THE USE MADE OF MARIUS' FIVE-FRANC PIECE
Marius decided that the moment had now arrived when he must resume
his post at his observatory. In a twinkling, and with the agility
of his age, he had reached the hole in the partition.
The interior of the Jondrette apartment presented a curious aspect,
and Marius found an explanation of the singular light which he
had noticed. A candle was burning in a candlestick covered
with verdigris, but that was not what really lighted the chamber.
The hovel was completely illuminated, as it were, by the reflection
from a rather large sheet-iron brazier standing in the fireplace,
and filled with burning charcoal, the brazier prepared by the Jondrette
woman that morning. The charcoal was glowing hot and the brazier was red;
a blue flame flickered over it, and helped him to make out the form
of the chisel purchased by Jondrette in the Rue Pierre-Lombard,
where it had been thrust into the brazier to heat. In one corner,
near the door, and as though prepared for some definite use,
two heaps were visible, which appeared to be, the one a heap of
old iron, the other a heap of ropes. All this would have caused
the mind of a person who knew nothing of what was in preparation,
to waver between a very sinister and a very simple idea. The lair
thus lighted up more resembled a forge than a mouth of hell,
but Jondrette, in this light, had rather the air of a demon than
of a smith.
The heat of the brazier was so great, that the candle on the table
was melting on the side next the chafing-dish, and was drooping over.
An old dark-lantern of copper, worthy of Diogenes turned Cartouche,
stood on the chimney-piece.
The brazier, placed in the fireplace itself, beside the nearly
extinct brands, sent its vapors up the chimney, and gave out no odor.
The moon, entering through the four panes of the window, cast its
whiteness into the crimson and flaming garret; and to the poetic
spirit of Marius, who was dreamy even in the moment of action,
it was like a thought of heaven mingled with the misshapen reveries
A breath of air which made its way in through the open pane,
helped to dissipate the smell of the charcoal and to conceal
the presence of the brazier.
The Jondrette lair was, if the reader recalls what we have said
of the Gorbeau building, admirably chosen to serve as the theatre
of a violent and sombre deed, and as the envelope for a crime.
It was the most retired chamber in the most isolated house on the
most deserted boulevard in Paris. If the system of ambush and traps
had not already existed, they would have been invented there.
The whole thickness of a house and a multitude of uninhabited
rooms separated this den from the boulevard, and the only window
that existed opened on waste lands enclosed with walls and palisades.
Jondrette had lighted his pipe, seated himself on the seatless chair,
and was engaged in smoking. His wife was talking to him in a low tone.
If Marius had been Courfeyrac, that is to say, one of those men who
laugh on every occasion in life, he would have burst with laughter
when his gaze fell on the Jondrette woman. She had on a black
bonnet with plumes not unlike the hats of the heralds-at-arms
at the coronation of Charles X., an immense tartan shawl over her
knitted petticoat, and the man's shoes which her daughter had
scorned in the morning. It was this toilette which had extracted
from Jondrette the exclamation: "Good! You have dressed up.
You have done well. You must inspire confidence!"
As for Jondrette, he had not taken off the new surtout, which was
too large for him, and which M. Leblanc had given him, and his
costume continued to present that contrast of coat and trousers
which constituted the ideal of a poet in Courfeyrac's eyes.
All at once, Jondrette lifted up his voice:--
"By the way! Now that I think of it. In this weather, he will come
in a carriage. Light the lantern, take it and go down stairs.
You will stand behind the lower door. The very moment that you hear
the carriage stop, you will open the door, instantly, he will come up,
you will light the staircase and the corridor, and when he enters here,
you will go down stairs again as speedily as possible, you will pay
the coachman, and dismiss the fiacre.
"And the money?" inquired the woman.
Jondrette fumbled in his trousers pocket and handed her five francs.
"What's this?" she exclaimed.
Jondrette replied with dignity:--
"That is the monarch which our neighbor gave us this morning."
And he added:--
"Do you know what? Two chairs will be needed here."
"To sit on."
Marius felt a cold chill pass through his limbs at hearing this
mild answer from Jondrette.
"Pardieu! I'll go and get one of our neighbor's."
And with a rapid movement, she opened the door of the den, and went
out into the corridor.
Marius absolutely had not the time to descend from the commode,
reach his bed, and conceal himself beneath it.
"Take the candle," cried Jondrette.
"No," said she, "it would embarrass me, I have the two chairs to carry.
There is moonlight."
Marius heard Mother Jondrette's heavy hand fumbling at his lock
in the dark. The door opened. He remained nailed to the spot
with the shock and with horror.
The Jondrette entered.
The dormer window permitted the entrance of a ray of moonlight
between two blocks of shadow. One of these blocks of shadow
entirely covered the wall against which Marius was leaning,
so that he disappeared within it.
Mother Jondrette raised her eyes, did not see Marius, took the
two chairs, the only ones which Marius possessed, and went away,
letting the door fall heavily to behind her.
She re-entered the lair.
"Here are the two chairs."
"And here is the lantern. Go down as quick as you can."
She hastily obeyed, and Jondrette was left alone.
He placed the two chairs on opposite sides of the table, turned the
chisel in the brazier, set in front of the fireplace an old screen
which masked the chafing-dish, then went to the corner where lay
the pile of rope, and bent down as though to examine something.
Marius then recognized the fact, that what he had taken for a
shapeless mass was a very well-made rope-ladder, with wooden rungs
and two hooks with which to attach it.
This ladder, and some large tools, veritable masses of iron,
which were mingled with the old iron piled up behind the door,
had not been in the Jondrette hovel in the morning, and had evidently
been brought thither in the afternoon, during Marius' absence.
"Those are the utensils of an edge-tool maker," thought Marius.
Had Marius been a little more learned in this line, he would have
recognized in what he took for the engines of an edge-tool maker,
certain instruments which will force a lock or pick a lock,
and others which will cut or slice, the two families of tools
which burglars call cadets and fauchants.
The fireplace and the two chairs were exactly opposite Marius.
The brazier being concealed, the only light in the room was now
furnished by the candle; the smallest bit of crockery on the table
or on the chimney-piece cast a large shadow. There was something
indescribably calm, threatening, and hideous about this chamber.
One felt that there existed in it the anticipation of something terrible.
Jondrette had allowed his pipe to go out, a serious sign of preoccupation,
and had again seated himself. The candle brought out the fierce
and the fine angles of his countenance. He indulged in scowls and
in abrupt unfoldings of the right hand, as though he were responding
to the last counsels of a sombre inward monologue. In the course
of one of these dark replies which he was making to himself,
he pulled the table drawer rapidly towards him, took out a long kitchen
knife which was concealed there, and tried the edge of its blade
on his nail. That done, he put the knife back in the drawer and shut it.
Marius, on his side, grasped the pistol in his right pocket,
drew it out and cocked it.
The pistol emitted a sharp, clear click, as he cocked it.
Jondrette started, half rose, listened a moment, then began to laugh
"What a fool I am! It's the partition cracking!"
Marius kept the pistol in his hand.