While this sort of a dog with a human face was mounting guard over the gate, and while the six ruffians were yielding to a girl, Marius was by Cosette's side.
Never had the sky been more studded with stars and more charming, the trees more trembling, the odor of the grass more penetrating; never had the birds fallen asleep among the leaves with a sweeter noise; never had all the harmonies of universal serenity responded more thoroughly to the inward music of love; never had Marius been more captivated, more happy, more ecstatic.
But he had found Cosette sad; Cosette had been weeping. Her eyes were red.
This was the first cloud in that wonderful dream.
Marius' first word had been: "What is the matter?"
And she had replied: "This."
Then she had seated herself on the bench near the steps, and while he tremblingly took his place beside her, she had continued:—
"My father told me this morning to hold myself in readiness, because he has business, and we may go away from here."
Marius shivered from head to foot.
When one is at the end of one's life, to die means to go away; when one is at the beginning of it, to go away means to die.
For the last six weeks, Marius had little by little, slowly, by degrees, taken possession of Cosette each day. As we have already explained, in the case of first love, the soul is taken long before the body; later on, one takes the body long before the soul; sometimes one does not take the soul at all; the Faublas and the Prudhommes add: "Because there is none"; but the sarcasm is, fortunately, a blasphemy. So Marius possessed Cosette, as spirits possess, but he enveloped her with all his soul, and seized her jealously with incredible conviction. He possessed her smile, her breath, her perfume, the profound radiance of her blue eyes, the sweetness of her skin when he touched her hand, the charming mark which she had on her neck, all her thoughts. Therefore, he possessed all Cosette's dreams.
He incessantly gazed at, and he sometimes touched lightly with his breath, the short locks on the nape of her neck, and he declared to himself that there was not one of those short hairs which did not belong to him, Marius. He gazed upon and adored the things that she wore, her knot of ribbon, her gloves, her sleeves, her shoes, her cuffs, as sacred objects of which he was the master. He dreamed that he was the lord of those pretty shell combs which she wore in her hair, and he even said to himself, in confused and suppressed stammerings of voluptuousness which did not make their way to the light, that there was not a ribbon of her gown, not a mesh in her stockings, not a fold in her bodice, which was not his. Beside Cosette he felt himself beside his own property, his own thing, his own despot and his slave. It seemed as though they had so intermingled their souls, that it would have been impossible to tell them apart had they wished to take them back again.—"This is mine." "No, it is mine." "I assure you that you are mistaken. This is my property." "What you are taking as your own is myself."—Marius was something that made a part of Cosette, and Cosette was something which made a part of Marius. Marius felt Cosette within him. To have Cosette, to possess Cosette, this, to him, was not to be distinguished from breathing. It was in the midst of this faith, of this intoxication, of this virgin possession, unprecedented and absolute, of this sovereignty, that these words: "We are going away," fell suddenly, at a blow, and that the harsh voice of reality cried to him: "Cosette is not yours!"
Marius awoke. For six weeks Marius had been living, as we have said, outside of life; those words, going away! caused him to re-enter it harshly.
He found not a word to say. Cosette merely felt that his hand was very cold. She said to him in her turn: "What is the matter?"
He replied in so low a tone that Cosette hardly heard him:—
"I did not understand what you said."
She began again:—
"This morning my father told me to settle all my little affairs and to hold myself in readiness, that he would give me his linen to put in a trunk, that he was obliged to go on a journey, that we were to go away, that it is necessary to have a large trunk for me and a small one for him, and that all is to be ready in a week from now, and that we might go to England."
"But this is outrageous!" exclaimed Marius.
It is certain, that, at that moment, no abuse of power, no violence, not one of the abominations of the worst tyrants, no action of Busiris, of Tiberius, or of Henry VIII., could have equalled this in atrocity, in the opinion of Marius; M. Fauchelevent taking his daughter off to England because he had business there.
He demanded in a weak voice:—
"And when do you start?"
"He did not say when."
"And when shall you return?"
"He did not say when."
Marius rose and said coldly:—
"Cosette, shall you go?"
Cosette turned toward him her beautiful eyes, all filled with anguish, and replied in a sort of bewilderment:—
"To England. Shall you go?"
"Why do you say you to me?"
"I ask you whether you will go?"
"What do you expect me to do?" she said, clasping her hands.
"So, you will go?"
"If my father goes."
"So, you will go?"
Cosette took Marius' hand, and pressed it without replying.
"Very well," said Marius, "then I will go elsewhere."
Cosette felt rather than understood the meaning of these words. She turned so pale that her face shone white through the gloom. She stammered:—
"What do you mean?"
Marius looked at her, then raised his eyes to heaven, and answered: "Nothing."
When his eyes fell again, he saw Cosette smiling at him. The smile of a woman whom one loves possesses a visible radiance, even at night.
"How silly we are! Marius, I have an idea."
"What is it?"
"If we go away, do you go too! I will tell you where! Come and join me wherever I am."
Marius was now a thoroughly roused man. He had fallen back into reality. He cried to Cosette:—
"Go away with you! Are you mad? Why, I should have to have money, and I have none! Go to England? But I am in debt now, I owe, I don't know how much, more than ten louis to Courfeyrac, one of my friends with whom you are not acquainted! I have an old hat which is not worth three francs, I have a coat which lacks buttons in front, my shirt is all ragged, my elbows are torn, my boots let in the water; for the last six weeks I have not thought about it, and I have not told you about it. You only see me at night, and you give me your love; if you were to see me in the daytime, you would give me a sou! Go to England! Eh! I haven't enough to pay for a passport!"
He threw himself against a tree which was close at hand, erect, his brow pressed close to the bark, feeling neither the wood which flayed his skin, nor the fever which was throbbing in his temples, and there he stood motionless, on the point of falling, like the statue of despair.
He remained a long time thus. One could remain for eternity in such abysses. At last he turned round. He heard behind him a faint stifled noise, which was sweet yet sad.
It was Cosette sobbing.
She had been weeping for more than two hours beside Marius as he meditated.
He came to her, fell at her knees, and slowly prostrating himself, he took the tip of her foot which peeped out from beneath her robe, and kissed it.
She let him have his way in silence. There are moments when a woman accepts, like a sombre and resigned goddess, the religion of love.
"Do not weep," he said.
"Not when I may be going away, and you cannot come!"
He went on:—
"Do you love me?"
She replied, sobbing, by that word from paradise which is never more charming than amid tears:—
"I adore you!"
He continued in a tone which was an indescribable caress:—
"Do not weep. Tell me, will you do this for me, and cease to weep?"
"Do you love me?" said she.
He took her hand.
"Cosette, I have never given my word of honor to any one, because my word of honor terrifies me. I feel that my father is by my side. Well, I give you my most sacred word of honor, that if you go away I shall die."
In the tone with which he uttered these words there lay a melancholy so solemn and so tranquil, that Cosette trembled. She felt that chill which is produced by a true and gloomy thing as it passes by. The shock made her cease weeping.
"Now, listen," said he, "do not expect me to-morrow."
"Do not expect me until the day after to-morrow."
"You will see."
"A day without seeing you! But that is impossible!"
"Let us sacrifice one day in order to gain our whole lives, perhaps."
And Marius added in a low tone and in an aside:—
"He is a man who never changes his habits, and he has never received any one except in the evening."
"Of what man are you speaking?" asked Cosette.
"I? I said nothing."
"What do you hope, then?"
"Wait until the day after to-morrow."
"You wish it?"
She took his head in both her hands, raising herself on tiptoe in order to be on a level with him, and tried to read his hope in his eyes.
"Now that I think of it, you ought to know my address: something might happen, one never knows; I live with that friend named Courfeyrac, Rue de la Verrerie, No. 16."
He searched in his pocket, pulled out his penknife, and with the blade he wrote on the plaster of the wall:—
"16 Rue de la Verrerie."
In the meantime, Cosette had begun to gaze into his eyes once more.
"Tell me your thought, Marius; you have some idea. Tell it to me. Oh! tell me, so that I may pass a pleasant night."
"This is my idea: that it is impossible that God should mean to part us. Wait; expect me the day after to-morrow."
"What shall I do until then?" said Cosette. "You are outside, you go, and come! How happy men are! I shall remain entirely alone! Oh! How sad I shall be! What is it that you are going to do to-morrow evening? tell me."
"I am going to try something."
"Then I will pray to God and I will think of you here, so that you may be successful. I will question you no further, since you do not wish it. You are my master. I shall pass the evening to-morrow in singing that music from Euryanthe that you love, and that you came one evening to listen to, outside my shutters. But day after to-morrow you will come early. I shall expect you at dusk, at nine o'clock precisely, I warn you. Mon Dieu! how sad it is that the days are so long! On the stroke of nine, do you understand, I shall be in the garden."
"And I also."
And without having uttered it, moved by the same thought, impelled by those electric currents which place lovers in continual communication, both being intoxicated with delight even in their sorrow, they fell into each other's arms, without perceiving that their lips met while their uplifted eyes, overflowing with rapture and full of tears, gazed upon the stars.
When Marius went forth, the street was deserted. This was the moment when Éponine was following the ruffians to the boulevard.
While Marius had been dreaming with his head pressed to the tree, an idea had crossed his mind; an idea, alas! that he himself judged to be senseless and impossible. He had come to a desperate decision.