The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter xi.

The End of the Second Day

We left Marie’s house just in time. The regiment charged to track us and to arrest us was approaching. We heard the measured steps of soldiers in the gloom. The streets were dark. We dispersed. I will not speak of a refuge which was refused to us.

Less than ten minutes after our departure M. Marie’s house was invested. A swarm of guns and swords poured in, and overran it from cellar to attic. “Everywhere! everywhere!” cried the chiefs. The soldiers sought us with considerable energy. Without taking the trouble to lean down and look, they ransacked under the beds with bayonet thrusts. Sometimes they had difficulty in withdrawing the bayonets which they had driven into the wall. Unfortunately for this zeal, we were not there.

This zeal came frown higher sources. The poor soldiers obeyed. “Kill the Representatives,” such were their instructions. It was at that moment when Morny sent this despatch to Maupas: “If you take Victor Hugo, do what you like with him.” These were their politest phrases. Later on the coup d’état in its decree of banishment, called us “those individuals,” which caused Schoelcher to say these haughty words: “These people do not even know how to exile politely.”

Dr. Véron who publishes in his “Mémoires” the Morny–Maupas despatch, adds: “M. du Maupas sent to look for Victor Hugo at the house of his brother-in-law, M. Victor Foucher, Councillor to the Court of Cassation. He did not find him.”

An old friend, a man of heart and of talent, M. Henry d’E— — had offered me a refuge in rooms which he occupied in the Rue Richelieu; these rooms adjoining the Théâtre Français, were on the first floor of a house which, like M. Grévy’s residence, had an exit into the Rue Fontaine Molière.

I went there. M. Henry d’E—— being from home, his porter was awaiting me, and handed me the key.

A candle lighted the room which I entered. There was a table near the fire, a blotting-book, and some paper. It was past midnight, and I was somewhat tired; but before going to bed, foreseeing that if I should survive this adventure I should write its history, I resolved immediately to note down some details of the state of affairs in Paris at the end of this day, the second of the coup d’état. I wrote this page, which I reproduce here, because it is a life-like portrayal — a sort of direct photograph:—

“Louis Bonaparte has invented something which he calls a ‘Consultative Committee,’ and which he commissions to draw up the postscript of his crimes.

“Léon Foucher refuses to be in it; Montalember hesitates; Baroche accepts.

“Falloux despises Dupin.

“The first shots were fired at the Record Office. In the Markets in the Rue Rambuteau, in the Rue Beaubourg I heard firing.

“Fleury, the aide-de-camp, ventured to pass down the Rue Montmartre. A musket ball pierced his képi. He galloped quickly off. At one o’clock the regiments were summoned to vote on the coup d’état. All gave their adhesion. The students of law and medicine assembled together at the Ecole de Droit to protest. The Municipal Guards dispersed them. There were a great many arrests. This evening, patrols are everywhere. Sometimes an entire regiment forms a patrol.

“Representative Hespel, who is six feet high, was not able to find a cell long enough for him at Mazas, and he has been obliged to remain in the porter’s lodge, where he is carefully watched.

“Mesdames Odilon Barrot and de Tocqueville do not know where their husbands are. They go from Mazas to Mont Valérien. The jailers are dumb. It is the 19th Light Infantry which attacked the barricade when Baudin was killed. Fifty men of the Gendarmerie Mobile have carried at the double the barricade of the Oratoire in the Rue St. Honoré. Moreover, the conflict reveals itself. They sound the tocsin at the Chapelle Bréa. One barricade overturned sets twenty barricades on their feet. There is the barricade of the Schools in the Rue St. André des Arts, the barricade of the Rue du Temple, the barricade of the Carrefour Phélippeaux defended by twenty young men who have all been killed; they are reconstructing it; the barricade of the Rue de Bretagne, which at this moment Courtigis is bombarding. There is the barricade of the Invalides, the barricade of the Barrière des Martyres, the barricade of the Chapelle St. Denis. The councils of war are sitting in permanence, and order all prisoners to be shot. The 30th of the Line have shot a woman. Oil upon fire.

“The colonel of the 49th of the Line has resigned. Louis Bonaparte has appointed in his place Lieutenant Colonel Négrier. M. Brun, Officer of the Police of the Assembly, was arrested at the same time as the Questors.

“It is said that fifty members of the majority have signed a protest at M. Odilon Barrot’s house.

“This evening there is an increasing uneasiness at the Elysée. Incendiarism is feared. Two battalions of engineer-sappers have reinforced the Fire Brigade. Maupas has placed guards over the gasometers.

“Here are the military talons by which Paris has been grasped:— Bivouacs at all the strategical points. At the Pont Neuf and the Quai aux Fleurs, the Municipal Guards; at the Place de la Bastille twelve pieces of cannon, three mortars, lighted matches; at the corner of the Faubourg the six-storied houses are occupied by soldiers from top to bottom; the Marulaz brigade at the Hôtel de Ville; the Sauboul brigade at the Panthéon; the Courtigis brigade at the Faubourg St. Antoine; the Renaud division at the Faubourg St. Marceau. At the Legislative Palace the Chasseurs de Vincennes, and a battalion of the 15th Light Infantry; in the Champs Elysées infantry and cavalry; in the Avenue Marigny artillery. Inside the circus is an entire regiment; it has bivouacked there all night. A squadron of the Municipal Guard is bivouacking in the Place Dauphine. A bivouac in the Council of State. A bivouac in the courtyard of the Tuileries. In addition, the garrisons of St. Germain and of Courbevoie. Two colonels killed, Loubeau, of the 75th, and Quilio. On all sides hospital attendants are passing, bearing litters. Ambulances are everywhere; in the Bazar de l’Industry (Boulevard Poissionière); in the Salle St. Jean at the Hôtel de Ville; in the Rue du Petit Carreau. In this gloomy battle nine brigades are engaged. All have a battery of artillery; a squadron of cavalry maintains the communications between the brigades; forty thousand men are taking part in the struggle; with a reserve of sixty thousand men; a hundred thousand soldiers upon Paris. Such is the Army of the Crime. The Reibell brigade, the first and second Lancers, protect the Elysée. The Ministers are all sleeping at the Ministry of the Interior, close by Morny. Morny watches, Magnan commands. To-morrow will be a terrible day.”

This page written, I went to bed, and fell asleep.

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