Ange Pitou part two
Monsieur de Launay, Governor of the Bastille
As Monsieur de Flesselles had said, there were eight thousand pounds of gunpowder in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville.
Marat and Billot went into the first cellar with a lantern, which they suspended to a hook in the ceiling.
Pitou mounted guard at the door.
The powder was in small kegs, containing each about twenty pounds. Men were stationed upon the stairs, forming a chain which reached the square, and they at once began to send up the kegs.
There was at first a momentary confusion. It was not known whether there would be powder enough for everybody, and they all rushed forward to secure their share. But the chain formed by Billot at length succeeded in making the people wait patiently for their turn, and the distribution was effected with something like an approach to order.
Every citizen received half a pound of powder,—about thirty or forty shots.
But when every one had received the powder, it was perceived that muskets were sadly deficient. There were scarcely five hundred among the whole crowd.
While the distribution was going on, a portion of this furious population who were crying out for arms, went up to the rooms where the electors held their sittings. They were occupied in forming the National Guard, of which the usher had spoken to Billot.
They had just decreed that this civic militia should be composed of forty—eight thousand men. This militia but yet existed in the decree, and they were disputing as to the general who should command it.
It was in the midst of this discussion that the people invaded the Hôtel de Ville. They had organized themselves. They only asked to march; all they required was arms.
At that moment the noise of a carriage coming into the courtyard was heard. It was the Provost of the Merchants, who had not been allowed to proceed upon his journey, although he had exhibited a mandate from the king, ordering him to proceed to Versailles, and he was brought back by force to the Hôtel de Ville.
“Give us arms! give us arms!” cried the crowd, as soon as they perceived him at a distance.
“Arms!” cried he; “I have no arms; but there must be some at the arsenal.”
“To the arsenal! to the arsenal!” cried the crowd.
And five or six thousand men rushed on to the Quay de la Grève.
The arsenal was empty.
They returned, with bitter lamentations, to the Hôtel de Ville.
The provost had no arms, or rather would not give them. Pressed by the people, he had the idea of sending them to the Chartreux.
The Chartreux opened its gates. They searched it in every direction, but did not find even a pocket—pistol.
During this time Flesselles, having been informed that Billot and Marat were still in the cellars of the Hôtel de Ville, completing the distribution of the gunpowder, proposed to send a deputation to De Launay, to propose to him that he should withdraw the cannon from his ramparts, so as to be out of sight.
That which the evening before had made the crowd hoot most obstreperously was these guns, which, stretching forth their long necks, were seen beyond the turreted parapets. Flesselles hoped that, by causing them to disappear, the people would be contented by the concession, and would withdraw satisfied.
The deputation had just set forth, when the people returned in great fury.
On hearing the cries they uttered, Billot and Marat ran upstairs into the courtyard.
Flesselles, from an interior balcony, endeavored to calm the people. He proposed a decree which should authorize the districts to manufacture fifty thousand pikes.
The people were about to accept this proposal.
“Decidedly this man is betraying us,” said Marat. Then, turning to Billot,—
“Go to the Bastille,” said he, “and do what you proposed to do. In an hour I will send you there twenty thousand men, and each man with a musket on his shoulder.”
Billot, at first sight, had felt great confidence in this man, whose name had become so popular that it had reached even him. He did not even ask him how he calculated on procuring them. An abbé was there, imbued with the general enthusiasm, and crying, like all the rest, “To the Bastille!” Billot did not like abbés, but this one pleased him. He gave him the charge of continuing the distribution, which the worthy abbé accepted. Then Marat mounted upon a post. There was at that moment the most frightful noise and tumult.
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