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Title: Béarn and the Pyrenees - A Legendary Tour to the Country of Henri Quatre
Author: Costello, Louisa Stuart, 1799-1870
Language: English
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BÉARN AND THE PYRENEES:

A Legendary Tour to the Country of Henri Quatre.

by

LOUISA STUART COSTELLO,

Author of "The Bocages and the Vines," "A Pilgrimage to Auvergne," Etc.

With numerous Illustrations.

In Two Volumes.



London:
Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street,
Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
1844.
Printed by R. Clay, Bread Street Hill.



                                 TO
                         MISS BURDETT COUTTS,
                           THESE VOLUMES
             ARE DEDICATED WITH MUCH RESPECT AND AFFECTION
                                 BY
                        HER SINCERELY OBLIGED
                           HUMBLE SERVANT,
                        LOUISA STUART COSTELLO.
                               LONDON,
                           MARCH 16, 1844.



INTRODUCTION.


When I first indulged the inclination, which I had long entertained, of
visiting the famous castle of Chinon, and the equally interesting abbey
of Fontevraud--the palace and tomb of our English kings--and paused on
my way in "the lovely vales of Vire," and gathered in romantic Brittany
some of her pathetic legends, I thought I should have satisfied my
longing to explore France; but I found that every step I look in that
teeming region opened to me new stores of interest; and, encouraged by
the pleasure my descriptions had given, I set out again, following
another route, to the regal city of Rheims, visiting the vine-covered
plains of Champagne and Burgundy, and all their curious historical
towns, till I reached the _dominion_ of Charles the Seventh at Bourges,
to become acquainted with whose gorgeous cathedral and antique palaces
is worth any fatigue. From thence I wandered on to the beautiful Monts
Dores, and the basaltic regions of unexplored Le Vellay; and, after
infinite gratification, I once more turned my steps homeward; but, like
Sindbad, I felt that there was much more yet to be explored; and I had
visions of the romantic and delightful realms, which extend where once
the haughty heiress of Aquitaine held her poetical courts of Love and
Chivalry. The battle-fields of our Black Prince were yet to be traced;
the sites of all the legends and adventures of the most entertaining of
chroniclers, Froissart, were yet to be discovered; and the land of
mountains and torrents, where the Great Béarnais passed his hardy
childhood, was yet unknown to me.

I therefore again assumed my "cockle hat and staff," and, re-entering
the Norman territory, commenced exploring, from the stone bed of the
Conqueror, at Falaise, to the tortoise-shell cradle of Henry of Navarre,
at Pau.

Not inferior to my two former pilgrimages, in interest, did this my
third ramble prove. How many "old romantic towns" I passed through; how
much of varied lore I heard and found amongst the still original and,
even now, unsophisticated peasantry; how numerous were the recollections
which places and things recalled, and how pleasant were the scenes I
met, I have endeavoured to tell the lovers of easy adventure--for any
traveller, with the slightest enterprise, could accomplish what I have
done without fatigue, and with the certainty of being repaid for the
exertion of seeking for amusement.

In succession, I paused at Le Mans, the scene of the great Vendéean
struggle, where the majestic cathedral challenges the admiration of all
travellers of taste; at Poitiers, full of antique wonders; in the region
of _the Serpent lady_, Melusine; at Protestant La Rochelle, with all its
battlements and turrets, and the most beautiful bathing-establishment in
Europe. At mysterious Saintes, and all its pagan temples and arches; at
Bordeaux, the magnificent; on the Garonne, and by its robbers'-castles;
at Agen, with its _barber troubadour_; in the haunts of Gaston de Foix
and Jeanne d'Albret and her son; in the gloomy valleys of the proscribed
Cagot; and where the mellifluous accents of the Basquaise enchant the
ear. All the impressions made by these scenes I have endeavoured to
convey to my readers, as I did before, inviting them to follow my
footsteps, and judge if I have told them true.



CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.


INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER I.

Honfleur--Dejazet--The Sailor Prince--Le Mari--Lisieux--La Croix
Blanche--Arrival at Falaise--Guibray--Castle of Falaise--The little
Recess--Arlette--The Father--The Infant Hero--The Uncle--Arlette's
Tears--Her Reception.

CHAPTER II.

Prince Arthur--Want of Gallantry Punished--The Recreant Sow--The Rocks
of Noron--La Grande Eperonnière--Le Camp-ferme--Antiquities of
Falaise--Alençon--Norman Caps--Geese--Le Mans--Tomb of
Bérangère--Cathedral--Ancient Remains--Streets--The Veiled Figure.

CHAPTER III.

Tomb of Bérangère--Wives of Coeur de Lion--Tombs--Abbey
Churches--Château of Le Mans--De Craon--The Spectre of Le Mans--The
Vendéeans--Madame de la Roche-Jaquelin--A Woman's Perils--Disasters of
the Vendéeans--Henri--Chouans.

CHAPTER IV.

The Museum of Le Mans--Venus--Mummy--Geoffrey-le-Bel--His
Costume--Matilda--Scarron--Hélie de la Flèche--Rufus--The White Knight.

CHAPTER V.

Lude--Saumur Revisited--The Garden--La Petite Voisine--The Retired
Militaire--Les Pierres Couvertes--Les Petites Pierres--Loudun--Urbain
Grandier--Richelieu--The Nuns--The Victim--The Fly--The Malle
Poste--The Dislodged Serpents.

CHAPTER VI.

Poitiers--Battles--The Armies--King John of France--The Young
Warrior--Hôtel des Vreux--Amphitheatre--Blossac--The Great Stone--The
Scholars--Museum--The Demon's Stone--Grande Gueule.

CHAPTER VII.

Notre Dame--The Keys--The Miracle--Procession--St. Radegonde--Tomb of
the Saint--Foot-print--Little Loubette--The Count Outwitted--The
Cordelier--Late Justice--The Templars.

CHAPTER VIII.

Château de la Fée--King René--The Miniatures--The Post-Office
Functionary--Originality--The English Bank-note--St. Porchaire--The Dead
Child--Montierneuf--Guillaume Guy Geoffroy--Thomas à Becket--Choir of
Angels--Relics--The Armed Hermit--A Saint--The Repudiated
Queen--Elionore--The Bold Priest--Lay.

CHAPTER IX.

Melusine--Lusignan--Trou de la Fée--The Legend--Male Curiosity--The
Discovery--The Fairy's Shrieks--The Chronicler--Geoffrey of the Great
Tooth--Jaques Coeur--Royal Gratitude--Enemies--Jean du
Village--Wedding--The Bride--The Tragedy of Mauprier--The Garden--The
Shepherdess--The Walnut-Gatherers--La Gâtine--St. Maixant--Niort--Madame
de Maintenon--Enormous Caps--Chamois Leather--Duguesclin--The Dame de
Plainmartin--The Sea.

CHAPTER X.

La Rochelle--Les Trois Chandeliers--Oysters--Bathing
Establishment--Gaiety--Military Discipline--Curious Arcades--Story of
Auffrédy.

CHAPTER XI.

Towers--Religion--Maria Belandelle--Storm--Protestant Retreat--Solemn
Dinners--"Half-and-half"--Go to sleep!--The Brewery--Gas
Establishment--Château of La Font--The Mystery explained--Triumph of
Scenery over Appetite--Slave Trade--Charles le Bien Servi--Liberality of
Louis-Philippe--Guiton--House of Le Maire Guiton--The Fleets--The
Fight--The Mayor and the Governor.

CHAPTER XII.

Rochefort--The Curious Bonne--Americanisms--Convicts--The
Charente--"Tulipes"--Taillebourg--Henry the Third--St. Louis--False
Security--Romegoux--Puytaillé

CHAPTER XIII.

Saintes--Roman Arch of Triumph--Gothic Bridge--The Cours--Ruined
City--Cathedral--Coligny--Ruined Palace--St.
Eutrope--Amphitheatre--Legend of Ste. Eustelle--The Prince of
Babylon--Fête--The Côteau--Ste. Marie

CHAPTER XIV.

Frère Chrétien--Utility of Custom-house Search--Bold
Voyager--Pauillac--Blaye--The Gironde--Talbot--Vines--The
Landes--Phantom of King Arthur--The Witch-finder--The Landes--Wreckers

CHAPTER XV.

Ports--Divona--Bordeaux--Quinconces--Allées--First
Impression--Chartrons--Bahutier--Bacalan--Quays--White Guide--Ste.
Croix--St. Michel--St. André--Pretty Figure--Pretty Women--Palais
Gallien--Black Prince's Son, Edward.

CHAPTER XVI.

The Garonne--The Lord of Langoyran--Miracle of the Mule--Castle of the
Four Sons of Aymon--The Aged Lover--Gavaches--The Franchimans--Count
Raymond--Flying Bridges--The Miller of Barbaste--The Troubadour
Count--The Count de la Marche--The Rochellaises--Eugénie and her Song.

CHAPTER XVII.

Agen--La Belle Esther--St. Caprais--The Little Cherubs--Zoé at the
Fountain--The Hill--Le Gravier--Jasmin, the Poet-Barber--The
Metaphor--Las Papillotas--Françonnette--Jasmin's Lines on the Old
Language--The Shepherd and the Gascon Poet--Return to Agen--Jasmin and
the King of France--Jasmin and the Queen of England.



BÉARN AND THE PYRENEES. VOL. I.



CHAPTER I.

     HONFLEUR--DEJAZET--THE SAILOR PRINCE--LE MARI--LISIEUX--LA CROIX
     BLANCHE--ARRIVAL AT FALAISE--GUIBRAY--CASTLE OF FALAISE--THE LITTLE
     RECESS--ARLETTE--THE FATHER--THE INFANT HERO--THE UNCLE--ARLETTE'S
     TEARS--HER RECEPTION.


WITHIN ten leagues of the interesting town of Caen, where William of
Normandy and his queen lie buried, the traveller, who devotes a short
space of time to a search after the picturesque, may, without straying
too far a-field, find what he desires in the clean, bright, gay town of
Falaise, where the hero of the Conquest was born.

From Southampton to Havre it requires only twelve hours to cross, and,
as was the case with myself and my companions, when, at the end of
August 1842, we began a journey, whose end was "to be" the mountains
which divide France from Spain, if the city of parrots is already
familiar to the tourist, he has only to take the steam-packet, which in
four hours will land him at Caen, or enter the boat which crosses the
fine bold river to Honfleur. In an hour you arrive at Honfleur, after a
very pleasant voyage, which the inhabitants of Havre are extremely fond
of taking: a diligence starts from the quay, and proceeds through an
avenue of a league's length between beautiful hills, orchards, and
corn-fields, to the strange old town of Lisieux, to which we proceeded.

One of our fellow-travellers in the diligence was a smart, lively
looking young woman, whose resemblance to the celebrated actress
Dejazet, whom we had very lately seen in London, was so striking as to
be quite remarkable. Her tone of voice, her air and manner, as well as
her features, reminded us strongly of the _artiste_ whose warm reception
in England, where we are supposed to be correct even to fastidiousness,
has not a little amused the Parisians at our expense. Whatever may be
the objections to Dejazet's style, certain it is that her imitation of
the manners of the class of _grisettes_ and peasants is inimitable; not
a shade, not a tone, is forgotten, and the _truth_ of her
representations is proved at every step you take in France, either in
the provinces or in Paris.

Our little talkative companion had much to relate of herself and her
husband, whom she described as a piece of perfection; he had just
returned from a whaling expedition, after several years' absence, and
they were now on their way to Lisieux to visit her relations, and give
him a little shooting. He had brought back, according to her account, a
mine of wealth; and, as she had incurred no debts during his absence,
but had supported herself by opening a little _café_, which she assured
us had succeeded admirably, they were proceeding, with well-filled
purses, to see their only child who was in the keeping of its
grandmother. She told wondrous histories of his exploits amongst the
ice, of his encounters with the natives--"_les Indiens_," of the success
of all his voyages, and the virtues of his captain, who was an
Englishman and _never spoke to his crew_, but was the most just man in
the world, and ended by saying that when she met with English people she
felt _in Paradise_.

Although we listened to her continued chattering with amused attention,
it was far otherwise with some quiet, silent, women who sat beside us;
we soon gathered, by certain contemptuous glances which they exchanged,
that they did not give credit to half our little Dejazet was telling;
and when to crown the whole, she related a story of a beautiful maiden
of Lisieux, who had been distinguished by the notice of the Duke de
_Nemours_ when he visited that place on his way to join _his ship_ at
Havre, they could support their impatience no longer, and broadly
contradicted her on the ground that the Prince de Joinville and _not_
Nemours was the sailor.

Nothing daunted, our gay whaler's wife insisted on every part of her
history being true, asserting that she must know best, and if the young
prince had _left the navy_ since, it was not her affair.

As she approached Lisieux she became more and more animated, darting her
body half way out of the window every minute to look out for her _papa_
or her other relations;--at length, with a scream which would have
secured Dejazet three rounds of applause, she recognised her parent in a
peasant _en blouse_, trudging along the road carrying his bundle--on his
way, no doubt, as she assured us, to see her sister, who lived at a
village near. Tears and smiles alternately divided the expression of her
countenance, as she now feared her sister was ill, and now rejoiced at
seeing her father. All was however happily settled when the coach
stopped and she sprang out into the arms of her papa, who had followed
the diligence, and came up out of breath; and it was then that we became
aware that a remarkably ill-looking, dirty, elderly, Jewish featured
man, to whom she had occasionally spoken on the journey, was the
identical perfection of a _mari_, of whom she had been boasting all the
way. The incredulous listeners, whom she had so annoyed, now revenged
themselves by sundry depreciatory remarks on the appearance of this
phoenix, whom they pronounced to have the air of a tinker or old
clothesman, and by no means that of the hero he had been represented.

As it was raining violently on our arrival at Lisieux, the town
presented to us but an uncomfortable appearance; and as we had to search
for an hotel, and were at last obliged to be content with one far from
inviting, our first impression was by no means agreeable; nor does
Lisieux offer anything to warrant a change in the traveller's opinion
who considers it dreary, slovenly, and ruinous. There is much, however,
to admire in the once beautiful cathedral, and the church of St.
Jacques, both grand specimens of the massive architecture of the twelfth
century.

In this town lived and died the traitor Bishop of Bayeux, Pierre
Cauchon, who sold the heroic Jeanne d'Arc for English gold. An
expiatory chapel was erected by him in the cathedral, where it was
hoped the tears of the pious would help to wash his sins away; but no
one now remembers either him or his crime, for we asked in vain for the
spot; and when prayers are offered at the shrine of the Virgin in the
chapel dedicated to her, which we eventually discovered to be its site,
not one is given to the cruel bishop, whose ill-gotten money was
therefore expended in vain; for the centuries it must have required to
rescue his soul from purgatory cannot have expired by this time. The
churches are being restored, and building, as usual in all French towns,
is going on: when numerous ugly striped houses are removed, and their
places filled up, the principal square of Lisieux may deserve to be
admired, though whether it will ever merit the encomium of an old lady
who resides in it, and who assured us it would in a short time be
_superbe_, time will determine. The public promenades are good, and the
views round the town pretty, but we did not feel tempted to wait for
finer weather, and took our departure for Falaise with little delay.

The drive from Lisieux to Falaise is charming; and, although the
appearance of the hotels is not in their favour, there is nothing to
complain of in regard to cleanliness or attention: at least so we found
it at La Croix Blanche, where the singular beauty of our hostess added
to the romance of our position, perched, as we were, on a balcony
without awning, in a building which had evidently been part of an old
tower. It is true that we should have preferred something rather less
exposed when we found ourselves confined for a whole day, in consequence
of the pouring rain, and found that a stream of water had made its way
from our balcony into each of our rooms; whose bricked floors were
little improved by their visit. Our suggestion of covering the way, in
order that, in wet weather, both the dinner and its bearers might be
sheltered, appeared to excite surprise, though our attendants came in
constantly with their high caps wet through and their aprons soaked.

Our nearly exhausted patience, as we gazed hopelessly on the dull sky of
an _August_ day, was at length rewarded; and the sun, which had
obstinately concealed himself for several days, burst forth on the
second morning of our arrival, and changed by its power the whole face
of things at Falaise. We lost no time in taking advantage of the fine
day which invited us, and sallied forth, all expectation, into the
streets, which we found, as well as the walks, as dry as if no rain had
fallen for months; so fresh and bright is the atmosphere in this
beautiful place.

The town is clean and neat; most of the ruinous, striped houses, with
projecting stories, such as deform the streets of Lisieux, being
cleared away; leaving wide spaces and pure air, at least in the
centre-town, where the best habitations are situated. There are other
divisions, less airy and more picturesque, called the fauxbourgs of
Guibray and St. Laurent, and le Val d'Ante; where many antique houses
are still standing, fit to engage the pencil of the antiquarian artist.

The churches of Falaise are sadly defaced, but, from their remains, must
have been of great beauty. The Cathedral, or Eglise de St. Laurent, is
partly of the twelfth century; the exterior is adorned with carving, and
gargouilles, and flying-buttresses, of singular grace; but the whole
fabric is so built in with ugly little shops, that all fine effect is
destroyed. The galleries in the church of La Trinité are elaborately
ornamented, as are some of the chapels, whose roofs are studded with
pendants. Much of this adornment is due to the English, under Henry V.,
and a good deal is of the period of the _renaissance_.

The church of Guibray was founded by Duke William, as the Norman windows
and arches testify; but a great deal of bad taste has been expanded in
endeavouring to turn the venerable structure into a Grecian temple,
according to the approved method of the time of Louis XIV. A statue of
the wife of Coeur de Lion was once to be seen here, but has long
disappeared. That princess resided in this part of Falaise, at one
period of her widowhood, and contributed greatly to the embellishment of
the church.

There are many columns and capitals, and arches and ornaments of
interest in the church of St. Gervais, defaced and altered as it is; but
it is impossible to give all the attention they deserve to these
buildings, when the towers of the splendid old castle are wooing you to
delay no longer, but mount at once the steep ascent which leads to its
walls.

Rising suddenly from the banks of a brawling crystal stream, a huge mass
of grey rocks, thrown in wild confusion one on the other, sustains on
its summit the imposing remains of the castle, whose high white tower,
alone and in perfect preservation, commands an immense tract of smiling
country, and seems to have defied the attacks of ages, as it gleams in
the sun, the smooth surface of its walls apparently uninjured and
unstained. This mighty donjon is planted in a lower part of the height;
consequently, high as it appears, scarcely half of its real elevation is
visible. Its walls are of prodigious thickness, and seem to have proved
their power through centuries of attack and defence to which it has been
exposed; careless alike of the violence of man and the fury of the
elements. Adjoining the keep are ranges of ruined walls, pierced with
fine windows, whose circular arches, still quite entire, show their
early Norman construction. Close to the last of these, whose pillars,
with wreathed capitals, are as sharp as if just restored, is a low door,
leading to a small chamber in the thickness of the wall. There is a
little recess in one corner, and a narrow window, through whose minute
opening a fine prospect may be seen.

This small chamber, tradition says, was once adorned with "azure and
vermilion;" though it could scarcely have ever presented a very gay
appearance, even when used as the private retreat of the luxurious
master of the castle. However, such as it is, we are bound to look upon
this spot with veneration; for it is asserted, that here a child was
born in secrecy and mystery, and that here, by this imperfect light, his
beautiful mother gazed upon the features of the future hero of Normandy.

However unlike a bower fitted for beauty and love, it is said that here
Arlette, the skinner's daughter, was confined of William the Conqueror.
It is said, too, that from this height, the sharp-sighted Duke his
father, gazing from his towers, first beheld the lovely peasant girl
bathing in the fountain which still bears her name. In this retreat,
concealed from prying eyes, and where inquisitive ears found it
difficult to catch a sound, the shrill cry of the wondrous infant was
first uttered,--a sound often to be repeated by every echo of the land,
when changed to the war note which led to victory.

Little, perhaps, did his poor mother exult in his birth, for she was of
lowly lineage, and had never raised her eyes to the castle but with awe,
nor thought of its master but with fear; her pleasures were to dance, on
holidays, under the shade of trees with the simple villagers, her
companions; her duties, to wash her linen on the stones of the silver
stream, as her townswomen do still at the present day--that silver
stream which probably flowed past her father's cottage, as it still
flows, bathing the base of cottages as humble and as rudely built as his
could have been. There might, perchance, have been one, amongst the
youths who admired her beauty, whom she preferred to the rest; her
ambition might have been to become his bride, her dreams might have
imaged his asking her of her father, whose gracious consent made them
both happy: in her ears might have rung the pealing bells of St.
Gervais--the vision of maidens, in bridal costumes, strewing flowers in
her path, might have risen before her view--her lover with his soft
words and smiles--his cottage amongst the heath-covered rocks of
Noron--all this might have flitted across her mind, as she stood beside
the fountain, beneath the castle walls, unconscious that eyes were
gazing on her whose influence was to fix her destiny. A mail-clad
warrior, terrible and powerful, whose will may not be resisted, whose
gold glitters in her father's eyes, or whose chains clank in his ears,
has seen and coveted her for his own, and her simple dream must be
dispersed in air to make way for waking terrors. The unfortunate father
trembles while he feebly resists, he listens to the duke's proposal, he
has yet a few words of entreaty for his child: he dares not tell her
what her fate must be, he hopes that time and new adventures will efface
Arlette from the mind of her dangerous lover; but, again, he is urged,
heaps of gold shine before him, how shall he turn from their tempting
lustre? Is there not in yonder tower an _oubliette_ that yawns for the
disobedient vassal? He appeals to Arlette, she has no reply but tears;
men at arms appear in the night, they knock at the skinner's door and
demand his daughter, they promise fair in the name of their master; they
mount her on a steed before the gentlest of their band, his horse's
hoofs clatter along the rocky way--the father hears the sobs of his
child for a little space, and his heart sinks,--he hides his eyes with
his clenched hand, but suddenly he starts up--his floor is strewn with
glittering pieces--he stoops down and counts them, and Arlette's sorrows
are forgotten.

Arlette returns no more to her father's cottage. She remains in a turret
of the castle, but not as a handmaiden of the duchess; her existence is
not supposed to be known, though the childless wife of Duke Robert weeps
in secret, over her wrongs.

All this is pure fancy, and may have no foundation in reality.

    "Look here upon this picture and on that."

Perhaps Arlette did not repine at her fate; she might have been
ambitious and worldly, vain and presuming, have possessed cunning and
resolve, and have used every artifice to secure her triumph. Some of the
stories extant of her would seem to prove this, and some to exculpate
her from blame, inasmuch as she believed herself to have fulfilled a
sacred duty in conforming to her master's will. When she told her lover
that she had dreamt "a tree sprang from her bosom which overshadowed all
Normandy," there was more evidence of policy than simplicity in the
communication which was so well calculated to raise the hopes of a great
man without an heir; and perhaps it was she herself who dictated the
saying of the _sage femme_ at her son's birth, who, having placed him
_on straw_ by her side, and observing that the robust infant grasped in
his tiny hands as much as he could hold, cried out--"_Par Dieu_! this
child begins early to grasp and make all his own!" At all events the
little hero was "honourably brought up," and treated as if legitimate.

Another version of the story of Arlette is given by an ancient
chronicler, (Benoit de St Maur,) which is certainly a sufficient
contrast to the view I ventured to take of the affair, probably with but
little correctness, considering the manners of the period.

It appears that the scruples of the fair daughter of _Vertprès_, the
skinner, for his name seems to be known, were dispersed by the advice
and injunction of her uncle, a holy personage, of _singular_ piety, who
dwelt in a hermitage in the wood of Gouffern. Convinced, by his
arguments, that Heaven had directed the affection of the duke towards
her, she no longer resisted her father's wish, and made preparations as
if for a bridal, providing herself with rich habiliments calculated to
enhance her beauty. When the messengers of the duke came to fetch her,
they requested that she would put on a cloak and cape, and conceal her
rich dress, for fear of the jeers of the common people, who would
perhaps insult her if she appeared publicly with them; but she replied
boldly and proudly, "Does the duke send for me after this manner, as if
I were not the daughter of an honourable man? Shall I go secretly, as if
I were but a disgraced woman? That which I do is in all honour and
respectability, not from wickedness or weakness, and I am not ashamed
that men should see me pass. If I am to be taken to the duke, it shall
not be on foot and hidden--fetch, therefore, your palfrey, and let me go
as it becomes me." Her dress is thus described:--"She had clothed her
gentle body in a fine shift, over which was a grey pelisse, wide and
without lacings, but setting close to her shape and her arms: over this
she wore a short mantle conformable and of good taste; her long hair was
slightly bound with a fillet of fine silver. It was in this guise,
beautiful to behold, that she mounted the courser which was brought for
her, and saluted her _father and mother_ as she rode away; but at _the
last moment she was seized with a trembling, and burst into weeping,
covering her fair bosom with her tears_."

When she arrived, "by a fine moon-light," at the castle gate, her
attendants made her alight, and opened a wicket for her to enter, but
she drew back, saying, "The duke has sent for me, and it would seem that
he esteems me little if his gates are not to be opened for my passage.
Let him order them to give me entrance, or send me back at once. _Beaux
amis, ouvrez-moi la porte_."

The messengers, awed by her dignity, hesitated not to obey her, and she
was presently conducted into the presence of Duke Robert, who awaited
her coming in a vaulted chamber, adorned with gilding, where "fine
images were represented in enamel and colours." There he received her
with great joy and honour, and from that time she possessed all his
love.



CHAPTER II.

     PRINCE ARTHUR--WANT OF GALLANTRY PUNISHED--THE RECREANT SOW--THE
     ROCKS OF NORON--LA GRANDE EPERONNIÈRE--LE CAMP-FERME--ANTIQUITIES
     OF FALAISE--ALENÇON--NORMAN CAPS--GEESE--LE MANS--TOMB OF
     BÉRANGÈRE--CATHEDRAL--ANCIENT REMAINS--STREETS--THE VEILED FIGURE.


CLOSE to the natal chamber of Duke William may be seen another recess in
the thick walls, still smaller and more dismal, to which a ruined window
now gives more light than in the days when poor young Arthur of Brittany
looked sadly through its loop-holes over a wide extent of country, now
all cultivation and beauty, but probably then bristling with forts and
towers, all in the hands of his hard-hearted uncle John. After having
made his nephew prisoner in Anjou, John sent him to Falaise, and had him
placed in this dungeon in the custody of some severe but not cruel
knights, who treated him with all the respect they dared to show. An
order from their treacherous master soon arrived, directing that he
should be put to death; but they refused obedience, and indignantly
exclaimed, that the walls of the castle of Falaise should not be sullied
by such a crime. Arthur was therefore removed to Rouen, and there less
conscientious men were found to execute the tyrant's will, if tradition,
so varied on the point, speak true.

Stephen maintained himself in the castle of Falaise against the father
of Henry II., and these walls have probably echoed to the lays of
minstrels, whose harps were tuned in praise of the beautiful and haughty
heiress of Aquitaine. The fair wife of Coeur de Lion had this castle for
her dower, and, for some time, is said to have lived here. Philip
Augustus accorded some singular privileges to Falaise, two of which
deserve to be recorded.

If a woman were convicted of _being fond of scandal_, and known to
backbite her neighbours, they had the right of placing cords under her
arms and ducking her three times in the water: after this, if a man took
the liberty of reproaching her with the circumstance, he was compelled
to pay a fine of ten sous, or else he was plunged into the stream in a
similar manner.

If a man were so ungallant as to call a woman _ugly_, he was obliged to
pay a fine. This offence was indeed worthy of condign punishment, if the
women of Falaise were as pretty formerly as they are now: with their
neat petticoats, smart feet in sabots, high butterfly or mushroom caps,
as white as snow, scarlet handkerchiefs and bright-coloured aprons, with
their round healthy cheeks, lively eyes, and good-humoured expression
of countenance, the Falaisiennes are as agreeable a looking race as one
would wish to see, and more likely to elicit compliment than insult.

Many curious customs prevailed in the middle ages in this old town; and
one was formerly portrayed on the walls of a chapel in the church of the
Holy Trinity. It was the representation of an execution: the delinquent
had injured a child, by disfiguring its face and arms, and suffered in
consequence. The culprit was no other than a sow; and when the crime
committed was brought home to her, the learned judges assembled on the
occasion pronounced her as guilty of malice prepense; and in order to
hold her up as an example to all sows in time to come, her _face_ and
_fore legs_ were mutilated in a similar manner to those of her victim.
The spectacle of her punishment took place in a public square, amidst a
great concourse of spectators, the father of the child being brought as
a witness, and condemned to stand by during the infliction, as a due
reward for not having sufficiently watched his infant. The
"viscount-judge" of Falaise appeared on the solemn occasion "on
horseback, with a plume of feathers on his head, and _his hand on his
side_." The sow was dragged forth dressed in the costume of a citizen,
in a vest and breeches, and "_with gloves on_, wearing a mask
representing the face of a man."

What effect this wise judgment had is not related; probably it produced
as salutary a result as most of those exhibitions designed for the
amusement or instruction of an enlightened multitude.

The chain of the rocks of Noron, on part of which the castle is
situated, is singularly picturesque; and from those opposite, rising
from the side of Arlette's fountain, the fine ruins have a most majestic
effect; and the prospect for leagues round is extremely beautiful. A
soft turf, covered with wild thyme, heath, and fern, makes the
meandering walks amongst the huge blocks of moss-mantled stone, tempting
and delightful, in spite of their steepness; and the delicious perfume
of the fragrant herbs, growing in great luxuriance everywhere, is
refreshing in the extreme. The snowy tower of strength, rising from its
bed of piled up rock--the broad high walls, and their firm buttresses
and circular windows, through which the blue sky gleams--the nodding
foliage and garlands of ivy which adorn the huge towers--and, far
beyond, a rich and glowing country, altogether present a scene of
beauty, difficult to be equalled in any part of Normandy, rich as that
charming province is in animated landscape.

We spent many hours of a brilliant summer's day, climbing amongst the
rocks, and making sketches of the castle in its different phases, all of
which offer studies to an artist: here the majestic donjon forms a fine
object; there the ruined arsenal; and farther off the battered walls,
separated and hurled down by the cannon of Henri IV. when through this
breach his white plume was seen triumphantly waving as he cheered his
warriors on to the attack, changing the _six months_ proposed by Brissac
into _six days_, during which he took the fortress and the town.

An anecdote is related of a heroine of Falaise, whose exploits are
recorded with pride by her countrymen, by whom she is called _La Grande
Eperonnière_. She had headed a party of valiant citizens, who defended
one of their gates, and fought with such determination, as to keep her
position for a long time against the soldiers of Le Vert Galant.

The king, when the town was in his power, summoned her before him: she
came, and approaching with the same undaunted air, interrupted him, as
he was about to propose terms to her, and demanded at once the safety of
all the women and aged men of the town of Falaise. Henry was struck with
her courage, and desired her to shut herself up in a street with the
persons she wished to save, together with all their most precious
possessions, and gave her his word that no soldier should penetrate that
retreat. He, of course, kept his promise; and she assembled her friends,
took charge of most of the riches of the town, closed the two ends of
the street in which she lived, and, while all the rest of Falaise was
given up to pillage, no one ventured to enter the sacred precincts. The
street is still pointed out, and is called _Le Camp-fermant_, or
_Camp-ferme_, in memory of the event. The heroic Eperonnière was
fortunate in having a chief to deal with, who gladly took advantage of
every opportunity to exercise mercy.

The town of Falaise is well provided with water, and its fountains stand
in fine open squares: a pretty rivulet runs through the greatest part,
and turns several mills for corn, oil, cotton and tan; it is called the
Ante, and gives name to the valley it embellishes as it runs glittering
along amongst the rugged stones which impede its way with a gentle
murmur, making a chorus to the voices of the numerous Arlettes, who,
kneeling at their cottage doors, may be seen rubbing their linen against
the flat stones over which the stream flows, bending down their heads
which, except on grand occasions, are no longer adorned with the high
fly-caps which are so becoming to their faces, but are covered with a
somewhat unsightly cotton nightcap, a species of head-gear much in vogue
in this part of lower Normandy, and a manufacture for which Falaise is
celebrated, and has consequently obtained the name of _the city of
cotton nightcaps_. However, there is one advantage in this usage--the
women have better teeth than in most cider countries, owing perhaps to
their heads being kept warm, and, ugly as the cotton caps are, they
deserve admiration accordingly.

A house is shown in one of the streets, called the House of the
Conqueror, and a rudely sculptured bust is exhibited there, dignified
with his name. Some few tottering antique houses still contrive to keep
together in the oldest parts of the town, but none are by any means
worthy of note; one is singular, being covered with a sort of coat of
mail formed of little scales of wood lapping one over the other, and
preserving the remains of some carved pillars, apparently once of great
delicacy. One pretty tower is still to be seen at the corner of the Rue
du Camp-ferme, which seems to have formed part of a very elegant
building, to judge by its lightness and grace; it has sunk considerably
in the earth, but from its height a fine prospect may be obtained. There
is a public library at Falaise, that great resource of all French towns,
and several fine buildings dedicated to general utility; but the boys of
the college the most excite the envy of the stranger, for their abode is
on the broad ramparts, and their playground and promenades are along the
beautiful walks formed on the ancient defences of the castle.

Our way to Alençon, where we proposed to stop a day, lay through
Argentan on the Orne, a pretty town on a height commanding a fine view
of plain and forest; the country is little remarkable the whole way, but
cultivated and pretty. At Seez the fine, delicate, elevated spires of
the Cathedral mark the situation of the town long before and after it is
reached; but, besides that, it possesses no attractions sufficient to
detain the traveller.

Alençon, the capital of the department of Orne, is a clean, open,
well-built town, situated in a plain with woods in all directions, which
entirely bound its prospects. The public promenades are remarkably fine,
laid out with taste, and a great resource to the inhabitants, who
consider them equal to those of Paris, comparing them to the gardens of
the Luxembourg. The cathedral, once fine, is dreadfully defaced, and the
boasted altars and adornments of the chapels are in the usual bad taste
so remarkable at the present day.

A few fine round towers remain of the ancient château, now a prison,
which is the only vestige of antiquity remaining. There was an
exhibition of works of industry and art going on, which we went to see,
and were much struck with the extreme beauty of some specimens of the
lace called Point d'Alençon. The patterns and delicate execution of this
manufacture are exquisite, equalling ancient point lace and Brussels.
Some very fine stuffs in wool, transparent as gossamer and of the
softest colours, attracted us, but the severity of an official
prevented our examining them as closely as we wished, and as there was
no indication of the place where they could be beheld at liberty, we
were obliged to content ourselves with the supposition that they were
the produce of the workshops of Alençon. As the large gallery in which
the exhibition took place was principally filled with peasants in
blouses and women with children, perhaps the vigilance of the attendants
might not be useless; but whether their proceeding was judicious in
refusing information to strangers or persons who might be able to
purchase goods which pleased them, is questionable.

Amongst the customary Norman caps to be seen here, we remarked one which
we recognised at once as Breton. The girl who wore it was very pretty,
and in spite of the grave demeanour peculiar to her country and a
distinguishing trait, was pleased at my wishing to sketch her
singular-shaped head-dress, _en crète de coq_: she was from St. Malo, as
I had no difficulty in guessing.

Through alleys of crimson-apple trees our road continued, and we were
forcibly, and not very agreeably reminded, at almost every step, that
there is a large trade carried on in this part of the country in goose
down, for flocks of these unfortunate animals were scattered along the
road, their breasts entirely despoiled of their downy beauties, offering
a frightful spectacle; the immense numbers exceed belief, and all appear
of a fine species. At every cabaret we passed, notices were stuck up
informing those whom it might concern, that accommodation for four or
five hundred oxen was to be had within; but we met no private carriages,
nor, even in the neighbourhood of large towns, horsemen or pedestrians
above the rank of peasants. This is a circumstance so universal in every
part of France, that it becomes a mystery where the other classes of
society conceal themselves--on the promenades, in the streets and shops,
to see a well-dressed person is a prodigy, and the wonder is to whom the
goods are sold, which are certainly sparingly enough exhibited.

We had looked forward to much pleasure in a visit to the ancient town
of Le Mans, and its treasure, the tomb of Bérangère, for the discovery
of which, although a benefit unacknowledged, France and the curious are
indebted to the zeal and perseverance of the late lamented Stothard, who
sought for and found one of the most beautiful statues of the time under
a heap of corn in an old church formerly belonging to the convent of
Epau, but converted into a granary in 1820, when, by his entreaties and
resolution, the lost beauty was restored to daylight and honour. Not a
word of all this is, however, named by any French chronicler, although
Bérangère is now the heroine and the boast of Le Mans, the object of
interest to travellers, the gem of the cathedral, and the pride of Le
Maine.

Nothing can be more majestic, more imposing, or more magnificent than
the huge and massive building which towers above the town of Le Mans,
and now adorns one side of a wide handsome square, where convents,
churches, houses, and streets have been cleared away, without remorse,
to leave a free opening in front of this fine cathedral. The _place_ is
named _des Jacobins_, from one of the vanished monasteries, which a
beautiful theatre now replaces, one of the most elegant I ever saw in
France, and yet unopened, at the back of which spreads out a promenade
in terraces, the site of a Roman amphitheatre. All the houses round
this square are handsome, and a broad terrace before the arcades of the
theatre completes its good effect. Numerous flying buttresses and
galleries and figures combine to give lightness to the enormous bulk of
the cathedral, which, being without spires, would otherwise be heavy;
but the want of these graceful accessories is scarcely felt, so grand is
the general character given to it by the enormous square tower, which
appears to protect it, and the smaller ones, its satellites. Statues of
the countesses of Maine, of nuns, and queens, may still be seen in
niches at different heights of the tower, and the portals are enriched
with saints and bishops, angels and foliage astonishing the eye with
their elaborate grace and beauty. There are thirteen chapels projecting
from the main building, that which forms the termination towards the
square being the largest. One rose window is remarkable for the elegance
of its stone-work, and the form of all the windows is grand and
imposing.

This glorious fabric, equal to that of Beauvais, which it resembles, and
more extensive, is sufficient of itself to render Le Mans interesting,
but it is a town full of objects that delight and please. The streets
are all wide, clean, and well-paved; there are good squares and handsome
houses; and its position on the pretty, clear river Sarthe, from which
the banks rise gracefully, crowned with foliage and adorned with towers
and churches, makes the place really charming. There is a promenade,
called Du Greffier, formed evidently on the ramparts of an old castle,
part of whose massive walls may still be traced among the trees, which
are planted in terraces above the river, whose water is as bright and
glittering as those of the Loire itself: green meadows and pretty _aits_
adorn the stream, and the usual picturesque idleness of fishing is
carried on by its banks, while groups of wading washerwomen, in
high-coloured petticoats and white caps, enliven the little quays.

The weather was very propitious while we were at Le Mans, and all
appeared attractive and agreeable, and we enjoyed our unwearied walks,
both in the environs, and in the town, extremely. Although there is a
great deal that is entirely new in the principal quarter of the town,
where our Hotel du Dauphin, in the spacious Place aux Halles, was
situated, yet, to the antiquarian, there is no lack of interest in the
antique parts, where much of the original city remains even as it might
have been in the earliest times. Roman walls and towers extend in every
direction between the three bridges of Ysoir, St. Jean, and Napoleon;
and, in the old quartiers of Gourdaine and du Pré, arches, pillars, and
ruins, attest the antiquity of the spot. We hesitated not to enter these
singular old streets, where the lowest of the population reside, and,
as is almost invariable in France, we always found civility and a
cheerful readiness to afford us information. The inquisitive stranger is
generally, however, obliged, after going through several of the narrow
ways which excite his curiosity, to abandon his search after uncertain
antiquities, from the inodorous accompaniments which are sure to assail
him; and so it was with us when we had visited the Rue _Danse Renard_,
Rue _de la Truie qui File_, _Vert Galant_, the _Grande_ and _Petite
Poterne_, &c. We found ourselves wandering in circles, amongst dwellings
that looked as if they must be the same inhabited by the original
Gaulish inhabitants, and at length, anxious to pay our daily devotions
at the shrine of Bérangère, we ventured on the ascent of an apparently
interminable flight of stone steps, between immensely high massive
walls, called _Les Pans de Gorron_.

We paused every now and then, on our ascent, to wonder at the appearance
of the town, of which, and the river, we caught glimpses at intervals,
and to gaze upwards at the strange old Roman walls above us, and the
high houses, some with five and six rows of windows in their shelving
roofs. At length, after considerable toil, we reached the platform where
once stood the château, and where still stands a curious building, all
towers and tourelles, some ugly, and some of graceful form, the latter
apparently of the period of Charles VI. Immediately before the steps in
the square above us rose the cathedral, which we came upon unawares;
and, exactly in front of us, in an angle, partly concealed by the broad
shadow, we perceived a figure so mysterious, so remarkable, that it was
impossible not to create in the mind of a beholder the most interesting
speculations. This extraordinary figure deserves particular description,
and I hope it may be viewed by some person more able than myself to
explain it, or one more fortunate than I was in obtaining information
respecting it. To all the questions I asked of the dwellers in Le Mans,
the answers were exclamations of surprise at a stranger having noticed
that which had never been remarked at all by any one of the passers by,
who classed it with the stones of the church or the posts of the square.
Yet surely the antiquarian will not be indifferent to the treasure
which, it appears to me, he should hail with as much delight as the
discovery of a Druidical monument or a Roman pavement.

Seated in an angle of the exterior walls of the cathedral, on a rude
stone, is a reddish looking block, which has all the appearance of a
veiled priest, covered with a large mantle, which conceals his hands and
face. The height of the figure is about eight feet as it sits; the feet,
huge unformed masses, covered with what seems drapery, are supported on
a square pedestal, which is again sustained by one larger, which
projects from the angle of the building. The veil, the ample mantle, and
two under-garments, all flowing in graceful folds, and defining the
shape, may be clearly distinguished. No features are visible, nor are
the limbs actually apparent, except through the uninterrupted waving
lines of the drapery, or what may be called so. A part of the side of
what seems the head has been sliced off, otherwise the block is entire.
It would scarcely appear to have been sculptured, but has the effect of
one of those sports of Nature in which she delights to offer
representations of forms which the fancy can shape into symmetry.

There is something singularly Egyptian about the form of this swathed
figure, or it is like those Indian idols, whose contours are scarcely
defined to the eye; it is so wrapped up in mystery, and is so surrounded
with oblivion, that the mind is lost in amazement in contemplating it.
Did it belong to a worship long since swept away?--was it a god of the
Gauls, or a veiled Jupiter?--how came it squeezed in between two walls
of the great church, close to the ground, yet supported by steps?--why
was it not removed on the introduction of a purer worship?--how came it
to escape destruction when saints and angels fell around?--who placed it
there, and for what purpose?--will no zealous antiquarian, on his way
from a visit to the wondrous circle of Carnac and the gigantic Dolmens
of Saumur, pause at Le Mans, at this obscure corner of the cathedral,
opposite the huge Pans de Gorron, and tell the world the meaning of this
figure with the stone veil?

       *       *       *       *       *

Since I left Le Mans, a friend, who resided there some years, informs me
the tradition respecting this stone is, that an _English Giant_ brought
the block from the banks of the river, up the steep ascent of the Pans
de Gorron, and cast it from his shoulders against the wall of the
cathedral, where it now stands.

Imagination may easily, here in the country, where the sage bard, the
great Merlin, or Myrdhyn, lived, induce the belief that this mysterious
stone represents the Druid lover of the fatal Viviana;--may this not be
the very stone brought from Brociliande, within, or under, which he is
in durance; or rather is not this himself transformed to stone? Thus
runs the tradition:--

THE DRUID LOVER.

"Myrdhyn the Druid still sleeps under a stone in a forest in Brittany;
his Viviana is the cause; she wished to prove his power, and asked the
sage the fatal word which could enchain him; he, who knew all things,
was aware of the consequences, yet he could not resist her entreaties;
he told her the spell, and, to gratify her, condemned himself to eternal
oblivion."

      I know to tell the fatal word
      Is sorrow evermore--
      I know that I that boon accord
      Whole ages will deplore.
    Though I be more than mortal wise,
    And all is clear to gifted eyes;
    And endless pain and worlds of woe
    May from my heedless passion flow,
    Yet thou hast power all else above,--
    Sense, reason, wisdom, yield to love.

    I look upon thine eyes of light,
    And feel that all besides is night;
    I press that snowy hand in mine,
    And but contemn my art divine.
    Oh Viviana! I am lost;
    A life's renown thy smile hath cost.
    A stone no ages can remove
    Will be my monument of love;
    A nation's wail shall mourn my fate,
    My country will be desolate:

    Heav'n has no pardon left for me,
    Condemn'd--undone--destroy'd--by thee!
    Thy tears subdue my soul, thy sighs
    Efface all other memories.
    I have no being but in thee;
      My thirst for knowledge is forgot,
    And life immortal would but be
      A load of care, where thou wert not.

    Wouldst thou but turn away those eyes
    I might be saved--I might be wise.
    I might recal my reason still
    But for that tongue's melodious thrill!
    Oh! wherefore was my soul replete
      With wisdom, knowledge, sense, and power,
    Thus to lie prostrate at thy feet,
      And lose them all in one weak hour!
    But no--I argue not--'tis past--
      Thus to be thine, belov'd by thee,
    I seek but this, even to the last,
      For all besides is vain to me.
    I gaze upon thy radiant brow,
    And do not ask a future now.

    Thou hast the secret! speak not yet!
      Soon shall I gaze myself to stone,
    Soon shall I all but thee forget,
      And perish to be thine alone.
    Ages on ages shall decline,
    But Myrdhyn shall be ever thine!



CHAPTER III.

     TOMB OF BÉRANGÈRE--WIVES OF COEUR DE LION--TOMBS--ABBEY
     CHURCHES--CHÂTEAU OF LE MANS--DE CRAON--THE SPECTRE OF LE MANS--THE
     VENDÉEANS--MADAME DE LA ROCHE-JAQUELIN--A WOMAN'S PERILS--DISASTERS
     OF THE VENDÉEANS--HENRI--CHOUANS.


HOWEVER interesting the exterior of the Cathedral of St. Julien may be,
the interior entirely corresponds with it. The windows of painted glass
are of the very first order, and of surpassing beauty, nearly entire,
and attributed to Cimabue. The double range in the choir, seen through
the _grille_, or from the exterior aisle--for there are two on each
side--present a magnificent _coup d'oeil_. The architecture is of
different periods; specimens may be observed belonging to the 12th
century and reaching to the 17th; but some of the finest is that of the
Norman era; the zigzags of the portals, and the billets, rose
mouldings, &c., being of peculiar delicacy and boldness. There is a
great deal of ornament composed of those extravagant forms of animals
which, at a distance, are confounded with the foliage to which they are
attached, but which, viewed nearly, are mysteriously extraordinary. The
circular arch reigns throughout, but many in _ogive_ also occur in
different parts. The arcades and galleries of the choir are of the
utmost delicacy and elegance of form; but the chief attraction is the
tomb of the widow of Richard Coeur de Lion, placed in one of the wings
of the cross. The Lady Chapel is undergoing repair, and is being
restored in the very best style. The new screen is beautiful, and the
figures of the Virgin and Child in very good taste, as are all the
ornaments, which exactly follow the fine originals. The exterior repairs
are carried on with equal skill; and this precious monument will soon be
in perfect order.

As I looked at the pure, dignified, and commanding outline of the face
of Bérangère, she appeared to me to have been a fitting wife for the
hero whose effigy had inspired me with so much admiration when I visited
it a few years since, at Fontevraud. Her nose is slightly aquiline, her
upper lip short and gracefully curved, her chin beautifully rounded, as
are her cheeks; her eyebrows are clearly marked, and her eye full though
not large; but, even in stone, it has a tender, soft expression,
extremely pleasing, and there is a sadness about the mouth which answers
well to the tenderness of the eye. The forehead is of just proportion,
and shaded by a frill which passes across, over which an ample veil is
drawn: the whole confined by a diadem, the only part of the statue
rather indistinct. Round her fine majestic throat is a band, to which a
large ornament is attached, which rests on her chest; her head reclines
on an embroidered pillow; her drapery falls over her figure and round
her clasped hands in graceful folds, and the dog and lion at her feet
complete the whole of this charming statue, which is of workmanship
equal to that of the exquisite _four_ in the little vault at
Fontevraud.[2]

Bérangère was daughter of Sancho VI., king of Navarre--not, as some
historians say, a princess of Castile or Arragon. After Richard's death,
Philip-Augustus confirmed to her the dominion of Maine, in exchange for
part of Normandy, which had been settled on her as her dower. She lived
for more than twenty years in the town of Le Mans, where her memory was
long preserved as _La Bonne Reine Bérangère_. She founded the monastery
of Epau, near Le Mans, where the mausoleum was erected which now adorns
the Cathedral of St. Julien.

[Footnote 2: See a description of the statues of Coeur de Lion, Henry
and Elionor, and Isabella of Angoulême, in "A Summer amongst the Bocages
and the Vines."]

Two houses are pointed out in the Grande Rue, said to have formed part
of her palace; and the singularity of the ornaments which can be traced
amidst their architecture, makes it probable that the tradition is not
incorrect.

The abbey of Epau formerly stood about half a league from Le Mans, on
the banks of the river Huisne, in the midst of a fertile plain; the
widow of Richard founded it, in 1230, for Bernardins of the order of
Citeaux.

The inhabitants of Le Mans destroyed the monastery, after the battle of
Poitiers, in 1365, fearing that the English would take possession of it
and render it a place of defence; and it was reconstructed early in the
fifteenth century. The church alone remains, which, after the
Revolution, was desecrated, as has been related, and the tomb of the
foundress treated so unceremoniously.

There seems a question, which has not yet been fully resolved, as to the
identity of the wives of Richard; by some authors a certain Rothilde,
otherwise called Bérangère of Arragon, is described as his queen; who,
"owing to some misunderstanding, caused a part of the city of Limoges to
be destroyed, and salt strewn amongst the ruins; three days after which
she died, and was buried under the belfry of the abbey of St. Augustine,
in 1189 or 1190. Her mausoleum and statue were afterwards placed
there."

This could scarcely be _our_ Bérangère of Navarre, since mention is made
of her in public acts as late as 1234. In the annals of Aquitaine, by
Bouchet, it is set forth, that, "in 1160, Henry, Duke of Aquitaine, and
Raimond, Count of Barcelona, being at Blaye, on the Gironde, made and
swore an alliance, by which Richard, surnamed Coeur de Lion, second son
of the said Henry, was to marry the daughter of the said Raimond, when
she should be old enough, and Henry promised to give, on the occasion of
the said marriage, the duchy of Aquitaine to his son. This Raimond was
rich and powerful, being Count of Barcelona in his own right, and King
of Arragon in right of his wife." The Princess Alix of France--about
whose detention from him, Richard afterwards quarrelled with his
father--never became his wife; but whether it is she who is meant by the
queen buried at Limoges, in 1190, does not appear.

That he married Bérangère in 1191, in the island of Cyprus, seems an
ascertained fact; and that she died at Le Mans appears also certain; but
whether Richard really had two wedded wives it is difficult to
determine.

On the Monday of Pentecost, the Abbey of Epau was for centuries the
scene of a grand festival, in honour of the patron saint, and the
ceremony was continued, to a late period, of passing the day there in
gaiety and amusement. All the families of the neighbourhood sought the
spot on foot, and every kind of country entertainment was resorted to.
Although the object is now changed, an expedition to the remains of the
Abbey of Epau is still a favourite one with the inhabitants of Le Mans;
it is a kind of _Longchamps_, where all the fashion and gaiety of the
town is displayed.

The only tombs, besides that of Bérangère, remaining in the cathedral of
Le Mans, are those in white marble, of Charles of Anjou, Count of Maine
and King of Jerusalem and Sicily, who died in 1472. Opposite this, is a
finely-sculptured tomb, worthy of the school of Jean Goujon, of Langey
du Bellay; the carving of the fruits and flowers which adorn it is
attributed to Germain Pilon. There is some good carving, also, in a
neighbouring chapel, by Labarre, done in 1610; but little else of this
kind remarkable in the church; all the other tombs of countesses, dukes,
and princes, having long since disappeared. However, Bérangère, perhaps,
appears to the greater advantage, reigning, as she does, in solitary
grandeur in this magnificent retreat.

The abbey churches of La Couture and Du Pré, are fine specimens of early
architecture. In the chapel of the former, an inscription was once to be
found on the walls, to the memory of a certain innkeeper and postilion,
who, wishing that his name should be handed down to posterity, had set
forth the fact of his having conducted the carriages of four kings of
France, and after passing sixty-four years as a married man, died in
1509: he adds a prayer to this important record, that Heaven would
provide a second husband for his widow, whose age appears to have
reached not less than _sixteen lustres_. The subterranean church of La
Couture is very remarkable, and is, no doubt, of Roman construction; the
capitals of the pillars are extremely curious, and its height and
dryness are peculiar. The famous warrior, Hélie de la Flèche, so often
named in the wars of the eleventh century, was here buried; and here, it
is said, was deposited the body of the blessed St. Bertrand. It is a
very grand and interesting church in all its parts, and preserves some
curious memorials of Roman and early Norman architecture.

The abbey church of Du Pré is equally curious, and its circular arches,
strange capitals, niches and ornaments, prove its extraordinary
antiquity.

There are a great many houses still existing in the oldest part of Le
Mans which retain part of their original sculpture, and are of great
antiquity, though it is not likely that they reach so far back as the
time of Bérangère, or La Reine Blanche, as she is traditionally
called--a designation always given to the widowed queens of France.

The house in the Grande Rue--one of the most dilapidated streets in the
town--said to have formed part of her palace, is now divided into two
poulterers' shops; and when we visited it, the chamber called that of
the widow of Coeur de Lion, was occupied by seven women, not employed in
weaving tapestry or stringing pearls, but in plucking fowls. The
chimney-piece is curious, adorned with two fine medallions of male
heads, in high relief, very boldly executed. The outside of the house
has some curious carving of eagles with expanded wings, strange
monkey-shaped figures, lions _couchant_, crosslets and scrolls; but the
façade is so much destroyed, that it is difficult to connect any of
these ornaments. The crosslets were the arms of Jerusalem, of which the
counts of Anjou called themselves kings; but to what period all these
sculptures belong it is difficult to say.

The Grande Rue is full of these remains; in the Rue des Chanoines, some
circular-arched windows, ornamented with roses, stars, and _toothed_
carving, indicate that here once stood the church founded by St. Aldric,
in the ninth century; and some pieces of wall and brick still prove its
original Roman construction.

In the Place St. Michel, a stone house of ancient date is shown as
having been inhabited by Scarron; and in almost every street of the old
town, some curious bits, worthy of an artist's attention, may be found;
but the search after them is somewhat fatiguing, and involves a visit to
not the most agreeable part of the pretty city: all of which is
interesting, whether new or old.

Of the once famous Château of Le Mans, erected long before the time of
William the Conqueror, who destroyed it in part, nothing now remains but
the Pans de Gorron, and a few _tourelles_. Yet it was, in the turbulent
times when such fortresses were required, a place of enormous strength;
and its two forts, one called Mont Barbet, and one Motte Barbet, defied
many an attack.

It appears that the Manceaux were impatient of the yoke of the
_conquering hero_, who endeavoured to make all the territory his own
which approached his domains; and three times they gave him the trouble
of besieging their town; he, at length, having raised fortifications
sufficient to intimidate them, placed in command in the château a
female, whose warlike attainments had rendered her famous even in those
days of prowess. She was an English woman by birth, the widow of a
Norman knight, and called Orbrindelle. The fort in which she took up her
head quarters, and from whence she sent forth the terror of her power,
was called after her; but, by corruption, was afterwards named
Ribaudelle.

This castle was destroyed by royal order in 1617, and at its demolition
several Roman monuments and inscriptions were found on the walls and
beneath the foundations.

King John of France was born in the Château of Le Mans, and several
monarchs made it their temporary abode. The Black Prince sojourned
within its walls till Duguesclin, the great captain, disturbed his
repose. The unfortunate Charles VI., whom fate persecuted to the ruin of
France, was at Le Mans when that fearful event occurred to him, which
decided his future destiny. From the alleys of a great forest, now no
longer existing, issued forth that mysterious vision which no sage has
yet entirely explained. It is impossible to be at Le Mans, without
recollecting the curious story connected with the poor young king,
though the town is too light and cheerful-looking at the present day, to
allow of its being a fitting scene either for so gloomy a legend, or for
the sad events which modern days brought forth within its precincts.

The circumstances which caused the madness of the son of Charles the
Wise, may not, perhaps, be immediately present to the reader's mind:
they were as follows:--

Pierre de Craon, lord of Sablé and Ferté Bernard, an intriguing man, who
held a high place in the consideration of Mary of Brittany, the regent
of Anjou and Maine in the absence of her husband, who was prosecuting
his designs against Naples and Sicily, had proved himself a faithless
treasurer of large sums of money confided to him by his mistress; which
sums had been wrung from the two provinces of Maine and Anjou. De Craon
had dissipated this money in extravagance, instead of supplying the
army of Prince Louis, who died in consequence of disappointed hope and
his unsuccessful struggles. The traitor made his appearance in Paris
without fear; for he was protected by the powerful duke of Orleans,
brother of the king.

Shortly afterwards, however, having had a dispute with the Constable,
Olivier de Clisson, he laid wait for him, accompanied by a set of
wretches in his pay, and fell upon the great captain unawares, wounding
him in the head, and leaving him for dead. After this cowardly exploit,
De Craon fled, and threw himself under the protection of the Duke of
Brittany, who, although not his accomplice, was weak enough to take his
part.

Pierre de Craon was condemned for contumacy; several of his people were
punished with death, in particular a poor curate of Chartres, who was
entirely innocent: his dwelling was razed to the ground, and its site
given to a neighbouring church for a cemetery: and the Duke of Brittany
was summoned by King Charles to deliver up the craven knight to justice.

This command, however, was treated with contempt, and the king
accordingly put himself at the head of his troops, and set forth to
attack the duke: it was at Le Mans that he arrived with his army.

Charles was greatly excited, and his nerves appear to have been agitated
at this time, owing to various causes. The weather was intensely hot,
and the sun struck full upon him as he rode in advance of his army,
surrounded by his guard of honour. He entered the Forest of Le Mans, and
was proceeding down one of its glades, when suddenly a gigantic black
figure, wild, haggard, and with hair floating in dishevelled masses over
his face, darted suddenly from a deep recess, and, seizing the bridle of
the king's horse, cried out, in a sepulchral voice, "Hold,
king!--whither ride you?--go no further!--you are betrayed!" and
instantly disappeared amidst the gloomy shades of the wood, before any
one had time to lay hands on him.

Charles did not turn back, but continued his way in silence; he emerged
from the forest on to a wide sandy plain, where the heat was almost
intolerable, and where there was nothing to shelter him from the burning
rays. A page was riding near him, who, overcome with fatigue, slept in
his saddle, and let the lance he held fall violently on the helmet of
one of his companions. The sharp sound this occasioned roused the king
from his gloomy reverie: he started in sudden terror; his brain was
confused and heated; he imagined that the accomplishment of the
spectre's denunciation was at hand, and, losing his senses altogether,
he drew his sword, and, with a wild cry, rushed forward, hewing down all
before him, and galloping distractedly across the plain, till,
exhausted by fatigue and excitement, he fell from his horse in a swoon.

He was instantly surrounded by his people, raised from the ground, and
conveyed with all care to Le Mans, where he remained till he was thought
sufficiently recovered to be removed to Paris.

The storm about to fall on the head of the Duke of Brittany was thus
turned aside, and the troops who had received orders to attack him were
withdrawn. Whether this was a scene got up by the Duke of Brittany, in
order to work on the diseased mind of the unfortunate monarch, or was
merely the effect of an accidental meeting with a maniac, or whether the
king's uncles, who disapproved of his just indignation at De Craon's
conduct, had arranged the whole, it is impossible to say: but poor
Charles was surrounded by traitors, foreign and domestic, and evidently
had no good physician at hand, whose timely skill might have saved years
of misery and bloodshed to France.

Throughout the deadly wars of the League, and the contentions between
Catholic and Protestant, which desolated France, Le Mans and the whole
of the department of Maine took a prominent part, and its streets,
houses, churches, and villages were burnt and destroyed over and over
again. The last stand of the unfortunate Vendéeans was at Le Mans. "Sad
and fearful is the story" of the fight there, as it is told by Madame
de la Roche-Jaquelin, whose pictures draw tears from every eye, and
whose narrative, read at Le Mans, is melancholy indeed.

After dreadful fatigues and varying fortune, during which the devoted
town was taken and retaken several times, the harassed Vendéeans, more
remarkable for their valour than their prudence, remained in possession
of the town on the night of the 10th of December, 1793, and gave
themselves up to the repose which they so much needed, but without
arranging any means of security, though a vigilant enemy was on the
watch to take advantage of their state. They abandoned themselves, with
characteristic superstition, to the care of Heaven alone; placing no
sentinels, no out-posts, no guard whatever: and, although the next day
the chiefs visited the town and its issues, no precaution was taken
against the possibility of an attack,--no measures to secure a retreat,
nor council held as to whither their course should be directed in case
of such a necessity. The time was consumed in disputes, as to whether
the wearied Vendéean army should pursue its transient success, and go on
to Paris, or yield to the desire of the generality of the soldiers, and
return to their beloved home, by crossing the Loire, which so many
regretted ever to have passed. It appears that there were from sixty to
seventy thousand persons in Le Mans, of the royalist party; including
women, children, and servants, with baggage and money to a large amount.

The republican army, commanded by Marceau and Westermann, surprised the
town at night. In spite of the active bravery of La Roche-Jaquelin, and
the energy he displayed when the danger was so apparent, a fearful
slaughter ensued. Street by street, and square by square, the Vendéeans
disputed every inch of ground, till the corpses of the slain lay in
heaps in the narrow ways; every house was a fortress,--every lane a pass
desperately defended. The intrepid young leader had two horses killed
under him, and was obliged to absent himself a moment to seek for
others. No sooner did his people lose sight of him than a panic took
possession of them; they thought all lost,--became confused and
disordered. Many of them, waked from sleep, or from a state of
inebriety, in which the Britons are too apt to indulge, horrified at the
shrieks of their women, stunned by the sound of the cannon, which roared
through the dark streets, and startled at the glare of artillery
suddenly blazing around them,--entirely lost all presence of mind, and
fled in every direction; killing and wounding friends and foes in their
precipitous retreat. Horses, waggons, and dead bodies impeded their
flight, and Le Mans was one scene of carnage and terror. Their leaders
stood their ground, and kept the great square of Le Mans for more than
four hours, performing prodigies of valour. But the republicans at last
were victors: and horribly did they pursue their advantage; sparing
neither age nor sex, and exulting in the most atrocious cruelties. The
peasants of Le Mans and its environs, taking part with the stronger
side, pursued the vanquished with disgraceful energy, and murdered the
unfortunate Vendéeans in the woods and fields, and in every retreat
where those devoted people sought shelter and safety.

The state of the unfortunate women, whose husbands, sons, and fathers
were being slaughtered with every volley which rung in their ears, is
horrible to imagine. Madame de la Roche-Jaquelin thus describes her own
position in moving language:

"From the beginning, we foresaw the result of the struggle. I was lodged
at the house of a lady who was very rich, very refined, but a great
republican. She had a large family, whom she tenderly loved, and whom
she carefully attended. I resolved to confide my daughter to her, as one
of her relations had already taken charge of little Jagault. I entreated
her to protect her,--to bring her up as a mere peasant only,--to instil
into her mind sentiments of honour and virtue. I said that, should she
be destined to resume the position in which she was born, I should
thank Heaven for its mercy; but I resigned myself to all, provided she
was virtuously brought up. She assured me that, if she took my child,
she would educate her with her own. I used all the arguments a mother
could in such circumstances, and was interrupted by the cry that
announced retreat. She quitted me instantly; and I, losing at once all
hope, but trusting at least to save my daughter's life, placed her
secretly in the bed of the mistress of the family, certain that she
could not have the cruelty to abandon the innocent little creature. I
then descended the stairs: I was placed on horseback; the gate was
opened; I saw the square filled with a flying, pressing crowd, and in an
instant I was separated from every one I knew. I perceived M. Stofflet,
who was carrying the colours: I took advantage of his presence to try to
find the road; I followed him across the square, which I supposed was
the way; I kept close to the houses; and at length reached the street
which led in the direction I sought, towards the road of Laval. But I
found it impossible to advance; the concourse was too great,--it was
stifling: carts, waggons, cannon, were overturned; bullocks lay
struggling on the ground, unable to rise, and striking out at all who
approached them. The cries of persons trodden underfoot echoed
everywhere. I was fainting with hunger and terror: I could scarcely see;
for daylight was nearly closed. At the corner of a street I perceived
two horses tied to a stake, and they completely barred my passage; the
crowd pressed them against me; and I was squeezed between them and the
wall: I screamed to the soldiers to take and ride off with them; but my
voice was not heard or attended to. A young man on horseback passed by
me, with a mild and sad countenance: I cried out to him, catching his
hand, 'Oh! sir, have pity on a poor woman, near her confinement, and
perishing with want and fatigue: I can go no further.' The stranger
burst into tears, and replied: 'I am a woman, too: we shall perish
together; for nothing can penetrate into yonder street.' We both
remained expecting our fate.

"In the meantime, the faithful Bontemps, servant of M. de Lescure, not
seeing my daughter, sought for her everywhere,--found her at length, and
carried her off in his arms. He followed me, perceived me in the crowd,
and called out, 'I have saved my master's child!' I hung down my head,
and resigned myself to the worst. In a moment after I saw another of my
servants: I called to him; he caught my horse by the bridle; and,
cutting his way with his sabre, we entered the street. With incredible
trouble, we reached a little bridge in the faubourg, on the road to
Laval: a cannon was overturned upon it, and stopped up the way: at
length we got by, and I found myself in the road; where I paused, with
many others. Some officers were there, trying to rally their soldiers;
but all their efforts were useless.

"The republicans, hearing a noise where we were, turned their cannon
upon us from the height of the houses. A bullet whizzed past my head: a
moment afterwards a fresh discharge startled me; and, involuntarily, I
bent myself low upon my horse. An officer near reproached me bitterly
for my cowardice. 'Alas!' replied I, 'it is excusable in a wretched
woman to crouch down when a whole army has taken to flight!' In fact,
the firing continued so violently that all of our people who had paused
recommenced flying for their lives. Had it been daylight, perhaps they
might have been recalled.

"A few leagues from Le Mans, I beheld the arrival of my father. He and
Henri had been for a long time vainly endeavouring to reanimate the
soldiers. Henri hurried towards me, exclaiming, 'You are saved!'--'I
thought you were lost," cried I, 'since we are beaten.' He wrung my
hand, saying, 'I would I were dead!'

"About twelve leagues from Le Mans, I stopped in a village: a great part
of the army had also halted there. There was scarcely any one in the
cottages: the road was covered with poor wretches, who, fainting with
fatigue, were sleeping in the mud, without heeding the pelting rain. The
rout of Le Mans cost the lives of fifteen thousand persons. The greatest
part were not killed in the battle; many were crushed to death in the
streets of Le Mans; others, wounded and sick, remained in the houses,
and were massacred. They died in the ditches and the fields: a great
number fled on the road to Alençon, were there taken, and conducted to
the scaffold.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Such was the deplorable defeat of Le Mans, where the Vendéean army
received a mortal blow: it was an inevitable fatality. The day that they
quitted the left bank of the Loire, with a nation of women, children,
and old people, to seek an asylum in a country unknown, without being
aware what route they should take, at the beginning of winter, it was
easy to foretell that we should conclude by this terrible catastrophe.
The greatest glory that our generals and soldiers can claim is that they
retarded its accomplishment so long.

"The unfortunate and intrepid Henri did not abandon his cause till not a
hope was left; and even at the last he lingered at Le Mans, and fought
desperately in the Place de l'Eperon, establishing a battery of cannon
which long kept the enemy at bay. But all was unavailing, and he yielded
to necessity. He arrived at Laval at the close of day, spent and
exhausted, and entered a house where he entreated to be allowed to rest.
He was warned that he might run the risk of being surprised by
Westermann,--'My greatest want,' said he, 'is not to live, but to
sleep.'"

The Vendéeans had left behind them so much gold and merchandize, so much
furniture, and such precious possessions, that, far from these sad
events being a cause of ruin to the inhabitants of Le Mans, they were
the means of establishing prosperity in the town in many instances, and
its commercial influence increased very sensibly from that period. It is
at this moment a town which appears in a very flourishing state, and is
on the whole one of the most agreeable and interesting in this part of
France.

The misfortunes and troubles which the ill-fated army of royalists
experienced, did not prevent their renewal a few years after, when the
sad events of the wars of the Chouans brought back all the miseries
which the desolated country was but little able to contend with.

However high-sounding the supposed motives might be which re-illumed the
war, it is now generally acknowledged that only a few enthusiastic men
acted from a sense of honour and patriotism: the greatest part being
influenced by less worthy ideas. Had it not been so, the excesses
committed by the Chouans would never have disgraced the annals of
warfare: wretches without religion, morality, or feeling, mere brigands
and marauders, under the sacred banner of patriotism, ravaged the
country, burning, torturing, and destroying, pillaging, and committing
every crime, dignified meantime by the appellation of heroes, which one
or two amongst them might have deserved if they had fought in better
company, and been better directed. It is strange that any one,
particularly at the present day, can be found to magnify into heroism
the misguided efforts of a set of turbulent school-boys, who, again, at
a later period, were made the tools of villains for their own purposes
of plunder; yet, very recently, works have appeared in which the _petite
Chouannerie_ is exalted into a praiseworthy community. Pity for the
sacrificed children who were betrayed, and the bereaved mothers who wept
over the disobedience of their sons, is all that belongs to those
concerned in the useless revolt which caused ruin to so many.

"The intention of the Chouans in taking arms," says M. de Scépeaux, in
his letters on the Chouans of Bas-Maine, "was to _defend and preserve_,
not _to attack and destroy_; and, like the soldiers of Pelayo, who kept
the rocks of Asturias as a last stronghold against their besiegers, the
Chouans made their Bocages a last asylum for the French monarchy." This
is a fine _phrase_, but the facts are very far removed from this
assertion. The Chouans were a terror and a scourge to their
fellow-citizens: farms burnt, unoffending citizens robbed and murdered,
all their possessions seized on and appropriated, stabbing in the dark,
and cowardly cruelties of all kinds characterized these "honourable
men," who were _guerillas_ and nothing more. They took names such as in
former times distinguished the bands of brigands who were the terror of
the middle ages, and their acts rendered the similitude more striking.
Some of these chiefs signed themselves, Joli-coeur, Sans-peur,
Monte-à-l'assaut, Bataillon, &c.

It was a fearful time, and violence and cruelty reigned triumphant
whichever party took the field. The province of Le Maine suffered
severely in the struggle. Le Mans was again the scene of contention, and
the streets of the town the theatre of slaughter.

Who, to look at the quiet, tranquil town now, would think how much it
has suffered! and who but must feel indignant at the pretended patriot
who is not grateful to the existing government, under whose wise sway
the cities of France are recovering their beauty and importance after
long years of torture and desolation!



CHAPTER IV.

     THE MUSEUM OF LE MANS--VENUS--MUMMY--GEOFFREY LE BEL--HIS
     COSTUME--MATILDA--SCARRON--HÉLIE DE LA FLÈCHE--RUFUS--THE WHITE
     KNIGHT.


THE Museum of Le Mans is in the Hôtel de la Prefecture, and as we heard
that the famous enamel of Geoffrey Plantagenet, formerly on his tomb in
the cathedral, was preserved there, we hastened to behold so interesting
a remain of early art. A remarkably obtuse female was the exhibitor on
the occasion, and, on my asking her to point out the treasure, she took
me to a collection of Roman coins and medals, assuring me they were very
old and very curious. It was impossible not to agree with her, and to
regard these coins with interest, particularly as they were all found in
the immediate neighbourhood of Le Mans; however, as a glance at them was
sufficient, we proceeded to examine all the cases, hoping to discover
the object of our search.

We were arrested before a case filled with objects of art found
principally at the ruins of Alonnes, near Le Mans, which commune is a
perfect emporium of Roman curiosities, where no labourer directs his
plough across a field, or digs a foot deep in his garden, without
finding statues, pillars, baths, medals, &c., in heaps. All these things
are of fine workmanship, and thence, lately, two little wonders have
been rescued from oblivion, which are really gems. One is a small female
bust of white marble, perfect, and of singular grace; the other the
entire figure, having only one arm wanting, of a Venus twenty-one inches
high, and of exquisite proportion; she sits on the trunk of a tree; her
beauty is incomparable, and she must owe her birth to an artist of very
superior genius.

As if to prove how worthless is that beauty which attracts and rivets
the attention, even in stone, close by is one of the finest and most
perfectly-preserved female mummies I ever beheld,--hideous in its
uninjured state, grinning fearfully with its rows of fine ivory teeth a
little broken, glaring with its still prominent eyes, and appalling with
its blackened skin drawn over the high cheekbones. Why might not this
carefully-attended and richly-adorned queen be the beautiful and fatal
"serpent of old Nile"--the fascinating Cleopatra herself?

The features are fine and delicate in spite of the horrible hue of the
skin, and though it revolts the mind at first, one can even fancy that
mass of horror might, in life, have been beautiful. This valuable
specimen was brought from Egypt by M. Edouard de Montulé, a zealous and
enterprising young traveller, too early snatched from science and the
world at the age of thirty-six.

A gentleman, drawing in the museum, who had arrived after us, hearing
our questions to our guide, very politely stepped forward and offered to
show us the objects of interest which he saw we might otherwise miss. He
led us at once to the enamel we so much desired to see, and we had ample
time to contemplate one of the most remarkable curiosities of art which
perhaps exists anywhere.

Geoffrey le Bel, surnamed Plantagenet, the second husband of the haughty
Empress Matilda, who considered her dignity compromised in being obliged
to marry a simple Count of Anjou, was, nevertheless, the handsomest man
of his day, and apparently one of the most distinguished _dandies_.
Jean, the monk of Marmontier, in his description of the fêtes given by
the count at Rouen, speaks of the splendid habiliments of this
prince--of his _Spanish barb_, his helmet, his buckler, his lance of
_Poitou steel_, and his celebrated sword taken from the treasury of his
father, and renowned as the work of "the great _Galannus_, the most
expert of armourers." Even in this very guise does Geoffrey appear.

He holds the sword, considered as magical, unsheathed in his right hand;
his shield or target covers his shoulders, and descends in a point to
his feet. It is charged azure, with four rampant golden leopards; only
the half of the shield appears, consequently all its blazonry is not
visible. He wears a sort of Phrygian cap ornamented with a golden
leopard; he has a dalmatic robe, and a capacious mantle edged with
ermine, his scarf and waistband are of the same form, and all are of
rich colours--red, green, and purple--such as appear in stained glass.
It is painted with great detail, and the features are very distinct;
they convey very little idea of beauty, but have sufficient character to
indicate likeness. The copy, which Stothard made with great care, is
extremely correct, much more so than the drawing he gave of Bérangère,
whose beauty he entirely failed to represent: none but an accomplished
artist, indeed, could do so, and the indefatigable antiquarian, who lost
his life in his zeal for his pursuit, was more accustomed to the quaint
forms exhibited on windows and brasses. The inscription formerly to be
read beneath the effigy of Geoffrey, on the tomb, was as follows:--

"Thy sword, oh! Prince, has delivered our country from the hordes of
brigands who infested it, and given to the Church entire security under
the shadow of peace."

There is something of melancholy and quiet about this portrait, which
accord with the character given of the prince by historians, who
represent him mild and good, generous, brave, and magnanimous; an
encourager of the arts and poetry, and a lover of order; but forced into
wars by the haughty temper of his wife, and obliged to distress his
subjects for supplies in consequence. His marriage with Matilda took
place in 1127, with great pomp, at Le Mans, in the palace of the Counts
of Anjou; and the solemnities attending it lasted for three weeks. All
the vassals of Henry I. of England, father of the bride, and of
Foulques, father of Geoffrey, were summoned to attend under pain of
being considered enemies of the public good. As Henry delayed putting
his son-in-law in possession of Normandy, as had been agreed on, Matilda
excited her husband to go to war with him, and a series of conflicts
ensued which entailed much misery on the country.

Geoffrey le Bel died in 1151, of pleurisy, in consequence of bathing
imprudently in the Loire. His body was brought to Le Mans and buried in
the cathedral, and his son, the illustrious Henry II. of England,
succeeded him; a prince superior to his time, but destined to continued
vexations from his family and his friends. The proud Matilda, too,--so
like the haughty heiress of Aquitaine,--need not have murmured at the
lot which made her mother and grandmother of such kings as Henry and
Coeur de Lion.

The pictures in the museum of Le Mans possess no sort of merit: there is
a series of paintings coarsely done from the "Roman Comique" of Scarron,
representing the principal scenes in his strange work; but they have no
other value than that of having been painted at the period when he was
popular, and being placed there in consequence of his having resided at
Le Mans, though I believe it was not the place of his birth. It was
here, at all events, that his imprudence caused his own misfortune; for
in the exuberance of his gaiety, he resolved, on occasion of a fête,
which annually takes place on the route of Pontlieue, to amuse himself
and the Manceaux, by a childish exhibition of himself _as a bird_. To
this end, he actually smeared himself with honey, and then having rolled
in feathers, and assumed as much as possible the plumed character he
wished to represent, he sallied forth and joined the procession
astonishing all beholders; but he had not reckoned on the effect his
appearance would produce on the boys of the parish, ever ready for
mischief. Delighted at such an opportunity, they pursued the unfortunate
wit without mercy, pelting and chasing him. His fear of being
recognised, and his anxiety to escape them, caused him to fly for
refuge, heated as he was with his extraordinary exertions, under an arch
of the old bridge, where he was exposed to a severe draught. The cold
struck to his limbs, and the consequence was that he became paralysed
for the rest of his life, an affliction which he names at the beginning
of his famous romance.

The commune of Alonnes, from whence so many antique treasures are
derived, is about a league from Le Mans, and is looked upon with much
superstitious veneration by the inhabitants of the neighbouring
villages. Not only are fine Roman remains discovered there, but, by the
rude pottery continually turned up, it appears to have been a
considerable city of the Gauls; for the singular forms exhibited on
their vases and stones are altogether different from those of a more
refined people. To neither of these nations, however, was Alonnes
supposed to belong, but to one more powerful and mysterious still: no
other than the fairies, who may, even now, on moon-light nights, be seen
hovering round their _Tour aux fées_, of which a few stones alone
remain. A subterranean way (aqueduct) is supposed to have communicated
with the ancient castle; and no doubt its recesses are the scene of many
a midnight revel carried on by those unseen visitants of ruins.

Numerous baths of Roman construction have been found, and more yet
remains to be discovered. About fifty years since, some workmen making
excavations observed the opening of a covered way which they followed
for some distance, expecting to find treasure. They had not gone far,
when they were surprised by suddenly entering vast chambers, covered
with the remains of columns, vases, and ornamental architecture: instead
of continuing their search, they were seized with a panic, and fled from
the spot without attempting to penetrate further. If more valorous
seekers were to prosecute the adventure, at the spot where they left it,
no doubt very interesting discoveries might be made, which would repay
the attempt.

One of the chief heroes of Le Mans and Maine, and he who is the most
continually spoken of in its history, is Hélie de la Flèche. He was one
of the most generous and valiant knights of his time, and to him his
supine and cowardly cousin, Hugues, tired of the frequent struggles
which he found it necessary to sustain in order to keep in possession of
his rights, resigned the dominion of Maine, much to the delight of the
Manceaux, who received their young lord with open arms. Hélie showed
himself a friend to his new people, and entered into an alliance with
Geoffrey IV. Count of Anjou. After which, being ready to set out for the
crusades, according to the fashion of the times, and finding that Robert
of Normandy had already departed, he went to Rouen, to William Rufus,
in the hope of obtaining his acknowledgment of his rights to the county
of Maine. He, however, failed in this expectation, and put himself in
array to contend with this formidable adversary, in whose alliance was a
very unpleasant and dangerous neighbour, the perfidious Count of Belesme
and Baron du Saosnois, Robert II., called Talvas, generally known as
_Robert le Diable_. This treacherous prince laid a snare for Hélie, into
which he fell, and he delivered him up to William Rufus.

Kept prisoner at Rouen, and fearing that the Count of Anjou would enter
into an accommodation with William Rufus, which would compromise the
interests of his patrimony of La Flèche, which he knew had long been
coveted by those of Anjou, Hélie made up his mind to treat for his
ransom, by which he consented to give up the province of Maine to the
King of England, and to do him homage for his lordship of La Flèche, as
his father had done before. He obtained his liberty at this price, and
was brought before William, who ordered the chains with which he was
bound to be removed, as Wace relates--

    "Dunc le fist li Reis amener
    Et des _buies_ le fist oster."

He then offered to attach himself to William, as one of his most
faithful officers; but this being declined, murmurs escaped him, which
roused the king's anger, as the old chronicler has recounted.

    "Count Hélie's steed he ordered forth,
    With housings dight of regal worth;
    'Mount straight, sir knight, and go,' he cried;
    'Wherever it may list you ride,
    But guard you well another tide.
    My prison shall be deep and strong
      If you again my thrall should be,
    And trust me 'twill be late and long
      Ere, once my captive, you are free.
    In future, Count, I bid you know
    I am your ever-ready foe;
    Where'er you go, it shall not lack,
    But William shall be on your back!'

    I know not if Count Hélie found
    Words to reply. He turned him round,
    And little he delayed, I ween,
    To make their distance great between!"

As might be anticipated, Hélie was not content to sit down patiently
with so bad a bargain as he had made. He had yielded his right in Le
Maine, and by resisting he placed himself in the position of a rebel to
his liege lord; nevertheless, scarcely had William returned to England,
thinking himself secure, than Hélie began to make a struggle to recover
what he had lost. No sooner, however, did William hear of his proceeding
than he hurried back from England, and in an incredibly short space of
time was at Le Mans: he found his vassal more powerful than he expected,
and much violence ensued. Obliged to return to England, not long after
this his sudden death ensued. Hélie, aided by the Count of Angers,
attacked and took possession of Le Mans, and besieged the castle: two
Norman officers in command had, in the meantime, received orders from
the new King of England to treat with Hélie; and when he presented
himself before the walls, they requested him to clothe himself in his
white tunic, which had gained him the surname of the White Knight. With
this he complied; and on his re-appearance before them, they received
him with smiles, saying,--

"Sir White Knight, you may now rejoice to good purpose, for we have
reached the term so long desired by you; and if you have a good sum of
money for us, we will make a good bargain. If we chose to resist we have
still arms, provisions, and valour; but the truth is, we want a
legitimate master to whom we can dedicate our service. For which reason,
noble warrior, knowing your merit, we elect and constitute you
henceforth Count of Le Mans."

Hélie, after this, took part against Robert and the Count of Mortain at
the battle of Tinchebray, where he commanded an army composed of Bretons
and Manceaux. He distinguished himself wherever he appeared in battle,
and died in 1110, and was buried in the abbey church of La Couture,
where his tomb was formerly seen. He was the hero of his age. Pious,
loyal, and valiant, his device expressed his qualities:--"No glory
without honour, and no honour without glory." He was active, vigilant,
and just, says one of his biographers, as great in his reverses as in
his successes; he added to the merit of a great captain the talents of a
sound politician, and the enlightened mind of a statesman; but his
highest praise is that he merited and obtained the affection of his
vassals.

His memory was long cherished in Le Mans, even till the events of the
great Revolution swept away all records but that of the crimes then
committed.



CHAPTER V.

     LUDE--SAUMUR REVISITED--THE GARDEN--LA PETITE VOISINE--THE RETIRED
     MILITAIRE--LES PIERRES COUVERTES--LES PETITES
     PIERRES--LOUDUN--URBAIN GRANDIER--RICHELIEU--THE NUNS--THE
     VICTIM--THE FLY--THE MALLE POSTE--THE DISLODGED SERPENTS.


LEAVING Le Mans, and all its recollections, we continued our way towards
the Loire, which we proposed crossing at Saumur, not only with a
pleasing memory of our former visit there, when the sight of Fontevraud
and its treasured tombs of our English kings first delighted us, but
because, with all my wish to leave nothing unnoticed in the interesting
towns of France, I had quitted Saumur without having made a _pilgrimage_
to some of its most singular and important monuments. It was only on
reading a passage in Michelet's History of France, when he alludes to
the "_prodigious Dolmen_" of Saumur, that I found there was still
something of interest which I had neglected. Doubtless this has often
been the case in my wanderings; and, probably, there is scarcely a town
where some new treasure may not be discovered by some fresh traveller,
where there is so much to excite attention.

I determined, therefore, to pause at Saumur, to enjoy its beauties once
more, and pass a day with its Druids.

Lude was in our way, where, on the banks of the Loire, stands a
magnificent castle; now a private residence, kept up in great style, and
surrounded with beautiful gardens, better attended to than any I ever
saw in France, where the name of _Jardin Anglais_ is, usually, another
term for a wilderness. Lude belonged to a Breton nobleman, M. de
Faltröet, and now to his son, for the inhabitants were just deploring
his recent death, and, what is sufficiently unusual in France, naming a
man of rank with respect and affection. He appears to have been one of
the most amiable and considerate of men, and to be sincerely lamented.
The young woman from the inn, who was our guide there, spoke of his
death with great sorrow, and was eloquent in his commendation, as the
friend of the people and the poor.

The castle is very extensive and in high preservation: we could not see
the interior, which I am told is very interesting: rooms being named
after Francis I. and Henry IV., who are both said to have visited here;
and the furniture of their time is preserved or introduced. The exterior
walls are adorned with medallions of extraordinary size, in the style
peculiar to Francis I., and the huge round towers are similarly
decorated: much of the building between these towers is of more modern
date, but all is in good keeping and handsome. Several fine willows dip
their boughs into the river, which bathes one side--but what was the
moat on all the others, is now filled up with flowering trees and
shrubs, and the ramparts laid out in terraces, covered with a luxuriant
growth of every kind of rare and graceful plant. There is a charming
view from the gardens, and the abode altogether is delightful.

The country is rich and fertile, covered with fields of Indian corn,
flax, and hemp; here and there are large plantations of fir-trees; the
chestnut-trees we observed were very luxuriant, loaded with fruit; the
apples thickly clustered in the numerous orchards, and everything
abundant and smiling.

We rejoiced at once more beholding the Loire at the spot where, on our
former visit, we most admired it. Saumur is, however, greatly increased
and improved during the three years which had elapsed since we first
made its acquaintance. New houses are built, old ones pulled down, and
active measures taken to beautify and adorn the town. The same
slovenliness struck us as before on the promenade by the river, where
the idea of sweeping up fallen leaves, or cleaning steps, never seems to
have occurred, and the theatre walls look as desolate and
ill-conditioned as formerly. The baths, which attracted my admiration
before, seated on an islet amidst flowering shrubs, had lost the
brightness of their then newly-painted outside, and had rather a forlorn
effect; the old Hôtel de Ville and its towers and turrets looked as
venerable as ever, and the Loire showed much less sand and more of its
crystal water. The magnificent Donjon towered majestically on its
height, and all the caves of the chain of rocks beneath showed their
mysterious openings as when they first excited my surprise.

We visited almost all our old friends--the venerable monuments of times
gone by--in the town, and discovered several towers which the removal of
houses have rendered evident. We were remarking a building of this kind,
whose turrets could have been erected only by Foulques Nera himself,
when we were invited into a garden opposite by the proprietors, who took
an interest in our curiosity. This garden, and the family that owned it,
were quite _unique_ in their way; the master was a retired _militaire_,
the mistress a smart, managing woman; and their delight and treasure a
little boy of about ten, and a tiny garden enclosed between two walls,
with a pavilion at each end, and filled with shrubs and flowers
exquisitely beautiful, and tended as garden never was tended since Eve
herself spent all her time in restraining the growth of her garlands.
Tea-scented roses, roses of all hues and perfumes, rare plants, seldom
seen but in hot-houses, all fresh and flourishing, occupied every nook
of this little retreat, the _délices_, as they assured us, of this
couple, whose content and satisfaction at the perfection of their
dwelling overflowed at every word. "You see," said the hostess, as she
led us through the little alleys, and made us pause at the minute
alcoves--"nothing can be more complete; we have a perfect little
paradise of flowers, and a little world of our own; we have no occasion
to go out to be amused, for, let us throw open our _jalousies_ in our
_salon_ at the corner of this tower, and we see all the world without
being seen; when we shut it we are in solitude, and what can we require
beyond? My little son," she continued, pointing to the other object of
her care, who was seated beside a pretty little girl, tuning a small
instrument, "occupies himself with his violin, and he can touch the
guitar prettily, also; he is now playing to a _petite voisine_ who often
comes to keep him company: he has considerable parts, and is well
advanced in his Latin. We let our large house to M. le Curé, and live in
the small one at the other end of our garden; it is large enough for us,
and nothing can be so convenient."

While she continued to converse, setting forth the advantages of her
position, the _bon garçon_ of a husband, who seemed second in command,
followed with assenting smiles. I asked if he smoked in his little
summer-house sometimes, but saw that my question was _mal-à-propos_, for
his wife replied quickly, that he had not that bad habit, and, indeed,
would not endure smoking any more than herself. He looked somewhat slily
as he remarked, that since he had left the army he had never _indulged_
in it.

We returned to our inn laden with bouquets, forced upon us by these
happy, hospitable people, whose content, and the beauty of their little
garden, so like numerous others in charming Saumur, confirmed our notion
of its being the most agreeable place in France to live at.

The evening was oppressively hot, and we walked on the fine bridge,
hoping to meet a breeze. The shallow river was like glass, so
transparent, that every pebble seemed clearly defined at the bottom.
Sunset made the sky one sheet of ruby colour, and the stars, rising in
great splendour, shone with dazzling brilliancy; the deep purple of the
glowing night which succeeded was like sapphire, every building, every
tower, every hill, was mirrored in the waters, and the spires of every
church threw their delicate lines along the still expanse. The gigantic
castle looked down from its height as if protecting all; and the few
white motionless sails at a distance, pausing near the willowy islands,
where not a leaf moved, made the whole like enchantment. I never beheld
a more exquisite night, nor saw a more beautiful scene.

The next day was brilliant; but the stillness of the air had given place
to a fresh wind, which made our long walk across the Roman arched
bridge, towards the famous _Pierres Couvertes_, less fatiguing. Though
the way to it is by nearly a league of hot dusty road, yet the surprise
and pleasure of the sight on arriving at this extraordinary monument
quite repays all toil.

In a woody dell, not far from the main road, stand these wonderful
stones, in all their mysterious concealment, puzzling the mind and
exciting the imagination with their rude forms and simple contrivances.
Before we left England we had made an excursion to Stonehenge, that most
gigantic of all Druidical remains, and had carried with us a perfect
recollection of all its proportions. The temple of Saumur is not a
quarter its height, but is _entirely covered_ in, and apparently of
_ruder_ construction, there being no art whatever used to keep the
stones together except that of placing them one over the other. We
measured the length and height in the best way we could, and found it to
be eighteen yards long, from the entrance to the back, which is closed
in by a broad flat stone, five yards and a-half in length within and
eight yards without. The height is not more than three yards from the
ground; but it has evidently sunk in the earth considerably. The sides
incline inwards, leaving the covering stones projecting like a cottage
roof, and the great stone at the back has also lost its perpendicular;
nevertheless, there are none displaced of this chamber. It appears, by
several broad slabs which lie scattered about, that there must have been
more compartments of the temple: an outer court existed, and a narrower
part at the entrance, the stones of which are still upright.

This treasure is preserved from injury by a palisade round the piece of
ground on which it stands, in its little grove, and a wooden door shuts
it in, which is in the custody of an old woman who keeps a school close
by and receives the offerings of the curious. Her pupils, of tender age,
pursue some of their studies in a small hall where she presides; but
their chief pursuit seems to be amusement, to judge by the laughter and
general hilarity which prevailed, as they ran gambolling amongst the
venerable shades, peeping slily at the strangers, whose contemplations
they were commanded not to interrupt.

From the _Grandes Pierres Couvertes_, we continued our way, through
vines and fields, to the top of a neighbouring hill, which commanded a
charming view of the town and castle, and fine country round. There, in
the midst of heath and wild thyme and nodding harebells, at the
extremity of a ploughed field, overhanging a deep rocky road, stands
another temple of the Gauls. It is called _Les Petites Pierres
Couvertes_, and is similar in construction to the large one, but not a
quarter its size. Its position is most picturesque, and the landscape
spread out before its rugged arch exquisite. It is covered in, and its
walls are firm and close; though, from its exposed situation, one would
expect that it must long ago have fallen. Remains of large stones lie
around, partly covered with vegetation, and many, no doubt, are embedded
in the earth. Perhaps the two temples communicated once on a time, and
covered the whole space between; where probably waved a gigantic forest.
The wind had risen violently as we sat, in the sun, beside the _Petites
Pierres_, and our walk back to Saumur promised us a great deal of dust,
for we saw it eddying in the valleys beneath, like wreaths of mist. We,
however, contrived to avoid the high road, and found our way, by a very
pleasant path, to the town, before the threatened storm arrived which
night brought.

By a fine star-light evening of the following day, which we had spent
amongst the hills and in visiting the fortifications of the castle, we
took our departure for Poitiers--the next great object of our interest.

We reached Loudun in the dark, consequently had no opportunity of
judging of its appearance; but, as far as we could observe, there seemed
little to please the eye. The place itself is no further interesting
than as having been the scene of that frightful tragedy which disgraced
the seventeenth century, and which, though a story often told, may not
be familiar to every reader; at least, its particulars may not
immediately recur to all who hear the name of Loudun. The revolution
which destroyed so much, has left scarcely any traces of the famous
convent of Ursulines, where the scenes took place which cast a
disgraceful celebrity on its community.

The curé and canon of St. Peter of Loudun, was a young man, named Urbain
Grandier, remarkable not only for his learning and accomplishments, but
for his great beauty, and the grace of his manners, together with a
certain air of the world, which was, perhaps, an unfortunate distinction
for one in his position. His gallantry and elegance would have graced a
Court, but his lot had cast him where such _agrémens_ were not only
unnecessary, but misplaced. Urbain had, besides, been favoured by
fortune, in having obtained two benefices; a circumstance witnessed
with envy by several of the ecclesiastics, his contemporaries; who felt
themselves thrown constantly into the shade by his superiority in this
as in other respects. The priests, his companions, were not inclined to
be indulgent to any weakness shown by their young and admired rival; the
husbands of some of his fair parishioners looked on him with an evil
eye, while the ladies themselves could see nothing to blame in his
deportment, ever devoted and amiable as he was to them. All the learned
men of the country sought his society; all the well-meaning and generous
spirits of the neighbourhood found answering virtues in Urbain Grandier,
and he was not aware that he had an enemy in existence.

He had forgotten that he had once been so unfortunate as to offend a man
who never forgave, and who, from being merely the prior of Coussay, had
risen to a high rank in the church, and was now all-powerful, and able
to take revenge for any petty injury long past, but carefully treasured,
to be repaid with interest when occasion should serve.[3]

[Footnote 3: A wretched and pointless satire had appeared under the
title of _La Cordonnière de Loudun_, in which the Cardinal figured: Père
Joseph insinuated that Grandier was the author, and the supposed insult
was readily credited.]

The Cardinal de Richelieu, from the height of his grandeur, suddenly
condescended to remember his old acquaintance, the curé Grandier, and
was only on the look-out for a moment at which to prove to him that
nothing of what had once passed between them had escaped his
recollection. A means was soon presented, and, without himself appearing
too prominently in the affair, the cardinal arrived at his desired end.

It happened that some young and giddy pupils of the Convent of
Ursulines, bent on a frolic, resolved to terrify the bigoted and
ignorant nuns of the community, by personating ghosts and goblins, and
they succeeded to their utmost wishes, having acted their parts to
admiration; but they were far from dreaming of the fatal consequences of
their success.

The disturbed nuns, worried and frightened from their propriety, went in
a body to a certain curé, named Mignon, one of the most spiteful and
envious of Grandier's rivals, and related to him the fact of their
convent being disturbed by ghostly visitants, who left them no peace or
rest. The thought instantly occurred to Mignon, that he might turn this
accident to account at the expense of the handsome young priest whom he
detested.

Instead of ghosts and spirits, he changed the mystery into witchcraft
and _possession by the devil_, and contrived so artfully, that he
induced many of the nuns to imagine themselves a prey to the evil one,
and to assume all the appearance of suffering from the influence of
some occult power. His pupils became quite expert in tricks of
demoniacal possession, falling into convulsions and trances, and going
through all the absurdities occasionally practised at the present day,
by the disciples of Mesmer. These foolish, rather than wicked, women,
were led to believe that, by acting thus, they were advancing the
interests of religion, and they allowed themselves to fall blindly into
the scheme, devised for the purpose of ruining the devoted curé. A
public exorcism took place, at which scenes of absurdity, difficult to
be credited, took place, and when the possessed persons were questioned
as to how they became a prey to the evil spirit, they declared that the
devil had entered into them by means of a bouquet of roses, the perfume
of which they had inhaled; when asked by whom these flowers had been
sent them, they replied that it was Urbain Grandier! This was enough to
seal his doom; on the 3d of December, 1633, the Councillor Laubardemont
arrived secretly at Loudun, caused the young curé to be arrested, as he
was preparing to go to church, and had him carried off to the castle of
Angers. The devils, supposed to possess the nuns, were severally
questioned, _and replied_, they were Astaroth, of the _order of_
Seraphins, the head and front of all, Easas, Celcus, Acaos, Cedon,
Asmodeus, _of the order_ of Thrones, Alez, Zabulon, Nephtalim, Cham,
Uriel, Achas, of the order of Principalities! In the following April he
was brought back to Loudun, and consigned to the prison there. The farce
of exorcism was now recommenced; but the fatigue of sustaining the parts
they had assumed, and perhaps a conviction of the fearful nature of the
deceptions they had practised, caused some of the actors in this drama
to rebel, and they actually made a public retractation of what they had
before advanced.

It was, however, now too late; no notice was taken of their denial of
their former charges against the victim whose fate was agreed upon, and
in August, 1634, a commission was duly appointed, at the head of which
were Laubardemont and his satellites, who pronounced Urbain Grandier
guilty, and convicted of the crime of magic. His sentence condemned him
to be burned alive, but, resolved to carry vengeance to the utmost
extent, he was made to undergo the torture, suffering pangs too horrible
to think of. He was then conveyed to Poitiers, where he suffered at the
stake, and by his unmerited fate left an indelible blot on the age in
which such monstrous cruelty could be perpetrated, or such ignorant
barbarity tolerated. He endured his torments with patience and
resignation. While he was suffering, a large fly was observed to hover
near his head. A monk, who was enjoying the spectacle of his execution,
and who had heard that Béelzébub, in Hebrew, signified _the God of the
Flies_, cried out, much to the edification of all present, "Behold
yonder, the devil, Beelzebub, flying round Grandier ready to carry off
his soul to hell!"[4]

[Footnote 4: A very excellent picture on this subject, by Jouy, is in
the Musée at Bordeaux: I did not see it, but it has been described to me
by a person on whose judgment I can depend, who considers it of very
high merit, and worthy of great commendation.]

The unpleasant recollections raised by the neighbourhood of Loudun were
dispelled as we hurried on to the next post, which was at Mirebeau,
where we were not a little entertained at the primitive manner in which
our _malle poste_ delivered and received its despatches. The coach
stopped in the middle of the night in the silent streets of Mirebeau,
and the conductor, stationing himself beneath the window of a dwelling,
called loudly to the sleepers within; no answer was returned, nor did he
repeat his summons; but waited, with a patience peculiar to
_conducteurs_, who do not care to hurry their horses, till a rattling on
the wall announced the approach of a basket let down by a string. Into
this he put the letters he had brought, and it re-ascended; after
waiting a reasonable time, the silent messenger returned, and from it a
precious packet was taken; nothing was said, the _conducteur_ resumed
his seat on the box, the horses were urged onwards, and we rattled
forward on our way to Poitiers.

Mirebeau, though now an insignificant bourg, was formerly a place of
some consequence. Its château was built by Foulques Nera, the redoubted
Count of Anjou; and here, in 1202, Elionor of Aquitaine sustained a
siege directed against her by the partisans of the Count of Bretagne,
her grandson. Close by is a village, the lord of which had an hereditary
privilege sufficiently ludicrous.

It appears that at Puy Taillé there must have been a remarkable number
of serpents, who refused to listen to the voice of the charmer until the
lord of the castle, _wiser_ than any other exorciser, took them in hand.
He was accustomed, at a certain period, to set forth in state, and,
placing himself at a spot where he presumed he should be heard, raised
his voice, and, in an authoritative tone, commanded the refractory
animals to quit his estates. Not one dared to refuse; and great was the
rustling, and hissing, and sliding, and coiling as the serpentine nation
prepared to _déménager_, much against their inclination no doubt, but
forced, by a power they could not withstand, to obey. None of these
creatures interrupted our route, although there has long ceased to be a
lord at Puy Taillé, and we arrived before day-break safely at the Hôtel
de France, at Poitiers.



CHAPTER VI.

     POITIERS--BATTLES--THE ARMIES--KING JOHN OF FRANCE--THE YOUNG
     WARRIOR--HÔTEL DU VREUX--AMPHITHEATRE--BLOSSAC--THE GREAT
     STONE--THE SCHOLARS--MUSEUM--THE DEMON'S STONE--GRANDE GUEULE.


POITIERS is a city of the past: it is one of those towns in which the
last lingering characteristics of the middle ages still repose; although
they do so in the midst of an atmosphere of innovation. Modern
improvement, slowly as it shows itself, is making progress at Poitiers,
as at every town in France, and quietly sweeping away all the records of
generations whose very memory is wearing out. If new buildings and walks
and ornamental _alentours_ were as quickly erected and carried out as
they are conceived, it would be a matter of rejoicing that whole cities
of dirt and wretchedness should be made to disappear, and new ones to
rise shining in their place; but, unfortunately, this cannot be the
case. There are too many towns in France in the same position as
Poitiers, all requiring to be rebuilt from the very ground to make them
_presentable_ at the present day; blocks of stone strew every road,
brick and mortar fill every street; a great deal of money is expended,
but a great deal more is required; and, in the meantime, the new and the
old strive for mastery, the former growing dull and dirty by the side of
the latter, and, before the intended improvements are realized, becoming
as little sightly as their more venerable neighbours.

Much of _old_ Poitiers has been destroyed; and _new_ Poitiers is by no
means beautiful. It is better, therefore, except in a few instances, to
forget that modern hands have touched the sacred spot, and endeavour to
enjoy the reminiscences still left, of which there are a great number
full of interest and variety.

When we sallied forth into the streets of Poitiers, our first impression
was that of disappointment; but we had not long wandered amongst its
dilapidated houses and churches before the enthusiasm we expected to
feel there was awakened, and the spirit of the Black Prince was appeased
by our reverence for everything we met.

Poitiers belongs to so many ages--Gaul, Roman, Visigoth, Frank,
English--that it holds a place in every great event which has occurred
in France during the last nineteen centuries. Four important battles
were fought in its neighbourhood: those of Clovis, of Charles Martel, of
Edward of England, and of Henry III. of France; all these struggles
brought about results of the utmost consequence to the country. The
fields where these battles were fought are still pointed out, though the
site of each is violently contested by antiquarians.

That between Clovis and Alaric is now _said to be_ determined as having
occurred at Voulon, on the banks of the Clain, instead of Vouillé, which
has long been looked upon as the scene. In the same manner, furious
disputes have prevailed as to where the defeat of Abderraman, by Charles
Martel, took place; but we are bound now to believe that it was neither
near Tours, Amboise, nor Loches, but at Moussais-la-Bataille, close to
Poitiers, in the _delta_ formed by the waters of the Vienne and the
Clain.

The fatal fight, in which King John and all his chivalry were defeated
by the Prince of Wales, is said, in like manner, to be between Beauvoir
and Nouaille, and not at Beaumont, as has been asserted. There no longer
exists a place called _Maupertuis_, which once indicated the spot; but
it is ascertained that the part called La Cardinerie was once so
designated, and, hard by, at a spot named _Champ-de-la-Bataille_, have
been found bones and arms; which circumstance seems to have set the
matter at rest. It matters little where these dreadful doings took
place; all round Poitiers there are wide plains where armies might have
encountered; but it would seem probable that the spot where the battle
so fatal to France was really fought, must have been situated so as to
have afforded the handful of English some signal advantage; or how was
it possible for a few hundred exhausted men to conquer as many
thousands! The English crossbows, which did such execution, were most
likely stationed at some pass in the rocky hills of which there are
many, and their sudden and unexpected onset must have sent forth the
panic which caused the subsequent destruction of the whole French army.

In fact, Froissart describes their position clearly enough. He names
Maupertuis as a place two leagues to the north of Poitiers, and the spot
chosen by the Black Prince as a hill full of bushes and vines,
impracticable to cavalry, and favourable to archers: he concealed the
latter in the thickets, connected the hedges, dug ditches, planted
pallisades, and made barricades of waggons; in fact, formed of his camp
a great redoubt, having but one narrow issue, guarded on each side by a
double hedge. At the extremity of this defile was the whole English
army, on foot, compact and sheltered on all sides; while, behind the
hill that separated the two armies, was placed an ambuscade of six
hundred knights and cross-bowmen.

The French army was divided into three parts, and disposed in an oblique
line. The left and foremost wing was commanded by the king's brother,
the Duke of Orleans, the centre by the king's sons, and the reserve by
the unfortunate monarch himself. Already the cry of battle was heard,
when two holy men rushed forward to mediate between the foes; but in
vain. The Prince of Wales,--that mighty conqueror,--knowing his
weakness, and feeling his responsibility, would have even consented to
give back the provinces he had taken--the captives of his valour--and
agreed to remain for seven years without drawing the sword. But King
John demanded that he should yield himself prisoner, with a hundred of
his knights; and, confident in his strength, he had no second proposal
to make.

Sixty thousand warriors, full of pride, hope, and exultation, had
spread themselves over the plains, confident of success, and looking
forward to annihilate at a blow the harassed enemy which had so long
annoyed them, but which were now hunted into the toils, and could be
made an easy prey. The redoubtable Black Prince would no longer terrify
France with his name: he knew his weakness, and had sent to offer terms
the most advantageous, provided he and his impoverished bands might be
permitted to go free; but, with victory in their hands, why should the
insulted knights of France agree to his dictation? it were better to
punish the haughty islanders as they deserved, and at once rid their
country of a nest of hornets which allowed her no peace.

The king, his four sons, all the princes and nobles of France were in
arms, and had not followed the English to listen to terms at the last
moment. King John,--the very flower of chivalry, the soul of honour and
valour,--rode through his glittering ranks, and surveyed his banners
with delight and pride. "At Paris, at Chartres, at Rouen, at Orleans,"
he exclaimed, "you defied these English; you desired to encounter them
hand to hand. Now they are before you: behold! I point them out to you.
Now you can, if you will, take vengeance for all the ills they have done
to France; for all the slaughter they have made. Now, if you will, you
may combat these fatal enemies."

The signal was given: the gorgeous troops rushed forth, their helmets
glittering with gold and steel, their swords bright, and their
adornments gay; their hearts full of resolve, and their spirits raised
for conquest. A short space of time sufficed to produce a strange
contrast: twenty thousand men, with the Dauphin of France at their head,
flying before six hundred tattered English! Chandos and the Black Prince
behold from a height the unexpected event: they follow up the advantage;
the hero of so many fights rouses himself, and becomes resistless as
Alexander:

    "See how he puts to flight the gaudy Persians
     With nothing but a rusty helmet on!"

Of all his hosts,--of all his friends, and guards, and warriors, and
nobles, what remains to the French king? He stands alone amidst a heap
of slain, with a child fighting by his side: their swords fall swiftly
and heavily on every one that dares approach them; their armour is
hacked and hewn; their plumes torn; the blood flows from their numerous
wounds; but they still stand firm, and dispute their lives to the last.
The boy performs prodigies of valour; he is worthy to be the son of
Edward himself; but he is at last struck down, while his frantic father
deals with his battle-axe blows which appal the stoutest heart. No one
dares to approach the lion at bay: they hem him in; they call to and
entreat him to lay down his arms; he is blinded with the blood which
flows from two deep wounds in his face; and, faint and staggering, he
gazes round on the slaughtered heaps at his feet, and gives his weapon
into the hands of an English knight.

Over and over again has the story of this defeat been told, yet is the
relation always stirring, always exciting, and the remainder full of
romance and glory to all parties concerned. The only blot upon the
_ermine_ is, that the valorous boy who so distinguished himself should,
a few years later, forget the lesson of honour and magnanimity he then
learnt, and, by his disgraceful breach of faith, expose the father he
defended to so much sorrow and humiliation.

The _Roman_ remains at Poitiers claim the first attention of the
traveller; and we, therefore, soon after our arrival, walked down the
rugged Rue de la Lamproie to an _auberge_ which has for its sign a board
on which is inscribed, "Aux _Vreux_-Antiquités Romaines." The meaning of
this mysterious word, which has puzzled many people, is this: Here
formerly existed a house which belonged to a bishop of Evreux; and was,
consequently, called Hôtel d'Evreux. The last proprietor, imagining that
the word _Evreux_ meant _Roman Antiquities_, was seized with the happy
thought of changing it to _Vreux_, as simpler and more expressive; and
so it has remained.

The _Vreux_ are very curious, and give a stupendous idea of the size of
the amphitheatre which once existed on this spot. The whole of the court
and large gardens of this inn offer remains of the seats, steps,
temples, and vaults. One huge opening is fearful to look at, and
preserves its form entire: it appears to have been an entrance for the
beasts and cars and companies of gladiators, which figured in the arena.

Garlands of luxuriant vines, with white and black grapes in clusters,
now adorn the ruined walls; and fruit-trees and flowering shrubs grow on
the terraces. It requires some attention to trace the form of the
amphitheatre; as so many houses and walls are built in, and round about
its site.

The foundation is attributed to the Emperor Gallienus, and occurred
probably in the third century. Medals of many kinds of metal have been
frequently found in excavating, which prove the period; but the learned
have not been silent on so tempting a theme, and the history of the
Arènes de Poitiers has occupied the attention of all the antiquaries of
France. It appears that the size was greater than that of Nismes.

It is strange that so much of the ruins should still remain of the
amphitheatre in spite of so many centuries of destruction acting upon
it, and, notwithstanding its having been constantly resorted to as a
quarry, whenever materials were required for construction. In one of the
quarters of the town, the Rue des Arènes and the Bourg Cani, where the
poorest people live, almost all the houses are formed of the chambers
belonging to a Roman establishment. The roofs of almost all are Roman:
the cellars, the stables, and the granaries. No doubt Poitiers was a
place of the greatest importance under their sway, as these extensive
ruins indicate.

The park of Blossac is the most attractive promenade of Poitiers: it is
beautifully laid out, and well kept. An intendant of Poitou, M. de la
Bourdonnaye-Blossac, established it in 1752, with the benevolent intent
of giving employment, in a hard winter, to the poor. In constructing it,
a great many sepulchres of the Gauls, and funereal vases, were
discovered; some of which are preserved in the museum.

The view is charming from the terrace of Blossac above the Clain, and
one is naturally led to pursue the agreeable walks which invite the
steps at every turn. We found that, by following as they pointed, we
should arrive at most of the places we desired to see; and, as the
interior of the town has few attractions in itself, we resolved to skirt
it, and continue our way along the ramparts. They extend a long way, and
are extremely pleasant in their whole extent. Remnants of ancient towers
and rampart walls appear here and there, the river runs clear and
bright beneath, and beyond are gently undulating hills; while,
occasionally, heaps of grey rocks, of peculiar forms, some looking like
temples, others like towers, rise suddenly from their green base,
surprising the eye.

In the direction of the most remarkable of these, may be found a _pierre
levée_, said, by veracious chroniclers, to have been raised on the spot
by the great saint of Poitiers, Sainte Radegonde, who is reported to
have brought the great stone on her head, and the pillars which support
it in the pockets of her _muslin apron_: one of these pillars fell from
its frail hold to the ground, and the devil instantly caught it up and
carried it away, which satisfactorily accounts for the stone being
elevated only at one end. Unfortunately the same legend is so often
repeated respecting different saints, and in particular respecting
_Saint_ Magdalen, who has often been known to establish herself in wild
places, bringing her rugged stool with her, that it would seem some or
other of these holy people _plagiarised_ from the other.

Rabelais attributes this stone to Pantagruel, who, "seeing that the
scholars of Poitiers, having a great deal of leisure, did not know how
to spend their time, was moved with compassion, and, one day, took from
a great rock, which was called Passe-Lourdin, an immense block, twelve
toises square, and fourteen _pans_ thick, and placed it upon four
pillars in the midst of a field, _quite at its ease_, in order that the
said scholars, when they could think of nothing else to do, might pass
their time in mounting on the said stone, and there banqueting with
quantities of flagons, hams, and pasties; also in cutting their names on
it with a knife: this stone is now called La Pierre Levée. And in memory
of this, no one can be matriculated in the said University of Poitiers
who has not drunk at the cabalistic fountain of Croustelles, been to
Passe-Lourdin, and mounted on La Pierre Levée."

Bouchet's opinion is, that the stone was placed by Aliénor d'Aquitaine,
about 1150, to be used at a fair which was held in the field where it
stands.

It is, no doubt, one of the Dolmen, whose strange and mysterious
appearance may well have puzzled both the learned and unlearned in every
age since they were first erected.

One of the most interesting monuments in Poitiers is the museum; for it
is a Roman structure--a temple or a tomb--almost entire, and less
injured than might have been expected, serving as a receptacle for all
the antiquities which have been collected together at different periods,
in order to form a _musée_. They are appropriately placed in this
building, and are seen with much more effect in its singular walls than
if looked at on the comfortable shelves of a boarded and white-washed
chamber.

As is usual in those cases, disputes run high respecting the original
founder and the destination of this building, unique in its kind. Some
insist that it is a tomb erected to Claudia Varenilla, by her husband,
Marcus Censor Pavius; others see in it a pagan temple, transformed into
a place of early Christian worship; others, the _first cathedral_ of
Poitiers.

It has undergone numerous changes of destination, at all events, having
been used as a church, as a bell-foundry, as a depôt for _economical
soup_, and as a manufactory. The Society of Antiquaries have at length
gained possession of it, and it is to be hoped that it will know no
further vicissitudes.

In this temple may be seen numerous treasures of Gaulic and Roman and
Middle-age art of great interest: sepulchral stones inscribed with the
names of Claudia Varenilla, Sabinus, and Lepida; Roman altars, military
boundary-stones, amphoræ, vases, capitals, and pottery, all found in the
neighbourhood of Poitiers: a good deal of beautiful carving from the
destroyed castle of Bonnivet, fine specimens of the Renaissance, and
numerous relics of ruined churches.

Among the treasures is a block of stone, said to be one on which the
Maid of Orleans rested her foot when she mounted her horse, in full
armour, to accompany Charles VII. on his coronation. A piece of stone
from the old church of St. Hilaire is exhibited, which, when struck,
emits so horrible an effluvia as to render it unapproachable. The church
is said to have been built of this stone; if so, the workmen must have
been considerably annoyed while constructing it, and deserved
_indulgences_ for their perseverance in continuing their labour. It
would appear that this is a calcareous[5] rock, which has been described
by several French naturalists who have met with it in the Pyrenees, at
the Brèche de Roland, and on the height of Mont Perdu, and whose odour
of _sulphureous hydrogen_ is supposed to arise from the animal matter
enclosed in its recesses. Some marbles have the same exhalation, yet are
employed in furniture: as the smell does not appear to be offensive
unless the stone is struck with some force, it may, perhaps, be
unobserved; but I could scarcely regret that the church of St. Hilaire
was almost totally destroyed when I heard that such disagreeable
materials entered into its construction. No doubt the presence of the
arch-enemy was considered as the cause of this singular effluvia in
early times, and the monks turned it, as they did all accidents, to
good account.

[Footnote 5: Calcaire hépathique. The stone used for the casing of the
exterior of the Great Pyramid, and for the lining of the chambers and
passages, was obtained from the Gebel Mokattam, on the Arabian side of
the valley of the Nile. It appears to be similar to that named above, as
it is described as being "a compact limestone," called by geologists
"swine stone," or "stink-stone," from emitting, when struck, a fetid
odour.]

The Grand Gueule, a horrible beast, discovered in the caverns of the
abbey of Sainte Croix, who had eaten up several nuns, was probably found
out by the smell of sulphur which pervaded his den, and brought forth to
punishment by the holy men who were guided to his retreat by this
means,--their instrument being a criminal condemned to death, who
combated the beast, and killed him. The dragon was usually carried in
processions, following the precious relic of a piece of the true cross
which had vanquished him; and his effigy in wood, with the inscription,
_Gargot fecit_, 1677, exists still, though it has ceased to be used.



CHAPTER VII.

     NOTRE DAME--THE KEYS--THE MIRACLE--PROCESSION--ST. RADEGONDE--TOMB
     OF THE SAINT--FOOT-PRINT--LITTLE LOUBETTE--THE COUNT OUTWITTED--THE
     CORDELIER--LATE JUSTICE--THE TEMPLARS.


POITIERS is one of the largest towns in France, but is very thinly
inhabited; immense gardens, orchards, and fields, extend between the
streets; the spaces are vast, but there is no beauty whatever in the
architecture or the disposition of the buildings. The squares are wide
and open, but surrounded by irregular, slovenly-looking houses, without
an approach to beauty or elegance; the pavement is rugged, and
cleanliness is not a characteristic of the place.

The churches are extremely curious, although, in general, so battered
and worn as to present the aspect of a heap of ruins at first sight.
This is particularly the case with Notre Dame, so revered by Richard
Coeur de Lion, in the great _place_, before which a market is held. I
never saw a church whose appearance was so striking, not from its beauty
or grace, but from the singularly devastated, ruined state in which it
towers above the buildings round, as if it belonged to another world.
Nothing about it has the least resemblance to anything else: its heaps
of encrusted figures, arches within arches, niches, turrets covered with
rugged scales, round towers with countless pillars, ornaments, saints,
canopies, and medallions, confuse the mind and the eye. All polish is
worn from the surface, and so crumbling does it look, that it would seem
impossible that the rough and disjointed mass of stones, piled one on
the other, could keep together; yet, when you examine it closely, you
find that all is solid and firm, and that it would require the joint
efforts of time and violence to throw it down, even now.

The peculiar colour of the stone of which it is built, assists the
strangeness of its effect; for it has an ancient, ivory hue, and all its
elaborate carving is not unlike that on some old ivory cabinet grown
yellow with age. A long series of scriptural histories, from the scene
in Eden, upwards, are represented on this wonderful façade; besides much
which has not yet been explained. Its original construction has been
attributed to Constantine, whose equestrian statue once figured above
one of the portals.

St. Hilaire, St. Martin, and all the saints in the calendar, still fill
their niches, more or less defaced; row after row, sitting and standing,
decorate the whole surface, in compartments; choirs of angels, troops of
cherubims, surround sacred figures of larger size; and when it is
recollected that all this was once covered with gilding and colours, it
is difficult to imagine anything more splendid and imposing than it must
have been.

The interior suffered dreadfully from the zeal of the Protestants, who
destroyed tombs and altars without mercy. One group--the Entombment of
Christ--common in most churches, is remarkable for the details of
costume it presents, and the excellence of its execution. It belonged
formerly to the abbey of the Trinity, and has been transferred to Notre
Dame. The date seems to be about the end of the fifteenth century; the
figures are of the natural size, and the original colouring still
remains; the anatomical developments are faithful to exaggeration, and
the finish of every part is admirable.

Some of the female heads are charming, with their costly ornaments,
hoods, and embroidered veils; and the male figures, with the strange
hats of the period, like that worn by Louis XI., have a singularly
battered and torn effect, in spite of the smart fringed handkerchiefs
bound round them, with ends hanging down and pieces of plate armour
depending from their sides.

Several of the adornments of the altars are those formerly belonging to
the church of the Carmelites, now the chapel of the _grand seminaire_.
Above the crucifix which surmounts the tabernacle, is attached to the
roof a bunch of keys: these are, according to tradition, the same
miraculous keys taken from the traitor who proposed to deliver them to
the English. The history of this transaction is as follows:--

In 1202, Poitou had risen against John Lackland, of England, Duke of
Aquitaine and Count of Poitou, taking the part of young Arthur, whom he
had just made prisoner at Mirebeau. The town of Poitiers had closed its
gates against John, warned by the example of Tours, which he had lately
sacked and burnt. The King had posted his troops in the towns of
Limousin and Perigord, with orders to his captains to endeavour to take
Poitiers by surprise.

The mayor of Poitiers had a secretary who was both cunning and
avaricious, who, bribed highly by the English, had consented to deliver
the town to them. Accordingly, on Easter eve, a party of the enemy,
under false colours, arrived at the Porte de la Tranchée; the secretary
repaired instantly to the chamber of the mayor, to which he had access,
expecting, as usual, that the keys would be found there; but, to his
surprise, they were removed, nor could he find them in any other
accustomed place. The traitor hastened to inform the English of the
fact, by throwing a paper to them from the ramparts, requesting that
they would wait till four o'clock in the morning, when he should be able
to execute his purpose. At this hour he re-entered the mayor's chamber,
and telling him that a gentleman wished to set out on a mission to the
king of France at that early hour, begged that the keys might be
delivered to him. The mayor sought for the keys, but they were nowhere
to be found: he suspected some treason; and without loss of time
assembled the inhabitants, and required that they should go at once to
the Porte de la Tranchée, in arms, to be ready in case of surprise.

The report soon spread that the English were at the Tranchée, and the
belfry sent forth its peals to summon all men to arms: in a very short
space the whole town was roused, and every one hurried to the gates,
where a strange spectacle met their view from the turrets. They beheld
upwards of fifteen hundred English, dead or prone on the ground, and
others killing them! The gates were thrown open, and the inhabitants
sallied forth, making the remainder an easy prey, and taking many
prisoners: the which declared to the mayor and the dignitaries of the
town all the treason which had been arranged; and further related, that
at the hour agreed on, they beheld before the gates a queen more richly
dressed than imagination can conceive, and with her a nun and a bishop,
followed by an immense army of soldiers, who immediately attacked them.
They instantly became aware that the personages they saw were no other
than the Blessed Virgin, St. Hilaire, and Ste. Radegonde, whose
bodies were in the town, and, seized with terror and despair, they fell
madly on each other and slaughtered their companions.

All the towns-people, on hearing this, offered thanks to God, and
returned to keep their fast with great devotion. As for the disloyal
secretary, his fate was not known, for he was never seen afterwards;
and, says the chronicler, "it is natural to suppose that by one of the
other gates he cast himself into the river, _or_ that the devil carried
him off bodily."

The miracle had not ended there; for while these things were going on at
the gates, the poor mayor, in great perturbation, had hurried to the
church of Notre Dame la Grande, and throwing himself before the altar,
recommended the town to the protection of God and the Mother of Mercy.
"While he was praying, all on a sudden _he felt the keys in his arms_;
at which he returned thanks to Heaven, as did many pious persons who
were with him."

Bouchet, who relates this _fact_, adds:--"In memory of this _fine
miracle_, the inhabitants of the said Poitiers have ever since made, and
continue, a grand and notable procession of all the colleges and
convents, every year, all round the walls of the said town, within, the
day before Easter: the which extends for more than a league and a half.
And in memory of the said miracle, _I have made these four lines of
rhythm_:--

    "L'an mil deux cens deux comme on clame,
    Batailla pour ceux de Poietiers,
    Contre les Anglois nostre Dame,
    Et les garda de leurs dangiers."

In commemoration of this event, statues of the three saviours of the
town were erected above the gate, and in a little chapel near: chapels
to the Virgin were placed in every possible nook, and a solemn
procession was instituted to take place every year, on Easter Monday,
when the mayor's lady had the privilege of presenting to the Virgin the
magnificent velvet robe, which she wore on the occasion. This ceremony
was continued as late as 1829, since when the _cortège_ no longer goes
round the town as formerly, but a service is performed in the church.

The belief of this miracle seems to form an article of faith; for the
story was told me by three persons of different classes, all of whom
spoke of it as a tradition in which they placed implicit credit.

Sainte Radegonde seems to hold, however, the highest rank of the three
defenders of Poitiers. "She is a great saint," said the exhibitor of the
Museum to me, "and performs miracles every day." "Ste. Radegonde,"
said the bibliothécaire--"is a great protectress of this town, and has
personally interfered to assist us in times of need--but, perhaps, you
are not Catholic."

"The great saint," said a votaress, who was selling _chapelets_ at her
tomb, "does not let a month escape without showing her power; only six
weeks ago a poor child, who was paralyzed, was brought here by its
mother, having been given up by the doctors; and the moment it touched
the marble where it was laid, all its limbs became as strong as ever,
and it walked out of the church."

We, of course, lost as little time as possible in paying our _devoirs_
to so wondrous a personage. The church is a very venerable structure,
surmounted by a spire covered with slate. The Saint was the wife of
Clotaire the First, and quitted her court to live a religious life,
having built a monastery in honour of the true cross, a piece of which
had been sent to her from Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian. She
erected a church in honour of the Virgin, which should serve for a
burial-place for her nuns; this was beyond the walls of her monastery,
and a college of priests was added to it to supply religious instruction
to her community. The church was finished, and its foundress died in
587. She was interred there by the celebrated Gregory of Tours. The
tomb, of the simplest construction of fine black marble, still exists in
a subterranean chapel, the object of religious pilgrimages without end;
and when, in the fourteenth century, it was opened by Jean, Duc de
Berry, Count of Poitou, brother of Charles the Wise, the body was found
in perfect preservation. In 1562 the Protestants took possession of the
church, and broke open the tomb, scattering and burning the bones; but
some of them were, nevertheless, gathered together and replaced in the
marble, which was joined by iron cramps, and does not exhibit much
injury.

This huge mass of black marble has a very disgusting appearance, from
being entirely covered (except at one little corner, kept clean to show
its texture) with the runnings of the countless candles perched upon it
by the pilgrims, who arrive in such crowds at some periods of the year,
that the vault becomes so hot and close as to be unsafe to remain in
long. These candles are kept constantly burning, and the devotion to the
Saint also burns as brightly as ever. St. Agnes and St. Disciolus repose
near their abbess. Pepin, King of Aquitaine, lies somewhere in their
neighbourhood; but the exact spot is not ascertained.

A miraculous foot-print is still shown, which it is recorded that Jesus
Christ left _when_ he visited the cell of the holy abbess: the stone,
carefully preserved, is called Le Pas de Dieu, and was formerly in the
convent of St. Croix.

We had some difficulty to escape from the earnest exhortations of
numerous devout sellers of rosaries, who insisted on our buying their
medals, _chapelets_, &c., assuring us that they were of extraordinary
virtue; and we could scarcely believe that we had not been transported
several centuries back, when we saw the extreme devotion and zeal they
showed, both towards the Saint, and the money she might bring from
devotees.

Close to Ste. Radegonde is the cathedral church of St. Pierre,
principally built by Henry II. of England, a very fine specimen of the
grandest style of art; vast and beautiful, but with its naves rather too
low. The principal portals are very much ornamented, and its towers have
much elegance: but the restorations it has undergone have been
injudicious, and the modern painted glass which replaces the old is
extremely bad; but many of the windows are of fine forms, and, on the
whole, there is a good deal to admire in St. Pierre.

But little vestige remains now of the once famous convent of St. Pierre
le Puellier, which owed its foundation to a miracle: it is one very
often told as having occurred on like occasions; but is apparently still
believed in Poitiers, where devotees of easy credence seem to abound.

Loubette was a young girl in the service of the Empress Helena, mother
of Constantine, and had been witness in Jerusalem of the discovery of
the true cross. She was a native of Brittany; and how she came to the
holy city does not appear; suffice it that she wished to return to her
own country. The empress, in dismissing her, made her a present of a
piece of the true cross, and a part of the crown of thorns. Loubette
placed the relics in her _little bag_, and set out on her journey _on
foot_. She was of very small stature, lame, and crooked, extremely weak,
and hardly able to move; however, such as she was, she took her way from
Jerusalem to Poitiers, where _having arrived_, and feeling fatigued, she
lay down before she entered the town under a willow, hanging her little
bag (_gibecière_) on a branch, and went to sleep. When she awoke she
looked for her bag; but the branch she had hung it on--similar to the
steeple to which the horse of the Baron, of veracious memory, was
attached--had risen in the night to such a height, "that," says the
chronicler, "the said virgin could not reach her said _gibecière_."

She immediately sought the Bishop of Poitiers, who, struck with the
miracle, recommended her to present herself to the Count of Poitou, and
solicit of his piety the means of raising a church, and supporting a
chapter of clerks and priests to do duty there. The Count of Poitou is
said to have been joyous and pleased when he heard her relation; but it
does not appear that his generosity equalled his delight, for he did not
seem disposed to grant anything to Loubette for the establishment of her
church; however, unable at last to resist her entreaties, he agreed to
give her as much ground as so lame and weak a creature could creep over
in a day: it appears that he was not aware of her expedition from the
Holy Land.

He soon had cause to repent of his jest, for scarcely had Loubette
commenced her walk, accompanied by the servants of the Count, than she
distanced them all, and got over so much ground that they were
terrified; for, wherever she stepped, the ground rose and marked what
was hers. The Count hurried after her in great alarm, and, stopping her
progress, entreated her to be content with what she had already gained,
as he began to think she would acquire all his domain.[6]

[Footnote 6: The same legend is told as having happened in England on
the domains of the family of Titchborne.]

On the banks of the Clain is still pointed out a mound of earth on the
spot where _Saint_ Loubette crossed the river without wetting her feet.

There is no end to the miracles wrought in this favoured city: one is
told so remarkable that it deserves to be recorded. It occurred in
favour of Gauthier de Bruges, bishop of Poitiers--a very virtuous and
learned man, who had from a simple _cordelier_ been placed on the
episcopal throne by Pope Nicholas III. A question of supremacy having
arisen between the archbishops of Bourges and Bordeaux, Gauthier
declared for the former, and was charged by him to execute some acts of
ecclesiastic jurisdiction against his rival. The archbishop of Bordeaux
afterwards became pope, under the name of Clement V., protected by
Philippe le Bel, and in memory of his opposition deposed Gauthier,
enjoining him to retire into his convent.

The bishop of Poitiers was obliged to submit to the authority of the
sovereign pontiff; but at the same time protested against the abuse of
power of which he was the victim; and he appealed against the sentence
of deposition _to God and the council to come_. He died shortly after,
and desired to be buried with his act of appeal in his hand.

When Clement V. came to Poitiers to treat with Philippe le Bel on
_important and secret_ affairs--nothing less than the suppression of the
order of the Templars--he lodged at the Cordelier convent, in the very
church where Gauthier was buried. Being informed of the act of appeal
which the unfortunate bishop would not part with at the time of his
death, he had a great desire to see it, and commanded that his tomb
should be opened. Accordingly, in the dead of night, by the light of
torches, his desire was fulfilled. One of the pope's archdeacons
descended into the vault, and in the dead hand of the bishop beheld the
scroll: he endeavoured to take possession of it, but found it impossible
to do so, so firmly was it grasped by the bony fingers. The pope ordered
the archdeacon to enjoin the dead man to give it up on pain of
punishment, which the other having done, and added, that he pledged
himself to restore the paper when the pope had read it, the hand relaxed
its grasp, and the act was released. The archdeacon handed it up to the
pope; but when he tried to leave the vault, he found that a secret power
prevented him from stirring from the place, and he was forced to remain
there as hostage till the scroll was read and replaced in the hand of
the bishop; he then found that his limbs had resumed their power, and he
was able to quit the spot. Clement V., anxious to repair his injustice,
afterwards paid extraordinary honours to the memory of Bishop Gauthier.

It was at this time, in 1306, the interview took place which decided
the fate of the Templars; the pope lodged with the Cordeliers, the King
with the Jacobins, and, in order that they might confer more readily, a
bridge was thrown across the street, forming a communication between the
two convents. For sixteen months Clement remained at Poitiers on this
important business; and here he had interviews with the master of the
Templars, summoned from Cyprus for the occasion: here, most of the
plans, destined to overthrow their dangerous power, were concocted, with
less reference to justice than expediency.

The ancient palace of the Counts of Poitou is now the Palais de Justice.
A fine Grecian portico which we had passed several times in our search
for what we expected would be a Gothic entrance, leads to the only part
which remains of the ancient building: namely, a magnificent hall of
very large dimensions, surrounded by circular arches and delicate
pillars, and having a good deal of fine carving, and an antique roof of
chestnut wood. The exterior, which is adorned with figures of the
sovereigns of Poitou, we could not get a glimpse of, as the palace is so
hemmed in by buildings that it is only from the gardens and windows of
some private houses that any view of it can be obtained. Elionore of
Aquitaine, her husband and sons, often inhabited this abode; and it was
in the great hall that Charles VII. was proclaimed King of France. One
can but regret that so little remains of the original structure, and
that the buildings which modern taste and necessity have added, should
so ill accord with the old model; for nothing can be more misplaced than
the _classic temple_ which conducts to a Norman hall.



CHAPTER VIII.

     CHÂTEAU DE LA FÉE--KING RENÉ--THE MINIATURES--THE POST-OFFICE
     FUNCTIONARY--ORIGINALITY--THE ENGLISH BANK-NOTE--ST. PORCHAIRE--THE
     DEAD CHILD--MONTIERNEUF--GUILLAUME GUY GEOFFROY--THOMAS À
     BECKET--CHOIR OF ANGELS--RELICS--THE ARMED HERMIT--A SAINT--THE
     REPUDIATED QUEEN--ELIONORE--THE BOLD PRIEST--LAY.


ONE of the most remarkable houses in Poitiers, of which not many ancient
remain, is one now used as a school by the Christian Brothers. It is in
the Rue de la Prévôté, close to the Place de la Pilori, and has been a
prison. The door and windows are finely ornamented, as is the whole
façade, with curiously-carved figures and foliage. Melusine, with her
serpent's or fish's tail, and her glass and comb, appears amongst
them--that inexplicable figure so frequently recurring in almost every
part of France, and even yet requiring her riddle to be solved. As we
knew that this part of the world was her head-quarters, we resolved to
visit her at her own castle of Lusignan, which would be in our way when
we left Poitiers. In this we were confirmed when we went to the
Bibliothèque, for the gentleman to whom we were indebted for much
attention in showing us the chief treasures there contained, recommended
us not to pass by without seeing the ruins of the _château de la Fée_.

The university of Poitiers formerly held a very high rank, and was
frequented by scholars from every part of the world. France, England,
Scotland, Ireland, and Germany, sent their students: it was founded by
Charles VII., and Pope Eugène IV., and was in great esteem in spite of
the jests of Rabelais and others at its expense. One old author speaks
somewhat irreverently of the learned town; calling its students "the
flute-players and professors of the _jeu de paume_ of Poitiers."
Corneille makes his Menteur a pupil of the college of Poitiers; but
Menot, a preacher of the period of the League, has a passage in one of
his sermons which is sufficiently complimentary: in relating the
Judgment of Solomon, he makes him say to one of the women, "Hold your
tongue, for I see that you have never studied at Angers or Poitiers,
and know not how to plead." It is now the head of an academy which
comprises the four departments of Vienne, Deux-Sèvres, La Vendée, and
Charente Inférieure.

The public library is very extensive, and possesses many valuable
volumes. The first library named in French history is that of William
the Ninth, Count of Poitiers and Duke of Aquitaine, which was preserved
in his palace at Poitiers. At the revolution, all that ages had
accumulated was dispersed, but much has since been recollected, and
amongst the twenty-five thousand volumes there are many very precious.
There are more than fifteen hundred works relative to the history of
Poitou, and it has, within a few years, been enriched by a present from
the British government of a fine collection of historical and legal
documents connected with this part of the country.

That which, however, interested me most, was a beautiful manuscript,
said to have been executed by no other hand than the royal one of the
good King René. I have no doubt it was done by a very skilful artist
whom his munificence protected; but if, as is probable, he painted the
work on chivalry now in the King's library at Paris, he did _not_ paint
the beautiful leaves of the Psalter which is attributed to him; there is
too much knowledge of art in the latter to permit one to imagine that
the same person could do both; for though the work on chivalry has
great merit, it is of an inferior kind to this. The birds, the flowers,
the foliage, and the miniatures, are in perfection, and betray an
Italian touch; true it is that the celebrated partridges, which King
René loved so well to paint, are frequently repeated, and the legend is
told while the manuscript is being looked at, of his occupation in
depicting his favourite bird, when he was informed of the loss of his
kingdom, and so interested was he in his work that he never laid down
his pencil, but proceeded to finish it off as if nothing had happened.
Still, I think, whoever painted this book was the royal amateur's master
in the art; it appears certain that the beautiful volume was presented
by him to Jeanne de Laval, his wife: it is decorated with the arms of
Anjou, Sicily, and Laval, and the gold and azure are brilliant beyond
description, the doves and other birds are of glittering plumage, and
the flowers charming. Another psalter, of still more exquisite
execution, is of later date, 1510; and though the gold is far less
dazzling than that which adorns René's book, nothing can exceed the
beauty of the birds and flowers introduced on the margins. One leaf,
_all owls_, has a peculiarly _feathered_ appearance; the solemn birds
sit on wreaths in the most elegant attitudes, and at the top of the page
one _Grand Duke_, larger and more dignified than the rest, seems to look
down on his people with satisfaction. The lupins, monkshood,
marguerites, and other simple flowers, so often introduced in
illuminated borders, are done with infinite skill, and _strewn_ about
the gold ground as if scattered there by chance: some with their stalks
upwards and in disorder, evidently showing that they were painted from
nature, probably from the artist's own garden in his convent.

We found in Poitiers amongst the people, very little pride of their
town; they seem in fact to be inspired with a spirit of depreciation,
which surprised me; and I have seldom found in any French town so much
difficulty in discovering old houses and sites. "Ah, ça ne vaut pas la
peine, ma foi! c'est bien vieux!" was the general answer given to any
inquiry.

I had occasion to go to the post-office for letters from England, having
sent the _commissionnaire_ of the inn in vain. I knew that several were
waiting for me, but being positively told that there were none, was
going away, much disappointed, when a man ran after me across the great
square, begging that I would return, as the director wished to speak to
me. I did so immediately, when I was accosted by a person I had not
before seen, who, instead of producing my letters, began a conversation
on the subject of Poitiers, and my journey to it; having informed
himself where I came from, with all the minuteness of an American
questioner, he proceeded to say there were letters for a person of my
name; but as he required my passport, which I found to my vexation I had
left at the inn, I was tantalized with a view of the handwriting of my
friends through a grating. The functionary, however, detained me still
to entreat that I would satisfy his curiosity as to what we could
possibly have been admiring the evening before on the ramparts near the
Porte du Pont Joubert, on the banks of the Clain. "I observed you,
ladies," said he, "pointing to the opposite hills, which are nothing but
blocks of grey rocks, ordinary enough, and leaning over the walls
watching the course of the river, which is but a poor stream; and
remarking the trees on the promenades, which, after all, are but trees;
in fact, it puzzled me to think what strangers could find at Poitiers to
like."

Much amused at his originality, and the singular way in which he showed
it, I replied that we found much to admire in the walks, the scenery,
and the churches, and were surprised that he thought so little of his
native town. He seemed, as well as several of his assistant clerks, and
a person who patiently waited for his letters till the interview was
concluded, to think me much the most original of the two; and, having no
more to say, handed me my letters with the remark that I need not fetch
my passport, as he had no doubt they were really destined for me. It was
then evident to my mind that he had laid this plan to detain the
inquisitive travellers who had excited his curiosity, till he could
catechise them himself, and to that end had lured us _in person_ to the
post-office, and detained us and our letters till his pleasure was
secured. We were not sorry that nothing more was likely to arrive at
Poitiers for us, as we were to pay so much for the delivery. It appears
that strangers rarely remain more than a few hours here, which may
account for so much interest being excited in the solitary town by our
strolling.

We had delayed changing some English money, and thinking it best to do
so in case of necessity, inquired the way to a banker's. We were
directed to several; but, apparently, business was not very urgent with
them, for at most of the houses we found the head person gone into the
country, and no delegate left. At last, we met with one at home; but he
appeared utterly at a loss when he looked at the unlucky English
bank-note which we presented to be changed, never, as he assured us,
having seen such a _bit of paper_ before; but kindly offering, if we
would leave it a few hours, to have it seen and commented on, and then,
if approved, and we liked to pay a somewhat unreasonable number of
francs, the sum should be delivered to us. We thought the whole
transaction so _bizarre_ that we declined his offer, resolving
rather to trust to chance till we reached La Rochelle,--our next
destination--than put ourselves to the charges he recommended. He
returned our note with a mortified air, saying, "Very well; as you
please; but there are people in Poitiers who would not give two sous for
your bit of paper." The house in which he lived had a very antique
appearance, and we had mounted a curious tower with winding-staircase to
reach his bureau; I therefore asked him if there was anything remarkable
attached to its history; but he seemed never to have thought about it,
and merely remarked that it was "bien vieille; mais rien de plus." He
looked after us with pity, as we took our leave, and probably
entertained himself afterwards at our expense with his townsman of the
post-office: "Ces Anglais! sont-ils originaux! par exemple!"

Nothing daunted, we proceeded to visit the curious old church of St.
Porchaire, once a monastery dependent on the chapter of St. Hilaire le
Grand. The church of the priory is that part which remains. The interior
is quite without beauty; but what is worthy of note is its fine Roman
tower, and a portal of great singularity. The latter is ornamented with
medallions of the rudest workmanship; one capital represents Daniel and
the prophet Habakkuk, with lions of a strange shape; but, in order that
no mistake may arise as to their identity, besides the inscription which
surrounds the medallion, _Hic Daniel Domino vincit coetum leonum_, the
artist has engraved, in conspicuous letters, between the animals, the
word _Leones_.

The church of St. Hilaire--a great saint in Poitiers--has been so much
altered as to leave little very interesting of its original
construction. This saint was much distinguished for the miracles he
performed; the memory of one is still preserved by a pyramid, with
mutilated bas-reliefs, recording the facts thus related by the annalist
of Aquitaine:--

"When St. Hilaire visited the churches of the city, as he went through
the streets he was followed by so many people that he could hardly be
seen, for he was on foot. A woman, who lived in a house now situated
before the _Grands Escolles_, knowing that he was passing her dwelling,
while she was bathing her infant, seized with an ardent desire to behold
the saint, left it in the bath, and ran out; when she returned she found
her child drowned. Whereupon she called out, 'Oh, my God! shall I lose
my child for having done that which was praiseworthy!' and in a rage of
grief took her little dead child in her arms, covered with a piece of
linen, and carried it to St. Hilaire, to whom she declared the case and
the accident, praying him, in great faith and hope, to entreat of God
that her child might be restored to life.

"St. Hilaire, seeing the grief of the poor mother, who had but this
only child, and also her great reliance, and considering that the infant
had died in consequence of the mother's great desire to see him, set
himself to pray, prostrating himself on the earth with great humility
and tears, where he remained a long time. And he, who was of a great
age, would not rise from that posture till God had, at his request,
resuscitated the child. He then, taking it in his arms, presented it to
the mother, who gave it nourishment before all the people, who, full of
wonder, gave thanks to God and St. Hilaire."

The church of Montierneuf is one of the most ancient in Poitiers. It
contains the tomb of its founder, Guillaume Guy Geoffroy, Count of
Poitiers and Aquitaine; who, having led a very irregular life, thought
to atone for all, by erecting a magnificent monastery for Cluniac monks.
Except this tomb, there is little remaining of interest; but the effigy
of Guillaume is well executed and curious, as he lies with his long
curled hair and his crown, his _aumônière_, and his singularly-shaped
shoes. He was one of the most daring of those wild Williams who
distinguished themselves for profligacy; but this pious act of his seems
entirely to have redeemed his memory.

It is recounted that, while the abbey was in progress, the King of
France, Philippe I., came to Poitiers, hoping to induce William to
assist him against the Duke of Normandy. The monarch, struck with the
grandeur of the new constructions, exclaimed that they were "worthy of a
king;" to which the Count replied, haughtily, "Am I not, then, a king?"
Philippe did not see fit to make any further rejoinder on so delicate a
subject.

The tomb of this redoubted prince was opened in 1822, and the body found
quite perfect; as this circumstance, which is by no means unusual, was
in former times always considered as a proof of the sanctity of the
person interred, it is to be hoped all the stories of Count William's
vagaries are mere scandals, invented by evil-disposed persons; and that
the history of his having established a convent, all the nuns of which
were persons of more than suspected propriety, and having placed a
female favourite of his own at their head, had no foundation in truth.
Something similar is told of several powerful princes, so it may well be
a fable altogether.

The botanical garden of Poitiers now occupies the place where the abbey
of St. Cyprian stood, with all its dependencies; we sat on some reversed
capitals, which now form seats in a flowery nook, and climbed a stair of
a tower where seeds are dried,--the only morsel of the great convent now
existing. Bouchet tells one of his strange stories of a monk of this
monastery, which is curious, as it relates to that dangerous and
powerful subject of the harassed King of England, Henry II., who must
have had enough to do to circumvent the art and cunning of the wily
archbishop who was always working for his ruin and the exaltation of the
Church. The annalist relates that--

"At this period, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, in England, was a
fugitive from his country, because the English princes desired to kill
_and_ put him to death: for that he would not agree to certain
constitutions, statutes, and ordinances, that Henry II. and the princes
of England had made against the liberties and privileges of the Church,
and the holy canons thereof. For they wished to confer dignities and
other benefices and take the fruits, thereby profaning the sanctuary of
God. And the said archbishop was seven years, or thereabouts, in France,
which land is the refuge of popes and holy personages; and he had great
communication and familiarity with the said Pope Alexander, he being in
the town of Sens, where he chiefly staid while in France. And the
archbishop was sometimes at the abbey of Pontigny, and sometimes at the
monastery of St. Columbe. Now, I read what follows in an ancient
_pancarte_ of the abbey of St. Cyprian of Poitiers, brought there by a
monk of the said, called Babilonius, who, for some grudge owed him by
his abbot, was driven from his abbey, and went to complain of his wrong
to Pope Alexander at Sens, while the Archbishop Thomas sojourned there;
from whom this monk received a holy vial to place in the church of St.
Gregory, where reposes the body of the blessed Saint Loubette. I have
translated the said writing from Latin into the vulgar tongue, seeing
that it contains some curious things. It begins, 'Quando ego Thomas
Archiepiscopus,' &c.

"When I, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, exiled from England, took
refuge with Pope Alexander, who was also fugitive, in the town of Sens,
and there represented to him the bad habits and abuses that the King of
England had introduced into the Church; one night as I was in the church
of Sainte Colombe, engaged in prayer, supplicating the Queen of Virgins
that she would vouchsafe grace to the King of England and his
successors, that they might have power and will to be obedient to the
Church as her children, and that our Lord Jesus Christ would cause them
more fully to love the said Church, suddenly appeared to me the Blessed
Virgin Mary, having on her breast a drop of water, glittering like fine
gold, and holding in her hand a little vial (_ampoule_) of stone. And
after she had taken from her breast the drop of water and put it in the
vial, she spoke to me these words: 'This is the unction with which the
kings of England shall be anointed; _not those who reign now, but those
who are to reign_; for those who reign now are wicked, and so will be
their successors, and, for their iniquity shall lose many things.
However, kings of England shall come, and shall be anointed with this
unction, and shall be benign and obedient to the Church, and shall not
possess their lands or lordships until they are so anointed. The first
of these shall recover, without violence, the countries of Normandy and
Aquitaine, which their predecessors had lost. This king shall be great
amongst kings, and it will be he who shall re-edify many churches in the
Holy Land, and drive all the pagans from Babylon, where he shall erect
rich monasteries, and put all the enemies of religion to flight. And
when he wears about his neck this drop of golden water, he shall be
victorious and augment his kingdom. _As for thee, thou shall die a
martyr for sustaining the rights of the Church._' I then prayed the holy
and sacred Lady to tell me in what sanctuary I should place this sacred
deposit; and she replied, that there was in this city a monk of the
monastery of St. Cyprian of Poitiers, named Babilonius, who had been
unjustly driven forth by his abbot, where he desired to be reinstated by
apostolic authority; to him I was ordered to give this vial, in order
that he might carry it to the city of Poitiers, and place it in the
church of St. Gregory, which is near the church of St. Hilaire, and put
it at the extremity of the said church, towards the east, under a great
stone, _where it would be found_ when the proper hour arrived to anoint
the kings of England, and _that the chief of the Pagans should be the
cause of the discovery of the said golden drop_. Accordingly I enclosed
this treasure in a leaden vessel, and gave it to the said monk,
Babilonius, to bear to the church of St. Gregory, as it was commanded."

What object _Saint_ Thomas of Canterbury had in thus mystifying the
monks of Poitiers, or to what _prince_ or _pagan_ he pointed at, remains
a secret: whether the holy vial ever was found cannot now be known; or,
if any discovery of such was made in that period of discoveries, the
great Revolution, it was probably consigned to destruction with numerous
other equally authentic relics. The most remarkable sentence in this
_pancarte_ is, perhaps, the prophecy of his own death by the martyr,
always admitting that the whole was not composed and arranged after the
event had happened.

Bouchet, glad of the opportunity of dwelling on wonders, finishes his
tale by relating the circumstances of Becket's murder, and how at his
burial a choir of angels led the anthem, which the monks followed: also
how the cruel homicides by the judgment of God were suddenly punished;
for some of them _ate their own fingers_, others became mad and
demoniacs, and others lost the use of all their limbs.

The relics in the churches of Poitiers were of the most extraordinary
value; each vied with the other in wonders of the kind, until all the
bones of all the saints in the calendar seemed gathered together in this
favoured city. Whenever a prince had offended the Church, he made his
peace by presenting some precious offering which was beyond price; as,
for instance, in 1109, the Duke of Aquitaine, father of Elionore, after
having been pardoned for one of his numerous offences, caused to be
enclosed in a magnificent shrine of gold, _two bones_ and _part of the
beard_ of the blessed Saint Peter, prince of apostles, which St. Hilaire
himself had brought to his church. Soon after, to prove his repentance
of some new peccadillo, Guillaume gave certain _dismes_ to the monks and
priests of St. Hilaire, with the use of the forest of Moulière.

St. Bernard himself was obliged on one occasion to come to Poitiers to
admonish the refractory duke, who chose to have an opinion of his own in
acknowledging the pope, and many miracles were performed during his
stay. Once St. Bernard severely reprimanded the duke at the altar, in
the cathedral, who was for the moment terrified at his denunciations;
but no sooner had he left the church than he ordered the altar at which
the saint had stood to be demolished; and a priest to proclaim and
command the adherence of all persons to whatever pope their duke had
adopted; but this impiety was signally visited, for the priest fell down
dead at the altar as he was uttering the words. Also the dean, under
whose auspices St. Bernard's altar had been destroyed, _fell sick_
immediately, and died mad and in despair, for he cut his throat in his
bed: besides which, one of the refractory bishops--he of Limoges--fell
from his mule to the ground, and striking his head against a stone, was
killed on the spot; and for these _reasons_ and _evident signs_, Duke
William acknowledged his error, and replaced the Bishop of Poitiers,
whom he had deposed, in his chair.

This is the William, known by his romantic adventures as "The Armed
Hermit," who, no doubt, disgusted with the tyranny of the Church, whose
members at that time never ceased to interfere with the monarchs of
Europe, resolved to abandon his kingdom, and embrace a life of quiet, as
he supposed, "in some _horrible desert_." He was encouraged in the idea
by interested persons, and _feigning to die_, left a will, by which his
young daughter, Elionore, became the heiress of Aquitaine; he then
secretly quitted the court, directing his steps to the shrine of St.
James, in Galicia, where he joined a holy hermit, and put himself under
his tuition. By _diabolic temptation_ it seems, however, that he could
never be content in any of the deserts; where, still clothed in armour,
_cap-à-pié_, he endeavoured in vain to forget his belligerent
propensities, for, every now and then, when he heard of a siege toward,
he would suddenly sally forth, and having assisted in the skirmish,
again seized with a fit of repentant devotion, would hurry back to some
desolate retreat, and endeavour, by penitence and fasts, to obliterate
the sin he had committed.

His death was attended by so many miracles that it became necessary to
canonize him; and orders of hermit monks rose up in every quarter,
bearing his name of Guillemins, the chief of which were the Blanc
Manteaux of Paris. The example of sanctity he had set in the latter part
of his life seemed to have been lost on the turbulent and coquettish
Queen of the Court of Love, his daughter, Elionore, and to have been
also sufficiently disregarded by his grandsons. Not that Elionore
neglected to build and endow churches and monasteries in every part of
her dominions, particularly at Poitiers; and, probably, she considered
all offences wiped out by so doing: not excepting her criminal project,
recorded by Bouchet, of quitting her husband, Louis of France, and
"_espousing the Sultan Saladin_, with whose image and portraiture she
had fallen in love."

Whatever motives Louis le Jeune had in getting rid of his powerful wife,
policy could not be one; for never was a more foolish business; he did
not, perhaps, contemplate, in his shortsightedness, that she would marry
his rival, and carry all her possessions to the crown of England; but he
was sure that by dissolving his marriage he was injuring France. The
account of the state of the great heiress, insulted and injured in so
vital a point, is piteous enough, and not unlike, in position, to the
case of Queen Catherine when repudiated by Henry VIII.

"This dissolution and separation was signified to Queen Elionore by the
bishops, who undertook the task with great regret, for they knew it
would be very displeasing to the poor lady, who, as soon as the decision
was announced to her, fell in a swoon from the chair on which she sat,
and was for more than two hours without speaking, or weeping, or
unclosing her clenched teeth. And when she was a little come to herself,
she began, with her clear and blue (_vers_) eyes, to look around on
those who brought her the news, and said, 'Ha! my lords, what have I
done to the king that he should quit me? in what have I offended him?
what defect finds he in my person? I am not barren, I am not
illegitimate, nor come of a low race. I am wealthy as he is by my means.
I have always obeyed him; and if we speak of lineage, I spring from the
Emperor Otho the First and King Lothaire; descended in direct line from
Charlemagne; besides which we are relations both by father and mother if
he requires to be informed of it.'"

"Madam," said the Archbishop of Limoges, "you speak truth indeed. You
are relations; but of that the king was ignorant, and it is for that
very cause that he finds you are not in fact his wife, and the children
you have borne him are not lawful; therefore is this separation
necessary, much to the king's discomfort; he laments it as much or more
than you can do; but he finds that for the safety of your souls this
thing must be done."

The poor queen could only reply that the pope had the power to grant a
dispensation; but she had no longer any relations to support her, and
still less had she friends; and was obliged to submit. She was then
about six-and-twenty, and the most beautiful woman in France. Henry of
Normandy lost no time in making his proposals to her, which she at first
rejected, being, as she said, resolved never to trust another man; but
his eloquence, and other qualities, and the policy of placing herself in
a powerful position as his queen, heir as he was of England, caused her
to alter her mind; and Henry gained the richest wife in Europe and lost
his happiness for ever.

There is a frequently-repeated story told of one of the most celebrated
counts of Poitiers, though attributed sometimes to William VIII. and
sometimes to William IX. The series of _Williams_ all appear to have
been more or less _de rudes seigneurs_, who were divided between the
vices and virtues of their period. There is William _Tête d'Etoupes_,
William _Fier-à-bras_, William _the Great_, and William _the
Troubadour_; the latter--now pious, now profane--was at one time
fighting foremost in the christian ranks against the Paynim; at another,
"playing on pipes of straw and versing love" to fair ladies, to whom he
had no right to make himself captivating. He is said to have repudiated
his wife, Phillippa, or Mahaud, and espoused Malberge, the wife of the
Viscount de Châtelleraud, in the life-time of her husband. For this
offence the Bishop of Poitiers resolved to punish him, and, accordingly,
on occasion of a grand public solemnity, in the face of the assembled
multitude, he began the formula of excommunication against the offending
count, regardless of consequences. When William heard, as he sat with
his bold and beautiful lady-love, the first words of the anathema, he
started from his seat, in a transport of surprise and rage, and, drawing
his sword, rushed upon the unflinching churchman, who entreated him to
allow him a short delay. The count paused, and, taking advantage of the
circumstance, the bishop raised his voice, and finished the form of
excommunication in which he had been interrupted. "Now," said he, "you
may strike; I have done my duty and am ready." William was abashed and
humbled, and, returning his sword to its scabbard, exclaimed, "No,
priest, I do not love you well enough to send you straight to Paradise."
He had not, however, the grace to pardon the intrepid priest, for he
banished him to Chauvigny, where he shortly afterwards died, in 1115.
The following is one of the lays of this famous Troubadour, whose songs
are the earliest extant:

    Anew I tune my lute to love,
      Ere storms disturb the tranquil hour,
    For her who strives my truth to prove,
      My only pride, and beauty's flower;
    But who will ne'er my pain remove,
      Who knows and triumphs in her power.

    I am, alas! her willing thrall;
      She may record me as her own:
    Nor my devotion weakness call,
      That her I prize, and her alone:
    Without her can I live at all,
      A captive so accustom'd grown?

    What hope have I?--Oh lady dear!
      Do I then sigh in vain for thee;
    And wilt thou, ever thus severe,
      Be as a cloistered nun to me?
    Methinks this heart but ill can bear
      An unrewarded slave to be!

    Why banish love and joy thy bowers--
      Why thus my passion disapprove?
    When, lady, all the world were ours
      If thou couldst learn, like me, to love.



CHAPTER IX.

     MELUSINE--LUSIGNAN--TROU DE LA FÉE--THE LEGEND--MALE CURIOSITY--THE
     DISCOVERY--THE FAIRY'S SHRIEKS--THE CHRONICLER--GEOFFROY OF THE
     GREAT TOOTH--JACQUES COEUR--ROYAL GRATITUDE--ENEMIES--JEAN DU
     VILLAGE--WEDDING--THE BRIDE--THE TRAGEDY OF MAUPRIER--THE
     GARDEN--THE SHEPHERDESS--THE WALNUT GATHERERS--LA GÂTINE--ST.
     MAIXANT--NIORT--MADAME DE MAINTENON--ENORMOUS CAPS--CHAMOIS
     LEATHER--DUGUESCLIN--THE DAME DE PLAINMARTIN--THE SEA.


FULL of anxiety to visit the famous Château of Lusignan--the very centre
of romance and mystery--we left Poitiers in the afternoon, and, in two
hours, reached the prettily-situated bourg on the banks of the river
Vanne. We looked out constantly for the towers of the castle of
Melusine, but none appeared. At last I descried a building on an
eminence, which I converted at once into the object desired; but, as
the rain had come on violently and the atmosphere was somewhat dull, I
was not surprised that I did not obtain a better view of the turrets and
donjon, which no doubt frowned over the plain beneath.

Our vehicle stopped in the middle of a very unpromising stony street,
before a house which presented no appearance of an inn. Here, however,
we were told that we were to alight; and, having done so in a somewhat
disconsolate mood, for the storm had increased in violence, our baggage
was to be disengaged from the huge pile on the top of the diligence,
while we stood by to recognise it. The whole town, meantime, seemed to
have arrived in this, the principal street; and a host of men in blouses
paused round us, all looking with wonder on our arrival, apparently
amazed at our absurdity in stopping at Lusignan; in which reflection we
began to share, as they took possession of our trunks, and examined them
without ceremony, while the conducteur searched his papers, in a sort of
frenzy, to find our names inscribed, and convince himself that we were
the persons named there as his passengers. As we had only been "set
down" as "Dames Anglaises," he seemed inclined to dispute our identity;
and he, and a man who acted as post-master, conned over the paper
together, while all the inhabitants who could get near endeavoured to
catch a peep, not only at the scroll, but the suspected persons. At
length, as we protested against lingering in the rain any longer,
further enquiries were abandoned; the conducteur mounted his box; the
post-master called porters; and the crowd made way for us, while we
followed half-a-dozen guides, who made as much of their packages as they
could; and we at last found shelter. The aspect of affairs now changed:
a very neat landlady, and a smart waiting-maid, ushered us into a
pretty, clean, decorated, raftered room,--the best in the Lion d'Or,--up
a flight of tower stairs; our porters disappeared; the street was
cleared; curiosity seemed amply gratified; and we were left to a good
dinner, and in comfortable quarters. The sun broke forth, and all looked
promising; but where were the towers of the castle?

This question we repeated frequently, and the answers assured us that
_là haut_ we should see the castle and the "_Trou Meluisin_." We slept
well in our snow-white beds; occasionally hearing, during the night, the
cracked, hollow, unearthly sound of the great church bell of the
Lusignans, to which an equally ghost-like voice on the stair replied. At
day-break the noise of hilarity roused us, and we found that a rural
meeting was taking place below, in the _grand salon_. Our friends of the
day before seemed all met previous to setting out to begin the walnut
gathering; and they uttered strange jocund sounds, more wolfish than
human, without a word which could be, by possibility, construed into the
French language.

We hurried up the rugged way which was to lead us to the castle; but,
having reached the height, I rubbed my eyes, for I thought the fairy had
been busy during the night, and, by a stroke of her wand, had swept away
every vestige of the castle. Certain it was that not a stone was
left,--not a solitary piece of wall or tower, to satisfy our curiosity!
A pretty little girl of fifteen, who had hurried after us, now
approached, and offered to be our _guide_. We accepted her civility, as
we hoped something would ensue: she led us to a heap of bushes, and,
stooping down and pulling them aside, proclaimed to us, as she pointed
to a dark chasm beneath, that we stood at the entrance of the "Trou de
la Fée." "This," said she, "is the hole which she used to enter, and it
has a way which leads to the wood yonder: she could there rise up at her
fountain, where she bathed; and from thence there is another way leading
as far as Poitiers itself." We asked her if the fairy ever appeared now;
but she laughed, and said, contemptuously, "Oh! no, that is all fable:
it was a great while ago." She had a tragical story of a soldier who
descended, resolving to attempt the adventure; but he was never seen
afterwards, as might easily be expected. She, however, accounted for
his fate without attributing it to supernatural causes: the superstition
of Melusine has disappeared with the turrets of her castle.

The church is curious, though very much defaced: in the sacristy is a
circular-arched door, elaborately sculptured with the signs of the
Zodiac; but the formerly-existing stones on which the effigy of the
fairy appeared have been entirely swept away.

The castle of Lusignan was once one of the most beautiful and powerful
_châteaux forts_ in France; so strong and so singular in its
construction that it was attributed to an architect of a world of
spirits,--the famous witch, or fairy, Melusine; about whom so much has
been written and sung for ages, and who still occupies the attention of
the curious antiquary. Her story may be thus briefly told:

She was married to the Sire Raymondin, of Poitiers; who, struck with her
surpassing beauty, and aware of her great wealth and possessions, had
won her from a host of suitors. He was, however, ignorant that her
nature was different from that of others; and, when she informed him
that, if she consented to be his wife, he must agree that she should,
once a week, absent herself from him, and must promise never to attempt
to penetrate the retreat to which she retired, he gave an unconditional
assent. They had been married some time, and their happiness was
complete; but at length Raymondin's mind began to be disturbed with
uneasy thoughts, and the demon of curiosity took possession of him. His
wife disappeared every week for a single day--some say Saturday--and he
had no idea where she went, or what she occupied herself about. Was it
possible, thought he, that she had some other attachment? Could she be
capable of deceiving his affection? Every time she returned to him she
looked more lovely than ever; and there was a satisfaction in her aspect
that was far from pleasing him. She never alluded to the circumstance of
her retreat; but redoubled her tenderness and kindness to him; and, but
for the growing and increasing anxiety he felt to know the truth, he
might have been the happiest of men.

Melusine had, according to her wont, taken leave of him on the
accustomed night of her retirement; and he found himself alone in his
chamber. He mused, long and painfully, till he could endure his thoughts
no longer; and, catching up his sword, he rushed to the tower, at the
door of which he had parted with his mysterious lady. The door was of
bronze, elaborately ornamented with strange carvings: it was thick and
strong; but, in his frenzy of impatience, he did not hesitate to strike
it violently with his sharp sword; and, in an instant, a wide cleft
appeared, disclosing to him a sight for which he paid dear.

In the centre of the chamber he beheld a marble basin, filled with
crystal water; and there, disporting and plunging, was a female form
with the features of his wife. Her golden hair, in undulating waves,
fell over her white bosom and shoulders, and rested on the edge of the
basin, and on the surface of the water; her hands held a comb and a
mirror; and in the latter she occasionally gazed intently as a series of
figures passed across it. Down to her waist it was Melusine; but below
it was no longer the body of a woman, but a scaly marine monster, who
wreathed a glittering tail in a thousand folds; dashing and casting the
silver waves in every direction, and throwing a veil of shining drops
over the beautiful head above, till the walls and ceiling shone with the
sparkling dew, on which an unearthly light played in all directions!

Raymondin stood petrified, without power to speak or move. An instant
sufficed to disclose to him this unnatural vision; and an instant was
enough to show the fairy that her secret was discovered. She turned her
large lustrous eyes upon him, uttered a loud, piercing shriek, which
shook the castle to its foundation, and all became darkness and silence.
The lord of the château passed the rest of his life in penitence and
prayer; but the lady was never afterwards seen by him.

She had not, however, abandoned her abode; and, always, from that time
till within a few years, she returned whenever any misfortune threatened
the family of Lusignan, screaming round the walls, and rustling with her
serpent folds along the passages, announcing the event. In 1575 the
castle was razed, by order of the Duke de Moutpensier, and for several
nights previous to its demolition, Melusine startled the country round
with her piercing cries. It is even said that certain ancient women in
Lusignan hear her occasionally; but we were not so fortunate as to meet
with any who had been so favoured.

Bouchet, in his chronicle, acknowledges himself greatly puzzled to
account for the legend of Melusine; for, though he does not hesitate to
believe anything advanced by the Church, he does not feel bound to put
entire faith in a book of romance. "As for me," he says, "I think and
conjecture, that the sons of Melluzine performed many fine feats of
arms; but not in the manner related in the romance; for it must be
recollected that at the period of 1200 were begun to be made many books,
in gross and rude language, and in rhythm of all measure and style,
merely for the pastime of princes, and sometimes for flattery, to vaunt
beyond all reason the feats of certain knights, in order to give courage
to young men to do the like and become brave; such are the said Romance
of Melluzine, those of Little Arthur of Brittany, Lancelot du Lac,
Tristan the Adventurous, Ogier the Dane, and others in ancient verse,
which I have seen in notable libraries: the which have since been put
into prose, in tolerably good language, according to the time at which
they were written, in which are things _impossible to believe, but at
the same time delectable to read_. But, in truth, all that romance of
Melluzine is a dream, and cannot be supported by reason. You may see, in
the said romance, that the children of Melluzine, Geoffrey la
grande-dent, and Guion, and Raimondin, her husband, a native of Forez,
were Christians, and that they fought against, and conquered, the Turks,
and that the said Raimondin was nephew to a Count of Poictou, named
Aymery, who had a son called Bertrand, who was count after him, and a
daughter, Blanche. Now I have not been able to find in any history,
letter, nor _pancarte_, _though I have carefully searched_, that, since
the passion of our Lord, there has been a duke or count in Poictou,
called either Bertrand or Aymery; nor that there have been any such but
what I have enumerated. And as for those events having happened before,
it could not be; for there were then no Christians living, our Lord and
Redeemer not being then on earth."

The confused chronicler then proceeds to tell the whole serpent-story,
hinting his suspicions that the lady was discovered by her husband to
be unfaithful, and giving an etymology to her name, similar to one we
heard on the spot, namely, that she was lady of _Melle_, a castle near.
Our village archæologist added, however, that this castle was called
Uzine, and as both belonged to her, she was so called, Melle-Uzine.

In the fourteenth century, the estates of Lusignan passed into royal
possession. Hugues le Brun left in his will great part of the estates to
the King of France, Phillippe le Bel. His brother, Guy, irritated at
this disposition of the property, cast his will into the fire; on which
the king had him accused of treason, and took possession of the county
of Lusignan, which became confiscated to the crown. It was on this sad
occasion that, for twelve successive nights, the spirit of Melusine
appeared on the platform of the castle, wailing and lamenting in a
pitiable manner, and making the woods and groves re-echo with her
sorrows.

There is another account, that the castle was greatly added to by a
powerful lord, called _Geoffrey of the Great Tooth_, son of Melusine,
whose effigy might once be seen over the principal entrance of the
donjon-tower; but his existence is as great a problem as that of the
fairy herself.

Henry II. of England took the castle, and came here in triumph with his
warriors. Louis XII. when Duke of Orleans, passed several sad years in
these walls as a prisoner. It was taken by Admiral de Coligny, in 1569;
but it was lost soon after, and again and again retaken, partially
destroyed, and rebuilt, and at length swept away altogether, leaving
nothing but recollections, a piece of old tower, and Le Trou de
Melusine.

It once had three circles of defence, bastions, esplanades, moats, and
walls; embattled gates, one called the Gate of Geoffrey of the Great
Tooth, one the Gate of the Tour Poitevine, and the gigantic Tour de
Melusine in the centre of all; its subterranean ways, strange legends,
mysterious passages, and enormous strength, made it a marvel in all
times, and a subject for romance from the earliest ages.

M. Francisque Michel is the last who has endeavoured to collect its
curious records, and throw some light on its strange history.

In this castle was imprisoned, during his iniquitous trial, which is an
eternal blot on the name of his ungrateful _friend_, Charles VII. of
France, the rich and noble merchant of Bourges, Jacques Coeur, whose
purse had been opened to the destitute king in his emergencies, and who
had devoted all the energies of his mind to save his country from the
ruin which the idle favourites who surrounded the throne were assisting
as much as possible. His princely liberality, his foresight, and
promptitude, had rescued Charles from perils which seemed
insurmountable. He had come forward with a sum of great magnitude, at
the moment when his royal master was so distressed that he could not
undertake the conquest of Normandy, then possessed by the English. He
paid and supported an army, and Normandy was restored to France. He
rescued the country from poverty and misery, placed its finances in a
flourishing condition, drove marauders from the desolated land, and saw
the little King of Bourges the powerful monarch of regenerated France.
Then came his reward. His inveterate "adversary and enemy, the wicked
Haman," who had been for years watching to accomplish his downfal,
because his evil was not good in the sight of the right-minded and
true-hearted friend of his country,--the detestable Antoine de
Chabannes, Count of Dammartin, rightly judging that Charles would be
glad to rid himself of so enormous a burthen of gratitude as he owed to
Jacques Coeur, concerted with other spirits as wicked as himself, and
succeeded but too well.

The first step was to shake the public faith in those at the head of the
financial department; but they feared to attack the friend of Charles,
and the acknowledged benefactor of France, _at first_. Money they were
resolved to have, at any rate, without delay, and their first victim was
Jean de Xaincoings, receiver-general. A series of charges were got up
against him, which he was unable to overcome; he was convicted,
sentenced, imprisoned, and his property confiscated. Great was the
exultation of the dissolute lords of the Court, when, in the scramble,
each got a share of the spoil. Dunois--_Le Gentil Dunois_!--the hero of
so many fights--was one of the first to profit by the downfal of this
rich man: his magnificent hôtel at Tours was bestowed on the warrior,
who did not blush to receive it.

Encouraged by this success, and becoming more greedy as they saw how
easy it was to work on the king, when money was in view, the foes of
Jacques Coeur set about accomplishing a similar work, with his colossal
fortune in view as their prize.

At first, there seemed danger in proposing to the weak monarch to
despoil his friend, and to annihilate a friendship of years, and
obligations of such serious moment; but, to their surprise and delight,
they found his ears open to any tales they chose to bring; and having,
in a lucky hour, fixed on an accusation likely to startle such a mind,
they found all ready to their hands.

Dammartin brought forward a woman, base enough to swear that the fair
and frail Agnes Sorel had been poisoned by his treasurer. The infamous
Jeanne de Vendôme, wife of the Lord of Mortagne sur Gironde, was the
instrument of Chabannes, and her accusation was believed and acted upon.
A host of enemies, like a pack of wolves eager for prey, came howling
on, and the great merchant was dragged from his high seat and hunted to
the death.

In this very castle of Lusignan, where the fairy Melusine might well
lament over the disgrace of France, in a dungeon, removed from every
hope, languished the man who had, till now, held in his hand the
destinies of Europe; whose galleys filled every port, whose merchandise
crowded every city, who divided with Cosmo de Medici the commerce of the
world. Here did Jacques Coeur reflect, with bitter disappointment, on
all the selfishness, cruelty, meanness, and ingratitude, of the man he
had mainly assisted to regain the throne of his ancestors. It was here
he was told that the falsehood of the charge against him had been
proved; but when he quitted this, the first prison which the gratitude
of the king had supplied him with, it was but to inhabit others; while a
crowd of new accusations were examined, one of which was enough to crush
him. The game was in the hands of his foes; his gold glittered too near
their eyes; their clutches were upon his bags; their daggers were ready
to force his chests; they were led on by one whose avarice was only
equalled by his profligate profusion, and he was a prisoner kept from
his own defence.

The wealth of Jacques Coeur was poured into the laps of _Charles_ and
his harpy courtiers, and the victim was consigned to oblivion. Of all he
had saved and supported, one man alone was grateful--_Jean du Village_,
_his clerk_, devoted himself to his master's interests, and his life,
and part of his property abroad, were saved.

The fate of the great merchant is still a mystery. His mock trial was
decided by the commission appointed to examine him at the castle of
Lusignan, in May, 1453, and judgment was pronounced by Guillaume
Jouvenel des Ursins, chancellor of France, after the king _had taken
cognisance of and approved it_![7]

[Footnote 7: For account of Jacques Coeur and his dwelling at Bourges,
see "Pilgrimage to Auvergne."]

A wedding was going on while we were wandering between the castle and
the church, and we met the party on our way, preceded by the usual
violin accompaniment. Our young guide was greatly interested in the
proceedings, and told us the names and station of the parties concerned.
"What an odd thing it is," said she, "to be married. For two or three
days everybody runs out of their houses to stare at the bride and
bridegroom, as if they were a king and queen, though one has seen them a
thousand times before, and, after that, they may pass in the street and
nobody thinks of looking at them."

Marie Poitiers and René Blanc were the happy pair on this occasion; the
name of the bridegroom amused me, as I was reminded of the perfumer and
poisoner of Queen Catherine, René Bianco, who had lately furnished me
with a _hero_ for a romance. This René was, however, a very
harmless-looking personage, a daily labourer, but "bien riche," as was
his bride, who also worked in the fields, but had a very good property
near Lusignan. "All the family are very well off; but, they work like
other people. Only you see," said our guide, "that the bride's sister,
who is so pretty, dresses in silk like a _grande dame_, and does not
wear the peasant's cap like the rest." The cap of the bride was worthy
of attention, as were those of most of the party. As they were amongst
the first of the kind we had seen, they attracted us extremely, though
we afterwards got quite familiar with their strange appearance. In this
part of the country, the peasants wear a cap, large, square, and high,
of a most inconvenient size, and remarkably ugly shape: they get larger
and squarer as you approach La Rochelle, and cease before you arrive at
Bordeaux. The bride's was of thin embroidered muslin, edged with lace,
placed in folds over a high, square quilted frame, which supported it as
it spread itself out, broad and flaunting, making her head look of a
most disproportionate size. Silver ribbon bows and orange flowers were
not omitted, and she wore a white satin sash tied behind, which floated
over her bright gown and apron. A large silver cross hung on her breast,
her handkerchief was richly embroidered, and her stockings very white
and smart, though her feet and legs were somewhat ponderous, and did not
seem accustomed to their adornment of the day, _sabots_ of course being
her ordinary wear. She was led by her father, whom I mistook for the
mayor, he was so decorated with coloured ribbons, and strode along with
so dignified an air, his large black hat shading his happy, florid face.

The bridegroom closed a very long procession, as he led the bride's
mother along: they were going to the Mairie, where, after signing,
Made. Blanc would take her husband's arm, and walk back again through
the town to hear mass, when _ses bagues_ would be presented to her by
her lord. Great excitement seemed to prevail in Lusignan, in consequence
of this event, and smiles and gaiety were the order of the day.

Our hostess proposed accompanying us to a château not far distant, in
order that we might see the country, and as it was fine and not very
damp we set out with her, having stopped in the town at a little
chandler's shop for her sister who wished to be of the party.

Their mother--a dignified old lady, who looked as if she had been a
housekeeper at some château--welcomed us into her shop, and set chairs
while her daughter was getting ready, when she resumed her knitting, and
conversed on the subject of their metropolis, Poitiers, with which she
appeared partially acquainted. She detailed to us several of the
miracles of Ste. Radegonde, for whom she had an especial respect, and
assured us there was no saint in the country who had so distinguished
herself. I was surprised, after this, that she treated the story of
Melusine as a fable, though she believed in the existence of the
subterranean way, and told us of the riches supposed still to exist
beneath the castle and in the ruins. One man, lately, in taking away
stones to build a house, stumbled on a heap of money which had evidently
been placed for concealment beneath the walls, and coins of more or less
value, and of various dates, are found, from time to time, as the large
stones are removed for building, any one being at liberty to demolish
whatever ancient wall they find in the neighbourhood.

Our walk was an extremely pleasant one, for the country round is very
pretty and rural; it terminated at the Château de Mauprier, a private
residence, which appears to have been formerly a fortified manor-house,
to judge by its moat and the square and round towers which still remain.
The "park" leading to it is a series of beautiful alleys, some of the
trees of which are allowed to grow naturally, others are cut into form,
with fine grassy walks between, covered with rich purple heath here and
there in nooks. The walks branch off from space to space in stars,
leaving open glades of emerald turf between.

As we approached the lodge through the slovenly gate half off its
hinges, the sound of wailing reached us from within, and, entering the
room whence it proceeded, we became witnesses of a sad scene of
desolation. There was no fire on the hearth, all looked dismal and
wretched; a great girl of twelve stood sobbing near the table, a younger
one sat at the door, and, with her feet on the damp earthen floor,
rocking herself backwards and forwards on a low chair, sat a small, thin
woman, moaning piteously, and wringing her hands.

Of course we thought she was bewailing some severe domestic bereavement,
and our companions, who were full of friendly commiseration, began to
question her, but could obtain no answer but tears and cries. At length,
by dint of coaxing and remonstrance, we discovered that the tragedy
which had happened was as follows:

The gardener-porter was entrusted by his master with the care of the
live stock of the farm; his wife had sent a child of about eight years
of age into the woods with a flock of turkeys; the young guardian had
been seduced by fruit or flowers to wander away, forgetting her charge,
and they followed her example, and dispersed themselves in all
directions. The consequence was, that an ill-disposed fox, who was lying
in wait, took the opportunity of way-laying them, and no less than seven
had become his victims: the little girl had returned to tell her loss,
was beaten and turned out of doors; the husband's rage had been fearful,
and, though a night and day had elapsed, and the second evening was
coming on, the disconsolate wife had not risen from her chair, nor
ceased her lamentations. The turkeys must be replaced; the little girl
was not her own, but an _enfant trouvée_, whom she had nursed and loved
as her own--and how was she to be received after her crime! the husband
was irate, the children were miserable, neither cookery nor fire were to
be seen, and despair reigned triumphant. A small present, and a good
deal of reasoning, brought her a little to herself; and we persuaded the
eldest girl to light the fire, and give her mother something to revive
her; the father was sent for; but the poor woman fainted, and we lifted
her into bed; where we at length left her now repentant husband
attending her, and promising to reproach no one any more about the fox
and the turkeys.

Nothing could possibly do less credit to the gardener than the
appearance of the grounds, where liberty reigned triumphant; every
thing, from enormous gourds of surprising size to grapevines in
festoons, being allowed to grow as it listed; yet the original laying
out was pretty, and if half-a-dozen men were employed, as would be the
case in England, the gardens might be made very agreeable. The
proprietor is, however, an old man who spends a great deal of his time
in Poitiers; and, as all French people do when at their country places,
merely conceals himself for a few months, and cares little about
appearances, provided his fruit and vegetables are produced in the
required quantity. We heard that he was a most excellent and indulgent
man, very liberal to the poor, and generous to his people; and our
hostess assured us, that if he knew of the wretchedness the loss of his
turkeys had caused in his gardener's family, it would give him real
pain, and he would at once forgive them their debt to him. Perhaps the
knowledge of his kindness might be one reason of his servant's vexation;
but though that feeling was honourable to him, we could not forgive him
for his severity to his poor, silly terrified little wife.

As we returned by another, and a very pretty way, we met a young girl,
to whom our guides, who were zealous in the cause, told the story of her
neighbour's illness; she promised to go to her and offer her aid as soon
as she could, and expressed her disgust at the cruelty of the husband,
whose character, she said, was brutal in the extreme. While they were
talking, I remarked the appearance of the shepherdess, who was certainly
one of the most charming specimens of a country Phillis I ever beheld.
Her age might be about eighteen; she was tall, and well made, with a
healthy, clear complexion, a good deal bronzed with the sun; teeth as
white as pearls, and as even as possible; rather a wide, but very
prettily shaped mouth; fine nose; cheeks oval and richly tinted; fine
black eyes filbert shaped, and delicately-pencilled eyebrows, perfectly
Circassian; a small white forehead, and shining black hair in braids:
the expression of her smile was the most simple and innocent
imaginable, and the total absence of anything like thought or intellect,
made her face a perfect reflection of that of one of her own lambs. Her
costume was extremely picturesque; and her head-dress explained at once
the mystery of the cap of Anne Boleyn, of which it was a model, no doubt
an unchanged fashion from the time of, and probably long before,
Marguerite de Valois. It was of white, thick, stiff muslin, pinched into
the three-cornered shape so becoming to a lovely face, precisely like
the Holbein head, but that the living creature was much prettier than
the great master usually depicted his princesses. Her petticoat was dark
blue, her apron white, and so was her handkerchief, and round her
handsome throat was a small hair chain, or ribbon, with a little gold
cross attached. Her feet were in _sabots_; and she held a whip in her
hand, with which to chastise her stray sheep; on her arm hung a flat
basket, in which were probably her provisions for the day, or she might
have filled it with walnuts which were being gathered close by. I never
saw a sweeter figure altogether, and her merry, ringing laugh, and
curious _patois_ sounded quite in character; she was just the sort of
girl Florian must have seen to describe his Annette from; but I did not
meet with any peasant swain in the neighbourhood worthy to have been her
Lubin. Her beauty was, however, rare, for we were not struck with any of
the peasants besides, as more than ordinarily good-looking; but, seen
anywhere, this girl must have attracted attention.

We soon, on entering a long avenue, came upon a party of
walnut-gatherers, to whom the tragedy of the fox was again detailed,
while groups came round us to hear and comment on the event, which
appeared to be formed to enliven the monotony of a country existence as
much as a piece of scandal in a town.

Seated on the ground, quietly eating walnuts, in the midst of a ring of
other children, sat the little delinquent of the tale, as unmoved and
unconscious as if she had not caused a perfect hurricane of talk and
anxiety in the commune; she turned her large gypsy black eyes on me with
an expression almost of contempt, as I asked her a few questions, and
recommended her caution in future. As one of the reports we had gathered
on our way was, that the child, after being beaten, had run away into
the woods and had not since re-appeared, we were not sorry to find her
here; but as she looked saucy and careless, and able to bear a good deal
of severity, and was besides several years older than had been
represented, our sympathy was little excited in her favour. "She has
acted in this way often before," said a bystander, "and cannot be made
to work or to do anything she is told." She had strangely the appearance
of a Bohemian, and her fondness for the _dolce far niente_ increased my
suspicions of her parentage. The tenderness of her foster-mother for her
was, however, not to be changed by her ill-conduct, for she was said to
prefer her to her own children, in spite of her faults: so capricious is
affection.

The road from Lusignan to Niort is through a very pleasing country,
sometimes _bocage_, and sometimes _gâtine_: the latter term being
generally applied to a country of rocks, where the soil does not allow
of much cultivation. This is, however, not always the case, for on
several occasions I have heard, as at Chartres, a little wood called _la
gâtine_; and once at Hastings was surprised, on inquiring my way in the
fields, to be directed to pass the _gattin_ hard by; namely a small
copse. The word is said to be Celtic, and may be derived either from
_geat_, which means a plot of ground, or _geas_, a thick branch.

We were much struck with the town of St. Maixant; which is approached by
beautiful boulevards, and the environs are very rich and fine; the road
does not lead within the walls, but outside; and there was no reason to
regret this, as the streets are narrow and ill-built, while the
promenades round are charming. The Sèvre Niortaise bathes the foot of
the hill on which St. Maixant stands, and beyond rises the forest of
Hermitaine, once part of the celebrated Vauclair, where some famous
hermits took up their abode, and made the spot holy. Clovis assisted the
recluses who had chosen this retreat as their abode, and granted them
land and wood; a monastery was soon formed and the town grew round it.
There is a fine cascade near La Ceuille, of which, or rather of the
stream which flowed from it, we caught a glimpse on approaching St.
Maixant; it falls from the _cóteau_ called Puy d'Enfer, and it is one of
the wonders of the neighbourhood. The old walls of the town now appear
to enclose gardens, and all looks smiling and gay; but they have
sustained many a rude siege at different periods, and suffered much
during the wars of La Vendée.

At mid-day we reached Niort, a fine, clean, good-looking new town, with
scarcely any antiquity left, though of ancient renown: a Celtic city
with a Celtic name; a castle whose date cannot be ascertained; a palace
inhabited by the great heroine of the country, Elionor; and convents and
monasteries of infinite wealth and celebrity. That singular and famous
community established by the Troubadour Count of Poitou, Guillaume IX.,
was at Niort, and was replaced by the holy Capuchin brothers, who must
have been sufficiently scandalized at the conduct of the fair devotees
who preceded them in their cells.

The Duchess Elionor was married to Henry II. at Niort, and lived here
frequently. We hoped to see some remains of her palace, but found only
a large square building which might have formed a part of it; though its
form, which is an isolated tower, makes it difficult to imagine how it
could be in any way connected with the rest of the palace; this tower is
now used as the Hôtel de Ville; its lozenge and circle ornaments appear
not to be of older date than Francis I.; and we could scarcely persuade
ourselves, however ready to believe in antiquities, that the
all-powerful lady of Aquitaine, or her warrior husband, ever sat within
these walls.

A curious privilege was granted by the pope, in 1461, to the mayor,
aldermen, sheriffs, councillors, peers, and citizens of Niort, to be
buried in the habit, and with the cord round their waists, of the
Cordeliers: it is not recorded that the ladies of the town petitioned to
be dressed as well in their coffins as the nuns whose beauty delighted
William the Ninth, or they might have gone to their last fête in--

    "A charming chintz and Brussels lace."

The most remarkable recollection connected with Niort, is that, in the
prison of the town, called La Conciergerie, where her father was
confined for the crime of forgery, was born Françoise D'Aubigné,
afterwards the wife of Scarron, and by the favour of Louis XIV.,
Marquise de Maintenon, in whom the triumph of hypocrisy was complete.
One of the streets is called by her name; but it is not recorded that
she ever did anything for her native town; probably she was not anxious
to perpetuate the memory of any part of her early life, not seeing fit
to be quite so communicative on the subject as her brother, whose tongue
she had so much difficulty in keeping quiet.

Niort is a very pleasant, lively-looking town--that is, for a French
town, where the nearest approach to gaiety is the crowd which a weekly
market brings, or the groups of laughing, talking women, which the
ceaseless occupation of washing collects on the banks of the river. We
were much amused here with the latter, and stood some time on the bridge
below the frowning round towers, of strange construction, which serve as
a prison, to observe the manoeuvres of the washerwomen, who, in their
enormous, misshapen, towering, square caps, were beating and scrubbing
away at their linen. Nothing can appear so inconvenient as this
head-dress when its wearer is engaged in domestic duties; yet the women
are constantly to be seen with it; rarely, as in Normandy, contenting
themselves with the under frame alone, and placing the huge mass of
linen or muslin over it when their work is done. On one occasion we
travelled with a _bourgeoise_ whose cap was so enormous, that she could
scarcely get into the coach, and when once in had to stoop her head the
whole time to avoid crushing the transparent superstructure of lace and
muslin, which it is the pleasure of the belles of Poitou to deform
themselves with. We were, however, assured that this costume was
becoming, and that many a girl passed for pretty who wore it, who would
be but ordinary in a plain, round, every-day cap. Sometimes this
monstrosity is ornamented with gold pins, or buttons, all up the front,
and the variety of arrangement of the muslin folds, both before and
behind, is curious enough. It has occasionally frilled drapery depending
from its height, hanging about half way down behind, or crossed over and
sticking out at the sides, making it as wide as possible; I have seen
some that could not be less than a foot and a half wide, and about a
foot high; but some are even larger than this, extravagant as the
description appears. The pyramidal Cauchoise caps are as high, it is
true, or even higher, but there is an approach to grace in them, while
those of Poitou are hideous as to form, even when the materials are
light; those of the commonest sort are of coarse linen or cotton, and
reach the very acme of ugliness.

One of the great articles of commerce here is the preparation of chamois
leather, which is said to be brought to great perfection; but, perhaps,
like the cutlery so celebrated in so many towns, and boasted of as
_equal to the English_, this famous production might be looked upon by
an English tradesman as mere "leather and prunella."

There is an attempt at a _passage_ here--the great ambition of country
towns which think to rival Paris; but, as usual, it appears to be a
failure, the shops looking common-place and shabby, and the place
deserted and dismal. The public library is good, and there are several
handsome public buildings; the churches are without interest, except one
portal of Notre Dame, where we observed some mutilated, but very
beautiful, twisted columns, whose wreaths were continued round a pointed
arch in a manner I never recollect to have seen before, and which seems
to indicate that the church must once have been extremely elaborate in
its ornament.

Niort was a great object of contention during the wars of the Black
Prince. The famous Duguesclin is said to have taken the town by
stratagem from the English.

At the siege of Chisey, where Duguesclin had been successful, he had
killed all the English garrison; and, taking their tunics, had clothed
his own people in them, over their armour: so that, when those of Niort
saw his party approaching, and heard them cry, "St. George!" they
thought their friends were returning victors, and readily opened their
gates; when they were fatally undeceived; being all taken or put to the
sword.

Here Duguesclin, and his fortunate band, remained for four days;
reposing and refreshing themselves. After which they rode forth to
Lusignan: where they found the castle empty; all the garrison having
abandoned it as soon as the news of the taking of Chisey reached them.
The French, therefore, without trouble, took possession of "this fine
and strong castle," and then continued their way to that of
Chatel-Acart, held by the Dame de Plainmartin, for her husband Guichart
d'Angle, who was prisoner in Spain.

When the lady found, says Froissart, that the constable Duguesclin was
come to make war upon her, she sent a herald to him, desiring to be
allowed a safe conduct, that she might speak with him in his tent. He
granted her request; and the lady accordingly came to where he was
encamped in the field. Then she entreated him to give her permission
that she might go safely to Poitiers, and have audience of the Duke de
Berry. Duguesclin would not deny her, for the love of her husband,
Guichart; and, giving her assurance that her lands and castle should be
respected during her absence, she departed, and he directed his troops
to march on Mortemer.

Such good speed did the lady of Plainmartin make, that she soon arrived
in Poitiers; where she found the Duke de Berry. He received her very
graciously, and spoke very courteously to her, as was his wont. The lady
would fain have cast herself on her knees before him; but he prevented
her. She then said: "My lord, you know that I am a lone woman, without
power or defence, and the widow of a living husband, if it so pleases
God; for my lord Guichart is prisoner in Spain, and in the danger of the
king of that country. I therefore supplicate you, that, during the
enforced absence of my husband, you will grant that my castle, lands,
myself, my possessions, and my people, shall be left at peace; we
engaging to make no war on any, if they do not make war on us."

The Duke de Berry made no hesitation in granting the prayer of the lady;
for, although Messire Guichart d'Angle, her husband, was a good and
true Englishman, yet was he by no means hated by the French. He,
therefore, delivered letters to her, with guarantee of surety; with
which she was fully satisfied and much comforted. She then hastened back
to her castle, and sent the orders to the constable, who received them
with much willingness and joy. He was then before the castle of
Mortemer; the lady of which at once yielded it to him, out of dread, and
placed herself in obedience to the king of France, together with all her
lands and the castle of Dienne.

We left Niort at day-break and continued our way through a very
cultivated and rich country, admirably laid out, neatly enclosed, and
with a great extent of very carefully-pruned vines, which had here lost
the grace which distinguishes them in the neighbourhood of the Loire,
where they are allowed to hang in festoons, and grow to a reasonable
height. Here they are kept low, and seem attended to with care. The road
is level, but the scenes pleasing and the air fine; though, as you
advance in the ancient Aunis, towards the sea, low grounds, which have
been marshes, extend to a considerable distance. As we approached La
Rochelle this was very apparent; but still all looked rich and
agreeable, and the idea of soon feeling the sea-breeze was so comforting
that our spirits were greatly raised; and when on a sudden a broad
glare, at a distance, of bright sunshine on an expanse of water broke
on our view, we were quite in ecstasies. We could distinguish white
sails, and towers, and spires, on the shore; and all the memories of the
Protestant town came crowding on our minds, as we turned every windmill
we saw into an ancient tower formerly defended by a brave Huguenot
against a host of besiegers. There are no want of these defences round
La Rochelle; and every windmill has a most warlike aspect, as they are
all built in the form of round towers, of considerable strength;
probably owing to the necessity of making them strong enough to resist
the gales which frequently prevail.



CHAPTER X.

     LA ROCHELLE--LES TROIS CHANDELIERS--OYSTERS--BATHING
     ESTABLISHMENT--GAIETY--MILITARY DISCIPLINE--CURIOUS ARCADES--STORY
     OF AUFFRÉDY.


ON arriving at La Rochelle, early in a bright morning at the beginning
of September, we found the town so full that we had immediately to
institute a search for an hotel, as that at which we stopped had no
accommodation. We judged so before we alighted from the _coupé_, by the
air of indifference visible on the face of every waiter and
chambermaid, to whom our arrival seemed a matter of pity, rather than
congratulation. After seeking through the greatest part of the town, we
were conducted to a curious-looking street, from the roofs of almost
every house in which projected grinning _gargouilles_, whose grotesque
faces peeped inquisitively forth from the exalted position which they
had maintained for several centuries; and, glaring in inviting grandeur,
swung aloft a board on which was depicted three golden candlesticks. At
Les Trois Chandeliers, accordingly, we applied, and found admission; the
slovenly, but good-humoured landlady bestirring herself instantly to get
ready the only room she had vacant. She was assisted in her various
arrangements, or rather attended, by a sulky-looking girl with a hideous
square cap; who stood by while her mistress heaped mattress upon
mattress, and bustled about with zealous noise and clatter. She gave us
to understand that certain of her neighbours were apt to give themselves
airs, and accept or refuse visitors as their caprice dictated; but, for
her part, she had no pride, and never acted in so unkind a manner: she
always attended to everything herself; so that every one was satisfied
in her house, and the Trois Chandeliers maintained its reputation of a
century, during which time it had always been kept by one of the family.
Considering these facts, the state of the entrance and kitchen, through
which, as is usual in France, visitors must pass to arrive at the
_salon_, somewhat surprised us. The wide, yawning, black gulf, down
which we had dived from the street, reminded us strongly of the entrance
of the Arènes, at Poitiers, which gave passage to the beasts about to
combat: it was a low, vaulted passage, encumbered with waggons and
diligences and wheelbarrows, with no light but what it gained from the
street and a murky court beyond; it was paved with uneven stones,
between which were spaces filled with mud; dogs and ducks sported along
the gutter in the centre, following which, you arrived at some dirty
steps leading to the kitchen, or, if you preferred a longer stroll
amidst the shades, you might arrive at a low door which led through
another court to the dining-room, which was a handsome apartment adorned
with statues and crimson-and-white draperies, with a flower-garden
opening from it. This room we were not sorry to enter, lured by the
promise of some of the finest oysters in Europe. We had heard their
eulogium before from a very talkative artist of Poitiers, who described
them as of enormous, nay incredible, size, but delicate as _natives_: we
were, therefore, surprised to see perfect miniatures, not larger than a
shilling, very well-flavoured, but _unfed_. They form the _délices_ of
all this part of the world, at this season, and are eagerly sought for
from hence to the furthest navigable point of the Garonne.

We were particularly fortunate in the weather, which was bright, warm,
and inspiriting; and when we reached the walk which leads to the baths,
we were in raptures with the whole scene which presented itself. The
fine broad sea, smooth and green, lay shining in the sun, without a
ripple to disturb its serenity; and for about a quarter of a mile along
its margin extended one of the most beautiful promenades I ever beheld.
The first part of it is planted with small young trees, on each side of
a good road, which extends between verdant plains where _glacis_ are
thrown up. This leads to the great walk; a thick grove of magnificent
trees, shading a very wide alley of turf of _English_ richness. Here and
there are placed seats, and all is kept with the greatest neatness. The
establishment of the baths is ornamental, and pretty, and very
extensive. About half way up this promenade, next the sea, grounds laid
out with taste, and affording shade and pastime in their compartments,
surround the building. A Chinese pagoda, a Grecian temple, numerous
arbours and seats are there for strollers; and swings and see-saws for
the exercise of youthful bathers after their dips. Altogether, it is the
most charming place of the kind I ever saw: the warm baths are as good
as possible, and the arrangement of those in the sea are much better
than at Dieppe, Havre, or Granville. There is a row of little pavilions
on the edge of the sea, where bathers undress; and a paved way leads
them to an enclosed space where are numerous poles fixed, with ropes
reaching from one to the other at different depths. The bathers hold by
these ropes: and a large company can thus assemble in the water
together, and take as much of the sea as they please, unaccompanied by
guides; but, if they are timid, there are _men_ ready to attend and
protect them. The costume is a tunic and trowsers of cloth or stuff,
with a large handkerchief over the head. Hour after hour will the
adventurous bathers continue in the water; dancing, singing, and
talking, while the advancing waters dash, splash, and foam all round
them, exciting peals of laughter and screams of delight.

Separated by a high partition, and at a little distance, overlooked,
however, by the strollers in the gardens above, is the gentlemen's
compartment. These bathers usually run along a high platform,
considerably raised, and leap into the sea beneath them; diving down,
and re-appearing, much to the amusement of each other; while a guide
sits on a floating platform near, ready to lend assistance, or give
instruction in natation, if required.

The season, we understood, had been particularly brilliant this year,
and was scarcely yet over; though the ball-room and reading-rooms were
less crowded than a few weeks before, when we were told that all that
was gay and splendid in France _et l'Etranger_ was to be seen beneath
the striped canopies of the sea-baths of La Rochelle. Certainly a more
enjoyable place cannot be found anywhere; and I was not surprised that
anything so rare and really comfortable and agreeable should meet with
success. With any of the brilliant _toilettes_ which were described to
me I did not, however, meet; as all the bathers I saw were in cloaks and
slouch bonnets, and the company we met appeared by no means
distinguished; peasants forming a great proportion. However, the season
was nearly over, and one could not expect to see the _élégans_ so late;
but I have always observed that the accounts I have heard of the
brilliancy of French fashionable meetings are by no means borne out by
the reality. At Néris, at the Monts Dores, and other places, I have been
equally disappointed on seeing the manner of French living at
watering-places; but it always appears to me that, except in Paris,
there is no attempt at out-of-door style or gaiety anywhere. A solitary
equipage, filled with children, met us every day in our walks, and a
hired barouche, for the use of the baths, toiled backwards and forwards,
hour after hour; but, except these, we saw no carriages at all, and the
walkers were principally tradespeople in smart caps and shawls. One
morning, indeed, we were surprised by the sound of musical strains and
the appearance of an officer or two on horseback, followed by a
regiment, on their way to exercise; every man of one company was singing
at the top of his voice, joined by the officer who marched in front, and
who kept beating time, a very merry song and chorus, which we stopped to
listen to, _only a moment_, as the words were not quite so much to be
admired as the air. This seemed to us a strange, and not very decorous
scene, and was so little in accordance with our ideas of propriety or
good taste that we turned away in disgust. However, since it is the
custom for officers and men in France to sit together in _cafés_,
playing at dominos, drinking wine and beer, and putting no restraint
upon their conversation, or acknowledging any superiority, there was
nothing extraordinary in the familiarity I had witnessed. How this sort
of association can be relished by officers of gentle breeding I cannot
conceive; and many of them must be so, though a great part are men who,
having risen from the ranks, have not been accustomed to more refined
companionship. If it be true that

    "Strict restraint, once broken, ever balks
     Conquest and fame,"

and that it is dangerous for those under command to

                                            "----Swerve
    From law, however stern, which tends their strength to nerve,"

it is difficult to comprehend how the French army is regulated.

The next company which followed the vocal party, came hurrying along,
helter-skelter, as if no drilling had ever been thought necessary in
their military education; but, while we were remarking the "admired
disorder" of their march, we heard their commanding officer's voice loud
in reprobation; we could scarcely help comparing the whole scene to that
which a militia regiment might present in some country town in England:
"What are you all about?" cried the commander; "Eh, mon Dieu! One would
say it was a flock of sheep instead of a party of soldiers!" This
admonition brought them into some order, and they advanced a little less
irregularly, but still in as slovenly a manner as could well be
conceived. If the French were not known to be good soldiers, one would
think this laxity of discipline little likely to make them so; but they
are, like French servants, good enough in their way, though careless in
the extreme, and too tenacious to be spoken to.

La Rochelle is a more remarkable town, from the characteristic features
it exhibits, than any we had met with since we set out on our tour.
Although there is a great deal new in the streets and outskirts, yet
much that originally existed remains. For instance, almost the whole
centre of the town is built in the same manner: namely, in arcades.
These arcades project from the ground-floors, are more or less high and
broad, and more or less well paved; but they run along uninterruptedly,
forming a shelter from sun or rain, as it may happen, and extending
along the whole length of the streets on each side. They are generally
of stone, with heavy pillars and circular arches, quite without grace or
beauty, but peculiar, and giving an Oriental character to the place. In
some streets arcades, higher and wider, have been newly erected, which
are tolerably ornamental; but the more antique they are, the lower,
narrower, and closer. The Rochellois are very proud of their arcades,
boasting that they are, by their means, never kept prisoners or annoyed
by either rain or sun; they forget that these heavy conveniences
completely exclude the light in winter from the lower part of their
houses, and, confining the air, must make the town damp and unwholesome.

When we first walked along beneath these awnings we found it extremely
difficult to distinguish one street from another, and were continually
losing ourselves, as they branch off in all directions, with no change
of aspect to distinguish them:

                     "Each alley has a brother,
    And half the _covered way_ reflects the other,"

but we got used to them by degrees. There is a sort of _Palais Royal_
effect in the pretty shops under the neatest piazzas; and from the
beautiful wooded square, the Place d'Armes, the range which forms one
side looks remarkably well. This Place is peculiarly fine and
agreeable; it was formed on the sites of the ancient château, demolished
in 1590, of the chapel of St. Anne and its cemetery, of the grand
Protestant temple, and the old Hôtel des Monnaies; it, therefore,
occupies a large space, and is planted on two sides with fine trees,
called the _Bois d' Amourettes_, and closed on the fourth by the
cathedral; part of the ramparts of the town, open towards the sea, are
behind, and thus a good air is introduced into the square. On moon-light
nights it is a charming promenade; for the effects of the sky here are
admirable: a range of handsome _cafés_ extends along one part, whose
lights, gleaming between the trees, have a lively appearance, and the
groups of lounging citizens seated under the shades give a life to the
scene which the rest of the town does not possess. La Rochelle is,
however, infinitely less dull than the generality of French towns; and
the quays and shipping, and the constantly-changing sea, prevent it from
wearing the sad aspect which distinguishes France in her country places.
Notwithstanding all that travellers are in the habit of saying about the
liveliness of France, I never can cease to think that it is a dull
country; for, except Paris in its season, there is no movement, no
activity, no bustle, in its towns, save, now and then, the confusion of
market-days. Why England is considered _triste_, either in town or
country, I cannot imagine: the brilliancy of its shops alone, compared
to the little dark, dingy cells always met with abroad, even in the most
fashionable quarters, might rescue our much-maligned country from the
reproach which does not belong to it.

The cathedral of La Rochelle is a modern building; still unfinished, and
possessing no interest: it is very vast, for it stands where once stood
the antique church--older than the town itself--of Notre Dame de
Cougnes. Here and there, outside, a projecting buttress and part of an
arch, built up, betrays its venerable origin; but, besides this, nothing
remains of the original foundation.

At the back of the cathedral we remarked, as we passed through the
street, a very large building, with a great many windows, above the
portal of which were inscribed the words, _Hôpital M. Auffrédy_. We were
puzzled to make out what this could mean, as the hospital was so large
and important that it scarcely would appear to be the institution of a
private person. Our inquiries gained us no information, and we continued
to pass and repass still wondering who this _Monsieur Auffrédy_ could be
whose name was so conspicuous. When, at length, I found how much
interest attached to this place I reproached myself that I should have
gone near it without reverence, or have carelessly named its institutor;
whose romantic story is as follows, as near as I have been able to
gather it:


STORY OF ALEXANDER AUFFRÉDY.

At the time when the beautiful and wealthy, the admired and
accomplished, heiress of Aquitaine, presided over her courts of Love,
now in one city of her extensive dominions, now in another, delighting
and astonishing the whole troubadour world with her liberality, her
taste, her learning, grace, and gaiety, lived, in the city of La
Rochelle, a rich merchant, named Alexander Auffrédy, young, handsome,
esteemed and envied. His generosity and wealth, added to his personal
attractions, made him an object of observation and remark, and it was
not long before his name reached the ears of Queen Elionore, who, always
desirous to surround herself with all that was gay, brilliant, and
distinguished, sent an invitation, or rather a command, to the young
merchant to appear at her Court at Poitiers.

Auffrédy went; and but a short time elapsed before he became the
favourite of that brilliant circle where beauty and genius reigned
triumphant; for it was discovered that his talent for music was of the
highest order; his voice, in singing, of rare perfection; his verses
full of grace and fire, his manners equal to those of the most finished
courtier; and his judgment in the weighty decisions of the courts of
Love, sound and good. Even the poets and musicians, who saw him
distinguished for the time above themselves, felt little envy towards
him, since they shared his profuse liberality, and were encouraged by
his generous admiration, loudly expressed. He was passionately attached
to literature, and had so correct a taste that whatever he admired was
the best in its kind, and his criticisms were so judicious that not a
doubt could remain on the minds of any who listened to his opinion; yet
he was never harsh, and, wherever it was possible, showed indulgence; it
was only to the presuming and superficial that he was severe; and
amongst that class he was by no means beloved; for, after his expressed
contempt and censure had laid open to view the faults of many
compositions, whose false glare had attracted praise, their authors sunk
at once into the obscurity which they deserved.

His chief friends were Bernard de Ventadour, whose lays, mysteriously
addressed to _Bel Viser_ and _Conort_, had gained him so much fame;
Rudel, the enthusiast, who devoted his life to an imaginary passion;
Adhemar and Rambaud d'Aurenge, whose songs were some of the sweetest of
their time; and Pierre Rogiers, who sighed his soul away for "Tort
n'avetz;" and, amongst them all, his poems were held in the greatest
esteem. The beautiful and coquettish mistress of the revels was not
insensible to his qualities, and was anxious to appropriate him to
herself; greedy of praise, and ever desirous of admiration, she used
every art to enthral him, and to render the passion real, which it was
the fashion at her Court to feign, towards herself; but, though
flattered and delighted at the preference shown him by her whom all were
trying to please, it was not towards the Queen that Auffrédy turned the
aspirations of his soul. There was at Court a young and beautiful girl,
the orphan of a knight who had fallen in the holy wars, and who was
under the guardianship of her uncle, the Baron de Montluçon; she was as
amiable in disposition as lovely in person. Auffrédy soon found that his
liberty was gone while he gazed upon her, but his modesty prevented his
attempting to declare his passion, though in his lays he took occasion
to express all the feelings he experienced, and he saw with delight, not
only that the charming Beatrix listened with pleased attention when he
sung, but was even moved to tears when he uttered the lamentations of an
unhappy lover.

Upon one occasion he sang a lay which Queen Elionore imagined was
inspired by herself; but which, in reality, he intended should convey to
Beatrix his timid passion; it was as follows--in the style of the
Eastern poets, then so much imitated and admired:--


                LAY.

    "I only beg a smile from thee
      For all this world of tenderness;
    I let no eye my weakness see,
      To none my hopes or fears express;
    I never speak thy praises now,
    My tongue is mute, and cold my brow.

    "Even like that fabled bird am I
      Who loves the radiant orb of night,
    Sings on in hopeless melody
      And feeds upon her beams of light;
    But never does the planet deign
    To pity his unceasing pain."

As he sung he would observe the eyes of Beatrix fixed on him with a
tender expression; but their meaning was still obscure; for her thoughts
appeared pre-occupied, and it might be more the sentiment than the
author which attracted her.

Just at this time he was suddenly astounded by the information, that the
uncle of her he loved had announced his intention of marrying her to a
man of noble lineage and great wealth, and Auffrédy woke from his dream
of happiness at once. His strains were now all gloom and sadness, and
Elionore heard, with something like astonishment, the melancholy and
despairing lays, to which alone he tuned the harp that all delighted to
hear. Beatrix, too, whose wishes had not been consulted on a subject so
important to herself, appeared quite changed from the tune the tidings
first reached her; and her pale cheek and starting tears proved too
plainly her aversion to the proposed union. Still did she linger near
when Auffrédy sung; and when, in a passion of sorrow, he poured forth
the lay here given, Beatrix betrayed an emotion for which he feared to
account.

                   LAY.

    "Like that fair tree whose tender boughs
      Wave in the sunshine green and bright,
    Nor bird nor insect e'er allows
      To seek its shelter morn or night,
    My heart was young, and fresh, and free,
      And near it came nor care nor pain;
    But now, like that same tender tree,
      When once rude hands its fruit profane,
    Ill-omen'd birds and shapes of ill
    Troop to its branches, crowding still,--
    And sorrows never known till now
    Have cast their shadows on my brow:
    A ruin is my heart become
    Where brooding sadness finds a home;
    See--those bright leaves fall, one by one,
    And I--my latest hopes are gone!"

This was the last time he had ever an opportunity of pouring forth his
feelings in the presence of Beatrix; for she disappeared suddenly from
Court, and, to the amazement of all, it was announced by her uncle, that
her vocation for a religious life had been so decidedly manifested, that
he had yielded to her entreaties, and permitted her to enter a convent.

This news made a strange impression on the mind of Auffrédy,--could it
be possible, after all, that she loved him? yet, he argued, even if it
were so, it was evident that her pride of birth had overcome her
preference, and she had sacrificed the feelings of her heart rather
than descend to be the bride of a merchant, who, though wealthy beyond
all the nobles of the land, was yet no match for one born in her exalted
rank. From that time the troubadour sang no more; and as the Queen found
he had no longer incense to lay on her shrine, her preference for him
waned away, and he found that the permission he asked, to absent himself
from her Court was not withheld. "Poor Auffrédy," said Elionore,
somewhat contemptuously, as he departed; "he has seen a wolf and has
lost the use of speech; let him go, we have many a young poet who can
well replace him."

The admired favourite of a capricious beauty accordingly returned to La
Rochelle, changed in heart and depressed in spirits. "And this, then,"
he mused, "is the reward which the world offers to genius, taste, truth,
and feeling! and this is all the value set on qualities which excite
admiration, enthusiasm, rapture!--a brief season suffices to weary the
most zealous and devoted--a few months, and that which was deemed wit
and talent, and wisdom and grace, is looked upon as flat, tame, and
unworthy attention. As long as vanity is pleased, and novelty excites
new ideas, the poet is welcomed and followed; but, let sadness or sorrow
overtake him, of all his admirers not one friend remains! How childish
is the thirst for such trivial fame as that a poet gains! It is like the
pursuit of the gossamer, which the least breath sweeps away. I will
sing no more. I will forget the brilliant scenes that have bewildered me
too long; but to what do I now return? Alas! I have no longer a relish
for that which interested me before--to what end do I seek to gain
wealth? for whom should I hoard treasure? I shall in future take no
interest in my successes; all appears a blank to me, and my existence a
cold, monotonous state of being. These heaps of gold that fill my
coffers are worthless in my eyes; these crowding sails that return to
harbour, bringing me ceaseless wealth, are fraught only with care. Why
was I born rich, since I must live alone and unblest!"

Still he could not help, in spite of his professions of indifference,
being flattered by the manner in which his return to his native town was
celebrated. The bells of the churches sounded to welcome him, the young
girls of the villages round, came out, in their holiday costumes, to
greet him on his way, they strewed flowers in his path and sang verses
in his praise: the people of La Rochelle even went so far as to offer
prayers at the shrine of the Virgin, to thank Heaven for restoring to
them so honoured and beloved a citizen. Full of gratitude for all this
kindness and affection, Auffrédy bestowed liberal presents upon all: he
presented dowers to several of the young maidens who were foremost in
doing him honour: he gave large sums to the town, to be laid out in
charities and in erecting new buildings, and he sent donations to the
churches and convents. His mind was calmed, and his heart touched when
he saw in what esteem he was held. "It is something yet," said he, "to
gain the good-will of one's fellow-men, and to witness their attachment.
Wealth is certainly a blessing, since it enables one to show gratitude."

About this period great preparations were being made for an expedition
to the Holy Land, which was to be led by young Prince Henry, the heir of
Aquitaine, Normandy, and England; and all the lords and knights of the
three countries vied with each other in splendid equipments. They
borrowed money in all directions, and, amongst those who were capable of
lending, it was not likely that the rich merchant of La Rochelle would
be forgotten. On the contrary, from numerous quarters came applications
for assistance; even Queen Elionore condescended to request that he
would contribute to the splendour of those who should accompany her son,
and the generous and ever ready hand of Auffrédy was employed from
morning till night, in lending and giving to those whose means did not
keep pace with their desires. Still, therefore, did he repeat to himself
that wealth had its advantages, as he cheerfully dispensed his benefits
on all sides. At length he was fairly obliged to desist, for his
liberality had brought him to the end of his stores, and he could not
but smile, as he remarked to a friend that, if he did not expect in a
few weeks the return of all his vessels which were trading in the East,
and regularly brought back increased wealth at every voyage, he should
be a poor man. "I have nothing left now," said he, "but my plate and
jewels, and the furniture of my house; and, should my fleet delay, I
will sell all rather than a single knight should be kept from joining
the glorious expedition."

As if he had foreseen the event, it so happened: although there were no
storms to prevent it, the return of the expected vessels was indeed
delayed, and, fresh and pressing applications pouring in upon him,
Auffrédy found himself actually under the necessity of disposing of his
personal possessions, in order to advance the ready-money required.

He was now in a novel position, without money altogether, and he had
sold all he possessed of land and houses. "It matters not," said he to
the friend at whose house he was staying, at his earnest and
affectionate entreaty; "in a day or two I shall have more than I ever
yet could call my own; for my last advices, brought by a pilgrim from
the country of Manchou Khan, tell me, that all my ventures have been
successful, and that this time my faithful agent, Herbert de Burgh, has
excelled himself in ability."

"And even should it not be so," said his friend, "think you that the
grateful town of La Rochelle would not be proud to support for years,
nay, for ever, if need were, the benefactor to whom every citizen is
more or less indebted?"

"I doubt it not," returned the merchant, "and it would be even a
gratification to me to be reduced to poverty, which such generous
friends would relieve."

But a great and most unexpected change was about to take place in the
fortunes of Auffrédy: a change which neither he nor his friends had ever
contemplated, and which put quite a different face upon everything. The
fleet from the East did not arrive. Day after day, week after week,
month after month, the first, the second, year had passed, and the chain
at the harbour of La Rochelle was not loosened to give passage to his
vessels. Hope had slowly faded, expectation declined, and, at length,
expired,--and the powerful, wealthy, and beloved Auffrédy was a beggar.

Where was he at the expiration of the second year? What friend's mansion
did he still honour with his presence, and which of his admirers was
made happy by seeing him partake of his hospitality? Who, of all those
he had rescued from poverty, danger, and affliction, was so blest as to
show how strong the tide of gratitude swelled in their hearts? Auffrédy
was heard of no more! His native town had forgotten his name: to speak
of him was interdicted; he was a reproach to La Rochelle, a disgrace to
the city whom his misfortune left without a merchant able to assist
monarchs and fit out armies. Every individual felt injured, every one
resented his affront. Not a door but was closed against the bankrupt
spendthrift--the deceiver who spoke of wealth which was but a vision,
who encouraged hopes which had no foundation. Vessel after vessel
arrived from different quarters, but none had met with Herbert de Burgh
or his charge; it was doubtful if he had ever even sailed: it was
possible, nay probable, indeed it soon was received as a certainty, that
the fleet which was talked of had no existence but in the crazed
imagination of a profuse dreamer, who fancied argosies and made the
world believe he possessed them. It was enough that the drama was ended,
and no one cared now, after so long a time, to ask what was become of
the principal actor.

One bright summer morning, when the sun shone with dazzling lustre on
the dancing waves outside the harbour of La Rochelle, and, inside, the
water was as calm as glass, a little fishing-boat came gliding along,
her red sail gleaming in the light. She was guided by a single sailor--a
young man whose remarkably handsome face and figure was little set off
by his rough habiliments, which were of the meanest kind; indeed, his
boat and all belonging to it indicated little wealth, and seemed to
have seen, like himself, much service; but there was a cheerful sparkle
in his speaking eye which spoke of content and happiness; and, as he
leaped on shore and prepared to unload his little cargo of fish, his
animated manner and quick and ready movements showed that, if he were
poor, he gained enough by his industry to support himself, and cared for
nothing but the present moment, without concerning himself for the
future. He had arrived but a few minutes when a slight woman, wrapped in
a long black cloak, with the peaked hood tightly drawn over her head and
quite concealing her face, emerged from a neighbouring street, and,
bounding forward, stood by the side of the young man, who, with a joyful
exclamation, caught her in his arms, and embraced her tenderly. Together
they collected the fish, which filled his boat, into baskets, and placed
them on the edge of the path where frequenters of the markets must pass,
and before long their little stock was sold, and they were in possession
of a small sum of money, which the young fisherman put into his purse
with an air of satisfaction, as, fastening his boat to the shore, and
gathering up his baskets, he gave his arm to the girl, who apparently
was his wife, and they left the quay. Just as they were entering the
small narrow Rue de la Vache, they observed, standing under an archway,
a man, of ragged and miserable appearance, who, approaching, offered to
be the bearer of their baskets to their home; he spoke in a low, hollow
voice, and said, "Employ me: it will be a charity; I have not tasted
bread these two days." Although the young couple, linked arm in arm,
close together, and looking in each other's eyes, were talking in gay,
cheerful accents, and, apparently, exclusively occupied with each other,
yet there was something so sad, so desolate, in the tone of the poor
man's voice who addressed them, that they both stopped and turned
towards him. "Good friend," said the young man, "you seem in great
straits; the blessed Virgin knows I am little able to help you; but take
the baskets my wife is carrying, though you look but ill able to bear
them. We live hard by, and we have a morsel of bread to give you, if you
will." The man made no reply, but took the burthen from the young woman
and followed the merry pair, who resumed their talk and their cheerful
laugh as they went on. "I need not go out again for at least three
days," said the husband, "since this venture has been so lucky; you see
how well we can live, and how happy one can be, after all, on nothing."
"Yes," answered the wife; "but, at least, while the weather is so fine,
I see no reason why I should be left at home. I could be so useful in
the boat, and it would make me so happy. I know when it blows hard, it
is useless to ask you, but now"--"Well, you shall go, dearest, next
time, if this lasts," was the answer; "what a good sailor you will
make, as well as a housekeeper!" They both laughed, and at this moment
they reached the door of a very humble dwelling, with only just
furniture enough to prevent its being called empty; but they stepped
into it, and, the porter placing the baskets on the floor, they sat down
and invited him to do the same, while they shared with him a cake and
some water, which was already placed on a table.

The poor man, after eating a morsel, appeared suddenly faint, and,
uttering a deep sigh, fell on the ground motionless: they raised him up,
and, with the utmost kindness, endeavoured to restore him: his worn and
haggard countenance told of long and hard suffering; his white hair,
that hung in matted locks on his shoulders, seemed blanched by misery,
not age; for he appeared a young man, and his emaciated hands were white
and more delicate than is usual in his station. After some time he
recovered a little, and, thanking them for their help, attempted to rise
and leave the house; but both, moved with compassion, insisted on his
lying down on their only bed and taking some repose. "You are ill," said
the husband, "and have been too long without food--rest quiet--we will
get you some more suitable nourishment, and when you are better, we will
hear of your leaving us."

From that day the sick man remained a guest with these poor people,
till, his illness increasing, he begged they would procure him
admittance into some hospital, if possible, that he might cease to be a
burthen on their benevolence: finding their means running very short,
owing to the uncertain success of the fisherman's trade, they consented
to attempt getting him admitted to the hospital established by the monks
of St. Julien, who kindly received the unfortunate man: but, not content
with doing this, it was agreed between the young couple that, during the
husband's absence, the wife should be his nurse, and attend to him while
in the asylum which was afforded him. For several weeks he lay,
apparently, at the point of death; but after that time began to recover,
and, though weak and emaciated, appeared to have escaped danger. As soon
as he was sufficiently recovered to attempt it, he resumed the
occupation of porter on the quay, which his sickness had interrupted,
and, as he grew daily in strength and health, he was able to gain a
little, which he insisted on adding to the small stock of the charitable
persons who had saved his life by their kindness. Sometimes he
accompanied the husband on his expeditions, and was serviceable to him
in his perilous ventures, for his nautical knowledge seemed great, and
his skill and readiness made themselves apparent. Though full of
gratitude in all his actions, he never expressed in words the feelings
their conduct naturally inspired: he was silent and thoughtful, and
seemed labouring under some overwhelming grief which no consolations
could soften: he never spoke of any person in the town, nor seemed to
know anything belonging to it, by which they judged he was a stranger;
but, as he evidently did not desire to be communicative, they never
urged him with questions, nor required to be informed of his former
life. It sufficed to them that he was unfortunate, and that they had
ameliorated his condition, and all three lived together, happy and
content, without knowing any circumstances of each other's previous
condition.

Several months passed in this manner, winters and summers fled away, and
the returning seasons found them still poor, still labouring, and still
content. The porter improved, not only in strength, but in spirits; for
he felt that he was able to be of service to those who had befriended
him, and the gloom which chained his tongue and clouded his brow, wore,
in a great degree, away. They had no friends in the town, nor sought for
acquaintances; the young woman always concealed her face when she went
out, which she never did, but to meet her husband, or to buy necessaries
for their simple household. His boat had been replaced by one larger and
more commodious, and his gains were greater; by degrees their
circumstances improved, and, as they sat by their fireside, they were
accustomed to say that they were rich enough, and desired nothing more.

Although the fisherman and his now constant companion had been out in
all weathers, they had never yet encountered any dangerous storms, and
the wife was now quite tranquil, from the constant habit of seeing them
return safely, and complaining little. One day, in early spring, they
had set out with a clear sky and fair wind, and had had one of the most
fortunate voyages of any they had yet made on the Breton coast, when,
just as they were within sight of the Point de Ray, which raises its
bare and jagged head three hundred feet above the noisy waves which
brawl at its base, an ominous cloud suddenly overspread the heavens, and
the symptoms of a coming storm were but too apparent. With silent awe
the solitary mariners beheld, sailing heavily along the darkening sky,
two birds, of sable plumage, whose flight seemed directed towards the
fatal Baie des Trépassés, so often the grave of the adventurous seaman.
"Alas!" said the young husband, as he marked their flight, "those birds
bode no good: they are the souls of King Grallon and his daughter, who
appear always before a storm; if we escape the perils of the Isle de
Sein, we shall be indeed fortunate."

"Is this coast, then, indeed, so dangerous?" asked the porter.

"It is the abode of spirits," answered the young man; "and was the
cradle of Merdynn the Bard; the city where he lived, is engulphed below
those black rocks yonder, whose spires, like those of churches, are
only visible when destruction threatens those who are found on the
coast. We have, hitherto, been fortunate in all our undertakings; but
there must come an evil day, which generally arrives when one is least
prepared."

"It is too true," said his companion; "for me, I thought all my
misfortunes were past, and death alone could be the ill left to reach
me. I have, of late, felt it _would_ be an ill since I have lived again
in you and yours--before that time, I prayed for it in vain."

A furious gust of wind at this instant swept past them, their frail
vessel shook in every timber, and, mounting on a sweeping wave that came
howling along, was sent forward with frightful impetuosity to a great
distance; when, as if the angry billow disdained its weight, it was
precipitated into a gulf of foam which dashed above the sunken rocks
whose points received it. "Oh, Beatrix!" exclaimed the young fisherman;
"it is all over; we shall meet no more; our fate has overtaken us at
last! My friend," he added, grasping the arm of his companion; "if you
survive, promise to protect her. We have suffered much, and borne our
fortune as we could. I have brought this wretchedness upon her by my
love; but neither she nor I have ever repented the lot we chose. She
will tell you our story, and you will continue to comfort and support
her when I am no more."

"Be not cast down," answered his friend; as, buffeted by the storm, they
clung together to the creaking mast; "I know your story already, and
have known it from the first. You are the troubadour, Anselm, once the
ornament of the Court of Elionore, and Beatrix de Montluçon is your
devoted wife. She was said to have died in the convent of St. Blaise,
and you to have perished in the Holy Land."

The shrieking of the wind, and the roaring of the awakened thunder,
drowned the reply of the young man: a crash, a shock, and their boat was
split into several parts; they each clung to a piece of wreck, and used
every effort to overcome the fury of the elements. Anselm's hold,
however, was suddenly loosened by the falling of the mast upon his arm,
and his friend saw him no more for several instants; he re-appeared,
however, and a returning wave dashed him on a rock, which the porter
reaching by a spring, he caught him by the hand and dragged him to the
summit. There they stood clasping each other, and expecting every moment
to be washed off by the boiling surge. For some time they, nevertheless,
kept their stand, and, though not a vestige of their boat was to be
seen, they still lived and still hoped, for their hopes rose with the
danger, and, as they offered up their fervent prayers to the Mother of
mercy, they felt not altogether abandoned. All night were they in this
perilous position, hearing the waters around them howling, and climbing
to reach the spot where, almost by miracle, they were placed. Day broke,
and with morning came a brightened prospect; by degrees the sea sank,
the winds subsided, and all trace of the storm was gone. But their
situation seemed still little better than before; must they not perish
on this barren rock, without food or shelter, if not washed off by the
next tide, which might bring back the sleeping vengeance of the enraged
elements? While they hung exhausted on the perilous edge of the peak,
something in the distance caught their view. It grew more distinct; it
came nearer; and they were aware that a sail was passing: not one,
however, but many; like the glittering of the wings of a flight of
sea-birds, sail after sail hove in sight, and a gallant fleet came full
in view almost as soon as they had descried the first.

Loud and long were their cries; hope gave them fresh force, and their
voices were sent over the now quiet waves, echoing till they reached the
ears of those in the foremost vessel.

The mariners, directed by the continued sound of distress, were able to
steer towards them; and having at length discovered in the specks at a
distance, amidst the waves, the unfortunate friends, a boat was sent
through the sea to the rock, and at once received the rescued pair. They
were taken on board and tended carefully; and, the wind being fair, the
vessels continued their course, which they declared was to La Rochelle,
much to the delight of those they had delivered from death.

The port so much desired was almost reached; and the high towers of the
Château de Vauclair, of the cathedral, and the Grosse Tour de la Chaine,
shone boldly forth against the clear blue sky. The captain walked the
deck, and gazed long and anxiously forth; every now and then tears
started into his eyes, which he brushed away; at length his feelings
appeared to overcome him, and, burying his face in his hands, he sobbed
aloud. The two grateful friends whom he had saved were standing by; he
raised his head and addressed them; "You who are of La Rochelle," said
he, "can you not, perchance, tell me if one whom I left ten years ago in
that town still lives and is well? Fears and forebodings oppress me as I
approach the shore, for it is long since I have heard tidings of him,
and much does it import me to know that he exists, and that my enforced
absence has not caused him misfortune. Is the great merchant, Alexander
Auffrédy, still, as he once was, the ornament and benefactor of his
native town?"

"Alas!" replied the youngest of the shipwrecked men, "you ask after one
long since forgotten in La Rochelle. It is now ten years since he was a
ruined man, and, having nothing more to give to his ungrateful
fellow-citizens, was abandoned to his fate, and has been no more heard
of."

"Unhappy destiny!" cried the captain, turning pale and clasping his
hands; "but he was rich, and his stores were immense; not twice ten
years' absence of his fleets could have caused him to become bankrupt."

"But he gave all he had to the knights bound for the Holy Wars; his
agent, Herbert de Burgh, was either faithless, or the fleets entrusted
to him were lost; he never returned from his last voyage to the East,
and the unfortunate merchant, reduced to penury and driven to despair,
is said to have destroyed himself." As Anselm uttered these words the
captain became convulsed with agony; his face was livid, his eyes
rolled, his teeth were clenched. "Wretch that I am!" cried he; "who am
the cause of all! I wrote to my dear master and told him of my intention
to attempt a new discovery in a new world filled with riches unheard of
before; but I waited not his permission; I set out without his leave,
and, not content with what I had already gained for him, I resolved to
seek more wealth; to what end have I gained it--to what end have I
returned with riches enough to purchase Europe; all of which these
vessels bear, if he, the generous, trusting, kind, indulgent, and
deceived owner is no more? Where shall I hide my head?--where lose my
shame?--and how survive his loss!"

They entered the harbour of La Rochelle; and as the gallant train of
ships swept proudly along, the whole population of the town came forth
until they lined the shores in every direction. It was soon known, by
the ensigns they bore, that they were the long-lost vessels of Auffrédy;
and many a conscious cheek turned pale, and many an eye glared with
amazement as the gorgeous galleys covered the waters.

But the captain was lying prone on the deck; his face was haggard, his
look wild, and he tore his hair in distraction. "My master, my poor
master!" cried he; "I have murdered thee by my mercenary wickedness; oh,
holy Virgin! forgive me, for I am a sinner!" "Look up, Herbert de
Burgh," said a voice beside him; "the Mother of mercy is never appealed
to in vain; she can restore the dead to life; she can, though late,
re-illume joy in the heart; she can revive long-abandoned hope. Look up
and say if in this wretched, wasted, meagre form you can recognise one
whom you loved; one who loved and trusted you with reason; who never
doubted your integrity, and who mourned you lost more than all his
wealth, which you restore!"

Herbert de Burgh looked up and beheld, leaning over him, the form of
Alexander Auffrédy.

A few words sufficed of explanation: joy took the place of despair,
exultation of tears, and the minstrel, Anselm, heard, with feelings of
emotion difficult to describe, that the wretched man whom he had saved
from starvation was the rich merchant of La Rochelle.

Loud and joyous were the notes of triumph which sounded from every
vessel as the news became known; the clarions and trumpets rent the air;
wild exclamation of happiness and congratulation rose above the pealing
music which ushered in the fleet to its haven; and strange was the
revulsion of feeling on shore when the despised porter stepped from his
boat, attended by Herbert de Burgh, who proclaimed him as his master.

Those who had shunned and injured the now wealthy merchant were
astounded; and who were there, amongst the whole population, who had
befriended him, or who deserved aught but contempt and hatred at his
hands? There was _but one_, and she is clasped in her husband's arms,
and sees, in the man she had protected, her lover, whose songs she had
so often sung to her husband!

Auffrédy kept their secret, and to none but himself was it ever known
that the rich man who afterwards became governor of La Rochelle, and his
beautiful wife, supposed to be a native of some foreign land, were the
troubadour, Anselm, and Beatrix of Montluçon.

All the revenge Auffrédy took upon his townsmen was to reject their
offers of friendship, to refuse to take his place amongst them, and to
avoid appearing in their sight. The bulk of his great wealth was
dedicated to the foundation of a hospital for naval and military
patients, and the rest of his days he passed in attendance on the sick.

This is the story of Auffrédy, the great merchant, the Jacques Coeur of
the thirteenth century; and this is the history of the magnificent
Hospital of La Rochelle, which he founded, and which is to be seen at
the present hour, the most conspicuous object in the town.



CHAPTER XI.

     TOWERS--RELIGION--MARIA BELANDELLE--STORM--PROTESTANT
     RETREAT--SOLEMN DINNERS--"HALF-AND-HALF"--GO TO SLEEP!--THE
     BREWERY--GAS ESTABLISHMENT--CHÂTEAU OF LA FONT--THE MYSTERY
     EXPLAINED--TRIUMPH OF SCENERY OVER APPETITE--SLAVE TRADE--CHARLES
     LE BIEN SERVI--LIBERALITY OF LOUIS PHILIPPE--GUITON--HOUSE OP LE
     MAIRE GUITON--THE FLEETS--THE FIGHT--THE MAYOR AND THE GOVERNOR.


IT appears that, from the position of the town of La Rochelle, it was
not difficult for the vessels of an enemy to reach its walls, and even
to penetrate its harbour; the latter was formed outside the town, and
the access to it was by numerous gates. The entrance, nevertheless, was
defended by two towers, which still exist, if not in all their original
strength, yet exhibiting an aspect of defiance, and recalling
recollections of times long past, such as few towns in France can now
do. These towers, which stand, like Sir Bevis and Sir Ascapart, bold and
menacing, and forbidding the entrance to any but a friend, are called La
Tour de la Chaine and La Tour de St. Nicolas.

The first is a rugged, round tower of great height and bulk, apparently
of Roman construction; it was formerly called La Petite Tour de la
Chaine, because it assisted its opposite sister, La Grosse Tour, to
sustain the enormous chain which still, on occasion, closes the mouth of
the harbour. The latter is now called St. Nicolas, and presents a most
extraordinary and _old world_ appearance: higher than the first, its
form is so irregular, that it would be difficult to decide what shape it
could be called: round on one side, square on another, with little
round, square, and octagon turrets rising out of it, the whole mass has
the strangest effect imaginable. Within it is just as mysterious, having
chambers built up and down, and communicating with each other in the
most unexpected manner, so that the whole interior is a perfect
labyrinth of galleries, cells, hiding-places, and rooms on different
stages. This is just the sort of tower which seemed fitted for that
inscrutable tyrant, Louis XI.; who wrote upon one of the windows, with a
diamond, these words: "_O la grande Folie_!" alluding, it was believed,
to what he considered his weakness, in having abandoned Guienne to his
brother.

The fortifications of La Rochelle were very extensive formerly, the
gates numerous. La Porte Malvaut or Mauléon, La Porte Rambaud, du Petit
Comte, de St. Nicolas, de Vérité, des Canards, de Mauclair, de la
Vieille Poterie, de la Grande Rue du Port, de la Petit Rue du Port, de
Pérot and du Pont-Vert, tell their age by their antique names. There
are but few vestiges of any of these gates, except that of Cougnes, of
the ancient Porte Neuve, and la Porte Maubec: but, besides all these,
there are seven still existing. To complete the defences, there were
formerly, _without_ the gates, two forts of great strength, one called
St. Louis and Des Deux Moulins, the ruins of which still exist near the
fine pyramidal Tour de la Lanterne, the most conspicuous of all, now
used as a prison, which raises its head far above every tower and spire
of La Rochelle, and which must show its _pharos_ at a great distance at
sea. The architecture of this tower is remarkable, and its ornaments
very beautiful: the spire that sustains its lantern is like that of a
church adorned with graceful foliage to the top: it dates from 1445, and
has been repaired at different periods. Medals were struck at the time
of the siege, in 1628, which represent this tower, having the following
motto round:--_Lucerna impiorum extinguetur_ (the light of the impious
shall be extinguished). It was at this time that Cardinal Richelieu
caused the great _digue_, as it is called, to be made to the south-west
of the town, with enormous labour and expense, in order to prevent
supplies reaching the Rochellois who held out against him. At low water
this _digue_ is visible, and remains a memorial of the cruelty and
harshness of the tyrant priest who ruled France.

One of the numerous towers which formerly protected the town is called
the Demi-bastion _des Dames_, so named from its having been defended by
the ladies of La Rochelle, whose heroic devotion at the time of the
siege by the duke of Anjou, in 1573, has rendered them famous in
history. They were not less active half a century later, when, for
thirteen months, La Rochelle withstood the united forces of Catholic
France bent on its destruction. The scenes which took place at these
periods have made this interesting town classic ground: there is not a
wall, a tower, or a street, which has not some tale of heroism attached
to it, and some noble trait may be recounted as having occurred in every
quarter.[8]

[Footnote 8: In the Romance of the Queen Mother, I have given a detailed
account, from the most correct chroniclers, of the siege of La Rochelle,
and its defence, in 1573.]

There are no interesting churches in La Rochelle, the wars of religion
having destroyed all the antique buildings of worship, both Catholic and
Protestant. Nothing now remains of the extensive possessions of the
Templars, or the Knights of Malta, who both had _commanderies_ here.

The reformed religion, of which La Rochelle afterwards became the
stronghold, is said to have been first introduced by a young girl of
humble station, Maria Belandelle, into this part of the country. Strong
in her conviction, and anxious to spread the truth, this person, more
zealous than prudent, ventured to come forward, in 1534, as antagonist
to, and disputant against, a Franciscan friar. However good her
arguments might be, the result of the controversy had of course been
previously decided on by the strongest party. She was convicted of
heresy and impiety, and condemned to the stake; which _righteous_
judgment was carried into effect, and poor Marie was publicly burnt in
the great square, to the refreshment and edification of her _soi-disant_
fellow-Christians!

Calvinism, however, gained ground in spite of this example of its
dangers, and many were the secret meetings held in concealed places;
sometimes under-ground, like the early Christians; till in 1558 a
minister, previously a priest of the diocese of Agen, named David,
preached in the church of St. Barthélemi (ominous name!) the new
doctrines, in the presence of the King and Queen of Navarre, parents of
Henry IV. A few years later, under these powerful auspices, other
ministers ventured to emerge from their hiding-places, and proclaim the
"glad tidings" to their brethren. With more or less danger and
indulgence, the Protestants pursued their reform for some time--now
persecuted, now permitted--till, by the edict of pacification of 1570,
it was agreed that persons of both religions should in future _live
together in good intelligence_. The immortal horrors of St. Bartholomew,
however, changed the face of things, and a long straggle ensued; during
which, at different times, the Rochellois showed themselves undaunted
defenders of the faith. Always opposed and persecuted, the Protestants
were never publicly allowed, by the State, to follow the exercise of
their religion, till the great revolution swept away all barriers; and,
from that time alone, those who professed that faith could do so openly.
Several houses are shown in the town where the Calvinists were
accustomed to meet secretly, and to one of them an accident introduced
us.

Every morning before breakfast we were accustomed to go down to the
baths of the beautiful _Mail_, and as the walk through the town, under
the interminable arcades, was both hot and tedious, we always chose a
longer, but very agreeable, way, by the boulevards of the ancient
ramparts; which are extremely pleasant, varied, and delightful, offering
here and there fine views of the country beneath, and affording thick
shade under their magnificent trees; some of the best houses open at the
back on these ramparts, from whence their fine gardens, full of flowers
and vine-trellices, can be occasionally seen. We had been a week at La
Rochelle; every morning enjoying our walk, for the weather was
perfection, a warm, bright sun and fresh sea-breeze inspiriting us to
take so very long a promenade twice a day, in order that we might lose
nothing of the splendour of the sea. One day the sun deceived us; we set
out as usual; but had not got half to the end of the ramparts, when a
series of dark clouds came creeping over the blue sky; a hollow wind
began to sigh amongst the leaves, and the light became fitful and lurid,
till, on a sudden, a loud crack in the sky was heard, and in an instant
down rushed the rain in a perfect deluge. We had reached the most
exposed part of the boulevard; all the trees here were young; indeed, as
we observed the quick flashes of lightning, we were scarcely sorry to be
at a distance from the larger ones. We stood close to the old wall, and
covering ourselves with our parasols as well as we could, paused, hoping
the fury of the storm would soon subside. We were wet through instantly;
for it seemed as if the Spirits of the shower took a pleasure in
drenching us without mercy; such a roaring, and creaking, and flashing
echoed around us, that it was impossible not to fancy they were enjoying
our distress. Finding that there was no chance of the storm abating, we
determined to continue our way, and, by getting into the streets, escape
the danger of the lightning; accordingly, at the first opening, which
was near the Ecluse de la Verdière, we hurried down; but here the
storm-fiend became so furious, the wind so terrific, and the rain so
persevering, that, seeing an open door, we darted into it, and in an
instant found ourselves under shelter. When we could breathe we looked
round, and could not help laughing to see where we had been so lucky as
to place ourselves. It was a huge dark cavern, where coals and other
fuel were heaped in all directions; long aisles seemed to diverge from
it with low arches leading further into the building, and apparently
descending. A small, pointed window at the back just gave light enough
to show its retreats, and we became convinced that this was one of the
very places where of old our Protestant brethren were accustomed to meet
to exercise their religion. It answered precisely to a description I had
read of one of them, situate beneath the ramparts, and it was a great
comfort in our emergency to think that we had thus discovered a secret
haunt which must otherwise have escaped us.

The owner of the shed, or a workman, soon arrived, and seemed somewhat
amused, as well as astonished, to see how we had taken possession of his
grot; we had not Imogen's excuse--

    "Before I entered here I called;"

but he gave us welcome, nevertheless, till the storm disappearing, as
suddenly as it had arrived, we were able to pick our way home to Les
Trois Chandeliers.

One of the least agreeable things which we encountered in our inn, was
the manner in which our dinners were conducted; we were not allowed the
privilege, which we generally claimed, of dining in our own apartments;
but were given to understand that at the _table d'Hôte_ we should meet
with the best attendance and entertainment. Accordingly, we became
guests in the fine _salon_ I have before described, where a party were
assembled in solemn silence, as if a serious meeting, instead of one
somewhat lively, was on the _tapis_. The cross-looking, silent damsel of
the huge square cap slowly placed the dishes on the table, and every one
sat down; but not a single individual, male or female, attempted to help
his neighbour to anything; not a word was spoken, except in whispers;
and very soon she of the square cap began to remove several of the
untouched viands; as the soup, for which we had ventured to ask, was
particularly bad, we did not interfere to prevent this proceeding. The
next course appeared; but still, except a solitary individual, who made
a desperate move, and cut up a fowl which he handed round, no one put
out a finger; as we were quite at the lower end of the table, and saw
with consternation that our appetites, sharpened with the fine air of
the sea, were not likely to be satisfied, and not relishing this
Governor Sancho's fare, we beckoned to a mute female, who had entered
with the second course, and stood by as if a spectator of the solemnity,
and remonstrated on the absurdity, entreating to have something brought
us; she answered gravely, that _in our turn_ we should be attended to;
and in the end we were fortunate enough to procure a little cream, of
which we took possession; and then, wearied out with the tedium of the
proceeding, rose and made a retreat, leaving the rest of the taciturn
company to wait for and contemplate their dessert. It was not so much
the supineness of the attendants as the apathy of the guests that amazed
us; having generally observed in France, that _mauvaise honte_ by no
means stood in the way of hungry persons, and that a French appetite is
with difficulty appeased, even after partaking of every dish on the
table: a fact of which we had lately been reminded at Poitiers, where a
set of men, who ate in a most prodigious manner, after the last
condiment had disappeared exclaimed, one to the other, "_Eh, mon Dieu!
on ne fait que commencer, il me semble._"

Our desertion being reported to the lady of the Three Candlesticks, she
came to apologise; fearing that her enforced absence had caused
something to go wrong at the dinner. She told us that she was obliged to
attend to the domestic arrangements of her hotel, and to superintend
fifteen workmen who were busied in some necessary duties; but, _as she
always saw to everything herself_, we should have no cause to complain
another day. We had meditated finding out another place to dine at, but
this disarmed us; and, day after day, we were obliged to submit to
something very similar, being forced to make a perfect struggle for our
dinner, and submit to the studiedly tedious movements of the Breton
girl, whose frowns and scowls accompanied every action. We found, one
day, a champion in an old gentleman, who, a stranger and traveller, like
ourselves, endeavoured to create a reform; but was only partially
successful. This person had been to England, and preserved pleased
recollections of London "_half-and-half_" which he seemed to consider
little short of nectar, and was astonished at my ignorance when,
appealed to, I was obliged to plead guilty of not being acquainted with
its virtues. He was the first Frenchman I ever heard refute the
calumnies against our climate; for, though he agreed that we had fogs in
London occasionally somewhat denser than in Paris, he had not fallen
into the error,--which it is thought heresy to dispute,--that, at
Brighton, Richmond, or Windsor, the blue sky is never seen. A very
supercilious man who sat near him, annoyed at his praises of England,
and his raptures at the Tunnel,--that great object of foreign
admiration,--endeavoured to silence him by pronouncing that London had
no monuments, and was not half as big as Paris; for, though he lived in
Poitou, he had seen the capital. The comic look which our champion gave
us when this oracle was pronounced was irresistible.

We had inquired for the fountain and castle of La Font, famous in the
annals of the Liege; and our hostess, finding that we were bent on
seeing all the sights that La Rochelle could furnish, when she met us
one morning at her door, where we had been greeted by her husband, who
officiated as cook in the dark retreat which we had to cross on our
exit, with the salutation of "_Go to sleep_;"--which English phrase he
considered as expressive as any other,--proposed to show us the way to
the village of La Font, and its château--a short walk from La Rochelle.
We accepted her offer; and, accompanied by her little girl--a forward,
clever child of about seven years old, and two friends,--in one of whom
we recognised one of the solemn officials of the dinner-table, who, it
seems, was playing only an amateur part on that occasion,--we set out.
The ideas of all French people, in every part of France, it appears to
me, are the same respecting sights and views: to take a walk means, with
them, to put on your best gown and cap, take your umbrella, and proceed,
at a sauntering pace, talking all the way, down some hot, dusty road,
where the _monde_ is expected to be met with. The end of the journey is
usually at some shabby cottage, or _cabaret_, where seats are set out in
the sun, and refreshments are to be had. I think lanes and meadow-paths
do not exist in France; or, if they do, they are carefully avoided by
all but shepherds and shepherdesses, who are obliged to take them
occasionally; but who much prefer, as do their charges, the sheep and
cows, the high road, all dust and bustle.

The first place we stopped at, we were assured, was very interesting:
the permission to see it had been graciously granted to our hostess, for
us, by the proprietor, who usually dined at the _table d'hôte_,--one of
our silent _companions_, no doubt;--and we could, consequently, do no
less than appear grateful for the favour. Our patience was, however, put
to the test when what we hoped, by its ruinous appearance, would turn
out an antique church or tower was announced to be an infant _brewery_,
in a very early stage of its existence. We stood by while our companions
talked to a very pretty, indolent-looking woman, surrounded by
black-eyed children, whose ages and habits were dilated on, and all of
whom were scattered about the premises--sitting or lying on tubs and
heaps of wood; while the husband and father sauntered through something
like work, which was to bring the erection, in the course of time, to a
close. He seemed glad of an opportunity of leaving off what he was
supposed to be doing, to show us the garden of the establishment,--a
wilderness full of mignionette, and cabbages, and vines, and pumpkins.

As an excuse for the failure of this sight, we were told that the
principal works could not be shown, which, had we seen, would have
amazed us not a little; but, to make up for the disappointment, we
should be introduced to another _fabrique_, which should well repay us.
When near the Porte Dauphine, we found this treat was no other than a
gas establishment; and, terrified at the odour which spread from it far
and wide, which, added to the heat of a very sunny day, warned us to
forego the temptation of becoming acquainted with the method of meting
out gas to the town of La Rochelle, we protested against being forced to
enter; contenting ourselves with admiring the tall pillar, which, being
new, is an object of great exultation to the inhabitants. The air, in
this part, was quite poisoned with the effluvia from the gas; and we
were not surprised to hear that the soldiers, in the barracks close
beneath, suffered continually from sickness since the period when the
gas-works had been established. Unpleasant smells, however, seldom seem
to distress French organs; and our disgust only amused our companions,
who seemed now, for the first time, to perceive that it was not as
agreeable as the mignionette beds we had left.

We were not sorry to reach the beautiful promenade of the Champ de Mars
and the Fontaine de la Maréchale; a fine walk planted with numerous
trees, with alleys diverging towards the village of La Font. Gardens,
with high walls, extend for half a league in this direction; for here
all the rich merchants of the town have their country-houses, and here
they usually spend the summer months. Being enclosed, however, the
perfume of the flowers alone, and an occasional opening, betray their
existence; and the walk is hot and dusty, without any view of sea, or
landscape, to repay the toil. At length we found ourselves at the end of
the longest village I ever was in; all composed of good square houses,
the backs only of which were visible.

We turned aside, along an avenue planted with young trees, to the
château of La Font; but what was our vexation to find at its extremity a
range of little huts, and a black, soapy pool, at which numbers of
washerwomen were busy at their ceaseless occupation. "_Voilà_!"
exclaimed our hostess, in exultation, and with an air which said, You
must be gratified now; "_Voilà_! this is the famous fountain _where all
the linen of La Rochelle is washed_! and there is the château where my
washerwoman lives,--a very respectable mother of a family;--and there
are her turkeys and her farm-yard; and there is her market-garden! Oh!
it is a sweet spot!"

Beyond the group of _blanchisseuses_--to whom she stopped to talk about
her household arrangements,--we saw a ruined tenement flanked with round
towers, very much dilapidated, and preserving but little of their
ancient character, owing to having been pierced with modern windows;
certainly sufficiently ruinous, if that was to be an object of
attraction, but not otherwise worthy of note. Girls and women, in wooden
shoes, were sitting about in a slovenly yard before it, and we were
welcomed as guests by one who got chairs and placed them in sight of the
farm-yard wonders for our accommodation: after which she disappeared
with our hostess to show the washing establishment, which we declined
visiting, in spite of repeated invitations, given with all the
_bonhommie_ in the world, as if there had really been anything to see
but dirty water and soap-suds. We comprehended, afterwards, as we sat
musing in the farm-yard, watching the vagaries of some angry turkeys,
whose combs became perfectly white with passion, as they contended with
their fellows, that the reason of so much pride and admiration on the
part of our hostess and the mistress of the _Château_ de La Font was,
that the washing here was carried on _under cover_; whereas, that
operation usually takes place by the side of rivers and brooks, in the
open face of nature, without hot water or tubs. No wonder that our
apathy annoyed the parties, who had so just a reason to "be vaunty" of
so expensive an establishment!

This, then, is all that remains of the castle of La Font, once a place
so contended for during the numerous sieges, and which the Duke of
Anjou, afterwards Henry III., took possession of, when he ordered his
soldiers to destroy all the fountains which supplied the besieged town
of La Rochelle with water. On this spot, where Protestants and Catholics
fought deadly battles, and disputed every inch of ground, the battle of
a couple of turkeys, and the splashing and thumping of a group of
washerwomen, were all that existed to interest the beholder.

We walked round the towers and into the field at the back, but scarcely
a bit of old wall repaid our trouble; and finding that the subject of
washing became all engrossing to our hostess, who seemed to have
forgotten that the hotel of the Three Candlesticks and its dinner-hour
had existence, we rose and left the party, directing our way back to the
town.

We had managed to make our escape quietly, but our defection once
perceived, consternation ensued, and the departure of La Noue from the
Protestant camp could scarcely have created more sensation. We were
pursued, and accompanied home to the hotel, with repeated apologies for
having been allowed to remain alone until we became _ennuyées_; and so
persecuted were we with politeness, that we were not sorry to take
refuge in the solemn _salle-à-manger_, where, though nearly two hours
past dinner-time, we found no preparations yet on foot for our relief.
It was impossible, considering the well-meant intention of our hostess,
to be angry at anything; but, without exception, the whole arrangement
at this most unique of all inns, was the least comfortable that any
unfortunate traveller ever had to put up with. Every day we meditated
leaving, and every day her good-humour, and a bath and walk at the
delicious sea-side, made us abandon our resolve, and--

            "Tempered us to bear;
    It was but for a day."

Indeed, it was impossible to be otherwise than content, to find oneself
seated in one of the pretty alcoves of the Bath gardens, with a
magnificent expanse of sparkling sea before the eye, a gentle murmur of
waters at the feet, a hundred gleaming sails, white and red, gliding
along the surface of the glittering wave, the towers of the distant town
shining out from the mass of buildings which surround them, the full
harbour, the green alleys, the superb trees, the pretty shrubs, the
distant island shores, everything, in fact, smiling and gay and
beautiful around. To forget Les Trois Chandeliers, and to grudge the
time necessary for finding a new domicile, was a natural consequence;
and the want of _matériel_ to satisfy the sea-side appetite--sure to be
gained after a whole day's sojourn on the beach--became an after
consideration, our domestic privations were therefore constantly
neglected, bewailed, and forgotten again next day while eating grapes
and bread in the beloved alcove.

There appears to be much ease in the circumstances of the inhabitants of
La Rochelle: we understood that there were not many persons of very
large fortune, but few positively poor. The commerce is inferior now to
what it has been; as, for instance, in the _glorious_ time of the _slave
trade_; but there appears still to be a good deal of bustle on the
quays: however, to an English eye, all French trade seems dull when
compared to the movement in our own ports. There is always building
going on here, as in every other town in France, where one might imagine
everything had been at a stand-still for a century, and had suddenly
been endowed with new life and activity. The cities of France seem--like
the enchanted domains of the marble prince of the Arabian Nights--to
have been doomed to a long inaction, and restored to existence by an
invisible power. The magic which changed the blue and red fishes into
men, was less potent than the wise rule of the present sovereign of the
kingdom, under whom his country flourishes; not a town or village being
forgotten in his endeavours to rescue them from the long night of
wretchedness into which war and misrule had cast them. Everywhere his
donations and encouragement cause ruins and filth to disappear, and
splendour and neatness to take their place: yet, in spite of all this,
and obvious as the benefit is to a traveller who hears of his
benefactions wherever he passes, few of the subjects of this
considerate and liberal monarch seem sufficiently grateful for his
patriotic endeavours to exalt their position. "He has not done _much_
for _us_," is the general remark; a rather startling one, when one
recollects the hundreds of towns, villages, and bourgs which his care
has reached.

The French are certainly neither grateful nor just; for they seldom
remember or acknowledge obligation either to individuals or kings. They
seem, also, wilfully blind to the blessings of the peace, which Louis
Philippe so offends their warlike propensities by insisting on: even
while they are restoring all their battered towns and erecting new
edifices, of which they are proud enough, they would willingly leave
them half done to draw the sword against some windmill giant, and buckle
on their armour to encounter some puppet-show termagant.

The public buildings of La Rochelle are fine, but the narrowness of most
of the streets in which they are placed, prevents their showing to
advantage. If the Palais de Justice stood in the fine square opposite
the cathedral, for instance, it would have a very imposing effect; but,
as it is, one passes under its arcades, and under the arcades opposite,
half-a-dozen times before its beauties become apparent. It is a modern
building of great taste and delicacy, in the style of the Renaissance;
the friezes and entablatures being executed with extreme skill and
grace. The Bourse is also a beautiful building, having a gallery
supported by a colonnade, which connects two of its wings, and which
separates the court from a pretty plantation of ornamental trees, which
agreeably adorns the edifice. But the ancient building of the Hôtel de
Ville is that which most attracts, both for its beauty and its
recollections. The taste of Francis I. and Henry II. is evident in its
architecture. Henry IV.'s additions are also obvious, and more modern
_improvements_ have considerably altered its original appearance.

The entrance is comparatively modern and ugly; which is the more to be
regretted, since, from this spot the Maire Guiton--the great hero of La
Rochelle, spoke to the people when obliged to consent to the
capitulation of the town. However, the site itself cannot but be
interesting; and all that surrounds it remains as it must have been at
his time. The singular gallery, and its ornamented roof in compartments,
with a thousand interlaced letters and devices, as mysterious as those
at the house of Jacques Coeur, at Bourges, the façade, and statues, and
foliage, and ornamental mouldings, the curious windows, the ancient
screen, the outer walls, and _tourelles_ of the thirteenth, and
battlements and door-ways of the fifteenth century, all are singular and
attractive.

It was, probably, in this palace that the accident happened to Charles
the Seventh, _Le Bien Servi_, told with so much characteristic
simplicity by Mezeray.

When the news of the death of his father, the unfortunate Charles the
Sixth, was brought to the Dauphin, says the Chronicler, "he was then at
Espally, in Auvergne, a castle belonging to the Bishop of Le Puy. He
wore mourning only one day; and the next morning changed this sad colour
to scarlet. In this habit he went to hear mass in the chapel of the
castle; as soon as it was over he ordered the banner of France to be
displayed, at the sight of which all present cried out, _Vive le Roy_!
And from that time he was recognised and called king by all good
Frenchmen. But as he had neither Paris nor Rheims in his possession, he
repaired to Poitiers to be crowned, where his parliament then was, and
there received the oaths and homage of all who acknowledged him as
sovereign. From Poitiers he took his way to La Rochelle, on a warning
which was given him that the Duke of Brittany had secret designs, and
that he was making warlike and powerful preparations to take possession
of this province."

"There he nearly lost his life by a strange invention--the machination
of some of his enemies; for, as he was holding his council in a great
hall, the beams having been sawn asunder, the ceiling gave way and fell,
burying every one beneath the ruins. Jacques de Bourbon, Seigneur de
Preaux, died in consequence, several others were grievously wounded,
but the king, by a good fortune, almost miraculous, escaped. This was a
certain presage, that, after great danger, Divine Providence, in the
end, would save him, and draw him forth from the ruins of his empire
against all human expectation."

Thus was saved the most ungrateful of all monarchs; one who suffered his
friends to exert every nerve in his favour, while he sat carelessly by
and saw them betrayed and slaughtered for his sake, of him Lahire said,

    "On ne pouvait perdre son royaume plus gaiement."

He was urged to action only, at last, by superstition; and when all was
gained for him, had nothing with which to reward his devoted friends but
banishment and confiscation, as in the case of Jacques Coeur, his
ill-used friend, whose money had gained him back his kingdom. Yet, at
last, his death was as wretched as if he had perished in the hall at La
Rochelle, for he died of famine, to avoid being poisoned by his
unnatural son.

We entered the great hall at the top of the flight of steps in the
centre of the building, and followed a party who were visiting the
interior, by which means, although the hall was otherwise closed, we
were able to see the great picture recently _given by the king_, with
his usual liberality, to the town of La Rochelle.

In this _salle_ is still seen the marble table, and the chair of the
Maire Guiton; a mark across the marble is shown as that made by his
sword when, in his agony, he struck the table, as he rose, indignant at
the proposals of surrender made to him. There is nothing else in the
hall which is not modern, even its form, which has been changed for the
convenience of the meetings which take place here.

The picture is one of very exciting interest, and is very well executed;
it is the work of M. Omer Chartel--a native, I believe, of La
Rochelle--and is a most appropriate present to the town in which the
circumstances it depicts took place.

Jean Guiton was mayor of La Rochelle at the time when, in 1628, Louis
XIII., or rather the Cardinal de Richelieu, besieged the Protestants in
the town. His mysterious disappearance, the uncertainty attached to his
fate, the suspicions of his motives,--notwithstanding the grandeur of
his character, and the determination of his resistance,--altogether
invest him with singular interest, and every particular of his history
which can be collected must be eagerly sought for.

He was appointed to the office of chief-magistrate at a moment of great
danger; and on the occasion made this celebrated speech:
"Fellow-citizens, I accept the honour you design me, on this condition
only, that I shall have a right to pierce with this sword the heart of
him who shall be base enough to speak the words of peace, or who shall
dare to talk of submission. Should I be cowardly enough to do so, let my
blood expiate my crime, and let the meanest citizen be my executioner:
the sacred love of his country will exculpate him for the act. Meantime
let this poniard remain upon the council-table, an object of terror to
the craven and betrayer."

The siege went on, and the unfortunate Rochellois were reduced to the
last extremity; famine and misery brought them to the lowest ebb of
human suffering; and, in spite of their valour and high resolves, it was
evident that nothing but submission could save them from the most
horrible fate. Their implacable enemy had wound his coils around their
town, the fatal _digue_, thrown up with labour, incredible and
impossible to all but hate, prevented any succours reaching them; there
it lay, circling their port like a huge constrictor waiting patiently
for its exhausted prey,--there was no remedy, and the chief persons of
the town repaired in a body to Guiton to represent the state of the
inhabitants and to propose a surrender. They bade him look around on the
famishing wretches who lay about the streets; they bade him look on his
perishing wife and dying child; they described the hopeless state of
things, the cruel perseverance of their foes, and they besought him to
give consent that they should treat with the besiegers.

"Is it even so?" said Guiton; "you all desire it? Take, then, this
poniard; you know the condition on which I accepted office, you know I
swore to stab to the heart the first man who should speak of surrender;
let me be the victim; but never hope that I will participate in the
infamy which you propose to me."

These words produced their effect; those most resolved on submission
were turned from their project, and all retired from his presence
abashed, and determined to suffer still. But the famine continued,
increased, no succour arrived, and human fortitude could endure no more;
the Rochellois opened their gates, and Richelieu was triumphant. But
where was Jean Guiton?--that question remains to be answered to this
day.

He was never seen more; some have thought that he was assassinated by
those who feared his resentment or his opposition; or by those who
considered him still formidable, though fallen; others imagined that the
king, to whom his talents as a seaman were known, and who admired the
firmness of his character, had seduced him, by offers of great
advantage, to abandon his party and enter his service. There is a
tradition that he distinguished himself in the armies of Louis, under an
assumed name, and became a terror to the enemies of France. Again, he is
said to have been condemned to perpetual imprisonment; and again, to
have spent his days in exile from his native land, having fled from the
town at the time of its reduction.

Whatever his fate may have been, it is unknown; and conjecture alone
fills up the blank. It is difficult to imagine that a man such as he
could listen to offers of advantage, or would have betrayed the cause
for which he was ready to sacrifice his life: that he died in exile,
unable to endure to see the destruction of his hopes, is more probable.

The painter has chosen the moment when the citizens are making their
last appeal, and he has succeeded in conveying the feeling and interest
of the scene in an eminent degree; it is impossible to look at the
picture without tears, which certainly must speak a great deal in its
favour; criticism may come afterwards, and a few defects may make
themselves observed; but the first impression is, that of pity and
commiseration for the actors in the sad drama represented.

The Mayor of La Rochelle, with a mournful countenance, is listening to
the words of Etienne Gentils, who was deputed as spokesman on the sad
occasion: the commandant, Perrot, and his son stand by, and by their
gestures confirm his statements. The Marquis de Feuquières--a Catholic
prisoner, who had become a friend of the Rochellois, and anxiously
strove to obtain for them favourable terms--is a prominent person. Paul
Yvon, sire de Laden, the former mayor, adds his entreaties--Madame de
Maisonneuve, his daughter, has cast herself at the feet of Guiton, with
her two children, and points to the pale and fainting wife of the
inflexible citizen, who lies prostrate on the ground with his dying
child in her arms. The scene is fearful, and the struggle terrible; he
holds the dagger in his hand, and his look, though full of sorrow,
speaks of no indecision. You feel that it must have been impossible to
gain over such a man to the opposite party; and you cannot but thank the
artist for rescuing his memory from the reproach endeavoured to be cast
upon it.

Altogether, the picture is most appropriate and interesting, and we
rejoiced that we were so fortunate as to arrive at La Rochelle just at
the moment that it was being placed in the Grande Salle.

With infinitely more interest than before, we now walked down to the
Marché Neuf, where several elegant _tourelles_, at the corners of a
street of arcades, had previously attracted our attention, for we found
that the street was called Rue Guiton, and the tourelles formed part of
a beautifully-ornamented house, whose façade runs along one side of the
market-place. This was the mansion of the unfortunate mayor, and
magnificent it must have been; it is built in the style of the
Renaissance, and in the same taste as parts of the Hôtel de Ville; but
the carved ornaments are more delicate. It is to be regretted that the
whole house could not be preserved as a memorial; but still the little
that remains must be hailed with pleasure, though built into shops, and
serving as receptacles for different wares. One _tourelle_ is
particularly sharp and fine, and does not seem to have sustained the
slightest injury from time. No doubt the house was very extensive;
probably the gardens occupied the space where now the market is kept. In
the centre of the square is one of the numerous fountains, for which the
town is famous: this is called La Fontaine des Petits Bancs, and no
doubt formerly one on the same spot adorned the gardens of the
mayoralty.

No sooner had Louis XIII. gained possession of the Protestant city, than
he began the work of _Reformation_. He had his monks ready in the camp,
"like greyhounds on the slip," and three Minimes from Touraine, who had
been sent as almoners, immediately commenced the building of a convent,
which took the place of the Huguenot temples, under the name of Notre
Dame de la Victoire. Where it stood, now stands a fort and a lazaretto.

Another convent was established at La Font, not a vestige of which
remains.

The cathedral was once more restored to the old worship, and on the
great Fontaine du Château, in the square in front of it, the enemies of
the Protestant party placed _brass_ tablets, full of insult to those
who had so nobly defended their town, and who, from a generous foe,
would have commanded respect. These injurious inscriptions were,
however, removed one night; nor was it ever known by whom; and the
authorities did not think it advisable to replace them: the marks of
their existence still remain.

Another mayor of La Rochelle obtained celebrity in much earlier times,
for conduct not quite so heroic as that of Guiton.

Amongst the many scenes of war which have taken place before La
Rochelle, not the least curious is one related by Froissart, which
occurred at the time when France was making a desperate struggle to
recover her towns from the power of England.

The Earl of Pembroke had been sent by his father, King Edward, with the
famous Captain Messire Guichart d'Angle, to Poitou, with vessels and
money; they set forth, commending themselves to the grace of God and St.
George, and, wind and weather favouring them, the gallant fleet soon
reached the coast of Poitou, with every prospect of success in their
adventure. But the King of France, Charles the Wise, who always managed
to get information of everything done by his enemies--whether by means
of the prescience of his astrologers or his spies is not known,--having
heard that Guichart had visited England with a view of getting supplies
and a new commander, had secretly prepared a hostile fleet ready to
way-lay the English. Forty large ships and thirteen barges, well manned
and provided, were furnished by the King of Castile, and were commanded
by four men whose names were a terror at the period. These were,
Ambrosio de Bocca Negra the Grand Admiral of Spain, Cabeza de Vaca,
Ferrant de Pion, and Radigole Roux, or Riu Diaz de Rojas.

These valiant captains had moored their fleet opposite the harbour of La
Rochelle, awaiting the expected arrival of the English and their allies,
for whose sails they looked anxiously forth. It was on the Vigil of St.
John the Baptist's Day, 1372, that the Spaniards espied the English
approaching in gallant array, and _they_ discovered that the entrance to
the town of La Rochelle was stopped, and that a contest must ensue.

The English were greatly inferior in ships and numbers; but there was no
want of spirit amongst them. The Earl of Pembroke made several knights
on the occasion, and every nerve was strained to support the character
of British valour. They had fearful odds to sustain, and terrible was
the battle which was fought, in which such deeds of arms were done, that
Palmerin of England, and Amadis de Gaul, seemed leading on the
combatants. But it soon became too evident that the brave handful of
English, and the small vessels, were no match for the opposing power.
This, the inhabitants of La Rochelle were aware of, but they were
ill-disposed to interfere or to assist the English.

When Messire Jean de Harpedane, the seneschal of La Rochelle, heard the
_estrif_ and _riote_ which took place without, and found in what straits
his friends were placed, he implored the mayor and people of La Rochelle
to arm and go to the relief of the English; he entreated them to send
out the numerous vessels which crowded their quays, to aid and comfort
those who were so valiantly fighting against odds. But his animated
harangue was met with silence and coldness, and he found, to his great
vexation, that there was no sympathy for King Edward's people.

Harpedane had been supported in his generous desire by three brave and
bold knights, the Lord of Tonnay-Boutonne, Jacques de Surgières, and
Maubrun de Linières; and when they found that no one would listen to
their representations, they resolved to embark, together with all their
people, and go to the succour of the English. At day-break they sailed
forth, and, with some difficulty, reached the fleet, where they were
joyfully welcomed, notwithstanding that they brought bad news, and
confirmed the doubts of the English that no succour awaited them. They,
however, resolved to fight to the last, and remained prepared for the
attack of the Spaniards, who, favoured by the wind, came down upon them,
and casting out irons, grappled with their ships and held them close.
Then ensued a terrible contest, in which the greatest part of the
English were killed, the treasure-vessels sunk, and all the others
destroyed; and the day closed by the capture of the Earl of Pembroke,
Guichart d'Angle, and all the brave knights of their company. The
Spaniards then made great rejoicings, and sailed away with all their
prisoners; but, meeting with adverse winds, they were obliged to put
into the port of Santander in Biscay, where they carried them to a
fortress and cast them into a deep dungeon, loading them with chains:
"No other courtesy had these Spaniards to offer them!"

After this the Rochellois threw off their obedience to the English, and
declared themselves friends and subjects of France: the manner in which
this event occurred is thus related:--

The mayor of the town, Jean Coudourier, or Chaudrier, was secretly
friendly to the French, and had agreed with the famous Captain Ivan, of
Wales, who was before La Rochelle, to deliver the town to him. The
stratagem he used was characteristic, for the governor of the Castle,
Phillippot, though a brave and good knight, was in the case of William
of Deloraine,--

    "Of letter or line knew he never a one;"

and by this neglect in his education was he betrayed.

The artful Chaudrier, who appeared to be his intimate friend, invited
the governor to dine with him one day, with some of the citizens of the
town, and took occasion, before dinner, to say that he had just received
news from England which concerned him. The governor desiring to know
them, he replied, "Of course you shall hear; I will fetch the letter,
and it shall be read to you." He then went to a coffer and took out an
open letter, sealed, indeed, with the great seal of Edward of England,
but which, in fact, related to quite other matters; the governor
recognised the seal, and was satisfied that it was an official
communication; but, as for the writing, "he was ignorance itself" in
that. A clerk, in the plot, was ordered to enlighten him as to its
contents, and read that the King desired the mayor to send him an exact
account of all the forces in La Rochelle and the castle, by the bearer
of that letter, as he desired to know, and hoped soon to visit the town
himself.

Thereupon the mayor begged that on the day following a muster should be
made, in the grand square, of all these men-at-arms, and he offered to
lend money to the governor, being so directed by the King, to pay his
troops. All this was done as was projected, and the muster took place,
every man-at-arms leaving the château, and only a few servants
remaining there. Meantime the cunning mayor had provided an ambush of
four hundred men, who concealed themselves in _old houses uninhabited
which were in the square_, and, when all the troops were assembled,
these issued out, and intercepting the return, took possession of the
castle, and became masters of the citadel.

Resistance was now in vain: the governor was completely tricked, and the
artful traitor had gained his end. La Rochelle became French, and the
first step that was taken for the security of the town, in case of its
again falling into the hands of the English, was to raze the castle to
the ground, and destroy that means of defence.



CHAPTER XII.

     ROCHEFORT--THE CURIOUS BONNE--AMERICANISMS--CONVICTS--THE
     CHARENTE--"TULIPES"--TAILLEBOURG--HENRY THE THIRD--ST.
     LOUIS--FALSE SECURITY--ROMEGOUX--PUYTAILLÉ.


OUR good fortune in respect to the weather, which we so much enjoyed at
La Rochelle, seemed to have taken leave of us when we quitted that
charming town and took our way southward. It rained in torrents when we
got into the diligence for Rochefort, and continued to do so throughout
our journey. The country is very flat for several leagues, and possesses
no remarkable beauties; occasionally a turn of the road brought us close
to the sea-shore; and its fine waves, dashing against the shingles, made
music to our ears, and we regretted leaving it behind us. The sea seems
always to me like a friend; it offers, besides, a means of escape; it
appears to tell one that a vessel is ready to take the tired wanderer
back to England: there is something like _home_ in its vicinity, and I
can well imagine with what sensations an exile might "come to the
beach," and sigh forth his soul towards his native land. But that I had
interests still greater awaiting me at Bordeaux, I should have been even
more sorry to have quitted this coast; and every time we caught another
glimpse of the waves, we hailed them with pleasure.

We arrived at Rochefort, as we had frequently done at other towns in
France--where the climate is supposed to be better than our own--in
pouring rain; but, this time, with a little difference, inasmuch as the
diligence stopped in the midst of a large square outside the town,
planted with trees, with hotels in different directions, and the bureau
within twenty yards: nevertheless, the conducteur's pleasure was to stop
his horses exactly midway between us and shelter: all the doors were
thrown open, the horses were taken off, and the passengers were free to
get out and paddle to the nearest inn as best they might. Calling and
exclaiming were of no use; no one attended to our remonstrances; and,
scrambling out _over the wheel_--for the coupé has not the advantage of
a step--while a deluge of rain and a hurricane were striving against us,
we managed to reach the wet ground; but, being required, peremptorily,
to show ourselves at the bureau, we were not permitted to wade to an
opposite hotel, and, therefore, took our station, with other
discontented individuals, under a shed where building was going on, and
where our wet feet stuck in the lime and mortar which covered the floor.
While we waited till our conducteur had ceased to rave at his horses
and assistants, a sudden cry warned us to remove, for the diligence,
pushed in by several men, was coming upon us to discharge its baggage.
Having escaped this danger by flying into a neighbouring passage, we
obeyed the summons of our tyrant; and having discharged his demands, a
latent pity seemed to take possession of his bosom, for he allowed us to
depart, having bestirred himself to send our baggage before us to the
nearest hotel. There we found the hour of the _table d'hôte_ dinner had
arrived, and much entreaty was necessary to induce the hostess to permit
us to dine alone, the absurdity of the wish seeming to strike her as
extraordinary:--"It would be so much more gay down stairs," she
observed. Wet and tired, we had no mind for the festivity which might
reign in her halls, and at length gained our point: having served us, a
pretty young country maid, in a large cap, who had looked at us with
wonder from the first, seemed resolved to fill up the little leisure
left her, by contemplating closer the extraordinary animals that chance
had brought to her mistress's hotel. She put her hands on her sides,
and, opening her black eyes wide, gave us a long stare, exclaiming, "Eh,
mon Dieu! est-ce donc possible!"

We asked her if many English came to Rochefort; to which she replied, as
we expected, that she had never _seen one_ before. We wished her good
night; she was some time in taking our hint, but, as she was
good-humoured, her determined delay did not annoy us, as a similar
intrusion had done at La Rochelle, when the cross _bonne_, on the
evening of our arrival, took her seat at the window, and looked out into
the street to amuse herself; and, on our intimating that she might
retire, turned round fiercely, and remarked, "You can't be going to bed
yet." These _Americanisms_ are common enough in this most polite of
nations; but are simply amusing from such unsophisticated beings as the
attendant at Rochefort.

Rochefort is a handsome, clean, open, well-built town, quite without
antiquities; but, as our next destination was Saintes--one of the oldest
towns in France--we were content with its more modern appearance, though
not with its pavement, which is particularly bad and rugged. It is
surrounded with very handsome ramparts, or boulevards, planted with fine
trees, and the principal streets have avenues, in one of which the
large market is held, which has a picturesque effect--the high poplars
and spreading acacias throwing their flickering shadows on groups of
peasants in lively-coloured costumes, giving a brilliancy and life to
the scene, which is not found in the other parts of the remarkably dull
town of Louis XIV. Rochefort is the third important port in France; but
as nothing can be so uninteresting to me, who do not understand these
details, as to look on fortifications, and the bustle of a port when
there is no sea to repay one--and Rochefort is only on the Charente,
four leagues from the sea--I did not attempt to visit the quays; the
hospitals are said to be fine; also, the school of artillery, and
several commercial establishments of great consequence; but the trade of
Rochefort does not appear very flourishing, to judge by the desolate
appearance of the streets and squares.

The only place we visited, was the Jardin des Plantes, which is
charmingly laid out in alleys and parterres; but a circumstance occurred
which entirely destroyed the pleasure of our walk, and brought thoughts
of woe and crime into the midst of beautiful nature and elegant art. As
we hung over the parapet of a wall, we observed a party of men passing
beneath, dressed in a singular costume: they were singing rather
vociferously, and it struck me that, as they moved, a clanking sound
accompanied their steps, for which I feared to account. As I turned
away from these, my eye was attracted by a group of gardeners, in an
alley near, who wore the same dress of dull yellowish red. One of them
was a tall, fine, handsome man, who seemed busy in his occupation; the
others were indolently using their spades and brooms; and as they moved,
I saw that all had irons round their legs. A shudder came over me, and a
sort of fear, which I could not shake off, as I looked round to see that
we did not share these groves alone with such companions, of whom we
were not long in taking our leave;--not that there was anything hostile
or alarming in their appearance; but, though one may every day jostle a
robber or a murderer, ignorantly, in the streets, yet to be "innocent of
the knowledge" of his character, is much more agreeable to one's nerves,
than the certainty of his being a culprit.

Although we had taken every precaution, by warning all the servants of
our intention of departing by the steam-boat for Saintes,--had paid our
bill, and been ready an hour before the time, yet the _garçon_ who was
to accompany us to the quay was nowhere to be found when we required his
aid. When a diligence is to start, it is the custom, as we well knew,
always to announce its time of departure an hour, or sometimes two,
before it goes, as the _monde_ is supposed to be never in time; but,
even in France, time must be kept when tide is in question; and we,
therefore, were very much afraid that our dilatory waiter would cause us
to lose our passage. It would seem that the French can do nothing
without being frightened into action; and that they enjoy putting
themselves into frights and fevers; for our porter, when he did appear,
had to hurry, with his great barrow, through numerous streets, calling
all the way, and begging that the boat would stop for _des dames_, till
he was almost exhausted. The captain, who must have been used to these
scenes, took compassion on him, I suppose, and we stept at length into
the steamer, amidst the congratulations of the crowd, and a whole host
of porters, who brought every article of baggage singly on board, in
order to make the most of their zeal.

Henry IV., who liked to pay compliments to his people, and gain

    "Golden opinions from all sorts of men,"

was accustomed, it is said, to call the river Charente "the prettiest
stream in his kingdom;" and it certainly deserves much admiration, for
the borders are rich, varied, and graceful; and the voyage along its
verdant banks is extremely agreeable on a calm, fine day: such as we
were fortunate enough to choose. There is no want of variety; for
heights, crowned with towers and turrets and woods and meadows, succeed
each other rapidly, offering pleasing points of view, and reviving
recollections of ancient story; and though the Charente by no means
deserves to be compared to the Loire, ambitious as the natives of the
department are that it should be considered equal in beauty and interest
to that famous river; yet there is quite enough charm belonging to it to
please the traveller who seeks for new scenes.

In few parts of France do the English travel so little as in this
direction; and I believe the pretty river Charente has been rarely
visited. A summer at La Rochelle could, nevertheless, be pleasantly
spent, and the facilities of steam-boats in so many directions, is a
great advantage, as there is much worth seeing in this agreeable
country.

We were much struck with the extremely beautiful effect produced by the
fairy-like, delicate appearance of a sort of crocus--of a pale, clear,
lilac colour--which entirely covered the meadows, the light as it shone
through their fragile stems making them look aërial. All along the
banks, for leagues, these pretty flowers[9] spread themselves over the
ground, in a perfect cloud of blossoms, reaching to the very wave, and,
shaking their gossamer heads to the breeze, gleaming their golden
centres through the transparent petals, like a light in an alabaster
vase. As we admired them, a young woman near us, in the boat, shook her
head, and exclaimed that we were not, perhaps, aware that those pretty
'_tulipes_' were deadly poison, and that very lately, a man of a village
near this, had employed their bulbous roots as onions, and given the
soup made with them to his wife and a neighbour, to whom he bore a
spite: that they both died, and he was found to be the murderer, and
suffered accordingly. My thoughts recurred, as she spoke, to the
convicts in the garden of Rochefort, and with no very pleasant
sensations. I was sorry she had spoilt the pleasure I had taken in
looking at these beautiful flowers, which she seemed to regard with
horror.

[Footnote 9: The _Iris zippium_.]

There are several fine suspension-bridges over the river; this part of
the country is celebrated for them; that of Charente is considered very
remarkable of its kind, and it is a usual excursion from La Rochelle to
visit it.

At St. Savinien is a venerable church and tower, which make an imposing
appearance, on a height, and the ruins of the once redoubtable castle of
Taillebourg frown majestically from the rocky hills they cover. All this
coast was the scene of the contentions of our early kings; and Coeur de
Lion and his father were actors in several of the dramas here performed.

The great hero, but disobedient son, Richard, after being forced by
Henry II. to quit Saintes where he had entrenched himself, fled to this
very fortress of Taillebourg, and there defied attack. Henry III. of
England, more than half a century later, made this part of the river the
theatre of his contentions with St. Louis, as Joinville relates. Henry
had disembarked at Royan--now a fashionable bathing-place, at the mouth
of the Charente--and resolved, if possible, to gain back all that John
Lackland had lost, led his army from town to town, taking possession of
all in his way, till the sudden arrival of St. Louis stopped his career.
The King of France laid siege to Tonnay-Boutonne, of which strong place
scarcely anything now remains, took it, and reconquered several other
fortresses. At length Louis sat down before Taillebourg, then held by
Geoffrey de Rancon for the King of England. It was here, in these
crocus-covered meadows, opposite the blackened walls of this crumbling
ruin, that the great monarch pitched his tents and placed his camp,
intending from thence to attack his enemy at Saintes.

Henry, meantime, felt secure that the Lord of Taillebourg would stand
his friend, and that his strong castle would be a powerful protection to
the English army, and he should be able materially to molest the French;
but the grim Baron de Rancon was in his heart a foe to the English, and
had embraced their cause upon compulsion: he waited but a favourable
moment to betray them; and when, from his towers, he saw the French army
encamped in the meadows beneath them, he threw open his gates and
sallied forth, followed by a numerous band of warriors, visited King
Louis in his tent, and offered him his castle to abide in. His
invitation was accepted, and Louis and his knights returned with him to
his castle.

Henry, hearing of this arrangement, took counsel with his general,
Hugues de Lusignan, and removed his head-quarters immediately to the
neighbourhood of De Rancon's fortress, placing his troops in the meadows
immediately opposite those occupied by the soldiers of Louis; the river
only separated them, and across it was a long bridge, part of the ruins
of which, evidently of Roman construction, may still be seen far away in
the flat meadows. Henry's force was much inferior to that of his
opponent, and he declined coming at once to battle, as Louis desired: he
drew off his soldiers, leaving a strong defence on the bridge; by this
movement wishing to indicate that he did not intend engaging; but the
French could not be restrained, and Louis, giving way to their
impetuosity, charged the defenders of the bridge at the head of five
hundred knights. Immediately the river was covered with soldiers, who
leaped into boats, and, hastening across the river, fell upon the
English with great fury. The shock was well sustained; Duke Richard,
brother to Henry, Lusignan, De Montford, and others, brought up their
troops to the conflict. St. Louis ran great risks that day; for
Joinville says, that for every man with him the English had a hundred:
as he was in the thick of the fray, his life was in great peril; but he
was successful, and remained in possession of the bridge, and the left
bank of the Charente. Had he pursued his advantage, the English might
have been entirely routed; but, reflecting that the next day was Sunday,
and should be devoted to prayer, he consented to the truce proposed by
Duke Richard, and ordered his men to re-cross the bridge.

Richard cunningly took advantage of this circumstance, and hurrying back
to his brother's tent, exclaimed, "Quick, quick! not a moment is to be
lost; let us fly or we are defeated!" As rapidly as possible the tents
were struck, the baggage prepared, and every man in readiness; and, in
the darkness of night, King Henry mounted his good steed, and never
slackened rein till he reached the walls of Saintes, followed by his
soldiers, who, harassed and fatigued, were not sorry to find themselves
once more in security.

The astonishment of Louis was great, when, at break of day, he looked
from his castle windows, and saw no vestige of the great army which had
covered the country on the preceding night: he very quietly ordered his
troops to cross the bridge, and they took possession of the spot just
left by the English. The next day he prepared to march on Saintes, and
sent couriers forward to reconnoitre the country: a shepherd, who had
observed these movements, hastened to warn the Count de la Marche, who,
with his two sons, and his vassals, were in the Faubourg de St. Eutrope.
Hugues de Lusignan marched forth immediately to meet the French
_avant-garde_, without naming his intention to the King of England who
was lodged in the town.

Count Alfonse de Boulogne coming up at the moment with his party, joined
the _avant-garde_, and a furious combat took place: the first who fell
was the châtelain of Saintes, who held the banner of the Count de la
Marche. On both sides resounded the terrible war-cries of "Aux armes!
Aux armes!" and "Royaux! Royaux!" and "Mont-joie! Mont-joie!" according
to the usage of both nations.

These cries, the neighing of horses, and the clash of arms, were heard
to a great distance, and reached the ears of the King of England, who
demanded the cause: he was told that the Count de la Marche, resolved to
repair his honour, which he considered that their late retreat had
sullied, had attacked the French. At this news Henry called for his
armour, assembled his warriors, and hastened to the succour of his
father-in-law. At this juncture arrived King Louis. Mortified to be
forestalled by an enemy, who he considered had basely quitted the field,
he gave the signal, and the soldiers of France fell pell-mell on the
Anglo-Aquitainians, who received them firmly.

A general mêlée then took place beneath the walls of Saintes; and in the
midst of the vines, amongst the groves, in the fields, on the high
roads, a frightful carnage ensued.

The French fought with fury, increased by the resistance they met with;
the English ranks began to thin; overpowered by numbers, their
battalions became broken, the men turned their backs, and fled in
disorder to the gates of the town, to which the French pursued them with
fearful slaughter. In vain Henry and Hugues de Lusignan endeavoured to
rally the dispersed troops; their expostulations were drowned in the
noise and confusion, and they were themselves carried away by the stream
of fugitives. Many of the French, in the ardour of the combat, entered
the town with the enemy, and were made prisoners. Louis then sounded a
retreat, and fixed his camp a short distance from the walls.

The following days were employed in secret negotiations between the
Count de la Marche and St. Louis, which ended in their reconciliation,
and the Count's abandonment of the English monarch. Meantime Henry, with
his usual carelessness, after the first trouble was over, blindly
deceived himself into security, and resolved to spend the heats of the
month of August in quiet and enjoyment, forgetting that he was little
better than a prisoner in Saintes, and taking no heed of the treachery
of his friends without. Four days he allowed to pass as if no enemy were
at his gates; he even made parties of pleasure, and seemed resolved to
think no more of the war, when he was suddenly roused from his false
security by his brother, Richard, who had been warned of the dangers
which threatened them by a French knight, whose life he had saved in
Palestine.

By this means the self-deceiving monarch learnt that preparations were
being made by Louis to invest the town with all his forces, and that the
next day at day-break the siege was to commence. When this intelligence
reached Henry he was just about to sit down to table; at the same time
he learnt that the citizens of Saintes proposed to treat with his foes;
and he had not an instant to lose. He promptly gave orders that the
houses of the _bourgeois_ should _be set on fire_, and, mounting his
horse, set out, hungry and fatigued as he was after a day's excursion of
amusement, towards Blaye, as fast as speed could take him. His captains
were soon informed of his flight; they left their half-cooked viands, as
did all the army, who were still fasting, and the confusion of departure
exceeded belief; all hurried towards Blaye, where they sought refuge,
exhausted and worn, and but for a few berries which they gathered to
satisfy the cravings of their hunger, they had nearly all perished on
the way.

The following day the citizens and clergy of Saintes, in solemn
procession, repaired to the camp of St. Louis, bringing with them the
keys of the town, and swearing oaths of fealty. The King of France
entered in triumph, occupied all the evacuated posts, and placed a
garrison in the old citadel of the capital. His next care was to subdue
all the lords of the neighbouring castles, which, having done, he
commenced building a new line of walls to replace the dilapidated
Anglo-Roman line, which was falling in ruins. After this, says the
chronicler, St. Louis returned to his dominion of France, leaving
garrisons in all the strong places of Saintonge and Aunis.

The ruins of the castle of Taillebourg serve, like most fortresses in
France now-a-days, as promenades to the town to which they belong; all
along the top of the massive walls, which extend to some distance, is a
line of open balustrades, which has, from the river, a very ornamental
and somewhat Italian effect. Spreading trees rise above this, which
appear to form part of a plantation within, and placed, as the castle
is, on a very great elevation, at a turn of the river, which it must
have commanded, it has a peculiarly imposing and picturesque effect. The
town by no means answers to the beauty of its promenades; but that is
very frequently the case, and need not be a matter of surprise. A series
of rugged rocks, continued for some distance along the shore, add much
to the beauty of the scenery. The next castle is that of Bussac, which
retains a part of its old walls and towers, though a modern building
fills up the vacancies between. It stands well, and must have been a
fitting neighbour to Taillebourg; beyond this is a magnificent wood, Le
Bois de Sainte Marie, which covers the hills for nearly a league, and
has a very grand appearance.

During the wars of religion the river Charente, from the first fortress
we passed of Tonnay Charente, the site of which and a few stones alone
remain, to the town of Saintes, was a continued theatre of contention
and violence. One scene is curious; its hero was another of the
redoubtable barons of Taillebourg named Romegoux, whose singular
expedition is thus recounted:

The town of Saintes, having changed masters several times, was in the
hands of the Huguenot party, and the governor was the lord of Bussac
when Charles IX. sent the Duke of Anjou into that part of the country;
and, under his orders, the Sieur de la Rivière-Puytaillé made several
attempts on the town; but Bussac's vigilance foiled him continually. As
he was returning to his fortress of Tonnay-Charente, there to wait for
another occasion of molesting the enemy, in passing the castle of
Taillebourg he was attacked by the Huguenot garrison. After a brisk
skirmish the latter returned to his stronghold, growling like a
disturbed bear, and longing for an opportunity to vent his rage.

Meantime, Puytaillé was again summoned to the walls of Saintes, for the
citizens had risen; and fearing that an army would besiege them if they
held for the Protestants, they resolved to turn out those who were
within their walls, and give themselves up to the king's officer. Bussac
was obliged therefore to yield, and was allowed to march out of one
gate as Puytaillé marched in at the other.

When the Baron de Romegoux heard this he was greatly enraged, and
resolved to make an effort to regain the place; he accordingly invited
five or six hundred men, whom he thought as zealous as himself, to a
rendezvous, but only twenty-five attended his summons. This handful
showing themselves little disposed to attempt so perilous an adventure,
Romegoux was almost distracted with vexation; he wept, tore his hair,
and used every entreaty he could think of to induce them to join him,
for he was certain of success. At length he succeeded in inspiring them
with his own ardour, and they consented to accompany him wherever he
should lead them.

Armed with axes, and furnished with ladders, they set out, in the middle
of the night, for Saintes. They fixed their ladder near the Porte
Aiguières; as they were mounting, Romegoux heard a patrol passing; as
soon as it was gone he and his companions lost no time in hurrying into
the town; he divided his party into two, placing them at a small
distance from the rampart, to protect his retreat in case of surprise;
then, followed by the most determined of his band, he marched straight
to the lodging of Combaudière, who had been left by Puytaillé in his
place to command in his absence.

Romegoux broke open the door, surprised the governor in his bed, forced
him to rise, and, without giving him time to dress himself, obliged him
to march before them; but so paralysed was he with terror, that he had
scarcely the power to move. One of the Huguenots, therefore, placed him
on his shoulders, and carried him rapidly off towards the Porte
Aiguières, intending to descend by the ladders which had given them
entrance: but their companions had, in the meantime, broken the bar of
the gate, and lowered the drawbridge. Romegoux and his people made their
exit in good order through this door, to the sound of the tocsin, the
drums and the cries of alarm of the garrison and citizens, who, awaked
from their slumbers, were hurrying hither and thither in the utmost
confusion. The victorious party paused only at the end of the faubourg,
to allow the governor to dress himself, and then went off with their
prize.

Romegoux, however, though he gained great reputation by this daring
adventure, was unable to carry his design further, owing to want of
means, and he was so disappointed and annoyed at being forced to stop in
mid-career, that he was nearly dying with vexation.

In this castle of Taillebourg was afterwards established a Protestant
chapel, and _there_ were buried, after the fatal battle _des Arènes_, at
Saintes, the _four brothers_ Coligny, of whom d'Aubigné says, "They were
similar in countenance, but still more in probity, prudence, and
valour."

After a very agreeable voyage, we, at length, saw the towers and spires
of the old town of Saintes rising from the waters, and landed, for the
first time, _from a steam-boat_, without much confusion: we resigned
ourselves at once to the care of a very little boy, who bustled about
with great importance, and conducted us in triumph to the Hôtel de La
Couronne, by a long and beautiful boulevard of majestic trees, which
gave a very imposing impression of the town.



CHAPTER XIII.

     SAINTES--ROMAN ARCH OF TRIUMPH--GOTHIC BRIDGE--THE COURS--RUINED
     CITY--CATHEDRAL--COLIGNY--RUINED PALACE--ST.
     EUTROPE--AMPHITHEATRE--LEGEND OF STE. EUSTELLE--THE PRINCE OF
     BABYLON--FÊTE--THE CÔTEAU--STE. MARIE.


OF course the earliest object which one hastens to see in Saintes, is
the famous Roman arch. We beheld it first by moon-light, when its large,
spectre-like proportions, as it stood in shadow, at the extremity of the
bridge, gave a solemn character to the scene suitable to its antiquity:
the uncertain light softened all the inequalities of its surface, and it
seemed a monument of the magnificence of the days of old, which time and
tempest had spared; but it was far otherwise in the morning, when we
paid it our second visit, and a broad glare of sun-light brought out
all its age and _infirmities_: then became apparent the rents and
ravages which had entirely deprived it of the original polish of its
surface; and it seems to totter, as if the first gale would hurl its
ruins into the waters beneath. Not a stone looks in its place; they
appear as if confusedly heaped one on the other, after having been
destroyed and built up again: it is, therefore, with infinite surprise
that you find, on approaching nearer and nearer, that its solidity is
still so great--that the melted lead inserted between the stones, which
binds it so firmly, is as strong as ever, and that parts of the interior
of the arch are even and smooth; much, however, of this has been
restored. After looking at this magnificent arch a little while, you
begin to imagine it, in the glare of day, as perfect as it appeared when
the moon-beams played above, and showed it in such perfection; and all
the modern buildings round, look like houses built of dominos compared
to its gigantic form. It is as if an old Roman were standing at the
entrance of the town, silent, stern, and proud, and gazing with contempt
on the ephemeral creatures of an age he knew nothing of, and who were
unworthy to pass him by.

Everything about this singular monument is mysterious: it seems
difficult to determine how it came in its present position, for the
bridge on which it stands is of considerably later date than itself,
although that is of Gothic construction. It would appear that, at the
time it was built, the waters of the Charente did not run in that
direction, and having changed their course, the bridge was built from
necessity, and joined the arch which existed long before: but then it
must always have stood as high above the bed of the river as it does
now, which puzzles one again. It is true that traces are still to be
found of the ancient bed of a river, and, in a house in the Faubourg des
Dames, an arch, called by tradition _Le Pont-Amillon_, has been
discovered.

The date of the monument is given as the year 774 of Rome, and 21 A.D.
It has two circular arches, supported by Corinthian pillars, and a broad
entablature; on which the curious can read an inscription, some of the
letters of which, with difficulty, we could decipher. Above the cornice,
is a double range of battlements, which have a most singular appearance,
as they do not, by any means, amalgamate with the rest of the building:
they are, nevertheless, very boldly constructed, and appear to form part
of the original design. There is, however, no doubt that they are the
work of a Gothic hand, and may, probably, date with the bridge. The
stones of which it is composed, are masses of four and five French feet
long, and two and a half thick, placed at equal distances, without
cement, and rendered solid by the introduction of melted lead and iron
hooks, some of which may still be seen in the intervals between the
stones. The stone is from the neighbourhood of Saintes, and is full of
shells and fossils: its height is twenty metres, French measurement: and
it is three metres thick, and fifteen wide.

Great precautions were taken, in 1666, to preserve this precious
monument, at the expense of M. de Bassompierre, Bishop of Saintes; but
so disjointed are some of its parts, that, except the utmost care is
continued, it can scarcely be expected to survive the demolition of the
ancient bridge, on which it stands, and which is doomed to destruction.

I heard with consternation that such was about to be the case, and that
a suspension-bridge is to replace it. What they will do with _the old
Roman_ it is difficult to say, or how they are to preserve it, standing,
as it does, almost in the centre of the river, or what effect it will
produce in so isolated a position, if permitted to stand, are questions
which naturally occur. It is to be hoped that the inhabitants will delay
its fate as long as possible, and, considering how very much must be
done in Saintes before, by any possibility, it can be made to approach
to anything like a habitable town, it seems a pity that one of its most
interesting and famous possessions should be torn from it. When its Arch
of Triumph falls, much of the glory of Saintes will fall with it; but it
will probably one day become a commercial town; the steam-boats, which
now stop below the venerable old bridge, will sweep over the spot where
it stood for ages, and the old Roman arch will be considered in the way,
and will be _removed_!

The inscriptions on the _attic_, which is divided into three parts, I
give from a work on the subject, as it may interest _archæological
readers_:--

     INSCRIPTION ON THE ATTIC, NEXT THE TOWN.

     "To Germanicus Cæsar, son of Tiberius Augustus, grandson of the
     divine Augustus, great grandson of the divine Julius, augur, priest
     of Augustus, consul for the second time, emperor for the second
     time.

     "To Tiberius Cæsar, son of the divine Augustus, grand pontiff,
     consul for the fourth time, emperor for the eighth time the year of
     his tribunitian power.

     "To Drusus Cæsar, son of Tiberius Augustus, grandson of the divine
     Augustus, great grandson of the divine Julius, pontiff, augur."

       *       *       *       *       *

     INSCRIPTION ON THE FRIEZE, NEXT THE TOWN.

     "Caius Julius Rufus, son of Caius Julius Ottuaneunus, grandson of
     Caius Julius Gededmon, great grandson of Epotsorovidus, priest,
     consecrated to the worship of Rome and Augustus in the temple,
     which is at the confluence, in his quality of intendant of works,
     has made the dedication of this monument."

The inscription on the frieze, at the side of the Faubourg, is the same
repeated.

There seems, however, to be much uncertainty as to who the monument was
dedicated to, and the subject is a constant source of dispute with the
learned: the inscription can hardly be said to exist at present, so much
obliterated are the letters; but enough seems to remain to revive
inquiry and puzzle conjecture. The arch is more massive, but scarcely so
beautiful as the arches at Autun, with which we were so much delighted:
it is much more conspicuous and higher: both of those being on low
ground. There is no occasion to seek for this of Saintes; for it stands,
like a huge baron of old, guarding the river: we saw a company of
soldiers pass beneath it, as we lingered at a distance, and we felt
astonished to think how, in the midst of the centuries of violence it
had seen, in all the stormings and batterings and besiegings, it could
possibly have escaped, and be still there, a monument of the power of
the most redoubtable warriors of all.

Saintes is one of the most extraordinary towns I ever saw: it somewhat
reminded me of Autun, of Provins, of Château Thierry; yet it is very
different from either, and in fact

    "None but itself can be its parallel."

It is separated into three towns, quite distinct one from the other, yet
joined, like a trefoil. As you stand on the broad boulevard leading
above the first town, the other two spread out beneath on either hand.
The churches of Notre Dame, of St. Eutrope, and the cathedral of St.
Pierre, each claim a part.

Descending the _Cours_, the aspect of that division which claims the
stupendous church of St. Eutrope[10] is wondrously imposing. I never
beheld anything more so, and we stood some time on the high-raised road
which commanded the view, rapt in astonishment at the ruined grandeur
before us. The enormous tower of St. Eutrope rises from a mass of
buildings which appear Lilliputian beside it; gardens and vines and
orchards slope down from it, and low in the meadows a long series of
arches betray the celebrated amphitheatre--another of the wonders of
this remarkable place. What convents and churches and castles and towers
have been cleared away to form the _Cours_ which extend from town to
town, I cannot say; but it appears as if not a quarter of the original
site can now be occupied; indeed, one is perfectly bewildered at every
step with the piles of ruin and rubbish scattered about, the remains of
old buildings destroyed to make room for new, which, begun and left
unfinished, or completed and then abandoned, have added a series of
modern ruins to those which are antique. There is not a single street,
or place, or road in Saintes, which can be called finished: materials
for building are scattered in all directions, and, in many parts, moss
and weeds have grown up amidst the piles of stone destined to construct
some new house or temple: in the meantime the streets are without
pavement, or as bad, hollow, damp, dirty, and dreary; the houses are
unpainted, slovenly, neglected, and ugly: the churches are dilapidated,
or but half restored; grass grows in the newly-projected squares, and
all is in a state of confusion and litter. It seems as if the task of
regenerating Saintes, rebuilding it from the ground, in fact, had been
undertaken in a moment of desperation, and the project had been
abandoned as suddenly as conceived.

[Footnote 10: Since this was written, I grieve to observe, by the French
newspapers, that the tower and part of the church of St. Eutrope, have
been destroyed by lightning.]

All attention seems now directed to the river side. The erection of a
new quay absorbs every mind; and all the workmen that can be procured
are busy hurrying to and fro, amidst the mud and water of the spot where
passengers land from the steam-boat. One would wonder why any body
should think of coming to Saintes at all, except from curiosity, as we
did; but that it is the direct route to the Gironde; where, from
Mortagne, another steam-boat, in communication with the Charente,
conveys passengers to Bordeaux. Since the establishment of these boats a
great change has been operated in Saintes, and probably its condition
will now improve.

Notwithstanding this _too true_ description of the once important
capital of Saintonge, it possesses an interest which may well attract
the antiquarian visitor to its walls. The ruins of the Arch and those of
the Amphitheatre alone would be attraction enough for many; and as the
hotels are remarkably good, clean, and comfortable, a sojourn of a few
days in Saintes will quite repay the traveller who comes, as we did, out
of his way to visit its battered walls. We were not fortunate, as at La
Rochelle, in the weather, for most of our excursions were performed in
the midst of showers. I cannot but think, from the experience of several
years' travelling, that there is even more uncertainty in the weather in
France than in England; and I was particularly struck with the fact,
that the nearer we approached the south, the colder, damper, and less
genial it became. It is a mere absurdity to talk of the difference of
our climate and that of France, in any part: it is assuredly _warmer_ in
England, and not a whit more changeable.

We took advantage of the first gleams, after a wet night, to explore the
strange old town, once said to contain a hundred thousand inhabitants,
and, both in the time of the Gauls and the Romans, to have been of the
utmost importance.

The cathedral is a monument of the violence of religious fanaticism; it
was almost torn to pieces by the Huguenots; in the sixteenth century,
all its fine architecture was defaced, its saints dragged from their
niches, and its ornaments destroyed. The principal entrance must,
originally, have been very grand; but is so much injured that little but
its form remains. The most remarkable part of the building is the
enormous tower, which rises to a gigantic height above all the edifices
of the town on the side next the river, vying with that of St. Eutrope
in the opposite quarter. This tower is supported by flying buttresses,
of great strength and beauty: the Calvinists had resolved on its
destruction, and had already begun its demolition, when it was
represented to Admiral Coligny that the fall of so gigantic a mass would
probably occasion serious accidents; and that if it were fortified it
might be turned to great advantage for the defence of the town.
Fortunately, this advice was taken, and the fine tower remains in all
its stupendous grandeur, with its flying buttresses, crocketed pyramids
and arches, unique in their form; it is said to be one of the largest in
Europe, and one of the finest specimens of the decorated style of Gothic
architecture.

The interior of the church is so much altered as to have little of the
original left; however, a few bits show how fine it must once have been:
the mean buildings which formerly hemmed it in are removed, and an open
space is left, which allows it to be seen to some advantage.

On the spot where once stood the capitol, the civil hospital now crowns
the height, and a fine view of the country and the river may be had from
that point, though the road to it is sufficiently difficult to deter one
from approaching it. A fine military hospital is placed in an elevated
position answering to the other. The college, founded by Henry IV., is
said to be good, and the prison very admirable in its way. The rest of
the public buildings are no more to be admired than the private ones.

We remarked a very handsome house, forming one side of a neglected
square, whose grand terraces and fine wings spoke it something of
consequence. We found it was once the bishop's palace, but had been long
left to go to ruin; and a part of it was now used by some Sisters of
Charity for a school. It was but of a piece with the rest of Saintes,
desolate and degraded, and "fallen from its high estate."

St. Eutrope lay in our way to the ruins of the great amphitheatre, and
we paused as we passed it at an open door, which was too tempting a
circumstance to be neglected on a rainy morning, when there might be
some trouble in finding the sacristan, and we rightly judged this would
lead to the famous crypt, the object of admiration and surprise to
antiquarians. Down a steep inclination we pursued our way towards a dark
nook, and there, through an iron grating, we discovered before us the
subterranean church, of immense size, and in perfect preservation; its
massive pillars and sharpcut capitals, its high-curved roof and circular
arches, all perfect, and its floor and walls undergoing restoration. We
resolved to see it more in detail hereafter, and, in the meantime, went
on to a lower part of the dim passage, where, turning aside, we found
ourselves close to a huge well of fearful depth, all round which were
ranged stone coffins, of primitive forms, one, in particular, still
preserving its cover, and of a most mysterious shape, which must have
belonged to some early inhabitant of this holy pile.

While we were speculating on the subject, a voice at a distance reached
our ears, requesting to know how long we intended to remain in that
retreat: we returned, and found, stationed at the door by which we had
entered, a young woman with pails of water by her side: she laughed
good-humouredly, and remarked--"I would not disturb you as I saw you
looking through the bars of the old church as I came back from drawing
water; but you staid so long that I began to think it time to call out,
as I must lock the door and go home now." We accordingly accompanied her
out, resolving to resume our visit on our return from the Arènes, to
which she directed us.

We followed a very steep path; and, keeping a range of ruined arches in
view, threaded the mazes of a long lane, till we arrived at the
irregular space where once stood the famous Roman amphitheatre. The
diameter of this building is the same as that of Nîmes, and it,
apparently, could have held about five thousand spectators: the ruins
are scattered over a very large extent in confused heaps; but there are
a great many vaulted arches, small and great, still standing, some
covered with weeds and grass, and overhung with wild vines and flowering
shrubs. There appears little doubt that here was a Naumachia, from
different discoveries that have been made of vaults which must have
conducted the waters to this spot. The meadows and little hills all
around are covered with remains of this once important place of
amusement; and the labourer is for ever turning up, with his spade or
plough, coins and capitals and broken pillars and pavement, belonging to
the period of its existence.

There still exists in the centre of what was the Naumachia, a well,
called La Fontaine de Sainte-Eustelle, to which miraculous virtues are
even now attributed, and to which the following legend belongs:

Eustelle was the daughter of an officer high in command in Saintonge: a
man of great power and severity, and a pagan: he had a particular horror
of the sect called Christians, who had begun to spread themselves over
the country, and were slowly, but surely, making their way. It was far
different with his beautiful daughter, whose nurse having imbibed the
principles of the true faith, had communicated her knowledge to her
foster-child, who listened with delight to her lessons, and, from year
to year, as she grew up, more than ever abhorred the superstitious
observances of her father and her friends. In the huge hollow stones
worshipped as gods, she saw only profanation; and, while compelled to
offer sacrifice to an imaginary deity, she in her heart addressed
prayers to a superior Being, that he would condescend to enlighten
those who were led astray, and assist her in her secret faith.

It was at this period that her father resolved to bestow her in marriage
on the son of Xerxes, King of Babylon; and as the prince was shortly
expected to arrive in Saintonge, he bade her prepare to receive her
intended husband. Eustelle heard these tidings with despair, secretly
resolving never to become the wife of a heathen, such as she was certain
the Prince of Babylon must be: her tears and entreaties, however, had no
effect on her father, who began to suspect her change of faith, and
resolved to secure the alliance at once. Preparations on a magnificent
scale were being made, and in a few days the bridegroom elect was
expected to arrive, when news was suddenly brought that the prince had
disappeared from his father's court, and was nowhere to be found. The
father of Eustelle hastened to her chamber to prepare her for the
disappointment, when, to his surprise, he found her not; and on the
couch where she usually slept a golden cross was laid; but no one could
give any account of her. The country was searched in all directions in
vain; and it was at length supposed that Eustelle had destroyed herself.

It was, however, far otherwise, for, in a cavern by the side of a
fountain, on the spot where now stand the ruins of the Roman
amphitheatre, Eustelle had concealed herself, having been guided thither
by a shining light, which flitted before her to the spot, and rested at
the mouth of the cavern: there she was miraculously supported, drinking
only of the waters of the fountain, which not only served her for
nourishment, but so increased her beauty, that she was a marvel to
behold. One morning, as she came forth from her cavern to perform her
usual devotions at the side of the fountain, she was surprised to see a
young man kneeling on the ground in devout prayer, so absorbed that he
did not perceive her approach; but as he raised his eyes, her figure
becoming suddenly visible to him, he exclaimed, "Oh, blessed Heaven! my
prayers are then heard--the Holy Virgin is herself before me!" Eustelle
started, and amazed at his words, demanded who he was, and whether he
was indeed a Christian, like herself, as his exclamation made it appear.
"Beautiful lady," replied he, "since you are not, as I supposed, a
heavenly visitant, know that I am Eutrope, the son of the King of
Babylon, fled from a marriage which I detested with a pagan of this
country. I am, indeed, a Christian and a priest, and obliged to conceal
my faith from the persecutors of those who hate us. The time will come
when we can declare ourselves, for already we increase in numbers as in
faith."

Eustelle, as she looked upon his features and heard the soft tones of
his voice, felt a momentary regret that he had been so precipitate in
rejecting the supposed pagan wife offered him; but considering such
feelings a crime, she replied: "Holy father, you see before you one who
has also fled from persecution, and sought a solitude where she can
worship the only true God in safety. I am she who was destined to be
your wife, had not a better fate been prepared for us both. In future,
we can serve and pray, and our spirits will together praise Him, who has
directed us thus to meet."

What passed in the mind of Eutrope, when he heard these words, it is
difficult to say; but he resigned himself at once to the lot which was
appointed for him. He built himself a hut at a small distance from the
cavern, and, devoting himself to prayer and thanksgiving, he permitted
his mind only to regard Eustelle in the light of a holy sister, while
she on her part held him as a saint sent to confirm her in her belief.
By the side of the miraculous fountain, many a time did the holy pair
sit in pious converse, mutually instructing each other, while angels
hovered above them, and joined in the chorus of praise which they sang.

St. Eutrope afterwards became the first bishop of Saintes, and St.
Eustelle lived a recluse in her cavern, where miracles were long
afterwards performed by her, and where she expired at the same moment
that her holy companion suffered the martyrdom which secured him a crown
of glory to all eternity.

The fête of the two saints is kept together on the 30th of April, and,
for eight days after, the otherwise quiet town of Saintes is a scene of
gaiety and rejoicing: a fair is held, and minstrels, jugglers, and
merchants of all kinds add to the liveliness of the scene. Why such
demonstrations should be made in honour of two persons whose lives were
spent in solitude and self-denial, it is somewhat difficult to
understand; and how the dull, dreary, desolate, and ruined town can ever
be made to wear a brilliant aspect, is equally difficult of
comprehension; but such _is said_ to be the case. On the morning of the
fête, great honours were paid, formerly, to St. Eustelle, which are not
even yet altogether discontinued. An image of the holy Virgin is
suspended in the grotto near the miraculous well, and there the water is
dispensed to believers in its efficacy "for a consideration."

It is principally visited by young girls, who are anxious to secure a
happy issue to an existing attachment, or to obtain, through the medium
of the indulgent saint, a lover before the end of the year. The way to
obtain this is to throw a pin into the fountain, and to drink a little
of the water. It is not impossible, after this, that a prince of Babylon
will make his appearance. Every year, however, this superstition is
wearing out, and probably will soon be forgotten altogether.

The sun shone, and, the day being mild, we lingered for some time
amongst these extensive ruins, climbing and exploring and looking down
caverns and ravines in the rocks, beneath one of which rolls a dark
stream, doubtless the source of those waters which were formerly
directed into the arena to serve the Naumachia. There is something
fearful in knowing that beneath your feet, as you wander in these ruined
places, exist gulphs of darkness, into which a false step amongst
treacherous bushes and weeds might precipitate the unwary. We were
driven from both the beauties and dangers of the spot by the beginning
of a shower, and determined on making a retreat to St. Eutrope, whose
enormous tower beckoned us from the hill above. We had not, however,
gone many steps when the storm came down with all the impatient fury of
_French rain_, and we were glad to take shelter in a wood-shed, at a
house which we should have endeavoured to visit had no accident
introduced us to its premises.

This house, now entirely modern, belongs to a farmer, and is called _The
Côteau_; in the garden is an _oyster bank_ of some extent, which is
looked upon as one of several proofs that the sea once bathed the walls
of Saintes; and beneath the building is a subterranean range, formerly
communicating with the amphitheatre, which is distant the length of
several fields from the house. As accidents might occur in consequence
of the great extent and ruined state of the galleries and arches of this
singular building, the proprietor has lately closed up the entrance, and
there is now no possibility of exploring; but the wonders of this place
have been described by different writers who have occupied themselves
with the antiquities of Saintes, of which there is so much to be said
and seen that it is almost a dangerous subject to touch upon. Certainly
it is a town which presents a wide field of enquiry and interest to
archæologists, and as it now lies in the highway to Bordeaux, the
curious may be attracted to its walls, and will be rewarded by their
visit.

Then, perchance, may be fitly described by a Gally Knight, the
Camp _de César_, the _Terrier de Toulon_, the _Tour de Pyrelonge_,
the Aqueduct of _Font-Giraud_, the Cavern of _Ouaye-à-Métau_, the
_Grand-Font-du-Douhet_, the _Font-Morillon_, the _Plantes des
Neuf-puits_, all works of the Gauls and Romans, of which, wells
and arches, and baths and subterranean temples, still excite the
astonishment, not only of the peasants who are constantly stumbling on
their remains, but of the antiquary who ventures into the long galleries
and ruined chambers which speak to him of the glories of a people who
once swayed the country they rendered powerful and beautiful by their
architecture, the traces of which time itself cannot entirely sweep
away.

We found, on visiting St. Eutrope on our return, that little interest
attaches to the church itself, scarcely any part of its interior having
been spared by the numerous hostilities which it has had to undergo;
some parts of the exterior are, however, beautiful, and the crypt lost
none of its interest on a second view. It is, after that of Chartres,
the most perfect and the most extraordinary in France, and formerly
extended as far again as at present. The fine bold circular arches, of
different sizes and heights; the massive cylindrical pillars, the rich
sharp capitals, and _still fresh_ gothic character of the cornices,
astonish the beholder; it is undergoing restoration in parts, which
appears sufficiently judicious. So solemn and silent was the sacristan
who conducted us over this subterranean church, that we imagined for
some time he was dumb, till we were undeceived on his expressing his
pleasure at the small donation we bestowed on him for his trouble; as it
is somewhat difficult, at the present day, in France, to meet the
exalted expectations of the numerous guides who exhibit to English
travellers the lions of their towns, we were amused at the satisfaction
betrayed by our silent cicerone.

The once beautiful church of Notre Dame, or Ste. Marie, serves now as
the stables of the garrison, and all its fine remains are hidden from
public view; parts of its exterior still attract the eye, and make one
regret that it has fallen into such utter decay. It was once covered
with statues of great beauty, some of which remain; but that of Geoffrey
Martel, its founder, is destroyed, with a host of others, once its
pride; enough, however, is to be seen which is well worthy of attention;
but, from its present occupation, we did not do more than attempt to
find it out in its degradation. The cells of the nuns are now occupied
by dragoons.



CHAPTER XIV.

     FRÈRE CHRÉTIEN--UTILITY OF CUSTOM-HOUSE SEARCH--BOLD
     VOYAGER--PAUILLAC--BLAYE--THE GIRONDE--TALBOT--VINES--THE
     LANDES--PHANTOM OF KING ARTHUR--THE WITCH-FINDER--THE
     LANDES--WRECKERS.


OUR destination was now the Gironde, and we found our only plan was to
set out in the middle of the night for Mortagne, where the steam-boat to
Bordeaux from Royan touched for passengers. We accordingly secured our
places in the _coupé_, and, having been quite punctual to the hour of
twelve, we expected to begin our journey. At the appointed time,
however, neither horses nor _conducteur_ were to be found, and the
diligence remained for a full hour beneath the trees of the _cours_,
filled with its impatient passengers, without any appearance of moving.
The pause was enlivened by a violent altercation between a passenger on
the roof and the proprietor, which caused a great encounter of tongues,
so furious that we dreaded that blows must ensue, when we heard the
vociferous individual who had usurped somebody's place, favoured by the
darkness, kicking and resisting as he was dragged from his exalted
station. However, as is almost always the case in France, the moment the
culprit--who was loud in his threats of vengeance when too far off to
execute them--descended to earth, and had an opportunity of making them
good, he became mute and humble, and made his escape at once, amidst the
jeers of those who had also threatened to annihilate him as soon as he
was within their reach. This scene, taking place at midnight, beneath
the high trees of the great avenue in the gloomy ruined town of Saintes,
was sufficiently unpleasant, as there seemed less and less chance of our
ever stirring from the spot, and a great probability of our arriving, at
any rate, too late for the steamer at Mortagne; but a priest, who was
our companion, and who seemed to have previously filled up the lonely
hours of evening by potations, seemed greatly to enjoy the bustle, till
a remark of mine, on the unsuitableness of the scene to one of his
order, acted like magic on him, and he ceased the _swearing_ and
encouraging exclamations in which he had before indulged, and became as
meek and demure as he probably passed for, being amongst those whose
eyes he knew to be on him. He was of the order of Christian Brothers: a
community by no means remarkable for the edification of their manners
and demeanour.

It is customary with _conducteurs_, when very much behind their time,
to regain it by furious driving; and this being the case in our
instance, we got to the inn at Mortagne in time, the boat being, as it
happened, later than usual. In the midst of the rain we were obliged to
obey the custom-house summons to produce our keys, in order that our
trunks might be inspected, and if _bales of cotton_ should be found
amongst our caps and gowns, we might suffer according to our offence
against the laws. After much uncording and dashing and knocking about of
baggage, the person who officiated proceeded to drag open the suspected
packages rather unceremoniously. An exclamation, which one of our party
made in English, seemed to put an end, however, to the search, for,
looking up and bowing, he said, "Oh, English ladies,--that's enough!"
Having escaped this _necessary_ ceremony, we had to walk about half a
mile in the mud and rain to the pier, though there was no sort of reason
why the coach should not have taken us all with our goods to the shore;
except, indeed, that by so convenient an arrangement, the demands of a
whole host of porters would have been evaded.

We were huddled into a clumsy boat, some standing and some sitting on
the wet seats, and paddled off to the steamer which stood off; our
baggage strewn on the pier, to be transported hereafter, if the captain
chose to wait. And in this unpleasing state of uncertainty, at six
o'clock in the morning, in a pouring rain, we were put on board the
vessel which was to transport us to Bordeaux.

In spite, however, of the wondrous confusion which made it probable that
accidents of all kinds would ensue, nothing tragical happened, and
nothing was lost. One little stout man, in a long cloak, attached
himself to our side, not so much with a view of affording us _his_
protection, as to obtain it at our hands. He looked very pale and cold;
and as he trudged along in the mud, addressed me frequently, in
tremulous tones, requesting to know my opinion as to the state of _the
ocean_; whether I did not fear that it would be very rough and very
dangerous, confessing that he felt pretty sure such would be the case,
though he had never seen the sea before, and hoping I would not be
alarmed. I assured him I had no fears on that head, as, in the first
place, wide as the expanse before us appeared, it was not the _sea_, but
the _river_, several leagues from its _embouchure_; next, that it was as
calm as a mill-pond, without a breath of wind to ruffle its thick yellow
waters. "Hélas!" said he, "you do not seem to care; but perhaps you have
no baggage as I have, otherwise you would feel great uneasiness."

I found him afterwards on board almost crying after his _effêts_, which
consisted of a hat-box, carpet-bag, and little bundle, all of which
were safely produced. When we had proceeded about an hour, he came
strutting up to us, and, with a patronizing air, exclaimed, "There, you
see, there is no reason to be alarmed; I told you so." I gratified him
exceedingly by agreeing that he was perfectly right.

The Gironde is, indeed, at this part, like the sea: the opposite shores
cannot be distinguished, so broad and fine is the expanse; and the
exceedingly ugly colour of the water is, at first, forgotten in the
magnitude of the space which surrounds the voyager.

But that we had resolved to make ourselves acquainted with the Roman
city of Saintes, we should have followed the usual course, and, on
leaving Rochefort, proceeded across the country to Royan, once an
insignificant village, now a rather important bathing-place. By this
means the whole of the banks of the Gironde may be seen; and it is a
charming voyage.

The first object of interest is the famous Tour de Corduan, built on a
bank of rocks, and placed at the entrance of the river, with its
revolving light to warn mariners of their position. It was originally
constructed in 1548, by the celebrated engineer, Louis de Foix, whose
works at Bayonne have rendered his name illustrious. Pauillac is the
_chef-lieu_ of the last canton of Haut-Medoc, and its port being good,
many vessels, which cannot reach so high as Bordeaux, stop here, and
discharge their cargo. Here grow the wines, called Château Lafitte, and
Château Latour. There is nothing very remarkable in the appearance of
the town but a long pier, of which many of our passengers took advantage
to land, and our steward to go to market, returning with a store of
eatables, for which every one seemed quite ready. The weather had now
cleared, and the aspect of things was, consequently, much brightened;
and, as we approached Blaye, the skies were fine, and the air fresh and
agreeable.

A group of islands, called _Les Isles de Cazau_, rises from the waters;
and on one of them appears the singularly-shaped tower of Blaye, so like
a _pâté de Perigord_, that it is impossible, on looking at it, not to
think of Charlemagne, or his nephew, the famous paladin, Rolando, who
should be the presiding genii of the scene.

All along the left bank of the river extend, in this direction, the
far-famed plains of Medoc--once the haunt of wolves and wild boars, now
covered with the vines renowned throughout Europe.

The first place, after Mortagne--where once stood the castle of that
Jeanne de Vendôme who falsely accused Jacques Coeur--is Pauillac, a town
of some commercial importance; and near is an island, called Patiras,
formerly the abode of a pirate, called Monstri, whose depredations were
so extensive that the parliament of Bordeaux was obliged to send a
considerable naval force to put him down. But Monstri was not the only
depredator who found the Gironde a fitting theatre for his piracy.
Amongst all that _coquinaille_,--as Mezeray designates the notorious
Free Companies who, after their services were no longer required to
drive the English from the recovered realm of Charles VII., exercised
their cruelties and indulged their robber-propensities on the people of
France, wherever they came,--was a knight and a noble, who may serve as
a type of those of his time, Roderigue de Villandras, known as _Le
Méchant Roderigue_; together with Antoine de Chabannes, Lord of
Dammartin, the Bâtard de Bourbon, and others; Villandras led a troop of
those terrible men, who boasted of the name of _Ecorcheurs_. It was true
that, in the lawless period when the destitute _Roi de Bourges_ had
neither money nor power, they had done great service to his cause--as a
troop of trained wolves might have done--ravaging and destroying all
they came near; but the end once accomplished, the great desire of all
lovers of order was to get rid of the scourge which necessity had
obliged the king to endure so long. To such a pitch of insolence had
these leaders arrived, that, not content with despoiling every person
they met, Villandras had, at last, the effrontery to attack and pillage
the baggage of the king himself, and to maltreat his people. Enraged at
finding the vexations of which his suffering subjects had so long
bitterly complained, come home to himself, personally, Charles resolved
on vigorous measures, and gave instant command that these companies
should be pursued and hunted from society: that every town and village
should take up arms against them, and, as for Chabannes, Roderigue,
&c., they were banished from the kingdom. Roderigue, however, retired,
with a chosen band, to the Garonne, and there, entrenching himself in
one of the islands, carried on the trade of a pirate, destroying the
country on each side of the river, and murdering the inhabitants without
mercy.

This state of things lasted for some time: the labouring people and
proprietors, unable to resist these incursions, left their land in
despair, and fled for protection into the towns: the consequence of
which was, that plague and famine ensued, and their miserable country
became a prey to a new species of wretchedness.

In less than six weeks, fifty thousand people died in Paris alone, until
the city became so emptied of inhabitants that not more than three
persons were left to each street. It is recorded that famished wolves
came down upon the great capital, and prowled about the streets as if
they had been in a forest, devouring the bodies scattered about
unburied, and attacking the few living creatures in this great desert.

Meantime, the revolt of the disaffected lords, who composed what was
called the Praguerie, gave new employment to all the _mauvais sujets_ of
the kingdom, and Chabannes and Villandras did not neglect so fine an
opportunity of committing additional outrages; and, for a time, they
carried their terrors throughout Poitou and Champagne. Being taken in
arms, the fearful Bâtard de Bourbon met his deserved fate by being sewn
in a sack and thrown into the river; but Villandras escaped the justice
of the king, in consideration of services required of him and his band
of robbers; and De Chabannes was reinstated in the favour of Charles,
being too powerful and dangerous to offend.

One is not surprised to be told that the fortress of Blaye is called _Le
Paté_: it is, doubtless, of great strength and importance, but not
imposing, in consequence of its want of height, and its flat, crushed
appearance on a marshy island. The exterior walls appear very ancient,
but all the centre of the tower is fitted up with modern buildings,
having common-looking roofs, quite destroying all picturesque effect.

The steamer made the entire tour of the island; so that we saw the fort
on every side, and presently came in full view of the town and citadel
of Blaye, partly on a height and partly on a level with the river. No
part of it offers any beauty; nor does it possess features of majesty
and grandeur, though its recollections cannot fail to excite interest.
The Duchess of Berry must have found her sojourn in this desolate castle
dismal enough: it is an excellent place for a prison; and was, formerly,
no doubt of the utmost importance to Charlemagne, as it probably
continues to be to this day to the ruling powers. The body of Rolando,
after the fatal day when

    "Charlemagne and all his peerage fell
    At Fontarabia,"

was brought here; and, several centuries afterwards, his tomb was
removed to the church of St. Seurin, at Bordeaux. King Chérébert,
grandson of Clovis, has also his tomb on this rock; but no remains of
it, I believe, are now shown. Our troops, in 1814, could tell of the
obstinate resistance of the citadel, and were well able to measure its
strength.

The banks of the river are, from hence, covered with vines, and are
higher and more rocky. Numerous dwellings cut in the rocky face of the
hills remind one of the same appearance on the borders of the Loire; but
in no other respect can the clay-coloured river claim resemblance with
that crystal though sand-encumbered stream. Several bold rocks diversify
the prospect here,--one called the Roque-de-Tau, and another the
Pain-de-Sucre.

The space where the two rivers, Dordogne and Garonne, meet, and falling
together into one, form the Gironde, is called _L'Entre-Deux-Mers_; and
the shore the Bec d'Ambez. This part is sometimes dangerous; and, I dare
say, our timid fellow-voyager felt a little nervous; but nothing
happened to our boat, as we fell quietly into the Garonne, leaving the
sister river, and its boasted Pont de Cubzac,--the object sought by the
spy-glasses of all on board,--in the distance.

We were now passing along between the shores of the famous river
Garonne--always the scene of contentions, from its importance, and
particularly so during the long wars between France and England in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Although but few of the castles
whose turrets once frowned along the hills above the waters now remain,
even in ruins, yet, in those days, they were nearly as numerous as the
trees which have now taken their place. Many a time has the banner of
the Black Prince been displayed on the waves of this river, and been
saluted or attacked according as he was victor or besieger. Every inch
of land and water, from the Tour de Corduan to the walls of Bordeaux,
and, indeed, to Agen, has been disputed by struggling thousands, from
the time of Elionore of Guienne to the Duke of Wellington! But it was at
the time when the star of France emerged from its dark clouds, and shone
above the head of Charles VII., that the French shook off the foreign
yoke which had so long kept from them this--one of the finest rivers in
their realms.

Charles VII., after having despoiled his friends and reduced his
enemies, was endeavouring to shut out from his memory the visions of the
betrayed heroine of Orleans and the persecuted merchant of Bourges, the
lost Agnes Sorel and the turbulent and revolted Dauphin; and had retired
to his castle of pleasure at Mehun-sur-Yevre, where he could best
conceal from prying eyes the idle occupations and degrading enjoyments
which filled the time of the hero _of other's swords_. He had just
concluded a peace with Savoy, and had rejected, as vexatious, the
petitions of his subjects of Gascony, who were writhing under the
exactions of his ministers. He felt that all was now at his feet; and he
would not permit his loved ease and quiet to be disturbed by appeals to
his justice and humanity. The people of Guienne, therefore, saw that it
was in vain that they had submitted, and had consented to give up the
English rule, to which they had been so long accustomed, and under which
they had flourished. Several of the higher families allied with that
country, had endured the alienation with uneasiness. Amongst others,
Pierre de Montferrant, who bore the singular title of Souldich de
l'Estrade, or de la Trau, had married a natural daughter of the Duke of
Bedford: he had been forced to capitulate when taken prisoner at Blaye;
but he preserved his ancient attachment to England; and, taking
advantage of the discontent which prevailed, he sent messages to Talbot,
Earl of Shrewsbury, recommending him to attempt the re-conquest of the
Bordelais, which promised to be an easy prize.

The lords of Candale and l'Esparre confirmed his statements, in an
interview with the earl, in London, where they had remained after the
treaty. They assured him that, if the English landed a small force at
Bordeaux, they would certainly be joined by the disaffected, and had
little to contend with; for Charles had withdrawn most of his troops, to
send them against Savoy, and, it was thought, against the Dauphin
himself. This was followed by the announcement that the powerful lords
of Rosan, Gaillard de Durfort, Jean de la Linde, and the Sire de
Langlade, with many other gentlemen of the country, had proclaimed their
intention of rising as soon as the English flag should be displayed on
the Garonne. The Archbishop of Bordeaux and the Bishop of Oleron had
entered into the plot; for there is proof that they had solicited new
favours from Henry VI. before the return of the English to Guienne.

A favourable turn in the affairs of Henry seemed to render the moment
propitious; and Marguerite d'Anjou seized the occasion of success
against her opponents, to despatch Talbot, as the lieutenant of the king
in Aquitaine, with an army of between seven and eight thousand men, with
ample powers to pardon all offences committed against England. The aged
chief, favoured by the wind and weather, arrived at Bordeaux, and was
introduced into the city, by the citizens, before the soldiers of
Charles VII. had even dreamed of his approach. The seneschal, the
under-mayor, and almost all the French garrison, were instantly
surprised and taken prisoners.

Talbot, delighted at his prompt success, roused all his old energy, and,
in an incredibly short space of time, had retaken all the places which
had been lost to the English, in the preceding year, in the Bordelais,
the Agenois, and the Bazadois. Eighty vessels arrived with provisions
from England, and all went well with the conquerors. The French who held
out were obliged to retire to their ancient frontiers, and do their
utmost to defend the remainder of Guienne against the fortunate
invaders.

Meantime, the King of France was dreaming away his life, as he had
formerly done, while the English were lords of his kingdom; but the news
of their return woke him from his slumbers, and, hurrying to Lusignan,
and assembling his forces in haste, he set forth in his character of
warrior, and paused not till he had reached the Dordogne. The two famous
brothers Bureau brought up their sappers and miners, and their
tremendous artillery; nobles and knights flocked to his standard, and
Talbot found that the foe he held in utter contempt, presented an aspect
of resolve worthy of his attention. The old general was about to hear
mass when it was falsely announced to him that a party of his people had
routed the French, who had abandoned their park of artillery, before
Chatillon en Perigord. He started up, and exclaimed, as he interrupted
the ceremony, "I swear that I will never hear mass again till I have
swept away the French from before me." So saying, he rushed to arms,
called out his troops, and marched forth with impetuosity, uttering his
war-cry, "Talbot! Saint George!"

Fatal was his haste, and fatal was the misrepresentation made to him; in
the battle that ensued the gallant veteran and his son were slain, with
upwards of four thousand men; the French were too much harassed to
pursue their victory; but, finding the body of Talbot amongst the heaps
of dead, it was proclaimed to France that their most dreaded enemy was
no more.

    "Talbot is slain!--the Frenchman's only scourge;
    Their kingdom's terror, and black Nemesis!"

    "Whose life was England's glory--Gallia's wonder."

The face of things was now essentially changed; all the influences were
turned to the advantage of 'Charles the Victorious.' One after another
the towns and fortresses on the Garonne, Blancafort, Saint Macaire,
Langon, Villandras, Cadillac, were forced to surrender. And all the
country "_between the two seas_" was in the hands of the French. The
Gironde was filled with vessels sent to the aid of France by Castile,
Burgundy, Bretagne, and all the province of Poitou. On the other hand,
the fleet of England and the Bourdelaise were at anchor half a league
below Bordeaux, and formidable did both appear.

The men of Bordeaux beginning to fear that all was lost, had already
proposed a surrender, on condition of free pardon; but the answer of
Charles had not been favourable; he consented to receive all of English
birth to ransom, but those of his own subjects he insisted should be
left to his mercy. While they paused, reflecting upon the amount of
mercy they might expect, the English, careful only of their own weal,
decided for them, and agreed to the terms, leaving the unfortunate
Gascons, their companions in arms, to their fate.

Charles began by putting to death Gaillardet, the brave commander of
Cadillac; whom he condemned as a rebel, although he had merely done his
duty in obeying the head of a house which his ancestors had been
accustomed to serve for three centuries.

The fevers of Autumn had now begun to appear; several of the generals of
the French king had fallen victims to it; and as Bordeaux still held out
and refused to surrender without certain concessions, dictated by Le
Camus, who refused to sacrifice the Gascons under his command, Charles
was obliged to listen to his representations. He agreed to pardon the
citizens and their adherents, reserving twenty of the most guilty, whose
estates were confiscated, and they banished for ever from the kingdom.

It was on the 19th of October, 1453, that the City of Bordeaux opened
its gates to Charles _the Well-Served_, and the discomfited English
sailed mournfully away from its walls, never to return as its masters.

All the vines along the shores of the Garonne are famous. Cantemerle,
Sauves, Cantenac, and the mighty monarch, Château Margaux; Ludon,
Parampuire, and Blanquefort; St. Louis de Montferrant, and Bassens.
These renowned vineyards cover the country with riches; but fever reigns
here triumphant throughout the year, and the coast denies its advantages
to any but vine-growers.

M. de Peyronnet, the ex-minister, has a château in a pretty situation on
the river; but whether this particular site is unhealthy we did not
hear.

From the Tour de Cordouan to the Port of Bordeaux, extending far over
the wide and marshy country, which spreads out its sandy and unhealthy
plains towards Bayonne, superstition formerly held her head-quarters;
and though, within a few years, belief in the supernatural has lost its
force, the dreams and fancies of the dark ages are not quite effaced.
There is hardly any extravagance credited by the inhabitants of
Brittany, which has not been held as an article of faith in the Landes,
and cast its influence over the departments bordering on the Pyrenees.

There is an idea, not altogether worn out, that certain families are
under a spell, and subject to strange visitations; they are supposed to
be recognized by their heavy, sullen air, and their aversion to society
in general: these are called _Accus_, and are as much avoided as
possible, as they are suspected of witchcraft and other mal-practices;
they are said to have too much experience in the nocturnal amusements
of those mysterious beings called Loups-garoux, so generally known and
dreaded throughout France and Germany.

That the evil one delights in this part of the country is not to be
questioned; and there may be some risk in passing along the river
towards nightfall, because the fiend and his company are apt to haunt
those meadows closest to the waters, and there they may be occasionally
seen dancing in circles, where their hoofs spoil the grass, which
refuses to grow again where once their steps have been. Perhaps the
rapidity of the steam-boat may now prevent their being so often
perceived; or, indeed, its introduction may have offended, and chased
away, the _mesnie_ of the fiend altogether.

Between the Dordogne and the Garonne, l'Entre-deux-Mers, it is generally
believed that a male child who has never known his father, as well as a
_fifth_ son, have the power to cure certain maladies by the touch. And
it is in these parts that the once famous Dragon of Bordeaux used
principally to sojourn, much to the terror of the surrounding
neighbourhood. There is scarcely any malignant spirit, from a
_loup-garou_ to _an ague_, which cannot be found in the deserts of
Aquitaine.

Often do the peasants of Medoc hear in the air, sometimes in mid-day,
sometimes in the clear nights of summer, the horns and cries of the
phantom hunter, Arthur and his men. If he is, indeed, the same King
Arthur, whose fame is enshrined in the legends of Wales and Brittany,
he must have been a prince with even a more extended domain than that of
Henry, the husband of Queen Elionore, for he carries on his chace on the
banks of the Gave of Pau, and still further into the Pyrenees. He was a
very excellent and pious prince, valiant and courteous; but he had one
great fault, an inordinate love of hunting, which in the end proved his
bane. For once, on the occasion of some solemn fête, while he was in the
church assisting at the mass, some mischievous friend brought him word,
that a fine wild boar had just appeared at a very short distance from
the holy precincts. In a moment, his respect for religion, his reverence
for the sacred ceremony in which he was engaged, all were put to flight;
he uttered a joyous shout, seized his spear, and rushed forth to the
sport. He enjoyed a most animated hunt, but--

    "So comes the reck'ning when the banquet's o'er,--
    A dreadful reck'ning--and men smile no more!"

From that day he _hunted eternally_ and _in vain_!--for ever is he
traversing the vast field of air, urging on his steed, hallowing to his
hounds, sounding his horn, and madly rushing over mountain and plain,
reflected in the sky; but he has never yet, nor ever will attain the
object of his pursuit!

There are certain spots in the Landes where trees of strange appearance
grow, which may be recognised as those under which the evil one
distributes poison to his human friends, to dispense to those who have
fallen under their displeasure: the districts where these meetings take
place are fortunately known and avoided, but to such a height had grown
the daring of the friends of Satan at one time, that the King of
France,--no other than Henry the Fourth (!)--under the ministry of Sully
(!) sent persons into these climes to root out the evil. The famous
_witch-finder_, Pierre de Lancre, has recorded his successes in this
particular.

"The King," says he, "being informed that his country of Labourt was
greatly infested with sorcerers, gave commission to a president and a
counsellor of the court of parliament of Bordeaux, to seek out the crime
of sorcery in the said country, about the year 1609.

"This commission was entrusted to the Sieur Despagnet and I: we
dedicated four months to the search, during which happened an infinity
of _unknown things, strange, and out of all belief_, of which books
written on the subject have never spoken: such for instance, as _that
the devil came and held his meetings at the gates of Bordeaux, and in
the quarter of the Palais Gallien_, which _fact_ was declared at his
execution by Isaac Dugueyran, a notable sorcerer, _who was put to death_
in 1609. It appears to me that it will be extremely useful, nay
necessary, to France and the whole of Christendom, to have this account
in writing for many reasons.

"All this must convince the most obstinate, stupid, blind, and
_ignorant_, that there is no longer a doubt that sorcery exists, and
that the devil can transport sorcerers really and corporally to his
sabbath: and that there is no longer any excuse for disputing on the
subject, for all nations are agreed concerning the truth, aided by
_ocular_ demonstration, permitted to an impartial judge and good
Christian. _Too much mildness is shown in France towards sorcerers:_ all
good judges should in future resolve to punish with death all such as
have been convicted of attending the devil's assemblies, even if no harm
has immediately resulted therefrom: for to such an extent has witchcraft
spread that it has passed the frontier and reached the city of Bayonne,
which is cruelly afflicted in consequence. Satan having made great
advances and spread his sabbaths over an infinity of places in our
deserts and Landes of Bordeaux."[11]

[Footnote 11: This part of the world seemed always to be looked upon as
the head quarters of sorcery; for in the Chronicles of Bordeaux we find,
in the year 1435, the following notice:--"Les environs de Bordeaux sont
_fort travaillez_ par les sorciers et empoisonneurs, dont aucuns furent
exécutes à mort et brûlé tous vifs."]

In consequence of the representations of this righteous judge, _eight
hundred victims_ were condemned to the flames for this pretended crime:
and this, incredible as it may appear, by command of Le Bon Henri and
his Protestant minister, Sully! At the very period, too, permission was
refused to the unfortunate Moors, then driven by bigotry from Spain, to
establish themselves in the Landes, where their industry and
perseverance would soon have converted the barren waste into a fertile
and smiling country, instead of remaining for centuries an unwholesome
marsh.

Neglected and uncultivated as this extended country has long been--only
_now_, in fact, assuming an aspect of improvement--it is not surprising
that superstition has lingered longer amongst its uneducated people than
with their more fortunate neighbours. Within ten years new roads have
been made, new buildings erected, and a rail-road is projected across
the Landes from Bordeaux to Bayonne: it may, therefore, be now expected
that the last vestige of idle belief in witches and demons will shortly
disappear; but, in the meantime, much of such weakness is lingering
still. For instance, the Landais believe that in certain maladies the
physician has no power, and that recourse must be had, for relief, to
certain gifted persons, who will propitiate the evil spirit who caused
the ill. They attribute great virtue to what they call _les Veyrines_,
namely, narrow openings in the thickness of the pillars of a church:
persons affected with rheumatic diseases, have only to pass through
these narrow spaces, repeating at the time certain prayers, having
previously made the circuit of the pillar nine times. His head is first
inserted, and the rest of his body is pushed through by his friends.
These practices are, in spite of the exertions of the clergy, said to be
still carried on in secret.

In the month of May they strew the street before their houses with
reeds, on fête days, and there they frequently pass their evenings,
sitting in groups, and telling to each other superstitious stories,
which are eagerly listened to, and thus handed down from father to son.

The _orfraie_ and the screech-owl are looked upon with terror in the
Landes: their approach to any dwelling bodes evil in all forms: the dead
quit their tombs at night and flit about in the fens, and covered with
their white shrouds come wandering into the villages, nor will they quit
them till the prayers and alms of their friends have calmed their
perturbed spirits.

The various tribes of the Landes, form, as it were, in the midst of
France, a separate people, from their habits and customs: they are
called, according to their locality, Bouges, Parants, Mazansins,
Couziots, or Lanusquets: they are generally a meagre race, and subject
to nervous affections; taking little nourishment, and living a life of
privation and fatigue. Obliged to labour for their support, like most
people in the departments of the Pyrenees, and to dispose of the
products of their industry, they have usually fixed places of repose;
each peasant drives his cart drawn by two oxen, and carries with him the
food for those patient animals, who are the very picture of endurance.
His own food is generally coarse, ill-leavened bread, very hardly baked,
and made of coarse maize, or rye-flour, which he sometimes relishes
with _sardines_ of Galicia. He gives his oxen a preparation of dried
linseed from which the oil has been extracted, and which he has made
into flour, and he then lets them loose on the Landes for a time, while
he snatches a hasty sleep, soon interrupted to resume his journey. The
dwellings of these people are sufficiently wretched: low, damp, and
exposed to both the heat and cold by the rude manner in which they are
constructed; a fire is kept in the centre of the principal room, from
which small closets open: they sleep in general under two _feather
beds_, in a close, unwholesome air, many in the same room. Still their
domestic arrangements seem a degree better than those of the Bretons,
and their dirt does not appear so great, bad as it must necessarily be.

The dress of the men is a large, heavy, brown stuff cloak, or a long
jacket of sheepskin, with the fur outwards; to which, when gaiters of
the same are added, there is little difference between them and the
animals they tend: a very small _berret_, the cap of the country, covers
merely the top of their heads, and is but of little use in sheltering
them in rainy weather. The women wear large round hats with great wings,
adorned with black ribbon, and sometimes with a herb, which they call
Immortelle de Mer;[12] the young girls frequently, however, prefer a
small linen cap, the wings of which are crossed over the top of the
head.

[Footnote 12: See for these particulars, Athanasie Maritime.--_Du
Mège_.]

Shepherds are almost always clothed in sheepskins, and in winter they
wear over this a white woollen cloak with a very pointed hood. These are
the people who make their appearance on stilts, called _Xicanques_, and
traverse the Landes with their flocks, crossing streams of several feet
deep, and striding along like flying giants. They have always a long
pole, with a seat affixed, and a gun slung at their backs, to defend
them from the attack of wolves. Monotonous enough must be the lives of
these poor people, for months together, alone, in a solitary waste,
where not a tree can grow, with nothing but a wide extent of marshy land
around, and only their sheep and dogs as companions; but they are
accustomed to it from infancy, and probably are comparatively insensible
to their hardships, at least it is so to be hoped. Seated on his
elevated seat, the shepherd of the Landes occupies himself in knitting
or spinning, having a contrivance for the latter peculiar to this part
of the country. Their appearance, thus occupied, is most singular and
startling.

A dignitary of Bordeaux is said once to have prepared a fête to an
Infanta of Spain, the destined bride of a French prince, in the Landes;
in which he engaged a party of these mounted shepherds, dressed in
skins, and covered with their white mantles and hoods, to figure,
accompanied by a band of music, and passing under triumphal arches
formed of garlands of flowers: a strange scene in such a desert, but
scarcely so imposing to a stranger as the unexpected apparition of these
beings in the midst of their native desolation.

The Landais seldom live to an advanced age: they marry early, are very
jealous, and are said to enjoy but little of the domestic happiness
attributed to the poor as a possession; they are accused of being
indifferent to their families, and of taking more care of their flocks
and herds than of their relations: they are docile and obedient to
authority; honest, and neither revengeful nor deceitful.

Whether from affection or habit, they show great sensibility on the
death of neighbours or friends. The women cover their heads, in the
funeral procession, with black veils or aprons, and the men with the
pointed hood and cloak. During the whole year, after the decease of a
father or mother, all the kitchen utensils _are covered with a veil_,
and _placed in an opposite direction to that in which they stood
before_; so that every time anything is wanted the memory of the dead is
revived.

The Landais, on the sea-coast, are, like the Cornish people, reproached,
perhaps falsely, with being _wreckers_; and their cry of "Avarech!
Avarech!" is said to be the signal of inhumanity and plunder.

Their marriages are attended with somewhat singular ceremonies, and
their method of making love is equally strange: after church, on a fête
day, a number of young people, of both sexes, dance together to a
monotouous tune, while others sit round in a circle on their heels,
watching them. After dancing a little time, a pair will detach
themselves from the rest, squeeze each other's hand, give a few glances,
and then whisper together, striking each other at the same time; after
which they go to their relations, and say they _are agreed_, and wish to
marry: the priest and notary are called for, the parents consent, and
the day is at once fixed.

On the appointed day, the _Nobi_ (future husband) collects his friends,
and goes to the bride's house, where he knocks; the father, or some near
relation, opens to him, holding by the hand an _old woman_, whom he
presents: she is rejected by the bridegroom, who demands her who was
promised. She then comes forward with a modest air, and gives her lover
a flower; who, in exchange, presents her with a belt, which he puts on
himself. This is very like the customs in Brittany, where scenes of the
kind always precede weddings.

When the bride comes to her husband's house, she finds at the door a
broom; or, if he takes possession of her's, a ploughshare is placed
there: both allegorical of their duties. The distaff of the bride is
carried by an old woman throughout the ceremonies.

The Landais, altogether, both as to habits, manners, and general
appearance, form a singular feature in the aspect of this part of
France.



CHAPTER XV.

     PORTS--DIVONA--BORDEAUX--QUINCONCES--ALLÉES--FIRST
     IMPRESSION--CHARTRONS--BAHUTIER--BACALAN--QUAYS--WHITE
     GUIDE--S^{TE} CROIX--ST. MICHEL--ST. ANDRÉ--PRETTY FIGURE--PRETTY
     WOMEN--PALAIS GALLIEN--BLACK PRINCE'S SON EDWARD.


TAVERNIER has said, in speaking of the most celebrated ports, "three
only can enter into comparison, one with the other, for their beauty of
situation and their _form of a rainbow_, viz., Constantinople, Goa, and
Bordeaux." The poet, Chapelle, thus names this celebrated city:--

    Nous vîmes au milieu des eaux
    Devant nous paraître Bordeaux,
    Dont le port en croissant resserre
    Plus de barques et de vaisseaux
    Qu'aucun autre port de la terre.

The commendatory address to his native city, by the poet, Ausonius, is
often quoted; and has been finely rendered by M. Jouannet, whom I
venture to translate.

    I was to blame; my silence far too long
    Has done thy fame, my noble country, wrong:

    Thou, Bacchus-loved, whose gifts are great and high,
    Thy gen'rous sons, thy senate, and thy sky,
    Thy genius and thy grace shall Mem'ry well
    Above all cities, to thy glory, tell.
    And shall I coldly from thy arms remove,
    Blush for my birth-place, and disown my love?
    As tho' thy son, in Scythian climes forlorn,
    Beneath the Bear with all its snows was born.
    No, thy Ausonius, Bordeaux! hails thee yet;
    Nor, as his cradle, can thy claims forget.
    Dear to the gods thou art, who freely gave
    Their blessings to thy meads, thy clime, thy wave:
    Gave thee thy flow'rs that bloom the whole year through,
    Thy hills of shade, thy prospects ever new,
    Thy verdant fields, where Winter shuns to be,
    And thy swift river, rival of the sea.

    Shall I describe thy mighty walls revered,--
    Thy ramparts, by the god of battle feared,--
    Thy gates,--thy towers, whose frowning crests assay
    Amidst the clouds towards Heaven to force a way?
    How well I love thy beauties to behold,
    Thy noble monuments, thy mansions bold,
    Thy simple porticos, thy perfect plan,
    Thy squares symmetrical: their space, their span.
    And that proud port which Neptune's lib'ral hand
    Bade from thy startled walls its arms expand,
    And show the way to Fortune! Twice each day
    Bringing his floods all crown'd with glittering spray,
    And foaming from the oar, while, gleaming white,
    A host of vessels gaily sweep in sight.

It would appear by this description, that Bordeaux was, under its Roman
masters, a very magnificent city; the famous _Divona_, the beneficent
fountain, so celebrated by Ausonius, has left no trace of its existence,
and has employed the learned long to account for its disappearance.
Probably it was from some plan of Roman Bordeaux, that the present new
town was built; for the above lines might almost describe it as it now
stands: certainly, except the gigantic towers, the old city has no claim
to praise for wide streets, fine houses, porticos, or symmetrical
squares; probably, the architects of the Middle Ages destroyed its
_perfect plan_, and swept away most of the beauties and grandeur which
inspired the muse of the classic minstrel.

Like most pompous descriptions, this was, perhaps, overdrawn at the time
as much as, it appeared to me, the accounts of modern travellers have
exaggerated the effect of a first arrival by water at Bordeaux.

As Bordeaux is approached, the banks on one side become more
picturesque, and at Lormont, where was once an extensive monastery, the
scenery is fine: its promise is, however, forgotten by degrees, and I
was surprised not to see any fine houses on the banks, as I had
understood was the case. The few that are seen have a slovenly,
neglected appearance, by no means announcing the splendours and riches
of the great mercantile city we had now nearly reached. Paltry
wine-houses, with shabby gardens, border the river, and flat meadows and
reclaimed marshes give a meagre effect to the whole scene.

Mast after mast now, however, began to appear, and in a short time we
were steaming along between a forest of vessels of all nations, the
reading of whose names not a little amused us as we hurried by them.
English, Russian, Dutch, French, succeeded each other; the _coup d'oeil_
was extremely imposing, and the long wide quays, which seemed to know no
end, announced a city of great importance. The small steamer continued
its way, more fortunate than that which arrives from England, which,
from its size, cannot go far up the shallow river, and stops half a
league from the town at a faubourg called Barcalan; but we were enabled,
from our comparative insignificance, to reach to the very finest point
of Bordeaux, and land at the foot of the grand promenade _Des
Quinconces_--the glory of the Garonne.

The extreme flatness of the town, built as it is on marshes, takes from
its effect; and I was surprised that it struck me as so little deserving
its great reputation, compared, as it has been, to Genoa, Venice, and
Constantinople, and imagining, as I did, that I should see its buildings
rising in a superb amphitheatre from the waves, and crowning heights,
like those we had passed, with towers and spires. The quays, also, had
been so much vaunted to me that I expected much finer mansions on their
sides; whereas they are principally warehouses, and those not very
neatly kept: there was little of the bustle and stir of business which
one, accustomed to London, may picture: all seemed sufficiently quiet
and still, except the clamour of the commissioners, who contended for
the possession of the passengers in our vessel, whose arrival in this
commercial port made much more stir than seemed reasonable in so great a
city.

The _immense_ space of the Quinconces passed, we crossed an _immense_
street to an _immense_ irregular square, from whence lead _immensely_
wide _cours_ in various directions; and we stood before one of the
largest theatres in one of the widest spaces I ever saw in a town: here,
after much contention with our vociferous attendants, we resolved to
pause, choosing the hotel the nearest to this magnificent building, and
which promised to be most airy and quiet; the river running at the
bottom of the long street in which it was situated, the theatre before
it, and the great square left at its side, with all its rattle of carts
and wheelbarrows, and screaming commissioners. In the handsome, clean
Hôtel de Nantes we were accordingly deposited, and had reason to
congratulate ourselves on our choice while we staid at Bordeaux.

It appears almost heresy to every one in France to find fault with
Bordeaux, which it is the custom to consider all that is grand,
magnificent, and beautiful; yet, if I were to be silent as to my
impressions, I should feel that I was scarcely honest. We stayed nearly
a fortnight at Bordeaux, and, in the course of that time, had a variety
of weather, good and bad; so that I think we could not be influenced by
the gloom which at first, unexpectedly, damp, chill and uncongenial
skies spread around. A few days were very brilliant, but still the
waters of the Garonne kept their thick orange hue, without brilliancy or
life, and this circumstance alone suffices to prevent the great city
from deserving to be called attractive. The quays on its banks are
extremely wide; but, except for a short space on each side the
Quinconces, the houses which border them are no finer nor cleaner than
in any other town in France; the pavement is very bad near them, and
there are no _trottoirs_ in this part: incumbrances of all sorts cover
the quays in every direction, so that free walking is impossible; and
the irregularity of the pavement next the river is so great that it is
constantly necessary to resume the rugged path on the stones, among the
bullock-carts and market-people, who frequent this part in swarms at all
times of the day. The bridge is extraordinarily long, over the
clay-coloured river, but appears too narrow for its great length, and
the entrances to it struck me as poor and mean. From the centre is the
best view of the town; but, though very _singular_, from the strange
shapes of its towers and spires, the mass of dark irregular buildings it
presents cannot be called fine. The hills on the opposite side relieve
the extreme flatness; but there is no remarkable effect of the
picturesque amongst them.

The boast of Bordeaux is its wide _allées_, which are avenues of trees,
bordered with uniform houses of great size; its enormous square next the
river surrounded with a grove of trees; its theatre, certainly
magnificent, and its wide _spaces_, not to be called _squares_. The new
town is _all space_; and if in space consists grandeur, it cannot be
denied that there is a great deal of it; but, to me, these wide,
rambling places appeared ungraceful and slovenly, wet and exposed in
winter, and glaring and dusty in summer. The splendid theatre stands in
one corner of a great space, from which several wide streets diverge:
some old and dark, some new. The best street, the Rue du Chapeau Rouge,
which is of great width, runs along on one side; it is short, but
continued, with another name, across the Place, and leads from one end
of this part of the town to the other. There is a good deal of
foot-pavement in this street, and here are the smartest shops; but,
compared with Paris or London, or any great English town, they are
contemptible.

The fine Allées de Tourny traverse the town in the form of a star, and
the rays meet in a great square,--the Place Dauphine--which, if cleaner
and less neglected, would be extremely magnificent. The Place Tourny and
the Place Richelieu are also fine openings; and there are said to be no
less than forty public squares altogether, which must give a good
circulation to the air in most parts.

The old town is, however, close, dirty, damp and dingy, beyond all
others that I have ever seen, and, in common with all the _new_ part of
Bordeaux, the worst paved, perhaps, of any in France. Here it is crowded
enough, and forms a singular contrast with the deserted appearance of
the gigantic squares in the sister town.

Nevertheless, although I am by no means able to agree in attributing
extraordinary beauty to Bordeaux, there is no denying that there is much
to be astonished at in its magnitude, and to congratulate its
inhabitants upon, in the facilities afforded them of enjoying the air in
streets which would be shady, from the trees on each side, if they were
not so wide; in alleys and walks apparently interminable, where the
whole population can promenade, if they please, without appearing
crowded; in squares where they may lose themselves; and the most
magnificent theatre in Europe, which they generally neglect for several
smaller in other parts of the town.

Still it appears to me impossible to forget that Bordeaux is built on a
marsh, and is surrounded by immense marshes, for leagues; and that, go
out of it which way you will, there is no fine country nor any agreeable
views. All its alleys and gardens are flat and formal, and all in the
midst of the town itself, surrounded by colossal houses, and only
bounded by a thick clayey river, which it is unpleasing for the eye to
rest upon.

The sight of several of the most admired and important towns in France,
has reconciled me, in a singular degree, with that of Tours, whose fame
appeared to me, when I first saw it, to be undeserved. I judged, as one
accustomed to English splendour, and English neatness, and I scarcely
gave Tours all the credit it deserved. When I compare the clear, rapid,
sparkling Loire--shallow though it be--with the ugly waters of the
sluggish Garonne, I feel that it is indeed superior to most other French
rivers; and when I recollect the long, broad, extensive street which
divides Tours into two parts, is paved throughout, and connects it with
a bridge of noble proportions and most splendid approach, I am not
surprised that Tours is so much the object of a Frenchman's pride; and I
confess, that, if I had seen it after the boasted city of Bordeaux, its
river, and its bridge, I should have found little to find fault with;
for though it lies in a plain, it is not a marsh; and though it is
glaring and flat, it is dry and sandy, and not damp and unwholesome.

Bordeaux is--notwithstanding that it failed to impress me with a sense
of admiration of its _beauty_--full of interest in every way, and worthy
of the most minute inspection and examination. We scarcely neglected a
single street, of all its mazes, and scarcely left unvisited a single
monument. As in all other French towns, building is actively going on,
and new public works are in progress: some on a very grand scale. The
antique buildings, so curious from their history, have, in spite of
repeated wars and the efforts of time, preserved a great deal of their
original appearance, and some of them are as fine as any to be found in
France. Amongst these, is the Portal of St. Seurin, and the façade of
St. Michel and St. André.

Bordeaux is a city which seems to belong to two periods, totally unlike
each other. The old town, full of old houses--one of which, called _Le
Bahutier_, is a specimen of others--is an historical monument of the
Middle Ages, while the new is an epitome of La Jeune France, with all
its ambitious aspirations, its grand conceptions, and its failures.
There is no attempt, in the restoration of French towns in general, to
bring the new style as near the old as possible; on the contrary, it
would seem that modern architects were only glad of the vicinity of
antique fabrics, in order that they might show how superior was their
own skill, and how far they could deviate from the original model. In
Bordeaux, this is very striking. It appears as if the new city ought to
have been built by itself on another site, leaving the gloomy recesses
of the ancient city to themselves, for all that now surrounds it is
incongruous and inharmonious.

Taken by itself, modern Bordeaux is to be admired; but, backed and
flanked as it is by a dense mass of blackened buildings belonging to
another age, it is singularly out of keeping.

All the way from the great square of the Quinconces, with its Rostral
pillars, to the port of Bacalan, a series of wide quays border the broad
river; the Quai des Chartrons is considered one of the finest in France,
and, for commercial purposes, no doubt is so. Some parts of these quays
are bordered with trees, and, from the river, have a good effect. The
whole of this faubourg is on a grand scale. The appellation of
Chartrons, is said to be derived from Chartreux, a convent of that order
having existed here. The inhabitants of this quarter call themselves
_Chartronnais_, and a remarkable difference is supposed to exist between
them, both in countenance and manners, and those of the other
Bordelais. It is a common expression to say, _on va Chartronner_, when a
person takes a walk along the quay. We had occasion to do so several
times, as we were expecting friends from England, who were to arrive by
the packet, not long established between Southampton and Bordeaux, and,
on one occasion, on reaching the village of Bacalan, we hoped to be able
to while away the time of waiting, by a walk into fields, or by some
path near the river; but our hopes were in vain; there seem never to be
any walks or paths in fields, lanes, or by rivers, in France, except in
Normandy; no one cares, or is expected to care, for anything but the
high road, or the public promenade. The fields are generally marshy, and
the borders of the streams impracticable; except, therefore, one has a
taste for rough pavement, or can admire long ranges of warehouses, of
great size, the best way is to remain stationary, as we did, if
necessity calls one to Bacalau, seated on felled trees, under the shade
of others growing by the river, careless of inodorous vicinity or dust.

We were surprised to find that the expected arrival of the packet from
England created no sort of interest in any one's mind in Bordeaux; but
this fact was explained, when we heard that it was a private undertaking
of English merchants, which, as it interfered with the vessels to
Havre, was by no means popular, and was little likely, in the end, to
answer. The same thing has been several times attempted in Bordeaux, but
has always been abandoned, not meeting with encouragement, although it
would seem to be a great convenience to persons visiting the South of
France. It was not thought that the steam-boat we were expecting would
make many more voyages, and, to judge by the small number of passengers
who arrived by it, there was little reason to expect that it could be
made to answer.

In order to become well acquainted with the quays of Bordeaux, we made a
pilgrimage along their whole extent, by following the line, on the other
side of the Quinconces, as far as the old church of Sainte Croix--one of
the most ancient, as well as most curious, in Bordeaux. Our remarks, and
frequent pauses, on our way, as we passed the ends of different streets
which we destined for future explorings, attracted the attention of a
person whom, as he had an intelligent face, we addressed, begging him to
direct us in our way to Sainte Croix, as we began to think it could not
be so very far from the point where we, started, and we feared we might
have to retrace our steps over the uneasy pavement. Our new acquaintance
assured us, however, we were in the right road, and with great zeal
began to describe to us how many more ends of streets we must pass
before we should reach the desired spot. His costume was somewhat
singular, and we might have taken him for a character in the
Carnival,--if it had been the proper season--or one _voué au blanc_, for
he was entirely dressed in white, cap and all, following, we presume,
the calling of a baker or a mason. He expressed his pleasure that we
thought it worth while to go and see _his_ poor old church of Sainte
Croix, for he came from that _quartier_, and had a fondness for it: "It
is past contradiction," said he, "the most ancient and beautiful in
Bordeaux, though I say it, and deserves every attention, though it has
been dreadfully battered about at different times. People have tried to
run it down, and have asserted that the sculpture on its façade,
represented _des bétises_; but all that has now disappeared. It was
built in the time of the Pagans, when the Protestant religion--to
which," he continued, bowing, "no doubt you belong--was unknown, and
when they were ignorant, and did many improper things. But, I assure
you, now, you will find the old arches very interesting; the church has
been restored, and is in very good condition. But that I have pressing
business another way, I should have made it a duty and a pleasure to
have been your guide, and pointed out the beauties of the old place to
you; but, as I cannot do so, I recommend you to the politeness of any
one, on your route, for all will consider themselves honoured in
indicating to you the exact position of the church, which is still at
some distance."

So saying, our white spirit, pulling off his nightcap again, and, with
many bows, disappeared down a dark alley, carrying his refinement to the
doors of his customers. He must have been a good specimen of the
urbanity and good manners of his class in Bordeaux, and certainly no
finished cavalier could have expressed himself better. We had not gone
far before he re-appeared, to beg us not to forget, on our return, to
visit the church of St. Michel. We promised to neglect nothing, and
parted.

Sainte Croix does indeed deserve a visit from the curious, though the
lovers of neatness would be somewhat shocked at the extraordinary state
of filth and slovenliness in which the area of ruin where it stands is
left. To look on either side of the path which leads to the façade would
cause feelings of disgust almost fatal to even antiquarian zeal, and the
wretched dilapidation of the space formerly occupied by the immense
convent once flourishing here cannot be described. The Saracens, it
seems, destroyed great part of the church and convent, which dates from
the seventh century, or earlier, and one would imagine it had remained
in the same state of ruin ever since; though it has probably been
rebuilt and re-destroyed fifty tunes.

Much still remains, in spite of all the efforts of time and force, to
make Sainte Croix an object of singular interest; some of the circular
arches are quite perfect, with their zig-zag ornaments, as freshly cut
and sharp as possible; many of the pillars of the interior remain in
their original state--huge blocks out of which the columns have not yet
been carved, in the same manner as those at St. Alban's Abbey, in
Hertfordshire. Some of the string-courses are interrupted, being adorned
with foliage and other ornaments to a certain distance, and then
stopping suddenly, as if an incursion of new barbarians had frightened
the workmen from their labours. The space of the church is extremely
fine, the roof lofty, and the whole imposing; what is left of the
exterior of the principal entrance is very beautiful; but the carved
figures round the door-way are scarcely distinguishable; many of them
were, it is said, removed not long since, having been considered
objectionable, and not calculated to inspire piety in the beholders.

All the tombs and relics of this famous abbey have disappeared, and no
one can now read the epitaph on St. Maumolin, Abbé of Fleury, by whose
zeal the bones of St. Benedict were brought to Sainte Croix, and who was
of singular piety; here he was buried, says his chronicler, at the age
of _three hundred and seventy years_.

From Sainte Croix we directed our steps towards St. Michel, whose giant
tower had attracted us on our way, but, deterred by the extraordinary
filthiness and closeness of the nearest streets leading to it, we chose
a very circuitous route, outside the former enclosure of the town; and,
by this means, came unexpectedly on a large building of very imposing
appearance, which we found was the Abattoir: we did not care to linger
long near this place, but escaped, as soon as we could, from the droves
of bullocks which we met patiently plodding their way to their doom. For
a considerable distance we followed the walls, which had all the
appearance of being of Roman construction; and, dirty as our walk was,
we could not but prefer the free air in this part to the interior; we
had frequently occasion to ask our way, and invariably met with marked
civility; every one leaving their work to run forward, and point out to
us the nearest point we wished to reach. It appeared as if we should
never gain the entrance to this immense town again, so many streets and
alleys and gates did we pass; at length we came to one which was to lead
us down to St. Michel. Long boulevards did we traverse in this
direction, handsome and open; and in one part we were followed for some
time by a regiment going out to exercise with one of the finest bands I
ever heard, which, echoing along the extended parade, had a very
splendid effect.

We reached at length the church of St. Michel, the caverns of the tower
of which are remarkable for their power of preserving the bodies buried
in them from putrefaction; ranges of skeletons, still covered with the
dried flesh, hideous and fearful, scowl on the intruder from their
niches, and present a most awful spectacle. The belfry has often served,
in times of civil war, as a beacon-tower, dominating, as it does, the
whole country and town; it is of the most marvellously-gigantic
construction, and appears to have been originally highly ornamented. It
stands isolated from the church itself, whose façades present the most
exquisite beauties; and are singularly preserved at every entrance. The
principal façade, however, is the most perfect as well as the most
beautiful; its rose window, its ranges of saints, its pinnacles, and
wreathed arches, are as much to be admired as any in France, and rivet
the attention by the delicacy and minuteness of their details. Its date
is of the twelfth century, and the utmost taste and cost were bestowed
on its construction; although, on the side of the tower there is a space
filled with trees, and unencumbered, yet it is to be regretted that, on
the side next the chief entrance, the church is blocked up with the
houses of a dark, narrow, and filthy street, so that its beauties are
sadly hid. Surely it would have been worth while to have cleared away
the encumbrances which surround this fine building, so as to show it
well, instead of much that has been done in the way of addition in the
new town.

The only comparatively modern church in Bordeaux, which is much vaunted,
is Notre Dame, erected in 1701; it is lofty, and large, and of Grecian
architecture; but did not impress me with any feelings of admiration;
and it stands at the end of a narrow street in a corner, shown to little
more advantage than the neglected St. Michel itself.

Before the cathedral of St. André, which we next visited, a space has
been cleared away; and at St. Seurin, also, where a grove of trees has
been planted, which adds greatly to the venerable appearance of the
building.

St. André is of the thirteenth century, and is wonderfully magnificent
and curious. Its tower, called De Payberland, stands alone, like that of
St. Michel; and is only less stupendous than that wonder of
architecture. The size and height of the aisles and choir are amazing,
and the nave of the choir is bold and grand in the extreme. The two
spires of the southern portal are of great beauty, and the whole fabric
is full of interest, though scarcely a tomb remains. There are, however,
several exquisitely-carved canopies where tombs have been, and, standing
close to one of the large pillars behind the choir, is a group which
excited my utmost interest; it seems to represent the Virgin and St.
Anne, but might have another meaning. A figure in a nun's habit stands
close against a pillar in a niche, and by her side is a little girl of
about eleven years of age, in the full costume of the thirteenth
century, one of whose hands touches her robe, and who appears under her
protection. This charming little figure represents what might well be a
young princess in flowing robes; the upper one is gathered up, and its
folds held under one arm: her waist is encircled by a sash, the ends of
which are confined by tassels. A necklace of beads is round her neck;
the body of her gown is cut square. Her hair hangs in long thick tresses
down her back, and over her shoulder, and is wreathed with jewels. A
small cap, _delicately plaited_, covers the fore-part of her head, and a
rich wide band of pearls and gems surmounts it. The features are very
youthful, but with a grave majesty in their expression; the attitude is
queenly, and the whole statue full of grace and simplicity. The nun has
a melancholy, benevolent cast of features, inferior in style to the
little princess, but extremely pleasing.

I imagined this to be the effigy of Elionore, the young heiress of
Aquitaine, under the care of a patron saint; and, thinking the pretty
group was in marble, had visions of the queen of Henry II. having
erected these figures in her life-time, in the cathedral which she
built; but, on requesting a person, on whose judgment I could rely, to
examine it for me, he discovered that the whole was _only plaster_; and,
consequently, as he added in the language of an antiquarian,
"presenting no possible interest." I gave up my theory with reluctance;
although I ought to have been certain that, had any such statue existed
of her time, it was more likely to be found amongst the rubbish of the
ruined cloisters, where many are still seen, than in the body of the
cathedral.

Close to the group is a picture--at the altar of _Sainte Rote_, who also
wears a nun's habit. Probably my favourite has some connexion with her
legend.

The once fine cloisters of the Cathedral are in ruins. A few door-ways
remain, which seem of an earlier date than the church itself; and some
very antique tombs, with effigies, are thrown into corners totally
uncared for. If these were restored to some of the empty niches they
would be more in place.

At one end of the Cathedral, under the organ-loft, are some very curious
bas-reliefs, in which there seems a singular jumble of sacred and
profane history. They are very well executed, and worthy of minute
attention. An arcade of the time of the Renaissance, extremely
beautiful, but incongruous, encloses these carvings.

But, perhaps, the most remarkable of all the churches of Bordeaux is St.
Seurin: its portico is one of the richest and most elaborate I ever saw,
and the beauty and delicacy of its adornments are beyond description.
The church itself, except this precious _morceau_, is not so interesting
as others; although here once reposed the body of the famous paladin,
Rolando, whose body was brought, by Charlemagne, from Blaye. There, on
his tomb, rested his wondrous sword, Durandal, which was afterwards
transported to Roquemador en Quercy. This was the weapon with which he,
at one stroke, clove the rock of the Pyrenees which bears his name.[13]
His tomb and his bones must be sought elsewhere now, with those of many
other of the knights who fell at Roncesvalles' fight. Where his famous
horn was deposited after it came from Blaye does not appear.

[Footnote 13: See description of _the Breche_, in the second volume of
this work.]

Another long ramble, which exhibited to us more of the curiosities of
Bordeaux, brought us to the Roman building which still rises, in ruins,
in one of the distant quarters of the town, and is called the Palais
Gallien. This fabric has a singular appearance, its strong arch, which
still serves as a passage from one street to another, its thick walls of
brick and small stone, its loops, through which the blue sky shines, and
its ivy-covered masses make it very imposing. The learned are divided as
to its date: Ausonius does not name it in his enumeration of the works
of Bordeaux; but its Roman origin, of whatever age, is undoubted. It
stands in a state of squalid neglect and dirt, sharing the fate of most
of the antiquities of Bordeaux. If the space were cleared, and the
surrounding huts removed, a decent walk made, and the whole enclosed,
this monument of former days might form an attractive object: as it is,
the struggle to escape entanglement in every sort of dirt, while
fighting one's way to the ruined amphitheatre, is almost too
disheartening. When these circumstances accompany a visit to antiquities
in out-of-the-way places, such as Saintes, and distant and
anti-commercial towns, such as Poitiers, one has no reproach to make to
the inhabitants; but what is to be said for rich and flourishing
Bordeaux,--the rival of Paris,--when she allows her monuments to remain
in so degraded a state!

One of the glories of Bordeaux is having been the birth-place of
Montaigne, whose tomb is in the church of the Feuillants, now the
college. There are two inscriptions,--one Greek and one Latin; both of
which appear unsuitable and extravagant.

Another great man, born near Bordeaux, was Montesquieu: to see whose
château of La Brède, about four leagues off, is one of the usual
excursions of tourists; but we were prevented visiting it by bad
weather.

Whatever may be the effect of Bordeaux, as a city, one charm it has
which can hardly be disputed, namely, the remarkable beauty of its young
women of the _grisette_ class, and the peculiar grace with which they
wear the handkerchief, which it is usual to wreath round the head in a
manner to display its shape to the greatest advantage, and which is tied
with infinite taste; showing the form of the large knot of hair behind,
which falls low upon the neck, in the most classical style. They have
generally good complexions, rich colour, fine dark eyes and very long
eye-lashes, glossy dark hair, and graceful figures. As they flit and
glide about the streets,--and you come upon them at every turn,--in
their dark dresses and shawls, with only a lively colour in the stripe
of their pretty head-dress, a stranger cannot fail to be exceedingly
struck with their countenances and air. Black and yellow predominate in
the hues; but sometimes a rich chocolate colour, with some other tint
rather lighter, relieves the darkness of the rest of the costume. A gold
chain is worn round the throat, with a golden cross attached; and a
handsome broach generally fastens the well-made gown, with its
neatly-plaited collar, rather more open in front than is usual in
France. They are said to be great coquettes; and certainly worthy of the
admiration which they are sure to attract.

When one observes how flat and marshy all the ground about Bordeaux is,
even now, one need not be surprised at the illness it must have
engendered in the time of the Black Prince, nor that his health suffered
so fatally from its influence. He appears to have deferred his departure
from this uncongenial climate as long as possible, until the loss of his
eldest son, Prince Edward, at the interesting age of six years, decided
him to trust it no longer.

The poor child died the beginning of January 1371, to the extreme grief
of his parents; "as," says the chronicle, "might well be." It was then
recommended to the Prince of Wales and Aquitaine that he should return
to England, in order that, in his native country and air, he might
recover his health, which was fast failing. This counsel was given him
by the surgeons and physicians who understood his malady. The prince was
willing to follow their advice, and said that he should be glad to
return. Accordingly he arranged all his affairs, and prepared to leave.

"When," says the chronicler, "the said prince had settled his departure,
and his vessel was all ready in the Garonne, at the harbour of Bordeaux,
and he was in that city with madame his wife, and young Richard their
son, he sent a special summons to all the barons and knights of Gascony,
Poitou, and all of whom he was sire and lord. When they were all come
and assembled in a chamber in his presence, he set forth to them how he
had been their father, and had maintained them in peace as long as he
could, and in great prosperity and power, against their neighbours, and
that he left them only and returned to England in the hope of recovering
his health, of which he had great want. He therefore entreated them, of
their love, that they would serve and obey the Duke of Lancaster his
brother, as they had obeyed him in time past: for they would find him a
good knight, and courteous, and willing to grant all, and that in their
necessities he would afford them aid and counsel. The barons of
Aquitaine, Gascony, Poitou, and Saintonge, agreed to this proposition;
and swore, by their faith, that he should never find them fail in fealty
and homage to the said duke; but that they would show him all love,
service, and obedience; and they swore the same to him, being there
present, and each of them _kissed him on the mouth_.

"These ordinances settled, the prince made no long sojourn in the city
of Bordeaux, but embarked on board his vessel, with madame, the
princess, and their son, and the Earl of Cambridge, and the Earl of
Pembroke: and in his fleet were five hundred men-at-arms, besides
archers. They sailed so well that, without peril or harm, they reached
Hampton. There they disembarked, and remained to refresh for three days;
and then mounted on horseback--_the prince in his litter_--and travelled
till they came to Windsor, where the king then was; who received his
children _very sweetly_, and informed himself, by them, of the state of
Guienne. And when the prince had remained a space with the king, he took
leave and went to his hotel at Berkhampstead, about _twenty leagues_
from the city of London."



CHAPTER XVI.

     THE GARONNE--THE LORD OF LANGOYRAN--MIRACLE OF THE MULE--CASTLE OF
     THE FOUR SONS OF AYMON--THE AGED LOVER--GAVACHES--THE
     FRANCHIMANS--COUNT RAYMOND--FLYING BRIDGES--THE MILLER OF
     BARBASTE--THE TROUBADOUR COUNT--THE COUNT DE LA MARCHE--THE
     ROCHELLAISE--EUGÉNIE AND HER SONG.


AT four o'clock, on a September morning, we followed our
_commissionnaire_ from the Hôtel de Nantes, at Bordeaux, along the now
solitary quay, for nearly a mile, the stars shining brightly and the air
soft and balmy, to the steam-boat, which was to take us along the
Garonne to Agen--a distance of about a hundred and twelve miles. The
boat was the longest and narrowest I ever saw, but well enough
appointed, with very tolerable accommodation, and an excellent
_cuisine_.

As soon as it was daylight, we began to look out for the beauties of the
river, which several persons had told us was, in many respects, superior
to the Loire; consequently, as we continued to pass long, marshy fields,
without an elevation, covered with the blue crocus, and bordered with
dim grey sallows, we were content, expecting, when we were further from
the neighbourhood of Bordeaux, that these beauties would burst upon our
view. For many hours the boat pursued its way against the stream, but
nothing striking came before our view: the same clay-coloured river, the
same flat bank, with here and there a little change to undulating hills
of insignificant height, and occasionally some village, picturesquely
situated, or some town, with a few ruined walls, which told of former
battles and sieges. All these banks were the scenes of contention
between the Lusignans and the Epernonists, in 1649; and here are many
famous vineyards; amongst them Castres and Portets, renowned for their
white wines; close to which is La Brède, where Montesquieu was born.

The scenery about this part began to improve; some ruins, crowning a
height, appeared, which we found had once been the Château de Langoyran;
about a lord of which an anecdote is told, characteristic of the period
when it occurred. François de Langoyran carried on constant contention
with two neighbouring chiefs, who were friends to England; and, one day,
with forty lances, he presented himself before the walls of Cadillac,
occupied by an English garrison: "Where is Courant, your captain?" said
he; "let him know that the Sire de Langoyran desires a joust with him:
he is so good and so valiant, he will not refuse, for the love of his
lady; and if he should, it would be to his great dishonour; and I shall
say, wherever I come, that he refused a joust of lances from cowardice."
Bernard Courant accepted the challenge, and a deadly strife began, in
which Langoyran was wounded and thrown to the earth. Seeing that his
troop were coming to his rescue, Courant summoned his adversary to
yield; but, he refusing to do so, Courant drew his dagger, stabbed him
to the heart, and rode out of the lists, leaving the imprudent knight
dead on the spot. A later lord of Langoyran became a firm ally of the
English, till they were expelled under Charles le Bien Servi.

Cadillac, where once stood a magnificent castle, built by the Duke
d'Epernon, where Louis XIII. and all his court were entertained with
great pomp, in 1620, and which cost above two millions of francs, offers
now but a retreat for convicts.

Barsac is not far off, well known for its fine white wines; and beyond,
is Sainte Croix de Mont, a village placed on rather a bold eminence. At
Preignac the little river Ciron runs into the Garonne, and brings on its
current wood from the Landes. Sometimes this small stream becomes so
swollen, that it overflows, and renders the road in its neighbourhood
dangerous. After the battle of Orthez, the mutilated remains of the
French army crossed the valley, which this river had rendered a perfect
marsh, at the peril of their lives, in order to pursue their melancholy
journey, flying from the British arms.

Close by is Garonnelle, a port of the _Verdelais_, where, situated a
little way up the country, is a famous chapel, dedicated to Notre Dame
du Luc, to which pilgrims resort, on the 8th of September, from all
parts of France--so great is her renown. The chapel was founded in the
twelfth century, by a Countess of Foix, and re-edified by another, or,
as some say, built first in 1407, under the following circumstances:--

One day, as Isabella de Foix, wife of Archambaud de Grailli, Count of
Bénauge, was visiting her domains, she had occasion to pass through a
wood, when suddenly the mule on which she was riding, stopped, and would
not stir from the spot either one way or the other. It was found that
his foot had sunk into a _very hard_ stone, to the depth of four or five
inches, his iron-shod hoof imprinting a mark on the substance. The lady,
much _surprised_ at such a circumstance, which could be no other than a
prodigy, descended from the animal, had the stone raised, and beheld, as
well as all those who accompanied her, and as all may see who visit the
holy chapel raised in the wood, a perfect portrait of the blessed
Virgin, where the hoof of the mule had been!

This sanctuary was given in charge to the monks of the order of Grand
Mont. The Huguenots pillaged and burnt the chapel, in 1562. It was again
constructed, and given to the Father Celestins, in the seventeenth
century; but in all its perils and dangers the miraculous stone has
remained uninjured, and attracts the same veneration as ever. Perhaps it
is its vicinity which has imparted such virtues to a vineyard near,
which produces the far-famed "Sauterne" known throughout Europe.

We came to a great many suspension-bridges on our way: the French seem
to have a perfect passion for throwing them across their rivers in this
region; and, it is said, not all of them are safe; as, for instance, the
admired and vaunted Cubzac, which, it is now generally feared, will give
way. One of these bridges is at Langon; once a very important town, and
one of late much improved in commerce, in consequence of the traffic
caused by the steam-boats from Bordeaux to Agen.

A famous siege was sustained here, against the Huguenots, in 1587, when
the Lord of Langon defended himself in a gallant manner, though
abandoned by all his people, _his wife alone_ sharing his danger, and
fighting by his side to the last, and even after his castle was taken,
resisting still. The grand route from Bordeaux to Bayonne passes by
Langon. There is no vestige of its castle; but a fine church, built by
the English, exists, where the arms of England are even now conspicuous.
Scattered about, here and there, but distant from the river, ruins of
castles are still to be seen: amongst others, that of Budos is very
picturesque.

At St. Macaire, where furious contentions once took place, during the
wars of religion;--two hundred English prisoners were taken at the time
of the battle of Toulouse. The church has an imposing effect.

Soon after this, the banks of the river become rocky, and are full of
caverns, inhabited in a similar manner to those which so much struck me
on the Loire; but they by no means present so singular or picturesque an
appearance. The remains of the ancient stronghold of Castets look well
placed on a height in this neighbourhood; but the scattered ruins which
cover a hill near, are more interesting than any, although there are now
but little traces of a fortress once the theme of minstrels and
romancers. This is no other than the castle of the Four Sons of Aymon.

The little port of Gironde is remarkable for a dreadful event which
happened there in the last century. There was formerly a ferry where the
bridge now extends; and one day the ferryman insisted on being paid
double the usual fare. There were no less than eighty-three passengers
on board his boat, all of whom resisted the imposition. The
"_ferryman-fiend_" was so enraged, that, just as they reached the shore,
he ran the boat against a projecting point, and overturned it. Only
three persons, besides himself, escaped: the rest were all lost. The
wretch fled instantly, and was never taken; he was condemned to death,
and hung in effigy; and since then an annual procession takes place on
the banks of the Drot, where the catastrophe occurred, and solemn
service is performed for the victims.

The town of La Réole has an imposing effect, rising from the waters. It
has shared the fate of all the other towns on the banks, during the
ceaseless troubles which for ages made this river roll with blood. When
Sully was but fifteen, he was amongst a successful party who took
possession of this place; he entered, at the head of fifty men, and
gained it in most gallant style; but it was lost the next year, under
the following circumstances, which prove that Henry IV. carried his love
of jesting considerably beyond the bounds of prudence.

The command of La Réole, says Péréfixe, was given to an old Huguenot
captain, named Ussac, who was remarkably ugly, to a degree which made
him a mark of observation; nevertheless, his heart was too tender to
resist the fascinations of one of the fair syrens who aided the plans of
Catherine, the Queen-mother. The Vicomte de Turenne, then aged about
twenty, could not resist making the passion of the old soldier a theme
of ridicule among his companions; and Henry, instead of discouraging
this humour, joined in it heartily, making his faithful servant a butt
on all occasions. Ussac could not endure this attack on so very tender a
point, and, rendered almost frantic with vexation, forgetting every
consideration of honour and religion, abandoned the cause of Henry, and
delivered over the town of La Réole to the enemy.

In this part of the country are to be found that race of persons known
to the original natives as _Gavaches_: the word is one of contempt,
taken from the Spanish; and the habit of treating these people with
contumely, which is not even yet entirely worn out, comes from an early
time: that is to say, so long ago as 1526; at which period a great part
of the population on the banks of the Drot, and round La Réole and
Marmande, was carried off by an epidemic; so that the country was
completely desolate; and where all was once fertile and flourishing,
nothing but ruin and misery was to be seen. Henry d'Albret, King of
Navarre, anxious to save it from sterility, and to restore a happy state
of things, re-peopled the lands with emigrants, whom he induced to come
and settle there, from Anjou, Angoumois, and Saintonge. They united
themselves to the very small remnant of those remaining, who had escaped
the contagion, and, in a short time, forty-seven _communes_ recovered
their prosperity.

The strangers who thus filled the places of the former inhabitants,
brought their customs and manners with them; Du Mège remarks that, "to
them are owing the style of building which may be observed in some of
the old houses in this neighbourhood, namely, the very pointed and
inclined roofs, which belong rather to a country accustomed to snow,[14]
than to this where it is not usual."

[Footnote 14: _Du Mège (Statistique_ III.) This observation scarcely
appears to me correct, since the countries bordering on the Loire are
certainly not more used to snows than those closer to the mountains. In
Béarn these shelving roofs are constantly to be seen.]

The descendants of these new colonists have not forgotten their origin;
they inherit the manners of their fathers; wear the same thick hair and
long coats. Their drawling pronunciation, peculiar idiom, and the
slowness of their movements, make them easily distinguished from the
lively Gascons. A curious mixture of dialect resulted from the re-union
of so many provinces with the _patois_ of the country, and the language
still heard there is a jargon of strange sounds.

The capital of what was called _La Gavacherie_, was placed at
Castelmoron-d'Albret, which is now one of the finest and most fertile
cantons in the diocese of Bazas.

There exists a propensity, it seems, in the people of this part of the
country, particularly about Agen, to fix contemptuous epithets on
strangers who settle amongst them; it matters not from what land they
come,--it is sufficient that the Gascon idiom is unknown to them.

The foreigner is generally called, in derision, _lou Franchiman_;[15]
and is, for a long time after his first arrival, an object of suspicion
and dislike.

[Footnote 15: See the Poems of Jasmin.]

This term evidently belongs to the period of the English possession,
when a _Frenchman_ was another word for an enemy.

On these shores, traces of the dwellings of the Romans are constantly
found in Mosaic pavements, and ruins and coins. At Hures, in particular,
some fine specimens have been lately discovered: amongst others,
fragments of pillars of _verd-antique_ and fine marbles of different
sorts. There is also a marvellous rock at Hures, where an invisible
miraculous virgin is still in the habit of performing wonders, though
her statue has been long since removed.

A high hill, once crowned with a castle, rises from the river after a
series of flat meadows. This was once Meilhan, one of the finest castles
in the Garonne, belonging to the Duke de Bouillon, who, suspected of
treason, blew up his magnificent abode, destroying with it the abbey and
church beneath. An immense forest spread far into the Landes from this
point, only a few trees of which remain.

When the castle was destroyed, the clock of the Benedictine church
rolled down into the river, and was afterwards raised in the night, and
taken possession of by the Marmandais; the Meilhanais even still insist
on its being their property.

There are some ruins, in the quarter called La Roque, of a rampart, from
whence is a perilous descent to the shore: here once stood a tower,
through a breach in which it is said that the Maid of Orleans conducted
the soldiers of Charles VII., and took the town. This tower was seen at
so great a distance that it gave rise to a proverb: "He who sees Meilhan
is not within side it."

Over the principal entrance of the castle was a sculptured stone--still
preserved, but in a most ignoble position: it represented a cavalier
armed with a lance, with a shield on his left arm; by the form of which
it would appear to belong to those used by the ancient Franks. The arms
of Meilhan are _three toads_, doubtless the most familiar animal in so
damp and marshy a country.

At a village called Couture, a phrase is left from very old times, when
_a_ Raymond, Count of Toulouse, happening to stop there to rest, asked
for a measure of wine, which he drank off at a draught, though it was no
small quantity; instead, therefore, of saying a bottle of two _litres_,
it is usual to say in this country, "_A measure of Count Raymond's_."

The _Roc de Quatalan_ is near this point, whose name has been derived
from _quatre-a-l'an_; because it causes so many wrecks in the course of
the year.

There is nothing very striking in the appearance of Marmande, once
remarkable for its castle and churches and abbeys; but now only a place
of commerce connected with Bordeaux. Nevertheless, the Romans, Goths,
and Saracens, made it a place of importance, and severally destroyed it
in their turn. Richard Coeur de Lion rebuilt and fortified it, only to
be again ravaged and pillaged by the party of Montford, and, under the
Black Prince, it was taken and retaken. Henry IV. besieged it, and, in
1814, the town of Marmande had to sustain its last attack. It has a good
port, and, apparently, some pretty public walks, and is about half-way
between Bordeaux and Agen.

Caumont appears next, once not only famous for its castle, but its
tyrannical lord; who, in the time of Louis XIII., was governor of this
part of the river, and carried on a system of oppression which became
unbearable. He cast an iron chain across the river, to prevent the
passing of vessels, on which he laid his hands in the most unpitying
manner, taking possession of all he could meet with. At length, the
relation of his cruelties and rapines found a hearing with the King,
who, without consulting any one, had the detested lord of Argilimont, as
his stronghold was called, arrested and condemned; his sentence was
executed at Bordeaux the day after he was taken, and his castle and
estates were bestowed on the Sire d'Estourville.

If half the castles which once bordered this river existed now, the
scenery would be wonderfully improved; but they live in memory alone,
and their sites are all that remain. Gontaud and Tonneins, where proud
towers once frowned, are but insignificant villages now; at the first, a
_patois_ song is said still to be popular, the chorus of which
commemorated the loss of all the people of Gontaud, put to the sword by
Biron, in revenge for the death of one of his best officers: it runs
thus:--

    "Las damos, que soun sul rempart
    Cridon moun Diou! Biergé Mario!
    Adiou, Gountaou, bilo jolio!"

Perhaps that which is most worthy of remark on the Garonne, is the
number of _flying bridges_ which cross it, replacing many an old stone
or wooden one, or a ferry, with which the inhabitants of these parts
were so long contented. It is to the Messrs. Seguin that France is
indebted for these beautiful constructions, the hint of which they are
said to have taken in England. I had seen few of them when I visited
his _family of beauties_ in the valley near Montbard, whose
accomplishments and singular attractions furnished me with a romantic
chapter in my _last pilgrimage_.[16]

[Footnote 16: "See Pilgrimage to Auvergne," chap. xiii. p. 271.]

A stone bridge, built by Napoleon, however, crosses the river at
Aiguillon, which stands at the confluence of the Lot and Garonne, and is
famous for its castle, built by the Duke d'Aiguillon--that minister who,
protected by Mde. du Barry, gave his aid towards preparing the
downfal of France, undermined by the acts of a series of worthless
characters, in every department of the state, from the monarch
downwards. Marie Antoinette held him in especial odium, and he was
exiled, by her desire, to his gorgeous château on the Lot, where he was,
in fact, a prisoner, not being allowed to sleep out of it; on one
occasion, when he visited Agen for two days, word was sent to him that
it was expected he should not prolong his stay. The castle, in his time,
was a Versailles in miniature, and was not entirely finished at the
Revolution.

An ancient Roman tower, of which a few walls only now remain, on the
route to Agen, was once a conspicuous object from the river: it was
called _La Tourrasse_, ("_enormous tower_" in _patois_), and many
discoveries prove the importance of this place in the time of the
Romans.

The Baïse is the next river that falls into the Garonne, following whose
banks towards Nerac is Barbaste and its old château, of which Henri
Quatre was fond of calling himself _The Miller_, which title, on one
occasion, stood him in good stead when a great danger threatened him; a
soldier of the opposite party, who came from this part of the country
where the prince was always beloved, could not resolve to see the
destruction which awaited him if he had advanced a step towards a mine
which was just on the point of blowing up. At the critical instant, he
called out, in _patois_, which none but Henry understood, "Moulié dé
Barbaste, pren garde a la gatte qué bay gatoua:"--'Millar of Barbaste,
beware of the cat' (_gatte_ means, indifferently, _cat_ or _mine_)
'which is going to kitten' (_gatoua_ has the meaning of _blowing up_, as
well.) Henry drew back in time, just as the mine exploded. Thanks,
therefore, to his readiness, and the expressive nature of the Gascon
_patois_, the hero was, for that time, saved; he took care not to lose
sight of his deliverer, and, on a future occasion, rewarded him amply
for the service he had rendered.

The little port of St. Marie, well known as a safe harbour to the
fishermen of the Garonne, once formed part, with the town, of the
possessions of Raymond, the last Count of Toulouse; who, after a series
of persecutions from the Pope and the King of France, (St. Louis,) to
induce him to give up the protection of the Albigenses, was permitted to
retain this portion, only on condition of destroying the fortifications
of the strong castle which existed there. Guy, Viscount de Cavaillon,
his friend and fellow troubadour, on one occasion addressed to him the
following lines, to which he returned the answer subjoined; but,
nevertheless, was obliged to submit to the power of the Church, like the
rest of the world:

    "GUY DE CAVAILLON TO THE COUNT OF TOULOUSE.

      "Tell me, Count, if you would rather
        Owe your lands and castles high
      To the Pope, our holy father,
        Or to sacred chivalry?
      Were it best a knight and noble
        Conquer'd by his sword alone,
      Bearing heat, and cold, and trouble,
        By his arm to gain his own?"


    "ANSWER OF COUNT RAYMOND TO GUY DE CAVAILLON.

      "Guy, much sooner would I gain
        All by valour and my sword,
      Than by other means obtain
        What no honour can afford.
      Church nor clergy I despise,
        Neither fear them, as you know;
      But no towers or castles prize
        Which their hands alone bestow:
      Holding honour above all
      Gifts or conquests, great or small."

The evening was drawing in too much by the time we reached that part of
the shore, where the few walls of the once stupendous château of the
Lusignans appear, and we could see nothing but the shadow--it might be
of the wings of the fairy, Melusine, hovering in the dim light over
this, one of her numerous castles.

Here lived and contended Hugues de Lusignan, Counte de la Marche, who
had married his first love, the beautiful Isabeau d'Angoulême, widow of
King John of England; whose effigy so delighted me at Fontevraud, lying
beside that of her brother-in-law, Coeur de Lion.[17] But, if that
lovely face and delicate form truly represented the princess, her
character is singularly at variance with her gentle demeanour. She was
the most imperious, restlessly proud, and vindictive woman of her time,
and kept up a constant warfare with her husband and the King of France;
to whom she could not endure that the Count de Lusignan should be
considered a vassal. "I," she cried, "the widow of a king! the mother of
a king and an empress! am, then, to be reduced to take rank after a
simple countess! to do homage to a count!" This was on the occasion of
the marriage of the brother of Louis IX., with Jeanne, Countess and
heiress of Toulouse, to whom the Count of Lusignan owed homage. "No,"
she continued, with indignant fury, "you shall not commit so cowardly an
action: resist: my son, and my son-in-law, will come to your aid. I will
raise the people of Poitou--my allies, my vassals--and, if they are not
enough, I have power alone to save you from such disgrace." Hugues, thus
excited, agreed to follow her counsel; and a long struggle ensued,
sometimes attended with triumph to the haughty countess, sometimes with
discomfiture; and ending by the ruin of her husband and children, and
the confiscation of much of their domains to the crown of France. This
was she to whom the troubadour count addressed these lines, amongst
others:

    "So full of pleasure is my pain,
      To me my sorrow is so dear,
    That, not the universe to gain
      Would I exchange a single tear.

    "What have I said?--I cannot choose,
      Nor would I seek to have the will;
    How can I when my soul I lose
      In thought and sleepless visions still,
    Yet cannot from her presence fly,
      Altho' to linger is to die."

[Footnote 17: See "A Summer amongst the Bocages and the Vines," vol. ii.
chap. i. page 15.]

We were seated in the cabin of the steam-boat, resigning ourselves to
patience until Agen should be reached--for it was now dark, and a shower
had fallen which made the decks wet--when we were summoned to brave all
by the promise of a treat above. We had observed, in the course of the
day, a party of young women, each wrapped in a large black cloak, the
pointed hood of which was either drawn over the head or allowed to fall
behind, showing the singular square cap, which at once told they were
Rochellaises. They were at the opposite end of the long vessel; and, as
some were below, we had no idea that they mustered so large a party, for
it appeared that there were no fewer than twenty-one, all from La
Tremblade, or the other islands in the neighbourhood of La Rochelle.
They were taking their usual autumn voyage up the Garonne, and, from
Agen, were destined to various towns as far as the Pyrenees, where they
remain all the oyster season, receiving, by the boat, twice a week, a
consignment of oysters to be disposed of, on the spot where their
residence is fixed. They were generally young, some extremely so, and
very well conducted; sitting together in groups, and talking in an under
tone; but, at this hour of the evening, they all congregated on deck,
and were singing some of their songs as the boat went rapidly on, and
the soft breeze caught up their notes.

When I first joined them, it was so dark that I could distinguish their
figures with difficulty, and only knew, by the murmurs of applause which
followed the close of their chaunt, that they were surrounded by all the
crew, who were attentively listening to their strains. When they found
some strangers had come amongst them they were seized with a fit of
shyness, which I feared would put a stop to the scene altogether; for
the chief songstress declared herself hoarse, and uttered "her pretty
oath, by yea and nay, she could not, would not, durst not" sing again:
however, at last the spirit came again, and, after a little persuasion,
she agreed to recollect something. "Ah, Ma'amselle Eugénie," said one of
the older girls, "if I had such a voice I would not allow myself to be
so entreated." Accordingly she began, and the chorus of her song was
taken up by all the young voices. I never heard anything more melodious
and touching than the song altogether: Eugénie's voice was soft, clear,
and full, and had a melancholy thrill in it, which it was impossible to
hear without being affected; she seemed to delight in drawing out her
last notes, and hearing their sound prolonged on the air. The ballads
she chose were _all sad_, in the usual style of the Bretons: one was
expressive of sorrow for absence, and was full of tender reproaches,
ending in assurances of truth, in spite of fate; and one, "Dis moi! dis
moi!" was a lament for a captive, which, as well as I could catch the
words,--partly French and partly _patois_--was full of mournful regret,
and seemed to run thus at every close:

"The north wind whistles--the night is dark; at the foot of the hill
the captive looks forth in vain,--ah! he is weeping still! always at the
foot of that hill you may hear his sighs.

"'Alas!' he says, 'what is there in the world that can compare to
liberty? and I am a prisoner. I weep alone!'--he sees a bird fly by, and
exclaims, 'There is something still left worth living for--I may be one
day free!'"

    "Hélas! le pauvre enfant--il pleure toujours:
    Il pleure toujours! au fond de la colline."

Perhaps this song might allude to some of those unfortunate patriots of
La Vendée, whose fate was as sad as any romance could tell.

I never remember to have heard what seemed to me more real melody than
this singing; and was very sorry when the young girls insisted, in
return for their compliance, on one of the crew obliging them with a
song; for he obeyed, and, in one of the usual cracked voices, which are
so common in France, raised peals of laughter by intoning an _English
air_--no other than "God Save the King." This effectually spoilt the
pretty romance of the veiled Rochellaises; not one of whom we could see,
in the darkness, and their voices seemed to come from the depths of the
Garonne, as if they were the spirits of its waters, who had taken
possession of our vessel, and were beguiling us with their sweet voices
into their whirlpools and amongst their sands.

I thanked them for my share of the amusement, and remarked to one near
me how beautiful the voice of Eugénie was. "Yes," said she, "she is
celebrated in the country for singing so well; but, even now, her mother
sings the best; you never heard such a lovely tone as her's; they are a
musical family: every one cannot have such a gift as Eugénie."

This seemed a good beginning for the music and poetry of the south, and
promised well for all that was to come; _but that music was the last_,
as it had been the first, I had heard in France; where, in general,
there is no melody amongst the people, in any part that I have visited.
As for its poetry, we were approaching a place where a celebrated
_patois_ poet resided, who is the boast, not only of Agen, but of
Gascony, and who has made, of late, a great sensation in this part of
France.



CHAPTER XVII.

     AGEN--LA BELLE ESTHER--ST. CAPRAIS--THE LITTLE CHERUBS--ZOÉ AT THE
     FOUNTAIN--THE HILL--LE GRAVIER--JASMIN, THE POET-BARBER--THE
     METAPHOR--LAS PAPILLOTAS--FRANÇONNETTE--JASMIN'S LINES ON THE OLD
     LANGUAGE--THE SHEPHERD AND THE GASCON POET--RETURN TO AGEN--JASMIN
     AND THE KING OF FRANCE--JASMIN AND THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND.


IT was night when we reached Agen, and, amidst a tumult of _patois_,
which sounded like Spanish, and was strange to our unaccustomed ears, we
landed, and had our goods torn from us by peremptory porters, who, in
spite of remonstrance, piled every one's baggage together in carts, and,
ordering all the passengers to follow as they might, set off with it to
some unknown region. The stars were bright, and the night fine, as we
scrambled along over a very rugged road for more than a mile--for, the
new pier not being yet finished, the boat was obliged to land its cargo
at a distance from the town. Up and down, in and out, we pursued our
way, guided by the lanthorns of our tyrants, and at last found ourselves
in a boulevard, planted with large high trees, which we followed till a
shout announced to us that the Hôtel de France was reached.

By what seemed little less than a miracle, all our baggage was safely
brought after us, our troubles were quickly over, and we took possession
of spacious and lofty chambers, in a very imposing-looking hotel.

The next morning the weather was magnificent, and Agen came out in great
splendour, with its fine promenades, handsome bridge, its beautiful
hills and river, and its fine clear fresh air, so different from the
dull atmosphere of Bordeaux. The first figure we saw on going out, was
one of the Rochellaises seated at the inn door, installed with her
oyster-baskets, and receiving the congratulations of all her friends of
the hotel, who hastened to welcome her annual return to Agen. It seems,
she takes up her abode at the hotel during her stay, and her arrival is
considered quite an event, as we found at breakfast, where numerous
Frenchmen were conversing with great animation on the subject. _La Belle
Esther_ seemed to be a general favourite, as well as her merchandise,
and she was so remarkably pretty, modest and graceful, that I was not
surprised at the fact. Every one of her admirers gave her an order as he
arrived, and her pretty little hands were busily engaged in opening
oysters for some time, which having done, she brought them in herself,
on a dish, to each guest. I was sorry to see that she had abandoned her
costume, and was dressed merely like any other _grisette_; but this is
very much the case everywhere. She told me, on great fête days, however,
she occasionally appeared in it; but she seemed to think it more
convenient to wear the little flat frilled cap of the town, rather than
the square winged machine of her province. I had heard before that she
was so well behaved, and so graceful in her manners, that she was
occasionally invited to the public balls of Agen; but she only answered
by a deep blush, when I asked if it was so; and said, she _seldom went
to soirées_. She is about three or four-and-twenty; and if the rest of
her party who sang to us in the boat were as pretty, they must have been
as dangerous as Queen Catherine's band of beauties, when their black
hoods were thrown back. She was, however, not one of the singers
herself; but I recognised, in her voice, the reproving sister who urged
Eugénie to sing, and told me of her mother's talent. I afterwards met
with more of my acquaintances in the dark, who were scattered through
the towns of Gascony.

The town of Agen is very agreeably situated on the right bank of the
Garonne: the river is here, though by no means clear, less muddy than at
Bordeaux; and its windings add much to the beauty of the landscape.
Between the suspension-bridge and the town is a magnificent promenade,
formed of several rows of fine trees--one of the most majestic groves I
ever saw: it is called Le Gravier. There are two others, each extremely
fine: one of which is planted with acacias. The town has nothing to
recommend it, being dull, and ill-paved, with scarcely a building worthy
of notice; the strange old clock-tower of the Mairie, looks as if it had
once formed part of a ponderous building; but it has no beauty of
architecture. Some of the oldest streets and the market-place are built
with arcades, in the same fashion as La Rochelle, and they are very dark
and dilapidated.

The cathedral, dedicated to St. Caprais, is, however, a monument of
which the Agenois have reason to be proud: it has been cruelly ill-used,
and its exterior is greatly damaged; but it is undergoing repair, and
the restorations both within and without are the most judicious I had
observed anywhere. The beautiful, ornamented, circular arches are
re-appearing in all their purity; and the fine sculptured façade is
shining out from the ruin which has long encompassed it; a wide space is
opened all round the building; and, when the restorations are completed,
the effect will be very grand.

In the interior are some most beautiful specimens of early architecture;
galleries above galleries, of different periods, all exquisite, and one
row of a pattern such as I had never before met with, almost approaching
the Saracenic. The grace and lightness of the whole is quite unique, and
we sat for an hour enjoying the cool retreat of the aisle, endeavouring
to follow the elaborate tracery of the arches, and admiring the effect
of the sun-light streaming in at the open door, which gave entrance to a
procession of priests, and children of very tender age, who were about
to undergo the ordeal of examination. As we sat, by degrees, first one
little stray black-eyed creature, in a tight skull-cap and full
petticoat, then another, came and placed themselves before us, immovable
and curious, like so many tame gazelles; we pretended to be angry, and
drove them away; but, while we went on with our sketches of some of the
arches, the little things came back again with the same imperturbable
look of silent amazement and curiosity as before. There were four or
five, all very round and rosy-cheeked and pretty, and, though their
vicinity rather interrupted us, we were sorry when the zealous beadle
appeared, at the distant glimpse of whose portly form the troop rattled
off, making their wooden shoes ring along the pavement, and disappeared
in the sun-gleam of the old Roman door-way, like so many cherubs in the
costume of the Middle Ages.

The morning was magnificent when we mounted the high hill which
overlooks the town, and which is called _Le Mont Pompéian_, or De
l'Ermitage; the banks were covered with box and purple heath and wild
thyme, the air full of freshness and fragrance, and all was "balmy
summer." The ascent to the top is extremely steep, and must be very
toilsome to the peasants, some of whom were climbing up, bending under
different loads. A party, however, who kept pace with us, told us they
were merely out taking a walk, as it was such a fine day, to do the
children good; and they seemed to enjoy the prospect and the warm sun as
much as we did, and be quite in the same humour for idling their time
away. On the top of the hill is a telegraph, from whence there is a
beautiful view; and the vine-field, full of ripe purple grapes, looked
very inviting; jasmine grew wild in the hedges, and perfumed the air;
and, altogether, the hills of Agen gave a promise of southern beauty,
which, alas! I found, on advancing nearer to Spain, was by no means
realized. We remained for some hours, choosing different retreats from
whence to enjoy the views, which are varied and beautiful in the
extreme. After passing fields of high Indian corn, gay with its
tasselled blossoms, we came to a splendid opening, where we beheld the
broad Garonne, winding through a landscape of great richness and
variety, glittering in the sun, and spreading wide its majestic arms
over the country. Through a long lane of purple grapes and crimson
leaves, we pursued our way, until we came to a ruined fountain, of very
picturesque appearance, extremely deep, and the water sparkling at the
bottom like a diamond in the dark; the mouth covered with shrubs and
flowers of every hue, and straggling vines, with their now purple and
crimson leaves, making a bower around it. Two women and a boy were
resting near, and we entered into conversation with them; there was
something interesting in the worn features of the younger female; who
told us she was from Le Mans, a great way off, in a charming country,
which she said, with a sigh, that she had not seen since she was a girl,
before she made the imprudent match which had reduced her to work hard
in the fields of Agen to support a large family; for her husband had
deserted her, and she had no one to look to. "I dare say," she said, "Le
Mans is much altered now, since I saw it; there is no chance of my ever
going home again now:" these words were uttered in so sad a tone that we
were quite affected. She had been very pretty, and was even now
agreeable-looking, though, so very pensive; her name, she told us, was
Zoë, and she seemed glad to hear news of her native town, though the
recollection revived, evidently, very painful thoughts. As we sat
drawing, these poor people remained wandering about, picking up sticks
and resting in the shade; the ground was damp, and the old woman--who
had asked her companion, in patois, the subject of her talk with us, as
she did not understand French--looked very benevolently towards us, and
presently took off her apron, and came insisting that we should use it
as a seat, as she said it was dangerous for such as us to sit on the
bare ground; "we are used to it, and it does us no harm; but you are
wrong to risk it," was her remark; and, with all the kindness
imaginable, she made us accept her courtesy. We have often met with
similar demonstrations of kind feeling from the peasantry in France;
who, when not spoilt by the town and trade, are generally amiable, and
anxious to oblige on all occasions.

Nothing could be more lovely than the extensive view before us from this
spot; hills covered with vines and rich foliage, fields of Indian corn,
bright meadows and banks of glowing flowers, with the river winding
through all, wide and bright; the town, picturesque in the distance,
undulating hills, and a clear blue sky. At the end of a large field, we
came to a pretty bower, formed of vines, on the edge of the wooded
declivity; probably used as a retreat by the master and his family, in
the time of the vintage; it looked quite Italian, and we were not sorry
to shelter there from the hot sun.

Half-way down from the telegraph hill is a cavern called the Hermitage,
which once was the retreat of a holy anchorite; but, being now chosen as
a place for fêtes, has become a sort of cockney spot, and has lost its
character of solemnity; but it is the great object of attraction to the
inhabitants of Agen, who flock there in crowds on saints'-days and
Sundays.

We had made an appointment, on our return from wandering amongst the
heights, to pay a visit to a very remarkable personage, who is held,
both in Agen and throughout Gascony, to be the greatest poet of modern
times. We had heard much of him before we arrived, and a friend of mine
had given me some lines of his with the music, in England; one song I
published in a recent work;[18] but I was not then aware of the history
of the author, of whom the ballad "Mi cal mouri!" was one of the
earliest compositions, and that which first tended to make him popular.
My friend, who possesses very delicate taste and discrimination, was
much struck with the grace and beauty of this song; though the
reputation of its author has reached its height since the time when she
first met with his melody.

[Footnote 18: "Pilgrimage to Auvergne," chap, xiii, p. 210.]

At the entrance of the promenade, Du Gravier, is a row of small
houses--some _cafés_, others shops, the indication of which is a painted
cloth placed across the way, with the owner's name in bright gold
letters, in the manner of the arcades in the streets, and their
announcements. One of the most glaring of these was, we observed, a
bright blue flag, bordered with gold; on which, in large gold letters,
appeared the name of "Jasmin, Coiffeur." We entered, and were welcomed
by a smiling dark-eyed woman, who informed us that her husband was busy
at that moment _dressing a customer's hair_, but he was desirous to
receive us, and begged we would walk into his parlour at the back of the
shop. There was something that struck us as studied in this, and we
began to think the reputation of the poet might be altogether a
_got-up_ thing. I was obliged to repeat to myself the pretty song of "Mi
cal mouri," to prevent incredulous doubts from intruding; but as I
recollected the sweet voice that gave the words effect, I feared that it
was that charm which had misled me.

His wife, meantime, took the advantage of his absence, which had, of
course, been arranged _artistically_, to tell us of Jasmin's triumphs.
She exhibited to us a _laurel crown of gold_ of delicate workmanship,
sent from the city of Clemence Isaure, Toulouse, to the poet; who will
probably one day take his place in the _capitoul_. Next came a golden
cup, with an inscription in his honour, given by the citizens of Auch; a
gold watch, chain, and seals, sent by the King, Louis-Philippe; an
emerald ring worn and presented by the lamented Duke of Orleans; a pearl
pin, by the graceful duchess, who, on the poet's visit to Paris
accompanied by his son, received him in the words he puts into the mouth
of Henri Quatre.[19]--

        "Brabes Gascous!
    A moun amou per bous aou dibes creyre:
    Benès! benès! ey plazé de bous beyre:
          Aproucha bous!"

A fine service of linen, the offering of the town of Pau, after its
citizens had given fêtes in his honour, and loaded him with caresses and
praises; and nick-nacks and jewels of all descriptions offered to him
by lady-ambassadresses, and great lords; English "_misses_" and
"_miladis_;" and French, and foreigners of all nations who did or did
not understand Gascon.

[Footnote 19: On his statue at Nerac.]

All this, though startling, was not convincing; Jasmin, the barber,
might only be a fashion, a _furor_, a _caprice_, after all; and it was
evident that he knew how to get up a scene well. When we had become
nearly tired of looking over these tributes to his genius, the door
opened, and the poet himself appeared. His manner was free and
unembarrassed, well-bred, and lively; he received our compliments
naturally, and like one accustomed to homage; said he was ill, and
unfortunately too hoarse to read anything to us, or should have been
delighted to do so. He spoke in a broad Gascon accent, and very rapidly
and eloquently; ran over the story of his successes; told us that his
grandfather had been a beggar, and all his family very poor; that he was
now as rich as he wished to be, his son placed in a good position at
Nantes; then showed us his son's picture, and spoke of his disposition,
to which his brisk little wife added, that, though no fool, he had not
his father's genius, to which truth Jasmin assented as a matter of
course. I told him of having seen mention made of him in an English
review; which he said had been sent him by Lord Durham, who had paid him
a visit; and I then spoke of 'Mi cal mouri' as known to me. This was
enough to make him forget his hoarseness and every other evil: it would
never do for me to imagine that that little song was his best
composition; it was merely his first; he must try to read me a little of
l'Abuglo--a few verses of "Françouneto;"--"You will be charmed," said
he; "but if I were well, and you would give me the pleasure of your
company for some time; if you were not merely running through Agen, I
would kill you with weeping--I would make you die with distress for my
poor Margarido--my pretty Françouneto!"

He caught up two copies of his book, from a pile lying on the table, and
making us sit close to him, he pointed out the French translation on one
side, which he told us to follow while he read in Gascon. He began in a
rich soft voice, and as he advanced, the surprise of Hamlet on hearing
the player-king recite the disasters of Hecuba, was but a type of ours,
to find ourselves carried away by the spell of his enthusiasm. His eyes
swam in tears; he became pale and red; he trembled; he recovered
himself; his face was now joyous, now exulting, gay, jocose; in fact, he
was twenty actors in one; he rang the changes from Rachel to Bouffé; and
he finished by delighting us, besides beguiling us of our tears, and
overwhelming us with astonishment.

He would have been a treasure on the stage; for he is still, though his
first youth is past, remarkably good-looking and striking; with black,
sparkling eyes of intense expression; a fine ruddy complexion; a
countenance of wondrous mobility; a good figure; and action full of fire
and grace; he has handsome hands, which he uses with infinite effect;
and, on the whole, he is the best actor of the kind I ever saw. I could
now quite understand what a troubadour or _jongleur_ might be, and I
look upon Jasmin as a revived specimen of that extinct race. Such as he
is might have been Gaucelm Faidit, of Avignon, the friend of Coeur de
Lion, who lamented the death of the hero in such moving strains; such
might have been Bernard de Ventadour, who sang the praises of Queen
Elionore's beauty; such Geoffrey Rudel, of Blaye, on his own Garonne;
such the wild Vidal: certain it is, that none of these troubadours of
old could more move, by their singing or reciting, than Jasmin, in whom
all their long-smothered fire and traditional magic seems re-illumined.

We found we had stayed hours instead of minutes with the poet; but he
would not hear of any apology--only regretted that his voice was so out
of tune, in consequence of a violent cold, under which he was really
labouring, and hoped to see us again. He told us our countrywomen of Pau
had laden him with kindness and attention, and spoke with such
enthusiasm of the beauty of certain "misses," that I feared his little
wife would feel somewhat piqued; but, on the contrary, she stood by,
smiling and happy, and enjoying the stories of his triumphs. I remarked
that he had restored the poetry of the troubadours; asked him if he knew
their songs; and said he was worthy to stand at their head. "I am,
indeed, a troubadour," said he, with energy; "but I am far beyond them
all; they were but beginners; they never composed a poem like my
Françounete! there are no poets in France now--there cannot be; the
language does not admit of it; where is the fire, the spirit, the
expression, the tenderness, the force of the Gascon? French is but the
ladder to reach to the _first floor_ of Gascon--how can you get up to a
height except by a ladder!"

This last metaphor reminded me of the Irishman's contempt for an English
staircase in comparison to his father's ladder; and my devotion to the
troubadours and _early_ French poets received a severe shock by the
slight thrown on them by the bard of Agen.

We left him, therefore, half angry at his presumption; and once out of
his sight I began again to doubt his merit, not feeling ready to accord
the meed of applause to conceit at any time; I forgot that Jasmin is a
type of his kind in all ways, and "is every inch" a _Gascon_.

His poems, of which I am tempted to give some specimens, must speak for
him, although they necessarily lose greatly by transmission into a
language so different to the Gascon as English. The last volume he
published we brought away with us. It is called _Los Papillotos[20] de
Jasmin, coïffeur_, and contains a great many poems, all remarkable in
their way, even including those complimentary verses addressed to
certain "_Moussus," (Messieurs_.)

[Footnote 20: The curl-papers.]

The history of this singular person is told by himself in a series of
poems called "His recollections," which present a sad and curious
picture of his life in its different stages. It appears that Jacques
Jasmin, or as he writes it in Gascon, _Jaquou Jansemin_, was born in
1797 or 1798.

"The last century, old and worn out," (says his eulogist, M.
Sainte-Beuve,) "had only two or three more years to pass on earth, when,
at the corner of an antique street, in a ruined building peopled by a
colony of rats, on the Thursday of Carnival week, at the hour when
pancakes are being tossed, of a hump-backed father and a lame mother was
born a child, a droll little object; and this child was the poet,
Jasmin. When a prince is born into the world, the event is celebrated by
the report of cannon; but he, the son of a poor tailor, had not even a
pop-gun to announce his birth. Nevertheless, he did not appear without
_éclat_, for at the moment he made his appearance, a _charivari_ was
given to a neighbour, and the music of marrowbones and cleavers
accompanied a song of thirty-stanzas, composed for the occasion by his
father. This father of his, who could not read, was a poet in his way,
and made most of the burlesque couplets for salutations of this
description, so frequent in the country. Behold, then, a poetical
parentage, as well established as that of the two Marots."

The infant born under so auspicious an aspect, grew and throve in spite
of the poverty to which he was heir. He was allowed, when a few years
had passed over his head, to accompany his father in those concerts of
rough music to which he contributed his poetical powers; but the chief
delight of the future troubadour was to go, with his young associates,
into the willow islands of the Garonne to gather wood.

"Twenty or thirty together, we used to set out, with naked feet and
bareheaded, singing together the favourite song of the south, 'The lamb,
that you gave me.' Oh! the recollection of this pleasure even now
enchants me."

Their faggots collected, these little heroes returned to make bonfires
of them; on which occasion many gambols ensued. But, in the midst of the
joyous _escapades_ which he describes, he had his moments of sadness,
which the word "_school_" never failed to increase, for the passion of
his soul was to gain instruction, and the poverty of his family
precluded all hope. He would listen to his mother, as she spoke in
whispers to his grandfather, of her wish to send him to school; and he
wept with disappointment, to find such a consummation impossible. The
evidences of this destitution were constantly before him; his perception
of the privations of those dear to him became every day keener; and
when, after the fair, during which he had filled his little purse by
executing trifling commissions, he carried the amount to his mother, his
heart sank as she took it from him with a melancholy smile,
saying--"Poor child, your assistance comes just in time." Bitter
thoughts of poverty would thus occasionally intrude; but the gaiety of
youth banished them again, until one sad day the veil was wholly
withdrawn, and he could no longer conceal the truth from himself. He had
just reached his tenth year, and was one day playing in the square, when
he saw a chair, borne along by several persons, in which was seated an
old man: he looked up and recognised his grandfather, surrounded by his
family. He sprang towards him, and throwing himself into his arms,
exclaimed--"Where are they taking you, dear grandfather? why do you
weep? why do you leave us who love you so dearly?" "My son," replied the
old man, "I am going to the hospital; it is there that all the Jasmins
die." A few days after, the venerable man was no more, and from that
hour Jasmin never forgot that they were indeed poor.

This melancholy incident closes the first canto of the poet's
"Recollections." The second opens with a description of his wretched
dwelling, and the scanty support gained by labour _and begging_, shared
by nine persons: his grandfather's wallet, from which he had so often
received a piece of bread, unknowing how it had been obtained, now hung
a sad memorial of his hard life, and told the story of his trials, when
he went round to his former friends, from farm to farm, in the hope of
filling it for a starving family. At last, one day, the ambitious mother
entered out of breath, announcing the joyous tidings that her son was
admitted _gratis_ into a free school. He became a scholar in a few
months, a chorister in a few more, his fine voice doubtless recommending
him; he gained a prize, and was in a fair way of advancement, when some
childish frolic, punished too severely, caused him to be expelled. On
reaching his home, he found all in consternation, for his bad conduct
had been visited on his family, and the portion of food sent to them
weekly he found was discontinued. His mother tried to console him, and
to conceal their real state; but while he saw his little brothers and
sisters provided with food, which, his mother smilingly dispensed, he
discovered to his horror that she no longer wore her ring: it had been
sold to buy bread.

The second canto here finishes. The third introduces us to the hero in
his capacity of apprentice to the same craft of which he still
continues a member, and here his comparative prosperity begins. He falls
in love, writes verses, sings them, becomes popular, is able to open a
little shop on his own account, and burns the old arm-chair in which his
ancestors were carried to the hospital. His wife, who was at first an
enemy to pen and ink, finding the good effect of his songs, was soon the
first to urge him to write; his fellow-citizens became proud of him, his
trade increased, and at length he was able to purchase the house on the
promenade, where he now lives in comfort; with sufficient for his
moderate wishes, always following his trade of hair-cutting, and
publishing his poems at the same time. The first of his poems that
appeared was called "The Charivari." It is burlesque, and has
considerable merit: it is preceded by a very fine ode, full of serious
beauty and grace of expression; this was as early as 1825. Several
others of great beauty followed, and some of his songs became popular
beyond the region where they were first sung. But his finest composition
was a ballad, called "The Blind Girl of Castel-Cuillé," which at once
crowned him with fame and loaded him with honours.

The last volume he has published is that which I now introduce to the
reader: it contains, besides several already known, many new poems, and
a ballad, called "Françouneto," which is acknowledged as a successful
rival to "The Blind Girl." The rustic character of his descriptions, and
the rustic dialect in which they are conveyed, give a tone of novelty
and reality to his works quite peculiar to themselves. The force and
powerful effect of the Gascon language is lost in reading the French
version, appended to the original; but a very little attention will make
that original understood, and the reward well repays the study.

The "Abuglo" (the Blind Girl) thus opens--

      "Del pè d'aquelo haouto mountagno
      Oùn se pinquo Castel-Cuillé;
    Altenque lou poumé, lou pruné, l'amellé,
      Blanquejâbon dens la campagno,
      Baci lou chan qu'on entendêt,
    Un dimècres mati, beillo de Sent-Jouzèt."

"At the foot of the high mountain, where Castle-Cuillé stands in
mid-air, at the season when the apple-tree, the plum, and the almond,
are whitening all the country round, this is the song that was sung one
Wednesday morning, the eve of St. Joseph."

Then comes the chorus, which is no invention of the poet, but a refrain
of the country, always sung at rustic weddings, in accordance with a
custom of strewing the bridal path with flowers:

    "The paths with buds and blossoms strew!
      A lovely bride approaches nigh:
    For all should bloom and spring anew,
      A lovely bride is passing by."

A description then follows of a rural wedding, introducing habits and
superstitions, which remind one of Burns and Hallow-e'en. This picture
of youth, gaiety, and beauty, is full of truth and nature; and the
contrast is affecting, of the desolate situation of the young blind
girl, who should have been the bride, but whom Baptiste, her lover, had
deserted for one richer, since a severe malady had deprived her of her
sight. Poor Marguerite (_Margarido_) still thinks him faithful, and
expects his return to fulfil his vow, when the sound of the wedding
music, and the explanation of her little brother, reveal to her all her
misfortune. The song of hope and fear, as she sits expecting him, is
extremely beautiful; and some of the expressions, in the original
singular yet musical Gascon, must lose greatly by translation, either in
French or English. Her lamentations on her blindness remind one of
Milton's heart-rending words on the same subject:--

    "Jour per aoutres, toutjour! et per jou, malhurouzo,
      Toutjour ney, toutjour ney!"

        "MARGARIDO'S REFLECTIONS."

    "After long months of sad regret
    Returned!--return'd? and comes not yet?
    Although to my benighted eyes
    He knows no other star may rise:
    He knows my lonely moments past,
    Expecting, hoping to the last.
    He knows my heart is faithful still,
    I wait my vows but to fulfil.

    Alas! without him what have I?
    Grief bows my fame and dims my eye;
    For others, day and joy and light,
    For me, all darkness--always night!

    "What gloom spreads round where he is not:
      How cold, how lonely, he away!
    But in his presence all forgot,
      I never think of sun or day.
    What has the day? a sky of blue--
    His eyes are of a softer hue,
    That light a heaven of hope and love.
    Pure as the skies that glow above.
    But skies, earth, blindness, tears, and pain,
      Are all forgot, unfelt, unknown,
    When he is by my side again,
      And holds my hand within his own!"

When the unfortunate girl finds that her lover is untrue, despair takes
possession of her mind; she causes herself to be conducted to the
church, where the ceremony of the marriage is taking place; and at the
moment when Baptiste pronounces the words which seal his fate with that
of her rival, Angela, she rushes forward, and draws a knife to stab
herself; but at the instant she falls dead at his feet, before her hand
has accomplished the fatal blow. The poet here congratulates his heroine
on having died _without crime_, her _intention_ going for nothing, and
the angels bearing her soul to heaven as immaculate.

There is little in the plot of this story--its beauty lies in the grace,
and ease, and simplicity of the language, and the pathos of the
situations. The same may be said of the ballad of "Françouneto," the
latest work of the author, which is just now making a great sensation in
France. The close of both these stories is somewhat weak and hurried,
and both fail in effect, except when Jasmin reads them himself,--then
there appears nothing to be desired.

Françonnette is a village beauty and coquette, promised to Marcel, a
young soldier, but attached to Pascal, a peasant, whose poverty and
pride prevent his declaring the passion he feels for the volatile but
tender maiden, who

    "Long had fired each youth with love,
    Each maiden with despair;"

but, unlike the Emma of the English ballad, Françonnette is too
conscious of being fair, and torments her admirers to death. She
becomes, at length, the object of suspicion and hatred to her fellows,
in consequence of a rumour circulated by her disappointed lover, Marcel,
that her Huguenot father had sold her to the evil one, and that
misfortune awaited whoever should love or marry her. Some fearful scenes
ensue, in which the poet exhibits great power. The quarrel of the rivals
is managed with effect; and the rising of the peasantry against the
supposed bewitched beauty; the discovery of Pascal's love, and the
consequent revolution the knowledge effects in the mind of the deserted
girl; his tender devotion, her danger, and Marcel's subsequent remorse,
are admirably told; and, on the whole, the story of Françonnette must be
acknowledged as a great advance upon the "Aveugle;" and its superiority
promises greater things yet from the poet of Agen.

       "FRANÇONNETTE'S MUSINGS.

    "On the parched earth when falls the earliest dew,
    As shine the sun's first rays, the winter flown,
    So love's first spark awakes to life anew,
    And fills the startled mind with joy unknown.
    The maiden yielded every thought to this--
    The trembling certainty of real bliss:
    The lightning of a joy before unproved,
    Flash'd in her heart, and taught her that she loved.

    "She fled from envy, and from curious eyes,
    And dream'd, as all have done, those waking dreams,
    Bidding in thought bright fairy fabrics rise
    To shrine the loved one in their golden gleams.
    Alas! the Sage is right, 'tis the distrest
    Who dream the fondest, and who love the best!"

But, perhaps, a better idea can be conveyed, by giving a version in
prose of the whole story.


The story of Françonnette.

It was at the time when Blaise de Montluc, the sanguinary chief, struck
the Protestants with a heavy hand, and his sword hewed them in pieces,
while, in the name of a God of mercy, he inundated the earth with tears
and blood.

At length he paused from fatigue: it was ended; no more did the hills
resound with the noise of carbine or cannon: the savage leader, to prop
the cross, which neither then nor now tottered, had slain, strangled,
filled the wells with slaughtered thousands. The earth gave back its
dead at Fumel and at Penne: fathers, mothers, children, were nearly
exterminated, and the executioners had time to breathe.

The exhausted tiger--the merciless ruffian--dismounted from his charger,
re-entered his fortress, with its triple bridge, and its triple moat,
and, kneeling at the altar, uttered his devout prayers, received the
communion, while his hands were yet reeking with the blood of innocence
with which he had glutted his cruelty.

Meantime, in the hamlets, young men and maidens, at first terrified at
the bare name of Huguenot, devoted their hours to love and amusement as
formerly. And in a village, at the foot of a strong castle, one Sunday,
a band of lovers were dancing on the votive feast of Roquefort, and, to
the sound of the fife, celebrated St. Jacques and the month of
August--that lovely month, which, by the freshness of its dew, and the
fire of its sun, ripens our figs and grapes.

There had never been seen a finer fête. Under the large parasol of
foliage, where the crowd were every year seen in groups--all was full to
overflowing. From the heights of the rocks to the depths of the valleys,
from Montagnac and Sainte Colombe, new troops of visitors arrived; still
they come--still they come--and the sun is high in heaven, like a torch.
There is no lack of room where they are met, for the meadows here serve
for chambers, and the banks of turf for seats.

What enjoyment!--the heat makes the air sparkle: nothing is more
pleasing than to see those fife-players blowing, and the dancers
whirling along. Cakes and sweetmeats are taken from baskets; fresh
lemonade! how eagerly the thirsty drink it down! Crowds hurry to see
Polichinelle--crowds hurry to the merchant whose cymbals announce his
treasures--crowds everywhere! But who is she advancing this way? Joy,
joy! It is the young Queen of the Meadows. It is she--it is
Françonnette. Let me tell you a little concerning her.

In towns as well as in hamlets, you know there is always the pearl of
love, precious above all the rest; well, every voice united proclaim
her, in the canton, the Beauty of Beauties.

But I would not have you imagine that she is pensive--that she
sighs--that she is pale as a lily--that she has languishing, half-closed
eyes, blue and soft--that she is slight, and bends with languor, like
the willow that inclines beside a clear stream. You would be greatly
deceived: Françonnette has eyes brilliant as two sparkling stars; one
might think to gather bunches of roses on her rounded cheeks; her
chestnut hair waves in rich curls; her mouth is like a cherry; her teeth
would make snow look dim; her little feet are delicately moulded; her
ankle is light and fine. In effect, Françonnette was the true star of
beauty in a female form, grafted here below.

All these charms, too evident to all, caused ceaseless envy amongst the
young girls, and many sighs amongst the swains. Poor young enthusiasts,
there was not one who would not have died for her: they looked at
her--they adored her as the priest adores the cross. The fair one saw it
with delight; and her countenance was radiant with pride and pleasure.

Nevertheless, she has a secret dawn of vexation; the finest flower is
wanting in her circlet of triumph. Pascal--the handsomest of all the
youths--he who sings the best--appears to avoid and to see her without
love. Françonnette is indignant at his neglect; she believes that he is
hateful to her, when she reflects on his conduct; she prepares a
terrible vengeance, and waits but the moment when, by a look, she shall
make him her slave for ever.

Is it not always so! From all time a maiden so courted is sure to become
vain and proud; and, young as she is, it is easy to see she is like the
rest. Proud she was, to a certain degree, and a coquette she was
becoming--a rural one, however, not artful; she loved none, yet many
hoped she did.

Her grandmother would often say to her--"My child, remember the country
is not the town--the meadow is not a ball-room; you know well that we
have promised you to the soldier, Marcel, who loves you, and expects you
to be his wife. You must conquer this fickleness of mind. A girl who
tries to attract all, ends by gaining none."

A kiss and a laugh and a caress were the answer; and, while she bounded
away, she would sing, in the words of the song--

    "I have time enough, dear mother,
      Time enough to love him yet;
    If I wait and choose no other,
      All Love's art I should forget:
    And if all is left for one,
    'Twere as well be loved by none."

All this finished by creating much jealousy, suffering, and unhappiness;
nevertheless, these shepherds were not of those that make lays full of
grace and tenderness, and who, dying of grief, engrave their names on
poplars and willows. Alas! these shepherds could not write! besides
which, though Love had turned their heads, they preferred to suffer and
live on: but, oh! what confusion in the workshops!--oh, what ill-dressed
vines--what branches uncut!--what furrows all irregular!

Now that you know this heedless little beauty, do not lose sight of
her;--there she is! see, how she glides along! now she dances with
Etienne the _rigaudon d'honneur_: every one follows her with straining
eyes and smiles: every one gives her glances of admiration. She loses
not one of their regards; and she dances with added grace. Holy cross!
holy cross! how she turns and winds, with her lizard-shaped head, and
her little Spanish foot, and her wasp-like waist!--when she slides, and
whirls, and leaps, and the breeze waves her blue handkerchief, what
would they not all give to impress two kisses on her pretty cheek!

One will be so happy! for it is the custom to kiss your partner if you
can tire her out; but a young girl is never tired till she chooses to be
so; and, already, Guillaume, Louis, Jean, Pierre, Paul--she has wearied
them all: there they stand, out of breath, and can boast of having
gained no kiss of Françonnette.

Another takes her hand: it is Marcel, her betrothed: a soldier, in
favour with the redoubted Montluc; he is tall and powerful; he wears a
sabre, a uniform, and has a cockade in his cap; he is as upright as a
dart; well made; bold, with a generous heart, but fiery and proud.
Presuming and intrusive--caring little to be invited, but ready to claim
whatever he pleases; a boaster, sportive but dangerous, _like a
caterpillar_. Marcel doating on Françonnette, flirts with all,
endeavours to rouse her jealousy, and has tales to tell of his
successes.

Disgusted at his presumption, his betrothed dislikes, at length, to see
him; he perceives her repugnance, and, to revenge himself, proclaims
that he knows himself beloved; proud of having said it, he increases his
boasting; and, the other day, at a meeting, as he broke his glass, he
took an oath that no one but himself should have the privilege of
kissing Françonnette.

It was curious to behold, as they danced together, how the crowd pressed
forward, anxious to see if the handsome soldier would gain the reward
which he boasted that none but he should obtain.

At first he smiled, as he led her forward, and his eyes entreated hers;
but she remained mute and cold, and her activity appeared but to
increase. Marcel, piqued and annoyed, resolved to conquer her; and the
vain lover who would rather gain one kiss before all the world than
twenty granted in secret, exerts all his powers, leaps, hurries, whirls,
and, to fatigue her, would willingly give his sabre, his cap, his
worsted embroidery,--aye, if it had been all of gold instead!

But when the game is displeasing, the maiden is strong to resist. Far
from giving in, Françonnette confuses, tires him, till his breath is
gone; passion exhausts him as much as her swiftness; his face becomes
crimson--he is ready to fall--he gives in.

On goes the dance--Pascal stands in his place; he has scarcely made two
steps, and changed sides, when his pretty partner smiles, reels, pauses;
she is tired out, and she turns her blushing cheek to him--oh! she did
not wait long for his kiss.

Instantly a shout is heard--clapping of hands in all directions: all
plaudits for Pascal, who stands confused and abashed.

What a scene for the young soldier, who loved in good truth!--he
shuddered as he saw the kiss given; he rose, and drew himself up to his
full height. "Thou hast replaced me too quickly, peasant!" cried he, in
a thundering voice; and, to enforce his insulting words, he struck the
young man a violent blow.

Heavens! how ready is pain to usurp the place of the sweetest pleasure!
A kiss and a blow! glory and shame! light and darkness! fire and ice!
life and death! heaven and hell!

All this shook the mind of Pascal; but when a man is insulted, he can
revenge himself, though he is neither gentleman nor soldier. No. Look
upon him! the tempest is not more fearful. His eyes dart
lightning--thunder is in his voice--he raises his arm, and it descends
upon Marcel like a bolt. In vain the soldier seeks to draw his
sword--stands on his guard; Pascal, whose size seems to increase with
fury, seizes him by his waist, strains him in his grasp, and, with a
fierce gripe, forces him to the ground, where he dashes him, crushed and
senseless.

"Hold!--the peasant grants your life!" cried Pascal, as he stood over
him.

"Kill him!--you are wounded--you are all blood," exclaimed a hundred
voices. Pascal's blood flowed, he knew not how.

"It is enough," he returned; "I pardon him now. The wicked man when
defeated excites only pity."

"No, no--kill him, tear him to pieces," howled the enraged people.

"Back, peasants, back!" cried a knight, spurring forward, to whom every
one gave way. It was Montluc, attracted to the spot by the tumult, as he
was passing with the Baron of Roquefort.

But the fête was over--no more amusement: the young girls, terrified,
fled like hares, two by two, from the spot; the young men surrounding
Pascal--the handsome, brave Pascal--accompanied him on his way, as
though it was his wedding-day. Marcel, furious and discomfited,
struggled to renew the contest; but his lord's voice restrained him; a
word of command silenced him: he ground his teeth with rage, and cried--

"They love each other,--they will do everything to thwart me. This will
be but sport to her. 'Tis well; but by St. Marcel, my patron, they
shall pay dear for this jesting, and Françonnette shall be mine, and
none other's!"


PART II.

One, two, three months passed away--all fêtes, dances, games, and
harvest-homes; but all these gaieties must end with the falling leaves.
All things, in winter, assume a mournful aspect,--all beneath the vault
of heaven becomes aged.

After nightfall no one now ventured out: all grouped themselves around
the bright hearth; for it was known that loup-garoux, and sorcerers
whose acts make the hair stand on end, and spread terror in house and
hut, now kept their sabbath beneath the naked elms, and round about the
straw-rick.

At length, Christmas-morning shone, and Jean the crier hastened through
the town with his tambour, calling out, "Be ready, young maidens, at the
Buscou: a grand Winding meeting takes place on Friday, New Year's Eve."

Oh! how the young girls and youths proclaimed in every quarter the news
of the old crier! his news was of that kind which, rapid as a bird,
lends wings to speech. Scarcely, therefore, was the air warmed by the
sun's rays, than his intelligence was spread from hearth to hearth, from
table to table, from cottage to cottage.

Friday came; and, in the dusk of the evening, seated beside a cold
forge, a mother was complaining: and thus she spoke to her son:--

"Have you, then, forgotten the day when, before our shop, I saw you
arrive, with the sound of music, faint, wounded, and bleeding? I have
suffered much since, for the wound was envenomed; we feared you must
lose your arm. Let me entreat, go not out to-night--for I dreamt of
flowers--what do they always announce, Pascal?--but sorrows and tears."

"Dear mother, you are too timid; all seems gloomy in your eyes; you know
Marcel comes no more amongst us; there is now no reason for your fears."

"Take heed of yourself, nevertheless. The sorcerer of the Black Wood has
been wandering in this neighbourhood,--you recollect the great mischief
he did last year. Well, it is said that a soldier was seen to leave his
cave yesterday, at day-break. Should it be Marcel! Beware, my child.
Every mother gives relics to her child--take you mine, and oh, my son,
go not forth."

"I only ask one little hour, to see my friend, Thomas."

"Your friend!--ah, tell the truth, and say to see Françonnette; for you,
too, love her, like all the rest. You think I see it not--away!--I have
long read it in your eyes. You fear to distress me, you sing, you seem
gay; but you weep in secret, you suffer, you are wretched, and I am
unhappy for your sake. I pine away. Hold, Pascal! something tells me a
great misfortune awaits you. She has such power over those who love her,
one would say she was a witch; but with her magic what does she seek?
Can it be fortune?--it has been offered her twenty times, and she
refuses all; however, they say she now pretends to be attached to rich
Laurent de Brax, and they are soon to be betrothed. Oh, what confusion
she will make this evening, vain creature! Think no more of her, Pascal;
leave her, it is for your good;--hear me! she would hold a poor
blacksmith in contempt, whose father is old, infirm, and poor,--for we
are poor, indeed; alas! you know it well. We have parted with all; we
have only a scythe left. It has been a dark time with us since you fell
sick; now that you are well, go, dearest, and work. What do I say? we
can suffer still; rest yourself, if you please, but, for the love of
God, go not forth this evening."

And the poor mother in despair wept, as she implored her son, who,
leaning against the forge, stifled a sigh which rose from his oppressed
heart, and said, "You are right, mother: I had forgotten all,--we are
poor, indeed. I will go and work."

Two minutes after, the anvil was ringing; but whoever had seen how often
the young blacksmith struck the iron falsely, would have easily seen
that he thought of something besides the hammer he held in his hand.

Meantime few had failed at the Buscou, and every one came from all parts
to divide their skein at the Fête of Lovers.

In a large chamber, where already a hundred windles were turning, loaded
with flax, girls and youths, with nimble fingers, were winding thread as
fine as hair.

It was soon all finished; and white wine and _rimottes_ were placed,
boiling, in glasses and basins, from which rose a burning smoke which
set the love-powder in a flame. If the prettiest there had been the most
rapid, I should have pointed out Françonnette; but the Queen of the
Games is the last at work, and this is the time when her reign begins.

Only listen; how she amuses every one,--how she governs and regulates
all; one would say she had spirit enough for three. She dances, she
speaks, she sings; she is all-in-all. When she sings, you would say she
had the soul of the dove; when she talks, the wit of an angel: when she
dances, you would imagine she had, the wings of the swallow: and this
evening she sang, and danced, and talked--oh! it was enough to turn the
wisest head!

Her triumph is complete; all eyes are upon her. The poor young men can
resist no more; and her bright eyes, which enchant them, shine and
sparkle as they see how the spell works. Then Thomas rose, and, looking
at the lovely coquette with tender glances, sang, in a flute-toned
voice, this new song:

    "Oh tell us, charming maid,
       With heart of ice unmoved,
     When shall we hear the sound
     Of bells that ring around,
       To say that you have loved?
     Always so free and gay,
     Those wings of dazzling ray,
     Are spread to ev'ry air,--
     And all your favour share;
     Attracted by their light,
     All follow in your flight.
     But, ah! believe me, 'tis not bliss,
       Such triumphs do but purchase pain;
     What is it to be loved like this,
       To her who cannot love again?

    "You've seen how full of joy
       We've marked the sun arise;
     Even so each Sunday morn,
       When you, before our eyes,
       Bring us such sweet surprise,
     With us new life is born:
       We love your angel face,
         Your step so debonaire,
       Your mien of maiden grace,
         Your voice, your lip, your hair:
       Your eyes of gentle fire,
       All these we all admire!
     But, ah! believe me, 'tis not bliss,
       Such triumphs do but purchase pain;
     What is it to be loved like this,
       To her who cannot love again.

    "Alas! our groves are dull,
       When widowed of thy sight,
     And neither hedge nor field
     Their perfume seem to yield;
       The blue sky is not bright:
     When you return once more,
       All that was sad is gone,
     All nature you restore;
       We breathe in you alone.
       We could your rosy lingers cover
       With kisses of delight all over!
     But ah! believe me, 'tis not bliss,
       Such triumphs do but purchase pain;
     What is it to be loved like this,
       To her who cannot love again!

    "The dove you lost of late,
       Might warn you, by her flight;
     She sought in woods her mate,
       And has forgot you quite;
     She has become more fair,
     Since love has been her care.
     'Tis love makes all things gay,
       Oh follow where he leads--
     When beauteous looks decay,
       What dreary life succeeds!
     And ah! believe me, perfect bliss,
       A joy, where peace and triumph reign,
     Is when a maiden loved like this,
       Has learnt 'tis sweet to love again."

The song is ended; and the crowd, delighted at its meaning, are full of
applause, and clap their hands in praise.

"Heavens! what a song!--how appropriate! who composed so sweet a lay?"

"It was Pascal," replied Thomas.

"Bravo, Pascal,--long live Pascal!" was the general cry.

Françonnette is silent; but she feels and enjoys it all,--she is proud,
and exults: she has the love of all--of all now. It is told her, a song
has been made for her; and she hears it sung before every one--yes,
every one knows she is the person meant. She thinks on Pascal, too, and
becomes grave.

"He has no equal," she mused. "How brave he is! every one holds him in
esteem; all are on his side. How well he can paint love! doubtless they
all love him. And what a song! what tender meaning!" Not a word has
escaped her. "But, if he loves, why does he thus conceal himself?" She
turned to his friend, and exclaimed:

"It seems long since we saw him. I would fain tell him how beautiful we
think his song. Where is he?"

"Oh! he is obliged to stay at home," said Laurent, jealous and piqued.
"Pascal has no more time, methinks, for song making. Poor man! his ruin
is not far off; his father is infirm, and cannot leave his bed; he is in
debt everywhere; the baker refuses to trust him."

Françonnette became very pale. "He--so amiable--so good! alas! he is
much to be pitied. Is he, then, indeed so wretched?"

"Too true," said Laurent, affecting a compassionate air. "It is said he
lives on alms."

"You have lied," cried Thomas: "may your tongue be blistered! Pascal is
unfortunate; and all has not gone well with him since he met that hurt
in the arm, for Françonnette; but he is well again; and, if no envious
person injures him, he will recover himself soon; for he has industry
and courage." Whoever had looked narrowly would have seen a tear in the
eye of Françonnette.

The games begin: they sit in a circle; they play at _cache-couteau_.
Françonnette is challenged by Laurent: he claims the kiss which she has
forfeited. She flies like a bird from the fowler; he pursues; but, when
he has nearly reached her, he falls, and has broken his arm.

A sudden gloom succeeds to gaiety; terror takes possession of all. When
suddenly a door opens, and an aged man, whose beard hangs to his girdle,
appears. He comes like a spectre: they start away in alarm; the Sorcerer
of the Black Wood stands before them.

"Unthinking beings!" he exclaims, "I have descended from my rock to warn
you. You all fix your thoughts upon this girl, Françonnette, who is
accursed; for her father, while she was yet in her cradle, became a
Huguenot, and sold her to the devil. Her mother died of grief; and the
demon, who watches over that which is his, follows her everywhere in
secret. He has punished Pascal and Laurent, who have sought her. Be
warned; ill-fortune attends whoever would espouse her. The demon has
alone a claim to her possession; and her husband would fall a victim."

The sorcerer ended: sparks of fire surrounded him, and showed his
wrinkled face more clearly: he turned four times round in a circle, and
disappeared.

Every hearer seemed changed to stone. Françonnette alone showed signs of
life: she did not give way at once to the misfortunes which threatened
her: she hoped the scene would pass as a jest: she laughed
cheerfully--advanced towards her friends; but all drew back with a
shudder; all cried out, "Begone!" Then she felt she was abandoned; a
cold tremor came over her, and she fell senseless to the ground.

Thus ended a fête which had begun so gaily. The next day--the first of
the year--the rumours of this event spread from house to house and from
meadow to meadow.

Oh! the terror of the evil one, which at the present day scarcely
exists, at that time was fearful, particularly in the country.

A thousand things were remembered, before never dreamt of: some had
heard in her cottage the noise of chains: her father had disappeared
mysteriously: her mother was said to have died mad: nothing ever failed
with her; her harvest always ripened first; and when hail destroyed
other fields, her's were full of grapes and corn.

None hesitated to believe what was said; daughters, mothers,
grandmothers exaggerated the first reports; children trembled at her
name; and, at length, when the poor girl, with depressed brow, came
forth to seek necessaries for her aged relative, no one spoke to her:
all shrunk from her; or, pointing with their fingers, cried out--"Fly!
behold one sold to the demon!"


PART III.

Beside the town of Estanquet, on the banks of a sparkling stream, whose
waters run bubbling all the year long over the pebbles, a beautiful girl
was gathering flowers, last year, amongst the turf: she sang so sweetly
and so joyously, that the birds were jealous of her voice and of her
song.

Why does she sing no more? Hedges and meads are green again; the
nightingales come even into her garden to invite her to join their lays.
Where is she? Perhaps she is departed. But no; her straw hat lies on the
accustomed bench, but is no longer adorned with a bright ribbon: her
little garden is neglected: her hoe and rake lie on the ground amongst
the jonquils: the rose branches stray wildly; there are thistles at
their feet, and the little paths, which used to be so neat, are filled
with nettles.

Something must have happened. Where is the lively maiden? Do you not
see her cottage shining white through the thick hazel branches? Let us
approach: the door is open; softly--let us enter. Ah! there, in her
arm-chair, sits the grandmother, asleep; and I see behind the window the
fair girl of Estanquet; but she is in grief--what can ail her? Tears are
falling on her little hand: some dark cloud has passed over her heart.

Oh yes! dark indeed! for yonder sits Françonnette: there she sits, bowed
down with the blow which has overwhelmed her: she weeps in her chamber,
and her heart knows no relief. Young girls often weep, and forget their
sorrow quickly; but she----her grief is too deep, and it is one which
tears cannot soften. The daughter of a Huguenot! one banished from the
Church--sold to the demon! ah! it is too horrible!

The grandmother tells her in vain--"My child, it is false!" She does not
listen: there is none but her father can resolve her doubts, and prove
to her that it is not true; but no one knows his place of abode; she is
alone--she is terrified--oh! so terrified, that she believes it.

"What a change!" she cries. "I who, but now, was so happy--I, who was
Queen of the Meadows and could command all--I, for whom every youth
would have gone barefooted amongst a nest of serpents--to be contemned,
avoided, the terror of the country! And Pascal--he also flies me, as if
I were a pest: yet I pitied him in his wretchedness; perhaps he has no
pity to bestow on me."

It was not so; and she has yet some comfort in her misery: she learns
that Pascal is her defender: this is a balm to her wounded spirit; and,
as her only relief, she thinks of him often. Suddenly she hears a cry;
she flies to her grandmother, who has just waked from sleep: "The fire
is not here; the walls do not burn! Oh God, what a mercy!"

"What were you dreaming, dear grandmother--answer me--what is it?"
"Unfortunate girl! I dreamt it was night; brutal men came to our house,
and set it on fire. You cried; you exerted yourself to save me, but you
could not, and we both were burnt. Oh, I have suffered much! come to my
arms! let me embrace my child!"

And the aged woman strained her in her withered arms, and pressed her
tenderly to her heart, her white hair mingling with the golden ringlets
of Françonnette. "Dearest," said she, "your mother, the day of her
marriage, came from the castle a bride; her dower came from thence; and
thus we are not rich from the demon; every one must know that. It is
true that while you were an infant, my angel, and yet in the cradle, we
heard every night a strange noise, and we found you always out of the
cradle; and on the edge of your little bed three drops of blood
appeared; but we said a prayer, and they disappeared; does not this
prove that you are not sold to the evil one? Some envious person has
invented this. Be of good cheer, and do not weep like a child; you are
more lovely than ever: show yourself again: let your beauty once more
appear. Those who hide from envy give the wicked more space. Besides,
Marcel still loves you; he has sent secretly to say he is your's when
you will--you love him not! Marcel will be your protector; I am too old
to guard you. Hearken! to-morrow is Easter-day; go to mass, and pray
more fervently than of late; take some of the blessed bread, and sign
yourself with the cross. I am certain that God will restore your lost
happiness, and will prove, by your countenance, that He has not erased
you from the number of those He calls his own."

The hope she had conjured up irradiated the face of the poor woman; her
child hung round her neck, and promised to do her bidding; and peace was
restored for a while to the little white cottage.

The next day, when the Hallelujah was ringing from the bells of St. Pé,
great was the astonishment of all to behold Françonnette kneeling with
her chaplet in the church,--her eyes cast down in prayer.

Poor girl! well might she pray to be spared; there was not a young
woman who spared her as she passed: the less so, that Marcel and Pascal
appeared to feel pity for her. They were very cruel to her; not one
would remain near; so that she found herself, at last, kneeling alone in
the midst of a wide circle, like one condemned who has a mark of shame
on his forehead. Her mortification is not yet complete, for the uncle of
Marcel--the churchwarden, who wears a vest of violet with large
skirts--the tall man who offers the blessed bread at Easter--passes on
when she puts out her hand to take her portion, and refuses to allow her
to share the heavenly meal.

This was terrible! She believes that God has really abandoned her, and
would drive her from His temple; she trembles, and sinks back nearly
fainting; but some one advances--it is he who asks to-day for the
offerings; it is Pascal, who had never quitted her with his looks, who
had seen the meaning glance which passed between the uncle and
nephew--he advances softly, and taking from the shining plate that part
of the bread which is crowned with a garland of choice flowers, presents
it to Françonnette.

What a moment of delicious joy to her! Her blood runs free again; she
feels no longer frozen to stone; her soul had trembled; but it seems as
if the bread of the living God, as she touched it, had restored her
life. But why is her cheek so covered with blushes? It is because the
Angel of Love had, with his breath, drawn forth the flame that slept in
her heart; it is that a feeling, new, strange, subtle, like fire, sweet
as honey, rises in her soul, and makes her bosom beat. Oh! it is that
she lives with another life. Now, she knows herself; she feels what she
really is: now she understands the magic of love. The world--the
priest--all disappears; in the temple of the Lord there is but a human
creature she beholds--the man she loves--the man to whom she had
faltered her thanks.

Now, let us quit all the envy and jealousy that might be seen exhibited
on the way-side from St. Pé, and the triple scandal of cruel tongues;
let us follow Françonnette, who carries home to her grandmother the
blessed bread crowned with its garland, and who, having given it into
her hands, retires to her chamber _alone with her love_!

First drop of dew in the time of drought, first ray of sun-light in
winter, thou art not more welcome to the bosom of the parched earth in
sadness, than this first flame of affection to the awakened heart of the
tender girl! Happy--overwhelmed--she forgets herself, and, by degrees,
gives up all her being to the new, rapturous delight of loving!

Then, far from the noise of evil tongues, she did what we all do; she
dreamt with unclosed eyes, and without stone or implements she built
herself a little castle, where, with Pascal, all was shining, all was
brilliant, all was radiant with happiness. Oh! the sage is right--the
soul in affliction loves the strongest!

She gave herself up entirely to her love; she feels she loves for ever,
and all in nature seems to smile for her. But the honey of love too soon
becomes bitter. Suddenly, she recollects herself--she shudders--she
becomes as if frozen. At the stroke of a fearful thought, all her little
castle is demolished. Alas! wretched girl, she dreamt of love, and love
is forbidden to her. Did not the sorcerer say she was sold to the evil
one, and that man bold enough to seek her would find only death in the
nuptial chamber? She! must she behold Pascal dead before her?

Mercy, oh God! oh God, pity!

And, bathed in tears, the poor child fell on her knees before an image
of the Virgin.

"Holy Virgin," said she, "without thy aid I am lost; for I love deeply.
I have no parents, and they say I am sold to the demon. Oh, take pity on
me! save me, if it be true: and if it is but the saying of the wicked,
let my soul know the truth; and when I offer thee my taper at the altar
of Notre Dame, prove to me that my prayer is accepted."

A short prayer, when it is sincere, soon mounts to heaven. She felt
certain that she was heard; but she thought constantly of her project,
though at times she shuddered, and fear rendered her mute; still hope
would come like a lightning flash in the night, and satisfy her heart.


PART IV.

At length the day arrived so feared and so desired. At day-break long
lines of young girls, all in white, extended in all directions, and
advanced to the sound of the bells; and Notre Dame, in the midst of a
cloud of perfume, proudly looked down on three hamlets in one.

What censers! what crosses! what nosegays! what tapers! what banners!
what pictures! Then come all Puymirol, Artigues, Astafort, Lusignan,
Cardonnet, Saint Cirq, Brax, Roquefort; but those of Roquefort, this
year, are the first--the most numerous: and to see them in particular
the curious hastened forward, for everywhere, in all places, the story
of the young girl sold to the demon spread, and it is known that to-day
she comes to pray to the Virgin to protect her.

Her misfortune has inspired pity amongst them; every one looks at her
and laments; they trust that a miracle will be operated in her favour,
and that the Virgin will save her. She sees the feeling that she has
inspired, and rejoices; her hope becomes stronger; "the voice of the
people is the voice of God."

Oh, how her heart beats as she enters the church! everywhere within the
walls are pictures of the Virgin's mercy and indulgence; mothers in
grief, young people in affliction, girls without parents, women without
children--all are kneeling with tapers before the image of the Mother of
heaven, which an aged priest in his robes allows to touch their lips,
and afterwards blesses them.

No sign of ill has occurred, and they believe; all, as they rise, depart
with a happy hope, and Françonnette feels the same, particularly when
she sees Pascal praying devoutly; then she has courage to look the
priest in the face. It appears as if love, music, the lights, the
incense--all was united to assure her of pardon.

"Pardon! pardon!" murmured she, "oh, if that were mine! and Pascal"--

She lighted her taper in order, and, the light and her bouquet in her
hand, she took her place. Every one, from compassion, made way that she
might kneel the foremost. The silence is breathless; there is neither
movement nor gesture; all eyes are turned on her and on the priest; he
takes the sacred image, and holds it forth to her; but scarcely has it
touched the lips of the orphan when a loud peal of thunder shakes the
church, and rolls away in the distance; her taper is extinguished, and
three of those on the altar!

Her taper is extinct--her prayer rejected--she is accursed!

Oh, God! it is, then, indeed true! she has been dedicated to the evil
one, and is abandoned of Heaven!

A murmur of terror spread through the crowd; and when the unfortunate
girl rose, pale and wild and breathless with horror, all drew back,
shuddering, and let her pass. The thunder-clap had begun the storm;
fearfully it burst afterwards over Roquefort; the belfry of St. Pierre
was destroyed, and the hail driving over the country, swept all away but
those who wept to see the ravage.

And the pilgrims returned, all ready to relate the disaster they had
seen; they returned all--except one--and sang _Ora pro nobis_.

Then, to cross the perilous waters, Agen did not possess as now--to make
other towns jealous--three great bridges, as though it were a royal
town. Two simple barks, urged by two oars, carried persons from one side
to the other; but scarcely have they reached the opposite shore, and
formed themselves in lines, than the news of the terrible event reaches
them. At first, they scarcely credit its extent; but when they advance,
and behold the vines and the fields desolated, then they tremble and are
seized with despair, and cries of "Misery!" and "Misfortune!" rend the
air.

Suddenly a voice exclaims, "Françonnette is saved while we are ruined!"
the word acts like a spark to gunpowder.

"The wretch!--drive her out!--she brings us evil--it is true--she is the
cause of all--she may do us more harm!"

And the crowd clamoured louder and grew more furious. One cried, "Let us
drive her from us! cursed as she is, let her burn in flames like the
_Huguenot_, her father!"

The coldest became infuriated: "Let her be driven forth!" cried all.

To see them thus enraged, with flaming eyes, clenched hands and teeth,
it seemed as if Hell inspired them, and that its influence came with the
breeze of night, and breathed into their veins the venom of fury.

Where was Françonnette? alas! in her cottage, half-dead--cold as marble!
holding firmly in her tightened and convulsive grasp the faded wreath
given her by Pascal.

"Poor garland!" said she; "when I received you from him your perfume
told of happiness, and I inhaled it; relic of love! I bore you in my
bosom, where you soon faded like my vain dreams. Dear Pascal, farewell!
my torn heart weeps to resign thee, but I must say adieu for ever! I was
born in an evil hour; and, to save thee from my influence, I must
conceal my love. Yet I feel this day thou art dearer than ever; I love
with an affection never to be extinguished--with a devotion which is
bliss or death on earth; but death is nothing to me if it could save
thee!"

"Why do you moan thus, Françonnette?" cried out her grandmother; "you
told me, with a cheerful air, that the Virgin had received your offering
and you were content; yet I hear you sob like a soul in pain; you
deceive me, something has happened to you to-day."

"Oh, no; be content, grandmother; I am happy--very happy."

"'Tis well, my love; for your sorrow wrings my heart; to-day again I
passed some fearful hours; this dream of fire recurs so often in spite
of myself; and the storms alarm me; hark! I tremble at every sound."

What cries are those so near and so loud? "Fire them! burn them! let
them burn together!" A flash bursts through the old shutters;
Françonnette rushes to the casement. Great Heaven! she sees the rick on
fire, and a furious mob howling outside.

"We must drive them out--the old hag and the young one; both have
bewitched us!--Hence! child of perdition! hence, or burn in thy den!"

Françonnette on her knees, with streaming eyes, exclaims, "Oh, pity for
my poor old grandmother--do not kill her!"

But the deluded populace, more confirmed than ever, by her haggard
looks, that she is possessed, howl louder still--"Away with her!" and
on they rush, brandishing flaming brands.

"Hold--hold!" cried a voice, and Pascal sprang amongst them. "Cowards!
would you murder two defenceless women! would you burn their dwelling,
as if they had not suffered enough--tigers, that you are--already the
walls are hot!"

"Let the Huguenots quit the country: they are possessed by the demon. If
they stay amongst us God will send down punishment. Let them go
instantly, or we burn them!--Who presses forward there?"

"Ha!" cried Pascal, "Marcel here! he is her enemy!"

"Liar!" cried Marcel; "I love her better than thou, boaster as thou art!
What wilt thou do for her--thou whose heart is so soft?"

"I come to assist her--to defend her."

"And I to be her husband, in spite of all, if she will be my wife."

"I come for the same purpose," cried Pascal, without shrinking from his
rival's regard; then turning to Françonnette, he said, with firmness,
"Françonnette, you are safe no longer; these wretches will pursue you
from village to village; but here are two who love you--two who would
brave death, destruction, for your sake--can you choose between us?"

"Oh, no, no! speak not of marriage. Pascal! my love is death--go!
forget me! be happy without me! I dare not be yours!"

"Happy without you! it is in vain: I love you too well; and if it be
true that you are the prey of the evil one, 'twere better die with you
than live away from you!"

Doubtless, the beloved voice has power above all things over the
softened heart: at the last step of misery we can dare all with
desperate courage. Before the assembled crowd she exclaimed: "Oh, yes,
Pascal, I do love you--I would have died alone; but, since you will have
it so, I resist no longer. If it is our fate--we will die together."

Pascal is in heaven--the crowd amazed--the soldier mute. Pascal
approaches him. "I am," he said, "more fortunate than you; but you are
brave, and will forgive me. To conduct me to my grave,[21] I require a
friend--I have none--will you act the part of one?"

[Footnote 21: Pascal conceives that, in wedding Françonnette, he is
devoted to death.]

Marcel is silent--he muses--a great struggle is in his heart--his eye
flashes--his brow is bent strongly--he gazes on Françonnette, and the
paleness of death creeps over him--he shakes off his faintness, and
tries to smile. "Since it is her will," he cries, "I will be that
friend."

Two weeks had passed,--and a wedding train descended the green hill. In
the front of the procession walked the handsome pair. A triple range of
people, from all quarters, extended for more than a league: they were
curious to know the fate of Pascal. Marcel is at the head of all; he
directs all; there is a secret pleasure in his eye, which none can
understand. One would say that to-day he triumphs; he insists on
arranging the marriage, and it is he who gives to his rival the feast
and the ball--his money flows liberally, his purse is open--all is
profusion; but there is no rejoicing--no singing--no smiling.

The bridegroom is on the brink of the grave--his rival guides him
thither, though he looks so gay--the day declines--all hearts sink with
fear and pity--they would fain save Pascal, but it is too late: there
they all stand motionless--but more as if at a burial than a wedding.

Fascinated by love, the pair have sacrificed all; though the gulf yawns
for them, they have no ears, no eyes, but for each other; as they pass
along, hand-in-hand, the happiness of loving has absorbed all other
feeling.

It is night.

A female suddenly appears: she clings round the neck of Pascal.--"My
son, leave her, leave your bride--I have seen the wise woman--the sieve
has turned--your death is certain--sulphur fills the bridal
chamber--Pascal, enter not in--you are lost if you remain; and I, who
loved you thus, what will become of me when you are gone?"

Pascal's tears flowed, but he held still firmer his bride's hand within
his own. The mother fell at his feet.

"Ungrateful son! I will never leave you! if you persist, you shall pass
over my body before you enter the fatal house. A wife, then, is
all-in-all--a mother nothing! Oh! miserable that I am!" Tears flowed
from every eye.--"Marcel," said the bridegroom, "love masters me; should
evil befal me, take charge of my mother."

"This is too much!" cried the soldier; "I cannot bear your mother's
grief. Oh, Pascal! be blest--be content--be fearless--Françonnette is
free! she is not sold to the evil one. It is a falsehood--a mere tale
made for a purpose. But had not your mother overcome me by her tears,
perhaps we should both have perished. You know--you can feel--how much I
love her; like you, I would give my life for her. I thought she loved
me, for she had my very soul--all! Yet she rejected me, though she knows
we were betrothed. I saw there was no way--I devised a plan--I hired the
sorcerer to raise a terror amongst all; he forged a fearful tale, chance
did the rest. I thought her then securely my own; but when we both
demanded her--when for you she braved everything--when she at once
confessed how dear you were, it was beyond my power to bear. I resolved
that we should both die; I would have conducted you to the bridal
chamber--a train is laid there: all three were to have been victims; I
would have bid you cease to fear the demon, but behold in me your
foe!--but it is past, the crime I had meditated is arrested. Your mother
has disarmed me; she reminds me of my own. Live, Pascal, for your
mother! you have no more to fear for me. I have now no one; I will
return to the wars; it were better for me that, instead of perishing
with a great crime on my conscience, a bullet should end my life."

He spoke no more, and rushed from their presence: the air resounded with
shouts, and the happy lovers fell into each other's arms: the stars at
that moment shone out. Oh! I must cast down my pencil--I had colours for
sorrow--I have none for such happiness as theirs!


Lines by Jasmin

ADDRESSED TO M. DUMON, DEPUTY, WHO HAD CONDEMNED OUR OLD LANGUAGE.

     THERE'S not a deeper grief to man
       Than when his mother, faint with years,
     Decrepit, old, and weak, and wan,
       Beyond the leech's art appears;
     When by her couch her son may stay,
       And press her hand and watch her eyes,
     And feel, though she revive to-day,
       Perchance his hope to-morrow dies.

     It is not thus, believe me, sir,
       With this enchantress--she we call
     Our second mother: Frenchmen err,
       Who, cent'ries since, proclaim'd her fall!
     Our mother-tongue--all melody--
     While music lives, can never die.

     Yes!--she still lives, her words still ring;
     Her children yet her carols sing:
     And thousand years may roll away,
     Before her magic notes decay.

     The people love their ancient songs, and will,
     While yet a people, love and keep them still:
     These lays are as their mother; they recal,
     Fond thoughts of mother, sister, friends, and all
     The many _little things_ that please the heart--
     The dreams, the hopes, from which we cannot part:
     These songs are as sweet waters, where we find,
     Health in the sparkling wave that nerves the mind.
     In ev'ry home, at ev'ry cottage door,
     By ev'ry fireside, when our toil is o'er,
     These songs are round us, near our cradles sigh,
     And to the grave attend us when we die.

     Oh! think, cold critics! 'twill be late and long,
     Ere time shall sweep away this flood of song!

     There are who bid this music sound no more,
     And you can hear them, nor defend--deplore!
     You, who were born where its first daisies grew,
     Have fed upon its honey, sipp'd its dew,
     Slept in its arms and wakened to its kiss,
       Danced to its sounds, and warbled to its tone--
     You can forsake it in an hour like this!
     --Yes, weary of its age, renounce--disown--
       And blame one minstrel who is true--alone!

     For me, truth to my eyes made all things plain;
       At Paris, the great fount, I did not find
     The waters pure, and to my stream again
       I come, with saddened and with sobered mind;
     And since, no more enchanted, now I rate
     The little country far above the great.

     For you--who seem her sorrows to deplore,
       You, seated high in power, the first among,
     Beware! nor make her cause of grief the more;
       Believe her mis'ry, nor condemn her tongue.
     Methinks you injure where you seek to heal,
     If you deprive her of that only weal.

     We love, alas! to sing in our distress;
     It seems the bitterness of woe is less;
     But if we may not in our language mourn,
     What will the polish'd give us in return?
     Fine sentences, but all for us unmeet--
     Words full of grace, even such as courtiers greet:
     A deck'd-out Miss, too delicate and nice
     To walk in fields, too tender and precise
     To sing the chorus of the poor, or come
     When Labour lays him down fatigued at home.

     To cover rags with gilded robes were vain--
     The rents of poverty would show too plain.

     How would this dainty dame, with haughty brow,
     Shrink at a load, and shudder at a plough!

     Sulky, and piqued, and silent would she stand
       As the tired peasant urged his team along:
     No word of kind encouragement at hand,
       For flocks no welcome, and for herds no song!

     Yet we will learn, and you shall teach--
     Our people shall have double speech:
     One to be homely, one polite,
       As you have robes for diff'rent wear,
     But this is all:--'tis just and right,
       And more our children will not bear.
     Lest we a troop of buzzards own,
     Where nightingales once sang alone.

     There may be some, who, vain and proud,
     May ape the manners of the crowd,
     Lisp French, and lame it at each word,
     And jest and gibe to all afford:--
     But we, as in long ages past,
     Will still be poets to the last!

     Hark! and list the bridal song,
     As they lead the bride along:
     "Hear, gentle bride! your mother's sighs,[22]
       And you would hence away!--
     Weep, weep, for tears become those eyes."
     ----"I cannot weep--to-day."

     Hark! the farmer in the mead
     Bids the shepherd swain take heed:
       "Come, your lambs together fold,
       Haste, my sons! your toil is o'er:
       For the morning bow has told
       That the ox should work no more."

     Hark! the cooper in the shade
     Sings to the sound his hammer made:

    "Strike, comrades, strike! prepare the cask,
     'Tis lusty May that fills the flask:
     Strike, comrades! summer suns that shine
     Fill the cellars full of wine."

     Verse is, with us, a charm divine,
       Our people, loving verse, will still,
     Unknowing of their art, entwine
       Garlands of poesy at will.
     Their simple language suits them best:
     Then let them keep it and be blest.

     But let wise critics build a wall
       Between the nurse's cherish'd voice,
     And the fond ear her words enthral,
       And say their idol is her choice:
     Yes!--let our fingers feel the rule,
     The angry chiding of the school;
     True to our nurse, in good or ill,
     We are not French, but Gascon still.

     'Tis said that age new feeling brings,
       Our youth returns as we grow old;
     And that we love again the things,
       Which in our memory had grown cold.
     If this be true, the time will come
       When to our ancient tongue, once more,
     You will return, as to a home,
       And thank us that we kept the store.

     Remember thou the tale they tell,
       Of Lacuée and Lacepède,[23]
     When age crept on, who loved to dwell,
       On words that once their music made:
     And, in the midst of grandeur, hung,
     Delighted, on their parent tongue.

     This, will you do: and it may be,
       When, weary of the world's deceit,
     Some summer-day we yet may see
       Your coming in our meadows sweet;
     Where, midst the flowers, the finch's lay
     Shall welcome you with music gay.
     While you shall bid our antique tongue
       Some word devise, or air supply,
     Like those that charm'd your youth so long
       And lent a spell to memory!

     Bethink you how we stray'd alone,
     Beneath those elms in Agen grown,
     That each an arch above us throws,
     Like giants, hand-in-hand, in rows.

     A storm once struck a fav'rite tree,
       It trembled, shook, and bent its boughs,--
     The vista is no longer free:
       Our governor no pause allows.
     "Bring hither hatchet, axe, and spade,
     The tree must straight be prostrate laid!"

     But vainly strength and art were tried,
     The stately tree all force defied.
     Well might the elm resist and foil their might,
     For though his branches were decay'd to sight,
     As many as his leaves the roots spread round,
     And in the firm set earth they slept profound!

     Since then, more full, more green, more gay,
     His crests amidst the breezes play:
     And birds of ev'ry note and hue
       Come trooping to his shade in Spring,
     Each Summer they their lays renew,
       And while the year endures they sing.

     And thus it is, believe me, sir,
       With this enchantress--she we call
     Our second mother; Frenchmen err,
       Who, cent'ries since, proclaim'd her fall.

     No: she still lives, her words still ring;
     Her children yet her carols sing,
     And thousand years may roll away
     Before her magic notes decay.

[Footnote 22: Jasmin here quotes several _patois_ songs, well known in
the country.]

[Footnote 23: Both Gascons.]

       THE SHEPHERD AND THE GASCON POET.

    To the Bordelais, on the grand Fête given me at the Casino.

      IN a far land, I know not where,
        Ere viol's sigh, or organ's swell,
      Had made the sons of song aware
        That music is a potent spell,
      A shepherd to a city came,
      Play'd on his pipe, and rose to fame.
      He sang of fields, and at each close
      Applause from ready hands arose.

      The simple swain was hail'd and crown'd
        In mansions where the great reside,
      And cheering smiles and praise he found,
        And in his heart rose honest pride:
      All seem'd with joy and rapture gleaming,--
      He trembled that he was but dreaming.

      But, modest still, his soul was moved;
        Yet of his hamlet was his thought,--
      Of friends at home, and her he loved,--
        When back his laurel-branch be brought:
      And, pleasure beaming in his eyes,
      Enjoy'd their welcome and surprise.

      'Twas thus with me, when Bordeaux deign'd
        To listen to my rustic song;
      Whose music praise and honour gain'd
        More than to rural strains belong.

      Delighted, charm'd, I scarcely knew
      Whence sprung this life so fresh and new.
      And to my heart I whisper'd low,
        When to my fields return'd again,
      "Is not the Gascon Poet now
        As happy as the shepherd swain?"

      The minstrel never can forget
      The spot where first success he met;
      But he, the shepherd who, of yore,
        Had charm'd so many a list'ning ear,
      Came back, and was beloved no more;--
        He found all changed and cold and drear!
      A skilful hand had touch'd _the flute_;--
      His _pipe_ and he were scorn'd--were mute.

      But I, once more I dared appear,
      And found old friends as true and dear--
      The mem'ry of my ancient lays
      Lived in their hearts--awoke their praise.
      Oh! they did more;--I was their guest;
      Again was welcomed and caress'd:
      And, twined with their melodious tongue,
      Again my rustic carol rung;
      And my old language proudly found
      Her words had list'ners, pressing round.
      Thus, though condemn'd the shepherd's skill,
      The Gascon Poet triumph'd still.

I returned by Agen, after an absence in the Pyrenees of some months, and
renewed my acquaintance with Jasmin and his dark-eyed wife. I did not
expect that I should be recognised; but the moment I entered the little
shop I was hailed as an old friend. "Ah!" cried Jasmin, "enfin la voila
encore!" I could not but be flattered by this recollection, but soon
found it was less on my own account that I was thus welcomed, than
because a circumstance had occurred to the poet which he thought I could
perhaps explain. He produced several French newspapers, in which he
pointed out to me an article headed "Jasmin à Londres;" being a
translation of certain notices of himself, which had appeared in a
leading English literary journal.[24] He had, he said, been informed of
the honour done him by numerous friends, and assured me his fame had
been much spread by this means; and he was so delighted on the occasion,
that he had resolved to learn English, in order that he might judge of
the translations from his works, which, he had been told, were well
done. I enjoyed his surprise, while I informed him that I knew who was
the reviewer and translator; and explained the reason for the verses
giving pleasure in an English dress, to be the superior simplicity of
the English language over modern French, for which he has a great
contempt, as unfitted for lyrical composition. He inquired of me
respecting Burns, to whom he had been likened; and begged me to tell him
something of Moore. The delight of himself and his wife was amusing, at
having discovered a secret which had puzzled them so long.

[Footnote 24: The Athenæum.]

He had a thousand things to tell me; in particular, that he had only the
day before received a letter from the Duchess of Orleans, informing him
that she had ordered a medal of her late husband to be struck, the first
of which would be sent to him: she also announced to him the agreeable
news of the king having granted him a pension of a thousand francs. He
smiled and wept by turns, as he told all this; and declared, much as he
was elated at the possession of a sum which made him a rich man for
life, the kindness of the duchess gratified him even more.

He then made us sit down while he read us two new poems; both charming,
and full of grace and _naïveté_; and one very affecting, being an
address to the king, alluding to the death of his son. As he read, his
wife stood by, and fearing we did not quite comprehend his language, she
made a remark to that effect: to which he answered impatiently,
"Nonsense--don't you see they are in tears." This was unanswerable; and
we were allowed to hear the poem to the end; and I certainly never
listened to anything more feelingly and energetically delivered.

We had much conversation, for he was anxious to detain us, and, in the
course of it, he told me that he had been by some accused of vanity.
"Oh!" he rejoined, "what would you have! I am a child of nature, and
cannot conceal my feelings; the only difference between me and a man of
refinement is, that he knows how to conceal his vanity and exultation at
success, which I let everybody see."

His wife drew me aside, and asked my opinion as to how much money it
would cost to pay Jasmin's expenses, if he undertook a journey to
England: "However," she added, "I dare say he need be at no charge, for,
of _course_, your queen has read _that article_ in his favour, and knows
his merit; she will probably send for him, pay all the expenses of his
journey, and give him great fêtes in London." I recommended the
barber-poet to wait _till he was sent for_; and left the happy pair,
promising to let them know the effect that the translation of Jasmin's
poetry produced on the royal mind:--their earnest simplicity was really
entertaining.

                 END OF VOL. I.



       *       *       *       *       *



VOL. II.



CONTENTS TO THE SECOND VOLUME.


CHAPTER I.

Renown of Pau--Lectoure--The Labourer-Duke--Auch--Tarbes--The Princess
and the Count--Costume--Arrival at Pau--The Promenades--The
Town--Improvements--First Impressions--Walks--Buildings--Hotels--The
Magnificent Baker--The Swain--Tou-Cai!

CHAPTER II.

The Climate of Pau--Storms--Fine Weather--Palassou--Reasons for going to
Pau--The Winter

CHAPTER III.

The Castle of Henri Quatre--- The Furniture--The Shell--The Statue--The
Birth--Castel Beziat--The Fairy Gift--A Change--Henri
Quatre

CHAPTER IV.

Troubadour

CHAPTER V.

Road from Pan to Tarbes--Table Land--The Pics--The Haras of
Tarbes--Autumn in the Pyrenees--Mont l'Héris--Gabrielle
d'Estrées--Chasseaux Palombes--Penne de l'Héris--Pic du Midi--Charlet
the Guide--Valley of Campan--La Gatta--Grip--The Tourmalet--Campana del
Vasse--Barèges--Luz--Cagot Door--Gavarine--The Fall of the
Rock--Chaos--Circus--Magnificence of Nature--Pont de
Neige--Roland--Durendal--Izards--Les
Crânes--Pierrefitte--Cauteretz--Cerizet--Pont d'Espagne--Lac de
Gaube--Argelez

CHAPTER VI.

Vallée d'Ossau--Le Hourat--The Rio Verde--Eaux Chaudes--Eaux Bonnes---
Bielle--Izeste--Saccaze, the Naturalist

CHAPTER VII.

Gabas--Popular Songs--Pont Crabe--The Recluse of the Vallée
d'Ossau--Marguerite--The Springs

CHAPTER VIII.

Peasants of Ossau--Capitivity of Francis the First--Death of
Joyeuse--Death of the Duke de Maine--Dances

CHAPTER IX.

Coarraze--Orton--The Pont Long--Les Belles Cantinières--Morlàas--The
Curé--Resintance to Improvement--Uzain--Lescar--Reformation in
Navarre--Tombs--François Phoebus--The Mother

CHAPTER X.

The Romances of the Castle of Orthez--Tour de Moncade--The Infants--The
Son of Gaston Phoebus--Legends--The Oath--The bad King of Navarre--The
Quarrel--The Murder--Death of Gaston Phoebus--Paradise the Reward of
Hunters--The Captive--The Step-Mother--The Young Countess--The Great
Bear--The Return--The Real Cause--The Meeting in the Forest--The Mass

CHAPTER XI.

The Countess of Comminges--The Charge--The persecuted Heiress--The
Bridge--The Cordelier--Costume--Aspremont--Peyrehourade

CHAPTER XII.

Bayonne-Public Walks--Biaritz--Atalaya--Giant Fernagus--Anne of
Neubourg--The Dancing Mayor

CHAPTER XIII.

Basque Language--Dialects--Words--Poetry--Songs--The
Deserter--Character--Drama--Towns

CHAPTER XIV.

Cagots--Cacous of Brittany

CHAPTER XV.

The Cagot--Vallée d'Aspe--Superstitions--Forests--Despourrins--The two
Gaves--Bedous--High-road to Saragossa--Cascade of Lescun--Urdos--A
Picture for Murillo--La Vache

CHAPTER XVI.

Aramitz--The Play--Mauléon--The Sisters--Words--St. Jean

CHAPTER XVII.

Arneguy--The Cacolet--Rolando's Tree--Snow-white Goats
--Costume--Sauveterre--The Pastor--Navarreux--Spanish Air



BÉARN AND THE PYRENEES. VOL. II.



CHAPTER I.

     RENOWN OF PAU--LECTOURE--THE LABOURER-DUKE--AUCH--TARBES--THE
     PRINCESS AND THE COUNT--COSTUME--ARRIVAL AT PAU--THE
     PROMENADES--THE TOWN--IMPROVEMENTS-FIRST
     IMPRESSIONS--WALKS--BUILDINGS--HOTELS--THE MAGNIFICENT BAKER--THE
     SWAIN--TOU-CAI!


WE left Agen on our way to Pau, where we proposed taking up our winter
quarters, having so frequently heard that it was one of the best
retreats for cold weather in the South of France: its various
perfections casting into the shade those, long-established, but now
waning, of Montpelier, Nice, &c. At Lectoure we changed horses, and
remained long enough to admire the fine view from its exalted position,
and a few of the humours of its population of young ragged urchins,
whose gambols with a huge Pyrenean dog diverted us for some time.
Lectoure is situated on the summit of an immense rock, surrounded by
hills and deep valleys. It was formerly very strongly fortified, as the
remains of its Roman and Middle-Age walls attest.

The tower of the church, partly Roman, partly English, is a very
striking object, from its extreme height and apparent fragility, which
is, however, merely imaginary; for it has resisted the efforts of time
and war for centuries: it once had a steeple of stupendous height; but
as it was continually attracting the stray lightnings, and was, besides,
much dilapidated, it was demolished. The episcopal palace, now the
Mairie, is near it, bought for the town by Marshal Lannes, Duke de
Montebello. The statue of this hero of Napoleon is in the grand square,
and his portrait, as well as those of other great men born in Lectoure,
adorn the walls of the interior. There are many fine promenades, from
whence delicious views can be enjoyed; from that of Fleurance it is
said that, on a clear day, the towers of the cathedral of Auch are seen;
and the view is bounded by the snowy giants of the Pyrenees. Although
the day was fine, we could not, however, distinguish either. This public
walk was made at the time when Lannes was a simple labourer in his
native place; and he, with others, received six sous a-day for his work.
The Duke de Montebello is said afterwards to have sat beneath the trees
which overshadow it, and told his companions in arms how his youth was
passed, and what his pay was at that time. This is a trait which does
the brave soldier's memory infinite honour.

The country is agreeable and diversified on the way to Auch, and the two
towers of the cathedral are seen at a great distance, crowning the
height on which the town stands. They have so much the aspect of a
feudal castle, that it is difficult to believe that one is looking on a
church. The nearer you approach, the more determined seems the form: and
walls, and bastions, and turrets, and ruins, seem rising out of the
hill: all, however, as you come quite close, subside into a huge mass,
which gives a promise of magnificence and grandeur by no means realized;
for there is more of Louis XIV. and XV., than Charles VIII., who began
the building, about the architecture; and the towers, which appeared so
grand at a distance, have a singularly poor and mean appearance
attached to the façade, and compared to the enormous bulk of the fabric.

The boast and glory of the cathedral of Auch are the series of painted
windows in the choir, of remarkable beauty, and in wonderful
preservation: the colours vivid, and the size of the figures colossal;
but though extremely gorgeous, they cannot compare, in purity of effect,
to earlier specimens, where less is attempted and more accomplished. I
never saw such large paintings of the kind: the nearest approach to it
being those of the same period at Epernay, amongst the vines of
Champagne. There is a great deal of rich sculpture, both in the stalls
and in the surrounding tombs, but the taste did not accord with mine,
and, on the whole, I felt but little interest in the cathedral: we were
spared the usual fearful exhibition in the winding staircase of one of
the towers, where a little child, to earn a few sous, is in the habit of
suspending itself by a rope, over the well, formed by the twisting
steps, and sliding down to the bottom with terrific celerity.

The town of Auch did not please me enough to induce us to stay longer
than to wait for the diligence, which was passing through to Tarbes;
and, having secured the _coupé_ we continued our journey. Before we had
travelled half a league, on descending a hill, suddenly, a line of
singularly-shaped objects, quite apart from all others in the
landscape, told us at once that the purple Pyrenees were in sight; and
we indeed beheld their sharp pinnacles cleaving the blue sky before us.
For some distance we still saw them; but, by degrees, they vanished into
shade as evening came on, and we lost them, and all other sights, in the
darkness of night; in the midst of which we arrived at Tarbes.

"Tharbes is a large and fine town, situated in a plain country, with
rich vines: there is a town, city, and castle, and all closed in with
gates, walls, and towers, and separated the one from the other; for
there comes from the heights of the mountains of Béarn and Casteloigne
the beautiful _River of Lisse_, which runs all throughout Tharbes, and
divides it, the which river is as clear as a fountain. Two leagues off
is the city of Morlens, belonging to Count de Foix, and at the entrance
of the country of Béarn; and beneath the mountain, at six leagues from
Tharbes, is the town of Pau, also belonging to the said Count."

This is Froissart's description of Tarbes, in his time; and, as far as
regards its beautiful sparkling river, which is _not the Lisse_, but the
Adour, might apply to it now; for the streams that appear in all
directions, in and round the town, are as clear as crystal, and run
glittering and murmuring through streets, roads, and promenades, as if
the houses and squares had no business there to intercept its
mountain-torrent.

We were much struck, when we first issued from our hotel in the
Place-Maubourguet, to behold, opposite, framed, as it were, in a square
opening between the streets, a gigantic mass of blue mountains shining
in the sun. They appeared singularly near; and one cannot fail to regard
them with a certain awe, as if a new nature had dawned, different from
any one had known before. This is the most interesting spot in Tarbes;
and its beautiful promenade by the river is also attractive. There are
no monuments,--no buildings worth notice. The once fine castle may be
traced in a few solid walls, and its moated position; but this tower was
one of the first indications we had that all specimens of architectural
art had ceased, and in future, with a few exceptions, it must be nature
alone which was to interest us. The red _capelines_ of the market-women,
and their dark mantles (_capuchins_), lined with the same colour, give
their figures a strange, nun-like appearance, which always strikes a
stranger, and at first pleases. As these shrouded forms flit about
amongst the trees, they look picturesque and mysterious; but the eye
soon wearies of this costume, which is totally devoid of grace. The
cloak, being so cut as to prevent its falling in folds, hangs stiffly
round the wearer's limbs; concealing the shape, and producing a mean
effect. It is a sort of penitential habit; and the peaked hood looks
like the dress of the San Benitos, or a lively image of the appropriate
costume of a witch who might be an inquisitor's victim. We could not
help contrasting it with the beautiful and graceful cloak worn by the
charming Granvillaises,--those Spanish-looking beauties whose appearance
so delighted us in that distant part of Normandy. The Granville girl has
also a black camlet mantle, or _capote_; but the stiff hood is not
peaked: it is lined with white, and is worn in the most elegant and
coquettish manner; showing the figure to great advantage, and setting
off the invariably pretty face, and its snow-white, plaited, turban-like
cap, never to be seen in the South. There are so few pretty countenances
in the Pyrenees, that perhaps even the Granville drapery would not make
much difference; but, certainly, nothing can be uglier than to see the
manner in which this scanty shroud is dragged over the form; giving more
the idea of a beggar anxious to shield herself from the inclemency of
the season, than a lively, smart, peasant girl pursuing her avocations.
The scarlet gleams of its lining alone in some degree redeem its
ugliness; as, at a distance, the vivid colour looks well amongst more
sombre tints.

It is difficult, at the present day, to picture Tarbes as it was at the
period when the Black Prince, and his Fair Maid of Kent, came to this
city of Bigorre, in all the splendour of a conqueror, to see the Count
of Armagnac, who was in debt to the magnificent Gaston Phoebus, for his
ransom, two hundred and fifty thousand francs.

The manner in which the count managed to get off part of his debt is not
a little amusing. He had represented his case to Edward, who saw nothing
in it but a very ordinary event: "You were taken prisoner," said he, "by
the Count of Foix; and he releases you for a certain sum. It would be
very unreasonable to expect him to waive his claim. I should not do so;
nor would my father, the king, in similar circumstances: therefore, I
must beg to decline interfering." The Count of Armagnac was much
mortified at this straight-forward answer, and began to devise what
could be done. He bethought him of the power of beauty; and applied to
the right person.

Gaston Phoebus arrived at Tarbes, from Pau, with a retinue of six
hundred horse, with sixty knights of high birth, and a great train of
squires and gentlemen. He was received with much joy and state by the
prince and princess, and entertained with infinite honour.

The fair princess chose her moment, and took occasion to beg a boon of
the Count of Foix, whose gallantry was proverbial; but, just as he was
on the point of granting it without condition, a momentary light made
him cautious "Ah! madam," said he, "I am a little man, and a poor
bachelor, who have not the power to make great gifts; but that which you
ask, if it be not of more value than fifty thousand francs, shall be
yours."

The princess talked and cajoled, and was as charming and insinuating as
possible, in hopes to gain her boon entire; but Gaston began to feel
certain that the ransom of the Count d'Armagnac was the object of her
demand; he, therefore, kept firm, in spite of her fascinations, and she
was obliged to name her request that he would forgive the count his
ransom.

"I told you," replied he, "that I would grant a boon to the value of
fifty thousand francs; therefore, I remit him that sum of what he owes
me."

And thus did the fair Princess of Aquitaine obtain a remission of part
of the ransom of the Count d'Armagnac.

We took a carriage from Tarbes to Pau,--our intended resting-place for
the winter. The drive, for several leagues, was extremely charming; the
banks were covered with rich purple heath; the oak and chestnut growing
abundantly and luxuriantly. But though, in our certainty of seeing some
_new_ growth as we approached nearer to the sunny South, we transformed
the round, thick oaks into _cork trees_, we were obliged to submit to
disappointment when we were assured that there was not a cork-tree till
the Spanish side of the Pyrenees was reached. Long before we arrived at
Pau, the hitherto pleasant, bright day had changed, and a sharp,
drizzling, chilly rain accompanied us on the remainder of our
journey--mist shutting out the prospect, and all becoming as dreary as a
wet day makes things everywhere. We were a little surprised to find that
there was no amelioration in this particular, since we looked forth upon
the streaming streets of Lisieux!

We drove into Pau through an ugly suburb, which gave a sufficiently mean
idea of its appearance; but we imagined that the town would repay us for
its approach. Still the grey, unpainted shutters of the slovenly-looking
houses were not replaced by others of brighter and cleaner aspect: still
ruined, barrack-like buildings, dilapidated or ill-constructed, met our
view; and, when we drove through the whole of the town to the Grande
Place de Henri Quatre, and paused at the Hôtel des Postes, instead of a
handsome, flourishing inn, we were astonished to see a wretched,
ancient, red, low-roofed tenement, adjoining a somewhat
ambitious-looking house without taste or grace. Here we could not find
accommodation; and, considering the appearance of what we had heard was
the best inn, we did not much regret the circumstance.

We were equally unsuccessful at several others; having looked at dirty,
dingy, black apartments on a fifth floor as the only ones left: so full
was the town of visitors returning, in all directions, from the
different baths in the Pyrenees, where, as _it had rained all the
summer_, invalids and tourists had been lingering for fine days, until
patience was exhausted, and "all betook them home."

At length we got housed in very tolerable but desolate cold rooms, with
furniture as scanty, and accommodations as meagre, as we had ever met
with in towns where no English face had been seen, except _en passant_.
This surprised us, as we had heard _comfort_ abounded in Pau, as well as
every luxury and beauty which wearied travellers would be glad to call
their own; add to which, a soft, mild climate, _which could be depended
on_, and the only drawback _too little wind_ and too continuous warmth.

This was the third of October, and it was as cold as Christmas; the rain
continued without ceasing; and, in spite of our impatience, we were
obliged to remain in our inn. The next day, however, brighter skies
revived us; and when we stepped forth on the rugged pavement, we felt in
better spirits; no change, however, did the fine sun and sky operate on
the town, which, it is sufficient to say, is one of the ugliest,
worst-paved, "by infinite degrees," and most uninteresting that exist
in France. The castle, of course, was the first attraction; and--though
without the slightest claim to notice on the score of architecture;
though dirty, and slovenly, and rugged, and dilapidated, more than could
possibly be expected in a region which is immortalized by the name of
Henri Quatre, and being, as it is, the goal sought by all travellers,
consequently forming the riches of Béarn, the cause of such a host of
travellers and tourists visiting Pau; the subject of all boast, the
theme of all pride; though it is neglected and contemned by the ingrates
of its neighbourhood,--the castle is, from its recollections, almost
worth the long journey which is to find it at its close.

We returned to the Place Royale, after lingering long, on this our
_first_ visit, in the chambers now in the course of restoration by the
most thoughtful and beneficent of sovereigns; and there we lost no time
in securing an abode in one of the beautifully-situated pavilions of the
Bains de la Place Royale,--a new and well-arranged building, let in
_suites_ of apartments, well furnished, and perfectly clean and
inviting, having been recently renovated. From the windows of the rooms
allotted to us, we beheld the whole of the long chain of the magnificent
Pyrenees, from the Pic de Bigorre to the giant du Midi, and the
countless peaks beyond. Our first impression was almost wild delight at
the prospect of living long in a spot with these splendid objects
always before our eyes, in uninterrupted grandeur; with a glowing sun
always shining, sheltered from the north wind by the high promenade at
the back of the house; with a beautiful little rapid stream running
along at the base of our tower, the murmuring, sparkling, angry Gave[25]
meandering through the meadows beyond; the range of vine-covered and
wooded hills opposite, dotted with villas, which glittered white amidst
their luxuriant groves; and, at the back of all, the everlasting awful
mountains, purple and transparent and glowing with light.

[Footnote 25: _Gave_ is the generic name of all the mountain streams in
this region, but that of Pau is called _"the Gave,"_ par excellence.]

We were not deceived in the enjoyment we anticipated in this particular,
for, to make amends for the unwilling _discoveries_ we made as to the
reputation of Pau, our mountains seemed to devote themselves to our
pleasure, assuming every form of beauty and sublimity to satisfy and
enchant us.

When we took our first walk in the promenade, improperly called _the
Park_, we were fascinated with the extreme beauty of this charmed grove,
which is planted in terraces, on a _cóteau_ bordering the Gave, and is
_one of the most_ charming possessed by any town in France: there is the
same glorious view of the range of giant mountains even more developed
than from the Place Royale; the paths are kept clean and clear and neat;
the trees are of the finest growth, and everything combines to make it a
most attractive spot, though the usual somewhat Gascon mode of
describing it, adopted at Pau, as _"the most beautiful in the world,"_
appears to me rather hyperbolical when I recollect those of Laon,
Auxerre, Dijon, Dinan, Avranches, and others; which have not, however,
the Pyrenees as a back-ground, it must be confessed.

The only part of the town of Pau which will bear mention, is that
portion which borders the Gave, above a fine avenue of trees, which
extends to a considerable distance along the banks of the small clear
stream of the Ousse: that is to say, _the houses_ which face the
mountains; but the street in which their entrances are found is narrow,
dirty, slovenly, and worse than _ill_-paved. These mansions--for some
of them are large and isolated--have a magnificent position, and, seen
from the Bois Louis, as the grove below is called, have a very imposing
aspect. The principal street, Rue de la Prefecture, is extremely mean,
and the shops of the least inviting appearance. It is very badly paved
throughout its great extent, for it reaches from one end of the town to
the other; but here and there a few flagstones serve to make their
absence elsewhere regretted. There is one good square, which might be
fine if, as seldom happens in France, the intention had been carried
out, or success had attended it. There are two rows of good houses, with
paved colonnades, but very few of the shops, which should have made it a
_Palais Royal_, are inhabited; consequently, the appearance of poverty
and desolation is peculiarly striking. One or two houses are taken, and
some windows filled with goods, very different from those, doubtless,
originally expected to appear; grocers, sadlers, and wine-merchants
occupy the places which should have been filled by _marchandes de
modes_, jewellers, toysellers, and ornamental merchants. The Place Henri
Quatre is, therefore, a half-executed project, and impresses the
stranger with no admiration. Another large, desolate space, called the
Place Grammont, contains the Champ de Mars, and is dedicated to the
military, whose barracks form one side of the square. A walk, called the
Haute Plante, is near this, and, descending from it, the baths of Henri
Quatre and the Basse Plante are reached, and the approach to the Park.

The great horse fair of Pau is kept in the Haute Plante; but it is by no
means an inviting spot: the park is, in fact, the only place where one
can walk pleasantly; for the pretty Bois Louis is principally devoted to
the washerwomen of the town, and soldiers; and the drains of the streets
running down in this direction, generally cause so unpleasant an odour,
that a stroll there can rarely be accomplished with pleasure. To reach
the park and to return from it, is a work of great pain; the pointed and
uneven stones making the walk intolerable, and there is no way by which
to arrive there, but through the damp, dirty streets.

If, as was once projected, a terrace walk was made to extend from the
Place Royale--which is a small square planted with trees in rows, to the
castle court, it would be an incalculable advantage; and such a means of
arriving at the only objects of interest, would be the saving not only
of many a sprained ankle, but many a severe cold, as, at all times, the
streets are cold and damp; and the less a visitor sees of the town of
Pau, and the more of the mountains, and _côteaux_, and streams, the less
likely is he to dissatisfied with a residence in this most favoured and
misrepresented of all ugly towns.

I am told that Pau is greatly _improved_ from what it was seven or
eight years ago; if such is the case, the town must then have been in a
deplorable condition indeed: that those who are residents from so early
a period should be content with the changes which have relieved them
from inconvenience, I can easily understand; but that persons who, in
Paris or in Normandy, have been accustomed to superior accommodation can
be satisfied with Pau, surprises me. Taken in general, those who reside
here all the year round, are Irish, Scotch, or from distant country
towns in England, many being quite unused to London or Paris; therefore,
they can make no comparisons, and from long habit get accustomed to
things which must annoy others; but when persons of wealth and
condition, forsaking the great capitals and beautiful watering-places at
home, and their own splendid and comfortable establishments, come to
Pau, to stay for some months, they must surely find that the
representations they have heard of it are strangely at variance with
truth. Invalids, of course, are glad to submit to whatever may tend to
re-establish their health; and, as several persons speak of having
derived benefit during their stay, doubtless there is a class of
invalids to whom the climate does good: the only question is, would they
not have been as well off nearer home, without the enormous expense of
so long a journey, and enduring so complete an expatriation?

If one must necessarily go to Pau to meet with charming people and
hospitality and attention, I should recommend all the world to hasten
thither; but, since this can be found at home or elsewhere, from the
same persons, I would not, for that reason alone, counsel a residence
there. The accident of finding agreeable society amongst one's own
countrymen has nothing to do with the Pyrenees; and we have so usurped
the place of the original inhabitants, that only a very few French are
left; in the same manner as at Boulogne or Tours. Almost all advantages,
therefore, to be derived from foreign society are denied, and the
frequent parties at Pau are nearly exclusively English.

More than one family whom I saw arrive, amused me by their raptures,
similar to our own on the first view, on a fine day, of the mountains
from the Place Royale or the park; and their subsequent discontent, when
the absence of the fitful sun had entirely changed the scene, leaving
only the damp dirty town, and a grey space, where the concealed giants
shrouded themselves, sometimes for weeks together. People generally are
so impressed at first, by the fascination of the _coup d'oeil_, that
they hasten to take a house which they cannot engage for less than six
months, or, if for three, the price is advanced; fearing to miss the
opportunity of settling themselves, they seldom hesitate about the
terms, which are generally very high, and, when once placed, they begin
to look about them, and regret that they were so precipitate; for they
find themselves condemned to a long, dismal winter, in a very
uninteresting, expensive town, without any resource beyond their
windows, if they face the mountains; or their fire-side, if their
chimney do not smoke--which is a rare happiness. There is scarcely a
town in Italy, where numerous galleries are not ready to afford a
constant intellectual treat, or where fine buildings cannot present
objects of admiration; but in Pau all is barren: there is nothing but
the mountains to look at--for the view of the hemmed-in-valley is
extremely confined--and the park to walk in; which, after all, is a mere
promenade, of no great length and no variety, in spite of its
convenience and beauty. The ramparts of most towns in France, which are
situated in a fine country, present great changes, and consequent
excitement in the view; but at Pau it is always from the same spots that
you must seek one prospect.

The walks out of the town are unpleasant; for almost every way you must
traverse a long, dusty, or dirty suburb, and generally follow a high
road to a great distance, before you arrive at the place which is to
repay your toil: this is annoying, as--though climbing up _côteaux_ and
threading the mazes of vineyards is pleasant--two or three miles of
dusty road, encumbered with bullock-carts and droves of pigs on the way
and _on the return_, is by no means refreshing.

If pedestrians are not to be thought of, this is of no consequence, and,
indeed, it is a circumstance which frequently occurs in French towns;
those who take rides on horseback and venture a long way off, are more
fortunate; for they come upon beautiful spots, and can reach sublime
views amongst the mountains: a mere two hours' _drive_ does not change
the scene from that which is beheld from Pau, and the great similarity
of all the views near greatly reduces their interest.

On the Bordeaux road, as Pau is approached, the sudden burst of the
mountains on the sight is very fine; but there are no meadows, no lanes,
nothing but a broad, _grande route_, from which the pedestrian can
behold this. To reach the pretty _côteaux_ of Jurançon and Gelos, one
must walk for a mile and a half along a high road, and through a
slovenly suburb; to reach the height of Bizanos, where a fine view of
the mountains can be obtained, it is necessary to go through the whole
straggling village of Bizanos, and run the gauntlet of a whole
population of washerwomen, while every tree and hedge is hung with
_drapery_ bleaching in the air. Bizanos is called a _pretty village_;
but those who so designate it can only be thinking of utility, like our
hostess at La Rochelle, when she took us to a grand sight, which turned
out to be no other than a washing-establishment. The French have, it is
acknowledged, no taste for the picturesque, and it appeared to me as if
the complaisance of the English abroad led them to agree that anything
is pretty which pleases their foreign friends.

No doubt, there is infinitely better accommodation at Pau, than at any
other town in the neighbourhood of the baths of the Pyrenees, and those
who really require to attend them for several seasons--for it seems that
it is generally necessary to do so--are quite right to make Pau their
headquarters; but that those who seek amusement should remain at Pau in
preference to Italy, or even other towns in France, is inexplicable. I
do not know whether many return after they have once departed; but there
are seldom fewer than six hundred English and Americans here in the
winter. One English family arrived during our stay, took a large house,
and made every arrangement for the winter; but, frightened by the
continued bad weather, they left it in haste for Paris. I confess I was
surprised others did not do the same.

All modern French writers describe Pau as "a _charming town_" alluding,
of course, to the _society_, which is to them the great desideratum
everywhere; besides, they are accustomed to ill-paved streets, and are
not fastidious about cleanliness. The guide-books of these parts cite
the descriptions of early writers in order to compare its present with
its former state; two are given, which are certainly as much at variance
as those obtained by strangers at the present day. In a work printed in
1776, the following passage occurs:

"The town of Pau is of an ordinary size; the greatest part of its houses
are well-built, and covered with slate. It is the seat of a parliament,
a university, an academy of _belles lettres_, and a mint. The greatest
part of the _noblesse_ of Béarn make it their usual abode; the Jesuits
have a large college founded by Louis XIII. There is a seminary under
the direction of the brothers of St. Lazare, a convent of Cordeliers,
another of Capuchins, and four nunneries. At the western extremity of
the town, is an ancient castle, where the princes of Béarn resided, and
where King Henry IV. was born."

The intendant Lebret said of Pau, in 1700:--

"The town of Pau consists of two streets, tolerably long, but very
ill-constructed; it possesses nothing considerable. The _palais_ is one
of the worst kept possible--the most incommodious, and the most dirty;
the _maison de ville_ is still worse. The parish church cannot contain a
quarter of the inhabitants, and is, besides, as ill-supported and as
bare of ornament as one would see in the smallest village."

Something between these two accounts might serve to give an idea of what
the town is now: the public buildings are totally unworthy of mention,
indeed, the only one at all remarkable is the new market-place, which is
very large, and solidly built. The churches are more in number, but
quite as insignificant as when Lebret wrote; the protestant _"temple"_
has not more claim on observation as a piece of architecture, and, being
built over the bed of a water-course, is supposed to be in some danger,
and is extremely chill in winter. Through the midst of the town runs a
deep ravine,--the bed of a stream called the Hédas--which divides it
into two, and gives it a very singular effect; a bridge over this
connects the two parts; the castle rises from one side, a venerable
object; which, whenever seen, excites interest from its history rather
than appearance; from this point it looks like an old prison, and the
host of grim, dirty houses which clothe the steeps are anything but
worthy of admiration.

The quarter of the Place Royale is called by the French, _the Chaussée
d'Antin_ of Pau--a somewhat ambitious distinction, which must a little
surprise a Parisian when he enters it, and observes a shabby row of
small low houses and cafés for the soldiery, on one side of the square
space planted with trees, where the _élite_ of Pau are supposed to walk.
On the opposite side, a large hotel spreads out its courts, and a house
with unpainted shutters and weather-stained walls; at the extremity, is
what seems a ruined church, but which is, in fact, a building left
half-finished to fall to decay, where the wood for the military is kept;
nothing can be so desolate as the aspect on this side, and the stranger
is amazed at the slovenly and dilapidated scene; but he must suspend his
judgment, and walk along one of the short avenues till he reaches a
parapet wall, where he forgets Pau and its faults in a single glance;
for there the grand prospect of the mountains bursts upon him, and its
magnificence can scarcely be exceeded.

As soon as the fine weather begins, this place, on a Sunday, is crowded
with promenaders, principally tradespeople of the town. A military band
is stationed here, and thunders forth peals of music much to the delight
of the listeners. A very gay scene is presented on this occasion; but
there is little characteristic, as no costumes are to be seen, and the
_élégantes_ of Pau are exactly like those of any other town.

Along the rugged, damp street, which runs from the back of the Place
Royale, are most of the best houses in Pau: those on the side next the
valley have the same glorious view as the promenade allows, and are
generally taken by the English: one or two of these are fitted up in
very good style, and made extremely comfortable; indeed, from this point
mansion after mansion has been built, each of which has peculiar
attractions; and, though not handsome or elegant, are good, square,
large dwelling-houses, sufficiently convenient. These are designated by
_French describers as magnifiques hótels_, &c.; and fortunate are the
English families who possess them as dwellings: they have all good
gardens, and may boast of one of the finest views of the mountains that
it is possible to obtain.

The college, founded by Henry IV., is a large and airy building, without
grace or beauty, and enclosed in high walls: it has an imposing effect,
from the height of the village of Bizanos, on the opposite side of the
Gave.

The Hôtel de la Prefecture, and that where the valuable archives of the
town are kept, possess neither beauty nor dignity: the space opposite is
now occupied by the new market-house--which appears never to be used,
for all the goods are spread out on the stones before it, as if it was
only there for ornament: in this space, the guillotine was erected in
the time of terror, and the murders of the great, and good, and
respectable inhabitants took place. Unfortunately, this is a record, too
recent, which every town in France can furnish.

It appears to me that the people of Pau are quiet, honest, simple, and
obliging; at least, we never saw an instance to the contrary, except on
our first arrival, when our driver took off the horses from the carriage
in the inn-yard, and refused to go a step further to seek for
accommodation for us; but I suspect he was not a native of the town. The
landlady of the inn--who came from Bordeaux--with a mysterious wink,
assured us we should find all the common people the same--"_Ces Béarnais
sont tous brutals!_" was her remark; but we did not find her in the
right.

The Gascon character, though here a little softened, prevails a good
deal, as the continued boasting about their town proves, and a certain
pomposity in their demeanour, which, however, is harmless and amusing.
We were in the habit of employing a baker, who made what was called
English bread, and the magnificent manner in which he paid his visits to
our domicile was very comic. Our maid, Jeannotte, being out of the way,
we were one day disturbed by a vociferous knocking at our
parlour-door--for in general all the passage-doors are left open--and
hurrying to admit the clamorous visitant, we beheld the baker's
assistant, M. Auguste, with a tray of loaves on his head and one in his
hand, which he thrust forth, accompanying the action with a flourish and
a low bow, exclaiming, "De la part de César!" We were not then aware
that such was the name of our baker, and were much awed by the
announcement.

Another of our domestic visitors was a source of considerable
entertainment to us, and became still more so through the _espièglerie_
of our attendant, Jeannotte, who took occasion to mystify him at our
expense. This object of mirth was a little stout mountaineer, who came
every week from his home in the mountains--between the valleys of Ossau
and Aspe--with a load of butter and cheese, with which his strong,
sure-footed horse was furnished. In the severest weather this little man
would set out; and on one occasion his horse had to be dug out of the
snow in one of the passes; but the desire of gain, which invariably
actuates these people, and a carelessness of hardship, made him treat
all his dangers lightly. He was in the habit of coming to us every week,
and generally made his way to our part of the house, as he appeared
amused to _look at us_ as much as we were to converse with him, and ask
him questions about bears, wolves, and avalanches.

His stock of French was small, and he had a peremptory way of demanding
what he required, as he divided his neat pieces of butter for our
service. He could not be more than five feet high, but was a sturdy,
strong-built man, though of very small proportions. One day when
delivering his charge to Jeannotte, she asked him in _patois_,--her own
tongue--if he was married; he started at the question, and begged to
know her reason for inquiring; she informed him it was for the benefit
of Mademoiselle, who wished to know. The little hero paused, and
presently, in rather an anxious tone, demanded of Jeannotte what
mademoiselle's reason could possibly be for requiring the knowledge.
"There is no telling," said she, archly, "Mademoiselle thinks you very
amiable."

"Is it possible!!" said he, musing; "you don't surely imagine--_do_ you
think she would have me?"

The laughter of Jeannotte quite abashed the gallant mountaineer, and he
replaced his load of butter on his brown _berret_ and disappeared, nor
would he for some time afterwards pay us a visit. At length he did so,
and I found his modest confusion apparent in his forgetting to take the
full change of his money, actually on one occasion abandoning _half a
sous_ of his just due, and retiring with a "C'est égal." When we told
him we were going away he was much struck, and stayed longer than usual
gazing at us, till we thought he intended to open his mind, and declare
his intentions to share his mountain-home with one of our party. I
therefore gave him a note of recommendation for his butter to a friend,
and he retired apparently more satisfied, though with a heavy sigh and a
murmured hope--expressed half in _patois_--that we would come back to
the Pyrenees in the summer.

There is still a good deal of simplicity left amongst this people, and
certainly but little wit. Strong affection seems to be felt by them
towards their relations, and quarrels seem rare; the Béarnais are said
to be drunkards; but I never remember to have seen any instances of this
in the streets. They are slovenly, and the lower classes extremely
dirty; the market-women, in their white flannel peaked hoods of a
hideous form, or their handkerchiefs loosely tied, without grace and
merely for warmth, have in the cold season a very unpicturesque
appearance, and the shrill shrieking voices of those who scream hot
chesnuts to sell about the streets, uttering their piercing cry of "_tou
cai, tou cai_!"[26] is anything but pleasing to the ear.

The servants, however, seem good, industrious, honest, and very civil;
and, as far as our own experience went, we saw only good conduct; while
from our hostess at the Bain Royal we met with liberality and extreme
courtesy; she, it is true, is from the refined city of Toulouse, but has
long resided at Pau, and I should certainly counsel any stranger, whom,
they would suit, to choose her apartments as a residence; for her
pavilions are situated in the most agreeable position, out of the noise
and dampness of the town, and with the whole range of Pyrenees
constantly in uninterrupted view.

[Footnote 26: All hot! all hot!]



CHAPTER II.

     THE CLIMATE OF PAU--STORMS--FINE WEATHER--PALASSOU--REASONS FOR
     GOING TO PAU--THE WINTER.


ONE of the chief inducements to foreigners, particularly the English, to
visit Pau for the winter, is the reputation of its climate for mildness
and softness. When we arrived, in October, in a storm of rain, it was,
we understood, the continuation of a series of wet weather, which,
throughout the year, had made the whole country desolate, and the
company at all the baths had, in consequence, left a month sooner than
usual; for a fortnight after our establishment at Pau, nothing could be
more agreeable than the season, precisely answering to the beautiful
weather which my letters announced from different parts of England.
During this time the mountains were rarely visible, and when seen
appeared indistinctly. This charming fortnight, during which Pau seemed
to deserve all the commendations so profusely bestowed on it, was a
promise of the calm and peaceful winter which I was told was always to
be found in these favoured regions; I bore the sarcasms against the
fogs and, above all, the uncertainty of the climate of gloomy England,
as well as I could; and my assertion that, till the first week in
November, I had last year bathed in the sea at Brighton, was received
with indulgent smiles of pity at my nationality, both by French and
English; but of course not believed, for the air of France, I have
always observed, has such a property of effacing the remembrance of
sunny days passed on the other side of the channel, that, by degrees,
our countrymen arrive at the belief that nothing but fog and rain are
ever to be seen in our ill-fated island, and they imagine that, till
they came abroad, their knowledge of blue sky or bright sun was obtained
only in pictures, but had no existence on the banks of the Thames or
elsewhere, in the desolate regions they had quitted.

The morning of the 18th of October rose brilliantly, and was succeeded
by a burning day; in the afternoon ominous clouds suddenly appeared, and
brought a storm of rain and hail, whose effects were felt in the extreme
cold of the atmosphere for some days, when another change came over the
face of things, which brought forth the character of this calm, quiet
place, where the excessive _stillness_ of the air is cited as almost
wearying, in quite a different light. It has been said, and is
frequently cited, that a certain sea-captain left Pau in disgust, after
passing some months there, because he could never obtain a _capful of
wind_. If that anonymous gentleman had had the good fortune to be at Pau
on the night of the 23rd of October, I think he would have fixed his
domicile for the rest of his life there; for such a furious hurricane he
could seldom have had the good fortune to enjoy. For four hours in the
dead of night, without intermission, the howling of the wind through the
gorges of the mountains, the rush and swell amongst the hills, vales,
and across the plains, was perfectly appalling. Every moment seemed to
threaten annihilation to all within its reach; chimneys were dashed down
in every direction, trees torn up by the roots, and the triumph of the
tempest fiend complete. Furious rain and hail succeeded on the following
day, with occasional gleams of sun; and then came a calm, beautiful,
summer day again, and the mountains shone out as brightly as possible.
This gave place to thick fog and a severe frost on the very next day,
lasting for several days; rain then diversified the scene, and on the
29th a wind rose in the night almost as furious as the last, which
continued the whole of the day following: a cold gloomy morrow, and the
next bright, hot, and pleasant, ended October.

The next day was a triumph for Pau:--"When," asked every one we
met--"when, in_ England_, would you see such a 1st of November?" All my
vivid recollections of charming strolls on the beach and downs in
Sussex, and in Windsor Park, were looked upon as figments. I heard no
boasting on the 2nd, nor for three more days, for it was foggy, and
rained hard, and no one could stir out. On the 6th, a heavy fall of snow
had clothed the whole country in white; and now, for three days, a
sharp, frosty wind prevented any more remarks about the softness of the
climate. The frost and snow had disappeared, as by enchantment, on the
11th, the night of which was so sultry that to keep windows shut was
impossible. The Fair of Pau was ushered in by rain, on the 12th; the
13th was as hot as the hottest day in July, accompanied by a good deal
of fog, for several days: then came violent wind, hail-storms, wind
again--louder and more furious--fog, cold, occasionally bright; and
November disappeared on a misty morning, which ended in a burning day,
without a breath of air, all glare and faintness.

We were now told that, though St. Martin had failed to keep his summer
at the right time, he was never known to desert his post; and as in
almanacks a day before or a day after makes no difference, we were
content to accept his smiles for nine days in the beginning of December.
Again came the question--"When, in England?" &c. and I began to think we
were peculiarly favoured, when, lo! letters arrived from that vexatious
clime, speaking of "days perfectly lovely," "new summer," and all
precisely like a plagiarism on Pau. Fortunately for the reputation of
the Pyrenees, no one would, of course, credit this fact; and the English
invalids, who had been covering their mouths with handkerchiefs, and
shutting themselves up from the variations of the atmosphere, breathed
again, and at once generously forgot all but the bright sun and warm air
which had come once more to greet them.

It was true that every leaf had long since disappeared from the trees in
the park, and that the sun glared fearfully on the high, unsheltered
walks; but the partisans of salubrity hastened to disport themselves in
its rays, till _three cases in one week_ of _coup de soleil_ began to
startle even the most presuming; and the expected death of one of the
patients, together with _another change_ of weather to wet, cold, and
fog, silenced further remark.

We were assured that the extraordinary alternations of climate we had
experienced for two months, was a circumstance quite unheard-of before
in Pau, and we looked on ourselves as singularly unlucky in having, by
chance, chosen a season so unpropitious. A few simple persons, who
ventured to remark that the winter of last year was very similar, were
told that they must have been mistaken; and some who recollected high
winds were considered romancers. We looked at the strong _contre-vents_
placed outside the windows of our dwelling, and wondered why such a work
of supererogation should have taken place as to put them there, if the
hurricanes we had witnessed were unusual, when I one day, during a high
wind, as I sat at home, happened to take up Palassou's Mémorial des
Pyrénées, and read as follows:--

"TEMPERATURE OF THE LOWER PYRENEES--ITS EFFECTS OFTEN DANGEROUS.

"It is well known that divers places differ in their temperature,
although they are situated in the same degrees of latitude; the vicinity
of the sea, of great rivers, mountainous chains, &c. renders the air
more or less hot or cold, serene or cloudy; the modifications which
these circumstances occasion are principally remarked in the countries
adjacent to the Pyrenees. Snow, frost, and abundant rains, are, for
instance, more frequent than in Languedoc or Provence, although these
climates are placed beneath the same degree of latitude as the former.

"It is easy to believe that vegetable nature feels this influence. If we
except the plains of Roussillon, and some small cantons situated at the
foot of the eastern Pyrenees, where a mild temperature may be found, it
is to be observed that nowhere, contiguous to this chain, are seen the
odoriferous plants and trees common to the South of France. The eye
seeks in vain the pomegranate, with its rich crimson fruit; the olive
is unknown; the lavender requires the gardener's aid to grow. The usual
productions of this part are heath, broom, fern, and other plants, with
prickly thorns: these hardy shrubs seem fitted, by their sterility, to
the variable climate which they inhabit.

"In effect, the snows of winter, covering the summits of the Pyrenees
for too long a time, prolong the cold of this rigorous season sometimes
to the middle of spring; then come the frosts which destroy the hopes of
the vine-grower.

"'_Storms are very frequent in Béarn_,' says M. Lebret, intendant of
Béarn in 1700; he might have added," continues Palassou, "to the list of
dangers to the harvests--_the frequent and destructive fogs_ to which
the country is subject.

"In the landes of the Pont-Long, I have often seen, in the environs of
Pau, fogs rise from those grounds covered with fern, broom, and other
naturally growing plants, while in parts more cultivated it was clear.
* * * The agriculturists of Béarn have not attempted to till the lands in
the neighbourhood of Pau, finding them too stubborn to give hopes of
return, and _the climate being so very variable_; cultivated produce
being peculiarly sensible to the effects of an air which _is one day
burning and the next icy_.

"One might write whole volumes if it was the object to relate all the
effects of storms which, accompanied with hail, devastate the countries
in the neighbourhood of the Pyrenees. It will be sufficient to recount
what has come under my own observation. During one violent storm of
thunder and lightning, the hail-stones were _as large as hens' eggs_,
and desolated the whole range over which it swept. It was immediately
followed by a second, less furious, but which did immense damage; and
others, little less terrific, followed in the course of the
month--June."

Palassou here goes on to describe several dreadful storms of peculiar
fury, which were more than usually destructive, and are common in these
regions. He considers, that the cutting down of the forests on the
mountains, which formerly sheltered the plains and valleys, has
contributed to increase the storms in latter years. Summer in the midst
of winter, seems by no means uncommon, and winter in summer as little
so. The _autun_, or south wind, generally brings the burning days which
so much surprised me; but, according to this author, _it is extremely
unwholesome_ and dangerous to persons inclined to apoplexy; as, indeed,
its effects during our stay at Pau led me to imagine.

I cannot feel much confidence, I confess, in a climate where you are
told that so many precautions must be taken: for instance, you are never
to walk in the sun; you must avoid going out in the evening, at all
seasons; you must be careful not to meet the south wind; in fact, you
can scarcely move without danger. I ask myself, what can possibly induce
so many of my countrymen to travel so far for such a climate,--to put
themselves to so great an expense for such a result? for, if England is
not perfect as to climate, it has at any rate few unhealthy spots from
which you cannot readily escape to a better position: we are never in
terror of a _sirocco_,--nor need wrap up our mouths in handkerchiefs to
avoid breathing _malaria_. Our climate is variable, but less so than in
the Pyrenees; and it is scarcely worth while to go so far to find one
worse, and more dangerous to life. Hurricanes are rarer with us than
there. We may not often have such hot summers in winter, but neither do
we _often_ have such cold winters in summer. It frequently rains with
us, but it rains as often at Pau; and, however annoying are the
variations of which we complain at home, we assuredly do not escape them
by travelling eight hundred miles to take up our abode close to icy
mountains, in a dirty, damp town, in an uncomfortable house: add to
which, we gain little in economy; for Pau is as dear as Paris, without
any of the advantages of the capital.

Altogether, the more experience I have of the climate of Pau, the more
surprised I am at the crowds of English who resort to this town for the
winter: the greatest part of them, it is true, are not invalids, but
persons seduced into this nook by its reputation, and arriving too late
in the season to leave it. They grumble, and are astonished to find
themselves no better off than if they had stayed at home; but they are,
it would seem, ashamed to confess how much they have been deceived, and,
therefore, remain silent on the subject of climate, content to praise
the beauty of the country in fine weather, and enjoy the gaieties and
hospitalities which they are sure to meet with. If people came only for
the latter advantages, I should not be surprised at their trooping
hitherward, provided they were robust enough to bear the _mildness_ of
climate; but that is not the avowed reason, and those they give are
altogether insufficient to account for the mania of wintering at Pau.

Perhaps the best means of ascertaining the nature of the climate is by
occasionally looking over old newspapers. In a French one of Jan. 10,
1841, I was struck with this announcement: "Pau.--On Thursday last, in
the night, the snow fell so abundantly that it was half-way up the legs,
in the morning, in the streets. On Friday morning the _porte-cochère_ of
one of the _splendid hotels in our Chaussée d'Antin (!)_ opened, and
forth issued an elegant sledge, drawn by two _magnificent_ horses,
crowned with white plumes. This novel spectacle attracted the attention
of the whole town. The elegant vehicle darted along till it reached the
Rue de la Prefecture, &c. &c. and the Pont-Long."

It must be confessed that it is seldom in any part of our _cold climate_
that we have the power of such an exhibition in the streets. It is
reserved for the invalids who fly to the South of France to avoid a
severe winter.

"23rd Dec. 1840. A great deal of snow has fallen between Bayonne and
Peyrehorade: the road is become almost impassable."

But I must continue the winter as I found it at Pau in 1842 and 1843.
December, with intervals of two days' wind and rain, was extremely
pleasant, bright, and clear, and the days very long; for till half-past
four one could see to write or read: a circumstance which does not often
occur in England during this month. Christmas Day differed but little
from many I have known at home: pleasant, bright, sunny, and clear;
rather cold, but more agreeable, from its freshness, than the unnatural
heat which sometimes accompanies the sun. All the accounts from England
proved that the weather was precisely the same. For the two next days,
it was fine and very cold, with a high, _easterly_ wind; two days warm
and pleasant; then succeeded a sharp frost and bright sun; and December
closed, dull, cold, and dark.

January began cold, sharp, and gusty--some days biting, and some black
and foggy; and from the 5th to the 12th it blew a perfect hurricane,
with thunder, one fine day intervening, and occasionally a few bright
hours in the course of some of the days. The storm on the night of the
11th was terrific, and it lasted, equally violent, with hail and
thunder, all the next day--bright gleams of sun darting out for a
moment, and revealing the mountains, to close them in again with mist
and rain before you had scarcely time to remark the change. About the
middle of the day the wind increased in violence, and the hail came down
with fury, thick grey clouds gathered over the sky, the lightning
flashed vividly, the thunder echoed far and near, and the gusts howled
as if hundreds of wolves were abroad. King Arthur and all his _meinie_
must have been out, for the appearance over the mountains was most
singular. A broad space of clear _green-blue_ sky was seen just above
the white summits of several of the mountains, clearly showing the large
fields of snow which extended along their flat surfaces, which are
broken at the sides by projections, like buttresses, of purple rock, on
which dark shadows fell; gleams of sun illumined the edges of the snow
on the highest peaks, for a brief space, while, by degrees, the other
mountains were sinking away into a thick haze which had already covered
the nearest hills. The marshy fields on the banks of the murmuring
Gave, and the little Ousse, now swelled to large rivers, and as thick
and clay-coloured as the Garonne itself, were covered with a coating of
hail, and the snow and transparent mist were seen driving along from
peak to peak with amazing rapidity, as if they had been smoke.
Presently, the narrow space of blue sky was dotted with small grey
specks, as if showers were falling from the heavy canopy above, and,
shutting closer and closer, the great mass suddenly sank down,
concealing the glittering peaks which strove to shine out to the last.
Then all became black; the thunder roared, the wind howled, the hail
beat, and winter and storm prevailed. I watched all this with delight;
for it was impossible to see anything more sublime, and I could not but
congratulate myself that the abode we had chosen, just above the valley
and detached from the town, at the foot of the promenade of the Place
Royale, gave us an opportunity of seeing such a storm in perfection. It
was true that we often thus had our rest disturbed at night, by the
sweep of the wind along the whole range of the valley between the
_côteaux_; but its melancholy sound, bringing news, as it were, from the
mountains and the sea, was pleasant music to my ears, and startling and
exciting, when it rose to the ungovernable fury with which I became so
well acquainted during our winter at this _quiet place for invalids_!

If Pau were recommended as a place where storms could be seen in
perfection, I should not wonder at persons crowding there, who delight
in savage nature. The gales from the 5th to the 15th continued
furiously, night and day; the wind howled from all points, rocking the
houses, and strewing the ground with ruins--then came a change to hot
quiet days for a week.

In England, and in all parts of France, the season I am describing was
equally violent, but this only proves that Pau has no shelter on these
occasions.

January ended with fine weather, and occasional fogs, not so dense as in
London, certainly, but as thick as in the country in England. The sun,
in the middle of the day, being always dangerously hot. My letters from
England still announced the same weather, _without the danger_.

In February, we had a few days like August, then a heavy fall of snow,
which for eight days covered the ground, and was succeeded by burning
days; and the month ended with heavy rain and floods. March began with
cold winds and rain and sharp frost; and when I left Pau the ground was
encrusted with frost in all directions.



CHAPTER III.

     THE CASTLE OF HENRI QUATRE--THE FURNITURE--THE SHELL--THE
     STATUE--THE BIRTH--CASTEL BEZIAT--THE FAIRY GIFT--A CHANGE--HENRI
     QUATRE.

    "Qui a vist le castig de Pau
     Jamey no a viat il fait."


WHEN Napoleon, in 1808, passed through the town of Pau, the Béarnais
felt wounded and humbled at the indifference he showed to the memory of
their hero, Henri Quatre: he scarcely deigned to glance at the château
in which their cherished countryman was born; and with so little
reverence did he treat the monument dear to every heart in Béarn, that
his soldiers made it a barrack; and, without a feeling of regard or
respect for so sacred a relic, used it as cavalierly _as if it had been
a church_. They stabled their steeds in the courts of Gaston Phoebus,
they made their drunken revelry resound in the chambers of Marguerite de
Valois; and they desecrated the retreat where _La brebis a enfanté un
Lio_--where Jeanne d'Albret gave birth to him, who, in the language of
his mountains, promised that every Frenchman should have a _poule au
pot_[27] in his reign.

[Footnote 27: The _poule au Pot_ is a general dish with the Béarnais.]

That Napoleon should not care for a royal soldier, whose fame he desired
his own deeds should eclipse; and of whom, as of all illustrious men,
living or dead, the _little_ great man was jealous, is not surprising.
He had nothing in common with Henri Quatre; and the Revolution, which
had brought him forward, had swept away antique memories. The statue of
their once-adored Henri had been cast into the Seine with ignominy, by
the French, and his name was execrated, as if he had been no better than
the legitimate race whom popular fury condemned to oblivion: Napoleon's
policy was not to restore an abandoned worship; and he would have seen
the last stone fall from the castle of Pau without notice. But that the
long line of kings, who were always boasting of their descent from the
immortal Béarnais, should have neglected, contemned, or pillaged his
birth-place, reflects little honour on the memory of any. The son of
Mary de Medici came only to Béarn after his father's death, to carry off
all that was precious in art, collected by the kings and queens of
Navarre, for centuries--treasures which, according to the historians of
the time, had not their parallel in the sixteenth century. The palace of
the Louvre became rich in the spoils of Béarn: tapestry, pictures,
furniture, objects of _virtu_ of all kinds were borne away, and nothing
left in its original place. Louis the Fourteenth and his successor
occupied themselves little with the country, except to levy subsidies
upon it: they knew nor cared nothing for Navarre; except as it supplied
them with titles or gave them funds. Louis the Sixteenth, the last of
the Bourbons who took the oath to observe the _Fors_[28] of Béarn,
promised to act differently, and to occupy himself with this forgotten
nook of his dominions; but the fatal events, prepared by his profligate
predecessors of the last two reigns, which hurled him from his throne,
prevented the accomplishment of his intentions.

[Footnote 28: The celebrated Laws of Béarn are called _Les Fors_.]

As for the sovereign people, when they became rulers, the contempt with
which they overwhelmed everything aristocratic, was bestowed in full
measure on the abode of him who had been their friend: and the triumph
of vengeance, ignorance, and ingratitude, was complete, here as
elsewhere.

The neglected castle of the sovereigns of Béarn,--for none of whom,
except the immediate family of the brave and bold Henry, need one care
to be a champion--remained then a mighty heap of ruin, which every
revolving year threatened to bring nearer to utter destruction; when
another revolution, like an earthquake, whose shock may restore to their
former place, rocks, which a preceding convulsion had removed, came to
"renew old Æson:" Louis Philippe, to whom every nook and corner of his
extensive kingdom seems familiar, so far from forgetting the _berceau_
of his great ancestor, hastened to extend to the castle of Pau a saving
hand, and to bring forth from ruin and desolation the fabric which weeds
and ivy were beginning to cover, and which would soon have been ranged
with the shells of Chinon, Loches, and other wrecks of days gone by.

When the architect, employed by the king to execute the Herculean labour
of restoring the castle of Pau, first arrived, and saw the state of
dilapidation into which it had fallen, he must have been appalled at the
magnitude of his undertaking. Seeing it, as I do now,[29] grim, damp,
rugged, ruined, and desolate, even in its state of transition, after
several years of toil have been spent upon its long-deserted walls; I
can only feel amazed that the task of renovating a place so decayed
should ever have been attempted; but, after what has been done, it may
well be hoped and expected that the great work will be, in the end,
fully accomplished; and ten years hence, the visitor to Pau will
disbelieve all that has been said of the melancholy appearance of the
château of Henri Quatre.

[Footnote 29: This was written on the spot.]

What must have been the state of things before the pretty bridge, which
spans the road and leads from the castle terrace to the walk, called La
Basse Plante, existed? I am told that a muddy stream, bordered with
piles of rubbish, filled up this portion of the scene; but, in less than
a year, all was changed, and the pleasant terrace and neat walks which
adorn this side of the castle are promises of much more, equally
ornamental and agreeable.

Some of the tottering buildings attached to the strangely-irregular
mass, were, it seems, condemned by the bewildered architect to
demolition, as possessing no beauty, and encumbering the plans of
improvement; but the late Duke of Orleans came to visit the castle, and
had not the heart to give consent that any of the old walls, still
standing, should be swept away. He looked at the place with true poetic
and antiquarian feeling, and arrested the hand of the mason, who would
have destroyed that part called _La Chancellerie_, which extends between
the donjon of Gaston Phoebus to the Tour Montauzet. The prince
represented to his father his views on the subject, which were instantly
adopted--a question of taste in that family meets with no
opposition--and all was to have been arranged according to the ideas of
the heir of France, who seemed inclined to make Pau an abode at a
_future day_: the King was to have visited the interesting old castle:
much animated discussion and much enthusiasm prevailed on the subject in
the interior of the royal circle, and the Berceau of Henri Quatre seemed
destined to proud days again.

"When, hush! hark! a deep sound comes like a rising knell!"

The wail of a whole nation tells that that _anticipated future_ may not
come! A cloud has again gathered over the valley of the Gave, and a sad
pause--the pause of blighted hopes--has chilled the expectations in
which Béarn had ventured to indulge.

But the castle is not, even now, neglected: the architects are still
there; workmen are still busy, chiseling and planing; the beautiful
arabesques and reliefs are coming forth to view, restored with all their
original delicacy: the ceilings are glowing with fresh gilding, the
walls are bright with fresh tapestry, and the rooms are newly floored.
But for the dreadful event which must cast a gloom over France for some
years, the castle would, probably, have been sufficiently put in order
for a royal visitor this year; but all the magnificent furniture, sent
down from Paris to fit up the _suite_ intended for use, now stands
unarranged, and a stop is put to embellishment. Amongst the most curious
and interesting pieces of this furniture, are the bed and chair of
Jeanne d'Albret, her screen--perhaps worked by her own hand--and the bed
of Henry II.: all fine specimens of art in this style; the latter, in
particular, is quite unique, and is one of the most curious I have ever
seen: the sculpture is very elaborate; at the foot reclines, in relief,
a Scotch guard, such as always lay at the threshold of the sovereign, at
the period when this piece of furniture was made. An owl of _singular
expression_ sits watching, opposite, surrounded by foliage and poppies,
quite in character with the sleepy scene: the posts of the bedstead are
beautifully turned: it is so formed as to draw out and close in, forming
a _bed by night_, _a cabinet by day_; and the carved arch at the back is
sculptured in the most exquisite manner. A _prie-Dieu_ of the same date
is near; but all this furniture is merely _housed_ for the present, as
nothing is arranged; one, of course, looks at these specimens with an
admiration which has nothing to do with Henri Quatre's castle, as they
would be equally well placed in M. de Somerard's museum, at the
delightful Hôtel de Cluny.

A tapestry screen, said to be of the time of Charles VII., has a place
in this heterogeneous collection: it represents the Maid of Orleans,
crowned by victorious France, whose _lilies_ are restored, and her
enemies trampled under her feet; in the back-ground is the sea, with
strange-looking monsters huddled into its waves, in apparent terror:
these are the Leopards of England taking flight from the shores of
France. The colours are well preserved in this piece of work, and the
whole composition deserves to be remarked, if not for the correctness of
its drawing, for the _naïveté_ of its details.

It might have been better to have filled the castle with furniture
belonging exclusively to the time, or anterior to that of Henry IV.; and
it struck me that much which has arrived from Paris, of the period of
Louis XIV., is out of keeping with the _souvenirs_ of the castle of Pau.
I almost hope that, if ever it is entirely restored, these pieces of
furniture will be banished, and others, more antique, substituted. The
tapestry with which the walls are covered is very curious and
appropriate; it is chiefly of the time of Francis I.; and some beautiful
Gobelins, of modern date, representing different scenes in the life of
Henry, equally so.

The most, indeed the only, beautiful portions of the castle, are the
ceilings of the principal staircase and passages leading from it; the
medallions of which present the heads of Marguerite de Valois and her
husband, Henry d'Albret, with their interlaced initials and arms on the
walls: these again occur on the mantel-pieces, in the midst of very
exquisite arabesques, which the skill of the modern sculptor is
restoring with singular delicacy.

The object which excites the most interest in the castle, is the famous
shell of a tortoise, of immense size, said to have served as a cradle to
the little hero whose birth was hailed with such rapture by his
expectant grandfather. One would fain believe that this is indeed the
identical _berceau de Henri IV._ so much talked of; but it is difficult
to reconcile all the improbabilities of its being so: the substitution
of another, after the real shell had been burnt in the castle-court, may
do credit to those who cherish the hero's name; always provided no less
generous motive induced the act; but the tale told to prove its identity
is, unfortunately, not convincing.

The shell is suspended in the centre of a chamber, formerly the _salle
de réception_ of Henry II. d'Albret, and surrounded with trophies, in
tawdry taste, which it is the intention to have removed, and the gilt
helmet and feathers replaced by some armour really belonging to King
Henry.

Those who contend for this being the genuine shell say, that, when on
the 1st of May, 1793, the revolutionary mob came howling into the
castle-court, with the intention of destroying every relic of royalty,
the precious shell was hastily removed, and _another put in its place_,
belonging to a loyal subject who had been induced to sacrifice his own
to save the public treasure. M. de Beauregard had, it seems, a cabinet
of natural history, in which was a tortoise-shell of very similar size
and appearance: this he gave up, and, with the assistance of other
devoted persons, it was conveyed to the castle, and put into the
accustomed place, while the real shell was carefully hidden in a secure
retreat. The mob seized upon the substitute, and, with frantic cries,
danced round the fire in the court while they saw it burn to ashes,
little dreaming how they had been deceived: years after, the truth was
revealed, and the cradle of the Béarnais was produced in triumph.
Whether, in the midst of the terror attending the proceedings of savages
athirst for blood, it was likely that such cool precautions were taken
to save a _relic_ when _lives_ were at stake, is a question which seems
easily answered; but there is such a charm about the belief, that,
perhaps, _'tis folly to be wise_ on the subject.

The fine marble statue of Henry, which is appropriately placed in one of
the chambers, was executed soon after the battle of Ivry: it is by
Francavilla, and very expressive: it belonged to the Gallery of Orleans,
and was presented to the town of Pau by the King.

The room said to be that where Henry was born, and where Jeanne d'Albret
sang the famous invocation, "_Notre Dame au bout du Pont_," is on the
second story of a tower, from whence, as from all this side of the
castle, is a magnificent view of the mountains, and the valley of the
Gave. There is nothing now left but bare walls; but on the chimney is
sculptured the tortoise-shell cradle, and the arms of Béarn and Navarre;
these rooms will be all repaired and restored; at present, the whole
_suite_ reminded me of the desolation of the castle of Blois, which was
desecrated in the same manner by soldiery, who made it a barrack. The
room which was Henry's nursery has a few of the original rude rafters of
the ceiling remaining, which one would wish should not be removed; but
it is said that it is necessary. The thick coating of whitewash cleared
away from the chimney-piece will, probably, disclose more sculpture,
similar to that in the other rooms.

Queen Jeanne had been unfortunate in losing her other children, one of
whom died in a melancholy manner. While she was out hunting with her
father and her husband, the nurse and one of her companions, being at a
loss to amuse themselves, thought of a game, in which they threw the
child from one window to the other, catching it in turns. The poor
little prince was made the victim to this cruel folly, for he fell on
the balcony which extended along the first-floor, and broke one of his
ribs. He suffered much, and survived only a few days. No wonder Queen
Jeanne sent her little son, Henry, to a cottage, to be nursed, where
there was no upper story!

Nothing can be less imposing, on the interior side of the court, than
the castle of Pau: ruined, dilapidated buildings surround the rugged old
well which stands in the centre; towers and _tourelles_, of various
shapes, lift their grey and green and damp-stained heads in different
angles; low door-ways, encumbered with dust and rubbish, open their dark
mouths along the side opposite the red square tower of Gaston Phoebus,
which frowns at its equally grim brother, whose mysterious history no
one knows; other doors and windows are finely-sculptured; and
medallions, much defaced, adorn the walls.

On these antique towers, it is said the thunder never fell but
once--_that once_ was on the 14th of May, 1610, at the very moment when
the steel of Ravaillac found the heart of Henry of Navarre. The event is
thus recorded:--

"A fearful storm burst over the town of Pau on this day; a thunderbolt
fell, and defaced the royal arms over the castle-gateway; and a fine
bull, which was called _the King_, from its stately appearance, the
chief of a herd called _the royal herd_, terrified by the noise and
clamour, precipitated itself over the walls into the ditch of the
castle, and was killed. The people, hurrying to the spot, called out The
_King_ is dead! The news of the fatal event in Paris reached Pau soon
after, and they found their loss indeed irreparable."

The shades of Henry and Sully are said sometimes _to walk_ along the
ramparts even now; and it was formerly believed that near the great
reservoir, into which it was said Queen Jeanne used to have her Catholic
prisoners thrown, numerous ghosts of injured men might be seen flitting
to and fro. One evening I was returning, later than usual, from the
promenade in the park, and had paused so often on my way to observe the
effect of the purple and rosy-tinted mountains glowing with the last
rays of sunset, that it was in quite a dim light that I reached the spot
beneath which the ivied head of the old, ruined, red Tour de la Monnaie
shows the rents of its _machicoulis_. A double row of young trees is
planted here, at the foot of the artificial mound which supports the
castle walls, and at the end of the alley is the reservoir, with the
square tower of Gaston Phoebus above it. I was startled by a sudden
apparition, so vivid that it seemed impossible to mistake its form,
passing by the reservoir, as if after descending the steep which leads
to it. I _seemed to see_ a grey, transparent figure in armour, the head
covered with a helmet, with a pointed frontlet, such as I had seen in an
old gallery, filled with rusty coats of arms, at the Château of
Villebon, near Chartres, where Sully had lived for five-and-twenty
years, and where he died. The figure was slight, and moved slowly,
waving its head gently: it was in good proportion, but at least eight
feet high. I stopped astonished, for the vision was so very plain--and
then it was gone. I continued my way, and again I saw it, and it
appeared as if several others, less tall, but still in armour, were by
its side, by no means so distinct. I paused again, it was growing darker
and darker, and I then could distinguish nothing but a row of slender
trees, whose delicate leaves were shivering in the evening breeze, and
whose stems waved to and fro. I went home--through the chill damp castle
court, and across the bridge to the dismal street--impressed with an
agreeable, though somewhat tremulous conviction, that I must have seen
some of the ghosts which haunt the walks of the old castle.

I expected to hear that the memory of Queen Jeanne was venerated on this
spot; but was surprised to find that she holds a place in tradition
little more honourable than that occupied by our bloody Queen Mary; for
there is scarcely any atrocity in history of which she is not the
heroine: whatever might have been her fame with her Protestant subjects,
those who succeeded them seemed carefully to have treasured the
remembrance of all the cruelties executed by her orders, which, it must
be acknowledged, were little in accordance with the religion of peace
she professed to have adopted. Her son, whose faith was of so changeable
a character that it suited all parties, is the pride and boast of the
country; but the object of love appears to be the amiable Princess
Catherine, his sister, for whom her mother built, in a secluded spot in
the royal park, a residence, called _Castel Beziat_, the last stones of
which have now disappeared, as well as the _gardens_ originally planted
by Gaston XI., in 1460, and said, in the time of Henri II. and
Marguerite, _to be the finest in Europe_. It is difficult now to imagine
where they were; but they are said to have been on the south side, and
probably extended along that part now occupied by the Basse Plante and
the baths of Henri Quatre, as far as the present entrance of the park.

Catherine was more sought in marriage, perhaps, than any princess of her
time; but her only attachment--which was an unfortunate one--was to the
Count de Soissons, who, being her brother's enemy, avowed or concealed,
was an unfit match for her, and the alliance was opposed by all her
friends. She seemed to possess the accomplishments of her grandmother
and mother, and was very popular in Béarn, which she governed, during
Henry the Fourth's absence, with great justice and judgment; the
Béarnais, however, greatly offended her by their violent opposition to
her marriage with the person she had chosen; and she left the Castle of
Pau in anger, and never returned. She was forced into a marriage with
the Duke de Bar, and her people saw her no more.

There is a romantic story told of an act of the princess's, which shows
her kind character, and amiable feeling. There was formerly in the
gardens of Castel (or Castet) Beziat, (the _Castle of the beloved,_) a
fountain, afterwards called _Des cents Ecus_, which had its name from
the following circumstances:

The Princess Catherine of Navarre was one day walking in a musing mood,
probably thinking of the many difficulties which opposed her union with
him she loved, and almost wishing that her stars had made her one of the
careless peasant-girls who tended her flocks in the green meadows beside
the murmuring Gave; for happiness was denied her, as she said in after
times, when married to a man who was indifferent to her, "Qu'elle
n'avait pas son _compte_," mournfully playing on her disappointment.
Suddenly she heard voices, and, peeping through the thick foliage, she
perceived two young girls seated by the side of the fountain. One was
drowned in tears, and the other was leaning over her, with tender words
and caresses, endeavouring to console her sorrows. "Alas!" said the fair
distressed, "I can see no end to my sorrow, for poverty is the cause;
you know, my parents have nothing but what they gain by labour, and
though _his_ friends are richer, their avarice is extreme; and they say
their son's bride must have a dower of a hundred crowns. Ah! my dear
friend, what hope then have I! I have heard that there are fairies who
have the power to assist true love; if I knew where they were to be
found I would consult them, for never was love truer than ours, or more
unfortunate."

Her friend did not attempt to combat her affection, but encouraged her
with soothing words to have patience, and hope for the best. "Let us
meet again here," said she, "every day, and devise some plan; perhaps
Heaven will hear our prayers, and take compassion on your sorrow.
To-morrow, at this hour, let us meet." "We will so," said the weeping
girl, "for if I have no other consolation,--you, at least, give me that
of talking of him."

The friends departed, leaving the listening princess full of interest
and curiosity: she was resolved to surprise and befriend the lovers
whose case was so touching. "There is, then, equal sorrow in a lowly
state," she mused, "and love seems always doomed to tears; however,
there are some obstacles which fortune permits to be removed--would that
I could look forward to relief, as I am resolved these shall!"

The next day saw the two friends again seated on the borders of the
fountain; but scarcely had they taken their accustomed place, when they
observed, lying on a stone close by, a little bag which seemed to
contain something heavy; they opened it, and found a paper, on which
these words were written: "Behold what has been sent you by a _fairy_."
The delight of this discovery may be imagined, and the pleasure of the
princess, by whose command, a few days afterwards, the union of the
lovers was accomplished.

It appears that the Castle of Pau was originally built in 1360, or about
that time, by the famous prince, Gaston Phoebus, of Foix, who called
himself, when addressing the Princess of Wales, "_a poor knight who
builds towns and castles._" The great hero of Froissart is even more
identified with Pau and its neighbourhood than Henry the Fourth himself,
who, though he was born here, lived more at Coarraze and Nerac than in
this castle of his ancestors; for he was even nursed in the village of
Billières near, where his nurse's house is still shown.

Catherine de Medicis, and her beautiful and dangerous _troupe_ of
ladies, on the famous progress she made to Bayonne, visited the Castle
of Pau, with a deep interest; she there succeeded in detaching the
affections of the weak father of Henry from his noble-minded wife, and
in laying the foundation of that tragedy which her dauntless and
vindictive spirit had conceived. The massacre of St. Bartholomew may be
said to have begun on the day that those fatal visitors crossed the
drawbridge of the Castle of Pau. Her daughter, Marguerite, the victim of
her schemes--an unwilling actor in the drama--suffered much sorrow and
privation within these walls, after her marriage with a prince who
never could surmount the distaste which circumstances of such peculiar
horror as attended their union had given him; and the once cheerful
place--the scene of splendour for centuries--lost its glory and its
happy character after the beloved family of Queen Jeanne had deserted
its towers.

Everything connected with the birth of Henry IV. is in general
well-known, and has been so frequently repeated, that it is almost
unnecessary to relate any circumstances attending that anxiously
looked-for event,--cordially hailed by his grandfather, Henry. The
account, however, given by Favyn is so characteristic that it cannot but
be read with interest _a-propos_ of the château where it occurred:

"The Princess of Navarre, being near her term, took leave of her
husband, and set out from Compeign the 15th of November. She crossed all
France to the Pyrenees, and directed her steps to Pau, where her father,
the King of Navarre, then was. She arrived in the town after eighteen
days' journey. King Henry had made his will, which the princess was very
anxious to see; because it had been represented to her that it was to
her disadvantage, and in favour of _a lady who governed_ her father. For
this cause, though she had tried every means to get a sight of it, it
was a thing impossible; the more so, as, on her arrival, she had found
the king ill, and dared not speak to him on the subject. But the coming
of his _good girl_, as he called her, so delighted him that it set him
on his legs again. The princess was endowed with a fine natural
judgment, fostered by the reading of good books, to which she was much
addicted; her humour was so lively that it was impossible to be dull
where she was; one of the most learned and eloquent princesses of her
time, she followed the steps of Marguerite, her mother, and was mistress
of all the elegant accomplishments of the age. The king, who was aware
of her wish respecting the will, told her she should have it when she
had shown him her child; and, taking from his cabinet a great box, shut
with a lock, the key of which he wore round his neck by a chain of gold,
which encompassed it five-and-twenty or thirty times, he opened the box,
and showed her the will. But he only showed it at a little distance; and
then locked it up again, saying, 'This box and its contents shall be
yours; but, in order that you may not produce me a crying girl or a puny
creature, I promise to give you all on condition that, while the infant
is being born, you sing a Gascon or Béarnais song; and I will be by.' He
had lodged his daughter in a room in the second story of his castle of
Pau; and his chamber was immediately beneath: he had given her, to guard
her, one of his old _valets de chambre_, Cotin, whom he commanded never
to stir from the princess night nor day, to serve her in her chamber,
and to come and tell him the instant she was taken ill, and to wake him
if he was in ever so deep a sleep. Ten days after the princess's arrival
at Pau, between twelve and one o'clock at night, the day of St. Lucie,
13th of December, 1553, the king was called by Cotin, and hurried to her
chamber: she heard him coming, and began immediately singing the
canticle, which the Béarnais women repeat when lying in:

    "Noustre Dame deou cap deou poun,
     Adjoudat me à d'aqueste hore,"

for at the end of every bridge in Gascony is an oratory, dedicated to
the Virgin, called, _Our Lady at the end of the bridge_; and that over
the Gave, which passes into Béarn from Jurançon, was famous for its
miracles in favour of lying-in women. The King of Navarre went on with
the canticle; and had no sooner finished it than the prince was born who
now reigns over France. Then the good king, filled with great joy, put
the chain of gold round the neck of the princess, and gave her the box
containing the will, saying, 'This is your property, and this is mine;'
at the same time taking the infant, which he wrapped in a piece of his
robe, and carried away to his chamber. The little prince came into the
world without crying, and the first nourishment he had was from the
hand of his grandfather; for, having taken a clove of garlic, he rubbed
his little lips with it; then, in his golden cup, he presented him wine;
_at the smell of which, the child having lifted up his head_, he put a
drop in his mouth, which he swallowed very well. At which the good king,
full of joy, exclaimed, before all the ladies and gentlemen in the room,
'You will be a true Béarnais!' kissing him as he spoke."

Every time I pass through the court-yard of this dilapidated building, I
feel that it can never revive from its ruin; the desolation is too
complete; the defacement too entire. What interest can exist in
restorations to effect which so much must be cleared and scraped away
that scarcely a trace of what was original can remain? How restore those
medallions on the outer walls, which the taste of the first Fair
Marguerite, and her Henry, placed in rows at one extremity of the court?
how restore those beautifully-carved door-ways, and cornices, and
sculptured windows, elaborate to the very roof? or renew the _façade_
next the mountains without effacing that singular line of _machicoulis_
which divides the stages. How replace the terrace--once existing, but
long gone--without destroying venerable morsels of antiquity, precious
in their ugliness! and how render the whole place sightly without
clearing away the rubbish of the old _Tour_ _de la Monnaie_, now built
in with shabby tenements? Yet this will probably be done. Considering
the state of the town, and the many improvements requisite in it, it
would seem more judicious, perhaps, to effect, these, and to abandon the
idea of _restoring_ the castle. To repave the court, and clear away
dirt, might be done with little time and cost; and the old fabric would
not suffer by this act. At present the most neglected part is the
entrance; and it is sufficiently unsightly. However, I ought to
congratulate myself that I did not see it _when it was worse_--as I am
constantly told when I complain of the wretched state of the streets.

It is said that part of the royal family are even yet expected to pay a
visit to Pau, in the course of next spring, to be present at the
inauguration of a new statue of the Great Henry, lately arrived, which
is to be erected in the Place Royale.[30]

[Footnote 30: Since this was written, the visit has been paid, and the
ceremony gone through.]



CHAPTER IV.

     TROUBADOUR.


NAVARRE has not produced many poets in early times; and the only
troubadour whom it claims, is the famous lover of Blanche of Castile,
the accomplished Thibault of Champagne, who rather belongs to Provins,
where he lived so much, and sang so many of his beautiful lays, than to
the Pyrenees. All critics, ancient and modern, from Dante to the Abbé
Massieu, have agreed in admiring his compositions, in which grace,
tenderness, and refinement, shine out in every line, encumbered though
his language be with its antique costume. His mother was Blanche,
daughter of Sancho the Wise, King of Navarre; his birth took place in
1201, a few months after the death of his father; and it was with
difficulty the persecuted widow could retain her government of Champagne
and Brie. In 1234, he was called to the throne of Navarre, by the death
of his maternal uncle, Sancho le Fort. Soon after this, he left for the
Holy Land; therefore, what time he spent in Navarre, does not appear. On
his return from _Romanie_, he died at Pampluna, in 1253, and was buried
at his beloved Provins, that city of nightingales and roses.

His songs are very numerous, and have much originality. The following
will serve as specimens:

                CHANSON.

           *       *       *       *       *

     "Je n'ose chanter trop tart, ne trop souvent."

           *       *       *       *       *

    "I FEAR to sing too seldom or too long--
       I cannot tell if silence be the best,
     Or if at all to tune my tender song--
       For she denies me pity, hope, and rest.
     Yet, in my lay, I might some note awake,
       To please her ear more than all lays before;
     Though thus, she seems a cruel joy to take,
       That I should slowly suffer evermore.

    "At once I'd cast my idle lute away,
       If I were sure no pleasure could be mine;
     But love has made my thoughts so much his prey,
       I do not dare to love her, nor resign.
     Thus I stand trembling and afraid to fly,
     Till I have learnt to _hate_ her--lovingly.

    "By love and hate's alternate passions torn,
       How shall I turn me from my thronging woes?
     Ah! if I perish, tortured and forlorn,
       But little glory from such triumph flows.
     She has no right to keep me her's, in thrall,
     Unless she will be mine, my own, my all!

    "Well does she know how to delight--inflame,
       With soft regards and smiles and words at will,
     And none within her magic ever came,
       But learnt to hope he was the favour'd still.
     She is worth all the conquests she has won:
     But I may trust too far--and be undone!

    "She keeps me ling'ring thus in endless doubt,
       And, as she pleases, holds me in her chain,
     Grants she no smiles--I can adore without;
       And this she knows, and I reproach in vain!
     I am content to wait my chance, even now,
     If she will but one ray of hope allow."

           * * * *

          JEU-PARTIE.

    "BALDWIN, tell me frank and true,
     What a lover ought to do;
     One, who, loving well and long,
     Suff'ring and enduring wrong,
     At his lady's summons flies,
     And presents him to her eyes,
     With a welcome, when they meet,
     Should he kiss her lips or feet?

    "Sire, methinks he would be loth,
     Not to kiss her rosy mouth;
     For a kiss at once descends
     To the heart and makes them friends;
     Joy and sweetness, hope and bliss,
     Follow in that tender kiss.

    "Baldwin, nay, you ought to know,
     He who dares such freedom show--
     As though a shepherd maid were she,
     Would never in her favour be:

     I would kneel in humble guise,
     For I know her fair and wise,
     And humility may gain
     Smiles no boldness could obtain.

    "Sire, though modest semblance oft
     Meet a guerdon, coy and soft,
     And timid lovers sometimes find
     Reward both merciful and kind:
     Yet to the lips prefer the feet
     Seems to my mind a care unmeet.

    "Baldwin--for worlds I would not lose
     Her mouth, her face, her hand--but choose
     To kiss her pretty feet, that she
     May see how humble truth can be.
     But you are bold and daring still;
     And know Love's gentle lore but ill.

    "Sire, he must be a craven knight,
     Who, with her lovely lips in sight,
     Is all content and happy found,
     To kiss her foot-print on the ground!

    "Baldwin, quick gains are quickly o'er,
     Got with much ease, and prized no more.
     When at her feet, entranced, I lie,
     No evil thought can hover night.
     And she his love will faithful call,
     Who asked no boon, and gave her all."



CHAPTER V.

     ROAD FROM PAU TO TARBES--TABLE-LAND--THE PICS--THE HARAS OF
     TARBES--AUTUMN IN THE PYRENEES--MONT L'HÉRIS--GABRIELLE
     D'ESTRÉES--CHASSE AUX PALOMBES--PENNE DE L'HÉRIS--PIC DU
     MIDI--CHARLET THE GUIDE--VALLEY OF CAMPAN--LA GATTA--GRIP--THE
     TOURMALET--CAMPANA DEL VASSE--BARÈGES-LUZ--CAGOT
     DOOR--GAVARNIE--THE FALL OF THE ROCK--CHAOS--CIRCUS--MAGNIFICENCE
     OF NATURE--PONT DE NEIGE--ROLAND--DURENDAL--IZARDS--LES
     CRÂNES--PIEREFITTE--CAUTERETZ--CERIZET--PONT D'ESPAGNE--LAC DE
     GAUBE--ARGELEZ.


THE road between Pau and Tarbes,[31] like most of the roads south of the
Garonne, is an extremely fine one; it is perfectly macadamized, and
admirably well kept; indeed, in this respect, the improvement that
appears all over France is quite remarkable; but if superiority can be
claimed anywhere it certainly belongs to Béarn and Bigorre. It is not,
however, the _condition_ of the road between the two towns that forms
the attraction; it is the exquisite scenery that meets the eye wherever
a break in the woods, or an inequality of the ground reveals the
magnificent chain of the Pyrenees. For some distance after leaving Pau
the road is nearly level; but about half-way to Tarbes, after passing
through a thick wood of oak, and having been rendered impatient by
occasional glimpses of the mountains, the traveller climbs a long and
winding ascent, and reaches the summit of a fine table-land, from whence
an uninterrupted view of this glorious country is obtained. Rich forests
of chesnut clothe the steep sides of this table-land, and stretch far
away to the southward, mingling with the well-cultivated plains that
border the Gave de Pau; beyond these rise, in gradual succession, the
lower ranges of the mountains, whose real height is entirely lost in the
grandeur of the more stupendous Pyrenean giants, extending as far as the
eye can reach, from the Mont Perdu at one extremity, and far beyond the
Pic du Midi of the Vallée d'Ossau, at the other. The general colour of
these noble mountains is a deep purple, which becomes even more intense,
and approaches almost to blackness, until it melts away in the misty
valleys beneath. The outline is not only irregular in form, but various
in its hue; some of the loftiest heights of the foremost range being
patched with snow, while, still more distant and shining in the sun,
appear the dazzling peaks of eternal ice, piercing the deep blue sky
wherein they dwell.

[Footnote 31: For the whole account of the Hautes Pyrénées, I am
indebted to my brother, Mr. Dudley Costello, who made the excursion
while I remained at Pau.]

This table-land is traversed for several miles over a broken common,
variegated with heath and fern, and intersected here and there by
brawling streams, which take their course to swell the tributaries of
the distant Gave. At the eastern extremity of the common, another wide
forest of chesnut appears, where the road rapidly descends with many
windings to the plain of Bigorre. One of these turns offers the
loveliest picture it is possible to imagine. The foreground is formed of
steep, rough banks, through which the road winds its sinuous track, the
thick yet graceful foliage of the chesnut rises like a frame on either
hand, and spreads also in front, while the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, with
snow on its summit, and the Pic de Montaigu, with its sharp, dark
outline, complete the distance. To give life to the scene, there are the
peasants and market-women on their way to the fair of Tarbes,--the
former wearing the characteristic brown _berret_, and the latter the
black or scarlet-peaked hood, which gives quite a clerical air to their
costume. Indeed, to see the women carelessly bestriding their active
Bigourdin horses, which they manage with infinite ease, one might
readily fancy, at a slight distance, that it was rather a party of monks
of the olden time wending to their monastery, than a group of peasants
laden with their market-ware. A little further, the road abruptly turns
again, and Tarbes lies before us, distant about four or five miles,
supported by another range of mountains, amongst which the Pic d'Orbizan
is most conspicuous. The plain of Bigorre is now soon gained, and in
half an hour we stand in the Place de Maubourguet, in the centre of
Tarbes.

Tarbes, as a city, has little to recommend it beyond its situation, in
the midst of a fertile plain, watered by the Adour, some of whose
tributary streams run through the streets, imparting freshness and
securing cleanliness. It has nothing to reveal to the lover of
antiquity--no vestige remaining of the architecture of the period when
Tarbes was celebrated as the place where the Black Prince held his
court.

The cathedral is a modern building, possessing no claim to notice; and,
except the royal _Haras_, there is nothing to detain the traveller.
Here, however, are some fine horses,--the best amongst them English,
except, indeed, a superb black barb, named Youssouf, once the property
of an ex-foreign minister more famous in the Tribune than on the Champ
de Mars. In consequence, as I was informed by one of the grooms, of the
minister's indifferent equitation, his majesty, Louis-Philippe,
purchased the barb and sent it hither. The most noticeable steeds
besides, are Rowlestone, Sir Peter, Windcliffe, and Skirmisher--the last
thirty-seven years' old--whose names bespeak their origin; there is also
a fine Arab from Algiers, named Beni. The Haras is beautifully kept, and
is surrounded by a fine garden, from whence the view of the distant
mountains, beyond Bagnères de Bigorre, is exceedingly grand.

In that direction I decided upon bending my steps, and, returning to my
hotel in the Place Maubourguet, my preparations for departure were soon
made.

The distance from Tarbes to Bagnères de Bigorre is not more than five
leagues, and the road thither would seem to be perfectly level, were it
not for the impetuous flow of the Adour, along the left bank of which we
travel, reminding us of the gradual ascent. The country is everywhere
highly cultivated; and the peasants were busily employed with their
second crops of hay, and securing their harvest of Indian corn. One
historical site attracts attention on leaving Tarbes;--the old Château
of Odos, where died, in 1549, "La Marguérite de Marguérites," Queen of
Navarre, the sister of Francis the First, whose name will ever be
associated with that of her adopted country. On this spot we lay down
our recollections of the past, absorbed, as we approach the mountains,
in the thoughts which their magnificence inspires,--which, while they,
too, speak of the past, are ever appealing to the present, in their
changeless forms and still enduring beauty, their might, their majesty,
and their loneliness.

The watering-place of Bagnères has been described by so many tourists,
that I spare the description here; and the more readily as it was nearly
deserted when I arrived. This was no drawback to one whose desire was to
enjoy the last days of autumn amongst the mountains while the weather
yet continued fine,--and lovely that autumn weather is, atoning by the
richness of its colours for the absence of beauties which belong to an
earlier season.

I accordingly made all the necessary arrangements for a guide and horses
to cross the Tourmalet on the next day, and devoted the remainder of a
lovely afternoon to the ascent of Mont L'Héris--a mountain that supplies
the botanist with treasures almost inexhaustible. Crossing the Adour by
a rude bridge of only one plank, and traversing some fields, filled with
labourers busily employed in getting in their harvest of Indian corn, I
reached the pretty little village of Aste, which lies buried in a deep
gorge, at the south-eastern base of the mountain. Aste has associations
connected with Henri Quatre; for in the castle, now a mere shell, once
resided the beautiful Gabrielle d'Estrées, who used here to receive her
royal lover. The Seigneur du Village is the Duc de Grammont--a name
which appears singularly out of keeping with this romantic and secluded
spot.

The ascent of Mont L'Héris is steep but not difficult, for the profusion
of flowers and richly-scented plants, scattered over the short elastic
turf, beguile the climber's path, and lure him pleasantly upward. The
first pause I made was on a bold projection, skirting the forest of
Haboura on one side, and on the other hanging over the beautiful valley
of Campan. Beneath me lay the town of Bagnères, and, far as the eye
could reach, extended the plain of Bigorre, with the clear waters of the
Adour marking their track like a silver thread. On the slope of a
neighbouring mountain the wild-pigeon hunters were spreading their nets;
for the _Chasse aux Palombes_ is nowhere so successfully followed as in
this part of the Pyrenees. It is a simple sport; but highly productive
to those engaged in it. I pursued my route towards the summit of the
mountain, the "_Penne de l'Héris_," as it is still called, retaining its
Celtic name. To do so, it was necessary to plunge into the thicket, and
for a long time I made my way scrambling over the slippery surface of
mossy rocks, as best I might, by the aid of the roots and lower branches
of the forest-trees. At length I emerged from the wood, and stood upon
the fertile pastures of the mountain; from whence the ascent to the
immense block of marble which crowns Mont l'Héris, is tolerably easy. It
is a singular mass, on the southern side of which is an enormous
excavation; amongst the _débris_ of which was a path that led to the
top. If the view below was lovely, this was magnificent; my eyes were,
however, riveted on one object--the towering height of the _Pic du
Midi_, which seemed almost immediately above my head; though the
mountain on the other side of the valley of Campan at our feet, showed
us how far distant it really was. Directed by the peasant-guide, who had
volunteered his services at Aste, I contrived to form a tolerable notion
of the track which I was to pursue on the morrow; and it was only the
warning shadows which began to creep over the valleys, and the clear
tones of the church bells, at Bagnères, marking the hour at which I had
promised to join the _table d'hôte_ at the Hôtel de France, that
expressively told me to loiter no longer on the mountains, lest darkness
should entangle my feet before I had cleared its steep declivities. I
made haste, therefore, to return to Bagnères, crossing the Adour this
time by a bridge no less picturesque than the former, but somewhat more
secure.

On the following morning I rose at daylight, and, at the moment fixed
upon, Charlet, the guide, whom I had agreed with, rode up to the door
of the hotel, leading another small, sturdy, mountain horse, and
accompanied by the inseparable companion of his wanderings, a bull-dog
named Pluto, which, had sex been considered, should have been called
Proserpine, though not for beauty.

We were soon clear of the town, and jogged pleasantly along the road,
which lay through the lovely valley of Campan--a scene whose beauty
cannot be too highly extolled. On the left hand flowed the rapid waters
of the Adour, beneath heights which seemed perpendicular, though Charlet
pointed to certain irregular lines which marked the track by which the
mountaineers descend on horseback, the very idea of which was enough to
make one shudder; on the right hand, the valley spread out into a
fertile district, whose gentle slopes gradually blended themselves with
the hills which formed the spurs of lofty mountains, and finally shut in
the view. In front, was constantly visible the snowy height of the _Pic
d' Orbizan_, towering 9,000 feet above the level of the valley.

It was a delicious morning, and the freshness of the air, the beauty of
the scenery, and the novelty of the situation, made me fain to linger in
this lovely spot; but there was too much before us to admit of delay,
and we trotted on merrily, every pause, as the road became steeper,
being filled up by the conversation of Charlet.

It is not undeservedly that the Pyrenean guides have acquired the
reputation they enjoy for intelligence and civility; and Charlet, of the
Hôtel de France, is certainly a most favourable specimen: frugal in his
habits, modest in his demeanour, and of great activity of body, he forms
the _beau ideal_ of a mountain cicerone. I asked him what superstitions
were still current in the mountains: he replied, but few; the increasing
intercourse with towns and travellers gradually effacing them from
popular belief. One, however, he named, which is curious:--Any one who
suddenly becomes rich without any visible means to account for it, is
said by the peasants to have found "_la gatta_;" in other words, to have
made a compact with the evil one, the evidence of which is afforded by
the presence of a black cat, whose stay in the dwelling of the
contracting party is productive of a gold coin, deposited every night in
his bedchamber. When the term has expired, the cat disappears, and ruin
invariably falls upon the unwary customer of the fiend. Charlet
accounted for the superstition in a very simple way. As smuggling is
constant amongst the mountaineers, so near the Spanish frontier, large
fortunes, comparatively speaking, are often made; and accident or envy
often deprives the possessor of his suddenly-acquired wealth, who may
lose his all by an information, or an unsuccessful venture.

Two leagues from Bagnères brought us to Sainte Marie, where the roads
separate,--one leading to Luchon, the other, to the right, across the
Tourmalet, to Barèges; the latter, which we followed, here makes a very
sensible ascent, but continues passable for carriages till we arrive at
the little village of Grip--the last cluster of habitations on this side
of the chain which divides the valley of Campan from that of the Bartan.

It is a wild and lonely place, and the loneliness of its position is
increased by our being able to mark with precision the spot where
cultivation ceases and nature asserts her uncontrolled dominion. Here
the road ceases altogether, a bridle-path alone conducting across the
still-distant ridge, called the Tourmalet, which is crowned by the
remoter heights of Neouvièlle and the Pic d'Espade, from whose base
flows the Adour--a slender but impetuous stream, whose course becomes
visible only as it issues from a dense forest of black fir, which
stretches half-way up the mountain.

The ascent to the Tourmalet occupied about two hours; and at high noon
we dismounted on the ridge, with the Bastan before us; on every side
innumerable peaks, and, winding along the valley, the road which leads
to Barèges. Besides those already named, the most conspicuous heights
are the Pic de l'Epée, the Pic de Bergons, and, at the further extremity
of the valley, the Monné, which overhangs Cauteretz, and is yet visible
from this point. The Valley of the Bastan is singularly desolate,
presenting nothing to the eye but the rugged flanks of mountains,
scored, as it would seem, by the rush of torrents, and massive rocks,
whose _débris_ lie scattered below, often obstructing the course of the
Gave, which finds its source in the melted snows of the Neouvièlle. Some
of the peaks near the Tourmalet are of peculiar form: one of them,
pointed out to me by Charlet, is called the _Campana de Vasse_--the Bell
of the Valley--which the mountaineers believe is to awaken the echoes of
the Pyrenees on the day of judgment, and call the dead before the last
tribunal.

After resting about an hour on the ridge of the Tourmalet, enjoying the
solitude of a scene which was interrupted but once--by a soldier, a
convalescent from the waters of Barèges, on his way back to join his
garrison at Tarbes,--we remounted, and rode slowly down the Bastan,
every turn of the road disclosing some fresh object to excite admiration
or surprise. When we reached Barèges, the place was entirely deserted by
visitors--even the houses were gone,--for the greater part of those
erected for the company who throng the valley in the summer, being
merely of wood, are removed to places of greater security than Barèges,
where they run the risk of being destroyed by the floods and "moving
accidents" of the mountains. We made no stay, therefore; but, like the
Lady Baussière, "rode on" at a leisurely pace, the more fully to enjoy
the wondrous beauties of the road between Barèges and Luz, where we
arrived about four o'clock in the afternoon.

There is only one hotel at Luz; but it is the best in the Pyrenees,--not
only for the nature of the accommodation, but the civility and attention
of the host, the hostess, and their pretty _protegée_, Marie, who acts
as waiter, _femme-de-chambre_, and _factotum_ to the establishment. A
good dinner was promised, and the promise was faithfully kept,--bear
witness the delicate blue trout, which I have nowhere met with so good,
except, perhaps, at Berne. But as there yet remained an hour or two of
daylight, I employed the interval in visiting the ruins of the old
feudal castle of St. Marie, and in sketching the church built by the
Templars, which resembles a fortalice, rather than a place of worship. I
examined the building carefully, but could not satisfy myself that I had
really discovered the walled-up entrance, by which alone, _it is said_,
the wretched cagots were formerly permitted to enter the church. The
figures which flitted near, pausing, occasionally, to inspect my work,
habited, as they were, in the long cloak and _capuchon_ of the country,
might well have passed for contemporaries of the superstitious fear
which excluded the unfortunate victims of disease from an equality of
rights with their fellow-men; but the cagot himself is no longer
visible. Here I loitered, till it was too dark to draw another line;
and then wended back to the _Hôtel des Pyrénées_, to recruit myself
after the fatigues of the day, and prepare for those of the morrow.

Long before the day broke, we were again in the saddle, and, as we
passed St. Sauveur, its long range of white buildings could only be
faintly traced; but, as we advanced, the snowy peak of Bergons, glowing
in the rays of the rising sun, seemed to light us on our way, and coily
the charms of the valley revealed themselves to my eager gaze. I have
wandered in many lands, and seen much mountain-scenery; but I think I
never beheld any that approaches the beauty and sublimity of the road to
Gavarnie. There is everything here to delight the eye, and fill the mind
with wonder,--

    "All that expands the spirit, yet appals."

For some miles the road continues to ascend; in many places, a mere
horse-track, cut in the mountain side, and fenced by a low wall from an
abyss of fearful depth, in whose dark cavity is heard the roar of the
torrent which afterwards converts the generic name of Gave into one
peculiar to itself. The sides of the mountains are thickly clothed with
box, which grows to a great height; and at this season the Autumn tint
had given to it the loveliest hues, contrasting well with the dark pines
which climb to the verge of vegetation on the far-off slopes. Suddenly,
the character of the scene is altered,--the road descends--the foliage
disappears, or shows itself only in patches in the ravines, and masses
of dark grey rock usurp its place; the noisy waters of the Gave make
themselves more distinctly heard, and a few rude cottages appear. This
is the village of Gèdre: and here I witnessed one of those
mountain-effects which are often so terrible. A week before, two houses
stood by the way-side--the homes of the peasants whom we saw at work in
a neighbouring meadow. They were then, as now, employed in cutting grass
for hay, when a low, rumbling noise was heard in the valley, which soon
grew louder; and the affrighted labourers, casting their eyes upwards,
saw that an enormous rock had suddenly detached itself from the
mountain, and was now thundering down the steep. They fled with
precipitation, and succeeded in saving their lives; but when they
ventured to return to the spot, they found that an immense block had
fallen upon one of the cottages, crushing it into powder, and leaving
nothing standing but one of the gable ends. So it still remained,--and
so, no doubt, it will continue till the end of time; for the mass is too
ponderous to be moved by anything short of a convulsion of nature.

I could have wished to have turned aside at Gèdre to visit the Cascade
of Saousa, but Gavarnie beckoned onwards to greater attractions; so
again we pursued our route, and I speedily lost all thought for other
wonders in the tremendous passes which bear the name of Chaos, and of
which the best description can give but a faint and imperfect idea. The
huge masses of rock, looking like fallen buildings, which are strewn
along the valley in inextricable confusion, defy calculation. There they
lie, the consequence of some terrific _déboulement_, which must have
shaken the mountains to their centre when the mighty ruin was effected.
It is supposed that the accident may have occurred in the sixth century,
when a fearful earthquake disturbed the Pyrenees; but no written record
remains to attest it. On the first view of this scene of disorder, it
seems as if all further progress were stopped; but as we descend amongst
the enormous blocks, a path is found winding through them, which the
perseverance of the mountaineers has formed. Emerging from this terrific
glen, the pastures and fields which surround the village of Gavarnie
smile a welcome to the traveller, which is but ill-confirmed when he
reaches the gloomy inn--the last and worst in France. Here we abandoned
our horses, and after glancing at the cascade of Ossonne, I passed
hastily through the village, and, mounting on a flat rock, threw myself
down to gaze upon the stupendous Circus of Gavarnie, which, though still
a full league distant, appears, at the first glance, to be within a
quarter of an hour's walk. I was all impatience to reach the foot of
that cascade of which I had so often read, but which I scarcely ever
hoped to _see_, and, as soon as Charlet had stabled his steeds, we set
out. For the first mile the road lay between narrow meadows, which owe
their freshness to the Gave; these then gave place to a stony plain, the
dry beds of some ancient lakes; and having traversed their expanse, we
crossed the last bridge, constructed by the hands of man, over the
river, and then climbing a series of sharp, irregular ascents, which
would have passed for very respectable hills elsewhere, but here seemed
mole-heaps only, we stood, at length, on the perpetual snow, which forms
a solid crust at the foot of the circus of Gavarnie.

It seemed as if I had at length realised one of those dreams which fill
the mind when first we read the wondrous tales of old romance: it was,
indeed, the very spot described in one of the most celebrated of the
earliest cycle; but my thoughts were less of Charlemagne and his
paladins--though the Brèche de Roland was now within reach--than of the
stupendous grandeur of the scene. It required very little exercise of
fancy to imagine that we had arrived at the end of the world--so
perfectly impassable appeared the barrier which suddenly rose before us.
The frowning walls of granite which form the lowest grade of this vast
amphitheatre, rise to a height of twelve hundred feet perpendicularly,
and extend to nearly three-quarters of a league, increasing in width as
they ascend to the regions of eternal snow; where may be traced a
succession of precipices, until they are lost in the bases of the
Cylindre and the Tours de Marboré, themselves the outworks of the Mont
Perdu, from whose glaciers flow the numerous cascades which, in summer,
shoot from the lower ridge of the Circus.

The great waterfall of Gavarnie--the loftiest in Europe--pours its
slender stream from a height of upwards of thirteen hundred feet, on the
eastern side of the Circus, and in its snow-cold water I dipped my
travelling-cup, qualifying with veritable Cognac the draught I drank to
the health of distant friends.

My great desire was to make the ascent of the Brèche de Roland; but
Charlet had learnt, in the village where he made inquiry, that the snow
had fallen heavily on the mountains only the day before, and that,
consequently, it would be a matter of extreme difficulty and danger to
make the attempt. It was now past mid-day, and the time necessary for
accomplishing the ascent with the prospect of returning by daylight, was
too limited; so, with reluctance, I gave up the idea. The season at
which I visited Gavarnie was, indeed, too late (it was the 9th of
October,) to admit of being very excursive, for long days and steady
weather are absolutely necessary to enable one to do justice to
mountain-scenery. I resolved, however, to remain within the Circus as
long as I could, and, after descending to the _Pont de Neige_, from
whose blue depths rushes the Gave de Pau, I climbed a rock at the edge
of the snow, and sat there lost in admiration of the glorious scene. As
I looked in the direction of the Brèche, itself invisible from the spot
where I was, I observed an eagle soaring majestically above the cleft
where tradition points to the last exploit of the valorous nephew of
Charlemagne, whose type the imperial bird might well be deemed. It was
here, according to the _veracious_ chronicle of Archbishop Turpin, that,
after defeating the Saracen king, Marsires, in the pass of Roncesvalles,
Roland, grievously wounded, laid himself down to die, the shrill notes
of his horn having failed to bring him the succour he expected from his
uncle. It is in Roncesvalles that poets have laid the scene of his
death, where--

    "On Fontarabian echoes borne
    The dying hero's call"

resounded; and, if truth attaches to the received story of his death,
Roncesvalles is, no doubt, the site. But the legend has shed its romance
on the immortal heights of the towers of Marboré; and, to account for
the fissure in the rock, it must be with these in our recollection,
that we read that quaint apostrophe to his sword which the chronicler
has preserved:--

After laying himself down beneath a rock, Roland drew his sword,
Durendal, and regarding it _"with great pity and compassion,"_ he
exclaimed, in a loud voice, "plorant et larmoyant:"--

"O très beau cousteau resplendissant, qui tant as duré et qui as ésté si
large, si ferme et si forte, en manche de clere yvoire: duquel la croix
est faicte d'or et la supface dorée decorée et embellye du pommeau faiet
de pierres de beril; escript et engravé du grand nô de Dieu singulier,
Alpha et OO. Si bien tranchant en la pointe et environné de la vertu de
Dieu. Qui est celluy qui plus et oultre moy usera de ta saincte force,
mais qui sera desormais ton possesseur? Certes celluy qui te possédera
ne sera vaincu ny estonné, ne ne redoubtera toute la force des ennemys;
il n'aura jamais pour d'aucunes illusions et fantasies, car luy de Dieu
et de la grace sérôt en profection et sauvegarde. O que tu es eureuse
espée digne de mémoire, car par toy sôt Sarrazins destruictz et occis et
les gens infidèles mis a mort; dont la foy des Chrestiens est exaltée et
la louenge de Dieu et gloire partout le môde universel acquise. O a
combien de fois ay je vengé sang de vostre seigneur Jesu-christ par ton
puissât moyen, et mis à mort les ennemys de la nouvelle loy de grace en
ce nouveau temps acceptable de salut; côbien ay je tranché de
Sarrazins; combien de Juifs et aultres mescréant infidèles batus et
destruictz, pour exaltation et gloire de la saincte foy Chrestiennie!
Par toy noble cousteau tranchant Durendal de longue durée, la chevalerie
de Dieu le Créateur est accomplye et les pieds es mainz des larrons
acoustuméz qui gastoyent le bien de la chose publicque, gastéz et
separéz de leurs corps. J'ay vengé par autant de foys le sang de
Jesu-christ respendu sur terre que j'ay mis-à-mort par ton fort moyen
aucun Juif et Sarrazin. O, o espée très eureuse de la quelle n'est la
semblable n'a esté ne ne sera! Certes celluy qui t'a forgée jamais
semblable ne fist devant luy ny après; car tous ceulx qui ont esté de
toy blesséz n'ont pu vivre puis après. Si d'aventure aucû chevalier non
hardy ou paresseux te possède après ma mort j'en seray grandement
dolent. Et si aucun Sarrazin mescréant ou infidèle te touche aucunement
j'en suis en grant dueil et angoisse."

Having made this lamentation, the valiant Roland, resolving that his
weapon should never pass into other hands, raised his arm, and, with the
last effort of expiring nature, clove the massy rock in twain, breaking
the good sword, Durendal, into a thousand shivers by the force of the
blow.

The voice of Charlet roused me from the reverie into which I had fallen,
desiring me to look in the direction of the great cascade at a troop of
izards that were bounding up the rocks. I turned and saw the graceful
little creatures scaling, with inconceivable agility, heights which
seemed absolutely perpendicular, so slight is the hold which they
require for their tiny hoofs. It was but for a minute that I beheld
them; in the next they were lost behind a projecting rock, and I saw
them no more.

We now turned our faces down the valley, often, however, pausing to look
back; and before we again entered the village of Gavarnie we stopped at
the little old church to inspect the sculls called "Les crânes des douze
Templiers," who are said to have been beheaded by order of Philippe
le-Bel. Whether true or false, they are the only antiquities here--the
church being comparatively modern. At the unpromising inn we found our
horses refreshed by rest; and, without more ado, we remounted and
returned by the road we came to Luz, which we reached soon after
nightfall.

Quitting Luz the next morning, with much regret at being unable to
remain longer to explore the beauties which surround it, we took the
road to Pierrefitte, and, after a pleasant ride of about two hours, in
the course of which we passed through the most lovely scenery--the most
remarkable features of which are the depth and narrowness of the
mountain gorges, and the boldness of the bridges which span them, one in
particular bearing the characteristic name of the _Pont d'Enfer_--we
arrived at the Hôtel de la Poste at Pierrefitte, where my carpet-bag was
deposited, to lighten the load of Charlet's horse, for we had many
miles that day to travel. We then pushed on towards Cauteretz, ascending
by the old road, which, though steep, saves much time to those lightly
mounted; from its point of junction with the new one, it is as fine as
any in Europe, and the variety which it offers makes the valley as
beautiful as any in the Pyrenees, while it retains its own distinctive
character, caused by the greater quantity of foliage, thus gaining in
softness what it loses in grandeur. After crossing a fine bridge, about
half-way up the valley, the road takes a spiral direction, called _Le
Limaçon_, the buttresses which support it being remarkable for the
solidity and excellence of the masonry; and having made our way to the
summit, the peak of the Monné above Cauteretz became visible for the
first time since leaving the Tourmalet.

At Cauteretz we merely stopped to breakfast, my object being to visit
the Lac de Gaube, at the foot of the Vignemale. It was Sunday morning,
and a fair was being held in the market-place, the principal articles
for sale being the many-coloured chaplets manufactured at Betharram:
there were many pretty faces in the little stalls, and many sweet voices
offered their wares for sale; but I resisted the temptation--the more
readily, perhaps, from knowing that the glass beads would have very
little chance of remaining unbroken in a scrambling mountain-ride. About
half-a-mile from Cauteretz we fell in with a party of dragoons,
bringing their horses from the mineral springs, whither they are
sent--like other invalids--for cure, from the Haras of Pau and Tarbes.
The fine animals looked in excellent condition and spirits, and seemed
to have benefited wonderfully by the visit. Passing the baths, we
ascended the bridle-road above the Gave de Marcadaou, with dark forests
of pine on either hand--a favourite resort for bear-hunters. The great
charm of this road consists in the numerous cascades which mark the
course of the Gave; they are, without question, the most beautiful in
the Pyrenees, where the mountain-falls are, for the most part, deficient
in volume. The finest of these, where all are striking, is the cascade
of the Cerizet, which bears a greater resemblance to the falls of the
Aar, in the canton of Berne, than any I remember. It is not so massive a
fall, but it gave me the impression of being more picturesque, from the
effect produced by the superb pines which hang over it, whose branches,
covered with the spray which rises from the cascade, like vapour,

    "Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
    Their medicinal gum----."

Charlet told me that we saw the Cerizet at the most fortunate hour; for
it is at mid-day that the "sun-bow rays," at this season,

    "----Arch
    The torrent with the many hues of heaven,"

and a lovely iris was settled on it at the moment we descended to a huge
rock, on which we stood to watch "the roar of waters."

Beyond the Cerizet are two other fine falls--the _Pas de l'Ours_ and the
_Coussin_--which we pass on the way to the Pont d'Espagne, where the
roads separate; the one in front leading into Spain by the Val de
Jarret, and the other--which turns suddenly to the left--crossing the
bridge, and conducting to the Lac de Gaube. The Pont d'Espagne is a most
picturesque object: two torrents unite a little below it, one of which
is the Marcadaou, the other the Gave that issues from the lonely lake;
the Marcadaou rushes over a broad, flat rock--foaming and boiling, as if
with rage to meet an expected enemy--while the deeper Gave throws itself
from its narrow bed, and twists and turns, apparently falling back on
itself, as if it sought to avoid the collision: they meet, however, and
after the first concussion they flow on, smoothly enough, till a sudden
turn hides them from our view, and we hear only their angry voices,
caused by some fresh interruption to their course. But to have the
finest view of the general effect, the bridge must be seen from below,
where a rock stands boldly out, intercepting the heady current. It is
constructed of fir-trees, felled on the spot, whose light stems,
standing out in relief against the clear blue sky, seem almost too
fragile to withstand the concussion caused by the "hell of waters"
beneath. Nowhere does the pine appear to so much advantage as beside the
Pont d'Espagne; some are the "wrecks of a single winter," others display
a profusion of dark foliage, and the branches of all are thickly covered
with grey parasitic moss, that hangs to them like hair, and gives to
them a most picturesque appearance, like bearded giants guarding the
romantic pass.

The narrow pathway through the forest, which leads to the Lac de Gaube,
is excessively steep, and turns at least twenty times as it pursues its
zigzag course. For the first half-hour nothing was visible but
pine-trees, firs, and blocks of granite; and the road was difficult even
for the sure-footed beasts which we bestrode; at length, we cleared the
wood, and at once the Vignemale rose in awful splendour before us, its
glaciers glittering in the sun, ten thousand feet above the bed of the
dark blue lake, itself at a vast elevation above the level of the sea.
Next to Gavarnie, this view of the Vignemale struck me as the most
impressive object I had seen, the presence of the still lake reminding
me of similar scenes in Switzerland; none of which, however, imparted
the sense of solitude so completely as this. It might possibly arise
from the associations belonging to the Lac de Gaube, the mournful
evidence of which was before my eyes, in the little tomb raised to the
memory of the unfortunate husband and wife who were drowned here in the
year 1832. It stands on a small, rocky promontory, enclosed by a light
iron rail, and the tablet bears the following inscription in French and
English, on opposite sides. I transcribed both, and give the latter:--

"This tablet is dedicated to the memory of William Henry Pattisson, of
Lincoln's Inn, London, Esq., barrister at law; and of Susan Frances, his
wife, who, in the 31st and 26th years of their age, and within one month
of their marriage, to the inexpressible grief of their surviving
relations and friends, were accidentally drowned together in this lake,
on the 20th day of September, 1832. Their remains wore conveyed to
England, and interred there at Witham, in the county of Essex."

The account given me of the manner in which the accident occurred was,
that Mr. and Mrs. Pattison visited the lake from Cauteretz in _chaises à
porteurs_, and that Mr. Pattison went first of all alone in the boat,
having vainly urged his wife to accompany him: after pulling some
distance out, he paused, and, by his voice and gestures, intimated how
charmed he was with the effect; he then returned to the shore, and
overcame Mrs. Pattison's repugnance to enter the boat. She stepped in,
and he again rowed about half a mile, when suddenly he was seen by the
men on shore to rise in the boat, and in an instant it was overset, and
both were plunged in the lake. Mr. Pattison sunk at once, but his
wife's clothes buoyed her up for a considerable time; ineffectually,
however, for none of the bearers of the _chaises à porteurs_ could swim;
her cries were in vain, and she, too, perished. How the accident arose,
none can tell, and a mystery must for ever hang over the fatal event.

On seeing the wretched apology for a boat, which is still used by the
fisherman who keeps a little _auberge_ beside the lake, and is the same
in which the sad catastrophe occurred, no one can be surprised that an
accident should have happened; the only wonder is that it did not
founder altogether, for it is little better than the trunk of a tree
hollowed out, and turned adrift to take its chance of sinking or
floating. Into this crazy contrivance I had no desire to venture, the
lake appearing too cold for an impromptu bath.

Reluctantly, from hence, as from every other spot which I visited in the
Pyrenees, I turned away, longing to have ascended the Vignemale, but
knowing too well how few were the days allotted to my mountain
excursion.

We returned by the same route to Pierrefitte, and then bid adieu to the
sublimities of the _Hautes Pyrénées_; for, beautiful as the country is
at the foot of the mountains, its beauty is tame, and produces,
comparatively, little effect on the mind until time has effaced the
first impression. It was late that night before we reached Argelez,
where the _Hôtel du Commerce_ received us.

For fertility, and all the softer charms that render a landscape
pleasing, there is, perhaps, no place on earth that exceeds the valley
of Lavedan, in which Argelez is situated. It is "a blending of all
beauties," tempting the traveller to pause upon the way, and set up his
rest in a region where everything seems to speak of peace and happiness.
The inhabitants, however, can scarcely be happy, for the disease of
_crétinism_ is more widely spread here than in any other place in the
department. The valley is famous for the breed of Pyrenean dogs, which
are to be met with everywhere in the mountains, guarding the flocks and
herds. It was my fortune to acquire a very fine specimen, only a
fortnight old, which travelled with me in a basket to London, and six
months afterwards, the largest kennel could scarcely contain it. These
dogs are excessively strong, and are esteemed fierce; but their
fierceness belongs rather to the wild life they lead amidst bears and
wolves, to whom they prove formidable antagonists.

On one of the hills which skirt the valley of Castelloubon, between
Argelez and Lourdes, I once more obtained a view of the Mont Perdu,
distant now upwards of forty miles; it was the last glimpse of the
wonders of the Hautes Pyrénées that was vouchsafed to me.

The garrisoned fortress of Lourdes,--the picturesque bridge and convent
of Betharram, and the smiling plain which borders the Gave de Pau, were
all passed in turn, and on the evening of the fifth day from my
departure I was again in the streets of Pau.



CHAPTER VI.

     VALLÉE D'OSSAU--LE HOURAT--THE RIO VERDE--EAUX CHAUDES EAUX
     BONNES--BIELLE--IZESTE--SACCAZE, THE NATURALIST.

    "Salut Ossau, la montagnarde,
    La Béarnaise, que Dieu garde!
    Avec bonheur je te regarde,
    Douce vallée!--et sur ma foy
    Parmi tes soeurs que je desire,
    De Leucate à Fontarable
    Je te dis que la plus jolie
    Ne peut se comparer à toi."

    Ancienne Balade.


ON rather a cold morning, early in October, we set out from Pau for the
Vallée d'Ossau; the road between the hills covered with vines of
Jurançon. Gan and Gelos are extremely pretty. We passed a house which
was pointed out to us as belonging to the Baron Bernadotte, nephew to
the King of Sweden, who, being a native of Pau, divides the honours of
the town with Henry IV. Formerly, in this spot stood a castle, where a
singularly Arcadian custom prevailed; every shepherd of the Vallée
d'Ossau who passed by that spot with his flock, was required to place a
small branch of leaves in a large ring fixed on the portal. If their
lords insisted on no heavier homage than this, their duty was not very
severe.

We passed through Gan--a wretched-looking village, once of great
importance; one of the _thirteen towns_ of Béarn; originally surrounded
by walls and towers, of which nothing now remains except a few stones,
which have served to build the houses. A _tourelle_ is shown in the
place as having formed part of the house of Marca, the historian of
Béarn: there is an inscription on it, and arms, with the date of 1635.

The further we advanced the more the scenery improved, and as we
followed the course of the beautiful, rapid, and noisy river Nès, which
went foaming over its shallow, stony bed, making snowy cascades at every
step, we were delighted with the gambols of that most beautiful of
mountain-torrents, which appears to descend a series of marble stairs of
extraordinary extent, rushing and leaping along the solitary gorge like
a wild child at play.

The village of Sévignac opens the Vallée d'Ossau; and a host of
villages, and a wide spread of pasture-land, with high mountains
stretching far away into the distance, were before us. We breakfasted at
Louvie, and then continued our route, the road becoming wilder, and
having more character, than hitherto; we seemed now to have entered the
gorges, and to be really approaching the great mountains, which, in
strange and picturesque shapes, rose up in all directions around us. The
most striking object here, is an isolated mount, on the summit of which
stand the ruins of a feudal tower, called Castel Jaloux, built by Gaston
Phoebus, for the convenience of holding the assemblies of Ossau, there
to meet the viscounts who were independent of the kingdom of Béarn. The
village of Castets is at the base of the rock, concealed amidst thick
foliage: this situation is charming, in the midst of gigantic steeps and
rich valleys, with the Gave foaming at its foot.

Laruns, the chief town of the canton, is a long, straggling town, almost
Swiss in the construction of its houses: it has a small antique church,
where there is a _bénitier_, curiously ornamented with figures of
_syrens_: this is a favourite ornament in this part of the world,
difficult to be explained, unless it is intended to represent some
water-nymphs of the different Gaves, for it is too far from the sea to
have any allusion to an ocean spirit. The road divides here, one route
leading to the Eaux Bonnes, the other to the Eaux Chaudes; we proposed
visiting the former on our way back, our intention being, if possible,
to attempt the ascent of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau.

We continued to mount by a fine road, having magnificent views before
and around, in order the better to enjoy which, we chose to walk for
some distance up the height, between walls of rock, of all colours and
shapes, covered with purple heath, and changing leaves, and delicate
flowers of various hues. When we reached the summit, we found ourselves
in a narrow defile, where a party of peasants were endeavouring, by main
force, to assist a huge cart, drawn by labouring and straining horses,
up the precipitous ascent--a perilous and painful work, which, however,
they accomplished very well. We heard beyond a hoarse murmur, which told
us we should soon rejoin the Gave, which here runs under the rocks, and
reappears in a bed, upwards of four hundred feet deep. The high rocks
seemed nearly to meet, and form a way exactly like the approach to a
fortified castle: this pass is called _Le Hourat_. A little chapel is
built at the other end of the opening, enclosing a figure of the
Virgin--an object of great veneration in the neighbourhood. There was
formerly here a long inscription in honour of the visit to the baths of
the Princess Catherine, sister of Henry the Fourth; but every trace of
it has disappeared, though there are many travellers whose eyes are so
good as to be able to discern it, notwithstanding the fact of its having
been carefully erased at the time of the great Revolution, when no royal
_souvenir_ was permitted to remain.

From this point, to the village of the Eaux Chaudes, the way is the most
savage, wild, and beautiful that can be imagined: the torrent raving
along its rocky bed, and foaming cataracts tumbling into its waters from
numerous woody heights; at length we saw the little nest where the baths
lie concealed; and descended between steep rocks, which shut the valley
in so closely, that it appears almost possible to touch the two sides,
which incline as if to form a canopy over the houses. We secured rooms
for the night at the hotel--a very large one, and, in moderately warm
weather, no doubt pleasant enough; but at this period all was as chill
and dreary as if it had been in December. With much delay and difficulty
we procured horses, and lost no time in setting out for Gabas, though
the ominous appearance of the sky promised but little for our attempt;
however, for the seven miles we rode along the exquisite
valley--unequalled in its kind--nothing could exceed the delight and
admiration I felt at the grandeur of the unexpected scenery; piles of
naked rocks rose on one side of the road--which is as good as
possible--while on the other they were covered with trees of every
growth, with, as we advanced higher, a few pines appearing here and
there; the torrent met us, rushing down impetuously over large and more
encumbering blocks of stone, which, impeding its course, caused the
waters to leap and struggle and foam and dash, till clouds of spray
filled the valley, and its thundering voice echoed through the hollow
caverns on the banks: its rich _green_ colour, as clear as crystal, came
out brilliantly from its crest of foam, so that the stream looked really
a _Rio Verde_.

Long silver lines of shining water came trickling or rushing down from
every height amongst the trees and shrubs, sometimes splashing across
our path, and joining a little clear course which was hurrying forward
to throw itself down the rock into the bosom of the mother Gave, on the
other side. We stopped our horses so often to contemplate the beautiful
_accidents_ of rock and torrent, that by the time we reached the village
of Gabas the day was closing in, and we found that it would take us two
hours to reach the summit of the great mountain, which we scarcely
remembered, in our pleasure at the beauties of the ride, had never been
visible to us for a moment; in fact, a heavy mist hung over the snowy
peaks, all of which were shrouded. Scarcely regretting the necessity for
retracing our steps, we turned back, and had another view of the wonders
of the lovely valley. The mountains now wore a more sombre hue, and the
deepened shadows gave a severer character to the ravines. An eagle
sailed majestically over our heads, much to my delight, as it was the
only incident which we seemed to want to render the scene complete in
lonely grandeur. That which is unaccustomed has a greater power over the
imagination; and to me, who had never seen Switzerland or Italy, and to
whom eagles were almost a fable, the solemn flight of one of these
monarchs of the air, so peculiar in its movements, sailing along the
peaks above the cataracts, was very impressive. It was then, by the
shaking I experienced at every step, that I was aware how very steep had
been our ascent the whole way from the Eaux Chaudes; our little sturdy
mountain-ponies had cantered on so gaily, that I imagined we were on
even ground: so far from which, we found on the return the motion so
painful, that most of us got off our horses and walked. It was nearly
dark when we arrived at the hotel, and we were not sorry to crowd round
a blazing fire, and find all prepared for our refreshment.

The night was like winter, and the incessant roaring of the torrent
prevented anything approaching sleep; but the sun rose brightly, and the
next day was perfectly warm and genial. We took our way to Bonnes, and
found the beauty of the journey increased by the fine effects of light
and shade which the improved weather allowed; and, as we mounted the
steep hill leading to the village, nothing could exceed the splendour of
the view; the snowy top of the Pic de Ger, which the day before was not
visible, now came out from a canopy of clouds; and huge rocks and
verdant mountains, at different heights, descended in steps to the rich
and glowing valley beneath, dotted with white cottages and thick groves:
the Gave, on one side spanned by a beautiful picturesque bridge, rushes
down on the other into a profound ravine, through which its waters run a
subterranean course, till they reappear below the Hourah.

The brilliant sun which favoured us exhibited the Eaux Bonnes in its
best light, and it seemed a delightful contrast to the chilly gorge we
had left at the Eaux Chaudes. The hotels are well furnished, and there
appears every convenience for the numerous visitors who crowd here in
the summer. We walked to a fine waterfall just behind the inn where we
stopped,--formed by the Valentin and the Sonde,--which is grand in the
extreme. There are several other fine cascades in the neighbourhood, but
this was the only one I saw. A way by a pretty, narrow, winding path to
the top of a heathy hill is charming, and here a rustic temple is
erected from whence the view is enchanting. Behind rises the majestic
Pic de Ger, rugged and hoary, crowned with snow, the first that had
shown itself in this region. The rocks and mountains are quite close,
pressing in upon the village, and its establishment of baths; but, as
the situation is on a height, it has a less confined appearance than the
valley of the rival baths, and was, on the day we visited it, like
another climate,--warm and genial: it must be extremely hot in the
summer, as, indeed, all these gorges cannot fail to be. We talked to a
lively young woman at the window of one of the now deserted
boarding-houses, who told us she was a native of the Eaux Chaudes, whose
merits she considered so superior to those of the Eaux Bonnes, that she
had never deigned to cast her eyes, she said, up towards the paltry
mountain of Ger, which the people of this gorge had the presumption to
compare to that of the Pic du Midi: "One is here buried alive," said
she, "with no walks, no mountains, no torrents; it is quite a waste of
life, and I am resolved never to go to the top of that mole-hill of Ger,
about which they make such a fuss: how disgusted you must be with it
after the other!" She had once been to Pau, which she considered another
Paris, but not so gay as the Eaux Bonnes; so that we learnt another
lesson, which convinced us that every person sees with different eyes
from his neighbours, and "proudly proclaims the spot of earth" which has
most interest for him, the best.

We were free to differ with this fair Ossalaise; for, much as we admired
her beautiful valley, we could not but give its rival nearly as much
praise; admiring in particular the stupendous waterfall of the Valentin,
where we lingered some time, climbing about the rocks, almost stunned by
the roar of the waters, which break from the rock in three divisions;
and so rushing over the projecting buttresses till they subside in the
broad, cold, pebbly lake below.

The Vallée d'Ossau is said to combine all the beauties of the Pyrenees;
and is certainly one of the most enchanting spots in nature: the scenery
reminded me, in some degree, of that at the Mont Dore, in Auvergne; but,
though superior in some respects, the magnificent _plateaux_ of gigantic
pines were wanting. It is necessary, in the Pyrenees, to ascend much
higher than we did to behold this growth,--a few straggling firs of
insignificant size are all that are to be seen in the lower range; but I
believe they are very fine in some parts.

We stopped at Bielle to visit the Roman pavement, which has only lately
been discovered; it was shown to us by a woman who was surrounded by
five little children with black eyes and rosy cheeks; for this region is
the Paradise of children; they all look so healthy and handsome. The
mother, though still young, looked ten years older than she really
was,--worn and tanned, like all I had hitherto seen; her remarkably
small feet were bare, and she wore the fringed leggings peculiar to this
part, which have a singularly Indian appearance. Beauty is said to be
common in this country; but we had not met a single female who deserved
to be called so; nor did the costume strike us as otherwise than coarse
and ungraceful: in this particular forming a great contrast to the
peasantry of Switzerland, with whose mountains there is here a
parallel. The _patois_ spoken by this family sounded very musical and
pretty; and we remarked that the villagers in general seemed gentle and
civil: a little boy, who constituted himself our guide, was a strange
figure, actually covered with rags and tatters, which hung about him in
the most grotesque drapery, as if it had been studied to create
laughter: the village looked the very picture of poverty, desolation,
dirt, and ruin: the church is a piece of antiquity of great interest. It
has evidently been a pagan temple; and, ranged in an outer court,
surrounded by circular arches, are placed some stone coffins, which
excite wonder and interest; three of them have the lid of the ridged
form, called _dos d'âne_: the other is flattened, and all are uninjured.
They might seem to belong to the period when Charlemagne's knights
required so many tombs in this land. It was in re-constructing a new
vestry-room that these treasures were discovered beneath the worn stones
which had been removed: no inscriptions give a hint to whom they may
have belonged, and there they lie, side by side, mysterious relics of
the times of chivalry.

The pillars inside the church are very celebrated for their extreme
beauty: they are of white and blue jasper, found in a quarry near
Bielle. A story is told of Henry IV., who greatly admired these pillars,
having sent to request the town to make him a present of them, as he
found nothing in his capital that could compare with their beauty; he
received this answer: "Bous quets meste de noustes coos et de noustes
beés; mei per co qui es Deus pialars diu temple, aquets que son di Diu,
dab eig quep at bejats." "You may dispose of our hearts and our goods at
your will; as for the columns, they belong to God; manage the matter
with Him."

The Ossalais in this showed no little wit; or, if the tradition is not
founded on fact, the story still exhibits their powers of setting a due
value on their possessions in a striking light. Bielle was once a place
of great importance, and its church belonged to an abbey of
Benedictines: there was formerly a stone on the façade, on which was
engraved the arms of the Valley--a _Bear and a Bull_, separated by a
beech tree, with this device: "_Ussau é Bearn. Vive la Vacca_." The
ancient archives of Ossau are kept in a stone coffer at Bielle; and the
dignitaries of the country repair to this spot at certain periods of the
year to consult on the affairs of the communes. What habitation they
find wherein to meet, suitable to their dignity, it would be difficult
to say.

We stopped an hour at Izeste, and strolled along the one street of this
wretched bourg while our horses rested: over almost every house we were
surprised to see sculptured stones, with half-effaced arms, showing that
once persons of condition inhabited these now degraded dwellings. One in
particular, in a singular state of preservation, represented the
cognizance of the house of Lusignan, and here we did indeed see the
effigy which we had failed to find at the castle near Poitiers, of the
serpent-tailed Fairy Melusine. We went into the house of the proprietor,
who, with his mother and several of his neighbours, hurried out, after
peeping from their windows to watch the operation of the sketching of
Melusine, and invited us to see another head of a woman which he had
found in the garden of his tenement. We passed along several dim, dark
passages, and through large, square, dungeon-like rooms, apparently
serving as stables, to the garden, where we found numerous remains of
ancient Roman wall and bricks and broken columns, and the head of a
statue much defaced. Every house seemed capable of exhibiting similar
remains, and on many were dates in stone of 1613, 1660, 1673. One tower
of defence is tolerably perfect; and walls and remnants of gates here
and there prove how strong and how important Izeste once must have been.

We entered a court-yard, where a tailor was sitting working close by a
curious door-way, which appeared like the entrance to a church, and was
built into a wall, forming part of what was formerly a large mansion. We
were so much struck with the extraordinary sculpture round the arch,
that we inquired if there was any record of what it had been. The tailor
looked up surprised: "Well," said he, "I have lived here all my life,
and never took notice of this door-way before: we have plenty of old
stones here; but they are worth nothing, and mean nothing, that I know
of."

The carving which so excited our curiosity was a series of medallions:
some circular, some square, very much mutilated, but still traceable. On
one compartment were the figures of a bear _rampant_, and--what might
be--a bull: they seemed in the act of combat, and possibly might
represent the arms of Béarn and Ossau, though I confess I look upon them
as of _very early_ date--perhaps the work of the Gauls or Goths, _selon
moi_; another enclosed a Sagittarius and a dog; another, an animal like
a wolf, holding a club; another, an ape: the rest are too much worn to
enable an antiquarian to decide what they were; but the whole offered a
very singular and interesting problem, which we found it impossible to
solve: the medallions are on stones which have evidently belonged to
some other building, and been thus placed over a modern portal.

There is a cavern in the neighbourhood of Izeste, which is said to be
worth visiting; but the weather was not propitious to our seeing it.

We stopped on the way from the Eaux Bonnes, on our return, at a place
where our driver purchased us some ortolans, and we were almost stunned
with the noise and clamour of a crowd of little urchins, with flowers
and without, who, in whining accents, insisted on sous; but there was
nothing either pretty or romantic about them or their costume; and we
were very glad when, having procured the delicate little birds we waited
for, we could resume our route. This was just at the season of _La
Chasse des Palombes_--a time of much importance in the valley, when
hundreds of a peculiar sort of pigeons are sacrificed.

Many of the peaks which had been concealed from us the day before, came
forth from their circling mists, at intervals, on our return, and were
pointed out to us by their different names; but as we came back in the
evening to Pau, the range which was most familiar to us re-appeared in
all its splendour, much clearer than when we were nearer to them.

At Beost, in the midst of the valley, lives a man, whose industry and
genius have made him an object of curiosity and interest in the country,
and whose fame must probably cause considerable interruption to his
studies in the season of the baths; for it has become quite the fashion
to visit him. He is called Pierrine, or Gaston Saccaze; is a shepherd
who has always lived in these mountains, and has made himself so
thoroughly acquainted with the botany of the district as to have become
a valuable correspondent of the members of the Jardin des Plantes at
Paris: he taught himself Latin, by means of an old dictionary which he
bought for a few sous, and, by dint of extraordinary perseverance, has
made himself master of the whole Flora of the Pyrenees.



CHAPTER VII.

     GABAS--POPULAR SONGS--PONT CRABE--THE RECLUSE OF THE VALLÉE
     D'OSSAU--MARGUERITE--THE SPRINGS.


I made another excursion to the Vallée d'Ossau in the February of 1843,
when the weather was singularly mild--infinitely more so than when I was
first there in October, and the clearness of the sky enabled me to see
all the mountains which were before concealed in clouds. With an
adventurous party, all anxious to take advantage of the propitious
moment, I undertook a long _walk_--for at this season it is difficult to
procure horses--towards Gabas, having this time the Pic du Midi bright
and clear and close in view. The carriage was able to advance along the
steep road which extends above the foaming Gave de Gabas, nearly half
way to the desired spot; for the snow had fallen in very small quantity
during the winter, and there had been no interruption to the roads.

From a certain place, however, where two paths diverged, we found that
the height we had reached had brought us to the snows, and that it was
too slippery for the horses to proceed; accordingly we alighted and
performed the rest of the journey on foot. The walk was very exciting
and amusing, our feet sinking deep in snow at every step, while a
burning sun, _gaümas_, as the guide said, was shining over our heads,
glittering on the white peaks above, and sparkling in the deep, clear,
green torrent at the foot of the box-covered hills, over which silver
streams of water were flowing from the summits into the murmuring wave,
which churlishly received their tributary visits, and disputed the place
they took, dashing, foaming, and springing over the enormous masses of
rock in their course, till all the valley re-echoed with their ceaseless
quarrelling.

Every now and then we stopped to look back at the sublime scenery, and
to make a hasty sketch of the peaks, which tempted us to pause. Summer
and winter seemed combined in our stroll, and it appeared as if we were
realizing the fable of "_the man, the sun, and the cloud_," not knowing
whether to yield to the heat or the cold. We met two Spaniards hurrying
along, who had crossed the mountains from Saragossa: they were fine,
strong-looking men, and sufficiently wild; but too dirty and slovenly to
excite much admiration _here_; if we had seen them on the opposite side
of the ravine they might have passed for picturesque, in the same manner
as the singing of our guide might have delighted our ears had we heard
him from a distance: as it was, he indulged our request by intoning some
of the pastorals of Despourrins, which, if the spirit of the poet of the
Pyrenees is wandering amongst the mountains, must have greatly
_perturbed_ it.

A long, loud, unmelodious drawl, like a dirge, with many a dying fall,
was the vehicle in which the tender expressions of the poet were
conveyed to our ears; and I was reproached by my companions for having
injudiciously praised the verses of the Swan of Béarn: certainly heard
in mutilated fragments, and sung by such a musician--"_La Haüt sus las
Mountagnes_" and "_La Plus Charmante Anesquette_," were not calculated
to excite much admiration.

A lady of our party, who was acquainted with the popular songs of
Languedoc, repeated a few verses to our guide, who took up the strain,
which was not new to him: it is singular how widely these simple songs
are spread from one part of France to the other; indeed, they are
scarcely confined to any country, and, like traditions, seem to have
wandered up and down into all regions. For instance, I was very much
surprised, a short time ago, to see in a work on Persian popular
literature, an almost literal version of a song, well-known on the
Bourbonnais, which I had met with at Moulins.

I questioned the guide on the subject of the superstitions of the
valley, and found that he had himself _seen_ the fairies called _Les
Blanquettes_: those charming mountain-fairies who roam along the peaks
singing mournful songs. "I had often heard of them," said he, "and many
of my friends had seen them hovering about the mouths of caverns on the
highest points of the mountains. I wished, therefore, to satisfy myself,
and went to the spot where others had beheld them, and sure enough there
they were, figures in white, like women, in a circle round the entrance
of a cavern."

"And were these fairies?" I asked.

He paused a moment, and then said--"As for fairies, that is an old
story, which some people believe: these that I saw _were only shadows_."

It appears to me that superstition is fast wearing out in the Pyrenees,
as well as everywhere else.

As we continued our way, we observed, along the snowy path, tracks of
the feet of animals--a troop of wild-cats had evidently been before us,
and here and there we remarked a print, which could be nothing less than
the foot-mark of a wolf. The flight of a large bird, which I believe to
have been a vulture, added to the solemnity of the scene; but there were
less of these indications of solitude than I hoped to experience, for
all was sunshine and gaiety around.

We observed near the Pont Crabe, _i.e._ Pont des Chèvres, on the
opposite side of the ravine, a desolate-looking mill, placed in so wild
and rugged a position, that one could not but pity those whose fortune
might have condemned them to a residence there all the year round: a
story attached to the cottage made it still more sad.

It appears that a young girl, the very flower of maidens in the Vallée
d'Ossau, had been deceived and deserted by her lover, and on the point
of becoming a mother, when she consulted the priest of her parish,
confessing to him her weakness, and entreating his aid to enable her to
propitiate offended Heaven. The virtuous and holy man, shocked at the
infirmity and want of propriety exhibited by the unfortunate girl, was
very severe in his censures, and informed her that there was no way left
for her but by penance and mortification to endeavour to wipe away her
sin. He condemned her, therefore, to take up her abode in that solitary
cottage, far away from all human habitation, to spend her life in
prayer and lamentation, and to endeavour, by voluntary affliction, to
win her way to heaven.

She did so; and she and her child lived for ten years in that secluded
spot, where the constant sound of murmuring waters drowned her sighs,
and where no intruding foot came to disturb her solitude, except when
the good priest, from time to time, visited her, to afford the
consolation of his pious prayers. At the end of that time her spirit
departed, and her little son was received into the convent, of which he
became a member.

    THE RECLUSE OF THE VALLÉE D'OSSAU.

    "Say, ye waters raging round,
      Say, ye mountains, bleak and hoar,
    Is there quiet to be found,
      Where the world can vex no more?
    May I hope that peace can be
    Granted to a wretch like me!

    "Hark! the vulture's savage shriek--
      Hark! the grim wolf scares the night,--
    Thunder peals from peak to peak,
      Ghastly snows shroud ev'ry height.
    Hark! the torrent has a tone,
    Dismal--threat'ning--cold--alone!

    "Was I form'd for scenes like this,
      Flattered, trusting, vain and gay--
    In whose smile _he_ said was bliss,
      Who to hear was to obey?--
    Yes! weak idol! 'tis thy doom,
    This thy guerdon--this thy tomb!

    "When I from my heart have torn
      All the mem'ries cherish'd long;
    When my early thought at morn,
      And my sigh at even-song,
    Have not all the self-same theme,
    Peace upon my soul may gleam!

    "When no more I paint his eyes,
      When his smile no more I see,
    And his tone's soft melodies
      Wake not in each sound to me;
    When I can efface the past,
    I may look for calm--at last.

    "When resentment is at rest,
      Scorn and sorrow, rage and shame,
    Can be still'd within my breast--
      And I start not at his name;
    When I weep, nor faint, nor feel,
    Then my heart's deep wounds may heal.

    "Years, long years, it yet will take,
      Spite of pain and solitude,
    Ere this heart can cease to ache,
      And no restless dreams intrude:
    Ere I crush each fond belief,
    And oblivion vanquish grief.

    "It might be--but in my child
      All his father lives the while;
    Such his eyes--so bright, so wild--
      Such his air, his voice, his smile--
    Still I see him o'er and o'er,
    Till I dare to gaze no more!

    "Is it sin to love him yet?
      Was it sin to love at all?
    Is my torture, my regret,
      For his loss--or for my fall?
    Change, oh Heaven!--thou canst, thou wilt--
    Thoughts that sink my soul in guilt!

    "Teach me that regret is crime,
      That my past despair is vain,
    And my penance through all time
      Shall be ne'er to hope again,--
    Only in His pardon trust--
    Pitying, merciful, and just."

It is said that La Reine Marguerite, sister of Francis I., wrote the
greatest part of her celebrated stories during a sojourn at the Eaux
Chaudes: there, surrounded with a brilliant court of ladies and poets,
she passed several joyous months, and recruited her health, while she
amused her imagination, in wandering amongst the rocks and wild paths of
Gabas and La Broussette: in her train were "_joueurs, farceurs,
baladins_, and _garnemens de province_," and nothing but entertainment
seemed the business of the lives of those fair and gay invalids, who, so
long ago, set an example which has not failed to be well followed since.

The pompous inscription which once appeared in a chapel at La Hourat, in
honour of the passage of the Princess Catherine, sister of Henri IV. is
now replaced by a modern exhortation to the traveller to implore the aid
of the Virgin before he tempts the perils of the pass: and our guides
very reverently took off their _berrets_, as they went by the little
niche, where stands the image, which is an object of their adoration and
hope. Poor Catherine, always disconsolate at her separation from the
object of her choice, found but little relief from the waters--they
could not minister to a mind diseased--and she had not the joyous,
careless mind of her predecessor and grandmother; nor are we told that
she attempted to compose amusing histories to distract her thought, nor
could exclaim--

    "I write--sad task! that helps to wear away
    The long, long, mournful melancholy day;
    Write what the fervour of my soul inspires,
    And vainly fan love's slow-consuming fires."

All was sad and solitary to her; for the only companion she desired was
not there to give her his hand along the rugged paths, to support her
amongst the glittering snows, and smooth her way through the pleasing
difficulties of the abrupt ascents. Cold ceremony, and, at best, mere
duty, attended her whose heart sighed for tenderness and affection which
she was never destined to know. At that period, there was neither hotel
nor street, and the rudest huts sheltered that simple court; but they
might perhaps afford, after all, as much comfort as may at the present
day be found, in cold weather, in the irreclaimably smoky rooms of the
principal inn at the Eaux Chaudes.

The accommodation is much superior--at least, _out_ of the season--at
the Eaux Bonnes, the situation of which is, as I before observed,
infinitely more cheerful; but in hot weather it must be like an oven,
closed in as the valley is with toppling mountains, which one seems
almost to touch. Rising up, and barring the way immediately at the top
of the valley in which the waters spring, is the isolated mountain
called _La butte du Trésor_, on the summit of which is erected a little
rustic temple, doubtless the favourite resort of adventurous invalids,
during their stay at the waters. I cannot imagine the sojourn agreeable
at that period to persons in health, who are led there only by
curiosity; for often, while balls and parties are going on in the
saloons below, some unfortunate victim of disease is being removed from
the sick chambers above to his last home. Nothing but insensibility to
human suffering can allow enjoyment to exist in such a spot, under such
circumstances. I rejoiced that, at the period of both my visits, we had
the scenery all to ourselves, with no drawback of melancholy to spoil
the satisfaction we experienced.

These waters were first used, it is said, by Henri II. of Navarre, after
his return from the fatal fight of Pavia, where he was wounded by a
musketshot. They, from hence, took the name of Eaux des Arquebusades, as
they were found efficacious in cases similar to his own.

Michel Montaigne was one of the illustrious visitors to these healing
springs, which he calls _Grammontoises_.

Jacques de Thou came to the Eaux Bonnes in 1582; and recounts that, in
the week which he passed there, he drank twenty-five glasses of water a
day; but in this he was exceeded by a German companion, who took no less
them _fifty_.

These springs were forgotten for more than a century after this; and
Barèges was preferred to them. The great physician, Bordeu, of whom
Béarn is justly proud, restored their reputation in a great measure: but
it is rather within the last thirty years that they have reached the
celebrity which they now enjoy.

It is generally said that the Vallée d'Ossau combines all the beauties
and grandeurs of the Pyrenees; and that the traveller, who has only time
to visit this part, has had a specimen of all that is most admirable in
this beautiful chain of mountains. For myself, I endeavour to believe
this, not having been able to see so much of the Pyrenees as I desired.



CHAPTER VIII.

     PEASANTS OF OSSAU--CAPTIVITY OF FRANCIS THE FIRST--DEATH OF
     JOYEUSE--DEATH OF THE DUKE DE MAINE--DANCES.


A great deal has been said and written about the peasants of the Vallée
d'Ossau; and most persons appear to have been guided rather by
enthusiasm than truth, exaggerating and embellishing facts as it suited
their views or their humour. It is the custom to admire the young girls
and children who pester travellers with shabby, faded little bouquets,
which they throw into the carriage-windows, and to see something
peculiar in the custom; but it does not strike me that there is the
slightest difference in this, or any other usage, between the Pyrenees
and all parts of France, through which I have passed. On the road from
Calais, as well as in the Vallée d'Ossau, ragged dirty groups, eager for
sous, place themselves in your way, and endeavour to obtain money: on
fête-days they may look better; but on ordinary occasions there is
certainly but little to admire, either in their dress or manners.

A lively but sarcastic French writer has observed on the proneness of
tourists to exalt the peasants of Ossau into the Arcadian beings of
Virgil and Theocritus, representing them as assembling together to sing
the verses of Despourrins: that--"it is, perhaps, better to see romance
than not to see at all; but those who have discovered these pastoral
heroes and heroines, can assuredly never have met with them on the Ger
or the Pic du Midi: the only songs that one can hear in that
neighbourhood are drawling, monotonous lines, without either rhyme or
reason,--a sort of ballad like that of the wandering Jew. As for their
occupations, they are commonly employed in knitting coarse woollen
stockings, or in preparing, in the dirtiest manner in the world, the
poorest and most insipid cheese that ever was made. The youths and
maidens are by no means Estelles and Nemourins. I am aware that this
account will be considered profane, and the writer of these facts, a
morose, disagreeable person; but the truth is, nevertheless, better than
false enthusiasm, which causes misrepresentation; and, having always
before our eyes so much that is glorious and sublime, it cannot be
necessary to inflate the imagination for ever _à propos de rien_.

"Let those who would form an idea of the singing of the Ossalois observe
them on a fête-day, in some of their villages, when the young people are
returning home. They separate in two bands: some holding each other by
the waist, some round the neck. The foremost party go about thirty steps
in silence, while those behind sing a couplet in chorus; the first then
stop, sing the second verse, and wait till those behind have joined
them; and the latter sing the third verse as they arrive at home. This
chant is called, in the country, _Passe-carrère_. Every now and then the
song is intermingled with sharp, wild cries, called _arénilhets_,
peculiar to the mountaineers; which prove the strength of their lungs,
if not their ear for melody. All this is performed slowly and heavily,
without any appearance of joyousness or gaiety, and seems singularly
ill-adapted to a fête."

It must be allowed that, whenever a good voice occurs in this part of
the country, it is an exception to the general rule; but this happened
not long since, in the case of a young and very handsome girl of Ossau,
whose melodious voice and fine execution attracted the notice of an
amateur, by whom she was introduced to the theatre at Berlin, and
obtained great applause and success. She may be considered as a
nightingale who had lost her way amongst a wood of screech-owls; for her
talent was quite alone. She used to sing an old historical romance of
the valley, composed on the captivity of Francis I., which has seldom
since found a voice capable of giving it effect.

There is something in this old ballad very like those of Spain, both in
character and rhythm; and there exist several others, on historical
subjects, which have the same kind of simple merit:

      THE CAPTIVITY OF FRANCIS I.

    "Quan lou Rey parti de France," &c.

    When the king, from France departing,
      Other lands to conquer sought,
    'Twas at Pavia he was taken,
      By the wily Spaniard caught.

    "Yield thee, yield thee straight, King Francis,
      Death or prison is your lot;"
    "Wherefore call you me King Francis?
      Such a monarch know I not."

    Then the Spaniards raised his mantle,
      And they saw the fleur-de-lys;--
    They have chained him, and, full joyous,
      Bore him to captivity.

    In a tower, where sun nor moon-light
      Came but by a window small;
    There he lies, and as he gazes,
      Sees a courier pass the wall.

    "Courier! who art letters bringing,
      Tell me what in France is said?"
    "Ah! my news is sad and heavy--
      For the king is ta'en, or dead."

    "Back with speed, oh, courier, hasten--
      Haste to Paris back with speed,
    To my wife and little children;
      Bid them help me at my need.

    "Bid them coin new gold and silver,
      All that Paris has to bring,
    And send here a heap of treasure,
      To redeem the captive king."[32]

[Footnote 32: The popularity of this ballad is accounted for by the
circumstance of the Prince of Béarn, Henry II. d'Albert, having been
made prisoner with Francis; he was, however, more fortunate than the
king, for he made his escape. The original runs thus:--

    THE CAPTIVITY OF FRANCIS I.

    Quan lou Rey parti de France,
      Counqueri d'aütes pays,
    A l'entrade de Pavi
      Lous Espagnols bé l'an pris.

    "Renté, renté, Rey de France,
      Que si non, qu'en mourt ou pris,"
    Quin seri lou Rey de France?
      Que jamey you nou l'ey bist."

    Queou lheban l'ale deoü mantoü
      Troban l'y la flou de lys.
    Quoü ne prenen et quoü liguen
      Dens la prison que l'an mis.

    Dehens üe tour escure,
      Jamey sour ni lue s'y a bist;
    Si nou per üe frinistote....
      U poustillou bet beni.

    "Poustillou qué lettres portis
      Que si counte tà Paris?"
    "La nouvelle que you porti
      Lou Rey qu'ere mort ou pris."

    "Tourne t'en poustillou en poste,
      Tourne t'en entà Paris.
    Arrecommandem à ma femme
      Tabé mous infants petits.

    "Que hassen batte la mounede,
      La qui sie dens Paris,
    Que men embien üe cargue
    Por rachetam aü pays."

The chorus is usually at the end of each verse--"La lyron, la lyré," or
"doundoun, doundone."]

The following is also a favourite ballad on the battle of Coutras and
the death of Joyeuse, the magnificent favourite of Henry III., whose
contemptuous remark on his effeminacy was the cause of his exposing
himself in the _mêlée_. The episode of the fate of Joyeuse is an
affecting one in the life of the valiant and generous Henry of Navarre.
The treasure was immense that was taken from the gorgeous army destined
to overthrow the harassed Huguenots, but literally cut to pieces by the
stern and bold, though ragged warriors. The gold, silver, and jewels
that were brought to Henry's tent, after the victory, were heaped on the
floor, and the dead body of the beautiful and admired Duke de Joyeuse
was brought to him. Henry turned away, sick at heart, and commanded the
corpse to be covered with a cloak, and removed carefully; and desired
that all the spoil should be divided amongst the soldiers; holding it
beneath him to accept any: nor could he restrain his tears at the sight
of so much carnage of those whom he looked upon as his subjects.

      THE DEATH OF JOYEUSE.

    Between La Roche and Coutras
      Was heard our battle cry;
    And still we called--"To arms! to arms!"
      Our voices rent the sky.

    Our king was there with all his men,
      And all his guards beside,
    Within, the Duke de Joyeuse,
      And to the king he cried:

    "Oh, yield, King Henry, yield to me!"--
      "What simple squire art thou,
    To bid King Henry yield him,
      And to thy bidding bow?"

    "I an no simple squire,
      But a knight of high degree;
    I am the Duke de Joyeuse,
      And thou must yield to me."

    The king has placed his cannon
      In lines against the wall,--
    The first fire Joyeuse trembled,
      The next saw Joyeuse fall.

    Alas! his little children,
      How sad will be their fate!--
    A nurse both young and pretty,
      Shall on them tend and wait:
    And they shall be brave warriors,
      When they come to man's estate.

The next ballad is in the same strain:

    THE DEATH OF THE DUKE DE MAINE.

    The noble Duke de Maine
      Is dead or wounded sore;
    Three damsels came to visit him,
      And his hard hap deplore.

    "Oh! say, fair prince, where is your wound?"
      "'Tis in my heart," he said,
    "'Twill not be many moments
      Ere you will see me dead."

    "Oh! call my page, and bid my squire;--
      They ink and paper bring;--
    For I must write a letter
      To my cousin and my king."

    And when the king the letter read,
      Tears from his eyelids fell;
    "Oh! who shall lead my armies now.
      Who shall command so well!"

    "Oh! who shall guide my valiant bands
      To conquest in the fight!--
    The Duke de Vendôme[33] must succeed,--
      He is a gallant knight."

[Footnote 33: Antoine de Bourbon.]

       *       *       *       *       *

It is seldom now that the tamborine or pipe, celebrated by Despourrins,
is heard as an accompaniment to the dances of the peasants. A violin is
the usual music; and the antique and pastoral character is at once
destroyed.

Sometimes it is possible to see a real mountain-dance, which is
certainly picturesque, if not graceful, and belongs peculiarly to the
spot, and the objects which inspired it; as, for instance, _"The Dance
of the Wild Goat," "The Dance of the Izard," "La Gibaudrie," "La Ronde
du Grand Pic."_

The young men are very agile in these exercises; but, in general, the
woman's part is very inferior: they, indeed, seldom dance together, and
usually are only spectators. This seems to indicate an Eastern origin.
There is one exception to this rule in a _ronde_, executed by both
sexes, hand-in-hand; but in this the men leap and cut, while the women
move their feet slowly and heavily: in fact, they look half asleep,
while the young men seem much more occupied with their own feats of
agility than with their partners.

As I have not seen any of these dances, nor the peasants in their
holiday costumes, I have some difficulty in imagining that there is
either beauty or grace amongst them. At the Eaux Bonnes, our female
attendant wore her red-peaked _capeline_ in the house, which had a
singular effect, but was by no means pretty: indeed, the only impression
it gives me is, that it is precisely the costume which seems to suit _a
daunce o' witches_; and cannot by possibility be softened into anything
in the least pleasing to the eye. All the peasants I saw at different
periods of the year had a remarkably slovenly, dirty, squalid
appearance; and, except in the instance of one little girl of about
thirteen, I saw none who had the slightest claim to beauty, or could
excite interest for a moment. There is a humble, civil air about the
people in the Vallée d'Ossau, which propitiates one: the _berret_ is
always taken off as a stranger passes, and a kind salutation uniformly
given. But, beyond this, there is nothing worthy of remark as respects
the common people, who appear to be a simple race, content to work hard
and live poorly.

Our guide pointed out to us a village, from the valley, perched up on a
height in the midst of snows, where, he said, the inhabitants, who were
all shepherds, _were very learned_. "Not one of them," said he, "but can
read and write; and, as they are always in the mountains with a book in
their hands, and have nothing to interrupt their studies, they know a
great deal, and are brave _gens_." Probably Gaston Saccaze the naturalist
belongs to such a fraternity.



CHAPTER IX.

     COARRAZE--ORTON--THE PONT LONG--LES BELLES
     CANTINIÈRES--MORLAAS--THE CURÉ--RESISTANCE TO
     IMPROVEMENT--UZAIN--LESCAR--REFORMATION IN NAVARRE--TOMBS--FRANÇOIS
     PHOEBUS--THE MOTHER.

    "A très lègues de Pau, a cap à las mountagnes
    Aprés abé seguit gayhaventes[34] campagnes,
    Sus û Pic oûn lou Gabe en gourgouils ba mouri
    Lou Castel de Coarraze aüs oueils qu'es bien ouffri."


WITHIN a pleasant drive of Pau is the Castle of Coarraze, where the
youth of Henry IV. was passed, under the guardianship of Suzanne de
Bourbon-Busset, Barronne de Miossens. Of this castle nothing now remains
but one tower, on which may still be traced the motto, "_Lo que ha de
ser non puede faltar_," from whence is a magnificent view _into_ the
mountains.

Of the Castle of Coarraze, it will be seen that more marvellous things
are told than that Henri Quatre passed much of his childhood there.

[Footnote 34: Smiling.]

Froissart has immortalized it as the scene of one of his romances of
Orthez; and this is the tale he tells of its lord:

It seems, Count Gaston Phoebus had such early knowledge of every event,
that his household could only account for the fact by supposing that he
possessed some familiar spirit, who told him all that had happened in
the country, far and near. This was considered by no means unusual; and
when Sir John Froissart expressed his surprise on the subject, a squire
belonging to the count related to him a circumstance of a similar
nature.

"It may be about twenty years ago," said he, "that there reigned, in
this country, a baron, who was called Raymond, and who was Lord of
Coarraze. Now, Coarraze is a town and castle, about seven leagues from
this town of Orthez. The Lord of Coarraze had, at the time of which I
speak, a suit before the Pope, at Avignon, respecting the tithes of the
church, which were claimed by a certain clerk of Catalonia, who insisted
on his right to a revenue from them of a hundred florins a-year.
Sentence was given by Pope Urban the Fifth, in a general consistory,
against the knight, and in favour of the Churchman; in consequence of
which, the latter hastened, with all speed, back to Béarn with his
letters and the Pope's bull, by virtue of which he was to enter into
possession of the tithes.

"The Lord of Coarraze was much incensed at this; and, in great
indignation, went to the clerk, and said, 'Master Peter,' or 'Master
Martin,'--it matters not for his name--'do you suppose that I shall be
content to lose my inheritance for the sake of those letters of yours? I
do not believe you to be so bold as to lay your hands on a thing which
belongs to me; for, if you do, it is as much as your life is worth. Go
elsewhere, and get what you can; as for my inheritance, you shall have
none of it, and I tell you so once for all.'

"The clerk stood much in awe of the knight at these words, for he knew
him to be a determined man, and dared not persevere in his demand; he
found it safe to retire to Avignon, or, at all events, out of the
count's reach; but, before he departed, he said to him, 'Sire, by force,
and not by right, you have taken and kept from me the dues of my church,
which in conscience is a great wrong. I am not so strong in this country
as you are; but I would have you know, and that soon, that I have a
champion, whom you will have cause to fear more than you do me.' The
Lord of Coarraze, who cared nothing for his menaces, replied: 'Go, in
Heaven's name, and do your worst. I value you as little dead as living;
and, for all your words, you shall not get my property.'

"Thus they parted: the clerk either to Avignon, or into Catalonia; but
he did not forget what he had said to the knight, for soon after there
came to his castle of Coarraze, and into the very chamber where he and
his lady slept, invisible messengers, who began to riot and overturn
everything they found in the castle; so that it seemed as if they would
destroy all they came near; so loud were the strokes which they struck
against the doors of the bed-rooms, that the lady shook as she lay, and
was greatly terrified. The knight heard all; but he took no sort of
notice, for he would not seem to be moved by this event, and was bold
enough to wait for stranger adventures.

"The noise and uproar continued for a long space in different chambers
of the castle, and then ceased. The domestics and squires represented
what had happened to their master; but he feigned to have heard nothing,
and to believe that they had been dreaming: but his lady one day assured
him that she had heard the noise but too clearly.

"That same night, as he was sleeping in his bed, came the uproar again
as before, and shook the windows and doors in a wonderful manner. The
knight then could not but rouse himself; and, sitting up, cried out,
'Who knocks so loud at my chamber at such an hour?'

"'It is I--it is I!' was the answer.

"'And who sends you?'

"'The clerk of Catalonia, whom you have wronged out of his property; and
I will never leave you in peace till you have reckoned with him for it,
and he is content.'

"'And what is your name, who are so good a messenger?'

"'I am called Orton.'

"'Orton,' said the knight, 'the service of a clerk is beneath you; you
will find it more trouble than profit; leave it, and serve me--you will
be glad of the exchange.'

"Now, Orton had _taken a fancy_ to the Lord of Coarraze; and, after a
pause, he said,

"'Are you in earnest?'

"'Certainly,' replied the knight; 'let us understand each other. You
must do evil to no one, and we shall be very good friends.'

"'No, no,' said Orton, 'I have no power to do evil to you or others,
except to disturb them when they might sleep.'

"'Well, then, we are agreed,' said the knight; 'in future, you serve me,
and quit that wretched clerk.'

"'Be it as you will,' said Orton, 'so will I.'

"From this time, the spirit attached himself with such affection to the
lord, that he constantly visited him at night; and when he found him
asleep he made a noise at his ear, or at the doors and windows; and the
knight used to wake and cry out, 'Orton, let me alone, I entreat!'

"'No, I will not,' was the reply, 'till I have told you some news.'

"Meantime, the lady used to lie frightened to death--her hair on end,
and her head covered with the bed-clothes. Her husband would say:

"'Well, what news have you?--from what country do you come?'

"The spirit would answer:

"'Why, from England, or Germany, or Hungary, or other countries. I set
out yesterday, and such and such things happened.'

"In this manner was the count informed of all that occurred in every
part of the globe for five or six years: and he could not conceal the
truth, but imparted it to the Count of Foix, when he came to visit him.
The count was greatly surprised at what he told, and expressed a wish
that he possessed such a courier.

"'Have you never seen him?' said he.

"'Never,' answered the knight.

"'I would certainly do so,' said the Count de Foix; 'you tell me he
speaks Gascon as well as you or I. Pray see him, and tell me what form
he bears.'

"'I have never sought to do so,' said the knight; 'but, since you wish
it, I will make a point of desiring him to reveal himself.'

"The next time Orton brought his news, his master told him he desired to
behold him; and, after a little persuasion, he agreed that he should be
gratified. 'The first thing you see to-morrow morning,' said he, 'when
you rise from your bed, will be me.'

"The morning came, and when the knight was getting up, the lady was so
afraid of seeing Orton that she pretended to be sick, and would not
rise. The knight, however, was resolved, and leapt up with the hope of
seeing him in a proper form, but nothing appeared. He ran to the
windows, and opened the shutters to let the light in, but still there
was no appearance in his room.

"At night Orton came, and told him he had appeared in the form of two
straws, which, he might have observed, whirled about on the floor.

"The knight was much displeased, and insisted on not being thus played
with: 'when I have seen you once,' said he, 'I desire no more.'

"''Tis well,' replied Orton. 'Remark, then, the first object which meets
your eye when you leave your chamber, that will be me.'

"The next day the Lord of Coarraze got up, as usual; and when he was
ready, he went out of his room into a gallery, which overlooked a court
of his castle. The first thing which attracted his notice was a large
sow, the most enormous creature he had ever beheld in his life; but she
was so thin, that she seemed nothing but skin and bone, and she looked
miserable and starved, with a long snout and emaciated limbs.

"The lord was amazed and annoyed at seeing this animal in his
court-yard, and cried out to his people to drive it away, and set the
hounds upon it. This was accordingly done, without delay; when the sow
uttered a loud cry, turned a piteous look upon the knight, and
disappeared: nor could any one find her again.

"The Lord of Coarraze returned to his chamber in a pensive mood; and was
now convinced, too late, that he had seen his messenger--who never
afterwards returned to him: and the very next year he died in his
castle."

Beginning almost from the entrance to Pau, extends an immense district
of uncultivated land, called the Pont Long. This _lande_ is covered with
coarse fern and heath, and is intersected with wide marshes; thirty-two
communes have a right in this ground; but it chiefly belongs to the
Vallée d'Ossau. It was formerly much more extensive than it now is; but,
even yet, a very inconsiderable portion has been reclaimed: its extent
is about twelve leagues in length, and one and a half in width.

In the centre of this wild country is the ancient town of Morlàas, whose
name, tradition says, was derived from the circumstance of a
prince--Gaston Centulle--having been there assassinated; from whence it
was called _Mort-là_, a derivation, probably, as likely as any other
that can be found.

We chose a very bright, warm, and beautiful day--during the continuance
of fine weather, in November--to drive to Morlàas. Our carriage was
stopped, just as we got out of the town, by a regiment of soldiers who
were marching out, and, but for the courtesy of the colonel, we should
have been impeded for nearly a league: he, however, kindly ordered the
ranks to open, and we were allowed to go on between the two lines. This
regiment--the 25th of the line--is a remarkably fine one, and appears to
be kept in constant activity by its commanders, going out to great
distances to exercise in every weather. It is attended by a pretty troop
of young women, whose appearance reminded me of Catherine's _petite
bande_, so attractive did it seem. I do not know whether this is a
common thing, but I never saw such a troop before in company with a
regiment. They wear a costume, half feminine half military; have short
dresses of grey cloth--the colour of the men's great coats--sitting
close to their shape, very full in the skirt, and with cuffs turned up
with red facings, red trowsers, and military boots, a white plaited ruff
and habit-shirt, a white--neatly frilled and plaited--cap, surmounted
with a small, smart glazed hat, round which is the word _Cantinière_:
across their shoulder is slung a canteen, and in this equipment they
step along with a military air, and in a dashing style which would be
invaluable on the stage. I never saw anything more singular and pretty,
and to me so new: almost every one of the women was young and very
good-looking, extremely well made, and active and strong; as, indeed,
they require to be, for they accompany the soldiers on all their
expeditions, and remain out all day. It is something as amusing to
behold as the troop of _savans and asses_, taken care of by Napoleon in
his Egyptian campaign.

The road to Morlàas is rather monotonous, and that part which crosses
the marsh very bleak and desolate: with the gigantic mountains bounding
the horizon, it seems as if the marsh-fiend might here well establish
his abode; and the salubrity of the air of the neighbourhood I should
somewhat doubt. After a considerable distance, the road quits the
_Lande_, and mounts a hill, along and from the summit of which is a very
agreeable view, which improves at every step. From this point the Lande
below appears cultivated, and vines and fields are seen in all
directions. You descend the hill, and Morlàas is in sight: that town was
once regal, and of old renown, but is now in the very perfection of ruin
and desolation.

It was the great market, and our driver was so delighted at the
circumstance, that it was with the utmost difficulty we could prevent
him from taking us to a plain outside the town, where the horse-fair was
going on, as he assured us that there we should see all the _monde_. As
we were quite aware of the style of gentry assembled, by the quantity of
blue frocks and berrets which we saw from a distance, and by the
neighing of steeds which reached our ears, we declined joining the
commercial party, and contented ourselves with being jostled and crowded
by the assemblage in the streets of Morlàas, whose avenues were blocked
up with market-folks, not only from every village and commune round, but
from Pau, and Orthez, and Peyrehourade, and Lescar.

We stopped at the once magnificent church of Sainte Foix, before a
little low porch, where we had to endure much persecution from beggars,
_en attendant_ the arrival of the curé who was to show us the interior.
We were amused at one of these people, who continued his whining cry of
"Charita madama, per l'amor de Déieux!"--half French, half _patois_; till
our driver asking him to point out the curé's abode, he answered
briskly, in a lively tone; and, having given the required information,
resumed the accustomed drawl.

The curé seemed very cross, and little propitiated by our apologies for
having disturbed him: he looked sleepy and flushed, and had evidently
been enjoying a nap, after a hearty meal and a bottle of Jurançon. He
hurried us through the ruined church, from which almost every vestige of
its early character has disappeared. On a pillar are still seen some
Gothic letters, which may be thus read: "In the year of God 1301, this
pillar and this altar were made by Téaza, whom God pardon! in honour of
God, St. Orens, and Sainte Foi." A picture of the sixteenth century
adorns the choir. It represents the Judgment of our Lord; each of the
judges is in the costume of the period; and his opinion is expressed by
a label attached to his person.

One little chapel alone remains of all that must have adorned this
church: the sculpture of this is very beautiful, and the grimacing heads
introduced amongst the foliage sufficiently grotesque. There is a very
large antique baptismal font, and near it is a mutilated statue of the
Virgin sustaining the Saviour on her knees, which the curé insisted upon
was Nicodemus. His scriptural knowledge seemed about equal to his
historical; but he evidently had no mean opinion of his own
acquirements, which, he almost told us, were of too high a character to
be wasted on mere travellers and foreigners, who knew nothing about
Notre Dame or the saints. He would not let us see the belfry-tower,
which he assured us was unsafe, and was displeased at our stopping him
to remark on the extreme antiquity of two of the huge pillars which
support the roof, and which, though much daubed with whitewash, have not
lost all their fine _contours_. Having got rid of us, the curé hurried
back to his siesta, and we strolled round the church. Beautiful circular
arches, with zigzag mouldings, almost perfect, adorned several towers,
and showed how admirable must once have been the form of the building.
We found ourselves carried away by the crowd into the street again, and
were obliged to pause and take breath by the side of the clear rivulet,
which, as in most of the towns here, runs swiftly through the streets,
rendering them much cleaner than they would otherwise be. Here we were
accosted, from an open window, by a female who had been watching our
proceedings, from the time of our driving into the town, and who seemed
quite distressed to see three ladies alone, without a cavalier.
"However," she said, "three of you are company, to be sure, and can take
care of each other." She was very eloquent on the subject of Morlàas,
and had no idea but that we had purposely chosen the market-day for our
visit, in order to be _gay_.

We made our way, with some difficulty--through the throng of persons
which filled the market-place, and who were busy buying and selling
coarse stuffs and mérinos, coloured handkerchiefs, and woollen goods--to
the principal façade of the church, against which the ruinous old
_halle_ is built; and there we contrived to get a sight of the remains
of one of the most splendid portals I ever beheld. Of gigantic
proportions, circle within circle, each elaborately carved, with
figures, foliage, and intersecting lines, the magnificent door-way of
the church of Sainte Foi presents a treasure to antiquarians: equal in
riches to, but more delicate, and larger and loftier, than that of
Malmsbury Abbey, in Wiltshire, it has features in common with that fine
structure; but I never saw so wide a span as the arch, or more exquisite
ornaments.

It appears that the town of Morlàas, which, ruined as it is, is said to
be _rich_ (!) is about to restore this fine entrance. A new town-hall
and market-place are being built, and, when completed, the miserable
huts which disfigure the church will be cleared away, and the façade
allowed to appear. Above this door is a fine steeple, crested with
figures, which we could scarcely distinguish, but which we found were
the _Cows of Béarn_ clustered round the summit.

When Morlàas was the residence of the Viscounts of Béarn, it possessed a
sovereign court, and a mint of great celebrity, where copper, silver,
and even _gold_ coins were struck. Money seems to have been coined at
Morlàas in the time of the Romans; its pieces were much coveted in the
country for their purity, and were considered far superior to any other
in Gascony. There was a _livre Morlane_ as there was a _livre Tournois_,
and it long preserved its celebrity. It was worth triple _the livre
Tournois_, and was subdivided into _sols_, _ardits_, and _baquettes_, or
_vaquettes_, _i.e. little cows_. A very few of those remarkable coins
are still preserved; some exist, in private museums, of the time of the
early Centulles and Gastons, of François Phoebus, of Catherine
d'Albret, Henry II., Henry IV., and Queen Jeanne. The device they bear
is--_"Grâtia Dei sum id quod sum."_

Some Moorish coins, with Arabic inscriptions, have been found in this
neighbourhood, which are also preserved in the cabinets of the curious.

The Hôtel or Palace of the Viscounts was formerly called the Hourquie,
or Forquie: from whence the money was called _moneta Furcensis_: the
town itself was occasionally called Furcas. The _patois_ name by which
it is known is Morlans. No vestige is left of this magnificent palace;
and Morlàas presents, altogether, a most wretched aspect, being
literally a heap of stones and ruin. Its situation offers no inducement
to its restoration; for, being placed in the midst of marshes, it has no
beauty of country which should make it a desirable residence. From time
immemorial, prejudice and custom have prevented any attempt being made
to cultivate these dismal swamps; or if a few energetic persons have
tried to ameliorate their condition, and have taken possession of parts
of the waste with such a view, at once the Ossalois have descended from
their mountains, with sticks and staves, and driven the invaders from
their ground. Even at the present day, as the right remains to the
people of Ossau, they have the power, which they are sure to enforce, of
preventing any incursions on the _landes_ along the valley of Pau; and,
if they please, they can pasture their sheep by the banks of the Gave,
and pen them in the lower town, beneath the castle, asking "no bold
baron's leave." There is no fear, now, of these fierce mountaineers
"sweeping like a torrent down upon the vales," as in the days when
Lescar, Morlàas, and Pau, were obliged to shut their gates in terror,
when they saw their advance.

It is related, that, in 1337, a lord of Serres erected a castle in the
midst of the Pont Long, and in a short time nearly two hundred houses
were nestling under the protection of his turrets. All was going on
well; the ground began to be drained and cultivated, and everything
promised a happy result to the undertaking; but a storm of wrath rose in
the mountains, the haughty owners of a useless marsh, unwilling that it
should serve a good purpose to others, though of no importance to
themselves, roused their followers, and, to the number of several
hundreds, rushed from their snowy retreats, and, in one night, ravaged
and destroyed all they met with. The new settlers fled in consternation,
while the Ossalois burnt and threw down their dwellings, leaving a heap
of ruins, which may still be traced in the midst of the Pont Long. They
took refuge at some distance, where their dangerous neighbours had no
right, and built themselves a village, which is that of Serres-Castel at
the present time.

At one period Henry II., the grandfather of Henry IV., was desirous of
forming a park for deer, and, taking possession of a track of ground, he
surrounded it with walls. The Ossalois consulted together, and
discovered that this ground was one of the dependencies on the Pont
Long. Without condescending to remonstrance they assembled in bands, and
marching down with flags flying, demolished the enclosures and took back
their possession.

In the same year, 1543, the sovereign of Béarn was obliged to solicit of
these tyrants of the valley permission for his cousin, the Dame
d'Artiguelouve, to send her cattle to feed in the Pont Long, to which
they consented "_for a consideration_"--_i.e._ by being paid the
_baccade_, such as is demanded of the shepherds.

The Princess Magdelaine, governess of Prince François Phoebus, in 1472,
obtained, _as a favour_, the permission for her physician, Thomas
Geronne, to introduce _seven mares_ to feed in the marsh. A letter of
the princess entreats, also, at another period, the same grace for the
cattle of her treasurer-general.

For more than eight centuries the possession of this _precious_ marsh
has been the subject of litigation, and it has remained in its barren
state.

The Vallée d'Ossau has had to defend its rights sometimes against the
viscounts of Béarn, sometimes against the monks of Cluny, and the
_Poublans_ of Pau. Law or combats have been always necessary to enable
them to retain their rights. It was on occasion of a decision in their
favour by Gaston IV., that the Ossalois made a gift to that prince of
the sum of two thousand four hundred florins, to aid him in finishing
the castle of Pau, which was then in the course of erection.

This Pont Long, which has so long been an apple of discord to Béarn, is
at the present hour likely to have settled bounds; for, in 1837, the
members of the Cour-Royal of Pau occupied themselves on the subject, and
a chance exists of something useful being done with the ground: there is
a project for encouraging mulberry-trees and silk-worms there, and of
making a canal to carry off its waters, and render it fit for
cultivation. This is the more necessary, as fever and ague are
sufficiently common in its neighbourhood. But, even within a very few
years, when an enlightened agriculturist, M. Laclède, endeavoured to
clear the ground, and plant and improve, the fury of opposition he
experienced was disgracefully extraordinary. Under the pretext that
their pastures were invaded, the people came with fire and hatchet, and
burnt his trees, and cut away his bridges and aqueducts.

A spot is shown in the Pont Long, called Henri Quatre's marsh; for it is
said that this prince being one day out shooting snipes, got so
entangled in the mud that it was with the greatest difficulty he was
rescued from his unpleasant predicament.

There is an oasis in this desert, the village of Uzein, which is a
standing proof of the possibility of effecting all that industry can
desire in this condemned place: the people of this flourishing village
owe their success to the determined perseverance of their curate, who
exhorted and persuaded his parishioners to bring manure for their fields
from Serres, and, at the end of a few years, all was brilliant and
smiling, and Uzein is considered to produce the best maize in Béarn.

There are a few towers still standing, where castles have been erected
on the Pont Long; an old grey tower of Navailles, and one of Montaner,
so strong as to have proved indestructible: it was built by Gaston
Phoebus, at the same time as that of Pau, and what remains of the walls
of its donjon are upwards of ten feet thick!

Lescar was once an important town of Béarn, and in its fine cathedral
princes were buried, whose ashes even rest there no longer, and whose
tombs have long since been destroyed. Most of its magnificence
disappeared at the period when Queen Jeanne declared her adherence to
the new doctrine, and gave her sanction to the enemies of Catholic
superstition to pull down the _Pagan images_. Angry and fierce was the
discussion which took place between the Queen and the Cardinal
d'Armagnac, her former friend, on the occasion of the attack on the
cathedral of Lescar: the following extracts from their letters, given
by Mr. Jameson in his work on "the Reformation in Navarre," are
characteristic on both sides.

The cardinal's courier, it seems, waited while Jeanne, without pause or
hesitation, wrote her reply to his representation. His letter ran thus:

"Madam,--The duty of the service in which I was born, and which I have
continued faithfully to fulfil, both to the late sovereigns, your father
and mother, as well as to the late king your husband, has so complete an
influence on my conduct, that I must ever be attentive to the means of
sustaining your welfare, and the glory of your illustrious house. Moved
by the zeal which attaches me to your interests, I will never conceal
from you whatever it is desirable that you should learn, and which I may
have previously heard, trusting that you will receive in good part the
representations of your long-tried, most attached, and faithful servant,
who will never offer to make them for his own private advantage, but
solely for the sake of your conscience, and the prosperity of your
affairs. I cannot, then, Madam, conceal from you the deep affliction
which penetrates me on account of the information I have received of the
overthrow of images and altars, and the pillage of ornaments, silver,
and jewels, committed in the cathedral of Lescar, by the agents of your
authority, as well as the severity of those agents to the chapter and
people, by the interdiction of divine service. This proceeding appears
to me to be the more monstrous, since it took place in your presence,
and resulted from evil counsels which must lead to your ruin. It is in
vain for you to conceive that you can transplant the new religion into
your dominions at your pleasure. The wishes of the ministers who have
assured you of this are at variance with those of your subjects. They
will never consent to quit their religion, as they have declared by
their protest at the last meeting of the estates of Béarn. * * * And,
even supposing that they were reduced to accept your faith, consider
what you would have to fear from the two sovereigns whose territories
surround you, and who abhor nothing so much as the new opinions with
which you are so delighted. Their policy would lead them to seize your
dominions, rather than suffer them to be the prey of strangers. To
shelter you from these dangers, you have not, like England, the ocean
for a rampart. Your conduct perils the fortunes of your children, and
risks the beholding them deprived of a throne. * * * You will thus
become worse than an infidel, by neglecting to provide for those of your
own house. Such is the fruit of your Evangelism. * * * Has not God, who
worked so many miracles through them, (_i.e._ the saints,) manifestly
directed us to regard those holy personages rather than Luther, Calvin,
Farel, Videl, and so many other presumptuous men, who would desire us
to slight those reverend names, and adopt their novelties? Would they
have us hold an open council to hear them, or unite in one common
opinion against the Catholic Church? * * * Without wasting time in
further reflections, let me entreat you to place in their former
condition the churches of Lescar, of Pau, and other places, which have
been so deplorably desolated by you. This advice is preferable to that
given you by your ministers, which it imports you to abandon, &c.
&c.--Your loyal and very obedient servant,

"THE CARDINAL D'ARMAGNAC.

"_Vielleperite_, _Aug_. 18_th_, 1563."

       *       *       *       *       *

To this Queen Jeanne replied in the following terms:--

"My Cousin,--From my earliest years I have been acquainted with the zeal
which attached you to the service of my kindred. I am not authorized by
ignorance of that zeal to refuse it the praise and esteem it merits, or
to be prevented from feeling a gratitude which I should be desirous of
continuing towards those who, like you, having partaken of the favour of
my family, have preserved good-will and fidelity towards it. I should
trust you would still entertain those feelings towards me, as you
profess to do, without allowing them to be changed or destroyed by the
influence of I know not what religion, or superstition. Thanking you, at
the same time, for the advice you give me, and which I receive according
to its varied character, the dissimilar and mingled points it touches
being divided between heaven and earth, God and man! As to the first
point, concerning the reform which I have effected at Pau, and at
Lescar, and which I desire to extend throughout my sovereignty, I have
learnt it from the Bible, which I read more willingly than the works of
your doctors. * * * As to the ruin impending over me through bad
counsel, under the colour of religion, I am not so devoid of the gifts
of God or of the aid of friends, as to be unable to make choice of
persons worthy of my confidence, and capable of acting, not under a vain
pretence, but with the true spirit of religion. * * * I clearly perceive
that you have been misinformed, both respecting the answer of my estates
and the disposition of my subjects. The two estates have professed their
obedience to religion. * * * I know who my neighbours are; the one hates
my religion as much as I do his, but that does not affect our mutual
relations: and besides, I am not so destitute of advice and friends as
to have neglected all necessary precautions for the defence of my rights
in case of attack. * * * Although you think to intimidate me, I am
protected from all apprehension; first, by my confidence in God whom I
serve, and who knows how to defend his cause. Secondly, because my
tranquillity is not affected by the designs of those whom I can easily
oppose, * * * with the grace of Him who encompasses my country as the
ocean does England. I do not perceive that I run the risk of sacrificing
either my own welfare or that of my son; on the contrary, I trust to
strengthen it in the only way a Christian should pursue; and even though
the spirit of God might not inspire me with a knowledge of this way, yet
human intellect would induce me to act as I do, from the many examples
which I recall with regret, especially that of the late king, my
husband, of whose history you well know the beginning, the course, and
the end. Where are the splendid crowns you held out to him? Did he gain
any by combating against true religion and his conscience? * * * I blush
with shame when you talk of the many atrocities which you allege to have
been committed by those of our faith; cast out the beam out of thine own
eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the moat in thy
brother's eye: purify the earth that is stained with the innocent blood
which those of your party have shed, a fact you can bear testimony to.
* * * You are ignorant of what our ministers are, who teach patience,
obedience to sovereigns, and the other virtues of which the apostles and
the martyrs have left them an example. * * * You affirm that multitudes
draw back from our belief, while I maintain that the number of its
adherents increases daily. As to ancient authorities, I hear them every
day cited by our ministers. I am not indeed sufficiently learned to have
gone through so many works, but neither, I suspect, have you, or are
better versed in them than myself, as you were always known to be more
acquainted with matters of state than those of the church. * * * I place
no reliance on doctors, not even Calvin, Beza, and others, but as they
follow Scripture. You would send them to a council. They desire it,
provided that it shall be a free one, and that the parties shall not be
judges. The motive of the surety they require is founded on the examples
of John Huss and Jerome of Prague. Nothing afflicts me more than that
you, after having received the truth, should have abandoned it for
idolatry, because you then found the advancement of your fortune and
worldly honours. * * * Read again the passages of Scripture you quote,
before you explain them so unhappily on any other occasion: it might be
pardonable in me, a female, but you, a cardinal, to be so old and so
ignorant! truly, my cousin, I feel shame for you. * * * If you have no
better reasons for combating my undertaking, do not again urge me to
follow your worldly prudence. I consider it mere folly before God; it
cannot impede my endeavours. _Your_ doubts make me tremble, _my_
assurance makes me firm. When you desire again to persuade me that the
words of your mouth are the voice of your conscience and your
faithfulness, be more careful; and let the fruitless letter you have
sent me be the last of that kind I shall receive. * * * Receive this
from one who knows not how to style herself: not being able to call
herself a friend, and doubtful of any affinity till the time of
repentance and conversion, when she will be

"Your cousin and friend,

"JEANNE."

       *       *       *       *       *

We drove to Lescar, which is within a short distance of Pau, anxious to
discover some remains of its former grandeur; but, like almost all the
towns in this part of France, the glory is indeed departed from it. The
situation is remarkably fine; it stands on a high _côteau_, by the side
of the road to Bayonne, and from the terrace of the cathedral a
magnificent view of the snowy mountains spreads along the horizon.
Nothing but dilapidated, ugly stone houses, and slovenly yards, are now
to be seen in the town; though it is said the people are by no means
poor, as, indeed, the rich gardens and vineyards around testify.

There is not a tomb or monument of any kind left in the cathedral; but
it is entirely paved with inscribed stones, few of them earlier than
the beginning of the seventeenth century. The church itself has been so
much altered as to be scarcely the same; it is still of great extent,
and is imposing as to size: a few strange old pillars, with grotesque
capitals, remain of its earliest date; but, from these specimens, it is
plain that there could never have been much architectural grace
displayed in its construction. The organ was playing as we walked
through the aisles, and is a very fine one: we could not but regret
that, at Pau, there should not be a single church where we could have
the advantage of hearing similar music; and that the chief town of Béarn
should be denuded of every attraction common to even the most neglected
French town. No thanks, however, are due to the arms of Montgomery, that
one stone remained on another of the cathedral of Lescar; and that all
in Pau should have been destroyed in his time, is not surprising. When
one thinks on the former magnificence of this town and cathedral, and
the pomp and circumstance of all the royal funerals which took place
here; of all the gorgeous tombs and splendid ceremonies; and, looking
round, beholds only ruined towns and crumbling walls, the contrast is
striking to the mind.

In the ninth century, this part of the country was covered with a thick
forest, called Lascurris. The Duke of Gascony, (Guillaume Sance,) about
980, having excited a knight to murder one of his enemies, was seized
with qualms of conscience, and, to relieve his mind, rebuilt the church,
which was _then_ fallen to decay, and founded a monastery in the
solitude, which he dedicated to Notre Dame. The assassin, sharing his
remorse, became a monk, and afterwards abbot there, and is known as
Lopoforti.

The future abbots seem to have been men of valour; for they armed
themselves, when occasion called, against the followers of Mahound, who
ventured from the passes of Spain into their territories.

The bishops of Lescar had the jurisdiction of 178 parishes, and the
diocese comprised two abbeys: it is contended that this was the most
ancient bishopric of Béarn; and the town the capital of the country in
former days. In the seventeenth century it was certainly a place of
importance, and was well defended by walls, gates, and fosses, of which
a few picturesque ruins alone remain.

In the choir of the cathedral there are still the sculptured stalls of
oak, executed in the time of Louis XIII., which are bold and graceful,
and in excellent preservation; some mosaic pavement has lately been
discovered, which was laid down by Bishop Guy in very early times; and
it is to be expected more discoveries could be made if more zeal were
roused in the cause. The chapels are richly adorned, and in better taste
than usual, and the church is, on the whole, extremely well kept: the
vault-like chill one feels, however, on entering does not say much for
its salubrity.

The most important tombs which once adorned this sanctuary, were those
of the young Prince of Béarn and King of Navarre, (François Phoebus,)
who died in 1483. Jean II. d'Albret in 1516, and his wife, Catherine de
Foix. Marguérite de Valois--the Fleur des Marguérites,--in 1548; and
Henry II., her husband--the _immortal grandfather_ of the great
Béarnois. It has been said that the body of their daughter, Jeanne
d'Albret, was brought here; but this appears to be incorrect, as her
tomb is at Vendôme.

The death of young François Phoebus is one of the most melancholy
episodes in the history of the country. It is thus recounted:

He was under the guardianship of his mother, Magdelaine of France,
Countess of Foix, a woman of superior mind and qualities, who devoted
herself to his interests and those of his kingdom, and spared no pains
to foster the noble dispositions which were in her son.

The time _was out of joint_, in consequence of civil dissensions, and
the unjust claims on Navarre of the King of Arragon; and her position
was very critical; but her wisdom and prudence had greatly calmed the
turbulence of those with whom she had to deal, and her subjects looked
forward with hope and delight to the majority of her son, who was as
amiable as he was transcendently beautiful, and whom, in imitation of
the title of their hero, Gaston, they had surnamed Phoebus. Magdelaine
was aided in her good intentions by her brother-in-law, the Cardinal de
Foix, whose sage advice greatly relieved and guided her, and when she
saw her beloved son, then aged fifteen, enter his territories in
triumph, apparently received with friendly interest by all contending
parties, her heart became joyous, and the future seemed all hope and
pleasure to her.

Several marriages were proposed for him; but she was desirous that as
much delay as possible should take place before that important step
should be decided. Numerous powerful princes came forward, offering
their alliances. Amongst others, Don Ferdinand, of Castile, named his
second daughter, Doña Juana, who afterwards inherited all his
possessions; but the Countess of Foix rejected this, as it would have
given umbrage to Louis XI. of France, whose friendship it was necessary
to secure; and whose wily mind was working at his own interest, which
prompted him to desire that a young nun of Coimbra should be drawn from
her sacred retreat, and made the bride of the young king: this was
another Doña Juana, for whose claim to the kingdom of Castile the artful
monarch of France chose to contend. Louis, therefore, wishing to avoid
the vicinity of Spain for his young _protégé_, persuaded his mother to
withdraw him from Pampeluna to his castle at Pau, where he went on with
his studies, and, by his amiable and conciliating disposition, won the
affection of all his subjects, by whom he was quite adored, as well as
by his mother, and his sister, the Princess Catherine, to whom he was
tenderly attached.

One morning, as they were all three together engaged in their different
occupations, a flute was brought to the young prince, who, after a time,
took it up with the intention of practising some music; for in this
accomplishment he excelled. He had been playing but a short time when
his sister observed him turn pale, and the next moment the instrument
fell from his hand: he uttered a deep sigh, and dropped senseless on the
ground. They lifted him up, used instant means for his recovery, but all
was vain; their hope, their joy, their treasure, was gone: François
Phoebus--the young, beautiful, and good--was dying. Poison had done its
work, and treason was successful: he lived but a few minutes, and his
last words were suitable to his pure life. When he saw his distracted
mother and sister hanging over him in agony, he whispered, "Do not
lament, my reign is not of this world: I leave the things of earth, and
go to my father."

What a scene of desolation ensued to the country and the bereaved
mother, who had so long struggled with accumulated misfortune! To add
to the difficulties of her position, her only support, Louis XI., just
then died, and, beset by ambitious ministers and selfish counsellors,
betrayed, deceived, and thwarted, the unfortunate Magdelaine sunk under
her sorrows, and soon followed her fair son to the grave.

He was buried in great pomp at the cathedral of St. Marie of Lescar, and
his young sister, Catherine, was left to reign in his place. Of her
Providence made its peculiar care, and her fate, which threatened ill,
was happily turned aside.

Olhagaray, the historian of Béarn, gives the affecting answer of the
Countess Magdelaine to the ambassador of Spain, who, immediately after
her son's death, came to her Court to treat for the hand of the young
Queen Catherine. It was thus she spoke, "with an infinity of sobs and
tears:"

"Gentlemen,--You find me in poor condition to receive you according to
your merits: but you see my desolation and misery, and the ruin which is
come upon me. This last torrent of misfortune is as a deluge which
overwhelms me--a deep abyss of evil in which I am engulphed. Alas! when
I consider the just grief which environs me, I know not where I am!
Gaston, the brave Gaston, my lord and my husband, while yet I was in the
early joy of his sweet society, and was happy in his precious affection,
was torn from me. My woes were softened, and the dark night of my
widowhood enlightened by the brightness of my Phoebus. Poor, desolate
mother that I am! Heaven envied my content, and has hidden him from my
eyes. In this sad spot he expired: here, raising his eyes above, he
exclaimed, 'My reign is not of this world!'

"Did we not, nevertheless, expect much of him! would he not, had he
lived, have healed the wounds of his country, have applied salutary
remedies to all her evils! He saw the difficulties, he prepared himself
to thread the intricate mazes belonging to his crown of Navarre; yet,
when he held it in his hands, he said, it was not that crown that he
expected.

"What means have I now left me in the world that permit me to speak to
you of the state of Spain, of the health of the king, the queen, or the
court. I have no words but these, no reply but this: go, therefore, and
for all answer tell the king of Spain how you found me; say, that my
sadness and my tears but ill permitted me to read the letter with which
he honoured me; and thank him that he has kept so kind a remembrance of
me, praying him to continue me his friendship while I live his humble
servant."



CHAPTER X.

     THE ROMANCES OF THE CASTLE OF ORTHEZ--TOUR DE MONCADE--THE
     INFANTS--THE SON OF GASTON PHOEBUS--- LEGENDS--THE OATH--THE BAD
     KING OF NAVARRE--THE QUARREL--THE MURDER--DEATH OF GASTON
     PHOEBUS--PARADISE THE REWARD OF HUNTERS--THE CAPTIVE--THE
     STEP-MOTHER--THE YOUNG COUNTESS--THE GREAT BEAR--THE RETURN--THE
     REAL CAUSE--THE MEETING IN THE FOREST--THE MASS.


THE most interesting place on the road to Bayonne is Orthez, once the
seat of the counts of Foix. We proposed remaining there a short time, in
order to visit its remains on our way to Bayonne, and alighted at the
hotel of _La Belle Hôtesse_, which is on the site of _La Lune_, where
the historian, Froissart, stopped some centuries before us, and where he
heard so many stories and legends which he has immortalized in his
charming _romantic_ chronicle. The soldiers of Marshal Soult occupied
this inn in 1814, when the pale old lady, who is still mistress, then
deserved the title which her beauty gave to her house of entertainment.

On approaching Orthez we were struck with the appearance, on a height
above the town, of the castle ruins, whose battered walls seem so
fragile that a breath of wind might blow them away: the upper part of
the great tower is much injured, and its irregular stones project in a
manner which threatens their fall: the blue sky shone through the arrow
slits and windows, and the whole mass gave us an idea of its hastening
to immediate dissolution. It has an imposing and venerable effect, and
excited in our minds considerable interest: we therefore hastened up the
rugged way to the hill on which it stands, and there found ourselves in
the midst of the remains of one of the strongest castles of which this
part of Béarn could boast, from the earliest time.

It is called the castle of Moncade, having been, in 734, the abode of a
Catalonian knight of that name, who was accustomed to issue forth from
this strong-hold to combat the Moors of Spain. In after times the
fortress was possessed by a warlike lady, called La Grosse Comtesse
Garsende de Béarn, who, in 1242, offered her services to Henry III. of
England; and, after having fought in his cause with her knights and
vassals, and received a large sum of money in requital, she returned
home, and expended it on the castle, which she rendered impregnable. It
was probably a ruin in the time of Garsende; for the reparations she
made in the great tower are very evident; the lower part being more
discoloured than the upper story, in which there are windows, at a
great height, of trefoil form. The shape of the tower itself is very
unlike any I had before seen, and seemed to me extremely curious; it is
five-sided, each side presenting an acute angle, and one being flattened
at about a quarter of the height by a two-sided projection, which is not
a tower but probably a recess within from whence to send arrows; yet
there are no openings now visible; nor is there, on any side, a means of
entrance, except that a square-headed window opens very high up in the
wall towards the part where the rest of the castle joined this donjon. A
large hole in the wall, towards the open country, made, perhaps,
originally by English cannon in 1814, and enlarged since, allows ingress
to the interior. There are arches and recesses, and some ornamental
architecture to be traced within, but no doors in any direction; and my
idea of the fragility of the building was quickly dispelled when I
discovered that the solid walls were at least nine feet thick, the
angles sharp as a knife, and the apparently tottering stones as firm in
their rocky cement as if just built.

All round, for some extent, are remains of ruined walls, with a few
circular and pointed arches here and there; the clear stream flows
beneath where once was the moat, in one part, and on the other sides
bushes and brambles fill up the defences. A huge, fearful-looking well,
of enormous depth, is in the midst of all; where, perhaps, was once the
inner court-yard, and here we saw a group of peasants drawing water;
for Orthez is so badly supplied that the townspeople have to mount this
steep height, and fill their brass-bound pails, from which they dispense
the fine clear water to the inhabitants. This must have been long a
great inconvenience and trouble; but we discovered afterwards that
another fountain has been found in the town, not far from the bridge,
where we saw numerous visitors busy in the same occupation.

The view from the castle-height is very fine; the last of the range of
snowy mountains seen in such perfection from Pau rises in great majesty,
and closes the scene; while the luxuriant plain and hills around are
seen to a great distance. The valiant Catalonian, and the fierce
countess, must have been dangerous neighbours to their foes, commanding
as they did the country, for leagues round.

One of the lords of Moncade was father to a chosen Viscount of Béarn,
known in the annals of the country, amongst their numerous Gastons, as
Le Bon.

The story told respecting him is as follows: In the year 1170, Marie,
Viscountess of Béarn, a young princess of only sixteen, was induced by
interested counsellors to do homage for her domains to Alphonso the
Second, King of Arragon. This act, which took place at Jaca, required to
be confirmed by the barons of Béarn; but the latter, indignant at the
infringement of their rights, and attack on the independence of their
country, solemnly protested against the transaction, and proclaimed the
young viscountess unfit to govern, deprived her of her power, and
proceeded to the election of a new ruler.

Their choice fell on a lord of Bigorre, who, not proving himself worthy
of his election, but endeavouring to violate the laws, was put to death
in open assembly, falling, like Cæsar, by the hand of a patriot. Another
took his place, but the Béarnais, it appeared, were particularly
unfortunate in their selection, for he turned out no better than the
former, and was deposed.

It became necessary to fix on a governor, and the great men of the
kingdom, consulting together, came to the following conclusion: The
young viscountess, after her banishment, married William de Moncade, one
of the richest lords of Catalonia, and the issue of this union was
twins, both boys. It was agreed that one of these should fill the vacant
seat of sovereignty of Béarn, and two of the _prudhommes_ were deputed
to visit their father with the proposition. On their arrival at his
castle the sages found the children asleep, and observed with attention
their infant demeanour. Both were beautiful, strong, and healthy; and it
was a difficult matter to make an election between two such attractive
and innocent creatures. They were extremely alike, and neither could be
pronounced superior to the other; the _prudhommes_ were strangely
puzzled, for they had been so often deceived that they felt it to be
most important that they should not err this time. As they hung in
admiration over the sleeping babes, one of them remarked a circumstance
that at once decided their preference, and put an end to their
vacillation; one of the little heroes held his hand tightly closed; the
tiny, mottled palm of the other was wide open as it lay upon his snowy
breast. "He will be a liberal and bold knight," said one of the
Béarnais, "and will best suit us as a head." This infant was accordingly
chosen, given up by his parents to the wise men, and carried off in
triumph to be educated amongst his future subjects. The event proved
their sagacity, and Gaston le Bon lived to give them good laws and
prosperity.

A descendant of this chief was a Gaston, who opposed Edward I., of
England, and was thrown into prison by that terrible warrior, who
revenged his defeat in Santonge by fearful reprisals, and gave up the
town of Orthez to his soldiers, to pillage and destroy as they pleased.
Gaston was obliged to agree to a composition with the English prince;
and he was released from his dungeon in a castle in Gascony. An appeal
to the King of France was agreed on; and, when both were in presence of
the suzerain, Gaston threw down his glove of defiance against the King
of England, calling him a traitor and felon knight. Edward, starting
forward, and commanding his people, who heard the charge with rage, to
stand back, picked up the glove himself, and entreated that a single
combat might be allowed between them. The King of France, however,
opposed this; and the question of their dispute was decided by
law--rather an unusual thing in those days.

This tower of Moncade,--rendered, it appears, by Gaston, the father of
the little open-handed hero, as like as possible to his château in
Catalonia,--is the scene of several tragedies; and every stone could
tell some tale of sorrow and oppression. There is something singularly
fearful in the aspect of its strong walls and donjon, without an outlet.
In this very tower died, by his father's hand, the unfortunate son of
Gaston Phoebus, whose touching story is recounted by Froissart. Although
well-known, it is impossible to pass it over here, or to forget that
equally melancholy history of the young Queen Blanche, poisoned by her
sister.


The Son of Gaston Phoebus.

FROISSART, after describing the splendours of the castle of Orthez in
glowing terms, continues: "Briefly, and, considering all things, before
I came to this court I had visited those of many kings, dukes, princes,
counts, and ladies of high quality, but I never was in any which pleased
me so well, for feats of arms and gaiety, as that of the Count de Foix.
You might see, in the saloons and the chambers and in the courts,
knights and squires of honour going and coming; and you might hear them
speak of war and of love. All honour might there be found. There I was
informed of the greatest part of those feats of arms which took place in
Spain, Portugal, Arragon, Navarre, England, Scotland, and the frontiers
and limits of Languedoc, &c.; for I met there, on various missions to
the count, knights and squires of all these nations.

"Once, on a Christmas Day, I there saw at his table four Bishops, two
_Clémentins_, and two _Urbanists_ (partisans of the rival popes). There
were seated the Count de Foix, and the Viscount de Roquebertin
d'Arragon, the Viscount de Bruniquil, the Viscount de Gousserant, and an
English knight sent by the Duke of Lancaster, from Lisbon, where he then
sojourned. At another table were five abbés and two knights of Arragon;
at another, knights and squires of Gascony and Bigorre; and the
_sovereign master of the hall_ was Messire Espaign de Lyon, and four
knights _maîtres d'hôtel_. And the count's two natural brothers, Messire
Ernould Guillaume and Messire Pierre de Béarn, served him, together with
his two sons, Messire Yvain de l'Escale and Messire Gratien. I must tell
you that there was a crowd of minstrels, as well belonging to the count
as strangers, who filled up every interval with specimens of their art.
And this day the count gave to both minstrels and heralds the sum of
five hundred francs; and habits of cloth of gold, furred with _menu
vair_, he gave to the minstrels of the Duke of Touraine; the which
dresses were valued at two hundred francs. And the dinner lasted till
four hours after noon."

One figure is wanting in this brilliant account--the only legitimate son
of the magnificent Count of Foix, his child by Agnes of Navarre, whose
place, as well as that of her son, is vacant at her husband's table.

What might, even then, be the pangs of remorse that shot along the mind
of the mighty chief, as he looked round that brilliant assembly and felt
that his honours would end with himself? "No son of his succeeding."
Where was the young, blooming, accomplished, and promising heir, so
loved by his people, and once the object of his pride and hope?
Brilliant and gorgeous as was the present scene, what would have been
that which should have welcomed the affianced bride of his son to his
court? and many such would have hailed the happy events which might have
ensued. His two _natural_ sons, Yvain and Gratien, are there, full of
beauty, grace, and health; but, as the first approaches, and hands him a
cup of wine, he trembles and sets down the goblet, untasted, for an
instant. He recovers, however, and quaffs the wine to the health of his
friends: the minstrels strike their harps; and one--the chief--bursts
forth in a strain of adulation, lauding to the skies the glories and the
virtues of the most liberal and magnificent prince of his time. Gaston
listens with pride and satisfaction; and, by degrees, the low moaning
which had seemed to sound in his ears dies away, and he laughs loud, and
dispenses his gracious words around, endeavouring to forget that so
great a prince could ever know care, or feel remorse, for what it was
his will to do. But it is necessary to tell why Gaston Phoebus felt
remorse in the midst of his splendid court.

At the conclusion of a long war between the houses of Foix and Armagnac,
it was agreed between the chiefs of the contending parties, that a
marriage should take place between Gaston, the young heir of Béarn, and
the fair Beatrix d'Armagnac. A temporary house was constructed on the
confines of the two territories, between Barcelone and Aire, where now a
wooden pillar indicates the division of the departments of Les Landes
and Gers; and there everything was settled. The Bishop of Lectoure said
mass; and an oath of the most terrible description passed between the
two princes, that they would never infringe the treaty. Part of the
_formula_ ran thus: "And, in case of failing in this promise, they would
deny God, _that he might be against them_; and, utterly to damn both
their bodies and souls, they would take the devil for their lord, and
have their sepulchres in hell, now and for evermore."

The young bride, in consideration of twenty thousand francs of gold,
which were given her as a dower, renounced all her rights, both paternal
and maternal; and the pope, to stop the effusion of blood caused by the
quarrels of the two houses, gave all the necessary dispensations
required in consequence of parentage. Then the Bishop of Lescar
celebrated the betrothment, that same day, in the Château de Monclar.

Both bride and bridegroom were very young, full of hope, and with every
prospect of happiness. _La gaie Armagnoise_, as the young princess was
called, lively and happy, and, according to all historians, a lady of
the greatest amiability; the Prince of Béarn affectionate, brave, and
handsome. With the whole assembly at Monclar,

    "All went merry as a marriage bell;"

but they had reckoned without Charles the Bad, King of Navarre!

Like one of those fell enchanters of romance, who appear suddenly in the
midst of rejoicings where they have not been invited, and cast a spell
upon the guests, changing joy to mourning, Charles of Navarre's
influence blighted the

    "----bud of love in summer's ripening breath,"

that

    "should prove a beauteous flower----."

Agnes of Navarre, Countess of Foix, had become the victim of the
disputes between her husband and brother: she had been sent from
Gaston's court to that of Charles, in order to induce the latter to pay
a ransom which he owed the count, and which he treacherously and
dishonourably withheld. The unfortunate wife remained at her brother's
court, soliciting in vain that he should do justice to the severe
husband, to whom she dared not return empty-handed. Her son, attached to
his mother, and anxious to receive her blessing on his marriage,
entreated permission to visit her in Navarre. He was received there with
great demonstrations of honour and affection. Charles the Bad lamented
to him the feud between his father and himself, and expressed his regret
at the manifest dislike which Count Gaston showed to his wife, and
dwelling much on this last cause of sorrow, in which the young prince
heartily joined, he gave it as his opinion that the feeling must be
occasioned by supernatural means, and could only be combated by a
similar power. He had, he said, in his possession a medicine of such
virtue that, if it were administered properly, it would counteract any
evil influence, and restore the mind of the person to whom it was given
to a right tone.

"Take, my beloved nephew," said he, "this bag of powder, and when an
opportunity presents itself, pour it into your father's cup, or strew it
over the meat he eats: it is a love potion--and no sooner shall he have
swallowed it, than all his former affection for your dear mother will
return. Think, then, what happy days are in store for us all! Agnes will
once more take her place amongst you; will bless you and your fair wife;
and I, who am banished from that society I most prize, shall once more
embrace my friend and witness his happiness."

This picture was too flattering to the ardent young boy of fifteen: with
all the credulity of his time and the simplicity of his age, he caught
at such a means of restoring his family to peace and joy, and,
gratefully accepting the present of his uncle, he suspended the little
bag containing the wondrous drug round his neck by a ribbon, and
departed from the Court of Navarre full of hope and expectation.

On his arrival in Béarn he could scarcely refrain, in spite of his
uncle's injunctions to the contrary, from communicating his secret to
his favourite brother, Jobain (Yvain), his father's natural son, who
shared his confidence as well as his couch. Jobain, however, was not
long before he observed the ribbon round his brother's neck, and pressed
him to explain the meaning of the little bag which he saw suspended
there. Young Gaston, confused at finding his secret so nearly
discovered, bade him inquire no further,--that there was a mystery
attached to it which he dared not tell; "but you will soon see," he
added, cheerfully, "a great change in my father: and he and my dear
mother will be well together."

A few days after this, the brothers were playing at the _jeu de paume_,
and a dispute arose between them which grow more and more violent, till
Gaston forgot himself so far as to strike Jobain on the face: it was but
a childish quarrel, which the next moment might have healed, but
Jobain's passion was so excited, that in his first fury he rushed to his
father, and accused Gaston of concealing in his bosom a bag of poison,
intended to be administered to the count, in order to cause his death.

Count Gaston, on hearing this accusation, without giving himself time
for a moment's reflection, which would have shown him the improbability
of the story, burst into so ungovernable a fury that he became almost
frantic, and it was with the utmost difficulty his knights prevented his
instantly putting his son to death. The states of Foix and Béarn, to
whose judgment he was at length induced to refer the sentence of this
involuntary parricide, were more moderate. "My lord," said they, "saving
your grace, we will not that Gaston should die: he is your heir, and you
have no other."

It is even asserted, that those of Foix in particular would not consent
to retire until they had received a promise from the count that he would
not attempt his son's life. It was, therefore, on the servants of young
Gaston that the weight of his fury fell; and he caused no less than
fifteen to suffer the utmost extremity of torture, under which they
died. As for the unhappy prince, he had already condemned himself.
Confined in his tower of Orthez, he had taken to his bed, and there lay,
concealing himself in the clothes; and for several days refused all
nourishment, giving himself up altogether to despair. Those whose
business it was to serve him, finding this, became alarmed, and,
hastening to his father, related the fact:

"My Lord," said they, "for the love of God, take heed to your son; for
he is starving in the prison, where he lies, and has not eaten since he
entered there, for his meat remains untouched as when we first took it
into the tower."

Thereupon the count started up, without uttering a word, and, quitting
his chamber, hurried to the prison where his son was, says Froissart,
and, "by ill fortune, he held in his hand a _small, long knife_, with
which he was cleaning and arranging his nails. He commanded the door of
the dungeon to be opened, when he went straight to his son, and, still
holding the knife in his hand by the blade, _which did not project from
it more than half an inch_, he caught him by the throat, calling out,
'Ha! traitor!--why will you not eat?' and by some means the steel
entered into a vein. The count, on this, instantly departed, neither
saying or doing more, and returned to his chamber. His poor child,
terrified at the sight of his father, felt all his blood turn, weak as
he was with fasting, and the point of the knife having opened a vein in
his throat, _however small it might have been_,--turned him round--and
died!

"Thus," continues the chronicler, "it was as I tell you: this was the
death of young Gaston de Foix. _His father, in truth, killed him_; but
it was the King of Navarre who directed the blow."

The agony of remorse or affection of the inhuman count, it is but just
to say, was extreme, on finding how all had ended; "and the body of the
child was taken away with cries and tears to the _Frères Mineurs_, at
Orthez, and there buried."

What now remained to the brilliant Gaston Phoebus? He had no legitimate
child, and he hated the next heir, Mathieu de Castelbon, "because he was
not a valiant knight at arms." His intention was to leave his large
possessions to his two natural sons; but, before he had made the proper
dispositions to secure it to them, he was surprised by death in the
hospital of Orion, two leagues from Orthez, as he was washing his hands
on his return from his favourite pursuit of hunting the bear, about
which he is eloquent in his work on the Chase; and all that Yvain, the
betrayer of young Gaston, could do, was to take possession of his
father's ring, and his _little long knife_--that fatal instrument!--and
by those tokens procured that the gates of the castle of Orthez should
be opened to him; hoping to obtain _a part of the treasures_ of the
count, who had not less than a million of crowns of gold in his coffers.

It was in the month of August, under a hot sun, that Gaston Phoebus had
hunted the bear half the day; and on arriving at Orion, about two
leagues from Orthez, he appeared delighted at the coolness of the fresh
strewn room, where the dinner was prepared: "This verdure," said he,
"does me good, for the day has been fearfully hot!" They brought him
water to wash, but no sooner did he feel its coldness on his
fingers--which were "_fine, long and straight_"--than he was seized with
a fit, probably of apoplexy, and was dead almost immediately, to the
extreme terror of all with him. Yvain, it seems, was at first full of
grief, but listened to the advice of those who recommended him instantly
to repair to the castle of Orthez, and secure what treasure he could.
Accordingly he rode off, and by showing the count's ring and knife, was
admitted; but the coffer, bound with iron and closed with many locks,
was opened by a key, which the count always wore round his neck, in a
little bag, and that key was found by the chaplain on his master, after
Yvain's departure, who was vainly striving to force open the strong
chest. The news, in spite of precaution, soon spread in Orthez; and the
citizens, who were all greatly attached to their lord, came in crowds to
the court of the castle, demanding news of him. Yvain was obliged to
speak to them from a window, and declare the truth; appealing to them to
protect his right, and not suffer the castle or its contents to be
injured. To this they all agreed, as they deplored his being
illegitimate, and consequently incapable of succeeding his father.

Then the air rung with lamentations. "Alas!" cried they, "all will go
ill with us now! we shall be attacked by all our neighbours: no more
peace and safety for us; nothing but misery and subjection, for we have
none to defend us now, and none to answer the challenger. Ha, Gaston!
unfortunate son! why did you offend your father? We might still have
looked to you; for beautiful and great was your beginning, and much
comfort were we promised in you. We lost you too young, and your father
has left us too soon. Alas! he had seen but sixty-three years--no great
age for a knight so powerful and so strong, and one who had all his
wishes and desires. Oh, land of Béarn! desolate, and lamenting for thy
noble heir, what is to be thy fate? Never shall be seen the peer of the
gentle and noble Count of Foix!"

With such cries and tears was the body of Gaston Phoebus, "uncovered on
a bier," brought through Orthez to the church of the Cordeliers, and
there laid in state; with forty-eight squires to guard it, and
four-and-twenty large tapers burning by it, night and day. Then came the
burial, where knights and lords and bishops assisted; and the new Count
of Castelbon, the heir of all the possessions of the magnificent Gaston,
showed becoming honour to his remains. Castelbon then took possession;
and his first act was to provide for the two sons, who had no
inheritance, and to release the prisoners in the tower of Orthez,--"of
which," says Froissart, "there were many; for the Count of Foix, of
excellent memory, was _very cruel in this particular_, and never spared
man, how high soever, who had offended him: nor was any bold enough to
plead for the ransom of a prisoner, for fear of meeting the same fate:
_they were put in the fosse, and fed on bread and water_. This very
cousin, Castelbon, had been his captive in such a dungeon for eight
months, and was ransomed only for forty thousand francs, and he held him
in great hatred; and, had he lived two years more, he would never have
had the heritage."

The famous work of the count, on Hunting, he dedicated to the King of
France; and in it he endeavours to prove the advantages, both to body
_and soul_, of the manly exercise of which he was a passionate lover.
His own death appears to disprove his arguments, which are curious
enough. He thus expresses himself in his Prologue:--"I, Gaston, by the
grace of God, surnamed Phoebus, Count of Foys, and Lord of Béarn, have,
all my life, been fond of three things--war, love, and hunting; in the
two first others may have excelled me, and been more fortunate; but, in
the last, I flatter myself, without boasting, that I have no superior.
* * * and, besides treating of beasts of chase and their natures, I am
convinced that my book is calculated to prove the great good that may
arise from the exercise of hunting. A man, by its means, avoids the
seven mortal sins; for he has no time to think of the commission of any
while he is engaged with his horses and hounds: he is more lively, more
ready, more expert, more enterprising, makes himself acquainted with
countries, and is quick and active: all good habits and manners follow,
and the salvation of his soul as well; for, by avoiding sin, a Christian
shall be saved; and this he does; therefore, a hunter must be saved. His
life is full of gaiety, pleasure, and amusement, and he has only to
guard against two things: one, that he forgets not the knowledge and
service of God, _and does not neglect his duty to his liege lord_.

"Now, I will prove this fact. It is well known that idleness is the root
of evil; when a man is lazy, negligent, unemployed, he remains in his
bed, and in his chamber, and a thousand evil imaginations take
possession of him: now a hunter rises at daybreak, and sees the sweet
and fresh morning, the clear and serene weather; he hears the song of
birds warbling softly and lovingly, each in its language: when the sun
is up, he beholds the bright dew glittering with its rays on streams and
meadows, and joy is in the heart of the hunter. Then comes the excited
delight of the pursuit, the cries, the sound of horns, the cry of dogs,
the triumph of success--what time has he to think of evil things! He
comes back weary, but satisfied; his early meal was but slight, for he
set out so soon; it is late before he seeks a second, and that is seldom
otherwise than frugal; he washes, he dresses, and he sups upon his game,
and shares it with his friends: then he enjoys the soft air of evening:
after his exertions, he lies him down in fine sheets of fresh and fair
linen, and sleeps well and healthily, without thinking of evil things.
Thus, by frugal living, great exercise, and cheerful occupation, he
avoids great maladies, has good health, _and lives long_. And never knew
I man, who was attached to hawks and hounds, but was of good disposition
and habits; for the love of hunting springs from nobleness and
gentleness of heart, whether one be a great lord or a poor man, high or
low."

The brother of poor young Gaston, who, perhaps, had a deeper motive than
momentary passion when he made the accusation to his father which
destroyed him, guilty or innocent, afterwards met a dreadful doom. In
that fatal masquerade of savages, when Charles VI. was so nearly burnt
to death, Yvain de Foix was one of those, whose dress catching fire,
and being sewn on close to his skin, could not be taken off, and he died
in extreme torture, after lingering two days. If he had, indeed,
intended to effect his brother's death, what must have been his feelings
under all the frightful sufferings he endured!

Alas! the glories of the magnificent Gaston Phoebus were fearfully
extinguished in blood and flame! Alas! the splendours of the proud
castle of Orthez were dimmed with cruelty and suffering! No wonder that
spectres are still said to walk and wail around the ruined tower; no
wonder that the moans of the feeble prince, fainting beneath the blow of
his mail-clad chief, are heard at night echoing through the loop-holes
of the battered walls; or that the plaintive cries of another victim
startle the shepherd returning late from the hills.

This other victim has also a melancholy story to relate of the injustice
and cruelty of near relatives, and the dangers of exalted birth and
great possessions. Charles and Blanche of Navarre, brother and sister,
were both "done to death" by those nearest to them; and while the pale
shade of Queen Blanche still flits along the ruined battlements of
Moncade, the spectre of Prince Charles haunts the streets of Barcelona,
where he was poisoned; crying out for ever on his murderess,
"Vengeance--Vengeance on Doña Juana!"


Story of Queen Blanche.

The mother of these two died, leaving the youthful Prince of Vienne heir
to her kingdom of Navarre, having just married her eldest daughter,
Blanche, to Henry, King of Castile, and her younger daughter, Leonore,
to the Count of Foix. She was herself the wife of John, King of Arragon;
who, after her death, desired to be himself the sovereign of Navarre, in
lieu of his son, Charles, whom he instantly confined in a dungeon in
Lerida. The prince was, however, beloved by the people, and the Catalans
rose in a body to deliver him: they effected their purpose, and bore off
the rescued prisoner in triumph, but not before a cruel step-mother,
Doña Juana, who had replaced the first wife of King John, had
administered to him a potion, whose effects soon showed themselves, for
he died in the hands of his deliverers.

The young Queen Blanche, of Castile, was now the heiress of Navarre; but
she succeeded her brother only in his misfortunes and his fate. Married
at twelve years old, her husband, when she was sixteen, had already
repudiated her, believing himself bewitched, and in danger in her
society. Impressed with this imagination, the King of Navarre, in an
interview with his wife's brother-in-law, the Count de Foix, agreed that
Blanche should be given up to him, and forced to embrace a life of
celibacy, in order that her sister, Leonore, Countess of Foix, should
enjoy her possessions.

When news was brought to Queen Blanche that she must follow the
messengers sent to Olite, to carry her to Orthez, her despair knew no
bounds: she felt that her doom was sealed, and her fearful destiny was
but too clear to her mind. She even, in her agony, wrote a letter of
entreaty to her unnatural husband, to entreat his protection; but he
remained deaf and indifferent to her supplications, and the doomed lady
was taken away, a prisoner, to the tower of Moncade.

Hero, for two years, languished the ill-fated heiress; her captivity
embittered by the sad reflection that her sister was her jailor, and her
father and husband her betrayers. A ray of hope suddenly gleamed upon
her fortunes; but whether, in her secret dungeon, any pitying friend
contrived to let her know that she had yet a chance of escape and
triumph, does not appear. Louis XI. came into Béarn. It was not any
feeling of compassion for a political victim that influenced him to take
part with the captive; for he was just the person to approve of an act,
however cruel, which would secure power to a sovereign; but his own
interests appeared affected by this arrangement of things; and, in a
conference at Pampluna, in which the powerful family of Beaumont offered
their services to assist the project, it was agreed that the captive
Queen should be demanded at the hands of the Count de Foix, and
reinstated in her rights.

Leonora and her husband saw that the time was come when nothing but a
further crime could secure them from danger. Blanche, once dead, nothing
stood between her sister and the throne of Navarre; and what was her
life in comparison with the great advantages they should derive? A
deputation from the states of Béarn arrived; the Beaumonts and King
Louis sent imperious messages, which were received with the utmost
humility by the Count and Countess of Foix: they had no wish to oppose
the general desire; there was but one obstacle to the accomplishment of
the end in view. They represented that their beloved sister, whose
health had long required extreme care, and who had been the object of
their solicitude ever since Prince Charles's death, was on a bed of
sickness--every hour she grew worse--and, at length, it was their
melancholy duty to announce her death.

    "Treason had done its worst,"

and Blanche had breathed her last in the Tour de Moncade.

A magnificent funeral was prepared--much lamentation and mourning
ensued--and the body of the royal victim was pompously interred with her
ancestors, the Princes of Béarn, in the cathedral of Lescar.[35]

[Footnote 35: Some historians say that Blanche was confined at the
castle of Lescar, but there is no foundation for the assertion: no
castle but that of Pau or Orthez would have been sufficiently strong to
retain a prisoner of so much importance. Moret, and other Spanish
authors, relate the event as above.]

Five years after this tragedy, the vengeance of Heaven--still called for
by the shades of the brother and sister--overtook Doña Juana, their
cruel step-mother. She died in the agonies of a lingering disease, and
in her torments betrayed, by her ravings, her crimes to all. Her
constant exclamation was, "Hijo! que me caro cuestas!" _Oh, my son! you
have cost me dear!_ alluding to her own son, for whose sake she had
sacrificed the former children of her husband. She died, deserted by
all; for that husband, equally guilty, on hearing that her words had
betrayed her, thought it policy to feign indignation at her wickedness,
and refused to visit her in her dying moments. The memory of the
unnatural father is still preserved in a Spanish proverb, which alludes
only to his sole good quality--liberality--in which he was extreme: in
application to courtiers--who look for presents which are long
coming--it is usual to say, "Ya se muriò rey Don Juan."

There is no end to the stories which may be told of the castle of
Orthez, and those in its neighbourhood; the knights and squires of
Gaston de Foix's court, when not engaged in jousts and tournaments, or
in fighting in earnest, seemed never weary of telling histories which
their guest, Froissart, listened to with eager attention; amongst them,
the following is characteristic of his ready belief, and the credulity
of the time:


The Great Bear of Béarn.

Messire Pierre de Béarn, natural brother of Gaston Phoebus, was the
victim of a strange malady, which rendered him an object both of fear
and pity: there was a mystery attached to his sufferings which no one of
the learned or inquisitive attendants who surrounded him could explain;
and when Froissart inquired why it was that he was not married, being so
handsome and so valiant a knight, his question was met with "the shrug,
the hum, the ha," that denoted some secret. At length, as he was not
easily to be satisfied when anything romantic was on the _tapis_, he
found a person to explain to him how things stood with respect to the
brother of the count.

"He is, in fact, married," said the squire who undertook to resolve his
doubts; "but neither his wife nor children live with him, and the cause
is as follows." He then went on to relate his story:

The young Countess Florence, of Biscay, was left an heiress by her
father, who had died suddenly in a somewhat singular manner; his cousin,
Don Pedro the Cruel, of Castile, being the only person who could tell
the reason of his having been put to death. His daughter, who feared
that the friendship of such a relation might be as dangerous to herself,
being warned to avoid him, as she had fallen under his displeasure in
consequence of having hinted that she knew how his wife, the sister of
the Duke of Bourbon, and the Queen of France, met her end, thought it
better to escape as quickly as she could from Biscay, leaving her
estates in his power; and she came to the Basque country a fugitive,
with a small retinue, glad to have saved her life, though all besides
was his prey. This distressed damsel, knowing that all honour was shown
to ladies at the court of Gaston de Foix, lost no time in directing her
steps to the Castle of Orthez, where, throwing herself at the feet of
the gallant count, she related her wrongs, and implored his assistance.

Gaston entreated her to be comforted, and assured her that he was ready
to do all in his power to assist her: he consigned her to the care of
the Lady of Coarraze, his relation, a high baroness of the country. With
all his generosity, Gaston Phoebus never seems to have lost sight of his
own interest, and it struck him immediately that the heiress was exactly
the match he desired for his brother, Pierre de Béarn. Accordingly, he
so arranged matters that the young Countess of Biscay and her domains
should remain in his family; he married her to Pierre, and re-conquered
her lands from the cruel King of Castile.

A son and a daughter were the fruits of this union, which appeared a
happy one; but the fates or the fairies did not allow it to remain so.
In Béarn, as in other parts of the world, although hunting is a very
agreeable amusement, it sometimes brings with it unpleasant
consequences, though Count Gaston may say nay. The woods, forests, and
mountains, it is well known, belong exclusively to beings who are
tenacious of their reign being disturbed, and who generally contrive to
revenge themselves on the hardy hunter who ventures to invade their
secret retreats. Nevertheless, at all periods, men are found incautious
enough to tempt them, and seldom does it happen that they do not suffer
for their temerity.

Pierre de Béarn, like his brother, Gaston, was remarkably fond of the
chase. The Countess Florence, on the contrary, held the pastime in the
utmost abhorrence, and to please her he abstained from the sport he
loved during the early period of their union; but at length he became
weary of this self-denial, and, in an evil hour, he set forth on an
expedition into the forests of Biscay to hunt the bear. He had not been
fortunate at first in his search, and had climbed some of the highest
parts of the mountain in hopes to meet with game worthy of him, when he
suddenly came upon the track of a tremendous animal, such as he had
never before beheld in his experience.

He followed it for some time over plains of ice, his gallant hounds in
full chase; at length, the mighty beast--apparently, indignant at their
perseverance, just as they had arrived at a gorge of the rocks, beneath
which a precipice descended on either side--turned round on his
pursuers, and presented a front sufficient to daunt the courage of the
boldest. The dogs, however, rushed on him, but, with one blow of his
enormous paw, he stretched them dead at his feet; four of the finest met
the same fate, and several, disabled and wounded, shrunk howling back to
their master, who stood firm, his spear poised, waiting the proper
moment of attack. Pierre saw that no time was to be lost, for he was
alone, having, in his eagerness, outstripped his companions; his dogs
were of no further use, and he must trust now to his own strength and
skill.

The spear went flying through the air, and struck the monster in the
breast; furious with pain, he uttered a hideous howl, and rushed
forward, catching, in his long claws, the left arm of the knight, whose
right hand was armed with his hunting-knife, which he had hastily drawn
from his belt; with this, in spite of the pain he felt, he continued to
strike the monster, whose roaring echoed through the caverns of the rock
like thunder at every stroke.

At this instant, and just as the knight's strength was nearly exhausted,
he beheld, with joy, his friends advancing to his aid; two of them
sprang forward and discharged their spears; but still, though
desperately wounded, the bear would not release the arm he continued to
gripe, and, as he turned upon them, dragged his first foe with him. As,
however, his head was directed towards the new comers, Pierre, with a
strong effort, made another plunge in his neck, which instantly had the
effect of making him release his hold; he then drew his dagger--for his
knife remained in the animal's body--and, with the assistance of his
friends, the bear was despatched. As the body lay on the ground, a pause
of astonishment ensued after the shouts of the victors; for never was so
gigantic a beast beheld in the Pyrenees, and it seemed a miracle that
Pierre had escaped: his arm was fearfully injured, and he was faint with
exertion; but his triumph was so great that he hardly permitted his
wound to be bound up. They placed the carcase of the bear on their
shoulders, and with great difficulty carried it from the spot where it
fell; it was then consigned to their attendants, and the whole train
returned in great delight to the castle. As they entered the court, they
were met by the Countess Florence and her ladies, who had been uneasy at
the long absence of her lord. No sooner had she cast her eyes on the
huge beast they were carrying, than she turned deadly pale, uttered a
loud shriek, and fainted on the ground.

The lady was borne to her chamber, and for two days and two nights she
uttered not a word; but was in great pain and tribulation, sighing and
moaning piteously: at the end of that time she said to her husband, "My
lord, I shall never be better till I have been on a pilgrimage to St.
James; give me leave to go, and to take with me Pierre, my son, and
Adriana, my daughter. I beg it as a boon." Messire Pierre, distressed to
see her situation, granted her request too readily.

The countess then ordered a great train to be prepared, and set forth on
her journey, taking with her treasure and jewels of great value, which
was not much remarked at the time; but she knew well that she did not
intend to return. Her journey and her pilgrimage accomplished, she
announced her intention to pay a visit to her cousins, the King and
Queen of Castile; and to their Court she went, and was received with
joy. And there the Countess Florence is still, and will not return, nor
send back her children. The very night on which he had killed the great
bear, Messire Pierre was seized with the malady which has ever since
taken possession of him. "He rises," said the squire, "in the night,
arms himself, draws his sword, and, with loud and furious cries and
gestures, like a man possessed, flies at every one near him, and makes
such a terrific noise and confusion that it would seem fiends were in
his chamber. His squires and valets awake him, and he is quite
unconscious of what has happened, and will not believe those who relate
to him what he has done in his sleep. Now, it is said," continued the
squire, "that the lady knew well what would happen the moment she saw
the great bear; for her father had hunted that very animal, and when he
came up to it, he heard a voice which said, 'Why do you persecute me
thus? I never did you any ill: you shall die of an untimely death.' And
so, indeed, did he, being beheaded by King Pedro the Cruel, without
cause. This was the reason she fainted and was in such tribulation; and
for this cause she never loved her husband after, for she always feared
he would do her a bodily injury; and that harm would happen to her or
hers, while she stayed with him."

The squire and the historian's comments on this strange story are more
amusing than wise. "We know well," said Froissart, "by ancient writings,
that gods and goddesses were in the habit of changing into birds and
beasts men and women who offended them. It might well, therefore, happen
that this great bear was in his time a knight accustomed to hunt in the
forests of Biscay; he probably did something to anger some deity of the
woods, and consequently lost his human shape, and got changed into a
bear, to do penance for his offence."

Whether Froissart really believed what he was saying, or whether the
opinion was merely advanced to afford him an opportunity to display his
classical learning, is not clear; but he forthwith inflicts upon his
hearer the story of the "_Joli Chevalier Acteon_;" at which the other is
marvellously pleased.

They continue to speculate upon the reasons of the Countess Florence for
quitting her husband, and conclude that she knew more than she chose to
tell. It has been thought that the lady, when very young, was one day in
the forest, having strayed from the castle, within whose garden walls
she was weary of being kept. She was delighted when she found herself at
liberty, and kept wandering on, up one alley and down another, wherever
she saw flowers, and the sun streamed through the leaves; till, at last,
the evening began to close, and she turned her steps to return; but
there was such a labyrinth of trees, and every path was so like another,
that she knew not which to choose, and became alarmed lest she should
not reach home before night, and her absence would be discovered. She
hurried forward in great uncertainty, and her fears increased every
moment; for she seemed to be getting further and further in the depths
of the forest; suddenly she came upon a great rock in which was a
cavern, and at its mouth she paused a moment to look round her, when a
sound issued from it which almost paralysed her with terror, and
presently forth rushed a huge black bear, who seized her in his paws.
She shrieked loudly, for she expected her hour was come, when, to her
amazement, she heard a voice from the monster, and these words: "You
have intruded on my privacy; I did not seek you; remain and be my
companion, or at once I put you to death." She was so amazed that she
had scarcely power to answer; but summoning her courage, she replied, "I
am a great lady, and the daughter of the lord of Biscay: release me, and
it shall be the better for you; kill me, and my father will take a
signal revenge." "You shall not quit this forest," replied the monster,
"till you promise what I demand. I will then transport you to your
father's castle, when you shall make him swear never to hunt in my
domains again. If he should do so, he shall die a violent death; and all
with whom you shall in future be in connexion shall be under the same
promise, or I will cause them to die badly. If any, after this vow, hunt
me, and it should happen that I am killed, misfortune shall come on you
and your race for my sake."

The lady promised, as indeed she had no choice but to do; and the great
bear then ordered her to follow him; she did so, and in a few moments
she saw the castle in view. "Now," said he, "give me another promise. If
I should be killed by any one belonging to you, swear that you will go
to the shrine of St. James, of Compostella, and pray for my soul, for I
am not a bear, as I appear, but a knight, transformed for my sins." As
he spoke, and while Florence made the vow he required, she saw his skin
changing by degrees, and his form taking another appearance, till he
stood before her, in the misty light, a fair young knight, the
handsomest her eyes had ever beheld; he looked mournfully upon her, and
disappeared, and she found herself suddenly in her own turret, in her
chamber, on her bed, and no one had perceived her absence. She related
this adventure to her father, who, much amazed thereat, refused to
credit her tale; nor would he give up his accustomed pastime of hunting
for all her entreaties, by which stubborn conduct his fate came upon him
as has been related.

The lady, the more she thought of the beauty of the transformed knight,
loved him the more; but she had no hope ever again to see him, and her
misfortunes having obliged her to quit her country, and take refuge in
Béarn, all happened as has been told. She was not more fortunate with
her husband than her father, in preventing his hunting in the forests
of Biscay; and when she saw the great bear had been killed, she lamented
her lover, as well as the ill fate which he had predicted for her
lineage. Certain it is, that she never afterwards returned to Messire
Pierre, and that she gave great treasure to the church of St. James, of
Compostella, that perpetual mass might be said for _a soul in
purgatory_.



CHAPTER XI.

     THE COUNTESS OF COMMINGES--THE CHARGE--THE PERSECUTED HEIRESS--THE
     BRIDGE--THE CORDELIER--COSTUME--ASPREMONT--PEYREHORADE.


ALTHOUGH Count Gaston Phoebus was a tyrant, who spared none in his
anger, yet he had all the virtues which were admired by the bold spirits
of the men of his time; amongst the chief of which was hospitality. Like
a true knight of old, he afforded protection to distressed ladies and
damsels, and his Court was a refuge sought, and not in vain, by all who
had been injured by those stronger than themselves, or who required
assistance in any way. Amongst other ladies who came to throw themselves
at the feet of this redoubted righter of wrongs was the Countess Alienor
de Comminges, wife of the Count of Boulogne, and the right heiress of
the county of Comminges, then in the hands of the Lord of Armagnac, who
unjustly detained it. This spirited lady one day made her appearance at
the Castle of Orthez, with her little girl of three years old in her
hand, and demanded protection of Gaston Phoebus. She was received with
great honour and respect, and Gaston listened with great benignity to
her complaint.

"My lord," said she, "I am on my way to Arragon, to my uncle the Count
d'Urgel, and my aunt-in-law, with whom I am resolved to remain; for I
have taken a great displeasure against my husband, Messire Jean de
Boulogne; for it is his business to recover for me my heritage, kept
from me by the Count of Armagnac, who holds my sister in prison; but he
will bestir himself in nothing, for he is a craven knight, fond of his
ease, and has no care but to eat and drink, and spends his goods upon
idle and sensual enjoyment. And he boasts that when he becomes count he
will sell his inheritance in order to satisfy his foolish and childish
wishes; for this cause I am disgusted, and will live with him no longer;
therefore I have brought my little daughter to deliver her into your
charge, and to make you her guardian and defender, to keep and educate
her according to her station. I know well, that, for the sake of love
and relationship, in this my great strait you will not fail me, and I
have no safe person with whom to confide my daughter, Jeanne, but you. I
have had great difficulty to get her out of the hands of my husband,
which I was resolved to do, because I know the danger in which she
stands from him, and from those of the house of Armagnac, being, as she
is, the heiress of Comminges. I, therefore, beseech you to befriend me,
and take charge of her; and when my husband finds she is in your
guardianship, he will be himself rejoiced; for he has often said that
this child would be a source of great uneasiness to him in the future.

"The Count of Foix heard the lady, his cousin, speak these words with
great satisfaction, and instantly imagined within himself, for he is a
lord of great fancy," says Froissart, "of how much service the charge of
this child might be to him, for she might be the cause of making peace
with his enemies, and by marrying her in some high place, he could keep
them in check; he, therefore, replied, 'Madam and cousin, willingly will
I do what you ask, both from affection and parentage, by which I am
bound to assist you. Leave your daughter with me, and rely on it she
shall be cared for and treated as if she were my own child.' 'I thank
you greatly,' said the lady.

"The young daughter of the Count of Boulogne was therefore left at
Orthez with the Count of Foix, and never departed from thence. And her
lady mother took her way to Arragon. She came several times afterwards
to see her child, but did not request to have her again: for the count,
Gaston Phoebus, acquitted himself of his charge as if she had been his
own; indeed, it is said that he has a notion of marrying her to the Duke
de Berri, who is a widower, and has a great desire to marry again."

Jeanne did in fact become the wife of the Duke de Berri, when she was
under thirteen, and he more than sixty; but, after all the care which
had been taken of her, and the "coil" that was made for her, she died
early, leaving no children. Her mother being dead, the inheritance of
Comminges devolved on her aunt, Marguerite, the same who was kept
prisoner by the Count of Armagnac. The fate of heiresses in those days
was sad enough, and that of this countess particularly so. The Count of
Armagnac married her to get her property; after his death she was forced
into an alliance with another of the same family, from whom, however,
she contrived to get a divorce, and then accepted the hand of a Count de
Foix, probably from fear. This latter soon began to ill-treat her,
having failed by entreaties to induce her to make over her possessions
to him; finding her resolved, he leagued himself with one of her old
enemies, Jean d'Armagnac, and they agreed together to share the spoil of
her heritage. She was dragged about, from prison to prison, first in one
strong castle and then in another, for fear of its being known where she
existed; and for many years she languished in this misery. At this time
Charles VII. was at the height of his successes, and some friend had
contrived to inform her of the changed aspect of affairs in France. In
order to induce him to undertake her cause, she, by means of the same
friend, let him know that she had named him heir of all her property and
estates--knowing, probably, too well, how little weight any
consideration but personal interest would have.

The tyrants soon discovered what she had done, and her treatment became
still worse. The arrogance and presumption of the Count d'Armagnac, who
ventured to put after his name, "By the grace of God," and assumed the
airs of a sovereign, added to which, _the unjust manner in which he
acted_, at length irritated the king to such a degree that he summoned
both lords to appear before him at Toulouse, and commanded that they
should bring with them the Countess of Comminges.

Nothing was now to be done but to obey the strongest; and the two
tyrants and their victim came to Charles, as he desired; he then took
the lady under his protection, and the Estates pronounced _her will
valid_; her husband being permitted to enjoy a certain portion during
his life. After this the countess remained with the king, and it is to
be hoped enjoyed a short period of repose. She died at Poitiers, upwards
of eighty years old, and no sooner was she dead than the turbulent and
ambitious Armagnacs took possession, in spite of the king, of all her
estates, about which, for long years, continual wars and contentions
ensued.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of all the castles in Béarn, perhaps that of Gaston Phoebus at Orthez is
the most suggestive of recollections; but I fear I have been led into so
many long stories beneath its ruined walls that the actual fortress
itself is almost forgotten. We stood upon the irregular mound which its
accumulated ruins present, remarking the fine effect of the distant line
of snowy mountains, whose outlines varied from those familiar to us at
Pau, and enjoyed the sunset from that exalted position, which might have
often been admired in the same spot centuries before, by the lords,
knights, historians, minstrels, and distressed or contented damsels, who
filled the courts of the mightiest chieftain of Béarn.

We descended from the castle, through a long, dilapidated street, which
seemed to know no end, and began to despair of ever reaching the bridge,
when we were accosted by a good-natured looking woman, who offered to be
our guide. After a long walk, through high, narrow, but not ill-paved,
streets, at last we came upon the roaring, foaming Gave: one of the most
impatient rivers that ever was confined by a bridge, or pent up by
crowding houses. On each side rise wild, grey, rugged rocks, some
covered with clinging plants, some naked and barren, over and between
which the passionate torrent comes dashing and foaming, as if anxious to
escape, as fast as possible, from the town which has intruded streets
and mills on its original solitude, since the early period when some
chivalric baron, or, perhaps, the Grosse Comtesse herself, threw over it
the strange old bridge, and placed in its centre the towered arch which
no efforts, early or late, have been able to dislodge. To be sure, this
is scarcely surprising, if, as tradition says, it was no mortal
architect who built this bridge; but a set of workmen whose erections
are not easily destroyed, and who, after all, might have laid the first
foundations of the fortress on the height, as well as this huge tower,
which seems of a-piece with one of the rocks its neighbours. The fact
is, the fairies, who inhabited in former days the caverns of the Gave,
and used to come out by moon-light in little boats on its waters, got
tired of its continual roaring and foaming, and bethought them of a way
to cross to the other side, without being either shaken or tossed by its
turbulent waves, or wetting their tiny feet by stepping from stone to
stone. They resolved, therefore, to throw a bridge over the stream, and,
taking a huge hollowed rock for the purpose, by their united efforts
they cast it across; and, as the water-spirits were offended on the
occasion, and rose up against them, endeavouring to destroy their
labours, they found it requisite to build them a tower in the centre,
which they defended against all comers. This was effected in a single
night; and the shepherds, who beheld in the morning what had been done,
would never have been able to account for it, but that, watching when
the moon was at the full, they perceived the fairies passing in crowds
along the bridge, and directing their way towards the opposite hill,
where the castle stands. They have often been seen dancing round the
ruined well there; and, it is thought, can plunge into the spring, and
reappear far up in the Gave at their pleasure. The shepherds, also,
observed that the castle was under their dominion; for they often
remark, as they approach Orthez, on returning from the market at
Peyrehorade, that the great tower, which is clearly visible on the
height at one moment, sinks gradually into the earth, the nearer they
come, and, at last, disappears altogether, nor is observed again, till
they have mounted the hill, to see if it really "stands where it did;"
where they behold it as firm and as frowning as ever, laughing to scorn
time and the elements, and refusing to offer any clue to its mystery.

The bridge of Orthez has been the scene of terrible contentions, at
different periods. In the tower in its centre is a projecting window,
from whence, tradition says, Montgomery, the Protestant leader, by the
orders of Queen Jeanne de Navarre,--to whom, in this country, all sorts
of horrors are attributed,--caused the priests to be cast into the Gave,
who refused to become Calvinists. The window is called _La frineste deüs
caperas_ (_the priests' window_). In those times of outrage and
violence, this might, or might not, be true; but certain it is that
three thousand Catholics, men, women, and children, perished in the
siege which Montgomery laid to Orthez, and that the sparkling, foaming
torrent which we looked at with such pleasure, then rolled along a
current of blood.

It is said that, during the assault of the town, a Cordelier was
celebrating mass in his convent, and had the courage to finish the
ceremony in spite of the tumult around; he then concealed the sacred
chalice in his bosom, and cast himself from his convent-window into the
Gave. The waters bore him on to the Adour; and his body, tossed and torn
by the rocks, was finally deposited on the bank, beneath the walls of a
convent of the same order, at Bayonne, where the shuddering monks
received and bore his mutilated remains to their chapel, with weeping
and lamenting for the misfortunes of their brethren.

The "Château Noble" of Gaston Phoebus had then to endure a terrible
siege: the Viscount de Terride had sustained himself there as long as
possible; but, wanting provisions, was at length obliged to yield, and
was, with all his garrison, carried prisoner to Pau. There those
officers who, being Béarnais, had been taken in rebellion against their
Queen, were served with a banquet called _le repas libre_, at the
conclusion of which they were all put to the sword.

The costume of the female peasants in this neighbourhood is almost
invariably a short scarlet petticoat, and brown or black tucked-up gown,
with a bright-coloured handkerchief on the head, tied in the usual
_gentil_ style, with all four ends displayed, so as to show their rich
hues,--one being allowed to fall longer than the rest; in dirty weather,
the legs and feet are bare, and the sabots carried. Many very large
straw hats are worn, lined with smart colours, and tied with ribbon; but
it must be confessed that most of these are very old, and have long
since lost their early brilliancy.

There is nothing remarkable in the costume of the men,--the customary
_berret_ being the covering of their heads, and either a blue blouse, or
a dark dress, with red sash, and sometimes a red waist-coat,
diversifying their appearance. We were not struck with the beauty of any
of the peasants we met. Being market-day, the road was crowded for
several leagues, and we thought we had a good opportunity of judging:
however, a French fellow-traveller told us our idea was erroneous, as
the young girls were seldom allowed to come to the market, which was
generally attended by matrons only. However this might be, we certainly
saw nothing beyond very ordinary faces, and the common defect of
mountainous countries--the frightful _goître_--too evident. It is the
custom with most persons, when they first arrive in a place, to adopt
some received opinion, which not the strongest evidence of their senses
is allowed afterwards to shake; and thus it appears heresy, either to
disbelieve in the salubrity of Pau, or in the beauty of the inhabitants
of all the country round. If beauty were merely comparative, the notion
may be true; but, though those who are not affected with _goître_, and
who are not hollow-cheeked, and thin, and brown, are prettier than those
who are,

"Yet beautie is beautie in every degree;"

and "pretty Bessies" appeared to me to be very rare in Béarn.

There is a very imposing building situated on the Gave, of which the
townspeople are extremely proud: it is a corn-mill, of great power,
lately erected, and extremely successful. It appears that the town of
Orthez is in a flourishing condition, as to trade. Here are prepared
most of the hams so celebrated throughout France, under the name of
Bayonne-hams; and here numerous flocks of the fat geese which furnish
the markets of the neighbouring towns with _cuisses d'oies_, so prized
by gourmands, are to be seen. But the most picturesque _flocks_ we
observed on this road, were those of the round, pretty sheep, with thick
snowy fleeces, just returned from the mountains, where, delicate as they
look, they have been accustomed, all the summer, and till late in the
autumn, to climb to the highest point of the Pic du Midi itself. They
were now being conducted to the valleys and plains for the winter, and
the meadows were whitened with them in all directions.

This part of the country was, formerly, thickly-wooded, and occasionally
a few oak woods are passed on the road; but the continuous forest which
once spread abroad in this direction has disappeared. On approaching the
long, desolate-looking bourg of Peyrehorade,--which, however, on
market-days, is bustling and crowded enough--a ruin, on a height not
unlike that of Orthez, looks proudly over the plain, where two Gaves
unite. It is the Château d'Aspremont, once redoubted, and of great
force, and belonging to that good and noble governor of Bayonne, who
sent back to Charles IX. the answer so often quoted, when commanded to
execute all the Protestants in his town of Bayonne--that he had examined
the persons under his command, and had found them brave and true
soldiers, but no executioners.

The singular-sounding name of _Peyre-Hourade_ has the meaning of
_Pierced Stone_, and comes from a Druidical monument in the
neighbourhood. These remains are rare in the Pyrenees, though so
frequently met with in other parts of France. In a meadow, not far
removed from the high-road, is a block of granite, nearly flat, of great
height, standing upright on the narrowest end: there is no quarry of
similar stone in this part of the country; and its isolation and quality
render it a subject of surprise--as much so as the unexplained wonders
on Salisbury Plain. The fairies, no doubt, if any fortunate individual
could make friends with them now, could set the matter at rest;

"But now can no man see none elvés mo!"



CHAPTER XII.

     BAYONNE--PUBLIC WALKS--BIARITZ--ATALAYA--GIANT FERNAGUS--ANNE OF
     NEUBOURG--THE DANCING MAYOR.


FROM Orthez we continued our way to Bayonne, where it was our intention
to remain a few days. The entrance to Bayonne, that famous city, whose
motto is "Nunquam Polluta"--"_Always pure_," from the separate town of
St. Esprit, which is in the department of the Landes, as well as half of
the bridge which connects it with its more important sister, is
extremely striking. This bridge is over the fine bold river Adour, which
joins the Nive here, and, together, they divide the town between them.
Although Bayonne has few public monuments of much consequence, yet the
cathedral, the towers of the two castles, and other buildings, rise from
the rivers in great majesty; and, as we crossed the immensely long
wooden bridge at a slow pace, gave us a good impression, which a closer
view did not disappoint. It has a singular aspect, unlike that of any
other town, and the air all round it is pure and healthy; and we felt
happy for the time to have exchanged the icy chill of the snowy
mountains for the freshness of the sea breeze.

There are few old towns in France, which can be called fine in
themselves: their advantages lie in situation, and in the modern
additions which have succeeded to the ramparts and close-walled
enclosures of the ancient time, when to crowd streets together and fence
them in was the principal aim; but Bayonne, although still fortified
strongly, is less confined than most cities: a thorough air blows
through the tolerably well-paved streets; open spaces occur every now
and then, narrow and close places have been cleared, and the two fine
rivers and their quays prevent its being so crowded as it might
otherwise be. The houses are very high, which makes the streets appear
narrower than they really are; but they are not very long, and intersect
each other in a manner to prevent their being disagreeable.

There are arcades in the old part, as at La Rochelle and Agen, some of
which are very dark and narrow, and occasionally strange alleys appear,
as sombre and dismal as any in Rouen itself; but this is not the general
character of the town. One long, handsomely-paved street, is bordered
with fine houses and planted with trees, in the style of Bordeaux, and
here are situated most of the hotels; the grand squares of the Theatre
and Douane open from this, and the magnificent allées marines extend
from this spot.

Everywhere in Bayonne, it is easy to escape from the bustle of the city,
and find yourself in a beautiful, shaded walk--an advantage seldom
possessed by a commercial town.

Although many are delightful, and there is only the embarrassment of
choice, the most beautiful and agreeable, it must be allowed, are the
allées marines, which are walks nicely kept, planted with several rows
of fine trees, reaching along the banks of the Adour for an immense
distance, with meadows on the other hand, and a range of cultivated
hills on the opposite shore. The fine broad, sparkling, agitated river,
is dotted with vessels of different sizes, some of them moored to the
bank; a fresh breeze from the sea comes sweeping along, bringing health
on its wings; the citadel crowns the height of St. Esprit; the cathedral
rises above the other town; before is the meeting of the bright waters,
trees, groves, and meadows everywhere; murmuring streams, spanned by
wooden bridges, hurry along to throw themselves into the bosom of the
Adour at intervals, and the whole scene is life and brilliancy.

This walk is a kind of shaded jettée, and has, unlike most French
promenades, nothing formal or monotonous about it: the trees are allowed
to throw their branches out at pleasure, without being clipped into
form; they are irregularly planted, so that the favourite straight lines
are avoided, and the fine sandy soil does not allow the paths to remain
dump half an hour at a time; consequently, it is always a safe lounge,
and, assuredly, one of the most charming possessed by any town I ever
saw. It is as agreeable, although not resembling it in its features, as
the mail which charmed us so much at La Rochelle.

The days were very uncertain, and violent showers overtook us every half
hour, while we remained at Bayonne; yet we contrived to escape damp in
these pretty alleys, which, one minute swimming with water, were, in an
incredibly short space, dry and pleasant again.

The first anxiety on arriving at Bayonne, is always, of course, to get
to the sea; even the cathedral, our usual first visit, we neglected, in
order to take advantage of a gleam of sun, and hasten to Biaritz, which
lies about a league from the town: there is now a fine road to St. Jean
de Luz, by which you reach this celebrated bathing-place; and the
often-described cacolets, which even now travellers venture to tell of,
are dwindled into a tradition. In the season, one or two of these
primitive conveyances may still, it is said, be seen, as the English are
amused at endeavouring to ride in them; but, except one has a preference
for broken limbs to safety, there is no reason why any one should
choose such a carriage. They are, in fact, _now_, two panniers, in which
two persons sit on each side of a horse, with the legs hanging down:
formerly, it was merely a board slung across the animal's back, on which
the traveller sat see-saw with his guide; and numerous are the accounts
of perils encountered on a bad road in these conveyances twenty years
ago. Omnibuses, cabriolets, and coaches of all kinds are now to be had,
and there is neither pleasure nor glory in going uncomfortably in the
obsolete _cacolet_.

Biaritz has greatly changed its aspect, since Inglis described it as a
desolate fishing village: it has grown into a fashionable
watering-place, full of fine hotels and handsome houses, with
accommodations of all sorts; the sands are, in the bathing-season,
covered with pavilions for the bathers, and all the terrors and dangers
of the Chambre d'Amour and the Grottos of Biaritz, are over: that is to
say, as far as regards persons being carried away by the tide, or
surprised by the waves amongst the rocks; for, unless any one was silly
enough to place himself in danger, no risk need be run, as it does not
_now_ come to seek you. The rocks, however, are still terrible to
mariners in a tempest; when, in spite of the warning _pharos_, which
crowns the height, the vessel is driven into these little bays,
bristling with rocks of all sizes and forms, each capable of causing
immediate destruction. No winter passes without dreadful disasters on
this beautifully dangerous coast, which looks not half so fatal as it
really is.

I had so often heard Biaritz described as magnificent, that I had
imagined a bold coast of gigantic cliffs and huge blocks of pyramidal
stone, piled at distances along the shore, like those at the back of the
Isle of Wight, or on the Breton coast. I was, therefore, surprised to
find only a pretty series of bays, much lower, but not unlike the land
at Hastings, with the addition of small circles of sand, strewn with
large masses of rock, over and through which the restless waves drive
and foam, and form cascades, and rush into hollows, roaring and beating
against the caverned roofs and sides with the noise of cannon, increased
in violence according to the state of the elements.

In rough weather the sea is so loud here that the reverberation is
distinctly heard at Bayonne, as if artillery was being fired, and its
hoarse murmur is generally audible there at all times. A fine
light-house has been erected on a height; but this precaution does not
altogether prevent accidents, and scarcely a winter passes without sad
events occurring on this dangerous coast. A few days only before we
visited Biaritz, an English vessel had been lost, with all hands on
board, except a poor man, who had seen his wife perish, and his two
little children washed on one of the rocks: there they lay like
star-fish, and were taken off by the pitying inhabitants. I could not
learn the exact particulars, but I believe only one survived, which was
immediately received into the house of an English family who reside at
Biaritz, and who benevolently took the little stranded stranger under
their protection.

There was always, it seems, a look-out house on the hill above the
rocks; and formerly it was requisite to watch lest the vessels of those
numerous pirates who infested these seas should come down upon the
coast. The mount where it stood is called by its old name, _Atalaya_.
Whether it has anything to do with the former inhabitant of a ruined
tower which still looks over the ocean, as it did in ages past, does not
appear; but it may have been connected with the giant Ferragus, or
Fernagus, of whose castle this piece of ruin alone remains.

The giant Ferragus was one of those tremendous pagan personages, to
conquer whom was the chief aim and end of the Paladins of the time of
Charlemagne; and history has recorded the combat of Roland, the great
hero of these parts, with this redoubted Paynim.

Biaritz was amongst the places in the Pays Basque, named by the cruel
inquisitor, Pierre de Lancre, as "_given up to the worship of the
devil_;" he tells us that the devils and malignant spirits, banished
_from Japan and the Indies_, took refuge in the mountains of Labourd:
"and, indeed," continues this miserable bigot, in whose hands was placed
the destiny of hundreds of innocent creatures, "many English, Scotch,
and other travellers coming to buy wines in the city of Bordeaux, have
assured us that in their journeys they have seen great troops of demons,
_in the form of frightful men_, passing into France." Above all, he
asserts that the young girls of Biaritz, always celebrated for their
beauty, have "in their _left eye a mark impressed by the devil_."

Bayonne has several new quarters still unfinished, which promise to be
very handsome and commodious. There is a sort of imitation of Bordeaux
in the style of building, without altogether such good taste: at least,
this may be said of the theatre, which, though immensely large, is much
less majestic or beautiful; its position is, perhaps, even better than
that of Bordeaux, as it stands in a large uninterrupted square, with a
fine walk and trees by the quay on one side; and all the streets which
extend from it are new and wide.

The street in which the principal hotels are placed is very like one on
the _cours_ at Bordeaux, and is remarkably striking; but, besides this,
there is little to admire in the town, except the singularity of two
rivers running through its streets, like another Venice.

The residence of the Queen of Spain, Anne of Neubourg, widow of Charles
II., at Bayonne, is still remembered, and anecdotes are told of her
during her long stay of thirty-two years. She arrived on the 20th
September, 1706, and was received with great honours by all the
dignitaries: the town was illuminated, and the streets hung with
tapestry, as she passed to the Château-Vieux, where she took up her
abode. She seems to have been very much beloved, to have shown great
benevolence, and made herself numerous friends. Her generosity and
profusion, however, caused her to leave on her departure twelve hundred
thousand francs of debt, which Ferdinand VI. had to pay. Scandal was not
silent concerning her, and a lover was named in the young chevalier
Larrétéguy whose brother was at one time confined in the Château d'If
for an impertinent exclamation which he made one day when the Queen's
carriage was stopped by the crowd on the Pont Majour--"Room for my
sister-in-law." A fine complexion and an air of majesty constituted her
beauty; but she grew enormously fat, and was not remarkable for her
outward attractions.

She seems to have exhibited some caprice in her rejection of a palace
which she had caused to be built at great expense. It was called the
Château de Marrac, and had been erected under her orders with infinite
care: when it was finished she refused to occupy it in consequence of
one of her ladies having presumed to take possession of a suite of
chambers previous to her having been regularly installed as mistress.
This was the reason assigned; but she had, it may be imagined, a better
to give for abandoning a place which had cost her so much money.

She made frequent journeys to St. Jean Pied de Port, Bidache, Cambo,
Terciis, &c., for her health, and was always received on her return to
Bayonne with sovereign honours. The magistrates of the town went, on one
occasion, to meet her with offerings of fruit, flowers, expensive wines,
hams, and game, all in silver filigree baskets, beautifully worked.

During a dangerous illness which she had, the shrine containing the
relics of St. Léon was lowered, as in a period of general calamity; and,
on her recovery, prayers and thanksgivings were commanded, and a solemn
procession of all the officers of the town, civil and military, took
place.

In 1738 she returned to Spain, greatly regretted by all who had known
her at Bayonne; and, it seems, she was so much impressed with sorrow at
having left an abode so agreeable to her that she survived only two
years, and died at Guadalajara in 1740.

An account of a fête, given by the Queen on occasion of some successes
in Spain which greatly rejoiced her, concludes with the following rather
amusing sentence: "After the repast was finished, much to the
satisfaction of all, a _panperruque_ was danced through the town. M. de
Gibaudière led the dance, holding the hand of the _Mayor of Bayonne_;
the Marquis de Poyanne bringing up the rear: so that this dance rejoiced
all the people, who, on their side, gave many demonstrations of joy. It
lasted even till the next day amongst the people, and on board the
vessels in the river; and the windows of every house were illuminated."

Bayonne has a reputation for being in general extremely healthy; and its
position, in reach of the fine fresh sea air, seems to render it
probable. To me, after the close atmosphere of Pau, it was peculiarly
pleasant; and seemed to give new life, and restore the spirits,
depressed by that enervating climate, where, except for invalids, a long
residence is anything but desirable.

There seems but little commercial movement at Bayonne, and no bustle on
the quays; indeed, except at Nantes, I have always, in France, been
struck with the quiet and silent aspect of the seaports; so unlike our
own. Just at the time we were there, great complaints were being made,
in consequence of the prohibition of Spanish ships from touching at any
port of the South of France: commerce was at a stand-still, and all
persons in trade seemed vexed and disappointed at the bad prospect
before them.



CHAPTER XIII.

     BASQUE LANGUAGE--DIALECTS--WORDS--POETRY--SONGS--THE
     DESERTER--CHARACTER--DRAMA--TOWNS.


THE Basque country,--in which the ancient town of Bayonne, or Lapurdum,
holds a principal place,--is unequally divided between France and Spain.
The one part is composed of La Soule, Basse Navarre, and Labourd, and
extends over a surface of about a hundred and forty square leagues; the
other portion comprises Haute Navarre, Alava, Guipuscoa, and Biscay, and
contains about nine hundred and sixty square leagues: so that the whole
country in which the Basque language is spoken, enclosed between the
Adour, Béarn, the river Arragon, the Ebro, and the ocean, contains not
less than eleven hundred square leagues. Part of this extent is barren,
rude, and wooded, and is said to resemble the ancient state of Gaul, as
described by historians. Though immense tracts of wood have been cleared
away, there is still more in this region than in any other of the
Pyrenees; there are three great forests; one of Aldudes, in the valley
of Balgorry, where exist the only copper-mines in France; the forest of
Irati, near Roncevaux; and that of St. Engrace, which joins the woods of
Itseaux.

The habits, manners, and language, of this people have engaged the
attention of the curious for a series of years; and the speculations
and, surmises to which they have given rise are without end. Although it
is generally thought that the Basques are descendants of the ancient
Iberians, some learned writers contend that the singular language which
they speak, and which has no resemblance to that of any of the nations
which surround them, approaches very near the Celtic.

Whether they are _Vascons_ or _Cantabrians_, they are called, in their
own tongues, _Escualdunac_, and their language _Escuara_. Seventy-two
towns, bourgs, and villages, are named, by Du Mège, as appropriated to
the people of this denomination,--that is, from the mouth of the Adour
to the banks of the Soison and the mountains south of the Pays de Soule.
He remarks that no historian of antiquity has made mention of this
people, or their language, under the name they at present bear; and it
was never advanced till the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the
seventeenth centuries, that the inhabitants of Alava, Guipuscoa, and
Spanish and French Navarre had preserved the ancient language of the
Iberians, and that they were the representatives of that nation; never
having been conquered by any foreign invaders, and never having mixed
their blood.

Du Mège observes, on these pretensions: "History, studied at its purest
sources, and from its most authentic documents, proves that, in the most
distant times, several nations,--amongst whom, doubtless, should be
included those who first inhabited the coasts of Africa,--came and
established themselves in Spain. The Pelasgians, the Greeks of
Zacinthus, of Samos, the Messineans, the Dorians, the Phoceans, the
Laconians, the Tyrians or Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Celts or
Gauls, and the Eastern Iberians. Strabo mentions that in the Peninsula
were many different languages _and alphabets_; no doubt, as many
alphabets as idioms. Great care has been taken to discover the origin of
these alphabets, the letters of which _are still to be found in Spain,
in several inscriptions engraved on marble_, and in numerous medals."

Nothing satisfactory, however, has been established respecting the
language; but a probable one appears to be Velasquez' opinion, that it
is formed of dialects of Greek and Hebrew; but this opinion is combated
by many learned Spaniards. One author, in particular, was so violent in
his enthusiasm, that it led him to discover all the ancient history
combined in the Basque language. To him it was of little consequence
that the names mentioned by different authors belonged to Spain, Africa,
England, or Normandy,--the learned Dr. Zuñiga, curé of Escalonilla,
explained them all as _Basque_. Thus, for instance, _Scotland_, called
_Escocia_ in Spanish, he asserts was so called from _escuocia_, a _cold
hand_! Ireland, which is Irlanda in Spanish, means, in Basque,
_Ira-Landa_, i.e., _meadow of fern_: and so on to the end of the
chapter, in a strain which becomes highly comic. Another writer followed
in his steps,--Don Juan de Erro y Aspiroz,--who surpassed him in
absurdity; proving to his own satisfaction, not only that the Basque is
ancient, but that its alphabet _furnished one to the Greeks_, and that
the same nation instructed the Phoenicians in the use of money; added to
which, they passed into Italy, and _from them_ sprung the Romans--those
conquerors of the world.

Certainly, etymologists do fall into strange errors; as when the forgery
_pour rire_ of Count de Gibelin was taken for the Lord's Prayer in
Celtic, and explained as such by the famous Lebrïgant!

Humboldt, in his "Researches" on the origin of the first inhabitants of
Spain, falls into errors which are to be lamented; as his great name may
afford sanction to the dreams of others. He acknowledges that he is
puzzled to find that there is no trace amongst the ancients of the term
Escualdunac. He does not go so far as Zuñiga, who discovers in the name
of Obulco, engraved on ancient medals, Tri-Gali, i.e. "laughing corn" or
Balza-Gala--"black corn:" that Catalonia (evidently a modern name)
signifies, "The country of wild cats." Cascantum--"dirty place;" and
Hergaones--"good place of the spinners!"

Du Mège observes, that Humboldt has unfortunately followed former
writers too much; and though all he writes is worthy of respect, he
fails to convince, in this treatise, having begun on false ground. Since
then, M. de Montglave has "proved" a fact which is very startling,
namely, that there is a great affinity between the Basque language and
the dialects of the indigenous nations of South America![36]

[Footnote 36: This M. Mazure will by no means allow in his "Histoire du
Béarn et du Pays Basque."]

This last circumstance, which new observations seem to render more and
more probable, would at once put an end, if really proved, to all
discussion, and open a new field for speculation. It would be somewhat
curious to establish the certainty of the South Americans having
discovered and colonized Europe many centuries before they were
re-discovered by Europeans!--this, once determined, the Druid stones and
the round towers of Ireland might all, by degrees, be explained: the
obstinate resolve of all learned persons to derive everything in Europe
from the Greeks and Romans, or to go to the far East, when fairly driven
there, to find out origins, is very hard upon the enormous double
continent of the New World, whose wondrous ruined palaces prove the
original inhabitants to have been highly civilized and of immense power:
and which, by its extent and variety, might cast into insignificance
those proud specks which imagine themselves suns, when they are,
perhaps, only motes in the sun's beams.

It scarcely appears that the learned and impartial Du Mège has settled
the question by his arguments; indeed he seems himself aware that it is
yet open, for he rather confutes others than assumes an opinion himself.

He concludes, that the ancient Vascons who overran Aquitaine, in 600,
are certainly not the same people as those who now speak the Escuara
language, and that these _may have been_ "one of those people who
invaded the Roman empire in the reign of Probus, or the remains of those
tribes to whom, in the time of Honorius, was confided the guardianship
of the entrance of the Pyrenees. Thus placed in the defiles of the
mountains, _it was easy_ for them to extend themselves successively into
Aquitaine, Navarre, Guipuscoa, &c., to impose their _language_ and their
laws on the terrified people, and thus _mix themselves with_ the
Vascons and Cantabrians of Spain, and the Tarbelli and Sibyllates of
Gaul."

Whatever may be their origin, the Basques, as they exist at this moment,
are a very singular people, both as to their customs and language: there
is not the slightest resemblance between them and their neighbours; they
are perfectly foreigners in the next village to that which they inhabit.
Some _profane_ persons (M. Pierquin, for instance, who goes near to do
so, in an article on _la France littéraire_,) have dared to insinuate,
that the language of the Basques is nothing more than a mere jargon,
_both modern and vulgar_; but this is so cruel an assertion, and one
which destroys so many theories, reducing learning to a jest, that no
wonder M. Mazure and others are indignant at such boldness.

It must be confessed that, since extremes meet, the same arguments used
to prove the classical antiquity of the language would serve to convince
that it was merely modern, and made use of, by uneducated persons, to
express their wants as readily as possible. There are, in the Basque,
terms which represent ideas by sounds, explaining, by a sort of musical
imitation, many usual acts, and the appearance of objects; but this is
frequently brought forward by its defenders in its favour, and as
establishing its antiquity.

M. Mazure, who appears an enthusiast for the Basque language, produces
several words to show the sublimity contained in their signification:
for instance, he says, "the radical name of _the Moon_, combined with
other terms, gives occasion for superb expressions, full of thought, and
of a character which no modern language could furnish: thus--_ilarquia_,
the moon, signifies _its light_, or its _funereal_ light; and
_illarguia, ilkulcha, ilobia, ilerria, ileguna_, signify the _coffin_,
the _grave_, the _churchyard_, the _day of death_.

"The days of the week are also extremely expressive--as Friday,
Saturday, Sunday, which convey the idea of the _remembrance of the death
of the Saviour--the last day of work--the great day_. A strictly
Christian nation has left, in these words, their stamp." This being the
case, how does it agree with the extraordinarily antique origin of the
Basques? However, it appears that these are exceptions; other words
being sufficiently unintelligible, that is to say, difficult to explain.

M. Mazure considers that the Basque language is, in some respects, the
_most perfect_ that exists, from the _unity of the verb_ which it
preserves: its system of conjugation alone were enough, in his opinion,
to make it an object worthy of study and admiration to all grammarians.
To the uninitiated, the very opposite opinions of M. Mazure and M.
Pierquin are somewhat amusing: the former insists that the Basque has
nothing to do with Hebrew or Phoenician, but inclines to think it a
lost _African_ dialect, such as, _perhaps_, might have been spoken by
the Moors of Massinissa, who peopled Spain, and probably Aquitaine, at
some period unknown.

One singular fact with respect to this mysterious dialect is, that it
possesses no written nor printed books older than two centuries since;
and no alphabet has been discovered belonging to it; consequently it has
no literature; but it has preserved many songs and ballads, some of
great delicacy and beauty; and its _improvvisatore_, by profession, are
as fruitful as the Italians. One popular song, in the dialect of
Labourd, may give an idea of the strange language which occupies so much
attention.

       BASQUE SONG.

    "Tchorittoua, nourat houa
    Bi hegaliz, aïrian?
    Espagñalat jouaïteko,
    Elhurra duk bortian:
    Algarreki jouanen gutuk
    Elhurra hourtzen denian.

    "San Josefen ermitha,
    Desertian gorada
    Espagñalat jouaïteko
    Handa goure palissada.
    Guibelerat so-guin eta,
    Hasperenak ardura.

    Hasperena, babilona,
    Maïtiaren borthala
    Bihotzian sarakio
    Houra eni bezala;
    Eta guero eran izok
    Nik igorten haïdala.

       TRANSLATION.

    Borne on thy wings amidst the air,
    Sweet bird, where wilt thou go?
    For if thou wouldst to Spain repair,
    The ports are filled with snow.
    Wait, and we will fly together,
    When the Spring brings sunny weather.

    St. Joseph's hermitage is lone,
    Amidst the desert bare,
    And when we on our way are gone,
    Awhile we'll rest us there;
    As we pursue our mountain-track,
    Shall we not sigh as we look back?

    Go to my love, oh! gentle sigh,
    And near her chamber hover nigh;
    Glide to her heart, make that thy shrine,
    As she is fondly kept in mine.
    Then thou may'st tell her it is I
    Who sent thee to her, gentle sigh!

It appears to me, that there is a very remarkable similarity between the
habits of the people of the Basque country and those of Brittany;
although they of the South are not rich in beautiful legends, such as M.
de Villemarqué has preserved to the world: they have dramas and
mysteries just in the same manner: some of which last for days, and are
played in the open air by the people. They name their rocks and valleys
as the Bretons do: as, for instance, they have the _Vallée du Sang_, the
_Col des Ossemens_, the _Forêt du Réfuge_, the _Champ de la Victoire_;
and traditions attach to each of these. There is, however, a gayer,
livelier character amongst them than that which inspires the pathetic
ballads of Brittany. The Basques are very ready to be amused; are more
hilarious and less gloomy than the Bretons: yet they have the same love
of their country, and regret at leaving it. An author[37] who has
written on the subject, says: "To judge properly of the Basque, he
should be seen amidst his pleasures and his games; for it is then that
he exhibits his brilliant imagination. Often, in the joy of a convivial
meeting--when his natural gaiety, excited by wine and good cheer, is
arrived at that point of vivacity when man seems united to the chain of
existence only by the link of pleasure--one of the guests will feel
himself inspired: he rises; the tumult ceases; profound silence is
established, and his noisy companions are at once transformed to
attentive listeners. He sings: stanzas succeed each other, and poetry
flows naturally from his lips. The measure he adopts is grave and quiet;
the air seems to come with the words, without being sought for; and
rich imagery and new ideas flash forth at every moment, whether he takes
for his subject the praise of one of the guests, or the chronicles of
the country. He will sing thus for hours together: but some other feels
inspired in his turn; a kind of pastoral combat takes place--very like
those between the troubadours of old--and the interest of the scene
increases. Presently they start into dances, and their steps accompany
the words, still more like the custom of the jongleurs. The rivals sing
and dance alternately, as the words require it; their movements increase
in expression, the most difficult and the prettiest are striven for by
the dancers, the time being always well preserved, and the spirit of the
poem not lost sight of. When they are obliged to give up, from mere
fatigue, a censor pronounces which is the victor: that is, which of the
two has given the most gratification to the audience."

[Footnote 37: M. Boucher. "Souvenirs du Pays Basque."]

The Basque poet has no view in his compositions but the expression of
his feelings: he has no idea of gain, or reputation, but sings because
he requires to show the emotions which agitate him. It is not a little
singular that, in this particular, he resembles the inhabitants of
Otaheite; one of whom Bougainville describes as having sung in strophes
all that struck him during a voyage.

The Basque language seems very well adapted for light poetry; and,
indeed, is peculiarly fitted for rhyme, and has a natural ease which
helps the verse along, in a manner which belongs to the Italian. The
ideas are always tender and delicate, to a surprising degree, as the
following songs may prove:

         BASQUE SONG.

    "Su garretan," &c.

    I BURN in flames, because my heart
    Has loved thee through the dreary past;
    And in my eyes the tear-drops start,
    To think I lose thee at the last.
    My days are pass'd in ceaseless weeping,
    And all my nights in vain regret;
    No peace awaits me--waking--sleeping,
    Until I die, and all forget:
    And thou who seest me thus repine,
    Hast not a tear for grief like mine!

The Basque poet can seldom read or write: he owes nothing to education:
nature alone is his instructress, and she inspires him with ideas the
most graceful, tender, and, at the same time, correct, for nothing
exceptionable is ever heard in his songs. In many of these there is a
strain which might parallel some of the sweetest odes of the Persians;
from whom, it is not impossible but that they may have derived them; if,
indeed, the early troubadours from the East have not left their traces
in such lays as this:

          BASQUE SONG.

    "Ezdut uste baden ceruan aingeruric," &c.

    I CANNOT think in heaven above
    Immortal angels there may be,
    Whose hearts can show so pure a love
    As that which binds my soul to thee:

    And when, my ceaseless suff'rings past,
    The grave shall make me all forget,
    I only ask thee, at the last,
    One gentle sigh of fond regret.

Very often these songs take the form of dialogues: the following is one
very well known in the country:

          BASQUE SONG.

    "Amodíoac bainarabila choriñoa aircan bezala," &c.

          _The Lover_.

    LOVE lifts me gently in the air,
    As though I were a bird to fly,
    And nights to me, like days, are fair,
    Because my gentle love is nigh.

         _The Mistress_.

    Thou call'st me dear--ah! seest thou not
    Those words have only pow'r to grieve me?
    Why is my coldness all forgot?
    And why not, at my bidding, leave me?

          _The Lover_.

    The love I feel--and canst thou doubt--
    I, who would traverse seas for thee!
    Who have no power to live without,
    And own thy charms are life to me.

         _The Mistress_.

    If I have charms, thine eye alone
    Behold'st the beauty none can prize;
    Oh! in the world exists but one
    Who fills my soul and dims my eyes:
    That one--ask not who he may be,
    But leave me--for thou art not he!

The following may serve as a specimen of their passionate expressions:

          BASQUE SONG.

    "Ene maitcac biloa hori," &c.

    My fair one, with the golden tresses,
    With rosy cheeks and hands of snow,
    With hopeless care each heart oppresses,
    Around her step such graces glow.

    A cloud, upon her brow descending,
    Has dimm'd that eye of dazzling ray,
    Upon whose glance, the light attending,
    Has led my giddy heart astray.

    I see thee, like the flow'r of morning,
    In sweetness and in beauty shine;
    None like to thee the world adorning--
    My life, my soul, my life is thine!

The Basques have compositions in various styles--complaints and
satires--like the professors of the _gaie science_. War and peace are
celebrated by them: there are poems on La Tour d'Auvergne; Napoleon;
Wellington, and the Revolution of July: in tragedy and melo-drama they
peculiarly succeed; and there exists a modern Basque drama, of singular
merit, called Marie de Navarre, the scene of which is laid in the tenth
century, in which great power is exhibited, and considerable dramatic
effect produced.

There is a saying, well known in the country, _"Ce n'est pas un homme,
c'est un Basque;"_ which is intended to express the superiority of the
native of these regions over all others. It appears that the Basque is,
in fact, of much finer form than the rest of the people of the Pyrenees;
and the young women are proverbially handsome. I cannot speak from
extensive observation; but of this often-named peculiarity of personal
appearance I was by no means sensible in the few specimens I have
seen--for all the people of this part of the South seemed to me
extremely inferior in beauty to those of the North; and, taken in
general, it strikes me that the handsomest natives of France I have seen
are to be found in Normandy. I speak merely as comparing the people with
the same classes in England: and to one accustomed to the sparkling
clear eye, fine delicate complexion, tall stature, and finely-developed
figures of both our men and women, the inhabitants of the whole of
France seem very inferior: there is a monotony in their tanned faces,
spare figures, and black eyes and hair, which wearies, and ceases to
create interest after the first. Some individuals in the Basque country,
however, struck me as handsome and very intelligent.

The Basque is bold and brave, and the French armies never had finer
soldiers, as far as regarded spirit, than the natives of these
countries: but neither did any region produce so many deserters; for the
_maladie du pays_ is strong upon them, and they take the first
opportunity of returning to their home amongst the mountains. This is
not confined to the Basque, but occurs to all the mountaineers of Béarn.
One instance will show this feeling; the story was related by a guide to
the Brèche de Roland, who knew the circumstances. A young man had been
forced by the conscription to join Napoleon's army: he was very young at
the time, and went through all the dangers, hardships, and privations
like a mountaineer and a man of courage; but, as soon as he saw an
opportunity, he deserted, and sought the land where all his wishes
tended. He was pursued and traced from place to place; but, generally
favoured by his friends and assisted by his own ingenuity, he always
eluded search, and, with the precaution of never sleeping two nights in
the same village, he managed for several years to continue free. He was
in love with a young girl, and on one occasion, at a _fête_, had come
far over the mountains to dance with her: he was warned by a companion
that emissaries had been seen in the neighbourhood; but he determined
nothing should interfere with the pleasure he anticipated in leading out
the lass he loved. He had a rival, however, in the company, who gave
notice to the officers of justice that the deserter would be at the
dance, and, accordingly, in the midst of the revel--as they were
executing one of those agile dances, called _Le Saut Basque_--the object
of pursuit became aware that, amidst the throng, were several persons
whom he had no difficulty in guessing were his pursuers. They kept their
station close to the path he must take when he left the spot where they
were dancing, and he, with great presence of mind and determined
gallantry, finished the measure with his pretty partner: at the last
turn, he looked briskly round, and observing that one of his companions
was leaning on a thick stick, he suddenly caught it from his grasp, and
with a leap and run, dashed past the party who were waiting for him,
brandishing the weapon over his head and keeping all off. They were so
taken by surprise, that they had no power to detain him; and the
villagers closing round and impeding them as much as possible, the young
hero got off to the mountains in safety. He was, however, taken some
time after this scene, and carried to Bayonne to be tried, when every
one expected that he would meet with capital punishment; but it was
found impossible to identify him--no one could be induced to appear
against him--and the magistrates, wearied out, at length gave him his
discharge, and he returned to live quietly in his village, and marry his
love, after having been a hunted man in the woods and mountains for
nearly ten years.

The Basque is said to be irritable, revengeful, and implacable; but gay
and volatile, passionately addicted to dancing and the _jeu de paume_,
which he never abandons till compelled by positive infirmity. He is very
adventurous, and fond of excitement; it is not, therefore, singular that
he should be a hardy smuggler, so cunning and adroit that he contrives
to evade the officers of the excise in a surprising manner. If, however,
a smuggler falls beneath the shot of one of the guardians of right, all
the natives become at once his deadly enemy, and he has no safety but in
leaving the country instantly. The women assist their relations in this
dangerous traffic, and perform acts of daring, which are quite
startling. It is told of one, a young girl of Eshiarce, that, being hard
pressed by a party of excise, she ran along a steep ledge of rocks, and,
at a fearful height, cast herself into the Nive: no one dared to follow
down the ravine; and they saw her swimming for her life, battling with
the roaring torrent; she reached the opposite shore, turned with an
exulting gesture, although her basket of contraband goods was lost in
the stream, and, darting off amongst the valleys, was lost to their
view.

The Basques have their comedy, which they call _Tobera-Munstruc_, or
_Charivari represented_; and they enter into its jokes with the utmost
animation and delight. They generally take for their subject some
popular event of a comic nature, and all is carried on extempore. The
young men of a village meet to consult respecting it; and then comes the
_cérémonie du bâton_. Those who choose to be actors, or simply to
subscribe towards the expenses, range themselves on one side; two
amongst them hold a stick at each end, and all those chosen pass beneath
it; this constitutes an engagement to assist; and it is a disgrace to
fail. News is then sent to the villages round of the intention to act a
comedy; and preparations are made by the select committee. The
representations are positive _fêtes_, and are looked forward to with
great pleasure; crowds attend them; and their supporters are usually
picked men, who have a reputation for talent and wit. Crimes never come
under their consideration: it is always something extremely ridiculous,
or some ludicrous failing, that is turned into contempt and held up to
risibility. It is quite amazing to what an extent the genius of the
improvvisatores go at times; they display consummate art and knowledge
of human nature, quick _répartie_, subtle arguments, absurd
conjunctions, startling metaphors, and are never at a loss to meet the
assertions of their adversary on the other side; for it is always in the
form of law-pleadings, for and against, that the comedy is conducted.

It is usually carried on in the manner following:

The crowd assembled, a man on horseback opens the _cortège_: he is
dressed in white trowsers, a purple sash, a white coat, and a fine cap,
ornamented with tinsel and ribbons; flutes, violins, tamborines, and
drums, succeed; then come about forty dancers, in two files, who advance
in a cadenced step; this is the celebrated dance called the _Morisco_,
which is reserved for great occasions. This troop is in the same costume
as the man on horseback; each dancer holding in his right hand a wand,
adorned with ribbons, and surmounted by a bouquet of artificial flowers.
Then come the poet and a guard, a judge and two pleaders, in robes; and
a guard on foot, bearing carbines, close the procession.

The judge and advocates take their places on the stage, seating
themselves before three tables, the poet being in front on the left.

A carnival scene now takes place, in which are all sorts of strange
costumes, harlequins, clowns, and jokers; in this a party of blacksmiths
are conspicuous, whose zeal in shoeing and unshoeing a mule, on which a
_huissier_ sits, with his face to the tail, creates great merriment.
When all this tumult is quieted by proclamation, music sounds; the poet
advances and improvises an address, in which he announces the subject of
the piece; his manner is partly serious, partly jesting. He points out
the advocate who is to plead the cause of morals and propriety: this one
rises, and, in the course of his exordium, takes care to throw out all
the sarcasm he can against his rival, who rouses himself, and the battle
of tongues begins, and is carried on in a sort of rhyming prose, in
which nothing is spared to give force to jest or argument against the
reigning vices or follies of the day. As the orators proceed and become
more and more animated on the subject, they are frequently interrupted
by loud applause. Sometimes, in these intervals, the poet gives a
signal, which puts an end to the discussions before the public are
fatigued; and, the music sounding, the performers of the national dance
appear, and take the place of the two advocates for a time. These
combatants soon re-commence their struggle; and, at length, the judge is
called upon to pronounce between them. A farcical kind of consultation
ensues between the judge and the ministers around, who are supposed to
send messengers even to the king himself by their mounted courier in
attendance.

The judge at last rises, and, with mock solemnity, delivers his fiat.
Then follow quadrilles; and the famous _Sauts Basques_, so well-known
and so remarkable, close the entertainments.

These _fêtes_ last several days, as in Brittany, and are very similar in
their style. I am told, however, that, though very witty, these
representations are not fit for _la bonne compagnie_.

"If to what we have been able to collect on what are called Basques,"
says Du Mège, "we add the remarks of General Serviez, _chargé
d'administration_ of the department of the Basses Pyrénées, a complete
picture is presented of the manners and habits of the descendants of the
Escualdunacs, who may be subdivided into three tribes, or families: the
_Labourdins_, the _Navarrais_, and the _Souletins_."

"They have rather the appearance of a foreign colony transplanted into
the midst of the French, than a people forming a portion of the country,
and living under the same laws and government. They are extremely brave,
and are always the terror of the Spaniards in all wars with them; but
their aversion to leaving their homes is very great, and their
attachment to their personal liberty is remarkable. They are much wedded
to their own habits and customs, and are almost universally
_unacquainted_ with the French language. They are said to be the
_cleanest people in the world_; in which particular they singularly
differ from the Bretons, whom, in some respects, they resemble.

"Mildness and persuasion does much with them, severity nothing: they are
choleric in temper, but soon appeased; nevertheless, they are implacable
in their hatred, and resolute in their revenge. Ready to oblige, if
flattered; restless and active, hard-working; _habitually sober and
well-conducted_, and violently attached to their religion and their
priests. They seem rarely to know fatigue, for, after a hard day's work,
they think little of going five or six leagues to a _fête_, and to be
deprived of this amusement is a great trial to them.

"They are tenacious of the purity of their blood, and avoid, as much as
possible, contracting alliances with neighbouring nations; they are
impatient of strangers acquiring possessions in their country. They are
apt to quarrel amongst each other at home; but there is a great _esprit
du corps_ amongst them when they meet abroad. There are shades of
difference in their characters, according to their province. In general,
the _Souletins_ are more cunning and crafty than the rest, resembling
their neighbours of Béarn in their moral qualities. The _Navarrais_ is
said to be more fickle. The _Labourdins_ are fonder of luxuries, and
less diligent than the others; and it is thought, consequently, less
honest; the latter are generally sailors, and are known as good
whalers."

There seems a desire amongst _improvers_ in France to do away amongst
the common people with the original language, or _patois_, which exists
in so many of the provinces; and in many of the schools nothing is
taught but French. This would seem to be a benefit, as far as regards
civilization; but it shocks the feelings of the people, who are
naturally fond of the language of their fathers. The Bretons, like the
Welsh with us, are very tenacious of this attempt: the people of
Languedoc, with Jasmin, their poet, at their head, have made a stand for
their tongue; and the Basques, at the present moment, are in great
distress that measures are now being taken to teach their children
French, and do away altogether with the language of which they are so
proud, and which is so prized by the learned. In a late _Feuilleton_ of
the Mémorial des Pyrénées, I observed a very eloquent letter on the
subject of instruction in French in the rural schools, from which the
Basque language is banished. The children learn catechism and science in
French, and can answer any question put to them in that language by the
master, like parrots, being quite unable to translate it back into the
tongue they talk at home, where nothing but Basque meets their ears.

It is, of course, quite necessary that they should understand French for
their future good; but there does not appear a sufficient reason that
they should neglect their own language, or, at any rate, that they
should not be instructed in it, and have the same advantage as the
Welsh subjects of Great Britain, who did not, however, obtain all they
claimed for their primitive language without a struggle.

The writer in the Mémorial contends that the children should be taught
their prayers in Basque, and should know the grammar of that dialect in
order to be able to write to their friends when abroad--for many of them
are soldiers and sailors,--in a familiar tongue, since those at home by
their fire-sides know nothing of French, and could not understand the
best French letter that was ever penned. The question is, could they
read _at all_, and if the epistle were read for them by a more learned
neighbour, would not French be as easy as Basque? for the friend must
have been at school to be of use.

Be this as it may, the "coil" made for the beloved tongue shows the
feeling which still exists in Navarre for the "_beau dialecte
Euskarien_."

"Do you know what you would destroy?" exclaims M. de Belsunce, in
somewhat wild enthusiasm; "the sacred relic of ages--the aboriginal
idiom, as ancient as the mountains which shelter and serve for its
asylum!

"The Basque language is our glory, our pride, the theme of all our
memories, the golden book of our traditions. Proud and free in its
accent, noble and learned in its picturesque and sonorous expressions,
its formation and grammatical form are both simple and sublime; add to
which, the people preserve it with a religious devotion.

"It is the language spoken by our illustrious ancestors--those who
carried the terror of their arms from the heights of the Pyrenees to
Bordeaux and Toulouse. It is the language of the conquerors of
Theodobert, Dagobert, and Carebert; and of the fair and ill-fated wife
of the latter--the unfortunate Giselle. Were not the sacred cries of
liberty and independence uttered amongst our mountains in that tongue,
and the songs of triumph which were sent to heaven after the victory of
the Gorges of the Soule? It is the dialect named by Tacitus, as that of
those who were never conquered--_Cantaber invictus_: immortalized as
that of the _Lions of War_: spoken by the most _ancient people in the
world_--a race of shepherds with patriarchal manners, proverbial
hospitality, and right-mindedness; light-hearted, friendly and true,
though implacable in vengeance and terrible in anger as undaunted in
courage.

"Our chronicles live in our national songs, and our language proves an
ancient civilization. To the philosopher and the learned who study it,
it presents, from its grandeur, its nobility, and the rich harmony of
its expressions, a subject of grave meditation; it may serve as the key
of the history of nations, and solve many doubts on the origin of lost
or faded languages."

Perhaps M. de Belsunce takes a rather pompous view of the subject; but
he has, nevertheless, much reason in his appeal.

As specimens of this extraordinary language, some of the names of the
Basque towns may amuse and surprise the reader; perhaps, in the
Marquesas islands, lately taken possession of by the French, they may
find some sounds which to Basque sailors, of which a ship's crew is
almost certain to have many, may be familiar.

Places in the district of Forest of Saint Eugrace.

Iratsodoqui. Urruxordoqui. Mentchola. Orgambidecosorhona.

Furunchordoqui, near the Port d'Anie.

The Pic d'Anie is properly called Ahuguamendi.

In Basse Burie occur the following names;--

Iturourdineta. Iparbarracoitcha. Aspildoya. Lehintchgarratia.

In the arrondissement of Bayonne may be met with:--Urkheta, Hiriburu,
Itsasu, Beraskhoitce, Zubernua, and others equally singular in sound.



CHAPTER XIV.

     CAGOTS--CACOUS OF BRITTANY.


ONE of the most puzzling and, at the same time, interesting subjects,
which recurs to the explorer in the Pyrenees, is the question respecting
that mysterious race of people called Cagots, whose origin has never yet
been satisfactorily accounted for. All travellers speak of the Cagots,
and make allusion to them, but nothing very positive is told. When I
arrived in the Pyrenees, my first demand was respecting them; but those
of my countrymen who had ever heard of their existence assured me that
their denomination was only another word for _Crétin_ or _Goîtreux_:
others insisted that no trace of the ancient _parias_ of these countries
remained, and some treated the legends of their strange life as mere
fables.

I applied to the French inhabitants; from whom I heard much the same,
though all agreed that Cagots were to be found in different parts of the
mountains, and that they were still shunned as a race apart, though the
prejudice against them was certainly wearing away.

I inquired of our Béarnaise servant whether she could tell me anything
about the Cagots, upon which she burst into a fit of laughter, which
lasted some time, on her recovery from which she informed me that they
were accustomed to use the word as a term of derision. "Any one," said
she, "_whose ears are short--cut off at the tip_, we call Cagot; but it
is only _pour rire_, it is not a polite word."

I hoped, from her information, and the manner in which she treated the
subject, that the Cagots were indeed extinct, and known only as a
by-word, which had now no meaning; but I found, by conversing with
intelligent persons who had been a great deal in the mountains, and
given their attention to such discoveries, that the unfortunate people,
once the objects of scorn and oppression to all their fellow-men, are
still to be found, and still lead an isolated life, though no longer
proscribed or hunted like wild beasts as formerly.

I examined, with the aid of a friend in Pau, the archives of the town,
and found several times mention made of these people up to a late
period, in which they were classed as persons out of the pale of the
law; a price is put on their heads, as if they were wolves; they are
forbidden to appear in the towns, and orders are issued to the police to
_shoot them_ if found infringing the rules laid down; punishments are
named as awaiting them if they ventured to ally themselves, in any way,
with any out of their own caste, and they are spoken of together with
brigands and malefactors, and all other persons whose crimes have placed
them out of the protection of their country.

In Gascony, Béarn, and the Pays Basque, it is well known that for
centuries this proscribed race has existed, entirely separated from the
rest of their species, marrying with each other, and thus perpetuating
their misfortune, avoided, persecuted, and contemned: their origin
unknown, and their existence looked upon as a blot on the face of
nature. At one period the Cagots were objects of hatred, from the belief
that they were afflicted with the leprosy, which notion does not appear
to be founded on fact; in later times, they have been supposed to suffer
more especially from _goître_; but physicians have established that they
are not more subject to this hideous disease than their neighbours of
the valleys and mountains. Nevertheless, a belief even now prevails that
this wretched people, and the race of Crétins, are the same, and that
they owe their origin to the Visigoths, who subdued a part of Gaul.

Ramond, in his "Observations on the Pyrenees," has the following curious
passage: "My observations on the Crétins had thrown little light on the
subject; and learned persons whom I had consulted had not placed it in a
clearer point of view: I found myself obliged to add another proof to
the many that exist, to demonstrate that the resemblance of effects is
not always a sure indication of the identity of causes; when my habitual
intercourse with the people entirely changed the nature of the
question, by showing that it was amongst the unfortunate race of Cagots
that I should find the Crétins of the Valley of Luchon.

"It was with a shyness which I found much difficulty in overcoming, that
the inhabitants of this country avowed to me that their valley contained
a certain number of families which, from time immemorial, were regarded
as forming part of an infamous and cursed race; that those who composed
them were never counted as citizens; that everywhere they were forbidden
to carry arms; that they were looked upon as slaves, and obliged to
perform the most degrading offices for the community at large; that
misery and disease was their constant portion; that the scourge of
_goître_ generally belonged to them; that they were peculiarly afflicted
with the complaint in the valleys of Luchon, all those of the Pays de
Comminges, of Bigorre, Béarn, and the two Navarres; that their miserable
abodes are ordinarily in remote places, and that whatever amelioration
of prejudice has arisen in the progress of time, and the improvement of
manners, a marked aversion is always shown towards that set of people,
who are forced still to keep themselves entirely distinct from the free
natives of the villages in their neighbourhood."

There hare, however, many parts of Béarn, Soule, and Navarre, for
instance, in following the course of the Gave of Oloron, inhabited by
Cagots who are by no means subject to the infirmity of _goître_, by
which it appears that it is merely an accidental complaint with them as
with others.

The prejudice which has peculiarly attributed to them this horrible
affliction is therefore erroneous: and equally so is the idea that they
carry in their appearance any indication of a difference of species:
for, instead of the sallow, weak, sickly hue which it was believed
belonged to them, it is known that they differ in nowise from the other
natives in complexion, strength, or health. Instances of great age occur
amongst them; and they are subject to no more nor less infirmities than
others. Beauty or ugliness, weakness or strength, deformity or
straightness, are common to the Cagots as to the rest of the human race.
This, however, is certain, that in some villages the richest persons are
of the proscribed order; but they, nevertheless, are held in a certain
degree of odium, and their alliance is avoided: the state of misery and
destitution in which they were represented to M. Ramond exists but
partially at present; for, being in general more active and industrious
than the other inhabitants, they very frequently become rich, although
they never are able to assume the position in society which wealth in
any other class allows.

The following is a fearful picture, which it is to be hoped is
exaggerated at the present day. It exhibits the Cagots according to the
opinion a few years ago prevalent, and denies to this people the health
for which others who defend them contend:

"Health," says the French author of "Travels in the French Pyrenees,"
"that treasure of the indigent, flies from the miserable huts of Agos,
Bidalos, and Vieuzac: three villages, so close together, that they
constitute one whole: they are situated in the valley called Extremère
de Sales. The numerous sources which spring beside the torrent of
Bergons, the freshness and solitude of these charming retreats, the rich
shade of the thick chesnuts, which in summer form delicious groves--all
is obscured by the miserable state of the inhabitants: diseases of the
most loathsome kind prevail for ever in this smiling valley: Crétins
abound, those unhappy beings _supposed to be the descendants of the
Alains_, a part of whom established themselves in the Pyrenees and the
Valais. Whether this connexion really exists or not, a stupid
indifference, which prevents them from feeling their position, exists in
common with the Crétins amongst those people known as Goths, or Cagots,
_chiens de Gots_, and _Capots_, who are a fearful example of the
duration of popular hatred. They are condemned to the sole occupation
permitted to them, that of hewing of wood; are banished from society,
their dwellings placed at a distance from towns and villages, and are in
fact excommunicated beggars; forced, besides, in consequence of the
profession of Arianism, adopted by their Gothic ancestors, to wear on
their habits a mark of obloquy in the form of a goose's foot, which is
sewn on their clothes; exposed to insult and every species of severity;
condemned to the fear of having their feet pierced with hot irons, if
they appear bare-footed in towns, and pursued with the most bitter
rigour that bigotry and animosity can indulge in."

The words, _Stupides, Idiots, Crétins_, and _Cagots_ have been
considered synonymous; but this is an error: the last wretched class
being separated in their misery, and distinct from the rest. The
beautiful valleys of the Pyrenees are frightfully infested with the
disease of _goitre_, and few of them are free; but the Cagots merely
share the affliction, as has been said before (following the learned and
benevolent Palassou) with the rest of the inhabitants.

The notion which, at first sight, would seem better founded, is, that
the Cagots are descendants of those numerous _lepers_ who formed a
fearful community at one period, and were excluded from society to
prevent infection; but the more the subject is investigated the less
does this appear likely: though banished, from prudential motives, and
even held in abhorrence, from the belief that their malady was a
judgment of Heaven, those afflicted with leprosy, when healed, had the
power of returning to the communion of their fellows: they were not
excommunicated, nor placed beyond the mercy of the laws: they were
avoided, but not hated; and they had some hope for the future, which was
denied to the Cagots.

In the Basque country they are called _Agots_, and it is ascertained
that, though held in the same aversion as in Bigorre, Navarre, and
Béarn, they have no physical defects, nor any difference of manners or
appearance to the rest of the natives: they are there also vulgarly said
to descend from the Goths.

The popular notion of the shortness of the lobe of the ear, which is
supposed to be a characteristic of a Cagot, seems to be only worthy of
the laughter which accompanied its first announcement to me; yet it is
an old tradition, and has long obtained credence.

The learned Marca, who has treated this subject, remarks: "These
unfortunate beings are held as infected and leprous; and by an express
article in the _Coutumes de Béarn_ and the provinces adjacent, familiar
conversation with the rest of the people is severely interdicted to
them. So that, even in the churches, they have a door set apart by which
to enter, with a _bénitier_ and seats for them solely: they are obliged
to live in villages apart from other dwellings: they are usually
carpenters, and are permitted to use no arms or tools but those
expressly required in their trade: they are looked upon as infamous,
although they have, according to the ancient _Fors de Béarn_, a right to
be heard as witnesses; seven of them being required to make the
testimony of _one uninfected_ man."

Though previous to the time of Louis VI. called Le Gros, in 1108, the
Cagots were sold as slaves _with_ estates, it does not appear that their
fate, in this respect, was different from that of other serfs, who were
all transferred from one master to another, without reserve. A
denomination given to a Cagot, however, in the record of a deed of gift,
mentioned by Marca, gives rise to other conjectures, involving still
more interesting inquiries. It is there stated, that with a "_nasse_"
was given a _Chrétien_, named Auriot Donat; that is to say, the _house_
of a Cagot and himself with it.

In the cartulary of the _ci-devant_ Abbey of Luc, in the year 1000, and
in the _Fors de Béarn_, they are designated as _Chrestiàs_, and the term
_Cagot_, we are informed by Marca, was first employed in acts relative
to them in the year 1551. They are called _gaffos_ in an ancient _Fors_
of Navarre, in 1074; and the term _Chrestiàas_ even now is used to
denote the villages where the Cagots reside.

It appears that the Cagots of the present day are ordinarily denominated
_Agotacs_ and _Cascarotacs_, by the peasants of Béarn and the Basque
country: that of _Chrétiens_ seemed affixed to them formerly, but was
equally so to the lepers who were obliged to live isolated, and their
abodes were called _chrestianeries_.

As the serfs became emancipated, the Cagots, who had been slaves
peculiarly appropriated by the Church, and called by them, it seems,
_Chrestiàs_, were allowed similar privileges: added to which, from
having belonged to the ecclesiastics, and from not enjoying the rights
of citizens, they were exempt from taxes. In later times, this led to
innovations by these very Cagots, who, becoming rich, endeavoured to
usurp the prerogatives of nobility. The Etats of Béarn, issued a command
to the "_Cagot d'Oloron_,"--who appears to have been a powerful
person--to prevent him from building a _dovecote_, and to another to
forbid him the use of arms and the costume of a gentleman.

At the church of St. Croix at Oloron is still to be seen a _bénitier_,
set apart for the use of this race; and at the old fortified church of
Luz, was a little door, now closed up, by which they entered to perform
their devotions.

The prohibition to carry arms, which never extended to _lepers_, would
seem to indicate that the Cagots, always separately mentioned in all the
public acts, were persons who might be dangerous to public tranquillity.
And this, together with the appellation of _Christians_, may give colour
to another opinion, entertained by those who reject the idea of their
being descendants of those Goths who took refuge in the mountains after
the defeat of Alaric by Clovis.

The opinion to which I allude, and which is adopted by Palassou, is that
they come from those Saracens who fled from Charles Martel in the eighth
century, after the defeat of their chief, Abderraman, near Tours: these
Saracens are supposed to have sheltered themselves from pursuit in the
mountains, where, being prevented by the snows from going further, they
remained hemmed in, and by degrees established themselves here, and
conformed to Christianity; but does this account for the contempt and
hatred which they had to endure for so many centuries after? for no race
of people, once converted, were any longer held accursed in the country
where they lived. If, indeed, they remained pagan, this severity might
naturally have visited them; but the Cagots were certainly Christians
from early times, as the accommodations prepared for them in churches
proves.

There seems little doubt that the armies of Abderraman spread themselves
over the Pyrenees, where they long kept the French and Gascons in fear:
traditions of them still exist, and the name of a plain near the village
of Ossun, in Bigorre, called Lane-Mourine, seems to tell its own tale,
as well as the relics found in its earth of the skulls of men,
pronounced by competent judges to be those of the natives of a warm
climate: in other words, of Saracens, or Moors. But still there seems
nothing to prove that the Cagots are the children of these identical
Moors, who are said to have been infected with leprosy, and consequently
shunned by the people amongst whom they had intruded themselves.

Lepers, at all times, were ordered to be kept apart from the rest of the
people, and were placed under the care of the Church to prevent their
wandering and carrying infection with them; and the miserable condition
in which the proscribed race of Cagots existed, probably made them more
liable to take the hideous disease which would have separated them from
their kind, even if not already in that predicament: but there must have
been something more than mere disease which kept the line for ever drawn
between these poor wretches and the rest of the world.

It is expressly defined in the speeches of ministers from the altar to
those afflicted with leprosy:--"_As long as you are ill_ you shall not
enter into any house out of the prescribed bounds." This applied to
_all_ afflicted with leprosy; but the embargo was never taken off the
Cagot.

At one period, the priests made a difficulty of confessing those who
were Cagots, and Pope Leo X. was obliged to issue orders to all
ecclesiastics to administer the sacraments to them as well as to others
of the faithful.

They were during some time called _gezitains_, or descendants of Gehazi,
the servant of Elisha, leprous and accursed; but by what authority does
not appear. The leprosy was called the _Arab evil_, and supposed to have
been brought into Europe by the Saracens: the _suspicion_ of _infection_
which attached to this race might have caused them to be so shunned;
and, whether afflicted or not, they never got the better of this
suspicion.

The greatest number of Cagots are to be found in those parts of the
Pyrenees which lead directly to Spain, which may strengthen the
supposition that the Moors are really their ancestors. A sad falling off
to the glory and grandeur of this magnificent people is the notion that
all that remains of them should be a race of outcasts, loathsome and
abhorred! I cannot induce myself to adopt this idea till more proof is
offered to support it, and better reason given to account for the
contempt and hatred shown to a people, who, though once followers of
Mahomed had become _Chretiàas_.

Amongst other names given them are those of _gahets_ and _velus_, for
which there seems no explanation; but every new fact involves the
question in still deeper obscurity.

It was always enacted that _catechumens_, during the two or three years
of probation which they passed previous to being received as children of
the Church, should live apart from professed Christians, being neither
allowed to eat or frequent the baptized, or give them the kiss of peace:
and the Saracens of course were subjected to the same trials, from
whence might first have arisen the habit of their living apart, and
being looked upon with suspicion, both on account of their former faith
and their supposed leprosy. This is, however, I think, scarcely
sufficient to warrant the long continuance of the enmity which has
pursued them.

One of the acts of the parliament of Bordeaux shows with how much
harshness they were treated, and what pains were taken to keep them from
mixing with the people, long after the panic of leprosy must have
disappeared. In 1596 it was ordained that, "conformable to preceding
decrees, the _Cagots_ AND _gahets_ residing in the parishes and places
circumjacent, shall in future wear upon their vestments and on their
breasts a red mark, _in the form of a goose's or duck's foot_, in order
to be separated from the rest of the people; they are prohibited from
touching the viands which are sold in the markets, under the pain of
_being whipped_, except those which the sellers have delivered to them;
otherwise, they will be banished from the parish they inhabit: also, it
is forbidden to the said _cagots_ to touch the holy water in the
churches, which the other inhabitants take." The same decree was issued
to put in force ancient ordinances concerning them, in Soule, in the
year 1604.

Still further animosity was shown to these miserable people in 1606. The
three states of the said country of Soule, in a general assembly, passed
an order by which it was forbidden "to the Cagots, under pain of
whipping, to exercise the trade of a miller, or to touch the flour of
the common people; and not to mingle in the dances of the rest of the
people, under pain of corporal punishment."

Severe as these laws were, those against _lepers_ were still more
cautious: for whereas Cagots were allowed to enter the churches by a
private way, the lepers were not permitted to attend divine worship at
all; and had churches appropriated to them alone, which was never the
case with the Cagots, who were merely placed apart in the lowest seats.

Much the same arrangements were made respecting the _Cacous_ of
Brittany, who were allowed to occupy a distant part of the churches, but
not to approach the altar, or touch any of the vestments or vases, under
a fine of a hundred sous; but chapels, or _fréries_, were permitted them
at the gates of several towns--an indulgence apparently never permitted
to the _Cagots_.

Lobineau derives their name from Latin and Greek words signifying
"_malady_," a denomination which strengthens the opinion of those who
imagine the crusaders brought the leprosy back from Palestine on their
return from their pilgrimage.

That the Cagots were exempt from leprosy, appears from a circumstance
which took place in 1460, when "the States of Béarn demanded of Gaston
de Béarn, Prince of Navarre, that he would command the rule to be
enforced that the Cagots should not walk bare-footed in the streets, for
fear of communicating the leprosy, and that it should be permitted, in
case of their refusing to comply with the enactment, that their feet
should be pierced with a hot iron, and also that they should be obliged,
in order to distinguish them, to wear on their clothes the ancient mark
of a goose's foot, which they had long abandoned: _which proposition was
not attended to_, thereby proving that the council of the Prince did not
approve of the animosity of the States, and did not consider the Cagots
infected with leprosy."

The law was more severe in Brittany, about the same period; for, in
1477, the Duke François II., in order to prevent the _cacous_,
_caqueux_, _or caquins_, from being under the necessity of begging, and
mingling with persons in health, granted them permission to use, as
farmers, the produce of the land near their dwellings, under certain
restrictions; and at the same time insisted on their renewing the red
mark which they were condemned to wear. He also ordered that all
commerce should be interdicted to them except that of _hemp_, from
whence it comes that the trade of a cordwainer is considered vile in
some cantons of Bretagne, as those of swineherd and boatman were in
Egypt.

In some places in Brittany, the trade of cooper was looked upon with
contempt, and the opprobrious name of _caqueux_ was given to them
because they were thought to belong to a _race of Jews_ dispersed after
the ruin of Jerusalem, and who were considered _leprous from father to
son_.

It was _only as late as_ 1723, that the parliament of Bordeaux--which
had long shown such tyranny towards this unhappy class--issued an order
that opprobrious names should no longer be applied to them, and that
they should be admitted into the general and private assemblies of
communities, allowed to hold municipal charges, and be granted the
honours of the church. They were to be permitted in future to enter the
galleries of churches like any other person; their children received in
schools and colleges in all towns and villages, and christian
instruction withheld from them no more than from another. Yet, in spite
of this ordinance, hatred and prejudice followed this people still;
though, protected by the laws, they fell on them less heavily.

At Auch, a quarter was set apart for the _Cagots_, or _capots_, and
_another_ for _the lepers_. The _gakets_ of Guizeris, in the diocese of
Auch, had a door appropriated to them in the church, which the rest of
the inhabitants carefully avoided approaching.

"This prejudice," says Brugèles,[38] "lasted till the visit paid to the
church by M. Louis d'Aignan du Sendat, archdeacon of Magnoac, who, in
order to abolish this distinction, passed out of the church by the
_porte des Cagots_, followed by the _curé_, and all the ecclesiastics of
the parish, and those of his own _suite_; the people, seeing this,
followed also, and since that time the doors have been used
indifferently by all classes."

[Footnote 38: "Chroniques Eccl. du Dioc. D'Auch."]

Although my idea may be laughed at by the learned, it has occurred to
me, that this race might be the descendants of those Goths who were
driven from Spain by the Moors, introduced by Count Julian in
consequence of the conduct of Don Roderick.

There seems scarcely a good reason why the Goths under Alaric should
stop in the Pyrenees on their way to a safer retreat, when pursued by
the troops of Clovis, the Christian; Spain was open to them, and to
remain amongst the enemy's mountains seemed bad policy. Again, why
should Abdelrahman, after his defeat, when his discomfited people fled
before the _hammer_ of the great Charles, have paused in the Pyrenees?
Spain was their's, and surely the remnant would have sought their own
land, even if detained awhile by the snows, and not have remained a mark
of contempt and hatred in the country of their conquerors.

But when Roderick and his Goths fled from the Moors, after the fatal
battle of Guadalete, and they remained monarchs of Spain, there was no
safety for the ruined remnant but in close concealment; and the Pyrenees
offered a safe retreat. The Christians of France, however, would not
have received them as friends, and they could not return to their own
country; therefore, they might have sheltered themselves in the gorges,
and when they appeared have been looked upon with the same horror as the
Arians of the time of Alaric, or even have been confounded by the people
with those very Moors who drove them out of Spain.

The difficulty, which is the greatest by far, is to account for the
unceasing contempt which clung to them _after_ they became _Chrestiàas_.

An ingenious person of Pau, who has considered the subject in all its
bearings, has a theory that the Cagots are, after all, the _earliest
Christians_, persecuted by the Romans, compelled, in the first instance,
to take shelter in rocks and caves; and, even after the whole country
became converted to Christianity, retaining their bad name from habit,
and in consequence of their own ignorance, which had cast them back into
a benighted state, and made them appear different from their
better-instructed neighbours. Their name of _Christians_ appears to have
given rise to this notion.

I am looking forward very anxiously to a work of M. Francisque Michel,
on the subject, of the Cagots, which I hear is now in the press. His
unwearied enthusiasm and industry, and the enormous researches he has
made both in France and Spain, will, doubtless, enable him to throw some
valuable light on the curious question,[39] if not set it at rest for
ever.

[Footnote 39: M. Francisque Michel's announced work bears the following
title: "Recherches sur les Races maudites de la France et de l'Espagne.
(Cagots des Pyrénées. Capots du Languedoc. Gahets da la Guienne.
Colliberts du Bas Poitou. Caqueux de la Bretagne. Cacous du Mans.
Marrons de l'Auvergne. Chreetas de Mayorque. Vacqueros des Asturies.)"]



CHAPTER XV.

     THE CAGOT--VALLÉE D'ASPE--SUPERSTITIONS--FORESTS--DESPOURRINS--THE
     TWO GAVES--BEDOUS--HIGH-ROAD TO SARAGOSSA--CASCADE OF
     LESCUN--URDOS--A PICTURE OF MURILLO--LA VACHE.


THE subject of the Cagots has occupied the attention of learned and
unlearned persons both formerly, and at the present time; and the
interest it excites is rather on the increase than otherwise; like the
mysterious question of the race and language of the Basques, it can
never fail to excite speculation and conjecture. A gentleman, who is a
professor at the college of Pau, has devoted much of his time to the
investigation of this curious secret, and has thrown his observations
together in the form of a romance, in a manner so pleasing, and so well
calculated to place the persons he wishes to describe immediately before
the mind's eye of his reader, that I think a few extracts from his story
of THE CAGOT, yet unpublished, will give the best idea of the state of
degradation and oppression in which the Cagots were forced to exist; and
exhibit in lively colours the tyranny and bigoted prejudice to which
they were victims. I avail myself, therefore, of the permission of M.
Badé, to introduce his _Cagot_ to the English reader.[40] The story thus
opens:

[Footnote 40: Most of the scenes of the story in the Vallée d'Aspe have
become familiar to me, and I can vouch for the truth of the
descriptions.]


THE CAGOT.

A BÉARNAIS TALE.

"ON a fine night in the month of June, 1386, a mounted party,
accompanied by archers and attendants on foot, were proceeding, at a
quiet pace, along the left bank of a rivulet called Lauronce, on the way
between Oloron and Aubertin. A fresh breeze had succeeded the burning
vapours which, in the scorching days of summer, sometimes transform the
valleys of Béarn into furnaces. Myriads of stars glittered, bright and
clear, like sparkles of silver, in the deep blue sky, and their
glimmering light rendered the thin veil still more transparent which the
twilight of the solstice had spread over the face of the country; while
through this shadowy haze might be seen, from point to point, on the
hills, the ruddy flame of half-extinguished fires.

"From time to time, those who composed the cavalcade paused as it
reached higher ground, in order to contemplate the magnificent spectacle
before them and the effect produced by the doubtful and fleeting shadows
which rested on the fields, on the dark woods, and on the broken and
uncertain line in the southern horizon which indicated the summits of
the Pyrenees. The air was full of the perfume of newly-cut hay; the
leaves sent forth a trembling murmur; the cricket uttered his sharp
chirrup in the meadows; the quail's short, flute-like cry was heard, and
all in nature harmonized with the beauty of the summer night."

The party, who are travelling at this hour in order to avoid the heats
of the day, are then introduced by the narrator as the Baron de Lescun
and his niece, Marie, an orphan confided to his care: they are on their
way to the Court of Gaston Phoebus, Count of Foix, at Orthez, who is
about to give a series of _fêtes_ and tournaments: they have been
joined by a lady and her son--the Dame d'Artiguelouve (a name of old
standing in Béarn, and still existing,)--and the young _domenger_, (the
Bérnais title of _Damoiseau_,) Odon, escorted by their pages and valets.
Conversation ensues between them, in which the young lady expresses some
doubts as to their prudence in choosing so witching an hour, however
beautiful the time, for their journey; when it is known that evil
spirits and sorcerers are abroad on their foul errands.

They presently arrive on the territory of Faget, when they are startled
to observe, as if flitting near them, human forms, which glide
noiselessly along, like shades in the darkness. Some of these mysterious
beings placed themselves in a stooping position on the margin of the
streams, with their faces bent close to the water. Others, divesting
themselves of their garments, entered, with hurried and noiseless stops,
a neighbouring field of oats, and there concealed themselves. Some of
the strangers were astonished at what they saw, and could not resolve in
their own minds whether or not these were, indeed, phantoms that
appeared in their path.

"'Midnight must be near, and the _fête_ of St. Jean is about to begin,'
said the Sire de Lescun; 'for these are the poor people who are on the
watch for the unattainable moment, when, it is thought, the water
changes into wine, and has the power of healing all their infirmities:
the dew of this night, received on the body in the fields, is also said
to be endowed with the same marvellous virtue.'"

A confused noise now met their ears as they entered the forest of
Lorincq, and a singular spectacle was presented to them:

"The forest, all resplendent with illuminations, seemed full of bustle
and animation. Numerous torches sparkled amongst the trees to which they
were suspended or attached; others were borne along, whirled from place
to place, their black smoke sending its long wreaths into the air, and
their red flame flashing through the gloom. A thousand voices burst
forth, as if simultaneously, from height and valley, above, around, and
underneath; an immense crowd hurried along--some mounting, some
descending--amongst the crackling branches, until the intricate alleys
and close retreats of this labyrinth of verdure were filled with human
beings.

"The lame and wounded, the infirm and paralytic grouped themselves
around the fountains, to be ready at the right moment to plunge their
afflicted limbs in the cold waters, and then to cast in their offering
of a piece of money: some, providing for the future, busied themselves
in filling, from the beneficent source, their vases and pitchers to
overflowing; for it was firmly believed, that, in memory of the holy
baptism administered by the patron of the _fête_, Heaven had endowed the
waters with peculiar powers during that favoured night; allowing the
virtue to take effect from midnight to the rising of the sun.

"In the humid fern might be seen cattle sent to graze at will, in the
hope of being cured of some malady, their tinkling bells indicating
where they wandered. Parties of old men, women, and children, dispersed
here and there, were eating cakes prepared for the occasion; while young
men and girls danced in circles beneath the ash and elm trees, to the
sound of the _flute of three notes_, accompanied by the nasal cadence of
the lute of six strings.

"After halting for a considerable time, and taking their part in the
religious advantages of the _fête_, the cavalcade resumed its route; and
soon descended into the valley of the Bayse, as the sky began to be
tinged with the hue of dawn. When they arrived at the hospital of
Aubertin, the first rays of the sun were casting a golden light on the
Roman transepts of the church."

At the moment that the Dame d'Artiguelouve and her son are alighting
from their horses, they are arrested, and impressed with a superstitious
feeling of terror, by observing a fine white courser at the door of the
church, held by a page. This was, at the period, a bad omen for the
stranger who first saw it, and boded no good to any one.

"'I would not', said Joan Bordenabe--a peasant standing by,--'for the
castle of Artiguelouve, have met with so bad an omen, as the Ena[41]
Garsende and her noble son, who have come at once, face to face, with
that animal, covered, as it would seem by his colour, with the snows of
the Pyrenees: by our Lady of Sarrance, their future years will be as
black as he is white!'

"'But,' replied his companion, 'if I were the knight to whom the charger
belongs, I would part with him instantly, even if, at the same time as I
drowned him, I must throw into the Gave my sword and golden spurs: don't
you see that spiteful-looking magpie, which has just started up before
him, after having chattered in his very face? What awful signs of evil
are these! and on such a morning, at the rising of the sun! * * * May
the _bon Dieu_, the Holy Virgin, and the white fairies of the
subterranean caves, who are always combing their hair at the first
glimpse of dawn, and looking into the clear mirror of the fountains,
protect that beautiful young lady, who is at this moment entering the
church. It is to be hoped she has made an ample provision of fennel to
lay under her bed's head, and in her oratory, to counteract the evil
influence of the _Brouches_!'"[42]

[Footnote 41: En and Ena are titles of Béarnaise nobility, answering to
the Spanish Don and Doña.]

[Footnote 42: Witches or Sorcerers of Béarn.]

While the young lady, Marie de Lignac, enters the church to perform her
devotions, the rest of the party leave her, to join the chase of the
wild boar, which the Lord of Artiguelouve, the father of Odon, is
following, as his horns announce, in the adjacent forest.

The Hospital of Aubertin, which still exists, is a building of the
twelfth century, and was one of many establishments depending on the
order of monks hospitalers of Sainte Christine: it served as an asylum
to the pilgrims of St. James, and as a resting-place to travellers going
and coming to and from Spain, Marie found the church filled with persons
of different professions: merchants from Arragon and Catalonia; pilgrims
adorned with palms and cockle-shells, emblems of their wandering;
shepherds in their red dresses and brown berret-caps; and wayfarers of
many sorts, waiting only for the morning to continue their journey in
various directions, and offering up their prayers previously to setting
out. Among others, she noticed particularly a young knight (un beau
caver[43]) devoutly kneeling at the foot of the altar of the Virgin,
while his archers and men-at-arms were engaged in prayer close behind
him: she judged that to him must belong the white charger at the
church-door, which had inspired the peasants with so much superstitious
terror. Nothing appeared to disturb the devotion of the knight; neither
the neighing of steeds without, nor the clatter of the hoofs of mules in
the court, as the different groups prepared to depart; nor the coming
and going of the merely curious, who were busied observing the beauty of
the edifice, the materials of which, according to popular belief, were
furnished by the Holy Virgin herself, who directed the elaborate and
beautiful ornaments of the pillars and cornices still to be seen there.

[Footnote 43: _Caver_. Chevalier, knight.]

The knight's costume was half civil, half military; of one sombre
colour, without blazon or distinction--a circumstance unusual at the
period: the expression of his face was grave and melancholy: he was
somewhat bronzed with the sun, otherwise his complexion was fair, and
his blue eyes were full of character and softness.

Even the appearance of the lady does not cause the knight to cease his
prayers, and she remains looking upon him, half-divided between her duty
and a sudden feeling of admiration and involuntary esteem for which she
is unable to account, except by considering him as an apparition sent
from heaven,--when a violent noise without, accompanied by the cries of
hunters and their horns, effectually put a stop to the religious
occupation of all within the church. All hurry out, and, amongst the
rest--her orisons over--is the young lady, attended by her page. She had
scarcely left the door, and was hastening to the neighbouring hostelry,
when she saw before her, at a very short distance, surrounded by a
furious pack of hounds, who, bleeding and wounded, were yet attacking
their enemy boldly, an enormous wild boar, evidently rendered savage by
his sufferings. The beast rushed along, his white tusks gleaming
fearfully, and his hot breath already reaching the terrified girl and
her feeble protector. Marie turned back, and darted towards the open
door of the church, and in another moment might have been out of the
reach of the infuriated animal; but a stone imprudently aimed at the
boar by a peasant from the wood, sent him, foaming, exactly in the
direction she had taken. She saw there was no escape--made a bound, and
fell senseless on the threshold of the church: the boar had just reached
the spot, and one stroke of his terrible tusk had sufficed to crush the
fragile being, who lay extended before him, when a young peasant, with a
swiftness almost supernatural, interposed between her and her fate; and,
with an axe with which he was armed, discharged so well-directed a blow
on the head of the brute, that he extended him dead at his feet.

Certainly, never had succour arrived at a time of more need; and it was
impossible to deny that the young man's intrepidity had saved the lady's
life: nevertheless, when the crowd collected around them, as Marie,
assisted by her terrified page, began to recover consciousness, and her
deliverer stood, his axe yet reeking with the blood of the animal from
whom he had saved her, and whose carcase lay recking, the skull cleft in
two,--it was with anything but applause or commendation that this act of
self-devotion was hailed by all present.

As they cast their eyes on the coarse and ragged garb of the young man,
those nearest observed on the breast a certain piece of red cloth, cut
in the form of _a goose's foot_: a cry of horror and contempt, mingled
with surprise, accompanied this discovery, and the words--"It is a
Cagot! it is a Cagot!" rang through the assembly, and was repeated by a
hundred voices in different intonations of horror. * * *

The object of this popular disgust was a tall, handsome,
powerfully-built youth, fair, and of fine complexion: he stood in an
easy attitude, in which the majesty of recent action was conspicuous:
his colour was heightened, and his bright eyes flashed with satisfaction
at the deed he had performed; but when he heard the rage of the people
rising, and the fatal and detested name of _Cagot_ sounded in his ears,
a far different feeling--the consciousness of his utter degradation,
which he had for a moment forgotten, returned to him with added force.
Suddenly recalled from his illusion, his head sunk mournfully on his
bosom, and he seemed at once to retire within himself, gathering all
the courage and patience of which he was capable to enable him to
endure the outrages and violence which he knew but too well awaited him.

"'Accursed Cagot![44]--down with the accursed Cagot!' repeated a host of
confused voices.

[Footnote 44: At the period at which this story is laid, the Cagots were
called _Chrestiaàs_, but the term _Cagot_, adopted later is more
generally known in Béarn.]

"'Death to the leprous wretch!--to the river with him!--drag him to the
river!--he has infected our fields--the holy dew is on him yet!'

"'He has laid his infected hands on our master's goods--he has dared to
touch the game!' cried one of the huntsmen, coming up.

"'Hound of ill omen!' thundered Odon d'Artiguelouve, dashing through all
the crowd, with his lady-mother and all his mounted attendants--'has he
dared to place his devilish claw on that which belongs to us?'

"'He has bewitched our woods, and blighted our harvests!' exclaimed a
peasant, giving him a blow, and spitting in his face.

"'To the flames with the sorcerer!--to the fire with the
broomstick-rider!--to the fire with the comrade of the infernal
spirits!' cried others; and one threw at him a half-burnt log of the St.
John's fire, which, striking him on the forehead, sent the unfortunate
Cagot reeling to the foot of a tree, against which he leaned for
support.

This, and much more insult was lumped upon the unfortunate young man,
accompanied by furious howlings and execrations, which became every
moment louder: hisses, laughter, and showers of mud and stones were sent
towards him as he stood, motionless and calm; his eyes half-closed;
without uttering a groan or a word; but, apparently, resolved to endure
without shrinking the undeserved fate which pursued him.

Every moment the crowd increased, and with it the fury of popular
hatred, until, at length, fatigued with the patience of their victim,
the people proposed at once to drag the Cagot to the river. He was,
therefore, seized, bound, and, in spite of his resistance and his
strength, they prepared to carry their threats into execution; at the
same time uttering those savage cries, known in the country as _les cris
Basques_, and imitating, in derision of the wretched creature they were
injuring, the sharp voice of the goose, and the nasal call of the duck.
The young Ena Marie, for whose sake her deliverer was thus suffering,
wept, entreated, and appealed to the senseless multitude in vain, and
implored the mercy of Odon and Dame Garsende, who treated her prayers
with indifference, and appeared to think the conduct of the mob
perfectly justifiable. But, at the moment when all hope seemed lost, the
interference of the young knight of the church prevented the execution
of the crime about to be perpetrated.

Followed by his archers and men-at-arms, he rushed forward, and
commanded that the prisoner should be released, in a tone and with
gestures so commanding, that the astonished crowd was, for a time,
arrested in their project, and a general silence ensued, presently
broken by a voice at a distance, which exclaimed--"Noble and generous
child! the blessing of Heaven be on thee!" All eyes were directed
towards the speaker--an old man with silver hair, clothed in a dark
mantle, with the hood drawn over his head: he stood on an elevated mound
above the scene of action, and on finding himself observed hurried away
from the spot.

Meantime, taking advantage of the awe his appearance had excited in the
public mind, the knight hastened to the poor Cagot, cut with his sword
the cords which bound him, and set him at liberty. Amazement was painted
on the victim's countenance, as he observed the relief which approached
him: to be the object of care to a noble knight--to be defended, treated
like a human creature was indeed a prodigy to him! The being, but an
instant before stupified and inert, from whom insult and injury had
drawn no cry nor tear, this evidence of humanity touched to the quick:
he cast a long look of tenderness and gratitude on his deliverer; and
large tears rolled down his bleeding cheeks. But the panic of the
instant soon passed away; hoarse murmurs arose, and threatening words,
and the tumult recommenced, Odon d'Artiguelouve advanced to the knight,
and demanded, in a haughty tone, by what right he interfered with the
execution of the laws.

"'I am not a stranger to this country,' replied he, calmly, 'though it
is some time since I quitted it; and I know its _fors_ and _customs_
probably as well as you can do, Messire.'

"'Then,' answered Odon, 'you should know that a Cagot is forbidden to
appear in an assembly of citizens, and that all commerce with them is
expressly denied him; that he has no right to touch any article intended
for their use; and yet you defend this wretch, who has defiled, by the
contact of his accursed hand, the game which belongs to a gentleman.'

"'It appears, then,' answered the knight, with bitter irony, 'that a
gentleman singularly loves his game, since he attaches more value to a
boar's head than to the life of a noble lady, which this poor Cagot
preserved at the risk of injuring one of these precious animals.'

"'Was it for high deeds of this nature,' interposed the Lady of
Artiguelouve, seeing that her son's countenance fell, 'that the knight
took his vows, when he received the honour of the accolade?'

"'I swore, madam,' answered the _caver_, 'to consecrate my arms to the
service of religion, and the defence of the widow, the orphan, and the
_unprotected_.'

"'And by what enchantment,' rejoined Dame Garsende, 'does your
knight-errantship behold in us giants or monsters?'

"'A loyal and christian knight ever sees a monster in oppression, madam.
No man can be punished before he is judged, and I see here neither jury,
court of knights, or _cour majour_.'

"'If that is all,' cried Odon, 'every formality shall be gone through.
Seize this miserable wretch, my friends, and drag him to the
justice-seat; we will follow.'"

An immediate movement was made to obey this order; but the knight again
interfered.

"'It is well,' said he; 'but if you have a right to take him before a
court, he has that of claiming sanctuary. From whence come you, friend?'
he added, turning to the Cagot.

"'From the Vallée d'Aspe, sir knight,' was the answer.

"'Then, it would suffice to reach the Pène d'Escot, at the entrance of
this valley, to be in an inviolable security, and we would, if it were
necessary, escort you as far; but closer still a refuge attends you; you
have only to reach the _circle of sanctuary_ which yon church of
Aubertin offers.'"[45]

[Footnote 45: By a charter of 1103, churches allowed an asylum within a
space of thirty paces in circumference. _Ecclesiæ salvitatem habeant
triginta passuum circumcirca.--Marca._]

       *       *       *       *       *

A great struggle now ensues, the Béarnais resolving to oppose the
Cagot's entrance to the sanctuary, and the knight and his followers
maintaining his attempt. The young Marie of Lignac at length forces her
way through the crowd, and laying her hand on the Cagot, demands, by
virtue of the _fors et coutumes_, that he be given up to the protection
of a noble lady who claims her right to shelter the guilty.

This appeal was not to be treated with contempt; and the mob, perhaps
tired of the conflict, gave way with a sudden feeling of respect; while
Marie led the persecuted Cagot, surrounded by the knight's men-at-arms,
to the door of the church, where he entered, and was in safety.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next scene of the story introduces the reader to the old knight of
Artiguelouve, and the interior of his castle,[46] where the late events
are recounted to him by his wife and son, with great bitterness; and
envy and offended pride excite the mother and son to resolutions of
vengeance, which the father, a man apparently soured with misfortune,
and saddened by some concealed sin, can only oppose by expressions of
contempt, which irritate the more.

[Footnote 46: The castle of Artiguelouve is still standing--a curious
monument of ancient grandeur; it is situated near Sauveterre.]

The demoiselle de Lignac, meantime, is arrived at the Castle of Orthez,
and received, as well as her uncle, with great honour by Gaston de Foix,
who proposes instituting his beautiful guest the queen of the
approaching tournament.

The unknown knight, having left the Cagot with the monks of Aubertin,
and acted the part of the good Samaritan by his charge, is next seen
pursuing his way southward; where, in the mountains, an interview takes
place between him and his father, who is, it seems, a proscribed man.
They meet after many years of absence, during which the young knight has
won all kinds of honour, having gone to the wars under the care and
adoption of a brave champion, Messire Augerot de Domezain; who, dying of
his wounds, had recommended his young friend to the King of Castile,
from whom he receives knighthood. He learns from his father that the
holy hermit, brother of Augerot, under whoso care he was brought up, is
dead; and he further learns, that the time is nearly come when the
secret of his father's misfortunes will be revealed to him. All that the
knight, in fact, knows about himself is, that a cloud hangs over the
noble family to which he belongs, and that his father is obliged to
conceal himself to escape persecution.

The father and son separate: the one retiring to his retreat in the
Vallée d'Aspe, the other journeying onwards to the court of Gaston
Phoebus.

He has arrived at Orthez, and has just reached the famous _Hôtel de la
Lune_, described by Froissart, when he falls into an ambush, and is
carried off by unknown enemies, and thrown into a dungeon in the ruins
of an abandoned castle, situated on a hill to the south of the Valley of
Geu, between Lagor and Sauvelade--a spot which may still be seen. Here
the unfortunate knight is left to lament and mourn, that all his hopes
of distinguishing himself in the tournament, and of again seeing the
beautiful Marie, are destroyed at once.

The _fêtes_ go on, and every thing at Orthez breathes of gaiety and
splendour; the people have their games; the Pyrrhic dances, called
_sauts Basques_, are in full force, performed by the Escualdunacs in
their parti-coloured dresses, and red sashes; the Béarnais execute their
spiral dances,[47] and sing their mountain-songs and ballads; some cast
great stones and iron bars, in which exercises is distinguished Ernauton
d'Espagne, the strong knight mentioned in Froissart as being able to
bring into the hall of Gaston an ass fully laden with fuel, and to throw
the whole on the hearth, to the great delight of all present. These
scenes give occasion to the author to introduce many of the proverbial
sayings of the people, which are curious and characteristic. Their
strictures on the dress and appearance of the knights and nobles, are
in keeping with the freedom of the habits of the day, when the
commonalty, however oppressed in some particulars, were allowed a
singular latitude of speech.

[Footnote 47: _i.e._ lifting their partners into the air.]

Amongst their homely sayings, occur the following:--

    "Habillat ù bastou qu', aüra l'air d'ù baron."
     Dress up a stick, and you can give it the air of a baron.

    "Nout basquès mey gran hech que non pouchques lheba:"
     Do not make a larger fagot than you can lift.

    "Quabaü mey eslurras dap l'esclop que dap la lengue."
     It is better to slide with _sabots_ than with the tongue.

    "Yamey nou fondes maysou auprès d'aigue ni de seignou."
     Never build a house near a torrent nor a great lord.

    "Las sourciéros et lous loup-garous
     Aus curés han minya capons."

     Witches and loup-garoux make priests eat fat capons, _i.e. are to
     their advantage_--an adage which would seem to infer that the
     search for sorcery was known to be a _job_ in all ages.

The tournament goes on: and, to the great disappointment of the lady of
the lists, no stranger-knight appears; and her admirer, Odon, is the
victor over all others; when, just at the last moment, the trumpet of
the Unknown sounds, and he comes into the arena, and challenges the
envious knight, after defeating all the others, Dame Garsende has
recourse to a stratagem to overcome him, which fails in regard to him,
but overwhelms her son in confusion, and causes his defeat: she cuts the
cord of a canopy under which the knight has to pass, in the hope that it
will fall in his way, and encumber his advance; but he adroitly catches
it on the end of his spear, and Odon, in falling from his horse after
the knight's attack, gets entangled in the garlands and drapery, and
makes a very ridiculous figure. Of course the stranger-knight is made
happy in the chaplet placed on his brow by Marie, and the kiss of custom
by which the gift is accompanied. His rival retires, vowing vengeance.

A grand feast then takes place; and as the guests arrive they are
severally recognised by the people. The stranger-knight, whose device is
_a branch of vine clinging to an aged tree_, is hailed with acclamation,
and a tumult of enthusiasm, consequent on his successes and his
honourable reception by Gaston Phoebus; to whom, when questioned as to
his name and family, he replies that he is called Raymond, the adopted
son of Messire Augerot de Domezain. Gaston instantly recognises in him a
knight whose valorous deeds are on record, and who saved the life of
Marie de Lignac's father, at the battle of Aljubarotta.

Raymond produces a chain of gold, which the dying knight had charged him
to deliver to Gaston, to be sent to his daughter; and the tears and
thanks of the young lady are the reward of his accomplished mission.

The stranger-knight is now at the height of favour: adopted by Ernauton
d'Espagne as his brother-in-arms; welcomed by the gorgeous Gaston
Phoebus; hailed by the people; and, above all, loved by Marie. He is, of
course, exposed to the evil designs of Garsende and her son, from which
he twice escapes; but they are obliged to conceal their enmity, and he
is ignorant from whence he is attacked. During a grand banquet, a
minstrel, whose verses had warned him to avoid a poisoned cup, unable to
approach him near enough to deliver a billet, gives it in charge to one
of his favourite men-at-arms, who places it in the sheath of his sword
till he can transmit it to his master. This action is observed by
Garsende; who, afterwards, taking advantage of the soldier's fondness
for the fine vintage of Jurançon, contrives to get possession of the
letter, and excites the jealousy of Marie, who imagines it written by a
woman, deceived by the expressions, "My beloved Raymond," and the
signature of "The Being dearest to your Heart," and the mysterious
rendezvous appointed, all of which is, in fact, written by his exiled
father. This plot, however, fails, through the candour and devotion of
Marie; and the knight keeps the tryst which his father had appointed at
a ruined hermitage, formerly tenanted by the preceptor of Raymond, on a
lonely hill above the Vallée d'Aspe. Here they meet; and a scene of
tenderness on the part of the son, and mystery on that of the father,
ensues; in which the latter entreats yet a little time before he
discloses certain secrets of moment, concerning the young knight, whose
successes appear to produce a strange effect on his mind, almost
amounting to regret, for which the other cannot account. When they part,
he agrees that, when he has once seen him the husband of Marie,--who,
though aware of the mystery which envelopes him, has generously granted
him her hand,--and when he knows him to be _removed from all danger_, he
will no longer withhold the information he has to give.

They separate; but enemies have been on their track; and the father is
watched to his concealed retreat, while Raymond remains sleeping at the
foot of the altar, in the hermitage. The intention of Odon
d'Artiguelouve, who is on the spot, had been to murder him as he slept;
but the information brought him by his spies, who have watched the old
man, entirely changes his intentions. A more secure revenge is in his
power, and he returns to his castle with extraordinary satisfaction;
leaving the happy lover of Marie, and the successful victor of the
lists, to his dreams of future bliss.

The great day arrives on which Gaston de Foix has announced a solemn
festival, to be held in honour of the Knight of the Vine-branch, and
his affianced bride, Marie de Lignac. All the nobles of the country
assemble; and, amongst them, the old "grim baron," Loup Bergund
d'Artiguelouve, and his family. Minstrels sing, music sounds, and
honours and compliments pour upon the favoured knight; and even his
rivals, to judge by their joyous countenances, have only pleasure in
their hearts. The Prince of Béarn, and his brilliant court, enter their
decorated pavilion amidst the shouts of the assembled guests; the people
are admitted to view the jousts; and Raymond advances to the foot of the
throne, and receives a paternal embrace from the courteous Gaston
Phoebus. The signal is given for the amusements to begin, when a loud
voice is heard above the trumpets and the clash of instruments: the
herald-at-arms pauses; and Odon d'Artiguelouve, who had cried, "Hold!"
stands up in his seat, and thunders forth these ominous words:

"'Suspend the solemnities; for I behold here, on this spot, in presence
of our august assembly, one of those impure beings on whom the sun
shines with disgust,--who excite horror in heaven and on earth,--whose
breath poisons the air we breathe,--whose hand pollutes all it touches.
Hold! for, I tell you, there is a Cagot amongst us!'"

As he spoke, he pointed with a frantic gesture of malevolence towards an
aged man, wrapped in a large, dark, woollen cloak, who was vainly
endeavouring to conceal himself in the crowd.

A cry of horror and indignation burst from all sides: all shrunk back
from the profane object indicated; leaving a space around him. A deadly
paleness, the effect of amazement and consternation, passed over the
face of Raymond; for, in the person of the accused, he recognised--his
father!

Raymond almost instantly, however, recovers from the effect of this
terrific announcement; and springing forward, and placing himself before
the old man, cried out, in a loud and firm voice:

"'He who dares make such an assertion has lied!'

"'How! exclaimed Odon d'Artignelouve; 'dost thou give me the lie? Here
is my gage of battle: let him take it up who will.' And, throwing his
glove into the midst of the assembly, he continued:

"'I, Odon d'Artiguelouve, to all gentlemen present and to come--knights
and nobles--offer to maintain my words, with sword, or battle-axe, or
lance, against all who shall have the boldness to deny that yonder old
man, wrapped in a dark mantle, now before us, has dared to trample under
foot our laws and ordinances, and sully by his impure presence our noble
assembly; for he is no other than a vile Cagot, leprous and infected,
belonging to the Cagoterie of Lurbe, hid, like a nest of snakes, amongst
the rocks of Mount Binet, at the entrance of the Vallée d'Aspe.'"

A shudder of horror ran through the crowd as these words were uttered.

"'And I,' cried the knight, in a voice of furious indignation--'I,
Raymond, the adopted son of Augerot de Domezain,--whose real name will,
I trust, one day appear,--in virtue of my privileges, my title, and my
oath, protest, in defiance of thy rank, thy strength, and thy youth; in
despite of thy sword, thy lance, and thy battle-axe,--I protest, in the
face of God and the men who hear me, that, from the crown of thy head to
the sole of thy foot, thou art an infamous and perjured impostor,--a
traitor as black as hell can make thee,--and that thou hast lied in thy
throat. My arm and my sword are ready to engrave upon thy body, in
characters of blood, the truth of my words!'"

The tone of energetic conviction with which Raymond spoke, his bold and
martial bearing, the flash of his eye, and the indignant rage of his
manner, impressed his hearers as they listened, and a murmur of applause
followed his exclamation. Marie, pale as death, sat like a statue of
marble; her hands clasped, her breath suspended, and her eyes fixed
wildly on the trembling old man,--the object of all attention.

Odon was about to reply, when Count Gaston, with a heightened colour and
an excited air, rose and spoke:

"We are," he said, "deeply displeased that such a discussion should have
disturbed the peace of our assembly. You are not ignorant, Sir Raymond,
that our laws accord to all men of Béarn the right of combat against the
aggressor who has outraged him by the injurious epithets of false and
traitor. And you, Sir Odon, remember that here, as in the _Cour Majour_,
we owe justice to all,--to the weak as well as the strong; and that,
before judgment, proof is necessary."

       *       *       *       *       *

The old man is now required by Odon to stand forth and answer in full
assembly whether he is not called Guilhem, whether he is not a Cagot,
and whether he is not a member of the Cagoterie of Lurbe.

A profound silence ensues in the assembly; all, in breathless anxiety,
await the answer of the accused, who stands hesitating and apparently
unable to utter a word; at length, with an effort, and in a hoarse and
trembling voice, he falters from beneath the thick hood which he had
drawn over his face, "Heaven has so decreed it--Alas! it is a fatal
truth!" Now comes the triumph of the rival of the unfortunate knight; he
starts up, wild and fierce, exultation trembling on his envenomed
tongue:

"Béarnais!" cried he; "listen to me! If this man, who has dared to call
me false and traitor, were a knight, as he calls himself, or a noble,
like me, he would, by our laws, be entitled to claim the right of duel,
to which he had provoked me, on foot or on horseback, armed at all
points; or, were he a man belonging to the people, I being a gentleman,
he could oppose me with a shield and a club; or were we both equally
peasants, we could fight, each armed according to our rank. But, were I
ten times the aggressor, and he the offended party, all combat between
him and me is impossible, for he is beneath the knight, the noble, the
citizen, the serf, the labourer; beneath the lowest degree in the scale
of humanity--beneath the beasts themselves; he is a vile Gesitain, a dog
of a leper, an infamous and degraded Cagot, and yonder stands his
father!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Horror takes possession of all--knight, lady, prince, and people. In
vain the unfortunate Guilhem, throwing back his cowl and imploring to be
heard, proclaims aloud that he is not the father of the noble knight;
that Raymond does not belong to their unhappy race, and calls the
Redeemer to witness that he speaks the truth; he is treated with scorn
and contempt, and the popular fury rises at the disavowal.

Gaston Phoebus commands silence, and calls upon the knight to disprove
the fact alleged, and confirm the hope he entertains; but Raymond has no
words but these:

"No, noble Prince; I have no power to speak other than the truth; and
were the torments I endure ten times heavier, I have only to
confess--this is, indeed, my father."

Marie, as he spoke, uttered a wild shriek, and fell senseless to the
ground; a yell burst from the crowd, joy and triumph glowed on the
countenances of Odon and his mother, and Gaston Phoebus cast himself
back in his seat, and covered his face with his robe.

"'Go, Cagot!' roared the pitiless Odon; 'who now is a false traitor, who
now has lied, and proved himself a vile impostor? Away with thy helmet,
thy sword, and thy spurs; away with all the armour of the craven! Let
the herald at arms degrade thee before the world! Where is now thy name,
thy titles, thy prerogatives? where are thy fiefs and thy domains? Thy
name is _Cagot_, thy possessions leprosy, and every foul disease--every
impurity of soul and body; thy castle is a mud hut in the Cagoterie of
Lurbe, and this is thy blazon!'"

As he spoke he raised his arm in the air, and, with the frantic force of
hate, dashed in the face of the distracted Raymond a piece of red cloth
cut into the form of a _goose's foot_.

At the sight of this emblem the populace rose with fury, and rushed in a
body, with savage cries, on the unfortunate pair.

       *       *       *       *       *

A scene of horror now takes place; Raymond is deserted by all his
people but one, his favourite man-at-arms, and the generous Arnauton,
who will not quit his adopted brother even in such degradation; together
they stand against the mob, whose rage the Prince himself is unable to
restrain. Odon leads them on; the poor old man is with difficulty
rescued from their grasp by the determined valour of his defenders, who
are, however, too few to contend against their foes, and Odon is on the
point of attaining the object of his wishes, and beholding the heart's
blood of his rival--when assistance comes in the shape of the young
Cagot who had saved the life of Ena Marie. At the moment when the blow
is falling, and Raymond has no chance of escape, he darts forward, and,
seizing Odon in his powerful grasp, drags him to the bridge of the Gave,
which is thrown over the torrent, where a mill-wheel is working. There a
fearful struggle goes on, which is closed by both combatants being
precipitated into the stream, to reappear crushed and mangled by the
mighty engine under which they fell.

The bravo young Cagot casts one dying look, full of tenderness and
gratitude, towards those who watch his end with pity and despair, and
all is over.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the evening of that fatal day, Guilhem and Raymond, both exhausted
and overcome with grief and fatigue, rest themselves in a miserable hut,
far away amongst the rocks, in one of the steepest and wildest gorges
of Mont Binet. It was one of the accursed and abhorred dwellings of the
Cagot village of Lurbe.

The night was black and fearful: a tempest raged in all its terrors
without, and occasional gusts of wind and rain penetrated the wretched
retreat where the unfortunate fugitives sat, their vestments torn, and
their bodies as severely wounded as their minds. Several Cagots, both
male and female, from other cabins near, hovered round them, tenderly
administering to their wants, and preparing such balms to heal their
wounds as their simple knowledge afforded. They accompanied these
friendly offices with tears and passionate gesticulations, accompanied
by half inarticulate exclamations, such as savages, unused to speech,
might do in a strange unvisited land.

"'It is, then, true, my father,' said Raymond, as he looked round on
these beings, ill-clothed, poor, degraded by oppression and contempt,
scarcely endowed with common intelligence, and miserable to regard--'It
is, then, true, that you are a Cagot, and that these are my brothers and
my equals? Ah! why did you let me wander into a world which I ought
never to have known? Why did you not let me live and die a Cagot as I
was born? These, then, are Cagots!'

"'Yes,' cried Guilhem, weeping bitterly; 'Yes, we are Cagots, and all
men are our persecutors; and yet, when one of _their_ children falls
into our hands, we do not ill-use it, we do not torture it, we do not
crush it beneath the wheels of a mill; we do good for evil, and they
repay us by evil alone! Ah! I am as if bound on a flaming pile, my tears
are like molten lead on my cheeks. I!--a wretched, vile Cagot!--I should
die with pity if I saw one of my executioners in the state to which they
have reduced me!'

"'My father, my dear father, calm yourself,' said Raymond, with tender
affection; 'your son, at least, is left you.'

"'No, no,' cried the old man, passionately;'my son is not left me; my
son is dead; he was torn in pieces by the mill-wheel of Orthez. I am not
your father; you are not--you never were, you never can be--my son;
this is the first word of the secret I have to tell you.'

"'What do you tell me!' cried Raymond, in amazement! 'Your disavowal was
not, then, a deception, prompted by paternal affection! What! are you
not my father? and was that generous creature, sacrificed for my sake,
indeed your son!'

"'He was my child, my only child! the only living being attached to me
by the ties of blood--the only creature who would have listened to my
last agonized sigh at my hour of death. And see what was his fate, for
me! I allowed him to venture for my sake amongst the ferocious people;
see to what an end his devotion and gratitude to you had led him!' So
saying, the unfortunate old man uncovered the mutilated remains of his
unfortunate son, rescued from the stream, and transported to the spot by
the compassionate care of Arnauton d'Espaigne. The body lay on a rustic
couch, enveloped in a white shroud, which is always, according to the
usage of the country, prepared long before death, a taper of yellow wax
shed its feeble rays on the corpse'."

The grief and lamentations of Guilhem are interrupted by the rites which
then take place; the men wringing their hands, and gesticulating, and
cursing the cruelty of the world: the women weeping and wailing; and one
of those endowed with poetical powers, improvising a lament over the
body, uttering her words in a melancholy cadence, deeply expressive of
the grief of all.

"'Alas, Gratien!' she moaned; 'thou hast then left us! thou hast
deserted thy aged father--gone without a pressure of the hand! Gratien,
may God receive thy soul! To live is to suffer. Life is like the wheel
by which thou wert torn. Thou wert in the right to fly it. Happy child!
thou art gone to a place where there are no Cagots, no men to persecute
thee; thou wilt know now who were the ancestors from whom we descend.
Thou hast no more use for the pruning-knife and the infamous axe. No
more toil nor suffering await thee; no more contempt nor outrage!
Accursed be the wheel, oh, Gratien, which crushed thee! never may the
torrent wash out thy blood which stains it; let it turn for ever red and
bloody! No bell tolled for thy soul; but the thunder and the wind, oh,
Gratien! Toll louder still--no bell for the Cagot! But Heaven weeps with
us, the trees groan with us. Old man! thou dost not weep alone. Adieu,
dear Gratien, thy body is returned to thy cabin; but thy soul, escaped
the demon, is fled on a beam of the moon to the great house of heaven!
Yes, he cries--I am in heaven; I am telling the Cagots, our ancestors,
that their children are still in suffering!'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Guilhem, comforted by the tenderness of Raymond, recovers in some
degree his self-possession, and proceeds to relate to the young knight
the manner of his falling, when an infant, into his charge. The
narrative is as follows:--

"'In 1360, twenty-six years ago, when I was myself thirty-nine years of
age, the event happened which I have now to tell you. I was a Cagot from
my birth, by my parents and my ancestors--a proscribed outcast of unkind
nature, like these you see around--poor, ignorant, timid, and a mark for
insult and contempt. I had already suffered much; for God, alas! had
given me a heart formed to feel and to love; yet long habits of
endurance had, in great measure, rendered it callous and insensible,
unaided as I was by intellectual culture.

"'I married a woman of my race; but, after a year, she died, leaving me
in lonely widowed sorrow, with one child. Alas! he has just rejoined his
mother, and rude is the journey which has conducted him to her!

"'At this period, as you know, and as I afterwards learnt from the mouth
of your venerable preceptor, the holy hermit, all France was overrun
with bands of marauders and robbers of every nation, called the
_late-comers_.[48] Béarn was no more free from them than other parts of
the kingdom. One day, I was returning from Oloron, my heart more sad
than usual,--cursing men and life, for I had been the object of new
injuries,--when a chief of one of these predatory bands suddenly
presented himself before me; and, addressing me, said: 'Good man, will
you do a kind action? Take this infant, abandoned to my men-at-arms by
an unfaithful servant. I have saved it from their inhumanity: it has
that about it which will pay your trouble.' I saw that he held in his
arms a child, who was weeping bitterly; when I looked on its lovely
face--round, innocent, and rosy--my heart was touched, and I accepted
the charge.

[Footnote 48: Tard-venus.]

"'Alas! the sweet creature knew not that it had fallen into the hands of
a Cagot; for no sooner had I received it on my bosom, than it ceased
crying; and, so far from showing repugnance to one about to become its
father, its hands were stretched towards me, and it smiled in my face.
My dear Raymond, thou wert this infant sent by Providence to my care.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

The old man then relates his bringing home the child; employing a goat
to nourish it; and at length confiding it to the charge and instruction
of the hermit of Eysus, the only being whose religion or charity allowed
him to listen to the confession of the Cagot. While Raymond, however,
was yet an infant, and but a short time after Guilhem had received him,
the latter was, one day, returning from an expedition to the town, where
the wants of his family obliged him to resort, and passed by the ruins
of the old tower (the very place in which Raymond afterwards became a
prisoner, and was rescued, by the fortunate familiarity of Guilhem with
the spot, in time to appear at the tournament).

"'I had,' said he, 'taken from my dress the ignominious mark of my
degradation; and, in full security, was gathering at my leisure some
herbs destined for your use, when it so happened that some shepherds of
the Vallée d'Aspe observed and at once recognised me; and their usual
superstition acting on them at the supposed ill-omen of meeting a Cagot
picking herbs, they attacked me with one accord, and commenced pelting
me with stones, and using every epithet of opprobrium. I was struck to
the earth; then they dragged me to the entrance of a sort of inclined
cavern, called in the country 'The Den of the Witches'[49]. With coarse
jests they thrust me through the opening, exclaiming that, as the evil
spirits raised tempests when stones were thrown in there, perhaps they
would be appeased by receiving the body of a Cagot.

[Footnote 49: Tutte de las bronchos.]

"'I fell to some distance, rolling along the declivity; and my body
stopped at the bottom on the damp earth. When I had a little recovered,
I prepared to attempt an escape, as I heard that my tormentors had
departed; but, on reaching the opening, I found a barrier which I had
not looked for: these wretched men had lighted a fire of weeds and
brushwood at the mouth of the cave. The flames raged violently, excited
by the current of air from within, and I soon felt the effect; sparks
and pieces of burning timber fell in; and my wounded body was soon a
prey to a scorching shower which poured down upon me.

"'A greater fire rose within my soul,--my injuries had driven me to
despair; my brain reeled, and the torments of hell seemed within me and
around. Hatred and bitter vengeance rose boiling from my heart; and I
cursed all human nature,--invoking ruin and destruction on mankind, from
whom I had never known pity, I raved in my burning prison, and gave
myself up to fury and despair, when Heaven took compassion on my misery.
A lighted brand which fell from above disclosed, by the vivid flash it
cast through the gloom, an opening at the other end; and I clearly
distinguished a covered way, evidently made by human hands, which seemed
to run along to some distance before me. I retreated into its shelter,
and my heart revived once more.

"'I advanced some little way and reposed myself, when, suddenly, I
thought I could distinguish in the distance vague and interrupted
sounds. A shudder came over me; and at first I dreaded to move; but, at
length, I forced myself to do so; and, gathering up one of the lighted
brands, I yielded to my curiosity, and proceeded forward.

"'Presently the sounds became more distinct; and I could not mistake the
voice of wailing and lamentation, which found an echo in my own heart
and awakened its sympathies. I continued my way cautiously; and, after a
few minutes, found myself at an opening, formed in a shelving position,
in the manner of a loop-hole, closed with two flagstones, not so near
but that a space was left wide enough for me to see into a vaulted
chamber beyond, which at the moment was lighted by a torch.

"'A young and beautiful woman was seated on the ground, in an attitude
of profound grief, leaning against the wall opposite. A man of high
stature, and who might be about my own age, stood at a little distance,
and looked towards her with a ferocious and menacing air, in which there
was, nevertheless, an appearance of what might be thought shame, for the
glance was oblique, as if he avoided meeting her eye. The light fell
full upon his face, which was so remarkable in its expression, that I
could not detach my regard from him, and his features remain deeply
graven on my memory.

"'You are, then, obstinately resolved to drive me to extremity,' said
he, 'and will not consent to my demand?'

"'What?' answered the lady, in a voice of grief, but full of energy,
'shall I despoil my son of his rights and his inheritance without
knowing that he is dead, and that in favour of my most cruel enemies?
No! he may yet live--Providence may yet watch over him--restore him one
day to the world, when he will come to claim his own and revenge his
mother's wrongs!'

"'You have no alternative but a fearful death, remember!' said the man,
in hoarse accents.

"'Rather any death than abandon my child!' was the answer.

"'Then, madam,' returned her companion, 'your will shall be done--impute
your fate to your own conduct.'

"As he pronounced these words, he approached the door of the dungeon,
where stood another female in the shade, who contemplated the scene in
silence, with an unmoved and chilling aspect. They then left the place
together, fastening the heavy door carefully, while the sound of their
keys and chains sent a fearful echo through the vaulted apartment. Their
victim fell back in a state of desolation, pitiable to behold, and burst
into passionate tears, praying fervently to Heaven, and uttering
exclamations which might melt the stoutest heart.'

"'I was deeply moved to behold her; and, in a low voice, ventured to
exclaim: 'Madam, be of good cheer! Heaven hears you; and has sent one
to your aid who is ready to exert every effort, for your relief.'

"'What voice is that?' cried she, starting.

"'Be not terrified!' I answered; 'it is that of a mortal, guided hither
by the hand of God!'

"'At the same time I applied myself to loosen the stones at the
loop-hole, and with much difficulty succeeded in doing so; but, in spite
of all my precautions, the unfortunate lady, bewildered with fear and
grief, was so astonished when I appeared through the opening, that she
uttered a cry and fainted on the ground.

"'Without losing a moment, I took her in my arms, and carried her
through to the subterranean way. I then replaced the stones as closely
as I could, and hastened to bear her to the mouth of the cave, which I
now found without obstacle, the fire extinct, and nothing to impede our
progress.

"'Oh, Raymond! the ways of Providence are inscrutable! This dungeon,
from whence I had rescued that innocent victim, is the same where, a few
days since, you were thrown by the hands of enemies; and the lady who
had nearly perished there was--your mother!'

"'Great Heaven!' exclaimed Raymond, 'my mother! condemned to such
horrors--buried in the earth alive;--oh! to find the author of her
injuries!'

"'I saw that person this very day,' replied Guilhem; 'I recognised him
in the old man who was seated on the right of your rival.'

"'That was his father, the lord of Artiguelouve,' cried Raymond.

"'Then it was no other than the lord of Artiguelouve who was your
mother's persecutor.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Cagot now goes on to relate, that, on bringing the unfortunate lady
to this village, she recognised, in the infant he had adopted, her own
son. She recounted, that those persons whom he had seen in her dungeon
had plotted to remove both her and the infant, as their existence
interfered with certain plans of their own. One of her servants had been
bribed, who, under pretence of bearing the child to a place of safety,
and the better to deceive her, having taken with it jewels of value, had
feigned to be set upon by robbers, and had her son forcibly torn from
him. Three months afterwards, the man, overcome with remorse and
wretchedness for his crime, fell sick, and, on his death-bed, desired
secretly to see the mother, who wept for her infant as dead; to whom he
related the truth. This information was fatal to herself; for her
enemies now threw off the mask, and insisted on her renouncing for her
son all claim to the estates and titles of which he was the heir; which
she having refused to do, they treated her in the manner that has been
related.

A mystery still hung over the revelations of the lady, who named no
persons in her story, and who appeared to dread to make further
disclosures; and, above all, she desired that no vengeance should be
taken on the authors of her grief.

"'There are crimes,' she said, 'which recoil on those who perpetrate
them: he who sows vengeance, reaps not peace: and I would that my son
should feel that mercy is the highest attribute of humanity. Keep,
therefore, the secret of his birth from him, and let him know only
tranquillity and joy.'"

The Cagot promised to comply with her christian desire, and, together
with the pious hermit of Eysus, to bring up her son in piety, and
ignorance of his station, until he should be one day safe from the
danger of his enemies. The unfortunate mother left a letter, addressed
to the Sire de Lescun--a friend on whom she could rely--which, on some
future occasion, was to be delivered to him; but the long absence of the
Knight of Lescun, in the wars, had hitherto prevented its being done.

Whether the mother of Raymond would have continued in the same
intentions, cannot be known; for grief and sickness soon brought her to
the close of her sad career. When she was dying, the poor man who had
succoured her and her child, conceiving that he was not acting according
to his conscience, in withholding from her the exact situation in which
he was himself placed, threw himself on his knees at her bed-side, and
with tears entreated her forgiveness, for that he had the misfortune to
be _a Cagot_.

"'Have pity upon me,' said he, 'that I thus add to the weight of sorrow
which you carry with you to the tomb.'"

Instead of the start of abhorrent contempt which the persecuted man
dreaded, she turned upon him a look of the most ineffable benevolence;
and, placing her cold hand upon his head, uttered these words:--

"'It is well;--Cagot since thou art, I bless thee; for thy heart is more
noble than the proudest blazon could make it.'

"No human description can convey an idea of the impression made on the
heart of the good man by these few words,--the first of pity and
consolation he had ever heard addressed to one of his own fated race. A
new life, a new being seemed given him as he heard them; and, from that
instant, he vowed to exist only for the salvation of the being left
behind by the angel who had shed her benediction upon him. She died, and
he kept his word."

       *       *       *       *       *

The supreme tribunal of Béarn, the _Cour Majour_, was assembled at
Orthez, in one of the grand saloons of the castle of Moncade, to
dispense to the people, by its irrevocable decrees, the national justice
of its celebrated _Fors_. Great excitement prevailed; for it was known
that the Knight-Cagot, or Cagot-Knight, as Raymond was called, was
about to appear, to defend himself from his accusers.

"The Lord and Lady of Artiguelouve were present in the great assembly,
summoned to appear for their deceased son, to support the charge he had
made. The fair Marie de Lignac sat pale and agitated, supported by her
uncle, the Knight of Lescun. The Bishops of Lescar and Oloron, the
eleven judges,[50] and all the nobles of the country attended, and were
seated on elevated benches, in due order, near Prince Gaston de Foix."

[Footnote 50: The number of twelve was reduced to eleven since the
period that the village of Bidous was removed from the territorial
jurisdiction of Béarn.]

After a consultation of some length, these _equitable_ magistrates had
decided that justice should be allowed to the complainant, and
punishment awarded to those who had injured him, provided that he could
prove that he was _a man_ and not _a Cagot_.

Nothing now remains for Raymond but the presentation of his mother's
letter, and all the proofs which establish his birth. On opening the
paper, and on examining the embroidery on the mantles which wrapped the
rescued infant; on looking at the initials of the chain of gold, the
Knight of Lescun recognised the son of his cousin, Marguerite
d'Amendaritz, first wife of Messire Loup Bergund, who, when he hears the
truth, is seized with sudden remorse and amazement, and, being now
without an heir, is not sorry to recover him whom he had before
abandoned to destruction. In spite, therefore, of the indignation of his
wife--and her endeavours to repress his agitation throughout the
scene--he starts up, and proclaims himself the father of Raymond: who,
he declares aloud, is his long-lost son,--stolen from him by
_routiers_--whose loss had cost him the life of a beloved wife, whom he
deplored.

The result is, however, far different to his expectations, or that of
all present. The young knight, on finding that he is the son of a man so
laden with crime as Loup Bergund, is seized with a frenzy of contempt
and disgust.

"His open and expansive forehead became contracted with horror--he stood
silent a few seconds, petrified and overwhelmed with his emotions--his
body shrinking back in an attitude of repulsion and dislike, as if a
venomous reptile were before his sight. His regard then fell full on
Loup Bergund, and the terrible severity of its expression made the
unworthy tyrant shrink beneath his glance of fire.

"_You_ my father!"--exclaimed he, at length, in a terrible voice--"do
_you_ open your arms to me as to your son? Hence!--back! there is
nothing in common between us--we can be nothing to each other! I know
you not. Go--say to your captive of yonder dungeon that her son is dead;
that the _routiers_ have stolen him: you my father! no; you have no
son--it is a falsehood--you are a great lord, and I a wretched
foundling--a being without a name--one disdained by wolves and robbers.
No; you are not my father. I have no other but he who stands beside me;
I am the son of no other than the poor Cagot."

As he spoke, Raymond dashed the chain of gold on the ground, and
trampled it under his feet--he seized his mother's letter from the hands
of the Knight of Lescun, and thrusting it into the flame of a torch hard
by, burnt it to ashes; then, throwing himself into the arms of Guilhem,
he burst into a passion of tears. Recovering himself, however, in a few
moments--while all looked on silent and aghast--he cried aloud--

"'And now I am, indeed, a Cagot--irrevocably so--and it is my glory and
my joy! But hear me all! while I proclaim what you are worth, and those
whom you dare to despise, and for whom the Redeemer died, as well as for
us all: You are decked in gold and gorgeous raiment, and they are in
rags; but they have hearts which beat beneath, and you have souls of
ice: you are their executioners, and they are martyrs. You cast your
wives and children into the dungeons of your castles, from whence the
poor Cagots save them: you are great upon the earth, but they will be
great in Heaven!"

These last words fell, like thunder, upon the ears of all, but most on
those of Gaston Phoebus--who thought of his murdered son--and writhed
with agony. Raymond continued:

"'God will yet do justice, in his time, to the oppressors of the
innocent. Your names, in future ages, will be execrated. Meantime, keep
your pomp, your pleasures, your grandeur, and your luxury; while our
possessions are opprobrium and contempt, shame, banishment, and
suffering--days without sun, and nights without repose or shelter. Yes,
drive us from you--you know that we are infectious, that we shall
contaminate your purity--Away! Room, room for the Cagots!'"

And Raymond and Guilhem retired through the crowd, which shrunk back,
appalled, to let them pass.

The next day Marie de Lignac received a letter, the contents of which
were never seen but by her tear-dimmed eyes; nor ever re-read by her
after she entered the convent of Marciniac.

The Lord of Artiguelouve, on his death-bed, was a prey to the most
bitter repentance: he implored that some priest of more than common
sanctity should hear his last confession; and one was discovered in a
holy hermit, who, when he was summoned from his retreat, was found
kneeling beside a humble tomb, where he passed all his days in prayer,
with rigorous fasting and unwearied penance. He obeyed the call of the
expiring sinner, and received his last sigh. Thus did the repentant Lord
of Artiguelouve meet the forgiveness of his son, Raymond: for it was he
that closed his eyes with a blessing, and then returned to his hermitage
to weep by the tomb of his father, the Cagot.

       *       *       *       *       *

I am indebted to M. Baron du Taya's (of Rennes) learned researches and
obliging kindness for a few particulars respecting the Cacous of
Brittany.

It is thought there that this proscribed race are the descendants of
_leprous Jews_, which would at once account for the detestation in which
they continued to be held, but for the term _"Chrestaàs"_ applied to
them, which destroys that supposition: again, it is said that they are
descended from original _lepers_, and that diseases are inherent in
their blood--though not leprosy, it may be epilepsy: for this reason,
the _rope-makers_ of Ploermel were held in abhorrence, and are even now
shunned: they are irritated when the term _caqueux_ is applied to them,
but it is common to call them _Malandrins_--a word of opprobrium, only
less shocking to their ears. They had always their separate
burial-ground and chapel; and, till the revolution of 1789, the
prejudice existed against them: even now it is not entirely extinct.

Rope-makers, coopers, and _tailors_ are still held in a certain degree
of contempt in Brittany, as those of these trades were formerly all
looked upon as Cacous.

The Cacous of St. Malo met with some compassion from Duke Francis II.,
the father of Anne of Brittany; and also in the time of Francis I., King
of France, ordinances were made in their favour; but they were not so
fortunate as their brethren of Rome, who, in the sixteenth century, are
said to have sold, in one Holy week, rope to the amount of two thousand
crowns, to make _disciplines_.

In 1681, a law was passed to this effect; "Seeing that there are no
longer any Leprous, _Ladres_, or _Caquins_ at Kerroch, parish of St.
Caradec d'Hennebon, there is in future to be no distinction made in the
inhabitants of this village--who formerly had their burial-ground and
chapel apart--and all shall be admitted to the benefit of parish
assistance during their lives, and buried in the church after their
death. For it is considered that it _was ill and abusively_ ordained by
the Bishop of Vannes, in 1633, that the wives of the said inhabitants
should not be purified, except in their own chapels; for it is well
ascertained that no native of the said village of Kerroch has ever been
afflicted with leprosy."

Notwithstanding this sensible and humane act, the people of Kerroch are
not free from the absurd suspicion even yet.

"It would appear," observes M. Baron du Taya, "that the Cacous were
first a subdivision of lepers, and afterwards, by hereditary
_remembrance_ of them, the latter were always the objects of
commiseration amongst the professors of religion and chivalry. Thus the
first Grand Master of St. Lazare was himself a leper. Several great
names occur amongst these Grand Masters: such as Jean de Paris, in 1300;
a Bourbon in 1521; and, under Henri IV., a Philibert de Nerestang."

In 1436 a prohibition was issued against the _Cacosi_ receiving the kiss
of peace, and the kiss of the monks, _before men who were whole_; it was
not denied them, but they were to be _the last_.

In many places in Brittany the rope-makers work out of the towns near
those places where lazar-houses were once established. They were not
authorized to place their benches in the lower part of the church at
Pontivy till after the revolution in 1789! The villagers still look upon
certain rope-makers, tailors, and coopers, as possessing _an evil eye_,
and are in the habit of concealing their _thumbs_ under the rest of
their fingers,[51] and pronouncing the word _argaret_ as a
counter-spell: this word is unintelligible even to the Bas-Bretons
themselves. The prejudice still exists in Finisterre against the Cacous:
the village of Lannistin is one of their abodes. The Cagot girls of
Béarn are said never to be able to draw water from a brook or well
without spilling half of it: so that their houses are always dirty, and
themselves thirsty. Probably the same misfortune exists in Brittany, for
there is little cleanliness to be found there.

[Footnote 51: This practice is similar to that of the Neapolitans, who
wear a little hand in coral (_gettatura_) as a preservative against the
evil eye.]

Perhaps, after all, the most probable conjecture as to the origin of
these unhappy Cagots is, that they were persons _suspected of
witchcraft_, and banished in the first instance from society, to which
traditional prejudice prevented their return; and, though the cause of
their banishment was no longer remembered, the abhorrence they had once
inspired did not wear out with ages. The supposition of their having
been _the first Christians_, persecuted and contemned, and never
regaining the world's good opinion, seems a notion difficult to adopt,
except that the first Christians were suspected of sorcery and
communication with evil spirits. "He casteth out devils through
Beelzebub, the chief of the devils." If such were, indeed, the case,
what a lesson for p