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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 14

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The muskets were already arriving at the Hotel de Ville. A deputation was dispatched, with Fauchet at its head; but, amid the firing and the smoke, they were neither heard nor seen. A second followed, headed by the solicitor of the city, and accompanied by a flag and a drum. The soldiers on the towers displayed a white flag, and reversed their arms. The firing by the people ceased, and they followed the deputation into the court, when they were suddenly assailed by a murderous fire, and several men were killed at the side of the deputies. It is supposed that this came from the Swiss, who, being below, had not seen the white flag hoisted by the invalides. The people were seized with an inexpressible rage. They believed that they had been drawn into the court insidiously to be murdered, and they vowed that they would make a bridge of their dead bodies for others to advance over them to the attack. At this crisis, the people found themselves supported by two columns, one of workmen and citizens, the other of French guards; the first was headed by Hullin, a watchmaker of Geneva, who had quitted his trade, and become huntsman to the marquis de Conflans; the other by Elie, an officer of fortune, of the queen's regiment. At their arrival the people had just brought three cart-loads of straw, and had burnt the barracks and the kitchens.

But again they were at check - what to do next? There were constantly coming in rumours that they were about to be attacked by all the troops in Paris; and the probability of this attack was increased by a letter of Besenval's which had been seized in which he bade De Launay to hold out to the last moment, as he was ready to march to his assistance. It was, indeed, the day on which the court had concerted to attack Paris in all quarters at once; but Besenval found the troops not to be depended on, and no attack was made. On hearing Besenval's letter to De Launay read, however, the people considered that they were betrayed, and sent to the Hotel de Ville to demand the head of Flesselles, the provost of trades. Scarcely was this message dispatched, when nine of the French guards arrived, together with wood, fagots, oil of turpentine, and other combustibles, to complete the burning of the gates of the inner court. There - where there were several offices and habitations - the mob surprised a young lady, the daughter of an officer of the garrison, and there was a cry that it was the daughter of De Launay. They seized her, and determined to burn her before the fortress, if the garrison would not surrender. The shrieking maiden was tied down upon a mattress and straw piled around her. Her real father, who was on one of the towers, seeing her situation, was on the point of throwing himself off, when he was hit by two musket balls and killed. The poor girl fainted, and would soon have been roused from her unconsciousness by fire, when a young man in the crowd, who knew her, rushed forward, and, at the peril of his own life, saved her.

De Launay, who had watched this terrible scene from above, now gave orders to fire on the assailants with grape. This drove them back to some distance, but they soon came on more furious than ever. De Launay looked in vain for the promised succour from Besenval or Broglie, and seeing the ever-increasing and ever more raging thousands around, he lost his head, was seized with despair, and resolved to blow up the old prison, and a great part of the old town near it. Six hundred and thirty-five barrels of gunpowder were deposited in the magazine. Seizing a match, he ran to cast it into an open barrel, and thus send into the air the horrible old fortress, himself, and garrison. With it must inevitably have been destroyed all the quarter of the Bastille, all the Maraies, and a great part of the Faubourg St. Antoine. Two uncommissioned officers stopped him by crossing their bayonets. He then attempted to kill himself, but was secured. His head was wholly gone - he was no longer capable of issuing an order.

Meantime, at the Hotel de Ville, a fierce contention was going on. The populace demanded the head of Flesselles, the prevot des marchands. The mob, says the venerable Dussaulx, the translator of Juvenal, who was present, were like savages. Sometimes they listened in silence; then again a terrible murmur, like dull thunder, rose from the mass. Many spoke and cried out together; more were stupefied by che novelty of the scene. The noises, the cries, the news, the alarms, the letters that were seized, the discoveries, true or false, that were made; so many secrets revealed, so many men led to the tribunals of justice; the very senses and reason were confounded. The prevot and the electors remained, as it were, between life and death, often stooping with their faces to the earth.

At half-past five a cry went through the Greve, in front of the Hotel de Ville. A great noise, at first far off, arose, advanced, drew near, with the rapidity and the hubbub of a tempest. " The Bastille is taken! "

Into the hall of the Hotel, already full, entered, at a rush, one thousand men, and ten thousand pushed behind. The wainscots cracked, the benches were overturned, the barriers were dashed into the tribunal, the people there were forced upon the president. All armed, but in an extraordinary fashion; some of them nearly naked, others clad in all colours, came on the fiery crowd. One man was borne on the shoulders of others, and crowned with laurels; it was Elie, surrounded by the spoils, and the liberated prisoners of that old prison- house. One young man carried, on the point of his bayonet, the impious and thrice-accursed regulations of the Bastille. An ancient prisoner carried the keys of that diabolical dungeon, huge, coarse, and worn by ages of the sufferings of men. The national assembly ordered these articles to be placed in the archives of France, beside the law which broke the power of tyrants.

The Bastille had surrendered almost immediately after the governor had been seized with despair, and a desire to kill himself. The French guards began to cannonade the fortress; the captain of the Swiss, who might undoubtedly have held out much longer, saw that no rescue came, and that prolonged resistance would only lead in the end, to sanguinary vengeance, he therefore hoisted a white flag. The captain of the Swiss demanded to be allowed to capitulate, and to march out with the honours of war; but the furious mob cried out, "No capitulation! no quarter! The rascals have fired upon the people!" The Swiss captain then said that they would lay down their arms, on condition that their lives should be spared. Hullin and Elie gave their promise. Then the gates of the old pandemonium were thrown open, and the furious and triumphant mob burst in. They were raging, blind with excitement, and drunken with danger and triumph. It was difficult for those who had promised protection to the garrison to afford it. The vengeance of ages - ages of murders and long miseries - was concentrated in that moment, and the mob would have massacred the whole of the surrendered soldiers. The authority which had promised safety was but of an hour's date, supported only by two little bands of volunteers and French guards, and what was that against one hundred thousand men, in the paroxysm of victorious power? The Swiss, for the most part, were spared, several, however, were wounded and insulted; but the chief vengeance fell on the invalides, who had fired on their countrymen. They were many of them wounded, and were only saved from death by the guards.

The people then rushed on with a mad desire to exterminate the Bastille; they smashed with stones the two figures of captives in chains supporting the clock; they mounted to the towers, and struck and insulted the cannon in their fury; many seized the battlements with their hands to tear them down, but only tore their own fingers; others descended to the dungeons to deliver the prisoners, but there they found that, under the mild Louis XVI., the Bastille had ceased to be what it had formerly been; instead of hundreds of captives, as was expected, there were found only seven, of whom three were forgers, or falsifiers of bills of exchange - noted scoundrels. Two of the prisoners had become superannuated; one, alarmed at the noise, put himself in an attitude of defence; he was astonished when those who dashed in his door declared that he was free. Another, who had a beard reaching to his waist, demanded how Louis XV. was, imagining that he still reigned; and when his name was asked, said he was the major of Immensity!

The crowd then commenced its march towards the Hotel de Ville. They were met in the Rue St. Antoine by an enormous mob, who, having taken no part in the combat, were, however, determined to do something, and insisted on massacring the prisoners. One they succeeded in killing in the Rue des Tournelles; another on the quay. The wives of these followed with dishevelled hair, and those who discovered their husbands amongst the dead, cried for swords or knives to kill the assassins.

It was in vain that Hullin and Elie with their bands did all in their power to check the bloody fury of the mob. They seized one of the Swiss, an old soldier, named Begnard, one of those who had prevented De Launay assassinating himself. He was wounded with a sabre in two places, and had his hand cut off. The furies stuck the bleeding hand on a pike, and carried it in triumph before the old man, whom, however, they put out of his misery by hanging him and one of his countrymen before the Hötel de Ville. They insisted on hanging twenty-two of the invalides whom they had made prisoners; but the guards tore them away from them. The unfortunate De Launay suffered a worse fate. He was dragged to the Place de Gröve, surrounded by the roaring crowd. Hullin endeavoured to defend him, and, seeing that De Launay was conspicuous by having lost his hat, Hullin heroically put his own upon his head, and received in consequence some blows intended for him. If he could but have got him up the steps and into the Hotel de Ville, he knew that he would have been saved; but the crowd knew that too, made a furious push at him, threw him down, trod upon him, and the next moment had his head on a pike.

The doom of Flesselles came next. No sooner was De Launay killed than the mob cried out for the provost. In vain did Flesselles cry out that he was not to blame - he had been deceived. They insisted that he should go to the Palais Royal to be judged; but on his way his brains were blown out by a pistol-shot from a fellow in the crowd.

Such was the destruction of the Bastille. It had been a den of monstrous crimes for ages; and yet but one of thousands of such hells of despotism scattered over Europe. It was, however, the most infamous of them all; perhaps we could hardly expect it to fall without some great demonstrations of vengeance; but the bloody character of the French mob only too prominently showed itself there.

The conquerors of the Bastille the next day, astonished at their own deed, were in momentary -terror that the royal authorities would endeavour to seize them, and the ringleaders hid themselves. They little knew the deadly terror with which they had inspired the very power that they dreaded. M. Moreau de St. Mery alone stood firm at the Hotel de Ville. The day before, when the mob threatened to storm the Hotel de Ville, he brought out many barrels of gunpowder, and declared that sooner than they should invade the place he would blow it up. He now remained at his post when others had fled, and issued all the necessary directions for the preservation of order. One of the first things had been to send word to the national assembly of the fall of the Bastille. The assembly received the astonishing news about midnight, and immediately adjourned. The news flew through the place. The court had been amusing itself with the idea of a mere rabble taking a place which had stood for ages, and which the great Conde had besieged in vain. The news of its fall came as a thunder-clap. The king, who had not been so confident, was gone to bed. The duke de Liancourt, grand master of the wardrobe, by virtue of his office, went to his bedside, awoke him, and told him the amazing fact. " What!" exclaimed Louis, " is it, then, really a rebellion?" "Say, rather, sire," replied the duke, "a revolution!"

The assembly was again sitting, and dispatched another deputation to inform him of the ominous event. u Tell him," cried Mirabeau, " that the foreign hordes by which we are surrounded were, yesterday, invited by the prince, the princesses, and by the favourites of both sexes, to a banquet; that they were caressed, exhorted to put down the people, and were stimulated by presents; that in their drunken songs these men vowed the destruction of the national assembly; that in his very palace the foreigner predicted, in his drunken songs, the subjugation of France, and that the French aristocracy applauded, and danced to their barbarous music. Such was the prelude to the massacre of St. Bartholemew. Tell him that his illustrious ancestor, Henry IV., allowed provisions to enter Paris at the moment in which he was besieging it; but that his councillors now are turning back the flour which commerce is sending to famishing Paris."

The king agreed to visit the assembly in the morning; and he went, attended by his two brothers. He addressed them in a kind and conciliatory tone. He said, " You have been afraid of me; but, for my part, I put my trust in you." This avowal was received with applause, in one of those bursts of sentiment, so sudden, and so soon over, which mark French history one moment with tearful emotions, and the next with savage bloodshed. The deputies surrounded the monarch, and escorted him back to the palace with tears in their eyes. The queen, from a balcony, saw this enthusiastic procession. She stood with the little dauphin in her arms, and her daughter holding by her dress; and herself, greatly moved, was hailed, for the moment, also by the senators. For a moment all seemed to be forgotten; it was but for a moment; the next day the court had resumed its hauteur and its distrust, the people their implacable hatred of royalty and aristocracy.

The assembly sent a deputation to Paris to congratulate the municipality on the late auspicious event, and to announce the reconciliation of the king and the deputies; Bailly, Lafayette, and Lally-Tollendal, were in the deputation. Lally made a speech, which so carried away his excitable hearers, that they crowned him with a wreath of flowers. He took it from his own head, and put it on Bailly's. Bailly would have taken it off, but the archbishop of Paris held it where it was. Nor was this the only honour done to Bailly; the death of Flesselles had left the posts of provost and commandant vacant. The duke d'Aumut had declined the appointment of commandant of the city militia; and, on the spot, the electors made Bailly provost, with the title of mayor of Paris; and Moreau le St. Mery, pointing to a bust of Lafayette which the Americans had sent in memory of his aid in their revolution, the eyes of the electors were at once turned upon it, and they saluted him as commandant. A Te Deum was voted, and the assembly proceeded in a body to Notre Dame. Lafayette and Bailly, arm-in-arm, the archbishop of Paris, attended by the French guards, and the new national guards, all walking in pairs, and in the highest state of self-congratulation, went to the cathedral. After the ceremony, the new mayor was conducted to different parts of the town, to be presented to the people, and there was much rejoicing in the city. Of course there was a great rush to examine the dungeons of the Bastille, and especially to look at the great stone in the deep dungeon in the centre, with its monstrous iron ring and chain. But, amid the rejoicings of the people, they were alarmed by the rumour of vast magazines of gunpowder deposited in the vaults under the city, which was built over stone quarries, and that the whole was about to be blown into the air by the aristocrats. A thorough search was ordered; nothing was found, and the next day, the 16th of July, another order was issued by Bailly, and the new municipal body, for the utter demolition of the Bastille. On the other hand, the court was equally alarmed at the Parisians; there were constant rumours that the people of Paris were marching to Versailles. The count d'Artois, and the great friends of the queen, the Polignac family, hastened away from France, being the first of that numerous current of emigrants that fled from their country as their only hope of safety. The princes of Conde and Casti, marshal Broglie, and others, quickly followed them, and got safe to Brussels.

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