Part 30 out of 36
the two poles and fell into the street.
The barricade applauded.
All voices cried:
"Here is a mattress!"
"Yes," said Combeferre, "but who will go and fetch it?"
The mattress had, in fact, fallen outside the barricade,
between besiegers and besieged. Now, the death of the sergeant
of artillery having exasperated the troop, the soldiers had,
for several minutes, been lying flat on their stomachs behind
the line of paving-stones which they had erected, and, in order
to supply the forced silence of the piece, which was quiet while
its service was in course of reorganization, they had opened fire
on the barricade. The insurgents did not reply to this musketry,
in order to spare their ammunition The fusillade broke against
the barricade; but the street, which it filled, was terrible.
Jean Valjean stepped out of the cut, entered the street,
traversed the storm of bullets, walked up to the mattress,
hoisted it upon his back, and returned to the barricade.
He placed the mattress in the cut with his own hands. He fixed
it there against the wall in such a manner that the artillery-men
should not see it.
That done, they awaited the next discharge of grape-shot.
It was not long in coming.
The cannon vomited forth its package of buck-shot with a roar.
But there was no rebound. The effect which they had foreseen had
been attained. The barricade was saved.
"Citizen," said Enjolras to Jean Valjean, "the Republic thanks you."
Bossuet admired and laughed. He exclaimed:
"It is immoral that a mattress should have so much power.
Triumph of that which yields over that which strikes with lightning.
But never mind, glory to the mattress which annuls a cannon!"
At that moment, Cosette awoke.
Her chamber was narrow, neat, unobtrusive, with a long sash-window,
facing the East on the back court-yard of the house.
Cosette knew nothing of what was going on in Paris. She had not
been there on the preceding evening, and she had already retired
to her chamber when Toussaint had said:
"It appears that there is a row."
Cosette had slept only a few hours, but soundly. She had had
sweet dreams, which possibly arose from the fact that her little
bed was very white. Some one, who was Marius, had appeared to her
in the light. She awoke with the sun in her eyes, which, at first,
produced on her the effect of being a continuation of her dream.
Her first thought on emerging from this dream was a smiling one.
Cosette felt herself thoroughly reassured. Like Jean Valjean,
she had, a few hours previously, passed through that reaction
of the soul which absolutely will not hear of unhappiness.
She began to cherish hope, with all her might, without knowing why.
Then she felt a pang at her heart. It was three days since she
had seen Marius. But she said to herself that he must have received
her letter, that he knew where she was, and that he was so clever
that he would find means of reaching her.--And that certainly
to-day, and perhaps that very morning.--It was broad daylight,
but the rays of light were very horizontal; she thought that it
was very early, but that she must rise, nevertheless, in order to
She felt that she could not live without Marius, and that,
consequently, that was sufficient and that Marius would come.
No objection was valid. All this was certain. It was monstrous enough
already to have suffered for three days. Marius absent three days,
this was horrible on the part of the good God. Now, this cruel
teasing from on high had been gone through with. Marius was about
to arrive, and he would bring good news. Youth is made thus;
it quickly dries its eyes; it finds sorrow useless and does not
accept it. Youth is the smile of the future in the presence of an
unknown quantity, which is itself. It is natural to it to be happy.
It seems as though its respiration were made of hope.
Moreover, Cosette could not remember what Marius had said to her
on the subject of this absence which was to last only one day,
and what explanation of it he had given her. Every one has noticed
with what nimbleness a coin which one has dropped on the ground rolls
away and hides, and with what art it renders itself undiscoverable.
There are thoughts which play us the same trick; they nestle away
in a corner of our brain; that is the end of them; they are lost;
it is impossible to lay the memory on them. Cosette was somewhat vexed
at the useless little effort made by her memory. She told herself,
that it was very naughty and very wicked of her, to have forgotten
the words uttered by Marius.
She sprang out of bed and accomplished the two ablutions of soul
and body, her prayers and her toilet.
One may, in a case of exigency, introduce the reader into
a nuptial chamber, not into a virginal chamber. Verse would
hardly venture it, prose must not.
It is the interior of a flower that is not yet unfolded, it is
whiteness in the dark, it is the private cell of a closed lily,
which must not be gazed upon by man so long as the sun has not
gazed upon it. Woman in the bud is sacred. That innocent bud
which opens, that adorable half-nudity which is afraid of itself,
that white foot which takes refuge in a slipper, that throat
which veils itself before a mirror as though a mirror were an eye,
that chemise which makes haste to rise up and conceal the shoulder
for a creaking bit of furniture or a passing vehicle, those cords tied,
those clasps fastened, those laces drawn, those tremors, those shivers
of cold and modesty, that exquisite affright in every movement,
that almost winged uneasiness where there is no cause for alarm,
the successive phases of dressing, as charming as the clouds of dawn,--
it is not fitting that all this should be narrated, and it is too much
to have even called attention to it.
The eye of man must be more religious in the presence of the rising
of a young girl than in the presence of the rising of a star.
The possibility of hurting should inspire an augmentation of respect.
The down on the peach, the bloom on the plum, the radiated crystal of
the snow, the wing of the butterfly powdered with feathers, are coarse
compared to that chastity which does not even know that it is chaste.
The young girl is only the flash of a dream, and is not yet a statue.
Her bed-chamber is hidden in the sombre part of the ideal.
The indiscreet touch of a glance brutalizes this vague penumbra.
Here, contemplation is profanation.
We shall, therefore, show nothing of that sweet little flutter
of Cosette's rising.
An oriental tale relates how the rose was made white by God,
but that Adam looked upon her when she was unfolding, and she
was ashamed and turned crimson. We are of the number who fall
speechless in the presence of young girls and flowers, since we
think them worthy of veneration.
Cosette dressed herself very hastily, combed and dressed her hair,
which was a very simple matter in those days, when women did not
swell out their curls and bands with cushions and puffs, and did
not put crinoline in their locks. Then she opened the window
and cast her eyes around her in every direction, hoping to descry
some bit of the street, an angle of the house, an edge of pavement,
so that she might be able to watch for Marius there. But no view
of the outside was to be had. The back court was surrounded by
tolerably high walls, and the outlook was only on several gardens.
Cosette pronounced these gardens hideous: for the first time
in her life, she found flowers ugly. The smallest scrap of the
gutter of the street would have met her wishes better. She decided
to gaze at the sky, as though she thought that Marius might come
from that quarter.
All at once, she burst into tears. Not that this was fickleness
of soul; but hopes cut in twain by dejection--that was her case.
She had a confused consciousness of something horrible. Thoughts were
rife in the air, in fact. She told herself that she was not sure
of anything, that to withdraw herself from sight was to be lost;
and the idea that Marius could return to her from heaven appeared
to her no longer charming but mournful.
Then, as is the nature of these clouds, calm returned to her,
and hope and a sort of unconscious smile, which yet indicated trust
Every one in the house was still asleep. A country-like silence reigned.
Not a shutter had been opened. The porter's lodge was closed.
Toussaint had not risen, and Cosette, naturally, thought that her
father was asleep. She must have suffered much, and she must have
still been suffering greatly, for she said to herself, that her
father had been unkind; but she counted on Marius. The eclipse
of such a light was decidedly impossible. Now and then, she heard
sharp shocks in the distance, and she said: "It is odd that people
should be opening and shutting their carriage gates so early."
They were the reports of the cannon battering the barricade.
A few feet below Cosette's window, in the ancient and perfectly
black cornice of the wall, there was a martin's nest; the curve
of this nest formed a little projection beyond the cornice,
so that from above it was possible to look into this little paradise.
The mother was there, spreading her wings like a fan over her brood;
the father fluttered about, flew away, then came back, bearing in
his beak food and kisses. The dawning day gilded this happy thing,
the great law, "Multiply," lay there smiling and august, and that sweet
mystery unfolded in the glory of the morning. Cosette, with her hair
in the sunlight, her soul absorbed in chimeras, illuminated by love
within and by the dawn without, bent over mechanically, and almost
without daring to avow to herself that she was thinking at the same
time of Marius, began to gaze at these birds, at this family,
at that male and female, that mother and her little ones,
with the profound trouble which a nest produces on a virgin.
THE SHOT WHICH MISSES NOTHING AND KILLS NO ONE
The assailants' fire continued. Musketry and grape-shot alternated,
but without committing great ravages, to tell the truth. The top
alone of the Corinthe facade suffered; the window on the first floor,
and the attic window in the roof, riddled with buck-shot and biscaiens,
were slowly losing their shape. The combatants who had been posted
there had been obliged to withdraw. However, this is according
to the tactics of barricades; to fire for a long while, in order
to exhaust the insurgents' ammunition, if they commit the mistake
of replying. When it is perceived, from the slackening of their fire,
that they have no more powder and ball, the assault is made.
Enjolras had not fallen into this trap; the barricade did not reply.
At every discharge by platoons, Gavroche puffed out his cheek
with his tongue, a sign of supreme disdain.
"Good for you," said he, "rip up the cloth. We want some lint."
Courfeyrac called the grape-shot to order for the little effect
which it produced, and said to the cannon:
"You are growing diffuse, my good fellow."
One gets puzzled in battle, as at a ball. It is probable that this
silence on the part of the redoubt began to render the besiegers uneasy,
and to make them fear some unexpected incident, and that they felt
the necessity of getting a clear view behind that heap of paving-stones,
and of knowing what was going on behind that impassable wall
which received blows without retorting. The insurgents suddenly
perceived a helmet glittering in the sun on a neighboring roof.
A fireman had placed his back against a tall chimney, and seemed to
be acting as sentinel. His glance fell directly down into the barricade.
"There's an embarrassing watcher," said Enjolras.
Jean Valjean had returned Enjolras' rifle, but he had his own gun.
Without saying a word, he took aim at the fireman, and, a second later,
the helmet, smashed by a bullet, rattled noisily into the street.
The terrified soldier made haste to disappear. A second observer
took his place. This one was an officer. Jean Valjean, who had
re-loaded his gun, took aim at the newcomer and sent the officer's
casque to join the soldier's. The officer did not persist,
and retired speedily. This time the warning was understood.
No one made his appearance thereafter on that roof; and the idea
of spying on the barricade was abandoned.
"Why did you not kill the man?" Bossuet asked Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean made no reply.
DISORDER A PARTISAN OF ORDER
Bossuet muttered in Combeferre's ear:
"He did not answer my question."
"He is a man who does good by gun-shots," said Combeferre.
Those who have preserved some memory of this already distant
epoch know that the National Guard from the suburbs was valiant
against insurrections. It was particularly zealous and intrepid
in the days of June, 1832. A certain good dram-shop keeper of
Pantin des Vertus or la Cunette, whose "establishment" had been
closed by the riots, became leonine at the sight of his deserted
dance-hall, and got himself killed to preserve the order represented
by a tea-garden. In that bourgeois and heroic time, in the presence
of ideas which had their knights, interests had their paladins.
The prosiness of the originators detracted nothing from the
bravery of the movement. The diminution of a pile of crowns made
bankers sing the Marseillaise. They shed their blood lyrically
for the counting-house; and they defended the shop, that immense
diminutive of the fatherland, with Lacedaemonian enthusiasm.
At bottom, we will observe, there was nothing in all this that was
not extremely serious. It was social elements entering into strife,
while awaiting the day when they should enter into equilibrium.
Another sign of the times was the anarchy mingled with governmentalism
[the barbarous name of the correct party]. People were for order
in combination with lack of discipline.
The drum suddenly beat capricious calls, at the command of such or such
a Colonel of the National Guard; such and such a captain went into
action through inspiration; such and such National Guardsmen fought,
"for an idea," and on their own account. At critical moments, on "days"
they took counsel less of their leaders than of their instincts.
There existed in the army of order, veritable guerilleros, some of
the sword, like Fannicot, others of the pen, like Henri Fonfrede.
Civilization, unfortunately, represented at this epoch rather
by an aggregation of interests than by a group of principles,
was or thought itself, in peril; it set up the cry of alarm;
each, constituting himself a centre, defended it, succored it,
and protected it with his own head; and the first comer took
it upon himself to save society.
Zeal sometimes proceeded to extermination. A platoon of the National
Guard would constitute itself on its own authority a private council
of war, and judge and execute a captured insurgent in five minutes.
It was an improvisation of this sort that had slain Jean Prouvaire.
Fierce Lynch law, with which no one party had any right to reproach
the rest, for it has been applied by the Republic in America,
as well as by the monarchy in Europe. This Lynch law was complicated
with mistakes. On one day of rioting, a young poet, named Paul
Aime Garnier, was pursued in the Place Royale, with a bayonet at
his loins, and only escaped by taking refuge under the porte-cochere
of No. 6. They shouted:--"There's another of those Saint-Simonians!"
and they wanted to kill him. Now, he had under his arm a volume
of the memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon. A National Guard had read
the words Saint-Simon on the book, and had shouted: "Death!"
On the 6th of June, 1832, a company of the National Guards from
the suburbs, commanded by the Captain Fannicot, above mentioned,
had itself decimated in the Rue de la Chanvrerie out of caprice
and its own good pleasure. This fact, singular though it may seem,
was proved at the judicial investigation opened in consequence
of the insurrection of 1832. Captain Fannicot, a bold and impatient
bourgeois, a sort of condottiere of the order of those whom we have
just characterized, a fanatical and intractable governmentalist,
could not resist the temptation to fire prematurely, and the ambition
of capturing the barricade alone and unaided, that is to say,
with his company. Exasperated by the successive apparition of
the red flag and the old coat which he took for the black flag,
he loudly blamed the generals and chiefs of the corps, who were
holding council and did not think that the moment for the decisive
assault had arrived, and who were allowing "the insurrection to fry
in its own fat," to use the celebrated expression of one of them.
For his part, he thought the barricade ripe, and as that which is
ripe ought to fall, he made the attempt.
He commanded men as resolute as himself, "raging fellows," as a witness
said. His company, the same which had shot Jean Prouvaire the poet,
was the first of the battalion posted at the angle of the street.
At the moment when they were least expecting it, the captain launched
his men against the barricade. This movement, executed with
more good will than strategy, cost the Fannicot company dear.
Before it had traversed two thirds of the street it was received
by a general discharge from the barricade. Four, the most audacious,
who were running on in front, were mown down point-blank at the very
foot of the redoubt, and this courageous throng of National Guards,
very brave men but lacking in military tenacity, were forced to fall back,
after some hesitation, leaving fifteen corpses on the pavement.
This momentary hesitation gave the insurgents time to re-load
their weapons, and a second and very destructive discharge struck
the company before it could regain the corner of the street,
its shelter. A moment more, and it was caught between two fires,
and it received the volley from the battery piece which,
not having received the order, had not discontinued its firing.
The intrepid and imprudent Fannicot was one of the dead from this
grape-shot. He was killed by the cannon, that is to say, by order.
This attack, which was more furious than serious,
irritated Enjolras.--"The fools!" said he. "They are getting
their own men killed and they are using up our ammunition for nothing."
Enjolras spoke like the real general of insurrection which he was.
Insurrection and repression do not fight with equal weapons.
Insurrection, which is speedily exhausted, has only a certain number
of shots to fire and a certain number of combatants to expend.
An empty cartridge-box, a man killed, cannot be replaced. As repression
has the army, it does not count its men, and, as it has Vincennes,
it does not count its shots. Repression has as many regiments
as the barricade has men, and as many arsenals as the barricade has
cartridge-boxes. Thus they are struggles of one against a hundred,
which always end in crushing the barricade; unless the revolution,
uprising suddenly, flings into the balance its flaming archangel's sword.
This does happen sometimes. Then everything rises, the pavements
begin to seethe, popular redoubts abound. Paris quivers supremely,
the quid divinum is given forth, a 10th of August is in the air,
a 29th of July is in the air, a wonderful light appears, the yawning
maw of force draws back, and the army, that lion, sees before it,
erect and tranquil, that prophet, France.
In the chaos of sentiments and passions which defend a barricade,
there is a little of everything; there is bravery, there is youth,
honor, enthusiasm, the ideal, conviction, the rage of the gambler,
and, above all, intermittences of hope.
One of these intermittences, one of these vague quivers of hope
suddenly traversed the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie
at the moment when it was least expected.
"Listen," suddenly cried Enjolras, who was still on the watch,
"it seems to me that Paris is waking up."
It is certain that, on the morning of the 6th of June, the insurrection
broke out afresh for an hour or two, to a certain extent.
The obstinacy of the alarm peal of Saint-Merry reanimated
some fancies. Barricades were begun in the Rue du Poirier and the Rue
des Gravilliers. In front of the Porte Saint-Martin, a young man,
armed with a rifle, attacked alone a squadron of cavalry.
In plain sight, on the open boulevard, he placed one knee on the ground,
shouldered his weapon, fired, killed the commander of the squadron,
and turned away, saying: "There's another who will do us no more harm."
He was put to the sword. In the Rue Saint-Denis, a woman fired
on the National Guard from behind a lowered blind. The slats
of the blind could be seen to tremble at every shot. A child
fourteen years of age was arrested in the Rue de la Cossonerie,
with his pockets full of cartridges. Many posts were attacked.
At the entrance to the Rue Bertin-Poiree, a very lively and
utterly unexpected fusillade welcomed a regiment of cuirrassiers,
at whose head marched Marshal General Cavaignac de Barague.
In the Rue Planche-Mibray, they threw old pieces of pottery and
household utensils down on the soldiers from the roofs; a bad sign;
and when this matter was reported to Marshal Soult, Napoleon's old
lieutenant grew thoughtful, as he recalled Suchet's saying at Saragossa:
"We are lost when the old women empty their pots de chambre on
These general symptoms which presented themselves at the moment
when it was thought that the uprising had been rendered local,
this fever of wrath, these sparks which flew hither and thither above
those deep masses of combustibles which are called the faubourgs
of Paris,--all this, taken together, disturbed the military chiefs.
They made haste to stamp out these beginnings of conflagration.
They delayed the attack on the barricades Maubuee, de la Chanvrerie
and Saint-Merry until these sparks had been extinguished, in order
that they might have to deal with the barricades only and be able
to finish them at one blow. Columns were thrown into the streets
where there was fermentation, sweeping the large, sounding the small,
right and left, now slowly and cautiously, now at full charge.
The troops broke in the doors of houses whence shots had been fired;
at the same time, manoeuvres by the cavalry dispersed the groups
on the boulevards. This repression was not effected without
some commotion, and without that tumultuous uproar peculiar to
collisions between the army and the people. This was what Enjolras
had caught in the intervals of the cannonade and the musketry.
Moreover, he had seen wounded men passing the end of the street
in litters, and he said to Courfeyrac:--"Those wounded do not come
Their hope did not last long; the gleam was quickly eclipsed.
In less than half an hour, what was in the air vanished, it was
a flash of lightning unaccompanied by thunder, and the insurgents
felt that sort of leaden cope, which the indifference of the people
casts over obstinate and deserted men, fall over them once more.
The general movement, which seemed to have assumed a vague outline,
had miscarried; and the attention of the minister of war and the
strategy of the generals could now be concentrated on the three
or four barricades which still remained standing.
The sun was mounting above the horizon.
An insurgent hailed Enjolras.
"We are hungry here. Are we really going to die like this,
without anything to eat?"
Enjolras, who was still leaning on his elbows at his embrasure,
made an affirmative sign with his head, but without taking his eyes
from the end of the street.
WHEREIN WILL APPEAR THE NAME OF ENJOLRAS' MISTRESS
Courfeyrac, seated on a paving-stone beside Enjolras,
continued to insult the cannon, and each time that that gloomy
cloud of projectiles which is called grape-shot passed overhead
with its terrible sound he assailed it with a burst of irony.
"You are wearing out your lungs, poor, brutal, old fellow, you pain me,
you are wasting your row. That's not thunder, it's a cough."
And the bystanders laughed.
Courfeyrac and Bossuet, whose brave good humor increased with
the peril, like Madame Scarron, replaced nourishment with pleasantry,
and, as wine was lacking, they poured out gayety to all.
"I admire Enjolras," said Bossuet. "His impassive temerity
astounds me. He lives alone, which renders him a little sad, perhaps;
Enjolras complains of his greatness, which binds him to widowhood.
The rest of us have mistresses, more or less, who make us crazy,
that is to say, brave. When a man is as much in love as a tiger,
the least that he can do is to fight like a lion. That is one way
of taking our revenge for the capers that mesdames our grisettes play
on us. Roland gets himself killed for Angelique; all our heroism
comes from our women. A man without a woman is a pistol without
a trigger; it is the woman that sets the man off. Well, Enjolras has
no woman. He is not in love, and yet he manages to be intrepid.
It is a thing unheard of that a man should be as cold as ice and as
bold as fire."
Enjolras did not appear to be listening, but had any one been near him,
that person would have heard him mutter in a low voice: "Patria."
Bossuet was still laughing when Courfeyrac exclaimed:
And assuming the tone of an usher making an announcement, he added:
"My name is Eight-Pounder."
In fact, a new personage had entered on the scene. This was
a second piece of ordnance.
The artillery-men rapidly performed their manoeuvres in force
and placed this second piece in line with the first.
This outlined the catastrophe.
A few minutes later, the two pieces, rapidly served, were firing
point-blank at the redoubt; the platoon firing of the line
and of the soldiers from the suburbs sustained the artillery.
Another cannonade was audible at some distance. At the same time
that the two guns were furiously attacking the redoubt from the Rue
de la Chanvrerie, two other cannons, trained one from the Rue
Saint-Denis, the other from the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher, were riddling
the Saint-Merry barricade. The four cannons echoed each other mournfully.
The barking of these sombre dogs of war replied to each other.
One of the two pieces which was now battering the barricade on
the Rue de la Chanvrerie was firing grape-shot, the other balls.
The piece which was firing balls was pointed a little high,
and the aim was calculated so that the ball struck the extreme
edge of the upper crest of the barricade, and crumbled the stone
down upon the insurgents, mingled with bursts of grape-shot.
The object of this mode of firing was to drive the insurgents
from the summit of the redoubt, and to compel them to gather close
in the interior, that is to say, this announced the assault.
The combatants once driven from the crest of the barricade by balls,
and from the windows of the cabaret by grape-shot, the attacking columns
could venture into the street without being picked off, perhaps, even,
without being seen, could briskly and suddenly scale the redoubt,
as on the preceding evening, and, who knows? take it by surprise.
"It is absolutely necessary that the inconvenience of those guns
should be diminished," said Enjolras, and he shouted: "Fire on
All were ready. The barricade, which had long been silent,
poured forth a desperate fire; seven or eight discharges followed,
with a sort of rage and joy; the street was filled with blinding smoke,
and, at the end of a few minutes, athwart this mist all streaked
with flame, two thirds of the gunners could be distinguished
lying beneath the wheels of the cannons. Those who were left
standing continued to serve the pieces with severe tranquillity,
but the fire had slackened.
"Things are going well now," said Bossuet to Enjolras. "Success."
Enjolras shook his head and replied:
"Another quarter of an hour of this success, and there will not
be any cartridges left in the barricade."
It appears that Gavroche overheard this remark.
Courfeyrac suddenly caught sight of some one at the base
of the barricade, outside in the street, amid the bullets.
Gavroche had taken a bottle basket from the wine-shop, had made
his way out through the cut, and was quietly engaged in emptying
the full cartridge-boxes of the National Guardsmen who had been
killed on the slope of the redoubt, into his basket.
"What are you doing there?" asked Courfeyrac.
Gavroche raised his face:--
"I'm filling my basket, citizen."
"Don't you see the grape-shot?"
"Well, it is raining. What then?"
Courfeyrac shouted:--"Come in!"
"Instanter," said Gavroche.
And with a single bound he plunged into the street.
It will be remembered that Fannicot's company had left behind
it a trail of bodies. Twenty corpses lay scattered here and
there on the pavement, through the whole length of the street.
Twenty cartouches for Gavroche meant a provision of cartridges
for the barricade.
The smoke in the street was like a fog. Whoever has beheld a cloud
which has fallen into a mountain gorge between two peaked escarpments
can imagine this smoke rendered denser and thicker by two gloomy rows
of lofty houses. It rose gradually and was incessantly renewed;
hence a twilight which made even the broad daylight turn pale.
The combatants could hardly see each other from one end of the street
to the other, short as it was.
This obscurity, which had probably been desired and calculated on
by the commanders who were to direct the assault on the barricade,
was useful to Gavroche.
Beneath the folds of this veil of smoke, and thanks to his small size,
he could advance tolerably far into the street without being seen.
He rifled the first seven or eight cartridge-boxes without
He crawled flat on his belly, galloped on all fours, took his basket
in his teeth, twisted, glided, undulated, wound from one dead body
to another, and emptied the cartridge-box or cartouche as a monkey
opens a nut.
They did not dare to shout to him to return from the barricade,
which was quite near, for fear of attracting attention to him.
On one body, that of a corporal, he found a powder-flask.
"For thirst," said he, putting it in his pocket.
By dint of advancing, he reached a point where the fog of the
fusillade became transparent. So that the sharpshooters of the
line ranged on the outlook behind their paving-stone dike and the
sharpshooters of the banlieue massed at the corner of the street
suddenly pointed out to each other something moving through the smoke.
At the moment when Gavroche was relieving a sergeant, who was lying
near a stone door-post, of his cartridges, a bullet struck the body.
"Fichtre!" ejaculated Gavroche. "They are killing my dead men
A second bullet struck a spark from the pavement beside him.--
A third overturned his basket.
Gavroche looked and saw that this came from the men of the banlieue.
He sprang to his feet, stood erect, with his hair flying in the wind,
his hands on his hips, his eyes fixed on the National Guardsmen
who were firing, and sang:
"On est laid a Nanterre, "Men are ugly at Nanterre,
C'est la faute a Voltaire; 'Tis the fault of Voltaire;
Et bete a Palaiseau, And dull at Palaiseau,
C'est la faute a Rousseau." 'Tis the fault of Rousseau."
Then he picked up his basket, replaced the cartridges which had
fallen from it, without missing a single one, and, advancing towards
the fusillade, set about plundering another cartridge-box. There
a fourth bullet missed him, again. Gavroche sang:
"Je ne suis pas notaire, "I am not a notary,
C'est la faute a Voltaire; 'Tis the fault of Voltaire;
Je suis un petit oiseau, I'm a little bird,
C'est la faute a Rousseau." 'Tis the fault of Rousseau."
A fifth bullet only succeeded in drawing from him a third couplet.
"Joie est mon caractere, "Joy is my character,
C'est la faute a Voltaire; 'Tis the fault of Voltaire;
Misere est mon trousseau, Misery is my trousseau,
C'est la faute a Rousseau." 'Tis the fault of Rousseau."
Thus it went on for some time.
It was a charming and terrible sight. Gavroche, though shot at,
was teasing the fusillade. He had the air of being greatly diverted.
It was the sparrow pecking at the sportsmen. To each discharge
he retorted with a couplet. They aimed at him constantly,
and always missed him. The National Guardsmen and the soldiers
laughed as they took aim at him. He lay down, sprang to his feet,
hid in the corner of a doorway, then made a bound, disappeared,
re-appeared, scampered away, returned, replied to the grape-shot
with his thumb at his nose, and, all the while, went on pillaging
the cartouches, emptying the cartridge-boxes, and filling his basket.
The insurgents, panting with anxiety, followed him with their eyes.
The barricade trembled; he sang. He was not a child, he was not a man;
he was a strange gamin-fairy. He might have been called the invulnerable
dwarf of the fray. The bullets flew after him, he was more nimble
than they. He played a fearful game of hide and seek with death;
every time that the flat-nosed face of the spectre approached,
the urchin administered to it a fillip.
One bullet, however, better aimed or more treacherous than the rest,
finally struck the will-o'-the-wisp of a child. Gavroche was seen
to stagger, then he sank to the earth. The whole barricade gave
vent to a cry; but there was something of Antaeus in that pygmy;
for the gamin to touch the pavement is the same as for the giant
to touch the earth; Gavroche had fallen only to rise again;
he remained in a sitting posture, a long thread of blood streaked
his face, he raised both arms in the air, glanced in the direction
whence the shot had come, and began to sing:
"Je suis tombe par terre, "I have fallen to the earth,
C'est la faute a Voltaire; 'Tis the fault of Voltaire;
Le nez dans le ruisseau, With my nose in the gutter,
C'est la faute a . . . " 'Tis the fault of . . . "
He did not finish. A second bullet from the same marksman stopped
him short. This time he fell face downward on the pavement,
and moved no more. This grand little soul had taken its flight.
HOW FROM A BROTHER ONE BECOMES A FATHER
At that same moment, in the garden of the Luxembourg,--for the gaze
of the drama must be everywhere present,--two children were holding
each other by the hand. One might have been seven years old,
the other five. The rain having soaked them, they were walking along
the paths on the sunny side; the elder was leading the younger;
they were pale and ragged; they had the air of wild birds.
The smaller of them said: "I am very hungry."
The elder, who was already somewhat of a protector, was leading his
brother with his left hand and in his right he carried a small stick.
They were alone in the garden. The garden was deserted, the gates had
been closed by order of the police, on account of the insurrection.
The troops who had been bivouacking there had departed for the
exigencies of combat.
How did those children come there? Perhaps they had escaped from
some guard-house which stood ajar; perhaps there was in the vicinity,
at the Barriere d'Enfer; or on the Esplanade de l'Observatoire,
or in the neighboring carrefour, dominated by the pediment
on which could be read: Invenerunt parvulum pannis involutum,
some mountebank's booth from which they had fled; perhaps they had,
on the preceding evening, escaped the eye of the inspectors
of the garden at the hour of closing, and had passed the night
in some one of those sentry-boxes where people read the papers?
The fact is, they were stray lambs and they seemed free. To be astray
and to seem free is to be lost. These poor little creatures were,
in fact, lost.
These two children were the same over whom Gavroche had been put to
some trouble, as the reader will recollect. Children of the Thenardiers,
leased out to Magnon, attributed to M. Gillenormand, and now leaves
fallen from all these rootless branches, and swept over the ground
by the wind. Their clothing, which had been clean in Magnon's day,
and which had served her as a prospectus with M. Gillenormand,
had been converted into rags.
Henceforth these beings belonged to the statistics
as "Abandoned children," whom the police
take note of, collect, mislay and find again on the pavements of Paris.
It required the disturbance of a day like that to account for these
miserable little creatures being in that garden. If the superintendents
had caught sight of them, they would have driven such rags forth.
Poor little things do not enter public gardens; still, people should
reflect that, as children, they have a right to flowers.
These children were there, thanks to the locked gates. They were
there contrary to the regulations. They had slipped into the garden
and there they remained. Closed gates do not dismiss the inspectors,
oversight is supposed to continue, but it grows slack and reposes;
and the inspectors, moved by the public anxiety and more occupied
with the outside than the inside, no longer glanced into the garden,
and had not seen the two delinquents.
It had rained the night before, and even a little in the morning.
But in June, showers do not count for much. An hour after a storm,
it can hardly be seen that the beautiful blonde day has wept.
The earth, in summer, is as quickly dried as the cheek of a child.
At that period of the solstice, the light of full noonday is,
so to speak, poignant. It takes everything. It applies itself to
the earth, and superposes itself with a sort of suction. One would
say that the sun was thirsty. A shower is but a glass of water;
a rainstorm is instantly drunk up. In the morning everything
was dripping, in the afternoon everything is powdered over.
Nothing is so worthy of admiration as foliage washed by the rain
and wiped by the rays of sunlight; it is warm freshness. The gardens
and meadows, having water at their roots, and sun in their flowers,
become perfuming-pans of incense, and smoke with all their odors
at once. Everything smiles, sings and offers itself. One feels
gently intoxicated. The springtime is a provisional paradise,
the sun helps man to have patience.
There are beings who demand nothing further; mortals, who, having
the azure of heaven, say: "It is enough!" dreamers absorbed in
the wonderful, dipping into the idolatry of nature, indifferent to
good and evil, contemplators of cosmos and radiantly forgetful
of man, who do not understand how people can occupy themselves
with the hunger of these, and the thirst of those, with the nudity
of the poor in winter, with the lymphatic curvature of the little
spinal column, with the pallet, the attic, the dungeon, and the rags
of shivering young girls, when they can dream beneath the trees;
peaceful and terrible spirits they, and pitilessly satisfied.
Strange to say, the infinite suffices them. That great need of man,
the finite, which admits of embrace, they ignore. The finite
which admits of progress and sublime toil, they do not think about.
The indefinite, which is born from the human and divine combination
of the infinite and the finite, escapes them. Provided that they are
face to face with immensity, they smile. Joy never, ecstasy forever.
Their life lies in surrendering their personality in contemplation.
The history of humanity is for them only a detailed plan. All is
not there; the true All remains without; what is the use of busying
oneself over that detail, man? Man suffers, that is quite possible;
but look at Aldebaran rising! The mother has no more milk,
the new-born babe is dying. I know nothing about that, but just
look at this wonderful rosette which a slice of wood-cells of the
pine presents under the microscope! Compare the most beautiful
Mechlin lace to that if you can! These thinkers forget to love.
The zodiac thrives with them to such a point that it prevents
their seeing the weeping child. God eclipses their souls.
This is a family of minds which are, at once, great and petty.
Horace was one of them; so was Goethe. La Fontaine perhaps;
magnificent egoists of the infinite, tranquil spectators of sorrow,
who do not behold Nero if the weather be fair, for whom the sun
conceals the funeral pile, who would look on at an execution by the
guillotine in the search for an effect of light, who hear neither
the cry nor the sob, nor the death rattle, nor the alarm peal,
for whom everything is well, since there is a month of May, who,
so long as there are clouds of purple and gold above their heads,
declare themselves content, and who are determined to be happy
until the radiance of the stars and the songs of the birds
These are dark radiances. They have no suspicion that they
are to be pitied. Certainly they are so. He who does not weep
does not see. They are to be admired and pitied, as one would
both pity and admire a being at once night and day, without eyes
beneath his lashes but with a star on his brow.
The indifference of these thinkers, is, according to some,
a superior philosophy. That may be; but in this superiority
there is some infirmity. One may be immortal and yet limp:
witness Vulcan. One may be more than man and less than man.
There is incomplete immensity in nature. Who knows whether the sun
is not a blind man?
But then, what? In whom can we trust? Solem quis dicere falsum audeat?
Who shall dare to say that the sun is false? Thus certain geniuses,
themselves, certain Very-Lofty mortals, man-stars, may be mistaken?
That which is on high at the summit, at the crest, at the zenith,
that which sends down so much light on the earth, sees but little,
sees badly, sees not at all? Is not this a desperate state of things?
No. But what is there, then, above the sun? The god.
On the 6th of June, 1832, about eleven o'clock in the morning,
the Luxembourg, solitary and depopulated, was charming.
The quincunxes and flower-beds shed forth balm and dazzling beauty
into the sunlight. The branches, wild with the brilliant glow
of midday, seemed endeavoring to embrace. In the sycamores there
was an uproar of linnets, sparrows triumphed, woodpeckers climbed
along the chestnut trees, administering little pecks on the bark.
The flower-beds accepted the legitimate royalty of the lilies;
the most august of perfumes is that which emanates from whiteness.
The peppery odor of the carnations was perceptible. The old crows
of Marie de Medici were amorous in the tall trees. The sun gilded,
empurpled, set fire to and lighted up the tulips, which are nothing
but all the varieties of flame made into flowers. All around the
banks of tulips the bees, the sparks of these flame-flowers, hummed.
All was grace and gayety, even the impending rain; this relapse,
by which the lilies of the valley and the honeysuckles were destined
to profit, had nothing disturbing about it; the swallows indulged
in the charming threat of flying low. He who was there aspired
to happiness; life smelled good; all nature exhaled candor,
help, assistance, paternity, caress, dawn. The thoughts which fell
from heaven were as sweet as the tiny hand of a baby when one
The statues under the trees, white and nude, had robes of shadow
pierced with light; these goddesses were all tattered with sunlight;
rays hung from them on all sides. Around the great fountain,
the earth was already dried up to the point of being burnt.
There was sufficient breeze to raise little insurrections of dust
here and there. A few yellow leaves, left over from the autumn,
chased each other merrily, and seemed to be playing tricks on
This abundance of light had something indescribably reassuring
about it. Life, sap, heat, odors overflowed; one was conscious,
beneath creation, of the enormous size of the source; in all these
breaths permeated with love, in this interchange of reverberations
and reflections, in this marvellous expenditure of rays, in this
infinite outpouring of liquid gold, one felt the prodigality of
the inexhaustible; and, behind this splendor as behind a curtain
of flame, one caught a glimpse of God, that millionaire of stars.
Thanks to the sand, there was not a speck of mud; thanks to the rain,
there was not a grain of ashes. The clumps of blossoms had just
been bathed; every sort of velvet, satin, gold and varnish,
which springs from the earth in the form of flowers, was irreproachable.
This magnificence was cleanly. The grand silence of happy nature
filled the garden. A celestial silence that is compatible with a
thousand sorts of music, the cooing of nests, the buzzing of swarms,
the flutterings of the breeze. All the harmony of the season was
complete in one gracious whole; the entrances and exits of spring
took place in proper order; the lilacs ended; the jasmines began;
some flowers were tardy, some insects in advance of their time;
the van-guard of the red June butterflies fraternized with the
rear-guard of the white butterflies of May. The plantain trees
were getting their new skins. The breeze hollowed out undulations
in the magnificent enormity of the chestnut-trees. It was splendid.
A veteran from the neighboring barracks, who was gazing through
the fence, said: "Here is the Spring presenting arms and in
All nature was breakfasting; creation was at table; this was its hour;
the great blue cloth was spread in the sky, and the great green cloth
on earth; the sun lighted it all up brilliantly. God was serving
the universal repast. Each creature had his pasture or his mess.
The ring-dove found his hemp-seed, the chaffinch found his millet,
the goldfinch found chickweed, the red-breast found worms, the green
finch found flies, the fly found infusoriae, the bee found flowers.
They ate each other somewhat, it is true, which is the misery of evil
mixed with good; but not a beast of them all had an empty stomach.
The two little abandoned creatures had arrived in the vicinity
of the grand fountain, and, rather bewildered by all this light,
they tried to hide themselves, the instinct of the poor and the weak
in the presence of even impersonal magnificence; and they kept
behind the swans' hutch.
Here and there, at intervals, when the wind blew, shouts, clamor, a sort
of tumultuous death rattle, which was the firing, and dull blows,
which were discharges of cannon, struck the ear confusedly.
Smoke hung over the roofs in the direction of the Halles. A bell,
which had the air of an appeal, was ringing in the distance.
These children did not appear to notice these noises. The little
one repeated from time to time: "I am hungry."
Almost at the same instant with the children, another couple approached
the great basin. They consisted of a goodman, about fifty years
of age, who was leading by the hand a little fellow of six. No doubt,
a father and his son. The little man of six had a big brioche.
At that epoch, certain houses abutting on the river, in the
Rues Madame and d'Enfer, had keys to the Luxembourg garden,
of which the lodgers enjoyed the use when the gates were shut,
a privilege which was suppressed later on. This father and son
came from one of these houses, no doubt.
The two poor little creatures watched "that gentleman" approaching,
and hid themselves a little more thoroughly.
He was a bourgeois. The same person, perhaps, whom Marius had
one day heard, through his love fever, near the same grand basin,
counselling his son "to avoid excesses." He had an affable and haughty
air, and a mouth which was always smiling, since it did not shut.
This mechanical smile, produced by too much jaw and too little skin,
shows the teeth rather than the soul. The child, with his brioche,
which he had bitten into but had not finished eating, seemed satiated.
The child was dressed as a National Guardsman, owing to the insurrection,
and the father had remained clad as a bourgeois out of prudence.
Father and son halted near the fountain where two swans were sporting.
This bourgeois appeared to cherish a special admiration for the swans.
He resembled them in this sense, that he walked like them.
For the moment, the swans were swimming, which is their
principal talent, and they were superb.
If the two poor little beings had listened and if they had been
of an age to understand, they might have gathered the words of this
grave man. The father was saying to his son:
"The sage lives content with little. Look at me, my son. I do
not love pomp. I am never seen in clothes decked with gold lace
and stones; I leave that false splendor to badly organized souls."
Here the deep shouts which proceeded from the direction of the
Halles burst out with fresh force of bell and uproar.
"What is that?" inquired the child.
The father replied:
"It is the Saturnalia."
All at once, he caught sight of the two little ragged boys behind
the green swan-hutch.
"There is the beginning," said he.
And, after a pause, he added:
"Anarchy is entering this garden."
In the meanwhile, his son took a bite of his brioche, spit it out,
and, suddenly burst out crying.
"What are you crying about?" demanded his father.
"I am not hungry any more," said the child.
The father's smile became more accentuated.
"One does not need to be hungry in order to eat a cake."
"My cake tires me. It is stale."
"Don't you want any more of it?"
The father pointed to the swans.
"Throw it to those palmipeds."
The child hesitated. A person may not want any more of his cake;
but that is no reason for giving it away.
The father went on:
"Be humane. You must have compassion on animals."
And, taking the cake from his son, he flung it into the basin.
The cake fell very near the edge.
The swans were far away, in the centre of the basin, and busy
with some prey. They had seen neither the bourgeois nor the brioche.
The bourgeois, feeling that the cake was in danger of being wasted,
and moved by this useless shipwreck, entered upon a telegraphic
agitation, which finally attracted the attention of the swans.
They perceived something floating, steered for the edge like ships,
as they are, and slowly directed their course toward the brioche,
with the stupid majesty which befits white creatures.
"The swans [cygnes] understand signs [signes]," said the bourgeois,
delighted to make a jest.
At that moment, the distant tumult of the city underwent another
sudden increase. This time it was sinister. There are some gusts
of wind which speak more distinctly than others. The one which was
blowing at that moment brought clearly defined drum-beats, clamors,
platoon firing, and the dismal replies of the tocsin and the cannon.
This coincided with a black cloud which suddenly veiled the sun.
The swans had not yet reached the brioche.
"Let us return home," said the father, "they are attacking
He grasped his son's hand again. Then he continued:
"From the Tuileries to the Luxembourg, there is but the distance
which separates Royalty from the peerage; that is not far.
Shots will soon rain down."
He glanced at the cloud.
"Perhaps it is rain itself that is about to shower down; the sky
is joining in; the younger branch is condemned. Let us return
"I should like to see the swans eat the brioche," said the child.
The father replied:
"That would be imprudent."
And he led his little bourgeois away.
The son, regretting the swans, turned his head back toward the basin
until a corner of the quincunxes concealed it from him.
In the meanwhile, the two little waifs had approached the brioche
at the same time as the swans. It was floating on the water.
The smaller of them stared at the cake, the elder gazed after the
Father and son entered the labyrinth of walks which leads to the grand
flight of steps near the clump of trees on the side of the Rue Madame.
As soon as they had disappeared from view, the elder child hastily
flung himself flat on his stomach on the rounding curb of the basin,
and clinging to it with his left hand, and leaning over the water,
on the verge of falling in, he stretched out his right hand with his
stick towards the cake. The swans, perceiving the enemy, made haste,
and in so doing, they produced an effect of their breasts which was of
service to the little fisher; the water flowed back before the swans,
and one of these gentle concentric undulations softly floated
the brioche towards the child's wand. Just as the swans came up,
the stick touched the cake. The child gave it a brisk rap, drew in
the brioche, frightened away the swans, seized the cake, and sprang
to his feet. The cake was wet; but they were hungry and thirsty.
The elder broke the cake into two portions, a large one and a small one,
took the small one for himself, gave the large one to his brother,
and said to him:
"Ram that into your muzzle."
MORTUUS PATER FILIUM MORITURUM EXPECTAT
Marius dashed out of the barricade, Combeferre followed him.
But he was too late. Gavroche was dead. Combeferre brought back
the basket of cartridges; Marius bore the child.
"Alas!" he thought, "that which the father had done for his father,
he was requiting to the son; only, Thenardier had brought back his
father alive; he was bringing back the child dead."
When Marius re-entered the redoubt with Gavroche in his arms,
his face, like the child, was inundated with blood.
At the moment when he had stooped to lift Gavroche, a bullet had
grazed his head; he had not noticed it.
Courfeyrac untied his cravat and with it bandaged Marius' brow.
They laid Gavroche on the same table with Mabeuf, and spread over
the two corpses the black shawl. There was enough of it for both
the old man and the child.
Combeferre distributed the cartridges from the basket which he
had brought in.
This gave each man fifteen rounds to fire.
Jean Valjean was still in the same place, motionless on his
stone post. When Combeferre offered him his fifteen cartridges,
he shook his head.
"Here's a rare eccentric," said Combeferre in a low voice to Enjolras.
"He finds a way of not fighting in this barricade."
"Which does not prevent him from defending it," responded Enjolras.
"Heroism has its originals," resumed Combeferre.
And Courfeyrac, who had overheard, added:
"He is another sort from Father Mabeuf."
One thing which must be noted is, that the fire which was battering
the barricade hardly disturbed the interior. Those who have never
traversed the whirlwind of this sort of war can form no idea of the
singular moments of tranquillity mingled with these convulsions.
Men go and come, they talk, they jest, they lounge. Some one whom
we know heard a combatant say to him in the midst of the grape-shot:
"We are here as at a bachelor breakfast." The redoubt of the Rue de
la Chanvrerie, we repeat, seemed very calm within. All mutations
and all phases had been, or were about to be, exhausted. The position,
from critical, had become menacing, and, from menacing, was probably
about to become desperate. In proportion as the situation grew gloomy,
the glow of heroism empurpled the barricade more and more.
Enjolras, who was grave, dominated it, in the attitude of a young
Spartan sacrificing his naked sword to the sombre genius, Epidotas.
Combeferre, wearing an apron, was dressing the wounds:
Bossuet and Feuilly were making cartridges with the powder-flask
picked up by Gavroche on the dead corporal, and Bossuet said
to Feuilly: "We are soon to take the diligence for another planet";
Courfeyrac was disposing and arranging on some paving-stones which
he had reserved for himself near Enjolras, a complete arsenal,
his sword-cane, his gun, two holster pistols, and a cudgel,
with the care of a young girl setting a small dunkerque in order.
Jean Valjean stared silently at the wall opposite him. An artisan
was fastening Mother Hucheloup's big straw hat on his head with
a string, "for fear of sun-stroke," as he said. The young men
from the Cougourde d'Aix were chatting merrily among themselves,
as though eager to speak patois for the last time. Joly, who had
taken Widow Hucheloup's mirror from the wall, was examining his
tongue in it. Some combatants, having discovered a few crusts
of rather mouldy bread, in a drawer, were eagerly devouring them.
Marius was disturbed with regard to what his father was about to say
THE VULTURE BECOME PREY
We must insist upon one psychological fact peculiar to barricades.
Nothing which is characteristic of that surprising war of the streets
should be omitted.
Whatever may have been the singular inward tranquillity which we
have just mentioned, the barricade, for those who are inside it,
remains, none the less, a vision.
There is something of the apocalypse in civil war,
all the mists of the unknown are commingled with
fierce flashes, revolutions are sphinxes, and any
one who has passed through a barricade thinks he has traversed a dream.
The feelings to which one is subject in these places we have pointed
out in the case of Marius, and we shall see the consequences;
they are both more and less than life. On emerging from a barricade,
one no longer knows what one has seen there. One has been terrible,
but one knows it not. One has been surrounded with conflicting ideas
which had human faces; one's head has been in the light of the future.
There were corpses lying prone there, and phantoms standing erect.
The hours were colossal and seemed hours of eternity. One has lived
in death. Shadows have passed by. What were they?
One has beheld hands on which there was blood; there was a
deafening horror; there was also a frightful silence; there were open
mouths which shouted, and other open mouths which held their peace;
one was in the midst of smoke, of night, perhaps. One fancied
that one had touched the sinister ooze of unknown depths; one stares
at something red on one's finger nails. One no longer remembers anything.
Let us return to the Rue de la Chanvrerie.
All at once, between two discharges, the distant sound of a clock
striking the hour became audible.
"It is midday," said Combeferre.
The twelve strokes had not finished striking when Enjolras sprang
to his feet, and from the summit of the barricade hurled this
"Carry stones up into the houses; line the windowsills and the
roofs with them. Half the men to their guns, the other half
to the paving-stones. There is not a minute to be lost."
A squad of sappers and miners, axe on shoulder, had just made
their appearance in battle array at the end of the street.
This could only be the head of a column; and of what column?
The attacking column, evidently; the sappers charged with the demolition
of the barricade must always precede the soldiers who are to scale it.
They were, evidently, on the brink of that moment which
M. Clermont-Tonnerre, in 1822, called "the tug of war."
Enjolras' order was executed with the correct haste which is peculiar
to ships and barricades, the only two scenes of combat where escape
is impossible. In less than a minute, two thirds of the stones
which Enjolras had had piled up at the door of Corinthe had been
carried up to the first floor and the attic, and before a second
minute had elapsed, these stones, artistically set one upon the other,
walled up the sash-window on the first floor and the windows
in the roof to half their height. A few loop-holes carefully
planned by Feuilly, the principal architect, allowed of the passage
of the gun-barrels. This armament of the windows could be effected
all the more easily since the firing of grape-shot had ceased.
The two cannons were now discharging ball against the centre
of the barrier in order to make a hole there, and, if possible,
a breach for the assault.
When the stones destined to the final defence were in place,
Enjolras had the bottles which he had set under the table where
Mabeuf lay, carried to the first floor.
"Who is to drink that?" Bossuet asked him.
"They," replied Enjolras.
Then they barricaded the window below, and held in readiness the iron
cross-bars which served to secure the door of the wine-shop at night.
The fortress was complete. The barricade was the rampart,
the wine-shop was the dungeon. With the stones which remained
they stopped up the outlet.
As the defenders of a barricade are always obliged to be sparing
of their ammunition, and as the assailants know this, the assailants
combine their arrangements with a sort of irritating leisure,
expose themselves to fire prematurely, though in appearance more
than in reality, and take their ease. The preparations for attack
are always made with a certain methodical deliberation; after which,
the lightning strikes.
This deliberation permitted Enjolras to take a review of everything
and to perfect everything. He felt that, since such men were to die,
their death ought to be a masterpiece.
He said to Marius: "We are the two leaders. I will give the last
orders inside. Do you remain outside and observe."
Marius posted himself on the lookout upon the crest of the barricade.
Enjolras had the door of the kitchen, which was the ambulance,
as the reader will remember, nailed up.
"No splashing of the wounded," he said.
He issued his final orders in the tap-room in a curt, but profoundly
tranquil tone; Feuilly listened and replied in the name of all.
"On the first floor, hold your axes in readiness to cut the staircase.
Have you them?"
"Yes," said Feuilly.
"Two axes and a pole-axe."
"That is good. There are now twenty-six combatants of us on foot.
How many guns are there?"
"Eight too many. Keep those eight guns loaded like the rest and at hand.
Swords and pistols in your belts. Twenty men to the barricade.
Six ambushed in the attic windows, and at the window on the first
floor to fire on the assailants through the loop-holes in the stones.
Let not a single worker remain inactive here. Presently, when the drum
beats the assault, let the twenty below stairs rush to the barricade.
The first to arrive will have the best places."
These arrangements made, he turned to Javert and said:
"I am not forgetting you."
And, laying a pistol on the table, he added:
"The last man to leave this room will smash the skull of this spy."
"Here?" inquired a voice.
"No, let us not mix their corpses with our own. The little barricade
of the Mondetour lane can be scaled. It is only four feet high.
The man is well pinioned. He shall be taken thither and put
There was some one who was more impassive at that moment than Enjolras,
it was Javert. Here Jean Valjean made his appearance.
He had been lost among the group of insurgents. He stepped forth
and said to Enjolras:
"You are the commander?"
"You thanked me a while ago."
"In the name of the Republic. The barricade has two saviors,
Marius Pontmercy and yourself."
"Do you think that I deserve a recompense?"
"Well, I request one."
"What is it?"
"That I may blow that man's brains out."
Javert raised his head, saw Jean Valjean, made an almost
imperceptible movement, and said:
"That is just."
As for Enjolras, he had begun to re-load his rifle; he cut his eyes
And he turned to Jean Valjean:
"Take the spy."
Jean Valjean did, in fact, take possession of Javert, by seating
himself on the end of the table. He seized the pistol, and a faint
click announced that he had cocked it.
Almost at the same moment, a blast of trumpets became audible.
"Take care!" shouted Marius from the top of the barricade.
Javert began to laugh with that noiseless laugh which was peculiar
to him, and gazing intently at the insurgents, he said to them:
"You are in no better case than I am."
"All out!" shouted Enjolras.
The insurgents poured out tumultuously, and, as they went,
received in the back,--may we be permitted the expression,--
this sally of Javert's:
"We shall meet again shortly!"
JEAN VALJEAN TAKES HIS REVENGE
When Jean Valjean was left alone with Javert, he untied the rope
which fastened the prisoner across the middle of the body,
and the knot of which was under the table. After this he made
him a sign to rise.
Javert obeyed with that indefinable smile in which the supremacy
of enchained authority is condensed.
Jean Valjean took Javert by the martingale, as one would take
a beast of burden by the breast-band, and, dragging the latter
after him, emerged from the wine-shop slowly, because Javert,
with his impeded limbs, could take only very short steps.
Jean Valjean had the pistol in his hand.
In this manner they crossed the inner trapezium of the barricade.
The insurgents, all intent on the attack, which was imminent,
had their backs turned to these two.
Marius alone, stationed on one side, at the extreme left of
the barricade, saw them pass. This group of victim and executioner
was illuminated by the sepulchral light which he bore in his own soul.
Jean Valjean with some difficulty, but without relaxing his hold
for a single instant, made Javert, pinioned as he was, scale the
little entrenchment in the Mondetour lane.
When they had crossed this barrier, they found themselves alone
in the lane. No one saw them. Among the heap they could
distinguish a livid face, streaming hair, a pierced hand and
the half nude breast of a woman. It was Eponine. The corner
of the houses hid them from the insurgents. The corpses carried
away from the barricade formed a terrible pile a few paces distant.
Javert gazed askance at this body, and, profoundly calm, said in
a low tone:
"It strikes me that I know that girl."
Then he turned to Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean thrust the pistol under his arm and fixed on Javert
a look which it required no words to interpret: "Javert, it is I."
"Take your revenge."
Jean Valjean drew from his pocket a knife, and opened it.
"A clasp-knife!" exclaimed Javert, "you are right. That suits
Jean Valjean cut the martingale which Javert had about his neck,
then he cut the cords on his wrists, then, stooping down, he cut
the cord on his feet; and, straightening himself up, he said to him:
"You are free."
Javert was not easily astonished. Still, master of himself though
he was, he could not repress a start. He remained open-mouthed
Jean Valjean continued:
"I do not think that I shall escape from this place. But if,
by chance, I do, I live, under the name of Fauchelevent, in the Rue
de l'Homme Arme, No. 7."
Javert snarled like a tiger, which made him half open one corner
of his mouth, and he muttered between his teeth:
"Have a care."
"Go," said Jean Valjean.
Javert began again:
"Thou saidst Fauchelevent, Rue de l'Homme Arme?"
Javert repeated in a low voice:--"Number 7."
He buttoned up his coat once more, resumed the military stiffness
between his shoulders, made a half turn, folded his arms and,
supporting his chin on one of his hands, he set out in the direction
of the Halles. Jean Valjean followed him with his eyes:
A few minutes later, Javert turned round and shouted to Jean Valjean:
"You annoy me. Kill me, rather."
Javert himself did not notice that he no longer addressed Jean
Valjean as "thou."
"Be off with you," said Jean Valjean.
Javert retreated slowly. A moment later he turned the corner
of the Rue des Precheurs.
When Javert had disappeared, Jean Valjean fired his pistol in the air.
Then he returned to the barricade and said:
"It is done."
In the meanwhile, this is what had taken place.
Marius, more intent on the outside than on the interior, had not,
up to that time, taken a good look at the pinioned spy in the dark
background of the tap-room.
When he beheld him in broad daylight, striding over the
barricade in order to proceed to his death, he recognized him.
Something suddenly recurred to his mind. He recalled the inspector
of the Rue de Pontoise, and the two pistols which the latter had
handed to him and which he, Marius, had used in this very barricade,
and not only did he recall his face, but his name as well.
This recollection was misty and troubled, however, like all his ideas.
It was not an affirmation that he made, but a question which he
put to himself:
"Is not that the inspector of police who told me that his name
Perhaps there was still time to intervene in behalf of that man.
But, in the first place, he must know whether this was Javert.
Marius called to Enjolras, who had just stationed himself
at the other extremity of the barricade:
"What is the name of yonder man?"
"The police agent. Do you know his name?"
"Of course. He told us."
"What is it?"
Marius sprang to his feet.
At that moment, they heard the report of the pistol.
Jean Valjean re-appeared and cried: "It is done."
A gloomy chill traversed Marius' heart.
THE DEAD ARE IN THE RIGHT AND THE LIVING ARE NOT IN THE WRONG
The death agony of the barricade was about to begin.
Everything contributed to its tragic majesty at that supreme moment;
a thousand mysterious crashes in the air, the breath of armed
masses set in movement in the streets which were not visible,
the intermittent gallop of cavalry, the heavy shock of artillery
on the march, the firing by squads, and the cannonades crossing
each other in the labyrinth of Paris, the smokes of battle mounting
all gilded above the roofs, indescribable and vaguely terrible cries,
lightnings of menace everywhere, the tocsin of Saint-Merry, which now
had the accents of a sob, the mildness of the weather, the splendor
of the sky filled with sun and clouds, the beauty of the day,
and the alarming silence of the houses.
For, since the preceding evening, the two rows of houses in the Rue
de la Chanvrerie had become two walls; ferocious walls, doors closed,
windows closed, shutters closed.
In those days, so different from those in which we live, when the
hour was come, when the people wished to put an end to a situation,
which had lasted too long, with a charter granted or with a
legal country, when universal wrath was diffused in the atmosphere,
when the city consented to the tearing up of the pavements,
when insurrection made the bourgeoisie smile by whispering its
password in its ear, then the inhabitant, thoroughly penetrated
with the revolt, so to speak, was the auxiliary of the combatant,
and the house fraternized with the improvised fortress which rested
on it. When the situation was not ripe, when the insurrection
was not decidedly admitted, when the masses disowned the movement,
all was over with the combatants, the city was changed into a desert
around the revolt, souls grew chilled, refuges were nailed up,
and the street turned into a defile to help the army to take
A people cannot be forced, through surprise, to walk more quickly
than it chooses. Woe to whomsoever tries to force its hand! A people
does not let itself go at random. Then it abandons the insurrection
to itself. The insurgents become noxious, infected with the plague.
A house is an escarpment, a door is a refusal, a facade is a wall.
This wall hears, sees and will not. It might open and save you.
No. This wall is a judge. It gazes at you and condemns you.
What dismal things are closed houses. They seem dead, they are living.
Life which is, as it were, suspended there, persists there.
No one has gone out of them for four and twenty hours, but no one
is missing from them. In the interior of that rock, people go
and come, go to bed and rise again; they are a family party there;
there they eat and drink; they are afraid, a terrible thing!
Fear excuses this fearful lack of hospitality; terror is mixed
with it, an extenuating circumstance. Sometimes, even, and this
has been actually seen, fear turns to passion; fright may change
into fury, as prudence does into rage; hence this wise saying:
"The enraged moderates." There are outbursts of supreme terror,
whence springs wrath like a mournful smoke.--"What do these people want?
What have they come there to do? Let them get out of the scrape.
So much the worse for them. It is their fault. They are only getting
what they deserve. It does not concern us. Here is our poor street
all riddled with balls. They are a pack of rascals. Above all things,
don't open the door."--And the house assumes the air of a tomb.
The insurgent is in the death-throes in front of that house; he sees
the grape-shot and naked swords drawing near; if he cries, he knows
that they are listening to him, and that no one will come; there stand
walls which might protect him, there are men who might save him;
and these walls have ears of flesh, and these men have bowels of
Whom shall he reproach?
No one and every one.
The incomplete times in which we live.
It is always at its own risk and peril that Utopia is converted
into revolution, and from philosophical protest becomes
an armed protest, and from Minerva turns to Pallas.
The Utopia which grows impatient and becomes revolt knows what awaits it;
it almost always comes too soon. Then it becomes resigned, and stoically
accepts catastrophe in lieu of triumph. It serves those who deny it
without complaint, even excusing them, and even disculpates them,
and its magnanimity consists in consenting to abandonment.
It is indomitable in the face of obstacles and gentle towards ingratitude.
Is this ingratitude, however?
Yes, from the point of view of the human race.
No, from the point of view of the individual.
Progress is man's mode of existence. The general life of the human
race is called Progress, the collective stride of the human race
is called Progress. Progress advances; it makes the great human
and terrestrial journey towards the celestial and the divine; it has
its halting places where it rallies the laggard troop, it has its
stations where it meditates, in the presence of some splendid Canaan
suddenly unveiled on its horizon, it has its nights when it sleeps;
and it is one of the poignant anxieties of the thinker that he sees
the shadow resting on the human soul, and that he gropes in darkness
without being able to awaken that slumbering Progress.
"God is dead, perhaps," said Gerard de Nerval one day to the
writer of these lines, confounding progress with God, and taking
the interruption of movement for the death of Being.
He who despairs is in the wrong. Progress infallibly awakes, and,
in short, we may say that it marches on, even when it is asleep,
for it has increased in size. When we behold it erect once more,
we find it taller. To be always peaceful does not depend on
progress any more than it does on the stream; erect no barriers,
cast in no boulders; obstacles make water froth and humanity boil.
Hence arise troubles; but after these troubles, we recognize the fact
that ground has been gained. Until order, which is nothing else than
universal peace, has been established, until harmony and unity reign,
progress will have revolutions as its halting-places.
What, then, is progress? We have just enunciated it; the permanent
life of the peoples.
Now, it sometimes happens, that the momentary life of individuals
offers resistance to the eternal life of the human race.
Let us admit without bitterness, that the individual has his distinct
interests, and can, without forfeiture, stipulate for his interest,
and defend it; the present has its pardonable dose of egotism;
momentary life has its rights, and is not bound to sacrifice itself
constantly to the future. The generation which is passing in its
turn over the earth, is not forced to abridge it for the sake
of the generations, its equal, after all, who will have their turn
later on.--"I exist," murmurs that some one whose name is All.
"I am young and in love, I am old and I wish to repose, I am the
father of a family, I toil, I prosper, I am successful in business,
I have houses to lease, I have money in the government funds,
I am happy, I have a wife and children, I have all this, I desire
to live, leave me in peace."--Hence, at certain hours, a profound
cold broods over the magnanimous vanguard of the human race.
Utopia, moreover, we must admit, quits its radiant sphere when
it makes war. It, the truth of to-morrow, borrows its mode
of procedure, battle, from the lie of yesterday. It, the future,
behaves like the past. It, pure idea, becomes a deed of violence.
It complicates its heroism with a violence for which it is just that
it should be held to answer; a violence of occasion and expedient,
contrary to principle, and for which it is fatally punished.
The Utopia, insurrection, fights with the old military code in its fist;
it shoots spies, it executes traitors; it suppresses living beings
and flings them into unknown darkness. It makes use of death,
a serious matter. It seems as though Utopia had no longer any faith
in radiance, its irresistible and incorruptible force. It strikes
with the sword. Now, no sword is simple. Every blade has two edges;
he who wounds with the one is wounded with the other.
Having made this reservation, and made it with all severity,
it is impossible for us not to admire, whether they succeed or not,
those the glorious combatants of the future, the confessors
of Utopia. Even when they miscarry, they are worthy of veneration;
and it is, perhaps, in failure, that they possess the most majesty.
Victory, when it is in accord with progress, merits the applause
of the people; but a heroic defeat merits their tender compassion.
The one is magnificent, the other sublime. For our own part,
we prefer martyrdom to success. John Brown is greater than Washington,
and Pisacane is greater than Garibaldi.
It certainly is necessary that some one should take the part
of the vanquished.
We are unjust towards these great men who attempt the future,
when they fail.
Revolutionists are accused of sowing fear abroad. Every barricade
seems a crime. Their theories are incriminated, their aim suspected,
their ulterior motive is feared, their conscience denounced.
They are reproached with raising, erecting, and heaping up, against the
reigning social state, a mass of miseries, of griefs, of iniquities,
of wrongs, of despairs, and of tearing from the lowest depths blocks
of shadow in order therein to embattle themselves and to combat.
People shout to them: "You are tearing up the pavements of hell!"
They might reply: "That is because our barricade is made of
The best thing, assuredly, is the pacific solution. In short,
let us agree that when we behold the pavement, we think of the bear,
and it is a good will which renders society uneasy. But it depends
on society to save itself, it is to its own good will that we make
our appeal. No violent remedy is necessary. To study evil amiably,
to prove its existence, then to cure it. It is to this that we
However that may be, even when fallen, above all when fallen, these men,
who at every point of the universe, with their eyes fixed on France,
are striving for the grand work with the inflexible logic of the ideal,
are august; they give their life a free offering to progress;
they accomplish the will of providence; they perform a religious act.
At the appointed hour, with as much disinterestedness as an actor
who answers to his cue, in obedience to the divine stage-manager,
they enter the tomb. And this hopeless combat, this stoical
disappearance they accept in order to bring about the supreme
and universal consequences, the magnificent and irresistibly human
movement begun on the 14th of July, 1789; these soldiers are priests.
The French revolution is an act of God.
Moreover, there are, and it is proper to add this distinction to
the distinctions already pointed out in another chapter,--there are
accepted revolutions, revolutions which are called revolutions;
there are refused revolutions, which are called riots.
An insurrection which breaks out, is an idea which is passing its
examination before the people. If the people lets fall a black ball,
the idea is dried fruit; the insurrection is a mere skirmish.
Waging war at every summons and every time that Utopia desires it,
is not the thing for the peoples. Nations have not always and at
every hour the temperament of heroes and martyrs.
They are positive. A priori, insurrection is repugnant to them,
in the first place, because it often results in a catastrophe,
in the second place, because it always has an abstraction as its point
Because, and this is a noble thing, it is always for the ideal,
and for the ideal alone, that those who sacrifice themselves do thus
sacrifice themselves. An insurrection is an enthusiasm. Enthusiasm may
wax wroth; hence the appeal to arms. But every insurrection,
which aims at a government or a regime, aims higher. Thus, for instance,
and we insist upon it, what the chiefs of the insurrection
of 1832, and, in particular, the young enthusiasts of the Rue de
la Chanvrerie were combating, was not precisely Louis Philippe.
The majority of them, when talking freely, did justice to this king
who stood midway between monarchy and revolution; no one hated him.
But they attacked the younger branch of the divine right in Louis
Philippe as they had attacked its elder branch in Charles X.;
and that which they wished to overturn in overturning royalty
in France, was, as we have explained, the usurpation of man
over man, and of privilege over right in the entire universe.
Paris without a king has as result the world without despots.
This is the manner in which they reasoned. Their aim was distant
no doubt, vague perhaps, and it retreated in the face of their efforts;
but it was great.
Thus it is. And we sacrifice ourselves for these visions,
which are almost always illusions for the sacrificed, but illusions
with which, after all, the whole of human certainty is mingled.
We throw ourselves into these tragic affairs and become intoxicated
with that which we are about to do. Who knows? We may succeed.
We are few in number, we have a whole army arrayed against us;
but we are defending right, the natural law, the sovereignty
of each one over himself from which no abdication is possible,
justice and truth, and in case of need, we die like the three
hundred Spartans. We do not think of Don Quixote but of Leonidas.
And we march straight before us, and once pledged, we do not draw back,
and we rush onwards with head held low, cherishing as our hope an
unprecedented victory, revolution completed, progress set free again,
the aggrandizement of the human race, universal deliverance;
and in the event of the worst, Thermopylae.
These passages of arms for the sake of progress often suffer shipwreck,
and we have just explained why. The crowd is restive in the
presence of the impulses of paladins. Heavy masses, the multitudes
which are fragile because of their very weight, fear adventures;
and there is a touch of adventure in the ideal.
Moreover, and we must not forget this, interests which are not
very friendly to the ideal and the sentimental are in the way.
Sometimes the stomach paralyzes the heart.
The grandeur and beauty of France lies in this, that she takes
less from the stomach than other nations: she more easily knots
the rope about her loins. She is the first awake, the last asleep.
She marches forwards. She is a seeker.
This arises from the fact that she is an artist.
The ideal is nothing but the culminating point of logic,
the same as the beautiful is nothing but the summit of the true.
Artistic peoples are also consistent peoples. To love beauty is
to see the light. That is why the torch of Europe, that is to say
of civilization, was first borne by Greece, who passed it on to Italy,
who handed it on to France. Divine, illuminating nations of scouts!
It is an admirable thing that the poetry of a people is the element
of its progress. The amount of civilization is measured by the
quantity of imagination. Only, a civilizing people should remain
a manly people. Corinth, yes; Sybaris, no. Whoever becomes effeminate
makes himself a bastard. He must be neither a dilettante nor
a virtuoso: but he must be artistic. In the matter of civilization,
he must not refine, but he must sublime. On this condition,
one gives to the human race the pattern of the ideal.
The modern ideal has its type in art, and its means is science.
It is through science that it will realize that august vision
of the poets, the socially beautiful. Eden will be reconstructed
by A+B. At the point which civilization has now reached, the exact
is a necessary element of the splendid, and the artistic sentiment
is not only served, but completed by the scientific organ;
dreams must be calculated. Art, which is the conqueror,
should have for support science, which is the walker; the solidity
of the creature which is ridden is of importance. The modern spirit
is the genius of Greece with the genius of India as its vehicle;
Alexander on the elephant.
Races which are petrified in dogma or demoralized by lucre are unfit
to guide civilization. Genuflection before the idol or before money
wastes away the muscles which walk and the will which advances.
Hieratic or mercantile absorption lessens a people's power of radiance,
lowers its horizon by lowering its level, and deprives it of that
intelligence, at once both human and divine of the universal goal,
which makes missionaries of nations. Babylon has no ideal;
Carthage has no ideal. Athens and Rome have and keep, throughout
all the nocturnal darkness of the centuries, halos of civilization.
France is in the same quality of race as Greece and Italy.
She is Athenian in the matter of beauty, and Roman in her greatness.
Moreover, she is good. She gives herself. Oftener than is the case
with other races, is she in the humor for self-devotion and sacrifice.
Only, this humor seizes upon her, and again abandons her.
And therein lies the great peril for those who run when she
desires only to walk, or who walk on when she desires to halt.
France has her relapses into materialism, and, at certain instants,
the ideas which obstruct that sublime brain have no longer anything
which recalls French greatness and are of the dimensions of a
Missouri or a South Carolina. What is to be done in such a case?
The giantess plays at being a dwarf; immense France has her freaks
of pettiness. That is all.
To this there is nothing to say. Peoples, like planets, possess the
right to an eclipse. And all is well, provided that the light
returns and that the eclipse does not degenerate into night.
Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light
is identical with the persistence of the _I_.
Let us state these facts calmly. Death on the barricade
or the tomb in exile, is an acceptable occasion for devotion.
The real name of devotion is disinterestedness. Let the abandoned
allow themselves to be abandoned, let the exiled allow themselves
to be exiled, and let us confine ourselves to entreating great
nations not to retreat too far, when they do retreat. One must
not push too far in descent under pretext of a return to reason.
Matter exists, the minute exists, interest exists, the stomach exists;
but the stomach must not be the sole wisdom. The life of the moment
has its rights, we admit, but permanent life has its rights also.
Alas! the fact that one is mounted does not preclude a fall.
This can be seen in history more frequently than is desirable:
A nation is great, it tastes the ideal, then it bites the mire,
and finds it good; and if it be asked how it happens that it
has abandoned Socrates for Falstaff, it replies: "Because I
One word more before returning to our subject, the conflict.
A battle like the one which we are engaged in describing is nothing
else than a convulsion towards the ideal. Progress trammelled
is sickly, and is subject to these tragic epilepsies. With that malady
of progress, civil war, we have been obliged to come in contact
in our passage. This is one of the fatal phases, at once act
and entr'acte of that drama whose pivot is a social condemnation,
and whose veritable title is Progress.
The cry to which we frequently give utterance is our whole thought;
and, at the point of this drama which we have now reached, the idea
which it contains having still more than one trial to undergo,
it is, perhaps, permitted to us, if not to lift the veil from it,
to at least allow its light to shine through.
The book which the reader has under his eye at this moment is,
from one end to the other, as a whole and in detail, whatever may
be its intermittences, exceptions and faults, the march from evil
to good, from the unjust to the just, from night to day, from appetite
to conscience, from rottenness to life, from hell to heaven,
from nothingness to God. Point of departure: matter; point of arrival:
the soul. The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end.
All at once, the drum beat the charge.
The attack was a hurricane. On the evening before, in the darkness,
the barricade had been approached silently, as by a boa. Now, in broad
daylight, in that widening street, surprise was decidedly impossible,
rude force had, moreover, been unmasked, the cannon had begun the roar,
the army hurled itself on the barricade. Fury now became skill.
A powerful detachment of infantry of the line, broken at regular
intervals, by the National Guard and the Municipal Guard on foot,
and supported by serried masses which could be heard though
not seen, debauched into the street at a run, with drums beating,
trumpets braying, bayonets levelled, the sappers at their head,
and, imperturbable under the projectiles, charged straight
for the barricade with the weight of a brazen beam against a wall.
The wall held firm.
The insurgents fired impetuously. The barricade once scaled
had a mane of lightning flashes. The assault was so furious,
that for one moment, it was inundated with assailants; but it
shook off the soldiers as the lion shakes off the dogs, and it
was only covered with besiegers as the cliff is covered with foam,
to re-appear, a moment later, beetling, black and formidable.