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Chapter 5


A WAVERING ALLY

During this terribly historical morning of the 4th of December, a day the
master was closely observed by his satellites, Louis Bonaparte had shut
himself up, but in doing so he betrayed himself. A man who shuts himself
up meditates, and for such men to meditate is to premeditate. What could
be the premeditation of Louis Bonaparte? What was working in his mind.
Questions which all asked themselves, two persons excepted,--Morny, the
man of thought; Saint-Arnaud, the man of action.

Louis Bonaparte claimed, justly, a knowledge of men. He prided himself
upon it, and from a certain point of view he was right. Others have the
power of divination; he had the faculty of scent. It is brute-like, but
trustworthy.

He had assuredly not been mistaken in Maupas. To pick the lock of the Law
he needed a skeleton key. He took Maupas. Nor could any burglar's
implement have answered better in the lock of the Constitution than
Maupas. Neither was he mistaken in Q.B. He saw at once that this serious
man had in him the necessary composite qualities of a rascal. And in
fact, Q.B., after having voted and signed the Deposition at the Mairie of
the Tenth Arrondissement, became one of the three reporters of the Joint
Commissions; and his share in the abominable total recorded by history
amounts to _sixteen hundred and thirty four victims_.

Louis Bonaparte, however, at times judged amiss, especially respecting
Peauger. Peauger, though chosen by him, remained an honest man. Louis
Bonaparte, mistrusting the workmen of the National Printing-Office, and
not without reason, for twelve, as has been seen, were refractory, had
improvised a branch establishment in case of emergency, a sort of State
Sub-Printing-Office, as it were, situated in the Rue de Luxembourg, with
steam and hand presses, and eight workmen. He had given the management of
it to Peauger. When the hour of the Crime arrived, and with it the
necessity of printing the nefarious placards, he sounded Peauger, and
found him rebellious. He then turned to Saint Georges, a more subservient
lackey.

He was less mistaken, but still he was mistaken, in his appreciation of
X.

On the 2d of December, X., an ally thought necessary by Morny, became a
source of anxiety to Louis Bonaparte.

X. was forty-four years of age, loved women, craved promotion, and,
therefore, was not over-scrupulous. He began his career in Africa under
Colonel Combes in the forty-seventh of the line. He showed great bravery
at Constantine; at Zaatcha he extricated Herbillon, and the siege, badly
begun by Herbillon, had been brought to a successful termination by him.
X., who was a little short man, his head sunk in his shoulders, was
intrepid, and admirably understood the handling of a brigade. Bugeaud,
Lamoricière, Cavaignac, and Changarnier were his four stepping-stones to
advancement. At Paris, in 1851, he met Lamoricière, who received him
coldly, and Changarnier, who treated him better. He left Satory
indignant, exclaiming, "_We must finish with this Louis Bonaparte. He is
corrupting the army. These drunken soldiers make one sick at heart. I
shall return to Africa_." In October Changarnier's influence decreased,
and X.'s enthusiasm abated. X. then frequented the Elysée, but without
giving his adherence. He promised his support to General Bedeau, who
counted upon him. At daybreak on the 2d of December some one came to
waken X. It was Edgar Ney. X. was a prop for the _coup d'état_, but would
he consent? Edgar Ney explained the affair to him, and left him only
after seeing him leave the barracks of the Rue Verte at the head of the
first regiment. X. took up his position at the Place de la Madeleine. As
he arrived there La Rochejaquelein, thrust back from the Chamber by its
invaders, crossed the Place. La Rochejaquelein, not yet a Bonapartist,
was furious. He perceived X., his old schoolfellow at the Ecole Militaire
in 1830, with whom he was on intimate terms. He went up to him,
exclaiming, "This is an infamous act. What are you doing?" "_I am
waiting_," answered X. La Rochejaquelein left him; X. dismounted, and
went to see a relation, a Councillor of State, M.R., who lived in the Rue
de Suresne. He asked his advice. M.R., an honest man, did not hesitate.
He answered, "I am going to the Council of State to do my duty. It is a
Crime." X. shook his head, and said, "_We must wait and see_."

This _I am waiting_, and _We must see_, preoccupied Louis Bonaparte.
Morny said, "_Let us make use of the flying squadron_."

Victor Hugo