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Chapter 3


On the same night, almost at the same moment, at a few paces distant, a
villainous deed was being perpetrated.

After the taking of the barricade, where Pierre Tissié was killed,
seventy or eighty combatants had retired in good order by the Rue Saint
Sauveur. They had reached the Rue Montorgueil, and had rejoined each
other at the junction of the Rue du Petit Carreau and the Rue du Cadran.
At this point the street rises. At the corner of the Rue du Petit
Carreau and the Rue de Cléry there was a deserted barricade, fairly high
and well built. There had been fighting there during the morning. The
soldiers had taken it, but had not demolished it. Why? As we have said,
there were several riddles of this nature during this day.

The armed band which came from the Rue Saint Denis had halted there and
had waited. These men were astonished at not being pursued. Had the
soldiers feared to follow them into the little narrow streets, where
each corner of the houses might conceal an ambuscade? Had a counter
order been given? They hazarded various conjectures. Moreover they heard
close by, evidently on the boulevard, a terrific noise of musketry, and
a cannonade which resembled continuous thunder. Having no more
ammunition, they were reduced to listen. If they had known what was
taking place there, they would have understood why they were not
pursued. The butchery of the boulevard was beginning. The generals
employed in the massacre had suspended fighting for awhile.

The fugitives of the boulevard streamed in their direction, but when
they perceived the barricade they turned back. Some, however, joined
them indignant, and crying out for vengeance. One who lived in the
neighborhood ran home and brought back a little tin barrel full of

These were sufficient for an hour's fighting. They began to construct a
barricade at the corner of the Rue du Cadran. In this manner the Rue du
Petit Carreau, closed by two barricades, one towards the Rue de Cléry,
the other at the corner of the Rue du Cadran, commanded the whole of the
Rue Montorgueil. The space between these two barricades formed a perfect
citadel. The second barricade was stronger than the first.

These men nearly all wore coats. Some of them rolled the paving-stones
with gloves on.

Few workmen were amongst them, but those who were there were intelligent
and energetic. These workmen were what might be termed the "pick of the

Jeanty Sarre had rejoined them; he at once became their leader.

Charpentier accompanied him, too brave to abandon the enterprise, but
too much a dreamer to become a commander.

Two barricades, enclosing in the same manner some forty yards of the Rue
Montorgueil, had just been constructed at the top of the Rue Mauconseil.

Three other barricades, extremely feebly constructed, again intersected
the Rue Montorgueil in the space which separates the Rue Mauconseil from
Saint Eustache.

Evening was closing in. The fusillade was ceasing upon the boulevard. A
surprise was possible. They established a sentry-post at the corner of
the Rue du Cadran, and sent a main-guard in the direction of the Rue
Montmartre. Their scouts came in to report some items of information. A
regiment seemed to be preparing to bivouac in the Place des Victoires.

Their position, to all appearance strong, was not so in reality. There
were too few in number to defend at the same time the two barricades on
the Rue de Cléry and the Rue Montorgueil, and the soldiers arriving in
the rear hidden by the second barricade would have been upon them
without being even noticed. This determined them to establish a post in
the Rue de Cléry. They put themselves in communication with the
barricades of the Rue du Cadran and with the two Mauconseil barricades.
These two last barricades were only separated from them by a space of
about 150 paces. They were about six feet high, fairly solid, but only
guarded by six workmen who had built them.

Towards half-past four, in the twilight--the twilight begins early in
December--Jeanty Sarre took four men with him and went out to
reconnoitre. He thought also of raising an advanced barricade in one of
the little neighboring streets. On the way they found one which had been
abandoned, and which had been built with barrels. The barrels, however,
were empty, only one contained any paving-stones, and the barricade
could not have been held for two minutes. As they left this barricade
they were assailed by a sharp discharge of musketry. A company of
infantry, hardly visible in the dusk, was close upon them.

They fell back hastily; but one of them, who was a shoemaker of the
Faubourg du Temple, was hit, and had remained on the pavement. They went
back and brought him away. He had the thumb of the right hand smashed.
"Thank God!" said Jeanty Sarre, "they have not killed him." "No," said
the poor man, "it is my bread which they have killed."

And he added, "I can no longer work; who will maintain my children?"

They went back, carrying the wounded man. One of them, a medical
student, bound up his wound.

The sentries, whom it was necessary to post in every direction, and who
were chosen from the most trustworthy men, thinned and exhausted the
little central land. There were scarcely thirty in the barricade itself.

There, as in the Quarter of the Temple, all the streetlamps were
extinguished; the gas-pipes cut; the windows closed and unlighted; no
moon, not even stars. The night was profoundly dark.

They could hear distant fusillades. The soldiers were firing from around
Saint Eustache, and every three minutes sent a ball in their direction,
as much as to say, "We are here." Nevertheless they did not expect an
attack before the morning.

Dialogues like the following took place amongst them:--

"I wish I had a truss of straw," said Charpentier; "I have a notion that
we shall sleep here to-night."

"Will you be able to get to sleep?" asked Jeanty Sarre.

"I? Certainly I shall go to sleep."

He did go to sleep, in fact, a few moments later.

In this gloomy network of narrow streets, intersected with barricades,
and blockaded by soldiers, two wine-shops had remained open. They made
more lint there, however, than they drank wine; the orders of the chiefs
were only to drink reddened water.

The doorway of one of these wine-shops opened exactly between the two
barricades of the Petit Cancan. In it was a clock by which they
regulated the sentries' relief. In a back room they had locked up two
suspicious-looking persons who had intermingled with the combatants. One
of these men at the moment when he was arrested said, "I have come to
fight for Henri V." They kept them under lock and key, and placed a
sentry at the door.

An ambulance had been established in an adjoining room. There the
wounded shoemaker was lying upon a mattress thrown upon the ground.

They had established, in case of need, another ambulance in the Rue du
Cadran. An opening had been effected at the corner of the barricade on
this side, so that the wounded could be easily carried away.

Towards half-past nine in the evening a man came up to the barricade.

Jeanty Sarre recognized him.

"Good day, Denis," said he.

"Call me, Gaston," said the man.



"Are you your brother?"

"Yes, I am my brother. For to-day."

"Very well. Good-day, Gaston."

They heartily shook hands.

It was Denis Dussoubs.

He was pale, calm, and bleeding; he had already been fighting during the
morning. At the barricade of the Faubourg Saint Martin a ball had grazed
his breast, but had been turned off by some money in his pocket, and had
only broken the skin. He had had the rare good fortune of being
scratched by a ball. It was like the first touch from the claws of
death. He wore a cap, his hat having been left behind in the barricade
where he had fought: and he had replaced his bullet-pierced overcoat,
which was made of Belleisle cloth, by a pea-jacket bought at a

How had he reached the barricade of the Petit Carreau? He could not say.
He had walked straight before him. He had glided from street to street.
Chance takes the predestined by the hand, and leads them straight to
their goal through the thick darkness.

At the moment when he entered the barricade they cried out to him, "Who
goes there?" He answered, "The Republic!"

They saw Jeanty Sarre shake him by the hand. They asked Jeanty Sarre,--

"Who is he?"

Jeanty Sarre answered,--

"It is some one."

And he added,--

"We were only sixty a short time since. We are a hundred now."

All pressed round the new-comer. Jeanty Sarre offered him the command.

"No," said he, "I do not understand the tactics of barricade fighting. I
should be a bad chief, but I am a good soldier. Give me a gun."

They seated themselves on the paving-stones. They exchanged their
experiences of what had been done. Denis described to them the fighting
on the Faubourg Saint Martin. Jeanty Sarre told Denis of the fighting in
the Rue Saint Denis.

During all this time the generals were preparing a final assault,--what
the Marquis of Clermont-Tonnerre, in 1822, called the "Coup de Collier,"
and what, in 1789, the Prince of Lambese had called the "Coup de Bas."
Throughout all Paris there was now only this point which offered any
resistance. This knot of barricade, this labyrinth of streets, embattled
like a redoubt, was the last citadel of the People and of Right. The
generals invested it leisurely, step by step, and on all sides. They
concentrated their forces. They, the combatants of this fateful hour,
knew nothing of what was being done. Only from time to time they
interrupted their recital of events and they listened. From the right
and from the left, from the front, from the rear, from every side, at
the same time, an unmistakable murmur, growing every moment louder, and
more distinct, hoarse, piercing, fear-inspiring, reached them through
the darkness. It was the sound of the battalions marching and charging
at the trumpet-command in all the adjoining streets. They resumed their
gallant conversation, and then in another moment they stopped again and
listened to that species of ill-omened chant, chanted by Death, which
was approaching.

Nevertheless some still thought that they would not be attacked till the
next morning. Night combats are rare in street-warfare. They are more
"risky" than all the other conflicts. Few generals venture upon them.
But amongst the old hands of the barricade, from certain never-failing
signs, they believed that an assault was imminent.

In fact, at half-past ten at night, and not at eight o'clock as General
Magnan has said in the despicable document which he calls his report--a
special movement was heard in the direction of the markets. This was the
marching of the troops. Colonel de Lourmel had determined to make the
attack. The 51st of the Line, posted at Saint Eustache, entered the Rue
Montorgueil. The 2d battalion formed the advanced guard. The Grenadiers
and the Light Infantry, hurled forward at the double, quickly carried
the three little barricades which were on the other side of the vacant
space of the Rue Mauconseil, and the feebly defended barricades of the
adjoining streets. It was at that very moment that the barricade near
which I was happened to be carried.

From the barricade of the Petit Carreau they heard the night-strife draw
near through the darkness, with a fitful noise, strange and appalling.
First a great tumult, then volleys, then silence, and then all began
again. The flashing of the fusillades suddenly delineated in the darkness
the outlines of the houses, which appeared as though they themselves
were affrighted.

The decisive moment drew near.

The outpost had fallen back upon the barricades. The advanced posts of
the Rue de Cléry and the Rue du Cadran had come back. They called over
the roll. Not one of those of the morning was missing.

They were, as we have said, about sixty combatants, and not a hundred,
as the Magnan report has stated.

From the upper extremity of the street where they were stationed it was
difficult to ascertain what was happening. They did not exactly know how
many barricades they were in the Rue Montorgueil between them and Saint
Eustache, whence the troops were coming. They only knew that their
nearest point of resistance was the double Mauconseil barricade, and
that, when all was at an end there, it would be their turn.

Denis had posted himself on the inner side of the barricade in such a
manner that half his body was above the top, and from there he watched.
The glimmer which came from the doorway of the wine-shop rendered his
gestures visible.

Suddenly he made a sign. The attack on the Mauconseil redoubt was

The soldiers, in fact, after having some time hesitated before this
double wall of paving-stones, lofty, well-built, and which they supposed
was well defended, had ended by rushing upon it, and attacking it with
blows of their guns.

They were not mistaken. It was well defended. We have already said that
there were only six men in this barricade, the six workmen who had built
it. Of the six one only had three cartridges, the others had only two
shots to fire. These six men heard the regiment advancing and the roll
of the battery which was followed on it, and did not stir. Each remained
silent at his post of battle, the barrel of his gun between two
paving-stones. When the soldiers were within range they fired, and the
battalion replied.

"That is right. Rage away, Red Breeches," said, laughingly, the man who
had three shots to fire.

Behind them, the men of the Petit Carreau were crowded round Denis and
Jeanty Sarre, and leaning on the crest of their barricade, stretching
their necks towards the Mauconseil redoubt, they watched them like the
gladiators of the next combat.

The six men of this Mauconseil redoubt resisted the onslaught of the
battalion for nearly a quarter of an hour. They did not fire together,
"in order," one of them said, "to make the pleasure last the longer."
The pleasure of being killed for duty; a noble sentence in this
workman's mouth. They did not fall back into the adjoining streets until
after having exhausted their ammunition. The last, he who had three
cartridges, did not leave until the soldiers were actually scaling the
summit of the barricade.

In the barricade of the Petit Carreau not a word was spoken; they
followed all the phases of this struggle, and they pressed each other's

Suddenly the noise ceased, the last musket-shot was fired. A moment
afterwards they saw the lighted candles being placed in all the windows
which looked on on the Mauconseil redoubt. The bayonets and the brass
ornaments on the shakos sparkled there. The barricade was taken.

The commander of the battalion, as is always the custom in similar
circumstances, had sent orders into the adjoining houses to light up all
the windows.

This was done at the Mauconseil redoubt.

Seeing that their hour had come, the sixty combatants of the barricade
of the Petit Carreau mounted their heap of paving-stones, and shouted
with one voice, in the midst of the darkness, this piercing cry, "Long
live the Republic!"

No one answered them.

They could only hear the battalion loading their guns.

This acted upon them as a species of signal for action. They were all
worn out with fatigue, having been on their feet since the preceding
day, carrying paving-stones or fighting, the greater part had neither
eaten nor slept.

Charpentier said to Jeanty Sarre,--

"We shall all be killed."

"Shall we really!" said Jeanty Sarre.

Jeanty Sarre ordered the door of the wine-shop to be closed, so that
their barricade, completely shrouded in darkness, would give them some
advantage over the barricade which was occupied by the soldiers and
lighted up.

In the meantime the 51st searched the streets, carried the wounded into
the ambulances, and took up their position in the double barricade of
the Rue Mauconseil. Half an hour thus elapsed.

Now, in order to clearly understand what is about to follow, the reader
must picture to himself in this silent street, in this darkness of the
night, at from sixty to eighty yards apart, within speaking distance,
these two redoubts facing each other, and able as in an Iliad to address
each other.

On one side the Army, on the other side the People, the darkness over

The species of truce which always precedes decisive encounters drew to a
close. The preparations were completed on both sides. The soldiers could
be heard forming into order of battle, and the captains giving out their
commands. It was evident that the struggle was at hand.

"Let us begin," said Charpentier; and he raised his gun.

Denis held his arm back. "Wait," he said.

Then an epic incident was seen.

Denis slowly mounted the paving-stones of the barricade, ascended to the
top, and stood there erect, unarmed and bareheaded.

Thence he raised his voice, and, facing the soldiers, he shouted to
them, "Citizens!"

At this word a sort of electric shudder ensued which was felt from one
barricade to the other. Every sound was hushed, every voice was silent,
on both sides reigned a deep religious and solemn silence. By the
distant glimmer of a few lighted windows the soldiers could vaguely
distinguish a man standing above a mass of shadows, like a phantom who
was speaking to them in the night.

Denis continued,--

"Citizens of the Army! Listen to me!"

The silence grew still more profound.

He resumed,--

"What have you come to do here? You and ourselves, all of us who are in
this street, at this hour, with the sword or gun in hand, what are we
about to do? To kill each other! To kill each other, citizens! Why?
Because they have raised a misunderstanding between us! Because we
obey--you your discipline--we our Right! You believe that you are
carrying out your instructions; as for us, we know that we are doing our
duty. Yes! it is Universal Suffrage, it is the Right of the Republic, it
is our Right that we are defending, and our Right, soldiers, is your
Right. The Army is the People, as the People is the Army. We are the
same nation, the some country, the same men. My God! See, is there any
Russian blood in my veins, in me who am speaking to you? Is there any
Prussian blood in your veins, in you who are listening to me? No! Why
then should we fight? It is always an unfortunate thing for a man to
fire upon a man. Nevertheless, a gun-shot between a Frenchman and an
Englishman can be understood; but between a Frenchman and a Frenchman,
ah! that wounds Reason, that wounds France, that wounds our mother!"

All anxiously listened to him. At this moment from the opposite
barricade a voice shouted to him,--

"Go home, then!"

At this coarse interruption an angry murmur ran through Denis's
companions, and several guns could be heard being loaded. Denis
restrained them by a sign.

This sign possessed a strange authority.

"Who is this man?" the combatants behind the barricade asked each other.
Suddenly they cried out,--

"He is a Representative of the People!"

Denis had, in fact, suddenly assumed his brother Gaston's sash.

What he had premeditated was about to be accomplished; the hour of the
heroic falsehood had arrived. He cried out,--

"Soldiers, do you know what the man is who is speaking to you at this
moment? He is not only a citizen, he is a Legislator! He is a
Representative chosen by Universal Suffrage! My name is Dussoubs, and I
am a Representative of the People. It is in the name of the National
Assembly, it is in the name of the Sovereign Assembly, it is in the name
of the People, and in the name of the Law, that I summon you to hear me.
Soldiers, you are the armed force. Well, then, when the Law speaks, the
armed force listens."

This time the silence was not broken.

We reproduce these words almost literally; such as they are, and such as
they have remained graven on the memory of those who heard them; but
what we cannot reproduce, and what should be added to these words, in
order to realize the effect, is the attitude, the accent, the thrill of
emotion, the vibration of the words issuing from this noble breast, the
intense impression produced by the terrible hour and place.

Denis Dussoubs continued: "He spoke for some twenty minutes," an
eye-witness has told me. Another has said, "He spoke with a loud voice;
the whole street heard him." He was vehement, eloquent, earnest; a judge
for Bonaparte, a friend for the soldiers. He sought to rouse them by
everything which could still vibrate in them; he recalled to them their
true wars, their true victories, the national glory, the ancient
military honor, the flag. He told them that all this was about to be
slain by the bullets from their guns. He adjured them, he ordered them
to join themselves to the People and to the Law; and then suddenly
coming back to the first words which he had pronounced, carried away by
that fraternity with which his soul overflowed, he interrupted himself
in the middle of a half-completed sentence, and cried out:--

"But to what purpose are all these words? It is not all this that is
wanted, it is a shake of the hand between brothers! Soldiers, you are
there opposite us, at a hundred paces from us, in a barricade, with the
sword drawn, with guns pointed; you are aiming directly at me; well
then, all of us who are here love you! There is not one of us who would
not give his life for one of you. You are the peasants of the fields of
France; we are the workmen of Paris. What, then, is in question? Simply
to see each other, to speak to each other, and not to cut each other's
throats. Shall we try this? Say! Ah! as for myself in this frightful
battle-field of civil war, I would rather die than kill. Look now, I am
going to get off this barricade and come to you. I am unarmed; I only
know that you are my brothers. I am confident, I am calm; and if one of
you presents his bayonet at me, I will offer him my hand."

He finished speaking.

A voice cried out from the opposite barricade, "Advance in order!"

Then they saw him slowly descend the dimly-lighted crest of the
barricade, paving-stone by paving-stone, and plunge with head erect into
the dark street.

From the barricade all eyes followed him with an inexpressible anxiety.
Hearts ceased beating, mouths no longer breathed.

No one attempted to restrain Denis Dussoubs. Each felt that he was going
where he ought to go. Charpentier wished to accompany him. "Would you
like me to go with you?" he cried out to him. Dussoubs refused, with a
shake of the head.

Dussoubs, alone and grave, advanced towards the Mauconseil Barricade.
The night was so dark that they lost sight of him immediately. They
could distinguish only for a few seconds his peaceable and intrepid
bearing. Then he disappeared. They could no longer see anything. It was
an inauspicious moment. The night was dark and dumb. There could only be
heard in this thick darkness the sound of a measured and firm step dying
away in the distance.

After some time, how long no one could reckon, so completely did emotion
eclipse thought amongst the witnesses of this marvellous scene, a
glimmer of light appeared in the barricade of the soldiers; it was
probably a lantern which was being brought or taken away. By the flash
they again saw Dussoubs, he was close to the barricade, he had almost
reached it, he was walking towards it with his arms stretched out like

Suddenly the word of command, "Fire!" was heard.

A fusillade burst forth.

They had fired upon Dussoubs when he was at the muzzles of their guns.

Dussoubs fell.

Then he raised himself and cried, "Long live the Republic!"

Another bullet struck him, he fell again. Then they saw him raise
himself once more, and heard him shout in a loud voice, "I die with the

These were his last words.

In this manner died Denis Dussoubs.

It was not vainly that he had said to his brother, "Your sash will be

He was anxious that this sash should do its duty. He determined in the
depths of his great soul that this sash should triumph either through
the law or through death.

That is to say, in the first case it would save Right, in the second
save Honor.

Dying, he could say, "I have succeeded."

Of the two possible triumphs of which he had dreamed, the gloomy triumph
was not the less splendid.

The insurgent of the Elysée thought that he had killed a Representative
of the People, and boasted of it. The sole journal published by the
_coup d'état_ under these different titles _Patrie_, _Univers_,
_Moniteur_, _Parisien_, etc., announced on the next day, Friday, the
5th, "that the ex-Representative Dussoubs (Gaston) had been killed at
the barricade of the Rue Neuve Saint Eustache, and that he bore 'a red
flag in his hand.'"

Victor Hugo