Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Monsieur Javert, I beseech your mercy. I assure you
that I was not in the wrong. If you had seen the beginning, you would
have seen. I swear to you by the good God that I was not to blame! That
gentleman, the bourgeois, whom I do not know, put snow in my back. Has
any one the right to put snow down our backs when we are walking along
peaceably, and doing no harm to any one? I am rather ill, as you see.
And then, he had been saying impertinent things to me for a long time:
"You are ugly! You have no teeth!" I know well that I have no
longer those teeth. I did nothing; I said to myself, "The gentleman
is amusing himself." I was honest with him; I did not speak to him.
It was at that moment that he put the snow down my back. Monsieur Javert,
good Monsieur Inspector! is there not some person here who saw it and
can tell you that this is quite true? Perhaps I did wrong to get angry.
You know that one is not master of one's self at the first moment. One
gives way to vivacity; and then, when someone puts something cold down
your back just when you are not expecting it! I did wrong to spoil that
gentleman's hat. Why did he go away? I would ask his pardon. Oh, my God!
It makes no difference to me whether I ask his pardon. Do me the favor
to-day, for this once, Monsieur Javert. You know that in prison one can
earn only seven sous a day; it is not the government's fault, but seven
sous is one's earnings; and just fancy, I must pay one hundred francs,
or my little girl will be sent to me. Oh, my God! I cannot have her with
me. What I do is so vile! Oh, my Cosette! Oh, my little angel of the Holy
Virgin! what will become of her, poor creature? I will tell you: it is
the Thenardiers, inn-keepers, peasants; and such people are unreasonable.
They want money. Don't put me in prison! You see, there is a little girl
who will be turned out into the street to get along as best she may, in
the very heart of the winter; and you must have pity on such a being,
my good Monsieur Javert. If she were older, she might earn her living;
but it cannot be done at that age. I am not a bad woman at bottom. It
is not cowardliness and gluttony that have made me what I am. If I have
drunk brandy, it was out of misery. I do not love it; but it benumbs the
senses. When I was happy, it was only necessary to glance into my closets,
and it would have been evident that I was not a coquettish and untidy
woman. I had linen, a great deal of linen. Have pity on me, Monsieur Javert!
Credits: Reprinted from Victor Hugo's Works. Trans. Isabel F. Hapgood.
New York: Kelmscott Society, 1896.