The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter viii.

Mount Valerien

Of the two hundred and thirty Representatives prisoners at the barracks of the Quai d’Orsay fifty-three had been sent to Mount Valérien. They loaded them in four police vans. Some few remained who were packed in an omnibus. MM. Benoist d’Azy, Falloux, Piscatory, Vatimesail, were locked in the wheeled cells, as also Eugène Sue and Esquiros. The worthy M. Gustave de Beaumont, a great upholder of the cellular system, rode in a cell vehicle. It is not an undesirable thing, as we have said, that the legislator should taste of the law.

The Commandant of Mount Valérien appeared under the archway of the fort to receive the Representative prisoners.

He at first made some show of registering them in the jailer’s book. General Oudinot, under whom he had served, rebuked him severely —

“Do you know me?”

“Yes, General.”

“Well then, let that suffice. Ask no more.”

“Yes,” said Tamisier. “Ask more and salute. We are more than the Army; we are France.”

The commandant understood. From that moment he was hat in hand before the generals, and bowed low before the Representatives.

They led them to the barracks of the fort and shut them up promiscuously in a dormitory, to which they added fresh beds, and which the soldiers had just quitted. They spent their first night there. The beds touched each other. The sheets were dirty.

Next morning, owing to a few words which had been heard outside, the rumor spread amongst them that the fifty-three were to be sorted, and that the Republicans were to be placed by themselves. Shortly afterwards the rumor was confirmed. Madame de Luynes gained admission to her husband, and brought some items of news. It was asserted, amongst other things, that the Keeper of the Seals of the coup d’état, the man who signed himself Eugène Rouher, “Minister of Justice,” had said, “Let them set the men of the Right at liberty, and send the men of the Left to the dungeon. If the populace stirs they will answer for everything. As a guarantee for the submission of the Faubourgs we shall have the head of the Reds.”

We do not believe that M. Rouher uttered these words, in which there is so much audacity. At that moment M. Rouher did not possess any. Appointed Minister on the 2d December, he temporized, he exhibited a vague prudery, he did not venture to install himself in the Place Vendôme. Was all that was being done quite correct? In certain minds the doubt of success changes into scruples of conscience. To violate every law, to perjure oneself, to strangle Right, to assassinate the country, are all these proceedings wholly honest? While the deed is not accomplished they hesitate. When the deed has succeeded they throw themselves upon it. Where there is victory there is no longer treason; nothing serves like success to cleanse and render acceptable that unknown thing which is called crime. During the first moments M. Rocher reserved himself. Later on he has been one of the most violent advisers of Louis Bonaparte. It is all very simple. His fear beforehand explains his subsequent zeal.

The truth is, that these threatening words had been spoken not by Rouher, but by Persigny.

M. de Luynes imparted to his colleagues what was in preparation, and warned them that they would be asked for their names in order that the white sheep might be separated from the scarlet goats. A murmur which seemed to be unanimous arose. These generous manifestations did honor to the Representatives of the Right.

“No! no! Let us name no one, let us not allow ourselves to be sorted,” exclaimed M. Gustave de Beaumont.

M. de Vatimesnil added, “We have come in here all together, we ought to go out all together.”

Nevertheless a few moments afterwards Antony Thouret was informed that a list of names was being secretly prepared, and that the Royalist Representatives were invited to sign it. They attributed, doubtless wrongly, this unworthy resolution to the honorable M. de Falloux.

Antony Thouret spoke somewhat warmly in the centre of the group, which were muttering together in the dormitory.

“Gentlemen,” said he, “a list of names is being prepared. This would be an unworthy action. Yesterday at the Mairie of the Tenth Arrondissement you said to us, ‘There is no longer Left or Right; we are the Assembly.’ You believed in the victory of the People, and you sheltered yourself behind us Republicans. Today you believe in the victory of the coup d’état, and you would again become Royalists, to deliver us up, us Democrats! Truly excellent. Very well! Pray do so.”

A universal shout arose.

“No! No! No more Right or Left! All are the Assembly. The same lot for all!”

The list which had been begun was seized and burnt.

“By decision of the Chamber,” said M. de Vatimesnil, smiling. A Legitimist Representative added —

“Of the Chamber? No, let us say of the Chambered.”

A few moments afterwards the Commissary of the fort appeared, and in polite phrases, which, however, savored somewhat of authority, invited each of the Representatives of the People to declare his name in order that each might be allotted to his ultimate destination.

A shout of indignation answered him.

“No one! No one will give his name,” said General Oudinot.

Gustave de Beaumont added —

“We all bear the same name: Representatives of the People.”

The Commissary saluted them and went away.

After two hours he came back. He was accompanied this time by the Chief of the Ushers of the Assembly, a man named Duponceau, a species of arrogant fellow with a red face and white hair, who on grand days strutted at the foot of the Tribune with a silvered collar, a chain over his stomach, and a sword between his legs.

The Commissary said to Duponceau — “Do your duty.”

What the Commissary meant, and what Duponceau understood by this word duty, was that the Usher should denounce the Legislators. Like the lackey who betrays his masters.

It was done in this manner.

This Duponceau dared to look in the faces of the Representatives by turn, and he named them one after the other to a policeman, who took notes of them.

The Sieur Duponceau was sharply castigated while holding this review.

“M. Duponceau,” said M. Vatimesnil to him, “I always thought you an idiot, but I believed you to be an honest man.”

The severest rebuke was administered by Antony Thouret. He looked Sieur Duponceau in the face, and said to him, “You deserve to be named Dupin.”

The Usher in truth was worthy of being the President, and the President was worthy of being the Usher.

The flock having been counted, the classification having been made, there were found to be thirteen goats: ten Representatives of the Left; Eugène Sue, Esquires, Antony Thouret, Pascal Duprat, Chanay, Fayolle, Paulin Durrien, Benoit, Tamisier, Tailard Latérisse, and three members of the Right, who since the preceding day had suddenly become Red in the eyes of the coups d’état; Oudinot, Piscatory, and Thuriot de la Rosière.

They confined these separately, and they set at liberty one by one the forty who remained.

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