Children, even, do not remain passive in this fearful conflict. The children! you cry,—but do not smile; one of my friends has just seen a poor boy whose eye has been knocked in with the point of a nail. It happened thus. It was on Friday evening in the principal street of Neuilly. Two hundred boys—the eldest scarcely twelve years old—had assembled there; they carried sticks on their shoulders, with knives and nails stuck at the end of them. They had their army roll, and their numbers were called over in form, and their chiefs—for they had chiefs—gave the order to form into half sections, then to march in the direction of Charenton; a mite of a child trudged before, blowing in a penny trumpet bought at a toy-shop, and they had a cantiniere, a little girl of six. Soon, they met another troop of children of about the same numbers. Had the encounter been previously arranged? Had it been decided that they should give battle? I cannot tell you this, but at all events the battle took place, one party being for the Versailles troops, the other for the Federals. Such a battle, that the inhabitants of the quarter had the greatest difficulty in separating the combatants, and there were killed and wounded, as the official despatches of the Commune would give it; Alexis Mercier, a lad of twelve, whom his comrades had raised to the dignity of captain, was killed by the blow of a knife in the stomach.
Ah! believe it, these women drunk with hate, these children playing at murder, are symptoms of the terrible malady of the times. A few days hence, and this fury for slaughter will have seized all Paris.
[Footnote 51: The Gardiens de la Paix replaced the Sergents de Ville. They carried no sword, and wore a cap with a tricoloured band and cockade; in fact were the policemen of Paris. The Gendarmerie are the country police.]
[Footnote 52: Tricoteuses (knitters), women who attended political clubs—working whilst they listened—1871 refined upon the idea of 1793. The first revolution had its Tricoteuses, that of 1871 its Petroleuses!!!]
May conciliation be hoped for yet? Alas! I can scarcely think so. The bloody fight will have a bloody end. It is not alone between the Commune of Paris and the Assembly of Versailles that there lies an abyss which only corpses can fill. Paris itself, at this moment—I mean the Paris sincerely desirous of peace—is no longer understood by France; a few days of separation have caused strange divisions in men’s minds; the capital seems to speak the country’s language no longer. Timbuctoo is not as far from Pekin, as Versailles is distant from Paris. How can one hope under such circumstances, that the misunderstanding, the sole cause of our misfortunes, can be cleared away? How can one believe that the Government of Monsieur Thiers will lend an ear to the propositions