Where are these men going with hurried steps, and with lanterns in their hands? Their uniform is that of the National Guard, and consequently of Federals, but the tricolour band which they wear on the arm would seem to indicate that they belong to the Party of Order. They are making their way by one of the entries of the sewers, and preceded by an officer are disappearing beneath the sombre vaults. Calling to mind the sinister expression of a Communal artillery commander—“The reactionary quarters will all be blown up; not one shall be spared,” it is impossible to avoid feeling a shudder of terror. What if the incendiaries all wearing the badge of the Party of Order, be about to set fire to mines prepared beforehand, or to barrels of petroleum ready to be staved in! The wild demons of the Commune are capable of everything; an invention of incendiary firemen is quoted as an example of the diabolical genius which presided over the work of destruction; individuals wearing the fireman’s uniform were seen to throw combustible liquids by means of pumps and pails on the burning houses, instead of aiding to extinguish the flames.
[Illustration: PARIS UNDERGROUND.]
[Illustration: THE ENEMIES OF PROGRESS.]
[Illustration: CORPS DE GARDE DE L’ARMEE DE VERSAILLES.]
Fortunately, the fear is unfounded, the object of these men, on the contrary, is to cut the wires which connect all parts with inflammable materials, torpedoes, and other atrocious machines. They have already passed several nights in destroying this underground telegraphic system. The duty is not without danger; for not only are they exposed to the terrible consequences of a sudden explosion, but also to the risk of being taken and shot without trial, as traitors to the Commune. That is, should they chance to fall in with hostile bands, or appear in unfriendly quarters. It appears that these determined and devoted citizens have already lost two of their companions in the execution of this perilous duty. The intention of the Commune was to charge the whole of the main sewers and subways with combustibles; but luckily they had not time to mature their schemes, the advance of the Versailles troops being too quick for them. The Catacombs were included in the arrangement; for did not the able Assy direct his agent Fosse to keep them open, as a means of escape? Alas! these subterranean passages that underlie so large a portion of ancient Paris, what stories could they not tell of starved fugitives and maimed culprits dragging their weary limbs into the darkness of these gloomy caverns, only that they might die there in peace! Men and women, whose forms will in a few short weeks be unrecognisable, whose whitened bones will be crushed and kicked aside by the future explorer, who may perchance penetrate the labyrinths, and whose dust will finally be mixed up and undistinguishable from that of the bones and skulls taken from ancient cemeteries and graveyards with which this terrible Golgotha is decorated in Mosaic.