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Chapter 14


OSSIAN AND SCIPIO

Arrests grew more numerous.

Towards noon a Commissary of Police, named Boudrot, appeared at the
divan of the Rue Lepelletier. He was accompanied by the police agent
Delahodde. Delahodde was that traitorous socialist writer, who, upon
being unmasked, had passed from the Secret Police to the Public Police
Service. I knew him, and I record this incident. In 1832 he was a
master in the school at which were my two sons, then boys, and he had
addressed poetry to me. At the same time he was acting the spy upon me.
The Lepelletier divan was the place of meeting of a large number of
Republican journalists. Delahodde knew them all. A detachment of the
Republican Guard occupied the entrances to the café. Then ensued an
inspection of all the ordinary customers, Delahodde walking first, with
the Commissary behind him. Two Municipal Guards followed them. From
time to time Delahodde looked round and said, "Lay hold of this man."
In this manner some score of writers were arrested, among whom were
Hennett de Kesler.[20] On the preceding evening Kesler had been on the
Saint Antoine barricade. Kesler said to Delahodde, "You are a miserable
wretch." "And you are an ungrateful fellow," replied Delahodde; "_I am
saving your life_." Curious words; for it is difficult to believe that
Delahodde was in the secret of what was to happen on the fatal day of
the Fourth.

At the head-quarters of the Committee encouraging information was
forwarded to us from every side. Testelin, the Representative of Lille,
is not only a learned man, but a brave man. On the morning of the 3d he
had reached, shortly after me, the Saint Antoine barricade, where
Baudin had just been killed. All was at an end in that direction.
Testelin was accompanied by Charles Gambon, another dauntless man.[21]
The two Representatives wandered through the agitated and dark streets,
little followed, in no way understood, seeking a ferment of insurgents,
and only finding a swarming of the curious. Testelin, nevertheless,
having come to the Committee, informed us of the following:--At the
corner of a street of the Faubourg Saint Antoine Gambon and himself had
noticed a crowd. They had gone up to it. This crowd was reading a bill
placarded on a wall. It was the Appeal to Arms signed "Victor Hugo."
Testelin asked Gambon, "Have you a pencil?" "Yes," answered Gambon.
Testelin took the pencil, went up to the placard, and wrote his name
beneath mine, then he gave the pencil to Gambon, who in turn wrote his
name beneath that of Testelin. Upon this the crowd shouted, "Bravo!
these are true-hearted men!" "Shout 'Long live the Republic!'" cried
Testelin. All shouted "Long live the Republic!" "And from above, from
the open windows," added Gambon, "women clapped their hands."

"The little hands of women applauding are a good sign," said Michel de
Bourges.

As has been seen, and we cannot lay too much stress upon the fact, what
the Committee of Resistance wished was to prevent the shedding of blood
as much as possible. To construct barricades, to let them be destroyed,
and to reconstruct them at other points, to avoid the army, and to wear
it out, to wage in Paris the war of the desert, always retreating,
never yielding, to take time for an ally, to add days to days; on the
one hand to give the people time to understand and to rise, on the
other, to conquer the _coup d'état_ by the weariness of the army; such
was the plan discussed and adopted.

The order was accordingly given that the barricades should be but
slightly defended.

We repeated in every possible form to the combatants,--

"Shed as little blood as possible! Spare the blood of the soldiers and
husband your own."

Nevertheless, the struggle once begun, it became impossible in many
instances, during certain excited hours of fighting, to moderate their
ardor. Several barricades were obstinately defended, particularly those
in the Rue Rambuteau, in the Rue Montorgueil, and in the Rue Neuve
Saint Eustache.

These barricades were commanded by daring leaders.

Here, for the sake of history, we will record a few of these brave men
fighting outlines who appeared and disappeared in the smoke of the
combat. Radoux, an architect, Deluc, Mallarmet, Félix Bony, Luneau, an
ex-Captain of the Republican Guard, Camille Berru, editor of the
_Avénement_, gay, warmhearted, and dauntless, and that young Eugène
Millelot, who was destined to be condemned at Cayenne to receive 200
lashes, and to expire at the twenty-third stroke, before the very eyes
of his father and brother, proscribed and convicts like himself.

The barricade of the Rue Aumaire was amongst those which were not
carried without resistance. Although raised in haste, it was fairly
constructed. Fifteen or sixteen resolute men defended it; two were
killed.

The barricade was carried with the bayonet by a battalion of the 16th
of the line. This battalion, hurled on the barricade at the double, was
received by a brisk fusillade; several soldiers were wounded.

The first who fell in the soldiers' ranks was an officer. He was a
young man of twenty-five, lieutenant of the first company, named Ossian
Dumas; two balls broke both of his legs as though by a single blow.

At that time there were in the army two brothers of the name of Dumas,
Ossian and Scipio. Scipio was the elder. They were near relatives of
the Representative, Madier de Montjau.

These two brothers belonged to a poor but honored family. The elder had
been educated at the Polytechnic School, the other at the School of
Saint Cyr.

Scipio was four years older than his brother. According to that
splendid and mysterious law of ascent, which the French Revolution has
created, and which, so to speak, has placed a ladder in the centre of a
society hitherto caste-bound and inaccessible, Scipio Dumas' family had
imposed upon themselves the most severe privations in order to develop
his intellect and secure his future. His relations, with the touching
heroism of the poor of the present era, denied themselves bread to
afford him knowledge. In this manner he attained to the Polytechnic
School, where he quickly became one of the best pupils.

Having concluded his studies, he was appointed an officer in the
artillery, and sent to Metz. It then became his turn to help the boy
who had to mount after him. He held out his hand to his younger
brother. He economized the modest pay of an artillery lieutenant, and,
thanks to him, Ossian became an officer like Scipio. While Scipio,
detained by duties belonging to his position, remained at Metz, Ossian
was incorporated in an infantry regiment, and went to Africa. There he
saw his first service.

Scipio and Ossian were Republicans. In October, 1851, the 16th of the
line, in which Ossian was serving, was summoned to Paris. It was one of
the regiments chosen by the ill-omened hand of Louis Bonaparte, and on
which the _coup d'état_ counted.

The 2d of December arrived.

Lieutenant Ossian Dumas obeyed, like nearly all his comrades, the order
to take up arms; but every one round him could notice his gloomy
attitude.

The day of the 3d was spent in marches and counter-marches. On the 4th
the combat began. The 16th, which formed part of the Herbillon Brigade,
was told off to capture the barricades of the Rues Beaubourg,
Trausnonain, and Aumaire. This battle-field was formidable; a perfect
square of barricades had been raised there.

It was by the Rue Aumaire, and with the regiment of which Ossian formed
part, that the military leaders resolved to begin action.

At the moment when the regiment, with arms loaded, was about to march
upon the Rue Aumaire, Ossian Dumas went up to his captain, a brave and
veteran officer, with whom he was a favorite, and declared that he
would not march a step farther, that the deed of the 2d of December was
a crime, that Louis Bonaparte was a traitor, that it was for them,
soldiers, to maintain the oath which Bonaparte violated; and that, as
for himself, he would not lend his sword to the butchery of the
Republic.

A halt was made. The signal of attack was awaited; the two officers,
the old captain and the young lieutenant, conversed in a low tone.

"And what do you want to do?" asked the captain.

"Break my sword."

"You will be taken to Vincennes."

"That is all the same to me."

"Most certainly dismissed."

"Possibly."

"Perhaps shot."

"I expect it."

"But there is no longer any time; you should have resigned yesterday."

"There is always time to avoid committing a crime."

The captain, as may be seen, was simply one of those professional
heroes, grown old in the leather stock, who know of no country but the
flag, and no other law but military discipline. Iron arms and wooden
heads. They are neither citizens nor men. They only recognize honor in
the form of a general's epaulets. It is of no use talking to them of
political duties, of obedience to the laws, of the Constitution. What
do they know about all this? What is a Constitution; what are the most
holy laws, against three words which a corporal may murmur into the ear
of a sentinel? Take a pair of scales, put in one side the Gospels, in
the other the official instructions; now weigh them. The corporal turns
the balance; the Deity kicks the beam.

God forms a portion of the order of the day of Saint Bartholomew. "Kill
all. He will recognized his own."

This is what the priests accept, and at times glorify.

Saint Bartholomew has been blessed by the Pope and decorated with the
Catholic medal.[22]

Meanwhile Ossian Dumas appeared determined. The captain made a last
effort.

"You will ruin yourself," said he.

"I shall save my honor."

"It is precisely your honor that you are sacrificing."

"Because I am going away?"

"To go away is to desert."

This seemed to impress Ossian Dumas. The captain continued,--

"They are about to fight. In a few minutes the barricade will be
attacked. Your comrades will fall, dead or wounded. You are a young
officer--you have not yet been much under fire."

"At all events," warmly interrupted Ossian Dumas, "I shall not have
fought against the Republic; they will not say I am a traitor."

"No, but they will say that you are a coward."

Ossian made no reply.

A moment afterwards the command was given to attack.

The regiment started at the double. The barricade fired.

Ossian Dumas was the first who fell.

He had not been able to bear that word "coward," and he had remained in
his place in the first rank.

They took him to the ambulance, and from thence to the hospital.

Let us at once state the conclusion of this touching incident.

Both of his legs were broken. The doctors thought that it would be
necessary to amputate them both.

General Saint-Arnaud sent him the Cross of Honor.

As is known, Louis Bonaparte hastened to discharge his debt to his
praetorian accomplices. After having massacred, the sword voted.

The combat was still smoking when the army was brought to the
ballot-box.

The garrison of Paris voted "Yes." It absolved itself.

With the rest of the army it was otherwise. Military honor was
indignant, and roused the civic virtue. Notwithstanding the pressure
which was exercised, although the regiments deposited their votes in
the shakos of their colonels, the army voted "No" in many districts of
France and Algeria.

The Polytechnic School voted "No" in a body. Nearly everywhere the
artillery, of which the Polytechnic School is the cradle, voted to the
same effect as the school.

Scipio Dumas, it may be remembered, was at Metz.

By some curious chance it happened that the feeling of the artillery,
which everywhere else had pronounced against the _coup d'état_,
hesitated at Metz, and seemed to lean towards Bonaparte.

Scipio Dumas, in presence of this indecision set an example. He voted
in a loud voice, and with an open voting paper, "No."

Then he sent in his resignation. At the same time that the Minister at
Paris received the resignation of Scipio Dumas, Scipio Dumas at Metz,
received his dismissal, signed by the Minister.

After Scipio Dumas' vote, the same thought had come at the same time to
both the Government and to the officer, to the Government that the
officer was a dangerous man, and that they could no longer employ him,
to the officer that the Government was an infamous one, and that he
ought no longer to serve it.

The resignation and the dismissal crossed on the way. By this word
"dismissal" must be understood the withdrawal of employment.

According to our existing military laws it is in this manner that they
now "break" an officer. Withdrawal of employment, that is to say, no
more service, no more pay; poverty.

Simultaneously with his dismissal, Scipio Dumas learnt the news of the
attack on the barricade of the Rue Aumaire, and that his brother had
both his legs broken. In the fever of events he had been a week without
news of Ossian. Scipio had confined himself to writing to his brother
to inform him of his vote and of his dismissal, and to induce him to do
likewise.

His brother wounded! His brother at the Val-de. Grâce! He left
immediately for Paris.

He hastened to the hospital. They took him to Ossian's bedside. The
poor young fellow had had both his legs amputated on the preceding day.

At the moment when Scipio, stunned, appeared at his bedside, Ossian
held in his hand the cross which General Saint-Arnaud had just sent
him.

The wounded man turned towards the aide-de-camp who had brought it, and
said to him,--

"I will not have this cross. On my breast it would be stained with the
blood of the Republic."

And perceiving his brother, who had just entered, he held out the cross
to him, exclaiming,--

"You take it. You have voted "No," and you have broken your sword! It
is you who have deserved it!"


[20] Died in exile in Guernsey. See the "Pendant l'Exil," under the
heading _Actes et Paroles_, vol. ii.

[21] Died in exile at Termonde.

[22] Pro Hugonotorum strage. Medal struck at Rome in 1572.


Victor Hugo