Still we must not blame the Commune for the sad disappointment of this long delay, it would be impossible to shorten it. One thing, which is less impossible, is to indemnify the administration of the Mont-de-Piete for this gratuitous restitution. Citizen Jourde, delegate of the finances, says, “I will give 100,000 francs a-week.” Without stopping to consider where this able political economist means to get his weekly 100,000 francs, I will be content with remarking that this sum would in no wise cover the loss to the Mont-de-Piete, and that the Commune will only be giving alms out of other people’s purses. If, however, thanks to this decree, some few poor creatures are enabled to get back those goods and chattels which they were obliged to dispose of in the hour of need, there will not be much cause to complain. The Mont-de-Piete usually does a very good business, and there will always be enough misery in Paris for it to grow rich upon. Besides, the Commune owes the poor wounded, mutilated, dying fellows who have been brought from Neuilly and Issy, at least a mattress to die in some little comfort upon.
[Footnote 80: The governmental pawnbroking establishments. All the pawnbroking is carried on by the Government.]
They have put them into the prison of Saint-Lazare. Whom? The nuns of the convent of Picpus. They have put them there because they have been arrested. But why were they arrested? That is what Monsieur Rigault himself could not clearly explain. Some of the nuns are old. They have been living long in seclusion, and have only changed cells; having been the captives of Heaven, they have become the prisoners of Citizen Mouton. In such an abject place too, poor harmless souls! Victor Hugo has said, speaking of that wretched prison, “Saint-Lazare! we must crush that edifice.” Yes, later, when we have the time; we must now pull down the Column Vendome and the Chapelle Expiatoire. In the meantime these poor ladies are very sad. One of my friends went to see them; they have neither their prayer-books nor their crucifix; they have had even the amulets they wore round their necks taken from them. This seems nothing to you, citizens of the Commune. You are men of advanced opinions. You care as much about a crucifix as a fish for an apple; and perhaps you are right. You have studied the question, and you say in the evening, looking up at the stars, “There is no God.” But you must understand that with these poor nuns it is quite a different matter. They have not read philosophical treatises; they still believe that the Almighty created the world in six days, and that the Son died on the cross for the sake of the world. When they were free, or rather when they were in a prison of their own choosing, they prayed in the morning, they prayed at noon, they prayed at night, and only interrupted this most pernicious