Every hour that flies by, becomes more sinister than the last. They fight at Clamart as they fight at Neuilly, at Meudon and at Courbevoie. Everywhere rage the mitrailleuses, the cannon, and the rifle; the victories of the Communalists are lyingly proclaimed. The truth of their pretended triumphs will soon be known; and unhappily victory will be as detestable as defeat.
General Duval has been made prisoner and put to death. “If you had taken me,” asked General Vinoy, “would you not have shot me?”—“Without hesitation,” replied Duval. And Vinoy gave the word of command, “Fire!”
But this anecdote, though widely spread, is probably false. It is scarcely likely that a Commander-in-Chief of the Versailles troops would have consented to hold such a dialogue with an “insurgent.”
Flourens also is killed. Where and how is not yet known with any certainty. Several versions are given. Some speak of a ball in the head, or the neck, or the chest; others spread the report that his skull was cut open by a sword.
Flourens is thought about and talked of by men of the most opposite opinions. This singular man inspires no antipathy even amongst those who might hold him in the greatest detestation. I shall one day try to account for the partiality of opinion in favour of this young and romantic insurgent.
Duval shot, Flourens killed, Bergeret lying in the pangs of death; the enthusiasm of the Federals might well be cooled down. Not in the least! The battalions that march along the boulevards have the same resolute air, as they sing and shout “Vive la Commune!” Are they the dupes of their chiefs to that extent as to believe the pompous proclamations with their hourly announcements of attacks repelled, of redoubts taken, of soldiers of the line made prisoners? It is not probable. And besides, the guards of the respective quarters must see the return of those who have been to the fight, and whose anxious wives are waiting on the steps of the doors; must learn from them that the forward marches have in reality been routs, and that many dead and wounded have been left on the field, when the Commune reports only declare “losses of little importance.” Whence comes this ardour that the first rush and defeat cannot check? Is it nourished by the reports, true or false, of the cruelties of the Versaillais which are spread by the hundred? The “murder” of Duval, the “assassination” of Flourens, prisoners shot, vivandieres violated, all these culpable inventions—can they be inventions, or does civil war make such barbarians of us?—are indeed of a nature to excite the enthusiasm of hate, and the men march to a probable defeat with the same air as they would march to certain victory. Ah! whether led astray or not, whether guilty, even, or whatever the motive that impels them, they are brave! And when they pass thus they are grand. Yes! in spite of the rags that serve the greater number of them for uniforms, in spite of the drunken gait of some, as a whole they are superb! And the reason of the coldest partisan of order at any price, struggles in vain against the admiration which these men inspire as they march to their death.