Wednesday, March 3, 2010
A Little Retracing
Picked up Les Misérables at work today where I'd left off, backtracking a little to a description of Fantine as the two quartets of lovers are spending a day together in the park. But then I decided to reduce the browser window size so the lines wouldn't be so long to read on the screen, and the action kicked me back to the scene where Jean Valjean is returned by gendarmes to the Bishop's house, carrying the Bishop's stolen silver. Monseigneur Myriel Bienvenue, although he will miss the silver, miss eating off it as he's always done, pretends that it had been his gift to Jean Valjean at parting; and he exclaims at his having forgotten the two silver candlesticks. Jean Valjean leaves with all the Bishop's household's silver, with which the Bishop, he tells him, has bought his soul for God. Jean Valjean wanders into a lonely stretch of country, flat, only in the distance are the Alps. Dark is falling. His mind is in turmoil; he is coming apart throughout himself, breaking up, convulsed. He sits almost motionless to commit his last crime: he robs a little boy, Little Gervais, of a forty-sou piece. The boy is a little wanderer, alone, tossing his few coins in the air. One falls to the road and rolls to where Jean Valjean is sitting, by a bush. He puts his foot over the coin. Little Gervais is so brave to confront this horrifying criminal whom he even grabs by the collar and shakes, demanding his coin back. Jean Valjean hardly knows what is happening. He shouts at the boy, threatens, quite absent-mindedly, and Little Gervais runs off. He disappears. Jean Valjean stares at an ancient piece of broken pottery (blue). At last he moves, and notices the coin lying where his foot had hidden it. The sight of it amazes him. He takes it up and looks all around the empty land. Almost all the light has gone. Jean Valjean starts to walk, then he runs, and he keeps stopping to call Little Gervais! Little Gervais! For he'd asked the boy his name. In the midst of breaking apart, he'd wondered what it was. Why? How, even? He's not a polite man nor a curious one; he barely notices--barely seems to notice--Little Gervais. But something, some instinct the convulsion has exposed in him, wonders, and remembers; a presentiment, a flash of prophecy white-hot as the earth's molten core, inquires; noted, the unforgettable name. He calls and calls but doesn't find him. I didn't have time to re-read any more.