The first barricade was erected in the morning of Friday, the 23rd, at the Porte Saint Denis. It was attacked the same day. The National Guard marched resolutely against it. The attacking force was made up of battalions of the First and Second Legions, which arrived by way of the boulevards. When the assailants got within range a formidable volley was fired from the barricade, and littered the ground with National Guards. The National Guard, more irritated than intimidated, charged the barricade.
At this juncture a woman appeared upon its crest, a woman young, handsome, dishevelled, terrible. This woman, who was a prostitute, pulled up her clothes to her waist and screamed to the guards in that frightful language of the lupanar that one is always compelled to translate:
"Cowards! fire, if you dare, at the belly of a woman!" Here the affair became appalling. The National Guard did not hesitate. A volley brought the wretched creature down, and with a piercing shriek she toppled off the barricade. A silence of horror fell alike upon besiegers and besieged.
Suddenly another woman appeared. This one was even younger and more beautiful; she was almost a child, being barely seventeen years of age. Oh! the pity of it! She, too, was a street-walker. Like the other she lifted her skirt, disclosed her abdomen, and screamed: "Fire, brigands!" They fired, and riddled with bullets she fell upon the body of her sister in vice.
It was thus that the war commenced.
Nothing could be more chilling and more sombre. It is a hideous thing this heroism of abjection in which bursts forth all that weakness has of strength; this civilization attacked by cynicism and defending itself by barbarity. On one side the despair of the people, on the other the despair of society.
On Saturday the 24th, at 4 o'clock in the morning, I, as a Representative of the people, was at the barricade in the Place Baudoyer that was defended by the troops.
The barricade was a low one. Another, narrow and high, protected it in the street. The sun shone upon and brightened the chimney-tops. The tortuous Rue Saint Antoine wound before us in sinister solitude.
The soldiers were lying upon the barricade, which was little more than three feet high. Their rifles were stacked between the projecting paving-stones as though in a rack. Now and then bullets whistled overhead and struck the walls of the houses around us, bringing down a shower of stone and plaster. Occasionally a blouse, sometimes a cap-covered head, appeared at the corner of a street. The soldiers promptly fired at it. When they hit their mark they applauded "Good! Well aimed! Capital!"
They laughed and chatted gaily. At intervals there was a rattle and roar, and a hail of bullets rained upon the barricade from roofs and windows. A very tall captain with a grey moustache stood erect at the centre of the barrier, above which half his body towered. The bullets pattered about him as about a target. He was impassible and serene and spoke to his men in this wise:
"There, children, they are firing. Lie down. Look out, Laripaud, you are showing your head. Reload!"
All at once a woman turned the corner of a street. She came leisurely towards the barricade. The soldiers swore and shouted to her to get out of the way:
"Ah! the strumpet! Will you get out of that you w—! Shake a leg, damn you! She's coming to reconnoitre. She's a spy! Bring her down. Down with the moucharde!"
The captain restrained them:
"Don't shoot, it's a woman!"
After advancing about twenty paces the woman, who really did seem to be observing us, entered a low door which closed behind her.
This one was saved.
At 11 o'clock I returned from the barrier in the Place Baudoyer and took my usual place in the Assembly. A Representative whom I did not know, but who I have since learned was M. Belley, engineer, residing in the Rue des Tournelles, came and sat beside me and said:
"Monsieur Victor Hugo, the Place Royale has been burned. They set fire to your house. The insurgents entered by the little door in the Cul-de-sac Guemenee."
"And my family?" I inquired.
"They are safe."
"How do you know?"
"I have just come from there. Not being known I was able to get over the barricades and make my way here. Your family first took refuge in the Mairie. I was there, too. Seeing that the danger was over I advised Mme. Victor Hugo to seek some other asylum. She found shelter with her children in the home of a chimney-sweep named Martignon who lives near your house, under the arcades."
I knew that worthy Martignon family. This reassured me.
"And how about the riot?" I asked.
"It is a revolution," replied M. Belley. "The insurgents are in control of Paris at this moment."
I left M. Belley and hurriedly traversed the few rooms that separated the hall in which we held our sessions and the office occupied by the Executive Committee.
It was a small salon belonging to the presidency, and was reached through two rooms that were smaller still. In these ante-chambers was a buzzing crowd of distracted officers and National Guards. They made no attempt to prevent any one from entering.
I opened the door of the Executive Committee's office. Ledru-Rollin, very red, was half seated on the table. M. Gamier-Pages, very pale, and half reclining in an armchair, formed an antithesis to him. The contrast was complete: Garnier-Pages thin and bushy-haired, Ledru-Rollin stout and close-cropped. Two or three colonels, among them Representative Charras, were conversing in a corner. I only recall Arago vaguely. I do not remember whether M. Marie was there. The sun was shining brightly.
Lamartine, standing in a window recess on the left, was talking to a general in full uniform, whom I saw for the first and last time, and who was Negrier. Negrier was killed that same evening in front of a barricade.
I hurried to Lamartine, who advanced to meet me. He was wan and agitated, his beard was long, his clothes were dusty.
He held out his hand: "Ah! good morning, Hugo!"
Here is the dialogue that we engaged in, every word of which is still fresh in my memory:
"What is the situation, Lamartine?"
"We are done for!"
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that in a quarter of an hour from now the Assembly will be invaded."
(Even at that moment a column of insurgents was coming down the Rue de Lille. A timely charge of cavalry dispersed it.)
"Nonsense! What about the troops?"
"There are no troops!"
"But you said on Wednesday, and yesterday repeated, that you had sixty thousand men at your disposal."
"So I thought."
"Well, but you musn't give up like this. It is not only you who are at stake, but the Assembly, and not only the Assembly, but France, and not only France, but the whole of civilization. Why did you not issue orders yesterday to have the garrisons of the towns for forty leagues round brought to Paris? That would have given you thirty thousand men at once."
"We gave the orders—"
"The troops have not come!"
Lamartine took my hand and said;
"I am not Minister of War!"
At this moment a few representatives entered noisily. The Assembly had just voted a state of siege. They told Ledru-Rollin and Garnier-Pages so in a few words.
Lamartine half turned towards them and said in an undertone:
"A state of siege! A state of siege! Well, declare it if you think it is necessary. I have nothing to say!"
He dropped into a chair, repeating:
"I have nothing to say, neither yes nor no. Do what you like!"
General Negrier came up to me.
"Monsieur Victor Hugo," he said, "I have come to reassure you; I have received news from the Place Royale."
"Your family are safe."
"Thanks! Yes, I have just been so informed."
"But your house has been burnt down."
"What does that matter?" said I.
Negrier warmly pressed my arm:
"I understand you. Let us think only of one thing. Let us save the country!"
As I was withdrawing Lamartine quitted a group and came to me.
"Adieu," he said. "But do not forget this: do not judge me too hastily; I am not the Minister of War."
The day before, as the riot was spreading, Cavaignac, after a few measures had been taken, said to Lamartine:
"That's enough for to-day."
It was 5 o'clock.
"What!" exclaimed Lamartine. "Why, we have still four hours of daylight before us! And the riot will profit by them while we are losing them!"
He could get nothing from Cavaignac except:
"That's enough for to-day!"
On the 24th, about 3 o'clock, at the most critical moment, a Representative of the people, wearing his sail across his shoulder, arrived at the Mairie of the Second Arrondissement, in the Rue Chauchat, behind the Opera. He was recognised. He was Lagrange.
The National Guards surrounded him. In a twinkling the group became menacing:
"It is Lagrange! the man of the pistol shot!* What are you doing here? You are a coward! Get behind the barricades. That is your place—your friends are there—and not with us! They will proclaim you their chief; go on! They at any rate are brave! They are giving their blood for your follies; and you, you are afraid! You have a dirty duty to do, but at least do it! Get out of here! Begone!"
* It was popularly but erroneously believed that Lagrange fired the shot that led to the massacre in the Boulevard des Capucines on February 23.
Lagrange endeavoured to speak. His voice was drowned by hooting.
This is how these madmen received the honest man who after fighting for the people wanted to risk his life for society.
The insurgents were firing throughout the whole length of the Boulevard Beaumarchais from the tops of the new houses. Several had ambushed themselves in the big house in course of construction opposite the Galiote. At the windows they had stuck dummies,—bundles of straw with blouses and caps on them.
I distinctly saw a man who had entrenched himself behind a barricade of bricks in a corner of the balcony on the fourth floor of the house which faces the Rue du Pont-aux-Choux. The man took careful aim and killed a good many persons.
It was 3 o'clock. The troops and mobiles fringed the roofs of the Boulevard du Temple and returned the fire of the insurgents. A cannon had just been drawn up in front of the Gaite to demolish the house of the Galiote and sweep the whole boulevard.
I thought I ought to make an effort to put a stop to the bloodshed, if possible, and advanced to the corner of the Rue d'Angouleme. When I reached the little turret near there I was greeted with a fusillade. The bullets pattered upon the turret behind me, and ploughed up the playbills with which it was covered. I detached a strip of paper as a memento. The bill to which it belonged announced for that very Sunday a fete at the Chateau des Flours, "with a thousand lanterns."
* * * * *
For four months we have been living in a furnace. What consoles me is that the statue of the future will issue from it. It required such a brazier to melt such a bronze.
July 5, 1848.
Chateaubriand is dead. One of the splendours of this century has passed away.
He was seventy-nine years old according to his own reckoning; according to the calculation of his old friend M. Bertin, senior, he was eighty years of age. But he had a weakness, said M. Bertin, and that was that he insisted that he was born not in 1768, but in 1769, because that was the year of Napoleon's birth.
He died yesterday, July 4, at 8 o'clock in the morning. For five or six months he had been suffering from paralysis which had almost destroyed his brain, and for five days from inflammation of the lungs, which abruptly snuffed out his life.
M. Ampere announced the news to the Academy, which thereupon decided to adjourn.
I quitted the National Assembly, where a questor to succeed General Negrier, who was killed in June, was being nominated, and went to M. de Chateaubriand's house, No. 110, Rue du Bac.
I was received by M. de Preuille, son-in-law of his nephew. I entered Chateaubriand's chamber.
He was lying upon his bed, a little iron bedstead with white curtains round it and surmounted by an iron curtain ring of somewhat doubtful taste. The face was uncovered; the brow, the nose, the closed eyes, bore that expression of nobleness which had marked him in life, and which was enhanced by the grave majesty of death. The mouth and chin were hidden by a cambric handkerchief. On his head was a white cotton nightcap which, however, allowed the grey hair on his temples to be seen. A white cravat rose to his ears. His tawny visage appeared more severe amid all this whiteness. Beneath the sheet his narrow, hollow chest and his thin legs could be discerned.
The shutters of the windows giving on to the garden were closed. A little daylight entered through the half-opened door of the salon. The chamber and the face were illumined by four tapers which burned at the corners of a table placed near the bed. On this table were a silver crucifix, a vase filled with holy water, and an aspergillum. Beside it a priest was praying.
Behind the priest a large brown-coloured screen hid the fireplace, above which the mantel-glass and a few engravings of churches and cathedrals were visible.
At Chateaubriand's feet, in the angle formed by the bed and the wall of the room, were two wooden boxes, placed one upon the other. The largest I was told contained the complete manuscript of his Memoirs, in forty-eight copybooks. Towards the last there had been such disorder in the house that one of the copybooks had been found that very morning by M. de Preuille in a dark and dirty closet where the lamps were cleaned.
A few tables, a wardrobe, and a few blue and green armchairs in disorder encumbered more than they furnished the room.
The adjoining salon, the furniture of which was hidden under unbleached covers, contained nothing more remarkable than a marble bust of Henry V. and a full-length statuette of Chateaubriand, which were on the mantelpiece, and on each side of a window plaster busts of Mme. de Berri and her infant child.
Towards the close of his life Chateaubriand was almost in his second childhood. His mind was only lucid for about two or three hours a day, at least so M. Pilorge, his former secretary, told me.
When in February he was apprised of the proclamation of the Republic he merely remarked: "Will you be any the happier for it?"
When his wife died he attended the funeral service and returned laughing heartily—which, said Pilorge, was a proof that he was of weak mind. "A proof that he was in his right mind!" affirmed Edouard Bertin.
Mme. de Chateaubriand's benevolence was official, which did not prevent her from being a shrew at home. She founded a hospice—the Marie Therese Infirmary—visited the poor, succoured the sick, superintended creches, gave alms and prayed; at the same time she was harsh towards her husband, her relatives, her friends, and her servants, and was sour-tempered, stern, prudish, and a backbiter. God on high will take these things into account.
She was ugly, pitted with small-pox, had an enormous mouth, little eyes, was insignificant in appearance, and acted the grande dame, although she was rather the wife of a great man than of a great lord. By birth she was only the daughter of a ship-owner of Saint Malo. M. de Chateaubriand feared, detested, and cajoled her.
She took advantage of this to make herself insupportable to mere human beings. I have never known anybody less approachable or whose reception of callers was more forbidding. I was a youth when I went to M. de Chateaubriand's. She received me very badly, or rather she did not receive me at all. I entered and bowed, but Mme. de Chateaubriand did not see me. I was scared out of my wits. These terrors made my visits to M. de Chateaubriand veritable nightmares which oppressed me for fifteen days and fifteen nights in advance. Mme. de Chateaubriand hated whoever visited her husband except through the doors that she opened. She had not presented me to him, therefore she hated me. I was perfectly odious to her, and she showed it.
Only once in my life and in hers did Mme. de Chateaubriand receive me graciously. One day I entered, poor little devil, as usual most unhappy, with affrighted schoolboy air and twisting my hat about in my hands. M. de Chateaubriand at that time still lived at No. 27, Rue Saint Dominique.
I was frightened at everything there, even at the servant who opened the door. Well, I entered. Mme. de Chateaubriand was in the salon leading to her husband's study. It was a summer morning. There was a ray of sunshine on the floor, and what dazzled and astonished me much more than the ray of sunshine was a smile on Mme. de Chateaubriand's face. "Is that you, Monsieur Victor Hugo?" she said. I thought I was in the midst of a dream of the Arabian Nights. Mme. de Chateaubriand smiling! Mme. de Chateaubriand knowing my name, addressing me by name! It was the first time that she had deigned to notice my existence. I bowed so low that my head nearly touched the floor. She went on: "I am delighted to see you." I could not believe my ears. "I was expecting you," she continued. "It is a long time since you called." I thought then that there certainly must be something the matter either with her or myself. However, she pointed to a rather large object of some kind on a little table, and added: "I reserved this for you. I felt sure you would like to have it. You know what it is?" It was a pile of packets of chocolate made by some religious institution. She had taken the stuff under her protection and the proceeds of its sale were to be devoted to charitable works. I took it and paid for it. At that time I had to live for fifteen months on 800 francs. The Catholic chocolate and Mme. de Chateaubriand's smile cost me 15 francs; that is to say, a fortnight's board. Fifteen francs meant as much to me then as 1,500 francs does now.
It was the most costly smile of a woman that ever was sold to me.
M. de Chateaubriand, at the beginning of 1847, was a paralytic; Mme. Recamier was blind. Every day at 3 o'clock M. de Chateaubriand was carried to Mme. Recamier's bedside. It was touching and sad. The woman who could no longer see stretched forth her hands gropingly towards the man who could no longer feel; their hands met. God be praised! Life was dying, but love still lived.
VII. DEBATES IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ON THE DAYS OF JUNE.
SESSION OF NOVEMBER 25, 1848.
What had to be determined before the Assembly and the country was upon whom devolved the heavy responsibility for the painful days of June. The Executive Committee was then in power; ought it not to have foreseen and provided against the insurrection? General Cavaignac, Minister of War, and, moreover, invested with dictatorial powers by the National Assembly, had alone issued orders.
Had he issued them in time? Could he not have crushed the riot at the outset instead of permitting it to gain strength, spread and develop into an insurrection? And, finally, had not the repression which followed victory been unnecessarily bloody, if not inhuman?
As the time for rendering an account approached Cavaignac became thoughtful and his ill-humour was manifest even in the Chamber.
One day Cremieux took his seat on the ministerial bench, whence he approved with an occasional "Hear! Hear!" the remarks of the orator who occupied the tribune. The speaker chanced to belong to the Opposition.
"Monsieur Cremieux," said Cavaignac, "you are making a good deal of noise."
"What does that matter to you?" replied Cremieux.
"It matters that you are on the ministerial bench."
"Do you want me to leave it?"
Cremieux rose and quitted his bench, saying as he did so:
"General, you compel me to leave the Cabinet, and it was through me that you entered it."
Cremieux, in point of fact, had, as a member of the Provisional Government, had Cavaignac appointed Minister of War.
During the three days that preceded the debate, which had been fixed for the 25th, the Chamber was very nervous and uneasy. Cavaignac's friends secretly trembled and sought to make others tremble. They said: "You will see!" They affected assurance. Jules Favre having alluded in the tribune to the "great and solemn debate" which was to take place, they burst into a laugh. M. Coquerel, the Protestant pastor, happening to meet Cavaignac in the lobby, said to him: "Keep yourself in hand, General!" "In a quarter of an hour," replied Cavaignac with flashing eyes, "I shall have swept these wretches away!" These wretches were Lamartine, Gamier-Pages, and Arago. There was some doubt about Arago, however. It was said that he was rallying to Cavaignac. Meanwhile Cavaignac had conferred the cross of the Legion of Honour upon the Bishop of Quimper, the Abbe Legraverand, who had accepted it.
"A cross for a vote," was the remark made in the Chamber. And these reversed roles, a general giving a cross to a bishop, caused much amusement.
In reality we are in the midst of a quarrel over the presidency. The candidates are shaking their fists at each other. The Assembly hoots, growls, murmurs, stamps its feet, crushes one, applauds the other.
This poor Assembly is a veritable fille a soldats, in love with a trooper. For the time being it is Cavaignac.
Who will it be to-morrow?
General Cavaignac proved himself to be clever, and occasionally even eloquent. His defence partook more of the character of an attack. Frequently he appeared to me to be sincere because he had for so long excited my suspicion. The Assembly listened to him for nearly three hours with rapt attention. Throughout it was evident that he possessed its confidence. Its sympathy was shown every moment, and sometimes it manifested a sort of love for him.
Cavaignac, tall and supple, with his short frock-coat, his military collar, his heavy moustache, his bent brow, his brusque language, broken up by parentheses, and his rough gestures, was at times at once as fierce as a soldier and as passionate as a tribune. Towards the middle of his discourse he became an advocate, which, as far as I was concerned, spoiled the man; the harangue became a speech for the defence. But at its conclusion he roused himself again with a sort of real indignation. He pounded on the desk with his fist and overturned the glass of water, much to the consternation of the ushers, and in terminating he said:
"I have been speaking for I know not how long; I will speak again all the evening, all night, all day to-morrow, if necessary, and it will no longer be as an advocate, but as a soldier, and you will listen to me!"
The whole Assembly applauded him enthusiastically.
M. Barthelemy Saint Hilaire, who attacked Cavaignac, was an orator cold, rigid, somewhat dry and by no means equal to the task, his anger being without fierceness and his hatred without passion. He began by reading a memoir, which always displeases assemblies. The Assembly, which was secretly ill-disposed and angry, was eager to crush him. It only wanted pretexts; he furnished it with motives. The grave defect in his memoir was that serious accusations were built upon petty acts, a surcharge that caused the whole system to bend. This little pallid man who continually raised one leg behind him and leaned forward with his two hands on the edge of the tribune as though he were gazing down into a well, made those who did not hiss laugh. Amid the uproar of the Assembly he affected to write at considerable length in a copybook, to dry the ink by sprinkling powder upon it, and with great deliberation to pour the powder back into the powder-box, thus finding means to increase the tumult with his calmness. When M. Barthelemy Saint Hilaire descended from the tribune, Cavaignac had only been attacked. He had not then replied, yet was already absolved.
M. Garnier-Pages, tried Republican and honest man, but with a substratum of vanity and an emphatic manner, succeeded M. Barthelemy Saint Hilaire. The Assembly tried to crush him, too, but he rose again amid murmurs. He reminded his hearers of his past, invoked recollections of the Salle Voisin, compared the henchmen of Cavaignac to the henchmen of Guizot, bared his breast "which had braved the poignards of the Red Republic," and ended by resolutely attacking the general, with too few facts and too many words, but fairly and squarely, taking him, so to speak, as the Bible urges that the bull be taken, by the horns.
Garnier-Pages propped up the accusation that had almost been laid low. He brought the personal pronoun much too frequently into the discussion; he acted ill-advisedly, for everybody's personality ought to have been effaced in view of the seriousness of the debate and the anxiety of the country. He turned to all sides with a sort of disconsolate fury; he summoned Arago to intervene, Ledru-Rollin to speak, Lamartine to explain. All three remained silent, thus failing in their duty and destiny.
The Assembly, however, pursued Garnier-Pages with its hooting, and when he said to Cavaignac: "You wanted to throw us down," it burst into a laugh, at the sentiment as well as at the expression. Garnier-Pages gazed at the laughing house with an air of despair.
From all sides came shouts of: "The closure!"
The Assembly had reached a state in which it would not listen and could no longer hear.
M. Ledru-Rollin appeared in the tribune.
From every bench the cry arose: "At last!"
Ledru-Rollin's speech had a physical effect as it were; it was coarse, but powerful. Garnier-Pages had pointed out the General's political shortcomings; Ledru-Rollin pointed out his military shortcomings. With the vehemence of the tribune he mingled all the skill of the advocate. He concluded with an appeal for mercy for the offender. He shook Cavaignac's position.
When he resumed his seat between Pierre Leroux and de Lamennais, a man with long grey hair, and attired in a white frock-coat, crossed the Chamber and shook Ledru-Rollin's hand. He was Lagrange.
Cavaignac for the fourth time ascended the tribune. It was half past 10 o'clock at night. The noise of the crowd and the evolutions of the cavalry on the Place de la Concorde could be heard. The aspect of the Assembly was becoming sinister.
Cavaignac, who was tired, had decided to assume a haughty attitude. He addressed the Mountain and defied it, declaring to the mountaineers, amid the cheers of the majority and of the reactionaries, that he at all times preferred "their abuse to their praise." This appeared to be violent and was clever; Cavaignac lost the Rue Taitbout, which represented the Socialists, and won the Rue de Poitiers, which represented the Conservatives.
After this apostrophe he remained a few moments motionless, then passed his hand over his brow.
The Assembly shouted to him:
He turned towards Ledru-Rollin and exclaimed:
"You said that you had done with me. It is I who have done with you. You said: 'For some time.' I say to you: 'For ever!'"
It was all over. The Assembly wanted to close the debate.
Lagrange ascended the tribune and gesticulated amid hoots and hisses. Lagrange was at once a popular and chivalrous declaimer, who expressed true sentiments in a forced voice.
"Representatives," said he, "all this amuses you; well, it doesn't amuse me!"
The Assembly roared with laughter, and the roar of laughter continued throughout the remainder of his discourse. He called M. Landrin M. Flandrin, and the gaiety became delirious.
I was among those whom this gaiety made heavy at heart, for I seemed to hear the sobs of the people above these bursts of hilarity.
During this uproar a list which was being covered with signatures and which bore an order of the day proposed by M. Dupont de l'Eure, was passed round the benches.
Dupont de l'Eure, bent and tottering, read from the tribune, with the authority of his eighty years, his own order of the day, amid a deep silence that was broken at intervals by cheers.
The order of the day, which was purely and simply a reiteration of the declaration of June 28: "General Cavaignac has merited well of the fatherland," was adopted by 503 votes to 34.
Mine was among the thirty-four. While the votes were being counted, Napoleon Bonaparte, son of Jerome, came up to me and said:
"I suppose you abstained?"
"From speaking, yes; from voting, no," I replied.
"Ah!" he went on. "We ourselves abstained from voting. The Rue de Poitiers also abstained."
I took his hand and said:
"You are free to do as you like. For my part I am not abstaining. I am judging Cavaignac, and the country is judging me. I want the fullest light thrown upon my actions, and my votes are my actions."
I. THE JARDIN D'HIVER. II. GENERAL BREA'S MURDERERS. III. THE SUICIDE OF ANTONIN MOYNE. IV. A VISIT TO THE OLD CHAMBER OF PEERS.
I. THE JARDIN D'HIVER. FEBRUARY, 1849.
In February, 1849, in the midst of the prevailing sorrow and terror, fetes were given. People danced to help the poor. While the cannon with which the rioters were threatened on January 29, were, so to speak, still trained ready for firing, a charity ball attracted all Paris to the Jardin d'Hiver.
This is what the Jardin d'Hiver was like:
A poet had pictured it in a word: "They have put summer under a glass case!" It was an immense iron cage with two naves forming a cross, as large as four or five cathedrals and covered with glass. Entrance to it was through a gallery of wood decorated with carpets and tapestry.
On entering, the eyes were at first dazzled by a flood of light. In the light all sorts of magnificent flowers, and strange trees with the foliage and altitudes of the tropics, could be seen. Banana trees, palm trees, cedars, great leaves, enormous thorns, and queer branches twisted and mingled as in a virgin forest. The forest alone was virgin there, however. The prettiest women and the most beautiful girls of Paris whirled in this illumination a giorno like a swarm of bees in a ray of sunshine.
Above this gaily dressed throng was an immense resplendent chandelier of brass, or rather a great tree of gold and flame turned upside down which seemed to have its roots in the glass roof, and whose sparkling leaves hung over the crowd. A vast ring of candelabra, torch-holders and girandoles shone round the chandelier, like the constellations round the sun. A resounding orchestra perched high in a gallery made the glass panes rattle harmoniously.
But what made the Jardin d'Hiver unique was that beyond this vestibule of light and music and noise, through which one gazed as through a vague and dazzling veil, a sort of immense and tenebrous arch, a grotto of shadow and mystery, could be discerned. This grotto in which were big trees, a copse threaded with paths and clearings, and a fountain that showered its water-diamonds in sparkling spray, was simply the end of the garden. Red dots that resembled oranges of fire shone here and there amid the foliage. It was all like a dream. The lanterns in the copse, when one approached them, became great luminous tulips mingled with real camellias and roses.
One seated one's self on a garden seat with one's feet in the grass and moss, and one felt the warmth arising from a heat-grating beneath this grass and this moss; one happened upon an immense fireplace in which half the trunk of a tree was burning, in proximity to a clump of bushes shivering in the rain of a fountain. There were lamps amid the flowers and carpets in the alleys. Among the trees were satyrs, nude nymphs, hydras, all kinds of groups and statues which, like the place itself, had something impossible and living about them.
What were people doing at this ball? They danced a little, made love a little, and above all talked politics.
There were about fifty Representatives present that evening. The negro Representative Louisy Mathieu, in white gloves, was accompanied by the negrophile Representative Schoelcher in black gloves. People said: "O fraternity! they have exchanged hands!"
Politicians leaning against the mantels announced the approaching appearance of a sheet entitled the "Aristo," a reactionary paper. The Brea affair,* which was being tried at that very moment, was discussed. What particularly struck these grave men in this sinister affair was that among the witnesses was an ironmonger named "Lenclume" and a locksmith named "Laclef."
* General Brea was assassinated on June 25, 1848, while parleying with the insurgents at the Barriere de Fontainebleau.
Such are the trivial things men bring into the events of God.
II. GENERAL BREA'S MURDERERS. March, 1849.
The men condemned to death in the Brea affair are confined in the fort at Vanves. There are five of them: Nourry, a poor child of seventeen whose father and mother died insane, type of the gamin of Paris that revolutions make a hero and riots a murderer; Daix, blind of one eye, lame, and with only one arm, a bon pauvre of the Bicetre Hospital, who underwent the operation of trepanning three years ago, and who has a little daughter eight years old whom he adores; Lahr, nicknamed the Fireman, whose wife was confined the day after his condemnation, giving life at the moment she received death; Chopart, a bookseller's assistant, who has been mixed up in some rather discreditable pranks of youth; and finally Vappreaux junior, who pleaded an alibi and who, if the four others are to be believed, was not at the Barriere de Fontainebleau at all during the three days of June.
These hapless wights are confined in a big casemate of the fort. Their condemnation has crushed them and turned them towards God. In the casemate are five camp beds and five rush-bottomed chairs; to this lugubrious furniture of the dungeon an altar has been added. It was erected at the end of the casemate opposite the door and below the venthole through which daylight penetrates. On the altar is only a plaster statue of the Virgin enveloped in lace. There are no tapers, it being feared that the prisoners might set fire to the door with the straw of their mattresses. They pray and work. As Nourry has not been confirmed and wishes to be before he dies, Chopart is teaching him the catechism.
Beside the altar is a board laid upon two trestles. This board, which is full of bullet holes, was the target of the fort. It has been turned into a dining-table, a cruel, thoughtless act, for it is a continual reminder to the prisoners of their approaching death.
A few days ago an anonymous letter reached them. This letter advised them to stamp upon the flagstone in the centre of the casemate, which, it was affirmed, covered the orifice of a well communicating with old subterranean passages of the Abbey of Vanves that extended to Chatillon. All they had to do was to raise the flagstone and they could escape that very night.
They did as the letter directed. The stone, it was found, did emit a hollow sound as though it covered an opening. But either because the police had been informed of the letter, or for some other reason, a stricter watch than ever has been kept upon them from that moment and they have been unable to profit by the advice.
The gaolers and priests do not leave them for a minute either by day or by night. Guardians of the body cheek by jowl with guardians of the soul. Sorry human justice!
The execution of the condemned men in the Brea affair was a blunder. It was the reappearance of the scaffold. The people had kicked over the guillotine. The bourgeoisie raised it again. A fatal mistake.
President Louis Bonaparte was inclined to be merciful. The revision and cassation could easily have been delayed. The Archbishop of Paris, M. Sibour, successor of a victim, had begged for their lives. But the stereotyped phrases prevailed. The country must be reassured. Order must be reconstructed, legality rebuilt, confidence re-erected! And society at that time was still reduced to employing lopped heads as building material. The Council of State, such as it then was, consulted under the terms of the Constitution, rendered an opinion in favour of the execution. M. Cresson, counsel for Daix and Lahr, waited upon the President. He was an emotional and eloquent young man. He pleaded for these men, for the wives who were not yet widows, for the children who were not yet orphans, and while speaking he wept.
Louis Bonaparte listened to him in silence, then took his hands, but merely remarked: "I am most unhappy!"
In the evening of the same day—it was on the Thursday—the Council of Ministers met. The discussion was long and animated. Only one minister opposed recourse to the scaffold. He was supported by Louis Napoleon. The discussion lasted until 10 o'clock. But the majority prevailed, and before the Cabinet separated Odilon Barrot, the Minister of Justice, signed the order for the execution of three of the condemned men, Daix, Lahr and Chopart. The sentences of Nourry and Vappreaux, junior, were commuted to penal servitude for life.
The execution was fixed for the next morning, Friday.
The Chancellor's office immediately transmitted the order to the Prefect of Police, who had to act in concert with the military authorities, the sentence having been imposed by a court-martial.
The prefect sent for the executioner. But the executioner could not be found. He had vacated his house in the Rue des Marais Saint Martin in February under the impression that, like the guillotine, he had been deposed, and no one knew what had become of him.
Considerable time was lost in tracing him to his new residence, and when they got there he was out. The executioner was at the Opera. He had gone to see "The Devil's Violin."
It was near midnight, and in the absence of the executioner the execution had to be postponed for one day.
During the interval Representative Larabit, whom Chopart had befriended at the barricade of the barriers, was notified and was able to see the President. The President signed Chopart's pardon.
The day after the execution the Prefect of Police summoned the executioner and reproved him for his absence.
"Well," said Samson, "I was passing along the street when I saw a big yellow poster announcing The Devil's Violin. 'Hello!' said I to myself, 'that must be a queer piece,' and I went to see it."
Thus a playbill saved a man's head.
There were some horrible details.
On Friday night, while those who formerly were called les maitres des basses oeuvres* were erecting the scaffold at the Barriere de Fontainebleau, the rapporteur of the court-martial, accompanied by the clerk of the court, repaired to the Fort of Vanves.
* The executioner in France is officially styled l'executeur des hautes-oeuvres.
Daix and Lahr, who were to die, were sleeping. They were in casemate No. 13 with Nourry and Chopart. There was a delay. It was found that there were no ropes with which to bind the condemned men. The latter were allowed to sleep on. At 5 o'clock in the morning the executioner's assistants arrived with everything that was necessary.
Then the casemate was entered. The four men awoke. To Nourry and Chopart the officials said: "Get out of here!" They understood, and, joyful and terror-stricken, fled into the adjoining casement. Daix and Lahr, however, did not understand. They sat up and gazed about them with wild, frightened eyes. The executioner and his assistants fell upon them and bound them. No one spoke a word. The condemned men began to realise what it all meant and uttered terrible cries. "If we had not bound them," said the executioner, "they would have devoured us!"
Then Lahr collapsed and began to pray while the decree for their execution was read to them.
Daix continued to struggle, sobbing, and roaring with horror. These men who had killed so freely were afraid to die.
Daix shouted: "Help! Help!" appealed to the soldiers, adjured them, cursed them, pleaded to them in the name of General Brea.
"Shut up!" growled a sergeant. "You are a coward!"
The execution was performed with much ceremony. Let this fact be noted: the first time the guillotine dared to show itself after February an army was furnished to guard it. Twenty-five thousand men, infantry and cavalry, surrounded the scaffold. Two generals were in command. Seven guns commanded the streets which converged to the circus of the Barriere de Fontainebleau.
Daix was executed first. When his head had fallen and his body was unstrapped, the trunk, from which a stream of blood was pouring, fell upon the scaffold between the swing-board and the basket.
The executioners were nervous and excited. A man of the people remarked: "Everybody is losing his head on that guillotine, including the executioner!"
In the faubourgs, which the last elections to the National Assembly had so excited, the names of popular candidates could still be seen chalked upon the walls. Louis Bonaparte was one of the candidates. His name appeared on these open-air bulletins, as they may be termed, in company with the names of Raspail and Barbes. The day after the execution Louis Napoleon's name wherever it was to be seen had a red smear across it. A silent protest, a reproach and a menace. The finger of the people pending the finger of God.
III. THE SUICIDE OF ANTONIN MOYNE. April, 1849.
Antonin Moyne, prior to February, 1848, was a maker of little figures and statuettes for the trade.
Little figures and statuettes! That is what we had come to. Trade had supplanted the State. How empty is history, how poor is art; inasmuch as there are no more big figures there are no more statues.
Antonin Moyne made rather a poor living out of his work. He had, however, been able to give his son Paul a good education and had got him into the Ecole Polytechnique. Towards 1847 the art-work business being already bad, he had added to his little figures portraits in pastel. With a statuette here, and a portrait there, he managed to get along.
After February the art-work business came to a complete standstill. The manufacturer who wanted a model for a candlestick or a clock, and the bourgeois who wanted a portrait, failed him. What was to be done? Antonin Moyne struggled on as best he could, used his old clothes, lived upon beans and potatoes, sold his knick-knacks to bric-a-brac dealers, pawned first his watch, then his silverware.
He lived in a little apartment in the Rue de Boursault, at No. 8, I think, at the corner of the Rue Labruyere.
The little apartment gradually became bare.
After June, Antonin Moyne solicited an order of the Government. The matter dragged along for six months. Three or four Cabinets succeeded each other and Louis Bonaparte had time to be nominated President. At length M. Leon Faucher gave Antonin Moyne an order for a bust, upon which the statuary would be able to make 600 francs. But he was informed that, the State funds being low, the bust would not be paid for until it was finished.
Distress came and hope went.
Antonin Moyne said one day to his wife, who was still young, having been married to him when she was only fifteen years old: "I will kill myself."
The next day his wife found a loaded pistol under a piece of furniture. She took it and hid it. It appears that Antonin Moyne found it again.
His reason no doubt began to give way. He always carried a bludgeon and razor about with him. One day he said to his wife: "It is easy to kill one's self with blows of a hammer."
On one occasion he rose and opened the window with such violence that his wife rushed forward and threw her arms round him.
"What are you going to do?" she demanded.
"Just get a breath of air! And you, what do you want?"
"I am only embracing you," she answered.
On March 18, 1849, a Sunday, I think it was, his wife said to him:
"I am going to church. Will you come with me?"
He was religious, and his wife, with loving watchfulness, remained with him as much as possible.
He replied: "Presently!" and went into the next room, which was his son's bedroom.
A few minutes elapsed. Suddenly Mme. Antonin Moyne heard a noise similar to that made by the slamming of a front door. But she knew what it was. She started and cried: "It is that dreadful pistol!"
She rushed into the room her husband had entered, then recoiled in horror. She had seen a body stretched upon the floor.
She ran wildly about the house screaming for help. But no one came, either because everybody was out or because owing to the noise in the street she was not heard.
Then she returned, re-entered the room and knelt beside her husband. The shot had blown nearly all his head away. The blood streamed upon the floor, and the walls and furniture were spattered with brains.
Thus, marked by fatality, like Jean Goujon, his master, died Antonin Moyne, a name which henceforward will bring to mind two things—a horrible death and a charming talent.
IV. A VISIT TO THE OLD CHAMBER OF PEERS. June, 1849.
The working men who sat in the Luxembourg during the months of March and April under the presidency of M. Louis Blanc, showed a sort of respect for the Chamber of Peers they replaced. The armchairs of the peers were occupied, but not soiled. There was no insult, no affront, no abuse. Not a piece of velvet was torn, not a piece of leather was dirtied. There is a good deal of the child about the people, it is given to chalking its anger, its joy and its irony on walls; these labouring men were serious and inoffensive. In the drawers of the desks they found the pens and knives of the peers, yet made neither a cut nor a spot of ink.
A keeper of the palace remarked to me: "They have behaved themselves very well." They left their places as they had found them. One only left his mark, and he had written in the drawer of Louis Blanc on the ministerial bench:
Royalty is abolished. Hurrah for Louis Blanc!
This inscription is still there.
The fauteuils of the peers were covered with green velvet embellished with gold stripes. Their desks were of mahogany, covered with morocco leather, and with drawers of oak containing writing material in plenty, but having no key. At the top of his desk each peer's name was stamped in gilt letters on a piece of green leather let into the wood. On the princes' bench, which was on the right, behind the ministerial bench, there was no name, but a gilt plate bearing the words: "The Princes' Bench." This plate and the names of the peers had been torn off, not by the working men, but by order of the Provisional Government.
A few changes were made in the rooms which served as ante-chambers to the Assembly. Puget's admirable "Milo of Crotona," which ornamented the vestibule at the top of the grand staircase, was taken to the old museum and a marble of some kind was substituted for it. The full length statue of the Duke d'Orleans, which was in the second vestibule, was taken I know not where and replaced by a statue of Pompey with gilt face, arms and legs, the statue at the foot of which, according to tradition, assassinated Caesar fell. The picture of founders of constitutions, in the third vestibule, a picture in which Napoleon, Louis XVIII. and Louis Philippe figured, was removed by order of Ledru-Rollin and replaced by a magnificent Gobelin tapestry borrowed from the Garde-Meuble.
Hard by this third vestibule is the old hall of the Chamber of Peers, which was built in 1805 for the Senate. This hall, which is small, narrow and obscure; supported by meagre Corinthian columns with mahogany-coloured bases and white capitals; furnished with flat desks and chairs in the Empire style with green velvet seats, the whole in mahogany; and paved with white marble relieved by lozenges of red Saint Anne marble,—this hall, so full of memories, had been religiously preserved, and after the new hall was built in 1840, had been used for the private conferences of the Court of Peers.
It was in this old hall of the Senate that Marshal Ney was tried. A bar had been put up to the left of the Chancellor who presided over the Chamber. The Marshal was behind this bar, with M. Berryer, senior, on his right, and M. Dupin, the elder, on his left. He stood upon one of the lozenges in the floor, in which, by a sinister hazard, the capricious tracing of the marble figured a death's head. This lozenge has since been taken up and replaced by another.
After February, in view of the riots, soldiers had to be lodged in the palace. The old Senate-hall was turned into a guard-house. The desks of the senators of Napoleon and of the peers of the Restoration were stored in the lumber rooms, and the curule chairs served as beds for the troops.
Early in June, 1849, I visited the hall of the Chamber of Peers and found it just as I had left it seventeen months before, the last time that I sat there, on February 23, 1848.
Everything was in its place. Profound calmness reigned; the fauteuils were empty and in order. One might have thought that the Chamber had adjourned ten minutes previously.
SKETCHES MADE IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.
I. ODILON BARROT. II. MONSIEUR THIERS. III. DUFAURE. IV. CHANGARNIER. V. LAGRANGE. VI. PRUDHON. VII. BLANQUI. VIII. LAMARTINE. IX. BOULAY DE LA MEURTHE. X. DUPIN.
Odilon Barrot ascends the tribune step by step and slowly; he is solemn before being eloquent. Then he places his right hand on the table of the tribune, throwing his left hand behind his back, and thus shows himself sideways to the Assembly in the attitude of an athlete. He is always in black, well brushed and well buttoned up.
His delivery, which is slow at first, gradually becomes animated, as do his thoughts. But in becoming animated his speech becomes hoarse and his thoughts cloudy. Hence a certain hesitation among his hearers, some being unable to catch what he says, the others not understanding. All at once from the cloud darts a flash of lightning and one is dazzled. The difference between men of this kind and Mirabeau is that the former have flashes of lightning, Mirabeau alone has thunder.
M. Thiers wants to treat men, ideas and revolutionary events with parliamentary routine. He plays his old game of constitutional tricks in face of abysms and the dreadful upheavals of the chimerical and unexpected. He does not realise that everything has been transformed; he finds a resemblance between our own times and the time when he governed, and starts out from this. This resemblance exists in point of fact, but there is in it a something that is colossal and monstrous. M. Thiers has no suspicion of this, and pursues the even tenour of his way. All his life he has been stroking cats, and coaxing them with all sorts of cajolling processes and feline ways. To-day he is trying to play the same game, and does not see that the animals have grown beyond all measure and that it is wild beasts that he is keeping about him. A strange sight it is to see this little man trying to stroke the roaring muzzle of a revolution with his little hand.
When M. Thiers is interrupted he gets excited, folds and unfolds his arms, then raises his hands to his mouth, his nose, his spectacles, shrugs his shoulders, and ends by clasping the back of his head convulsively with both hands.
I have always entertained towards this celebrated statesman, this eminent orator, this mediocre writer, this narrow-minded man, an indefinable sentiment of admiration, aversion and disdain.
M. Dufaure is a barrister of Saintes, and was the leading lawyer in his town about 1833. This led him to aspire to legislative honours. M. Dufaure arrived in the Chamber with a provincial and cold-in-the-nose accent that was very queer. But he possessed a mind so clear that occasionally it was almost luminous, and so accurate that occasionally it was decisive.
With that his speech was deliberate and cold, but sure, solid, and calmly pushed difficulties before it.
M. Dufaure succeeded. He was a deputy, then a minister. He is not a sage. He is a grave and honest man who has held power without greatness but with probity, and who speaks from the tribune without brilliancy but with authority.
His person resembles his talent. In appearance he is dignified, simple and sober. He comes to the Chamber buttoned up in his dark grey frock-coat, and wearing a black cravat, and a shirt collar that reaches to his ears. He has a big nose, thick lips, heavy eyebrows, an intelligent and severe eye, and grey, ill-combed hair.
Changarnier looks like an old academician, just as Soult looks like an old archbishop.
Changarnier is sixty-four or sixty-five years old, and tall and thin. He has a gentle voice, a graceful and formal air, a chestnut wig like M. Pasquier's, and a lady-killing smile like M. Brifaut's.
With that he is a curt, bold, expeditious man, resolute, but cunning and reserved.
At the Chamber he occupies the extreme end of the fourth bench of the last section on the left, exactly above M. Ledru-Rollin.
He usually sits with folded arms. The bench on which Ledru-Rollin and Lamennais sit is perhaps the most habitually irritated of the Left. While the Assembly shouts, murmurs, yells, roars, and rages, Changarnier yawns.
Lagrange, it is said, fired the pistol in the Boulevard des Capucines, fatal spark that heated the passions of the people and caused the conflagration of February. He is styled: Political prisoner and Representative of the people.
Lagrange has a grey moustache, a grey beard and long grey hair. He is overflowing with soured generosity, charitable violence and a sort of chivalrous demagogy; there is a love in his heart with which he stirs up hatred; he is tall, thin, young looking at a distance, old when seen nearer, wrinkled, bewildered, hoarse, flurried, wan, has a wild look in his eyes and gesticulates; he is the Don Quixote of the Mountain. He, also, tilts at windmills; that is to say, at credit, order, peace, commerce, industry,—all the machinery that turns out bread. With this, a lack of ideas; continual jumps from justice to insanity and from cordiality to threats. He proclaims, acclaims, reclaims and declaims. He is one of those men who are never taken seriously, but who sometimes have to be taken tragically.
Prudhon was born in 1803. He has thin fair hair that is ruffled and ill-combed, with a curl on his fine high brow. He wears spectacles. His gaze is at once troubled, penetrating and steady. There is something of the house-dog in his almost flat nose and of the monkey in his chin-beard. His mouth, the nether lip of which is thick, has an habitual expression of ill-humour. He has a Franc-Comtois accent, he utters the syllables in the middle of words rapidly and drawls the final syllables; he puts a circumflex accent on every "a," and like Charles Nodier, pronounces: "honorable, remarquable." He speaks badly and writes well. In the tribune his gesture consists of little feverish pats upon his manuscript with the palm of his hand. Sometimes he becomes irritated, and froths; but it is cold slaver. The principal characteristic of his countenance and physiognomy is mingled embarrassment and assurance.
I write this while he is in the tribune.
Anthony Thouret met Prudhon.
"Things are going badly," said Prudhon.
"To what cause do you attribute our embarrassments?" queried Anthony Thouret.
"The Socialists are at the bottom of the trouble, of course.
"What! the Socialists? But are you not a Socialist yourself?"
"I a Socialist! Well, I never!" ejaculated Prudhon.
"Well, what in the name of goodness, are you, then?"
"I am a financier."
Blanqui got so that he no longer wore a shirt. For twelve years he had worn the same clothes—his prison clothes—rags, which he displayed with sombre pride at his club. He renewed only his boots and his gloves, which were always black.
At Vincennes during his eight months of captivity for the affair of the 15th of May, he lived only upon bread and raw potatoes, refusing all other food. His mother alone occasionally succeeded in inducing him to take a little beef-tea.
With this, frequent ablutions, cleanliness mingled with cynicism, small hands and feet, never a shirt, gloves always.
There was in this man an aristocrat crushed and trampled upon by a demagogue.
Great ability, no hypocrisy; the same in private as in public. Harsh, stern, serious, never laughing, receiving respect with irony, admiration with sarcasm, love with disdain, and inspiring extraordinary devotion.
There was in Blanqui nothing of the people, everything of the populace.
With this, a man of letters, almost erudite. At certain moments he was no longer a man, but a sort of lugubrious apparition in which all degrees of hatred born of all degrees of misery seemed to be incarnated.
LAMARTINE. February 23, 1850.
During the session Lamartine came and sat beside me in the place usually occupied by M. Arbey. While talking, he interjected in an undertone sarcastic remarks about the orators in the tribune.
Thiers spoke. "Little scamp," murmured Lamartine.
Then Cavaignac made his appearance. "What do you think about him?" said Lamartine. "For my part, these are my sentiments: He is fortunate, he is brave, he is loyal, he is voluble—and he is stupid."
Cavaignac was followed by Emmanuel Arago. The Assembly was stormy. "This man," commented Lamartine, "has arms too small for the affairs he undertakes. He is given to joining in melees and does not know how to get out of them again. The tempest tempts him, and kills him."
A moment later Jules Favre ascended the tribune. "I do not know how they can see a serpent in this man," said Lamartine. "He is a provincial academician."
Laughing the while, he took a sheet of paper from my drawer, asked me for a pen, asked Savatier-Laroche for a pinch of snuff, and wrote a few lines. This done he mounted the tribune and addressed grave and haughty words to M. Thiers, who had been attacking the revolution of February. Then he returned to our bench, shook hands with me while the Left applauded and the Right waxed indignant, and calmly emptied the snuff in Savatier-Laroche's snuffbox into his own.
BOULAY DE LA MEURTHE.
M. Boulay de la Meurthe was a stout, kindly man, bald, pot-bellied, short, enormous, with a short nose and a not very long wit. He was a friend of Hard, whom he called mon cher, and of Jerome Bonaparte, whom he addressed as "your Majesty."
The Assembly, on January 20, made him Vice-President of the Republic.
It was somewhat sudden, and unexpected by everybody except himself. This latter fact was evident from the long speech learned by heart that he delivered after being sworn in. At its conclusion the Assembly applauded, then a roar of laughter succeeded the applause. Everybody laughed, including himself; the Assembly out of irony, he in good faith.
Odilon Barrot, who since the previous evening had been keenly regretting that he did not allow himself to be made Vice-President, contemplated the scene with a shrug of the shoulders and a bitter smile.
The Assembly followed Boulay de la Meurthe, congratulated and gratified, with its eyes, and in every look could be read this: "Well, I never! He takes himself seriously!"
When he was taking the oath, in a voice of thunder which made everybody smile, Boulay de la Meurthe looked as if he were dazzled by the Republic, and the Assembly did not look as if it were dazzled by Boulay de la Meurthe.
Dupin has a style of wit that is peculiar to himself. It is Gaulish, tinged with the wit of a limb of the law and with jovial grossness. When the vote upon the bill against universal suffrage was about to be taken some member of the majority, whose name I have forgotten, went to him and said:
"You are our president, and moreover a great legist. You know more about it than I do. Enlighten me, I am undecided. Is it true that the bill violates the Constitution?"
Dupin appeared to think for a moment and then replied:
"No, it doesn't violate it, but it lifts its clothes up as high as possible!"
This reminds me of what he said to me the day I spoke upon the Education Bill. Baudin had permitted me to take his turn to speak, and I went up to the presidential chair to notify Dupin.
"Ah! you are going to speak! So much the better!" said he; and pointing to M. Barthelemy Saint Hilaire, who was then occupying the tribune and delivering a long and minute technical speech against the measure, added:
"He is rendering you a service. He is doing the preparatory work. He is turning the bill's trousers down. This done you will be able to at once—"
He completed the phrase with the expressive gesture which consists of tapping the back of the fingers of the left hand with the fingers of the right hand.
I. HIS DEBUTS. II. HIS ELEVATION TO THE PRESIDENCY. III. THE FIRST OFFICIAL DINNER. IV. THE FIRST MONTH. V. FEELING HIS WAY.
I. HIS DEBUTS.
Upon his arrival in Paris Louis Bonaparte took up his residence in the Place Vendome. Mlle. Georges went to see him. They conversed at some length. In the course of the conversation Louis Bonaparte led Mlle. Georges to a window from which,the column with the statue of Napoleon I. upon it was visible and said:
"I gaze at that all day long."
"It's pretty high!" observed Mlle. George.
September 24, 1848.
Louis Napoleon appeared at the National Assembly today. He seated himself on the seventh bench of the third section on the left, between M. Vieillard and M. Havin.
He looks young, has a black moustache and goatee, and a parting in his hair, a black cravat, a black coat buttoned up, a turned-down collar, and white gloves. Perrin and Leon Faucher, seated immediately below him, did not once turn their heads. In a few minutes the galleries began to turn their opera-glasses upon the prince, and the prince gazed at the galleries through his own glass.
Louis Bonaparte ascended the tribune (3.15 P.M.). Black frock-coat, grey trousers. He read from a crumpled paper in his hand. He was listened to with deep attention. He pronounced the word "compatriots" with a foreign accent. When he had finished a few cries of "Long live the Republic!" were raised.
He returned leisurely to his place. His cousin Napoleon, son of Jerome, who so greatly resembles the Emperor, leaned over M. Vieillard to congratulate him.
Louis Bonaparte seated himself without saying a word to his two neighbours. He is silent, but he seems to be embarrassed rather than taciturn.
While the question of the presidency was being raised Louis Bonaparte absented himself from the Assembly. When the Antony Thouret amendment, excluding members of the royal and imperial families was being debated, however, he reappeared. He seated himself at the extremity of his bench, beside his former tutor, M. Vieillard, and listened in silence, leaning his chin upon his hand, or twisting his moustache.
All at once he rose and, amid extraordinary agitation, walked slowly towards the tribune. One half of the Assembly shouted: "The vote!" The other half shouted: "Speak!"
M. Sarrans was in the tribune. The president said:
"M. Sarrans will allow M. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte to speak."
He made a few insignificant remarks and descended from the tribune amid a general laugh of stupefaction.
On November 19 I dined at Odilon Barrot's at Bougival.
There were present MM. de Remusat, de Tocqueville, Girardin, Leon Faucher, a member of the English Parliament and his wife, who is ugly but witty and has beautiful teeth, Mme. Odilon Barrot and her mother.
Towards the middle of the dinner Louis Bonaparte arrived with his cousin, the son of Jerome, and M. Abbatucci, Representative.
Louis Bonaparte is distinguished, cold, gentle, intelligent, with a certain measure of deference and dignity, a German air and black moustache; he bears no resemblance whatever to the Emperor.
He ate little, spoke little, and laughed little, although the party was a merry one.
Mme. Odilon Barrot seated him on her left. The Englishman was on her right.
M. de Remusat, who was seated between the prince and myself, remarked to me loud enough for Louis Bonaparte to hear:
"I give my best wishes to Louis Bonaparte and my vote to Cavaignac."
Louis Bonaparte at the time was feeding Mme. Odilon Barrot's greyhound with fried gudgeons.
II. HIS ELEVATION TO THE PRESIDENCY. December 1848.
The proclamation of Louis Bonaparte as President of the Republic was made on December 20.
The weather, which up to then had been admirable, and reminded one more of the approach of spring than of the beginning of winter, suddenly changed. December 20 was the first cold day of the year. Popular superstition had it that the sun of Austerlitz was becoming clouded.
This proclamation was made in a somewhat unexpected manner. It had been announced for Friday. It was made suddenly on Wednesday.
Towards 3 o'clock the approaches to the Assembly were occupied by troops. A regiment of infantry was massed in rear of the Palais d'Orsay; a regiment of dragoons was echeloned along the quay. The troopers shivered and looked moody. The population assembled in great uneasiness, not knowing what it all meant. For some days a Bonapartist movement had been vaguely spoken of. The faubourgs, it was said, were to turn out and march to the Assembly shouting: "Long live the Emperor!" The day before the Funds had dropped 3 francs. Napoleon Bonaparte, greatly alarmed, came to see me.
The Assembly resembled a public square. It was a number of groups rather than a parliament. In the tribune a very useful bill for regulating the publicity of the sessions and substituting the State Printing Office, the former Royal Printing Office, for the printing office of the "Moniteur," was being discussed, but no one listened. M. Bureau de Puzy, the questor, was speaking.
Suddenly there was a stir in the Assembly, which was being invaded by a crowd of Deputies who entered by the door on the left. It was the committee appointed to count the votes and was returning to announce the result of the election to the Presidency. It was 4 o'clock, the chandeliers were lighted, there was an immense crowd in the public galleries, all the ministers were present. Cavaignac, calm, attired in a black frock-coat, and not wearing any decoration, was in his place. He kept his right hand thrust in the breast of his buttoned frock-coat, and made no reply to M. Bastide, who now and then whispered in his ear. M. Fayet, Bishop of Orleans, occupied a chair in front of the General. Which prompted the Bishop of Langres, the Abbe Parisis, to remark: "That is the place of a dog, not a bishop."
Lamartine was absent.
The rapporteur of the committee, M. Waldeck-Rousseau, read a cold discourse that was coldly listened to. When he reached the enumeration of the votes cast, and came to Lamartine's total, 17,910 votes, the Right burst into a laugh. A mean vengeance, sarcasm of the unpopular men of yesterday for the unpopular man of to-day.
Cavaignac took leave in a few brief and dignified words, which were applauded by the whole Assembly. He announced that the Ministry had resigned in a body, and that he, Cavaignac, laid down the power. He thanked the Assembly with emotion. A few Representatives wept.
Then President Marrast proclaimed "the citizen Louis Bonaparte" President of the Republic.
A few Representatives about the bench where Louis Bonaparte sat applauded. The remainder of the Assembly preserved a glacial silence. They were leaving the lover for the husband.
Armand Marrast called upon the elect of the nation to take the oath of office. There was a stir.
Louis Bonaparte, buttoned up in a black frock-coat, the decoration of Representative of the people and the star of the Legion of Honour on his breast, entered by the door on the right, ascended the tribune, repeated in a calm voice the words of the oath that President Marrast dictated to him, called upon God and men to bear witness, then read, with a foreign accent which was displeasing, a speech that was interrupted at rare intervals by murmurs of approval. He eulogized Cavaignac, and the eulogy was noted and applauded.
After a few minutes he descended from the tribune, not like Cavaignac, amid the acclamations of the Chamber, but amid an immense shout of "Long live the Republic!" Somebody shouted "Hurrah for the Constitution!"
Before leaving Louis Bonaparte went over to his former tutor, M. Vieillard, who was seated in the eighth section on the left, and shook hands with him. Then the President of the Assembly invited the committee to accompany the President of the Republic to his palace and have rendered to him the honours due to his rank. The word caused the Mountain to murmur. I shouted from my bench: "To his functions!"
The President of the Assembly announced that the President of the Republic had charged M. Odilon Barrot with the formation of a Cabinet, and that the names of the new Ministers would be announced to the Assembly in a Message; that, in fact, a supplement to the Moniteur would be distributed to the Representatives that very evening.
It was remarked, for everything was remarked on that day which began a decisive phase in the history of the country, that President Marrast called Louis Bonaparte "citizen" and Odilon Barrot "monsieur."
Meanwhile the ushers, their chief Deponceau at their head, the officers of the Chamber, the questors, and among them General Lebreton in full uniform, had grouped themselves below the tribune; several Representatives had joined them; there was a stir indicating that Louis Bonaparte was about to leave the enclosure. A few Deputies rose. There were shouts of "Sit down! Sit down!"
Louis Bonaparte went out. The malcontents, to manifest their indifference, wanted to continue the debate on the Printing Office Bill. But the Assembly was too agitated even to remain seated. It rose in a tumult and the Chamber was soon empty. It was half past 4. The proceedings had lasted half an hour.
As I left the Assembly, alone, and avoided as a man who had disdained the opportunity to be a Minister, I passed in the outer hall, at the foot of the stairs, a group in which I noticed Montalembert, and also Changarnier in the uniform of a lieutenant-general of the National Guard. Changarnier had just been escorting Louis Bonaparte to the Elysee. I heard him say: "All passed off well."
When I found myself in the Place de la Revolution, there were no longer either troops or crowd; all had disappeared. A few passers-by came from the Champs-Elysees. The night was dark and cold. A bitter wind blew from the river, and at the same time a heavy storm-cloud breaking in the west covered the horizon with silent flashes of lightning. A December wind with August lightning—such were the omens of that day.
III. THE FIRST OFFICIAL DINNER. December 24, 1848.
Louis Bonaparte gave his first dinner last evening, Saturday the 23rd, two days after his elevation to the Presidency of the Republic.
The Chamber had adjourned for the Christmas holidays. I was at home in my new lodging in the Rue de la Tour d'Auvergne, occupied with I know not what bagatelles, totus in illis, when a letter addressed to me and brought by a dragoon was handed to me. I opened the envelope, and this is what I read:
The orderly officer on duty has the honour to inform Monsieur the General Changarnier that he is invited to dinner at the Elysee-National on Saturday, at 7 o'clock.
I wrote below it: "Delivered by mistake to M. Victor Hugo," and sent the letter back by the dragoon who had brought it. An hour later came another letter from M. de Persigny, Prince Louis's former companion in plots, to-day his private secretary. This letter contained profuse apologies for the error committed and advised me that I was among those invited. My letter had been addressed by mistake to M. Conti, the Representative from Corsica.
At the head of M. de Persigny's letter, written with a pen, were the words: "Household of the President."
I remarked that the form of these invitations was exactly similar to the form employed by King Louis Philippe. As I did not wish to do anything that might resemble intentional coldness, I dressed; it was half past 6, and I set out immediately for the Elysee.
Half past 7 struck as I arrived there.
As I passed I glanced at the sinister portal of the Praslin mansion adjoining the Elysee. The large green carriage entrance, enframed between two Doric pillars of the time of the Empire, was closed, gloomy, and vaguely outlined by the light of a street lamp. One of the double doors of the entrance to the Elysee was closed; two soldiers of the line were on guard. The court-yard was scarcely lighted, and a mason in his working clothes with a ladder on his shoulder was crossing it; nearly all the windows of the outhouses on the right had been broken, and were mended with paper. I entered by the door on the perron. Three servants in black coats received me; one opened the door, another took my mantle, the third said: "Monsieur, on the first floor!" I ascended the grand staircase. There were a carpet and flowers on it, but that chilly and unsettled air about it peculiar to places into which one is moving.
On the first floor an usher asked:
"Monsieur has come to dinner?"
"Yes," I said. "Are they at table?"
"In that case, I am off."
"But, Monsieur," exclaimed the usher, "nearly everybody arrived after the dinner had begun; go in. Monsieur is expected."
I remarked this military and imperial punctuality, which used to be customary with Napoleon. With the Emperor 7 o'clock meant 7 o'clock.
I crossed the ante-chamber, then a salon, and entered the dining-room. It was a square room wainscotted in the Empire style with white wood. On the walls were engravings and pictures of very poor selection, among them "Mary Stuart listening to Rizzio," by the painter Ducis. Around the room was a sideboard. In the middle was a long table with rounded ends at which about fifteen guests were seated. One end of the table, that furthest from the entrance, was raised, and here the President of the Republic was seated between two women, the Marquise de Hallays-Coetquen, nee Princess de Chimay (Tallien) being on his right, and Mme. Conti, mother of the Representative, on his left.
The President rose when I entered. I went up to him. We grasped each other's hand.
"I have improvised this dinner," he said. "I invited only a few dear friends, and I hoped that I could comprise you among them. I thank you for coming. You have come to me, as I went to you, simply. I thank you."
He again grasped my hand. Prince de la Moskowa, who was next to General Changarnier, made room for me beside him, and I seated myself at the table. I ate quickly, for the President had interrupted the dinner to enable me to catch up with the company. The second course had been reached.
Opposite to me was General Rulhieres, an ex-peer, the Representative Conti and Lucien Murat. The other guests were unknown to me. Among them was a young major of cavalry, decorated with the Legion of Honour. This major alone was in uniform; the others wore evening dress. The Prince had a rosette of the Legion of Honour in his buttonhole.
Everybody conversed with his neighbour. Louis Bonaparte appeared to prefer his neighbour on the right to his neighbour on the left. The Marquise de Hallays is thirty-six years old, and looks her age. Fine eyes, not much hair, an ugly mouth, white skin, a shapely neck, charming arms, the prettiest little hands in the world, admirable shoulders. At present she is separated from M. de Hallays. She has had eight children, the first seven by her husband. She was married fifteen years ago. During the early period of their marriage she used to fetch her husband from the drawing-room, even in the daytime, and take him off to bed. Sometimes a servant would enter and say: "Madame the Marquise is asking for Monsieur the Marquis." The Marquis would obey the summons. This made the company who happened to be present laugh. To-day the Marquis and Marquise have fallen out.
"She was the mistress of Napoleon, son of Jerome, you know," said Prince de la Moskowa to me, sotto voce, "now she is Louis's mistress."
"Well," I answered, "changing a Napoleon for a Louis is an everyday occurrence."
These bad puns did not prevent me from eating and observing.
The two women seated beside the President had square-topped chairs. The President's chair was surmounted with a little round top. As I was about to draw some inference from this I looked at the other chairs and saw that four or five guests, myself among them, had chairs similar to that of the President. The chairs were covered with red velvet with gilt headed nails. A more serious thing I noticed was that everybody addressed the President of the Republic as "Monseigneur" and "your Highness." I who had called him "Prince," had the air of a demagogue.
When we rose from table the Prince asked after my wife, and then apologized profusely for the rusticity of the service.
"I am not yet installed," he said. "The day before yesterday, when I arrived here, there was hardly a mattress for me to sleep upon."
The dinner was a very ordinary one, and the Prince did well to excuse himself. The service was of common white china and the silverware bourgeois, worn, and gross. In the middle of the table was a rather fine vase of craquele, ornamented with ormolu in the bad taste of the time of Louis XVI.
However, we heard music in an adjoining hall.
"It is a surprise," said the President to us, "they are the musicians from the Opera."
A minute afterwards programmes written with a pen were handed round. They indicated that the following five selections were being played:
1. Priere de la "Muette." 2. Fantaisie sur des airs favoris de la "Reine Hortense." 3. Final de "Robert Bruce". 4. "Marche Republicaine." 5. "La Victoire," pas redouble.
In the rather uneasy state of mind I, like the whole of France, was in at that moment, I could not help remarking this "Victory" piece coming after the "Republican March."
I rose from table still hungry.
We went into the grand salon, which was separated from the dining-room by the smaller salon that I had passed through on entering.
This grand salon was extremely ugly. It was white, with figures on panels, after the fashion of those of Pompeii, the whole of the furniture being in the Empire style with the exception of the armchairs, which were in tapestry and gold and in fairly good taste. There were three arched windows to which three large mirrors of the same shape at the other end of the salon formed pendants and one of which, the middle one, was a door. The window curtains were of fine white satin richly flowered.
While the Prince de la Moskowa and I were talking Socialism, the Mountain, Communism, etc., Louis Bonaparte came up and took me aside.
He asked me what I thought of the situation. I was reserved. I told him that a good beginning had been made; that the task was a difficult but a grand one; that what he had to do was to reassure the bourgeoisie and satisfy the people, to give tranquillity to the former, work to the latter, and life to all; that after the little governments, those of the elder Bourbons, Louis Philippe, and the Republic of February, a great one was required; that the Emperor had made a great government through war, and that he himself ought to make a great one through peace; that the French people having been illustrious for three centuries did not propose to become ignoble; that it was his failure to appreciate this high-mindedness of the people and the national pride that was the chief cause of Louis Philippe's downfall; that, in a word, he must decorate peace.
"How?" asked Louis Napoleon.
"By all the greatness of art, literature and science, by the victories of industry and progress. Popular labour can accomplish miracles. And then, France is a conquering nation; when she does not make conquests with the sword, she wants to make them with the mind. Know this and act accordingly. Ignore it and you will be lost."
He looked thoughtful and went away. Then he returned, thanked me warmly, and we continued to converse.
We spoke about the press. I advised him to respect it profoundly and at the same time to establish a State press. "The State without a newspaper, in the midst of newspapers," I observed, "restricting itself to governing while publicity and polemics are the rule, reminds one of the knights of the fifteenth century who obstinately persisted in fighting against cannon with swords; they were always beaten. I grant that it was noble; you will grant that it was foolish."
He spoke of the Emperor. "It is here," he said, "that I saw him for the last time. I could not re-enter this palace without emotion. The Emperor had me brought to him and laid his hand on my head. I was seven years old. It was in the grand salon downstairs."
Then Louis Bonaparte talked about La Malmaison. He said:
"They have respected it. I visited the place in detail about six weeks ago. This is how I came to do so. I had gone to see M. Odilon Barrot at Bougival.
"'Dine with me,' he said.
"' I will with pleasure.' It was 3 o'clock. 'What shall we do until dinner time?'
"'Let us go and see La Malmaison,' suggested M. Barrot.
"We went. Nobody else was with us. Arrived at La Malmaison we rang the bell. A porter opened the gate, M. Barrot spoke:
"'We want to see La Malmaison.'
"'Impossible!' replied the porter.
"'What do you mean, impossible?'
"'I have orders.'
"'From her Majesty Queen Christine, to whom the chateau belongs at present.'
"'But monsieur here is a stranger who has come expressly to visit the place.'
"'Well,' exclaimed M. Odilon Barrot, 'it's funny that this door should be closed to the Emperor's nephew!'
"The porter started and threw his cap on the ground. He was an old soldier, to whom the post had been granted as a pension.
"'The Emperor's nephew!' he cried. 'Oh! Sire, enter!'
"He wanted to kiss my clothes.
"We visited the chateau. Everything is still about in its place. I recognised nearly everything, the First Consul's study, the chamber of his mother, my own. The furniture in several rooms has not been changed. I found a little armchair I had when I was a child."
I said to the Prince: "You see, thrones disappear, arm-chairs remain."
While we were talking a few persons came, among others M. Duclerc, the ex-Minister of Finance of the Executive Committee, an old woman in black velvet whom I did not know, and Lord Normanby, the English Ambassador, whom the President quickly took into an adjoining salon. I saw Lord Normanby taken aside in the same way by Louis Philippe.
The President in his salon had an air of timidity and did not appear at home. He came and went from group to group more like an embarrassed stranger than the master of the house. However, his remarks are a propos and sometimes witty.
He endeavoured to get my opinion anent his Ministry, but in vain. I would say nothing either good or bad about it.
Besides, the Ministry is only a mask, or, more properly speaking, a screen that hides a baboon. Thiers is behind it. This is beginning to bother Louis Bonaparte. He has to contend against eight Ministers, all of whom seek to belittle him. Each is pulling his own way. Among these Ministers some are his avowed enemies. Nominations, promotions, and lists arrive all made out from the Place Saint Georges. They have to be accepted, signed and endorsed.
Yesterday Louis Bonaparte complained about it to the Prince de la Moskowa, remarking wittily: "They want to make of me a Prince Albert of the Republic."
Odilon Barrot appeared mournful and discouraged. To-day he left the council with a crushed air. M. de la Moskowa encountered him.
"Hello!" said he, "how goes it?"
"Pray for us!" replied Odilon Barrot.
"Whew!" said Moskowa, "this is tragical!"
"What are we to do?" went on Odilon Barrot. "How are we to rebuild this old society in which everything is collapsing? Efforts to prop it up only help to bring it down. If you touch it, it topples over. Ah! pray for us!"
And he raised his eyes skywards.
I quitted the Elysee about 10 o'clock. As I was going the President said to me: "Wait a minute." Then he went into an adjoining room and came out again a moment later with some papers which he placed in my hand, saying: "For Madame Victor Hugo."
They were tickets of admission to the gallery of the Garde-Meuble for the review that is to be held to-day.
And as I went home I thought a good deal. I thought about this abrupt moving in, this trial of etiquette, this bourgeois-republican-imperial mixture, this surface of a deep, unfathomed quantity that to-day is called the President of the Republic, his entourage, the whole circumstances of his position. This man who can be, and is, addressed at one and the same time and from all sides at once as: prince, highness, monsieur, monseigneur and citizen, is not one of the least curious and characteristic factors of the situation.
Everything that is happening at this moment stamps its mark upon this personage who sticks at nothing to attain his ends.
IV. THE FIRST MONTH. January. 1849.
The first month of Louis Bonaparte's presidency is drawing to a close. This is how we stand at present:
Old-time Bonapartists are cropping up. MM. Jules Favre, Billault and Carteret are paying court—politically Speaking—to the Princess Mathilde Demidoff. The Duchess d'Orleans is residing with her two children in a little house at Ems, where she lives modestly yet royally. All the ideas of February are brought up one after the other; 1849, disappointed, is turning its back on 1848. The generals want amnesty, the wise want disarmament. The Constituent Assembly's term is expiring and the Assembly is in savage mood in consequence. M. Guizot is publishing his book On Democracy in France. Louis Philippe is in London, Pius IX. is at Gaete, M. Barrot is in power; the bourgeoisie has lost Paris, Catholicism has lost Rome. The sky is rainy and gloomy, with a ray of sunshine now and then. Mlle. Ozy shows herself quite naked in the role of Eve at the Porte Saint Martin; Frederick Lemaitre is playing "L'Auberge des Adrets" there. Five per cents are at 74, potatoes cost 8 cents the bushel, at the market a pike can be bought for 20 sous. M. Ledru-Rollin is trying to force the country into war, M. Prudhon is trying to force it into bankruptcy. General Cavaignac takes part in the sessions of the Assembly in a grey waist-coat, and passes his time gazing at the women in the galleries through big ivory opera-glasses. M. de Lamartine gets 25,000 francs for his "Toussaint L'Ouverture." Louis Bonaparte gives grand dinners to M. Thiers, who had him captured, and to M. Mole, who had him condemned. Vienna, Milan, and Berlin are becoming calmer. Revolutionary fires are paling and seem to be dying out everywhere on the surface, but the peoples are still deeply stirred. The King of Prussia is getting ready to seize his sceptre again and the Emperor of Russia to draw his sword. There has been an earthquake at Havre, the cholera is at Fecamp; Arnal is leaving the Gymnase, and the Academy is nominating the Duke de Noailles as Chateaubriand's successor.
V. FEELING HIS WAY. January, 1849.
At Odilon Barrot's ball on January 28 M. Thiers went up to M. Leon Faucher and said: "Make So-and-So a prefect." M. Leon Faucher made a grimace, which is an easy thing for him to do, and said: "Monsieur Thiers, there are objections." "That's funny!" retorted Thiers, "it is precisely the answer the President of the Republic gave to me the day I said: 'Make M. Faucher a Minister!'"
At this ball it was remarked that Louis Bonaparte sought Berryer's company, attached himself to him and led him into quiet corners. The Prince looked as though he were following Berryer, and Berryer as though he were trying to avoid the Prince.
At 11 o'clock the President said to Berryer: "Come with me to the Opera."
Berryer excused himself. "Prince," said he, "it would give rise to gossip. People would believe I am engaged in a love affair!"
"Pish!" replied Louis Bonaparte laughingly, "Representatives are inviolable!"
The Prince went away alone, and the following quatrain was circulated:
En vain l'empire met du fard, On baisse ses yeux et sa robe. Et Berryer-Joseph so derobe A Napoleon-Putiphar.
Although he is animated with the best intentions in the world and has a very visible quantity of intelligence and aptitude, I fear that Louis Bonaparte will find his task too much for him. To him, France, the century, the new spirit, the instincts peculiar to the soil and the period are so many closed books. He looks without understanding them at minds that are working, Paris, events, men, things and ideas. He belongs to that class of ignorant persons who are called princes and to that category of foreigners who are called emigres. To those who examine him closely he has the air of a patient rather than of a governing man.
There is nothing of the Bonapartes about him, either in his face or manner. He probably is not a Bonaparte. The free and easy ways of Queen Hortense are remembered. "He is a memento of Holland!" said Alexis de Saint Priest to me yesterday. Louis Bonaparte certainly possesses the cold manner of the Dutch.
Louis Bonaparte knows so little about Paris that the first time I saw him he said to me:
"I have been hunting for you. I went to your former residence. What is this Place des Vosges?"
"It is the Place Royale," I said.
"Ah!" he continued, "is it an old place?"
He wanted to see Beranger. He went to Passy twice without being able to find him at home. His cousin Napoleon timed his visit more happily and found Beranger by his fireside. He asked him:
"What do you advise my cousin to do?"
"To observe the Constitution."
"And what ought he to avoid?"
"Violating the Constitution."
Beranger could not be induced to say anything else.
Yesterday, December 5, 1850, I was at the Francais. Rachel played "Adrienne Lecouvreur." Jerome Bonaparte occupied a box next to mine. During an entr'acte I paid him a visit. We chatted. He said to me:
"Louis is mad. He is suspicious of his friends and delivers himself into the hands of his enemies. He is suspicious of his family and allows himself to be bound hand and foot by the old Royalist parties. On my return to France I was better received by Louis Philippe at the Tuileries than I am at the Elysee by my nephew. I said to him the other day before one of his ministers (Fould): 'Just remember a little! When you were a candidate for the presidency, Monsieur here (I pointed to Fould) called upon me in the Rue d'Alger, where I lived, and begged me in the name of MM. Thiers, Mole, Duvergier de Hauranne, Berryer, and Bugeaud to enter the lists for the presidency. He told me that never would you get the "Constitutionnel;" that in Mole's opinion you were an idiot, and that Thiers looked upon you as a blockhead; that I alone could rally everybody to me and win against Cavaignac. I refused. I told them that you represented youth and the future, that you had a quarter of a century before you, whereas I could hardly count upon eight or ten years; that I was an invalid and wanted to be let alone. That is what these people were doing and that is what I did. And you forget all this! And you make these gentlemen the masters! And you show the door to your cousin, my son, who defended you in the Assembly and devoted himself to furthering your candidacy! And you are strangling universal suffrage, which made you what you are! I' faith I shall say like Mole that you are an idiot, and like Thiers that you are a blockhead!'"
The King of Westphalia paused for a moment, then continued:
"And do you know, Monsieur Victor Hugo, what he replied to me? 'You will see!' No one knows what is at the bottom of that man!"
THE SIEGE OF PARIS. EXTRACTS FROM NOTE-BOOKS
BRUSSELS, September 1.—Charles* leaves this morning with MM. Claretie, Proust, and Frederix for Virton. Fighting is going on near there, at Carignan. They will see what they can of the battle. They will return tomorrow.
* Victor Hugo's son.
September 2.—Charles and his friends did not return to-day.
September 3.—Yesterday, after the decisive battle had been lost, Louis Napoleon, who was taken prisoner at Sedan, surrendered his sword to the King of Prussia. Just a month ago, on August 2, at Sarrebrueck, he was playing at war.
To save France now would be to save Europe.
Shouting newsboys pass, with enormous posters on which are the words: "Napoleon III. a Prisoner."
5 o'clock.—Charles and our friends have returned.
9 o'clock.—Meeting of exiles at which Charles and I are present.
Query: Tricolour flag or red flag?
September 4.—The deposition of the Emperor is proclaimed in Paris.
At 1 o'clock a meeting of exiles is held at my house.
At 3 o'clock I receive a telegram from Paris couched in the following terms: "Bring the children with you." Which means "Come."
MM. Claretie and Proust dined with us.
During the dinner a telegram signed "Francois Hugo" arrived, announcing that a provisional government had been formed: Jules Favre, Gambetta, Thiers.
September 5.—At 6 o'clock in the morning a telegram signed "Barbieux," and asking the hour of my arrival in Paris, is brought to me. I instruct Charles to answer that I shall arrive at 9 o'clock at night. We shall take the children with us. We shall leave by the 2.35 o'clock train.
The Provisional Government (according to the newspapers) is made up of all the Deputies of Paris, with the exception of Thiers.
At noon, as I was about to leave Brussels for Paris, a young man, a Frenchman, accosted me in the Place de la Monnaie and said:
Monsieur, they tell me that you are Victor Hugo."
"Be so kind as to enlighten me. I would like to know whether it is prudent to go to Paris at present."
"Monsieur, it is very imprudent, but you should go," was my reply.
We entered France at 4 o'clock.
At Tergnier, at 6.30, we dined upon a piece of bread, a little cheese, a pear and a glass of wine. Claretie insisted upon paying, and said: "I want particularly to give you a dinner on the day of your return to France."
En route I saw in the woods a camp of French soldiers, men and horses mingled. I shouted to them: "Long live the army!" and I wept.
At frequent intervals we came across train-loads of soldiers on their way to Paris. Twenty-five of these passed during the day. As one of them went by we gave to the soldiers all the provisions we had, some bread, fruit and wine. The sun shone brightly and was succeeded by a bright moon.
We arrived in Paris at 9.35 o'clock. An immense crowd awaited me. It was an indescribable welcome. I spoke four times, once from the balcony of a cafe and thrice from my carriage.
When I took leave of this ever-growing crowd, which escorted me to Paul Meurice's, in the Avenue Frochot, I said to the people: "In one hour you repay me for twenty years of exile."
They sang the "Marseillaise" and the "Chant du Depart."
They shouted: "Long live Victor Hugo!"
The journey from the Northern Railway station to the Rue Laval took two hours.
We arrived at Meurice's, where I am to stay, at mid-night. I dined with my travelling companions and Victor. I went to bed at 2 o'clock.
At daybreak I was awakened by a terrible storm. Thunder and lightning.
I shall take breakfast with Paul Meurice, and we shall dine together at the Hotel Navarin, in the Rue Navarin, where my family is staying.
PARIS, September 6.—Innumerable visits, innumerable letters.
Rey came to ask me whether I would consent to join a triumvirate composed as follows: Victor Hugo, Ledru-Rollin, and Schoelcher. I refused. I said: "It is almost impossible to amalgamate me."