The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter ii.

Paris Sleeps — The Bell Rings

On the 2d December, 1851, Representative Versigny, of the Haute–Saône, who resided at Paris, at No. 4, Rue Léonie, was asleep. He slept soundly; he had been working till late at night. Versigny was a young man of thirty-two, soft-featured and fair-complexioned, of a courageous spirit, and a mind tending towards social and economical studies. He had passed the first hours of the night in the perusal of a book by Bastiat, in which he was making marginal notes, and, leaving the book open on the table, he had fallen asleep. Suddenly he awoke with a start at the sound of a sharp ring at the bell. He sprang up in surprise. It was dawn. It was about seven o’clock in the morning.

Never dreaming what could be the motive for so early a visit, and thinking that someone had mistaken the door, he again lay down, and was about to resume his slumber, when a second ring at the bell, still louder than the first, completely aroused him. He got up in his night-shirt and opened the door.

Michel de Bourges and Théodore Bac entered. Michel de Bourges was the neighbor of Versigny; he lived at No. 16, Rue de Milan.

Théodore Bac and Michel were pale, and appeared greatly agitated.

“Versigny,” said Michel, “dress yourself at once — Baune has just been arrested.”

“Bah!” exclaimed Versigny. “Is the Mauguin business beginning again?”

“It is more than that,” replied Michel. “Baune’s wife and daughter came to me half-an-hour ago. They awoke me. Baune was arrested in bed at six o’clock this morning.”

“What does that mean?” asked Versigny.

The bell rang again.

“This will probably tell us,” answered Michel de Bourges.

Versigny opened the door. It was the Representative Pierre Lefranc. He brought, in truth, the solution of the enigma.

“Do you know what is happening?” said he.

“Yes,” answered Michel. “Baune is in prison.”

“It is the Republic who is a prisoner,” said Pierre Lefranc. “Have you read the placards?”

“No.”

Pierre Lefranc explained to them that the walls at that moment were covered with placards which the curious crowd were thronging to read, that he had glanced over one of them at the corner of his street, and that the blow had fallen.

“The blow!” exclaimed Michel. “Say rather the crime.”

Pierre Lefranc added that there were three placards — one decree and two proclamations — all three on white paper, and pasted close together.

The decree was printed in large letters.

The ex-Constituent Laissac, who lodged, like Michel de Bourges, in the neighborhood (No. 4, Cité Gaillard), then came in. He brought the same news, and announced further arrests which had been made during the night.

There was not a minute to lose.

They went to impart the news to Yvan, the Secretary of the Assembly, who had been appointed by the Left, and who lived in the Rue de Boursault.

An immediate meeting was necessary. Those Republican Representatives who were still at liberty must be warned and brought together without delay.

Versigny said, “I will go and find Victor Hugo.”

It was eight o’clock in the morning. I was awake and was working in bed. My servant entered and said, with an air of alarm —

“A Representative of the people is outside who wishes to speak to you, sir.”

“Who is it?”

“Monsieur Versigny:”

“Show him in.”

Versigny entered, and told me the state of affairs. I sprang out of bed.

He told me of the “rendezvous” at the rooms of the ex-Constituent Laissac.

“Go at once and inform the other Representatives,” said I.

He left me.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38