Section 4 - Saint-Denis and Idyll of the Rue Plumet
Book Six - Little Gavroche
One cold day that April, Gavroche is hungrily eyeing a cake of soap that he intends to steal from a barber's shop. He knows he can get good money for the soap and use it to purchase food. Two boys, one of about five years of age and the other about seven years old, enter the shop to beg for food and the barber angrily kicks them out. Gavroche takes pity on them and tells them to come with him. He leads them through the streets to a baker's shop where he produces a single sou piece, uses it to buy some bread and shares it with the boys. He leads them through the streets and they encounter Montparnasse whom Gavroche knows well. Montparnasse tells Gavroche that the robber Babet has escaped from prison and that they expect a scuffle with the police that night. He shows Gavroche the device he uses for changing the shape of his nose in order to disguise himself. Gavroche tells him that he is living in the elephant, which at first startles Montparnasse until he understands that Gavroche must mean the old statue of the elephant in the park near the Bastille. Gavroche explains that there is a hole between the two forelegs and that he can be found there if needed. They part ways and the two small boys follow Gavroche to the elephant where they are initially frightened to ascend the ladder into the beast's belly. Gavroche prods them, however, and soon all three boys are ensconced safe and warm in the elephant's interior. By candlelight Gavroche shows them to the elephant's belly where his bed is encased by mesh of wire netting stolen from the zoo. Once they are all nestled snuggly in the wool blanket, Gavroche blows out the candle and hundreds of rats descend upon the netting. The youngest boy is frightened but Gavroche assures him that the netting will protect him and holds his hand. Outside a storm rages, but soon all of them are fast asleep.
In the hour before dawn Montparnasse comes calling and Gavroche joins him on the ground, leaving the two children sleeping inside the elephant. Montparnasse tells Gavroche that his assistance is needed and Gavroche follows without question. That night the robbers Brujon and Gueulemer had used the cover of the thunderstorm to effect an escape from their cell onto the roof of the prison. Using a handmade rope and some scaffolding left by workmen they had gradually worked their way to the ground where Montparnasse and Babet met them. Thenardier, who was in solitary confinement in the garret, had seen them on the roof. Though he was under observation and had weights attached to his legs he resolved to escape as well. Using a previously procured bottle of drugged wine he sedated the inexperienced guard, broke his chains and made his way onto the slippery roof where he found the broken rope left from Brujon and Gueulemer's escape. The rope is too short to lower him safely the three stories to the street and he is stuck atop a wall only ten inches wide. At four in the morning he hears sounds which tell him that his escape has been discovered. He is tormented by the thought: "Dead if I fall, taken if I stay." Four men gather below him and from their speech he determines that it is his comrades. They are about to give up hope for his escape and depart but he throws the broken rope at their feet and they see him stuck on the wall. Thenardier communicates that he is unable to lower himself because his hands have become numb but they are unable to climb three stories to rescue him. They see a flue that might be scaled in order to rescue Thenardier but it is too small to admit their bodies. At this juncture Montparnasse fetches Gavroche who agrees to climb the flue with the rope. As he is about to ascend, the first light of day illuminates Thenardier and Gavroche recognizes his father. Nevertheless, he performs his task and shortly Thenardier is safely on the street. As soon as he is safe Thenardier begins to speak of new crimes the group can commit and they discuss looking into the house on the Rue Plumet despite Eponine's negative report. None of them notice Gavroche who, sees that he is no longer needed and slips away.
Gavroche good naturedness can again be seen when he gets food for two little street boys who are hungry and when he helps Thenardier escape from prison.