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unto good. It is your soul that I have bought; I redeem it from black thoughts and the Spirit of Perdition, and I offer it to God.”
Like one fleeing from himself, Jean Valjean raced out of the town. He wandered over the fields without being aware that he was rambling on the same roads and streets as he had already come through. Thus he spent the morning, without having eaten and without feeling hunger, a prey to a swarm of novel sensations
He felt wrathful towards — he knew not what! He could not have told if he were touched or humbled. A strange weakening overwhelmed him at whiles, which he fought and opposed with the hardening of heart during those twenty years. This condition wearied him.
With testiness he saw the dreadful calmness crumble which the injustice of his misfortune had given him. He wondered what was going to replace it.
It would have less agitated him if things had not happened so, and if the police had flung him into prison.
Though the season was so far advanced, a few belated flowers bloomed in the hedgerows, and their odor as he crushed them reminded him of youthful days. These memories were almost unbearable from his not having recalled them since so long.
All day, inexpressible thoughts heaped themselves upon him.
As the sun was going down and making the least pebble cast a lengthening shadow, Jean sat behind a bush on a broad level, ruddy with sand and absolutely deserted. The Alps were the sole horizon. Not even the steeple of a village church appeared. He might be three leagues from Digne.
A few steps from him a path cut across the plain.
In the midst of his meditation, which not a little contributed to make such a tatterdemalion alarming for anybody meeting him, he heard a merry sound.
Turning his head, he saw a little Savoyard about twelve years old, singing as he skipped along, with a hurdy-gurdy by his side and a pet marmot on his back; one of those meek and lively boys who carol from land to land with their elbows out of their jackets.
While singing, the lad stopped now and then to juggle with coin which he had in hand, probably the whole of his fortune. Among the pieces was one for forty sous.
Without seeing Valjean, the urchin stopped by the bush and threw up the coins so that he caught them with dexterity on the back of his hand; but for once the larger coin escaped him and rolled in the thicket right up to the man, who put his foot
But the boy had watched it and saw what he had done.
It was a perfectly solitary spot. As far as eye could reach there was no one on the path or the plain. The only sound was the faint calls of birds of passage crossing the sky at an immense height. The child turned his back to the sun, which gilded, turned his curls to gold and empurpled the other's wild face with bloody glare.
“I want my coin, sir," said the youth with that childish confidence which is composed of ignorance and innocence.
“ Who are you ?" challenged Valjean.
My coin, sir," repeated the boy.
“My money - my silver piece - my silver!” screamed the lad.
Jean did not seem to hear. The boy took him by the collar and shook him, at the same time trying to move the heavy iron-studded brogue set on his treasure.
“I want my money – my forty-sous piece!”
The boy began to weep. Jean kept seated but he lifted his head with troubled eyes. He gazed on the Savoyard with astonishment, stretched out his hand for his cudgel and shouted in a terrible voice :
66 Who is there?”
“ I, sir — Little Gerrais,” replied the boy ; “give me back my money, if you please. Lift up your foot, sir! please!" Irritated into becoming almost menacing, though so small, he cried : “D'ye hear? take away your big hoof, will you ?”
“What, are you still here?” said Jean, rising abruptly to his full height but keeping his foot on the coin. be off!"
The frightened lad took a look at him and began to shake from head to foot, and, after some seconds' stupor, ran off with all his powers, without daring to turn his head or utter a cry. At a distance he was winded and was forced to stop, and
“ Will you
through his reverie, Valjean heard him sobbing. Soon the boy disappeared.
The sun went down.
The shades thickened around the lonely man; he had not had anything to eat that day and perhaps he had fever.
He kept the same erect attitude in which he was when the boy fled. His breath heaved his chest at long and irregular intervals. His glance, fixed ten or twelve paces off, seemed to study the shape of an old blue potsherd, fallen on the sward.
All of a sudden, he shivered, for he felt the night chill. He settled his cap on his head, mechanically folded his smock over and tried to button it, took a forward step and stooped to pick up his stick from the ground.
At this he perceived the coin shining in the pebbles where his tread had partly buried it. His commotion was as from an electric battery.
" What is that?” he hissed between his clenched teeth.
He receded three steps, and stopped without power to tear his glance from the spot which his foot had pressed shortly before, as though this object were an eye fixed on his.
When a few minutes were ended, he convulsively sprang on the coin, caught it up, and looked afar over the waste, scanning all points of the compass and quivering like a wild beast seeking a covert.
He saw nothing, for night was falling, and from the dim and bleak plain thick violet mists were mounting into the crepuscular glimmer.
“Ah!” he said, and walked rapidly in the direction where the Savoyard had disappeared. After thirty strides, he halted to look but he saw nothing.
“Little Gervais !” he shouted with all his lungs, “Little Gervais!”
He paused and waited; but nothing made answer.
The country was drear and deserted. He was surrounded by space. Nothing was round him but shadows in which his glance was lost, and stillness in which bis voice was wasted.
An icy breeze sprang up, and gave things a mocking liveliness. Shrubs shook their feeble limbs with incredible fury. They seemed to be threatening somebody whom they chased.
He set to walking and then to running, with stoppages to roar in the loneliness, in a voice which could not be more formidable and disconsolate: “Little Gervais!”
If the child had heard this, he certainly would have been frightened and taken good care not to show himself. But he was far away, no doubt.
All he met was a priest on horseback to whom he went up and said:
“ Did you see a boy passing, father? His name is Little Gervais."
“ I have seen nobody."
He took two five-franc pieces from his pouch and gave them to him.
“For your poor. It is one of those Savoyards, you know - a little chap of ten, with a marmot, I believe, and a hurdygurdy.”
“ I have not seen him!”
“Little Gervais ! are there any villages round here? Can't you tell me?"
“ According to what you say, friend, it is one of those foreign boys who just pass through without any one knowing them."
Valjean took out two more five-franc pieces which he forced upon the priest.
“For your poor,” he said wildly. “Father, have me arrested. I am a thief !”
Frightened, the priest drove in both spurs and fled.
Valjean continued to run in the direction he had previously taken, without meeting anybody. At last his legs gave way under him as if an unseen Power overweighted him with his bad conscience; he fell exhausted on a rock, with his hands clutching his hair and his face between his knees, gasping:
“I am a villain !”
His heart seemed to burst a dam and he wept, for the first time in twenty years. He wept for a long while, with more weakness than a woman, and in more fright than a child.
While weeping, an extraordinary day of a new life dawned more and more brightly, delighting and terrifying at the same time.
All returned to him, his past life, his first offence, his external brutifying, his inward hardening, his return to freedom gladdened by so many plans of revenge, what happened at the bishop's, his last deed – the petty theft from the child, a crime the more monstrous and dastardly as it came at the heels of the prelate's pardon all this clearly appeared in the light unseen before. Looking at his life it appeared horrible ; at his soul and it seemed dreadful.
Nevertheless, a sweet light gleamed on his life and soul. It was as though Satan stood in the ray from Paradise.
How many hours did he mourn? What did he do when weeping was done and whither did he go? None knew. It was only learnt that the carrier, who went between Grenoble and Digne, on arriving at the latter place about three in the morning, saw, as he crossed Bishop Street, a man in a praying attitude, kneeling on the paving stones, in the dark, before Bishop Myriel's door.
THE MAN AND THE CANNON.
(From "Ninety-Three.") ONE of the carronades of the battery, a twenty-four-pounder, had got loose.
This is perhaps the most formidable of ocean accidents. Nothing more terrible can happen to a vessel in open sea and under full sail.
A gun that breaks its moorings becomes suddenly some indescribable supernatural beast. It is a machine which transforms itself into a monster. This mass turns upon its wheels, has the rapid movements of a billiard-ball; rolls with the rolling, pitches with the pitching; goes, comes, pauses, seems to meditate; resumes its course, rushes along the ship from end to end like an arrow, circles about, springs aside, evades, rears, breaks, kills, exterminates. It is a battering-ram which assaults a wall at its own caprice. Moreover, the batteringram is metal, the wall wood. It is the entrance of matter into liberty. One might say that this eternal slave avenges itself. It seems as if the power of evil hidden in what we call inani. mate objects finds a vent and bursts suddenly out. It has an air of having lost patience, of seeking some fierce, obscure retribution; nothing more inexorable than this rage of the inanimate. The mad mass has the bounds of a panther, the weight of the elephant, the agility of the mouse, the obstinacy of the axe, the unexpectedness of the surge, the rapidity of lightning, the deafness of the tomb. It weighs ten thousand pounds, and it rebounds like a child's ball. Its flight is a wild whirl abruptly cut at right angles. What is to be done? How to end this ? A tempest ceases, a cyclone passes, a wind