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Harper's Young People, August 31, 1880   By:

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[Illustration: HARPER'S




Tuesday, August 31, 1880. Copyright, 1880, by HARPER & BROTHERS. $1.50 per Year, in Advance.




A few days since, as I was driving in the Bois de Boulogne with a friend, a slender, sweet young girl was pointed out to me. She was walking beside her mother, and there was a loving, tender look in her blue eyes, a shrinking modesty in her deportment, which interested me at the first glance. She was apparently about fifteen. I observed to the friend who pointed her out to me that she was fair, modest, and pretty. "Yes," he replied, "and she is the heroine of a very pretty story."

Eight years ago her father and mother occupied an appartement , or flat, in the Rue de Rivoli. Part of the Rue de Rivoli has houses only on one side; the other is bordered by a high iron railing with gilt spear heads, inclosing the Garden of the Tuileries. At one point (which was nearly opposite the house where Claudine lived) one tall pavilion of the palace abutted on the sidewalk. The Rue de Rivoli is the most beautiful street in Paris. The windows of the sitting room of Claudine's mother looked over the palace and its gardens, its chestnut trees and its fountains, the Seine and its quays, with a more distant view of the Place de la Concorde and its obelisk, the Chambers of the Legislature, and the gilded dome of the Tuileries. Every procession passed under Claudine's windows. No little girl, I think, who lives in rooms overlooking the Rue de Rivoli would wish to exchange them for any other home.

Claudine's parents, though of good birth and education, were not rich; they lived on the third story. They had only one old servant. Claudine's mother was her daughter's nurse and governess. Till the German army marched on Paris they had a peaceful, refined, and happy home.

At the moment of which I am about to write, the siege had ceased, and the terrible days of the Commune were almost over. The little family began to breathe more freely only in a certain sense, however, for they were all gathered together in a little close room, which would have looked into the court yard of their house had not its windows been blocked up by pillows, mattresses, and furniture. They dared not look into the street, they dared not go into their own sitting room, for the Versailles troops were entering Paris, bomb shells were bursting in all directions, and volleys of musketry were being fired round every street corner. Paris was like a city expecting to be sacked, with the additional horror that each man's foes might be those of his own household.

Of a sudden they began to feel a stifling heat. Thick smoke rose all around them. There was the sickening and suggestive smell of coal oil in the air. Claudine's father felt that he must know what was going on. To look out of the windows might be death to all of them; still he ran into the sitting room, tore down the beds and pillows from a window, and looked out on the Rue de Rivoli.

The palace before him was in flames. As he looked, the fire swept over the venerable gray pile. Forked tongues of flame darted higher than the Mansard roofs of its tall towers, and threatened the stores and dwelling houses across the way. Claudine's father looked below into the street: there was no safety there. The men and women of the neighborhood, driven from their rooms by falling fiery flakes from the high roofs of the old palace, clustered together under shelter of the great porte cochères by which carriages drive into the court yards of French houses under the rooms of the first story. Muskets, rifles, and mitrailleuses swept the street. To venture into it seemed sure destruction. To stay beneath their blazing roof would expose them all to perish in the flames... Continue reading book >>

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