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CHAPTER I THE 16TH OF FEBRUARY 1833 The night of the 16th to the 17th of February 1833 was a blessed night Above its shadows heaven stood open It was the wedding night of Marius and Cosette The day had been adorable It had not been the grand festival dreamed by the grandfather a fairy spectacle with a confusion of cherubim and Cupids over the heads of the bridal pair a marriage worthy to form the subject of a painting to be placed over a door but it had been sweet and smiling The manner of marriage in 1833 was not the same as it is to-day France had not yet borrowed from England that supreme delicacy of carrying off ones wife of fleeing on coming out of church of hiding oneself with shame from ones happiness and of combining the ways of a bankrupt with the delights of the Song of Songs People had not yet grasped to the full the chastity exquisiteness and decency of jolting their paradise in a posting-chaise of breaking up their mystery with clic-clacs of taking for a nuptial bed the bed of an inn and of leaving behind them in a commonplace chamber at so much a night the most sacred of the souvenirs of life mingled pell-mell with the tete-a-tete of the conductor of the diligence and the maid-servant of the inn In this second half of the nineteenth century in which we are now living the mayor and his scarf the priest and his chasuble the law and God no longer suffice they must be eked out by the Postilion de Lonjumeau a blue waistcoat turned up with red and with bell buttons a plaque like a vantbrace knee-breeches of green leather oaths to the Norman horses with their tails knotted up false galloons varnished hat long powdered locks an enormous whip and tall boots France
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