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John Leighton Stuart
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 389 pages of information about Paris under the Commune.

[Illustration:  FERRE][107]

XCVI.

With three friends I stood upon the roof of a house near the new opera, watching what was passing around.  The spectacle was such, that horror paralyses every other sentiment, even that of self-preservation.  Consternation sits encircled by a blazing atmosphere of terror!  The Hotel de Ville is in flames; the smoke, at times a deep red, envelops all, so that it is impossible to distinguish more than the outlines of immense walls; the wind brings, in heavy gusts, a deadly odour—­of burnt flesh, perhaps—­which turns the heart sick and the brain giddy.  On the other side the Tuileries, the Legion d’Honneur, the Ministere de la Guerre, and the Ministere des Finances are flaming still, like five great craters of a gigantic volcano!  It is the eruption of Paris!  Alone, a great black mass detaches itself from the universal conflagration, it is the Tour Saint-Jacques, standing out like a malediction.

One of the three friends, who are with me on the roof of the house, was able, about an hour ago, to get near the Hotel de Ville.  He related to me what follows:—­

“At the moment of my arrival, the flames burst forth from all the windows of the Hotel de Ville, and the most intense terror seized upon all the inhabitants blocked up in the surrounding quarters, for a terrible rumour is spread; it is said that more than fifty thousand pounds of powder is contained in the subterranean vaults.  The incendiaries must have poured the demoniacal liquid in rivers through the great halls, down the great staircases, from the very garrets, to envelop even the Salle du Trone.  The great fire throws a blood-red glare over the city, and on the quays of the Institute.  Night is so like day that a letter may be read in the street.  Is this the end of the famous capital of France?  Have the infamous fiends of the committee for public safety ordered, in their cowardly death-agony, that this should be the end?  Yes, it is the ruin of all that was grand, generous, radiant, and consolatory for our country that they have decided to consummate, with a chorus of hellish laughter, in which terror and ferocity struggle with brutal degradation.
“In the midst of this horror, confused rumours are circulated.  It is said that the heat will penetrate to the cellars and cause an explosion of whole quarters.  Then what will become of the inhabitants, and the riches that they have accumulated?  The heat is overwhelming between the Tuileries and the Hotel de Ville—­that is, over the space of about a mile.  The two barricades of the Rue de Rivoli and of the Rue de la Coutellerie, near which are the offices of the municipal services—­the lighting of the city, the octroi, waters, sewers, etc.,—­will not be taken until too late, in spite of the energy with which the army attacks them.  It is feared that the flame will reach the neighbourhood of
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