In the Courts of Memory 1858-1875.
L. de Hegermann-Lindencrone
Part 5 out of 7
"Yes, yes." I gave him the name instantly, hoping he would go.
"We don't need him right off; he can come here later, and you can talk to
him yourself. Maria does not speak French."
Mademoiselle gasped for breath, while he looked about him approvingly.
"Real nice house you have, Madame, not very central, but we don't mind
being in a quiet part of Paris, as Maria wants to learn French"; and
seeing the conservatory, he remarked: "Arthur can play in there. That'll
do splendidly." After an awkward pause: "Well, if the rooms are ready, we
can come right in. Maria will be wondering why I have been so long."
_I_ also wondered why he had been so long!
To cap the climax, he handed Mademoiselle a five-franc piece, saying: "I
guess this will cover the cab. The coachman can keep the change."
A light dawned on me! He thought this was a hotel!
I said, "When you get settled in your hotel I will come and see you."
"What! Can't you take us in? We counted on coming to your hotel."
I laughed outright. Mademoiselle raised what she is pleased to call her
eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders,
I explained to my guest his mistake. Instead of saying, "Oh! that's all
right," he said, "Well, I'll be blessed," and without wasting any more
time than for a hasty good-by he marched out to join the tired Maria, the
baby, the nurse, and Arthur. We watched them as they drove off, all gazing
out of the window at the hotel which was _not_ a hotel.
May Allah protect them!
DEAR MOTHER,--The day before yesterday Henry and I decided to go to Petit
Val. I looked forward with delight to seeing my beautiful home again. Mrs.
Moulton promised to drive out and bring me back to Paris late in the
afternoon. We drove to the Gare de la Bastille and took our tickets for La
Varenne. The station was so horribly dirty, it looked as if it had not
been swept or cleaned since the commencement of the war, and as for the
first-class compartment we entered I really hesitated to sit down on the
shabby and dilapidated cushions.
We traveled very slowly, and stopped at every station mentioned in the
time-table. Although these were devoid of travelers, the conductor opened
the doors of all the carriages, and after waiting the allotted time
shouted mechanically, "En voiture," though there was absolutely no one to
I thought we never would arrive!
All the little towns, once so thrifty and prosperous, are now hardly more
than ruins. It is no wonder that this part of the country (Vincennes, St.
Maur, Chenvières, etc.) is so destroyed, because it was all about here
that the French, shut up in Paris, had made the most frequent sorties.
Everything was terribly changed.
Now my beautiful bridge is a thing of the past. There is one arch half in
water and debris of stone and mortar on the shore.
Henry and I, having no alternative, were obliged to walk from the station
to the pontoon bridge, made, Henry said, in one night. I don't know about
that; but what I do know is that the French blew up my bridge _in one
night_. Then we made the whole distance to Petit Val on foot, passing
by the châteaux of Ormesson, Chenvières, Grand Val, and Montalon.
All the châteaux we passed are utterly abandoned, some quite in ruins; one
can see, for instance, right through beautiful Grand Val, bereft of
windows and doors.
But worse was awaiting me! My heart sank within me when we came in sight
of the _potager_, the glory of Petit Val, so renowned in its day for
its fruits and vegetables. Now it is frightful to see! Its walls torn
asunder; cannon put in its crenelated sides, dilapidated and destroyed;
the garden filled with rubbish of all description. But, as though nature
were protesting against all this disorder and neglect, the cherry-trees
were placidly blossoming; the almond-trees, with their delicate pink
flowers, filled the air with perfume: everything, in short, doing its part
in spite of war and bloodshed. Your heart would ache if you could see the
place as it is now. The porter's lodge is completely gutted, windowless
and doorless, open to wind and weather.
It seems strange to see a sentry-box stationed at the entrance of the park
and a sentinel pacing to and fro. Henry gave the password, and we walked
up the avenue toward the château. I will not weary you by trying to depict
my feelings, but will leave you to imagine what they must have been. I
looked in vain for the beautiful Lebanon cedar which, you remember, stood
where my nightingale used to sing, on the broad lawn. Henry said that it
had been the first tree that the Germans had cut down, and it had been
lying there on the lawn just as it fell, where the soldiers could
conveniently cut their fuel. Henry called my attention to a white flag
flying on the chateau, which, at Paul's request, Count Bismarck had
ordered to be put there.
Henry said it signified in military language that only staff officers were
to occupy the château, and that no unnecessary damage should be done "if
we are quiet." Did Bismarck think we were likely to be unruly and go about
shooting people? The one thing in the world we wanted was to be quiet. The
flag also signified that the château should be protected. Henry had once
complained to Bismarck of the damage done by the German soldiers at Petit
Val, and Bismarck had replied, "À la guerre comme à la guerre," adding,
"The German Government will hold itself responsible for private losses,
with the exception of those which are consequences of a state of war ...
there is always a certain amount of unavoidable destruction."
"Unavoidable destruction!" cried Henry; "this can cover a multitude of
"The exigencies of war, if you like that better," rejoined Bismarck.
Paul Hatzfeldt wrote to Helen last September that the King of Prussia had
promised to put Petit Val under special protection. He even wished to go
there himself; but Paul thought Petit Val looked so spoiled that he was
glad the King did not go. If it was spoiled in September last, imagine
what it must have been six months later, with six months of soldiers to
When we arrived at the château itself the officers, who had evidently just
been lunching, came out to meet us, wondering, apparently, who this
courageous lady (poor trembling me!) could possibly be. Henry knew their
names, and presented them all to me; they clanked their heels together and
made the most perfect of military salutes.
The commanding officer in charge of Petit Val is Count Arco, a major of a
Bavarian regiment. I hastened to explain my presence among them, saying
that I wished to collect the various things I had left in the château when
I went away last August, and I had taken advantage of the first occasion
which offered itself of coming here.
Count Arco held a short conversation with Henry, who told him I would like
to go to my apartment. "Do not trouble to have anything disarranged for
me," I said, "as I shall only be here for a short time. My mother-in-law
is driving out later in the afternoon to take me back to Paris."
While we were talking Count Arco informed me that there were twenty six
officers in the château itself and one hundred and twenty soldiers
quartered round in the different pavilions, farm-houses, _ateliers_, and
--I think he said--about fifty in the _orangerie_.
Presently an orderly appeared and conducted me to my rooms, which had
evidently been hurriedly evacuated, but they looked quite nice and clean.
I was agreeably surprised to find my writing-desk and commodes pretty
nearly as I remembered to have left them. At any rate, letters, trinkets,
and so forth seemed undisturbed. I wish I could say the same for my
wearing apparel, which had considerably diminished since my departure.
Waists without their skirts, and skirts without their waists, and I found
various female articles unknown to me; but never mind! _Honi soit qui mal
It was said in France that no German could resist a clock, and that the
dearth of clocks after the war is quite noticeable. To prove the contrary,
and to applaud the officers who had lived in Petit Val (and there had been
many hundreds of them), my clock was ticking away as of old on my
Having finished packing the things to take with me, I wished to have a
look at _protected_ Petit Val.
The "unavoidable destruction" had been interpreted in a very liberal
The salon was a sight never to be forgotten. The mirrors which paneled the
whole of the east wall were broken, as if stones had been thrown at them;
every picture had been pierced by bayonets. The beautiful portrait of the
Marquis de Marigny (the former owner of Petit Val and brother of Madame de
Pompadour) had vanished. Instead of the Aubusson furniture we had left,
which, I suppose, has been transferred to other homes, I found two pianos,
one grand (not ours), two billiard-tables (not ours), some iron tables,
and some very hard iron chairs (certainly not ours), annexed, I should
say, from a neighboring café.
The library, formerly containing such rare and valuable books, is now a
bedroom--the shelves half empty, the books scattered about, some of them
piled up in a corner and used as a table. Henry said that, when any one
wanted to light a fire or a pipe, they simply tore a page out of a book.
What did they care? Was it not one of the "exigencies of war"? The frames
and glasses of the engravings were broken; but, fortunately, all the
engravings were not ruined.
You remember Mrs. Moulton's boudoir, where all was so dainty and complete?
The soldiers had converted it into a kitchen, and at the moment we were
there they were cooking some very smelly cabbage _à la tedesco_.
My pretty pavilion! If you could have seen it!
Evidently the all-powerful flag had not protected this, for it was without
doors, windows, and parquets. The only thing in it was a dear little calf
munching his last meal before being killed. To make it look more like a
slaughter-house, there were haunches of beef hanging on the Louis XV.
appliques, which had been left on the walls to serve as nails. Fresh blood
was dropping from them on the sacks of potatoes underneath.
The officers had coffee served under the _charmille_.
I was glad to get something to sustain my sinking heart. Henry and I took
a sad walk through the park. The once beautifully kept lawn is now like a
ploughed field, full of ruts and stones.
The lake was shining in the sun, but on it there were no boats. The grotto
over which used to trickle a little waterfall was completely dry, showing
the ugly stucco false rocks. It seemed dismal and forlorn. I wondered how
I ever could have thought it beautiful! The _rivière_ was without its
pretty rustic bridge; the picturesque pavilions were filled with soldiers;
some were sitting on the porches mending their clothes.
Five o'clock came before we realized how late it was. We expected the
carriage every moment; but there was no sign of it, though we scanned the
length of the long avenue with the Count's field-glasses.
Why did Mrs. Moulton not come? Something must have happened! But what?
Henry and I were seriously alarmed. Noticing our looks of dismay, Count
Arco asked me if I was anxious. I replied that I naturally was anxious,
because if my mother-in-law could not come or send the carriage she
certainly would have telegraphed. He then inquired if I wished to send a
telegram. No sooner had I said "yes" than an orderly appeared on horseback
to take the telegram to the station. He returned, while we still stood in
the avenue looking for the longed-for carriage, with the astounding news
that all the telegraph wires were cut.
To take the train was our next idea, and the wondering orderly was again
sent back to find out when the next train would start. This time he
returned with still more astounding news.
There were no trains at all!
Count Arco seemed to be most agitated, and I could see, by the expression
of the faces of the other officers, that they were more disturbed than
they wanted us to notice.
What should I do? Everything was in ruins in the village. There was not
even an _auberge_ of the smallest dimensions. All the neighboring châteaux
were abandoned. Of whom could I ask hospitality? Count Arco, seeing my
embarrassment, proposed my staying the night at Petit Val. Henry's living
there made it easier for me. So I accepted his offer; besides, there was
no choice. The soldiers arranged my room according to their ideas of a
lady's requirements, which included a boot-jack, ash-trays, beer-mugs,
etc. Their intentions were of the best.
At seven o'clock Henry and I dined with the officers. It seemed strange to
me to be presiding at my own table surrounded by German officers, Count
Arco being my _vis-à-vis_.
Do you want to know what we had for dinner? Bean soup, brought from
Germany. Sausages and cabbage, put up in Germany. Coffee and zwiebacks, I
suppose also from Germany.
The evening passed quickly, and I must admit very pleasantly. Any one who
had pretensions to music played or sang, Henry performed some of his
compositions; one officer did some card tricks. They all had an anecdote
of their experience from the past months, which they told with great
relish. Henry whispered to Count Arco: "My sister-in-law sings. Why don't
you ask her for a song?" I could have pinched him!
Although I was very tired and did not feel like it, I reflected that
almost anything was preferable to being begged and teased. And, after all,
why not be as amiable as my companions, who had done their best to amuse
I seated myself at the piano and commenced with one of Schumann's songs,
and then I sang "Ma Mère était Bohémienne," of Massé, which had a great
success, and at the refrain, "Et moi! j'ai l'âme triste," there was not a
dry eye in the little circle. Graf Waldersee, one of the oldest warriors,
wept like an infant while I was singing, and coming up to me, after
blowing his nose, said, in his delightfully broken English, "You zing like
an angle [I hope he meant angel]. It is as if ze paradise vas opened to
us." Then he retired in a corner and wiped his eyes. I sang "Ein Jungling
liebt ein Mädchen," of Schumann, and when I came to the line, "Und wem das
just passieret, dem bricht das Herz entzwei," I heard a mournful sigh. It
came from the Benjamin of the flock, a very young officer, who sat with
his hands over his face sobbing audibly. What chord had I struck? Was
_his_ the heart that was breaking _entzwei_?
I had sung to many people, but I think I never sang to a more appreciative
audience than this one.
Henry accompanied me in "Beware!" Their enthusiasm knew no bounds. They
all gathered around me, eager to thank me for the unexpected pleasure. I
really think they meant what they said.
When I returned to my room I looked out of my window and saw the sentinel
pacing to and fro in the moonlight. I realized _for the first time_ that
the château was protected!
I mourned the beautiful and stately Lebanon cedar!
It seemed so strange to wake up and find myself in my room. An orderly
brought me a very neatly arranged tray, with tea and buttered toast and a
note from Henry announcing the terrible news that Paris was under arms--a
revolution (_rien que ça_) had broken out, and all approaches to the
city were barricaded. This was news indeed! I understood now why no
carriage came last night, why trains were stopped, why telegraph wires
were cut, and why no mother-in-law appeared.
Henry was waiting to communicate with me as soon as I was out of my room.
Indeed, a more stranded mortal than I was could hardly be imagined!
However, there seemed nothing for me to do but to await events.
The officers met us in the salon, and we discussed the situation and
different possibilities, but without any practical result.
Every one was much excited about the news. The officers pretended not to
know more than _we_ did; perhaps what they did know they did not care to
tell. We saw messengers flying in all directions, papers handed about,
more messengers galloping down the avenue, agitation written on the faces
around us. All I knew was that there was a revolution in Paris and _I
Going out to the stables, we found the soldiers grooming their horses
unconcernedly. From there we went to the _orangerie_, which presented
a queer sight. The soldiers, of whom there must have been sixty, had
arranged their beds all along the walls on both sides, and to separate
them one from another had placed a tub with its orange-tree. The aviary
had been converted into a drying-ground for their _lingerie_; they had
suspended ropes from side to side, and thereon hung their _week's wash_
amid all its "unavoidable destruction." Henry told me that when the
Germans first came to Petit Val they begged old Perault (the butler) to
hand them the key of the wine-cellar, and on his refusing they had tied
the old man to a tree in the park, and left him there the whole of one
cold night to consider the situation. Needless to say, the next day the
Germans had the key. After they had taken all the best Château-Lafitte and
all the rare wines Mr. Moulton had bought during the Revolution of 1848,
they emptied the casks containing the _Petit Bleu, made on the estate!_
The result was disastrous, and could Mr. Moulton have only seen the poor
creatures doubled up with torture he would have felt himself amply
We ascended the hill behind the château to the high terrace, from where
one can see Paris. We saw no smoke, therefore Paris was not burning. But
what was happening there? We returned to breakfast, where the military
band was playing on the lawn (a superfluous luxury, I thought, but I did
not realize that so trivial a thing as a revolution could not interfere
with military order). We were treated to the eternal sausage and something
they called beefsteak; it might as well have been called "_suprême de
donkey_," it was so tough. However, the others ate it with iron jaws
and without a pang. Count Arco suggested I should take a drive, _en
attendant les événements_, and see the neighborhood. I acquiesced,
thinking anything in the way of distraction would be a welcome relief.
Imagine my feelings when I saw our _calèche_, a mere ghost of its former
self, dragged by four artillery horses and postilioned by two heavy
"The exigencies of war" had obliged the soldiers to remove the leather,
the carpet, the cushions, and all the cloth; only the iron and wood
remained to show that once this had been a carriage.
This ancient relic drew up with a thump on what had been flower-beds, and
the Count opened the door for me to enter, but on observing my look of
dismay when I saw the hard, cushionless seats, despatched an officer to
try to find a cushion for me. Apparently, however, cushions were souvenirs
our friends had forgotten to bring with them from other residences.
Judging from the time we waited, the officer must have ransacked the whole
house, but had found nothing better than a couple of bed-pillows, with
which he appeared, carrying one under each arm, to the great amusement of
the beholders. I mounted this grotesque equipage, the Count and Henry
following, and sat enthroned on my pillows of state.
We asked, before starting, if there was any news from Paris, and receiving
an answer in the negative, we drove off. Up hills, over lawns and flower-
beds, zigzagging through vineyards and gardens, never by any chance
keeping to the proper road, we made the tour of the environs.
To give you an idea how completely the châteaux had been ransacked, I can
tell you that I picked up about a yard and a half of handsome Brussels
lace in the courtyard of the château of Sucy. We drove hastily through the
adjoining estate of Grand Val, which looked even more deplorable than
Sucy. I began to wonder if the artillery horses and the carcass of the
vehicle in which we sat would be capable of carrying me to Paris, or at
least within walking distance of it. You see, I was beginning to get
desperate. Here was I, with the day almost over, without any apparent
prospect of getting away. But, as the Psalmist puts it, "Sorrow endureth
for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." My joy came late in the
afternoon, on returning to Petit Val, where I found the landeau of the
American Legation, my mother-in-law, and (hobnobbing with the German
officers) the American Minister himself, the popular and omnipotent Mr.
They were overjoyed to see me, as they had been as anxious as I had been,
having tried every means in their power to reach me. To telegraph was
impossible; to send a groom on horseback equally so. Finally, as a last
resource, they had written to Mr. Washburn to see if he could not solve
the difficult question, which he did by driving out himself with Mrs.
Moulton to fetch me.
As soon as the horses were sufficiently rested (my hosts and I being
profuse in our mutual thanks), we started for Paris, passing through
Alfort, Charenton, and many villages, all more or less in ruins. There
were plenty of people lounging about in the streets. We reached Vincennes
without difficulty; but thenceforth our troubles commenced in earnest.
Mr. Washburn thought it more prudent to close the carriage, cautioning the
coachman to drive slower. We were stopped at every moment by soldiers and
barricades; then Mr. Washburn would show his card and his _laissez
passer_, after which we were allowed to pass on, until we came to more
soldiers and more barricades. Omnibuses turned over, paving-stones piled
up, barrels, ladders, ropes stretched across the streets, anything to stop
the circulation. Poor Mr. Washburn was tired out popping his head first
out of one window then out of the other, with his card in his hand.
[Illustration: ELIHU WASHBURN
United States Minister to France during the Commune]
The men who accosted us were not discourteous, but spoke quite decidedly,
as if they did not expect to be contradicted. We did not care to
contradict them, either.
"We know you, Monsieur, by reputation, and we know that you are well
disposed toward France. How do you feel toward _la Commune_?" Mr.
Washburn hesitating a moment, the man added, cynically, "Perhaps you would
like to add a stone to our barricades." He made as if he would open the
door of the carriage; but Mr. Washburn answered, holding back the door, "I
take it for granted, Monsieur, that I have your permission to drive on, as
I have something very important to attend to at my Legation," and gave the
man a defiant look, which rather frightened him, and we drove through the
crowd. All along the Rue de Rivoli we saw the soldiers massing together in
groups, _La Garde nationale_ (Mr. Washburn said they so called themselves
since yesterday), a miserable-looking set of men, talking very loud and
flourishing their guns as if they were walking-sticks.
In passing the Rue Castiglione we saw it was full of soldiers, and looking
toward the Place de la Concorde we saw more barricades there.
This was a sight to behold! The space around the Column was filled with
paving-stones and all sorts of débris (strange to say, my eyes saw more
brooms than anything else); and cannon pointing everywhere. A very
impertinent, common-looking _voyou_ said, on looking at Mr. Washburn's
card, "Vous êtes tous très chic... mais vous ne passerez pas, tout de
We shook in our shoes.
But Mr. Washburn, equal to the occasion, said something which had the
desired effect, and we passed on.
All along the Rue de Rivoli the yesterday-fledged soldiers were straggling
about, glad to have a day of leisure. They brandished their bayonets with
a newly acquired grace, pointing them in front of them in such a reckless
way that people made a large circle around them, frightened to death.
As we passed the Hôtel de Ville we saw the red flag of the Communards
waving over the Palace. Barricades and cannon filled the space between
that and the Rue de Rivoli. Here we were stopped again, and tired Mr.
Washburn, annoyed to death, answered more stupid questions, showed his
card and documents, and gave a little biography of himself. I thought we
should never get on.
I could have cried when I saw the Tuileries; it was only last August I had
had a delightful half-hour with the Empress (she asked me to take tea with
her). Then she was full of confidence in the triumph of the Emperor (who
could have doubted it?), pleased that her son should have received _le
baptême du feu_, as the Emperor telegraphed--oh, the pity of it all! and
that was only last August--seven months ago.
As we drove by I thought of the famous ball given at the Tuileries last
May (_Le bal de Plébiscite_), the most splendid thing of its kind one
had ever seen.
And now! The Tuileries deserted, empty, the Emperor a prisoner, the
Empress a fugitive! All France demoralized! All its prestige gone! One
wonders how such things can be.
[Illustration: RUE DE RIVOLI, WHERE THE HÔTEL CONTINENTAL NOW STANDS]
Mr. Washburn said he was not sorry to have remained in Paris (an
experience he would on no account have missed). He thought he had been of
service to his own country and also to France.
Mrs. Moulton remarked, "What would those shut up in Paris have done
"Oh! I was only a post-office," he answered.
"The only _poste restante_ in Paris," I said under my breath; but I did
not dare utter anything so frivolous at the moment.
In the Faubourg St.-Honoré things were much quieter, though there were
numbers of soldiers slouching about with their muskets pointing every
which way. When we arrived at last in the Rue de Courcelles (it had taken
us four hours) all was as quiet as Sunday in Boston.
Mr. Moulton had been almost crazy with anxiety; but the thought that we
were sailing under the American colors had calmed him somewhat, and his
past emotions did not prevent him from reading the _Journal des Débats_ to
us. I slipped off to bed tired out, but thankful not to be any longer
Louis asked permission to go and assist at the proclamation of the
Commune, which was to be read at the Hôtel de Ville.
There was a platform built in front of the façade, which was decorated
with many red flags and covered with a red carpet, and all the new members
of the committee wore the symbolical red sashes over their worthy
shoulders. The statue of Henry II. was duly draped with red flags and
ragged boys. Louis stood first and foremost among many of his old
comrades, the famous and plucky Zouaves. Henri d'Assy read the
proclamation out in a loud voice, and informed the public that the Commune
(this new and charming infant) was baptized in the name of _Liberté_,
_Égalité_, and _Fraternité_. There was great enthusiasm, and a salvo of
artillery underlined the big words, and there arose a mighty shout of
"Vive la Commune!" from thousands of hoarse throats which shook the very
earth. Louis's account was worth hearing; but mine is only the truth with
variations. He was most impressed, and I fancy it would not have taken
much persuasion to have made him a red-hot Communist then and there.
Great excitement prevailed all Sunday. The Communists remained in
possession of all the public buildings. The red flag was hoisted
everywhere, even from the palace of the Princess Mathilde, who, as you
know, lives directly opposite us. The Princess had left Paris last
September. All the world knows how our clever American dentist, Dr. Evans,
helped the Empress safely out of Paris, and of her flight; and after the
catastrophe of Sedan it would have been dangerous for any member of the
Imperial family to have remained here. As I look from my window across to
the Princess's palace, and see all the windows open and the courtyard
filled with shabby soldiers, I realize that we are _en pleine Commune_,
and wonder when we shall come out of all this chaos, and how it will all
To-day there was a great demonstration in the streets.
A young fellow named Henri de Pène thought if he could collect enough
people to follow him he would lead them to the barricades in the Place
Vendôme, in order to beg the Communards, in the name of the people, to
restore order and quiet in the city. He sent word beforehand that they
would come there _unarmed_.
De Pène started at a very early hour from the distant Boulevards, calling
to every one and beckoning to them, in order to make them come from their
balconies and from their work, and shouting to all in the streets, managed
to assemble a large crowd to join in his courageous undertaking.
I happened to go at one o'clock to Worth's, in the Rue de la Paix, and,
finding the street barred, I left my coupé in the Rue des Petits Champs,
telling Louis to wait for me in the Rue St.-Arnaud (just behind the Rue de
la Paix), and I walked to No. 7.
I wondered why there were so few people in the streets. The Place Vendôme
was barricaded with paving-stones, and cannon were pointing down the Rue
de la Paix. I walked quietly along to Worth's, and hardly had I reached
his salon than we heard distant, confused sounds, and then the shouting in
the street below made us all rush to the windows.
What a sight met our eyes!
This handsome young fellow, De Pène, his hat in his outstretched hand,
followed by a crowd of men, women, and children, looked the picture of
life, health, and enthusiasm.
De Pène, seeing people on Worth's balcony, beckoned to them to join him;
but Mr. Worth wisely withdrew inside, and, shaking his Anglo-Saxon head,
said, "Not I." _He_, indeed!
The crowd bore banners on which were written: "_Les Amis du Peuple_,"
"_Amis de l'Ordre_" "_Pour la Paix_" and one with "_Nous ne sommes pas
armés._" This mass of humanity walked down the Rue de la Paix, filling the
whole breadth of it.
One can't imagine the horror we felt when we heard the roar of a cannon,
and looking down saw the street filled with smoke, and frightened screams
and terrified groans reached our ears. Some one dragged me inside the
window, and shut it to drown the horrible noises outside. De Pène was the
first who was killed. The street was filled with dead and wounded. Mr.
Hottingeur (the banker) was shot in the arm. The living members of _Les
Amis_ scampered off as fast as their legs could carry them, while the
wounded were left to the care of the shopkeepers, and the dead were
abandoned where they fell until further aid should come.
It was all too horrible!
I felt terribly agitated, and, moreover, deadly sick. My one thought was
to reach my carriage and get home as quickly as possible. But how was I to
accomplish it? The Rue de la Paix was, of course, impossible. Worth had a
courtyard, but no outlet into the Rue St.-Arnaud. He suggested that I
should go through his _ateliers_, which he had at the top of the house,
and reach an adjoining apartment, from which I might descend to the Rue
St.-Arnaud, where I would find my carriage. He told one of his women to
lead the way, and I followed. We toiled up many flights of wearisome steps
until we arrived at the above-mentioned ateliers. These communicated with
another apartment, of which Worth's woman had the key. On her opening the
door we found ourselves in a small bedroom (not in the tidiest condition),
which appeared to have just been occupied.
We passed through this room and came out to a staircase, where the
demoiselle said, "You have only to go down here." I therefore proceeded to
descend the five flights of waxed steps, holding on to the wobbly iron
railing, my legs trembling, my head swimming, and my heart sick. My only
hope was to reach the carriage and home!
When at last I came to the _porte-cochère_ I found it closed and locked,
and the frightened _concierge_ would not open for me. Fortunately, I had a
gold piece to make her yield to my demand. She reluctantly unfastened the
door and I went out. The street was filled with a terrified mob howling
and flying in every direction. I caught a glimpse of the carriage away up
the street, and I saw a hand gesticulating above the heads of the crowd,
which I recognized as Louis's. It was the only one with a glove on!
I pushed my way through the mass of people, saying, very politely,
"Pardon," as I pushed, and very politely, "Merci," after I had passed.
My horse had been unharnessed, and a man was trying to lead him away in
spite of Louis's remonstrances. The man had hold of one side of the
bridle, while Louis, with a pluck unknown before, kept a firm grip on the
other, the horse being tugged at on both sides; and had he not been the
angel he was, there would have been trouble in that little street.
The man holding the bridle opposite to Louis seemed a most formidable
person to me. Still, I tried to smile with placid calmness, and though I
was shaking all over said, "Pardon, Monsieur, will you permit me to have
my horse harnessed?" I think he was completely taken off his guard, for,
with the intuitive gallantry of a Frenchman, he answered me amiably,
throwing back his coat, and showing me his badge, said, "I am the agent of
the Committee of Public Safety, and it is for the Government that I take
I made him observe that it would be very difficult for me to walk to my
home in the Rue de Courcelles, and if his government wanted the horse it
could come there and fetch it. He looked doubtfully at me, as if weighing
the situation, then said, very courteously, "I understand, Madame, and I
give you back your horse." And he even helped Louis to reharness the
horse, who seemed happy to return to his shafts.
When I arrived home I had to go to bed, I was so exhausted. Mademoiselle
W---- administered the infallible camomile tea, her remedy for every ill.
Her mind cannot conceive of any disease which is not cured by camomile
tea, unless _in extremis_, when _fleurs d'oranger_ takes its place.
_24th of March._
The American secretary, Mr. Hoffman, and his wife, who are living in
Versailles, invited Mrs. Moulton and me to luncheon to-day, saying that
Mr. Washburn was also of the party; therefore we need have no fear of
being molested or inconvenienced on our way.
There were only two trains to Versailles now. We took the one at midday
from Paris, and arrived slowly but surely at the dirty, smoky station,
where we found Mr. Hoffman waiting for us with a landau, in which we drove
to his house.
We had an excellent luncheon, to which we all did justice; after which Mr.
Hoffman proposed our going to the _Assemblée_, which has its sittings
in the Palace, and we readily consented. I was particularly glad to have
an opportunity to see the notabilities whose names and actions had been
our daily food these last months.
We sat in Mr. Hoffman's box, who, in his position as secretary of the
American Legation, had been obliged to attend all these _séances_ from the
first. He knew all the celebrities, and most amiably pointed them out to
me. Thiers was in the president's chair; Louis Blanc, Jules Favre, Jules
Grévy, and others were on the platform.
I confess I was rather disappointed; I thought that this pleiades of
brilliant minds would surely overcome me to such a degree that I should
not sleep for weeks. But, strangely enough, they had just the opposite
effect. I think Mr. Washburn must be writing a book on modern history, and
Mr. Hoffman must be writing one on ancient history. I sat between them--a
drowsy victim--feeling as if my brain was making spiral efforts to come
out of the top of my head.
While I was trying with all my might to listen to Thiers's speech, who, I
was sure, was saying something most interesting, Mr. Hoffman, on one side
of me, would say, in a low tone, "Just think of it! Here, in these very
same boxes, the pampered and powdered [or something like that] Court of
Louis XIV. sat and listened to Rameau's operas." I tried to seem
impressed. Then, on the other side, I would hear, "Do you know, Mrs.
Moulton, that the Communists have just taken seven millions of francs from
the Bank of France?" The distant, squeaky voice of Thiers trying to
penetrate space, said, "La force ne fonde rien, parce qu'elle ne résout
rien." And when I was hoping to comprehend why "La force" did not "fonder"
anything I would hear Mr. Hoffman whisper, "When you think that Louis XVI.
and Marie Antoinette passed the last evening they ever spent in Versailles
in this theater!" "Really," I replied vaguely. My other neighbor remarked,
"You know the 'Reds' are concentrating for a sortie to Versailles." "You
don't say so!" I answered, dreadfully confused. There would be a moment's
pause, and I caught the sound of General Billet's deep basso proposing
that the French nation should adopt the family of General Lecomte, who had
been so mercilessly butchered by the mob. Mr. Hoffman, continuing
_his_ train of thought, remembered that Napoleon III. gave that
"magnificent dinner" to Queen Victoria in this theater. Jules Grévy talked
at great length about something I did not hear, and when I asked Mr.
Hoffman what it was, he answered me, something I did not understand. Jules
Favre next spoke about the future glories of _notre glorieux pays_ and the
destiny of France. These remarks were received with tremendous applause.
People stood up, and ladies waved their handkerchiefs, every one seeming
very excited; but my American friends were not greatly impressed. "How
typical!" says Mr. Hoffman. "What rubbish!" says Mr. Washburn.
When we returned to Paris we found Mr. Moulton in a flutter of agitation.
Beaumont (the renowned and popular painter) had been at the house in the
afternoon, and had asked Mr. Moulton's permission to bring Courbet (the
celebrated artist, _now_ a Communard) to see us. Mr. Moulton had no sooner
said yes than he regretted his impulsiveness, but he forgot to call
Beaumont back to tell him so. The result was that we had the visit of
Courbet last evening.
Mr. Moulton put on a bold face and broke the news to us on our arrival;
but, contrary to his fears, Mrs. Moulton and I were enchanted.
Mademoiselle Wissembourg was not so enthusiastic. A live Communard at such
near focus had no attraction for her.
Beaumont's politics are sadly wanting in color, making him supremely
indifferent to other people's politics; and, as he has a great admiration
for Courbet as an artist, he does not care whether he is a Communard or
We waited with impatience for the appointed hour, and lo! Courbet stood
before us. Mademoiselle Wissembourg had once remarked that she had great
sympathy for the people, who must feel themselves oppressed and degraded
by the rich and powerful, and so forth. But I noticed, all the same, that
she retired into a corner, probably thinking Courbet was bristling all
over with pistols, as behoves a Communard.
Courbet is not handsome; he is fat and flabby (of the Falstaff type), with
a long beard, short hair, and small eyes; but he is very clever, as clever
as Beaumont, which is saying a good deal.
Of course they talked of "the situation." Who could help it? Courbet
belongs more to the fraternity part of the motto than he does to the
equality part of the Commune! He is not bloodthirsty, nor does he go about
shooting people in the back. He is not that kind! He really believes (so
he says) in a Commune based on principles of equality and liberty of the
masses. Mr. Moulton pointed out that unlimited liberty in the hands of a
mob might become dangerous; but he admitted that fraternity absolves many
They talked on till quite late. Beaumont showed him his last picture,
which he (Beaumont) thinks very fine, but all Courbet said was, "What a
pretty frame!" I don't know if Mrs. Moulton and I felt much admiration for
the great artist, but he left us convinced that we were all in love with
him. We told Mr. Moulton we thought it might get us into trouble if
Courbet vibrated between us and the hotbed of Communism. But Mr. Moulton
answered, "What does it matter now?" as if the end of the world had come.
Perhaps it has.
Since I have been in Paris I have wished every day to go and see my former
singing-master, Delsarte; but something has always prevented me.
To-day, however, having nothing else to do, I decided to make the long-
projected visit; that is, if I could persuade Mademoiselle to accompany
me. After my experience in the Rue St.-Arnaud the other day I did not
venture to drive, so we started off to walk (with Mademoiselle's reluctant
consent) to the Boulevard de Courcelles, where Delsarte moves and has his
Poor Mademoiselle was frightened almost to death, shaking with terror at
every sound, and imagining that the Communards were directly behind us,
dodging our footsteps and spying upon our actions. At the sight of every
ragged soldier we met she expected to be dragged off to prison, and when
they passed us without so much as glancing at us I think she felt rather
disappointed, as if they had not taken advantage of their opportunities.
Finally we reached the house, and mounted the six stories, the stairs of
which are steep, slippery, and tiring. On our upward flight I remarked to
Mademoiselle that I wished Delsarte lived in other climes; but she was far
too much out of breath to notice any such little joke as this. I saw no
change either in him or in any of his surroundings.
He told us that he had suffered many privations and deprivations while the
siege was going on. Probably this is true; but I do not see how he could
have needed very much when he had the piano to fall back on, with all its
resources. How vividly the scenes of my former lessons loomed up before
me when I stood shivering with cold in the never-heated room, my voice
almost frozen in my throat, and was obliged to sing with those awful
diagrams staring me in the face!
Delsarte asked me many questions about my music: whether I had had the
heart to sing _pendant ce débâcle_. I said, "_Débâcle_ or no _débâcle_, I
could never help singing."
My dear old friend Auber came to see me this afternoon. He had not had
much difficulty in driving through the streets, as he had avoided those
that were barricaded. We had a great deal to talk about. He had been in
Paris all through the war and had suffered intensely, both physically and
mentally; he looked wretched, and for the first time since I had known him
seemed depressed and unhappy. He is old and now he looks his age. He is a
true Parisian, adores his Paris, and never leaves it, even during the
summer, when Paris is insufferable. One can easily imagine his grief at
seeing his beloved city as it is now. He was full of uneasy forebodings
and distress. He gave me the most harrowing description of the killing of
General Lecomte! It seems that the mob had seized him in his home and
carried him to the garden of some house, where they told him he was to be
judged by a _conseil de guerre_, and left him to wait an hour in the
most pitiable frame of mind.
The murder of General Clément Thomas was even more dreadful. Auber knew
him well; described him as kind and gentle, and "honest to the tips of his
fingers." They hustled him into the same garden where poor General Lecomte
already was, pushed him against the wall, and shot him, killing him
instantly. Then they rushed upon their other victim, saying, "Now is your
turn." In vain did Lecomte beg to be judged by his equals, and spoke of
his wife and children. But his tormentors would have none of that, and
shot him then and there. Lecomte fell on his knees; they dragged him to
his feet, and continued firing into his still warm body. When the populace
was allowed to come in they danced a saturnalia over his corpse. Auber
said: "My heart bleeds when I gaze on all that is going on about me. Alas!
I have lived too long."
I tried to make him talk of other things, to divert him from his dark
thoughts. We played some duets of Bach, and he accompanied me in some of
his songs. I sang them to please him, though my heart was not "attuned to
music," as the poets say.
_March 25, 1871._
I have not had the time to write for some days, but I am sure you will
forgive me. Mrs. Moulton and I have been going to the ambulances every day
There are many of these temporary hospitals established all over Paris,
supplied with army surgeons and nurses.
Mrs. Moulton, like many other ladies, had volunteered her services during
the war, and had interested herself in this worthy cause; and as she is
about to leave for Dinard one of these days, she wanted me to take up her
work in the hospital of the Boulevard la Tour-Maubourg. She knows all the
directors and nurses and introduced me to them.
The director asked me if I would like to help in the _section des
étrangers_. I replied that I would do anything they wished, hoping
inwardly that I might develop a talent for nursing, which, until now, had
It was not with a light heart I entered the ward to which I was aligned,
and saw the long rows of beds filled with sick and wounded.
My first patient was a very young German (he did not look more than
twenty). He had been shot through the eyes, and was so bandaged that I
could hardly see anything but his mouth. Poor little fellow! He was very
blond, with a nicely shaped head and a fine, delicate mouth.
His lips trembled when I laid my hand on his white and thin hand, lying
listlessly on the coverlid. I asked him if I could do anything for him.
He answered me by asking if I could speak German. On my saying that I
could, he said he would like to have me write to his mother.
I asked the director if it was allowed for me to communicate with his
family. He answered that there would be no objection if the contents of
the letter were understood by me.
Therefore, armed with pencil and paper, I returned to my invalid's
bedside, who, on hearing me, whispered: "I thought you had gone and would
not come back."
"You don't think I would be so unkind as that?" I answered.
I felt that we were already friends. I sat down, saying that I was ready
to write if he would dictate.
His lips moved; but I could not hear, and was obliged to put my ear quite
close to his poor bandaged face to hear the words, _Meine liebe Mutter_.
He went on dictating, and I writing as well as I could, until there came a
pause. I waited, and then said, "Und?" He stammered something which I made
out to be, "It hurts me to cry," whereupon I cried, the tears rolling fast
down my cheeks. Fortunately he did not see me!
This is my first trial, and I have already broken down!
I told him I would finish the letter and send it to his mother, "Frau
Wanda Schultz, Biebrich am Rhein," which I did, adding a little postscript
that I was looking after her son, and would take the best care of him. I
hope she got the letter.
The doctor advised the patient to sleep, so I left him and went to another
bed, which they indicated.
This was an American, a newspaper reporter from Camden, New Jersey. He had
joined Faidherbe's army in February, and had been wounded in the leg. He
was glad to talk English. "They do things mighty well over here", said he;
"but I guess I'll have to have my leg cut off, all the same."
When I put the question to him, "What can I do for you?" he replied, "If
you have any papers or illustrated news or pictures, I should like to see
them." I said I would bring some to-morrow.
He was very cheerful and very pleasant to talk with.
On reaching the Rue de Courcelles we found Mr. Washburn.
He was utterly disgusted with the Communards. He even became violent when
he spoke of their treatment of Generals Lecomte and Clément Thomas. He
rather took their defense during the first days of the Commune, saying
they were acting in good faith; but now I think he has other ideas about
Auber also came at five o'clock; he gets more and more despondent, and is
very depressed. He had heard that the Communards had commenced pillaging
in the Quartier de l'Odéon, also that the Place Vendôme was being
To what are we coming?
The next day I found my little German soldier decidedly worse. He had
received a letter from the _Mutter_, which he asked me to read to him. I
tried my best to overcome the difficulties of the writing and spelling,
and made many mistakes, causing the poor little fellow to smile. He
corrected me every time very conscientiously.
I did feel so sorry for him; he seemed so gentle and never complained of
his sufferings, which must have been intense. The nurse, feeling his
pulse, announced an increase of fever, and thought he had better rest,
When I said, in as cheerful a voice as I could assume; "Well, good-by for
to-day," he said, "To-morrow you will come?" Alas! there was to be no to-
morrow for him.
My other patient, Mr. Parker, appeared very comfortable, and immensely
pleased to see that I had not forgotten to bring the newspapers and
pictures. I also took a chess-board, thinking to amuse him. The doctor
looked dismayed when he saw me carrying a chessboard under my arm.
"Madame," he said, "I think that chess is too fatiguing for an invalid;
perhaps something milder would be better. I have always understood," he
smilingly added, "that chess is a game for people in the most robust
health, and with all their mental faculties."
I felt utterly crushed. This was the way my attempts to divert the sick
and the wounded were received! I thought how little I understood the
character of hospital work. Mr. Parker, evidently feeling sorry for my
discomfiture, told the doctor it would amuse him to play checkers if he
would allow it. The doctor consented to this, and I sent Louis off to buy
a box of checkers. Mr. Parker and I played two games, and he beat me each
game, which put him in splendid spirits, and I think did him no harm.
Mrs. Moulton and I drove out to the Bois after the ambulance visit. I had
not been there since last August. How changed it was! The broad Avenue de
l'Impératrice, where the lovely Empress drove every day in her _calèche
à la Daumont_, surrounded by the magnificent _Cent Gardes_, is now almost
impossible to drive in. The trees are cut down, and the roads full of
ditches and stones.
Rochefort, who was in power while the siege was in progress, suggested
some medieval methods too childish for belief--to annihilate the whole
German army if they should enter Paris. He had ordered pitfalls in the
Avenue de l'Impératrice--holes about three feet deep--in which he
intended the German cavalry to tumble headlong. He thought, probably, the
army would come in the night and not see them. Rochefort had also built
towers, as in the time of the Crusaders, from which hot oil and stones
were to be poured on the enemy. Did you ever hear of anything so idiotic?
He little dreamt that the German army would take possession of Paris,
bivouac in the Champs-Élysées, and quietly march out again.
We visited the Pré Catalan, where last year fashionable society met every
day to flirt and drink milk. That is, as you may imagine, minus cows.
These had, like all the other animals, been eaten and digested long ago.
Thick hides not being at a premium, the hippopotamus and rhinoceros had
been kindly spared to posterity.
To-day I went to the ambulances as usual. The doctor greeted me with his
usual kindness; he said there was an invalid for whom I was needed, and
conducted me to his bedside.
My new patient was a German officer about thirty-five years old. He said
he came from Munich. I told him about Count Arco (also from Munich), whom
he knew, and about Petit Val, in which he seemed interested. We talked
music, and he became quite excited when he spoke of Wagner, to whom,
according to him, no one could compare. I did not want to discuss this
wide subject; I merely remarked that Mendelssohn and Weber had their good
points, which he allowed, but replied that they were utterly out of
fashion. I did not agree with him, and, to show that Weber was a genius, I
hummed the prayer from "Der Freischütz."
There was a visible movement among the white-covered beds, and the nurses
frowned, while the doctor came hurriedly toward me, holding up his finger
I really have no talent for nursing. It seems that everything I do is
The German officer said, when I went away, "I will convince you to-morrow,
when you come, that Wagner is the greatest genius living." I answered that
undoubtedly he would, and bade him good-by.
When I reached the carriage I found a small crowd collected around it, and
I hurried to get in, and hardly had time to shut the door when Louis
whipped the horse, and we were galloping away toward home. Once there,
Louis told me that he would respectfully advise me not to go in the
carriage with a coachman in livery again. Anything, he said, in the form
of luxury or wealth excited the mob, and no one could tell what it might
do when excited.
Therefore we decided to abolish the liveries for the future. When we
reached home we found that we were one horse less, the Communards having
taken it out of the stables without further ado than a mild protest from
the frightened _concierge_. The Comité de Transport promised to return the
horse when no longer needed.
[Illustration: RAOUL RIGAULT]
DEAR MAMA,--Mr. Moulton thought it better that I should leave Paris. But
to leave Paris one must have a passport from the Prefect of Police. He
consulted Mr. Washburn about it, who not only consented to give me a card
of introduction to Raoul Rigault (whom he knew personally), but offered to
send me to the prefecture in his own carriage.
This morning at eleven the carriage was at the door, and with it the
promised card of introduction. I noticed that the coachman had no livery,
nor did he wear the cockade of the Legation; neither was there any
servant. I suppose Mr. Washburn thought it safer for us to drive through
the streets without creating any unnecessary notice or running the risk of
Mademoiselle W---- accompanied me, and with her the omnipresent bag filled
with chocolates, bonbons, etc., for any unforeseen event.
On our way she discoursed on the manner one ought to treat _ces gens-
là_. One should (she said) not _brusquer_ them, nor provoke them in any
way, but smile kindly at them and _en générale_ be very polite.
I don't know how many times I had to pull out my _billet de circulation_
before we reached the prefecture.
It was a long time since I had been down the Rue de Rivoli, and I was
disgusted when I saw the half-clad half-starved soldiers, in their dirty
boots and down-trodden shoes, slouching about with their torn uniforms and
carrying their rusty guns any which way.
At last we arrived, and we were about to descend from the carriage, when a
ragamuffin of a Communist, shouldering his gun and looking all-important,
sprang forward to prevent us; but on showing my "billet," he nodded his
head, saying, "C'est bien."
At the mere sight of him Mademoiselle W---- said, "Don't you think, _chère
Madame_, that it is better to return home?" I answered: "Nonsense! Now
that we are here, let us go through with it."
A few steps farther an awkward soldier happened to drop his gun on the
pavement. At the sound of this, poor Mademoiselle W---- almost sank on her
knees with fright.
The small gate next to the large iron one was opened, and we entered the
courtyard. This was filled with soldiers. A sentinel stood before the door
of the large corridor which led to the Prefect's office. Inside this room
stood a guard, better dressed and seemingly a person of more importance.
On showing Mr. Washburn's card, I said to him that I had come here for the
purpose of getting a passport, and would like to speak to Monsieur Rigault
We went toward the door, which he opened, but on seeing Mademoiselle W----
he stopped us and asked: "Who is that lady? Has she a card also?"
We had never thought of this! I was obliged to say that she had not, but
she had come to accompany me.
He said, rather bluntly, "If she has no card, I cannot allow her to
Here was a pretty plight. I told him, in the suave manner which
Mademoiselle W---- had recommended to me, that Mr. Washburn would have
included this lady's name on my card had he foreseen that there would be
any difficulty in allowing her to follow me as my companion.
"Madame, I have strict orders; I cannot disobey them."
I did not wish him to disobey them; but, nevertheless, I whispered to
Mademoiselle W----, "Don't leave me, stay close by me," thinking the man
would not, at the last moment, refuse to allow her to remain with me.
Alas! the door opened. I entered; the door closed behind me; I looked back
and saw I was alone. No Mademoiselle in sight! My heart sank.
I was escorted from room to room, each door guarded by an uncouth soldier,
and shut promptly as I passed.
I must have gone through at least seven rooms before I reached the
sanctuary in which Monsieur Raoul Rigault held his _audience_.
This autocrat, whom the republicans (to their eternal shame be it said)
had placed in power after the 4th of September, is (and was _then_) the
most successful specimen of a scamp that the human race has ever produced.
At this moment Rigault has more power than any one else in Paris.
When the guard opened the door he pointed to the table where Raoul Rigault
was seated writing (seemingly very absorbed). He appeared to me to be a
man of about thirty-five or forty years old, short, thick-set, with a
full, round face, a bushy black beard, a sensuous mouth, and a cynical
smile. He wore tortoise-shell eyeglasses; but these could not hide the
wicked expression of his cunning eyes.
I looked about me and noticed that the room had very little furniture;
there was only the table at which the Prefect sat and two or three plain
chairs. Just such a chamber as Robespierre might have occupied during
_his République_. There were two gendarmes standing behind Rigault's
chair waiting for orders, and a man (of whom I did not take particular
notice) leaning against the mantelpiece at the other end of the room.
I approached the table, waiting like a culprit for the all-powerful
Rigault to look up and notice me.
But he did not; he continued to be occupied with what he was doing. So I
ventured to break the ice by saying, "Monsieur, I have come to procure a
passport, and here is Mr. Washburn's card (the American Minister) to tell
you who I am."
He took the card without condescending to look at it, and went on writing.
Getting impatient at his impertinence, I ventured again to attract his
attention, and I said, as politely as possible (and as Mademoiselle could
have wished), "Will you not kindly give me this passport, as I wish to
leave Paris as soon as possible?"
Thereupon he took up the card, and, affecting the "Marat" style, said,
"Does the _citoyenne_ wish to leave Paris? _Pourquoi?_"
I answered that I was obliged to leave Paris for different reasons.
He replied, with what he thought a seductive smile, "I should think Paris
would be a very attractive place for a pretty woman like yourself."
How could I make him understand that I had come for a passport and not for
At this moment I confess I began to feel dreadfully nervous, seeing the
powerless situation in which I was placed, and I saw in imagination
visions of prison-cells, handcuffs, and all the horrors which belong to
revolutions. I heard the sonorous clock in the tower strike the hour, and
realized that only minutes, not hours, had passed since I had been waiting
in this dreadful place.
"Monsieur," I began once more, "I am rather in haste, and would thank you
if you would give me my passport."
Upon which he took Mr. Washburn's so-much-looked-at card, scrutinized it,
and then scrutinized me.
"Are you La Citoyenne Moulton?"
I answered, "Yes."
I replied I was, and _in petto_--mighty glad I was to be so.
"Does the American Minister know you personally?"
"Yes, very well."
"Why do you wish to deprive us of your presence in Paris?"
I repeated that my affairs required my presence elsewhere.
I saw he was taking no steps toward making out my passport, and I became
more agitated and unnerved and said, "If it is impossible for you,
Monsieur, to give me the passport, I will inform Mr. Washburn of the fact,
and he will no doubt come to you himself for it."
This seemed to arouse him, for he opened a drawer and took out a blank to
be filled for a passport, with an impatient shrug of his shoulders, as it
he was bored to death.
Now followed the most hateful and trying _quart d'heure_ I ever passed in
my life. I fancy Raoul Rigault had never been in the society of a lady
(perhaps he had never seen one), and his innate coarseness seemed to make
him gloat over the present situation, and as a true republican, whose
motto is _Égalité, Fraternité, Liberté_, he flattered himself he was on an
equality with me, therefore he could take any amount of liberty. He took
advantage of the unavoidable questions that belong to the making out of a
passport, and showed a diabolical pleasure in tormenting _la citoyenne_
who stood helplessly before him.
When it came to the description and the enumerating of my features, he was
more obnoxious than I can express. Peering across the table to see whether
my eyes were brown or black, or my hair black or brown, he never lost an
opportunity to make a fawning remark before writing it down. He described
my _teint_ as _pâle_; I felt pale, and think I must have looked very pale,
for he said: "Vous êtes bien pâle, Madame. Voudriez-vous quelque chose à
boire?" Possibly he may have meant to be kind; but I saw BORGIA written
all over him. I refused his offer with effusion.
When he asked me my age, he said, _insinuatingly_, "Vous êtes bien jeune,
Madame, pour circuler seule ainsi dans Paris."
I answered, "Je ne suis pas seule, Monsieur. Mon mari [I thought it best
to tell this lie] m'attend dans la voiture de Monsieur Washburn et il doit
être bien étonné de ma longue absence."
I considered this extremely diplomatic.
Turning to the man at the mantelpiece, he said, "Grousset, do you think we
ought to allow the _citoyenne_ to leave Paris?"
Grousset (the man addressed) stepped forward and looked at Mr. Washburn's
card, saying something in an undertone to Rigault, which caused him
instantly to change his manner toward me (I don't know which was worse,
his overbearing or his fawning manner).
"You must forgive me," he said, "if I linger over your visit here. We
don't often have such luck, do we, Grousset?"
I thought I should faint!
Probably the man Grousset noticed my emotion, for he came to my rescue and
said, politely, "Madame Moulton, j'ai eu l'honneur de vous voir à un bal à
l'Hôtel de Ville l'année dernière."
I looked up with surprise. He was a very handsome fellow, and I remembered
quite well having seen him somewhere; but did not remember where. I was
happy indeed to find any one who knew me and could vouch for me, and told
him so. He smiled. "I venture to present myself to you, Madame. I am
Pascal Grousset. Can I be of any service to you?"
"Indeed you can," I answered, eagerly. "Please tell Monsieur Rigault to
give me my passport; it seems to have been a colossal undertaking to get
it." I preferred the _Pascal_ G. to the _Rascal_ R.
Grousset and Rigault had a little conversation together, and presto! my
longed-for passport lay before me to sign. No Elsa ever welcomed her
Lohengrin coming out of the clouds as I did my Lohengrin coming from the
I signed my name quickly enough; Rigault put the official seal on it, and,
rising from his chair, politely handed it to me.
Before taking my leave of the now over-polite Prefect, I asked him how
much there was to pay.
He courteously replied, "Rien, absolument rien," and added he was glad to
be of any service to me; and if there was anything more he could do, I had
only to command.
I did not say that I thought he had done enough for one day, but I bowed
him good-by and turned to go out.
Mr. Pascal Grousset offered me his arm, begging to take me to my carriage.
The gendarmes threw open doors, and we retraced our steps through all the
different rooms until we reached the one where I had left Mademoiselle
W----, whom I expected to find waiting for me in agonizing anxiety.
But what did I see?
Mademoiselle sound asleep on the bench, bag, smile, and all, gazed at and
guarded by the dreaded soldiers.
"I am afraid," said Pascal Grousset, "that you have been greatly annoyed
this morning. Your interview with the Prefect must have been most painful
"I confess," I said, "it has never been my fate to have been placed in
just such a situation, and I thank you, _de tout mon coeur_, for your
assistance. You certainly saved my life, for I doubt if I could have lived
another moment in that room."
"Perhaps more than your life, Madame; more than you imagine, at any rate."
As he put us in the carriage, he looked puzzled when he saw _le mari_ I
had said was waiting for me; but a smile of comprehension swept over his
face as he met my guilty glance. He apparently understood my reasons.
On reaching home, tired, exhausted, and oh! so hungry, we found Mr.
Washburn. He and Mr. Moulton had been very anxious about me, picturing to
themselves all sorts of horrors, and when I told them what really had
happened they felt that their anxieties had not been far from the truth.
Mr. Washburn laughed at the subterfuges I had used and the lie I had told.
They examined my passport as a great curiosity, and noticed it had
_Valable pour un an_.
Mr. Washburn said, "Evidently they intend this sort of thing to go on
_23d of April._
Mrs. Moulton has decided to leave for Dinard, and starts the day after to-
We have been assured that the train would make connections as far at least
as Rennes; beyond that no one could tell whether they went regularly or
Mrs. Moulton had procured a red _billet de circulation_ with a date, a
white one without a date, Mr. Washburn's card, and different passes. She
was certainly well prepared for any emergency. As there was only one day
train, she was obliged to take that (it left al seven o'clock A.M.).
A desire to see some of her friends before her departure spurred Mrs.
Moulton to invite them to dinner. Our friends are now so few and far
between that it is not difficult to know whom to choose or where to find
The result was a miscellaneous company, as you will see: Mr. Washburn,
Auber, Massenet, Beaumont, and Delsarte. Our family consisted of Mr. and
Mrs. Moulton, Henry, Mademoiselle Wissembourg, and myself.
Mrs. Moulton asked Henry to bring with him some green peas from Petit Val
to eke out the chef's meager menu.
With the aid of a friendly officer, Henry managed to pick a "whole bushel"
(he always exaggerates), which, with his toilet articles, completely
filled his large _sac de voyage_. Besides this, he had a portmanteau
with his evening attire, and a package which Count Arco wished to send to
Count Arco ordered out the "ancient and honorable relic" of our landau
(the same I had used on the famous 18th of March) and the artillery
horses, with their heavy dragoons, in order to deposit Henry and his bags
at the pontoon bridge, where a man was found to take them as far as the
To divert himself while tramping along with his _sac de voyage_, Henry
shelled the peas, casting the pods behind him, after the manner of Tom
Thumb, never dreaming that the peas thus left to chum familiarly with
his toilet things might suffer from the contact and get a new flavor. He
was surprised to see how the "bushel" had diminished in volume since it
Mrs. Moulton had promised to send the carriage to meet _l'envoi
extraordinaire_; but Henry, finding none, started to walk toward home,
followed by a porter carrying his extra baggage.
What was Henry's astonishment at seeing Louis drive out of the Hôtel de
Ville with two strange men in the coupé. Henry hailed Louis, who, though
scared out of his wits, pulled up obediently, disregarding the angry
voices from inside. Henry opened the door and addressed the strangers
politely, "Messieurs, this is my carriage; I beg you to alight."
"Par exemple!" cried the two, in chorus. "Who are you?"
"I happen to be the proprietor of the carriage," replied Henry, assuming
an important air, "and if you decline to leave it I shall call the Sergent
de Ville." Then turning to the porter, he told him to put the bags in the
coupé, which he did.
"Ha, ha!" laughed the two men. "_Faites ça, mon bon!_ that would be
amusing. Do you know who we are?"
Henry did not, and said he was not particularly anxious to know.
"This is Monsieur Félix Pyat, and I am his secretary. Here is a _bon_ for
your carriage," handing Henry the card.
"Well," said Henry, pulling out his card, "here is my card, here are my
passes, and here [pointing to Louis] is my coachman!"
Félix Pyat said, "How do we know that this is your carriage?"
Henry acknowledged that at the moment he looked so little like the owner
of anything except the bag, in which the peas were rattling like bullets,
that he forgave the doubt.
Louis was called from the box and the question was put to him. In ordinary
moments Louis would have mumbled and stuttered hopelessly; but he seemed
to have been given overwhelming strength on this occasion, and surprised
Henry by confirming his words with an unction worthy of the great Solomon
himself. He waved his whip aloft, pointed to Henry, and putting his hand
on his heart (which I am sure was going at a tremendous pace) said, "I
swear that this is my master!"
No one but a Communard could have doubted him; but Félix Pyat no more
believed Louis's oath than he did Henry's documents.
"_Bien_," said Pyat; "if it is true that you live in the Rue de
Courcelles, we will leave you there and continue on our way."
Now followed the most spirited altercation, all talking at once, Henry
trying to get in the coupé, and the others refusing to get out.
"À la maison!" shouted Henry.
"À la Place Beauvais!" shouted the Communards. They continued giving these
contradictory orders to poor, bewildered Louis until a crowd had
collected, and they thought it better to stop quarreling. Henry entered
the carriage, meekly taking his seat on the _strapontin_ opposite the
intruders, and thinking of the peas, which ought to have been in the pot
by this time, assented to be left at home, and ordered Louis to drive the
triumphant Communards to the Ministry of the Interior, Place Beauvais.
It would be difficult for one who did not know Louis to guess what his
state of mind must have been. He was not of the kind they make heroes of;
he was good, kind, and timid, though he was an _ancien Zouave_ and had
fought in several battles (so he said). I always doubted these tales,
and I still think Louis's loose, bulging trousers and the tassel of his
red cap were only seen from behind.
It was as good as a play to hear Louis's tragic account of yesterday, and
it made your hair stand on end when he recounted how he had been stopped
in the Rue de Castiglione, how two fiery Communards had entered the coupé
and ordered him to drive to the Hôtel de Ville, where Félix Pyat had
mounted the carriage. What must his account have been in the kitchen?
However, the principal thing was that the harassed peas were safe in the
kitchen and in time to be cooked and figure on the menu as _légumes_
(_les petits pois_).
Our guests' faces beamed with satisfaction at the idea of these
_primeurs_, and evidently anticipated great joy in eating them; but
after they had tasted them they laid down their forks and ... meditated!
The servant removed the plates with their _primeurs_, wondering how
such wanton capriciousness could exist in this _primeur_-less Paris.
Only Mr. Moulton ate them to the last pea. We--the initiated--knew where
the peculiar taste of soap, tooth-wash, perfume, etc., came from! The peas
descended to the kitchen, and ascended again untouched to the hothouse,
where they finished their wild and varied career. If they could have
spoken, what tales they could have told! They had displaced the German
Army, they had aided and abetted the cause of the Commune, and they had
cost their bringer untold sums in _pourboires_, in order to furnish a
few forkfuls for Mr. Moulton and a gala supper for the hens.
We had an excellent dinner: a _potage printanier_ (from cans), canned
lobster, corned beef (canned), and some chickens who had known many sad
months in the conservatory. An ice concocted from different things, and
named on the menu _glace aux fruits_, completed this _festin de
Mr. Moulton was obliged to don the obnoxious dress-coat, laid away during
the siege in camphor, and smelling greatly of the same. He held in his
hand _La Gazette Officielle_. The same shudder ran through us all. It
was to be read to us after dinner! Coffee was served in the ballroom,
which was dimly lighted.
Would it not be too trying for an old gentleman's eyes to read the fine
print of the _Gazette_? Alas! no. Mr Moulton's eyes were not the kind
that recoiled from anything so trivial as light or darkness; and hardly
had we finished our coffee than out came the _Gazette_. We all listened,
apparently; some dozed, some kept awake out of politeness or stupefaction;
Mademoiselle Wissembourg, without any compunction, resigned herself to
slumber, as she had done for the last twenty-five years.
Delsarte squirmed with agony as he heard the French language, and murmured
to himself that he had lived in vain. What had served all his art, his
profound diagnosis of voice-inflections, his diagrams on the wall, the art
of enunciation, and so forth? He realized, for the first time, what his
graceful language could become _del bocca Americana_!
Delsarte's idea of evening-dress was worthy of notice. He wore trousers of
the workman type, made in the reign of Louis Philippe, very large about
the hips, tapering down to the ankles; a flowing redingote, dating from
the same reign, shaped in order to fit over the voluminous trousers; a
fancy velvet waistcoat and a huge tie bulging over his shirt-front (if he
had a shirt-front, which I doubt). He asked permission to keep on his
_calotte_, which I fancy had not left his skull since the Revolution
Massenet, who had come in from the country for the day to confer with his
editor, received our invitation just in time to dress and join us. After
the _Gazette_ we awoke to life, and Massenet played some of the "Poème de
Souvenir," which he has dedicated to me (I hope I can do it justice). What
a genius he is! Massenet always calls Auber _le Maître_, and Auber calls
him _le cher enfant_.
Auber also played some of his melodies with his dear, wiry old fingers,
and while he was at one piano Massenet put himself at the other (we have
two in the ballroom), and improvised an enchanting accompaniment. I wished
they could have gone on forever.
Who would have believed that, in the enjoyment of this beautiful music, we
could have forgotten we were in the heart of poor, mutilated Paris--in the
hands of a set of ruffians dressed up like soldiers? Bombs, bloodshed,
Commune, and war were phantoms we did not think of.
Delsarte, in the presence of genius, refused to sing "Il pleut, il pleut,
Bergère," but condescended to declaim "La Cigalle ayant chanté tout
l'été," and did it as he alone can do it. When he came to the end of the
fable, "Eh bien, dansez maintenant," he gave such a tragic shake to his
head that the voluminous folds of his cravat became loosened and hung
limply over his bosom.
I sang the "Caro Nome" of "Rigoletto," with Massenet's accompaniment.
Every one seemed pleased; even Delsarte went as far as to compliment me on
the expression of joy and love depicted on my face and thrown into my
voice, which was probably correct, according to diagram ten on his walls.
He now felt he had not lived in vain.
It being almost midnight, our guests took their departure.
There were only two carriages before the door, Mr. Washburn's and Auber's.
Mr. Washburn took charge of the now very sleepy Delsarte, who declaimed a
sepulchral _bonsoir_ and disappeared, his redingote waving in the air.
The _maître_ took the _cher enfant_, or rather the _cher enfant_ led the
_maître_ out of the salon. The family retired to rest. The _Gazette
Officielle_ had long since vanished with its master, and was no doubt
being perused in the privacy of the boudoir above, the odious dress-coat
and pumps replaced by _robe de chambre_ and slippers. Henry said the next
morning he had had a bad night;... he had dreamt that the whole German
army was waiting outside of Paris, shelling the town with peas.
_April 1, 1871._
Beaumont wished to accompany us to the ambulance to-day, thinking that he
might get an idea for a sketch; but, though he had his album and pencils
with him, he did not accomplish much.
We sat by the bedside of the German officer, and Beaumont made a drawing
of him. The officer said in a low tone to me, "Is that the famous artist
I replied that it was.
"I am so glad to have an opportunity to see him, as I have heard so much
of him, and have seen a great many of his pictures in Germany."
This I repeated to Beaumont, and it seemed to please him very much.
When we left, Beaumont said to him, showing him the sketch, "Would you
The officer answered in the most perfect French, "I shall always keep it
as a precious souvenir"; and added, "May I not have a sketch of my nurse?"
Beaumont thought that it was rather presuming on the part of the officer
to ask for it, and seemed annoyed. However, he made a hasty drawing and
gave it to him, saying in his blunt way, "I hope this will please you."
The officer thanked him profusely, and we left. Turning to me he said: "I
have not profited much by this visit. I have given, but not taken anything
"But the experience," I ventured to say.
"Oh yes, the experience; but that I did not need."
In the evening we had one of our drowsy games of whist, made up of
Countess B----, our neighbor opposite, brought across the street in her
sedan-chair (she never walks), Mr. Moulton, myself, and Beaumont making
the sleepy fourth. Neither of our guests speaks English with anything like
facility, but they make frantic efforts to carry on the game in English,
as Mr. Moulton has never learned the game in French and only uses English
Mr. Moulton always plays with Countess B----, and I always play with
Beaumont; we never change partners.
This is the kind of game we play:
It takes Beaumont a very long time to arrange his cards, which he does in
a unique way, being goaded on by Mr. Moulton's impatient "Well!" He picks
out all the cards of one suit and he lays them downward on the table in a
pile; then he gathers them up and puts them between the third and fourth
fingers of his left hand. With the next suit he does likewise, placing
them between the second and third fingers, and so on, until the grand
_finale,_ when the fingers loosen and the cards amalgamate. During this
process his cards fall every few minutes on the floor, occasioning much
delay, as they have all to be arranged again.
It is my deal; I turn up a heart. The Countess is on my left. We wait with
impatience for her to play, but she seems only to be contemplating her
"Well!" says Mr. Moulton, impatiently.
We all say in unison, "Your play, Countess!"
The Countess: "Oh, what dreadful cards! I can never play. Oh," with a
sigh, "how dreadful!"
We are all very sorry for her. She has evidently wretched cards.
Long pause. "Your turn, Countess!" we all cry.
"What are trumps?" she asks.
We show her the trump card on the table and say together, "Hearts."
Another long pause.
She arranges her cards deliberately and then shuts them up like a fan.
"Your play, partner," says Mr. Moulton, tired out with waiting.
With a dismal wail, and looking about for sympathy, she plays the ace of
Mr. Moulton gathers up the trick.
She has no idea that she has taken anything, but is quietly adjusting her
"Your turn, Countess!"
"What, my turn again?" She expresses the greatest surprise.
She: "What dreadful cards! Indeed, I cannot play."
Poor thing! That was probably her only good card, and we expected her next
would be the two of spades. But no. She pulls out, with the air of a
martyr, the ace of spades.
Mr. Moulton: "Well! that's not so bad."
Great astonishment on her part. She can't believe that she has actually
taken a trick. She had hoped some one else would have played.
A long, fidgety silence follows.
All: "Your play, Countess!" She plays the queen of hearts.
This has no success, as I take it with my king.
Mr. Moulton: "Why did you play trumps?"
She: "Oh! was that trumps? I must take it back. Pray, let me take it
We all recover our cards. (My partner takes this occasion to drop some of
his on the floor. He picks them up and arranges them again in order.)
"Your turn, Countess!" we cry, exhausted.
She: "What, again! Why does some one else not play?"
Then out comes the ace of diamonds.
Some one said, "You have all the aces."
She: "Oh! not all; I have not the ace of hearts."
Her partner, aghast, begs her not to tell us what her other cards are, and
so the game proceeds to the bitter end.
There were other moments funny beyond words especially when Mr. Beaumont's
English fails to cope with the situation and he will try to discuss the
points where the Countess has failed. He says, "Did you not see he put his
king on your spade ace-spot?" and, "Madame, you played the third of
spades." And when we count honors, Beaumont will cover the table with his
great elbows and enumerate his: "I had the ass, the knight, and the dame."
I heard a suppressed chuckle from my father-in-law, and seemed to see a
vision of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza pass before me.
_24th of April._
DEAR MAMA,--Auber sent a note early this morning by his coachman to ask me
to lunch with him at ten-thirty o'clock (of course accompanied by
Mademoiselle, my aunt, as he calls her). The coachman says that his master
is not feeling well and longs to see a friend.
I am proud to be the friend he longs to see, and was only too happy to
accept. Mademoiselle W---- was equally happy, ready, as always, for any
excursion where a good repast was in view, and of that we were sure, as
Auber's chef is renowned, and is so clever that, though the market is
limited, he can make something delicious out of nothing.
Louis appeared in a short jacket and a straw hat, looking rather waggish
and very embarrassed to present himself in such a costume.
Driving through the Boulevard Clichy and endless out-of-the-way streets,
we finally reached Auber's hotel, which is in the Rue St. Georges.
Louis was glad to find safety under the _porte-cochère_, and to see his
bosom companion, Auber's butler, into whose arms he fell with joy.
Auber came to the door to welcome us, seeming most grateful that we had
come, and led us into the salon. There is only one way to get into the
salon, and that is either through the dining-room or the bedroom; we went
through the bedroom, as the other was decked for the feast.
I have never seen Auber look so wretched and sad as he did to-day; I could
hardly believe it was the same Auber I have always seen so gay and full of
life and spirits.
I brought a tiny bunch of lilies of the valley, which Louis had gathered
in the all-producing hothouse.
"Merci, merci," he said. "Les fleurs! C'est la vie parfumée." Waiting for
the breakfast to be served, he showed us about in his apartment. In the
salon, rather primly furnished, stood the grand piano. The bookshelves
contained Cherubini's (his master) and his own operas, and his beloved
Bach. A table in the middle of the room, covered with photographs and
engravings, completed son _salon de garçon_.
The bedroom was also very primitive: his wooden bed, with its traditional
covering of _bourre_; a chiffonier containing his curios, royal presents,
and costly souvenirs; his writing-table; and his old piano, born in 1792,
on which he composed all his operas.
The piano certainly looked very old; its keys were yellow as amber, and
Auber touched them with tenderness, his thin, nervous fingers, with their
well-kept nails, rattling on them like dice in a box.
He said: "Le piano est presqu'aussi vieux que moi. Que de tracas nous
avons eu ensemble!"
Breakfast was announced, and we three took our places at the beautifully
arranged table. I wondered where the butler had found flowers and fruit
and _écrevisses_. Mademoiselle and I ate with an astounding appetite;
but Auber, who had not eaten a _déjeuner_ for thirty years, contented
himself with talking.
And talk he did, like a person hungry and thirsty to talk. He told us
about Scribe, for whom he had an unlimited admiration. "I wish you had
known him," he said; "he was the greatest librettist who ever existed. I
only had to put the words on the piano, put on my hat, and go out. When I
came back the music was all written--the words had done it alone." ("Je
n'avais qu'à mettre les paroles sur le pupitre, prendre mon chapeau et
sortir. Quand je revenais la musique était toute écrite, les paroles
l'avaient faite toutes seules.")
He related incidents connected with his youth. His father was a banker
very well off, rich even, and had destined Auber to be a banker, like
himself; but when Auber went to London to commence his clerkship he found
he had no vocation for finance, and began to devote himself to music and
composition. He was thirty-six years old when he wrote his first opera. He
told us that his first ones were so bad that he had given them to the
Conservatoire _pour encourager les commençants_.
Breakfast had long since finished; but dear old Auber rambled on, and
Mademoiselle and I sat listening.
He said he was going to leave all his music to me in his will. I thanked
him, and replied nothing would give me greater pleasure than to have
something which had belonged to him.
"Je ne regarde jamais mes partitions sans être gagné par la tristesse et
sans penser que de morceaux à retoucher! En composant, je n'ai jamais
connu d'autre muse que l'ennui."
"On ne le dirait pas," said Mademoiselle, wanting to join the
conversation. "Votre musique est si gaie, si pleine d'entrain."
"Vous trouvez! Vous êtes bien bonne. Je ne sais comment cela arrive. Il
n'y a pas de motifs parmi ceux qu'on trouve heureux, que je n'ai pas écrit
entre deux baîllements. Je pourrais," he went on, "vous montrer tel
passage où ma plume a fait un long zigzag parce que mes yeux se sont
fermés et ma tête tombait sur la partition. On dirait, n'est ce pas? qu'il
y a des somnambules lucides."
We thought Auber seemed very fatigued, and we soon left him, driving back
the same way we came, and reached home without any adventures.
_7th of May._
I received this morning, by a mysterious messenger, a curious document; it
looks like a series of carriage-wheels, but it is a cipher from Prince
Metternich, who is in Bordeaux, and is dated the 1st of May. It took me a
long time to puzzle it out: "Vous conseille de partir; pire viendra.
Pauline à Vienne; moi triste et tourmenté."
Very good advice, but rather difficult to follow now.
Never has Paris led such a sober life; there is no noise in the almost
empty and dimly lighted streets; there are no drunkards, and, strange to
say, one hears of no thefts. There are, I believe, one or two small
theaters open, most of the small cafés, and a great many wine-shops. The
soldiers slink about, looking ashamed of their shabby uniforms and ragged
Thiers has done all in his power to conciliate the different parties, but
has now concluded that Paris must be conquered by the troops of
Versailles. Every day there comes more disturbing news. How will it all
end? When shall we get out of this muddle? _En attendant,_ we live in
a continual fright.
A note came yesterday from Mr. Washburn (I don't know if he is in Paris or
not). He writes: "Nothing could be worse than the present state of
affairs. I wish you were out of Paris; hope you are well," etc.
If we could get a message to him, we would tell him that we are well
enough, and have enough to eat; that Mademoiselle Wissembourg and I
tremble all day; but that Mr. Moulton has not enjoyed himself so much
since the last revolution.
Slippers all day if he likes.
Though I have so much time on my hands (I never have had so much), I
really have not the heart to write of all the horrors we hear of and the
anxieties of our daily life. Besides, you will probably have heard,
through unprejudiced newspapers, all that is happening here, and know the
true facts before this dismal letter reaches you. And who knows if letters
leave Paris regularly in the chaotic state of disorder and danger we are
I cannot write history, because I am living in it. I can only tell you the
news which Louis gathers when he does his errands, coming home with the
wildest tales, of which we can only believe the half.
I have read somewhere that some one lived "in a dead white dawn of
thought." I have not the slightest idea what "a dead white dawn of
thought" can be (I have so little imagination); but whatever it is, I feel
as if I was living in it now. I don't remember in all my life to have
stagnated like this.
We are glad Mrs. Moulton left Paris when she did, and is now in a bourne
of safety at Dinard, taking my place with the children while I take hers
in the Rue de Courcelles.
This is no sacrifice on my part; the existence we are leading now
interests me intensely, being so utterly different from anything I have
ever known, and I do not regret having this little glimpse into the
I cannot go to the ambulances, as we (Mademoiselle and I) do not dare to
walk, and driving is out of the question.
I have not seen Auber for many days; Beaumont has not been here either,
and we do not know where he is.
They still go on issuing some official newspapers, though whether what
they contain is true, or how far the imaginations of the editors have
lured them into the paths of fiction, we cannot tell. If we live through
this _débâcle_ I count on history to tell us what we really have been
living through. However, truth or fiction, I am thankful that we have the
newspapers, for how would I ever have a moment's sleep if I did not listen
to Mr. Moulton's intoning the _Moniteur_ and the _Journal des Débats_ (the
_Figaro_ has been suppressed) to us, and we did not have our three-handed
drowsy whist to doze over.
While we were at breakfast this morning the servant came rushing in, pale
and trembling, and announced to us that pillage had commenced in the
Boulevard Haussmann, just around the corner, and that the mob was coming
toward our house. We flew to the window, and, sure enough, there we saw a
mass of soldiers collected on the other side of the street, in front of
the Princess Mathilde's palace, gesticulating and pointing over at us.
We thought our last day had come; certainly it did look like a crisis of
some kind. We gazed blankly at one another. Mademoiselle disappeared, to
seek refuge, I fancy, between the mattresses of her bed, and the smile and
the urbane language with which she was prepared to face this emergency (so
often predicted by her) disappeared with her.
The mob crossed the street, howling and screaming, and on finding the gate
locked began to shake it. The frightened _concierge,_ already barricaded
in his lodge, took care not to show himself, which infuriated the riotous
crowd to such an extent that they yelled at the top of their lungs to have
the gate opened.
Mr. Moulton sent a scared servant to order the still invisible _concierge_
to open not only one gate, but all three. He obeyed, trembling and quaking
with fear. The Communists rushed into the courtyard, and were about to
seize the unhappy _concierge,_ when Mr. Moulton, seeing that no one else
had the courage to come forward, went himself, like the true American he
is,... out on to the _perron_, and I went with him. His first words (in
pure Angle-Saxon), "Qu'est-ce que vous voolly?" made the assembled crowd
The leader pushed forward, and, presenting a paper with the official seal
of the _Comité de Transport_, demanded, in the name of the Commune
(_requisitioned_, they call it), everything we had in the way of animals.
Mr. Moulton took the paper, deliberately adjusted his spectacles, and,
having read it very leisurely (I wondered how those fiery creatures had
the forbearance to stay quiet, but they did; I think they were hypnotized
by my father-in-law's coolness), he said, in his weird French, "Vous
voolly nos animaux!" which sounded like _nos animose_. The crowd grinned
with delight. His French saved the situation. I felt that they would not
do us any great harm now.
Mr. Moulton fumbled in his pocket, and, judging from the time he took and
the depths into which he dived, one would have thought he was going to
bring out corruption enough to bribe the whole French nation. But he only
produced a gold piece, which he flourished in front of the spokesman, and
asked if money would be any inducement to leave us _les animose_. But the
not-to-be-bribed Communard put his hand on his heart, and said, in a tone
worthy of Delsarte, "Nous sommes des honnêtes gens, Monsieur," at which my
father-in-law permitted himself to smile. I thought him very brave.
Raising his voice to an unusually high pitch, he cried, "Je ne peux pas
vous refiuser _le_ cheval, mais [the pitch became higher] je refiuse _le_
vache (I cannot refuse to give you the horse; but I refuse the cow)."
The men before us were convulsed with laughter. Then Mr. Moulton gave the
order to bring out the horse, but _not_ the cow. The official turned to
me. "Madame," he said, "you have a cow, and my orders are to take all your
animals. Please send for the cow."
"It is true, Monsieur," I answered, with a gentle smile (like the one
reposing under the mattress), "that we have a cow; but we have the
permission from your Government to keep it."
"Which government?" he asked.
"The French Government. Is that not yours?"
The man could not find anything to answer, and turned away mumbling,
"Comme vous voulez," which applied to nothing at all, and addressed Mr.
Moulton again, "Nous avons des ordres, Monsieur!" But Mr. Moulton
interrupted him, "Ça m'est égal, je refiuse _le_ vache."
Some one in the crowd called out, "Gardez _le_ vache!" This was received
with a burst of applause. I think that these men, rough as they were,
could not but admire the plucky old gentleman who stood there so calmly
looking at them over his spectacles. The servants were all huddled
together behind the glass windows in the _antichambre_, scared out of
their wits, while the terrible Communards were choking with laughter.
It was heart-rending to see poor Louis's grief when he led out the dear,
gentle horse we loved so fondly; the tears rolled down his cheeks, as they
did down mine, and I think a great many of the ruffians around us had a
tear of sympathy for our sorrow, for the merriment of the few moments
before faded suddenly from their pale and haggard faces.
When Louis leaned his kind old face against the nose of his companion of
the stable he sobbed aloud, and when he gave the bridle over to the man
who was to take the horse away he moaned an adieu, saying, "Be good to
I went down the steps of the _perron_ (the men politely making way for me)
and kissed my poor darling Medjé, and passed my hand over her soft neck
before she left us for her unknown fate. She seemed to understand our
sorrow, for, as she was being led out of the courtyard, she turned her
head toward us with a patient, inquiring look, as if to say, "What does it
I hope she will be returned when "no longer needed," as they promise, and
Louis will have the joy of seeing her again.
The now-subdued mob left us, filing out quietly through the gates; they
had come in like roaring lions, but went out like the meekest of lambs.
We returned sorrowfully to the salon. I was so unstrung that Mademoiselle,
who in the meantime had returned, administered a cup of camomile tea to
restore my nerves.
After the fright caused by this last _réquisitionnement_, two of the
servants thought it expedient to find safer quarters in the center of
Paris, and to live in seclusion, rather than run the risk of being
The forts Mont Valérien, Montrouge, Vanves, and Issy keep up an incessant
firing. We would not be surprised if at any moment a bomb reached us, but
so far we have escaped this calamity. The "Reds" are fighting all around
Paris with more or less success. If one could believe what is written in
the _Le Journal de la Commune_, one would say they were triumphant all
along the line. We have just heard that General Bergeret has been
arrested, no one knows why, except that he did not succeed in his last
sortie, and had then by displeased his colleagues generally. It does not
take more than that to arrest people in these days.
The good Archbishop of Paris (Darboy), the curé of La Madeleine
(Monseigneur Duguerry), also President Bonjean, and the others who were
arrested on the 10th of May, have been kept in Mazas Prison ever since. I
saw a letter of marvelous forbearance and resignation, written by the
Archbishop to the Sisters of the St. Augustine Convent; and the beloved
curé of the Madeleine beseeches people to pray for order to be restored.
Poor martyrs! I hope that their prison will not prove to be the
antechamber of the scaffold; as Rochefort says, "Mazas est l'antichambre
It appears that Félix Pyat really did give his demission as a member of
the Commune, but his colleagues would not accept it.
_10th May_.--While Mr. Moulton was reading this morning's news to us
we were startled by a terrible crash. We were paralyzed with terror, and
for a moment speechless, fearing that all we had dreaded was about to be
realized. After somewhat recovering our equilibrium, we sent for Louis to
find out what dreadful thing had happened.
Louis appeared with the _concierge_, both trembling from head to foot, and
announced that a portion of a bomb which had fallen and exploded near us
had come through the roof, shattering many windows and causing great
havoc. On further examination of the disaster we were greatly relieved to
hear that it was only a question of a damaged roof, windows, and masonry.
No one was killed or even wounded; but all were so completely frightened
that no one dares to sleep on the upper floor. Consequently we have moved
down on the drawing-room floor, and have abandoned the upper stories to
future bombs. Mr. Moulton is located in the salon; Mademoiselle has taken
the _salon jaune_, and I the boudoir. Louis has improvised a bedroom in
the small dining-room, that he may be near us at night if we should need
him. The other servants sleep in the basement.
Our family is now reduced to Mr. Moulton, Mademoiselle, Louis, my maid,
and the cook. Louis has proved himself invaluable. He is the man of all
work. After milking the cow and doing his farming (in the conservatory) in
the early morning, he waits at table, does errands, and gathers whatever
news there is in the neighborhood, helps in the kitchen, and aids Mr.
Moulton in his toilet and into his slippers. He is never tired; is always
ready, early in the morning and late at night, to do anything required of
him. He fills all gaps.
The untiring hens have made their nests in obscure corners in the hothouse
and dream serenely of future posterity, while the one cock scratches for
tired worms to provide for their repasts. I go every morning after
breakfast with a little offering of scraps to add to their meager meals.
It is one of my few occupations.
Louis has succeeded in some of his agricultural schemes, and has raided
mushrooms, radishes, and watercresses, which appear quite a luxury in
contrast to our usual canned things, and almost make us forget other
This farming of Louis's in the hothouse goes to prove how an unnecessary
palm-garden in time of peace can be transformed into a useful kitchen
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