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Grantaire was attacking his second bottle and, possibly, his second harangue, when a new personage emerged from the square aperture of the stairs. It was a boy less than ten years of age, ragged, very small, yellow, with an odd phiz, a vivacious eye, an enormous amount of hair drenched with rain, and wearing a contented air.
The child unhesitatingly making his choice among the three, addressed himself to Laigle de Meaux.
"Are you Monsieur Bossuet?"
"That is my nickname," replied Laigle. "What do you want with me?"
"This. A tall blonde fellow on the boulevard said to me: `Do you know Mother Hucheloup?' I said: `Yes, Rue Chanvrerie, the old man's widow;' he said to me: `Go there. There you will find M. Bossuet. Tell him from me: "A B C".' It's a joke that they're playing on you, isn't it. He gave me ten sous."
"Joly, lend me ten sous," said Laigle; and, turning to Grantaire: "Grantaire, lend me ten sous."
This made twenty sous, which Laigle handed to the lad.
"Thank you, sir," said the urchin.
"What is your name?" inquired Laigle.
"Navet, Gavroche's friend."
"Stay with us," said Laigle.
"Breakfast with us," said Grantaire,
The child replied:--
"I can't, I belong in the procession, I'm the one to shout `Down with Polignac!'"
And executing a prolonged scrape of his foot behind him, which is the most respectful of all possible salutes, he took his departure.
The child gone, Grantaire took the word:--
"That is the pure-bred gamin. There are a great many varieties of the gamin species. The notary's gamin is called Skip-the-Gutter, the cook's gamin is called a scullion, the baker's gamin is called a mitron, the lackey's gamin is called a groom, the marine gamin is called the cabin-boy, the soldier's gamin is called the drummer-boy, the painter's gamin is called paint-grinder, the tradesman's gamin is called an errand-boy, the courtesan gamin is called the minion, the kingly gamin is called the dauphin, the god gamin is called the bambino."
In the meantime, Laigle was engaged in reflection; he said half aloud:--
"A B C, that is to say: the burial of Lamarque."
"The tall blonde," remarked Grantaire, "is Enjolras, who is sending you a warning."
"Shall we go?" ejaculated Bossuet.
"It's raiding," said Joly. "I have sworn to go through fire, but not through water. I don't wand to ged a gold."
"I shall stay here," said Grantaire. "I prefer a breakfast to a hearse."
"Conclusion: we remain," said Laigle. "Well, then, let us drink. Besides, we might miss the funeral without missing the riot."
"Ah! the riot, I am with you!" cried Joly.
Laigle rubbed his hands.
"Now we're going to touch up the revolution of 1830. As a matter of fact, it does hurt the people along the seams."
"I don't think much of your revolution," said Grantaire. "I don't execrate this Government. It is the crown tempered by the cotton night-cap. It is a sceptre ending in an umbrella. In fact, I think that to-day, with the present weather, Louis Philippe might utilize his royalty in two directions, he might extend the tip of the sceptre end against the people, and open the umbrella end against heaven."
The room was dark, large clouds had just finished the extinction of daylight. There was no one in the wine-shop, or in the street, every one having gone off "to watch events."
"Is it mid-day or midnight?" cried Bossuet. "You can't see your hand before your face. Gibelotte, fetch a light."
Grantaire was drinking in a melancholy way.
"Enjolras disdains me," he muttered. "Enjolras said: `Joly is ill, Grantaire is drunk.' It was to Bossuet that he sent Navet. If he had come for me, I would have followed him. So much the worse for Enjolras! I won't go to his funeral."
This resolution once arrived at, Bossuet, Joly, and Grantaire did not stir from the wine-shop. By two o'clock in the afternoon, the table at which they sat was covered with empty bottles. Two candles were burning on it, one in a flat copper candlestick which was perfectly green, the other in the neck of a cracked carafe. Grantaire had seduced Joly and Bossuet to wine; Bossuet and Joly had conducted Grantaire back towards cheerfulness.
As for Grantaire, he had got beyond wine, that merely moderate inspirer of dreams, ever since mid-day. Wine enjoys only a conventional popularity with serious drinkers. There is, in fact, in the matter of inebriety, white magic and black magic; wine is only white magic. Grantaire was a daring drinker of dreams. The blackness of a terrible fit of drunkenness yawning before him, far from arresting him, attracted him. He had abandoned the bottle and taken to the beerglass. The beer-glass is the abyss. Having neither opium nor hashish on hand, and being desirous of filling his brain with twilight, he had had recourse to that fearful mixture of brandy, stout, absinthe, which produces the most terrible of lethargies. It is of these three vapors, beer, brandy, and absinthe, that the lead of the soul is composed. They are three grooms; the celestial butterfly is drowned in them; and there are formed there in a membranous smoke, vaguely condensed into the wing of the bat, three mute furies, Nightmare, Night, and Death, which hover about the slumbering Psyche.
Grantaire had not yet reached that lamentable phase; far from it. He was tremendously gay, and Bossuet and Joly retorted. They clinked glasses. Grantaire added to the eccentric accentuation of words and ideas, a peculiarity of gesture; he rested his left fist on his knee with dignity, his arm forming a right angle, and, with cravat untied, seated astride a stool, his full glass in his right hand, he hurled solemn words at the big maid-servant Matelote:--
"Let the doors of the palace be thrown open! Let every one be a member of the French Academy and have the right to embrace Madame Hucheloup. Let us drink."
And turning to Madame Hucheloup, he added:--
"Woman ancient and consecrated by use, draw near that I may contemplate thee!"
And Joly exclaimed:--
"Matelote and Gibelotte, dod't gib Grantaire anything more to drink. He has already devoured, since this bording, in wild prodigality, two francs and ninety-five centibes."
And Grantaire began again:--
"Who has been unhooking the stars without my permission, and putting them on the table in the guise of candles?"
Bossuet, though very drunk, preserved his equanimity.
He was seated on the sill of the open window, wetting his back in the falling rain, and gazing at his two friends.
All at once, he heard a tumult behind him, hurried footsteps, cries of "To arms!" He turned round and saw in the Rue Saint-Denis, at the end of the Rue de la Chanvrerie, Enjolras passing, gun in hand, and Gavroche with his pistol, Feuilly with his sword, Courfeyrac with his sword, and Jean Prouvaire with his blunderbuss, Combeferre with his gun, Bahorel with his gun, and the whole armed and stormy rabble which was following them.
The Rue de la Chanvrerie was not more than a gunshot long. Bossuet improvised a speaking-trumpet from his two hands placed around his mouth, and shouted:--
"Courfeyrac! Courfeyrac! Hohee!"
Courfeyrac heard the shout, caught sight of Bossuet, and advanced a few paces into the Rue de la Chanvrerie, shouting: "What do you want?" which crossed a "Where are you going?"
"To make a barricade," replied Courfeyrac.
"Well, here! This is a good place! Make it here!"
"That's true, Aigle," said Courfeyrac.
And at a signal from Courfeyrac, the mob flung themselves into the Rue de la Chanvrerie.
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Les Miserables -by- Victor Hugo