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JONDRETTE MAKES HIS PURCHASES
A few moments later, about three o'clock, Courfeyrac chanced to be passing along the Rue Mouffetard in company with Bossuet. The snow had redoubled in violence, and filled the air. Bossuet was just saying to Courfeyrac: -
"One would say, to see all these snow-flakes fall, that there was a plague of white butterflies in heaven." All at once, Bossuet caught sight of Marius coming up the street towards the barrier with a peculiar air.
"Hold!" said Bossuet. "There's Marius."
"I saw him," said Courfeyrac. "Don't let's speak to him."
"He is busy."
"Don't you see his air?"
"He has the air of a man who is following some one."
"That's true," said Bossuet.
"Just see the eyes he is making!" said Courfeyrac.
"But who the deuce is he following?"
"Some fine, flowery bonneted wench! He's in love."
"But," observed Bossuet, "I don't see any wench nor any flowery bonnet in the street. There's not a woman round."
Courfeyrac took a survey, and exclaimed: -
"He's following a man!"
A man, in fact, wearing a gray cap, and whose gray beard could be distinguished, although they only saw his back, was walking along about twenty paces in advance of Marius.
This man was dressed in a great-coat which was perfectly new and too large for him, and in a frightful pair of trousers all hanging in rags and black with mud.
Bossuet burst out laughing.
"Who is that man?"
"He?" retorted Courfeyrac, "he's a poet. Poets are very fond of wearing the trousers of dealers in rabbit skins and the overcoats of peers of France."
"Let's see where Marius will go," said Bossuet; "let's see where the man is going, let's follow them, hey?"
"Bossuet!" exclaimed Courfeyrac, "eagle of Meaux! You are a prodigious brute. Follow a man who is following another man, indeed!"
They retraced their steps.
Marius had, in fact, seen Jondrette passing along the Rue Mouffetard, and was spying on his proceedings.
Jondrette walked straight ahead, without a suspicion that he was already held by a glance.
He quitted the Rue Mouffetard, and Marius saw him enter one of the most terrible hovels in the Rue Gracieuse; he remained there about a quarter of an hour, then returned to the Rue Mouffetard. He halted at an ironmonger's shop, which then stood at the corner of the Rue Pierre-Lombard, and a few minutes later Marius saw him emerge from the shop, holding in his hand a huge cold chisel with a white wood handle, which he concealed beneath his great-coat. At the top of the Rue Petit-Gentilly he turned to the left and proceeded rapidly to the Rue du Petit-Banquier. The day was declining; the snow, which had ceased for a moment, had just begun again. Marius posted himself on the watch at the very corner of the Rue du Petit-Banquier, which was deserted, as usual, and did not follow Jondrette into it. It was lucky that he did so, for, on arriving in the vicinity of the wall where Marius had heard the long-haired man and the bearded man conversing, Jondrette turned round, made sure that no one was following him, did not see him, then sprang across the wall and disappeared.
The waste land bordered by this wall communicated with the back yard of an ex-livery stable-keeper of bad repute, who had failed and who still kept a few old single-seated berlins under his sheds.
Marius thought that it would be wise to profit by Jondrette's absence to return home; moreover, it was growing late; every evening, Ma'am Bougon when she set out for her dish-washing in town, had a habit of locking the door, which was always closed at dusk. Marius had given his key to the inspector of police; it was important, therefore, that he should make haste.
Evening had arrived, night had almost closed in; on the horizon and in the immensity of space, there remained but one spot illuminated by the sun, and that was the moon.
It was rising in a ruddy glow behind the low dome of Salpetriere.
Marius returned to No. 50-52 with great strides. The door was still open when he arrived. He mounted the stairs on tip-toe and glided along the wall of the corridor to his chamber. This corridor, as the reader will remember, was bordered on both sides by attics, all of which were, for the moment, empty and to let. Ma'am Bougon was in the habit of leaving all the doors open. As he passed one of these attics, Marius thought he perceived in the uninhabited cell the motionless heads of four men, vaguely lighted up by a remnant of daylight, falling through a dormer window,
Marius made no attempt to see, not wishing to be seen himself. He succeeded in reaching his chamber without being seen and without making any noise. It was high time. A moment later he heard Ma'am Bougon take her departure, locking the door of the house behind her.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XVI