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Chapter 9


AN END WORSE THAN DEATH

We should have been glad to have put aside, never to have spoken of him
again, this man who had borne for three years this most honorable title,
President of the National Assembly of France, and who had only known how
to be lacquey to the majority. He contrived in his last hour to sink
even lower than could have been believed possible even for him. His
career in the Assembly had been that of a valet, his end was that of a
scullion.

The unprecedented attitude that M. Dupin assumed before the gendarmes
when uttering with a grimace his mockery of a protest, even engendered
suspicion. Gambion exclaimed, "He resists like an accomplice. He knew
all."

We believe these suspicions to be unjust. M. Dupin knew nothing. Who
indeed amongst the organizers of the _coup d'état_ would have taken the
trouble to make sure of his joining them? Corrupt M. Dupin? was it
possible? and, further, to what purpose? To pay him? Why? It would be
money wasted when fear alone was enough. Some connivances are secured
before they are sought for. Cowardice is the old fawner upon felony. The
blood of the law is quickly wiped up. Behind the assassin who holds the
poniard comes the trembling wretch who holds the sponge.

Dupin took refuge in his study. They followed him. "My God!" he cried,
"can't they understand that I want to be left in peace."

In truth they had tortured him ever since the morning, in order to
extract from him an impossible scrap of courage.

"You ill-treat me worse than the gendarmes," said he.

The Representatives installed themselves in his study, seated themselves
at his table, and, while he groaned and scolded in an arm-chair, they
drew up a formal report of what had just taken place, as they wished to
leave an official record of the outrage in the archives.

When the official report was ended Representative Canet read it to the
President, and offered him a pen.

"What do you want me to do with this?" he asked.

"You are the President," answered Canet. "This is our last sitting. It
is your duty to sign the official report."

This man refused.

Victor Hugo