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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.
would be, to say the least, disagreeable, but argued that in time of war one must take one’s chance.—­“Do you think, then, monsieur,” he continued, “that, if in the event of the insurgents entering we were to look out for a back door to escape by, we should be acting the part of cowards?”—­“Of cowards? no; but of excessively prudent individuals? yes.":—­“Well, monsieur, I am prudent, and there is an end of it!” exclaimed my comrade, with an air of triumph, “and I think I have found——­“—­“The back door in question?”—­“Just go; look down that passage in front of us; at the end there is a door which leads—­where do you think?”—­“Into the Passage des Panoramas, does it not?”—­“Yes, monsieur, and now you see what I mean.”—­I told him I did not think I did.—­“Why, you see,” he explained, “when the enemy comes we must rush into that passage, shut the lower door, and make for our post at the windows, where we will do our duty bravely to our last cartridge.  But suppose, in the meantime, that those devils, succeed in breaking open the lower door with the butt end of their muskets—­and it is not very strong—­what shall we do then?”—­“Why, of course,” I said, “we must plant ourselves at the top of the staircase and receive them at the point of our bayonets.”—­“By no means;” he expostulated.—­“But we must; it is our duty.”—­“Oh!  I fancied we might have gained the door that leads into the passage,” he went on, looking rather shame-faced.—­“What, run away!”—­“No, not exactly; only find some place of safety!”—­“Well, if it comes to that,” I replied, “you may do just as you like; only I warn you that the passage is occupied by a hundred of our men, and that all the outlets are barricaded.”—­“No, not all,” he said with conviction, “and that is why I appeal to you.  You are a journalist, are you not?”—­“Sometimes.”—­“Yes, but you are; and you know actors and all those sort of people, and you go behind the scenes, I dare say, and know where the actors dress themselves, and all that.”—­I looked at my brave comrade in some surprise, but he continued without noticing me, “And, you know all the ins and outs of the theatre, the corridors, the trapdoors.”—­“Suppose I do, what good can that do you?”—­“All the good in the world, monsieur; it will be the saving of me.  Why we shall only have to find the actors’ entrance of the Varietes, which is in the passage, then ring, at the bell; the porter knows you, and will admit us.  You can guide us both up the staircase and behind the scenes, and we can easily hunt out some hole or corner in which to hide until the fight is over.”—­“Then,” said I, feeling rather disgusted with my companion, “we can bravely walk out of the front door on the boulevards, and go and eat a comfortable breakfast, while the others are busy carrying away our dead comrades from the staircase we ought to have helped to defend!”

The poor man looked at me aghast, and then went off.  I saw that I had hurt his feelings, and I thought perhaps I had been wrong in making him feel the cowardice of his proposition.  I had known him for some months; he lived in the same street as I did, and I remembered that he had a wife and children.  Perhaps he was right in wishing to protect his life at any price.  I thought it over for a minute or two, and then it went out of my mind altogether.

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