Another spot which may justly be denominated a place of blood, is the Conciergerie. It is yet as grim and awful as ever, in its appearance. The spot is still shown in the stones where the blood ran from the swords of the human butchers. If the history of this prison were written, it would make a dozen books, and some of the most heart-rending tragedies would be unfolded to the world. The great and good, and the wretchedly vile, have together lived within its walls and lost their hopes of life, or their desire for it. I could never pass it without a shudder, for though it was not so much a place of execution as a prison, yet so terrible a place was it that many a prisoner has joyfully emerged from its dark walls to the scaffold. It has witnessed the death of many a poor man and woman, stifled with its foul air, its horrid associations, and the future with which it terrified its inmates. Many a noble heart has been broken in its damp and dimly-lighted cells, for it has existed for many centuries. As early as 1400 it was the scene of wholesale butchery, and on St. Bartholomew’s night, its bells rang out upon the shuddering air, to add their voice with the others, which filled every heart with fear.
Paris is one of the most singular cities in the civilized world for one thing—for the atrocities which it has witnessed. Certainly, in modern times no city in the world has been the scene of such hideous acts as the city of the fine arts. Deeds have been done within a century, which would put a savage to the blush. The place is still pointed out where a poor girl was burned by a slow fire. She had wounded a soldier, and as a punishment, she was stripped naked, her breasts cut off, her skin slashed by red hot sabres, while she was being burned. Her yells could be heard over half Paris.
Think, too, of later times—when Louis Napoleon aimed his cannon at the houses of inoffensive people, and shot down, in cold blood, some of the best inhabitants of Paris. A more hellish act was never perpetrated in this world of ours than that—yet he is the patron of modern civilization, and is on excellent terms with the amiable Queen Victoria. I do not wonder that Rousseau argued that the primitive and savage condition of man is to be preferred to French civilization. This is one phase of Paris life as it is to-day, and as it always has been, and it is right that the stranger should not pass it by.
Paris is crowded with such places as these I have been describing—spots to which bloody histories cling. The paving-stones are, as it were, red to this day with the blood they drank in the times of the revolution.
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