THE ARTILLERY-MEN COMPEL PEOPLE TO TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY
Thet flocked round Gavroche. But he had no time to tell anything.
Marius drew him aside with a shudder.
"What are you doing here?"
"Hullo!" said the child, "what are you doing here yourself?"
And he stared at Marius intently with his epic effrontery.
His eyes grew larger with the proud light within them.
It was with an accent of severity that Marius continued:
"Who told you to come back? Did you deliver my letter at the address?"
Gavroche was not without some compunctions in the matter of
that letter. In his haste to return to the barricade, he had got
rid of it rather than delivered it. He was forced to acknowledge
to himself that he had confided it rather lightly to that stranger
whose face he had not been able to make out. It is true that
the man was bareheaded, but that was not sufficient. In short,
he had been administering to himself little inward remonstrances
and he feared Marius' reproaches. In order to extricate himself
from the predicament, he took the simplest course; he lied abominably.
"Citizen, I delivered the letter to the porter. The lady was asleep.
She will have the letter when she wakes up.
Marius had had two objects in sending that letter: to bid farewell
to Cosette and to save Gavroche. He was obliged to content himself
with the half of his desire.
The despatch of his letter and the presence of M. Fauchelevent
in the barricade, was a coincidence which occurred to him.
He pointed out M. Fauchelevent to Gavroche.
"Do you know that man?"
"No," said Gavroche.
Gavroche had, in fact, as we have just mentioned, seen Jean Valjean
only at night.
The troubled and unhealthy conjectures which had outlined themselves
in Marius' mind were dissipated. Did he know M. Fauchelevent's opinions?
Perhaps M. Fauchelevent was a republican. Hence his very natural
presence in this combat.
In the meanwhile, Gavroche was shouting, at the other end
of the barricade: "My gun!"
Courfeyrac had it returned to him.
Gavroche warned "his comrades" as he called them, that the barricade
was blocked. He had had great difficulty in reaching it.
A battalion of the line whose arms were piled in the Rue de la Petite
Truanderie was on the watch on the side of the Rue du Cygne; on the
opposite side, the municipal guard occupied the Rue des Precheurs.
The bulk of the army was facing them in front.
This information given, Gavroche added:
"I authorize you to hit 'em a tremendous whack."
Meanwhile, Enjolras was straining his ears and watching at his embrasure.
The assailants, dissatisfied, no doubt, with their shot, had not
A company of infantry of the line had come up and occupied the end
of the street behind the piece of ordnance. The soldiers were
tearing up the pavement and constructing with the stones a small,
low wall, a sort of side-work not more than eighteen inches high,
and facing the barricade. In the angle at the left of this epaulement,
there was visible the head of the column of a battalion from the
suburbs massed in the Rue Saint-Denis.
Enjolras, on the watch, thought he distinguished the peculiar
sound which is produced when the shells of grape-shot are drawn
from the caissons, and he saw the commander of the piece change the
elevation and incline the mouth of the cannon slightly to the left.
Then the cannoneers began to load the piece. The chief seized
the lint-stock himself and lowered it to the vent.
"Down with your heads, hug the wall!" shouted Enjolras, "and all
on your knees along the barricade!"
The insurgents who were straggling in front of the wine-shop,
and who had quitted their posts of combat on Gavroche's arrival,
rushed pell-mell towards the barricade; but before Enjolras'
order could be executed, the discharge took place with the terrifying
rattle of a round of grape-shot. This is what it was, in fact.
The charge had been aimed at the cut in the redoubt, and had there
rebounded from the wall; and this terrible rebound had produced
two dead and three wounded.
If this were continued, the barricade was no longer tenable.
The grape-shot made its way in.
A murmur of consternation arose.
"Let us prevent the second discharge," said Enjolras.
And, lowering his rifle, he took aim at the captain of the gun,
who, at that moment, was bearing down on the breach of his gun
and rectifying and definitely fixing its pointing.
The captain of the piece was a handsome sergeant of artillery,
very young, blond, with a very gentle face, and the intelligent
air peculiar to that predestined and redoubtable weapon which,
by dint of perfecting itself in horror, must end in killing war.
Combeferre, who was standing beside Enjolras, scrutinized this
"What a pity!" said Combeferre. "What hideous things these
butcheries are! Come, when there are no more kings, there will
be no more war. Enjolras, you are taking aim at that sergeant,
you are not looking at him. Fancy, he is a charming young man;
he is intrepid; it is evident that he is thoughtful; those young
artillery-men are very well educated; he has a father, a mother,
a family; he is probably in love; he is not more than five and twenty
at the most; he might be your brother."
"He is," said Enjolras.
"Yes," replied Combeferre, "he is mine too. Well, let us not
"Let me alone. It must be done."
And a tear trickled slowly down Enjolras' marble cheek.
At the same moment, he pressed the trigger of his rifle. The flame
leaped forth. The artillery-man turned round twice, his arms
extended in front of him, his head uplifted, as though for breath,
then he fell with his side on the gun, and lay there motionless.
They could see his back, from the centre of which there flowed
directly a stream of blood. The ball had traversed his breast
from side to side. He was dead.
He had to be carried away and replaced by another. Several minutes
were thus gained, in fact.