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My Days of Adventure by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly

Part 2 out of 5

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they were utter scamps who had only created a disturbance for the purpose
of filling their pockets.

Sala was subjected not merely to much ill-treatment, but also to
indignities which only Rabelais or Zola could have (in different ways)
adequately described; and it was not until the morning that he was able to
communicate with the manager of the Grand Hotel, where he had his
quarters. The manager acquainted the British Embassy with his predicament,
and it was, I think, Mr. Sheffield who repaired to the Préfecture de
Police to obtain an order for Sala's liberation. The story told me at the
time was that Lord Lyons's representative found matters already in great
confusion at the Préfecture. There had been a stampede of officials,
scarcely any being at their posts, in such wise that he made his way to
the Prefect's sanctum unannounced. There he found M. Piétri engaged with a
confidential acolyte in destroying a large number of compromising papers,
emptying boxes and pigeon-holes in swift succession, and piling their
contents on an already huge fire, which was stirred incessantly in order
that it might burn more swiftly. Piétri only paused in his task in order
to write an order for Sala's release, and I have always understood that
this was the last official order that emanated from the famous Prefect of
the Second Empire. It is true that he presented himself at the Tuileries
before he fled to Belgium, but the Empress, as we know, was averse from
any armed conflict with the population of Paris. As a matter of fact, the
Prefecture had spent its last strength during the night of September 3.
Disorganized as it was on the morning of the 4th, it could not have fought
the Revolution. As will presently appear, those police who on the night of
the 3rd were chosen to assist in guarding the approaches to the Palais
Bourbon on the morrow, were quite unable to do so.

Disorder, indeed, prevailed in many places. My father had recently found
himself in a dilemma in regard to the requirements of the _Illustrated
London News_. In those days the universal snap-shotting hand-camera was
unknown. Every scene that it was desired to depict in the paper had to be
sketched, and in presence of all the defensive preparations which were
being made, a question arose as to what might and what might not be
sketched. General Trochu was Governor of Paris, and applications were made
to him on the subject. A reply came requiring a reference from the British
Embassy before any permission whatever was granted. In due course a letter
was obtained from the Embassy, signed not, I think, by Lord Lyons himself,
but by one of the secretaries--perhaps Sir Edward Malet, or Mr. Wodehouse,
or even Mr. Sheffield. At all events, on the morning of September 4, my
father, being anxious to settle the matter, commissioned me to take the
Embassy letter to Trochu's quarters at the Louvre. Here I found great
confusion. Nobody was paying the slightest attention to official work. The
_bureaux_ were half deserted. Officers came and went incessantly, or
gathered in little groups in the passages and on the stairs, all of them
looking extremely upset and talking anxiously and excitedly together. I
could find nobody to attend to any business, and was at a loss what to do,
when a door opened and a general officer in undress uniform appeared on
the threshold of a large and finely appointed room.

I immediately recognized Trochu's extremely bald head and determined jaw,
for since his nomination as Governor, Paris had been flooded with
portraits of him. He had opened the door, I believe, to look for an
officer, but on seeing me standing there with a letter in my hand he
inquired what I wanted. I replied that I had brought a letter from the
British Embassy, and he may perhaps have thought that I was an Embassy
messenger. At all events, he took the letter from me, saying curtly:
"C'est bien, je m'en occuperai, revenez cet après-midi." With those words
he stepped back into the room and carefully placed the letter on the top
of several others which were neatly disposed on a side-table.

The incident was trivial in itself, yet it afforded a glimpse of Trochu's
character. Here was the man who, in his earlier years, had organized the
French Expedition to the Crimea in a manner far superior to that in which
our own had been organized; a man of method, order, precision, fully
qualified to prepare the defence of Paris, though not to lead her army in
the field. Brief as was that interview of mine, I could not help noticing
how perfectly calm and self-possessed he was, for his demeanour greatly
contrasted with the anxious or excited bearing of his subordinates. Yet he
had reached the supreme crisis of his life. The Empire was falling, a
first offer of Power had been made to him on the previous evening; and a
second offer, which he finally accepted, [See my book, "Republican
France," p. 8.] was almost imminent. Yet on that morning of
Revolution he appeared as cool as a cucumber.

I quitted the Louvre, going towards the Rue Royale, it having been
arranged with my father that we should take _déjeuner_ at a well-known
restaurant there. It was called "His Lordship's Larder," and was
pre-eminently an English house, though the landlord bore the German name
of Weber. He and his family were unhappily suffocated in the cellars of
their establishment during one of the conflagrations which marked the
Bloody Week of the Commune. At the time when I met my father, that is
about noon, there was nothing particularly ominous in the appearance of
the streets along which I myself passed. It was a fine bright Sunday, and,
as was usual on such a day, there were plenty of people abroad. Recently
enrolled National Guards certainly predominated among the men, but the
latter included many in civilian attire, and there was no lack of women
and children. As for agitation, I saw no sign of it.

As I was afterwards told, however, by Delmas, the landlord of the Café
Grétry, [Note] matters were very different that morning on the Boulevards,
and particularly on the Boulevard Montmartre. By ten o'clock, indeed,
great crowds had assembled there, and the excitement grew apace. The same
words were on all lips: "Sedan--the whole French army taken--the wretched
Emperor's sword surrendered--unworthy to reign--dethrone him!" Just as, in
another crisis of French history, men had climbed on to the chairs and
tables in the garden of the Palais Royal to denounce Monsieur and Madame
Véto and urge the Parisians to march upon Versailles, so now others
climbed on the chairs outside the Boulevard cafés to denounce the Empire,
and urge a march upon the Palais Bourbon, where the Legislative Body was
about to meet. And amidst the general clamour one cry persistently
prevailed. It was: "Déchéance! Déchéance!--Dethronement! Dethronement!"

[Note: This was a little café on the Boulevard des Italiens, and was noted
for its quietude during the afternoon, though in the evening it was, by
reason of its proximity to the "Petite Bourse" (held on the side-walk in
front of it), invaded by noisy speculators. Captain Bingham, my father,
and myself long frequented the Café Grétry, often writing our "Paris
letters" there. Subsequent to the war, Bingham and I removed to the Café
Cardinal, where, however, the everlasting rattle of dominoes proved very
disturbing. In the end, on that account, and in order to be nearer to a
club to which we both belonged, we emigrated to the Café Napolitain. One
reason for writing one's copy at a café instead of at one's club was that,
at the former, one could at any moment receive messengers bringing late
news; in addition to which, afternoon newspapers were instantly

At every moment the numbers of the crowd increased. New-comers continually
arrived from the eastern districts by way of the Boulevards, and from the
north by way of the Faubourg Montmartre and the Rue Drouot, whilst from
the south--the Quartier Latin and its neighbourhood--contingents made
their way across the Pont St. Michel and the Pont Notre Dame, and thence,
past the Halles, along the Boulevard de Sebastopol and the Rue Montmartre.
Why the Quartier Latin element did not advance direct on the Palais
Bourbon from its own side of the river I cannot exactly say; but it was, I
believe, thought desirable to join hands, in the first instance, with the
Revolutionary elements of northern Paris. All this took place whilst my
father and myself were partaking of our meal. When we quitted the
"Larder," a little before one o'clock, all the small parties of National
Guards and civilians whom we had observed strolling about at an earlier
hour, had congregated on the Place de la Concorde, attracted thither by
the news of the special Sunday sitting, at which the Legislative Body
would undoubtedly take momentous decisions.

It should be added that nearly all the National Guards who assembled on
the Place de la Concorde before one o'clock were absolutely unarmed. At
that hour, however, a large force of them, equivalent to a couple of
battalions or thereabouts, came marching down the Rue Royale from the
Boulevards, and these men (who were preceded by a solitary drummer)
carried, some of them, chassepots and others _fusils-à-tabatière,_ having
moreover, in most instances, their bayonets fixed. They belonged to the
north of Paris, though I cannot say precisely to what particular
districts, nor do I know exactly by whose orders they had been assembled
and instructed to march on the Palais Bourbon, as they speedily did. But
it is certain that all the fermentation of the morning and all that
occurred afterwards was the outcome of the night-work of the secret
Republican Committees.

As the guards marched on, loud cries of "Déchéance! Déchéance!" arose
among them, and were at once taken up by the spectators. Perfect
unanimity, indeed, appeared to prevail on the question of dethroning the
Emperor. Even the soldiers who were scattered here and there--a few
Linesmen, a few Zouaves, a few Turcos, some of them invalided from
MacMahon's forces--eagerly joined in the universal cry, and began to
follow the guards on to the Place de la Concorde. Never, I believe, had
that square been more crowded--not even in the days when it was known as
the Place Louis Quinze, and when hundreds of people were crushed to death
there whilst witnessing a display of fireworks in connection with the
espousals of the future Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, not even when it
had become the Place de la Révolution and was thronged by all who wished
to witness the successive executions of the last King and Queen of the old
French monarchy. From the end of the Rue Royale to the bridge conducting
across the Seine to the Palais Bourbon, from the gate of the Tuileries
garden to the horses of Marly at the entrance of the Champs Elysées,
around the obelisk of Luxor, and the fountains which were playing as usual
in the bright sunshine which fell from the blue sky, along all the
balustrades connecting the seated statues of the cities of France, here,
there, and everywhere, indeed, you saw human heads. And the clamour was
universal. The great square had again become one of Revolution, and yet
it remained one of Concord also, for there was absolute agreement among
the hundred thousand or hundred and fifty thousand people who had chosen
it as their meeting-place, an agreement attested by that universal and
never-ceasing cry of "Dethronement!"

As the armed National Guards debouched from the Rue Royale, their solitary
drummer plied his sticks. But the roll of the drum was scarcely heard in
the general uproar, and so dense was the crowd that the men could advance
but very slowly. For a while it took some minutes to make only a few
steps. Meantime the ranks of the men were broken here and there, other
people got among them, and at last my father and myself were caught in the
stream and carried with it, still somewhat slowly, in the direction of the
Pont de la Concorde. I read recently that the bridge was defended by
mounted men of the Garde de Paris (the forerunner of the Garde
Républicaine of to-day); a French writer, in recalling the scene,
referring to "the men's helmets glistening in the sunshine." But that is
pure imagination. The bridge was defended by a cordon of police ranged in
front of a large body of Gendarmerie mobile, wearing the familiar dark
blue white-braided _képis_ and the dark blue tunics with white
aiguillettes. At first, as I have already said, we advanced but slowly
towards that defending force; but, all at once, we were swept onward by
other men who had come from the Boulevards, in our wake. A minute later an
abrupt halt ensued, whereupon it was only with great difficulty that we
were able to resist the pressure from behind.

I at last contrived to raise myself on tiptoes. Our first ranks had
effected a breach in those of the sergents-de-ville, but before us were
the mounted gendarmes, whose officer suddenly gave a command and drew his
sword. For an instant I saw him plainly: his face was intensely pale. But
a sudden rattle succeeded his command, for his men responded to it by
drawing their sabres, which flashed ominously. A minute, perhaps two
minutes, elapsed, the pressure in our rear still and ever increasing. I do
not know what happened exactly at the head of our column: the uproar was
greater than ever, and it seemed as if, in another moment, we should be
charged, ridden over, cut down, or dispersed. I believe, however, that in
presence of that great concourse of people, in presence too of the
universal reprobation of the Empire which had brought defeat, invasion,
humiliation upon France, the officer commanding the gendarmes shrank from
carrying out his orders. There must have been a brief parley with the
leaders of our column. In any case, the ranks of the gendarmes suddenly
opened, many of them taking to the footways of the bridge, over which our
column swept at the double-quick, raising exultant shouts of "Vive la
République!" It was almost a race as to who should be the first to reach
the Palais Bourbon. Those in the rear were ever impelling the foremost
onward, and there was no time to look about one. But in a rapid vision, as
it were, I saw the gendarmes reining in their horses on either side of us;
and, here and there, medals gleamed on their dark tunics, and it seemed to
me as if more than one face wore an angry expression. These men had fought
under the imperial eagles, they had been decorated for their valour in the
Crimean, Italian, and Cochin-China wars. Veterans all, and faithful
servants of the Empire, they saw the _régime_ for which they had fought,
collapsing. Had their commanding officer ordered it, they might well have
charged us; but, obedient to discipline, they had opened their ranks, and
now the Will of the People was sweeping past them.

None of our column had a particularly threatening mien; the general
demeanour was rather suggestive of joyful expectancy. But, the bridge once
crossed, there was a fresh pause at the gates shutting off the steps of
the Palais Bourbon. Here infantry were assembled, with their chassepots in
readiness. Another very brief but exciting interval ensued. Then the
Linesmen were withdrawn, the gates swung open, and everybody rushed up the
steps. I was carried hither and thither, and at last from the portico into
the building, where I contrived to halt beside one of the statues in the
"Salle des Pas Perdus." I looked for my father, but could not see him, and
remained wedged in my corner for quite a considerable time. Finally,
however, another rush of invaders dislodged me, and I was swept with many
others into the Chamber itself. All was uproar and confusion there. Very
few deputies were present. The public galleries, the seats of the members,
the hemicycle in front of the tribune, were crowded with National Guards.
Some were standing on the stenographers' table and on the ushers' chairs
below the tribune. There were others on the tribune stairs. And at the
tribune itself, with his hat on his head, stood Gambetta, hoarsely
shouting, amidst the general din, that Louis Napoleon Bonaparte and his
dynasty had for ever ceased to reign. Then, again and again, arose the cry
of "Vive la République!" In the twinkling of an eye, however, Gambetta was
lost to view--he and other Republican deputies betaking themselves, as I
afterwards learnt, to the palace steps, where the dethronement of the
Bonapartes was again proclaimed. The invaders of the chamber swarmed after
them, and I was watching their departure when I suddenly saw my father
quietly leaning back in one of the ministerial seats--perhaps that which,
in the past, had been occupied by Billault, Rouher, Ollivier, and other
powerful and prominent men of the fallen _régime_.

At the outset of the proceedings that day Palikao had proposed the
formation of a Council of Government and National Defence which was to
include five members of the Legislative Body. The ministers were to be
appointed by this Council, and he was to be Lieutenant-General of France.
It so happened that the more fervent Imperialists had previously offered
him a dictatorship, but he had declined it. Jules Favre met the General's
proposal by claiming priority for the motion which he had submitted at the
midnight sitting, whilst Thiers tried to bring about a compromise by
suggesting such a Committee as Palikao had indicated, but placing the
choice of its members entirely in the hands of the Legislative Body,
omitting all reference to Palikao's Lieutenancy, and, further, setting
forth that a Constituent Assembly should be convoked as soon as
circumstances might permit. The three proposals--Thiers', Favre's, and
Palikao's--were submitted to the _bureaux_, and whilst these _bureaux_
were deliberating in various rooms the first invasion of the Chamber took
place in spite of the efforts of Jules Ferry, who had promised Palikao
that the proceedings of the Legislature should not be disturbed. When the
sitting was resumed the "invaders," who, at that moment, mainly occupied
the galleries, would listen neither to President Schneider nor to their
favourite Gambetta, though both appealed to them for silence and order.
Jules Favre alone secured a few moments' quietude, during which he begged
that there might be no violence. Palikao was present, but did not speak.
[Later in the day, after urging Trochu to accept the presidency of the new
Government, as otherwise "all might be lost," Palikao quitted Paris for
Belgium. He stayed at Namur during the remainder of the war, and
afterwards lived in retirement at Versailles, where he died in January,
1878.] Amidst the general confusion came the second invasion of the
Chamber, when I was swept off my feet and carried on to the floor of the
house. That second invasion precipitated events. Even Gambetta wished the
dethronement of the dynasty to be signified by a formal vote, but the
"invaders" would brook no delay.

Both of us, my father and I, were tired and thirsty after our unexpected
experiences. Accordingly we did not follow the crowd back to the steps
overlooking the Place de la Concorde, but, like a good many other people,
we went off by way of the Place de Bourgogne. No damage had been done in
the Chamber itself, but as we quitted the building we noticed several
inscriptions scrawled upon the walls. In some instances the words were
merely "Vive la République!" and "Mort aux Prussiens!" At other times,
however, they were too disgusting to be set down here. In or near the Rue
de Bourgogne we found a fairly quiet wine-shop, where we rested and
refreshed ourselves with _cannettes_ of so-called Bière de Strasbourg.
We did not go at that moment to the Hôtel-de-Ville, whither a large part
of the crowd betook itself by way of the quays, and where the Republic
was again proclaimed; but returned to the Place de la Concorde, where some
thousands of people still remained. Everybody was looking very animated
and very pleased. Everybody imagined that, the Empire being overthrown,
France would soon drive back the German invader. All fears for the future
seemed, indeed, to have departed. Universal confidence prevailed, and
everybody congratulated everybody else. There was, in any case, one
good cause for congratulation: the Revolution had been absolutely
bloodless--the first and only phenomenon of the kind in all French

Whilst we were strolling about the Place de la Concorde I noticed that the
chief gate of the Tuileries garden had been forced open and damaged. The
gilded eagles which had decorated it had been struck off and pounded to
pieces, this, it appeared, having been chiefly the work of an enterprising
Turco. A few days later Victorien Sardou wrote an interesting account of
how he and others obtained admittance, first to the reserved garden, and
then to the palace itself. On glancing towards it I observed that the flag
which had still waved over the principal pavilion that morning, had now
disappeared. It had been lowered after the departure of the Empress. Of
the last hours which she spent in the palace, before she quitted it with
Prince Metternich and Count Nigra to seek a momentary refuge at the
residence of her dentist, Dr. Evans, I have given a detailed account,
based on reliable narratives and documents, in my "Court of the

Quitting, at last, the Place de la Concorde, we strolled slowly homeward.
Some tradespeople in the Rue Royale and the Faubourg St. Honoré, former
purveyors to the Emperor or the Empress, were already hastily removing the
imperial arms from above their shops. That same afternoon and during the
ensuing Monday and Tuesday every escutcheon, every initial N, every crown,
every eagle, every inscription that recalled the Empire, was removed or
obliterated in one or another manner. George Augustus Sala, whose recent
adventure confined him to his room at the Grand Hotel, spent most of his
time in watching the men who removed the eagles, crowns, and Ns from the
then unfinished Opera-house. Even the streets which recalled the imperial
_regime_ were hastily renamed. The Avenue de l'Impératrice at once became
the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne; and the Rue du Dix-Décembre (so called in
memory of Napoleon's assumption of the imperial dignity) was rechristened
Rue du Quatre Septembre--this being the "happy thought" of a Zouave, who,
mounted on a ladder, set the new name above the old one, whilst the plate
bearing the latter was struck off with a hammer by a young workman.

As we went home on the afternoon of that memorable Fourth, we noticed that
all the cafés and wine-shops were doing a brisk trade. Neither then nor
during the evening, however, did I perceive much actual drunkenness. It
was rather a universal jollity, as though some great victory had been
gained. Truth to tell, the increase of drunkenness in Paris was an effect
of the German Siege of the city, when drink was so plentiful and food so

My father and I had reached the corner of our street when we witnessed an
incident which I have related in detail in the first pages of my book,
"Republican France." It was the arrival of Gambetta at the Ministry of the
Interior, by way of the Avenue de Marigny, with an escort of red-shirted
Francs-tireurs de la Presse. The future Dictator had seven companions with
him, all huddled inside or on the roof of a four-wheel cab, which was
drawn by two Breton nags. I can still picture him alighting from the
vehicle and, in the name of the Republic, ordering a chubby little
Linesman, who was mounting guard at the gate of the Ministry, to have the
said gate opened; and I can see the sleek and elderly _concierge_, who had
bowed to many an Imperial Minister, complying with the said injunction,
and respectfully doffing his tasselled smoking-cap and bending double
whilst he admitted his new master. Then the gate is closed, and from
behind the finely-wrought ornamental iron-work Gambetta briefly addresses
the little throng which has recognized him, saying that the Empire is
dead, but that France is wounded, and that her very wounds will inflame
her with fresh courage; promising, too, that the whole nation shall be
armed; and asking one and all to place confidence in the new Government,
even as the latter will place confidence in the people.

In the evening I strolled with my father to the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville,
where many people were congregated, A fairly large body of National Guards
was posted in front of the building, most of whose windows were lighted
up. The members of the New Government of National Defence were
deliberating there. Trochu had become its President, and Jules Favre its
Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Henri Rochefort, released
that afternoon by his admirers from the prison of Sainte Pélagie, was
included in the administration, this being in the main composed of the
deputies for Paris. Only one of the latter, the cautious Thiers, refused
to join it. He presided, however, that same evening over a gathering of
some two hundred members of the moribund Legislative Body, which then made
a forlorn attempt to retain some measure of authority, by coming to some
agreement with the new Government. But Jules Favre and Jules Simon, who
attended the meeting on the latter's behalf, would not entertain the
suggestion. It was politely signified to the deputies that their support
in Paris was not required, and that if they desired to serve their country
in any way, they had better betake themselves to their former
constituencies in the provinces. So far as the Legislative Body and the
Senate, [Note] also, were concerned, everything ended in a
delightful bit of comedy. Not only were the doors of their respective
meeting halls looked, but they were "secured" with strips of tape and
seals of red wax. The awe with which red sealing-wax inspires Frenchmen is
distinctly a trait of the national character. Had there been, however, a
real Bonaparte in Paris at that time, he would probably have cut off the
aforesaid seals with his sword.

[Note: The Senate, over which Rouher presided, dispensed quietly on
hearing of the invasion of the Chamber. The proposal that it should
adjourn till more fortunate times emanated from Rouher himself. A few
cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" were raised as the assembly dispersed.
Almost immediately afterwards, however, most of the Senators, including
Rouher, who knew that he was very obnoxious to the Parisians, quitted the
city and even France.]

On the morning of September 5, the _Charivari_--otherwise the daily
Parisian _Punch_--came out with a cartoon designed to sum up the whole
period covered by the imperial rule. It depicted France bound hand and
foot and placed between the mouths of two cannons, one inscribed "Paris,
1851," and the other "Sedan, 1870"--those names and dates representing the
Alpha and Omega of the Second Empire.



The Government of National Defence--The Army of Paris--The Return
of Victor Hugo--The German advance on Paris--The National Guard
reviewed--Hospitable Preparations for the Germans--They draw nearer
still--Departure of Lord Lyons--Our Last Day of Liberty--On the
Fortifications--The Bois de Boulogne and our Live Stock--Mass before
the Statue of Strasbourg--Devout Breton Mobiles--Evening on the
Boulevards and in the Clubs--Trochu and Ducrot--The Fight and Panic
of Chatillon--The Siege begins.

As I shall have occasion in these pages to mention a good many members
of the self-constituted Government which succeeded the Empire, it may be
as well for me to set down here their names and the offices they held.
I have already mentioned that Trochu was President, and Jules Favre
Vice-President, of the new administration. The former also retained his
office as Governor of Paris, and at the same time became Generalissimo.
Favre, for his part, took the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. With him and
Trochu were Gambetta, Minister of the Interior; Jules Simon, Minister of
Public Instruction; Adolphe Crémieux, Minister of Justice; Ernest Picard,
Minister of Finance; Jules Ferry, Secretary-General to the Government, and
later Mayor of Paris; and Henri Rochefort, President of the Committee of
Barricades. Four of their colleagues, Emmanuel Arago, Garnier-Pagès,
Eugène Pelletan, and Glais-Bizoin, did not take charge of any particular
administrative departments, the remainder of these being allotted to men
whose co-operation was secured. For instance, old General Le Flô became
Minister of War--under Trochu, however, and not over him. Vice-Admiral
Fourichon was appointed Minister of Marine; Magnin, an iron-master,
became Minister of Commerce and Agriculture; Frédéric Dorian, another
iron-master, took the department of Public Works; Count Emile de Kératry
acted as Prefect of Police, and Etienne Arago, in the earlier days, as
Mayor of Paris.

The new Government was fully installed by Tuesday, September 6. It had
already issued several more or less stirring proclamations, which were
followed by a despatch which Jules Favre addressed to the French
diplomatic representatives abroad. As a set-off to the arrival of a number
of dejected travel-stained fugitives from MacMahon's army, whose
appearance was by no means of a nature to exhilarate the Parisians, the
defence was reinforced by a large number of Gardes Mobiles, who poured
into the city, particularly from Brittany, Trochu's native province, and
by a considerable force of regulars, infantry, cavalry, and artillery,
commanded by the veteran General Vinoy (then seventy years of age), who
had originally been despatched to assist MacMahon, but, having failed to
reach him before the disaster of Sedan, retreated in good order on the
capital. At the time when the Siege actually commenced there were in Paris
about 90,000 regulars (including all arms and categories), 110,000 Mobile
Guards, and a naval contingent of 13,500 men, that is a force of 213,000,
in addition to the National Guards, who were about 280,000 in number.
Thus, altogether, nearly half a million armed men were assembled in Paris
for the purpose of defending it. As all authorities afterwards admitted,
this was a very great blunder, as fully 100,000 regulars and mobiles might
have been spared to advantage for service in the provinces. Of course the
National Guards themselves could not be sent away from the city, though
they were often an encumbrance rather than a help, and could not possibly
have carried on the work of defence had they been left to their own

Besides troops, so long as the railway trains continued running,
additional military stores and supplies of food, flour, rice, biscuits,
preserved meats, rolled day by day into Paris. At the same time, several
illustrious exiles returned to the capital. Louis Blanc and Edgar Quinet
arrived there, after years of absence, in the most unostentatious fashion,
though they soon succumbed to the prevailing mania of inditing manifestoes
and exhortations for the benefit of their fellow-countrymen. Victor Hugo's
return was more theatrical. In those famous "Châtiments" in which he had
so severely flagellated the Third Napoleon (after, in earlier years,
exalting the First to the dignity of a demi-god), he had vowed to keep out
of France and to protest against the Empire so long as it lasted, penning,
in this connection, the famous line:

"Et s'il n'en reste qu'un, je serai celui-là!"

But now the Empire had fallen, and so Hugo returned in triumph to Paris.
When he alighted from the train which brought him, he said to those who
had assembled to give him a fitting greeting, that he had come to do his
duty in the hour of danger, that duty being to save Paris, which meant
more than saving France, for it implied saving the world itself--Paris
being the capital of civilization, the centre of mankind. Naturally
enough, those fine sentiments were fervently applauded by the great poet's
admirers, and when he had installed himself with his companions in an open
carriage, two or three thousand people escorted him processionally along
the Boulevards. It was night-time, and the cafés were crowded and the
footways covered with promenaders as the _cortége_ went by, the escort
singing now the "Marseillaise" and now the "Chant du Départ," whilst on
every side shouts of "Vive Victor Hugo!" rang out as enthusiastically as
if the appointed "Saviour of Paris" were indeed actually passing. More
than once I saw the illustrious poet stand up, uncover, and wave his hat
in response to the acclamations, and I then particularly noticed the
loftiness of his forehead, and the splendid crop of white hair with which
it was crowned. Hugo, at that time sixty-eight years old, still looked
vigorous, but it was beyond the power of any such man as himself to save
the city from what was impending. All he could do was to indite perfervid
manifestoes, and subsequently, in "L'Année terrible," commemorate the
doings and sufferings of the time. For the rest, he certainly enrolled
himself as a National Guard, and I more than once caught sight of him
wearing _képi_ and _vareuse_. I am not sure, however, whether he ever did
a "sentry-go."

It must have been on the day following Victor Hugo's arrival that I
momentarily quitted Paris for reasons in which my youthful but precocious
heart was deeply concerned. I was absent for four days or so, and on
returning to the capital I was accompanied by my stepmother, who, knowing
that my father intended to remain in the city during the impending siege,
wished to be with him for a while before the investment began. I recollect
that she even desired to remain with us, though that was impossible, as
she had young children, whom she had left at Saint Servan; and, besides,
as I one day jocularly remarked to her, she would, by staying in Paris,
have added to the "useless mouths," whose numbers the Republican, like the
Imperial, Government was, with very indifferent success, striving to
diminish. However, she only quitted us at the last extremity, departing on
the evening of September 17, by the Western line, which, on the morrow,
the enemy out at Conflans, some fourteen miles from Paris.

Day by day the Parisians had received news of the gradual approach of
the German forces. On the 8th they heard that the Crown Prince of
Prussia's army was advancing from Montmirail to Coulommiers--whereupon the
city became very restless; whilst on the 9th there came word that the
black and white pennons of the ubiquitous Uhlans had been seen at La
Ferté-sous-Jouarre. That same day Thiers quitted Paris on a mission which
he had undertaken for the new Government, that of pleading the cause of
France at the Courts of London, St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Rome. Then, on
the 11th, there were tidings that Laon had capitulated, though not without
its defenders blowing up a powder-magazine and thereby injuring some
German officers of exalted rank--for which reason the deed was
enthusiastically commended by the Parisian Press, though it would seem to
have been a somewhat treacherous one, contrary to the ordinary usages of
war. On the 12th some German scouts reached Meaux, and a larger force
leisurely occupied Melun. The French, on their part, were busy after a
fashion. They offered no armed resistance to the German advance, but they
tried to impede it in sundry ways. With the idea of depriving the enemy of
"cover," various attempts were made to fire some of the woods in the
vicinity of Paris, whilst in order to cheat him of supplies, stacks and
standing crops were here and there destroyed. Then, too, several railway
and other bridges were blown up, including the railway bridge at Creil, so
that direct communication with Boulogne and Calais ceased on September 12.

The 13th was a great day for the National Guards, who were then reviewed
by General Trochu. With my father and my young stepmother, I went to see
the sight, which was in many respects an interesting one. A hundred and
thirty-six battalions, or approximately 180,000 men, of the so-called
"citizen soldiery" were under arms; their lines extending, first, along
the Boulevards from the Bastille to the Madeleine, then down the Rue
Royale, across the Place de la Concorde and up the Champs Elysées as far
as the Rond Point. In addition, 100,000 men of the Garde Mobile were
assembled along the quays of the Seine and up the Champs Elysées from the
Rond Point to the Arc de Triomphe. I have never since set eyes on so large
a force of armed men. They were of all sorts. Some of the Mobiles, notably
the Breton ones, who afterwards gave a good account of themselves, looked
really soldierly; but the National Guards were a strangely mixed lot. They
all wore _képis_, but quite half of them as yet had no uniforms, and were
attired in blouses and trousers of various hues. Only here and there could
one see a man of military bearing; most of them struck happy-go-lucky
attitudes, and were quite unable to keep step in marching. A particular
feature of the display was the number of flowers and sprigs of evergreen
with which the men had decorated the muzzles of the _fusils-à-tabatière_
which they mostly carried. Here and there, moreover, one and another
fellow displayed on his bayonet-point some coloured caricature of the
ex-Emperor or the ex-Empress. What things they were, those innumerable
caricatures of the months which followed the Revolution! Now and again
there appeared one which was really clever, which embodied a smart,
a witty idea; but how many of them were simply the outcome of a depraved,
a lewd, a bestial imagination! The most offensive caricatures of
Marie-Antoinette were as nothing beside those levelled at that unfortunate
woman, the Empress Eugénie.

Our last days of liberty were now slipping by. Some of the poorest folk of
the environs of Paris were at last coming into the city, bringing their
chattels with them. Strange ideas, however, had taken hold of some of the
more simple-minded suburban bourgeois. Departing hastily into the
provinces, so as to place their skins out of harm's reach, they had not
troubled to store their household goods in the city; but had left them in
their coquettish villas and pavilions, the doors of which were barely
looked. The German soldiers would very likely occupy the houses, but
assuredly they would do no harm to them. "Perhaps, however, it might be as
well to propitiate the foreign soldiers. Let us leave something for them,"
said worthy Monsieur Durand to Madame Durand, his wife; "they will be
hungry when they get here, and if they find something ready for them they
will be grateful and do no damage." So, although the honest Durands
carefully barred--at times even walled-up--their cellars of choice wines,
they arranged that plenty of bottles, at times even a cask, of _vin
ordinaire_ should be within easy access; and ham, cheese, sardines,
_saucissons de Lyon_, and _patés de foie gras_ were deposited in the
pantry cupboards, which were considerately left unlocked in order that the
good, mild-mannered, honest Germans (who, according to a proclamation
issued by "Unser Fritz" at an earlier stage of the hostilities, "made war
on the Emperor Napoleon and not on the French nation") might regale
themselves without let or hindrance. Moreover, the nights were "drawing
in," the evenings becoming chilly; so why not lay the fires, and place
matches and candles in convenient places for the benefit of the unbidden
guests who would so soon arrive? All those things being done, M. and Mme.
Durand departed to seek the quietude of Fouilly-les-Oies, never dreaming
that on their return to Montfermeil, Palaiseau, or Sartrouville, they
would find their _salon_ converted into a pigstye, their furniture
smashed, and their clocks and chimney-ornaments abstracted. Of course the
M. Durand of to-day knows what happened to his respected parents; he knows
what to think of the good, honest, considerate German soldiery; and, if he
can help it, he will not in any similar case leave so much as a wooden
spoon to be carried off to the Fatherland, and added as yet another trophy
to the hundred thousand French clocks and the million French nick-nacks
which are still preserved there as mementoes of the "grosse Zeit."

On September 15, we heard of some petty skirmishes between Uhlans and
Francs-tireurs in the vicinity of Montereau and Melun; on the morrow the
enemy captured a train at Senlis, and fired on another near Chantilly,
fortunately without wounding any of the passengers; whilst on the same day
his presence was signalled at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, only ten miles
south of Paris. That evening, moreover, he attempted to ford the Seine at
Juvisy. On the 16th some of his forces appeared between Créteil and
Neuilly-sur-Marne, on the eastern side of the city, and only some five
miles from the fort of Vincennes. Then we again heard of him on the
south--of his presence at Brunoy, Ablon, and Athis, and of the pontoons by
which he was crossing the Seine at Villeneuve and Choisy-le-Roi.

Thus the advance steadily continued, quite unchecked by force of arms,
save for just a few trifling skirmishes initiated by sundry
Francs-tireurs. Not a road, not a barricade, was defended by the
authorities; not once was the passage of a river contested. Here and there
the Germans found obstructions: poplars had been felled and laid across a
highway, bridges and railway tunnels had occasionally been blown up; but
all such impediments to their advance were speedily overcome by the enemy,
who marched on quietly, feeling alternately puzzled and astonished at
never being confronted by any French forces. As the invaders drew nearer
to Paris they found an abundance of vegetables and fruit at their
disposal, but most of the peasantry had fled, taking their live stock with
them, and, as a German officer told me in after years, eggs, cheese,
butter, and milk could seldom be procured.

On the 17th the French began to recover from the stupor which seemed to
have fallen on them. Old General Vinoy crossed the Marne at Charenton with
some of his forces, and a rather sharp skirmish ensued in front of the
village of Mesly. That same day Lord Lyons, the British Ambassador, took
his departure from Paris, proceeding by devious ways to Tours, whither, a
couple of days previously, three delegates of the National Defence--two
septuagenarians and one sexagenarian, Crémieux, Glais-Bizoin, and
Fourichon--had repaired in order to take over the general government of
France. Lord Lyons had previously told Jules Favre that he intended to
remain in the capital, but I believe that his decision was modified by
instructions from London. With him went most of the Embassy staff, British
interests in Paris remaining in the hands of the second secretary, Mr.
Wodehouse, and the vice-consul. The consul himself had very prudently
quitted Paris, in order "to drink the waters," some time previously.
Colonel Claremont, the military attaché, still remained with us, but by
degrees, as the siege went on, the Embassy staff dwindled down to the
concierge and two--or was it four?--sheep browsing on the lawn. Mr.
Wodehouse went off (my father and myself being among those who accompanied
him, as I shall relate in a future chapter) towards the middle of
November; and before the bombardment began Colonel Claremont likewise
executed a strategical retreat. Nevertheless--or should I say for that
very reason?--he was subsequently made a general officer.

A day or two before Lord Lyons left he drew up a notice warning British
subjects that if they should remain in Paris it would be at their own risk
and peril. The British colony was not then so large as it is now,
nevertheless it was a considerable one. A good many members of it
undoubtedly departed on their own initiative. Few, if any, saw Lord
Lyons's notice, for it was purely and simply conveyed to them through the
medium of _Galignani's Messenger_, which, though it was patronized by
tourists staying at the hotels, was seldom seen by genuine British
residents, most of whom read London newspapers.

The morrow of Lord Lyons's departure, Sunday, September 18, was our last
day of liberty. The weather was splendid, the temperature as warm as that
of June. All Paris was out of doors. We were not without women-folk
and children. Not only were there the wives and offspring of the
working-classes; but the better halves of many tradespeople and bourgeois
had remained in the city, together with a good many ladies of higher
social rank. Thus, in spite of all the departures, "papa, mamma, and baby"
were still to be met in many directions on that last day preceding the
investment. There were gay crowds everywhere, on the Boulevards, on the
squares, along the quays, and along the roads skirting the ramparts. These
last were the "great attraction," and thousands of people strolled about
watching the work which was in progress. Stone casements were being roofed
with earth, platforms were being prepared for guns, gabions were being set
in position at the embrasures, sandbags were being carried to the
parapets, stakes were being pointed for the many _pièges-à-loups_, and
smooth earthworks were being planted with an infinity of spikes. Some guns
were already in position, others, big naval guns from Brest or Cherbourg,
were still lying on the turf. Meanwhile, at the various city gates, the
very last vehicles laden with furniture and forage were arriving from the
suburbs. And up and down went all the promenaders, chatting, laughing,
examining this and that work of defence or engine of destruction in such a
good-humoured, light-hearted way that the whole _chemin-de-ronde_ seemed
to be a vast fair, held solely for the amusement of the most volatile
people that the world has ever known.

Access to the Bois de Boulogne was forbidden. Acres of timber had already
been felled there, and from the open spaces the mild September breeze
occasionally wafted the lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep, and the
grunting of pigs. Our live stock consisted of 30,000 oxen, 175,000 sheep,
8,800 pigs, and 6,000 milch-cows. Little did we think how soon those
animals (apart from the milch-cows) would be consumed! Few of us were
aware that, according to Maxime Ducamp's great work on Paris, we had
hitherto consumed, on an average, every day of the year, 935 oxen, 4680
sheep, 570 pigs, and 600 calves, to say nothing of 46,000 head of poultry,
game, etc., 50 tons of fish, and 670,000 eggs.

Turning from the Bois de Boulogne, which had become our principal ranch
and sheep-walk, one found companies of National Guards learning the
"goose-step" in the Champs Elysées and the Cours-la-Reine. Regulars were
appropriately encamped both in the Avenue de la Grande Armée and on the
Champ de Mars. Field-guns and caissons filled the Tuileries garden, whilst
in the grounds of the Luxembourg Palace one again found cattle and sheep;
yet other members of the bovine and ovine species being installed,
singularly enough, almost cheek by jowl with the hungry wild beasts of the
Jardin des Plantes, whose mouths fairly watered at the sight of their
natural prey. If you followed the quays of the Seine you there found
sightseers gazing at the little gunboats and floating batteries on the
water; and if you climbed to Montmartre you there came upon people
watching "The Neptune," the captive balloon which Nadar, the aeronaut and
photographer, had already provided for purposes of military observation. I
shall have occasion to speak of him and his balloons again.

Among all that I myself saw on that memorable Sunday, I was perhaps most
struck by the solemn celebration of Mass in front of the statue of
Strasbourg on the Place de la Concorde. The capital of Alsace had been
besieged since the middle of August, but was still offering a firm
resistance to the enemy. Its chief defenders, General Uhrich and Edmond
Valentin, were the most popular heroes of the hour. The latter had been
appointed Prefect of the city by the Government of National Defence, and,
resolving to reach his post in spite of the siege which was being actively
prosecuted, had disguised himself and passed successfully through the
German lines, escaping the shots which were fired at him. In Paris the
statue of Strasbourg had become a place of pilgrimage, a sacred shrine, as
it were, adorned with banners and with wreaths innumerable. Yet I
certainly had not expected to see an altar set up and Mass celebrated in
front of it, as if it had been, indeed, a statue of the Blessed Virgin.

At this stage of affairs there was no general hostility to the Church in
Paris. The _bourgeoisie_--I speak of its masculine element--was as
sceptical then as it is now, but it knew that General Trochu, in whom it
placed its trust, was a practising and fervent Catholic, and that in
taking the Presidency of the Government he had made it one of his
conditions that religion should be respected. Such animosity as was shown
against the priesthood emanated from some of the public clubs where the
future Communards perorated. It was only as time went on, and the defence
grew more and more hopeless, that Trochu himself was denounced as a
_cagot_ and a _souteneur de soutanes_; and not until the Commune did the
Extremists give full rein to their hatred of the Church and its ministers.

In connection with religion, there was another sight which impressed me on
that same Sunday. I was on the point of leaving the Place de la Concorde
when a large body of Mobiles debouched either from the Rue Royale or the
Rue de Rivoli, and I noticed, with some astonishment, that not only were
they accompanied by their chaplains, but that they bore aloft several
processional religious banners. They were Bretons, and had been to Mass, I
ascertained, at the church of Notre Dame des Victoires--the favourite
church of the Empress Eugénie, who often attended early Mass there--and
were now returning to their quarters in the arches of the railway viaduct
of the Point-du-Jour. Many people uncovered as they thus went by
processionally, carrying on high their banners of the Virgin, she who is
invoked by the Catholic soldier as "Auzilium Christianorum." For a moment
my thoughts strayed back to Brittany, where, during my holidays the
previous year, I had witnessed the "Pardon" of Guingamp,

In the evening I went to the Boulevards with my father, and we afterwards
dropped into one or two of the public clubs. The Boulevard promenaders had
a good deal to talk about. General Ambert, who under the Empire had been
mayor of our arrondissement, had fallen out with his men, through speaking
contemptuously of the Republic, and after being summarily arrested by some
of them, had been deprived of his command. Further, the _Official Journal_
had published a circular addressed by Bismarck to the German diplomatists
abroad, in which he stated formally that if France desired peace she would
have to give "material guarantees." That idea, however, was vigorously
pooh-poohed by the Boulevardiers, particularly as rumours of sudden French
successes, originating nobody knew how, were once more in the air.
Scandal, however, secured the attention of many of the people seated in
the cafés, for the _Rappel_--Victor Hugo's organ--had that day printed a
letter addressed to Napoleon III by his mistress Marguerite Bellenger, who
admitted in it that she had deceived her imperial lover with respect to
the paternity of her child.

However, we went, my father and I, from the Boulevards to the
Folies-Bergere, which had been turned for the time into a public club, and
there we listened awhile to Citizen Lermina, who, taking Thiers's mission
and Bismarck's despatch as his text, protested against France concluding
any peace or even any armistice so long as the Germans had not withdrawn
across the frontier. There was still no little talk of that description.
The old agitator Auguste Blanqui--long confined in one of the cages of
Mont Saint-Michel, but now once more in Paris--never wearied of opposing
peace in the discourses that he delivered at his own particular club,
which, like the newspaper he inspired, was called "La Patrie en Danger."
In other directions, for instance at the Club du Maine, the Extremists
were already attacking the new Government for its delay in distributing
cartridges to the National Guards, being, no doubt, already impatient to
seize authority themselves.

Whilst other people were promenading or perorating, Trochu, in his room at
the Louvre, was receiving telegram after telegram informing him that the
Germans were now fast closing round the city. He himself, it appears, had
no idea of preventing it; but at the urgent suggestion of his old friend
and comrade General Ducrot, he had consented that an effort should be made
to delay, at any rate, a complete investment. In an earlier chapter I had
occasion to mention Ducrot in connexion with the warnings which Napoleon
III received respecting the military preparations of Prussia. At this
time, 1870, the general was fifty-three years old, and therefore still in
his prime. As commander of a part of MacMahon's forces he had
distinguished himself at the battle of Wörth, and when the Marshal was
wounded at Sedan, it was he who, by right of seniority, at first assumed
command of the army, being afterwards compelled, however, to relinquish
the poet to Wimpfen, in accordance with an order from Palikao which
Wimpfen produced. Included at the capitulation, among the prisoners taken
by the Germans, Ducrot subsequently escaped--the Germans contending that
he had broken his parole in doing so, though this does not appear to have
been the case. Immediately afterwards he repaired to Paris to place
himself at Trochu's disposal. At Wörth he had suggested certain tactics
which might have benefited the French army; at Sedan he had wished to make
a supreme effort to cut through the German lines; and now in Paris he
proposed to Trochu a plan which if successful might, he thought, retard
the investment and momentarily cut the German forces in halves.

In attempting to carry out this scheme (September 19) Ducrot took with him
most of Vinoy's corps, that is four divisions of infantry, some cavalry,
and no little artillery, having indeed, according to his own account,
seventy-two guns with him. The action was fought on the plateau of
Châtillon (south of Paris), where the French had been constructing a
redoubt, which was still, however, in a very unfinished state. At daybreak
that morning all the districts of Paris lying on the left bank of the
Seine were roused by the loud booming of guns. The noise was at times
almost deafening, and it is certain that the French fired a vast number of
projectiles, though, assuredly, the number--25,000--given in a copy of the
official report which I have before me must be a clerical error. In any
case, the Germans replied with an even more terrific fire than that of the
French, and, as had previously happened at Sedan and elsewhere, the French
ordnance proved to be no match for that emanating from Krupp's renowned
workshops. The French defeat was, however, precipitated by a sudden panic
which arose among a provisional regiment of Zouaves, who suddenly turned
tail and fled. Panic is often, if not always, contagious, and so it proved
to be on this occasion. Though some of the Gardes Mobiles, notably the
Bretons of Ile-et-Vilaine, fought well, thanks to the support of the
artillery (which is so essential in the case of untried troops), other men
weakened, and imitated the example of the Zouaves. Duorot soon realized
that it was useless to prolong the encounter, and after spiking the guns
set up in the Châtillon redoubt, he retired under the protection of the
Forts of Vanves and Montrouge.

My father and I had hastened to the southern side of Paris as soon as the
cannonade apprised us that an engagement was going on. Pitiful was the
spectacle presented by the disbanded soldiers as they rushed down the
Chaussée du Maine. Many had flung away their weapons. Some went on
dejectedly; others burst into wine-shops, demanded drink with threats, and
presently emerged swearing, cursing and shouting, "Nous sommes trahis!"
Riderless horses went by, instinctively following the men, and here and
there one saw a bewildered and indignant officer, whose orders were
scouted with jeers. The whole scene was of evil augury for the defence of

At a later hour, when we reached the Boulevards, we found the wildest
rumours in circulation there. Nobody knew exactly what had happened, but
there was talk of 20,000 French troops having been annihilated by five
times that number of Germans. At last a proclamation emanating from
Gambetta was posted up and eagerly perused. It supplied no details of the
fighting, but urged the Parisians to give way neither to excitement nor to
despondency, and reminded them that a court-martial had been instituted to
deal with cowards and deserters. Thereupon the excitement seemed to
subside, and people went to dinner. An hour afterwards the Boulevards were
as gay as ever, thronged once more with promenaders, among whom were many
officers of the Garde Mobile and the usual regiment of painted women.
Cynicism and frivolity were once more the order of the day. But in the
midst of it there came an unexpected incident. Some of the National Guards
of the district were not unnaturally disgusted by the spectacle which the
Boulevards presented only a few hours after misfortune had fallen on the
French arms. Forming, therefore, into a body, they marched along, loudly
calling upon the cafés to close. Particularly were they indignant when, on
reaching Brébant's Restaurant at the corner of the Faubourg Montmartre,
they heard somebody playing a lively Offenbachian air on a piano there. A
party of heedless _viveurs_ and _demoiselles_ of the half-world were
enjoying themselves together as in the palmy imperial days. But the piano
was soon silenced, the cafés and restaurants were compelled to close, and
the Boulevardian world went home in a slightly chastened mood. The Siege
of Paris had begun.



The Surrender of Versailles--Captain Johnson, Queen's Messenger--No more
Paris Fashions!--Prussians versus Germans--Bismarck's Hard Terms for
Peace--Attempts to pass through the German Lines--Chartreuse Verte as an
Explosive!--Tommy Webb's Party and the Germans--Couriers and Early
Balloons--Our Arrangements with Nadar--Gambetta's Departure and Balloon
Journey--The Amusing Verses of Albert Millaud--Siege Jokes and Satire--The
Spy and Signal Craze--Amazons to the Rescue!

It was at one o'clock on the afternoon of September 19 that the telegraph
wires between Paris and Versailles, the last which linked us to the
outside world, were suddenly cut by the enemy; the town so closely
associated with the Grand Monarque and his magnificence having then
surrendered to a very small force of Germans, although it had a couple of
thousand men--Mobile and National Guards--to defend it. The capitulation
which was arranged between the mayor and the enemy was flagrantly violated
by the latter almost as soon as it had been concluded, tins being only one
of many such instances which occurred during the war. Versailles was
required to provide the invader with a number of oxen, to be slaughtered
for food, numerous casks of wine, the purpose of which was obvious, and a
large supply of forage valued at £12,000. After all, however, that was a
mere trifle in comparison with what the present Kaiser's forces would
probably demand on landing at Hull or Grimsby or Harwich, should they some
day do so. By the terms of the surrender of Versailles, however, the local
National Guards were to have remained armed and entrusted with the
internal police of the town, and, moreover, there were to have been no
further requisitions. But Bismarck and Moltke pooh-poohed all such
stipulations, and the Versaillese had to submit to many indignities.

In Paris that day the National Defence Government was busy in various
ways, first in imposing fines, according to an ascending scale, on all
absentees who ought to have remained in the city and taken their share of
military duty; and, secondly, in decreeing that nobody with any money
lodged in the Savings Bank should be entitled to draw out more than fifty
francs, otherwise two pounds, leaving the entire balance of his or her
deposit at the Government's disposal. This measure provoked no little
dissatisfaction. It was also on September 19, the first day of the siege,
that the last diplomatic courier entered Paris. I well remember the
incident. Whilst I was walking along the Faubourg Saint Honoré I suddenly
perceived an open _calèche_, drawn by a pair of horses, bestriding one of
which was a postillion arrayed in the traditional costume--hair à la
Catogan, jacket with scarlet facings, gold-banded hat, huge boots, and all
the other appurtenances which one saw during long years on the stage in
Adolphe Adam's sprightly but "impossible" opéra-comique "Le Postillon de
Longjumeau." For an instant, indeed, I felt inclined to hum the famous
refrain, "Oh, oh, oh, oh, qu'il était beau"--but many National Guards and
others regarded the equipage with great suspicion, particularly as it was
occupied by on individual in semi-military attire. Quite a number of
people decided in their own minds that this personage must be a Prussian
spy, and therefore desired to stop his carriage and march him off to
prison. As a matter of fact, however, he was a British officer, Captain
Johnson, discharging the duties of a Queen's Messenger; and as he
repeatedly flourished a cane in a very menacing manner, and the
door-porter of the British Embassy--a German, I believe--energetically
came to his assistance, he escaped actual molestation, and drove in
triumph into the courtyard of the ambassadorial mansion.

At this time a great shock was awaiting the Parisians. During the same
week the Vicomtesse de Renneville issued an announcement stating that in
presence of the events which were occurring she was constrained to suspend
the publication of her renowned journal of fashions, _La Gazette Rose_.
This was a tragic blow both for the Parisians themselves and for all the
world beyond them. There would be no more Paris fashions! To what despair
would not millions of women be reduced? How would they dress, even
supposing that they should contrive to dress at all? The thought was
appalling; and as one and another great _couturier_ closed his doors,
Paris began to realize that her prestige was indeed in jeopardy.

A day or two after the investment the city became very restless on account
of Thiers's mission to foreign Courts and Jules Favre's visit to the
German headquarters, it being reported by the extremists that the
Government did not intend to be a Government of National Defence but one
of Capitulation. In reply to those rumours the authorities issued the
famous proclamation in which they said;

"The Government's policy is that formulated in these terms:
Not an Inch of our Territory.
Not a Stone of our Fortresses.
The Government will maintain it to the end."

On the morrow, September 21, Gambetta personally reminded us that it was
the seventy-eighth anniversary of the foundation of the first French
Republic, and, after recalling to the Parisians what their fathers had
then accomplished, he exhorted them to follow that illustrious example,
and to "secure victory by confronting death." That same evening the clubs
decided that a great demonstration should be made on the morrow by way of
insisting that no treaty should be discussed until the Germans had been
driven out of France, that no territory, fort, vessel, or treasure should
be surrendered, that all elections should be adjourned, and that a _levée
en masse_ should be decreed. Jules Favre responded that he and his
colleagues personified Defence and not Surrender, and Rochefort--poor
Rochefort!--solemnly promised that the barricades of Paris should be begun
that very night. That undertaking mightily pleased the agitators, though
the use of the said barricades was not apparent; and the demonstrators
dispersed with the usual shouts of "Vive la République! Mort aux

In connexion with that last cry it was a curious circumstance that from
the beginning to the end of the war the French persistently ignored the
presence of Saxons, Würtembergers, Hessians, Badeners, and so forth in the
invading armies. Moreover, on only one or two occasions (such as the
Bazeilles episode of the battle of Sedan) did they evince any particular
animosity against the Bavarians. I must have heard "Death to the
Prussians!" shouted at least a thousand times; but most certainly I never
once heard a single cry of "Death to the Germans!" Still in the same
connexion, let me mention that it was in Paris, during the siege, that the
eminent naturalist and biologist Quatrefages de Bréau wrote that curious
little book of his, "La Race Prussienne," in which he contended that the
Prussians were not Germans at all. There was at least some measure of
truth in the views which he enunciated.

As I previously indicated, Jules Favre, the Foreign Minister of the
National Defence, had gone to the German headquarters in order to discuss
the position with Prince (then Count) Bismarck. He met him twice, first at
the Comte de Rillac's Château de la Haute Maison, and secondly at Baron de
Rothschild's Château de Ferrières--the German staff usually installing
itself in the lordly "pleasure-houses" of the French noble or financial
aristocracy, and leaving them as dirty as possible, and, naturally, bereft
of their timepieces. Baron Alphonse de Rothschild told me in later years
that sixteen clocks were carried off from Ferrières whilst King
(afterwards the Emperor) William and Bismarck were staying there. I
presume that they now decorate some of the salons of the schloss at
Berlin, or possibly those of Varzin and Friedrichsruhe. Bismarck
personally had an inordinate passion for clocks, as all who ever visited
his quarters in the Wilhelmstrasse, when he was German Chancellor, will
well remember.

But he was not content with the clocks of Ferrières. He told Jules Favre
that if France desired peace she must surrender the two departments of the
Upper and the Lower Rhine, a part of the department of the Moselle,
together with Metz, Chateau Salins, and Soissons; and he would only grant
an armistice (to allow of the election of a French National Assembly to
decide the question of War or Peace) on condition that the Germans should
occupy Strasbourg, Toul, and Phalsburg, together with a fortress, such as
Mont Valerien, commanding the city of Paris. Such conditions naturally
stiffened the backs of the French, and for a time there was no more talk
of negotiating.

During the earlier days of the Siege of Paris I came into contact with
various English people who, having delayed their departure until it was
too late, found themselves shut up in the city, and were particularly
anxious to depart from it. The British Embassy gave them no help in the
matter. Having issued its paltry notice in _Galignani's Messenger_, it
considered that there was no occasion for it to do anything further.
Moreover, Great Britain had not recognized the French Republic, so that
the position of Mr. Wodehouse was a somewhat difficult one. However, a few
"imprisoned" Englishmen endeavoured to escape from the city by devices of
their own. Two of them who set out together, fully expecting to get
through the German lines and then reach a convenient railway station,
followed the course of the Seine for several miles without being able to
cross it, and in spite of their waving pocket-handkerchiefs (otherwise
flags of truce) and their constant shouts of "English! Friends!" and so
forth, were repeatedly fired at by both French and German outposts. At
last they reached Rueil, where the villagers, on noticing how bad their
French was, took them to be Prussian spies, and nearly lynched them.
Fortunately, the local commissary of police believed their story, and they
were sent back to Paris to face the horseflesh and the many other
hardships which they had particularly desired to avoid.

I also remember the representative of a Birmingham small-arms factory
telling me of his unsuccessful attempt to escape. He had lingered in Paris
in the hope of concluding a contract with the new Republican Government.
Not having sufficient money to charter a balloon, and the Embassy, as
usual at that time, refusing any help (O shades of Palmerston!), he set
out as on a walking-tour with a knapsack strapped to his shoulders and an
umbrella in his hand. His hope was to cross the Seine by the bridge of
Saint Cloud or that of Suresnes, but he failed in both attempts, and was
repeatedly fired upon by vigilant French outposts. After losing his way in
the Bois de Boulogne, awakening both the cattle and the sheep there in the
course of his nightly ramble, he at last found one of the little huts
erected to shelter the gardeners and wood-cutters, and remained there
until daybreak, when he was able to take his bearings and proceed towards
the Auteuil gate of the ramparts. As he did not wish to be fired upon
again, he deemed it expedient to hoist his pocket handkerchief at the end
of his umbrella as a sign of his pacific intentions, and finding the gate
open and the drawbridge down, he attempted to enter the city, but was
immediately challenged by the National Guards on duty. These vigilant
patriots observed his muddy condition--the previous day had been a wet
one--and suspiciously inquired where he had come from at that early hour.
His answer being given in broken French and in a very embarrassed manner,
he was at once regarded as a Prussian spy, and dragged off to the
guard-room. There he was carefully searched, and everything in his pockets
having been taken from him, including a small bottle which the sergeant on
duty regarded with grave suspicion, he was told that his after-fate would
be decided when the commanding officer of that particular _secteur_ of the
ramparts made his rounds.

When this officer arrived he closely questioned the prisoner, who tried to
explain his circumstances, and protested that his innocence was shown by
the British passport and other papers which had been taken from him. "Oh!
papers prove nothing!" was the prompt retort. "Spies are always provided
with papers. But, come, I have proof that you are an unmitigated villain!"
So saying, the officer produced the small bottle which had been taken from
the unfortunate traveller, and added: "You see this? You had it in your
pocket. Now, don't attempt to deceive me, for I know very well what is the
nature of the green liquid which it contains--it is a combustible fluid
with which you wanted to set fire to our _chevaux-de-frise!_"

Denials and protests were in vain. The officer refused to listen to his
prisoner until the latter at last offered to drink some of the terrible
fluid in order to prove that it was not at all what it was supposed to be.
With a little difficulty the tight-fitting cork was removed from the
flask, and on the latter being handed to the prisoner he proceeded to
imbibe some of its contents, the officer, meanwhile, retiring to a short
distance, as if he imagined that the alleged "spy" would suddenly explode.
Nothing of that kind happened, however. Indeed, the prisoner drank the
terrible stuff with relish, smacked his lips, and even prepared to take a
second draught, when the officer, feeling reassured, again drew near to
him and expressed his willingness to sample the suspected fluid himself.
He did so, and at once discovered that it was purely and simply some
authentic Chartreuse verte! It did not take the pair of them long to
exhaust this supply of the _liqueur_ of St. Bruno, and as soon as this was
done, the prisoner was set at liberty with profuse apologies.

Now and again some of those who attempted to leave the beleaguered city
succeeded in their attempt. In one instance a party of four or five
Englishmen ran the blockade in the traditional carriage and pair. They had
been staying at the Grand Hotel, where another seven or eight visitors,
including Labouchere, still remained, together with about the same number
of servants to wait upon them; the famous caravanserai--then undoubtedly
the largest in Paris--being otherwise quite untenanted. The carriage in
which the party I have mentioned took their departure was driven by an old
English jockey named Tommy Webb, who had been in France for nearly half a
century, and had ridden the winners of some of the very first races
started by the French Jockey Club. Misfortune had overtaken him, however,
in his declining years, and he had become a mere Parisian "cabby." The
party sallied forth from the courtyard of the Grand Hotel, taking with it
several huge hampers of provisions and a quantity of other luggage; and
all the participants in the attempt seemed to be quite confident of
success. But a few hours later they returned in sore disappointment,
having been stopped near Neuilly by the French outposts, as they were
unprovided with any official _laisser-passer_. A document of that
description having been obtained, however, from General Trochu on the
morrow, a second attempt was made, and this time the party speedily
passed through the French lines. But in trying to penetrate those of the
enemy, some melodramatic adventures occurred. It became necessary, indeed,
to dodge both the bullets of the Germans and those of the French
Francs-tireurs, who paid not the slightest respect either to the Union
Jack or to the large white flag which were displayed on either side of
Tommy Webb's box-seat. At last, after a variety of mishaps, the party
succeeded in parleying with a German cavalry officer, and after they had
addressed a written appeal to the Crown Prince of Prussia (who was pleased
to grant it), they were taken, blindfolded, to Versailles, where
Blumenthal, the Crown Prince's Chief of Staff, asked them for information
respecting the actual state of Paris, and then allowed them to proceed on
their way.

Captain Johnson, the Queen's Messenger of whom I have already spoken, also
contrived to quit Paris again; but the Germans placed him under strict
surveillance, and Blumenthal told him that no more Queen's Messengers
would be allowed to pass through the German lines. About this same time,
however, the English man-servant of one of Trochu's aides-de-camp
contrived, not only to reach Saint Germain-en-Laye, where his master's
family was residing, but also to return to Paris with messages. This young
fellow had cleverly disguised himself as a French peasant, and on the
Prefect of Police hearing of his adventures, he sent out several
detectives in similar disguises, with instructions to ascertain all they
could about the enemy, and report the same to him. Meantime, the Paris
Post Office was endeavouring to send out couriers. One of them, named
Létoile, managed to get as far as Evreux, in Normandy, and to return to
the beleaguered city with a couple of hundred letters. Success also
repeatedly attended the efforts of two shrewd fellows named Gême and
Brare, who made several journeys to Saint Germain, Triel, and even
Orleans. On one occasion they brought as many as seven hundred letters
with them on their return to Paris; but between twenty and thirty other
couriers failed to get through the German lines; whilst several others
fell into the hands of the enemy, who at once confiscated the
correspondence they carried, but did not otherwise molest them.

The difficulty in sending letters out of Paris and in obtaining news from
relatives and friends in other parts of France led to all sorts of
schemes. The founder and editor of that well-known journal _Le Figaro_,
Hippolyte de Villemessant, as he called himself, though I believe that his
real Christian name was Auguste, declared in his paper that he would
willingly allow his veins to be opened in return for a few lines from his
beloved and absent wife. Conjugal affection could scarcely have gone
further. Villemessant, however, followed up his touching declaration by
announcing that a thousand francs (£40) a week was to be earned by a
capable man willing to act as letter-carrier between Paris and the
provinces. All who felt qualified for the post were invited to present
themselves at the office of _Le Figaro_, which in those days was
appropriately located in the Rue Rossini, named, of course, after the
illustrious composer who wrote such sprightly music round the theme of
Beaumarchais' comedy. As a result of Villemessant's announcement, the
street was blocked during the next forty-eight hours by men of all
classes, who were all the more eager to earn the aforesaid £40 a week as
nearly every kind of work was at a standstill, and the daily stipend of a
National Guard amounted only to 1_s._ 2-1/2_d._

It was difficult to choose from among so many candidates, but we were
eventually assured that the right man had been found in the person of a
retired poacher who knew so well how to circumvent both rural guards and
forest guards, that during a career of twenty years or so he had never
once been caught _in flagrante delicto_. Expert, moreover, in tracking
game, he would also well know how to detect--and to avoid--the tracks of
the Prussians. We were therefore invited to confide our correspondence to
this sagacious individual, who would undertake to carry it through the
German lines and to return with the answers in a week or ten days. The
charge for each letter, which was to be of very small weight and
dimensions, was fixed at five francs, and it was estimated that the
ex-poacher would be able to carry about 200 letters on each journey.

Many people were anxious to try the scheme, but rival newspapers denounced
it as being a means of acquainting the Prussians with everything which was
occurring in Paris--Villemessant, who they declared had taken bribes from
the fallen Empire, being probably one of Bismarck's paid agents. Thus the
enterprise speedily collapsed without even being put to the proof.
However, the public was successfully exploited by various individuals who
attempted to improve on Villemessant's idea, undertaking to send letters
out of Paris for a fixed charge, half of which was to be returned to the
sender if his letter were not delivered. As none of the letters handed in
on these conditions was even entrusted to a messenger, the ingenious
authors of this scheme made a handsome profit, politely returning half of
the money which they received, but retaining the balance without making
the slightest effort to carry out their contract.

Dr. Rampont, a very clever man, who was now our postmaster-general, had
already issued a circular bidding us to use the very thinnest paper and
the smallest envelopes procurable. There being so many failures among the
messengers whom he sent out of Paris with correspondence, the idea of a
balloon postal service occurred to him. Although ninety years or so had
elapsed since the days of the brothers Montgolfier, aeronautics had really
made very little progress. There were no dirigible balloons at all. Dupuy
de Lôme's first experiments only dated from the siege days, and Renard's
dirigible was not devised until the early eighties. We only had the
ordinary type of balloon at our disposal; and at the outset of the
investment there were certainly not more than half a dozen balloons within
our lines. A great city like Paris, however, is not without resources.
Everything needed for the construction of balloons could be found there.
Gas also was procurable, and we had amongst us quite a number of men
expert in the science of ballooning, such as it then was. There was Nadar,
there was Tissandier, there were the Godard brothers, Yon, Dartois, and a
good many others. Both the Godards and Nadar established balloon
factories, which were generally located in our large disused railway
stations, such as the Gare du Nord, the Gare d'Orléans, and the Gare
Montparnasse; but I also remember visiting one which Nadar installed in
the dancing hall called the Elysée Montmartre. Each of these factories
provided work for a good many people, and I recollect being particularly
struck by the number of women who were employed in balloon-making. Such
work was very helpful to them, and Nadar used to say to me that it grieved
him to have to turn away so many applicants for employment, for every day
ten, twenty, and thirty women would come to implore him to "take them on."
Nearly all their usual workrooms were closed; some were reduced to live on
charity and only very small allowances, from fivepence to sevenpence a
day, were made to the wives and families of National Guards.

But to return to the balloon postal-service which the Government
organized, it was at once realized by my father and myself that it could
be of little use to us so far as the work for the _Illustrated London
News_ was concerned, on account of the restrictions which were imposed in
regard to the size and weight of each letter that might be posted.
The weight, indeed, was fixed at no more than three grammes! Now, there
were a number of artists working for the _Illustrated_ in Paris, first
and foremost among them being M. Jules Pelcoq, who must personally have
supplied two-thirds of the sketches by which the British public was kept
acquainted with the many incidents of Parisian siege-life. The weekly
diary which I helped my father to compile could be drawn up in small
handwriting on very thin, almost transparent paper, and despatched in
the ordinary way. But how were we to circumvent the authorities in regard
to our sketches, which were often of considerable size, and were always
made on fairly substantial paper, the great majority of them being
wash-drawings? Further, though I could prepare two or three drafts of our
diary or our other "copy" for despatch by successive balloons--to provide
for the contingency of one of the latter falling into the hands of the
enemy--it seemed absurd that our artists should have to recopy every
sketch they made. Fortunately, there was photography, the thought of which
brought about a solution of the other difficulty in which we were placed.

I was sent to interview Nadar on the Place Saint Pierre at Montmartre,
above which his captive balloon the "Neptune" was oscillating in the
September breeze. He was much the same man as I had seen at the Crystal
Palace a few years previously, tall, red-haired, and red-shirted. He had
begun life as a caricaturist and humorous writer, but by way of buttering
his bread had set up in business as a photographer, his establishment on
the Boulevard de la Madeleine soon becoming very favourably known. There
was still a little "portrait-taking" in Paris during those early siege
days. Photographs of the celebrities or notorieties of the hour sold
fairly well, and every now and again some National Guard with means was
anxious to be photographed in his uniform. But, naturally enough, the
business generally had declined. Thus, Nadar was only too pleased to
entertain the proposal which I made to him on my father's behalf, this
being that every sketch for the _Illustrated_ should be taken to his
establishment and there photographed, so that we might be able to send out
copies in at least three successive balloons.

When I broached to Nadar the subject of the postal regulations in regard
to the weight and size of letters, he genially replied: "Leave that to me.
Your packets need not go through the ordinary post at all--at least, here
in Paris. Have them stamped, however, bring them whenever a balloon is
about to sail, and I will see that the aeronaut takes them in his pocket.
Wherever he alights they will be posted, like the letters in the official

That plan was carried out, and although several balloons were lost or fell
within the German lines, only one small packet of sketches, which, on
account of urgency, had not been photographed, remained subsequently
unaccounted for. In all other instances either the original drawing or one
of the photographic copies of it reached London safely.

The very first balloon to leave Paris (in the early days of October) was
precisely Nadar's "Neptune," which had originally been intended for
purposes of military observation. One day when I was with Nadar on the
Place Saint Pierre, he took me up in it. I found the experience a novel
but not a pleasing one, for all my life I have had a tendency to vertigo
when ascending to any unusual height. I remember that it was a clear day,
and that we had a fine bird's-eye view of Paris on the one hand and of the
plain of Saint Denis on the other, but I confess that I felt out of-my
element, and was glad to set foot on _terra firma_ once more.

From that day I was quite content to view the ascent of one and another
balloon, without feeling any desire to get out of Paris by its aerial
transport service. I must have witnessed the departure of practically all
the balloons which left Paris until I myself quitted the city in November.
The arrangements made with Nadar were perfected, and something very
similar was contrived with the Godard brothers, the upshot being that we
were always forewarned whenever it was proposed to send off a balloon.
Sometimes we received by messenger, in the evening, an intimation that a
balloon would start at daybreak on the morrow. Sometimes we were roused in
the small hours of the morning, when everything intended for despatch had
to be hastily got together and carried at once to the starting-place,
such, for instance, as the Northern or the Orleans railway terminus, both
being at a considerable distance from our flat in the Rue de Miromesnil.
Those were by no means agreeable walks, especially when the cold weather
had set in, as it did early that autumn; and every now and again at the
end of the journey one found that it had been made in vain, for, the wind
having shifted at the last moment, the departure of the balloon had been
postponed. Of course, the only thing to be done was to trudge back home
again. There was no omnibus service, all the horses having been
requisitioned, and in the latter part of October there were not more than
a couple of dozen cabs (drawn by decrepit animals) still plying for hire
in all Paris. Thus Shanks's pony was the only means of locomotion.

In the earlier days my father accompanied me on a few of those
expeditions, but he soon grew tired of them, particularly as his health
became affected by the siege diet. We were together, however, when
Gambetta took his departure on October 7, ascending from the Place Saint
Pierre in a balloon constructed by Nadar. It had been arranged that he
should leave for the provinces, in order to reinforce the three Government
delegates who had been despatched thither prior to the investment. Jules
Favre, the Foreign Minister, had been previously urged to join those
delegates, but would not trust himself to a balloon, and it was thereupon
proposed to Gambetta that he should do so. He willingly assented to the
suggestion, particularly as he feared that the rest of the country was
being overlooked, owing to the prevailing opinion that Paris would suffice
to deliver both herself and all the rest of France from the presence of
the enemy. Born in April, 1838, he was at this time in his thirty-third
year, and full of vigour, as the sequel showed. The delegates whom he was
going to join were, as I previously mentioned, very old men, well meaning,
no doubt, but incapable of making the great effort which was made by
Gambetta in conjunction with Charles de Freycinet, who was just in his
prime, being the young Dictator's senior by some ten years.

I can still picture Gambetta's departure, and particularly his appearance
on the occasion--his fur cap and his fur coat, which made him look
somewhat like a Polish Jew. He had with him his secretary, the devoted
Spuller. I cannot recall the name of the aeronaut who was in charge of the
balloon, but, if my memory serves me rightly, it was precisely to him that
Nadar handed the packet of sketches which failed to reach the _Illustrated
London News_. They must have been lost in the confusion of the aerial
voyage, which was marked by several dramatic incidents. Some accounts say
that Gambetta evinced no little anxiety during the preparations for the
ascent, but to me he appeared to be in a remarkably good humour, as if,
indeed, in pleasurable anticipation of what he was about to experience.
When, in response to the call of "Lachez tout!" the seamen released the
last cables which had hitherto prevented the balloon from rising, and the
crowd burst into shouts of "Vive la Republique!" and "Vive Gambetta!" the
"youthful statesman," as he was then called, leant over the side of the
car and waved his cap in response to the plaudits. [Another balloon, the
"George Sand," ascended at the same time, having in its car various
officials who were to negotiate the purchase of fire-arms in the United

The journey was eventful, for the Germans repeatedly fired at the balloon.
A first attempt at descent had to be abandoned when the car was at an
altitude of no more than 200 feet, for at that moment some German soldiers
were seen almost immediately beneath it. They fired, and before the
balloon could rise again a bullet grazed Gambetta's head. At four o'clock
in the afternoon, however, the descent was renewed near Roye in the Somme,
when the balloon was caught in an oak-tree, Gambetta at one moment hanging
on to the ropes of the car, with his head downward. Some countryfolk came
up in great anger, taking the party to be Prussians; but, on learning the
truth, they rendered all possible assistance, and Gambetta and his
companions repaired to the house of the mayor of the neighbouring village
of Tricot. Alluding in after days to his experiences on this journey, the
great man said that the earth, as seen by him from the car of the balloon,
looked like a huge carpet woven chance-wise with different coloured wools.
It did not impress him at all, he added, as it was really nothing but "une
vilaine chinoiserie." It was from Rouen, where he arrived on the following
day, that he issued the famous proclamation in which he called on France
to make a compact with victory or death. On October 9, he joined the other
delegates at Tours and took over the post of Minister of War as well as
that of Minister of the Interior.

His departure from the capital was celebrated by that clever versifier of
the period, Albert Millaud, who contributed to _Le Figaro_ an amusing
effusion, the first verse of which was to this effect:

"Gambetta, pale and gloomy,
Much wished to go to Tours,
But two hundred thousand Prussians
In his project made him pause.
To aid the youthful statesman
Came the aeronaut Nadar,
Who sent up the 'Armand Barbes'
With Gambetta in its car."

Further on came the following lines, supposed to be spoken by Gambetta
himself whilst he was gazing at the German lines beneath him--

"See how the plain is glistening
With their helmets in a mass!
Impalement would be dreadful
On those spikes of polished brass!"

Millaud, who was a Jew, the son, I think--or, at all events, a near
relation--of the famous founder of _Le Petit Journal_, the advent of which
constituted a great landmark in the history of the French Press--set
himself, during several years of his career, to prove the truth of the
axiom that in France "tout finit par des chansons." During those anxious
siege days he was for ever striving to sound a gay note, something which,
for a moment, at all events, might drive dull care away. Here is an
English version of some verses which he wrote on Nadar:

What a strange fellow is Nadar,
Photographer and aeronaut!
He is as clever as Godard.
What a strange fellow is Nadar,
Although, between ourselves, as far
As art's concerned he knoweth naught.
What a strange fellow is Nadar,
Photographer and aeronaut!

To guide the course of a balloon
His mind conceived the wondrous screw.
Some day he hopes unto the moon
To guide the course of a balloon.
Of 'airy navies' admiral soon,
We'll see him 'grappling in the blue'--
To guide the course of a balloon
His mind conceived the wondrous screw.

Up in the kingdom of the air
He now the foremost rank may claim.
If poor Gambetta when up there,
Up in the kingdom of the air,
Does not find good cause to stare,
Why, Nadar will not be to blame.
Up in the kingdom of the air
He now the foremost rank may claim.

At Ferrières, above the park,
Behold him darting through the sky,
Soaring to heaven like a lark.
At Ferrières above the park;
Whilst William whispers to Bismarck--
'Silence, see Nadar there on high!'
At Ferrières above the park
Behold him darting through the sky.

Oh, thou more hairy than King Clodion,
Bearer on high of this report,
Thou yellower than a pure Cambodian,
And far more daring than King Clodion,
We'll cast thy statue in collodion
And mount it on a gas retort.
Oh, thou more hairy than King Clodion,
Bearer on high of this report!

Perhaps it may not be thought too pedantic on my part if I explain that
the King Clodion referred to in Millaud's last verse was the legendary
"Clodion the Hairy," a supposed fifth-century leader of the Franks,
reputed to be a forerunner of the founder of the, Merovingian dynasty.
Nadar's hair, however, was not long like that of _les rois chevelue_, for
it was simply a huge curly and somewhat reddish mop. As for his
complexion, Millaud's phrase, "yellow as a pure Cambodian," was a happy

These allusions to Millaud's sprightly verse remind me that throughout the
siege of Paris the so-called _mot pour rire_ was never once lost sight of.
At all times and in respect to everything there was a superabundance of
jests--jests on the Germans, the National and the Mobile Guard, the fallen
dynasty, and the new Republic, the fruitless sorties, the wretched
rations, the failing gas, and many other people and things. One of the
enemy's generals was said to have remarked one day: "I don't know how to
satisfy my men. They complain of hunger, and yet I lead them every morning
to the slaughterhouse." At another time a French colonel, of conservative
ideas, was said to have replaced the inscription "Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity," which he found painted on the walls of his barracks, by the
words, "Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery," declaring that the latter were far
more likely to free the country of the presence of the hated enemy. As for
the "treason" mania, which was very prevalent at this time, it was related
that a soldier remarked one day to a comrade: "I am sure that the captain
is a traitor!" "Indeed! How's that?" was the prompt rejoinder. "Well,"
said the suspicious private, "have you not noticed that every time he
orders us to march forward we invariably encounter the enemy?"

When Trochu issued a decree incorporating all National Guards, under
forty-five years of age, in the marching battalions for duty outside
the city, one of these Guards, on being asked how old he was, replied,
"six-and-forty." "How is that?" he was asked. "A few weeks ago, you told
everybody that you were only thirty-six." "Quite true," rejoined the
other, "but what with rampart-duty, demonstrating at the Hôtel-de-Ville,
short rations, and the cold weather, I feel quite ten years older than I
formerly did." When horseflesh became more or less our daily provender,
many Parisian _bourgeois_ found their health failing. "What is the matter,
my dearest?" Madame du Bois du Pont inquired of her husband, when he had
collapsed one evening after dinner. "Oh! it is nothing, _mon amie_" he
replied; "I dare say I shall soon feel well again, but I used to think
myself a better horseman!"

Directly our supply of gas began to fail, the wags insinuated that Henri
Rochefort was jubilant, and if you inquired the reason thereof, you were
told that owing to the scarcity of gas everybody would be obliged to buy
hundreds of "_Lanternes_." We had, of course, plenty of sensations in
those days, but if you wished to cap every one of them you merely had to
walk into a café and ask the waiter for--a railway time-table.

Once before I referred to the caricatures of the period, notably to those
libelling the Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie, the latter
being currently personified as Messalina--or even as something worse, and
this, of course, without the faintest shadow of justification. But the
caricaturists were not merely concerned with the fallen dynasty. One of
the principal cartoonists of the _Charivari_ at that moment was "Cham,"
otherwise the Vicomte Amédée de Noé, an old friend of my family's.
It was he, by the way, who before the war insisted on my going to a
fencing-school, saying: "Look here, if you mean to live in France and be a
journalist, you must know how to hold a sword. Come with me to Ruzé's.
I taught your uncle Frank and his friend Gustave Doré how to fence many
years ago, and now I am going to have you taught." Well, in one of his
cartoons issued during the siege, Cham (disgusted, like most Frenchmen, at
the seeming indifference of Great Britain to the plight in which France
found herself) summed up the situation, as he conceived it, by depicting
the British Lion licking the boots of Bismarck, who was disguised as Davy
Crockett. When my father remonstrated with Cham on the subject, reminding
him of his own connexion with England, the indignant caricaturist replied:
"Don't speak of it. I have renounced England and all her works." He, like
other Frenchmen of the time, contended that we had placed ourselves under
great obligations to France at the period of the Crimean War.

Among the best caricatures of the siege-days was one by Daumier, which
showed Death appearing to Bismarck in his sleep, and murmuring softly,
"Thanks, many thanks." Another idea of the period found expression in a
cartoon representing a large mouse-trap, labelled "France," into which a
company of mice dressed up as German soldiers were eagerly marching, their
officer meanwhile pointing to a cheese fixed inside the trap, and
inscribed with the name of Paris. Below the design ran the legend: "Ah! if
we could only catch them all in it!" Many, indeed most, of the caricatures
of the time did not appear in the so-called humorous journals, but were
issued separately at a penny apiece, and were usually coloured by the
stencilling process. In one of them, I remember, Bismarck was seen wearing
seven-league boots and making ineffectual attempts to step from Versailles
to Paris. Another depicted the King of Prussia as Butcher William, knife
in hand and attired in the orthodox slaughter-house costume; whilst in yet
another design the same monarch was shown urging poor Death, who had
fallen exhausted in the snow, with his scythe lying broken beside him, to
continue on the march until the last of the French nation should be
exterminated. Of caricatures representing cooks in connexion with cats
there was no end, the _lapin de gouttière_ being in great demand for the
dinner-table; and, after Gambetta had left us, there were designs showing
the armies of succour (which were to be raised in the provinces)
endeavouring to pass ribs of beef, fat geese, legs of mutton, and strings
of sausages over several rows of German helmets, gathered round a bastion
labelled Paris, whence a famished National Guard, eager for the proffered
provisions, was trying to spring, but could not do so owing to the
restraining arm of General Trochu.

Before the investment began Paris was already afflicted with a spy mania.
Sala's adventure, which I recounted in an earlier chapter, was in a way
connected with this delusion, which originated with the cry "We are
betrayed!" immediately after the first French reverses. The instances of
so-called "spyophobia" were innumerable, and often curious and amusing.
There was a slight abatement of the mania when, shortly before the siege,
188,000 Germans were expelled from Paris, leaving behind them only some
700 old folk, invalids, and children, who were unable to obey the
Government's decree. But the disease soon revived, and we heard of
rag-pickers having their baskets ransacked by zealous National Guards,
who imagined that these receptacles might contain secret despatches or
contraband ammunition. On another occasion _Le Figaro_ wickedly suggested
that all the blind beggars in Paris were spies, with the result that
several poor infirm old creatures were abominably ill-treated. Again, a
fugitive sheet called _Les Nouvelles_ denounced all the English residents
as spies. Labouchere was one of those pounced upon by a Parisian mob in
consequence of that idiotic denunciation, but as he had the presence of
mind to invite those who assailed him to go with him to the nearest
police-station, he was speedily released. On two occasions my father and
myself were arrested and carried to guard-houses, and in the course of
those experiences we discovered that the beautifully engraved but
essentially ridiculous British passport, which recited all the honours and
dignities of the Secretary of State or the Ambassador delivering it, but
gave not the slightest information respecting the person to whom it had
been delivered (apart, that is, from his or her name), was of infinitely
less value in the eyes of a French officer than a receipt for rent or a
Parisian tradesman's bill. [That was forty-three years ago. The British
passport, however, remains to-day as unsatisfactory as it was then.]

But let me pass to other instances. One day an unfortunate individual,
working in the Paris sewers, was espied by a zealous National Guard, who
at once gave the alarm, declaring that there was a German spy in the
aforesaid sewers, and that he was depositing bombs there with the
intention of blowing up the city. Three hundred Guards at once volunteered
their services, stalked the poor workman, and blew him to pieces the next
time he popped his head out of a sewer-trap. The mistake was afterwards
deplored, but people argued (wrote Mr. Thomas Gibson Bowles, who sent the
story to The Morning Post) that it was far better that a hundred innocent
Frenchmen should suffer than that a single Prussian should escape. Cham,
to whom I previously alluded, old Marshal Vaillant, Mr. O'Sullivan, an
American diplomatist, and Alexis Godillot, the French army contractor,
were among the many well-known people arrested as spies at one or another
moment. A certain Mme: de Beaulieu, who had joined a regiment of Mobiles
as a _cantiniere_, was denounced as a spy "because her hands were so
white." Another lady, who had installed an ambulance in her house, was
carried off to prison on an equally frivolous pretext; and I remember yet
another case in which a lady patron of the Societe de Secours aux Blesses
was ill-treated. Matters would, however, probably be far worse at the
present time, for Paris, with all her apaches and anarchists, now includes
in her population even more scum than was the case three-and-forty years

There were, however, a few authentic instances of spying, one case being
that of a young fellow whom Etienne Arago, the Mayor of Paris, engaged as
a secretary, on the recommendation of Henri Rochefort, but who turned out
to be of German extraction, and availed himself of his official position
to draw up reports which were forwarded by balloon post to an agent of the
German Government in London. I have forgotten the culprit's name, but it
will be found, with particulars of his case, in the Paris journals of the
siege days. There was, moreover, the Hardt affair, which resulted in the
prisoner, a former lieutenant in the Prussian army, being convicted of
espionage and shot in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire.

Co-existent with "spyophobia" there was another craze, that of suspecting
any light seen at night-time in an attic or fifth-floor window to be a
signal intended for the enemy. Many ludicrous incidents occurred in
connexion with this panic. One night an elderly _bourgeois_, who had
recently married a charming young woman, was suddenly dragged from his bed
by a party of indignant National Guards, and consigned to the watch-house
until daybreak. This had been brought about by his wife's maid placing a
couple of lighted candles in her window as a signal to the wife's lover
that, "master being at home," he was not to come up to the flat that
night. On another occasion a poor old lady, who was patriotically
depriving herself of sleep in order to make lint for the ambulances, was
pounced upon and nearly strangled for exhibiting green and red signals
from her window. It turned out, however, that the signals in question were
merely the reflections of a harmless though charmingly variegated parrot
which was the zealous old dame's sole and faithful companion.

No matter what might be the quarter of Paris in which a presumed signal
was observed, the house whence it emanated was at once invaded by National
Guards, and perfectly innocent people were often carried off and subjected
to ill-treatment. To such proportions did the craze attain that some
papers even proposed that the Government should forbid any kind of light
whatever, after dark, in any room situated above the second floor, unless
the windows of that room were "hermetically sealed"! Most victims of the
mania submitted to the mob's invasion of their homes without raising any
particular protest; but a volunteer artilleryman, who wrote to the
authorities complaining that his rooms had been ransacked in his absence
and his aged mother frightened out of her wits, on the pretext that some
fusees had been fired from his windows, declared that if there should be
any repetition of such an intrusion whilst he was at home he would receive
the invaders bayonet and revolver in hand. From that moment similar
protests poured into the Hôtel-de-Ville, and Trochu ended by issuing a
proclamation in which he said: "Under the most frivolous pretexts,
numerous houses have been entered, and peaceful citizens have been
maltreated. The flags of friendly nations have been powerless to protect
the houses where they were displayed. I have ordered an inquiry on the
subject, and I now command that all persons guilty of these abusive
practices shall be arrested. A special service has been organized in order
to prevent the enemy from keeping up any communication with any of its
partisans in the city; and I remind everybody that excepting in such
instances as are foreseen by the law every citizen's residence is

We nowadays hear a great deal about the claims of women, but although the
followers of Mrs. Pankhurst have carried on "a sort of a war" for a
considerable time past, I have not yet noticed any disposition on their
part to "join the colours." Men currently assert that women cannot serve
as soldiers. There are, however, many historical instances of women
distinguishing themselves in warfare, and modern conditions are even more
favourable than former ones for the employment of women as soldiers. There
is splendid material to be derived from the golf-girl, the hockey-girl,
the factory- and the laundry-girl--all of them active, and in innumerable
instances far stronger than many of the narrow-chested, cigarette-smoking
"boys" whom we now see in our regiments. Briefly, a day may well come when
we shall see many of our so-called superfluous women taking to the
"career of arms." However, the attempts made to establish a corps of
women-soldiers in Paris, during the German siege, were more amusing than
serious. Early in October some hundreds of women demonstrated outside the
Hôtel-de-Ville, demanding that all the male nurses attached to the
ambulances should be replaced by women. The authorities promised to grant
that application, and the women next claimed the right to share the
dangers of the field with their husbands and their brothers. This question
was repeatedly discussed at the public clubs, notably at one in the Rue
Pierre Levée, where Louise Michel, the schoolmistress who subsequently
participated in the Commune and was transported to New Caledonia,
officiated as high-priestess; and at another located at the Triat
Gymnasium in the Avenue Montaigne, where as a rule no men were allowed to
be present, that is, excepting a certain Citizen Jules Allix, an eccentric
elderly survivor of the Republic of '48, at which period he had devised a
system of telepathy effected by means of "sympathetic snails."

One Sunday afternoon in October the lady members of this club, being in
urgent need of funds, decided to admit men among their audience at the
small charge of twopence per head, and on hearing this, my father and
myself strolled round to witness the proceedings. They were remarkably
lively. Allix, while reading a report respecting the club's progress,
began to libel some of the Paris convents, whereupon a National Guard in
the audience flatly called him a liar. A terrific hubbub arose, all the
women gesticulating and protesting, whilst their _présidente_
energetically rang her bell, and the interrupter strode towards the
platform. He proved to be none other than the Duc de Fitz-James, a lineal
descendant of our last Stuart King by Marlborough's sister, Arabella
Churchill. He tried to speak, but the many loud screams prevented him from
doing so. Some of the women threatened him with violence, whilst a few
others thanked him for defending the Church. At last, however, he leapt on
the platform, and in doing so overturned both a long table covered with
green baize, and the members of the committee who were seated behind it.
Jules Allix thereupon sprang at the Duke's throat, they struggled and fell
together from the platform, and rolled in the dust below it. It was long
before order was restored, but this was finally effected by a good-looking
young woman who, addressing the male portion of the audience, exclaimed:
"Citizens! if you say another word we will fling what you have paid for
admission in your faces, and order you out of doors!"

Business then began, the discussion turning chiefly upon two points, the
first being that all women should be armed and do duty on the ramparts,
and the second that the women should defend their honour from the attacks
of the Germans by means of prussic acid. Allix remarked that it would be
very appropriate to employ prussic acid in killing Prussians, and
explained to us that this might be effected by means of little indiarubber
thimbles which the women would place on their fingers, each thimble being
tipped with a small pointed tube containing some of the acid in question.
If an amorous Prussian should venture too close to a fair Parisienne, the
latter would merely have to hold out her hand and prick him. In another
instant he would fall dead! "No matter how many of the enemy may assail
her," added Allix, enthusiastically, "she will simply have to prick them
one by one, and we shall see her standing still pure and holy in the midst
of a circle of corpses!" At these words many of the women in the audience
were moved to tears, but the men laughed hilariously.

Such disorderly scenes occurred at this women's club, that the landlord of
the Triat Gymnasium at last took possession of the premises again, and the
ejected members vainly endeavoured to find accommodation elsewhere.
Nevertheless, another scheme for organizing an armed force of women was
started, and one day, on observing on the walls of Paris a green placard
which announced the formation of a "Legion of Amazons of the Seine," I
repaired to the Rue Turbigo, where this Legion's enlistment office had
been opened. After making my way up a staircase crowded with recruits, who
were mostly muscular women from five-and-twenty to forty years of age, the
older ones sometimes being unduly stout, and not one of them, in my
youthful opinion, at all good-looking, I managed to squeeze my way into
the private office of the projector of the Legion, or, as he called
himself, its "Provisional Chef de Bataillon." He was a wiry little man,
with a grey moustache and a military bearing, and answered to the name of
Félix Belly. A year or two previously he had unjustly incurred a great
deal of ridicule in Paris, owing to his attempts to float a Panama Canal
scheme. Only five years after the war, however, the same idea was taken up
by Ferdinand de Lesseps, and French folk, who had laughed it to scorn in
Belly's time, proved only too ready to fling their hard-earned savings
into the bottomless gulf of Lesseps' enterprise.

I remember having a long chat with Belly, who was most enthusiastic
respecting his proposed Amazons. They were to defend the ramparts and
barricades of Paris, said he, being armed with light guns carrying some
200 yards; and their costume, a model of which was shown me, was to
consist of black trousers with orange-coloured stripes down the outer
seams, black blouses with capes, and black képis, also with orange
trimmings. Further, each woman was to carry a cartridge-box attached to a
shoulder-belt. It was hoped that the first battalion would muster quite
1200 women, divided into eight companies of 150 each. There was to be a
special medical service, and although the chief doctor would be a man, it
was hoped to secure several assistant doctors of the female sex. Little M.
Belly dwelt particularly on the fact that only women of unexceptionable
moral character would be allowed to join the force, all recruits having to
supply certificates from the Commissaries of Police of their districts, as
well as the consent of their nearest connexions, such as their fathers or
their husbands. "Now, listen to this," added M. Belly, enthusiastically,
as he went to a piano which I was surprised to find, standing in a
recruiting office; and seating himself at the instrument, he played for my
especial benefit the stirring strains of a new, specially-commissioned
battle-song, which, said he, "we intend to call the Marseillaise of the
Paris Amazons!"

Unfortunately for M. Belly, all his fine projects and preparations
collapsed a few days afterwards, owing to the intervention of the police,
who raided the premises in the Rue Turbigo, and carried off all the papers
they found there. They justified these summary proceedings on the ground
that General Trochu had forbidden the formation of any more free corps,
and that M. Belly had unduly taken fees from his recruits. I believe,
however, that the latter statement was incorrect. At all events, no
further proceedings were instituted. But the raid sufficed to kill M.
Belly's cherished scheme, which naturally supplied the caricaturists of
the time with more or less brilliant ideas. One cartoon represented the
German army surrendering _en masse_ to a mere battalion of the Beauties of



Reconnaissances and Sorties--Casimir-Perier at Bagneux--Some of the Paris
Clubs--Demonstrations at the Hôtel-de-Ville--The Cannon Craze--The Fall of
Metz foreshadowed--Le Bourget taken by the French--The Government's Policy
of Concealment--The Germans recapture Le Bourget--Thiers, the Armistice,
and Bazaine's Capitulation--The Rising of October 31--The Peril and the
Rescue of the Government--Armistice and Peace Conditions--The Great
Question of Rations--Personal Experiences respecting Food--My father, in
failing Health, decides to leave Paris.

After the engagement of Châtillon, fought on September 19, various
reconnaissances were carried out by the army of Paris. In the first of
these General Vinoy secured possession of the plateau of Villejuif, east
of Châtillon, on the south side of the city. Next, the Germans had to
retire from Pierre-fitte, a village in advance of Saint Denis on the
northern side. There were subsequent reconnaissances in the direction of
Neuilly-sur-Marne and the Plateau d'Avron, east of Paris; and on
Michaelmas Day an engagement was fought at L'Hay and Chevilly, on the
south. But the archangel did not on this occasion favour the French, who
were repulsed, one of their commanders, the veteran brigadier Guilhem,
being killed. A fight at Châtillon on October 12 was followed on the
morrow by a more serious action at Bagneux, on the verge of the Châtillon
plateau. During this engagement the Mobiles from the Burgundian Côte d'Or
made a desperate attack on a German barricade bristling with guns,
reinforced by infantry, and also protected by a number of sharp-shooters
installed in the adjacent village-houses, whose window-shutters and walls
had been loop-holed. During the encounter, the commander of the Mobiles,
the Comte de Dampierre, a well-known member of the French Jockey Club,
fell mortally wounded whilst urging on his men, but was succoured by a
captain of the Mobiles of the Aube, who afterwards assumed the chief
command, and, by a rapid flanking movement, was able to carry the
barricade. This captain was Jean Casimir-Perier, who, in later years,
became President of the Republic. He was rewarded for his gallantry with
the Cross of the Legion of Honour. Nevertheless, the French success was
only momentary.

That same night the sky westward of Paris was illumined by a great ruddy
glare. The famous Château of Saint Cloud, associated with many memories of
the old _régime_ and both the Empires, was seen to be on fire. The cause
of the conflagration has never been precisely ascertained. Present-day
French reference-books still declare that the destruction of the château
was the wilful act of the Germans, who undoubtedly occupied Saint Cloud;
but German authorities invariably maintain that the fire was caused by a
shell from the French fortress of Mont Valérien. Many of the sumptuous
contents of the Château of Saint Cloud--the fatal spot where that same war
had been decided on--were consumed by the flames, while the remainder were
appropriated by the Germans as plunder. Many very valuable paintings of
the period of Louis XIV were undoubtedly destroyed.

By this time the word "reconnaissance," as applied to the engagements
fought in the environs of the city, had become odious to the Parisians,
who began to clamour for a real "sortie." Trochu, it may be said, had at
this period no idea of being able to break out of Paris. In fact, he had
no desire to do so. His object in all the earlier military operations of
the siege was simply to enlarge the circle of investment, in the hope of
thereby placing the Germans in a difficulty, of which he might
subsequently take advantage. An attack which General Ducrot made, with a
few thousand men, on the German position near La Malmaison, west of Paris,
was the first action which was officially described as a "sortie." It took
place on October 21, but the success which at first attended Ducrot's
efforts was turned into a repulse by the arrival of German reinforcements,
the affair ending with a loss of some four hundred killed and wounded on
the French side, apart from that of another hundred men who were taken
prisoners by the enemy.

This kind of thing did not appeal to the many frequenters of the public
clubs which were established in the different quarters of Paris. All
theatrical performances had ceased there, and there was no more dancing.
Even the concerts and readings given in aid of the funds for the wounded
were few and far between. Thus, if a Parisian did not care to while away
his evening in a cafe, his only resource was to betake himself to one of
the clubs. Those held at the Folies-Bergère music-hall, the Valentino
dancing-hall, the Porte St. Martin theatre, and the hall of the Collège de
France, were mostly frequented by moderate Republicans, and attempts were
often made there to discuss the situation in a sensible manner. But folly,
even insanity, reigned at many of the other clubs, where men like Félix
Pyat, Auguste Blanqui, Charles Delescluze, Gustave Flourens, and the three
Ms--Mégy, Mottu, and Millière--raved and ranted. Go where you would, you
found a club. There was that of La Reine Blanche at Montmartre and that of
the Salle Favié at Belleville; there was the club de la Vengeance on the
Boulevard Rochechouart, the Club des Montagnards on the Boulevard de
Strasbourg, the Club des Etats-Unis d'Europe in the Rue Cadet, the Club du
Préaux-Clercs in the Rue du Bac, the Club de la Cour des Miracles on the
Ile Saint Louis, and twenty or thirty others of lesser note. At times the
demagogues who perorated from the tribunes at these gatherings, brought
forward proposals which seemed to have emanated from some madhouse,
but which were nevertheless hailed with delirious applause by their
infatuated audiences. Occasionally new engines of destruction were
advocated--so-called "Satan-fusees," or pumps discharging flaming
petroleum! Another speaker conceived the brilliant idea of keeping all the
wild beasts in the Jardin des Plantes on short commons for some days, then
removing them from Paris at the next sortie, and casting them adrift among
the enemy. Yet another imbecile suggested that the water of the Seine and
the Marne should be poisoned, regardless of, the fact that, in any such
event, the Parisians would suffer quite as much as the enemy.

But the malcontents were not satisfied with ranting at the clubs. On
October 2, Paris became very gloomy, for we then received from outside the
news that both Toul and Strasbourg had surrendered. Three days later,
Gustave Flourens gathered the National Guards of Belleville together and
marched with them on the Hôtel-de-Ville, where he called upon the
Government to renounce the military tactics of the Empire which had set
one Frenchman against three Germans, to decree a _levée en masse_, to make
frequent sorties with the National Guards, to arm the latter with
chassepots, and to establish at once a municipal "Commune of Paris." On
the subject of sorties the Government promised to conform to the general
desire, and to allow the National Guards to co-operate with the regular
army as soon as they should know how to fight and escape being simply
butchered. To other demands made by Flourens, evasive replies were
returned, whereupon he indignantly resigned his command of the Belleville
men, but resumed it at their urgent request.

The affair somewhat alarmed the Government, who issued a proclamation
forbidding armed demonstrations, and, far from consenting to the
establishment of any Commune, postponed the ordinary municipal elections
which were soon to have taken place. To this the Reds retorted by making
yet another demonstration, which my father and myself witnessed. Thousands
of people, many of them being armed National Guards, assembled on the
Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, shouting: "La Commune! La Commune! Nous voulons
la Commune!" But the authorities had received warning of their opponents'
intentions, and the Hôtel-de-Ville was entirely surrounded by National
Guards belonging to loyal battalions, behind whom, moreover, was stationed
a force of trusty Mobile Guards, whose bayonets were already fixed. Thus
no attempt could be made to raid the Hôtel-de-Ville with any chance of
success. Further, several other contingents of loyal National Guards
arrived on the square, and helped to check the demonstrators.

While gazing on the scene from an upper window of the Cafe de la Garde
Nationale, at one corner of the square, I suddenly saw Trochu ride out
of the Government building, as it then was, followed by a couple of
aides-de-camp, His appearance was attended by a fresh uproar. The yells of
"La Commune! La Commune!" rose more loudly than ever, but were now
answered by determined shouts of "Vive la Republique! Vive Trochu! Vive le
Gouvernement!" whilst the drums beat, the trumpets sounded, and all the
Government forces presented arms. The general rode up and down the lines,
returning the salute, amidst prolonged acclamations, and presently his
colleagues, Jules Favre and the others--excepting, of course, Gambetta,
who had already left Paris--also came out of the Hotel-de-Ville and
received an enthusiastic greeting from their supporters. For the time, the
Reds were absolutely defeated, and in order to prevent similar
disturbances in future, Keratry, the Prefect of Police, wished to arrest
Flourens, Blanqui, Milliere, and others, which suggestion was countenanced
by Trochu, but opposed by Rochefort and Etienne Arago. A few days later,
Rochefort patched up a brief outward reconciliation between the contending
parties. Nevertheless, it was evident that Paris was already sharply
divided, both on the question of its defence and on that of its internal

On October 23, some of the National Guards were at last allowed to join in
a sortie. They were men from Montmartre, and the action, or rather
skirmish, in which they participated took place at Villemomble, east of
Paris, the guards behaving fairly well under fire, and having five of
their number wounded. Patriotism was now taking another form in the city.
There was a loud cry for cannons, more and more cannons. The Government
replied that 227 mitrailleuses with over 800,000 cartridges, 50 mortars,
400 carriages for siege guns, several of the latter ordnance, and 300
seven-centimetre guns carrying 8600 yards, together with half a million
shells of different sizes, had already been ordered, and in part
delivered. Nevertheless, public subscriptions were started in order to
provide another 1500 cannon, large sums being contributed to the fund by
public bodies and business firms. Not only did the newspapers offer to
collect small subscriptions, but stalls were set up for that purpose in
different parts of Paris, as in the time of the first Revolution, and
people there tendered their contributions, the women often offering
jewelry in lieu of money. Trochu, however, deprecated the movement. There
were already plenty of guns, said he; what he required was gunners to
serve them.

On October 25 we heard of the fall of the little town of Châteaudun in
Eure-et-Loir, after a gallant resistance offered by 1200 National Guards
and Francs-tireurs against 6000 German infantry, a regiment of cavalry,
and four field batteries. Von Wittich, the German general, punished that
resistance by setting fire to Châteaudun and a couple of adjacent
villages, and his men, moreover, massacred a number of non-combatant
civilians. Nevertheless, the courage shown by the people of Châteaudun
revived the hopes of the Parisians and strengthened their resolution to
brave every hardship rather than surrender. Two days later, however, Félix
Pyat's journal _Le Combat_ published, within a mourning border, the
following announcement: "It is a sure and certain fact that the Government
of National Defence retains in its possession a State secret, which we
denounce to an indignant country as high treason. Marshal Bazaine has sent
a colonel to the camp of the King of Prussia to treat for the surrender of
Metz and for Peace in the name of Napoleon III."

The news seemed incredible, and, indeed, at the first moment, very few
people believed it. If it were true, however, Prince Frederick Charles's
forces, released from the siege of Metz, would evidently be able to march
against D'Aurelle de Paladines' army of the Loire just when it was hoped
that the latter would overthrow the Bavarians under Von der Tann and
hasten to the relief of Paris. But people argued that Bazaine was surely
as good a patriot as Bourbaki, who, it was already known, had escaped from
Metz and offered his sword to the National Defence in the provinces. A
number of indignant citizens hastened to the office of _Le Combat_ in
order to seize Pyat and consign him to durance, but he was an adept in the
art of escaping arrest, and contrived to get away by a back door. At the
Hôtel-de-Ville Rochefort, on being interviewed, described Pyat as a cur,
and declared that there was no truth whatever in his story. Public
confidence completely revived on the following morning, when the official
journal formally declared that Metz had not capitulated; and, in the
evening, Paris became quite jubilant at the news that General Carré de
Bellemare, who commanded on the north side of the city, had wrested from
the Germans the position of Le Bourget, lying to the east of Saint Denis.

Pyat, however, though he remained in hiding, clung to his story respecting
Metz, stating in _Le Combat_, on October 29, that the news had been
communicated to him by Gustave Flourens, who had derived it from
Rochefort, by whom it was now impudently denied. It subsequently became
known, moreover, that another member of the Government, Eugène Pelletan,
had confided the same intelligence to Commander Longuet, of the National

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