SOLUS CUM SOLO, IN LOCO REMOTO, NON COGITABUNTUR ORARE PATER NOSTER
Marius, dreamer as he was, was, as we have said, firm and energetic
by nature. His habits of solitary meditation, while they had developed
in him sympathy and compassion, had, perhaps, diminished the faculty
for irritation, but had left intact the power of waxing indignant;
he had the kindliness of a brahmin, and the severity of a judge;
he took pity upon a toad, but he crushed a viper. Now, it was
into a hole of vipers that his glance had just been directed,
it was a nest of monsters that he had beneath his eyes.
"These wretches must be stamped upon," said he.
Not one of the enigmas which he had hoped to see solved had
been elucidated; on the contrary, all of them had been rendered
more dense, if anything; he knew nothing more about the beautiful
maiden of the Luxembourg and the man whom he called M. Leblanc,
except that Jondrette was acquainted with them. Athwart the
mysterious words which had been uttered, the only thing of which he
caught a distinct glimpse was the fact that an ambush was in course
of preparation, a dark but terrible trap; that both of them
were incurring great danger, she probably, her father certainly;
that they must be saved; that the hideous plots of the Jondrettes
must be thwarted, and the web of these spiders broken.
He scanned the female Jondrette for a moment. She had pulled
an old sheet-iron stove from a corner, and she was rummaging among
the old heap of iron.
He descended from the commode as softly as possible, taking care not
to make the least noise. Amid his terror as to what was in preparation,
and in the horror with which the Jondrettes had inspired him,
he experienced a sort of joy at the idea that it might be granted
to him perhaps to render a service to the one whom he loved.
But how was it to be done? How warn the persons threatened?
He did not know their address. They had reappeared for an instant
before his eyes, and had then plunged back again into the immense
depths of Paris. Should he wait for M. Leblanc at the door that
evening at six o'clock, at the moment of his arrival, and warn him
of the trap? But Jondrette and his men would see him on the watch,
the spot was lonely, they were stronger than he, they would devise
means to seize him or to get him away, and the man whom Marius
was anxious to save would be lost. One o'clock had just struck,
the trap was to be sprung at six. Marius had five hours before him.
There was but one thing to be done.
He put on his decent coat, knotted a silk handkerchief round his neck,
took his hat, and went out, without making any more noise than if he
had been treading on moss with bare feet.
Moreover, the Jondrette woman continued to rummage among her old iron.
Once outside of the house, he made for the Rue du Petit-Banquier.
He had almost reached the middle of this street, near a very low wall
which a man can easily step over at certain points, and which abuts
on a waste space, and was walking slowly, in consequence of his
preoccupied condition, and the snow deadened the sound of his steps;
all at once he heard voices talking very close by. He turned
his head, the street was deserted, there was not a soul in it,
it was broad daylight, and yet he distinctly heard voices.
It occurred to him to glance over the wall which he was skirting.
There, in fact, sat two men, flat on the snow, with their backs
against the wall, talking together in subdued tones.
These two persons were strangers to him; one was a bearded man
in a blouse, and the other a long-haired individual in rags.
The bearded man had on a fez, the other's head was bare, and the snow
had lodged in his hair.
By thrusting his head over the wall, Marius could hear their remarks.
The hairy one jogged the other man's elbow and said:--
"--With the assistance of Patron-Minette, it can't fail."
"Do you think so?" said the bearded man.
And the long-haired one began again:--
"It's as good as a warrant for each one, of five hundred balls,
and the worst that can happen is five years, six years, ten years
at the most!"
The other replied with some hesitation, and shivering beneath
"That's a real thing. You can't go against such things."
"I tell you that the affair can't go wrong," resumed the long-haired man.
"Father What's-his-name's team will be already harnessed."
Then they began to discuss a melodrama that they had seen
on the preceding evening at the Gaite Theatre.
Marius went his way.
It seemed to him that the mysterious words of these men,
so strangely hidden behind that wall, and crouching in the snow,
could not but bear some relation to Jondrette's abominable projects.
That must be the affair.
He directed his course towards the faubourg Saint-Marceau and asked
at the first shop he came to where he could find a commissary
He was directed to Rue de Pontoise, No. 14.
Thither Marius betook himself.
As he passed a baker's shop, he bought a two-penny roll, and ate it,
foreseeing that he should not dine.
On the way, he rendered justice to Providence. He reflected that had
he not given his five francs to the Jondrette girl in the morning,
he would have followed M. Leblanc's fiacre, and consequently have
remained ignorant of everything, and that there would have been
no obstacle to the trap of the Jondrettes and that M. Leblanc
would have been lost, and his daughter with him, no doubt.