|Still waiting for the|
waif named in this
volume to show up....
|It watches over me, is why.|
Anyway, we quickly learn that Valjean's imprisoned again, though Hugo feels that "the reader will be grateful to us if we pass rapidly over the sad details." (p.250) Suffice to say that there was a certain amount of scandal in the newspapers. If it'd happened now, #24601 would be trending.
Meanwhile, the town of M. sur M. We remember, of course, that as citizen, businessman, and mayor, Valjean had been some sort of paragon. Since his capture:
- "...everything was gone on a small scale, instead of on a grand scale; for lucre instead of the general good. There was no longer a centre; everywhere there was competition and animosity. M. Madeline had reigned over all and directed all. No sooner had he fallen, than each pulled things to himself; the spirit of combat succeeded to the spirit of organization, bitterness to coordination, hatred of one another to the benevolence of the founder towards all; the threads which M. Madeline had set were tangled and broken, the methods were adulterated, the products were debased, confidence was killed; the market diminished, for lack of orders; salaries were reduced, the workshops stood still, bankruptcy arrived. And then there was nothing more for the poor. All had vanished." (p.251)
Thenardier and the schoolmaster started plying Boulatruelle with wine and prying bits of info out of him. Eventually they deduced that Boulatruelle had seen an old acquaintance from the galleys (for Boulatrelle is yet another ex-con in this narrative) carrying a coffer into the woods along with some tools. "Now, the coffer was too small to contain a body; therefore it contained money." (p.254) But no matter where he looked, Boulatruelle couldn't find the thing.
Now we jump again, this time to the ship. Orion had a long history, blah blah blah. More stuff about wars, political unrest, Bourbons, etc. I'm fascinated, truly. Whatever. The ship was at sea, now for whatever reason it's in the port at Toulon. (That's the same town where Valjean's galley ship was, back when he was #24601. He's #9430 now, which is way more boring and wouldn't trend at all.) I do like Hugo's musings about the awesomeness of ships:
- "A ship of the line is one of the most magnificent combinations of the genius of man with the powers of nature. / A ship of the line is composed, at the same time, of the heaviest and the lightest of possible matter, for it deals at one and the same time with three forms of substance,-solid, liquid, and fluid,-and it must do battle with all three. It has eleven claws of iron with which to seize the granite on the bottom of the sea, and more wings and more antennae than winged insects, to catch the wind in the clouds. Its breath pours out through its hundred and twenty cannons as through enormous trumpets, and replies proudly to the thunder. The ocean seeks to lead it astray in the alarming sameness of the billows, but the vessel has its soul, its compass, which counsels it and always shows it the north. In the blackest of nights, its lanterns supply the place of the starts. Thus, against the wind, it has its cordage and its canvas; against the water, wood; against the rocks, its iron, brass, and lead; against the shadows, its light; against immensity, a needle." (p.256)
|The main topsail yardarm is that top crossbeam|
on the middle spar, so: really, really high up.
And then what happened? Tune in after this commercial break....
- "All at once a man was seen climbing into the rigging with the agility of a tiger-cat; this man was dressed in red; he was a convict; he wore a green cap; he was a life convict. On arriving on a level with the top, a gust of wind carried away his cap, and allowed a perfectly white head to be seen: he was not a young man." (p.258)
- So this convict, while everyone was first freaking out about the topman, went to an officer and asked if he could risk his life to save the guy, and the officer agreed. The convict "had broken the chain riveted to his ankle with one blow of a hammer, then he had caught up a rope, and had dashed into the rigging: no one noticed, at the instant, with what ease that chain had been broken; it was only later on that the incident was recalled." (p.258) (suspicious!)
- "In a twinkling he was on the yard..." (p.258) and everyone on the dock held their breath while he looked over the situation and began to walk along the yard (that's one of the big beams that holds up sails, not, like, your back garden or whatever, FYI.) He tied a rope to the yard, "then he began to descend the rope, hand over hand, and then,-and the anguish was indescribable,- instead of one man suspended over the gulf, there were two." (p.258)
- "Ten thousand glances were fastened on this group; not a cry, not a word; the same tremor contracted every brow; all mouths held their breath as though they feared to add the slightest puff to the wind which was swaying the two unfortunate men." (p.258)
- The convict gets to the topman surely in the nick of time, since the sailor was clearly about to lose his grip. He held on to one rope while he tied the other securely around the sailor. The convict climbs back up, dragging the sailor behind him, takes a moment to catch his breath then picks up the sailor and carries him to where he can be safely handed over.
- "At that moment the crowd broke into applause; old convict-sergeants among them wept, and women embraced each other on the quay, and all the voices were heard to cry with a sort of tender rage, 'Pardon for that man!' " (p.258)
- "In order to reach [the detachment on deck] more speedily, he dropped into the rigging, and ran along one of the lower yards; all eyes were following him. At a certain moment fear assailed them; whether it was that he was fatigued, r that his head turned, they thought they saw him hesitate and stagger. All at once the crowd uttered a loud should; the convict had fallen into the sea." (p.258)
- "Four men flung themselves hastily into a boat; the crowd cheered them on; anxiety again took possession of all souls; the man had not risen to the surface; he had disappeared in the sea without leaving a ripple, as though he had fallen into a cask of oil: they sounded, they dived. In vain." (p.259)
Talk about gossip-worthy!