All to no purpose. I tell you the people of Brive-la-Gaillarde and the mountaineers of Savoy have not once thought of taking up arms. They have never been more tranquil or more resolute on remaining in peace and quiet than now. When they see one of your balloons—always supposing that it has any other end in view than of depositing repentant communists in safe, snug corners, pass the lines of the Versailles troops—when they see one of your balloons, they simply exclaim, “Hulloa! Here’s a balloon! Where in the world can it come from?” If some printed papers fall from the sky, the peasant picks them up, saying, “I shall give them to my son to read, when he returns from school.” The evening comes, the son spells them out, while the father listens. The son cannot understand; the father falls asleep. “Ah! those Parisians!” cries the mother. Can you wonder? These people are born to live and die without knowing all that is admirable in the men of the Hotel de Ville. They are fools enough to cling to their own lives and the lives of those near them. They do not go to war amongst themselves; they are poor ignorant creatures, and you will never make them believe that when once they have paid their taxes, worked, fed their wives and children, there still remains to them one duty to fulfil, more holy, more imperative than all others,—that of coming to the Porte-Maillot to receive a ball or a fragment of shell in their skulls.
But these balloons might be made of some use, nevertheless. Pick out one, the best made, the largest in size, the best rigged; put in Citizen Felix Pyat—who, you may be sure, will not be the last to sit down—and Citizen Delescluze too, nor must we omit Citizen Cluseret, nor any of the citizens who at the present moment constitute the happiness of Paris and the tranquillity of France! Now inflate this admirable balloon, which is to bear off all your hopes, with the lightest gases. Then blow, ye winds, terrifically, furiously, and bear it from us! Balloons can be capricious at times. Have you read, the story of Hans Pfaal? Good Heavens! if the wind could only carry them away, up to the moon, or even a great deal further still.
I’m surprised myself, as I re-read the preceding pages, at the strange contradictions I meet with. During the first few days I was almost favourable to the Commune; I waited, I hoped. To-day all is very different. When I write down in the evening what I have seen and thought in the day, I allow myself to blame with severity men that inspired me formerly with some kind of sympathy. What has taken place? Have my opinions changed? I do not think so. Besides, I have in reality but one opinion. I receive impressions, describing these impressions without reserve, without prejudice. If these stray leaves should ever be collected in a volume, they will at least possess the rare merit of being thoroughly sincere. Is it then, that my nature is modified? By no means. If I were indulgent a month ago, it was that I did not know those of whom I spoke, and that I am of a naturally hopeful and benevolent disposition: if I now show myself severe, it is that—like the rest of Paris—I have learned to know them better.