It was on Saturday that the white flag was hoisted at Nimes. The next day a crowd of Catholic peasants from the environs marched into the city, to await the arrival of the Royalist army from Beaucaire. Excitement was at fever heat, the desire of revenge filled every breast, the hereditary hatred which had slumbered during the Empire again awoke stronger than ever. Here I may pause to say that in the account which follows of the events which took place about this time, I can only guarantee the facts and not the dates: I relate everything as it happened; but the day on which it happened may sometimes have escaped my memory, for it is easier to recollect a murder to which one has been an eye-witness, than to recall the exact date on which it happened.
The garrison of Nimes was composed of one battalion of the 13th Regiment of the line, and another battalion of the 79th Regiment, which not being up to its full war-strength had been sent to Nimes to complete its numbers by enlistment. But after the battle of Waterloo the citizens had tried to induce the soldiers to desert, so that of the two battalions, even counting the officers, only about two hundred men remained.
When the news of the proclamation of Napoleon II reached Nimes, Brigadier-General Malmont, commandant of the department, had him proclaimed in the city without any disturbance being caused thereby. It was not until some days later that a report began to be circulated that a royal army was gathering at Beaucaire, and that the populace would take advantage of its arrival to indulge in excesses. In the face of this two-fold danger, General Malmont had ordered the regular troops, and a part of the National Guard of the Hundred Days, to be drawn up under arms in the rear of the barracks upon an eminence on which he had mounted five pieces of ordnance. This disposition was maintained for two days and a night, but as the populace remained quiet, the troops returned to the barracks and the Guards to their homes.
But on Monday a concourse of people, who had heard that the army from Beaucaire would arrive the next day, made a hostile demonstration before the barracks, demanding with shouts and threats that the five cannons should be handed over to them. The general and the officers who were quartered in the town, hearing of the tumult, repaired at once to the barracks, but soon came out again, and approaching the crowd tried to persuade it to disperse, to which the only answer they received was a shower of bullets. Convinced by this, as he was well acquainted with the character of the people with whom he had to deal, that the struggle had begun in earnest and must be fought out to the bitter end, the general retreated with his officers, step by step, to the barracks, and having got inside the gates, closed and bolted them.
He then decided that it was his duty to repulse force by force, for everyone was determined to defend, at no matter what cost, a position which, from the first moment of revolt, was fraught with such peril. So, without waiting for orders, the soldiers, seeing that some of their windows had been broken by shots from without, returned the fire, and, being better marksmen than the townspeople, soon laid many low. Upon this the alarmed crowd retired out of musket range, and entrenched themselves in some neighbouring houses.
About nine o'clock in the evening, a man bearing something resembling a white flag approached the walls and asked to speak to the general. He brought a message inquiring on what terms the troops would consent to evacuate Nimes. The general sent back word that the conditions were, that the troops should be allowed to march out fully armed and with all their baggage; the five guns alone would be left behind. When the forces reached a certain valley outside the city they would halt, that the men might be supplied with means sufficient to enable them either to rejoin the regiments to which they belonged, or to return to their own homes.
At two o'clock A. M. the same envoy returned, and announced to the general that the conditions had been accepted with one alteration, which was that the troops, before marching out, should lay down their arms. The messenger also intimated that if the offer he had brought were not quickly accepted--say within two hours--the time for capitulation would have gone by, and that he would not be answerable for what the people might then do in their fury. The general accepted the conditions as amended, and the envoy disappeared.
When the troops heard of the agreement, that they should be disarmed before being allowed to leave the town, their first impulse was to refuse to lay down their weapons before a rabble which had run away from a few musket shots; but the general succeeded in soothing their sense of humiliation and winning their consent by representing to them that there could be nothing dishonourable in an action which prevented the children of a common fatherland from shedding each other's blood.
The gendarmerie, according to one article of the treaty, were to close in at, the rear of the evacuating column; and thus hinder the populace from molesting the troops of which it was composed. This was the only concession obtained in return for the abandoned arms, and the farce in question was already drawn up in field order, apparently waiting to escort the troops out of the city.
At four o'clock P.M. the troops got ready, each company stacking its arms in the courtyard before: marching out; but hardly had forty or fifty men passed the gates than fire was opened on them at such close range that half of them were killed or disabled at the first volley. Upon this, those who were still within the walls closed the courtyard gates, thus cutting off all chance of retreat from their comrades. In the event; however, it turned out that several of the latter contrived to escape with their lives and that they lost nothing through being prevented from returning; for as soon as the mob saw that ten or twelve of their victims had slipped through their hands they made a furious attack on the barracks, burst in the gates, and scaled the walls with such rapidity, that the soldiers had no time to repossess themselves of their muskets, and even had they succeeded in seizing them they would have been of little use, as ammunition was totally wanting. The barracks being thus carried by assault, a horrible massacre ensued, which lasted for three hours. Some of the wretched men, being hunted from room to room, jumped out of the first window they could reach, without stopping to measure its height from the ground, and were either impaled on the bayonets held in readiness below, or, falling on the pavement, broke their limbs and were pitilessly despatched.
The gendarmes, who had really been called out to protect the retreat of the garrison, seemed to imagine they were there to witness a judicial execution, and stood immovable and impassive while these horrid deeds went on before their eyes. But the penalty of this indifference was swiftly exacted, for as soon as the soldiers were all done with, the mob, finding their thirst for blood still unslacked, turned on the gendarmes, the greater number of whom were wounded, while all lost their horses, and some their lives.
The populace was still engaged at its bloody task when news came that the army from Beaucaire was within sight of the town, and the murderers, hastening to despatch some of the wounded who still showed signs of life, went forth to meet the long expected reinforcements.
Only those who saw the advancing army with their own eyes can form any idea of its condition and appearance, the first corps excepted. This corps was commanded by M. de Barre, who had put himself at its head with the noble purpose of preventing, as far as he could, massacre and pillage. In this he was seconded by the officers under him, who were actuated by the same philanthropic motives as their general in identifying themselves with the corps. Owing to their exertions, the men advanced in fairly regular order, and good discipline was maintained. All the men carried muskets.
But the first corps was only a kind of vanguard to the second, which was the real army, and a wonderful thing to see and hear. Never were brought together before or since so many different kinds of howl, so many threats of death, so many rags; so many odd weapons, from the matchlock of the time of the Michelade to the steel-tipped goad of the bullock drovers of La Camargue, so that when the Nimes mob; which in all conscience was howling and ragged enough, rushed out to offer a brotherly welcome to the strangers, its first feeling was one of astonishment and dismay as it caught sight of the motley crew which held out to it the right hand of fellowship.
The new-comers soon showed that it was through necessity and not choice that their outer man presented such a disreputable appearance; for they were hardly well within the gates before demanding that the houses of the members of the old Protestant National Guard should be pointed out to them.
This being done, they promptly proceeded to exact from each household a musket, a coat, a complete kit, or a sum of money, according to their humour, so that before evening those who had arrived naked and penniless were provided with complete uniforms and had money in their pockets. These exactions were levied under the name of a contribution, but before the day was ended naked and undisguised pillage began.
Someone asserted that during the assault on the barracks a certain individual had fired out of a certain house on the assailants. The indignant people now rushed to the house indicated, and soon left nothing of it in existence but its walls. A little later it was clearly proved that the individual accused was quite innocent of the crime laid to his charge.
The house of a rich merchant lay in the path of the advancing army. A cry arose that the owner was a Bonapartist, and nothing more was needed. The house was broken into and pillaged, and the furniture thrown out of the windows.
Two days later it turned out that not only was the merchant no Bonapartist, but that his son had been one of those who had accompanied the Duc d'Angouleme to Cette when he left the country. The pillagers excused themselves by saying they had been misled by a resemblance between two names, and this excuse, as far as appears, was accepted as valid by the authorities.
It was not long before the populace of Nimes began to think they might as well follow the example set them by their brothers from Beaucaire. In twenty-four hours free companies were formed, headed by Trestaillons, Trupheny, Graffan, and Morinet. These bands arrogated to themselves the title of National Guard, and then what took place at Marseilles in the excitement of the moment was repeated at Nimes with deliberation and method, inspired by hate and the desire of vengeance. A revolt broke out which followed the ordinary course: first pillage, then fire, then murder, laid waste the city.
M. V______'s house, which stood in the middle of the town, was sacked and then burnt to the ground, without a hand being raised to prevent the crime.
M. T______'s house, on the road to Montpellier, was sacked and wrecked and a bonfire made of the furniture, round which the crowd danced; as if it had been an occasion of public rejoicing. Then cries were raised for the proprietor, that he might be killed, and as he could not be found the baffled fury of the mob vented itself on the dead. A child three months buried was dragged from its grave, drawn by the feet through the sewers and wayside puddles, and then flung on a dung-heap; and, strange to say, while incendiarism and sacrilege thus ran riot, the mayor of the place slept so sound that when he awoke he was "quite astonished," to use his own expression, to hear what had taken place during the night.
This expedition completed, the same company which had brought this expedition to a successful issue next turned their attention to a small country house occupied by a widow, whom I had often begged to take refuge with us. But, secure in her insignificance, she had always declined our offers, preferring to live solitary and retired in her own home. But the freebooters sought her out, burst in her doors, drove her away with blows and insults, destroyed her house and burnt her furniture. They then proceeded to the vault in which lay the remains of her family, dragged them out of their coffins and scattered them about the fields. The next day the poor woman-ventured back, collected the desecrated remains with pious care, and replaced them in the vault. But this was counted to her as a crime; the company returned, once more cast forth the contents of the coffins, and threatened to kill her should she dare to touch them again. She was often seen in the days that followed shedding bitter tears and watching over the sacred relics as they lay exposed on the ground.
The name of this widow was Pepin, and the scene of the sacrilege was a small enclosure on the hill of the Moulins-a-Vent.
Meantime the people in the Faubourg des Bourgades had invented a new sort of game, or rather, had resolved to vary the serious business of the drama that was being enacted by the introduction of comic scenes. They had possessed themselves of a number of beetles such as washerwomen use, and hammered in long nails, the points of which projected an inch on the other side in the form of a fleur-de-lis. Every Protestant who fell into their hands, no matter what his age or rank, was stamped with the bloody emblem, serious wounds being inflicted in many cases.
Murders were now becoming common. Amongst other names of victims mentioned were Loriol, Bigot, Dumas, Lhermet, Heritier, Domaison, Combe, Clairon, Begomet, Poujas, Imbert, Vigal, Pourchet, Vignole. Details more or less shocking came to light as to the manner in which the murderers went to work. A man called Dalbos was in the custody of two armed men; some others came to consult with them. Dalbos appealed for mercy to the new-comers. It was granted, but as he turned to go he was shot dead. Another of the name of Rambert tried to escape by disguising himself as a woman, but was recognised and shot down a few yards outside his own door. A gunner called Saussine was walking in all security along the road to Uzes, pipe in mouth, when he was met by five men belonging to Trestaillon's company, who surrounded him and stabbed him to the heart with their knives. The elder of two brothers named Chivas ran across some fields to take shelter in a country house called Rouviere, which, unknown to him, had been occupied by some of the new National Guard. These met him on the threshold and shot him dead.
Rant was seized in his own house and shot. Clos was met by a company, and seeing Trestaillons, with whom he had always been friends, in its ranks, he went up to him and held out his hand; whereupon Trestaillons drew a pistol from his belt and blew his brains out. Calandre being chased down the rue des Soeurs-Grises, sought shelter in a tavern, but was forced to come out, and was killed with sabres. Courbet was sent to prison under the escort of some men, but these changed their minds on the way as to his punishment, halted, and shot him dead in the middle of the street.
A wine merchant called Cabanot, who was flying from Trestaillons, ran into a house in which there was a venerable priest called Cure Bonhomme. When the cut-throat rushed in, all covered with blood, the priest advanced and stopped him, crying:
"What will happen, unhappy man, when you come to the confessional with blood-stained hands?"
"Pooh!" replied Trestaillons, "you must put on your wide gown; the sleeves are large enough to let everything pass."
To the short account given above of so many murders I will add the narrative of one to which I was an eye-witness, and which made the most terrible impression on me of, anything in my experience.
It was midnight. I was working beside my wife's bed; she was just becoming drowsy, when a noise in the distance caught our attention. It gradually became more distinct, and drums began to beat the 'generale' in every direction. Hiding my own alarm for fear of increasing hers, I answered my wife, who was asking what new thing was about to happen, that it was probably troops marching in or out of garrison. But soon reports of firearms, accompanied by an uproar with which we were so familiar that we could no longer mistake its meaning, were heard outside. Opening my window, I heard bloodcurdling imprecations, mixed with cries of "Long live the king!" going on. Not being able to remain any longer in this uncertainty, I woke a captain who lived in the same house. He rose, took his arms, and we went out together, directing our course towards the point whence the shouts seemed to come. The moon shone so bright that we could see everything almost as distinctly as in broad daylight.
A concourse of people was hurrying towards the Cours yelling like madmen; the greater number of them, half naked, armed with muskets, swords, knives, and clubs, and swearing to exterminate everything, waved their weapons above the heads of men who had evidently been torn from their houses and brought to the square to be put to death. The rest of the crowd had, like ourselves, been drawn thither by curiosity, and were asking what was going on. "Murder is abroad," was the answer; "several people have been killed in the environs, and the patrol has been fired on." While this questioning was going on the noise continued to increase. As I had really no business to be on a spot where such things were going on, and feeling that my place was at my wife's side, to reassure her for the present and to watch over her should the rioters come our way, I said good-bye to the captain, who went on to the barracks, and took the road back to the suburb in which I lived.
I was not more than fifty steps from our house when I heard loud talking behind me, and, turning, saw gun barrels glittering in the moonlight. As the speakers seemed to be rapidly approaching me, I kept close in the shadow of the houses till I reached my own door, which I laid softly to behind me, leaving myself a chink by which I could peep out and watch the movements of the group which was drawing near. Suddenly I felt something touch my hand; it was a great Corsican dog, which was turned loose at night, and was so fierce that it was a great protection to our house. I felt glad to have it at my side, for in case of a struggle it would be no despicable ally.
Those approaching turned out to be three armed men leading a fourth, disarmed and a prisoner. They all stopped just opposite my door, which I gently closed and locked, but as I still wished to see what they were about, I slipped into the garden, which lay towards the street, still followed by my dog. Contrary to his habit, and as if he understood the danger, he gave a low whine instead of his usual savage growl. I climbed into a fig tree the branches of which overhung the street, and, hidden by the leaves, and resting my hands on the top of the wall, I leaned far enough forward to see what the men were about.
They were still on the same spot, but there was a change in their positions. The prisoner was now kneeling with clasped hands before the cut-throats, begging for his life for the sake of his wife and children, in heartrending accents, to which his executioners replied in mocking tones, "We have got you at last into our hands, have we? You dog of a Bonapartist, why do you not call on your emperor to come and help you out of this scrape?" The unfortunate man's entreaties became more pitiful and their mocking replies more pitiless. They levelled their muskets at him several times, and then lowered them, saying; "Devil take it, we won't shoot yet; let us give him time to see death coming," till at last the poor wretch, seeing there was no hope of mercy, begged to be put out of his misery.
Drops of sweat stood on my forehead. I felt my pockets to see if I had nothing on me which I could use as a weapon, but I had not even a knife. I looked at my dog; he was lying flat at the foot of the tree, and appeared to be a prey to the most abject terror. The prisoner continued his supplications, and the assassins their threats and mockery. I climbed quietly down out of the fig tree, intending to fetch my pistols. My dog followed me with his eyes, which seemed to be the only living things about him. Just as my foot touched the ground a double report rang out, and my dog gave a plaintive and prolonged howl. Feeling that all was over, and that no weapons could be of any use, I climbed up again into my perch and looked out. The poor wretch was lying face downwards writhing in his blood; the assassins were reloading their muskets as they walked away.
Being anxious to see if it was too late to help the man whom I had not been able to save, I went out into the street and bent over him. He was bloody, disfigured, dying, but was yet alive, uttering dismal groans. I tried to lift him up, but soon saw that the wounds which he had received from bullets fired at close range were both mortal, one being in the head, and the other in the loins. Just then a patrol, of the National Guard turned round the corner of the street. This, instead of being a relief, awoke me to a sense of my danger, and feeling I could do nothing for the wounded man, for the death rattle had already begun, I entered my house, half shut the door, and listened.
"Qui vive?" asked the corporal.
"Idiot!" said someone else, "to ask 'Qui vive?' of a dead man!"
"He is not dead," said a third voice; "listen to him singing"; and indeed the poor fellow in his agony was giving utterance to dreadful groans.
"Someone has tickled him well," said a fourth, "but what does it matter? We had better finish the job."
Five or six musket shots followed, and the groans ceased.
The name of the man who had just expired was Louis Lichaire; it was not against him, but against his nephew, that the assassins had had a grudge, but finding the nephew out when they burst into the house, and a victim being indispensable, they had torn the uncle from the arms of his wife, and, dragging him towards the citadel, had killed him as I have just related.
Very early next morning I sent to three commissioners of police, one after the other, for permission to have the corpse carried to the hospital, but these gentlemen were either not up or had already gone out, so that it was not until eleven o'clock and after repeated applications that they condescended to give me the needed authorisation.
Thanks to this delay, the whole town came to see the body of the unfortunate man. Indeed, the day which followed a massacre was always kept as a holiday, everyone leaving his work undone and coming out to stare at the slaughtered victims. In this case, a man wishing to amuse the crowd took his pipe out of his mouth and put it between the teeth of the corpse--a joke which had a marvellous success, those present shrieking with laughter.
Many murders had been committed during the night; the companies had scoured the streets singing some doggerel, which one of the bloody wretches, being in poetic vein, had composed, the chorus of which was--,
"Our work's well done, We spare none!"
Seventeen fatal outrages were committed, and yet neither the reports of the firearms nor the cries of the victims broke the peaceful slumbers of M, le Prefet and M. le Commissaire General de la Police. But if the civil authorities slept, General Lagarde, who had shortly before come to town to take command of the city in the name of the king, was awake. He had sprung from his bed at the first shot, dressed himself, and made a round of the posts; then sure that everything was in order, he had formed patrols of chasseurs, and had himself, accompanied by two officers only, gone wherever he heard cries for help. But in spite of the strictness of his orders the small number of troops at his disposition delayed the success of his efforts, and it was not until three o'clock in the morning that he succeeded in securing Trestaillons. When this man was taken he was dressed as usual in the uniform of the National Guard, with a cocked hat and captain's epaulets. General Lagarde ordered the gens d'armes who made the capture to deprive him of his sword and carbine, but it was only after a long struggle that they could carry out this order, for Trestaillons protested that he would only give up his carbine with his life. However, he was at last obliged to yield to numbers, and when disarmed was removed to the barracks; but as there could be no peace in the town as long as he was in it, the general sent him to the citadel of Montpellier next morning before it was light.
The disorders did not, however, cease at once. At eight o'clock A.M. they were still going on, the mob seeming to be animated by the spirit of Trestaillons, for while the soldiers were occupied in a distant quarter of the town a score of men broke into the house of a certain Scipion Chabrier, who had remained hidden from his enemies for a long time, but who had lately returned home on the strength of the proclamations published by General Lagarde when he assumed the position of commandant of the town. He had indeed been sure that the disturbances in Nimes were over, when they burst out with redoubled fury on the 16th of October; on the morning of the 17th he was working quietly at home at his trade of a silk weaver, when, alarmed by the shouts of a parcel of cut-throats outside his house, he tried to escape. He succeeded in reaching the "Coupe d'Or," but the ruffians followed him, and the first who came up thrust him through the thigh with his bayonet. In consequence of this wound he fell from top to bottom of the staircase, was seized and dragged to the stables, where the assassins left him for dead, with seven wounds in his body.
This was, however, the only murder committed that day in the town, thanks to the vigilance and courage of General Lagarde.
The next day a considerable crowd gathered, and a noisy deputation went to General Lagarde's quarters and insolently demanded that Trestaillons should be set at liberty. The general ordered them to disperse, but no attention was paid to this command, whereupon he ordered his soldiers to charge, and in a moment force accomplished what long-continued persuasion had failed to effect. Several of the ringleaders were arrested and taken to prison.
Thus, as we shall see, the struggle assumed a new phase: resistance to the royal power was made in the name of the royal power, and both those who broke or those who tried to maintain the public peace used the same cry, "Long live the king!"
The firm attitude assumed by General Lagarde restored Nimes to a state of superficial peace, beneath which, however, the old enmities were fermenting. An occult power, which betrayed itself by a kind of passive resistance, neutralised the effect of the measures taken by the military commandant. He soon became cognisant of the fact that the essence of this sanguinary political strife was an hereditary religious animosity, and in order to strike a last blow at this, he resolved, after having received permission from the king, to grant the general request of the Protestants by reopening their places of worship, which had been closed for more than four months, and allowing the public exercise of the Protestant religion, which had been entirely suspended in the city for the same length of time.
Formerly there had been six Protestant pastors resident in Nimes, but four of them, had fled; the two who remained were MM. Juillerat and Olivier Desmonts, the first a young man, twenty-eight years of age, the second an old man of seventy.
The entire weight of the ministry had fallen during this period of proscription on M. Juillerat, who had accepted the task and religiously fulfilled it. It seemed as if a special providence had miraculously protected him in the midst of the many perils which beset his path. Although the other pastor, M. Desmonts, was president of the Consistory, his life was in much less danger; for, first, he had reached an age which almost everywhere commands respect, and then he had a son who was a lieutenant in, one of the royal corps levied at Beaucaire, who protected him by his name when he could not do so by his presence. M. Desmonts had therefore little cause for anxiety as to his safety either in the streets of Nimes or on the road between that and his country house.
But, as we have said, it was not so with M. Juillerat. Being young and active, and having an unfaltering trust in God, on him alone devolved all the sacred duties of his office, from the visitation of the sick and dying to the baptism of the newly born. These latter were often brought to him at night to be baptized, and he consented, though unwillingly, to make this concession, feeling that if he insisted on the performance of the rite by day he would compromise not only his own safety but that of others. In all that concerned him personally, such as consoling the dying or caring for the wounded, he acted quite openly, and no danger that he encountered on his way ever caused him to flinch from the path of duty.
One day, as M. Juillerat was passing through the rue des Barquettes on his way to the prefecture to transact some business connected with his ministry, he saw several men lying in wait in a blind alley by which he had to pass. They had their guns pointed at him. He continued his way with tranquil step and such an air of resignation that the assassins were overawed, and lowered their weapons as he approached, without firing a single shot. When M. Juillerat reached the prefecture, thinking that the prefect ought to be aware of everything connected with the public order, he related this incident to M. d'Arbaud-Jouques, but the latter did not think the affair of enough importance to require any investigation.
It was, as will be seen, a difficult enterprise to open once again the Protestant places of worship, which had been so long closed, in present circumstances, and in face of the fact that the civil authorities regarded such a step with disfavour, but General Lagarde was one of those determined characters who always act up to their convictions. Moreover, to prepare people's minds for this stroke of religious policy, he relied on the help of the Duc d'Angouleme, who in the course of a tour through the South was almost immediately expected at Nimes.
On the 5th of November the prince made his entry into the city, and having read the reports of the general to the King Louis XVIII, and having received positive injunctions from his uncle to pacify the unhappy provinces which he was about to visit, he arrived full of the desire to displays whether he felt it or not, a perfect impartiality; so when the delegates from the Consistory were presented to him, not only did he receive them most graciously, but he was the first to speak of the interests of their faith, assuring them that it was only a few days since he had learned with much regret that their religious services had been; suspended since the 16th of July. The delegates replied that in such a time of agitation the closing of their places of worship was, a measure of prudence which they had felt ought to be borne, and which had been borne, with resignation. The prince expressed his approval of this attitude with regard to the past, but said that his presence was a guarantee for the future, and that on Thursday the 9th inst. the two meeting-houses should be reopened and restored to their proper use. The Protestants were alarmed at, having a favour accorded to them which was much more than they would have dared to ask and for which they were hardly prepared. But the prince reassured them by saying that all needful measures would be taken to provide against any breach of the public peace, and at the same time invited M. Desmonts, president, and M. Roland-Lacoste, member of the Consistory, to dine with him.
The next deputation to arrive was a Catholic one, and its object was to ask that Trestaillons might be set at liberty. The prince was so indignant at this request that his only answer was to turn his back on those who proffered it.
The next day the duke, accompanied by General Lagarde, left for Montpellier; and as it was on the latter that the Protestants placed their sole reliance for the maintenance of those rights guaranteed for the future by the word of the prince, they hesitated to take any new step in his absence, and let the 9th of November go by without attempting to resume public worship, preferring to wait for the return of their protector, which took place on Saturday evening the 11th of November.
When the general got back, his first thought was to ask if the commands of the prince had been carried out, and when he heard that they had not, without waiting to hear a word in justification of the delay, he sent a positive order to the president of the Consistory to open both places of worship the next morning.
Upon this, the president carrying self-abnegation and prudence to their extreme limits, went to the general's quarters, and having warmly thanked him, laid before him the dangers to which he would expose himself by running counter to the opinions of those who had had their own way in the city for the last four months. But General Lagarde brushed all these considerations aside: he had received an order from the prince, and to a man of his military cast of mind no course was open but to carry that order out.
Nevertheless, the president again expressed his doubts and fears.
"I will answer with my head," said the general, "that nothing happens." Still the president counselled prudence, asking that only one place of worship at first be opened, and to this the general gave his consent.
This continued resistance to the re-establishment of public worship on the part of those who most eagerly desired it enabled the general at last to realise the extent of the danger which would be incurred by the carrying out of this measure, and he at once took all possible precautions. Under the pretext that he was going to-have a general review, he brought the entire civil and military forces of Nimes under his authority, determined, if necessary, to use the one to suppress the other. As early as eight o'clock in the morning a guard of gens d'armes was stationed at the doors of the meeting-house, while other members of the same force took up their positions in the adjacent streets. On the other hand, the Consistory had decided that the doors were to be opened an hour sooner than usual, that the bells were not to be rung, and that the organ should be silent.
These precautions had both a good and a bad side. The gens d'armes at the door of the meetinghouse gave if not a promise of security at least a promise of support, but they showed to the citizens of the other party what was about to be done; so before nine o'clock groups of Catholics began to form, and as it happened to be Sunday the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages arriving constantly by twos and threes soon united these groups into a little army. Thus the streets leading to the church being thronged, the Protestants who pushed their way through were greeted with insulting remarks, and even the president of the Consistory, whose white, hair and dignified expression had no effect upon the mob, heard the people round him saying, "These brigands of Protestants are going again to their temple, but we shall soon give them enough of it."
The anger of the populace soon grows hot; between the first bubble and the boiling-point the interval is short. Threats spoken in a low voice were soon succeeded by noisy objurgations. Women, children, and men brake out into yells, "Down with the broilers!" (for this was one of the names by which the Protestants were designated). "Down with the broilers! We do not want to see them using our churches: let them give us back our churches; let them give us back our churches, and go to the desert. Out with them! Out with them! To the desert! To the desert!"
As the crowd did not go beyond words, however insulting, and as the Protestants were long inured to much worse things, they plodded along to their meeting-house, humble and silent, and went in, undeterred by the displeasure they aroused, whereupon the service commenced.
But some Catholics went in with them, and soon the same shouts which had been heard without were heard also within. The general, however, was on the alert, and as soon as the shouts arose inside the gens d'armes entered the church and arrested those who had caused the disturbance. The crowds tried to rescue them on their way to prison, but the general appeared at the head of imposing forces, at the sight of which they desisted. An apparent cam succeeded the tumult, and the public worship went on without further interruption.
The general, misled by appearances, went off himself to attend a military mass, and at eleven o'clock returned to his quarters for lunch. His absence was immediately perceived and taken advantage of. In the: twinkling of an eye, the crowds, which had dispersed, gathered together in even greater numbers and the Protestants, seeing themselves once more in danger, shut the doors from within, while the gens d'armes guarded them without. The populace pressed so closely round the gens d'armes, and assumed such a threatening attitude, that fearing he and his men would not be able to hold their own in such a throng, the captain ordered M. Delbose, one of his officers, to ride off and warn the general. He forced his way through the crowd with great trouble, and went off at a gallop. On seeing this, the people felt there was no time to be lost; they knew of what kind the general was, and that he would be on the spot in a quarter of an hour. A large crowd is invincible through its numbers; it has only to press forward, and everything gives way, men, wood, iron. At this moment the crowd, swayed by a common impulse, swept forward, the gens d'armes and their horses were crushed against the wall, doors gave way, and instantly with a tremendous roar a living wave flooded the church. Cries of terror and frightful imprecations were heard on all sides, everyone made a weapon of whatever came to hand, chairs and benches were hurled about, the disorder was at its height; it seemed as if the days of the Michelade and the Bagarre were about to return, when suddenly the news of a terrible event was spread abroad, and assailants and assailed paused in horror. General Lagarde had just been assassinated.
As the crowd had foreseen, no sooner did the messenger deliver his message than the general sprang on his horse, and, being too brave, or perhaps too scornful, to fear such foes, he waited for no escort, but, accompanied by two or three officers, set off at full gallop towards the scene of the tumult. He had passed through the narrow streets which led to the meeting-house by pushing the crowd aside with his horse's chest, when, just as he got out into the open square, a young man named Boisson, a sergeant in the Nimes National Guard, came up and seemed to wish to speak to him. The general seeing a man in uniform, bent down without a thought of danger to listen to what he had to say, whereupon Boisson drew a pistol out and fired at him. The ball broke the collar-bone and lodged in the neck behind the carotid artery, and the general fell from his horse.
The news of this crime had a strange and unexpected effect; however excited and frenzied the crowd was, it instantly realised the consequences of this act. It was no longer like the murder of Marshal Brune at Avignon or General Ramel at Toulouse, an act of vengeance on a favourite of Napoleon, but open and armed rebellion against the king. It was not a simple murder, it was high treason.
A feeling of the utmost terror spread through the town; only a few fanatics went on howling in the church, which the Protestants, fearing still greater disasters, had by this time resolved to abandon. The first to come out was President Olivier Desmonts, accompanied by M. Vallongues, who had only just arrived in the city, but who had immediately hurried to the spot at the call of duty.
M. Juillerat, his two children in his arms, walked behind them, followed by all the other worshippers. At first the crowd, threatening and ireful, hooted and threw stones at them, but at the voice of the mayor and the dignified aspect of the president they allowed them to pass. During this strange retreat over eighty Protestants were wounded, but not fatally, except a young girl called Jeannette Cornilliere, who had been so beaten and ill-used that she died of her injuries a few days later.
In spite of the momentary slackening of energy which followed the assassination of General Lagarde, the Catholics did not remain long in a state of total inaction. During the rest of the day the excited populace seemed as if shaken by an earthquake. About six o'clock in the evening, some of the most desperate characters in the town possessed themselves of a hatchet, and, taking their way to the Protestant church, smashed the doors, tore the pastors' gowns, rifled the poor-box, and pulled the books to pieces. A detachment of troops arrived just in time to prevent their setting the building on fire.
The next day passed more quietly. This time the disorders were of too important a nature for the prefect to ignore, as he had ignored so many bloody acts in the past; so in due time a full report was laid before the king. It became know the same evening that General Lagarde was still living, and that those around him hoped that the wound would not prove mortal. Dr. Delpech, who had been summoned from Montpellier, had succeeded in extracting the bullet, and though he spoke no word of hope, he did not expressly declare that the case was hopeless.
Two days later everything in the town had assumed its ordinary aspect, and on the 21st of November the king issued the following edict:--
"Louis, by the grace of God, King of France and of Navarre,
"To all those to whom these presents shall come, greeting:
"An abominable crime has cast a stain on Our city of Nimes. A seditious mob has dared to oppose the opening of the Protestant place of worship, in contempt of the constitutional charter, which while it recognises the Catholic religion as the religion of the State, guarantees to the other religious bodies protection and freedom of worship. Our military commandant, whilst trying to disperse these crowds by gentle means before having resort to force, was shot down, and his assassin has till now successfully evaded the arm of the law. If such an outrage were to remain unpunished, the maintenance of good government and public order would be impossible, and Our ministers would be guilty of neglecting the law.
"Wherefore We have ordered and do order as follows:
"Art. 1. Proceedings shall be commenced without delay by Our attorney, and the attorney-general, against the perpetrator of the murderous attack on the person of Sieur Lagarde, and against the authors, instigators, and accomplices of the insurrection which took place in the city of Nimes on the 12th of the present month.
"Art. 2. A sufficient number of troops shall be quartered in the said city, and shall remain there at the cost of the inhabitants, until the assassin and his accomplices have been produced before a court of law.
"Art. 3. All those citizens whose names are not entitled to be on the roll of the National Guard shall be disarmed.
"Our Keeper of the Seals, Our Minister of War, Our Minister of the Interior, and Our Minister of Police, are entrusted with the execution of this edict.
"Given at Paris at Our Castle of the Tuileries on the 21st of November in the year of grace 1815, and of Our reign the 21st.
Boissin was acquitted.
This was the last crime committed in the South, and it led fortunately to no reprisals.
Three months after the murderous attempt to which he had so nearly fallen a victim, General Lagarde left Nimes with the rank of ambassador, and was succeeded as prefect by M. d'Argont.
During the firm, just, and independent administration of the latter, the disarming of the citizens decreed by the royal edict was carried out without bloodshed.
Through his influence, MM. Chabot-Latour, Saint-Aulaire, and Lascour were elected to the Chamber of Deputies in place of MM. De Calviere, De Vogue, and De Trinquelade.
And down to the present time the name of M. d'Argont is held in veneration at Nimes, as if he had only quitted the city yesterday.
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