Part 28 out of 36
joy and life; it will come, and it is in order that it may come
that we are about to die."
Enjolras ceased. His virgin lips closed; and he remained for some time
standing on the spot where he had shed blood, in marble immobility.
His staring eye caused those about him to speak in low tones.
Jean Prouvaire and Combeferre pressed each other's hands silently,
and, leaning against each other in an angle of the barricade,
they watched with an admiration in which there was some compassion,
that grave young man, executioner and priest, composed of light,
like crystal, and also of rock.
Let us say at once that later on, after the action, when the bodies
were taken to the morgue and searched, a police agent's card was found
on Le Cabuc. The author of this book had in his hands, in 1848,
the special report on this subject made to the Prefect of Police
We will add, that if we are to believe a tradition of the police,
which is strange but probably well founded, Le Cabuc was Claquesous.
The fact is, that dating from the death of Le Cabuc, there was no
longer any question of Claquesous. Claquesous had nowhere left
any trace of his disappearance; he would seem to have amalgamated
himself with the invisible. His life had been all shadows, his end
The whole insurgent group was still under the influence of the
emotion of that tragic case which had been so quickly tried and so
quickly terminated, when Courfeyrac again beheld on the barricade,
the small young man who had inquired of him that morning for Marius.
This lad, who had a bold and reckless air, had come by night to join
BOOK THIRTEENTH.--MARIUS ENTERS THE SHADOW
FROM THE RUE PLUMET TO THE QUARTIER SAINT-DENIS
The voice which had summoned Marius through the twilight to the
barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie, had produced on him the
effect of the voice of destiny. He wished to die; the opportunity
presented itself; he knocked at the door of the tomb, a hand
in the darkness offered him the key. These melancholy openings
which take place in the gloom before despair, are tempting.
Marius thrust aside the bar which had so often allowed him to pass,
emerged from the garden, and said: "I will go."
Mad with grief, no longer conscious of anything fixed or solid
in his brain, incapable of accepting anything thenceforth of fate
after those two months passed in the intoxication of youth and love,
overwhelmed at once by all the reveries of despair, he had but one
desire remaining, to make a speedy end of all.
He set out at rapid pace. He found himself most opportunely armed,
as he had Javert's pistols with him.
The young man of whom he thought that he had caught a glimpse,
had vanished from his sight in the street.
Marius, who had emerged from the Rue Plumet by the boulevard,
traversed the Esplanade and the bridge of the Invalides, the Champs
Elysees, the Place Louis XV., and reached the Rue de Rivoli.
The shops were open there, the gas was burning under the arcades,
women were making their purchases in the stalls, people were eating
ices in the Cafe Laiter, and nibbling small cakes at the English
pastry-cook's shop. Only a few posting-chaises were setting out
at a gallop from the Hotel des Princes and the Hotel Meurice.
Marius entered the Rue Saint-Honore through the Passage Delorme.
There the shops were closed, the merchants were chatting in front
of their half-open doors, people were walking about, the street
lanterns were lighted, beginning with the first floor, all the
windows were lighted as usual. There was cavalry on the Place du
Marius followed the Rue Saint-Honore. In proportion as he left
the Palais-Royal behind him, there were fewer lighted windows,
the shops were fast shut, no one was chatting on the thresholds,
the street grew sombre, and, at the same time, the crowd increased
in density. For the passers-by now amounted to a crowd. No one could
be seen to speak in this throng, and yet there arose from it a dull,
Near the fountain of the Arbre-Sec, there were "assemblages",
motionless and gloomy groups which were to those who went and came
as stones in the midst of running water.
At the entrance to the Rue des Prouvaires, the crowd no longer walked.
It formed a resisting, massive, solid, compact, almost impenetrable
block of people who were huddled together, and conversing in
low tones. There were hardly any black coats or round hats now,
but smock frocks, blouses, caps, and bristling and cadaverous heads.
This multitude undulated confusedly in the nocturnal gloom.
Its whisperings had the hoarse accent of a vibration. Although not
one of them was walking, a dull trampling was audible in the mire.
Beyond this dense portion of the throng, in the Rue du Roule, in the
Rue des Prouvaires, and in the extension of the Rue Saint-Honore,
there was no longer a single window in which a candle was burning.
Only the solitary and diminishing rows of lanterns could be seen
vanishing into the street in the distance. The lanterns of that
date resembled large red stars, hanging to ropes, and shed upon
the pavement a shadow which had the form of a huge spider.
These streets were not deserted. There could be descried piles of guns,
moving bayonets, and troops bivouacking. No curious observer passed
that limit. There circulation ceased. There the rabble ended and
the army began.
Marius willed with the will of a man who hopes no more. He had
been summoned, he must go. He found a means to traverse the throng
and to pass the bivouac of the troops, he shunned the patrols,
he avoided the sentinels. He made a circuit, reached the Rue
de Bethisy, and directed his course towards the Halles. At the
corner of the Rue des Bourdonnais, there were no longer any lanterns.
After having passed the zone of the crowd, he had passed the limits
of the troops; he found himself in something startling. There was
no longer a passer-by, no longer a soldier, no longer a light,
there was no one; solitude, silence, night, I know not what chill
which seized hold upon one. Entering a street was like entering
He continued to advance.
He took a few steps. Some one passed close to him at a run. Was it
a man? Or a woman? Were there many of them? he could not have told.
It had passed and vanished.
Proceeding from circuit to circuit, he reached a lane which he
judged to be the Rue de la Poterie; near the middle of this street,
he came in contact with an obstacle. He extended his hands.
It was an overturned wagon; his foot recognized pools
of water, gullies, and paving-stones scattered and piled up.
A barricade had been begun there and abandoned. He climbed over
the stones and found himself on the other side of the barrier.
He walked very near the street-posts, and guided himself along
the walls of the houses. A little beyond the barricade, it seemed
to him that he could make out something white in front of him.
He approached, it took on a form. It was two white horses;
the horses of the omnibus harnessed by Bossuet in the morning,
who had been straying at random all day from street to street,
and had finally halted there, with the weary patience of brutes
who no more understand the actions of men, than man understands the
actions of Providence.
Marius left the horses behind him. As he was approaching
a street which seemed to him to be the Rue du Contrat-Social,
a shot coming no one knows whence, and traversing the darkness
at random, whistled close by him, and the bullet pierced a brass
shaving-dish suspended above his head over a hairdresser's shop.
This pierced shaving-dish was still to be seen in 1848, in the
Rue du Contrat-Social, at the corner of the pillars of the market.
This shot still betokened life. From that instant forth he
encountered nothing more.
The whole of this itinerary resembled a descent of black steps.
Nevertheless, Marius pressed forward.
AN OWL'S VIEW OF PARIS
A being who could have hovered over Paris that night with the wing
of the bat or the owl would have had beneath his eyes a gloomy spectacle.
All that old quarter of the Halles, which is like a city within
a city, through which run the Rues Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin,
where a thousand lanes cross, and of which the insurgents had made
their redoubt and their stronghold, would have appeared to him like
a dark and enormous cavity hollowed out in the centre of Paris.
There the glance fell into an abyss. Thanks to the broken lanterns,
thanks to the closed windows, there all radiance, all life,
all sound, all movement ceased. The invisible police of the
insurrection were on the watch everywhere, and maintained order,
that is to say, night. The necessary tactics of insurrection
are to drown small numbers in a vast obscurity, to multiply every
combatant by the possibilities which that obscurity contains.
At dusk, every window where a candle was burning received a shot.
The light was extinguished, sometimes the inhabitant was killed.
Hence nothing was stirring. There was nothing but fright, mourning,
stupor in the houses; and in the streets, a sort of sacred horror.
Not even the long rows of windows and stores, the indentations
of the chimneys, and the roofs, and the vague reflections which
are cast back by the wet and muddy pavements, were visible.
An eye cast upward at that mass of shadows might, perhaps,
have caught a glimpse here and there, at intervals, of indistinct
gleams which brought out broken and eccentric lines, and profiles
of singular buildings, something like the lights which go and come
in ruins; it was at such points that the barricades were situated.
The rest was a lake of obscurity, foggy, heavy, and funereal,
above which, in motionless and melancholy outlines, rose the tower
of Saint-Jacques, the church of Saint-Merry, and two or three more
of those grand edifices of which man makes giants and the night
All around this deserted and disquieting labyrinth, in the
quarters where the Parisian circulation had not been annihilated,
and where a few street lanterns still burned, the aerial observer
might have distinguished the metallic gleam of swords and bayonets,
the dull rumble of artillery, and the swarming of silent battalions
whose ranks were swelling from minute to minute; a formidable
girdle which was slowly drawing in and around the insurrection.
The invested quarter was no longer anything more than a monstrous cavern;
everything there appeared to be asleep or motionless, and, as we
have just seen, any street which one might come to offered nothing
A wild darkness, full of traps, full of unseen and formidable shocks,
into which it was alarming to penetrate, and in which it was terrible
to remain, where those who entered shivered before those whom they
awaited, where those who waited shuddered before those who were coming.
Invisible combatants were entrenched at every corner of the street;
snares of the sepulchre concealed in the density of night.
All was over. No more light was to be hoped for, henceforth,
except the lightning of guns, no further encounter except the abrupt
and rapid apparition of death. Where? How? When? No one knew,
but it was certain and inevitable. In this place which had been
marked out for the struggle, the Government and the insurrection,
the National Guard, and popular societies, the bourgeois and
the uprising, groping their way, were about to come into contact.
The necessity was the same for both. The only possible issue
thenceforth was to emerge thence killed or conquerors. A situation
so extreme, an obscurity so powerful, that the most timid felt
themselves seized with resolution, and the most daring with terror.
Moreover, on both sides, the fury, the rage, and the determination
were equal. For the one party, to advance meant death, and no
one dreamed of retreating; for the other, to remain meant death,
and no one dreamed of flight.
It was indispensable that all should be ended on the following day,
that triumph should rest either here or there, that the insurrection
should prove itself a revolution or a skirmish. The Government understood
this as well as the parties; the most insignificant bourgeois felt it.
Hence a thought of anguish which mingled with the impenetrable
gloom of this quarter where all was at the point of being decided;
hence a redoubled anxiety around that silence whence a catastrophe
was on the point of emerging. Here only one sound was audible, a sound
as heart-rending as the death rattle, as menacing as a malediction,
the tocsin of Saint-Merry. Nothing could be more blood-curdling than
the clamor of that wild and desperate bell, wailing amid the shadows.
As it often happens, nature seemed to have fallen into accord
with what men were about to do. Nothing disturbed the harmony
of the whole effect. The stars had disappeared, heavy clouds
filled the horizon with their melancholy folds. A black sky
rested on these dead streets, as though an immense winding-sheet
were being outspread over this immense tomb.
While a battle that was still wholly political was in preparation
in the same locality which had already witnessed so many
revolutionary events, while youth, the secret associations,
the schools, in the name of principles, and the middle classes,
in the name of interests, were approaching preparatory to dashing
themselves together, clasping and throwing each other, while each
one hastened and invited the last and decisive hour of the crisis,
far away and quite outside of this fatal quarter, in the most profound
depths of the unfathomable cavities of that wretched old Paris which
disappears under the splendor of happy and opulent Paris, the sombre
voice of the people could be heard giving utterance to a dull roar.
A fearful and sacred voice which is composed of the roar of the brute
and of the word of God, which terrifies the weak and which warns
the wise, which comes both from below like the voice of the lion,
and from on high like the voice of the thunder.
THE EXTREME EDGE
Marius had reached the Halles.
There everything was still calmer, more obscure and more motionless
than in the neighboring streets. One would have said that the
glacial peace of the sepulchre had sprung forth from the earth
and had spread over the heavens.
Nevertheless, a red glow brought out against this black background
the lofty roofs of the houses which barred the Rue de la Chanvrerie
on the Saint-Eustache side. It was the reflection of the torch which
was burning in the Corinthe barricade. Marius directed his steps
towards that red light. It had drawn him to the Marche-aux-Poirees,
and he caught a glimpse of the dark mouth of the Rue des Precheurs.
He entered it. The insurgents' sentinel, who was guarding
the other end, did not see him. He felt that he was very close
to that which he had come in search of, and he walked on tiptoe.
In this manner he reached the elbow of that short section of the
Rue Mondetour which was, as the reader will remember, the only
communication which Enjolras had preserved with the outside world.
At the corner of the last house, on his left, he thrust his
head forward, and looked into the fragment of the Rue Mondetour.
A little beyond the angle of the lane and the Rue de la Chanvrerie
which cast a broad curtain of shadow, in which he was himself engulfed,
he perceived some light on the pavement, a bit of the wine-shop,
and beyond, a flickering lamp within a sort of shapeless wall,
and men crouching down with guns on their knees. All this was ten
fathoms distant from him. It was the interior of the barricade.
The houses which bordered the lane on the right concealed the rest
of the wine-shop, the large barricade, and the flag from him.
Marius had but a step more to take.
Then the unhappy young man seated himself on a post, folded his arms,
and fell to thinking about his father.
He thought of that heroic Colonel Pontmercy, who had been so proud
a soldier, who had guarded the frontier of France under the Republic,
and had touched the frontier of Asia under Napoleon, who had beheld Genoa,
Alexandria, Milan, Turin, Madrid, Vienna, Dresden, Berlin, Moscow,
who had left on all the victorious battle-fields of Europe drops
of that same blood, which he, Marius, had in his veins, who had
grown gray before his time in discipline and command, who had lived
with his sword-belt buckled, his epaulets falling on his breast,
his cockade blackened with powder, his brow furrowed with his helmet,
in barracks, in camp, in the bivouac, in ambulances, and who,
at the expiration of twenty years, had returned from the great wars
with a scarred cheek, a smiling countenance, tranquil, admirable, pure
as a child, having done everything for France and nothing against her.
He said to himself that his day had also come now, that his hour
had struck, that following his father, he too was about to show himself
brave, intrepid, bold, to run to meet the bullets, to offer his breast
to bayonets, to shed his blood, to seek the enemy, to seek death, that he
was about to wage war in his turn and descend to the field of battle,
and that the field of battle upon which he was to descend was the
street, and that the war in which he was about to engage was civil war!
He beheld civil war laid open like a gulf before him, and into this
he was about to fall. Then he shuddered.
He thought of his father's sword, which his grandfather had sold
to a second-hand dealer, and which he had so mournfully regretted.
He said to himself that that chaste and valiant sword had done
well to escape from him, and to depart in wrath into the gloom;
that if it had thus fled, it was because it was intelligent and
because it had foreseen the future; that it had had a presentiment
of this rebellion, the war of the gutters, the war of the pavements,
fusillades through cellar-windows, blows given and received in the rear;
it was because, coming from Marengo and Friedland, it did not wish
to go to the Rue de la Chanvrerie; it was because, after what it
had done with the father, it did not wish to do this for the son!
He told himself that if that sword were there, if after taking
possession of it at his father's pillow, he had dared to take it
and carry it off for this combat of darkness between Frenchmen
in the streets, it would assuredly have scorched his hands and
burst out aflame before his eyes, like the sword of the angel!
He told himself that it was fortunate that it was not there and
that it had disappeared, that that was well, that that was just,
that his grandfather had been the true guardian of his father's glory,
and that it was far better that the colonel's sword should be sold
at auction, sold to the old-clothes man, thrown among the old junk,
than that it should, to-day, wound the side of his country.
And then he fell to weeping bitterly.
This was horrible. But what was he to do? Live without Cosette he
could not. Since she was gone, he must needs die. Had he not given
her his word of honor that he would die? She had gone knowing that;
this meant that it pleased her that Marius should die. And then,
it was clear that she no longer loved him, since she had departed thus
without warning, without a word, without a letter, although she knew
his address! What was the good of living, and why should he live now?
And then, what! should he retreat after going so far? should he
flee from danger after having approached it? should he slip away
after having come and peeped into the barricade? slip away, all in
a tremble, saying: "After all, I have had enough of it as it is.
I have seen it, that suffices, this is civil war, and I shall take
my leave!" Should he abandon his friends who were expecting him?
Who were in need of him possibly! who were a mere handful against
an army! Should he be untrue at once to his love, to country,
to his word? Should he give to his cowardice the pretext of patriotism?
But this was impossible, and if the phantom of his father was there
in the gloom, and beheld him retreating, he would beat him on the
loins with the flat of his sword, and shout to him: "March on,
Thus a prey to the conflicting movements of his thoughts, he dropped
All at once he raised it. A sort of splendid rectification
had just been effected in his mind. There is a widening of the
sphere of thought which is peculiar to the vicinity of the grave;
it makes one see clearly to be near death. The vision of the action
into which he felt that he was, perhaps, on the point of entering,
appeared to him no more as lamentable, but as superb. The war
of the street was suddenly transfigured by some unfathomable
inward working of his soul, before the eye of his thought.
All the tumultuous interrogation points of revery recurred to him
in throngs, but without troubling him. He left none of them unanswered.
Let us see, why should his father be indignant? Are there
not cases where insurrection rises to the dignity of duty?
What was there that was degrading for the son of Colonel Pontmercy
in the combat which was about to begin? It is no longer Montmirail
nor Champaubert; it is something quite different. The question
is no longer one of sacred territory,--but of a holy idea.
The country wails, that may be, but humanity applauds. But is it
true that the country does wail? France bleeds, but liberty smiles;
and in the presence of liberty's smile, France forgets her wound.
And then if we look at things from a still more lofty point of view,
why do we speak of civil war?
Civil war--what does that mean? Is there a foreign war?
Is not all war between men war between brothers? War is qualified
only by its object. There is no such thing as foreign or civil war;
there is only just and unjust war. Until that day when the grand
human agreement is concluded, war, that at least which is the effort
of the future, which is hastening on against the past, which is
lagging in the rear, may be necessary. What have we to reproach
that war with? War does not become a disgrace, the sword does
not become a disgrace, except when it is used for assassinating
the right, progress, reason, civilization, truth. Then war,
whether foreign or civil, is iniquitous; it is called crime.
Outside the pale of that holy thing, justice, by what right does
one form of man despise another? By what right should the sword
of Washington disown the pike of Camille Desmoulins? Leonidas against
the stranger, Timoleon against the tyrant, which is the greater?
the one is the defender, the other the liberator. Shall we brand
every appeal to arms within a city's limits without taking the object
into a consideration? Then note the infamy of Brutus, Marcel,
Arnould von Blankenheim, Coligny, Hedgerow war? War of the streets?
Why not? That was the war of Ambiorix, of Artevelde, of Marnix,
of Pelagius. But Ambiorix fought against Rome, Artevelde against France,
Marnix against Spain, Pelagius against the Moors; all against
the foreigner. Well, the monarchy is a foreigner; oppression is
a stranger; the right divine is a stranger. Despotism violates
the moral frontier, an invasion violates the geographical frontier.
Driving out the tyrant or driving out the English, in both cases,
regaining possession of one's own territory. There comes an hour when
protestation no longer suffices; after philosophy, action is required;
live force finishes what the idea has sketched out; Prometheus chained
begins, Arostogeiton ends; the encyclopedia enlightens souls,
the 10th of August electrifies them. After AEschylus, Thrasybulus;
after Diderot, Danton. Multitudes have a tendency to accept the master.
Their mass bears witness to apathy. A crowd is easily led as a whole
to obedience. Men must be stirred up, pushed on, treated roughly
by the very benefit of their deliverance, their eyes must be wounded
by the true, light must be hurled at them in terrible handfuls.
They must be a little thunderstruck themselves at their own well-being;
this dazzling awakens them. Hence the necessity of tocsins and wars.
Great combatants must rise, must enlighten nations with audacity,
and shake up that sad humanity which is covered with gloom by the
right divine, Caesarian glory, force, fanaticism, irresponsible power,
and absolute majesty; a rabble stupidly occupied in the contemplation,
in their twilight splendor, of these sombre triumphs of the night.
Down with the tyrant! Of whom are you speaking? Do you call
Louis Philippe the tyrant? No; no more than Louis XVI.
Both of them are what history is in the habit of calling good kings;
but principles are not to be parcelled out, the logic of the true
is rectilinear, the peculiarity of truth is that it lacks complaisance;
no concessions, then; all encroachments on man should be repressed.
There is a divine right in Louis XVI., there is because a Bourbon
in Louis Philippe; both represent in a certain measure the confiscation
of right, and, in order to clear away universal insurrection, they must
be combated; it must be done, France being always the one to begin.
When the master falls in France, he falls everywhere. In short,
what cause is more just, and consequently, what war is greater, than that
which re-establishes social truth, restores her throne to liberty,
restores the people to the people, restores sovereignty to man,
replaces the purple on the head of France, restores equity and reason
in their plenitude, suppresses every germ of antagonism by restoring
each one to himself, annihilates the obstacle which royalty presents
to the whole immense universal concord, and places the human race
once more on a level with the right? These wars build up peace.
An enormous fortress of prejudices, privileges, superstitions,
lies, exactions, abuses, violences, iniquities, and darkness
still stands erect in this world, with its towers of hatred.
It must be cast down. This monstrous mass must be made to crumble.
To conquer at Austerlitz is grand; to take the Bastille is immense.
There is no one who has not noticed it in his own case--the soul,--
and therein lies the marvel of its unity complicated with ubiquity,
has a strange aptitude for reasoning almost coldly in the most
violent extremities, and it often happens that heartbroken passion
and profound despair in the very agony of their blackest monologues,
treat subjects and discuss theses. Logic is mingled with convulsion,
and the thread of the syllogism floats, without breaking, in the
mournful storm of thought. This was the situation of Marius' mind.
As he meditated thus, dejected but resolute, hesitating in
every direction, and, in short, shuddering at what he was about
to do, his glance strayed to the interior of the barricade.
The insurgents were here conversing in a low voice, without moving,
and there was perceptible that quasi-silence which marks the last
stage of expectation. Overhead, at the small window in the third
story Marius descried a sort of spectator who appeared to him to
be singularly attentive. This was the porter who had been killed
by Le Cabuc. Below, by the lights of the torch, which was thrust
between the paving-stones, this head could be vaguely distinguished.
Nothing could be stranger, in that sombre and uncertain gleam,
than that livid, motionless, astonished face, with its bristling hair,
its eyes fixed and staring, and its yawning mouth, bent over
the street in an attitude of curiosity. One would have said that
the man who was dead was surveying those who were about to die.
A long trail of blood which had flowed from that head, descended in
reddish threads from the window to the height of the first floor,
where it stopped.
BOOK FOURTEENTH.--THE GRANDEURS OF DESPAIR
THE FLAG: ACT FIRST
As yet, nothing had come. Ten o'clock had sounded from Saint-Merry.
Enjolras and Combeferre had gone and seated themselves,
carbines in hand, near the outlet of the grand barricade.
They no longer addressed each other, they listened,
seeking to catch even the faintest and most distant sound of marching.
Suddenly, in the midst of the dismal calm, a clear, gay, young voice,
which seemed to come from the Rue Saint-Denis, rose and began to
sing distinctly, to the old popular air of "By the Light of the Moon,"
this bit of poetry, terminated by a cry like the crow of a cock:--
Mon nez est en larmes,
Mon ami Bugeaud,
Prete moi tes gendarmes
Pour leur dire un mot.
En capote bleue,
La poule au shako,
Voici la banlieue!
 My nose is in tears, my friend Bugeaud, lend me thy gendarmes
that I may say a word to them. With a blue capote and a chicken
in his shako, here's the banlieue, co-cocorico.
They pressed each other's hands.
"That is Gavroche," said Enjolras.
"He is warning us," said Combeferre.
A hasty rush troubled the deserted street; they beheld a being
more agile than a clown climb over the omnibus, and Gavroche
bounded into the barricade, all breathless, saying:--
"My gun! Here they are!"
An electric quiver shot through the whole barricade, and the sound
of hands seeking their guns became audible.
"Would you like my carbine?" said Enjolras to the lad.
"I want a big gun," replied Gavroche.
And he seized Javert's gun.
Two sentinels had fallen back, and had come in almost at the
same moment as Gavroche. They were the sentinels from the end
of the street, and the vidette of the Rue de la Petite-Truanderie.
The vidette of the Lane des Precheurs had remained at his post,
which indicated that nothing was approaching from the direction
of the bridges and Halles.
The Rue de la Chanvrerie, of which a few paving-stones alone were
dimly visible in the reflection of the light projected on the flag,
offered to the insurgents the aspect of a vast black door vaguely
opened into a smoke.
Each man had taken up his position for the conflict.
Forty-three insurgents, among whom were Enjolras, Combeferre,
Courfeyrac, Bossuet, Joly, Bahorel, and Gavroche, were kneeling inside
the large barricade, with their heads on a level with the crest
of the barrier, the barrels of their guns and carbines aimed on the
stones as though at loop-holes, attentive, mute, ready to fire. Six,
commanded by Feuilly, had installed themselves, with their guns levelled
at their shoulders, at the windows of the two stories of Corinthe.
Several minutes passed thus, then a sound of footsteps,
measured, heavy, and numerous, became distinctly audible in the
direction of Saint-Leu. This sound, faint at first, then precise,
then heavy and sonorous, approached slowly, without halt,
without intermission, with a tranquil and terrible continuity.
Nothing was to be heard but this. It was that combined silence
and sound, of the statue of the commander, but this stony step had
something indescribably enormous and multiple about it which awakened
the idea of a throng, and, at the same time, the idea of a spectre.
One thought one heard the terrible statue Legion marching onward.
This tread drew near; it drew still nearer, and stopped. It seemed
as though the breathing of many men could be heard at the end
of the street. Nothing was to be seen, however, but at the bottom
of that dense obscurity there could be distinguished a multitude
of metallic threads, as fine as needles and almost imperceptible,
which moved about like those indescribable phosphoric networks which one
sees beneath one's closed eyelids, in the first mists of slumber at
the moment when one is dropping off to sleep. These were bayonets and
gun-barrels confusedly illuminated by the distant reflection of the torch.
A pause ensued, as though both sides were waiting. All at once,
from the depths of this darkness, a voice, which was all the
more sinister, since no one was visible, and which appeared
to be the gloom itself speaking, shouted:--
"Who goes there?"
At the same time, the click of guns, as they were lowered into position,
Enjolras replied in a haughty and vibrating tone:--
"The French Revolution!"
"Fire!" shouted the voice.
A flash empurpled all the facades in the street as though the door
of a furnace had been flung open, and hastily closed again.
A fearful detonation burst forth on the barricade. The red flag fell.
The discharge had been so violent and so dense that it had cut
the staff, that is to say, the very tip of the omnibus pole.
Bullets which had rebounded from the cornices of the houses
penetrated the barricade and wounded several men.
The impression produced by this first discharge was freezing.
The attack had been rough, and of a nature to inspire reflection
in the boldest. It was evident that they had to deal with an entire
regiment at the very least.
"Comrades!" shouted Courfeyrac, "let us not waste our powder.
Let us wait until they are in the street before replying."
"And, above all," said Enjolras, "let us raise the flag again."
He picked up the flag, which had fallen precisely at his feet.
Outside, the clatter of the ramrods in the guns could be heard;
the troops were re-loading their arms.
Enjolras went on:--
"Who is there here with a bold heart? Who will plant the flag
on the barricade again?"
Not a man responded. To mount on the barricade at the very
moment when, without any doubt, it was again the object of
their aim, was simply death. The bravest hesitated to pronounce
his own condemnation. Enjolras himself felt a thrill. He repeated:--
"Does no one volunteer?"
THE FLAG: ACT SECOND
Since they had arrived at Corinthe, and had begun the construction
of the barricade, no attention had been paid to Father Mabeuf.
M. Mabeuf had not quitted the mob, however; he had entered
the ground-floor of the wine-shop and had seated himself behind
the counter. There he had, so to speak, retreated into himself.
He no longer seemed to look or to think. Courfeyrac and others
had accosted him two or three times, warning him of his peril,
beseeching him to withdraw, but he did not hear them. When they
were not speaking to him, his mouth moved as though he were replying
to some one, and as soon as he was addressed, his lips became
motionless and his eyes no longer had the appearance of being alive.
Several hours before the barricade was attacked, he had assumed an
attitude which he did not afterwards abandon, with both fists planted
on his knees and his head thrust forward as though he were gazing over
a precipice. Nothing had been able to move him from this attitude;
it did not seem as though his mind were in the barricade.
When each had gone to take up his position for the combat,
there remained in the tap-room where Javert was bound to the post,
only a single insurgent with a naked sword, watching over Javert,
and himself, Mabeuf. At the moment of the attack, at the detonation,
the physical shock had reached him and had, as it were, awakened him;
he started up abruptly, crossed the room, and at the instant when
Enjolras repeated his appeal: "Does no one volunteer?" the old man
was seen to make his appearance on the threshold of the wine-shop.
His presence produced a sort of commotion in the different groups.
A shout went up:--
"It is the voter! It is the member of the Convention!
It is the representative of the people!"
It is probable that he did not hear them.
He strode straight up to Enjolras, the insurgents withdrawing
before him with a religious fear; he tore the flag from Enjolras,
who recoiled in amazement and then, since no one dared to stop or to
assist him, this old man of eighty, with shaking head but firm foot,
began slowly to ascend the staircase of paving-stones arranged in
the barricade. This was so melancholy and so grand that all around
him cried: "Off with your hats!" At every step that he mounted,
it was a frightful spectacle; his white locks, his decrepit face,
his lofty, bald, and wrinkled brow, his amazed and open mouth,
his aged arm upholding the red banner, rose through the gloom and
were enlarged in the bloody light of the torch, and the bystanders
thought that they beheld the spectre of '93 emerging from the earth,
with the flag of terror in his hand.
When he had reached the last step, when this trembling and
terrible phantom, erect on that pile of rubbish in the presence
of twelve hundred invisible guns, drew himself up in the face
of death and as though he were more powerful than it, the whole
barricade assumed amid the darkness, a supernatural and colossal form.
There ensued one of those silences which occur only in the presence
of prodigies. In the midst of this silence, the old man waved
the red flag and shouted:--
"Long live the Revolution! Long live the Republic! Fraternity!
Equality! and Death!"
Those in the barricade heard a low and rapid whisper, like the
murmur of a priest who is despatching a prayer in haste.
It was probably the commissary of police who was making the legal
summons at the other end of the street.
Then the same piercing voice which had shouted: "Who goes there?"
M. Mabeuf, pale, haggard, his eyes lighted up with the mournful
flame of aberration, raised the flag above his head and repeated:--
"Long live the Republic!"
"Fire!" said the voice.
A second discharge, similar to the first, rained down upon the barricade.
The old man fell on his knees, then rose again, dropped the flag
and fell backwards on the pavement, like a log, at full length,
with outstretched arms.
Rivulets of blood flowed beneath him. His aged head, pale and sad,
seemed to be gazing at the sky.
One of those emotions which are superior to man, which make
him forget even to defend himself, seized upon the insurgents,
and they approached the body with respectful awe.
"What men these regicides were!" said Enjolras.
Courfeyrac bent down to Enjolras' ear:--
"This is for yourself alone, I do not wish to dampen the enthusiasm.
But this man was anything rather than a regicide. I knew him.
His name was Father Mabeuf. I do not know what was the matter
with him to-day. But he was a brave blockhead. Just look at
"The head of a blockhead and the heart of a Brutus," replied Enjolras.
Then he raised his voice:--
"Citizens! This is the example which the old give to the young.
We hesitated, he came! We were drawing back, he advanced! This is
what those who are trembling with age teach to those who tremble
with fear! This aged man is august in the eyes of his country.
He has had a long life and a magnificent death! Now, let us place
the body under cover, that each one of us may defend this old man
dead as he would his father living, and may his presence in our midst
render the barricade impregnable!"
A murmur of gloomy and energetic assent followed these words.
Enjolras bent down, raised the old man's head, and fierce as he was,
he kissed him on the brow, then, throwing wide his arms, and handling
this dead man with tender precaution, as though he feared to hurt it,
he removed his coat, showed the bloody holes in it to all,
"This is our flag now."
GAVROCHE WOULD HAVE DONE BETTER TO ACCEPT ENJOLRAS' CARBINE
They threw a long black shawl of Widow Hucheloup's over Father Mabeuf.
Six men made a litter of their guns; on this they laid the body,
and bore it, with bared heads, with solemn slowness, to the large
table in the tap-room.
These men, wholly absorbed in the grave and sacred task in which
they were engaged, thought no more of the perilous situation
in which they stood.
When the corpse passed near Javert, who was still impassive,
Enjolras said to the spy:--
"It will be your turn presently!"
During all this time, Little Gavroche, who alone had not quitted
his post, but had remained on guard, thought he espied some men
stealthily approaching the barricade. All at once he shouted:--
Courfeyrac, Enjolras, Jean Prouvaire, Combeferre, Joly, Bahorel, Bossuet,
and all the rest ran tumultuously from the wine-shop. It was almost
too late. They saw a glistening density of bayonets undulating
above the barricade. Municipal guards of lofty stature were making
their way in, some striding over the omnibus, others through the cut,
thrusting before them the urchin, who retreated, but did not flee.
The moment was critical. It was that first, redoubtable moment
of inundation, when the stream rises to the level of the levee
and when the water begins to filter through the fissures of dike.
A second more and the barricade would have been taken.
Bahorel dashed upon the first municipal guard who was entering,
and killed him on the spot with a blow from his gun; the second
killed Bahorel with a blow from his bayonet. Another had already
overthrown Courfeyrac, who was shouting: "Follow me!" The largest
of all, a sort of colossus, marched on Gavroche with his bayonet fixed.
The urchin took in his arms Javert's immense gun, levelled it
resolutely at the giant, and fired. No discharge followed.
Javert's gun was not loaded. The municipal guard burst into a laugh
and raised his bayonet at the child.
Before the bayonet had touched Gavroche, the gun slipped from
the soldier's grasp, a bullet had struck the municipal guardsman
in the centre of the forehead, and he fell over on his back.
A second bullet struck the other guard, who had assaulted Courfeyrac
in the breast, and laid him low on the pavement.
This was the work of Marius, who had just entered the barricade.
THE BARREL OF POWDER
Marius, still concealed in the turn of the Rue Mondetour, had witnessed,
shuddering and irresolute, the first phase of the combat. But he
had not long been able to resist that mysterious and sovereign vertigo
which may be designated as the call of the abyss. In the presence
of the imminence of the peril, in the presence of the death of
M. Mabeuf, that melancholy enigma, in the presence of Bahorel killed,
and Courfeyrac shouting: "Follow me!" of that child threatened,
of his friends to succor or to avenge, all hesitation had vanished,
and he had flung himself into the conflict, his two pistols in hand.
With his first shot he had saved Gavroche, and with the second
Amid the sound of the shots, amid the cries of the assaulted guards,
the assailants had climbed the entrenchment, on whose summit
Municipal Guards, soldiers of the line and National Guards from
the suburbs could now be seen, gun in hand, rearing themselves
to more than half the height of their bodies.
They already covered more than two-thirds of the barrier, but they
did not leap into the enclosure, as though wavering in the fear of
some trap. They gazed into the dark barricade as one would gaze into
a lion's den. The light of the torch illuminated only their bayonets,
their bear-skin caps, and the upper part of their uneasy and angry faces.
Marius had no longer any weapons; he had flung away his discharged
pistols after firing them; but he had caught sight of the barrel
of powder in the tap-room, near the door.
As he turned half round, gazing in that direction, a soldier took
aim at him. At the moment when the soldier was sighting Marius,
a hand was laid on the muzzle of the gun and obstructed it.
This was done by some one who had darted forward,--the young workman
in velvet trousers. The shot sped, traversed the hand and possibly,
also, the workman, since he fell, but the ball did not strike Marius.
All this, which was rather to be apprehended than seen through
the smoke, Marius, who was entering the tap-room, hardly noticed.
Still, he had, in a confused way, perceived that gun-barrel aimed at him,
and the hand which had blocked it, and he had heard the discharge.
But in moments like this, the things which one sees vacillate and
are precipitated, and one pauses for nothing. One feels obscurely
impelled towards more darkness still, and all is cloud.
The insurgents, surprised but not terrified, had rallied.
Enjolras had shouted: "Wait! Don't fire at random!"
In the first confusion, they might, in fact, wound each other.
The majority of them had ascended to the window on the first story
and to the attic windows, whence they commanded the assailants.
The most determined, with Enjolras, Courfeyrac, Jean Prouvaire,
and Combeferre, had proudly placed themselves with their backs
against the houses at the rear, unsheltered and facing the ranks
of soldiers and guards who crowned the barricade.
All this was accomplished without haste, with that strange and
threatening gravity which precedes engagements. They took aim,
point blank, on both sides: they were so close that they could
talk together without raising their voices.
When they had reached this point where the spark is on the brink
of darting forth, an officer in a gorget extended his sword and said:--
"Lay down your arms!"
"Fire!" replied Enjolras.
The two discharges took place at the same moment, and all disappeared
An acrid and stifling smoke in which dying and wounded lay with weak, dull
groans. When the smoke cleared away, the combatants on both sides could
be seen to be thinned out, but still in the same positions, reloading
in silence. All at once, a thundering voice was heard, shouting:--
"Be off with you, or I'll blow up the barricade!"
All turned in the direction whence the voice proceeded.
Marius had entered the tap-room, and had seized the barrel of powder,
then he had taken advantage of the smoke, and the sort of obscure mist
which filled the entrenched enclosure, to glide along the barricade
as far as that cage of paving-stones where the torch was fixed.
To tear it from the torch, to replace it by the barrel of powder,
to thrust the pile of stones under the barrel, which was instantly
staved in, with a sort of horrible obedience,--all this had cost
Marius but the time necessary to stoop and rise again; and now all,
National Guards, Municipal Guards, officers, soldiers, huddled at
the other extremity of the barricade, gazed stupidly at him,
as he stood with his foot on the stones, his torch in his hand,
his haughty face illuminated by a fatal resolution, drooping the
flame of the torch towards that redoubtable pile where they could
make out the broken barrel of powder, and giving vent to that
"Be off with you, or I'll blow up the barricade!"
Marius on that barricade after the octogenarian was the vision
of the young revolution after the apparition of the old.
"Blow up the barricade!" said a sergeant, "and yourself with it!"
Marius retorted: "And myself also."
And he dropped the torch towards the barrel of powder.
But there was no longer any one on the barrier. The assailants,
abandoning their dead and wounded, flowed back pell-mell and in
disorder towards the extremity of the street, and there were again
lost in the night. It was a headlong flight.
The barricade was free.
END OF THE VERSES OF JEAN PROUVAIRE
All flocked around Marius. Courfeyrac flung himself on his neck.
"Here you are!"
"What luck!" said Combeferre.
"You came in opportunely!" ejaculated Bossuet.
"If it had not been for you, I should have been dead!"
began Courfeyrac again.
"If it had not been for you, I should have been gobbled up!"
"Where is the chief?"
"You are he!" said Enjolras.
Marius had had a furnace in his brain all day long; now it was
a whirlwind. This whirlwind which was within him, produced on
him the effect of being outside of him and of bearing him away.
It seemed to him that he was already at an immense distance from life.
His two luminous months of joy and love, ending abruptly at that frightful
precipice, Cosette lost to him, that barricade, M. Mabeuf getting
himself killed for the Republic, himself the leader of the insurgents,--
all these things appeared to him like a tremendous nightmare.
He was obliged to make a mental effort to recall the fact that all
that surrounded him was real. Marius had already seen too much of
life not to know that nothing is more imminent than the impossible,
and that what it is always necessary to foresee is the unforeseen. He
had looked on at his own drama as a piece which one does not understand.
In the mists which enveloped his thoughts, he did not recognize
Javert, who, bound to his post, had not so much as moved his head
during the whole of the attack on the barricade, and who had
gazed on the revolt seething around him with the resignation
of a martyr and the majesty of a judge. Marius had not even seen him.
In the meanwhile, the assailants did not stir, they could be heard
marching and swarming through at the end of the street but they
did not venture into it, either because they were awaiting orders
or because they were awaiting reinforcements before hurling
themselves afresh on this impregnable redoubt. The insurgents
had posted sentinels, and some of them, who were medical students,
set about caring for the wounded.
They had thrown the tables out of the wine-shop, with the exception
of the two tables reserved for lint and cartridges, and of the one
on which lay Father Mabeuf; they had added them to the barricade,
and had replaced them in the tap-room with mattresses from the bed
of the widow Hucheloup and her servants. On these mattresses
they had laid the wounded. As for the three poor creatures
who inhabited Corinthe, no one knew what had become of them.
They were finally found, however, hidden in the cellar.
A poignant emotion clouded the joy of the disencumbered barricade.
The roll was called. One of the insurgents was missing. And who was it?
One of the dearest. One of the most valiant. Jean Prouvaire.
He was sought among the wounded, he was not there. He was sought
among the dead, he was not there. He was evidently a prisoner.
Combeferre said to Enjolras:--
"They have our friend; we have their agent. Are you set
on the death of that spy?"
"Yes," replied Enjolras; "but less so than on the life of Jean Prouvaire."
This took place in the tap-room near Javert's post.
"Well," resumed Combeferre, "I am going to fasten my handkerchief
to my cane, and go as a flag of truce, to offer to exchange our man
"Listen," said Enjolras, laying his hand on Combeferre's arm.
At the end of the street there was a significant clash of arms.
They heard a manly voice shout:--
"Vive la France! Long live France! Long live the future!"
They recognized the voice of Prouvaire.
A flash passed, a report rang out.
Silence fell again.
"They have killed him," exclaimed Combeferre.
Enjolras glanced at Javert, and said to him:--
"Your friends have just shot you."
THE AGONY OF DEATH AFTER THE AGONY OF LIFE
A peculiarity of this species of war is, that the attack of the
barricades is almost always made from the front, and that the assailants
generally abstain from turning the position, either because they
fear ambushes, or because they are afraid of getting entangled in the
tortuous streets. The insurgents' whole attention had been directed,
therefore, to the grand barricade, which was, evidently, the spot
always menaced, and there the struggle would infallibly recommence.
But Marius thought of the little barricade, and went thither.
It was deserted and guarded only by the fire-pot which trembled between
the paving-stones. Moreover, the Mondetour alley, and the branches of
the Rue de la Petite Truanderie and the Rue du Cygne were profoundly calm.
As Marius was withdrawing, after concluding his inspection,
he heard his name pronounced feebly in the darkness.
He started, for he recognized the voice which had called to him
two hours before through the gate in the Rue Plumet.
Only, the voice now seemed to be nothing more than a breath.
He looked about him, but saw no one.
Marius thought he had been mistaken, that it was an illusion added
by his mind to the extraordinary realities which were clashing
around him. He advanced a step, in order to quit the distant
recess where the barricade lay.
"Monsieur Marius!" repeated the voice.
This time he could not doubt that he had heard it distinctly;
he looked and saw nothing.
"At your feet," said the voice.
He bent down, and saw in the darkness a form which was dragging
itself towards him.
It was crawling along the pavement. It was this that had spoken
The fire-pot allowed him to distinguish a blouse, torn trousers
of coarse velvet, bare feet, and something which resembled a pool
of blood. Marius indistinctly made out a pale head which was lifted
towards him and which was saying to him:--
"You do not recognize me?"
Marius bent hastily down. It was, in fact, that unhappy child.
She was dressed in men's clothes.
"How come you here? What are you doing here?"
"I am dying," said she.
There are words and incidents which arouse dejected beings.
Marius cried out with a start:--
"You are wounded! Wait, I will carry you into the room! They will
attend to you there. Is it serious? How must I take hold of you
in order not to hurt you? Where do you suffer? Help! My God!
But why did you come hither?"
And he tried to pass his arm under her, in order to raise her.
She uttered a feeble cry.
"Have I hurt you?" asked Marius.
"But I only touched your hand."
She raised her hand to Marius, and in the middle of that hand
Marius saw a black hole.
"What is the matter with your hand?" said he.
"It is pierced."
"Did you see a gun aimed at you?"
"Yes, and a hand stopping it."
"It was mine."
Marius was seized with a shudder.
"What madness! Poor child! But so much the better, if that is all,
it is nothing, let me carry you to a bed. They will dress your wound;
one does not die of a pierced hand."
"The bullet traversed my hand, but it came out through my back.
It is useless to remove me from this spot. I will tell you how you
can care for me better than any surgeon. Sit down near me on
He obeyed; she laid her head on Marius' knees, and, without looking
at him, she said:--
"Oh! How good this is! How comfortable this is! There; I no
She remained silent for a moment, then she turned her face with
an effort, and looked at Marius.
"Do you know what, Monsieur Marius? It puzzled me because you
entered that garden; it was stupid, because it was I who showed you
that house; and then, I ought to have said to myself that a young
man like you--"
She paused, and overstepping the sombre transitions that undoubtedly
existed in her mind, she resumed with a heartrending smile:--
"You thought me ugly, didn't you?"
"You see, you are lost! Now, no one can get out of the barricade.
It was I who led you here, by the way! You are going to die,
I count upon that. And yet, when I saw them taking aim at you,
I put my hand on the muzzle of the gun. How queer it is! But it
was because I wanted to die before you. When I received that bullet,
I dragged myself here, no one saw me, no one picked me up,
I was waiting for you, I said: `So he is not coming!' Oh, if you
only knew. I bit my blouse, I suffered so! Now I am well.
Do you remember the day I entered your chamber and when I looked
at myself in your mirror, and the day when I came to you on the
boulevard near the washerwomen? How the birds sang! That was
a long time ago. You gave me a hundred sous, and I said to you:
`I don't want your money.' I hope you picked up your coin?
You are not rich. I did not think to tell you to pick it up.
The sun was shining bright, and it was not cold. Do you remember,
Monsieur Marius? Oh! How happy I am! Every one is going
She had a mad, grave, and heart-breaking air. Her torn blouse
disclosed her bare throat.
As she talked, she pressed her pierced hand to her breast, where there
was another hole, and whence there spurted from moment to moment
a stream of blood, like a jet of wine from an open bung-hole.
Marius gazed at this unfortunate creature with profound compassion.
"Oh!" she resumed, "it is coming again, I am stifling!"
She caught up her blouse and bit it, and her limbs stiffened
on the pavement.
At that moment the young cock's crow executed by little Gavroche
resounded through the barricade.
The child had mounted a table to load his gun, and was singing
gayly the song then so popular:--
"En voyant Lafayette, "On beholding Lafayette,
Le gendarme repete:-- The gendarme repeats:--
Sauvons nous! sauvons nous! Let us flee! let us flee!
sauvons nous!" let us flee!
Eponine raised herself and listened; then she murmured:--
"It is he."
And turning to Marius:--
"My brother is here. He must not see me. He would scold me."
"Your brother?" inquired Marius, who was meditating in the most bitter
and sorrowful depths of his heart on the duties to the Thenardiers
which his father had bequeathed to him; "who is your brother?"
"That little fellow."
"The one who is singing?"
Marius made a movement.
"Oh! don't go away," said she, "it will not be long now."
She was sitting almost upright, but her voice was very low
and broken by hiccoughs.
At intervals, the death rattle interrupted her. She put her face
as near that of Marius as possible. She added with a strange expression:--
"Listen, I do not wish to play you a trick. I have a letter in my
pocket for you. I was told to put it in the post. I kept it.
I did not want to have it reach you. But perhaps you will be angry
with me for it when we meet again presently? Take your letter."
She grasped Marius' hand convulsively with her pierced hand,
but she no longer seemed to feel her sufferings. She put Marius'
hand in the pocket of her blouse. There, in fact, Marius felt
"Take it," said she.
Marius took the letter.
She made a sign of satisfaction and contentment.
"Now, for my trouble, promise me--"
And she stopped.
"What?" asked Marius.
"Promise to give me a kiss on my brow when I am dead.--I shall
She dropped her head again on Marius' knees, and her eyelids closed.
He thought the poor soul had departed. Eponine remained motionless.
All at once, at the very moment when Marius fancied her asleep forever,
she slowly opened her eyes in which appeared the sombre profundity
of death, and said to him in a tone whose sweetness seemed already
to proceed from another world:--
"And by the way, Monsieur Marius, I believe that I was a little
bit in love with you."
She tried to smile once more and expired.
GAVROCHE AS A PROFOUND CALCULATOR OF DISTANCES
Marius kept his promise. He dropped a kiss on that livid brow,
where the icy perspiration stood in beads.
This was no infidelity to Cosette; it was a gentle and pensive
farewell to an unhappy soul.
It was not without a tremor that he had taken the letter
which Eponine had given him. He had immediately felt that
it was an event of weight. He was impatient to read it.
The heart of man is so constituted that the unhappy child had
hardly closed her eyes when Marius began to think of unfolding this paper.
He laid her gently on the ground, and went away. Something told him
that he could not peruse that letter in the presence of that body.
He drew near to a candle in the tap-room. It was a small note,
folded and sealed with a woman's elegant care. The address was
in a woman's hand and ran:--
"To Monsieur, Monsieur Marius Pontmercy, at M. Courfeyrac's, Rue
de la Verrerie, No. 16."
He broke the seal and read:--
"My dearest, alas! my father insists on our setting out immediately.
We shall be this evening in the Rue de l'Homme Arme, No. 7.
In a week we shall be in England. COSETTE. June 4th."
Such was the innocence of their love that Marius was not even
acquainted with Cosette's handwriting.
What had taken place may be related in a few words. Eponine had
been the cause of everything. After the evening of the 3d
of June she had cherished a double idea, to defeat the projects
of her father and the ruffians on the house of the Rue Plumet,
and to separate Marius and Cosette. She had exchanged rags with
the first young scamp she came across who had thought it amusing
to dress like a woman, while Eponine disguised herself like a man.
It was she who had conveyed to Jean Valjean in the Champ de Mars
the expressive warning: "Leave your house." Jean Valjean had,
in fact, returned home, and had said to Cosette: "We set out this
evening and we go to the Rue de l'Homme Arme with Toussaint.
Next week, we shall be in London." Cosette, utterly overwhelmed
by this unexpected blow, had hastily penned a couple of lines
to Marius. But how was she to get the letter to the post?
She never went out alone, and Toussaint, surprised at such
a commission, would certainly show the letter to M. Fauchelevent.
In this dilemma, Cosette had caught sight through the fence of Eponine
in man's clothes, who now prowled incessantly around the garden.
Cosette had called to "this young workman" and had handed him five
francs and the letter, saying: "Carry this letter immediately to
its address." Eponine had put the letter in her pocket. The next day,
on the 5th of June, she went to Courfeyrac's quarters to inquire
for Marius, not for the purpose of delivering the letter, but,--a thing
which every jealous and loving soul will comprehend,--"to see."
There she had waited for Marius, or at least for Courfeyrac,
still for the purpose of seeing. When Courfeyrac had told her:
"We are going to the barricades," an idea flashed through her mind,
to fling herself into that death, as she would have done into any other,
and to thrust Marius into it also. She had followed Courfeyrac,
had made sure of the locality where the barricade was in process
of construction; and, quite certain, since Marius had received
no warning, and since she had intercepted the letter, that he
would go at dusk to his trysting place for every evening, she had
betaken herself to the Rue Plumet, had there awaited Marius,
and had sent him, in the name of his friends, the appeal which would,
she thought, lead him to the barricade. She reckoned on Marius'
despair when he should fail to find Cosette; she was not mistaken.
She had returned to the Rue de la Chanvrerie herself. What she did
there the reader has just seen. She died with the tragic joy of jealous
hearts who drag the beloved being into their own death, and who say:
"No one shall have him!"
Marius covered Cosette's letter with kisses. So she loved him!
For one moment the idea occurred to him that he ought not to die now.
Then he said to himself: "She is going away. Her father is taking
her to England, and my grandfather refuses his consent to the marriage.
Nothing is changed in our fates." Dreamers like Marius are subject
to supreme attacks of dejection, and desperate resolves are the result.
The fatigue of living is insupportable; death is sooner over with.
Then he reflected that he had still two duties to fulfil: to inform
Cosette of his death and send her a final farewell, and to save from
the impending catastrophe which was in preparation, that poor child,
Eponine's brother and Thenardier's son.
He had a pocket-book about him; the same one which had contained
the note-book in which he had inscribed so many thoughts of love
for Cosette. He tore out a leaf and wrote on it a few lines
"Our marriage was impossible. I asked my grandfather, he refused;
I have no fortune, neither hast thou. I hastened to thee, thou wert
no longer there. Thou knowest the promise that I gave thee,
I shall keep it. I die. I love thee. When thou readest this,
my soul will be near thee, and thou wilt smile."
Having nothing wherewith to seal this letter, he contented himself
with folding the paper in four, and added the address:--
"To Mademoiselle Cosette Fauchelevent, at M. Fauchelevent's, Rue
de l'Homme Arme, No. 7."
Having folded the letter, he stood in thought for a moment, drew out
his pocket-book again, opened it, and wrote, with the same pencil,
these four lines on the first page:--
"My name is Marius Pontmercy. Carry my body to my grandfather,
M. Gillenormand, Rue des Filles-du-Calvaire, No. 6, in the Marais."
He put his pocketbook back in his pocket, then he called Gavroche.
The gamin, at the sound of Marius' voice, ran up to him with his
merry and devoted air.
"Will you do something for me?"
"Anything," said Gavroche. "Good God! if it had not been for you,
I should have been done for."
"Do you see this letter?"
"Take it. Leave the barricade instantly" (Gavroche began to scratch
his ear uneasily) "and to-morrow morning, you will deliver it
at its address to Mademoiselle Cosette, at M. Fauchelevent's,
Rue de l'Homme Arme, No. 7."
The heroic child replied
"Well, but! in the meanwhile the barricade will be taken, and I
shall not be there."
"The barricade will not be attacked until daybreak, according to
all appearances, and will not be taken before to-morrow noon."
The fresh respite which the assailants were granting to the
barricade had, in fact, been prolonged. It was one of those
intermissions which frequently occur in nocturnal combats,
which are always followed by an increase of rage.
"Well," said Gavroche, "what if I were to go and carry your
"It will be too late. The barricade will probably be blockaded,
all the streets will be guarded, and you will not be able to get out.
Go at once."
Gavroche could think of no reply to this, and stood there in indecision,
scratching his ear sadly.
All at once, he took the letter with one of those birdlike movements
which were common with him.
"All right," said he.
And he started off at a run through Mondetour lane.
An idea had occurred to Gavroche which had brought him to a decision,
but he had not mentioned it for fear that Marius might offer some
objection to it.
This was the idea:--
"It is barely midnight, the Rue de l'Homme Arme is not far off;
I will go and deliver the letter at once, and I shall get back
BOOK FIFTEENTH.--THE RUE DE L'HOMME ARME
A DRINKER IS A BABBLER
What are the convulsions of a city in comparison with the insurrections
of the soul? Man is a depth still greater than the people.
Jean Valjean at that very moment was the prey of a terrible upheaval.
Every sort of gulf had opened again within him. He also was trembling,
like Paris, on the brink of an obscure and formidable revolution.
A few hours had sufficed to bring this about. His destiny and his
conscience had suddenly been covered with gloom. Of him also,
as well as of Paris, it might have been said: "Two principles are
face to face. The white angel and the black angel are about to seize
each other on the bridge of the abyss. Which of the two will hurl
the other over? Who will carry the day?"
On the evening preceding this same 5th of June, Jean Valjean,
accompanied by Cosette and Toussaint had installed himself in the Rue
de l'Homme Arme. A change awaited him there.
Cosette had not quitted the Rue Plumet without making an effort
at resistance. For the first time since they had lived side by side,
Cosette's will and the will of Jean Valjean had proved to be distinct,
and had been in opposition, at least, if they had not clashed.
There had been objections on one side and inflexibility on the other.
The abrupt advice: "Leave your house," hurled at Jean Valjean by
a stranger, had alarmed him to the extent of rendering him peremptory.
He thought that he had been traced and followed. Cosette had been
obliged to give way.
Both had arrived in the Rue de l'Homme Arme without opening their lips,
and without uttering a word, each being absorbed in his own personal
preoccupation; Jean Valjean so uneasy that he did not notice Cosette's
sadness, Cosette so sad that she did not notice Jean Valjean's uneasiness.
Jean Valjean had taken Toussaint with him, a thing which he had
never done in his previous absences. He perceived the possibility
of not returning to the Rue Plumet, and he could neither leave
Toussaint behind nor confide his secret to her. Besides, he felt
that she was devoted and trustworthy. Treachery between master
and servant begins in curiosity. Now Toussaint, as though she
had been destined to be Jean Valjean's servant, was not curious.
She stammered in her peasant dialect of Barneville: "I am made so;
I do my work; the rest is no affair of mine."
In this departure from the Rue Plumet, which had been almost
a flight, Jean Valjean had carried away nothing but the little
embalmed valise, baptized by Cosette "the inseparable."
Full trunks would have required porters, and porters are witnesses.
A fiacre had been summoned to the door on the Rue de Babylone,
and they had taken their departure.
It was with difficulty that Toussaint had obtained permission
to pack up a little linen and clothes and a few toilet articles.
Cosette had taken only her portfolio and her blotting-book.
Jean Valjean, with a view to augmenting the solitude and the mystery
of this departure, had arranged to quit the pavilion of the Rue Plumet
only at dusk, which had allowed Cosette time to write her note to Marius.
They had arrived in the Rue de l'Homme Arme after night had fully fallen.
They had gone to bed in silence.
The lodgings in the Rue de l'Homme Arme were situated on a back court,
on the second floor, and were composed of two sleeping-rooms, a
dining-room and a kitchen adjoining the dining-room, with a garret
where there was a folding-bed, and which fell to Toussaint's share.
The dining-room was an antechamber as well, and separated the
two bedrooms. The apartment was provided with all necessary utensils.
People re-acquire confidence as foolishly as they lose it; human nature
is so constituted. Hardly had Jean Valjean reached the Rue de l'Homme
Arme when his anxiety was lightened and by degrees dissipated.
There are soothing spots which act in some sort mechanically on
the mind. An obscure street, peaceable inhabitants. Jean Valjean
experienced an indescribable contagion of tranquillity in that alley
of ancient Paris, which is so narrow that it is barred against carriages
by a transverse beam placed on two posts, which is deaf and dumb
in the midst of the clamorous city, dimly lighted at mid-day, and is,
so to speak, incapable of emotions between two rows of lofty houses
centuries old, which hold their peace like ancients as they are.
There was a touch of stagnant oblivion in that street. Jean Valjean
drew his breath once more there. How could he be found there?
His first care was to place the inseparable beside him.
He slept well. Night brings wisdom; we may add, night soothes.
On the following morning he awoke in a mood that was almost gay.
He thought the dining-room charming, though it was hideous,
furnished with an old round table, a long sideboard surmounted
by a slanting mirror, a dilapidated arm-chair, and several plain
chairs which were encumbered with Toussaint's packages. In one of
these packages Jean Valjean's uniform of a National Guard was visible
through a rent.
As for Cosette, she had had Toussaint take some broth to her room,
and did not make her appearance until evening.
About five o'clock, Toussaint, who was going and coming and busying
herself with the tiny establishment, set on the table a cold chicken,
which Cosette, out of deference to her father, consented to glance at.
That done, Cosette, under the pretext of an obstinate sick headache,
had bade Jean Valjean good night and had shut herself up in her chamber.
Jean Valjean had eaten a wing of the chicken with a good appetite,
and with his elbows on the table, having gradually recovered
his serenity, had regained possession of his sense of security.
While he was discussing this modest dinner, he had, twice or thrice,
noticed in a confused way, Toussaint's stammering words as she said
to him: "Monsieur, there is something going on, they are fighting
in Paris." But absorbed in a throng of inward calculations,
he had paid no heed to it. To tell the truth, he had not heard her.
He rose and began to pace from the door to the window and from the
window to the door, growing ever more serene.
With this calm, Cosette, his sole anxiety, recurred to his thoughts.
Not that he was troubled by this headache, a little nervous crisis,
a young girl's fit of sulks, the cloud of a moment, there would be
nothing left of it in a day or two; but he meditated on the future,
and, as was his habit, he thought of it with pleasure. After all,
he saw no obstacle to their happy life resuming its course.
At certain hours, everything seems impossible, at others everything
appears easy; Jean Valjean was in the midst of one of these good hours.
They generally succeed the bad ones, as day follows night, by virtue
of that law of succession and of contrast which lies at the very
foundation of nature, and which superficial minds call antithesis.
In this peaceful street where he had taken refuge, Jean Valjean
got rid of all that had been troubling him for some time past.
This very fact, that he had seen many shadows, made him begin
to perceive a little azure. To have quitted the Rue Plumet without
complications or incidents was one good step already accomplished.
Perhaps it would be wise to go abroad, if only for a few months,
and to set out for London. Well, they would go. What difference did
it make to him whether he was in France or in England, provided he
had Cosette beside him? Cosette was his nation. Cosette sufficed
for his happiness; the idea that he, perhaps, did not suffice for
Cosette's happiness, that idea which had formerly been the cause of his
fever and sleeplessness, did not even present itself to his mind.
He was in a state of collapse from all his past sufferings, and he
was fully entered on optimism. Cosette was by his side, she seemed
to be his; an optical illusion which every one has experienced.
He arranged in his own mind, with all sorts of felicitous devices,
his departure for England with Cosette, and he beheld his felicity
reconstituted wherever he pleased, in the perspective of his revery.
As he paced to and fro with long strides, his glance suddenly
encountered something strange.
In the inclined mirror facing him which surmounted the sideboard,
he saw the four lines which follow:--
"My dearest, alas! my father insists on our setting out immediately.
We shall be this evening in the Rue de l'Homme Arme, No. 7.
In a week we shall be in England. COSETTE. June 4th."
Jean Valjean halted, perfectly haggard.
Cosette on her arrival had placed her blotting-book on the sideboard
in front of the mirror, and, utterly absorbed in her agony of grief,
had forgotten it and left it there, without even observing that she
had left it wide open, and open at precisely the page on which she
had laid to dry the four lines which she had penned, and which she
had given in charge of the young workman in the Rue Plumet.
The writing had been printed off on the blotter.
The mirror reflected the writing.
The result was, what is called in geometry, the symmetrical image;
so that the writing, reversed on the blotter, was righted in the
mirror and presented its natural appearance; and Jean Valjean
had beneath his eyes the letter written by Cosette to Marius
on the preceding evening.
It was simple and withering.
Jean Valjean stepped up to the mirror. He read the four lines again,
but he did not believe them. They produced on him the effect
of appearing in a flash of lightning. It was a hallucination,
it was impossible. It was not so.
Little by little, his perceptions became more precise; he looked
at Cosette's blotting-book, and the consciousness of the reality
returned to him. He caught up the blotter and said: "It comes
from there." He feverishly examined the four lines imprinted
on the blotter, the reversal of the letters converted into an
odd scrawl, and he saw no sense in it. Then he said to himself:
"But this signifies nothing; there is nothing written here."
And he drew a long breath with inexpressible relief. Who has not
experienced those foolish joys in horrible instants? The soul does
not surrender to despair until it has exhausted all illusions.
He held the blotter in his hand and contemplated it in stupid delight,
almost ready to laugh at the hallucination of which he had been
the dupe. All at once his eyes fell upon the mirror again,
and again he beheld the vision. There were the four lines
outlined with inexorable clearness. This time it was no mirage.
The recurrence of a vision is a reality; it was palpable, it was
the writing restored in the mirror. He understood.
Jean Valjean tottered, dropped the blotter, and fell into the old
arm-chair beside the buffet, with drooping head, and glassy eyes,
in utter bewilderment. He told himself that it was plain, that the
light of the world had been eclipsed forever, and that Cosette
had written that to some one. Then he heard his soul, which had
become terrible once more, give vent to a dull roar in the gloom.
Try then the effect of taking from the lion the dog which he has
in his cage!
Strange and sad to say, at that very moment, Marius had not yet
received Cosette's letter; chance had treacherously carried it
to Jean Valjean before delivering it to Marius. Up to that day,
Jean Valjean had not been vanquished by trial. He had been subjected
to fearful proofs; no violence of bad fortune had been spared him;
the ferocity of fate, armed with all vindictiveness and all
social scorn, had taken him for her prey and had raged against him.
He had accepted every extremity when it had been necessary;
he had sacrificed his inviolability as a reformed man, had yielded up
his liberty, risked his head, lost everything, suffered everything,
and he had remained disinterested and stoical to such a point that he
might have been thought to be absent from himself like a martyr.
His conscience inured to every assault of destiny, might have
appeared to be forever impregnable. Well, any one who had beheld
his spiritual self would have been obliged to concede that it weakened
at that moment. It was because, of all the tortures which he had
undergone in the course of this long inquisition to which destiny
had doomed him, this was the most terrible. Never had such pincers
seized him hitherto. He felt the mysterious stirring of all his
latent sensibilities. He felt the plucking at the strange chord.
Alas! the supreme trial, let us say rather, the only trial,
is the loss of the beloved being.
Poor old Jean Valjean certainly did not love Cosette otherwise than as
a father; but we have already remarked, above, that into this paternity
the widowhood of his life had introduced all the shades of love;
he loved Cosette as his daughter, and he loved her as his mother,
and he loved her as his sister; and, as he had never had either
a woman to love or a wife, as nature is a creditor who accepts
no protest, that sentiment also, the most impossible to lose,
was mingled with the rest, vague, ignorant, pure with the purity
of blindness, unconscious, celestial, angelic, divine; less like
a sentiment than like an instinct, less like an instinct than
like an imperceptible and invisible but real attraction; and love,
properly speaking, was, in his immense tenderness for Cosette,
like the thread of gold in the mountain, concealed and virgin.
Let the reader recall the situation of heart which we have
already indicated. No marriage was possible between them;
not even that of souls; and yet, it is certain that their destinies
were wedded. With the exception of Cosette, that is to say,
with the exception of a childhood, Jean Valjean had never, in the
whole of his long life, known anything of that which may be loved.
The passions and loves which succeed each other had not produced
in him those successive green growths, tender green or dark green,
which can be seen in foliage which passes through the winter and in men
who pass fifty. In short, and we have insisted on it more than once,
all this interior fusion, all this whole, of which the sum total was
a lofty virtue, ended in rendering Jean Valjean a father to Cosette.
A strange father, forged from the grandfather, the son, the brother,
and the husband, that existed in Jean Valjean; a father in whom
there was included even a mother; a father who loved Cosette
and adored her, and who held that child as his light, his home,
his family, his country, his paradise.
Thus when he saw that the end had absolutely come, that she was
escaping from him, that she was slipping from his hands, that she
was gliding from him, like a cloud, like water, when he had before
his eyes this crushing proof: "another is the goal of her heart,
another is the wish of her life; there is a dearest one, I am no
longer anything but her father, I no longer exist"; when he could no
longer doubt, when he said to himself: "She is going away from me!"
the grief which he felt surpassed the bounds of possibility.
To have done all that he had done for the purpose of ending like this!
And the very idea of being nothing! Then, as we have just said,
a quiver of revolt ran through him from head to foot. He felt,
even in the very roots of his hair, the immense reawakening of egotism,
and the _I_ in this man's abyss howled.
There is such a thing as the sudden giving way of the inward subsoil.
A despairing certainty does not make its way into a man without
thrusting aside and breaking certain profound elements which,
in some cases, are the very man himself. Grief, when it attains
this shape, is a headlong flight of all the forces of the conscience.
These are fatal crises. Few among us emerge from them still
like ourselves and firm in duty. When the limit of endurance
is overstepped, the most imperturbable virtue is disconcerted.
Jean Valjean took the blotter again, and convinced himself afresh;
he remained bowed and as though petrified and with staring eyes,
over those four unobjectionable lines; and there arose within him such
a cloud that one might have thought that everything in this soul was
He examined this revelation, athwart the exaggerations of revery,
with an apparent and terrifying calmness, for it is a fearful thing
when a man's calmness reaches the coldness of the statue.
He measured the terrible step which his destiny had taken without
his having a suspicion of the fact; he recalled his fears of the
preceding summer, so foolishly dissipated; he recognized the precipice,
it was still the same; only, Jean Valjean was no longer on the brink,
he was at the bottom of it.
The unprecedented and heart-rending thing about it was that he had
fallen without perceiving it. All the light of his life had departed,
while he still fancied that he beheld the sun.
His instinct did not hesitate. He put together certain circumstances,
certain dates, certain blushes and certain pallors on Cosette's part,
and he said to himself: "It is he."
The divination of despair is a sort of mysterious bow which never
misses its aim. He struck Marius with his first conjecture.
He did not know the name, but he found the man instantly.
He distinctly perceived, in the background of the implacable
conjuration of his memories, the unknown prowler of the Luxembourg,
that wretched seeker of love adventures, that idler of romance,
that idiot, that coward, for it is cowardly to come and make eyes at
young girls who have beside them a father who loves them.
After he had thoroughly verified the fact that this young man
was at the bottom of this situation, and that everything proceeded
from that quarter, he, Jean Valjean, the regenerated man, the man
who had so labored over his soul, the man who had made so many efforts
to resolve all life, all misery, and all unhappiness into love,
looked into his own breast and there beheld a spectre, Hate.
Great griefs contain something of dejection. They discourage one
with existence. The man into whom they enter feels something within
him withdraw from him. In his youth, their visits are lugubrious;
later on they are sinister. Alas, if despair is a fearful thing
when the blood is hot, when the hair is black, when the head is erect
on the body like the flame on the torch, when the roll of destiny still
retains its full thickness, when the heart, full of desirable love,
still possesses beats which can be returned to it, when one has time
for redress, when all women and all smiles and all the future and
all the horizon are before one, when the force of life is complete,
what is it in old age, when the years hasten on, growing ever paler,
to that twilight hour when one begins to behold the stars of the tomb?
While he was meditating, Toussaint entered. Jean Valjean rose
and asked her:--
"In what quarter is it? Do you know?"
Toussaint was struck dumb, and could only answer him:--
"What is it, sir?"
Jean Valjean began again: "Did you not tell me that just now
that there is fighting going on?"
"Ah! yes, sir," replied Toussaint. "It is in the direction
There is a mechanical movement which comes to us, unconsciously,
from the most profound depths of our thought. It was, no doubt,
under the impulse of a movement of this sort, and of which he
was hardly conscious, that Jean Valjean, five minutes later,
found himself in the street.
Bareheaded, he sat upon the stone post at the door of his house.
He seemed to be listening.
Night had come.
THE STREET URCHIN AN ENEMY OF LIGHT
How long did he remain thus? What was the ebb and flow of this
tragic meditation? Did he straighten up? Did he remain bowed?
Had he been bent to breaking? Could he still rise and regain his
footing in his conscience upon something solid? He probably would
not have been able to tell himself.
The street was deserted. A few uneasy bourgeois, who were rapidly
returning home, hardly saw him. Each one for himself in times
of peril. The lamp-lighter came as usual to light the lantern
which was situated precisely opposite the door of No. 7,
and then went away. Jean Valjean would not have appeared like
a living man to any one who had examined him in that shadow.
He sat there on the post of his door, motionless as a form of ice.
There is congealment in despair. The alarm bells and a vague and
stormy uproar were audible. In the midst of all these convulsions
of the bell mingled with the revolt, the clock of Saint-Paul
struck eleven, gravely and without haste; for the tocsin is man;
the hour is God. The passage of the hour produced no effect on
Jean Valjean; Jean Valjean did not stir. Still, at about that moment,
a brusque report burst forth in the direction of the Halles,
a second yet more violent followed; it was probably that attack
on the barricade in the Rue de la Chanvrerie which we have just
seen repulsed by Marius. At this double discharge, whose fury
seemed augmented by the stupor of the night, Jean Valjean started;
he rose, turning towards the quarter whence the noise proceeded;
then he fell back upon the post again, folded his arms, and his head
slowly sank on his bosom again.
He resumed his gloomy dialogue with himself.
All at once, he raised his eyes; some one was walking in the street,
he heard steps near him. He looked, and by the light of the lanterns,
in the direction of the street which ran into the Rue-aux-Archives,
he perceived a young, livid, and beaming face.
Gavroche had just arrived in the Rue l'Homme Arme.
Gavroche was staring into the air, apparently in search of something.
He saw Jean Valjean perfectly well but he took no notice of him.
Gavroche after staring into the air, stared below; he raised himself
on tiptoe, and felt of the doors and windows of the ground floor;
they were all shut, bolted, and padlocked. After having authenticated
the fronts of five or six barricaded houses in this manner, the urchin
shrugged his shoulders, and took himself to task in these terms:--
Then he began to stare into the air again.
Jean Valjean, who, an instant previously, in his then state of mind,
would not have spoken to or even answered any one, felt irresistibly
impelled to accost that child.
"What is the matter with you, my little fellow?" he said.
"The matter with me is that I am hungry," replied Gavroche frankly.
And he added: "Little fellow yourself."
Jean Valjean fumbled in his fob and pulled out a five-franc piece.
But Gavroche, who was of the wagtail species, and who skipped
vivaciously from one gesture to another, had just picked up a stone.
He had caught sight of the lantern.
"See here," said he, "you still have your lanterns here.
You are disobeying the regulations, my friend. This is disorderly.
Smash that for me."
And he flung the stone at the lantern, whose broken glass fell with
such a clatter that the bourgeois in hiding behind their curtains
in the opposite house cried: "There is `Ninety-three' come again."
The lantern oscillated violently, and went out. The street had
suddenly become black.
"That's right, old street," ejaculated Gavroche, "put on your night-cap."
And turning to Jean Valjean:--
"What do you call that gigantic monument that you have there at the
end of the street? It's the Archives, isn't it? I must crumble up
those big stupids of pillars a bit and make a nice barricade out of them."
Jean Valjean stepped up to Gavroche.
"Poor creature," he said in a low tone, and speaking to himself,
"he is hungry."
And he laid the hundred-sou piece in his hand.
Gavroche raised his face, astonished at the size of this sou;
he stared at it in the darkness, and the whiteness of the big sou
dazzled him. He knew five-franc pieces by hearsay; their reputation
was agreeable to him; he was delighted to see one close to.
"Let us contemplate the tiger."
He gazed at it for several minutes in ecstasy; then, turning to
Jean Valjean, he held out the coin to him, and said majestically
"Bourgeois, I prefer to smash lanterns. Take back your ferocious beast.
You can't bribe me. That has got five claws; but it doesn't scratch me."
"Have you a mother?" asked Jean Valjean.
"More than you have, perhaps."