The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter viii.

David D’angers

Brutalities and ferocities were mingled together. The great sculptor, David d’Angers, was arrested in his own house, 16, Rue d’Assas; the Commissary of Police on entering, said to him —

“Have you any arms in your house?”

“Yes,” Said David, “for my defence.”

And he added —

“If I had to deal with civilized people.”

“Where are these arms?” rejoined the Commissary. “Let us see them.”

David showed him his studio full of masterpieces.

They placed him in a fiacre, and drove him to the station-house of the Prefecture of Police.

Although there was only space for 120 prisoners, there were 700 there. David was the twelfth in a dungeon intended for two. No light nor air. A narrow ventilation hole above their heads. A dreadful tub in a corner, common to all, covered but not closed by a wooden lid. At noon they brought them soup, a sort of warm and stinking water, David told me. They stood leaning against the wall, and trampled upon the mattresses which had been thrown on the floor, not having room to lie down on them. At length, however, they pressed so closely to each other, that they succeeded in lying down at full length. Their jailers had thrown them some blankets. Some of them slept. At day break the bolts creaked, the door was half-opened and the jailers cried out to them, “Get up!” They went into the adjoining corridor, the jailer took up the mattresses, threw a few buckets of water on the floor, wiped it up anyhow, replaced the mattresses on the damp stones, and said to them, “Go back again.” They locked them up until the next morning. From time to time they brought in 100 new prisoners, and they fetched away 100 old ones (those who had been there for two or three days). What became of them? — At night the prisoners could hear from their dungeon the sound of explosions, and in the morning passers-by could see, as we have stated, pools of blood in the courtyard of the Prefecture.

The calling over of those who went out was conducted in alphabetical order.

One day they called David d’Angers. David took up his packet, and was getting ready to leave, when the governor of the jail, who seemed to be keeping watch over him, suddenly came up and said quickly, “Stay, M. David, stay.”

One morning he saw Buchez, the ex-President of the Constituent Assembly, coming into his cell “Ah!” said David, “good! you have come to visit the prisoners?”—“I am a prisoner,” said Buchez.

They wished to insist on David leaving for America. He refused. They contented themselves with Belgium. On the 19th December he reached Brussels. He came to see me, and said to me, “I am lodging at the Grand Monarque, 89, Rue des Fripiers.”31

And he added laughing, “The Great Monarch — the King. The old clothesmen — the Royalists, ‘89. The Revolution.” Chance occasionally furnishes some wit.

31 Anglice, “old clothes men.”

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