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Chapter 17


May 3, 1848.

On February 24 the Duke and Duchess Decazes were
literally driven from the Luxembourg. And by whom?
By the very denizens of the palace, all employés of the
Chamber of Peers, all appointed by the grand referendary.
A rumour was circulated in the quarter that during the
night the peers would commit some anti-revolutionary act,
publish a proclamation, etc. The entire Faubourg Saint
Jacques prepared to march against the Luxembourg.
Hence, great terror. First the Duke and Duchess were
begged, then pressed, then constrained to leave the palace.

"We will leave to-morrow. We do not know where to
go. Let us pass the night here," they said.

They were driven out.

They slept in a lodging-house. Next day they took up
their abode at 9, Rue Verneuil.

M. Decazes was very ill. A week before he had undergone
an operation. Mme. Decazes bore it all with cheerfulness
and courage. This is a trait of character that women
often display in trying situations brought about through
the stupidity of men.

The ministers escaped, but not without difficulty. M.
Duchâtel, in particular, had a great fright.

M. Guizot, three days previously, had quitted the Hotel
des Capucines and installed himself at the Ministry of the
Interior. He lived there ~en famille~ with M. Duchâtel.

On February 24, MM. Duchâtel and Guizot were about
to sit down to luncheon when an usher rushed in with a
frightened air. The head of the column of rioters was
debouching from the Rue de Bourgogne. The two ministers
left the table and managed to escape just in time by way
of the garden. Their families followed them: M. Duchâtel's
young wife, M. Guizot's aged mother, and the children.

A notable thing about this flight was that the luncheon
of M. Guizot became the supper of M. Ledru-Rollin. It
was not the first time that the Republic had eaten what
had been served to the Monarchy.

Meanwhile the fugitives had taken the Rue Bellechasse.
M. Guizot walked first, giving his arm to Mme. Duchâtel.
His fur-lined overcoat was buttoned up and his hat as usual
was stuck on the back of his head. He was easily
recognisable. In the Rue Hillerin-Bertin, Mme. Duchâtel noticed
that some men in blouses were gazing at M. Guizot in a
singular manner, She led him into a doorway. It chanced
that she knew the doorkeeper. They hid M. Guizot in an
empty room on the fifth floor.

Here M. Guizot passed the day, but he could not stay
there. One of his friends remembered a bookseller, a great
admirer of M. Guizot, who in better days had often declared
that he would devote himself to and give his life for
him whom he called "a great man," and that he only hoped
the opportunity for doing so might present itself. This
friend called upon him, reminded him of what he had said,
and told him that the hour had come. The brave bookseller
did not fail in what was expected of him. He placed
his house at M. Guizot's disposal and hid him there for ten
whole days. At the end of that time the eight places in a
compartment of a carriage on the Northern Railway were
hired. M. Guizot made his way to the station at nightfall.
The seven persons who were aiding in his escape entered
the compartment with him. They reached Lille, then
Ostend, whence M. Guizot crossed over to England.

M. Duchâtel's escape was more complicated.

He managed to secure a passport as an agent of the Republic
on a mission. He disguised himself, dyed his eye-brows,
put on blue spectacles, and left Paris in a post-chaise.
Twice he was stopped by National Guards in the towns
through which he passed. With great audacity he declared
that he would hold responsible before the Republic those
who delayed him on his mission. The word "Republic"
produced its effect. They allowed the Minister to pass.
The Republic saved M. Duchâtel.

In this way he reached a seaport (Boulogne, I think),
believing that he was being hotly pursued, and very nervous
in consequence. A Channel steamer was going to England.
He went on board at night. He was installing himself for
the voyage when he was informed that the steamer would
not leave that night. He thought that he had been
discovered and that he was a lost man. The steamer had
merely been detained by the English Consul, probably to
facilitate, if necessary, the flight of Louis Philippe.
M. Duchâtel landed again and spent the night and next day
in the studio of a woman painter who was devoted to him.

Then he embarked on another steamer. He went
below at once and concealed himself as best he could
pending the departure of the vessel. He scarcely dared to
breathe, fearing that at any moment he might be recognised
and seized. At last the steamer got under way. Hardly
had the paddle wheels begun to revolve, however, when
shouts of "Stop her! Stop her!" were raised on the quay
and on the boat, which stopped short. This time the poor
devil of a Minister thought it was all up with him. The
hubbub was caused by an officer of the National Guard,
who, in taking leave of friends, had lingered too long on
deck, and did not want to be taken to England against his
will. When he found that the vessel had cast off he had
shouted "Stop her! " and his family on the quay had taken
up the shout. The officer was put ashore and the steamer
finally started.

This was how M. Duchâtel left France and reached England.

Victor Hugo