Some few persons go to the theatres; the playbills, however, are not seductive. If you go in, you will find the house nearly empty; the actors gabble their parts with as little action as possible. You see they are bored, and they bore us. Sometimes when some actor, naturally comic, says or does something funny, the audience laughs, and then suddenly leaves off and looks more serious than before. Laughter seems out of place. One does not know how to bear it; so one walks up and down the corridors, then instead of returning to the play, wanders out again on to the Boulevard. It is ten o’clock—dreadfully late. Many of the cafes are already closed for the night. At Tortoni’s and the Cafe Anglais, not a glimmer is visible. The crowd has nearly disappeared. Only a few officers remain, who have been drinking all the evening in an estaminet. They call to each other to hurry on; perhaps one of them is drunk, but even he is not amusing. Let us go home. Scarcely anyone is left in the street. A bell is rung here and there, as the last of us reach our respective homes.
That, Commune de Paris, is what you have made of Paris! The Prussians came, Paris awaited them quietly with a smile; the shells fell on its houses, it ate black bread, it waited hours in the cold to obtain an ounce of horse-flesh or thirty pounds of green wood; it fought, but was vanquished; it was told to surrender, and “it was given up,” as they say at the Hotel de Ville; and yet through all, Paris had not ceased to smile. And this, they say, constitutes its greatness; it was the last protestation against unmerited misfortunes; it was the remembrance of having once been proud and happy, and the hope of becoming so again; it was, in a word, Paris declaring it was Paris still. Well, what neither defeats, nor famine, nor capitulation could do, thou hast done! And accursed be thou, O Commune; for, as Macbeth murdered sleep, thou hast murdered our smiles!
The roaring of cannon close at hand, the whizzing of shells, volleys of musketry! I hear this in my sleep, and awake with a start. I dress and go out. I am told the troops have come in. “How? where? when?” I ask of the National Guards who come rushing down the street, crying out, “We are betrayed!” They, however, know but very little. They have come from the Trocadero, and have seen the red trousers of the soldiers in the distance. Fighting is going on near the viaduct of Auteuil, at the Champ de Mars. Did the assault take place last night or this morning? It is quite impossible to obtain any reliable information. Some talk of a civil engineer having made signals to the Versaillais; others say a captain in the navy was the first to enter Paris. Suddenly about thirty men rush into the streets crying, “We must make a barricade.” I turn back, fearing to be pressed into the service. The cannonading appears dreadfully near. A shell whistles over my head.