Gustave Flaubert.

Sentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 online

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The soldiers of the Line had gone, and only the municipal troops
remained to defend the guard-house. A wave of dauntless spirits dashed
up the steps; they were flung down; others came on to replace them, and
the gate resounded under blows from iron bars. The municipal guards did
not give way. But a wagon, stuffed full of hay, and burning like a
gigantic torch, was dragged against the walls. Faggots were speedily
brought, then straw, and a barrel of spirits of wine. The fire mounted
up to the stones along the wall; the building began to send forth smoke
on all sides like the crater of a volcano; and at its summit, between
the balustrades of the terrace, huge flames escaped with a harsh noise.
The first story of the Palais-Royal was occupied by National Guards.
Shots were fired through every window in the square; the bullets
whizzed, the water of the fountain, which had burst, was mingled with
the blood, forming little pools on the ground. People slipped in the mud
over clothes, shakos, and weapons. Frederick felt something soft under
his foot. It was the hand of a sergeant in a grey great-coat, lying on
his face in the stream that ran along the street. Fresh bands of people
were continually coming up, pushing on the combatants at the
guard-house. The firing became quicker. The wine-shops were open; people
went into them from time to time to smoke a pipe and drink a glass of
beer, and then came back again to fight. A lost dog began to howl. This
made the people laugh.

Frederick was shaken by the impact of a man falling on his shoulder with
a bullet through his back and the death-rattle in his throat. At this
shot, perhaps directed against himself, he felt himself stirred up to
rage; and he was plunging forward when a National Guard stopped him.

"'Tis useless! the King has just gone! Ah! if you don't believe me, go
and see for yourself!"

This assurance calmed Frederick. The Place du Carrousel had a tranquil
aspect. The Hôtel de Nantes stood there as fixed as ever; and the houses
in the rear; the dome of the Louvre in front, the long gallery of wood
at the right, and the waste plot of ground that ran unevenly as far as
the sheds of the stall-keepers were, so to speak, steeped in the grey
hues of the atmosphere, where indistinct murmurs seemed to mingle with
the fog; while, at the opposite side of the square, a stiff light,
falling through the parting of the clouds on the façade of the
Tuileries, cut out all its windows into white patches. Near the Arc de
Triomphe a dead horse lay on the ground. Behind the gratings groups
consisting of five or six persons were chatting. The doors leading into
the château were open, and the servants at the thresholds allowed the
people to enter.

Below stairs, in a kind of little parlour, bowls of _café au lait_ were
handed round. A few of those present sat down to the table and made
merry; others remained standing, and amongst the latter was a
hackney-coachman. He snatched up with both hands a glass vessel full of
powdered sugar, cast a restless glance right and left, and then began to
eat voraciously, with his nose stuck into the mouth of the vessel.

At the bottom of the great staircase a man was writing his name in a
register.

Frederick was able to recognise him by his back.

"Hallo, Hussonnet!"

"Yes, 'tis I," replied the Bohemian. "I am introducing myself at court.
This is a nice joke, isn't it?"

"Suppose we go upstairs?"

And they reached presently the Salle des Maréchaux. The portraits of
those illustrious generals, save that of Bugeaud, which had been pierced
through the stomach, were all intact. They were represented leaning on
their sabres with a gun-carriage behind each of them, and in formidable
attitudes in contrast with the occasion. A large timepiece proclaimed it
was twenty minutes past one.

Suddenly the "Marseillaise" resounded. Hussonnet and Frederick bent over
the balusters. It was the people. They rushed up the stairs, shaking
with a dizzying, wave-like motion bare heads, or helmets, or red caps,
or else bayonets or human shoulders with such impetuosity that some
people disappeared every now and then in this swarming mass, which was
mounting up without a moment's pause, like a river compressed by an
equinoctial tide, with a continuous roar under an irresistible impulse.
When they got to the top of the stairs, they were scattered, and their
chant died away. Nothing could any longer be heard but the tramp of all
the shoes intermingled with the chopping sound of many voices. The crowd
not being in a mischievous mood, contented themselves with looking about
them. But, from time to time, an elbow, by pressing too hard, broke
through a pane of glass, or else a vase or a statue rolled from a
bracket down on the floor. The wainscotings cracked under the pressure
of people against them. Every face was flushed; the perspiration was
rolling down their features in large beads. Hussonnet made this remark:

"Heroes have not a good smell."

"Ah! you are provoking," returned Frederick.

And, pushed forward in spite of themselves, they entered an apartment in
which a dais of red velvet rose as far as the ceiling. On the throne
below sat a representative of the proletariat in effigy with a black
beard, his shirt gaping open, a jolly air, and the stupid look of a
baboon. Others climbed up the platform to sit in his place.

"What a myth!" said Hussonnet. "There you see the sovereign people!"

The armchair was lifted up on the hands of a number of persons and
passed across the hall, swaying from one side to the other.

"By Jove, 'tis like a boat! The Ship of State is tossing about in a
stormy sea! Let it dance the cancan! Let it dance the cancan!"

They had drawn it towards a window, and in the midst of hisses, they
launched it out.

"Poor old chap!" said Hussonnet, as he saw the effigy falling into the
garden, where it was speedily picked up in order to be afterwards
carried to the Bastille and burned.

Then a frantic joy burst forth, as if, instead of the throne, a future
of boundless happiness had appeared; and the people, less through a
spirit of vindictiveness than to assert their right of possession, broke
or tore the glasses, the curtains, the lustres, the tapers, the tables,
the chairs, the stools, the entire furniture, including the very albums
and engravings, and the corbels of the tapestry. Since they had
triumphed, they must needs amuse themselves! The common herd ironically
wrapped themselves up in laces and cashmeres. Gold fringes were rolled
round the sleeves of blouses. Hats with ostriches' feathers adorned
blacksmiths' heads, and ribbons of the Legion of Honour supplied
waistbands for prostitutes. Each person satisfied his or her caprice;
some danced, others drank. In the queen's apartment a woman gave a gloss
to her hair with pomatum. Behind a folding-screen two lovers were
playing cards. Hussonnet pointed out to Frederick an individual who was
smoking a dirty pipe with his elbows resting on a balcony; and the
popular frenzy redoubled with a continuous crash of broken porcelain and
pieces of crystal, which, as they rebounded, made sounds resembling
those produced by the plates of musical glasses.

Then their fury was overshadowed. A nauseous curiosity made them rummage
all the dressing-rooms, all the recesses. Returned convicts thrust their
arms into the beds in which princesses had slept, and rolled themselves
on the top of them, to console themselves for not being able to embrace
their owners. Others, with sinister faces, roamed about silently,
looking for something to steal, but too great a multitude was there.
Through the bays of the doors could be seen in the suite of apartments
only the dark mass of people between the gilding of the walls under a
cloud of dust. Every breast was panting. The heat became more and more
suffocating; and the two friends, afraid of being stifled, seized the
opportunity of making their way out.

In the antechamber, standing on a heap of garments, appeared a girl of
the town as a statue of Liberty, motionless, her grey eyes wide open - a
fearful sight.

They had taken three steps outside the château when a company of the
National Guards, in great-coats, advanced towards them, and, taking off
their foraging-caps, and, at the same time, uncovering their skulls,
which were slightly bald, bowed very low to the people. At this
testimony of respect, the ragged victors bridled up. Hussonnet and
Frederick were not without experiencing a certain pleasure from it as
well as the rest.

They were filled with ardour. They went back to the Palais-Royal. In
front of the Rue Fromanteau, soldiers' corpses were heaped up on the
straw. They passed close to the dead without a single quiver of emotion,
feeling a certain pride in being able to keep their countenance.

The Palais overflowed with people. In the inner courtyard seven piles of
wood were flaming. Pianos, chests of drawers, and clocks were hurled out
through the windows. Fire-engines sent streams of water up to the roofs.
Some vagabonds tried to cut the hose with their sabres. Frederick urged
a pupil of the Polytechnic School to interfere. The latter did not
understand him, and, moreover, appeared to be an idiot. All around, in
the two galleries, the populace, having got possession of the cellars,
gave themselves up to a horrible carouse. Wine flowed in streams and
wetted people's feet; the mudlarks drank out of the tail-ends of the
bottles, and shouted as they staggered along.

"Come away out of this," said Hussonnet; "I am disgusted with the
people."

All over the Orléans Gallery the wounded lay on mattresses on the
ground, with purple curtains folded round them as coverlets; and the
small shopkeepers' wives and daughters from the quarter brought them
broth and linen.

"No matter!" said Frederick; "for my part, I consider the people
sublime."

The great vestibule was filled with a whirlwind of furious individuals.
Men tried to ascend to the upper storys in order to put the finishing
touches to the work of wholesale destruction. National Guards, on the
steps, strove to keep them back. The most intrepid was a chasseur, who
had his head bare, his hair bristling, and his straps in pieces. His
shirt caused a swelling between his trousers and his coat, and he
struggled desperately in the midst of the others. Hussonnet, who had
sharp sight, recognised Arnoux from a distance.

Then they went into the Tuileries garden, so as to be able to breathe
more freely. They sat down on a bench; and they remained for some
minutes with their eyes closed, so much stunned that they had not the
energy to say a word. The people who were passing came up to them and
informed them that the Duchesse d'Orléans had been appointed Regent, and
that it was all over. They were experiencing that species of comfort
which follows rapid _dénouements_, when at the windows of the attics in
the château appeared men-servants tearing their liveries to pieces. They
flung their torn clothes into the garden, as a mark of renunciation. The
people hooted at them, and then they retired.

The attention of Frederick and Hussonnet was distracted by a tall fellow
who was walking quickly between the trees with a musket on his shoulder.
A cartridge-box was pressed against his pea-jacket; a handkerchief was
wound round his forehead under his cap. He turned his head to one side.
It was Dussardier; and casting himself into their arms:

"Ah! what good fortune, my poor old friends!" without being able to say
another word, so much out of breath was he with fatigue.

He had been on his legs for the last twenty-four hours. He had been
engaged at the barricades of the Latin Quarter, had fought in the Rue
Rabuteau, had saved three dragoons' lives, had entered the Tuileries
with Colonel Dunoyer, and, after that, had repaired to the Chamber, and
then to the Hôtel de Ville.

"I have come from it! all goes well! the people are victorious! the
workmen and the employers are embracing one another. Ha! if you knew
what I have seen! what brave fellows! what a fine sight it was!"

And without noticing that they had no arms:

"I was quite certain of finding you there! This has been a bit rough - no
matter!"

A drop of blood ran down his cheek, and in answer to the questions put
to him by the two others:

"Oh! 'tis nothing! a slight scratch from a bayonet!"

"However, you really ought to take care of yourself."

"Pooh! I am substantial! What does this signify? The Republic is
proclaimed! We'll be happy henceforth! Some journalists, who were
talking just now in front of me, said they were going to liberate Poland
and Italy! No more kings! You understand? The entire land free! the
entire land free!"

And with one comprehensive glance at the horizon, he spread out his arms
in a triumphant attitude. But a long file of men rushed over the terrace
on the water's edge.

"Ah, deuce take it! I was forgetting. I must be off. Good-bye!"

He turned round to cry out to them while brandishing his musket:

"Long live the Republic!"

From the chimneys of the château escaped enormous whirlwinds of black
smoke which bore sparks along with them. The ringing of the bells sent
out over the city a wild and startling alarm. Right and left, in every
direction, the conquerors discharged their weapons.

Frederick, though he was not a warrior, felt the Gallic blood leaping in
his veins. The magnetism of the public enthusiasm had seized hold of
him. He inhaled with a voluptuous delight the stormy atmosphere filled
with the odour of gunpowder; and, in the meantime, he quivered under the
effluvium of an immense love, a supreme and universal tenderness, as if
the heart of all humanity were throbbing in his breast.

Hussonnet said with a yawn:

"It would be time, perhaps, to go and instruct the populace."

Frederick followed him to his correspondence-office in the Place de la
Bourse; and he began to compose for the Troyes newspaper an account of
recent events in a lyric style - a veritable tit-bit - to which he
attached his signature. Then they dined together at a tavern. Hussonnet
was pensive; the eccentricities of the Revolution exceeded his own.

After leaving the café, when they repaired to the Hôtel de Ville to
learn the news, the boyish impulses which were natural to him had got
the upper hand once more. He scaled the barricades like a chamois, and
answered the sentinels with broad jokes of a patriotic flavour.

They heard the Provisional Government proclaimed by torchlight. At last,
Frederick got back to his house at midnight, overcome with fatigue.

"Well," said he to his man-servant, while the latter was undressing him,
"are you satisfied?"

"Yes, no doubt, Monsieur; but I don't like to see the people dancing to
music."

Next morning, when he awoke, Frederick thought of Deslauriers. He
hastened to his friend's lodgings. He ascertained that the advocate had
just left Paris, having been appointed a provincial commissioner. At the
_soirée_ given the night before, he had got into contact with
Ledru-Rollin, and laying siege to him in the name of the Law Schools,
had snatched from him a post, a mission. However, the doorkeeper
explained, he was going to write and give his address in the following
week.

After this, Frederick went to see the Maréchale. She gave him a chilling
reception. She resented his desertion of her. Her bitterness disappeared
when he had given her repeated assurances that peace was restored.

All was quiet now. There was no reason to be afraid. He kissed her, and
she declared herself in favour of the Republic, as his lordship the
Archbishop of Paris had already done, and as the magistracy, the Council
of State, the Institute, the marshals of France, Changarnier, M. de
Falloux, all the Bonapartists, all the Legitimists, and a considerable
number of Orléanists were about to do with a swiftness indicative of
marvellous zeal.

The fall of the Monarchy had been so rapid that, as soon as the first
stupefaction that succeeded it had passed away, there was amongst the
middle class a feeling of astonishment at the fact that they were still
alive. The summary execution of some thieves, who were shot without a
trial, was regarded as an act of signal justice. For a month Lamartine's
phrase was repeated with reference to the red flag, "which had only gone
the round of the Champ de Mars, while the tricoloured flag," etc.; and
all ranged themselves under its shade, each party seeing amongst the
three colours only its own, and firmly determined, as soon as it would
be the most powerful, to tear away the two others.

As business was suspended, anxiety and love of gaping drove everyone
into the open air. The careless style of costume generally adopted
attenuated differences of social position. Hatred masked itself;
expectations were openly indulged in; the multitude seemed full of
good-nature. The pride of having gained their rights shone in the
people's faces. They displayed the gaiety of a carnival, the manners of
a bivouac. Nothing could be more amusing than the aspect of Paris during
the first days that followed the Revolution.

Frederick gave the Maréchale his arm, and they strolled along through
the streets together. She was highly diverted by the display of rosettes
in every buttonhole, by the banners hung from every window, and the
bills of every colour that were posted upon the walls, and threw some
money here and there into the collection-boxes for the wounded, which
were placed on chairs in the middle of the pathway. Then she stopped
before some caricatures representing Louis Philippe as a pastry-cook, as
a mountebank, as a dog, or as a leech. But she was a little frightened
at the sight of Caussidière's men with their sabres and scarfs. At other
times it was a tree of Liberty that was being planted. The clergy vied
with each other in blessing the Republic, escorted by servants in gold
lace; and the populace thought this very fine. The most frequent
spectacle was that of deputations from no matter what, going to demand
something at the Hôtel de Ville, for every trade, every industry, was
looking to the Government to put a complete end to its wretchedness.
Some of them, it is true, went to offer it advice or to congratulate it,
or merely to pay it a little visit, and to see the machine performing
its functions. One day, about the middle of the month of March, as they
were passing the Pont d'Arcole, having to do some commission for
Rosanette in the Latin Quarter, Frederick saw approaching a column of
individuals with oddly-shaped hats and long beards. At its head, beating
a drum, walked a negro who had formerly been an artist's model; and the
man who bore the banner, on which this inscription floated in the wind,
"Artist-Painters," was no other than Pellerin.

He made a sign to Frederick to wait for him, and then reappeared five
minutes afterwards, having some time before him; for the Government was,
at that moment, receiving a deputation from the stone-cutters. He was
going with his colleagues to ask for the creation of a Forum of Art, a
kind of Exchange where the interests of Æsthetics would be discussed.
Sublime masterpieces would be produced, inasmuch as the workers would
amalgamate their talents. Ere long Paris would be covered with gigantic
monuments. He would decorate them. He had even begun a figure of the
Republic. One of his comrades had come to take it, for they were closely
pursued by the deputation from the poulterers.

"What stupidity!" growled a voice in the crowd. "Always some humbug,
nothing strong!"

It was Regimbart. He did not salute Frederick, but took advantage of the
occasion to give vent to his own bitterness.

The Citizen spent his days wandering about the streets, pulling his
moustache, rolling his eyes about, accepting and propagating any dismal
news that was communicated to him; and he had only two phrases: "Take
care! we're going to be run over!" or else, "Why, confound it! they're
juggling with the Republic!" He was discontented with everything, and
especially with the fact that we had not taken back our natural
frontiers.

The very name of Lamartine made him shrug his shoulders. He did not
consider Ledru-Rollin "sufficient for the problem," referred to Dupont
(of the Eure) as an old numbskull, Albert as an idiot, Louis Blanc as an
Utopist, and Blanqui as an exceedingly dangerous man; and when Frederick
asked him what would be the best thing to do, he replied, pressing his
arm till he nearly bruised it:

"To take the Rhine, I tell you! to take the Rhine, damn it!"

Then he blamed the Reactionaries. They were taking off the mask. The
sack of the château of Neuilly and Suresne, the fire at Batignolles, the
troubles at Lyons, all the excesses and all the grievances, were just
now being exaggerated by having superadded to them Ledru-Rollin's
circular, the forced currency of bank-notes, the fall of the funds to
sixty francs, and, to crown all, as the supreme iniquity, a final blow,
a culminating horror, the duty of forty-five centimes! And over and
above all these things, there was again Socialism! Although these
theories, as new as the game of goose, had been discussed sufficiently
for forty years to fill a number of libraries, they terrified the
wealthier citizens, as if they had been a hailstorm of aërolites; and
they expressed indignation at them by virtue of that hatred which the
advent of every idea provokes, simply because it is an idea - an odium
from which it derives subsequently its glory, and which causes its
enemies to be always beneath it, however lowly it may be.

Then Property rose in their regard to the level of Religion, and was
confounded with God. The attacks made on it appeared to them a
sacrilege; almost a species of cannibalism. In spite of the most humane
legislation that ever existed, the spectre of '93 reappeared, and the
chopper of the guillotine vibrated in every syllable of the word
"Republic," which did not prevent them from despising it for its
weakness. France, no longer feeling herself mistress of the situation,
was beginning to shriek with terror, like a blind man without his stick
or an infant that had lost its nurse.

Of all Frenchmen, M. Dambreuse was the most alarmed. The new condition
of things threatened his fortune, but, more than anything else, it
deceived his experience. A system so good! a king so wise! was it
possible? The ground was giving way beneath their feet! Next morning he
dismissed three of his servants, sold his horses, bought a soft hat to
go out into the streets, thought even of letting his beard grow; and he
remained at home, prostrated, reading over and over again newspapers
most hostile to his own ideas, and plunged into such a gloomy mood that
even the jokes about the pipe of Flocon[F] had not the power to make him
smile.

As a supporter of the last reign, he was dreading the vengeance of the
people so far as concerned his estates in Champagne when Frederick's
lucubration fell into his hands. Then it occurred to his mind that his
young friend was a very useful personage, and that he might be able, if
not to serve him, at least to protect him, so that, one morning, M.
Dambreuse presented himself at Frederick's residence, accompanied by
Martinon.


[F] This is another political allusion. Flocon was a well-known member
of the Ministry of the day. - TRANSLATOR.


This visit, he said, had no object save that of seeing him for a little
while, and having a chat with him. In short, he rejoiced at the events
that had happened, and with his whole heart adopted "our sublime motto,
_Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity_," having always been at bottom a
Republican. If he voted under the other _régime_ with the Ministry, it
was simply in order to accelerate an inevitable downfall. He even
inveighed against M. Guizot, "who has got us into a nice hobble, we must
admit!" By way of retaliation, he spoke in an enthusiastic fashion about
Lamartine, who had shown himself "magnificent, upon my word of honour,
when, with reference to the red flag - - "

"Yes, I know," said Frederick. After which he declared that his
sympathies were on the side of the working-men.

"For, in fact, more or less, we are all working-men!" And he carried his
impartiality so far as to acknowledge that Proudhon had a certain amount
of logic in his views. "Oh, a great deal of logic, deuce take it!"

Then, with the disinterestedness of a superior mind, he chatted about
the exhibition of pictures, at which he had seen Pellerin's work. He
considered it original and well-painted.

Martinon backed up all he said with expressions of approval; and


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Online LibraryGustave FlaubertSentimental Education; Or, The History of a Young Man. Volume 2 → online text (page 8 of 21)