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C. S. B. Adapted from the French of Victor Hugo, "Les Miserables."
MONTFERMIEL was a little village in France. There were
large houses there, and small houses, and shops, and a
little church. It would have been a pleasant place to
live, only for one thing: there was no water to be
had in Montfermiel—one had to go a long, long way and
fetch it in a bucket from the spring.
In one of the very large houses—so large that peddlers
could stop there at night and sleep—lived little
Cosette. She was only a tiny little girl, but she had
no mother to love her and no one to buy her food and
clothes. She took the place of a maid-servant in the
house. There were Madame Thernardier and Father
Thernardier, and their two little girls—Eponine and
Azelma—who were happy and gay, but not one of them all
was kind to little Cosette.
She was so thin and ragged and unhappy that they called
her the Toad. All day long she ran upstairs and
downstairs, and washed, and swept, and rubbed,
 and dusted, and fluttered about, and did all the hard
work. It was Cosette's place, also, to go with the
heavy bucket to the spring for water, even when it was
night; and no one ever said "thank you" to her. Madame
Thernardier only scolded her, or struck her for not
It was one Christmas eve that I am going to tell you
about. Father Thernardier's large house was full of
peddlers stopping for the night, and they sat about the
kitchen fire smoking. Little Eponine and Azelma were
playing happily with the kitten, but little Cosette was
not allowed to play. She sat on the crossbar of the
kitchen table near the chimney corner. She was all in
rags and her little bare feet were thrust into wooden
shoes. She was knitting wool stockings for Eponine and
Azelma. All at once one of the peddlers jumped up.
"My horse has had no water," he said.
Little Cosette began knitting faster, but her heart
jumped like a big snowflake.
"My horse has not been watered," said the peddler once
"Well," said Madame Thernardier, "where is the Toad?"
She looked down and saw little Cosette hiding under the
"Are you coming?" shrieked Madame Thernardier.
Cosette crawled out and went for the empty bucket in
the chimney corner. The bucket was nearly as large as
"See here, Toad, on your way back you will buy a big
loaf at the baker's," said Madame Thernardier. "Here
is the money. Go along, now."
Cosette had a little pocket in her apron and she put
 the money in it; then she went out, and the door
was closed behind her.
Across the road were the shops all gay with the
Christmas things. The very last in the row was a toy
shop glittering with tinsel and glass and magnificent
objects of tin. In the very front of the window stood
an immense doll nearly two feet high. She wore a pink
silk robe. She had gold wheat ears on her head. She
had real hair and enamel eyes. All day she had smiled
out upon the little girls, but no mother in all
Montfermiel was rich enough to buy her.
Poor little Cosette went across the road and set down
her bucket to look at the doll.
"She is a lady," she said softly to herself. "And the
shop is her palace. The small dolls—they are the
fairies; and the toy man perhaps is as kind as the
But she heard Madame Thernardier's voice calling to
her: "What are you doing there? Get along, Toad, and
fetch the water or I shall be after you."
So Cosette picked up her bucket again and ran as fast
as she could until she was no longer able to see the
lights from the toy shop and it was quite dark.
The farther she went the darker it grew. There was no
one in the streets. At last she came to the open
fields, and the darkness seemed full of beasts walking
in the grass and spectres moving in the trees. She ran
through the woods and came to the spring. But as she
leaned over and plunged the bucket down, down, and then
drew it up full again, the money for the loaf fell from
her pocket and went splashing down into the water
Cosette did not hear it. She sat down in the grass too
tired to move. Then she remembered how Madame
 Thernardier was waiting, and she started for the
village again. But, oh! it was cold, the bucket was
very heavy, and little Cosette walked like an old
woman. The handle froze to her tiny fingers, and the
cold water splashed down on her little bare legs. No
one but God saw that sad thing—and her mother, perhaps.
Yet, suddenly, the bucket was not quite so heavy, for
some one had taken hold of the handle, and a kind, deep
"My child, what you are carrying is too heavy for you."
"Yes, sir," said little Cosette.
"Give it to me," said the man; "I will carry it for
you. Have you far to go?" he went on.
"A long way farther, sir," said little Cosette.
With one hand the man held little Cosette's cold
fingers close in his and they went on together. Little
Cosette was not in the least afraid, and she told the
stranger all about how pretty Eponine and Azelma were,
and the hard work, and how she had no mother.
"What do those little girls do?" asked the stranger.
"Oh," said Cosette, "they have beautiful dolls; they
play all day long."
"And you?" asked the stranger.
"Sometimes I play," said little Cosette. "I have a
little lead sword, and I wrap it in a cloth, and I rock
it to sleep when no one sees."
Presently they passed the shops. "Why are they
lighted?" asked the stranger.
"It is Christmas eve," said Cosette.
When they reached the house Madame Thernardier was
waiting to scold little Cosette for being so long.
"Where is the bread?" she cried.
Little Cosette had quite forgotten the bread. She
 turned her pocket inside out. What had become of
the money? Madame Thernardier was about to strike
Cosette, but the kind stranger stepped up to her.
"Here is money," he said. "When I return I will stay
at your house for the night."
Then the man went straight to the street door, opened
it, and stepped out. When he opened it again he
carried the wonderful toy-shop doll in his arms, with
her pink silk robe, the gold wheat ears on her head,
the real hair and the enamel eyes!
"Here, this is for you, little one," he said.
Little Cosette crept out from under the table. Her
eyes filled with tears, but they shone with joy, too,
like the sky at daybreak.
"May I touch it?" she asked, timidly. "Is the Lady
There were tears in the stranger's eyes, also. "Yes,
she is yours," he said again. "To-morrow you shall
come with me and be my little girl." And he put the
Lady's fingers in little Cosette's tiny hand.