The forest has a bird. Paris a child. The bird is called a sparrow. The child—a gamin. This little being is joyous; he has not food every day; no shoes on his feet; not much clothing on his body. He runs, he swears like a convict, he haunts all the wine shops, knows all the thieves—but he has no evil in his heart. Little Gavroche was one of these. He had been dispatched into life with a kick and had simply taken flight. The pavements were less hard to him than his mother’s heart.
One evening, little Gavroche was skipping along an alley, hands in his pockets and singing merrily, when he came upon a young man who had a wild, happy look in his eye, but no hat on his head.
“Whoa there, monsieur, where’s your roof? You’ve got enough light in them blinkers of yours to light up my apartments—say, monsieur, you’re either crazy or you’ve had an awful good time!”
“Be off with you, imp.”
“Say, did you know there wus a goin’ ter be war in this town in a few days and I’m goin’ to enlist as general of the army—Forward—March—Say, monsieur, I believe I know you, yes, sir, I’ve seen you down in that Napoleon meetin’ way down there in that cellar—”
“Oh, be off with you, imp!”
“Yes, sir, I’m goin’ now. Sorry I can’t walk with you further, but business calls me in the other direction.
“Good evenin’, monsieur—Watch out there. Can’t ye[Pg 346] see where yer goin’? Little more an’ ye’d been eatin’ the dandelions! Good evenin’, monsieur!”
A little further down the street, Gavroche was standing scrutinizing a shop window, when two little children came up to him crying.
“What’s the matter with you, brats?”
“Boo-hoo—we—ain’t got no place to sleep.”
“The idea a bawlin’ about that. Come along with me, I’ll give ye a place to sleep. Say, hev ye got any shiners?”
“Well, come along with me. I’m rich. Ye can’t hear ’em rattle, but all is not gold that rattles.”
“Monsieur, we—boo-hoo—we asked that barber man over there to let us get warm in his store and—and—he wouldn’t do—it—boo-hoo!”
“Well, now, don’t bawl about that. He don’t know no better. He’s an Englishman. But I’ll jes’ take a note of that insult. [Takes paper from his pocket and writes.]—Get even with Barber at 63 Rue Saint Antoine. Too mean to occupy space here below. There now! that’ll fix ’em. Hurry along here now or my hotel will be closed.—Say, brats, you stay here a minute. There is a poor little girl what’s cold and she ain’t got nothin’ around her. You stay here till I gits back.
“There, little girl, take my scarf and put around you. This kind of life is alright fer boys but it’s pretty tough on girls. Brr! it’s rather chilly. And I’ll eat a piece out o’ Hades if it ain’t re-raining again.”
“Monsieur, boo-hoo—we—ain’t had nothin’ to eat—since—morning.”
“Well, now don’t bawl about that. Let me see—oh, here’s a shop. Shovel in here.
“Boy, give us five centimes worth o’ bread.”
“For how many?”
“Well, there seem to be two uv ’em.
“Here—now take that—brat senior, and you take that, brat junior—now grub away. Ram that into your muzzle. Don’t you understand? Well, classically speaking—eat. Well, I thought ye knew how to do that. [Whistles Marseillaise until they have finished, then stops suddenly and says to the boy behind the counter.]—Say, ain’t them two nice specimens to be bawlin’ jes’ ’cause they ain’t got no home?
“Hey there, are ye through? Well, shovel out, then. We’ve got to hurry or the elephant will have closed down his ears. Hey there, Montparnasse! See my two kids?”
“Well, where did you get them, Gavroche?”
“Oh, a gentleman made me a present of ’em, down the street—say, they’ve got hides like linseed plasters, hain’t they?”
“Where are you taking them, Gavroche?”
“To my lodging—the Elephant.”
“Yes—the El-e-phant. Any complaints?”
“You don’t mean Napoleon’s monument?”
“I mean Napoleon’s monument—You see when Napoleon left for Elba, he put me in charge of the Elephant. Forward, march, there, brats! Good evenin’, Montparnasse.”
On arriving at the Elephant, Gavroche climbed up and then invited his friends to come up.
“Hey, there, brat senior—see that ladder? Well, put your foot on—Now ye ain’t agoin’ ter be afraid are ye? Here, give me your hands—Now—up—There, you stand still now, till I git yer little brother up—Here, brat junior. Oh, can’t you reach that ladder? Well, step on the Elephant’s corn then—That’s the way—Now—up—There! Now, gentlemen, you’re on the inside of the Elephant. Don’t ye feel something like Jonah? But stop yer talkin’ now fer we’re goin’ straight ter bed. This way to yer sleepin’ apartments—Here, brat junior, we’ll wrap you up in this blanket.”
“O, thank you, sir. It’s so nice and warm.”
“Well, that’s what the monkeys thought. Here, senior, you take this mattress. Ye see, I stole these from the Jardin de Plants. But I told the animals over there that they were fer the Elephant and they said that was all right. Are ye in bed? Now I am goin’ ter suppress de candelabra. [Blows out candle.] Whew! listen to it rain. How the rain do be runnin’ down the legs of this here house. That’s first class thunder too. Whew! that’s no slouch uv a streak uv lightnin’ nuther. Here, calm down there, gentlemen, or ye’ll topple over this edifice. Time ter sleep now, good-night. Shut yer peepers!”
“What’s that noise?”
“What is rats?”
“Why don’t you get a cat?”
“Oh—I—I did have—a cat and—and the rats eat ‘er up.”
“Boo-hoo. Will they eat us up too?”
“Ah—no—they won’t eat you. You ain’t got enough meat on you. Besides I got ’em all screened off with a wire. They can’t get at ye. See here—Ef yer goin’ ter be afraid, take hold er my hand an’ I’ll lay down long side o’ yer and go ter sleep—Now I fergot ter tell you gentlemen that when ye wake up—I’ll be gone, fer business calls me early, but ye’re to make this yer home jes’ as long as yer wants ter and come here jes’ whenever yer wants ter. Now fer the last time—good-night!”