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Chapter 9


THE LIGHTNING BEGINS TO FLASH AMONGST THE PEOPLE

The evening wore a threatening aspect.

Groups were formed on the Boulevards. As night advanced they grew larger
and became mobs, which speedily mingled together, and only formed one
crowd. An enormous crowd, reinforced and agitated by tributary currents
from the side-streets, jostling one against another, surging, stormy,
and whence ascended an ominous hum. This hubbub resolved itself into one
word, into one name which issued simultaneously from every mouth, and
which expressed the whole of the situation: "Soulouque!"[12] Throughout
that long line from the Madeleine to the Bastille, the roadway nearly
everywhere, except (was this on purpose?) at the Porte St. Denis and the
Porte St. Martin, was occupied by the soldiers--infantry and cavalry,
ranged in battle-order, the artillery batteries being harnessed; on the
pavements on each side of this motionless and gloomy mass, bristling
with cannon, swords, and bayonets, flowed a torrent of angry people. On
all sides public indignation prevailed. Such was the aspect of the
Boulevards. At the Bastille there was a dead calm.

At the Porte St. Martin the crowd, hemmed together and uneasy, spoke in
low tones. Groups of workmen talked in whispers. The Society of the 10th
December made some efforts there. Men in white blouses, a sort of
uniform which the police assumed during those days, said, "Let us leave
them alone; let the 'Twenty-five francs' settle it amongst themselves!
They deserted us in June, 1848; to-day let them get out of the
difficulty alone! It does not concern us!" Other blouses, blue blouses,
answered them, "We know what we have to do. This is only the beginning,
wait and see."

Others told how the barricades of the Rue Aumaire were being rebuilt,
how a large number of persons had already been killed there, how they
fired without any summons, how the soldiers were drunk, how at various
points in the district there were ambulances already crowded with killed
and wounded. All this was said seriously, without loud speaking, without
gesture, in a confidential tone. From time to time the crowd were silent
and listened, and distant firing was heard.

The groups said, "Now they are beginning to tear down the curtain."

We were holding Permanent Session at Marie's house in the Rue Croix des
Petits Champs. Promises of co-operation poured in upon us from every
side. Several of our colleagues, who had not been able to find us on the
previous day, had joined us, amongst others Emmanuel Arago, gallant son
of an illustrious father; Farconnet and Roussel (de l'Yonne), and some
Parisian celebrities, amongst whom was the young and already well-known
defender of the _Avénement du Peuple_, M. Desmarets.

Two eloquent men, Jules Favre and Alexander Rey, seated at a large table
near the window of the small room, were drawing up a Proclamation to the
National Guard. In the large room Sain, seated in an arm-chair, his feet
on the dog-irons, drying his wet boots before a huge fire, said, with
that calm and courageous smile which he wore in the Tribune, "Things are
looking badly for us, but well for the Republic. Martial law is
proclaimed; it will be carried out with ferocity, above all against us.
We are laid in wait for, followed, tracked, there is little probability
that we shall escape. To-day, to-morrow, perhaps in ten minutes, there
will be a 'miniature massacre' of Representatives. We shall be taken
here or elsewhere, shot down on the spot or killed with bayonet thrusts.
They will parade our corpses, and we must hope that that will at length
raise the people and overthrow Bonaparte. We are dead, but Bonaparte is
lost."

At eight o'clock, as Emile de Girardin had promised, we received from
the printing office of the _Presse_ five hundred copies of the decree of
deposition and of outlawry endorsing the judgment of the High Court, and
with all our signatures attached. It was a placard twice as large as
one's hand, and printed on paper used for proofs. Noël Parfait brought us
the five hundred copies, still damp, between his waistcoat and his shirt.
Thirty Representatives divided the bills amongst them, and we sent them
on the Boulevards to distribute the Decree to the People.

The effect of this Decree falling in the midst of the crowd was
marvellous. Some _cafés_ had remained open, people eagerly snatched the
bills, they pressed round the lighted shop windows, they crowded under
the street lamps. Some mounted on kerbstones or on tables, and read
aloud the Decree.--"That is it! Bravo!" cried the people. "The
signatures!" "The signatures!" they shouted. The signatures were read
out, and at each popular name the crowd applauded. Charamaule, merry and
indignant, wandered through the groups, distributing copies of the
Decree; his great stature, his loud and bold words, the packet of
handbills which he raised, and waved above his head, caused all hands to
be stretched out towards him. "Shout 'Down with Soulouque!'" said he,
"and you shall have some." All this in the presence of the soldiers.
Even a sergeant of the line, noticing Charamaule, stretched out his hand
for one of the bills which Charamaule was distributing. "Sergeant," said
Charamaule to him, "cry, 'Down with Soulouque!'" The sergeant hesitated
for a moment, and answered "No." "Well, then," replied Charamaule,
"Shout, 'Long live Soulouque.'" This time the sergeant did not hesitate,
he raised his sword, and, amid bursts of laughter and of applause, he
resolutely shouted, "Long live Soulouque!"

The reading of the Decree added a gloomy warmth to the popular anger.
They set to work on all sides to tear down the placards of the _coup
d'état_. At the door of the Café des Variétés a young man cried out to
the officers, "You are drunk!" Some workmen on the Boulevard
Bonne-Nouvelle shook their fists at the soldiers and said, "Fire, then,
you cowards, on unarmed men! If we had guns you would throw the butts of
your muskets in the air." Charges of cavalry began to be made in front
of the Café Cardinal.

As there were no troops on the Boulevard St. Martin and the Boulevard du
Temple, the crowd was more compact pact there than elsewhere. All the
shops were shut there; the street lamps alone gave any light. Against
the gloss of the unlighted windows heads might be dimly seen peering
out. Darkness produced silence; this multitude, as we have already said,
was hushed. There was only heard a confused whispering. Suddenly a
light, a noise, an uproar burst forth from the entrance of the Rue St.
Martin. Every eye was turned in that direction; a profound upheaving
agitated the crowd; they rushed forward, they pressed against the
railings of the high pavements which border the cutting between the
theatres of the Porte St. Martin and the Ambigu. A moving mass was seen,
and an approaching light. Voices were singing. This formidable chorus
was recognized,

"Aux armes, Citoyens; formez vos bataillons!"

Lighted torches were coming, it was the "Marseillaise," that other torch
of Revolution and of warfare which was blazing.

The crowd made way for the mob which carried the torches, and which were
singing. The mob reached the St. Martin cutting, and entered it. It was
then seen what this mournful procession meant. The mob was composed of
two distinct groups. The first carried on its shoulders a plank, on which
could be seen stretched an old man with a white beard, stark, the mouth
open, the eyes fixed, and with a hole in his forehead. The swinging
movement of the bearers shook the corpse, and the dead head rose and fell
in a threatening and pathetic manner. One of the men who carried him,
pale, and wounded in the breast, placed his hand to his wound, leant
against the feet of the old man, and at times himself appeared ready to
fall. The other group bore a second litter, on which a young man was
stretched, his countenance pale and his eyes closed, his shirt stained,
open over his breast, displaying his wounds. While bearing the two
litters the groups sang. They sang the "Marseillaise," and at each chorus
they stopped and raised their torches, crying, "To arms!" Some young men
waved drawn swords. The torches shed a lurid light on the pallid
foreheads of the corpses and on the livid faces of the crowd. A shudder
ran through the people. It appeared as though they again saw the terrible
vision of February, 1848.

This gloomy procession came from the Rue Aumaire. About eight o'clock
some thirty workmen gathered together from the neighborhood of the
markets, the same who on the next day raised the barricade of the
Guérin-Boisseau, reached the Rue Aumaire by the Rue de Petit Lion, the
Rue Neuve-Bourg-l'Abbé, and the Carré St. Martin. They came to fight,
but here the combat was at an end. The infantry had withdrawn after
having pulled down the barricades. Two corpses, an old man of seventy
and a young man of five-and-twenty, lay at the corner of the street on
the ground, with uncovered faces, their bodies in a pool of blood, their
heads on the pavement where they had fallen. Both were dressed in
overcoats, and seemed to belong to the middle class. The old man had his
hat by his side; he was a venerable figure with a white beard, white
hair, and a calm expression. A ball had pierced his skull.

The young man's breast was pierced with buck-shot. One was the father,
the other the son. The son, seeing his father fall, had said, "I also
will die." Both were lying side by side.

Opposite the gateway of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers there was
a house in course of building. They fetched two planks from it, they
laid the corpses on the planks, the crowd raised them upon their
shoulders, they brought torches, and they began their march. In the Rue
St. Denis a man in a white blouse barred the way. "Where are you going?"
said he to them. "You will bring about disasters! You are helping the
'Twenty-five francs!'" "Down with the police! Down with the white
blouse!" shouted the crowd. The man slunk away.

The mob swelled on its road; the crowd opened out and repeated the
"Marseillaise" in chorus, but with the exception of a few swords no one
was armed. On the boulevard the emotion was intense. Women clasped their
hands in pity. Workmen were heard to exclaim, "And to think that we have
no arms!"

The procession, after having for some time followed the Boulevards,
re-entered the streets, followed by a deeply-affected and angry
multitude. In this manner it reached the Rue de Gravilliers. Then a
squad of twenty _sergents de ville_ suddenly emerging from a narrow
street rushed with drawn swords upon the men who were carrying the
litters, and overturned the corpses into the mud. A regiment of
Chasseurs came up at the double, and put an end to the conflict with
bayonet thrusts. A hundred and two citizen prisoners were conducted to
the Prefecture. The two corpses received several sword-cuts in the
confusion, and were killed a second time. The brigadier Revial, who
commanded the squad of the _sergents de ville_, received the Cross of
Honor for this deed of arms.

At Marie's we were on the point of being surrounded. We decided to leave
the Rue Croix des Petits Champs.

At the Elysée they commenced to tremble. The ex-Commandant Fleury, one
of the aides-de-camp of the Presidency, was summoned into the little
room where M. Bonaparte had remained throughout the day. M. Bonaparte
conferred a few moments alone with M. Fleury, then the aide-de-camp came
out of the room, mounted his horse, and galloped off in the direction of
Mazas.

After this the men of the _coup d'état_ met together in M. Bonaparte's
room, and held council. Matters were visibly going badly; it was
probable that the battle would end by assuming formidable proportions.
Up to that time they had desired this, now they did not feel sure that
they did not fear it. They pushed forward towards it, but they
mistrusted it. There were alarming symptoms in the steadfastness of the
resistance, and others not less serious in the cowardice of adherents.
Not one of the new Ministers appointed during the morning had taken
possession of his Ministry--a significant timidity on the part of people
ordinarily so prompt to throw themselves upon such things. M. Roulier,
in particular, had disappeared, no one knew where--a sign of tempest.
Putting Louis Bonaparte on one side, the _coup d'état_ continued to rest
solely upon three names, Morny, St. Arnaud, and Maupas. St. Arnaud
answered for Magnan. Morny laughed and said in a whisper, "But does
Magnan answer for St. Arnaud?" These men adopted energetic measures,
they sent for new regiments; an order to the garrisons to march upon
Paris was despatched in the one direction as far as Cherbourg, and on
the other as far as Maubeuge. These criminals, in the main deeply
uneasy, sought to deceive each other. They assumed a cheerful
countenance; all spoke of victory; each in the background arranged for
flight; in secret, and saying nothing, in order not to give the alarm to
his compromised colleagues, so as, in case of failure, to leave the
people some men to devour. For this little school of Machiavellian apes
the hopes of a successful escape lie in the abandonment of their
friends. During their flight they throw their accomplices behind them.


[12] A popular nickname for Louis Bonaparte. Faustin Soulouque was the
negro Emperor of Hayti, who, when President of the Republic, had carried
out a somewhat similar _coup d'état_ in 1848, being subsequently elected
Emperor. He treated the Republicans with great cruelty, putting most of
them to death.

Victor Hugo