“Long live the Commune!
“Long live the Communal Federation!
“The Commission of the
Commune, BERGERET, CHAMPY, GERESME, LEDROIT,
“The Central Committee. “Paris, 18th May, 1871.”
It was five o’clock in the afternoon. The day had been splendid and the sun shone brilliantly on Caesar still standing on the glorious pedestal of his victories. Outside the barricades of the Rue de la Paix and the Rue Castiglione, the crowd was standing in a compact mass, as far as the Tuileries on one side and the New Opera House on the other. There must have been from twenty to twenty-fire thousand people there. Strangers accosted each other by the title of Citizen, I heard some talking about an eccentric Englishman who had paid three thousand francs for the pleasure of being the last to climb to the summit of the column. Nearly every one blamed him for not having given the money to the people. Others said that Citizen Jourde would not manage to cover his expenses; Abadie the engineer had asked thirty-two thousand francs to pull down the great trophy, and that the stone and plaster was after all, not covered with more than an inch or two of bronze, that it was not so many metres high, and would not make a great many two-sous pieces after all. These sous seemed to occupy the public mind exceedingly, but the principal subjects of conversation, were the fears concerning the probable effects of the fall.
[Illustration: BARRICADE OF THE RUE CASTIGLIONE, FROM THE PLACE VENDOME.]
The event was slow in accomplishment. The wide Place was thinly sprinkled with spectators, not more than three hundred in all, privileged beings with tickets, or wearing masonic badges; or officers of the staff. Bergeret at one of the windows was coolly smoking a cigarette; military bands were assembled at the four angles of the Place; the sound of female laughter reached us from the open windows of the Ministere de la Justice. The horses of the mounted sentinels curvetted with impatience; bayonets glittered in the sun; children gaped wearily, seated on the curbstone. The hour of the ceremony was past; a rope had broken. Around the piled faggots on which the column was to fall, great fascines of flags of the favourite colour were flying.
The crowd did not seem to enjoy being kept in suspense, and proclaimed their impatience by stamping with measured tread, and crying “Music!”
At half-past five there was a sudden movement and bustle around the barricade of the Rue Castiglione. The members of the Commune appeared with their inevitable red scarfs. Then there was a great hush. At the same instant the windlass creaked; the ropes which hung from the summit of the column tightened; the gaping hole in the masonry below, gradually closed; the statue bent forward in the rays of the setting sun, and then suddenly describing in the air a gigantic sweep, fell among the flags with a dull, heavy thud, scattering a whirlwind of blinding dust in the air.