Paris under the Commune eBook

John Leighton Stuart
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 389 pages of information about Paris under the Commune.

It was not enough that men should be riddled with balls and torn to pieces by shells.  The women are also seized with a strange enthusiasm in their turn, and they too fall on the battle-field, victims of a terrible heroism.  What extraordinary beings are these who exchange the needle for the needle-gun, the broom for the bayonet, who quit their children that they may die by the sides of their husbands or lovers?  Amazons of the rabble, magnificent and abject, something between Penthesilea and Theroigne de Mericourt.  There they are seen to pass as cantinieres, among those who go forth to fight.  The men are furious, the women are ferocious,—­nothing can appal, nothing discourage them.  At Neuilly, a vivandiere is wounded in the head; she turns back a moment to staunch the blood, then returns to her post of danger.  Another, in the 61st Battalion, boasts of having killed three gardiens de la paix[51] and several gendarmes.  On the plain of Chatillon a woman joins a group of National Guards, takes her stand amongst them, loads her gun, fires, re-loads and fires again, without the slightest interruption.  She is the last to retire, and even then turns back again and again to fire.  A cantiniere of the 68th Battalion was killed by a fragment of shell which broke the little spirit-barrel she carried, and sent the splinters into her stomach.  After the engagement of the 3rd of April, nine bodies were brought to the mairie of Vaugirard.  The poor women of the quarter crowd there, chattering and groaning, to look for husbands, brothers and son’s.  They tear a dingy lantern from each other, and put it close to the pale faces of the dead, amongst whom they find the body of a young woman literally riddled with shot.  What means the wild rage that seizes upon these furies?  Are they conscious of the crimes they commit; do they understand the cause for which they die?  Yesterday, in a shop of the Rue de Montreuil, a woman entered with her gun on her shoulder and her bayonet covered with blood.  “Wouldn’t you do better to stay at home and wash your brats?” said an indignant neighbour.  Whereupon arose a furious altercation, the virago working herself into such a fury that she sprang upon her adversary, and bit her violently in the throat, then withdrew a few steps, seized her gun, and was going to fire, when she suddenly turned pale, her weapon fell from her hands, and she sank back dead.  In her wild passion she had broken a blood vessel.  Such are the women of the people in this terrible year of 1871.  It has its cantinieres as ’93 had its tricoteuses,[52] but the cantinieres are preferable, for the horrible in them partakes of a savage grandeur.  Fighting as they are against brothers and kinsfolk, they are revolting, but against a foreign enemy, they would have been sublime.

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Paris under the Commune from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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