Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 2


The Place de la Bastille was at the same time empty and filled. Three
regiments in battle array were there; not one passer-by.

Four harnessed batteries were drawn up at the foot of the column. Here
and there knots of officers talked together in a low voice,--sinister

One of these groups, the principal, attracted my attention. That one
was silent, there was no talking. There were several men on horseback;
one in front of the others, in a general's uniform, with a hat
surmounted with black feathers, behind this man were two colonels, and
behind the colonels a party of _aides-de-camp_ and staff officers.
This lace-trimmed company remained immovable, and as though pointing
like a dog between the column and the entrance to the Faubourg. At a
short distance from this group, spread out, and occupying the whole of
the square, were the regiments drawn up and the cannon in their

"My driver again stopped.

"Go on," I said; "drive into the Faubourg."

"But they will prevent us, sir."

"We shall see."

The truth was that they did not prevent us.

The driver continued on his way, but hesitatingly, and at a walking
pace. The appearance of a _fiacre_ in the square had caused some
surprise, and the inhabitants began to come out of their houses. Several
came up to my carriage.

We passed by a group of men with huge epaulets. These men, whose tactics
we understood later on, did not even appear to see us.

The emotion which I had felt on the previous day before a regiment of
cuirassiers again seized me. To see before me the assassins of the
country, at a few steps, standing upright, in the insolence of a
peaceful triumph, was beyond my strength: I could not contain myself. I
drew out my sash. I held it in my hand, and putting my arm and head out
of the window of the _fiacre_, and shaking the sash, I shouted,--

"Soldiers! Look at this sash. It is the symbol of Law, it is the
National Assembly visible. Where there this sash is there is Right.
Well, then, this is what Right commands you. You are being deceived. Go
back to your duty. It is a Representative of the People who is speaking
to you, and he who represents the People represents the army. Soldiers,
before becoming soldiers you have been peasants, you have been workmen,
you have been and you are still citizens. Citizens, listen to me when I
speak to you. The Law alone has the right to command you. Well, to-day
the law is violated. By whom? By you. Louis Bonaparte draws you into a
crime. Soldiers, you who are Honor, listen to me, for I am Duty.
Soldiers, Louis Bonaparte assassinates the Republic. Defend it. Louis
Bonaparte is a bandit; all his accomplices will follow him to the
galleys. They are there already. He who is worthy of the galleys is in
the galleys. To merit fetters is to wear them. Look at that man who is
at your head, and who dares to command you. You take him for a general,
he is a convict."

The soldiers seemed petrified.

Some one who was there (I thank his generous, devoted spirit) touched my
arm, and whispered in my ear, "You will get yourself shot."

But I did not heed, and I listened to nothing. I continued, still waving
my sash,--"You, who are there, dressed up like a general, it is you to
whom I speak, sir. You know who I am, I am a Representative of the
People, and I know who you are. I have told you you are a criminal.
Now, do you wish to know my name? This is it."

And I called out my name to him.

And I added,--

"Now tell me yours."

He did not answer.

I continued,--

"Very well, I do not want to know your name as a general, I shall know
your number as a galley slave."

The man in the general's uniform hung his head, the others were silent.
I could read all their looks, however, although they did not raise their
eyes. I saw them cast down, and I felt that they were furious. I had an
overwhelming contempt for them, and I passed on.

What was the name of this general? I did not know then, and I do not
know now.

One of the apologies for the _coup d'état_ in relating this incident,
and characterizing it as "an insensate and culpable provocation," states
that "the moderation shown by the military leaders on this occasion did
honor to General ----:" We leave to the author of this panegyric the
responsibility of that name and of this eulogium.

I entered the Rue de Faubourg St. Antoine.

My driver, who now knew my name, hesitated no longer, and whipped up his
horse. These Paris coachmen are a brave and intelligent race.

As I passed the first shops of the main street nine o'clock sounded from
the Church St. Paul.

"Good," I said to myself, "I am in time."

The Faubourg presented an extraordinary aspect. The entrance was
guarded, but not closed, by two companies of infantry. Two other
companies were drawn up in echelons farther on, at short distances,
occupying the street, but leaving a free passage. The shops, which were
open at the end of the Faubourg, were half closed a hundred yards
farther up. The inhabitants, amongst whom I noticed numerous workmen in
blouses, were talking together at their doors, and watching the
proceedings. I noticed at each step the placards of the _coup d'état_

Beyond the fountain which stands at the corner of the Rue de
Charonne the shops were closed. Two lines of soldiers extended on
either side of the street of the Faubourg on the kerb of the pavement;
the soldiers were stationed at every five paces, with the butts of their
muskets resting on their hips, their chests drawn in, their right hand
on the trigger, ready to bring to the present, keeping silence in the
attitude of expectation. From that point a piece of cannon was stationed
at the mouth of each of the side streets which open out of the main road
of the Faubourg. Occasionally there was a mortar. To obtain a clear idea
of this military arrangement one must imagine two rosaries, extending
along the two sides of the Faubourg St. Antoine, of which the soldiers
should form the links and the cannon the beads.

Meanwhile my driver became uneasy. He turned round to me and said, "It
looks as though we should find barricades out there, sir; shall we turn

"Keep on," I replied.

He continued to drive straight on.

Suddenly it became impossible to do so. A company of infantry ranged
three deep occupied the whole of the street from one pavement to the
other. On the right there was a small street. I said to the driver,--

"Take that turning."

He turned to the right and then to the left. We turned into a labyrinth
of streets.

Suddenly I heard a shot.

The driver asked me,--

"Which way are we to go, sir?"

"In the direction in which you hear the shots."

We were in a narrow street; on my left I saw the inscription above a
door, "Grand Lavoir," and on my right a square with a central building,
which looked like a market. The square and the street were deserted. I
asked the driver,--

"What street are we in?"

"In the Rue de Cotte."

"Where is the Café Roysin?"

"Straight before us."

"Drive there."

He drove on, but slowly. There was another explosion, this time close by
us, the end of the street became filled with smoke; at the moment we
were passing No. 22, which has a side-door above which I
read, "Petit Lavoir."

Suddenly a voice called out to the driver, "Stop!"

The driver pulled up, and the window of the _fiacre_ being down, a hand
was stretched towards mine. I recognized Alexander Rey.

This daring man was pale.

"Go no further," said he; "all is at an end."

"What do you mean, all at an end?"

"Yes, they must have anticipated the time appointed; the barricade is
taken: I have just come from it. It is a few steps from here straight
before us."

And he added,--

"Baudin is killed."

The smoke rolled away from the end of the street.

"Look," said Alexander Rey to me.

I saw, a hundred steps before us, at the junction of the Rue de Cotte
and the Rue Ste. Marguerite, a low barricade which the soldiers were
pulling down. A corpse was being borne away.

It was Baudin.

Victor Hugo