'February 23, 1848.

'When at 7 o'clock to-day I went out, I met a large band going round the streets, calling on the inhabitants to illuminate their houses, and bearing torches. This was all very good fun, and everybody was delighted; but as they stopped rather long and were rather turbulent in the Place de la Madeleine, near where we live' [in the Rue Caumartin] 'a squadron of dragoons came up, formed, and charged at a hand-gallop. This was a very pretty sight; the crowd was not too thick, so they easily got away; and the dragoons only gave blows with the back of the sword, which hurt but did not wound. I was as close to them as I am now to the other side of the table; it was rather impressive, however. At the second charge they rode on the pavement and knocked the torches out of the fellows' hands; rather a shame, too - wouldn't be stood in England. . . .

[At] 'ten minutes to ten . . . I went a long way along the Boulevards, passing by the office of Foreign Affairs, where Guizot lives, and where to-night there were about a thousand troops protecting him from the fury of the populace. After this was passed, the number of the people thickened, till about half a mile further on, I met a troop of vagabonds, the wildest vagabonds in the world - Paris vagabonds, well armed, having probably broken into gunsmiths' shops and taken the guns and swords. They were about a hundred. These were followed by about a thousand (I am rather diminishing than exaggerating numbers all through), indifferently armed with rusty sabres, sticks, etc. An uncountable troop of gentlemen, workmen, shopkeepers' wives (Paris women dare anything), ladies' maids, common women - in fact, a crowd of all classes, though by far the greater number were of the better dressed class - followed. Indeed, it was a splendid sight: the mob in front chanting the "MARSEILLAISE," the national war hymn, grave and powerful, sweetened by the night air - though night in these splendid streets was turned into day, every window was filled with lamps, dim torches were tossing in the crowd . . . for Guizot has late this night given in his resignation, and this was an improvised illumination.

'I and my father had turned with the crowd, and were close behind the second troop of vagabonds. Joy was on every face. I remarked to papa that "I would not have missed the scene for anything, I might never see such a splendid one," when PLONG went one shot - every face went pale - R-R-R-R-R went the whole detachment, [and] the whole crowd of gentlemen and ladies turned and cut. Such a scene! - ladies, gentlemen, and vagabonds went sprawling in the mud, not shot but tripped up; and those that went down could not rise, they were trampled over. . . . I ran a short time straight on and did not fall, then turned down a side street, ran fifty yards and felt tolerably safe; looked for papa, did not see him; so walked on quickly, giving the news as I went.' [It appears, from another letter, the boy was the first to carry word of the firing to the Rue St. Honore; and that his news wherever he brought it was received with hurrahs. It was an odd entrance upon life for a little English lad, thus to play the part of rumour in such a crisis of the history of France.]

'But now a new fear came over me. I had little doubt but my papa was safe, but my fear was that he should arrive at home before me and tell the story; in that case I knew my mamma would go half mad with fright, so on I went as quick as possible. I heard no more discharges. When I got half way home, I found my way blocked up by troops. That way or the Boulevards I must pass. In the Boulevards they were fighting, and I was afraid all other passages might be blocked up . . . and I should have to sleep in a hotel in that case, and then my mamma - however, after a long DETOUR, I found a passage and ran home, and in our street joined papa.

'. . . I'll tell you to-morrow the other facts gathered from newspapers and papa. . . . Tonight I have given you what I have seen with my own eyes an hour ago, and began trembling with excitement and fear.

Memoir of Fleeming Jenkin Page 13

Robert Louis Stevenson

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