A monologue from the novel by Victor Hugo
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Victor Hugo’s Works. Trans. Isabel F. Hapgood. New York: Kelmscott Society, 1896.
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!