Victor Hugo – "Res Angusta"
That evening left Marius profoundly shaken, and with a melancholy shadow in his soul. He felt what the earth may possibly feel, at the moment when it is torn open with the iron, in order that grain may be deposited within it; it feels only the wound; the quiver of the germ and the joy of the fruit only arrive later.
Marius was gloomy. He had but just acquired a faith; must he then reject it already? He affirmed to himself that he would not. He declared to himself that he would not doubt, and he began to doubt in spite of himself. To stand between two religions, from one of which you have not as yet emerged, and another into which you have not yet entered, is intolerable; and twilight is pleasing only to bat-like souls. Marius was clear-eyed, and he required the true light. The half-lights of doubt pained him. Whatever may have been his desire to remain where he was, he could not halt there, he was irresistibly constrained to continue, to advance, to examine, to think, to march further. Whither would this lead him? He feared, after having taken so many steps which had brought him nearer to his father, to now take a step which should estrange him from that father. His discomfort was augmented by all the reflections which occurred to him. An escarpment rose around him. He was in accord neither with his grandfather nor with his friends; daring in the eyes of the one, he was behind the times in the eyes of the others, and he recognized the fact that he was doubly isolated, on the side of age and on the side of youth. He ceased to go to the Cafe Musain.
In the troubled state of his conscience, he no longer thought of certain serious sides of existence. The realities of life do not allow themselves to be forgotten. They soon elbowed him abruptly.
One morning, the proprietor of the hotel entered Marius' room and said to him:—
"Monsieur Courfeyrac answered for you."
"But I must have my money."
"Request Courfeyrac to come and talk with me," said Marius.
Courfeyrac having made his appearance, the host left them. Marius then told him what it had not before occurred to him to relate, that he was the same as alone in the world, and had no relatives.
"What is to become of you?" said Courfeyrac.
"I do not know in the least," replied Marius.
"What are you going to do?"
"I do not know."
"Have you any money?"
"Do you want me to lend you some?"
"Have you clothes?"
"Here is what I have."
"Have you trinkets?"
"Gold; here it is."
"I know a clothes-dealer who will take your frock-coat and a pair of trousers."
"That is good."
"You will then have only a pair of trousers, a waistcoat, a hat and a coat."
"And my boots."
"What! you will not go barefoot? What opulence!"
"That will be enough."
"I know a watchmaker who will buy your watch."
"That is good."
"No; it is not good. What will you do after that?"
"Whatever is necessary. Anything honest, that is to say."
"Do you know English?"
"Do you know German?"
"So much the worse."
"Because one of my friends, a publisher, is getting up a sort of an encyclopaedia, for which you might have translated English or German articles. It is badly paid work, but one can live by it."
"I will learn English and German."
"And in the meanwhile?"
"In the meanwhile I will live on my clothes and my watch."
The clothes-dealer was sent for. He paid twenty francs for the cast-off garments. They went to the watchmaker's. He bought the watch for forty-five francs.
"That is not bad," said Marius to Courfeyrac, on their return to the hotel, "with my fifteen francs, that makes eighty."
"And the hotel bill?" observed Courfeyrac.
"Hello, I had forgotten that," said Marius.
The landlord presented his bill, which had to be paid on the spot. It amounted to seventy francs.
"I have ten francs left," said Marius.
"The deuce," exclaimed Courfeyrac, "you will eat up five francs while you are learning English, and five while learning German. That will be swallowing a tongue very fast, or a hundred sous very slowly."
In the meantime Aunt Gillenormand, a rather good-hearted person at bottom in difficulties, had finally hunted up Marius' abode.
One morning, on his return from the law-school, Marius found a letter from his aunt, and the sixty pistoles, that is to say, six hundred francs in gold, in a sealed box.
Marius sent back the thirty louis to his aunt, with a respectful letter, in which he stated that he had sufficient means of subsistence and that he should be able thenceforth to supply all his needs. At that moment, he had three francs left.
His aunt did not inform his grandfather of this refusal for fear of exasperating him. Besides, had he not said: "Let me never hear the name of that blood-drinker again!"
Marius left the hotel de la Porte Saint-Jacques, as he did not wish to run in debt there.
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