THE DARKNESS OF THE CRIME
Versigny had just left me.
While I dressed hastily there came in a man in whom I had every
confidence. He was a poor cabinet-maker out of work, named Girard, to
whom I had given shelter in a room of my house, a carver of wood, and
not illiterate. He came in from the street; he was trembling.
"Well," I asked, "what do the people say?"
Girard answered me,--
"People are dazed. The blow has been struck in such a manner that it
is not realized. Workmen read the placards, say nothing, and go to
their work. Only one in a hundred speaks. It is to say, 'Good!' This
is how it appears to them. The law of the 31st May is abrogated--'Well
done!' Universal suffrage is re-established--'Also well done!' The
reactionary majority has been driven away--'Admirable!' Thiers is
arrested--'Capital!' Changarnier is seized--'Bravo!' Round each placard
there are _claqueurs_. Ratapoil explains his _coup d'état_ to Jacques
Bonhomme, Jacques Bonhomme takes it all in. Briefly, it is my impression
that the people give their consent."
"Let it be so," said I.
"But," asked Girard of me, "what will you do, Monsieur Victor Hugo?"
I took my scarf of office from a cupboard, and showed it to him.
We shook hands.
As he went out Carini entered.
Colonel Carini is an intrepid man. He had commanded the cavalry under
Mieroslawsky in the Sicilian insurrection. He has, in a few moving and
enthusiastic pages, told the story of that noble revolt. Carini is one of
those Italians who love France as we Frenchmen love Italy. Every
warm-hearted man in this century has two fatherlands--the Rome of
yesterday and the Paris of to-day.
"Thank God," said Carini to me, "you are still free," and he added, "The
blow has been struck in a formidable manner. The Assembly is invested. I
have come from thence. The Place de la Révolution, the Quays, the
Tuileries, the boulevards, are crowded with troops. The soldiers have
their knapsacks. The batteries are harnessed. If fighting takes place it
will be desperate work."
I answered him, "There will be fighting."
And I added, laughing, "You have proved that the colonels write like
poets; now it is the turn of the poets to fight like colonels."
I entered my wife's room; she knew nothing, and was quietly reading her
paper in bed.
I had taken about me five hundred francs in gold. I put on my wife's bed
a box containing nine hundred francs, all the money which remained to me,
and I told her what had happened.
She turned pale, and said to me, "What are you going to do?"
She embraced me, and only said two words:--
My breakfast was ready. I ate a cutlet in two mouthfuls. As I finished,
my daughter came in. She was startled by the manner in which I kissed
her, and asked me, "What is the matter?"
"Your mother will explain to you."
And I left them.
The Rue de la Tour d'Auvergne was as quiet and deserted as usual. Four
workmen were, however, chatting near my door; they wished me "Good
I cried out to them, "You know what is going on?"
"Yes," said they.
"Well. It is treason! Louis Bonaparte is strangling the Republic. The
people are attacked. The people must defend themselves."
"They will defend themselves."
"You promise me that?"
"Yes," they answered.
One of them added, "We swear it."
They kept their word. Barricades were constructed in my street (Rue de la
Tour d'Auvergne), in the Rue des Martyrs, in the Cité Rodier, in the Rue
Coquenard, and at Notre-Dame de Lorette.
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