BOOK EIGHTH.--THE WICKED POOR MAN
MARIUS, WHILE SEEKING A GIRL IN A BONNET, ENCOUNTERS A MAN IN A CAP
Summer passed, then the autumn; winter came. Neither M. Leblanc
nor the young girl had again set foot in the Luxembourg garden.
Thenceforth, Marius had but one thought,--to gaze once more on that
sweet and adorable face. He sought constantly, he sought everywhere;
he found nothing. He was no longer Marius, the enthusiastic dreamer,
the firm, resolute, ardent man, the bold defier of fate, the brain
which erected future on future, the young spirit encumbered with plans,
with projects, with pride, with ideas and wishes; he was a lost dog.
He fell into a black melancholy. All was over. Work disgusted him,
walking tired him. Vast nature, formerly so filled with forms,
lights, voices, counsels, perspectives, horizons, teachings, now lay
empty before him. It seemed to him that everything had disappeared.
He thought incessantly, for he could not do otherwise; but he
no longer took pleasure in his thoughts. To everything that they
proposed to him in a whisper, he replied in his darkness:
"What is the use?"
He heaped a hundred reproaches on himself. "Why did I follow her?
I was so happy at the mere sight of her! She looked at me;
was not that immense? She had the air of loving me. Was not
that everything? I wished to have, what? There was nothing
after that. I have been absurd. It is my own fault," etc., etc.
Courfeyrac, to whom he confided nothing,--it was his nature,--
but who made some little guess at everything,--that was his nature,--
had begun by congratulating him on being in love, though he was
amazed at it; then, seeing Marius fall into this melancholy state,
he ended by saying to him: "I see that you have been simply
an animal. Here, come to the Chaumiere."
Once, having confidence in a fine September sun, Marius had allowed
himself to be taken to the ball at Sceaux by Courfeyrac, Bossuet,
and Grantaire, hoping, what a dream! that he might, perhaps,
find her there. Of course he did not see the one he sought.--"But
this is the place, all the same, where all lost women are found,"
grumbled Grantaire in an aside. Marius left his friends at the ball
and returned home on foot, alone, through the night, weary, feverish,
with sad and troubled eyes, stunned by the noise and dust of the
merry wagons filled with singing creatures on their way home from
the feast, which passed close to him, as he, in his discouragement,
breathed in the acrid scent of the walnut-trees, along the road,
in order to refresh his head.
He took to living more and more alone, utterly overwhelmed,
wholly given up to his inward anguish, going and coming in his pain
like the wolf in the trap, seeking the absent one everywhere,
stupefied by love.
On another occasion, he had an encounter which produced on him
a singular effect. He met, in the narrow streets in the vicinity
of the Boulevard des Invalides, a man dressed like a workingman
and wearing a cap with a long visor, which allowed a glimpse
of locks of very white hair. Marius was struck with the beauty
of this white hair, and scrutinized the man, who was walking slowly
and as though absorbed in painful meditation. Strange to say,
he thought that he recognized M. Leblanc. The hair was the same,
also the profile, so far as the cap permitted a view of it, the mien
identical, only more depressed. But why these workingman's clothes?
What was the meaning of this? What signified that disguise?
Marius was greatly astonished. When he recovered himself,
his first impulse was to follow the man; who knows whether he did
not hold at last the clue which he was seeking? In any case,
he must see the man near at hand, and clear up the mystery.
But the idea occurred to him too late, the man was no longer there.
He had turned into some little side street, and Marius could not
find him. This encounter occupied his mind for three days and then
was effaced. "After all," he said to himself, "it was probably only