Meanwhile the drams beat to arms, on all sides. A considerable number of battalions defile along the Boulevard Montmartre; more than twenty thousand men, some say, who pretend to know. On they march, singing and shouting “Vive la Commune! Vive la Republique!” They are answered by a few shouts. These are not the Montmartre and Belleville guards alone; peaceful faces of citizens and merchants may be seen under the military kepis, and many hands are white as no workman’s are. They march in good order,—they are calm and resolved; one feels that these men are ready to die for a cause that they believe to be just. I raise my hat as they pass; one must do honour to those who, even if they be guilty, push their devotion so far as to expose themselves to death for their convictions.
But what are these convictions? What is the Commune? The men who sit at the Hotel de Ville have published no programme, yet they kill and are killed for the sake of the Commune. Oh, words! words! What power they have over you, heroic and most simple people!
In the evening out came a proclamation. There was so great a crowd wherever it was posted up that I had not the chance of copying it; but it ran somewhat in these terms:—
“CITIZENS,—This morning the Royalists have ATTACKED.
“Impatient, before our moderation they have ATTACKED.
“Unable to bring French
bayonets against us, they have opposed us
with the Imperial Guard and Pontifical Zouaves.
“They have bombarded the inoffensive village of Neuilly.
Cathelineau’s Vendeens, Trochu’s
Valentin’s gendarmes, have rushed upon us.
“There are dead and wounded.
“Against this attack,
renewed from the Prussians, Paris should rise
to a man.
“Thanks to the support
of the National Guard, the victory will be
Victory! What victory? Oh, the bitter pain! Paris shedding the blood of France, France shedding the blood of Paris! From whatever side the triumph comes, will it not be accursed?
[Footnote 33: On the 1st of April several shots were fired under the walls of Fort Issy, but it was not until the next day, the 2nd of April, at nine o’clock in the morning, that the action commenced in earnest at Courbevoie, by an attack of the Versailles army. The federals, who thought themselves masters of the place, were stopped by the steady firing of a regiment of gendarmerie and heavy cannonading from Mont Valerien. At first the National Guards retreated, then disputed every foot of ground with much courage. In the neighbourhood the desolation and misery was extreme.