The orders are strict: no one is to quit his post. There are men, however, who have been standing there, without sleep, for twenty-four hours. No one must leave the camp of the Friends of Order even to go and dine. Those who have no money either have rations given them or are provided at the expense of the mairie, from a restaurant of the Rue des Filles Saint-Thomas, with a dinner consisting of soup and bouilli, a plate of meat, vegetables, and a bottle of wine. I hear one of them exclaim,
“If the Federals knew that we not only get our pay, but are also fed like princes, they would come over to us, every man of them. As for us, we are determined to obey the maires and deputies of Paris.” Much astonishment is manifested at the absence of Vice-Admiral Saisset; as he has accepted the command he ought to show himself. Certain croakers even insinuate that the vice-admiral hesitates to organise the resistance, but we will not listen to them, and are on the whole full of confidence and resolution. “We are numerous, determined; we have right on our side, and will triumph.”
At about four o’clock an alarm is sounded. We hear cries of “To arms! To arms!” The drums beat, the trumpets sound, the ranks are formed. The ominous click, click, as the men cock their rifles, is heard on all sides. The moment of action has arrived. There are more than ten thousand men, well armed and determined. A company of Mobiles and the National Guards defend the entrance of the Rue Vivienne. All this tumult is caused by one of the battalions from Belleville, passing along the boulevards with three pieces of cannon.
What is about to happen? When the insurgents reach the top of the Rue Vivienne they seem to hesitate. In a few seconds the boulevards, which were just now crowded, are suddenly deserted; and even the cafes are closed.
At such a moment as this, a single accidental shot (several such have happened this morning; a woman standing at a window at the corner of the Rue Saint Marc was nearly killed by the carelessness, of one of the Guards),—a single shot, a cry even, or a menacing gesture would suffice to kindle the blaze. Nobody. moves or speaks. I feel myself tremble before the possibility of an irreparable disaster; it is a solemn and terrible moment.
The battalion from Belleville presents arms; we reply, and they pass on. The danger is over; we breathe again. In a few seconds the crowd has returned to the boulevards.