The Downfall eBook

Émile Gaboriau
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 857 pages of information about The Downfall.
maledictions on the head of him who had been their ruler.  After that came the interminable journey across the battlefield, as far as Givonne, amid scenes of havoc and devastation, amid the dead, who lay with staring eyes upturned that seemed to be full of menace; came, too, the bare, dreary fields, the great silent forest, then the frontier, running along the summit of a ridge, marked only by a stone, facing a wooden post that seemed ready to fall, and beyond the soil of Belgium, the end of all, with its road bordered with gloomy hemlocks descending sharply into the narrow valley.

And that first night of exile, that he spent at a common inn, the Hotel de la Poste at Bouillon, what a night it was!  When the Emperor showed himself at his window in deference to the throng of French refugees and sight-seers that filled the place, he was greeted with a storm of hisses and hostile murmurs.  The apartment assigned him, the three windows of which opened on the public square and on the Semoy, was the typical tawdry bedroom of the provincial inn with its conventional furnishings:  the chairs covered with crimson damask, the mahogany armoire a glace, and on the mantel the imitation bronze clock, flanked by a pair of conch shells and vases of artificial flowers under glass covers.  On either side of the door was a little single bed, to one of which the wearied aide-de-camp betook himself at nine o’clock and was immediately wrapped in soundest slumber.  On the other the Emperor, to whom the god of sleep was less benignant, tossed almost the whole night through, and if he arose to try to quiet his excited nerves by walking, the sole distraction that his eyes encountered was a pair of engravings that were hung to right and left of the chimney, one depicting Rouget de Lisle singing the Marseillaise, the other a crude representation of the Last Judgment, the dead rising from their graves at the sound of the Archangel’s trump, the resurrection of the victims of the battlefield, about to appear before their God to bear witness against their rulers.

The imperial baggage train, cause in its day of so much scandal, had been left behind at Sedan, where it rested in ignominious hiding behind the Sous-Prefet’s lilac bushes.  It puzzled the authorities somewhat to devise means for ridding themselves of what was to them a bete noire, for getting it away from the city unseen by the famishing multitude, upon whom the sight of its flaunting splendor would have produced much the same effect that a red rag does on a maddened bull.  They waited until there came an unusually dark night, when horses, carriages, and baggage-wagons, with their silver stew-pans, plate, linen, and baskets of fine wines, all trooped out of Sedan in deepest mystery and shaped their course for Belgium, noiselessly, without beat of drum, over the least frequented roads like a thief stealing away in the night.


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The Downfall from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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