"All around, there is shadow. Everywhere there is unnatural darkness.
"In the narrow streets, hardly deserving of that name, all paved with newspapers melting in puddles, with shattered glass, with filth - here we are swallowed up in gloom, the sky is choked with sagging clotheslines, and we suffocate under layer upon layer of rags hanging in the air - rags that someone will wear tomorrow, all dignity sold away, stolen in this man-made night! - and we gasp, and wheeze, and suck in only the unbreathable fumes that call to mind the impending death, the yearly scourge of the poor and the crowded, the city-center plague.
"But there - there, light! Where the tenements part, where the rivers of stench and refuse drain off into the gutters and leave the paving stones dry, smooth, clean and almost white in the abundant, slow sun of the avenues; there is air, sparkling and boundless as the sky that soars from rooftop to rooftop, steeple to steeple, horizon to horizon. There is the scent of food, of an easy summer wind in the trees, of business.
"There also are the things that they choose to expose to God, to the face of the sun. The things that ought to be buried forever, left to shrivel and disappear under the scraps, the waste, the things so foul, so utterly devoid of worth that even we, who must eat everything or die, can find no good in them. But these are paraded through the proud, broad boulevards - the powder, the shining buttons, the ribbons and rings - as the gaunt bodies look on, those that next month will be hurried out of the city heaped in covered carts. They watch - some of them with wonder, with admiration, God be merciful - as the work of their hands marches by, forever out of reach.
"Soon the clean, white stones will be gone. The spacious channels of commerce will be pitted trenches, cold in the darkness of smoke, scattered with shot and awash in blood. Always before dawn there is more darkness.
"And the gold-laden, the idle, the thieves of sunlight, the soft, slow, pale, quivering creatures who since birth have been destined for nothing more than to be receptacles for the People's lead - and who are undeserving of this honor, this expense - will soon be cast out of the city, given to the Earth in fleshy piles so that she might make something of the fields of worthless dead, if she can.
"And then perhaps through that miracle of Nature, which changes the seed into the towering elm, which from the most foul of substances creates sustenance for life, the grain will plump under the smiling, liberator sun. And the People's bread will be sweeter for it."
There was only silence, for a moment; and then the scrape of tin over an uneven table. Grantaire had pushed his plate away.
"Well," he said, directing a particularly reproachful glare at Enjolras, "Damned if I haven't lost my appetite."