CHAPTER XV. THE COMMUNE.
"I felt bewildered. I could see no traces of the siege, and all my previous ideas of a revolution were dispersed. I passed several churches, not then closed, and being a Catholic, I entered the Madeleine. The precious articles on the altar had been removed by the priests, but except the words 'Liberte,' 'Egalite,' 'Fraternite,' deeply cut in the stone over the great door, the church had not, so far, been desecrated. I went also to mass at Notre Dame des Victoires; but before telling my cabman to drive me there, I hesitated, believing it to be in a bad part of the city. 'There are no bad parts,' he said, 'except towards the Arch of Triumph and Neuilly. The rest of Paris is as quiet as a bird's nest.' The church was very full of men as well as women. It was a solemn, devout crowd; every woman wore a plain black dress, every face was anxious, grave, and grieved, but none looked frightened. As the aged priest who officiated read the first words of the Gospel for the day, 'Be not afraid, ye seek Jesus who was crucified,' the bombardment recommenced with a fearful roar, shaking the heavy leathern curtain over the church door, and rattling the glass in the great painted windows. I started, but got used to it after a while, and paid no more attention to it than did others. While I was in church, the citizen patriot who was my cab-driver, had brought me three newspapers, one of them the journal edited by M. Rochefort, which said that it was earnestly to be hoped that the 'old assassin' M. Thiers would soon be disposed of; that all men of heart were earnestly demanding more blood, and that blood must be given them. I also learned that the Commune would erect a statue to Robespierre out of the statues of kings, which were to be melted down for that purpose. In the Rue Saint-Honore I met a lady whom I knew, returning from the flower-market with flowers in her hands. 'Then no one,' I said, pointing to these blossoms, 'need be afraid in Paris?' 'No woman,' she answered, 'except of shells; but the men are all afraid, and in danger. They are suspected of wanting to get away, but they will be made to stay and to fight for the Commune.'
"Indeed, profound gravity seemed expressed on all men's faces, and as a body, the patriots looked to me cold, tired, bored, and hungry, to say nothing of dirty, which they looked, to a man. I had expressed a wish to see a barricade, so we turned into a small street apparently closed in by a neatly built wall with holes in it, through which I saw the mouths of cannon. About this wall men were swarming both in and out of uniform. They were all armed, and two or three were members of the Commune, with red sashes and pistols stuck in them, after the fashion of the theatre. As I looked out of my cab window, longing to see more, a cheerful young woman, with a pretty, wan infant in her arms, encouraged me to alight, and a young man to whom she was talking, a clean, trim, fair young fellow, with a military look, stepped forward and saluted me. He seemed pleased at my admiration of the barricade, and having handed a tin can to the young woman, invited me to come inside. Thence I beheld the Place Vendome. I had seen it last on Aug. 15, 1868, on the emperor's fete-day, filled with the glittering Imperial troops. I saw it again, a wide, empty waste, bounded by four symmetrical barricades, dotted with slouching figures whose clothes and arms seemed to encumber them.... I thanked my friend for his politeness, and returned to my carriage. The young woman smiled at me, as much as to say: 'Is he not a fine fellow?' I thought he was; and there may be other fine fellows as much out of place in the ruffianly mass with which they are associated.
"In the Rue de Rivoli I saw a regiment marching out to engage the enemy. Among them were some villanous-looking faces. They passed with little tramp and a good deal of shuffle, - shabby, wretched, silent. I did not hear a laugh or an oath; I did not see a violent gesture, and hardly a smile, that day. The roistering, roaring, terrible 'Reds,' as I saw them, were weary, dull men, doing ill-directed work with plodding indifference.
"I visited a lady of world-wide reputation, who gave me a history of the past months in Paris so brilliantly and epigrammatically that I was infinitely amused, and carried away the drollest impressions of L'Empire Cluseret; but her manner changed when I asked her what I should say to her friends in England. 'Tell them,' she said, 'to fear everything, and to hope very little. We are a degraded people; we deserve what we have got.'
"In the street I bought some daffodils from a woman who was tying them up in bunches. As she put them into my hand, her face seemed full of horror. Seeing probably an answering sympathy in my face, she whispered: 'It is said that they have shot the archbishop.' I did not believe it, and I was right. He was arrested, but his doom was delayed for six weeks. That night the churches were all closed. There were no evening services that Easter day.
"I may add that I saw but one bonnet rouge, which I had supposed would be the revolutionary headdress. It was worn by an ill-looking ruffian, who sat with his back to the Quai, his legs straddled across the foot-walk, his drunken head fallen forward on his naked, hairy breast, a broken pipe between his knees, his doubled fists upon the stones at either side of him."
In the story of Louis Napoleon's abortive attempt at Boulogne to incite France against Louis Philippe's Government, we were much indebted to the narrative of Count Joseph Orsi, one of the Italians who from his earliest days had attended on his fortunes. The same gentleman has given us an account of his own experiences during the days of the Commune: -