformed to the bourgeois's directions, and a few minutes
later he was in a hall containing many people, and where groups,
intermingled with lawyers in their gowns, were whispering together
here and there.
It is always a heart-breaking thing to see these congregations
of men robed in black, murmuring together in low voices,
on the threshold of the halls of justice. It is rare that charity
and pity are the outcome of these words. Condemnations pronounced
in advance are more likely to be the result. All these groups
seem to the passing and thoughtful observer so many sombre hives
where buzzing spirits construct in concert all sorts of dark edifices.
This spacious hall, illuminated by a single lamp, was the old hall
of the episcopal palace, and served as the large hall of the palace
of justice. A double-leaved door, which was closed at that moment,
separated it from the large apartment where the court was sitting.
The obscurity was such that he did not fear to accost the first
lawyer whom he met.
"What stage have they reached, sir?" he asked.
"It is finished," said the lawyer.
This word was repeated in such accents that the lawyer turned round.
"Excuse me sir; perhaps you are a relative?"
"No; I know no one here. Has judgment been pronounced?"
"Of course. Nothing else was possible."
"To penal servitude?"
"For life."
He continued, in a voice so weak that it was barely audible:--
"Then his identity was established?"
"What identity?" replied the lawyer. "There was no identity
to be established. The matter was very simple. The woman had
murdered her child; the infanticide was proved; the jury threw
out the question of premeditation, and she was condemned for life."
"So it was a woman?" said he.
"Why, certainly. The Limosin woman. Of what are you speaking?"
"Nothing. But since it is all over, how comes it that the hall
is still lighted?"
"For another case, which was begun about two hours ago.
"What other case?"
"Oh! this one is a clear case also. It is about a sort of blackguard;
a man arrested for a second offence; a convict who has been guilty
of theft. I don't know his name exactly. There's a bandit's
phiz for you! I'd send him to the galleys on the strength of his
face alone."
"Is there any way of getting into the court-room, sir?" said he.
"I really think that there is not. There is a great crowd.
However, the hearing has been suspended. Some people have gone out,
and when the hearing is resumed, you might make an effort."
"Where is the entrance?"
"Through yonder large door."
The lawyer left him. In the course of a few moments he had experienced,
almost simultaneously, almost intermingled with each other,
all possible emotions. The words of this indifferent spectator had,
in turn, pierced his heart like needles of ice and like blades of fire.
When he saw that nothing was settled, he breathed freely once more;
but he could not have told whether what he felt was pain or pleasure.
He drew near to many groups and listened to what they were saying.
The docket of the session was very heavy; the president had
appointed for the same day two short and simple cases. They had
begun with the infanticide, and now they had reached the convict,
the old offender, the "return horse." This man had stolen apples,
but that did not appear to be entirely proved; what had been
proved was, that he had already been in the galleys at Toulon.
It was that which lent a bad aspect to his case. However, the man's
examination and the depositions of the witnesses had been completed,
but the lawyer's plea, and the speech of the public prosecutor were
still to come; it could not be finished before midnight. The man
would probably be condemned; the attorney-general was very clever,
and never missed his culprits; he was a brilliant fellow who
wrote verses.
An usher stood at the door communicating with the hall of the Assizes.
He inquired of this usher:--
"Will the door be opened soon, sir?"
"It will not be opened at all," replied the usher.
"What! It will not be opened when the hearing is resumed?
Is not the hearing suspended?"
"The hearing has just been begun again," replied the usher,
"but the door will not be opened again."
"Because the hall is full."
"What! There is not room for one more?"
"Not another one. The door is closed. No one can enter now."
The usher added after a pause: "There are, to tell the truth,
two or three extra places behind Monsieur le President, but Monsieur
le President only admits public functionaries to them."
So saying, the usher tet ended; and every moment he encountered
some new phase of it. On reaching the landing-place, he leaned
his back against the balusters and folded his arms. All at once he
opened his coat, drew out his pocket-book, took from it a pencil,
tore out a leaf, and upon that leaf he wrote rapidly, by the light
of the street lantern, this line: M. Madeleine, Mayor of M. sur M.;
then he ascended the stairs once more with great strides,
made his way through the crowd, walked straight up to the usher,
handed him the paper, and said in an authoritative manner:--
"Take this to Monsieur le President."
The usher took the paper, cast a glance upon it, and obeyed.


Although he did not suspect the fact, the mayor of M. sur M. enjoyed
a sort of celebrity. For the space of seven years his reputation
for virtue had filled the whole of Bas Boulonnais; it had eventually
passed the confines of a small district and had been spread abroad
through two or three neighboring departments. Besides the service
which he had rendered to the chief town by resuscitating the black
jet industry, there was not one out of the hundred and forty communes
of the arrondissement of M. sur M. which was not indebted to him
for some benefit. He had even at need contrived to aid and multiply
the industries of other arrondissements. It was thus that he had,
when occasion offered, supported with his credit and his funds the
linen factory at Boulogne, the flax-spinning industry at Frevent,
and the hydraulic manufacture of cloth at Boubers-sur-Canche.
Everywhere the name of M. Madeleine was pronounced with veneration.
Arras and Douai envied the happy little town of M. sur M. its mayor.
The Councillor of the Royal Court of Douai, who was presiding over
this session of the Assizes at Arras, was acquainted, in common
with the rest of the world, with this name which was so profoundly
and universally honored. When the usher, discreetly opening the door
which connected the council-chamber with the court-room, bent over the
back of the President's arm-chair and handed him the paper on which was
inscribed the line which we have just perused, adding: "The gentleman
desires to be present at the trial," the President, with a quick
and deferential movement, seized a pen and wrote a few words at
the bottom of the paper and returned it to the usher, saying, "Admit him."
The unhappy man whose history we are relating had remained near
the door of the hall, in the same place and the same attitude in
which the usher had left him. In the midst of his revery he heard
some one saying to him, "Will Monsieur do me the honor to follow me?"
It was the same usher who had turned his back upon him but a
moment previously, and who was now bowing to the earth before him.
At the same time, the usher handed him the paper. He unfolded it,
and as he chanced to be near the light, he could read it.
"The President of the Court of Assizes presents his respects
to M. Madeleine."
He crushed the paper in his hand as though those words contained
for him a strange and bitter aftertaste.
He followed the usher.
A few minutes later he found himself alone in a sort of wainscoted
cabinet of severe aspect, lighted by two wax candles, placed upon a table
with a green cloth. The last words of the usher who had just quitted him
still rang in his ears: "Monsieur, you are now in the council-chamber;
you have only to turn the copper handle of yonder door, and you will
find yourself in the court-room, behind the President's chair."
These words were mingled in his thoughts with a vague memory
of narrow corridors and dark staircases which he had recently traversed.
The usher had left him alone. The supreme moment had arrived.
He sought to collect his faculties, but could not. It is chiefly
at the moment when there is the greatest need for attaching them
to the painful realities of life, that the threads of thought
snap within the brain. He was in the very place where the judges
deliberated and condemned. With stupid tranquillity he surveyed this
peaceful and terrible apartment, where so many lives had been broken,
which was soon to ring with his name, and which his fate was at that
moment traversing. He stared at the wall, then he looked at himself,
wondering that it should be that chamber and that it should be he.
He had eaten nothing for four and twenty hours; he was worn
out by the jolts of the cart, but he was not conscious of it.
It seemed to him that he felt nothing.
He approached a black frame which was suspended on the wall,
and which contained, under glass, an ancient autograph letter
of Jean Nicolas Pache, mayor of Paris and minister, and dated,
through an error, no doubt, the 9th of June, of the year II., and
in which Pache forwarded to the commune the list of ministers and
deputies held in arrest by them. Any spectator who had chanced to see
him at that moment, and who had watched him, would have imagined,
doubtless, that this letter struck him as very curious, for he did
not take his eyes from it, and he read it two or three times.
He read it without paying any attention to it, and unconsciously.
He was thinking of Fantine and Cosette.
As he dreamed, he turned round, and his eyes fell upon the brass
knob of the door which separated him from the Court of Assizes.
He had almost forgotten that door. His glance, calm at first,
paused there, remained fixed on that brass handle, then grew terrified,
and little by little became impregnated with fear. Beads of
perspiration burst forth among his hair and trickled down upon
his temples.
At a certain moment he made that indescribable gesture of a sort
of authority mingled with rebellion, which is intended to convey,
and which does so well convey, "Pardieu! who compels me to this?"
Then he wheeled briskly round, caught sight of the door through which he
had entered in front of him, went to it, opened it, and passed out.
He was no longer in that chamber; he was outside in a corridor, a long,
narrow corridor, broken by steps and gratings, making all sorts
of angles, lighted here and there by lanterns similar to the night
taper of invalids, the corridor through which he had approached.
He breathed, he listened; not a sound in front, not a sound behind him,
and he fled as though pursued.
When he had turned many angles in this corridor, he still listened.
The same silence reigned, and there was the same darkness around him.
He was out of breath; he staggered; he leaned against the wall.
The stone was cold; the perspiration lay ice-cold on his brow;
he straightened himself up with a shiver.
Then, there alone in the darkness, trembling with cold and with
something else, too, perchance, he meditated.
He had meditated all night long; he had meditated all the day:
he heard within him but one voice, which said, "Alas!"
A quarter of an hour passed thus. At length he bowed his head,
sighed with agony, dropped his arms, and retraced his steps.
He walked slowly, and as though crushed. It seemed as though some one
had overtaken him in his flight and was leading him back.
He re-entered the council-chamber. The first thing he caught
sight of was the knob of the door. This knob, which was round
and of polished brass, shone like a terrible star for him.
He gazed at it as a lamb might gaze into the eye of a tiger.
He could not take his eyes from it. From time to time he advanced
a step and approached the door.
Had he listened, he would have heard the sound of the adjoining
hall like a sort of confused murmur; but he did not listen, and he
did not hear.
Suddenly, without himself knowing how it happened, he found himself
near the door; he grasped the knob convulsively; the door opened.
He was in the court-room.


He advanced a pace, closed the door mechanically behind him,
and remained standing, contemplating what he saw.
It was a vast and badly lighted apartment, now full of uproar,
now full of silence, where all the apparatus of a criminal case,
with its petty and mournful gravity in the midst of the throng,
was in process of development.
At the one end of the hall, the one where he was, were judges,
with abstracted air, in threadbare robes, who were gnawing their
nails or closing their eyelids; at the other end, a ragged crowd;
lawyers in all sorts of attitudes; soldiers with hard but honest
faces; ancient, spotted woodwork, a dirty ceiling, tables covered
with serge that was yellow rather than green; doors blackened
by handmarks; tap-room lamps which emitted more smoke than light,
suspended from nails in the wainscot; on the tables candles
in brass candlesticks; darkness, ugliness, sadness; and from
all this there was disengaged an austere and august impression,
for one there felt that grand human thing which is called the law,
and that grand divine thing which is called justice.
No one in all that throng paid any attention to him; all glances
were directed towards a single point, a wooden bench placed against
a small door, in the stretch of wall on the President's left;
on this bench, illuminated by several candles, sat a man between
two gendarmes.
This man was the man.
He did not seek him; he saw him; his eyes went thither naturally,
as though they had known beforehand where that figure was.
He thought he was looking at himself, grown old; not absolutely the
same in face, of course, but exactly similar in attitude and aspect,
with his bristling hair, with that wild and uneasy eye, with that blouse,
just as it was on the day when he entered D----, full of hatred,
concealing his soul in that hideous mass of frightful thoughts which
he had spent nineteen years in collecting on the floor of the prison.
He said to himself with a shudder, "Good God! shall I become
like that again?"
This creature seemed to be at least sixty; there was something
indescribably coarse, stupid, and frightened about him.
At the sound made by the opening door, people had drawn aside to make
way for him; the President had turned his head, and, understanding that
the personage who had just entered was the mayor of M. sur M., he had
bowed to him; the attorney-general, who had seen M. Madeleine at M. sur
M., whither the duties of his office had called him more than once,
recognized him and saluted him also: he had hardly perceived it;
he was the victim of a sort of hallucination; he was watching.
Judges, clerks, gendarmes, a throng of cruelly curious heads, all these he
had already beheld once, in days gone by, twenty-seven years before;
he had encountered those fatal things once more; there they were;
they moved; they existed; it was no longer an effort of his memory,
a mirage of his thought; they were real gendarmes and real judges,
a real crowd, and real men of flesh and blood: it was all over;
he beheld the monstrous aspects of his past reappear and live once
more around him, with all that there is formidable in reality.
All this was yawning before him.
He was horrified by it; he shut his eyes, and exclaimed in the
deepest recesses of his soul, "Never!"
And by a tragic play of destiny which made all his ideas tremble,
and rendered him nearly mad, it was another self of his that was
there! all called that man who was being tried Jean Valjean.
Under his very eyes, unheard-of vision, he had a sort of representation
of the most horrible moment of his life, enacted by his spectre.
Everything was there; the apparatus was the same, the hour of the night,
the faces of the judges, of soldiers, and of spectators; all were
the same, only above the President's head there hung a crucifix,
something which the courts had lacked at the time of his condemnation:
God had been absent when he had been judged.
There was a chair behind him; he dropped into it, terrified at
the thought that he might be seen; when he was seated,
he took advantage of a pile of cardboard boxes, which stood
on the judge's desk, to conceal his face from the whole room;
he could now see without being seen; he had fully regained
consciousness of the reality of things; gradually he recovered;
he attained that phase of composure where it is possible to listen.
M. Bamatabois was one of the jurors.
He looked for Javert, but did not see him; the seat of the
witnesses was hidden from him by the clerk's table, and then,
as we have just said, the hall was sparely lighted.
At the moment of this entrance, the defendant's lawyer had just
finished his plea.
The attention of all was excited to the highest pitch; the affair had
lasted for three hours: for three hours that crowd had been watching
a strange man, a miserable specimen of humanity, either profoundly
stupid or profoundly subtle, gradually bending beneath the weight
of a terrible likeness. This man, as the reader already knows,
was a vagabond who had been found in a field carrying a branch
laden with ripe apples, broken in the orchard of a neighbor,
called the Pierron orchard. Who was this man? an examination
had been made; witnesses had been heard, and they were unanimous;
light had abounded throughout the entire debate; the accusation said:
"We have in our grasp not only a marauder, a stealer of fruit;
we have here, in our hands, a bandit, an old offender who has broken
his ban, an ex-convict, a miscreant of the most dangerous description,
a malefactor named Jean Valjean, whom justice has long been in
search of, and who, eight years ago, on emerging from the galleys
at Toulon, committed a highway robbery, accompanied by violence,
on the person of a child, a Savoyard named Little Gervais; a crime
provided for by article 383 of the Penal Code, the right to try
him for which we reserve hereafter, when his identity shall have
been judicially established. He has just committed a fresh theft;
it is a case of a second offence; condemn him for the fresh deed;
later on he will be judged for the old crime." In the face of
this accusation, in the face of the unanimity of the witnesses,
the accused appeared to be astonished more than anything else;
he made signs and gestures which were meant to convey No,
or else he stared at the ceiling: he spoke with difficulty,
replied with embarrassment, but his whole person, from head to foot,
was a denial; he was an idiot in the presence of all these minds
ranged in order of battle around him, and like a stranger
in the midst of this society which was seizing fast upon him;
nevertheless, it was a question of the most menacing future for him;
the likeness increased every moment, and the entire crowd surveyed,
with more anxiety than he did himself, that sentence freighted
with calamity, which descended ever closer over his head; there was
even a glimpse of a possibility afforded; besides the galleys,
a possible death penalty, in case his identity were established,
and the affair of Little Gervais were to end thereafter in condemnation.
Who was this man? what was the nature of his apathy? was it
imbecility or craft? Did he understand too well, or did he not
understand at all? these were questions which divided the crowd,
and seemed to divide the jury; there was something both terrible
and puzzling in this case: the drama was not only melancholy; it was
also obscure.
The counsel for the defence had spoken tolerably well, in that
provincial tongue which has long constituted the eloquence of the bar,
and which was formerly employed by all advocates, at Paris as well as at
Romorantin or at Montbrison, and which to-day, having become classic,
is no longer spoken except by the official orators of magistracy,
to whom it is suited on account of its grave sonorousness and its
majestic stride; a tongue in which a husband is called a consort,
and a woman a spouse; Paris, the centre of art and civilization;
the king, the monarch; Monseigneur the Bishop, a sainted pontiff;
the district-attorney, the eloquent interpreter of public prosecution;
the arguments, the accents which we have just listened to; the age
of Louis XIV., the grand age; a theatre, the temple of Melpomene;
the reigning family,the columns of those organs; etc.
The lawyer had, accordingly, begun with an explanation as to the
theft of the apples,--an awkward matter couched in fine style;
but Benigne Bossuet himself was obliged to allude to a chicken
in the midst of a funeral oration, and he extricated himself from
the situation in stately fashion. The lawyer established the fact
that the theft of the apples had not been circumstantially proved.
His client, whom he, in his character of counsel, persisted in
calling Champmathieu, had not been seen scaling that wall nor
breaking that branch by any one. He had been taken with that branch
(which the lawyer preferred to call a bough) in his possession;
but he said that he had found it broken off and lying on the ground,
and had picked it up. Where was there any proof to the contrary?
No doubt that branch had been broken off and concealed after the
scaling of the wall, then thrown away by the alarmed marauder;
there was no doubt that there had been a thief in the case.
But what proof was there that that thief had been Champmathieu?
One thing only. His character as an ex-convict. The lawyer did not
deny that that character appeared to be, unhappily, well attested;
the accused had resided at Faverolles; the accused had exercised
the calling of a tree-pruner there; the name of Champmathieu might
well have had its origin in Jean Mathieu; all that was true,--
in short, four witnesses recognize Champmathieu, positively and
without hesitation, as that convict, Jean Valjean; to these signs,
to this testimony, the counsel could oppose nothing but the denial
of his client, the denial of an interested party; but supposing that he
was the convict Jean Valjean, did that prove that he was the thief
of the apples? that was a presumption at the most, not a proof.
The prisoner, it was true, and his counsel, "in good faith,"
was obliged to admit it, had adopted "a bad system of defence."
He obstinately denied everything, the theft and his character of convict.
An admission upon this last point would certainly have been better,
and would have won for him the indulgence of his judges; the counsel
had advised him to do this; but the accused had obstinately refused,
thinking, no doubt, that he would save everything by admitting nothing.
It was an error; but ought not the paucity of this intelligence
to be taken into consideration? This man was visibly stupid.
Long-continued wretchedness in the galleys, long misery outside
the galleys, had brutalized him, etc. He defended himself badly;
was that a reason for condemning him? As for the affair with
Little Gervais, the counsel need not discuss it; it did not enter
into the case. The lawyer wound up by beseeching the jury and
the court, if the identity of Jean Valjean appeared to them to
be evident, to apply to him the police penalties which are provided
for a criminal who has broken his ban, and not the frightful
chastisement which descends upon the convict guilty of a second
The district-attorney answered the counsel for the defence.
He was violent and florid, as district-attorneys usually are.
He congratulated the counsel for the defence on his "loyalty," and
skilfully took advantage of this loyalty. He reached the accused
through all the concessions made by his lawyer. The advocate had seemed
to admit that the prisoner was Jean Valjean. He took note of this.
So this man was Jean Valjean. This point had been conceded to the
accusation and could no longer be disputed. Here, by means of a clever
autonomasia which went back to the sources and causes of crime,
the district-attorney thundered against the immorality of the
romantic school, then dawning under the name of the Satanic school,
which had been bestowed upon it by the critics of the Quotidienne
and the Oriflamme; he attributed, not without some probability,
to the influence of this perverse literature the crime of Champmathieu,
or rather, to speak more correctly, of Jean Valjean. Having exhausted
these considerations, he passed on to Jean Valjean himself.
Who was this Jean Valjean? Description of Jean Valjean: a monster
spewed forth, etc. The model for this sort of description is
contained in the tale of Theramene, which is not useful to tragedy,
but which every day renders great services to judicial eloquence.
The audience and the jury "shuddered." The description finished,
the district-attorney resumed with an oratorical turn calculated
to raise the enthusiasm of the journal of the prefecture to
the highest pitch on the following day: And it is such a man,
etc., etc., etc., vagabond, beggar, without means of existence,
etc., etc., inured by his past life to culpable deeds, and but little
reformed by his sojourn in the galleys, as was proved by the crime
committed against Little Gervais, etc., etc.; it is such a man,
caught upon the highway in the very act of theft, a few paces
from a wall that had been scaled, still holding in his hand
the object stolen, who denies the crime, the theft, the climbing
the wall; denies everything; denies even his own identity!
In addition to a hundred other proofs, to which we will not recur,
four witnesses recognize him--Javert, the upright inspector
of police; Javert, and three of his former companions in infamy,
the convicts Brevet, Chenildieu, and Cochepaille. What does he
offer in opposition to this overwhelming unanimity? His denial.
What obduracy! You will do justice, gentlemen of the jury, etc., etc.
While the district-attorney was speaking, the accused listened to him
open-mouthed, with a sort of amazement in which some admiration
was assuredly blended. He was evidently surprised that a man could
talk like that. From time to time, at those "energetic" moments
of the prosecutor's speech, when eloquence which cannot contain itself
overflows in a flood of withering epithets and envelops the accused
like a storm, he moved his head slowly from right to left and from
left to right in the sort of mute and melancholy protest with which
he had contented himself since the beginning of the argument.
Two or three times the spectators who were nearest to him heard him say
in a low voice, "That is what comes of not having asked M. Baloup."
The district-attorney directed the attention of the jury to this
stupid attitude, evidently deliberate, which denoted not imbecility,
but craft, skill, a habit of deceiving justice, and which set
forth in all its nakedness the "profound perversity" of this man.
He ended by making his reserves on the affair of Little Gervais and
demanding a severe sentence.
At that time, as the reader will remember, it was penal servitude
for life.
The counsel for the defence rose, began by complimenting Monsieur
l'Avocat-General on his "admirable speech," then replied as best
he could; but he weakened; the ground was evidently slipping away
from under his feet.


The moment for closing the debate had arrived. The President had
the accused stand up, and addressed to him the customary question,
"Have you anything to add to your defence?"
The man did not appear to understand, as he stood there,
twisting in his hands a terrible cap which he had.
The President repeated the question.
This time the man heard it. He seemed to understand. He made
a motion like a man who is just waking up, cast his eyes about him,
stared at the audience, the gendarmes, his counsel, the jury, the court,
laid his monstrous fist on the rim of woodwork in front of his bench,
took another look, and all at once, fixing his glance upon the
district-attorney, he began to speak. It was like an eruption.
It seemed, from the manner in which the words escaped from his mouth,--
incoherent, impetuous, pell-mell, tumbling over each other,--
as though they were all pressing forward to issue forth at once.
He said:--
"This is what I have to say. That I have been a wheelwright in Paris,
and that it was with Monsieur Baloup. It is a hard trade.
In the wheelwright's trade one works always in the open air,
in courtyards, under sheds when the masters are good, never in
closed workshops, because space is required, you see. In winter
one gets so cold that one beats one's arms together to warm
one's self; but the masters don't like it; they say it wastes time.
Handling iron when there is ice between the paving-stones is hard work.
That wears a man out quickly One is old while he is still quite young
in that trade. At forty a man is done for. I was fifty-three. I
was in a bad state. And then, workmen are so mean! When a man is
no longer young, they call him nothing but an old bird, old beast!
I was not earning more than thirty sous a day. They paid me
as little as possible. The masters took advantage of my age--
and then I had my daughter, who was a laundress at the river.
She earned a little also. It sufficed for us two. She had trouble,
also; all day long up to her waist in a tub, in rain, in snow.
When the wind cuts your face, when it freezes, it is all the same;
you must still wash. There are people who have not much linen,
and wait until late; if you do not wash, you lose your custom.
The planks are badly joined, and water drops on you from everywhere;
you have your petticoats all damp above and below. That penetrates.
She has also worked at the laundry of the Enfants-Rouges, where
the water comes through faucets. You are not in the tub there;
you wash at the faucet in front of you, and rinse in a basin
behind you. As it is enclosed, you are not so cold; but there
is that hot steam, which is terrible, and which ruins your eyes.
She came home at seven o'clock in the evening, and went to bed
at once, she was so tired. Her husband beat her. She is dead.
We have not been very happy. She was a good girl, who did not go
to the ball, and who was very peaceable. I remember one Shrove-Tuesday
when she went to bed at eight o'clock. There, I am telling the truth;
you have only to ask. Ah, yes! how stupid I am! Paris is a gulf.
Who knows Father Champmathieu there? But M. Baloup does, I tell you.
Go see at M. Baloup's; and after all, I don't know what is wanted of
The man ceased speaking, and remained standing. He had said these
things in a loud, rapid, hoarse voice, with a sort of irritated and
savage ingenuousness. Once he paused to salute some one in the crowd.
The sort of affirmations which he seemed to fling out before him
at random came like hiccoughs, and to each he added the gesture
of a wood-cutter who is splitting wood. When he had finished,
the audience burst into a laugh. He stared at the public, and,
perceiving that they were laughing, and not understanding why,
he began to laugh himself.
It was inauspicious.
The President, an attentive and benevolent man, raised his voice.
He reminded "the gentlemen of the jury" that "the sieur Baloup,
formerly a master-wheelwright, with whom the accused stated that he
had served, had been summoned in vain. He had become bankrupt,
and was not to be found." Then turning to the accused, he enjoined
him to listen to what he was about to say, and added: "You are in
a position where reflection is necessary. The gravest presumptions
rest upon you, and may induce vital results. Prisoner, in your
own interests, I summon you for the last time to explain yourself
clearly on two points. In the first place, did you or did you not
climb the wall of the Pierron orchard, break the branch, and steal
the apples; that is to say, commit the crime of breaking in and theft?
In the second place, are you the discharged convict, Jean Valjean--
yes or no?"
The prisoner shook his head with a capable air, like a man who has
thoroughly understood, and who knows what answer he is going to make.
He opened his mouth, turned towards the President, and said:--
"In the first place--"
Then he stared at his cap, stared at the ceiling, and held his peace.
"Prisoner," said the district-attorney, in a severe voice;
"pay attention. You are not answering anything that has been
asked of you. Your embarrassment condemns you. It is evident
that your name is not Champmathieu; that you are the convict,
Jean Valjean, concealed first under the name of Jean Mathieu,
which was the name of his mother; that you went to Auvergne;
that you were born at Faverolles, where you were a pruner of trees.
It is evident that you have been guilty of entering, and of the theft
of ripe apples from the Pierron orchard. The gentlemen of the jury
will form their own opinion."
The prisoner had finally resumed his seat; he arose abruptly
when the district-attorney had finished, and exclaimed:--
"You are very wicked; that you are! This what I wanted to say;
I could not find words for it at first. I have stolen nothing.
I am a man who does not have something to eat every day.
I was coming from Ailly; I was walking through the country after
a shower, which had made the whole country yellow: even the ponds
were overflowed, and nothing sprang from the sand any more but
the little blades of grass at the wayside. I found a broken
branch with apples on the ground; I picked up the branch without
knowing that it would get me into trouble. I have been in prison,
and they have been dragging me about for the last three months;
more than that I cannot say; people talk against me, they tell me,
`Answer!' The gendarme, who is a good fellow, nudges my elbow,
and says to me in a low voice, `Come, answer!' I don't know how
to explain; I have no education; I am a poor man; that is where
they wrong me, because they do not see this. I have not stolen;
I picked up from the ground things that were lying there.
You say, Jean Valjean, Jean Mathieu! I don't know those persons;
they are villagers. I worked for M. Baloup, Boulevard de l'Hopital;
my name is Champmathieu. You are very clever to tell me where I
was born; I don't know myself: it's not everybody who has a house
in which to come into the world; that would be too convenient.
I think that my father and mother were people who strolled along
the highways; I know nothing different. When I was a child,
they called me young fellow; now they call me old fellow; those are
my baptismal names; take that as you like. I have been in Auvergne;
I have been at Faverolles. Pardi. Well! can't a man have been
in Auvergne, or at Faverolles, without having been in the galleys?
I tell you that I have not stolen, and that I am Father Champmathieu;
I have been with M. Baloup; I have had a settled residence.
You worry me with your nonsense, there! Why is everybody pursuing me so
The district-attorney had remained standing; he addressed the President:--
"Monsieur le President, in view of the confused but exceedingly
clever denials of the prisoner, who would like to pass himself
off as an idiot, but who will not succeed in so doing,--
we shall attend to that,--we demand that it shall please you
and that it shall please the court to summon once more into
this place the convicts Brevet, Cochepaille, and Chenildieu,
and Police-Inspector Javert, and question them for the last
time as to the identity of the prisoner with the convict Jean Valjean."
"I would remind the district-attorney," said the President,
"that Police-Inspector Javert, recalled by his duties to the capital
of a neighboring arrondissement, left the court-room and the town
as soon as he had made his deposition; we have accorded him permission,
with the consent of the district-attorney and of the counsel
for the prisoner."
"That is true, Mr. President," responded the district-attorney.
"In the absence of sieur Javert, I think it my duty to remind
the gentlemen of the jury of what he said here a few hours ago.
Javert is an estimable man, who does honor by his rigorous and strict
probity to inferior but important functions. These are the terms
of his deposition: `I do not even stand in need of circumstantial
proofs and moral presumptions to give the lie to the prisoner's denial.
I recognize him perfectly. The name of this man is not Champmathieu;
he is an ex-convict named JeLittle Gervais, and from the Pierron orchard,
I suspect him of a theft committed in the house of His Grace the late
Bishop of D---- I often saw him at the time when I was adjutant of
the galley-guard at the prison in Toulon. I repeat that I recognize
him perfectly.'"
This extremely precise statement appeared to produce a vivid
impression on the public and on the jury. The district-attorney
concluded by insisting, that in default of Javert, the three
witnesses Brevet, Chenildieu, and Cochepaille should be heard
once more and solemnly interrogated.
The President transmitted the order to an usher, and, a moment
later, the door of the witnesses' room opened. The usher,
accompanied by a gendarme ready to lend him armed assistance,
introduced the convict Brevet. The audience was in suspense;
and all breasts heaved as though they had contained but one soul.
The ex-convict Brevet wore the black and gray waistcoat of
the central prisons. Brevet was a person sixty years of age,
who had a sort of business man's face, and the air of a rascal.
The two sometimes go together. In prison, whither fresh misdeeds
had led him, he had become something in the nature of a turnkey.
He was a man of whom his superiors said, "He tries to make himself
of use." The chaplains bore good testimony as to his religious habits.
It must not be forgotten that this passed under the Restoration.
"Brevet," said the President, "you have undergone an ignominious
sentence, and you cannot take an oath."
Brevet dropped his eyes.
"Nevertheless," continued the President, "even in the man whom
the law has degraded, there may remain, when the divine mercy
permits it, a sentiment of honor and of equity. It is to this
sentiment that I appeal at this decisive hour. If it still exists
in you,--and I hope it does,--reflect before replying to me:
consider on the one hand, this man, whom a word from you may ruin;
on the other hand, justice, which a word from you may enlighten.
The instant is solemn; there is still time to retract if you think
you have been mistaken. Rise, prisoner. Brevet, take a good look
at the accused, recall your souvenirs, and tell us on your soul
and conscience, if you persist in recognizing this man as your former
companion in the galleys, Jean Valjean?"
Brevet looked at the prisoner, then turned towards the court.
"Yes, Mr. President, I was the first to recognize him, and I stick to it;
that man is Jean Valjean, who entered at Toulon in 1796, and left
in 1815. I left a year later. He has the air of a brute now; but it
must be because age has brutalized him; he was sly at the galleys:
I recognize him positively."
"Take your seat," said the President. "Prisoner, remain standing."
Chenildieu was brought in, a prisoner for life, as was indicated
by his red cassock and his green cap. He was serving out his sentence
at the galleys of Toulon, whence he had been brought for this case.
He was a small man of about fifty, brisk, wrinkled, frail, yellow,
brazen-faced, feverish, who had a sort of sickly feebleness about all
his limbs and his whole person, and an immense force in his glance.
His companions in the galleys had nicknamed him I-deny-God (Je-nie Dieu,
The President addressed him in nearly the same words which he had
used to Brevet. At the moment when he reminded him of his infamy
which deprived him of the right to take an oath, Chenildieu raised
his head and looked the crowd in the face. The President invited
him to reflection, and asked him as he had asked Brevet, if he
persisted in recognition of the prisoner.
Chenildieu burst out laughing.
"Pardieu, as if I didn't recognize him! We were attached to the
same chain for five years. So you are sulking, old fellow?"
"Go take your seat," said the President.
The usher brought in Cochepaille. He was another convict for life,
who had come from the galleys, and was dressed in red, like Chenildieu,
was a peasant from Lourdes, and a half-bear of the Pyrenees.
He had guarded the flocks among the mountains, and from a shepherd
he had slipped into a brigand. Cochepaille was no less savage
and seemed even more stupid than the prisoner. He was one of
those wretched men whom nature has sketched out for wild beasts,
and on whom society puts the finishing touches as convicts in
the galleys.
The President tried to touch him with some grave and pathetic words,
and asked him, as he had asked the other two, if he persisted,
without hesitation or trouble, in recognizing the man who was standing
before him.
"He is Jean Valjean," said Cochepaille. "He was even called
Jean-the-Screw, because he was so strong."
Each of these affirmations from these three men, evidently sincere
and in good faith, had raised in the audience a murmur of bad augury
for the prisoner,--a murmur which increased and lasted longer
each time that a fresh declaration was added to the proceeding.
The prisoner had listened to them, with that astounded face which was,
according to the accusation, his principal means of defence;
at the first, the gendarmes, his neighbors, had heard him mutter between
his teeth: "Ah, well, he's a nice one!" after the second, he said,
a little louder, with an air that was almost that of satisfaction,
"Good!" at the third, he cried, "Famous!"
The President addressed him:--
"Have you heard, prisoner? What have you to say?"
He replied:--
"I say, `Famous!'"
An uproar broke out among the audience, and was communicated
to the jury; it was evident that the man was lost.
"Ushers," said the President, "enforce silence! I am going to sum
up the arguments."
At that moment there was a movement just beside the President;
a voice was heard crying:--
"Brevet! Chenildieu! Cochepaille! look here!"
All who heard that voice were chilled, so lamentable and terrible
was it; all eyes were turned to the point whence it had proceeded.
A man, placed among the privileged spectators who were seated behind
the court, had just risen, had pushed open the half-door which separated
the tribunal from the audience, and was standing in the middle
of the hall; the President, the district-attorney, M. Bamatabois,
twenty persons, recognized him, and exclaimed in concert:--
"M. Madeleine!"


It was he, in fact. The clerk's lamp illumined his countenance.
He held his hat in his hand; there was no disorder in his clothing;
his coat was carefully buttoned; he was very pale, and he trembled
slightly; his hair, which had still been gray on his arrival in Arras,
was now entirely white: it had turned white during the hour he
had sat there.
All heads were raised: the sensation was indescribable;
there was a momentary hesitation in the audience, the voice had
been so heart-rending; the man who stood there appeared so calm
that they did not understand at first. They asked themselves
whether he had indeed uttered that cry; they could not believe
that that tranquil man had been the one to give that terrible outcry.
This indecision only lasted a few seconds. Even before
the President and the district-attorney could utter a word,
before the ushers and the gendarmes could make a gesture,
the man whom all still called, at that moment, M. Madeleine,
had advanced towards the witnesses Cochepaille, Brevet, and Chenildieu.
"Do you not recognize me?" said he.
All three remained speechless, and indicated by a sign of the head
that they did not know him. Cochepaille, who was intimidated,
made a military salute. M. Madeleine turned towards the jury
and the court, and said in a gentle voice:--
"Gentlemen of the jury, order the prisoner to be released!
Mr. President, have me arrested. He is not the man whom you are
in search of; it is I: I am Jean Valjean."
Not a mouth breathed; the first commotion of astonishment had been
followed by a silence like that of the grave; those within the hall
experienced that sort of religious terror which seizes the masses
when something grand has been done.
In the meantime, the face of the President was stamped with sympathy
and sadness; he had exchanged a rapid sign with the district-attorney
and a few low-toned words with the assistant judges; he addressed
the public, and asked in accents which all understood:--
"Is there a physician present?"
The district-attorney took the word:--
"Gentlemen of the jury, the very strange and unexpected incident
which disturbs the audience inspires us, like yourselves,
only with a sentiment which it is unnecessary for us to express.
You all know, by reputation at least, the honorable M. Madeleine,
mayor of M. sur M.; if there is a physician in the audience,
we join the President in requesting him to attend to M. Madeleine,
and to conduct him to his home."
M.Madeleine did not allow the district-attorney to finish;
he interrupted him in accents full of suavity and authority.
These are the words which he uttered; here they are literally,
as they were written down, immediately after the trial by one
of the witnesses to this scene, and as they now ring in the ears
of those who heard them nearly forty years ago:--
"I thank you, Mr. District-Attorney, but I am not mad; you shall see;
you were on the point of committing a great error; release this man!
I am fulfilling a duty; I am that miserable criminal. I am the
only one here who sees the matter clearly, and I am telling you
the truth. God, who is on high, looks down on what I am doing at
this moment, and that suffices. You can take me, for here I am:
but I have done my best; I concealed myself under another name;
I have become rich; I have become a mayor; I have tried to re-enter
the ranks of the honest. It seems that that is not to be done.
In short, there are many things which I cannot tell. I will not narrate
the story of my life to you; you will hear it one of these days.
I robbed Monseigneur the Bishop, it is true; it is true that I
robbed Little Gervais; they were right in telling you that Jean
Valjean was a very vicious wretch. Perhaps it was not altogether
his fault. Listen, honorable judges! a man who has been so greatly
humbled as I have has neither any remonstrances to make to Providence,
nor any advice to give to society; but, you see, the infamy from
which I have tried to escape is an injurious thing; the galleys
make the convict what he is; reflect upon that, if you please.
Before going to the galleys, I was a poor peasant, with very
little intelligence, a sort of idiot; the galleys wrought a change
in me. I was stupid; I became vicious: I was a block of wood;
I became a firebrand. Later on, indulgence and kindness saved me,
as severity had ruined me. But, pardon me, you cannot understand
what I am saying. You will find at my house, among the ashes in
the fireplace, the forty-sou piece which I stole, seven years ago,
from little Gervais. I have nothing farther to add; take me.
Good God! the district-attorney shakes his head; you say, 'M. Madeleine
has gone mad!' you do not believe me! that is distressing. Do not,
at least, condemn this man! What! these men do not recognize me!
I wish Javert were here; he would recognize me."
Nothing can reproduce the sombre and kindly melancholy of tone
which accompanied these words.
He turned to the three convicts, and said:--
"Well, I recognize you; do you remember, Brevet?"
He paused, hesitated for an instant, and said:--
"Do you remember the knitted suspenders with a checked pattern
which you wore in the galleys?"
Brevet gave a start of surprise, and surveyed him from head to foot
with a frightened air. He continued:--
"Chenildieu, you who conferred on yourself the name of
`Jenie-Dieu,' your whole right shoulder bears a deep burn,
because you one day laid your shoulder against the chafing-dish
full of coals, in order to efface the three letters T. F. P.,
which are still visible, nevertheless; answer, is this true?"
"It is true," said Chenildieu.
He addressed himself to Cochepaille:--
"Cochepaille, you have, near the bend in your left arm, a date stamped
in blue letters with burnt powder; the date is that of the landing
of the Emperor at Cannes, March 1, 1815; pull up your sleeve!"
Cochepaille pushed up his sleeve; all eyes were focused on him
and on his bare arm.
A gendarme held a light close to it; there was the date.
The unhappy man turned to the spectators and the judges with a smile
which still rends the hearts of all who saw it whenever they think
of it. It was a smile of triumph; it was also a smile of despair.
"You see plainly," he said, "that I am Jean Valjean."
In that chamber there were no longer either judges, accusers,
nor gendarmes; there was nothing but staring eyes and sympathizing
hearts. No one recalled any longer the part that each might be
called upon to play; the district-attorney forgot he was there
for the purpose of prosecuting, the President that he was there
to preside, the counsel for the defence that he was there to defend.
It was a striking circumstance that no question was put, that no
authority intervened. The peculiarity of sublime spectacles is,
that they capture all souls and turn witnesses into spectators.
No one, probably, could have explained what he felt; no one,
probably, said to himself that he was witnessing the splendid
outburst of a grand light: all felt themselves inwardly dazzled.
It was evident that they had Jean Valjean before their eyes.
That was clear. The appearance of this man had sufficed to suffuse
with light that matter which had been so obscure but a moment previously,
without any further explanation: the whole crowd, as by a sort
of electric revelation, understood instantly and at a single glance
the simple and magnificent history of a man who was delivering
himself up so that another man might not be condemned in his stead.
The details, the hesitations, little possible oppositions,
were swallowed up in that vast and luminous fact.
It was an impression which vanished speedily, but which was
irresistible at the moment.
"I do not wish to disturb the court further," resumed Jean Valjean.
"I shall withdraw, since you do not arrest me. I have many things to do.
The district-attorney knows who I am; he knows whither I am going;
he can have me arrested when he likes."
He directed his steps towards the door. Not a voice was raised,
not an arm extended to hinder him. All stood aside. At that moment
there was about him that divine something which causes multitudes
to stand aside and make way for a man. He traversed the crowd slowly.
It was never known who opened the door, but it is certain that he
found the door open when he reached it. On arriving there he turned
round and said:--
"I am at your command, Mr. District-Attorney."
Then he addressed the audience:--
"All of you, all who are present--consider me worthy of pity,
do you not? Good God! When I think of what I was on the point
of doing, I consider that I am to be envied. Nevertheless, I should
have preferred not to have had this occur."
He withdrew, and the door closed behind him as it had opened,
for those who do certain sovereign things are always sure of being
served by some one in the crowd.
Less than an hour after this, the verdict of the jury freed
the said Champmathieu from all accusations; and Champmathieu,
being at once released, went off in a state of stupefaction, thinking
that all men were fools, and comprehending nothing of this vision.



The day had begun to dawn. Fantine had passed a sleepless and
feverish night, filled with happy visions; at daybreak she fell asleep.
Sister Simplice, who had been watching with her, availed herself
of this slumber to go and prepare a new potion of chinchona.
The worthy sister had been in the laboratory of the infirmary but
a few moments, bending over her drugs and phials, and scrutinizing
things very closely, on account of the dimness which the half-light
of dawn spreads over all objects. Suddenly she raised her head
and utted been
very ill the day before, and that she was better now, because she
thought that the mayor had gone to Montfermeil to get her child.
The sister dared not question the mayor; but she perceived plainly
from his air that he had not come from there.
"All that is good," said he; "you were right not to undeceive her."
"Yes," responded the sister; "but now, Mr. Mayor, she will see you
and will not see her child. What shall we say to her?"
He reflected for a moment.
"God will inspire us," said he.
"But we cannot tell a lie," murmured the sister, half aloud.
It was broad daylight in the room. The light fell full
on M. Madeleine's face. The sister chanced to raise her eyes to it.
"Good God, sir!" she exclaimed; "what has happened to you?
Your hair is perfectly white!"
"White!" said he.
Sister Simplice had no mirror. She rummaged in a drawer, and pulled
out the little glass which the doctor of the infirmary used to see
whether a patient was dead and whether he no longer breathed.
M. Madeleine took the mirror, looked at his hair, and said:--
He uttered the word indifferently, and as though his mind were
on something else.
The sister felt chilled by something strange of which she caught
a glimpse in all this.
He inquired:--
"Can I see her?"
"Is not Monsieur le Maire going to have her child brought back to her?"
said the sister, hardly venturing to put the question.
"Of course; but it will take two or three days at least."
"If she were not to see Monsieur le Maire until that time," went on
the sister, timidly, "she would not know that Monsieur le Maire
had returned, and it would be easy to inspire her with patience;
and when the child arrived, she would naturally think Monsieur le
Maire had just come with the child. We should not have to enact
a lie."
M. Madeleine seemed to reflect for a few moments; then he said
with his calm gravity:--
"No, sister, I must see her. I may, perhaps, be in haste."
The nun did not appear to notice this word "perhaps," which communicated
an obscure and singular sense to the words of the mayor's speech.
She replied, lowering her eyes and her voice respectfully:--
"In that case, she is asleep; but Monsieur le Maire may enter."
He made some remarks about a door which shut badly, and the noise of
which might awaken the sick woman; then he entered Fantine's chamber,
approached the bed and drew aside the curtains. She was asleep.
Her breath issued from her breast with that tragic sound which is
peculiar to those maladies, and which breaks the hearts of mothers
when they are watching through the night beside their sleeping
child who is condemned to death. But this painful respiration
hardly troubled a sort of ineffable serenity which overspread
her countenance, and which transfigured her in her sleep.
Her pallor had become whiteness; her cheeks were crimson; her long
golden lashes, the only beauty of her youth and her virginity
which remained to her, palpitated, though they remained closed
and drooping. Her whole person was trembling with an indescribable
unfolding of wings, all ready to open wide and bear her away,
which could be felt as they rustled, though they could not be seen.
To see her thus, one would never have dreamed that she was an invalid
whose life was almost despaired of. She resembled rather something
on the point of soaring away than something on the point of dying.
The branch trembles when a hand approaches it to pluck a flower,
and seems to both withdraw and to offer itself at one and the same time.
The human body has something of this tremor when the instant arrives
in which the mysterious fingers of Death are about to pluck the soul.
M. Madeleine remained for some time motionless beside that bed,
gazing in turn upon the sick woman and the crucifix, as he had done
two months before, on the day when he had come for the first time to see
her in that asylum. They were both still there in the same attitude--
she sleeping, he praying; only now, after the lapse of two months,
her hair was gray and his was white.
The sister had not entered with him. He stood beside the bed,
with his finger on his lips, as though there were some one in the
chamber whom he must enjoin to silence.
She opened her eyes, saw him, and said quietly, with a smile:--
"And Cosette?"


She made no movement of either surprise or of joy; she was joy itself.
That simple question, "And Cosette?" was put with so profound
a faith, with so much certainty, with such a complete absence
of disquiet and of doubt, that he found not a word of reply.
She continued:--
"I knew that you were there. I was asleep, but I saw you.
I have seen you for a long, long time. I have been following you
with my eyes all night long. You were in a glory, and you had around
you all sorts of celestial forms."
He raised his glance to the crucifix.
"But," she resumed, "tell me where Cosette is. Why did not you
place her on my bed against the moment of my waking?"
He made some mechanical reply which he was never afterwards able
to recall.
Fortunately, the doctor had been warned, and he now made his appearance.
He came to the aid of M. Madeleine.
"Calm yourself, my child," said the doctor; "your child is here."
Fantine's eyes beamed and filled her whole face with light.
She clasped her hands with an expression which contained all that is
possible to prayer in the way of violence and tenderness.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "bring her to me!"
Touching illusion of a mother! Cosette was, for her, still the
little child who is carried.
"Not yet," said the doctor, "not just now. You still have some fever.
The sight of your child would agitate you and do you harm.
You must be cured first."
She interrupted him impetuously:--
"But I am cured! Oh, I tell you that I am cured! What an ass
that doctor is! The idea! I want to see my child!"
"You see," said the doctor, "how excited you become. So long as you
are in this state I shall oppose your having your child. It is not
enough to see her; it is necessary that you should live for her.
When you are reasonable, I will bring her to you myself."
The poor mother bowed her head.
"I beg your pardon, doctor, I really beg your pardon. Formerly I
should never have spoken as I have just done; so many misfortunes
have happened to me, that I sometimes do not know what I am saying.
I understand you; you fear the emotion. I will wait as long
as you like, but I swear to you that it would not have harmed
me to see my daughter. I have been seeing her; I have not
taken my eyes from her since yesterday evening. Do you know?
If she were brought to me now, I should talk to her very gently.
That is all. Is it not quite natural that I should desire to see
my daughter, who has been brought to me expressly from Montfermeil?
I am not angry. I know well that I am about to be happy. All night
long I have seen white things, and persons who smiled at me.
When Monsieur le Docteur pleases, he shall bring me Cosette.
I have no longer any fever; I am well. I am perfectly conscious that
there is nothing the matter with me any more; but I am going to behave
as though I were ill, and not stir, to please these ladies here.
When it is seen that I am very calm, they will say, `She must have
her child.'"
M. Madeleine was sitting on a chair beside the bed. She turned
towards him; she was making a visible effort to be calm and "very good,"
as she expressed it in the feebleness of illness which resembles
infancy, in order that, seeing her so peaceable, they might make
no difficulty about bringing Cosette to her. But while she
controlled herself she could not refrain from questioning M. Madeleine.
"Did you have a pleasant trip, Monsieur le Maire? Oh! how good
you were to go and get her for me! Only tell me how she is.
Did she stand the journey well? Alas! she will not recognize me.
She must have forgotten me by this time, poor darling! Children have
no memories. They are like birds. A child sees one thing to-day
and another thing to-morrow, and thinks of nothing any longer.
And did she have white linen? Did those Thenardiers keep her clean?
How have they fed her? Oh! if you only knew how I have suffered,
putting such questions as that to myself during all the time of
my wretchedness. Now, it is all past. I am happy. Oh, how I should
like to see her! Do you think her pretty, Monsieur le Maire? Is not my
daughter beautiful? You must have been very cold in that diligence!
Could she not be brought for just one little instant? She might
be taken away directly afterwards. Tell me; you are the master;
it could be so if you chose!"
He took her hand. "Cosette is beautiful," he said, "Cosette is well.
You shall see her soon; but calm yourself; you are talking with
too much vivacity, and you are throwing your arms out from under
the clothes, and that makes you cough."
In fact, fits of coughing interrupted Fantine at nearly every word.
Fantine did not murmur; she feared that she had injured by her
too passionate lamentations the confidence which she was desirous
of inspiring, and she began to talk of indifferent things.
"Montfermeil is quite pretty, is it not? People go there on
pleasure parties in summer. Are the Thenardiers prosperous?
There are not many travellers in their parts. That inn of theirs
is a sort of a cook-shop."
M. Madeleine was still holding her hand, and gazing at her
with anxiety; it was evident that he had come to tell her things
before which his mind now hesitated. The doctor, having finished
his visit, retired. Sister Simplice remained alone with them.
But in the midst of this pause Fantine exclaimed:--
"I hear her! mon Dieu, I hear her!"
She stretched out her arm to enjoin silence about her, held her breath,
and began to listen with rapture.
There was a child playing in the yard--the child of the portress
or of some work-woman. It was one of those accidents which are
always occurring, and which seem to form a part of the mysterious
stage-setting of mournful scenes. The child--a little girl--
was going and coming, running to warm herself, laughing, singing at
the top of her voice. Alas! in what are the plays of children
not intermingled. It was this little girl whom Fantine heard singing.
"Oh!" she resumed, "it is my Cosette! I recognize her voice."
The child retreated as it had come; the voice died away.
Fantine listened for a while longer, then her face clouded over,
and M. Madeleine heard her say, in a low voice: "How wicked
that doctor is not to allow me to see my daughter! That man has
an evil countenance, that he has."
But the smiling background of her thoughts came to the front again.
She continued to talk to herself, with her head resting on the pillow:
"How happy we are going to be! We shall have a little garden the
very first thing; M. Madeleine has promised it to me. My daughter
will play in the garden. She must know her letters by this time.
I will make her spell. She will run over the grass after butterflies.
I will watch her. Then she will take her first communion. Ah! when
will she take her first communion?"
She began to reckon on her fingers.
"One, two, three, four--she is seven years old. In five years
she will have a white veil, and openwork stockings; she will look
like a little woman. O my good sister, you do not know how foolish
I become when I think of my daughter's first communion!"
She began to laugh.
He had released Fantine's hand. He listened to her words as one
listens to the sighing of the breeze, with his eyes on the ground,
his mind absorbed in reflection which had no bottom. All at once she
ceased speaking, and this caused him to raise his head mechanically.
Fantine had become terrible.
She no longer spoke, she no longer breathed; she had raised herself
to a sitting posture, her thin shoulder emerged from her chemise;
her face, which had been radiant but a moment before, was ghastly,
and she seemed to have fixed her eyes, rendered large with terror,
on something alarming at the other extremity of the room.
"Good God!" he exclaimed; "what ails you, Fantine?"
She made no reply; she did not remove her eyes from the object
which she seemed to see. She removed one hand from his arm,
and with the other made him a sign to look behind him.
He turned, and beheld Javert.


This is what had taken place.
The half-hour after midnight had just struck when M. Madeleine quitted
the Hall of Assizes in Arras. He regained his inn just in time to set
out again by the mail-wagon, in which he had engaged his place.
A little before six o'clock in the morning he had arrived at M. sur
M., and his first care had been to post a letter to M. Laffitte,
then to enter the infirmary and see Fantine.
However, he had hardly quitted the audience hall of the Court of Assizes,
when the district-attorney, recovering from his first shock,
had taken the word to deplore the mad deed of the honorable
mayor of M. sur M., to declare that his convictions had not been
in the least modified by that curious incident, which would be
explained thereafter, and to demand, in the meantime, the condemnation
of that Champmathieu, who was evidently the real Jean Valjean.
The district-attorney's persistence was visibly at variance
with the sentiments of every one, of the public, of the court,
and of the jury. The counsel for the defence had some difficulty
in refuting this harangue and in establishing that, in consequence
of the revelations of M. Madeleine, that is to say, of the real
Jean Valjean, the aspect of the matter had been thoroughly altered,
and that the jury had before their eyes now only an innocent man.
Thence the lawyer had drawn some epiphonemas, not very fresh,
unfortunately, upon judicial errors, etc., etc.; the President,
in his summing up, had joined the counsel for the defence,
and in a few minutes the jury had thrown Champmathieu out of the case.
Nevertheless, the district-attorney was bent on having a Jean Valjean;
and as he had no longer Champmathieu, he took Madeleine.
Immediately after Champmathieu had been set at liberty,
the district-attorney shut himself up with the President.
They conferred "as to the necessity of seizing the person of M. le
Maire of M. sur M." This phrase, in which there was a great deal
of of, is the district-attorney's, written with his own hand,
on the minutes of his report to the attorney-general. His first emotion
having passed off, the President did not offer many objections.
Justice must, after all, take its course. And then, when all was said,
although the President was a kindly and a tolerably intelligent man,
he was, at the same time, a devoted and almost an ardent royalist,
and he had been shocked to hear the Mayor of M. sur M. say the Emperor,
and not Bonaparte, when alluding to the landing at Cannes.
The order for his arrest was accordingly despatched.
The district-attorney forwarded it to M. sur M. by a special messenger,
at full speed, and entrusted its execution to Police Inspector Javert.
The reader knows that Javert had returned to M. sur M. immediately
after having given his deposition.
Javert was just getting out of bed when the messenger handed him
the order of arrest and the command to produce the prisoner.
The messenger himself was a very clever member of the police, who,
in two words, informed Javert of what had taken place at Arras.
The order of arrest, signed by the district-attorney, was couched
in these words: "Inspector Javert will apprehend the body of the
Sieur Madeleine, mayor of M. sur M., who, in this day's session
of the court, was recognized as the liberated convict, Jean Valjean."
Any one who did not know Javert, and who had chanced to see him
at the moment when he penetrated the antechamber of the infirmary,
could have divined nothing of what had taken place, and would
have thought his air the most ordinary in the world. He was cool,
calm, grave, his gray hair was perfectly smooth upon his temples,
and he had just mountnted agitation.
Javert was a complete character, who never had a wrinkle in his
duty or in his uniform; methodical with malefactors, rigid with
the buttons of his coat.
That he should have set the buckle of his stock awry,
it was indispensable that there should have taken place in him
one of those emotions which may be designated as internal earthquakes.
He had come in a simple way, had made a requisition on the
neighboring post for a corporal and four soldiers, had left
the soldiers in the courtyard, had had Fantine's room pointed
out to him by the portress, who was utterly unsuspicious,
accustomed as she was to seeing armed men inquiring for the mayor.
On arriving at Fantine's chamber, Javert turned the handle,
pushed the door open with the gentleness of a sick-nurse
or a police spy, and entered.
Properly speaking, he did not enter. He stood erect in the half-open
door, his hat on his head and his left hand thrust into his coat,
which was buttoned up to the chin. In the bend of his elbow
the leaden head of his enormous cane, which was hidden behind him,
could be seen.
Thus he remained for nearly a minute, without his presence
being perceived. All at once Fantine raised her eyes, saw him,
and made M. Madeleine turn round.
The instant that Madeleine's glance encountered Javert's glance, Javert,
without stirring, without moving from his post, without approaching
him, became terrible. No human sentiment can be as terrible as joy.
It was the visage of a demon who has just found his damned soul.
The satisfaction of at last getting hold of Jean Valjean caused all
that was in his soul to appear in his countenance. The depths having
been stirred up, mounted to the surface. The humiliation of having,
in some slight degree, lost the scent, and of having indulged,
for a few moments, in an error with regard to Champmathieu,
was effaced by pride at having so well and accurately divined in the
first place, and of having for so long cherished a just instinct.
Javert's content shone forth in his sovereign attitude. The deformity
of triumph overspread that narrow brow. All the demonstrations
of horror which a satisfied face can afford were there.
Javert was in heaven at that moment. Without putting the thing
clearly to himself, but with a confused intuition of the necessity
of his presence and of his success, he, Javert, personified justice,
light, and truth in their celestial function of crushing out evil.
Behind him and around him, at an infinite distance, he had authority,
reason, the case judged, the legal conscience, the public prosecution,
all the stars; he was protecting order, he was causing the law
to yield up its thunders, he was avenging society, he was lending
a helping hand to the absolute, he was standing erect in the midst
of a glory. There existed in his victory a remnant of defiance
and of combat. Erect, haughty, brilliant, he flaunted abroad
in open day the superhuman bestiality of a ferocious archangel.
The terrible shadow of the action which he was accomplishing caused
the vague flash of the social sword to be visible in his clenched fist;
happy and indignant, he held his heel upon crime, vice, rebellion,
perdition, hell; he was radiant, he exterminated, he smiled,
and there was an incontestable grandeur in this monstrous Saint Michael.
Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him.
Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty,
are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed;
but which, even when hideous, remain grand: their majesty,
the majesty peculiar to the human conscience, clings to them in the
midst of horror; they are virtues which have one vice,--error.
The honest, pitiless joy of a fanatic in the full flood of his
atrocity preserves a certain lugubriously venerable radiance.
Without himself suspecting the fact, Javert in his formidable
happiness was to be pitied, as is every ignorant man who triumphs.
Nothing could be so poignant and so terrible as this face,
wherein was displayed all that may be designated as the evil of the good.


Fantine had not seen Javert since the day on which the mayor had torn
her from the man. Her ailing brain comprehended nothing, but the
only thing which she did not doubt was that he had come to get her.
She could not endure that terrible face; she felt her life quitting her;
she hid her face in both hands, and shrieked in her anguish:--
"Monsieur Madeleine, save me!"
Jean Valjean--we shall henceforth not speak of him otherwise--
had risen. He said to Fantine in the gentlest and calmest of voices:--
"Be at ease; it is not for you that he is come."
Then he addressed Javert, and said:--
"I know what you want."
Javert replied:--
"Be quick about it!"
There lay in the inflection of voice which accompanied these words
something indescribably fierce and frenzied. Javert did not say,
"Be quick about it!" he said "Bequiabouit."
No orthography can do justice to the accent with which it was uttered:
it was no longer a human word: it was a roar.
He did not proceed according to his custom, he did not enter
into the matter, he exhibited no warrant of arrest. In his eyes,
Jean Valjean was a sort of mysterious combatant, who was not to be
laid hands upon, a wrestler in the dark whom he had had in his
grasp for the last five years, without being able to throw him.
This arrest was not a beginning, but an end. He confined himself
to saying, "Be quick about it!"
As he spoke thus, he did not advance a single step; he hurled at
Jean Valjean a glance which he threw out like a grappling-hook,
and with which he was accustomed to draw wretches violently to him.
It was this glance which Fantine had felt penetrating to the very
marrow of her bones two months previously.
At Javert's exclamation, Fantine opened her eyes once more.
But the mayor was there; what had she to fear?
Javert advanced to the middle of the room, and cried:--
"See here now! Art thou coming?"
The unhappy woman glanced about her. No one was present excepting
the nun and the mayor. To whom could that abject use of "thou"
be addressed? To her only. She shuddered.
Then she beheld a most unprecedented thing, a thing so unprecedented
that nothing equal to it had appeared to her even in the blackest
deliriums of fever.
She beheld Javert, the police spy, seize the mayor by the collar;
she saw the mayor bow his head. It seemed to her that the world was
coming to an end.
Javert had, in fact, grasped Jean Valjean by the collar.
"Monsieur le Maire!" shrieked Fantine.
Javert burst out laughing with that frightful laugh which displayed
all his gums.
"There is no longer any Monsieur le Maire here!"
Jean Valjean made no attempt to disengage the hand which grasped
the collar of his coat. He said:--
Javert interrupted him: "Call me Mr. Inspector."
"Monsieur," said Jean Valjean, "I should like to say a word to you
in private."
"Aloud! Say it aloud!" replied Javert; "people are in the habit
of talking aloud to me."
Jean Valjean went on in a lower tone:--
"I have a request to make of you--"
"I tell you to speak loud."
"But you alone should hear it--"
"What difference does that make to me? I shall not listen."
Jean Valjean turned towards him and said very rapidly
and in a very low voice:--
"Grant me three days' grace! three days in which to go and fetch
the child of this unhappy woman. I will pay whatever is necessary.
You shall accompany me if you choose."
"You are making sport of me!" cried Javert. "Come now, I did
not think you such a fool! You ask me to give you three days in
which to run away! You say that it is for the purpose of fetching
that creature's child! Ah! Ah! That's good! That's really capital!"
Fantine was seized with a fit of trembling.
"My child!" she cried, "to go and fetch my child! She is not here,
then! Answer me, sister; where is Cosette? I want my child!
Monsieur Madeleine! Monsieur le Maire!"
Javert stamped his foot.
"And now there's the other one! Will you hold your tongue, you hussy?
It's a pretty sort of a place where convicts are magistrates,
and where women of the town are cared for like countesses! Ah! But we
are going to change all that; it is high time!"
He stared intently at Fantine, and added, once more taking into
his grasp Jean Valjean's cravat, shirt and collar:--
"I tell you that there is no Monsieur Madeleine and that there is
no Monsieur le Maire. There is a thief, a brigand, a convict named
Jean Valjean! And I have him in my grasp! That's what there is!"
Fantine raised herself in bed with a bound, supporting herself on
her stiffened arms and on both hands: she gazed at Jean Valjean,
she gazed at Javert, she gazed at the nun, she opened her mouth
as though to speak; a rattle proceeded from the depths of her throat,
her teeth chattered; she stretched out her arms in her agony,
opening her hands convulsively, and fumbling about her like a
drowning person; then suddenly fell back on her pillow.
Her head struck the head-board of the bed and fell forwards
on her breast, with gaping mouth and staring, sightless eyes.
She was dead.
Jean Valjean laid his hand upon the detaining hand of Javert,
and opened it as he would have opened the hand of a baby; then he
said to Javert:--
"You have murdered that woman."
"Let's have an end of this!" shouted Javert, in a fury; "I am not
here to listen to argument. Let us economize all that; the guard
is below; march on instantly, or you'll get the thumb-screws!"
In the corner of the room stood an old iron bedstead, which was in a
decidedly decrepit state, and which served the sisters as a camp-bed
when they were watching with the sick. Jean Valjean stepped up
to this bed, in a twinkling wrenched off the head-piece, which was
already in a dilapidated condition, an easy matter to muscles like his,
grasped the principal rod like a bludgeon, and glanced at Javert.
Javert retreated towards the door. Jean Valjean, armed with his bar
of iron, walked slowly up to Fantine's couch. When he arrived there
he turned and said to Javert, in a voice that was barely audible:--
"I advise you not to disturb me at this moment."
One thing is certain, and that is, that Javert trembled.
It did occur to him to summon the guard, but Jean Valjean might
avail himself of that moment to effect his escape; so he remained,
grasped his cane by the small end, and leaned against the door-post,
without removing his eyes from Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean rested his elbow on the knob at the head of the bed,
and his brow on his hand, and began to contemplate the motionless
body of Fantine, which lay extended there. He remained thus,
mute, absorbed, evidently with no further thought of anything
connected with this life. Upon his face and in his attitude there
was nothing but inexpressible pity. After a few moments of this
meditation he bent towards Fantine, and spoke to her in a low voice.
What did he say to her? What could this man, who was reproved,
say to that woman, who was dead? What words were those? No one
on earth heard them. Did the dead woman hear them? There are
some touching illusions which are, perhaps, sublime realities.
The point as to which there exists no doubt is, that Sister Simplice,
the sole witness of the incident, often said that at the moment
that Jean Valjean whispered in Fantine's ear, she distinctly beheld
an ineffable smile dawn on those pale lips, and in those dim eyes,
filled with the amazement of the tomb.
Jean Valjean took Fantine's head in both his hands, and arranged it
on the pillow as a mother might have done for her child; then he tied
the string of her chemise, and smoothed her hair back under her cap.
That done, he closed her eyes.
Fantine's face seemed strangely illuminated at that moment.
Death, that signifies entrance into the great light.
Fantine's hand was hanging over the side of the bed. Jean Valjean
knelt down before that hand, lifted it gently, and kissed it.
Then he rose, and turned to Javert.
"Now," said he, "I am at your disposal."


Javert deposited Jean Valjean in the city prison.
The arrest of M. Madeleine occasioned a sensation, or rather,
an extraordinary commotion in M. sur M. We are sorry that we cannot
conceal the fact, that at the single word, "He was a convict,"
nearly every one deserted him. In less than two hours all the good
that he had done had been forgotten, and he was nothing but a "convict
from the galleys." It is just to add that the details of what had
taken place at Arras were not yet known. All day long conversations
like the following were to be heard in all quarters of the town:--
"You don't know? He was a liberated convict!" "Who?" "The mayor."
"Bah! M. Madeleine?" "Yes." "Really?" "His name was not Madeleine
at all; he had a frightful name, Bejean, Bojean, Boujean." "Ah!
Good God!" "He has been arrested." "Arrested!" "In prison,
in the city prison, while waiting to be transferred." "Until he
is transferred!" "He is to be transferred!" "Where is he to
be taken?" "He will be tried at the Assizes for a highway robbery
which he committed long ago." "Well! I suspected as much.
That man was too good, too perfect, too affected. He refused
the cross; he bestowed sous on all the little scamps he came across.
I always thought there was some evil history back of all that."
The "drawing-rooms" particularly abounded in remarks of this nature.
One old lady, a subscriber to the Drapeau Blanc, made the
following remark, the depth of which it is impossible to fathom:--
"I am not sorry. It will be a lesson to the Bonapartists!"
It was thus that the phantom which had been called M. Madeleine
vanished from M. sur M. Only three or four persons in all the town
remained faithful to his memory. The old portress who had served
him was among the number.
On the evening of that day the worthy old woman was sitting in her lodge,
still in a thorough fright, and absorbed in sad reflections.
The factory had been closed all day, the carriage gate was bolted,
the street was deserted. There was no one in the house but the
two nuns, Sister Perpetue and Sister Simplice, who were watching
beside the body of Fantine.
Towards the hour when M. Madeleine was accustomed to return home,
the good portress rose mechanically, took from a drawer the key
of M. Madeleine's chamber, and the flat candlestick which he used
every evening to go up to his quarters; then she hung the key on
the nail whence he was accustomed to take it, and set the candlestick
on one side, as though she was expecting him. Then she sat down
again on her chair, and became absorbed in thought once more.
The poor, good old woman bad done all this without being conscious
of it.
It was only at the expiration of two hours that she roused herself
from her revery, and exclaimed, "Hold! My good God Jesus!
And I hung his key on the nail!"
At that moment the small window in the lodge opened, a hand
passed through, seized the key and the candlestick, and lighted
the taper at the candle which was burning there.
The portress raised her eyes, and stood there with gaping mouth,
and a shriek which she confined to her throat.
She knew that hand, that arm, the sleeve of that coat.
It was M. Madeleine.
It was several seconds before she could speak; she had a seizure,
as she said herself, when she related the adventure afterwards.
"Good God, Monsieur le Maire," she cried at last, "I thought you were--"
She stopped; the conclusion of her sentence would have been lacking
in respect towards the beginning. Jean Valjean was still Monsieur
le Maire to her.
He finished her thought.
"In prison," said he. "I was there; I broke a bar of one of
the windows; I let myself drop from the top of a roof, and here I am.
I am going up to my room; go and find Sister Simplice for me.
She is with that poor woman, no doubt."
The old woman obeyed in all haste.
He gave her no orders; he was quite sure that she would guardn taken from him.
This point was never explained.
He ascended the staircase leading to his chamber. On arriving at the top,
he left his candle on the top step of his stairs, opened his door
with very little noise, went and closed his window and his shutters
by feeling, then returned for his candle and re-entered his room.
It was a useful precaution; it will be recollected that his window
could be seen from the street.
He cast a glance about him, at his table, at his chair, at his bed
which had not been disturbed for three days. No trace of the disorder
of the night before last remained. The portress had "done up"
his room; only she had picked out of the ashes and placed neatly
on the table the two iron ends of the cudgel and the forty-sou
piece which had been blackened by the fire.
He took a sheet of paper, on which he wrote: "These are the
two tips of my iron-shod cudgel and the forty-sou piece stolen
from Little Gervais, which I mentioned at the Court of Assizes,"
and he arranged this piece of paper, the bits of iron, and the
coin in such a way that they were the first things to be seen
on entering the room. From a cupboard he pulled out one of his
old shirts, which he tore in pieces. In the strips of linen thus
prepared he wrapped the two silver candlesticks. He betrayed
neither haste nor agitation; and while he was wrapping up the
Bishop's candlesticks, he nibbled at a piece of black bread. It was
probably the prison-bread which he had carried with him in his flight.
This was proved by the crumbs which were found on the floor
of the room when the authorities made an examination later on.
There came two taps at the door.
"Come in," said he.
It was Sister Simplice.
She was pale; her eyes were red; the candle which she carried trembled
in her hand. The peculiar feature of the violences of destiny is,
that however polished or cool we may be, they wring human nature
from our very bowels, and force it to reappear on the surface.
The emotions of that day had turned the nun into a woman once more.
She had wept, and she was trembling.
Jean Valjean had just finished writing a few lines on a paper,
which he handed to the nun, saying, "Sister, you will give this
to Monsieur le Cure."
The paper was not folded. She cast a glance upon it.
"You can read it," said he.
She read:--
"I beg Monsieur le Cure to keep an eye on all that I leave behind me.
He will be so good as to pay out of it the expenses of my trial,
and of the funeral of the woman who died yesterday. The rest is for
the poor."
The sister tried to speak, but she only managed to stammer a few
inarticulate sounds. She succeeded in saying, however:--
"Does not Monsieur le Maire desire to take a last look at that poor,
unhappy woman?"
"No," said he; "I am pursued; it would only end in their arresting
me in that room, and that would disturb her."
He had hardly finished when a loud noise became audible on the staircase.
They heard a tumult of ascending footsteps, and the old portress
saying in her loudest and most piercing tones:--
"My good sir, I swear to you by the good God, that not a soul
has entered this house all day, nor all the evening, and that I
have not even left the door."
A man responded:--
"But there is a light in that room, nevertheless."
They recognized Javert's voice.
The chamber was so arranged that the door in opening masked the corner
of the wall on the right. Jean Valjean blew out the light and placed
himself in this angle. Sister Simplice fell on her knees near the table.
The door opened.
Javert entered.
The whispers of many men and the protestations of the portress
were audible in the corridor.
The nun did not raise her eyes. She was praying.
The candle was on the chimney-piece, and gave but very little light.
Javert caught sight of the nun and halted in amazement.
It will be remembered that the fundamental point in Javert, his element,
the very air he breathed, was veneration for all authority.
This was impregnable, and admitted of neither objection nor restriction.
In his eyes, of course, the ecclesiastical authority was the chief
of all; he was religious, superficial and correct on this point
as on all others. In his eyes, a priest was a mind, who never makes
a mistake; a nun was a creature who never sins; they were souls
walled in from this world, with a single door which never opened
except to allow the truth to pass through.
On perceiving the sister, his first movement was to retire.
But there was also another duty which bound him and impelled
him imperiously in the opposite direction. His second movement
was to remain and to venture on at least one question.
This was Sister Simplice, who had never told a lie in her life.
Javert knew it, and held her in special veneration in consequence.
"Sister," said he, "are you alone in this room?"
A terrible moment ensued, during which the poor portress felt
as though she should faint.
The sister raised her eyes and answered:--
"Then," resumed Javert, "you will excuse me if I persist; it is
my duty; you have not seen a certain person--a man--this evening?
He has escaped; we are in search of him--that Jean Valjean;
you have not seen him?"
The sister replied:--
She lied. She had lied twice in succession, one after the other,
without hesitation, promptly, as a person does when sacrificing herself.
"Pardon me," said Javert, and he retired with a deep bow.
O sainted maid! you left this world many years ago; you have
rejoined your sisters, the virgins, and your brothers, the angels,
in the light; may this lie be counted to your credit in paradise!
The sister's affirmation was for Javert so decisive a thing that he
did not even observe the singularity of that candle which had but
just been extinguished, and which was still smoking on the table.
An hour later, a man, marching amid trees and mists, was rapidly
departing from M. sur M. in the direction of Paris. That man
was Jean Valjean. It has been established by the testimony of
two or three carters who met him, that he was carrying a bundle;
that he was dressed in a blouse. Where had he obtained that blouse?
No one ever found out. But an aged workman had died in the infirmary
of the factory a few days before, leaving behind him nothing
but his blouse. Perhaps that was the one.
One last word about Fantine.
We all have a mother,--the earth. Fantine was given back to that mother.
The cure thought that he was doing right, and perhaps he really was,
in reserving as much money as possible from what Jean Valjean
had left for the poor. Who was concerned, after all? A convict
and a woman of the town. That is why he had a very simple funeral
for Fantine, and reduced it to that strictly necessary form known
as the pauper's grave.
So Fantine was buried in the free corner of the cemetery
which belongs to anybody and everybody, and where the poor
are lost. Fortunately, God knows where to find the soul again.
Fantine was laid in the shade, among the first bones that came
to hand; she was subjected to the promiscuousness of ashes.
She was thrown into the public grave. Her grave resembled her bed.

[The end of Volume I. "Fantine"]




Last year (1861), on a beautiful May morning, a traveller, the person
who is telling this story, was coming from Nivelles, and directing
his course towards La Hulpe. He was on foot. He was pursuing
a broad paved road, which undulated between two rows of trees,
over the hills which succeed each other, raise the road and let it
fall again, and produce something in the nature of enormous waves.
He had passed Lillois and Bois-Seigneur-Isaac. In the west he
perceived the slate-roofed tower of Braine-l'Alleud, which has
the form of a reversed vase. He had just left behind a wood upon
an eminence; and at the angle of the cross-road, by the side
of a sort of mouldy gibbet bearing the inscription Ancient
Barrier No. 4, a public house, bearing on its front this sign:
At the Four Winds (Aux Quatre Vents). Echabeau, Private Cafe.
A quarter of a league further on, he arrived at the bottom of a
little valley, where there is water which passes beneath an arch
made through the embankment of the road. The clump of sparsely
planted but very green trees, which fills the valley on one side of
the road, is dispersed over the meadows on the other, and disappears
gracefully and as in order in the direction of Braine-l'Alleud.
On the right, close to the road, was an inn, with a four-wheeled cart
at the door, a large bundle of hop-poles, a plough, a heap of dried
brushwood near a flourishing hedge, lime smoking in a square hole,
and a ladder suspended along an old penthouse with straw partitions.
A young girl was weeding in a field, where a huge yellow poster,
probably of some outside spectacle, such as a parish festival,
was fluttering in the wind. At one corner of the inn, beside a pool
in which a flotilla of ducks was navigating, a badly paved path plunged
into the bushes. The wayfarer struck into this.
After traversing a hundred paces, skirting a wall of the
fifteenth century, surmounted by a pointed gable, with bricks set
in contrast, he found himself before a large door of arched stone,
with a rectilinear impost, in the sombre style of Louis XIV., flanked
by two flat medallions. A severe facade rose above this door;
a wall, perpendicular to the facade, almost touched the door,
and flanked it with an abrupt right angle. In the meadow
before the door lay three harrows, through which, in disorder,
grew all the flowers of May. The door was closed. The two decrepit
leaves which barred it were ornamented with an old rusty knocker.
The sun was charming; the branches had that soft shivering of May,
which seems to proceed rather from the nests than from the wind.
A brave little bird, probably a lover, was carolling in a distracted
manner in a large tree.
The wayfarer bent over and examined a rather large circular excavation,
resembling the hollow of a sphere, in the stone on the left,
at the foot of the pier of the door.
At this moment the leaves of the door parted, and a peasant
woman emerged.
She saw the wayfarer, and perceived what he was looking at.
"It was a French cannon-ball which made that," she said to him.
And she added:--
"That which you see there, higher up in the door, near a nail,
is the hole of a big iron bullet as large as an egg. The bullet did
not pierce the wood."
"What is the name of this place?" inquired the wayfarer.
"Hougomont," said the peasant woman.
The traveller straightened himself up. He walked on a few paces,
and went off to look over the tops of the hedges. On the horizon
through the trees, he perceived a sort of little elevation,
and on this elevation something which at that distance resembled
a lion.
He was on the battle-field of Waterloo.


Hougomont,--this was a funereal spot, the beginning of the obstacle,
the first resistance, which that great wood-cutter of Europe,
called Napoleon, encountered at Waterloo, the first knot under the
blows of his axe.
It was a chateau; it is no longer anything but a farm. For the antiquary,
Hougomont is Hugomons. This manor was built by Hugo, Sire of Somerel,
the same who endowed the sixth chaplaincy of the Abbey of Villiers.
The traveller pushed open the door, elbowed an ancient calash
under the porch, and entered the courtyard.
The first thing which struck him in this paddock was a door of the
sixteenth century, which here simulates an arcade, everything else
having fallen prostrate around it. A monumental aspect often has its
birth in ruin. In a wall near the arcade opens another arched door,
of the time of Henry IV., permitting a glimpse of the trees
of an orchard; beside this door, a manure-hole, some pickaxes,
some shovels, some carts, an old well, with its flagstone and its
iron reel, a chicken jumping, and a turkey spreading its tail,
a chapel surmounted by a small bell-tower, a blossoming pear-tree
trained in espalier against the wall of the chapel--behold the court,
the conquest of which was one of Napoleon's dreams. This corner
of earth, could he but have seized it, would, perhaps, have given
him the world likewise. Chickens are scattering its dust abroad
with their beaks. A growl is audible; it is a huge dog, who shows
his teeth and replaces the English.
The English behaved admirably there. Cooke's four companies
of guards there held out for seven hours against the fury of an army.
Hougomont viewed on the map, as a geometrical plan, comprising
buildings and enclosures, presents a sort of irregular rectangle,
one angle of which is nicked out. It is this angle which contains
the southern door, guarded by this wall, which commands it only
a gun's length away. Hougomont has two doors,--the southern door,
that of the chateau; and the northern door, belonging to the farm.
Napoleon sent his brother Jerome against Hougomont; the divisions
of Foy, Guilleminot, and Bachelu hurled themselves against it;
nearly the entire corps of Reille was employed against it, and miscarried;
Kellermann's balls were exhausted on this heroic section of wall.
Bauduin's brigade was not strong enough to force Hougomont on the north,
and the brigade of Soye could not do more than effect the beginning
of a breach on the south, but without taking it.
The farm buildings border the courtyard on the south. A bit of the
north door, broken by the French, hangs suspended to the wall.
It consists of four planks nailed to two cross-beams, on which the
scars of the attack are visible.
The northern door, which was beaten in by the French, and which has
had a piece applied to it to replace the panel suspended on the wall,
stands half-open at the bottom of the paddock; it is cut squarely
in the wall, built of stone below, of brick above which closes in the
courtyard on the north. It is a simple door for carts, such as exist
in all farms, with the two large leaves made of rustic planks:
beyond lie the meadows. The dispute over this entrance was furious.
For a long time, all sorts of imprints of bloody hands were visible
on the door-posts. It was there that Bauduin was killed.
The storm of the combat still lingers in this courtyard; its horror
is visible there; the confusion of the fray was petrified there;
it lives and it dies there; it was only yesterday. The walls
are in the death agony, the stones fall; the breaches cry aloud;
the holes are wounds; the drooping, quivering trees seem to be making
an effort to flee.
This courtyard was more built up in 1815 than it is to-day. Buildings
which have since been pulled down then formed redans and angles.
The English barricaded themselves there; the French made their way in,
but could not stand their ground. Beside the chapel, one wing of
the chateau, the only ruin now remaining of the manor of Hougomont,
rises in a crumbling state,--disembowelled, one might say.
The chateau served for a dungeon, the chapel for a block-house.
There men exterminated each other. The French, fired on from
every point,--from behind the walls, from the summits of the garrets,
from the depths of the cellars, through all the casements,
through all the air-holes, through every crack in the stones,--
fetched fagots and set fire to walls and men; the reply to the
grape-shot was a conflagration.
In the ruined wing, through windows garnished with bars of iron,
the dismantled chambers of the main building of brick are visible;
the English guards were in ambush in these rooms; the spiral
of the staircase, cracked from the ground floor to the very roof,
appears like the inside of a broken shell. The staircase has two stories;
the English, besieged on the staircase, and massed on its upper steps,
had cut off the lower steps. These consisted of large slabs
of blue stone, which form a heap among the nettles. Half a score
of steps still cling to the wall; on the first is cut the figure
of a trident. These inacassacre took place in the chapel. The interior, which has
recovered its calm, is singular. The mass has not been said there
since the carnage. Nevertheless, the altar has been left there--
an altar of unpolished wood, placed against a background of
roughhewn stone. Four whitewashed walls, a door opposite the altar,
two small arched windows; over the door a large wooden crucifix,
below the crucifix a square air-hole stopped up with a bundle of hay;
on the ground, in one corner, an old window-frame with the glass
all broken to pieces--such is the chapel. Near the altar there is
nailed up a wooden statue of Saint Anne, of the fifteenth century;
the head of the infant Jesus has been carried off by a large ball.
The French, who were masters of the chapel for a moment, and were
then dislodged, set fire to it. The flames filled this building;
it was a perfect furnace; the door was burned, the floor was burned,
the wooden Christ was not burned. The fire preyed upon his feet,
of which only the blackened stumps are now to be seen; then it stopped,--
a miracle, according to the assertion of the people of the neighborhood.
The infant Jesus, decapitated, was less fortunate than the Christ.
The walls are covered with inscriptions. Near the feet of Christ
this name is to be read: Henquinez. Then these others:
Conde de Rio Maior Marques y Marquesa de Almagro (Habana). There
are French names with exclamation points,--a sign of wrath.
The wall was freshly whitewashed in 1849. The nations insulted
each other there.
It was at the door of this chapel that the corpse was picked up
which held an axe in its hand; this corpse was Sub-Lieutenant Legros.
On emerging from the chapel, a well is visible on the left.
There are two in this courtyard. One inquires, Why is there no bucket
and pulley to this? It is because water is no longer drawn there.
Why is water not drawn there? Because it is full of skeletons.
The last person who drew water from the well was named
Guillaume van Kylsom. He was a peasant who lived at Hougomont,
and was gardener there. On the 18th of June, 1815, his family
fled and concealed themselves in the woods.
The forest surrounding the Abbey of Villiers sheltered these unfortunate
people who had been scattered abroad, for many days and nights.
There are at this day certain traces recognizable, such as old
boles of burned trees, which mark the site of these poor bivouacs
trembling in the depths of the thickets.
Guillaume van Kylsom remained at Hougomont, "to guard the chateau,"
and concealed himself in the cellar. The English discovered
him there. They tore him from his hiding-place, and the combatants
forced this frightened man to serve them, by administering blows
with the flats of their swords. They were thirsty; this Guillaume
brought them water. It was from this well that he drew it.
Many drank there their last draught. This well where drank so many
of the dead was destined to die itself.
After the engagement, they were in haste to bury the dead bodies.
Death has a fashion of harassing victory, and she causes the pest
to follow glory. The typhus is a concomitant of triumph.
This well was deep, and it was turned into a sepulchre. Three hundred
dead bodies were cast into it. With too much haste perhaps.
Were they all dead? Legend says they were not. It seems that on
the night succeeding the interment, feeble voices were heard calling
from the well.
This well is isolated in the middle of the courtyard. Three walls,
part stone, part brick, and simulating a small, square tower,
and folded like the leaves of a screen, surround it on all sides.
The fourth side is open. It is there that the water was drawn.
The wall at the bottom has a sort of shapeless loophole,
possibly the hole made by a shell. This little tower had a platform,
of which only the beams remain. The iron supports of the well on
the right form a cross. On leaning over, the eye is lost in a deep
cylinder of brick which is filled with a heaped-up mass of shadows.
The base of the walls all about the well is concealed in a growth
of nettles.
This well has not in front of it that large blue slab which forms
the table for all wells in Belgium. The slab has here been
replaced by a cross-beam, against which lean five or six shapeless
fragments of knotty and petrified wood which resemble huge bones.
There is no longer either pail, chain, or pulley; but there is
still the stone basin which served the overflow. The rain-water
collects there, and from time to time a bird of the neighboring
forests comes thither to drink, and then flies away. One house
in this ruin, the farmhouse, is still inhabited. The door of this
house opens on the courtyard. Upon this door, beside a pretty Gothic
lock-plate, there is an iron handle with trefoils placed slanting.
At the moment when the Hanoverian lieutenant, Wilda, grasped this
handle in order to take refuge in the farm, a French sapper hewed
off his hand with an axe.
The family who occupy the house had for their grandfather Guillaume
van Kylsom, the old gardener, dead long since. A woman with gray
hair said to us: "I was there. I was three years old. My sister,
who was older, was terrified and wept. They carried us off to
the woods. I went there in my mother's arms. We glued our ears
to the earth to hear. I imitated the cannon, and went boum! boum!"
A door opening from the courtyard on the left led into the orchard,
so we were told. The orchard is terrible.
It is in three parts; one might almost say, in three acts.
The first part is a garden, the second is an orchard, the third
is a wood. These three parts have a common enclosure: on the
side of the entrance, the buildings of the chateau and the farm;
on the left, a hedge; on the right, a wall; and at the end, a wall.
The wall on the right is of brick, the wall at the bottom is of stone.
One enters the garden first. It slopes downwards, is planted
with gooseberry bushes, choked with a wild growth of vegetation,
and terminated by a monumental terrace of cut stone, with balustrade
with a double curve.
It was a seignorial garden in the first French style which
preceded Le Notre; to-day it is ruins and briars. The pilasters
are surmounted by globes which resemble cannon-balls of stone.
Forty-three balusters can still be counted on their sockets; the rest
lie prostrate in the grass. Almost all bear scratches of bullets.
One broken baluster is placed on the pediment like a fractured leg.
It was in this garden, further down than the orchard, that six
light-infantry men of the 1st, having made their way thither,
and being unable to escape, hunted down and caught like bears
in their dens, accepted the combat with two Hanoverian companies,
one of which was armed with carbines. The Hanoverians lined
this balustrade and fired from above. The infantry men,
replying from below, six against two hundred, intrepid and with
no shelter save the currant-bushes, took a quarter of an hour to die.
One mounts a few steps and passes from the garden into the orchard,
properly speaking. There, within the limits of those few
square fathoms, fifteen hundred men fell in less than an hour.
The wall seems ready to renew the combat. Thirty-eight loopholes,
pierced by the English at irregular heights, are there still.
In front of the sixth are placed two English tombs of granite.
There are loopholes only in the south wall, as the principal attack came
from that quarter. The wall is hidden on the outside by a tall hedge;
the French came up, thinking that they had to deal only with a hedge,
crossed it, and found the wall both an obstacle and an ambuscade,
with the English guards behind it, the thirty-eight loopholes firing
at once a shower of grape-shot and balls, and Soye's brigade was broken
against it. Thus Waterloo began.
Nevertheless, the orchard was taken. As they had no ladders,
the French scaled it with their nails. They fought hand to hand
amid the trees. All this grass has been soaked in blood.
A battalion of Nassau, seven hundred strong, was overwhelmed there.
The outside of the wall, against which Kellermann's two batteries
were trained, is gnawed by grape-shot.
This orchard is sentient, like others, in the month of May.
It has its buttercups and its daisies; the grass is tall there;
the cart-horses browse there; cords of hair, on which linen
is drying, traverse the spaces between the trees and force the
passer-by to bend his head; one walks over this uncultivated land,
and one's foot dives into mole-holes. In the middle of the grass
one observes an uprooted tree-bole which lies there all verdant.
Major Blackmann leaned against it to die. Beneath a great tree
in the neighborhood fell the German general, Duplat, descended from
a French family which fled on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
An aged and falling apple-tree leans far over to one side,
its wound dressed with a bandage of straw and of clayey loam.
Nearly all the apple-trees are falling with age. There is not one
which has not had its bullet or its biscayan.[6] The skeletons of dead
trees abound in this orchard. Crows fly through their branches,
and at the end of it is a wood full of violets.

[6] A bullet as large as an egg.

Bauduin, killed, Foy wounded, conflagration, massacre, carnage,
a rivulet formed of English blood, French blood, German blood
mingled in fury, a well crammed with corpses, the regiment of
Nassau and the regiment of Brunswick destroyed, Duplat killed,
Blackmann killed, the English Guards mutilated, twenty French battalions,
besides the forty from Reille's corps, decimated, three thousand
men in that hovel of Hougomont alone cut down, slashed to pieces,
shot, burned, with their throats cut,--and all this so that a peasant
can say to-day to the traveller: Monsieur, give me three francs,
and if you like, I will explain to you the affair of Waterloo!


Let us turn back,--that is one of the story-teller's rights,--
and put ourselves once more in the year 1815, and even a little
earlier than the epoch when the action narrated in the first part
of this book took place.
If it had not rained in the night between the 17th and the 18th
of June, 1815, the fate of Europe would have been different.
A few drops of water, more or less, decided the downfall of Napoleon.
All that Providence required in order to make Waterloo the end
of Austerlitz was a little more rain, and a cloud traversing the sky
out of season sufficed to make a world crumble.
The battle of Waterloo could not be begun until half-past eleven
o'clock, and that gave Blucher time to come up. Why? Because the
ground was wet. The artillery had to wait until it became a little
firmer before they could manoeuvre.
Napoleon was an artillery officer, and felt the effects of this.
The foundation of this wonderful captain was the man who, in the report
to the Directory on Aboukir, said: Such a one of our balls killed
six men. All his plans of battle were arranged for projectiles.
The key to his victory was to make the artillery converge on one point.
He treated the strategy of the hostile general like a citadel,
and made a breach in it. He overwhelmed the weak point with grape-shot;
he joined and dissolved battles with cannon. There was something
of the sharpshooter in his genius. To beat in squares, to pulverize
regiments, to break lines, to crush and disperse masses,--for him
everything lay in this, to strike, strike, strike incessantly,--
and he intrusted this task to the cannon-ball. A redoubtable method,
and one which, united with genius, rendered this gloomy athlete
of the pugilism of war invincible for the space of fifteen years.
On the 18th of June, 1815, he relied all the more on his artillery,
because he had numbers on his side. Wellington had only one hundred
and fifty-nine mouths of fire; Napoleon had two hundred and forty.
Suppose the soil dry, and the artillery capable of moving,
the action would have begun at six o'clock in the morning.
The battle would have been won and ended at two o'clock, three
hours before the change of fortune in favor of the Prussians.
What amount of blame attaches to Napoleon for the loss of this battle?
Is the shipwreck due to the pilot?
Was it the evident physical decline of Napoleon that complicated
this epoch by an inward diminution of force? Had the twenty years
of war worn out the blade as it had worn the scabbard, the soul
as well as the body? Did the veteran make himself disastrously
felt in the leader? In a word, was this genius, as many historians
of note have thought, suffering from an eclipse? Did he go into
a frenzy in order to disguise his weakened powers from himself?
Did he begin to waver under the delusion of a breath of adventure?
Had he become--a grave matter in a general--unconscious of peril?
Is there an age, in this class of material great men, who may be
called the giants of action, when genius grows short-sighted? Old
age has no hold on the geniuses of the ideal; for the Dantes and
Michael Angelos to grow old is to grow in greatness; is it to grow
less for the Hannibals and the Bonapartes? Had Napoleon lost the
direct sense of victory? Had he reached the point where he could
no longer recognize the reef, could no longer divine the snare,
no longer discern the crumbling brink of abysses? Had he lost
his power of scenting out catastrophes? He who had in former days
known all the roads to triumph, and who, from the summit of his
chariot of lightning, pointed them out with a sovereign finger,
had he now reached that state of sinister amazement when he could
lead his tumultuous legions harnessed to it, to the precipice?
Was he seized at the age of forty-six with a supreme madness?
Was that titanic charioteer of destiny no longer anything more than
an immense dare-devil?
We do not think so.
His plan of battle was, by the confession of all, a masterpiece.
To go straight to the centre of the Allies' line, to make a breach
in the enemy, to cut them in two, to drive the British half back on Hal,
and the Prussian half on Tongres, to make two shattered fragments
of Wellington and Blucher, to carry Mont-Saint-Jean, to seize Brussels,
to hurl the German into the Rhine, and the Englishman into the sea.
All this was contained in that battle, according to Napoleon.
Afterwards people would see.
Of course, we do not here pretend to furnish a history of the battle
of Waterloo; one of the scenes of the foundation of the story which
we are relating is connected with this battle, but this history
is not our subject; this history, moreover, has been finished,
and finished in a masterly manner, from one point of view by Napoleon,
and from another point of view by a whole pleiad of historians.[7]

[7] Walter Scott, Lamartine, Vaulabelle, Charras, Quinet, Thiers.

As for us, we leave the historians at loggerheads; we are but a
distant witness, a passer-by on the plain, a seeker bending over
that soil all made of human flesh, taking appearances for realities,
perchance; we have no right to oppose, in the name of science,
a collection of facts which contain illusions, no doubt; we possess
neither military practice nor strategic ability which authorize
a system; in our opinion, a chain of accidents dominated the two
leaders at Waterloo; and when it becomes a question of destiny,
that mysterious culprit, we judge like that ingenious judge,
the populace.


Those persons who wish to gain a clear idea of the battle of Waterloo
have only to place, mentally, on the ground, a capital A. The left limb
of the A is the road to Nivelles, the right limb is the road to Genappe,
the tie of the A is the hollow road to Ohain from Braine-l'Alleud. The
top of the A is Mont-Saint-Jean, where Wellington is; the lower left
tip is Hougomont, where Reille is stationed with Jerome Bonaparte;
the right tip is the Belle-Alliance, where Napoleon was. At the
centre of this chord is the precise point where the final word of the
battle was pronounced. he whole battle. The wings of the two
armies extended to the right and left of the two roads to Genappe
and Nivelles; d'Erlon facing Picton, Reille facing Hill.
Behind the tip of the A, behind the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean,
is the forest of Soignes.
As for the plain itself, let the reader picture to himself a vast
undulating sweep of ground; each rise commands the next rise,
and all the undulations mount towards Mont-Saint-Jean, and there
end in the forest.
Two hostile troops on a field of battle are two wrestlers. It is
a question of seizing the opponent round the waist. The one seeks
to trip up the other. They clutch at everything: a bush is a point
of support; an angle of the wall offers them a rest to the shoulder;
for the lack of a hovel under whose cover they can draw up,
a regiment yields its ground; an unevenness in the ground, a chance
turn in the landscape, a cross-path encountered at the right moment,
a grove, a ravine, can stay the heel of that colossus which is
called an army, and prevent its retreat. He who quits the field
is beaten; hence the necessity devolving on the responsible leader,
of examining the most insignificant clump of trees, and of studying
deeply the slightest relief in the ground.
The two generals had attentively studied the plain of Mont-Saint-Jean,
now called the plain of Waterloo. In the preceding year, Wellington,
with the sagacity of foresight, had examined it as the possible seat
of a great battle. Upon this spot, and for this duel, on the 18th
of June, Wellington had the good post, Napoleon the bad post.
The English army was stationed above, the French army below.
It is almost superfluous here to sketch the appearance of Napoleon
on horseback, glass in hand, upon the heights of Rossomme,
at daybreak, on June 18, 1815. All the world has seen him before we
can show him. That calm profile under the little three-cornered
hat of the school of Brienne, that green uniform, the white revers
concealing the star of the Legion of Honor, his great coat hiding
his epaulets, the corner of red ribbon peeping from beneath his vest,
his leather trousers, the white horse with the saddle-cloth of purple
velvet bearing on the corners crowned N's and eagles, Hessian boots
over silk stockings, silver spurs, the sword of Marengo,--that whole
figure of the last of the Caesars is present to all imaginations,
saluted with acclamations by some, severely regarded by others.
That figure stood for a long time wholly in the light; this arose
from a certain legendary dimness evolved by the majority of heroes,
and which always veils the truth for a longer or shorter time;
but to-day history and daylight have arrived.
That light called history is pitiless; it possesses this peculiar and
divine quality, that, pure light as it is, and precisely because it is
wholly light, it often casts a shadow in places where people had hitherto
beheld rays; from the same man it constructs two different phantoms,
and the one attacks the other and executes justice on it, and the
shadows of the despot contend with the brilliancy of the leader.
Hence arises a truer measure in the definitive judgments of nations.
Babylon violated lessens Alexander, Rome enchained lessens Caesar,
Jerusalem murdered lessens Titus, tyranny follows the tyrant.
It is a misfortune for a man to leave behind him the night which
bears his form.


Every one is acquainted with the first phase of this battle;
a beginning which was troubled, uncertain, hesitating, menacing to
both armies, but still more so for the English than for the French.
It had rained all night, the earth had been cut up by the downpour,
the water had accumulated here and there in the hollows of the plain
as if in casks; at some points the gear of the artillery carriages
was buried up to the axles, the circingles of the horses were dripping
with liquid mud. If the wheat and rye trampled down by this cohort
of transports on the march had not filled in the ruts and strewn a
litter beneath the wheels, all movement, particularly in the valleys,
in the direction of Papelotte would have been impossible.
The affair began late. Napoleon, as we have already explained,
was in the habit of keeping all his artillery well in hand,
like a pistol, aiming it now at one point, now at another,
of the battle; and it had been his wish to wait until the horse
batteries could move and gallop freely. In order to do that it
was necessary that the sun should come out and dry the soil.
But the sun did not make its appearance. It was no longer
the rendezvous of Austerlitz. When the first cannon was fired,
the English general, Colville, looked at his watch, and noted
that it was thirty-five minutes past eleven.
The action was begun furiously, with more fury, perhaps, than the
Emperor would have wished, by the left wing of the French resting
on Hougomont. At the same time Napoleon attacked the centre by
hurling Quiot's brigade on La Haie-Sainte, and Ney pushed forward
the right wing of the French against the left wing of the English,
which rested on Papelotte.
The attack on Hougomont was something of a feint; the plan was
to draw Wellington thither, and to make him swerve to the left.
This plan would have succeeded if the four companies of the English
guards and the brave Belgians of Perponcher's division had not held the
position solidly, and Wellington, instead of massing his troops there,
could confine himself to despatching thither, as reinforcements,
only four more companies of guards and one battalion from Brunswick.
The attack of the right wing of the French on Papelotte was calculated,
in fact, to overthrow the English left, to cut off the road
to Brussels, to bar the passage against possible Prussians,
to force Mont-Saint-Jean, to turn Wellington back on Hougomont,
thence on Braine-l'Alleud, thence on Hal; nothing easier.
With the exception of a few incidents this attack succeeded
Papelotte was taken; La Haie-Sainte was carried.
A detail to be noted. There was in the English infantry,
particularly in Kempt's brigade, a great many raw recruits. These young
soldiers were valiant in the presence of our redoubtable infantry;
their inexperience extricated them intrepidly from the dilemma;
they performed particularly excellent service as skirmishers:
the soldier skirmisher, left somewhat to himself, becomes, so to speak,
his own general. These recruits displayed some of the French
ingenuity and fury. This novice of an infantry had dash.
This displeased Wellington.
After the taking of La Haie-Sainte the battle wavered.
There is in this day an obscure interval, from mid-day to four o'clock;
the middle portion of this battle is almost indistinct, and participates
in the sombreness of the hand-to-hand conflict. Twilight reigns
over it. We perceive vast fluctuations in that fog, a dizzy mirage,
paraphernalia of war almost unknown to-day, pendant colbacks,
floating sabre-taches, cross-belts, cartridge-boxes for grenades,
hussar dolmans, red boots with a thousand wrinkles, heavy shakos
garlanded with torsades, the almost black infantry of Brunswick mingled
with the scarlet infantry of England, the English soldiers with great,
white circular pads on the slopes of their shoulders for epaulets,
the Hanoverian light-horse with their oblong casques of leather,
with brass hands and red horse-tails, the Scotch with their bare
knees and plaids, the great white gaiters of our grenadiers;
pictures, not strategic lines--what Salvator Rosa requires,
not what is suited to the needs of Gribeauval.
A certain amount of tempest is always mingled with a battle.
Quid obscurum, quid divinum. Each historian traces, to some extent,
the particular feature which pleases him amid this pellmell.
Whatever may be the combinations of the generals, the shock of armed
masses has an incalculable ebb. During the action the plans of
the two leaders enter into each other and become mutually thrown
out of shape. Such a point of the field of battle devours more
combatants than such another, just as more or less spongy soils
soak up more or less quickly the water which is poured on them.
It becomes necessary to pour out more soldiers than one would like;
a series of expenditures which are the unforeseen. The line of battle
waves and undulates like a thread, the trails of blood gush illogically,
the fronts of the armies waver, the regiments form capes and gulfs
as they enter and withdraw; all these reefs are continually moving
in front of each other. Where the infantry stood the artillery arrives,
the cavalry rushes in where the artillery was, the battalions are
like smoke. There was something there; seek it. It has disappeared;
the open spots change place, the sombre folds advance and retreat,
a sort of wind from the sepulchre pushes forward, hurls back,
distends, and disperses these tragic multitudes. What is a fray?
an oscillation? The immobility of a mathematical plan expresses
a minute, not a day. In order to depict a battle, there is required
one of those powerful painters who have chaos in their brushes.
Rembrandt is better than Vandermeulen; Vandermeulen, exact at noon,
lies at three o'clock. Geometry is deceptive; the hurricane alone
is trustworthy. That is what confers on Folard the right to
contradict Polybius. Let us add, that there is a certain instant
when the battle degenerates into a combat, becomes specialized,
and disperses into innumerable detailed feats, which, to borrow
the expression of Napoleon himself, "belong rather to the biography
of the regiments than to the history of the army." The historian has,
in this case, the evident right to sum up the whole. He cannot
do more than seize the principal outlines of the struggle, and it
is not given to any one narrator, however conscientious he may be,
to fix, absolutely, the form of that horrible cloud which is called
a battle.
This, which is true of all great armed encounters, is particularly
applicable to Waterloo.
Nevertheless, at a certain moment in the afternoon the battle came
to a point.


Towards four o'clock the condition of the English army was serious.
The Prince of Orange was in command of the centre, Hill of the
right wing, Picton of the left wing. The Prince of Orange,
desperate and intrepid, shouted to the Hollando-Belgians: "Nassau!
Brunswick! Never retreat!" Hill, having been weakened, had come up
to the support of Wellington; Picton was dead. At the very moment
when the English had captured from the French the flag of the 105th
of the line, the French had killed the English general, Picton, with a
bullet through the head. The battle had, for Wellington, two bases
of action, Hougomont and La Haie-Sainte; Hougomont still held out,
but was on fire; La Haie-Sainte was taken. Of the German battalion
which defended it, only forty-two men survived; all the officers,
except five, were either dead or captured. Three thousand combatants
had been massacred in that barn. A sergeant of the English Guards,
the foremost boxer in England, reputed invulnerable by his companions,
had been killed there by a little French drummer-boy. Baring had
been dislodged, Alten put to the sword. Many flags had been lost,
one from Alten's division, and one from the battalion of Lunenburg,
carried by a prince of the house of Deux-Ponts. The Scotch Grays no
longer existed; Ponsonby's great dragoons had been hacked to pieces.
That valiant cavalry had bent beneath the lancers of Bro and
beneath the cuirassiers of Travers; out of twelve hundred horses,
six hundred remained; out of three lieutenant-colonels, two lay
on the earth,--Hamilton wounded, Mater slain. Ponsonby had fallen,
riddled by seven lance-thrusts. Gordon was dead. Marsh was dead.
Two divisions, the fifth and the sixth, had been annihilated.
Hougomont injured, La Haie-Sainte taken, there now existed but
one rallying-point, the centre. That point still held firm.
Wellington reinforced it. He summoned thither Hill, who was
at Merle-Braine; he summoned Chasse, who was at Braine-l'Alleud.
The centre of the English army, rather concave, very dense,
and very compact, was strongly posted. It occupied the plateau
of Mont-Saint-Jean, having behind it the village, and in front of it
the slope, which was tolerably steep then. It rested on that stout
stone dwelling which at that time belonged to the domain of Nivelles,
and which marks the intersection of the roads--a pile of the
sixteenth century, and so robust that the cannon-balls rebounded from
it without injuring it. All about the plateau the English had cut
the hedges here and there, made embrasures in the hawthorn-trees, thrust
the throat of a cannon between two branches, embattled the shrubs.
There artillery was ambushed in the brushwood. This punic labor,
incontestably authorized by war, which permits traps, was so well done,
that Haxo, who had been despatched by the Emperor at nine o'clock
in the morning to reconnoitre the enemy's batteries, had discovered
nothing of it, and had returned and reported to Napoleon that there
were no obstacles except the two barricades which barred the road
to Nivelles and to Genappe. It was at the season when the grain
is tall; on the edge of the plateau a battalion of Kempt's brigade,
the 95th, armed with carabines, was concealed in the tall wheat.
Thus assured and buttressed, the centre of the Anglo-Dutch army was
well posted. The peril of this position lay in the forest of Soignes,
then adjoining the field of battle, and intersected by the ponds
of Groenendael and Boitsfort. An army could not retreat thither
without dissolving; the regiments would have broken up immediately there.
The artillery would have been lost among the morasses. The retreat,
according to many a man versed in the art,--though it is disputed
by others,--would have been a disorganized flight.
To this centre, Wellington added one of Chasse's brigades taken
from the right wing, and one of Wincke's brigades taken from the
left wing, plus Clinton's division. To his English, to the regiments
of Halkett, to the brigades of Mitchell, to the guards of Maitland,
he gave as reinforcements and aids, the infantry of Brunswick,
Nassau's contingent, Kielmansegg's Hanoverians, and Ompteda's
Germans. This placed twenty-six battalions under his hand.
The right wing, as Charras says, was thrown back on the centre.
An enormous battery was masked by sacks of earth at the spot
where there now stands what is called the "Museum of Waterloo."
Besides this, Wellington had, behind a rise in the ground,
Somerset's Dragoon Guards, fourteen hundred horse strong.
It was the remaining half of the justly celebrated English cavalry.
Ponsonby destroyed, Somerset remained.
The battery, which, if completed, would have been almost a redoubt,
was ranged behind a very low garden wall, backed up with a coating
of bags of sand and a large slope of earth. This work was not finished;
there had been no time to make a palisade for it.
Wellington, uneasy but impassive, was on horseback, and there
remained the whole day in the same attitude, a little in advance
of the old mill of Mont-Saint-Jean, which is still in existence,
beneath an elm, which an Englishman, an enthusiastic vandal,
purchased later on for two hundred francs, cut down, and carried off.
Wellington was coldly heroic. The bullets rained about him.
His aide-de-camp, Gordon, fell at his side. Lord Hill, pointing to a
shell which had burst, said to him: "My lord, what are your orders
in case you are killed?" "To do like me," replied Wellington.
To Clinton he said laconically, "To hold this spot to the last man."
The day was evidently turning out ill. Wellington shouted to his
old companions of Talavera, of Vittoria, of Salamanca: "Boys, can
retreat be thought of? Think of old England!"
Towards four o'clock, the English line drew back. Suddenly nothing
was visible on the crest of the plateau except the artillery
and the sharpshooters; the rest had disappeared: the regimried Napoleon.


The Emperor, though ill and discommoded on horseback by a
local trouble, had never been in a better humor than on that day.
His impenetrability had been smiling ever since the morning. On the
18th of June, that profound soul masked by marble beamed blindly.
The man who had been gloomy at Austerlitz was gay at Waterloo.
The greatest favorites of destiny make mistakes. Our joys are
composed of shadow. The supreme smile is God's alone.
Ridet Caesar, Pompeius flebit, said the legionaries of the
Fulminatrix Legion. Pompey was not destined to weep on that occasion,
but it is certain that Caesar laughed. While exploring on horseback
at one o'clock on the preceding night, in storm and rain, in company
with Bertrand, the communes in the neighborhood of Rossomme,
satisfied at the sight of the long line of the English camp-fires
illuminating the whole horizon from Frischemont to Braine-l'Alleud,
it had seemed to him that fate, to whom he had assigned a day on the
field of Waterloo, was exact to the appointment; he stopped his horse,
and remained for some time motionless, gazing at the lightning
and listening to the thunder; and this fatalist was heard to cast
into the darkness this mysterious saying, "We are in accord."
Napoleon was mistaken. They were no longer in accord.
He took not a moment for sleep; every instant of that night was marked
by a joy for him. He traversed the line of the principal outposts,
halting here and there to talk to the sentinels. At half-past two,
near the wood of Hougomont, he heard the tread of a column on
the march; he thought at the moment that it was a retreat on the part
of Wellington. He said: "It is the rear-guard of the English
getting under way for the purpose of decamping. I will take
prisoners the six thousand English who have just arrived at Ostend."
He conversed expansively; he regained the animation which he had
shown at his landing on the first of March, when he pointed out
to the Grand-Marshal the enthusiastic peasant of the Gulf Juan,
and cried, "Well, Bertrand, here is a reinforcement already!"
On the night of the 17th to the 18th of June he rallied Wellington.
"That little Englishman needs a lesson," said Napoleon. The rain
redoubled in violence; the thunder rolled while the Emperor
was speaking.
At half-past three o'clock in the morning, he lost one illusion;
officers who had been despatched to reconnoitre announced to him
that the enemy was not making any movement. Nothing was stirring;
not a bivouac-fire had been extinguished; the English army was asleep.
The silence on earth was profound; the only noise was in the heavens.
At four o'clock, a peasant was brought in to him by the scouts;
this peasant had served as guide to a brigade of English cavalry,
probably Vivian's brigade, which was on its way to take up a position
in the village of Ohain, at the extreme left. At five o'clock,
two Belgian deserters reported to him that they had just quitted
their regiment, and that the English army was ready for battle.
"So much the better!" exclaimed Napoleon. "I prefer to overthrow them
rather than to drive them back."
In the morning he dismounted in the mud on the slope which forms
an angle with the Plancenoit road, had a kitchen table and a peasant's
chair brought to him from the farm of Rossomme, seated himself,
with a truss of straw for a carpet, and spread out on the table
the chart of the battle-field, saying to Soult as he did so,
"A pretty checker-board."
In consequence of the rains during the night, the transports
of provisions, embedded in the soft roads, had not been able
to arrive by morning; the soldiers had had no sleep; they were
wet and fasting. This did not prevent Napoleon from exclaiming
cheerfully to Ney, "We have ninety chances out of a hundred."
At eight o'clock the Emperor's breakfast was brought to him.
He invited many generals to it. During breakfast, it was said
that Wellington had been to a ball two nights before, in Brussels,
at the Duchess of Richmond's; and Soult, a rough man of war,
with a face of an archbishop, said, "The ball takes place to-day."
The Emperor jested with Ney, who said, "Wellington will not be so
simple as to wait for Your Majesty." That was his way, however.
"He was fond of jesting," says Fleury de Chaboulon. "A merry
humor was at the foundation of his character," says Gourgaud.
"He abounded in pleasantries, which were more peculiar than witty,"
says Benjamin Constant. These gayeties of a giant are worthy
of insistence. It was he who called his grenadiers "his grumblers";
he pinched their ears; he pulled their mustaches. "The Emperor
did nothing but play pranks on us," is the remark of one of them.
During the mysterious trip from the island of Elba to France,
on the 27th of February, on the open sea, the French brig of war,
Le Zephyr, having encountered the brig L'Inconstant, on which Napoleon
was concealed, and having asked the news of Napoleon from L'Inconstant,
the Emperor, who still wore in his hat the white and amaranthine
cockade sown with bees, which he had adopted at the isle of Elba,
laughingly seized the speaking-trumpet, and answered for himself,
"The Emperor is well." A man who laughs like that is on familiar
terms with events. Napoleon indulged in many fits of this laughter
during the breakfast at Waterloo. After breakfast he meditated
for a quarter of an hour; then two generals seated themselves on
the truss of straw, pen in hand and their paper on their knees,
and the Emperor dictated to them the order of battle.
At nine o'clock, at the instant when the French army, ranged in
echelons and set in motion in five columns, had deployed--
the divisions in two lines, the artillery between the brigades,
the music at their head; as they beat the march, with rolls on the drums
and the blasts of trumpets, mighty, vast, joyous, a sea of casques,
of sabres, and of bayonets on the horizon, the Emperor was touched,
and twice exclaimed, "Magnificent! Magnificent!"
Between nine o'clock and half-past ten the whole army, incredible as it
may appear, had taken up its position and ranged itself in six lines,
forming, to repeat the Emperor's expression, "the figure of six V's."
A few moments after the formation of the battle-array, in the midst
of that profound silence, like that which heralds the beginning
of a storm, which precedes engagements, the Emperor tapped Haxo on
the shoulder, as he beheld the three batteries of twelve-pounders,
detached by his orders from the corps of Erlon, Reille, and Lobau,
and destined to begin the action by taking Mont-Saint-Jean, which was
situated at the intersection of the Nivelles and the Genappe roads,
and said to him, "There are four and twenty handsome maids, General."
Sure of the issue, he encouraged with a smile, as they passed
before him, the company of sappers of the first corps, which he
had appointed to barricade Mont-Saint-Jean as soon as the village
should be carried. All this serenity had been traversed by but
a single word of haughty pity; perceiving on his left, at a spot
where there now stands a large tomb, those admirable Scotch Grays,
with their superb horses, massing themselves, he said, "It is a pity."
Then he mounted his horse, advanced beyond Rossomme, and selected
for his post of observation a contracted elevation of turf to the right
of the road from Genappe to Brussels, which was his second station
during the battle. The third station, the one adopted at seven
o'clock in the evening, between La Belle-Alliance and La Haie-Sainte,
is formidable; it is a rather elevated knoll, which still exists,
and behind which the guard was massed on a slope of the plain.
Around this knoll the balls rebounded from the pavements of
the road, up to Napoleon himself. As at Brienne, he had over
his head the shriek of the bullets and of the heavy artillery.
Mouldy cannon-balls, old sword-blades, and shapeless projectiles,
eaten up with rust, were picked up at the spot where his horse'
feet stood. Scabra rubigine. A few years ago, a shell of sixty pounds,
still charged, and with its fuse broken off level with the bomb,
was unearthed. It was at this last post that the Emperor said
to his guide, Lacoste, a hostile and terrified peasant, who was
attached to the saddle of a hussar, and who turned round at every
discharge of canister and tried to hide behind Napoleon: "Fool, it
is shameful! You'll get yourself killed with a ball in the back."
He who writes these lines has himself found, in the friable soil
of this knoll, on turning over the sand, the remains of the neck
of a bomb, disintegrated, by the oxidization of six and forty years,
and old fragments of iron which parted like elder-twigs between
the fingers.
Every one is aware that the variously inclined undulations of the plains,
where the engagement between Napoleon and Wellington took place,
are no longer what they were on June 18, 1815. By taking from this
mournful field the wherewithal to make a monument to it, its real
relief has been taken away, and history, disconcerted, no longer
finds her bearings there. It has been disfigured for the sake
of glorifying it. Wellington, when he beheld Waterloo once more,
two years later, exclaimed, "They have altered my field of battle!"
Where the great pyramid of earth, surmounted by the lion,
rises to-day, there was a hillock which descended in an easy slope
towards the Nivelles road, but which was almost an escarpment
on the side of the highway to Genappe. The elevation of this
escarpment can still be measured by the height of the two knolls
of the two great sepulchres which enclose the road from Genappe
to Brussels: one, the English tomb, is on the left; the other,
the German tomb, is on the right. There is no French tomb. The whole
of that plain is a sepulchre for France. Thanks to the thousands
upon thousands of cartloads of earth employed in the hillock one
hundred and fifty feet in height and half a mile in circumference,
the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean is now accessible by an easy slope.
On the day of battle, particularly on the side of La Haie-Sainte,
it was abrupt and difficult of approach. The slope there is so
steep that the English cannon could not see the farm, situated in
the bottom of the valley, which was the centre of the combat.
On the 18th of June, 1815, the rains had still farther increased
this acclivity, the mud complicated the problem of the ascent,
and the men not only slipped back, but stuck fast in the mire.
Along the crest of the plateau ran a sort of trench whose presence it
was impossible for the distant observer to divine.
What was this trench? Let us explain. Braine-l'Alleud is a
Belgian village; Ohain is another. These villages, both of them
concealed in curves of the landscape, are connected by a road about
a league and a half in length, which traverses the plain along its
undulating level, and often enters and buries itself in the hills
like a furrow, which makes a ravine of this road in some places.
In 1815, as at the present day, this road cut the crest of the plateau
of Mont-Saint-Jean between the two highways from Genappe and Nivelles;
only, it is now on a level with the plain; it was then a hollow way.
Its two slopes have been appropriated for the monumental hillock.
This road was, and still is, a trench throughout the greater portion
of its course; a hollow trench, sometimes a dozen feet in depth,
and whose banks, being too steep, crumbled away here and there,
particularly in winter, under driving rains. Accidents happened here.
The road was so narrow at the Braine-l'Alleud entrance that a
passer-by was crushed by a cart, as is proved by a stone cross
which stands near the cemetery, and which gives the name of the dead,
Monsieur Bernard Debrye, Merchant of Brussels, and the date of
the accident, February, 1637.[8] It was so deep on the table-land
of Mont-Saint-Jean that a peasant, Mathieu Nicaise, was crushed there,
in 1783, by a slide from the slope, as is stated on another stone cross,
the top of which has disappeared in the process of clearing the ground,
but whose overturned pedestal is still visible on the grassy slope
to the left of the highway between La Haie-Sainte and the farm
of Mont-Saint-Jean.
[8] This is the inscription:--
D. O. M.
A BRUXELLE LE [Illegible]

On the day of battle, this hollow road whose existence was in no
way indicated, bordering the crest of Mont-Saint-Jean, a trench
at the summit of the escarpment, a rut concealed in the soil,
was invisible; that is to say, terrible.

So, on the morning of Waterloo, Napoleon was content.
He was right; the plan of battle conceived by him was, as we have seen,
really admirable.
The battle once begun, its very various changes,--the resistance
of Hougomont; the tenacity of La Haie-Sainte; the killing of Bauduin;
the disabling of Foy; the unexpected wall against which Soye's
brigade was shattered; Guilleminot's fatal heedlessness when he
had neither petard nor powder sacks; the miring of the batteries;
the fifteen unescorted pieces overwhelmed in a hollow way by Uxbridge;
the small effect of the bombs falling in the English lines, and there
embedding themselves in the rain-soaked soil, and only succeeding
in producing volcanoes of mud, so that the canister was turned into
a splash; the uselessness of Pire's demonstration on Braine-l'Alleud;
all that cavalry, fifteen squadrons, almost exterminated; the right
wing of the English badly alarmed, the left wing badly cut into;
Ney's strange mistake in massing, instead of echelonning the four
divisions of the first corps; men delivered over to grape-shot,
arranged in ranks twenty-seven deep and with a frontage of two hundred;
the frightful holes made in these masses by the cannon-balls;
attacking columns disorganized; the side-battery suddenly unmasked on
their flank; Bourgeois, Donzelot, and Durutte compromised; Quiot repulsed;
Lieutenant Vieux, that Hercules graduated at the Polytechnic School,
wounded at the moment when he was beating in with an axe the door
of La Haie-Sainte under the downright fire of the English barricade
which barred the angle of the road from Genappe to Brussels;
Marcognet's division caught between the infantry and the cavalry,
shot down at the very muzzle of the guns amid the grain by Best
and Pack, put to the sword by Ponsonby; his battery of seven
pieces spiked; the Prince of Saxe-Weimar holding and guarding,
in spite of the Comte d'Erlon, both Frischemont and Smohain;
the flag of the 105th taken, the flag of the 45th captured; that black
Prussian hussar stopped by runners of the flying column of three
hundred light cavalry on the scout between Wavre and Plancenoit;
the alarming things that had been said by prisoners; Grouchy's delay;
fifteen hundred men killed in the orchard of Hougomont in less
than an hour; eighteen hundred men overthrown in a still shorter
time about La Haie-Sainte,--all these stormy incidents passing
like the clouds of battle before Napoleon, had hardly troubled
his gaze and had not overshadowed that face of imperial certainty.
Napoleon was accustomed to gaze steadily at war; he never added
up the heart-rending details, cipher by cipher; ciphers mattered
little to him, provided that they furnished the total, victory;
he was not alarmed if the beginnings did go astray, since he
thought himself the master and the possessor at the end; he knew
how to wait, supposing himself to be out of the question, and he
treated destiny as his equal: he seemed to say to fate, Thou wilt
not dare.
Composed half of light and half of shadow, Napoleon thought himself
protected in good and tolerated in evil. He had, or thought
that he had, a connivance, one might almost saye depths of the heavens.
At the moment when Wellington retreated, Napoleon shuddered.
He suddenly beheld the table-land of Mont-Saint-Jean cleared,
and the van of the English army disappear. It was rallying,
but hiding itself. The Emperor half rose in his stirrups.
The lightning of victory flashed from his eyes.
Wellington, driven into a corner at the forest of Soignes
and destroyed--that was the definitive conquest of England by France;
it was Crecy, Poitiers, Malplaquet, and Ramillies avenged.
The man of Marengo was wiping out Agincourt.
So the Emperor, meditating on this terrible turn of fortune,
swept his glass for the last time over all the points of the field
of battle. His guard, standing behind him with grounded arms,
watched him from below with a sort of religion. He pondered;
he examined the slopes, noted the declivities, scrutinized the
clumps of trees, the square of rye, the path; he seemed to be
counting each bush. He gazed with some intentness at the English
barricades of the two highways,--two large abatis of trees, that on
the road to Genappe above La Haie-Sainte, armed with two cannon,
the only ones out of all the English artillery which commanded the
extremity of the field of battle, and that on the road to Nivelles
where gleamed the Dutch bayonets of Chasse's brigade. Near this
barricade he observed the old chapel of Saint Nicholas, painted white,
which stands at the angle of the cross-road near Braine-l'Alleud;
he bent down and spoke in a low voice to the guide Lacoste. The guide
made a negative sign with his head, which was probably perfidious.
The Emperor straightened himself up and fell to thinking.
Wellington had drawn back.
All that remained to do was to complete this retreat by crushing him.
Napoleon turning round abruptly, despatched an express at full
speed to Paris to announce that the battle was won.
Napoleon was one of those geniuses from whom thunder darts.
He had just found his clap of thunder.
He gave orders to Milhaud's cuirassiers to carry the table-land
of Mont-Saint-Jean.


There were three thousand five hundred of them. They formed
a front a quarter of a league in extent. They were giant men,
on colossal horses. There were six and twenty squadrons of them;
and they had behind them to support them Lefebvre-Desnouettes's
division,--the one hundred and six picked gendarmes, the light
cavalry of the Guard, eleven hundred and ninety-seven men,
and the lancers of the guard of eight hundred and eighty lances.
They wore casques without horse-tails, and cuirasses of beaten iron,
with horse-pistols in their holsters, and long sabre-swords. That
morning the whole army had admired them, when, at nine o'clock,
with braying of trumpets and all the music playing "Let us watch
o'er the Safety of the Empire," they had come in a solid column,
with one of their batteries on their flank, another in their centre,
and deployed in two ranks between the roads to Genappe and Frischemont,
and taken up their position for battle in that powerful second line,
so cleverly arranged by Napoleon, which, having on its extreme
left Kellermann's cuirassiers and on its extreme right Milhaud's
cuirassiers, had, so to speak, two wings of iron.
Aide-de-camp Bernard carried them the Emperor's orders. Ney drew
his sword and placed himself at their head. The enormous squadrons
were set in motion.
Then a formidable spectacle was seen.
All their cavalry, with upraised swords, standards and trumpets
flung to the breeze, formed in columns by divisions, descended,
by a simultaneous movement and like one man, with the precision
of a brazen battering-ram which is effecting a breach, the hill
of La Belle Alliance, plunged into the terrible depths in which
so many men had already fallen, disappeared there in the smoke,
then emerging from that shadow, reappeared on the other side of
the valley, still compact and in close ranks, mounting at a full trot,
through a storm of grape-shot which burst upon them, the terrible
muddy slope of the table-land of Mont-Saint-Jean. They ascended,
grave, threatening, imperturbable; in the intervals between the
musketry and the artillery, their colossal trampling was audible.
Being two divisions, there were two columns of them; Wathier's division
held the right, Delort's division was on the left. It seemed as
though two immense adders of steel were to be seen crawling towards
the crest of the table-land. It traversed the battle like a prodigy.
Nothing like it had been seen since the taking of the great redoubt
of the Muskowa by the heavy cavalry; Murat was lacking here, but Ney
was again present. It seemed as though that mass had become a monster
and had but one soul. Each column undulated and swelled like the
ring of a polyp. They could be seen through a vast cloud of smoke
which was rent here and there. A confusion of helmets, of cries,
of sabres, a stormy heaving of the cruppers of horses amid the cannons
and the flourish of trumpets, a terrible and disciplined tumult;
over all, the cuirasses like the scales on the hydra.
These narrations seemed to belong to another age. Something parallel
to this vision appeared, no doubt, in the ancient Orphic epics,
which told of the centaurs, the old hippanthropes, those Titans
with human heads and equestrian chests who scaled Olympus at
a gallop, horrible, invulnerable, sublime--gods and beasts.
Odd numerical coincidence,--twenty-six battalions rode to meet
twenty-six battalions. Behind the crest of the plateau, in the
shadow of the masked battery, the English infantry, formed into
thirteen squares, two battalions to the square, in two lines,
with seven in the first line, six in the second, the stocks
of their guns to their shoulders, taking aim at that which was on
the point of appearing, waited, calm, mute, motionless. They did
not see the cuirassiers, and the cuirassiers did not see them.
They listened to the rise of this flood of men. They heard the
swelling noise of three thousand horse, the alternate and symmetrical
tramp of their hoofs at full trot, the jingling of the cuirasses,
the clang of the sabres and a sort of grand and savage breathing.
There ensued a most terrible silence; then, all at once, a long file
of uplifted arms, brandishing sabres, appeared above the crest,
and casques, trumpets, and standards, and three thousand heads with
gray mustaches, shouting, "Vive l'Empereur!" All this cavalry debouched
on the plateau, and it was like the appearance of an earthquake.
All at once, a tragic incident; on the English left, on our right,
the head of the column of cuirassiers reared up with a frightful clamor.
On arriving at the culminating point of the crest, ungovernable,
utterly given over to fury and their course of extermination of the
squares and cannon, the cuirassiers had just caught sight of a trench,--
a trench between them and the English. It was the hollow road of Ohain.
It was a terrible moment. The ravine was there, unexpected, yawning,
directly under the horses' feet, two fathoms deep between its
double slopes; the second file pushed the first into it, and the third
pushed on the second; the horses reared and fell backward, landed on
their haunches, slid down, all four feet in the air, crushing and
overwhelming the riders; and there being no means of retreat,--
the whole column being no longer anything more than a projectile,--
the force which had been acquired to crush the English crushed
the French; the inexorable ravine could only yield when filled;
horses and riders rolled there pell-mell, grinding each other,
forming but one mass of flesh in this gulf: when this trench
was full of living men, the rest marched over them and passed on.
Almost a third of Dubois's brigade fell into that abyss.
This began the loss of the battle.
A local tradition, which evidently exaggerates matters, says that two
thousand horses and fifteen hundred men were buried in the hollow
road of Ohain. This figure probably comprises all the other corpses
which were flung into this ravine the day after the combat.
Let us note in passing that it was Dubois's sorely tried brigade which,
an hour previously, making a charge to one side, had captured
the flag of the Lunenburg battalion.
Napoleon, before giving the order for this charge of Milhaud's
cuirassiers, had scrutinized the ground, but had not been able to see
that hollow road, which did not even form a wrinkle on the surface of
the plateau. Warned, nevertheless, and put on the alert by the little
white chapel which marks its angle of junction with the Nivelles highway,
he had probably put a question as to the possibility of an obstacle,
to the guide Lacoste. The guide had answered No. We might almost affirm
that Napoleon's catastrophe originated in that sign of a peasant's head.
Other fatalities were destined to arise.
Was it possible that Napoleon should have won that battle?
We answer No. Why? Because of Wellington? Because of Blucher?
No. Because of God.
Bonaparte victor at Waterloo; that does not come within the law of
the nineteenth century. Another series of facts was in preparation,
in which there was no longer any room for Napoleon. The ill will
of events had declared itself long before.
It was time that this vast man should fall.
The excessive weight of this man in human destiny disturbed the balance.
This individual alone counted for more than a universal group.
These plethoras of all human vitality concentrated in a single head;
the world mounting to the brain of one man,--this would be mortal
to civilization were it to last. The moment had arrived for the
incorruptible and supreme equity to alter its plan. Probably the
principles and the elements, on which the regular gravitations
of the moral, as of the material, world depend, had complained.
Smoking blood, over-filled cemeteries, mothers in tears,--
these are formidable pleaders. When the earth is suffering from
too heavy a burden, there are mysterious groanings of the shades,
to which the abyss lends an ear.
Napoleon had been denounced in the infinite and his fall had been
decided on.
He embarrassed God.
Waterloo is not a battle; it is a change of front on the part
of the Universe.


The battery was unmasked at the same moment with the ravine.
Sixty cannons and the thirteen squares darted lightning point-blank
on the cuirassiers. The intrepid General Delort made the military
salute to the English battery.
The whole of the flying artillery of the English had re-entered
the squares at a gallop. The cuirassiers had not had even the
time for a halt. The disaster of the hollow road had decimated,
but not discouraged them. They belonged to that class of men who,
when diminished in number, increase in courage.
Wathier's column alone had suffered in the disaster; Delort's column,
which Ney had deflected to the left, as though he had a presentiment
of an ambush, had arrived whole.
The cuirassiers hurled themselves on the English squares.
At full speed, with bridles loose, swords in their teeth pistols
in fist,--such was the attack.
There are moments in battles in which the soul hardens the man
until the soldier is changed into a statue, and when all this flesh
turns into granite. The English battalions, desperately assaulted,
did not stir.
Then it was terrible.
All the faces of the English squares were attacked at once.
A frenzied whirl enveloped them. That cold infantry remained impassive.
The first rank knelt and received the cuirassiers on their bayonets,
the second ranks shot them down; behind the second rank the cannoneers
charged their guns, the front of the square parted, permitted the passage
of an eruption of grape-shot, and closed again. The cuirassiers
replied by crushing them. Their great horses reared, strode across
the ranks, leaped over the bayonets and fell, gigantic, in the midst
of these four living wells. The cannon-balls ploughed furrows
in these cuirassiers; the cuirassiers made breaches in the squares.
Files of men disappeared, ground to dust under the horses. The bayonets
plunged into the bellies of these centaurs; hence a hideousness of
wounds which has probably never been seen anywhere else. The squares,
wasted by this mad cavalry, closed up their ranks without flinching.
Inexhaustible in the matter of grape-shot, they created explosions
in their assailants' midst. The form of this combat was monstrous.
These squares were no longer battalions, they were craters;
those cuirassiers were no longer cavalry, they were a tempest.
Each square was a volcano attacked by a cloud; lava contended
with lightning.
The square on the extreme right, the most exposed of all,
being in the air, was almost annihilated at the very first shock.
lt was formed of the 75th regiment of Highlanders. The bagpipe-player
in the centre dropped his melancholy eyes, filled with the reflections
of the forests and the lakes, in profound inattention, while men
were being exterminated around him, and seated on a drum, with his
pibroch under his arm, played the Highland airs. These Scotchmen
died thinking of Ben Lothian, as did the Greeks recalling Argos.
The sword of a cuirassier, which hewed down the bagpipes and the arm
which bore it, put an end to the song by killing the singer.
The cuirassiers, relatively few in number, and still further diminished
by the catastrophe of the ravine, had almost the whole English army
against them, but they multiplied themselves so that each man of them
was equal to ten. Nevertheless, some Hanoverian battalions yielded.
Wellington perceived it, and thought of his cavalry. Had Napoleon
at that same moment thought of his infantry, he would have won
the battle. This forgetfulness was his great and fatal mistake.
All at once, the cuirassiers, who had been the assailants,
found themselves assailed. The English cavalry was at their back.
Before them two squares, behind them Somerset; Somerset meant
fourteen hundred dragoons of the guard. On the right, Somerset had
Dornberg with the German light-horse, and on his left, Trip with
the Belgian carabineers; the cuirassiers attacked on the flank and
in front, before and in the rear, by infantry and cavalry, had to
face all sides. What mattered it to them? They were a whirlwind.
Their valor was something indescribable.
In addition to this, they had behind them the battery, which was
still thundering. It was necessary that it should be so, or they
could never have been wounded in the back. One of their cuirasses,
pierced on the shoulder by a ball from a biscayan,[9] is in the
collection of the Waterloo Museum.

[9] A heavy rifled gun.

For such Frenchmen nothing less than such Englishmen was needed.
It was no longer a hand-to-hand conflict; it was a shadow, a fury,
a dizzy transport of souls and courage, a hurricane of lightning swords.
In an instant the fourteen hundred dragoon guards numbered only
eight hundred. Fuller, their lieutenant-colonel, fell dead.
Ney rushed up with the lancers and Lefebvre-Desnouettes's light-horse.
The plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean was captured, recaptured, captured again.
The cuirassiers quitted the cavalry to return to the infantry;
or, to put it more exactly, the whole of that formidable rout
collared each other without releasing the other. The squares still
held firm.
There were a dozen assaults. Ney had four horses killed under him.
Half the cuirassiers remained on the plateau. This conflict lasted
two hours.
The English army was profoundly shaken. There is no doubt that,
had they not been enfeebled in their first shock by the disaster
of the hollow road the cuirassiers would have overwhelmed the centre
and decided the victory. This extraordinary cavalry petrified Clinton,
who had seen Talavera and Badajoz. Wellington, three-quarters vanquished,
admired heroically. He said in an undertone, "Sublime!"
The cuirassiers annihilated seven squares out of thirteen, took or
spiked sixty pieces of ordnance, and captured from the English
rehting and still resisting, is expending all his blood.
Which of the two will be the first to fall?
The conflict on the plateau continued.
What had become of the cuirassiers? No one could have told.
One thing is certain, that on the day after the battle, a cuirassier
and his horse were found dead among the woodwork of the scales
for vehicles at Mont-Saint-Jean, at the very point where the four
roads from Nivelles, Genappe, La Hulpe, and Brussels meet and
intersect each other. This horseman had pierced the English lines.
One of the men who picked up the body still lives at Mont-Saint-Jean.
His name is Dehaze. He was eighteen years old at that time.
Wellington felt that he was yielding. The crisis was at hand.
The cuirassiers had not succeeded, since the centre was not
broken through. As every one was in possession of the plateau, no one
held it, and in fact it remained, to a great extent, with the English.
Wellington held the village and the culminating plain; Ney had only the
crest and the slope. They seemed rooted in that fatal soil on both sides.
But the weakening of the English seemed irremediable.
The bleeding of that army was horrible. Kempt, on the left wing,
demanded reinforcements. "There are none," replied Wellington;
"he must let himself be killed!" Almost at that same moment,
a singular coincidence which paints the exhaustion of the two armies,
Ney demanded infantry from Napoleon, and Napoleon exclaimed, "Infantry!
Where does he expect me to get it? Does he think I can make it?"
Nevertheless, the English army was in the worse case of the two.
The furious onsets of those great squadrons with cuirasses of iron
and breasts of steel had ground the infantry to nothing. A few
men clustered round a flag marked the post of a regiment; such and
such a battalion was commanded only by a captain or a lieutenant;
Alten's division, already so roughly handled at La Haie-Sainte,
was almost destroyed; the intrepid Belgians of Van Kluze's brigade
strewed the rye-fields all along the Nivelles road; hardly anything
was left of those Dutch grenadiers, who, intermingled with Spaniards
in our ranks in 1811, fought against Wellington; and who, in 1815,
rallied to the English standard, fought against Napoleon.
The loss in officers was considerable. Lord Uxbridge, who had
his leg buried on the following day, had his knee shattered.
If, on the French side, in that tussle of the cuirassiers, Delort,
l'Heritier, Colbert, Dnop, Travers, and Blancard were disabled,
on the side of the English there was Alten wounded, Barne wounded,
Delancey killed, Van Meeren killed, Ompteda killed, the whole
of Wellington's staff decimated, and England had the worse of it
in that bloody scale. The second regiment of foot-guards had
lost five lieutenant-colonels, four captains, and three ensigns;
the first battalion of the 30th infantry had lost 24 officers and
1,200 soldiers; the 79th Highlanders had lost 24 officers wounded,
18 officers killed, 450 soldiers killed. The Hanoverian hussars
of Cumberland, a whole regiment, with Colonel Hacke at its head,
who was destined to be tried later on and cashiered, had turned
bridle in the presence of the fray, and had fled to the forest
of Soignes, sowing defeat all the way to Brussels. The transports,
ammunition-wagons, the baggage-wagons, the wagons filled with wounded,
on perceiving that the French were gaining ground and approaching
the forest, rushed headlong thither. The Dutch, mowed down by the
French cavalry, cried, "Alarm!" From Vert-Coucou to Groentendael,
for a distance of nearly two leagues in the direction of Brussels,
according to the testimony of eye-witnesses who are still alive,
the roads were encumbered with fugitives. This panic was such
that it attacked the Prince de Conde at Mechlin, and Louis XVIII.
at Ghent. With the exception of the feeble reserve echelonned
behind the ambulance established at the farm of Mont-Saint-Jean,
and of Vivian's and Vandeleur's brigades, which flanked the left wing,
Wellington had no cavalry left. A number of batteries lay unhorsed.
These facts are attested by Siborne; and Pringle, exaggerating
the disaster, goes so far as to say that the Anglo-Dutch army was
reduced to thirty-four thousand men. The Iron Duke remained calm,
but his lips blanched. Vincent, the Austrian commissioner, Alava,
the Spanish commissioner, who were present at the battle in the
English staff, thought the Duke lost. At five o'clock Wellington
drew out his watch, and he was heard to murmur these sinister words,
"Blucher, or night!"
It was at about that moment that a distant line of bayonets gleamed
on the heights in the direction of Frischemont.
Here comes the change of face in this giant drama.


The painful surprise of Napoleon is well known. Grouchy hoped for,
Blucher arriving. Death instead of life.
Fate has these turns; the throne of the world was expected;
it was Saint Helena that was seen.
If the little shepherd who served as guide to Bulow, Blucher's lieutenant,
had advised him to debouch from the forest above Frischemont,
instead of below Plancenoit, the form of the nineteenth century might,
perhaps, have been different. Napoleon would have won the battle
of Waterloo. By any other route than that below Plancenoit,
the Prussian army would have come out upon a ravine impassable
for artillery, and Bulow would not have arrived.
Now the Prussian general, Muffling, declares that one hour's delay,
and Blucher would not have found Wellington on his feet. "The battle
was lost."
It was time that Bulow should arrive, as will be seen. He had,
moreover, been very much delayed. He had bivouacked at Dion-le-Mont,
and had set out at daybreak; but the roads were impassable, and his
divisions stuck fast in the mire. The ruts were up to the hubs
of the cannons. Moreover, he had been obliged to pass the Dyle on
the narrow bridge of Wavre; the street leading to the bridge had been
fired by the French, so the caissons and ammunition-wagons could
not pass between two rows of burning houses, and had been obliged
to wait until the conflagration was extinguished. It was mid-day
before Bulow's vanguard had been able to reach Chapelle-Saint-Lambert.
Had the action been begun two hours earlier, it would have been
over at four o'clock, and Blucher would have fallen on the battle
won by Napoleon. Such are these immense risks proportioned
to an infinite which we cannot comprehend.
The Emperor had been the first, as early as mid-day, to descry
with his field-glass, on the extreme horizon, something which had
attracted his attention. He had said, "I see yonder a cloud,
which seems to me to be troops." Then he asked the Duc de Dalmatie,
"Soult, what do you see in the direction of Chapelle-Saint-Lambert?"
The marshal, levelling his glass, answered, "Four or five
thousand men, Sire; evidently Grouchy." But it remained motionless
in the mist. All the glasses of the staff had studied "the cloud"
pointed out by the Emperor. Some said: "It is trees." The truth is,
that the cloud did not move. The Emperor detached Domon's division
of light cavalry to reconnoitre in that quarter.
Bulow had not moved, in fact. His vanguard was very feeble,
and could accomplish nothing. He was obliged to wait for the body
of the army corps, and he had received orders to concentrate his
forces before entering into line; but at five o'clock, perceiving
Wellington's peril, Blucher ordered Bulow to attack, and uttered
these remarkable words: "We must give air to the English army."
A little later, the divisions of Losthin, Hiller, Hacke, and Ryssel
deployed before Lobau's corps, the cavalry of Prince William of
Prussia debouched from the forest of Paris, Plancenoit was in flames,
and the Prussian cannon-balls began to rain even upon the ranks
of the guard in reserve behind Napoleon.


Every one knows the rest,--the irruption of a third army; the battle
broken to pieces; eighty-six months of fire thundering simultaneously;
Pirch the first coming up with Bulow; Zieten's cavalry led
by Blucher in person, the French driven back; Marcognet swept
from the plateau of Ohain; Durutte dislodged from Papelotte;
Donzelot and Quiot retreating; Lobau caught on the flank; a fresh
battle precipitating itself on our dismantled regiments at nightfall;
the whole English line resuming the offensive and thrust forward;
the gigantic breach made in the French army; the English grape-shot
and the Prussian grape-shot aiding each other; the extermination;
disaster in front; disaster on the flank; the Guard entering the line
in the midst of this terrible crumbling of all things.
Conscious that they were about to die, they shouted, "Vive l'Empereur!"
History records nothing more touching than that agony bursting
forth in acclamations.
The sky had been overcast all day long. All of a sudden, at that
very moment,--it was eight o'clock in the evening--the clouds on
the horizon parted, and allowed the grand and sinister glow of the
setting sun to pass through, athwart the elms on the Nivelles road.
They had seen it rise at Austerlitz.
Each battalion of the Guard was commanded by a general for this
final catastrophe. Friant, Michel, Roguet, Harlet, Mallet,
Poret de Morvan, were there. When the tall caps of the grenadiers
of the Guard, with their large plaques bearing the eagle appeared,
symmetrical, in line, tranquil, in the midst of that combat,
the enemy felt a respect for France; they thought they beheld twenty
victories entering the field of battle, with wings outspread,
and those who were the conquerors, believing themselves to be vanquished,
retreated; but Wellington shouted, "Up, Guards, and aim straight!"
The red regiment of English guards, lying flat behind the hedges,
sprang up, a cloud of grape-shot riddled the tricolored flag
and whistled round our eagles; all hurled themselves forwards,
and the final carnage began. In the darkness, the Imperial Guard
felt the army losing ground around it, and in the vast shock of
the rout it heard the desperate flight which had taken the place
of the "Vive l'Empereur!" and, with flight behind it, it continued
to advance, more crushed, losing more men at every step that it took.
There were none who hesitated, no timid men in its ranks.
The soldier in that troop was as much of a hero as the general.
Not a man was missing in that suicide.
Ney, bewildered, great with all the grandeur of accepted death,
offered himself to all blows in that tempest. He had his fifth horse
killed under him there. Perspiring, his eyes aflame, foaming at
the mouth, with uniform unbuttoned, one of his epaulets half cut
off by a sword-stroke from a horseguard, his plaque with the great
eagle dented by a bullet; bleeding, bemired, magnificent, a broken
sword in his hand, he said, "Come and see how a Marshal of France
dies on the field of battle!" But in vain; he did not die.
He was haggard and angry. At Drouet d'Erlon he hurled this question,
"Are you not going to get yourself killed?" In the midst of all
that artillery engaged in crushing a handful of men, he shouted:
"So there is nothing for me! Oh! I should like to have all these
English bullets enter my bowels!" Unhappy man, thou wert reserved
for French bullets!

The rout behind the Guard was melancholy.
The army yielded suddenly on all sides at once,--Hougomont, La
Haie-Sainte, Papelotte, Plancenoit. The cry "Treachery!" was
followed by a cry of "Save yourselves who can!" An army which is
disbanding is like a thaw. All yields, splits, cracks, floats,
rolls, falls, jostles, hastens, is precipitated. The disintegration
is unprecedented. Ney borrows a horse, leaps upon it, and without
hat, cravat, or sword, places himself across the Brussels road,
stopping both English and French. He strives to detain the army,
he recalls it to its duty, he insults it, he clings to the rout.
He is overwhelmed. The soldiers fly from him, shouting, "Long live
Marshal Ney!" Two of Durutte's regiments go and come in affright
as though tossed back and forth between the swords of the Uhlans
and the fusillade of the brigades of Kempt, Best, Pack, and Rylandt;
the worst of hand-to-hand conflicts is the defeat; friends kill each
other in order to escape; squadrons and battalions break and disperse
against each other, like the tremendous foam of battle. Lobau at
one extremity, and Reille at the other, are drawn into the tide.
In vain does Napoleon erect walls from what is left to him of his Guard;
in vain does he expend in a last effort his last serviceable squadrons.
Quiot retreats before Vivian, Kellermann before Vandeleur,
Lobau before Bulow, Morand before Pirch, Domon and Subervic before
Prince William of Prussia; Guyot, who led the Emperor's squadrons
to the charge, falls beneath the feet of the English dragoons.
Napoleon gallops past the line of fugitives, harangues, urges, threatens,
entreats them. All the mouths which in the morning had shouted,
"Long live the Emperor!" remain gaping; they hardly recognize him.
The Prussian cavalry, newly arrived, dashes forwards, flies, hews,
slashes, kills, exterminates. Horses lash out, the cannons flee;
the soldiers of the artillery-train unharness the caissons and use
the horses to make their escape; transports overturned, with all
four wheels in the air, clog the road and occasion massacres.
Men are crushed, trampled down, others walk over the dead and
the living. Arms are lost. A dizzy multitude fills the roads,
the paths, the bridges, the plains, the hills, the valleys,
the woods, encumbered by this invasion of forty thousand men.
Shouts despair, knapsacks and guns flung among the rye, passages forced
at the point of the sword, no more comrades, no more officers,
no more generals, an inexpressible terror. Zieten putting France to the
sword at its leisure. Lions converted into goats. Such was the flight.
At Genappe, an effort was made to wheel about, to present a
battle front, to draw up in line. Lobau rallied three hundred men.
The entrance to the village was barricaded, but at the first volley
of Prussian canister, all took to flight again, and Lobau was taken.
That volley of grape-shot can be seen to-day imprinted on the
ancient gable of a brick building on the right of the road at
a few minutes' distance before you enter Genappe. The Prussians
threw themselves into Genappe, furious, no doubt, that they were
not more entirely the conquerors. The pursuit was stupendous.
Blucher ordered extermination. Roguet had set the lugubrious example
of threatening with death any French grenadier who should bring him
a Prussian prisoner. Blucher outdid Roguet. Duhesme, the general
of the Young Guard, hemmed in at the doorway of an inn at Genappe,
surrendered his sword to a huzzar of death, who took the sword and
slew the prisoner. The victory was completed by the assassination
of the vanquished. Let us inflict punishment, since we are history:
old Blucher disgraced himself. This ferocity put the finishing
touch to the disaster. The desperate route traversed Genappe,
traversed Quatre-Bras, traversed Gosselies, traversed Frasnes,
traversed Charleroi, traversed Thuin, and only halted at the frontier.
Alas! and who, then, was fleeing in that manner? The Grand Army.
This vertigo, this terror, this downfall into ruin of the loftiest
bravery which ever astounded history,--is that causeless?
No. The shadow of an enormous right is projected athwart Waterloo.
It is the day of destiny. The force which is mightier than man
produced that day. Hence the terrified wrinkle of those brows;
hence all those great souls surrendering their swords. Those who had
conquered Europe have fallen prone on the earth, with nothing left
to say nor to do, feeling the present shadow of a terrible presence.
Hoc erat in fatis. That day the perspective of the human race
underwent a change. Waterloo is the hinge of the nineteenth century.
The disappearance of the greahe meteor. God has passed by.
At nightfall, in a meadow near Genappe, Bernard and Bertrand
seized by the skirt of his coat and detained a man, haggard,
pensive, sinister, gloomy, who, dragged to that point by the
current of the rout, had just dismounted, had passed the bridle
of his horse over his arm, and with wild eye was returning
alone to Waterloo. It was Napoleon, the immense somnambulist
of this dream which had crumbled, essaying once more to advance.


Several squares of the Guard, motionless amid this stream of
the defeat, as rocks in running water, held their own until night.
Night came, death also; they awaited that double shadow,
and, invincible, allowed themselves to be enveloped therein.
Each regiment, isolated from the rest, and having no bond with
the army, now shattered in every part, died alone. They had taken
up position for this final action, some on the heights of Rossomme,
others on the plain of Mont-Saint-Jean. There, abandoned, vanquished,
terrible, those gloomy squares endured their death-throes
in formidable fashion. Ulm, Wagram, Jena, Friedland, died with them.
At twilight, towards nine o'clock in the evening, one of them was left
at the foot of the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean. In that fatal valley,
at the foot of that declivity which the cuirassiers had ascended,
now inundated by the masses of the English, under the converging
fires of the victorious hostile cavalry, under a frightful density
of projectiles, this square fought on. It was commanded by an obscure
officer named Cambronne. At each discharge, the square diminished
and replied. It replied to the grape-shot with a fusillade,
continually contracting its four walls. The fugitives pausing
breathless for a moment in the distance, listened in the darkness
to that gloomy and ever-decreasing thunder.
When this legion had been reduced to a handful, when nothing was left
of their flag but a rag, when their guns, the bullets all gone,
were no longer anything but clubs, when the heap of corpses was larger
than the group of survivors, there reigned among the conquerors,
around those men dying so sublimely, a sort of sacred terror,
and the English artillery, taking breath, became silent. This furnished
a sort of respite. These combatants had around them something in
the nature of a swarm of spectres, silhouettes of men on horseback,
the black profiles of cannon, the white sky viewed through wheels
and gun-carriages, the colossal death's-head, which the heroes
saw constantly through the smoke, in the depths of the battle,
advanced upon them and gazed at them. Through the shades of twilight
they could hear the pieces being loaded; the matches all lighted,
like the eyes of tigers at night, formed a circle round their heads;
all the lintstocks of the English batteries approached the cannons,
and then, with emotion, holding the supreme moment suspended above
these men, an English general, Colville according to some, Maitland
according to others, shouted to them, "Surrender, brave Frenchmen!"
Cambronne replied, "-----."
{EDITOR'S COMMENTARY: Another edition of this book has the word
"Merde!" in lieu of the ----- above.}


If any French reader object to having his susceptibilities offended,
one would have to refrain from repeating in his presence what is
perhaps the finest reply that a Frenchman ever made. This would
enjoin us from consigning something sublime to History.
At our own risk and peril, let us violate this injunction.
Now, then, among those giants there was one Titan,--Cambronne.
To make that reply and then perish, what could be grander?
For being willing to die is the same as to die; and it was not this
man's fault if he survived after he was shot.
The winner of the battle of Waterloo was not Napoleon, who was put
to flight; nor Wellington, giving way at four o'clock, in despair
at five; nor Blucher, who took no part in the engagement.
The winner of Waterloo was Cambronne.
To thunder forth such a reply at the lightning-flash that kills
you is to conquer!
Thus to answer the Catastrophe, thus to speak to Fate, to give
this pedestal to the future lion, to hurl such a challenge to the
midnight rainstorm, to the treacherous wall of Hougomont, to the
sunken road of Ohain, to Grouchy's delay, to Blucher's arrival,
to be Irony itself in the tomb, to act so as to stand upright
though fallen, to drown in two syllables the European coalition,
to offer kings privies which the Caesars once knew, to make the lowest
of words the most lofty by entwining with it the glory of France,
insolently to end Waterloo with Mardigras, to finish Leonidas
with Rabellais, to set the crown on this victory by a word impossible
to speak, to lose the field and preserve history, to have the laugh
on your side after such a carnage,--this is immense!
It was an insult such as a thunder-cloud might hurl! It reaches
the grandeur of AEschylus!
Cambronne's reply produces the effect of a violent break.
'Tis like the breaking of a heart under a weight of scorn.
'Tis the overflow of agony bursting forth. Who conquered?
Wellington? No! Had it not been for Blucher, he was lost.
Was it Blucher? No! If Wellington had not begun, Blucher could
not have finished. This Cambronne, this man spending his last hour,
this unknown soldier, this infinitesimal of war, realizes that here is
a falsehood, a falsehood in a catastrophe, and so doubly agonizing;
and at the moment when his rage is bursting forth because of it,
he is offered this mockery,--life! How could he restrain himself?
Yonder are all the kings of Europe, the general's flushed with victory,
the Jupiter's darting thunderbolts; they have a hundred thousand
victorious soldiers, and back of the hundred thousand a million;
their cannon stand with yawning mouths, the match is lighted; they grind
down under their heels the Imperial guards, and the grand army;
they have just crushed Napoleon, and only Cambronne remains,--
only this earthworm is left to protest. He will protest. Then he seeks
for the appropriate word as one seeks for a sword. His mouth froths,
and the froth is the word. In face of this mean and mighty victory,
in face of this victory which counts none victorious, this desperate
soldier stands erect. He grants its overwhelming immensity, but he
establishes its triviality; and he does more than spit upon it.
Borne down by numbers, by superior force, by brute matter,
he finds in his soul an expression: "Excrement!" We repeat it,--
to use that word, to do thus, to invent such an expression, is to be
the conqueror!
The spirit of mighty days at that portentous moment made its descent
on that unknown man. Cambronne invents the word for Waterloo as
Rouget invents the "Marseillaise," under the visitation of a breath
from on high. An emanation from the divine whirlwind leaps forth
and comes sweeping over these men, and they shake, and one of them
sings the song supreme, and the other utters the frightful cry.
This challenge of titanic scorn Cambronne hurls not only at Europe
in the name of the Empire,--that would be a trifle: he hurls it at
the past in the name of the Revolution. It is heard, and Cambronne
is recognized as possessed by the ancient spirit of the Titans.
Danton seems to be speaking! Kleber seems to be bellowing!
At that word from Cambronne, the English voice responded, "Fire!"
The batteries flamed, the hill trembled, from all those brazen
mouths belched a last terrible gush of grape-shot; a vast volume
of smoke, vaguely white in the light of the rising moon, rolled out,
and when the smoke dispersed, there was no longer anything there.
That formidable remnant had been annihilated; the Guard was dead.
The four walls of the living redoubt lay prone, and hardly was
there discernible, here and there, even a quiver in the bodies;
it was thus that the French legions, greater than the Roman legions,
expired on Mont-Saint-Jean, on the soil watered with rain and blood,
amid the gloomy grain, on the spot where nowadays Joseph, who drives
the post-wagon from Nivelles, passes whistling, and cheerfully
whipping up his horse at four o'clock in the morning.


The battle of Waterloo is an enigma. It is as obscure to those who
won it as to those who lost it. For Napoleon it was a panic;[10]
Blucher sees nothing in it but fire; Wellington understands
nothing in regard to it. Look at the reports. The bulletins
are confused, the commentaries involved. Some stammer, others lisp.
Jomini divides the battle of Waterloo into four moments; Muffling cuts
it up into three changes; Charras alone, though we hold another
judgment than his on some points, seized with his haughty glance
the characteristic outlines of that catastrophe of human genius
in conflict with divine chance. All the other historians suffer from
being somewhat dazzled, and in this dazzled state they fumble about.
It was a day of lightning brilliancy; in fact, a crumbling of
the military monarchy which, to the vast stupefaction of kings,
drew all the kingdoms after it--the fall of force, the defeat of war.

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

In this event, stamped with superhuman necessity, the part played
by men amounts to nothing.
If we take Waterloo from Wellington and Blucher, do we thereby deprive
England and Germany of anything? No. Neither that illustrious
England nor that august Germany enter into the problem of Waterloo.
Thank Heaven, nations are great, independently of the lugubrious
feats of the sword. Neither England, nor Germany, nor France
is contained in a scabbard. At this epoch when Waterloo is
only a clashing of swords, above Blucher, Germany has Schiller;
above Wellington, England has Byron. A vast dawn of ideas is the
peculiarity of our century, and in that aurora England and Germany
have a magnificent radiance. They are majestic because they think.
The elevation of level which they contribute to civilization is intrinsic
with them; it proceeds from themselves and not from an accident.
The aggrandizement which they have brought to the nineteenth
century has not Waterloo as its source. It is only barbarous
peoples who undergo rapid growth after a victory. That is the
temporary vanity of torrents swelled by a storm. Civilized people,
especially in our day, are neither elevated nor abased by the good
or bad fortune of a captain. Their specific gravity in the human
species results from something more than a combat. Their honor,
thank God! their dignity, their intelligence, their genius, are not
numbers which those gamblers, heroes and conquerors, can put in the
lottery of battles. Often a battle is lost and progress is conquered.
There is less glory and more liberty. The drum holds its peace;
reason takes the word. It is a game in which he who loses wins.
Let us, therefore, speak of Waterloo coldly from both sides.
Let us render to chance that which is due to chance, and to God
that which is due to God. What is Waterloo? A victory? No. The
winning number in the lottery.
The quine[11] won by Europe, paid by France.

[11] Five winning numbers in a lottery.

It was not worth while to place a lion there.
Waterloo, moreover, is the strangest encounter in history.
Napoleon and Wellington. They are not enemies; they are opposites.
Never did God, who is fond of antitheses, make a more striking
contrast, a more extraordinary comparison. On one side, precision,
foresight, geometry, prudence, an assured retreat, reserves spared,
with an obstinate coolness, an imperturbable method, strategy,
which takes advantage of the ground, tactics, which preserve the
equilibrium of battalions, carnage, executed according to rule,
war regulated, watch in hand, nothing voluntarily left to chance,
the ancient classic courage, absolute regularity; on the other,
intuition, divination, military oddity, superhuman instinct,
a flaming glance, an indescribable something which gazes like
an eagle, and which strikes like the lightning, a prodigious art
in disdainful impetuosity, all the mysteries of a profound soul,
associated with destiny; the stream, the plain, the forest,
the hill, summoned, and in a manner, forced to obey, the despot going
even so far as to tyrannize over the field of battle; faith in a
star mingled with strategic science, elevating but perturbing it.
Wellington was the Bareme of war; Napoleon was its Michael Angelo;
and on this occasion, genius was vanquished by calculation.
On both sides some one was awaited. It was the exact calculator
who succeeded. Napoleon was waiting for Grouchy; he did not come.
Wellington expected Blucher; he came.
Wellington is classic war taking its revenge. Bonaparte, at his
dawning, had encountered him in Italy, and beaten him superbly.
The old owl had fled before the young vulture. The old tactics
had been not only struck as by lightning, but disgraced. Who was
that Corsican of six and twenty? What signified that splendid
ignoramus, who, with everything against him, nothing in his favor,
without provisions, without ammunition, without cannon, without shoes,
almost without an army, with a mere handful of men against masses,
hurled himself on Europe combined, and absurdly won victories
in the impossible? Whence had issued that fulminating convict,
who almost without taking breath, and with the same set of combatants
in hand, pulverized, one after the other, the five armies of the emperor
of Germany, upsetting Beaulieu on Alvinzi, Wurmser on Beaulieu,
Melas on Wurmser, Mack on Melas? Who was this novice in war
with the effrontery of a luminary? The academical military school
excommunicated him, and as it lost its footing; hence, the implacable
rancor of the old Caesarism against the new; of the regular sword
against the flaming sword; and of the exchequer against genius.
On the 18th of June, 1815, that rancor had the last word.
and beneath Lodi, Montebello, Montenotte, Mantua, Arcola,
it wrote: Waterloo. A triumph of the mediocres which is sweet
to the majority. Destiny consented to this irony. In his decline,
Napoleon found Wurmser, the younger, again in front of him.
In fact, to get Wurmser, it sufficed to blanch the hair of Wellington.
Waterloo is a battle of the first order, won by a captain of the second.
That which must be admired in the battle of Waterloo, is England;
the English firmness, the English resolution, the English blood;
the superb thing about England there, no offence to her, was herself.
It was not her captain; it was her army.
Wellington, oddly ungrateful, declares in a letter to Lord Bathurst,
that his army, the army which fought on the 18th of June, 1815,
was a "detestable army." What does that sombre intermingling
of bones buried beneath the furrows of Waterloo think of that?
England has been too modest in the matter of Wellington. To make
Wellington so great is to belittle England. Wellington is nothing
but a hero like many another. Those Scotch Grays, those Horse Guards,
those regiments of Maitland and of Mitchell, that infantry of Pack
and Kempt, that cavalry of Ponsonby and Somerset, those Highlanders
playing the pibroch under the shower of grape-shot, those battalions
of Rylandt, those utterly raw recruits, who hardly knew how to
handle a musket holding their own against Essling's and Rivoli's
old troops,--that is what was grand. Wellington was tenacious;
in that lay his merit, and we are not seeking to lessen it:
but the least of his foot-soldiers and of his cavalry would have been
as solid as he. The iron soldier is worth as much as the Iron Duke.
As for us, all our glorification goes to the English soldier,
to the English army, to the English people. If trophy there be,
it is to England that the trophy is due. The column of Waterloo would
be more just, if, instead of the figure of a man, it bore on high
the statue of a penot as a people. And as a people, it willingly
subordinates itself and takes a lord for its head. As a workman,
it allows itself to be disdained; as a soldier, it allows itself
to be flogged.
It will be remembered, that at the battle of Inkermann a sergeant
who had, it appears, saved the army, could not be mentioned
by Lord Paglan, as the English military hierarchy does not permit
any hero below the grade of an officer to be mentioned in the reports.
That which we admire above all, in an encounter of the nature of Waterloo,
is the marvellous cleverness of chance. A nocturnal rain, the wall
of Hougomont, the hollow road of Ohain, Grouchy deaf to the cannon,
Napoleon's guide deceiving him, Bulow's guide enlightening him,--
the whole of this cataclysm is wonderfully conducted.
On the whole, let us say it plainly, it was more of a massacre
than of a battle at Waterloo.
Of all pitched battles, Waterloo is the one which has the smallest
front for such a number of combatants. Napoleon three-quarters
of a league; Wellington, half a league; seventy-two thousand
combatants on each side. From this denseness the carnage arose.
The following calculation has been made, and the following
proportion established: Loss of men: at Austerlitz, French,
fourteen per cent; Russians, thirty per cent; Austrians,
forty-four per cent. At Wagram, French, thirteen per cent;
Austrians, fourteen. At the Moskowa, French, thirty-seven per cent;
Russians, forty-four. At Bautzen, French, thirteen per cent;
Russians and Prussians, fourteen. At Waterloo, French, fifty-six
per cent; the Allies, thirty-one. Total for Waterloo, forty-one per
cent; one hundred and forty-four thousand combatants; sixty thousand dead.
To-day the field of Waterloo has the calm which belongs to the earth,
the impassive support of man, and it resembles all plains.
At night, moreover, a sort of visionary mist arises from it;
and if a traveller strolls there, if he listens, if he watches, if he
dreams like Virgil in the fatal plains of Philippi, the hallucination
of the catastrophe takes possession of him. The frightful 18th
of June lives again; the false monumental hillock disappears,
the lion vanishes in air, the battle-field resumes its reality,
lines of infantry undulate over the plain, furious gallops traverse
the horizon; the frightened dreamer beholds the flash of sabres,
the gleam of bayonets, the flare of bombs, the tremendous interchange
of thunders; he hears, as it were, the death rattle in the depths
of a tomb, the vague clamor of the battle phantom; those shadows
are grenadiers, those lights are cuirassiers; that skeleton Napoleon,
that other skeleton is Wellington; all this no longer exists,
and yet it clashes together and combats still; and the ravines
are empurpled, and the trees quiver, and there is fury even in the
clouds and in the shadows; all those terrible heights, Hougomont,
Mont-Saint-Jean, Frischemont, Papelotte, Plancenoit, appear confusedly
crowned with whirlwinds of spectres engaged in exterminating each other.


There exists a very respectable liberal school which
does not hate Waterloo. We do not belong to it.
To us, Waterloo is but the stupefied date of liberty.
That such an eagle should emerge from such an egg is certainly unexpected.
If one places one's self at the culminating point of view of the question,
Waterloo is intentionally a counter-revolutionary victory. It is Europe
against France; it is Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna against Paris;
it is the statu quo against the initiative; it is the 14th of July,
1789, attacked through the 20th of March, 1815; it is the monarchies
clearing the decks in opposition to the indomitable French rioting.
The final extinction of that vast people which had been in eruption
for twenty-six years--such was the dream. The solidarity of
the Brunswicks, the Nassaus, the Romanoffs, the Hohenzollerns,
the Hapsburgs with the Bourbons. Waterloo bears divine right on
its crupper. It is true, that the Empire having been despotic,
the kingdom by the natural reaction of things, was forced to be liberal,
and that a constitutional order was the unwilling result of Waterloo,
to the great regret of the conquerors. It is because revolution cannot
be really conquered, and that being providential and absolutely fatal,
it is always cropping up afresh: before Waterloo, in Bonaparte
overthrowing the old thrones; after Waterloo, in Louis XVIII.
granting and conforming to the charter. Bonaparte places a postilion
on the throne of Naples, and a sergeant on the throne of Sweden,
employing inequality to demonstrate equality; Louis XVIII.
at Saint-Ouen countersigns the declaration of the rights of man.
If you wish to gain an idea of what revolution is, call it Progress;
and if you wish to acquire an idea of the nature of progress,
call it To-morrow. To-morrow fulfils its work irresistibly, and it is
already fulfilling it to-day. It always reaches its goal strangely.
It employs Wellington to make of Foy, who was only a soldier,
an orator. Foy falls at Hougomont and rises again in the tribune.
Thus does progress proceed. There is no such thing as a bad tool
for that workman. It does not become disconcerted, but adjusts
to its divine work the man who has bestridden the Alps, and the
good old tottering invalid of Father Elysee. It makes use of the
gouty man as well as of the conqueror; of the conqueror without,
of the gouty man within. Waterloo, by cutting short the demolition
of European thrones by the sword, had no other effect than to cause
the revolutionary work to be continued in another direction.
The slashers have finished; it was the turn of the thinkers.
The century that Waterloo was intended to arrest has pursued its march.
That sinister victory was vanquished by liberty.
In short, and incontestably, that which triumphed at Waterloo;
that which smiled in Wellington's rear; that which brought him all
the marshals' staffs of Europe, including, it is said, the staff
of a marshal of France; that which joyously trundled the barrows full
of bones to erect the knoll of the lion; that which triumphantly
inscribed on that pedestal the date "June 18, 1815"; that which
encouraged Blucher, as he put the flying army to the sword; that which,
from the heights of the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean, hovered over
France as over its prey, was the counter-revolution. It was the
counter-revolution which murmured that infamous word "dismemberment."
On arriving in Paris, it beheld the crater close at hand; it felt
those ashes which scorched its feet, and it changed its mind;
it returned to the stammer of a charter.
Let us behold in Waterloo only that which is in Waterloo.
Of intentional liberty there is none. The counter-revolution was
involuntarily liberal, in the same manner as, by a corresponding
phenomenon, Napoleon was involuntarily revolutionary. On the 18th
of June, 1815, the mounted Robespierre was hurled from his saddle.


End of the dictatorship. A whole European system crumbled away.
The Empire sank into a gloom which resembled that of the Roman
world as it expired. Again we behold the abyss, as in the days
of the barbarians; only the barbarism of 1815, which must be called
by its pet name of the counter-revolution, was not long breathed,
soon fell to panting, and halted short. The Empire was bewept,--
let us acknowledge the fact,--and bewept by heroic eyes.
If glory lies in the sword converted into a sceptre, the Empire
had been glory in person. It had diffused over the earth all the
light which tyranny can give a sombre light. We will say more;
an obscure light. Compared to the true daylight, it is night.
This disappearance of night produces the effect of an eclipse.
Louis XVIII. re-entered Paris. The circling dances of the 8th
of July effaced the enthusiasms of the 20th of March. The Corsican
became the antithesis of the Bearnese. The flag on the dome of the
Tuileries was white. The exile reigned. Hartwell's pine table took
its place in front of the fleur-de-lys-strewn throne of Louis XIV.
Bouvines and Fontenoy were mentioned as though they had taken
place on the preceding day, Austerlitz having become antiquated.
The altar and the throne fraternized majestically. One of the
most undisputed forms of the health of society in the nineteenth
century was established over France, and over the continent.
Europe adopted the white cockade. Trestaillon was celebrated.
The device non pluribus impar re-appeared on the stone rays
representing a sun upon the front of the barracks on the Quai d'Orsay.
Where there had been an Imperial Guard, there was now a red house.
The Arc du Carrousel, all laden with badly borne victories,
thrown out of its element among these novelties, a little ashamed,
it may be, of Marengo and Arcola, extricated itself from its
predicament with the statue of the Duc d'Angouleme. The cemetery
of the Madeleine, a terrible pauper's grave in 1793, was covered
with jasper and marble, since the bones of Louis XVI. and Marie
Antoinette lay in that dust.
In the moat of Vincennes a sepulchral shaft sprang from the earth,
recalling the fact that the Duc d'Enghien had perished in the
very month when Napoleon was crowned. Pope Pius VII., who had
performed the coronation very near this death, tranquilly bestowed
his blessing on the fall as he had bestowed it on the elevation.
At Schoenbrunn there was a little shadow, aged four, whom it was
seditious to call the King of Rome. And these things took place,
and the kings resumed their thrones, and the master of Europe
was put in a cage, and the old regime became the new regime,
and all the shadows and all the light of the earth changed place,
because, on the afternoon of a certain summer's day, a shepherd
said to a Prussian in the forest, "Go this way, and not that!"
This 1815 was a sort of lugubrious April. Ancient unhealthy
and poisonous realities were covered with new appearances.
A lie wedded 1789; the right divine was masked under a charter;
fictions became constitutional; prejudices, superstitions and
mental reservations, with Article 14 in the heart, were varnished
over with liberalism. It was the serpent's change of skin.
Man had been rendered both greater and smaller by Napoleon.
Under this reign of splendid matter, the ideal had received the
strange name of ideology! It is a grave imprudence in a great man
to turn the future into derision. The populace, however, that food
for cannon which is so fond of the cannoneer, sought him with
its glance. Where is he? What is he doing? "Napoleon is dead,"
said a passer-by to a veteran of Marengo and Waterloo. "He dead!"
cried the soldier; "you don't know him." Imagination distrusted
this man, even when overthrown. The depths of Europe were full
of darkness after Waterloo. Something enormous remained long empty
through Napoleon's disappearance.
The kings placed themselves in this void. Ancient Europe
profited by it to undertake reforms. There was a Holy Alliance;
Belle-Alliance, Beautiful Alliance, the fatal field of Waterloo
had said in advance.
In presence and in face of that antique Europe reconstructed,
the features of a new France were sketched out. The future,
which the Emperor had rallied, made its entry. On its brow it bore
the star, Liberty. The glowing eyes of all young generations were
turned on it. Singular fact! people were, at one and the same time,
in love with the future, Liberty, and the past, Napoleon. Defeat had
rendered the vanquished greater. Bonaparte fallen seemed more
lofty than Napoleon erect. Those who had triumphed were alarmed.
England had him guarded by Hudson Lowe, and France had him watched
by Montchenu. His folded arms became a source of uneasiness
to thrones. Alexander called him "my sleeplessness." This terror
was the result of the quantity of revolution which was contained
in him. That is what explains and excuses Bonapartist liberalism.
This phantom caused the old world to tremble. The kings reigned,
but ill at their ease, with the rock of Saint Helena on the horizon.
While Napoleon was passing through the death struggle at Longwood,
the sixty thousand men who had fallen on the field of Waterloo
were quietly rotting, and something of their peace was shed abroad
over the world. The Congress of Vienna made the treaties in 1815,
and Europe called this the Restoration.
This is what Waterloo was.
But what matters it to the Infinite? all that tempest, all that cloud,
that war, then that peace? All that darkness did not trouble
for a moment the light of that immense Eye before which a grub
skipping from one blade of grass to another equals the eagle
soaring from belfry to belfry on the towers of Notre Dame.


Let us return--it is a necessity in this book--to that fatal
On the 18th of June the moon was full. Its light favored
Blucher's ferocious pursuit, betrayed the traces of the fugitives,
delivered up that disastrous mass to the eager Prussian cavalry,
and aided the massacre. Such tragic favors of the night do occur
sometimes during catastrophes.
After the last cannon-shot had been fired, the plain of Mont-Saint-Jean
remained deserted.
The English occupied the encampment of the French; it is the
usual sign of victory to sleep in the bed of the vanquished.
They established their bivouac beyond Rossomme. The Prussians,
let loose on the retreating rout, pushed forward. Wellington went
to the village of Waterloo to draw up his report to Lord Bathurst.
If ever the sic vos non vobis was applicable, it certainly is
to that village of Waterloo. Waterloo took no part, and lay half
a league from the scene of action. Mont-Saint-Jean was cannonaded,
Hougomont was burned, La Haie-Sainte was taken by assault,
Papelotte was burned, Plancenoit was burned, La Belle-Alliance beheld
the embrace of the two conquerors; these names are hardly known,
and Waterloo, which worked not in the battle, bears off all the honor.
We are not of the number of those who flatter war; when the occasion
presents itself, we tell the truth about it. War has frightful
beauties which we have not concealed; it has also, we acknowledge,
some hideous features. One of the most surprising is the prompt
stripping of the bodies of the dead after the victory. The dawn
which follows a battle always rises on naked corpses.
Who does this? Who thus soils the triumph? What hideous,
furtive hand is that which is slipped into the pocket of victory?
What pickpockets are they who ply their trade in the rear of glory?
Some philosophers--Voltaire among the number--affirm that it is
precisely those persons have made the glory. It is the same men,
they say; there is no relief corps; those who are erect pillage
those who are prone on the earth. The hero of the day is the
vampire of the night. One has assuredly the right, after all,
to strip a corpse a bit when one is the author of that corpse.
For our own part, we do not think so; it seems to us impossible
that the same hand should pluck laurels and purloin the shoes from a
dead man.
One thing is certain, which is, that generally after conquerors
follow thieves. But let us leave the soldier, especially the
contemporary soldier, out of the question.
Every army has a rear-guard, and it is that which must be blamed.
Bat-like creatures, half brigands and lackeys; all the sorts
of vespertillos that that twilight called war engenders; wearers
of uniforms, who take no part in the fighting; pretended invalids;
formidable limpers; interloping sutlers, trotting along in little carts,
sometimes accompanied by their wives, and stealing things which they
sell again; beggars offering themselves as guides to officers;
soldiers' servants; marauders; armies on the march in days gone by,--
we are not speaking of the present,--dragged all this behind them,
so that in the special language they are called "stragglers." No army,
no nation, was responne of our own men, was traitorously slain
and robbed on the battle-field itself, in the course of the night
which followed the victory of Cerisoles. The rascal sprang
from this marauding. The detestable maxim, Live on the enemy!
produced this leprosy, which a strict discipline alone could heal.
There are reputations which are deceptive; one does not always know why
certain generals, great in other directions, have been so popular.
Turenne was adored by his soldiers because he tolerated pillage;
evil permitted constitutes part of goodness. Turenne was so good that
he allowed the Palatinate to be delivered over to fire and blood.
The marauders in the train of an army were more or less in number,
according as the chief was more or less severe. Hoche and Marceau
had no stragglers; Wellington had few, and we do him the justice to
mention it.
Nevertheless, on the night from the 18th to the 19th of June,
the dead were robbed. Wellington was rigid; he gave orders that any
one caught in the act should be shot; but rapine is tenacious.
The marauders stole in one corner of the battlefield while others
were being shot in another.
The moon was sinister over this plain.
Towards midnight, a man was prowling about, or rather, climbing in
the direction of the hollow road of Ohain. To all appearance he
was one of those whom we have just described,--neither English
nor French, neither peasant nor soldier, less a man than a ghoul
attracted by the scent of the dead bodies having theft for
his victory, and come to rifle Waterloo. He was clad in a blouse
that was something like a great coat; he was uneasy and audacious;
he walked forwards and gazed behind him. Who was this man?
The night probably knew more of him than the day. He had no sack,
but evidently he had large pockets under his coat. From time to
time he halted, scrutinized the plain around him as though to see
whether he were observed, bent over abruptly, disturbed something
silent and motionless on the ground, then rose and fled.
His sliding motion, his attitudes, his mysterious and rapid gestures,
caused him to resemble those twilight larvae which haunt ruins,
and which ancient Norman legends call the Alleurs.
Certain nocturnal wading birds produce these silhouettes among
the marshes.
A glance capable of piercing all that mist deeply would have
perceived at some distance a sort of little sutler's wagon
with a fluted wicker hood, harnessed to a famished nag which was
cropping the grass across its bit as it halted, hidden, as it were,
behind the hovel which adjoins the highway to Nivelles,
at the angle of the road from Mont-Saint-Jean to Braine l'Alleud;
and in the wagon, a sort of woman seated on coffers and packages.
Perhaps there was some connection between that wagon and that prowler.
The darkness was serene. Not a cloud in the zenith. What matters it
if the earth be red! the moon remains white; these are the indifferences
of the sky. In the fields, branches of trees broken by grape-shot,
but not fallen, upheld by their bark, swayed gently in the breeze
of night. A breath, almost a respiration, moved the shrubbery.
Quivers which resembled the departure of souls ran through the grass.
In the distance the coming and going of patrols and the general
rounds of the English camp were audible.
Hougomont and La Haie-Sainte continued to burn, forming, one in
the west, the other in the east, two great flames which were joined
by the cordon of bivouac fires of the English, like a necklace
of rubies with two carbuncles at the extremities, as they extended
in an immense semicircle over the hills along the horizon.
We have described the catastrophe of the road of Ohain. The heart
is terrified at the thought of what that death must have been
to so many brave men.
If there is anything terrible, if there exists a reality which
surpasses dreams, it is this: to live, to see the sun; to be in full
possession of virile force; to possess health and joy; to laugh valiantly;
to rush towards a glory which one sees dazzling in front of one;
to feel in one's breast lungs which breathe, a heart which beats,
a will which reasons; to speak, think, hope, love; to have a mother,
to have a wife, to have children; to have the light--and all at once,
in the space of a shout, in less than a minute, to sink into an abyss;
to fall, to roll, to crush, to be crushed; to see ears of wheat,
flowers, leaves, branches; not to be able to catch hold of anything;
to feel one's sword useless, men beneath one, horses on top of one;
to struggle in vain, since one's bones have been broken by some
kick in the darkness; to feel a heel which makes one's eyes start
from their sockets; to bite horses' shoes in one's rage; to stifle,
to yell, to writhe; to be beneath, and to say to one's self,
"But just a little while ago I was a living man!"
There, where that lamentable disaster had uttered its death-rattle,
all was silence now. The edges of the hollow road were encumbered
with horses and riders, inextricably heaped up. Terrible entanglement!
There was no longer any slope, for the corpses had levelled the road
with the plain, and reached the brim like a well-filled bushel
of barley. A heap of dead bodies in the upper part, a river of
blood in the lower part--such was that road on the evening of the
18th of June, 1815. The blood ran even to the Nivelles highway,
and there overflowed in a large pool in front of the abatis
of trees which barred the way, at a spot which is still pointed out.
It will be remembered that it was at the opposite point,
in the direction of the Genappe road, that the destruction
of the cuirassiers had taken place. The thickness of the layer
of bodies was proportioned to the depth of the hollow road.
Towards the middle, at the point where it became level,
where Delort's division had passed, the layer of corpses was thinner.
The nocturnal prowler whom we have just shown to the reader
was going in that direction. He was searching that vast tomb.
He gazed about. He passed the dead in some sort of hideous review.
He walked with his feet in the blood.
All at once he paused.
A few paces in front of him, in the hollow road, at the point
where the pile of dead came to an end, an open hand, illumined by
the moon, projected from beneath that heap of men. That hand
had on its finger something sparkling, which was a ring of gold.
The man bent over, remained in a crouching attitude for a moment,
and when he rose there was no longer a ring on the hand.
He did not precisely rise; he remained in a stooping and
frightened attitude, with his back turned to the heap of dead,
scanning the horizon on his knees, with the whole upper portion
of his body supported on his two forefingers, which rested on
the earth, and his head peering above the edge of the hollow road.
The jackal's four paws suit some actions.
Then coming to a decision, he rose to his feet.
At that moment, he gave a terrible start. He felt some one clutch
him from behind.
He wheeled round; it was the open hand, which had closed, and had
seized the skirt of his coat.
An honest man would have been terrified; this man burst into a laugh.
"Come," said he, "it's only a dead body. I prefer a spook
to a gendarme."
But the hand weakened and released him. Effort is quickly exhausted
in the grave.
"Well now," said the prowler, "is that dead fellow alive?
Let's see."
He bent down again, fumbled among the heap, pushed aside everything
that was in his way, seized the hand, grasped the arm, freed the head,
pulled out the body, and a few moments later he was dragging
the lifeless, or at least the unconscious, man, through the shadows
of hollow road. He was a cuirassier, an officer, and even an officer
of considerable rank; a large gold epaulette peeped from beneath
the cuirass; this officer no longer possessed a helmet. A furious
sword-cut had scarred his face, where nothing was discernible but blood.
However, he did not appear to have any broken limbs, and, by some
happy chance, if that word is permissible here, the dead had been vaulted
above him in such a manner as to preserve him from being crushed.
His eyes were still closed.
On his cuirass he wore the silver cross of the Legion of Honor.
The prowler tore off this cross, which disappeared into one
of the gulfs which he had beneath his great coat.
Then he felt of the officer's fob, discovered a watch there,
and took possession of it. Next he searched his waistcoat,
found a purse and pocketed it.
When he had arrived at this stage of succor which he was administering
to this dying man, the officer opened his eyes.
"Thanks," he said feebly.
The abruptness of the movements of the man who was manipulating him,
the freshness of the night, the air which he could inhale freely,
had roused him from his lethargy.
The prowler made no reply. He raised his head. A sound of footsteps
was audible in the plain; some patrol was probably approaching.
The officer murmured, for the death agony was still in his voice:--
"Who won the battle?"
"The English," answered the prowler.
The officer went on:--
"Look in my pockets; you will find a watch and a purse. Take them."
It was already done.
The prowler executed the required feint, and said:--
"There is nothing there."
"I have been robbed," said the officer; "I am sorry for that.
You should have had them."
The steps of the patrol became more and more distinct.
"Some one is coming," said the prowler, with the movement of a man
who is taking his departure.
The officer raised his arm feebly, and detained him.
"You have saved my life. Who are you?"
The prowler answered rapidly, and in a low voice:--
"Like yourself, I belonged to the French army. I must leave you.
If they were to catch me, they would shoot me. I have saved your life.
Now get out of the scrape yourself."
"What is your rank?"
"What is your name?"
"I shall not forget that name," said the officer; "and do you
remember mine. My name is Pontmercy."



Jean Valjean had been recaptured.
The reader will be grateful to us if we pass rapidly over
the sad details. We will confine ourselves to transcribing
two paragraphs published by the journals of that day, a few
months after the surprising events which had taken place at M. sur M.
These articles are rather summary. It must be remembered, that at
that epoch the Gazette des Tribunaux was not yet in existence.
We borrow the first from the Drapeau Blanc. It bears the date
of July 25, 1823.

An arrondissement of the Pas de Calais has just been the
theatre of an event quite out of the ordinary course. A man,
who was a stranger in the Department, and who bore the name of
M. Madeleine, had, thanks to the new methods, resuscitated some
years ago an ancient local industry, the manufacture of jet and of
black glass trinkets. He had made his fortune in the business,
and that of the arrondissement as well, we will admit. He had been
appointed mayor, in recognition of his services. The police discovered
that M. Madeleine was no other than an ex-convict who had broken
his ban, condemned in 1796 for theft, and named Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean has been recommitted to prison. It appears that previous
to his arrest he had succeeded in withdrawing from the hands of
M. Laffitte, a sum of over half a million which he had lodged there,
and which he had, moreover, and by perfectly legitimate means,
acquired in his business. No one has been able to discover where Jean
Valjean has concealed this money since his return to prison at Toulon.

The second article, which enters a little more into detail,
is an extract from the Journal de Paris, of the same date.
A former convict, who had been liberated, named Jean Valjean,
has just appeared before the Court of Assizes of the Var,
under circumstances calculated to attract attention. This wretch
had succeeded in escaping the vigilance of the police, he had changed
his name, and had succeeded in getting himself appointed mayor
of one of our small northern towns; in this town he had established
a considerable commerce. He has at last been unmasked and arrested,
thanks to the indefatigable zeal of the public prosecutor.
He had for his concubine a woman of the town, who died of a shock
at the moment of his arrest. This scoundrel, who is endowed with
Herculean strength, found means to escape; but three or four days
after his flight the police laid their hands on him once more,
in Paris itself, at the very moment when he was entering one of
those little vehicles which run between the capital and the village
of Montfermeil (Seine-et-Oise). He is said to have profited
by this interval of three or four days of liberty, to withdraw a
considerable sum deposited by him with one of our leading bankers.
This sum has been estimated at six or seven hundred thousand francs.
If the indictment is to be trusted, he has hidden it in some place
known to himself alone, and it has not been possible to lay hands
on it. However that may be, the said Jean Valjean has just been
brought before the Assizes of the Department of the Var as accused
of highway robbery accompanied with violence, about eight years ago,
on the person of one of those honest children who, as the patriarch
of Ferney has said, in immortal verse,

". . . Arrive from Savoy every year,
And who, with gentle hands, do clear
Those long canals choked up with soot."

This bandit refused to defend himself. It was proved by the
skilful and eloquent representative of the public prosecutor,
that the theft was committed in complicity with others, and that
Jean Valjean was a member of a band of robbers in the south.
Jean Valjean was pronounced guilty and was condemned to the death
penalty in consequence. This criminal refused to lodge an appeal.
The king, in his inexhaustible clemency, has deigned to commute
his penalty to that of penal servitude for life. Jean Valjean was
immediately taken to the prison at Toulon.

The reader has not forgotten that Jean Valjean had religious
habits at M. sur M. Some papers, among others the Constitutional,
presented this commutation as a triumph of the priestly party.
Jean Valjean changed his number in the galleys. He was called 9,430.
However, and we will mention it at once in order that we may not be
obliged to recur to the subject, the prosperity of M. sur M. vanished
with M. Madeleine; all that he had foreseen during his night
of fever and hesitation was realized; lacking him, there actually
was a soul lacking. After this fall, there took place at M. sur
M. that egotistical division of great existences which have fallen,
that fatal dismemberment of flourishing things which is accomplished
every day, obscurely, in the human community, and which history has
noted only once, because it occurred after the death of Alexander.
Lieutenants are crowned kings; superintendents improvise manufacturers
out of themselves. Envious rivalries arose. M. Madeleine's vast
workshops were shut; his buildings fell to ruin, his workmen
were scattered. Some of them quitted the country, others abandoned
the trade. Thenceforth, everything was done on a small scale,
instead of on a grand scale; for lucre instead of the general good.
There was no longer a centre; everywhere there was competition
and animosity. M. Madeleine had reigned over all and directed all.
No sooner had he fallen, than each pulled things to himself;
the spirit of combat succeeded to the spirit of organization,
bitterness to cordiality, hatred of one another to the benevolence
of the founder towards all; the threads which M. Madeleine had set
were tangled and broken, the methods were adulterated, the products
were debased, confidence was killed; the market diminished,
for lack of orders; salaries were reduced, the workshops stood still,
bankruptcy arrived. And then there was nothing more for the poor.
All had vanished.
The state itself perceived that some onelled
attention to the fact in the rostrum, in the month of February, 1827.



Before proceeding further, it will be to the purpose to narrate
in some detail, a singular occurrence which took place at about the
same epoch, in Montfermeil, and which is not lacking in coincidence
with certain conjectures of the indictment.
There exists in the region of Montfermeil a very ancient superstition,
which is all the more curious and all the more precious, because a popular
superstition in the vicinity of Paris is like an aloe in Siberia.
We are among those who respect everything which is in the nature
of a rare plant. Here, then, is the superstition of Montfermeil:
it is thought that the devil, from time immemorial, has selected
the forest as a hiding-place for his treasures. Goodwives affirm
that it is no rarity to encounter at nightfall, in secluded nooks
of the forest, a black man with the air of a carter or a wood-chopper,
wearing wooden shoes, clad in trousers and a blouse of linen,
and recognizable by the fact, that, instead of a cap or hat,
he has two immense horns on his head. This ought, in fact, to render
him recognizable. This man is habitually engaged in digging a hole.
There are three ways of profiting by such an encounter. The first is
to approach the man and speak to him. Then it is seen that the man
is simply a peasant, that he appears black because it is nightfall;
that he is not digging any hole whatever, but is cutting grass
for his cows, and that what had been taken for horns is nothing
but a dung-fork which he is carrying on his back, and whose teeth,
thanks to the perspective of evening, seemed to spring from his head.
The man returns home and dies within the week. The second way is
to watch him, to wait until he has dug his hole, until he has filled
it and has gone away; then to run with great speed to the trench,
to open it once more and to seize the "treasure" which the black
man has necessarily placed there. In this case one dies within
the month. Finally, the last method is not to speak to the black man,
not to look at him, and to flee at the best speed of one's legs.
One then dies within the year.
As all three methods are attended with their special inconveniences,
the second, which at all events, presents some advantages,
among others that of possessing a treasure, if only for a month,
is the one most generally adopted. So bold men, who are tempted
by every chance, have quite frequently, as we are assured, opened the
holes excavated by the black man, and tried to rob the devil.
The success of the operation appears to be but moderate. At least,
if the tradition is to be believed, and in particular the two
enigmatical lines in barbarous Latin, which an evil Norman monk,
a bit of a sorcerer, named Tryphon has left on this subject.
This Tryphon is buried at the Abbey of Saint-Georges de Bocherville,
near Rouen, and toads spawn on his grave.
Accordingly, enormous efforts are made. Such trenches are
ordinarily extremely deep; a man sweats, digs, toils all night--
for it must be done at night; he wets his shirt, burns out his candle,
breaks his mattock, and when he arrives at the bottom of the hole,
when he lays his hand on the "treasure," what does he find?
What is the devil's treasure? A sou, sometimes a crown-piece,
a stone, a skeleton, a bleeding body, sometimes a spectre folded
in four like a sheet of paper in a portfolio, sometimes nothing.
This is what Tryphon's verses seem to announce to the indiscreet
and curious:--
"Fodit, et in fossa thesauros condit opaca,
As, nummas, lapides, cadaver, simulacra, nihilque."

It seems that in our day there is sometimes found a powder-horn
with bullets, sometimes an old pack of cards greasy and worn,
which has evidently served the devil. Tryphon does not record
these two finds, since Tryphon lived in the twelfth century,
and since the devil does not appear to have had the wit to invent
powder before Roger Bacon's time, and cards before the time of Charles VI.
Moreover, if one plays at cards, one is sure to lose all that
one possesses! and as for the powder in the horn, it possesses
the property of making your gun burst in your face.
Now, a very short time after the epoch when it seemed to the prosecuting
attorney that the liberated convict Jean Valjean during his flight
of several days had been prowling around Montfermeil, it was remarked
in that village that a certain old road-laborer, named Boulatruelle,
had "peculiar ways" in the forest. People thereabouts thought
they knew that this Boulatruelle had been in the galleys.
He was subjected to certain police supervision, and, as he could
find work nowhere, the administration employed him at reduced
rates as a road-mender on the cross-road from Gagny to Lagny.
This Boulatruelle was a man who was viewed with disfavor by the
inhabitants of the district as too respectful, too humble, too prompt
in removing his cap to every one, and trembling and smiling in the
presence of the gendarmes,--probably affiliated to robber bands,
they said; suspected of lying in ambush at verge of copses at nightfall.
The only thing in his favor was that he was a drunkard.
This is what people thought they had noticed:--
Of late, Boulatruelle had taken to quitting his task of stone-breaking
and care of the road at a very early hour, and to betaking himself
to the forest with his pickaxe. He was encountered towards
evening in the most deserted clearings, in the wildest thickets;
and he had the appearance of being in search of something,
and sometimes he was digging holes. The goodwives who passed took
him at first for Beelzebub; then they recognized Boulatruelle,
and were not in the least reassured thereby. These encounters seemed
to cause Boulatruelle a lively displeasure. It was evident that he
sought to hide, and that there was some mystery in what he was doing.
It was said in the village: "It is clear that the devil has appeared.
Boulatruelle has seen him, and is on the search. In sooth, he is
cunning enough to pocket Lucifer's hoard."
The Voltairians added, "Will Boulatruelle catch the devil,
or will the devil catch Boulatruelle?" The old women made a great
many signs of the cross.
In the meantime, Boulatruelle's manoeuvres in the forest ceased;
and he resumed his regular occupation of roadmending; and people
gossiped of something else.
Some persons, however, were still curious, surmising that in all
this there was probably no fabulous treasure of the legends,
but some fine windfall of a more serious and palpable sort than
the devil's bank-bills, and that the road-mender had half discovered
the secret. The most "puzzled" were the school-master and Thenardier,
the proprietor of the tavern, who was everybody's friend,
and had not disdained to ally himself with Boulatruelle.
"He has been in the galleys," said Thenardier. "Eh! Good God!
no one knows who has been there or will be there."
One evening the schoolmaster affirmed that in former times the law
would have instituted an inquiry as to what Boulatruelle did in
the forest, and that the latter would have been forced to speak,
and that he would have been put to the torture in case of need,
and that Boulatruelle would not have resisted the water test,
for example. "Let us put him to the wine test," said Thenardier.
They made an effort, and got the old road-mender to drinking.
Boulatruelle drank an enormous amount, but said very little.
He combined with admirable art, and in masterly proportions,
the thirst of a gormandizer with the discretion of a judge.
Nevertheless, by dint of returning to the charge and of comparing
and putting together the few obscure words which he did allow to
escape him, this is what Thenardier and the schoolmaster imagined
that they had made out:--
One morning, when Boulatruelle was on his way to his work, at daybreak,
he had been surprised to see, at a nook of the forest in the underbrush,
a shovel and a pickaxe, concealed, as one might say.
However, he might have supposed that they were probably the shovel
and pick of Father Six-Fours, the water-carrier, and would have
thought no more about it. But, on the evening of that day, he saw,
without being seen himself, as he was hidden by a large tree,
"a person who did not belong in those parts, and whom he, Boulatruelle,
knew well," directing his steps towards the densest part of
the wood. Translation by Thenardier: A comrade of the galleys.
Boulatruelle obstinately refused to reveal his name. This person
carried a package--something square, like a large box or a small trunk.
Surprise on the part of Boulatruelle. However, it was only
after the expiration of seven or eight minutes that the idea of
following that "person" had occurred to him. But it was too late;
the person was already in the thicket, night had descended,
and Boulatruelle had not been able to catch up with him. Then he
had adopted the course of watching for him at the edge of the woods.
"It was moonlight." Two or three hours later, Boulatruelle had seen
this person emerge from the brushwood, carrying no longer the coffer,
but a shovel and pick. Boulatruelle had allowed the person to pass,
and had not dreamed of accosting him, because he said to himself
that the other man was three times as strong as he was, and armed
with a pickaxe, and that he would probably knock him over the head
on recognizing him, and on perceiving that he was recognized.
Touching effusion of two old comrades on meeting again. But the
shovel and pick had served as a ray of light to Boulatruelle; he had
hastened to the thicket in the morning, and had found neither shovel
nor pick. From this he had drawn the inference that this person,
once in the forest, had dug a hole with his pick, buried the coffer,
and reclosed the hole with his shovel. Now, the coffer was too small
to contain a body; therefore it contained money. Hence his researches.
Boulatruelle had explored, sounded, searched the entire forest
and the thicket, and had dug wherever the earth appeared to him
to have been recently turned up. In vain.
He had "ferreted out" nothing. No one in Montfermeil thought
any more about it. There were only a few brave gossips, who said,
"You may be certain that the mender on the Gagny road did not take
all that trouble for nothing; he was sure that the devil had come."


Towards the end of October, in that same year, 1823, the inhabitants
of Toulon beheld the entry into their port, after heavy weather,
and for the purpose of repairing some damages, of the ship Orion,
which was employed later at Brest as a school-ship, and which then
formed a part of the Mediterranean squadron.
This vessel, battered as it was,--for the sea had handled it roughly,--
produced a fine effect as it entered the roads. It flew some
colors which procured for it the regulation salute of eleven guns,
which it returned, shot for shot; total, twenty-two. It has been
calculated that what with salvos, royal and military politenesses,
courteous exchanges of uproar, signals of etiquette, formalities of
roadsteads and citadels, sunrises and sunsets, saluted every day
by all fortresses and all ships of war, openings and closings
of ports, etc., the civilized world, discharged all over the earth,
in the course of four and twenty hours, one hundred and fifty
thousand useless shots. At six francs the shot, that comes to nine
hundred thousand francs a day, three hundred millions a year,
which vanish in smoke. This is a mere detail. All this time the
poor were dying of hunger.
The year 1823 was what the Restoration called "the epoch of the
Spanish war."
This war contained many events in one, and a quantity of peculiarities.
A grand family affair for the house of Bourbon; the branch of France
succoring and protecting the branch of Madrid, that is to say,
performing an act devolving on the elder; an apparent return to our
national traditions, complicated by servitude and by subjection to the
cabinets of the North; M. le Duc d'Angouleme, surnamed by the liberal
sheets the hero of Andujar, compressing in a triumphal attitude
that was somewhat contradicted by his peaceable air, the ancient
and very powerful terrorism of the Holy Office at variance with the
chimerical terrorism of the liberals; the sansculottes resuscitated,
to the great terror of dowagers, under the name of descamisados;
monarchy opposing an obstacle to progress described as anarchy;
the theories of '89 roughly interrupted in the sap; a European halt,
called to the French idea, which was making the tour of the world;
beside the son of France as generalissimo, the Prince de Carignan,
afterwards Charles Albert, enrolling himself in that crusade of kings
against people as a volunteer, with grenadier epaulets of red worsted;
the soldiers of the Empire setting out on a fresh campaign, but aged,
saddened, after eight years of repose, and under the white cockade;
the tricolored standard waved abroad by a heroic handful of Frenchmen,
as the white standard had been thirty years earlier at Coblentz;
monks mingled with our troops; the spirit of liberty and of novelty
brought to its senses by bayonets; principles slaughtered by cannonades;
France undoing by her arms that which she had done by her mind;
in addition to this, hostile leaders sold, soldiers hesitating,
cities besieged by millions; no military perils, and yet possible
explosions, as in every mine which is surprised and invaded;
but little bloodshed, little honor won, shame for some, glory for no one.
Such was this war, made by the princes descended from Louis XIV.,
and conducted by generals who had been under Napoleon. Its sad fate
was to recall neither the grand war nor grand politics.
Some feats of arms were serious; the taking of the Trocadero,
among others, was a fine military action; but after all, we repeat,
the trumpets of this war give back a cracked sound, the whole
effect was suspicious; history approves of France for making a
difficulty about accepting this false triumph. It seemed evident
that certain Spanish officers charged with resistance yielded
too easily; the idea of corruption was connected with the victory;
it appears as though generals and not battles had been won,
and the conquering soldier returned humiliated. A debasing war,
in short, in which the Bank of France could be read in the folds
of the flag.
Soldiers of the war of 1808, on whom Saragossa had fallen in
formidable ruin, frowned in 1823 at the easy surrender of citadels,
and began to regret Palafox. It is the nature of France to prefer
to have Rostopchine rather than Ballesteros in front of her.
From a still more serious point of view, and one which it is also
proper to insist upon here, this war, which wounded the military
spirit of France, enraged the democratic spirit. It was an enterprise
of inthralment. In that campaign, the object of the French soldier,
the son of democracy, was the conquest of a yoke for others.
A hideous contradiction. France is made to arouse the soul of nations,
not to stifle it. All the revolutions of Europe since 1792 are
the French Revolution: liberty darts rays from France. That is a
solar fact. Blind is he who will not see! It was Bonaparte who said it.
The war of 1823, an outrage on the generous Spanish nation,
was then, at the same time, an outrage on the French Revolution.
It was France who committed this monstrous violence; by foul means,
for, with the exception of wars of liberation, everything that armies
do is by foul means. The words passive obedience indicate this.
An army is a strange masterpiece of combination where force results
from an enormous sum of impotence. Thus is war, made by humanity
against humanity, despite humanity, explained.
As for the Bourbons, the war of 1823 was fatal to them. They took it
for a successmbush entered into their politics. 1830 had its germ in 1823.
The Spanish campaign became in their counsels an argument for force
and for adventures by right Divine. France, having re-established
elrey netto in Spain, might well have re-established the absolute king
at home. They fell into the alarming error of taking the obedience
of the soldier for the consent of the nation. Such confidence
is the ruin of thrones. It is not permitted to fall asleep,
either in the shadow of a machineel tree, nor in the shadow of an army.
Let us return to the ship Orion.
During the operations of the army commanded by the prince generalissimo,
a squadron had been cruising in the Mediterranean. We have just
stated that the Orion belonged to this fleet, and that accidents
of the sea had brought it into port at Toulon.
The presence of a vessel of war in a port has something about it
which attracts and engages a crowd. It is because it is great,
and the crowd loves what is great.
A ship of the line is one of the most magnificent combinations
of the genius of man with the powers of nature.
A ship of the line is composed, at the same time, of the heaviest
and the lightest of possible matter, for it deals at one and the same
time with three forms of substance,--solid, liquid, and fluid,--
and it must do battle with all three. It has eleven claws of
iron with which to seize the granite on the bottom of the sea,
and more wings and more antennae than winged insects, to catch
the wind in the clouds. Its breath pours out through its hundred
and twenty cannons as through enormous trumpets, and replies
proudly to the thunder. The ocean seeks to lead it astray in the
alarming sameness of its billows, but the vessel has its soul,
its compass, which counsels it and always shows it the north.
In the blackest nights, its lanterns supply the place of the stars.
Thus, against the wind, it has its cordage and its canvas;
against the water, wood; against the rocks, its iron, brass, and lead;
against the shadows, its light; against immensity, a needle.
If one wishes to form an idea of all those gigantic proportions which,
taken as a whole, constitute the ship of the line, one has only to
enter one of the six-story covered construction stocks, in the ports
of Brest or Toulon. The vessels in process of construction are
under a bell-glass there, as it were. This colossal beam is a yard;
that great column of wood which stretches out on the earth as far
as the eye can reach is the main-mast. Taking it from its root
in the stocks to its tip in the clouds, it is sixty fathoms long,
and its diameter at its base is three feet. The English main-mast rises
to a height of two hundred and seventeen feet above the water-line.
The navy of our fathers employed cables, ours employs chains.
The simple pile of chains on a ship of a hundred guns is four feet high,
twenty feet in breadth, and eight feet in depth. And how much
wood is required to make this ship? Three thousand cubic metres.
It is a floating forest.
And moreover, let this be borne in mind, it is only a question
here of the military vessel of forty years ago, of the simple
sailing-vessel; steam, then in its infancy, has since added
new miracles to that prodigy which is called a war vessel.
At the present time, for example, the mixed vessel with a screw
is a surprising machine, propelled by three thousand square
metres of canvas and by an engine of two thousand five hundred horse-power.
Not to mention these new marvels, the ancient vessel of Christopher
Columbus and of De Ruyter is one of the masterpieces of man.
It is as inexhaustible in force as is the Infinite in gales;
it stores up the wind in its sails, it is precise in the immense
vagueness of the billows, it floats, and it reigns.
There comes an hour, nevertheless, when the gale breaks that sixty-foot
yard like a straw, when the wind bends that mast four hundred feet tall,
when that anchor, which weighs tens of thousands, is twisted in the
jaws of the waves like a fisherman's hook in the jaws of a pike,
when those monstrous cannons utter plaintive and futile roars,
which the hurricane bears forth into the void and into night,
when all that power and all that majesty are engulfed in a power
and majesty which are superior.
Every time that immense force is displayed to culminate
in an immense feebleness it affords men food for thought,
Hence in the ports curious people abound around these marvellous
machines of war and of navigation, without being able to explain
perfectly to themselves why. Every day, accordingly, from morning
until night, the quays, sluices, and the jetties of the port
of Toulon were covered with a multitude of idlers and loungers,
as they say in Paris, whose business consisted in staring at the Orion.
The Orion was a ship that had been ailing for a long time;
in the course of its previous cruises thick layers of barnacles
had collected on its keel to such a degree as to deprive it of half
its speed; it had gone into the dry dock the year before this,
in order to have the barnacles scraped off, then it had put to
sea again; but this cleaning had affected the bolts of the keel:
in the neighborhood of the Balearic Isles the sides had been
strained and had opened; and, as the plating in those days was not
of sheet iron, the vessel had sprung a leak. A violent equinoctial
gale had come up, which had first staved in a grating and a porthole
on the larboard side, and damaged the foretop-gallant-shrouds;
in consequence of these injuries, the Orion had run back to Toulon.
It anchored near the Arsenal; it was fully equipped, and repairs
were begun. The hull had received no damage on the starboard,
but some of the planks had been unnailed here and there,
according to custom, to permit of air entering the hold.
One morning the crowd which was gazing at it witnessed an accident.
The crew was busy bending the sails; the topman, who had to
take the upper corner of the main-top-sail on the starboard,
lost his balance; he was seen to waver; the multitude thronging
the Arsenal quay uttered a cry; the man's head overbalanced his body;
the man fell around the yard, with his hands outstretched towards
the abyss; on his way he seized the footrope, first with one hand,
then with the other, and remained hanging from it: the sea lay
below him at a dizzy depth; the shock of his fall had imparted
to the foot-rope a violent swinging motion; the man swayed back
and forth at the end of that rope, like a stone in a sling.
It was incurring a frightful risk to go to his assistance; not one of
the sailors, all fishermen of the coast, recently levied for the service,
dared to attempt it. In the meantime, the unfortunate topman was
losing his strength; his anguish could not be discerned on his face,
but his exhaustion was visible in every limb; his arms were contracted
in horrible twitchings; every effort which he made to re-ascend served
but to augment the oscillations of the foot-rope; he did not shout,
for fear of exhausting his strength. All were awaiting the minute
when he should release his hold on the rope, and, from instant
to instant, heads were turned aside that his fall might not be seen.
There are moments when a bit of rope, a pole, the branch of a tree,
is life itself, and it is a terrible thing to see a living being
detach himself from it and fall like a ripe fruit.
All at once a man was seen climbing into the rigging with the agility
of a tiger-cat; this man was dressed in red; he was a convict;
he wore a green cap; he was a life convict. On arriving on a level
with the top, a gust of wind carried away his cap, and allowed
a perfectly white head to be seen: he was not a young man.
A convict employed on board with a detachment from the galleys had,
in fact, at the very first instant, hastened to the officer of
the watch, and, in the midst of the consternation and the hesitation
of the crew, while all the sailors were trembling and drawing back,
he had asked the officer's permission to risk his life to save
the topman; at an affirmative sign from the officer he had
broken the chain riveted to his ankle with one blow of a hammer,
then he had caught up a rope, and had dashed into the rigging:
no one noticed, at the instant, with what ease that chain had
been broken; it was only later on that the incident was recalled.
In a twinkling he was on the yard; he paused for a few seconds
and appeared to be measuring it with his eye; these seconds,
during which the breeze swayed the topman at the extremity
of a thread, seemed centuries to those who were looking on.
At last, the convict raised his eyes to heaven and advanced a step:
the crowd drew a long breath. He was seen to run out along the yard:
on arriving at the point, he fastened the rope which he had brought
to it, and allowed the other end to hang down, then he began
to descend the rope, hand over hand, and then,--and the anguish
was indescribable,--instead of one man suspended over the gulf,
there were two.
One would have said it was a spider coming to seize a fly,
only here the spider brought life, not death. Ten thousand glances
were fastened on this group; not a cry, not a word; the same tremor
contracted every brow; all mouths held their breath as though they
feared to add the slightest puff to the wind which was swaying
the two unfortunate men.
In the meantime, the convict had succeeded in lowering himself
to a position near the sailor. It was high time; one minute more,
and the exhausted and despairing man would have allowed himself
to fall into the abyss. The convict had moored him securely with
the cord to which he clung with one hand, while he was working
with the other. At last, he was seen to climb back on the yard,
and to drag the sailor up after him; he held him there a moment
to allow him to recover his strength, then he grasped him in his
arms and carried him, walking on the yard himself to the cap,
and from there to the main-top, where he left him in the hands
of his comrades.
At that moment the crowd broke into applause: old convict-sergeants
among them wept, and women embraced each other on the quay,
and all voices were heard to cry with a sort of tender rage,
"Pardon for that man!"
He, in the meantime, had immediately begun to make his descent
to rejoin his detachment. In order to reach them the more speedily,
he dropped into the rigging, and ran along one of the lower yards;
all eyes were following him. At a certain moment fear assailed them;
whether it was that he was fatigued, or that his head turned,
they thought they saw him hesitate and stagger. All at once the crowd
uttered a loud shout: the convict had fallen into the sea.
The fall was perilous. The frigate Algesiras was anchored alongside
the Orion, and the poor convict had fallen between the two vessels:
it was to be feared that he would slip under one or the other of them.
Four men flung themselves hastily into a boat; the crowd cheered
them on; anxiety again took possession of all souls; the man had not
risen to the surface; he had disappeared in the sea without leaving
a ripple, as though he had fallen into a cask of oil: they sounded,
they dived. In vain. The search was continued until the evening:
they did not even find the body.
On the following day the Toulon newspaper printed these lines:--
"Nov. 17, 1823. Yesterday, a convict belonging to the detachment on
board of the Orion, on his return from rendering assistance to a sailor,
fell into the sea and was drowned. The body has not yet been found; it is
supposed that it is entangled among the piles of the Arsenal point: this
man was committed under the number 9,430, and his name was Jean Valjean."



Montfermeil is situated between Livry and Chelles, on the southern edge
of that lofty table-land which separates the Ourcq from the Marne.
At the present day it is a tolerably large town, ornamented all the year
through with plaster villas, and on Sundays with beaming bourgeois.
In 1823 there were at Montfermeil neither so many white houses nor
so many well-satisfied citizens: it was only a village in the forest.
Some pleasure-houses of the last century were to be met with there,
to be sure, which were recognizable by their grand air, their balconies
in twisted iron, and their long windows, whose tiny panes cast all
sorts of varying shades of green on the white of the closed shutters;
but Montfermeil was none the less a village. Retired cloth-merchants
and rusticating attorneys had not discovered it as yet; it was a
peaceful and charming place, which was not on the road to anywhere:
there people lived, and cheaply, that peasant rustic life which is
so bounteous and so easy; only, water was rare there, on account
of the elevation of the plateau.
It was necessary to fetch it from a considerable distance;
the end of the village towards Gagny drew its water from the
magnificent ponds which exist in the woods there. The other end,
which surrounds the church and which lies in the direction of Chelles,
found drinking-water only at a little spring half-way down the slope,
near the road to Chelles, about a quarter of an hour from Montfermeil.
Thus each household found it hard work to keep supplied with water.
The large houses, the aristocracy, of which the Thenardier tavern
formed a part, paid half a farthing a bucketful to a man who made a
business of it, and who earned about eight sous a day in his enterprise
of supplying Montfermeil with water; but this good man only worked
until seven o'clock in the evening in summer, and five in winter;
and night once come and the shutters on the ground floor once closed,
he who had no water to drink went to fetch it for himself or did
without it.
This constituted the terror of the poor creature whom the reader
has probably not forgotten,--little Cosette. It will be remembered
that Cosette was useful to the Thenardiers in two ways:
they made the mother pay them, and they made the child serve them.
So when the mother ceased to pay altogether, the reason for which we
have read in preceding chapters, the Thenardiers kept Cosette.
She took the place of a servant in their house. In this capacity she
it was who ran to fetch water when it was required. So the child,
who was greatly terrified at the idea of going to the spring at night,
took great care that water should never be lacking in the house.
Christmas of the year 1823 was particularly brilliant at Montfermeil.
The beginning of the winter had been mild; there had been neither snow
nor frost up to that time. Some mountebanks from Paris had obtained
permission of the mayor to erect their booths in the principal street
of the village, and a band of itinerant merchants, under protection
of the same tolerance, had constructed their stalls on the Church Square,
and even extended them into Boulanger Alley, where, as the reader
will perhaps remember, the Thenardiers' hostelry was situated.
These people filled the inns and drinking-shops, and communicated
to that tranquil little district a noisy and joyous life. In order
to play the part of a faithful historian, we ought even to add that,
among the curiosities displayed in the square, there was a menagerie,
in which frightful clowns, clad in rags and coming no one knew whence,
exhibited to the peasants of Montfermeil in 1823 one of those
horrible Brazilian vultures, such as our Royal Museum did not
possess until 1845, and which have a tricolored cockade for an eye.
I believe that naturalists call this bird Caracara Polyborus;
it belongs to the order of the Apicides, and to the family of
the vultures. Some good old Bonapartist soldiers, who had retired
to the village, went to see this creature with great devotion.
The mountebanks gave out that the tricolored cockade was a unique
phenomenon made by God expressly for their menagerie.
On Christmas eve itself, a number of men, carters, and peddlers,
were seated at table, drinking and smoking aroundss, by two
objects which were then fashionable in the bourgeois class: to wit,
a kaleidoscope and a lamp of ribbed tin. The female Thenardier was
attending to the supper, which was roasting in front of a clear fire;
her husband was drinking with his customers and talking politics.
Besides political conversations which had for their principal subjects
the Spanish war and M. le Duc d'Angouleme, strictly local parentheses,
like the following, were audible amid the uproar:--
"About Nanterre and Suresnes the vines have flourished greatly.
When ten pieces were reckoned on there have been twelve.
They have yielded a great deal of juice under the press."
"But the grapes cannot be ripe?" "In those parts the grapes
should not be ripe; the wine turns oily as soon as spring comes."
"Then it is very thin wine?" "There are wines poorer even than these.
The grapes must be gathered while green." Etc.
Or a miller would call out:--
"Are we responsible for what is in the sacks? We find in them
a quantity of small seed which we cannot sift out, and which we
are obliged to send through the mill-stones; there are tares,
fennel, vetches, hempseed, fox-tail, and a host of other weeds,
not to mention pebbles, which abound in certain wheat, especially in
Breton wheat. I am not fond of grinding Breton wheat, any more than
long-sawyers like to saw beams with nails in them. You can judge
of the bad dust that makes in grinding. And then people complain
of the flour. They are in the wrong. The flour is no fault of ours."
In a space between two windows a mower, who was seated at table
with a landed proprietor who was fixing on a price for some meadow
work to be performed in the spring, was saying:--
"It does no harm to have the grass wet. It cuts better.
Dew is a good thing, sir. It makes no difference with that grass.
Your grass is young and very hard to cut still. It's terribly tender.
It yields before the iron." Etc.
Cosette was in her usual place, seated on the cross-bar of the kitchen
table near the chimney. She was in rags; her bare feet were thrust
into wooden shoes, and by the firelight she was engaged in knitting
woollen stockings destined for the young Thenardiers. A very young
kitten was playing about among the chairs. Laughter and chatter were
audible in the adjoining room, from two fresh children's voices:
it was Eponine and Azelma.
In the chimney-corner a cat-o'-nine-tails was hanging on a nail.
At intervals the cry of a very young child, which was somewhere
in the house, rang through the noise of the dram-shop. It was
a little boy who had been born to the Thenardiers during one
of the preceding winters,--"she did not know why," she said,
"the result of the cold,"--and who was a little more than three
years old. The mother had nursed him, but she did not love him.
When the persistent clamor of the brat became too annoying,
"Your son is squalling," Thenardier would say; "do go and see
what he wants." "Bah!" the mother would reply, "he bothers me."
And the neglected child continued to shriek in the dark.


So far in this book the Thenardiers have been viewed only in profile;
the moment has arrived for making the circuit of this couple,
and considering it under all its aspects.
Thenardier had just passed his fiftieth birthday; Madame Thenardier
was approaching her forties, which is equivalent to fifty in a woman;
so that there existed a balance of age between husband and wife.
Our readers have possibly preserved some recollection of this
Thenardier woman, ever since her first appearance,--tall, blond,
red, fat, angular, square, enormous, and agile; she belonged, as we
have said, to the race of those colossal wild women, who contort
themselves at fairs with paving-stones hanging from their hair.
She did everything about the house,--made the beds, did the washing,
the cooking, and everything else. Cosette was her only servant;
a mouse in the service of an elephant. Everything trembled at
the sound of her voice,--window panes, furniture, and people.
Her big face, dotted with red blotches, presented the appearance
of a skimmer. She had a beard. She was an ideal market-porter
dressed in woman's clothes. She swore splendidly; she boasted
of being able to crack a nut with one blow of her fist. Except for
the romances which she had read, and which made the affected lady
peep through the ogress at times, in a very queer way, the idea would
never have occurred to any one to say of her, "That is a woman."
This Thenardier female was like the product of a wench engrafted
on a fishwife. When one heard her speak, one said, "That is
a gendarme"; when one saw her drink, one said, "That is a carter";
when one saw her handle Cosette, one said, "That is the hangman."
One of her teeth projected when her face was in repose.
Thenardier was a small, thin, pale, angular, bony, feeble man, who had
a sickly air and who was wonderfully healthy. His cunning began here;
he smiled habitually, by way of precaution, and was almost polite
to everybody, even to the beggar to whom he refused half a farthing.
He had the glance of a pole-cat and the bearing of a man of letters.
He greatly resembled the portraits of the Abbe Delille.
His coquetry consisted in drinking with the carters. No one had
ever succeeded in rendering him drunk. He smoked a big pipe.
He wore a blouse, and under his blouse an old black coat. He made
pretensions to literature and to materialism. There were certain
names which he often pronounced to support whatever things he
might be saying,--Voltaire, Raynal, Parny, and, singularly enough,
Saint Augustine. He declared that he had "a system." In addition,
he was a great swindler. A filousophe [philosophe], a scientific thief.
The species does exist. It will be remembered that he pretended
to have served in the army; he was in the habit of relating
with exuberance, how, being a sergeant in the 6th or the 9th light
something or other, at Waterloo, he had alone, and in the presence
of a squadron of death-dealing hussars, covered with his body and saved
from death, in the midst of the grape-shot, "a general, who had been
dangerously wounded." Thence arose for his wall the flaring sign,
and for his inn the name which it bore in the neighborhood, of "the
cabaret of the Sergeant of Waterloo." He was a liberal, a classic,
and a Bonapartist. He had subscribed for the Champ d'Asile. It was
said in the village that he had studied for the priesthood.
We believe that he had simply studied in Holland for an inn-keeper.
This rascal of composite order was, in all probability,
some Fleming from Lille, in Flanders, a Frenchman in Paris,
a Belgian at Brussels, being comfortably astride of both frontiers.
As for his prowess at Waterloo, the reader is already acquainted
with that. It will be perceived that he exaggerated it a trifle.
Ebb and flow, wandering, adventure, was the leven of his existence;
a tattered conscience entails a fragmentary life, and, apparently at
the stormy epoch of June 18, 1815, Thenardier belonged to that
variety of marauding sutlers of which we have spoken, beating about
the country, selling to some, stealing from others, and travelling
like a family man, with wife and children, in a rickety cart,
in the rear of troops on the march, with an instinct for always
attaching himself to the victorious army. This campaign ended,
and having, as he said, "some quibus," he had come to Montfermeil
and set up an inn there.
This quibus, composed of purses and watches, of gold rings and
silver crosses, gathered in harvest-time in furrows sown with corpses,
did not amount to a large total, and did not carry this sutler
turned eating-house-keeper very far.
Thenardier had that peculiar rectilinear something about his
gestures which, accompanied by an oath, recalls the barracks,
and by a sign of the cross, the seminary. He was a fine talker.
He allowed it to be thought that he was an educated man. Nevertheless,
the schoolmaster had noticed that he pronounced improperly.[12]

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

He composed the travellers' tariff card in a superior manner,
but practised eyes sometimes spied out orthographical errors in it.
Thenardier was cunning, greedy, slothful, and clever. He did not
disdain his servants, which caused his wife to dispense with them.
This giantess was jealous. It seemed to her that that thin and yellow
little man must be an object coveted by all.
Thenardier, who was, above all, an astute and well-balanced man,
was a scamp of a temperate sort. This is the worst species;
hypocrisy enters into it.
It is not that Thenardier was not, on occasion, capable of wrath
to quite the same degree as his wife; but this was very rare, and at
such times, since he was enraged with the human race in general,
as he bore within him a deep furnace of hatred. And since he
was one of those people who are continually avenging their wrongs,
who accuse everything that passes before them of everything
which has befallen them, and who are always ready to cast upon
the first person who comes to hand, as a legitimate grievance,
the sum total of the deceptions, the bankruptcies, and the
calamities of their lives,--when all this leaven was stirred up
in him and boiled forth from his mouth and eyes, he was terrible.
Woe to the person who came under his wrath at such a time!
In addition to his other qualities, Thenardier was attentive
and penetrating, silent or talkative, according to circumstances,
and always highly intelligent. He had something of the look
of sailors, who are accustomed to screw up their eyes to gaze
through marine glasses. Thenardier was a statesman.
Every new-comer who entered the tavern said, on catching sight
of Madame Thenardier, "There is the master of the house."
A mistake. She was not even the mistress. The husband was
both master and mistress. She worked; he created. He directed
everything by a sort of invisible and constant magnetic action.
A word was sufficient for him, sometimes a sign; the mastodon obeyed.
Thenardier was a sort of special and sovereign being in Madame
Thenardier's eyes, though she did not thoroughly realize it.
She was possessed of virtues after her own kind; if she had ever had
a disagreement as to any detail with "Monsieur Thenardier,"--which was
an inadmissible hypothesis, by the way,--she would not have blamed
her husband in public on any subject whatever. She would never have
committed "before strangers" that mistake so often committed by women,
and which is called in parliamentary language, "exposing the crown."
Although their concord had only evil as its result, there was
contemplation in Madame Thenardier's submission to her husband.
That mountain of noise and of flesh moved under the little finger
of that frail despot. Viewed on its dwarfed and grotesque side,
this was that grand and universal thing, the adoration of mind
by matter; for certain ugly features have a cause in the very depths
of eternal beauty. There was an unknown quantity about Thenardier;
hence the absolute empire of the man over that woman. At certain
moments she beheld him like a lighted candle; at others she felt him
like a claw.
This woman was a formidable creature who loved no one except
her children, and who did not fear any one except her husband.
She was a mother because she was mammiferous. But her maternity
stopped short with her daughters, and, as we shall see, did not extend
to boys. The man had but one thought,--how to enrich himself.
He did not succeed in this. A theatre worthy of this great talent
was lacking. Thenardier was ruining himself at Montfermeil,
if ruin is possible to zero; in Switzerland or in the Pyrenees this
penniless scamp would have become a millionaire; but an inn-keeper
must browse where fate has hitched him.
It will be understood that the word inn-keeper is here employed
in a restricted sense, and does not extend to an entire class.
In this same year, 1823, Thenardier was burdened with about fifteen
hundred francs' worth of petty debts, and this rendered him anxious.
Whatever may have been the obstinate injustice of destiny in
this case, Thenardier was one of those men who understand best,
with the most profundity and in the most modern fashion, that thing
which is a virtue among barbarous peoples and an object of
merchandise among civilized peoples,--hospitality. Besides, he was
an admirable poacher, and quoted for his skill in shooting. He had
a certain cold and tranquil laugh, which was particularly dangerous.
His theories as a landlord sometimes burst forth in lightning flashes.
He had professional aphorisms, which he inserted into his wife's mind.
"The duty of the inn-keeper," he said to her one day, violently,
and in a low voice, "is to sell to the first comer, stews, repose,
light, fire, dirty sheets, a servant, lice, and a smile; to stop
passers-by, to empty small purses, and to honestly lighten heavy ones;
to shelter travelling families respectfully: to shave the man,
to pluck the woman, to pick the child clean; to quote the window open,
the window shut, the chimney-corner, the arm-chair, the chair,
the ottoman, the stool, the feather-bed, the mattress and the
truss of straw; to know how much the shadow uses up the mirror,
and to put a price on it; and, by five hundred thousand devils,
to make the traveller pay for everything, even for the flies
which his dog eats!"
This man and this woman were ruse and rage wedded--a hideous
and terrible team.
While the husband pondered and combined, Madame Thenardier thought
not of absent creditors, took no heed of yesterday nor of to-morrow,
and lived in a fit of anger, all in a minute.
Such were these two beings. Cosette was between them, subjected to
their double pressure, like a creature who is at the same time being
ground up in a mill and pulled to pieces with pincers. The man
and the woman each had a different method: Cosette was overwhelmed
with blows--this was the woman's; she went barefooted in winter--
that was the man's doing.
Cosette ran up stairs and down, washed, swept, rubbed, dusted, ran,
fluttered about, panted, moved heavy articles, and weak as she was,
did the coarse work. There was no mercy for her; a fierce mistress
and venomous master. The Thenardier hostelry was like a spider's web,
in which Cosette had been caught, and where she lay trembling.
The ideal of oppression was realized by this sinister household.
It was something like the fly serving the spiders.
The poor child passively held her peace.
What takes place within these souls when they have but just
quitted God, find themselves thus, at the very dawn of life,
very small and in the midst of men all naked!


Four new travellers had arrived.
Cosette was meditating sadly; for, although she was only eight years old,
she had already suffered so much that she reflected with the lugubrious
air of an old woman. Her eye was black in consequence of a blow
from Madame Thenardier's fist, which caused the latter to remark
from time to time, "How ugly she is with her fist-blow on her eye!"
Cosette was thinking that it was dark, very dark, that the pitchers
and caraffes in the chambers of the travellers who had arrived must
have been filled and that there was no more water in the cistern.
She was somewhat reassured because no one in the Thenardier establishment
drank much water. Thirsty people were never lacking there;
but their thirst was of the sort which applies to the jug rather
than to the pitcher. Any one who had asked for a glass of water
among all those glasses of wine would have appeared a savage to
all these men. But there came a moment when the child trembled;
Madame Thenardier raised the cover of a stew-pan which was boiling
on the stove, then seized a glass and briskly approached the cistern.
She turne"Bah!" resumed Madame Thenardier, examining the half-filled glass,
"this will be enough."
Cosette applied herself to her work once more, but for a quarter
of an hour she felt her heart leaping in her bosom like a big
She counted the minutes that passed in this manner, and wished it
were the next morning.
From time to time one of the drinkers looked into the street,
and exclaimed, "It's as black as an oven!" or, "One must needs
be a cat to go about the streets without a lantern at this hour!"
And Cosette trembled.
All at once one of the pedlers who lodged in the hostelry entered,
and said in a harsh voice:--
"My horse has not been watered."
"Yes, it has," said Madame Thenardier.
"I tell you that it has not," retorted the pedler.
Cosette had emerged from under the table.
"Oh, yes, sir!" said she, "the horse has had a drink; he drank
out of a bucket, a whole bucketful, and it was I who took the water
to him, and I spoke to him."
It was not true; Cosette lied.
"There's a brat as big as my fist who tells lies as big as the house,"
exclaimed the pedler. "I tell you that he has not been watered,
you little jade! He has a way of blowing when he has had no water,
which I know well."
Cosette persisted, and added in a voice rendered hoarse with anguish,
and which was hardly audible:--
"And he drank heartily."
"Come," said the pedler, in a rage, "this won't do at all,
let my horse be watered, and let that be the end of it!"
Cosette crept under the table again.
"In truth, that is fair!" said Madame Thenardier, "if the beast
has not been watered, it must be."
Then glancing about her:--
"Well, now! Where's that other beast?"
She bent down and discovered Cosette cowering at the other end
of the table, almost under the drinkers' feet.
"Are you coming?" shrieked Madame Thenardier.
Cosette crawled out of the sort of hole in which she had hidden herself.
The Thenardier resumed:--
"Mademoiselle Dog-lack-name, go and water that horse."
"But, Madame," said Cosette, feebly, "there is no water."
The Thenardier threw the street door wide open:--
"Well, go and get some, then!"
Cosette dropped her head, and went for an empty bucket which stood
near the chimney-corner.
This bucket was bigger than she was, and the child could have set
down in it at her ease.
The Thenardier returned to her stove, and tasted what was
in the stewpan, with a wooden spoon, grumbling the while:--
"There's plenty in the spring. There never was such a malicious
creature as that. I think I should have done better to strain
my onions."
Then she rummaged in a drawer which contained sous, pepper, and shallots.
"See here, Mam'selle Toad," she added, "on your way back, you will
get a big loaf from the baker. Here's a fifteen-sou piece."
Cosette had a little pocket on one side of her apron; she took
the coin without saying a word, and put it in that pocket.
Then she stood motionless, bucket in hand, the open door before her.
She seemed to be waiting for some one to come to her rescue.
"Get along with you!" screamed the Thenardier.
Cosette went out. The door closed behind her.


The line of open-air booths starting at the church, extended, as the
reader will remember, as far as the hostelry of the Thenardiers.
These booths were all illuminated, because the citizens would
soon pass on their way to the midnight mass, with candles burning
in paper funnels, which, as the schoolmaster, then seated at the
table at the Thenardiers' observed, produced "a magical effect."
In compensation, not a star was visible in the sky.
The last of these stalls, established precisely opposite the Thenardiers'
door, was a toy-shop all glittering with tinsel, glass, and magnificent
objects of tin. In the first row, and far forwards, the merchant had
placed on a background of white napkins, an immense doll, nearly two
feet high, who was dressed in a robe of pink crepe, with gold wheat-ears
on her head, which had real hair and enamel eyes. All that day,
this marvel had been displayed to the wonderment of all passers-by
under ten years of age, without a mother being found in Montfermeil
sufficiently rich or sufficiently extravagant to give it to her child.
Eponine and Azelma had passed hours in contemplating it, and Cosette
herself had ventured to cast a glance at it, on the sly, it is true.
At the moment when Cosette emerged, bucket in hand, melancholy and
overcome as she was, she could not refrain from lifting her eyes
to that wonderful doll, towards the lady, as she called it.
The poor child paused in amazement. She had not yet beheld
that doll close to. The whole shop seemed a palace to her:
the doll was not a doll; it was a vision. It was joy, splendor,
riches, happiness, which appeared in a sort of chimerical halo
to that unhappy little being so profoundly engulfed in gloomy and
chilly misery. With the sad and innocent sagacity of childhood,
Cosette measured the abyss which separated her from that doll.
She said to herself that one must be a queen, or at least a princess,
to have a "thing" like that. She gazed at that beautiful pink dress,
that beautiful smooth hair, and she thought, "How happy that doll
must be!" She could not take her eyes from that fantastic stall.
The more she looked, the more dazzled she grew. She thought she
was gazing at paradise. There were other dolls behind the large one,
which seemed to her to be fairies and genii. The merchant, who was
pacing back and forth in front of his shop, produced on her somewhat
the effect of being the Eternal Father.
In this adoration she forgot everything, even the errand with
which she was charged.
All at once the Thenardier's coarse voice recalled her to reality:
"What, you silly jade! you have not gone? Wait! I'll give it
to you! I want to know what you are doing there! Get along,
you little monster!"
The Thenardier had cast a glance into the street, and had caught
sight of Cosette in her ecstasy.
Cosette fled, dragging her pail, and taking the longest strides
of which she was capable.


As the Thenardier hostelry was in that part of the village which is
near the church, it was to the spring in the forest in the direction
of Chelles that Cosette was obliged to go for her water.
She did not glance at the display of a single other merchant. So long
as she was in Boulanger Lane and in the neighborhood of the church,
the lighted stalls illuminated the road; but soon the last light from
the last stall vanished. The poor child found herself in the dark.
She plunged into it. Only, as a certain emotion overcame her,
she made as much motion as possible with the handle of the bucket
as she walked along. This made a noise which afforded her company.
The further she went, the denser the darkness became. There was no
one in the streets. However, she did encounter a woman, who turned
around on seeing her, and stood still, muttering between her teeth:
"Where can that child be going? Is it a werewolf child?" Then the
woman recognized Cosette. "Well," said she, "it's the Lark!"
In this manner Cosette traversed the labyrinth of tortuous and
deserted streets which terminate in the village of Montfermeil
on the side of Chelles. So long as she had the houses or even
the walls only on both sides of her path, she proceeded with
tolerable boldness. From time to time she caught the flicker of
a candle through the crack of a shutter--this was light and life;
there were people there, and it reassured her. But in proportion
as she advanced, her pace slackened mechanically, as it were.
When she had passed the corner of the last house, Cosette paused.
It had been hard to advance further than the last stall;
it became impossible to proceed further than the last house.
She set her bucket on the ground, thrust her hand into her hair,
and began slowly to scratch her head,--a gesture peculiar to children
when terrified and undecided what to do. It was no longer Montfermeil;
it was the open fields. Black and desert space was before her.
She gazed in despair at that darkness, where there was no longer
any one, where there were beasts, where there were spectres, possibly.
She took a good look, and heard the beasts walking on the grass,
and she distinctly saw spectres moving in the trees. Then she seized
her bucket again; fear had lent her audacity. "Bah!" said she;
"I will tell him that there was no more water!" And she resolutely
re-entered Montfermeil.
Hardly had she gone a hundred paces when she paused and began to scratch
her head again. Now it was the Thenardier who appeared to her,
with her hideous, hyena mouth, and wrath flashing in her eyes.
The child cast a melancholy glance before her and behind her.
What was she to do? What was to become of her? Where was she to go?
In front of her was the spectre of the Thenardier; behind her all
the phantoms of the night and of the forest. It was before the
Thenardier that she recoiled. She resumed her path to the spring,
and began to run. She emerged from the village, she entered the
forest at a run, no longer looking at or listening to anything.
She only paused in her course when her breath failed her;
but she did not halt in her advance. She went straight before her
in desperation.
As she ran she felt like crying.
The nocturnal quivering of the forest surrounded her completely.
She no longer thought, she no longer saw. The immensity of night
was facing this tiny creature. On the one hand, all shadow;
on the other, an atom.
It was only seven or eight minutes' walk from the edge of the woods
to the spring. Cosette knew the way, through having gone over it
many times in daylight. Strange to say, she did not get lost.
A remnant of instinct guided her vaguely. But she did not turn
her eyes either to right or to left, for fear of seeing things
in the branches and in the brushwood. In this manner she reached
the spring.
It was a narrow, natural basin, hollowed out by the water in a
clayey soil, about two feet deep, surrounded with moss and with
those tall, crimped grasses which are called Henry IV.'s frills,
and paved with several large stones. A brook ran out of it,
with a tranquil little noise.
Cosette did not take time to breathe. It was very dark, but she
was in the habit of coming to this spring. She felt with her left
hand in the dark for a young oak which leaned over the spring,
and which usually served to support her, found one of its branches,
clung to it, bent down, and plunged the bucket in the water.
She was in a state of such violent excitement that her strength
was trebled. While thus bent over, she did not notice that the pocket
of her apron had emptied itself into the spring. The fifteen-sou
piece fell into the water. Cosette neither saw nor heard it fall.
She drew out the bucket nearly full, and set it on the grass.
That done, she perceived that she was worn out with fatigue.
She would have liked to set out again at once, but the effort required
to fill the bucket had been such that she found it impossible to take
a step. She was forced to sit down. She dropped on the grass,
and remained crouching there.
She shut her eyes; then she opened them again, without knowing why,
but because she could not do otherwise. The agitated water
in the bucket beside her was describing circles which resembled
tin serpents.
Overhead the sky was covered with vast black clouds, which were
like masses of smoke. The tragic mask of shadow seemed to bend
vaguely over the child.
Jupiter was setting in the depths.
The child stared with bewildered eyes at this great star, with which
she was unfamiliar, and which terrified her. The planet was,
in fact, very near the horizon and was traversing a dense layer
of mist which imparted to it a horrible ruddy hue. The mist,
gloomily empurpled, magnified the star. One would have called it
a luminous wound.
A cold wind was blowing from the plain. The forest was dark,
not a leaf was moving; there were none of the vague, fresh gleams
of summertide. Great boughs uplifted themselves in frightful wise.
Slender and misshapen bushes whistled in the clearings. The tall
grasses undulated like eels under the north wind. The nettles
seemed to twist long arms furnished with claws in search of prey.
Some bits of dry heather, tossed by the breeze, flew rapidly by, and had
the air of fleeing in terror before something which was coming after.
On all sides there were lugubrious stretches.
The darkness was bewildering. Man requires light. Whoever buries
himself in the opposite of day feels his heart contract. When the eye
sees black, the heart sees trouble. In an eclipse in the night,
in the sooty opacity, there is anxiety even for the stoutest of hearts.
No one walks alone in the forest at night without trembling.
Shadows and trees--two formidable densities. A chimerical
reality appears in the indistinct depths. The inconceivable is
outlined a few paces distant from you with a spectral clearness.
One beholds floating, either in space or in one's own brain,
one knows not what vague and intangible thing, like the dreams
of sleeping flowers. There are fierce attitudes on the horizon.
One inhales the effluvia of the great black void. One is afraid to
glance behind him, yet desirous of doing so. The cavities of night,
things grown haggard, taciturn profiles which vanish when one advances,
obscure dishevelments, irritated tufts, livid pools, the lugubrious
reflected in the funereal, the sepulchral immensity of silence,
unknown but possible beings, bendings of mysterious branches,
alarming torsos of trees, long handfuls of quivering plants,--
against all this one has no protection. There is no hardihood which
does not shudder and which does not feel the vicinity of anguish.
One is conscious of something hideous, as though one's soul were
becoming amalgamated with the darkness. This penetration of the
shadows is indescribably sinister in the case of a child.
Forests are apocalypses, and the beating of the wings of a tiny
soul produces a sound of agony beneath their monstrous vault.
Without understanding her sensations, Cosette was conscious
that she was seized upon by that black enormity of nature;
it was no longer terror alone which was gaining possession of her;
it was something more terrible even than terror; she shivered.
There are no words to express the strangeness of that shiver which
chilled her to the very bottom of her heart; her eye grew wild;
she thought she felt that she should not be able to refrain from
returning there at the same hour on the morrow.
Then, by a sort of instinct, she began to count aloud,
one, two, three, four, and so on up to ten, in order to escape
from that singular state which she did not understand, but which
terrified her, and, when she had finished, she began again;
this restored her to a true perception of the things about her.
Her hands, which she had wet in drawing the water, felt cold;
she rose; her terror, a natural and unconquerable terror,
had returned: she had but one thought now,--to flee at full speed
through the forest, across the fields to the houses, to the windows,
to the lighted candles. Her glance fell upon the water which stood
before her; such was the fright which the Thenardier inspired
in her, that she dared not flee without that bucket of water:
she seized the handle with both hands; she could hardly lift the pail.
In this manner she advanced a dozen paces, but the bucket was full;
it was heavy; she was forced to set it on the ground once more.
She took breath for an instant, then lifted the handle of the bucket
again, and resumed her march, proceeding a little further this time,
but again she was obliged to pause. After some seconds of repose
she set out again. She walked bent forward, with drooping head,
like an old woman; the weight of the bucket strained and stiffened
her thin arms. The iron handle completed the benumbing and freezing
of her wet and tiny hands; she was ing at
the moment.
And her mother, no doubt, alas!
For there are things that make the dead open their eyes in their graves.
She panted with a sort of painful rattle; sobs contracted her throat,
but she dared not weep, so afraid was she of the Thenardier,
even at a distance: it was her custom to imagine the Thenardier
always present.
However, she could not make much headway in that manner, and she went
on very slowly. In spite of diminishing the length of her stops,
and of walking as long as possible between them, she reflected
with anguish that it would take her more than an hour to return to
Montfermeil in this manner, and that the Thenardier would beat her.
This anguish was mingled with her terror at being alone in the woods
at night; she was worn out with fatigue, and had not yet emerged from
the forest. On arriving near an old chestnut-tree with which she
was acquainted, made a last halt, longer than the rest, in order
that she might get well rested; then she summoned up all her strength,
picked up her bucket again, and courageously resumed her march,
but the poor little desperate creature could not refrain from crying,
"O my God! my God!"
At that moment she suddenly became conscious that her bucket no longer
weighed anything at all: a hand, which seemed to her enormous,
had just seized the handle, and lifted it vigorously. She raised
her head. A large black form, straight and erect, was walking beside
her through the darkness; it was a man who had come up behind her,
and whose approach she had not heard. This man, without uttering
a word, had seized the handle of the bucket which she was carrying.
There are instincts for all the encounters of life.
The child was not afraid.


On the afternoon of that same Christmas Day, 1823, a man had walked
for rather a long time in the most deserted part of the Boulevard
de l'Hopital in Paris. This man had the air of a person who is
seeking lodgings, and he seemed to halt, by preference, at the most
modest houses on that dilapidated border of the faubourg Saint-Marceau.
We shall see further on that this man had, in fact, hired a chamber
in that isolated quarter.
This man, in his attire, as in all his person, realized the type
of what may be called the well-bred mendicant,--extreme wretchedness
combined with extreme cleanliness. This is a very rare mixture which
inspires intelligent hearts with that double respect which one feels
for the man who is very poor, and for the man who is very worthy.
He wore a very old and very well brushed round hat; a coarse coat,
worn perfectly threadbare, of an ochre yellow, a color that was
not in the least eccentric at that epoch; a large waistcoat with
pockets of a venerable cut; black breeches, worn gray at the knee,
stockings of black worsted; and thick shoes with copper buckles.
He would have been pronounced a preceptor in some good family,
returned from the emigration. He would have been taken for more than
sixty years of age, from his perfectly white hair, his wrinkled brow,
his livid lips, and his countenance, where everything breathed
depression and weariness of life. Judging from his firm tread,
from the singular vigor which stamped all his movements,
he would have hardly been thought fifty. The wrinkles on his brow
were well placed, and would have disposed in his favor any one
who observed him attentively. His lip contracted with a strange
fold which seemed severe, and which was humble. There was in
the depth of his glance an indescribable melancholy serenity.
In his left hand he carried a little bundle tied up in a handkerchief;
in his right he leaned on a sort of a cudgel, cut from some hedge.
This stick had been carefully trimmed, and had an air that was not
too threatening; the most had been made of its knots, and it had
received a coral-like head, made from red wax: it was a cudgel,
and it seemed to be a cane.
There are but few passers-by on that boulevard, particularly in
the winter. The man seemed to avoid them rather than to seek them,
but this without any affectation.
At that epoch, King Louis XVIII. went nearly every day to
Choisy-le-Roi: it was one of his favorite excursions. Towards two
o'clock, almost invariably, the royal carriage and cavalcade
was seen to pass at full speed along the Boulevard de l'Hopital.
This served in lieu of a watch or clock to the poor women of the quarter
who said, "It is two o'clock; there he is returning to the Tuileries."
And some rushed forward, and others drew up in line, for a passing king
always creates a tumult; besides, the appearance and disappearance
of Louis XVIII. produced a certain effect in the streets of Paris.
It was rapid but majestic. This impotent king had a taste for a
fast gallop; as he was not able to walk, he wished to run: that cripple
would gladly have had himself drawn by the lightning. He passed,
pacific and severe, in the midst of naked swords. His massive couch,
all covered with gilding, with great branches of lilies painted on
the panels, thundered noisily along. There was hardly time to cast
a glance upon it. In the rear angle on the right there was visible
on tufted cushions of white satin a large, firm, and ruddy face,
a brow freshly powdered a l'oiseau royal, a proud, hard, crafty eye,
the smile of an educated man, two great epaulets with bullion
fringe floating over a bourgeois coat, the Golden Fleece, the cross
of Saint Louis, the cross of the Legion of Honor, the silver
plaque of the Saint-Esprit, a huge belly, and a wide blue ribbon:
it was the king. Outside of Paris, he held his hat decked with white
ostrich plumes on his knees enwrapped in high English gaiters;
when he re-entered the city, he put on his hat and saluted rarely;
he stared coldly at the people, and they returned it in kind.
When he appeared for the first time in the Saint-Marceau quarter,
the whole success which he produced is contained in this remark of an
inhabitant of the faubourg to his comrade, "That big fellow yonder is
the government."
This infallible passage of the king at the same hour was, therefore,
the daily event of the Boulevard de l'Hopital.
The promenader in the yellow coat evidently did not belong in
the quarter, and probably did not belong in Paris, for he was ignorant
as to this detail. When, at two o'clock, the royal carriage,
surrounded by a squadron of the body-guard all covered with
silver lace, debouched on the boulevard, after having made the turn
of the Salpetriere, he appeared surprised and almost alarmed.
There was no one but himself in this cross-lane. He drew
up hastily behind the corner of the wall of an enclosure,
though this did not prevent M. le Duc de Havre from spying him out.
M. le Duc de Havre, as captain of the guard on duty that day,
was seated in the carriage, opposite the king. He said to his
Majesty, "Yonder is an evil-looking man." Members of the police,
who were clearing the king's route, took equal note of him:
one of them received an order to follow him. But the man plunged
into the deserted little streets of the faubourg, and as twilight
was beginning to fall, the agent lost trace of him, as is stated
in a report addressed that same evening to M. le Comte d'Angles,
Minister of State, Prefect of Police.
When the man in the yellow coat had thrown the agent off his track,
he redoubled his pace, not without turning round many a time to assure
himself that he was not being followed. At a quarter-past four,
that is to say, when night was fully come, he passed in front of the
theatre of the Porte Saint-Martin, where The Two Convicts was being
played that day. This poster, illuminated by the theatre lanterns,
struck him; for, although he was walking rapidly, he halted to read it.
An instant later he was in the blind alley of La Planchette, and he
entered the Plat d'Etain [the Pewter Platter], where the office
of the coach for Lagny was then situated. This coach set out at
half-past four. The horses were harnessed, and the travellers,
summoned by the coachman, were hastily climbing the lofty iron ladder
of the vehicle.
The man inquired:--
"Have you a place?"
"Only one--beside me on the box," said the coachman.
"I will take it."
"Climb up."
Nevertheless, before setting out, the coachman cast a glance at
the traveller's shabby dress, at the diminutive size of his bundle,
and made him pay his fare.
"Are you going as far as Lagny?" demanded the coachman.
"Yes," said the man.
The traveller paid to Lagny.
They started. When they had passed the barrier, the coachman
tried to enter into conversation, but the traveller only replied
in monosyllables. The coachman took to whistling and swearing
at his horses.
The coachman wrapped himself up in his cloak. It was cold.
The man did not appear to be thinking of that. Thus they passed
Gournay and Neuilly-sur-Marne.
Towards six o'clock in the evening they reached Chelles. The coachman
drew up in front of the carters' inn installed in the ancient
buildings of the Royal Abbey, to give his horses a breathing spell.
"I get down here," said the man.
He took his bundle and his cudgel and jumped down from the vehicle.
An instant later he had disappeared.
He did not enter the inn.
When the coach set out for Lagny a few minutes later, it did not
encounter him in the principal street of Chelles.
The coachman turned to the inside travellers.
"There," said he, "is a man who does not belong here, for I do not
know him. He had not the air of owning a sou, but he does not
consider money; he pays to Lagny, and he goes only as far as Chelles.
It is night; all the houses are shut; he does not enter the inn,
and he is not to be found. So he has dived through the earth."
The man had not plunged into the earth, but he had gone with great
strides through the dark, down the principal street of Chelles,
then he had turned to the right before reaching the church,
into the cross-road leading to Montfermeil, like a person who was
acquainted with the country and had been there before.
He followed this road rapidly. At the spot where it is intersected
by the ancient tree-bordered road which runs from Gagny to Lagny,
he heard people coming. He concealed himself precipitately in
a ditch, and there waited until the passers-by were at a distance.
The precaution was nearly superfluous, however; for, as we have
already said, it was a very dark December night. Not more than two
or three stars were visible in the sky.
It is at this point that the ascent of the hill begins. The man did
not return to the road to Montfermeil; he struck across the fields
to the right, and entered the forest with long strides.
Once in the forest he slackened his pace, and began a careful
examination of all the trees, advancing, step by step, as though
seeking and following a mysterious road known to himself alone.
There came a moment when he appeared to lose himself, and he paused
in indecision. At last he arrived, by dint of feeling his way inch
by inch, at a clearing where there was a great heap of whitish stones.
He stepped up briskly to these stones, and examined them attentively
through the mists of night, as though he were passing them in review.
A large tree, covered with those excrescences which are the warts
of vegetation, stood a few paces distant from the pile of stones.
He went up to this tree and passed his hand over the bark of the trunk,
as though seeking to recognize and count all the warts.
Opposite this tree, which was an ash, there was a chestnut-tree,
suffering from a peeling of the bark, to which a band of zinc
had been nailed by way of dressing. He raised himself on tiptoe
and touched this band of zinc.
Then he trod about for awhile on the ground comprised in the space
between the tree and the heap of stones, like a person who is trying
to assure himself that the soil has not recently been disturbed.
That done, he took his bearings, and resumed his march through
the forest.
It was the man who had just met Cosette.
As he walked through the thicket in the direction of Montfermeil,
he had espied that tiny shadow moving with a groan, depositing a
burden on the ground, then taking it up and setting out again.
He drew near, and perceived that it was a very young child,
laden with an enormous bucket of water. Then he approached the child,
and silently grasped the handle of the bucket.


Cosette, as we have said, was not frightened.
The man accosted her. He spoke in a voice that was grave and almost bass.
"My child, what you are carrying is very heavy for you."
Cosette raised her head and replied:--
"Yes, sir."
"Give it to me," said the man; "I will carry it for you."
Cosette let go of the bucket-handle. The man walked along beside her.
"It really is very heavy," he muttered between his teeth.
Then he added:--
"How old are you, little one?"
"Eight, sir."
"And have you come from far like this?"
"From the spring in the forest."
"Are you going far?"
"A good quarter of an hour's walk from here."
The man said nothing for a moment; then he remarked abruptly:--
"So you have no mother."
"I don't know," answered the child.
Before the man had time to speak again, she added:--
"I don't think so. Other people have mothers. I have none."
And after a silence she went on:--
"I think that I never had any."
The man halted; he set the bucket on the ground, bent down and
placed both hands on the child's shoulders, making an effort
to look at her and to see her face in the dark.
Cosette's thin and sickly face was vaguely outlined by the livid
light in the sky.
"What is your name?" said the man.
The man seemed to have received an electric shock. He looked at
her once more; then he removed his hands from Cosette's shoulders,
seized the bucket, and set out again.
After a moment he inquired:--
"Where do you live, little one?"
"At Montfermeil, if you know where that is."
"That is where we are going?"
"Yes, sir."
He paused; then began again:--
"Who sent you at such an hour to get water in the forest?"
"It was Madame Thenardier."
The man resumed, in a voice which he strove to render indifferent,
but in which there was, nevertheless, a singular tremor:--
"What does your Madame Thenardier do?"
"She is my mistress," said the child. "She keeps the inn."
"The inn?" said the man. "Well, I am going to lodge there to-night.
Show me the way."
"We are on the way there," said the child.
The man walked tolerably fast. Cosette followed him without difficulty.
She no longer felt any fatigue. From time to time she raised
her eyes towards the man, with a sort of tranquillity and an
indescribable confidence. She had never been taught to turn to
Providence and to pray; nevertheless, she felt within her something
which resembled hope and joy, and which mounted towards heaven.
Several minutes elapsed. The man resumed:--
"Is there no servant in Madame Thenardier's house?"
"No, sir."
"Are you alone there?"
"Yes, sir."
Another pause ensued. Cosette lifted up her voice:--
"That is to say, there are two little girls."
"What little girls?"
"Ponine and Zelma."
This was the way the child simplified the romantic names so dear
to the female Thenardier.
"Who are Ponine and Zelma?"
"They are Madame Thenardier's young ladies; her daughters, as you
would say."
"And what do those girls do?"
"Oh!" said the child, "they have beautiful dolls; things with gold
in them, all full of affairs. They play; they amuse themselves."
"All day long?"
"Yes, sir."
"And you?"
"I? I work."
"All day long?"
The child raised her great eyes, in which hung a tear, which was
not visible because of the darkness, and replied gently:--
"Yes, sir."
After an interval of silence she went on:--
"Sometimes, when I have finished my work and they let me,
I amuse myself, too."
"How do you amuse yourself?"
"In the best way I can. They let me alone; but I have not
many playthings. P streets. They passed the bakeshop, but Cosette did not think
of the bread which she had been ordered to fetch. The man had
ceased to ply her with questions, and now preserved a gloomy silence.
When they had left the church behind them, the man, on perceiving
all the open-air booths, asked Cosette:--
"So there is a fair going on here?"
"No, sir; it is Christmas."
As they approached the tavern, Cosette timidly touched his arm:--
"What, my child?"
"We are quite near the house."
"Will you let me take my bucket now?"
"If Madame sees that some one has carried it for me, she will beat me."
The man handed her the bucket. An instant later they were at
the tavern door.


Cosette could not refrain from casting a sidelong glance at the big doll,
which was still displayed at the toy-merchant's; then she knocked.
The door opened. The Thenardier appeared with a candle in her hand.

"Ah! so it's you, you little wretch! good mercy, but you've taken
your time! The hussy has been amusing herself!"
"Madame," said Cosette, trembling all over, "here's a gentleman
who wants a lodging."
The Thenardier speedily replaced her gruff air by her amiable grimace,
a change of aspect common to tavern-keepers, and eagerly sought
the new-comer with her eyes.
"This is the gentleman?" said she.
"Yes, Madame," replied the man, raising his hand to his hat.
Wealthy travellers are not so polite. This gesture, and an inspection
of the stranger's costume and baggage, which the Thenardier passed
in review with one glance, caused the amiable grimace to vanish,
and the gruff mien to reappear. She resumed dryly:--
"Enter, my good man."
The "good man" entered. The Thenardier cast a second glance
at him, paid particular attention to his frock-coat, which was
absolutely threadbare, and to his hat, which was a little battered,
and, tossing her head, wrinkling her nose, and screwing up her eyes,
she consulted her husband, who was still drinking with the carters.
The husband replied by that imperceptible movement of the forefinger,
which, backed up by an inflation of the lips, signifies in such cases:
A regular beggar. Thereupon, the Thenardier exclaimed:--
"Ah! see here, my good man; I am very sorry, but I have no room left."
"Put me where you like," said the man; "in the attic, in the stable.
I will pay as though I occupied a room."
"Forty sous."
"Forty sous; agreed."
"Very well, then!"
"Forty sous!" said a carter, in a low tone, to the Thenardier woman;
"why, the charge is only twenty sous!"
"It is forty in his case," retorted the Thenardier, in the same tone.
"I don't lodge poor folks for less."
"That's true," added her husband, gently; "it ruins a house to have
such people in it."
In the meantime, the man, laying his bundle and his cudgel on
a bench, had seated himself at a table, on which Cosette made
haste to place a bottle of wine and a glass. The merchant who
had demanded the bucket of water took it to his horse himself.
Cosette resumed her place under the kitchen table, and her knitting.
The man, who had barely moistened his lips in the wine which he had
poured out for himself, observed the child with peculiar attention.
Cosette was ugly. If she had been happy, she might have been pretty.
We have already given a sketch of that sombre little figure.
Cosette was thin and pale; she was nearly eight years old, but she
seemed to be hardly six. Her large eyes, sunken in a sort of shadow,
were almost put out with weeping. The corners of her mouth had that
curve of habitual anguish which is seen in condemned persons and
desperately sick people. Her hands were, as her mother had divined,
"ruined with chilblains." The fire which illuminated her at that
moment brought into relief all the angles of her bones, and rendered
her thinness frightfully apparent. As she was always shivering,
she had acquired the habit of pressing her knees one against the other.
Her entire clothing was but a rag which would have inspired pity
in summer, and which inspired horror in winter. All she had on was
hole-ridden linen, not a scrap of woollen. Her skin was visible
here and there and everywhere black and blue spots could be descried,
which marked the places where the Thenardier woman had touched her.
Her naked legs were thin and red. The hollows in her neck were
enough to make one weep. This child's whole person, her mien,
her attitude, the sound of her voice, the intervals which she
allowed to elapse between one word and the next, her glance,
her silence, her slightest gesture, expressed and betrayed one
sole idea,--fear.
Fear was diffused all over her; she was covered with it, so to speak;
fear drew her elbows close to her hips, withdrew her heels under
her petticoat, made her occupy as little space as possible,
allowed her only the breath that was absolutely necessary, and had
become what might be called the habit of her body, admitting of no
possible variation except an increase. In the depths of her eyes
there was an astonished nook where terror lurked.
Her fear was such, that on her arrival, wet as she was, Cosette did
not dare to approach the fire and dry herself, but sat silently
down to her work again.
The expression in the glance of that child of eight years was habitually
so gloomy, and at times so tragic, that it seemed at certain moments
as though she were on the verge of becoming an idiot or a demon.
As we have stated, she had never known what it is to pray; she had
never set foot in a church. "Have I the time?" said the Thenardier.
The man in the yellow coat never took his eyes from Cosette.
All at once, the Thenardier exclaimed:--
"By the way, where's that bread?"
Cosette, according to her custom whenever the Thenardier uplifted
her voice, emerged with great haste from beneath the table.
She had completely forgotten the bread. She had recourse to the
expedient of children who live in a constant state of fear.
She lied.
"Madame, the baker's shop was shut."
"You should have knocked."
"I did knock, Madame."
"He did not open the door."
"I'll find out to-morrow whether that is true," said the Thenardier;
"and if you are telling me a lie, I'll lead you a pretty dance.
In the meantime, give me back my fifteen-sou piece."
Cosette plunged her hand into the pocket of her apron, and turned green.
The fifteen-sou piece was not there.
"Ah, come now," said Madame Thenardier, "did you hear me?"
Cosette turned her pocket inside out; there was nothing in it.
What could have become of that money? The unhappy little creature
could not find a word to say. She was petrified.
"Have you lost that fifteen-sou piece?" screamed the Thenardier,
hoarsely, "or do you want to rob me of it?"
At the same time, she stretched out her arm towards
the cat-o'-nine-tails which hung on a nail in the chimney-corner.
This formidable gesture restored to Cosette sufficient strength
to shriek:--
"Mercy, Madame, Madame! I will not do so any more!"
The Thenardier took down the whip.
In the meantime, the man in the yellow coat had been fumbling in the
fob of his waistcoat, without any one having noticed his movements.
Besides, the other travellers were drinking or playing cards,
and were not paying attention to anything.
Cosette contracted herself into a ball, with anguish, within the
angle of the chimney, endeavoring to gather up and conceal
her poor half-nude limbs. The Thenardier raised her arm.
"Pardon me, Madame," said the man, "but just now I caught sight
of something which had fallen from this little one's apron pocket,
and rolled aside. Perhaps this is it."
At the same time he bent down and seemed to be searching
on the floor for a moment.
"Exactly; here it is," he went on, straightening himself up.
And he held out a silver coin to the Thenardier.
"Yes, that's it," said she.
It was not it, for it was a twenty-sou piece; but the Thenardier
found it to her advantage. She put the coin in her pocket,
and confined herself to casting a fierce glance at the child,
accompanied with the remark, "Don't let this ever happen again!"
Cosette returned to what the Thenardier called "her kennel,"
and her large eyes, which were riveted on the traveller,
began to take on an expression such as they had never worn before.
Thus far it was only an innocent amazement, but a sort of stupefied
confidence was mingled with it.
"By the way, would you like some supper?" the Thenardier inquired
of the traveller.
He made no reply. He appeared to be absorbed in thought.
"What sort of a man is that?" she muttered between her teeth.
"He's some frightfully poor wretch. He hasn't a sou to pay for
a supper. Will he even pay me for his lodging? It's very lucky,
all the same, that it did not occur to him to steal the money that
was on the floor."
In the meantime, a door had opened, and Eponine and Azelma entered.
They were two really pretty little girls, more bourgeois than
peasant in looks, and very charming; the one with shining chestnut
tresses, the other with long black braids hanging down her back,
both vivacious, neat, plump, rosy, and healthy, and a delight
to the eye. They were warmly clad, but with so much maternal art
that the thickness of the stuffs did not detract from the coquetry
of arrangement. There was a hint of winter, though the springtime
was not wholly effaced. Light emanated from these two little beings.
Besides this, they were on the throne. In their toilettes,
in their gayety, in the noise which they made, there was sovereignty.
When they entered, the Thenardier said to them in a grumbling
tone which was full of adoration, "Ah! there you are, you children!"
Then drawing them, one after the other to her knees, smoothing
their hair, tying their ribbons afresh, and then releasing them
with that gentle manner of shaking off which is peculiar to mothers,
she exclaimed, "What frights they are!"
They went and seated themselves in the chimney-corner. They had
a doll, which they turned over and over on their knees with all
sorts of joyous chatter. From time to time Cosette raised her eyes
from her knitting, and watched their play with a melancholy air.
Eponine and Azelma did not look at Cosette. She was the same
as a dog to them. These three little girls did not yet reckon up
four and twenty years between them, but they already represented
the whole society of man; envy on the one side, disdain on the other.
The doll of the Thenardier sisters was very much faded, very old,
and much broken; but it seemed none the less admirable to Cosette,
who had never had a doll in her life, a real doll, to make use
of the expression which all children will understand.
All at once, the Thenardier, who had been going back and forth
in the room, perceived that Cosette's mind was distracted, and that,
instead of working, she was paying attention to the little ones
at their play.
"Ah! I've caught you at it!" she cried. "So that's the way you work!
I'll make you work to the tune of the whip; that I will."
The stranger turned to the Thenardier, without quitting his chair.
"Bah, Madame," he said, with an almost timid air, "let her play!"
Such a wish expressed by a traveller who had eaten a slice of
mutton and had drunk a couple of bottles of wine with his supper,
and who had not the air of being frightfully poor, would have been
equivalent to an order. But that a man with such a hat should
permit himself such a desire, and that a man with such a coat
should permit himself to have a will, was something which Madame
Thenardier did not intend to tolerate. She retorted with acrimony:--
"She must work, since she eats. I don't feed her to do nothing."
"What is she making?" went on the stranger, in a gentle voice
which contrasted strangely with his beggarly garments and his
porter's shoulders.
The Thenardier deigned to reply:--
"Stockings, if you please. Stockings for my little girls,
who have none, so to speak, and who are absolutely barefoot just now."
The man looked at Cosette's poor little red feet, and continued:--
"When will she have finished this pair of stockings?"
"She has at least three or four good days' work on them still,
the lazy creature!"
"And how much will that pair of stockings be worth when she has
finished them?"
The Thenardier cast a glance of disdain on him.
"Thirty sous at least."
"Will you sell them for five francs?" went on the man.
"Good heavens!" exclaimed a carter who was listening, with a loud laugh;
"five francs! the deuce, I should think so! five balls!"
Thenardier thought it time to strike in.
"Yes, sir; if such is your fancy, you will be allowed to have that pair
of stockings for five francs. We can refuse nothing to travellers."
"You must pay on the spot," said the Thenardier, in her curt
and peremptory fashion.
"I will buy that pair of stockings," replied the man, "and," he added,
drawing a five-franc piece from his pocket, and laying it on the table,
"I will pay for them."
Then he turned to Cosette.
"Now I own your work; play, my child."
The carter was so much touched by the five-franc piece, that he
abandoned his glass and hastened up.
"But it's true!" he cried, examining it. "A real hind wheel!
and not counterfeit!"
Thenardier approached and silently put the coin in his pocket.
The Thenardier had no reply to make. She bit her lips, and her
face assumed an expression of hatred.
In the meantime, Cosette was trembling. She ventured to ask:--
"Is it true, Madame? May I play?"
"Play!" said the Thenardier, in a terrible voice.
"Thanks, Madame," said Cosette.
And while her mouth thanked the Thenardier, her whole little soul
thanked the traveller.
Thenardier had resumed his drinking; his wife whispered in his ear:--
"Who can this yellow man be?"
"I have seen millionaires with coats like that," replied Thenardier,
in a sovereign manner.
Cosette had dropped her knitting, but had not left her seat.
Cosette always moved as little as possible. She picked up some old
rags and her little lead sword from a box behind her.
Eponine and Azelma paid no attention to what was going on.
They had just executed a very important operation; they had just
got hold of the cat. They had thrown their doll on the ground,
and Eponine, who was the elder, was swathing the little cat, in spite
of its mewing and its contortions, in a quantity of clothes and red
and blue scraps. While performing this serious and difficult work
she was saying to her sister in that sweet and adorable language
of children, whose grace, like the splendor of the butterfly's wing,
vanishes when one essays to fix it fast.
"You see, sister, this doll is more amusing than the other.
She twists, she cries, she is warm. See, sister, let us play with her.
She shall be my little girl. I will be a lady. I will come to
see you, and you shall look at her. Gradually, you will perceive
her whiskers, and that will surprise you. And then you will see
her ears, and then you will see her tail and it will amaze you.
And you will say to me, `Ah! Mon Dieu!' and I will say to you:
`Yes, Madame, it is my little girl. Little girls are made like that
just at present.'"
Azelma listened admiringly to Eponine.
In the meantime, the drinkers had begun to sing an obscene song,
and to laugh at it until the ceiling shook. Thenardier accompanied
and encouraged them.
As birds make nests out of everything, so children make a doll
out of anything which comes to hand. While Eponine and Azelma were
bundling up the cat, Cosette, on her side, had dressed up her sword.
That done, she laid it in her arms, and sang to it softly, to lull
it to sleep.
The doll is one of the most imperious needs and, at the same time,
one of the most charming instincts of feminine childhood.
To care for, to clothe, to deck, to dress, to undress, to redress,
to teach, scold a little, to rock, to dandle, to lull to sleep,
to imagine that something is some one,--therein lies the A little girl without a doll is almost as unhappy, and quite
as impossible, as a woman without children.
So Cosette had made herself a doll out of the sword.
Madame Thenardier approached the yellow man; "My husband is right,"
she thought; "perhaps it is M. Laffitte; there are such queer
rich men!"
She came and set her elbows on the table.
"Monsieur," said she. At this word, Monsieur, the man turned;
up to that time, the Thenardier had addressed him only as brave homme
or bonhomme.
"You see, sir," she pursued, assuming a sweetish air that was
even more repulsive to behold than her fierce mien, "I am willing
that the child should play; I do not oppose it, but it is good
for once, because you are generous. You see, she has nothing;
she must needs work."
"Then this child is not yours?" demanded the man.
"Oh! mon Dieu! no, sir! she is a little beggar whom we have taken
in through charity; a sort of imbecile child. She must have water
on the brain; she has a large head, as you see. We do what we
can for her, for we are not rich; we have written in vain to her
native place, and have received no reply these six months.
It must be that her mother is dead."
"Ah!" said the man, and fell into his revery once more.
"Her mother didn't amount to much," added the Thenardier;
"she abandoned her child."
During the whole of this conversation Cosette, as though warned
by some instinct that she was under discussion, had not taken her
eyes from the Thenardier's face; she listened vaguely; she caught
a few words here and there.
Meanwhile, the drinkers, all three-quarters intoxicated, were repeating
their unclean refrain with redoubled gayety; it was a highly
spiced and wanton song, in which the Virgin and the infant Jesus
were introduced. The Thenardier went off to take part in the shouts
of laughter. Cosette, from her post under the table, gazed at the fire,
which was reflected from her fixed eyes. She had begun to rock
the sort of baby which she had made, and, as she rocked it, she sang
in a low voice, "My mother is dead! my mother is dead! my mother is dead!"
On being urged afresh by the hostess, the yellow man, "the millionaire,"
consented at last to take supper.
"What does Monsieur wish?"
"Bread and cheese," said the man.
"Decidedly, he is a beggar" thought Madame Thenardier.
The drunken men were still singing their song, and the child under
the table was singing hers.
All at once, Cosette paused; she had just turned round and caught
sight of the little Thenardiers' doll, which they had abandoned for
the cat and had left on the floor a few paces from the kitchen table.
Then she dropped the swaddled sword, which only half met her needs,
and cast her eyes slowly round the room. Madame Thenardier
was whispering to her husband and counting over some money;
Ponine and Zelma were playing with the cat; the travellers were
eating or drinking or singing; not a glance was fixed on her.
She had not a moment to lose; she crept out from under the table on
her hands and knees, made sure once more that no one was watching her;
then she slipped quickly up to the doll and seized it. An instant
later she was in her place again, seated motionless, and only turned
so as to cast a shadow on the doll which she held in her arms.
The happiness of playing with a doll was so rare for her that it
contained all the violence of voluptuousness.
No one had seen her, except the traveller, who was slowly devouring
his meagre supper.
This joy lasted about a quarter of an hour.
But with all the precautions that Cosette had taken she did not
perceive that one of the doll's legs stuck out and that the fire on
the hearth lighted it up very vividly. That pink and shining foot,
projecting from the shadow, suddenly struck the eye of Azelma,
who said to Eponine, "Look! sister."
The two little girls paused in stupefaction; Cosette had dared
to take their doll!
Eponine rose, and, without releasing the cat, she ran to her mother,
and began to tug at her skirt.
"Let me alone!" said her mother; "what do you want?"
"Mother," said the child, "look there!"
And she pointed to Cosette.
Cosette, absorbed in the ecstasies of possession, no longer saw
or heard anything.
Madame Thenardier's countenance assumed that peculiar expression
which is composed of the terrible mingled with the trifles of life,
and which has caused this style of woman to be named megaeras.
On this occasion, wounded pride exasperated her wrath still further.
Cosette had overstepped all bounds; Cosette had laid violent hands
on the doll belonging to "these young ladies." A czarina who should
see a muzhik trying on her imperial son's blue ribbon would wear
no other face.
She shrieked in a voice rendered hoarse with indignation:--
Cosette started as though the earth had trembled beneath her;
she turned round.
"Cosette!" repeated the Thenardier.
Cosette took the doll and laid it gently on the floor with a
sort of veneration, mingled with despair; then, without taking
her eyes from it, she clasped her hands, and, what is terrible
to relate of a child of that age, she wrung them; then--not one
of the emotions of the day, neither the trip to the forest,
nor the weight of the bucket of water, nor the loss of the money,
nor the sight of the whip, nor even the sad words which she had
heard Madame Thenardier utter had been able to wring this from her--
she wept; she burst out sobbing.
Meanwhile, the traveller had risen to his feet.
"What is the matter?" he said to the Thenardier.
"Don't you see?" said the Thenardier, pointing to the corpus delicti
which lay at Cosette's feet.
"Well, what of it?" resumed the man.
"That beggar," replied the Thenardier, "has permitted herself
to touch the children's doll!"
"All this noise for that!" said the man; "well, what if she did
play with that doll?"
"She touched it with her dirty hands!" pursued the Thenardier,
"with her frightful hands!"
Here Cosette redoubled her sobs.
"Will you stop your noise?" screamed the Thenardier.
The man went straight to the street door, opened it, and stepped out.
As soon as he had gone, the Thenardier profited by his absence
to give Cosette a hearty kick under the table, which made the child
utter loud cries.
The door opened again, the man re-appeared; he carried in both
hands the fabulous doll which we have mentioned, and which all
the village brats had been staring at ever since the morning,
and he set it upright in front of Cosette, saying:--
"Here; this is for you."
It must be supposed that in the course of the hour and more which he
had spent there he had taken confused notice through his revery of that
toy shop, lighted up by fire-pots and candles so splendidly that it
was visible like an illumination through the window of the drinking-shop.
Cosette raised her eyes; she gazed at the man approaching her
with that doll as she might have gazed at the sun; she heard
the unprecedented words, "It is for you"; she stared at him;
she stared at the doll; then she slowly retreated, and hid herself
at the extreme end, under the table in a corner of the wall.
She no longer cried; she no longer wept; she had the appearance
of no longer daring to breathe.
The Thenardier, Eponine, and Azelma were like statues also;
the very drinkers had paused; a solemn silence reigned through
the whole room.
Madame Thenardier, petrified and mute, recommenced her conjectures:
"Who is that old fellow? Is he a poor man? Is he a millionaire?
Perhaps he is both; that is to say, a thief."
The face of the male Thenardier presented that expressive fold
which accentuates the human countenance whenever the dominant
instinct appears there in all its bestial force. The tavern-keeper
stared alternately at the doll and at the traveller; he seemed to be
scenting out the man, as he would have scented out a bag of money.
This did not last longer than the space of a flash of lightning.
He stepped up to his wife and said to her in a low voice:--
"That machine costs at least thirty francs. No nonsense.
Down on your belly before that man!"
Gross natures have this in common with naive natures, that they
possess no transition state.
"Well, Cosette," said the Thenardier, in a voice that strove to be sweet,
and which was composed of the bitter honey of malicious women,
"aren't you going to take your doll?"
Cosette ventured to emerge from her hole.
"The gentleman has given you a doll, my little Cosette,"
said Thenardier, with a caressing air. "Take it; it is yours."
Cosette gazed at the marvellous doll in a sort of terror.
Her face was still flooded with tears, but her eyes began to fill,
like the sky at daybreak, with strange beams of joy. What she felt
at that moment was a little like what she would have felt if she
had been abruptly told, "Little one, you are the Queen of France."
It seemed to her that if she touched that doll, lightning would
dart from it.
This was true, up to a certain point, for she said to herself
that the Thenardier would scold and beat her.
Nevertheless, the attraction carried the day. She ended by drawing
near and murmuring timidly as she turned towards Madame Thenardier:--
"May I, Madame?"
No words can render that air, at once despairing, terrified, and ecstatic.
"Pardi!" cried the Thenardier, "it is yours. The gentleman has
given it to you."
"Truly, sir?" said Cosette. "Is it true? Is the `lady' mine?"
The stranger's eyes seemed to be full of tears. He appeared
to have reached that point of emotion where a man does not speak
for fear lest he should weep. He nodded to Cosette, and placed
the "lady's" hand in her tiny hand.
Cosette hastily withdrew her hand, as though that of the "lady"
scorched her, and began to stare at the floor. We are forced
to add that at that moment she stuck out her tongue immoderately.
All at once she wheeled round and seized the doll in a transport.
"I shall call her Catherine," she said.
It was an odd moment when Cosette's rags met and clasped the ribbons
and fresh pink muslins of the doll.
"Madame," she resumed, "may I put her on a chair?"
"Yes, my child," replied the Thenardier.
It was now the turn of Eponine and Azelma to gaze at Cosette with envy.
Cosette placed Catherine on a chair, then seated herself on the floor
in front of her, and remained motionless, without uttering a word,
in an attitude of contemplation.
"Play, Cosette," said the stranger.
"Oh! I am playing," returned the child.
This stranger, this unknown individual, who had the air of a
visit which Providence was making on Cosette, was the person
whom the Thenardier hated worse than any one in the world at
that moment. However, it was necessary to control herself.
Habituated as she was to dissimulation through endeavoring to copy
her husband in all his actions, these emotions were more than
she could endure. She made haste to send her daughters to bed,
then she asked the man's permission to send Cosette off also;
"for she has worked hard all day," she added with a maternal air.
Cosette went off to bed, carrying Catherine in her arms.
From time to time the Thenardier went to the other end of the
room where her husband was, to relieve her soul, as she said.
She exchanged with her husband words which were all the more furious
because she dared not utter them aloud.
"Old beast! What has he got in his belly, to come and upset us
in this manner! To want that little monster to play! to give away
forty-franc dolls to a jade that I would sell for forty sous,
so I would! A little more and he will be saying Your Majesty to her,
as though to the Duchess de Berry! Is there any sense in it?
Is he mad, then, that mysterious old fellow?"
"Why! it is perfectly simple," replied Thenardier, "if that amuses him!
It amuses you to have the little one work; it amuses him to have
her play. He's all right. A traveller can do what he pleases
when he pays for it. If the old fellow is a philanthropist,
what is that to you? If he is an imbecile, it does not concern you.
What are you worrying for, so long as he has money?"
The language of a master, and the reasoning of an innkeeper,
neither of which admitted of any reply.
The man had placed his elbows on the table, and resumed his
thoughtful attitude. All the other travellers, both pedlers
and carters, had withdrawn a little, and had ceased singing.
They were staring at him from a distance, with a sort of respectful awe.
This poorly dressed man, who drew "hind-wheels" from his pocket with
so much ease, and who lavished gigantic dolls on dirty little brats
in wooden shoes, was certainly a magnificent fellow, and one to be feared.
Many hours passed. The midnight mass was over, the chimes had ceased,
the drinkers had taken their departure, the drinking-shop was closed,
the public room was deserted, the fire extinct, the stranger still
remained in the same place and the same attitude. From time
to time he changed the elbow on which he leaned. That was all;
but he had not said a word since Cosette had left the room.
The Thenardiers alone, out of politeness and curiosity, had remained
in the room.
"Is he going to pass the night in that fashion?" grumbled the Thenardier.
When two o'clock in the morning struck, she declared herself vanquished,
and said to her husband, "I'm going to bed. Do as you like."
Her husband seated himself at a table in the corner, lighted a candle,
and began to read the Courrier Francais.
A good hour passed thus. The worthy inn-keeper had perused the
Courrier Francais at least three times, from the date of the number
to the printer's name. The stranger did not stir.
Thenardier fidgeted, coughed, spit, blew his nose, and creaked
his chair. Not a movement on the man's part. "Is he asleep?"
thought Thenardier. The man was not asleep, but nothing could
arouse him.
At last Thenardier took off his cap, stepped gently up to him,
and ventured to say:--
"Is not Monsieur going to his repose?"
Not going to bed would have seemed to him excessive and familiar.
To repose smacked of luxury and respect. These words possess
the mysterious and admirable property of swelling the bill on
the following day. A chamber where one sleeps costs twenty sous;
a chamber in which one reposes costs twenty francs.
"Well!" said the stranger, "you are right. Where is your stable?"
"Sir!" exclaimed Thenardier, with a smile, "I will conduct you, sir."
He took the candle; the man picked up his bundle and cudgel,
and Thenardier conducted him to a chamber on the first floor,
which was of rare splendor, all furnished in mahogany, with a
low bedstead, curtained with red calico.
"What is this?" said the traveller.
"It is really our bridal chamber," said the tavern-keeper. "My wife
and I occupy another. This is only entered three or four times
a year."
"I should have liked the stable quite as well," said the man, abruptly.
Thenardier pretended not to hear this unamiable remark.
He lighted two perfectly fresh wax candles which figured on
the chimney-piece. A very good fire was flickering on the hearth.
On the chimney-piece, under a glass globe, stood a woman's head-dress
in silver wire and orange flowers.
"And what is this?" resumed the stranger.
"That, sir," said Thenardier, "is my wife's wedding bonnet."
The traveller surveyed the object with a glance which seemed to say,
"There really was a time, then, when that monster was a maiden?"
Thenardier lied, however. When he had leased this paltry building
for the purpose of converting it into a tavern, he had found
this chamber decorated in just this manner, and had purchased
the furniture and obtained the orange flowers at second hand,
with the idea that this would cast a graceful shadow on "his spouse,"
and would result in what the English call respectability for his house.
When the traveller turned round, the host had disappeared.
Thenardier had withdrawn discreetly, without venturing to wish him
a good night, as he did not wish to treat with disrespectful cordiality
a man whom he proposed to fleece royally the following morn further words, and a few moments later their
candle was extinguished.
As for the traveller, he had deposited his cudgel and his bundle
in a corner. The landlord once gone, he threw himself into
an arm-chair and remained for some time buried in thought.
Then he removed his shoes, took one of the two candles,
blew out the other, opened the door, and quitted the room,
gazing about him like a person who is in search of something.
He traversed a corridor and came upon a staircase. There he heard
a very faint and gentle sound like the breathing of a child.
He followed this sound, and came to a sort of triangular recess built
under the staircase, or rather formed by the staircase itself.
This recess was nothing else than the space under the steps.
There, in the midst of all sorts of old papers and potsherds,
among dust and spiders' webs, was a bed--if one can call by the name
of bed a straw pallet so full of holes as to display the straw,
and a coverlet so tattered as to show the pallet. No sheets.
This was placed on the floor.
In this bed Cosette was sleeping.
The man approached and gazed down upon her.
Cosette was in a profound sleep; she was fully dressed. In the
winter she did not undress, in order that she might not be so cold.
Against her breast was pressed the doll, whose large eyes, wide open,
glittered in the dark. From time to time she gave vent to a deep
sigh as though she were on the point of waking, and she strained
the doll almost convulsively in her arms. Beside her bed there
was only one of her wooden shoes.
A door which stood open near Cosette's pallet permitted a view
of a rather large, dark room. The stranger stepped into it.
At the further extremity, through a glass door, he saw two small,
very white beds. They belonged to Eponine and Azelma.
Behind these beds, and half hidden, stood an uncurtained wicker cradle,
in which the little boy who had cried all the evening lay asleep.
The stranger conjectured that this chamber connected with that of
the Thenardier pair. He was on the point of retreating when his
eye fell upon the fireplace--one of those vast tavern chimneys
where there is always so little fire when there is any fire at all,
and which are so cold to look at. There was no fire in this one,
there was not even ashes; but there was something which attracted
the stranger's gaze, nevertheless. It was two tiny children's shoes,
coquettish in shape and unequal in size. The traveller recalled
the graceful and immemorial custom in accordance with which children
place their shoes in the chimney on Christmas eve, there to await
in the darkness some sparkling gift from their good fairy.
Eponine and Azelma had taken care not to omit this, and each of them
had set one of her shoes on the hearth.
The traveller bent over them.
The fairy, that is to say, their mother, had already paid her visit,
and in each he saw a brand-new and shining ten-sou piece.
The man straightened himself up, and was on the point of withdrawing,
when far in, in the darkest corner of the hearth, he caught sight
of another object. He looked at it, and recognized a wooden shoe,
a frightful shoe of the coarsest description, half dilapidated
and all covered with ashes and dried mud. It was Cosette's sabot.
Cosette, with that touching trust of childhood, which can always
be deceived yet never discouraged, had placed her shoe on the
hearth-stone also.
Hope in a child who has never known anything but despair is a sweet
and touching thing.
There was nothing in this wooden shoe.
The stranger fumbled in his waistcoat, bent over and placed a louis
d'or in Cosette's shoe.
Then he regained his own chamber with the stealthy tread of a wolf.


On the following morning, two hours at least before day-break, Thenardier,
seated beside a candle in the public room of the tavern, pen in hand,
was making out the bill for the traveller with the yellow coat.
His wife, standing beside him, and half bent over him, was following
him with her eyes. They exchanged not a word. On the one hand,
there was profound meditation, on the other, the religious
admiration with which one watches the birth and development
of a marvel of the human mind. A noise was audible in the house;
it was the Lark sweeping the stairs.
After the lapse of a good quarter of an hour, and some erasures,
Thenardier produced the following masterpiece:--
Supper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 francs.
Chamber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 "
Candle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 "
Fire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 "
Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 "
Total . . . . . . 23 francs.

Service was written servisse.
"Twenty-three francs!" cried the woman, with an enthusiasm which
was mingled with some hesitation.
Like all great artists, Thenardier was dissatisfied.
"Peuh!" he exclaimed.
It was the accent of Castlereagh auditing France's bill at the
Congress of Vienna.
"Monsieur Thenardier, you are right; he certainly owes that,"
murmured the wife, who was thinking of the doll bestowed on Cosette
in the presence of her daughters. "It is just, but it is too much.
He will not pay it."
Thenardier laughed coldly, as usual, and said:--
"He will pay."
This laugh was the supreme assertion of certainty and authority.
That which was asserted in this manner must needs be so. His wife did
not insist.
She set about arranging the table; her husband paced the room.
A moment later he added:--
"I owe full fifteen hundred francs!"
He went and seated himself in the chimney-corner, meditating,
with his feet among the warm ashes.
"Ah! by the way," resumed his wife, "you don't forget that I'm
going to turn Cosette out of doors to-day? The monster! She breaks
my heart with that doll of hers! I'd rather marry Louis XVIII.
than keep her another day in the house!"
Thenardier lighted his pipe, and replied between two puffs:--
"You will hand that bill to the man."
Then he went out.
Hardly had he left the room when the traveller entered.
Thenardier instantly reappeared behind him and remained motionless
in the half-open door, visible only to his wife.
The yellow man carried his bundle and his cudgel in his hand.
"Up so early?" said Madame Thenardier; "is Monsieur leaving us already?"
As she spoke thus, she was twisting the bill about in her hands
with an embarrassed air, and making creases in it with her nails.
Her hard face presented a shade which was not habitual with it,--
timidity and scruples.
To present such a bill to a man who had so completely the air "of
a poor wretch" seemed difficult to her.
The traveller appeared to be preoccupied and absent-minded. He replied:--
"Yes, Madame, I am going."
"So Monsieur has no business in Montfermeil?"
"No, I was passing through. That is all. What do I owe you,
Madame," he added.
The Thenardier silently handed him the folded bill.
The man unfolded the paper and glanced at it; but his thoughts
were evidently elsewhere.
"Madame," he resumed, "is business good here in Montfermeil?"
"So so, Monsieur," replied the Thenardier, stupefied at not
witnessing another sort of explosion.
She continued, in a dreary and lamentable tone:--
"Oh! Monsieur, times are so hard! and then, we have so few bourgeois
in the neighborhood! All the people are poor, you see. If we had not,
now and then, some rich and generous travellers like Monsieur,
we should not get along at all. We have so many expenses. Just see,
that child is costing us our very eyes."
"What child?"
"Why, the little one, you know! Cosette--the Lark, as she
is called hereabouts!"
"Ah!" said the man.
She went on:--
"How stupid these peasants are with their nicknames! She has more
the air of a bat than of a lark. You see, sir, we do not ask charity,
and we cannot bestow it. We earn nothing and we have to pay out
a great deal. The license, the imposts, the door and window tax,
the hundredths! Monsieur is aware that the government demands
a terrible deal of money. And then, I have my daughters.
I have no need to bring up other people's children."
The man resumed, in that voice which he strove to render indifferent,
and in which there lingered a tremor:--
"What if one were to rid you of her?"
"Who? Cosette?"
The landlady's red and violent face brightened up hideously.
"Ah! sir, my dear sir, take her, keep her, lead her off,
carry her away, sugar her, stuff her with truffles, drink her,
eat her, and the blessings of the good holy Virgin and of all
the saints of paradise be upon you!"
"Really! You will take her away?"
"I will take her away."
"Immediately. Call the child."
"Cosette!" screamed the Thenardier.
"In the meantime," pursued the man, "I will pay you what I owe you.
How much is it?"
He cast a glance on the bill, and could not restrain a start
of surprise:--
"Twenty-three francs!"
He looked at the landlady, and repeated:--
"Twenty-three francs?"
There was in the enunciation of these words, thus repeated,
an accent between an exclamation and an interrogation point.
The Thenardier had had time to prepare herself for the shock.
She replied, with assurance:--
"Good gracious, yes, sir, it is twenty-three francs."
The stranger laid five five-franc pieces on the table.
"Go and get the child," said he.
At that moment Thenardier advanced to the middle of the room,
and said:--
"Monsieur owes twenty-six sous."
"Twenty-six sous!" exclaimed his wife.
"Twenty sous for the chamber," resumed Thenardier, coldly, "and six
sous for his supper. As for the child, I must discuss that matter
a little with the gentleman. Leave us, wife."
Madame Thenardier was dazzled as with the shock caused by unexpected
lightning flashes of talent. She was conscious that a great actor
was making his entrance on the stage, uttered not a word in reply,
and left the room.
As soon as they were alone, Thenardier offered the traveller a chair.
The traveller seated himself; Thenardier remained standing,
and his face assumed a singular expression of good-fellowship
and simplicity.
"Sir," said he, "what I have to say to you is this, that I adore
that child."
The stranger gazed intently at him.
"What child?"
Thenardier continued:--
"How strange it is, one grows attached. What money is that?
Take back your hundred-sou piece. I adore the child."
"Whom do you mean?" demanded the stranger.
"Eh! our little Cosette! Are you not intending to take her away
from us? Well, I speak frankly; as true as you are an honest man,
I will not consent to it. I shall miss that child. I saw her first
when she was a tiny thing. It is true that she costs us money;
it is true that she has her faults; it is true that we are not rich;
it is true that I have paid out over four hundred francs for
drugs for just one of her illnesses! But one must do something
for the good God's sake. She has neither father nor mother.
I have brought her up. I have bread enough for her and for myself.
In truth, I think a great deal of that child. You understand,
one conceives an affection for a person; I am a good sort of
a beast, I am; I do not reason; I love that little girl; my wife
is quick-tempered, but she loves her also. You see, she is just
the same as our own child. I want to keep her to babble about
the house."
The stranger kept his eye intently fixed on Thenardier.
The latter continued:--
"Excuse me, sir, but one does not give away one's child to a
passer-by, like that. I am right, am I not? Still, I don't say--
you are rich; you have the air of a very good man,--if it were
for her happiness. But one must find out that. You understand:
suppose that I were to let her go and to sacrifice myself,
I should like to know what becomes of her; I should not wish to
lose sight of her; I should like to know with whom she is living,
so that I could go to see her from time to time; so that she may know
that her good foster-father is alive, that he is watching over her.
In short, there are things which are not possible. I do not even
know your name. If you were to take her away, I should say:
`Well, and the Lark, what has become of her?' One must, at least,
see some petty scrap of paper, some trifle in the way of a passport,
you know!"
The stranger, still surveying him with that gaze which penetrates,
as the saying goes, to the very depths of the conscience, replied in
a grave, firm voice:--
"Monsieur Thenardier, one does not require a passport to travel five
leagues from Paris. If I take Cosette away, I shall take her away,
and that is the end of the matter. You will not know my name,
you will not know my residence, you will not know where she is;
and my intention is that she shall never set eyes on you again
so long as she lives. I break the thread which binds her foot,
and she departs. Does that suit you? Yes or no?"
Since geniuses, like demons, recognize the presence of a superior
God by certain signs, Thenardier comprehended that he had to deal
with a very strong person. It was like an intuition; he comprehended
it with his clear and sagacious promptitude. While drinking with
the carters, smoking, and singing coarse songs on the preceding evening,
he had devoted the whole of the time to observing the stranger,
watching him like a cat, and studying him like a mathematician.
He had watched him, both on his own account, for the pleasure of
the thing, and through instinct, and had spied upon him as though
he had been paid for so doing. Not a movement, not a gesture,
on the part of the man in the yellow great-coat had escaped him.
Even before the stranger had so clearly manifested his interest
in Cosette, Thenardier had divined his purpose. He had caught
the old man's deep glances returning constantly to the child.
Who was this man? Why this interest? Why this hideous costume,
when he had so much money in his purse? Questions which he put to
himself without being able to solve them, and which irritated him.
He had pondered it all night long. He could not be Cosette's father.
Was he her grandfather? Then why not make himself known at once?
When one has a right, one asserts it. This man evidently had no
right over Cosette. What was it, then? Thenardier lost himself
in conjectures. He caught glimpses of everything, but he saw nothing.
Be that as it may, on entering into conversation with the man,
sure that there was some secret in the case, that the latter had
some interest in remaining in the shadow, he felt himself strong;
when he perceived from the stranger's clear and firm retort,
that this mysterious personage was mysterious in so simple a way,
he became conscious that he was weak. He had expected nothing
of the sort. His conjectures were put to the rout. He rallied
his ideas. He weighed everything in the space of a second.
Thenardier was one of those men who take in a situation at a glance.
He decided that the moment had arrived for proceeding straightforward,
and quickly at that. He did as great leaders do at the decisive moment,
which they know that they alone recognize; he abruptly unmasked his
"Sir," said he, "I am in need of fifteen hundred francs."
The stranger took from his side pocket an old pocketbook of black leather,
opened it, drew out three bank-bills, which he laid on the table.
Then he placed his large thumb on the notes and said to the inn-keeper:--
"Go and fetch Cosette."
While this was taking place, what had Cosette been doing?
On waking up, Cosette had run to get her shoe. In it she had
found the gold piece. It was not a Napoleon; it was one of those
perfectly new twenty-franc pieces of the Restoration, on whose
effigy the little Prussian queue had replaced the laurel wreath.
Cosette was dazzled. Her destiny began to intoxicate her.
She did not know what a gold piece was; she had never seen one;
she hid it quictened her,
the gold piece frightened her. She trembled vaguely in the presence
of this magnificence. The stranger alone did not frighten her.
On the contrary, he reassured her. Ever since the preceding evening,
amid all her amazement, even in her sleep, she had been thinking
in her little childish mind of that man who seemed to be so poor
and so sad, and who was so rich and so kind. Everything had
changed for her since she had met that good man in the forest.
Cosette, less happy than the most insignificant swallow of heaven,
had never known what it was to take refuge under a mother's shadow
and under a wing. For the last five years, that is to say, as far
back as her memory ran, the poor child had shivered and trembled.
She had always been exposed completely naked to the sharp wind
of adversity; now it seemed to her she was clothed. Formerly her
soul had seemed cold, now it was warm. Cosette was no longer
afraid of the Thenardier. She was no longer alone; there was some
one there.
She hastily set about her regular morning duties. That louis,
which she had about her, in the very apron pocket whence the fifteen-sou
piece had fallen on the night before, distracted her thoughts.
She dared not touch it, but she spent five minutes in gazing at it,
with her tongue hanging out, if the truth must be told. As she
swept the staircase, she paused, remained standing there motionless,
forgetful of her broom and of the entire universe, occupied in gazing
at that star which was blazing at the bottom of her pocket.
It was during one of these periods of contemplation that the
Thenardier joined her. She had gone in search of Cosette at her
husband's orders. What was quite unprecedented, she neither
struck her nor said an insulting word to her.
"Cosette," she said, almost gently, "come immediately."
An instant later Cosette entered the public room.
The stranger took up the bundle which he had brought and untied it.
This bundle contained a little woollen gown, an apron, a fustian bodice,
a kerchief, a petticoat, woollen stockings, shoes--a complete outfit
for a girl of seven years. All was black.
"My child," said the man, "take these, and go and dress yourself quickly."
Daylight was appearing when those of the inhabitants of Montfermeil
who had begun to open their doors beheld a poorly clad old man
leading a little girl dressed in mourning, and carrying a pink
doll in her arms, pass along the road to Paris. They were going
in the direction of Livry.
It was our man and Cosette.
No one knew the man; as Cosette was no longer in rags, many did
not recognize her. Cosette was going away. With whom? She did
not know. Whither? She knew not. All that she understood was
that she was leaving the Thenardier tavern behind her. No one had
thought of bidding her farewell, nor had she thought of taking
leave of any one. She was leaving that hated and hating house.
Poor, gentle creature, whose heart had been repressed up to that hour!
Cosette walked along gravely, with her large eyes wide open,
and gazing at the sky. She had put her louis in the pocket of her
new apron. From time to time, she bent down and glanced at it;
then she looked at the good man. She felt something as though she
were beside the good God.


Madame Thenardier had allowed her husband to have his own way,
as was her wont. She had expected great results. When the man
and Cosette had taken their departure, Thenardier allowed a full
quarter of an hour to elapse; then he took her aside and showed
her the fifteen hundred francs.
"Is that all?" said she.
It was the first time since they had set up housekeeping that she
had dared to criticise one of the master's acts.
The blow told.
"You are right, in sooth," said he; "I am a fool. Give me my hat."
He folded up the three bank-bills, thrust them into his pocket, and ran
out in all haste; but he made a mistake and turned to the right first.
Some neighbors, of whom he made inquiries, put him on the track again;
the Lark and the man had been seen going in the direction of Livry.
He followed these hints, walking with great strides, and talking
to himself the while:--
"That man is evidently a million dressed in yellow, and I am an animal.
First he gave twenty sous, then five francs, then fifty francs,
then fifteen hundred francs, all with equal readiness. He would
have given fifteen thousand francs. But I shall overtake him."
And then, that bundle of clothes prepared beforehand for the child;
all that was singular; many mysteries lay concealed under it.
One does not let mysteries out of one's hand when one has once
grasped them. The secrets of the wealthy are sponges of gold;
one must know how to subject them to pressure. All these thoughts
whirled through his brain. "I am an animal," said he.
When one leaves Montfermeil and reaches the turn which the road
takes that runs to Livry, it can be seen stretching out before
one to a great distance across the plateau. On arriving there,
he calculated that he ought to be able to see the old man and
the child. He looked as far as his vision reached, and saw nothing.
He made fresh inquiries, but he had wasted time. Some passers-by
informed him that the man and child of whom he was in search had
gone towards the forest in the direction of Gagny. He hastened
in that direction.
They were far in advance of him; but a child walks slowly, and he
walked fast; and then, he was well acquainted with the country.
All at once he paused and dealt himself a blow on his forehead
like a man who has forgotten some essential point and who is ready
to retrace his steps.
"I ought to have taken my gun," said he to himself.
Thenardier was one of those double natures which sometimes pass
through our midst without our being aware of the fact, and who
disappear without our finding them out, because destiny has only
exhibited one side of them. It is the fate of many men to live
thus half submerged. In a calm and even situation, Thenardier
possessed all that is required to make--we will not say to be--
what people have agreed to call an honest trader, a good bourgeois.
At the same time certain circumstances being given, certain shocks
arriving to bring his under-nature to the surface, he had all
the requisites for a blackguard. He was a shopkeeper in whom
there was some taint of the monster. Satan must have occasionally
crouched down in some corner of the hovel in which Thenardier dwelt,
and have fallen a-dreaming in the presence of this hideous masterpiece.
After a momentary hesitation:--
"Bah!" he thought; "they will have time to make their escape."
And he pursued his road, walking rapidly straight ahead, and with
almost an air of certainty, with the sagacity of a fox scenting
a covey of partridges.
In truth, when he had passed the ponds and had traversed in an oblique
direction the large clearing which lies on the right of the Avenue
de Bellevue, and reached that turf alley which nearly makes the circuit
of the hill, and covers the arch of the ancient aqueduct of the Abbey
of Chelles, he caught sight, over the top of the brushwood, of the hat
on which he had already erected so many conjectures; it was that
man's hat. The brushwood was not high. Thenardier recognized the fact
that the man and Cosette were sitting there. The child could not be
seen on account of her small size, but the head of her doll was visible.
Thenardier was not mistaken. The man was sitting there,
and letting Cosette get somewhat rested. The inn-keeper walked
round the brushwood and presented himself abruptly to the eyes
of those whom he was in search of.
"Pardon, excuse me, sir," he said, quite breathless, "but here
are your fifteen hundred francs."
So saying, he handed the stranger the three bank-bills.
The man raised his eyes.
"What is the meaning of this?"
Thenardier replied respectfully:--
"It means, sir, that I shall take back Cosette."
Cosette shuddered, and pressed close to the old man.
He replied, gazing to the very bottom of Thenardier's eyes the while,
and enunciating every syllable distinctly:--
"You are go-ing to take back Co-sette?"
"Yes, sir, I am. I will tell you; I have considered the matter.
In fact, I have not the right to give her to you. I am an honest man,
you see; this child does not belong to me; she belongs to her mother.
It was her mother who confided her to me; I can only resign her
to her mother. You will say to me, `But her mother is dead.'
Good; in that case I can only give the child up to the person
who shall bring me a writing, signed by her mother, to the effect
that I am to hand the child over to the person therein mentioned;
that is clear."
The man, without making any reply, fumbled in his pocket, and Thenardier
beheld the pocket-book of bank-bills make its appearance once more.
The tavern-keeper shivered with joy.
"Good!" thought he; "let us hold firm; he is going to bribe me!"
Before opening the pocket-book, the traveller cast a glance about him:
the spot was absolutely deserted; there was not a soul either in the
woods or in the valley. The man opened his pocket-book once more
and drew from it, not the handful of bills which Thenardier expected,
but a simple little paper, which he unfolded and presented fully
open to the inn-keeper, saying:--
"You are right; read!"
Thenardier took the paper and read:--
"M. SUR M., March 25, 1823.
You will deliver Cosette to this person.
You will be paid for all the little things.
I have the honor to salute you with respect,
"You know that signature?" resumed the man.
It certainly was Fantine's signature; Thenardier recognized it.
There was no reply to make; he experienced two violent vexations,
the vexation of renouncing the bribery which he had hoped for,
and the vexation of being beaten; the man added:--
"You may keep this paper as your receipt."
Thenardier retreated in tolerably good order.
"This signature is fairly well imitated," he growled between his teeth;
"however, let it go!"
Then he essayed a desperate effort.
"It is well, sir," he said, "since you are the person, but I must
be paid for all those little things. A great deal is owing to me."
The man rose to his feet, filliping the dust from his thread-bare sleeve:--
"Monsieur Thenardier, in January last, the mother reckoned that she owed
you one hundred and twenty francs. In February, you sent her a bill
of five hundred francs; you received three hundred francs at the end
of February, and three hundred francs at the beginning of March.
Since then nine months have elapsed, at fifteen francs a month,
the price agreed upon, which makes one hundred and thirty-five francs.
You had received one hundred francs too much; that makes thirty-five
still owing you. I have just given you fifteen hundred francs."
Thenardier's sensations were those of the wolf at the moment when he
feels himself nipped and seized by the steel jaw of the trap.
"Who is this devil of a man?" he thought.
He did what the wolf does: he shook himself. Audacity had succeeded
with him once.
"Monsieur-I-don't-know-your-name," he said resolutely, and this
time casting aside all respectful ceremony, "I shall take back
Cosette if you do not give me a thousand crowns."
The stranger said tranquilly:--
"Come, Cosette."
He took Cosette by his left hand, and with his right he picked up
his cudgel, which was lying on the ground.
Thenardier noted the enormous size of the cudgel and the solitude
of the spot.
The man plunged into the forest with the child, leaving the inn-keeper
motionless and speechless.
While they were walking away, Thenardier scrutinized his huge shoulders,
which were a little rounded, and his great fists.
Then, bringing his eyes back to his own person, they fell upon his
feeble arms and his thin hands. "I really must have been exceedingly
stupid not to have thought to bring my gun," he said to himself,
"since I was going hunting!"
However, the inn-keeper did not give up.
"I want to know where he is going," said he, and he set out to
follow them at a distance. Two things were left on his hands,
an irony in the shape of the paper signed Fantine, and a consolation,
the fifteen hundred francs.
The man led Cosette off in the direction of Livry and Bondy.
He walked slowly, with drooping head, in an attitude of reflection
and sadness. The winter had thinned out the forest, so that Thenardier
did not lose them from sight, although he kept at a good distance.
The man turned round from time to time, and looked to see if he
was being followed. All at once he caught sight of Thenardier.
He plunged suddenly into the brushwood with Cosette, where they could
both hide themselves. "The deuce!" said Thenardier, and he redoubled
his pace.
The thickness of the undergrowth forced him to draw nearer to them.
When the man had reached the densest part of the thicket,
he wheeled round. It was in vain that Thenardier sought to conceal
himself in the branches; he could not prevent the man seeing him.
The man cast upon him an uneasy glance, then elevated his head
and continued his course. The inn-keeper set out again in pursuit.
Thus they continued for two or three hundred paces. All at once
the man turned round once more; he saw the inn-keeper. This time
he gazed at him with so sombre an air that Thenardier decided
that it was "useless" to proceed further. Thenardier retraced
his steps.


Jean Valjean was not dead.
When he fell into the sea, or rather, when he threw himself into it,
he was not ironed, as we have seen. He swam under water until
he reached a vessel at anchor, to which a boat was moored.
He found means of hiding himself in this boat until night.
At night he swam off again, and reached the shore a little way from
Cape Brun. There, as he did not lack money, he procured clothing.
A small country-house in the neighborhood of Balaguier was at that
time the dressing-room of escaped convicts,--a lucrative specialty.
Then Jean Valjean, like all the sorry fugitives who are seeking to
evade the vigilance of the law and social fatality, pursued an obscure
and undulating itinerary. He found his first refuge at Pradeaux,
near Beausset. Then he directed his course towards Grand-Villard,
near Briancon, in the Hautes-Alpes. It was a fumbling and uneasy flight,--
a mole's track, whose branchings are untraceable. Later on, some trace
of his passage into Ain, in the territory of Civrieux, was discovered;
in the Pyrenees, at Accons; at the spot called Grange-de-Doumec,
near the market of Chavailles, and in the environs of Perigueux
at Brunies, canton of La Chapelle-Gonaguet. He reached Paris.
We have just seen him at Montfermeil.
His first care on arriving in Paris had been to buy mourning clothes
for a little girl of from seven to eight years of age; then to procure
a lodging. That done, he had betaken himself to Montfermeil.
It will be remembered that already, during his preceding escape,
he had made a mysterious trip thither, or somewhere in that neighborhood,
of which the law had gathered an inkling.
However, he was thought to be dead, and this still further
increased the obscurity which had gathered about him. At Paris,
one of the journals which chronicled the fact fell into his hands.
He felt reassured and almost at peace, as though he had really
been dead.
On the evening of the day when Jean Valjean rescued Cosette from
the claws of the Thenardiers, he returned to Paris. He re-entered
it at nightfall, with the child, by way of the Barrier Monceaux.
There he entered a cabriolet, which took him to the esplanade
of the Observatoire. There he got out, paid the coachman,
took Cosette by the hand, and together they directed their steps
through the darkness,--through the deserted streets w short distances on foot. She made no complaint, but she
was weary, and Jean Valjean perceived it by the way she dragged
more and more on his hand as she walked. He took her on his back.
Cosette, without letting go of Catherine, laid her head on Jean
Valjean's shoulder, and there fell asleep.



Forty years ago, a rambler who had ventured into that unknown
country of the Salpetriere, and who had mounted to the Barriere
d'Italie by way of the boulevard, reached a point where it might
be said that Paris disappeared. It was no longer solitude,
for there were passers-by; it was not the country, for there were
houses and streets; it was not the city, for the streets had ruts
like highways, and the grass grew in them; it was not a village,
the houses were too lofty. What was it, then? It was an inhabited
spot where there was no one; it was a desert place where there was
some one; it was a boulevard of the great city, a street of Paris;
more wild at night than the forest, more gloomy by day than a cemetery.
It was the old quarter of the Marche-aux-Chevaux.
The rambler, if he risked himself outside the four decrepit walls
of this Marche-aux-Chevaux; if he consented even to pass beyond
the Rue du Petit-Banquier, after leaving on his right a garden
protected by high walls; then a field in which tan-bark mills rose
like gigantic beaver huts; then an enclosure encumbered with timber,
with a heap of stumps, sawdust, and shavings, on which stood
a large dog, barking; then a long, low, utterly dilapidated wall,
with a little black door in mourning, laden with mosses,
which were covered with flowers in the spring; then, in the most
deserted spot, a frightful and decrepit building, on which ran
the inscription in large letters: POST NO BILLS,--this daring
rambler would have reached little known latitudes at the corner
of the Rue des Vignes-Saint-Marcel. There, near a factory,
and between two garden walls, there could be seen, at that epoch,
a mean building, which, at the first glance, seemed as small as a
thatched hovel, and which was, in reality, as large as a cathedral.
It presented its side and gable to the public road; hence its
apparent diminutiveness. Nearly the whole of the house was hidden.
Only the door and one window could be seen.
This hovel was only one story high.
The first detail that struck the observer was, that the door could
never have been anything but the door of a hovel, while the window,
if it had been carved out of dressed stone instead of being in
rough masonry, might have been the lattice of a lordly mansion.
The door was nothing but a collection of worm-eaten planks roughly
bound together by cross-beams which resembled roughly hewn logs.
It opened directly on a steep staircase of lofty steps, muddy,
chalky, plaster-stained, dusty steps, of the same width as itself,
which could be seen from the street, running straight up like a
ladder and disappearing in the darkness between two walls. The top
of the shapeless bay into which this door shut was masked by a narrow
scantling in the centre of which a triangular hole had been sawed,
which served both as wicket and air-hole when the door was closed.
On the inside of the door the figures 52 had been traced with a
couple of strokes of a brush dipped in ink, and above the scantling
the same hand had daubed the number 50, so that one hesitated.
Where was one? Above the door it said, "Number 50"; the inside replied,
"no, Number 52." No one knows what dust-colored figur