** Blue Wind ** - 『レ・ミゼラブル』の青空翻訳 -

IV. Gavroche's Excess of Zeal

2004/01/13 (Tue)


In the meantime, Gavroche had had an adventure.

Gavroche, after having conscientiously stoned the lantern in the Rue
du Chaume, entered the Rue des Vielles-Haudriettes, and not seeing
"even a cat" there, he thought the opportunity a good one to strike
up all the song of which he was capable. His march, far from being
retarded by his singing, was accelerated by it. He began to sow
along the sleeping or terrified houses these incendiary couplets:--

"L'oiseau medit dans les charmilles,
Et pretend qu'hier Atala
Avec un Russe s'en alla.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Mon ami Pierrot, tu babilles,
Parce que l'autre jour Mila
Cogna sa vitre et m'appela,
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Les drolesses sont fort gentilles,
Leur poison qui m'ensorcela
Griserait Monsieur Orfila.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"J'aime l'amour et les bisbilles,
J'aime Agnes, j'aime Pamela,
Lisa en m'allumant se brula.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Jadis, quand je vis les mantilles
De Suzette et de Zeila,
Mon ame aleurs plis se mela,
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Amour, quand dans l'ombre ou tu brilles,
Tu coiffes de roses Lola,
Je me damnerais pour cela.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Jeanne a ton miroir tu t'habilles!
Mon coeur un beau jour s'envola.
Je crois que c'est Jeanne qui l'a.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Le soir, en sortant des quadrilles,
Je montre aux etoiles Stella,
Et je leur dis: 'Regardez-la.'
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la."[56]

[56]"The bird slanders in the elms,
And pretends that yesterday, Atala
Went off with a Russian,
Where fair maids go.
Lon la.

My friend Pierrot, thou pratest, because Mila knocked at her
pane the other day and called me. The jades are very charming,
their poison which bewitched me would intoxicate Monsieur Orfila.
I'm fond of love and its bickerings, I love Agnes, I love Pamela,
Lise burned herself in setting me aflame. In former days when I
saw the mantillas of Suzette and of Zeila, my soul mingled with
their folds. Love, when thou gleamest in the dark thou crownest
Lola with roses, I would lose my soul for that. Jeanne, at thy
mirror thou deckest thyself! One fine day, my heart flew forth.
I think that it is Jeanne who has it. At night, when I come from
the quadrilles, I show Stella to the stars, and I say to them:
"Behold her." Where fair maids go, lon la.

Gavroche, as he sang, was lavish of his pantomime. Gesture is the strong
point of the refrain. His face, an inexhaustible repertory of masks,
produced grimaces more convulsing and more fantastic than the rents
of a cloth torn in a high gale. Unfortunately, as he was alone,
and as it was night, this was neither seen nor even visible.
Such wastes of riches do occur.

All at once, he stopped short.

"Let us interrupt the romance," said he.

His feline eye had just descried, in the recess of a carriage door,
what is called in painting, an ensemble, that is to say, a person
and a thing; the thing was a hand-cart, the person was a man from
Auvergene who was sleeping therein.

The shafts of the cart rested on the pavement, and the Auvergnat's
head was supported against the front of the cart. His body was
coiled up on this inclined plane and his feet touched the ground.

Gavroche, with his experience of the things of this world,
recognized a drunken man. He was some corner errand-man who had
drunk too much and was sleeping too much.

"There now," thought Gavroche, "that's what the summer nights
are good for. We'll take the cart for the Republic, and leave
the Auvergnat for the Monarchy."

His mind had just been illuminated by this flash of light:--

"How bully that cart would look on our barricade!"

The Auvergnat was snoring.

Gavroche gently tugged at the cart from behind, and at the Auvergnat
from the front, that is to say, by the feet, and at the expiration
of another minute the imperturbable Auvergnat was reposing flat
on the pavement.

The cart was free.

Gavroche, habituated to facing the unexpected in all quarters,
had everything about him. He fumbled in one of his pockets,
and pulled from it a scrap of paper and a bit of red pencil filched
from some carpenter.

He wrote:--

"French Republic."

"Received thy cart."

And he signed it: "GAVROCHE."

That done, he put the paper in the pocket of the still snoring
Auvergnat's velvet vest, seized the cart shafts in both hands,
and set off in the direction of the Halles, pushing the cart before
him at a hard gallop with a glorious and triumphant uproar.

This was perilous. There was a post at the Royal Printing Establishment.
Gavroche did not think of this. This post was occupied by the
National Guards of the suburbs. The squad began to wake up,
and heads were raised from camp beds. Two street lanterns
broken in succession, that ditty sung at the top of the lungs.
This was a great deal for those cowardly streets, which desire
to go to sleep at sunset, and which put the extinguisher on their
candles at such an early hour. For the last hour, that boy had been
creating an uproar in that peaceable arrondissement, the uproar
of a fly in a bottle. The sergeant of the banlieue lent an ear.
He waited. He was a prudent man.

The mad rattle of the cart, filled to overflowing the possible
measure of waiting, and decided the sergeant to make a reconnaisance.

"There's a whole band of them there!" said he, "let us proceed gently."

It was clear that the hydra of anarchy had emerged from its box
and that it was stalking abroad through the quarter.

And the sergeant ventured out of the post with cautious tread.

All at once, Gavroche, pushing his cart in front of him,
and at the very moment when he was about to turn into the Rue des
Vielles-Haudriettes, found himself face to face with a uniform,
a shako, a plume, and a gun.

For the second time, he stopped short.

"Hullo," said he, "it's him. Good day, public order."

Gavroche's amazement was always brief and speedily thawed.

"Where are you going, you rascal?" shouted the sergeant.

"Citizen," retorted Gavroche, "I haven't called you `bourgeois' yet.
Why do you insult me?"

"Where are you going, you rogue?"

"Monsieur," retorted Gavroche, "perhaps you were a man of wit yesterday,
but you have degenerated this morning."

"I ask you where are you going, you villain?"

Gavroche replied:--

"You speak prettily. Really, no one would suppose you as old as
you are. You ought to sell all your hair at a hundred francs apiece.
That would yield you five hundred francs."

"Where are you going? Where are you going? Where are you going, bandit?"

Gavroche retorted again:--

"What villainous words! You must wipe your mouth better the first
time that they give you suck."

The sergeant lowered his bayonet.

"Will you tell me where you are going, you wretch?"

"General," said Gavroche "I'm on my way to look for a doctor
for my wife who is in labor."

"To arms!" shouted the sergeant.

The master-stroke of strong men consists in saving themselves
by the very means that have ruined them; Gavroche took in the whole
situation at a glance. It was the cart which had told against him,
it was the cart's place to protect him.

At the moment when the sergeant was on the point of making his descent
on Gavroche, the cart, converted into a projectile and launched
with all the latter's might, rolled down upon him furiously,
and the sergeant, struck full in the stomach, tumbled over backwards
into the gutter while his gun went off in the air.

The men of the post had rushed out pell-mell at the sergeant's shout;
the shot brought on a general random discharge, after which they
reloaded their weapons and began again.

This blind-man's-buff musketry lasted for a quarter of an hour
and killed several panes of glass.

In the meanwhile, Gavroche, who had retraced his steps at full speed,
halted five or six streets distant and seated himself, panting,
on the stone post which forms the corner of the Enfants-Rouges.

He listened.

After panting for a few minutes, he turned in the direction
where the fusillade was raging, lifted his left hand to a level
with his nose and thrust it forward three times, as he slapped
the back of his head with his right hand; an imperious gesture
in which Parisian street-urchindom has condensed French irony,
and which is evidently efficacious, since it has already lasted
half a century.

This gayety was troubled by one bitter reflection.

"Yes," said he, "I'm splitting with laughter, I'm twisting
with delight, I abound in joy, but I'm losing my way, I shall have
to take a roundabout way. If I only reach the barricade in season!"

Thereupon he set out again on a run.

And as he ran:--

"Ah, by the way, where was I?" said he.

And he resumed his ditty, as he plunged rapidly through the streets,
and this is what died away in the gloom:--

"Mais il reste encore des bastilles,
Et je vais mettre le hola
Dans l'orde public que voila.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Quelqu'un veut-il jouer aux quilles?
Tout l'ancien monde s'ecroula
Quand la grosse boule roula.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Vieux bon peuple, a coups de bequilles,
Cassons ce Louvre ou s'etala
La monarchie en falbala.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la.

"Nous en avons force les grilles,
Le roi Charles-Dix ce jour la,
Tenait mal et se decolla.
Ou vont les belles filles,
Lon la."[57]

[57] But some prisons still remain, and I am going to put a stop
to this sort of public order. Does any one wish to play at skittles?
The whole ancient world fell in ruin, when the big ball rolled.
Good old folks, let us smash with our crutches that Louvre where the
monarchy displayed itself in furbelows. We have forced its gates.
On that day, King Charles X. did not stick well and came unglued.

The post's recourse to arms was not without result. The cart
was conquered, the drunken man was taken prisoner. The first
was put in the pound, the second was later on somewhat harassed
before the councils of war as an accomplice. The public ministry
of the day proved its indefatigable zeal in the defence of society,
in this instance.

Gavroche's adventure, which has lingered as a tradition in the quarters
of the Temple, is one of the most terrible souvenirs of the elderly
bourgeois of the Marais, and is entitled in their memories:
"The nocturnal attack by the post of the Royal Printing Establishment."

[The end of Volume IV. "Saint Denis"]


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