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Collected Letters of Elisée Reclus

To Mme F. Reclus,

Paris, November 6, 1870.

The last letter that I wrote you was on Wednesday, I think, but the departure of the hot-air-balloons having been delayed, I did not want to write to you. I did not regain courage until this morning when I saw a big hot-air-balloon passing majestically above my head, floating in the blue sky towards the south. The week has gone by without any notable incident. Paris was occupied by various elections, by its gossip, and by its futilities; the government was doing diplomacy with the sarcastic Bismark who was looking to win some time and managed to do so. Just a few canon booms could be heard. It is as if we were in the free Paris of the olden days, only the banners floating on the ambulances remind us that we are surrounded by the immense Prussian army. The discomfort can be felt but not yet the suffering. However, the death toll is increasing : they are epidemics, small pox, dysentery, and typhus fever, which take the sick.

My last letter told you that I do not have much confidence : the government has shown itself to be nonchalant, military incompetent; the commanders more so than the soldiers, showed such a lack of energy that cannot hope for success; but the last municipal election gives me confidence that the Republic will be maintained. Why would it matter us to lose Lorraine and Alsace? Because, if the Republic persists, Germany itself, with Alsace and Lorraine, will enter into the Confederation of free peoples.

Our disasters will not have been without large compensation and our devotion will have had its utility. It has been three weeks since I signed up as volunteer and it is only today that I had to present myself before the council of revision. You can see that they are not in a hurry. If it takes three more weeks to equip me, I will be able to wait till the end of the siege. In any case, if I have to experience the camp life, be assured that I will be able to protect myself against the cold and all sorts of danger. Moreover, I will try to stay with friends and comrades whom I got acquainted with on the ramparts. Our health is good, except for Noemi, who having been treated for her ear, is a bit more deaf than ordinary. We hope that it is just a benign transient state. Mme Grimard is fairly well, but she is not allowed to walk.

Best wishes for all.

Elisée Reclus.

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