Further Adventures of M. Tholomyes (en)

M. Brouable was a man who had the pretension of knowing all about everything.

“I know all about it,” he said on every occasion.

He had made his fortune in cotton. He had a wife and a daughter.

He lived in the rue Saint-Jacques, in Paris.

His wisdom was put to the test.

This brings us back to Tholomyès.

Tholomyès had made a false exit. He had, so to speak, left by one gate and returned by the other. Several months after what one might call his escape, he was seen again in Paris.

“He was seen again” isn’t the precise phrase, for Tholomyès had made his arrangements in such a way that none of his old friends encountered him. He had returned to Paris a bit like a thief. What did he come to do there, in fact? he came to steal a marriage.

Tholomyès, in leaving Fantine, had thrown away what was used up, which sufficed for a man of good sense; but he had, furthermore, a serious purpose.

The cotton industry began to dawn at this period in the quartier Saint-Jacques and in the faubourg Saint-Marceau. It had created there two or three wonderful fortunes. One of these fortunes had seemed considerable to Tholomyès. The capital was attractive. He could weld himself to this capital by means of an only daughter in the wealthy family.

This only daughter was Mademoiselle Brouable, daughter of the father we have mentioned.

Tholomyès had only four thousand livres of income. To be reduced to that for all his life was a grave peril. He threw away his cigar, snuffed out his wordplay, left Fantine and buttoned up his coat. In the presence of danger, Tholomyès closed up his disheveledness like the oyster closes up its shell. And so, having nothing more of that which made him gleam, silent and awkward for fear of making faux pas and sliding into bad taste, he became almost stupid, and had all that he needed to be pleasing.

He succeeded in making connections with the “great fortune.”

He was presented to the capital, to the father and to the daughter. He seized an opportunity and entered into the familiarity of the Brouable family. He had suppressed the exaggeration of his trousers and his waistcoats, Fantine had fallen behind him into a hidden trap, he had broken with “follies,” his past life was unknown to him, he no longer set foot in a café, he spoke of morality, he was found at mass, he was bald, he made a good impression.

“He’s a moral young man,” said the father cotton-maker. “I know all about it.”

The heiress, rather ugly, was looking for a pretext for a romance-novel passion. She was passionate about this idea: to bring happiness to this young man, so steady, so well-ordered, so tactful, so quiet, truly religious, almost austere, who cried out of one eye and who was poor.

The Brouable father was all-around a good bourgeois, proud because of his prosperity, deeply won over, though Tholomyès was common and ugly, to the throne and to the altar, impeccable and inflexible, attaching to the phrase “moral young man” an imperturbably rigid meaning, confined to virginity, virtuous with some stupefaction. This species of superficial creatures is easily fooled by appearances; the surface dupes the surface. Moreover, with the phrase: I know all about it, and the faith in himself that resulted, he let himself be led a long way. Tholomyès had been tender for the Brouable father, and for the mother; for, we have said, there was a mother.

The father approved his daughter’s choice; the mother followed; it is very rare that a woman does not do the will of a husband who has succeeded in his enterprises.

Tholomyès was from a good family; it suited him to be called M. de Tholomyès. This raised certain difficulties. He went to his province and to his family for the necessary agreements and papers. The marriage was decided a little after his return to Paris.

At about this time, Fantine left Paris, taking Cosette.

There is an interval between a marriage decided upon and a marriage celebrated. Tholomyès used this interval for religious exercises. He made his courtship, gravely and chastely.

“I tell you that that one will not make a joke of it,” said the father to his daughter.

As chance would have it, there was an ingenious woman in that neighborhood. She was a creature of many compartments. She lived a bit here and a bit there. She was more-or-less named Magnon. In the neighborhood of les Halles, she rented garrets which she subleased. In the tenth arrondissement, rue Servadoni, was her principal lodging; she was a servant at the house of a rich gentleman named Gillenormand, and she was called Nicolette. In the twelfth, she was the widow of a quarry worker killed by falling rock, and had a child. Elsewhere she was a thief. She practiced particularly in Paris that which one might call the industry of children. Thus, the child she was alleged to have, she didn’t have, but because of it she was given aid. In her life there had been no marriage, no widowing, no quarry worker, and no falling rock. Some papers stolen from the house of a dead neighbor had served to establish her has a widow in the rue de l’Arbalète. She knew the Thénardiers.

To those who would find such existences unbelievable, it suffices to respond that they are real, and to cite this very recent dialogue from the Paris correctional tribune:

Presiding officer: Let’s see, you have taken so many names that it’s not unhelpful to have you say what you are called.
The accused: Thérèse-Marie-Alexandrine-Victoire, wife of Bouvet.
Presiding officer: Your husband’s first name?
The accused: Claude-Julien.
Presiding officer: He is named Bouvet?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: You have been under the name of Lamadou?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: Then under the name of Beauval?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: Then of Desroches?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: Of Aubert?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: Of Decanches?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: Of Perrin?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: Of Dubreuil?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: Of Raymond?
The accused: Yes, sir.
Presiding officer: And why have you taken all these names successively?
The accused: To hide who I was.

Let us return to Magnon.

From time to time, Magnon made the short trip to Montfermeil. These were opportunities to contact the Thénardier couple, to assure herself that they were still there, to dine, to chat, to listen. Whoever lives on expedients joins themself with as many scoundrels as possible. Suspect existences are happy to neighbor one another.

One day Magnon brought a dish of veal to the Thénardiess and told her: “It’s from Mme Lesage, in the rue de la Harpe. By the way, I’m registered with the municipal welfare office as a widow with a child. I’m not a widow and I don’t have a child. I’m afraid someone might denounce me, and then goodbye to aid. There’s nothing like showing them a kid. So lend me one of your little ones?”

The Thénardiess lent her Cosette.

“That will be three francs,” said Thénardier.

Cosette’s current rags went with Magnon’s situation of poverty in the twelfth arrondissement. She didn’t have to add or remove anything. The poor child was fully costumed for the comedy of misery.

She let herself be handled and taken and led away by Magnon with that stupor which is the resignation of children. Nothing is as upsetting for the observer as this dazed and quiet despondency.

Magnon took her place with Cosette in a coach from Chelles to Paris.

“I’ll bring her back to you in eight days,” she cried.

The next day or the day after, she presented herself, augmented by Cosette, to the town hall of the twelfth arrondissement. This hall is situated in the section of the rue Saint-Jacques between the rue des Ursulines and the cul-de-sac des Feuillantines. There, the street is fairly narrow. Magnon noted a traffic jam there: two or three bourgeois carriages at the door of the hall, to which was added a line of fiacres, a begging force, its most senior ladies

“What a wedding!” she thought.

She entered the lower room where the bureau of charity was, was complimented on Cosette by the employee, and received a voucher for bread and firewood for the trimester in the form that the city distrubuted them in that era.

As she was leaving, she saw a large number of people on the staircase. Rather habitually in the municipal offices charity was received on the ground floor and marriages were performed on the first. “Ah, that!” said Magnon to herself, “perhaps I should go up to watch the marriage.”

And she added:

“Sometimes those people give charity. They fancy that they’ll be happy that way. They’re so stupid!”

She took Cosette in her arms because of the crowd, and went up. Cosette, indifferent, was silent.

Magnon, hardy, young, and elbowing her way through the old ladies, entered into the room of the town hall.

There was a marriage taking place.

The room presented a majestic appearance; a podium, a table, the mayor all in black with a white cravat; in front of the mayor, papers, pens, the inkwell of the law, a thick volume, the code with a rainbow on its part, an assistant, two porters; in the back, the large bust of the reigning king.

An office boy was containing the crowd.

In front of the table, the wedding party, dressed up as was suitable for that grand Sunday, facing the mayor and and turning their shoulders towards the balconies, were seated in two rows of armchairs. “Rich people,” thought Magnon. “If they were poor, those would be chairs.”

The mother and father, grave, opulent, were radiant; the bride was in a white hat, the crown of orange blossoms being reserved for church; the groom, irreproachable in his black suit, was young, serious, and bald.

Magnon, like everyone, saw only their backs.

The ceremony was about to commence. The couple were standing.

The mayor, by the terms of the law, read aloud the fourth chapter of the title of marriage. He emphasized, as was his duty, with a truly municipal accent, the essential verse: “The husband owes protection to the wife, the wife owes obedience to the husband.” Then, making that movement of the torso belonging to official personages and directing his chest towards the groom, he addressed him.

The groom, smiling, half-turned towards his fiancée, and the crowd could see him. He was a rather good-looking man, a bit tired.

The audience was silent.

“Félix de Tholomyès,” said the mayor, “do you take this woman–”

At that moment, in the middle of all this mute attention, this word could be heard, said out loud by a sweet little voice:


The mayor broke off, all the heads turned around, and one could see in the middle of the crowd, in the arms of a woman, a little girl in rags who looked fixedly at the groom with large, calm eyes.

The child, unaware of the sudden emotion that she was the center of, repeated with gravity, “Papa.”

It was Cosette.

Every gaze went from Cosette to Tholomyès. He was very pale. He half-turned towards Cosette

“That?” he said. “I don’t know what it is.”

The child opened her big blue eyes even bigger still, stretched her little arms towards him, and for the third time repeated, “Papa.”

The groom found himself ill. M. Brouable furrowed a decisive brow.

The little one began again and cast into the disconcerted ceremony, one more time, these two syllables: “Papa.”

It was like a lighting bolt that came from a flower.

There was a hubbub.

Magnon escaped. It was no longer her affair, but that of Tholomyès. In the courtyard, she swore to the surrounding gossips that she had never had a child by this man, which was true. She took away Cosette, who cried out in the street, “Papa! Papa!”

Magnon had done well to disapper, the father had furrowed his brow.

“There’s a child,” he said. “I know all about it.”

The marriage was cancelled.

Tholomyès returned to his province. There, he quickly forgot this disagreeable story. For four or five months, it happened nevertheless that he sometimes thought of the child. He thought of her with indignation. It is indeed quite troublesome for an honest man to be pursued to this point by a youthful escapade. It takes determination.

And then, a philosopher after all, he didn’t think about it any more.

We will not be informing the reader of much to tell him that Tholomyès, out of his element in Paris, found another excellent marriage, this time in his province, that he did his business well, that he became something of a rich attorney, and that today he is a wise voter and a very strict juror.

Behind closed doors, he remained a man of pleasure. This eulogy made once and for all, we shall not speak further of M. de Tholomyès.

As for Magnon, the very next day she brought back Cosette to the Thénardiers, paid the three francs, and, fearing some harmful complication with her vouchers for bread and firewood and with the various disguises that she wanted to keep, she didn’t breathe a word of the scandal caused by “the little joke.”

As a result Thénardier knew nothing of the incident.

That was truly unwelcome, for this capable man would surely have made good use of this handhold of a bourgeois carrying a scandalous affair. To be able to attach the name of a rich man to an obscure paternity, that was worth a small landholding. In fact, Thénardier excelled at coming into contact with delicate reputations disagreeably, and quarrelling like a coal-worker with people dressed all in white. But he was ignorant of the events of the office in the rue Saint-Jacques and the little Cosette-Tholomyès-Brouable scandal. This was a misfortune.

He had to limit his horizon, and confine himself to Cosette.

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