“Ce caractère parisien, qu’on peut aujourd’hui 오피알바 résumer en un seul mot: héroïsme?.”—Mme. Adam, Souvenirs, December 7, 1870.

“At present,” said Mme. Adam to a friend on the 27th of September, 1870, “we have barely endured ten days of siege. And I will wager that in three months I shall not be any more disgusted with it than I am at present.”[189]

Juliette won her bet, for during the first three months of the siege she bore her sufferings cheerfully and without flinching. And even during the fourth month, though her health broke down, her courage did not fail.

During those interminable four months the two million souls cooped up in Paris knew every misery which has ever fallen to the lot of the besieged: internal discontent and disorder, resulting in the abortive revolution of the 31st of October; extreme scarcity of food and munitions of war for nearly three weeks, the 20th of December until the 8th of January; complete isolation from the rest of France and from the whole outer world.[190] To these sufferings, which Juliette shared with her fellow-citizens, was added her personal anxiety for her daughter’s safety. She did not even know where her daughter was. She hoped that Alice, with her grandparents, had succeeded in crossing to Jersey; for the Prussians were said to have invaded Normandy. But for many a long week, from the 19th of September until the 20th of December, no news came. Juliette endured this agony of suspense with fortitude. Then at length, through Mme. de Pierreclos, came tidings that Alice was well and with her grandparents at St. Helier. Straightway Juliette’s motherly mind flies at once to other anxious parents in the besieged city who are still [Pg 145] without news of their children. For all through those days of horror Mme. Adam’s heart never ceased to beat in unison with the hearts of her fellow-sufferers, to bleed with their sorrows, to throb with their anxieties and their fears. Living thus in constant communion with her neighbours, she was able to depict graphically in her journal the perpetual ebb and flow of public feeling and opinion: now it was confident and hopeful, now foreboding and doubtful, but never, not even in the ghastly days of the end, completely conquered by despair. Throughout, with the exception of the actual days of bombardment, the comic spirit, Juliette’s inseparable friend, never forsook her; and, while feeling to the tragic point the sufferings of others, she was able to joke about her own sorrows and privations.

Next to her separation from Alice, the hardest to bear of her personal trials during the siege was being compelled to leave her flat in the Boulevard Poissonnière. On the 11th of October, Adam having been appointed Prefect of Police, he and his wife had to take up their abode in the Préfecture.

In the halls and corridors of that gloomy building, what hours of weary waiting for a passport’s stamping have not many of us endured during this war-time! We can well sympathise, therefore, with Mme. Adam’s horror at the idea of spending not hours only, but days, weeks and months within the Préfecture’s lugubrious portals. We can understand her grief at being obliged to exchange her cheerful flat, her “dovecot” on the Boulevard Poissonnière, for l’affreuse prison in the Rue de Jérusalem.

To any one with her vivid imagination it was a perfect nightmare merely to watch the going and coming of the prison-vans, lumbering into the courtyard of La Sainte Chapelle, and to hear the cries of “No. 1 for Mazas, No. 2 for Ste. Pélagie.”[191]

It was during her residence in the Préfecture that occurred that insurrection of the 31st of October which proved a premonition of the Commune. The popular discontent with the Government, and especially with its President, General Trochu, who was also Governor of Paris, had been growing for some weeks. It was brought to a head by the news that Le Bourget, one of the forts [Pg 146] outside the capital, which had been captured from the Prussians on the 28th of October, had been retaken on the 29th. On the 30th, Mme. Adam, on her way to her hospital from a concert in the Cirque Pas de Loup, found the boulevard in an almost revolutionary ferment. The people were exclaiming: “We do not demand successes, but we will not have defeats resulting from our general’s frivolity, carelessness and incapacity.”[192] Later in the evening, when the time came for Juliette to return home, she found the tumult had increased. As she pressed her way through the crowd she felt its sentiments possessing her. “My sorrows mingled with theirs,” she writes, “my patriotism with their patriotism.”

As soon as she saw Adam she warned him of the state of Paris. But he knew it better than she, and her warning was unnecessary. There was a dinner-party at the Préfecture that evening. Both at table and afterwards in her salon, the guests, among whom was Rochefort, complained as loudly as the crowd of the Government’s incapacity. Every one found fault with the mismanagement which had resulted in the loss of Le Bourget. Rochefort and Adam were obliged to leave to attend a Cabinet meeting,[193] held to receive the report of Thiers, who had just returned from an official visit to the Great Powers on the subject of an armistice. Adam did not come back to the Préfecture until three o’clock in the morning.

The news that he brought was of the gravest. The Prefect of the Police placed no reliance whatever on the repeated assurances of the Governor of Paris that he would maintain order. Juliette had long since lost all faith in that polished, placid person, of whom every one said, c’est un homme très distingué. She would have preferred an energetic corporal.[194] She had no faith in the famous “plan.” It had never been confided to any one; but already it was being ridiculed by the besieged in the following couplets, sung up and down Paris streets—