GAVROCHE ON THE MARCH
The brandishing of a triggerless pistol, grasped in one's hand
in the open street, is so much of a public function that Gavroche
felt his fervor increasing with every moment. Amid the scraps
of the Marseillaise which he was singing, he shouted:--
"All goes well. I suffer a great deal in my left paw, I'm all broken
up with rheumatism, but I'm satisfied, citizens. All that the
bourgeois have to do is to bear themselves well, I'll sneeze them
out subversive couplets. What are the police spies? Dogs. And I'd
just like to have one of them at the end of my pistol. I'm just from
the boulevard, my friends. It's getting hot there, it's getting
into a little boil, it's simmering. It's time to skim the pot.
Forward march, men! Let an impure blood inundate the furrows!
I give my days to my country, I shall never see my concubine more,
Nini, finished, yes, Nini? But never mind! Long live joy!
Let's fight, crebleu! I've had enough of despotism."
At that moment, the horse of a lancer of the National Guard
having fallen, Gavroche laid his pistol on the pavement, and picked
up the man, then he assisted in raising the horse. After which he
picked up his pistol and resumed his way. In the Rue de Thorigny,
all was peace and silence. This apathy, peculiar to the Marais,
presented a contrast with the vast surrounding uproar. Four gossips
were chatting in a doorway.
Scotland has trios of witches, Paris has quartettes of old gossiping hags;
and the "Thou shalt be King" could be quite as mournfully hurled
at Bonaparte in the Carrefour Baudoyer as at Macbeth on the heath
of Armuyr. The croak would be almost identical.
The gossips of the Rue de Thorigny busied themselves only with
their own concerns. Three of them were portresses, and the fourth
was a rag-picker with her basket on her back.
All four of them seemed to be standing at the four corners of old age,
which are decrepitude, decay, ruin, and sadness.
The rag-picker was humble. In this open-air society, it is
the rag-picker who salutes and the portress who patronizes.
This is caused by the corner for refuse, which is fat or lean,
according to the will of the portresses, and after the fancy
of the one who makes the heap. There may be kindness in the broom.
This rag-picker was a grateful creature, and she smiled, with what
a smile! on the three portresses. Things of this nature were said:--
"Ah, by the way, is your cat still cross?"
"Good gracious, cats are naturally the enemies of dogs, you know.
It's the dogs who complain."
"And people also."
"But the fleas from a cat don't go after people."
"That's not the trouble, dogs are dangerous. I remember one year
when there were so many dogs that it was necessary to put it in
the newspapers. That was at the time when there were at the Tuileries
great sheep that drew the little carriage of the King of Rome.
Do you remember the King of Rome?"
"I liked the Duc de Bordeau better."
"I knew Louis XVIII. I prefer Louis XVIII."
"Meat is awfully dear, isn't it, Mother Patagon?"
"Ah! don't mention it, the butcher's shop is a horror.
A horrible horror--one can't afford anything but the poor cuts nowadays."
Here the rag-picker interposed:--
"Ladies, business is dull. The refuse heaps are miserable.
No one throws anything away any more. They eat everything."
"There are poorer people than you, la Vargouleme."
"Ah, that's true," replied the rag-picker, with deference,
"I have a profession."
A pause succeeded, and the rag-picker, yielding to that necessity
for boasting which lies at the bottom of man, added:--
"In the morning, on my return home, I pick over my basket, I sort
my things. This makes heaps in my room. I put the rags in a basket,
the cores and stalks in a bucket, the linen in my cupboard,
the woollen stuff in my commode, the old papers in the corner
of the window, the things that are good to eat in my bowl,
the bits of glass in my fireplace, the old shoes behind my door,
and the bones under my bed."
Gavroche had stopped behind her and was listening.
"Old ladies," said he, "what do you mean by talking politics?"
He was assailed by a broadside, composed of a quadruple howl.
"Here's another rascal."
"What's that he's got in his paddle? A pistol?"
"Well, I'd like to know what sort of a beggar's brat this is?"
"That sort of animal is never easy unless he's overturning
Gavroche disdainfully contented himself, by way of reprisal,
with elevating the tip of his nose with his thumb and opening his
The rag-picker cried:--
"You malicious, bare-pawed little wretch!"
The one who answered to the name of Patagon clapped her hands
together in horror.
"There's going to be evil doings, that's certain. The errand-boy
next door has a little pointed beard, I have seen him pass every day
with a young person in a pink bonnet on his arm; to-day I saw him pass,
and he had a gun on his arm. Mame Bacheux says, that last week
there was a revolution at--at--at--where's the calf!--at Pontoise.
And then, there you see him, that horrid scamp, with his pistol!
It seems that the Celestins are full of pistols. What do you suppose
the Government can do with good-for-nothings who don't know how to do
anything but contrive ways of upsetting the world, when we had just begun
to get a little quiet after all the misfortunes that have happened,
good Lord! to that poor queen whom I saw pass in the tumbril!
And all this is going to make tobacco dearer. It's infamous!
And I shall certainly go to see him beheaded on the guillotine,
"You've got the sniffles, old lady," said Gavroche.
"Blow your promontory."
And he passed on. When he was in the Rue Pavee, the rag-picker
occurred to his mind, and he indulged in this soliloquy:--
"You're in the wrong to insult the revolutionists,
Mother Dust-Heap-Corner. This pistol is in your interests.
It's so that you may have more good things to eat in your basket."
All at once, he heard a shout behind him; it was the portress
Patagon who had followed him, and who was shaking her fist at him
in the distance and crying:--
"You're nothing but a bastard."
"Oh! Come now," said Gavroche, "I don't care a brass farthing
Shortly afterwards, he passed the Hotel Lamoignon. There he uttered
"Forward march to the battle!"
And he was seized with a fit of melancholy. He gazed at his pistol
with an air of reproach which seemed an attempt to appease it:--
"I'm going off," said he, "but you won't go off!"
One dog may distract the attention from another dog. A very gaunt
poodle came along at the moment. Gavroche felt compassion for him.
 Chien, dog, trigger.
"My poor doggy," said he, "you must have gone and swallowed a cask,
for all the hoops are visible."
Then he directed his course towards l'Orme-Saint-Gervais.