Paris under the Commune eBook

John Leighton Stuart
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 483 pages of information about Paris under the Commune.
I hear some one say, “The batteries of Montmartre are bombarding the Arc de Triomphe;” and strange enough, in this moment of horror and uncertainty, the thought crosses my mind that now the side of the arch on which is the bas-relief of Rude will be exposed to the shells.  On the Boulevard there is only here and there a passenger hurrying along.  The shops are closed; even the cafe’s are shut up.  The harsh screech of the mitrailleuse grows louder and nearer.  The battle seems to be close at hand, all round me.  A thousand contradictory suppositions rush through my brain and hurry me along, and here on the Boulevard there is no one that can tell me anything.  I walk in the direction of the Madeleine, drawn there by a violent desire to know what is going on, which silences the voice of prudence.  As I approach the Chaussee d’Antin I perceive a multitude of men, women, and children running backwards and forwards, carrying paving-stones.  A barricade is being thrown up; it is already more than three feet high.  Suddenly I hear the rolling of heavy wheels; I turn, and a strange sight is before me—­a mass of women in rags, livid, horrible, and yet grand, with the Phrygian cap on their heads, and the skirts of their robes tied round their waists, were harnessed to a mitrailleuse, which they dragged along at full speed; other women pushing vigorously behind.  The whole procession, in its sombre colours, with dashes of red here and there, thunders past me; I follow it as fast as I can.  The mitrailleuse draws up a little in front of the barricade, and is hailed with wild clamours by the insurgents.  The Amazons are being unharnessed as I come up.  “Now,” said a young gamin, such as one used to see in the gallery of the Theatre Porte St. Martin, “don’t you be acting the spy here, or I will break your head open as if you were a Versaillais.”—­“Don’t waste ammunition,” cried an old man with a long white beard—­a patriarch of civil war—­“don’t waste ammunition; and as for the spy, let him help to carry paving-stones.  Monsieur,” said he, turning to me with much politeness, “will you be so kind as to go and fetch those stones from the corner there?”

[Illustration:  Cafe Life Under the Commune.]

[Illustration:  SPECTACLES DE PARIS.]

I did as I was bid, although I thought, with anything but pleasure, that if at that moment the barricade were attacked and taken, I might be shot before I had the time to say, “Allow me to explain.”  But the scene which surrounds me interests me in spite of myself.  Those grim hags, with their red headdresses, passing the stones I give them rapidly from hand to hand, the men who are building them up only leaving off for a moment now and then to swallow a cup of coffee, which a young girl prepares over a small tin stove; the rifles symmetrically piled; the barricade, which rises higher and higher; the solitude in which we are working—­only here and there a head appears at a window, and is quickly withdrawn; the

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Paris under the Commune from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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