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A Little Tour In France

by Henry James

 

 

 

We good Americans - I say it without presumption

- are too apt to think that France is Parisjust as we

are accused of being too apt to think that Paris is the

celestial city. This is by no means the casefortun-

ately for those persons who take an interest in modern

Gauland yet are still left vaguely unsatisfied by that

epitome of civilization which stretches from the Arc

de Triomphe to the Gymnase theatre. It had already

been intimated to the author of these light pages that

there are many good things in the _doux pays de France_

of which you get no hint in a walk between those

ornaments of the capital; but the truth had been re-

vealed only in quick-flashing glimpsesand he was

conscious of a desire to look it well in the face. To

this end he startedone rainy morning in mid-Septem-

berfor the charming little city of Toursfrom which

point it seemed possible to make a variety of fruitful

excursions. His excursions resolved themselves ulti-

mately into a journey through several provinces- a

journey which had its dull moments (as one may defy

any journey not to have)but which enabled him to feel

that his proposition was demonstrated. France may

be Parisbut Paris is not France; that was perfectly

evident on the return to the capital.

I must not speakhoweveras if I had discovered

the provinces. They were discoveredor at least re-

vealed by BaIzacif by any oneand are now easily

accessible to visitors. It is trueI met no visitorsor

only one or twowhom it was pleasant to meet.

Throughout my little tour I was almost the only tourist.

That is perhaps one reason why it was so successful.

 

 

I.

I am ashamed to begin with saying that Touraine

is the garden of France; that remark has long ago lost

its bloom. The town of Tourshoweverhas some

thing sweet and brightwhich suggests that it is sur-

rounded by a land of fruits. It is a very agreeable

little city; few towns of its size are more ripemore

completeorI should supposein better humor with

themselves and less disposed to envy the responsibili-

ties of bigger places. It is truly the capital of its smil-

ing province; a region of easy abundanceof good

livingof genialcomfortableoptimisticrather indolent

opinions. Balzac says in one of his tales that the real

Tourangeau will not make an effortor displace him-

self evento go in search of a pleasure; and it is not

difficult to understand the sources of this amiable

cynicism. He must have a vague conviction that he

can only lose by almost any change. Fortune has

been kind to him: he lives in a temperatereasonable

sociable climateon the banksof a river whichit is

truesometimes floods the country around itbut of

which the ravages appear to be so easily repaired that

its aggressions may perhaps be regarded (in a region

where so many good things are certain) merely as an

occasion for healthy suspense. He is surrounded by

fine old traditionsreligioussocialarchitecturalculi-

nary; and he may have the satisfaction of feeling that

he is French to the core. No part of his admirable

country is more characteristically national. Normandy

is NormandyBurgundy is BurgundyProvence is Pro-

vence; but Touraine is essentially France. It is the

land of Rabelaisof Descartesof Balzacof good

books and good companyas well as good dinners and

good houses. George Sand has somewhere a charm-

ing passage about the mildnessthe convenient quality

of the physical conditions of central France- "son

climat souple et chaudses pluies abondantes et courtes."

In the autumn of 1882 the rains perhaps were less

short than abundant; but when the days were fine it

was impossible that anything in the way of weather

could be more charming. The vineyards and orchards

looked rich in the freshgay light; cultivation was

everywherebut everywhere it seemed to be easy.

There was no visible poverty; thrift and success pre-

sented themselves as matters of good taste. The white

caps of the women glittered in the sunshireand their

well-made sabots clicked cheerfully on the hardclean

roads. Touraine is a land of old chateaux- a gallery

of architectural specimens and of large hereditary pro-

perties. The peasantry have less of the luxury of

ownership than in most other parts of France; though

they have enough of it to give them quite their share

of that shrewdly conservative look whichin the little

chaffering_place_ of the market-townthe stranger ob-

serves so often in the wrinkled brown masks that sur-

mount the agricultural blouse. This ismoreoverthe

heart of the old French monarchy; and as that monarchy

was splendid and picturesquea reflection of the splen-

dor still glitters in the current of the Loire. Some of

the most striking events of French history have occurred

on the banks of that riverand the soil it waters

bloomed for a while with the flowering of the Renais-

sance. The Loire gives a great "style" to a landscape

of which the features are notas the phrase ispromi-

nentand carries the eye to distances even more poetic

than the green horizons of Touraine. It is a very fit-

ful streamand is sometimes observed to run thin and

expose all the crudities of its channel- a great defect

certainly in a river which is so much depended upon

to give an air to the places it waters. But I speak of

it as I saw it last; fulltranquilpowerfulbending in

large slow curvesand sending back half the light of

the sky. Nothing can be finer than the view of its

course which you get from the battlements and ter-

races of Amboise. As I looked down on it from that

elevation one lovely Sunday morningthrough a mild

glitter of autumn sunshineit seemed the very model

of a generousbeneficent stream. The most charming

part of Tours is naturally the shaded quay that over-

looks itand looks across too at the friendly faubourg

of Saint Symphorien and at the terraced heights which

rise above this. Indeedthroughout Touraineit is

half the charm of the Loire that you can travel beside

it. The great dike which protects itorprotects the

country from itfrom Blois to Angersis an admirable

road; and on the other sideas wellthe highway con-

stantly keeps it company. A wide riveras you follow

a wide roadis excellent company; it heightens and

shortens the way.

The inns at Tours are in another quarterand one

of themwhich is midway between the town and the

stationis very good. It is worth mentioning for the

fact that every one belonging to it is extraordinarily

polite- so unnaturally polite as at first to excite your

suspicion that the hotel has some hidden viceso that

the waiters and chambermaids are trying to pacify

you in advance. There was one waiter in especial who

was the most accomplished social being I have ever

encountered; from morning till night he kept up an

inarticulate murmur of urbanitylike the hum of a

spinning-top. I may add that I discovered no dark

secrets at the Hotel de l'Univers; for it is not a secret

to any traveller to-day that the obligation to partake

of a lukewarm dinner in an overheated room is as

imperative as it is detestable. For the restat Tours

there is a certain Rue Royale which has pretensions

to the monumental; it was constructed a hundred

years agoand the housesall alikehave on a

moderate scale a pompous eighteenth-century look. It

connects the Palais de Justicethe most important

secular building in the townwith the long bridge

which spans the Loire- the spacioussolid bridge

pronounced by Balzacin "Le Cure de Tours" "one of

the finest monuments of French architecture." The

Palais de Justice was the seat of the Government of

Leon Gambetta in the autumn of 1870after the

dictator had been obliged to retire in his balloon from

Parisand before the Assembly was constituted at

Bordeaux. The Germans occupied Tours during that

terrible winter; it is astonishingthe number of

places the Germans occupied. It is hardly too much

to say that wherever one goes incertain parts of

Franceone encounters two great historic facts: one

is the Revolution; the other is the German invasion.

The traces of the Revolution remain in a hundred

scars and bruises and mutilationsbut the visible

marks of the war of 1870 have passed away. The

country is so richso livingthat she has been able to

dress her woundsto hold up her headto smile again;

so that the shadow of that darkness has ceased to rest

upon her. But what you do not see you still may

hear; and one remembers with a certain shudder that

only a few short years ago this provinceso intimately

Frenchwas under the heel of a foreign foe. To be

intimately French was apparently not a safeguard; for

so successful an invader it could only be a challenge.

Peace and plentyhoweverhave succeeded that

episode; and among the gardens and vineyards of

Touraine it seemsonly a legend the more in a country

of legends.

It was notall the samefor the sake of this check-

ered story that I mentioned the Palais de Justice and

the Rue Royale. The most interesting factto my

mindabout the high-street of Tours was that as you

walked toward the bridge on the right-hand _trottoir_

you can look up at the houseon the other side of

the wayin which Honore de Balzac first saw the

light. That violent and complicated genius was a

child of the good-humored and succulent Touraine.

There is something anomalous in the factthoughif

one thinks about it a littleone may discover certain

correspondences between his character and that of his

native province. Strenuouslaboriousconstantly in

felicitous in spite of his great successeshe suggests

at times a very different set of influences. But he had

his jovialfull-feeding side- the side that comes out

in the "Contes Drolatiques" which are the romantic

and epicurean chronicle of the old manors and abbeys

of this region. And he wasmoreoverthe product

of a soil into which a great deal of history had been

trodden. Balzac was genuinely as well as affectedly

monarchicaland he was saturated witha sense of the

past. Number 39 Rue Royale - of which the base

mentlike all the basements in the Rue Royaleis

occupied by a shop - is not shown to the public; and

I know not whether tradition designates the chamber

in which the author of "Le Lys dans la Vallee"

opened his eyes into a world in which he was to see

and to imagine such extraordinary things. If this

were the caseI would willingly have crossed its

threshold; not for the sake of any relic of the great

novelist which it may possibly containnor even for

that of any mystic virtue which may be supposed to

reside within its wallsbut simply because to look at

those four modest walls can hardly fail to give one a

strong impression of the force of human endeavour.

Balzacin the maturity of his visiontook in more of

human life than any onesince Shakspearewho has

attempted to tell us stories about it; and the very

small scene on which his consciousness dawned is one

end of the immense scale that he traversed. I confess

it shocked me a little to find that he was born in a

house "in a row" - a housemoreoverwhich at the

date of his birth must have been only about twenty

years old. All that is contradictory. If the tenement

selected for this honour could not be ancient and em-

brownedit should at least have been detached.

There is a charming descriptionin his little tale

of "La Grenadiere" of the view of the opposite side

of the Loire as you have it from the square at the end

of the Rue Royale- a square that has some preten-

sions to grandeuroverlooked as it is by the Hotel de

Ville and the Museea pair of edifices which directly

contemplate the riverand ornamented with marble

images of Francois Rabelais and Rene Descartes.

The formererected a few years sinceis a very honor-

able production; the pedastal of the latter couldas

a matter of courseonly be inscribed with the _Cogito

ergo Sum._ The two statues mark the two opposite

poles to which the brilliant French mind has travelled;

and if there were an effigy of Balzac at Toursit ought

to stand midway between them. Not that heby any

means always struck the happy mean between the

sensible and the metaphysical; but one may say of

him that half of his genius looks in one direction

and half in the other. The side that turns toward

Francois Rabelais would beon the wholethe side

that takes the sun. But there is no statue of Balzac

at Tours; there is onlyin one of the chambers of

the melancholy museuma rather clevercoarse bust.

The description in "La Grenadiere" of which I just

spokeis too long to quote; neither have I space for

any one of the brilliant attempts at landscape paint-

ing which are woven into the shimmering texture of

"Le Lys dans la Vallee." The little manor of Cloche-

gourdethe residence of Madame de Mortsaufthe

heroine of that extraordinary workwas within a

moderate walk of Toursand the picture in the novel is

presumably a copy from an original which it would be

possible to-day to discover. I did nothowevereven

make the attempt. There are so many chateaux in

Touraine commemorated in historythat it would take

one too far to look up those which have been com-

memorated in fiction. The most I did was to endeavor

to identify the former residence of Mademoiselle

Gamardthe sinister old maid of "Le Cure de Tours."

This terrible woman occupied a small house in the

rear of the cathedralwhere I spent a whole morning

in wondering rather stupidly which house it could be.

To reach the cathedral from the little _place_ where we

stopped just now to look across at the Grenadiere

withoutit must be confessedvery vividly seeing it

you follow the quay to the rightand pass out of sight

of the charming _coteau_ whichfrom beyond the river

faces the town- a soft agglomeration of gardensvine-

yardsscattered villasgables and turrets of slate-

roofed chateauxterraces with gray balustradesmoss-

grown walls draped in scarlet Virginia-creeper. You

turn into the town again beside a great military

barrack which is ornamented with a rugged mediaeval

towera relic of the ancient fortificationsknown to

the Tourangeaux of to-day as the Tour de Guise.

The young Prince of Joinvilleson of that Duke of

Guise who was murdered by the order of Henry II. at

Bloiswasafter the death of his fatherconfined here

for more than two yearsbut made his escape one

summer evening in 1591under the nose of his keepers

with a gallant audacity which has attached the memory

of the exploit to his sullen-looking prison. Tours has

a garrison of five regimentsand the little red-legged

soldiers light up the town. You see them stroll upon

the cleanuncommercial quaywhere there are no

signs of navigationnot even by oarno barrels nor

balesno loading nor unloadingno masts against the

sky nor booming of steam in the air. The most active

business that goes on there is that patient and fruitless

angling inwhich the Frenchas the votaries of art for

artexcel all other people. The little soldiersweighed

down by the contents of their enormous pocketspass

with respect from one of these masters of the rod to

the otheras he sits soaking an indefinite bait in the

largeindifferent stream. After you turn your back to

the quay you have only to go a little way before you

reach the cathedral.

 

 

II.

It is a very beautiful church of the second order

of importancewith a charming mouse-colored com-

plexion and a pair of fantastic towers. There is a

commodious little square in front of itfrom which

you may look up at its very ornamental face; but for

purposes of frank admiration the sides and the rear

are perhaps not sufficiently detached. The cathedral

of Tourswhich is dedicated to Saint Gatianustook

a long time to build. Begun in 1170it was finished

only in the first half of the sixteenth century; but the

ages and the weather have interfused so well the tone

of the different partsthat it presentsat first at least

no striking incongruitiesand looks even exception-

ally harmonious and complete. There are many

grander cathedralsbut there are probably few more

pleasing; and this effect of delicacy and grace is at

its best toward the close of a quiet afternoonwhen the

densely decorated towersrising above the little Place

de l'Archevechelift their curious lanterns into the

slanting lightand offer a multitudinous perch to

troops of circling pigeons. The whole frontat such

a timehas an appearance of great richnessalthough

the niches which surround the three high doors (with

recesses deep enough for several circles of sculpture)

and indent the four great buttresses that ascend beside

the huge rose-windowcarry no figures beneath their

little chiselled canopies. The blast of the great Revo-

lution blew down most of the statues in Franceand

the wind has never set very strongly toward putting

them up again. The embossed and crocketed cupolas

which crown the towers of Saint Gatien are not very

pure in taste; butlike a good many impuritiesthey

have a certain character. The interior has a stately

slimness with which no fault is to be foundand

which in the choirrich in early glass and surrounded

by a broad passagebecomes very bold and noble.

Its principal treasureperhapsis the charming little tomb

of the two children (who died young) of Charles VIII. and

Anne of Brittanyin white marbleembossed with sym-

bolic dolphins and exquisite arabesques. The little

boy and girl lie side by side on a slab of black marble

and a pair of small kneeling angelsboth at their head

and at their feetwatch over them. Nothing could be

more perfect than this monumentwhich is the work

of Michel Colombone of the earlier glories of the

French Renaissance; it is really a lesson in good taste.

Originally placed in the great abbey-church of Saint

Martinwhich was for so many ages the holy place of

Toursit happily survived the devastation to which

that edificealready sadly shattered by the wars of

religion and successive profanationsfinally succumbed

in 1797. In 1815 the tomb found an asylum in a

quiet corner of the cathedral.

I oughtperhapsto be ashamed to acknowledge

that I found the profane name of Balzac capable of

adding an interest even to this venerable sanctuary.

Those who have read the terrible little story of "Le

Cure de Tours" will perhaps remember thatas I

have already mentionedthe simple and childlike old

Abbe Birotteauvictim of the infernal machinations

of the Abbe Troubert and Mademoiselle Gamardhad

his quarters in the house of that lady (she had a

speciality of letting lodgings to priests)which stood

on the north side of the cathedralso close under its

walls that the supporting pillar of one of the great

flying buttresses was planted in the spinster's garden.

If you wander round behind the churchin search of

this more than historic habitationyou will have oc-

casion to see that the side and rear of Saint Gatien

make a delectable and curious figure. A narrow lane

passes beside the high wall which conceals from sight

the palace of the archbishopand beneath the flying

buttressesthe far-projecting gargoylesand the fine

south porch of the church. It terminates in a little

deadgrass-grown square entitled the Place Gregoire

de Tours. All this part of the exterior of the cathe-

dral is very brownancientGothicgrotesque; Balzac

calls the whole place "a desert of stone." A battered

and gabled wingor out-house (as it appears to be)

of the hidden palacewith a queer old stone pulpit

jutting out from itlooks down on this melancholy

spoton the other side of which is a seminary for

young priestsone of whom issues from a door in a

quiet cornerandholding it open a moment behind

himshows a glimpse of a sunny gardenwhere you

may fancy other black young figures strolling up and

down. Mademoiselle Gamard's housewhere she took

her two abbes to boardand basely conspired with

one against the otheris still further round the cathe-

dral. You cannot quite put your hand upon it to-

dayfor the dwelling which you say to yourself that

it _must_ have been Mademoiselle Gamard's does not

fulfil all the conditions mentioned in BaIzac's de-

scription. The edifice in questionhoweverfulfils con-

ditions enough; in particularits little court offers

hospitality to the big buttress of the church. Another

buttresscorresponding with this (the twobetween

themsustain the gable of the north transept)is

planted in the small cloisterof which the door on the

further side of the little soundless Rue de la Psalette

where nothing seems ever to passopens opposite to

that of Mademoiselle Gamard. There is a very genial

old sacristanwho introduced me to this cloister from

the church. It is very small and solitaryand much

mutilated; but it nestles with a kind of wasted friend-

liness beneath the big walls of the cathedral. Its

lower arcades have been closedand it has a small

plot of garden in the middlewith fruit-trees which I

should imagine to be too much overshadowed. In

one corner is a remarkably picturesque turretthe

cage of a winding staircase which ascends (no great

distance) to an upper gallerywhere an old priestthe

_chanoine-gardien_ of the churchwas walking to and fro

with his breviary. The turretthe galleryand even

the chanoine-gardienbelongedthat sweet September

morningto the class of objects that are dear to paint-

ers in water-colors.

 

 

III.

I have mentioned the church of Saint Martin

which was for many years the sacred spotthe shrine

of pilgrimageof Tours. Originally the simple burial-

place of the great apostle who in the fourth century

Christianized Gauland whoin his day a brilliant

missionary and worker of miraclesis chiefly known

to modem fame as the worthy that cut his cloak in

two at the gate of Amiens to share it with a beggar

(tradition fails to sayI believewhat he did with the

other half)the abbey of Saint Martinthrough the

Middle Ageswaxed rich and powerfultill it was

known at last as one of the most luxurious religious

houses in Christendomwith kings for its titular ab-

bots (wholike Francis I.sometimes turned and

despoiled it) and a great treasure of precious things.

It passedhoweverthrough many vicissitudes. Pillaged

by the Normans in the ninth century and by the

Huguenots in the sixteenthit received its death-blow

from the Revolutionwhich must have brought to

bear upon it an energy of destruction proportionate

to its mighty bulk. At the end of the last century

a huge group of ruins alone remainedand what we

see to-day may be called the ruin of a ruin. It is

difficult to understand how so vast an ediface can

have been so completely obliterated. Its site is given

up to several ugly streetsand a pair of tall towers

separated by a space which speaks volumes as to the

size of the churchand looking across the close-pressed

roofs to the happier spires of the cathedralpreserved

for the modern world the memory of a great fortune

a great abuseperhapsand at all events a great pen-

alty. One may believe that to this day a consider-

able part of the foundations of the great abbey is

buried in the soil of Tours. The two surviving towers

which are dissimilar in shapeare enormous; with

those of the cathedral they form the great landmarks

of the town. One of them bears the name of the Tour

de l'Horloge; the otherthe so-called Tour Charle-

magnewas erected (two centuries after her death)

over the tomb of Luitgardewife of the great Em-

perorwho died at Tours in 800. I do not pretend to

understand in what relation these very mighty and

effectually detached masses of masonry stood to each

otherbut in their gray elevation and loneliness they

are striking and suggestive to-day; holding their hoary

heads far above the modern life of the townand

looking sad and consciousas they had outlived all

uses. I know not what is supposed to have become

of the bones of the blessed saint during the various

scenes of confusion in which they may have got mis-

laid; but a mystic connection with his wonder-working

relics may be perceived in a strange little sanctuary

on the left of the streetwhich opens in front of the

Tour Charlemagne- the rugged base of whichby

the wayinhabited like a cavewith a diminutive

doorwayin whichas I passedan old woman stood

cleaning a potand a little dark window decorated

with homely flowerswould be appreciated by a

painter in search of "bits." The present shrine of

Saint Martin is enclosed (provisionallyI suppose) in

a very modem structure of timberwhere in a dusky

cellarto which you descend by a wooden staircase

adorned with votive tablets and paper rosesis placed

a tabernacle surrounded by twinkling tapers and pros-

trate worshippers. Even this crepuscular vaulthow-

everfailsI thinkto attain solemnity; for the whole

place is strangely vulgar and garish. The Catholic

churchas churches go to-dayis certainly the most

spectacular; but it must feel that it has a great fund

of impressiveness to draw upon when it opens such

sordid little shops of sanctity as this. It is impos-

sible not to be struck with the grotesqueness of such

an establishmentas the last link in the chain of a

great ecclesiastical tradition.

In the same streeton the other sidea little below

is something better worth your visit than the shrine

of Saint Martin. Knock at a high door in a white

wall (there is a cross above it)and a fresh-faced

sister of the convent of the Petit Saint Martin will

let you into the charming little cloisteror rather

fragment of a cloister. Only one side of this exqui-

site structure remainsbut the whole place is effective.

In front of the beautiful arcadewhich is terribly

bruised and obliteratedis one of those walks of inter-

laced _tilleuls_ which are so frequent in Touraineand

into which the green light filters so softly through a

lattice of clipped twigs. Beyond this is a garden

and beyond the garden are the other buildings of the

Convent- where the placid sisters keep a school- a

testdoubtlessof placidity. The imperfect arcade

which dates from the beginning of the sixteenth cen-

tury (I know nothing of it but what is related in Mrs.

Pattison's "Rennaissance in France") is a truly en-

chanting piece of work; the cornice and the angles of

the archesbeing covered with the daintiest sculpture

of arabesquesflowersfruitmedallionscherubsgriffins

all in the finest and most attenuated relief. It is like

the chasing of a bracelet in stone. The tastethe

fancythe elegancethe refinementare of those things

which revive our standard of the exquisite. Such

a piece of work is the purest flower of the French

Renaissance; there is nothing more delicate in all

Touraine.

There is another fine thing at Tours which is not

particularly delicatebut which makes a great impres-

sion- the- very interesting old church of Saint Julian

lurking in a crooked corner at the right of the Rue

Royalenear the point at which this indifferent thorough-

fare emergeswith its little cry of admirationon the

bank of the Loire. Saint Julian stands to-day in a

kind of neglected hollowwhere it is much shut in by

houses; but in the year 1225when the edifice was

begunthe site was doubtlessas the architects say

more eligible. At presentindeedwhen once you have

caught a glimpse of the stoutserious Romanesque

tower- which is not highbut strong- you feel that

the building has something to sayand that you must

stop to listen to it. Withinit has a vast and splendid

naveof immense height- the nave of a cathedral-

with a shallow choir and transeptsand some admir-

able old glass. I spent half an hour there one morn-

inglistening to what the church had to sayin perfect

solitude. Not a worshipper entered- not even an old

man with a broom. I have always thought there is a

sex in fine buildings; and Saint Julianwith its noble

naveis of the gender of the name of its patron.

It was that same morningI thinkthat I went in

search of the old houses of Tours; for the town con-

tains several goodly specimens of the domestic archi-

tecture of the past. The dwelling to which the average

Anglo-Saxon will most promptly direct his stepsand

the only one I have space to mentionis the so-called

Maison de Tristan l'Hermite- a gentleman whom the

readers of "Quentin Durward" will not have forgotten

- the hangman-in-ordinary to the great King Louis XI.

Unfortunately the house of Tristan is not the house of

Tristan at all; this illusion has been cruelly dispelled.

There are no illusions leftat allin the good city of

Tourswith regard to Louis XI. His terrible castle of

Plessisthe picture of which sends a shiver through

the youthful reader of Scotthas been reduced to sub-

urban insignificance; and the residence of his _triste

compere_ on the front of which a festooned rope figures

as a motive for decorationis observed to have been

erected in the succeeding century. The Maison de

Tristan may be visited for itselfhoweverif not for

Walter Scott; it is an exceedingly picturesque old

facadeto which you pick your way through a narrow

and tortuous street- a street terminatinga little be-

yond itin the walk beside the river. An elegant

Gothic doorway is let into the rusty-red brick-work

and strange little beasts crouch at the angles of the

windowswhich are surmounted by a tall graduated

gablepierced with a small orificewhere the large

surface of bricklifted out of the shadow of the street

looks yellow and faded. The whole thing is disfigured

and decayed; but it is a capital subject for a sketch

in colors. Only I must wish the sketcher better luck

- or a better temper - than my own. If he ring the

bell to be admitted to see the courtwhich I believe

is more sketchable stilllet him have patience to wait

till the bell is answered. He can do the outside while

they are coming.

The Maison de TristanI saymay be visited for

itself; but I hardly know what the remnants of Plessis-

les-Tours may be visited for. To reach them you

wander through crooked suburban lanesdown the

course of the Loireto a roughundesirableincon-

gruous spotwhere a smallcrude building of red

brick is pointed out to you by your cabman (if you

happen to drive) as the romantic abode of a super-

stitious kingand where a strong odor of pigsties and

other unclean things so prostrates you for the moment

that you have no energy to protest against the obvious

fiction. You enter a yard encumbered with rubbish

and a defiant dogand an old woman emerges from a

shabby lodge and assures you that you are indeed in

an historic place. The red brick buildingwhich looks

like a small factoryrises on the ruins of the favorite

residence of the dreadful Louis. It is now occupied

by a company of night-scavengerswhose huge carts

are drawn up in a row before it. I know not whether

this be what is called the irony of fate; at any rate

the effect of it is to accentuate strongly the fact (and

through the most susceptible of our senses) that there

is no honor for the authors of great wrongs. The

dreadful Louis is reduced simply to an offence to the

nostrils. The old woman shows you a few fragments

- several darkdampmuch-encumbered vaultsde-

nominated dungeonsand an old tower staircase

in good condition. There are the outlines of the old

moat; there is also the outline of the old guard-room

which is now a stable; and there are other vague out-

lines and inconsequent lumpswhich I have forgotten.

You need all your imaginationand even then you

cannot make out that Plessis was a castle of large ex-

tentthough the old womanas your eye wanders over

the neighboring _potagers_ talks a good deal about the

gardens and the park. The place looks mean and

flat; and as you drive away you scarcely know whether

to be glad or sorry that all those bristling horrors have

been reduced to the commonplace.

A certain flatness of impression awaits you alsoI

thinkat Marmoutierwhich is the other indisuensable

excursion in the near neighborhood of Tours. The

remains of this famous abbey lie on the other bank of

the streamabout a mile and a half from the town.

You follow the edge of the big brown river; of a fine

afternoon you will be glad to go further still. The

abbey has gone the way of most abbeys; but the place

is a restoration as well as a ruininasmuch as the

sisters of the Sacred Heart have erected a terribly

modern convent here. A large Gothic doorwayin a

high fragment of ancient walladmits you to a garden-

like enclosureof great extentfrom which you are

further introduced into an extraordinarily tidy little

parlorwhere two good nuns sit at work. One of these

came out with meand showed me over the place-

a very definite little womanwith pointed featuresan

intensely distinct enunciationand those pretty man-

ners which (for whatever other teachings it may be

responsible) the Catholic church so often instils into

its functionaries. I have never seen a woman who had

got her lesson better than this little trottingmurmur-

ingedifying nun. The interestof Marmoutier to-day

is not so much an interest of visionso to speakas an

interest of reflection- that isif you choose to reflect

(for instance) upon the wondrous legend of the seven

sleepers (you may see where they lie in a row)who

lived together - they were brothers and cousins - in

primitive pietyin the sanctuary constructed by the

blessed Saint Martin (emulous of his precursorSaint

Gatianus)in the face of the hillside that overhung the

Loireand whotwenty-five years after his death

yielded up their seven souls at the same momentand

enjoyed the curious privilege of retaining in their faces

in spite of this processthe rosy tints of life. The

abbey of Marmoutierwhich sprung from the grottos in

the cliff to which Saint Gatianus and Saint Martin re-

tired to praywas therefore the creation of the latter

worthyas the other great abbeyin the town proper

was the monument of his repose. The cliff is still

there; and a winding staircasein the latest tasteen-

ables you conveniently to explore its recesses. These

sacred niches are scooped out of the rockand will

give you an impression if you cannot do without one.

You will feel them to be sufficiently venerable when

you learn that the particular pigeon-hole of Saint

Gatianusthe first Christian missionary to Gauldates

from the third century. They have been dealt with as

the Catholic church deals with most of such places to-

day; polished and furnished up; labelled and ticketed

- _edited_ with notesin shortlike an old book. The

process is a mistake- the early editions had more

sanctity. The modern buildings (of the Sacred Heart)

on which you look down from these points of vantage

are in the vulgar taste which seems doomed to stamp

itself on all new Catholic work; but there was never-

theless a great sweetness in the scene. The afternoon

was lovelyand it was flushing to a close. The large

garden stretched beneath usblooming with fruit and

wine and succulent vegetablesand beyond it flowed

the shining river. The air was stillthe shadows were

longand the placeafter allwas full of memories

most of which might pass for virtuous. It certainly

was better than Plessis-les-Tours.

 

 

IV.

Your business at Tours is to make excursions; and

if you make them allyou will be very well occupied.

Touraine is rich in antiquities; and an hour's drive

from the town in almost any direction will bring you

to the knowledge of some curious fragment of domestic

or ecclesiastical architecturesome turreted manor

some lonely towersome gabled villageor historic

site. Evenhoweverif you do everything- which was

not my case- you cannot hope to relate everything

andfortunately for youthe excursions divide them-

selves into the greater and the less. You may achieve

most of the greater in a week or two; but a summer

in Touraine (whichby the way must be a charming

thing) would contain none too many days for the others.

If you come down to Tours from Parisyour best

economy is to spend a few days at Bloiswhere a

clumsybut rather attractive little innon the edge of

the riverwill offer you a certain amount of that

familiar and intermittent hospitality which a few weeks

spent in the French provinces teaches you to regard

as the highest attainable form of accommodation. Such

an economy I was unable to practise. I could only go

to Blois (from Tours) to spend the day; but this feat

I accomplished twice over. It is a very sympathetic

little townas we say nowadaysand one might easily

resign one's self to a week there. Seated on the north

bank of the Loireit presents a brightclean face to

the sunand has that aspect of cheerful leisure which

belongs to all white towns that reflectthemselves in

shining waters. It is the water-front only of Blois

howeverthat exhibitsthis fresh complexion; the in-

terior is of a proper brownnessas befits a signally

historic city. The only disappointment I had there

was the discovery that the castlewhich is the special

object of one's pilgrimagedoes not overhang the river

as I had always allowed myself to understand. It

overhangs the townbut it is scarcely visible from the

stream. That peculiar good fortune is reserved for

Amboise and Chaurnont.

The Chateau de Blois is one of the most beautiful

and elaborate of all the old royal residences of this

part of Franceand I suppose it should have all the

honors of my description. As you cross its threshold

you step straight into the brilliant movement of the

French Renaissance. But it is too rich to describe-

I can only touch it here and there. It must be pre-

mised that in speaking of it as one sees it to-day

one speaks of a monument unsparingly restored. The

work of restoration has been as ingenious as it is pro-

fusebut it rather chills the imagination. This is

perhaps almost the first thing you feel as you ap-

proach the castle from the streets of the town. These

little streetsas theyleave the riverhave pretensions

to romantic steepness; one of themindeedwhich

resolves itself into a high staircase with divergent

wings (the _escalier monumental_)achieved this result

so successfully as to remind me vaguely - I hardly

know why - of the great slope of the Capitolbeside

the Ara Coeliat Rome. The view of that part of the

castle which figures to-day as the back (it is the only

aspect I had seen reproduced) exhibits the marks of

restoration with the greatest assurance. The long

facadeconsisting only of balconied windows deeply

recessederects itself on the summit of a considerable

hillwhich gives a fineplunging movement to its

foundations. The deep niches of the windows are all

aglow with color. They have been repainted with red

and bluerelieved with gold figures; and each of them

looks more like the royal box at a theatre than like

the aperture of a palace dark with memories. For all

thishoweverand in spite of the fact thatas in some

others of the chateaux of Touraine(always excepting

the colossal Chambordwhich is not in Touraine!)

there is less vastness than one had expectedthe least

hospitable aspect of Blois is abundantly impressive.

Hereas elsewherelightness and grace are the key-

note; and the recesses of the windowswith their

happy proportionstheir sculptureand their colorare

the empty frames of brilliant pictures. They need

the figure of a Francis I. to complete themor of a

Diane de Poitiersor even of a Henry III. The base

of this exquisite structure emerges from a bed of light

verdurewhich has been allowed to mass itself there

and which contributes to the springing look of the

walls; while on the right it joins the most modern

portion of the castle- the building erectedon founda-

tions of enormous height and solidityin 1635by

Gaston d'Orleans. This finefrigid mansion - the proper

view of it is from the court within - is one of the

masterpieces of Francois Mansardwhom. a kind pro-

vidence did not allow to make over the whole palace

in the superior manner of his superior age. This had

been a part of Gaston's plan- he was a blunderer

bornand this precious project was worthy of him.

This execution of it would surely have been one of

the great misdeeds of history. Partially performed

the misdeed is not altogether to be regretted; for as

one stands in the court of the castleand lets one's

eye wander from the splendid wing of Francis I. -

which is the last work of free and joyous invention -

to the ruled lines and blank spaces of the ponderous

pavilion of Mansardone makes one's reflections upon

the advantagein even the least personaI of the arts

of having something to sayand upon the stupidity of

a taste which had ended by becoming an aggregation

of negatives. Gaston's wingtaken by itselfhas much

of the _bel air_ which was to belong to the architecture

of Louis XIV.; buttaken in contrast to its flowering

laughingliving neighborit marks the difference be-

tween inspiration and calculation. We scarcely grudge

it its placehoweverfor it adds a price to the rest of

the chateau.

We have entered the courtby the wayby jump-

ing over the walls. The more orthodox method is to

follow a modernterracewhich leads to the leftfrom

the side of the chateau that I began by speaking of

and passes roundascendingto a little square on a

considerably higher levelwhich is notlike a very

modern square on which the back (as I have called

it) looks outa thoroughfare. This smallempty _place_

oblong in format once bright and quietwith a cer-

tain grass-grown lookoffers an excellent setting to the

entrance-front of the palace- the wing of Louis XII.

The restoration here has been lavish; but it was per-

haps but an inevitable reaction against the injuries

still more lavishby which the unfortunate building

had long been overwhelmed. It had fallen into a state

of ruinous neglectrelieved only by the misuse pro-

ceeding from successive generations of soldiersfor

whom its charming chambers served as barrack-room.

Whitewashedmutilateddishonoredthe castle of Blois

may be said to have escaped simply with its life. This

is the history of Amboise as welland is to a certain

extent the history of Chambord. Delightfulat any

ratewas the refreshed facade of Louis XII. as I stood

and looked at it one bright September morning. In

that softclearmerry light of Touraineeverything

showseverything speaks. Charming are the tastethe

happy proportionsthe color of this beautiful frontto

which the new feeling for a purely domestic architec-

ture - an architecture of security and tranquillityin

which art could indulge itself - gave an air of youth

and gladness. It is true that for a long time to come

the castle of Blois was neither very safe nor very

quiet; but its dangers came from withinfrom the evil

passions of its inhabitantsand not from siege or in-

vasion. The front of Louis XII. is of red brickcrossed

here and there with purple; and the purple slate of

the high roofrelieved with chimneys beautifully

treatedand with the embroidered caps of pinnacles

and archeswith the porcupine of Louisthe ermine

and the festooned rope which formed the devices of

Anne of Brittany- the tone of this rich-looking roof

carries out the mild glow of the wall. The widefair

windows look as if they had expanded to let in the

rosy dawn of the Renaissance. Charmingfor that

matterare the windows of all the chateaux of Touraine

with their squareness corrected (as it is not in the

Tudor architecture) by the curve of the upper corners

which makes this line look - above the expressive

aperture - like a pencilled eyebrow. The low door of

this front is crowned by a highdeep nichein which

under a splendid canopystiffly astride of a stiffly

draped chargersits in profile an image of the good

King Louis. Good as he had been- the father of

his peopleas he was called (I believe he remitted

various taxes)- he was not good enough to pass

muster at the Revolution; and the effigy I have just

described is no more than a reproduction of the

primitive statue demolished at that period.

Pass beneath it into the courtand the sixteenth

century closes round you. It is a pardonable flight

of fancy to say that the expressive faces of an age

in which human passions lay very near the surface

seem to look out at you from the windowsfrom the

balconiesfrom the thick foliage of the sculpture. The

portion of the wing of Louis XII. that looks toward

the court is supported on a deep arcade. On your

right is the wing erected by Francis I.the reverse of

the mass of building which you see on approaching

the castle. This exquisitethis extravagantthis trans-

cendent piece of architecture is the most joyous ut-

terance of the French Renaissance. It is covered with

an embroidery of sculpturein which every detail is

worthy of the hand of a goldsmith. In the middle of

itor rather a little to the leftrises the famous wind-

ing staircase (plausiblybut I believe not religiously

restored)which even the ages which most misused it

must vaguely have admired. It forms a kind of chiselled

cylinderwith wide intersticesso that the stairs are

open to the air. Every inch of this structureof its

balconiesits pillarsits great central columnsis

wrought over with lovely imagesstrange and ingenious

devicesprime among which is the great heraldic sala-

mander of Francis I. The salamander is everywhere

at Blois- over the chimneysover the doorson the

walls. This whole quarterof the castle bears the

stamp of that eminently pictorial prince. The run-

ning cornice along the top of the front is like all un-

foldedan elongatedbracelet. The windows of the

attic are like shrines for saints. The gargoylesthe

medallionsthe statuettesthe festoonsare like the

elaboration of some precious cabinet rather than the

details of a building exposed to the weather and to

the ages. In the interior there is a profusion of res-

torationand it is all restoration in color. This has

beenevidentlya work of great energy and costbut

it will easily strike you as overdone. The universal

freshness is a discorda false note; it seems to light

up the dusky past with an unnatural glare. Begun in

the reign of Louis Philippethis terrible process - the

more terrible always the more you admit that it has

been necessary - has been carried so far that there is

now scarcely a square inch of the interior that has the

color of the past upon it. It is true that the place

had been so coated over with modern abuse that

something was needed to keep it alive; it is onlyper-

hapsa pity that the restorersnot content with saving

its lifeshould have undertaken to restore its youth.

The love of consistencyin such a businessis a

dangerous lure. All the old apartments have been

rechristenedas it were; the geography of the castle

has been re-established. The guardroomsthe bed-

roomsthe closetsthe oratorieshave recovered their

identity. Every spot connected with the murder of

the Duke of Guise is pointed out by a smallshrill

boywho takes you from room to roomand who has

learned his lesson in perfection. The place is full of

Catherine de' Mediciof Henry III.of memoriesof

ghostsof echoesof possible evocations and revivals.

It is covered with crimson and gold. The fireplaces

and the ceilings are magnificent; they look like ex-

pensive "sets" at the grand opera.

I should have mentioned that belowin the court

the front of the wing of Gaston d'Orleans faces you

as you enterso that the place is a course of French

history. Inferior in beauty and grace to the other

portions of the castlethe wing is yet a nobler monu-

ment than the memory of Gaston deserves. The second

of the sons of Henry IV.- who was no more fortunate as

a father than as a husband- younger brother of Louis

XIII.and father of the great Mademoisellethe most

celebratedmost ambitiousmost self-complacentand

most unsuccessful _fille a marier_ in French history

passed in enforced retirement at the castle of Blois

the close of a life of clumsy intrigues against Cardinal

Richelieuin which his rashness was only equalled by

his pusillanimity and his ill-luck by his inaccessibility

to correctionand whichafter so many follies and

shameswas properly summed up in the project - be-

gunbut not completed - of demolishing the beautiful

habitation of his exile in order to erect a better one.

With Gaston d'Orleanshoweverwho lived there with-

out dignitythe history of the Chateau de Blois de-

clines. Its interesting period is that of the wars of

religion. It was the chief residence of Henry III.and

the scene of the principal events of his depraved and

dramatic reign. It has been restored more than enough

as I have saidby architects and decorators; the visitor

as he moves through its empty roomswhich are at

once brilliant and ill-lighted (they have not been re-

furnished)undertakes a little restoration of his own.

His imagination helps itself from the things that re-

main; he tries to see the life of the sixteenth century

in its form and dress- its turbulenceits passionsits

loves and hatesits treacheriesfalsitiestouches of

faithits latitude of personal developmentits presen-

tation of the whole natureits nobleness of costume

charm of speechsplendor of tasteunequalled pic-

turesqueness. The picture is full of movementof

contrasted light and darknessfull altogether of abomi-

nations. Mixed up with them all is the great name of

religionso that the drama wants nothing to make it

complete. What episode was ever more perfect - looked

at as a dramatic occurrence - than the murder of the

Duke of Guise? The insolent prosperity of the victim;

the weaknessthe vicesthe terrorsof the author of

the deed; the perfect execution of the plot; the accu-

mulation of horror in what followed it- give itas a

crimea kind of immortal solidity.

But we must not take the Chateau de Blois too

hard: I went thereafter allby way of entertainment.

If among these sinister memories your visit should

threaten to prove a tragedythere is an excellent way

of removing the impression. You may treat yourself

at Blois to a very cheerful afterpiece. There is a

charming industry practised thereand practised in

charming conditions. Follow the bright little quay

down the river till you get quite out of the townand

reach the point where the road beside the Loire be-

comes sinuous and attractiveturns the corner of dimi-

nutive headlandsand makes you wonder what is be-

yond. Let not your curiosity induce youhoweverto

pass by a modest white villa which overlooks the

streamenclosed in a fresh little court; for here dwells

an artist- an artist in faience. There is no sort of

signand the place looks peculiarly private. But if

you ring at the gateyou will not be turned away.

You willon the contrarybe ushered upstairs into a

parlor - there is nothing resembling a shop- encum-

bered with specimens - of remarkably handsome pottery.

The work is of the best- a careful reproduction of

old formscolorsdevices; and the master of the

establishment is one of those completely artistic types

that are often found in France. His reception is as

friendly as his work is ingenious; and I think it is not

too much to say that you like the work the better be-

cause he has produced it. His vasescups and jars

lampsplatters_plaques_ with their brilliant glazetheir

innumerable figurestheir family likenessand wide

variationsare scatteredthrough his occupied rooms;

they serve at once as his stock-in-trade and as house-

hold ornament. As we all knowthis is an age of

proseof machineryof wholesale productionof coarse

and hasty processes. But one brings away from the

establishment of the very intelligent M. Ulysse the

sense of a less eager activity and a greater search for

perfection. He has but a few workmenand he gives

them plenty of time. The place makes a little vignette

leaves an impression- the quiet white house in its

garden on the road by the wideclear riverwithout

the smokethe bustlethe uglinessof so much of our

modern industry. It ought to gratify Mr. Ruskin.

 

 

V.

The second time I went to Blois I took a carriage

for Chambordand came back by the Chateau de

Cheverny and the forest of Russy- a charming little

expeditionto which the beauty of the afternoon (the

finest in a rainy season that was spotted with bright

days) contributed not a little. To go to Chambord

you cross the Loireleave it on one sideand strike

away through a country in which salient features be-

come less and less numerousand which at last has

no other quality than a look of intenseand peculiar

rurality- the characteristiceven when it is not the

charmof so much of the landscape of France. This

is not the appearance of wildnessfor it goes with

great cultivation; it is simply the presence of the

delvingdrudgingeconomizing peasant. But it is a

deepunrelieved rusticity. It is a peasant's landscape;

notas in Englanda landlord's. On the way to Cham-

bord you enter the flat and sandy Sologne. The wide

horizon opens out like a great _potager_ without inter-

ruptionswithout an eminencewith here and there a

longlow stretch of wood. There is an absence of

hedgesfencessigns of property; everything is ab-

sorbed in the general flatness- the patches of vine-

yardthe scattered cottagesthe villagesthe children

(planted and staring and almost always pretty)the

women in the fieldsthe white capsthe faded blouses

the big sabots. At the end of an hour's drive (they

assure you at Blois that even with two horses you will

spend double that time)I passed through a sort of

gap in a wallwhich does duty as the gateway of the

domain of an exiled pretender. I drove along a

straight avenuethrough a disfeatured park- the park

of Chambord has twenty-one miles of circumference-

a very sandyscrubbymelancholy plantationin which

the timber must have been cut many times over and

is to-day a mere tangle of brushwood. Hereas in so

many spots in Francethe traveller perceives that he

is in a land of revolutoins. Neverthelessits great ex-

tent and the long perspective of its avenues give this

desolate boskage a certain majesty; just as its shabbi-

ness places it in agreement with one of the strongest

impressions of the chateau. You follow one of these

long perspectives a proportionate timeand at last you

see the chimneys and pinnacles of Chambord rise ap-

parently out of the ground. The filling-in of the wide

moats that formerly surrounded it hasin vulgar par-

lancelet it downbud given it an appearance of top-

heaviness that is at the same time a magnificent Orien-

talism. The towersthe turretsthe cupolasthe gables

the lanternsthe chimneyslook more like the spires

of a city than the salient points of a single building.

You emerge from the avenue and find yourself at the

foot of an enormous fantastic mass. Chambord has a

strange mixture of society and solitude. A little village

clusters within view of its stately windowsand a couple

of inns near by offer entertainment to pilgrims. These

thingsof courseare incidents of the political pro-

scription which hangs its thick veil over the place.

Chambord is truly royal- royal in its great scaleits

grand airits indifference to common considerations.

If a cat may look at a kinga palace may lock at a

tavern. I enjoyed my visit to this extraordinary struc-

ture as much as if I had been a legitimist; and indeed

there is something interesting in any monument of a

great systemany bold presentation of a tradition.

You leave your vehicle at one of the innswhich

are very decent and tidyand in which every one is

very civilas if in this latter respect the influence of

the old regime pervaded the neighborhoodand you

walk across the grass and the gravel to a small door

- a door infinitely subordinate and conferring no title

of any kind on those who enter it. Here you ring a

bellwhich a highly respectable person answers (a per-

son perceptibly affiliatedagainto the old regime)

after which she ushers you across a vestibule into an

inner court. Perhaps the strongest impression I got

at Chambord came to me as I stood in this court.

The woman who admitted me did not come with

me; I was to find my guide somewhere else. The

specialty of Chambord is its prodigious round towers.

There areI believeno less than eight of them

placed at each angle of the inner and outer square of

buildings; for the castle is in the form of a larger

structure which encloses a smaller one. One of these

towers stood before me in the court; it seemed to

fling its shadow over the place; while aboveas I

looked upthe pinnacles and gablesthe enormous

chimneyssoared into the bright blue air. The place

was empty and silent; shadows of gargoylesof extra-

ordinary projectionswere thrown across the clear

gray surfaces. One felt that the whole thing was

monstrous. A cicerone appeareda languid young

man in a rather shabby liveryand led me about with

a mixture of the impatient and the desultoryof con-

descension and humility. I do not profess to under-

stand the plan of Chambordand I may add that I

do not even desire to do so; for it is much more

entertaining to think of itas you can so easilyas an

irresponsibleinsoluble labyrinth. Withinit is a

wilderness of empty chambersa royal and romantic

barrack. The exiled prince to whom it gives its title

has not the means to keep up four hundred rooms;

he contents himself with preserving the huge outside.

The repairs of the prodigious roof alone must absorb

a large part of his revenue. The great feature of

the interior is the celebrated double staircaserising

straight through the buildingwith two courses of

stepsso that people may ascend and descend without

meeting. This staircase is a truly majestic piece of

humor; it gives you the noteas it wereof Chambord.

It opens on each landing to a vast guard-roomin

four armsradiations of the winding shaft. My guide

made me climb to the great open-work lantern which

springing from the roof at the termination of the

rotund staircase (surmounted here by a smaller one)

forms the pinnacle of the bristling crown of Cham-

bord. This lantern is tipped with a huge _fleur-de-lis_

in stone- the only oneI believethat the Revolution

did not succeed in pulling down. Herefrom narrow

windowsyou look over the wideflat country and the

tangledmelancholy parkwith the rotation of its

straight avenues. Then you walk about the roofin

a complication of galleriesterracesbalconiesthrough

the multitude of chimneys and gables. This roof

which is in itself a sort of castle in the airhas an

extravagantfaboulus qualityand with its profuse

ornamentation- the salamander of Francis I. is a con-

tant motive- its lonely pavementsits sunny niches

the balcony that looks down over the closed and

grass-grown main entrancea strangehalf-sadhalf-

brilliant charm. The stone-work is covered with fine

mould. There are places that reminded me of some

of those quietmildewed corners of courts and ter-

racesinto which the traveller who wanders through

the Vatican looks down from neglected windows. They

show you two or three furnished roomswith Bourbon

portraitshideous tapestries from the ladies of France

a collection of the toys of the _enfant du miracle_ all

military and of the finest make. "Tout cela fonc-

tionne" the guide said of these miniature weapons;

and I wonderedif he should take it into his head to

fire off his little canonhow much harm the Comte de

Chambord would do.

From belowthe castle would look crushed by

the redundancy of its upper protuberances if it were

not for the enormous girth of its round towerswhich

appear to give it a robust lateral development. These

towershoweverfine as they are in their waystruck

me as a little stupid; they are the exaggeration of

an exaggeration. In a building erected after the days

of defenceand proclaiming its peaceful character from

its hundred embroideries and cupolasthey seem

to indicate a want of invention. I shall risk the ac-

cusation of bad taste if I say thatimpressive as it is

the Chateau de Chambord seemed to me to have al-

together a little of that quality of stupidity. The

trouble is that it represents nothing very particular;

it has not happenedin spite of sundry vicissitudes

to have a very interesting history. Compared with

that of Blois and Amboiseits past is rather vacant;

and one feels to a certain extent the contrast between

its pompous appearance and its spacious but some-

what colorless annals. It had indeed the good for-

tune to be erected by Francis I.whose name by itself

expresses a good deal of history. Why he should

have built a palace in those sandy plains will ever

remain an unanswered questionfor kings have never

been obliged to give reasons. In addition to the fact

that the country was rich in game and that Francis

was a passionate hunterit is suggested by M. de la

Saussayethe author of the very complete little history

of Chambord which you may buy at the bookseller's

at Bloisthat he was govemed in his choice of the

site by the accident of a charming woman having

formerly lived there. The Comtesse de Thoury had

a manor in the neighborhoodand the Comtesse de

Thoury had been the object of a youthful passion on

the part of the most susceptible of princes before his

accession to the throne. This great pile was reared

thereforeaccording to M. de la Saussayeas a _souvenir

de premieres amours!_ It is certainly a very massive

memento; and if these tender passages were propor-

tionate to the building that commemorates themthey

were tender indeed. There has been much discus-

sion as to the architect employed by Francis I.and

the honor of having designed this splendid residence

has been claimed for several of the Italian artists who

early in the sixteenth century came to seek patronage

in France. It seems well established to-dayhowever

that Chambord was the work neither of Primaticcio

of Vignolanor of Il Rossoall of whom have left

some trace of their sojourn in France; but of an

obscure yet very complete geniusPierre Nepveu

known as Pierre Trinqueauwho is designated in the

papers which preserve in some degree the history of

the origin of the edificeas the _maistre de l'oeuvre de

maconnerie._ Behind this modest titleapparentlywe

must recognize one of the most original talents of

the French Renaissance; and it is a proof of the vigor

of the artistic life of that period thatbrilliant pro-

duction being everywhere abundantan artist of so

high a value should not have been treated by his con-

temporaries as a celebrity. We manage things very

differently to-day.

The immediate successors of Francis I. continued

to visitChambord; but it was neglected by Henry IV.

and was never afterwards a favorite residence of any

French king. Louis XIV. appeared there on several

occasionsand the apparition was characteristically

brilliant; but Chambord could not long detain a

monarch who had gone to the expense of creating a

Versailles ten miles from Paris. With VersaillesFon-

tainebleauSaint-Germainand Saint-Cloud within easy

reach of their capitalthe later French sovereigns had

little reason to take the air in the dreariest province

of their kingdom. Chambord therefore suffered from

royal indifferencethough in the last century a use

was found for its deserted halls. In 1725 it was oc-

cupied by the luckless Stanislaus Leszczynskiwho

spent the greater part of his life in being elected

King of Poland and being ousted from his throne

and whoat this time a refugee in Francehad found

a compensation for some of his misfortunes in marry-

ing his daughter to Louis XV. He lived eight years

at Chambordand filled up the moats of the castle.

In 1748 it found an illustrious tenant in the person

of Maurice de Saxethe victor of Fontenoywhohow-

evertwo years after he had taken possession of it

terminated a life which would have been longer had

he been less determined to make it agreeable. The

Revolutionof coursewas not kind to Chambord.

It despoiled it in so far as possible of every vestige

of its royal originand swept like a whirlwind through

apartments to which upwards of two centuries had

contributed a treasure of decoration and furniture. In

that wild blast these precious things were destroyed

or forever scattered. In 1791 an odd proposal was

made to the French Government by a company of

English Quakers who had conceived the bold idea of

establishing in the palace a manufacture of some

peaceful commodity not to-day recorded. Napoleon

allotted Chambordas a "dotation" to one of his

marshalsBerthierfor whose benefit it was converted

in Napoleonic fashioninto the so-called principality

of Wagram. By the Princess of Wagramthe marshal's

widowit wasafter the Restorationsold to the

trustees of a national subscription which had been

established for the purpose of presenting it to the in-

fant Duke of Bordeauxthen prospective King of

France. The presentation was duly made; but the

Comte de Chambordwho had changed his title in

recognition of the giftwas despoiled of his property

by the Government of Louis Philippe. He appealed

for redress to the tribunals of his country; and the

consequence of his appeal was an interminable litiga-

tionby whichhoweverfinallyafter the lapse of

twenty-five yearshe was established in his rights. In

1871 he paid his first visit to the domain which had

been offered him half a century beforea term of

which he had spent forty years in exile. It was from

Chambord that he dated his famous letter of the 5th

of July of that year- the letterdirected to his so-

called subjectsin which he waves aloft the white

flag of the Bourbons. This amazing epistlewhich is

virtually an invitation to the French people to re-

pudiateas their national ensignthat immortal tricolor

the flag of the Revolution and the Empireunder

which they havewon the glory which of all glories

has hitherto been dearest to themand which is as-

sociated with the most romanticthe most heroicthe

epicthe consolatoryperiod of their history- this

luckless manifestoI sayappears to give the measure

of the political wisdom of the excellent Henry V. It

is the most factitious proposal ever addressed to an

eminently ironical nation.

On the wholeChambord makes a great impression;

and the hour I wastherewhile the yellow afternoon

light slanted upon the September woodsthere was a

dignity in its desolation. It spokewith a muffled

but audible voiceof the vanished monarchywhich

had been so strongso splendidbut to-day has be-

come a sort of fantastic visionlike the cupolas and

chimneys that rose before me. I thoughtwhile I

lingered thereof all the fine things it takes to make

up such a monarchy; and how one of them is a su-

perfluity of moulderingemptypalaces. Chambord is

touching- that is the best word for it; and if the

hopes of another restoration are in the follies of the

Republica little reflection on that eloquence of ruin

ought to put the Republic on its guard. A sentimental

tourist may venture to remark that in the presence of

several chateaux which appeal in this mystical manner

to the retrospective imaginationit cannot afford to be

foolish. I thought of all this as I drove back to Blois

by the way of the Chateau de Cheverny. The road

took us out of the park of Chambordbut through a

region of flat woodlandwhere the trees were not

mightyand again into the prosy plain of the Sologne

- a thankless soilall of itI believebut lately much

amended by the magic of cheerful French industry

and thrift. The light had already begun to fadeand

my drive reminded me of a passage in some rural

novel of Madame Sand. I passed a couple of timber

and plaster churcheswhich looked very oldblack

and crookedand had lumpish wooden porches and

galleries encircling the base. By the time I reached

Chevernythe clear twilight had approached. It was

late to ask to be allowed to visit an inhabited house;

but it was the hour at which I like best to visit almost

anything. My coachman drew up before a gateway

in a high wallwhich opened upon a short avenue

along which I took my way on foot; the coachmen in

those parts beingfor reasons best known to them-

selvesmortally averse to driving up to a house. I

answered the challenge of a very tidy little portress

who satin company with a couple of childrenen-

joying the evening air infront of her lodgeand who

told me to walk a little further and turn to the right.

I obeyed her to the letterand my turn brought me

into sight of a house as charming as an old manor in

a fairy tale. I had but a rapid and partial view of

Cheverny; but that view was a glimpse of perfection.

A lightsweet mansion stood looking over a wide green

lawnover banks of flowers and groups of trees. It

had a striking character of eleganceproduced partly

by a series of Renaissance busts let into circular niches

in the facade. The place looked so privateso reserved

that it seemed an act of violence to ringa stranger

and foreignerat the graceful door. But if I had not

rung I should be unable to express - as it is such a

pleasure to do - my sense of the exceeding courtesy

with which this admirable house is shown. It was

near the dinner-hour- the most sacred hour of the

day; but I was freely conducted into the inhabited

apartments. They are extremely beautiful. What I

chiefly remember is the charming staircase of white

embroidered stoneand the great _salle des gardes_ and

_chambre a coucher du roi_ on the second floor. Che-

vernybuilt in 1634is of a much later date than the

other royal residences of this part of France; it be-

longs to the end of the Renaissanceand has a touch

of the rococo. The guard-room is a superb apartment;

and as it contains little save its magnificent ceiling

and fireplace and certain dim tapestries on its walls

you the more easily take the measure of its noble

proportions. The servant opened the shutters of a

single windowand the last rays of the twilight slanted

into the rich brown gloom. It was in the same pic-

turesque fashion that I saw the bedroom (adjoining) of

Henry IV.where a legendary-looking beddraped in

folds long unaltereddefined itself in the haunted

dusk. Cheverny remains to me a very charminga

partly mysterious vision. I drove back to Blois in the

darksome nine milesthrough the forest of Russy

which belongs to the Stateand whichthough con-

sisting apparently of small timberlooked under the

stars sufficiently vast and primeval. There was a damp

autumnal smell and the occasional sound of a stirring

thing; and as I moved through the evening air I

thought of Francis I. and Henry IV.

 

 

VI.

You may go to Amboise either from Blois or from

Tours; it is about half-way between these towns. The

great point is to goespecially if you have put it off

repeatedly; and to goif possibleon a day when the

great view of the Loirewhich you enjoy from the

battlements and terracespresents itself under a friendly

sky. Three personsof whom the author of these

lines was onespent the greater part of a perfect

Sunday morning in looking at it. It was astonishing

in the course of the rainiest season in the memory of

the oldest Tourangeauhow many perfect days we

found to our hand. The town of Amboise lieslike

Tourson the left bank of the rivera little white-

faced townstaring across an admirable bridgeand

leaningbehindas it wereagainst the pedestal of

rock on which the dark castle masses itself. The town

is so smallthe pedestal so bigand the castle so high

and strikingthat the clustered houses at the base of

the rock are like the crumbs that have fallen from a

well-laden table. You pass among themhoweverto

ascend by a circuit to the chateauwhich you attack

obliquelyfrom behind. It is the property of the

Comte de Parisanother pretender to the French

throne; having come to him remotelyby inheritance

from his ancestorthe Duc de Penthievrewho toward

the close of the last century bought it from the crown

which had recovered it after a lapse. Like the castle

of Blois it has been injured and defaced by base uses

butunlike the castle of Bloisit has not been com-

pletely restored. "It is veryvery dirtybut very

curious" - it is in these terms that I heard it described

by an English ladywho was generally to be found

engaged upon a tattered Tauchnitz in the little _salon

de lecture_ of the hotel at Tours. The description is

not inaccurate; but it should be said that if part of

the dirtiness of Amboise is the result of its having

served for years as a barrack and as a prisonpart of

it comes from the presence of restoring stone-masons

who have woven over a considerable portion of it a

mask of scaffolding. There is a good deal of neatness

as welland the restoration of some of the parts seems

finished. This processat Amboiseconsists for the

most part of simply removing the vulgar excrescences

of the last two centuries.

The interior is virtually a blankthe old apart-

ments having been chopped up into small modern

rooms; it will have to be completely reconstructed. A

worthy womanwith a military profile and that sharp

positive manner which the goodwives who show you

through the chateaux of Touraine are rather apt to

haveand in whose high respectabilityto say nothing

of the frill of her cap and the cut of her thick brown

dressmy companions and I thought we discovered

the particular noteor _nuance_of Orleanism- a com-

petentappreciativeperemptory personI say- at-

tended us through the particularly delightful hour we

spent upon the ramparts of Amboise. Denuded and

disfeatured withinand bristling without with brick-

layers' laddersthe place was yet extraordinarily im-

pressive and interesting. I should confess that we

spent a great deal of time in looking at the view.

Sweet was the viewand magnificent; we preferred it

so much to certain portions of the interiorand to oc-

casional effusions of historical informationthat the

old lady with the prove sometimes lost patience with

us. We laid ourselves open to the charge of pre-

ferring it even to the little chapel of Saint Hubert

which stands on the edge of the great terraceand

hasover the portala wonderful sculpture of the mi-

raculous hunt of that holy man. In the way of plastic

art this elaborate scene is the gem of Amboise. It

seemed to us that we had never been in a place where

there are so many points of vantage to look down

from. In the matter of position Amboise is certainly

supreme among the old houses of the Loire; and I

say this with a due recollection of the claims of Chau-

mont and of Loches- which latterby the way (ex-

cuse the afterthought)is not on the Loire. The plat-

formsthe bastionsthe terracesthe high-perched

windows and balconiesthe hanging gardens and dizzy

crenellationsof this complicated structurekeep you

in perpetual intercourse with an immense horizon.

The great feature of the-place is the obligatory round

tower which occupies the northern end of itand

which has now beencompletely restored. It is of

astounding sizea fortress in itselfand contains

instead of a staircasea wonderful inclined planeso

wide and gradual that a coach and four may be driven

to the top. This colossal cylinder has to-day no

visible use; but it correspondshappily enoughwith

the great circle of the prospect. The gardens of Am-

boiseperched in the aircovering the irregular rem-

nants of the platform on which the castle standsand

making up in picturesqueness what they lack in ex-

tentconstitute of come but a scanty domain. But

bathedas we found themin the autumn sunshine

and doubly private from their aerial sitethey offered

irresistible opportunities for a strollinterruptedas

one leaned against their low parapetsby longcon-

templative pauses. I rememberin particulara certain

terraceplanted with clipped limesupon which we

looked down from the summit of the big tower. It

seemed from that point to be absolutely necessary to

one's happiness to go down and spend the rest of the

morning there; it was an ideal place to walk to and

fro and talk. Our venerable conductressto whom

our relation had gradually become more filialper-

mitted us to gratify this innocent wish- to the extent

that isof taking a turn or two under the mossy _tilleuls._

At the end of this terrace is the low doorin a wall

against the top of whichin 1498Charles VIII.ac-

cording to an accepted traditionknocked his head to

such good purpose that he died. It was within the

walls of Amboise that his widowAnne of Brittany

already in mourning for three childrentwo of whom

we have seen commemorated in sepulchral marble at

Toursspent the first violence of that grief which was

presently dispelled by a union with her husband's

cousin and successorLouis XII. Amboise was a fre-

quent resort of the French Court during the sixteenth

century; it was here that the young Mary Stuart spent

sundry hours of her first marriage. The wars of re-

ligion have left here the ineffaceable stain which they

left wherever they passed. An imaginative visitor at

Amboise to-day may fancy that the traces of blood

are mixed with the red rust on the crossed iron bars

of the grim-looking balconyto which the heads of

the Huguenots executed on the discovery of the con-

spiracy of La Renaudie are rumored to have been

suspended. There was room on the stout balustrade -

an admirable piece of work - for a ghastly array. The

same rumor represents Catherine de' Medici and the

young queen as watching from this balcony the _noyades_

of the captured Huguenots in the Loire. The facts of

history are bad enough; the fictions areif possible

worse; but there is little doubt that the future Queen

of Scots learnt the first lessons of life at a horrible

school. If in subsequent years she was a prodigy of

innocence and virtueit was not the fault of her whilom ???

mother-in-lawof her uncles of the house of Guiseor

of the examples presented to her either at the

windows of the castle of Amboise or in its more pri-

vate recesses.

It was difficult to believe in these dark deedshow-

everas we looked through the golden morning at the

placidity of the far-shining Loire. The ultimate con-

sequence of this spectacle was a desire to follow the

river as far as the castle of Chaumont. It is true

that the cruelties practised of old at Amboise might

have seemed less phantasmal to persons destined to

suffer from a modern form of inhumanity. The mis-

tress of the little inn at the base of the castle-rock -

it stands very pleasantly beside the riverand we had

breakfasted there - declared to us that the Chateau de

Chaumontwhich is often during the autumn closed

to visitorswas at that particular moment standing so

wide open to receive us that it was our duty to hire

one of her carriages and drive thither with speed.

This assurance was so satisfactory that we presently

found ourselves seated in this wily woman's most com-

modious vehicleand rollingneither too fast nor too

slowalong the margin of the Loire. The drive of

about an hourbeneath constant clumps of chestnuts

was charming enough to have been taken for itself;

and indeedwhen we reached Chaumontwe saw that

our reward was to be simply the usual reward of

virtue- the consciousness of having attempted the

right. The Chateau de Chaumont was inexorably

closed; so we learned from a talkative lodge-keeper

who gave what grace she could to her refusal. This

good woman's dilemma was almost touching; she

wished to reconcile two impossibles. The castle was

not to be visitedfor the family of its master was

staying there; and yet she was loath to turn away a

party of which she was good enough to say that it had

a _grand genre;_ foras she also remarkedshe had her

living to earn. She tried to arrange a compromise

one of the elements of which was that we should

descend from our carriage and trudge up a hill which

would bring us to a designated pointwhereover the

paling of the gardenwe might obtain an oblique and

surreptitious view of a small portion of the castle walls.

This suggestion led us to inquire (of each other) to

what degree of baseness it is allowed to an enlightened

lover of the picturesque to resortin order to catch a

glimpse of a feudal chateau. One of our trio decided

characteristicallyagainst any form of derogation; so

she sat in the carriage and sketched some object that

was public propertywhile her two companionswho

were not so proudtrudged up a muddy ascent which

formed a kind of back-stairs. It is perhaps no more

than they deserved that they were disappointed. Chau-

mont is feudalif you please; but the modern spirit is

in possession. It forms a vast clean-scraped mass

with big round towersungarnished with a leaf of ivy

or a patch of mosssurrounded by gardens of moderate

extent (save where the muddy lane of which I speak

passes near it)and looking rather like an enormously

magnified villa. The great merit of Chaumont is its

positionwhich almost exactly resembles that of Am-

boise; it sweeps the river up and downand seems to

look over half the province. Thishoweverwas better

appreciated asafter coming down the hill and re-

entering the carriagewe drove across the long sus-

pension-bridge which crosses the Loire just beyond

the villageand over which we made our way to the

small station of Onzainat the farther endto take

the train back to Tours. Look back from the middle

of this bridge; the whole picture composesas the

painters say. The towersthe pinnaclesthe fair front

of the chateauperched above its fringe of garden and

the rusty roofs of the villageand facing the afternoon

skywhich is reflected also in the great stream that

sweeps below- all this makes a contribution to your

happiest memories of Touraine.

 

 

VII.

We never went to Chinon; it was a fatality. We

planned it a dozen times; but the weather interfered

or the trains didn't suitor one of the party was

fatigued with the adventures of'the day before. This

excursion was so much postponed that it was finally

postponed to everything. Besideswe had to go to

Chenonceauxto Azay-le-Rideauto Langeaisto Loches.

So I have not the memory of Chinon; I have only the

regret. But regretas well as memoryhas its visions;

especially whenlike memoryit is assisted by photo-

graphs. The castle of Chinon in this form appears

to me as an enormous ruina mediaeval fortressof

the extent almost of a city. It covers a hill above the

Vienneand after being impregnable in its time is in-

destructible to-day. (I risk this phrase in the face of

the prosaic truth. Chinonin the days when it was a

prizemore than once suflered captureand at present

it is crumbling inch by inch. It is apparenthowever

I believethat these inches encroach little upon acres

of masonry.) It was in the castle that Jeanne Darc ?????

had her first interview with Charles VII.and it is in

the town that Francois Rabelais is supposed to have

been born. To the castlemoreoverthe lover of the

picturesque is earnestly recommended to direct his

steps. But one cannot do everythingand I would

rather have missed Chinon than Chenonceaux. For-

tunate exceedingly were the few hours that we passed

at this exquisite residence.

"In 1747" says Jean-Jacques Rousseauin his

"Confessions" "we went to spend the autumn in Tou-

raineat the Chateauof Chenonceauxa royal resi-

dence upon the Cherbuilt by Henry II. for Diana of

Poitierswhose initials are still to be seen thereand

now in possession of M. Dupinthe farmer-general.

We amused ourselves greatly in this fine spot; the liv-

ing was of the bestand I became as fat as a monk.

We made a great deal of musicand acted comedies."

This is the only description that Rousseau gives

of one of the most romantic houses in Franceand of

an episode that must have counted as one of the most

agreeable in his uncomfortable career. The eighteenth

century contented itself with general epithets; and

when Jean-Jacques has said that Chenonceaux was a

"beau lieu" he thinks himself absolved from further

characterization. We later sons of time haveboth for

our pleasure and our paininvented the fashion of

special termsand I am afraid that even common

decency obliges me to pay some larger tribute than

this to the architectural gem of Touraine. Fortunately

I can discharge my debt with gratitude. In going

from Tours you leave the valley of the Loire and enter

that of the Cherand at the end of about an hour you

see the turrets of the castle on your rightamong the

treesdown in the meadowsbeside the quiet little

river. The station and the village are about ten

minutes' walk from the chateauand the village con-

tains a very tidy innwhereif you are not in too

great a hurry to commune with the shades of the royal

favorite and the jealous queenyou will perhaps stop

and order a dinner to be ready for you in the evening.

A straighttall avenue leads to the grounds of the

castle; what I owe to exactitude compels me to add

that it is crossed by the railway-line. The place is so

arrangedhoweverthat the chateau need know nothing

of passing trains- which passindeedthough the

grounds are not largeat a very sufficient distance.

I may add that the trains throughout this part of

France have a noiselessdesultorydawdlingalmost

stationary qualitywhich makes them less of an offence

than usual. It was a Sunday afternoonand the light

was yellowsave under the trees of the avenuewhere

in spite of the waning of Septemberit was duskily

green. Three or four peasantsin festal attirewere

strolling about. On a bench at the beginning of the

avenuesat a man with two women. As I advanced

with my companions he roseafter a sudden stare

and approached me with a smilein which (to be

Johnsonian for a moment) certitude was mitigated by

modesty and eagerness was embellished with respect.

He came toward me with a salutation that I had seen

beforeand I am happy to say that after an instant I

ceased to be guilty of the brutality of not knowing

where. There was only one place in the world where

people smile like that- only one place where the art

of salutation has that perfect grace. This excellent

creature used to crook his armin Venicewhen I

stepped into my gondola; and I now laid my hand on

that member with the familiarity of glad recognition;

for it was only surprise that had kept me even for a

moment from accepting the genial Francesco as an

ornament of the landscape of Touraine. What on

earth - the phrase is the right one - was a Venetian

gondolier doing at Chenonceaux? He had been

brought from Venicegondola and allby the mistress

of the charming houseto paddle about on the Cher.

Our meeting was affectionatethough there was a kind

of violence in seeing him so far from home. He was

too well dressedtoo well fed; he had grown stout

and his nose had the tinge of good claret. He re-

marked that the life of the household to which he had

the honor to belong was that of a _casa regia;_ which

must have been a great change for poor Checcowhose

habits in Venice were not regal. Howeverhe was

the sympathetic Checco still; and for five minutes

after I left him I thought less about the little plea-

sure-house by the Cher than about the palaces of the

Adriatic.

But attention was not long in coming round to the

charming structure that presently rose before us. The

pale yellow front of the chateauthe small scale of

which is at first a surpriserises beyond a consider-

able courtat the entrance of which a massive and

detached round towerwith a turret on its brow (a

relic of the building that preceded the actual villa)

appears to keep guard. This court is not enclosed -

or is enclosedat leastonly by the gardensportions

of which are at present in a state of violent reforma-

tion. Thereforethough Chenonceaux has no great

heightits delicate facade stands up boldly enough.

This facadeone of the most finished things in Tou-

raineconsists of two storiessurmounted by an attic

whichas so often in the buildings of the French

Renaissanceis the richest part of the house. The

high-pitched roof contains three windows of beautiful

designcovered with embroidered caps and flowering

into crocketed spires. The window above the door

is deeply niched; it opens upon a balcony made in

the form of a double pulpit- one of the most charm-

ing features of the front. Chenonceaux is not large

as I saybut into its delicate compass is packed a

great deal of history- history which differs from that

of Amboise and Blois in being of the private and sen-

timental kind. The echoes of the placefaint and far

as they are to-dayare not politicalbut personal.

Chenonceaux datesas a residencefrom the year 1515

when the shrewd Thomas Bohiera public functionary

who had grown rich in handling the finances of Nor-

mandyand had acquired the estate from a family

whichafter giving it many feudal lordshad fallen

into povertyerected the present structure on the

foundations of an old mill. The design is attributed

with I know not what justiceto Pierre Nepveu_alias_

Trinqueauthe audacious architect of Chambord. On

the death of Bohier the house passed to his sonwho

howeverwas forcedunder cruel pressureto surrender

it to the crownin compensation for a so-called deficit

in the accounts of the late superintendent of the trea-

sury. Francis I. held the place till his death; but

Henry II.on ascending the thronepresented it out of

hand to that mature charmerthe admired of two

generationsDiana of Poitiers. Diana enjoyed it till

the death of her protector; but when this event oc-

curredthe widow of the monarchwho had been

obliged to submit in silencefor yearsto the ascend-

ency of a rivaltook the most pardonable of all the

revenges with which the name of Catherine de' Medici

is associatedand turned her out-of-doors. Diana was

not in want of refugesand Catherine went through

the form of giving her Chaumont in exchange; but

there was only one Chenonceaux. Catherine devoted

herself to making the place more completely unique.

The feature that renders it sole of its kind is not ap-

preciated till you wander round to either side of the

house. If a certain springing lightness is the charac-

teristic of Chenonceauxif it bears in every line the

aspect of a place of recreation- a place intended for

delicatechosen pleasures- nothing can confirm this

expression better than the strangeunexpected move-

ment with whichfrom behindit carries itself across

the river. The earlier building stands in the water;

it had inherited the foundations of the mill destroyed

by Thomas Bohier. The first stepthereforehad been

taken upon solid piles of masonry; and the ingenious

Catherine - she was a _raffinee_ - simply proceeded to

take the others. She continued the piles to the op-

posite bank of the Cherand over them she threw a

longstraight gallery of two stories. This part of the

chateauwhich looks simply like a house built upon a

bridge and occupying its entire lengthis of course

the great curiosity of Chenonceaux. It forms on each

floor a charming corridorwhichwithinis illuminated

from either side by the flickering river-light. The

architecture of these galleriesseen from withoutis

less elegant than that of the main buildingbut the

aspect of the whole thing is delightful. I have spoken

of Chenonceaux as a "villa" using the word ad-

visedlyfor the place is neither a castle nor a palace.

It is a very exceptional villabut it has the villa-

quality- the look of being intended for life in com-

mon. This look is not at all contradicted by the wing

across the Cherwhich only suggests intimate pleasures

as the French say- walks in pairson rainy days;

games and dances on autumn nights; together with as

much as may be of moonlighted dialogue (or silence)

in the courseof evenings more genial stillin the well-

marked recesses of windows.

It is safe to say that such things took place there

in the last centuryduring the kindly reign of Mon-

sieur and Madame Dupin. This period presents itself

as the happiest in the annals of Chenonceaux. I know

not what festive train the great Diana may have led

and my imaginationI am afraidis only feebly kindled

by the records of the luxurious pastimes organized on

the banks of the Cher by the terrible daughter of the

Mediciwhose appreciation of the good things of life

was perfectly consistent with a failure to perceive why

others should live to enjoythem. The best society

that ever assembled there was collected at Chenon-

ceaux during the middle of the eighteenth century.

This was surelyin France at leastthe age of good

societythe period when it was well for appreciative

people to have been born. Such people should of

course have belonged to the fortunate fewand not to

the miserable many; for the prime condition of a

society being good is that it be not too large. The

sixty years that preceded the French Revolution were

the golden age of fireside talk and of those pleasures

which proceed from the presence of women in whom

the social art is both instinctive and acquired. The

women of that period wereabove allgood company;

the fact is attested by a thousand documents. Chenon-

ceaux offered a perfect setting to free conversation;

and infinite joyous discourse must have mingled with

the liquid murmur of the Cher. Claude Dupin was

not only a great man of businessbut a man of honor

and a patron of knowledge; and his wife was gracious

cleverand wise. They had acquired this famous pro-

perty by purchase (from one of the Bourbons; for

Chenonceauxfor two centuries after the death of

Catherine de' Mediciremained constantly in princely

hands)and it was transmitted to their sonDupin de

Francueilgrandfather of Madame George Sand. This

ladyin her Correspondencelately publisheddescribes

a visit that she paidmore than thirty years agoto

those members of her family who were still in posses-

sion. The owner of Chenonceaux to-day is the daughter

of an Englishman naturalized in France. But I have

wandered far from my storywhich is simply a sketch

of the surface of the place. Seen obliquelyfrom either

sidein combination with its bridge and gallerythe

chateau is singular and fantastica striking example

of a wilful and capricious conception. Unfortunately

all caprices are not so graceful and successfuland I

grudge the honor of this one to the false and blood-

polluted Catherine. (To be exactI believe the arches

of the bridge were laid by the elderly Diana. It was

Catherinehoweverwho completed the monument.)

Withinthe house has beenas usualrestored. The

staircases and ceilingsin all the old royal residences

of this part of Franceare the parts that have suffered

least; many of them have still much of the life of the

old time about them. Some of the chambers of Che-

nonceauxhoweverencumbered as they are with mo-

dern detailderive a sufficiently haunted and suggestive

look from the deep setting of their beautiful windows

which thickens the shadows and makes darkcorners.

There is a charming little Gothic chapelwith its apse

hanging over the waterfastened to the left flank of

the house. Some of the upper balconieswhich look

along the outer face of the galleryand either up or

down the riverare delightful protected nooks. We

walked through the lower gallery to the other bank of

the Cher; this fine apartment appeared to be for the

moment a purgatory of ancient furniture. It terminates

rather abruptly; it simply stopswith a blank wall.

There oughtof courseto have been a pavilion here

though I prefer very much the old defect to any mo-

dern remedy. The wall is not so blankhoweverbut

that it contains a door which opens on a rusty draw-

bridge. This drawbridge traverses the small gap which

divides the end of the gallery from the bank of the

stream. The housethereforedoes not literally rest

on opposite edges of the Cherbut rests on one and

just fails to rest on the other. The pavilion would

have made that up; but after a moment we ceased to

miss this imaginary feature. We passed the little

drawbridgeand wandered awhile beside the river.

From this opposite bank the mass of the chateau looked

more charming than ever; and the little peacefullazy

Cherwhere two or three men were fishing in the

eventideflowed under the clear arches and between

the solid pedestals of the part that spanned itwith

the softestvaguest light on its bosom. This was the

right perspective; we were looking across the river of

time. The whole scene was deliciously mild. The

moon came up; we passed back through the gallery

and strolled about a little longer in the gardens. It

was very still. I met my old gondolier in the twilight.

He showed me his gondola; but I hatedsomehowto

see it there. I don't likeas the French sayto _meler

les genres_. A gondola in a little flat French river?

The image was not less irritatingif less injuriousthan

the spectacle of a steamer in the Grand Canalwhich

had driven me away from Venice a year and a half

before. We took our way back to the Grand Monarque

and waited in the little inn-parlor for a late train to

Tours. We were not impatientfor we had an ex-

cellent dinner to occupy us; and even after we had

dined we were still content to sit awhile and exchange

remarks uponthe superior civilization of France.

Where elseat a village innshould we have fared so

well? Where else should we have sat down to our

refreshment without condescension? There were two

or three countries in which it would not have been

happy for us to arrive hungryon a Sunday evening

at so modest an hostelry. At the little inn at Chenon-

ceaux the _cuisine_ was not only excellentbut the ser-

vice was graceful. We were waited on by mademoiselle

and her mamma; it was so that mademoiselle alluded

to the elder ladyas she uncorked for us a bottle of

Vouvray mousseux. We were very comfortablevery

genial; we even went so far as to say to each other

that Vouvray mousseux was a delightful wine. From

this opinionindeedone of our trio differed; but this

member of the party had already exposed herself to

the charge of being too fastidiousby declining to de-

scend from the carriage at Chaumont and take that

back-stairs view of the castle.

 

 

VIII.

Without fastidiousnessit was fair to declareon

the other handthat the little inn at Azay-le-Rideau

was very bad. It was terribly dirtyand it was in

charge of a fat _megere_ whom the appearance of four

trustful travellers - we were fourwith an illustrious

fourthon that occasion - roused apparently to fury.

I attached great importance to this incongruous

hostessfor she uttered the only uncivil words I heard

spoken (in connection with any business of my own)

during a tour of some six weeks in France. Breakfast

not at Azay-le-Rideauthereforetoo trustful traveller;

or if you do sobe either very meek or very bold.

Breakfast notsave under stress of circumstance; but

let no circumstance whatever prevent you from going

to see the admirable chateauwhich is almost a rival

of Chenonceaux. The village lies close to the gates

though after you pass these gates you leave it well

behind. A little avenueas at Chenonceauxleads to

the housemaking a pretty vista as you approach the

sculptured doorway. Azay is a most perfect and

beautiful thing; I should place it third in any list of

the great houses of this part of France in which these

houses should be ranked according to charm. For

beauty of detail it comes after Blois and Chenon-

ceaux; but it comes before Amboise and Chambord.

On the other handof courseit is inferior in majesty

to either of these vast structures. Like Chenonceaux

it is a watery placethough it is more meagrely

moated than the little chateau on the Cher. It consists

of a large square _corps de logis_with a round tower

at each anglerising out of a somewhat too slumberous

pond. The water - the water of the Indre - sur-

rounds itbut it is only on one side that it bathes its

feet in the moat. On one of the others there is a

little terracetreated as a gardenand in front there

is a wide courtformed by a wing whichon the right

comes forward. This frontcovered with sculptures

is of the richeststateliest effect. The court is ap-

proachcd by a bridge over the pondand the house

would reflect itself in this wealth of water if the water

were a trifle less opaque. But there is a certain

stagnation - it affects more senses than one - about

the picturesque pools of Azay. On the hither side of

the bridge is a gardenovershadowed by fine old

sycamores- a garden shut in by greenhouses and by

a fine last-century gatewayflanked with twin lodges.

Beyond the chateau and the standing waters behind

it is a so-called _parc_whichhoweverit must be con-

fessedhas little of park-like beauty. The old houses

(many of themthat is) remain in France; but the old

timber does not remainand the denuded aspect of

the few acres that surround the chateaux of Touraine

is pitiful to the traveller who has learned to take the

measure of such things from the manors and castles

of England. The domain of the lordly Chaumont is

that of an English suburban villa; and in that and

in other places there is little suggestionin the

untended aspect of walk and lawnsof the vigilant

British gardener. The manor of Azayas seen to-day

dates from the early part of the sixteenth century;

and the industrious Abbe Chevalierin his very

entertaining though slightly rose-colored book on

Touraine* (* Promenades pittoresque en Touraine.

Tours: 1869.) speaks of it as"perhaps the purest expres-

sion of the _belle Renaissance francaise_." "Its height"

he goes on"is divided between two storiesterminat-

ing under the roof in a projecting entablature which

imitates a row of machicolations. Carven chimneys

and tall dormer windowscovered with imageryrise

from the roofs; turrets on bracketsof elegant shape

hang with the greatest lightness from the angles of

the building. The soberness of the main linesthe

harmony of the empty spaces and those that are

filled outthe prominence of the crowning partsthe

delicacy of all the detailsconstitute an enchanting

whole." And then the Abbe speaks of the admirable

staircase which adorns the north frontand which

with its extentioninsideconstitutes the principal

treasure of Azay. The staircase passes beneath one

of the richest of porticos- a portico over which a

monumental salamander indulges in the most deco-

rative contortions. The sculptured vaults of stone

which cover the windings of the staircase withinthe

fruitsflowersciphersheraldic signsare of the

noblest effect. The interior of the chateau is rich

comfortableextremely modern; but it makes no

picture that compares with its external faceabout

whichwith its charming proportionsits profuse yet

not extravagant sculpturethere is something very

tranquil and pure. I took particular fancy to the

roofhighsteepoldwith its slope of bluish slate

and the way the weather-worn chimneys seemed to

grow out of itlike living things out of a deep soil.

The only defect of the house is the blankness and

bareness of its wallswhich have none of those delicate

parasites attached to them that one likes to see on the

surface of old dwellings. It is true that this bareness

results in a kind of silvery whiteness of complexion

which carries out the tone of the quiet pools and even

that of the scanty and shadeless park.

 

 

IX.

I hardly know what to say about the tone of

Langeaiswhichthough I have left it to the end of

my sketchformed the objective point of the first ex-

cursion I made from Tours. Langeais is rather dark

and gray; it is perhaps the simplest and most severe

of all the castles of the Loire. I don't know why I

should have gone to see it before any otherunless it

be because I remembered the Duchesse de Langeais

who figures in several of Balzac's novelsand found

this association very potent. The Duchesse de Lan-

geais is a somewhat transparent fiction; but the

castle from which Balzac borrowed the title of his

heroine is an extremely solid fact. My doubt just

above as to whether I should pronounce it excep-

tionally grey came from my having seen it under a

sky which made most things look dark. I havehow-

evera very kindly memory of that moist and melan-

choly afternoonwhich was much more autumnal than

many of the days that followed it. Langeais lies

down the Loirenear the riveron the opposite side

from Toursand to go to it you will spend half an

hour in the train. You pass on the way the Chateau

de Luyneswhichwith its round towers catching

the afternoon lightlooks uncommonly well on a hill

at a distance; you pass also the ruins of the castle

of Cinq-Marsthe ancestral dwelling of the young

favorite of Louis XIII.the victimof Richelieuthe

hero of Alfred de Vigny's novelwhich is usually re-

commended to young ladies engaged in the study of

French. Langeais is very imposing and decidedly

sombre; it marks the transition from the architecture

of defence to that of elegance. It risesmassive and

perpendicularout of the centre of the village to

which it gives its nameand which it entirely domi-

nates; so thatas you stand before itin the crooked

and empty streetthere is no resource for you but to

stare up at its heavy overhanging cornice and at the

huge towers surmounted with extinguishers of slate.

If you follow this street to the endhoweveryou

encounter in abundance the usual embellishments of

a French village: little ponds or tankswith women

on their knees on the brinkpounding and thumping

a lump of saturated linen; brown old cronesthe tone

of whose facial hide makes their nightcaps (worn by

day) look dazzling; little alleys perforating the thick-

ness of a row of cottagesand showing you behind

as a glimpsethe vividness of a green garden. In

the rear of the castle rises a hill which must formerly

have been occupied by some of its appurtenances

and which indeed is still partly enclosed within its

court. You may walk round this eminencewhich

with the small houses of the village at its baseshuts

in the castle from behind. The enclosure is not

defiantly guardedhowever; for a smallrough path

which you presently reachleads up to an open gate.

This gate admits you to a vague and rather limited

_parc_which covers the crest of the hilland through

which you may walk into the gardens of castle.

These gardensof small extentconfront the dark

walls with their brilliant parterresandcovering the

gradual slope of the hillformas it werethe fourth

side of the court. This is the stateliest view of the

chateauwhich looks to you sufficiently grim and gray

asafter asking leave of a neat young woman who

sallies out to learn your errandyou sit there on a

garden bench and take the measure of the three tall

towers attached to this inner front and forming sever-

ally the cage of a staircase. The huge bracketed cor-

nice (one of the features of Langeais) which is merely

ornamentalas it is not machicolatedthough it looks

sois continued on the inner face as well. The whole

thing has a fine feudal airthough it was erected on

the rains of feudalism.

The main event in the history of the castle is the

marriage of Anne of Brittany to her first husband

Charles VIII.which took place in its great hall in

1491. Into this great hall we were introduced by

the neat young woman- into this great hall and

into sundry other hallswinding staircasesgalleries

chambers. The cicerone of Langeais is in too great a

hurry; the fact is pointed out in the excellent Guide-

Joanne. This ill-dissimulated vicehoweveris to be

observedin the country of the Loirein every one

who carries a key. It is true that at Langeais there

is no great occasion to indulge in the tourist's weak-

ness of dawdling; for the apartmentsthough they

contain many curious odds and ends ofantiquityare

not of first-rate interest. They are cold and musty

indeedwith that touching smell of old furnitureas

all apartments should be through which the insatiate

American wanders in the rear of a bored domestic

pausing to stare at a faded tapestry or to read the

name on the frame of some simpering portrait.

To return to Tours my companion and I had counted

on a train which (as is not uncommon in France)

existed only in the "Indicateur des Chemins de Fer;"

and instead of waiting for another we engaged a vehicle

to take us home. A sorry _carriole_ or _patache_ it proved

to bewith the accessories of a lumbering white mare

and a little wizenedancient peasantwho had put on

in honor of the occasiona new blouse of extraordinary

stiffness and blueness. We hired the trap of an energetic

woman who put it "to" with her own hands; women

in Touraine and the B1esois appearing to have the

best of it in the business of letting vehiclesas well as

in many other industries. There isin factno branch

of human activity in which one is not liablein France

to find a woman engaged. Womenindeedare not

priests; but priests aremore or less; women. They

are not in the armyit may be said; but then they _are_

the army. They are very formidable. In France one

must count with the women. The drive back from

Langeais to Tours was longslowcold; we had an

occasional spatter of rain. But the road passes most

of the way close to the Loireand there was some-

thing in our jog-trot through the darkening landbeside

the flowingriverwhich it was very possible to enjoy.

 

 

X.

The consequence of my leaving to the last my little

mention of Loches is that space and opportunity fail

me; and yet a brief and hurried account of that extra-

ordinary spot would after all be in best agreement with

my visit. We snatched a fearful joymy companion

and Ithe afternoon we took the train for Loches.

The weather this time had been terribly against us:

again and again a day that promised fair became hope-

lessly foul after lunch. At last we determined that if

we could not make this excursion in the sunshinewe

would make it with the aid of our umbrellas. We

grasped them firmly and started for the stationwhere

we were detained an unconscionable time by the evolu-

tionsoutsideof certain trains laden with liberated

(and exhilarated) conscriptswhotheir term of service

endedwere about to be restored to civil life. The

trains in Touraine are provoking; they serve as little

as possible for excursions. If they convey you one

way at the right hourit is on the condition of bring-

ing you back at the wrong; they either allow you far

too little time to examine the castle or the ruinor

they leave you planted in front of it for periods that

outlast curiosity. They are perversecapriciousex-

asperating. It was a question of our having but an

hour or two at Lochesand we could ill afford to sacri-

fice to accidents. One of the accidentshoweverwas

that the rain stopped before we got thereleaving be-

hind it a moist mildness of temperature and a cool

and lowering skywhich were in perfect agreement

with the gray old city. Loches is certainly one of the

greatest impressions of the traveller in central France

- the largest cluster of curious things that presents

itself to his sight. It rises above the valley of the

Indrethe charming stream set in meadows and sedges

which wanders through the province of Berry and

through many of the novels of Madame George Sand;

lifting from the summit of a hillwhich it covers to

the basea confusion of terracesrampartstowersand

spires. Having but little timeas I saywe scaled

the hill amainand wandered briskly through this

labyrinth of antiquities. The rain had decidedly

stoppedand save that we had our train on our minds

we saw Loches to the best advantage. We enjoyed

that sensation with which the conscientious tourist is

- or ought to be - well acquaintedand for whichat

any ratehe has a formula in his rough-and-ready

language. We "experienced" as they say(most odious

of verbs!) an "agreeable disappointment." We were

surprised and delighted; we had not suspected that

Loches was so good.

I hardly know what is best there: the strange and

impressive little collegial churchwith its romanesque

atrium or narthexits doorways covered with primitive

sculpture of the richest kindits treasure of a so-called

pagan altarembossed with fighting warriorsits three

pyramidal domesso unexpectedso sinisterwhich I

have not met elsewherein church architecture; or the

huge square keepof the eleventh century- the most

cliff-like tower I rememberwhose immeasurable thick-

ness I did not penetrate; or the subterranean mysteries

of two other less striking but not less historic dungeons

into which a terribly imperative little cicerone intro-

duced uswith the aid of downward laddersropes

torcheswarningsextended hands; andmanyfearful

anecdotes- all in impervious darkness. These horrible

prisons of Lochesat an incredible distance below the

daylightwere a favorite resource of Louis XI.and

were for the most partI believeconstructed by him.

One of the towers of the castle is garnished with the

hooks or supports of the celebrated iron cage in which

he confined the Cardinal La Baluewho survived so

much longer than might have been expected this extra-

ordinary mixture of seclusion and exposure. All these

things form part of the castle of Locheswhose enorm-

ous _enceinte_ covers the whole of the top of the hilland

abounds in dismantled gatewaysin crooked passages

in winding lanes that lead to postern doorsin long

facades that look upon terraces interdicted to the

visitorwho perceives with irritation that they com-

mand magnificent views. These views are the property

of the sub-prefect of the departmentwho resides at

the Chateau de Lochesand who has also the enjoy-

ment of a garden - a garden compressed and curtailed

as those of old castles that perch on hill-tops are apt

to be - containing a horse-chestnut tree of fabulous

sizea tree of a circumference so vast and so perfect

that the whole population of Loches might sit in con-

centric rows beneath its boughs. The gem of the place

howeveris neither the big _marronier_nor the collegial

churchnor the mighty dungeonnor the hideous prisons

of Louis XI.; it is simply the tomb of Agnes Sorel_la

belle des belles_so many years the mistress of Charles VII.

She was buriedin 1450in the collegial church

whencein the beginning of the present centuryher

remainswith the monument that marks themwere

transferred to one of the towers of the castle. She has

alwaysI know not with what justiceenjoyed a fairer

fame than most ladies who have occupied her position

and this fairness is expressed in the delicate statue

that surmounts her tomb. It represents her lying there

in lovely demurenessher hands folded with the best

modestya little kneeling angel at either side of her

headand her feethidden in the folds of her decent

roberesting upon a pair of couchant lambsinnocent

reminders of her name. Agneshoweverwas not

lamb-likeinasmuch asaccording to popular tradition

at leastshe exerted herself sharply in favor of the ex-

pulsion of the English from France. It is one of the

suggestions of Loches that the young Charles VII.

hard put to it as he was for a treasury and a capital

- "le roi de Bourges" he was called at Paris- was

yet a rather privileged mortalto stand up as he does

before posterity between the noble Joan and the _gentille

Agnes_; derivinghowever much more honor from one

of these companions than from the other. Almost as

delicate a relic of antiquity as this fascinating tomb is

the exquisite oratory of Anne of Brittanyamong the

apartments of the castle the only chamber worthy of

note. This small roomhardly larger than a closet

and forming part of the addition made to the edifice

by Charles VIII.is embroidered over with the curious

and remarkably decorative device of the ermine and

festooned cord. The objects in themselves are not

especially graceful; but the constant repetition of the

figure on the walls and ceiling produces an effect of

richnessin spite of the modern whitewash with which

if I remember rightlythey have been endued. The

little streets of Loches wander crookedly down the hill

and are full of charming pictorial "bits:" an old town-

gatepassing under a mediaeval towerwhich is orna-

mented by Gothic windows and the empty niches of

statues; a meagre but delicate _hotel de ville_of the

Renaissancenestling close beside it; a curious _chancel-

lerie_ of the middle of the sixteenth centurywith

mythological figures and a Latin inscription on the

front- both of these latter buildings being rather un-

expected features of the huddled and precipitous little

town. Loches has a suburb on the other side of the

Indrewhich we had contented ourselves with looking

down at from the heightswhile we wondered whether

even if it had not been getting late and our train were

more accommodatingwe should care to take our way

across the bridge and look up that bustin terra-cotta

of Francis I.which is the principal ornament of the

Chateau de Sansac and the faubourg of Beaulieu. I

think we decided that we should not; that we were

already quite well enough acquainted with the nasal

profile of that monarch.

 

 

XI.

I know not whether the exact limits of an excur-

sionas distinguished from a journeyhave ever been

fixed; at any rateit seemed none of my businessat

Toursto settle the question. Thereforethough the

making of excursions had been the purpose of my

stayI thought it vainwhile I started for Bourgesto

determine to which category that little expedition

might belong. It was not till the third day that I re-

turned to Tours; and the distancetraversed for the

most part after darkwas even greater than I had sup-

posed. Thathoweverwas partly the fault of a tire-

some wait at Vierzonwhere I had more than enough

time to dinevery badlyat the _buffet_and to observe

the proceedings of a family who had entered my rail-

way carriage at Tours and had conversed unreservedly

for my benefitall the way from that station- a family

whom it entertained me to assign to the class of _petite

noblesse de province_. Their noble origin was confirmed

by the way they all made _maigre_ in the refreshment

oom (it happened to be a Friday)as if it had been

possible to do anything else. They ate two or three

omelets apieceand ever so many little cakeswhile

the positivetalkative mother watched her children as

the waiter handed about the roast fowl. I was destined

to share the secrets of this family to the end; for

when I had taken place in the empty train that was

in waiting to convey us to Bourgesthe same vigilant

woman pushed them all on top of me into my com-

partmentthough the carriages on either side con-

tained no travellers at all. It was betterI foundto

have dined (even on omelets and little cakes) at the

station at Vierzon than at the hotel at Bourgeswhich

when I reached it at nine o'clock at nightdid not

strike me as the prince of hotels. The inns in the

smaller provincial towns in France are allas the term

iscommercialand the _commis-voyageur_ is in triumphant

possession. I saw a great deal of him for several

weeks after this; for he was apparently the only traveller

in the southern provincesand it was my daily fate to

sit opposite to him at tables d'hote and in railway

trains. He may be known by two infallible signs-

his hands are fatand he tucks his napkin into his

shirt-collar. In spite of these idiosyncrasieshe seemed

to me a reserved and inoffensive personwith singularly

little of the demonstrative good-humor that he has

been described as possessing. I saw no one who re-

minded me of Balzac's "illustre Gaudissart;" and in-

deedin the course of a month's journey through a

large part of FranceI heard so little desultory con-

versation that I wondered whether a change had not

come over the spirit of the people. They seemed to

me as silent as Americans when Americans have not

been "introduced" and infinitely less addicted to ex-

changing remarks in railway trains and at tables d'hote

the colloquial and cursory English; a fact per-

haps not worth mentioning were it not at variance

with that reputation which the French have long en-

joyed of being a pre-eminently sociable nation. The

common report of the character of a people ishow-

everan indefinable product; and it isapt to strike

the traveller who observes for himself as very wide of

the mark. The Englishwho have for ages been de-

scribed (mainly by the French) as the dumbstiff

unapproachable racepresent to-day a remarkable ap-

pearance of good-humor and garrulityand are dis-

tinguished by their facility of intercourse. On the

other handany one who has seen half a dozen

Frenchmen pass a whole day together in a railway-

carriage without breaking silence is forced to believe

that the traditional reputation of these gentlemen is

simply the survival of some primitive formula. It was

truedoubtlessbefore the Revolution; but there have

been great changes since then. The question of which

is the better tasteto talk to strangers or to hold your

tongueis a matter apart; I incline to believe that the

French reserve is the result of a more definite con-

ception of social behavior. I allude to it only be-

came it is at variance with the national fameand at

the same time is compatible with a very easy view of

life in certain other directions. On some of these

latter points the Boule d'Or at Bourges was full of

instruction; boastingas it didof a hall of reception

in whichamid old boots that had been brought to be

cleanedold linen that was being sorted for the wash

and lamps of evil odor that were awaiting replenish-

menta strangefamiliarpromiscuous household life

went forward. Small scullions in white caps and aprons

slept upon greasy benches; the Boots sat staring at

you while you fumbledhelplessin a row of pigeon-

holesfor your candlestick or your key; andamid the

coming and going of the _commis-voyageurs_a little

sempstress bent over the under-garments of the hostess

- the latter being a heavystemsilent womanwho

looked at people very hard.

It was not to be looked at in that manner that one

had come all the way from Tours; so that within ten

minutes after my arrival I sallied out into the dark-

ness to get somehow and somewhere a happier im-

pression. However late in the evening I may arrive

at a placeI cannot go to bed without an impression.

The natural placeat Bourgesto look for one seemed

to be the cathedral; whichmoreoverwas the only

thing that could account for my presence _dans cette

galere_. I turned out of a small squarein front of the

hoteland walked up a narrowsloping streetpaved

with bigrough stones and guiltless of a foot-way.

It was a splendid starlight night; the stillness of a

sleeping _ville de province_ was over everything; I had

the whole place to myself. I turned to my rightat

the top of the streetwhere presently a shortvague

lane brought me into sight of the cathedral. I ap-

proached it obliquelyfrom behind; it loomed up in

the darkness above meenormous and sublime. It

stands on the top of the large but not lofty eminence

over which Bourges is scattered- a very good position

as French cathedrals gofor they are not all so nobly

situated as Chartres and Laon. On the side on which

I approached it (the south) it is tolerably well ex-

posedthough the precinct is shabby; in frontit is

rather too much shut in. These defectshoweverit

makes up for on the north side and behindwhere it

presents itself in the most admirable manner to the

garden of the Archevechewhich has been arranged

as a public walkwith the usual formal alleys of the

_jardin francais_. I must add that I appreciated these

points only on the following day. As I stood there in

the light of the starsmany of which had an autumnal

sharpnesswhile others were shooting over the heavens

the hugerugged vessel of the church overhung me in

very much the same way as the black hull of a ship

at sea would overhang a solitary swimmer. It seemed

colossalstupendousa dark leviathan.

The next morningwhich was lovelyI lost no

time in going back to itand foundwith satisfaction

that the daylight did it no injury. The cathedral of

Bourges is indeed magnificently huge; and if it is a

good deal wanting in lightness and grace it is perhaps

only the more imposing. I read in the excellent hand-

book of M. Joanne that it was projected "_des_ 1172"

but commenced only in the first years of the thirteenth

century. "The nave" the writer adds"was finished

_tant bien que malfaute de ressources;_ the facade is of

the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in its lower

partand of the fourteenth in its upper." The allusion

to the nave means the omission of the transepts. The

west front consists of two vast but imperfect towers;

one of which (the south) is immensely buttressedso

that its outline slopes forwardlike that of a pyramid

being the taller of the two. If they had spiresthese

towers would be prodigious; as it isgiven the rest

of the churchthey are wanting in elevation. There

are five deeply recessed portalsall in a roweach

surmounted with a gable; the gable over the central

door being exceptionally high. Above the porches

which give the measure of its widththe front rears

itselfpiles itselfon a great scalecarried up by gal-

leriesarcheswindowssculpturesand supported by

the extraordinarily thick buttresses of which I have

spokenand whichthough they embellish it with deep

shadows thrown sidewisedo not improve its style.

The portalsespecially the middle oneare extremely

interesting; they are covered with curious early sculp-

tures. The middle onehoweverI must describe

alone. It has no less than six rows of figures- the

others have four- some of whichnotably the upper

oneare still in their places. The arch at the top has

three tiers of elaborate imagery. The upper of these

is divided by the figure of Christ in judgmentof great

sizestiff and terriblewith outstretched arms. On

either side of him are ranged three or four angels

with the instruments of the Passion. Beneath himin

the second friezestands the angel of justicewith his

scales; and on either side of him is the vision of the

last judgment. The good preparewith infinite titilla-

tion and complacencyto ascend to the skies; while

the bad are draggedpushedhurledstuffedcrammed

into pits and caldrons of fire. There is a charming

detail in this section. Beside the angelonthe right

where the wicked are the prey of demonsstands a

little female figurethat of a childwhowith hands

meekly folded and head gently raisedwaits for the

stern angel to decide upon her fate. In this fatehow-

evera dreadfulbig devil also takes a keen interest;

he seems on the point of appropriating the tender

creature; he has a face like a goat and an enormous

hooked nose. But the angel gently lays a hand upon

the shoulder of the little girl - the movement is full

of dignity - as if to say"No; she belongs to the other

side." The frieze below represents the general re-

surrectionwith the good and the wicked emerging from

their sepulchres. Nothing can be more quaint and

charming than the difference shown in their way of

responding to the final trump. The good get out of

their tombs with a certain modest gayetyan alacrity

tempered by respect; one of them kneels to pray as

soon as he has disinterred himself. You may know

the wickedon the other handby their extreme shy-

ness; they crawl out slowly and fearfully; they hang

backand seem to say"Ohdear!" These elaborate

sculpturesfull of ingenuous intention and of the

reality of early faithare in a remarkable state of pre-

servation; they bear no superficial signs of restoration

and appear scarcely to have suffered from the centu-

ries. They are delightfully expressive; the artist had

the advantage of knowing exactly the effect he wished

to produce.

The interior of the cathedral has a great simplicity

and majestyandabove alla tremendous height. The

nave is extraordinary in this respect; it dwarfs every-

thing else I know. I should addhoweverthat I am

in architecturealways of the opinion of the last

speaker. Any great building seems to mewhile I

look at itthe ultimate expression. At any rateduring

the hour that I sat gazing along the high vista of

Bourgesthe interior of the great vessel corresponded

to my vision of the evening before. There is a tranquil

largenessa kind of infinitudeabout such an edifice:

it soothes and purifies the spiritit illuminates the

mind. There are two aisleson either sidein addi-

tion to the nave- five in all- andas I have said

there are no transepts; an omission which lengthens

the vistaso that from my place near the door the

central jewelled window in the depths of the perpen-

dicular choir seemed a mile or two away. The second

or outwardof each pair of aisles is too lowand the

first too high; without this inequality the nave would

appear to take an even more prodigious flight. The

double aisles pass all the way round the choirthe

windows of which are inordinately rich in magnificent

old glass. I have seen glass as fine in other churches;

but I think I have never seen so much of it at once.

Beside the cathedralon the northis a curious

structure of the fourteenth or fifteenth centurywhich

looks like an enormous flying buttresswith its sup-

portsustaining the north tower. It makes a massive

archhigh in the airand produces a romantic effect

as people pass under it to the open gardens of the

Archevechewhich extend to a considerable distance

in the rear of the church. The structure supporting

the arch has the girth of a largeish houseand con-

tains chambers with whose uses I am unacquainted

but to which the deep pulsations of the cathedralthe

vibration of its mighty bellsand the roll of its organ-

tones must be transmitted even through the great arm

of stone.

The archiepiscopal palacenot walled in as at Tours

is visible as a stately habitation of the last century

now in course of reparation in consequence of a fire.

From this sideand from the gardens of the palace

the nave of the cathedral is visible in all its great

length and heightwith its extraordinary multitude of

supports. The gardens aforesaidaccessible through

tall iron gatesare the promenade - the Tuileries - of

the townandvery pretty in themselvesare immensely

set off by the overhanging church. It was warm and

sunny; the benches were empty; I sat there a long

timein that pleasant state of mind which visits the

traveller in foreign townswhen he is not too hurried

while he wonders where he had better go next. The

straightunbroken line of the roof of the cathedral

was very noble; but I could see from this point how

much finer the effect would have been if the towers

which had dropped almost out of sightmight have

been carried still higher. The archiepiscopal gardens

look down at one end over a sort of esplanade or

suburban avenue lying on a lower levelon which they

openand where several detachments of soldiers

(Bourges is full of soldiers) had just been drawn up.

The civil population was also collectingand I saw

that something was going to happen. I learned that

a private of the Chasseurs was to be "broken" for

stealingand every one was eager to behold the cere-

mony. Sundry other detachments arrived on the

groundbesides many of the military who had come

as a matter of taste. One of them described to me

the process of degradation from the ranksand I felt

for a moment a hideous curiosity to see itunder the

influence of which I lingered a little. But only a

little; the hateful nature of the spectacle hurried me

awayat the same time that others were hurrying for-

ward. As I turned my back upon it I reflected that

human beings are cruel brutesthough I could not

flatter myself that the ferocity of the thing was ex-

clusively French. In another country the concourse

would have been equally greatand the moral of it all

seemed to be that military penalties are as terrible as

military honors are gratifying.

 

 

XII.

The cathedral is not the only lion of Bourges; the

house of Jacques Coeur is an object of interest scarcely

less positive. This remarkable man had a very strange

historyand he too was "broken" like the wretched

soldier whom I did not stay to see. He has been re-

habilitatedhoweverby an age which does not fear

the imputation of paradoxand a marble statue of

him ornaments the street in front of his house. To

interpret him according to this image - a womanish

figure in a long robe and a turbanwith big bare arms

and a dramatic pose - would be to think of him as a

kind of truculent sultana. He wore the dress of his

periodbut his spirit was very modern; he was a Van-

derbilt or a Rothschild of the fifteenth century. He

supplied the ungrateful Charles VII. with money to pay

the troops whounder the heroic Maiddrove the

English from French soil. His housewhich to-day is

used as a Palais de Justiceappears to have been re-

garded at the time it was built very much as the resi-

dence of Mr. Vanderbilt is regarded in New York to-day.

It stands on the edge of the hill on which most of the

town is plantedso thatbehindit plunges down to a

lower levelandif you approach it on that sideas I

didto come round to the front of ityou have to

ascend a longish flight of steps. The backof old

must have formed a portion of the city wall; at any

rateit offers to view two big towerswhich Joanne

says were formerly part of the defence of Bourges.

From the lower level of which I speak - the square in

front of the post-office - the palace of Jacques Coeur

looks very big and strong and feudal; from the upper

streetin front of itit looks very handsome and deli-

cate. To this street it presents two stories and a con-

siderable length of facade; and it hasboth within and

withouta great deal of curious and beautiful detail.

Above the portalin the stoneworkare two false win-

dowsin which two figuresa man and a womanap-

parently household servantsare representedin sculp-

tureas looking down into the street. The effect is

homelyyet grotesqueand the figures are sufficiently

living to make one commiserate them for having been

condemnedin so dull a townto spend several cen-

turies at the window. They appear to be watching for

the return of their masterwho left his beautiful house

one morning and never came back.

The history of Jacques Coeurwhich has been

written by M. Pierre Clementin a volume crowned

by the French Academyis very wonderful and in-

terestingbut I have no space to go into it here.

There is no more curious exampleand few more

tragicalof a great fortune crumbling from one day to

the otheror of the antique superstition that the gods

grow jealous of human success. Merchantmillion-

nairebankership-ownerroyal favoriteand minister

of financeexplorer of the East and monopolist of the

glittering trade between that quarter of the globe and

his owngreat capitalist who had anticipated the

brilliant operations of the present timehe expiated

his prosperity by povertyimprisonmentand torture.

The obscure points in his career have been elucidated

by M. Clementwho has drawnmoreovera very vivid

picture of the corrupt and exhausted state of France

during the middle of the fifteenth century. He has

shown that the spoliation of the great merchant was a

deliberately calculated actand that the king sacrificed

him without scruple or shame to the avidity of a sin-

gularly villanous set of courtiers. The whole story is

an extraordinary picture of high-handed rapacity-

the crudest possible assertion of the right of the stronger.

The victim was stripped of his propertybut escaped

with his lifemade his way out of Franceandbetak-

ing himself to Italyoffered his services to the Pope.

It is proof of the consideration that he enjoyed in

Europeand of the variety of his accomplishments

that Calixtus III. should have appointed him to take

command of a fleet which his Holiness was fitting out

against the Turks. Jacques Coeurhoweverwas not

destined to lead it to victory. He died shortly after

the expedition had startedin the island of Chiosin

1456. The house of Bourgeshis native placetestifies

in some degree to his wealth and splendorthough it

has in parts that want of space which is striking in

many of the buildings of the Middle Ages. The court

indeedis on a large scaleornamented with turrets

and arcadeswith several beautiful windowsand with

sculptures inserted in the wallsrepresenting the various

sources of the great fortune of the owner. M. Pierre

Clement describes this part of the house as having

been of an "incomparable richesse" - an estimate of its

charms which seems slightly exaggerated to-day. There

ishoweversomething delicate and familiar in the

bas-reliefs of which I have spokenlittle scenes of

agriculture and industrywhich showthat the pro-

prietor was not ashamed of calling attention to his

harvests and enterprises. To-day we should question

the taste of such allusionseven in plastic formin

the house of a "merchant prince" (say in the Fifth

Avenue). Why is itthereforethat these quaint little

panels at Bourges do not displease us? It is perhaps

because things very ancient neverfor some mysterious

reasonappear vulgar. This fifteenth-century million-

nairewith his palacehis egotistical sculpturesmay

have produced that impression on some critical spirits

of his own day.

The portress who showed me into the building was

a dear litte old womanwith the gentlestsweetest

saddest face - a little whiteaged facewith dark

pretty eyes - and the most considerate manner. She

took me up into an upper hallwhere there were a

couple of curious chimney-pieces and a fine old oaken

roofthe latter representing the hollow of a long boat.

There is a certain oddity in a native of Bourges - an

inland town if there ever was onewithout even a river

(to call a river) to encourage nautical ambitions - hav-

ing found his end as admiral of a fleet; but this boat-

shaped roofwhich is extremely graceful and is re-

peated in another apartmentwould suggest that the

imagination of Jacques Coeur was fond of riding the

waves. Indeedas he trafficked in Oriental products

and owned many galleonsit is probable that he was

personally as much at home in certain Mediterranean

ports as in the capital of the pastoral Berry. Ifwhen

he looked at the ceilings of his mansionhe saw his

boats upside downthis was only a suggestion of the

shortest way of emptying them of their treasures. He

is presented in person above one of the great stone

chimney-piecesin company with his wifeMacee de

Leodepart- I like to write such an extraordinary name.

Carved in white stonethe two sit playing at chess at

an open windowthrough which they appear to give

their attention much more to the passers-by than to

the game. They are also exhibited in other attitudes;

though I do not recognize them in the composition on

top of one of the fireplaces which represents the battle-

ments of a castlewith the defenders (little figures be-

tween the crenellations) hurling down missiles with a

great deal of fury and expression. It would have been

hard to believe that the man who surrounded himself

with these friendly and humorous devices had been

guilty of such wrong-doing as to call down the heavy

hand of justice.

It is a curious facthoweverthat Bourges contains

legal associations of a purer kind than the prosecution

of Jacques Coeurwhichin spite of the rehabilitations

of historycan hardly be said yet to have terminated

inasmuch as the law-courts of the city are installed in

his quondam residence. At a short distance from it

stands the Hotel Cujasone of the curiosities of Bourges

and the habitation for many years of the great juris-

consult who revived in the sixteenth century the study

of the Roman lawand professed it during the close

of his life in the university of the capital of Berry.

The learned Cujas hadin spite of his sedentary pur-

suitsled a very wandering life; he died at Bourges in

the year 1590. Sedentary pursuits is perhaps not

exactly what I should call themhaving read in the

"Biographie Universelle" (sole source of my knowledge

of the renowned Cujacius) that his usual manner of

study was to spread himself on his belly on the floor.

He did not sit downhe lay down; and the "Biographie

Universelle" has (for so grave a work) an amusing pic-

ture of the shortfatuntidy scholar dragging himself

_a plat ventre_ across his roomfrom one pile of books

to the other. The house in which these singular gym-

nastics took placeand which is now the headquarters

of the gendarmerieis one of the most picturesque at

Bourges. Dilapidated and discoloredit has a charm-

ing Renaissance front. A high wall separates it from

the streetand on this wallwhich is divided by a

large open gatewayare perched two overhanging

turrets. The open gateway admits you to the court

beyond which the melancholy mansion erects itself

decorated also with turretswith fine old windowsand

with a beautiful tone of faded red brick and rusty

stone. It is a charming encounter for a provincial by-

street; one of those accidents in the hope of which

the traveller with a propensity for sketching (whether

on a little paper block or on the tablets of his brain)

decides to turn a corner at a venture. A brawny gen-

darmein his shirt-sleeveswas polishing his boots in

the court; an ancientknotted vineforlorn of its

clustershung itself over a doorwayand dropped its

shadow on the rough grain of the wall. The place

was very sketchable. I am sorry to sayhoweverthat

it was almost the only "bit." Various other curious

old houses are supposed to exist at Bourgesand I

wandered vaguely about in search of them. But I had

little successand I ended by becoming sceptical.

Bourges is a _ville de province_ in the full force of the

termespecially as applied invidiously. The streets

narrowtortuousand dirtyhave very wide cobble-

stones; the houses for the most part are shabbywith-

out local color. The look of things is neither modern

nor antique- a kind of mediocrity of middle age.

There is an enormous number of blank walls- walls

of gardensof courtsof private houses - that avert

themselves from the streetas if in natural chagrin at

there being so little to see. Round about is a dull

flatfeatureless countryon which the magnificent

cathedral looks down. There is a peculiar dulness

and ugliness in a French town of this typewhichI

must immediately addis not the most frequent one.

In Italyeverything has a charma colora grace; even

desolation and _ennui_. In England a cathedral city

may be sleepybut it is pretty sure to be mellow. In

the course of six weeks spent _en province_howeverI

saw few places that had not more expression than

Bourges.

I went back to the cathedral; thatafter allwas

a feature. Then I returned to my hotelwhere it was

time to dineand sat downas usualwith the _commis-

voyageurs_who cut their bread on their thumb and

partook of every course; and after this repast I re-

paired for a while to the cafewhich occupied a part

of the basement of the inn and opened into its court.

This cafe was a friendlyhomelysociable spotwhere

it seemed the habit of the master of the establishment

to _tutoyer_ his customersand the practice of the cus-

tomers to _tutoyer_ the waiter. Under these circum-

stances the waiter of course felt justified in sitting

down at the same table with a gentleman who had

come in and asked him for writing materials. He

served this gentleman with a horrible little portfolio

covered with shiny black cloth and accompanied with

two sheets of thin paperthree wafersand one of

those instruments of torture which pass in France for

pens- these being the utensils invariably evoked by

such a request; and thenfinding himself at leisure

he placed himself opposite and began to write a letter

of his own. This trifling incident reminded me afresh

that France is a democratic country. I think I re-

ceived an admonition to the same effect from the free

familiar way in which the game of whist was going

on just behind me. It was attended with a great deal

of noisy pleasantryflavored every now and then with

a dash of irritation. There was a young man of whom

I made a note; he was such a beautiful specimen of

his class. Sometimes he was very facetiouschatter-

ingjokingpunningshowing off; thenas the game

went on and he lostand had to pay the _consomma-

tion_he dropped his amiabilityslanged his partner

declared he wouldn't play any moreand went away

in a fury. Nothing could be more perfect or more

amusing than the contrast. The manner of the

whole affair was such asI apprehendone would not

have seen among our English-speaking people; both

the jauntiness of the first phase and the petulance of

the second. To hold the balance straighthowever

I may remark that if the men were all fearful "cads"

they werewith their cigarettes and their inconsistency

less heavyless brutalthan our dear English-speaking

cad; just as the bright little cafe where a robust mater-

familiasdoling out sugar and darning a stockingsat

in her place under the mirror behind the _comptoir_

was a much more civilized spot than a British public-

houseor a "commercial room" with pipes and whiskey

or even than an American saloon.

 

 

XIII.

It is very certain that when I left Tours for Le

Mans it was a journey and not an excursion; for I

had no intention of coming back. The questionin-

deedwas to get away- no easy matter in Francein

the early days of Octoberwhen the whole _jeunesse_

of the country is going back to school. It is accom-

paniedapparentlywith parents and grandparents

and it fills the trains with little pale-faced _lyceens_

who gaze out of the windows with a longinglingering

airnot unnatural on the part of small members of a

race in which life is intensewho are about to be

restored to those big educative barracks that do such

violence to our American appreciation of the oppor-

tunities of boyhood. The train stopped every five

minutes; butfortunatelythe country was charming-

hilly and boskyeminently good-humoredand dotted

here and there with a smart little chateau. The old

capital of the province of the Mainewhich has given

its name to a great American Stateis a fairly interest-

ing townbut I confess that I found in it less than I

expected to admire. My expectations had doubtless

been my own fault; there is no particular reason why

Le Mans should fascinate. It stands upon a hill

indeed- a much better hill than the gentle swell of

Bourges. This hillhoweveris not steep in all direc-

tions; from the railwayas I arrivedit was not even

perceptible. Since I am making comparisonsI may

remark thaton the other handthe Boule d'Or at Le

Mans is an appreciably better inn than the Boule d'Or

at Bourges. It looks out upon a small market-place

which has a certain amount of character and seems

to be slipping down the slope on which it liesthough

it has in the middle an ugly _halle_or circular market-

houseto keep it in position. At Le Mansas at

Bourgesmy first business was with the cathedralto

whichI lost no time in directing my steps. It suf-

fered by juxta-position to the great church I had seen

a few days before; yet it has some noble features. It

stands on the edge of the eminence of the townwhich

falls straight away on two sides of itand makes a

striking massbristling behindas you see it from

belowwith rather small but singularly numerous flying

buttresses. On my way to it I happened to walk

through the one street which contains a few ancient

and curious houses- a very crooked and untidy lane

of really mediaeval aspecthonored with the denomina-

tion of the Grand' Rue. Here is the house of Queen

Berengaria- an absurd nameas the building is of a

date some three hundred years later than the wife of

Richard Coeur de Lionwho has a sepulchral monu-

ment in the south aisle of the cathedral. The structure

in question - very sketchableif the sketcher could get

far enough away from it - is an elaborate little dusky

facadeoverhanging the streetornamented with panels

of stonewhich are covered with delicate Renaissance

sculpture. A fat old womanstanding in the door of

a small grocer's shop next to it- a most gracious old

womanwith a bristling moustache and a charming

manner- told me what the house wasand also in-

dicated to me a rotten-looking brown wooden mansion

in the same streetnearer the cathedralas the Maison

Scarron. The author of the "Roman Comique" and

of a thousand facetious versesenjoyed for some years

in the early part of his lifea benefice in the cathedral

of Le Manswhich gave him a right to reside in one

of the canonical houses. He was rather an odd canon

but his history is a combination of oddities. He wooed

the comic muse from the arm-chair of a crippleand

in the same position - he was unable even to go down

on his knees - prosecuted that other suit which made

him the first husband of a lady of whom Louis XIV.

was to be the second. There was little of comedy in

the future Madame de Maintenon; thoughafter all

there was doubtless as much as there need have been

in the wife of a poor man who was moved to compose

for his tomb such an epitaph as thiswhich I quote

from the "Biographie Universelle":-

"Celui qui cy maintenant dort

Fit plus de pitie que d'envie

Et souffrit mille fois la mort

Avant que de perdre la vie.

Passantne fais icy de bruit

Et garde bien qu'il ne s'eveille

Car voicy la premiere nuit

Que le Pauvre Scarron sommeille."

 

 

There is rather a quietsatisfactory _place_ in front

of the cathedralwith some good "bits" in it; notably

a turret at the angle of one of the towersand a very

finesteep-roofed dwellingbehind low wallswhich it

overlookswith a tall iron gate. This house has two

or three little pointed towersa bigblackprecipitous

roofand a general air of having had a history. There

are houses which are scenesand there are houses

which are only houses. The trouble with the domestic

architecture of the United States is that it is not

scenicthank Heaven! and the good fortune of an old

structure like the turreted mansion on the hillside of

Le Mans is that it is not simply a house. It is a per-

sonas it wereas well. It would be wellindeedif

it might have communicated a little of its personality

to the front of the cathedralwhich has none of its

own. Shabbyrustyunfinishedthis front has a

romanesque portalbut nothing in the way of a tower.

One sees from withoutat a glancethe peculiarity of

the church- the disparity between the romanesque

navewhich is small and of the twelfth centuryand

the immense and splendid transepts and choirof a

period a hundred years later. Outsidethis end of

the church rises far above the navewhich looks merely

like a long porch leading to itwith a small and curious

romanesque porch in its own south flank. The transepts

shallow but very loftydisplay to the spectators in the

_place_ the reach of their two clere-story windowswhich

occupyabovethe whole expanse of the wall. The

south transept terminates in a sort of towerwhich is

the only one of which the cathedral can boast. Within

the effect of the choir is superb; it is a church in it-

selfwith the nave simply for a point of view. As I

stood thereI read in my Murray that it has the stamp

of the date of the perfection of pointed Gothicand I

found nothing to object to the remark. It suffers little

by confrontation with Bourgesandtaken in itself

seems to me quite as fine. A passage of double aisles

surrounds itwith the arches that divide them sup-

ported on very thick round columnsnot clustered.

There are twelve chapels in this passageand a charm-

ing little lady chapelfilled with gorgeous old glass.

The sustained height of this almost detached choir is

very noble; its lightness and graceits soaring sym-

metrycarry the eye up to places in the air from

which it is slow to descend. Like Tourslike Chartres

like Bourges (apparently like all the French cathedrals

and unlike several English ones) Le Mans is rich in

splendid glass. The beautiful upper windows of the

choir makefar alofta sort of gallery of pictures

blooming with vivid color. It is the south transept

that contains the formless image - a clumsy stone

woman lying on her back - which purports to represent

Queen Berengaria aforesaid.

The view of the cathedral from the rear isas usual

very fine. A small garden behind it masks its base;

but you descend the hill to a large _place de foire_ad-

jacent to a fine old pubic promenade which is known

as Les Jacobinsa sort of miniature Tuilerieswhere I

strolled for a while in rectangular alleysdestitute of

herbageand received a deeper impression of vanished

things. The cathedralon the pedestal of its hilllooks

considerably farther than the fair-ground and the

Jacobinsbetween the rather bare poles of whose

straightly planted trees you may admire it at a con-

venient distance. I admired it till I thought I should

remember it (better than the event has proved)and

then I wandered away and looked at another curious

old churchNotre-Dame-de-la-Couture. This sacred

edifice made a picture for ten minutesbut the picture

has faded now. I reconstruct a yellowish-brown facade

and a portal fretted with early sculptures; but the

details have gone the way of all incomplete sensations.

After you have stood awhile in the choir of the

cathedralthere is no sensation at Le Mans that goes

very far. For some reason not now to be tracedI

had looked for more than this. I think the reason

was to some extent simply in the name of the place;

for nameson the wholewhether they be good reasons

or notare very active ones. Le Mansif I am not

mistakenhas a sturdyfeudal sound; suggests some-

thing dark and squarea vision of old ramparts and

gates. Perhaps I had been unduly impressed by the

factaccidentally revealed to methat Henry II.first

of the English Plantagenetswas born there. Of course

it is easy to assure one's self in advancebut does it

not often happen that one had rather not be assured?

There is a pleasure sometimes in running the risk of

disappointment. I took minesuch as it wasquietly

enoughwhile I sat before dinner at the door of one

of the cafes in the market-place with a _bitter-et-curacao_

(invaluable pretext at such an hour!) to keep me com-

pany. I remember that in this situation there came

over me an impression which both included and ex-

cluded all possible disappointments. The afternoon

was warm and still; the air was admirably soft. The

good Manceauxin little groups and pairswere seated

near me; my ear was soothed by the fine shades of

French enunciationby the detached syllables of that

perfect tongue. There was nothing in particular in

the prospect to charm; it was an average French view.

Yet I felt a charma kind of sympathya sense of the

completeness of French life and of the lightness and

brightness of the social airtogether with a desire to

arrive at friendly judgmentsto express a positive

interest. I know not why this transcendental mood

should have descended upon me then and there; but

that idle half-hour in front of the cafein the mild

October afternoonsuffused with human soundsis

perhaps the most definite thing I brought away from

Le Mans.

 

 

XIV.

I am shocked at findingjust after this noble de-

claration of principles that in a little note-book which

at that time I carried about with methe celebrated

city of Angers is denominated a "sell." I reproduce

this vulgar term with the greatest hesitationand only

because it brings me more quickly to my point. This

point is that Angers belongs to the disagreeable class

of old towns that have beenas the English say"done

up." Not the oldnessbut the newnessof the place

is what strikes the sentimental tourist to-dayas he

wanders with irritation along second-rate boulevards

looking vaguely about him for absent gables. "Black

Angers" in shortis a victim of modern improvements

and quite unworthy of its admirable name- a name

whichlike that of Le Manshad always hadto my

eyesa highly picturesque value. It looks particularly

well on the Shakspearean page (in "King John")where

we imagine it uttered (though such would not have

been the utterance of the period) with a fine old in-

sular accent. Angers figures with importance in early

English history: it was the capital city of the Plantagenet

racehome of that Geoffrey of Anjou who marriedas

second husbandthe Empress Mauddaughter of

Henry I. and competitor of Stephenand became father

of Henry II.first of the Plantagenet kingsbornas we

have seenat Le Mans. The facts create a natural

presumption that Angers will look historic; I turned

them over in my mind as I travelled in the train from

Le Mansthrough a country that was really prettyand

looked more like the usual English than like the usual

French scenerywith its fields cut up by hedges and

a considerable rotundity in its trees. On my way

from the station to the hotelhoweverit became plain

that I should lack a good pretext for passing that night

at the Cheval Blanc; I foresaw that I should have con-

tented myself before th e end of the day. I remained

at the White Horse only long enough to discover that

it was an exceptionally good provincial innone of the

best that I encountered during six weeks spent in

these establishments.

"Stupidly and vulgarly rnodernized" - that is an-

other phrase from my note-bookand note-books are

not obliged to be reasonable. "There are some narrow

and tortuous-streetswith a few curious old houses" - I

continue to quote; "there is a castleof which the ex-

terior is most extraordinaryand there is a cathedral

of moderate interest. It is fair to say that the

Chateau d'Angers is by itself worth a pilgrimage; the

only drawback is that you have seen it in a quarter of

an hour. You cannot do more than look at itand

one good look does your business. It has no beauty

no graceno detailnothing that charms or detains

you; it is simply very old and very big- so big and

so old that this simple impression is enoughand it

takes its place in your recollections as a perfect specimen

of a superannuated stronghold. It stands at one end

of the townsurrounded by a hugedeep moatwhich

originally contained the waters of the Mainenow

divided from it by a quay. The water-front of Angers

is poor- wanting in color and in movement; and there

is always an effect of perversity in a town lying near a

great river andyet not upon it. The Loire is a few

miles off; but Angers contents itself with a meagre

affluent of that stream. The effect was naturally much

better when the hugedark mass of the castlewith its

seventeen prodigious towersrose out of the protecting

flood. These towers are of tremendous girth and soli-

dity; they are encircled with great bandsor hoopsof

white stoneand are much enlarged at the base.

Between them hang vast curtains of infinitely old-look-

ing masonryapparently a dense conglomeration of

slatethe material of which the town was originally

built (thanks to rich quarries in the neighborhood)

and to which it owed its appellation of the Black.

There are no windowsno aperturesand to-day no

battlements nor roofs. These accessories were removed

by Henry III.so thatin spite of its grimness and

blacknessthe place has not even the interest of look-

ing like a prison; it beingas I supposedthe essence

of a prison not to be open to the sky. The only

features of the enormous structure are the blacksombre

stretches and protrusions of wallthe effect of which

on so large a scaleis strange and striking. Begun by

Philip Augustusand terminated by St. Louisthe

Chateau d'Angers has of course a great deal of history.

The luckless Fouquetthe extravagant minister of

finance of Louis XIV.whose fall from the heights of

grandeur was so sudden and completewas confined

here in 1661just after his arrestwhich had taken

place at Nantes. HerealsoHuguenots and Vendeans

have suffered effective captivity.

I walked round the parapet which protects the

outer edge of the moat (it is all up hilland the moat

deepens and deepens)till I came to the entrance

which faces the townand which is as bare and

strong as the rest. The concierge took me into the

court; but there was nothing to see. The place is

used as a magazine of ammunitionand the yard con-

tains a multitude of ugly buildings. The only thing

to do is to walk round the bastions for the view; but

at the moment of my visit the weather was thickand

the bastions began and ended with themselves. So I

came out and took another look at the bigblack ex-

teriorbuttressed with white-ribbed towersand per-

ceived that a desperate sketcher might extract a

picture from itespecially if he were to bring inas

they saythe little black bronze statue of the good

King Rene (a weak production of David d'Angers)

whichstanding within sightornaments the melancholy

faubourg. He would do much betterhoweverwith

the very striking old timbered house (I suppose of the

fifteenth century) which is called the Maison d'Adam

and is easily the first specimen at Angers of the

domestic architecture of the past. This admirable

housein the centre of the towngabledelaborately

timberedand much restoredis a really imposing

monument. The basement is occupied by a linen-

draperwho flourishes under the auspicious sign of

the Mere de Famille; and above his shop the tall

front rises in five overhanging stories. As the house

occupies the angle of a little _place_this front is double

and the black beams and wooden supportsdisplayed

over a large surface and carved and interlacedhave

a high picturesqueness. The Maison d'Adam is quite

in the grand styleand I am sorry to say I failed to

learn what history attaches to its name. If I spoke just

above of the cathedral as "moderate" I suppose I

should beg its pardon; for this serious charge was

probably prompted by the fact that it consists only of

a navewithout side aisles. A little reflection now

convinces me that such a form is a distinction; and

indeedI find it mentionedrather inconsistentlyin

my note-booka little further onas "extremely simple

and grand." The nave is spoken of in the same

volume as "bigseriousand Gothic" though the choir

and transepts are noted as very shallow. But it is not

denied that the air of the whole thing is original and

striking; and it would therefore appearafter allthat

the cathedral of Angersbuilt during the twelfth and

thirteenth centuriesis a sufficiently honorable church;

the more that its high west frontadorned with a very

primitive Gothic portalsupports two elegant tapering

spiresbetween whichunfortunatelyan ugly modern

pavilion has been inserted.

I remember nothing else at Angers but the curious

old Cafe Serinwhereafter I had had my dinner at

the innI went and waited for the train whichat nine

o'clock in the eveningwas to convey mein a couple

of hoursto Nantes- an establishment remarkable for

its great size and its air of tarnished splendorits

brown gilding and smoky frescosas also for the fact

that it was hidden away on the second floor of an un-

assuming house in an unilluminated street. It hardly

seemed a place where you would drop in; but when

once you had found itit presented itselfwith the

cathedralthe castleand the Maison d'Adamas one

of the historical monuments of Angers.

 

 

XV.

If I spent two nights at Nantesit was for reasons

of convenience rather than of sentiment; thoughin-

deedI spent them in a big circular room which had

a statelyloftylast-century look- a look that con-

soled me a little for the whole place being dirty. The

highold-fashionedinn (it had a hugewindy _porte-

cochere_and you climbed a vast black stone staircase

to get to your room) looked out on a dull squaresur-

rounded with other tall housesand occupied on one

side by the theatrea pompous buildingdecorated

with columns and statues of the muses. Nantes be-

longs to the class of towns which are always spoken

of as "fine" and its position near the mouth of the

Loire gives itI believemuch commercial movement.

It is a spaciousrather regular citylookingin the

parts that I traversedneither very fresh nor very

venerable. It derives its principal character from the

handsome quays on the Loirewhich are overhung

with tall eighteenth-century houses (very numerous

tooin the other streets)- houseswith big _entresols_

marked by arched windowsclassic pedimentsbalcony-

rails of fine old iron-work. These features exist in

still better form at Bordeaux; butputting Bordeaux

asideNantes is quite architectural. The view up and

down the quays has the coolneutral tone of color

that one finds so often in French water-side places-

the bright grayness which is the tone of French land-

scape art. The whole city has rather a grandor at

least an eminently well-established air. During a day

passed in it of course I had time to go to the Musee;

the more so that I have a weakness for provincial

museums- a sentiment that depends but little on the

quality of the collection. The pictures may be bad

but the place is often curious; andindeedfrom bad

picturesin certain moods of the mindthere is a

degree of entertainment to be derived. If they are

tolerably old they are often touching; but they must

have a relative antiquityfor I confess I can do no-

thing with works of art of which the badness is of

receat origin. The coolstillempty chambers in

which indifferent collections are apt to be preserved

the red brick tilesthe diffused lightthe musty odor

the mementos around you of dead fashionsthe snuffy

custodian in a black skull capwho pulls aside a

faded curtain to show you the lustreless gem of the

museum- these things have a mild historical quality

and the sallow canvases after all illustrate something.

Many of those in the museum of Nantes illustrate the

taste of a successful warrior; having been bequeathed

to the city by Napoleon's marshalClarke (created

Duc de Feltre). In addition to these there is the

usual number of specimens of the contemporary French

schoolculled from the annual Salons and presented

to the museum by the State. Wherever the traveller

goesin Francehe is reminded of this very honorable

practice- the purchase by the Government of a cer-

tain number of "pictures of the year" which are pre-

sently distributed in the provinces. Governments suc-

ceed each other and bid for success by different

devices; but the "patronage of art" is a plankas we

should say herein every platform. The works of art

are often ill-selected- there is an official taste which

you immediately recognize- but the custom is essen-

tially liberaland a government which should neglect

it would be felt to be painfully common. The only

thing in this particular Musee that I remember is a

fine portrait of a womanby Ingres- very flat and

Chinesebut with an interest of line and a great deal

of style.

There is a castle at Nantes which resembles in

some degree that of Angersbut haswithoutmuch

less of the impressiveness of great sizeandwithin

much more interest of detail. The court contains the

remains of a very fine piece of late Gothica tall ele-

gant building of the sixteenth century. The chateau

is naturally not wanting in history. It was the residence

of the old Dukes of Brittanyand was broughtwith

the rest of the provinceby the Duchess Annethe last

representative of that raceas her dowryto Charles

VIII. I read in the excellent hand-book of M. Joanne

that it has been visited by almost every one of the

kings of Francefrom Louis XI. downward; and also

that it has served as a place of sojourn less voluntary

on the part of various other distinguished persons

from the horrible Merechal de Retzwho in the fifteenth

century was executed at Nantes for the murder of a

couple of hundred young childrensacrificed in abomin-

able ritesto the ardent Duchess of Berrymother of

the Count of Chambordwho was confined there for a

few hours in 1832just after her arrest in a neigh-

boring house. I looked at the house in question - you

may see it from the platform in front of the chateau

- and tried to figure to myself that embarrassing scene.

The duchessafter having unsuccessfully raised the

standard of revolt (for the exiled Bourbons)in the

legitimist Bretagneand being "wanted" as the phrase

isby the police of Louis Philippehad hidden herself

in a small but loyal house at Nanteswhereat the end

of five months of seclusionshe was betrayedfor gold

to the austere M. Guizotby one of her servantsan

Alsatian Jew named Deutz. For many hours before

her capture she had been compressed into an inter-

stice behind a fireplaceand by the time she was

drawn forth into the light she had been ominously

scorched. The man who showed me the castle in-

dicated also another historic spota house with little

_tourelles_on the Quai de la Fossein which Henry IV.

is said to have signed the Edict of Nantes. I am

howevernot in a position to answer for this pedigree.

There is another point in the history of the fine

old houses which command the Loireof whichI sup-

poseone may be tolerably sure; that istheir having

placid as they stand there to-daylooked down on the

horrors of the Terror of 1793the bloody reign of the

monster Carrier and his infamous _noyades_. The most

hideous episode of the Revolution was enacted at

Nanteswhere hundreds of men and womentied to-

gether in coupleswere set afloat upon rafts and sunk

to the bottom of the Loire. The tall eighteenth-century

housefull of the _air noble_in France always reminds

me of those dreadful years- of the street-scenes of the

Revolution. Superficiallythe association is incongru-

ousfor nothing could be more formal and decorous

than the patent expression of these eligible residences.

But whenever I have a vision of prisoners bound on

tumbrels that jolt slowly to the scaffoldof heads car-

ried on pikesof groups of heated _citoyennes_ shaking

their fists at closed coach-windowsI see in the back-

ground the well-ordered features of the architecture of

the period- the clear gray stonethe high pilasters

the arching lines of the _entresol_the classic pediment

the slate-covered attic. There is not much architecture

at Nantes except the domestic. The cathedralwith a

rough west front and stunted towersmakes no im-

pression as you approach it. It is true that it does its

best to recover its reputation as soon as you have

passed the threshold. Begun in 1434 and finished

about the end of the fifteenth centuryas I discover in

Murrayit has a magnificent navenot of great length

but of extraordinary height and lightness. On the

other handit has no choir whatever. There is much

entertainment in France in seeing what a cathedral

will take upon itself to possess or to lack; for it is

only the smaller number that have the full complement

of features. Some have a very fine nave and no choir;

others a very fine choir and no nave. Some have a

rich outside and nothing within; others a very blank

face and a very glowing heart. There are a hundred

possibilities of poverty and wealthand they make the

most unexpected combinations.

The great treasure of Nantes is the two noble se-

pulchral monuments which occupy either transeptand

one of which has (in its nobleness) the rare distinction

of being a production of our own time. On the south

side stands the tomb of Francis II.the last of the

Dukes of Brittanyand of his second wifeMargaret

of Foixerected in 1507 by their daughter Annewhom

we have encountered already at the Chateau de Nantes

where she was born; at Langeaiswhere she married

her first husband; at Amboisewhere she lost him; at

Bloiswhere she married her secondthe "good"

Louis XII.who divorced an impeccable spouse to

make room for herand where she herself died. Trans-

ferred to the cathedral from a demolished convent

this monumentthe masterpiece of Michel Colomb

author of the charming tomb of the children of Charles

VIII. and the aforesaid Annewhich we admired at

Saint Gatien of Toursis one of the most brilliant

works of the French Renaissance. It has a splendid

effectand is in perfect preservation. A great table of

black marble supports the reclining figures of the duke

and duchesswho lie there peacefully and majestically

in their robes and crownswith their heads each on a

cushionthe pair of which are supportedfrom behind

by threecharming little kneeling angels; at the foot of

the quiet couple are a lion and a greyhoundwith

heraldic devices. At each of the angles of the table

is a large figure in white marble of a woman elaborately

dressedwith a symbolic meaningand these figures

with their contemporary faces and clotheswhich give

them the air of realistic portraitsare truthful and liv-

ingif not remarkably beautiful. Round the sides of

the tomb are small images of the apostles. There is a

kind of masculine completeness in the workand a

certain robustness of taste.

In nothing were the sculptors of the Renaissance

more fortunate than in being in advance of us with

their tombs: they have left us noting to say in regard

to the great final contrast- the contrast between the

immobility of death and the trappings and honors that

survive. They expressed in every way in which it was

possible to express it the solemnityof their conviction

that the Marble image was a part of the personal

greatness of the defunctand the protectionthe re-

demptionof his memory. A modern tombin com-

parisonis a sceptical affair; it insists too little on the

honors. I say this in the face of the fact that one has

only to step across the cathedral of Nantes to stand in

the presence of one of the purest and most touching

of modern tombs. Catholic Brittany has erected in

the opposite transept a monument to one of the most

devoted of her sonsGeneral de Lamoricierethe de-

fender of the Popethe vanquished of Castelfidardo.

This noble workfrom the hand of Paul Duboisone

of the most interesting of that new generation of sculp-

tors who have revived in France an art of which our

overdressed century had begun to despairhas every

merit but the absence of a certain prime feeling. It

is the echo of an earlier tune- an echo with a beauti-

ful cadence. Under a Renaissance canopy of white

marbleelaborately worked with arabesques and che-

rubsin a relief so low that it gives the work a cer-

tain look of being softened and worn by timelies the

body of the Breton soldierwitha crucifix clasped to

his breast and a shroud thrown over his body. At

each of the angles sits a figure in bronzethe two best

of whichrepresenting Charity and Military Courage

had given me extraordinary pleasure when they were

exhibited (in the clay) in the Salon of 1876. They

are admirably castand they have a certain greatness:

the onea serenerobust young motherbeautiful in

line and attitude; the othera lean and vigilant young

manin a helmet that overshadows his serious eyes

resting an outstretched arman admirable military

memberupon the hilt of a sword. These figures con-

tain abundant assurance that M. Paul Dubois has been

attentive to Michael Angelowhom we have all heard

called a splendid example but a bad model. The

visor-shadowed face of his warrior is more or less a

reminiscence of the figure on the tomb of Lorenzo de'

Medici at Florence; but it is doubtless none the worse

for that. The interest of the work of Paul Dubois is

its peculiar seriousnessa kind of moral good faith

which is not the commonest feature of French artand

whichunited as it is in this case with exceeding

knowledge and a remarkable sense of formproduces

an impressionof deep refinement. The whole monu-

ment is a proof of exquisitely careful study; but I am

not sure that this impression on the part of the spec-

tator is altogether a happy one. It explains much of

its great beautyand it also explainsperhapsa little

of a certain weakness. That wordhoweveris scarcely

in place; I only mean that M. Dubois has made a vi-

sible effortwhich has been most fruitful. Simplicity

is not always strengthand our complicated modern

genius contains treasures of intention. This fathomless

modern element is an immense charm on the part of

M. Paul Dubois. I am lost in admiration of the deep

aesthetic experiencethe enlightenment of tastere-

vealed by such work. After thatI only hope that

Giuseppe Garibaldi may have a monument as fair.

 

 

XVI.

To go from Nantes to La Rochelle you travel

straight southwardacross the historic _bocage_ of La

Vendeethe home of royalist bush-fighting. The

countrywhich is exceedingly prettybristles with

copsesorchardshedgesand with trees more spread-

ing and sturdy than the traveller is apt to deem the

feathery foliage of France. It is true that as I pro-

ceeded it flattened out a good dealso that for an

hour there was a vast featureless plainwhich offered

me little entertainment beyond the general impression

that I was approaching the Bay of Biscay (from which

in realityI was yet far distant). As we drew near

La Rochellehoweverthe prospect brightened con-

siderablyand the railway kept its course beside a

charming little canalor canalized riverbordered

with treesand with smallneatbright-coloredand

yet old-fashioned cottages and villaswhich stood

back on the further sidebehind small gardenshedges

painted palingspatches of turf. The whole effect

was Dutch and delightful; and in being delightful

though not in being Dutchit prepared me for the

charms of La Rochellewhich from the moment I

entered it I perceived to be a fascinating little town

a most original mixture of brightness and dulness.

Part of its brightness comes from its being extra-

ordinarily clean- in whichafter allit _is_ Dutch; a

virtue not particularly noticeable at BourgesLe Mans

and Angers. Whenever I go southwardif it be only

twenty milesI begin to look out for the southpre-

pared as I am to find the careless grace of those lati-

tudes even in things of which it maybe said that

they may be south of somethingbut are not southern.

To go from Boston to New York (in this state of

mind) is almost as soft a sensation as descending the

Italian sideof the Alps; and to go from New York to

Philadelphia is to enter a zone of tropical luxuriance

and warmth. Given this absurd dispositionI could

not fail to flatter myselfon reaching La Rochelle

that I was already in the Midiand to perceive in

everythingin the language of the countrythe _ca-

ractere meridional._ Reallya great many things had

a hint of it. For that matterit seems to me that to

arrive in the south at a bound - to wake up thereas

it were - would be a very imperfect pleasure. The

full pleasure is to approach by stages and gradations;

to observe the successive shades of difference by

which it ceases to be the north. These shades are

exceedingly finebut your true south-lover has an eye

for them all. If he perceive them at New York and

Philadelphia- we imagine him boldly as liberated

from Boston- how could he fail to perceive them at

La Rochelle? The streets of this dear little city are

lined with arcades- goodbigstraddling arcades of

stonesuch as befit a land of hot summersand which

recalled to menot to go furtherthe dusky portions

of Bayonne. It containsmoreovera great wide

_place d'armes_which looked for all the world like the

piazza of some dead Italian townemptysunny

grass-grownwith a row of yellow houses overhanging

itan unfrequented cafewith a striped awninga tall

coldfloriduninteresting cathedral of the eighteenth

century on one sideand on the other a shady walk

which forms part of an old rampart. I followed this

walk for some timeunder the stunted treesbeside

the grass-covered bastions; it is very charmingwind-

ing and wanderingalways with trees. Beneath the

rampart is a tidal riverand on the other sidefor a

long distancethe mossy walls of the immense garden

of a seminary. Three hundred years agoLa Rochelle

was the great French stronghold of Protestantism; but

to-day it appears to be a'nursery of Papists.

The walk upon the rampart led me round to one

of the gatesi of the townwhere I found some small

modernfortifications and sundry red-legged soldiers

andbeyond the fortificationsanother shady walk-

a _mail_as the French sayas well as a _champ de

manoeuvre_- on which latter expanse the poor little

red-legs were doing their exercise. It was all very

quiet and very picturesquerather in miniature; and

at once very tidy and a little out of repair. This

howeverwas but a meagre back-view of La Rochelle

or poor side-view at best. There are other gates than

the small fortified aperture just mentioned; one of

theman old gray arch beneath a fine clock-towerI

had passed through on my way from the station.

This picturesque Tour de l'Horloge separates the town

proper from the port; for beyond the old gray arch

the place presents its brightexpressive little face to

the sea. I had a charming walk about the harbor

and along the stone piers and sea-walls that shut it

in. This indeedto take things in their orderwas

after I had had my breakfast (which I took on arriv-

ing) and after I had been to the _hotel de ville_. The

inn had a long narrow garden behind itwith some

very tall trees; and passing through this garden to a

dim and secluded _salle a manger_buried in the heavy

shadeI hadwhile I sat at my repasta feeling of

seclusion which amounted almost to a sense of in-

carceration. I lost this sensehoweverafter I had

paid my billand went out to look for traces of the

famous siegewhich is the principal title of La Rochelle

to renown. I had come thither partly because I

thought it would be interesting to stand for a few

moments in so gallant a spotand partly becauseI

confessI had a curiosity to see what had been the

starting-point of the Huguenot emigrants who founded

the town of New Rochelle in the State of New York

a place in which I had passed certain memorable

hours. It was strange to thinkas I strolled through

the peaceful little portthat these quiet watersduring

the wars of religionhad swelled with a formidable

naval power. The Rochelais had fleets and admirals

and their stout little Protestant bottoms carried de-

fiance up and down.

To say that I found any traces of the siege would

be to misrepresent the taste for vivid whitewash by

which La Rochelle is distinguished to-day. The only

trace is the dent in the marble top of the table on

whichin the _hotel de ville_Jean Guitonthe mayor of

the citybrought down his dagger with an oathwhen

in 1628 the vessels and regiments of Richelieu closed

about it on sea and land. This terrible functionary

was the soul of the resistance; he held out from

February to Octoberin the midst of pestilence and

famine. The whole episode has a brilliant place

among the sieges of history; it has been related a

hundred timesand I may only glance at it and pass.

I limit my ambitionin these light pagesto speaking

of those things of which I have personally received an

impression; and I have no such impression of the

defence of La Rochelle. The hotel de ville is a

pretty little buildingin the style of the Renaissance

of Francis I.; but it has left much of its interest in

the hands of the restorers. It has been "done up"

without mercy; its natural place would be at Rochelle

the New. A sort of battlemented curtainflanked

with turretsdivides it from the street and contains

a low door (a low door in a high wall is always

felicitous)which admits you to an inner courtwhere

you discover the face of the building. It has statues

set into itand is raised upon a very low and very

deep arcade. The principal function of the deferential

old portress who conducts you over the place is to call

your attention to the indented table of Jean Guiton;

but she shows you other objects of interest besides.

The interior is absolutely new and extremely sump-

tuousabounding in tapestriesupholsterymorocco

velvetsatin. This is especially the case with a really

beautiful _grande salle_wheresurrdunded with the

most expensive upholsterythe mayor holds his official

receptions. (So at leastsaid my worthy portress.)

The mayors of La Rochelle appear to have changed a

good deal since the days of the grim Guiton; but

these evidences of municipal splendor are interesting

for the light they throw on French manners. Imagine

the mayor of an English or an American town of

twenty thousand inhabitants holding magisterial soirees

in the town-hall! The said _grande salle_which is un-

changed in form and its larger featuresisI believe

the room in which the Rochelais debated as to whether

they should shut themselves upand decided in the

affirmative. The table and chair of Jean Guiton have

been restoredIike everything elseand are very

elegant and coquettish pieces of furniture- incongruous

relics of a season of starvation and blood. I believe

that Protestantism is somewhat shrunken to-day at La

Rochelleand has taken refuge mainly in. the _haute

societe_ and in a single place of worship. There was

nothing particular to remind me of its supposed austerity

asafter leaving the hotel de villeI walked along the

empty portions and cut out of the Tour de l'Horloge

which I have already mentioned. If I stopped and

looked up at this venerable monumentit was not to

ascertain the hourfor I foresaw that I should have

more time at La Rochelle than I knew what to do

with; but because its highgrayweather-beaten face

was an obvious subject for a sketch.

The little portwhich has two basinsand is ac-

cessible only to vessels of light tonnagehad a certain

gayety and as much local color as you please. Fisher

folk of pictuesque type were strolling aboutmost

of them Bretons; several of the men with handsome

simple facesnot at all brutaland with a splendid

brownness- the golden-brown coloron cheek and

beardthat you see on an old Venetian sail. It was

a squallyshowery daywith sudden drizzles of sun-

shine; rows of rich-toned fishing-smacks were drawn

up along the quays. The harbor is effective to the

eye by reason of three battered old towers whichat

different pointsoverhang it and look infinitely weather-

washed and sea-silvered. The most striking of these

the Tour de la Lanterneis a big gray massof the

fifteenth centuryflanked with turrets and crowned

with a Gothic steeple. I found it was called by the

people of the place the Tour des Quatre Sergents

though I know not what connection it has with the

touching history of the four young sergeants of the

garrison of La Rochellewho were arrested in 1821

as conspirators against the Government of the Bour-

bonsand executedamid general indignationin Paris

in the following year. The quaint little walkwith

its label of Rue sur les Mursto which one ascends

from beside the Grosse Horlogeleads to this curious

Tour de la Lanterne and passes under it. This walk

has the top of the old town-walltoward the seafor

a parapet on one sideand is bordered on the other

with decent but irregular little tenements of fishermen

where brown old womenwhose caps are as white as

if they were paintedseem chiefly in possession. In

this direction there is a very pretty stretch of shore

out of the townthrough the fortifications (which are

Vauban'sby the way); throughalsoa diminutive

public garden or straggling shrubberywhich edges

the water and carries its stunted verdure as far as a

big Etablissernent des Bains. It was too late in the

year to batheand the Etablissement had the bank-

rupt aspect which belongs to such places out of the

season; so I turned my back upon itand gainedby

a circuit in the course of which there were sundry

water-side items to observethe other side of the

cheery little portwhere there is a long breakwater

and a still longer sea-wallon which I walked awhile

to inhale the strongsalt breath of the Bay of Biscay.

La Rochelle servesin the months of July and August

as a _station de bains_ for a modest provincial society;

andputting aside the question of innsit must be

charming on summer afternoons.

 

 

XVII.

It is an injustice to Poitiers to approach her by

nightas I did some three hours after leaving La

Rochelle; for what Poitiers has of bestas they would

say at Poitiersis the appearance she presents to the

arriving stranger who puts his head out of the window

of the train. I gazed into the gloom from such an

aperture before we got into the stationfor I re-

membered the impression received on another occa-

sion; but I saw nothing save the universal night

spotted here and there with an ugly railway lamp.

It was only as I departedthe following daythat I

assured myself that Poitiers still makes something of

the figure she ought on the summit of her consider-

able bill. I have a kindness for any little group of

towersany cluster of roofs and chimneysthat lift

themselves from an eminence over which a long road

ascends in zigzags; such a picture creates for the mo-

ment a presumption that you are in Italyand even

leads you to believe that if you mount the winding

road you will come to an old town-wallan expanse

of creviced brownnessand pass under a gateway sur-

mounted by the arms of a mediaeval despot. Why

I should find it a pleasurein Franceto imagine my-

self in Italyis more than I can say; the illusion has

never lasted long enough to be analyzed. From the

bottom of its perch Poitiers looks large and high;

and indeedthe evening I reached itthe interminiable

climb of the omnibus of the hotel I had selected

which I found at the stationgave me the measure of

its commanding position. This hotel"magnifique

construction ornee de statues" as the Guide-Joanne

usually so reticenttakes the trouble to announcehas

an omnibusandI supposehas statuesthough I

didn't perceive them; but it has very little else save

immemorial accumulations of dirt. It is magnificent

if you willbut it is not even relatively proper; and

a dirty inn has always seemed to me the dirtiest of

human things- it has so many opportunities to betray

itself.

Poiters covers a large spaceand is as crooked

and straggling as you please; but these advantages are

not accompanied with any very salient features or any

great wealth of architecture. Although there are few

picturesque houseshoweverthere are two or three

curious old churches. Notre Dame la Grandein the

market-placea small romanesque structure of the

twelfth centuryhas a most interesting and venerable

exterior. Composedlike all the churches of Poitiers

of a light brown stone with a yellowish tingeit is

covered with primitive but ingenious sculpturesand is

really an impressive monument. Withinit has lately

been daubed over with the most hideous decorative

painting that was ever inflicted upon passive pillars

and indifferent vaults. This battered yet coherent

little edifice has the touching look that resides in

everything supremely old: it has arrived at the age at

which such things cease to feel the years; the waves

of time have worn its edges to a kind of patient dul-

ness; there is something mild and smoothlike the

stillnessthe deafnessof an octogenarianeven in its

rudeness of ornamentand it has become insensible

to differences of a century or two. The cathedral

interested me much less than Our Lady the Great

and I have not the spirit to go into statistics about it.

It is not statistical to say that the cathedral stands

half-way down the hill of Poitiersin a quiet and

grass-grown _place_with an approach of crooked lanes

and blank garden-wallsand that its most striking

dimension is the width of its facade. This width is

extraordinarybut it failssomehowto give nobleness

to the edificewhich looks within (Murray makes the

remark) like a large public hall. There are a nave

and two aislesthe latter about as high as the nave;

and there are some very fearful modern pictures

which you may see much better than you usually see

those specimens of the old masters that lurk in glow-

ing side-chapelsthere being no fine old glass to dif-

fuse a kindly gloom. The sacristan of the cathedral

showed me something much better than all this bright

bareness; he led me a short distance out of it to the

small Temple de Saint-Jeanwhich is the most curious

object at Poitiers. It is an early Christian chapel

one of the earliest in France; originallyit would seem

- that isin the sixth or seventh century- a bap-

tisterybut converted into a church while the Christian

era was still comparatively young. The Temple de

Saint-Jean is therefore a monument even more vener-

able than Notre Dame la Grandeand that numbness

of age which I imputed to Notre Dame ought to reside

in still larger measure in its crude and colorless little

walls. I call them crudein spite of their having

been baked through by the centuriesonly because

although certain rude arches and carvings are let

into themand they are surmounted at either end with

a small gablethey have (so far as I can remember)

little fascination of surface. Notre Dame is still ex-

pressivestill pretends to be alive; but the Temple

has delivered its messageand is completely at rest.

It retains a kind of atriumon the level of the street

from which you descend to the original floornow un-

coveredbut buried for years under a false bottom.

A semicircular apse wasapparently at the time of its

conversion into a churchthrown out from the east

wall. In the middle is the cavity of the old baptismal

font. The walls and vaults are covered with traces

of extremely archaic frescosattributedI believeto

the twelfth century. These vaguegauntstaring

fragments of figures areto a certain extenta reminder

of some of the early Christian churches in Rome; they

even faintly recalled to me the great mosaics of

Ravenna. The Temple de Saint-Jean has neither the

antiquity nor the completeness of those extraordinary

monumentsnearly the most impressive in Europe;

butas one may sayit is very well for Poitiers.

Not far from itin a lonely corner which was ani-

mated for the moment by the vociferations of several

oldwomen who were selling taperspresumably for

the occasion of a particular devotionis the graceful

romanesque church erected in the twelfth century to

Saint Radegonde- a lady who found means to be a

saint even in the capacity of a Merovingian queen.

It bears a general resemblance to Notre Dame la

Grandeandas I remember itis corrugated in some-

what the same manner with porous-looking carvings;

but I confess that what I chiefly recollect is the row

of old women sitting in front of iteach with a tray

of waxen tapers in her lapand upbraiding me for

my neglect of the opportunity to offer such a tribute to

the saint. I know not whether this privilege is oc-

casional or constant; within the church there was no

appearance of a festivaland I see that the name-

day of Saint Radegonde occurs in Augustso that the

importunate old women sit there alwaysperhapsand

deprive of its propriety the epithet I just applied to

this provincial corner. In spite of the old women

howeverI suspect that the place is lonely; and in-

deed it is perhaps the old women that have made the

desolation.

The lion of Poitiersin the eyes of the nativesis

doubtless the Palais de Justicein the shadow of which

the statue-guarded hoteljust mentionederects itself;

and the gem of the court-housewhich has a prosy

modern frontwith pillars and a high flight of steps

is the curious _salle des pas perdus_or central hallout

of which the different tribunals open. This is a

feature of every French court-houseand seems the

result of a conviction that a palace of justice - the

French deal in much finer names than we - should be

in some degree palatial. The great hall at Poitiers

has a long pedigreeas its walls date back to the

twelfth centuryand its open wooden roofas well as

the remarkable trio of chimney-pieces at the right end

of the room as you enterto the fifteenth. The three

tall fireplacesside by sidewith a delicate gallery

running along the top of themconstitute the originality

of this ancient chamberand make one think of the

groups that must formerly have gathered there- of

all the wet boot-solesthe trickling doubletsthe

stiffened fingersthe rheumatic shanksthat must have

been presented to such an incomparable focus of

heat. To-dayI am afraidthese mighty hearts are

forever cold; justice it probably administered with the

aid of a modern _calorifere_and the walls of the palace

are perforated with regurgitating tubes. Behind and

above the gallery that surmounts the three fireplaces

are high Gothic windowsthe tracery of which masks

in some sortthe chimneys; and in each angle of this

and of the room to the right and left of the trio of

chimneysis all open-work spiral staircaseascending

to - I forget where; perhaps to the roof of the edifice.

This whole side of the _salle_ is very lordlyand seems

to express an unstinted hospitalityto extend the

friendliest of all invitationsto bid the whole world

come and get warm. It was the invention of John

Duke of Berry and Count of Poitouabout 1395. I

give this information on the authority of the Guide-

Joannefrom which source I gather much other curious

learning; for instancethat it was in this building

when it had surely a very different frontthat Charles VII.

was proclaimed kingin 1422; and that here Jeanne

Darc was subjectedin 1429to the inquisition of

certain doctors and matrons.

The most charming thing at Poitiers is simply the

Promenade de Blossac- a small public garden at one

end of the flat top of the hill. It has a happy look

of the last century (having been arranged at that

period)and a beautiful sweep of view over the sur-

rounding countryand especially of the course of the

little river Clainwhich winds about a part of the base

of the big mound of Poitiers. The limit of this dear

little garden is formedon the side that turns away

from the townby the rampart erected in the fourteenth

centuryand by its big semicircular bastions. This

rampartof great lengthhas a low parapet; you look

over it at the charming little vegetable-gardens with

which the base of the hill appears exclusively to be

garnished. The whole prospect is delightfulespecially

the details of the part just under the wallsat the end

of the walk. Here the river makes a shining twist

which a painter might have inventedand the side of

the hill is terraced into several ledges- a sort of

tangle of small blooming patches and little pavillions

with peaked roofs and green shutters. It is idle to

attempt to reproduce all this in words; it should be

reproduced only in water-colors. The readerhow-

everwill already have remarked that disparity in

these ineffectual pageswhich are pervaded by the

attempt to sketch without a palette or brushes. He will

doubtlessalsobe struck with the grovelling vision

whichon such a spot as the ramparts of Poitiers

peoples itself with carrots and cabbages rather than

with images of the Black Prince and the captive king.

I am not sure that in looking out from the Promenade

de Blossac you command the old battle-field; it is

enough that it was not far offand that the great rout

of Frenchmen poured into the walls of Poitiersleav-

ing on the ground a number of the fallen equal to

the little army (eight thousand) of the invader. I did

think of the battle. I wonderedrather helplessly

where it had taken place; and I came away (as the

reader will see from the preceding sentence) without

finding out. This indifferencehoweverwas a result

rather of a general dread of military topography than

of a want of admiration of this particular victory

which I have always supposed to be one of the most

brilliant on record. IndeedI should be almost

ashamedand very much at a lossto say what light

it was that this glorious day seemed to me to have

left forever on the horizonand why the very name of

the place had always caused my blood gently to tingle.

It is carrying the feeling of race to quite inscrutable

lengths when a vague American permits himself an

emotion because more than five centuries agoon

French soilone rapacious Frenchman got the better

of another. Edward was a Frenchman as well as

Johnand French were the cries that urged each of

the hosts to the fight. French is the beautiful motto

graven round the image of the Black Princeas he

lies forever at rest in the choir of Canterbury: _a la

mort ne pensai-je mye_. Neverthelessthe victory of

Poitiers declines to lose itself in these considerations;

the sense of it is a part of our heritagethe joy of it

a part of our imaginationand it filters down through

centuries and migrations till it titillates a New Yorker

who forgets in his elation that he happens at that

moment to be enjoying the hospitality of France. It

was something doneI know not how justlyfor Eng-

land; and what was done in the fourteenth century

for England was done also for New York.

 

 

XVIII.

If it was really for the sake of the Black Prince

that I had stopped at Poitiers (for my prevision of

Notre Dame la Grande and of the little temple of St.

John was of the dimmest)I ought to have stopped at

Angouleme for the sake of David and Eve Sechard

of Lucien de Rubempre and of Madame de Bargeton

who when she wore a _toilette etudiee_ sported a Jewish

turban ornamented with an Eastern broocha scarf of

gauzea necklace of cameosand a robe of "painted

muslin" whatever that may be; treating herself to

these luxuries out of an income of twelve thousand

francs. The persons I have mentioned have not that

vagueness of identity which is the misfortune of his-

torical characters; they are realsupremely realthanks

to their affiliation to the great Balzacwho had invented

an artificial reality which was as much better than the

vulgar article as mock-turtle soup is than the liquid it

emulates. The first time I read "Les Illusions Perdues"

I should have refused to believe that I was capable of

passing the old capital of Anjou without alighting to

visit the Houmeau. But we never know what we are

capable of till we are testedas I reflected when I

found myself looking back at Angouleme from the

window of the trainjust after we had emerged from

the long tunnel that passes under the town. This

tunnel perforates the hill on whichlike Poitiers

Angouleme rears itselfand which gives it an eleva-

tion still greater than that of Poitiers. You may have

a tolerable look at the cathedral without leaving the

railway-carriage; for it stands just above the tunnel

and is exposedmuch foreshortenedto the spectator

below. There is evidently a charming walk round the

plateau of the towncommanding those pretty views

of which Balzac gives an account. But the train

whirled me awayand these are my only impressions.

The truth is that I had no needjust at that moment

of putting myself into communication with Balzac; for

opposite to me in the compartment were a couple of

figures almost as vivid as the actors in the "Comedie

Humaine." One of these was a very genial and dirty

old priestand the other was a reserved and concen-

trated young monk- the latter (by which I mean a

monk of any kind) being a rare sight to-day in France.

This young manindeedwas mitigatedly monastic.

He had a big brown frock and cowlbut he had also

a shirt and a pair of shoes; he hadinstead of a

hempen scourge round his waista stout leather thong

and he carried with him a very profane little valise.

He also readfrom beginning to endthe "Figaro"

which the old priestwho had done the samepresented

to him; and he looked altogether as ifhad he not

been a monkhe would have made a distinguished

officer of engineers. When he was not reading the

"Figaro" he was conning his breviary or answering

with rapid precision and with a deferential but dis-

couraging drynessthe frequent questions of his com-

panionwho was of quite another type. This worthy

had a boredgood-naturedunbuttonedexpansive

look; was talkativerestlessalmost disreputably human.

He was surrounded by a great deal of small luggage

and had scattered over the carriage his bookshis

papersthe fragments of his lunchand the contents

of an extraordinary bagwhich he kept beside him -

a kind of secular reliquary - and which appeared to

contain the odds and ends of a lifetimeas he took

from it successively a pair of slippersan old padlock

(which evidently didn't belong to it)an opera-glassa

collection of almanacsand a large sea-shellwhich he

very carefully examined. I think that if he had not

been afraid of the young monkwho was so much

more serious than hehe would have held the shell to

his earlike a child. Indeedhe was a very childish

and delightful old priestand his companion evidently

thought him most frivolous. But I liked him the better

of the two. He was not a country curebut an eccle-

siastic of some rankwho had seen a good deal both

of the church and of the world; and if I too had not

been afraid of his colleaguewho read the "Figaro"

as seriously as if it had been an encyclicalI should

have entered into conversation with him.

All this while I was getting on to Bordeauxwhere

I permitted myself to spend three days. I am afraid

I have next to nothing to show for themand that

there would be little profit in lingering on this episode

which is the less to be justified as I had in former

years examined Bordeaux attentively enough. It con-

tains a very good hotel- an hotel not good enough

howeverto keep you there for its own sake. For the

restBordeaux is a bigrichhandsomeimposing com-

mercial townwith long rows of fine old eighteenth-

century houseswhich overlook the yellow Garonne. I

have spoken of the quays of Nantes as finebut those

of Bordeaux have a wider sweep and a still more

architectural air. The appearance of such a port as

this makes the Anglo-Saxon tourist blush for the sor-

did water-fronts of Liverpool and New Yorkwhich

with their larger activityhave so much more reason

to be stately. Bordeaux gives a great impression of

prosperous industriesand suggests delightful ideas

images of prune-boxes and bottled claret. As the focus

of distribution of the best wine in the worldit is in-

deed a sacred city- dedicated to the worship of

Bacchus in the most discreet form. The country all

about it is covered with precious vineyardssources of

fortune to their owners and of satisfaction to distant

consumers; and as you look over to the hills beyond

the Garonne you see them in the autumn sunshine

fretted with the rusty richness of this or that immortal

_clos_. But the principal picturewithin the townis that

of the vast curving quaysbordered with houses that

look like the _hotels_ of farmers-general of the last cen-

turyand of the widetawny rivercrowded with ship-

ping and spanned by the largest of bridges. Some of

the types on the water-side are of the sort that arrest

a sketcher- figures of stalwartbrown-faced Basques

such as I had seen of old in great numbers at Biarritz

with their loose circular capstheir white sandalstheir

air of walking for a wager. Never was a toughera

harder race. They are not marinersnor watermen

butputting questions of temper asidethey are the

best possible dock-porters. "Il s'y fait un commerce

terrible" a _douanier_ said to meas he looked up and

down the interminable docks; and such a place has

indeed much to say of the wealththe capacity for

productionof France- the brightcheerfulsmokeless

industry of the wonderful country which produces

above allthe agreeable things of lifeand turns even

its defeats and revolutions into gold. The whole town

has an air of almost depressing opulencean appear-

ance which culminates in the great _place_ which sur-

rounds the Grand-Theatre- an establishment in the

highest styleencircled with columnsarcadeslamps

gilded cafes. One feels it to be a monument to the

virtue of the well-selected bottle. If I had not for-

bidden myself to lingerI should venture to insist on

thisandat the risk of being considered fantastic

trace an analogy between good claret and the best

qualities of the French mind; pretend that there is a

taste of sound Bordeaux in all the happiest manifes-

tations of that fine organand thatcorrespondingly

there is a touch of French reasonFrench complete-

nessin a glass of Pontet-Canet. The danger of such

an excursion would lie mainly in its being so open to

the reader to take the ground from under my feet by

saying that good claret doesn't exist. To this I should

have no reply whatever. I should be unable to tell

him where to find it. I certainly didn't find it at

Bordeauxwhere I drank a most vulgar fluid; and it

is of course notorious that a large part of mankind is

occupied in vainly looking for it. There was a great

pretence of putting it forward at the Exhibition which

was going on at Bordeaux at the time of my visitan

"exposition philomathique" lodged in a collection of

big temporary buildings in the Allees d'Or1eansand

regarded by the Bordelais for the moment as the most

brilliant feature of their city. Here were pyramids of

bottlesmountains of bottlesto say nothing of cases

and cabinets of bottles. The contemplation of these

glittering tiers was of course not very convincing; and

indeed the whole arrangement struck me as a high

impertinence. Good wine is not an optical pleasure

it is an inward emotion; and if there was a chamber

of degustation on the premisesI failed to discover it.

It was not in the search for itindeedthat I spent

half an hour in this bewildering bazaar. Like all

"expositions" it seemed to me to be full of ugly

thingsand gave one a portentous idea of the quantity

of rubbish that man carries with him on his course

through the ages. Such an amount of luggage for a

journey after all so short! There were no individual

objects; there was nothing but dozens and hundreds

all machine-made and expressionlessin spite of the

repeated grimacethe conscious smartnessof "the last

new thing" that was stamped on all of them. The

fatal facilityof the French _article_ becomes at last as

irritating as the refrain of a popular song. The poor

"Indiens Galibis" struck me as really more interesting

- a group of stunted savages who formed one of the

attractions of the placeand were confined in a pen

in the open airwith a rabble of people pushing and

squeezinghanging over the barrierto look at them.

They had no grimaceno pretension to be newno

desire to catch your eye. They looked at their visitors

no more than they looked at each otherand seemed

ancientindifferentterribly bored.

 

 

XIX.

There is much entertainment in the journey through

the widesmiling garden of Gascony; I speak of it as

I took it in going from Bordeaux to Toulouse. It is

the southquite the southand had for the present

narrator its full measure of the charm he is always

determined to find in countries that may even by

courtesy be said to appertain to the sun. It was

moreoverthe happy and genial view of these mild

latitudeswhichHeaven knowsoften have a dreari-

ness of their own; a land teeming with corn and wine

and speaking everywhere (that iseverywhere the phyl-

loxera had not laid it waste) of wealth and plenty.

The road runs constantly near the Garonnetouching

now and then its slowbrownrather sullen streama

sullenness that encloses great dangers and disasters.

The traces of the horrible floods of 1875 have dis-

appearedand the land smiles placidly enough while

it waits for another immersion. Toulouseat the period

I speak ofwas up to its middle (and in places above

it) in waterand looks still as if it had been thoroughly

soaked- as if it had faded and shrivelled with a long

steeping. The fields and copsesof courseare more

forgiving. The railway line follows as well the charm-

ing Canal du Midiwhich is as pretty as a riverbar-

ring the straightnessand here and there occupies the

foregroundbeneath a screen of densetall treeswhile

the Garonne takes a larger and more irregular course

a little way beyond it. People who are fond of canals

- andspeaking from the pictorial standpointI hold

the taste to be most legitimate - will delight in this

admirable specimen of the classwhich has a very in-

teresting historynot to be narrated here. On the

other side of the road (the left)all the wayruns a

longlow line of hillsor rather one continuous hill

or perpetual cliffwith a straight topin the shape of

a ledge of rockwhich might pass for a ruined wall.

I am afraid the reader will lose patience with my habit

of constantly referring to the landscape of Italyas if

that were the measure of the beauty of every other.

Yet I am still more afraid that I cannot apologize for

itand must leave it in its culpable nakedness. It is

an idle habit; but the reader will long since have dis-

covered that this was an idle journeyand that I give

my impressions as they came to me. It came to me

thenthat in all this view there was something trans-

alpine with a greater smartness and freshness and

much less elegance and languor. This impression was

occasionally deepened by the appearanceon the long

eminence of which I speakof a villagea churchor

a chateauwhich seemed to look down at the plain

from over the ruined wall. The perpetual vinesthe

bright-faced flat-roofed housescovered with tilesthe

softness and sweetness of the light and airrecalled

the prosier portions of the Lombard plain. Toulouse

itself has a little of this Italian expressionbut not

enough to give a color to its darkdirtycrooked streets

which are irregular without being eccentricand which

if it were not for thesuperb church of Saint-Sernin

would be quite destitute of monuments.

I have already alluded to the way in which the

names of certain places impose themselves on the

mindand I must add that of Toulouse to the list of

expressive appellations. It certainly evokes a vision

- suggests something highly _meridional_. But the city

it must be confessedis less pictorial than the word

in spite of the Place du Capitolein spite of the quay

of the Garonnein spite of the curious cloister of the

old museum. What justifies the images that are latent

in the word is not the aspectbut the historyof the

town. The hotel to which the well-advised traveller

will repair stands in a corner of the Place du Capitole

which is the heart and centre of Toulouseand which

bears a vague and inexpensive resemblance to Piazza

Castello at Turin. The Capitolwith a wide modern

faceoccupies one sideandlike the palace at Turin

looks across at a high arcadeunder which the hotels

the principal shopsand the lounging citizens are

gathered. The shops are probably better than the

Turinesebut the people are not so good. Stunted

shabbyrather vitiated lookingthey have none of the

personal richness of the sturdy Piedmontese; and I

will take this occasion to remark that in the course of

a journey of several weeks in the French provinces I

rarely encountered a well-dressed male. Can it be

possible the republics are unfavorable to a certain

attention to one's boots and one's beard? I risk this

somewhat futile inquiry because the proportion of mens ???

coats and trousers seemed to be about the same in

France and in my native land. It was notably lower

than in England and in Italyand even warranted

the supposition that most good provincials have their

chin shaven and their boots blacked but once a week.

I hasten to addlest my observation should appear to

be of a sadly superficial characterthat the manners

and conversation of these gentlemen bore (whenever

I had occasion to appreciate them) no relation to the

state of their chin and their boots. They were almost

always marked by an extreme amenity. At Toulouse

there was the strongest temptation to speak to people

simply for the entertainment of hearing them reply

with that curiousthat fascinating accent of the

Languedocwhich appears to abound in final con-

sonantsand leads the Toulousains to say _bien-g_ and

_maison-g_like Englishmen learning French. It is as

if they talked with their teeth rather than with their

tongue. I find in my note-book a phrase in regard to

Toulouse which is perhaps a little ill-naturedbut

which I will transcribe as it stands: "The oddity is

that the place should be both animated and dull. A

bigbrown-skinned populationclattering about in a

flattortuous townwhich produces nothing whatever

that I can discover. Except the church of Saint-

Sernin and the fine old court of the Hotel d'Assezat

Toulouse has no architecture; the houses are for the

most part of brickof a grayish-red colorand have no

particular style. The brick-work of the place is in fact

very poor- inferior to that of the north Italian towns

and quite wanting in the richness of tone which this

homely material takes on in the damp climates of the

north." And then my note-book goes on to narrate a

little visit to the Capitolwhich was soon madeas the

building was in course of repair and half the rooms

were closed.

 

 

XX.

The history of Toulouse is detestablesaturated

with blood and perfidy; and the ancient custom of

the Floral Gamesgrafted upon all sorts of internecine

traditionsseemswith its false pastoralismits mock

chivalryits display of fine feelingsto set off rather

than to mitigate these horrors. The society was

founded in the fourteenth centuryand it has held

annual meetings ever since- meetings at which poems

in the fine old _langue d'oc_ are declaimed and a

blushing laureate is chosen. This business takes place

in the Capitolbefore the chief magistrate of the town

who is known as the _capitoul_and of all the pretty

women as well- a class very numerous at Toulouse.

It was impossible to have a finer person than that of

the portress who pretended to show me the apart-

ments in which the Floral Games are held; a big

brownexpansive womanstill in the prime of life

with a speaking eyean extraordinary assuranceand

a pair of magenta stockingswhich were inserted into

the neatest and most polished little black sabots

and whichas she clattered up the stairs before me

lavishly displaying themmade her look like the

heroine of an _opera-bouffe_. Her talk was all in _n_'s

_g_'sand _d_'sand in mute _e_'s strongly accentedas

_autre__theatre__splendide_- the last being an epithet

she applied to everything the Capitol containedand

especially to a horrible picture representing the famous

Clemence Isaurethe reputed foundress of the poetical

contestpresiding on one of these occasions. I won-

dered whether Clemence Isaure had been anything

like this terrible Toulousaine of to-daywho would

have been a capital figure-head for a floral game.

The lady in whose honor the picture I have just men-

tioned was painted is a somewhat mythical personage

and she is not to be found in the "Biographie Uni-

verselle." She ishowevera very graceful myth; and

if she never existedher statue doesat least- a

shapeless effigytransferred to the Capitol from the

so-called tomb of Clemence in the old church of La

Daurade. The great hall in which the Floral Games

are held was encumbered with scaffoldingsand I

was unable to admire the long series of busts of the

bards who have won prizes and the portraits of all

the capitouls of Toulouse. As a compensation I was

introduced to a big bookcasefilled with the poems

that have been crowned since the days of the trou-

badours (a portentous collection)and the big butcher's

knife with whichaccording to the legendHenry

Duke of Montmorencywho had conspired against the

great cardinal with Gaston of Orleans and Mary de ??????

Mediciwasin 1632beheaded on this spot by the

order of Richelieu. With these objects the interest of

the Capitol was exhausted. The buildingindeed

has not the grandeur of its namewhich is a sort

of promise that the visitor will find some sensible

embodiment of the old Roman tradition that once

flourished in this part of France. It is inferior in

impressiveness to the other three famous Capitols of

the modern world- that of Rome (if I may call the

present structure modern) and those of Washington

and Albany!

The only Roman remains at Toulouse are to be

found in the museum- a very interesting establish-

mentwhich I was condemned to see as imperfectly

as I had seen the Capitol. It was being rearranged;

and the gallery of paintingswhich is the least in-

teresting featurewas the only part that was not

upside-down. The pictures are mainly of the mo-

dern French schooland I remember nothing but a

powerfulthough disagreeable specimen of Henner

who paints the human bodyand paints it so well

with a brush dipped in blackness; andplaced among

the paintingsa bronze replica of the charming young

David of Mercie. These things have been set out in

the church of an old monasterylong since suppressed

and the rest of the collection occupies the cloisters.

These are two in number- a small onewhich you

enter first from the streetand a very vast and ele-

gant one beyond itwhich with its light Gothic arches

and slim columns (of the fourteenth century)its broad

walk its little gardenwith old tombs and statues in

the centreis by far the most picturesquethe most

sketchablespot in Toulouse. It must be doubly so

when the Roman bustsinscriptionsslabs and sarco-

phagiare ranged along the walls; it must indeed (to

compare small things with greatand as the judicious

Murray remarks) bear a certain resemblance to the

Campo Santo at Pisa. But these things are absent

now; the cloister is a litter of confusionand its trea-

sures have been stowed awayconfusedlyin sundry

inaccessible rooms. The custodian attempted to con-

sole me by telling me that when they are exhibited

again it will be on a scientific basisand with an

order and regularity of which they were formerly

innocent. But I was not consoled. I wanted simply

the spectaclethe pictureand I didn't care in the

least for the classification. Old Roman fragmentsex-

posed to light in the open airunder a southern sky

in a quadrangle round a gardenhave an immortal

charm simply in their general effect; and the charm

is all the greater when the soil of the very place has

yielded them up.

 

 

XXI.

My real consolation was an hour I spent in Saint-

Serninone of the noblest churches in southern France

and easily the first among those of Toulouse. This

great structurea masterpiece of twelfth-century ro-

manesqueand dedicated to Saint Saturninus- the

Toulousains have abbreviated- isI thinkalone worth

a journey to Toulouse. What makes it so is the

extraordinary seriousness of its interior; no other term

occurs to me as expressing so well the character of

its clear gray nave. As a general thingI do not

favor the fashion of attributing moral qualities to

buildings; I shrink from talking about tender porticos

and sincere campanili; but I find I cannot get on at

all without imputing some sort of morality to Saint-

Sernin. As it stands to-daythe church has been

completely restored by Viollet-le-Duc. The exterior is

of brickand has little charm save that of a tower of

four rows of archesnarrowing together as they ascend.

The nave is of great length and heightthe barrel-roof

of stonethe effect of the round arches and pillars in

the triforium especially fine. There are two low aisles

on either side. The choir is very deep and narrow;

it seems to close togetherand looks as if it were

meant for intensely earnest rites. The transepts are

most nobleespecially the arches of the second tier.

The whole church is narrow for its lengthand is

singularly complete and homogeneous. As I say all

thisI feel that I quite fail to give an impression of

its manly gravityits strong proportions or of the lone-

some look of its renovated stones as I sat there while

the October twilight gathered. It is a real work of

arta high conception. The cryptinto which I was

eventually led captive by an importunate sacristanis

quite another affairthough indeed I suppose it may

also be spoken of as a work of art. It is a rich museum

of relicsand contains the head of Saint Thomas

Aquinaswrapped up in a napkin and exhibited in a

glass case. The sacristan took a lamp and guided me

aboutpresenting me to one saintly remnant after an-

other. The impression was grotesquebut sorne of

the objects were contained in curious old cases of

beaten silver and brass; these thingsat leastwhich

looked as if they had been transmitted from the early

churchwere venerable. There washowevera kind

of wholesale sanctity about the place which overshot

the mark; it pretends to be one of the holiest spots

in the world. The effect is spoiled by the way the

sacristans hang about and offer to take you into it for

ten sous- I was accosted by two and escaped from

another- and by the familiar manner in which you

pop in and out. This episode rather broke the charm

of Saint-Serninso that I took my departure and went

in search of the cathedral. It was scarcely worth find-

ingand struck me as an odddislocated fragment.

The front consists only of a portalbeside which a tall

brick towerof a later periodhas been erected. The

nave was wrapped in dimnesswith a few scattered

lamps. I could only distinguish an immense vault

like a high cavernwithout aisles. Here and there in

the gloom was a kneeling figure; the whole place was

mysterious and lop-sided. The choir was curtained

off; it appeared not to correspond with the nave- that

isnot to have the same axis. The only other ec-

clesiastical impression I gathered at Toulouse came to

me in the church of La Dauradeof which the front

on the quay by the Garonnewas closed with scaffold-

ings; so that one entered it from behindwhere it is

completely masked by housesthrough a door which

has at first no traceable connection with it. It is a

vasthighmodernisedheavily decorated churchdimly

lighted at all timesI should supposeand enriched

by the shades of evening at the time I looked into it.

I perceived that it consisted mainly of a large square

beneath a domein the centre of which a single person

- a lady - was praying with the utmost absorption.

The manner of access to the church interposed such

an obstacle to the outer profanities that I had a sense

of intrudingand presently withdrewcarrying with me

a picture of thevaststill interiorthe gilded roof

gleaming in the twilightand the solitary worshipper.

What was she praying forand was she not almost

afraid to remain there alone?

For the restthe picturesque at Toulouse consists

principally of the walk beside the Garonnewhich is

spannedto the faubourg of Saint-Cyprienby a stout

brick bridge. This hapless suburbthe baseness of

whose site is noticeablelay for days under the water

at the time of the last inundations. The Garonne

had almost mounted to the roofs of the housesand

the place continues to present a blightedfrightened

look. Two or three personswith whom I had some

conversationspoke of that time as a memory of horror.

I have not done with my Italian comparisons; I shall

never have done with them. I am therefore free to

say that in the way in which Toulouse looks out on

the Garonne there was something that reminded me

vaguely of the way in which Pisa looks out on the

Arno. The red-faced houses - all of brick - along the

quay have a mixture of brightness and shabbinessas

well as the fashion of the open _loggia_ in the top-

story. The riverwith another bridge or twomight

be the Arnoand the buildings on the other side of

it - a hospitala suppressed convent - dip their feet

into it with real southern cynicism. I have spoken of

the old Hotel d'Assezat as the best house at Toulouse;

with the exception of the cloister of the museumit is

the only "bit" I remember. It has fallen from the

state of a noble residence of the sixteenth century to

that of a warehouse and a set of offices; but a certain

dignity lingers in its melancholy courtwhich is divided

from the street by a gateway that is still imposing

and in which a clambering vine and a red Virginia-

creeper were suspended to the rusty walls of brick

stone.

The most interesting house at Toulouse is far from

being the most striking. At the door of No. 50 Rue

des Filatiersa featurelesssolid structurewas found

hangingone autumn eveningthe body of the young

Marc-Antoine Calaswhose ill-inspired suicide was to

be the first act of a tragedy so horrible. The fana-

ticism aroused in the townsfolk by this incident; the

execution by torture of Jean Calasaccused as a

Protestant of having hanged his sonwho had gone

over to the Church of Rome; the ruin of the family;

the claustration of the daughters; the flight of the

widow to Switzerland; her introduction to Voltaire;

the excited zeal of that incomparable partisanand

the passionate persistence with whichfrom year to

yearhe pursued a reversal of judgmenttill at last he

obtained itand devoted the tribunal of Toulouse to

execration and the name of the victims to lasting

wonder and pity- these things form part of one of

the most interesting and touching episodes of the social

history of the eighteenth century. The story has the

fatal progressionthe dark rigidityof one of the tragic

dramas of the Greeks. Jean Calasadvanced in life

blamelessbewilderedprotesting. his innocencehad

been broken on the wheel; and the sight of his decent

dwellingwhich brought home to me all that had been

suflered therespoiled for mefor half an hourthe

impression of Toulouse.

 

 

XXII.

I spent but a few hours at Carcassonne; but those

hours had a rounded felicityand I cannot do better

than transcribe from my note-book the little record

made at the moment. Vitiated as it may be by

crudity and incoherencyit has at any rate the fresh-

ness of a great emotion. This is the best quality that

a reader may hope to extract from a narrative in

which "useful information" and technical lore even of

the most general sort are completely absent. For

Carcassonne is movingbeyond a doubt; and the

traveller whoin the course of a little tour in France

may have felt himself urgedin melancholy moments

to say that on the whole the disappointments are as

numerous as the satisfactionsmust admit that there

can be nothing better than this.

The countryafter you leave Toulousecontinues

to be charming; the more so that it merges its flatness

in the distant Cevennes on one sideand on the other

far away on your rightin the richer range of the

Pyrenees. Olives and cypressespergolas and vines

terraces on the roofs of housessoftiridescent moun-

tainsa warm yellow light- what more could the dif-

ficult tourist want? He left his luggage at the station

warily determined to look at the inn before committing

himself to it. It was so evident (even to a cursory

glance) that it might easily have been much better

that he simply took his way to the townwith the

whole of a superb afternoon before him. When I say

the townI mean the towns; there being two at Car-

cassonneperfectly distinctand each with excellent

claims to the title. They have settled the matter be-

tween themhoweverand the elderthe shrine of

pilgrimageto which the other is but a stepping-stone

or evenas I may saya humble door-mattakes the

name of the Cite. You see nothing of the Cite from

the station; it is masked by the agglomeration of the

_ville-basse_which is relatively (but only relatively) new.

A wonderful avenue of acacias leads to it from the

station- leads pastratherand conducts you to a

little high-backed bridge over the Audebeyond which

detached and erecta distinct mediaeval silhouettethe

Cite presents itself. Like a rival shopon the in-

vidious side of a streetit has "no connection" with

the establishment across the wayalthough the two

places are united (if old Carcassonne may be said to be

united to anything) by a vague little rustic fau-

bourg. Perched on its solid pedestalthe perfect de-

tachment of the Cite is what first strikes you. To take

leavewithout delayof the _ville-basse_I may say that

the splendid acacias I have mentioned flung a sum-

merish dusk over the placein which a few scattered

remains of stout walls and big bastions looked vener-

able and picturesque. A little boulevard winds round

the townplanted with trees and garnished with more

benches than I ever saw provided by a soft-hearted

municipality. This precinct had a warmlazydusty

southern lookas if the people sat out-of-doors a great

dealand wandered about in the stillness of summer

nights. The figure of the elder townat these hours

must be ghostly enough on its neighboring hill. Even

by day it has the air of a vignette of Gustave Dorea

couplet of Victor Hugo. It is almost too perfect- as

if it were an enormous modelplaced on a big green

table at a museum. A steeppaved waygrass-grown

like all roads where vehicles never passstretches up

to it in the sun. It has a double enceintecomplete

outer walls and complete inner (theseelaborately forti-

fiedare the more curious); and this congregation of

rampartstowersbastionsbattlementsbarbicansis

as fantastic and romantic as you please. The approach

I mention here leads to the gate that looks toward

Toulouse- the Porte de l'Aude. There is a second

on the other sidecalledI believethe Porte Nar-

bonnaisea magnificent gateflanked with towers thick

and talldefended by elaborate outworks; and these

two apertures alone admit you to the place- putting

aside a small sally-portprotected by a great bastion

on the quarter that looks toward the Pyrenees.

As a votaryalwaysin the first instanceof a

general impressionI walked all round the outer en-

ceinte- a process on the very face of it entertaining.

I took to the right of the Porte de l'Audewithout

entering itwhere the old moat has been filled in.

The filling-in of the moat has created a grassy level

at the foot of the big gray towerswhichrising at

frequent intervalsstretch their stiff curtain of stone

from point to point. The curtain drops without a

fold upon the quiet grasswhich was dotted here and

there with a humble nativedozing away the golden

afternoon. The natives of the elder Carcassonne are

all humble; for the core of the Cite has shrunken and

decayedand there is little life among the ruins. A

few tenacious laborerswho work in the neighboring

fields or in the _ville-basse_and sundry octogenarians

of both sexeswho are dying where they have lived

and contribute much to the pictorial effect- these

are the principal inhabitants. The process of con-

verting the place from an irresponsible old town into

a conscious "specimen" has of course been attended

with eliminations; the population hasas a general

thingbeen restored away. I should lose no time in

saying that restoration is the great mark of the Cite.

M. Viollet-le-Duc has worked his will upon itput it

into perfect orderrevived the fortifications in every

detail. I do not pretend to judge the performance

carried out on a scale and in a spirit which really

impose themselves on the imagination. Few archi-

tects have had such a chanceand M. Viollet-le-Duc

must have been the envy of the whole restoring fra-

ternity. The image of a more crumbling Carcassonne

rises in the mindand there is no doubt that forty

years ago the place was more affecting. On the other

handas we see it to-dayit is a wonderful evocation;

and if there is a great deal of new in the oldthere

is plenty of old in the new. The repaired crenella-

tionsthe inserted patchesof the walls of the outer

circle sufficiently express this commixture. My walk

brought me into full view of the Pyreneeswhichnow

that the sun had begun to sink and the shadows to

grow longhad a wonderful violet glow. The platform

at the base of the walls has a greater width on this

sideand it made the scene more complete. Two or

three old crones had crawled out of the Porte Nar-

bonnaiseto examine the advancing visitor; and a

very ancient peasantlying there with his back against

a towerwas tending half a dozen lean sheep. A poor

man in a very old blousecrippled and with crutches

lying beside himhad been brought out and placed

on a stoolwhere he enjoyed the afternoon as best he

might. He looked so ill and so patient that I spoke

to him; found that his legs were paralyzed and he was

quite helpless. He had formerly been seven years in

the armyand had made the campaign of Mexico with

Bazaine. Born in the old Citehe had come back

there to end his days. It seemed strangeas he sat

therewith those romantic walls behind him and the

great picture of the Pyrenees in frontto think that he

had been across the seas to the far-away new world

had made part of a famous expeditionand was now

a cripple at the gate of the mediaeval city where he

had played as a child. All this struck me as a great

deal of history for so modest a figure- a poor little

figure that could only just unclose its palm for a small

silver coin.

He was not the only acquaintance I made at Car-

cassonne. I had not pursued my circuit of the walls

much further when I encountered a person of quite

another typeof whom I asked some question which

had just then presenteditselfand who proved to be

the very genius of the spot. He was a sociable son

of the _ville-basse_a gentlemanandas I afterwards

learnedan employe at the prefecture- a personin

shortmuch esteemed at Carcassonne. (I may say all

thisas he will never read these pages.) He had been

ill for a monthand in the company of his little dog

was taking his first airing; in his own phrase he was

_amoureux-fou de la Cite_- he could lose no time in

coming back to it. He talked of itindeedas a lover

andgiving me for half an hour the advantage of his

companyshowed me all the points of the place. (I

speak here always of the outer enceinte; you penetrate

to the inner - which is the specialty of Carcassonne

and the great curiosity - only by application at the

lodge of the regular custodiana remarkable func-

tionarywhohalf an hour laterwhen I had been in-

troduced to him by my friend the amateurmarched

me over the fortifications with a tremendous accompani-

ment of dates and technical terms.) My companion

pointed out to me in particular the traces of different

periods in the structure of the walls. There is a por-

tentous amount of history embedded in thembegin-

ning with Romans and Visigoths; here and there are

marks of old breacheshastily repaired. We passed

into the town- into that part of it not included in the

citadel. It is the queerest and most fragmentary little

place in the worldas everything save the fortifications

is being suffered to crumble awayin order that the

spirit of M. Viollet-le-Duc alone may pervade itand

it may subsist simply as a magnificent shell. As the

leases of the wretched little houses fall inthe ground

is cleared of them; and a mumbling old woman ap-

proached me in the course of my circuitinviting me

to condole with her on the disappearance of so many

of the hovels which in the last few hundred years

(since the collapse of Carcassonne as a stronghold)

had attached themselves to the base of the wallsin

the space between the two circles. These habitations

constructed of materials taken from the ruinsnestled

there snugly enough. This intermediate space had

therefore become a kind of streetwhich has crumbled

in turnas the fortress has grown up again. There

are other streetsbesidevery diminutive and vague

where you pick your way over heaps of rubbish and

become conscious of unexpected faces looking at you

out of windows as detached as the cherubic heads.

The most definite thing in the place was the little

cafewhere. the waitersI thinkmust be the ghosts of

the old Visigoths; the most definitethat isafter the

little chateau and the little cathedral. Everything in

the Cite is little; you can walk round the walls in

twenty minutes. On the drawbridge of the chateau

whichwith a picturesque old faceflanking towers

and a dry moatis to-day simply a bare _caserne_

lounged half a dozen soldiersunusually small. No-

thing could be more odd than to see these objects en-

closed in a receptacle which has much of the appear-

ance of an enormous toy. The Cite and its population

vaguely reminded me of an immense Noah's ark.

 

 

XXIII.

Carcassonne dates from the Roman occupation of

Gaul. The place commanded one of the great roads

into Spainand in the fourth century Romans and

Franks ousted each other from such a point of vantage.

In the year 436TheodoricKing of the Visigoths

superseded both these parties; and it is during his oc-

cupation that the inner enceinte was raised upon the

ruins of the Roman fortifications. Most of the Visigoth

towers that are still erect are seated upon Roman sub-

structions which appear to have been formed hastily

probably at the moment of the Frankish invasion.

The authors of these solid defencesthough occasionally

disturbedheld Carcassonne and the neighboring coun-

tryin which they had established their kingdom of

Septimaniatill the year 713when they were expelled

by the Moors of Spainwho ushered in an unillumined

period of four centuriesof which no traces remain.

These facts I derived from a source no more recondite

than a pamphlet by M. Viollet-le-Duc- a very luminous

description of the fortificationswhich you may buy

from the accomplished custodian. The writer makes

a jump to the year 1209when Carcassonnethen

forming part of the realm of the viscounts of Beziers

and infected by the Albigensian heresywas besieged

in the name of the Popeby the terrible Simon de

Montfort and his army of crusaders. Simon was ac-

customed to successand the town succumbed in the

course of a fortnight. Thirty-one years laterhaving

passed into the hands of the King of Franceit was

again besieged by the young Raymond de Trincavel

the last of the viscounts of Beziers; and of this siege

M. Viollet-le-Duc gives a long and minute account

which the visitor who has a head for such things may

followwith the brochure in handon the fortifications

themselves. The young Raymond de Trincavelbaffled

and repulsedretired at the end of twenty-four days.

Saint Louis and Philip the Boldin the thirteenth cen-

turymultiplied the defences of Carcassonnewhich

was one of the bulwarks of their kingdom on the

Spanish quarter; and from this time forthbeing re-

garded as impregnablethe place had nothing to fear.

It was not even attacked; and whenin 1355Edward

the Black Prince marched into itthe inhabitants had

opened the gates to the conqueror before whom all

Languedoc was prostrate. I am not one of those who

as I said just nowhave a head for such thingsand

having extracted these few facts had made all the

use of M. Viollet-le-Duc'spamphlet of which I was cap-

able.

I have mentioned that my obliging friend the

_amoureux-fou_ handed me over to the door-keeper of

the citadel. I should add that I was at first committed

to the wife of this functionarya stout peasant-woman

who took a key down from a nailconducted me to a

postern doorand ushered me into the presence of her

husband. Having just begun his rounds with a party

of four personshe was not many steps in advance. I

added myself perforce to this partywhich was not

brilliantly composedexcept that two of its members

were gendarmes in full toggerywho announced in the

course of our tour that they had been stationed for a

year at Carcassonneand had never before had the

curiosity to come up to the Cite. There was something

brilliantcertainlyin that. The _gardien_ was an extra-

ordinarily typical little Frenchmanwho struck me even

more forcibly than the wonders of the inner enceinte;

and as I am bound to assumeat whatever cost to my

literary vanitythat there is not the slightest danger

of his reading these remarksI may treat him as public

property. With his diminutive stature and his per-

pendicular spirithis flushed faceexpressive protuber-

ant eyeshigh peremptory voiceextreme volubility

lucidityand neatness of utterancehe reminded me of

the gentry who figure in the revolutions of his native

land. If he was not a fierce little Jacobinhe ought

to have beenfor I am sure there were many men of

his pattern on the Committee of Public Safety. He

knew absolutely what he was aboutunderstood the

place thoroughlyand constantly reminded his audience

of what he himself had done in the way of excavations

and reparations. He described himself as the brother

of the architect of the work actually going forward

(that which has been done since the death of M. Viol-

let-le-DucI suppose he meant)and this fact was more

illustrative than all the others. It reminded meas

one is reminded at every turnof the democratic con-

ditions of French life: a man of the peoplewith a

wife _en bonnet_extremely intelligentfull of special

knowledgeand yet remaining essentially of the people

and showing his intelligence with a kind of ferocity

of defiance. Such a personage helps one to under-

stand the red radicalism of Francethe revolutions

the barricadesthe sinister passion for theories. (I do

notof coursetake upon myself to say that the indi-

vidual I describe - who can know nothing of the

liberties I am taking with him - is actually devoted to

these ideals; I only mean that many such devotees

must have his qualities.) In just the _nuance_ that I

have tried to indicate hereit is a terrible pattern of

man. Permeated in a high degree by civilizationit

is yet untouched by the desire which one finds in the

Englishmanin proportion as he rises in the worldto

approximate to the figure of the gentleman. On the

other handa _nettete_a faculty of expositionsuch as

the English gentleman is rarely either blessed or cursed

with.

This brilliantthis suggestive warden of Carcas-

sonne marched us about for an hourharanguingex-

plainingillustratingas he went; it was a complete

little lecturesuch as might have been delivered at

the Lowell Instituteon the manger in which a first-

rate _place forte_ used to be attacked and defended

Our peregrinations made it very clear that Carcassone

was impregnable; it is impossible to imaginewithout

having seen themsuch refinements of immurement

such ingenuities of resistance. We passed along the

battlements and _chemins de ronde_ascended and de-

scended towerscrawled under archespeered out of

loop-holeslowered ourselves into dungeonshalted in

all sorts of tight placeswhile the purpose of some-

thing or other was described to us. It was very

curiousvery interesting; above allit was very pic-

torialand involved perpetual peeps into the little

crookedcrumblingsunnygrassyempty Cite. In

placesas you stand upon itthe great towered and

embattled enceinte produces an illusion; it looks as

if it were still equipped and defended. One vivid

challengeat any rateit flings down before you; it

calls upon you to make up your mind on the matter

of restoration. For myselfI have no hesitation; I

prefer in every case the ruinedhowever ruinedto

the reconstructedhowever splendid. What is left is

more precious than what is added: the one is history

the other is fiction; and I like the former the better of

the two- it is so much more romantic. One is posi-

tiveso far as it goes; the other fills up the void with

things more dead than the void itselfinasmuch as

they have never had life. After that I am free to

say that the restoration of Carcassonne is a splendid

achievement. The little custodian dismissed us at

lastafter havingas usualinducted us into the inevi-

table repository of photographs. These photographs

are a great nuisanceall over the Midi. They are

exceedingly badfor the most part; and the worst -

those in the form of the hideous little _album-pano-

rama_ - are thrust upon you at every turn. They

are a kind of tax that you must pay; the best way is

to pay to be let off. It was not to be denied that

there was a relief in separating from our accomplished

guidewhose manner of imparting information re-

minded me of the energetic process by which I have

seen mineral waters bottled. All this while the after-

noon had grown more lovely; the sunset had deepened

the horizon of hills grown purple; the mass of the

Canigou became more delicateyet more distinct. The

day had so far faded that the interior of the little

cathedral was wrapped in twilightinto which the

glowing windows projected something of their color.

This church has high beauty and valuebut I will

spare the reader a presentation of details which I my-

self had no opportunity to master. It consists of a

romanesque naveof the end of the eleventh century

and a Gothic choir and transepts of the beginning of

the fourteenth; andshut up in its citadel like a precious

casket in a cabinetit seems - or seemed at that hour

- to have a sort of double sanctity. After leaving it

and passing out of the two circles of wallsI treated

myselfin the most infatuated mannerto another walk

round the Cite. It is certainly this general impression

that is most striking- the impression from outside

where the whole place detaches itself at once from

the landscape. In the warm southern dusk it looked

more than ever like a city in a fairy-tale. To make

the thing perfecta white young moonin its first

quartercame out and hung just over the dark sil-

houette. It was hard to come away- to incommode

one's self for anything so vulgar as a railway-train; I

would gladly have spent the evening in revolving

round the walls of Carcassonne. But I had in a

measure engaged to proceed to Narbormeand there

was a certain magic that name which gave me

strength- Narbonnethe richest city in Roman Gaul.

 

 

XXIV.

At Narbonne I took up my abode at the house of

a _serrurier mecanicien_and was very thankful for the

accommodation. It was my misfortune to arrive at

this ancient city late at nighton the eve of market-

day; and market-day at Narbonne is a very serious

affair. The innson this occasionare stuffed with

wine-dealers; for the country roundaboutdedicated

almost exclusively to Bacchushas hitherto escaped

the phylloxera. This deadly enemy of the grape is

encamped over the Midi in a hundred places; blighted

vineyards and ruined proprietors being quite the order

of the day. The signs of distress are more frequent

as you advance into Provencemany of the vines being

laid under waterin the hope of washing the plague

away. There are healthy regions stillhoweverand

the vintners find plenty to do at Narbonne. The

traffic in wine appeared to be the sole thought of the

Narbonnais; every one I spoke to had something to

say about the harvest of gold that bloomed under its

influence. "C'est inouimonsieurl'argent qu'il y a

dans ce pays. Des gens a qui la vente de leur vin

rapporte jusqu'a 500000 francs par an." That little

speechaddressed to me by a gentleman at the inn

gives the note of these revelations. It must be said

that there was little in the appearance either of the

town or of its population to suggest the possession of

such treasures. Narbonne is a _sale petite ville_ in all

the force of the termand my first impression on ar-

riving there was an extreme regret that I had not

remained for the night at the lovely Carcassonne. My

journey from that delectable spot lasted a couple of

hoursand was performed in darkness- a darkness

not so densehoweverbut that I was able to make

outas we passed itthe great figure of Bezierswhose

ancient roofs and towersclustered on a goodly hill-

toplooked as fantastic as you please. I know not

what appearance Beziers may present by day; but by

night it has quite the grand air. On issuing from the

station at NarbonneI found that the only vehicle in

waiting was a kind of bastard tramcara thing shaped

as if it had been meant to go upon rails; that is

equipped with small wheelsplaced beneath itand

with a platform at either endbut destined to rattle

over the stones like the most vulgar of omnibuses.

To complete the oddity of this conveyanceit was

under the supervisionnot of a conductorbut of a

conductress. A fair young womanwith a pouch sus-

pended from her girdlehad command of the platform;

and as soon as the car was full she jolted us into the

town through clouds of the thickest dust I ever have

swallowed. I have had occasion to speak of the activity

of women in France- of the way they are always in

the ascendant; and here was a signal example of their

general utility. The young lady I have mentioned

conveyed her whole company to the wretched little

Hotel de Francewhere it is to be hoped that some

of them found a lodging. For myselfI was informed

that the place was crowded from cellar to atticand

that its inmates were sleeping three or four in a room.

At Carcassonne I should have had a bad bedbut at

NarbonneapparentlyI was to have no bed at all. I

passed an hour or two of flat suspensewhile fate

settled the question of whether I should go on to

Perpignanreturn to Beziersor still discover a modest

couch at Narbonne. I shall not have suffered in vain

howeverif my example serves to deter other travellers

from alighting unannounced at that city on a Wednes-

day evening. The retreat to Beziersnot attempted

in timeproved impossibleand I was assured that at

Perpignanwhich I should not reach till midnightthe

affluence of wine-dealers was not less than at Nar-

bonne. I interviewed every hostess in the townand

got no satisfaction but distracted shrugs. Finallyat

an advanced hourone of the servants of the Hotel

de Francewhere I had attempted to dinecame to

me in triumph to proclaim that he had secured for

me a charming apartment in a _maison bourgeoise_. I

took possession of it gratefullyin spite of its having

an entrance like a stableand being pervaded by an

odor compared with which that of a stable would

have been delicious. As I have mentionedmy land-

lord was a locksmithand he had strange machines

which rumbled and whirred in the rooms below my

own. NeverthelessI sleptand I dreamed of Car-

cassonne. It was better to do that than to dream of

the Hotel de France.

I was obliged to cultivate relations with the cuisine

of this establishment. Nothing could have been more

_meridional_; indeedboth the dirty little inn and Nar-

bonne at large seemed to me to have the infirmities

of the southwithout its usual graces. Narrownoisy

shabbybelittered and encumberedfilled with clatter

and chatterthe Hotel de France would have been

described in perfection by Alphonse Daudet. For what

struck me above all in it was the note of the Midi

as he has represented it- the sound of universal talk.

The landlord sat at supper with sundry friendsin a

kind of glass cagewith a genial indifference to arriv-

ing guests; the waiters tumbled over the loose luggage

in the hall; the travellers who had been turned away

leaned gloomily against door-posts; and the landlady

surrounded by confusionunconscious of responsibility

and animated only by the spirit of conversationbandied

high-voiced compliments with the _voyageurs de com-

merce_. At ten o'clock in the morning there was a

table d'hote for breakfast- a wonderful repastwhich

overflowed into every room and pervaded the whole

establishment. I sat down with a hundred hungry

marketersfatbrowngreasy menwith a good deal of

the rich soil of Languedoc adhering to their hands

and their boots. I mention the latter articles because

they almost put them on the table. It was very hot

and there were swarms of flies; the viands had the

strongest odor; there was in particular a horrible mix-

ture known as _gras-double_a light grayglutinous

nauseating messwhich my companions devoured in

large quantities. A man opposite to me had the dir-

tiest fingers I ever saw; a collection of fingers which

in England would have excluded him from a farmers'

ordinary. The conversation was mainly bucolic; though

a part of itI rememberat the table at which I sat

consisted of a discussion as to whether or no the maid-

servant were _sage_- a discussion which went on under

the nose of this young ladyas she carried about the

dreadful _gras-double_and to which she contributed

the most convincing blushes. It was thoroughly _meri-

dional_.

In going to Narbonne I had of course counted upon

Roman remains; but when I went forth in search of

them I perceived that I had hoped too fondly. There

is really nothing in the place to speak of; that ison

the day of my visit there was nothing but the market

which was in complete possession. "This intricate

curiousbut lifeless town" Murray calls it; yet to me

it appeared overflowing with life. Its streets are mere

crookeddirty lanesbordered with perfectly insignifi-

cant houses; but they were filled with the same clatter

and chatter that I had found at the hotel. The market

was held partly in the little square of the hotel de

villea structure which a flattering wood-cut in the

Guide-Joanne had given me a desire to behold. The

reality was not impressivethe old color of the front

having been completely restored away. Such interest

as it superficially possesses it derives from a fine

mediaeval tower which rises beside itwith turrets at

the angles- always a picturesque thing. The rest of

the market was held in another _place_still shabbier

than the firstwhich lies beyond the canal. The Canal

du Midi flows through the townandspanned at this

point by a small suspension-bridgepresented a cer-

tain sketchability. On the further side were the venders

and chafferers- old women under awnings and big um-

brellasrickety tables piled high with fruitwhite caps

and brown facesblousessabotsdonkeys. Beneath

this picture was another- a long row of washerwomen

on their knees on the edge of the canalpounding

and wringing the dirty linen of Narbonne- no great

quantityto judge by the costume of the people. In-

numerable rusty menscattered all over the place

were buying and selling winestraddling about in

pairsin groupswith their hands in their pocketsand

packed together at the doors of the cafes. They were

mostly fat and brown and unshaven; they ground their

teeth as they talked; they were very _meridionaux_.

The only two lions at Narbonne are the cathedral

and the museumthe latter of which is quartered in

the hotel de ville. The cathedralclosely shut in by

housesand with the west front undergoing repairsis

singular in two respects. It consists exclusively of a

choirwhich is of the end of the thirteenth century

and the beginning of the nextand of great magnifi-

cence. There is absolutely nothing else. This choir

of extraordinary elevationforms the whole church. I

sat there a good while; there was no other visitor. I

had taken a great dislike to poor little Narbonne

which struck me as sordid and overheatedand this

place seemed to extend to meas in the Middle Ages

the privilege of sanctuary. It is a very solemn corner.

The other peculiarity of the cathedral is thatexter-

nallyit bristles with battlementshaving anciently

formed part of the defences of the _archeveche_which

is beside it and which connects it with the hotel de

ville. This combination of the church and the for-

tress is very curiousand during the Middle Ages was

not without its value. The palace of the former arch-

bishops of Narbonne (the hotel de ville of to-day

forms part of it) was both an asylum and an arsenal

during the hideous wars by which the Languedoc was

ravaged in the thirteenth century. The whole mass

of buildings is jammed together in a manner that

from certain points of view makes it far from apparent

which feature is which. The museum occupies several

chambers at the top of the hotel de villeand is not

an imposing collection. It was closedbut I induced

the portress to let me in- a silentcadaverous person

in a black coiflike a _beguine_who sat knitting in one

of the windows while I went the rounds. The number

of Roman fragments is smalland their quality is not

the finest; I must add that this impression was hastily

gathered. There is indeed a work of art in one of

the rooms which creates a presumption in favor of the

place- the portrait (rather a good one) of a citizen

of Narbonnewhose name I forgetwho is described

as having devoted all his time and his intelligence to

collecting the objects by which the. visitor is sur-

rounded. This excellent man was a connoisseurand

the visitor is doubtless often an ignoramus.

 

 

XXV.

"Cettewith its glistening houses white

Curves with the curving beach away

To where the lighthouse beacons bright

Far in the bay."

That stanza of Matthew Arnold'swhich I hap-

pened to remembergave a certain importance to the

half-hour I spent in the buffet of the station at Cette

while I waited for the train to Montpellier. I had left

Narbonne in the afternoonand by the time I reached

Cette the darkness had descended. I therefore missed

the sight of the glistening housesand had to console

myself with that of the beacon in the bayas well as

with a _bouillon_ of which I partook at the buffet afore-

said; forsince the morningI had not ventured to

return to the table d'hote at Narbonne. The Hotel

Nevetat Montpellierwhich I reached an hour later

has an ancient renown all over the south of France-

advertises itselfI believeas _le plus vaste du midi_. It

seemed to me the model of a good provincial inn; a

big ramblingcreaking establishmentwith brown

labyrinthine corridorsa queer old open-air vestibule

into which the diligencein the _bon temps_used to

penetrateand an hospitality more expressive than

that of the new caravansaries. It dates from the days

when Montpellier was still accounted a fine winter re-

sidence for people with weak lungs; and this rather

melancholy traditiontogether with the former celebrity

of the school of medicine still existing therebut from

which the glory has departedhelps to account for its

combination of high antiquity and vast proportions.

The old hotels were usually more concentrated; but

the school of medicine passed for one of the attrac-

tions of Montpellier. Long before Mentone was dis-

covered or Colorado inventedBritish invalids travelled

down through France in the post-chaise or the public

coach to spend their winters in the wonderful place

which boasted both a climate and a faculty. The air

is mildno doubtbut there are refinements of mild-

ness which were not then suspectedand which in a

more analytic age have carried the annual wave far

beyond Montpellier. The place is charmingall the

same; and it served the purpose of John Locke; who

made a long stay therebetween 1675 and 1679and

became acquainted with a noble fellow-visitorLord

Pembroketo whom he dedicated the famous Essay.

There are places that pleasewithout your being able

to say whereforeand Montpellier is one of the num-

ber. It has some charming viewsfrom the great pro-

menade of the Peyrou; but its position is not strikingly

fair. Beyond this it contains a good museum and the

long facades of its schoolbut these are its only de-

finite treasures. Its cathedral struck me as quite the

weakest I had seenand I remember no other monu-

ment that made up for it. The place has neither the

gayety of a modern nor the solemnity of an ancient

townand it is agreeable as certain women are agree-

able who are neither beautiful nor clever. An Italian

would remark that it is sympathetic; a German would

admit that it is _gemuthlich_. I spent two days there

mostly in the rainand even under these circum-

stances I carried away a kindly impression. I think

the Hotel Nevet had something to do with itand the

sentiment of relief with whichin a quieteven a

luxuriousroom that looked out on a gardenI reflected

that I had washed my hands of Narbonne. The phyl-

loxera has destroyed the vines in the country that sur-

rounds Montpellierand at that moment I was capable

of rejoicing in the thought that I should not breakfast

with vintners.

The gem of the place is the Musee Fabreone of

the best collections of paintings in a provincial city.

Francois Fabrea native of Montpellierdied there in

1837after having spent a considerable part of his

life in Italywhere he had collected a good many

valuable pictures and some very poor onesthe latter

class including several from his own hand. He was

the hero of a remarkable episodehaving succeeded

no less a person than Vittorio Alfieri in the affections

of no less a person than Louise de StolbergCountess

of Albanywidow of no less a person than Charles

Edward Stuartthe second pretender to the British

crown. Surely no woman ever was associated senti-

mentally with three figures more diverse- a disqualified

sovereignan Italian dramatistand a bad French

painter. The productions of M. Fabrewho followed

in the steps of Davidbear the stamp of a cold me-

diocrity; there is not much to be said even for the

portrait of the genial countess (her life has been written

by M. Saint-Rene-Taillandierwho depicts her as de-

lightful)which hangs in Florencein the gallery of

the Uffizziand makes a pendant to a likeness of

Alfieri by the same author. Stendhalin his "Me-

moires d'un Touriste" says that this work of art

represents her as a cook who has pretty hands. I am

delighted to have an opportunity of quoting Stendhal

whose two volumes of the "Memoires d'un Touriste"

every traveller in France should carry in his port-

manteau. I have had this opportunity more than once

for I have met him at Toursat Nantesat Bourges;

and everywhere he is suggestive. But he has the de-

fect that he is never pictorialthat he never by any

chance makes an imageand that his style is per-

versely colorlessfor a man so fond of contemplation.

His taste is often singularly false; it is the taste of the

early years of the present centurythe period that

produced clocks surmounted with sentimental "sub-

jects." Stendhal does not admire these clocksbut

he almost does. He admires Domenichino and Guer-

cinoand prizes the Bolognese school of painters be-

cause they "spoke to the soul." He is a votary of the

new classicis fond of tallsquireregular buildings

and thinks Nantesfor instancefull of the "air noble."

It was a pleasure to me to reflect that five-and-forty

years ago he had alighted in that cityat the very inn

in which I spent a nightand which looks down on

the Place Graslin and the theatre. The hotel that was

the best in 1837 appears to be the best to-day. On

the subject of TouraineStendhal is extremely refresh-

ing; he finds the scenery meagre and much overrated

and proclaims his opinion with perfect frankness. He

doeshoweverscant justice to the banks of the Loire;

his want of appreciation of the picturesque - want of

the sketcher's sense - causes him to miss half the

charm of a landscape which is nothing if not "quiet"

as a painter would sayand of which the felicities

reveal themselves only to waiting eyes. He even

despises the Indrethe river of Madame Sand. The

"Memoires d'un Touriste" are written in the character

of a commercial travellerand the author has nothing

to say about Chenonceaux or Chambordor indeed

about any of the chateaux of that part of France; his

system being to talk only of the large townswhere he

may be supposed to find a market for his goods. It

was his ambition to pass for an ironmonger. But in

the large towns he is usually excellent companythough

as discursive as Sterneand strangely indifferentfor a

man of imaginationto those superficial aspects of

things which the poor pages now before the reader are

mainly an attempt to render. It is his conviction that

Alfieriat Florencebored the Countess of Albany ter-

ribly; and he adds that the famous Gallophobe died

of jealousy of the little painter from Montpellier. The

Countess of Albany left her property to Fabre; and I

suppose some of the pieces in the museum of his

native town used to hang in the sunny saloons of that

fine old palace on the Arno which is still pointed out

to the stranger in Florence as the residence of Alfieri.

The institution has had other benefactorsnotably

a certain M. Bruyaswho has enriched it with an extra-

ordinary number of portraits of himself. As these

howeverare by different handssome of them dis-

tinguishedwe may suppose that it was less the model

than the artists to whom M. Bruyas wished to give

publicity. Easily first are two large specimens of

David Tenierswhich are incomparable for brilliancy

and a glowing perfection of execution. I have a weak-

ness for this singular geniuswho combined the delicate

with the grovellingand I have rarely seen richer

examples. Scarcely less valuable is a Gerard Dow

which hangs near themthough it must rank lower as

having kept less of its freshness. This Gerard Dow

did me good; for a master is a masterwhatever he

may paint. It represents a woman paring carrots

while a boy before her exhibits a mouse-trap in which

he has caught a frightened victim. The good-wife has

spread a cloth on the top of a big barrel which serves

her as a tableand on this browngreasy napkinof

which the texture is wonderfully renderedlie the raw

vegetables she is preparing for domestic consumption.

Beside the barrel is a large caldron lined with copper

with a rim of brass. The way these things are painted

brings tears to the eyes; but they give the measure of

the Musee Fabrewhere two specimens of Teniers and

a Gerard Dow are the jewels. The Italian pictures are

of small value; but there is a work by Sir Joshua Rey-

noldssaid to be the only one in France- an infant

Samuel in prayerapparently a repetition of the pic-

ture in England which inspired the little plaster im-

agedisseminated in Protestant landsthat we used to

admire in our childhood. Sir Joshuasomehowwas

an eminently Protestant painter; no one can forget

thatwho in the National Gallery in London has looked

at the picture in which he represents several young

ladies as nymphsvoluminously drapedhanging gar-

lands over a statue- a picture suffused indefinably

with the Anglican spiritand exasperating to a mem-

ber of one of the Latin races. It is an odd chance

thereforethat has led him into that part of France

where Protestants have been least _bien vus_. This is the

country of the dragonnades of Louis XIV. and of the

pastors of the desert. From the garden of the Peyrou

at Montpellieryou may see the hills of the Cevennes

to which they of the religion fled for safetyand out

of which they were hunted and harried.

I have only to addin regard to the Musee Fabre

that it contains the portrait of its founder- a little

pursyfat-facedelderly manwhose countenance con-

tains few indications of the power that makes distin-

guished victims. He ishoweverjust such a personage

as the mind's eye sees walking on the terrace of the

Peyrou of an October afternoon in the early years of

the century; a plump figure in a chocolate-colored coat

and a _culotte_ that exhibits a good leg- a culotte pro-

vided with a watch-fob from which a heavy seal is

suspended. This Peyrou (to come to it at last) is a

wonderful placeespecially to be found in a little pro-

vincial city. France is certainly the country of towns

that aim at completeness; more than in other lands

they contain stately features as a matter of course. We

should never have ceased to hear about the Peyrouif

fortune had placed it at a Shrewsbury or a Buffalo. It

is true that the place enjoys a certain celebrity at

homewhich it amply deservesmoreover; for nothing

could be more impressive and monumental. It consists

of an "elevated platform" as Murray says- an im-

mense terracelaid outin the highest part of the town

as a gardenand commanding in all directions a view

which in clear weather must be of the finest. I strolled

there in the intervals of showersand saw only the

nearer beauties- a great pompous arch of triumph in

honor of Louis XIV. (which is notproperly speaking

in the gardenbut faces itstraddling across the _place_

by which you approach it from the town)an equestrian

statue of that monarch set aloft in the middle of the

terraceand a very exalted and complicated fountain

which forms a background to the picture. This foun-

tain gushes from a kind of hydraulic templeor _cha-

teau d'eau_to which you ascend by broad flights of

stepsand which is fed by a splendid aqueduct

stretched in the most ornamental and unexpected

manner across the neighboring valley. All this work

dates from the middle of the last century. The com-

bination of features - the triumphal archor gate; the

widefair terracewith its beautiful view; the statue

of the grand monarch; the big architectural fountain

which would not surprise one at Romebut goes sur-

prise one at Montpellier; and to complete the effect

the extraordinary aqueductcharmingly fore-shortened

- all this is worthy of a capitalof a little court-city.

The whole placewith its repeated stepsits balus-

tradesits massive and plentiful stone-workis full of

the air of the last century- _sent bien son dix-huitieme

siecle_; none the less soI am afraidthatas I read in

my faithful Murrayafter the revocation of the Edict

of Nantesthe blockthe stakethe wheelhad been

erected here for the benefit of the desperate Camisards.

 

 

XXVI.

It was a pleasure to feel one's self in Provence

again- the land where the silver-gray earth is im-

pregnated with the light of the sky. To celebrate

the eventas soon as I arrived at Nimes I engaged

a caleche to convey me to the Pont du Gard. The

day was yet youngand it was perfectly fair; it ap-

peared wellfor a longish driveto take advantage

without delayof such security. After I had left the

town I became more intimate with that Provencal

charm which I had already enjoyed from the window

of the trainand which glowed in the sweet sunshine

and the white rocksand lurked in the smoke-puffs

of the little olives. The olive-trees in Provence are

half the landscape. They are neither so tallso stout

nor so richly contorted as I have seen them beyond

the Alps; but this mild colorless bloom seems the

very texture of the country. The road from Nimes

for a distance of fifteen milesis superb; broad enough

for an armyand as white and firm as a dinner-table.

It stretches away over undulations which suggest a

kind of harmony; and in the curves it makes through

the widefree countrywhere there is never a hedge

or a walland the detail is always exquisitethere is

something majesticalmost processional. Some twenty

minutes before I reached the little inn that marks the

termination of the drivemy vehicle met with an ac-

cident which just missed being seriousand which

engaged the attention of a gentlemanwhofollowed

by his groom and mounted on a strikingly handsome

horse happened to ride up at the moment. This young

manwhowith his good looks and charming manner

might have stepped out of a novel of Octave Feuillet

gave me some very intelligent advice in reference to

one of my horses that had been injuredand was so

good as to accompany me to the innwith the re-

sources of which he was acquaintedto see that his

recommendations were carried out. The result of our

interview was that he invited me to come and look at

a small but ancient chateau in the neighborhood

which he had the happiness - not the greatest in the

worldhe intimated - to inhabitand at which I en-

gaged to present myself after I should have spent an

hour at the Pont du Gard. For the momentwhen

we separatedI gave all my attention to that great

structure. You are very near it before you see it; the

ravine it spans suddenly opens and exhibits the

picture. The scene at this point grows extremely

beautiful. The ravine is the valley of the Gardon

which the road from Nimes has followed some time

without taking account of itbut whichexactly at the

right distance from the aqueductdeepens and ex-

pandsand puts on those characteristics which are best

suited to give it effect. The gorge becomes romantic

stilland solitaryandwith its white rocks and wild

shrubberyhangs over the clearcolored riverin whose

slow course there is here and there a deeper pool.

Over the valleyfrom side to sideand ever so high

in the airstretch the three tiers of the tremendous

bridge. They are unspeakably imposingand nothing

could well be more Roman. The hugenessthe soli-

ditythe unexpectednessthe monumental rectitude of

the whole thing leave you nothing to say - at the time

- and make you stand gazing. You simply feel that

it is noble and perfectthat it has the quality of

greatness. A roadbranching from the highwayde-

scends to the level of the river and passes under one

of the arches. This road has a wide margin of grass

and loose stoneswhich slopes upward into the bank

of the ravine. You may sit here as long as you please

staring up at the lightstrong piers; the spot is ex-

tremely naturalthough two or three stone benches

have been erected on it. I remained there an hour

and got a cornplete impression; the place was per-

fectly soundlessand for the timeat leastlonely;

the splendid afternoon had begun to fadeand there

was a fascination in the object I had come to see. It

came to pass that at the same time I discovered in it

a certain stupiditya vague brutality. That element

is rarely absent from great Roman workwhich is

wanting in the nice adaptation of the means to the

end. The means are always exaggerated; the end is

so much more than attained. The Roman rigidity

was apt to overshoot the markand I suppose a race

which could do nothing small is as defective as a race

that can do nothing great. Of this Roman rigidity

the Pont du Gard is an admirable example. It would

be a great injusticehowevernot to insist upon its

beauty- a kind of manly beautythat of an object

constructed not to please but to serveand impressive

simply from the scale on which it carries out this

intention. The number of arches in each tier is dif-

ferent; they are smaller and more numerous as they

ascend. The preservation of the thing is extra-

ordinary; nothing has crumbled or collapsed; every

feature remains; and the huge blocks of stoneof a

brownish-yellow(as if they had been baked by the

Provencal sun for eighteen centuries)pile themselves

without mortar or cementas evenly as the day they

were laid together. All this to carry the water of a

couple of springs to a little provincial city! The con-

duit on the top has retained its shape and traces of

the cement with which it was lined. When the vague

twilight began to gatherthe lonely valley seemed to

fill itself with the shadow of the Roman nameas if

the mighty empire were still as erect as the supports

of the aqueduct; and it was open to a solitary tourist

sitting there sentimentalto believe that no people has

ever beenor will ever beas great as thatmeasured

as we measure the greatness of an individualby the

push they gave to what they undertook. The Pont du

Gard is one of the three or four deepest impressions

they have left; it speaks of them in a manner with

which they might have been satisfied.

I feel as if it were scarcely discreet to indicate the

whereabouts of the chateau of the obliging young

man I had met on the way from Nimes; I must con-

tent myself with saying that it nestled in an en-

chanting valley- _dans le fond_as they say in France

- and that I took my course thither on footafter

leaving the Pont du Gard. I find it noted in my

journal as "an adorable little corner." The principal

feature of the place is a couple of very ancient towers

brownish-yellow in hueand mantled in scarlet Vir-

ginia-creeper. One of these towersreputed to be

of Saracenic originis isolatedand is only the more

effective; the other is incorporated in the house

which is delightfully fragmentary and irregular. It

had got to be late by this timeand the lonely _castel_

looked crepuscular and mysterious. An old house-

keeper was sent forwho showed me the rambling

interior; and then the young man took me into a

dim old drawing-roomwhich had no less than four

chimney-piecesall unlightedand gave me a refec-

tion of fruit and sweet wine. When I praised the

wine and asked him what it washe said simply

"C'est du vin de ma mere!" Throughout my little

joumey I had never yet felt myself so far from Paris;

and this was a sensation I enjoyed more than my

hostwho was an involuntary exileconsoling him-

self with laying out a _manege_which he showed me

as I walked away. His civility was greatand I was

greatly touched by it. On my way back to the little

inn where I had left my vehicleI passed the Pont

du Gardand took another look at it. Its great arches

made windows for the evening skyand the rocky

ravinewith its dusky cedars and shining riverwas

lonelier than before. At the inn I swallowedor tried

to swallowa glass of horrible wine with my coach-

man; after whichwith my reconstructed teamI drove

back to Nimes in the moonlight. It only added a

more solitary whiteness to the constant sheen of the

Provencal landscape.

 

 

XXVII.

The weather the next day was equally fairso that

it seemed an imprudence not to make sure of Aigues-

Mortes. Nimes itself could wait; at a pinchI could

attend to Nimes in the rain. It was my belief that

Aigues-Mortes was a little gemand it is natural to

desire that gems should have an opportunity to sparkle.

This is an excursion of but a few hoursand there is

a little friendlyfamiliardawdling train that will con-

vey youin time for a noonday breakfastto the small

dead town where the blessed Saint-Louis twice em-

barked for the crusades. You may get back to Nimes

for dinner; the run - or rather the walkfor the train

doesn't run - is of about an hour. I found the little

journey charmingand looked out of the carriage win-

dowon my rightat the distant Cevennescovered

with tones of amber and blueandall aroundat

vineyards red with the touch of October. The grapes

were gonebut the plants had a color of their own.

Within a certain distance of Aigues-Mortes they give

place to wide salt-marshestraversed by two canals;

and over this expanse the train rumbles slowly upon

a narrow causewayfailing for some timethough you

know you are near the object of your curiosityto

bring you to sight of anything but the horizon. Sud-

denly it appearsthe towered and embattled mass

lying so low that the crest of its defences seems to

rise straight out of the ground; and it is not till the

train stopsclose before themthat you are able to

take the full measure of its walls.

Aigues-Mortes stands on the edge of a wide _etang_

or shallow inlet of the seathe further side of which

is divided by a narrow band of coast from the Gulf

of Lyons. Next after Carcassonneto which it forms

an admirable _pendant_it is the most perfect thing of

the kind in France. It has a rival in the person of

Avignonbut the ramparts of Avignon are much less

effective. Like Carcassonneit is completely sur-

rounded with its old fortifications; and if they are far

simpler in character (there is but one circle)they are

quite as well preserved. The moat has been filled

upand the site of the town might be figured by a

billiard-table without pockets. On this absolute level

covered with coarse grassAigues-Mortes presents quite

the appearance of the walled town that a school-boy

draws upon his slateor that we see in the background

of early Flemish pictures- a simple parallelogramof

a contour almost absurdly barebroken at intervals by

angular towers and square holes. Suchliterally speak-

ingis this delightful little citywhich needs to be seen

to tell its full story. It is extraordinarily pictorial

and if it is a very small sister of Carcassonneit has

at least the essential features of the family. Indeed

it is even more like an image and less like a reality

than Carcassonne; for by position and prospect it

seems even more detached from the life of the present

day. It is true that Aigues-Mortes does a little busi-

ness; it sees certain bags of salt piled into barges

which stand in a canal beside itand which carry their

cargo into actual places. But nothing could well be

more drowsy and desultory than this industry as I

saw it practisedwith the aid of two or three brown

peasants and under the eye of a solitary douanier

who strolled on the little quay beneath the western

wall. "C'est bien plaisantc'est bien paisible" said

this worthy manwith whom I had some conversa-

tion; and pleasant and peaceful is the place indeed

though the former of these epithets may suggest an

element of gayety in which Aigues-Mortes is deficient.

The sandthe saltthe dull sea-viewsurround it with

a brightquiet melancholy. There are fifteen towers

and nine gatesfive of which are on the southern side

overlooking the water. I walked all round the place

three times (it doesn't take long)but lingered most

under the southern wallwhere the afternoon light

slept in the dreamiestsweetest way. I sat down on

an old stoneand looked away to the desolate salt-

marshes and the stillshining surface of the _etang_

andas I did soreflected that this was a queer little

out-of-the-world corner to have been chosenin the

great dominions of either monarchfor that pompous

interview which took placein 1538between Francis I.

and Charles V. It was also not easy to perceive how

Louis IX.when in 1248 and 1270 he started for the

Holy Landset his army afloat in such very undeveloped

channels. An hour later I purchased in the town a

little pamphlet by M. Marius Topinwho undertakes

to explain this latter anomalyand to show that there

is water enough in the portas we may call it by

courtesyto have sustained a fleet of crusaders. I was

unable to trace the channel that he points outbut

was glad to believe thatas he contendsthe sea has

not retreated from the town since the thirteenth century.

It was comfortable to think that things are not so

changed as that. M. Topin indicates that the other

French ports of the Mediterranean were not then _dis-

ponsibles_and that Aigues-Mortes was the most eligible

spot for an embarkation.

Behind the straight walls and the quiet gates the

little town has not crumbledlike the Cite of Carcas-

sonne. It can hardly be said to be alive; but if it is

dead it has been very neatly embalmed. The hand

of the restorer rests on it constantly; but this artist

has notas at Carcassonnehad miracles to accomplish.

The interior is very still and emptywith small stony

whitewashed streetstenanted by a stray doga stray

cata stray old woman. In the middle is a little _place_

with two or three cafes decorated by wide awnings-

a little _place_ of which the principal feature is a very

bad bronze statue of Saint Louis by Pradier. It is

almost as bad as the breakfast I had at the inn that

bears the name of that pious monarch. You may walk

round the enceinte of Aigues-Mortesboth outside and

in; but you may notas at Carcassonnemake a por-

tion of this circuit on the _chemin de ronde_the little

projecting footway attached to the inner face of the

battlements. This footwaywide enough only for a

single pedestrianis in the best orderand near each

of the gates a flight of steps leads up to it; but a

locked gateat the top of the stepsmakes access im-

possibleor at least unlawful. Aigues-Morteshowever

has its citadelan immense towerlarger than any of

the othersa little detachedand standing at the north-

west angle of the town. I called upon the _casernier_

the custodian of the walls- and in his absence I was

conducted through this big Tour de Constance by his

wifea very mildmeek womanyellow with the traces

of fever and ague- a scourge whichas might be ex-

pected in a town whose name denotes "dead waters"

enters freely at the nine gates. The Tour de Con-

stance is of extraordinary girth and soliditydivided

into three superposed circular chamberswith very fine

vaultswhich are lighted by embrasures of prodigious

depthconverging to windows little larger than loop-

holes. The place served for years as a prison to many

of the Protestants of the south whom the revocation

of the Edict of Nantes had exposed to atrocious

penaltiesand the annals of these dreadful chambers

during the first half of the last century were written

in tears and blood. Some of the recorded cases of

long confinement there make one marvel afresh at

what man has inflicted and endured. In a country in

which a policy of extermination was to be put into

practice this horrible tower was an obvious resource.

From the battlements at the topwhich is surmounted

by an old disused light-houseyou see the little com-

pact rectangular townwhich looks hardly bigger than

a garden-patchmapped out beneath youand follow

the plain configuration of its defences. You take

possession of itand you feel that you will remember

it always.

 

 

XXVIII.

After this I was free to look about me at Nimes

and I did so with such attention as the place appeared

to require. At the risk of seeming too easily and too

frequently disappointedI will say that it required

rather less than I had been prepared to give. It is a

town of three or four fine featuresrather than a town

withas I may saya general figure. In general

Nimes is poor; its only treasures are its Roman re-

mainswhich are of the first order. The new French

fashions prevail in many of its streets; the old houses

are paltryand the good houses are new; while beside

my hotel rose a big spick-and-span churchwhich

had the oddest air of having been intended for

Brooklyn or Cleveland. It is true that this church

looked out on a square completely French- a square

of a fine modern dispositionflanked on one side by a

classical _palais de justice_ embellished with trees and

parapetsand occupied in the centre with a group of

allegorical statuessuch as one encounters only in the

cities of Francethe chief of these being a colossal

figure by Pradierrepresenting Nimes. An English

an Americantown which should have such a monu-

mentsuch a squareas thiswould be a place of

great pretensions; but like so many little _villes de

province_ in the country of which I writeNimes is

easily ornamental. What nobler ornament can there

be than the Roman baths at the foot of Mont Cavalier

and the delightful old garden that surrounds them?

All that quarter of Nimes has every reason to be

proud of itself; it has been revealed to the world at

large by copious photography. A clearabundant

stream gushes from the foot of a high hill (covered

with trees and laid out in paths)and is distributed

into basins which sufficiently refer themselves to the

period that gave them birth- the period that has

left its stamp on that pompous Peyrou which we ad-

mired at Montpellier. Here are the same terraces and

steps and balustradesand a system of water-works

less impressiveperhapsbut very ingenious and charm-

ing. The whole place is a mixture of old Rome and

of the French eighteenth century; for the remains of

the antique baths are in a measure incorporated in

the modern fountains. In a corner of this umbrageous

precinct stands a small Roman ruinwhich is known

as a temple of Dianabut was more apparently a

_nymphaeum_and appears to have had a graceful con-

nection with the adjacent baths. I learn from Murray

that this little templeof the period of Augustus

"was reduced to its present state of ruin in 1577;"

the moment at which the townspeoplethreatened

with a siege by the troops of the crownpartly

demolished itlest it should serve as a cover to the

enemy. The remains are very fragmentarybut they

serve to show that the place was lovely. I spent half

an hour in it on a perfect Sunday morning (it is en-

closed by a high _grille_carefully tendedand has a

warden of its own)and with the help of my imagina-

tion tried to reconstruct a little the aspect of things

in the Gallo-Roman days. I do wrongperhapsto

say that 1 _tried_; from a flight so deliberate I should

have shrunk. But there was a certain contagion of

antiquity in the air; and among the ruins of baths

and templesin the very spot where the aqueduct that

crosses the Gardon in the wondrous manner I had

seen discharged itselfthe picture of a splendid

paganism seemed vaguely to glow. Roman baths-

Roman baths; those words alone were a scene. Every-

thing was changed: I was strolling in a _jardin francais_;

the bosky slope of the Mont Cavalier (a very modest

mountain)hanging over the placeis crowned with a

shapeless towerwhich is as likely to be of mediaeval

as of antique origin; and yetas I leaned on the

parapet of one of the fountainswhere a flight of

curved steps (a hemicycleas the French say) descended

into a basin full of darkcool recesseswhere the slabs

of the Roman foundations gleam through the clear

green water- as in this attitude I surrendered myself

to contemplation and reverieit seemed to me that I

touched for a moment the ancient world. Such mo-

ments are illuminatingand the light of this one mingles

in my memorywith the dusky greenness of the Jardin

de la Fontaine.

The fountain proper - the source of all these dis-

tributed waters - is the prettiest thing in the worlda

reduced copy of Vaucluse. It gushes up at the foot

of the Mont Cavalierat a point where that eminence

rises with a certain cliff-like effectandlike other

springs in the same circumstancesappears to issue

from the rock with a sort of quivering stillness. I

trudged up the Mont Cavalier- it is a matter of five

minutes- and having committed this cockneyism en-

hanced it presently by another. I ascended the stupid

Tour Magnethe mysterious structure I mentioned a

moment ago. The only feature of this dateless tube

except the inevitable collection of photographs to

which you are introduced by the door-keeperis the

view you enjoy from its summit. This view isof

courseremarkably finebut I am ashamed to say I

have not the smallest recollection of it; for while I

looked into the brilliant spaces of the air I seemed

still to see only what I saw in the depths of the Roman

baths- the imagedisastrously confused and vagueof

a vanished world. This worldhoweverhas left at

Nimes a far more considerable memento than a few

old stones covered with water-moss. The Roman arena

is the rival of those of Verona and of Arles; at a

respectful distance it emulates the Colosseum. It is a

small Colosseumif I may be allowed the expression

and is in a much better preservation than the great

circus at Rome. This is especially true of the external

wallswith their archespillarscornices. I must add

that one should not speak of preservationin regard

to the arena at Nimeswithout speaking also of repair.

After the great ruin ceased to be despoiledit began

to be protectedand most of its wounds have been

dressed with new material. These matters concern

the archaeologist; and I felt hereas I felt afterwards

at Arlesthat one of the profanein the presence of

such a monumentcan only admire and hold his

tongue. The great impressionon the wholeis an

impression of wonder that so much should have sur-

vived. What remains at Nimesafter all dilapidation

is estimatedis astounding. I spent an hour in the

Arenes on that same sweet Sunday morningas I

came back from the Roman bathsand saw that the

corridorsthe vaultsthe staircasesthe external casing

are still virtually there. Many of these parts are

wanting in the Colosseumwhose sublimity of size

howevercan afford to dispense with detail. The seats

at Nimeslike those at Veronahave been largely

renewed; not that this mattered muchas I lounged

on the cool surface of one of themand admired the

mighty concavity of the place and the elliptical sky-

linebroken by uneven blocks and forming the rim of

the monstrous cup- a cup that had been filled with

horrors. And yet I made my reflections; I said to

myself that though a Roman arena is one of the most

impressive of the works of manit has a touch of that

same stupidity which I ventured to discover in the

Pont du Gard. It is brutal; it is monotonous; it is

not at all exquisite. The Arenes at Nimes were ar-

ranged for a bull-fight- a form of recreation thatas

I was informedis much _dans les habitudes Nimoises_

and very common throughout Provencewhere (still

according to my information) it is the usual pastime

of a Sunday afternoon. At Arles and Nimes it has a

characteristic settingbut in the villages the patrons

of the game make a circle of carts and barrelson

which the spectators perch themselves. I was sur-

prised at the prevalencein mild Provenceof the

Iberian viceand hardly know whether it makes the

custom more respectable that at Nimes and Arles the

thing is shabbily and imperfectly done. The bulls

are rarely killedand indeed often are bulls only in

the Irish sense of the term- being domestic and

motherly cows. Such an entertainment of course does

not supply to the arena that element of the exquisite

which I spoke of as wanting. The exquisite at Nimes

is mainly represented by the famous Maison Carree.

The first impression you receive from this delicate

little buildingas you stand before itis that you have

already seen it many times. Photographsengravings

modelsmedalshave placed it definitely in your eye

so that from the sentiment with which you regard it

curiosity and surprise are almost completelyand per-

haps deplorablyabsent. Admiration remainshow-

ever- admiration of a familiar and even slightly

patronizing kind. The Maison Carree does not over-

whelm you; you can conceive it. It is not one of the

great sensations of the antique art; but it is perfectly

felicitousandin spite of having been put to all sorts

of incongruous usesmarvellously preserved. Its slender

columnsits delicate proportionsits charming com-

pactnessseemed to bring one nearer to the century

that built it than the great superpositions of arenas

and bridgesand give it the interest that vibrates from

one age to another when the note of taste is struck.

If anything were needed to make this little toy-temple

a happy productionthe service would be rendered by

the second-rate boulevard that conducts to itadorned

with inferior cafes and tobacco-shops. Herein a

respectable recesssurrounded by vulgar habitations

and with the theatreof a classic pretensionopposite

stands the small "square house" so called because it

is much longer than it is broad. I saw it first in the

eveningin the vague moonlightwhich made it look

as if it were cast in bronze. Stendhal saysjustly

that it has the shape of a playing-cardand he ex-

presses his admiration for it by the singular wish

that an "exact copy" of it should be erected in Paris.

He even goes so far as to say that in the year 1880

this tribute will have been rendered to its charms;

nothing would be more simpleto his mindthan to

"have" in that city "le Pantheon de Romequelques

temples de Grece." Stendhal found it amusing to

write in the character of a _commis-voyageur_and some-

times it occurs to his reader that he really was one.

 

 

XXIX.

On my way from Nimes to ArlesI spent three

hours at Tarascon; chiefly for the love of Alphonse

Daudetwho has written nothing more genial than

"Les Aventures Prodigieuses de Taitarin" and the

story of the "siege" of the brightdead little town

(a mythic siege by the Prussians) in the "Conies du

Lundi." In the introduction whichfor the new

edition of his workshe has lately supplied to "Tar-

tarin" the author of this extravagant but kindly

satire gives some account of the displeasure with

which he has been visited by the ticklish Tarascon-

nais. Daudet relates that in his attempt to shed a

humorous light upon some of the more erratic phases

of the Provencal characterhe selected Tarascon at a

venture; not because the temperament of its natives

is more vainglorious than that of their neighborsor

their rebellion against the "despotism of fact" more

markedbut simply because he had to name a par-

ticular Provencal city. Tartarin is a hunter of lions

and charmer of womena true "_produit du midi_" as

Daudet sayswho has the most fantastic and fabulous

adventures. He is a minimized Don Quixotewith

much less dignitybut with equal good faith; and the

story of his exploits is a little masterpiece of the

light comical. The Tarasconnaishoweverdeclined to

take the jokeand opened the vials of their wrath

upon the mocking child of Nimeswho would have

been better employedthey doubtless thoughtin show-

ing up the infirmities of his own family. I am bound

to add that when I passed through Tarascon they did

not appear to be in the least out of humor. Nothing

could have been brightersoftermore suggestive of

amiable indifferencethan the picture it presented to

my mind. It lies quietly beside the Rhonelooking

across at Beaucairewhich seems very distant and in-

dependentand tacitly consenting to let the castle of

the good King Rene of Anjouwhich projects very

boldly into the riverpass for its most interesting feature.

The other features areprimarilya sort of vivid sleepi-

ness in the aspect of the placeas if the September

noon (it had lingered on into October) lasted longer

there than elsewhere; certain low arcadeswhich make

the streets look gray and exhibit empty vistas; and a

very curious and beautiful walk beside the Rhone

denominated the Chaussee- a long and narrow cause-

waydensely shaded by two rows of magnificent old

treesplanted in its embankmentand rendered doubly

effectiveat the moment I passed over itby a little

train of collegianswho had been taken out for mild

exercise by a pair of young priests. Lastlyone may

say that a striking element of Tarasconas of any town

that lies on the Rhoneis simply the Rhone itself: the

big brown floodof uncertain temperwhich has never

taken time to forget that it is a child of the mountain

and the glacierand that such an origin carries with it

great privileges. Laterat AvignonI observed it in

the exercise of these privilegeschief among which was

that of frightening the good people of the old papal

city half out of their wits.

The chateau of King Rene serves to-day as the

prison of a districtand the traveller who wishes to

look into it must obtain his permission at the _Mairie

of Tarascon_. If he have had a certain experience of

French mannershis application will be accompanied

with the forms of a considerable obsequiosityand in

this case his request will be granted as civilly as it

has been made. The castle has more of the air of a

severely feudal fortress than I should suppose the

period of its construction (the first half of the fifteenth

century) would have warranted; being tremendously

bare and perpendicularand constructed for comfort

only in the sense that it was arranged for defence. It

is a square and simple masscomposed of small yellow

stonesand perched on a pedestal of rock which easily

commands the river. The building has the usual cir-

cular towers at the cornersand a heavy cornice at

the topand immense stretches of sun-scorched wall

relieved at wide intervals by small windowsheavily

cross-barred. It hasabove allan extreme steepness

of aspect; I cannot express it otherwise. The walls

are as sheer and inhospitable as precipices. The castle

has kept its large moatwhich is now a hollow filled

with wild plants. To this tall fortress the good Rene

retired in the middle of the fifteenth centuryfinding

it apparently the most substantial thing left him in a

dominion which had included Naples and Sicily

Lorraine and Anjou. He had been a much-tried

monarch and the sport of a various fortunefighting

half his life for thrones he didn't care forand exalted

only to be quickly cast down. Provence was the

country of his affectionand the memory of his troubles

did not prevent him from holding a joyous court at

Tarascon and at Aix. He finished the castle at

Tarasconwhich had been begun earlier in the century

- finished itI supposefor consistency's sakein the

manner in which it had originally been designed rather

than in accordance with the artistic tastes that formed

the consolation of his old age. He was a paintera

writera dramatista modern dilettanteaddicted to

private theatricals. There is something very attractive

in the image that he has imprinted on the page of

history. He was both clever and kindand many

reverses and much suffering had not imbittered him

nor quenched his faculty of enjoyment. He was fond

of his sweet Provenceand his sweet Provence has

been grateful; it has woven a light tissue of legend

around the memory of the good King Rene.

I strolled over his dusky habitation - it must have

taken all his good-humor to light it up - at the heels

of the custodianwho showed me the usual number of

castle-properties: a deepwell-like court; a collection of

winding staircases and vaulted chambersthe embra-

sures of whose windows and the recesses of whose

doorways reveal a tremendous thickness of wall. These

things constitute the general identity of old castles;

and when one has wandered through a good many

with due discretion of step and protrusion of head

one ceases very much to distinguish and remember

and contents one's self with consigning them to the

honorable limbo of the romantic. I must add that this

reflection did not the least deter me from crossing the

bridge which connects Tarascon with Beaucairein

order to examine the old fortress whose ruins adorn

the latter city. It stands on a foundation of rock much

higher than that of Tarasconand looks over with a

melancholy expression at its better-conditioned brother.

Its position is magnificentand its outline very gallant.

I was well rewarded for my pilgrimage; for if the castle

of Beaucaire is only a fragmentthe whole placewith

its position and its viewsis an ineffaceable picture. It

was the stronghold of the Montmorencysand its last

tenant was that rash Duke Francoiswhom Richelieu

seizing every occasion to trample on a great noble

caused to be beheaded at Toulousewhere we sawin

the Capitolthe butcher's knife with which the cardinal

pruned the crown of France of its thorns. The castle

after the death of this victimwas virtually demolished.

Its sitewhich Nature to-day has taken again to herself

has an extraordinary charm. The mass of rock that it

formerly covered rises high above the townand is as

precipitous as the side of the Rhone. A tall rusty iron

gate admits you from a quiet corner of Beaucaire to a

wild tangled gardencovering the side of the hill-

for the whole place forms the public promenade of the

townsfolk- a garden without flowerswith little steep

rough paths that wind under a plantation of small

scrubby stone-pines. Above this is the grassy platform

of the castleenclosed on one side only (toward the

river) by a large fragment of wall and a very massive

dungeon. There are benches placed in the lee of the

walland others on the edge of the platformwhere

one may enjoy a viewbeyond the riverof certain

peeled and scorched undulations. A sweet desolation

an everlasting peaceseemed to hang in the air. A

very old man (a fragmentlike the castle itself) emerged

from some crumbling corner to do me the honors- a

very gentleobsequioustotteringtoothlessgrateful old

man. He beguiled me into an ascent of the solitary

towerfrom which you may look down on the big

sallow river and glance at diminished Tarasconand

the barefacedbald-headed hills behind it. It may

appear that I insist too much upon the nudity of the

Provencal horiion- too muchconsidering that I have

spoken of the prospect from the heights of Beaucaire as

lovely. But it is an exquisite bareness; it seems to

exist for the purpose of allowing one to follow the de-

licate lines of the hillsand touch with the eyesas it

werethe smallest inflections of the landscape. It

makes the whole thing seem wonderfully bright and

pure.

Beaucaire used to be the scene of a famous fair

the great fair of the south of France. It has gone the

way of most fairseven in Francewhere these delight-

ful exhibitions hold their own much better than might

be supposed. It is still held in the month of July;

but the bourgeoises of Tarascon send to the Magasin

du Louvre for their smart dressesand the principal

glory of the scene is its long tradition. Even now

howeverit ought to be the prettiest of all fairsfor it

takes place in a charming wood which lies just beneath

the castlebeside the Rhone. The boothsthe barracks

the platforms of the mountebanksthe bright-colored

crowddiffused through this midsummer shadeand

spotted here and there with the rich Provencal sun-

shine must be of the most pictorial effect. It is highly

probabletoothat it offers a large collection of pretty

faces; for even in the few hours that I spent at

Tarascon I discovered symptoms of the purity of

feature for which the women of the _pays d'Arles_ are

renowned. The Arlesian head-dresswas visible in the

streets; and this delightful coiffure is so associated with

a charming facial ovala dark mild eyea straight

Greek noseand a mouth worthy of all the restthat

it conveys a presumption of beauty which gives the

wearer time either to escape or to please you. I have

read somewherehoweverthat Tarascon is supposed

to produce handsome menas Arles is known to deal

in handsome women. It may be that I should have

found the Tarasconnais very fine fellowsif I had en-

countered enough specimens to justify an induction.

But there were very few males in the streetsand the

place presented no appearance of activity. Here and

there the black coif of an old woman or of a young

girl was framed by a low doorway; but for the restas

I have saidTarascon was mostly involved in a siesta.

There was not a creature in the little church of Saint

Marthawhich I made a point of visiting before I re-

turned to the stationand whichwith its fine Romanesque

sideportal and its pointed and crocketed Gothic spire

is as curious as it need bein view of its tradition. It

stands in a quiet corner where the grass grows between

the small cobble-stonesand you pass beneath a deep

archway to reach it. The tradition relates that Saint

Martha tamed with her own handsand attached to

her girdlea dreadful dragonwho was known as the

Tarasqueand is reported to have given his name to

the city on whose site (amid the rocks which form the

base of the chateau) he had his cavern. The dragon

perhapsis the symbol of a ravening paganismdis-

pelled by the eloquence of a sweet evangelist. The

bones of the interesting saintat all eventswere found

in the eleventh centuryin a cave beneath the spot on

which her altar now stands. I know not what had be-

come of the bones of the dragon.

 

 

XXX.

There are two shabby old inns at Arleswhich

compete closely for your custom. I mean by this that

if you elect to go to the Hotel du Forumthe Hotel

du Nordwhich is placed exactly beside it (at a right

angle) watches your arrival with ill-concealed dis-

approval; and if you take the chances of its neighbor

the Hotel du Forum seems to glare at you invidiously

from all its windows and doors. I forget which of

these establishments I selected; whichever it wasI

wished very much thatit had been the other. The

two stand together on the Place des Hommesa little

public square of Arleswhich somehow quite misses

its effect. As a cityindeedArles quite misses its

effect in every way; and if it is a charming placeas

I think it isI can hardly tell the reason why. The

straight-nosed Arlesiennes account for it in some degree;

and the remainder may be charged to the ruins of the

arena and the theatre. Beyond thisI remember with

affection the ill-proportioned little Place des Hommes;

not at all monumentaland given over to puddles and

to shabby cafes. I recall with tenderness the tortuous

and featureless streetswhich looked like the streets of

a villageand were paved with villanous little sharp

stonesmaking all exercise penitential. Consecrated

by association is even a tiresome walk that I took the

evening I arrivedwith the purpose of obtaining a

view of the Rhone. I had been to Arles beforeyears

agoand it seemed to me that I remembered finding

on the banks of the stream some sort of picture. I

think that on the evening of which I speak there was

a watery moonwhich it seemed to me would light up

the past as well as the present. But I found no pic-

tureand I scarcely found the Rhone at all. I lost

my wayand there was not a creature in the streets to

whom I could appeal. Nothing could be more pro-

vincial than the situation of Arles at ten o'clock at

night. At last I arrived at a kind of embankment

where I could see the great mud-colored stream slip-

ping along in the soundless darkness. It had come

on to rainI know not what had happened to the

moonand the whole place was anything but gay. It

was not what I had looked for; what I had looked for

was in the irrecoverable past. I groped my way back

to the inn over the infernal _cailloux_feeling like a dis-

comfited Dogberry. I remember now that this hotel

was the one (whichever that may be) which has the

fragment of a Gallo-Roman portico inserted into one

of its angles. I had chosen it for the sake of this ex-

ceptional ornament. It was damp and darkand the

floors felt gritty to the feet; it was an establishment at

which the dreadful _gras-double_ might have appeared

at the table d'hoteas it had done at Narbonne. Never-

thelessI was glad to get back to it; and nevertheless

too- and this is the moral of my simple anecdote-

my pointless little walk (I don't speak of the pave-

ment) suffuses itselfas I look back upon itwith a

romantic tone. And in relation to the innI suppose

I had better mention that I am well aware of the in-

consistency of a person who dislikes the modern cara-

vansaryand yet grumbles when he finds a hotel of

the superannuated sort. One ought to chooseit would

seemand make the best of either alternative. The

two old taverns at Arles are quite unimproved; such

as they must have been in the infancy of the modern

worldwhen Stendhal passed that wayand the lum-

bering diligence deposited him in the Place des

Hommessuch in every detail they are to-day. _Vieilles

auberges de France_one ought to enjoy their gritty

floors and greasy window-panes. Let it be put on re-

cordthereforethat I have beenI won't say less com-

fortablebut at least less happyat better inns.

To be really historicI should have mentioned that

before going to look for the Rhone I had spent part

of the evening on the opposite side of the little place

and that I indulged in this recreation for two definite

reasons. One of these was that I had an opportunity

of conversing at a cafe with an attractive young Eng-

lishmanwhom I had met in the afternoon at Tarascon

and more remotelyin other yearsin London; the

other was that there sat enthroned behind the counter

a splendid mature Arlesiennewhom my companion

and I agreed that it was a rare privilege to contem-

plate. There is no rule of good manners or morals

which makes it improperat a cafeto fix one's eyes

upon the _dame de comptoir_; the lady isin the nature

of thingsa part of your _consommation_. We were there-

fore feee to admire without restriction the handsomest

person I had ever seen give change for a five-franc

piece. She was a large quiet womanwho would never

see forty again; of an intensely feminine typeyet

wonderfully rich and robustand full of a certain phy-

sical nobleness. Though she was not really oldshe

was antiqueand she was very graveeven a little sad.

She had the dignity of a Roman empressand she

handled coppers as if they had been stamped with

the head of Caesar. I have seen washerwomen in the

Trastevere who were perhaps as handsome as she; but

even the head-dress of the Roman contadina con-

tributes less to the dignity of the person born to wear

it than the sweet and stately Arlesian capwhich sits

at once aloft and on the back of the head; which is

accompanied with a wide black bow covering a con-

siderable part of the crown; and whichfinallyaccom-

modates itself indescribably well to the manner in

which the tresses of the front are pushed behind the

cars.

This admirable dispenser of lumps of sugar has

distracted me a little; for I am still not sufficiently

historical. Before going to the cafe I had dinedand

before dining I had found time to go and look at the

arena. Then it was that I discovered that Arles has

no general physiognomyandexcept the delightful

little church of Saint Trophimusno architectureand

that the rugosities of its dirty lanes affect the feet

like knife-blades. It was not thenon the other handthat

I saw the arena best. The second day of my stay at

Arles I devoted to a pilgrimage to the strange old hill

town of Les Bauxthe mediaeval Pompeiiof which I

shall give myself the pleasure of speaking. The even-

ing of that dayhowever (my friend and I returned in

time for a late dinner)I wandered among the Roman

remains of the place by the light of a magnificent

moonand gathered an impression which has lost little

of its silvery glow. The moon of the evening before

had been aqueous and erratic; but if on the present

occasion it was guilty of any irregularitythe worst it

did was only to linger beyond its time in the heavens

in order to let us look at things comfortably. The

effect was admirable; it brought back the impression

of the wayin Rome itselfon evenings like thatthe

moonshine rests upon broken shafts and slabs of an-

tique pavement. As we sat in the theatrelooking at

the two lone columns that survive - part of the decora-

tion of the back of the stage - and at the fragments

of ruin around themwe might have been in the

Roman forum. The arena at Arleswith its great

magnitudeis less complete than that of Nimes; it has

suffered even more the assaults of time and of the

children of timeand it has been less repaired. The

seats are almost wholly wanting; but the external walls

minus the topmost tier of archesare massivelyrug-

gedlycomplete; and the vaulted corridors seem as

solid as the day they were built. The whole thing is

superbly vastand as monumentalfor place of light

amusement - what is called in America a "variety-

show" - as it entered only into the Roman mind to

make such establishments. The _podium_ is much higher

than at Nimesand many of the great white slabs that

faced it have been recovered and put into their places.

The proconsular box has been more or less recon-

structedand the great converging passages of approach

to it are still majestically distinct: so thatas I sat

there in the moon-charmed stillnessleaning my elbows

on the battered parapet of the ringit was not im-

possible - to listen to the murmurs and shuddersthe

thick voice of the circusthat died away fifteen hun-

dred years ago.

The theatre has a voice as wellbut it lingers on

the ear of time with a different music. The Roman

theatre at Arles seemed to me one of the most charm-

ing and touching ruins I had ever beheld; I took a

particular fancy to it. It is less than a skeleton- the

arena may be called a skeleton; for it consists only of

half a dozen bones. The traces of the row of columns

which formed the scene - the permanent back-scene -

remain; two marble pillars - I just mentioned them -

are uprightwith a fragment of their entablature. Be

fore them is the vacant space which was filled by the

stagewith the line of the prosoenium distinctmarked

by a deep grooveimpressed upon slabs of stonewhich

looks as if the bottom of a high screen had been in-

tended to fit into it. The semicircle formed by the

seats - half a cup - rises opposite; some of the rows

are distinctly marked. The floorfrom the bottom of

the stagein the shape of an arc of which the chord

is formed by the line of the orchestrais covered by

slabs of colored marble - redyellowand green -

whichthough terribly battered and cracked to-day

give one an idea of the elegance of the interior. Every-

thing shows that it was on a great scale: the large

sweep of its enclosing wallsthe massive corridors that

passed behind the auditoriumand of which we can

still perfectly take the measure. The way in which

every seat commanded the stage is a lesson to the

architects of our epochas also the immense size of

the place is a proof of extraordinary power of voice

on the part of the Roman actors. It was after we had

spent half an hour in the moonshine at the arena that

we came on to this more ghostly and more exquisite

ruin. The principal entrance was lockedbut we

effected an easy _escalade_scaled a low parapetand

descended into the place behind file scenes. It was

as light as dayand the solitude was complete. The

two slim columnsas we sat on the broken benches

stood there like a pair of silent actors. What I called

touchingjust nowwas the thought that here the

human voicethe utterance of a great languagehad

been supreme. The air was full of intonations and

cadences; not of the echo of smashing blowsof riven

armorof howling victims and roaring beasts. The

spot isin shortone of the sweetest legacies of the

ancient world; and there seems no profanation in the

fact that by day it is open to the good people of

Arleswho use it to passby no means in great num-

bersfrom one part of the town to the other; treading

the old marble floorand brushingif need bethe

empty benches. This familiarity does not kill the

place again; it makes iton the contrarylive a little

- makes the present and the past touch each other.

 

 

XXXI.

The third lion of Arles has nothing to do with the

ancient worldbut only with the old one. The church

of Saint Trophimuswhose wonderful Romanesque

porch is the principal ornament of the principal _place_

- a _place_ otherwise distinguished by the presence of

a slim and tapering obelisk in the middleas well as

by that of the Hotel de Ville and the museum - the

interesting church of Saint Trophimus swears a little

as the French saywith the peculiar character of

Arles. It is very remarkablebut I would rather it

were in another place. Arles is delightfully pagan

and Saint Trophimuswith its apostolic sculpturesis

rather a false note. These sculptures are equally re-

markable for their primitive vigor and for the perfect

preservation in which they have come down to us.

The deep recess of a round-arched porch of the

twelfth century is covered with quaint figureswhich

have not lost a nose or a finger. An angularByzan-

tine-looking Christ sits in a diamond-shaped frame at

the summit of the archsurrounded by little angels

by great apostlesby winged beastsby a hundred

sacred symbols and grotesque ornaments. It is a

dense embroidery of sculptureblack with timebut as

uninjured as if it had been kept under glass. One

good mark for the French Revolution! Of the in-

terior of the churchwhich has a nave of the twelfth

centuryand a choir three hundred years more recent

I chiefly remember the odd feature that the Romanesque

aisles are so narrow that you literally - or almost -

squeeze through them. You do so with some eager-

nessfor your natural purpose is to pass out to the

cloister. This cloisteras distinguished and as per-

fect as the porchhas a great deal of charm. Its four

sideswhich are not of the same period (the earliest

and best are of the twelfth century)have an elaborate

arcadesupported on delicate pairs of columnsthe

capitals of which show an extraordinary variety of

device and ornament. At the corners of the quadrangle

these columns take the form of curious human figures.

The whole thing is a gem of lightness and preserva-

tionand is often cited for its beauty; but - if it

doesn't sound too profane - I preferespecially at

Arlesthe ruins of the Roman theatre. The antique

element is too precious to be mingled with anything

less rare. This truth was very present to my mind

during a ramble of a couple of hours that I took just

before leaving the place; and the glowing beauty of

the morning gave the last touch of the impression. I

spent half an hour at the Museum; then I took an-

other look at the Roman theatre; after which I walked

a little out of the town to the Aliscampsthe old

Elysian Fieldsthe meagre remnant of the old pagan

place of sepulturewhich was afterwards used by the

Christiansbut has been for ages desertedand now

consists only of a melancholy avenue of cypresses

lined with a succession of ancient sarcophagiempty

mossyand mutilated. An iron-foundryor some hor-

rible establishment which is conditioned upon tall

chimneys and a noise of hammering and banginghas

been established near at hand; but the cypresses shut

it out well enoughand this small patch of Elysium is

a very romantic corner.

The door of the Museum stands ajarand a vigilant

custodianwith the usual batch of photographs on

his mindpeeps out at you disapprovingly while you

linger oppositebefore the charming portal of Saint

Trophimuswhich you may look at for nothing.

When you succumb to the silent influence of his eye

and go over to visit his collectionyou find yourself

in a desecrated churchin which a variety of ancient

objectsdisinterred in Arlesian soilhave been ar-

ranged without any pomp. The best of theseI be-

lievewere found in the ruins of the theatre. Some of

the most curious of them are early Christian sar-

cophagiexactly on the pagan modelbut covered with

rude yet vigorously wrought images of the apostles

and with illustrations of scriptural history. Beauty

of the highest kindeither of conception or of execu-

tionis absent from most of the Roman fragments

which belong to the taste of a late period and a

provincial civilization. But a gulf divides them from

the bristling little imagery of the Christian sarcophagi

in whichat the same timeone detects a vague

emulation of the rich examples by which their authors

were surrounded. There is a certain element of style

in all the pagan things; there is not a hint of it in

the early Christian relicsamong whichaccording to

M. Joanneof the Guideare to be found more fine

sarcophagi than in any collection but that of St. John

Lateran. In two or three of the Roman fragments

there is a noticeable distinction; principally in a

charming bust of a boyquite perfectwith those

salient eyes that one sees in certain antique bustsand

to which the absence of vision in the marble mask

gives a lookoften very touchingas of a baffled effort

to see; also in the head of a womanfound in the

ruins of the theatrewhoalas! has lost her noseand

whose noblesimple contourbarring this deficiency

recalls the great manner of the Venus of Milo. There

are various rich architectural fragments which in-

dicate that that edifice was a very splendid affair.

This little Museum at Arlesin shortis the most Ro-

man thing I know ofout of Rome.

 

 

XXXII.

I find that I declared one eveningin a little

journal I was keeping at that timethat I was weary

of writing (I was probably very sleepy)but that it

was essential I should make some note of my visit to

Les Baux. I must have gone to sleep as soon as I

had recorded this necessityfor I search my small diary

in vain for any account of that enchanting spot. I

have nothing but my memory to consult- a memory

which is fairly good in regard to a general impression

but is terribly infirm in the matter of details and

items. We knew in advancemy companion and I

that Les Baus was a pearl of picturesqueness; for

had we not read as much in the handbook of Murray

who has the testimony of an English nobleman as to

its attractions? We also knew that it lay some miles

from Arieson the crest of the Alpillesthe craggy

little mountains whichas I stood on the breezy plat-

form of Beaucaireformed to my eye a charmingif

somewhat remotebackground to Tarascon; this as-

surance having been given us by the landlady of the

inn at Arlesof whom we hired a rather lumbering

conveyance. The weather was not promisingbut it

proved a good day for the mediaeval Pompeii; a gray

melancholymoistbut rainlessor almost rainless

daywith nothing in the sky to floutas the poet

saysthe dejected and pulverized past. The drive

itself was charming; for there is an inexhaustible

sweetness in the gray-green landscape of Provence.

It is never absolutely flatand yet is never really

ambitiousand is full both of entertainment and re-

pose. It is in constant undulationand the bareness

of the soil lends itself easily to outline and profile.

When I say the barenessI mean the absence of

woods and hedges. It blooms with heath and scented

shrubs and stunted olive; and the white rock shining

through the scattered herbage has a brightness which

answers to the brightness of the sky. Of course it

needs the sunshinefor all southern countries look a

little false under the ground glass of incipient bad

weather. This was the case on the day of my pil-

grimage to Les Baux. NeverthelessI was as glad

to keep going as I was to arrive; and as I went it

seemed to me that true happiness would consist in

wandering through such a land on footon September

afternoonswhen one might stretch one's self on the

warm ground in some shady hollowand listen to the

hum of bees and the whistle of melancholy shepherds;

for in Provence the shepherds whistle to their flocks.

I saw two or three of themin the course of this drive

to Les Bauxmeandering aboutlooking behindand

calling upon the sheep in this way to followwhich

the sheep always didvery promptlywith ovine

unanimity. Nothing is more picturesque than to see

a slow shepherd threading his way down one of the

winding paths on a hillsidewith his flock close be-

hind himnecessarily expandedyet keeping just at

his heelsbending and twisting as it goesand looking

rather like the tail of a dingy comet.

About four miles from Arlesas you drive north-

ward toward the Alpillesof which Alphonse Daudet

has spoken so oftenandas he might sayso in-

timatelystand on a hill that overlooks the road

the very considerable ruins of the abbey of Mont-

majourone of the innumerable remnants of a feudal

and ecclesiastical (as well as an architectural) past

that one encounters in the South of France; remnants

whichit must be confessedtend to introduce a cer-

tain confusion and satiety into the passive mind of

the tourist. Montmajourhoweveris very impressive

and interesting; the only trouble with it is that

unless you have stopped and retumed to Arlesyou

see it in memory over the head of Les Bauxwhich

is a much more absorbing picture. A part of the

mass of buildings (the monastery) dates only from the

last century; and the stiff architecture of that period

does not lend itself very gracefully to desolation: it

looks too much as if it had been burnt down the year

before. The monastery was demolished during the

Revolutionand it injures a little the effect of the

very much more ancient fragments that are connected

with it. The whole place is on a great scale; it was

a rich and splendid abbey. The churcha vast

basilica of the eleventh centuryand of the noblest

proportionsis virtually intact; I mean as regards

its essentialsfor the details have completely vanished.

The huge solid shell is full of expression; it looks

as if it had been hollowed out by the sincerity of

early faithand it opens into a cloister as impressive

as itself. Wherever one goesin Franceone meets

looking backward a littlethe spectre of the great

Revolution; and one meets it always in the shape of

the destruction of something beautiful and precious.

To make us forgive it at allhow much it must also

have destroyed that was more hateful than itself!

Beneath the church of Montmajour is a most extra-

ordinary cryptalmost as big as the edifice above

itand making a complete subterranean templesur-

rounded with a circular galleryor deambulatory

which expands it intervals into five square chapels.

There are other thingsof which I have but a con-

fused memory: a great fortified keep; a queer little

primitive chapelhollowed out of the rockbeneath

these later structuresand recommended to the

visitor's attention as the confessional of Saint Tro-

phimuswho shares with so many worthies the glory

of being the first apostle of the Gauls. Then there

is a strangesmall churchof the dimmest antiquity

standing at a distance from the other buildings. I

remember that after we had let ourselves down a

good many steepish places to visit crypts and con-

fessionalswe walked across a field to this archaic

cruciform edificeand went thence to a point further

down the roadwhere our carriage was awaiting

us. The chapel of the Holy Crossas it is called

is classed among the historic monuments of France;

and I read in a queerramblingill-written book

which I picked up at Avignonand in which the

authorM. Louis de Lainbelhas buried a great deal

of curious information on the subject of Provence

under a style inspiring little confidencethat the

"delicieuse chapelle de Sainte-Croix" is a "veritable

bijou artistique." He speaks of "a piece of lace in

stone" which runs from one end of the building to

the otherbut of which I am obliged to confess that

I have no recollection. I retainhowevera suf-

ficiently clear impression of the little superannuated

templewith its four apses and its perceptible odor of

antiquity- the odor of the eleventh century.

The ruins of Les Baux remain quite indistinguish-

ableeven when you are directly beneath themat

the foot of the charming little Alpilleswhich mass

themselves with a kind of delicate ruggedness. Rock

and ruin have been so welded together by the con-

fusions of timethat as you approach it from behind

- that isfrom the direction of Arles - the place

presents simply a general air of cragginess. Nothing

can be prettier than the crags of Provence; they are

beautifully modelledas painters sayand they have

a delightful silvery color. The road winds round the

foot of the hills on the top of which Lea Baux is

plantedand passes into another valleyfrom which

the approach to the town is many degrees less pre-

cipitousand may be comfortably made in a carriage.

Of course the deeply inquiring traveller will alight as

promptly as possible; for the pleasure of climbing

into this queerest of cities on foot is not the least

part of the entertainment of going there. Then you

appreciate its extraordinary positionits picturesque-

nessits steepnessits desolation and decay. It

hangs - that iswhat remains of it - to the slanting

summit of the mountain. Nothing would be more

natural than for the whole place to roll down into

the valley. A part of it has done so - for it is not

unjust to suppose that in the process of decay the

crumbled particles have sought the lower level;

while the remainder still clings to its magnificent

perch.

If I called Les Baux a cityjustaboveit was not

that I was stretching a point in favor of the small

spot which to-day contains but a few dozen inhabi-

tants. The history of the plate is as extraordinary

as its situation. It was not only a citybut a state;

not only a statebut an empire; and on the crest of

its little mountain called itself sovereign of a territory

or at least of scattered towns and countieswith which

its present aspect is grotesquely out of relation. The

lords of Les Bauxin a wordwere great feudal pro-

prietors; and there-was a time during which the island

of Sardiniato say nothing of places nearer home

such as Arles and Marseillespaid them homage. The

chronicle of this old Provencal house has been written

in a style somewhat unctuous and floweryby M. Jules

Canonge. I purchased the little book - a modest

pamphlet - at the establishment of the good sisters

just beside the churchin one of the highest parts of

Les Baux. The sisters have a school for the hardy little

Baussenqueswhom I heard piping their lessonswhile

I waited in the cold _parloir_ for one of the ladies to

come and speak to me. Nothing could have been

more perfect than the manner of this excellent woman

when she arrived; yet her small religious house

seemed a very out-of-the-way corner of the world. It

was spotlessly neatand the rooms looked as if they

had lately been papered and painted: in this respect

at the mediaeval Pompeiithey were rather a discord.

They wereat any ratethe newestfreshest thing at

Les Baux. I remember going round to the church

after I had left the good sistersand to a little quiet

terracewhich stands in front of itornamented with

a few small trees and bordered with a wallbreast-

highover which you look down steep hillsidesoff

into the air and all about the neighbouring country.

I remember saying to myself that this little terrace

was one of those felicitous nooks which the tourist

of taste keeps in his mind as a picture. The church

was small and brown and darkwith a certain rustic

richness. All thishoweveris no general description

of Les Baux.

I am unable to give any coherent account of the

placefor the simple reason that it is a mere con-

fusion of ruin. It has not been preserved in lava like

Pompeiiand its streets and housesits ramparts and

castlehave become fragmentarynot through the

sudden destructionbut through the gradual with-

drawalof a population. It is not an extinguished

but a deserted city; more deserted far than even

Carcassonne and Aigues-Morteswhere I found so

much entertainment in the grass-grown element. It

is of very small extentand even in the days of its

greatnesswhen its lords entitled themselves counts

of Cephalonia and Neophantiskings of Arles and

Vienneprinces of Achaiaand emperors of Constan-

tinople- even at this flourishing periodwhenas M.

Jules Canonge remarks"they were able to depress

the balance in which the fate of peoples and kings is

weighed" the plucky little city contained at the most

no more than thirty-six hundred souls. Yet its lords

(whohoweveras I have saidwere able to present

a long list of subject townsmost of themthough a

few are renownedunknown to fame) were seneschals

and captains-general of Piedmont and Lombardy

grand admirals of the kingdom of Naplesand its

ladies were sought in marriage by half the first

princes in Europe. A considerable part of the little

narrative of M. Canonge is taken up with the great

alliances of the House of Bauxwhose fortunesma-

trimonial and otherhe traces from the eleventh cen-

tury down to the sixteenth. The empty shells of a

considerable number of old housesmany of which

must have been superbthe lines of certain steep

little streetsthe foundations of a castleand ever so

many splendid viewsare all that remains to-day of

these great titles. To such a list I may add a dozen

very polite and sympathetic peoplewho emerged from

the interstices of the desultory little town to gaze at

the two foreigners who had driven over from Arles

and whose horses were being baited at the modest

inn. The resources of this establishment we did not

venture otherwise to testin spite of the seductive

fact that the sign over the door was in the Provencal

tongue. This little group included the bakera rather

melancholy young manin high boots and a cloak

with whom and his companions we had a good deal

of conversation. The Baussenques of to-day struck

me as a very mild and agreeable racewith a good

deal of the natural amenity whichon occasions like

this onethe travellerwho iswaiting for his horses

to be put in or his dinner to be preparedobserves

in the charming people who lend themselves to con-

versation in the hill-towns of Tuscany. The spot

where our entertainers at Les Baux congregated was

naturally the most inhabited portion of the town; as

I saythere were at least a dozen human figures

within sight. Presently we wandered away from them

scaled the higher placesseated ourselves among the

ruins of the castleand looked down from the cliff

overhanging that portion of the road which I have

mentioned as approaching Les Baux from behind. I

was unable to trace the configuration of the castle as

plainly as the writers who have described it in the

guide-booksand I am ashamed to say that I did not

even perceive the three great figures of stone (the

three Marysas they are called; the two Marys of

Scripturewith Martha)which constitute one of the

curiosities of the placeand of which M. Jules Canonge

speaks with almost hyperbolical admiration. A brisk

showerlasting some ten minutesled us to take refuge

in a cavityof mysterious originwhere the melancholy

baker presently discovered ushaving had the _bonne

pensee_ of coming up for us with an umbrella which

certainly belongedin former agesto one of the Ste-

phanettes or Berangeres commemorated by M. Canonge.

His ovenI am afraidwas cold so long as our visit

lasted. When the rain was over we wandered down

to the little disencumbered space before the inn

through a small labyrinth of obliterated things. They

took the form of narrowprecipitous streetsbordered

by empty houseswith gaping windows and absent

doorsthrough which we had glimpses of sculptured

chimney-pieces and fragments of stately arch and vault.

Some of the houses are still inhabited; but most of

them are open to the air and weather. Some of them

have completely collapsed; others present to the street

a front which enables one to judge of the physiognomy

of Les Baux in the days of its importance. This im-

portance had pretty well passed away in the early part

of the sixteenth centurywhen the place ceased to be

an independent principality. It became - by bequest

of one of its lordsBernardin des Bauxa great cap-

tain of his time - part of the appanage of the kings of

Franceby whom it was placed under the protection

of Arleswhich had formerly occupied with regard to

it a different position. I know not whether the Arle-

sians neglected their trust; but the extinction of the

sturdy little stronghold is too complete not to have

begun long ago. Its memories are buried under its

ponderous stones. As we drove away from it in the

gloamingmy friend and I agreed that the two or three

hours we had spent there were among the happiest

impressions of a pair of tourists very curious in the

picturesque. We almost forgot that we were bound to

regret that the shortened day left us no time to drive

five miles furtherabove a pass in the little mountains

- it had beckoned to us in the morningwhen we

came in sight of italmost irresistibly - to see the Ro-

man arch and mausoleum of Saint Remy. To compass

this larger excursion (including the visit to Les Baux)

you must start from Arles very early in the morning;

but I can imagine no more delightful day.

 

 

XXXIII.

I had been twice at Avignon beforeand yet I was

not satisfied. I probably am satisfied now; neverthe-

lessI enjoyed my third visit. I shall not soon forget

the firston which a particular emotion set indelible

stamp. I was travelling northwardin 1870after four

months spentfor the first timein Italy. It was the

middle of Januaryand I had found myselfunexpected-

lyforced to return to England for the rest of the

winter. It was an insufferable disappointment; I was

wretched and broken-hearted. Italy appeared to me

at that time so much better than anything else in the

worldthat to rise from table in the middle of the

feast was a prospect of being hungry for the rest of

my days. I had heard a great deal of praise of the

south of France; but the south of France was a poor

consolation. In this state of mind I arrived at Avignon

which under a brighthard winter sun was tingling -

fairly spinning - with the _mistral_. I find in my journal

of the other day a reference to the acuteness of my

reluctance in January1870. Franceafter Italyap-

pearedin the language of the latter country_poco sim-

patica_; and I thought it necessaryfor reasons now in-

conceivableto read the "Figaro" which was filled

with descriptions of the horrible Troppmannthe mur-

derer of the _famille_ Kink. TroppmannKink_le crime

do Pantin_very names that figured in this episode

seemed to wave me back. Had I abandoned the so-

norous south to associate with vocables so base?

It was very coldthe other dayat Avignon; for

though there was no mistralit was raining as it rains

in Provenceand the dampness had a terrible chill in

it. As I sat by my firelate at night - for in genial

Avignonin OctoberI had to have a fire - it came

back to me that eleven years before I had at that

same hour sat by a fire in that same roomandwrit-

ing to a friend to whom I was not afraid to appear

extravaganthad made a vow that at some happier

period of the future I would avenge myself on the _ci-

devant_ city of the Popes by taking it in a contrary

sense. I suppose that I redeemed my vow on the oc-

casion of my second visit better than on my third; for

then I was on my way to Italyand that vengeanceof

coursewas complete. The only drawback was that I

was in such a hurry to get to Ventimiglia (where the

Italian custom-house was to be the sign of my triumph)

that I scarcely took time to make it clear to myself at

Avignon that this was better than reading the "Figaro."

I hurried on almost too fast to enjoy the consciousness

of moving southward. On this last occasion I was un-

fortunately destitute of that happy faith. Avignon was

my southernmost limit; after which I was to turn round

and proceed back to England. But in the interval I

had been a great deal in Italyand that made all the

difference.

I had plenty of time to think of thisfor the rain

kept me practically housed for the first twenty-four

hours. It had been raining inthese regions for a

monthand people had begun to look askance at the

Rhonethough as yet the volume of the river was not

exorbitant. The only excursion possiblewhile the

torrent descendedwas a kind of horizontal diveac-

companied with infinite splashingto the little _musee_

of the townwhich is within a moderate walk of the

hotel. I had a memory of it from my first visit; it

had appeared to me more pictorial than its pictures.

I found that recollection had flattered it a littleand

that it is neither better nor worse than most provincial

museums. It has the usual musty chill in the airthe

usual grass-grown fore-courtin which a few lumpish

Roman fragments are disposedthe usual red tiles on

the floorand the usual specimens of the more livid

schools on the walls. I rang up the _gardien_who ar-

rived with a bunch of keyswiping his mouth; he un-

locked doors for meopened shuttersand while (to

my distressas if the things had been worth lingering

over) he shuffled about after mehe announced the

names of the pictures before which I stoppedin a

voice that reverberated through the melancholy halls

and seemed to make the authorship shameful when it

was obscureand grotesque when it pretended to be

great. Then there were intervals of silencewhile I

stared absent-mindedlyat hap-hazardat some indis-

tinguishable canvasand the only sound was the down-

pour of the rain on the skylights. The museum of

Avignon derives a certain dignity from its Roman frag-

ments. The town has no Roman monuments to show;

in this respectbeside its brilliant neighborsArles and

Nimesit is a blank. But a great many small objects

have been found in its soil- potteryglassbronzes

lampsvessels and ornaments of gold and silver. The

glass is especially chaming- small vessels of the most

delicate shape and substancemany of them perfectly

preserved. These diminutiveintimate things bring

one near to the old Roman life; they seem like pearls

strung upon the slender thread that swings across the

gulf of time. A little glass cup that Roman lips have

touched says more to us than the great vessel of an

arena. There are two small silver _casseroles_with chi-

selled handlesin the museum of Avignonthat struck

me as among the most charming survivals of anti-

quity.

I did wrong just aboveto speak of my attack on

this establishment as the only recreation I took that

first wet day; for I remember a terribly moist visit to

the former palace of the Popeswhich could have

taken place only in the same tempestuous hours. It is

true that I scarcely know why I should have gone out

to see the Papal palace in the rainfor I had been

over it twice beforeand even then had not found the

interest of the place so complete as it ought to be; the

factneverthelessremains that this last occasion is

much associated with an umbrellawhich was not

superfluous even in some of the chambers and cor-

ridors of the gigantic pile. It had already seemed to

me the dreariest of all historical buildingsand my

final visit confirmed the impression. The place is as

intricate as it is vastand as desolate as it is dirty.

The imagination hasfor some reason or otherto

make more than the effort usual in such cases to re-

store and repeople it. The factindeedis simply that

the palace has been so incalculably abused and altered.

The alterations have been so numerous thatthough I

have duly conned the enumerationssupplied in guide-

booksof the principal perversionsI do not pretend

to carry any of them in my head. The huge bare

masswithout ornamentwithout gracedespoiled of its

battlements and defaced with sordid modern windows

covering the Rocher des Domsand looking down over

the Rhone and the broken bridge of Saint-Benazet

(which stops in such a sketchable manner in mid-

stream)and across at the lonely tower of Philippe le

Bel and the ruined wall of Villeneuvemakes at a dis-

tancein spite of its povertya great figurethe effect

of which is carried out by the tower of the church be-

side it (crowned though the latter bein a top-heavy

fashionwith an immense modern image of the Virgin)

and by the thickdark foliage of the garden laid out

on a still higher portion of the eminence. This garden

recallsfaintly and a trifle perverselythe grounds of

the Pincian at Rome. I know not whether it is the

shadow of the Papal namepresent in both places

combined with a vague analogy between the churches

- whichapproached in each case by a flight of steps

seemed to defend the precinct- but each time I have

seen the Promenade des Doms it has carried my

thoughts to the wider and loftier terrace from which

you look away at the Tiber and Saint Peter's.

As you stand before the Papal palaceand espe-

cially as you enter ityou are struck with its being a

very dull monument. History enough was enacted

here: the great schism lasted from 1305 to 1370dur-

ing which seven Popesall Frenchmencarried on the

court of Avignon on principles that have not com-

mended themselves to the esteem of posterity. But

history has been whitewashed awayand the scandals

of that period have mingled with the dust of dilapi-

dations and repairs. The building has for many years

been occupied as a barrack for regiments of the line

and the main characteristics of a barrack - an extreme

nudity and a very queer smell - prevail throughout its

endless compartments. Nothing could have been more

cruelly dismal than the appearance it presented at the

time of this third visit of mine. A regimentchanging

quartershad departed the day beforeand another

was expected to arrive (from Algeria) on the morrow.

The place had been left in the befouled and belittered

condition which marks the passage of the military after

they have broken carnpand it would offer but a me-

lancholy welcome to the regiment that was about to

take possession. Enormous windows had been left

carelessly open all over the buildingand the rain and

wind were beating into empty rooms and passages;

making draughts which purifiedperhapsbut which

scarcely cheered. For an arrivalit was horrible. A

handful of soldiers had remained behind. In one of

the big vaulted rooms several of them were lying on

their wretched bedsin the dim lightin the coldin

the dampwith the bleakbare walls before themand

their overcoatsspread over thempulled up to their

noses. I pitied them immenselythough they may

have felt less wretched than they looked. I thought

not of the old profligacies and crimesnot of the

funnel-shaped torture-chamber (whichafter exciting

the shudder of generationshas been ascertained now

I believeto have been a mediaeval bakehouse)not of

the tower of the _glaciere_ and the horrors perpetrated

here in the Revolutionbut of the military burden of

young France. One wonders how young France en-

dures itand one is forced to believe that the French

conscript hasin addition to his notorious good-humor

greater toughness than is commonly supposed by those

who consider only the more relaxing influences of

French civilization. I hope he finds occasional com-

pensation for such moments as I saw those damp

young peasants passing on the mattresses of their

hideous barrackwithout anything around to remind

them that they were in the most civilized of countries.

The only traces of former splendor now visible in

the Papal pile are the walls and vaults of two small

chapelspainted in frescoso battered and effaced as

to be scarcely distinguishableby Simone Memmi. It

offersof coursea peculiarly good field for restoration

and I believe the government intend to take it in

hand. I mention this fact without a sigh; for they

cannot well make it less interesting than it is at

present.

 

 

XXXIV.

Fortunatelyit did not rain every day (though I

believe it was raining everywhere else in the depart-

ment); otherwise I should not have been able to go

to Villeneuve and to Vaucluse. The afternoonindeed

was lovely when I walked over the interminable bridge

that spans the two arms of the Rhonedivided here

by a considerable islandand directed my courselike

a solitary horseman - on footto the lonely tower

which forms one of the outworks of Villeneuve-les-

Avignon. The picturesquehalf-deserted little town

lies a couple of miles further up the river. The im-

mense round towers of its old citadel and the long

stretches of ruined wall covering the slope on which

it liesare the most striking features of the nearer

viewas you look from Avignon across the Rhone. I

spent a couple of hours in visiting these objectsand

there was a kind of pictorial sweetness in the episode;

but I have not many details to relate. The isolated

tower I just mentioned has much in common with the

detached donjon of Montmajourwhich I had looked

at in going to Les Bauxand to which I paid my

respects in speaking of that excursion. Also the work

of Philippe le Bel (built in 1307)it is amazingly big

and stubbornand formed the opposite limit of the

broken bridgewhose first arches (on the side of

Avignon) alone remain to give a measure of the oc-

casional volume of the Rhone. Half an hour's walk

brought me to Villeneuvewhich lies away from the

riverlooking like a big villagehalf depopulatedand

occupied for the most part by dogs and catsold

women and small children; these lastin generalre-

markably prettyin the manner of the children of

Provence. You pass through the placewhich seems

in a singular degree vague and unconsciousand come

to the rounded hill on which the ruined abbey lifts

its yellow walls- the Benedictine abbey of Saint-

Andreat once a churcha monasteryand a fortress.

A large part of the crumbling enceinte disposes itself

over the hill; but for the restall that has preserved

any traceable cohesion is a considerable portionof

the citadel. The defence of the place appears to have

been intrusted largely to the huge round towers that

flank the old gate; one of whichthe more complete

the ancient warden (having first inducted me into his

own dusky little apartmentand presented me with

a great bunch of lavender) enabled me to examine in

detail. I would almost have dispensed with the privi-

legefor I think I have already mentioned that an ac-

quaintance with many feudal interiors has wrought a

sad confusion in my mind. The image of the outside

always remains distinct; I keep it apart from other

images of the same sort; it makes a picture sufficiently

ineffaceable. But the guard-roomswinding staircases

loop-holesprisonsrepeat themselves and intermingle;

they have a wearisome family likeness. There are

always black passages and cornersand walls twenty

feet thick; and there is always some high place to

climb up to for the sake of a "magnificent" view.

The viewstooare apt to get muddled. These dense

gate-towers of Philippe le Bel struck mehoweveras

peculiarly wicked and grim. Their capacity is of the

largestand they contain over so many devilish little

dungeonslighted by the narrowest slit in the pro-

digious wallwhere it comes over one with a good

deal of vividness and still more horror that wretched

human beings ever lay there rotting in the dark. The

dungeons of Villeneuve made a particular impression

on me- greater than anyexcept those of Loches

which must surely be the most grewsome in Europe.

I hasten to add that every dark hole at Villeneuve is

called a dungeon; and I believe it is well established

that in this mannerin almost all old castles and

towersthe sensibilities of the modern tourist are un-

scrupulously played upon. There were plenty of black

holes in the Middle Ages that were not dungeonsbut

household receptacles of various kinds; and many a

tear dropped in pity for the groaning captive has really

been addressed to the spirits of the larder and the

faggot-nook. For all thisthere are some very bad

corners in the towers of Villeneuveso that I was not

wide of the mark when I began to think againas I

had often thought beforeof the stoutness of the human

composition in the Middle Agesand the tranquillity

of nerve of people to whom the groaning captive and

the blackness of a "living tomb" were familiar ideas

which did not at all interfere with their happiness or

their sanity. Our modern nervesour irritable sym-

pathiesour easy discomforts and fearsmake one think

(in some relations) less respectfully of human nature.

Unlessindeedit be trueas I have heard it main-

tainedthat in the Middle Ages every one did go mad

- every one _was_ mad. The theory that this was a

period of general insanity is not altogether indefensible.

Within the old walls of its immense abbey the

town of Villeneuve has built itself a rough faubourg;

the fragments with which the soil was covered having

beenI supposea quarry of material. There are no

streets; the smallshabby housesalmost hovelsstraggle

at random over the uneven ground. The only im-

portant feature is a convent of cloistered nunswho

have a large garden (always within the walls) behind

their houseand whose doleful establishment you look

down intoor down at simplyfrom the battlements of

the citadel. One or two of the nuns were passing in

and out of the house; they wore gray robeswith a

bright red cape. I thought their situation most pro-

vincial. I came awayand wandered a little over the

base of the hilloutside the walls. Small white stones

cropped through the grassover which low olive-trees

were scattered. The afternoon had a yellow bright-

ness. I sat down under one of the little treeson the

grass- the delicate gray branches were not much

above my head- and restedand looked at Avignon

across the Rhone. It was very softvery still and

pleasantthough I am not sure it was all I once should

have expected of that combination of elements: an old

city wall for a backgrounda canopy of olivesand

for a couchthe soil of Provence.

When I came back to Avignon the twilight was

already thick; but I walked up to the Rocher des

Doms. Here I again had the benefit of that amiable

moon which had already lighted up for me so many

romantic scenes. She was fulland she rose over the

Rhoneand made it look in the distance like a silver

serpent. I remember saying to myself at this mo-

mentthat it would be a beautiful evening to walk

round the walls of Avignon- the remarkable walls

which challenge comparison with those of Carcassonne

and Aigues-Mortesand which it was my dutyas an

observer of the picturesqueto examine with some at-

tention. Presenting themselves to that silver sheen

they could not fail to be impressive. Soat leastI

said to myself; butunfortunatelyI did not believe

what I said. It is a melancholy fact that the walls of

Avignon had never impressed me at alland I had

never taken the trouble to make the circuit. They

are continuous and completebut for some mysterious

reason they fail of their effect. This is partly because

they are very lowin some places almost absurdly so;

being buried in new accumulations of soiland by

the filling in of the moat up to their middle. Then

they have been too well tended; they not only look at

present very newbut look as if they had never been

old. The fact that their extent is very much greater

makes them more of a curiosity than those of Carcas-

sonne; but this is exactlyas the same timewhat is

fatal to their pictorial unity. With their thirty-seven

towers and seven gates they lose themselves too much

to make a picture that will compare with the ad-

mirable little vignette of Carcassonne. I may mention

now that I am speaking of the general mass of Avignon

that nothing is more curious than the way in which

viewed from a distanceit is all reduced to nought by

the vast bulk of the palace of the Popes. From across

the Rhoneor from the trainas you leave the place

this great gray block is all Avignon; it seems to occupy

the whole cityextensivewith its shrunken population

as the city is.

 

 

XXXV.

It was the morning after thisI think (a certain

Saturday)that when I came out of the Hotel de

l'Europewhich lies in a shallow concavity just within

the city gate that opens on the Rhone- came out to

look at the sky from the little _place_ before the inn

and see how the weather promised for the obligatory

excursion to Vaucluse- I found the whole town in a

terrible taking. I say the whole town advisedly; for

every inhabitant appeared to have taken up a position

on the bank of the riveror on the uppermost parts

of the promenade of the Domswhere a view of its

course was to be obtained. It had risen surprisingly

in the nightand the good people of Avignon had

reason to know what a rise of the Rhone might signify.

The townin its lower portionsis quite at the mercy

of the swollen waters; and it was mentioned to me

that in 1856 the Hotel de l'Europein its convenient

hollowwas flooded up to within a few feet of the

ceiling of the dining-roomwhere the long board which

had served for so many a table d'hote floated dis-

reputablywith its legs in the air. On the present

occasion the mountains of the Ardechewhere it had

been raining for a monthhad sent down torrents

whichall that fine Friday nightby the light of the

innocent-looking moonpoured themselves into the

Rhone and its tributarythe Durance. The river was

enormousand continued to rise; and the sight was

beautiful and horrible. The water in many places

was already at the base of the city walls; the quay

with its parapet just emergingbeing already covered.

The countryseen from the Plateau des Domsre-

sembled a vast lakewith protrusions of treeshouses

bridgesgates. The people looked at it in silenceas

I had seen people before - on the occasion of a rise

of the Arnoat Pisa - appear to consider the prospects

of an inundation. "Il monte; il monte toujours" -

there was not much said but that. It was a general

holidayand there was an air of wishing to profitfor

sociability's sakeby any interruption of the common-

place (the popular mind likes "a change" and the

element of change mitigates the sense of disaster); but

the affair was not otherwise a holiday. Suspense and

anxiety were in the airand it never is pleasant to be

reminded of the helplessness of man. In the presence

of a loosened riverwith its ravagingunconquerable

volumethis impression is as strong as possible; and

as I looked at the deluge which threatened to make

an island of the Papal palaceI perceived that the

scourge of water is greater than the scourge of fire.

A blaze may be quenchedbut where could the flame

be kindled that would arrest the quadrupled Rhone?

For the population of Avignon a good deal was at

stakeand I am almost ashamed to confess that in the

midst of the public alarm I considered the situation

from the point of view of the little projects of a senti-

mental tourist. Would the prospective inundation inter-

fere with my visit to Vaucluseor make it imprudent

to linger twenty-four hours longer at Avignon? I must

add that the tourist was not perhapsafter allso

sentimental. I have spoken of the pilgrimage to the

shrine of Petrarch as obligatoryand that wasin fact

the light in which it presented itself to me; all the

more that I had been twice at Avignon without under-

taking it. This why I was vexed at the Rhone - if

vexed I was - for representing as impracticable an ex-

cursion which I cared nothing about. How little I

cared was manifest from my inaction on former oc-

casions. I had a prejudice against Vancluseagainst

Petrarcheven against the incomparable Laura. I was

sure that the place was cockneyfied and threadbare

and I had never been able to take an interest in the

poet and the lady. I was sure that I had known many

women as charming and as handsome as sheabout

whom much less noise had been made; and I was

convinced that her singer was factitious and literary

and that there are half a dozen stanzas in Wordsworth

that speak more to the soul than the whole collection

of his _fioriture_. This was the crude state of mind in

which I determined to goat any riskto Vaucluse.

Now that I think it overI seem to remember that I

had hopedafter allthat the submersion of the roads

would forbid it. Since morning the clouds had gathered

againand by noon they were so heavy that there was

every prospect of a torrent. It appeared absurd to

choose such a time as this to visit a fountain - a

fountain whichwould be indistinguishable in the

general cataract. Nevertheless I took a vow that if

at noon the rain should not have begun to descend

upon Avignon I would repair to the head-spring of the

Sorgues. When the critical moment arrivedthe clouds

were hanging over Avignon like distended water-bags

which only needed a prick to empty themselves. The

prick was not givenhowever; all nature was too much

occupied in following the aberration of the Rhone to

think of playing tricks elsewhere. AccordinglyI started

for the station in a spirit whichfor a tourist who

sometimes had prided himself on his unfailing supply

of sentimentwas shockingly perfunctory.

"For tasks in hours of insight willed

May be in hours of gloom fulfilled."

I remembered these lines of Matthew Arnold (written

apparentlyin an hour of gloom)and carried out the

ideaas I wentby hoping that with the return of in-

sight I should be glad to have seen Vaucluse. Light

has descended upon me since thenand I declare that

the excursion is in every way to be recommended.

The place makes a great impressionquite apart from

Petrarch and Laura.

There was no rain; there was onlyall the after-

noona mildmoist windand a sky magnificently

blackwhich made a _repoussoir_ for the paler cliffs of

the fountain. The roadby traincrosses a flatex-

pressionless countrytoward the range of arid hills

which lie to the east of Avignonand which spring

(says Murray) from the mass of the Mont-Ventoux. At

Isle-sur-Sorguesat the end of about an hourthe fore-

ground becomes much more animated and the distance

much more (or perhaps I should say much less) actual.

I descended from the trainand ascended to the top

of an omnibus which was to convey me into the re-

cesses of the hills. It had not been among my pre-

visions that I should be indebted to a vehicle of that

kind for an opportunity to commune with the spirit of

Petrarch; and I had to borrow what consolation I

could from the fact that at least I had the omnibus to

myself. I was the only passenger; every one else was

at Avignonwatching the Rhone. I lost no time in

perceiving that I could not have come to Vaucluse at

a better moment. The Sorgues was almost as full as

the Rhoneand of a color much more romantic. Rush-

ing along its narrowed channel under an avenue of

fine _platanes_ (it is confined between solid little embank-

ments of stone)with the good-wives of the villageon

the brinkwashing their linen in its contemptuous

floodit gave promise of high entertainment further on.

The drive to Vaucluse is of about three quarters of

an hour; and though the riveras I saywas promis-

ingthe big pale hillsas the road winds into them

did not look as if their slopes of stone and shrub were

a nestling-place for superior scenery. It is a part of

the merit of Vaucluseindeedthat it is as much as

possible a surprise. The place has a right to its name

for the valley appears impenetrable until you get fairly

into it. One perverse twist follows anotheruntil the

omnibus suddenly deposits you in front of the "cabinet"

of Petrarch. After that you have only to walk along

the left bank of the river. The cabinet of Petrarch is

to-day a hideous little _cafe_bedizenedlike a sign-

boardwith extracts from the ingenious "Rime." The

poet and his lady areof coursethe stock in trade of

the little villagewhich has had for several generations

the privilege of attracting young couples engaged in

their wedding-tourand other votaries of the tender

passion. The place has long been familiaron festal

Sundaysto the swains of Avignon and their attendant

nymphs. The little fish of the Sorgues are much

esteemedandeaten on the spotthey constitutefor

the children of the once Papal citythe classic sub-

urban dinner. Vaucluse has been turned to account

howevernot only by sentimentbut by industry; the

banks of the stream being disfigured by a pair of

hideous mills for the manufacture of paper and of

wool. In an enterprising and economical age the

water-power of the Sorgues was too obvious a motive;

and I must say thatas the torrent rushed past them

the wheels of the dirty little factories appeared to turn

merrily enough. The footpath on the left bankof

which I just spokecarries onefortunatelyquite out

of sight of themand out of sound as wellinasmuch

as on the day of my visit the stream itselfwhich was

in tremendous forcetended more and moreas one

approached the fountainto fill the valley with its own

echoes. Its color was magnificentand the whole

spectacle more like a corner of Switzerland than a

nook in Provence. The protrusions of the mountain

shut it inand you penetrate to the bottom of the re-

cess which they form. The Sorgues rushes and rushes;

it is almost like Niagara after the jump of the cataract.

There are dreadful little booths beside the pathfor

the sale of photographs and _immortelles_- I don't know

what one is to do with the immortelles- where you

are offered a brush dipped in tar to write your name

withal on the rocks. Thousands of vulgar personsof

both sexesand exclusivelyit appearedof the French

nationalityhad availed themselves of this implement;

for every square inch of accessible stone was scored

over with some human appellation. It is not only we

in Americathereforewho besmirch our scenery; the

practice existsin a more organized form (like every-

thing else in France)in the country of good taste.

You leave the little booths and stalls behind; but the

bescribbled cragbristling with human vanitykeeps

you company even when you stand face to face with

the fountain. This happens when you find yourself

at the foot of the enormous straight cliff out of which

the river gushes. It rears itself to an extraordinary

height- a huge forehead of bare stone- looking as

if it were the half of a tremendous moundsplit open

by volcanic action. The little valleyseeing it there

at a bendstops suddenlyand receives in its arms

the magical spring. I call it magical on account of

the mysterious manner in which it comes into the

worldwith the huge shoulder of the mountain rising

over itas if to protect the secret. From under the

mountain it silently riseswithout visible movement

filling a small natural basin with the stillest blue

water. The contrast between the stillness of this basin

and the agitation of the water directly after it has

overflowedconstitutes half the charm of Vaucluse.

The violence of the stream when once it has been set

loose on the rocks is as fascinating and indescribable

as that of other cataracts; and the rocks in the bed of

the Sorgues have been arranged by a master-hand.

The setting of the phenomenon struck me as so simple

and so fine - the vast sad cliffcovered with the after-

noon lightstill and solid foreverwhile the liquid ele-

ment rages and roars at its base - that I had no diffi-

culty in understanding the celebrity of Vaucluse. I

understood itbut I will not say that I understood

Petrarch. He must have been very self-supportingand

Madonna Laura must indeed have been much to him.

The aridity of the hills that shut in the valley is

completeand the whole impression is best conveyed

by that very expressive French epithet _morne_. There

are the very fragmentary ruins of a castle (of one of

the bishops of Cavaillon) on a high spur of the moun-

tainabove the river; and there is another remnant of

a feudal habitation on one of the more accessible

ledges. Having half an hour to spare before my

omnibus was to leave (I must beg the reader's pardon

for this atrociously false note; call the vehicle a _dili-

gence_and for some undiscoverable reason the offence

is minimized)I clambered up to this latter spotand

sat among the rocks in the company of a few stunted

olives. The Sorguesbeneath mereaching the plain

flung itself crookedly across the meadowslike an un-

rolled blue ribbon. I tried to think of the _amant de

Laure_for literature's sake; but I had no great success

and the most I coulddo was to say to myself that I

must try again. Several months have elapsed since

thenand I am ashamed to confess that the trial has

not yet come off. The only very definite conviction I

arrived at was that Vaucluse is indeed cockneyfied

but that I should have been a foolall the samenot

to come.

 

 

XXXVI.

I mounted into my diligence at the door of the

Hotel de Petrarque et de Laureand we made our

way back to Isle-sur-Sorgues in the fading light. This

villagewhere at six o'clock every one appeared to

have gone to bedwas fairly darkened by its high

dense plane-treesunder which the rushing riveron

a level with its parapetslooked unnaturallyalmost

wickedly blue. It was a glimpse which has left a

picture in my mind: the little closed housesthe place

empty and soundless in the autumn dusk but for the

noise of watersand in the middleamid the blackness

of the shadethe gleam of the swiftstrange tide. At

the station every one was talking of the inundation

being in many places an accomplished factandin

particularof the condition of the Durance at some

point that I have forgotten. At Avignonan hour

laterI found the water in some of the streets. The

sky cleared in the eveningthe moon lighted up the

submerged suburbsand the population again collected

in the high places to enjoy the spectacle. It exhibited

a certain samenesshoweverand by nine o'clock there

was considerable animation in the Place Crillonwhere

there is nothing to be seen but the front of the theatre

and of several cafes - in additionindeedto a statue

of this celebrated bravewhose valor redeemed some

of the numerous military disasters of the reign of

Louis XV. The next morning the lower quarters of

the town were in a pitiful state; the situation seemed

to me odious. To express my disapproval of itI lost

no time in taking the train for Orangewhichwith its

other attractionshad the merit of not being seated on

the Rhone. It was my destiny to move northward;

but even if I had been at liberty to follow a less un-

natural course I should not then have undertaken it

inasmuchas the railway between Avignon and Mar-

seilles was credibly reported to be (in places) under

water. This was the case with almost everything but

the line itselfon the way to Orange. The day proved

splendidand its brilliancy only lighted up the desola-

tion. Farmhouses and cottages were up to their middle

in the yellow liquidity; haystacks looked like dull little

islands; windows and doors gaped openwithout faces;

and interruption and flight were represented in the

scene. It was brought home to me that the _popula-

tions rurales_ have many different ways of suffering

and my heart glowed with a grateful sense of cockney-

ism. It was under the influence of this emotion that

I alighted at Orangeto visit a collection of eminently

civil monuments.

The collection consists of but two objectsbut these

objects are so fine that I will let the word pass. One

of them is a triumphal archsupposedly of the period

of Marcus Aurelius; the other is a fragmentmagnifi-

cent in its ruinof a Roman theatre. But for these

fine Roman remains and for its nameOrange is a

perfectly featureless little town; without the Rhone -

whichas I have mentionedis several miles distant -

to help it to a physiognomy. It seems one of the

oddest things that this obscure French borough -

obscureI meanin our modern erafor the Gallo-

Roman Arausio must have beenjudging it by its

arches and theatrea place of some importance -

should have given its name to the heirs apparent of

the throne of Hollandand been borne by a king of

England who had sovereign rights over it. During

the Middle Ages it formed part of an independent

principality; but in 1531 it fellby the marriage of

one of its princesseswho had inherited itinto the

family of Nassau. I read in my indispensable Mur-

ray that it was made over to France by the treaty of

Utrecht. The arch of triumphwhich stands a little

way out of the townis rather a pretty than an im-

posing vestige of the Romans. If it had greater purity

of styleone might say of it that it belonged to the

same family of monuments as the Maison Carree at

Nimes. It has three passages- the middle much

higher than the others- and a very elevated attic.

The vaults of the passages are richly sculpturedand

the whole monument is covered with friezes and

military trophies. This sculpture is rather mixed;

much of it is broken and defacedand the rest seemed

to me uglythough its workmanship is praised. The

arch is at once well preserved and much injured. Its

general mass is thereand as Roman monuments go

it is remarkably perfect; but it has sufferedin patches

from the extremity of restoration. It is noton the

wholeof absorbing interest. It has a charmnever-

thelesswhich comes partly from its softbright yellow

colorpartly from a certain elegance of shapeof ex-

pression; and on that well-washed Sunday morning

with its brilliant tonesurrounded by its circle of thin

poplarswith the green country lying beyond it and a

low blue horizon showing through its empty portals

it madevery sufficientlya picture that hangs itself

to one of the lateral hooks of the memory. I can

take down the modest compositionand place it before

me as I write. I see the shallowshining puddles in

the hardfair French road; the pale blue skydiluted

by days of rain; the disgarnished autumnal fields; the

mild sparkle of the low horizon; the solitary figure in

sabotswith a bundle under its armadvancing along

the _chaussee_; and in the middle I see the little ochre-

colored monumentwhichin spite of its antiquity

looks bright and gayas everything must look in

France of a fresh Sunday morning.

It is true that this was not exactly the appearance

of the Roman theatrewhich lies on the other side of

the town; a fact that did not prevent me from making

my way to it in less than five minutesthrough a suc-

cession of little streets concerning which I have no

observations to record. None of the Roman remains

in the south of France are more impressive than this

stupendous fragment. An enormous mound rises above

the placewhich was formerly occupied - I quote from

Murray - first by a citadel of the Romansthen by a

castle of the princes of Nassaurazed by Louis XIV.

Facing this hill a mighty wall erects itselfthirty-six

metres highand composed of massive blocks of dark

brown stonesimply laid one on the other; the whole

nakedrugged surface of which suggests a natural cliff

(say of the Vaucluse order) rather than an effort of

humanor even of Roman labor. It is the biggest

thing at Orange- it is bigger than all Orange put to-

gether- and its permanent massiveness makes light

of the shrunken city. The face it presents to the town

- the top of it garnished with two rows of brackets

perforated with holes to receive the staves of the _vela-

rium_ - bears the traces of more than one tier of orna-

mental arches; though how these flat arches were

appliedor incrustedupon the wallI do not profess

to explain. You pass through a diminutive postern -

which seems in proportion about as high as the en-

trance of a rabbit-hutch - into the lodge of the custo-

dianwho introduces you to the interior of the theatre.

Here the mass of the hill affronts youwhich the in-

genious Romans treated simply as the material of their

auditorium. They inserted their stone seatsin a

semicirclein the slope of the lulland planted their

colossal wall opposite to it. This wallfrom the inside

isif possibleeven more imposing. It formed the

back of the stagethe permanent sceneand its

enormous face was coated with marble. It contains

three doorsthe middle one being the highestand

having above itfar alofta deep nicheapparently

intended for an imperial statue. A few of the benches

remain on the hillside whichhoweveris mainly a

confusion of fragments. There is part of a corridor

built into the hillhigh upand on the crest are the

remnants of the demolished castle. The whole place

is a kind of wilderness of ruin; there are scarcely any

details; the great feature is the overtopping wall. This

wall being the back of the scenethe space left be-

tween it and the chord of the semicircle (of the audi-

torium) which formed the proscenium is rather less

than one would have supposed. In other wordsthe

stage was very shallowand appears to have been ar-

ranged for a number of performers standing in a line

like a company of soldiers. There stands the silent

skeletonhoweveras impressive by what it leaves you

to guess and wonder about as by what it tells you.

It has not the sweetnessthe softness of melancholy

of the theatre at Arles; but it is more extraordinary

and one can imagine only tremendous tragedies being

enacted there-

"Presenting Thebes' or Pelops' line."

At either end of the stagecoming forwardis an

immense wing- immense in heightI meanas it

reaches to the top of the scenic wall; the other dimen-

sions are not remarkable. The division to the right

as you face the stageis pointed out as the green-

room; its portentous attitude and the open arches at

the top give it the air of a well. The compartment

on the left is exactly similarsave that it opens into

the traces of other chamberssaid to be those of a

hippodrome adjacent to the theatre. Various fragments

are visible which refer themselves plausibly to such an

establishment; the greater axis of the hippodrome would

appear to have been on a line with the triumphal

arch. This is all I sawand all there was to seeof

Orangewhich had a very rusticbucolic aspectand

where I was not even called upon to demand break-

fast at the hotel. The entrance of this resort might

have been that of a stable of the Roman days.

 

 

XXXVII.

I have been trying to remember whether I fasted

all the way to Maconwhich I reached at an advanced

hour of the eveningand think I must have done so

except for the purchase of a box of nougat at Monte-

limart (the place is famous for the manufacture of

this confectionwhichat the stationis hawked at the

windows of the train) and for a bouillonvery much

laterat Lyons. The journey beside the Rhone -

past Valencepast Tournonpast Vienne - would

have been charmingon that luminous Sundaybut

for two disagreeable accidents. The express from

Marseilleswhich I took at Orangewas full to over-

flowing; and the only refuge I could find was an

inside angle in a carriage laden with Germanswho

had command of the windowswhich they occupied

as strongly as they have been known to occupy other

strategical positions. I scarcely knowhoweverwhy

I linger on this particular discomfortfor it was but

a single item in a considerable list of grievances-

grievances dispersed through six weeks of constant

railway travel in France. I have not touched upon

them at an earlier stage of this chroniclebut my re-

serve is not owing to any sweetness of association.

This form of locomotionin the country of the ameni-

tiesis attended with a dozen discomforts; almost all

the conditions of the business are detestable. They

force the sentimental tourist again and again to ask

himself whetherin consideration of such mortal an-

noyancesthe game is worth the candle. Fortunately

a railway journey is a good deal like a sea voyage;

its miseries fade from the mind as soon as you arrive.

That is why I completedto my great satisfaction

my little tour in France. Let this small effusion of

ill-nature be my first and last tribute to the whole

despotic _gare_: the deadly _salle d'attente_the insuffer-

able delays over one's luggagethe porterless platform

the overcrowded and illiberal train. How many a

time did I permit myself the secret reflection that it

is in perfidious Albion that they order this matter

best! How many a time did the eager British mer-

cenaryclad in velveteen and clinging to the door of

the carriage as it glides into the stationrevisit my

invidious dreams! The paternal porter and the re-

sponsive hansom are among the best gifts of the Eng-

lish genius to the world. I hasten to addfaithful

to my habit (so insufferable to some of my friends) of

ever and again readjusting the balance after I have

given it an honest tipthat the bouillon at Lyons

which I spoke of abovewasthough by no means an

ideal bouillonmuch better than any I could have

obtained at an English railway station. After I had

imbibed itI sat in the train (which waited a long

time at Lyons) andby the light of one of the big

lamps on the platformread all sorts of disagreeable

things in certain radical newspapers which I had

bought at the book-stall. I gathered from these sheets

that Lyons was in extreme commotion. The Rhone

and the Saonewhich form a girdle for the splendid

townwere almost in the streetsas I could easily be-

lieve from what I had seen of the country after leav-

ing Orange. The Rhoneall the way to Lyonshad

been in all sorts of places where it had no business

to beand matters were naturally not improved by

its confluence with the charming and copious stream

whichat Maconis said once to have given such a

happy opportunity to the egotism of the capital. A

visitor from Paris (the anecdote is very old)being

asked on the quay of that city whether he didn't ad-

mire the Saonereplied good-naturedly that it was

very prettybut that in Paris they spelled it with

the _ei_. This moment of general alarm at Lyons had

been chosen by certain ingenious persons (I credit

themperhapswith too sure a prevision of the rise

of the rivers) for practising further upon the appre-

hensions of the public. A bombshell filled with

dynamite had been thrown into a cafeand various

votaries of the comparatively innocuous _petit verre_

had been wounded (I am not sure whether any one

had been killed) by the irruption. Of course there had

been arrests and incarcerationsand the "Intransi-

geant" and the "Rappel" were filled with the echoes

of the explosion. The tone of these organs is rarely

edifyingand it had never been less so than on this

occasion. I wonderedas I looked through them

whether I was losing all my radicalism; and then I

wondered whetherafter allI had any to lose. Even

in so long await as that tiresome delay at Lyons I

failed to settle the questionany more than I made

up my mind as to the probable future of the militant

democracyor the ultimate form of a civilization which

should have blown up everything else. A few days

laterthe waters went down it Lyons; but the de-

mocracy has not gone down.

I remember vividly the remainder of that evening

which I spent at Macon- remember it with a chatter-

ing of the teeth. I know not what had got into the

place; the temperaturefor the last day of October

was eccentric and incredible. These epithets may

also be applied to the hotel itself- an extraordinary

structureall facadewhich exposes an uncovered rear

to the gaze of nature. There is a demonstrative

voluble landladywho is of course part of the facade;

but everything behind her is a trap for the winds

with chamberscorridorsstaircasesall exhibited to

the skyas if the outer wall of the house had been

lifted off. It would have been delightful for Florida

but it didn't do for Burgundyeven on the eve of

November 1stso that I suffered absurdly from the

rigor of a season that had not yet begun. There was

something in the air; I felt it the next dayeven on

the sunny quay of the Saonewhere in spite of a fine

southerly exposure I extracted little warmth from the

reflection that Alphonse de Lamartine had often trod-

den the flags. Macon struck mesomehowas suffer-

ing from a chronic numbnessand there was nothing

exceptionally cheerful in the remarkable extension of

the river. It was no longer a river- it had become

a lake; and from my windowin the painted face of

the innI saw that the opposite bank had been moved

backas it wereindefinitely. Unfortunatelythe various

objects with which it was furnished had not been

moved as wellthe consequence of which was an

extraordinary confusion in the relations of thing.

There were always poplars to be seenbut the poplar

had become an aquatic plant. Such phenomena

howeverat Macon attract but little attentionas the

Saoneat certain seasons of the yearis nothing if not

expansive. The people are as used to it as they ap-

peared to be to the bronze statue of Lamartinewhich

is the principal monument of the _place_and whichre-

presenting the poet in a frogged overcoat and top-

bootsimprovising in a high windstruck me as even

less casual in its attitude than monumental sculpture

usually succeeds in being. It is true that in its pre-

sent position I thought better of this work of artwhich

is from the hand of M. Falquierethan when I had

seen it through the factitious medium of the Salon of

1876. I walked up the hill where the older part of

Macon liesin search of the natal house of the _amant

d'Elvire_the Petrarch whose Vaucluse was the bosom

of the public. The Guide-Joanne quotes from "Les

Confidences" a description of the birthplace of the

poetwhose treatment of the locality is indeed poetical.

It tallies strangely little with the realityeither as re-

gards position or other features; and it may be said

to benot an aidbut a direct obstacleto a discovery

of the house. A very humble edificein a small back

streetis designated by a municipal tabletset into its

faceas the scene of Lamartine's advent into the world.

He himself speaks of a vast and lofty structureat the

angle of a _place_adorned with iron clampswith a

_porte haute et large_ and many other peculiarities. The

house with the tablet has two meagre stories above

the basementand (at presentat least) an air of ex-

treme shabbiness; the _place_moreovernever can have

been vast. Lamartine was accused of writing history

incorrectlyand apparently he started wrong at first:

it had never become clear to him where he was born.

Or is the tablet wrong? If the house is smallthe

tablet is very big.

 

 

XXXVIII.

The foregoing reflections occurin a cruder form

as it werein my note-bookwhere I find this remark

appended to them: "Don't take leave of Lamartine on

that contemptuous note; it will be easy to think of

something more sympathetic!" Those friends of mine

mentioned a little while sincewho accuse me of always

tipping back the balancecould not desire a paragraph

more characteristic; but I wish to give no further evi-

dence of such infirmitiesand will therefore hurry away

from the subject- hurry away in the train whichvery

early on a crispbright morningconveyed. meby way

of an excursionto the ancient city of Bourg-en-Bresse.

Shining in early lightthe Saone was spreadlike a

smoothwhite tableclothover a considerable part of

the flat country that I traversed. There is no provision

made in this image for the longtransparent screens

of thin-twigged trees which rose at intervals out of

the watery plain; but asunder the circumstances

there seemed to be no provision for them in factI

will let my metaphor go for what it is worth. My

journey was (as I remember it) of about an hour and

a half; but I passed no object of interestas the phrase

iswhatever. The phrase hardly applies even to Bourg

itselfwhich is simply a town _quelconque_as M. Zola

would say. Smallpeacefulrusticit stands in the

midst of the great dairy-feeding plains of Bresseof

which fat countysometime property of the house of

Savoyit was the modest capital. The blue masses

of the Jura give it a creditable horizonbut the only

nearer feature it can point to is its famous sepulchral

church. This edifice lies at a fortunate distance from

the townwhichthough inoffensiveis of too common

a stamp to consort with such a treasure. All I ever

knew of the church of Brou I had gatheredyears

agofrom Matthew Arnold's beautiful poemwhich

bears its name. I remember thinkingin those years

that it was impossible verses could be more touching

than these; and as I stood before the object of my

pilgrimagein the gay French light (though the place

was so dull)I recalled the spot where I had first read

themand where I read them again and yet again

wondering whether it would ever be my fortune to

visit the church of Brou. The spot in question was

an armchair in a window which looked out on some

cows in a field; and whenever I glanced at the cows

it came over me - I scarcely know why - that I should

probably never behold the structure reared by the

Duchess Margaret. Some of our visions never come

to pass; but we must be just- others do. "So sleep

forever sleepO princely pair!" I remembered that

line of Matthew Arnold'sand the stanza about the

Duchess Margaret coming to watch the builders on

her palfry white. Then there came to me something

in regard to the moon shining on winter nights through

the cold clere-story. The tone of the place at that

hour was not at all lunar; it was cold and brightbut

with the chill of an autumn morning; yet thiseven

with the fact of the unexpected remoteness of the

church from the Jura added to itdid not prevent me

from feeling that I looked at a monument in the pro-

duction of which - or at least in the effect of which

on the tourist mind of to-day - Matthew Arnold had

been much concerned. By a pardonable license he

has placed it a few miles nearer to the forests of the

Jura than it stands at present. It is very true that

though the mountains in the sixteenth century can

hardly have been in a different positionthe plain

which separates the church from them may have been

bedecked with woods. The visitor to-day cannot help

wondering why the beautiful buildingwith its splendid

works of artis dropped down in that particular spot

which looks so accidental and arbitrary. But there

are reasons for most thingsand there were reasons

why the church of Brou should be at Brouwhich is

a vague little suburb of a vague little town.

The responsibility restsat any rateupon the

Duchess Margaret- Margaret of Austriadaughter of

the Emperor Maximilian and his wife Mary of Bur-

gundydaughter of Charles the Bold. This lady has

a high name in historyhaving been regent of the

Netherlands in behalf of her nephewthe Emperor

Charles V.of whose early education she had had the

care. She married in 1501 Philibert the Handsome

Duke of Savoyto whom the province of Bresse be-

longedand who died two years later. She had been

betrothedis a childto Charles VIII. of Franceand

was kept for some time at the French court- that of

her prospective father-in-lawLouis XI.; but she was

eventually repudiatedin order that her _fiance_ might

marry Anne of Brittany- an alliance so magnificently

political that we almost condone the offence to a

sensitive princess. Margaret did not want for hus-

bandshoweverinasmuch as before her marriage to

Philibert she had been united to John of Castileson

of Ferdinand V.King of Aragon- an episode ter-

minatedby the death of the Spanish princewithin a

year. She was twenty-two years regent of the Nether-

landsand died at fifty-onein 1530. She might have

beenhad she chosenthe wifeof Henry VII. of Eng-

land. She was one of the signers of the League of

Cambrayagainst the Venetian republicand was a

most politicaccomplishedand judicious princess.

She undertook to build the church of Brou as a mau-

soleumfor her second husband and herselfin fulfil-

ment of a vow made by Margaret of Bourbonmother

of Philibertwho died before she could redeem her

pledgeand who bequeathed the duty to her son. He

died shortly afterwardsand his widow assumed the

pious task. According to Murrayshe intrusted the

erection of the church to "Maistre Loys von Berghem"

and the sculpture to "Maistre Conrad." The author

of a superstitious but carefully prepared little Notice

which I bought at Bourgcalls the architect and

sculptor (at once) Jehan de Parisauthor (sic) of the

tomb of Francis II. of Brittanyto which we gave some

attention at Nantesand which the writer of my

pamphlet ascribes only subordinately to Michel Colomb.

The churchwhich is not of great sizeis in the last

and most flamboyant phase of Gothicand in admirable

preservation; the west frontbefore which a quaint old

sun-dial is laid out on the ground- a circle of num-

bers marked in stonelike those on a clock facelet

into the earth- is covered with delicate ornament.

The great featurehowever (the nave is perfectly bare

and wonderfully new-lookingthough the wardena

stolid yet sharp old peasantin a blousewho looked

more as if his line were chaffering over turnips than

showing off works of arttold me that it has never

been touchedand that its freshness is simply the

quality of the stone)- the great feature is the ad-

mirable choirin the midst of which the three monu-

ments have bloomed under the chisellike exotic

plants in a conservatory. I saw the place to small

advantagefor the stained glass of the windowswhich

are finewas under repairand much of it was masked

with planks.

In the centre lies Philibert-le-Bela figure of white

marble on a great slab of blackin his robes and his

armorwith two boy-angels holding a tablet at his

headand two more at his feet. On either side of

him is another cherub: one guarding his helmetthe

other his stiff gauntlets. The attitudes of these charm-

ing childrenwhose faces are all bent upon him in

pityhave the prettiest tenderness and respect. The

table on which he lies is supported by elaborate

columnsadorned with niches containing little images

and with every other imaginable elegance; and be-

neath it he is represented in that other formso com-

mon in the tombs of the Renaissance- a man naked

and dyingwith none of the state and splendor of the

image above. One of these figures embodies the duke

the other simply the mortal; and there is something

very strange and striking in the effect of the latter

seen dimly and with difficulty through the intervals

of the rich supports of the upper slab. The monu-

ment of Margaret herself is on the leftall in white

merbletormented into a multitude of exquisite pat-

ternsthe last extravagance of a Gothic which had

gone so far that nothing was left it but to return upon

itself. Unlike her husbandwho has only the high

roof of the church above himshe lies under a canopy

supported and covered by a wilderness of embroidery

- flowersdevicesinitialsarabesquesstatuettes.

Watched over by cherubsshe is also in her robes

and erminewith a greyhound sleeping at her feet

(her husbandat hishas a waking lion); and the

artist has notit is to be presumedrepresented her

as more beautiful than she was. She looksindeed

like the regent of a turbulent realm. Beneath her

couch is stretched another figure- a less brilliant

Margaretwrapped in her shroudwith her long hair

over her shoulders. Round the tomb is the battered

iron railing placed there originallywith the myste-

rious motto of the duchess worked into the top-

_fortune infortune fort une_. The other two monuments

are protected by barriers of the same pattern. That

of Margaret of BourbonPhilibert's motherstands on

the right of the choir; and I suppose its greatest dis-

tinction is that it should have been erected to a

mother-in-law. It is but little less florid and sump-

tuous than the others; it hashoweverno second re-

cumbent figure. On the other handthe statuettes

that surround the base of the tomb are of even more

exquisite workmanship: they represent weeping wo-

menin long mantles and hoodswhich latter hang

forward over the small face of the figuregiving the

artist a chance to carve the features within this hollow

of drapery- an extraordinary play of skill. There is

a highwhite marble shrine of the Virginas extra-

ordinary as all the rest (a series of compartmentsre-

presenting the various scenes of her lifewith the

Assumption in the middle); and there is a magnifi-

cent series of stallswhich are simply the intricate

embroidery of the tombs translated into polished oak.

All these things are splendidingeniouselaborate

precious; it is goldsmith's work on a monumental

scaleand the general effect is none the less beautiful

and solemn because it is so rich. But the monuments

of the church of Brou are not the noblest that one

may see; the great tombs of Verona are finerand

various other early Italian work. These things are

not insincereas Ruskin would say; but they are pre-

tentiousand they are not positively _naifs_. I should

mention that the walls of the choir are embroidered

in places with Margaret's tantalizing devicewhich -

partlyperhapsbecause it is tantalizing - is so very

decorativeas they say in London. I know not whether

she was acquainted with this epithet; but she had

anticipated one of the fashions most characteristic of

our age.

One asks one's self how all this decorationthis

luxury of fair and chiselled marblesurvived the

French Revolution. An hour of liberty in the choir

of Brou would have been a carnival for the image-

breakers. The well-fed Bressois are surely a good-

natured people. I call them well-fed both on general

and on particular grounds. Their province has the

most savory aromaand I found an opportunity to

test its reputation. I walked back into the town from

the church (there was really nothing to be seen by

the way)and as the hour of the midday breakfast

had struckdirected my steps to the inn. The table

d'hote was going onand a graciousbustlingtalkative

landlady welcomed me. I had an excellent repast -

the best repast possible - which consisted simply of

boiled eggs and bread and butter. It was the quality

of these simple ingredients that made the occasion

memorable. The eggs were so good that I am ashamed

to say how many of them I consumed. "La plus

belle fille du monde" as the French proverb says

"ne peut donner que ce qu'elle a;" and it might

seem that an egg which has succeeded in being fresh

has done all that can reasonably be expected of it.

But there was a bloom of punctualityso to speak

about these eggs of Bourgas if it had been the in-

tention of the very hens themselves that they should

be promptly served. "Nous sommes en Bresseet le

beurre n'est pas mauvais" the landlady saidwith a

sort of dry coquetryas she placed this article before

me. It was the poetry of butterand I ate a pound

or two of it; after which I came away with a strange

mixture of impressions of late Gothic sculpture and

thick _tartines_. I came away through the townwhere

on a little green promenadefacing the hotelis a

bronze statue of Bichatthe physiologistwho was a

Bressois. I mention itnot on account of its merit

(thoughas statues goI don't remember that it is

bad)but because I learned from it - my ignorance

doubtlessdid me little honor - that Bichat had died

at thirty years of ageand this revelation was almost

agitating. To have done so much in so short a life

was to be truly great. This reflectionwhich looks

deplorably trite as I write it herehad the effect of

eloquence as I uttered itfor my own benefiton the

bare little mall at Bourg.

 

 

XXXIX.

On my return to Macon I found myself fairly face

to face with the fact that my little tour was near its

end. Dijon had been marked by fate as its farthest

limitand Dijon was close at hand. After that I was

to drop the touristand re-enter Paris as much as pos-

sible like a Parisian. Out of Paris the Parisian never

loitersand therefore it would be impossible for me to

stop between Dijon and the capital. But I might be

a tourist a few hours longer by stopping somewhere

between Macon and Dijon. The question was where

I should spend these hours. Where betterI asked

myself (for reasons not now entirely clear to me) than

at Beaune? On my way to this town I passed the

stretch of the Cote d'Orwhichcovered with a mel-

low autumn hazewith the sunshine shimmering

throughlooked indeed like a golden slope. One

regards with a kind of awe the region in which the

famous _crus_ of Burgundy (YougeotChambertinNuits

Beaune) areI was going to saymanufactured. Adieu

paniers; vendanges sont faites! The vintage was

over; the shrunken russet fibres alone clung to their

ugly stick. The horizon on the left of the road had

a charmhoweverthere is something picturesque

in the bigcomfortable shoulders of the Cote. That

delicate criticM. Emile Montegutin a charming

record of travel through this regionpublished some

years agopraises Shakspeare for having talked (in

"Lear") of "waterish Burgundy." Vinous Burgundy

would surely be more to the point. I stopped at

Beaune in pursuit of the picturesquebut I might

almost have seen the little I discovered without stop-

ping. It is a drowsy little Burgundian townvery

old and ripewith crooked streetsvistas always ob-

liqueand steepmoss-covered roofs. The principal

lion is the Hopital-Saint-Espritor the Hotel-Dieu

simplyas they call it therefounded in 1443 by

Nicholas RollinChancellor of Burgundy. It is ad-

ministered by the sisterhood of the Holy Ghostand

is one of the most venerable and stately of hospitals.

The face it presents to the street is simplebut strik-

ing- a plainwindowless wallsurmounted by a vast

slate roofof almost mountainous steepness. Astride

this roof sits a tallslate-covered spirefrom which

as I arrivedthe prettiest chimes I ever heard (worse

luck to themas I will presently explain) were ring-

ing. Over the door is a highquaint canopywithout

supportswith its vault painted blue and covered

with gilded stars. (Thisand indeed the whole build-

inghave lately been restoredand its antiquity is

quite of the spick-and-span order. But it is very

delightful.) The treasure of the place is a precious

picture- a Last Judgmentattributed equally to John

van Eyck and Roger van der Weyden- given to the

hospital in the fifteenth century by Nicholas Rollin

aforesaid.

I learnedhoweverto my dismayfrom a sympa-

thizing but inexorable conciergethat what remained

to me of the time I had to spend at Beaunebetween

trains- I had rashly wasted half an hour of it in

breakfasting at the station- was the one hour of the

day (that of the dinner of the nuns; the picture is in

their refectory) during which the treasure could not

be shown. The purpose of the musical chimes to

which I had so artlessly listened was to usher in this

fruitless interval. The regulation was absoluteand

my disappointment relativeas I have been happy to

reflect since I "looked up" the picture. Crowe and

Cavalcaselle assign it without hesitation to Roger van

der Weydenand give a weak little drawing of it in

their "Flemish Painters." I learn from them also -

what I was ignorant of - that Nicholas RoninChan-

cellor of Burgundy and founder of the establishment

at Beaunewas the original of the worthy kneeling

before the Virginin the magnificent John van Eyck

of the Salon Carre. All I could see was the court of

the hospital and two or three rooms. The courtwith

its tall roofsits pointed gables and spiresits wooden

galleriesits ancient wellwith an elaborate superstruc-

ture of wrought ironis one of those places into which

a sketcher ought to be let loose. It looked Flemish

or English rather than Frenchand a splendid tidiness

pervaded it. The porter took me into two rooms on

the ground-floorinto which the sketcher should also

be allowed to penetrate; for they made irresistible

pictures. One of themof great proportionspainted

in elaborate "subjects" like a ball-room of the seven-

teenth centurywas filled with the beds of patients

all draped in curtains of dark red cloththe tradi-

tional uniform of theseeleemosynary couches. Among

them the sisters moved aboutin their robes of white

flannelwith big white linen hoods. The other room

was a strangeimmense apartmentlately restored

with much splendor. It was of great length and

heighthad a painted and gilded barrel-roofand one

end of it - the one I was introduced to - appeared

to serve as a chapelas two white-robed sisters were

on their knees before an altar. This was divided by

red curtains from the larger part; but the porter lifted

one of the curtainsand showed me that the rest

of ita longimposing vistaserved as a wardlined

with little red-draped beds. "C'est l'heure de la

lecture" remarked my guide; and a group of conva-

lescents - all the patients I saw were women - were

gathered in the centre around a nunthe points of

whose white hood nodded a little above themand

whose gentle voice came to us faintlywith a little

echodown the high perspective. I know not what

the good sister was reading- a dull bookI am afraid

- but there was so much colorand such a finerich

air of tradition about the whole placethat it seemed

to me I would have risked listening to her. I turned

awayhoweverwith that sense of defeat which is

always irritating to the appreciative touristand pot-

tered about Beaune rather vaguely for the rest of my

hour: looked at the statue of Gaspard Mongethe

mathematicianin the little _place_ (there is no _place_ in

France too little to contain an effigy to a glorious son);

at the fine old porch - completely despoiled at the

Revolution - of the principal church; and even at the

meagre treasures of a courageous but melancholy little

museumwhich has been arranged - part of it being

the gift of a local collector - in a small hotel de ville.

I carried away from Beaune the impression of some-

thing mildly autumnal- something rusty yet kindly

like the taste of a sweet russet pear.

 

 

XL.

It was very well that my little tour was to termi-

nate at Dijon; for I foundrather to my chagrinthat

there was not a great dealfrom the pictorial point of

viewto be done with Dijon. It was no great matter

for I held my proposition to have been by this time

abundantly demonstrated- the proposition with which

I started: that if Paris is FranceFrance is by no

means Paris. If Dijon was a good deal of a disap-

pointmentI feltthereforethat I could afford it. It

was time for me to reflectalsothat for my disap-

pointmentsas a general thingI had only myself to

thank. They had too often been the consequence of

arbitrary preconceptionsproduced by influences of

which I had lost the trace. At any rateI will say

plumply that the ancient capital of Burgundy is want-

ing in character; it is not up to the mark. It is old

and narrow and crookedand it has been left pretty

well to itself: but it is not high and overhanging; it is

notto the eyewhat the Burgundian capital should

be. It has some tortuous vistassome mossy roofs

some bulging frontssome gray-faced hotelswhich

look as if in former centuries - in the lastfor instance

during the time of that delightful President de Brosses

whose Letters from Italy throw an interesting side-light

on Dijon - they had witnessed a considerable amount

of good living. But there is nothing else. I speak as

a man who for some reason which he doesn't remem-

ber nowdid not pay a visit to the celebrated Puits

de Moisean ancient cisternembellished with a sculp-

tured figure of the Hebrew lawgiver.

The ancient palace of the Dukes of Burgundylong

since converted into an hotel de villepresents to a

wideclean courtpaved with washed-looking stones

and to a small semicircular _place_oppositewhich

looks as if it had tried to be symmetrical and had

faileda facade and two wingscharacterized by the

stiffnessbut not by the grand airof the early part of

the eighteenth century. It containshowevera large

and rich museum- a museum really worthy of a capi-

tal. The gem of this exhibition is the great banquet-

ing-hall of the old palaceone of the few features of

the place that has not been essentially altered. Of

great heightroofed with the old beams and cornices

it containsfilling one enda colossal Gothic chimney-

piecewith a fireplace large enough to roastnot an ox

but a herd of oxen. In the middle of this striking

hallthe walls of which. are covered with objects more

or less precioushave been placed the tombs of Philippe-

le-Hardi and Jean-sans-Peur. These monumentsvery

splendid in their general effecthave a limited interest.

The limitation comes from the fact that we see them

to-day in a transplanted and mutilated condition.

Placed originally in a church which has disappeared

from the face of the earthdemolished and dispersed

at the Revolutionthey have been reconstructed and

restored out of fragments recovered and pieced to-

gether. The piecing his been beautifully done; it is

covered with gilt and with brilliant paint; the whole

result is most artistic. But the spell of the old mor-

tuary figures is brokenand it will never work again.

Meanwhile the monuments are immensely decorative.

I think the thing that pleased me best at Dijon

was the little old Parca charming public garden

about a mile from the townto which I walked by a

longstraight autumnal avenue. It is a _jardin fran-

cais_ of the last century- a dear old placewith little

blue-green perspectives and alleys and _rondpoints_in

which everything balances. I went there late in the

afternoonwithout meeting a creaturethough I had

hoped I should meet the President de Brosses. At the

end of it was a little river that looked like a canal

and on the further bank was an old-fashioned villa

close to the waterwith a little French garden of its

own. On the hither side was a benchon which I

seated myselflingering a good while; for this was just

the sort of place I like. It was the furthermost point

of my little tour. I thought that overas I sat there

on the eve of taking the express to Paris; and as the

light faded in the Parc the vision of some of the things

I had seen became more distinct.