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Chapter 27

"When all was finished, Paris came to see the sight. The people flocked in crowds to those terrible places; no one interfered with them. This was what the butcher wanted. Louis Bonaparte had not done all this to hide it afterwards.

"The southern side of the boulevard was covered with torn cartridge wads; the sidewalk on the northern side disappeared beneath the mortar torn from the fronts of the houses by the bullets, and was as white as if snow had fallen on it; while pools of blood left large dark patches on that snow of ruins. The foot of the passer-by avoided a corpse only to tread upon fragments of broken glass, plaster, or stone; some houses were so riddled by the grape and cannon-balls, that they seemed on the point of tumbling down; this was the case with M. Sallandrouze's, which we have already mentioned, and the mourning warehouse at the corner of Faubourg Montmartre. 'The Billecoq house,' says a witness, 'is, at the present moment, still propped up by wooden beams, and the front will have to be partly rebuilt. The balls have made holes in the carpet warehouse in several places.' Another witness says: 'All the houses from the Cercle des Étrangers to Rue Poissonnière were literally riddled with balls, especially on the right-hand side of the boulevard. One of the large panes of plate glass in the warehouses of La Petite Jeannette received certainly more than two hundred for its share. There was not a window that had not its ball. One breathed an atmosphere of saltpetre. Thirty-seven corpses were heaped up in the Cité Bergère; the passers-by could count them through the iron railings. A woman was standing at the corner of Rue Richelieu. She was looking on. Suddenly she felt that her feet were wet. 'Why, has it been raining?' she said, 'my feet are in the water.'--'No, madame,' replied a person who was passing, 'it is not water.'--Her feet were in a pool of blood.

"On Rue Grange-Batelière three corpses were seen in a corner, quite naked.

"During the butchery, the barricades on the boulevards had been carried by Bourgon's brigade. The corpses of those who had defended the barricade at Porte Saint-Denis, of which we have already spoken at the beginning of our narrative, were piled up before the door of the Maison Jouvin. 'But,' says a witness, 'they were nothing compared to the heaps which covered the boulevard.'

"About two paces from the Théâtre des Variétés, the crowd stopped to look at a cap full of brains and blood, hung upon a tree.

"A witness says: 'A little beyond the Variétés, I came to a corpse lying on the ground with its face downwards; I tried to raise it, aided by others, but we were repelled by the soldiers. A little farther on, there were two bodies, a man and a woman; then one alone, a workman' (we abridge the account). 'From Rue Montmartre to Rue du Sentier one literally walked in blood; at certain spots, it covered the sidewalk some inches deep, and, without exaggeration, one was obliged to use the greatest caution not to step into it. I counted there thirty-three corpses. The sight was too much for me: I felt great tears rolling down my cheeks. I asked leave to cross the road, in order to enter my own house, and my request was granted as a favour!'

"Another witness says: 'The boulevard presented a horrible sight. We literally walked in blood. We counted eighteen corpses in about five and twenty paces.'

"Another witness, the keeper of a wine-shop on Rue du Sentier, says: 'I went along Boulevard du Temple to my house. When I got home, I had an inch of blood around the bottom of my trousers.'

"Representative Versigny has this to say: 'We could see, in the distance, almost as far as Porte Saint-Denis, the immense bivouac-fires of the infantry. The light from them, with the exception of that from a few rare lamps, was all we had to guide us amid that horrible carnage. The fighting in the daytime was nothing compared to those corpses and that silence. R. and I were half-dead with horror. A man was passing us; hearing one of my exclamations, he came up to me, took my hand, and said: "You are a republican; and I was what is called a friend of order, a reactionary, but one must be forsaken of God, not to execrate this horrible orgy. France is dishonoured." And he left us, sobbing.'

"Another witness, who allows us to give his name, a Legitimist, the honourable Monsieur de Cherville, deposes as follows: 'In the evening, I determined on continuing my sad inspection. On Rue Le Peletier I met Messieurs Bouillon and Gervais (of Caen). We walked a few steps together, when my foot slipped. I clung to M. Bouillon. I looked at my feet. I had walked into a large pool of blood. M. Bouillon then informed me, that, being at his window, in the morning, he saw a druggist, whose shop he pointed out to me, shutting his door. A woman fell; the druggist rushed forward to raise her; at the same moment, a soldier, ten paces off, aimed at him and lodged a bullet in his head. Overcome with wrath, and forgetting his own danger, M. Bouillon exclaimed to the passers-by: "You will all bear witness to what has taken place."'

"About eleven o'clock at night, when the fires of the bivouacs were everywhere lighted, M. Bonaparte allowed the troops to amuse themselves. It was like a fête-de-nuit on the boulevards. The soldiers laughed and sang, as they threw into the fire the débris of the barricades. After this, as at Strasbourg and Boulogne, money was distributed among them. Let us hear what a witness says: 'I saw, at Porte Saint-Denis, a staff-officer give two hundred francs to the chief of a detachment of twenty men, with these words: "The prince ordered me to give you this money, to be distributed among your brave soldiers! the marks of his satisfaction will not be confined to this."--Each soldier received ten francs.'

"On the evening of the battle of Austerlitz, the Emperor said: 'Soldiers, I am content with you.'

"Another person adds: 'The soldiers, with cigars in their mouths, twitted the passers-by and jingled the money in their pockets.' Another says: 'The officers broke the rolls of louis d'or like sticks of chocolate.'

"The sentinels allowed only women to pass; whenever a man made his appearance, they cried: 'Be off!' Tables were spread in the bivouacs, and officers and soldiers drank around them. The flame of the braziers was reflected on all those merry faces. The corks and capsules of the champagne bottles floated on the red torrents of blood. From bivouac to bivouac the soldiers exchanged loud cries and obscene jokes. They saluted one another with: 'Long live the grenadiers!' 'Long live the lancers!' and all joined in, 'Long live Louis-Napoleon!' One heard the clinking of glasses, and the crash of broken bottles. Here and there, in the shadow, women, with a taper of yellow wax or a lantern in their hands, prowled among the dead bodies, gazing at those pale faces, one after another, and seeking a son, a father, or a husband.


Victor Hugo