The History of a Crime, by Victor Hugo

Chapter vii.

Items and Interviews

Lamoricière on the same morning found means to convey to me by Madame de Courbonne15 the following information.

“—— Fortress of Ham. — The Commandant’s name is Baudot. His appointment, made by Cavaignac in 1848, was countersigned by Charras. Both are to-day his prisoners. The Commissary of Police, sent by Morny to the village of Ham to watch the movements of the jailer and the prisoners, is Dufaure de Pouillac.”16

I thought when I received this communication that the Commandant Baudot, “the jailer,” had connived at its rapid transmission.

A sign of the instability of the central power.

Lamoricière, by the same means, put me in possession of some details concerning his arrest and that of his fellow-generals.

These details complete those which I have already given.

The arrests of the Generals were affected at the same time at their respective homes under nearly similar circumstances. Everywhere houses surrounded, doors opened by artifice or burst open by force, porters deceived, sometimes garotted, men in disguise, men provided with ropes, men armed with axes, surprises in bed, nocturnal violence. A plan of action which resembled, as I have said, an invasion of brigands.

General Lamoricière, according to his own expression, was a sound sleeper. Notwithstanding the noise at his door, he did not awake. His servant, a devoted old soldier, spoke in a loud voice, and called out to arouse the General. He even offered resistance to the police. A police agent wounded him in the knee with a sword thrust.17 The General was awakened, seized, and carried away.

While passing in a carriage along the Quai Malaquais, Lamoricière noticed troops marching by with their knapsacks on their backs. He leaned quickly forward out of the window. The Commissary of Police thought he was about to address the soldiers. He seized the General by the arm, and said to him, “General, if you say a word I shall put this on you.” And with the other hand he showed him in the dim light something which proved to be a gag.

All the Generals arrested were taken to Mazas. There they were locked up and forgotten. At eight in the evening General Changarnier had eaten nothing.

These arrests were not pleasant tasks for the Commissaries of Police. They were made to drink down their shame in large draughts. Cavaignac, Leflô, Changarnier, Bedeau, and Lamoricière did not spare them any more than Charras did. As he was leaving, General Cavaignac took some money with him. Before putting it in his pocket, he turned towards Colin, the Commissary of Police who had arrested him, and said, “Will this money be safe on me?”

The Commissary exclaimed, “Oh, General, what are you thinking of?”

“What assurance have I that you are not thieves?” answered Cavaignac. At the same time, nearly the same moment, Charras said to Courteille, the Commissary of Police, “Who can tell me that you are not pick-pockets?”

A few days afterwards these pitiful wretches all received the Cross of the Legion of Honor.

This cross given by the last Bonaparte to policemen after the 2d of December is the same as that affixed by the first Napoleon to the eagles of the Grand Army after Austerlitz.

I communicated these details to the Committee. Other reports came in. A few concerned the Press. Since the morning of the 4th the Press was treated with soldierlike brutality. Serrière, the courageous printer, came to tell us what had happened at the Presse. Serrière published the Presse and the Avénement du Peuple, the latter a new name for the Evénement, which had been judicially suppressed. On the 2d, at seven o’clock in the morning, the printing-office had been occupied by twenty-eight soldiers of the Republican Guard, commanded by a Lieutenant named Pape (since decorated for this achievement). This man had given Serrière an order prohibiting the printing of any article signed “Nusse.” A Commissary of Police accompanied Lieutenant Pape. This Commissary had notified Serrière of a “decree of the President of the Republic,” suppressing the Avénement du Peuple, and had placed sentinels over the presses. The workmen had resisted, and one of them said to the soldiers, “We shall print it in spite of you.” Then forty additional Municipal Guards arrived, with two quarter-masters, four corporals, and a detachment of the line, with drums at their head, commanded by a captain. Girardin came up indignant, and protested with so much energy that a quarter-master said to him, “I should like a Colonel of your stamp.” Girardin’s courage communicated itself to the workmen, and by dint of skill and daring, under the very eyes of the gendarmes, they succeeded in printing Girardin’s proclamations with the hand-press, and ours with the brush. They carried them away wet, in small packages, under their waistcoats.

Luckily the soldiers were drunk. The gendarmes made them drink, and the workmen, profiting by their revels, printed. The Municipal Guards laughed, swore and jested, drank champagne and coffee, and said, “We fill the places of the Representatives, we have twenty-five francs a day.” All the printing-houses in Paris were occupied in the same manner by the soldiery. The coup d’état reigned everywhere. The Crime even ill-treated the Press which supported it. At the office of the Moniteur Parisien, the police agents threatened to fire on any one who should open a door. M. Delamare, director of the Patrie, had forty Municipal Guards on his hands, and trembled lest they should break his presses. He said to one of them, “Why, I am on your side.” The gendarme replied, “What is that to me?

At three o’clock on the morning of the 4th all the printing-offices were evacuated by the soldiers. The Captain said to Serrière, “We have orders to concentrate in our own quarters.” And Serrière, in announcing this fact, added, “Something is in preparation.”

I had had since the previous night several conversations with Georges Biscarrat, an honest and brave man, of whom I shall have occasion to speak hereafter. I had given him rendezvous at No. 19, Rue Richelieu. Many persons came and went during this morning of the 4th from No. 15, where we deliberated, to No. 19, where I slept.

As I left this honest and courageous man in the street I saw M. Mérimée, his exact opposite, coming towards me.

“Oh!” said M. Mérimée, “I was looking for you.”

I answered him —

“I hope you will not find me.”

He held out his hand to me, and I turned my back on him.

I have not seen him since. I believe he is dead.

In speaking one day in 1847 with Mérimée about Morny, we had the following conversation:— Mérimée said, “M. de Morny has a great future before him.” And he asked me, “Do you know him?”

I answered —

“Ah! he has a fine future before him! Yes, I know M. de Morny. He is a clever man. He goes a great deal into society, and conducts commercial operations. He started the Vieille Montagne affair, the zinc-mines, and the coal-mines of Liège. I have the honor of his acquaintance. He is a sharper.”

There was this difference between Mérimée and myself: I despised Morny, and he esteemed him.

Morny reciprocated his feeling. It was natural.

I waited until Mérimée had passed the corner of the street. As soon as he disappeared I went into No. 15.

There, they had received news of Canrobert. On the 2d he went to see Madame Leflô, that noble woman, who was most indignant at what had happened. There was to be a ball next day given by Saint–Arnaud at the Ministry of War. General and Madame Leflô were invited, and had made an appointment there with General Canrobert. But the ball did not form a part of Madame Leflô‘s conversation with him. “General,” said she, “all your comrades are arrested; is it possible that you give your support to such an act?” “What I intend giving,” replied Canrobert, “is my resignation and,” he added, “you may tell General Leflô so.” He was pale, and walked up and down, apparently much agitated. “Your resignation, General?” “Yes, Madame.” “Is it positive?” “Yes, Madame, if there is no riot.” “General Canrobert,” exclaimed Madame Leflô, “that if tells me your intentions.”

Canrobert, however, had not yet taken his decision. Indeed, indecision was one of his chief characteristics. Pelissier, who was cross-grained and gruff, used to say, “Judge men by their names, indeed! I am christened Amable, Randon César, and Canrobert Certain.”

15 No. 16, Rue d’Anjou, Saint Honoré.

16 The author still has in his possession the note written by Lamoricière.

17 Later on, the wound having got worse, he was obliged to have his leg taken off.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56