And with a wild cry every city gate was stormed.
Like one huge wind-tossed wave, the populace on that memorable night of Fructidor, broke against the cordon of soldiery, that vainly tried to keep it back. Men and women, drunk with brandy and exultation, shouted “Quatorze Juillet!” and amidst curses and threats demanded the opening of the gates.
The people of France would have its will.
Was it not the supreme lord an ruler of the land,
the arbiter of the
Fate of this great, beautiful, and maddened country?
The National Guard was powerless; the officers in command could offer but feeble resistance.
The desultory fire, which in the darkness and the pouring rain did very little harm, had the effect of further infuriating the mob.
The drizzle had turned to a deluge, a veritable heavy summer downpour, with occasional distant claps of thunder and incessant sheet-lightning, which ever and anon illumined with its weird, fantastic flash this heaving throng, these begrimed faces, crowned with red caps of Liberty, these witchlike female creatures with wet, straggly hair and gaunt, menacing arms.
Within half-an-hour the people of Paris was outside its own gates.
Victory was complete. The Guard did not resist; the officers had surrendered; the great and mighty rabble had had its way.
Exultant, it swarmed around the fortifications and along the terrains vauges which it had conquered by its will.
But the downpour was continuous, and with victory came satiety— satiety coupled with wet skins, muddy feet, tired, wearied bodies, and throats parched with continual shouting.
At Menilmontant, where the crowd had been thickest, the tempers highest, and the yells most strident, there now stretched before this tired, excited throng, the peaceful vastness of the cemetery of Pere Lachaise.
The great alleys of sombre monuments, the weird cedars with their fantastic branches, like arms of a hundred ghosts, quelled and awed these hooting masses of degraded humanity.
The silent majesty of this city of the dead seemed to frown with withering scorn on the passions of the sister city.
Instinctively the rabble was cowed. The cemetery looked dark, dismal, and deserted. The flashed of lightning seemed to reveal ghostlike processions of the departed heroes of France, wandering silently amidst the tombs.
And the populace turned with a shudder away from this vast place of eternal peace.
From within the cemetery gates, there was suddenly heard the sound of a sea-mew calling thrice to its mate. And five dark figures, wrapped in cloaks, gradually detached themselves from the throng, and one by one slipped into the grounds of Pere Lachaise through that break in the wall, which is quite close to the main entrance.
Once more the sea-gull’s cry.
Those in the crowd who heard it, shivered beneath their dripping clothes. They thought it was a soul in pain risen from one of the graves, and some of the women, forgetting the last few years of godlessness, hastily crossed themselves, and muttered an invocation to the Virgin Mary.