Generosity of the Young Fauns of Paris
Chapter 5: Generosity of the Young Fauns of Paris
A/N: A quick note about the setting of this chapter. Although it is now February the sixth, this takes place right after Gavroche takes his brothers away from Patron-Minette's hideout, which was on the third.
"Well, momes." Said Gavroche cheerily. "Here it is."
Nathan stared up at the monument in awe. Gavroche wasn't surprised; he and his younger brother had been sheltered away from the world for so long by La Magnon, they likely had hardly any idea what Paris looked like. He doubted they'd be able to stay alive very long in this city without him. "They'd probably mistake a gambling den for the Hotel de Ville, and end up getting their throats slit by some drunk. Or worse, get dragged back to Magnon." Gavroche hardly knew his brothers, that was true, but their presence at the meeting with Patron-Minette could only mean one thing; Thenardier wanted them to be initiated into his criminal circles, so they could start doing odd jobs for him, like Gavroche had done at their ages. Once Gavroche had realized that, he'd made up his mind; He needed to leave Thenardier's schemes forever, and the momes as well.
"It's so big." The boy said.
"Well, it is an elephant." Samuel told his younger brother. "Do you think all elephants are as large, monsieur?" He asked Gavroche.
Gavroche shrugged. "No idea. I've never seen another elephant."
"How will we get inside?" Nathan wondered. "There's no door."
Gavroche laughed. "Aye, that's true. That's why we go up and in!"
Nathan looked puzzled. "Up and in?" He asked. "What do you mean?"
Gavroche hurried over to the front right foot of the huge monument. He quickly dug into the dry, winter dirt of the street, and out of it produced a long, thick rope ladder. He threw it up towards a hook that was fastened to the stone giant's underbelly. He tugged at the rope, and a hatch popped out, revealing a square of darkness that all of three of them could squeeze into and up into the elephant's bowels.
Gavroche let go of the rope, and gestured to Samuel. "Alright then, mome. Up you get."
"B-but..."The boy stammered.
"I can't climb, monsieur. I've never tried."
Gavroche sighed in disbelief. "Of all the times and places..."He cursed. He looked around the street, and saw another gamin strutting away, whistling a tune.
"Oy, Navet!" Gavroche called to him.
The boy turned, revealing the face of one of Paris's smartest street urchins and one of Gavroche's best friends, Navet. He was only thirteen, but he was tall and thin and wiry, and he was unusually strong for a gamin.
"Yeah, 'Vroche?" The boy asked.
Gavroche jerked a thumb at his brothers. "I've got a pair of momes here who don't know how to climb." He said. "And we have to scurry on up into the elephant before it gets dark."
"You taking care of them?"
"They're my brothers. I've just brought them out of Papa's world to come and live in mine."
Navet nodded. "Well then, hand the bigger one to me, you take the little one, and we should be able to do it."
In a few moments, they were all ascending up the rope ladder. Samuel has hanging tightly on to Navet's back, while Nathan clung desperately to Gavroche. At last, they all tumbled into the belly of the elephant.
Gavroche stood up, feeling mighty proud of himself for getting the boys up here. He'd have to show them how to climb soon; Navet wouldn't be around to help all the time.
He looked around at his little room. It wasn't much to look at; nothing posh. There was just a mattress, a few blankets, a bowl filled with some spare sous, and a little table on which a candle burned away.
Gavroche cried out, and quickly extinguished the flame. "Silly Gavroche!" He scolded himself. "You can only spend so much on lights. Now you'll have to rely on the sun for most of the day."
"You could borrow one of my candles." Navet offered.
Gavroche looked at his friend sympathetically. There was only one rule to living as a gamin: "Take what you can, give nothing back." Navet was just as poor as he was or more, living in his hideaway at Les Halles. He doubted that he had any more than two candles are the moment, both of which he'd still need in the spring.
"It's alright, mate." He said. "I'll manage. I always do, don't I?"
"But now you've got these momes to take care of!" Navet exclaimed. "You've got to watch out for them as well for yourself, aye? Take this, at least." Navet fished into his pocket, and brought out a franc. "This should get you a decent half-candle from the washerwoman down the way." He said. "Buy it, for the little ones here."
Gavroche took his friend's shoulder, and smiled gratefully. "Thanks, mate." He said. "Tell you what; you can stay here tonight, with me and the momes. The sun is setting fast, and it's a long walk back to Les Halles."
"I'll take a fiacre." Said Navet.
"You can't afford a fiacre, and you know it."
"Who said I'll be paying?"
The two gamins laughed. Then, they heard a small creaking noise nearby. Someone was coming up into the elephant.
Gavroche turned, and gasped. "'Ponine?" He asked. "Is that you?"It was indeed his sister, and she was hurt. A thin trickle of blood was running down the side of her head and staining her hair. She looked ready to collapse at any moment.
He ran towards her and helped keep her on her feet. "What happened to you?" He asked.
She breathed wheezily. "I told...Papa...that I had handed out all of his letters the other day. I lied. When he asked me why he hadn't heard a reply from a few of them, I told him that I had lost those letters in the boulevard yesterday. He hit me. Worse than usual."
"But what are you doing here?"
"I had to get away. I couldn't stand another minute in that horrible place. This was the only place where I knew there was someone I could trust, so I walked all the way here and climbed up through the elephant. But now I've left 'Zelma there all by herself..."She turned and attempted to walk away, as though determined to walk all the way back to the Gorbeau tenement and rescue her sister.
Gavroche took Éponine' arm, and led her towards the bed. She fell, exhausted and depleted, on to the mattress.
"We'll help Azelma soon, I promise." He told her. "But you have bigger problems to worry about. You need to rest, or you're going to drop dead before you reach St. Michel. Rest, 'Ponine, please."
She smiled, just for an instant, and lay down on the bed. "Thank you, 'Vroche." She said quietly. "I promise that I'll... I'll be..."Before she could finish, her eyes closed, and she was asleep.
Gavroche looked at his assembled guests; Samuel, Nathan, Navet, and Éponine. 'Looks like I've got a full house tonight.' He thought wryly. 'Might as well make the best of it.' Since Éponine was on the only bed, Navet and the momes took the extra blankets. That left Gavroche to content himself with the corner.
'Navet is right.' He thought. 'I have to start taking care of others; not just myself. Sam, Nate, 'Ponine, even 'Zelma; they all depend on me. So even if I get less out of it than they do, at least we'll all be safe, and together.' He rested his head against the cold wood. 'I suppose that's what it means to be a good person.'