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Jules Favre proposes to this base Chamber, the abettor of our disasters, the humus of the Empire, to seize upon the government. And thus ended their threatening looks. The Mamelukes, who know their Left, recover their self-assurance. Schneider precipitately breaks up the sitting in order to get rid of the crowd. The people, feebly repulsed by the soldiers, repair in masses to the bridges, follow- those who leave the Chamber, expecting every moment to hear the Republic proclaimed.
Jules Simon, out of reach of the bayonets, makes. The next day the police occupy all the approaches. One effort would have sufficed to overthrow this pasteboard Empire. The Left repulsed them, refused to save the country by a riot, and, confining their efforts to a ridiculous motion, left to the Mamelukes the care of saving France.
The Turks in showed more intelligence and elasticity. During three weeks it was the story of Byzantium all over again — the fettered nation sinking into the abyss in the face of its motionless governing classes. The masses, deceived by a braggart and corrupt press, might ignore the danger, lull themselves with vain hopes; but the deputies have, must have, their hands full of crushing truths.
They conceal them. The Left exhausts itself in exclamations. On the 12th M. On the 13th Jules Favre demands the creation of a Committee of Defence. It is refused. He utters no syllable. On the 20th the Ministry announces that Bazaine has forced three army corps into the quarries of Jaumont; the next day the whole European press related, on the contrary, that Bazaine, three times beaten, had been thrown back upon Metz by , Germans.
And no deputy rises to challenge the liars! Thiers, again restored to favour since the disasters, demonstrates in the committees and in the lobbies that this march is the way to utter ruin. The extreme Left says and puts it about that all is lost and of all these responsible persons seeing the state ship tempest-tossed, not one raises his hand to seize the helm. Since France had seen no such collapse of the governing classes. The same great bourgeoisie, which, for eighteen years mute and bowed to the dust, offered their legions to Varus.
The bourgeoisie accepted the Second Empire from fear of Socialism, even as their fathers had submitted to the first to make an end of the Revolution. Napoleon I rendered the bourgeoisie two services not overpaid by his apotheosis. He gave them an iron centralization and sent to their graves 15, wretches still kindled by the flame of the Revolution, who at any moment might have claimed the public lands granted to them. But he left the same bourgeoisie saddled for all masters.
When they possessed themselves of the parliamentary government, to which Mirabeau wished to raise them at one bound, they were incapable of governing. Their mutiny of , turned into a revolution by the people, made the belly master.
The great bourgeois of , like him of , had but one thought — to gorge himself with privileges, to arm the bulwarks in defence of his domains, to perpetuate the proletariat. The fortune of his country is nothing to him, so that he fatten.
To lead, to compromise France, the parliamentary king has as free license as Bonaparte. When by a new outburst of the people the bourgeoisie are compelled to seize the helm, after three years, in spite of massacre and proscription, it slips out of their palsied hands into those of the first comer. From to they relapse into the same state as after the 18th Brumaire. Their privileges safe, they allow Napoleon III to plunder France, make her the vassal of Rome, dishonour her in Mexico, ruin her finances, vulgarize debauchery.
In the pressure from without raises them to the verge of power; a little strength of will and the government is theirs. They have but the desires of the eunuch. At the first sign of the impotent master they kiss the rod that smote them on 2nd December, making room for the plebiscite which rebaptizes the Empire.
Bismarck prepared the war, Napoleon Ill wanted it, the great bourgeoisie looked on. They might have stopped it by an earnest gesture. Thiers contented himself with a grimace. For many years it has lived at random, isolating itself from the proletariat, whence it issued but yesterday, and whither the great barons of Capital will hurl it back again tomorrow.
No more of that fraternity with the people, of that zeal for reform, which manifested themselves from to With its bold initiative, its revolutionary instinct, it loses also the consciousness of its force. Instead of representing itself, as it might so well do, it goes about in quest of representatives among the Liberals.
The friend of the people who will write the history of Liberalism in France wig save us many a convulsion. Sincere Liberalism would be folly in, a country where the governing classes, refusing to concede anything, constrain every honest man to become a revolutionise.
But it was never anything else than the Jesuitism of liberty, a trick of the bourgeoisie to isolate the workmen. From Bailly to Jules Favre, the moderates have masked the manoeuvres of despotism, buried our revolutions, conducted the great massacres of proletarians. The old clear-sighted Parisian sections hated them more than the down-right reactionists. Twice Imperial despotism rehabilitated them, and the lower middle class, soon forgetting their true part, accepted as defenders those who pretended to be vanquished like themselves.
The men who had made abortive the movement of and paved the way for the 2nd December thus became during the darkness which followed it the acclaimed vindicators of ravished liberty. At the first dawn they appeared what they had ever been — the enemies of the working class. Under the Empire the Left never condescended to concern itself with the interests of the workmen.
These Liberals never found for them a word, a protestation, even such as the Chambers of sometimes witnessed. The young lawyers whom they had affiliated to themselves soon revealed their designs, rallying to the Liberal Empire, some openly, like Ollivier and Darimon, others with prudence, like Picard. These two groups of augurs thus held every fraction of bourgeois opposition — the timorous and the intrepid.
After the plebiscite they became the holy synod, the uncontested chiefs of the lower middle class, more and more incapable of governing itself, and alarmed at the Socialist movement, behind which they showed it the hand of the Emperor. It gave them full powers, shut its eyes, and allowed itself to drift gradually towards the parliamentary Empire, big with portfolios for its patrons. The thunderbolt of the galvanized it into life, but only for a moment.
At the bidding of the deputies to keep quiet, the lower middle class, the mother of the 10th August, docilely bent its head and let the foreigner plunge his into the very bosom of France. Poor France! Who will save thee? While the upper classes sell the nation for a few hours of rest, and the Liberals seek to feather their nests under the Empire, a handful of men, without arms, unprotected, rise up against the still all-powerful despot.
On the one hand, young men who are part of the bourgeoisie have gone over to the people, faithful children of , resolved to continue the work of the Revolution; on the other hand, working men unite for the study and the conquest of the rights of labour.
In vain the Empire attempts to split their forces, to seduce the working men. These see the snare, hiss the professors of Caesarian socialism, and from , without journals, without a tribune, affirm themselves as a class, to the great scandal of the Liberal sycophants, maintaining that has equalized all classes. In they descend into the streets, make a demonstration at the tomb of Manin [Daniel Manin , an Italian nationalist leader who died an exile in France], and, despite the bludgeons of the sbirri, protest against Mentana.
Since the re-opening of the public meetings they fill the halls, and, in spite of persecution and imprisonment, harass, undermine the Empire, taking advantage of every accident to inflict a blow. The Left, terrified at this multitude, which threatens to overwhelm them, brands their leaders as desperados or as police agents. They, however, keep to the fore, unmasking the Left, defying them to discussion, keeping up at the same time a running fire on the Empire, They form the vanguard against the plebiscite.
At the war rumours they are the first to make a stand. The old dregs of chauvinism, stirred by the Bonapartists, discharge their muddy waters. The Liberals remain impassible or applaud; the working men stop the way. On the 15th July, at the very same hour when Ollivier from the tribune invokes war with a light heart, the revolutionary socialists crowd the boulevards crying, Vive la paix!
Denis they are applauded, but are hissed in the Boulevards Bonne Nouvelle and Montmartre, and come to blows with certain bands shouting for war. The next day they meet again at the Bastille, and parade the streets, Ranvier, a painter on porcelain, well known in Belleville, marching at their head with a banner.
In the Faubourg Montmartre the sergents-de-ville charge them with drawn swords. Brothers, do not listen to the hirelings who seek to deceive you as to the real wishes of France. In the students of Berlin had answered the pacific address of the French students with insults. We know that on both sides of the Rhine there are brothers with whom we are ready to die for the Universal Republic.
Let them be inscribed on the first page of the Golden Book just opened by the workmen. Thus towards the end of the Empire there was no life, no activity, save in the ranks of the proletariat and the young men of the middle class who had joined them. They alone showed some political courage, and in the midst of the general paralysis of the month of July , they alone found the energy to attempt at least the salvation of France.
They lacked authority; they failed to carry with them the lower middle class, for which they also combat, because of their utter want of political experience. How could they have acquired it during eighty years, when the ruling class not only withheld fight from them, but even the right to enlighten themselves?
By an internal Machiavellianism they forced them to grope their way in the dark, so that they might hand them over the more easily to dreamers and sectarians. Under the Empire, when the public meetings and journals reappeared, the political education of the workmen had still to be effected. Many, abused by morbid minds, in the belief that their affranchisement depended on a coup-de-main gave themselves up to whoever spoke of overthrowing the Empire. Others, convinced that even the most thorough-going bourgeois were hostile to Socialism, and only courted the people in furtherance of their ambitious plans, wanted the workmen to constitute themselves into groups independent of all tutelage.
These different currents crossed each other. The chaotic state of the party of action was laid bare in its journal, the Marseillaise, a hot mish-mash of doctrinaires and desperate writers united by hatred of the Empire, but without definite views and above all, without discipline. Much time was wanted to cool down the first effervescence and get rid of the romantic rubbish which twenty years of oppression and want of study had made fashionable.
However, the influence of the Socialists began to prevail, and no doubt with time they would have classified their ideas, drawn up their programme, eliminated the mere spouters, entered upon serious action. The International setting forth the most adequate idea of the revolutionary movement of our century, under the guidance of Varlin, a bookbinder of rare intelligence, of Duval, Theisz, Frankel, and a few devoted men, was beginning to gain Power in France.
The public meetings of no longer resembled the earlier ones; the people wanted useful discussions. But many years would have been required for the development of the party of labour, hampered by young bourgeois adventurers in search of a reputation, Encumbered with conspiracy-mongers and romantic visionaries, still Ignorant of the administrative and political mechanism of the bourgeois regime which they attacked. Just before the war some discipline was attempted.
The Parisian lower middle class believed in the extreme Left, as it had believed in our armies. Those who wished to do without them failed. On the 14th the friends of Blanqui attempted to raise the outlying districts, attacked the quarters of the firemen of La Villette, and put the sergents-de-ville to flight. Death to the Prussians! No one joined them. The crowd looked on from afar, astonished, motionless, rendered suspicious by the police agents, who thus drew them off from the real enemy — the Empire.
The Left pretended to believe in the Prussian agent, to reassure the bourgeoisie, and Gambetta demanded the immediate trial of the prisoners of La Villette. The Minister Palikao had to remind him that certain forms must be observed, even by military justice.
The court-martial condemned ten to death, although almost all the accused had had nothing to do with the affray. Some true-hearted men, wishing to prevent these executions, went to Michelet, who wrote a touching letter on their behalf. The Empire had no time to carry out the sentences.
Since the 25th MacMahon was leading his army into the snares laid by Moltke. On the 30th he threw his troops into the pit of Sedan; on the 1st September the army was surrounded by , enemies, and cannons crowned the heights. The telegraph announced it; all Europe knew it that same night. The deputies, however, were silent; they remained so on the 3rd.
On the 4th only, at midnight, after Paris had passed through a day of feverish excitement, they made up their minds to speak. Jules Favre demanded the abolition of the Empire and a Commission charged with the defence, but took care not to touch the Chamber. But on the morning of the 4th of September the people assemble, and amongst them National Guards armed with their muskets. The astonished gendarmes give way to them. It is time.
The Chamber, on the point of forming a Ministry, try to seize the government. The Left support this combination with all its might, waxing indignant at the mere mention of a Republic. When that cry bursts forth from the galleries, Gambetta makes unheard-of efforts and conjures the people to await the result of the deliberations of the Chamber — a result known before hand. It is the project of M. Thiers: a Government Commission named by the Assembly; peace demanded and accepted at any price; after that disgrace, the parliamentary monarchy.
Happily a new crowd of invaders bursts its way through the doors, while the occupants of the galleries glide into the hall. The people expel the deputies. Gambetta, forced to the tribune, is obliged to announce the abolition of the Empire. This was already in the hands of the people.
First on the ground, they might, with a little discipline, have influenced the constitution of the government. They, however, declared they would accept no colleagues but the deputies of Paris. The crowd applauded. This frenzy of just-emancipated serfs made the Left masters. They were clever enough to admit Rochefort. They next applied to General Trochu, named governor of Paris by Napoleon. This general had become the idol of the Liberals because he had sulked a little with the Empire. The Left had seen much of him during the last crisis.
Having attained to power, it begged him to direct the defence. He obtained everything. They invoked no other title than their mandate as representatives of Paris, and declared themselves legitimate by popular acclamation. They had on the same day sent a new address to the German working men. Their fraternal duty fulfilled, the French workmen gave themselves up the defence. Let the Government organize it and they would stay by it.
The most suspicious were taken in. On the 7th, in the first number of his paper La Patrie en Danger, Blanqui and his friends offered the Government their most energetic, their absolute co-operation. To seize, to monopolize the government at such a moment, seemed a stroke of audacity of which genius alone is capable.
Paris, deprived for eighty years of her municipal liberties, accepted as mayor the lachrymose Etienne Arago. In the twenty arrondissements he named the mayors he liked, and they again named the adjuncts agreeable to themselves. But Arago announced early elections and spoke of reviving the great days of Yes, Paris gave herself up without reserve — incurable confidence — to that same Left to which she had been forced to do violence in order to make her revolution.
Her outburst of will lasted but for an hour. The Empire once overthrown, she re-abdicated. Paris, mystified by a braggart press, ignores the greatness of the peril; Paris abuses confidence. And yet each day brought with it new ill omens. The shadow of the siege approached, and the Government of Defence, far from evacuating the superfluous mouths, crowded the , inhabitants of the suburbs into the town.
The exterior works did not advance. Instead of throwing all Paris into the work, and taking these descendants of the levellers of the Camp-de-Mars out of the enceinte in troops of , drums beating, banners flying, Trochu abandoned the earthworks to the ordinary contractors.
The heights of Chatillon, the key to our forts of the south, had hardly been surveyed, when on the 19th the enemy presented himself, sweeping from the plateau an affrighted troop of zouaves and soldiers who did not wish to fight.
The following day, that Paris which the press had declared could not be invested, was surrounded and cut off from France. This gross ignorance very soon alarmed the Revolutionists. They had promised their support, but not blind faith. Since the 4th of September, wishing to centralize the forces of the party of action for the defence and the maintenance of the Republic, they had invited the public meetings in each arrondissement to name a Committee of Vigilance charged to control the mayors and to delegate four members to a Central Committee of the twenty arrondissements.
This tumultuous mode of election had resulted in a committee composed of working men, employees and authors, known in the revolutionary movements of the last years. This committee had established itself in the hall of the Rue de la Corderie, lent by the International and the Federation of trade unions. These had almost suspended their work, the service of the National Guard absorbing all their activity.
Some of their members again met m the Committee of Vigilance and in the Central Committee, which caused the latter to be erroneously attributed to the International. On the 4th it demanded by a manifesto the election of the municipalities, the police to be placed in their hands, the election and control of all the magistrates, absolute freedom of the press, public meeting and association, the expropriation of all articles of primary necessity, their distribution by allowance, the arming of all citizens, the sending of commissioners to rouse the provinces.
But Paris was then infected with a fit of confidence. The bourgeois journals denounced the committee as Prussian. Their posters were torn down. Jules Ferry gave his word of honour that the government would not treat at any price, and announced the municipal elections for the end of the month. Two days later a decree postponed them indefinitely. Thus this Government, which in seventeen days had prepared nothing, which had allowed itself to be blocked up without even a struggle refused the advice of Paris, and more than ever arrogated to itself the right of directing the defence.
Did it then possess the secret of victory? What then is their aim? To negotiate. Since the first defeats they have no other. The reverses which exalted our fathers only made the Left store cowardly than the Imperialist deputies.
Hardly established, these defenders sent M. Thiers all over Europe to beg for peace, and Jules Favre to run after Bismarck to ask his conditions  — a step that revealed to the Prussian with what tremblers he had to deal. The asinine confidence of the immense majority no more diminishes the crime than the foolishness of the dupe excuses the cheater.
Did the men of the 4th September, yes or no, betray the mandate they received? If the Defenders had gone a step farther, they would have been swept away. In point of fact, they did not abandon their idea for an hour, esteeming themselves the only men in Paris who had not lost their heads.
As to drilling or organising these , men, uniting them with the , mobiles, soldiers and marines gathered together in Paris, and with all these forces forming a powerful scourge to drive the enemy back to the Rhine, of this he never dreamt. His colleagues thought of it as little, and only discussed with him the more or less cavilling they might venture upon with the Prussian invader. He was all for mild proceedings.
His devoutness forbade him to useless blood. Since, according to all military manuals, the great town was to fall, he would make that fall as little sanguinary as possible. Besides, the return of M. Thiers, who might at any moment bring back the treaty, was waited for. Leaving the enemy to establish himself tranquilly round Paris, Trochu organized a few skirmishes for the lookers-on.
One single serious engagement took place on the 30th at Chevilly, when, after a success, we retreated, abandoning a battery for want of reinforcements and teams. The revolutionists only were not taken in. The capitulation of Toul and of Strasbourg was to theft a solemn warning. Flourens, chief of the 63rd battalion, but who was the real commander of Bellevine, could no longer restrain himself.
Trochu, who, to amuse him, had given him the title of major of the rampart, made an elaborate discourse; the twelve apostles argued with him, and wound up by showing him out. As delegates came from all sides to demand that Paris should have a voice in her own defence, should name a council, her Commune, the Government declared on the 7th that their dignity forbade them to concede these behests.
This insolence caused the movement of the 8th October. The committee of the twenty arrondissements protested in an energetic placard. But the multitude had not yet lost faith. A great number of battalions hastened to the rescue; the Government passed them in review. Jules Favre opened the flood-gates of his rhetoric and declared the election impossible because — unanswerable reason!
The majority greedily swallowed the bait. On the 13th we took Bagneux, and a spirited attack would have repossessed us of Chatillon: Trochu had no reserves. On the 21st a march on the Malmaison revealed the weakness of the investment and spread panic even to Versailles. Instead of pressing forward, General Ducrot engaged only six thousand men, and the enemy repulsed him, taking two cannons. The mayors encouraged this pleasant confidence. But it was composed of those Liberals and Republicans of whom the Left is the last expression.
They knocked at the door of the Government now and then, timidly interrogated it, and received only vague assurances, in which they did not believe,  but made every effort to make Paris believe. What is the meaning of these partial sorties which are never sustained? Why is the National Guard hardly armed, unorganized, withheld from every military action? Why is the casting of cannon not proceeded with? Six weeks of idle talk and inactivity cannot leave the least doubt as to the incapacity or ill-will of the Government.
This same thought occupies all minds. Let the make room for those that believe in the Defence; let Paris ion of herself; let the Commune of be revived to save the city and France. Every day this resolution sinks more deeply into virile minds. On the 27th the Combat, which preached the e in high-flown phraseology whose musical rhythm struck the muses more than the nervous dialectics of Blanqui, hurls a terrific thunderbolt.
The next day the Combat declared that they had the statement from Rochefort, to whom Flourens had communicated it. Other complications followed. On, the 20th a surprise made us masters of Bourget, a village in the north-east of Paris, and on the 29th the general staff announced this success as a triumph. The whole day it left our soldiers without food, without reinforcements, under the fire of the Prussians, who, returning on the 30th 15, strong, recovered the village from its 1, defenders.
Thiers for the purpose of negotiating an armistice. The men of the 4th September believed they were saved, that their goal was reached. Paris started up as with an electric shock, at the same time rousing Marseilles, Toulouse, and Saint-Etienne. Notwithstanding the resistance of the mobiles who defended the entrance, they invaded the vestibule. Arago and his adjuncts hastened thither, swore that the Government was exhausting itself in efforts to save us.
The first crowd retired; a second followed hard upon. Trochu in Ciceronic periods demonstrated the uselessness of Bourget, and pretended that he had only just learnt the capitulation of Metz. Others, wishing to pump Trochu, invited him to continue his speech. He recommenced, when a shot was fired in the square, putting an end to the monologue and scaring away the orator.
Cal being re-established, Jules Favre supplied the place of the general, and took up the thread of his discourse. To quell the riot, they proposed the election of municipalities, the formation of battalions of the National Guard, and their joining them to the army. The scapegoat Etienne Aragot was sent to offer this salve to the Government.
Vive la Commune! He exclaimed, struggled, protested that this was against all rules. The mayors supported him as well as they could, and announced that they had demanded the election of the municipalities, and that the decree in that sense was about to be signed.
While the people were thundering at the door, the defenders voted the proposition of the mayors — but in principle, not fixing the date for the elections:  another jesuitical trick. Rochefort in vain promised the municipal elections. They asked for the Commune! One of the delegates of the Committee of the twenty arrondissements, getting upon the tables proclaimed the abolition of the Government.
A Commission was charged to proceed with the elections within forty-eight hours. But Dorian refused. Interminable discussions followed, the disorder became terrible. The men of the 4th September felt they were saved, and smiled as they looked at the conquerors who allowed victory to slip through their fingers.
Thenceforth all became involved in an inextricable imbroglio. Every room had its government, its orators. In the office of the mayor, Etienne Arago and his adjuncts convoked the electors for the next day under the presidency of Dorian and Schoelcher. The whole day Paris had looked on. In the evening everything changed when it became known that the members of the Government were prisoners, and above all who were their substitutes. The measure seemed too strong.
Most of the battalions of the Commune, believing their cause victorious, had returned to their quarters. Blanqui signed and again signed. Delescluze tried to save some remnants from this great movement. During this mortal anarchy the battalions of order grew larger, and Jules Ferry attacked the door opening on the Place Lobau. Delescluze and Dorian informed him of the arrangement which they believed concluded, and induced him to wait.
Jules Ferry invaded the Government room. The indisciplinable mass offered no resistance. Jules Favre and his colleagues were set free. Trochu paraded the streets amidst the pompous pageantry of his battalions. Thus this day, which might have buoyed up the Defence, ended in smoke. The desultoriness, the indiscipline of the patriots restored to the Government its immaculate character of September. Six months after the plebiscite which had made the war, the immense majority of Paris voted the plebiscite that made the capitulation.
Let Paris remember and accuse herself. The army, the mobiles, gave , ayes. There were but 54, civilians and 9, soldiers to say boldly, no. How did it happen that those 60, men, so clear-sighted, prompt and energetic, could not manage to direct public opinion? Simply because they were wanting in cadres, in method, in organizers. The feel of the siege had been unable to discipline the revolutionary Sporty, in such dire confusion a few weeks before, nor had the patriarchs of tried to do so.
The Jacobins like Delescluze and Blanqui, instead of leading the people, lived in an exclusive circle of friends. The others, Ledru-Rollin, Louis Blanc, Schoelcher, the hope of the Republicans under the Empire, returned from exile shallow, pursy, rotten to the core with vanity and selfishness, without courage or patriotism, disdaining the Socialists.
The old Montagnards themselves formed a group of their own, and never came to the Committee of the twenty arrondissements, which only wanted method and political experience to become a power. So it was only a centre of emotions, not of direction — the Gravilliers section of , daring, eloquent, but, like its predecessor, treating of everything by manifestos. There at least was life, a lamp, not always bright, but always burning.
What is the lower middle class contributing now? Where are their Jacobins, even their Cordeliers? At the Corderie I see the workers of the lower middle class, men of the pen and orators, but where is the bulk of the army? All is silent.
Save the faubourgs, Paris was a vast sick chamber, where no one dared to speak above his breath. This moral abdication is the true psychological phenomenon of the siege, all the more extraordinary in that it coexisted with an. If they dread the giddy-headed, the fanatics, or compromising collaborators, why do they not take the direction of the movement into their own hands? No fanatics! And you, citizens of the old sections of , who furnished ideas to the Convention and the Commune, who dictated to them the means of safety, who directed the clubs and fraternal societies, entertained in Paris a hundred luminous centres, do you recognise your offspring in these gulls, weaklings, jealous of the people, prostrate before the Left like devotees before the host?
On the 5th and 7th they renewed their plebiscitory vote, naming twelve of the twenty mayors named by Arago. Four amongst them, Dubail, Vautrain, Tirard, and Desmarets, belong to the pure reaction. The greater part of the adjuncts were of the Liberal type. These latter could not take their seats.
The Government, violating the convention of Dorian and Tamisier, had issued warrants for their arrest, and for that of about twenty other revolutionaries. The army, the mobiles, the marines numbered, according to the plebiscite, , men and 7, officers: , National Guards capable of serving a campaign might easily have been picked out in Paris, and , left for the defence of the interior.
Why, in every Parisian mechanic there is the stuff of a gunner, as the Commune has sufficiently proved. In everything else there was the same superabundance. Paris swarmed with engineers, overseers, foremen, who might have been drilled into officers. There lying wasted were all the materials for a victorious army. The gouty martinets of the regular army saw here nothing but barbarism.
In their pleasant intimacy they made much fun of the defence. They conceived an implacable, rabid hatred to the National Guard, and up to the last hour refused to utilize it. Instead of amalgamating the forces of Paris, of giving to all the same cadres, the same uniforms, the same flag, the proud name of National Guard, Trochu had maintained the three divisions: the army, mobiles, and civilians.
This was the natural consequence of his opinion of the Defence. The army, incited by the staff, shared its hatred of Paris, who imposed on it, it was said, useless fatigues. The mobiles of the provinces, prompted by their officers, the cream of the country squires, became also embittered. Les trente sous! Collisions were to be feared every day. The Government broke off the negotiations, which, notwithstanding their victory, they could not have pursued without foundering, decreed the creation of marching companies m the National Guard, and accelerated the cannon-founding, but did not believe a whit the more in defence, still steered towards peace.
Riots formed the chief subject of their preoccupation. In this direction they were pushed on by the big bourgeoisie. But the irresistible force of events had provided the proletariat with arms, and to make them inefficient in their hands became now the supreme aim of the bourgeoisie.
For two months they had been biding their time, and the plebiscite told them it had come. Trochu held Paris, and by the clergy they held Trochu, all the closer in that he believed himself to be amenable only to his conscience. Strange conscience, full of trapdoors, with more complications than those of a theatre.
Michael of threatened society. This marks the second period of the defence. It may perhaps be traced to a cabinet in the Rue des Postes, for the chiefs of the clergy saw more clearly than any one else the danger of inuring the working men to war.
Their intrigues were full of cunning. Violent reactionists would have spoilt all, precipitated Paris into a revolution. Like the fisherman Struggling with too big a prey, they bewildered Pads, now apparently allowing her to swim in her own element, then suddenly weakening her by the harpoon. On the 28th November Trochu gave a first performance to a full-band accompaniment.
I shall return to Paris dead or victorious. You may see me fall; you will never see me retreat. She fancied herself on the eve of Jemmapes, when the Parisian volunteers scaled the artillery-defended heights; for this time the National Guard was to take part in the proceedings.
We were to force an opening by the Marne in order to join the mythical armies of the provinces, and cross the river at Nogent. It was necessary to wait till the next day. The enemy, instead of being surprised, was able to put himself on the defensive. On the 30th a spirited assault made us masters of Champigny. The next day Ducrot remained inactive, while the enemy, emptying out of Versailles, accumulated its forces upon Champigny.
On the 2nd they recovered part of the village. The whole day we fought severely. We had 8, dead or wounded out of the , men who had been sent out, and of the 50, engaged. For twenty days Trochu rested on his laurels. On the mere report of the commanding general at Vincennes, he also stigmatized the th battalion. Flourens was arrested. On the 20th of December these rabid purgers of our own ranks consented to take a little notice of the Prussians. The mobiles of the Seine were launched without cannons against the walls of Stains and to the attack of Bourget.
The enemy received them with a crushing artillery. An advantage obtained on the right of the Ville-Evrard was not followed up. The soldiers returned in the greatest consternation, some of them crying, Vive la paix! When there was a goodly number of dead, Trochu discovered that the position was of no importance, and evacuated. These repeated foils began to wear out the credulity of Paris. From hour to hour the sting of hunger was increasing, and horse-flesh had become a delicacy.
Dogs, cats, and rats were eagerly devoured. The women waited for hours in the cold and mud for a starvation allowance. For bread they got black grout, that tortured the stomach. Wood was worth its weight in gold, and the poor had only to warm them the despatches of Gambetta, always announcing fantastic successes. Were they to give in, their arms intact? The mayors did not stir. Jules Favre gave them little weekly receptions, where they gossiped about the cuisine of the siege.
His colleagues protested, more especially Dubail and Vacherot. He returned to the charge on the 4th. No more attention was paid him than before. By their procrastination, their indecision, their inertia, those who govern us have led us to the brink of the abyss. They have known neither how to administer nor how to fight. We die of cold, almost of hunger. Sorties without object, deadly struggles without results, repeated failures. The Government has given the measure of its capacity; it is killing us.
The perpetuation of this regime means capitulation. The politics, the strategies, the administration of the Empire continued by the men of the 4th of September have been judged. Make way for the people! Make way for the Commune! However incapable of action the Committee may have been, its idea were just and precise, and to the end of the siege it remained thee indefatigable, sagacious monitor of Paris.
The multitude who wanted illustrious names, paid no attention to these posters. Some of those who had signed it were arrested. The Prussians bombarded our houses from the forts of Issy and of Vanves, and on the 30th December, Trochu, having declared all further action impossible, invoked the opinion of all his generals, and wound up by proposing that he should be replaced. On the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th January the Defenders discussed the election of an Assembly which was to follow the catastrophe.
Republican Alliance, where Ledru-Rollin officiated before half-a-dozen incense bearers, the Republican Union, and other bourgeois chapels, went so far as to very energetically demand a Parisian Assembly to organize the defence. The Government felt it had no time to lose. If the bourgeoisie joined the people, it would become impossible to capitulate without a formidable uprising.
The population which cheered under the shells would not allow itself to be given up like a flock of sheep. Urged on by Jules Favre and Picard on the one hand, and on the other by the simple-minded Emmanuel Arago, Garnier-Pages, and Pelletan, the quack Trochu consented to give a last performance. It was got up as a farce  at the same time as the capitulation.
Trochu was willing to accept the mayors m coadjutors on the question of capitulation and revictualling. Jules Simon and Garnier-Pages were willing to surrender Paris, and only make some reserve with regard to France. Garnier-Pages proposed to name by special elections mandatories charged to capitulate. Such was their vigil before the battle. On the 18th the din of trumpets and drums called Paris to arms and put the Prussians on the alert. For this supreme effort Trochu had been able to muster only 84, men, of whom nineteen regiments belonged to the National Guard.
He made them pass the night, which was cold and rainy, in the mud of the fields of Mont-Valdrien. The attack was directed against the defences that covered Versailles from the side of La Bergerie. Cloud, pushing forward as far as Garches, occupying, in one word, all the posts designated. General Ducrot, commanding the left wing, had arrived two hours behind time, and though his army consisted chiefly of troops of the line, he did not advance.
We had conquered several commanding heights which the generals did not arm. Ours gave way at first, then, steadying themselves, checked the onward movement of the enemy. Out of artillery pieces, thirty only had been employed. But the generals, who during the whole day had hardly deigned to communicate with the National Guard, declared they could not hold out a second nigh! Battalions returned weeping with rage.
All understood that the whole affair was a cruel mockery. The General asked for an armistice of two days to carry off the wounded and bury the dead. This time Paris at last saw the abyss. Besides, the Defenders, disdaining all further disguise, suddenly dropped the mask. Jules Favre and Trochu summoned the mayors.
Trochu declared that all was lost and any further struggle impossible. On this the 20th of January found Paris, notwithstanding her credulity, her weakness, the same Paris as on the 20th September. Thus, when the fatal word was uttered, the city seemed at first wonder-struck, as at the sight of some monstrous, unnatural crime. The wounds of four months opened again, crying for vengeance. Cold, starvation, bombardment, the long nights in the trenches, the little children dying by thousands, death scattered abroad in the sorties, and all to end in shame, to form an escort for Bazaine, to become a second Metz.
One fancied one could hear the Prussian sneering. With some, stupor turned into rage. Those who were longing for the surrender threw themselves into attitudes. The white-livered mayors even affected to fly into a passion. On the evening of the 2 Ist they were again received by Trochu. That same morning all the generals had unanimously decided that another sortie was impossible.
Trochu very philosophically demonstrated to the mayors the absolute necessity of making advances to the enemy, but declared he would have nothing to do with it, insinuating that they should capitulate in his stead. They cut wry faces, protested, still imagining they were not responsible for this issue. After their departure the Defenders deliberated.
Jules Favre asked to tender his resignation. But he, the apostle, insisted upon being by them, fancying thus to cheat history into the belief that he had to the last resisted capitulation. A body. The bewildered governor had let them have their way. The Defenders, fearing a repetition of the 31st October, hurried on their resolution replacing Trochu by Vinoy. He wanted to be implored. At that very moment, the morning of the 22nd, the prefect of police, declaring himself powerless, had sent in his resignation.
The men of the 4th September had fallen so low as to bend their knees before those of the 2nd December. Vinoy condescended to yield. His first act was to arm against Paris, to dismantle her lines before the Prussians, to recall the troops of Suresne, Gentilly, Les Lilas, to call out the cavalry and gendarmerie.
There were signs of anger afloat, but no symptoms of a serious collision. Many revolutionaries, well aware that all was at an end, would not support a movement which, if successful, would have saved the men of the Defence and forced the victors to capitulate in their stead.
Others, whose patriotism was not enlightened by reason, still warm from the ardour of Buzenval, believed in a sortie en masse. We must at least, said they, save our honour. A deputation, led by a member of the Alliance, was received by G. Chaudey, adjunct to the mayor, for the Government was seated at the Louvre since the 31st October.
The orator said the wrongs of Paris necessitated the nomination of the Commune. Chaudey answered that the Commune was nonsense; that he always had, and always would oppose it. Another, more eager deputation arrived. Chaudey received it with insults.
Meanwhile the excitement was spreading to the crowd that filled the square. Others joined them. Sheltered by lamp-posts and some heaps of sand, some National Guards sustained the fire of the mobiles. Others fired from the houses in the Avenue Victoria. The fusillade had been going on for half an hour when the gendarmes appeared at the corner of the Avenue. The insurgents, almost surrounded, made a retreat.
Jules Ferry recoiled, and had them sent before the regular court-martials. Those who had got up the demonstration and the inoffensive crowd of spectators had thirty killed or wounded, among others a man of great energy, Commandant Sapia. The same evening the government closed all the clubs and issued numerous warrants. Eighty-three persons, most of them innocent,  were melted.
This occasion was also taken advantage of to send Delescluze, notwithstanding his sixty-five years, and an acute bronchitis which was undermining his health, to rejoin the prisoners of the 31st October, thrown pell-mell into a damp dungeon at Vincennes. In this only they were Jacobins. Who served the enemy? The Government ever ready to negotiate, or the men ever offering a desperate resistance? History will tell how at Metz an immense army, with cadres, well-trained soldiers, allowed itself to be given over without a single marshal, chef-de-corps, or a regiment rising to save it from Bazaine;  whereas the revolutionaries of Paris, without leaders, without organization, before , soldiers and mobiles gained over to peace, delayed the capitulation for months and revenged it with their blood.
And as there was also a child present—a fair-haired girl, eleven or twelve years old, with a long and gentle face and that intelligent and somewhat aged expression which great misery imparts to children—he called her to him, and held her between his knees, doubtless to keep her away from the man in the cassock.
But Salvat, you hear? Do you know a Laveuve here? We call him the Philosopher, a nickname folks have given him in the neighbourhood. However, he did not speak, but relapsed into the savage, heavy silence, the bitter meditation in which he had been plunged when the priest arrived. He was a journeyman engineer, and gazed obstinately at the table where lay his little leather tool-bag, bulging with something it contained—something, perhaps, which he had to take back to a work-shop.
He might have been thinking of a long, enforced spell of idleness, of a vain search for any kind of work during the two previous months of that terrible winter. Or perhaps it was the coming bloody reprisals of the starvelings that occupied the fiery reverie which set his large, strange, vague blue eyes aglow. All at once he noticed that his daughter had taken up the tool-bag and was trying to open it to see what it might contain. At this he quivered and at last spoke, his voice kindly, yet bitter with sudden emotion, which made him turn pale.
She was not in favour of hustling priests when they took the trouble to call, for at times there was a little money to be got from them. And when she realised that Salvat, who had once more relapsed into his black reverie, left her free to act as she pleased, she at once tendered her services. But one must know the way, for there are still some steps to climb. And Salvat remained alone in that den of poverty and suffering, injustice and anger, without a fire, without bread, haunted by his burning dream, his eyes again fixed upon his bag, as if there, among his tools, he possessed the wherewithal to heal the ailing world.
It indeed proved necessary to climb a few more steps; and then, following Madame Theodore and Celine, Pierre found himself in a kind of narrow garret under the roof, a loft a few yards square, where one could not stand erect.
There was no window, only a skylight, and as the snow still covered it one had to leave the door wide open in order that one might see. And the thaw was entering the place, the melting snow was falling drop by drop, and coming over the tiled floor. After long weeks of intense cold, dark dampness rained quivering over all. And there, lacking even a chair, even a plank, Laveuve lay in a corner on a little pile of filthy rags spread upon the bare tiles; he looked like some animal dying on a dung-heap.
But what would you have? He has nobody left him, and when one gets to seventy the best is to throw oneself into the river. In the house-painting line it often happens that a man has to give up working on ladders and scaffoldings at fifty. He at first found some work to do on the ground level. Then he was lucky enough to get a job as night watchman. We others sometimes bring him a little wine and a crust, of course; but when one has nothing oneself, how can one give to others?
Here, on a human face, appeared all the ruin following upon hopeless labour. But above all else one noticed his resemblance to some beast of burden, deformed by hard toil, lamed, worn to death, and now only good for the knackers. And not a hospital, not an asylum has given him shelter? And he speaks coarsely to those who question him, not to mention that he has the reputation of liking drink and talking badly about the gentle-folks.
But, thank Heaven, he will now soon be delivered. And in the interval she told Pierre how Laveuve was at one moment to have entered the Asylum of the Invalids of Labour, a charitable enterprise whose lady patronesses were presided over by Baroness Duvillard.
However, the usual regulation inquiries had doubtless led to such an unfavourable report that matters had gone no further. Pierre had no card with him, and so all three went into the room. But Salvat was no longer alone there.
He stood talking in a low voice very quickly, and almost mouth to mouth, with a young fellow of twenty. The latter, who was slim and dark, with a sprouting beard and hair cut in brush fashion, had bright eyes, a straight nose and thin lips set in a pale and slightly freckled face, betokening great intelligence. With stern and stubborn brow, he stood shivering in his well-worn jacket.
The two men had glanced at the priest and then looked at one another, each with terrible mien. And they suddenly ceased speaking in the bitter cold which fell from the ceiling. Then, again with infinite precaution, Salvat went to take his tool-bag from alongside the wall. He did not answer, but merely made an angry gesture, as if to say that he would no longer have anything to do with work since work for so long a time had not cared to have anything to do with him.
At what time will you be back? And tears rising, despite all his efforts, to his vague, blue, glowing eyes he caught hold of his daughter Celine, kissed her violently, distractedly, and then went off, with his bag under his arm, followed by his young companion. It all upsets their heads, and they talk of blowing up everybody. For my part those are not my notions, but I forgive them, oh! Then afterwards he became a mechanician, and a very good workman, I assure you, very skilful and very painstaking.
But he already had those ideas of his, and quarrelled with people, and tried to bring his mates over to his views; and so he was unable to stay anywhere. At last, when he was thirty, he was stupid enough to go to America with an inventor, who traded on him to such a point that after six years of it he came back ill and penniless. I must tell you that he had married my younger sister Leonie, and that she died before he went to America, leaving him little Celine, who was then only a year old.
But he ended by deserting me and going off with a young woman of twenty, which, after all, caused me more pleasure than grief. And naturally when Salvat came back he sought me out and found me alone with his little Celine, whom he had left in my charge when he went away, and who called me mamma. The misfortune is that he had a stroke lately. As for me, my eyes are done for; I ruined them by working ten hours a day at fine needlework. Everything has fallen on him, everything has beaten him down.
Why, a saint even would have gone mad, so that one can understand that a poor beggar who has never had any luck should get quite wild. For the last two months he has only met one good heart, a learned gentleman who lives up yonder on the height, Monsieur Guillaume Froment, who has given him a little work, just something to enable us to have some soup now and then.
They had come downstairs, there to continue their interrupted colloquy. And again, they were talking in very low tones, and very quickly, mouth to mouth, absorbed in the violent thoughts which made their eyes flare. Victor went up towards Montmartre, whilst Salvat hesitated like a man who is consulting destiny. Then, as if trusting himself to stern chance, drawing up his thin figure, the figure of a weary, hungry toiler, he turned into the Rue Marcadet, and walked towards Paris, his tool-bag still under his arm.
For an instant Pierre felt a desire to run and call to him that his little girl wished him to go back again. But the same feeling of uneasiness as before came over the priest—a commingling of discretion and fear, a covert conviction that nothing could stay destiny. And he himself was no longer calm, no longer experienced the icy, despairing distress of the early morning. On finding himself again in the street, amidst the quivering fog, he felt the fever, the glow of charity which the sight of such frightful wretchedness had ignited, once more within him.
No, no! The new experiment presented itself with that city of Paris which he had seen shrouded as with ashes, so mysterious and so perturbing beneath the threat of inevitable justice. And he dreamed of a huge sun bringing health and fruitfulness, which would make of the huge city the fertile field where would sprout the better world of to-morrow.
And on that chilly day, all thaw and fog, the regal mansion in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy near the Boulevard de la Madeleine bloomed with the rarest flowers, for flowers were the greatest passion of the Baroness, who transformed the lofty, sumptuous rooms, littered with marvels, into warm and odoriferous conservatories, whither the gloomy, livid light of Paris penetrated caressingly with infinite softness.
The great reception rooms were on the ground-floor looking on to the spacious courtyard, and preceded by a little winter garden, which served as a vestibule where two footmen in liveries of dark green and gold were invariably on duty. A famous gallery of paintings, valued at millions of francs, occupied the whole of the northern side of the house.
And the grand staircase, of a sumptuousness which also was famous, conducted to the apartments usually occupied by the family, a large red drawing-room, a small blue and silver drawing-room, a study whose walls were hung with old stamped leather, and a dining-room in pale green with English furniture, not to mention the various bedchambers and dressing-rooms. Built in the time of Louis XIV.
Noon had not yet struck, and Baron Duvillard, contrary to custom, found himself the first in the little blue and silver salon. He was a man of sixty, tall and sturdy, with a large nose, full cheeks, broad, fleshy lips, and wolfish teeth, which had remained very fine. He had, however, become bald at an early age, and dyed the little hair that was left him. Moreover, since his beard had turned white, he had kept his face clean-shaven. His grey eyes bespoke his audacity, and in his laugh there was a ring of conquest, while the whole of his face expressed the fact that this conquest was his own, that he wielded the sovereignty of an unscrupulous master, who used and abused the power stolen and retained by his caste.
He took a few steps, and then halted in front of a basket of wonderful orchids near the window. On the mantel-piece and table tufts of violets sent forth their perfume, and in the warm, deep silence which seemed to fall from the hangings, the Baron sat down and stretched himself in one of the large armchairs, upholstered in blue satin striped with silver.
He had taken a newspaper from his pocket, and began to re-peruse an article it contained, whilst all around him the entire mansion proclaimed his immense fortune, his sovereign power, the whole history of the century which had made him the master. His father, Gregoire Duvillard, born in , and the real great man of the family—he who had first reigned in the Rue Godot-de-Mauroy, after King Louis Philippe had granted him the title of Baron—remained one of the recognized heroes of modern finance by reason of the scandalous profits which he had made in every famous thieving speculation of the July Monarchy and the Second Empire, such as mines, railroads, and the Suez Canal.
However, he had done so with such a rageful appetite, that in a quarter of a century he had again doubled the family fortune. He rotted and devoured, corrupted, swallowed everything that he touched; and he was also the tempter personified—the man who bought all consciences that were for sale—having fully understood the new times and its tendencies in presence of the democracy, which in its turn had become hungry and impatient.
Inferior though he was both to his father and his grandfather, being a man of enjoyment, caring less for the work of conquest than the division of the spoil, he nevertheless remained a terrible fellow, a sleek triumpher, whose operations were all certainties, who amassed millions at each stroke, and treated with governments on a footing of equality, able as he was to place, if not France, at least a ministry in his pocket.
In one century and three generations, royalty had become embodied in him: a royalty already threatened, already shaken by the tempest close ahead. And at times his figure grew and expanded till it became, as it were, an incarnation of the whole bourgeoisie—that bourgeoisie which at the division of the spoils in appropriated everything, and has since fattened on everything at the expense of the masses, and refuses to restore anything whatever.
The article which the Baron was re-perusing in a halfpenny newspaper interested him. Quite a romantic story was mingled with all this, the adventures of a certain Hunter, whom the Baron had employed as his go-between and who had now fled. The Baron, however, re-perused each sentence and weighed each word of the article very calmly; and although he was alone he shrugged his shoulders and spoke aloud with the tranquil assurance of a man whose responsibility is covered and who is, moreover, too powerful to be molested.
As a rule, too, he had laughing eyes, and something giddy, flighty, bird-like in his demeanour; but that morning he seemed nervous, anxious even, and smiled in a scared way. How can Sagnier have got hold of the list of names? Has there been some traitor? Duthil, the son of a notary of Angouleme, almost poor and very honest, had been sent to Paris as deputy for that town whilst yet very young, thanks to the high reputation of his father; and he there led a life of pleasure and idleness, even as he had formerly done when a student.
And then, too, it was merely an ordinary affair; nothing more was done than is always done in such matters of business. But have you seen Silviane? I found her in a great rage with you. She learnt this morning that her affair of the Comedie is off.
He, who could scoff so calmly at the threat of the African Railways scandal, lost his balance and felt his blood boiling directly there was any question of Silviane, the last, imperious passion of his sixtieth year. Her idea seemed an insane one, and all Paris laughed at it; but the young woman, with superb assurance, kept herself well to the front, and imperiously demanded the role, feeling sure that she would conquer. The Baron was choking. At forty-six years of age she was still very beautiful.
Very fair and tall, having hitherto put on but little superfluous fat, and retaining perfect arms and shoulders, with speckless silky skin, it was only her face that was spoiling, colouring slightly with reddish blotches. And these blemishes were her torment, her hourly thought and worry.
Her Jewish origin was revealed by her somewhat long and strangely charming face, with blue and softly voluptuous eyes. As indolent as an Oriental slave, disliking to have to move, walk, or even speak, she seemed intended for a harem life, especially as she was for ever tending her person. That day she was all in white, gowned in a white silk toilette of delicious and lustrous simplicity. Duthil complimented her, and kissed her hand with an enraptured air. Paris is so black and muddy this morning.
I have a few more words to say to you about the affair in question. Monsieur de Quinsac will keep my wife company for a moment. For a month past I have not had that happiness. The Steinbergers—after the fashion of the Rothschilds—were originally four brothers—Justus, residing in Paris, and the three others at Berlin, Vienna, and London, a circumstance which gave their secret association most formidable power in the financial markets of Europe.
Justus, however, was the least wealthy of the four, and in Baron Gregoire Duvillard he had a redoubtable adversary against whom he was compelled to struggle each time that any large prey was in question. He wished to marry her, and his father, who knew him, consented, in reality greatly amused to think that Justus was making an execrably bad stroke of business.
The enterprise became indeed disastrous for Justus when Henri succeeded his father and the man of prey appeared from beneath the man of pleasure and carved himself his own huge share in exploiting the unbridled appetites of the middle-class democracy, which had at last secured possession of power. After she had borne him a daughter and a son in turn, he suddenly drew away from her, neglected her, as if she were a mere toy that he no longer cared for.
Then, however, without any kind of recrimination, any display of anger, or even any particular effort to regain her ascendency over him, she, on her side, imitated his example. She could not live without love, and assuredly she had only been born to be beautiful, to fascinate and reap adoration.
To the lover whom she chose when she was five and twenty she remained faithful for more than fifteen years, as faithful as she might have been to a husband; and when he died her grief was intense, it was like real widowhood. Six months later, however, having met Count Gerard de Quinsac she had again been unable to resist her imperative need of adoration, and an intrigue had followed.
He belonged to one of the oldest families of France, and resided on a ground-floor in the Rue St. Gerard for his part had never done anything; contenting himself with his one year of obligatory military service, he had renounced the profession of arms in the same way as he had renounced that of diplomacy, the only one that offered him an opening of any dignity.
However, she no doubt had more intimate, more disturbing reasons for indulgence. She had nearly lost him when he was only seven, through an attack of brain fever. At eighteen he had complained of his heart, and the doctors had recommended that he should be treated gently in all respects.
She knew, therefore, what a lie lurked behind his proud demeanour, within his lofty figure, that haughty facade of his race. He was but dust, ever threatened with illness and collapse. In the depths of his seeming virility there was merely girlish abandon; and he was simply a weak, good-natured fellow, liable to every stumble. It was on the occasion of a visit which he had paid with his mother to the Asylum of the Invalids of Labour that he had first seen Eve, whom he continued to meet; his mother, closing her eyes to this culpable connection in a sphere of society which she treated with contempt, in the same way as she had closed them to so many other acts of folly which she had forgiven because she regarded them as the mere lapses of an ailing child.
Moreover, Eve had made a conquest of Madame de Quinsac, who was very pious, by an action which had recently amazed society. It had been suddenly learnt that she had allowed Monseigneur Martha to convert her to the Roman Catholic faith. And all Paris was still stirred by the magnificence exhibited at the Madeleine, on the occasion of the baptism of this Jewess of five and forty, whose beauty and whose tears had upset every heart.
Gerard, on his side, was still flattered by the deep and touching tenderness shown to him; but weariness was coming, and he had already sought to break off the connection by avoiding any further assignations. She had heard nothing; but by the smile which the others had exchanged, by the very quiver of the air, she understood everything; an assignation for that very day and at the very spot which she suspected.
Some slight embarrassment followed, an exchange of anxious and evil glances. Camille, at three and twenty, was a very dark young woman, short of stature and somewhat deformed, with her left shoulder higher than the right. There seemed to be nothing of her father or mother in her. Her case was one of those unforeseen accidents in family heredity which make people wonder whence they can arise.
Her only pride lay in her beautiful black eyes and superb black hair, which, short as she was, would, said she, have sufficed to clothe her. But her nose was long, her face deviated to the left, and her chin was pointed. Her thin, witty, and malicious lips bespoke all the rancour and perverse anger stored in the heart of this uncomely creature, whom the thought of her uncomeliness enraged. However, the one whom she most hated in the whole world was her own mother, that amorosa who was so little fitted to be a mother, who had never loved her, never paid attention to her, but had abandoned her to the care of servants from her very infancy.
In this wise real hatred had grown up between the two women, mute and frigid on the one side, and active and passionate on the other. The daughter hated her mother because she found her beautiful, because she had not been created in the same image: beautiful with the beauty with which her mother crushed her. Day by day she suffered at being sought by none, at realising that the adoration of one and all still went to her mother. As she was amusing in her maliciousness, people listened to her and laughed; however, the glances of all the men—even and indeed especially the younger ones—soon reverted to her triumphant mother, who seemingly defied old age.
In part for this reason Camille, with ferocious determination, had decided that she would dispossess her mother of her last lover Gerard, and marry him herself, conscious that such a loss would doubtless kill the Baroness. It worried him to see her forsaken by everyone, and little by little he yielded to the grateful tenderness which she displayed towards him, happy, handsome man that he was, at being regarded as a demi-god and having such a slave.
Indeed, in his attempt to quit the mother there was certainly a thought of allowing the daughter to marry him, which would be an agreeable ending to it all, though he did not as yet acknowledge this, ashamed as he felt and embarrassed by his illustrious name and all the complications and tears which he foresaw. The silence continued.
Camille with her piercing glance, as sharp as any knife, had told her mother that she knew the truth; and then with another and pain-fraught glance she had complained to Gerard. A wretched scholar, regarding every profession with the same contempt, he had decided to do nothing. Spoilt by his father, he took some little interest in poetry and music, and lived in an extraordinary circle of artists, low women, madmen and bandits; boasting himself of all sorts of crimes and vices, professing the very worst philosophical and social ideas, invariably going to extremes, becoming in turn a Collectivist, an Individualist, an Anarchist, a Pessimist, a Symbolist, and what not besides; without, however, ceasing to be a Catholic, as this conjunction of Catholicity with something else seemed to him the supreme bon ton.
In reality he was simply empty and rather a fool. In four generations the vigorous hungry blood of the Duvillards, after producing three magnificent beasts of prey, had, as if exhausted by the contentment of every passion, ended in this sorry emasculated creature, who was incapable alike of great knavery or great debauchery.
Come and show her your gown. You are the one who would look nice dressed as a young girl. He was covertly afraid of her, though they lived together in great intimacy, frankly exchanging confidences respecting their perverse views of life. And he directed a glance of disdain at the wonderful basket of orchids which seemed to him past the fashion, far too common nowadays.
For his part he had left the lilies of life behind him, and reached the ranunculus, the flower of blood. The two last guests who were expected now arrived almost together. The first was the investigating magistrate Amadieu, a little man of five and forty, who was an intimate of the household and had been brought into notoriety by a recent anarchist affair.
Between a pair of fair, bushy whiskers he displayed a flat, regular judicial face, to which he tried to impart an expression of keenness by wearing a single eyeglass behind which his glance sparkled. Very worldly, moreover, he belonged to the new judicial school, being a distinguished psychologist and having written a book in reply to the abuses of criminalist physiology.
And he was also a man of great, tenacious ambition, fond of notoriety and ever on the lookout for those resounding legal affairs which bring glory. Chronic rheumatism had recently compelled him to retire from the service. Raised to a colonelcy after the Franco-German War in reward for his gallant conduct at St. Privat, he had, in spite of his extremely monarchical connections, kept his sworn faith to Napoleon III.
And he was excused in his own sphere of society for this species of military Bonapartism, on account of the bitterness with which he accused the Republic of having ruined the army. However, the Baron and Duthil now returned from the study, laughing loudly in an exaggerated way, doubtless to make the others believe that they were quite easy in mind. And one and all passed into the large dining-room where a big wood fire was burning, its gay flames shining like a ray of springtide amid the fine mahogany furniture of English make laden with silver and crystal.
The room, of a soft mossy green, had an unassuming charm in the pale light, and the table which in the centre displayed the richness of its covers and the immaculate whiteness of its linen adorned with Venetian point, seemed to have flowered miraculously with a wealth of large tea roses, most admirable blooms for the season, and of delicious perfume. The Baroness seated the General on her right, and Amadieu on her left.
The Baron on his right placed Duthil, and on his left Gerard. Then the young people installed themselves at either end, Camille between Gerard and the General, and Hyacinthe between Duthil and Amadieu. And forthwith, from the moment of starting on the scrambled eggs and truffles, conversation began, the usual conversation of Parisian dejeuners, when every event, great or little, of the morning or the day before is passed in review: the truths and the falsehoods current in every social sphere, the financial scandal, and the political adventure of the hour, the novel that has just appeared, the play that has just been produced, the stories which should only be retailed in whispers, but which are repeated aloud.
And beneath all the light wit which circulates, beneath all the laughter, which often has a false ring, each retains his or her particular worry, or distress of mind, at times so acute that it becomes perfect agony. All those whom Sagnier threatens may sleep in peace. Leave to interpellate will certainly be asked for this afternoon. We ought to have laws against it. With a light, discreet step the house-steward presented some grilled mullet.
So noiseless was the service amid the cheerful perfumed warmth that not even the faintest clatter of crockery was heard. It was a question of that revival in which Silviane was so stubbornly determined to make her debut. However, the Baron and the Baroness evinced perfect serenity, having long been acquainted with all that concerned each other. They have no actresses left there. Meantime the old Bordeaux glittered like ruby blood in the delicate crystal glasses.
A truffled fillet of venison had just cast its somewhat sharp scent amidst the dying perfume of the roses, when some asparagus made its appearance, a primeur which once had been so rare but which no longer caused any astonishment. Shall you go? But the truth, it seems, is that her husband, a real Prince, connected with a royal house and very handsome, is travelling about the world in the company of a singer.
Yes, she busies herself with chemistry. Her salon is full of Anarchists now—and, by the way, it seemed to me that she had cast her eyes on you, my dear Hyacinthe. And I admit that hers is the only salon where I find somebody to talk to. Hyacinthe was very much spoilt, and considered very entertaining. His father in particular was immensely amused by the notion that he of all men should have an Anarchist for a son. However, the General, in his rancorous moments, talked anarchically enough of blowing up a society which was so stupid as to let itself be led by half a dozen disreputable characters.
And, indeed, the investigating magistrate, who was gradually making a specialty of Anarchist affairs, proved the only one who opposed the young man, defending threatened civilisation and giving terrifying particulars concerning what he called the army of devastation and massacre. There was so much misery, said they; one must take everything into account: things would surely end by righting themselves. As for all sensible and moderate claims, oh! I agree to them in advance.
For instance, the lot of the working classes may be ameliorated, charitable enterprises may be undertaken, such, for instance, as our Asylum for the Invalids of Labour, which we have reason to be proud of. But we must not be asked for impossibilities. The nervous unconscientiousness of Duthil, threatened with denunciation, was seen to revive; so, too, the anxious anger of the Baron, who was meditating how he might possibly manage to content Silviane. But it was the frightful drama in which the Baroness, Camille and Gerard were concerned that flitted by most visibly across the faces of all three of them: that hateful rivalry of mother and daughter, contending for the man they loved.
And, meantime, the silver-gilt blades of the dessert-knives were delicately peeling choice fruit. And there were bunches of golden grapes looking beautifully fresh, and a procession of sweetmeats, little cakes, an infinity of dainties, over which the most satiated appetites lingered complacently. Pierre had remained standing in the centre of the little blue and silver salon. Seeing a tray on which the coffee and the liqueurs were in readiness, he regretted that he had insisted upon being received.
And his embarrassment increased when the company came in rather noisily, with bright eyes and rosy cheeks. However, his charitable fervour had revived so ardently within him that he overcame this embarrassment, and all that remained to him of it was a slight feeling of discomfort at bringing the whole frightful morning which he had just spent amid such scenes of wretchedness, so much darkness and cold, so much filth and hunger, into this bright, warm, perfumed affluence, where the useless and the superfluous overflowed around those folks who seemed so gay at having made a delightful meal.
However, the Baroness at once came forward with Gerard, for it was through the latter, whose mother he knew, that the priest had been presented to the Duvillards at the time of the famous conversion. I will be with you in an instant. Gerard, however, remained with Pierre; and, it so chanced, began to speak to him of the Asylum for the Invalids of Labour, where they had met one another at the recent laying of the foundation-stone of a new pavilion which was being erected, thanks to a handsome donation of , francs made by Baron Duvillard.
But the truth was that a magnificent chapel, erected in the centre of the site, had absorbed two-thirds of the funds hitherto collected. This morning, in a frightful house, in the Rue des Saules, behind Montmartre, I beheld a sight which utterly upset me. You can have no idea what an abode of misery and suffering it was; its inmates without fire or bread, the men reduced to idleness because there is no work, the mothers having no more milk for their babes, the children barely clad, coughing and shivering.
And among all these horrors I saw the worst, the most abominable of all, an old workman, laid on his back by age, dying of hunger, huddled on a heap of rags, in a nook which a dog would not even accept as kennel. What a strange idea of his to have called at the hour when one has just finished dejeuner, when the aroma of hot coffee flatters happy digestion.
Nevertheless he went on, and even ended by raising his voice, yielding to the feeling of revolt which gradually stirred him, going to the end of his terrible narrative, naming Laveuve, insisting on the unjust abandonment in which the old man was left, and asking for succour in the name of human compassion. And the whole company approached to listen to him; he could see the Baron and the General, and Duthil and Amadieu, in front of him, sipping their coffee, in silence, without a gesture.
She was in consternation at so sad a story coming to her to spoil her afternoon when she was looking forward to her assignation with Gerard. Weak and indolent as she was, lacking all initiative, too much occupied moreover with her own person, she had only accepted the presidency of the Committee on the condition that all administrative worries were to fall on Fonsegue. But I can do nothing, nothing at all, I assure you.
Moreover, I believe that we have already inquired into the affair of that man Laveuve. With us, you know, there must be the most serious guarantees with regard to every admission. A reporter is chosen who has to give us full information. For he is always drunk; and, besides that, he has the most hateful disposition imaginable, crying out from morning till evening against the bourgeois, and saying that if he had any strength left in his arms he would undertake to blow up the whole show.
And there are so many of them like that, who rather than be succoured prefer their liberty, with cold and hunger and death. Well then, let the Laveuves die in the street, since they refuse to be with us, and be warm and eat in our asylums! But Duvillard showed himself more generous. He alone can act in an urgent case, for he knows that the ladies have unlimited confidence in him and approve everything he does.
Then he lingered in the saloon for a few minutes listening to Gerard, who obligingly pointed out to him how he might best convince the deputy, which was by alleging how bad an effect such a story could have, should it be brought to light by the revolutionary newspapers.
However, the guests were beginning to take their leave. Then came the turn of Amadieu, who hurried off saying that a serious affair required his presence at the Palace of Justice. And Duthil soon followed him in order to repair to the Chamber.
I must at all events know. The truth was evident. In vain had she attempted to implore Gerard with her eyes. He was standing to take his leave, and turned away his eyes. Pierre, who had become acquainted with many things since he had frequented the house, noticed how all three of them quivered, and divined thereby the mute and terrible drama.
All Paris is swarming there. They keep their rooms too hot, and all those flowers, too, give one the headache. However, when the door of the mansion had closed behind them and they had taken a few steps along the street, it occurred to Pierre that a moment previously a sudden vision had met his gaze.
Had he not seen a workman carrying a tool-bag, standing and waiting on the foot pavement across the road, gazing at that monumental door, closed upon so much fabulous wealth—a workman in whom he fancied he had recognised Salvat, that hungry fellow who had gone off that morning in search of work? At this thought Pierre hastily turned round. Such wretchedness in face of so much affluence and enjoyment made him feel anxious.
But the workman, disturbed in his contemplation, and possibly fearing that he had been recognised, was going off with dragging step. And now, getting only a back view of him, Pierre hesitated, and ended by thinking that he must have been mistaken.
You surely have not come to evangelise us? Wait a moment. Just then, however, it was crowded, and warmed, as it were, by the feverish agitation of the many groups of men that had gathered here and there, and the constant coming and going of those who hastened through the throng.
Most of these were deputies, but there were also numerous journalists and inquisitive visitors. He was tall, apostolically thin, and somewhat neglectful of his person, looking already old and worn for his age, which was but five and forty, though his eyes still glowed with youth behind the glasses which never left his beak-like nose. And he had a warm but grating voice, and had always been known to cough, living on solely because he was bitterly intent on doing so in order to realise the dream of social re-organisation which haunted him.
The son of an impoverished medical man of a northern town, he had come to Paris when very young, living there during the Empire on petty newspaper and other unknown work, and first making a reputation as an orator at the public meetings of the time. Then, after the war, having become the chief of the Collectivist party, thanks to his ardent faith and the extraordinary activity of his fighting nature, he had at last managed to enter the Chamber, where, brimful of information, he fought for his ideas with fierce determination and obstinacy, like a doctrinaire who has decided in his own mind what the world ought to be, and who regulates in advance, and bit by bit, the whole dogma of Collectivism.
However, since he had taken pay as a deputy, the outside Socialists had looked upon him as a mere rhetorician, an aspiring dictator who only tried to cast society in a new mould for the purpose of subordinating it to his personal views and ruling it. We are in mud to our very ears. And the priest himself had ended by taking an interest in this authoritarian dreamer, who was resolved to make men happy in spite even of themselves.
He knew that he was poor, and led a retired life with his wife and four children, to whom he was devoted. It has long been said that there was some nasty jobbery in that suspicious affair of the African railways. And Pierre remained rather scared at this big political affair falling into the midst of his scheme to save a wretched pauper from hunger and death.
Thus he listened without fully understanding the explanations which the Socialist deputy was passionately giving him, while all around them the uproar increased, and bursts of laughter rang out, testifying to the astonishment which the others felt at seeing Mege in conversation with a priest. But I beg your pardon, my dear Monsieur Froment. Come, take a place on that seat and wait for Fonsegue. His surroundings began to influence and interest him, and he gradually forgot Laveuve for the passion of the Parliamentary crisis amidst which he found himself cast.
The frightful Panama adventure was scarcely over; he had followed the progress of that tragedy with the anguish of a man who every night expects to hear the tocsin sound the last hour of olden, agonising society. And now a little Panama was beginning, a fresh cracking of the social edifice, an affair such as had been frequent in all parliaments in connection with big financial questions, but one which acquired mortal gravity from the circumstances in which it came to the front.
Only, behind all that lust of power, that continuous onslaught of ambition, what a distressful prey was stirring—the whole people with all its poverty and its sufferings! You are not one of his constituents from La Correze, are you? And indeed he was a child of Paris, son of a chemist of the St. Denis district, and an ex-dunce of the Lycee Charlemagne, where he had not even finished his studies.
He had failed entirely, and at eighteen years of age had found himself cast into journalism with barely sufficient knowledge of orthography for that calling. And for twelve years now, as he often said, he had been a rolling stone wandering through all spheres of society, confessing some and guessing at others. He had seen everything, and become disgusted with everything, no longer believing in the existence of great men, or of truth, but living peacefully enough on universal malice and folly.
He naturally had no literary ambition, in fact he professed a deliberate contempt for literature. Withal, he was not a fool, but wrote in accordance with no matter what views in no matter what newspaper, having neither conviction nor belief, but quietly claiming the right to say whatever he pleased to the public on condition that he either amused or impassioned it.
What a study in character, eh? A big child, a dreamer of dreams in the skin of a terrible sectarian! I have had a deal of intercourse with him, I know him thoroughly. His system is to use up his adversaries. The misfortune is, however, that others are always springing up, and so his turn never comes at all.
That one yonder who is talking in a little group of frayed frock-coats. He had broad red ears, a hanging under-lip, a large nose, and big, projecting dull eyes. He long dragged out his life in the lower depths of journalism, doing nothing at all brilliant, but wild with ambition and appetite. Then it occurred to him to espouse the cause of the masses, and he made a display of vengeful Catholic socialism, attacking the Republic and all the abominations of the times in the name of justice and morality, under the pretext of curing them.
He began with a series of sketches of financiers, a mass of dirty, uncontrolled, unproved tittle-tattle, which ought to have led him to the dock, but which met, as you know, with such wonderful success when gathered together in a volume. And whenever the stream slackens, why, he invents things just to satisfy his craving for that hubbub on which both his pride and his pocket subsist.
Beneath his thoughtless ferocity he really felt some respect for Sagnier. Lately it occurred to him to get himself acclaimed by the populace, for he pretends to be a kind of King of the Markets, you know. Perhaps he has ended by taking his fine judge-like airs in earnest, and really believes that he is saving the people and helping the cause of virtue.
What astonishes me is his fertility in the arts of denunciation and scandalmongering. Never a morning comes but he discovers some fresh horror, and delivers fresh culprits over to the hatred of the masses. His sales are certain now for some days to come. He ended by questioning the young journalist, surprised as he was that so many deputies should be in the lobbies when the sitting was in progress. The gravest matters, some bill of national interest, might be under discussion, yet every member fled from it at the sudden threat of an interpellation which might overturn the ministry.
Massot pointed to Barroux, the head of the Cabinet, who, though he was out of his element in the Department of Finances, had taken it simply because his generally recognised integrity was calculated to reassure public opinion after the Panama crisis. Barroux was chatting in a corner with the Minister of Public Instruction, Senator Taboureau, an old university man with a shrinking, mournful air, who was extremely honest, but totally ignorant of Paris, coming as he did from some far-away provincial faculty.
Barroux for his part was of decorative aspect, tall, and with a handsome, clean-shaven face, which would have looked quite noble had not his nose been rather too small. Although he was sixty, he still had a profusion of curly snow-white hair completing the somewhat theatrical majesty of his appearance, which he was wont to turn to account when in the tribune.
Coming of an old Parisian family, well-to-do, an advocate by profession, then a Republican journalist under the Empire, he had reached office with Gambetta, showing himself at once honest and romantic, loud of speech, and somewhat stupid, but at the same time very brave and very upright, and still clinging with ardent faith to the principles of the great Revolution.
Moreover, beneath the ostentation of his demeanour, and the pomp of his eloquence, there was a man of hesitating, sentimental nature, a good fellow who shed tears when re-perusing the verses of Lamartine. However, Monferrand, the minister for the Home Department, passed by and drew Barroux aside to whisper a few words in his ear. He, Monferrand, was fifty, short and fat, with a smiling, fatherly air; nevertheless a look of keen intelligence appeared at times on his round and somewhat common face fringed by a beard which was still dark.
In him one divined a man of government, with hands which were fitted for difficult tasks, and which never released a prey. Formerly mayor of the town of Tulle, he came from La Correze, where he owned a large estate. He was certainly a force in motion, one whose constant rise was anxiously watched by keen observers.
He spoke in a simple quiet way, but with extraordinary power of conviction. Having apparently no ambition, affecting indeed the greatest disinterestedness, he nevertheless harboured the most ferocious appetites. Sagnier had written that he was a thief and a murderer, having strangled two of his aunts in order to inherit their property. But even if he were a murderer, he was certainly not a vulgar one. Then, too, came another personage of the drama which was about to be performed—deputy Vignon, whose arrival agitated the various groups.
The two ministers looked at him, whilst he, at once surrounded by his friends, smiled at them from a distance. He was not yet thirty-six. Slim, and of average height, very fair, with a fine blond beard of which he took great care, a Parisian by birth, having rapidly made his way in the government service, at one time Prefect at Bordeaux, he now represented youth and the future in the Chamber.
He had realised that new men were needed in the direction of affairs in order to accomplish the more urgent, indispensable reforms; and very ambitious and intelligent as he was, knowing many things, he already had a programme, the application of which he was quite capable of attempting, in part at any rate.
However, he evinced no haste, but was full of prudence and shrewdness, convinced that his day would dawn, strong in the fact that he was as yet compromised in nothing, but had all space before him. And it was of Vignon that Sagnier had written that he aimed at the Presidency of the Republic, even should he have to march through blood to reach the Elysee Palace. But to understand matters one must first realise what his mode of proceeding was, the skill and the kind of amiable delicacy which he showed, which were far from the brutal corruption and dirty trafficking that people imagine.
One must be such a man as Sagnier to picture a parliament as an open market, where every conscience is for sale and is impudently knocked down to the highest bidder. Thus the article is levelled in particular against Barroux and Monferrand, who are designated in the clearest possible manner although they are not named. You are no doubt aware that at the time of the vote Barroux was at the Home Department and Monferrand at that of Public Works, and so now they are accused of having betrayed their trusts, the blackest of all social crimes.
He came to us from Angouleme to lead the pleasantest of lives here, and he has no more conscience, no more scruples, than the pretty finches of his native part, who are ever love-making. You may be quite sure he feels astonished that people should attach the slightest importance to the matter.
His scanty, straight, yellowish hair, his drooping moustaches, in fact the whole of his distracted countenance, expressed everlasting distress. He came from Arras. He was a solicitor there.
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