Les Miserables HTML version

Book 2nd: The Fall
Chapter 1
Early in the month of October, 1815, about an hour before sunset, a man who was
travelling on foot entered the little town of D---- The few inhabitants who were at their
windows or on their thresholds at the moment stared at this traveller with a sort of
uneasiness. It was difficult to encounter a wayfarer of more wretched appearance. He
was a man of medium stature, thickset and robust, in the prime of life. He might have
been forty-six or forty-eight years old. A cap with a drooping leather visor partly
concealed his face, burned and tanned by sun and wind, and dripping with perspiration.
His shirt of coarse yellow linen, fastened at the neck by a small silver anchor, permitted
a view of his hairy breast: he had a cravat twisted into a string; trousers of blue drilling,
worn and threadbare, white on one knee and torn on the other; an old gray, tattered
blouse, patched on one of the elbows with a bit of green cloth sewed on with twine; a
tightly packed soldier knapsack, well buckled and perfectly new, on his back; an
enormous, knotty stick in his hand; iron-shod shoes on his stockingless feet; a shaved
head and a long beard.
The sweat, the heat, the journey on foot, the dust, added I know not what sordid quality
to this dilapidated whole. His hair was closely cut, yet bristling, for it had begun to grow
a little, and did not seem to have been cut for some time.
No one knew him. He was evidently only a chance passer-by. Whence came he? From
the south; from the seashore, perhaps, for he made his entrance into D---- by the same
street which, seven months previously, had witnessed the passage of the Emperor
Napoleon on his way from Cannes to Paris. This man must have been walking all day.
He seemed very much fatigued. Some women of the ancient market town which is
situated below the city had seen him pause beneath the trees of the boulevard
Gassendi, and drink at the fountain which stands at the end of the promenade. He must
have been very thirsty: for the children who followed him saw him stop again for a drink,
two hundred paces further on, at the fountain in the market-place.
On arriving at the corner of the Rue Poichevert, he turned to the left, and directed his
steps toward the town-hall. He entered, then came out a quarter of an hour later. A
gendarme was seated near the door, on the stone bench which General Drouot had
mounted on the 4th of March to read to the frightened throng of the inhabitants of D----
the proclamation of the Gulf Juan. The man pulled off his cap and humbly saluted the
The gendarme, without replying to his salute, stared attentively at him, followed him for
a while with his eyes, and then entered the town-hall.