Les Misérables is widely regarded as the greatest epic and dramatic work of fiction ever created or conceived: the epic of a soul transfigured and redeemed, purified by heroism and glorified through suffering; the tragedy and the comedy of life at its darkest and its brightest, of humanity at its best and at its worst. The novel elaborates upon the history of France, the architecture and urban design of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. This is part two of two, containing the eighth book of volume three ("Marius"), as well as the complete volumes four and five ("Saint-Denis", "Jean Valjean").
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Les Misérables 2, V. Hugo
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
English translation by Isabel Florence Hapgood (1851 – 1928)
Cover Design: based on an artwork by Ablakok - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41579854
BOOK EIGHTH.—THE WICKED POOR MAN... 1
BOOK FIRST.—A FEW PAGES OF HISTORY.. 68
BOOK SECOND.—ÉPONINE.. 94
BOOK THIRD.—THE HOUSE IN THE RUE PLUMET.. 107
BOOK FOURTH.—SUCCOR FROM BELOW MAY TURN OUT TO BE SUCCOR FROM ON HIGH 132
BOOK FIFTH.—THE END OF WHICH DOES NOT RESEMBLE THE BEGINNING 139
BOOK SIXTH.—LITTLE GAVROCHE.. 151
BOOK SEVENTH.—SLANG.. 178
BOOK EIGHTH.—ENCHANTMENTS AND DESOLATIONS. 194
BOOK NINTH.—WHITHER ARE THEY GOING?. 220
BOOK TENTH.—THE 5TH OF JUNE, 1832. 226
BOOK ELEVENTH.—THE ATOM FRATERNIZES WITH THE HURRICANE 241
BOOK TWELFTH.—CORINTHE.. 251
BOOK THIRTEENTH.—MARIUS ENTERS THE SHADOW... 275
BOOK FOURTEENTH.—THE GRANDEURS OF DESPAIR.. 283
BOOK FIFTEENTH.—THE RUE DE L’HOMME ARMÉ.. 297
VOLUME V—JEAN VALJEAN... 311
BOOK FIRST.—THE WAR BETWEEN FOUR WALLS. 311
BOOK SECOND.—THE INTESTINE OF THE LEVIATHAN... 371
BOOK THIRD.—MUD BUT THE SOUL.. 384
BOOK FOURTH.—JAVERT DERAILED... 414
BOOK FIFTH.—GRANDSON AND GRANDFATHER.. 423
BOOK SIXTH.—THE SLEEPLESS NIGHT.. 445
BOOK SEVENTH.—THE LAST DRAUGHT FROM THE CUP. 463
BOOK EIGHTH.—FADING AWAY OF THE TWILIGHT.. 480
BOOK NINTH.—SUPREME SHADOW, SUPREME DAWN... 490
Summer passed, then the autumn; winter came. Neither M. Leblanc nor the young girl had again set foot in the Luxembourg garden. Thenceforth, Marius had but one thought,—to gaze once more on that sweet and adorable face. He sought constantly, he sought everywhere; he found nothing. He was no longer Marius, the enthusiastic dreamer, the firm, resolute, ardent man, the bold defier of fate, the brain which erected future on future, the young spirit encumbered with plans, with projects, with pride, with ideas and wishes; he was a lost dog. He fell into a black melancholy. All was over. Work disgusted him, walking tired him. Vast nature, formerly so filled with forms, lights, voices, counsels, perspectives, horizons, teachings, now lay empty before him. It seemed to him that everything had disappeared.
He thought incessantly, for he could not do otherwise; but he no longer took pleasure in his thoughts. To everything that they proposed to him in a whisper, he replied in his darkness: “What is the use?”
He heaped a hundred reproaches on himself. “Why did I follow her? I was so happy at the mere sight of her! She looked at me; was not that immense? She had the air of loving me. Was not that everything? I wished to have, what? There was nothing after that. I have been absurd. It is my own fault,” etc., etc. Courfeyrac, to whom he confided nothing,—it was his nature,—but who made some little guess at everything,—that was his nature,—had begun by congratulating him on being in love, though he was amazed at it; then, seeing Marius fall into this melancholy state, he ended by saying to him: “I see that you have been simply an animal. Here, come to the Chaumière.”
Once, having confidence in a fine September sun, Marius had allowed himself to be taken to the ball at Sceaux by Courfeyrac, Bossuet, and Grantaire, hoping, what a dream! that he might, perhaps, find her there. Of course he did not see the one he sought.—“But this is the place, all the same, where all lost women are found,” grumbled Grantaire in an aside. Marius left his friends at the ball and returned home on foot, alone, through the night, weary, feverish, with sad and troubled eyes, stunned by the noise and dust of the merry wagons filled with singing creatures on their way home from the feast, which passed close to him, as he, in his discouragement, breathed in the acrid scent of the walnut-trees, along the road, in order to refresh his head.
He took to living more and more alone, utterly overwhelmed, wholly given up to his inward anguish, going and coming in his pain like the wolf in the trap, seeking the absent one everywhere, stupefied by love.
On another occasion, he had an encounter which produced on him a singular effect. He met, in the narrow streets in the vicinity of the Boulevard des Invalides, a man dressed like a workingman and wearing a cap with a long visor, which allowed a glimpse of locks of very white hair. Marius was struck with the beauty of this white hair, and scrutinized the man, who was walking slowly and as though absorbed in painful meditation. Strange to say, he thought that he recognized M. Leblanc. The hair was the same, also the profile, so far as the cap permitted a view of it, the mien identical, only more depressed. But why these workingman’s clothes? What was the meaning of this? What signified that disguise? Marius was greatly astonished. When he recovered himself, his first impulse was to follow the man; who knows whether he did not hold at last the clue which he was seeking? In any case, he must see the man near at hand, and clear up the mystery. But the idea occurred to him too late, the man was no longer there. He had turned into some little side street, and Marius could not find him. This encounter occupied his mind for three days and then was effaced. “After all,” he said to himself, “it was probably only a resemblance.”
Marius had not left the Gorbeau house. He paid no attention to any one there.
At that epoch, to tell the truth, there were no other inhabitants in the house, except himself and those Jondrettes whose rent he had once paid, without, moreover, ever having spoken to either father, mother, or daughters. The other lodgers had moved away or had died, or had been turned out in default of payment.
One day during that winter, the sun had shown itself a little in the afternoon, but it was the 2d of February, that ancient Candlemas day whose treacherous sun, the precursor of a six weeks’ cold spell, inspired Mathieu Laensberg with these two lines, which have with justice remained classic:—
Qu’il luise ou qu’il luiserne,
L’ours rentre dans en sa caverne.
Marius had just emerged from his: night was falling. It was the hour for his dinner; for he had been obliged to take to dining again, alas! oh, infirmities of ideal passions!
He had just crossed his threshold, where Ma’am Bougon was sweeping at the moment, as she uttered this memorable monologue:—
“What is there that is cheap now? Everything is dear. There is nothing in the world that is cheap except trouble; you can get that for nothing, the trouble of the world!”
Marius slowly ascended the boulevard towards the barrier, in order to reach the Rue Saint-Jacques. He was walking along with drooping head.
All at once, he felt some one elbow him in the dusk; he wheeled round, and saw two young girls clad in rags, the one tall and slim, the other a little shorter, who were passing rapidly, all out of breath, in terror, and with the appearance of fleeing; they had been coming to meet him, had not seen him, and had jostled him as they passed. Through the twilight, Marius could distinguish their livid faces, their wild heads, their dishevelled hair, their hideous bonnets, their ragged petticoats, and their bare feet. They were talking as they ran. The taller said in a very low voice:—
“The bobbies have come. They came near nabbing me at the half-circle.” The other answered: “I saw them. I bolted, bolted, bolted!”
Through this repulsive slang, Marius understood that gendarmes or the police had come near apprehending these two children, and that the latter had escaped.
They plunged among the trees of the boulevard behind him, and there created, for a few minutes, in the gloom, a sort of vague white spot, then disappeared.
Marius had halted for a moment.
He was about to pursue his way, when his eye lighted on a little grayish package lying on the ground at his feet. He stooped and picked it up. It was a sort of envelope which appeared to contain papers.
“Good,” he said to himself, “those unhappy girls dropped it.”
He retraced his steps, he called, he did not find them; he reflected that they must already be far away, put the package in his pocket, and went off to dine.
On the way, he saw in an alley of the Rue Mouffetard, a child’s coffin, covered with a black cloth resting on three chairs, and illuminated by a candle. The two girls of the twilight recurred to his mind.
“Poor mothers!” he thought. “There is one thing sadder than to see one’s children die; it is to see them leading an evil life.”
Then those shadows which had varied his melancholy vanished from his thoughts, and he fell back once more into his habitual preoccupations. He fell to thinking once more of his six months of love and happiness in the open air and the broad daylight, beneath the beautiful trees of Luxembourg.
“How gloomy my life has become!” he said to himself. “Young girls are always appearing to me, only formerly they were angels and now they are ghouls.”
That evening, as he was undressing preparatory to going to bed, his hand came in contact, in the pocket of his coat, with the packet which he had picked up on the boulevard. He had forgotten it. He thought that it would be well to open it, and that this package might possibly contain the address of the young girls, if it really belonged to them, and, in any case, the information necessary to a restitution to the person who had lost it.
He opened the envelope.
It was not sealed and contained four letters, also unsealed.
They bore addresses.
All four exhaled a horrible odor of tobacco.
The first was addressed: “To Madame, Madame la Marquise de Grucheray, the place opposite the Chamber of Deputies, No.—”
Marius said to himself, that he should probably find in it the information which he sought, and that, moreover, the letter being open, it was probable that it could be read without impropriety.
It was conceived as follows:—
Madame la Marquise: The virtue of clemency and piety is that which most closely unites sosiety. Turn your Christian spirit and cast a look of compassion on this unfortunate Spanish victim of loyalty and attachment to the sacred cause of legitimacy, who has given with his blood, consecrated his fortune, evverything, to defend that cause, and to-day finds himself in the greatest missery. He doubts not that your honorable person will grant succor to preserve an existence exteremely painful for a military man of education and honor full of wounds, counts in advance on the humanity which animates you and on the interest which Madame la Marquise bears to a nation so unfortunate. Their prayer will not be in vain, and their gratitude will preserve theirs charming souvenir.
My respectful sentiments, with which I have the honor to be
Don Alvarès, Spanish Captain
of Cavalry, a royalist who
has take refuge in France,
who finds himself on travells
for his country, and the
resources are lacking him to
continue his travells.
No address was joined to the signature. Marius hoped to find the address in the second letter, whose superscription read: À Madame, Madame la Comtesse de Montvernet, Rue Cassette, No. 9. This is what Marius read in it:—
Madame la Comtesse: It is an unhappy mother of a family of six
children the last of which is only eight months old. I sick
since my last confinement, abandoned by my husband five months ago,
haveing no resources in the world the most frightful indigance.
In the hope of Madame la Comtesse, she has the honor to be,
Madame, with profound respect,
Marius turned to the third letter, which was a petition like the preceding; he read:—
Monsieur Pabourgeot, Elector, wholesale stocking merchant,
Rue Saint-Denis on the corner of the Rue aux Fers.
I permit myself to address you this letter to beg you to grant me
the pretious favor of your simpaties and to interest yourself in a man
of letters who has just sent a drama to the Théâtre-Français. The subject
is historical, and the action takes place in Auvergne in the time
of the Empire; the style, I think, is natural, laconic, and may have
some merit. There are couplets to be sung in four places. The comic,
the serious, the unexpected, are mingled in a variety of characters,
and a tinge of romanticism lightly spread through all the intrigue
which proceeds misteriously, and ends, after striking altarations,
in the midst of many beautiful strokes of brilliant scenes.
My principal object is to satisfi the desire which progressively
animates the man of our century, that is to say, the fashion,
that capritious and bizarre weathervane which changes at almost
every new wind.
In spite of these qualities I have reason to fear that jealousy,
the egotism of priviliged authors, may obtaine my exclusion from
the theatre, for I am not ignorant of the mortifications with which
newcomers are treated.
Monsiuer Pabourgeot, your just reputation as an enlightened protector
of men of litters emboldens me to send you my daughter who will
explain our indigant situation to you, lacking bread and fire
in this wynter season. When I say to you that I beg you to accept
the dedication of my drama which I desire to make to you and of all
those that I shall make, is to prove to you how great is my ambition
to have the honor of sheltering myself under your protection,
and of adorning my writings with your name. If you deign to honor
me with the most modest offering, I shall immediately occupy myself
in making a piesse of verse to pay you my tribute of gratitude.
Which I shall endeavor to render this piesse as perfect as possible,
will be sent to you before it is inserted at the beginning of the
drama and delivered on the stage.
and Madame Pabourgeot,
My most respectful complements,
Genflot, man of letters.
P. S. Even if it is only forty sous.
Excuse me for sending my daughter and not presenting myself,
but sad motives connected with the toilet do not permit me,
alas! to go out.
Finally, Marius opened the fourth letter. The address ran: To the benevolent Gentleman of the church of Saint-Jacques-du-haut-Pas. It contained the following lines:—
Benevolent Man: If you deign to accompany my daughter, you will
behold a misserable calamity, and I will show you my certificates.
At the aspect of these writings your generous soul will be moved
with a sentiment of obvious benevolence, for true philosophers
always feel lively emotions.
Admit, compassionate man, that it is necessary to suffer the most
cruel need, and that it is very painful, for the sake of obtaining
a little relief, to get oneself attested by the authorities as though
one were not free to suffer and to die of inanition while waiting
to have our misery relieved. Destinies are very fatal for several
and too prodigal or too protecting for others.
I await your presence or your offering, if you deign to make one,
and I beseech you to accept the respectful sentiments with which I
have the honor to be,
truly magnanimous man,
your very humble
and very obedient servant,
P. Fabantou, dramatic artist.
After perusing these four letters, Marius did not find himself much further advanced than before.
In the first place, not one of the signers gave his address.
Then, they seemed to come from four different individuals, Don Alvarès, Mistress Balizard, the poet Genflot, and dramatic artist Fabantou; but the singular thing about these letters was, that all four were written by the same hand.
What conclusion was to be drawn from this, except that they all come from the same person?
Moreover, and this rendered the conjecture all the more probable, the coarse and yellow paper was the same in all four, the odor of tobacco was the same, and, although an attempt had been made to vary the style, the same orthographical faults were reproduced with the greatest tranquillity, and the man of letters Genflot was no more exempt from them than the Spanish captain.
It was waste of trouble to try to solve this petty mystery. Had it not been a chance find, it would have borne the air of a mystification. Marius was too melancholy to take even a chance pleasantry well, and to lend himself to a game which the pavement of the street seemed desirous of playing with him. It seemed to him that he was playing the part of the blind man in blind man’s buff between the four letters, and that they were making sport of him.
Nothing, however, indicated that these letters belonged to the two young girls whom Marius had met on the boulevard. After all, they were evidently papers of no value. Marius replaced them in their envelope, flung the whole into a corner and went to bed. About seven o’clock in the morning, he had just risen and breakfasted, and was trying to settle down to work, when there came a soft knock at his door.
As he owned nothing, he never locked his door, unless occasionally, though very rarely, when he was engaged in some pressing work. Even when absent he left his key in the lock. “You will be robbed,” said Ma’am Bougon. “Of what?” said Marius. The truth is, however, that he had, one day, been robbed of an old pair of boots, to the great triumph of Ma’am Bougon.
There came a second knock, as gentle as the first.
“Come in,” said Marius.
The door opened.
“What do you want, Ma’am Bougon?” asked Marius, without raising his eyes from the books and manuscripts on his table.
A voice which did not belong to Ma’am Bougon replied:—
“Excuse me, sir—”
It was a dull, broken, hoarse, strangled voice, the voice of an old man, roughened with brandy and liquor.
Marius turned round hastily, and beheld a young girl.
A very young girl was standing in the half-open door. The dormer window of the garret, through which the light fell, was precisely opposite the door, and illuminated the figure with a wan light. She was a frail, emaciated, slender creature; there was nothing but a chemise and a petticoat upon that chilled and shivering nakedness. Her girdle was a string, her head ribbon a string, her pointed shoulders emerged from her chemise, a blond and lymphatic pallor, earth-colored collar-bones, red hands, a half-open and degraded mouth, missing teeth, dull, bold, base eyes; she had the form of a young girl who has missed her youth, and the look of a corrupt old woman; fifty years mingled with fifteen; one of those beings which are both feeble and horrible, and which cause those to shudder whom they do not cause to weep.
Marius had risen, and was staring in a sort of stupor at this being, who was almost like the forms of the shadows which traverse dreams.
The most heart-breaking thing of all was, that this young girl had not come into the world to be homely. In her early childhood she must even have been pretty. The grace of her age was still struggling against the hideous, premature decrepitude of debauchery and poverty. The remains of beauty were dying away in that face of sixteen, like the pale sunlight which is extinguished under hideous clouds at dawn on a winter’s day.
That face was not wholly unknown to Marius. He thought he remembered having seen it somewhere.
“What do you wish, Mademoiselle?” he asked.
The young girl replied in her voice of a drunken convict:—
“Here is a letter for you, Monsieur Marius.”
She called Marius by his name; he could not doubt that he was the person whom she wanted; but who was this girl? How did she know his name?
Without waiting for him to tell her to advance, she entered. She entered resolutely, staring, with a sort of assurance that made the heart bleed, at the whole room and the unmade bed. Her feet were bare. Large holes in her petticoat permitted glimpses of her long legs and her thin knees. She was shivering.
She held a letter in her hand, which she presented to Marius.
Marius, as he opened the letter, noticed that the enormous wafer which sealed it was still moist. The message could not have come from a distance. He read:—
My amiable neighbor, young man: I have learned of your goodness to me,
that you paid my rent six months ago. I bless you, young man.
My eldest daughter will tell you that we have been without a morsel
of bread for two days, four persons and my spouse ill. If I am
not deseaved in my opinion, I think I may hope that your generous
heart will melt at this statement and the desire will subjugate you
to be propitious to me by daigning to lavish on me a slight favor.
I am with the distinguished consideration which is due to the
benefactors of humanity,—
P.S. My eldest daughter will await your orders, dear Monsieur Marius.
This letter, coming in the very midst of the mysterious adventure which had occupied Marius’ thoughts ever since the preceding evening, was like a candle in a cellar. All was suddenly illuminated.
This letter came from the same place as the other four. There was the same writing, the same style, the same orthography, the same paper, the same odor of tobacco.
There were five missives, five histories, five signatures, and a single signer. The Spanish Captain Don Alvarès, the unhappy Mistress Balizard, the dramatic poet Genflot, the old comedian Fabantou, were all four named Jondrette, if, indeed, Jondrette himself were named Jondrette.
Marius had lived in the house for a tolerably long time, and he had had, as we have said, but very rare occasion to see, to even catch a glimpse of, his extremely mean neighbors. His mind was elsewhere, and where the mind is, there the eyes are also. He had been obliged more than once to pass the Jondrettes in the corridor or on the stairs; but they were mere forms to him; he had paid so little heed to them, that, on the preceding evening, he had jostled the Jondrette girls on the boulevard, without recognizing them, for it had evidently been they, and it was with great difficulty that the one who had just entered his room had awakened in him, in spite of disgust and pity, a vague recollection of having met her elsewhere.
Now he saw everything clearly. He understood that his neighbor Jondrette, in his distress, exercised the industry of speculating on the charity of benevolent persons, that he procured addresses, and that he wrote under feigned names to people whom he judged to be wealthy and compassionate, letters which his daughters delivered at their risk and peril, for this father had come to such a pass, that he risked his daughters; he was playing a game with fate, and he used them as the stake. Marius understood that probably, judging from their flight on the evening before, from their breathless condition, from their terror and from the words of slang which he had overheard, these unfortunate creatures were plying some inexplicably sad profession, and that the result of the whole was, in the midst of human society, as it is now constituted, two miserable beings who were neither girls nor women, a species of impure and innocent monsters produced by misery.
Sad creatures, without name, or sex, or age, to whom neither good nor evil were any longer possible, and who, on emerging from childhood, have already nothing in this world, neither liberty, nor virtue, nor responsibility. Souls which blossomed out yesterday, and are faded to-day, like those flowers let fall in the streets, which are soiled with every sort of mire, while waiting for some wheel to crush them. Nevertheless, while Marius bent a pained and astonished gaze on her, the young girl was wandering back and forth in the garret with the audacity of a spectre. She kicked about, without troubling herself as to her nakedness. Occasionally her chemise, which was untied and torn, fell almost to her waist. She moved the chairs about, she disarranged the toilet articles which stood on the commode, she handled Marius’ clothes, she rummaged about to see what there was in the corners.
“Hullo!” said she, “you have a mirror!”
And she hummed scraps of vaudevilles, as though she had been alone, frolicsome refrains which her hoarse and guttural voice rendered lugubrious.
An indescribable constraint, weariness, and humiliation were perceptible beneath this hardihood. Effrontery is a disgrace.
Nothing could be more melancholy than to see her sport about the room, and, so to speak, flit with the movements of a bird which is frightened by the daylight, or which has broken its wing. One felt that under other conditions of education and destiny, the gay and over-free mien of this young girl might have turned out sweet and charming. Never, even among animals, does the creature born to be a dove change into an osprey. That is only to be seen among men.
Marius reflected, and allowed her to have her way.
She approached the table.
“Ah!” said she, “books!”
A flash pierced her glassy eye. She resumed, and her accent expressed the happiness which she felt in boasting of something, to which no human creature is insensible:—
“I know how to read, I do!”
She eagerly seized a book which lay open on the table, and read with tolerable fluency:—
“—General Bauduin received orders to take the château of Hougomont which stands in the middle of the plain of Waterloo, with five battalions of his brigade.”
“Ah! Waterloo! I know about that. It was a battle long ago. My father was there. My father has served in the armies. We are fine Bonapartists in our house, that we are! Waterloo was against the English.”
She laid down the book, caught up a pen, and exclaimed:—
“And I know how to write, too!”
She dipped her pen in the ink, and turning to Marius:—
“Do you want to see? Look here, I’m going to write a word to show you.”
And before he had time to answer, she wrote on a sheet of white paper, which lay in the middle of the table: “The bobbies are here.”
Then throwing down the pen:—
“There are no faults of orthography. You can look. We have received an education, my sister and I. We have not always been as we are now. We were not made—”
Here she paused, fixed her dull eyes on Marius, and burst out laughing, saying, with an intonation which contained every form of anguish, stifled by every form of cynicism:—
And she began to hum these words to a gay air:—
“J’ai faim, mon père.” I am hungry, father.
Pas de fricot. I have no food.
J’ai froid, ma mère. I am cold, mother.
Pas de tricot. I have no clothes.
She had hardly finished this couplet, when she exclaimed:—
“Do you ever go to the play, Monsieur Marius? I do. I have a little brother who is a friend of the artists, and who gives me tickets sometimes. But I don’t like the benches in the galleries. One is cramped and uncomfortable there. There are rough people there sometimes; and people who smell bad.”
Then she scrutinized Marius, assumed a singular air and said:—
“Do you know, Mr. Marius, that you are a very handsome fellow?”
And at the same moment the same idea occurred to them both, and made her smile and him blush. She stepped up to him, and laid her hand on his shoulder: “You pay no heed to me, but I know you, Mr. Marius. I meet you here on the staircase, and then I often see you going to a person named Father Mabeuf who lives in the direction of Austerlitz, sometimes when I have been strolling in that quarter. It is very becoming to you to have your hair tumbled thus.”
She tried to render her voice soft, but only succeeded in making it very deep. A portion of her words was lost in the transit from her larynx to her lips, as though on a piano where some notes are missing.
Marius had retreated gently.
“Mademoiselle,” said he, with his cool gravity, “I have here a package which belongs to you, I think. Permit me to return it to you.”
And he held out the envelope containing the four letters.
She clapped her hands and exclaimed:—
“We have been looking everywhere for that!”
Then she eagerly seized the package and opened the envelope, saying as she did so:—
“Dieu de Dieu! how my sister and I have hunted! And it was you who found it! On the boulevard, was it not? It must have been on the boulevard? You see, we let it fall when we were running. It was that brat of a sister of mine who was so stupid. When we got home, we could not find it anywhere. As we did not wish to be beaten, as that is useless, as that is entirely useless, as that is absolutely useless, we said that we had carried the letters to the proper persons, and that they had said to us: ‘Nix.’ So here they are, those poor letters! And how did you find out that they belonged to me? Ah! yes, the writing. So it was you that we jostled as we passed last night. We couldn’t see. I said to my sister: ‘Is it a gentleman?’ My sister said to me: ‘I think it is a gentleman.’”
In the meanwhile she had unfolded the petition addressed to “the benevolent gentleman of the church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas.”
“Here!” said she, “this is for that old fellow who goes to mass. By the way, this is his hour. I’ll go and carry it to him. Perhaps he will give us something to breakfast on.”
Then she began to laugh again, and added:—
“Do you know what it will mean if we get a breakfast today? It will mean that we shall have had our breakfast of the day before yesterday, our breakfast of yesterday, our dinner of to-day, and all that at once, and this morning. Come! Parbleu! if you are not satisfied, dogs, burst!”
This reminded Marius of the wretched girl’s errand to himself. He fumbled in his waistcoat pocket, and found nothing there.
The young girl went on, and seemed to have no consciousness of Marius’ presence.
“I often go off in the evening. Sometimes I don’t come home again. Last winter, before we came here, we lived under the arches of the bridges. We huddled together to keep from freezing. My little sister cried. How melancholy the water is! When I thought of drowning myself, I said to myself: ‘No, it’s too cold.’ I go out alone, whenever I choose, I sometimes sleep in the ditches. Do you know, at night, when I walk along the boulevard, I see the trees like forks, I see houses, all black and as big as Notre Dame, I fancy that the white walls are the river, I say to myself: ‘Why, there’s water there!’ The stars are like the lamps in illuminations, one would say that they smoked and that the wind blew them out, I am bewildered, as though horses were breathing in my ears; although it is night, I hear hand-organs and spinning-machines, and I don’t know what all. I think people are flinging stones at me, I flee without knowing whither, everything whirls and whirls. You feel very queer when you have had no food.”
And then she stared at him with a bewildered air.
By dint of searching and ransacking his pockets, Marius had finally collected five francs sixteen sous. This was all he owned in the world for the moment. “At all events,” he thought, “there is my dinner for to-day, and to-morrow we will see.” He kept the sixteen sous, and handed the five francs to the young girl.
She seized the coin.
“Good!” said she, “the sun is shining!”
And, as though the sun had possessed the property of melting the avalanches of slang in her brain, she went on:—
“Five francs! the shiner! a monarch! in this hole! Ain’t this fine! You’re a jolly thief! I’m your humble servant! Bravo for the good fellows! Two days’ wine! and meat! and stew! we’ll have a royal feast! and a good fill!”
She pulled her chemise up on her shoulders, made a low bow to Marius, then a familiar sign with her hand, and went towards the door, saying:—
“Good morning, sir. It’s all right. I’ll go and find my old man.”
As she passed, she caught sight of a dry crust of bread on the commode, which was moulding there amid the dust; she flung herself upon it and bit into it, muttering:—
“That’s good! it’s hard! it breaks my teeth!”
Then she departed.
Marius had lived for five years in poverty, in destitution, even in distress, but he now perceived that he had not known real misery. True misery he had but just had a view of. It was its spectre which had just passed before his eyes. In fact, he who has only beheld the misery of man has seen nothing; the misery of woman is what he must see; he who has seen only the misery of woman has seen nothing; he must see the misery of the child.
When a man has reached his last extremity, he has reached his last resources at the same time. Woe to the defenceless beings who surround him! Work, wages, bread, fire, courage, good will, all fail him simultaneously. The light of day seems extinguished without, the moral light within; in these shadows man encounters the feebleness of the woman and the child, and bends them violently to ignominy.
Then all horrors become possible. Despair is surrounded with fragile partitions which all open on either vice or crime.
Health, youth, honor, all the shy delicacies of the young body, the heart, virginity, modesty, that epidermis of the soul, are manipulated in sinister wise by that fumbling which seeks resources, which encounters opprobrium, and which accommodates itself to it. Fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, men, women, daughters, adhere and become incorporated, almost like a mineral formation, in that dusky promiscuousness of sexes, relationships, ages, infamies, and innocences. They crouch, back to back, in a sort of hut of fate. They exchange woe-begone glances. Oh, the unfortunate wretches! How pale they are! How cold they are! It seems as though they dwelt in a planet much further from the sun than ours.
This young girl was to Marius a sort of messenger from the realm of sad shadows. She revealed to him a hideous side of the night.
Marius almost reproached himself for the preoccupations of reverie and passion which had prevented his bestowing a glance on his neighbors up to that day. The payment of their rent had been a mechanical movement, which any one would have yielded to; but he, Marius, should have done better than that. What! only a wall separated him from those abandoned beings who lived gropingly in the dark outside the pale of the rest of the world, he was elbow to elbow with them, he was, in some sort, the last link of the human race which they touched, he heard them live, or rather, rattle in the death agony beside him, and he paid no heed to them! Every day, every instant, he heard them walking on the other side of the wall, he heard them go, and come, and speak, and he did not even lend an ear! And groans lay in those words, and he did not even listen to them, his thoughts were elsewhere, given up to dreams, to impossible radiances, to loves in the air, to follies; and all the while, human creatures, his brothers in Jesus Christ, his brothers in the people, were agonizing in vain beside him! He even formed a part of their misfortune, and he aggravated it. For if they had had another neighbor who was less chimerical and more attentive, any ordinary and charitable man, evidently their indigence would have been noticed, their signals of distress would have been perceived, and they would have been taken hold of and rescued! They appeared very corrupt and very depraved, no doubt, very vile, very odious even; but those who fall without becoming degraded are rare; besides, there is a point where the unfortunate and the infamous unite and are confounded in a single word, a fatal word, the miserable; whose fault is this? And then should not the charity be all the more profound, in proportion as the fall is great?
While reading himself this moral lesson, for there were occasions on which Marius, like all truly honest hearts, was his own pedagogue and scolded himself more than he deserved, he stared at the wall which separated him from the Jondrettes, as though he were able to make his gaze, full of pity, penetrate that partition and warm these wretched people. The wall was a thin layer of plaster upheld by lathes and beams, and, as the reader had just learned, it allowed the sound of voices and words to be clearly distinguished. Only a man as dreamy as Marius could have failed to perceive this long before. There was no paper pasted on the wall, either on the side of the Jondrettes or on that of Marius; the coarse construction was visible in its nakedness. Marius examined the partition, almost unconsciously; sometimes reverie examines, observes, and scrutinizes as thought would. All at once he sprang up; he had just perceived, near the top, close to the ceiling, a triangular hole, which resulted from the space between three lathes. The plaster which should have filled this cavity was missing, and by mounting on the commode, a view could be had through this aperture into the Jondrettes’ attic. Commiseration has, and should have, its curiosity. This aperture formed a sort of peep-hole. It is permissible to gaze at misfortune like a traitor in order to succor it.
“Let us get some little idea of what these people are like,” thought Marius, “and in what condition they are.”
He climbed upon the commode, put his eye to the crevice, and looked.
Cities, like forests, have their caverns in which all the most wicked and formidable creatures which they contain conceal themselves. Only, in cities, that which thus conceals itself is ferocious, unclean, and petty, that is to say, ugly; in forests, that which conceals itself is ferocious, savage, and grand, that is to say, beautiful. Taking one lair with another, the beast’s is preferable to the man’s. Caverns are better than hovels.
What Marius now beheld was a hovel.
Marius was poor, and his chamber was poverty-stricken, but as his poverty was noble, his garret was neat. The den upon which his eye now rested was abject, dirty, fetid, pestiferous, mean, sordid. The only furniture consisted of a straw chair, an infirm table, some old bits of crockery, and in two of the corners, two indescribable pallets; all the light was furnished by a dormer window of four panes, draped with spiders’ webs. Through this aperture there penetrated just enough light to make the face of a man appear like the face of a phantom. The walls had a leprous aspect, and were covered with seams and scars, like a visage disfigured by some horrible malady; a repulsive moisture exuded from them. Obscene sketches roughly sketched with charcoal could be distinguished upon them.
The chamber which Marius occupied had a dilapidated brick pavement; this one was neither tiled nor planked; its inhabitants stepped directly on the antique plaster of the hovel, which had grown black under the long-continued pressure of feet. Upon this uneven floor, where the dirt seemed to be fairly incrusted, and which possessed but one virginity, that of the broom, were capriciously grouped constellations of old shoes, socks, and repulsive rags; however, this room had a fireplace, so it was let for forty francs a year. There was every sort of thing in that fireplace, a brazier, a pot, broken boards, rags suspended from nails, a bird-cage, ashes, and even a little fire. Two brands were smouldering there in a melancholy way.
One thing which added still more to the horrors of this garret was, that it was large. It had projections and angles and black holes, the lower sides of roofs, bays, and promontories. Hence horrible, unfathomable nooks where it seemed as though spiders as big as one’s fist, wood-lice as large as one’s foot, and perhaps even—who knows?—some monstrous human beings, must be hiding.
One of the pallets was near the door, the other near the window. One end of each touched the fireplace and faced Marius. In a corner near the aperture through which Marius was gazing, a colored engraving in a black frame was suspended to a nail on the wall, and at its bottom, in large letters, was the inscription: THE DREAM. This represented a sleeping woman, and a child, also asleep, the child on the woman’s lap, an eagle in a cloud, with a crown in his beak, and the woman thrusting the crown away from the child’s head, without awaking the latter; in the background, Napoleon in a glory, leaning on a very blue column with a yellow capital ornamented with this inscription:
Beneath this frame, a sort of wooden panel, which was no longer than it was broad, stood on the ground and rested in a sloping attitude against the wall. It had the appearance of a picture with its face turned to the wall, of a frame probably showing a daub on the other side, of some pier-glass detached from a wall and lying forgotten there while waiting to be rehung.
Near the table, upon which Marius descried a pen, ink, and paper, sat a man about sixty years of age, small, thin, livid, haggard, with a cunning, cruel, and uneasy air; a hideous scoundrel.
If Lavater had studied this visage, he would have found the vulture mingled with the attorney there, the bird of prey and the pettifogger rendering each other mutually hideous and complementing each other; the pettifogger making the bird of prey ignoble, the bird of prey making the pettifogger horrible.
This man had a long gray beard. He was clad in a woman’s chemise, which allowed his hairy breast and his bare arms, bristling with gray hair, to be seen. Beneath this chemise, muddy trousers and boots through which his toes projected were visible.
He had a pipe in his mouth and was smoking. There was no bread in the hovel, but there was still tobacco.
He was writing probably some more letters like those which Marius had read.
On the corner of the table lay an ancient, dilapidated, reddish volume, and the size, which was the antique 12mo of reading-rooms, betrayed a romance. On the cover sprawled the following title, printed in large capitals: GOD; THE KING; HONOR AND THE LADIES; BY DUCRAY DUMINIL, 1814.
As the man wrote, he talked aloud, and Marius heard his words:—
“The idea that there is no equality, even when you are dead! Just look at Père-Lachaise! The great, those who are rich, are up above, in the acacia alley, which is paved. They can reach it in a carriage. The little people, the poor, the unhappy, well, what of them? they are put down below, where the mud is up to your knees, in the damp places. They are put there so that they will decay the sooner! You cannot go to see them without sinking into the earth.”
He paused, smote the table with his fist, and added, as he ground his teeth:—
“Oh! I could eat the whole world!”
A big woman, who might be forty years of age, or a hundred, was crouching near the fireplace on her bare heels.
She, too, was clad only in a chemise and a knitted petticoat patched with bits of old cloth. A coarse linen apron concealed the half of her petticoat. Although this woman was doubled up and bent together, it could be seen that she was of very lofty stature. She was a sort of giant, beside her husband. She had hideous hair, of a reddish blond which was turning gray, and which she thrust back from time to time, with her enormous shining hands, with their flat nails.
Beside her, on the floor, wide open, lay a book of the same form as the other, and probably a volume of the same romance.
On one of the pallets, Marius caught a glimpse of a sort of tall pale young girl, who sat there half naked and with pendant feet, and who did not seem to be listening or seeing or living.
No doubt the younger sister of the one who had come to his room.
She seemed to be eleven or twelve years of age. On closer scrutiny it was evident that she really was fourteen. She was the child who had said, on the boulevard the evening before: “I bolted, bolted, bolted!”
She was of that puny sort which remains backward for a long time, then suddenly starts up rapidly. It is indigence which produces these melancholy human plants. These creatures have neither childhood nor youth. At fifteen years of age they appear to be twelve, at sixteen they seem twenty. To-day a little girl, to-morrow a woman. One might say that they stride through life, in order to get through with it the more speedily.
At this moment, this being had the air of a child.
Moreover, no trace of work was revealed in that dwelling; no handicraft, no spinning-wheel, not a tool. In one corner lay some ironmongery of dubious aspect. It was the dull listlessness which follows despair and precedes the death agony.
Marius gazed for a while at this gloomy interior, more terrifying than the interior of a tomb, for the human soul could be felt fluttering there, and life was palpitating there. The garret, the cellar, the lowly ditch where certain indigent wretches crawl at the very bottom of the social edifice, is not exactly the sepulchre, but only its antechamber; but, as the wealthy display their greatest magnificence at the entrance of their palaces, it seems that death, which stands directly side by side with them, places its greatest miseries in that vestibule.
The man held his peace, the woman spoke no word, the young girl did not even seem to breathe. The scratching of the pen on the paper was audible.
The man grumbled, without pausing in his writing. “Canaille! canaille! everybody is canaille!”
This variation to Solomon’s exclamation elicited a sigh from the woman.
“Calm yourself, my little friend,” she said. “Don’t hurt yourself, my dear. You are too good to write to all those people, husband.”
Bodies press close to each other in misery, as in cold, but hearts draw apart. This woman must have loved this man, to all appearance, judging from the amount of love within her; but probably, in the daily and reciprocal reproaches of the horrible distress which weighed on the whole group, this had become extinct. There no longer existed in her anything more than the ashes of affection for her husband. Nevertheless, caressing appellations had survived, as is often the case. She called him: My dear, my little friend, my good man, etc., with her mouth while her heart was silent.
The man resumed his writing.
Marius, with a load upon his breast, was on the point of descending from the species of observatory which he had improvised, when a sound attracted his attention and caused him to remain at his post.
The door of the attic had just burst open abruptly. The eldest girl made her appearance on the threshold. On her feet, she had large, coarse, men’s shoes, bespattered with mud, which had splashed even to her red ankles, and she was wrapped in an old mantle which hung in tatters. Marius had not seen it on her an hour previously, but she had probably deposited it at his door, in order that she might inspire the more pity, and had picked it up again on emerging. She entered, pushed the door to behind her, paused to take breath, for she was completely breathless, then exclaimed with an expression of triumph and joy:—
“He is coming!”
The father turned his eyes towards her, the woman turned her head, the little sister did not stir.
“Who?” demanded her father.
“From the church of Saint-Jacques?”
“That old fellow?”
“And he is coming?”
“He is following me.”
“You are sure?”
“I am sure.”
“There, truly, he is coming?”
“He is coming in a fiacre.”
“In a fiacre. He is Rothschild.”
The father rose.
“How are you sure? If he is coming in a fiacre, how is it that you arrive before him? You gave him our address at least? Did you tell him that it was the last door at the end of the corridor, on the right? If he only does not make a mistake! So you found him at the church? Did he read my letter? What did he say to you?”
“Ta, ta, ta,” said the girl, “how you do gallop on, my good man! See here: I entered the church, he was in his usual place, I made him a reverence, and I handed him the letter; he read it and said to me: ‘Where do you live, my child?’ I said: ‘Monsieur, I will show you.’ He said to me: ‘No, give me your address, my daughter has some purchases to make, I will take a carriage and reach your house at the same time that you do.’ I gave him the address. When I mentioned the house, he seemed surprised and hesitated for an instant, then he said: ‘Never mind, I will come.’ When the mass was finished, I watched him leave the church with his daughter, and I saw them enter a carriage. I certainly did tell him the last door in the corridor, on the right.”
“And what makes you think that he will come?”
“I have just seen the fiacre turn into the Rue Petit-Banquier. That is what made me run so.”
“How do you know that it was the same fiacre?”
“Because I took notice of the number, so there!”
“What was the number?”
“Good, you are a clever girl.”
The girl stared boldly at her father, and showing the shoes which she had on her feet:—
“A clever girl, possibly; but I tell you I won’t put these shoes on again, and that I won’t, for the sake of my health, in the first place, and for the sake of cleanliness, in the next. I don’t know anything more irritating than shoes that squelch, and go ghi, ghi, ghi, the whole time. I prefer to go barefoot.”
“You are right,” said her father, in a sweet tone which contrasted with the young girl’s rudeness, “but then, you will not be allowed to enter churches, for poor people must have shoes to do that. One cannot go barefoot to the good God,” he added bitterly.
Then, returning to the subject which absorbed him:—
“So you are sure that he will come?”
“He is following on my heels,” said she.
The man started up. A sort of illumination appeared on his countenance.
“Wife!” he exclaimed, “you hear. Here is the philanthropist. Extinguish the fire.”
The stupefied mother did not stir.
The father, with the agility of an acrobat, seized a broken-nosed jug which stood on the chimney, and flung the water on the brands.
Then, addressing his eldest daughter:—
“Here you! Pull the straw off that chair!”
His daughter did not understand.
He seized the chair, and with one kick he rendered it seatless. His leg passed through it.
As he withdrew his leg, he asked his daughter:—
“Is it cold?”
“Very cold. It is snowing.”
The father turned towards the younger girl who sat on the bed near the window, and shouted to her in a thundering voice:—
“Quick! get off that bed, you lazy thing! will you never do anything? Break a pane of glass!”
The little girl jumped off the bed with a shiver.
“Break a pane!” he repeated.
The child stood still in bewilderment.
“Do you hear me?” repeated her father, “I tell you to break a pane!”
The child, with a sort of terrified obedience, rose on tiptoe, and struck a pane with her fist. The glass broke and fell with a loud clatter.
“Good,” said the father.
He was grave and abrupt. His glance swept rapidly over all the crannies of the garret. One would have said that he was a general making the final preparation at the moment when the battle is on the point of beginning.
The mother, who had not said a word so far, now rose and demanded in a dull, slow, languid voice, whence her words seemed to emerge in a congealed state:—
“What do you mean to do, my dear?”
“Get into bed,” replied the man.
His intonation admitted of no deliberation. The mother obeyed, and threw herself heavily on one of the pallets.
In the meantime, a sob became audible in one corner.
“What’s that?” cried the father.
The younger daughter exhibited her bleeding fist, without quitting the corner in which she was cowering. She had wounded herself while breaking the window; she went off, near her mother’s pallet and wept silently.
It was now the mother’s turn to start up and exclaim:—
“Just see there! What follies you commit! She has cut herself breaking that pane for you!”
“So much the better!” said the man. “I foresaw that.”
“What? So much the better?” retorted his wife.
“Peace!” replied the father, “I suppress the liberty of the press.”
Then tearing the woman’s chemise which he was wearing, he made a strip of cloth with which he hastily swathed the little girl’s bleeding wrist.
That done, his eye fell with a satisfied expression on his torn chemise.
“And the chemise too,” said he, “this has a good appearance.”
An icy breeze whistled through the window and entered the room. The outer mist penetrated thither and diffused itself like a whitish sheet of wadding vaguely spread by invisible fingers. Through the broken pane the snow could be seen falling. The snow promised by the Candlemas sun of the preceding day had actually come.
The father cast a glance about him as though to make sure that he had forgotten nothing. He seized an old shovel and spread ashes over the wet brands in such a manner as to entirely conceal them.
Then drawing himself up and leaning against the chimney-piece:—
“Now,” said he, “we can receive the philanthropist.”
The big girl approached and laid her hand in her father’s.
“Feel how cold I am,” said she.
“Bah!” replied the father, “I am much colder than that.”
The mother exclaimed impetuously:—
“You always have something better than any one else, so you do! even bad things.”
“Down with you!” said the man.
The mother, being eyed after a certain fashion, held her tongue.
Silence reigned for a moment in the hovel. The elder girl was removing the mud from the bottom of her mantle, with a careless air; her younger sister continued to sob; the mother had taken the latter’s head between her hands, and was covering it with kisses, whispering to her the while:—
“My treasure, I entreat you, it is nothing of consequence, don’t cry, you will anger your father.”
“No!” exclaimed the father, “quite the contrary! sob! sob! that’s right.”
Then turning to the elder:—
“There now! He is not coming! What if he were not to come! I shall have extinguished my fire, wrecked my chair, torn my shirt, and broken my pane all for nothing.”
“And wounded the child!” murmured the mother.
“Do you know,” went on the father, “that it’s beastly cold in this devil’s garret! What if that man should not come! Oh! See there, you! He makes us wait! He says to himself: ‘Well! they will wait for me! That’s what they’re there for.’ Oh! how I hate them, and with what joy, jubilation, enthusiasm, and satisfaction I could strangle all those rich folks! all those rich folks! These men who pretend to be charitable, who put on airs, who go to mass, who make presents to the priesthood, preachy, preachy, in their skullcaps, and who think themselves above us, and who come for the purpose of humiliating us, and to bring us ‘clothes,’ as they say! old duds that are not worth four sous! And bread! That’s not what I want, pack of rascals that they are, it’s money! Ah! money! Never! Because they say that we would go off and drink it up, and that we are drunkards and idlers! And they! What are they, then, and what have they been in their time! Thieves! They never could have become rich otherwise! Oh! Society ought to be grasped by the four corners of the cloth and tossed into the air, all of it! It would all be smashed, very likely, but at least, no one would have anything, and there would be that much gained! But what is that blockhead of a benevolent gentleman doing? Will he come? Perhaps the animal has forgotten the address! I’ll bet that that old beast—”
At that moment there came a light tap at the door, the man rushed to it and opened it, exclaiming, amid profound bows and smiles of adoration:—
“Enter, sir! Deign to enter, most respected benefactor, and your charming young lady, also.”
A man of ripe age and a young girl made their appearance on the threshold of the attic.
Marius had not quitted his post. His feelings for the moment surpassed the powers of the human tongue.
It was She!
Whoever has loved knows all the radiant meanings contained in those three letters of that word: She.
It was certainly she. Marius could hardly distinguish her through the luminous vapor which had suddenly spread before his eyes. It was that sweet, absent being, that star which had beamed upon him for six months; it was those eyes, that brow, that mouth, that lovely vanished face which had created night by its departure. The vision had been eclipsed, now it reappeared.
It reappeared in that gloom, in that garret, in that misshapen attic, in all that horror.
Marius shuddered in dismay. What! It was she! The palpitations of his heart troubled his sight. He felt that he was on the brink of bursting into tears! What! He beheld her again at last, after having sought her so long! It seemed to him that he had lost his soul, and that he had just found it again.
She was the same as ever, only a little pale; her delicate face was framed in a bonnet of violet velvet, her figure was concealed beneath a pelisse of black satin. Beneath her long dress, a glimpse could be caught of her tiny foot shod in a silken boot.
She was still accompanied by M. Leblanc.
She had taken a few steps into the room, and had deposited a tolerably bulky parcel on the table.
The eldest Jondrette girl had retired behind the door, and was staring with sombre eyes at that velvet bonnet, that silk mantle, and that charming, happy face.
The hovel was so dark, that people coming from without felt on entering it the effect produced on entering a cellar. The two newcomers advanced, therefore, with a certain hesitation, being hardly able to distinguish the vague forms surrounding them, while they could be clearly seen and scrutinized by the eyes of the inhabitants of the garret, who were accustomed to this twilight.
M. Leblanc approached, with his sad but kindly look, and said to Jondrette the father:—
“Monsieur, in this package you will find some new clothes and some woollen stockings and blankets.”
“Our angelic benefactor overwhelms us,” said Jondrette, bowing to the very earth.
Then, bending down to the ear of his eldest daughter, while the two visitors were engaged in examining this lamentable interior, he added in a low and rapid voice:—
“Hey? What did I say? Duds! No money! They are all alike! By the way, how was the letter to that old blockhead signed?”
“Fabantou,” replied the girl.
“The dramatic artist, good!”
It was lucky for Jondrette, that this had occurred to him, for at the very moment, M. Leblanc turned to him, and said to him with the air of a person who is seeking to recall a name:—
“I see that you are greatly to be pitied, Monsieur—”
“Fabantou,” replied Jondrette quickly.
“Monsieur Fabantou, yes, that is it. I remember.”
“Dramatic artist, sir, and one who has had some success.”
Here Jondrette evidently judged the moment propitious for capturing the “philanthropist.” He exclaimed with an accent which smacked at the same time of the vainglory of the mountebank at fairs, and the humility of the mendicant on the highway:—
“A pupil of Talma! Sir! I am a pupil of Talma! Fortune formerly smiled on me—Alas! Now it is misfortune’s turn. You see, my benefactor, no bread, no fire. My poor babes have no fire! My only chair has no seat! A broken pane! And in such weather! My spouse in bed! Ill!”
“Poor woman!” said M. Leblanc.
“My child wounded!” added Jondrette.
The child, diverted by the arrival of the strangers, had fallen to contemplating “the young lady,” and had ceased to sob.
“Cry! bawl!” said Jondrette to her in a low voice.
At the same time he pinched her sore hand. All this was done with the talent of a juggler.
The little girl gave vent to loud shrieks.
The adorable young girl, whom Marius, in his heart, called “his Ursule,” approached her hastily.
“Poor, dear child!” said she.
“You see, my beautiful young lady,” pursued Jondrette “her bleeding wrist! It came through an accident while working at a machine to earn six sous a day. It may be necessary to cut off her arm.”
“Really?” said the old gentleman, in alarm.
The little girl, taking this seriously, fell to sobbing more violently than ever.
“Alas! yes, my benefactor!” replied the father.
For several minutes, Jondrette had been scrutinizing “the benefactor” in a singular fashion. As he spoke, he seemed to be examining the other attentively, as though seeking to summon up his recollections. All at once, profiting by a moment when the newcomers were questioning the child with interest as to her injured hand, he passed near his wife, who lay in her bed with a stupid and dejected air, and said to her in a rapid but very low tone:—
“Take a look at that man!”
Then, turning to M. Leblanc, and continuing his lamentations:—
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