THEY COME TO ARREST ME
In order to reach the Rue Caumartin from the Rue Popincourt, all Paris
has to be crossed. We found a great apparent calm everywhere. It was one
o'clock in the morning when we reached M. de la R----'s house. The
_fiacre_ stopped near a grated door, which M. de la R---- opened with a
latch-key; on the right, under the archway, a staircase ascended to the
first floor of a solitary detached building which M. de la R----
inhabited, and into which he led me.
We entered a little drawing-room very richly furnished, lighted with a
night-lamp, and separated from the bedroom by a tapestry curtain
two-thirds drown. M. de la R---- went into the bedroom, and a few minutes
afterwards came back again, accompanied by a charming woman, pale and
fair, in a dressing-gown, her hair down, handsome, fresh, bewildered,
gentle nevertheless, and looking at me with that alarm which in a young
face confers an additional grace. Madame de la R---- had just been
awakened by her husband. She remained a moment on the threshold of her
chamber, smiling, half asleep, greatly astonished, somewhat frightened,
looking by turns at her husband and at me, never having dreamed perhaps
what civil war really meant, and seeing it enter abruptly into her rooms
in the middle of the night under this disquieting form of an unknown
person who asks for a refuge.
I made Madame de la R---- a thousand apologies, which she received with
perfect kindness, and the charming woman profited by the incident to go
and caress a pretty little girl of two years old who was sleeping at the
end of the room in her cot, and the child whom she kissed caused her to
forgive the refugee who had awakened her.
While chatting M. de la R---- lighted a capital fire in the grate, and
his wife, with a pillow and cushions, a hooded cloak belonging to him,
and a pelisse belonging to herself, improvised opposite the fire a bed
on a sofa, somewhat short, and which we lengthened by means of an
During the deliberation in the Rue Popincourt, at which I had just
presided, Baudin had lent me his pencil to jot down some names. I still
had this pencil with me. I made use of it to write a letter to my wife,
which Madame de la R---- undertook to convey herself to Madame Victor
Hugo the next day. While emptying my pockets I found a box for the
"Italiens," which I offered to Madame de la R----. On that evening
(Tuesday, December 2d) they were to play _Hernani_.
I looked at that cot, these two handsome, happy young people, and at
myself, my disordered hair and clothes, my boots covered with mud,
gloomy thoughts in my mind, and I felt like an owl in a nest of
A few moments afterwards M. and Madame de la R---- had disappeared into
their bedroom, and the half-opened curtain was closed. I stretched
myself, fully dressed as I was, upon the sofa, and this gentle nest
disturbed by me subsided into its graceful silence.
One can sleep on the eve of a battle between two armies, but on the eve
of a battle between citizens there can be no sleep. I counted each hour
as it sounded from a neighboring church; throughout the night there
passed down the street, which was beneath the windows of the room where I
was lying, carriages which were fleeing from Paris. They succeeded each
other rapidly and hurriedly, one might have imagined it was the exit from
a ball. Not being able to sleep, I got up. I had slightly parted the
muslin curtains of a window, and I tried to look outside; the darkness
was complete. No stars, clouds were flying by with the turbulent violence
of a winter night. A melancholy wind howled. This wind of clouds
resembled the wind of events.
I watched the sleeping baby. I waited for dawn. It came. M. de la R----
had explained at my request in what manner I could go out without
disturbing any one. I kissed the child's forehead, and left the room. I
went downstairs, closing the doors behind me as gently as I could, so
not to wake Madame de la R----. I opened the iron door and went out into
the street. It was deserted, the shops were still shut, and a milkwoman,
with her donkey by her side, was quietly arranging her cans on the
I have not seen M. de la R---- again. I learned since that he wrote to
me in my exile, and that his letter was intercepted. He has, I believe,
quitted France. May this touching page convey to him my kind
The Rue Caumartin leads into the Rue St. Lazare. I went towards it. It
was broad daylight. At every moment I was overtaken and passed by
_fiacres_ laden with trunks and packages, which were hastening towards
the Havre railway station. Passers-by began to appear. Some baggage
trains were mounting the Rue St. Lazare at the same time as myself.
Opposite No. 42, formerly inhabited by Mdlle. Mars, I saw a new bill
posted on the wall. I went up to it, I recognized the type of the
National Printing Office, and I read,
"COMPOSITION OF THE NEW MINISTRY.
"_Interior_ --M. de Morny.
"_War_ --The General of Division St. Arnaud.
"_Foreign Affairs_ --M. de Turgot.
"_Justice_ --M. Rouher.
"_Finance_ --M. Fould.
"_Marine_ --M. Ducos.
"_Public Works_ --M. Magne.
"_Public Instruction_ --M.H. Fortuol.
"_Commerce_ --M. Lefebre-Duruflé."
In the Rue St. Georges, near a side-door, there was another bill. It was
the "Appeal to the People." Some persons were reading it. I tore it
down, notwithstanding the resistance of the porter, who appeared to me
to be entrusted with the duty of protecting it.
As I passed by the Place Bréda some _fiacres_ had already arrived there.
I took one. I was near home, the temptation was too great, I went there.
On seeing me cross the courtyard the porter looked at me with a
stupefied air. I rang the bell. My servant, Isidore, opened the door,
and exclaimed with a great cry, "Ah! it is you, sir! They came during
the night to arrest you." I went into my wife's room. She was in bed,
but not asleep, and she told me what had happened.
She had gone to bed at eleven o'clock. Towards half-past twelve, during
that species of drowsiness which resembles sleeplessness, she heard
men's voices. It seemed to her that Isidore was speaking to some one in
the antechamber. At first she did not take any notice, and tried to go
to sleep again, but the noise of voices continued. She sat up, and rang
Isidore came in. She asked him,
"Is any one there?"
"Who is it?"
"A man who wishes to speak to master."
"Your master is out."
"That is what I have told him, madame."
"Well, is not the gentleman going?"
"No, madame, he says that he urgently needs to speak to Monsieur Victor
Hugo, and that he will wait for him."
Isidore had stopped on the threshold of the bedroom. While he spoke a
fat, fresh-looking man in an overcoat, under which could be seen a black
coat, appeared at the door behind him.
Madame Victor Hugo noticed this man, who was silently listening.
"Is it you, sir, who wish to speak to Monsieur Victor Hugo?"
"But what is it about? Is it regarding politics?"
The man did not answer.
"As to politics," continued my wife, "what is happening?"
"I believe, madame, that all is at an end."
"In what sense?"
"In the sense of the President."
My wife looked fixedly at the man, and said to him,--
"You have come to arrest my husband, sir."
"It is true, madame," answered the man, opening his overcoat, which
revealed the sash of a Commissary of Police.
He added after a pause, "I am a Commissary of Police, and I am the
bearer of a warrant to arrest M. Victor Hugo. I must institute a search
and look through the house."
"What is your name, sir?" asked Madame Victor Hugo.
"My name is Hivert."
"You know the terms of the Constitution?"
"You know that the Representatives of the People are inviolable!"
"Very well, sir," she said coldly, "you know that you are committing a
crime. Days like this have a to-morrow; proceed."
The Sieur Hivert attempted a few words of explanation, or we should
rather say justification; he muttered the word "conscience," he
stammered the word "honor." Madame Victor Hugo, who had been calm until
then, could not help interrupting him with some abruptness.
"Do your business, sir, and do not argue; you know that every official
who lays a hand on a Representative of the People commits an act of
treason. You know that in presence of the Representatives the President
is only an official like the others, the chief charged with carrying out
their orders. You dare to come to arrest a Representative in his own
home like a criminal! There is in truth a criminal here who ought to be
The Sieur Hivert looked sheepish and left the room, and through the
half-open door my wife could see, behind the well-fed, well-clothed,
and bald Commissary, seven or eight poor raw-boned devils, wearing dirty
coats which reached to their feet, and shocking old hats jammed down over
their eyes--wolves led by a dog. They examined the room, opened here and
there a few cupboards, and went away--with a sorrowful air--as Isidore
said to me.
The Commissary Hivert, above all, hung his head; he raised it, however,
for one moment. Isidore, indignant at seeing these men thus hunt for his
master in every corner, ventured to defy them. He opened a drawer and
said, "Look and see if he is not in here!" The Commissary of Police
darted a furious glance at him: "Lackey, take care!" The lackey was
These men having gone, it was noticed that several of my papers were
missing. Fragments of manuscripts had been stolen, amongst others one
dated July, 1848, and directed against the military dictatorship of
Cavaignac, and in which there were verses written respecting the
Censorship, the councils of war, and the suppression of the newspapers,
and in particular respecting the imprisonment of a great journalist--Emile
"... O honte, un lansquenet
Gauche, et parodiant César dont il hérite,
Gouverne les esprits du fond de sa guérite!"
The police might come back at any moment, in fact they did come back a
few minutes after I had left. I kissed my wife; I would not wake my
daughter, who had just fallen asleep, and I went downstairs again. Some
affrighted neighbors were waiting for me in the courtyard. I cried out
to them laughingly, "Not caught yet!"
A quarter of an hour afterwards I reached No. 10, Rue des Moulins. It
was not then eight o'clock in the morning, and thinking that my
colleagues of the Committee of Insurrection had passed the night there,
I thought it might be useful to go and fetch them, so that we might
proceed all together to the Salle Roysin.
I found only Madame Landrin in the Rue des Moulins. It was thought that
the house was denounced and watched, and my colleagues had changed their
quarters to No. 7, Rue Villedo, the house of the ex-Constituent Leblond,
legal adviser to the Workmen's Association. Jules Favre had passed the
night there. Madame Landrin was breakfasting. She offered me a place by
her side, but time pressed. I carried off a morsel of bread, and left.
At No. 7, Rue Villedo, the maid-servant who opened the door to me
ushered me into a room where were Carnot, Michel de Bourges, Jules
Favre, and the master of the house, our former colleague, Constituent
"I have a carriage downstairs," I said to them; "the rendezvous is at
the Salle Roysin in the Faubourg St. Antoine; let us go."
This, however, was not their opinion. According to them the attempts
made on the previous evening in the Faubourg St. Antoine had revealed
this portion of the situation; they sufficed; it was useless to persist;
it was obvious that the working-class districts would not rise; we must
turn to the side of the tradesmen's districts, renounce our attempt to
rouse the extremities of the city, and agitate the centre. We were the
Committee of Resistance, the soul of the insurrection; if we were to go
to the Faubourg St. Antoine, which was occupied by a considerable force,
we should give ourselves up to Louis Bonaparte. They reminded me of what
I myself had said on the subject the previous evening in the Rue
Blanche. We must immediately organize the insurrection against the _coup
d'état_ and organize it in practicable districts, that is to say, in the
old labyrinths of the streets St. Denis and St. Martin; we must draw up
proclamations, prepare decrees, create some method of publicity; they
were waiting for important communications from Workmen's Associations
and Secret Societies. The great blow which I wished to strike by our
solemn meeting at the Salle Roysin would prove a failure; they thought
it their duty to remain where they were; and the Committee being few in
number, and the work to be done being enormous, they begged me not to
They were men of great hearts and great courage who spoke to me; they
were evidently right; but for myself I could not fail to go to the
rendezvous which I myself had fixed. All the reasons which they had
given me were good, nevertheless I could have opposed some doubts, but
the discussion would have taken too much time, and the hour drew nigh.
I did not make any objections, and I went out of the room, making some
excuse. My hat was in the antechamber, my _fiacre_ was waiting for me,
and I drove off to the Faubourg St. Antoine.
The centre of Paris seemed to have retained its everyday appearance.
People came and went, bought and sold, chatted and laughed as usual. In
the Rue Montorgueil I heard a street organ. Only on nearing the Faubourg
St. Antoine the phenomenon which I had already noticed on the previous
evening became more and more apparent; solitude reigned, and a certain
We reached the Place de la Bastille.
My driver stopped.
"Go on," I said to him.
Sorry, no summary available yet.