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The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

Les misérables [tr. by C.E. Wilbour]. Fantine; Cosette & Marius

by Victor Marie Hugo


This was the terror of the poor being whom the reader has not perhaps forgotten—little Cosette. It will be remembered that Cosette was useful to the Thenardiers in two ways—they got pay from the mother and work from the child. Thus, when the mother ceased entirely to pay, we have seen why in the preceding chapters the Thenardiers kept Cosette. She saved them a servant. In that capacity she ran for water when it was wanted. So the child, always horrified at the idea of going to the spring at night, took good care that water should never be wanting at the house.

Christmas in the year 1823 was particularly brilliant at Montfermeil. The early part of the winter had been mild; so far there had been neither frost nor snow. Some jugglers from Paris had obtained permission from the Mayor to set up their stalls in the main street of the village, and a company of pedlars had, under the same license, put up their booths in the square before the church, and even in the lane du Boulanger, upon which, as the reader perhaps remembers, the The'nardier chop-house was situated. This filled up the taverns and pot-houses, and gave to this little quiet place a noisy and joyous appearance.

On that Christmas evening several men, waggoners and pedlars, were seated at table and drinking around four or five candles in the low hall of the The'nardier tavern. This room resembled all bar-rooms; tables, pewter mugs, bottles, drinkers, smokers; little light, and much noise. The date, 1823, was, however, indicated by the two things then in vogue with the middle classes, which were on the table, a kaleidoscope and a fluted tin lamp. The'nardier, the wife, was looking to the supper, which was cooking before a bright blazing fire; the husband, The'nardier, was drinking with his guests and talking politics.

Cosette was at her usual place, seated on the cross-piece of the kitchen table, near the fireplace; she was clad in rags; her bare feet were in wooden shoes, and by the light of the fire she was knitting woollen stockings for the little Thenardiers. A young kitten was playing under the chairs. In a neighbouring room the fresh voices of two children were heard laughing and prattling; it was Eponine and Azelma.

In the chimney-corner, a cow-hide hung upon a nail.

At intervals, the cry of a very young child, which was somewhere in the house, was heard above the noise of the bar-room. This was a little boy which the womau had had some winters before—"She didn't know why," she said: "it was the cold weather,"—and which was a little more than three years old. The mother had nursed him, but did not love him. When the hungry clamour of the brat became too much to bear,—" Your boy is squalling," said The'nardier, "why don't you go and see what he wants?

"Bah!" answered the mother; "I am sick of him." And the poor little fellow continued to cry in the darkness.


, The The'nardiers have hitherto been seen in this book in profile only; the time has come to turn this couple about and look at them on all sides.

Thenardier had just passed his fiftieth year; Madame The'nardier had reached her fortieth, which is the fiftieth for woman; so that there was an equilibrium of age between the husband and wife.

The reader has perhaps, since her first appearance, preserved some remembrance of this huge The'nardiess— for such we shall call the female of this species,—large, blonde, red, fat, brawny, square, enormous, and agile; she belonged, as we have said, to the race of those colossal wild women who posturize at fairs with paving stones hung in their hair. She did everything about the house, the chamber-work, the washing, the cooking, anything she pleased, and played the deuce generally. Cosette was her only servant; a mouse in the service of an elephant. Everything trembled at the sound of her voice; windows and furniture as well as people. Her broad face, covered with freckles, had the appearance of a skimmer. She had beard. She was the ideal of a butcher's boy dressed in petticoats. She swore splendidly; she prided herself on being able to crack a nut with her fist. Apart from the novels she had read, which at times gave you an odd glimpse of the affected lady under the ogress, the idea of calling her a woman never would have occurred to anybody. This The'nardiess seemed like a cross between a wench and a fishwoman. If you heard her speak, you would say it is a gendarme; if you saw her drink, you would say it

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