In the spring of 1832, the people of Paris were ready for revolution. Charles X, who had become king in 1824, believed that he had total power over the French people. He was a strong supporter of the Catholic church and the aristocracy, and he took away the freedoms that Napoleon had given the ordinary citizens. Although this made him very unpopular, he thought that his opponents would be too weak to prevent him from doing what he wanted. He was wrong. In 1830, there was a peaceful revolution, and he was forced to leave. The new king, Louis-Philippe, was a brave and clever man who loved his country. The ordinary people liked him at first, but he soon showed that he was more interested in power for his family than democracy for his people. He understood business, but he could not understand the problems of poor people. Neither could he understand the concept of freedom of speech, and he often sent soldiers into the streets to attack people who were making public protests.
As the summer approached, the mood of the workers and the poor became angrier and angrier. Their anger exploded into violence in June 1832, when General Lamarque died. The General had been very popular with the people of France because of his love for Napoleon. The day of his funeral was arranged for 5 June, and thousands of people saw this as a chance to make a public protest against the king and his government.
At first, the funeral went quietly. Soldiers accompanied the coffin as it was carried slowly across Paris. A large crowd followed behind, waving flags and carrying swords and heavy sticks. The crowd grew more and more excited, until finally they tried to take the coffin away from the soldiers and carry it across a bridge. Their exit was blocked by more soldiers on horseback. For a moment, nothing happened. Then there were two gunshots. The first shot killed the commander of the soldiers guarding the exit to the bridge. The second killed a deaf old woman who was trying to shut her window.
Then the fighting started.
Soldiers attacked the crowd with swords; the crowd threw stones and ran screaming across the bridge. Minutes later, the sounds of war echoed across the whole city of Paris.
As soon as the fighting started, Enjolras and several of his friends started to build a barricade outside the Corinth wine shop in the rue de la Chanvrerie, a small street surrounded by dark alleys in the market district of Paris. Enjolras had been joined by many strangers as he and his friends had run shouting along the street. There was a tall, grey-haired man whom nobody knew, but whose strong, brave face had impressed everybody. There were several street children, excited by the sound of battle, who also joined them. One of these children was Eponine, who had dressed like a boy so that no one would tell her to go home. Having run to tell Marius that his friends were waiting for him, she was helping Enjolras and his companions to build the barricade. New people arrived all the time, bringing with them gunpowder and weapons to fight the soldiers who would be arriving very soon.
Enjolras, who was the leader of the rebels, organized the building of a second barricade and the manufacture of bullets from melted silver. The tall, grey-haired man was doing useful work on the larger barricade, and Eponine (whom everyone thought was a boy) worked hard too. The barricades were finished in less than an hour and, with the sound of drums in the city growing louder, Enjolras brought a table out into the street and sat down with his friends for a drink.
Night fell, but nothing happened. While the fifty men behind the barricade waited impatiently for the arrival of sixty thousand soldiers, Enjolras approached the tall, grey-haired man.
‘Who are you?’ he asked.
When the man said nothing, Enjolras became suspicious.
‘You’re a policeman, aren’t you?’ he said.
The man smiled and eventually admitted that he was.
‘My name’s Javert,’ he said.
Before he could move, Enjolras ordered four men to search him. When they found a letter in his pocket which proved that he had been sent to spy on them, they tied him to a post inside the inn,
‘You’ll be shot two minutes before the barricade falls,’ Enjolras informed him.
Marius left the garden and, mad with grief at losing Cosette, walked towards the sound of drums and gunfire in the centre of the city. He had only one thought in his mind: he wanted to die.
Marius pushed his way through the crowds of frightened, murmuring people that filled the streets until he reached the market area. Here, he found the unlit streets suddenly filled with soldiers. Unafraid, Marius ran through the shadows, ignoring shouts for him to stop. Someone fired a gun and a bullet hit a wall just behind him, but he didn’t care.
He was just approaching the rue de Chanvrerie when he heard a loud voice calling from the shadows: ‘Who’s there?’
‘The French Revolution!’ he heard a distant voice reply — the voice of his friend, Enjolras.