Les Misérables by Victor Hugo,
Volume 4, Book Fouteenth, Chapter 7
Gavroche as a Profound Calculator of Distances
Marius kept his promise. He dropped a kiss on that livid brow, where the icy perspiration stood in beads.
This was no infidelity to Cosette; it was a gentle and pensive farewell to an unhappy soul.
It was not without a tremor that he had taken the letter which Eponine had given him. He had immediately felt that it was an event of weight. He was impatient to read it. The heart of man is so constituted that the unhappy child had hardly closed her eyes when Marius began to think of unfolding this paper.
He laid her gently on the ground, and went away. Something told him that he could not peruse that letter in the presence of that body.
He drew near to a candle in the tap-room. It was a small note, folded and sealed with a woman's elegant care. The address was in a woman's hand and ran: –
"To Monsieur, Monsieur Marius Pontmercy, at M. Courfeyrac's, Rue de la Verrerie, No. 16."
He broke the seal and read: –
"My dearest, alas! my father insists on our setting out immediately.
We shall be this evening in the Rue de l'Homme Arme, No. 7.
In a week we shall be in England.
Such was the innocence of their love that Marius was not even acquainted with Cosette's handwriting.
What had taken place may be related in a few words. Eponine had been the cause of everything. After the evening of the 3d of June she had cherished a double idea, to defeat the projects of her father and the ruffians on the house of the Rue Plumet, and to separate Marius and Cosette. She had exchanged rags with the first young scamp she came across who had thought it amusing to dress like a woman, while Eponine disguised herself like a man. It was she who had conveyed to Jean Valjean in the Champ de Mars the expressive warning: "Leave your house." Jean Valjean had, in fact, returned home, and had said to Cosette: "We set out this evening and we go to the Rue de l'Homme Arme with Toussaint. Next week, we shall be in London." Cosette, utterly overwhelmed by this unexpected blow, had hastily penned a couple of lines to Marius. But how was she to get the letter to the post? She never went out alone, and Toussaint, surprised at such a commission, would certainly show the letter to M. Fauchelevent. In this dilemma, Cosette had caught sight through the fence of Eponine in man's clothes, who now prowled incessantly around the garden. Cosette had called to "this young workman" and had handed him five francs and the letter, saying: "Carry this letter immediately to its address." Eponine had put the letter in her pocket. The next day, on the 5th of June, she went to Courfeyrac's quarters to inquire for Marius, not for the purpose of delivering the letter, but, – a thing which every jealous and loving soul will comprehend, – "to see." There she had waited for Marius, or at least for Courfeyrac, still for the purpose of seeing. When Courfeyrac had told her: "We are going to the barricades," an idea flashed through her mind, to fling herself into that death, as she would have done into any other, and to thrust Marius into it also. She had followed Courfeyrac, had made sure of the locality where the barricade was in process of construction; and, quite certain, since Marius had received no warning, and since she had intercepted the letter, that he would go at dusk to his trysting place for every evening, she had betaken herself to the Rue Plumet, had there awaited Marius, and had sent him, in the name of his friends, the appeal which would, she thought, lead him to the barricade. She reckoned on Marius' despair when he should fail to find Cosette; she was not mistaken. She had returned to the Rue de la Chanvrerie herself. What she did there the reader has just seen. She died with the tragic joy of jealous hearts who drag the beloved being into their own death, and who say: "No one shall have him!"
Marius covered Cosette's letter with kisses. So she loved him! For one moment the idea occurred to him that he ought not to die now. Then he said to himself: "She is going away. Her father is taking her to England, and my grandfather refuses his consent to the marriage. Nothing is changed in our fates." Dreamers like Marius are subject to supreme attacks of dejection, and desperate resolves are the result. The fatigue of living is insupportable; death is sooner over with. Then he reflected that he had still two duties to fulfil: to inform Cosette of his death and send her a final farewell, and to save from the impending catastrophe which was in preparation, that poor child, Eponine's brother and Thenardier's son.
He had a pocket-book about him; the same one which had contained the note-book in which he had inscribed so many thoughts of love for Cosette. He tore out a leaf and wrote on it a few lines in pencil: –
"Our marriage was impossible. I asked my grandfather, he refused; I have no fortune, neither hast thou. I hastened to thee, thou wert no longer there. Thou knowest the promise that I gave thee, I shall keep it. I die. I love thee. When thou readest this, my soul will be near thee, and thou wilt smile."
Having nothing wherewith to seal this letter, he contented himself with folding the paper in four, and added the address: –
"To Mademoiselle Cosette Fauchelevent, at M. Fauchelevent's, Rue de l'Homme Arme, No. 7."
Having folded the letter, he stood in thought for a moment, drew out his pocket-book again, opened it, and wrote, with the same pencil, these four lines on the first page: –
"My name is Marius Pontmercy. Carry my body to my grandfather, M. Gillenormand, Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, No. 6, in the Marais."
He put his pocketbook back in his pocket, then he called Gavroche.
The gamin, at the sound of Marius' voice, ran up to him with his merry and devoted air.
"Will you do something for me?"
"Anything," said Gavroche. "Good God! if it had not been for you, I should have been done for."
"Do you see this letter?"
"Take it. Leave the barricade instantly" (Gavroche began to scratch his ear uneasily) "and to-morrow morning, you will deliver it at its address to Mademoiselle Cosette, at M. Fauchelevent's, Rue de l'Homme Arme, No. 7."
The heroic child replied
"Well, but! in the meanwhile the barricade will be taken, and I shall not be there."
"The barricade will not be attacked until daybreak, according to all appearances, and will not be taken before to-morrow noon."
The fresh respite which the assailants were granting to the barricade had, in fact, been prolonged. It was one of those intermissions which frequently occur in nocturnal combats, which are always followed by an increase of rage.
"Well," said Gavroche, "what if I were to go and carry your letter to-morrow?"
"It will be too late. The barricade will probably be blockaded, all the streets will be guarded, and you will not be able to get out. Go at once."
Gavroche could think of no reply to this, and stood there in indecision, scratching his ear sadly.
All at once, he took the letter with one of those birdlike movements which were common with him.
"All right," said he.
And he started off at a run through Mondetour lane.
An idea had occurred to Gavroche which had brought him to a decision, but he had not mentioned it for fear that Marius might offer some objection to it.
This was the idea: –
"It is barely midnight, the Rue de l'Homme Arme is not far off; I will go and deliver the letter at once, and I shall get back in time."