"Saint-Denis," Book One: Chapter VI
Enjolras and His Lieutenants
It was about this epoch that Enjolras, in view of a possible catastrophe, instituted a kind of mysterious census.
All were present at a secret meeting at the Café Musain.
Enjolras said, mixing his words with a few half-enigmatical but significant metaphors:—
"It is proper that we should know where we stand and on whom we may count. If combatants are required, they must be provided. It can do no harm to have something with which to strike. Passers-by always have more chance of being gored when there are bulls on the road than when there are none. Let us, therefore, reckon a little on the herd. How many of us are there? There is no question of postponing this task until to-morrow. Revolutionists should always be hurried; progress has no time to lose. Let us mistrust the unexpected. Let us not be caught unprepared. We must go over all the seams that we have made and see whether they hold fast. This business ought to be concluded to-day. Courfeyrac, you will see the polytechnic students. It is their day to go out. To-day is Wednesday. Feuilly, you will see those of the Glacière, will you not? Combeferre has promised me to go to Picpus. There is a perfect swarm and an excellent one there. Bahorel will visit the Estrapade. Prouvaire, the masons are growing lukewarm; you will bring us news from the lodge of the Rue de Grenelle-Saint-Honoré. Joly will go to Dupuytren's clinical lecture, and feel the pulse of the medical school. Bossuet will take a little turn in the court and talk with the young law licentiates. I will take charge of the Cougourde myself."
"That arranges everything," said Courfeyrac.
"What else is there?"
"A very important thing."
"What is that?" asked Courfeyrac.
"The Barrière du Maine," replied Enjolras.
Enjolras remained for a moment as though absorbed in reflection, then he resumed:—
"At the Barrière du Maine there are marble-workers, painters, and journeymen in the studios of sculptors. They are an enthusiastic family, but liable to cool off. I don't know what has been the matter with them for some time past. They are thinking of something else. They are becoming extinguished. They pass their time playing dominoes. There is urgent need that some one should go and talk with them a little, but with firmness. They meet at Richefeu's. They are to be found there between twelve and one o'clock. Those ashes must be fanned into a glow. For that errand I had counted on that abstracted Marius, who is a good fellow on the whole, but he no longer comes to us. I need some one for the Barrière du Maine. I have no one."
"What about me?" said Grantaire. "Here am I."
"You indoctrinate republicans! you warm up hearts that have grown cold in the name of principle!"
"Are you good for anything?"
"I have a vague ambition in that direction," said Grantaire.
"You do not believe in everything."
"I believe in you."
"Grantaire will you do me a service?"
"Anything. I'll black your boots."
"Well, don't meddle with our affairs. Sleep yourself sober from your absinthe."
"You are an ingrate, Enjolras."
"You the man to go to the Barrière du Maine! You capable of it!"
"I am capable of descending the Rue de Grès, of crossing the Place Saint-Michel, of sloping through the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, of taking the Rue de Vaugirard, of passing the Carmelites, of turning into the Rue d'Assas, of reaching the Rue du Cherche-Midi, of leaving behind me the Conseil de Guerre, of pacing the Rue des Vieilles-Tuileries, of striding across the boulevard, of following the Chaussée du Maine, of passing the barrier, and entering Richefeu's. I am capable of that. My shoes are capable of that."
"Do you know anything of those comrades who meet at Richefeu's?"
"Not much. We only address each other as thou."
"What will you say to them?"
"I will speak to them of Robespierre, pardi! Of Danton. Of principles."
"I. But I don't receive justice. When I set about it, I am terrible. I have read Prudhomme, I know the Social Contract, I know my constitution of the year Two by heart. 'The liberty of one citizen ends where the liberty of another citizen begins.' Do you take me for a brute? I have an old bank-bill of the Republic in my drawer. The Rights of Man, the sovereignty of the people, sapristi! I am even a bit of a Hébertist. I can talk the most superb twaddle for six hours by the clock, watch in hand."
"Be serious," said Enjolras.
"I am wild," replied Grantaire.
Enjolras meditated for a few moments, and made the gesture of a man who has taken a resolution.
"Grantaire," he said gravely, "I consent to try you. You shall go to the Barrière du Maine."
Grantaire lived in furnished lodgings very near the Café Musain. He went out, and five minutes later he returned. He had gone home to put on a Robespierre waistcoat.
"Red," said he as he entered, and he looked intently at Enjolras. Then, with the palm of his energetic hand, he laid the two scarlet points of the waistcoat across his breast.
And stepping up to Enjolras, he whispered in his ear:—
He jammed his hat on resolutely and departed.
A quarter of an hour later, the back room of the Café Musain was deserted. All the friends of the A B C were gone, each in his own direction, each to his own task. Enjolras, who had reserved the Cougourde of Aix for himself, was the last to leave.
Those members of the Cougourde of Aix who were in Paris then met on the plain of Issy, in one of the abandoned quarries which are so numerous in that side of Paris.
As Enjolras walked towards this place, he passed the whole situation in review in his own mind. The gravity of events was self-evident. When facts, the premonitory symptoms of latent social malady, move heavily, the slightest complication stops and entangles them. A phenomenon whence arises ruin and new births. Enjolras descried a luminous uplifting beneath the gloomy skirts of the future. Who knows? Perhaps the moment was at hand. The people were again taking possession of right, and what a fine spectacle! The revolution was again majestically taking possession of France and saying to the world: "The sequel to-morrow!" Enjolras was content. The furnace was being heated. He had at that moment a powder train of friends scattered all over Paris. He composed, in his own mind, with Combeferre's philosophical and penetrating eloquence, Feuilly's cosmopolitan enthusiasm, Courfeyrac's dash, Bahorel's smile, Jean Prouvaire's melancholy, Joly's science, Bossuet's sarcasms, a sort of electric spark which took fire nearly everywhere at once. All hands to work. Surely, the result would answer to the effort. This was well. This made him think of Grantaire.
"Hold," said he to himself, "the Barrière du Maine will not take me far out of my way. What if I were to go on as far as Richefeu's? Let us have a look at what Grantaire is about, and see how he is getting on."
One o'clock was striking from the Vaugirard steeple when Enjolras reached the Richefeu smoking-room.
He pushed open the door, entered, folded his arms, letting the door fall to and strike his shoulders, and gazed at that room filled with tables, men, and smoke.
A voice broke forth from the mist of smoke, interrupted by another voice. It was Grantaire holding a dialogue with an adversary.
Grantaire was sitting opposite another figure, at a marble Saint-Anne table, strewn with grains of bran and dotted with dominos. He was hammering the table with his fist, and this is what Enjolras heard:—
"The pig! I have no more."
"You are dead. A two."
"It's my move."
"It's your turn."
"I have made an enormous mistake."
"You are doing well."
"That makes me twenty-two." [Thoughtfully, "Twenty-two!"]
"You weren't expecting that double-six. If I had placed it at the beginning, the whole play would have been changed."
"A two again."
"One! Well, five."
"I haven't any."
"It was your play, I believe?"
"What luck he has! Ah! You are lucky! [Long reverie.] Two."
"Neither five nor one. That's bad for you."
"Plague take it!"
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