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Chapter 13


THE BARRICADE OF THE RUE THEVENOT

Georges Biscarrat was the man who had given the signal for the looting
in the Rue de l'Echelle.

I had known Georges Biscarrat ever since June, 1848. He had taken part
in that disastrous insurrection. I had had an opportunity of being
useful to him. He had been captured, and was kneeling before the
firing-party; I interfered, and I saved his life, together with that of
some others, M., D., D., B., and that brave-hearted architect Rolland,
who when an exile, later on, so ably restored the Brussels Palace of
Justice.

This took place on the 24th June, 1848, in the underground floor of No.
93, Boulevard Beaumarchais, a house then in course of construction.

Georges Biscarrat became attached to me. It appeared that he was the
nephew of one of the oldest and best friends of my childhood, Félix
Biscarrat, who died in 1828. Georges Biscarrat came to see me from time
to time, and on occasions he asked my advice or gave me information.

Wishing to preserve him from evil influences, I had given him, and he
had accepted, this guiding maxim, "No insurrection except for Duty and
for Right."

What was this hooting in the Rue de l'Echelle? Let us relate the
incident.

On the 2d of December, Bonaparte had made an attempt to go out. He had
ventured to go and look at Paris. Paris does not like being looked at
by certain eyes; it considers it an insult, and it resents an insult
more than a wound. It submits to assassination, but not to the leering
gaze of the assassin. It took offence at Louis Bonaparte.

At nine o'clock in the morning, at the moment when the Courbevoie
garrison was descending upon Paris, the placards of the _coup d'état_
being still fresh upon the walls, Louis Bonaparte had left the Elysée,
had crossed the Place de la Concorde, the Garden of the Tuileries, and
the railed courtyard of the Carrousel, and had been seen to go out, by
the gate of the Rue de l'Echelle. A crowd assembled at once. Louis
Bonaparte was in a general's uniform; his uncle, the ex-King Jérôme,
accompanied him, together with Flahaut, who kept in the near. Jérôme
wore the full uniform of a Marshal of France, with a hat with a white
feather; Louis Bonaparte's horse was a head before Jérôme's horse.
Louis Bonaparte was gloomy, Jérôme attentive, Flahaut beaming. Flahaut
had his hat on one side. There was a strong escort of Lancers. Edgar
Ney followed. Bonaparte intended to go as far as the Hôtel de Ville.
Georges Biscarrat was there. The street was unpaved, the road was being
macadamized; he mounted on a heap of stones, and shouted, "Down with
the Dictator! Down with the Praetorians!" The soldiers looked at him
with bewilderment, and the crowd with astonishment. Georges Biscarrat
(he told me so himself) felt that this cry was too erudite, and that it
would not be understood, so he shouted, "Down with Bonaparte! Down with
the Lancers!"

The effect of this shout was electrical. "Down with Bonaparte! Down
with the Lancers!" cried the people, and the whole street became stormy
and turbulent. "Down with Bonaparte!" The outcry resembled the
beginning of an execution; Bonaparte made a sudden movement to the
right, turned back, and re-entered the courtyard of the Louvre.

Georges Biscarrat felt it necessary to complete his shout by a
barricade.

He said to the bookseller, Benoist Mouilhe, who had just opened his
shop, "Shouting is good, action is better." He returned to his house in
the Rue du Vert Bois, put on a blouse and a workman's cap, and went
down into the dark streets. Before the end of the day he had made
arrangements with four associations--the gas-fitters, the last-makers,
the shawl-makers, and the hatters.

In this manner he spent the day of the 2d of December.

The day of the 3d was occupied in goings and comings "almost useless."
So Biscarrat told Versigny, and he added, "However I have succeeded in
this much, that the placards of the _coup d'état_ have been everywhere
torn down, so much so that in order to render the tearing down more
difficult the police have ultimately posted them in the public
conveniences--their proper place."

On Thursday, the 4th, early in the morning, Georges Biscarrat went to
Ledouble's restaurant, where four Representatives of the People usually
took their meals, Brives, Bertlhelon, Antoine Bard, and Viguier,
nicknamed "Father Viguier." All four were there. Viguier related what
we had done on the preceding evening, and shared my opinion that the
closing catastrophe should be hurried on, that the Crime should be
precipitated into the abyss which befitted it. Biscarrat came in. The
Representatives did not know hire, and stared at him. "Who are you?"
asked one of them. Before he could answer, Dr. Petit entered, unfolded
a paper, and said,--

"Does any one know Victor Hugo's handwriting?"

"I do," said Biscarrat. He looked at the paper. It was my proclamation
to the army. "This must be printed," said Petit. "I will undertake it,"
said Biscarrat. Antoine Bard asked him, "Do you know Victor Hugo?" "He
saved my life," answered Biscarrat. The Representatives shook hands
with him.

Guilgot arrived. Then Versigny. Versigny knew Biscarrat. He had seen
him at my house. Versigny said, "Take care what you do. There is a man
outside the door." "It is a shawl-maker," said Biscarrat. "He has come
with me. He is following me." "But," resumed Versigny, "he is wearing a
blouse, beneath which he has a handkerchief. He seems to be hiding
this, and he has something in the handkerchief."

"Sugar-plums," said Biscarrat.

They were cartridges.

Versigny and Biscarrat went to the office of the _Siècle_; at the
_Siècle_ thirty workmen, at the risk of being shot, offered to print my
Proclamation. Biscarrat left it with them, and said to Versigny, "Now I
want my barricade."

The shawl-maker walked behind them. Versigny and Biscarrat turned their
steps towards the top of the Saint Denis quarter. When they drew near
to she Porte Saint Denis they heard the hum of many voices. Biscarrat
laughed and said to Versigny, "Saint Denis is growing angry, matters
are improving." Biscarrat recruited forty combatants on the way,
amongst whom was Moulin, head of the association of leather-dressers.
Chapuis, sergeant-major of the National Guard, brought them four
muskets and ten swords. "Do you know where there are any more?" asked
Biscarrat. "Yes, at the Saint Sauveur Baths." They went there, and
found forty muskets. They gave them swords and cartridge-pouches.
Gentlemen well dressed, brought tin boxes containing powder and balls.
Women, brave and light-hearted, manufactured cartridges. At the first
door adjoining the Rue du Hasard-Saint-Sauveur they requisitioned iron
bars and hammers from a large courtyard belonging to a locksmith.
Having the arms, they had the men. They speedily numbered a hundred.
They began to tear up the pavements. It was half-past ten. "Quick!
quick!" cried Georges Biscarrat, "the barricade of my dreams!" It was
in the Rue Thévenot. The barrier was constructed high and formidable.
To abridge. At eleven o'clock Georges Biscarrat had completed his
barricade. At noon he was killed there.


Victor Hugo