The revolution had now entered a new phase; the military proceedings had begun, and it was about to be proved that, the Communist generals had even less genius than those of the Defense Nationale, although it must be admitted that the latter did not know the extent of the resources they had at their disposal. When we remember the small advantage those generals managed to derive from the heroism of the Parisian population, who, during the second siege showed that they knew how to fight and how to die, it is marvellous that many people have gone so far as to regret that the emeute of the 31st of October was not successful, believing that if the Commune had triumphed at that time, Paris would have been saved. All this seems very doubtful now, and opinions have veered round considerably, for it is not such men as Duval, Cluseret, La Cecilia, Eudes, or Bergeret, who could have protected Paris against the science of the Prussian generals.]
[Illustration: GENERAL BERGERET.]
To whom shall we listen? Whom believe? It would take a hundred pages, and more, to relate all the different rumours which have circulated to-day, the 4th of April, the second day of the horrible straggle. Let us hastily note down the most persistent of these assertions; later I will put some order into this pell-mell of news.
All through the night the drums beat to arms in every quarter of the town. Companies assembled rapidly, and directed their way towards the Place Vendome or the Porte Maillot, shouting, “A Versailles!” Since five this morning, General Bergeret has occupied the Rond-Point of Courbevoie. This position has been evacuated by the troops of the Assembly. How was this? Were the Federals not beaten yesterday?
(One thing goes against General Bergeret in the opinion of his troops: he drives to battle in a carriage.)
He has formed his troops into columns. No less than sixty thousand men are under his orders; two batteries of seven guns support the infantry; omnibuses follow, filled with provisions. They march towards the Mont Valerien; after having taken the fort, they will march on Versailles by Rueil and Nanterre. After they have taken the Mont Valerien! there is not a moment’s doubt about the success of the enterprise. “We were assured,” said a Federal general to me, “that the fort would open its doors at the first sight of us.” But they counted without General Cholleton, who commands the fortress. The advance-guard of the Federals is received by a formidable discharge of shot and shells. Panic! Cries of rage! A regular rout to the words, “We are betrayed!" The army of the Commune is divided into two fragments: one—scarcely three battalions strong—flies in the direction of Versailles, the other regains Paris with praiseworthy precipitation. Must the Parisian combatants be accused of cowardice for this flight? No! They were surprised; had never expected such a reception from Mont Valerien; had they been warned, they would have held out better. After all, there was more fright than harm done in the affair; the huge fortress could have annihilated the Communists, and it was satisfied with dispersing them. But what has become of the three battalions that passed Mont Valerien? Bravely they went forward.