The dream of good M. Prudhomme was, however, somewhat clouded by the figure of the Buttes Montmartre bristling with cannon; but the number of guards had become so diminished, and they seemed so tired of the business, that it appeared as if they were about to quit for good. The following chapter will inform you what were the waking thoughts of the Parisians on the morning of the eighteenth of March.
[Illustration: PURIFICATION OF THE CHAMPS ELYSEES AFTER THE DEPARTURE OF THE PRUSSIANS MAR 1871]
[Illustration: BUILDING A BARRICADE. MARCH 18. 1871.]
[Footnote 1: Memoir, see Appendix I.]
[Footnote 2: The police had seized, some time before, in Paris, ten thousand Orsini bombs, and hundreds of others of a new construction, charged with fulminating mercury.]
[Footnote 3: The eight gigantic female figures, representing the principal towns of France: Strasbourg, Lille, Metz, &c., &c.]
[Footnote 4: “Joseph Prudhomme” is the typical representative of the Parisian middle-class (Bourgeois); the honest simple father of family, peaceful but patriotic, proud of his country and ready to die for it.]
Listen! What does that mean? Is it a transient squall or the first gust of a tempest? Is it due to nature or to man’s agency; is it an emeute or the advent of a revolution that is to overturn everything?
Such were my reflections when awakened, on the 18th of March, 1871, at about four in the morning, by a noise due to the tramp of many feet. From my window, in the gloomy white fog, I could see detachments of soldiers walking under the walls, proceeding slowly, wrapped in their grey capotes; a soft drizzling rain falling at the time. Half awake, I descended to the street in time to interrogate two soldiers passing in the rear.
“Where are you going?” asked I.—“We do not know,” says one; “Report says we are going to Montmartre,” adds the other. They were really going to Montmartre. At five o’clock in the morning the 88th Regiment of the line occupied the top of the hill and the little streets leading to it, a place doubtless familiar to some of them, who on Sundays and fete days had clambered up the hill-sides in company with apple-faced rustics from the outskirts, and middle-class people of the quarter; taking part in the crowd on the Place Saint-Pierre, with its games and amusements, and “assisting,” as they would say, at shooting in a barrel, admiring the ability of some, whilst reviling the stupidity of others; when they had a few sous in their pockets they would try their own skill at throwing big balls into the mouths of fantastic monsters, painted upon a square board, while their country friends nibbled at spice-nuts, and thought them delicious. But on this 18th of March morning there are no women, nor spice-nuts, nor sport on the Place Saint-Pierre: all is slush and dirt, and the poor lines-men are obliged to stand at ease, resting upon their arms, not in the best of humour with the weather or the prospect before them.