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Chapter 20


Such was the first day. Let us look at it steadfastly. It deserves it.
It is the anniversary of Austerlitz; the Nephew commemorates the Uncle.
Austerlitz is the most brilliant battle of history; the Nephew set
himself this problem--how to commit a baseness equal to this
magnificence. He succeeded.

This first day, which will be followed by others, is already complete.
Everything is there. It is the most terrible attempt at a thrust
backwards that has ever been essayed. Never has such a crumbling of
civilization been seen. All that formed the edifice is now in ruin; the
soil is strewn with the fragments. In one night the inviolability of the
Law, the Right of the Citizen, the Dignity of the Judge, and the Honor
of the Soldier have disappeared. Terrible substitutions have taken
place; there was the oath, there is pergury; there was the flag, there
is a rag; there was the Army, there is a band of brigands; there was
Justice, there is treason; there was a code of laws, there is the sabre;
there was a Government, there is a crew of swindlers; there was France,
there is a den of thieves. This called itself Society Saved.

It is the rescue of the traveller by the highwayman.

France was passing by, Bonaparte cried, "Stand and deliver!"

The hypocrisy which has preceded the Crime, equals in deformity the
impudence which has followed it. The nation was trustful and calm. There
was a sudden and cynical shock. History has recorded nothing equal to the
Second of December. Here there was no glory, nothing but meanness. No
deceptive picture. He could have declared himself honest; He declares
himself infamous; nothing more simple. This day, almost unintelligible in
its success, has proved that Politics possess their obscene side. Louis
Bonaparte has shown himself unmasked.

Yesterday President of the Republic, to-day a scavenger. He has sworn,
he still swears: but the tone has changed. The oath has become an
imprecation. Yesterday he called himself a maiden, to-day he becomes a
brazen woman, and laughs at his dupes. Picture to yourself Joan of Arc
confessing herself to be Messalina. Such is the Second of December.

Women are mixed up in this treason. It is an outrage which savors both
of the boudoir and of the galleys. There wafts across the fetidness of
blood an undefined scent of patchouli. The accomplices of this act of
brigandage are most agreeable men--Romieu, Morny. Getting into debt
leads one to commit crimes.

Europe was astounded. It was a thunder bolt from a thief. It must be
acknowledged that thunder can fall into bad hands, Palmerston, that
traitor, approved of it. Old Metternich, a dreamer in his villa at
Rennweg, shook his head. As to Soult, the man of Austerlitz after
Napoleon, he did what he ought to do, on the very day of the Crime he
died, Alas! and Austerlitz also.

Victor Hugo