At Five O’Clock We’ll All Be Dead – 8

The 7th at five in the morning I had to escape in a hurry, already denounced, I was about to be arrested & the house was surrounded. I escaped disguised as a tanner, & for two days I wandered around like that, constantly crossing bands of national guardsmen, spies & sergents de ville. I couldn’t keep myself away from those places where I had fought & where I wanted to die; those places where my brave comrades-in-arms had been cravenly murdered by cannibals dressed up in the national uniform, after giving themselves up as prisoners to the soldiers of the line, who were unable to protect them from the frenzy of those cowardly butchers.

I learned that after defending themselves heroically for more than an hour in the house at no. 30, 17 of those unfortunate young men, almost all of them wounded to varying degrees of severity & who hadn’t been able to escape by the rooftops as many of their comrades had done, capitulated to the soldiers of the line who had entered the building through the hardware store & promised their lives would be safe. But they had barely laid down their arms, which they could still have used to take down a great many foes, placed as they were on the 4th floor of a spiral staircase that could only yield passage to two men side-by-side, when the national guards jumped on them, knocked them down after wresting them from the soldiers’ hands, & taking them by the legs dragged them down, their heads hitting every step of the staircase, to the first-floor landing; there, in the presence of Madame Blanc & several tenants they forced to hold the lights for them, they finished off the massacre of those poor men. One of them was run through, on the ground, with eleven bayonet blows before he died…!! Another, after receiving a number of wounds, lifted himself back up and said, “Cowards that you are..! At least give us back our weapons, give me a sword so I can defend myself..!!” “Ah! You want a sword,” shouts one of the butchers, “here, have one!..!” And drawing his own, he plunged it to the hilt in the poor man’s stomach & turned it around in the wound with a ferocious laugh….! Such horrors…!! & they were national guards, they were fathers of families committing such monstrous atrocities! Wretches, were the laurels gathered on the Pont d’Arcole, by Gisquet’s sergeants, troubling your sleep at night?

A number of other young men found in the apartments were thrown out the windows, without any other form of trial, & national guards stationed in the street applauded in transports of delight at this act of barbarity worthy of the finest ages of religious fanaticism! And the national guards cried out, laughing, “Head or tails!” every time a victim was about to be thrown down…!! Oh! What worthy comrades you have, vile Philippe….!!

I saw carts passing by, carrying to the morgue the mortal remains of my unlucky companions; furious, I was about to throw myself upon one of the national guards escorting that dismal procession, my hand clutched convulsively at the weapon it was about to take up beneath my clothing, I was about to sacrifice at least one victim to their departed souls… The strong arm of one of my landlord’s workmen, who had fled with me the morning of the 7th, held me back & flung me into an alley (Rue St Méry). He closed the gate on us. Oh! How noble & handsome that man’s face was at that moment, at once imposing & terrible. I couldn’t withstand the flash of his eyes… “Why do you want to die today?” he said to me… “Do you think my heart is less broken than yours..? Didn’t I see them just like you..? Ah! Let’s swear instead, let’s swear to avenge their death upon their executioners..! Swear with me to never take a single national guard prisoner..!” And I swore it, that vow, and yet my lips didn’t murmur the slightest sound…. Our hands clasped convulsively, then brought to our hearts, engraved it there better than the most pompous pronouncements: it will never be erased….. Men of the 6th legion, ah! woe, woe betide any of you who fall into my power if I can ever take part in one of the fights that must take place again in Paris..! Woe betide you a thousand times, for your corpses will never be numerous enough for the massacre I want to consecrate to the bloodied shades of my brothers-in-arms..! Oh! You have taught me how to make your enemy die twenty times over, I’ll remember it….. At this thought, my blood catches fire, it burns me, it chars, it corrodes my veins….. Yes! I can feel how sometimes there is happiness to be found in cruelty!

I saw the procession for the staff sergeant from the 4th legion pass; I followed it for a long time…. perhaps somebody admired the pensiveness on the face of the hatmaker who showed up there in his work clothes…. Oh! How happy I was, & yet my features had to bear a different expression than happiness…. There must have been something fierce in my eyes… I was trembling & yet I had no feeling of fear… I would have liked to be able to kill him all over again… I would have liked to be able to kill everyone there in uniform with the same blow…!!

Poor Bellier! I didn’t know you back then… Master Sébire, your brother-in-law, generous defender of several of my young comrades-in-arms, hadn’t told me about your virtues & your ardent patriotism… He hadn’t yet told me that the monsters following your coffin had coerced you into marching against us by feigning doubt about your courage, you, old soldier of our old army… Ah! I wept tears of regret at the tale your brother told me of your fine actions in civilian & military life; afterwards I would have liked to bring you back to life, & yet I can’t reproach myself for your death… You were in the enemy ranks, you were at their head, & I had no way of knowing you… Oh! Why aren’t I rich? I would be so happy to be able to substitute for you with the children I snatched you away from..! Vile Égalité! How much generous blood will come back to fall upon your guilty head….!!

One thing still surprises me today, which is that I didn’t go mad. These painful scenes are already far behind me, & my head is still afire from recounting them; it feels like it will split open…. Yet I can hope they will be avenged, our martyred brothers…. Ah! Let me live to see that happy day; let me take part in it; let me see my homeland happy within, great, proud, & respected outside…. Let me see liberty crush beneath its foot the worm-eaten thrones of despotism that weigh heavy upon old Europe… And then, let me die: I won’t regret losing my life… I will have lived enough….!!

What more could I tell you, my good sister, you know the rest of my sad story as well as I do; you know that for four months & until the day of my arrest, I couldn’t return even once to my home, where the domiciliary visits succeeded each other almost without interruption; that for four months I was deprived of the sweetness of being able to embrace my dear parents, who were constantly escorted by the police every time they left their home. You also know that those assassins Gisquet & Cie were going around saying everywhere that if they got their hands on me it wouldn’t be the Prefecture they’d take me to, it’d be the morgue. Moreover, it never surprised me that that was their intention, these days it’s only through such exploits that one can earn the dishonored star.

You also know that, tracked by them for four months like a wild beast, I only escaped them by keeping a cool head [illegible crossed-out words] and as though by a miracle, when, coming into Paris one night I only escaped their hands by making use of my weapons. That for 4 months I was never sure of being able to rest at night under the same roof that had sheltered me that morning, and finally you know that if I was arrested 3 weeks before the time I had set to declare myself a prisoner (the time of my judgement), I owed it solely to the treachery of a warrant officer from our legion, Sieur Roullier, a decorated hero of July, who I thought was a good citizen & who sold me out when, after spending 48 hours on the Place du Marché St-Jacques with the citizens from my section, despite the continual pouring rain, to contribute to the release of the political prisoners Cuny & Lepage, I was about to head back to the countryside. So I have nothing left but to conclude this account with the hope that it will be as agreeable for you as it was painful for me.

I may have made some mistakes about the times of events; I could only pin them down through estimates, & in such circumstances it’s the thing one notices the least. As for the facts, they are of the most scrupulous accuracy. As for speech, I’ve endeavored to reproduce it as accurately as possible, & if the words aren’t exactly the same as the ones pronounced, at least their meaning is rendered faithfully, but, as you know, it’s been 18 months..!

In summary, 5 attacks on the 5th of June, & 11 over the course of the 6th, the first of which took place at half past 2 in the morning. Not included in that number is the one that put the assailants in possession of our barricades. All of those attacks constantly repelled after combat of varying durations, depending on how tenacious, how brave the assailants were. There, in a few words, is the chronicle of those two days in June for our barricades.

I’ve made mention only of the episodes I’m personally aware of; the actions and gestures that struck my eyes, the words my ears picked up. I can guarantee you they are true. No doubt a great number of them escaped me, but to see and hear everything, I’m sure you’re aware, I would’ve had to devote myself to that task alone, & God knows I had others on my hands.

Farewell, dear sister, farewell; may I see you again soon [almost three lines crossed out, illegible]

Will you reward me for this work by writing to me more often? Oh! It would be so kind of you!

Ch. Jeanne


Part 7

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