II. EXPULSIONS AND ESCAPES.
May 3, 1848.
On February 24 the Duke and Duchess Decazes were literally driven from the Luxembourg. And by whom? By the very denizens of the palace, all employ»s of the Chamber of Peers, all appointed by the grand referendary. A rumour was circulated in the quarter that during the night the peers would commit some anti-revolutionary act, publish a proclamation, etc. The entire Faubourg Saint Jacques prepared to march against the Luxembourg. Hence, great terror. First the Duke and Duchess were begged, then pressed, then constrained to leave the palace.
"We will leave to-morrow. We do not know where to go. Let us pass the night here," they said.
They were driven out.
They slept in a lodging-house. Next day they took up their abode at 9, Rue Verneuil.
M. Decazes was very ill. A week before he had undergone an operation. Mme. Decazes bore it all with cheerfulness and courage. This is a trait of character that women often display in trying situations brought about through the stupidity of men.
The ministers escaped, but not without difficulty. M. Duchítel, in particular, had a great fright.
M. Guizot, three days previously, had quitted the Hotel des Capucines and installed himself at the Ministry of the Interior. He lived there ~en famille~ with M. Duchítel.
On February 24, MM. Duchítel and Guizot were about to sit down to luncheon when an usher rushed in with a frightened air. The head of the column of rioters was debouching from the Rue de Bourgogne. The two ministers left the table and managed to escape just in time by way of the garden. Their families followed them: M. Duchítel's young wife, M. Guizot's aged mother, and the children.
A notable thing about this flight was that the luncheon of M. Guizot became the supper of M. Ledru-Rollin. It was not the first time that the Republic had eaten what had been served to the Monarchy.
Meanwhile the fugitives had taken the Rue Bellechasse. M. Guizot walked first, giving his arm to Mme. Duchítel. His fur-lined overcoat was buttoned up and his hat as usual was stuck on the back of his head. He was easily recognisable. In the Rue Hillerin-Bertin, Mme. Duchítel noticed that some men in blouses were gazing at M. Guizot in a singular manner, She led him into a doorway. It chanced that she knew the doorkeeper. They hid M. Guizot in an empty room on the fifth floor.
Here M. Guizot passed the day, but he could not stay there. One of his friends remembered a bookseller, a great admirer of M. Guizot, who in better days had often declared that he would devote himself to and give his life for him whom he called "a great man," and that he only hoped the opportunity for doing so might present itself. This friend called upon him, reminded him of what he had said, and told him that the hour had come. The brave bookseller did not fail in what was expected of him. He placed his house at M. Guizot's disposal and hid him there for ten whole days. At the end of that time the eight places in a compartment of a carriage on the Northern Railway were hired. M. Guizot made his way to the station at nightfall. The seven persons who were aiding in his escape entered the compartment with him. They reached Lille, then Ostend, whence M. Guizot crossed over to England.
M. Duchítel's escape was more complicated.
He managed to secure a passport as an agent of the Republic on a mission. He disguised himself, dyed his eye-brows, put on blue spectacles, and left Paris in a post-chaise. Twice he was stopped by National Guards in the towns through which he passed. With great audacity he declared that he would hold responsible before the Republic those who delayed him on his mission. The word "Republic" produced its effect. They allowed the Minister to pass. The Republic saved M. Duchítel.
In this way he reached a seaport (Boulogne, I think), believing that he was being hotly pursued, and very nervous in consequence. A Channel steamer was going to England. He went on board at night. He was installing himself for the voyage when he was informed that the steamer would not leave that night. He thought that he had been discovered and that he was a lost man. The steamer had merely been detained by the English Consul, probably to facilitate, if necessary, the flight of Louis Philippe. M. Duchítel landed again and spent the night and next day in the studio of a woman painter who was devoted to him.
Then he embarked on another steamer. He went below at once and concealed himself as best he could pending the departure of the vessel. He scarcely dared to breathe, fearing that at any moment he might be recognised and seized. At last the steamer got under way. Hardly had the paddle wheels begun to revolve, however, when shouts of "Stop her! Stop her!" were raised on the quay and on the boat, which stopped short. This time the poor devil of a Minister thought it was all up with him. The hubbub was caused by an officer of the National Guard, who, in taking leave of friends, had lingered too long on deck, and did not want to be taken to England against his will. When he found that the vessel had cast off he had shouted "Stop her! " and his family on the quay had taken up the shout. The officer was put ashore and the steamer finally started.
This was how M. Duchítel left France and reached England.