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Chapter 26

"When the slaughter came to an end,--that is to say when it was black night, and it had begun in broad day,--the dead bodies were not removed; they were so numerous that thirty-three of them were counted before a single shop, that of M. Barbedienne. Every square of ground left open in the asphalt at the foot of the trees on the boulevards was a reservoir of blood. 'The dead bodies,' says a witness, 'were piled up in heaps, one upon another, old men, children, blouses and paletots, assembled pell-mell, in an indescribable mass of heads, arms, and legs.'

"Another witness describes thus a group of three individuals: 'Two had fallen on their backs; and the third, having tripped over their legs, had fallen upon them.' The single corpses were rare and attracted more notice than the others. One young man, well dressed, was seated against a wall, with his legs apart, his arms half folded, one of Verdier's canes in his hand, and seemed to be looking at what was going on around him; he was dead. A little farther on, the bullets had nailed against a shop a youth in velveteen trousers who had some proof-sheets in his hand. The wind fluttered these bloody proofs, on which the fingers of the corpse were still closed. A poor old man, with white hair, was lying in the middle of the road, with his umbrella at his side. His elbow almost touched a young man in patent leather boots and yellow gloves, who had his eye-glass still in his eye. A few steps away, with her head on the sidewalk, and her feet in the road, lay a woman of the people, who had attempted to escape, with her child in her arms. Both were dead; but the mother still tightly grasped her child.'

"Ah! you will tell me, M. Bonaparte, that you are very sorry, but that it was an unfortunate affair; that in presence of Paris, ready to rise, it was necessary to adopt a decided course, and that you were forced to this extremity; that, as regards the coup d'état, you were in debt; that your ministers were in debt; that your aides-de-camp were in debt; that your footmen were in debt; that you were answerable for them all; and that, deuce take it! a man cannot be a prince without spending, from time to time, a few millions too much; that one must amuse one's self and enjoy life a bit; that the Assembly was to blame for not having understood this, and for seeking to restrict you to two paltry millions a year, and, what is more, to force you to resign your authority at the expiration of your four years, and to execute the Constitution; that, after all, you could not leave the Élysée to enter the debtors' prison at Clichy; that you had in vain had recourse to those little expedients which are provided for by Article 405; that exposure was at hand, that the demagogical press was chattering, that the matter of the gold ingots threatened to become known, that you were bound to respect the name of Napoleon, and that, on my word! having no other alternative, rather than become one of the vulgar swindlers named in the code, you preferred to be one of the great assassins of history!

"So then, instead of polluting, this blood has purified you! Very good.

"I resume.

Victor Hugo