Then the bands struck up the “Marseillaise,” and cries of “Vive la Commune” were re-echoed on all sides by the terror or the indifference of the multitude. In a marvellously short time, however, all was quiet again, so quiet, indeed, that I distinctly heard a dog bark as it ran frightened across the Place.
I daresay the members of the Commune, who presided over the accomplishment of this disgraceful deed, exclaimed in the pride of their miserable hearts, “Caesar, those whom you salute shall live!”
Everybody of course wished to get a bit of the ruin, as visitors to Paris eagerly bought bits of siege bread framed and glazed, and there was a general rush towards the place; but the National Guards crossed, their bayonets in front of the barricade, and no one was allowed to pass. So that the crowd quickly dispersed to its respective dinners. “It is fallen!” said some to those who had not been fortunate enough to see the sight. “The head of the statue came off—no one was killed.” The boys cried out, “Oh, it was a jolly sight all the same!” But the greater part of the people were silent as they trudged away.
Then night came on, and next day a land-mark and a finger-post seemed missing in our every-day journey. Until we lose a familiar object we hardly appreciate its existence.
[Footnote 95: Abadie arranged to demolish the Colonne Vendome for 32,000 or 38,000 francs, forfeiting 600 francs for every day’s delay after the fourth of May. This reduced the sum to be paid to him by 6000 francs.]
[Footnote 96: Regarding Courbet and the destruction of the Column, he rejects the accusation on the ground that this decree had been voted previously to his admission in the Commune, and on the request he had made under the Government of the 4th of May of removing the column to the esplanade of the Invalides. He affirms that the official paper has altered his own words at the Commune, and he pretends having proposed to the Government to rebuild the column at his own expense, if it can be proved that he has been the cause of its destruction.]
On the sixteenth, I received a prospectus through my concierge. There was to be a concert, mixed with speeches—a sort of popular fete at the Tuileries. The places varied in price from ten sous to five francs. Five francs the Salle des Marechaux; ten sous the garden, which was to be illuminated with Venetian lamps among the orange-trees; the whole to be enlivened by fireworks from the Courbevoie batteries.
I had tact enough not to put on white gloves, and set out for the palace.
It was not a fairy-like sight; indeed, it was a most depressing spectacle. A crowd of thieves and vagabonds, of dustmen and rag-pickers, with four or five gold bands on their sleeves and caps, (the insignia of officers of the National Guard), were hurrying along down the grand staircase, chewing “imperiales,” spitting, and repeating the old jokes of ’93. As to the women—they were sadly out of place. They simpered, and gave themselves airs, and some of them even beat time with their fans, as Mademoiselle Caillot was singing, to look as if they knew something about music.