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Chapter 7


On this gloomy and tragical day an idea struck one of the people.

He was a workman belonging to the honest but almost imperceptible
minority of Catholic Democrats. The double exaltation of his mind,
revolutionary on one side, mystical on the other, caused him to be
somewhat distrusted by the people, even by his comrades and his friends.
Sufficiently devout to be called a Jesuit by the Socialists,
sufficiently Republican to be called a Red by the Reactionists, he
formed an exception in the workshops of the Faubourg. Now, what is
needed in these supreme crises to seize and govern the masses are men
of exceptional genius, not men of exceptional opinion. There is no
revolutionary originality. In order to be something, in the time of
regeneration and in the days of social combat, one must bathe fully in
those powerful homogeneous mediums which are called parties. Great
currents of men follow great currents of ideas, and the true
revolutionary leader is he who knows how best to drive the former in
accordance with the latter.

Now the Gospel is in accordance with the Revolution, but Catholicism is
not. This is due to the fact that in the main the Papacy is not in
accordance with the Gospel. One can easily understand a Christian
Republican, one cannot understand a Catholic Democrat. It is a
combination of two opposites. It is a mind in which the negative bars
the way to the affirmative. It is a neuter.

Now in time revolution, whoever is neuter of is impotent. Nevertheless,
during the first hours of resistance against the _coup d'état_ the
democratic Catholic workman, whose noble effort we are here relating,
threw himself so resolutely into the cause of Justice and of Truth, that
in a few moments he transformed distrust into confidence, and was hailed
by the people. He showed such gallantry at the rising of the barricade
of the Rue Aumaire that with an unanimous voice they appointed him their
leader. At the moment of the attack he defended it as he had built it,
with ardor. That was a sad but glorious battle-field; most of his
companions were killed, and he escaped only by a miracle.

However, he succeeded in returning home, saying to himself bitterly,
"All is lost."

It seemed evident to him that the great masses of the people would not
rise. Thenceforward it appeared impossible to conquer the _coup d'état_
by a revolution; it could be only combated by legality. What had been
the risk at the beginning became the hope at the end, for he believed
the end to be fatal, and at hand. In his opinion it was necessary, as
the people were defaulters, to try now to arouse the middle classes. Let
one legion of National Guards go out in arms, and the Elysée was lost.
For this a decisive blow must be struck--the heart of the middle classes
must be reached--the "bourgeois" must be inspired by a grand spectacle
which should not be a terrifying spectacle.

It was then that this thought came to this workman, "Write to the
Archbishop of Paris."

The workman took a pen, and from his humble garret he wrote to the
Archbishop of Paris an enthusiastic and earnest letter in which he, a
man of the people and a believer, said this to his Bishop; we give the
substance of his letter:--

"This is a solemn hour, Civil War sets by the ears the Army and People,
blood is being shed. When blood flows the Bishop goes forth. M. Sibour
should follow in the path of M. Affre. The example is great, the
opportunity is still greater.

"Let the Archbishop of Paris, followed by all his clergy, the Pontifical
cross before him, his mitre on his head, go forth in procession through
the streets. Let him summon to him the National Assembly and the High
Court, the Legislators in their sashes, the Judges in their scarlet
robes; let him summon to him the citizens, let him summon to him the
soldiers, let him go straight to the Elysée. Let him raise his hand in
the name of Justice against the man who is violating the laws, and in
the name of Jesus against the man who is shedding blood. Simply with
his raised hand he will crush the _coup d'état_.

"And he will place his statue by the side of M. Affre, and it will be
said that twice two Archbishops of Paris have trampled Civil War beneath
their feet."

"The Church is holy, but the Country is sacred. There are times when the
Church should succor the Country."

The letter being finished, he signed it with his workman's signature.

But now a difficulty arose; how should it be conveyed to its destination?

Take it himself!

But would he, a mere workman in a blouse, be allowed to penetrate to the

And then, in order to reach the Archiepiscopal Palace, he would have to
cross those very quarters in insurrection, and where, perhaps, the
resistance was still active. He would have to pass through streets
obstructed by troops, he would be arrested and searched; his hands smelt
of powder, he would be shot; and the letter would not reach its

What was to be done?

At the moment when he had almost despaired of a solution, the name of
Arnauld de l'Ariége came to his mind.

Arnauld de l'Ariége was a Representative after his own heart. Arnauld de
l'Ariége was a noble character. He was a Catholic Democrat like the
workman. At the Assembly he raised aloft, but he bore nearly alone, that
banner so little followed which aspires to ally the Democracy with the
Church. Arnauld de l'Ariége, young, handsome, eloquent, enthusiastic,
gentle, and firm, combined the attributes of the Tribune with the faith
of the knight. His open nature, without wishing to detach itself from
Rome, worshipped Liberty. He had two principles, but he had not two
faces. On the whole the democratic spirit preponderated in him. He said
to me one day, "I give my hand to Victor Hugo. I do not give it to

The workman knew him. He had often written to him, and had sometimes
seen him.

Arnauld de l'Ariége lived in a district which had remained almost free.

The workman went there without delay.

Like the rest of us, as has been seen, Arnauld de l'Ariége had taken
part in the conflict. Like most of the Representatives of the Left, he
had not returned home since the morning of the 2d. Nevertheless, on the
second day, he thought of his young wife whom he had left without
knowing if he should see her again, of his baby of six months old which
she was suckling, and which he had not kissed for so many hours, of that
beloved hearth, of which at certain moments one feels an absolute need
to obtain a fleeting glimpse, he could no longer resist; arrest, Mazas,
the cell, the hulks, the firing party, all vanished, the idea of danger
was obliterated, he went home.

It was precisely at that moment that the workman arrived there.

Arnauld de l'Ariége received him, read his letter, and approved of it.

Arnauld de l'Ariége knew the Archbishop of Paris personally.

M. Sibour, a Republican priest appointed Archbishop of Paris by General
Cavaignac, was the true chief of the Church dreamed of by the liberal
Catholicism of Arnauld de l'Ariége. On behalf of the Archbishop, Arnauld
de l'Ariége represented in the Assembly that Catholicism which M. de
Montalembert perverted. The democratic Representative and the Republic
Archbishop had at times frequent conferences, in which acted as
intermediatory the Abbé Maret, an intelligent priest, a friend of the
people and of progress, Vicar-General of Paris, who has since been Bishop
_in partibus_ of Surat. Some days previously Arnauld had seen the
Archbishop, and had received his complaints of the encroachment of the
Clerical party upon the episcopal authority, and he even proposed shortly
to interpellate the Ministry on this subject and to take the question
into the Tribune.

Arnauld added to the workman's letter a letter of introduction, signed
by himself, and enclosed the two letters in the same envelope.

But here the same question arose.

How was the letter to be delivered?

Arnauld, for still weightier reasons than those of the workman, could
not take it himself.

And time pressed!

His wife saw his difficulty and quietly said,--

"I will take charge of it."

Madame Arnauld de l'Ariége, handsome and quite young, married scarcely
two years, was the daughter of the Republican ex-Constituent Guichard,
worthy daughter of such a father, and worthy wife of such a husband.

They were fighting in Paris; it was necessary to face the dangers of the
streets, to pass among musket-balls, to risk her life.

Arnauld de l'Ariége hesitated.

"What do you want to do?" he asked.

"I will take this letter."

"You yourself?"

"I myself."

"But there is danger."

She raised her eyes, and answered,--

"Did I make that objection to you when you left me the day before

He kissed her with tears in his eyes, and answered, "Go."

But the police of the _coup d'état_ were suspicious, many women were
searched while going through the streets; this letter might be found on
Madame Arnauld. Where could this letter be hidden?

"I will take my baby with me," said Madame Arnauld.

She undid the linen of her little girl, hid the letter there, and
refastened the swaddling band.

When this was finished the father kissed his child on the forehead, and
the mother exclaimed laughingly,--

"Oh, the little Red! She is only six months' old, and she is already a

Madame Arnauld reached the Archbishop's Palace with some difficulty. Her
carriage was obliged to take a long round. Nevertheless she arrived
there. She asked for the Archbishop. A woman with a child in her arms
could not be a very terrible visitor, and she was allowed to enter.

But she lost herself in courtyards and staircases. She was seeking her
way somewhat discouraged, when she met the Abbé Maret. She knew him. She
addressed him. She told him the object of her expedition. The Abbé Maret
read the workman's letter, and was seized with enthusiasm: "This may
save all," said he.

He added, "Follow me, madam, I will introduce you."

The Archbishop of Paris was in the room which adjoins his study. The
Abbé Maret ushered Madame Arnauldé into the study, informed the
Archbishop, and a moment later the Archbishop entered. Besides the Abbé
Maret, the Abbé Deguerry, the Curé of the Madeleine, was with him.

Madame Arnauld handed to M. Sibour the two letters of her husband and
the workman. The Archbishop read them, and remained thoughtful.

"What answer am I to take back to my husband?" asked Madame Arnauld.

"Madame," replied the Archbishop, "it is too late. This should have been
done before the struggle began. Now, it would be only to risk the
shedding of more blood than perhaps has yet been spilled."

The Abbé Deguerry was silent. The Abbé Maret tried respectfully to turn
the mind of his Bishop towards the grand effort unsoiled by the workman.
He spoke eloquently. He laid great stress open this argument, that the
appearance of the Archbishop would bring about a manifestation of the
National Guard, and that a manifestation of the National Guard would
compel the Elysée to draw back.

"No," said the Archbishop, "you hope for the impossible. The Elysée will
not draw back now. You believe that I should stop the bloodshed--not at
all; I should cause it to flow, and that in torrents. The National Guard
has no longer any influence. If the legions appeared, the Elysée could
crush the legions by the regiments. And then, what is an Archbishop in
the presence of the Man of the _coup d'état_? Where is the oath? Where
is the sworn faith? Where is the Respect for Right? A man does not turn
back when he has made three steps in such a crime. No! No! Do not hope.
This man will do all. He has struck the Law in the hand of the
Representatives. He will strike God in mine."

And he dismissed Madame Arnauld with the look of a man overwhelmed with

Let us do the duty of the Historian. Six weeks afterwards, in the Church
of Notre Dame, some one was singing the _Te Deum_ in honor of the
treason of December--thus making God a partner in a crime.

This man was the Archbishop Sibour.

Victor Hugo