Monsieur Gillenormand

M. Gillenormand, Marius’s grandfather, was now ninety years old. He was unhappy about many things — about losing his teeth, about the political situation but, most of all, about the fact that he had not seen his grandson for four years, since their big quarrel. Although he was too proud to admit he was wrong, and although he was angry, M. Gillenormand hoped that Marius, whom he still loved, would return one day.

One evening in June, M. Gillenormand was sitting in front of a large fire, staring into the flames and thinking bitterly of Marius. He was feeling depressed, because he realized that he would probably never see his grandson again. While he was gazing into the fire, thinking these sad thoughts, his old servant entered the room and asked, ‘Will Monsieur receive M. Marius?’

For a moment all the blood seemed to leave M. Gillenormand’s face, and the servant began to worry that his master was ill. But the old man finally raised his head and said, in a low voice, ‘Show him in.’

Marius stood uncertainly in the doorway. The poor condition of his clothes could not be seen in the half-darkness of the room. Nothing of him was clearly visible except his face, which was calm and serious, but strangely sad.

M. Gillenormand stared at his grandson with disbelief. At last! After four years! Was it really him? He wanted to open his arms and hug him, but all he said was, ‘What have you come for?’

Marius murmured something in embarrassment.

‘I can’t hear you,’ the old man said, looking annoyed. ‘Have you come to apologize? Do you now see that you were wrong?’

‘No, Monsieur.’ Marius lowered his eyes.

‘Well then,’ the old man shouted, ‘what do you want?’

‘Monsieur, I ask you to have pity on me. I know I’m not welcome here, but I have come to ask for only one thing. Then I’ll go away at once.’

‘You’re a young fool,’ the old man said. ‘Who said you had to go away? You left me — your grandfather! — to join in those street protests against the government, I suppose. You’re probably in trouble with the police, or you’re in debt, and you’ve run back to me for help

‘Monsieur, it’s none of those things.’

‘Well, what is it exactly that you want?’

‘I have come to ask your permission to get married.’

The old man paused for a moment before saying, ‘So, you want to get married at the age of twenty-one. I suppose you’ve got some sort of career, now? Perhaps you’ve made a fortune. What do you earn as a lawyer?’


‘Well then, I imagine the lucky girl must have money.’

‘She’s no richer than I am.’

‘What does her father do?’

‘I don’t know.’

M. Gillenormand turned away with disgust.

‘So that’s it. Twenty-one years old, no job, no money. Your wife will have to count the sous when she goes to the market, won’t she?’

‘I beg you, Monsieur,’ Marius cried. ‘I love her so much. Please allow me to marry her!’

The old man gave a high, unpleasant laugh.

‘So you said to yourself, «I’ll have to go and see him, that old fool. He’ll be so happy to see me that he won’t care who I marry. I haven’t a pair of shoes, and she hasn’t a shirt, but never mind. I’m going to throw away my youth, my career, my whole life, and dive into poverty with a woman around my neck… » That’s what you think, isn’t it? Well, my boy, you can do whatever you want. But I will never give you my permission! Never!’



The tone of his grandfather’s voice robbed Marius of all hope. He rose and crossed the room slowly, with his head bowed. He had just reached the door, however, when M. Gillenormand moved quickly towards him, pulled him back into the room and pushed him into an armchair.

‘Tell me about it,’ he said to Marius, who stared back with silent amazement, unaware that the word ‘grandfather’ was responsible for the change in the old man’s behaviour. ‘Come on, tell me about your love affairs. Don’t be afraid to talk. Don’t forget, I’m your grandfather. Here… ‘ he said, taking a purse from a drawer and putting it on the table. ‘Here’s some money for you. Buy yourself some new clothes.’

Marius told his grandfather all about Cosette and how much he loved her. M. Gillenormand listened carefully and, when Marius had finished, he laughed.

‘You must enjoy yourself when you’re young,’ he said. ‘But you must also be sensible. Don’t get married yet, that’s my advice. Have fun with the girl, but don’t marry her. Make her your lover but not your wife.’

Marius, too shocked to reply, shook his head and rose to his feet. He then turned slowly to the old man, bowed deeply and said, ‘Four years ago you insulted my father. Today you have insulted my future wife. I shall ask no more favours of you, Monsieur. Goodbye.’

M. Gillenormand called for Marius to come back, but it was too late. The proud young man had closed the door and gone.

‘Oh my God,’ the old man cried, burying his face in his hands. ‘What have I done? This time he’ll never come back.’


Marius left his grandfathers house in a state of despair, and returning to his room, fell asleep fully-dressed on the bed. When he woke up, Enjolras was in the room with a few other friends. They all looked very nervous and excited about something.

‘What’s the matter?’ Marius asked sleepily

‘Are you coming to the funeral of General Lamarque?’

‘Who’s he?’

Enjolras and his friends shook their heads with amazement at their friend’s lack of awareness, and soon left the room. Marius opened a drawer and took out the two guns which Inspector Javert had lent him in February. Putting them in his jacket pocket, he went out and continued to wander aimlessly around the streets, noticing only occasionally the strange atmosphere of excitement that was growing in the town. People were running around, and there was a lot of noise, but Marius paid little attention. He could think of only one thing: his meeting later that evening with Cosette. This would be his last brief happiness; after that, there would be only darkness.

At nine o’clock that evening, Marius crept into the garden of Cosette’s house, but she was not there waiting for him as she had promised. Looking up, he saw that there were no lights on in the house and that all the windows were closed. Unable to control himself, he beat his fists against the walls of the house.

‘Cosette!’ he cried, not caring who heard him. ‘Where are you?’

He called her name again and again until, exhausted, he sat down on the stone steps. Now she was gone, he told himself, he had no future. There was nothing for him to do except die.

Suddenly he heard a voice calling through the trees from the street.

‘M. Marius!’

He looked up.

‘Who’s that?’

‘Is that you, M. Marius?’


‘Your friends are waiting for you at the barricade in the rue de Chanvrerie.’

Marius ran to the gate and was just in time to see the figure of Eponine, Thenardier’s daughter, disappearing into the shadows at the end of the street.


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