?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Introducing Eponine

Kabanata IV: Isang Rosas Na Nagdurusa

May isang batang babae na nakatayo sa sa kalahating-bukas na pinto. Ang bintana nitong garret, kung saan nakapasok ang ilaw, ay sa kabila mula sa pintuan, at nagbigay liwanag ng mahina sa nasabing tao. Siya ay isang sakitin, payat, at buto-butong nilalang, halos hubad siya sa lamig na iyon maliban sa kanyang kamisa at palda. Ang kanyang sinturon ay isang sinulid, ang kanyang buhok ay tinali lamang ng isang sinulid, ang kanyang matulis na balikat ay lumilitaw sa kanyang kamisa, isang sakitin at malumnay na pagkaputla; maitim mga buto sa balikat, pula mga kamay, bibig na kalahating bukas at puno ng karumihan, kulang sa ngipin, walang ilaw pero matapang at magaspang mga mata, mayroon siyang hugis ng isang batang babae na nakaligtaan ng pagiging dalaga, at ang paningin ng isang maruming matandang ale; limampung taon na hinalo sa labin-lima, isa sa mga tao na mahina pero nakakatakot, at nagiging dahilan sa mga nangangatog kung hindi sa umiiyak.

Tumayo si Marius at nakatulala sa taong ito, na parang isang anino na tumatawaid sa panaginip.

Ang pinakamalaking pighati dito ay hindi naisiilang nitong bata na ito para maging ubod ng pangit. Sa kanyang kabataan, maari pa nga siyang maganda. Ang kadakilaan ng kanyang edad ay lumalaban pa rin sa kahabag-habag, maagang pagsira dulot ng kalasawaan at kahirapan. Ang nanatiling kagandahan ay namamatay sa mukha ng labin-anim na anyos, parang ang maputlang sinag ng araw na mabilis na tinatago sa mga makulimlim na ulap pag bukang-liwayway sa tag-lamig.

Parang kilala ni Marius ang kanyang mukha. Sa tingin niya naalala niya na nakita niya sa isang lugar.

“Anong gusto mo, Binibini?” tanong niya.

Sumagot ang babae sa boses na parang isang nalasing na preso:--

“May sulat ako para sa iyo, Ginoong Marius.”

Tinawag niya si Marius gamit ng kanyang pangalan; hindi siya nagduda na siya ang hinahanap, pero sino itong babae? Paano niya alam ang pangalan niya?

Hindi niya hinintay ni Marius na sabihin na tumuloy para pumasok sa kwarto. Pumasok siya na walang takot, nakatulala na may panatag na nakakadugo sa puso sa buong kwarto at sa magulong kama. Yapak ang kanyang mga paa. Makikita sa mga butas ng kanyang palda ang kanyang mga mahabang binti at payat na tuhod. Siya ay nangangatog.

May hawak siyang isang liham, at ibinigay niya ito kay Marius.

Nang binuksan ni Marius ang liham, nakita niya na ang malaking parisukat na nagsara nito ay basa pa. Hindi galing sa malayo ang mensahe. Nabasa niya:--

“Ang aking mabait na kapitbahay na binata! Nalaman ko tungkol sa inyong kabutihan para sa akin, na ikaw ang sumagot sa aking upa noong nakaraang anim na buwan. Biniyayaan kita, binata. Sasabihin ng panganay kong anak na babae na dalawang araw na kami walang tinapay, apat kami na tao, at maysakit pa ang aking asawa. Kung hindi ako nakakmli sa aking pananaw, iniisip ko na ang inyong mapagbigay na puso ay tutunaw sa inilahad ko, at magugustuhan mo na tulungan mo ako sa pagbgay ng isang napakaliit na bagay.

Ako na may marangal na pagunawa na dapat iukol sa mga tumutulong sa sangkatauhan,--Jondrette.

P.S. Ang aking panganay na anak ay maghihintay sa inyong utos, mahal na Ginoong Marius. “

Nitong liham na nakarating sa gitna ng kataka-takang gawain ni Marius simula sa nakaraang gabi, ay parang isang kandila sa isang cellar. Ang lahat ay may liwanag na.

Ang sulat nito ay nanggaling sa parehong lugar ng nakaraang apart. Pareho ang kamay, ang pagsulat, pagpili ng salita, papel, at amoy ng tabako.

May limang mensahe, limang kasaysayan, limang pirma, at isang nagpipirma. Ang Kastilang Kapitan Don Alvares, ang malungkot na maybahay Ginang Balizard, ang makatang Genflot, ang matandang komedyante Fabantou, lahat silang apat may pangalan na Jondrette, kung Jondrette talaga ang pangalan ni Jondrette.

Matagal na nakatira si Marius sa bahay na iyon, at wala masyadong siya, gaya ng nasabi nating, pagkakataon na pati masulyap ang kanyang mga mangmang na kapitbahay. Nasa ibang dako ang kanyang isip, at kung saan ang isip, nariyan rin ang mata. Sapilitan niya nadaan ang mga Jondrette sa daan o sa hagdanan, pero sa kanya sila ay mga hugis lamang, hindi niya pinapansin, sa nakaraang gabi, nabangga niya ang mga anak ni Jondrette sa boulevard at di niya namukhaan, dahil halata na sila, at sa dulo ng labis na paghihirap na ang nakatayo sa kanyang silid ay nag-gising sa kanya sa halip ng pagkamuhi at pagkaawa, isang pagalala na nagkita sila sa nakaraan.

Malinaw na niya nakita ang lahat. Naintindihan niya na ang kapitbahay niya si Jondrette, sa kanyang kahirapan ay umaasa sa pagiging mapagbigay ng mga mabubuting tao, na naghahanap siya ng mga bahay, at sumusulat siya gamit ng pakunwaring pangalan sa mga tao na sa tingin niya may kaya at maawain, mga liham na dinadala ng kanyang mga anak kahit mapanganib ito. Nakarating ang ama nila sa ganitong patalim, nilalagay niya sa panganib ang kanyang anak, nagsusugal siya sa tadhana at sila ang taya. Naintindihan ni Marius na maari, dahil sa kanilang pagtakbo sa nakaraang gabi, sa walang hinga nilang itsura, sa kanilang takot at mga salitang balbal na narinig niya, na ang kanilang trabaho ay isang karumal-dumal na bagay, at ang kalabasan nitong lahat, sa gitna ng makataong lipunan, ayon sa sinasabi, dalawang nagdurusang mga tao na hindi mga bata o dalaga, isang uri ng may bahid pero inosenteng mga halimaw na dulot ng pagdurusa.

Mga malungkot na nilalang, walang pangalan o kasarian o edad, para kanino wala nang kahulugan ang kabutihan o kasamaan, at sino, nang lumitaw na mula sa pagkabata, ay may wala na sa mundo, walang kalayaan, kabutihan, o  tungkulin. Mga kaluluwa na namulaklak kahapon at nanlumo ngayong araw, parang mga bulaklak na nahulog sa mga kalye na nadungisan ng lahat ng klaseng rumi habang naghihintay na mapisa ng isang gulong. Habang minamasdan siya ng nagtatakang at nasugatan na tingin ni Marius, nitong babae ito ay naglalakad kung saan saan sa silid na walang takot, parang isang multo. Siya ay nagsisipa-sipa, walang pansin sa kanyang kakulangan ng damit. Paminsan ang kanyang kamisa, na punit at walang tali, ay nahulog sa kanyang baywang. Ginalaw niya ang mga upuan, ginulo niya ang mga gamit sa lamesa, hinawak niya ang mga damit ni Marius, at nakialam kung saan saan para makita kung may mahanap pa sa mga sulok.

 “Hullo!” sabi niya, “mayroon kang salamin!”

At siya ay naglalabas ng mga himig ng mga dula, kumbaga siya ay mag-isa, mga kawiling-wiling mga taludtod na naging kahabag-habag dahil sa kanyang paos at malakwebang boses.

Ang hindi mailarawan na pagpigil, pagpagod, at kahihiyan ay makikita sa ilalalim nitong pagtigas. Kahiya-hiya ang kawalan.

Wala mas malungkot na panoorin siyang parang naglalaro sa isang kwarto, at kung sabihin, naglilipad na may kilos ng isang ibon na takot sa araw, o may bali na pakpak. Maramdaman ang isa na kung may pagkakataon ng pag-aruga at tadhana, ang masayahin at walang kaba na ugali nitong babae ay maari maituring kayaya-aya at mabait. Hindi sa lahat ng mga hayop na isang nilalang na isinilang na maging kalapati ay nagiging isang ibong nanginigsda. Nakikita lamang iyan sa mga tao.

Nagnilay-nilay muna si Marius at hinayaan niya muna ang bata.

Lumapit siya sa lamesa.

“Ah!” sabi niya, “Libro!”

May liwanag sa kanyang makinis na mata. Nagpatuloy siya at ang kanyang tinig ay may kasayahan na naramdaman niya sa pagyabang sa isang bagay, na hindi makaligtaan ng sinumang tao.

“Marunong ako magbasa! Oo!”:

Mabilis niyang kinuha ang isang libro na nakabukas sa lamesa, at nagbasa na may konting kaayusan:--

“Tinanggap ni Heneral Bauduin ang utos na lusubin ang chateau ng Hougomont na nakatayo sa gitna na kapatagan ng Waterloo, na may kasamang limang batalyon ng kanyang brigado.”

Siya ay huminto.

“Ah! Waterloo! Alam ko yon. Isang laban iyan noong nakaraan. Nandoon ang ama ko. Ang ama ko ay naglingkod sa hukbo. Kami ay mga mabuting Bonapartista sa aming mga bahay, kami yun! Ang Waterloo ay laban sa mga Ingles.”

Binaba niya nag libro, kumuha naman ng pen, at nagbulalas:--

“At marunong rin pala akong magsulat!”

Nilagay niya ang pen sa tinta at tumugon kay Marius:--

“Gusto mong makita? Tumingin ka, magsusulat ako ng salita para makita mo.”

At bago siya nakasagot, nagsulat siya sa isang pahina ng putting papel na nakalatag sa gitna ng lamesa: “Andito ang mga cognes.”

Hinagis niya pababa ang pen:--

“Walang mali sa pagbaybay. Pwede mong suriin. Kami ay may pinag-aralan, kami ng kapatid ko. Hindi kami parati nang ganito. Hindi kami ginawang---“

Dito siya huminto, nakatitig ang kanyang mapurol na mata kay Marius, at natawa, nagsasabi sa isang boses na dala ng lahat ng klaseng hinagpis, pinatahimik ng lahat ng klaseng kakulangan ng awa:--

“Alis!”

At nagsimula siya na kumanta ng masaya:--

Gutom ako, ama

Wala akong pagkain

Giniginaw ako, ina

Wala akong damit

Lolotte!

            Ngatog!

            Hiyaw

            Jacquot!

Hindi pa niya tapos ang mga linya nito nang nabubulalas niya:

“Pumpunta ka ba sa tanghalan, Ginoong Marius? Ako, oo. Mayroon akong batang kapatid na kaibigan ng mga artista, at binibigyan ako ng tiket paminsan. Pero ayoko sa mga bangko sa may gallery. Siksikan doon at mahirap gumalaw. May mga magaspang na tao doon, at iba mabaho pa!”

Tinignan niya ng maigi si Marius, at parang nagiisip, nagsabi:--

“Alam mo ba, Ginoong Marius, isa kang gwapong lalaki!”

Sa mismong sandali naisip nila nitong pareho, ang babae ay napangiti at si Marius ay namula. Lumapit ang babae sa kanya at nilagay ang kamay sa kanyang balikat. “Hindi mo ako pinapansin, pero kilala kita, Ginoong Marius. Natatagpo kita sa may hagdanan, at madalas rin kita nakikita sa isang tao na pangalan si Tata Mabeuf na nakatira sa lugar ng Austerlitz, paminsan pag namamasyal ako sa lugar na iyon. Bagay sa iyo na ganon kagulo ang inyong buhok.”

Sinubukan niyang gawin malambot ang kanyang boses, pero ito ay naging ubod ng lalim. Ilang bahagi ng kanyang mga salita ay nawala sa pagdaloy mula sa kanyang lalamunan patungo sa kanyang labi, parang sa isang piyano na kulang sa mga nota.

Magalang na umatras na si Marius.

“Binibini,” sabi niya niya na may malamig na kabigatan, “Mayroon akong ditong isang package na dapat sa yo, sa tingin ko. Hayaan mo na isauli ko ito sa iyo.”

Nilabas niya ang sobre na may apat na liham.

Pumalakpak ang babae at nagsigaw:--

“Kung saan-saan naming hinahanap yan!”

Masigla niyang inagawa ang package at binuksan ang sobre, habang nagsasabi:--

“Dieu de Dieu! Kung paano kami naghahanap kami ng kapatid ko! At ikaw ang nakahanap! Sa boulevard, malamang? Sigurado nasa boulevard! Kasi, hinayaan namin na mahulog habang kami tumatakbo. Yan bwiset na aking kapatid ang tanga. Nang nakauwi kami, hindi namin mahanap kahit saan. Kasi ayaw namin na mabugbog kasi wala naman yang silbi, wala yang lubos na silbi, sinabi na lang namin na dinala namin ang mga liham sa tamang tao, at sabi nila sa amin, “Nix.” Andito lang naman pala sila, yung kawawa mga liham! At paano mo nalaman na sa akin ito? Ah! Oo, ang pagsulat. Ikaw pala ang nadaplis namin nang dumadaan kagabi. Hindi kami makakita. Sabi ko sa kapatid ko, “Iyon ba ay isang ginoo?” Sabi ng kapatid ko sa akin, “Sa tingin ko, ginoo yun.”

Habang sinasabi niya ito, ibinuklat na niya ang hingil na nakasulat sa “Mabait na ginoo sa simbahan ng Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas.”

“Ito!” sabi niya. “Ito ay para sa matandang mama na nagsisimba. “Oo nga pala, ngayon ang kanyang oras. Pupunta ako para dalhin yung sulat sa kanya. Baka sakali bibigyan kami ng pang-almusal.”

Tumawa siya ulit at nagdagdag:--

“Alam mo kung anong ibig sabihin kung magaalmusal kami ngayon? Ibig sabihin na may almusal kami sa araw bago kahapon, ang almusal kahapon, ang tanghalian ngayong araw, at lahat sa isang pasada, ngayong umaga. Sige! Parbleu! Kung hindi kayo nasisiyahan mga aso, pumutok!”

Ito ay nagpalalala kay Marius tungkol sa bilin ng kawawang babae sa kanya. Nangapa siya sa bulsa ng kanyang vest, pero wala siyang nahanap doon.

Tumuloy ang babae na parang walang malay sa kinaroroonan ni Marius.

“Madalas umaalis ako pag gabi. Paminsan hindi ako umuuwi. Noong nakaraang tag-lamig, bago kami napunta rito, nakatira kami sa ilalim ng mga tulay. Nagsiksikan kami para hindi kami ginawin. Umiyak ang aking kapatid. Kay lungkot ng tubig! Nang naisip ko na lunurin na lang ang sarili ko, sinabi ko na lang sa sarili ko, “Hindi, masyadong malamig. Mag-isa ako lumalabas, kahit kailan kong gusto. Paminsan natutulog ako sa mga kanal. Alam mo ba, pag gabi, pag naglalakad ako sa kahabaan ng boulevard, nakikita ko ang mga puno na parang tinidor, nakikita ko ang mga bahay, itim at kasin-laki ng Notre Dame. Sa tingin ko na ang mga puting dingding ay ang ilog. Sinasabi ko sa sarili ko: “Ah, may tubig doon!” Ang mga bituin ay parang mga lampara na nakailaw, may magsasabi na sila’y umuusok at napatay ng hangin. Ako ay nalilito, parang may mga kabayo na humihinga sa aking mga tenga, lahit gabi, naririnig ko ang mga organ at mga makina na gumagawa ng hibla, at hindi ko alam kung ano pa. Sa tingin ko, hinahagisan ako ng bato ng mga tao, ako ay tumatakbo hindi alam kung saan, lahat ay umiikot nang umiikot. Nakakataka talaga pag hindi ka pa nakakakain.

At tinitigan niya ang binata na parang nalilito.

Sa pagkapa at paghakot sa kanyang mga bulsa, nakapagkolekta si Marius ng lima na franc at labin-anim na sou. Ito na ang lahat ng kanyang ari-arian sa sandali na ito. “Sa lahat ng mga mangyayari,” naisip niya, “May pananghalian ako ngayon, at bukas tignan na lang natin.” Binulsa niya muna ang labinanim na sou at inabot ang limang francs sa babae.

 

Inagaw niya ang barya.

 

“Mabuti!” sabi niya, “May sikat na ang araw!”

 

At parang ang araw ay nakapagtunaw hanggang sa umagos ang daloy ng balbal sa kanyang utak, siya ay nagpatuloy:--

 

“Limang francs! Makinang! Isang hari! Sa basurahan na ito! Ang galing naman! Isa kang masayang magnanakaw! Ako ang inyong mababang lingkod! Mabuhay ang mga mabubuting tao! Dalawang araw ng alak! Karne! At sabaw! Isang piyesta!  At mabubusog kami!”

 

Inakyat niya ang kanyang kamisa sa kanyang mga balikat, yumuko ng mababa kay Marius bago mag kumpas at pumunta sa may pintuan, nagsasabi:--

 

“Magandang araw, Ginoo. Wag ka na magalala. Hahanapin ko lang ang aking ama.”

 

Habang siya ay paalis, mayroon siyang nakita isang tuyong pirasong tinapay sa may lamesa, halos inaamag sa loob ng alikabok, tumalon siya dito at kinagat ang tinapay, nagsasabi:--

 

“Mabuti yon! Matigas! Masisira ang aking mga ngipin!”

 

At siya ay umalis. 

Chapter IV. A Rose in Misery




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she hummed scraps of vaudevilles, as though she had been alone, frolicsome refrains which her hoarse and guttural voice rendered 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 chateau of Hougomont which stands in the middle of the plain of Waterloo, with five battalions of his brigade."

She paused.

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

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

"And I know how to write, too!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marius had retreated gently.

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

And he held out the envelope containing the four letters.

She clapped her hands and exclaimed:--

"We have been looking everywhere for that!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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