During the night, the thirty-seven remaining rebels strengthened the main barricade and made more bullets. The ground floor of the wine shop became a hospital for the wounded, and the bodies of the dead were taken to an alley near the smaller of the two barricades. Four of the dead people were National Guards, and their uniforms were removed.
After a long discussion with his friends, Enjolras decided that the married men (there were five of them) had to leave.
‘It’s your duty not to die,’ he told them. ‘You must return to your families.’
‘How can we leave?’ they protested. ‘We’re surrounded. The soldiers will shoot us as soon as they see us.’
‘You can wear these.’ Enjolras pointed to the National Guard uniforms that had been taken off the dead soldiers.
‘But there are only four,’ Marius observed.
‘Then one of us must stay and fight,’ one of the married men replied.
A long argument followed, during which each of the married men tried to persuade the others to go. Finally, someone shouted to Marius, ‘You decide which one must stay.’
Marius went pale at the thought of having to choose which man had to die. He stared down at the four uniforms but, as he did so, a fifth uniform fell as if by magic at his feet.
Looking round, Marius recognized Cosette’s father. Jean Valjean, who had arrived unnoticed at the barricade, had been listening to the argument and had quickly understood the situation.
‘Now you can all leave,’ he said.
The sky grew lighter, but not a door or window was open in the street. The barricade was stronger than it had been for the first assault, and the rebels were at their positions, guns loaded and ready for action. They did not have long to wait.
Sounds of chains and of heavy wheels moving along the stone streets could be heard, and then soldiers came into view at the end of the street, pulling a large cannon. The rebels fired their guns but, when the smoke had cleared, they saw the soldiers, unharmed, steadily aiming the cannon at the barricade. Moments later, an officer shouted a command and the cannon roared into action. The cannonball crashed into the bottom of the barricade with a loud explosion, but did little damage. The rebels clapped and cheered.
More soldiers moved into position at the end of the street, behind the cannon, and started to build a low wall with pieces of broken stone. At the same time, the leader of the gun crew adjusted the aim of the cannon.
‘Heads down!’ Enjolras shouted.
The next cannonball exploded against the wall at one end of the barricade, killing two men and wounding three.
‘We mustn’t let that happen again,’ Enjolras said. He aimed his gun over the barricade at the leader of the gun crew, and fired. The gunner — a fair-haired, handsome young man — spun round twice with his head thrown back, and fell sideways across the cannon. Blood poured from the middle of his back.
A tear rolled down Enjolras’s cheek.
‘It’s sad,’ he murmured to Marius, who was standing next to him. ‘He looked a brave young man.’
The battle continued for some time; the cannon destroyed the upper windows of the wine shop, and did some damage to the barricade, but the rebels did not withdraw. They fired back at the soldiers, killing many men. In the pauses between shooting, the rebels could hear the sound of fighting in other parts of Paris. They were filled with hope that help would come soon, but the hope did not last long. Within half an hour the sound of gunfire in other places had stopped, and the rebels knew that they were alone. When a second cannon was moved into position next to the first, they knew that the end was near.
Both cannons fired together, accompanied by gunfire from soldiers at the end of the street and on the rooftops. As other guns began firing at the smaller barricade, the rebels fought back bravely, but they were running out of bullets. There were only twenty-six men left, and the main attack on the barricade was going to take place very soon. Some men, including Marius, stayed on the main barricade, while the others built a low stone wall around the door of the wine shop. Enjolras, inside the wine shop, turned to Javert, who was still tied to the post.
‘I haven’t forgotten you,’ he said, putting a loaded gun on the table. ‘The last man to leave this place will blow your brains out.’
At this point, Jean Valjean spoke to Enjolras.
‘You’re the leader, aren’t you? Can I ask you for a favour?’
‘You saved a man’s life by giving him your uniform. You deserve some reward. What do you want?’
‘Let me kill this man.’
‘That’s fair,’ Enjolras decided, when nobody objected. ‘You can have your spy.’
At the same moment there was the sound of a drum, followed by a loud roar.
‘They’re coming!’ cried Marius from the top of the barricade.
The rebels rushed to their positions, leaving Valjean alone with Javert inside the wine shop. Valjean untied the rope around Javert’s feet and, taking him by the belt of his coat, led him outside. Only Marius, looking over his shoulder, saw them cross the stronghold towards the smaller barricade. Valjean, his gun in one hand, pulled Javert behind him over the barricade and into a narrow alley, where the corner of a house hid them from view. A terrible heap of dead bodies lay not far away, among them the blood-stained body of a young girl in man’s clothes — Eponine.
Javert glanced at the dead body and murmured, ‘I think I know that girl. ‘Then, returning his attention to Valjean, he said calmly, ‘I think you know me, too. Take your revenge.’
Valjean, however, took a knife from his pocket and cut the ropes that tied Javert’s wrists.
‘You’re free to go,’ he said.
When Javert stared at him, speechless with surprise, Valjean went on, I don’t suppose I’ll leave here alive. But if I do, I’m staying at Number 7, rue de l’Homme-Arme. Now go.’
Javert buttoned his coat, straightened his shoulders and, with a puzzled look on his face, began to walk off in the direction of the market. He had only gone a few steps, however, when he turned and looked at Valjean. ‘I find this embarrassing,’ he said. ‘I’d rather you killed me.’
‘Go away,’ Valjean replied.
Javert walked away slowly and Valjean, waiting for him to turn a corner, fired his gun into the air and returned to the stronghold.
‘It’s done,’ he said.
There was a roar of gunfire and the soldiers attacked, rushing towards the barricade. Many fell, but many more reached the barricade. The first assault was beaten back by the brave rebels, but the soldiers attacked again and again. Soon, the ground below the barricade was piled with dead and wounded men as the rebels and soldiers fought hand to hand. The rebels fought long and hard to defend the stronghold, but finally they had to withdraw to the low wall outside the wine shop. They stood with their backs to the door, shooting up at the soldiers who were climbing down towards them from the barricade. One by one the remaining rebels escaped into the wine shop, until only Enjolras and Marius were left outside. As the two friends moved back towards the door, fighting off the soldiers, a bullet hit Marius in the shoulder. His eyes closed and, in great pain, he felt a hand grab him as he fell.
‘They’ve taken me prisoner,’ he thought, moments before losing consciousness. ‘Now I shall be shot.’
The soldiers, meanwhile, attacked the wine shop. Before long, they broke down the door and rushed inside. Enjolras and the few surviving rebels fought bravely, but the soldiers were too strong. Soon, all the rebels were dead, including Enjolras, who was the last to die. Sword in hand, surrounded by soldiers, he refused to surrender. He died in a rain of bullets with a strangely victorious smile on his lips.