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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

And are not patient with Cossette


was a hungry heart. Love he had never known; he had never had a sweetheart. And now all pent-up love of a long life empties its precious ointment on the head of Cossette. He was all the mother she ever knew or needed to know. Heaven made her rich in such maternity as his. Mother instinct is in all good lives, and belongs to man. Maternity and paternity are met in the best manhood. The tenderness of motherhood must soften a man's touch to daintiness, like an evening wind's caress, before fatherhood is perfect. All his youthhood, which knew not any woman's lips to kiss; all his manhood, which had never shared a hearth with wife or child,--all this unused tenderness now administers to the wants of this orphan, Cossette. His rescue of her from the Thenardiers is poetry itself. He had the instincts of a gentleman. The doll he brought her for her first Christmas gift was forerunner of a thousand gifts of courtesy and love. See, too, the mourning garments he brought and laid beside her bed the first morning he brought her to his garret, and watched her slumber as if he had been appointed by God to be her guardian angel. To him life henceforth meant Cossette. He was her servant always. For her he fought for his life as if it had been an unutterable good. He lost himself, which is the very crown of motherhood's devotion. He was himself supplanted in her affections by her lover, Marius, and his heart was stabbed as if by poisoned daggers; for was not Cossette wife, daughter,
sister, brother, mother, father, friend--all? But if his heart was breaking, she never guessed it. He hid his hurt, though dying of heartbreak.

Then, too, Jean Valjean is misjudged, and by those who should have trusted him as they trusted God. We find it hard to be patient with Marius, and are not patient with Cossette. Her selfishness is not to be condoned. Her contrition and her tears come too late. Though Valjean forgives her, we do not forgive her. She deserves no forgiveness. Marius's honor was of the amateur order, lacking depth and breadth. He was superficial, judging by hearing rather than by eyes and heart. We have not patience to linger with his wife and him, but push past them to the hero spirit, whom they have not eyes to see nor hearts to understand. Jean Valjean misjudged, and by Marius and Cossette! Impossible! Javert may do that; Fantine, not knowing him, may do that, but once knowing him she had as lief distrusted day to bring the light as to have distrusted him. Misjudged, and by those he loved most, suffered for, more than died for! Poor Valjean! This wakes our pity and our tears. Before, we have watched him, and have felt the tug of battle on him; now the mists fall, and we put our hands before our eyes and weep. This saint of God misjudged by those for whom he lives! Yet this is no solitary pathos. Were all hearts' history known, we should know how many died misjudged. All Jean Valjean does has been misinterpreted. We distrust more and more circumstantial evidence. It is hideous. No jury ought to convict a man on evidence of circumstances. Too many tragedies have been enacted because of such. Marius thought he was discerning and of a sensitive honor. He thought it evident that Jean Valjean had slain Javert, and had slain Monsieur Madeleine, whose fortune he has offered as Cossette's marriage portion. Poor Jean Valjean! You a murderer, a marauder--you! Marius acts with frigid honor. Valjean will not live with Marius and Cossette, being too sensitive therefor, perceiving himself distrusted by Marius, but comes to warm his hands and heart at the hearth of Cossette's presence; and he is stung when he sees no fire in the reception-room. The omission he can not misinterpret. He goes again, and the chairs are removed. Marius may have honor, but his honor is cruel, like an inquisitor with rack and thumbscrew; and then Jean Valjean goes no more, but day by day suns his heart by going far enough to look at the house where Cossette is--no more; then his eyes are feverish to catch sight of her habitation as parched lips drink at desert springs. Misjudged! O, that is harder to bear than all his hurts!

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