WHAT IS TO BE DONE IN THE ABYSS IF ONE DOES NOT CONVERSE
Sixteen years count in the subterranean education of insurrection,
and June, 1848, knew a great deal more about it than June, 1832.
So the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie was only an outline,
and an embryo compared to the two colossal barricades which we have
just sketched; but it was formidable for that epoch.
The insurgents under the eye of Enjolras, for Marius no longer looked
after anything, had made good use of the night. The barricade had
been not only repaired, but augmented. They had raised it two feet.
Bars of iron planted in the pavement resembled lances in rest.
All sorts of rubbish brought and added from all directions complicated
the external confusion. The redoubt had been cleverly made over,
into a wall on the inside and a thicket on the outside.
The staircase of paving-stones which permitted one to mount it
like the wall of a citadel had been reconstructed.
The barricade had been put in order, the tap-room disencumbered,
the kitchen appropriated for the ambulance, the dressing of the
wounded completed, the powder scattered on the ground and on the
tables had been gathered up, bullets run, cartridges manufactured,
lint scraped, the fallen weapons re-distributed, the interior
of the redoubt cleaned, the rubbish swept up, corpses removed.
They laid the dead in a heap in the Mondetour lane, of which they were
still the masters. The pavement was red for a long time at that spot.
Among the dead there were four National Guardsmen of the suburbs.
Enjolras had their uniforms laid aside.
Enjolras had advised two hours of sleep. Advice from Enjolras
was a command. Still, only three or four took advantage of it.
Feuilly employed these two hours in engraving this inscription
on the wall which faced the tavern:--
LONG LIVE THE PEOPLES!
These four words, hollowed out in the rough stone with a nail,
could be still read on the wall in 1848.
The three women had profited by the respite of the night to
vanish definitely; which allowed the insurgents to breathe more freely.
They had found means of taking refuge in some neighboring house.
The greater part of the wounded were able, and wished, to fight still.
On a litter of mattresses and trusses of straw in the kitchen,
which had been converted into an ambulance, there were five men
gravely wounded, two of whom were municipal guardsmen. The municipal
guardsmen were attended to first.
In the tap-room there remained only Mabeuf under his black cloth
and Javert bound to his post.
"This is the hall of the dead," said Enjolras.
In the interior of this hall, barely lighted by a candle at one end,
the mortuary table being behind the post like a horizontal bar,
a sort of vast, vague cross resulted from Javert erect and Mabeuf
The pole of the omnibus, although snapped off by the fusillade,
was still sufficiently upright to admit of their fastening the flag
Enjolras, who possessed that quality of a leader, of always doing
what he said, attached to this staff the bullet-ridden and bloody
coat of the old man's.
No repast had been possible. There was neither bread nor meat.
The fifty men in the barricade had speedily exhausted the scanty
provisions of the wine-shop during the sixteen hours which they had
passed there. At a given moment, every barricade inevitably becomes
the raft of la Meduse. They were obliged to resign themselves to hunger.
They had then reached the first hours of that Spartan day of the 6th
of June when, in the barricade Saint-Merry, Jeanne, surrounded by the
insurgents who demanded bread, replied to all combatants crying:
"Something to eat!" with: "Why? It is three o'clock; at four we
shall be dead."
As they could no longer eat, Enjolras forbade them to drink.
He interdicted wine, and portioned out the brandy.
They had found in the cellar fifteen full bottles hermetically sealed.
Enjolras and Combeferre examined them. Combeferre when he
came up again said:--"It's the old stock of Father Hucheloup,
who began business as a grocer."--"It must be real wine,"
observed Bossuet. "It's lucky that Grantaire is asleep. If he
were on foot, there would be a good deal of difficulty in saving
those bottles."--Enjolras, in spite of all murmurs, placed his veto
on the fifteen bottles, and, in order that no one might touch them,
he had them placed under the table on which Father Mabeuf was lying.
About two o'clock in the morning, they reckoned up their strength.
There were still thirty-seven of them.
The day began to dawn. The torch, which had been replaced in its
cavity in the pavement, had just been extinguished. The interior
of the barricade, that species of tiny courtyard appropriated from
the street, was bathed in shadows, and resembled, athwart the vague,
twilight horror, the deck of a disabled ship. The combatants,
as they went and came, moved about there like black forms.
Above that terrible nesting-place of gloom the stories of the mute
houses were lividly outlined; at the very top, the chimneys
stood palely out. The sky was of that charming, undecided hue,
which may be white and may be blue. Birds flew about in it with cries
of joy. The lofty house which formed the back of the barricade,
being turned to the East, had upon its roof a rosy reflection.
The morning breeze ruffled the gray hair on the head of the dead man
at the third-story window.
"I am delighted that the torch has been extinguished," said Courfeyrac
to Feuilly. "That torch flickering in the wind annoyed me.
It had the appearance of being afraid. The light of torches resembles
the wisdom of cowards; it gives a bad light because it trembles."
Dawn awakens minds as it does the birds; all began to talk.
Joly, perceiving a cat prowling on a gutter, extracted philosophy
"What is the cat?" he exclaimed. "It is a corrective. The good God,
having made the mouse, said: `Hullo! I have committed a blunder.'
And so he made the cat. The cat is the erratum of the mouse.
The mouse, plus the cat, is the proof of creation revised
Combeferre, surrounded by students and artisans, was speaking
of the dead, of Jean Prouvaire, of Bahorel, of Mabeuf, and even
of Cabuc, and of Enjolras' sad severity. He said:--
"Harmodius and Aristogiton, Brutus, Chereas, Stephanus, Cromwell,
Charlotte Corday, Sand, have all had their moment of agony when it
was too late. Our hearts quiver so, and human life is such a
mystery that, even in the case of a civic murder, even in a murder
for liberation, if there be such a thing, the remorse for having
struck a man surpasses the joy of having served the human race."
And, such are the windings of the exchange of speech, that, a moment
later, by a transition brought about through Jean Prouvaire's verses,
Combeferre was comparing the translators of the Georgics,
Raux with Cournand, Cournand with Delille, pointing out the passages
translated by Malfilatre, particularly the prodigies of Caesar's death;
and at that word, Caesar, the conversation reverted to Brutus.
"Caesar," said Combeferre, "fell justly. Cicero was severe towards
Caesar, and he was right. That severity is not diatribe. When Zoilus
insults Homer, when Maevius insults Virgil, when Vise insults Moliere,
when Pope insults Shakspeare, when Frederic insults Voltaire,
it is an old law of envy and hatred which is being carried out;
genius attracts insult, great men are always more or less barked at.
But Zoilus and Cicero are two different persons. Cicero is an arbiter
in thought, just as Brutus is an arbiter by the sword. For my own part,
I blame that last justice, the blade; but, antiquity admitted it.
Caesar, the violator of the Rubicon, conferring, as though they
came from him, the dignities which emanated from the people,
not rising at the entrance of the senate, committed the acts
of a king and almost of a tyrant, regia ac pene tyrannica.
He was a great man; so much the worse, or so much the better;
the lesson is but the more exalted. His twenty-three wounds
touch me less than the spitting in the face of Jesus Christ.
Caesar is stabbed by the senators; Christ is cuffed by lackeys.
One feels the God through the greater outrage."
Bossuet, who towered above the interlocutors from the summit
of a heap of paving-stones, exclaimed, rifle in hand:--
"Oh Cydathenaeum, Oh Myrrhinus, Oh Probalinthus, Oh graces of
the AEantides! Oh! Who will grant me to pronounce the verses
of Homer like a Greek of Laurium or of Edapteon?"