The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter ix.

An End Worse than Death

We should have been glad to have put aside, never to have spoken of him again, this man who had borne for three years this most honorable title, President of the National Assembly of France, and who had only known how to be lacquey to the majority. He contrived in his last hour to sink even lower than could have been believed possible even for him. His career in the Assembly had been that of a valet, his end was that of a scullion.

The unprecedented attitude that M. Dupin assumed before the gendarmes when uttering with a grimace his mockery of a protest, even engendered suspicion. Gambion exclaimed, “He resists like an accomplice. He knew all.”

We believe these suspicions to be unjust. M. Dupin knew nothing. Who indeed amongst the organizers of the coup d’état would have taken the trouble to make sure of his joining them? Corrupt M. Dupin? was it possible? and, further, to what purpose? To pay him? Why? It would be money wasted when fear alone was enough. Some connivances are secured before they are sought for. Cowardice is the old fawner upon felony. The blood of the law is quickly wiped up. Behind the assassin who holds the poniard comes the trembling wretch who holds the sponge.

Dupin took refuge in his study. They followed him. “My God!” he cried, “can’t they understand that I want to be left in peace.”

In truth they had tortured him ever since the morning, in order to extract from him an impossible scrap of courage.

“You ill-treat me worse than the gendarmes,” said he.

The Representatives installed themselves in his study, seated themselves at his table, and, while he groaned and scolded in an arm-chair, they drew up a formal report of what had just taken place, as they wished to leave an official record of the outrage in the archives.

When the official report was ended Representative Canet read it to the President, and offered him a pen.

“What do you want me to do with this?” he asked.

“You are the President,” answered Canet. “This is our last sitting. It is your duty to sign the official report.”

This man refused.

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