Misérables, Les Vol. 4


The journals of the day which said that that nearly impregnable structure, of the barricade of the Rue de la Chanvrerie, as they call it, reached to the level of the first floor, were mistaken. The fact is, that it did not exceed an average height of six or seven feet. It was built in such a manner that the combatants could, at their will, either disappear behind it or dominate the barrier and even scale its crest by means of a quadruple row of paving-stones placed on top of each other and arranged as steps in the interior. On the outside, the front of the barricade, composed of piles of paving-stones and casks bound together by beams and planks, which were entangled in the wheels of Anceau's dray and of the overturned omnibus, had a bristling and inextricable aspect.

An aperture large enough to allow a man to pass through had been made between the wall of the houses and the extremity of the barricade which was furthest from the wine-shop, so that an exit was possible at this point. The pole of the omnibus was placed upright and held up with ropes, and a red flag, fastened to this pole, floated over the barricade.

The little Mondetour barricade, hidden behind the wine-shop building, was not visible. The two barricades united formed a veritable redoubt. Enjolras and Courfeyrac had not thought fit to barricade the other fragment of the Rue Mondetour which opens through the Rue des Pr�cheurs an issue into the Halles, wishing, no doubt, to preserve a possible communication with the outside, and not entertaining much fear of an attack through the dangerous and difficult street of the Rue des Pr�cheurs.

With the exception of this issue which was left free, and which constituted what Folard in his strategical style would have termed a branch and taking into account, also, the narrow cutting arranged on the Rue de la Chanvrerie, the interior of the barricade, where the wine-shop formed a salient angle, presented an irregular square, closed on all sides. There existed an interval of twenty paces between the grand barrier and the lofty houses which formed the background of the street, so that one might say that the barricade rested on these houses, all inhabited, but closed from top to bottom.

All this work was performed without any hindrance, in less than an hour, and without this handful of bold men seeing a single bear-skin cap or a single bayonet make their appearance. The very bourgeois who still ventured at this hour of riot to enter the Rue Saint-Denis cast a glance at the Rue de la Chanvrerie, caught sight of the barricade, and redoubled their pace.

The two barricades being finished, and the flag run up, a table was dragged out of the wine-shop; and Courfeyrac mounted on the table. Enjolras brought the square coffer, and Courfeyrac opened it. This coffer was filled with cartridges. When the mob saw the cartridges, a tremor ran through the bravest, and a momentary silence ensued.

Courfeyrac distributed them with a smile.

Each one received thirty cartridges. Many had powder, and set about making others with the bullets which they had run. As for the barrel of powder, it stood on a table on one side, near the door, and was held in reserve.

The alarm beat which ran through all Paris, did not cease, but it had finally come to be nothing more than a monotonous noise to which they no longer paid any attention. This noise retreated at times, and again drew near, with melancholy undulations.

They loaded the guns and carbines, all together, without haste, with solemn gravity. Enjolras went and stationed three sentinels outside the barricades, one in the Rue de la Chanvrerie, the second in the Rue des Pr�cheurs, the third at the corner of the Rue de la Petite Truanderie.

Then, the barricades having been built, the posts assigned, the guns loaded, the sentinels stationed, they waited, alone in those redoubtable streets through which no one passed any longer, surrounded by those dumb houses which seemed dead and in which no human movement palpitated, enveloped in the deepening shades of twilight which was drawing on, in the midst of that silence through which something could be felt advancing, and which had about it something tragic and terrifying, isolated, armed, determined, and tranquil.


During those hours of waiting, what did they do?

We must needs tell, since this is a matter of history.

While the men made bullets and the women lint, while a large saucepan of melted brass and lead, destined to the bullet-mould smoked over a glowing brazier, while the sentinels watched, weapon in hand, on the barricade, while Enjolras, whom it was impossible to divert, kept an eye on the sentinels, Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Jean Prouvaire, Feuilly, Bossuet, Joly, Bahorel, and some others, sought each other out and united as in the most peaceful days of their conversations in their student life, and, in one corner of this wine-shop which had been converted into a casement, a couple of paces distant from the redoubt which they had built, with their carbines loaded and primed resting against the backs of their chairs, these fine young fellows, so close to a supreme hour, began to recite love verses.

What verses? These:—

Vous rappelez-vous notre douce vie,
Lorsque nous �tions si jeunes tous deux,
Et que nous n'avions au cœur d'autre envie
Que d'�tre bien mis et d'�tre amoureux,

Lorsqu'en ajoutant votre �ge � mon �ge,
Nous ne comptions pas � deux quarante ans,
Et que, dans notre humble et petit m�nage,
Tout, m�me l'hiver, nous �tait printemps?

Beaux jours! Manuel �tait fier et sage,
Paris s'asseyait � de saints banquets,
Foy lancait la foudre, et votre corsage
Avait une �pingle o� je me piquais.

Tout vous contemplait. Avocat sans causes,
Quand je vous menais au Prado d�ner,
Vous �tiez jolie au point que les roses
Me faisaient l'effet de se retourner.

Je les entendais dire: Est elle belle!
Comme elle sent bon! Quels cheveux � flots!
Sous son mantelet elle cache une aile,
Son bonnet charmant est � peine eclos.

J'errais avec toi, pressant ton bras souple.
Les passants croyaient que l'amour charm�
Avait mari�, dans notre heureux couple,
Le doux mois d'avril au beau mois de mai.

Nous vivions cach�s, contents, porte close,
Devorant l'amour, bon fruit d�fendu,
Ma bouche n'avait pas dit une chose
Que d�j� ton cœur avait r�pondu.

La Sorbonne �tait l'endroit bucolique
O� je t'adorais du soir au matin.
C'est ainsi qu'une �me amoureuse applique
La carte du Tendre au pays Latin.

O place Maubert! � place Dauphine!
Quand, dans le taudis frais et printanier,
Tu tirais ton bas sur ta jambe fine,
Je voyais un astre au fond du grenier.

J'ai fort lu Platon, mais rien ne m'en reste;
Mieux que Malebranche et que Lamennais,
Tu me d�montrais la bont� c�leste
Avec une fleur que tu me donnais.

Je t'ob�issais, tu m'�tais soumise;
O grenier dor�! te lacer! te voir
Aller et venir d�s l'aube en chemise,
Mirant ton jeune front � ton vieux miroir.

Et qui donc pourrait perdre la m�moire
De ces temps d'aurore et de firmament,
De rubans, de fleurs, de gaze et de moire,
O� l'amour b�gaye un argot charmant?

Nos jardins �taient un pot de tulipe;
Tu masquais la vitre avec un jupon;
Je prenais le bol de terre de pipe,
Et je te donnais le tasse en japon.

Et ces grands malheurs qui nous faisaient rire!
Ton manchon br�l�, ton boa perdu!
Et ce cher portrait du divin Shakespeare
Qu'un soir pour souper nons avons vendu!

J'�tais mendiant et toi charitable.
Je baisais au vol tes bras frais et ronds.
Dante in folio nous servait de table
Pour manger ga�ment un cent de marrons.

La premi�re fois qu'en mon joyeux bouge
Je pris un baiser � ta l�vre en feu,
Quand tu t'en allais d�coiff�e et rouge,
Je restai tout p�le et je crus en Dieu!

Te rappelles-tu nos bonheurs sans nombre,
Et tous ces fichus chang�s en chiffons?
Oh que de soupirs, de nos cœurs pleins d'ombre,
Se sont envol�s dans les cieux profonds! name="linknoteref-53" id="noteref-53">53

The hour, the spot, these souvenirs of youth recalled, a few stars which began to twinkle in the sky, the funeral repose of those deserted streets, the imminence of the inexorable adventure, which was in preparation, gave a pathetic charm to these verses murmured in a low tone in the dusk by Jean Prouvaire, who, as we have said, was a gentle poet.

In the meantime, a lamp had been lighted in the small barricade, and in the large one, one of those wax torches such as are to be met with on Shrove-Tuesday in front of vehicles loaded with masks, on their way to la Courtille. These torches, as the reader has seen, came from the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.

The torch had been placed in a sort of cage of paving-stones closed on three sides to shelter it from the wind, and disposed in such a fashion that all the light fell on the flag. The street and the barricade remained sunk in gloom, and nothing was to be seen except the red flag formidably illuminated as by an enormous dark-lantern.

This light enhanced the scarlet of the flag, with an indescribable and terrible purple.

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