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Title: A Midsummer Drive Through the Pyrenees
Author: Dix, Edwin Asa, 1860-1911
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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available by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF/Gallica) at




Ex-Fellow in History of the College of New Jersey at Princeton


New York & London
G.P. Putnam's Sons
The Knickerbocker Press



"How comes it to pass," wondered a traveler, over twenty years ago,
"that, when the American people think it worth while to pay a visit to
Europe almost exclusively to see Switzerland and Italy; when in 1860
twenty-one thousand Americans visited Rome and only seven thousand
English; so few should think it worth while to visit the Pyrenees? It is
certainly the only civilized country we have visited without finding
Americans there before us. Is it accident or caprice, or part of a
system of leaving it to the last,--which 'last' never comes? The feast
is provided,--where are the guests? The French Pyrenees form one of the
loveliest gardens in Europe and a perfect place for a summer holiday.
'La beauté ici est sereine et le plaisir est pur.'"

The query is still unanswered to-day. The stream of summer journeyings
to Europe has swollen to a river; it has overflowed to the Arctic Ocean,
to the Baltic, to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The Pyrenees--a
garden not only, but a land of sterner scenery as well,--almost alone
remain by our nation of travelers unvisited and unknown.


































































  "In fortune's empire blindly thus we go;
    We wander after pathless destiny,
  Whose dark resorts since prudence cannot know,
    In vain it would provide for what shall be."

A trip to the Pyrenees is not in the Grand Tour. It is not even in any
southerly extension of the Grand Tour. A proposition to exploit them
meets a dubious reception. Pictures arise of desolate gorges; of lonely
roads and dangerous trails; of dismal roadside inns, where, when you
halt for the night, a "repulsive-looking landlord receives the unhappy
man, exchanges a look of ferocious intelligence with the driver,"--and
the usual melodramatic midnight carnage probably ensues. The Pyrenees
seem to echo the motto of their old counts, "_Touches-y, si tu l'oses_!"
the name seems to stand vaguely for untested discomforts, for clouds and
chasms, and Spanish banditti in blood-red _capas_; to be, in a word, a
symbol of an undiscovered country which would but doubtfully reward a
resolve to discover.

Yet there is a fascination in the project, as we discuss a summer tour.
There, we know, are mountains whose sides are nearly Alpine, whose
shoulders are of snow and glacier, whose heads rise to ten and eleven
thousand feet above the sea. There, we know, must be savage
scenery,--ravines, cliffs, ice-rivers, as in the Alps; valleys and
streams and fair pastures as well, and a richer southern sunlight over
the uplands; besides a people less warped by tourists, intensely
tenacious of the past, and still tingling with their old local love of
country,--a people with whom, "to be a Béarnais is greater than to be a

To visit the Pyrenees, too, will be almost to live again in the Middle
Ages. The Roman, the Moor, the Paladin, Froissart, Henry of Navarre,
have marked the region both in romance and in soberer fact. Its valleys
have individual histories; its aged towns and castles, stirring
biographies. The provinces on its northern flanks, once a centre, a
nucleus, of old French chivalry, are saturated with mediæval adventure.
One visits the Alps to be in the tide of travel, to find health in the
air, to feel the religion of noble mountains. In the Pyrenees is all
this, and more,--the present and the past as well. As we call down the
shades of old chroniclers from the dust of upper library tiers, we grow
more and more in desire of a closer acquaintance. Cæsar, Charlemagne,
Roland, the Black Prince, Gaston Phoebus, Montgomery and knightly King
Henry stand in ghostly armor and beckon us on.


Facts of detail prove farther to seek. We inquire almost in vain for
travelers' notes on the Pyrenees. Those who had written on Spanish
travel spoke of the range admiringly. But these authors, we find,
invariably, only passed by the eastern extremity, or the western, of the
great mountain wall; the mountains themselves they did not visit. Search
in the large libraries brings out a few scant volumes of Pyrenean
travel, but all, with two or three exceptions, bear date within the
first three-fifths of the century. It is with books, often, as with the
_Furançon_, the wine of the Pyrenees, and with certain other vintages:
age improves them only up to a certain limit; when put away longer than
a generation, they lose value.

Taine's glowing _Tour_,[1] itself made nearly thirty years ago, is a
delight, almost a marvel; the style, the torrent of simile, the vivid
thought, rank it as a classic. But M. Taine's is less a book of travel
than a work of art; in the iridescence of the descriptions, you lose the
reflection of the things described. Even hand-books, the way-clearing
lictors of travel, prove, as to the Pyrenees region, first scarce and
then scanty. The few we unearth in the stores are armed only with the
usual perfunctory fasces of facts,--cording information into stiff,
labeled bunches, marshaling details into cramped and characterless
order, scrutinizing the ground with a microscope, never surveying it in
bird's-eye view. Two recent novels we eagerly buy, hearing that their
scenes are laid in that vicinity; but each merely speaks, in easy
omniscience, of the "distant chain of blue mountains," or of the
"far-off snow-peaks outlined against the horizon," and the fiction
proves hardly worth sifting for so little fact. Plainly the Pyrenees
lack the voluminous literature of the Alps. Plainly we shall have, in
part, to grope our way. The grooves of Anglo-Saxon travel are many and
deep, lined increasingly with English speech and customs; but they have
not yet been cut into these Spanish mountains.

[1] _Voyage aux Pyrénées_.

The search enlarges the horizon, however. The lonely roads we learn to
qualify in thought with occasional branches of railway; the dangerous
trails, with certain cultivated highways; the dismal road-side inns,
with spasmodic hotels, some even named confidently as "palatial." We
read of spas and springs and French society, more than of chasms and
banditti. We realize in surprise that over all the past of these
mountains flows now in bracing contrast the easy, laughing tide of
modern French fashion,--life so different in detail, so like in kind, to
the day of trapping and tourney.

It is enough:

  "Now are we fix'd, and now we will depart,
  Never to come again till what we seek
  Be found."


Difficulties always lessen after a decision. I casually question a
doughty Colonel, who has been an indefatigable traveler; he has twice
girdled the earth, and has many times cross-hatched Spain; he has not
been to the Pyrenees, but heartily urges the trip. He assures me that
the banditti there have become, he believes, comparatively few; that
they now rarely slit their captives' ears, and that present quotations
for ransoms, so he hears, are ruling very low, much lower than at any
previous epoch. Thus comforted, we interview other traveled friends; but
our goal is to all an unvisited district. We find no kindly Old
Travelers returned from Pyrenees soil, to counsel us, advise us, and
inflict well-meant and inordinate itineraries upon us. At least, then,
we are not alone in our ignorance; it is evident that our knowledge of
the region is not blamably less than that of others, and that the
Pyrenees are in literal fact a land untrodden by Americans.

Questions of accessibility now arise. It seems a far cry from Paris to
the doors of Spain. The Pyrenees are not on the way to Italy, as are the
Alps. They are not on the way around the world, as are the Mountains of
Lebanon and the Sierras. They are not strictly on the way even to Spain.
But we consider. Our country men are streaming to Europe, quick-eyed for
unhackneyed routes, throwing over the continent new and endless
net-works of silver trails. They travel three full days to reach the
Norway fjords, and five in addition to see the high noon of midnight.
They journey a day and night to Berlin, and forty-two hours
consecutively after, without wayside interest, to visit the City of the
Great Czar; if they persevere toward the Kremlin, and around by
"Warsaw's waste of ruin," they will have counted a week in a railway
compartment. Constantinople and Athens lie two thousand miles away,
Naples and Granada nearly as far; all sought, even in summer, though
quivering in the tropics' livid heat. We came round to our Pyrenees: it
needs from Paris but nine hours to Bordeaux, with coigns of vantage
between; in four hours from Bordeaux, you are by the waters of the Bay
of Biscay, or in six, in the centre of the Pyrenees chain.


And so _La Champagne_ leaves its long wake across the Atlantic, and we
journey down from Paris to the little city of the Maid of Orleans;
wander to Tours, the approximate scene of the great Saracenic defeat;
drive along the quays of Bordeaux, and visit its vineyards and finally
come on, in the luxurious cars of the _Midi_ line, to the shores of
Cantabria and the popular watering-place of Biarritz.



Clearly we are in advance of the summer season at Biarritz. It is the
latter part of June. The air is soft and warm, the billows lap the shore
enticingly. But fashion has not yet transferred its court; the van of
the column only has arrived. A few adventurous bathers test the cool
surf; the table-d'hôte is slimly attended; the liverymen confidentially
assure us, as an inducement for drives, that their prices are now
crouching low, for a prodigious leap to follow.

But everything has a pleasing air of anticipation. Since we are to be
out of the season at all, we are glad we are in advance of it. This is
the youth of the summer, not its old age. People are looking forward;
events are approaching, instead of receding; the coming months seem big
with indefinite promise of benefit and pleasure.

We quickly become imbued with the general hopefulness of the place.
Every one has the look of one making ready. You hear, all day long, when
far enough from the waves, a vague, joyous hum of bustle pervading the
town. The enterprising click of hammer or trowel falls constantly on the
ear. The masons are at work upon the new villas, and our hotel is
completing a fine addition for a café; the stores along the busy little
main street are being put in order, the windows alluringly stocked, and
bright awnings unrolled above them, fenders from the summer's heat. The
hotels are fairly awake. Everything is rejoicing that the
semi-hibernation is over.


Biarritz, the town, is as delightful, if not as picturesque, as we had
hoped. Perhaps it is too modern to be picturesque. In this part of the
world at least, one rather requires the picturesque to be allied with
the old. The nucleus of Biarritz is old, but that is out of sight in the
modern overgrowth; Biarritz, as it is, is of this half century.

This is not, on the whole, to be regretted. Biarritz has no history, no
past of associations, no landmarks to be guarded. Vandalism in the form
of the modern rebuilder can here work more good than harm. Save for its
location at the edge of the wild Basque country, and what it has seen,
itself sheltered by obscurity, of the forays of that restless people,
the place has little to tell. It is a watering-place, pure and simple,
buoyed entirely by the prospering ebb and flow of modern fashion. Let us
take it as of to-day, not of yesterday, content to seek its charms under
that aspect alone, enjoying it for itself, not for its pedigree.

Biarritz is a prerogative instance of the magnetism of royalty,--of the
social power of the court as an institution. It was a watering-place, in
a small way, before Eugénie's advent; but there was not a tithe of its
present size and popularity. In 1840, it numbered in all not more than
fifty houses, a few of them lodgings or humble cafés, but the greater
part staid little whitewashed summer-dwellings with green verandas and
occasional roof-balconies; set down irregularly, without street or
system, along the sunny slopes of the bluff. Murray's _Handbook_ for
1848 gives it passing notice, and disrespectfully styles it the dullest
place upon earth for one having no resources of friends upon the spot.
But in the modern edition of forty years later, the same manual has come
to describe the place in a very different strain; assigns it a
population of nearly 6,000; details, with respect, its fashionable rank,
its villas and increasing hotels, its graded streets and driveways; and
among other things adds the simple remark that "about twenty-one
thousand strangers now visit Biarritz every year." Evidently there has
been some advance within the span.

It was the Empress of the French who distilled the life-elixir for the
quiet little resort. As a maiden, she had spent long summers by its
shore, and when she was become the first lady in the land, she turned
still to Biarritz, and the midsummer tide of fashion followed after her.
Across the downs, on the bluff, stands the _Villa Eugénie_, the handsel
of Biarritz's prosperity; and here about us is the town that grew up to
make her court.

Fair France lost as well as gained when the burning walls of the
Tuileries crashed in. In these days of the plain French Republic,--of
its sober, unornamental, business government,--the contrast is vivid
with the glitter and "go" of Louis Napoleon's régime. And the nation
feels it, and involuntarily grieves over it. The twenty years have far
from sufficed to smother that certain inborn Gallic joy in
monarchy,--autocratic rule, a brilliant court, leadership in fashion,
and all the pomp and pageantry which the French love so well.

Little more than a century ago, stable governments seemed at last to be
ruling the world; civilization had come to believe itself finally at
peace; war, it was complacently said, had finished its work; the coming
cycles would prove so far tamed as to have outgrown fightings and
revolutions. Cultured modern history, like Nature, would refuse to
proceed _per saltum_. Yet the hundred years since gone by have brought
wars as fierce, "leaps" of government as tremendous, as any century in
the past. It is this same fair France that has contributed more than her
share of them, and the Fall of the Second Empire was one of the most
dramatic. The world is not, after all, so securely merged from the
darkness of the Dark Ages. Within that short century, in Paris itself,
the very capital of cultured Europe, there has twice uprisen a human
savagery immeasurably exceeding all the tales we are to tell of the
fierce past of the Pyrenees.

It needs an effort to-day to picture the social power of France and
Eugénie twenty years ago. The mantle has not fallen to England and
Alexandra. Only a people like the French can endue fashion with

So it was, that when the Empress came to Biarritz, "all the world" came
also. From the building of her villa dates the true origin of Biarritz.
From that time its growth was progressive and sound. When the empire
finally fell, this creature of its making had already passed the
danger-point, and so stood unshaken; Biarritz had become too popular,
its clientèle too devoted, to part company. Even in the winter it has
its increasing colony; in summer its vogue is beyond caprice. The
sparkle of the royal occupation has gone, and the royal villa is
tenantless; but the place no longer needs a helping hand, for it is
abundantly able to walk alone.



In the afternoon we wander down to the sands. The tide is low. The long
billows of the Bay of Biscay roll smugly in, hypocritical and placid,
with nothing to betray the unenviable reputation they sustain _in mediis
aquis_. The broad, smooth beach is not notably different in kind from
other beaches; but we instantly see the peculiar charm of its location.
The shore sweeps off in a long, lazy crescent, rounding up, a mile or
two to the northward, with the light-house near Bayonne. Southward we
cannot follow it from where we stand, for the near irregularities of
cliff cut it off from sight. Back from the beach rises the bluff,
curving northward with the crescent; at our left it comes boldly down
toward the water, partitioning the beach and breaking up at the edge
into strange, gaunt capes and peninsulas. Black masses of rock, large
and small, are crouching out among the waves, tortured by storms into
misshapen forms and anguished attitudes, patted and petted into
fantastic humps and contortions. The strata dip at an angle of about
twenty-five degrees, and the stone is friable and defenceless.
Soothingly now the water is running over and around these rocks, or
whitens their outlines with foam; granting their piteous torsos, in
merciful caprice, a day's brief respite from the agony of its

The afternoon sun shines brightly against the bathing pavilion,
irradiating its red and yellow brick. Along the narrow; sheltered
platform at its front, sit matronly French dowagers, holding their
daughters, as it were, in leash, and talking of women and things, and
affairs of state. Though early in the season, the beach is well
sprinkled with people. A few attempt the bathing again, but the rest
saunter here and there or enjoy beach-chairs at a stipulated rental. The
elderly French gentleman, a dapper and interesting, specimen rarely
paralleled at home, strolls about contentedly on the asphalt promenade
back from the beach, smoking a cigar and fingering a light bamboo.
Younger men, also well-dressed, pass in couples, or walk with a mother
and daughter,--never with the daughter alone. Boatmen and candy-peddlers
ramble in and out, a Basque fisherman or two linger about the scene, and
dogs, a pony and a captive monkey, add an element of animal life.

Despite its sunny holiday temperament, Biarritz was one of certain
Biscayan villages once denounced as "given up to the worship of the
devil,"--thus denounced by Henry IV's bloodthirsty inquisitor, Pierre de
Lancre, a veritable French Jeffreys, and the same who in 1609 put to
death no less than eight hundred persons on the ground of sorcery. "He
tells us that the devils and malignant spirits banished from Japan and
the Indies took refuge here in the mountains of Labourd. Above all, he
asserts that the young girls of Biarritz, always celebrated for their
beauty, 'have in their left eye a mark impressed by the devil.'"

Happily we have no devil in this nineteenth century, and in the clear
glance of these Biarritz peasants loitering on the sands, we find that
his brand-marks have disappeared with him.

A few of the faces we meet are English; many are Spanish, and show that
Biarritz draws its worshipers from the South as from the North. Indeed,
a large proportion of its summer society wears the mantilla and wields
the fan. Other marks, too, of Spanish dress are here, as where little
girls in many-hued outfit romp along the sands, dragooned by dark-faced
nurses in true Iberian costume. Three or four brilliant red parasols add
amazingly to the general effect of the scene.

We repair to the stone parapet before the pavilion, and gravely paying
our dues for chairs, sit and watch the picture. There is no charge for
sitting on the beach, but this is severely frowned upon at Biarritz. The
dues are two sous per chair, and, with true Continental thrift, they are
always rigorously collected. Whether one wanders into the open square of
the Palais Royal at Paris, or listens to the music in the Place de
Tourny at Bordeaux, or watches the waves at Biarritz, the old woman with
her little black bag at once appears upon the scene. Some Frenchless
friends in Paris, on one occasion, guilelessly seated in the gardens of
the Palais Royal, took the collector simply for a pertinacious
beggar-woman, and waved her airily off. She returned to the charge, of
course, in indignant French, and grew angrier every moment as she found
herself still loftily ignored. A warm fracas was in prospect, when a
passing American fortunately cleared up the complication; the woman
would have called in a gendarme unhesitatingly, to enforce her
diminutive claim.

On the bluff, beyond the pavilion, Eugénie's villa, a square, rich
building of English brick, surveys the scene its existence has brought
about. Around us, on the beach, the nurses sit in the shade of the rocks
and discourse on the respective failings of their charges. Children dig
in the sand with pail and shovel, with the same zest as at home.
Child-nature changes little with locality. So recently from the great
unknown, it is not yet seamed and crusted by environment. I suppose that
children fairly represent the prehistoric man. Impulse, appetite,
passion,--all the gusts of the moment sway them. We quell our emotions
so uniformly, as we grow on, that we finally hardly feel their
struggles. The children have richer life than we, in some respects:

  "Faith and wonder and the primal earth
  Are born into the world with every child."

I make no doubt that Nimrod, or Achilles and Ajax, great children that
they were, as ready to cry as to feast, to laugh as to fight, hunting
mightily, sulking in the tent, or defying the lightning,--intense,
sudden, human all through,--drank down their strong, muddy potion of
existence with a smack far heartier than the reflective sips of life
which civilization has now taught us to take. Childhood is wide and free
and abounding and near to nature, and we can take thoughts from it, and
ponder, perhaps dubiously, on the distance we since have traveled.

The children dig in the sand, and throw it over the nurses, just as they
are doing at Old Orchard and Old Point. Here, with a maid, is a pair of
children who freely show one attribute of childhood not so pleasing as
others,--cruelty. They have a little monkey, fastened by collar and
chain, and it is pitiful and yet ludicrous to see the close watch the
animal keeps on his captors' movements. He has found a slack chain his
best policy, and adapts his every motion anxiously and solicitously to
the leaps of the boy. But the utmost vigilance avails him little. When
the child is weary with running and sudden turns, which have called for
marvelous dexterity of accommodation on the part of the monkey, the
chain is hauled up, with the animal clinging worriedly to it, and he is
flung far out into the fringe of waves, to pick his shivering way up
again and again from the water. These children have a white rat, also,
which they chase over the sand, and souse into puddles, and otherwise
maltreat. It is useless to interfere parentally, and we hardly see our
way to buying either rat or monkey, even to ensure them a peaceable old
age. One wonders why children have this queer taint of cruelty.
Unconscious cruelty it may be, but it seems none the less out of place
in their fresh, unused nature. We outgrow some rude vices as well as
rude virtues, in becoming older, and there is comfort in that.


The bluff, coming out to the sea, cuts off, close at hand, the curve of
the shore toward the south, and we climb by a sloping path. From the
top, we look down upon, the beach we have left; back upon the downs
cluster the numberless private villas which form a feature of Biarritz;
to the left, over the near roofs and hotels of the town, we can see the
first far-off pickets of the Pyrenees; while immediately in front now
appear below us three or four rocky bays and coves, broken by the lines
of the cliff and partly sheltered by the rocks out at sea. "Many of
these rocks," writes an old-time visitor,[2] in the pleasantly aging
English of 1840, "are perforated with holes, so that, with a high sea
and an incoming tide, and always, indeed, in some degree, when the tide
flows, the water pours through these hollows and rents, presenting the
singular appearance of many cascades. Some of the rocks lying close to
the shore, and many of those which form the cliff, are worn into vast
caverns. In these the waves make ceaseless music,--a hollow, dismal
sound, like distant thunder,--and when a broad, swelling wave bounds
into these caverns and breaks in some distant chamber, the shock, to
one standing on the beach, is like a slight earthquake. But when a storm
rises in the Bay of Biscay, and a northwest wind sweeps across the
Atlantic, the scene is grand beyond the power of description. The whole
space covered with rocks, which are scattered over the coast, is an
expanse of foam, boiling whirlpools and cataracts, and the noise of the
tremendous waves, rushing into these vast caverns and lashing their
inner walls, is grander a thousand times than the most terrific
thunder-storm that ever burst from the sky."

[2] INGLIS: Switzerland and the South of France.

In these little coves now float idle pleasure-boats, bright with paint
and listless awnings, and ready to be manned by their stout Basque
rowers. Here, too, are the fishermen's cabins, snugly built in against
the rocks, and garnished with baskets and poles, and with men repairing
their nets. The irregular curves of the bluff, broken here into abrupt
and dislocated masses, lend themselves readily to winding paths, and we
ramble on, curving upward and downward, over short bridges and through
little tunnels under the rocks, each turn giving a new view of the bay
or the town.

Finally we round another promontory, cross a last bridge to a large
rock-islet standing out from the mainland, and lo! the crescent of the
coast is completed, and far to the south we see a low mountain ending
the curve; it is Spain.


In the dreamy summer stillness, we sit with, content, looking at those
distant hills, listening to the lapping of the waves, watching the sun
sink lower toward the sea. The afternoon sunlight makes a glade across
the waters,--seeming to one from a western sea-board like some
strange disarrangement in the day.


The rounded mountains before us are indeed in Spain, a communicative
fisherman tells us. At the foot of the outermost, eighteen miles away,
is hidden the old Spanish town of Fuenterrabia. On its other side, in a
hollow of the coast, lies San Sebastian. Nearer us, though well down
along the sweep of the grey clay bluffs, is St. Jean de Luz, which, with
the others, lies on our intended way.

We seem to see, conforming to the crescent of that foreign coast, the
menacing crescent of the Armada, parting from Spanish shores, just three
hundred years ago to a month, to crush Anglo-Saxon civilization. There
before us lies the land of intolerance and bigotry which gave it being,
the land of Philip the Second and his Inquisition. But for Drake and
Howard and England's "wooden walls," events would have moved differently
during the last three centuries,--in our country as in theirs.


The last spark of the sun has disappeared in the water. We turn into the
town in the fading light, passing another large bathing pavilion in a
sheltered cove, and saunter homeward through an undulating street, the
aorta of Biarritz. It is not a wide street, but it is busy and brisk,
and it has a refurbished look like newly scoured metal. Neat
dwelling-houses, guarded behind stone walls and well-kept hedges,
display frequent signs of furnished apartments to let Small and large
shops alternate sociably in the line; there is the _épicerie_ or
grocery-store, with raisins and olives and Albert biscuits in the
window; next is a lace and worsted shop, where black Spanish nettings
vie with gay crotchet-work,--

  "By Heaven, it is a splendid sight to see
  Their rival scarfs of mix'd embroidery,"

all made by hand, and bewilderingly low-priced. Now we come to a
mirrored café, the Frenchman's hearth-side; it compels a détour into the
middle of the street, since the sidewalk is quite preempted by its
chairs and tiny tables. Here is another Spanish store, conspicuous for
its painted tambourines with pendent webs of red and yellow worsted, and
for its spreading fans, color-dashed with exciting pictures of
bull-fights and spangled matadors. A hotel appears next, across the way,
standing back from the street, with: a small, triangular park between;
and then comes a pretentious bric-à-brac bazaar, and another café, and a
confectioner's, and a tobacco-store,--each presided over by a buxom
French matron, affable and vigilant, and clearly the animating spirit of
the establishment.

Tiny carriages of a peculiar species, with donkeys and boy drivers, line
the streets. The carriage holds one,--say an infirm dowager seeking the
afternoon breeze,--and if the driver's attendance is desired, he is able
to run beside it for miles. It is light and noiseless, comfortably
cushioned, always within call, and governed by a beneficently trifling
tariff. These _vinaigrettes_, as they are called, would be appreciated
at home, if habit took kindly to novelties. How greatly they might
simplify problems of calling and shopping! Our conveyances are all
cumbrous. We must have the huge barouche, the coach, the close-shut
coupé. Even the phaeton yields to the high T-cart. But convention is
autocratic, and would frown on these vinaigrettes as it frowns on many
useful ideas. Another unfortunate victim of its taboo is the
sedan-chair, which would be lustily stared at to-day, yet the utility of
which might be made positively inestimable. One who reads of the Chinese
palanquins, or sees the carrying-chairs of Switzerland, convenient and
always in demand, or who watches these agile little vinaigrettes darting
along the ways, wonders that similar devices do not force their way, if
need be, into universal favor.

Another mode of conveyance, once peculiarly popular with Biarritz, might
be more difficult of exportation. This was the _promenade en cacolet_.
The town of Bayonne is but five miles distant, by a delightful road, and
formerly, particularly before the railroad came in, to ridicule old
ways, every one went to Bayonne _en cacolet_. It is no longer so, and
the world has lost a unique custom. The contrivance was very simple: the
motive power was a donkey or a horse, and the conveyance consisted of a
wooden frame or yoke fitting across the animal's back, with a seat
projecting from each side. One seat was for the driver, usually a lively
Basque peasant-woman; the other was for the passenger. There was a small
arm-piece, at the outside of each seat, and generally there was a
cushion. This was once a favorite means of travel between Bayonne and
Biarritz. It was expeditious, enlivening,--and highly insecure; that was
one of its charms. Throughout the ride there was a ludicrous titillation
of insecurity; but it was greatest at the start and at the finish. For,
the seats being evenly balanced, to mount was in itself high art. Driver
and passenger needed to spring at precisely the same instant, or the
result was dust and ashes. Trial after trial was needed by the neophyte;
he must be, as an eye-witness[3] of long ago aptly describes it, "as
watchful of the mutual signal as a file of soldiers who wait the command
'make ready,--present,--fire!' A second's delay,--a second's
precipitation,--proves fatal; the seat is attained, and at the same
moment up goes the opposite empty seat, and down goes the equestrian
between the horse's feet.... In descending, it is still worse; because
there is more hurry, more impatience, on arriving at the end of a
journey; and an injudicious descent does not visit its effects upon one
but upon both travelers; for unless the person who descends be extremely
quick in his motions, his seat flies up before he has quite left it, and
oversets him, and the opposite weight, of course, goes plump to the
ground,--with as fatal effects as cutting the hammock-strings of a
middy's berth."



Perilous balancing feats and a high degree of skill were evidently
demanded of him who would journey _en cacolet_. Requiring thus a special
training, so to speak, as well as a nice equivalence in weight between
passenger and driver difficult to always realize, its use is not likely
to supersede that of wheeled vehicles. To take a ride _en cacolet_, one
might have a long hunt before finding a driver who should be his proper
counterpoise; and it would be often inconvenient, not to say
impracticable, thus to have to order one's driver according to measure.

It is the evening dining-hour as we find ourselves at last in the open
court-yard of our hotel and seek the welcoming light of its _salle_. The
hotels of Biarritz are handsome, even to elegance,--elegance which seems
wasted on the few people now in them. But numbers do not seem to affect
the anxious concern of Continental hotel-keepers. The same elaborate and
formal table-d'hôte is served for our small company and a few others, as
will, later on, be prepared for a houseful of guests. The waiters don
the same ducal costume and with it the same grave decorum; and our
attendant Ganymede, bending respectfully to present his laden salver,
watches my selection of a portion of the pullet with as anxious
solicitude as could be shown by the mother hen herself. The solemnity of
a table-d'hôte, and the silencing effect it has on the most talkative,
is invariable, as it is inexplicable, and accents sharply the contrast
with the breezy clatter of the American summer hotel dining-hall. This
is not to say that either is, in all ways, to be preferred. Each in its
own setting. There is a comforting stir and whir about the great, bare,
sociable dining-hall at Crawford's or at the Grand Union, which causes a
European table-d'hôte utterly to pale and dwindle. And there is a
satisfying quiet, a self-respecting, ritualistic calm, in the frescoed
salle-a-manger of the Schweizerhof, or of the Grand Hotel at Biarritz,
which makes its American rival seem impetuous and unrestful, and even a
trifle garish. 'Tis hard to choose. Man and mood both vary. There is no
parallel. The two modes of dining are as wide apart as the countries
and their characteristics, and each is, in the best sense, distinctly


There is music during the evening in the little park we passed, and the
best of Biarritz assembles to enjoy the programme. We charter chairs
with the rest. Tables go with the chairs without extra charge, waiters
follow up the tables, and soon all the world is sipping its coffee or
cordials, and listening to Zampa. Outside, around the fence enclosing
the little park, revolves an endless procession of the poorer
people,--thrifty folk who are here as earners, not spenders, and would
not dream of melting their two sous into a chair. Round the small
enclosure they go, by couples or threes, like asteroids round the sun,
staring with interest at the more aristocratic assemblage within,--just
as the family circle stares at the boxes. And the music sings on
pleasantly for all, this mild summer evening in Biarritz.



     "I am here on purpose to visit the sixteenth century; one makes a
     journey for the sake of changing not place but ideas."

In the morning, a dashing equipage rolls up to the doorway of the Grand
Hotel. A "breack" is its Gallicized English name. It has four white
horses, with bells on the harness, and the driver is richly bedight in a
scarlet-faced coat, blazing with buttons and silver lace; a black glazed
hat, and very white duck trousers. We ascend, the ladder is removed, the
porter bows, his thanks, the whip signals, and we roll out of the
court-yard for a six-mile drive northward to Bayonne.

We take the sea-road in going, following the bluff as it trends
northward, and having dazzling views of blue sky and blue water. There
is a fresh, sweet, morning breeze, which exhilarates. Truly here is the
joy of travel! Kilometre-stones pass, one after another, to the rear.
Still the road presses on, winding over the downs, or between long rows
of pines and poplars standing even and equidistant for mile after mile.
The light-house at the end of the crescent beach comes nearer. Few teams
are met, and fewer travelers; for the main highway to Bayonne, which
lies inland and by which we are to return, is shorter than this, and
draws to itself the most of the traffic.

At length, the light-house is neared, and to the right Bayonne is seen,
not far off. The breack turns to the right along the river Adour, which
here runs to the sea, and, skirting the long stone jetties, we roll
toward town by the _Allées Marines_, a wide promenade along the river,
cross the bridge, rattle through the streets, and draw up before the
hotel in the open square with a jingle and whip-cracking and general
hullaballoo which fills the street urchins with awe and gives unmixed
joy to our jolly driver.


Bayonne has been a centre.

A few cities are suns, the rest planets. This, with regard to their
importance, not their size.

If Bordeaux is the sun of southwestern French commerce, Bayonne has at
least been the most important planet, with the towns and villages of a
wide district for its satellites.

Here we catch the first breath of the bracing mediæval air we shall
breathe in the Pyrenees. Bayonne has still a trace of the free,
out-of-door spirit of its lawless prime. Miniature epics, more than one,
have clustered around it. The rallying-cry, "Men of Bayonne!" has always
appealed to the intensest local pride to be found perhaps in France, and
the boast of the city still is that it has never been conquered. Looking
back to the sharp times when every near warfare centred about
Bayonne,--when feudal enmities were constantly outcropping on quick
pretexts,--when the issue always gathered itself into hand-to-hand
encounter, and was determined by personal prowess,--the boast is not

The Basques, who are close neighbors to Bayonne, make the same boast.
As Basques and Bayonnais were always fighting, their respective boasts
seem to be continuing the conflict. But these old feuds, desperately
bitter, were after all local and guerilla-like, and the advantages
ephemeral. At few times did either people clash arms with the other in a
general war. Thus neither conquered the other, and in peace their boasts
joined hands against all comers.


Bestriding both the river Nive and the swift Adour, Bayonne seems a
healthy and healthful city, viewed in this June sunshine. But there is
little of the new about it. The horses are taken from the breack, we
leave at the hotel a requisition for lunch, and move forth for a survey.
The chief streets are wide and airy, but a turn places one instantly in
an older France. We ramble with curiosity in and out among the streets
and shops, finding no one preeminent attraction, but an infinite number
of minor ones which maintain the equation. In fact there is little for
the guide-book sight-seer in Bayonne. The cathedral leaves only a dim
impression of being in no wise remarkable. The citadel affords, it is
said, a wide-ranging view, but we prefer the arcades and the people to
the heat of the climb. The shops along the square are small but
characteristic; they are evidently for the Bayonnais themselves rather
than for strangers; this gives them their only charm for strangers. But
taken in its entirety and not in single effects, the town is wholly
pleasing. These dark, ancient arcades, its old houses, its rough-cobbled
pavements, its general appearance of fustiness, give it a charmingly
individual air.

They contrast it, however, completely with Biarritz. Bayonne is a staid
and serious city, Biarritz a youthful-hearted resort. Bayonne is
reminiscent of the past; Biarritz is alive with its present. The genie
of modern improvement has not yet come, to rebuild Bayonne. Neither
fashion nor commerce has sufficiently rubbed the lamp. It holds
unlessened its long-time population of about thirty thousand souls; it
still drives its comfortable, trade as the second port of southwestern
France; it is known as enjoying a mild commercial specialty or two, as
in the line of textiles, particularly wools and woolen fabrics; and it
displays an artless pride in its reputation for excellent chocolate. It
even pets, a little suburb of winter visitors, and it has caught some
quickening rays from the summer prosperity of its neighbor. But it will
never feel the bounding impulse of rejuvenescence that has come to
Biarritz. Bayonne has no potentialities. It will continue in its
afternoon of peace, of easy, quiet thrift, contentedly aside from the
main current of events, recounting its traditions, prodigiously and
harmlessly proud of its local prestige; like a tribal chieftain of the
homage of his clan.


Basques abound in the streets, and the varied costumes to be seen show
the influence of that strange race. There are Spaniards here, too, and
Jews in plenty, mingling with the native French element. The men wear
the _berret_, a wool cap, like that of the Scotch lowlander, but
smaller. It is of dark blue or brown, and in universal use from Bordeaux
southward. When capping the Basque, particularly, with his rusty velvet
sack, crimson sash, dark knee-breeches and stockings, and the sandals or
wooden sabots worn on the feet, its effect is vividly picturesque. The
poorer women, as elsewhere on the Continent, become hard-featured and
muscular with age; saving a few beggars, they all seem to be
busy,--carrying burdens, washing linen, watching their huckster-stalls
or the dark little shops under the arcades. Here, however, the men
themselves are not idle. One seldomer sees in southern France a sight
frequent in Italy and many other parts of Europe,--that of a woman
toilsomely dragging a hand-cart or shouldering a burden while her spouse
walks idly by and smokes a thankful pipe.

Diminutive donkeys, hardy and hoarse, are in great use, and we hear in
the streets their plaintive and sonorous denunciations of men and
manners. The donkey here seems to take the place of the dog, which in
Holland and Scandinavia is taught the ways of constant and praiseworthy
usefulness. There, with a voluble old woman for yoke-fellow, he draws
the small market-carts about the streets and grows lusty-limbed in the
service. Here, the donkey does duty for both, dog and old woman, and
must develop both muscle and tongue to offset their respective


An afternoon of peace, such towns as Bayonne have earned and gained.
This one has added few notable pages to universal history, but its own
personal biography would be an exciting one. It is worn with adventure,
and old before its time. The quarrelings of its hot youth, the tension
of strife and insecurity, the life of alarms it has lived, have aged it.
They have aged many another city of Europe, and endeared the blessing of

They were different days, those of the past of Bayonne. These streets
are narrow, the houses stoutly walled, because they were built for siege
as well as shelter. The doorways are low-browed, the stone-lined rooms
little lighter than caves, because every man's hand might rise against
his neighbor, and every man's hovel become his castle. Humanity was a
hopeless discord; individual security lay only in individual strength.
It is hard to conceive clearly the fierce life of the Darker Ages. The
rough jostling, the discomfort and pitilessness, the utter animality of
it all,--it is hard to conceive it even inadequately. The curtest
historical sweep from then to now, shows how far the world has come. The
savage unrest of slum and faubourg to-day shows too how far the world
has yet to go. Not till civilization becomes more than a veneer, will it
lose its liability to crack.

The picture is not wholly dark. There were many of the humanities. There
was culture and thought and refinement, much of it of a high type. Light
and shade,--both were strongly limned. But in the mass, it was
barbarism. For the lower classes, occupation, brawling; mental
thermometer at zero; cruelty and greed the ethical code. "You should
feel here," declares Taine,[4] "what men felt six hundred years ago,
when they swarmed forth from their hovels, from their unpaved,
six-feet-wide streets, sinks of uncleanness, and reeking with fever and
leprosy; when their unclad bodies, undermined by famine, sent a thin
blood to their brutish brains; when wars, atrocious laws, and legends of
sorcery filled their dreams with vivid and melancholy images." Hear him
tell over one of the trenchant tales from the annals of Bayonne:

[4] _Tour Through the Pyrenees_; translated by J. SAFFORD FISKE, New
York: Henry Holt & Co.


"Pé de Puyane was a brave man and a skillful sailor, who, in his day,
was Mayor of Bayonne and admiral; but he was harsh with his men, like
all who have managed vessels, and would any day rather fell a man than
take off his cap. He had long waged war against the seamen of Normandy,
and on one occasion he hung seventy of them to his yards, cheek by jowl
with some dogs. He hoisted on his galleys red flags, signifying death
and no quarter, and led to the battle of Écluse the great Genoese ship
Christophle, and managed his hands so well that no Frenchman escaped;
for they were all drowned or killed, and the two admirals, Quieret and
Bahuchet, having surrendered themselves, Bahuchet had a cord tightened
around his neck, while Quieret had his throat cut. That was good
management; for the more one kills of his enemies, the less he has of
them. For this reason, the people of Bayonne, on his return, entertained
him with such a noise, such a clatter of horns, of cornets, of drums and
all sorts of instruments, that it would have been impossible on that day
to hear even the thunder of God.

"It happened that the Basques would no longer pay the tax upon cider,
which was brewed at Bayonne for sale in their country, Pé de Puyane
said that the merchants, of the city should carry them no more, and that
if any one carried them any, he should have his hand cut off. Pierre
Cambo, indeed, a poor man, having carted two hogsheads of it by night,
was led out upon the market-place, before Notre Dame de Saint-Léon,
which was then building, and had his hand amputated, and the veins
afterwards stopped with red-hot irons; after that, he was driven in a
tumbrel throughout the city, which was an excellent example; for the
smaller folk should-always do: the bidding of men in high position.

"Afterwards, Pé de Puyane having assembled the hundred peers in the
town-house, showed them that the Basques, being traitors, rebels toward
the seigniory of Bayonne, should no longer keep the franchises which had
been granted them; that the seigniory of Bayonne, possessing the
sovereignty of the sea, might with justice impose a tax in all the
places to which the sea rose, as if they were in its port, and that
accordingly the Basques should henceforth pay for passing to
Villefranche, to the bridge of the Nive, the limit of high tide. All
cried out that that was but just, and Pé de Puyane declared the toll to
the Basques; but they all fell to laughing, saying they were not dogs of
sailors like the mayor's subjects. Then having come in force, they beat
the bridgemen, and left three of them for dead.

"Pé said nothing, for he was no great talker; but he clinched his teeth,
and looked so terribly around him that none dared ask him what he would
do nor urge him on nor indeed breathe a word. From the first Saturday in
April to the middle of August, several men were beaten, as well
Bayonnais as Basques, but still war was not declared, and when they
talked of it to the mayor, he turned his back.

"The twenty-fourth day of August, many noble men among the Basques, and
several young people, good leapers and dancers, came to the castle of
Miot for the festival of Saint Bartholomew. They feasted and showed off,
the whole day, and the young people who jumped the pole, with their red
sashes and white breeches, appeared adroit and handsome. That night came
a man who talked low to the mayor, and he, who ordinarily wore a grave
and judicial air, suddenly had eyes as bright as those of a youth who
sees the coming of his bride. He went down his staircase with four
bounds, led out a band of old sailors who were come one by one,
covertly, into the lower hall, and set out by dark night with several of
the wardens, having closed the gates of the city for fear that some
traitor, such as there are everywhere, should go before them.

"Having arrived at the castle, they found the draw-bridge down and the
postern open, so confident and unsuspecting were the Basques, and
entered, cutlasses drawn and pikes forward, into the great hall. There
were killed seven young men, who had barricaded themselves behind tables
and would there make sport with their dirks, but the good halberds, well
pointed and sharp as they were, soon silenced them. The others, having
closed the gates, from within, thought that they would have power to
defend themselves or time to flee; but the Bayonne marines, with their
great axes, hewed down the planks, and split the first brains which
happened to be near. The mayor, seeing that the Basques were tightly
girt with their red sashes, went about saying, (for he was unusually
facetious on days of battle,) 'Lard these fine gallants for me! Forward
the spit into their flesh justicoats!' And, in fact, the spits went
forward so that all were perforated and opened, some through and
through, so that you might have seen daylight through them, and that the
hall, half an hour after, was full of pale and red bodies, several bent
over benches, others in a pile in the corners, some with their noses
glued to the table like drunkards, so that a Bayonnais, looking at them,
said, 'This is the veal market!' Many, pricked from behind, had leaped
through the windows, and were found next morning, with cleft head or
broken spine, in the ditches.

"There remained only five men alive, noblemen, two named D'Urtubie, two
De Saint-Pé, and one De Lahet, whom the mayor had set aside as a
precious commodity. Then, having sent some one to open the gates of
Bayonne and command the people to come, he ordered them to set fire to
the castle. It was a fine sight, for the castle burned from midnight
until morning. As each turret, wall or floor fell, the people,
delighted, raised a great shout. There were volleys of sparks in the
smoke and flames, that stopped short, then began again suddenly, as at
public rejoicings, so that the warden, an honorable advocate and a great
literary man, uttered this saying: 'Fine festival for Bayonne folk; for
the Basques, great barbecue of hogs!'

"The castle being burned, the mayor said to the five noblemen that he
wished to deal with them with all friendliness, and that they should
themselves be judges if the tide came as far as the bridge. Then he had
them fastened two by two to the arches, until the tide should rise,
assuring them that they were in a good place for seeing. The people were
all on the bridge and along the banks, watching the swelling of the
flood. Little by little it mounted to their breasts, then to their
necks, and they threw back their heads so as to lift their mouths a
little higher. The people laughed aloud, calling out to them that the
time for drinking had come, as with the monks at matins, and that they
would have enough for the rest of their days. Then the water entered the
mouth and nose of the three who were lowest; their throats gurgled as
when bottles are filled, and the people applauded, saying that the
drunkards swallowed too fast and were going to strangle themselves out
of pure greediness.

"There remained only the two men D'Urtubie, bound to the principal arch,
father and son, the son a little lower down. When the father saw his
child choking, he stretched out his arms with such force that a cord
broke; but that was all, and the hemp cut into his flesh without his
being able to get any further. Those above, seeing that the youth's eyes
were rolling, while the veins on his forehead were purple and swollen,
and that the water bubbled around him with his hiccough, called him
baby, and asked why he had sucked so hard, and if nurse was not coming
soon to put him to bed. At this, the father cried out like a wolf, spat
into the air at them, and called them butchers and cowards. That
offended them so, that they began throwing stones at him, with such sure
aim that his white head was soon reddened and his right eye gushed out;
it was small loss to him, for shortly after the mounting wave shut up
the other.

"When the water was gone down, the mayor commanded that the five bodies,
which hung with necks twisted and limp, should be left a testimony to
the Basques that the water of Bayonne did come up to the bridge and that
the toll was justly due from them. He then returned home amidst the
acclamations of his people, who were delighted that they had so good a
mayor, a sensible man, a great lover of justice, quick in wise
enterprises, and who rendered to every man his due."


One asks where were the preceding ages of civilization. Where was the
influence of Babylonia and Egypt, of Athens and of Rome? Here in
mid-Europe, nearly two thousand years after Socrates, and in the second
millenary of the white light of Christianity, men were like wolves, nay
worse, rending their prey or each other not under the lashing of hunger
but from very ferocity.

By way of contrast, take a fête given in Bayonne in happier years. An
account of it, garnered from old records, I translate from the French of
Lagrèze.[5] Elizabeth, sister of Charles IX and wife of Philip of Spain,
was returning from the Baths of Cauterets and passing through the city;
the fête was in her honor. Charles was there, the King of France, with
the queen-mother, Catherine de Medici; Marguerite of Valois, and her
future husband, the young Henry of Navarre.

[5] LAGRÈZE: _La Société et les Moeurs en Béarn._

"The place for the fête had been well chosen: it was an isle of the
Adour. In the centre, a border of ancient oaks encircling a grassy glade
framed it round into a kind of arboreal parlor. Under the shade of these
great trees, in the multitude of their leafy nooks, were disposed the
tables. That of royalty rose in the midst, elevated above all the rest;
it was reached by four grassy steps.

"Decorated barges transported the guests to the enchanted isle; at their
approach, in honor of the arrival, strains of soft music fell upon the
ear. The musicians represented Neptune, Arion, six tritons, three
sirens, and numberless minor marine deities; the sirens chanted sweet
songs of romance and chivalry, seeking to approve the fabled charm of
siren voices.

"Rivulets of water, skillfully led in along tiny grooves, serpentined
among the parterres, half hidden in rare and brilliant flowers. Dainty
shepherdesses in waiting line stretched hand in hand to the water's
edge, and formed a species of avenue leading to the table of honor.

"In advance of the retinue went Orpheus and Linus, accompanied by three
nymphs, reciting verses to their Majesties,--who had, however, at this
moment, more eyes than ears, and could not cease admiring the bevy of
shepherdesses in their picturesque costumes, brightly colored and so
varied. These shepherdesses, forming afterward into separate groups,
each group the graceful rival of the next, wore the costumes of the
different provinces and danced to music the respective dances there in
usage: those of Poitiers to the music of the bagpipe, those of Provence
to the kettle-drums, the Champenoises to the small hautboys, the violins
and the tambourines, and so for the rest.

"The aged trees which covered with shade the banqueting tables formed a
vast octagonal hall, in the centre of which rose in all its majesty a
gigantic oak-tree. At its base vaulted the jet of a fountain, the limpid
waters springing from a basin of glittering shells.

"The table of honor was taken by the king; his mother, Catherine de
Medici; the Duke of Anjou, who was afterward to become Henry III; the
Queen of Spain; Henry of Navarre, (afterward Henry IV,) and Margot, his
future wife.

"The repast was served with promptness. Six proficient bagpipe-players
went before five shepherds and ten shepherdesses, who advanced three by
three, each bearing a salver. Six stewards guided them by crooks
ornamented by flowers. Following this, eight shepherds and sixteen
shepherdesses made the service at the other tables; one and two advanced
at a time, depositing their salvers and retiring to make way for others.

"At the latter part of the repast, appeared six violin-players,
resplendent in tinseled garb; also nine nymphs of a marvelous beauty; a
swarm of musicians accompanied them, disguised as satyrs.

"Toward nightfall, to the astonishment of all, suddenly shone out a
luminous rock lit up with fantastic glow; out of which came forth as by
magic countless naiads, their soft robes glistening with jewels; they
dart out upon the sward and join in a fair and lissome dance."

But one thing was wanting to crown this princely picnic,--a storm. It
came. Says the queen Margot, who was pleased to relate herself the
details of this fête: "Envious Fortune, unable to suffer the glory of
this fair dance, hurled upon us a strange rain and tempest; and the
confusion of the sudden evening retreat by boat across the river brought
out next day as many mirthful anecdotes as the lavish festival itself
had brought gratifications."

Such was a _fête champêtre_ in the sixteenth century,--filled in with
all the luxuriant pomp and splendor which the French love so dearly.

Yet, only seven years after this scene of flowers and song, France was
in blood, and the age had darkened once more; the evil-minded De
Medicis, queen-mother and king, had given the signal for the Massacre of
St. Bartholomew.


It was Bayonne, too, whose governor, when ordered in advance by the king
to arrange for massacring the Huguenots in his city on that epoch-making
night, dared to send back a prompt and spirited refusal. "Your Majesty,"
he reported, "I have examined those under my command touching your
mandate; all are good citizens and brave soldiers, but I am unable to
find for you among them a single executioner!"

The Queen of Spain, widow of Charles II, resided here from 1706 until
1738. Many stories are told of her good-heartedness and her lavish
fondness for display. The Bayonnais were children still, and loved her
for it. She, too, gave a festival and banquet,--in honor of some Spanish
successes; "it lasted even till the next day among the people, and on
board the vessels in the river; and the windows of every house were
illuminated.... After the repast was finished," adds the grave record,
"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

The world has grown stiffer since, and Mayors and Marquises are no
longer wont to caper about the streets of great cities in the sportive
_abandon_ of a festival dance; in those days it seems not to have abated
a jot of their serious dignity.

Bayonne is the key to all roads south and east. It has a superb citadel.
It has been a valuable military position, has withstood seventeen sieges
in its day, and is still an important strategic point. Here were
exciting times during the Peninsular war, when Wellington on his
northward march from Spain found Bayonne in his way and undertook to
capture it. More a fancy than a fact, however, is probably the tradition
that the bayonet was invented in this locality and took its name from
the city. The story of the Basque regiment running short of ammunition
and being prompted by the exigency to insert their long-handled knives
into the musket-muzzles, has since had grave doubts cast upon its
veraciousness. This is most unfortunate, for it was a story which
travelers delighted to honor.


It is mid-afternoon as our breack clatters out again over the paved
roadway of the bridge and we turn westward along the river for the
return to Biarritz. A few vessels stand idly moored to the quays. The
_Allées Marines_ are quiet and still; later they will be thronged. They
are the favorite promenade of Bayonne, which thus holds here a species
of daily "town-meeting" as the dusk comes on. At present we see merely a
few old women bearing panniers toward the city, and rope-makers at work
upon great streamers of hemp which stretch from tree to tree. Soon we
turn off to the southward, and are on the main highway to Biarritz.

This highway sees a considerable traffic. Bayonne furnishes carts,
Biarritz carriages. Omnibuses ply to and fro; market-barrows are drawn
frequently past; burden-bearers and peasants are met or overtaken
trudging contentedly on. The latter cheat both the omnibus and
themselves, for the fare is but a trifle, and the road hot and sandy. It
is abundantly shaded by trees, but we agree that it is far better
enjoyed _en breach_ than on foot.

This is the road once famous for the _cacolet_. It must have been a
pleasing and peculiar sight, in the years ago, to see the jolly Duchess
of Berri and her fashionable companions sociably hobnobbing with their
peasant drivers _en cacolet_ in the pleasant summer afternoons.



  "_Guibelerat so'guin eta
  Hasperrenak ardura?_"

  "As we pursue our mountain track,
  Shall we not sigh as we look back?"

--Basque Song.

The days pass happily by, at Biarritz. One quickly feels the charm of
the place; it has its own delightfulness, apart from the season and its
amusements. In the season, however, the amusements are not once allowed
to flag. By half-past ten, fashion is astir and gathers toward the beach
for the bathing hour; then parts to walk and drive, and afterward to
lunch. It takes its siesta as does the nation its neighbor; meets once
more for the afternoon hour on the sands, and at six drifts to the
Casino, where children are soon dancing, little glasses clinking, and
mild gambling games in full swing. The thought of dinner deepens with
the dusk, but in the evening the tide sets again to the Casino, and a
concert or a ball rounds up the day.

The scope of diversions is much the same as on the opposite edge of the
Atlantic,--with due allowance for national types; but here there is
perhaps more color to the scene. European watering-places are naturally
cosmopolitan. Here at Biarritz, English society mingles with the
French, and both are strongly reinforced from Spain. Only thirteen hours
from Paris, or twenty-two, actual travel, from London, it is but one
from the Spanish frontier and eighteen from Madrid. Memories of Orleans,
Pavia and the Armada are canceled in the common pursuit of pleasure.

  "Three hosts combine to offer sacrifice;
  Three tongues prefer strange orisons on high;
  Three gaudy standards flout the pale blue skies;
  The shouts are, France, Spain, Albion, Victory!"

There is besides a goodly sprinkling from other countries. A Russian
nobleman and his family are to arrive at our hotel to-morrow. The spot
is not difficult of access for Italians. The Austrians have long
appreciated it. And do we not constitute at least a small contingent
from across the ocean?

Not only visitors make up the parti-colored effect. There are all grades
in Biarritz,--visitors and home-stayers, rich and poor,--

  "From point and saucy ermine, down
  To the plain coif and rustic gown."

The natives have their peculiar air and customs, and the Basques are
always picturesque. Spanish guitar-players vie with Neapolitan harpists,
and both with the waves and the hum of talk. The lottery spirit shoots
up here from its hot-bed in Spain. Small boys wander about the beach
with long, cylindrical tin boxes painted a bright red and carried by a
strap from the shoulder. The rim of the lid is marked off into numbered
compartments, and in its centre is an upright teetotum with a bone
projection; while the cylinder itself is filled with cones of crisp,
flaky sweet-wafers, stacked one into another like cornucopias. The
charge is one sou for a spin, and the figure opposite which the
projecting bone-piece stops indicates the number of cones due the
spinner. The figures vary from 2 to 30, and there are no blanks. Every
one appears to patronize the contrivance, and you constantly hear the
click of the teetotum along the beach. Though there are but two 30's in
the circumference, each who spins fondly hopes to gain one, and thus the
same spirit which supports Monte Carlo in splendor gives these boys a
thriving trade.


We spend an idle morning on the projecting point of bluff overlooking
the coves and the fishermen's cabins. This promontory uplifts a
signal-station, the _Atalaye_. Down at the left and rear, cutting
inland, is the _Port Vieux_, where the second bathing pavilion stands;
and, sending up their cries and shoutings to the heights, we

      "see the children sport along the shore,
  And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore."

The day is breezy and not too warm. We feel few ambitions. Has the
dreamy spirit of the South come upon us so soon?

It will be a perfect spot for a picnic lunch.

We will imitate the _fête champêtre_ of Charles and Catherine held on
the isle of the Adour. The ladies give their sanction, and three of us
are promptly appointed commissaries. We take the path down to the
street, and find a promising little grocery-store. The madame bows a

"Can one obtain here of the bread?" we ask.

"Ah, no," deprecatingly, "that is only with the baker."

"A little of cheese, then? and some Albert biscuits? And a bottle or two
of lemonade, and one of light wine?"

"But yes, without doubt; monsieur shall have these instantly;" and a
bright-faced little girl proceeds to collect the supplies.

"Might one carry away the bottles, and afterward return them?" we

Here the madame begins to appear suspicious. It is evidently an
irregular purchase at best, and this request seems to make her a trifle

"A deposit should perhaps be necessary," we suggest; "how much is

Madame gives the subject a moment's thought. "Monsieur would have to
leave at least four sous on each bottle," she finally declares.

"And could madame also lend us some small drinking-glasses, it may be,
and a little corkscrew?"

The old lady is visibly hardening. She is clearly averse to mysteries.
We may be contrabandists, or political exiles, or any variety of refugee
foreigners. She hesitates about the drinking-glasses; is not sure she
_has_ a corkscrew. But another deposit is soothingly arranged for and
paid, and the articles are found.

"And now could we ask to borrow a basket?--also on deposit."

But here the madame's obligingness quite deserts her. The refusal is
flat. She has no basket which can possibly be spared.

It is, we see, plainly time that we should explain our mysterious
selections. Confidingly we entrust her with the secret, and lay bare
our unconventional plan. At the first she listens unmoved, but the idea
of "pique-nique" is soon borne in upon her, and lets in a ray of light.
The frost thaws a trifle. "We are with friends," we say; "they are on
the bluffs; they have desired to make a luncheon for once without the
fork,--to eat their little breads in the open air, upon the rocks." Our
listener nods, half doubtfully. Then we play our highest trump: "We are
but on a visit to Biarritz; we have come from far away; we are

Instantly the barriers are down; madame is our firmest ally. "Run,
Élise, seek the large pannier for our friends! Is it that you are of the
fair America?--_la belle Amérique._ Ah, but monsieur, why have you not
said thus before? You should most charmingly have been supplied; are
they not indeed always the friends of our country,--the Americans! You
shall bring here the breads you buy at the bakery; we will add knives
and plates and some fruit, and Élise shall herself carry for you the
full basket to the place of the pique-nique."

Verily the Stars and Stripes are words to conjure with! The picnic is a
complete success. The De Medici fête is more than surpassed; even an
attendant nymph, in the person of the rustic Élise, is not wanting; the
historical parallel is perfect.

In fact, the parallel finally carries itself too far. So small an affair
even as this, it appears, cannot escape the hostility of "envious
Fortune,"--the same who untimely cut off its lamented rival. A large,
black cloud, coming up over us like a vengeful harpy, forebodes the
invariable downpour, and grimly compels us to shorten the feast.

On Sunday, we attend the English service; Britain is sufficiently well
represented at Biarritz to support one during both summer and winter.
The day is restful and calm, and we stroll out afterward along the beach
and over to the deserted villa of the Empress, returning by the path on
the bluff. The sound of trowels and hammers is in part stilled about the
town, and the afternoon takes on a comfortingly peaceful tone in
consequence. The English-speaking contingent keeps the day as quietly as
may be; the Continental majority of course does not. In a few weeks,
posters will adorn the Saturday bulletins, announcing the next day's
bull-fight in San Sebastian, over the border; and if Sunday is quiet at
Biarritz in the season, it is simply because all the world spends the
day at San Sebastian.


But Spain and the Pyrenees lie before us, and we cannot tarry longer at
Biarritz. We shall long feel the warm life of the fresh June days by the
sea. The breack rolls again into the court-yard; we pay our devoirs to
mine host and our dues to his minions, and once more we start, this time
toward the south.

We are to dip into Spain for a day, and have chosen to go by road as far
on the way toward the frontier as St. Jean de Luz, before taking the
train. St. Jean lies on the crescent of the shore only eight miles away,
and the road, like the sea-road to Bayonne, follows the curve of the
higher land, and shows beach and hill and sea in turn as it trends over
the downs. It is another clear, taintless morning. The sun is already
high; but, though having the sky wholly to himself, he is forbearing in
his power. Palisades of poplars lend us their shadows; clumps of
protecting firs stand aside for the road, each with a great gash down
its side and a cup fastened below to catch the bleeding pitch. Now we
are facing the Pyrenees; a little to the left they rise before us, still
miles away. These are not the high Pyrenees; the monarchs stand in the
centre of their realm, and are hardly to be seen, even distantly, until
we shall in a day or two turn inland and approach them. The mountain
wall is broken and lower near the sea, both east and west; yet even here
it rises commandingly, filling the horizon with its hazy hills.

The road is the counterpart of that to Bayonne. We fly smoothly on,
above its hard, thin crackle of sand. We meet peasants afoot, and
burdened horses, on their morning way to Biarritz or Bayonne. The men
ornament their loose, blue linen frocks and brown trousers with the
bright scarlet sash so popular in this region. Heavy oxen draw their
creaking loads toward the same centres,--their bowed heads yoked by the
horns, which are cushioned with a woolly sheepskin mat and tasseled with
red netting. They pull strongly, for the loads are not light, and the
clumsy wheels are disks of solid wood. Little donkeys trot amiably by,
with huge double panniers that recall the _cacolet_. A file of marching
soldiers is overtaken; small villages are passed, each one agog with the
stir of our transit; while now and then we meet a dog-cart and cob or a
stylish span, antennae of the coming season of fashion.

To the right is the accurate level of the sea-horizon; about us are the
heath and furze and the sand-dunes; and far along to the south we can
trace the arc of the beach, until it ends in the projecting hills of

       *       *       *       *       *

St. Jean is reached almost too soon, for the drive has been
exhilarating. We enter by a long, narrow street, which is found to be
alive with people. A small procession is in motion, enlivened by a band.
Every one seems in holiday dress. Our driver has before shown his easy
conviction that streets were intended first for breacks, secondly for
citizens; and now he urges his horses down this narrow way without a
pause in their gallop. The whip signals, the bells on the harness jingle
furiously, the wheels clatter along the cobbles; and, almost before we
have time to order a slackening, procession and by-standers, like a
flock of sheep, go in disorder to the wall, and our breack sweeps by
into the central square.


It is the festival, we find, of the village's patron saint, St. John the
Baptist. The twenty-fifth of June renews his yearly compact of
protection. In the afternoon, there will be the full procession, led by
the priests, and with a canopied effigy of the saint or of the Virgin
borne in solemnity behind them. Services in the cathedral will follow,
and probably an evening of illumination. We enter the cathedral. Its
floor has been newly strewn with sweet hay, and near the altar, is the
sacred image itself, adorned for the procession, dressed in linen and
velvet and gilt lace, and with a chaplet of beads in its wooden hand.
The canopy-frame, ready prepared, is close by, with its projecting
handle-bars, its four upright poles and its roof of white satin
embroidered with gold.

The cathedral itself is somewhat more interesting than we expected to
see; it is a Basque rather than a French church, has a very high chancel
and altar and no transepts, and the altar is marked by a striking
profusion of color and of gilding, which does not degenerate into the
tawdry and which lights up vividly under the entering noon light. The
chapels at the sides are similarly decorated. Dark oaken balconies,
elaborately carved, run in three tiers along the upper part of the nave.
The seats in these are reserved for the men, the women being relegated
to small black cushions placed on the chairless floor.

St. Jean's one great event was the marriage of Louis XIV with the
Infanta of Spain, which took place in this same church. "A raised
platform extended from the residence of Anne of Austria to the entrance
of the church, which was richly carpeted. The young queen was robed in a
royal mantle of violet-colored velvet, powdered with _fleurs-de-lis_,
over a white dress, and wore a crown upon her head. Her train was
carried by Mesdemoiselles d'Alençon and de Valois and the Princess of
Carignan. After the ceremony, the queen complained of fatigue, and
retired for a few hours to her chamber where she dined alone. In the
evening, she received the court, dressed in the French style; and gold
and silver tokens commemorative of the royal marriage were profusely
showered from the windows of her apartment."[6]

[6] MISS PARDOE: _Louis XIV_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Without, as we turn for an idle stroll, we find a fair-sized town, with
provincial streets like much of Bayonne. Often the stories of the
houses jut out, one over the other. These projections give a relish of
local color to the crooking ways, intensified by the round-tiled roofs
and by occasional red or blood-colored beams and doorposts. Although we
are still on the French side of the frontier, Spanish influence is
already marked, while that of the Basques predominates over both. St.
Jean is also a summer resort, in a modest way, chiefly for quiet Spanish
families; and from the heavy stone sea-wall built along the beach we see
many of their villas. In days before the railroad went beyond, the port
exchanged regular and almost daily steamers with San Sebastian and
Santander, thus connecting with the Spanish rail, and giving a rather
important traffic advantage. It fostered, besides, extensive cod-fishing
and even whaling enterprises. Its harbor has suffered since; the rails
too have gone through to Spain, and St. Jean is left mildly and
interestingly mournful, in its lessened power, its decayed gentility.


In St. Jean de Luz, we are fairly in the country of the Basques. One
sees so many of that singular people in the streets, and along the
Biscayan shore generally, that inquiries about them are almost forced
upon the attention. The Basques are still the curiously ill-explained
race they have always been; the learned still disagree over their
origin, and the world at large scarcely knows of them more than the
name. They are scattered all through this lower sea-corner of France,
shading off near Bayonne; and are in yet greater numbers in the
adjoining upper edges of Spain. It seems strange that the beginnings of
this isolated race should to-day be almost no better settled than in the
time of Humboldt or Ramond. Yet they contrive still to embroil the
philologists and historians. Here the race has lived, certainly since
the days of the Romans, probably since long before, out of kin with all
the world, and the world's periods have passed on and left them. No one
knows their birth-mark; they have forgotten it themselves. Of theories,
numberless and hopelessly in discord, each still offers its weighty
arguments, and each destroys the certainty of any.

This appears incredible. What mystery is insoluble in the sharp light of
modern research? Yet until the defenders of the view that the Basques
came from Atlantis can make truce with the advocates of their Phoenician
origin,--until the well-attested theory of their affinity with certain
South American races can overthrow the better-attested theory that they
are the remains of the ancient Iberians,--until Moor and Finn,[7] Tartar
and Coptic, can amicably blend their claims to relationship, the Basques
must remain as they are,--foundlings; or rather, a race whose length of
pedigree has swallowed up its beginnings.

[7] It is said that the Basque nomenclature of domestic animals is
almost entirely Finnish.

It is these unattached sea and mountain races who are always hardest to
conquer. Hence the boast of the Basques. Even the Romans, though they
could defeat, could not subdue them. The strong Roman fortress of
Lapurdum (now Bayonne) did not succeed in even terrifying them, though
they were worsted several times by its legions. Down through all the
early part of the long Christian era, the forefathers of these
frank-faced fishers and mountaineers we see here in the streets of St.
Jean kept their hills stubbornly to themselves. Later, as much perhaps
from policy as necessity, the race came gradually to fall in with the
general governments crystallizing about them. The Spanish Basques came
first into the traces, though not until the thirteenth century; they
were then finally incorporated into the Castilian monarchy. But they
claimed and held marked rights in compensation. While special
privileges--_fueros_--were accorded to certain other provinces as well
as to them, theirs were the widest and endured the longest. They had
five special exemptions: they were not subject to military conscription;
nor to certain imposts and taxes, (paying a gross composition in their
place;) nor in general to trial outside their province; nor to the
quartering of troops; nor to any regulations of their internal affairs
beyond that of the _corregidor_, a representative magistrate appointed
by the king. These _fueros_ lasted in substance even up to 1876, when
Alfonso's government finally repealed them. While thus the Spanish
Basques have, even under allegiance, held stoutly to the right of
virtual self-government, their brethren north of the Pyrenees long
preserved a still fuller autonomy, only coming into the national fold of
France under the impetus of the Revolution.

Thus the Basques have a stiff record of independence; it keeps them in
no little esteem, both with themselves and with their neighbors. Trains,
travel, traffic, eat into their solidarity, and may in time disintegrate
it; but a Basque has not yet lost a particle of his pride of clan; it is
inborn and ineradicable; he would be no other than he is; "_je ne suis
pas un homme_" he boasts, "_je suis un Basque_." You note instinctively
his straighter bearing among the neighboring French peasantry; you can
often single out a Basque by his air. This hardens into a peculiar
result: since they are all of the same high lineage, all are
aristocrats; every Basque is _ex officio_ a nobleman; this is seriously
meant and seriously believed. There are no degrees of caste, the highest
is the only; the entire race is blood-proud, ancestor-proud. A Basque
family might not improbably have been the originators of that celebrated
family tree which remarked, in a marginal note only midway back, that
"about this time the Creation took place."

They are not stilted in their pride, however; your true Basque cares
much for his descent and little for its dignities. "Where the McGregor
sits," he would affirm, "there is the head of the table," and so he
cares nothing about the nominal headship. He lives a free, busy life in
the hill-country or near the sea, stalwart, swarthy, a lover of the open
air, apt at work and sufficiently enterprising, self-respecting, "proud
as Lucifer and combustible as his matches," in no case pinchingly poor,
but rarely rich, and never in awe of his own coat-of-arms.

Writers uniformly take a wicked pleasure in maligning the Basque
language. Its spelling and syntax, its words and sentences, its methods
of construction, are openly derided. Unusual word-forms and distended
proper names are singled out and held up to jeers and contumely. A
Spanish proverb asserts that as to pronunciation the Basques write
"Solomon" and pronounce it "Nebuchadnezzar." The devil, it is alleged,
studied for seven years to learn the Basque tongue; at the end of that
time he had mastered only three words and abandoned the task in disgust.
"And the result is," adds a vivacious writer, "that he is unable to
tempt a Basque, because he cannot speak to him, and that consequently
every Basque goes straight to heaven. Unfortunately, now that the
population is beginning to talk French, (which the devil knows terribly
well,) this privilege is disappearing."

Overhearing disjointed Basque phrases on the Biarritz beach or here in
the streets and cafés of St. Jean, one will not blame the devil's
discouragement. There is scarcely one familiar Aryan syllable. For
centuries their speech was not even a written one; there is said to be
no book in Basque older than two hundred years. But, its strangeness and
isolation once allowed for, there is in reality much to defend in the
Basque language. As spoken, it is far from being harsh, and falls
pleasantly, often softly, on the ear; the sounds are clear, the
articulations rarely, hurried as with the French. The words, other than
a few proper names, do not exceed a sober and reasonable length, and as
to spelling, every letter has its assigned use and duty; there are no
phonetic drones. The original root-forms are short and always
recognizable; the full words grow from these by an orderly if intricate
system of inflections and the forming of derivatives.

The inflections are, it must be admitted, intricate. Each noun boasts
two separate forms, and each of its declension-cases keeps a group of
sub-cases within reach for special emergencies. There are only two
regularly ordained verbs,--"to be" and "to have"; but they don different
canonicals for each different ceremony, and their varying garbs seem
fairly without limit. In the Grammaire Basque of M. Gèze, published in
Bayonne, I count no less than one hundred and eight pages of
closely-set tables needed to paint the opalescent hues of these
multiform auxiliaries,--and this only in one dialect, out of six in all.
M. Chaho, an essayist of weight and himself a Basque, informs us
artlessly and seriously that one counts a thousand and forty-five forms
for their combined present indicatives, and a trifle over ten thousand
forms for the two fully expanded verbs; and yet the language, he hastens
to add, is so magically simple that even a Basque child never makes an

As to its appearance in print, the reader may judge for himself, for
here is one of their favorite love-songs. These light songs abound, many
being surprisingly delicate and dainty.


  "_Chorittoua, nourat houa,
    Bi hegalez airian?
  Espanalat jouaiteco,
    Elhurra duc bortean.
  Algarreki jouanen guiuc
    Elhurra hourtzen denian._

  "_San Josefen ermita
    Desertion gora da.
  Espanalat jouaiteco,
    Han da goure pausada.
  Guibelerat so'guin eta
    Hasperrenak ardura?_

  "_Hasperrena, habiloua
    Maitiaren borthala.
  Bihotzian sar hakio
    Houra eni beçala;
  Eta guero erran izoc
    Nic igorten haidala._"

A graceful English version of the above is in existence, and will fitly
complement its original:

  "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, O 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 mayst tell her it is I
  Who sent thee to her, gentle sigh!"


In regard to length of words, there exist undoubtedly some surprising
examples, but they are merely compound expressions and quite in analogy
with those of better known and less abused tongues. The German, for one,
indulges in such with notorious yet unrebuked frequency. One is
naturally startled at encountering in Basque such imbrications as
_Izarysaroyarenlarrearenbarena_, or _Ardanzesaroyareniturricoburua_,
which are actual names of places in Spanish Basque-land; but they are
mercifully rare, and when analyzed prove to be rational and even poetic
formations, laden with a full equivalent of import,--the first of the
above two signifying "the centre of the field of the mountain of the
star," and the second, "the summit of the fountain of the mountain of
the vine."

These be scarcely fair samples, however. Commoner words and some of
their more musical phrases are instanced in the following, taken in the
dialect of this region of St. Jean:

    _Haran_,                Valley.
    _Etchelde_,             Farm.
    _Ogi_,                  Bread.
    _Egur_,                 Wood.
    _Maraza_,               Hatchet.
    _Nekarsale_,            Workman.
    _Aita_,                 My father.
    _Lo_,                   Sleep.
    _Etche_,                House.
    _Etchetar_,             Household.
    _Nerhaba_,              Child.
    _Nescatcha_,            Maiden.
    _Zorioneko_,            Happy.
    _Ama_,                  My mother.
    _Neure maiteak_,        My loved ones.

Home words, such as these latter, give a glimpse of this people's home
life. For they are devoted to their household as to their tribe, and
uniformly show a certain homely honesty and simplicity underneath all
their free ways. Love of smuggling does not impugn this honesty,--in
their own view, at all events; for the Basque, man and woman, is a born
smuggler, and believing it right is not ashamed. Indeed, they make
common cause of it; for years, if a revenue officer detected and shot a
Basque in the act, he had to fly the land at once, for the entire
neighborhood united in seeking hot and deadly vengeance.

The race is notably fond of dancing and drama, and the villages hold
frequent open-air theatricals, generally upon religious themes, which
they always handle with great seriousness. They have at intervals unique
contests in improvisation, rivaling Wolfram and Tannhaüser, or the
Meistersingers, in this special talent. They are fruitful, too, in
proverb lore, as would be expected in an old race. Their wise saws are
sharp, often rasping:

     "Hard bread makes sharp teeth." (_Ogi gogorrari haguin sorroza_.)

     "One eye suffices the seller; the buyer has need of a hundred."

     "Marriage-day is the next day after happiness."

     "Avarice, having killed a man, took refuge in the Church; it has
     never gone out since."

Husbandmen, herdsmen, fishermen,--such are the majority. The farms are
small, averaging four or five acres, and descend by primogeniture; flax,
hemp, corn, are their staples. Basques were the first whalers, so it is
declared, and St. Jean used to be a noted port for their vessels; the
whales have since sought more northern banks, and St. Jean is reduced to
the humbler quest of sardines and anchovies. There are iron-mines and
marble-quarries, besides, to engage many; hunting and logging are
favored pursuits; Basque sailors are to be found in all waters, while
great numbers of the younger men are now yearly emigrating to the South
American coasts, to make a better living,--and to avoid conscription.

Those of the race we see in our transit impress one, on the whole,
favorably. The men have, in the main, the lithe, firm port attributed to
them, though there are Basque "trash," as there are Georgia "crackers,"
and average-lesseners everywhere. The women are often noticeably
attractive; the younger ones have a ruddy face and full, clear eye, but
the skin shrivels and wears with middle age, as does that of their
French peasant sisters. The Basques about Biarritz and St. Jean appear
to associate with the French element in entire amity; the race strives
still to keep distinct, but habits and idioms and manners imperceptibly
mingle; they speak French or patois quite as much as their own tongue,
and in divers ways hint at the working of amalgamation and assimilation.

Mention of this bizarre tribe is perhaps not untimely; the leveling
process progresses fast, over Basque-land as in all the world; steam and
lightning are the genii of the age, but they destroy while they build.
As a significant straw, the French government enforces here, in the
public schools, the teaching and speaking of French to supersede the
Basque. Similarly, Spanish is required in the schools over the border.
In some of these, a child detected in a lapse into Basque must wear a
certain ring, which he is allowed to pass on to the first companion he
catches likewise tripping. The latter may pass it on in turn. At the end
of the week comes the reckoning-day, and the unhappy individual then
found with the ring is, punished for the collective sinners of the week.
Few more ingenious, even if demoralizing, expedients could be devised to
put the native tongue and sentiments under ban.

"It has been truthfully observed," says one,[8] "that, in ancient times,
the Basques kept themselves outside of the Roman world; in the middle
age they remained outside of feudal society; while to-day they would
fain keep out of the modern world. The spectacle of this little
confederacy, steadily maintaining its isolation for so many centuries,
is most interesting, and, in some aspects, affecting; but the very
stubbornness and the prolonged success of its resistance to all attempts
to draw it into the current of modern life and thought only enhances the
significance of its ultimate failure, and furnishes an expressive
commentary upon the futility of a people's most determined efforts to
hold itself aloof from the brotherhood of nations. Contact is God's
manifest decree. The five Basques at Bayonne bridge, helpless against
the incoming tide, present a truthful prophecy of the destiny of the
whole race before the advancing and mounting wave of modern

[8] VINCENT: _In the Shadow of the Pyrenees_. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons.


In this region, too, lies the famous pass of Ibañeta or Roncesvalles. It
may be readily visited in a two days' excursion from St. Jean or from
Biarritz. There is a carriage-road to Valcarlos, a small village on the
way; beyond, a mule-path winds on up through the pass and down to the
convent on the other side.

This convent was founded to commemorate the one greatest tradition of
the pass,--the destruction of Charlemagne's rear-guard by the Basques in
ambush and the death of the hero Roland.

  "Oh for a blast of that dread horn
  On Fontarabian echoes borne
    That to King Charles did come;
  When Rowland brave and Olivier
  And every paladin and peer
    On Roncesvalles died!"

Of the few writers who have visited this region, all make airy mention
of the battle of Roncesvalles; scarcely one, however, condescends to
details. Yet it gave rise to a great epic poem,--the greatest epic of
France, the delight of all her ancient minstrels. One often hears named
the _Song of Roland_; one seldom hears more than the name. By many the
charm of its story is all unknown.

"In truth and fact," observes a recent anonymous writer, "the chain can
claim one single real legend. That one, however, is so great, so grand,
so dominating,--it is so immense, so universal, so world-wide,--that it
suffices all alone; it creates a doctrine by itself, it needs no aid, no
support, no companions,--it is the mighty tale of Roland. The mountain
is full of Roland. His hands, his feet, his horse, his sword, his voice,
have left their puissant mark on almost every crest, in almost every
glen. Above Gavarnie, amidst the eternal snow, gapes the slashed fissure
hewn by Durandal, his sword; ten miles off in a gorge you see the
indents of the hoofs of Bayard on a rock which served as his half-way
touching-point when he sprang in two flying bounds from the Breach to
the Peak of the Chevalier near St. Sauveur. At the Pass of Roland, above
Cambo, the rock remains split open where the hero stamped and claimed a
passage. The ponds of Vivier Lion, near Lourdes, were dug by the
pressure of his foot and knee when Vaillantif, a charger which carried
him in his last fight, but who was then unbroken, had the audacity to
throw him. At St. Savin, where the monks had lodged him, he paid his
bill by slaying the irreverent giants, Passamont and Alabaster, whose
neighborhood, was unpleasant to the convent. And so on, all about. His
tremendous figure is everywhere, all full of the superbest violence and
of the most wondrous acrobatry. But it is at Roncesvalles that his great
name is greatest. There, where he died, his memory lives in an unfading
halo. In Spain, beneath the Peak of Altabiscar amongst the beech groves,
on the 15th of August, 778, perished the astounding paladin. The _Song
of Roland_ tells how he fell, not quite exactly but very amazingly; the
story is so intensely interesting that the reader is carried away by it
and finds himself for a moment almost able to believe it. It does not
matter that the defeat is attributed to the Saracens, not one of whom
was present, (the whole thing having been got up and carried out by the
Basques alone;) that error was indispensable to the tale, and gives it
much of its strange charm."

There is an excellent reason why the poem might fail in sharp historical
accuracy; it was not formally composed until between three and four
hundred years after the battle. The event itself happened in 778; the
first known MS. was made, by a scribe, about 1150. All during the long
interval, ballad-singers and minstrels had been extolling France and
Roland; the love of the heroic was as strong as before Homer; the hero's
name had grown: with his fame into titanic proportions; the actual
author, (conjectured to have been one Turoldus or Theurolde, a monk,)
had but to take the poetic material ready at his hand and fashion it
into the epic. Time had dimmed and enlarged the details; the _Song of
Roland_ deals in mass and massive heroes; in this it is like a book from
the Iliad.

It is not a long poem; there are only about 3,500 lines in all, but the
Old French in which it is written makes it difficult reading, at least
to one not a Frenchman. The briefest citation will show this:

      "Carles li Reis, nostre Emperere magnes,
  Sela anz tuz pleins ad estet en Espaigne;
  Tresqu'en la mer, cunquist la tere altaigne.
  N'i ad castel ki devant lui remagnet."

      ("Charles le Roi, notre grand Empereur,
  Sept ans entiers est resté en Espagne;
  Jusqu' à la mer, il a conquis la haute terre.
  Pas de château qui tienne devant lui."


However, it has been transmuted into modern French, and latterly twice
translated into English verse; and the English translations appear to
have preserved remarkably both the power and sweetness of the original.

The poem centres almost wholly upon this deadly battle in the
Pyrenees,--the last battle of Roland its hero. Charlemagne and the
Franks had invaded Spain, and spent seven years warring with the Moors
and conquering their cities. On their return, as the poem narrates it,
the Moors, instigated by a traitor in Charlemagne's army, plotted an
ambush in this pass of Roncesvalles. The army began its march. The main
body defiled through in safety, and turned westward to await the
rear-guard nearer the coast. But when that division, the flower of the
Frankish forces,--commanded by Roland, his bosom friend Oliver, the
warrior-archbishop Turpin, and the others of the twelve great
paladins,--reached the pass, hostiles began to appear,--in front, above,
behind. More and more they thickened around it,--fierce Basques or
swarthy Moslems, "a hundred thousand heathen men;" and the three leaders
soon realized their betrayal. Oliver exclaimed:

  "'Ganelon[9] wrought this perfidy!
  It was he who doomed us to hold the rear.'
  'Hush,' said Roland, 'O Olivier,
  No word be said of my step-sire here,'"

--a touch of magnanimity strange for that brutal age, yet only one of
many in the poem. Roland rather exulted than shrank at the prospect of a
battle, by whatever means brought about. Oliver was the cooler of the
two, and he promptly urged Roland to sound his great horn, which might
be heard for thirty leagues, and so summon Charlemagne to the rescue. He
saw that the danger was real, for the odds were overwhelmingly against
them. But Roland impetuously refused. Thrice, though not in cowardice,
Oliver pleaded with him:

  "'Roland, Roland, yet wind one blast!
  Karl will hear ere the gorge be past,
  And the Franks return on their path full fast.'
    'I will not sound on mine ivory horn!
  It shall never be spoken of me in scorn
  That for heathen felons one blast I blew.
  I may not dishonor my lineage true.

         *       *       *       *       *

  "'Death were better than fame laid low.
  Our Emperor loveth a downright blow!'"

[9] Ganelon was the traitor and Roland's own step-father. The lines
quoted are from the late version by JOHN O'HAGAN, outlined in an article
in the _Edinburgh Review_ to whose appreciative commentary much
indebtedness is acknowledged.

The Moors at last swarmed to the attack. They were no cravens, the
Moors; the fight grew rapidly desperate. The Franks performed wonders;
they tingled with the Archbishop's glorious assoilment:

  "In God's high name the host he blest,
  And for penance he gave them--to smite their best!"

The twelve paladins slew twelve renowned Paynims; the mailed phalanx
hewed its way into the infidels, laying them low by thousands. But
thousands more were behind,--the reserve was inexhaustible; the "hundred
thousand" were cut to pieces, when the Moorish king, hastily summoned,
came up with a fresh army of myriads more. It was too much; little by
little the Franks were beaten down, not back, and melted unyielding
away. The peers fell one by one, upon heaps of the Moslem dead; the day
wore on; of the twenty thousand Frankish warriors, but sixty men at
length remained. Too late Roland would wind his horn; it was Oliver's
turn to disdain the now useless expedient. Roland sounded nevertheless:

  "The mountain peaks soared high around;
  Thirty leagues was borne the sound.
  Karl hath heard it and all his band;
  'Our men have battle,' he said, 'on hand!'
    Ganelon rose in front and cried;
  'If another spake, I would say he lied!'"

Again the desperate sound was faintly heard:

  "'It is Roland's horn,' said the Emperor,
  'And save in battle he had not blown!'
  'Battle,' said Ganelon, 'is there none.
  Old you have grown,--all white and hoar!

         *       *       *       *       *

  "'He would sound all day for a single hare.'"

The third time, Roland blew; his nostrils and mouth are filled with
blood, his temples crack with the stress:

  "Said Karl: 'That horn is full of breath!'
  Said Naimes: ''Tis Roland who travaileth,'"

--and the Emperor instantly gave the command to turn and rush to the

But the battle had gone too far. Again and again the little band of
Franks clove its way into the enemy; the latter wavered, retreated, fell
by hundreds, and came back in thousands. Roland's tears fell fast over
his dead companions:

  "'Land of France, thou art soothly fair!
  To-day thou liest bereaved and bare.
  It was all for me your lives ye gave,
  And I was helpless to shield or save.'"

The last Frankish man-at-arms at length fell; only the three foremost
paladins remained of all the host. But the Saracens dared no longer to
approach them; they hurled their lances from afar. Spent and faint and
bleeding, the three still stood out, but the death-wound of Oliver
finally came; his vision swam, he swayed blindly on his horse. There is
no more touching and beautiful incident in the whole range of song than
this of his death:

  "His eyes from bleeding are dimmed and dark,
  Nor mortal near or far can mark;
  And when his comrade beside him pressed,
  Fiercely he smote on his golden crest;
  Down to the nasal the helm he shred,--
  But passed no further nor pierced his head.
  Roland marveled at such a blow,
  And thus bespake him, soft and low:
    'Hast thou done it, my comrade, wittingly?
  Roland, who loves thee so dear, am I;
  Thou hast no quarrel with me to seek?'
  Oliver answered: 'I hear thee speak,
  But I see thee not. God seeth thee.
  Have I struck thee, brother? Forgive it me.'
    'I am not hurt, O Olivier,
  And in sight of God I forgive thee here.'
  Then each to each his head hath laid,
  And in love like this was their parting made."

And now but Roland and the Archbishop were left,--the former on foot,
his charger dead. Wounded and gasping, they rushed forward upon the
enemy; the sword-arm of the Moorish king was cut from his side, his son
fell dead before him. The Moors quailed; their lances fell in storms
upon the heroes. Suddenly a long, far sound was heard; it was of the
trumpets of Charlemagne's returning army rushing to the rescue but still
miles and hours away. The Saracens turned at the very sound; a final
lance-shower, and they fled; the two held the pass of Roncesvalles,
unconquered,--but dying.

For it was too late.

The Archbishop had sunk to the ground, gasping,--lifeless. Roland,
stricken himself, placed his companion gently on the grass:

  "He took the fair white hands outspread,
  Crossed and clasped them upon his breast."

Then with his remaining strength, he sought one by one for the corpses
of the other ten paladins; one by one he brought them to the feet of the
dead prelate and laid them before the august body,--Oliver's corpse last
and dearest of all. There he might leave them, the solemn assembly of
the peers. It was his last task. His wound too was mortal; his time had
come to join them.

"In vigor and pathos," justly observes the review before mentioned,
"this poem rises to the end. There are few things in poetry more simply
grand than the death of Roland. He moves feebly back to the adjoining
limit-line of Spain,--the land which his well-loved master has
conquered,--and a bow-shot beyond it, and then drops to the ground:"

  "That death was on him he knew full well;
  Down from his head to his heart it fell.
  On the grass beneath a pine tree's shade,
  With face to earth, his form he laid;
  Beneath him placed he his horn and sword,
  And turned his face to the heathen horde
  Thus hath he done the sooth to show
  That Karl and his warriors all may know
  That the gentle Count a conqueror died.
    '_Mea culpa_,' full oft he cried,
  And for all his sins, unto God above
  In sign of penance he raised his glove.

         *       *       *       *       *

  "He did his right-hand glove uplift;
  Saint Gabriel took from his hand the gift.
  --Then drooped his head upon his breast,
  And with clasped hands he went to rest."

There is indeed little in epic poetry to surpass the high simplicity of
this loving portrayal of a hero's death.

It is the climax of the poem. The Emperor's army burst upon the scene,
frantic with anxiety; but no eye was open to give them greeting. Roland
was dead with his slaughtered rear-guard, and lying with his face to the
foe. For three days the sun stayed its motion, at Charlemagne's frenzied
petition, and the Moors were chased and cut to pieces, Saragossa
taken,--a full and furious vengeance exacted. The whole army mourned for
their companions; holy rites attended their stately burial; Ganelon was
tried, condemned, torn to pieces by wild horses. But the joy of the
Franks, their hero, their idol, was gone forever from them; retribution,
even the bitterest, could count for little against the passing of that
peerless spirit.

A pathetic meeting was afterward the old Emperor's with Alva, the
affianced of Roland:

  "'Where is my Roland, sire,' she cried,
  'Who vowed to take me for his bride?'"

Brokenly at length he told her of the news. A moment she gazed at him

  "'God and his angels forbid, that I
  Should live on earth if Roland die!'
  Pale grew her cheek,--she sank amain
  Down at the feet of Charlemagne."

So let us leave this tender poem, tender unwontedly among its times; an
epic which sincerely merits a vogue more near to its value.



We glide smoothly away from St. Jean de Luz and its legends, by the
unlegendary railroad. The track curves southward, with frequent views of
the coast, and it will be but a few minutes before we shall be in Spain.
We instinctively feel for the reassuring rustle of our passports, duly
_viséd_ at Bordeaux. The low mountain that overhangs Fuenterrabia, one
of the nearest Spanish towns, comes closer, and soon the train whistles
shrilly into the long station at Hendaye, the last French village, in
great repute for its delicious cordial. It is on the edge of the
Bidassoa, a placid, shallow river which here lazily acts as the
international boundary. Irun, the first town of the peninsula, is across
the bridge, and after a short delay the train crosses,--and we instantly
feel a hundred miles nearer to the Escorial, a hundred years nearer to
Philip and the _auto-da-fé_.

The change of nationality at these frontier towns is always distinct and
surprising, and more so than elsewhere here in Irun. Within three
minutes we have in every sense passed from France into Spain. Language
not only, but the type of face and dress, have altered in a flash. We
are not conscious, however, of any increased governmental surveillance;
passports are not asked for at all, and the customs-official gives but a
light inspection to trunk and satchels.

But he is in considerable perplexity over the camera. This he is
scrutinizing very suspiciously. We assume that a true Greek compound
should pass current everywhere, if given a proper local termination, and
so confidently hazard, "_photo-grafia_."


I still believe that the word was skilfully and philologically evolved,
but it seems to fail of its effect. We repeat it, with appropriate
gestures; the official looks puzzled but not enlightened. He inspects
the lens, the bellows, the slides. We fear for the negatives and the
unexposed plates. Prompt action is needed, for already his hand is
approaching them; and boldly withdrawing the closed plate-holders from
the camera we defiantly pocket them before his eyes.

A short, clicking sound caused by the act of withdrawal gives the
inspector an idea. He looks up hopefully.

"_Telegrafo_?" he asks.

We nod with vigor and even more hopefully, and are inspired to add:

"_Si, señor, telegrafo! Americano; caramba!_"

This has the desired effect. The mystery is explained. The government's
hand is stayed, its doubt vanishes; the precious scroll of chalk is
made, and the plates are saved to darkness and to good works.

It is necessary to change cars at Irun. Trains cannot possibly go
through, owing to a difference in gauge,--a difference purposely devised
by moody Spain, in order to impede hostile invasion. There is also a
wait of an hour. The Spaniard does not assent to the equation between
time and money. The lunch at the buffet in the station is ceremonious
and calm; the successive courses are gravely served at its naperied
tables with the same deliberation, the same care and attention to
detail, as at a hotel. It is but a short journey to San Sebastian, and
in half an hour after leaving Irun we are at our destination.


San Sebastian is both a city unto itself, and a summer resort unto
others. As to the latter, it is among the most popular watering-places
in Spain, and is styled "the Brighton of Madrid." As to the former, it
is a home for twenty thousand human beings of its own; it earns a
sufficing competence, chiefly in exchanges with its surrounding
province; and it has a monopoly of centralization over a wide region,
for no other important Spanish city lies nearer than Pampeluna or
Burgos. Burgos is not actually so very remote,--only a short hundred and
fifty miles beyond; and we had spoken of a visit to its renowned
cathedral. But we had not reckoned with Spanish railway speed; it was
found that the time required solely to go and come would be nearly
fifteen hours! Unvisited, we saw, must remain the cathedral within which
the hot-headed Protestant missionary blew out the sacred light that had
burned for three hundred years. Owing to the Hispanian misconception of
horological values, Burgos is practically, if not actually, exceedingly
remote from San Sebastian.

The latter, however, is so fortunately close to the edge of France that
those who come as near as Biarritz or Pau should assuredly make this
brief dip over the border.

San Sebastian is strictly new; its predecessors have been burned five
times, one upon the other, the last being brought to ashes by the
soldiers of Wellington; and it is liable to be burned again whenever
France and Spain begin to fight again across it. It is an excellent
model for that worthy fowl, the phoenix, for it has risen with
undismayed cheerfulness from each holocaust. The present representative
is in three segments. The city itself is composed of two, and the
citadel makes a fairly important third. From a military point of view,
the citadel was once counted first, and the city itself made an
unimportant third,--with no second. But modern gunnery has changed that

Of the two parts of the city proper, one is national, the other
international; they do not unite, but adjoin, welded by a central
promenade, the _Alameda_. Each is distinct, and has little to do with
the life of the other. The native population centres wholly in the west
half; we drift first over to this, in our afternoon walk, and scan its
appearance and people with inquisitive though decorous interest. This
section, comprising much of what was the old town, has evidently aimed
to reproduce it; it has been rebuilt with persistent regard to the
former municipal type, and shows to-day a curious combination of bright,
new and well constructed tenements, built on a dark, old and ill
instructed plan. The streets are left narrow,--very narrow. The black
doorways and halls, as we peer in, in passing, are cramped and
forbidding; the projecting balconies approach each other overhead, and
the oblong yellow buildings themselves rise to overshadowing height.
Like soldiers on dress parade they stand, relentlessly regular and
uniform, block after block, and their walled lanes, straight and similar
and uncharacteristic, cross and weave themselves into a stiff,
right-angled check, exasperating and profitless, unrelieved by a hint at
variation of outline, by a picturesque eave or gable, or a single
artistic "bit;"

The cathedral does indeed possess some interest, particularly its carved
front of light-colored stone; and here and there about it are a few old
houses, unsutteed relicts, that have not bowed to the new régime. The
shops in this part of the town are less individual than one would
expect, though we find them not devoid of a certain variety. The
specialty of the place is the enameling of gold and silver upon iron.
Jewelry and small articles are made of this ware in elaborate designs
and with great daintiness and skill. Outside of this, San Sebastian does
not seem to have invented any new wants for humanity, and its shops do
not seek to supply any but the old.

The other half of the town I have called international. This is the
section of the hotels, of wide streets and flagged walks, of massy
squares of business buildings, of villas and a park and the bathing
circle. The sea swings around the projecting cape of the citadel into a
deeply notched bay, small and still, and on its edge which meets the
town you find pavilions and beach-chairs and their usual accompaniment
of idling humanity. The Casino stands boldly up, a little to the right,
and in front of it, on the Alameda, the band will play in the coming
summer evenings for all the élite of Madrid.

The fine Hôtel de Londres is large and well kept, and, like all Spanish
hotels, charges on the good American plan of so much per day. One
gratefully appreciates this, after juggling every few days with
disheartening lists of accumulated coffees and eggs and dinners and
rooms and mineral waters and service and _bougies_, and the others. The
infinitude of microscopic book-keeping made necessary by the Continental
system is a thought to shudder at. For the rest, the hotel is only
unsatisfying because it seems in nowise distinctively Spanish. We almost
wish we had chosen a certain other hostelry equally well spoken of,
which, instead of Hotel, had alluringly styled itself a _Fonda_.
Probably we might have found as little there as here that was pure
Castilian. Save in language and location, San Sebastian is not of Spain,
Spanish. And as with Biarritz, it is not to be sought for its
reminiscences of old age. It is trim and "kempt" and modern, and lives
strictly in the present. We soon come to realize this, cease longing for
the unattainable, and enjoy the place for what it is. Perhaps we shall
recoup the vanished _patina_ to-morrow, when we visit an older and far
different town,--Fuenterrabia.


The Sebastian season is coëxtensive with the summer season at Biarritz;
perhaps rather tardier in its beginnings. Consequently we are still
somewhat in advance of the tide. This is distinctly a disadvantage, as
it was in part at Biarritz. There are places whose very reason for
existence is society. Only in this costume are they rightly themselves;
only in full dress, so to say, should they be called upon. In a true
"sentimental journey," art and nature and history should take but equal
turn with the life of the present. The ideal traveler courts solitude in
a ruin and society in a resort. The spirit of each is differently

And San Sebastian out of season is a casket without its
jewels,--modern-made casket at that, costly but uncharacteristic, and
with nothing of an heirloom's charm; a casket neither encased in time's
antique leather nor encrusted with true Spanish enamel.

However, we are not wholly out of the season. We are in the van of it,
but day breaks before the sun rises. San Sebastian is partially awake
already and rubbing its eyes. The season's contingent is arriving in
daily portions. The Queen Regent is coming soon, to spend the summer;
this draws an additional number in advance, thus influenced to summer
here themselves. The beach is already mildly popular, and the cabmen
mildly independent. We drive out from the town around the bend of the
little bay, and see opening villas and other marks of awakening life.
But we sigh for music on the quiet plaza; hope in vain for a concert or
ball in the Casino; and, above all, mourn and refuse to be comforted,
for there is no bull-fight. After Wellington, whose way to Waterloo left
here its fiery track, we exclaim: "O for August or Madrid!" In Madrid,
they are holding bull-fights even now in June; in August, they will be
holding them here.


As to the citadel, sight-seers are not solicitously catered to by the
authorities. I stroll up there in the afternoon. The citadel hill is
known as the Monte Orgullo. The spirals of the road lead out to and
around the edge of the promontory to its ocean side, and curve steadily
upward during a rise of four hundred feet. There are pleasant views of
the sea,--the Spanish main in literal fact,--and of the hills across the
little notch of water that turns in at the left toward the town. I near
the summit, pass under an untended gateway, work upward still by a
narrow lane shut in with high stone walls, and finally reach the foot of
a long flight of stone steps and see the citadel looming above. It is
Spain, and my passport is at the hotel. They are said to be very
suspicious in Spain; to act first and investigate afterward. My whole
vocabulary has already been employed at the custom-house, and consists
of "_Americano_," "_caramba_," and "_Si, Señor_." It won the day at
Irun. Will it win the day here?

Boldly I begin ascending the steps. They are many and wide, confined by
the same high walls, and commanded from above by the battlements of the
fort. There is commotion on the parapet at the unmuffled sound of the
foreigner's foot-fall, and armed figures at once appear at the edge.

I pause half-way, and look expectantly upward.

"_Caramba_?" I inquire.

A soldier shakes, his head.

"_Americano_," I insinuate, sweetly.

Another shake, more decided.

I grieve for a somewhat fuller technical familiarity with the Spanish
military idiom. Undismayed, however, I resort to the sign language, and
make gestures to signify that I want to ascend.

Either the proposal is rejected or it is not comprehended, and I act it
out again, with a cajoling "_Si, Señor_." Then, to make the idea
clearer, I move on up the steps.

But now there is a vigorous negative. More armed figures, appear at the
parapet, and, while I pause again, one of them explains his position in
a few well-chosen and emphatic phrases, and illustrates his views by a
pointed gesture toward his gun. The illustration at least is definite
and unmistakable.

International complications are never to be recklessly brought on. But
shall the assailing traveler quail before a gesture? My store of Spanish
passwords is exhausted, but there is one solvent yet remaining,--the
universal countersign. With undiminished cheerfulness, I select from my
pocket a stamped silver disk of well-known design, hold it significantly
a moment in full view, and then confidently proceed up the staircase.

The armed figures vanish from view. There is a foreboding silence as I
near the heavy entrance-way at the top. But before I can pound for
admittance, the great door swings deferentially open, a guard within
salutes still more deferentially, I advance, friend, and proffer the
countersign,--and the Monte Orgullo is won!

The view from this hill of Mars well merits the climb and any attendant
risk to the home State Department. The air is warm and still. In front,
the sea stretches to the horizon, smooth as the fair Glimmerglass loved
by Deerslayer. To the right flows a clear, quiet river, the Urumea, to
meet it,--a river on whose nearer bank below us lies buried many a brave
English soldier, their graves marked by white headstones; and from the
farther shore of which once flew leaden rain and iron hail from
conquering English guns. Behind us lies the city, asleep in the warm
afternoon haze, and in the distance are the forms of purplish Pyrenees
hills; while farther around opens the bright little bay,--the _Concha_
or Shell, happily so called,--with villas fringing it's curve, and an
islet-pearl in its centre. A wistful touch of peace and sunshine is over
all the scene, as one views it, in the irony of fact, from this
storm-centre of war.

There are barracks within the walls, and monster guns and other usual
martial furnishings, and the fortifications themselves have, to some
extent, been put in touch with modern requirements. The garrison's life
is not hard, and they live contentedly through drill and evolution,
ration and routine, and stroll down to the Alameda and Casino in hours
of leave. But theirs is a post of honor and danger, nevertheless. San
Sebastian lies foremost in the route of possible invasion. It could not
be ignored nor left untaken. And the very isolation of this fortress,
once its strength, is now its weakness. It might serve to delay an
onrushing army for a saving moment,--a dog thrown out to check the
wolves. It could accomplish little more against the terrific artillery
of to-day; and,--as with the dog,--the interval would prove a period of
marked unrest to the fated garrison.

However, war is now at last, if never hitherto, extinct for all time, so
trusts the world at peace. And barrack-life is dreamy and easy, and the
stroll down to the Alameda very pleasant, these fair days of summer.

But the white headstones on the river slope come out into view again,
for a time, as I wander back down the spiral road toward the town and
think on these things; a cloud drifts across the sun and dims their
brightness; then the light pours down as before.


Wellington fought his way over this region in 1813, and took San
Sebastian,--took it by storm and thunder-storm,--took it in fire and
hail, at fearful cost, and over the dead bodies of a quarter of his
stormers. The place blocked his northward way to meet the Man of
Destiny. Destiny decreed its fall. For seven weeks, the siege,
octopus-like, wound its long tentacles about its victim, sucking away
the life. On the last day of summer, the assault was let loose. The
attack seemed irresistible; the defence impregnable. All that furious
morning, column after column of British troops swarmed up the river
bank, pressed on into the breaches, or hurled themselves to the top of
the walls. Column after column melted back, under the torrent of fire
from the parapet and from the batteries in the citadel. "In vain," says
Napier,[10] "the following multitude covered the ascent, seeking an
entrance at every part; to advance was impossible, and the mass of
assailants, slowly sinking downwards, remained stubborn and immovable on
the lower part of the breach ...

[10] _Peninsular War_.

"The volunteers, who had been with difficulty restrained in the
trenches, 'calling out to know why they had been brought there if they
were not to lead the assault,' being now let loose, went like a
whirlwind to the breaches, and again the crowded masses swarmed up the
face of the ruins, but reaching the crest line they came down like a
falling wall; crowd after crowd were seen to mount, to totter and to
sink, the deadly French fire was unabated, the smoke floated away, and
the crest of the breach bore no living man."

The British artillery, from a near elevation, now reinforced the attack
with a raking fire, and new regiments plunged across the stream and
rushed to join the attack. "The fighting now became fierce and obstinate
again at all the breaches, but the French musketry still rolled with
deadly effect, the heaps of slain increased, and once more the great
mass of stormers sank to the foot of the ruins, unable to win; the
living sheltered themselves as they could, but the dead and wounded lay
so thickly that hardly could it be judged whether the hurt or unhurt
were most numerous.

"It was now evident that the assault must fail unless some accident
intervened, for the tide was rising, the reserves all engaged, and no
greater effort could be expected from men whose courage had been already
pushed to the verge of madness. In this crisis, fortune interfered. A
number of powder-barrels, live shells, and combustible materials which
the French had accumulated behind the traverses for their defence,
caught fire, a bright, consuming flame wrapped the whole of the high
curtain, a succession of loud explosions was heard, hundreds of the
French grenadiers were destroyed, the rest were thrown into confusion,
and while the ramparts were still involved with suffocating eddies of
smoke, the British soldiers broke in at the first traverse. The
defenders, bewildered by this terrible disaster, yielded for a moment,
yet soon rallied, and a close, desperate struggle took place along the
summit of the high curtain; but the fury of the stormers, whose numbers
increased every moment, could not be stemmed. The French colors on the
cavalier were torn away, by Lieutenant Gethin of the eleventh regiment.
The hornwork and the land front below the curtain, and the loopholed
wall behind the great breach, were all abandoned; the light-division
soldiers, who had already established themselves in the ruins on the
French left, immediately penetrated to the streets; and at the same
moment the Portuguese at the small breach, mixed with the British who
had wandered to that point seeking for an entrance, burst in on their

"Five hours the dreadful battle had lasted at the walls, and now the
storm of war went pouring into the town. The undaunted governor still
disputed the victory for a short time with the aid of his barricades,
but several hundreds of his men being cut off and taken in the hornwork,
his garrison was so reduced that even to effect a retreat behind the
line of defences which separated the town from the Monte Orgullo was
difficult; the commanders of battalions were embarrassed for want of
orders, and a thunder-storm, which came down from the mountains with
unbounded fury immediately after the place was carried, added to the
confusion of the fight.

"Many officers exerted themselves to preserve order, many men were well
conducted; but the rapine and violence commenced by villains soon
spread, the camp-followers crowded into the place, and the disorder
continued until the flames, following the steps of the plunderer, put an
end to his ferocity by destroying the whole town."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is beyond imagination, this sunny June afternoon, that the shining
city about us has gasped in smoke and ruins, has been pierced with
arrows unto death as was its patron saint of old; that this contentful
droning of the shore and the street deepened once to the roar of war and
rose to the shriek of suffering.



  "When Charlemain with all his peerage fell,
  By Fontarabia."


The next day an indolent morning train draws us back to the frontier.
The landscape is rather shadeless; "a Spaniard hates a tree." It should
be but a twenty-minute ride, and so, it being short at the longest, we
do not have time to grudge the additional twenty consumed in
"indolencing." The time-table allowed for that, and so prepared us. It
is when larger times are involved,--when a four-hour ride is inflated to
eight, and an eight-hour trip to fifteen, as in going to Burgos,--that
the corporate deliberateness of the Spanish railways ceases to be a
curiosity, and becomes a crime.

We are soon in Irun once more, and after change of cars, cross to
Hendaye, and baggage is inspected for France. The train goes on its way
north, but we stay in Hendaye, to lunch, and to make our projected
excursion to Fuenterrabia.

In terms of logic, San Sebastian the modern has in Fuenterrabia the
ancient its full "contradictory." The one, the resort, is affirmative
and universal; the other, the old, strange town, is negative and
individual. The one has told us little of old Spain; we turn hopefully
to the other.

Fuenterrabia lies near the mouth of the Bidassoa, on the Spanish side of
the stream, below Irun. It is but two miles, from Irun, and readily
reached from that place by carriage; from Hendaye, on the French side,
one reaches it by row-boat in about the same time, with the additional
zest and boast of recrossing the river and of entering and leaving Spain
once more.


Luncheon past, we walk up the long, easy incline that leads from Hendaye
station into its town; and with a turn to the left find our way through
its streets down again to the river bank. Here are boats and boatmen,
and we have to run the customary gauntlet of competition, as vociferous
at Hendaye as at Killarney or the Crossmon. We elect two of the
competitors as allies, and the rest become our sworn enemies forthwith.

The tide is low, the water still and shallow; and we are sculled
smoothly out into the stream, restful in the soft sunshine, the full
blue of the afternoon sky. The voices of our hundred enemies recede; the
sounds from the town yield to the dripping oars; soon the stream
stretches its silent width about us. Close-grouped on the opposite shore
we see the dark walls of Fuenterrabia, domineered by the castle. The
railway whistle begins to seem a memory of another existence, the bustle
of travel a thing remote. The quiet of the river, unlike Lethe, turns us
to the past, and clouds the present in a dreamy haze.

"In that sunny corner where the waves of the Bay of Biscay wash over a
sandy barrier and mingle with the waters of the Bidassoa stream,"--thus
runs the legend so charmingly recounted in _The Sun-Maid_,--"they tell
the ancient story that a favored mortal won from the gods permission to
ask three blessings for Spain.

"He asked that her daughters might be beautiful, that her sons might be
brave, and that her government might be good.

"The first two requests were granted,--the beauty of a Spanish woman is
of world-wide renown; and if the men are rash, passionate, and
revengeful, at least they are brave; but the last request was refused.

"'Impossible!' was the answer; 'impossible! Already she is an earthly
paradise, and were this last blessing hers, the very gods themselves
would desert Elysium and come down to dwell in Spain.'"

Of this we think, winding among the shallows, as the Spanish bank comes
nearer, and the boat at last grounds lightly on its soil. Before us is
the old town we are seeking,--a type perhaps of the nation itself, in
its courtly unthrift, its proud misgovernance.


There is a little custom-house on the bank, but our _impedimenta_ are
safe in Hendaye. I think our passports are there as-well, so bold does
one grow upon familiarity.

We have scarcely traversed a hundred yards before we come upon the
middle centuries. There will be no caviling at the satisfying antiquity
of Fuenterrabia. We have passed in between the lichened walls which
still guard the city, and a few steps bring us into the town and to the
foot of the main street. We pause to look, and the sight is certainly
striking. Beyond a doubt Fuenterrabia is old. It has a true Spanish
tint, and one dyed in the wool; one might probably travel far in Spain
before meeting a truer. This street seems utterly unmodified by modern
formulæ. Wavering and narrow and sombre, it stretches upward on a
gradual incline until it meets the cathedral stepping out from the line
of the old houses and closing the vista. Even in the short perspective,
the huge, blackened eaves of the opposite roofs seem almost to meet.
Balconies, associated with moonlight and mandolins, serenades and
señoritas, jut out from every window; dark bosses of escutcheons mark
the fronts; and below, along the edging of sidewalk, are the dim little
shops, curtained by yellow canvas, intensely and delightfully local, and
wholly unknowing of outside demand or competition. One of these places
does indeed cater to visitors with a humble supply of photographs and of
clicking sets of varnished wooden castanets paired by colored worsteds;
but the others of the store-keepers and the inhabitants in the streets
are clearly unhardened to foreigners, and regard us solely with a deep
and artless curiosity,--tempered, I hope, by admiration. As the town has
been, so it is. It is an epitome of Spain and her past.


At the head of the street we enter the cool cathedral, and find, as
always, wealth created by poverty. In places such as these one realizes
the hold of the Romish system on mediæval Europe. One realizes its power
also. No matter what the size of a town, it boasts its costly church;
oftener, as here, its cathedral. Villages, houses, people, may be poor,
their church stands rich; they may be unlearned in art and in culture,
their church stands a model of both. There was their shrine, their
finality,--in religion not merely, but in art and wisdom and authority.

At least, the Catholic system held its followers firmly in leash.
Condemn its errors and excesses, yet, these apart, it was marvelously
adapted to its mission. As an engine of unification it was almost
omnipotent. Through the ups and downs of restless migrations and
invasions,--of feudalisms and governments and the soberer commercial
spirit,--it has kept its hold unbroken upon the mass of European
humanity. Its priests and popes might sink out of respect; the Church
did not sink. In the fiercest civil feuds, its abbeys were held
inviolate. To the most brutal, the Church had an odor of sanctity. Its
threats terrified; its mandates were obeyed; it was the one persistent,
binding principle; it held men in check from a relapse into tribalism.

And its hold is firm to-day. Go into a Romish church, you shall find
worshipers at every hour. Worn housewives, seamed and aged market-women,
a chance workingman, an awed and tiptoeing child,--they are there in
their silence. They kneel, they pray, their eyes are fixed on the altar.
Formalism or not, a sincerity underlies it,--a belief and obedience
absorbed from centuries of environment; implicit and unquestioning, and
making for good.


Beyond the cathedral is the broad square or plaza, and the half-alive
streets wandering from this are even more Fuenterrabian than the one
just past, for they are less well-to-do. The poorer houses may reveal
the traits and traditions of a town far more faithfully than the richer.
The latter can draw their models from a wider field. The former copy
only the local and long-followed pattern.

Here at our right stands the castle. It is stern in its decrepitude; its
very aspect is historic. It was built by a king of Navarre, Sancho
Abarca, known as the Strong, so long ago as the tenth century; the
façade facing the square is somewhat later, and the other façade was
rebuilt by Charles V. We pass through the entrance-way and across a
murky, earthen-floored atrium, and stand in silence in the roofless
central hall.

It is at this point that our nascent impressions are brusquely shocked.
Fuenterrabia is not all steeped in dreams of the past. It has waked for
once into the business present as well. Its proud reserve has been
broken. There is a rift in the lute. Here by the mossy courtyard,
enclosed by historic walls and the spirit of an unworldly past, we are
met by a sign-board, with the following English inscription:

[Illustration: For Sale]

appli for informations

A preceding traveler saw this sign when here, and quotes it in part in a
recent book.[11] It still hangs, as we see it now, two years after his
visit, still pathetically but vainly invoking the spirit of a worldly

[11] FIELD: _Old Spain and New Spain._

For the lover of day dreams, given to designing his _châteaux en
Espagne_, I seriously recommend this purchase in Fuenterrabia. The
castillo is a real one and the most accessible in Spain, and all its
surroundings are gratefully in harmony. It is presumably a bargain, and
one might either hold it for a rise, or turn grandee and live in it.

Within the court, the daylight comes in over the dismantled walls. The
ivy green climbs along the grey stones. We trace the old hearth and the
outline of the stone staircase scarred upon the wall. We conjure up the
rest of the structure, but the Northern Wizard is not with us here, as
at Kenilworth, to repeople it with life and merrymaking, and it strains
the imagination to depart far from the dull, dead present of
Fuenterrabia. Perchance of old there came hither knights and ladies,
pricking o'er the plaine, perchance here was dancing and wassail. We
close our eyes and would fain image the scene. We banish the ruined
walls, the sunlight creeping among the ivy. We see the sheen of cloth of
gold and the gleam of greaves and breastplates. We catch the tale of
battle, the passing of the loving-cup, the stately treading of slow
Spanish measures. We hear,--we hear,--what is it that we hear?--the
melodious sound of woman's soft voice, gently whispering: "Five sous
each for the party, monsieur."

And as we awake and pay and depart, we turn and see again the
disillusionizing legend:

[Illustration: For Sale]



     "_Pour faire comprendre le caractère d'un peuple, je conterais
     trente anecdotes et je supprimerais toutes les théories
     philosophiques sur le sujet_,"


Returning to Hendaye, a train takes us again to Bayonne, connecting
there for Orthez and Pau. The ride to Bayonne needs an hour or less, and
from thence to Orthez calls for two. It is not many decades since much
of this journey had to be made by the diligence. Railways and highways
have pushed rapidly toward the Pyrenees. When in the approaching
fortnight we shall come to traverse the Route Thermale, the great
carriage-way along the chain, we shall see modern road-making in its
perfection; and the rail will keep anxious watch, over the road, running
parallel along the distant plain and reaching helpful arms up the
valleys to uphold it.

Toward Pau especially, the railroads converge. That city, a social
capital for centuries, is a social capital still, and its winter influx
of invalids and pleasure-seekers stimulates every facility of approach.
Then, too, it lies on the way crossing southern France from the Bidassoa
to the Rhone, and no line linking these rivers could omit from its chain
the Gave[12] de Pau.

[12] _Gave_ is the generic name among the Pyrenees for a mountain stream
or torrent.

From Bayonne, the train at first traverses an edge of a singular region.
It is a part of the _Landes_. This great savanna, which flattens the
entire space from Bordeaux to Bayonne, was crossed in coming southward
from Bordeaux, and now as we strike eastward and inland we but briefly
skirt its southerly portion. A sandy, marshy waste, infertile,
unhealthful and poor, it lies in utter contrast with the fields and
slopes of neighboring provinces. It is anomalous, incongruous,--

                  "A bare strand
  Of hillocks heaped with ever-shifting sand,
  Matted with thistles and amphibious weeds,
  Such as from earth's embrace the salt ooze breeds."

Its inhabitants are meagre and stunted; it scants them both in food and
drink. Its miserliness is deep-set: artesian wells sunk a thousand feet
through its dull grey sands bring up only a brackish yellow water; a
precarious rye and barley grow grudgingly.

The low stretches of furze and heath and fern are fringed only by
mournful horizons of pines or broken by long files of gashed and wounded
firs. This extensive tree-growth, however, which is comparatively
recent, has at least lessened one terror of the Landes: sand-storms and
snow-storms, which once swept across the wastes, have been shorn of
their strength. Honor for this is due almost alone to one man, a M.
Brémontier. Before his time, forest-making had here been deemed
impossible; pine seeds planted in the lax hold of these sands had
hitherto been unable even to take root, against the unbroken sweep of
the winds. M. Brémontier, after many experiments, conceived the idea of
planting with the pine seeds the seeds of the common broom, whose hardy
tuft should protect the tiny sapling until it could stand by itself.
The result surpassed hope; pine forests, protecting in their turn, have
sprung up and endured throughout the Landes; they have broken forever
the power of the wind-storms; and their pitch and timber are even a
source of some riches to the Department.

Still it remains a region unsmiling and melancholy. A monochrome of
sand, darkened everywhere by long blotches of sickly undergrowth or the
dull reach of the pines; here and there are cork-trees and alders. The
sheen of some slow lagoon is caught in the distance. There is a charm in
the very charmlessness of the scene, as in some sombre-toned etching.

One striking specialty this district has, however; and from the train
windows we watch closely for a specimen. This is the shepherd on stilts,
the _Xicanque_, immortalized by Rosa Bonheur and mentioned by many
travelers. He is peculiar to this region; perched on these wooden
supports, at a perilous height above the ground, he stalks gravely over
the landscape, enabled to behold a horizon of triple range and to
outstride the fleetest of his vagrant flock. When so inclined, he is
quite able, it is said, to skillfully execute a _pas seul_ or even a
jig,--with every appropriate flourish of his timber limbs and with
surprising grace and _abandon_. His stilts are strapped to the thigh,
not the knee, for greater freedom, and he mounts from his cabin-roof in
the early morning and lives in the air throughout the day. A third stilt
forms a seat, and makes of his silhouette a ludicrous and majestic
tripod. This genius's chief amusement is startlingly domestic: it is
knitting stockings; and engaged in this peaceful art he sits with
dignity and whiles away the hours. How he manoeuvres when he
accidentally drops a needle, I have not been able to learn.

A dignitary of Bordeaux arranged a fête and procession in these Landes
on one occasion; triumphal arches were erected, hung with flowers and
garlands; and the feature of the parade was a sedate platoon of these
heron-like shepherds engaged for the occasion, dressed in skins, decked
with white hoods and mantles, preceded by a band of music, and stalking
by fours imposingly down the line of march.


We are nearing the Pyrenees now, and entering the ancient and famous
province of Béarn, once a noted centre of mediæval chivalry. Beam did
not become part of France until almost modern times.[13] For seven
hundred years preceding, its successive rulers held their brilliant
court unfettered and unpledged. "Ours," declared its barons and prelates
in assembly, "is a free country, which owes neither homage nor servitude
to any one." The life of the province was its own, separated entirely
from that of the kingdom. It had its own succession, its own wars and
feuds, its own love of country. It has a national history in miniature.
"If I have excused myself from bearing arms upon either side," said one
of its rulers, replying to the royal remonstrances, "I have, as I think,
good reasons for it: the wars between England and France no way concern
me, for I hold my country of Béarn from God, my sword and by
inheritance. I have not therefore any cause to enter into the service or
incur the hatred of either of these kings."

[13] In 1620.

There is a pleasant old legend which touches the true note of Béarn.
Toward the year 1200, three of its rulers, in turn misgoverning, were in
turn deposed by the barons. The heirs next in line were the infant
twins of one William de Moncade. "It was agreed," as Miss Costello
relates it; "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 demeanor. 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 among his future subjects. The event proved their
sagacity, and the object of their choice lived to give them good laws
and prosperity."


The past of Béarn, like an ellipse, curves around two foci. One is the
town of Orthez,[14] the other, the later city of Pau. The hero, the
central figure, of one is Gaston Phoebus, Count of Foix; that of the
other, Henry of Navarre.

[14] Anciently written Ortayse, afterward Orthès.

These are the two great names of Béarn. Each lights up a distinctive
epoch,--Gaston, the fourteenth century, Henry, the sixteenth.

       *       *       *       *       *

In two hours after leaving Bayonne, the train has come to Orthez. There
is little splendor in the old town as one views it to-day; yet in
Gaston's time it was the capital of Béarn, successor of the yet older
Morlaäs, and a centre for knights and squires and men-at-arms, a magnet
for pilgrims and noble visitors from other countries, attracted by its
fame. There were jousts, tourneys, hunts, banquets. The now broken walls
of the old Castle of Moncade on the hill have sheltered more glittering
merrymakings than those of Kenilworth or Fuenterrabia. But decay never
surrenders an advantage once gained; the castle is dying now; dull
modern commonplace has enfolded the once bright town below; and this
Orthez is to-day at best but a lounging-place for the pessimist. We
shall love better Pau, its rival and successor, still buoyant and
prospering, rising not falling. "Good men study and wise men describe,"
avers Ruskin, in a more than half-truth, "only the growth and standing
of things,--not their decay. Dissolution and putrescence are alike
common and unclean ... in State or organism."

For all that, Orthez and its traditions are too significant to hasten
by. Nowhere is the picture of mediæval life more strongly illuminated;
in no spot shall we more fitly pause to summon back the inner past of
the Pyrenees we are approaching. But we would linger over it only as it
was in its best days, and leave to others the drearier story of its

It is Froissart, the old historian and traveler, genial, story-loving
Sir John, who tells us most about Orthez and Gaston. Orthez, as the
capital of Béarn, was in his time, at its meridian, (it was afterward
supplanted by Pau,) and Gaston Phoebus, known as the Count de Foix, was
lord both of Beam and of the neighboring county of Foix. It was
precisely five hundred years ago, come next St. Catherine's Day, that
the old chronicler alighted from his horse here in Orthez. He was come
on a visit to the count, well introduced, and seeking further material
for his easy-going history of the times; knowing that foreign knights
assembled in Orthez from all countries, and that there were few spots
more alive to the sound of the world's doings or better informed in the
varying gossip of wars and court-craft.

Froissart liked to write, "and it was very tiresome," he remarks, "to me
to be idle, for I well know that when the time shall come when I shall
be dead and rotten, this grand and noble history will be in much fashion
and all noble and valiant persons will take pleasure in it and gain from
it augmentation of profit." So, seeking fresh chapters, he had come to
Orthez, where he was at once handsomely received by Count Gaston at this
Castle of Moncade. Here he remained through the winter, affable and
inquiring and observant, adding many pages to his history,--which, his
host assured him, would in times to come be more sought after than any
other; "'because,' added he, 'my fair sir, more gallant deeds of arms
have been performed within these last fifty years, and more wonderful
things have happened, than for three hundred years before. '"

"The style of Froissart," says Taine, who has so marvelously divined the
inner spirit of those times, "artless as it is, deceives us. We think
we are listening to the pretty garrulousness of a child at play; beneath
this prattle we must distinguish the rude voice of the combatants,
bear-hunters and hunters of men too, and the broad, coarse hospitality
of feudal manners. At midnight the Count of Foix came to supper in the
great hall. 'Before him went twelve lighted torches, borne by twelve
valets; and the same twelve torches were held before his table and gave
much light unto the hall, which was full of knights and squires; and
always there were plenty of tables laid out for any person who chose to
sup.' It must have been an astonishing sight to see those furrowed faces
and powerful frames, with their furred robes and their justicoats
streaked under the wavering flashes of the torches." And one of
Froissart's characteristic anecdotes is cited, which merits giving even
more in full: "On Christmas Day, when the Count de Foix was celebrating
the feast with numbers of knights and squires, as is customary, the
weather was piercing cold, and the count had dined, with many lords, in
the hall. After dinner he rose and went into a gallery, which has a
large staircase of twenty-four steps: in this gallery is a chimney where
there is a fire kept when the count inhabits it, otherwise not; and the
fire is never great, for he does not like it: it is not for want of
blocks of wood, for Béarn is covered with wood in plenty to warm him if
he had chosen it, but he has accustomed himself to a small fire. When in
the gallery, he thought the fire too small, for it was freezing and the
weather very sharp, and said to the knights around him: 'Here is but a
small fire for this weather.' The Bourg d'Espaign instantly ran down
stairs; for from the windows of the gallery, which looked into the
court, he had seen a number of asses laden with billets of wood for the
use of the house; and seizing the largest of these asses with his load,
threw him over his shoulders and carried him up stairs, pushing through
the crowd of knights and squires who were around the chimney, and flung
ass and load with his feet upward on the dogs of the hearth, to the
delight of the count and the astonishment of all."


Gaston himself was a type of the time. He had its virtues and its vices,
both magnified. Hence, hearing an eye-witness draw his character for us
is to gain a direct if but partial insight into the character of his
era. Froissart's moral perspective is often curiously blurred, and in
the light of many of his anecdotes about the count his eulogium perhaps
needs qualification: "Count Gaston Phoebus de Foix, of whom I am now
speaking, was at that time fifty-nine years old; and I must say that
although I have seen very many knights, kings, princes and others, I
have never seen any so handsome, either in the form of his limbs and
shape, or in countenance, which was fair and ruddy, with grey and
amorous eyes that gave delight whenever he chose to express affection.
He was so perfectly formed, one could not praise him too much. He loved
earnestly the things he ought to love, and hated those which it was
becoming him so to hate. He was a prudent knight, full of enterprise and
wisdom. He had never any men of abandoned character with him, reigned
prudently, and was constant in his devotions. There were regular
nocturnals from the Psalter, prayers, from the rituals to the Virgin, to
the Holy Ghost, and from the burial service. He had every day
distributed as alms at his gate five florins in small coin to all
comers. He was liberal and courteous in his gifts; and well knew how to
take when it was proper and to give back where he had confidence."

There is an obverse to the medallion. "The Count de Foix was very cruel
to any person who incurred his indignation, never sparing them, however
high their rank, but ordering them to be thrown over the walls, or
confined on bread and water during his pleasure; and such as ventured to
speak for their deliverance ran risks of similar treatment. It is a
well-known fact that he confined in a deep dungeon his cousin-german,
the Viscount de Châteaubon, during eight days; and he would not give him
his liberty until he had paid down forty thousand francs."

And then in the very chapter with his eulogy, Sir John goes on to relate
the count's brutal killing of his own son in a fit of rage and
suspicion, and torturing fifteen retainers as possible accomplices of
the innocent lad; and elsewhere tells of his stabbing his half-brother
and letting him die in a dungeon of the tower, for refusing the
surrender of a fortress. This was the other side of Gaston's character,
and a side quite as representative. It was all in line with the time.
His reign was turbulent, magnificent, cruel, devout,--everything by
extremes. The man is characteristic of the mode, and Orthez in this
summarizes much of the life of the France of the Middle Ages.


These old annalists scarcely pause to censure this spirit of crime, this
hideous quickness to black deeds. They view it as a regrettable failing,
perhaps, and glowingly point to the doer's lavish religiousness in
return. Absolution covers a multitude of sins. To a generous son of the
Church much might be forgiven. "Among the solemnities which the Count de
Foix observes on high festivals," records his visitor, "he most
magnificently keeps the feast of St. Nicholas, as I learnt from a squire
of his household the third day after my arrival at Orthès. He holds this
feast more splendidly than that of Easter, and has a most magnificent
court, as I myself noticed, being present on that day. The whole clergy
of the town of Orthès, with all its inhabitants, walk in procession to
seek the count at the castle, who on foot returns with them to the
church of St. Nicholas, where is sung the psalm _Benedictus Dominus,
Deus meus, qui docet manus meas ad proelium et digitos meos ad bellum_,
from the Psalter of David, which, when finished, recommences, as is done
in the chapels of the pope or king of France on Christmas or Easter
Days; for there were plenty of choristers. The Bishop of Pamiers sang
the mass for the day; and I there heard organs play as melodiously as I
have ever heard in any place. To speak briefly and truly, the Count de
Foix was perfect in person and in mind; and no contemporary prince could
be compared with him for sense, honor or liberality."


As to liberality, these robber barons were able to afford it. Mention is
incidentally made in conversation of Count Gaston's store of florins in
his Castle of Moncade at Orthez. Froissart instantly pricks up his ears:

"'Sir,' said I to the knight, 'has he a great quantity of them?'

"'By my faith,' replied he, 'the Count de Foix has at this moment a
hundred thousand, thirty times told; and there is not a year but he
gives away sixty thousand; for a more liberal lord in making presents
does not exist.'"

We can see the good Sir John's eyes glistening:

"'Ha, ha, holy Mary!' cried I, 'to what purpose does he keep so large a
sum? Where does it come from? Are his revenues so great to supply him
with it? To whom does he make these gifts? I should like to know this if
you please.'

"He answered: 'To strangers, to knights and squires who travel through
his country, to heralds, minstrels, to all who converse with him; none
leave him without a present, for he would be angered should any one
refuse it.'"

With such sums at disposal, Gaston might well indulge his passion for
the chase and keep sixteen hundred hounds. His hospitality too was
unbounded. When the Duke of Bourbon made a three-days' visit to Orthez,
he was "magnificently entertained with dinners and suppers. The Count de
Foix showed him good part of his state, which would recommend him to
such a person as the Duke of Bourbon. On the fourth day, he took his
leave and departed. The count made many presents to the knights and
squires attached to the duke, and to such an extent that I was told this
visit of the Duke of Bourbon cost him ten thousand francs.... Such
knights and squires as returned through Foix and waited on the count
were well received by him and received magnificent presents. I was told
that this expedition, including the going to Castile and return, cost
the Count de Foix, by his liberalities, upwards of forty thousand

The King of France was entertained by Gaston at a dazzling banquet where
no less than two hundred and fifty dishes covered the tables. But a
succeeding Gaston outdid this in a lavish dinner, likewise to visiting
royalty, of which a faithful record has come down to us from old
documents. There were twelve wide tables, each seven yards long. At the
first, the count presiding, were seated the king and queen and the
princes of the blood, at the others foreign knights and lords according
to their rank and dignity. There were served seven elaborate courses,
each course requiring one hundred and forty plates of silver. There were
seven sorts of soup, then patties of capon, and the ham of the wild
boar; then partridge, pheasant, peacock, bittern, heron, bustard,
gosling, woodcock and swan. This was the third course, concluding with
antelope and wild horse. An _entremet_ or spectacle followed, and then a
course of small birds and game, this served on gold instead of silver.
Next appeared tarts and cakes and intricate pastries, and later, after
another spectacle, comfits and great moulds of conserves in fanciful and
curious forms,--the whole liberally helped down with varied wines, and
joyously protracted with music, dancing and tableaux.


Gaston Phoebus died suddenly as he had lived violently. He was hunting
near Orthez, three years after Froissart's visit, and to ward evening
stopped at a country inn at Rion to sup. Within, the room was "strewed
with rushes and green leaves; the walls were hung with boughs newly cut
for perfume and coolness, as the weather was marvelously hot even for
the month of August. He had no sooner entered this room than he said:
'These greens are very agreeable to me, for the day has been desperately
hot.' When seated, he conversed with Sir Espaign du Lyon on the dogs
that had best hunted; during which conversation his son Sir Evan and
Sir Peter Cabestan entered the apartment, as the table had been there
spread." He called for water to wash, and two squires advanced; a
knight, the Bourg d'Espaign, (the hero of the Christmas Day exploit,)
took the silver basin and another knight the napkin. "The count rose
from his seat and stretched out his hands to wash; but no sooner had his
fingers, which were handsome and long, touched the cold water, than he
changed color, from an oppression at his heart, and his legs failing
him, fell back on his seat, exclaiming, 'I am a dead man: Lord God, have
mercy on me!'"

It is a significant comment on the period, that amid the commotion at
the inn the first thought was of foul play. "The two squires who had
brought water to wash in the basin said, to free themselves from any
charge of having poisoned him: 'Here is the water; we have already drank
of it, and will now again in your presence,' which they did, to the
satisfaction of all. They put into his mouth bread and water and spices,
with other comforting things, but to no purpose, for in less than half
an hour he was dead, having surrendered his soul very quietly. God, out
of his grace, was merciful to him."

He was entombed before the altar in the little church at Orthez, with
imposing obsequies. No epitaph remains, but this of a preceding Gaston,
buried in the same church, deserves note for its curious, jingling Latin

  "Continet hæc fossa Gastonis principis ossa,
  Nobilis ac humilis aliis, pulvis sibi vilis,
  Subjectis parcens, hastes pro viribus arcens.
  Da veniam, Christe, flos militiæ fuit isle,
  Et virtute precum, confer sibi gaudia tecum,
  Gastonis nomen gratum fert auribus omen,
  Mulcet prolatum, dulcescis sæpe relatum,"

Two hundred years afterward, in the tumult of Protestant iconoclasm,
Gaston Phoebus's tomb was broken open, its débris sold, piece by piece,
and Montgomery's Huguenots derisively kicked the august skull about the
streets of Orthez and used it for a bowling-ball:

  "They hopped among the weeds and stones,
  And played at skittles with his bones."


There are a few gleams of humor among these grim recounts. It was always
tinged with the sardonic. Pitard, moralist and pedant, staying at the
Béarnais court, fell into a dispute with a poet, Théophile:

"''T is a pity,' sneered Pitard, finally, 'that, having so much spirit,
you know so little!'

"''T is a pity,' retorted Théophile, 'that, knowing so much, you have so
little spirit!'"

Often the jests take a religious turn. The chaplain of one of the counts
of Orthez, defending his own unpriestly fondness for hunting, asserted
that the ten horns of the stag (_cerf_) stood for the Decalogue; and
that the stag was to be as ardently followed as the sovereign pontiff,
the latter being himself _le cerf des cerfs,--servus servorum_.

If a husband were seriously rasped by his wife, or their tempers could
not agree, he was wont to retire her to a convent. "He did not send her
to the devil," remarks a sly annalist, "but he gave her to the Lord."

And read this whimsical epitaph on an organist of the cathedral at
Lescar, a bishopric near Orthez. He died in the fifteenth century:

     "As you pass, pray God for his soul, that having assisted in the
     music of this world, he may be received forever among the blessed
     to assist in the celestial music. Amen."

Orthez is known to our century as the scene of a spiteful battle
between Wellington and Soult, engaging eighty thousand men, and ending
in the victory of the former and the rout of the French. But the town is
so deeply sunk in the past that its kinship with modern events seems
almost cause for resentment; and we will leave it as it is, with its
older glories and memories thickly crusted upon it.



When the Count of Foix made a hunting trip to his _château mignon_ on
the present site of Pau, he found it a goodly journey. There were
quagmires and waste land to pass, and the visit and return were not to
be made in a sun's shining. More greatly than avenging spirits from his
dungeons the spirit of steam would affright him to-day, as it goes
roaring over the levels in a hundred minutes to the same destination.

From Orthez, it is less than two hours by rail, and we are at last in
Pau. The _Midi_ line is accurately on time. These French railroads are
operated by the State; they are not afflicted with parallel lines and
bitter competition; they have no occasion, as our roads have, to
advertise a faster schedule than can possibly be carried out.
Consequently their time-tables aim to state the exact truth, and the
roads can and do live up to it.

It is late in the evening when we arrive, and we seek no impressions. A
comfortable omnibus winds us up an infinity of turns, through an
apparent infinity of streets, and we are at the Hotel Gassion.

It is impossible to be entirely impressionless, even for travelers at
ten at night. It is the hotel itself which makes the dent. Our vague
misgivings as to the "dismal roadside inns" awaiting our tour have
already been arrested at Biarritz and San Sebastian. They are sent into
exile from Pau. The Hotel Gassion, whose name honors a stout old
Béarnais warrior, is fitly a palace. It cost four hundred thousand
dollars. A cushioned elevator lifts us smoothly upward to our rooms,
which prove high-ceiled and unusually large and have dressing-rooms
attached. The dark walls accord with a deep mossy carpet. The
furnishings are massive in mahogany, polished and carved: a wardrobe,
dressing-cases, a writing-desk; a sofa-couch, made inaccessible, as
everywhere in Europe, by the barrier of a huge round table; padded
arm-chairs, upholstered in silk damask; and, acme of prevision, a
praying-chair. The beds seem beds of state, covered and canopied with
some satiny material; and both silk and lace curtains part before the
windows, showing separate balconies in the night outside. The
dining-hall and the parlors, which we do not seek until the morning,
prove to be on an equally expensive scale; paintings of the Pyrenees
hang in the wide halls; and there is a conservatory and winter-garden
opening on the terrace. The building is of grey stone, with corner
towers and turrets and an imposing elevation, and has less the look of a
hotel than of a royal _Residenz_.

Our estimates of the standards of comfort in the Pyrenees are
perceptibly heightened by the evening's impressions alone, as we discuss
our surroundings and the Apollinaris. With Pau thus rivaling Lucerne, we
grow more confident for Eaux-Bonnes and Cauterets, Luchon and Bigorre.
And as, from the balcony, we look in vain across the murky night to see
the snow-peaks which we know are facing us, we agree that here at the
good Hotel Gassion we could luxuriously outstay the lengthiest storm to
view them.


We are glad when daylight comes, as boys are on Christmas morning. The
present we are eager for is the sight of the Pyrenees snow-peaks. The
sun is shining, the sky clear. Even coffee and rolls seem time-wasters,
and we hasten out to the terrace.

Yes, the Pyrenees are before us. There stretches the range, its relief
walling the southern horizon from west to the farthest east, the line of
snow-tusks sharp and white in the sunshine. They are distant yet, but
they stand as giants, parting two kingdoms. Austere and still, they face
us, as they have faced this spot since that stormy Eocene morning when
they sprang like the dragon's white teeth from the earth.

The view is a far-reaching one. The eye sweeps the broadside of the
entire west-central chain,--a full seventy miles from right to left. The
view might recall, as the greater recalls the less, the winter summits
of the Adirondacks, seen from the St. Regis mountain. It has been more
equally paired with the line of the distant Alps seen from the platform
at Berne. I may parallel it, too, again in Switzerland, with the view of
the Valais peaks which bursts on one when, winding upward past the
Daubensee and its desolation, he comes out suddenly upon the brink of
the great wall of the Gemmi. But here there is a warmth in the view
beyond that of Switzerland. Some one has said that "snow is regarded as
the type of purity not because it is cold but because it is spotless."
This distant snow-line is spotless, but to the eye at least it is not

Here as there, the separate peaks have their separate personality. It is
not a blur of nameless tips. Two especially arrest attention, south and
southeast, for they rise head and shoulders above their neighbors. Each
bears the name of the _Pic du Midi_. That opposite us, dominating the
valley of Ossau, is the _Pic du Midi d'Ossau_. It is ice-capped and

        "A rocky pyramid,
  Shooting abruptly from the dell
  Its thunder-splintered pinnacle,"--

the Matterhorn of the Pyrenees. That on the left is the noted _Pic du
Midi de Bigorre_, famed for the view from its top. Other prominent peaks
are also pointed out. _Mont Perdu_ and the _Vignemale_, two of the
princes of the chain, are partly hidden by other summits, and are too
distant to rule as they ought. The monarch _Maladetta_, the highest
summit of the Pyrenees, is farther eastward still and cannot be seen
from Pau.

It is a repaying prospect; a majestic salutation, preceding the nearer
acquaintance to come. One thing we know instantly. There will be no lack
of noble scenery in these mountains. We shall find wild views among
their rocks and ice,--views, it must be, which shall dispute with many
in the Alps.

This prospect from the terrace at Pau is a celebrated one. Icy peaks are
not all that is seen. In front of them the ranges rise, still high from
the plain, but smoothed and softened with the green of pines and turf.
Between these and the Pau valley spread hidden leagues of rolling
plains, swelling as they approach us into minor ravelins of foothills
known as the _coteaux_; and little poplar-edged streams, "creaming over
the shallows," winding their way toward the valley just below us, are
coming from the long slopes to join the hurrying Gave de Pau. Houses and
hamlets are here and there, and the even streak of the railway; and
over toward the coteaux we see the village of Jurançon, famed for its

The terrace falls sheer away, a fifty-foot wall from where we stand, and
at its base, as we lean over the parapet, we see houses and alleys and
just beneath us a school-yard of shouting, frolicking children. We
brighten their play with a few friendly sous, as one enlivens the
Bernese bear-pit with carrots.

Behind us, the Hotel Gassion rises to cut off the streets beyond it; to
the right, along the terrace a few hundred yards, stands a stout old
building, square and firm, which we know at once for the castle of Henry
of Navarre.


"In most points of view," as Johnson observes, in his _Sketches in the
South of France_, "we look down the valley and see on either side its
mountain walls; or we are placed upon culminating points overtopping all
the rest of the prospect; but here the view is across the depression and
against the vast panorama, which opposes the eye at all quarters, and
comprehends within it the whole of the picture. High up in the snow the
very pebbles seem to lie so distinctly that, but for the space between,
a boy might pick them up; lower down, from among the brown heather thin
blue streaks stream aloft from some cottage chimney, winding along the
brae-side till melted into air. We half expect to see some human figure
traverse those white fields and mark the footprints he leaves behind,
some shepherd with his dog crossing from valley to valley. Alas! it is
twenty miles away, the pebbles are huge masses of projecting rock,
precipices on which the snow cannot rest; yonder smoke is from the
charcoal-burner's fire, which would take in a cottage for a mouthful of
fuel, and a dozen men piled on each other's shoulders might at this
moment be swallowed up in these snow-beds and we never the wiser.

"With the warm sunlight upon it, and the pure, clear blue above, into
which these great shapes are wedged like a divine mosaic, the scene
looks so spotless and holy in its union with the heavens that one might
fancy it a link between this earthliness and the purity above, 'the
heaven-kissing hill' on which angels' feet alight. The great vision of
marvelous John Bunyan seemed there realized, and we had found the
Immanuel's Land and these were the Delectable Mountains. 'For,' said he,
'when the morning was up they bid him look South; so he did, and behold,
at a great distance he saw a most pleasant mountainous country
beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also;
with springs and fountains very delectable to behold.... It was common,
too, for all the pilgrims, and from thence they might see the gates of
the Celestial City.'"


At the other side of the hotel we are in Pau. There is not very much
that is impressive in its general appearance. We go by a patch of park
and through a mediocre street, and find ourselves in the public
square,--the Carfax of the city. From this run east and south its two
chief streets. All of the buildings are low and most of them dingy. We
expected newer, higher, more Parisian effects. At the right of the
square is the long, flat market-building, vocal, in and out, this early
morning, with bustling hucksters superintending their stalls. The
square itself is bright with the colors of overflowing flowers and
fabrics and other idols of the market-place. Neat little heaps of fruit,
apexed into "ball-piled pyramids," are guarded by characterful old
women, alert and intent, whose heads, coifed with striped kerchiefs, nod
a reward to the purchaser with a hearty "_Merci, monsieur_!"


Few of the streets in the town are well paved, and few of the villas
seen in driving in the suburbs aid to raise the architectural average.
Except for its palace-hotels, Pau seems to show little of artistic
building enterprise.

This city, so popular with the English, is rarely spoken of in America.
There, in fact, it is singularly little known. This is no truer of Pau
than of the Pyrenees themselves; but even to Englishmen who may know as
little as we of the latter, the former is familiar ground. Four thousand
Britons winter here annually, besides French and other visitors, and Pau
runs well in the hibernal race, even against Mentone and Nice. Its
hotels alone would evidence this. Up to these, there are all grades of
good accommodation,--the _pensions_, of good or better class; furnished
apartments, or a flat to be rented by the season; whole villas to be
leased or purchased, as the intending comer may prefer.

One can leave Paris or Marseilles by the evening express and be in Pau
the next afternoon,--about the same length of time as required to reach
St. Augustine from New York. This is certainly far from a formidable
journey, and it is matter for surprise that the adventurous American
does not oftener take it.

The favor of the spot, it owes to its climate. Something there is,--some
meteorological idiosyncrasy in its location,--which guards its still,
mild air, the winter through. Storms rage impotently down from the
mountains or across the Landes; they cannot pass the charmed barrier of
the coteaux. Winds are rare in Pau. Rain is not rare; but the
atmosphere, even when damp, is not chilling, and the lines of rain fall
soft and never aslant. There is a tradition of an old sea-captain who
once made a brief stay here and who, as he took his daily walks, was
noticed as constantly and restlessly whistling. He finally left in
disgust, with the remark that there was not a capful of wind to be had
in the place.

The winter colony takes full possession of the town. It passes thirty
thousand inhabitants under the yoke, as Rome passed their forefathers
the Aquitani. Pau in the season is a British oligarchy. Society fairly
spins. There are titles, and there is money; there are drives, calls,
card-parties; dances and dinners; clubs,--with front windows; theatres,
a Casino, English schools, churches; tennis, polo, cricket; racing,
coaching,--and, _Anglicissime_, a tri-weekly fox-hunt! For some years,
too, the position of master of the hounds, a post of much social
distinction in Pau, was held by a well-known American, so we are
told,--a fact certainly hitherto unheralded to many of his countrymen.

Socially, there is a wide range of entertainment at Pau. What Johnson
wrote of it thirty years ago is not materially inapplicable to-day: "One
set, whom you may call the banqueteers, give solemn, stately dinners
immediately before going to bed; another perform a hybrid entertainment,
between the English tea-party, and the Continental soirée, where you may
enjoy your Bohea and Souchong, play long small whist, and occasionally
listen to ponderous harmonies solemnly performed. A third are the
formal rout-givers, the white-kid-and-slipper, orchestra-and-programme,
dance-and-sit-down-to-supper folks; so like home that it only requires
Gunter's men to fancy oneself in Baker Street of olden times. Another is
the delightful soirée _pur sang_, where everybody comes as a matter of
course, and where everybody who does not sing, dances or plays, or is a
phenomenon in charades, or writes charming impromptus, or talks like the
last book, or can play at any known game from loto to chess, or knows
all the gossip of the last six hours; and where everybody chats and
laughs, and sends everybody else comfortably home in the best of humors
just about the time that the great people are expecting the _coiffeur_
to arrive."

Thus there is a stir in the Pyrenees the year around. In the winter, at
Pau; in summer, at the twenty cures and centres among the mountains. The
proprietor of a winter hotel here will own also his summer hostelry at
Bigorre or Cauterets. In the summer, it is the French and Spanish to
whom he caters, for they have so far been the ones most appreciative
both of the springs and the scenery of these mountains. And so, with the
rise and dip of the seasons, the European element waxes as the English
wanes, in a kind of solstitial see-saw. And the smiling landlord stands
upon the pivot.

       *       *       *       *       *

The clouds are closing in, after granting us that glittering panorama,
and the morning grows dull and dark. We explore the book-stores, and
finally find the old Library in the upper story of the market-building.
Here two of us at least pass a long and contentful forenoon.


In fierce Count Gaston's time, Béarn centred in Orthez, and Pau was but
his hunting-box. Two hundred years later, Pau had become the focus, and
Béarn and Foix not only, but French Navarre as well, were its united
kingdom. Gaston's Castle of Moncade had aged into history,--

        "Outworn, far and strange,
  A transitory shame of long ago,"

and the hunting-box had grown in its turn to castle's stature.

The world had brightened during the two centuries. Constantinople had
fallen and the Renaissance came. Luther had posted his theses on the
Wittemberg church door and the Reformation took root. Men were older
than when Froissart lived and wrote. And this active province of Béarn
kept pace; it opened quickly to the new influences, was alive to the
changing _zeitgeist_. There remained the chivalric still,--and a trace
of the barbaric,--as with the outer world; in short, in its faults and
fervor's, in its codes and standards, the sixteenth century is aptly
summed up in Béarn-Navarre,--and Navarre in its famous Henry.


And so, on the following morning, we pass into the courtyard of his
castle here at Pau with the feeling that in some sense we are evoking
the shade of the era, not of the man. The feeling dies hard; but the
robustious, business-like guide that herds us together with other
comers, and shepherds us all briskly through the official round, goes
very far toward killing it. There is little that one needs to remember
of the successive rooms and halls; it is a confusion of polished floors,
and vases, and tapestry, and porphyry tables, and the rest,--adorned and
illumined by a voluble Gallic description. Later French kings have
restored the old building, and stocked it with Paris furniture, and made
it modern and comfortable. One is always divided in spirit over these
restorations. The castle needed help painfully; it had been badly used
by the Revolution; and it had been debased to a barrack by Napoleon's
troops, who "stabled their steeds in the courts and made their drunken
revelry resound in the chambers of Marguerite of Angoulême." Dismantled,
half-roofless, its great halls, unsheltered and unsheltering, it was
wasting fast under the elements into picturesque but irreparable ruin.
And I suppose the pleasure of kings and the peace of utilitarians ought
fairly to outweigh the disappointments of the touring impression-seeker.

In one apartment, however, we make a stand. The herd and its shepherd
can pass along. This, he has told us, is the birthplace of Henry IV. The
floor is polished like the rest, and the furniture has been in part
renewed, but the room is the same which that alert baby first laughed
upon. In the corner at the right is an antique bed of carved walnut,
with four posts and a rich canopy. Around its side are cut in the wood
an elaborate series of medallions, each a foot square, representing the
heads of the kings of France. Across the apartment swings still a great
tortoise-shell, which served the royal infant for a cradle,--saved
afterward from the furies of the Revolution by the substitution of a
false shell in its place.[15]

[15] The genuineness of the present shell has frequently been
questioned; but the testimony of LAGRÈZE has now fairly established the
story of its preservation.

In this room, Jeanne d'Albret sang a Béarnais song as the hero of Ivry
was born, and so won the wager with her martial old father, the King of
Navarre; and the boy came into the world smiling and unafraid. And
writers tell us how delighted the old king was, and how he took the
infant into his arms, and rubbed its lips with a garlic clove, and
tilted into its little mouth from a golden goblet some drops of the
manly wine of Jurançon. When Queen Jeanne herself was born in this very
castle, twenty-five years before, the Spaniards had sneered: "A miracle!
the cow (of the arms of Béarn) has given birth to a ewe!" "My ewe,"
exclaimed the happy old father now, "has brought forth a lion! _Tu seras
un vray Béarnais!_"


Henry's life was as martial and as merry as his grandfather sought to
form it. He grew up on the coteaux in a hardy, fresh-air life, and at
nineteen became King of Navarre,--the title including Béarn and Foix.
Into this old room in the castle where we stand throng reminders of his
career, its beginnings so closely twined with Pau. Independent still as
under Gaston, the sovereigns of the stout little kingdom had lived
friends but no subjects of the King of France; and the Court at Pau,
always proud and autonomous as the Court at Paris, had become defiantly
Protestant besides. And now if ever it had a sovereign after its own
heart. Henry was kingly, but a king of the people. He had their spirit.
His long, keen, grizzled face was alight with ready comradeship. "I want
my poorest subject," he said, "to have a fowl for his pot on Sundays."
He was a Béarnais from sole to crown,--in bravery and craft, tact and
recklessness, in virtues, and--which pleased them as much--in vices. "He
was plain of speech, rough in manner,--with a quaint jest alike for
friend or foe; his hand upon his sword, his foot in the stirrup, his gun
slung across his shoulder, the first in assault, the last in retreat.
Irregular in his habits, eating at no stated times, but when hungry
voraciously devouring everything that pleased him, especially fruit and
oysters; negligent, not to say dirty, in his person, and smelling strong
of garlic. A man who called a spade a spade, swore like a trooper, and
hated the parade of courts; was constant in friendship, promised
anything freely, a boon companion, a storyteller, cynical in his
careless epicureanism, and so profound a believer in the 'way of fate,'
that reckless of the morrow he extracted all things from the passing

[16] ELLIOTT: _Old Court Life in France_.

Time had not jogged on so far, in journeying from Orthez to Pau, as to
forget all his mediæval ways,--his promptings to strife and feuds, his
liking for adventures. Henry had abundance of them, in his running fire
against his neighbor-enemies, in his hot Protestant struggles against
the Medicis, in his hotter fight for the throne of France. There are
both meats and sweetmeats in his career,--strong deeds and knightly
diversions. "These old wars are the most poetic in French history; they
were made for pleasure rather than interest. It was a chase in which
adventures, dangers, emotions were found, in which men lived in the
sunlight, on horseback, amidst flashes of fire, and where the body as
well as the soul had its enjoyment and its exercise. Henry carries it on
as briskly as a dance, with a Gascon's fire and a soldier's ardor....
This is no spectacle of great masses of well-disciplined men coming
heavily into collision and falling by thousands on the field, according
to the rules of good tactics. The king leaves Pau or Nérac with a little
troop, picks up the neighboring garrisons on his way, scales a fortress,
intercepts a body of arquebusiers as they pass, extricates himself
pistol in hand from the midst of a hostile troop, and returns.... They
arrange their plan from day to day; nothing is done unless unexpectedly
and by chance. Enterprises are strokes of fortune.... To act, to dare,
to enjoy, to expend force and trouble like a prodigal, to be given up to
the present sensation, be forever urged by passions forever lively,
support and search the extremes of all contrasts, that was the life of
the sixteenth century."[17]

[17] _Tour Through the Pyrenees_.

Exciting incidents abound among Henry's dashing forays. He exposed
himself to every risk he asked of his men, deaf even to their own
entreaties that he should take more care of his life. More than once it
was his personal leadership alone that carried the day. For example,
there was a hostile city on the river Lot. Henry coveted it. Its
garrison was strong; its governor scoffed: "a fig for the Huguenots!"
Henry would brave defeat sooner than brook defiance. He marched to the
town at once. "It was in the month of June," as Sully relates it in his
_Memoirs,_ "the weather extremely hot, with violent thunder but no rain.
He ordered us to halt in a plantation of walnut trees, where a fountain
of running water afforded us some refreshment;" and after a brief rest,
he disposed his little army, and planned his attack:

"We had three gates to force; these we made haste to throw down with the
petard, after which we made use of hatchets. The breaches were so low
that the first who entered were obliged to creep through on their hands
and feet. At the noise of the petard, forty men armed and about two
hundred arquebusiers ran almost naked to dispute our entry; meantime the
bells rung the alarm, to warn everybody to stand to their defence. In a
moment, the houses were covered with soldiers, who threw large pieces of
wood, tiles and stones upon us, with repeated cries of 'Charge, kill
them!' We soon found that they were resolved to receive us boldly; it
was necessary therefore at first to sustain an encounter, which lasted
above a quarter of an hour and was very terrible. I was cast to the
ground by a large stone that was cast out of a window; but by the
assistance of the Sieur de la Bertichère and La Trape, my valet de
chambre, I recovered, and resumed my post. All this time we advanced
very little, for fresh platoons immediately succeeded those that fled
before us; so that before we gained the great square, we had endured
more than twelve battles. My cuisses being loosened, I was wounded in
the left thigh. At last we got to the square, which we found barricaded,
and with infinite labor we demolished those works, being all the time
exposed to the continual discharge of the artillery, which the enemy had
formed into a battery.

"The King of Navarre continued at the head of his troops during all
these attacks; he had two pikes broke, and his armor was battered in
several places by the fire and blows of the enemy. We had already
performed enough to have gained a great victory; but so much remained
to do that the battle seemed only to be just begun; the city being of
large extent and filled with so great a number of soldiers that we in
comparison of them were but a handful. At every cross-way we had a new
combat to sustain, and every stone house we were obliged to storm; each
inch of ground so well defended that the King of Navarre had occasion
for all his men, and we had not a moment's leisure to take breath.

"It is hardly credible that we could endure this violent exercise for
five whole days and nights, during which time not one of us durst quit
his post for a single moment, take any nourishment but with his arms in
his hand, or sleep except for a few moments leaning against the shops.
Fatigue, faintness, the weight of our arms, and the excessive heat,
joined to the pain of our wounds, deprived us of the little remainder of
our strength; our feet, scorched with heat and bleeding in many places,
gave us agonies impossible to be expressed.

"The citizens, who suffered none of these inconveniences and who became
every minute more sensible of the smallness of our numbers, far from
surrendering, thought of nothing but protracting the fight till the
arrival of some succors, which they said were very near; they sent forth
great cries, and animated each other by our obstinacy. Though their
defence was weak, yet they did enough to oblige us to keep upon our
guard, which completed our misfortunes. In this extremity the principal
officers went to the king, and advised him to assemble as many men as he
could about his person and open himself a retreat. They redoubled their
instances at the report which was spread and which they found to be
true, that the succors expected by the enemy were arrived at the bar
and would be so soon in the city that he would have but just time to
force the wall and secure himself a passage. But this brave prince,
whose courage nothing was ever able to suppress, turning toward them
with a smiling countenance and air so intrepid as might have inspired
courage into the most pusillanimous heart: ''Tis heaven,' said he,
'which dictates what I ought to do upon this occasion; remember then
that my retreat out of this city, without having secured one also to my
party, shall be the retreat of my soul from my body. My honor requires
this of me; speak therefore to me of nothing but fighting, conquest or

There could be but one issue to such words. Henry fought till
reinforcements came to him, and the town fell.

       *       *       *       *       *

Anecdotes of Henry are in a very real sense anecdotes of Béarn. The one
following, lines out two of the king's best qualities. He was besieging
a strong city in Poitou. "We applied ourselves without ceasing to the
trenches and undermining. The King of Navarre took inconceivable pains
in this siege; he conducted the miners himself, after he had taken all
the necessary precautions to hinder supplies from entering without; the
bridges, avenues and all the roads that lead to the city were strictly
guarded, as likewise great part of the country.... The mining was so far
advanced that we could hear the voices of the soldiers who guarded the
parapets, within the lodgment of the miners. The King of Navarre was the
first who perceived this; he spoke and made himself known to the
besieged; who were so astonished at hearing him name himself from the
bottom of these subterraneous places that they demanded leave to
capitulate. The proposals were all made by this uncommon way; the
articles were drawn up or rather dictated by the King of Navarre, whose
word was known by the besieged to be so inviolable that they did not
require a writing. They had no cause to repent of this confidence; the
King of Navarre, charmed with a proceeding so noble, granted the
garrison military honors and preserved the city from pillage."


The great satisfaction in contemplating the career of Henry is in the
fact that it succeeded. His ambitions, maturing in purpose, ended in
result. The King of Navarre found himself at last the King of France.

The path had not been of roses. He had captured two hundred towns and
fought in sixty battles on his way. He himself had strewed thorns for
others as well. His wars spread suffering throughout France. His
skirmishings, petty but many, add up to an appalling total of harm.
Henry as a model of renounced ambition is a failure. Read what his
Catholic enemies in Béarn said of him, in an address and appeal to the
Catholics of France; as now first translated out of its Old French, it
has an oddly Jeffersonian ring:

"Knowing long since, to our cost, the nature of the wolf who seeks to
deceive and then devour you, we have deemed it duty to warn you of the
character of the beast, (_le naturel de la beste,_) so that by our
putting you on your guard he shall not have means to endamage you.
Within twenty years he has summoned a round million of foreign
mercenaries to pillage and rend your kingdom. He has sacked and
demolished two thousand monasteries and twenty thousand (_sic!_)
churches; he has wrecked no less than nine hundred hospitals; he has
caused the death, by war and divers punishments, of nearly one million,
six hundred thousand men. In the face of his assurances to the nobility
in 1580 and of his reiterated protestations, he has put up our very
priests at auction and sold them off to the highest bidder, in order
that his Huguenots might have on whom to wreak at leisure their diabolic
hatred. He thinks himself King of France; it is a malady common to the
crack-brained to fancy themselves kings of the first realm they spy and
to fashion them seigniories in the air. Beware trusting your fowls to
this fox!"

Evidently the Béarnais hero had made some tolerably strong enemies in
pursuing his ambitions. No less truly his ambitions had made some
tolerably wide gaps in his ethics.

But the world pardons much to success. And this man had a certain
high-mindedness in him which compels admiration. When the battle of Ivry
was commencing, "he remembered," relates Perefix, an old historian,
"that the evening before the battle he had used some harsh expressions
to Colonel Theodoric Schomberg, who had asked him for money, and told
him in a passion that it was not acting like a man of honor to demand
money when he came to take orders for fighting. He afterward went to
him, when he was ranging his troops in order, and said: 'Colonel, we are
now upon the point; perhaps I shall never go from this place; it is not
just that I should deprive a brave gentleman as you are of your honor; I
come therefore to declare that I know you to be an honest man and
incapable of committing a base action.' Saying this, he embraced him
with great affection."[18]

[18] "The colonel," continues Perefix, "sensibly moved with this
behavior, replied with tears in his eyes: 'Ah, Sire! in restoring to me
my honor you take away my life; for after this I should be unworthy of
your favor if I did not sacrifice it to-day for your service. If I had a
thousand lives I would lay them all at your feet.' In fact he was killed
upon this occasion."

He besieged Paris, but would not storm it. "I am like the true mother
in the judgment of Solomon," was his famous declaration; "I would rather
not have Paris at all than see it torn to pieces." "The Duke of Nemours
sent all useless mouths out of Paris; the king's council opposed his
granting them passage; but the king, being informed of the dreadful
scarcity to which these miserable wretches were reduced, ordered that
they should be allowed to pass. 'I am not surprised,' said he, 'that the
Spaniards and the chiefs of the League have no compassion upon these
poor people; they are only tyrants; as for me, I am their father and
their king, and cannot hear the recital of their calamities without
being pierced to my inmost soul and ardently desiring to bring them

Take it good and bad, lion of ewe, the character of Jeanne's high son is
crystallized in one saying of his: "I would give a whole finger to have
a battle,--and two to have a general peace."

       *       *       *       *       *

With delight Pau watched her merry monarch; backed his final claim to
the throne of St. Louis, made on the death of the last of the Medici
kings and traced back through nine generations; followed tensely his
long contest for that high prize, his rivalry with the League and with
Philip of Spain, his victories at Arques and Ivry, his coronation, and
his wise reign as Henry the Fourth of France. His fame was hers. The
hour he died,--stabbed while in his state-carriage at Paris by the
dagger of a fanatic,--"a tempest broke over the place of his birth, and
lightning shivered to pieces the royal arms suspended over the gateway
of the castle."

  Dextera sacras jaculatas arces,
  Terruit urbem"_


A winter station such as Pau is a hub with many spokes. Excursions and
drives are in all directions. Idle fashion enjoys its outlets to the
air, and invalidism demands them. Each hamlet is a picnic resort. One
has choice of time and space, from an hour's ramble in the park, to a
day's long visit to the monster sight of the mountains, the Cirque of
Gavarnie. The park, as we pass, deserves its hour's ramble. Its wide
promenade, arched with great trees, is entered not far from the castle,
and leads along the torrent of the Gave, whose source we are later to
see in the snows around Gavarnie itself. It is the scene of the favorite
constitutional of Pau,--a neutral ground for all social factions.

Four drives in particular point us each to its own quarter of the
compass. One is long, with the watering places of Eaux Chaudes and Eaux
Bonnes for its double destination. The others, nearer in distance, lead
farther in event,--back through the centuries, ninety, fifty, thirty
decades, in turn.

The first of these is to Morlaäs, the earliest capital of Béarn. The
distance is seven miles. Though the road is flat and tame, the ride
affords superb prospects of the line of the Pyrenees, and these
culminate at the top of the hill just before descending to the village.
Here the panorama is even finer than from Pau. Easterly ranges have come
into the field. The sweep of the mountain barrier in sight is a full
hundred miles, and the waste of intervening plains, no longer hidden by
coteaux, increases the impression of distance without lessening that of
height. The greater peaks rise now into better proportion. Mont Perdu
and the Vignemale loom above their neighbors, and best of all is seen
far away the crown at least of the great Maladetta.

You must enjoy Morlaäs wholly for its past. You cannot enjoy it for its
present. It is a poor, dejected, straggling street, noticeable only for
mud and stones and dun-coated hovels. It does not, like Fuenterrabia,
retain the picturesqueness of its antiquity. There, it is the old town's
to-day that carries us delightfully back into its yesterday. But at
Morlaäs there is neither to-day nor yesterday.

For the prime of this place antedates old Fuenterrabia by many a hundred
years. The latter may come to the former's estate as many centuries
hence. Orthez is but in middle life, Pau a summer stripling, in the
presence of this wreck of time. Poor Morlaäs! Thou hast seen thy long
successor rise and reign and fall, succeeded in its turn by the
brilliant capital that now sends hither its subjects to scoff at thy
driveling old age.

To share the mood of this grey spot you must travel far back, down its
dim retrospect. You must retrace long, successive eras, sensitive to the
spirit of each as you pass. You must cross the sixteenth century,
brightening into humanity yet still un-human,--the vivid, reckless King
of Navarre its type. You must penetrate beyond the twilight where Count
Gaston's armor flashes across from the brutal towers of Orthez, lawless
and splendid; you must grope back farther into the gloom, four hundred
years still, before you see the shadowy Morlaäs in its full stature,
proud, powerful, rude, rich,--the capital of old Béarn.

Nine hundred years ago. Mohammed's name and power were still new.
Charles Martel had just saved Europe from the Saracens. England had not
been recreated by a Norman Conqueror. The Crusades were still undreamed
of. Art, science, letters, were in custody in the East. These armed
children ran riot,--passionate, intense, uncontrolled, loving fight and
finery as the Trojans, or the Norse heroes of the Sagas.

A single fine portal of the original sanctuary is still to be seen. But
of the old castle not a trace remains; only its name survives,--_la
Hourquie_,--with its significant etymological story: _Horcæ,--furcæ,---
fourches patibulaires_,--the gibbet. For these viscounts of Morlaäs had
recourse to a savage expedient to control the lawlessness of their day.
They kept a gallows-tree erect before the castle gateway, a speaking
symbol of vengeance, and there the blackened corpse, might hang until
replaced, swinging in the winter wind. There was a mint here also, which
stamped the metal of the little realm, and on the coins too appeared the
device of the gibbet. There is a tradition that the executions took
place only on market-days, and in the Pyrenees to this day the
market-gathering is known as the _Hourquie_.


       *       *       *       *       *

Eleven miles west leads us four centuries forward again from Morlaäs.
This is Lescar; with its ancient cathedral, the St. Denis of Béarn, the
burial-place of generations of its rulers. Morlaäs has been deposed,
and Orthez reigns in its stead,--with Lescar as primate. The gleam and
glory of chivalry have grown with the years. Here was the seat of the
church militant in its strongest manifestation. "The bishops of Lescar,"
writes Johnson, satirically, "are said to have been well suited to the
times in which they lived; fighting when they could, and cursing when
they could not. In the early history of the province, they are found
lustily taking a part in the battles of the frontier country; and when
peaceful times came, getting up a comfortable trade with the intrusive
infidels they had so lately belabored. The reputation for wealth
acquired by this astute community seems to have brought its troubles
upon the enterprising diocesans, for tradition has it that in the
eleventh century Viscount Dax laid sacrilegious hands upon their
property. Whether he was too strong for the carnal weapon or spiritual
manifestations were deemed more appropriate to his particular case,
history does not record, but certain it is that the rebellious noble,
being deaf to expostulation, was excommunicated, and resenting that, was
seized with a leprosy, of which he died. His successor, adopting the
same line of policy as the deceased, was treated in the same way and
with the same result. So that between the thunders of the church and the
arms of the flesh, the Episcopality of Lescar waxed mightily, and its
bishops took the position of premier barons in the province, sitting
next to royalty in council and therein keeping to order all grumblers
against their rights and privileges. If two of the venerable prelates
themselves happened to disagree and logic failed them, then,--it being
scarcely orthodox for the reverend men to fight the matter out
personally,--they employed a couple of lusty varlets to settle the
business for them, and upon the weakest shoulders fell all the
consequent disadvantages; thus instituting a simple and expeditious
method of cutting short disputes by which the ecclesiastical courts of
the present day do not appear to have benefited."

Lescar was called the _ville septénaire_; for it had, it is said, seven
churches, seven fountains, seven mills, seven woods, seven vineyards,
seven gates, and seven towers on the ramparts. It is another senile
hamlet now, and imagination must do all the work. Even the cathedral has
been altered, and in its large, rather plain interior are few relics of
its earlier state, few marks to tell of the after-despoiled tombs of
Henri Quatre's ancestry. There is a satisfying legend about this
sanctuary. One of the feudal rulers had a violent hatred for some
neighboring seignior, and finally secured his assassination. His hatred
was thereupon followed by a remorse equally violent,--these men were
violent in good as in bad, which redeems much; and in atonement he
rebuilt magnificently this cathedral, which was even then an old one,
and added to it a monastery as well. And to complete the story of poetic
expiation, the assassin he had employed became a penitent himself; was
later appointed one of the monks by his penitent patron; and ended by
rising to the reverend office of abbot itself.

Southeast from Pau lies our third landmark of the past,--Coarraze. It is
a longer road and a dusty one, but a village will tell off each mile,
the Gave de Pau brings encouraging messages along the way, and the far
Pic du Midi de Bigorre keeps inspiringly in sight. Besides the commoner
trees to be met in this and other directions from Pau, are occasional
orange-trees, Spanish chestnuts, aloes, acacias, and here and there a
magnolia; but this region is north of much tropical verdure, even now in
July, and plain beech and oak play the principal parts. Coarraze can be
reached by rail also, and preferably so when haste is an object, for it
is thirteen miles by the highway, while the train covers the distance
within the half-hour.

This spot too had its castle and its feudal barons, subject to the court
at Orthez. A tower of the castle still remains. It is of Raymond, one of
these barons, that Froissart tells the legend of the familiar spirit.
This obliging bogey was wont to visit his host as he lay asleep, waking
him to tell him what had happened during the day in distant countries.
His mode of rousing his patron was unceremonious, not to say boisterous.
In his first visit, he made a terrific tumult throughout the castle,
pounded the doors and casements, broke the plates in the kitchen,
appalled the sleeping servants, "knocking about everything he met with
in the castle, as if determined to destroy all within it.... On the
following night the noises and rioting were renewed, but much louder
than before; and there were such blows struck against the door and
windows of the chamber of the knight that it seemed they would break
them down."

The baron could no longer desist from leaping out of his bed, and
proceeding to investigate matters; and in the end the bogey and he
became fast friends. In fact, the former "took such an affection to the
Lord de Corasse that he came often to see him in the night-time; and
when he found him sleeping, he pulled his pillow from under his head or
made great noises at the door or windows; so that when the knight was
awakened, he said, 'let me sleep.'

"'I will not,' replied he, 'until I have told thee some news.'

"The knight's lady was so much frightened, the hairs of her head stood
on end and she hid herself under the bed-clothes.

"'Well,' said the knight, 'and what news hast thou brought me?'

"The spirit replied, 'I am come from England, Hungary or some other
place, which I left yesterday, and such and such things have happened.'

"Thus did the Lord de Corasse know by means of this messenger all things
that were passing in the different parts of the world;" and for years
this invisible mediæval sprite kept his patron comfortably posted on all
current events, in a ghostly adumbration of the modern newspaper press.

But Coarraze and its castle carry us on later than Froissart's days.
Here young Prince Henry ran about in his hardy youth, and romped and
played pranks on his future subjects. Nothing delighted him more in
after life than to come back here and hunt up his old peasant
playfellows, bashful and reluctant, and bewilder and charm them with his
state and his _bonhomie_. Most of the old castle is gone now, destroyed
by a storm and since replaced by a newer structure. The old baron's
spirit-messenger or the "white lady" of the House of Navarre have only
the single tower remaining, for their ghostly visits,--finding change
over all save the far line of the Pyrenees glittering unearthly in the



     "And we who love this land call it a _paradis terrestre_, because
     life is fair in its happy sunshine,--it is beautiful, it is
     plentiful, it is at peace."--_The Sun Maid._

It is a nineteenth-century sun that wakes us, after all, each morning,
through the Gassion's broad windows. We can reconjure foregoing eras,
but we do not have to live in them. The hat has outlawed the helmet; the
clear call of the locomotive is unmistakably modern. Throughout Pau, in
its life, its people, its social rubrics; in its streets, shops,
hotels,--the thought is for the present age exclusively. The past is
appraised chiefly at what it can do for the present. Business and
society pursuits are not perceptibly saddened by memories of the
bear-hunt at Rion or the dagger of Ravaillac.

And thus we come into the instant year once more, as we take the
mid-morning train from Pau. We point straight for the mountains. We are
on the way to Eaux Chaudes and Eaux Bonnes, before mentioned as a fourth
excursion from Pau; but we go not as an excursion merely, for they lie
directly in our farther route. These resorts, the repute of whose
springs we hear in advance, are south from Pau about twenty-eight miles;
twenty-five are now covered by the new railway, and the remaining three
are done by the diligence or by breack,--for the latter of which, we

It is a brief journey by the rail. The longer post-road no longer
controls the travel. The train hastens on, by the coteaux, past
maize-fields and meadows, through odds and ends of villages, into
valleys more irregular, and among hills higher and steeper. Of Bielle, a
village where it halts for a moment, there is a well-turned story told
against Henry IV. It is one of the few cases where he was at a loss for
a retort. He admired the four marble columns in the church, and asked
for them; a kingly asking is usually equivalent to a command. But the
inhabitants made reply both dexterous and firm, and it proved
unanswerable. "Our hearts and our possessions are yours," they said; "do
with them as you will. But as to the columns, those belong to God; we
are bound for their custody, and you will have to arrange that with

When the train reaches its terminus at Laruns, we are fairly among the
highlands. Rising wedge-shaped beyond the town, dividing all progress,
is a mountain,--not a hill. To the left and right of it pass the roads
we are in turn to follow. On the left, two miles beyond the fork or
three from the railway's end, will be found Eaux Bonnes; on the right,
at the same distance, is its lesser equal, Eaux Chaudes, our first
objective point.

In the distant direction of the former rises the snowy _Pic de Ger,_
nearly nine thousand feet in height and conspicuous from where we stand
at the station platform. Still leftward, east of the hills, is a notch
in the mountains; through it, we are told, pierces the Route
Thermale,--the great carriage-road on to Cauterets and Bigorre, which we
are to take after visiting the Eaux.

Here at the Laruns station, we find our breack awaiting us,--a peer of
the peerless Biarritz equipage. It has been sent down from Eaux Bonnes
to meet us. Trunk and baggage are stowed away, and we are driven up the
straight, sloping road from the station into the village of Laruns
itself, where a stop is to be made for lunch.

The appearances are not prepossessing. Laruns is a small village
centring about a large square. It looks unpromising, and one of its most
unpromising buildings proves to be the "hotel,"--a low, dingy, stone
building set in among its mates. At this the breack draws up. The
splendor of the Gassion seems in the impossible past. The expectant
landlady urges us within; her face beams pleasantly; her appearance
promises at least more than does her environment. One by one and very
doubtfully, we enter a dark, narrow doorway; pass along a dark, harrow
hall, walled and floored with stone; catch a passing vista of a kitchen,
a white-jacketed and white-capped cook, and a vast amount of steam and
crackle and splutter near the stove; and going up the curving stairs are
led into a neat little front dining-room overlooking the square. The
carpet is of unpainted pine; so are the table and chairs; but both are
clean, and this fact cheers. With misgivings we ask for a lunch for
seven; without misgivings it is promptly promised, and the beaming
hostess hurries to the depths below. Whether her quest shall bring us
chill or further cheer, we do not seek to guess.

We canvass the situation and idly look out on the square before us. The
low houses edging it are of stone, faced with a whity-grey, and have a
sleepy, lack-lustre air about them, even under the sun's rays. Women are
grouped around the old marble fountain near the centre,--one drawing
water, several washing and beating white linen. There are barnyard fowls
in plenty, bobbing their preoccupied heads as they search among the
cobbles. In the foreground stands the temporarily dismantled breack,
begirt with awed urchins and venerable Common Councilmen. Behind all
rise the mountains. There is a pleasing effect of unsophisticated
dullness about it all, that seems queerly out of place in a rising
railroad terminus.

But a bright-faced, rosy little girl bustles in presently and proceeds
to set the table. She has an unconscious air of confidence in the doings
of the chef below,--this fact cheers; and the cloth is indubitably
clean,--this also cheers. We take heart. Napkins and plates appear,
white as the cloth; knives, forks, glasses, rapidly follow, seats are
placed, we gather around, and the old lady herself comes triumphantly
in, with a huge, shapely omelet, silky and hot,--and lo, our three
cheers swell into a tiger!

Well,--we shall always recall the zest of that lunch. It was perfection.
The cuisine of the Gassion was more refined but not more whole-souled.
The trout vie with the omelet; the mutton outdoes the trout. Course
after course comes up as by magic from that dark kitchen,--_petits
pois_, a toothsome filet, mushrooms, pickled goose, tartlets, cheese,
fruit,--and each a fresh revelation of a Pyrenean chef's capabilities.
Our doubtings vanish with the déjeûner, and we exchange solemn vows
never hereafter to prejudge a Gascon boniface by his inn.


Our road forth from Laruns brings us soon to the base of the blockading
mountain, the _Gourzy_. There it divides, and taking the right-hand
branch, the breack strikes at once into the narrow ascending valley
which leads southeast to Eaux Chaudes. Below, a fussy torrent splashes
impetuously to meet the incomers. The driver has pointed out to me an
older and now disused wagon-way, short and steep, over the hill at the
right; it is tempting for pedestrianizing, and while the breack is
pulled slowly around its foot by a broad, easy road, I climb by it for
some twenty minutes, gain the crest of the ridge, and passing through a
windy, rock-walled cut, come out on the other curve of the valley. Here
the scene has become wholly mountainous. Grass and box cling to all the
slopes; pines and spruces shoot upward wherever they have won footholds.
They are not great peaks that we see yet, nor anything above the snow
level; but the mountains in view, with their faces of rock, their
massive flanks of green, are imposing notwithstanding. Far below, the
breack has just come in sight, its forward route meeting mine some
distance ahead.

Close at the side of the path stands a tiny roadside oratory. On the
walls of this little shrine, which (or its predecessor) has stood here
for three hundred years, one might formerly read in stilted French the
following astonishing inscription, ignoble witness to human platitude,
as M. Joanne calls it:

     "Arrest thee, passer-by! admire a thing thou seest not, and attend
     to hear what it is thou shouldst admire: we are but rocks and yet
     we speak. Nature gave us being, but it was the Princess Catherine
     gave us tongues. What thou now readest we have seen her read; what
     she has said we have listened to; her soul we have upborne. Are we
     not blessed, passer-by? having no eyes, we yet have seen her! Yet
     blessed thou too, in having seen her not; for we rocks were
     lifeless and the sight transformed us into life; but as for thee,
     traveler, thy transformation would have been into lifeless rock!"

As our routes converge, mine descending, the other rising, the valley
narrows to a gorge. In its depths, a hundred and fifty feet or more
below, the torrent is noisily roaring, and at the other side, half way
up, the carriage-road is built out from the almost perpendicular wall of
the Gourzy. We draw nearer, and at length I cross, high above the
stream, by a rude wooden bridge, and rejoin the main road. The slope I
have quitted steepens now into a precipice, and the two sides of this
ravine move closer and closer together, their bare limestone brows a
thousand, two thousand, feet above the road. I vividly recall the Via
Mala in Switzerland, as I lean over the stone parapet and push down a
heavy stone to crash upon the rocks of the torrent far beneath.

The toiling breack rejoins me, and the road cuts in through the gorge
for some distance farther. Patches of snow are now seen on some of the
summits approaching. Then we round a corner at the left, the valley
opens out, though very slightly, and soon we see ahead the closely set
houses of the Baths of Eaux Chaudes.

       *       *       *       *       *

We pause before a plain, fatherly hotel, and a motherly landlady appears
at once to welcome us. We are won at once by Madame Baudot. Her
benignant face is a benediction. She leads us in through the low, wide
hallway, past the little windowed office at the end, and turning to the
left into a short corridor brings us out to a set of rooms in the new
extension. As we step out upon the tiny balconies at the windows, we
cannot forbear exclaiming at the charm of their situation. We are
directly above the torrent, which chafes along perhaps fifty feet below,
and the balconies jut out over the water. Beyond it are the cliffs,
rising huge before us, wooded high, but bare and bald near the top; up
and down the valley the eye ranges along their fronts. The rooms, simple
but exactingly clean, are dainty with dimity and netted curtains and
spreads. The whole effect is so home-like and restful, the relief of the
contrast so great from plain and city and the rush of trains, that
involuntarily we sigh for a month to spend at Eaux Chaudes.


We find but two streets, terraced one behind the other; quiet,
heavily-built houses, a small shop or two, another hotel, a little
church, and the bathing establishment. The latter, large and
substantial, overlooks the Gave a few steps up the road. We stroll
inquisitively down through the village, lighten a dull little shop with
a trifling investment, strike out upon the hill above for the reward of
a view, descend to the bed of the torrent, and finally drift together
again into the streetside near the hotel. Most of the houses are
_pensions_ or boarding-places during the summer, and while the spot is
much less fashionable and populous than its neighbor, Eaux Bonnes, it is
instinct with a comforting placidity not easily to be attained in larger
resorts. The waters are said to be specifically good for rheumatism.
Both drinking and bathing are prescribed. In former times the simple
rule was, the more the better; Thor himself could scarcely have
outquaffed the sixteenth-century invalids. One of the early French
historians relates his visit "to the Baths of Beam, seven leagues from
Pau." A young German, he says, "although very sober, drank each day
fifty glasses of sulphur water within the hour." He himself was content
with twenty-five, "rather from pleasure than need;" he experienced
"great relief, with a marvelous appetite, sound sleep, and a feeling of
buoyancy in his whole body."

An experimentally inclined visitor, a few years ago, heard of this
exploit of the "sober young German," and attempted to repeat it. He very
nearly lost his life in consequence.

The sovereigns at Pau were very fond of the Eaux. Marguerite of
Angoulême loved to come to this stern, peaceful valley, and here found
inspiration for her thoughts and her writings. One of her letters tells
us that in these mountains, apart from the careless court, _"elle a
appris à vivre plus de papier que d'aultres choses,"_ Her daughter,
Queen Jeanne, Henry's mother, found her health here when she was young,
having been "meagre and feeble." She often visited them afterward. Her
visits were costly, too; the expenses of the court were considerable,
but she had to bring an armed guard as well; Spain always stood ready to
kidnap the Queen of Navarre if it had opportunity. Such were the times.

Later, for almost a century, these springs became neglected and
forgotten; they were then again brought into notice, and now seem to
have gained a permanent popularity.

As afternoon closes in, we reunite at the hotel, where Madame greets us
graciously. Her visitors will begin to come with the coming week, but we
actually have the house to ourselves. In the tidy parlor blazes a
wood-fire; out of doors, in the dusk, it has grown a trifle chilly.
Attentions are doubled upon us when it is known that we are Americans;
Madame's daughter, who has married the chef and will succeed to the
inheritance, will succeed to the kindly disposition as well, and with a
sunny-faced waiting-woman looks after details of comfort with a personal
interest. Our famous lunch at Laruns was both so ample and so recent
that now we ask only for "tea and toast," and so, while the lamps are
lighted, the trays are brought to us in the parlor, and around the
centre-table and before the fire we nibble _tartines_ in soothed content
and plan to-morrow's excursion.

Later in the evening we pause at the little office in the hall, behind
whose window sits Madame, busy with her knitting yet watchfully
supervising all the details of the household. She chats with us freely,
speaking slowly in her clear, low-toned French,--that southern French
which sounds the vowels and the final _e_ so lingeringly,--telling us of
the village and its surroundings, of the people, of herself; questioning
us about America, (where, she tells us, lives one of her daughters;)
welcoming us evidently with the greater regard as being of the few she
sees from that active, far-off land.


The low, steady, insistent rumble and rustle of the torrent below our
windows becomes almost ghostly in the stillness of the midnight. It is
coming from the dark and mysterious forests it so well knows, the same
unchanging water-soul it has been in the days of the Pyrenees past. One
almost ascribes to it the power of audibly retelling its past, as it
intones its way onward below us; infusing our dreams with subtle
imaginings of the spirit of dead times, the pathetic forgottenness of
the mountain lives that have been lived within its sound, the
roysterings of the knights who have hunted along its coursing.

For into these forests often rode Gaston Phoebus and his fierce men of
Orthez, in pursuit of a fiercer than they, the now disappearing
Pyrenees bear. At no time was superstition more rife than then; savage
souls were imputed to these savage animals; the spectres of the killed
brutes returned to trouble the dreams of the hunter-knights, as the
growl of their familiar torrent penetrates ours. We seem to hear old
Froissart's voice above the sound, believingly telling a legend of the

"'Sir Peter de Béarn has a custom, when asleep in the night-time, to
rise, arm himself, draw his sword, and to begin fighting as if he were
in actual battle. The chamberlains and valets who sleep in his chamber
to watch him, on hearing him rise, go to him and inform him what he is
doing; of all which, he tells them, he is quite ignorant, and that they
lie. Sometimes they leave neither arms nor sword in his chamber, when he
makes such a noise and clatter as if all the devils in hell were there.
They therefore think it best to replace the arms, and sometimes he
forgets them and remains quietly in his bed.'

"'Holy Mary!' said I to the squire, 'how came the knight to have such
fancies, that he cannot sleep quietly in bed but must rise and skirmish
about the house! This is very strange.'

"'By my faith,' answered the squire, 'they have frequently asked him,
but he knows nothing about it. The first time it happened was on a night
following a day when he had hunted a wonderfully large bear in the woods
of Béarn. This bear had killed four of his dogs and wounded many more,
so that the others were afraid of him; upon which Sir Peter drew his
sword of Bordeaux steel and advanced on the bear with great rage on
account of the loss of his dogs; he combated him a long time with much
bodily danger, and with difficulty slew him; when he returned to his
castle of Languedudon in Biscay, and had the bear carried with him.
Every one was astonished at the enormous size of the beast and the
courage of the knight who had attacked and slain him.

"'But when the Countess of Biscay, his wife, saw the bear, she instantly
fainted and was carried to her chamber, where she continued very
disconsolate all that and the following day, and would not say what
ailed her. On the third day she told her husband she should never
recover her health until she had made a pilgrimage to St. James' shrine
at Compostella. "Give me leave therefore to go thither and to carry my
son Peter and my daughter Adrienne with me; I request it of you." Sir
Peter too easily complied; she had packed up all her jewels and plate
unobserved by any one; for she had resolved never to return again.

"'The lady set out on her pilgrimage, and took that opportunity of
visiting her cousins, the King and Queen of Castile, who entertained her
handsomely. She is still with them, and will never return herself nor
send her children. The same night he had hunted and killed the bear,
this custom of walking in his sleep seized him. It is rumored the lady
was afraid of something unfortunate happening, the moment she saw the
bear, and this caused her fainting; for that her father once hunted this
bear, and during the chace a voice cried out, though he saw nobody:
"Thou huntest me, yet I wish thee no ill; but thou shalt die a miserable
death!" The lady remembered this when she saw the bear, as well as that
her father had been beheaded by Don Pedro without any cause; and she
maintains that something unfortunate will happen to her husband, and
that what passes now is nothing to what will come to pass.'"


White clouds scud away before the breeze, as we climb down toward the
torrent again before breakfast and cross a diminutive foot-bridge to a
path on the other side. The sun is at his post. "All Nature smiles,"
here in the mountains as over the plains, and promises lavishly for the
day. The ramble brings a sharpened appetite, and we come back to the
sunny breakfast-room, to find flowers at the plates of mesdames and
mademoiselle, and a family of Pyrenean trout, drawn out within the
half-hour from a trout-well by the stream, in crisp readiness upon the

We have planned for a view to-day of the great Pic du Midi d'Ossau,--the
mountain seen so sharply from Pau. It is not in sight at Eaux Chaudes;
but it is the giant of this section of the range,--a noon-mark for an
entire province. There is no mountain resort without its pet excursions,
and there are three here which take the lead. One is to Goust, another
to the Grotto; but the foremost is to Gabas and the majestic Pic.

Our breack comes pompously to the terrace by the hotel, and the hostess
wishes us _"une belle excursion."_ The road takes us on through the
village, and pushes up into the valley with an ascent which is not steep
but which never relaxes. Around us the scene grows increasingly wild and
everywhere picturesque. We cross at some height the Gave, by the stone
_Pont d'Enfer_,--Bridge of Hell, so named,--and keep along the westerly
bank. On one side the ledges are bare, but the opposite slopes are
greener, densely wooded, and ribboned by occasional cascades. Goats and
cattle graze on the upper stretches of herbage; and the shadows of the
clouds chase each other in great islands over the broad flanks of the
mountain. Often, as the horses pause to rest, panting silently with the
work, we climb down from our perches to walk on against the warm breeze,
or clamber up from the roadway to add a prize to the ladies' mountain

At a noted angle in the trend of the valley, the forked white cone of
the great Pic comes suddenly into sight. The vision lasts but a minute.
A cloud sweeps down upon it, and when it lifts again we have passed the
point of view.

We anathematize the intruder openly; this is incautious, for our
anathemas provoke reprisals. Other clouds rally around their offended
sister in support, as we push slowly onward, and some of the nearer
mountains are soon enveloped also. The blue sky is forced back, cut off
in all directions; even the pusillanimous sun retires from the conflict;
the heavens have darkened ominously.

In an hour and a half from Eaux Chaudes, we have come to Gabas, 3600
feet above the sea. The place consists of two or three houses, and a
dull little inn by a patch of wooded park. It does not attract overmuch,
but to go farther at present is manifestly unwise. Nature's smile has
become a pout, and that is fast developing into a crying-spell. The
guide and ponies sent on from Madame Baudot's must wait. The breack is
tarpaulined and left to the pines in the park, the horses are led off
into the stable, and we disconsolately enter the hotel, to chill the
coming hour with spiritless lemonade and a period of waiting.

I believe it will always rain on you at Gabas. The few persons we had
hitherto met who had been to Eaux Chaudes enthusiastically praised this
trip toward the Pic du Midi,--"but we could not complete it, ourselves."
they invariably added, "because it came on to shower when we reached
Gabas." We had smiled commiseratingly, confident of being better
favored. Now we find that the clouds, jealous body-guard of this regal
summit, which is "first a trap and then an abiding-place for every
vagrant vapor," can deny him alike to the just and the unjust,--that
they trouble little to make distinctions, even where nationality is


It is a dull hour. Within, we are in a murky, musty reception-room, and
find no consolation save in ourselves, last week's Pau newspapers, and a
decrepit French guide-book which tells tantalizingly of the magnificent
trip on toward the peak. Without, the rain falls softly and maliciously,
slackening at times in order to taunt us with glimpses of fugitive blue
overhead. We wait and conjecture; plans and anecdotes and a good fire
help wonderfully to hurry the time. The landlord offers but dubious
prophecies; and the window-panes prophesy as dubiously, as we peer out
into the grey mist and the dripping, shivering park. Nature's
resentments are strong, and when she gives battle she fights to a

At last, in full caucus assembled, we vote the war a failure and elect
for a retreat.


The climb we were to take is to a plateau called Bious-Artigues. It is
about three miles beyond Gabas by bridle-path, and its ascent needs an
hour and a half. Here the full face of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau is
squarely commanded. The view is said to challenge that of the Matterhorn
from the Riffel. The plateau itself is nearly five thousand feet above
the sea, and across the ravine before it, this isolated granite obelisk,
with its mitre of snow, lifts itself upward more than five thousand feet
higher,--a precipitous cone, "notched like a pair of gaping jaws, eager
to grasp the heavens."

This formidable pyramid was first ascended in 1552, and afterward by
Palma Cayet in 1591. It has often been climbed since, and affords a view
over a veritable wilderness of peaks. From Bious-Artigues, without
making the ascent but simply following the sides of the surrounding
basin, one can go on to a second and even a third plateau, adding to the
outlook each time, and may finally work his way entirely around the Pic
and return to Gabas by another direction. At Gabas too one is but seven
miles from the Spanish frontier, and there is a foot-pass that scales
the high barrier between the countries and leads down to the Spanish
baths of Panticosa. A great international highway over this pass has
been in contemplation,--the carriage-road to be continued on from Gabas,
upward over the crest of the range, and so descending to Panticosa and
the plains of Aragon. It is a singular fact that at present, from the
Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean, there is not one such highway over
any portion of the chain, but solely around the two extremities. The
only midway access from country to country, (except a poor cart-road
from Pau to Jaca,) is by mule-paths, or oftener difficult trails and
passes known chiefly to the blithe contrabandista.

Mournfully, yet with philosophy, we muse on these withholden glories, as
we drive rapidly homeward. Umbrellas shut off the scenery where the
mists do not, and we are forced to introspection. We resort for comfort
to praising each other for bearing the disappointment so well. We laud
each other's cheerfulness under affliction. After all,

  "Into each life some rain must fall,
  Some days must be dark and dreary."

We solace ourselves with the most fulsome mutual adulation, uncriticised
by the stolid coachman; and as we roll down the long descent back to
Eaux Chaudes, our disappointment wears gradually away; at Hell Bridge,
we have become quite angelic; and we respond to Madame Baudot's
condoling welcome almost with hilarity.


The last wrinkles of regret are smoothed away by a sumptuous luncheon.
It competes even with that at Laruns, which we have set up as henceforth
the standard, the model, the criterion, the ultimate ideal, of all
luncheons. Of a truth, this chef is proving himself a worthy son-in-law.

It has set in for a rainy afternoon, and this comforts us surprisingly.
If it had cleared after all, on our return here to Eaux Chaudes, and the
blue had opened into bloom overhead, I do not know what would have been
said of the climate, but we should have held very strong opinions
concerning it. As it is, we can lay the fault on Fate, not on any
misplanning. This is an inestimable relief. We did _our_ part. We went
more than half way. The blame was Fate's, not ours. Fate is the one,
therefore, that merits the abuse. It is a solace to put the blame
squarely where it belongs, and a greater solace still to abuse the

But need we spend the rest of the day at Eaux Chaudes? The hotel is cosy
and seems almost a home, but the wet little street has nothing to invite
us. We are not going to Gabas again. On that point we are resolved. The
Pic du Midi has forfeited all claims. Goust we can return to visit. We
call another caucus,--and in an hour, warm farewells have been spoken to
Madame, and we are atop of our breack, on the watery way to Eaux Bonnes.



     _"Tant que l'on est aux baings, il fault vivre comme ung enfant,
     sans nul soucy."_--MARGUERITE OF ANGOULÊME.

The road toward Eaux Bonnes retraces its steps from Eaux Chaudes almost
to Laruns, before it swings off into the other southward gorge. The ride
in all is about four miles,--two on each branch of the V. Between the
resorts is also a foot-path over the Gourzy, recommended in fine
weather; it is steep and said to be toilsome, but the view is reputed a
full compensation.

This whole valley, comprising the main depression running north from
Laruns and the narrower fissures split through to Eaux Chaudes and Eaux
Bonnes, was in Miocene times the bed of a huge glacier. It is known as
the Val d'Ossau,--"the vale where the bears come down." Bears are still
met with, it is said, in the vast forests about the foot of the Midi,
but they are shy and scarce. The _izard,_--the chamois of the
Pyrenees,--is more frequently seen and often hunted. This valley is
individual in Béarn, as Béarn is in France. In past time it was a
distinct principality, small but defiant, and it had its own line of
hereditary viscounts entirely independent of the larger province
enfolding it. The people still cherish some of the old local customs and
costumes, their native dances, and a few other past differentia of the
valley; but railroads and time are great levelers, and the Ossalois is
broadening into the Béarnais, as the Béarnais is broadening into the

We speed on in the persistent rain, down between the steep sides of the
Eaux Chaudes ravine and out to the Laruns foot of the great Gourzy
ridge; and having doubled this, turn into the gorge which leads
southerly again to Eaux Bonnes. The incline is now upward once more, and
progress is slower. An entirely new torrent is rushing to greet us. From
what we gain of the scenery, between the showers, the valley, though
narrow, is wider than the one we have left, but its mountains are as
high or higher. There is a fine prospect behind us of the Laruns
amphitheatre. But the drops still patter upon our umbrellas, and we are
glad when our conveyance, after a half hour more, climbs the last hill
and rolls down into the Grande Rue along the little park in Eaux Bonnes,
to stop at the handsome Hotel des Princes.


At the first, we are not sure that we are glad we came. We miss the
cosiness of good Madame Baudot's. But we soon see that Eaux Bonnes has
attractions of its own, though they be very different from the charms of
Eaux Chaudes. It is larger, busier, incomparably more fashionable. The
great entrance-hall of the hotel is hung with wide squares of tapestry,
has columns of marble and a marble flooring, and is invested with an air
of ceremonial which is rather pleasing. The rooms aid to reconcile us;
they are on the first floor, large and finely furnished, and are
directly over the entrance, their balconies overlooking the park. It is
a transition from dimity and sweet pine, but travel, like life, should
be prized sometimes for its transitions.

On the ground floor we find the parlor opening from the great hall; it
is a long, frescoed apartment, with full Continental array of gilded
mirrors and polished flooring, round, inlaid reading-tables and glossy
mahogany furniture. Our readjusted ideas of Pyrenean hotels are
sustained at their high level. The season has already reached Eaux
Bonnes, and the parlor has a refreshingly animated look with its groups
or units of talkers and readers. Across the main ball is the
dining-hall, equally long and frescoed, and beyond it a satellite
breakfast-room; and when the afternoon has worn away and the hour
announces the gastronomic event of the day, it is a goodly
representation of guests that gathers itself together at the formal


There is no mistaking the character of the next day. It is "settled
fair." Probably Nature feels that she carried affairs a trifle too far
yesterday. Everything is radiant, this morning; the leaves on the trees
glow and are tremulous in this warm southern air. Eaux Bonnes appears to
better advantage than at our rainy arrival. I cross the street to the
diminutive park, which is triangular, its apex northward. It has paths
and seats and leafy Gothic arches, fountains and a music kiosque; while
in and about are promenaders, nurses and children, guides and idlers,
already out of doors for sunbaths or business. The town mainly centres
about this triangle, the houses facing it from across the streets in a
similar triangle proportionately larger. The buildings are tall and
uniformly handsome; other hotels resembling the Princes line the western
side and the base, and opposite are diversified shops and _pensions_
and still more hotels. Livery-stables are omnipresent, the sign,
_"chevaux et voitures à louer,"_ greeting one at every turn. Along the
sides of the streets flow lively rivulets of water, led in from the
mountain slopes and fresh and clear from their clean, rocky ways. The
spring-house and Casino, a decorated structure, built against the
mountain, stands on a low eminence west of the head of the park, and
from this to our hotel extends a broad foot-way, lined with stalls and
booths, "where bright-colored Spanish wools, trinkets and toys are sold,
where bagatelle and _tir au pistolet,_ roundabouts and peepshows,--all
the 'fun of the fair,' in fact,--is set out for the amusement of idle
Eaux Bonnes." These are sure indications of fashionable prosperity.
Wherever these evanescent summer stalls appear, at Saratoga or St.
Moritz or Eaux Bonnes, they tell of patronage to call them into
being,--an idle, prosperous patronage that spends for gimcracks what the
native would economize from necessaries.

Behind all, walling the square closely in on almost every side, are the
cliffs; at the east is a lower curtain of rock shutting off the outer
valley; and on the south, almost overhanging us, shoots up the Pic de
Ger. The view of its rocky escarpments and silver peak may fairly be
called stupendous, it is so sharply at variance with the smooth
carpetings of the lower mountains about it.

I pass down through the park. At its base is a congress of single-seated
donkey-carriages like those at Biarritz. They are officered by
importunate though good-natured boys and women, but I persevere in
unruffled declinations. The street slants up a short hill here and comes
out upon another open place much smaller than the park and likewise
bordered with stores and _pensions_.

This is Eaux Bonnes, as it is, as it was, as it will be. The place
cannot grow, except into the air. Its area is little over half an acre.
It stands wedged into the Gourzy, on a species of platform in a huge
niche in the mountain, partitioned off from the main valley by the low
ridge of rock behind the houses on the farther side of the park. Save
this attractive little grove in its centre, every inch of ground is
utilized. The torrent, tearing past along the lower bottom of the main
ravine without, has cut away the level on that side; beyond it, the
mountains rise sheerly upward again. And the Gourzy, as just said, hems
us in on the sides remaining. From the rear windows of the Hotel des
Princes you can put out your hand and touch the naked rock. A few
additional houses are perched here and there on convenient projections
or lodged in narrow crannies against the hill; and blasting and cutting
have created space where it was not before; but the limit seems reached,
and what is must be Eaux Bonnes cannot afford to increase in popularity.
Popularity has seriously incommoded her already. Like a full-bodied but
tight-bodiced dowager, she devoutly hopes she will not have to grow any

As I saunter back through the park, I meet a striking individual. It is
one of the local guides arrayed in full regimentals. His startling
colors are designed to attract the wary but inquisitive tourist,--much
as the waving of the hunter's colored scarf is said to attract the wary
but inquisitive gnu. Still it is the true Ossalois dress, and as such
claims inspection. I open a conversation, and find the man to be one of
the four Eaux Bonnes guides having the honor of mention in Murray;
Caillou Martin is his name. A broad, good-humored face, swarthy and
strong, with the eyes dark and small and far apart, and shaded by the
inevitable berret. Caillou's is scarlet, and so is his jacket, thrown
open in flapping lappels and showing a white flannel waistcoat beneath.
He wears knee-breeches of brown corduroy, and thick creamy-white
leggings, coarsely knit and climbing up over ankle and calf nearly to
the knee. He has hemp sandals, and around the waist circles a scarlet
sash, equally inevitable with the berret.

Caillou grins as I tell him of Murray's encomiums, and wants us to go up
the Pic de Ger. The day is _"magnifique"_, the ascent _"très facile"_
the view _"ravissante_." And each adjective is set off with a rattling
fusillade of crackings from his great whip. This weapon is a specialty
of all Pyrenean guides and drivers. The handle, short and stout, is of
wood, with a red plush tuft around the centre, and the lash is made of
braided leather thongs, four or five feet in length, finishing in a long
whipcord and a vicious little knot. This instrument will make a crack
like a pistol shot, and under artistic manipulation will signal as far
as Roland could wind his famous horn. It is worn slung over the shoulder
and under the opposite arm, the handle in front linking by a loop with
the lash; and it fitly completes a highly picturesque costume. We
bargain for the whip on the spot, a five-franc piece changes hands, and
Caillou Martin graciously writes his honored autograph on the handle.



Some of us have planned a return to Eaux Chaudes for the day. One of its
characteristic excursions we have not yet taken; the strange village of
Goust is unvisited. This hamlet, situated on a mountain-side near Eaux
Chaudes, is described by M. Moreau as "a species of principality, tiny
but self-governing, similar to certain duchies of the confederation
without their budget and civil list," a box within a box, it would
appear,--a spot independent of its Valley of Ossau, as Ossau was of
Béarn, and Béarn of France. It has lived always in the most utter
aloofness from the world's affairs; it still so lives to-day. It is
noteworthy too for its old people; Henry IV granted to one of them, born
in 1442, a life pension which, it is credibly recorded, was not
extinguished until 1605.

We have a strong curiosity to visit this unique settlement, solitary,
indifferent to time and its new ways, Nature's "children lost in the
clouds." So I gladden one of the anxious liverymen with an order, and
soon a comfortable carriage is taking us back down the hills toward
Laruns. We can dwell this morning on the view of that village and its
green basin, as we glide down along the side of the valley with the
distant specks of houses always in front. We dwell too with more
comprehension on the heights and depths of the Eaux Chaudes ravine, as
we turn the foot of the V and pull steadily upward and inward again.
There is Madame Baudot at the doorway, hearing the distant wheels, ready
to welcome us with all her heart; there appear her daughter, Madame
Julie, and the rubicund serving-woman; and even the square, white cap of
the chef bobs up and down behind them, within the hall.

The carriage is moored, the horses are unshipped, wraps and overcoats
speedily unladen and left in bond. The good women promise us the best of
lunches on our return, and we are fairly afoot down the road toward the
Bridge of Hell,--hearts and highway equally paved with good intentions.
The sun is full but not oppressive, a breeze is stirring, and there is a
flood of vitality, a buoyancy and light-heartedness, about these bright
mountain mornings, as one strides on, "breathing the free air of
unpunctuality," which animates to high deeds and heroic resolve.

       *       *       *       *       *

The deed now in prospect is high, but not superlatively heroic. The
hamlet we seek is stowed away upon the mountain-side across the ravine
from Eaux Chaudes, 3000 feet above the sea, and will require a climb of
perhaps three-quarters of an hour. We cross the diabolic
Bridge,--_"facilis_ ascensus,"

  "The gates of Hell are open night and day,
  Smooth the _ascent_ and easy is the way,"--

and shortly strike off from the road and up among the bushes. There is a
well-worn pathway, and it toils easily skyward, doubling back on itself
to rest and unrolling wider and wider vistas of the valley. The Gourzy
across the chasm enlarges its proportions as we rise. Here comes a
peasant or two posting valley-ward, going to his world-centre, the
metropolis of Eaux Chaudes, or perchance even on to the
universe-hub,--Laruns. Birches and beeches mingle everywhere with the
darker, green of the fir-trees; alders and oaks and hazels are abundant;
among all run the heavy growths of box. Tree life is profuse and rich on
these warm lower flanks of the range, while wild flowers and butterflies
tempt one to constant digressions. The path grows steeper. After all,

      "to ascend, to view the cheerful skies
  In this the task and mighty labor lies."

Virgil must have had this very occasion prophetically in mind:

  "To few great Jupiter imparts this grace,--And
   those of shining worth and heavenly race!
   Betwixt those regions and our upper light,
   Deep forests and impenetrable night
   Possess the middle space; the infernal bounds
   Cocytus with his sable waves surrounds,"--

Cocytus being an evident euphemism for the Gave.

We meet another peasant, this time a woman, who stares and replies that
Goust is very near. Another incline is mounted, we come out upon an
uneven break of pasture-land, and our destination is at hand.

We are not positive as to this at first. Eight hoary, grey-stone hovels
are before us, a few rods away, and the path passing along the side of a
high stone wall goes on to their doors. We follow it, finding the way
grown muddy and stony, and finally stop inquiringly before the
cellar-like opening of the most prominent "hutch." So this is the
principality of Goust! A woman has been peering at us from over the wall
we have passed by, and now our arrival brings other women to their
respective doors, to stare in the unison of uncertainty. Approaching, I
doff my hat, and politely explain that we are visitors, that we have
come from America to see this settlement, and that any courtesies they
may extend will be considered as official by the nation we represent.
The dumb neutrality of the beldames, at this, is soon dispelled by our
friendly interest, and they gradually come out and group around us in
the mud of the path, with interest no less friendly and even greater.
Their faces are intelligent and shrewd and practical; there is abundance
of wise if narrow lore lined out in those strong, crude features. Their
frames are brawny; they are used to work. They are those who fill, and
fill faithfully, their single niches, living moveless, as the trees;
change, new surroundings, the world, they have not known. Their life has
cut its one deep dent and there it is hidden,--as boulders sink their
way into the glacier-fields.

But evidently it is we who are the chief curiosity,--not they. The
dresses of the ladies are unobstrusively but openly admired,--gloves and
hat-pins discussed in detail, in an unintelligible patois. I inquire how
many people there are in the village; what they find to do; whether they
are not lonely, so far from the world. They answer my queries in
unconfused French, speaking both this and their patois, and even ask
respectful questions in turn. There are about seventy people who live
here, they say, but most of them are away in the fields during the day;
the women at home weave silk, to be taken to the valley for sale. They
are nearly all related by marriage (alliés) or by blood to each other;
they are governed by a little council of old men; there is no chief, nor
anyone superior to the authority of the council; it regulates the duties
of each. They know of no taxes of any kind to pay; they always marry
within the village, except where the patriarchs may grant a dispensation
with an outsider; yes, they have many old people here, one or two very
old indeed, though none so old as a hundred and sixty-three,--the age of
King Henry's ancient pensioner.

But the other questions we put are too large or too novel to grasp. They
do not apparently know what I mean by being lonely. The conception has
never occurred to them. Nor do they think they are far from the world.
They go down to the valley beneath, at times, they tell us; and on
feast-days and for the rustic August dances they have even been to
Laruns; the men cross the Gourzy to Eaux Bonnes, and they have all often
heard long descriptions of Cauterets and Pan.

The interest of our hostesses in their unwonted visitors is manifestly
as great as ours in them, and there is a curious zest in gratifying it.
Yes, we are traveling in France; we have come from America to travel; we
have been to Pau and Eaux Bonnes, and are going on to Cauterets and
through other parts of the Pyrenees,--it was a bold undertaking! They do
not find a reason for it at all. One of them is familiar with America,
she says, for she once knew of some one who went there--to Buenos Ayres.
They are well-intentioned and free and happy, and never think of envy as
they query these cometary strangers.

The camera focuses their wonder. We show them the reflections on the
ground-glass,--the houses, the waving leaves, each other's faces. It is
incredible! We open the box and explain the structure of the monster.
Finally we boldly ask for a sitting, and after some urging and bashful
demurring, these belles and dames of Goust coyly group themselves by a
felicitous doorway, and--veritable "flies in amber"--are perpetuated for

"Will messieurs and mesdames come within?" A matron speaks. It is what
we have been hoping, and we follow eagerly, escorted by the troupe.
Inside the door it is blackness. We tread an earth-floor, and by sounds
and scents infer that this is the stable. We pass up some dark,
uncertain stairs, and stand in the living-room of the family. It is
long, dark and low-ceiled. The rafters are discolored with smoke, the
board-floor with wear, the walls with strings and festoons of onions and
native herbs. Ears of maize and great sides of beef and pork hang drying
from above. In the dim rear are two pine bed-frames, with spreads of
sackcloth and plaid canopies; nearer are sets of shelves lined with
trenchers and earthen crockery in formal array, while a wood-fire
smoulders on the wide hearth in front between the window-openings,
fortified with a primitive crane and kettle of strange designs and
unrecorded antiquity, and with various pots and pans. Everything seems
clean. Our hostess, pleased at entertaining distinguished and
appreciative visitors, draws out a wooden bench for us, and attempts to
rouse the sleepy flames.

It is a significant, a typical scene. These peasants of France, with
their honest, unspiritualized faces, are showing their life,--frugal and
voiceless; bounded, but rarely pinched; in dusk, but seldom in dark; and
with all, contentful, industrious, religious, and wishing no ill to any
of mankind. This hamlet and home is an over-accented instance; the
lowland French peasants have more interchange, wider thoughts and
interests, and many of them more prosperous abodes. Yet the scene before
us stands for thousands of meek cabins in solitary places scattered
through France. This exile-life of Goust tells its patient lesson,
touching, and at the same time reassuring; and I am very certain that in
all its limitations it is higher, as it is happier, than that of a
poverty-soured mécontent of the Quartier Belleville in Paris.


A younger woman of the family is now commissioned to produce their
treasured adornments for inspection. From an obscure adjoining room a
small chest is brought out and placed upon the floor before us, and the
eager girl, kneeling by it, proceeds to display the contents. Carefully
she takes out and unfolds a headdress of bright striped silk, to be
passed admiringly around; and two or three other head-dresses follow,
also of silk or of sharp-colored wools. We ask when these are worn, and
learn that they are chiefly hoarded for gala-days and saints'-days. The
large scarlet capulet comes next, and one of the women dons it to show
the effect. Then appear a scarf and two light shoulder-mufflers, made of
the true Barèges wool, a specialty of the Pyrenees, soft and
fascinatingly downy. These are followed by a few neatly-rolled ribbons,
brought over at different times from Spain, which are duly unstreamed;
some silver pins and a chain, and a rosary; worsted mittens, and a pair
of men's white knee-stockings, similar to Caillou's. But the gem of the
collection, reserved for the climax, is a brocaded silk shawl, a really
handsome article and handled with great reverence. The proud owner
assures us that it is valued at seventy francs and has been handed down
in the household for many years; and her listening neighbors, standing
respectfully behind us, murmur their assent and admiration.

We not only show but feel a warm interest in every detail, and praise
each article as it is produced. Our new friends are clearly as much
pleased as we; they seldom see strangers, and more seldom any who
sympathize thus with their privations and prides, and this will be a
long-remembered event in their small community. Our hostess is much
gratified when we give her little boy a silver piece,--we can see that
she had no thought of favors; and before we take leave we present her
with a crimson handkerchief of India silk, owned by one of the party,
at which she is fairly overjoyed. That, we tell her, is to go into the
treasure-chest, as a little reminder of her foreign visitors. They press
on us offers of milk and other refreshment, but we are mindful of the
lunch preparing for us in the valley, and inform them why we must
decline. We promise to send our hostess a print of the photograph, and
bid a cordial adieu; and as we descend the stairs and move off down the
path, we are given a half-wistful and most earnest farewell from them

       *       *       *       *       *

Madame Baudot is true to her word. On her table is the most appetizing
of tiffins; and after it we have another talk through the office window.
As she knits, she asks us about our plans, makes suggestions for the
coming ride over the great Route Thermale, and wishes us not only a
prosperous journey but a return in later years to Eaux Chaudes and the
Pic du Midi. For herself and her household, they are here the winter
through, as there may be always a few comers; but it is dull and
bitterly cold; they are often shut away for days from the lower valley,
and she is glad with the coming of summer.

And so we drive away again from genial Eaux Chaudes, waving, as we turn
the corner, to the warm faces at the doorway, the bouquets they have
given us at parting.


We find Eaux Bonnes at its best as we return. The early afternoon siesta
is over, and every one is out of doors. The sunshine pours over the
little park, filled with fashionable loungers. Uniforms and afternoon
toilettes add their tart hues to the sombrer garb of the male civilian.
The little donkey-carriages or vinaigrettes are in great demand, and one
by one are coming or going with their single occupants, the attendant
Amazon, if desired, running by the side. Saddle-horses are also in
requisition; the sidewalks have an animated air; booths and
gaming-stalls are in-good swing; the springs are being dutifully
patronized; motion, Heraclitus' flux and flow, is the mark of the hour.
The transition seems even greater than yesterday's, from Eaux Chaudes;
and, glad in the charms of the latter, we are glad too to return again
to the world and its harmless vanities.

After the evening dinner, we explore the street on the other side of the
triangle. We find a narrow cut in the rocks behind the houses, and,
passing through, a few steps bring us out upon the view of the main
ravine, from which this narrow curtain of rock shuts off the town. The
contrast is instantaneous. From the hemmed-in nest of streets we have
suddenly emerged upon the long sweep of the valley below us, finely
commanded by the ledge where we stand. The level plunges off abruptly
down to the Gave, which speeds toward Laruns, "leaping through a wild
vegetation and 'shepherding her bright fountains' down a hundred falls."
A few houses cluster on the hill as it goes down and at its base, but
the torrent is again banked in by the mountain opposite, which climbs
high above our own level. There is a long view up and down the valley,
still and quiet in the gloaming. The night falls almost while we linger,
and at length we turn back through the cut and saunter again across the

Passing the line of booths, we keep on toward the Casino, which is
elevated some feet above the street in front. Its windows are lighted
up; people are entering the building; a concert is about to commence.
Before following them we pause for a while upon the terrace to turn and
face the Pic de Ger. Erect and regal, its height throws it, alone among
the surrounding mountains, into the full evening after-light; its
precipices and white summit are all aflame still with the red sun,
already lost to the valley. The great peak glows like the sacred pillar
of fire by night, and we cannot but gaze at it long and reverently.


Sunday is more quietly kept by Eaux Bonnes than might be expected. The
little French chapel has its service, and there is a certain staidness
about the morning which is unlooked-for and refreshing. The shops,
however, are open as always; the vinaigrette-dragowomen as energetic as
commonly; and in the afternoon the band plays in the kiosque as it does
on week-days. In fact, except for this certain staider air, the place
like other Continental resorts does on Sunday very much the things which
it does on other days of the week.

The springs of course are as regularly sought. Their routine cannot
yield to religious institutes. These waters are chiefly useful in throat
and lung diseases, though the baths are healing for abrasions and
wounds. Both hot and cold waters are here; at one spot, oddly enough,
the two temperatures well up close together. The springs have long been
known, and anciently, as now, they were more popular than those of the
sister valley. One of the kings of Navarre sent hither disabled soldiers
from his wars in Italy; many had been wounded by the arquebus, then a
new weapon, and from the cures effected, the waters were called after
its name. They are seven in number, ardently sulphureous and officiously
odorous. They are not to be dealt with in the spirit of levity of Eaux
Chaudes' "sober young German": fifty glasses are not lightly to be
tossed off. "Caution is necessary," warns Murray, "in using these
waters; bad consequences have arisen from a stranger taking even a
glassful to taste. It is usual to begin with a table-spoonful and a

Habit, however, makes even the lion-tamer fearless: these invalids buy
their course tickets, entitling to cure, concert and écarté; and they
bathe and gamble and engulf their deadly draughts with the immunity of
long familiarity.

A distinctive attraction of Eaux Bonnes is its abundance of promenades.
There are walks of all grades of difficulty. One can mount to a
summer-house or to the summit of the Pic de Ger. If he does not want to
mount at all, he can walk for half a league along a perfect level,--the
Promenade Horizontale. This walk is unique among walks. It was
artificially laid out for precisely such people,--those who do not want
to ascend and descend. It runs back around the bend of the Gourzy
overlooking the Laruns hollow, the carriage-road grooving its way down
far below it. In this region of angles and slants, this marvelous path
moves leisurely forward, plane as a spirit-level, broad and well kept,
shaded with trees, relieved with benches, and affording inspiring views
throughout. Each of the promenades has its view and its cascade and
almost its hour. With so many idlers, it is easily believed that each is
duly popular. And when one tires of promenades or of liveliness or even
of fine weather,--can he not easily drive to Gabas?

"We are all kept in good order here," observes Blackburn, in his
account of the Pyrenees resorts; "everything is _en règle_ and _au
règle,_ and if we stay a whole season we need not be at a loss how to
get through the days. It is all arranged for us; there is the particular
promenade for the early morning, facing the east; the exact spot to
which you are to walk (and no farther) between the time of taking each
glass of water; the after-breakfast cascade, the noon siesta, the ride
at three, another cascade and more water or a bath at four, promenade at
five, dinner at six, Promenade Horizontale until eight, then the Casino,
balls, 'société,' écarté, or more moonlight walks,--and then decidedly
early to bed."

Caillou and the liverymen predict a fine to-morrow for the long
carriage-journey we have planned. The breeze is resolutely east, they
say. This fact seems anything but convincing to us, accustomed to the
weather signs of the west Atlantic seaboard. But here, as is quickly
explained, the reversed signs prevail, and it is the _west_ wind that
dampens feathers and the spirits of rheumatics.

The band on Sunday plays at night as well as in the afternoon, and as
the music, though secular, cannot be excluded, we throw open the windows
and frankly welcome it as we sit in our balconies overlooking the
lighted park in the mild evening air. The band plays well, and people
throng the paths and listen appreciatively. Two overtures, a waltz
movement, the _Melody in F_, a march, and a cornet obligate which is
vigorously applauded, may serve as index of the unpartisan scope of
selection. Music is enjoyed to the full in Europe; many a well-to-do
city fosters its orchestra and has its public music-stand in the square
or in the Volksgarten. In Bordeaux, workmen and mechanics, small
urchins and sailors from the quays, fringed the more aristocratic circle
of chairs, and listened as intently and as seriously as a Thomas
audience at home. It cannot but have a humanizing effect. These
listeners below us,--and so with the rough populace of Bordeaux,--have
become tranquilized, soothed, softened; the buzz of harsh or random talk
dies down; all faces are turned for the time to the common centre, all
thoughts mingle in a common stillness of enjoyment.



          "Like a silver zone,
  Flung about carelessly, it shines afar;

         *       *       *       *       *

  "Yet through its fairy course, go where it will,
  The torrent stops it not, the rugged rock
  Opens and lets it in; and on it runs,
  Winning its easy way from clime to clime."

  --ROGERS' _Italy_.

It is Monday morning at Eaux Bonnes. The dome of the sky is of unspecked
blue. The departing diligence for Laruns has just rolled away down the
road, and now a landau with four horses, and a victoria with two, stand
before the Hotel des Princes. A formal contract, wisely yet ludicrously
minute in detail, bristling with discomforting provisos for
contingencies, and copied out in the usual painstaking French
handwriting, has been discussed and gravely signed. We are to be
conveyed to Cauterets as the first day's stage, and thereafter to have
the carriages at command, for an agreed price per day, if we wish to
retain them. Thus we can journey on to Luz, Gavarnie, Barèges, Bigorre
and even Luchon. The memorandum is handed us; it provides for delays and
breakdowns, disputes, damages, sickness; it stipulates for return prices
from the place of dismissal. The average price for two such conveyances
in this region, "keep" included but not _pourboire_, will be found to
hold within from seventy-five to ninety francs a day,--thirty-five to
forty-five francs for each carriage; I record it as matter of
information for possible comers. The carriages, the horses and the
drivers are all strong and all well-cushioned, and the drivers are
resplendently tinseled besides.

We are now to enter oft the _Route Thermale_. This carriage-road is one
of the marvels of modern engineering. The chief resorts in the French
Pyrenees are imbedded each at the head of a north-and-south valley
running up from the plain against the crest of the range. Between them,
the huge mountain ridges, like ribs from a Typhon's spine, stretch down
in irregular parallels from the backbone of the chain. Before this road
was built, these resorts could only be visited successively by a tedious
double journey in and out of each separate valley, or by high foot-paths
over the ridges between. Thus the traveling from one to another had its
serious drawbacks. The railroad came, skirting the plain, though not yet
provided with the offshoots which now run partway up into the valleys;
but even by rail the détours needed would be circuitous and wasting, and
they missed utterly the out-of-door fascinations of true mountain
travel. Something yet was called for.

The Route Thermale was the result; it is another of the wonders of Louis
Napoleon's régime. It has revolutionized the comforts of Pyrenean summer
travel; the ridges need no longer be skirted, for they can be
luxuriously crossed,--and by one of the best carriage-roads in Europe.
Beginning at Eaux Bonnes, and running in the main parallel with the
central crest, it rears itself serpent-like over four of these great
intervening barriers, attaining and crossing in turn the broad valleys
between them, connecting northward with the stations, southward with
the springs. This immense band, sinuous and unbroken, uplifting itself
to the snow, plunging again from snow to the maize-fields, stretches
along the central Pyrenees a full hundred miles. Four days' journey away
lies its distant end at Luchon. The hostile mountains shower it with
earth and stones. Winter buries it in ice, spring assaults it with
freshets; it is rarely passable before June, and mountain storms even in
summer measure their strength against it. But Napoleon III inspired this
road, and it emerges, quickly rejuvenated, from tempest and torrent, to
laugh unconquered. Of the undertakings of the Bonaparte family, only two
were ever baffled by opposing forces.

Such an enterprise as this gives a new light, for the stranger, upon the
popularity of the Pyrenees. This costly road-building could only have
arisen from a demand great enough to require and sustain it,--from an
amount of summer traffic, a multitude of summer visitors, commensurate
in part at least with the outlay. Evidently, figments of lonely
settlements and dark paths belong in limbo with those of dismal inns.

The next great synclinal, adjoining the Valley of Ossau, is the Valley
of Lavedan, and at its head in the mountains lies Cauterets, our next
point of attack. The notch of the road in each intervening ridge is
called a _col_, that which is in the ridge that now bars us from
Cauterets being the Col d'Aubisque. Over the Col d'Aubisque,
accordingly, opposite the Pic de Ger, our way to-day lies.


We abandon Eaux Bonnes, almost reluctantly, to its summer's festivities,
and drive down the broad street and around the end of the park and so
out through the curtain of rock into the road of the main valley. The
slow ascent begins almost at once. We rise gradually along a wooded
hill, stopping once to enjoy a cataract which, like a happy child, is
noisy for its size and entirely lovable nevertheless. A long reach of
valley is then entered, bottomed by the Gave, the road well up on the
side. In an hour or more, we finally turn to cross the valley, and
commence the serious ascent of the opposite side. Facing us now from the
side we have left is the mass of the Ger, very near, very high, and
uncompromisingly precipitous. All the morning this Pic looms stonily
above us; the sunshine brightens its snows but cannot soften the stern
rock-features. Steadily, though with frequent rests, the horses toil
higher, and the Pic seems to rise as we ascend. Often we are walking, by
the side of the carriages. Other peaks are now coming up into view; the
road mounts in long zigzags, shaded plentifully at times and always
astir with a trace of breeze. Our admiration at its skillful
construction increases hourly. Patiently surmounting all obstacles, it
moves surely upward, unvexed by resistance, broad and smooth and firm,
and protected by parapets wherever the paternal solicitude of the
Department could possibly conjecture a need for them. The trees become
scanter as we near the top. Road-makers are at work cutting stones or
repairing here and there; they doff their faded berrets in greeting.
They have frank, hardy faces, marked with belief that life is worth

  "_Les tailleurs de pierre
    Sont de bons enfants;
  Ils ne mangent guère
    Mais ils solvent longtemps_!"


By eleven o'clock the top is gained. We are on the Col d'Aubisque, 5600
feet above tide-water. The horses pause for a well merited
breathing-spell, and we step to the ground for a survey. Across the
valley towers the Ger, still apparently as high above us as at the
start. Farther to the right, the Gourzy, though still in the near
distance, has dwindled to a moderate hill, and Eaux Bonnes has
throughout been niched from the field of view. To the left, other peaks,
several heretofore unseen, stand silently out; their rocks and snow "of
Arctic and African desolation," as Count Russell has observed of another
scene, "since they are both burnt and frozen." The Pic du Midi d'Ossau,
which should lie to the southwest, is not in sight, being hidden by
intervening heights.

We turn for a view to the east. Here barren pastures sprawl over the
hills, dotted in places with herds of cattle or flocks of mountain
sheep. But the Valley of Lavedan, which we expected now to overlook, is
not yet in sight. After a long descent before us, there is another
though lower col to surmount before we can point out the villages of the
new valley.

We seat ourselves by a snowbank, and enjoy the pleasures of rest for a
season. Enter to us, a peasant upon the scene,--a woman, crossing the
col from the Lavedan side. The large bundle magically balanced upon her
head-cloth wavers never a trace as she steps lithely up the last
acclivities and comes upon us. From a stick held over her shoulder
depends another bundle, and over all she is carrying a war-worn and
ludicrous umbrella. The interest is mutual. Promptly I spring up and
pull off my cap in introduction. Her round face, simple and
good-tempered, a comely type of her neighborhood, opens gradually from a
stare into a smile, as the ladies add their greetings. She seems rather
glad of the excuse to rest and lay aside her bundles, and in a few
moments has grown quite communicative. She has come, this morning, she
tells us, from Arrens, a small village on the way down toward the
Lavedan valley and to be our destined halting-place, we recollect, for
luncheon. She is taking to Eaux Bonnes a few woolen goods, stockings and
hoods and shawls, knit by herself and her old mother during the long
winter. They are not for fine people; oh, no, but the guides and the
hotel maids like them.

"And your husband," we ask,--"what is he?" "A charcoal-burner, monsieur;
he has his pits in the forests of the Balaïtous; it is a hard life."

"It is hardest in winter, is it not?"

"It is hard always, monsieur,"--this very simply; "but we have enough,
though not more.--On the left of the road, madame,--our home,--as you
walk out from the inn at Arrens toward the monastery."

Again the conception of discontent is a stranger; the idea puzzles her;
her life has always been thus; she did not expect anything otherwise. It
is a genuine forest-nature, mute yet never inglorious, reciting
uncomplainingly its lesson of passiveness and endurance.

Her dress, coarse in texture, well worn but well cared for, appears to
differ little in detail from the costume of the Ossau valley we have now
quitted, but is more strictly, so she tells us, that of the peasantry of
the Lavedan district next to be met with. The pleasant face is framed
in by the ever-favorite hood or head-mantle. This is sometimes, as here,
a kerchief, of conspicuous colors, peculiarly coifed,--the precise twist
varying according to the mode of each locality. Often, as with the women
of Goust, the kerchief is of plain white, tied below the chin, and set
off with a short outside cape, black or colored, over the crown. At
times the cape alone is worn without the kerchief, and on occasion the
larger capulet of red supersedes them both.

Artfully we lead the conversation into a philosophical discussion, while
the camera is secretly made ready,--when, from the side we have come,
enter also another peasant, an old man this time, quite as good-humored
and quite as characteristic as the first comer. He has dispensed with
jacket or blouse, and displays the loose, baggy-sleeved cotton shirt
often worn in substitution, an outlawed pair of _ouvrier's_ trousers,
and the local berret and _spadrilles._ His features have the true Gascon
cast of shrewdness and tolerance. We formally introduce the two to each
other, and the camera is trained upon the pair. But now the woman,
discovering the plot, evinces that bashful disinclination, common among
women the world over, to pose for immortality when without her best
finery; though the old man, I am pleased to record, does not appear in
the least sensitive about his. Silver, however, is a great persuader;
now it proves a worthy adjutant of its nitrate; the drivers, who are
greatly absorbed in the situation, add their encouragements to the
reluctant one, and finally agreeing and ably supported by her new
acquaintance as leading man, accoutred as she is, she plunges in;
conscious attitudes are unconsciously taken,--as taken they always
are for photography, be it in Paris or the Pyrenees, by all humankind;
and the two wights, humbly and happily serving their separate lives,
valued items in Nature's wide summation, stand forth together in the
dignity of humanity to mark this trifling meeting in permanent


There they talk together on the road, as we finally drive down the hill,
their figures silhouetted against the sky. They have been on the whole
pleased and awakened by their adventure; they will discuss and compare
their emotions, finger their silver, wonder and speculate, and go their
separate ways, convinced anew that the ways of the world and its
worldlings are verily strange and inscrutable.


The noonday heat has now become noticeable, and seems greater on this
easterly shoulder of the ridge. We are grateful for the rapid downhill
trot, which makes two breezes blow where one breeze blew before. Even
that one is less marked on this side of the col, and as we descend, turn
by turn, beyond the limits of snow patches and into the zone of
undergrowth and then of greener vegetation, the air grows perceptibly
oppressive. The view has wholly changed since leaving the crest. The Ger
and its associates have fallen from sight; their valley is gone, and we
face a scene entirely new. We climb again, to surmount the secondary
col; and then commence the final descent.

It is now that the Route Thermale shows its mettle. This section of the
road was among the most difficult portions encountered by the engineers.
Nature stood off and refused all aid. "Beyond is the valley," she
curtly told them; "between are the ravines; make what you can of them!"

A hopeless task it seemed. But Nature reckoned without Louis Napoleon.
The road is here, serene and self-sufficient. It literally carved its
way down to the valley. Slopes often greater than forty-five degrees
have been cut into intrepidly; arches and viaducts thrown over gaping
clefts, bridges over unbridgeable chasms. The road turns on itself; it
doubles and twists and dodges; it crawls midway along the ledges, gouges
a path into the hill around a landslide's groove, looks over
uncomfortable brinks with easy unconcern, and in short outplays Nature
at every point. And all the while it continues wide and firm, and we
trot ceaselessly downward with not one pause. The parapets are less
frequent than nearer Eaux Bonnes; often there is but a low line of
heaped-up earth between us and the verge, and sometimes even this is
wanting; but nowhere is the way too narrow for teams to pass, nowhere is
there danger, save from a drunken driver or a thunderbolt.

We look back from the moving carriages, and the camera is pointed toward
the ledge of road we have just traversed. The picture proves an eloquent
witness to all that can be said of the Route Thermale.[19]

[19] See Frontispiece.

Far below and in front, a patch of grey and brown has come into view;
the drivers point out its clustering houses: it is Arrens. Many
kilometres are traversed before that patch grows larger,--more still,
before we have curved and dropped at last down to its level and are
speeding along on a straight line toward the village. We find a ragged
little street, and attract the usual waiting audience of Arcadians, and
drawing up before the door of the inn are glad to escape for a time
from the outside heat and glare.


The shady patch of garden at the side of the inn is an unqualified
blessing. Roses overhang the paths, and green branches bend over its
plot of grass. We have found the little dining-room dark and rather
stuffy, have thrown open the windows and shutters, have confidently
spoken for an artistic meal, and can now ruminate approvingly upon rest
and refreshment, the sweet restorers of life. How should one tolerate
its zigzaggings without the gentle recurrence of these its aids?

The kitchen opens invitingly from the hallway, and presently some of us
drift indoors and group around its entrance. There is a hospitable stir
of preparation within; a blazing and clattering that charm both eye and
ear. The landlady and her daughter are busy with a fiery fury. We grow
bolder. We crave permission to enter and watch operations. The old woman
pauses and looks up as she cracks an egg on the edge of a plate, and
then assents, willingly enough, but with unmistakable astonishment. She
is used to predatory raids of visitors but evidently not to this
inquiring spirit. Yet purposeful travel, we might tell her, is
hundred-eyed and has glances for just such matters as this. It seeks out
cities and scenery and history; but it seeks out life no less. We are
gaining impressions which cannot be drawn from books, as we come close
to these homely ways and habits, questioning, appreciating the people we
meet, understanding their capacities and objects and limitations. One
sees the breaking of an egg; he can see, besides, a thousand
accompaniments to the event,--a biography summed up in an act.

At present, we note the breaking with rather more concern than the
biography. Egg after egg is being deftly chipped, and its lucent content
dropped first upon a plate,--a thrifty half-way station for possible
unsoundness,--and then slid off into a clean-looking oval saucepan. The
pan is then hung from an unfamiliar variety of crane close over the
fire, and the contents wheedled and teased by a skillful spoon and
bribed with salt and butter and a sprinkle of parsley. And even as we
watch, the golden mass melts together; sighs and quivers, and thickens
into wrinkles; bodies itself slowly into form and shape, under crafty
oscillation; and is at last dexterously rolled out, a burnished ingot,
upon the long platter, with a flourish that bespeaks practice and
confidence. The stiff face of the old woman involuntarily relaxes with
honest pride; she looks up half unconsciously for approval, and we all
applaud galore.

Manifestly, externals vary, fundamentals persist. Barring details of
place and process, the culinary art follows much the same laws and works
out much the same results in this remote Department of the French
Republic as in the Middle States of the American.

The kitchen itself is roomy and neat; the floor is of large, flat
stones, the square embrasures of the windows are relieved with earthen
pots of flowers. Full panoply of tins and trenchers and other implements
of cheer hang in order against the walls or line the worn wooden
shelves,--many of them strange in shape and of unconjectured use. Over
all, there is that deft, subtle knowledge of place displayed by its busy
inmate, a lifelong wontedness to surroundings, indefinable and
unconscious, which fascinates us, and which reminds us that the same
scene may be to one habituated to it the most iterated of commonplace
and to new-comers often alive with novelty and interest.

At the window, meanwhile, other tragedies are enacted. The daughter is
not idle. Here is a low, tiled shelf, with three square, sunken hollows,
each lined with tiling and bottomed by an iron grating. Into these have
been thrown small embers from the fire; the draught fans them into a
flame, and above, three flat pans make their toothsome holdings to
sizzle and sputter with infinite zest. This arrangement serves to the
full every purpose of an oven, and does away with the range and all its
cumbrous accompaniments. One is impressed with its obvious but effective

In very brief time an appetizing déjeûner of seven courses is being
ceremoniously served in the now airy dining-room,--interrupted
throughout, to the good woman's unlessened wonder and our own enjoyment,
by the journeys of some of us across to the kitchen at the end of each
course to watch the preparation of the next.

The dame thaws out momently under our evident good-will, and as she
brings in the cherries and cakelets, she ventures in turn to stand near
the door, and is even pleased when we renew the conversation. Her
husband, we learn, used to have charge of a little customs-station near
the frontier; now they have this inn; it is pleasanter for him; one
offends so many in a customs-post. They put by something each year; it
is not much; many pause here during the summer, coming from Eaux Bonnes
or Cauterets. Some seasons there are diligences running, which is
better; for without them many go around by the railroad.

"But you, madame," I ask,--"you have traveled too by the railroad?"

"Yes, monsieur, a little; we have been several times to Pau; once we
were at Bayonne."

"And do you prefer the cities?"

"We like better the mountains, monsieur; one can breathe here, and is
not dependent."

The charge for the luncheon would be three francs each; she is glad that
her visitors have been pleased; and our extra gratuity is the more
appreciated because it seems wholly unexpected.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a monastery just out from the town. It is but a short walk, we
are told, so while the horses are brought around, two of us explore. We
follow a shaded avenue, triply garnished at the left with a brook, a
foot-path and a long-row of small cottages; and soon mount a short hill,
pass through an open gateway, and are before the churchly pile. Not a
soul is about the place, and we have to look into the building entirely
unciceroned. An apartment opening wide from the main hall is evidently
some priest's oratory. We venture to peer tentatively in through the
doorway. The room is plain, containing beside other furniture a small
crucifix, a shrine, and a praying-chair,--and nearer us a recent number
of _Figaro_ open on the table. Thus it goes: the secular blending
harmoniously with the spiritual.

The place is known as _Poey le Houn_ or Hill of the Fountain; its site
commands an extensive view, but otherwise there appears little about it
that is distinctively interesting,--save as it is one of the fortunate
Catholic institutions of the Lavedan spared from Montgomery's Huguenot
raids. The chapel, entered from without by another portal, is sombre
and rather large. We feel lonesome and intrusive without some guide, and
do not examine it very carefully. A few towels are bleaching in the sun,
on the paved court before the chapel,--the only sign of recent human
presence. It is the home of brotherly deeds, and we piously turn the
towels to bleach on the other side.


We start again on the afternoon's drive with renewed zest. The hostess
allows herself the luxury of several friendly smiles as the carriages
move, and we give her farewell and good wishes in return. Umbrellas and
parasols quickly go up to screen from the sun, and we lean restfully
back, in contented anticipation of the remaining half of the day's ride.

At our right, for a while, at the far end of a valley, we have a
mountain in view, whiter than common with excess of snow. This is the
_Balaïtous_, craggy, irregular and weird, too far off to be imposing,
yet one of the highest of the range. It is not an easily accessible
mountain, nor is it often climbed. There is deemed to be something
uncanny about it. Its ascent is very dangerous, they say. Accidents have
occurred there; a strange ill omen, it is believed, invests those
ghostly snows; the death-clutch of the Balaïtous holds many a brave
mountaineer. As seen from here, it has an indefinably spectral,
repellent look; there seems something almost hideous in its white and
wrinkled cerements.

The road has now an easy course before it. We are but eight miles from
the town of Argelès, where we shall be on the floor of the Lavedan
valley; and the downward slant is slight. From Argelès, it will be but
ten miles more to Cauterets. The scenery has softened greatly; cliffs
and peaks are out of view, and we have rounded hills and easy, green,
swelling curves and here and there a basking village.

Argelès is reached sooner than we expected. There is nothing to detain
us here; it is a bright town, tidy and rather attractive, and we see it
and all its inhabitants as we drive through. Here the journey from Eaux
Bonnes to Cauterets over the road we have come, twenty-seven miles in
all, is often broken for the night; many travelers and all the drivers
advise a day and a half for the transit. We had seen that it could be as
readily made within the day, the additional ten miles counting but
little in mid-afternoon; and the horses after their long rest at Arrens
now trot on, fresh and willing as in the morning.

At Argelès we meet the railroad once more. It is the Lavedan branch; it
has left the main line at Lourdes, and runs southward up the valley,
passing through Argelès and penetrating as far on the road to Cauterets
as the town of Pierrefitte. The arrangement is a counterpart of the
branch from Pau to Laruns. Our road now turns south also, going likewise
to Pierrefitte, and running mainly parallel with the tracks though at
some distance away. One could take the train from Argelès to
Pierrefitte, and there connect with the diligence; but very little would
of course be gained.


We are now out of Béarn, and have entered the ancient province of
Bigorre. In modern terms, we have passed from the Department of the Low
Pyrenees to that of the High Pyrenees. One watering-place in this
Department,--Bagnères de Bigorre,--which we shall visit in its turn,
still preserves the old name of the province.

This county was not a principality like Béarn; though it had its own
governors and government, it belonged to France and was held from the
king. Béarn would not have tolerated a like state of dependence. When
our old friend Gaston, Count of Foix, was living, the French king,
grateful to him for previous aid in arms, offered him the control of
Bigorre. The king "sent Sir Roger d'Espaign and a president of the
Parliament of Paris, with fair letters patent engrossed and sealed, of
the king's declaration that he gave him the county of Bigorre during his
life, but that it was necessary he should become liege man and hold it
of the crown of France." But the high-spirited Count of Foix declined.
He was "very thankful to the king for this mark of his affection, and
for the gift of Bigorre, which was unsolicited on his part; but for
anything Sir Roger d'Espaign could say or do, he would never accept it.
He only retained the castle of Mauvoisin [on its extreme confines]
because it was free land and the castle and its dependencies held of
none but God."

As France and Béarn seldom quarreled, Bigorre should have been a
peaceful neighbor. But its northerly portion was held for a long time by
an English garrison for the Black Prince, and this kept the county in
constant disturbance. The strong post of the English was the town of
Lourdes, (anciently Lourde,) eight miles north of us. "Garrisoned," says
one, "by soldiers of fortune in the English pay, part of whose duty and
all of whose inclination it was to harass the adjoining French
possessions, Lourdes became the wasps' nest of the Pyrenees; whose
fierce occupants were constantly buzzing about the rich hives of the
plains for thirty leagues around, and leaving ugly stings behind."

"These captains,"--hear Froissart, who traveled through Bigorre on his
way to Béarn,--"made many excursions into Bigorre, the Toulousain, the
Carcassonois and on the Albigeois; for the moment they left Lourde they
were on enemy's ground, which they overran to a great extent, sometimes
thirty leagues from their castle. In their march they touched nothing,
but on their return all things were seized, and sometimes they brought
with them so many prisoners and such quantities of cattle, they knew not
how to dispose of nor lodge them." Thus, "these companions in Lourde had
the satisfaction of overrunning the whole country wherever they pleased.
Tarbes, which is situated hard by, was kept in great fear and was
obliged to enter into a composition with them. On the other side of the
river Lisse is a goodly enclosed town called Bagnères,[20] the
inhabitants of which had a hard time of it. In short, they laid under
contribution the whole country,--except the territory of the Count de
Foix; but there they dared not take a fowl without paying for it, nor
hurt any man belonging to the count or even any who had his passport;
for it would have enraged him so much that they must have been ruined."

[20] Now the frequented watering-place, Bagnères de Bigorre.

The count showed less respect for Lourde than Lourde for him; and he
even aided the French on one occasion by a scheme to capture the place
and oust the intruders. This--it is a cruel story--was when he summoned
its governor, his own half-brother, Sir Pierre Arnaut, to Orthez, under
pretense of desiring a visit. Sir Pierre was holding Lourde stoutly in
fief for the English prince, and was in considerable doubt about going,
for he knew his man and had suspicions; however, "all thynges consydred,
he sayd he wolde go, bycause in no wyse he wolde displease the erle." He
left the castle with his brother Jean under strict injunctions, and
proceeded to Orthez, where he was handsomely received by the count, "who
with great ioye receyued hym, and made hym syt at his borde, and shewed
hym as great semblant of love as he coude."

For the sequel, let us go back for once to an earlier translation[21] of
the Chronicles than the one best known. The cruel story gains in effect
of cruelty from the quaint, childlike telling.

[21] The translation made in 1523 by John Bourchier, Lord Berners, at
the request of Henry VIII. The one I have elsewhere quoted from is that
of Thomas Johnes.

"The thirde daye after, the Erle (Count) of Foiz sayd aloude, yt euery
man might here hym:

"'Cosyn Pierre, I sende for you and ye be come; wherefore I comaunde
you, as ye wyll eschewe my displeasure, and by the faith and lignage
that ye owe to me, that ye yelde vp the garyson of Lourde into my

"Whan the knyght herde these wordes, he was sore abasshed, and studyed a
lytell, remembringe what aunswere he might make, for he sawe well the
erle spake in good faithe; howebeit, all thynges consydred, he sayd:

"'Sir, true it is, I owne to you faythe and homage, for I am a poore
knyght of your blode and of your countrey; but as for the castell of
Lourde, I wyll nat delyuer it to you; ye have sent for me to do with me
as ye lyst; I holde it of the Kyng of Englande; he sette me there; and
to none other lyueng wyll I delyuer it.'

"When the Erie of Foiz herde that answere, his blode chafed for yre,
and sayd, drawyng out his daggar:

"'A treator! sayest thou nay? By my heed, thou hast nat sayd that for
nought,'--and so therwith strake the knight that he wounded hym in fyue
(five) places, and there was no knyght nor barone yt durst steppe
bytwene them.

"Than the knyght sayd:

"'Ah, sir, ye do me no gentylnesse to sende for me and slee me!'

"And yet, for all the strokes that he had with the daggar, therle (the
earl) comauded to cast him in prison, downe into a depe dyke; and so he
was, and ther dyed, for his woundes were but yuell (ill) loked vnto."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a satisfaction to record that Gaston gained nothing by his
dastardly act. Pierre's brother, Sir Jean, stood to his post in Lourde
as stoutly as Pierre had done; and the count did not obtain the
fortress. In fact he does not seem even to have pursued his attempt upon
it farther. He doubtless thought he had done enough to clinch Lourde's
respect for his pugnacity.

It was in return for this well-meant assistance that the French king
offered Gaston the whole of Bigorre, Lourde and all, which he so
politely declined. He was shrewd as well as high-spirited; he was not
covetous for the garden if the wasps' nest remained undemolished. So Sir
Jean and his robber band buzzed merrily on in their castle.

Our chronicler naturally asks his informant:

"'Dyde this Jean neuer after go to se the Erie of Foiz?'

"He answered and sayd: 'Sithe the dethe of his brother, he neuer came
there; but other of his company hath been often with the erle,--as
Peter Danchyn, Ernalton of Restue, Ernalton of Saynt Colome, and other.'

"'Sir,' quod I, 'hath the Erie of Foiz made any amendes for the dethe of
that knight or sorie for his dethe?'

"'Yes, truely, sir,' quod he, 'he was right sorie for his dethe; but as
for amendes, I knowe of none, without it be by secrete penauce, masses
or prayers; he hathe with hym the same knighte's sonne, called Johan of
Byerne, a gracyous squyer, and the erle loueth hym right well.'"


Lourdes itself can be shortly reached by rail, here from Argelès, or
from Pau. It would undoubtedly deserve the visit. Besides its robber
reminiscences, it has developed another and contrasting specialty: it
has become one of the most famous places of religious pilgrimage in
Europe. Thirty years ago it was made the scene of a noted "miracle." At
a grotto near the town, the Virgin appeared several times in person to
an ardent peasant-girl; caused a healing spring to burst from the rock,
and stipulated for a church. The girl published the miracle; its repute
instantly spread far and wide, and the bishop of Tarbes, after
examination, publicly declared it authentic.[22] Since that time,
devotees throng the town annually; Murray states that one hundred and
fifty thousand persons visited the scene in the six months following the
apparition. The character of the place has been transformed; a tide of
enthusiastic pilgrimage has swept over it like a whirlwind; everything
in and about the city has taken the garb of this religious fervor. The
grotto is lined with crutches cast away by the cured; the church is
built, and is rich with votive offerings; every house lodges the
shifting comers, a thousand booths sell souvenirs of piety; and,--last
impressive mingling of mercantile and miraculous,--the waters are
regularly bottled and shipped for sale to all parts of the world!

[22] "_Nous jugeons que l'immaculée Marie, mère de Dieu, a réellement
apparu à Bernadette Soubirous, le 11 Février, 1838, et jours suivants,
au nombre de dix-huit fois, dans la grotte de Massabielle, près la ville
de Lourdes; que cette apparition revêt tous les caractères de la vérité
et que les fidèles sont fondés à la croire certaine_."

The castle still stands, on a pointed hill above the town. Its founding
goes back far beyond the days of its thieving English garrison; the
Saracens once swarmed into it long before, flying before Charles the
Hammer; and there is another story about it in this connection, as
related by Inglis, which ends more happily than that of its murdered
governor. Charlemagne, some years after the Saracens captured it, laid
siege to recover it; surrender grew inevitable; but its Moorish
commander, Mirat, though an infidel, was, for his nobility of character,
in special favor with the Virgin,--Notre Dame de Puy.[23] In this
extremity, she sent to him an eagle bearing in its beak a live fish; and
Mirat promptly sent it to Charlemagne, to show his heavenly succor. The
king, knowing that there was no possible fishing on the castle hill,
perceived that it was a miracle; and lessening his rigor in the face of
this sign, proposed less hard terms: the Moors were allowed to depart in
safety, Mirat on his part agreed to be converted and become a good
Catholic, and the castle was formally surrendered not to Charlemagne but
to Notre Dame de Puy.

[23] Puy--St. Pé--is a shrine near Lourdes.


But meanwhile we are moving toward Cauterets, not toward Lourdes. This
part of the Lavedan valley is known as the "Eden of Argelès." It expands
about us in long, delicious levels; occasional eminences wrinkle its
even lines; and the hills roll up from each side, rounded and gentle and
often cultivated to their tops. Squares of yellow maize-fields chequer
them, alternating with darker patches of pasture or orchard, while along
the wide centre run the rails and the high-road, and the new Gave, fresh
from Gavarnie and the Lac de Gaube,--new, yet an old friend, for it
flows forth by way of Lourdes on to the Château of Pau. Walnut, lime and
fig trees, twisted with vines, stand near its borders or about the
chalets and hamlets on the slopes. Women and men are at work over in the
fields, and often pause to look at our distant carriages and bow a
response to our wavings of greeting; while on the road itself, here much
traveled, we meet teams and ox-carts and a carriage or two with
travelers coming from Cauterets.

Up on a bluff at the right is an old building: it is the abbey of Saint
Savin, some of whose stones also could tell us of Charlemagne and
perhaps of young Crassus. Farther on, we see, on an opposite slope
across the valley, other ruins: a castle; an old tower; and higher still
an ancient chapel of the Virgin, cared for to this day, it is said, as
in the time of earlier travelers, by the trio of aged women voluntarily
pledged to its guardianship and to solitude. Their number remains always
the same; upon the death of one, the remaining two make choice of a
third to fill her place. It has been thus from unknown periods. Thither
repair the women of the valley, on days consecrated to the Virgin, to
pay their devotions at this lonely shrine.

Thus together, peace and war, holiness and crime, have dominated this
fair region; and with these shivered fortalices and ancient cloisters
actually before us, their past seems nearer to possibility. Their
relics, attesting the days of feudalism, seem to mourn its departure;
the old order has indeed changed and yielded place to new. "It was sweet
here to be a monk!" writes Taine, in his warm sympathy with the spirit
of this valley; "it is in such places that the _Imitation_ should be
read; in such places was it written. For a sensitive and noble nature, a
convent was then the sole refuge; all around wounded and repelled it.

"Around, what a horrible world! Brigand lords who plunder travelers and
butcher each other; artisans and soldiers who stuff themselves with meat
and yoke themselves together like brutes; peasants whose huts they
burn,... who out of despair and hunger slip away to tumult. No
remembrance of good, nor hope of better. How sweet it is to renounce
action, company, speech, to hide one's self, forget outside things, and
to listen in security and solitude to the divine voices that, like
collected springs, murmur peacefully in the depths of the heart!"

Farther on still, on another eyrie, is a ruined monastery, St. Orens.
This saint came to the Pyrenees from Spain at an early age, and founded
this retreat, loving solitude and meditation and austere living. His
piety made him widely revered. He long refused the offered archbishopric
of Auch; till, doubting his duty in this, he prayed to God for a sign.
He was directed to plant a sapling in the earth, and it instantly
bloomed into leaves and blossoms; whereupon the hermit wisely inferred
that life was designed to bear fruit, not to wither itself away.

Montgomery, Queen Jeanne's ruffian Protestant general, tore through this
Catholic valley in 1569, with his devastating mercenaries. It recovered
heart, flowered afresh, and was swept again by enemies from a
neighboring province. Often a winter storm will expose bedrock
throughout precious roods of sloping harvest-land, and the farmer must
carry up from the valley many painful baskets of soil to replace the
loss. So that, though it smiles so happily in this afternoon warmth,
there have been serpents in this Eden,--serpents of want and of
suffering; and judging by the faces of the people, all have not yet been

But we are at Pierrefitte. It is five o'clock in the afternoon, and the
innkeeper is rejoiced to find that we are thirsty.


Pierrefitte ends the branch railway from Lourdes, as Laruns ended that
from Pau. In fact, it is all strikingly like Laruns. A similarly
uncompromising mountain, the _Viscos_, 7000 feet high, walls up the
valley behind it, and here again the carriage-roads divide, one going up
the gorge on the right to Cauterets, the other up that on the left to
Luz and Gavarnie. The broad Argelès vale has been fittingly described as
but the vestibule to the wild dwelling of the clouds, and Pierrefitte as
the beginning-point for the narrow stair-flights which lead up to the

As at Laruns, we are now to take the road to the right, at a later day
returning to take the other. The Route Thermale goes on up the latter,
passing through southeast to Luz, and then stretching eastward again to
Barèges and over successive cols to Bigorre and Luchon. This we are
progressively to follow in its entirety.

The train has come in, here at Pierrefitte, and the diligence for
Cauterets is just leaving, attended by a wagonload of trunks. Horses and
travelers refreshed, we soon move after it, and rising from the valley
by half an hour's steep zigzags upward and forward, we pass the great
yellow vehicle as it is entering the defile. Looking back, we have one
brilliant view of the wide Eden of Argelès, and pass from light into

The road to Cauterets is a duplicate of that to Eaux Chaudes. Possibly
the scenery is a trifle more impressive. We have the straight-cliffed
gorge, with the torrent at its bottom and the road buttressed out or cut
into the ledge; the turns in the ravine as we pull steadily higher, the
bare slate and limestone precipices, the higher peaks. At times there is
only width for the road and the torrent beneath, and the torrent seems
uncomfortably crowded at that. The road does not allow itself to be
crowded. It is hard and wide as always, and lavishly decorated with
kilometre-stones. The stream is crossed, back and forth; the air has
grown quickly cooler, and sunshades need no longer shut off the full
view. "Upon nearing Cauterets, the carriage-way would seem as though it
had grown phrensied from the mountainous opposition, for it curls and
writhes and overcomes the difficulties only by the most desperate
exertions; and at one spot, in its effort to compass a barrier of rock,
it actually recoils within half-a-dozen yards of its former path."
Throughout, however, the same easy, imperturbable gradient is preserved.
The old road was greatly rougher and steeper; four horses and three
pairs of oxen, it is said, were once required to drag up each carriage.

Finally the valley widens slightly, and rather suddenly opens out upon
an incline. At its farther end is a white-crested mountain, and below
nestles the mountain resort of Cauterets, six miles in from Pierrefitte.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is seven o'clock, as our wheels strike the stones of the pavement. We
drive into the main street, pass through a neat, irregular little plaza,
and, some distance beyond, turn to the right from a larger square,
toward the Hotel Continental. The town is waiting for the diligence, and
shopkeepers are at their doors, guides and touters and loungers and
visitors in the streets, all expectant for the daily gust of arrival.
The lamps are just twinkling out, against the dusk, and the general
impression,--often a long determinant of like or dislike,--is of an
animated and welcoming scene. The hotel proves to be nearly on the scale
of the Gassion, and other equally pretentious ones have been passed in
approaching it. We drive under the high entrance-way and into its great
court, with the flourishes dear to the drivers' hearts; and the long and
varying tableau of the day's ride is over.



  "All along the valley, stream that flashest white,
  Deepening thy voice with the deepening of the night."

--TENNYSON'S _Cauterets_.

Cauterets confirms its first good impressions. The next day proves
cloudy and foggy, and we spend it lazily, re-reading and answering
letters, or wandering about the town, absorbing its streets and shops.
The season is fairly afloat, and all sail is set. At the angle of two
thoroughfares, a stretch of ground has been brushed together for a park
or promenade, and this, sprinkled with low, flat-topped trees and a
band-stand, naturally attracts us first. Booths and cafés and nicknack
stalls reach around its sides, and across from us stands a fine
official-looking structure of marble, which we learn is the Thermal
Establishment. We stroll toward this, through the groups of promenaders,
run the gauntlet of the booths, inspecting hopelessly their catchpenny
wares and games, and find ourselves before it. It is well placed, and
architecturally effective. To judge from the goodly patronage, it is
pathologically effective as well. Within, the large, tiled hall conducts
right and left to wings containing rows of white-tiled bath-apartments
and two full-sized swimming-rooms. An imposing marble stairway leads
upward to reading, billiard and gaming apartments, café and restaurant
and a theatre-hall. Evidently the Thermal Establishment is the pivot
of Cauterets. The serious use of these waters is carried to a science.
You can be steamed, suffused, sprayed, sponged, showered, submerged or
soaked. You can seek health from a teaspoon or a tub. Make choice, and
buy a season ticket. Rather, the attendant physicians make the choice,
for all is by rule here and no one moistens lip or finger without due


These springs are celebrated among French doctors. The systems of
treatment are kept abreast of all modern theories. The waters are
sulphureous, very hot, and abundant. They serve in throat and stomach
troubles and for a wide range of ailments "where there is indicated a
powerfully alterative and stimulating treatment."

We ramble back across the esplanade and out into the streets. The
stores, always friendly in their hostile designs, conspire to be
especially attractive in Cauterets. We waste much time--from a masculine
standpoint--in an enticing lace store, where really fine Spanish
nettings are purchased at tempting prices. They sell too, in Cauterets,
the woolly stuffs called Barèges crape, marvelously delicate in texture,
woven in various tints for mufflers and capes and shoulder-wraps.
Farther up the street, we are allured during the forenoon into buying a
woollen berret or two, and scarlet sashes, the badge of the country, for
to-morrow's mountain excursion; and yield in the plaza to the
fascination of barley-sugar candy and toothsome cakes of Spanish
chocolate. But all entreaties to buy young Pyrenean dogs warranted bred
in the region, are manfully resisted.

We invest too in a strange variety of umbrella, which can be folded into
wondrously small compass and put into the pocket or the
traveling-bag,--invest in it after a long struggle of rates, wherein
each side gains the satisfaction of victory by a compromise. The
eagerness of the Frenchy vendor,--his dramatic acting-out of the
umbrella's workings,--his voluble deprecation of a possible lower price,
and his gradual sliding down from his end of the scale as we rise in it
from ours,--these accessories fully double the zest of the transaction
for both. One must be wary and alert to properly enjoy European
shopping; but if one is thus prepared, it can be made to furnish very
solid enjoyment indeed. "As a rule," as the genial author of _Sketches
in the South of France_ observes, "the British purchaser must offer one
half the price asked. Everybody does it, and it is in no way offensive,
because the sum has been pre-arranged accordingly. The British costume
springs the market at least ten per cent, bad French ten more, and an
apparent ignorance of both market and language cannot be let off at less
than thirty or forty. Expostulation is useless, even when convenient;
the torrent of '_impossible_', '_incroyable_,' '_que c'est gentil_,'
'_ravissant_,' '_beau_' would drown any opposition. The only chance is
to be deaf to argument, dumb to solicitations, to place the sum proposed
before the merchant, and if it be not accepted, retire in dignified
silence. Ten to one you will be followed and a fresh assault commenced;
be resolute, and the same odds you get your bargain."

Variety marks the stores not only, but the streets and saunterers. All
these Pyrenean resorts put on the motley. There is of course the
substratum of plainly-garbed humanity; but as at Eaux Bonnes, it is set
off with scarlet-coated guides, Spaniards in deep-colored mantles,
peasant women with red capulets or bright-hued shoulder-wear, and the
satin finish of fashion in its passing carriages. Hucksters are pleading
their varied wares in the plaza, and here and there a shovel-hatted
priest is given reverential right of way. We meet scarcely an English
face, however, and of our own travel-loving countrymen none at all. At
noon the band plays in the music pavilion, and by degrees the idle world
drifts in that direction. The round café-tables under the trees
gradually sort out their little coteries, and white-aproned gentry skate
about with liqueur-bottles, clinking glass beer-mugs, baskets of rolls,
and the inevitable long-handled tin coffee-pots. The outdoor scene
tempts us more than a hotel luncheon; we cast in our lot with an
alert-eyed waiter, and the syrups and chocolate he brings are doubly
sweetened with the strains of _Martha_.


Here is an old letter concerning these waters, which brings the dead
back in flesh and blood. It leaves its writer before us in vivid
presence, a womanly reality. It is Marguerite of Angoulême[24] who
writes it,--the thoughtful, high-souled queen of Béarn-Navarre, whose
daughter was afterward mother of Henry IV. She is at Pau, and is sending
word about her husband's health to her brother, Francis I of France.

[24] Marguerite of Angoulême is often, even by historians, designated as
Marguerite of Valois. It is better to preserve the distinction in the
names. Marguerite of Angoulême was the wife of Henry II of Navarre; the
name Marguerite of Valois more properly designates the wife (known also
as Margot) of Henry IV, their grandson.

"Though this mild spring air," she tells him, "ought to benefit the King
of Navarre, he still feels the effects of the fall he met with. The
doctors have ordered him to spend the month of May at the Baths of
Caulderets, where wonderful things are happening every day.

"I am thinking of going with him," she adds,--how domestic and personal
these little royal plannings seem,--"after the quiet of Lent, so as to
keep him amused and look after him and help him with his affairs; for
when one is away for his health at the baths, he ought to live like a
child, without a care."[25]

[25] "_Encores que l'air chault de ce pays devoit ayder au roy de
Navarre, il ne laisse pas de se ressentir de la cheute qu'il prist; par
le conseil des médecins à ce moys de may s'en va mettre aux Baings de
Caulderets, où il se foit tous les jours des choses merveilleuses. Je me
deslibère, après m'estre repousée ce caresme, d'aller avecques luy, pour
le garder d'ennuy et foire pour luy ses affaires; car tant que l'on est
aux baings, il fault vivre comme ung enfant, sans nul soucy_."

Hither they came accordingly, and the court with them. How royalty put
up with the then primitive accommodations is not recorded; standards of
comfort, if not of lavishness, were lower then. Here, surrounded by her
maids of honor, Marguerite passed the pleasant days of the king's
convalescence and wrote many of her _Contes_ in the long summer
afternoons upon the hillsides.

Rabelais used to come to Cauterets, and one of the springs is said to be
named from a visit of Caesar's. Eaux Chaudes and Eaux Bonnes have had
eclipses of popularity, but Cauterets has always been in vogue. It was
not always luxurious, however. Invalids were brought here by rough
litters or on the backs of guides or horses. A monk and a physician
lived near the bath-enclosure, and narrow cabins or huts, roofed with
slate, were let out to the sick and their attendants. How greatly the
dignified Marguerite and her war-bred husband would marvel, if they
could walk with us to-day from the Thermal Establishment, across the
park and through the streets and squares,--to pause from their
astonishment in the polished and gilt-mirrored drawing-room of the Hotel


There are walks and promenades and mountain nooks in all directions from
the town, but the afternoon grows misty and we do not explore them. The
Gave running noisily on, hard by, has its stiller moments, up the
valley, and the trout-fishing is reputed rather remarkable. In fact, one
ardent angler who came here is said to have complained of two drawbacks:
first, that the fish were so provokingly numerous as to ensure a nibble
at every cast; and second, that they were so simple-minded and
untactical that every nibble proved a take.

Besides affording these milder joys, Cauterets is a centre for larger
excursions. There are three especially noted. The first and finest is
the trip to the _Lac de Gaube_, a high mountain tarn at the very foot of
the Vignemale. This we plan in prospect for to-morrow. It is four hours
away by a bridle-path, passing on the way several much-admired mountain
cataracts. The second excursion is by the foot-pass over a shoulder of
the Viscos to Luz, a counterpart of the path over the Gourzy from Eaux
Chaudes to Eaux Bonnes. As we purpose going to Luz by carriage, passing
down to Pierrefitte and so up the other side of the V, we strike the
Viscos from the list of necessaries. The third is the ascent of the
Monné, the mountain overhanging Cauterets and 9000 feet above the sea;
reported as long but not difficult and as giving a repaying view. But
there is a mountain near Luz, the _Bergonz_, from which the view is
held equally fine, and it is, we learn, simpler of ascent; there is even
a bridle-path to the summit. Since we are to go to Luz, we decide for
the Bergonz, and so cancel the Monné.

Cauterets might be likened to St. Moritz in the Engadine. It has no
lakes so close at hand, but in its springs and baths, in its fashion and
in its general location, a fair parallel is offered. Some of the
important peaks of the range, Mont Perdu and the Vignemale, for example,
are near us here though invisible from the town, as is the Bernina chain
from St. Moritz. The Monné will stand for the Piz Languard. In hotels,
Cauterets is hardly outgeneraled even by St. Moritz, though in
expensiveness they will yield gracefully to the Engadine. The Hotel
Continental, we find, has rather a pathetic story. It was built by a
widow who had been left rich,--built only a few years ago, as a hobby,
it would seem, and with little care for cost or judicious investment. It
represented nearly three hundred thousand dollars, was extravagantly
run, and lost money from the beginning. She also built a great café and
music-hall across the street from the hotel, and the losses of the two
together swelled in the end to an unbearable burden. Her fortune was
sponged up, to the last franc; the property was bought in by a
stock-company, and its unfortunate projector is now, we are told, in a
charitable institution at Bordeaux. One hardly wonders at the result, in
admiring the hotel. Its patronage may be large and rich, but no mere
summer season,--at least without the English and Americans,--could
recoup the interest on its costly outlay. The Gassion at Pau is
profitable if at all because its yearly season is three times longer
than this at Cauterets.

There is an evening conjuring performance at a café in the town, and
some of us desert the ladies and enter its chaos of mirrors and tobacco
smoke. The prestidigitator, a nervous, restive Frenchman with an
astonishing rapidity of tongue, stands near the centre of the room and
juggles and struggles with hats and rings and eggs and his own
overmastering fluency. Now he will dart across the floor to borrow a
listener's handkerchief; now he assaults our corner with the plea that
we verify a card; later the hat is passed for the harvest. It is an
interesting scene, European to the core; the men about the tables sip
and smoke, intent on the performance or on their dominoes, grave and
contemplative, finding uniformly in this contented café-life the needful
finis of the day.



The son renews his acquaintance, the next morning, with Cauterets, as we
start for the Lac de Gaube. It is the Fourth of July; the hotel manager
has good-naturedly procured some fire-crackers for the small boy of the
party, and thus our national devotions are duly paid and we are shrived
for the day. Carriages can be taken for part of the way toward the Lac;
it is good policy, so saddle-horses for the ladies are sent on to wait
for us at the point where the road ends and the bridal-path begins.

The first mile in the road is perhaps the most frequented bit in the
Pyrenees; it is the route to a second large spring-house known as the
_Raillère_, which is even more sought than the one in the town. We find
the wayside everything but dull. Omnibuses meet us frequently, wealthier
drinkers pass in light carriages, while many, going or coming, are
enjoying the journey on foot. Each is armed with his or her individual
drinking-cup, worn by a strap over the shoulder like field-glasses. The
road is somewhat shadeless, and at noon will be hot; but this is an
early-morning route. These are sunrise waters. Such is the dictum or the
wont. The faithful even work up a mild daily rivalry in early waking.
This may aid to make them healthy; improbably, wealthy; but it does not
show them to be wise. Time is always quoted under par at a summer
resort; why should the idlers heedlessly load up with too much of the
stock? These people have come out here, many of them, at six and seven
o'clock, a few even earlier; they have sipped their modicum of sulphur
and scandal, have prolonged the event as fully as possible, and must now
ripple irregularly back toward the town, objectless entirely until the
noon music and the atoning siesta.

The building itself, a large, prominent structure, stands out on the
slope of a sterile mountain side, the road sweeping up to its level in a
long, elliptic curve. We find much people here congregated, and
omnibuses and footfarers are still arriving and departing. Among the
throng are three veritable Capuchin monks, thickly weighted with
enfolding hoods and brown woolen gowns, the latter heavy and long and
girdled at the waist,--a light, airy costume for a warm day. Our drivers
stop here while one of them repairs a broken strap, and we contentedly
watch and speculate upon the assemblage.

Three other smaller spring-establishments are passed in turn, farther
up the valley. Each has its specialty and its limited but believing
clientèle. Then the road becomes solitary, and ephemeral humanity is
left behind. Soon the slow, even strain of the horses tells of stiffer
work than along the easy, inclines nearer the Raillère. The Gave comes
jumping downward more and more hurriedly, and presently its restless
mutterings deepen into a dull growl, which grows louder. It rises by
degrees to a roar, the road makes a last energetic bend,--and we are
looking down upon the famed _Cerizet_ cascade. It is a broad rush of the
stream, thundering beneath the bridge; there is an unexpected body to
the fall; the massed water bounds down a double ledge, and swirls
angrily away down the gorge. The scene is strikingly set, with slippery
rocks and dark-green box bordering the torrent, and the cliffs rising
sharply around, naked and bony or furred with box and pine. This is the
favorite short drive from Cauterets. Pedestrians seek it, as well. The
Cerizet holds the charm of its wildness alike for the idler and the
lover of nature.

Here the road ends, in a confined level across the bridge. At the bend
above stand a rough shanty and a shed, and near by our waiting
saddle-horses are unobtrusively browsing. Drivers and carriages now
leave us and turn back, and the guide helps us to roll wraps and coats
into cylinder-form and straps them snugly behind the saddles. The shanty
is not too primitive to vend refreshing drinks, and the ancient
Frenchman in the doorway vainly lures us to lemonade and sour wine. The
guide hands out sticks for those of us who walk, swings the camera strap
over his shoulder, and we all wave a friendly hand to the old
mountain-taverner, who grins a forgiving _au revoir_.

We strike at once into the thicket. There is only the footway to pierce
it, crooked and steep and stony from the start.

     "The winding vale now narrows on the view,"

and the crowding trees at times shut out all sight of the cliffs
opposite and above, though we always hear the noise of the torrent. The
sun can rarely find the path, which is damp and at places muddy. The
slant of the gorge has grown steeper, and when we come to breaks in the
forest, we see the water tearing down toward us along its broken trough
in increasing contortions, often in great flying leaps. No path could
hold this incline directly, and this one gracefully yields and adopts
the usual expedient, ricochetting upward in short, incessant lacings,
tracing up in the main the run of the Gave, but often diverted,
zigzagging, always mounting, quadrupling the distance while it quarters
the angle.

Two other cascades are passed. The horses, used to the work, strain
forward uncomplainingly, the guide leading the foremost; they toil
quietly along the easier spots, but tug themselves rapidly, almost
convulsively, up over the hard ones. The jolting, pitching motion is
severe and somewhat trying; and at intervals the ladies dismount and
join us in walking,--relieving the effort of rest with the rest of

An hour or less of this, and then another roar presages another
cataract, and soon we emerge upon the scene. This is the _Pont
d'Espagne_, a bridge of long logs stretching across the torrent at the
spot where two streams unite and throw themselves together into the
hollow, twenty-eight or thirty feet below. We pause on the rough bridge
and gaze down at the plunging water and foam and upward at our
surroundings. The entire picture, framed in by the sharp blackness of
the pines and the broken escarpments of cliff and mountain, has been
well compared to a scene in Norway.

At the other side of the bridge stand another shanty and another shed;
also another refreshment-vendor. A cool beverage has an attraction now
which it had not earned an hour ago, and we feel that a breathing-spell
will not be wasted.

Here paths unite as well as streams. We have been nearing the Spanish
frontier-line again, and the trail following the right-hand stream would
lead up toward its source and pass on over the crest of the mountain
down to the Spanish baths of Panticosa, as did the path from Gabas in
the Ossau valley. The top of the pass is three hours away, and the view,
it is said, is very extensive. These passes over the main chain are
known as _ports_, as those over its branches are called cols. They are
generally simple notches in the dividing ridges, massive but narrow, and
the winds blow through them at a gallop. In a storm or in winter the
danger is extreme. The Basques and Pyreneans have a saying that "he who
has not been on the sea or in the _port_ during a storm knows not the
power of God."

The path following the leftward stream leads to the Lac de Gaube, two
miles farther on, and is the one we now take. The way continues much the
same as before, but the trees become sparser and the outlook wider and
more desolate as we ascend.

Our guide is a sunburnt, athletic Frenchman of middle age, noticeable so
far chiefly for his huge grey mustachios and for his silence. He has
been willing but laconic,--taciturn, in fact. But I have felt sure he
has a "glib" side. Can I find it? The stillest of men are fluent on
their loved topics; there is some key to unlock every one's reserve. Can
I hit upon the key to his? Which of possible interests in common will
bring us into talk?

I am ahead with him now, in front of the horses, stepping up the
crooking staircase of stones, sounding him on the weather and the way.
Unexpectedly the key is hit upon. A chance comparison I make of a view
in the Alps lights up the old fellow's face, and when I happen to
mention an exploit of Whymper, his tongue is loosed. It is not merely a
name to him,--this of Edward Whymper, scaler of mountains, the first to
stand on the summit of the Matterhorn, one of the three who descended it
alive out of that fated party of seven. This man knows him, he tells me
joyously; he has been his guide here in the Pyrenees. It was many years
back; he does not recall the year. It is evidently his proudest
recollection, and he is more than willing to talk of it. In fact, I am
as interested as he; for the pages of my copy of Whymper's _Scrambles
among the Alps_ have been very often turned.

Whymper came here, it seems, with his usual desire to conquer, and the
guide tells me of some of the peaks they stormed together. The more
familiar giants, the Vignemale, Mont Perdu and others, were climbed as a
matter of course. Their ardor was greatest, however, in assaulting some
uncaptured summit; and several such fell before their conquering attack.
Monsieur Wheempair, the guide goes on, was "_très intrépide_"; not
stout, but firmly compacted, lithe and very active, and he never asked a
hand. "He told me," adds my companion, "that some time we would go to
the Alps together;" and the man turns to me as we work onward, and
questions me about those mountains. That is his ambition now,--to visit
Switzerland and the rivals of his Mont Perdu and Maladetta.

I tell him, too, something of the greater peaks his hero has
subsequently rendered subject among the Andes,--Chimborazo, Antisana and
others; of his passing twenty-six consecutive hours encamped with his
guides on the summit of Cotopaxi; of the difficulties of route and
dangers of weather he everywhere experienced. The guide had heard that
Whymper had been in the Andes, but knew no details of his doings nor of
the heights and nature of the mountains. He greedily adds these new
facts to his collection of Whymperiana.

These guides make little. To be sure, they spend little. Probably they
want for little, as well. Living is low, and the Frenchman is thrifty.
Yet a guide's occupation is particularly uncertain; there are long gaps
of enforced idleness even in the season, and wages of seven or eight
francs a day when he is employed are not only little enough at best,
considering the toil and occasional danger, but must be averaged down to
cover the unoccupied days besides. For ascents among the greater peaks
the pay is better, but they are much less frequent. My friend of the
mustachios lives in Cauterets, he tells me, during the season; he has a
family; in winter he can work at logging and wood-hauling, in summer he
earns most as a guide. Many persons too come to hunt, not to climb, and
sportsmen are always liberal; but the hunting is growing poor; the
bouquetin is extinct, the bear is almost gone, the wolf is a coward; of
large game, only the izard remains.


Meanwhile, we have all been clambering up the pathway, calling out at
points of view, expecting at each rise to see the lake in the level
above. At length, a short hour from the Pont d'Espagne, we press up the
last curve, come out suddenly upon a plateau, and the lonely basin of
the Lac de Gaube is before us.

Just ahead is the low-roofed house built at the side of the lake for the
purposes of a restaurant; and we enter, to unroll the wraps and make
some important stipulations regarding trout and a soufflet. Though the
lake is not even with the snow-level, the cool air makes a light
overcoat most acceptable after the warm morning climb. Then we hurry out
to see our surroundings.

The great Vignemale, the central feature in the picture, at first
disappoints us. This, the fourth in height of Pyrenees mountains,
confronts one squarely from across the lake, effectively framed between
two barren slopes,--the highest of its triple peaks somewhat hidden by
the hill on the right. But the giant does not seem to tower in the
least, and appears from this spot little else than a huge but disjointed
mass of rock and glaciers, in the latter of which the Vignemale abounds.
The view improves, a few yards on around the lake. But it requires an
effort to believe that of those

          "three mountain tops,
  Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,"

the loftiest is ten thousand, eight hundred and twenty feet above the
sea; it is still harder to grant that its knobby tips are a full mile in
perpendicular height above us at the Lac de Gaube. It is only by degrees
that the distant form seems to grow and mount, as we come to realize its
true dimensions.

This mountain was never ascended until 1834, when two guides from a
neighboring valley, Cantouz and Guilhembert by name, finally mastered
it. The ascent was marked by a signal exhibition of pluck. The men had
attained, after perilous work, the large glacier of Ossoue. They were
traversing it, toilsomely and carefully, when an ice-bridge gave way
beneath them and plunged them both into the depths of a crevasse. They
were made insensible by the fall. Cantouz at last came to himself,
stiffened and bruised; to his joy Guilhembert also was after some effort
brought back to consciousness. For hours these men picked their icy way
along the bottom of the crevasse and its branches, through the water and
melted snow, seeking some opening, some way of escape to the upper
surface of the glacier. Effort after effort failed. The day was waning.
At length a narrow "chimney" was found, more promising than the rest;
and by painful and dangerous degrees, wearied, sore and half-frozen as
they were, the two slowly worked a zigzag way upward to the light.

Did they turn thankfully homeward and leave the grim Vignemale to its
isolation? They did not. They grimly went on with the attack. Before
darkness had fallen, they stood upon the summit,--the first human beings
to accomplish the feat. They had to spend the night upon the mountain,
but it was as their subject realm.

The lake itself is perhaps a mile across, and is exceedingly deep. The
mountains crowd close to its edge, here wooded, there running off in
long sweeps of rubbly waste, again starting sharply upward from the
water. Close by the path, a tongue of rock runs out into the lake, and
on this still stands the little shaft, enclosed with iron palisades,

  "A broken chancel with a broken cross,
  That stood on a dark strait of barren land,"--

a monument to a young Englishman and his wife, who were drowned here
more than fifty years ago. They were on their wedding trip, and had come
to the Lac de Gaube; they took a small boat for a row, and by a
never-explained accident lost their lives together. The pathetic
inscription reads:

     "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 were conveyed to England, and interred there at Witham, in
     the County of Essex."

A party of jolly, black-garbed priests have been journeying up the path
behind us from the Pont d'Espagne. They now come out from the inn upon
the scene of action. Their cordial faces attract us at once; they
approach our little summer-house, and conversation opens on both
sides,--with nation, tongue and creed soon in genial comity. Two of
these men are young; their features, refined and thoughtful, are those
of students; all are as fun-loving as boys out of school. They
investigate the camera with great interest, and ask about our plans and
travels, and tell us about their own. They invite us to join in a row on
the lake, but we are mindful of the soufflet in near readiness; so they
finally push out from the shore, charmed to oblige by forming the
foreground for a photograph.


Other arrivals, two or three, are now at the inn, for the Lac de Gaube
is a "required course" for all visitors to Cauterets. We are
guilefully glad we preempted the trout. It is a very substantial little
meal they serve, in this wilderness of rock and fir, where every supply
except fish must be carried up, as it were, piecemeal. The proprietor
does well in the catering line, but less well, he mourns to us, on his
boats. It is that monument. The pale shaft is a constant _memento mori_.
It suggests tragic possibilities. It always chills the tourist's
enthusiasm for a row, and generally freezes it altogether. With good
reason, it seems, may mine host complain bitterly of its flattening
effects on the boat-trade; and there is a dark whisper in Cauterets
that, were the shaft not so closely enveloped both in religious sanctity
and in municipal protection, it would some night mysteriously disappear.


The sun still blazes down upon the motionless lake, as we walk out once
more for a long gaze toward the snows of the Vignemale. We try to trace
out the route to its perilous summits, and conjecture the direction
taken by Cantouz and Guilhembert when they made that grim first ascent;
and our guide, approaching now with the horses, points out the direction
afterward taken by Whymper and himself. We settle our account for the
repast,--an account by no means exorbitant; wraps are re-cylindered and
re-strapped, and we are soon on the return path downward through the
woods. The saddles pitch like skiffs at sea. These Pyrenean horses are
far more pronounced in their motions than the lowly Swiss mule. One by
one the ladies dismount, and for the steep portions at least the horses
go riderless, and no doubt secretly exult in their own shortcomings.

We pass the Pont d'Espagne, the roar of whose cataract is cheering the
waiting hours of its solitary refreshment-seller. We plunge into the
thicker leafage below, striding fast, or staying to lend hands from
stone to stone or around the patches of wet ground. The woods echo with
the noise of the brook, and now and then with the crack of a distant
rifle; and finally we are down again to the first hut and taverner and
the Cerizet fall. Now the ladies can spring comfortably up to their
saddles once more, and the carriage-road is a welcome change from the
lumpy bridle-path which we are leaving behind.

We keep on in the mid-afternoon along the road, the horses led by the
guide and ambling placidly along, the rest of us briskly afoot. The
spring-houses are reached in due succession, and finally we are at the
Raillère once more, where we have planned to take the omnibus which runs
half-hourly to Cauterets. And so we buy our tickets, pay the
guide,--with a double douceur for his mountaineering reminiscences,--and
are soon rattling down the hill toward the town, and studying another
priest, a fat, stubby friar on the opposite seat, who is conning his
breviary, murmuring his orisons, and glancing wickedly about with his
beady little eyes. There is also a gorgeously attired French dowager
aboard, and a sprightly soldier; and in the interest of watching them
all and the joy of repose against the padded leather cushions, we lose
the idea of time until we draw up in the little plaza of Cauterets
again, 'at half-past four by the meet'n'-house clock.'




  _"Pyrene celsa nimbosi verticis arce,
  Divisos Celtis late prospectat Hiberos
  Atque æterna tenet magnis divortia terris."_


"Parting is such sweet sorrow." Thus it is at Cauterets. The hotel
manager evinces it as well as we. But the hour has come to leave him,
and the tinseled supernumerary enters, left centre, with, "Milord, the
carriages wait." The hotel bill here comes naturally to the front, and
we find the charges very much on the average of all Continental resorts.
So it has been at Biarritz, so at San Sebastian, Pau and Eaux Bonnes.
Pyrenean hotel-keepers are not, as we had formerly mistrusted, an
organization for plunder. The expense question is always timely, and
experience works out the conclusion that, in the main and speaking
generally, one pays at about the same scale of prices for the same
accommodation, throughout Europe. In both, of course, there is
customarily a wide range of choice. It must be said that charges for
travelers are out of all proportion with the cost of living to the
peasants; and the morning hotel-service of coffee and rolls is fixed at
a price at which a thrifty native would support his family for a day or
more. The _National Review_ recently stated that the average expenditure
of the peasant freeholder in the south of France upon his food has been
accurately computed and that it amounted to the astonishingly small sum
of only four sous daily,--this sum having reference to a family, say, of
four or five, and where the children are under the age of seventeen or
eighteen years. This statement presumably refers to rural freeholders
only,--where cattle and farm-land supply the staples without purchase;
but even so, one finds difficulty in crediting it in full. The
housewives are minutely frugal; they will claim a rebate on a lacking
pennyweight in the pound; but it is scarcely to be admitted that any
economy could lower the expense of necessary outside provisioning to
such a sum. Still, quintupling it even, the hotel, at the spa a mile
away, will charge you the same twenty sous for a cup of coffee, and
considerably more for the lightest meal. The disproportion is thus seen
to be enormous.

Yet at its highest it is not burdensome to a comer from richer
countries. The hotel prices themselves halt at a certain mark, and
marbled buildings and aristocratic prestige cannot force them higher.
Wealthy idleness, Continental idleness in particular, knows to a nicety
the sums it is willing to pay for its pleasures. It pays that
cheerfully. A centime beyond, it would denounce as imposition.

Extortion is rare; we have not met one instance in these mountains.
Oftener we find items to be added to a charge than erased. In this
respect, the Pyrenees will prove less expensive than Switzerland, for
they are so little touched by the money-reckless Anglo-Saxon. That
ubiquitous tourist has not yet come, to brush with o'er rude hand the
silvery dust from their butterfly wings. Nor--to complete the
statement--have they yet learned to brush with o'er rude hand the
golden dust from _his_ butterfly wings. The latter fact is perhaps as
important as the former.


The road to Luz, whither we are now bound, will take us back along the
shadow of the Viscos to Pierrefitte, and then up the left side of the
angle under the other haunch of that dividing mountain. We start in the
cool of the afternoon, preferring that time to mid-day for the drive.
The ride down to Pierrefitte is quick and exhilarating. The six miles
seem as furlongs. One enjoys more than doubly the double traversing of
fine scenery, and this review of the splendors of the Cauterets gorge
many degrees intensifies its effect. At Pierrefitte, the same innkeeper
shows the same gladness to find that the same travelers are still
thirsty, but there is nothing else to detain us in the little railway
terminus. Here we take up again the thread of the Route Thermale,
dropped for the visit to Cauterets; and trend again up into a mountain
valley, the Viscos now on the right. The valley soon becomes a gorge in
its turn, but the sides gape more widely and the incline of the road is
slighter than of the one we have left. At times the horses can trot
without interruption. It is an aggressive, inquiring road, is the Route
Thermale, and thinks nothing of heights and depths nor of stepping
across the Gave to better its condition. We cross that stream several
times on the way to Luz. Each time, the passage is so narrow as to be
spanned by a single arch, the keystone three hundred feet or higher
above the water.

It is fourteen miles around from Cauterets to Luz, eight from
Pierrefitte. In all, less than three hours have passed when we come out
from between the cliffs into a wide, level hollow, carpeted with green
and yellow, patterned with fields and orchards and thatched roofs,
seamed with rills, and altogether happy and alive. Maize and millet rim
all the foot-hills, and forests the higher mountains around. We trot
across the level meadows through a poplar-marked road toward the foot of
the Pic de Bergonz, and run up into the little town of Luz.

This Luz valley, once part of a miniature republic like the Valley of
Ossau, is in the form of a triangle. We have just entered by the
northern corner. From the angle on the right runs the defile leading
southward to the far-famed Gavarnie, our to-morrow's excursion. On the
left, through the opening of the remaining angle, the Thermal Route
passes on eastward to Barèges and Bigorre, and that we are to resume on
returning from Gavarnie.

The Widow Puyotte, at the Hotel de l'Univers, proves almost as winsome
and quite as cordial as good Madame Baudot. The hotel has a châlet-like
appearance which is unconventional and pleasing. Here too, as at Eaux
Chaudes, our rooms overlook the Gave, but this stream is running
sedately through the town itself instead of rollicking down a mountain


We find Luz as lovable as its location. It is not fashionable and it has
no springs. There are few objects of interest to clamor for recognition.
Yet its appearance is so tidy, its bent streets so multifariously
irrigated, its people so open-faced and respectful, that the town has an
immediate charm. We are impressed everywhere in these mountains with the
geniality of the people. Human nature, considering its discouragements,
is wonderfully good at bottom. Kindliness seems a universal trait in the
Pyrenees. It shines out in every nature. One has only to meet it half
way. Innkeeper, guide, shopkeeper or peasant, all are unaffectedly
good-tempered and well-disposed. A discourteous return would puzzle
them; a harsh complaint would wound deeply. The sunshine comes from a
nearer sun than in the north. A polite nation, the French are reputed to
be; but always underlying this good repute has been the suspicion that
the politeness serves mainly to cover self-interest; that it is simply
an integument, a rind. In the cities there is a certain truth in this;
but the provinces are not thus tainted. In these southern mountains the
core is sound and sweet. The response to our advances is so hearty and
direct, the interest taken so friendly, that its sincerity is
unquestionable. Beggars abound; but your evidently self-respecting
husbandman talking willingly with you in the millet-field is not of that
class; he is not expecting a coin at parting. In some parts of Europe,
he would be disappointed not to get two. On the Route Thermale, a small
brace under one of the carriages gave way; it was near a village; we
were promptly surrounded by six or eight pleasant-faced villagers, who
turned their hands at once to help: one held the horses, three joined to
lift the carriage, one or two crept under to assist the driver in
repairs, and the others, while we talked with them, looked anxiously on,
as relieved as all of us when the difficulty was finally adjusted. There
was a raising of berrets, there were bows and good wishes, there was a
hearty "_Bon jour, mesdames et messieurs_" as we started, and the men
moved back down the road without a thought that their aid should have
been sold for a price.

The wealthy French and Spanish, who are the chief visitors to these
resorts, are judicious travelers; they injure neither the dispositions
nor the independence of the natives. The Anglo-Saxon will come in time;
he will regard these natives, as everywhere, as a lesser humanity; he
will throw them centimes and sous; he will find imperious fault; he will
cut off this ready communicativeness, miss all touch with these friendly
lives, and knock their confiding "feelers" back into the shell. But the
advance-guard at least of our countrymen will find here a human nature
poor and narrowed but right-minded, true, unwarped either by feudal
lordliness or modern superciliousness. Reciprocity of treatment, let us
hope, will endeavor to keep it so for years yet coming.


There is a famous old church of the Templars at Luz, which we go to see.
It stands at the top of a hilly street, shut off behind a stout
fortified wall and between two square flanking towers. We pass through
the gateway, and the old sacristan lets us into the church. There is a
curious gate, a turret rough in traced carving, and inside, in the dim
light, we are chiefly impressed with the rude-gilded altar and the
grotesque frescoes on the walls. Yet there is a certain solemnity about
the darkness and stillness, after coming from the warm daylight outside.
It preaches silently of devotion, of the mystery of religion, of the
power and the poetry of worship. "It is a superstition of the place that
at a certain time the dead warrior-priests rise from their graves and
sit in ghostly assembly, remembering the time when they had raised these
rafters and piled these stones together and worshiped therein and died
and were buried beneath them.

"The old church lies in the shadow of the Pic de Bergonz and within
ear-shot of a mountain's torrent; and the moonlight plays all sorts of
fantastic tricks, throwing strange shadows, until it is not difficult to
fancy that unearthly forms are near.... At the hour of vespers, there
are as many as two hundred women in the church, [their heads always
covered with their brown or scarlet capulets,] and its ancient, sombre
interior appears filled with hooded figures, such as have often troubled
our childish dreams, kneeling and crouching in the uncertain twilight to
the sound of the Miserere."[26]

No one knows the age of this church. Some accounts give the year 1060,
but as the Templars' order was not founded until 1117 or 1118, this is
improbable. They were warlike in their religion, these Templars, quite
as able to fight as to pray, pledged "never to fly before three infidels
even when alone," and with a stirring touch of romance about all their
history. They were planted here, as is stated, to guard the frontier in
those troublous times, keeping vigilant watch against both Saracens and
Spaniards; and few will say that the Christian valley of Luz could have
been more efficiently defended.

[26] From _Roadside Sketches_, by Three Wayfarers.

After we have looked over the interior, the sacristan conducts us out
into the mouldy little burying-ground at one side, and crossing the
grass, proudly points out in the surrounding wall the chief historic
ear-mark of the place,--a scar among the stones, where was once a narrow
opening through the wall. This was the despised entrance set apart for
that singular race, the Cagots. The Cagots were a once-distinct tribe
dwelling in corners of all these Pyrenean valleys, similar to the Cacous
or Caqueux of Brittany and Auvergne, and for some reason held as
outcasts and in universal detestation. The popular abhorrence of them
was phenomenal. Their origin is not known: of Goths, Alans, Moors, Jews,
Egyptians, each theory has had its propounder. Even the taint of descent
from lepers has been ascribed to them. But whoever their ancestors, the
people would none of them. They were pariahs, proscribed and held
infamous. They lived in separate hamlets, shunned and insulted, their
lives desolate and joyous, without hope, without spirit, without
ambition. Laws were passed against them, one at Bordeaux as late as
1596,--many earlier; by these they were even denied the rights of
citizens; they could not bear arms, nor engage in any trade save
wood-working or menial occupations, nor marry out of their race; they
were obliged to wear a scarlet badge on the shoulder, in the shape of a
goose's foot; they were not to go barefoot in towns lest they
contaminate the streets, and the penalty was branding with a red-hot
iron; they were not to touch the provisions in the market-place nor the
holy water in the font; they must creep into the church corners through
contemptuous side-doors, as at Larroque and Lannemezan and here at Luz.
The priests would hardly admit them to confession; the tribunals
required the testimony of seven to equal that of a citizen; and hatred
pursued them even to the grave and compelled their dead to be buried in
lonely plots of ground, separate and remote from the Acre of God.

Did a burgher sicken and die, witchcraft was charged to the Cagot; did a
reckless mob seek to vent its spite, it fell upon the Cagot. Despite
popular report, most of them had the appearance of ordinary humanity,
though rarely its spirit; a few even held their own intellectually; but
very many, bred in by constant intermarriage of kin, seem to have
become as the Swiss cretins,--deformed, idiotic, repulsive.

The Cagots were cursed "on four separate heads and on four separate and
opposing propositions: for being lepers, for being Jews, for being
Egyptians, and for being Moors or Saracens;" and they were persecuted
"as though the objectionable points of all four races were centred in
them." As lepers, they were reputed to be descendants of the cursed
Gehazi; as Egyptians, they were ascribed the _jettatura_ or evil eye; as
Saracens, they were held unclean and descended from infidels; and as
Jews, their enforced pursuit of the carpenter's trade was considered as
proving that their ancestors were the builders of the Cross!

Few of the race are to be found in these happier days; the old laws were
softened during the first quarter of the eighteenth century, and the
Revolution did away with them altogether. The Cagots as a separate tribe
have gradually disappeared or been absorbed. Yet the antipathy to the
name and the tribe even to-day in some of these regions, though now
chiefly a tradition, is still alive and implacable. M. Ramond, the
Saussure of the Pyrenees, carefully studied these outcasts over
seventy-five years ago, and made this touching statement concerning

"I have seen," he wrote, "some families of these unfortunate creatures.
They are gradually approaching the villages from which prejudice has
banished them. The side-doors by which they were formerly obliged to
enter the churches are useless, and some degree of pity mingles at
length with the contempt and aversion which they formerly inspired; yet
I have been in some of their retreats where they still fear the insults
of prejudice and await the visits of the compassionate. I have found
among them the poorest beings perhaps that exist upon the face of the
earth. I have met with brothers who loved each other with that
tenderness which is the most pressing want of isolated men. I have seen
among them women whose affection had a somewhat in it of that submission
and devotion which are inspired by feebleness and misfortune. And never,
in this half-annihilation of those beings of my species, could I
recognize without shuddering the extent of the power which we may
exercise over the existence of our fellow,--the narrow circle of
knowledge and of enjoyment within which we may confine him,--the
smallness of the sphere to which we may reduce his usefulness.".


Coming out again upon the street, we stray down into one of the
shops,--a shop local and naïve, a veritable French country-store. We
have noticed the hemp-soled sandals worn by many of the mountaineers,
and incline to test them for the approaching excursion to Gavarnie. The
dark-eyed little proprietor and his wife spring to greet us; foreign
customers, especially English or American, are with them a rare
sight,--St. Sauveur, a mile away, being a more usual stopping-place for
travelers than Luz; and soon the floor is littered with canvas-topped
footwear, solicitously searched over for the needed sizes. A running
fire of conversation accompanies the fitting. They show the usual French
interest in ourselves and our country; we enlarge their views
considerably on the latter score, though heroically refraining from
romancing. They make a fair livelihood from their store, they inform
us; many farmers and peasants outside of the village come to buy at Luz.
In fact, the small shopkeepers such as these are generally the
prosperous class in a place like Luz, though the standard of prosperity
might not coincide with that of the cities. But as compared with that of
their customers among the peasantry of the district, it seems to include
not only necessity but comfort.

For notwithstanding the luxuriance of these valleys, little of their
luxury, even to-day, goes to the tillers of their soil. The Pyrenean
farmer or mountaineer has to support his family now, as in past ages, in
poverty. Little beyond the most meagre of diet can he commonly provide
them, and it is the joint anxiety of ensuring even this, that wears and
disfeatures him and them, as much doubtless as its meagreness. Bread, of
barley or wheat or rye, is the great staple, supplemented by what milk
can be spared from the town's demands. Eggs and butter go oftener to the
market. Vegetables, such as lentils and beans, are also important, a few
potatoes, occasional fruits and berries, and above all the powerful and
omnipresent onion or garlic stew, signaling its brewing for rods around.
In the summer, if he moves with his family to the higher pasture-lands
to better pasture the herds, his daily menu expands in some directions
and contracts in others. Fête-days and Sundays and trips to the town are
usually the occasions of some indulgence, and a thin wine and perhaps
macaroni or a pullet or a cut of beef or pork make the event memorable.
But the chief fact is that he is fairly contented under all. His life
has work and poverty and care, but it has its freedom in addition; he
accepts it as it is, fully and without envy; it is not his class who are
first to swell the numbers of the _sans-culottes_. When Henry IV
pressed his old peasant playfellows to ask some gift or favor at his
hands, their modest ambition stopped at a simple permission to "pay
their tithe in grain without the straw."

Often there is even a little fund put by, or anxiously invested; France
is noted for the number of abstemious husbandmen who add their mite of
savings to her financial enterprises, and the distress and
discouragement caused when one of these fails is easily conceivable. On
the whole, the French small proprietor or peasant is thrifty and
uncomplaining to a rather surprising degree, considering the national
trait of restiveness. The revolutions of France are bred in her great
cities, not in the provinces.

"But pastoral occupations form only a small part of the business of the
Pyrenees," observes a recent writer in _Blackwood's_, in a summary so
compact and accurate as to merit quoting. "There are large, various and
constantly increasing industries, all special to the country. As water
power is to be found everywhere, there are flour-mills and saw-mills in
many of the villages. In certain valleys,--round Luz, for
instance,--almost every peasant has rough little grinding stones and
converts his own barley, buckwheat and maize into flour. Handlooms are
numerous, and coarse woollen stuffs for the peasants' clothes are
largely made. At Nay, near Pau, are factories where blue berrets for the
Pyrenees and red fezzes for Constantinople are woven side by side. The
scarlet sashes that the men wear round their waists are produced at
Oloron. The manufacture of rough shoes in jute or hemp (_espadrillas_)
is a growing element of local trade. Marble and slate works are
plentiful, mainly concentrated round Lourdes and at Bagnères de
Bigorre.... Persons who are insensible to marble can turn to the knitted
woollen fabrics of which such quantities are made at Bagnères; many of
them are as fine as the best Shetland work, with the additional merit of
being as soft as eider-down. The barley-sugar which everybody eats at
Cauterets must also be counted; for it rises there to a position which
it possesses nowhere else in the world,--it is regarded as a necessity
of life; the commerce in it attains such proportions that 10,000 sticks
are sold each day during the season. The little objects in boxwood which
are hawked about by peddlers must be included too; and the list of
special Pyrenean industries may be closed by bird-catching, which is
carried on in the autumn months, especially round St. Pé and Bagnères de

"There remains one trade more, however,--the greatest of all,--the
traffic in hot water. Numerous as are the natural beauties of the
district,--varied as are its attractions and its products,--it owes its
success, its prosperity and its wealth to its mineral springs. Some two
millions of gallons are supplied each day by them. Fifty-three towns and
villages exist already round the sources, and others are being invented
each year. The inhabitants of the valleys are making money out of them
in every form; for though the harvest is limited to the warm months, it
is so various, so widespread, and so productive while it lasts, that
everybody has a share in it, from the land-owner who sees his grass
converted into building ground, to the half naked boy who cries the
Paris newspapers when the post comes in.

"That hot water should become a civilizer and should mount in that way
to the level of religion, education, monogamy, wealth and the fine arts,
is a new view of hot water; but it is a true one in this case, for
nothing else could have evolved the Pyrenees so widely or so fast.
Neither commerce nor conquest has ever changed a region as hot water has
transformed these valleys."


"There are corners here and there," remarks the same writer in another
connection, describing this valley of Luz, "which have about them such
an atmosphere of purity and innocence that people have been known in
their enthusiasm to proclaim that they felt inclined to repent of all
their favorite sins and to exist thenceforth in total virtue. They
produce on nearly every one a softening effect; indeed they almost
_make_ you better. The vale of Luz is certainly the most winning of
these retreats. Its soothing calm, its welcoming tenderness, its look of
friendship and of wise counsel, wind themselves around you; and the
beauty of its grassy shades, of its leafy brakes and color-changing
hills, delights and wins you. Its babbling, laughing streams fill the
whole air with life and melody; every chink of the old dry walls is
choked with maiden-hair; from the damp rocks amid the dripping streams
hang strange, fantastic mosses,--orange, grey and russet,--and with them
grow wild flowers, white and purple, and emerald ferns with brilliant
deep-notched leaves that glisten in the wet; and mixed with all stretch
out the tangled rootlets of the beeches, bathing their bright red,
yellow-tipped fibres in the splashing drops. The meadows are so intense
in color, they are so supremely, so saturatedly, so bottomlessly green,
that you recognize you never knew green until you saw it there; and
while you gaze, you feel instinctively that you have reached a promised


The most noted excursion in the Pyrenees,--its _coup de théatre_,--is
now before us. It is to _Gavarnie_, whose giant semicircle of precipices
has been called "the end of the world." Luz and St. Sauveur constitute
the most available headquarters for this trip, which is taken by every
traveler to these mountains. "In the popular [French] imagination,"
writes a lively essayist, "the Pyrenees are composed of
carriages-and-four, of capulets and berrets, of mineral waters, rocky
gorges, Luchon, admirable roads, bright green valleys, two hundred and
thirty hotels, and the Cirque of Gavarnie."

The cliffs of Gavarnie form the Spanish frontier. A village of the same
name lies near their feet on this French side, thirteen miles up the
defile leading south from the valley of Luz. There is now a
carriage-road for almost the entire distance, and if fame is true, never
did a destination better merit a road. We count on a memorable day, as
the landau and the victoria carry us away from Luz,--where voluntary
promise of a super-excellent table-d'hôte on our return has just been
given by Madame Puyotte and thus every care removed.

The road crosses the valley, under the sentinel poplars, leaves on the
right the road by which we came in from Pierrefitte, and shortly comes
to the opening of the defile to Gavarnie. At the immediate entrance
across the ravine stands the white street of hotels and lodging-houses
which constitutes the Baths of St. Sauveur. We shall cross to it on our
return, and now scan it only from the distance as we pass. It joins
itself to our highway by a superb bridge, over two hundred feet above
the chasm,--a single astonishing arch, one of the longest in existence,
its span being 153 feet across, and its total length 218. It is of
marble, a gift of Louis Napoleon and Eugénie to commemorate their stay
at St. Sauveur; its cost was upward of sixty thousand dollars.

From this on, the scenery becomes again increasingly wild. The gorge now
opens and now narrows, the mountains above us here approach over the
road, there draw back in a long, sweeping glacis of wood or pasture. The
ledge of the road is at times four hundred feet above the frothy
watercourse, which in some spots disappears entirely from sight in the
chasm. Tiny mills are seen standing tremulously near its fierce supply,
and there is room for a hamlet here and there, sheltered in a clump of
ash or sycamore, on the mountain or at a widening of the valley. When
the road nears the cliffs of Gavarnie, it will expire, from the simple
impossibility of proceeding farther; so it is scarcely a thoroughfare,
and we meet only infrequent bucolics or a few wood-carts coming down
toward Luz. One fair-sized rustic village is passed through; and, two
hours after the start, a second one, Gèdre, our more-than-half-way
house, is finally seen ahead.

The mountain wall we are approaching begins now to show its battlements,
far ahead. The snowy _Tours de Marboré_ overtop it, and at their right
can be plainly seen two small, rectangular nicks, embrasures in this
mammoth parapet. Small they seem, as we sight them from this distance,
but these notches are 9000 feet above the sea, and the greater of the
two is a colossal gateway into Spain, no less than 300 feet in width and
350 feet deep. This is the famous _Brèche de Roland_, familiar to all
lovers of Gavarnie. When Charlemagne made his invasion into Spain,--the
invasion from which he was afterward to withdraw by Roncesvalles,--he
sought to enter it, tradition says, by this defile to Gavarnie. Finding
all progress blocked by the walls of the Cirque, he ordered Roland to
open a way; and that lusty paladin with one blow of his good sword
Durandal opened this breach for the passage of the army. There is
another version of the making, which links it with the throes of
Roland's defeat and death at Roncesvalles, at the end instead of at the
beginning of the invasion; but even under unbounded poetic license, the
mind refuses to admit that the wounded hero, bleeding and gasping for
breath, could have made his way a hundred miles over the mountains from
Roncesvalles, to shiver his sword against the cliffs of the Cirque and
end his death-struggles at Gavarnie.

At Gèdre the horses pause for a rest and a drink, and travelers can do
likewise. From this village, the main defile cuts on to Gavarnie, and
another opens off to the left toward another cirque,--the Cirque of
_Troumouse_. Thus each branch ends in a similar formation, peculiar to
the Pyrenees, a semicircle of cliffs, sudden and blank and impassable.
The Cirque of Troumouse is larger around than that of Gavarnie, but its
walls are not so high and its effect is reported to be less imposing. To
reach it from Gèdre requires perhaps three hours, the drivers tell us,
by a good bridle-path. We feel tempted to revisit this point from Luz,
another day, and explore the route toward Troumouse.

To-day, however, this is not to be; Gavarnie beckons, and we gird us
anew and press from Gèdre on. The carriages twist their way up an
unusual incline, and it is ten of the clock as we stop to face a long
cascade which is jumping down from a cut across the chasm and not too
busy with its own affairs to give us an answering halloo. The great
Cirque is now coming more and more distinctly into view, though still
some miles ahead. The two breaches are no longer seen, but snow-walls
are becoming visible on all sides, and the distant precipices are
constantly crowding into line and assuming shape and form. Even Louis
the Magnificent's haughty proclamation, "_il n'y a plus de Pyrénées_,"
could not erase this impassable barrier. It was made for a wall of

Already our destination sends out to welcome us. We have hardly left
Gèdre, with several miles still to drive, before we are assaulted by
peasants on horseback, advance-agents from Gavarnie. The carriage-road
will end at the village, and the Cirque itself is three miles beyond; it
is reached on foot or on horseback, and these peasants lie in wait along
the road for visitors, to forestall their rivals in the letting of
saddle-horses, and each to offer his or her particular animal for the
way. In vain we assure them that we shall make no choice until we come
to the inn at Gavarnie. They turn and ride by the side of the carriages,
urging their claims in incessant clamor, pressing about us, intercepting
the views, good-tempered enough but decidedly an annoyance. We speak
them fair, and request, then direct, them to abandon the chase. It has
no effect whatever. They continue their pestering tactics, now falling
behind, then ranging again alongside, hindering conversation,
interrupting constantly with their jargon. Plainly it is a time for firm
measures. We call a halt, and, standing up in the carriage, I tell them
once for all and finally that we will have nothing to do with them
either now or hereafter, either here or at the village; and order them
shortly and decisively to "get out." Even when translated into French,
there is a peculiar tang to this emphatic American expression that is
impolite but unmistakable; it takes effect even here in the Gèdre
solitudes, and we ride on without escort.


The road now passes into a remarkable region,--a famed part of this
famed route. This is the _Chaos_, so-called and justly. The side of the
mountain overhead appears to have broken off bodily and fallen into the
valley, and its ruins almost choke the bottom. Huge masses of granite
and gneiss are scattered everywhere in savage confusion, and the road
barely twines a painful way through the labyrinth. Scarcely a blade of
grass, a tint of green, is to be seen about us; the tract is given over
to utter desolation.

      "Confounded Chaos roar'd
  And felt ten-fold confusion in their fall
  Through his wild anarchy; so huge a rout
  Incumbered him with ruin."

Some of these fragments, it is said, contain a hundred thousand cubic
feet, and the blocks lie in all directions, uncounted tons of them,
grotesque and menacing, piled often one upon two, bulging out over the
diminished carriages or entirely disconcerting the hurrying torrent.

"That block bigger than the church of Luz," points out Johnson, writing
of this spot, "has been split in twain by the other monster that has
followed in its track and cracked it as a schoolboy might do his
playfellow's marble. We cease to estimate them by their weight in tons,
as is the manner of hand-books, but liken, them to great castles encased
in solid stonework; or calculate that half-a-dozen or so would have made
up St. Paul's; or speculate upon the length of ladder we would want to
reach the purple auricula that is flowering in the crevice half way

Beyond this, as we draw near the end of our course, there is an opening
in the mountains on the right. A peak and a long bed of ice and snow are
seen high beyond, and the drivers tell us that we are looking at a side
glacier of the Vignemale, whose face we saw from the Lac de Gaube when
we climbed up the parallel defile from Cauterets.

But here is the village of Gavarnie. We are in the courtyard before the
inn, bristling with an abatis of mules and horses in waiting row.


Negotiations for transport now begin. The black walls of the Cirque rise
beyond the village, closing the valley, seemingly just before us; but it
is a full league from the inn to the stalls of that august proscenium.
The ladies recall their unrestful saddle-ride to the lake, and decide
this time for sedan-chairs. The entire village is put in commotion by
the order; for three men, one as relief, are required for each chair,
(four on steeper routes,) and it takes but a very few times three to
foot up a quick and difficult total, where the call is sudden and the
supply small. The chairs themselves are promptly produced; they have
short legs, a dangling foot-rest, and long poles for the bearers, as in
Switzerland, but are ornamented besides with a hood or cover which shuts
back like a miniature buggy-top. Soon the additional men are brought in,
called from different vocations for the emergency; all of them
broad-shouldered and sturdy and with a willing twinkle in their eyes.
The ladies seat themselves, the first relays take their places before
and behind the chairs, pass the straps from the poles up over the
shoulders, bend their knees, grasp the handles, and with a simultaneous
"_huh_!" lift the litters and their fair freight from the ground. This
automatic performance is always interesting and always executed with
military precision. They pass down the village road with rhythmic,
measured tread, the substitutes carrying the wraps; the _petit garçon_
of the party journeys forth on a donkey; and the rest of us, duly
disencumbered and shod with hemp, resist the importunities of the youth
at the inn to order a lunch for the return, and follow after on foot.

The sole interest of the walk is this stupendous curve of cliffs ahead,
roofed with snow and glistening with rime and moisture. It fascinates,
yet we try not to look, reserving a climax for our halting-place. The
pathway is well marked though somewhat stony and irregular; the
valley-bottom is wider here and we are close by the side of the Gave.
The hemp sandals prove surprisingly useful. Their half-inch soles of
rope utterly deaden the inequalities of the ground, and the pebbly,
hummocky path is as a carpet beneath the feet. The bearers tramp
steadily onward, the chairs sinking and rising in easy vertical motion,
much more grateful than the horizontal "joggle" of the Pyrenean
saddle-horse. We are an hour in approaching the Cirque, which looms
higher at every step. The halting-place is reached at last. It is a
small plateau almost in the heart of the arena, and here there is a
restaurant,--the last house in France,--and the inevitable group of
idlers to ruin the effect of solitude.


They cannot ruin the effect of sublimity, however. That term, not freely
perhaps to be used in all terrestrial scenes, is beyond question
applicable here.

The Amphitheatre of Gavarnie, in which we stand, surpasses easy
description. It is a blank, continuous wall of precipices, bending
around us in the form of a horseshoe, a mile in diameter, and starting
abruptly from the floor of the valley,--perhaps the most magnificent
face of naked rock to be seen in Europe. Its cliffs rise first a sheer
fourteen hundred feet without a break; there is a narrow shelf of snow,
and above this ledge they rise to another, and then climb in stages
upward still, perpendicular and black, in a waste of escarpments and
buttresses, terraced with widening snow-fields tier on tier, until their
brows and cornices are nodding overhead almost a mile above the arena.
Higher yet, the separate summits stand like towers in the white glaciers
on the top; the Cylindre, at 10,900 feet above the sea, is partly hidden
at the left by its own projecting flanges, and nearer the centre of the
arc the Marboré, with its Casque and Turret, is but as an outwork
concealing the greater Mont Perdu, the highest mountain in the French
Pyrenees and next to the Maladetta the highest of the range.

A dozen slender waterfalls, unnoticed Staubbachs, are showering from the
heights; over a ledge under the Mont Perdu streams the loftiest, known
too as the loftiest fall on the Continent. It comes over slowly, "like a
dropping cloud, or the unfolding of a muslin veil," falling steadily and
with scarcely an interruption a quarter of a mile in vertical height,
before it is finally whirled into spray against the rocks at the base.
And the Gave which these cascades unite to form, and which we have been
following thus toward its source this morning, is no other than the Gave
de Pau, which will hurry on and down through the valleys till it is
flowing below the old château of the kings of Navarre, and later
joining the Adour will pass on through Bayonne to the sea.

It is a silencing scene. The effect it gives of simple largeness,--a
largeness uncomprehended before,--may be fairly called overpowering.
There is something almost of the terrific in it, something even
oppressive. We are as a fact at the end of the world. The eye does not
seem to be deceived here, as it often is in great magnitudes; it
belittles nothing; it realizes to the full this strange impression of
simple, hopeless bulk, immovable and pitiless as the reign of law.

The floor of the Cirque, far from being level, is blocked with snow and
the débris of falling rock. Our halting-place is near the left curve of
the arc; and a half hour's toilsome scramble across its chord to the
opposite side would take us to the foot of a darker streak in the wall
which seems from here like a possible groove or gully and in fact is
such. Unscalable as it seems, that is the magic stairway which leads up
out of this rocky Inferno to the higher ledges and finally over
glacier-fields to the Brèche de Roland, (which is invisible from the
Cirque itself,) and through this gateway on into Spain. Mountaineers and
smugglers make the trip with unconcern, and it is entirely practicable
for tourists, though needing a sure foot and a stout pulmonary
apparatus. The Mont Perdu is also ascended from this direction; first
climbed in 1802 by the intrepid Ramond, who seems to have been as true a
mountaineer as a savant, it has been occasionally ascended since; its
ledges are notably treacherous and difficult, and the trip demands
proper implements and practiced guides. It is a striking fact that its
upper rocks have been found to be marine calcareous beds. That proud
eminence has not stood thus in the clouds for all time; it was once
buried fathoms deep under the Tertiary ocean.

An interesting anecdote attaches to this mountain. It was assaulted some
years ago by a French lady, a Mme. L., who vowed that she should be the
first woman to stand upon the summit. She was accompanied by four
guides, pledged to carry her body to the top alive or dead. No carrying
was needed, however; the lady climbed with the coolness and hardihood of
a born mountaineer; they camped for the night on the way, 7500 feet
above the sea, at the base of the main peak, and in the morning she
triumphantly gained the top. But now the fair climber undid all the
glory of the exploit: a bottle had long been left in a niche of rock at
the top, opened by each rare new-comer in turn to add his name and a
sentiment or some expression of his admiration; our heroine opened this,
scattered the precious contents to the winds, and inserted her card in
their place, declaring that there should be but one name found on the
crest of the Mont Perdu, and that her own.

Great was the indignation in the valley when this ungenerous act became
known. A young stranger was staying at St. Sauveur at the time; no
sooner had he heard of the occurrence than he started up the mountain
himself. It was but a few days after Mme. L.'s ascent; the despoiled
bottle was there, with its single slip of pasteboard; and a day or two
later, the lady, then in Paris, received a polite note enclosing the
card that she had left on the summit of the Mont Perdu, 10,999 feet
above the sea!


The restaurant, no less than the idlers, ruins the effect of solitude,
but we find that we bear this with more equanimity. We are glad we
resisted the village inn's importunities and can remain here for lunch
instead. While we are at the table, our jovial porters, grouped near the
path outside, while away the time in stentorian songs. We walk out
afterward some space farther toward the base of the cliffs; but the foot
of the fall is still two furlongs away, along the left wall,--a distance
equal to its height; and over the broken boulders of the bottom it seems
useless toil to clamber. So we sit and gaze again at the scene, seeking
to crowd this sensation of immensity even more deeply into the mind. We
cast about for some comparison to the scene. The sweep of the Gemmi
precipices rising around the village of Leukerbad in Switzerland is like
it in kind; but almost another Gemmi, mortared with ice and glacier,
would need to be reared upon the first, to overtop the snows of the
Gavarnie Cirque.

We turn back to the porters at last, and the cavalcade of chairs forms
again. The men are earning three francs each by this noon holiday, and
they are in good spirits. They do not think the sum too little and we
certainly do not deem it too much. When we regain the inn at the
village, they wait about unobtrusively for their pay, and after arming
ourselves with coin for the division we come out among them. At once we
become the centre of a large and respectful assemblage, all other
loungers drawing near to witness the coming ceremony. Our informal words
of appreciation become rather a speech when delivered before so many.
The leader now approaches, and we publicly entrust him with the
division of the fund, adding, as we state aloud, our good-will and a
_pourboire_ for each. Instantly, and with, almost startling
simultaneousness, every, cap in view comes off in unison; the movement
is so general, so, immediate, and so gravely uniform, as to be somewhat
astonishing; and a satisfied and metronomic chorus of "_Merci, Monsieur,
merci bien_!" rises like a measured pæan around us.

This little performance over, the carriages come to the fore, and we
retrace the road in the pleasant afternoon, under the Pimené, through
the Chaos, by Gèdre and the opening of the Troumouse gorge, and on down
the ravine out to the Bridge of Napoleon which leads us over to St.

The long, trim street of St. Sauveur backed against the mountain is a
resort much in favor. It is not large enough to be noisily stylish, but
in a quiet way it is select and severe. It is patronized by ladies more
than by the sterner sex. Its springs are mild, helpful for cases of
hysteria and atonic dyspepsia; and the nervous, middle-aged females who
frequent it find a grateful sedative in the air and surroundings as well
as in the springs. The hotels have the garb of prosperity, and the
location, commanding both the Gavarnie gorge and the valley of
Luz,-could not have been better chosen; in fact, headquarters for the
trip to the Cirque might be and usually are fixed here quite as
comfortably as at Luz.

We spend a half hour about the hotels and shops as the twilight comes
on, while the carriages wait, down the road. In an unpretending shop an
old lady has just trimmed and lighted her lamp; she peers up through her
glasses as we enter, and readily shuffles across the room for her
asked-for stock of Pyrenean pressed-flowers. The dim little store proves
a treasury of these articles, and part of our half hour and part of our
hoard of francs are spent over the albums spread open by her fumbling
fingers. Then we drive off again into the dusk, join the main road, and
run restfully across the valley to end the day's ride before the lighted
windows of our chalet-hotel at Luz.

       *       *       *       *       *

The trip to Gavarnie can thus be readily made during a day, and it is
indisputably one of the finest mountain sights in Europe. As Lord Bute,
(quoted in the _Tour Through the Pyrenees_,) cried when there, many
years ago, in old-time hyperbole, "If I were now at the extremity of
India, and suspected the existence of what I see at this moment, I
should immediately leave, in order to enjoy and admire it." Perhaps this
sentiment should merit consideration from, other seekers of noble
scenery; it was founded upon a justly sincere enthusiasm.

To-morrow, the Pic de Bergonz shall be our goal.



  "Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten
  Daß ich so traurig bin"

  --_The Lorelei_

But the Pic de Bergonz does not so elect.

During the night the weather has another revulsion of feeling. In the
morning it is hysterical, laughing and crying by turns. We come
down-stairs booted and spurred for the ascent, and make directly for the
barometer in the doorway. Alas, it tells but a quavering and uncertain
tale, itself evidently undecided, and holding out to others neither
discouragement nor hope. An hour brings no change. The guide looks
sagely toward the clouds, as who should know all weather lore, and
candidly admits the doubtful state of the case,--which is frank, since
for him a lost excursion is lost riches. The sun streaks down fitfully
upon the road, and then after a minute the mist sifts over the spot; the
mountain-tops appear and disappear among low-lying clouds. We haunt
alternately the roadway and the writing-room, restless and inquisitive;
but as the morning wears on, it becomes slowly certain that the Pic de
Bergonz has taken the veil irrevocably.

The Monné at Cauterets was within our grasp; we sacrificed its certainty
to the uncertainty of the more accessible peak. In the mountains, as we
are thus again shown, _carpe diem_ is a wise blazon. Still, choosing
the Monné would have postponed Gavarnie until to-day and thus have
forfeited the clear skies of yesterday's memorable trip to the Cirque.
It is always feasible to count your consolations rather than your

It does not rain, so we ramble off about the streets again. There is an
eminence near the village on which stand the remains of the old castle
of Ste. Marie, and which we are told gives a wide survey over the
valley; but we are out with all eminences and refuse to patronize it. We
drift again into our little shop of the hempen shoes, with soap for a
pretext; the proprietor and his wife are affable and unclouded as ever;
and we while off a half hour in another talk with them and some trifling
purchases. One learns many lessons in civility in Continental shopping;
more usually it is a woman alone who presides, some genuinely winsome
old lady often, with white cap and grandmotherly smile. The lifting of
the hat as we enter ensures invariably the politest of treatment, and
when we depart, it is with the feeling that we have gained another
friend for life.

The village stretches itself lengthily about, as many Continental towns
do; its limbs, like Satan's,

      "Extended long and large,
  Lay floating many a rood,"

and two of us later signalize a stroll by becoming _lost_,--lost in Luz.
We look helplessly down along the lanes and neat streets for the
familiar little porch over the Gave and the open space in front and the
overhanging eaves of our hotel. Gone the church, gone the store of the
shoes and soap, gone the carriage-shed, the Hotel de l'Univers,--all
landmarks gone. It is not until we are driven to the humiliation of
actually asking our way, that the alleys are unraveled and show us
safely home, into the scoffs and contumely of the unregenerate.

After lunch, the weather is still gloomy, but there is no rain, and we
leave Luz for Barèges toward the last of the afternoon, if not in
sunshine, at least over a dry road. Some of us are on foot, so but one
carriage is needed for the others, and the Widow Puyotte stands smiling
at the door as we move away, wishing us fine weather for the morrow's
ride on from Barèges over the Col du Tourmalet,--since any further
wishes for to-day's weather would be manifestly inoperative.

The Baths of Barèges are on the continuing girdle of the Route Thermale
as it extends its way onward from Luz toward Bigorre; they lie about
four miles up a short, desolate, east-and-west valley which opens from
the hollow of Luz and closes beyond them in a col over which goes the
road. These baths are much higher than Luz, and the way is a steady
incline throughout. The valley soon shows itself in marked change from
the fertile basin we have quitted; it grows bleak and less cultivated;
rubbly slopes of shale and slate cover the hills; the vegetation becomes
scanter. We are nearing now the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, the summit seen
so plainly from Pau, far eastward of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. It is not
as yet in sight from this valley, however, though we are approaching it
nearly and though it closely overtops the col which rises beyond
Barèges. The road continues desolate, and the dull grey-green pastures
hardly serve to relieve its deserted and forlorn squalor. The clouds
brood on the hills, the air grows chilly as we ascend, and more than
once we sigh half dubiously for the bright parlor left behind at Luz.
We move leisurely, almost reluctantly, on, not in haste to reach the
climax of this unhospitable avenue; but the four miles shorten
themselves unexpectedly, and it seems but a short walk before we are in
sight of the Baths of Barèges.

Murray and Madame the Widow had each spoken dishearteningly of Barèges.
With their verdict concurred also the few other accounts we had heard of
it. Murray stigmatizes it as "cheerless and forbidding," "a perfect
hospital," and remarks that "nothing but the hope of recovering health
would render it endurable beyond an hour or two." Another marks it
curtly as "a desolate village tucked into the mountain side, with
avalanches above and torrents below; in summer the refuge of cripples;
in winter the residence of bears." No one at Luz was found to say a good
word for Barèges, except as to the undoubted cures its waters effect;
and on the whole the outlook summed itself up as very far from

In view of this abuse we have been predisposing our minds to extenuate
the shortcomings of the place and to extol rather than dispraise it. One
does not like to maltreat even a resort when it is down. But as we draw
up the hill and see the black surroundings and enter the frowsy, dismal
street, the desire to extol vanishes and even the possibility of
extenuating becomes doubtful. The carriage pauses, while two of us who
have hurried ahead examine the two hotels reputed best; each is equally
uninspiring, and the one we finally choose we thereupon immediately
regret choosing and regretfully choose the other. Meanwhile the carriage
is being circummured by an increasing hedge of idlers and invalids,
staring with great and open-minded interest at the arrival of visitors
who seemed actually healthy and were coming here uncompelled; and the
visitors themselves are glad to vanish from the public wonder into the
stone passageway of the hotel.

Within is a large, cobble-paved court around which the hotel is built,
and out upon the upstairs veranda overlooking this we are led and
assigned to rooms. The rooms are clean, but unadorned and bare, and so
seems the hotel throughout. It is not the lack of adornment, however,
that dispirits us; Madame Baudot's at Eaux Chaudes was unadorned
likewise, and yet was an ideal of inviting comfort. Here, there seems to
be something more,--an inexplicable taint of depression over the hotel,
which strangely affects us. We struggle hysterically against it, trying
to laugh it off, speculating vainly over the dreary, disconsolate weight
which each has felt from the moment of entering the village; and at
length conclude to investigate the mystery by a survey out-of-doors.


It takes little time to convince us that Barèges deserves all the abuse
it has received. We came unprejudiced and in a sympathetic mood, willing
to defend the much-reviled; but we admit to each other that the revilers
have only erred on the side of timidity. The pall of the place is
unmistakable and wraps us in completely; even a genial party and
determined high spirits are slowly forced to succumb. There seems
something gruesome about it; the curious burden is not to be shaken off,
try as we may.

The village is sorrowfully set, to begin with; the valley here is high
and more gloomy even than below; the narrowing hills, grey-black or a
sickly green, stand and mourn over their own sterility. Though it is
daylight still, the sun has long passed behind them, and the air is
chilled and mouldy. The village is merely one long, shaky street
crouching in along the side of the mountain; it is lamentably near the
torrent, for the rough Gave de Bastan just below is one of the scourges
of the Pyrenees, and each spring it tears by and even through the
street, and scours down the valley, swollen and resentful, causing
discouraging damage along its track. Many of the houses are taken down
each fall and re-erected in the summer; and as we walk on through the
street, these quavering shanties of pine combine with the jail-like
appearance of the heavier stone buildings and the harsh hills and clouds
around, all in a strange effect of utter repellence.

But it is the people we meet who intensify the impression. No one visits
Barèges for pleasure; its extraordinary springs are the sole reason of
its existence, and only those who must, come to seek health in them.
Sad-faced invalids, who have tried other baths in vain and have been
ordered hither as a last resort; wounded or broken-down soldiers;
cripples, who stump their crutches past us down the earthen road,--these
are the ones who haunt Barèges, anxious and self-centred and unhopeful.
Style and fashion are things apart; there is not a landau to be had in
the place, and scarcely a smaller vehicle. In cold or storm, the sick
hurry from boarding-house or hotel to the bath-establishment in
close-shut sedan-chairs; on fairer days, they limp their own way
thither. Talk turns on diseases; there is no fresh news, Barèges is a
long ride from the news bearing railway; the discussions begin with this
or that spring or symptom and end in a disconsolate game at écarté.

Truly disease is a hideous visitant to the fairness of life,--a hard
interruption to its store of joys.

Beyond all this, however, there is a something further about
Barèges,--this incubus of depressingness, seemingly the very soul of the
spot. Sickness and dreary location will account for it in part; but many
have felt that certain subtle spirit pervading a region or even a single
house, which in part defies analysis; it is in the air; it overhangs; it
may be light and joyous and animating, or forbidding. And Barèges is a
striking instance; morbid, abhorrent, funereal, there seems here some
influence at work which is not entirely to be accounted for, yet to
which it is impossible not to yield.

At the upper end of the street is the long, grim bath-establishment, and
we enter its stone corridors and are led about by a noiseless and
mournful attendant. Here are rows of waiting sedan-chairs; an office for
presentation of tickets; long lines of stone cells, each with its tub or
douche or vapor-box; and underground, public tanks of larger size. "I
inconsiderately tasted the spring," records a traveler of years ago,
"and, if you are anxious to know what it is like, you may be satisfied
without going to Barèges, by tasting a mixture of rotten eggs and the
rinsings of a foul gun-barrel." Our spirits fall lower and lower in this
damp impluvium; never before have we felt so grateful over our limitless
good health; we dodge out with relief into the darkening air, and, under
the beginnings of a rain-storm, thankfully slip back to the refuge of
the hotel.

Certain it seems that if cheerful surroundings are essential to a cure,
the waters of Barèges must fail of their full mission.

They accomplish remarkable things, notwithstanding; they are among the
strongest of the Pyrenean baths, and are particularly noted for their
power in scrofulas and grave skin-disorders, wounds, ulcers and serious
rheumatic affections. So healing for wounds are they, that the
government sustains here a military hospital for maimed and disabled
soldiers. In winter the scene is desolation. The cold is rigorous.
Avalanches pour down from the mountains on both sides and often leave
little for the spring freshets to do. Modern engineering grapples even
with avalanches; wide platforms have been cut in the rocks above the
town, on the slopes most exposed, and immense bars of iron set in them
and attached with chains. These outworks have proved themselves
surprisingly effective in breaking the force of the snowslides; but the
scent of danger is always in the air; the ledge of the town is for
months deep in drifts; the frailer houses are taken up, the rest closed
and stoutly barred; the inhabitants are gone, leaving behind a few old
care-takers to hold their lonely revels in the solitudes.


We sit about in the evening in the dim little parlor, and agree once
more that Barèges has not been exaggerated. We are united in will to
leave this detestable spot to its ghosts of ruin and disease, and to
leave it as quickly as we can. Our Luz driver, whom we have judiciously
retained to remain with his landau over night, appears respectfully at
the door, and is instantly instructed to be ready early in the morning
for farther progress; he looks dubious, and warns us of continuing rain;
it is nothing; we leave to-morrow in any weather.

"Have you found us a second carriage?" I ask him.

"Monsieur, there is but a _petite voiture_, a small wagonette, up the
street, which one could hire; it is small; if monsieur will have the
goodness to come out with me to see it?"

So two of us sally forth into the drizzle with the driver, and a few
rods up the street turn off into an alley-way, where the wagonette is
found under a shed. It _is_ small,--deplorably small; the seat will
ungraciously hold two persons, and a stool can be crowded in in front
for a driver. There is no top nor hood of any sort, and the hotel
barometer is still falling steadily.

But we are resolved to leave Barèges.

"Is this the best that one can obtain?" I ask ruefully.

"There is one other, monsieur, close by; but it is yet smaller."

This clinches the matter, and we conclude a bargain with the proprietor
for an early departure and hurry back to the dim joys of the hotel


The clouds themselves descend with the drizzle during the night, and we
are greeted when we wake by a white opacity of mist and fog filling the
hotel courtyard and leaking moisture at every pore. We think shiveringly
of the wagonette, but more shiveringly still of Barèges; and resolutely
array ourselves for a long and watery day among the clouds.

Our route will continue by the Thermal Road on to Bagnères de Bigorre.
There is again a col in the way which we must cross,--the Col du
Tourmalet, a shoulder of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, separating this
Valley of Bastan from the greater lateral Valley of Campan. It is a long
ride with the ascent and descent,--twenty-five miles at the least; but
it can be easily made in the day, and there is a midway halting-place
beyond the col for lunch.

Our Luz landau appears promptly on the scene, comfortably enclosed and
inviting; and the ridiculous wagonette creeps up behind it, in
apologetic and shamefaced comparison. The driver of the wagonette,
however, a tough, grizzled old guide, is not shamefaced in the least,
but grins broadly and contentedly as he sits there wrapped in his
tarpaulin, wet and shiny under the steady rain. The landau soon
hospitably receives the favored majority, and disappears into the mist
up the street; and the remaining two of us turn to the wagonette,--and
turning, involuntarily catch the infection of the old guide's grin.
After all, there is a certain zest in discomfort; we clamber in and draw
the rough robe around us, unfurl our complicated Cauterets umbrella, and
agree that the truest policy is to make little of discomfort and much of
its zest.

Old Membielle gathers the tarpaulin about his stool before us, chirrups
toward the damp steam which symbolizes a horse, and we move off
up the long, soppy street, past its houses and jails and grey
bathing-penitentiary,--and out at last from Barèges. Out from Barèges,
though into the vast unknown; and our spirits rise higher as the baleful
spell of the spot is lifted and left behind.


Barèges is the most convenient point for the ascent of the Pic du Midi
de Bigorre. The baths lie almost at the foot of this mountain, and one
can make the ascent in about four hours, and descending by another side
rejoin the road to Bigorre at the village of Grip, beyond the col before
us. We resign the ascent, of course, under stress of barometer; but this
climb is assuredly one of the best worth making in the Pyrenees. The
Pic is prominently seen from distant points everywhere through the
region: it is visible from Pau, from the Maladetta, from the plain of
Toulouse. Consequently these points must lie within its own ken. Its
huge, shapely dome rises 9400 feet into the air, and standing as it does
solitary and apart at the edge of the plain and not buried among rival
summits, the view from the top has been solely criticised as too vast
for detail and too high for exactness, and commands, it is said, a fifth
of all France. The ascent is easy, there being little snow upon the path
in the summer; there is a bridle-trail throughout, a small inn higher
than half way, and an observatory now erected upon the summit.

We are only intellectually cognizant of this Pic du Midi, however, as we
jog on up toward the pass; for the driving fog curtains all the peaks,
at times lifting so far as to show the nearer slopes and perhaps the
hills ahead, but for the most part enfolding even the road and ourselves
in its maudlin affection. We pull steadily on through the morning, over
a good road and up through a still dreary region of moist, sparse turf
and shaly slopes of slate and rock and profitless débris. The occupants
of the landau, as they look down toward us at times from the turn next
above, wave dry and encouraging greetings, through the open windows; and
we wave back damper but equally encouraging greetings in return, having
found that good spirits had fallen to us with unexpected and gratifying

Altogether it has not been in the least a long morning, when we finally
reach the crest of the Col du Tourmalet, 7100 feet in elevation, from
which begins the descent toward the Campan Valley and Bigorre. This col
is not loved by mountaineers during the winter; it is exposed to the
full sweep of storms, and is one of the wild passes on which, as the
local saying goes, "when the hurricane reigns the son does not tarry for
the father nor the father for the son." Before the Route Thermale pushed
its way over, it was but a foot-pass, wearisomely traversed in saddle or
litter by infrequent travelers or by invalids sentenced to Barèges.

Just at the summit of the col, for a supreme minute, the clouds part at
the rear, right and left, and roll away beneath, and we catch for once
the long stretch of the desolate Valley of Bastan, with the windings of
the road reaching backward and downward along the hills. It is over
while we look; the fog writhes and twists down and all is greyness

The carriages slip rapidly down the other side, with all brakes set and
forty hairbreadth margins recorded for the outer wheels; and, an hour
from the col, we are safely at the hamlet of Grip, where the horses and
we are doomed to a two hours' halt and a lunch. The first inn,
irrationally placed in a patch of field apart from the main road, does
not look attractive from the distance, and we drive on to the second.
This one, while carefully non-committal in appearance, is at least on
close terms with the road, and as there is no third, we cheer us with
reminders of Laruns and descend.

It is a creaky little inn, facing a wet, cobbly yard and having the air
of being retiring in disposition and somewhat surprised at the advent of
visitors. The landlady is away, it appears, and we are received by her
spouse, a mild-mannered old man who is not used to being a host in
himself but resignedly assumes the burden. The lunch is promised for the
near future. The horses are led off, the carriages covered to remain in
the road, and the driver and the jovial guide turn to and help with the
fire and stabling arrangements in a way which shows that they are
entirely at home in the locality.


We stand for a while on the decrepit, covered balcony overlooking the
yard, exchanging humorous reminiscences of the ride, and idly
commiserating the three fowls and a wet pig which appear below. We are
absorbed too in a wooden-saboted farmhand of gigantic proportions who
clicks across the cobbles at irregular intervals and exchanges repartee
with a milk-maid in the doorway. He has a huge, knobby frame, bulging
calves, a colored kerchief turbaning his head, a rough costume
throughout, and a fascinating though belying air of desperate and
unscrupulous villainy.

But the weather has still its tinge of rawness, and two or three of us
go down stairs again and invade the den of the kitchen, where the fire
is now under way and the inevitable omelet just in contemplation. The
old man acts as extemporary cook. He finds a black and somewhat oily
frying-pan, suspends it over the fire to heat, and throws in a handful
of salt to draw out the grease. He now looks thoughtfully about for a
rag to scour it withal; there is a rag of sooty environment and
inferentially sooty antecedents hanging beside a box of charcoals next
to the chimney-place; he horrifies some among us by promptly catching it
up; gives the pan a vigorous rubbing-out with this carboniferous relic;
and certain appetites for omelet fade swiftly away. Their losers speak
for a substitution of coffee and bread and fresh milk in lieu of all
remaining courses, and beat a hasty retreat from the scene.

The omelet duly appears upon the lunch-table presently set for us in the
little room upstairs, and serves at least as a centre-piece, over which
to tell the story of its birth; and the coffee, excellent bread, and a
huge pitcher of new, creamy milk amply reconcile all abstainers, and
fortify us in a feeling of good-tempered toleration even for Grip.


Bagnères de Bigorre is placed at the opening-out of the broad Campan
Valley, some distance out from the higher ranges and about twelve miles
on from Grip. The fog passes off as we start again, though it is lightly
raining still. In an hour or more we have finished the descent to the
floor of the valley, and for the rest of the short afternoon the road
runs uneventfully to the northward, for the most part level, and beaded
with occasional villages and lesser clumps of houses. Finally, as the
light begins to fail behind the clouds, an increased bustle on the road
and more frequent houses passed announce the nearness of our
destination, and the horses are soon trotting into Bigorre and up the
welcome promenade of the main street to the Hotel Beau Séjour.

Past discomforts quickly recede in the warm haze of present
satisfactions. We absorb to the full the pleasant glow of the hotel
drawing-room, after we have comfortably repaired the ravages of the
day. Barèges is a grotesque phantom, and we can hardly admit that
to-night there are people still in that shuddering, shivering,
banshee-haunted line of hospitals, high in its weird valley, in the cold
and in the falling rain. Rayless and despairing their mood must be;
escape would seem immeasurably more to be prized than cure. Even the old
man of Grip and his rag brighten by comparison, and we agree in viewing
our present surroundings as a climax of utter content.



  "_Baignères, la beauté, l'honneur, le paradis.
  De ces monts sourcilleux_"

  "I hear from Bigorre you are there."

An agreeable little city we find about us, the next day. Bigorre is one
of the most well-known of the Pyrenean resorts, and has a steady though
not accelerating popularity. The tide of ultra summer fashion, has
tended latterly toward Eaux Bonnes, Cauterets and Luchon in preference;
still, Bigorre, conservative and with it's own assured circle of
friends, looks on without malice at its sister spas who have come to
wear finer raiment than itself. A number of the English,--some even in
winter and spring,--frequent Bigorre almost alone of these Pyrenean
resorts, and their liking for it has made it known, beyond the others,
in their own country. The streets are shady and well lined; the houses,
frequently standing apart in their own small gardens, give a pleasant
impression of space and airiness. There are numberless shops, where we
can later replenish various needs. The pavements seem to have been built
and leveled, by MacAdam himself, as an enthusiast puts it; and
everywhere along the side of the walks bound rivulets of mountain water,
so dear to these Pyrenean towns.

The mineral springs here are not powerful, but are useful in mild
digestive disorders and the like, and afford at least a pretext for an
idle summering, as springs will do, the world over. The Establishment is
large and well arranged, but getting well is no such stern and serious
affair at Bagnères de Bigorre as at Barèges, and here the visitors
wisely mingle their saline prescriptions in abundant infusions of
pleasure. There are drives and promenades in all directions. The Casino
offers concerts and occasional plays and operettas, and a band in the
main promenade entertains regularly the listening evening saunterers.
Rightly does the town aim still to merit the praise given by Montaigne,
who paid it a marked tribute in his writings:

"He who does not bring along with him," observes that great French
essayist, "so much cheerfulness as to enjoy the pleasure of the company
he will there meet, [at bath-resorts,] and of the walks and exercises to
which the beauty of the places in which baths for the most part are
situated invites us, will doubtless lose the best and surest part of
their effect. For this reason, I have hitherto chosen to go to those of
the most pleasant situation, where there was the most convenience of
lodging, provision and company,--as the Baths of Banières in France."

The cheery town is large enough to take on something quite akin to a
city-like air; it has a population of about 10,000, and in summer the
number has its half added upon it by increase of visitors and boarders.
The hotels are praiseworthy, though making little display; and a marked
attraction of the town is this wide promenade of the main street, termed
the _Coustous_,--so called, it is alleged, because anciently the
guardians, _custodes_, of Bigorre used here to pace their nightly
patrol. The Coustous is doubly lined with arching trees, and has seats
and a wide path along the centre; the carriage-ways enclose this, and
shops and cafés line the outer walks. A few squares away, another
similar promenade broadens out, likewise vivified with trees and shops
and booths. Facing this is the bath-establishment before mentioned, and
beyond, in grounds of its own, the Kursaal or Casino. Cropping up among
the houses, stout buildings older than the rest tell of the days when
Bagnères was a "goodly inclosed town," the inhabitants of which had a
hard time of it against the depredations of Lourdes and Mauvoisin and
its other robber neighbors.

For we are among old times again at Bigorre, and many spots in the
vicinity are rife with Middle-Age incidents of robbing and righting.
This region was the plague-spot of the country for its freebooting
fortresses,--Lourdes, Mauvoisin, Trigalet, with their adventurers always
ready for a fracas,--the strongholds, as has been said, of those
logicians who

          "kept to the good old plan
  That those should take who have the power,
    And those should keep who can,"

and the provinces about them lived in constant worriment. This valley
especially suffered from their armed bands; now they raided some exposed
hamlet, now made prisoners of merchants or travelers on the highway,
anon swooped down here upon Bagnères and made off with money and live
stock in gratifying plenty.

And centuries yet preceding this, the valley saw wars on a larger scale,
when Cæsar and his Romans, ploughing victoriously through Gaul, came to
the Aquitani and crushed them down into the furrows with the rest,
after repeated and furious resistance. The Romans knew too of these
springs, and there are still remains of the city,--_Vicus
Aquensis_,--which they built on this site. In the Museum are Roman
relics found while excavating, among them votive tablets recording the
donors' gratitude to the nymphs of the springs for cures effected.
Clearly, Bigorre is of no mushroom growth, but has been toughened and
seasoned by age and warfare into the just reward of its nowaday repose
and popularity.


It is Sunday, and there is service in the English chapel, a brief walk
away. It is conducted by the nervous, genial chaplain staying at the
hotel, who afterwards greets us cordially at the noon luncheon-hour, and
justifies our pleasure at finding a tongue which can return English for
English and with fluency. He officiates at Pau during the winter, he
tells us, and here at Bigorre during the summer; and so, in a sense, we
find, does the hotel proprietor himself, who, with his expansive wife,
owns a hotel in Pau as well as here, and conducts the former during the
winter months, when the season at Bigorre is ended.

The day is evidently that of some special saint; the population is out
in its brightest hues. Saints are in great authority with these people;
their recurrent "days" fill the calendar; their ascribed specialties are
as various as were those of the minor Greek or Egyptian deities. All is
in reverence, be it added; canonization is a very sacred thing with the
Catholic peasant. The power even of working ill seems to be, in curious
ignorance, at times attributed to certain of these saints; "I have seen
with my own eyes," relates a native Gascon writer, M. de Lagrèze, "a
woman who, wishing to disembarrass herself of her husband, demanded of a
venerable priest, as the most natural thing in the world, that he should
say a mass for her to _St. Sécaire_; she was convinced that, this saint,
unknown to martyrology, had the power of withering up (_sécher_) and
killing troublesome individuals, to accommodate those who invoked his

[27] "This woman," naively adds the writer, "irritated at the refusal of
the priest, showed that she could dispense with saintly help in the
matter altogether: she killed her husband herself, with a gun."

We take another walk in the afternoon through the streets of the town,
and afterward compare international notes once more with our cordial
English clergyman. It is renewedly grateful to hear again the mother
tongue spoken understandingly by a stranger. The utter and unaccountable
absence of our own countrymen's faces and voices from these Pyrenean
resorts gives one constantly a touch of regret. One longs occasionally
for the crisp American greeting,--the quick lighting-up, the national
hand-shake, a comparison of adventures. Saving by two compatriots met in
Biarritz, we have found our nation entirely unrepresented in or near the
summer Pyrenees.


Bagnères is too far to the northward to be in touch with true mountain
expeditions. Its only "star" in this line is the majestic Pic du Midi de
Bigorre, which, being itself an outlying peak, is much nearer us than
the main range and is often ascended from Bigorre,--a conveyance being
taken to Grip and the start on foot or horseback made from that point.
There are, besides, a number of lesser mountains about, and drives and
longer excursions unnumbered. A rifle perhaps most recommendable, though
not always mentioned in the hand-books, is one that will bring us back
again for a day to the times of our rascally acquaintance, Count Gaston
Phoebus, and his contemporaries. This is to the castle of Mauvoisin
before mentioned,--"_Mauvais voisin_,"--"bad neighbor," as it abundantly
proved itself to Bigorre. It lies but ten miles away, in a northeast
direction; it is reached best by the carriage-road, and the trip can
readily be made in a half-day. This was one of the Aquitaine fortresses
which with Lourdes, it will be remembered, fell into the hands of the
English, about the middle of the fourteenth century, as part of the
ransom of King John of France. Raymond of the Sword was appointed its
governor, and a right loyal sword did he prove himself to own. But
Mauvoisin could not resist siege as Lourdes could. The Duke of Anjou was
soon at it, determined to recapture it for the French, and after a stiff
course of starving and thirsting, the garrison surrendered and Mauvoisin
came back to the French flag.

It was near this spot that a peculiarly savage and yet ludicrous fight
once occurred. It was during the same robberesque period,--about the
middle of the fourteenth century; and Froissart gives us an animated
account of it; he was on the way to Orthez through this very region, and
his traveling companion tells him of the event as they pass:

A party of reckless men-at-arms, bent on mischief and plunder, had
sallied out from Lourdes, it seems, on a long foray. They were a hundred
and twenty lances in all, and they had two dashing leaders, Ernauton de
Sainte Colombe and Le Mengeant de Sainte Basile,--the latter well
called the Robin Hood of the Pyrenees. They were all men whose very
breath of life was in thieving and combat. The band had "lifted" an
abundance of booty; they had exploited the country as far even as
Toulouse, "finding in the meadows great quantities of cattle, pigs and
sheep, which they seized, as well as some substantial men from the flat
countries, and drove them all before them."

The Governor of Tarbes and other knights and squires of Bigorre heard of
this mischief and determined to attack the marauders. They assembled at
Tournay, a town not far from Bigorre and close by Mauvoisin, and counted
up two hundred men. Among them was our athletic celebrity, the Bourg
d'Espaign, the same who carried the ass and wood upstairs, that
Christmas Day at Orthez. He was a regiment in himself, "being well
formed, of a large size, strongly made and not too much loaded with
flesh; you will not find his equal in all Gascony for vigor of body." At
Tournay they prepared to lie in wait and spring on the thieving band as
it returned.

The Lourdes roughs had wind of the ambush on their homeward way. They
were quite as ready for a fight as a foray, but prudently divided their
numbers: one detachment was to drive the booty around by the bridge
half-way between Tournay and Mauvoisin and thence on through by-roads;
while the main band was to march in order of battle on the high ground
and so draw the attack. Both sections were later to meet at a point
beyond, from whence they would soon be safely at Lourdes. "On this they
departed; and there remained with the principal division Ernauton de
Sainte Colombe, Le Mengeant de Sainte Basile, and full eighty
companions, all men-at-arms; there were not ten varlets among them. They
tightened their armor, fixed their helmets, and, grasping their lances,
marched in close order, as if they were instantly to engage; they indeed
expected nothing else, for they knew their enemies were in the field."

The Bourg and his friends scented the stratagem in turn, and promptly
divided themselves likewise. He himself with one division guarded the
river passage, which they suspected the cattle and prisoners would be
sent around to cross. The other division, under the Governor of Tarbes,
took the high ground.

At the Pass of Marteras, not far from the castle, the governor's
division met the main body of the enemy. "They instantly dismounted, and
leaving their horses to pasture, with pointed lances advanced, for a
combat was unavoidable, shouting their cries: 'St. George for Lourde!'
'Our Lady for Bigorre!'"

Now it is to be remembered that fighters in those days were often cased
in armor from crown to sole,--a preposterous armor, burdensome and
unwieldy, but almost utterly invulnerable. Sword-blows might dint it for
hours without doing damage; the danger in battle lay chiefly in simple
over-exertion. This gives the ludicrous point to the demure narration
made to Froissart by his companion:

"They charged each other, thrusting their spears with all their
strength, and, to add greater force, urged them forward with their
breasts. The combat was very equal; and for some time none was struck
down, as I heard from those present. When they had sufficiently used
their spears, they threw them down, and with battle-axes began to deal
out terrible blows on both sides. This action lasted for three hours,
and it was marvelous to see how well they fought and defended
themselves. When any were so worsted or out of breath that they could
not longer support the fight, they seated themselves near a large ditch
full of water in the middle of the plain, when, having taken off their
helmets, they refreshed themselves; this done, they replaced their
helmets and returned to the combat, I do not believe there ever was so
well fought or so severe a battle as this of Marteras in Bigorre, since
the famous combat of thirty English against thirty French knights in

"They fought hand to hand, and Ernauton de Sainte Colombe was on the
point of being killed by a squire of the country called Guillonet de
Salenges, who had pushed him so hard that he was quite out of breath,
when I will tell you what happened: Ernauton had a servant who was a
spectator of the battle, neither attacking nor attacked by any one; but
seeing his master thus distressed, he ran to him and wresting the
battle-axe from his hand, said: 'Ernauton, go and sit down! recover
yourself! you cannot longer continue the battle.' With this battle-axe,
he advanced upon the squire and gave him such a blow on the helmet as
made him stagger and almost fall down. Guillonet, smarting from the
blow, was very wroth, and made for the servant to strike him with his
axe on the head; but the varlet avoided it, and grappling with the
squire, who was much fatigued, turned him round and flung him to the
ground under him, when he said: 'I will put you to death if you do not
surrender yourself to my master.'

"'And who is thy master?'

"'Ernauton de Sainte Colombe, with whom you have been so long engaged.'

"The squire, finding he had not the advantage, being under the servant,
who had his dagger ready to strike, surrendered, on condition to deliver
himself prisoner within fifteen days at the castle of Lourde, whether
rescued or not.

"Of such service was this servant to his master; and I must say, Sir
John, that there was a superabundance of feats of arms that day
performed, and many companions were sworn to surrender themselves at
Tarbes and at Lourde. The Governor of Tarbes and Le Mengeant de Sainte
Basile fought hand to hand, without sparing themselves, and performed
many gallant deeds, while all the others were fully employed; however,
they fought so vigorously that they exhausted their strength, and both
were slain on the spot.

"Upon this, the combat ceased by mutual consent, for they were so worn
down that they could not longer wield their axes; some disarmed
themselves, to recruit their strength, and left there their arms. Those
of Lourde carried home with them the dead body of Le Mengeant; as the
French did that of Ernauton to Tarbes; and in order that the memory of
this battle should be preserved, they erected a cross of stone on the
place where these two knights had fought and died."

At the bridge, a few miles away, the other sections met, and belabored
each other as vigorously as did those at the pass. The Bourg d'Espaign
performed wonders: "he wielded a battle-axe, and never hit a man with it
but he struck him to the ground. He took with his own hand the two
captains, Cornillac and Perot Palatin de Béarn. A squire of Navarre was
there slain, called Ferdinand de Miranda, an expert man-at-arms. Some
who were present say the Bourg d'Espaign killed him; others, that he
was stifled through the heat of his armor.

"In short, the pillage was rescued and all who conducted it slain or
made prisoners; for not three escaped, excepting varlets, who ran away
and crossed the river by swimming. Thus ended this business, and the
garrison of Lourde never had such a loss as it suffered that day. The
prisoners were courteously ransomed or mutually exchanged; for those who
had been engaged in this combat had made several prisoners on each side,
so that it behooved them to treat each other handsomely."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Such," laughs Johnson, "was a fight of men-at-arms in the Middle
Ages,--derived from the graphic description of Froissart, in whose
narrative there always runs an undercurrent of sly humor when portraying
the military extravagances of the age. And it is impossible to avoid the
contagion; for who can picture in any more serious style a hurly-burly
of huge, iron-clad, suffocating, perspiring warriors, half blinded with
helmet and visor and scarce able to stir beneath the metallic pots
encompassing them around; belaboring and hustling each other about with
weapons quite unequal to reach the flesh and blood within, till, out of
breath and blown with fatigue, they sate down as coolly as they could
and refreshed themselves; then getting up again, again drove all the
breath out of their bodies,--and all without doing the least mortal
harm, unless somebody died of the heat or was smothered to death in his
own armorial devices."


This Le Mengeant, the worthy killed in his armor, as above recorded, at
the Pass of Marteras, had been the hero of more than one bedeviling
exploit during his career thus untimely cut off. One I cannot forbear
giving, told in these Chronicles and retold with charming gusto by the
writer above mentioned. Le Mangeant, it would seem, had evidently "a
strong notion of the humorous in his composition. One time, he set out,
accompanied by four others, all with shaven crowns and otherwise
disguised as an abbot and attendants going from upper Gascony to Paris
on business. Having reached the Sign of the Angel at Montpelier, a
suitable hostelry for such holy men, they soon gained much credit for
their saintly deportment and conversation; insomuch that a rich man of
the city, Sir Béranger, was fain to avail himself of their company and
ghostly comfort by the way. We say nothing of the generosity which
prompted the holy father to offer Sir Béranger an escort free of all
expense, so much was he captivated by that gentleman's charming society.
One can imagine the sly winks and contortions interchanged by this pious
party as the victim fell into the trap. But no amount of imagination can
ever do justice to the features of Sir Béranger, when, three leagues
from the city, the right reverend prelate and his apostolic brethren
threw off the mask with peals of un-canonical laughter, led the wretched
cit off to Lourdes through crooked by-roads, and there extracted from
his disconsolate relatives five thousand francs of ransom,--which they,
holy men, doubtless devoted to the purposes of their order. There is a
story for a rhymer Sherwood forest could not beat!

"It is but proper to set society right as to those gallant days of
chivalry, when knights fought for the love of ladies' eyes and glory
that lived for ever. More practical men are hardly to be found in
business to-day, for they never lost sight of that grand maxim, to 'get
money.' '_Quærenda pecunia primum, virtus post nummos_' was a motto each
knight might have much more truly borne upon his shield than the
charming bits of brag and sentiment cunningly designed for that purpose
by accommodating heraldry. Money they got, honestly if they could, but
they got it; and to do them justice they spent it right jovially, as all
such gallant spirits do when they are disbursing what does not belong to
them. After all, time only alters the characters in the Drama,--the plot
is pretty much the same; and with a suburban villa for a château, a face
of brass for a coat of iron, and a steel pen for a steel sword, your
gallant knight of to-day storms his bank or plunders his neighbors from
an entrenched joint-stock fortress or leads on his band to surprise the
public pocket from some tangled thicket of swindling,--just upon the
same principles as our old Pyrenean friends."



  "_Perle enchâssée au sein des Pyrénées
  Par l'ouvrier qu'on nomme l'Éternel,
  Je te prédis de belles destinées;
  L'humanité te doit plus d'un autel.
  Car l'étranger dans ta charmante enceinte
  Trouve toujours, suivant son rang, son nom,
  Le bon accueil, l'hospitalité sainte,
  Que sait offrir l'habitant de Luchon_."

--_Local Ode_.

We now prepare for the last and longest drive on the Route
Thermale,--that from Bigorre to Luchon. The distance is forty-four
miles; the journey can be made in one long day, but owing to the amount
of work for the horses "against collar," it is wiser to break it into
two. This can be done at the village of Arreau, the only practicable
resting-place between. There are two severe cols to cross on this trip,
one on this side of Arreau, the other beyond; the first is the most
noted of all the Pyrenean cols for the immense and striking view it
commands. This pass, the _Col d'Aspin_, is but a morning's drive from
Bigorre, and is often made an excursion even by those not going to
Luchon. Another mode of reaching Luchon from Bigorre is by rail, both
places being at the end of branches from the main line. But the charm of
mountain travel is in these magnificent roads, and few loving this charm
would wisely sacrifice it to a mere gain in time.

Allotting, then, two days for the journey, we are not impelled to drive
off from Bigorre at any unseasonably early hour. In fact it is verging
upon noon when the start is made. Our Tourmalet conveyances have long
since gone back, and we have a fresh landau and victoria duly chartered,
with two strong and capable-looking drivers. For the first half hour or
more the road retraces its steps down the valley toward the foot of the
Tourmalet, only breaking off at the village of Ste. Marie. Through this
we had passed in the late afternoon rain of the drive from Barèges, and
here our present road strikes away from the Barèges route and directs
its way toward the Col d'Aspin.

The Vale of Campan, in which we are running, has long had its praises
appreciatively sung. It is fertile and smiling, but we decide that it
does not vie with the Eden of Argelès. The remembrance of that happy
valley under the full afternoon sun, as we saw it in driving to
Cauterets, diverse in its sweet fields and silenced fortresses, will
long hold off all rival landscapes. The road twines on between pastures
and rye-fields, as we approach again nearer and nearer the mountains,
and after an easy two-hour trot, we are drawn up before the little inn
of Paillole, the last lunching-station before crossing the col. Here is
found the tidy air of nearly all these little hostelries, and our
confidence in them, born at Laruns and nowhere as yet injured save by
the demon kettle-rag of Grip, finds nothing here to further cripple it
in any way. There is an old man at hand to greet us, as at Grip, but his
wife is by, as well, and her alert, trim manner is alien to all sooty
napery. It is always unfair to carry over a suspicious spirit from past
causes of suspicion; and we prudently refrain from tampering, by
reminiscence, with present good impressions.

Pending the preparation of the repast, we wander out about the grounds.
The Campan Gave is sufficiently wide to be called a river, and flows at
the rear of the hotel kitchen-garden in a broad, rock-broken bed. It is
pleasant to stand by its cool, firm rush, and grow alive to the sound of
it and to the pushing of the wind and to the white and blue of clouds
and sky framing the sunshine. Cities and city life fall so suddenly out
of sight, as an unreal thing, in the presence of these rustlings of
Nature's garments.

From this winning little olitory plot here at the side of the house by
the river, we can see under an arbored porch the kitchen itself, open to
the world. The old woman is at work within, as we can also see, at the
needful culinary incantations; and assisting her with single-minded but
safely-controlled zeal is her husband the landlord, aproned for the

But nearer by, close to the stream, our host has a flooded trout-box,
and he presently comes stumbling out to it along some rough boards
thrown down for a path. He unlocks the padlock, opens the lid, and we
group around to witness the sacrifice,--innocent speckle-sides butchered
to make a Pyrenean holiday. There is no fly-casting, no adroit play of
rod and reel; the old gentleman plunges in his bare arm, there is a
splashing and a struggle, and his hand has closed over a victim and
brings it up to the light,--a glistening trout, alive, breathless, and
highly surprised and annoyed. He takes the upper jaw in his other thumb
and forefinger and bends it sharply backward; something breaks at the
base of the skull and the fish lies instantly dead. This painless mode
of taking off is new to us, and we concur in approving its suddenness
and certainty. And so he proceeds, until the baker's dozen of trout lie
on the boards at his feet. Then he closes and locks the box, bows to the
spectators, and retires with the spoils; while we go back to our
communings with the river and the garden.


It is a trifle later than it should be when we finally start afresh; and
newly-come clouds are moping about the mountains and banking up
unwelcomely near the hills of the col ahead. The ascent begins at once
in long, gradual sweeps, and for an hour as we ride and walk
progressively higher, the view of the valley behind lessens in the haze,
and the clouds in front become thicker and thicker. There is then a
straight incline toward the last, of a mile or more; the notch of the
col is sharp-cut against the sky just ahead, and we hurry on to gain a
shred at least of the vanishing view before it is too late. In vain; we
are standing upon the Col d'Aspin,--a herd of cloud-fleeces wholly
filling the new valley ahead and now whitening also the Campan Vale
behind us.

This is not such an irremediable disappointment as might appear. We
resolve now and here to outgeneral circumstances. The view from the Col
d'Aspin is unquestionably too fine to be lost, and we decide to return
from Luchon to Bigorre by this same route, instead of leaving by rail.
Thus we shall recross this col; and vengeful care shall be taken to
await a flawless day for the crossing.

So we get into the carriages again and speed off down the long slopes
which lead into the Arreau basin, grimly regarding the clouds and
promising ourselves recoupment to the full. By the road, it is five
miles before the carriages will be on level ground again, and three
miles thence to Arreau. The drivers point out a short-cut down the
mountain, and some of us are quickly on foot, crossing the road's great
arcs with steep descent, stepping lower and lower over pastures and
ploughed ground and through reappearing copses and thickets, until we
are at last upon the road again in the floor of the valley. Here at a
stone bridge the party finds us, and soon after, all are bowling into
Arreau and traversing its one long street to the low door of the Hotel

There is naught of the pretentious about the Hotel d'Angleterre. It is
listless and antique and not worldly wise, but we very soon find that it
is in good order and quite able to entertain Americans unawares. There
is a stone hallway with a large, square staircase in the centre;
upstairs, the rooms, though low-ceiled, are commodious and airy; and we
find a tolerable reception-room below, near the entrance. In the rear is
a charming garden of terraces and rose-beds and flat-topped trees and
odd nooks for café-tables; and later in the evening a neat service of
tea and tartines brightens our pathway to the wider gardens of sleep.


Arreau, as we find it in the morning, has little more to show than the
long street through which we drove on arrival. Age-rusted eaves overhang
the white-washed walls of the houses; there are queer, primitive little
shops and local _cabarets_ or taverns, the latter sheltering their
outside benches and deal tables behind tall box-plants set put in
stationary green tubs upon the pavement. Midway down the street is a
venerable market-shelter, a roomy structure consisting simply of a roof
and countless stone pillars. Its parallels may not infrequently be seen
elsewhere in Europe,--as at Lucerne and Annécy and Canterbury; there is
no side-wall, no enclosure; all is public and out of doors, a habit of
many years back, and on market-days it is the centre of interest for the
entire district. There is little to tempt, in the stores; beyond dry
tablets of Bayonne chocolate and some time-hardened confectionery sold
in a musty little shop below the church, we find nothing to buy
combining the interest and lastingness of a proper memento. Arreau is in
short an old-fashioned town in all particulars, unawakened even by the
thoroughfaring of the Route Thermale.


The church, with its sculptured arms and round chancel, is another work
of the Templars,--one of several in this valley, for the territory was
once assigned by a Count of Bigorre to their order, and one town in the
district, Bordères by name, was even erected by them into a commandery.
On the destruction of the order in 1312, nearly all the Templars
throughout the county of Bigorre, with their commander, Bernard de
Montagu, were seized, and were executed at Auch and their possessions
confiscated. Afterward, the valley passed to the Counts of Armagnac,
whose wickedness and family pride were intense enough to have prompted
that most transcendent of boasts, "In hell, we are a great house!" and
who waged more than one stiff feud with Béarn and the Counts of Foix.

We drive off toward Luchon after the survey, not leaving a final
farewell, since we shall pass through once more in returning to cross
again the Col d'Aspin. The col before us now, cutting off the Arreau
valley from that of Luchon, is the _Col de Peyresourde_, the last of the
throes of the Route Thermale; and up the sides of the mountain the
carriages unceasingly climb during the forenoon until the crest is
reached. From this the road lowers itself again by the usual complicated
zigzags. The dauntless Highway of the Hot Springs here completes its
work and allows itself a last well-earned rest along the smoother
valley, until by two o'clock we see it find its final end in the broad
avenue leading into Luchon.


Luchon is easily the queen of all these beautiful Pyrenean resorts. We
very soon concur in this. I have called it the Pyrenees Interlaken, and
this perhaps describes it more tersely, than description. It is in fact
surprisingly like Interlaken; its broad, arbored highways or _höhewegs_,
its rich hotels, its general enamel of opulence and leisure, suggest the
charm of that Swiss paradise at every turn. Only the great glow of the
Jungfrau is missing; but one need not go far, as we shall later see, to
view almost its full equal.

"It is not possible to be silent about Luchon," declares the
enthusiastic essayist who described so appreciatively the fair valley of
Luz, "Luchon is a capital. No other place in the world represents beauty
and pleasure in the same degree; no other town is so thoroughly typical
of the district over which it presides. One can no more imagine the
Pyrenees without Luchon than Luchon without the Pyrenees; neither of
them is conceivable without the other; together, they form a picture and
its frame. A region of loveliness, amusement and hot water needed a
metropolis possessing the same three features in the highest degree; in
Luchon they are concentrated with a completeness of which no example is
to be found elsewhere. No valley is so delicious; nowhere is there such
an accumulation of diversions; nowhere are there so many or such varied
mineral springs. If it be true that a perfect capital should present a
summary of the characteristics and aspects of its country, then Luchon
is certainly the most admirable central city that men have built, for no
other represents the land around it so faithfully as Luchon does.
Neither Mexico nor Merv, nor Timbuctoo nor Lassa, nor Winnipeg nor
Naples, attain its symbolic exactness."

We find super-luxurious quarters at the Richelieu, one of the handsomest
of the handsome hotels, and groan at the narrowing limitations of the
calendar. Before us is a wide, leafy park, with rustic pavilions, and an
artificial lake enlivened with swans; these grounds are a constant
pleasure; you stroll under the trees and listen to the music and see all
humanity unroll itself along the paths about you. Here stands the
Establishment, a low, many-columned building, whose effect from without
is unusual and pleasing. Within, the noticeable feature is the great
entrance stairway and hall, the latter with the proportions, of a Roman
church and adorned with wall-paintings in large panels. Beyond, still in
the park, is a graceful rustic kiosque, where other than sulphureous
drinks are dealt out and where many people contrive to linger in
passing. Here, in the mellow afternoon, Luchon is unfurling itself, as
we saunter along; the broad space abutting on the Establishment is the
focus of the throng, silk-sashed children are playing, boy's selling
bonbons or the illustrated papers, fashionable French messieurs and
mesdames and mesdemoiselles taking the air and portraying the modes.

We turn to the right, and emerge from the park, into the main promenade
of the town. This is the Allée d'Étigny. It sets the type of these noted
Luchon streets,--unusually broad, overhung with a fourfold row of
immense lime-trees, and bordered with hotels and with enticing and
polychromatic shops and booths quite equal to those of Interlaken. These
wide Allées give to the village one of its individual charms. There are
several of them,--among others, the Allée de la Pique and the Allée de
Piqué, starting one from each end of the Allée d'Étigny; these meet in
an irregular figure, edged by villas and _pensions_, and everywhere
green and shaded. Others lead out along the streams. This plenitude of
shade is another of the place's attractions; foliage is nowhere more
abundant; trees stock the park, the streets, all the avenues of
approach,--their cool canopy gratefully filtering the July sun.

The D'Étigny is clearly the chief of the Allées, and we make slow
progress past its tempting booths and flower-stalls and solider
emporiums. Promenaders are out in force; carriages are rolling forth
from the town for a late afternoon drive or returning from an earlier;
the omnibuses come clattering up from the arriving train; we have
scarcely found such a joyous stir south of the boulevards of Paris.

It is of its own kind, this midsummer fashion, and, whether in its beach
or mountain homes, as worthy to be absorbed and appropriated in its turn
as the antiquity of Morlaäs or the silence of the Cirque. We enjoy it
unresistingly, as we idle down the bright street, eyes and ears alert to
its beauties and its harmonies.

But there is the seamy side to Luchon, as to many things on earth: you
go but a few paces from these opulent Allées and you find poverty.
Frowsy women stare at us from rickety houses in the old part of the
town; children, no longer silk-sashed but dirt-stained and ignorant,
play in the mud-heaps; patient old tinkers and cobblers are seen in the
dim shops at work. The very poor rarely gain by the growth of their
neighbors. These in Luchon seem not to feel envy, but they have no part
nor heart in the pride of civic progress around them. They keep on along
their stolid, uncomplaining ways, having long ago faced the fact that
they were immovably at the bottom of Fortune's wheel, and having
forgotten since even to repine over it.

Turning off into the second Allée of the triangle, we find ourselves
presently in view of the Casino, which stands back in a park of its own,
set in trees, and possessing a theatre and concert-room, drawing-room or
conversation-hall, and the usual café and reading-apartments. There is
opera every second night and a small daily entrance-charge to the
building, which may be compounded by purchasing a ticket for the month
or the season.

The remaining avenue crosses back to the beginning of the first, ending
with a long building given up to a species of universal bazaar, whose
divisions and stands, festooned with crimson cambric, display
confectionery, worsted goods, paper-weights of Pyrenean marbles, and
nick-nacks of high and low degree. Opposite is a large store
comfortingly called "Old England"; it augurs the presence and patronage
of at least a few of the British race at Luchon, and offers a homelike
stock of Anglo-Saxon goods. The walk has brought us out once more at
the corner facing our hotel, and the hour for table-d'hôte strikes
elfinly on the ear.


Luchon owes much to one man. This was a certain Intendant of the
province and of Bigorre arid Béarn, who lived about the middle of the
last century and was the most practical and enterprising governor the
region ever had. The Luchonnais honor the name of the Baron d'Étigny. He
believed in his Pyrenees; he believed in their future, and set himself
to speeding it with all his heart. He not only expended his salary but
his private fortune; he wrought extraordinary changes in facilities both
for trade and travel, and, curiously enough, made an extraordinary
number of enemies in doing so. Towns and districts were spurred up to
their duty; tree-nurseries established, agriculture stimulated, sheep
and merinos and blooded horses imported for breeding; lawlessness found
itself, suddenly under ban; and in especial, paths and roads were cut
through the country in all directions, two hundred leagues of them,
opening up to trade and fashion spot after spot only half accessible
before. Thus Eaux Chaudes, Cauterets, St. Sauveur, Barèges, Luchon,
previously gained only by footways, were by D'Étigny made accessible for
wheeled vehicles; uncertain trails were made over into good
bridle-paths; and routes also over some of the cols were begun which
have been since gathered up into the sweep of the Route Thermale.

On Luchon particularly, D'Étigny's kind offices fell; and Luchon
resented them the most acridly. But the fostering hand was quite able to
close into a fist. D'Étigny pushed his plans firmly, despite
opposition. Pending the construction of a road from Montréjeau opening
full access to the valley, the town itself was taken in hand. The main
street, now the Allée d'Étigny, was projected; the springs,--from which
the town was then some little, distance away,--were rehabilitated; and
to replace the rough path leading to them he proceeded to level the
ground between and open three additional avenues, each planted with
quadruple ranges of trees. But this last innovation wrought trouble; it
focused the growing opposition; every chair-carrier and pony-hirer in
Luchon, together with every owner of the lands condemned, spitefully
resented the opening of the new routes. Combining with the neighboring
mountaineers, they rose one night and utterly demolished all three of
the avenues, uprooting the young trees, leaving the ways strewed with
débris and wholly impassable.

D'Étigny calmly built them up anew, and with increased care.

They were demolished again.

Even the Intendant's patience failed then. He built the roads the third
time, but in addition to trees he studded them with troops.

They were not molested after that. Their enemies found they had a man
against them who meant what he said and was prepared to stand by it.
Eventually they veered around even into respect; Luchon in the end grew
to rejoice in her Allées unreservedly; they stand to this day, and
D'Étigny's name is all but canonized under the lindens which once heard
him vigorously cursed.


Luchon is undoubtedly over-petted. The belle of the spas is a
trifle spoiled. The inblowing of fashion has been fanning her
self-appreciation for years. Prices are crowded to the highest notch,
for the season is short and one must live; the hotels are expensive,
though _pensions_ and apartment-houses mitigate this; the cost of living
is high for the region, though always low when judged by home standards;
articles in the shops are chiefly of luxury, and even carriages and
guides are appraised at advanced rates. It is the extreme of French
fashion which comes to Luchon. Eaux Bonnes and Cauterets are close
rivals, but Luchon is the queenliest of the triplet. As a consequence,
the place shows a touch of caprice, of vanity, even of arrogance;
prosperity is a powerful tonic, but sometimes its iron enters into the

Notwithstanding, the bright little town ends by enchaining us
completely. During the days we pass in its Allées and vallées, we come
to agree that there could be fewer more captivating spots for a summer
wanderer, singly or _en famille_, seeking a six weeks' resting-place in
the mountains. It will grow at length into the recognition of the
English and Americans, now so unaccountably unknowing of this
mountain-garden; the prediction lies on the surface that in time it must
open rivalry almost with that much-loved Interlaken it so happily

The finishing charm of Luchon is its nearness to the great peaks. Ice
and snow are but scantily in sight from the valley itself, but a short
rise upon any of the surrounding hills shows summits and glacier fields
on all sides but the north, and more ambitious trips quickly place one
among them. The range culminates in this region; from east and west it
has been gradually rising to a centre, and south from Luchon it finds
its climax, attaining in the bulky system of the Maladetta to its full
stature of over eleven thousand feet. This mountain mass is the lion of
the Pyrenees. It lies in Spanish territory, on the other side of an
intervening chain; but from a noted port in the crest of the latter,
three hours from the town, the eye sweeps it from base to brow, and its
ascent is made from the Luchon valley as headquarters.

There is a peculiar attraction in the proximity of the highest mountain
of a range. But if Luchon in this resembles Chamouni, in all other
respects it holds its parallel with Interlaken. Here, as there, other
groups of important peaks are scattered within reach of attack;
explorations on the higher glaciers are facile; the Vallée du Lys is its
Lauterbrunnen, the Port de Vénasque its Wengern Alp. Within reach of the
idler majority, there is a walk, a drive, or a point of view for each
day of the month. The roads now pierce every adjoining valley, and paths
climb up to all the summits that fence them in.


A day or two pass uneventfully over us as we linger under the trees at
Luchon, and then we shake off the spell, to look for its mountain
neighbors. One of the peaks from which the panorama of the Maladetta
chain can be best seen is the _Pic d'Entécade_, a noted point for an
object-lesson of the mountains' relief. Some of us accordingly resolve
to ascend it. We have at last begun to recognize the truth of a
truism,--that of early rising among the mountains. Always given in all
"Advice to Pedestrians," in all "Physicians' Holidays," in all
hand-books and guides, it had worn off into a commonplace, founded
chiefly, it seemed, on _a priori_ health-saws and on repetition. But
there is reason, we find, in this worthy acquaintance, and a reason
quite apart from health-saws, for it is a weather reason. The great
proportion of these Pyrenean days, barring the rainy ones, run a uniform
career: gold in the morning, silver at noon, gold again at night. The
early mornings are brilliantly cloudless; by nine or ten o'clock the
horizon whitens,--it is the dreaded _brouillard_; faint cloud-balls are
taking shape; they roll lightly in, bounding like soap-bubbles along the
peaks, finally clinging softly about them; and by noon, though the
zenith holds still its rich southern blue, the circle of the hills is
broken, the higher summits thickly hung with misty gauze. In the late
afternoon, the breeze dislodges the intruders, and softly polishes the
rock and ice of the peaks until at dusk they are free again from even a
shred of vapor.

Thus, even on fine days, a fine view is rare unless it is an early one.
We deplore this unhappy trait of the weather and deeply resent its
arbitrariness. But resentment is fruitless under a despotism. And there
is after all a certain glow of superciliousness in being up early; the
feat once accomplished, it brings its own reward; one feels a comforting
disdain for the napping thousands who are losing the crisp, unbreathed
freshness in the air and on the mountains; one speedily ceases
regretting the missing forty winks, as he opens eyes and lungs and heart
to the spirit of the morning.

We accordingly arrange for an early start, not precisely resigned, but
resolved nevertheless. The guide, as instructed, knocks at our doors in
the morning, just before six o'clock. We hear the fatal words: "It makes
fine weather, monsieur;" we awake, imprecating but still resolved; we
call out a response of assent, still imprecating; nerve ourselves to
rise,--struggle mentally to do so,--struggle more faintly,--yield
imperceptibly,--forget for an instant to struggle at all,--and in
another instant we are restfully back beyond recall in the land of

Our resentment was stronger than we knew.

When the carriage finally carries us out from the town, it is the fifth
hour at least after sunrise and more than three after our time for
starting. We should have had half of the Entécade beneath us, and are
but just quitting Luchon. The inevitable thin lines of mist are already
cobwebbing the horizons; but there is a good breeze abroad to-day and
the clouds are not resting so quietly in the niches as usual. So we
comfort us greatly, and the horses urge forward up the valley,
themselves seemingly full of hope that the day is not lost.

The base of the Entécade is six miles from Luchon. For some distance the
road runs up the Vallée du Lys, whose continuance merits a separate
excursion. Then we turn off, under the old border-tower of Castel Vieil,
and soon the carriage is dodging up a cliffy hill, the road hooded with
beeches and pines and playing majestic hide-and-seek with the sharp
mountains ahead. It is only an hour and a half, and we are at the
Hospice de France. Here the road ends. The horses stop before the plain
stone structure, low, heavily built, and not surpassingly commodious,
and we alight to prepare for the climb. The building is owned by the
Commune of Luchon, which rents it out under conditions to an innkeeper;
and its object, like that of the St. Bernard, is to serve as a refuge
for those crossing the pass near which it lies. There are no monks in
it, however; it is simply a rough mountain _posada_, offering a few poor
beds in emergencies, and finding its chiefer lifework in purveying to
the Luchon tourists.

The hospice is situated in a deep basin of mountains open only on the
Luchon side. Directly in front of it, high above us, is located the pass
referred to,--the _Port de Vénasque_: the notch in the chain from which
the Maladetta is so strikingly revealed. It is itself another noted
excursion from Luchon. A great sweep of rocky ridges rises to it, not
perpendicular but sharply inclined. There is a savage black pinnacle
shooting up on the left, remarkable for its uncompromising cone of rock,
its rejection of all the refinements of turf and arbor and even of snow.
This is the _Pic de la Pique_. On the right starts up another summit,
sharp also, though less precipitous; and the short ridge between the two
has in it the notch, itself not to be seen from below, which constitutes
this pass, the gateway into Spain,--the Port de Vénasque.

This is one of the most used of all these mountain portals; hundreds of
persons cross it annually, herdsmen, mule-drivers, merchants with their
small caravans of horses, Spanish visitors coming to Luchon, French
tourists seeking the view of the Maladetta,--and most often of all,
despite surveillance, the shadowy contrabandista, whose vigilance is
greater than the vigilance of the law and the custom-house. We can
plainly trace the path as it zigzags upward over the snow and débris,
and can outline its general course until it vanishes into the break in
the ridge. The line of the ridge itself is just now cut out clearly
against the sky, but soft puffs and ponpons of cloud are loitering near
it with evident intentions.


But our present quest is the Entécade. This mountain stands farther to
the left in the circle of the basin; its own flanks hide its summit
from the hollow, so we go forth not knowing whether into the blue or the
grey. Impedimenta are abandoned, sticks are grasped, and the guide leads
to the assault.

The path turns to the rear of the hospice and crawls up a green slope,
commanding finely the black sugar-loaf of the Pic de la Pique opposite.
As we advance, the mist has finally closed in upon the crest of the
Vénasque pass at its right; the ridge is completely hidden, and we turn
and look ahead, somewhat solicitous for our own prospects. Before us, up
the mountain, long streamers of hostile vapors are swinging over the
downs, trailing to the ground and at times brushing down to our own
level; but the wind keeps hunting them off, and so far their tenure is
hopefully precarious. There is scarcely a tree above the hospice; we
have left the line even of pines.

An hour passes. We come to a table-land stretching lengthily forward,
covered with the greenish yellow of pastures, and alive with cattle
browsing on a sparse turf. The way winds on among the herds; we form in
close marching order, with the guide in front and spiked staffs ready
for use; for these neighbors are a trifle wild and not used to
strangers. They feed on unconcernedly, jangling their bells, but one or
two of the bulls cast inquiring glances upon us, and we prudently retire
to our pockets the bright red sashes bought in Cauterets until we have
passed the zone of porterhouse.

In this plateau is a boundary-stone, and we pass anew into
Spain,--stopping to cross and recross the frontier several times, with
grave ceremony, and to the unconcealed mystification of the guide. The
path slopes up again, passes a dejected little mountain tarn, and
another half hour brings us to the final cone, the summit just
overhead. The mists are still whirling down, but as often lift again;
the Pic de la Pique has disappeared under a berret of cloud, but other
and greater peaks beyond it are still cloudless; so, as we push on up
the last slope of rock and scramble upon the summit, we see that the
panorama is not gone after all and that the climb will have its reward.

For the view is a wide one from the Pic d'Entécade. The summit, 7300
feet above the sea, is an island in a circle of valleys. The hospice
basin has dwindled into insignificance. Behind is the trough of the
Luchon depression, its floor invisible but the main contour traceable
for miles. The Valley of Aran, which opens out below us on the east,
shows the fullest reach in the view; its entire course lies under the
eye, and the lines of rivers and roads are marked as on a map, while we
count no less than fourteen villages spotting its bottom and sides.
Beyond and about roll the mountains, in swells and billows of green,
roughening into grey and the finishing white.

But it is their culminating summit at the right that at once absorbs
attention; it is the monarch of the Pyrenees; we are looking at last
upon the Maladetta. It stands in clear view before us, well defined
though distant. It is rather a mass than a mountain; it shows no
accented, unified form; the wide crests rise irregularly from its wider
shoulders of granite and glacier, and fairly blaze for the moment in the
break of sunlight.

At nearer quarters, as from the Port de Vénasque, the true dimensions of
the Maladetta are better realized. There one sees it from across a
single ravine, as the Jungfrau is seen from the Wengern Alp. But here
from the Entécade also, we can seize well its proportions,--

      "In bulk as huge
  As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
  Titanian or Earth-born, that warr'd on Jove."

The highest point of the Maladetta, the Pic de Néthou, is 11,165 feet
above the sea. The mountain has always been regarded superstitiously;
the name itself,--_Maladetta, Maudit_, the Accursed,--tells of the
traditions of the mountaineers. For long, no one dared the ascent.
Ramond finally attempted it in 1787, but failed to gain the highest
point. In 1824, a party renewed the attempt, and were worse than
unsuccessful, for one of the guides, Barreau by name, was
lost,--precipitated into a crevasse almost before the eyes of his
son,--and the body was never recovered. This added to the evil repute of
the mountain; years passed before the cragsmen would have anything
further to do with it. It was not until 1842 that M. de Franqueville, a
French gentleman, accompanied by M. Tchihatcheff, a Russian naturalist,
and by three determined guides, successfully gained the summit,--taking
four days and three nights for the enterprise. Since then the ascent has
a number of times been made.

This mountain is said to give forth at times a low murmuring sound
distinctly audible.

  "There is sweet music here that softer falls
    Than petal from blown roses on the grass,
  Or night-dews on still waters between walls
    Of shadowy granite in a gleaming pass."

"One of the most impressive features of the scene on the ridge of
Vénasque on this memorable morning," so relates one E.S., a traveler of
sixty years ago, "was the peculiar, solemn noise emitted from the
mountain. The only sound which broke upon our silence while we stood
before it without exchanging a word, was an uninterrupted, melancholy
mourning, a sort of Æolian, aerial tone, attributable to no visible or
ostensible cause.[28] The tradition of the Egyptian statue responding to
the first rays of the morning sun came forcibly to my recollection. In
her voice, this queen of the Pyrenees 'Prince Memnon's sister might
beseem,' and superstition if not philosophy might have persuaded some
that this sudden glare of brightness and warmth, glistening with
increasing intenseness on every ridge and eastern surface, might call
forth some corresponding vibrations, and therefore that the plaintive
tones we heard were in fact a sort of sympathetic music,--the
Maladetta's morning hymn."

[28] "_Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal_, No. XVI; _The Peculiar
Noises Heard in Mountains_."

Far to the west, over other ranges, the guide points out the glaciers of
Mont Perdu and the Vignemale. We are looking off also from this point
upon the beginnings of Aragon and of Catalonia; there is nothing smiling
about Spain as seen from the Entécade; sterile hills solely heap
themselves to the horizon.

We linger on the small knoll, a few feet only in width, which caps the
mountain beneath us. Clouds scud over the summits and pass on, and turn
by turn we have seen the full view. Finally they come streaming in more
resolutely, and eventually defeat the breeze; then we turn downward at
last, at a brisk pace, race down the slopes and re-enter France; and
warily recrossing the long pasture of the corniculates, hasten on until
the hospice appears in sight once more below.

It is far past mid-day now, and we are more than ready for suggestions
of alimentation. There is a sheltered table with benches just out of
doors before the hospice, and here we seat ourselves, flanked by with
two massive dogs, and soon are discussing a nondescript repast which is
too late for lunch and too early for dinner but which is remarkably
appetizing in either view. An hour later, we are again in Luchon,
greeted by the deferential head-waiter of the Richelieu, whose starchy
bosom expands with hourly welcome for each who comes or who returns.


There are divers other trips near Luchon which should be taken by the
time-wealthy. It is a centre of more excursions than any of the other
resorts; to count those which are _très recommandées_ alone needs all
the fingers. There is the much praised drive into the Vallée du Lys,
with its white cascades, its "Gulf of Hell," its fine view of the
ice-wastes of the Crabioules. There is the ascent to Superbagnères, an
easy monticule overshading Luchon, whose view is ranked with that from
the Bergonz. There is the day's ride through the Valley of Aran, which
opened out below us from the Entécade,--a truly Spanish valley, though
in France; its natives, its customs, its inns, all Hispanian, and
unwontedly unconventional. There is the ride and climb to the Lac d'Oo,
a mate of the trip from Cauterets to the Lac de Gaube. And for a longer
jaunt, one can remount to the Port de Vénasque and pierce down upon the
Spanish side to the village of Vénasque itself, returning next day by
another port and the Frozen Lakes. Or this trip can be prolonged by
making the tour of the Maladetta, passing on from Vénasque entirely
around that mountain system and returning within the week by still
another route to Luchon. The views on this last tour are described as
remarkable, though it is a trip seldom made; the accommodation is
doubtless uncomforting, but the tour, in outline at least, strongly
resembles the tour of Mont Blanc, which ranks with the finest excursions
in the Alps.

In short, there is a bewilderment of alternatives, each of the first
rank in interest and heavily endorsed. Luchon is as easily the belle of
the spas in location as in beauty; and one might strongly suspect that
the charms of its climbs cure quite as many ills as its springs. Good as
the waters may be, one does not become well by drinking merely, and
sitting in wait for health; it needs precisely the invigoration of these
tempting outings to quicken languid pulses and inspire sluggish systems.

Even in winter, many of these Pyrenees mountain-trips are entirely
practicable. The Cirque of Gavarnie is reputed a double marvel under a
winter robe, when its cascades are stiffened into ice and the eye is
lost in the sweep of the snow-fields. Cauterets is hospitable throughout
the winter, and so are both of the Eaux. Even the Vignemale has been
ascended of a February, and the more ordinary excursions can be
undertaken in all seasons. One cannot help thinking that the invalid of
Pau's winter colony could better tell over the benefits of this Pyrenees
climate if he would but test it,--if he would seek its pure, sharp,
aromatic stimulus in in-roads upon the mountains themselves, in place of
his mild promenadings along the Terrace in view of them with a heavy fur
coat on his back and another on his tongue.

The mountains are nearer him, besides, than they formerly were. They
have been opened to approach. Once there was no Route Thermale over the
cols; no facile pass to Vénasque or the Lac de Gaube; no iron bars in
the difficult spots en the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. That day is gone by.
Parts at least of the wild mountains are tamed; danger has been driven
back, hardly the daunt of difficulty remains. D'Étigny and Napoleon and
the Midi Railroad have smoothed all the ways; there is no longer reason
to dread the lumbering diligence, the rough char-roads, the pioneer
cuttings through the pine-brakes. The buoyant mountain trips we have
touched upon, and more, are within almost instant call of every
dispirited Pau valetudinary, and of farther travelers as well. They have
but to go forth and meet them.

That this is becoming known is shown by the yearly increasing tide of
visitors. The cultured modern world enjoys reading the book of
nature,--especially so, provided some one has cut the leaves.


In the evening, we repeat the stroll down the Allée d'Étigny. The lights
twinkle brightly down upon the street; the shops are open, the hotels
lit up, the cafés most animated of all. Here on the sidewalks, around
the little iron tables, sits Luchon, sipping its liqueurs and tasting
its ices. It is the café-life of Paris in miniature,--as
characteristically French as in the capital. To "_Paris, c'est la
France_," one might almost add, "_le café, c'est Paris_." France would
not be France without it. It is its hearthstone, its debating-club, the
matrix of all its national sentiments.

There is an "etiquette" of Continental drinks. By the initiate, the code
is rigorously observed; each class of beverages has its hour and
reason, and your true Frenchman would not dream of calling for one out
of place and time. In the cafe-gardens of the large hotels you will see
the waiters' trays bearing one set of labeled bottles before dinner and
another after; one at mid-day, another in the evening. There is also a
ritual of mixing; syrups and liqueurs all have their chosen mates and
are never mismated.

From, an intelligent waiter in Lyons, a double fee extracted for me on
one occasion some curious if unprofitable lore on the subject, since
expanded by further queryings. The potations in-demand divide
themselves, it appears, into two main classes: _apéritifs_ and
_digestifs_. The former are simply appetizers, usually of the bitters
class, and are taken before meals. The latter, as their name shows, come
after the repast, for some supposed effect in aiding digestion. These
liquors are often, exceedingly strong, but it is to be remembered that
the quantities taken are minute; when brought not mixed with water or
syrups, a unit portion might hardly fill a walnut shell.

The favorite _apéritifs_ are:

                                         Price in

Absinthe, mixed with Orgeat and seltzer-water, 50
Bitter,      "    "  Curaçao  "    "      "    50
Vermouth,    "    "  Cassis   "    "      "    40
   "         "    "  Curaçao  "    "      "    40
   "         "    "  Bitter   "    "      "    40
   "         "    "  Gomme    "    "      "    40
Amer Picon,  "    "  Curaçao  "    "      "    50
   "   "     "    "  Grenadine"    "      "    60
   "   "     "    "  Sirop ordinaire      "    50
Madeira, Malaga, Frontignan, Byrrh, Quina or
    Ratafia, unmixed                           60

[29] A centime is one-fifth of a cent.

After meal-time come the _digestifs_:

Curaçao Fokyn, unmixed,                          60
Maraschino,       "                              60
Kümmel,           "                              30
Kirschwasser,     "                              50
Chartreuse,       " (yellow or green,)        60 or 80
Anisette, with seltzer,                          80
Menthe, (Peppermint,) unmixed, or with seltzer,  50
Mazagran, or goblet of black coffee, with water, 40
Café noir, or small cup of black coffee,         35
  "    "   with Cognac,                          50
Limonade gazeuse,                                40
Bière, bock or ordinaire,                        30

Later in the evening, the ices come into play; returning from concert or
promenade, one can choose from the following to recruit the wasted

Sorbet au Kirsch,                                 80
  "     " Rhum,                                   80
  "     " Maraschino,                             80
Bavaroise au lait,                                60
   "      à la vanille,                           70
   "      au chocolat,                            70
Glace vanille or other flavors,               50 and 75
Café glacé,                                       50
Grock or Punsch,                                  60

And last, the inevitable

Eau sucrée, with orange-flower,                   35

The above sketchy division may perhaps add to the visitor's alien
interest in Continental café-life, showing something of its system and
rationale. These elaborate and varied concoctions, noxious and
innoxious, are not, it must be understood, tossed off in the frenzied
instantaneity of the American mode; before a tiny glassful of Curaçao
or sugar and water, the Gallic "knight of the round table" will sit for
hours in utter content, reading the papers, talking, smoking, or
clicking the inoffensive domino. Intoxication is almost unknown in the
better cafés; their patrons may sear their oesophagi with hot
Chartreuse, derange the nerves with Absinthe, stimulate themselves
hourly with their little cups of black coffee and brandy; but they never
get drunk. Frenchmen are temperate, even in their intemperance. An
English gin-mill and probably an American bar causes more besotment than
a dozen French cafés.



                           "How the golden light
  On those mountain-tops makes them strangely bright."

  --_The Pyrenees Herdsman_.

We revolve an unhappy fact, as we ramble on along the brilliant Allée,
this clear summer evening. We are no longer among the time-wealthy. With
Barcelona and the Mediterranean in prospect, we cannot draw further in
Luchon upon our reserve of days. The evening is flawless; the stars
blaze overhead like the burst, of a rocket; the promise of the morrow is
beyond doubt, and the Col d'Aspin is yet to be reconquered. We come back
across the park to our pleasant rooms in the Richelieu; and a conclave
ends in a summons to a livery-man and the order for carriages for a
to-morrow's return to Bigorre.

Early rising is therefore enforced, without regard to resentment, the
next morning, for we are to drive through within the day, not making a
night's break as before at Arreau. There are thus the two hard cols to
cross, one in the forenoon, the other in the afternoon; and the horses
must have a long mid-day rest to accomplish the task. So the
Allée-d'Étigny is just taking down, the shutters, as we prepare to drive
away from the hotel; the dew is still dampening the walks; domestics are
scouring entrance-ways and windows, a few early guides and drivers look
wistfully at the departing possibilities. We are unfeignedly sorry to
leave Luchon. But we exult in compensation over an unclouded day for the
Col d'Aspin.

By the usual mysterious Continental system of telegraphy, the fact has
spread that we are going, and even at this unseasonable hour the entire
working force of the Richelieu, portier, waiter, head-waiter, maids,
buttons, boots and bagsman line up to do us reverence. We pass from hall
to carriages through a double row of expectants. It is a veritable
running of the gauntlet, save that in running it we give rather than
receive. Unlike recipients in most other parts of Europe, however, the
servants here have the air of expecting rather than of demanding, and
take what is given more as a gift than as a right. So we depart in the
comfortable glow of benefaction, rather than in the calmer consciousness
of indebtedness baldly paid.

We reach the foot of the first col, the Peyresourde, with views at the
left of the distant glaciers above the Lac d'Oo, wind up to the crest as
the morning wears on, and by noon have scudded down by the other side
and are again at Arreau. It is a fête-day throughout France, and as we
drive into the town we find the plain little street transformed into a
bloom of flags and flowers and tri-colored bunting. On every side, as we
stroll out later from the inn, the shops and houses are fluttering the
red, the white and the blue, colors as dear to the American eye as to
the French. Boughs and garlands festoon the archways; the neighborhood
has flocked to the town in holiday finery, the _cabarets_ or taverns are
driven with custom, the nun-like town is become a masquerader. The scene
is so different from that of the cold, grey morning on which we left for
Luchon, that we vividly see how impressions of place as of person may
change with the change of garb and mood.

The air is warm, even sultry, but not oppressive. In fact, the
thermometer has not throughout the tour given any markedly choleric
displays of temper. The Pyrenees, lying as they do so far toward the
south, had held for us vague intimations of southern heat: linked
closely in latitude with the Riviera and with mid-Italy, we had half
feared to find them linked as well with Mediterranean and Italian
temperatures, and so far ill adapted for summer traveling. But the fear
was uncalled for. The weather has, on infrequent days, been undeniably
warm, but no warmer than the summer heat of the valleys of the Alps or
the Adirondacks. In fact, as a matter of geography, the Pyrenees lie in
the same northerly latitude as the Adirondacks themselves. In point of
elevation above the sea, the belt, even in its lowlands, is everywhere
higher than the neighboring parallels of Nice or Florence; the air is
fresher, shade and breeze are more abundant, as always among mountains;
our trip, aiding, to verify this, convinces us that apprehensions as to
excess of heat will here find gratifyingly little fulfilment.


We beguile the three hours' wait with a lunch, a walk, and an idiot
beggar with an imposing wen or goitre. This creature crouches
persistently by the carriages while the horses are reharnessed and we
are taking our places. The form is misshapen, the face distorted and
scarcely human; we can get no answer from the mumbling lips save a
sputter of gratitude for our sous; it is cretinism, hideous, hopeless, a
horror among these beautiful valleys, yet as in the Alps pitifully

In the presence of this frightful disease, destroying every semblance of
fair humanity, one can see some reason also for the belief in
witchcraft and diabolism once so intense in the Pyrenees. If the body
and mind of an "innocent" can thus come to part with the last vestige of
its holy lineage, the soul of a "wicked" might with good reason seem to
be capable of growing into full fellowship with the devil himself. So
late as 1824, not far from this spot, they nearly burned an old woman
for alleged sorcery; and in 1862, one was actually so burned, in the
town of Tarbes, a few leagues away. This superstition of witchcraft has
here been strong in all eras, but it is at last becoming extinct;
cretinism, as anachronous and as horrible,--a fact, not a
superstition,--remains unaccounted for and unlessened.


By four o'clock, we are at the base of the Col d'Aspin and commence on
the long curves that lead to its top. The valley behind extends as we
rise; new breaks and depressions appear, branching off right and left on
all sides. After a half hour, peaks begin to peep over the hills at our
rear; they come up one by one into sight, each whiter and sharper than
the last, until the southern line is a serrate row of them, gradually
lifted wholly above the nearer hills. The promised panorama is truly
taking shape. We near at length the crest of the col. The Pic du Midi de
Bigorre will loom up beyond it, unclouded to-day, the drivers assure us,
and we watch for a glimpse at last of that mythical peak, which we have
skirted in cloud from Barèges to Bigorre and never yet once seen. We are
just below the top of the col; twenty feet farther will place the
carriages on the summit, when lo a huge rounded dome begins to rise
slowly up beyond the edge, and as we advance lifts itself into the full
form of the long sought Pic,--ten miles away to the west, yet looming
out as clearly as if but across the valley. It stands alone against the
horizon; there is no summit near to rival it; the sides are dark and
steep and almost snowless; the summit is looking down upon
Gavarnie,--upon Pau,--upon the wide march of the plains of France,--as
upon us on the Col d'Aspin, eying us with its stony Pyrenean stare.

Behind, the southern view is now in its entirety. The full line of the
Arreau and Luchon depressions is traceable, and of all their tributaries
as well; the giant humps of the hills marshaled to form their walls. The
separate pinnacles beyond them are countless. The chief array is
compacted directly south, a fraise of bristles numbering the white
Crabioules, the Pic des Posets, the Monts Maudits,--and at the left the
summits of the Maladetta, a "citadel of silver" in a sky of gold, its
glaciers fierce against the late afternoon sun.

At the right above the col is a wider point of view; we ascend for some
twenty minutes over the pastures to the top, led by a herd-boy. The view
now sweeps a new quarter of the horizon,--that of the northeast; and the
full plain of Toulouse is spread at our feet, shading off in the far
distance into a faint hazy transparence where a few soft clouds seal it
to the line of the sky.

  "Not vainly did the early Persian make
  His altar the high places and the peak
  Of earth-o'ergazing mountains."

The Dark Ages were strangely dark in one respect: they had forgotten the
admiration for Nature. Save as to unaccustomed manifestations,--quakes
and comets and like portents,--they seem to have noticed little of her
higher or more unfamiliar moods. The sensation of the sublime was not
in their range of emotions; it is distinctively a modern growth.
Froissart traveled through this region on his way to Orthez; the
Pyrenees peaks were in sight before him, day after day, near and
distant; and they shone upon him for weeks from the hills about Gaston's
castle. Not once does he mention their presence to admire it. Scarcely
once do other writers of his or neighboring centuries notice even their
existence, except as hunting-grounds or boundary-lines; "_le spectacle
des Alpes ne dit rien à Racine, et l'aspect des glaciers fait froid à
Montaigne_." All the historian's of the time of Henry IV speak of his
having been born in "a country harsh and frightful,"--"_un pays aspre et
affreux_." Even the early troubadours and trouvères, poets and
rhapsodists, loving to admire and enlarge and extol, are silent
concerning the mountains. Despourrins, the poet of the Pyrenees, sang of
love and lyric inspiration; but he rarely looked up to seek the higher
inspiration of their hills and snows. It is inexplicable that the power
of the sublime should have been withheld from the age of romance and
poetry and nearness to nature, and bestowed in growing measure upon our
commercial and unenthusiastic era. It is not all wholly prosaic, after
all, this nineteenth century of ours, when it has so ardently this high
emotion, scorned by its intenser predecessors.

As we descend to the carriages, facing another tall Pic which shoots up
from the farther side of the col, the sun has neared the clouds in the
west; it strikes the far-off Maladetta glaciers with a light no longer
white, but rose-tinted; the snows glow softly under it like fields of
tremulous flame; the mountains gleam almost as something supernal, as we
take a final gaze before turning away down the valley.


It is the last of our midsummer drive through, the Pyrenees. We realize
it almost suddenly, and with regret. We seek to absorb and enjoy every
minute as we drive down the long hills and on through the Vale of Campan
in the evening light toward Bigorre. It is a chaotic, delightful array
of memories that our minds are whirling over and over in their busy
hoppers,--incidents and scenes, grains of legend, kernels of history,
gleanings of quick, nearer life,--all the intermingled associations now
sown for us over the region.

Instinctively we summon up recollections of the Alps for comparison with
the mountains we are leaving. And the comparison is not found to be
entirely a sacrilege. The Alps are first and preeminent among European
mountains; the repose of their immensity, the sense of power, the
indefinable, spell they exert, lesser ranges cannot in general features
attempt to rival. But this is not to say that a lesser range, is a
wholly inferior range,--that even in this effect of immensity, of power,
it may not at certain points bear almost full comparison. The Pyrenees,
we agree, are far from lacking material for a parallel. As we think of
the briefly glimpsed cliffs of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau, or of the
ice-fields seen about the Balaïtous, the Vignemale, the Taillon, the
Crabioules, we set them in thought almost against the crags of the Mont
Cervin, or the Eismeer and the glaciers of the Bernina. We instance, as
Alpine impressions, the prospects, among others, from the Aubisque and
the Entécade; the snow-peaks, named and unnamed, in their sight, the
heights and depths revealed by the view. We traverse again the gorges
leading to Eaux Chaudes and Cauterets, and the winding road through the
Chaos; we confront the amazing wall of the Cirque of Gavarnie, which
has nothing of its own order in Switzerland that is even commensurate;
we rehearse the account of the scaling of Mont Perdu and of the outlook
from its summit, as first recorded by Ramond nearly a century since,
when he finally succeeded in that initial ascent; we recall the
descriptions of the illimitable desolations of the Maladetta fastnesses,
more recently explored by Packe and Russell; and while these are single
effects, and those of the Alps are beyond count, they are in character
not to be excluded from almost equal rank. And over all the lowlands we
throw that luxuriance of vegetation and of foliage, and a certain
softness and richness of landscape, which cannot be found nearer the
north, and which, in the contrast with the snow-peaks in sight beyond
adds so strangely to the height and aloofness of the latter,--as in the
view of the Pic de Ger from Eaux Bonnes, and the wider sweep from the
Pau Terrace or the Col d'Aspin behind us. In fine, as genial Inglis long
ago made summary, "the traveler who is desirous of seeing all the
various charms of mountain scenery, must visit both Switzerland and the
Pyrenees. He must not content himself with believing that having seen
Switzerland he has seen all that mountain scenery can offer. This would
be a false belief. He who has traversed Switzerland throughout has
indeed become familiar with scenes which cannot perhaps be equaled in
any other country in the world; and he need not travel in search of
finer scenes of the same order. But scenes of a different order,--of
another character,--await him in the Pyrenees; and until he has looked
upon these, he has not enjoyed all the charms which mountain scenery is
capable of disclosing to the lover of nature."


Lights twinkle out everywhere over the valley, as we roll on toward
Bigorre; every village and hamlet we pass is aglow with colored lanterns
and varied illuminations, and all the Pyrenees seem to be keeping high
holiday. Stalwart songs are resounding from porches and through the
windows of the local cafés when the carriages reach Ste. Marie; we
respond with the notes of _America_, as we drive out from the village,
and catch an answering cheer in return. Everyone is determinedly happy,
but happy or not, they have always a good word for our country. Other
songs and scenes are caught as we whirl on over the valley-road and
through the settlements; peasants peer at us from the wayside or from
the occasional chalets near by, with pleasant salute and good wishes. At
last, and with real regret, we have reached our destination; Bagnères de
Bigorre is before us, and we are speeding into its streets.


It is here that we find the climax of the fête. The entire Promenade des
Coustous is a blaze of light. Arches have been erected, rows of tiny
glass lamps swing across from the trees, flags and bunting stream out
over the music-stand and the hotels and shops on each side. The place is
a mass of people; the bordering cafés are thronged; the band is playing
clearly above the hum and buzz, and as we enter the street it happens to
be just striking the signal for the _Marseillaise_. In an instant, the
thousands of throats join in the sound; the roll of song deepens to a
diapason; the solemn, forceful march of the melody is irresistible; all
France seems to be joining with prayer and power in her loved anthem.

Quickly we have greeted our welcoming hostess once more, congratulated
the drivers for their good day's work, and hurried out to the
Coustous,--there to sit and sip ices and steep in the exhilaration of
the festival until far into the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so ends our mountain faring; and when, the next day, we turn to the
morning train for Toulouse and the open plain, it is with anticipation
still, yet with an unrepressed sigh at leaving these mountains and
laughing valleys of the Pyrenees, of whose charms we had once so
inadequately known.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Midsummer Drive Through the Pyrenees" ***

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