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Chapter 44

THE DILIGENCE


A brigand stops a diligence in the woods.

He is at the head of a resolute band.

The travellers are more numerous, but they are separated, disunited, cooped up in the different compartments, half asleep, surprised in the middle of the night, seized unexpectedly and without arms.

The brigand orders them to alight, not to utter a cry, not to speak a word, and to lie down with their faces to the ground.

Some resist: he blows out their brains.

The rest obey, and lie on the road, speechless, motionless, terrified, mixed up with the dead bodies, and half dead themselves.

The brigand, while his accomplices keep their feet on the ribs of the travellers, and their pistols at their heads, rifles their pockets, forces open their trunks, and takes all the valuables they possess.

The pockets rifled, the trunks pillaged, the coup d'état completed, he says to them:--

"Now, in order to set myself right with justice, I have written down on paper a declaration, that you acknowledge that all I have taken belonged to me, and that you give it to me of your own free will. I propose that this shall be your view of the matter. Each of you will have a pen given you, and without uttering a syllable, without making the slightest movement, without quitting your present attitude" (belly on ground, and face in the mud) "you will put out your arms, and you will all sign this paper. If any one of you moves or speaks, here is the muzzle of my pistol. Otherwise, you are quite free."

The travellers put out their arms, and sign.

The brigand thereupon tosses his head, and says:--

"I have seven million five hundred thousand votes."


Victor Hugo