The line of open-air booths starting at the church, extended, as the
reader will remember, as far as the hostelry of the Thenardiers.
These booths were all illuminated, because the citizens would
soon pass on their way to the midnight mass, with candles burning
in paper funnels, which, as the schoolmaster, then seated at the
table at the Thenardiers' observed, produced "a magical effect."
In compensation, not a star was visible in the sky.
The last of these stalls, established precisely opposite the Thenardiers'
door, was a toy-shop all glittering with tinsel, glass, and magnificent
objects of tin. In the first row, and far forwards, the merchant had
placed on a background of white napkins, an immense doll, nearly two
feet high, who was dressed in a robe of pink crepe, with gold wheat-ears
on her head, which had real hair and enamel eyes. All that day,
this marvel had been displayed to the wonderment of all passers-by
under ten years of age, without a mother being found in Montfermeil
sufficiently rich or sufficiently extravagant to give it to her child.
Eponine and Azelma had passed hours in contemplating it, and Cosette
herself had ventured to cast a glance at it, on the sly, it is true.
At the moment when Cosette emerged, bucket in hand, melancholy and
overcome as she was, she could not refrain from lifting her eyes
to that wonderful doll, towards the lady, as she called it.
The poor child paused in amazement. She had not yet beheld
that doll close to. The whole shop seemed a palace to her:
the doll was not a doll; it was a vision. It was joy, splendor,
riches, happiness, which appeared in a sort of chimerical halo
to that unhappy little being so profoundly engulfed in gloomy and
chilly misery. With the sad and innocent sagacity of childhood,
Cosette measured the abyss which separated her from that doll.
She said to herself that one must be a queen, or at least a princess,
to have a "thing" like that. She gazed at that beautiful pink dress,
that beautiful smooth hair, and she thought, "How happy that doll
must be!" She could not take her eyes from that fantastic stall.
The more she looked, the more dazzled she grew. She thought she
was gazing at paradise. There were other dolls behind the large one,
which seemed to her to be fairies and genii. The merchant, who was
pacing back and forth in front of his shop, produced on her somewhat
the effect of being the Eternal Father.
In this adoration she forgot everything, even the errand with
which she was charged.
All at once the Thenardier's coarse voice recalled her to reality:
"What, you silly jade! you have not gone? Wait! I'll give it
to you! I want to know what you are doing there! Get along,
you little monster!"
The Thenardier had cast a glance into the street, and had caught
sight of Cosette in her ecstasy.
Cosette fled, dragging her pail, and taking the longest strides
of which she was capable.