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Read Les Miserables Part 25

Les Miserables is a Webnovel completed by Victor Hugo.
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“Quin?”

“No; Choux.”

And Tholomyes continued:–

“Honor to Bombarda! He would equal Munophis of Elephanta if he could but get me an Indian dancing-girl, and Thygelion of Chaeronea if he could bring me a Greek courtesan; for, oh, ladies! there were Bombardas in Greece and in Egypt. Apuleius tells us of them. Alas! always the same, and nothing new; nothing more unpublished by the creator in creation!

Nil sub sole novum, says Solomon; amor omnibus idem, says Virgil; and Carabine mounts with Carabin into the bark at Saint-Cloud, as Aspasia embarked with Pericles upon the fleet at Samos. One last word. Do you know what Aspasia was, ladies? Although she lived at an epoch when women had, as yet, no soul, she was a soul; a soul of a rosy and purple hue, more ardent hued than fire, fresher than the dawn. Aspasia was a creature in whom two extremes of womanhood met; she was the G.o.ddess prost.i.tute; Socrates plus Manon Lescaut. Aspasia was created in case a mistress should be needed for Prometheus.”

Tholomyes, once started, would have found some difficulty in stopping, had not a horse fallen down upon the quay just at that moment. The shock caused the cart and the orator to come to a dead halt. It was a Beauceron mare, old and thin, and one fit for the knacker, which was dragging a very heavy cart. On arriving in front of Bombarda’s, the worn-out, exhausted beast had refused to proceed any further. This incident attracted a crowd. Hardly had the cursing and indignant carter had time to utter with proper energy the sacramental word, Matin (the jade), backed up with a pitiless cut of the whip, when the jade fell, never to rise again. On hearing the hubbub made by the pa.s.sersby, Tholomyes’ merry auditors turned their heads, and Tholomyes took advantage of the opportunity to bring his allocution to a close with this melancholy strophe:–

“Elle etait de ce monde ou coucous et carrosses [3]

Ont le meme destin; Et, rosse, elle a vecu ce que vivant les rosses, L’es.p.a.ce d’un matin!”

“Poor horse!” sighed Fantine.

And Dahlia exclaimed:–

“There is Fantine on the point of crying over horses. How can one be such a pitiful fool as that!”

At that moment Favourite, folding her arms and throwing her head back, looked resolutely at Tholomyes and said:–

“Come, now! the surprise?”

“Exactly. The moment has arrived,” replied Tholomyes. “Gentlemen, the hour for giving these ladies a surprise has struck. Wait for us a moment, ladies.”

“It begins with a kiss,” said Blachevelle.

“On the brow,” added Tholomyes.

Each gravely bestowed a kiss on his mistress’s brow; then all four filed out through the door, with their fingers on their lips.

Favourite clapped her hands on their departure.

“It is beginning to be amusing already,” said she.

“Don’t be too long,” murmured Fantine; “we are waiting for you.”

CHAPTER IX–A MERRY END TO MIRTH

When the young girls were left alone, they leaned two by two on the window-sills, chatting, craning out their heads, and talking from one window to the other.

They saw the young men emerge from the Cafe Bombarda arm in arm. The latter turned round, made signs to them, smiled, and disappeared in that dusty Sunday throng which makes a weekly invasion into the Champs-Elysees.

“Don’t be long!” cried Fantine.

“What are they going to bring us?” said Zephine.

“It will certainly be something pretty,” said Dahlia.

“For my part,” said Favourite, “I want it to be of gold.”

Their attention was soon distracted by the movements on the sh.o.r.e of the lake, which they could see through the branches of the large trees, and which diverted them greatly.

It was the hour for the departure of the mail-coaches and diligences.

Nearly all the stage-coaches for the south and west pa.s.sed through the Champs-Elysees. The majority followed the quay and went through the Pa.s.sy Barrier. From moment to moment, some huge vehicle, painted yellow and black, heavily loaded, noisily harnessed, rendered shapeless by trunks, tarpaulins, and valises, full of heads which immediately disappeared, rushed through the crowd with all the sparks of a forge, with dust for smoke, and an air of fury, grinding the pavements, changing all the paving-stones into steels. This uproar delighted the young girls. Favourite exclaimed:–

“What a row! One would say that it was a pile of chains flying away.”

It chanced that one of these vehicles, which they could only see with difficulty through the thick elms, halted for a moment, then set out again at a gallop. This surprised Fantine.

“That’s odd!” said she. “I thought the diligence never stopped.”

Favourite shrugged her shoulders.

“This Fantine is surprising. I am coming to take a look at her out of curiosity. She is dazzled by the simplest things. Suppose a case: I am a traveller; I say to the diligence, ‘I will go on in advance; you shall pick me up on the quay as you pa.s.s.’ The diligence pa.s.ses, sees me, halts, and takes me. That is done every day. You do not know life, my dear.”

In this manner a certain time elapsed. All at once Favourite made a movement, like a person who is just waking up.

“Well,” said she, “and the surprise?”

“Yes, by the way,” joined in Dahlia, “the famous surprise?”

“They are a very long time about it!” said Fantine.

As Fantine concluded this sigh, the waiter who had served them at dinner entered. He held in his hand something which resembled a letter.

“What is that?” demanded Favourite.

The waiter replied:–

“It is a paper that those gentlemen left for these ladies.”

“Why did you not bring it at once?”

“Because,” said the waiter, “the gentlemen ordered me not to deliver it to the ladies for an hour.”

Favourite s.n.a.t.c.hed the paper from the waiter’s hand. It was, in fact, a letter.

“Stop!” said she; “there is no address; but this is what is written on it–“

“THIS IS THE SURPRISE.”

She tore the letter open hastily, opened it, and read [she knew how to read]:–

———-

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