In the meantime another movement was being made upon Versailles by Meudon and Clamart. A small number of battalions had marched out during the night, and are massed under cover of the forts of Issy and Vanves. They have managed to establish a battery of a few guns on a wooded eminence, at the foot of the glacis of Fort. Issy, and their pieces are firing upon the batteries of the Versailles troops at Meudon, which are answering them furiously. It is a duel of artillery, as in the time—the good time, alas!—of the Prussians.
Up to this moment the information is tolerably clear; probable even, and one is able to come to some idea of the respective positions of the belligerents. But towards two o’clock in the afternoon all the reports get confused and contradictory.
An estafette, who has come from the Porte Maillot, cried to a group formed on the place of the New Opera-house, “We are victorious! Flourens has entered Versailles at the head of forty thousand men. A hundred deputies have been taken. Thiers is a prisoner.”
Elsewhere it is said that in the rout of that morning, at the foot of Mont Valerien, Flourens had disappeared. And where could he have found the forty thousand men to lead them to Versailles?
At the same time a rumour spreads that General Bergeret has been grievously wounded by a shell. “Pure exaggeration!” some one answers. “The General has only had two horses killed under him.”
Before him, rather, since he drives to battle. What appears most certain of all is that there is furious fighting going on between Sevres and Meudon. I hear it said that the 118th of the line have turned the butts of their guns into the air, and that the Parisians have taken twelve mitrailleuses from the Versailles troops.
There is fighting, too, at Chatillon. The Federals have won great advantages. Nevertheless an individual who went out that side to investigate, announces that he saw three battalions return with very little air of triumph, and that other battalions, forming the reserve, had refused to march.
A shower of contradictions, in which the news for the most part has no other source than the opinion and desire of the person who brings it. It is by the result alone that we can appreciate what is passed. At one moment I give up trying to get information as a bad job, but I begin questioning again in spite of myself; the desire to know is even stronger than the very strong certainty that I shall be able to learn nothing.
I turn to the Champs Elysees. The cannon is roaring; ambulance waggons descend the Avenue, and stop before the Palais de l’Industrie; over the way Punch is making his audience roar with laughter as usual. Oh! the miserable times! The horrible fratricidal struggle! May those who were its cause be accursed for ever!
While some are killing and others dying, the members of the Commune are rendering decrees, and the walls are white with official proclamations.