Part 26 out of 36
He began again:--
"What! you deserted me, your grandfather, you left my house to go
no one knows whither, you drove your aunt to despair, you went off,
it is easily guessed, to lead a bachelor life; it's more convenient,
to play the dandy, to come in at all hours, to amuse yourself;
you have given me no signs of life, you have contracted debts without
even telling me to pay them, you have become a smasher of windows
and a blusterer, and, at the end of four years, you come to me,
and that is all you have to say to me!"
This violent fashion of driving a grandson to tenderness was
productive only of silence on the part of Marius. M. Gillenormand
folded his arms; a gesture which with him was peculiarly imperious,
and apostrophized Marius bitterly:--
"Let us make an end of this. You have come to ask something of me,
you say? Well, what? What is it? Speak!"
"Sir," said Marius, with the look of a man who feels that he is falling
over a precipice, "I have come to ask your permission to marry."
M. Gillenormand rang the bell. Basque opened the door half-way.
"Call my daughter."
A second later, the door was opened once more, Mademoiselle Gillenormand
did not enter, but showed herself; Marius was standing, mute, with
pendant arms and the face of a criminal; M. Gillenormand was pacing
back and forth in the room. He turned to his daughter and said to her:--
"Nothing. It is Monsieur Marius. Say good day to him.
Monsieur wishes to marry. That's all. Go away."
The curt, hoarse sound of the old man's voice announced a strange
degree of excitement. The aunt gazed at Marius with a frightened air,
hardly appeared to recognize him, did not allow a gesture or a
syllable to escape her, and disappeared at her father's breath
more swiftly than a straw before the hurricane.
In the meantime, Father Gillenormand had returned and placed his
back against the chimney-piece once more.
"You marry! At one and twenty! You have arranged that! You have
only a permission to ask! a formality. Sit down, sir. Well, you
have had a revolution since I had the honor to see you last.
The Jacobins got the upper hand. You must have been delighted.
Are you not a Republican since you are a Baron? You can make
that agree. The Republic makes a good sauce for the barony.
Are you one of those decorated by July? Have you taken the Louvre
at all, sir? Quite near here, in the Rue Saint-Antoine, opposite
the Rue des Nonamdieres, there is a cannon-ball incrusted in
the wall of the third story of a house with this inscription:
`July 28th, 1830.' Go take a look at that. It produces a good effect.
Ah! those friends of yours do pretty things. By the way, aren't they
erecting a fountain in the place of the monument of M. le Duc de Berry?
So you want to marry? Whom? Can one inquire without indiscretion?"
He paused, and, before Marius had time to answer, he added violently:--
"Come now, you have a profession? A fortune made? How much do you
earn at your trade of lawyer?"
"Nothing," said Marius, with a sort of firmness and resolution
that was almost fierce.
"Nothing? Then all that you have to live upon is the twelve hundred
livres that I allow you?"
Marius did not reply. M. Gillenormand continued:--
"Then I understand the girl is rich?"
"As rich as I am."
"What! No dowry?"
"I think not."
"Utterly naked! What's the father?"
"I don't know."
"And what's her name?"
"Pttt!" ejaculated the old gentleman.
"Sir!" exclaimed Marius.
M. Gillenormand interrupted him with the tone of a man who is
speaking to himself:--
"That's right, one and twenty years of age, no profession,
twelve hundred livres a year, Madame la Baronne de Pontmercy will go
and purchase a couple of sous' worth of parsley from the fruiterer."
"Sir," repeated Marius, in the despair at the last hope,
which was vanishing, "I entreat you! I conjure you in the name
of Heaven, with clasped hands, sir, I throw myself at your feet,
permit me to marry her!"
The old man burst into a shout of strident and mournful laughter,
coughing and laughing at the same time.
"Ah! ah! ah! You said to yourself: `Pardine! I'll go hunt up
that old blockhead, that absurd numskull! What a shame that I'm
not twenty-five! How I'd treat him to a nice respectful summons!
How nicely I'd get along without him! It's nothing to me,
I'd say to him: "You're only too happy to see me, you old idiot,
I want to marry, I desire to wed Mamselle No-matter-whom, daughter
of Monsieur No-matter-what, I have no shoes, she has no chemise,
that just suits; I want to throw my career, my future, my youth,
my life to the dogs; I wish to take a plunge into wretchedness with
a woman around my neck, that's an idea, and you must consent to it!"
and the old fossil will consent.' Go, my lad, do as you like,
attach your paving-stone, marry your Pousselevent, your Coupelevent--
Never, sir, never!"
At the tone in which that "never" was uttered, Marius lost all hope.
He traversed the chamber with slow steps, with bowed head, tottering and
more like a dying man than like one merely taking his departure.
M. Gillenormand followed him with his eyes, and at the moment
when the door opened, and Marius was on the point of going out,
he advanced four paces, with the senile vivacity of impetuous and
spoiled old gentlemen, seized Marius by the collar, brought him back
energetically into the room, flung him into an armchair and said
"Tell me all about it!"
"It was that single word "father" which had effected this revolution.
Marius stared at him in bewilderment. M. Gillenormand's mobile
face was no longer expressive of anything but rough and ineffable
good-nature. The grandsire had given way before the grandfather.
"Come, see here, speak, tell me about your love affairs, jabber,
tell me everything! Sapristi! how stupid young folks are!"
"Father--" repeated Marius.
The old man's entire countenance lighted up with indescribable radiance.
"Yes, that's right, call me father, and you'll see!"
There was now something so kind, so gentle, so openhearted,
and so paternal in this brusqueness, that Marius, in the sudden
transition from discouragement to hope, was stunned and intoxicated
by it, as it were. He was seated near the table, the light
from the candles brought out the dilapidation of his costume,
which Father Gillenormand regarded with amazement.
"Well, father--" said Marius.
"Ah, by the way," interrupted M. Gillenormand, "you really have
not a penny then? You are dressed like a pickpocket."
He rummaged in a drawer, drew forth a purse, which he laid
on the table: "Here are a hundred louis, buy yourself a hat."
"Father," pursued Marius, "my good father, if you only knew! I love her.
You cannot imagine it; the first time I saw her was at the Luxembourg,
she came there; in the beginning, I did not pay much heed to her,
and then, I don't know how it came about, I fell in love with her.
Oh! how unhappy that made me! Now, at last, I see her every day,
at her own home, her father does not know it, just fancy, they are
going away, it is in the garden that we meet, in the evening,
her father means to take her to England, then I said to myself:
`I'll go and see my grandfather and tell him all about the affair.
I should go mad first, I should die, I should fall ill, I should
throw myself into the water. I absolutely must marry her,
since I should go mad otherwise.' This is the whole truth, and I
do not think that I have omitted anything. She lives in a garden
with an iron fence, in the Rue Plumet. It is in the neighborhood of
Father Gillenormand had seated himself, with a beaming countenance,
beside Marius. As he listened to him and drank in the sound of
his voice, he enjoyed at the same time a protracted pinch of snuff.
At the words "Rue Plumet" he interrupted his inhalation and allowed
the remainder of his snuff to fall upon his knees.
"The Rue Plumet, the Rue Plumet, did you say?--Let us see!--Are there
not barracks in that vicinity?--Why, yes, that's it. Your cousin
Theodule has spoken to me about it. The lancer, the officer.
A gay girl, my good friend, a gay girl!--Pardieu, yes, the Rue Plumet.
It is what used to be called the Rue Blomet.--It all comes back
to me now. I have heard of that little girl of the iron railing
in the Rue Plumet. In a garden, a Pamela. Your taste is not bad.
She is said to be a very tidy creature. Between ourselves,
I think that simpleton of a lancer has been courting her a bit.
I don't know where he did it. However, that's not to the purpose.
Besides, he is not to be believed. He brags, Marius! I think
it quite proper that a young man like you should be in love.
It's the right thing at your age. I like you better as a lover
than as a Jacobin. I like you better in love with a petticoat,
sapristi! with twenty petticoats, than with M. de Robespierre.
For my part, I will do myself the justice to say, that in the line
of sans-culottes, I have never loved any one but women. Pretty girls
are pretty girls, the deuce! There's no objection to that. As for
the little one, she receives you without her father's knowledge.
That's in the established order of things. I have had adventures of
that same sort myself. More than one. Do you know what is done then?
One does not take the matter ferociously; one does not precipitate
himself into the tragic; one does not make one's mind to marriage
and M. le Maire with his scarf. One simply behaves like a fellow
of spirit. One shows good sense. Slip along, mortals; don't marry.
You come and look up your grandfather, who is a good-natured fellow
at bottom, and who always has a few rolls of louis in an old drawer;
you say to him: `See here, grandfather.' And the grandfather says:
`That's a simple matter. Youth must amuse itself, and old age
must wear out. I have been young, you will be old. Come, my boy,
you shall pass it on to your grandson. Here are two hundred pistoles.
Amuse yourself, deuce take it!' Nothing better! That's the way the
affair should be treated. You don't marry, but that does no harm.
You understand me?"
Marius, petrified and incapable of uttering a syllable, made a sign
with his head that he did not.
The old man burst out laughing, winked his aged eye, gave him
a slap on the knee, stared him full in the face with a mysterious
and beaming air, and said to him, with the tenderest of shrugs
of the shoulder:--
"Booby! make her your mistress."
Marius turned pale. He had understood nothing of what his grandfather
had just said. This twaddle about the Rue Blomet, Pamela, the barracks,
the lancer, had passed before Marius like a dissolving view.
Nothing of all that could bear any reference to Cosette, who was
a lily. The good man was wandering in his mind. But this wandering
terminated in words which Marius did understand, and which were
a mortal insult to Cosette. Those words, "make her your mistress,"
entered the heart of the strict young man like a sword.
He rose, picked up his hat which lay on the floor, and walked
to the door with a firm, assured step. There he turned round,
bowed deeply to his grandfather, raised his head erect again,
"Five years ago you insulted my father; to-day you have insulted
my wife. I ask nothing more of you, sir. Farewell."
Father Gillenormand, utterly confounded, opened his mouth,
extended his arms, tried to rise, and before he could utter a word,
the door closed once more, and Marius had disappeared.
The old man remained for several minutes motionless and as though
struck by lightning, without the power to speak or breathe, as though
a clenched fist grasped his throat. At last he tore himself from his
arm-chair, ran, so far as a man can run at ninety-one, to the door,
opened it, and cried:--
His daughter made her appearance, then the domestics. He began again,
with a pitiful rattle: "Run after him! Bring him back! What have I
done to him? He is mad! He is going away! Ah! my God! Ah! my God!
This time he will not come back!"
He went to the window which looked out on the street, threw it open
with his aged and palsied hands, leaned out more than half-way,
while Basque and Nicolette held him behind, and shouted:--
"Marius! Marius! Marius! Marius!"
But Marius could no longer hear him, for at that moment he was
turning the corner of the Rue Saint-Louis.
The octogenarian raised his hands to his temples two or three times
with an expression of anguish, recoiled tottering, and fell back
into an arm-chair, pulseless, voiceless, tearless, with quivering
head and lips which moved with a stupid air, with nothing in his eyes
and nothing any longer in his heart except a gloomy and profound
something which resembled night.
BOOK NINTH.--WHITHER ARE THEY GOING?
That same day, towards four o'clock in the afternoon, Jean Valjean
was sitting alone on the back side of one of the most solitary
slopes in the Champ-de-Mars. Either from prudence, or from a desire
to meditate, or simply in consequence of one of those insensible
changes of habit which gradually introduce themselves into the
existence of every one, he now rarely went out with Cosette.
He had on his workman's waistcoat, and trousers of gray linen;
and his long-visored cap concealed his countenance.
He was calm and happy now beside Cosette; that which had, for a time,
alarmed and troubled him had been dissipated; but for the last
week or two, anxieties of another nature had come up. One day,
while walking on the boulevard, he had caught sight of Thenardier;
thanks to his disguise, Thenardier had not recognized him; but since
that day, Jean Valjean had seen him repeatedly, and he was now certain
that Thenardier was prowling about in their neighborhood.
This had been sufficient to make him come to a decision.
Moreover, Paris was not tranquil: political troubles presented this
inconvenient feature, for any one who had anything to conceal in
his life, that the police had grown very uneasy and very suspicious,
and that while seeking to ferret out a man like Pepin or Morey,
they might very readily discover a man like Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean had made up his mind to quit Paris, and even France,
and go over to England.
He had warned Cosette. He wished to set out before the end of the week.
He had seated himself on the slope in the Champ-de-Mars, turning
over all sorts of thoughts in his mind,--Thenardier, the police,
the journey, and the difficulty of procuring a passport.
He was troubled from all these points of view.
Last of all, an inexplicable circumstance which had just attracted
his attention, and from which he had not yet recovered, had added
to his state of alarm.
On the morning of that very day, when he alone of the household
was stirring, while strolling in the garden before Cosette's
shutters were open, he had suddenly perceived on the wall,
the following line, engraved, probably with a nail:--
16 Rue de la Verrerie.
This was perfectly fresh, the grooves in the ancient black mortar
were white, a tuft of nettles at the foot of the wall was powdered
with the fine, fresh plaster.
This had probably been written on the preceding night.
What was this? A signal for others? A warning for himself?
In any case, it was evident that the garden had been violated,
and that strangers had made their way into it.
He recalled the odd incidents which had already alarmed the household.
His mind was now filling in this canvas.
He took good care not to speak to Cosette of the line written
on the wall, for fear of alarming her.
In the midst of his preoccupations, he perceived, from a shadow
cast by the sun, that some one had halted on the crest of the slope
immediately behind him.
He was on the point of turning round, when a paper folded in four
fell upon his knees as though a hand had dropped it over his head.
He took the paper, unfolded it, and read these words written
in large characters, with a pencil:--
"MOVE AWAY FROM YOUR HOUSE."
Jean Valjean sprang hastily to his feet; there was no one on the slope;
he gazed all around him and perceived a creature larger than
a child, not so large as a man, clad in a gray blouse and trousers
of dust-colored cotton velvet, who was jumping over the parapet
and who slipped into the moat of the Champde-Mars.
Jean Valjean returned home at once, in a very thoughtful mood.
Marius had left M. Gillenormand in despair. He had entered the
house with very little hope, and quitted it with immense despair.
However, and those who have observed the depths of the human
heart will understand this, the officer, the lancer, the ninny,
Cousin Theodule, had left no trace in his mind. Not the slightest.
The dramatic poet might, apparently, expect some complications from
this revelation made point-blank by the grandfather to the grandson.
But what the drama would gain thereby, truth would lose.
Marius was at an age when one believes nothing in the line of evil;
later on comes the age when one believes everything. Suspicions are
nothing else than wrinkles. Early youth has none of them.
That which overwhelmed Othello glides innocuous over Candide.
Suspect Cosette! There are hosts of crimes which Marius could sooner
He began to wander about the streets, the resource of those who suffer.
He thought of nothing, so far as he could afterwards remember.
At two o'clock in the morning he returned to Courfeyrac's quarters
and flung himself, without undressing, on his mattress. The sun
was shining brightly when he sank into that frightful leaden slumber
which permits ideas to go and come in the brain. When he awoke,
he saw Courfeyrac, Enjolras, Feuilly, and Combeferre standing in the
room with their hats on and all ready to go out.
Courfeyrac said to him:--
"Are you coming to General Lamarque's funeral?"
It seemed to him that Courfeyrac was speaking Chinese.
He went out some time after them. He put in his pocket the pistols
which Javert had given him at the time of the adventure on the 3d
of February, and which had remained in his hands. These pistols
were still loaded. It would be difficult to say what vague thought
he had in his mind when he took them with him.
All day long he prowled about, without knowing where he was going;
it rained at times, he did not perceive it; for his dinner, he purchased
a penny roll at a baker's, put it in his pocket and forgot it.
It appears that he took a bath in the Seine without being aware of it.
There are moments when a man has a furnace within his skull.
Marius was passing through one of those moments. He no longer hoped
for anything; this step he had taken since the preceding evening.
He waited for night with feverish impatience, he had but one idea
clearly before his mind;--this was, that at nine o'clock he should
see Cosette. This last happiness now constituted his whole future;
after that, gloom. At intervals, as he roamed through the most deserted
boulevards, it seemed to him that he heard strange noises in Paris.
He thrust his head out of his revery and said: "Is there fighting
At nightfall, at nine o'clock precisely, as he had promised Cosette,
he was in the Rue Plumet. When he approached the grating he
forgot everything. It was forty-eight hours since he had seen Cosette;
he was about to behold her once more; every other thought was effaced,
and he felt only a profound and unheard-of joy. Those minutes in which
one lives centuries always have this sovereign and wonderful property,
that at the moment when they are passing they fill the heart completely.
Marius displaced the bar, and rushed headlong into the garden.
Cosette was not at the spot where she ordinarily waited for him.
He traversed the thicket, and approached the recess near the flight
of steps: "She is waiting for me there," said he. Cosette was
not there. He raised his eyes, and saw that the shutters of the house
were closed. He made the tour of the garden, the garden was deserted.
Then he returned to the house, and, rendered senseless by love,
intoxicated, terrified, exasperated with grief and uneasiness,
like a master who returns home at an evil hour, he tapped on
the shutters. He knocked and knocked again, at the risk of seeing
the window open, and her father's gloomy face make its appearance,
and demand: "What do you want?" This was nothing in comparison
with what he dimly caught a glimpse of. When he had rapped,
he lifted up his voice and called Cosette.--"Cosette!" he cried;
"Cosette!" he repeated imperiously. There was no reply. All was over.
No one in the garden; no one in the house.
Marius fixed his despairing eyes on that dismal house, which was as black
and as silent as a tomb and far more empty. He gazed at the stone
seat on which he had passed so many adorable hours with Cosette.
Then he seated himself on the flight of steps, his heart filled
with sweetness and resolution, he blessed his love in the depths
of his thought, and he said to himself that, since Cosette was gone,
all that there was left for him was to die.
All at once he heard a voice which seemed to proceed from the street,
and which was calling to him through the trees:--
He started to his feet.
"Hey?" said he.
"Mr. Marius, are you there?"
"Mr. Marius," went on the voice, "your friends are waiting for you
at the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie."
This voice was not wholly unfamiliar to him. It resembled the hoarse,
rough voice of Eponine. Marius hastened to the gate, thrust aside
the movable bar, passed his head through the aperture, and saw
some one who appeared to him to be a young man, disappearing at
a run into the gloom.
Jean Valjean's purse was of no use to M. Mabeuf. M. Mabeuf,
in his venerable, infantile austerity, had not accepted the gift
of the stars; he had not admitted that a star could coin itself
into louis d'or. He had not divined that what had fallen from heaven
had come from Gavroche. He had taken the purse to the police
commissioner of the quarter, as a lost article placed by the finder
at the disposal of claimants. The purse was actually lost.
It is unnecessary to say that no one claimed it, and that it did
not succor M. Mabeuf.
Moreover, M. Mabeuf had continued his downward course.
His experiments on indigo had been no more successful in the
Jardin des Plantes than in his garden at Austerlitz. The year
before he had owed his housekeeper's wages; now, as we have seen,
he owed three quarters of his rent. The pawnshop had sold the
plates of his Flora after the expiration of thirteen months.
Some coppersmith had made stewpans of them. His copper plates gone,
and being unable to complete even the incomplete copies of his
Flora which were in his possession, he had disposed of the text,
at a miserable price, as waste paper, to a second-hand bookseller.
Nothing now remained to him of his life's work. He set to work
to eat up the money for these copies. When he saw that this
wretched resource was becoming exhausted, he gave up his garden
and allowed it to run to waste. Before this, a long time before,
he had given up his two eggs and the morsel of beef which he ate
from time to time. He dined on bread and potatoes. He had sold
the last of his furniture, then all duplicates of his bedding,
his clothing and his blankets, then his herbariums and prints;
but he still retained his most precious books, many of which were
of the greatest rarity, among others, Les Quadrins Historiques de
la Bible, edition of 1560; La Concordance des Bibles, by Pierre
de Besse; Les Marguerites de la Marguerite, of Jean de La Haye,
with a dedication to the Queen of Navarre; the book de la Charge
et Dignite de l'Ambassadeur, by the Sieur de Villiers Hotman;
a Florilegium Rabbinicum of 1644; a Tibullus of 1567, with this
magnificent inscription: Venetiis, in aedibus Manutianis; and lastly,
a Diogenes Laertius, printed at Lyons in 1644, which contained
the famous variant of the manuscript 411, thirteenth century,
of the Vatican, and those of the two manuscripts of Venice,
393 and 394, consulted with such fruitful results by Henri Estienne,
and all the passages in Doric dialect which are only found
in the celebrated manuscript of the twelfth century belonging to
the Naples Library. M. Mabeuf never had any fire in his chamber,
and went to bed at sundown, in order not to consume any candles.
It seemed as though he had no longer any neighbors: people avoided
him when he went out; he perceived the fact. The wretchedness of a
child interests a mother, the wretchedness of a young man interests
a young girl, the wretchedness of an old man interests no one.
It is, of all distresses, the coldest. Still, Father Mabeuf had
not entirely lost his childlike serenity. His eyes acquired some
vivacity when they rested on his books, and he smiled when he gazed
at the Diogenes Laertius, which was a unique copy. His bookcase
with glass doors was the only piece of furniture which he had kept
beyond what was strictly indispensable.
One day, Mother Plutarque said to him:--
"I have no money to buy any dinner."
What she called dinner was a loaf of bread and four or five potatoes.
"On credit?" suggested M. Mabeuf.
"You know well that people refuse me."
M. Mabeuf opened his bookcase, took a long look at all his books,
one after another, as a father obliged to decimate his children would
gaze upon them before making a choice, then seized one hastily,
put it in under his arm and went out. He returned two hours later,
without anything under his arm, laid thirty sous on the table,
"You will get something for dinner."
From that moment forth, Mother Plutarque saw a sombre veil,
which was never more lifted, descend over the old man's candid face.
On the following day, on the day after, and on the day after that,
it had to be done again.
M. Mabeuf went out with a book and returned with a coin.
As the second-hand dealers perceived that he was forced to sell,
they purchased of him for twenty sous that for which he had paid
twenty francs, sometimes at those very shops. Volume by volume,
the whole library went the same road. He said at times: "But I
am eighty;" as though he cherished some secret hope that he should
arrive at the end of his days before reaching the end of his books.
His melancholy increased. Once, however, he had a pleasure.
He had gone out with a Robert Estienne, which he had sold for
thirty-five sous under the Quai Malaquais, and he returned with an
Aldus which he had bought for forty sous in the Rue des Gres.--"I
owe five sous," he said, beaming on Mother Plutarque. That day he
had no dinner.
He belonged to the Horticultural Society. His destitution became
known there. The president of the society came to see him,
promised to speak to the Minister of Agriculture and Commerce
about him, and did so.--"Why, what!" exclaimed the Minister,
"I should think so! An old savant! a botanist! an inoffensive man!
Something must be done for him!" On the following day, M. Mabeuf
received an invitation to dine with the Minister. Trembling with joy,
he showed the letter to Mother Plutarque. "We are saved!" said he.
On the day appointed, he went to the Minister's house. He perceived
that his ragged cravat, his long, square coat, and his waxed shoes
astonished the ushers. No one spoke to him, not even the Minister.
About ten o'clock in the evening, while he was still waiting
for a word, he heard the Minister's wife, a beautiful woman in a
low-necked gown whom he had not ventured to approach, inquire:
"Who is that old gentleman?" He returned home on foot at midnight,
in a driving rain-storm. He had sold an Elzevir to pay for a carriage
in which to go thither.
He had acquired the habit of reading a few pages in his Diogenes
Laertius every night, before he went to bed. He knew enough
Greek to enjoy the peculiarities of the text which he owned.
He had now no other enjoyment. Several weeks passed. All at once,
Mother Plutarque fell ill. There is one thing sadder than having
no money with which to buy bread at the baker's and that is having
no money to purchase drugs at the apothecary's. One evening,
the doctor had ordered a very expensive potion. And the malady was
growing worse; a nurse was required. M. Mabeuf opened his bookcase;
there was nothing there. The last volume had taken its departure.
All that was left to him was Diogenes Laertius. He put this unique
copy under his arm, and went out. It was the 4th of June, 1832;
he went to the Porte Saint-Jacques, to Royal's successor, and returned
with one hundred francs. He laid the pile of five-franc pieces
on the old serving-woman's nightstand, and returned to his chamber
without saying a word.
On the following morning, at dawn, he seated himself on the overturned
post in his garden, and he could be seen over the top of the hedge,
sitting the whole morning motionless, with drooping head, his eyes
vaguely fixed on the withered flower-beds. It rained at intervals;
the old man did not seem to perceive the fact.
In the afternoon, extraordinary noises broke out in Paris.
They resembled shots and the clamors of a multitude.
Father Mabeuf raised his head. He saw a gardener passing,
"What is it?"
The gardener, spade on back, replied in the most unconcerned tone:--
"It is the riots."
"Yes, they are fighting."
"Why are they fighting?"
"Ah, good Heavens!" ejaculated the gardener.
"In what direction?" went on M. Mabeuf.
"In the neighborhood of the Arsenal."
Father Mabeuf went to his room, took his hat, mechanically sought
for a book to place under his arm, found none, said: "Ah! truly!"
and went off with a bewildered air.
BOOK TENTH.--THE 5TH OF JUNE, 1832
THE SURFACE OF THE QUESTION
Of what is revolt composed? Of nothing and of everything.
Of an electricity disengaged, little by little, of a flame suddenly
darting forth, of a wandering force, of a passing breath.
This breath encounters heads which speak, brains which dream,
souls which suffer, passions which burn, wretchedness which howls,
and bears them away.
At random. Athwart the state, the laws, athwart prosperity
and the insolence of others.
Irritated convictions, embittered enthusiasms, agitated indignations,
instincts of war which have been repressed, youthful courage which has
been exalted, generous blindness; curiosity, the taste for change,
the thirst for the unexpected, the sentiment which causes one to
take pleasure in reading the posters for the new play, and love,
the prompter's whistle, at the theatre; the vague hatreds,
rancors, disappointments, every vanity which thinks that destiny
has bankrupted it; discomfort, empty dreams, ambitious that are
hedged about, whoever hopes for a downfall, some outcome, in short,
at the very bottom, the rabble, that mud which catches fire,--
such are the elements of revolt. That which is grandest and that
which is basest; the beings who prowl outside of all bounds,
awaiting an occasion, bohemians, vagrants, vagabonds of the
cross-roads, those who sleep at night in a desert of houses with no
other roof than the cold clouds of heaven, those who, each day,
demand their bread from chance and not from toil, the unknown
of poverty and nothingness, the bare-armed, the bare-footed, belong
to revolt. Whoever cherishes in his soul a secret revolt against
any deed whatever on the part of the state, of life or of fate,
is ripe for riot, and, as soon as it makes its appearance,
he begins to quiver, and to feel himself borne away with the whirlwind.
Revolt is a sort of waterspout in the social atmosphere which
forms suddenly in certain conditions of temperature, and which,
as it eddies about, mounts, descends, thunders, tears, razes,
crushes, demolishes, uproots, bearing with it great natures
and small, the strong man and the feeble mind, the tree
trunk and the stalk of straw. Woe to him whom it bears away
as well as to him whom it strikes! It breaks the one against the other.
It communicates to those whom it seizes an indescribable
and extraordinary power. It fills the first-comer with the
force of events; it converts everything into projectiles.
It makes a cannon-ball of a rough stone, and a general of a porter.
If we are to believe certain oracles of crafty political views,
a little revolt is desirable from the point of view of power. System:
revolt strengthens those governments which it does not overthrow.
It puts the army to the test; it consecrates the bourgeoisie,
it draws out the muscles of the police; it demonstrates the force
of the social framework. It is an exercise in gymnastics;
it is almost hygiene. Power is in better health after a revolt,
as a man is after a good rubbing down.
Revolt, thirty years ago, was regarded from still other points
There is for everything a theory, which proclaims itself "good sense";
Philintus against Alcestis; mediation offered between the false and
the true; explanation, admonition, rather haughty extenuation which,
because it is mingled with blame and excuse, thinks itself wisdom,
and is often only pedantry. A whole political school called "the
golden mean" has been the outcome of this. As between cold water
and hot water, it is the lukewarm water party. This school with its
false depth, all on the surface, which dissects effects without going
back to first causes, chides from its height of a demi-science,
the agitation of the public square.
If we listen to this school, "The riots which complicated the affair of
1830 deprived that great event of a portion of its purity. The Revolution
of July had been a fine popular gale, abruptly followed by blue sky.
They made the cloudy sky reappear. They caused that revolution,
at first so remarkable for its unanimity, to degenerate into a quarrel.
In the Revolution of July, as in all progress accomplished by fits
and starts, there had been secret fractures; these riots rendered
them perceptible. It might have been said: `Ah! this is broken.'
After the Revolution of July, one was sensible only of deliverance;
after the riots, one was conscious of a catastrophe.
"All revolt closes the shops, depresses the funds, throws the
Exchange into consternation, suspends commerce, clogs business,
precipitates failures; no more money, private fortunes rendered uneasy,
public credit shaken, industry disconcerted, capital withdrawing,
work at a discount, fear everywhere; counter-shocks in every town.
Hence gulfs. It has been calculated that the first day of a riot
costs France twenty millions, the second day forty, the third sixty,
a three days' uprising costs one hundred and twenty millions, that is
to say, if only the financial result be taken into consideration,
it is equivalent to a disaster, a shipwreck or a lost battle,
which should annihilate a fleet of sixty ships of the line.
"No doubt, historically, uprisings have their beauty; the war of the
pavements is no less grandiose, and no less pathetic, than the war
of thickets: in the one there is the soul of forests, in the other
the heart of cities; the one has Jean Chouan, the other has a Jeanne.
Revolts have illuminated with a red glare all the most original points
of the Parisian character, generosity, devotion, stormy gayety,
students proving that bravery forms part of intelligence,
the National Guard invincible, bivouacs of shopkeepers, fortresses of
street urchins, contempt of death on the part of passers-by. Schools
and legions clashed together. After all, between the combatants,
there was only a difference of age; the race is the same; it is
the same stoical men who died at the age of twenty for their ideas,
at forty for their families. The army, always a sad thing in
civil wars, opposed prudence to audacity. Uprisings, while proving
popular intrepidity, also educated the courage of the bourgeois.
"This is well. But is all this worth the bloodshed? And to
the bloodshed add the future darkness, progress compromised,
uneasiness among the best men, honest liberals in despair,
foreign absolutism happy in these wounds dealt to revolution
by its own hand, the vanquished of 1830 triumphing and saying:
`We told you so!' Add Paris enlarged, possibly, but France most
assuredly diminished. Add, for all must needs be told, the massacres
which have too often dishonored the victory of order grown ferocious
over liberty gone mad. To sum up all, uprisings have been disastrous."
Thus speaks that approximation to wisdom with which the bourgeoisie,
that approximation to the people, so willingly contents itself.
For our parts, we reject this word uprisings as too large,
and consequently as too convenient. We make a distinction
between one popular movement and another popular movement.
We do not inquire whether an uprising costs as much as a battle.
Why a battle, in the first place? Here the question of war comes up.
Is war less of a scourge than an uprising is of a calamity? And then,
are all uprisings calamities? And what if the revolt of July did
cost a hundred and twenty millions? The establishment of Philip
V. in Spain cost France two milliards. Even at the same price,
we should prefer the 14th of July. However, we reject these figures,
which appear to be reasons and which are only words. An uprising
being given, we examine it by itself. In all that is said by the
doctrinarian objection above presented, there is no question of
anything but effect, we seek the cause.
We will be explicit.
THE ROOT OF THE MATTER
There is such a thing as an uprising, and there is such a thing
as insurrection; these are two separate phases of wrath; one is
in the wrong, the other is in the right. In democratic states,
the only ones which are founded on justice, it sometimes happens
that the fraction usurps; then the whole rises and the necessary claim
of its rights may proceed as far as resort to arms. In all questions
which result from collective sovereignty, the war of the whole
against the fraction is insurrection; the attack of the fraction
against the whole is revolt; according as the Tuileries contain
a king or the Convention, they are justly or unjustly attacked.
The same cannon, pointed against the populace, is wrong on the 10th
of August, and right on the 14th of Vendemiaire. Alike in appearance,
fundamentally different in reality; the Swiss defend the false,
Bonaparte defends the true. That which universal suffrage has effected
in its liberty and in its sovereignty cannot be undone by the street.
It is the same in things pertaining purely to civilization;
the instinct of the masses, clear-sighted to-day, may be troubled
to-morrow. The same fury legitimate when directed against Terray
and absurd when directed against Turgot. The destruction of machines,
the pillage of warehouses, the breaking of rails, the demolition
of docks, the false routes of multitudes, the refusal by the people
of justice to progress, Ramus assassinated by students, Rousseau driven
out of Switzerland and stoned,--that is revolt. Israel against Moses,
Athens against Phocian, Rome against Cicero,--that is an uprising;
Paris against the Bastille,--that is insurrection. The soldiers
against Alexander, the sailors against Christopher Columbus,--
this is the same revolt; impious revolt; why? Because Alexander
is doing for Asia with the sword that which Christopher Columbus
is doing for America with the compass; Alexander like Columbus,
is finding a world. These gifts of a world to civilization are such
augmentations of light, that all resistance in that case is culpable.
Sometimes the populace counterfeits fidelity to itself. The masses
are traitors to the people. Is there, for example, anything stranger
than that long and bloody protest of dealers in contraband salt,
a legitimate chronic revolt, which, at the decisive moment,
on the day of salvation, at the very hour of popular victory,
espouses the throne, turns into chouannerie, and, from having been
an insurrection against, becomes an uprising for, sombre masterpieces
of ignorance! The contraband salt dealer escapes the royal gibbets,
and with a rope's end round his neck, mounts the white cockade.
"Death to the salt duties," brings forth, "Long live the King!"
The assassins of Saint-Barthelemy, the cut-throats of September,
the manslaughterers of Avignon, the assassins of Coligny, the assassins
of Madam Lamballe, the assassins of Brune, Miquelets, Verdets,
Cadenettes, the companions of Jehu, the chevaliers of Brassard,--
behold an uprising. La Vendee is a grand, catholic uprising.
The sound of right in movement is recognizable, it does not always
proceed from the trembling of excited masses; there are mad rages,
there are cracked bells, all tocsins do not give out the sound
of bronze. The brawl of passions and ignorances is quite another
thing from the shock of progress. Show me in what direction you
are going. Rise, if you will, but let it be that you may grow great.
There is no insurrection except in a forward direction. Any other sort
of rising is bad; every violent step towards the rear is a revolt;
to retreat is to commit a deed of violence against the human race.
Insurrection is a fit of rage on the part of truth; the pavements
which the uprising disturbs give forth the spark of right.
These pavements bequeath to the uprising only their mud.
Danton against Louis XIV. is insurrection; Hebert against Danton is
Hence it results that if insurrection in given cases may be,
as Lafayette says, the most holy of duties, an uprising may be
the most fatal of crimes.
There is also a difference in the intensity of heat; insurrection is
often a volcano, revolt is often only a fire of straw.
Revolt, as we have said, is sometimes found among those in power.
Polignac is a rioter; Camille Desmoulins is one of the governing powers.
Insurrection is sometimes resurrection.
The solution of everything by universal suffrage being an absolutely
modern fact, and all history anterior to this fact being,
for the space of four thousand years, filled with violated right,
and the suffering of peoples, each epoch of history brings
with it that protest of which it is capable. Under the Caesars,
there was no insurrection, but there was Juvenal.
The facit indignatio replaces the Gracchi.
Under the Caesars, there is the exile to Syene; there is also
the man of the Annales. We do not speak of the immense exile
of Patmos who, on his part also, overwhelms the real world with a
protest in the name of the ideal world, who makes of his vision
an enormous satire and casts on Rome-Nineveh, on Rome-Babylon,
on Rome-Sodom, the flaming reflection of the Apocalypse. John on
his rock is the sphinx on its pedestal; we may understand him,
he is a Jew, and it is Hebrew; but the man who writes the Annales
is of the Latin race, let us rather say he is a Roman.
As the Neros reign in a black way, they should be painted to match.
The work of the graving-tool alone would be too pale; there must be
poured into the channel a concentrated prose which bites.
Despots count for something in the question of philosophers.
A word that is chained is a terrible word. The writer doubles and
trebles his style when silence is imposed on a nation by its master.
From this silence there arises a certain mysterious plenitude
which filters into thought and there congeals into bronze.
The compression of history produces conciseness in the historian.
The granite solidity of such and such a celebrated prose is nothing
but the accumulation effected by the tyrant.
Tyranny constrains the writer to conditions of diameter which are
augmentations of force. The Ciceronian period, which hardly
sufficed for Verres, would be blunted on Caligula. The less
spread of sail in the phrase, the more intensity in the blow.
Tacitus thinks with all his might.
The honesty of a great heart, condensed in justice and truth,
overwhelms as with lightning.
Be it remarked, in passing, that Tacitus is not historically
superposed upon Caesar. The Tiberii were reserved for him.
Caesar and Tacitus are two successive phenomena, a meeting between
whom seems to be mysteriously avoided, by the One who, when He sets
the centuries on the stage, regulates the entrances and the exits.
Caesar is great, Tacitus is great; God spares these two greatnesses
by not allowing them to clash with one another. The guardian
of justice, in striking Caesar, might strike too hard and be unjust.
God does not will it. The great wars of Africa and Spain,
the pirates of Sicily destroyed, civilization introduced into Gaul,
into Britanny, into Germany,--all this glory covers the Rubicon.
There is here a sort of delicacy of the divine justice, hesitating to
let loose upon the illustrious usurper the formidable historian,
sparing Caesar Tacitus, and according extenuating circumstances
Certainly, despotism remains despotism, even under the despot
of genius. There is corruption under all illustrious tyrants,
but the moral pest is still more hideous under infamous tyrants.
In such reigns, nothing veils the shame; and those who make examples,
Tacitus as well as Juvenal, slap this ignominy which cannot reply,
in the face, more usefully in the presence of all humanity.
Rome smells worse under Vitellius than under Sylla. Under Claudius
and under Domitian, there is a deformity of baseness corresponding
to the repulsiveness of the tyrant. The villainy of slaves is a
direct product of the despot; a miasma exhales from these cowering
consciences wherein the master is reflected; public powers are unclean;
hearts are small; consciences are dull, souls are like vermin;
thus it is under Caracalla, thus it is under Commodus, thus it
is under Heliogabalus, while, from the Roman Senate, under Caesar,
there comes nothing but the odor of the dung which is peculiar
to the eyries of the eagles.
Hence the advent, apparently tardy, of the Tacituses and the Juvenals;
it is in the hour for evidence, that the demonstrator makes
But Juvenal and Tacitus, like Isaiah in Biblical times, like Dante
in the Middle Ages, is man; riot and insurrection are the multitude,
which is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.
In the majority of cases, riot proceeds from a material fact;
insurrection is always a moral phenomenon. Riot is Masaniello;
insurrection, Spartacus. Insurrection borders on mind, riot on
the stomach; Gaster grows irritated; but Gaster, assuredly, is not
always in the wrong. In questions of famine, riot, Buzancais,
for example, holds a true, pathetic, and just point of departure.
Nevertheless, it remains a riot. Why? It is because, right at bottom,
it was wrong in form. Shy although in the right, violent although
strong, it struck at random; it walked like a blind elephant;
it left behind it the corpses of old men, of women, and of children;
it wished the blood of inoffensive and innocent persons without
knowing why. The nourishment of the people is a good object;
to massacre them is a bad means.
All armed protests, even the most legitimate, even that of the 10th
of August, even that of July 14th, begin with the same troubles.
Before the right gets set free, there is foam and tumult.
In the beginning, the insurrection is a riot, just as a river
is a torrent. Ordinarily it ends in that ocean: revolution.
Sometimes, however, coming from those lofty mountains which dominate
the moral horizon, justice, wisdom, reason, right, formed of the
pure snow of the ideal, after a long fall from rock to rock,
after having reflected the sky in its transparency and increased
by a hundred affluents in the majestic mien of triumph, insurrection
is suddenly lost in some quagmire, as the Rhine is in a swamp.
All this is of the past, the future is another thing.
Universal suffrage has this admirable property, that it dissolves
riot in its inception, and, by giving the vote to insurrection,
it deprives it of its arms. The disappearance of wars,
of street wars as well as of wars on the frontiers, such is the
inevitable progression. Whatever To-day may be, To-morrow will be peace.
However, insurrection, riot, and points of difference between
the former and the latter,--the bourgeois, properly speaking,
knows nothing of such shades. In his mind, all is sedition,
rebellion pure and simple, the revolt of the dog against his master,
an attempt to bite whom must be punished by the chain and the
kennel, barking, snapping, until such day as the head of the dog,
suddenly enlarged, is outlined vaguely in the gloom face to face
with the lion.
Then the bourgeois shouts: "Long live the people!"
This explanation given, what does the movement of June, 1832, signify,
so far as history is concerned? Is it a revolt? Is it an insurrection?
It may happen to us, in placing this formidable event on the stage,
to say revolt now and then, but merely to distinguish superficial facts,
and always preserving the distinction between revolt, the form,
and insurrection, the foundation.
This movement of 1832 had, in its rapid outbreak and in its
melancholy extinction, so much grandeur, that even those who see in it
only an uprising, never refer to it otherwise than with respect.
For them, it is like a relic of 1830. Excited imaginations, say they,
are not to be calmed in a day. A revolution cannot be cut off short.
It must needs undergo some undulations before it returns to a state
of rest, like a mountain sinking into the plain. There are no Alps
without their Jura, nor Pyrenees without the Asturias.
This pathetic crisis of contemporary history which the memory
of Parisians calls "the epoch of the riots," is certainly
a characteristic hour amid the stormy hours of this century.
A last word, before we enter on the recital.
The facts which we are about to relate belong to that dramatic
and living reality, which the historian sometimes neglects
for lack of time and space. There, nevertheless, we insist
upon it, is life, palpitation, human tremor. Petty details,
as we think we have already said, are, so to speak, the foliage
of great events, and are lost in the distance of history. The epoch,
surnamed "of the riots," abounds in details of this nature.
Judicial inquiries have not revealed, and perhaps have not sounded
the depths, for another reason than history. We shall therefore
bring to light, among the known and published peculiarities,
things which have not heretofore been known, about facts over which
have passed the forgetfulness of some, and the death of others.
The majority of the actors in these gigantic scenes have disappeared;
beginning with the very next day they held their peace; but of what
we shall relate, we shall be able to say: "We have seen this."
We alter a few names, for history relates and does not inform against,
but the deed which we shall paint will be genuine. In accordance
with the conditions of the book which we are now writing, we shall
show only one side and one episode, and certainly, the least known
at that, of the two days, the 5th and the 6th of June, 1832, but we
shall do it in such wise that the reader may catch a glimpse,
beneath the gloomy veil which we are about to lift, of the real form
of this frightful public adventure.
A BURIAL; AN OCCASION TO BE BORN AGAIN
In the spring of 1832, although the cholera had been chilling all
minds for the last three months and had cast over their agitation
an indescribable and gloomy pacification, Paris had already long
been ripe for commotion. As we have said, the great city resembles
a piece of artillery; when it is loaded, it suffices for a spark
to fall, and the shot is discharged. In June, 1832, the spark
was the death of General Lamarque.
Lamarque was a man of renown and of action. He had had in succession,
under the Empire and under the Restoration, the sorts of bravery
requisite for the two epochs, the bravery of the battle-field
and the bravery of the tribune. He was as eloquent as he had
been valiant; a sword was discernible in his speech. Like Foy,
his predecessor, after upholding the command, he upheld liberty;
he sat between the left and the extreme left, beloved of the people
because he accepted the chances of the future, beloved of the
populace because he had served the Emperor well; he was, in company
with Comtes Gerard and Drouet, one of Napoleon's marshals in petto.
The treaties of 1815 removed him as a personal offence. He hated
Wellington with a downright hatred which pleased the multitude;
and, for seventeen years, he majestically preserved the sadness
of Waterloo, paying hardly any attention to intervening events.
In his death agony, at his last hour, he clasped to his breast a sword
which had been presented to him by the officers of the Hundred Days.
Napoleon had died uttering the word army, Lamarque uttering the
His death, which was expected, was dreaded by the people as a loss,
and by the government as an occasion. This death was an affliction.
Like everything that is bitter, affliction may turn to revolt.
This is what took place.
On the preceding evening, and on the morning of the 5th of June,
the day appointed for Lamarque's burial, the Faubourg Saint-Antoine,
which the procession was to touch at, assumed a formidable aspect.
This tumultuous network of streets was filled with rumors.
They armed themselves as best they might. Joiners carried off
door-weights of their establishment "to break down doors." One of them
had made himself a dagger of a stocking-weaver's hook by breaking
off the hook and sharpening the stump. Another, who was in a fever
"to attack," slept wholly dressed for three days. A carpenter named
Lombier met a comrade, who asked him: "Whither are you going?"
"Eh! well, I have no weapons." "What then?" "I'm going to my
timber-yard to get my compasses." "What for?" "I don't know,"
said Lombier. A certain Jacqueline, an expeditious man, accosted some
passing artisans: "Come here, you!" He treated them to ten sous'
worth of wine and said: "Have you work?" "No." "Go to Filspierre,
between the Barriere Charonne and the Barriere Montreuil, and you
will find work." At Filspierre's they found cartridges and arms.
Certain well-known leaders were going the rounds, that is to say,
running from one house to another, to collect their men.
At Barthelemy's, near the Barriere du Trone, at Capel's, near the
Petit-Chapeau, the drinkers accosted each other with a grave air.
They were heard to say: "Have you your pistol?" "Under my blouse."
"And you?" "Under my shirt." In the Rue Traversiere, in front
of the Bland workshop, and in the yard of the Maison-Brulee,
in front of tool-maker Bernier's, groups whispered together.
Among them was observed a certain Mavot, who never remained more than
a week in one shop, as the masters always discharged him "because
they were obliged to dispute with him every day." Mavot was killed
on the following day at the barricade of the Rue Menilmontant.
Pretot, who was destined to perish also in the struggle,
seconded Mavot, and to the question: "What is your object?"
he replied: "Insurrection." Workmen assembled at the corner of
the Rue de Bercy, waited for a certain Lemarin, the revolutionary
agent for the Faubourg Saint-Marceau. Watchwords were exchanged
On the 5th of June, accordingly, a day of mingled rain and sun,
General Lamarque's funeral procession traversed Paris with official
military pomp, somewhat augmented through precaution. Two battalions,
with draped drums and reversed arms, ten thousand National Guards,
with their swords at their sides, escorted the coffin.
The hearse was drawn by young men. The officers of the Invalides
came immediately behind it, bearing laurel branches. Then came
an innumerable, strange, agitated multitude, the sectionaries of the
Friends of the People, the Law School, the Medical School, refugees of
all nationalities, and Spanish, Italian, German, and Polish flags,
tricolored horizontal banners, every possible sort of banner,
children waving green boughs, stone-cutters and carpenters who were
on strike at the moment, printers who were recognizable by their
paper caps, marching two by two, three by three, uttering cries,
nearly all of them brandishing sticks, some brandishing sabres,
without order and yet with a single soul, now a tumultuous rout,
again a column. Squads chose themselves leaders; a man armed
with a pair of pistols in full view, seemed to pass the host
in review, and the files separated before him. On the side alleys
of the boulevards, in the branches of the trees, on balconies,
in windows, on the roofs, swarmed the heads of men, women, and children;
all eyes were filled with anxiety. An armed throng was passing,
and a terrified throng looked on.
The Government, on its side, was taking observations. It observed
with its hand on its sword. Four squadrons of carabineers could
be seen in the Place Louis XV. in their saddles, with their
trumpets at their head, cartridge-boxes filled and muskets loaded,
all in readiness to march; in the Latin country and at the Jardin
des Plantes, the Municipal Guard echelonned from street to street;
at the Halle-aux-Vins, a squadron of dragoons; at the Greve half
of the 12th Light Infantry, the other half being at the Bastille;
the 6th Dragoons at the Celestins; and the courtyard of the Louvre
full of artillery. The remainder of the troops were confined
to their barracks, without reckoning the regiments of the environs
of Paris. Power being uneasy, held suspended over the menacing
multitude twenty-four thousand soldiers in the city and thirty
thousand in the banlieue.
Divers reports were in circulation in the cortege. Legitimist tricks
were hinted at; they spoke of the Duc de Reichstadt, whom God had marked
out for death at that very moment when the populace were designating
him for the Empire. One personage, whose name has remained unknown,
announced that at a given hour two overseers who had been won over,
would throw open the doors of a factory of arms to the people.
That which predominated on the uncovered brows of the majority
of those present was enthusiasm mingled with dejection.
Here and there, also, in that multitude given over to such violent
but noble emotions, there were visible genuine visages of criminals
and ignoble mouths which said: "Let us plunder!" There are certain
agitations which stir up the bottoms of marshes and make clouds
of mud rise through the water. A phenomenon to which "well drilled"
policemen are no strangers.
The procession proceeded, with feverish slowness, from the house
of the deceased, by way of the boulevards as far as the Bastille.
It rained from time to time; the rain mattered nothing to that throng.
Many incidents, the coffin borne round the Vendome column,
stones thrown at the Duc de Fitz-James, who was seen on a balcony
with his hat on his head, the Gallic cock torn from a popular flag
and dragged in the mire, a policeman wounded with a blow from a sword
at the Porte Saint-Martin, an officer of the 12th Light Infantry
saying aloud: "I am a Republican," the Polytechnic School coming
up unexpectedly against orders to remain at home, the shouts of:
"Long live the Polytechnique! Long live the Republic!" marked the
passage of the funeral train. At the Bastille, long files of curious
and formidable people who descended from the Faubourg Saint-Antoine,
effected a junction with the procession, and a certain terrible
seething began to agitate the throng.
One man was heard to say to another: "Do you see that fellow with a
red beard, he's the one who will give the word when we are to fire."
It appears that this red beard was present, at another riot,
the Quenisset affair, entrusted with this same function.
The hearse passed the Bastille, traversed the small bridge, and reached
the esplanade of the bridge of Austerlitz. There it halted.
The crowd, surveyed at that moment with a bird'seye view, would have
presented the aspect of a comet whose head was on the esplanade and
whose tail spread out over the Quai Bourdon, covered the Bastille,
and was prolonged on the boulevard as far as the Porte Saint-Martin. A
circle was traced around the hearse. The vast rout held their peace.
Lafayette spoke and bade Lamarque farewell. This was a touching
and august instant, all heads uncovered, all hearts beat high.
All at once, a man on horseback, clad in black, made his appearance
in the middle of the group with a red flag, others say, with a pike
surmounted with a red liberty-cap. Lafayette turned aside his head.
Exelmans quitted the procession.
This red flag raised a storm, and disappeared in the midst of it.
From the Boulevard Bourdon to the bridge of Austerlitz one of
those clamors which resemble billows stirred the multitude.
Two prodigious shouts went up: "Lamarque to the Pantheon!--
Lafayette to the Town-hall!" Some young men, amid the declamations
of the throng, harnessed themselves and began to drag Lamarque
in the hearse across the bridge of Austerlitz and Lafayette in a
hackney-coach along the Quai Morland.
In the crowd which surrounded and cheered Lafayette, it was
noticed that a German showed himself named Ludwig Snyder, who died
a centenarian afterwards, who had also been in the war of 1776,
and who had fought at Trenton under Washington, and at Brandywine
In the meantime, the municipal cavalry on the left bank had been set
in motion, and came to bar the bridge, on the right bank the dragoons
emerged from the Celestins and deployed along the Quai Morland.
The men who were dragging Lafayette suddenly caught sight of
them at the corner of the quay and shouted: "The dragoons!"
The dragoons advanced at a walk, in silence, with their pistols
in their holsters, their swords in their scabbards, their guns slung
in their leather sockets, with an air of gloomy expectation.
They halted two hundred paces from the little bridge. The carriage
in which sat Lafayette advanced to them, their ranks opened and
allowed it to pass, and then closed behind it. At that moment
the dragoons and the crowd touched. The women fled in terror.
What took place during that fatal minute? No one can say.
It is the dark moment when two clouds come together. Some declare
that a blast of trumpets sounding the charge was heard in the direction
of the Arsenal others that a blow from a dagger was given by a child
to a dragoon. The fact is, that three shots were suddenly discharged:
the first killed Cholet, chief of the squadron, the second killed
an old deaf woman who was in the act of closing her window,
the third singed the shoulder of an officer; a woman screamed:
"They are beginning too soon!" and all at once, a squadron
of dragoons which had remained in the barracks up to this time,
was seen to debouch at a gallop with bared swords, through the Rue
Bassompierre and the Boulevard Bourdon, sweeping all before them.
Then all is said, the tempest is loosed, stones rain down,
a fusillade breaks forth, many precipitate themselves to the bottom
of the bank, and pass the small arm of the Seine, now filled in,
the timber-yards of the Isle Louviers, that vast citadel ready to hand,
bristle with combatants, stakes are torn up, pistol-shots fired,
a barricade begun, the young men who are thrust back pass the
Austerlitz bridge with the hearse at a run, and the municipal guard,
the carabineers rush up, the dragoons ply their swords, the crowd
disperses in all directions, a rumor of war flies to all four
quarters of Paris, men shout: "To arms!" they run, tumble down,
flee, resist. Wrath spreads abroad the riot as wind spreads a fire.
THE EBULLITIONS OF FORMER DAYS
Nothing is more extraordinary than the first breaking out of a riot.
Everything bursts forth everywhere at once. Was it foreseen?
Yes. Was it prepared? No. Whence comes it? From the pavements.
Whence falls it? From the clouds. Here insurrection assumes the
character of a plot; there of an improvisation. The first comer
seizes a current of the throng and leads it whither he wills.
A beginning full of terror, in which is mingled a sort of
formidable gayety. First come clamors, the shops are closed,
the displays of the merchants disappear; then come isolated shots;
people flee; blows from gun-stocks beat against portes cocheres,
servants can be heard laughing in the courtyards of houses and saying:
"There's going to be a row!"
A quarter of an hour had not elapsed when this is what was taking
place at twenty different spots in Paris at once.
In the Rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie, twenty young men,
bearded and with long hair, entered a dram-shop and emerged
a moment later, carrying a horizontal tricolored flag covered
with crape, and having at their head three men armed, one with
a sword, one with a gun, and the third with a pike.
In the Rue des Nonaindieres, a very well-dressed bourgeois, who had
a prominent belly, a sonorous voice, a bald head, a lofty brow,
a black beard, and one of these stiff mustaches which will not
lie flat, offered cartridges publicly to passers-by.
In the Rue Saint-Pierre-Montmartre, men with bare arms carried about
a black flag, on which could be read in white letters this inscription:
"Republic or Death!" In the Rue des Jeuneurs, Rue du Cadran,
Rue Montorgueil, Rue Mandar, groups appeared waving flags on which could
be distinguished in gold letters, the word section with a number.
One of these flags was red and blue with an almost imperceptible
stripe of white between.
They pillaged a factory of small-arms on the Boulevard Saint-Martin,
and three armorers' shops, the first in the Rue Beaubourg, the second
in the Rue Michel-le-Comte, the other in the Rue du Temple.
In a few minutes, the thousand hands of the crowd had seized and
carried off two hundred and thirty guns, nearly all double-barrelled,
sixty-four swords, and eighty-three pistols. In order to provide
more arms, one man took the gun, the other the bayonet.
Opposite the Quai de la Greve, young men armed with muskets installed
themselves in the houses of some women for the purpose of firing.
One of them had a flint-lock. They rang, entered, and set about
making cartridges. One of these women relates: "I did not know
what cartridges were; it was my husband who told me."
One cluster broke into a curiosity shop
in the Rue des Vielles Haudriettes, and seized yataghans and Turkish arms.
The body of a mason who had been killed by a gun-shot lay in the Rue
de la Perle.
And then on the right bank, the left bank, on the quays,
on the boulevards, in the Latin country, in the quarter of the Halles,
panting men, artisans, students, members of sections read proclamations
and shouted: "To arms!" broke street lanterns, unharnessed carriages,
unpaved the streets, broke in the doors of houses, uprooted trees,
rummaged cellars, rolled out hogsheads, heaped up paving-stones,
rough slabs, furniture and planks, and made barricades.
They forced the bourgeois to assist them in this. They entered the
dwellings of women, they forced them to hand over the swords and guns
of their absent husbands, and they wrote on the door, with whiting:
"The arms have been delivered"; some signed "their names" to receipts
for the guns and swords and said: "Send for them to-morrow at
the Mayor's office." They disarmed isolated sentinels and National
Guardsmen in the streets on their way to the Townhall. They tore
the epaulets from officers. In the Rue du Cimitiere-Saint-Nicholas,
an officer of the National Guard, on being pursued by a crowd armed
with clubs and foils, took refuge with difficulty in a house,
whence he was only able to emerge at nightfall and in disguise.
In the Quartier Saint-Jacques, the students swarmed out of their
hotels and ascended the Rue Saint-Hyacinthe to the Cafe du Progress,
or descended to the Cafe des Sept-Billards, in the Rue des Mathurins.
There, in front of the door, young men mounted on the stone
corner-posts, distributed arms. They plundered the timber-yard
in the Rue Transnonain in order to obtain material for barricades.
On a single point the inhabitants resisted, at the corner
of the Rue Sainte-Avoye and the Rue Simon-Le-Franc, where they
destroyed the barricade with their own hands. At a single point
the insurgents yielded; they abandoned a barricade begun in the Rue
de Temple after having fired on a detachment of the National Guard,
and fled through the Rue de la Corderie. The detachment picked up
in the barricade a red flag, a package of cartridges, and three
hundred pistol-balls. The National Guardsmen tore up the flag,
and carried off its tattered remains on the points of their bayonets.
All that we are here relating slowly and successively took place
simultaneously at all points of the city in the midst of a vast tumult,
like a mass of tongues of lightning in one clap of thunder.
In less than an hour, twenty-seven barricades sprang out of the
earth in the quarter of the Halles alone. In the centre was that
famous house No. 50, which was the fortress of Jeanne and her six
hundred companions, and which, flanked on the one hand by a barricade
at Saint-Merry, and on the other by a barricade of the Rue Maubuee,
commanded three streets, the Rue des Arcis, the Rue Saint-Martin,
and the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher, which it faced. The barricades
at right angles fell back, the one of the Rue Montorgueil on the
Grande-Truanderie, the other of the Rue Geoffroy-Langevin on the Rue
Sainte-Avoye. Without reckoning innumerable barricades in twenty
other quarters of Paris, in the Marais, at Mont-Sainte-Genevieve;
one in the Rue Menilmontant, where was visible a porte cochere torn
from its hinges; another near the little bridge of the Hotel-Dieu
made with an "ecossais," which had been unharnessed and overthrown,
three hundred paces from the Prefecture of Police.
At the barricade of the Rue des Menetriers, a well-dressed man
distributed money to the workmen. At the barricade of the Rue Grenetat,
a horseman made his appearance and handed to the one who seemed
to be the commander of the barricade what had the appearance
of a roll of silver. "Here," said he, "this is to pay expenses,
wine, et caetera." A light-haired young man, without a cravat,
went from barricade to barricade, carrying pass-words. Another,
with a naked sword, a blue police cap on his head, placed sentinels.
In the interior, beyond the barricades, the wine-shops and porters'
lodges were converted into guard-houses. Otherwise the riot
was conducted after the most scientific military tactics.
The narrow, uneven, sinuous streets, full of angles and turns,
were admirably chosen; the neighborhood of the Halles, in particular,
a network of streets more intricate than a forest. The Society
of the Friends of the People had, it was said, undertaken to direct
the insurrection in the Quartier Sainte-Avoye. A man killed in the Rue
du Ponceau who was searched had on his person a plan of Paris.
That which had really undertaken the direction of the uprising
was a sort of strange impetuosity which was in the air.
The insurrection had abruptly built barricades with one hand,
and with the other seized nearly all the posts of the garrison.
In less than three hours, like a train of powder catching fire,
the insurgents had invaded and occupied, on the right bank,
the Arsenal, the Mayoralty of the Place Royale, the whole
of the Marais, the Popincourt arms manufactory, la Galiote,
the Chateau-d'Eau, and all the streets near the Halles; on the left bank,
the barracks of the Veterans, Sainte-Pelagie, the Place Maubert,
the powder magazine of the Deux-Moulins, and all the barriers.
At five o'clock in the evening, they were masters of the Bastille,
of the Lingerie, of the Blancs-Manteaux; their scouts had reached the
Place des Victoires, and menaced the Bank, the Petits-Peres barracks,
and the Post-Office. A third of Paris was in the hands of the rioters.
The conflict had been begun on a gigantic scale at all points;
and, as a result of the disarming domiciliary visits, and armorers'
shops hastily invaded, was, that the combat which had begun with
the throwing of stones was continued with gun-shots.
About six o'clock in the evening, the Passage du Saumon became
the field of battle. The uprising was at one end, the troops were
at the other. They fired from one gate to the other. An observer,
a dreamer, the author of this book, who had gone to get a near view
of this volcano, found himself in the passage between the two fires.
All that he had to protect him from the bullets was the swell of
the two half-columns which separate the shops; he remained in this
delicate situation for nearly half an hour.
Meanwhile the call to arms was beaten, the National Guard armed
in haste, the legions emerged from the Mayoralities, the regiments
from their barracks. Opposite the passage de l'Ancre a drummer
received a blow from a dagger. Another, in the Rue du Cygne,
was assailed by thirty young men who broke his instrument, and took
away his sword. Another was killed in the Rue Grenier-Saint-Lazare.
In the Rue-Michelle-Comte, three officers fell dead one after
the other. Many of the Municipal Guards, on being wounded,
in the Rue des Lombards, retreated.
In front of the Cour-Batave, a detachment of National Guards found
a red flag bearing the following inscription: Republican revolution,
No. 127. Was this a revolution, in fact?
The insurrection had made of the centre of Paris a sort
of inextricable, tortuous, colossal citadel.
There was the hearth; there, evidently, was the question.
All the rest was nothing but skirmishes. The proof that all would
be decided there lay in the fact that there was no fighting going
on there as yet.
In some regiments, the soldiers were uncertain, which added to
the fearful uncertainty of the crisis. They recalled the popular
ovation which had greeted the neutrality of the 53d of the Line
in July, 1830. Two intrepid men, tried in great wars, the Marshal
Lobau and General Bugeaud, were in command, Bugeaud under Lobau.
Enormous patrols, composed of battalions of the Line, enclosed in
entire companies of the National Guard, and preceded by a commissary
of police wearing his scarf of office, went to reconnoitre the streets
in rebellion. The insurgents, on their side, placed videttes
at the corners of all open spaces, and audaciously sent their
patrols outside the barricades. Each side was watching the other.
The Government, with an army in its hand, hesitated; the night
was almost upon them, and the Saint-Merry tocsin began to make
itself heard. The Minister of War at that time, Marshal Soult,
who had seen Austerlitz, regarded this with a gloomy air.
These old sailors, accustomed to correct manoeuvres and having
as resource and guide only tactics, that compass of battles,
are utterly disconcerted in the presence of that immense foam
which is called public wrath.
The National Guards of the suburbs rushed up in haste and disorder.
A battalion of the 12th Light came at a run from Saint-Denis,
the 14th of the Line arrived from Courbevoie, the batteries of
the Military School had taken up their position on the Carrousel;
cannons were descending from Vincennes.
Solitude was formed around the Tuileries. Louis Philippe was
ORIGINALITY OF PARIS
During the last two years, as we have said, Paris had witnessed
more than one insurrection. Nothing is, generally, more singularly
calm than the physiognomy of Paris during an uprising beyond the
bounds of the rebellious quarters. Paris very speedily accustoms
herself to anything,--it is only a riot,--and Paris has so many
affairs on hand, that she does not put herself out for so small
a matter. These colossal cities alone can offer such spectacles.
These immense enclosures alone can contain at the same time civil
war and an odd and indescribable tranquillity. Ordinarily, when an
insurrection commences, when the shop-keeper hears the drum, the call
to arms, the general alarm, he contents himself with the remark:--
"There appears to be a squabble in the Rue Saint-Martin."
"In the Faubourg Saint-Antoine."
Often he adds carelessly:--
"Or somewhere in that direction."
Later on, when the heart-rending and mournful hubbub of musketry
and firing by platoons becomes audible, the shopkeeper says:--
"It's getting hot! Hullo, it's getting hot!"
A moment later, the riot approaches and gains in force, he shuts up
his shop precipitately, hastily dons his uniform, that is to say,
he places his merchandise in safety and risks his own person.
Men fire in a square, in a passage, in a blind alley; they take
and re-take the barricade; blood flows, the grape-shot riddles
the fronts of the houses, the balls kill people in their beds,
corpses encumber the streets. A few streets away, the shock
of billiard-balls can be heard in the cafes.
The theatres open their doors and present vaudevilles; the curious
laugh and chat a couple of paces distant from these streets filled
with war. Hackney-carriages go their way; passers-by are going
to a dinner somewhere in town. Sometimes in the very quarter
where the fighting is going on.
In 1831, a fusillade was stopped to allow a wedding party to pass.
At the time of the insurrection of 1839, in the Rue Saint-Martin a little,
infirm old man, pushing a hand-cart surmounted by a tricolored rag,
in which he had carafes filled with some sort of liquid, went and
came from barricade to troops and from troops to the barricade,
offering his glasses of cocoa impartially,--now to the Government,
now to anarchy.
Nothing can be stranger; and this is the peculiar character of
uprisings in Paris, which cannot be found in any other capital.
To this end, two things are requisite, the size of Paris and its gayety.
The city of Voltaire and Napoleon is necessary.
On this occasion, however, in the resort to arms of June 25th, 1832,
the great city felt something which was, perhaps, stronger than itself.
It was afraid.
Closed doors, windows, and shutters were to be seen everywhere,
in the most distant and most "disinterested" quarters. The courageous
took to arms, the poltroons hid. The busy and heedless passer-by
disappeared. Many streets were empty at four o'clock in the morning.
Alarming details were hawked about, fatal news was disseminated,--
that they were masters of the Bank;--that there were six hundred
of them in the Cloister of Saint-Merry alone, entrenched and embattled
in the church; that the line was not to be depended on; that Armand
Carrel had been to see Marshal Clausel and that the Marshal had said:
"Get a regiment first"; that Lafayette was ill, but that he had
said to them, nevertheless: "I am with you. I will follow you
wherever there is room for a chair"; that one must be on one's guard;
that at night there would be people pillaging isolated dwellings
in the deserted corners of Paris (there the imagination of the police,
that Anne Radcliffe mixed up with the Government was recognizable);
that a battery had been established in the Rue Aubry le Boucher;
that Lobau and Bugeaud were putting their heads together, and that,
at midnight, or at daybreak at latest, four columns would march
simultaneously on the centre of the uprising, the first coming from
the Bastille, the second from the Porte Saint-Martin, the third
from the Greve, the fourth from the Halles; that perhaps, also,
the troops would evacuate Paris and withdraw to the Champ-de-Mars;
that no one knew what would happen, but that this time, it certainly
People busied themselves over Marshal Soult's hesitations. Why did
not he attack at once? It is certain that he was profoundly absorbed.
The old lion seemed to scent an unknown monster in that gloom.
Evening came, the theatres did not open; the patrols circulated with
an air of irritation; passers-by were searched; suspicious persons
were arrested. By nine o'clock, more than eight hundred persons
had been arrested, the Prefecture of Police was encumbered with them,
so was the Conciergerie, so was La Force.
At the Conciergerie in particular, the long vault which is
called the Rue de Paris was littered with trusses of straw upon
which lay a heap of prisoners, whom the man of Lyons, Lagrange,
harangued valiantly. All that straw rustled by all these men,
produced the sound of a heavy shower. Elsewhere prisoners
slept in the open air in the meadows, piled on top of each other.
Anxiety reigned everywhere, and a certain tremor which was not
habitual with Paris.
People barricaded themselves in their houses; wives and mothers
were uneasy; nothing was to be heard but this: "Ah! my God!
He has not come home!" There was hardly even the distant rumble
of a vehicle to be heard.
People listened on their thresholds, to the rumors, the shouts,
the tumult, the dull and indistinct sounds, to the things that
were said: "It is cavalry," or: "Those are the caissons galloping,"
to the trumpets, the drums, the firing, and, above all, to that
lamentable alarm peal from Saint-Merry.
They waited for the first cannon-shot. Men sprang up at the corners
of the streets and disappeared, shouting: "Go home!" And people made
haste to bolt their doors. They said: "How will all this end?"
From moment to moment, in proportion as the darkness descended,
Paris seemed to take on a more mournful hue from the formidable
flaming of the revolt.
BOOK ELEVENTH.--THE ATOM FRATERNIZES WITH THE HURRICANE
SOME EXPLANATIONS WITH REGARD TO THE ORIGIN OF GAVROCHE'S POETRY.
THE INFLUENCE OF AN ACADEMICIAN ON THIS POETRY
At the instant when the insurrection, arising from the shock
of the populace and the military in front of the Arsenal,
started a movement in advance and towards the rear in the multitude
which was following the hearse and which, through the whole
length of the boulevards, weighed, so to speak, on the head of
the procession, there arose a frightful ebb. The rout was shaken,
their ranks were broken, all ran, fled, made their escape,
some with shouts of attack, others with the pallor of flight.
The great river which covered the boulevards divided in a twinkling,
overflowed to right and left, and spread in torrents over two
hundred streets at once with the roar of a sewer that has broken loose.
At that moment, a ragged child who was coming down through the
Rue Menilmontant, holding in his hand a branch of blossoming laburnum
which he had just plucked on the heights of Belleville, caught sight of
an old holster-pistol in the show-window of a bric-a-brac merchant's shop.
"Mother What's-your-name, I'm going to borrow your machine."
And off he ran with the pistol.
Two minutes later, a flood of frightened bourgeois who were fleeing
through the Rue Amelot and the Rue Basse, encountered the lad
brandishing his pistol and singing:--
La nuit on ne voit rien,
Le jour on voit tres bien,
D'un ecrit apocrypha
Le bourgeois s'ebouriffe,
Pratiquez la vertu,
Tutu, chapeau pointu!
 At night one sees nothing, by day one sees very well;
the bourgeois gets flurried over an apocryphal scrawl,
practice virtue, tutu, pointed hat!
It was little Gavroche on his way to the wars.
On the boulevard he noticed that the pistol had no trigger.
Who was the author of that couplet which served to punctuate his march,
and of all the other songs which he was fond of singing on occasion?
We know not. Who does know? Himself, perhaps. However, Gavroche was
well up in all the popular tunes in circulation, and he mingled with
them his own chirpings. An observing urchin and a rogue, he made a
potpourri of the voices of nature and the voices of Paris. He combined
the repertory of the birds with the repertory of the workshops.
He was acquainted with thieves, a tribe contiguous to his own.
He had, it appears, been for three months apprenticed to a printer.
He had one day executed a commission for M. Baour-Lormian, one of
the Forty. Gavroche was a gamin of letters.
Moreover, Gavroche had no suspicion of the fact that when he
had offered the hospitality of his elephant to two brats on that
villainously rainy night, it was to his own brothers that he
had played the part of Providence. His brothers in the evening,
his father in the morning; that is what his night had been like.
On quitting the Rue des Ballets at daybreak, he had returned in haste
to the elephant, had artistically extracted from it the two brats,
had shared with them some sort of breakfast which he had invented,
and had then gone away, confiding them to that good mother,
the street, who had brought him up, almost entirely. On leaving them,
he had appointed to meet them at the same spot in the evening,
and had left them this discourse by way of a farewell: "I break a cane,
otherwise expressed, I cut my stick, or, as they say at the court,
I file off. If you don't find papa and mamma, young 'uns, come back
here this evening. I'll scramble you up some supper, and I'll give
you a shakedown." The two children, picked up by some policeman
and placed in the refuge, or stolen by some mountebank, or having
simply strayed off in that immense Chinese puzzle of a Paris,
did not return. The lowest depths of the actual social world
are full of these lost traces. Gavroche did not see them again.
Ten or twelve weeks had elapsed since that night. More than once he
had scratched the back of his head and said: "Where the devil are my
In the meantime, he had arrived, pistol in hand, in the Rue du
Pont-aux-Choux. He noticed that there was but one shop open
in that street, and, a matter worthy of reflection, that was
a pastry-cook's shop. This presented a providential occasion
to eat another apple-turnover before entering the unknown.
Gavroche halted, fumbled in his fob, turned his pocket inside out,
found nothing, not even a sou, and began to shout: "Help!"
It is hard to miss the last cake.
Nevertheless, Gavroche pursued his way.
Two minutes later he was in the Rue Saint-Louis. While traversing
the Rue du Parc-Royal, he felt called upon to make good the loss
of the apple-turnover which had been impossible, and he indulged
himself in the immense delight of tearing down the theatre posters
in broad daylight.
A little further on, on catching sight of a group
of comfortable-looking persons, who seemed to be
landed proprietors, he shrugged his shoulders and spit out
at random before him this mouthful of philosophical bile as they passed:
"How fat those moneyed men are! They're drunk! They just
wallow in good dinners. Ask 'em what they do with their money.
They don't know. They eat it, that's what they do! As much
as their bellies will hold."
GAVROCHE ON THE MARCH
The brandishing of a triggerless pistol, grasped in one's hand
in the open street, is so much of a public function that Gavroche
felt his fervor increasing with every moment. Amid the scraps
of the Marseillaise which he was singing, he shouted:--
"All goes well. I suffer a great deal in my left paw, I'm all broken
up with rheumatism, but I'm satisfied, citizens. All that the
bourgeois have to do is to bear themselves well, I'll sneeze them
out subversive couplets. What are the police spies? Dogs. And I'd
just like to have one of them at the end of my pistol. I'm just from
the boulevard, my friends. It's getting hot there, it's getting
into a little boil, it's simmering. It's time to skim the pot.
Forward march, men! Let an impure blood inundate the furrows!
I give my days to my country, I shall never see my concubine more,
Nini, finished, yes, Nini? But never mind! Long live joy!
Let's fight, crebleu! I've had enough of despotism."
At that moment, the horse of a lancer of the National Guard
having fallen, Gavroche laid his pistol on the pavement, and picked
up the man, then he assisted in raising the horse. After which he
picked up his pistol and resumed his way. In the Rue de Thorigny,
all was peace and silence. This apathy, peculiar to the Marais,
presented a contrast with the vast surrounding uproar. Four gossips
were chatting in a doorway.
Scotland has trios of witches, Paris has quartettes of old gossiping hags;
and the "Thou shalt be King" could be quite as mournfully hurled
at Bonaparte in the Carrefour Baudoyer as at Macbeth on the heath
of Armuyr. The croak would be almost identical.
The gossips of the Rue de Thorigny busied themselves only with
their own concerns. Three of them were portresses, and the fourth
was a rag-picker with her basket on her back.
All four of them seemed to be standing at the four corners of old age,
which are decrepitude, decay, ruin, and sadness.
The rag-picker was humble. In this open-air society, it is
the rag-picker who salutes and the portress who patronizes.
This is caused by the corner for refuse, which is fat or lean,
according to the will of the portresses, and after the fancy
of the one who makes the heap. There may be kindness in the broom.
This rag-picker was a grateful creature, and she smiled, with what
a smile! on the three portresses. Things of this nature were said:--
"Ah, by the way, is your cat still cross?"
"Good gracious, cats are naturally the enemies of dogs, you know.
It's the dogs who complain."
"And people also."
"But the fleas from a cat don't go after people."
"That's not the trouble, dogs are dangerous. I remember one year
when there were so many dogs that it was necessary to put it in
the newspapers. That was at the time when there were at the Tuileries
great sheep that drew the little carriage of the King of Rome.
Do you remember the King of Rome?"
"I liked the Duc de Bordeau better."
"I knew Louis XVIII. I prefer Louis XVIII."
"Meat is awfully dear, isn't it, Mother Patagon?"
"Ah! don't mention it, the butcher's shop is a horror.
A horrible horror--one can't afford anything but the poor cuts nowadays."
Here the rag-picker interposed:--
"Ladies, business is dull. The refuse heaps are miserable.
No one throws anything away any more. They eat everything."
"There are poorer people than you, la Vargouleme."
"Ah, that's true," replied the rag-picker, with deference,
"I have a profession."
A pause succeeded, and the rag-picker, yielding to that necessity
for boasting which lies at the bottom of man, added:--
"In the morning, on my return home, I pick over my basket, I sort
my things. This makes heaps in my room. I put the rags in a basket,
the cores and stalks in a bucket, the linen in my cupboard,
the woollen stuff in my commode, the old papers in the corner
of the window, the things that are good to eat in my bowl,
the bits of glass in my fireplace, the old shoes behind my door,
and the bones under my bed."
Gavroche had stopped behind her and was listening.
"Old ladies," said he, "what do you mean by talking politics?"
He was assailed by a broadside, composed of a quadruple howl.
"Here's another rascal."
"What's that he's got in his paddle? A pistol?"
"Well, I'd like to know what sort of a beggar's brat this is?"
"That sort of animal is never easy unless he's overturning
Gavroche disdainfully contented himself, by way of reprisal,
with elevating the tip of his nose with his thumb and opening his
The rag-picker cried:--
"You malicious, bare-pawed little wretch!"
The one who answered to the name of Patagon clapped her hands
together in horror.
"There's going to be evil doings, that's certain. The errand-boy
next door has a little pointed beard, I have seen him pass every day
with a young person in a pink bonnet on his arm; to-day I saw him pass,
and he had a gun on his arm. Mame Bacheux says, that last week
there was a revolution at--at--at--where's the calf!--at Pontoise.
And then, there you see him, that horrid scamp, with his pistol!
It seems that the Celestins are full of pistols. What do you suppose
the Government can do with good-for-nothings who don't know how to do
anything but contrive ways of upsetting the world, when we had just begun
to get a little quiet after all the misfortunes that have happened,
good Lord! to that poor queen whom I saw pass in the tumbril!
And all this is going to make tobacco dearer. It's infamous!
And I shall certainly go to see him beheaded on the guillotine,
"You've got the sniffles, old lady," said Gavroche.
"Blow your promontory."
And he passed on. When he was in the Rue Pavee, the rag-picker
occurred to his mind, and he indulged in this soliloquy:--
"You're in the wrong to insult the revolutionists,
Mother Dust-Heap-Corner. This pistol is in your interests.
It's so that you may have more good things to eat in your basket."
All at once, he heard a shout behind him; it was the portress
Patagon who had followed him, and who was shaking her fist at him
in the distance and crying:--
"You're nothing but a bastard."
"Oh! Come now," said Gavroche, "I don't care a brass farthing
Shortly afterwards, he passed the Hotel Lamoignon. There he uttered
"Forward march to the battle!"
And he was seized with a fit of melancholy. He gazed at his pistol
with an air of reproach which seemed an attempt to appease it:--
"I'm going off," said he, "but you won't go off!"
One dog may distract the attention from another dog. A very gaunt
poodle came along at the moment. Gavroche felt compassion for him.
 Chien, dog, trigger.
"My poor doggy," said he, "you must have gone and swallowed a cask,
for all the hoops are visible."
Then he directed his course towards l'Orme-Saint-Gervais.
JUST INDIGNATION OF A HAIR-DRESSER
The worthy hair-dresser who had chased from his shop the two
little fellows to whom Gavroche had opened the paternal interior
of the elephant was at that moment in his shop engaged in shaving
an old soldier of the legion who had served under the Empire.
They were talking. The hair-dresser had, naturally, spoken to the
veteran of the riot, then of General Lamarque, and from Lamarque
they had passed to the Emperor. Thence sprang up a conversation
between barber and soldier which Prudhomme, had he been present,
would have enriched with arabesques, and which he would have entitled:
"Dialogue between the razor and the sword."
"How did the Emperor ride, sir?" said the barber.
"Badly. He did not know how to fall--so he never fell."
"Did he have fine horses? He must have had fine horses!"
"On the day when he gave me my cross, I noticed his beast.
It was a racing mare, perfectly white. Her ears were very wide apart,
her saddle deep, a fine head marked with a black star, a very long neck,
strongly articulated knees, prominent ribs, oblique shoulders and
a powerful crupper. A little more than fifteen hands in height."
"A pretty horse," remarked the hair-dresser.
"It was His Majesty's beast."
The hair-dresser felt, that after this observation, a short silence
would be fitting, so he conformed himself to it, and then went on:--
"The Emperor was never wounded but once, was he, sir?"
The old soldier replied with the calm and sovereign tone of a man
who had been there:--
"In the heel. At Ratisbon. I never saw him so well dressed as on
that day. He was as neat as a new sou."
"And you, Mr. Veteran, you must have been often wounded?"
"I?" said the soldier, "ah! not to amount to anything. At Marengo,
I received two sabre-blows on the back of my neck, a bullet
in the right arm at Austerlitz, another in the left hip at Jena.
At Friedland, a thrust from a bayonet, there,--at the Moskowa seven
or eight lance-thrusts, no matter where, at Lutzen a splinter
of a shell crushed one of my fingers. Ah! and then at Waterloo,
a ball from a biscaien in the thigh, that's all."
"How fine that is!" exclaimed the hair-dresser, in Pindaric accents,
"to die on the field of battle! On my word of honor, rather than
die in bed, of an illness, slowly, a bit by bit each day,
with drugs, cataplasms, syringes, medicines, I should prefer