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PAGE 3

A Coup D’etat
by [?]

The villagers were gathering together and talking the matter over.

The doctor quickly decided on a plan of campaign.

“Lieutenant Picart, you will advance under the windows of this town-hall and summon Monsieur de Varnetot, in the name of the Republic, to hand the keys over to me.”

But the lieutenant, a master mason, refused:

“You’re smart, you are. I don’t care to get killed, thank you. Those people in there shoot straight, don’t you forget it. Do your errands yourself.”

The commandant grew very red.

“I command you to go in the name of discipline!”

The lieutenant rebelled:

“I’m not going to have my beauty spoiled without knowing why.”

All the notables, gathered in a group near by, began to laugh. One of them cried:

“You are right, Picart, this isn’t the right time.”

The doctor then muttered:

“Cowards!”

And, leaving his sword and his revolver in the hands of a soldier, he advanced slowly, his eye fastened on the windows, expecting any minute to see a gun trained on him.

When he was within a few feet of the building, the doors at both ends, leading into the two schools, opened and a flood of children ran out, boys from one side, girls from the ether, and began to play around the doctor, in the big empty square, screeching and screaming, and making so much noise that he could not make himself heard.

As soon as the last child was out of the building, the two doors closed again.

Most of the youngsters finally dispersed, and the commandant called in a loud voice:

“Monsieur de Varnetot!”

A window on the first floor opened and M. de Varnetot appeared.

The commandant continued:

“Monsieur, you know that great events have just taken place which have changed the entire aspect of the government. The one which you represented no longer exists. The one which I represent is taking control. Under these painful, but decisive circumstances, I come, in the name of the new Republic, to ask you to turn over to me the office which you held under the former government.”

M. de Varnetot answered:

“Doctor, I am the mayor of Canneville, duly appointed, and I shall remain mayor of Canneville until I have been dismissed by a decree from my superiors. As mayor, I am in my place in the townhall, and here I stay. Anyhow, just try to get me out.”

He closed the window.

The commandant returned to his troop. But before giving any information, eyeing Lieutenant Picart from head to foot, he exclaimed:

“You’re a great one, you are! You’re a fine specimen of manhood! You’re a disgrace to the army! I degrade you.”

“I don’t give a —-!”

He turned away and mingled with a group of townspeople.

Then the doctor hesitated. What could he do? Attack? But would his men obey orders? And then, did he have the right to do so?

An idea struck him. He ran to the telegraph office, opposite the town- hall, and sent off three telegrams:

To the new republican government in Paris.

To the new prefect of the Seine-Inferieure, at Rouen.

To the new republican sub-prefect at Dieppe.

He explained the situation, pointed out the danger which the town would run if it should remain in the hands of the royalist mayor; offered his faithful services, asked for orders and signed, putting all his titles after his name.

Then he returned to his battalion, and, drawing ten francs from his pocket, he cried: “Here, my friends, go eat and drink; only leave me a detachment of ten men to guard against anybody’s leaving the town-hall.”

But ex-Lieutenant Picart, who had been talking with the watchmaker, heard him; he began to laugh, and exclaimed: “By Jove, if they come out, it’ll give you a chance to get in. Otherwise I can see you standing out there for the rest of your life!”

The doctor did not reply, and he went to luncheon.

In the afternoon, he disposed his men about the town as though they were in immediate danger of an ambush.