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Title: The Christmas Kalends of Provence - And Some Other Provençal Festivals
Author: Janvier, Thomas A. (Thomas Allibone), 1849-1913
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Christmas Kalends of Provence - And Some Other Provençal Festivals" ***

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[Illustration: "'TO THE HEALTH OF THE COUNT!'"

See p. 32]

The Christmas Kalends


       *       *       *       *       *






       *       *       *       *       *




Copyright, 1902, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

_All rights reserved._

Published November, 1902.


C. A. J.




  A FEAST-DAY ON THE RHÔNE             133



  "'TO THE HEALTH OF THE COUNT!'"                _Frontispiece_

  AT THE WELL                                     _Facing p._ 6

  PLANTING SAINT BARBARA'S GRAIN                       "     14

  ELIZO'S OLD FATHER                                   "     74

  MAGALI                                               "    100

  THE PASSING OF THE KINGS                             "    112

  "THE BLIND GIRL"--NOËL                               "    118

  THE LANDING-PLACE AT TOURNON                         "    166

  THE DEFILE OF DONZÈRE                                "    190

  THE ROUMANILLE MONUMENT                              "    198

  AVIGNON                                              "    204

  GENERAL VIEW OF THE THEATRE                          "    210


  THE GREAT FAÇADE                                     "    238

  SCENE FROM THE FIRST ACT OF "OEDIPUS"                "    248

  SCENE FROM THE SECOND ACT OF "ANTIGONE"              "    256

The Christmas Kalends of Provence


    Fancy you've journeyed down the Rhône,
      Fancy you've passed Vienne, Valence,
    Fancy you've skirted Avignon--
      And so are come _en pleine_ Provence.

    Fancy a mistral cutting keen
      Across the sunlit wintry fields,
    Fancy brown vines, and olives green,
      And blustered, swaying, cypress shields.

    Fancy a widely opened door,
      Fancy an eager outstretched hand,
    Fancy--nor need you ask for more--
      A heart-sped welcome to our land.

    Fancy the peal of Christmas chimes,
      Fancy that some long-buried year
    Is born again of ancient times--
      And in Provence take Christmas cheer!

In my own case, this journey and this welcome were not fancies but
realities. I had come to keep Christmas with my old friend Monsieur de
Vièlmur according to the traditional Provençal rites and ceremonies in
his own entirely Provençal home: an ancient dwelling which stands high
up on the westward slope of the Alpilles, overlooking Arles and Tarascon
and within sight of Avignon, near the Rhône margin of Provence.

The Vidame--such is Monsieur de Vièlmur's ancient title: dating from the
vigorous days when every proper bishop, himself not averse to taking a
breather with sword and battle-axe should fighting matters become
serious, had his _vice dominus_ to lead his forces in the field--is an
old-school country gentleman who is amiably at odds with modern times.
While tolerant of those who have yielded to the new order, he himself is
a great stickler for the preservation of antique forms and ceremonies:
sometimes, indeed, pushing his fancies to lengths that fairly would lay
him open to the charge of whimsicality, were not even the most
extravagant of his crotchets touched and mellowed by his natural
goodness of heart. In the earlier stages of our acquaintance I was
disposed to regard him as an eccentric; but a wider knowledge of
Provençal matters has convinced me that he is a type. Under his genial
guidance it has been my privilege to see much of the inner life of the
Provençaux, and his explanations have enabled me to understand what I
have seen: the Vidame being of an antiquarian and bookish temper, and
never better pleased than when I set him to rummaging in his memory or
his library for the information which I require to make clear to me some
curious phase of Provençal manners or ways.

The Château de Vièlmur has remained so intimately a part of the Middle
Ages that the subtle essence of that romantic period still pervades it,
and gives to all that goes on there a quaintly archaic tone. The donjon,
a prodigiously strong square tower dating from the twelfth century,
partly is surrounded by a dwelling in the florid style of two hundred
years back--the architectural flippancies of which have been so tousled
by time and weather as to give it the look of an old beau caught
unawares by age and grizzled in the midst of his affected youth.

In the rear of these oddly coupled structures is a farm-house with a
dependent rambling collection of farm-buildings; the whole enclosing a
large open court to which access is had by a vaulted passage-way, that
on occasion may be closed by a double set of ancient iron-clamped doors.
As the few exterior windows of the farm-house are grated heavily, and as
from each of the rear corners of the square there projects a crusty
tourelle from which a raking fire could be kept up along the walls, the
place has quite the air of a testy little fortress--and a fortress it
was meant to be when it was built three hundred years and more ago (the
date, 1561, is carved on the keystone of the arched entrance) in the
time of the religious wars.

But now the iron-clamped doors stand open on rusty hinges, and the
court-yard has that look of placid cheerfulness which goes with the
varied peaceful activities of farm labour and farm life. Chickens and
ducks wander about it chattering complacently, an aged goat of a
melancholy humour stands usually in one corner lost in misanthropic
thought, and a great flock of extraordinarily tame pigeons flutters back
and forth between the stone dove-cote rising in a square tower above
the farm-house and the farm well.

[Illustration: AT THE WELL]

This well--enclosed in a stone well-house surmounted by a very ancient
crucifix--is in the centre of the court-yard, and it also is the centre
of a little domestic world. To its kerb come the farm animals three
times daily; while as frequently, though less regularly, most of the
members of the two households come there too; and there do the
humans--notably, I have observed, if they be of different sexes--find it
convenient to rest for a while together and take a dish of friendly
talk. From the low-toned chattering and the soft laughter that I have
heard now and then of an evening I have inferred that these nominally
chance encounters are not confined wholly to the day.

By simple machinery (of which the motive-power is an aged patient horse,
who is started and left then to his own devices; and who works quite
honestly, save that now and then he stops in his round and indulges
himself in a little doze) the well-water is raised continuously into a
long stone trough. Thence the overflow is led away to irrigate the
garden of the Château: an old-fashioned garden, on a slope declining
southward and westward, abounding in balustraded terraces and stone
benches stiffly ornate, and having here and there stone nymphs and
goddesses over which in summer climbing roses kindly (and discreetly)
throw a blushing veil.

The dependent estate is a large one: lying partly on the flanks of the
Alpilles, and extending far outward from the base of the range over the
level region where the Rhône valley widens and merges into the valley of
the Durance. On its highest slopes are straggling rows of almond trees,
which in the early spring time belt the grey mountains with a broad
girdle of delicate pink blossoms; a little lower are terraced
olive-orchards, a pale shimmering green the year round--the olive
continuously casting and renewing its leaves; and the lowest level, the
wide fertile plain, is given over to vineyards and wheat-fields and
fields of vegetables (grown for the Paris market), broken by plantations
of fruit-trees and by the long lines of green-black cypress which run
due east and west across the landscape and shield the tender growing
things from the north wind, the mistral.

The Château stands, as I have said, well up on the mountain-side; and on
the very spot (I must observe that I am here quoting its owner) where
was the camp in which Marius lay with his legions until the time was
ripe for him to strike the blow that secured Southern Gaul to Rome. This
matter of Marius is a ticklish subject to touch on with the Vidame:
since the fact must be admitted that other antiquaries are not less firm
in their convictions, nor less hot in presenting them, that the camp of
the Roman general was variously elsewhere--and all of them, I regret to
add, display a lamentable acerbity of temper in scouting each other's
views. Indeed, the subject is of so irritating a complexion that the
mere mention of it almost surely will throw my old friend--who in
matters not antiquarian has a sweetness of nature rarely equalled--into
a veritable fuming rage.

But even the antiquaries are agreed that, long before the coming of the
Romans, many earlier races successively made on this mountain
promontory overlooking the Rhône delta their fortified home: for here,
as on scores of other defensible heights throughout Provence, the merest
scratching of the soil brings to light flints and potshards which tell
of varied human occupancy in very far back times. And the antiquaries
still farther are agreed that precisely as these material relics (only a
little hidden beneath the present surface of the soil) tell of diverse
ancient dwellers here, so do the surviving fragments of creeds and
customs (only a little hidden beneath the surface of Provençal daily
life) tell in a more sublimate fashion of those same vanished races
which marched on into Eternity in the shadowy morning of Time.

For this is an old land, where many peoples have lived their spans out
and gone onward--yet have not passed utterly away. Far down in the
popular heart remnants of the beliefs and of the habits of those
ancients survive, entranced: yet not so numbed but that, on occasion,
they may be aroused into a life that still in part is real. Even now,
when the touch-stone is applied--when the thrilling of some nerve of
memory or of instinct brings the present into close association with
the past--there will flash into view still quick particles of seemingly
long-dead creeds or customs rooted in a deep antiquity: the faiths and
usages which of old were cherished by the Kelto-Ligurians, Phoenicians,
Grecians, Romans, Goths, Saracens, whose blood and whose beliefs are
blended in the Christian race which inhabits Provence to-day.


In the dominion of Vièlmur there is an inner empire. Nominally, the
Vidame is the reigning sovereign; but the power behind his throne is
Misè Fougueiroun. The term "Misè" is an old-fashioned Provençal title of
respect for women of the little bourgeoisie--tradesmen's and
shopkeepers' wives and the like--that has become obsolescent since the
Revolution and very generally has given place to the fine-ladyish
"Madamo." With a little stretching, it may be rendered by our English
old-fashioned title of "mistress"; and Misè Fougueiroun, who is the
Vidame's housekeeper, is mistress over his household in a truly
masterful way.

This personage is a little round woman, still plumply pleasing although
she is rising sixty, who is arrayed always with an exquisite neatness in
the dress--the sober black-and-white of the elder women, not the gay
colours worn by the young girls--of the Pays d'Arles; and--although
shortness and plumpness are at odds with majesty of deportment--she has,
at least, the peremptory manner of one long accustomed to command. As is
apt to be the way with little round women, her temper is of a brittle
cast and her hasty rulings sometimes smack of injustice; but her nature
(and this also is characteristic of her type) is so warmly generous that
her heart easily can be caught into kindness on the rebound. The Vidame,
who in spite of his antiquarian testiness is something of a philosopher,
takes advantage of her peculiarities to compass such of his wishes as
happen to run counter to her laws. His Machiavellian policy is to draw
her fire by a demand of an extravagant nature; and then, when her lively
refusal has set her a little in the wrong, handsomely to ask of her as
a favour what he really requires--a method that never fails of success.

By my obviously sincere admiration of the Château and its surroundings,
and by a discreet word or two implying a more personal admiration--a
tribute which no woman of the Pays d'Arles ever is too old to accept
graciously--I was so fortunate as to win Misè Fougueiroun's favour at
the outset; a fact of which I was apprised on the evening of my
arrival--it was at dinner, and the housekeeper herself had brought in a
bottle of precious Châteauneuf-du-Pape--by the cordiality with which she
joined forces with the Vidame in reprobating my belated coming to the
Château. Actually, I was near a fortnight behind the time named in my
invitation: which had stated expressly that Christmas began in Provence
on the Feast of Saint Barbara, and that I was expected not later than
that day--December 4th.

"Monsieur should have been here," said the housekeeper with decision,
"when we planted the blessed Saint Barbara's grain. And now it is grown
a full span. Monsieur will not see Christmas at all!"

But my apologetic explanation that I never even had heard of Saint
Barbara's grain only made my case the more deplorable.

"Mai!" exclaimed Misè Fougueiroun, in the tone of one who faces suddenly
a real calamity. "Can it be that there are no Christians in monsieur's
America? Is it possible that down there they do not keep the Christmas
feast at all?"

To cover my confusion, the Vidame intervened with an explanation which
made America appear in a light less heathenish. "The planting of Saint
Barbara's grain," he said, "is a custom that I think is peculiar to the
South of France. In almost every household in Provence, and over in
Languedoc too, on Saint Barbara's day the women fill two, sometimes
three, plates with wheat or lentils which they set afloat in water and
then stand in the warm ashes of the fire-place or on a sunny window
ledge to germinate. This is done in order to foretell the harvest of the
coming year, for as Saint Barbara's grain grows well or ill so will the
harvest of the coming year be good or bad; and also that there may be on
the table when the Great Supper is served on Christmas Eve--that is
to say, on the feast of the Winter Solstice--green growing grain in
symbol or in earnest of the harvest of the new year that then begins.


"The association of the Trinitarian Saint Barbara with this custom," the
Vidame continued, "I fear is a bit of a makeshift. Were three plates of
grain the rule, something of a case would be made out in her favour. But
the rule, so far as one can be found, is for only two. The custom must
be of Pagan origin, and therefore dates from far back of the time when
Saint Barbara lived in her three-windowed tower at Heliopolis. Probably
her name was tagged to it because of old these votive and prophetic
grain-fields were sown on what in Christian times became her dedicated
day. But whatever light-mannered goddess may have been their patroness
then, she is their patroness now; and from their sowing we date the
beginning of our Christmas feast."

It was obvious that this explanation of the custom went much too far for
Misè Fougueiroun. At the mention of its foundation in Paganism she
sniffed audibly, and upon the Vidame's reference to the light-mannered
goddess she drew her ample skirts primly about her and left the room.

The Vidame smiled. "I have scandalized Misè, and to-morrow I shall have
to listen to a lecture," he said; and in a moment continued: "It is not
easy to make our Provençaux realize how closely we are linked to older
peoples and to older times. The very name for Christmas in Provençal,
Calèndo, tells how this Christian festival lives on from the Roman
festival of the Winter Solstice, the January Kalends; and the beliefs
and customs which go with its celebration still more plainly mark its
origin. Our farmers believe, for instance, that these days which now are
passing--the twelve days, called _coumtié_, immediately preceding
Christmas--are foretellers of the weather for the new twelve months to
come; each in its turn, by rain or sunshine or by heat or cold, showing
the character of the correspondingly numbered month of the new year.
That the twelve prophetic days are those which immediately precede the
solstice puts their endowment with prophetic power very far back into
antiquity. Our farmers, too, have the saying, 'When Christmas falls on
a Friday you may sow in ashes'--meaning that the harvest of the ensuing
year surely will be so bountiful that seed sown anywhere will grow; and
in this saying there is a strong trace of Venus worship, for
Friday--Divèndre in Provençal--is the day sacred to the goddess of
fertility and bears her name. That belief comes to us from the time when
the statue of Aphrodite, dug up not long since at Marseille, was
worshipped here. Our _Pater de Calèndo_--our curious Christmas prayer
for abundance during the coming year--clearly is a Pagan supplication
that in part has been diverted into Christian ways; and in like manner
comes to us from Paganism the whole of our yule-log ceremonial."

The Vidame rose from the table. "Our coffee will be served in the
library," he said. He spoke with a perceptible hesitation, and there was
anxiety in his tone as he added: "Misè makes superb coffee; but
sometimes, when I have offended her, it is not good at all." And he
visibly fidgeted until the coffee arrived, and proved by its excellence
that the housekeeper had been too noble to take revenge.


In the early morning a lively clatter rising from the farm-yard came
through my open window, along with the sunshine and the crisp freshness
of the morning air. My apartment was in the southeast angle of the
Château, and my bedroom windows--overlooking the inner court--commanded
the view along the range of the Alpilles to the Luberoun and
Mont-Ventour, a pale great opal afloat in waves of clouds; while from
the windows of my sitting-room I saw over Mont-Majour and Arles far
across the level Camargue to the hazy horizon below which lay the

In the court-yard there was more than the ordinary morning commotion of
farm life, and the buzz of talk going on at the well and the racing and
shouting of a parcel of children all had in it a touch of eagerness and
expectancy. While I still was drinking my coffee--in the excellence and
delicate service of which I recognized the friendly hand of Misè
Fougueiroun--there came a knock at my door; and, upon my answer, the
Vidame entered--looking so elate and wearing so blithe an air that he
easily might have been mistaken for a frolicsome middle-aged sunbeam.

"Hurry! Hurry!" he cried, while still shaking both my hands. "This is a
day of days--we are going now to bring home the _cacho-fiò_, the
yule-log! Put on a pair of heavy shoes--the walking is rough on the
mountain-side. But be quick, and come down the moment that you are
ready. Now I must be off. There is a world for me to do!" And the old
gentleman bustled out of the room while he still was speaking, and in a
few moments I heard him giving orders to some one with great animation
on the terrace below.

When I went down stairs, five minutes later, I found him standing in the
hall by the open doorway: through which I saw, bright in the morning
light across the level landscape, King René's castle and the church of
Sainte-Marthe in Tarascon; and over beyond Tarascon, high on the farther
bank of the Rhône, Count Raymond's castle of Beaucaire; and in the far
distance, faintly, the jagged peaks of the Cévennes.

But that was no time for looking at landscapes. "Come along!" he cried.
"They all are waiting for us at the Mazet," and he hurried me down the
steps to the terrace and so around to the rear of the Château, talking
away eagerly as we walked.

"It is a most important matter," he said, "this bringing home of the
_cacho-fiò_. The whole family must take part in it. The head of the
family--the grandfather, the father, or the eldest son--must cut the
tree; all the others must share in carrying home the log that is to make
the Christmas fire. And the tree must be a fruit-bearing tree. With us
it usually is an almond or an olive. The olive especially is sacred. Our
people, getting their faith from their Greek ancestors, believe that
lightning never strikes it. But an apple-tree or a pear-tree will serve
the purpose, and up in the Alp region they burn the acorn-bearing oak.
What we shall do to-day is an echo of Druidical ceremonial--of the time
when the Druid priests cut the yule-oak and with their golden sickles
reaped the sacred mistletoe; but old Jan here, who is so stiff for
preserving ancient customs, does not know that this custom, like many
others that he stands for, is the survival of a rite."

While the Vidame was speaking we had turned from the terrace and were
nearing the Mazet--which diminutive of the Provençal word _mas_, meaning
farm-house, is applied to the farm establishment at Vièlmur partly in
friendliness and partly in indication of its dependence upon the great
house, the Château. At the arched entrance we found the farm family
awaiting us: Old Jan, the steward of the estate, and his wife Elizo;
Marius, their elder son, a man over forty, who is the active manager of
affairs; their younger son, Esperit, and their daughter Nanoun; and the
wife of Marius, Janetoun, to whose skirts a small child was clinging
while three or four larger children scampered about her in a whir of
excitement over the imminent event by which Christmas really would be
ushered in.

When my presentation had been accomplished--a matter a little
complicated in the case of old Jan, who, in common with most of the old
men hereabouts, speaks only Provençal--we set off across the home
vineyard, and thence went upward through the olive-orchards, to the high
region on the mountain-side where grew the almond-tree which the Vidame
and his steward in counsel together had selected for the Christmas

Nanoun, a strapping red-cheeked black-haired bounce of twenty, ran back
into the Mazet as we started; and joined us again, while we were
crossing the vineyard, bringing with her a gentle-faced fair girl of her
own age who came shyly. The Vidame, calling her Magali, had a cordial
word for this new-comer; and nudged me to bid me mark how promptly
Esperit was by her side. "It is as good as settled," he whispered. "They
have been lovers since they were children. Magali is the daughter of
Elizo's foster-sister, who died when the child was born. Then Elizo
brought her home to the Mazet, and there she has lived her whole
lifelong. Esperit is waiting only until he shall be established in the
world to speak the word. And the scamp is in a hurry. Actually, he is
pestering me to put him at the head of the Lower Farm!"

The Vidame gave this last piece of information in a tone of severity;
but there was a twinkle in his kind old eyes as he spoke which led me to
infer that Master Esperit's chances for the stewardship of the Lower
Farm were anything but desperate, and I noticed that from time to time
he cast very friendly glances toward these young lovers--as our little
procession, mounting the successive terraces, went through the
olive-orchards along the hill-side upward.

Presently we were grouped around the devoted almond-tree: a gnarled old
personage, of a great age and girth, having that pathetic look of
sorrowful dignity which I find always in superannuated trees--and now
and then in humans of gentle natures who are conscious that their days
of usefulness are gone. Esperit, who was beside me, felt called upon to
explain that the old tree was almost past bearing and so was worthless.
His explanation seemed to me a bit of needless cruelty; and I was glad
when Magali, evidently moved by the same feeling, intervened softly
with: "Hush, the poor tree may understand!" And then added, aloud: "The
old almond must know that it is a very great honour for any tree to be
chosen for the Christmas fire!"

This little touch of pure poetry charmed me. But I was not surprised by
it--for pure poetry, both in thought and in expression, is found often
among the peasants of Provence.

Even the children were quiet as old Jan took his place beside the tree,
and there was a touch of solemnity in his manner as he swung his heavy
axe and gave the first strong blow--that sent a shiver through all the
branches, as though the tree realized that death had overtaken it at
last. When he had slashed a dozen times into the trunk, making a deep
gash in the pale red wood beneath the brown bark, he handed the axe to
Marius; and stood watching silently with the rest of us while his son
finished the work that he had begun. In a few minutes the tree tottered;
and then fell with a growling death-cry, as its brittle old branches
crashed upon the ground.

Whatever there had been of unconscious reverence in the silence that
attended the felling was at an end. As the tree came down everybody
shouted. Instantly the children were swarming all over it. In a moment
our little company burst into the flood of loud and lively talk that is
inseparable in Provence from gay occasions--and that is ill held in
check even at funerals and in church. They are the merriest people in
the world, the Provençaux.


Marius completed his work by cutting through the trunk again, making a
noble _cacho-fiò_ near five feet long--big enough to burn, according to
the Provençal rule, from Christmas Eve until the evening of New Year's

It is not expected, of course, that the log shall burn continuously.
Each night it is smothered in ashes and is not set a-blazing again until
the following evening. But even when thus husbanded the log must be a
big one to last the week out, and it is only in rich households that the
rule can be observed. Persons of modest means are satisfied if they can
keep burning the sacred fire over Christmas Day; and as to the very
poor, their _cacho-fiò_ is no more than a bit of a fruit-tree's
branch--that barely, by cautious guarding, will burn until the midnight
of Christmas Eve. Yet this suffices: and it seems to me that there is
something very tenderly touching about these thin yule-twigs which make,
with all the loving ceremonial and rejoicing that might go with a whole
tree-trunk, the poor man's Christmas fire. In the country, the poorest
man is sure of his _cacho-fiò_. The Provençaux are a kindly race, and
the well-to-do farmers are not forgetful of their poorer neighbors at
Christmas time. An almond-branch always may be had for the asking; and
often, along with other friendly gifts toward the feast, without any
asking at all. Indeed, as I understood from the Vidame's orders, the
remainder of our old almond was to be cut up and distributed over the
estate and about the neighborhood--and so the life went out from it
finally in a Christmas blaze that brightened many homes. In the cities,
of course, the case is different; and, no doubt, on many a chill hearth
no yule-fire burns. But even in the cities this kindly usage is not
unknown. Among the boat-builders and ship-wrights of the coast towns the
custom long has obtained--being in force even in the Government
dock-yard at Toulon--of permitting each workman to carry away a
_cacho-fiò_ from the refuse oak timber; and an equivalent present
frequently is given at Christmas time to the labourers in other trades.

While the Vidame talked to me of these genial matters we were returning
homeward, moving in a mildly triumphal procession that I felt to be a
little tinctured with ceremonial practices come down from forgotten
times. Old Jan and Marius marching in front, Esperit and the sturdy
Nanoun marching behind, carried between them the yule-log slung to
shoulder-poles. Immediately in their wake, as chief rejoicers, the
Vidame and I walked arm in arm. Behind us came Elizo and Janetoun and
Magali--save that the last (manifesting a most needless solicitude for
Nanoun, who almost could have carried the log alone on her own strapping
shoulders) managed to be frequently near Esperit's side. The children,
waving olive-branches, careered about us; now and then going through
the form of helping to carry the _cacho-fiò_, and all the while shouting
and singing and dancing--after the fashion of small dryads who also were
partly imps of joy. So we came down through the sun-swept, terraced
olive-orchards in a spirit of rejoicing that had its beginning very far
back in the world's history and yet was freshly new that day.

Our procession took on grand proportions, I should explain, because our
yule-log was of extraordinary size. But always the yule-log is brought
home in triumph. If it is small, it is carried on the shoulder of the
father or the eldest son; if it is a goodly size, those two carry it
together; or a young husband and wife may bear it between them--as we
actually saw a thick branch of our almond borne away that
afternoon--while the children caracole around them or lend little
helping hands.

Being come to the Mazet, the log was stood on end in the court-yard in
readiness to be taken thence to the fire-place on Christmas Eve. I
fancied that the men handled it with a certain reverence; and the Vidame
assured me that such actually was the case. Already, being dedicate to
the Christmas rite, it had become in a way sacred; and along with its
sanctity, according to the popular belief, it had acquired a power which
enabled it sharply to resent anything that smacked of sacrilegious
affront. The belief was well rooted, he added by way of instance, that
any one who sat on a yule-log would pay in his person for his temerity
either with a dreadful stomach-ache that would not permit him to eat his
Christmas dinner, or would suffer a pest of boils. He confessed that he
always had wished to test practically this superstition, but that his
faith in it had been too strong to suffer him to make the trial!

On the other hand, when treated reverently and burned with fitting
rites, the yule-log brings upon all the household a blessing; and when
it has been consumed even its ashes are potent for good. Infused into a
much-esteemed country-side medicine, the yule-log ashes add to its
efficacy; sprinkled in the chicken-house and cow-stable, they ward off
disease; and, being set in the linen-closet, they are an infallible
protection against fire. Probably this last property has its genesis in
the belief that live-coals from the yule-log may be placed on the linen
cloth spread for the Great Supper without setting it on fire--a belief
which prudent housewives always are shy of putting to a practical test.

The home-bringing ceremony being thus ended, we walked back to the
Château together--startling Esperit and Magali standing hand in hand,
lover-like, in the archway; and when we were come to the terrace, and
were seated snugly in a sunny corner, the Vidame told me of a very
stately yule-log gift that was made anciently in Aix--and very likely
elsewhere also--in feudal times.

In Aix it was the custom, when the Counts of Provence still lived and
ruled there, for the magistrates of the city each year at Christmas-tide
to carry in solemn procession a huge _cacho-fiò_ to the palace of their
sovereign; and there formally to present to him--or, in his absence, to
the Grand Seneschal on his behalf--this their free-will and good-will
offering. And when the ceremony of presentation was ended the city
fathers were served with a collation at the Count's charges, and were
given the opportunity to pledge him loyally in his own good wine.

Knowing Aix well, I was able to fill in the outlines of the Vidame's
bare statement of fact and also to give it a background. What a joy the
procession must have been to see! The grey-bearded magistrates, in their
velvet caps and robes, wearing their golden chains of office; the great
log, swung to shoulder-poles and borne by leathern-jerkined henchmen;
surely drummers and fifers, for such a ceremonial would have been
impossibly incomplete in Provence without a _tambourin_ and _galoubet_;
doubtless a brace of ceremonial trumpeters; and a seemly guard in front
and rear of steel-capped and steel-jacketed halbardiers. All these
marching gallantly through the narrow, yet stately, Aix streets; with
comfortable burghers and well-rounded matrons in the doorways looking
on, and pretty faces peeping from upper windows and going all a-blushing
because of the over-bold glances of the men-at-arms! And then fancy the
presentation in the great hall of the castle; and the gay feasting; and
the merry wagging of grey-bearded chins as the magistrates cried all
together, "To the health of the Count!"--and tossed their wine!

I protest that I grew quite melancholy as I thought how delightful it
all was--and how utterly impossible it all is in these our own dull
times! In truth I never can dwell upon such genially picturesque doings
of the past without feeling that Fate treated me very shabbily in not
making me one of my own ancestors--and so setting me back in that
hard-fighting, gay-going, and eminently light-opera age.


As Christmas Day drew near I observed that Misè Fougueiroun walked
thoughtfully and seemed to be oppressed by heavy cares. When I met her
on the stairs or about the passages her eyes had the far-off look of
eyes prying into a portentous future; and when I spoke to her she
recovered her wandering wits with a start. At first I feared that some
grave misfortune had overtaken her; but I was reassured, upon applying
myself to the Vidame, by finding that her seeming melancholy distraction
was due solely to the concentration of all her faculties upon the
preparation of the Christmas feast.

Her case, he added, was not singular. It was the same just then with all
the housewives of the region: for the chief ceremonial event of
Christmas in Provence is the _Gros Soupa_ that is eaten upon Christmas
Eve, and of even greater culinary importance is the dinner that is eaten
upon Christmas Day--wherefore does every woman brood and labour that her
achievement of those meals may realize her high ideal! Especially does
the preparation of the Great Supper compel exhaustive thought. Being of
a vigil, the supper necessarily is "lean"; and custom has fixed
unalterably the principal dishes of which it must be composed. Thus
limited straitly, the making of it becomes a struggle of genius against
material conditions; and its successful accomplishment is comparable
with the perfect presentment by a great poet of some well-worn elemental
truth in a sonnet--of which the triumphant beauty comes less from the
integral concept than from the exquisite felicity of expression that
gives freshness to a hackneyed subject treated in accordance with
severely constraining rules.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the Provençal housewives give the
shortest of the December days to soulful creation in the kitchen, and
the longest of the December nights to searching for inspired culinary
guidance in dreams. They take such things very seriously, those good
women: nor is their seriousness to be wondered at when we reflect that
Saint Martha, of blessed memory, ended her days here in Provence; and
that this notable saint, after delivering the country from the ravaging
Tarasque, no doubt set up in her own house at Tarascon an ideal standard
of housekeeping that still is in force. Certainly, the women of this
region pattern themselves so closely upon their sainted model as to be
even more cumbered with much serving than are womenkind elsewhere.

Because of the Vidame's desolate bachelorhood, the kindly custom long
ago was established that he and all his household every year should eat
their Great Supper with the farm family at the Mazet; an arrangement
that did not work well until Misè Fougueiroun and Elizo (after some
years of spirited squabbling) came to the agreement that the former
should be permitted to prepare the delicate sweets served for dessert at
that repast. Of these the most important is nougat, without which
Christmas would be as barren in Provence as Christmas would be in
England without plum-pudding or in America without mince-pies. Besides
being sold in great quantities by town confectioners, nougat is made in
most country homes. Even the dwellers on the poor up-land farms--which,
being above the reach of irrigation, yield uncertain harvests--have
their own almond-trees and their own bees to make them honey, and so
possess the raw materials of this necessary luxury. As for the other
sweets, they may be anything that fancy and skill together can achieve;
and it is in this ornate department of the Great Supper that genius has
its largest chance.

But it was the making of the Christmas dinner that mainly occupied Misè
Fougueiroun's mind--a feast pure and simple, governed by the one jolly
law that it shall be the very best dinner of the whole year! What may be
termed its by-laws are that the principal dish shall be a roast turkey,
and that nougat and _poumpo_ shall figure at the dessert. Why _poumpo_
is held in high esteem by the Provençaux I am not prepared to say. It
seemed to me a cake of only a humdrum quality; but even Misè
Fougueiroun--to whom I am indebted for the appended recipe[1]--spoke of
it in a sincerely admiring and chop-smacking way.

Anciently the Christmas bird was a goose--who was roasted and eaten
('twas a backhanded compliment!) in honour of her ancestral good deeds.
For legend tells that when the Kings, led by the star, arrived at the
inn-stable in Bethlehem it was the goose, alone of all the animals
assembled there, who came forward politely to make them her
compliments; yet failed to express clearly her good intentions because
she had caught a cold, in the chill and windy weather, and her voice was
unintelligibly creaky and harsh. The same voice ever since has remained
to her, and as a farther commemoration of her hospitable and courteous
conduct it became the custom to spit her piously on Christmas Day.

I have come across the record of another Christmas roast that now and
then was served at the tables of the rich in Provence in mediæval times.
This was a huge cock, stuffed with chicken-livers and sausage-meat and
garnished with twelve roasted partridges, thirty eggs, and thirty
truffles: the whole making an alimentary allegory in which the cock
represented the year, the partridges the months, the eggs the days, and
the truffles the nights. But this never was a common dish, and not until
the turkey appeared was the goose rescued from her annual martyrdom.

The date of the coming of the turkey to Provence is uncertain. Popular
tradition declares that the crusaders brought him home with them from
the Indies! Certainly, he came a long while ago; probably very soon
after Europe received him from America as a noble and perpetual
Christmas present--and that occurred, I think, about thirty years after
Columbus, with an admirable gastronomic perception, discovered his
primitive home.

Ordinarily the Provençal Christmas turkey is roasted with a stuffing of
chestnuts, or of sausage-meat and black olives: but the high cooks of
Provence also roast him stuffed with truffles--making so superb a dish
that Brillat-Savarin has singled it out for praise. Misè Fougueiroun's
method, still more exquisite, was to make a stuffing of veal and fillet
of pork (one-third of the former and two-thirds of the latter) minced
and brayed in a mortar with a seasoning of salt and pepper and herbs, to
which truffles cut in quarters were added with a lavish hand. For the
basting she used a piece of salt-pork fat stuck on a long fork and set
on fire. From this the flaming juice was dripped judiciously over the
roast, with resulting little puffings of brown skin which permitted the
savour of the salt to penetrate the flesh and so gave to it a delicious
crispness and succulence. As to the flavour of a turkey thus cooked, no
tongue can tell what any tongue blessed to taste of it may know! Of the
minor dishes served at the Christmas dinner it is needless to speak.
There is nothing ceremonial about them; nothing remarkable except their
excellence and their profusion. Save that they are daintier, they are
much the same as Christmas dishes in other lands.

While the preparation of all these things was forward, a veritable
culinary tornado raged in the lower regions of the Château. Both Magali
and the buxom Nanoun were summoned to serve under the housekeeper's
banners, and I was told that they esteemed as a high privilege their
opportunity thus to penetrate into the very arcana of high culinary art.
The Vidame even said that Nanoun's matrimonial chances--already good,
for the baggage had set half the lads of the country-side at loggerheads
about her--would be decidedly bettered by this discipline under Misè
Fougueiroun: whose name long has been one to conjure with in all the
kitchens between Saint-Remy and the Rhône. For the Provençaux are
famous trencher-men, and the way that leads through their gullets is not
the longest way to their hearts.


But in spite of their eager natural love for all good things eatable,
the Provençaux also are poets; and, along with the cooking, another
matter was in train that was wholly of a poetic cast. This was the
making of the crèche: a representation with odd little figures and
accessories of the personages and scene of the Nativity--the whole at
once so naïve and so tender as to be possible only among a people
blessed with rare sweetness and rare simplicity of soul.

The making of the crèche is especially the children's part of the
festival--though the elders always take a most lively interest in
it--and a couple of days before Christmas, as we were returning from one
of our walks, we fell in with all the farm children coming homeward from
the mountains laden with crèche-making material: mosses, lichens,
laurel, and holly; this last of smaller growth than our holly, but
bearing fine red berries, which in Provençal are called _li poumeto de
Sant-Jan_--"the little apples of Saint John."

Our expedition had been one of the many that the Vidame took me upon in
order that he might expound his geographical reasons for believing in
his beloved Roman Camp; and this diversion enabled me to escape from
Marius--I fear with a somewhat unseemly precipitation--by pressing him
for information in regard to the matter which the children had in hand.
As to openly checking the Vidame, when once he fairly is astride of his
hobby, the case is hopeless. To cast a doubt upon even the least of his
declarations touching the doings of the Roman General is the signal for
a blaze of arguments down all his battle front; and I really do not like
even to speculate upon what might happen were I to meet one of his major
propositions with a flat denial! But an attack in flank, I find--the
sudden posing of a question upon some minor antiquarian theme--usually
can be counted upon, as in this instance, to draw him outside the Roman
lines. Yet that he left them with a pained reluctance was so evident
that I could not but feel some twinges of remorse--until my interest in
what he told me made me forget my heartlessness in shunting to a side
track the subject on which he so loves to talk.

In a way, the crèche takes in Provence the place of the Christmas-tree,
of which Northern institution nothing is known here; but it is closer to
the heart of Christmas than the tree, being touched with a little of the
tender beauty of the event which it represents in so quaint a guise. Its
invention is ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi. The chronicle of his
Order tells that this seraphic man, having first obtained the permission
of the Holy See, represented the principal scenes of the Nativity in a
stable; and that in the stable so transformed he celebrated mass and
preached to the people. All this is wholly in keeping with the character
of Saint Francis; and, certainly, the crèche had its origin in Italy in
his period, and in the same conditions which formed his graciously
fanciful soul. Its introduction into Provence is said to have been in
the time of John XXII.--the second of the Avignon Popes, who came to
the Pontificate in the year 1316--and by the Fathers of the Oratory of
Marseille: from which centre it rapidly spread abroad through the land
until it became a necessary feature of the Christmas festival both in
churches and in homes.

Obviously, the crèche is an offshoot from the miracle plays and
mysteries which had their beginning a full two centuries earlier. These
also survive vigorously in Provence in the "Pastouralo": an acted
representation of the Nativity that is given each year during the
Christmas season by amateurs or professionals in every city and town,
and in almost every village. Indeed, the Pastouralo is so large a
subject, and so curious and so interesting, that I venture here only to
allude to it. Nor has it, properly--although so intensely a part of the
Provençal Christmas--a place in this paper, which especially deals with
the Christmas of the home.

In the farm-houses, and in the dwellings of the middle-class, the crèche
is placed always in the living-room, and so becomes an intimate part of
the family life. On a table set in a corner is represented a rocky
hill-side--dusted with flour to represent snow--rising in terraces
tufted with moss and grass and little trees and broken by foot-paths and
a winding road. This structure is very like a Provençal hill-side, but
it is supposed to represent the rocky region around Bethlehem. At its
base, on the left, embowered in laurel or in holly, is a wooden or
pasteboard representation of the inn; and beside the inn is the stable:
an open shed in which are grouped little figures representing the
several personages of the Nativity. In the centre is the Christ-Child,
either in a cradle or lying on a truss of straw; seated beside him is
the Virgin; Saint Joseph stands near, holding in his hand the mystic
lily; with their heads bent down over the Child are the ox and the
ass--for those good animals helped with their breath through that cold
night to keep him warm. In the foreground are the two _ravi_--a man and
a woman in awed ecstasy, with upraised arms--and the adoring shepherds.
To these are added on Epiphany the figures of the Magi--the Kings, as
they are called always in French and in Provençal--with their train of
attendants, and the camels on which they have brought their gifts.
Angels (pendent from the farm-house ceiling) float in the air above the
stable. Higher is the Star, from which a ray (a golden thread) descends
to the Christ-Child's hand. Over all, in a glory of clouds, hangs the
figure of Jehovah attended by a white dove.

These are the essentials of the crèche; and in the beginning, no doubt,
these made the whole of it. But for nearly six centuries the delicate
imagination of the Provençal poets and the cruder, but still poetic,
fancy of the Provençal people have been enlarging upon the simple
original: with the result that twoscore or more figures often are found
in the crèche of to-day.

Either drawing from the quaintly beautiful mediæval legends of the birth
and childhood of Jesus, or directly from their own quaintly simple
souls, the poets from early times have been making Christmas
songs--noëls, or nouvé as they are called in Provençal--in which new
subordinate characters have been created in a spirit of frank realism,
and these have materialized in new figures surrounding the crèche. At
the same time the fancy of the people, working with a still more naïve
directness along the lines of associated ideas, has been making the most
curiously incongruous and anachronistic additions to the group.

To the first order belong such creations as the blind man, led by a
child, coming to be healed of his blindness by the Infant's touch; or
that of the young mother hurrying to offer her breast to the new-born
(in accordance with the beautiful custom still in force in Provence)
that its own mother may rest a little before she begins to suckle it; or
that of the other mother bringing the cradle of which her own baby has
been dispossessed, because of her compassion for the poor woman at the
inn whose child is lying on a truss of straw.

But the popular additions, begotten of association of ideas, are far
more numerous and also are far more curious. The hill-top, close under
the floating figure of Jehovah, has been crowned with a
wind-mill--because wind-mills abounded anciently on the hill-tops of
Provence. To the mill, naturally, has been added a miller--who is riding
down the road on an ass, with a sack of flour across his saddle-bow
that he is carrying as a gift to the Holy Family. The adoring shepherds
have been given flocks of sheep, and on the hill-side more shepherds and
more sheep have been put for company. The sheep, in association with the
ox and the ass, have brought in their train a whole troop of domestic
animals--including geese and turkeys and chickens and a cock on the roof
of the stable; and in the train of the camels has come the extraordinary
addition of lions, bears, leopards, elephants, ostriches, and even
crocodiles! The Provençaux being from of old mighty hunters (the
tradition has found its classic embodiment in Tartarin), and hill-sides
being appropriate to hunting, a figure of a fowler with a gun at his
shoulder has been introduced; and as it is well, even in the case of a
Provençal sportsman, to point a gun at a definite object, the fowler
usually is so placed as to aim at the cock on the stable roof. He is a
modern, yet not very recent addition, the fowler, as is shown by the
fact that he carries a flint-lock fowling-piece. Drumming and fifing
being absolute essentials to every sort of Provençal festivity, a
conspicuous figure always is found playing on a _tambourin_ and
_galoubet_. Itinerant knife-grinders are an old institution here, and in
some obscure way--possibly because of their thievish propensities--are
associated intimately with the devil; and so there is either a
knife-grinder simple, or a devil with a knife-grinder's wheel. Of old it
was the custom for the women to carry distaffs and to spin out thread as
they went to and from the fields or along the roads (just as the women
nowadays knit as they walk), and therefore a spinning-woman always is of
the company. Because child-stealing was not uncommon here formerly, and
because gypsies still are plentiful, there are three gypsies lurking
about the inn all ready to steal the Christ-Child away. As the
inn-keeper naturally would come out to investigate the cause of the
commotion in his stable-yard, he is found, with the others, lantern in
hand. And, finally, there is a group of women bearing as gifts to the
Christ-Child the essentials of the Christmas feast: codfish, chickens,
carde, ropes of garlic, eggs, and the great Christmas cakes, _poumpo_
and _fougasso_.

Many other figures may be, and often are, added to the group--of which
one of the most delightful is the Turk who makes a solacing present of
his pipe to Saint Joseph; but all of these which I have named have come
to be now quite as necessary to a properly made crèche as are the few
which are taken direct from the Bible narrative: and the congregation
surely is one of the quaintest that ever poetry and simplicity together

In Provençal the diminutive of saint is _santoun_; and it is as santouns
that all the personages of the crèche--including the whole of the purely
human and animal contingent, and even the knife-grinding devil--are
known. They are of various sizes--the largest, used in churches, being
from two to three feet high--and in quality of all degrees: ranging
downward from real magnificence (such as may be seen in the
seventeenth-century Neapolitan crèche in Room V. of the Musée de Cluny)
to the rough little clay figures two or three inches high in common
household use throughout Provence. These last, sold by thousands at
Christmas time, are as crude as they well can be: pressed in rude
moulds, dried (not baked), and painted with glaring colours, with a
little gilding added in the case of Jehovah and the angels and the

For two centuries or more the making of clay santouns has been a notable
industry in Marseille. It is largely a hereditary trade carried on by
certain families inhabiting that ancient part of the city, the Quarter
of Saint-Jean, which lies to the south of the Vieux Port. The figures
sell for the merest trifle, the cheapest for one or two sous, yet the
Santoun Fair--held annually in December in booths set up in the
Cour-du-Chapitre and in the Allée-des-Capucins--is of a real commercial
importance; and is also--what with the oddly whimsical nature of its
merchandise, and the vast enjoyment of the children under parental or
grand-parental convoy who are its patrons--the very gayest sight in that
city of which gayety is the dominant characteristic the whole year


Not until "the day of the Kings," the Feast of the Epiphany, is the
crèche completed. Then are added to the group the figures of the three
Kings--the Magi, as we call them in English: along with their gallant
train of servitors, and the hump-backed camels on which they have ridden
westward to Bethlehem guided by the Star. The Provençal children believe
that they come at sunset, in pomp and splendour, riding in from the
outer country, and on through the street of the village, and in through
the church door, to do homage before the manger in the transept where
the Christ-Child lies. And the children believe that it may be seen,
this noble procession, if only they may have the good fortune to hit
upon the road along which the royal progress to their village is to be
made. But Mistral has told about all this far better than I can tell
about it, and I shall quote here, by his permission, a page or two from
the "Memoirs" which he is writing, slowly and lovingly, in the
between-whiles of the making of his songs:

    "To-morrow's the festival of the Kings. This evening they arrive. If
    you want to see them, little ones, go quickly to meet them--and take
    presents for them, and for their pages, and for the poor camels who
    have come so far!"

    That was what, in my time, the mothers used to say on the eve of
    Epiphany--and, _zòu!_ all the children of the village would be off
    together to meet "les Rois Mages," who were coming with their pages
    and their camels and the whole of their glittering royal suite to
    adore the Christ-Child in our church in Maillane! All of us
    together, little chaps with curly hair, pretty little girls, our
    sabots clacking, off we would go along the Arles road, our hearts
    thrilling with joy, our eyes full of visions. In our hands we would
    carry, as we had been bidden, our presents: fougasso for the Kings,
    figs for the pages, sweet hay for the tired camels who had come so

    On we would go through the cold of dying day, the sun, over beyond
    the Rhône, dipping toward the Cévennes; leafless trees, red in low
    sun-rays; black lines of cypress; in the fields an old woman with a
    fagot on her head; beside the road an old man scratching under the
    hedge for snails.

    "Where are you going, little ones?"

    "We are going to meet the Kings!" And on we would run proudly along
    the white road, while the shrewd north wind blew sharp behind us,
    until our old church tower would drop away and be hidden behind the
    trees. We could see far, far down the wide straight road, but it
    would be bare! In the cold of the winter evening all would be dumb.
    Then we would meet a shepherd, wrapped in his long brown cloak and
    leaning on his staff, a silhouette against the western sky.

    "Where are you going, little ones?"

    "We are going to meet the Kings! Can you tell us if they are far

    "Ah, the Kings. Certainly. They are over there behind the cypresses.
    They are coming. You will see them soon."

    On we would run to meet the Kings so near, with our fougasso and our
    figs and our hay for the hungry camels. The day would be waning
    rapidly, the sun dropping down into a great cloud-bank above the
    mountains, the wind nipping us more shrewdly as it grew still more
    chill. Our hearts also would be chilling. Even the bravest of us
    would be doubting a little this adventure upon which we were bound.

    [Illustration: THE PASSING OF THE KINGS]

    Then, of a sudden, a flood of radiant glory would be about us, and
    from the dark cloud above the mountains would burst forth a
    splendour of glowing crimson and of royal purple and of glittering

    "Les Rois Mages! Les Rois Mages!" we would cry. "They are coming!
    They are here at last!"

    But it would be only the last rich dazzle of the sunset. Presently
    it would vanish. The owls would be hooting. The chill night would be
    settling down upon us, out there in the bleak country, sorrowful,
    alone. Fear would take hold of us. To keep up our courage a little,
    we would nibble at the figs which we had hoped to give to the pages,
    at the fougasso which we had hoped to present to the Kings. As for
    the hay for the hungry camels, we would throw it away. Shivering in
    the wintry dusk, we would return sadly to our homes.

    And when we reached our homes again our mothers would ask: "Well,
    did you see them, the Kings?"

    "No; they passed by on the other side of the Rhône, behind the

    "But what road did you take?"

    "The road to Arles."

    "Ah, my poor child! The Kings don't come that way. They come from
    the East. You should have gone out to meet them on the road to
    Saint-Remy. And what a sight you have missed! Oh, how beautiful it
    was when they came marching into Maillane--the drums, the trumpets,
    the pages, the camels! _Mon Dieu_, what a commotion! What a sight it
    was! And now they are in the church, making their homage before the
    manger in which the little Christ-Child lies. But never mind; after
    supper you shall see them all."

    Then we would sup quickly, and so be off to the church, crowded with
    all Maillane. Barely would we be entered there when the organ would
    begin, at first softly and then bursting forth formidably, all our
    people singing with it, with the superb noël:

                  In the early morning
                  I met a train
        Of three great Kings who were going on a journey!

    High up before the altar, directly above the manger in which the
    Christ-Child was lying, would be the glittering _bello estello_;
    and making their homage before the manger would be the Kings whom it
    had guided thither from the East: old white-bearded King Melchior
    with his gift of incense; gallant young King Gaspard with his gift
    of treasure; black King Balthazar the Moor with his gift of myrrh.
    How reverently we would gaze on them, and how we would admire the
    brave pages who carried the trains of their long mantles, and the
    hump-backed camels whose heads towered high above Saint Mary and
    Saint Joseph and the ox and the ass.

    Yes, there they were at last--the Kings!

Many and many a time in the after years have I gone a-walking on the
Arles road at nightfall on the Eve of the Kings. It is the same--but not
the same. The sun, over beyond the Rhône, is dipping toward the
Cévennes; the leafless trees are red in the low sun-rays; across the
fields stretch the black lines of cypress; even the old man, as long
ago, is scratching in the hedge by the roadside for snails. And when
darkness comes quickly, with the sun's setting, the owls hoot as of

But in the radiant glory of the sunset I no longer see the dazzle and
the splendour of the Kings!

"Which way went they, the Kings?"

"Behind the mountains!"


In the morning of the day preceding Christmas a lurking, yet
ill-repressed, excitement pervaded the Château and all its dependencies.
In the case of the Vidame and Misè Fougueiroun the excitement did not
even lurk: it blazed forth so openly that they were as a brace of
comets--bustling violently through our universe and dragging into their
erratic wakes, away from normal orbits, the whole planetary system of
the household and all the haply intrusive stars.

With my morning coffee came the explanation of a quite impossible smell
of frying dough-nuts which had puzzled me on the preceding day: a
magnificent golden-brown _fougasso_, so perfect of its kind that any
Provençal of that region--though he had come upon it in the sandy wastes
of Sahara--would have known that its creator was Misè Fougueiroun. To
compare the _fougasso_ with our homely dough-nut does it injustice. It
is a large flat open-work cake--a grating wrought in dough--an inch or
so in thickness, either plain or sweetened or salted, fried delicately
in the best olive-oil of Aix or Maussane. It is made throughout the
winter, but its making at Christmas time is of obligation; and the
custom obtains among the women--though less now than of old--of sending
a _fougasso_ as a Christmas gift to each of their intimates. As this
custom had in it something more than a touch of vainglorious emulation,
I well can understand why it has fallen into desuetude in the vicinity
of Vièlmur--where Misè Fougueiroun's inspired kitchening throws all
other cook-work hopelessly into the shade. As I ate the "horns" (as its
fragments are called) of my _fougasso_ that morning, dipping them in my
coffee according to the prescribed custom, I was satisfied that it
deserved its high place in the popular esteem.

When I joined the Vidame below stairs I found him under such stress of
Christmas excitement that he actually forgot his usual morning
suggestion--made always with an off-hand freshness, as though the matter
were entirely new--that we should take a turn along the lines of the
Roman Camp. He was fidgeting back and forth between the hall (our usual
place of morning meeting) and the kitchen: torn by his conflicting
desires to attend upon me, his guest, and to take his accustomed part in
the friendly ceremony that was going on below. Presently he compromised
the divergencies of the situation, though with some hesitation, by
taking me down with him into Misè Fougueiroun's domain--where he became
frankly cheerful when he found that I was well received.

Although the morning still was young, work on the estate had been ended
for the day, and about the door of the kitchen more than a score of
labourers were gathered: all with such gay looks as to show that
something of a more than ordinarily joyous nature was in train. Among
them I recognized the young fellow whom we had met with his wife
carrying away the yule-log; and found that all of them were workmen upon
the estate who--either being married or having homes within walking
distance--were to be furloughed for the day. This was according to the
Provençal custom that Christmas must be spent by one's own fire-side;
and it also was according to Provençal custom that they were not
suffered to go away with empty hands.

Misè Fougueiroun--a plump embodiment of Benevolence--stood beside a
table on which was a great heap of her own _fougasso_, and big baskets
filled with dried figs and almonds and celery, and a genial battalion of
bottles standing guard over all. One by one the vassals were called
up--there was a strong flavour of feudalism in it all--and to each,
while the Vidame wished him a "_Bòni fèsto!_" the housekeeper gave his
Christmas portion: a _fougasso_, a double-handful each of figs and
almonds, a stalk of celery, and a bottle of _vin cue_[2]--the cordial
that is used for the libation of the yule-log and for the solemn
yule-cup; and each, as he received his portion, made his little speech
of friendly thanks--in several cases most gracefully turned--and then
was off in a hurry for his home. Most of them were dwellers in the
immediate neighbourhood; but four or five had before them walks of more
than twenty miles, with the same distance to cover in returning the next
day. But great must be the difficulty or the distance that will keep a
Provençal from his own people and his own hearth-stone at

In illustration of this home-seeking trait, I have from my friend
Mistral the story that his own grandfather used to tell regularly every
year when all the family was gathered about the yule-fire on Christmas

It was back in the Revolutionary times, and Mistral the
grandfather--only he was not a grandfather then, but a mettlesome young
soldier of two-and-twenty--was serving with the Army of the Pyrénées,
down on the borders of Spain. December was well on, but the season was
open--so open that he found one day a tree still bearing oranges. He
filled a basket with the fruit and carried it to the Captain of his
company. It was a gift for a king, down there in those hard times, and
the Captain's eyes sparkled. "Ask what thou wilt, _mon brave_," he said,
"and if I can give it to thee it shall be thine."

Quick as a flash the young fellow answered: "Before a cannon-ball cuts
me in two, Commandant, I should like to go to Provence and help once
more to lay the yule-log in my own home. Let me do that!"

Now that was a serious matter. But the Captain had given his word, and
the word of a soldier of the Republic was better than the oath of a
king. Therefore he sat down at his camp-table and wrote:

    Army of the Eastern Pyrénées, December 12, 1793.

    We, Perrin, Captain of Military Transport, give leave to the citizen
    François Mistral, a brave Republican soldier, twenty-two years old,
    five feet six inches high, chestnut hair and eyebrows, ordinary
    nose, mouth the same, round chin, medium forehead, oval face, to go
    back into his province, to go all over the Republic, and, if he
    wants to, to go to the devil!

"With an order like that in his pocket," said Mistral, "you can fancy
how my grandfather put the leagues behind him; and how joyfully he
reached Maillane on the lovely Christmas Eve, and how there was danger
of rib-cracking from the hugging that went on. But the next day it was
another matter. News of his coming had flown about the town, and the
Mayor sent for him.

"'In the name of the law, citizen,' the Mayor demanded, 'why hast thou
left the army?'

"Now my grandfather was a bit of a wag, and so--with never a word about
his famous pass--he answered: 'Well, you see I took a fancy to come and
spend my Christmas here in Maillane.'

"At that the Mayor was in a towering passion. 'Very good, citizen,' he
cried. 'Other people also may take fancies--and mine is that thou shalt
explain this fancy of thine before the Military Tribunal at Tarascon.
Off with him there!'

"And then away went my grandfather between a brace of gendarmes, who
brought him in no time before the District Judge: a savage old fellow in
a red cap, with a beard up to his eyes, who glared at him as he asked:
'Citizen, how is it that thou hast deserted thy flag?'

"Now my grandfather, who was a sensible man, knew that a joke might be
carried too far; therefore he whipped out his pass and presented it, and
so in a moment set everything right.

"'Good, very good, citizen!' said old Redcap. 'This is as it should be.
Thy Captain says that thou art a brave soldier of the Republic, and that
is the best that the best of us can be. With a pass like that in thy
pocket thou canst snap thy fingers at all the mayors in Provence; and
the devil himself had best be careful--shouldst thou go down that way,
as thy pass permits thee--how he trifles with a brave soldier of

"But my grandfather did not try the devil's temper," Mistral concluded.
"He was satisfied to stay in his own dear home until the Day of the
Kings was over, and then he went back to his command."


The day dragged a little when we had finished in the kitchen with the
giving of Christmas portions and the last of the farm-hands, calling
back "_Bòni fèsto!_," had gone away. For the womenkind, of course, there
was a world to do; and Misè Fougueiroun whisked us out of her dominions
with a pretty plain statement that our company was less desirable than
our room. But for the men there was only idle waiting until night should

As for the Vidame--who is a fiery fume of a little old gentleman, never
happy unless in some way busily employed--this period of stagnation was
so galling that in sheer pity I mounted him upon his hobby and set him
to galloping away. 'Twas an easy matter, and the stimulant that I
administered was rather dangerously strong: for I brought up the
blackest beast in the whole herd of his abominations by asking him if
there were not some colour of reason in the belief that Marius lay not
at Vièlmur but at Glanum--now Saint-Remy-de-Provence--behind the lines
of Roman wall which exist there to this day.

So far as relieving the strain of the situation was concerned, my
expedient was a complete success; but the storm that I raised was like
to have given the Vidame such an attack of bilious indigestion begotten
of anger as would have spoiled the Great Supper for him; and as for
myself, I was overwhelmed for some hours by his avalanche of words. But
the long walk that we took in the afternoon, that he might give me
convincing proof of the soundness of his archæological theories,
fortunately set matters right again; and when we returned in the late
day to the Château my old friend had recovered his normal serenity of

As we passed the Mazet in our afternoon walk, we stopped to greet the
new arrivals there, come to make the family gathering complete: two more
married children, with a flock of their own little ones, and Elizo's
father and mother--a bowed little rosy-cheeked old woman and a bowed
lean old man, both well above eighty years. There was a lively passage
of friendly greetings between them all and the Vidame; and it was quite
delightful to see how the bowed little old woman kindled and bridled
when the Vidame gallantly protested that she grew younger and handsomer
every year.

A tall ladder stood against the Mazet, and the children were engaged in
hanging tiny wheat-sheaves along the eaves: the Christmas portion of the
birds. In old times, the Vidame explained, it was the general custom for
children to make this pretty offering--that the birds of heaven, finding
themselves so served, might descend in clouds to the feast prepared for
them by Christian bounty. But nowadays, he added, sighing, the custom
rarely was observed.

Other charitable usages of Christmas had vanished, he continued, because
the need for them had passed away with the coming of better times. Save
in the large cities, there are very few really poor people in Provence
now. It is a rich land, and it gives to its hard-working inhabitants a
good living; with only a pinch now and then when a cold winter or a dry
summer or a wet harvest puts things out of gear. But of old the
conditions were sadly different and there was need for all that charity
could give.

In those times, when in comfortable homes the Christmas feast was set,
there would be heard outside a plaintive voice calling: "Give something
from your yule-log to the sorrowful poor!" And then the children
quickly, would carry out to the calling poor one good portions of food.
Pious families, also, were wont to ask some poor friend or acquaintance,
or even a poor passing stranger, to eat the Great Supper with them; and
of the fragments a part would be sent to the poor brethren in the Hostel
de Dieu: which offerings were called always "the share of the good

In many towns and villages the offerings of Christian bounty were
collected in a curious way. A gigantic figure of wicker-work--called
Melchior, after one of the three Kings of the Epiphany--clothed in a
grotesque fashion and with a huge pannier strapped to his back, was
mounted upon an ass and so was taken from door to door to gather for the
poor whatever the generous would give of food. Into the big basket
charitable hands threw figs, almonds, bread, cheese, olives, sausages:
and when the brave Melchior had finished his round his basket was
emptied upon a table at the church door, and then all the poor people of
the parish were free to come there and receive portions of those good
things--while the church bells rang, and while there blazed beside the
table a torch in representation of the Star which guided Melchior and
his fellow kings to Bethlehem.

A reminiscence of this general charity still survives in the little town
of Solliès, tucked away in the mountains not far from Toulon. There, at
Christmas time, thirteen poor people known as "the Apostles" (though
there is one to spare) receive at the town-house a dole of two pounds of
meat, two loaves of bread, some figs and almonds, and a few sous. And
throughout Provence the custom still is general that each well-to-do
family shall send a portion of its Christmas loaf--the _pan
calendau_--to some friend or neighbour to whom Fortune has been less
kind. But, happily, this gift nowadays often is a mere friendly
compliment, like the gift of _fougasso_; for the times are past when
weak-kneed and spasmodic charity dealt with real poverty in Provence.


'Twas with such kindly reminiscences of old-time benevolence, rather
than with explosive archæological matters, that I kept the Vidame from
falling again a-fuming--while we waited through the dusk for the coming
of seven o'clock, at which hour the festivities at the Mazet were to
begin. Our waiting place was the candle-lit salon: a stately old
apartment floored formally with squares of black and white marble,
furnished in the formal style of the eighteenth century, and hung around
with formal family portraits and curious old prints in which rather lax
classical subjects were treated with a formal severity. The library
being our usual habitat, I inferred that our change of quarters was in
honour of the day. It was much to my liking; for in that antiquely
ordered room--and the presence of the Vidame helped the illusion--I felt
always as though I had stepped backward into the thick of eighteenth
century romance. But for the Vidame, although he also loves its old time
flavour, the salon had no charms just then; and when the glass-covered
clock on the mantle chimed from among its gilded cupids the
three-quarters he arose with a brisk alacrity and said that it was time
for us to be off.

Our march--out through the rear door of the Château and across the
court-yard to the Mazet--was processional. All the household went with
us. The Vidame gallantly gave his arm to Misè Fougueiroun; I followed
with her first officer--a sauce-box named Mouneto, so plumply provoking
and charming in her Arlesian dress that I will not say what did or did
not happen in the darkness as we passed the well! A little in our rear
followed the house-servants, even to the least; and in the Mazet already
were gathered, with the family, the few work-people of the estate who
had not gone to their own homes. For the Great Supper is a patriarchal
feast, to which in Christian fellowship come the master and the master's
family and all of their servitors and dependants on equal terms.

A broad stream of light came out through the open doorway of the
farm-house, and with it a great clatter and buzz of talk--that increased
tenfold as we entered, and a cry of "_Bòni fèsto!_" came from the whole
company at once. As for the Vidame, he so radiated cordiality that he
seemed to be the veritable Spirit of Christmas (incarnate at the age of
sixty, and at that period of the nineteenth century when stocks and
frilled shirts were worn), and his joyful old legs were near to dancing
as he went among the company with warm-hearted greetings and
outstretched hands.

All told, we numbered above forty; but the great living-room of the
Mazet, notwithstanding the space taken by the supper-table ranged down
the middle of it, easily could have held another score. Save in its
size, and in the completeness of its appointments, this room was
thoroughly typical of the main apartment found in farm-houses throughout
Provence. The floor was laid with stone slabs and the ceiling was
supported upon very large smoke-browned beams--from which hung hams, and
strings of sausages, and ropes of garlic, and a half-dozen bladders
filled with lard. More than a third of the rear wall was taken up by the
huge fire-place, that measured ten feet across and seven feet from the
stone mantle-shelf to the floor. In its centre, with room on each side
in the chimney-corners for a chair (a space often occupied by large
lockers for flour and salt), was the fire-bed--crossed by a pair of tall
andirons, which flared out at the top into little iron baskets (often
used, with a filling of live coals, as plate-warmers) and which were
furnished with hooks at different heights to support the
roasting-spits. Hanging from the mantle-shelf was a short curtain to
hold the smoke in check; and on the shelf were various utilitarian
ornaments: a row of six covered jars, of old faience, ranging in holding
capacity from a gill to three pints, each lettered with the name of its
contents--saffron, pepper, tea, salt, sugar, flour; and with these some
burnished copper vessels, and a coffee-pot, and a half-dozen of the tall
brass or pewter lamps for burning olive-oil--which long ago superseded
the primitive _calèu_, dating from Roman or from still earlier times,
and which now themselves practically have been superseded by lamps
burning petroleum.

To the right of the fire-place was the stone sink, with shelves above it
on which was a brilliant array of polished copper and tin pots and pans.
To the left was the covered bread-trough, above which hung the large
salt and flour boxes and the grated bread-closet--this last looking like
a child's crib gone wrong--all of dark wood ornamented with carving and
with locks and hinges of polished iron. On the opposite side of the
room, matching these pieces in colour and carving and polished
iron-work, were a tall buffet and a tall clock--the clock of so
insistent a temperament that it struck in duplicate, at an interval of a
minute, the number of each hour. A small table stood in a corner, and in
ordinary times the big dining-table was ranged along one of the walls,
with benches on each side of it supplemented by rush-bottomed chairs.
Near the bread-trough was hung a long-armed steel-balance with a brass
dish suspended by brass chains, all brilliant from scouring with soap
and sand; an ancient fowling-piece rested in wooden crutches driven
between the stones on one side of the clock, and on the other side was
hung a glittering copper warming-pan--a necessary comfort here of cold
nights in fireless rooms. By way of ornament, three or four
violently-colored lithographs were tacked against the walls, together
with a severely formal array--a pyramidal trophy--of family photographs.

Excepting the warming-pan and the two arm-chairs ordinarily in the
chimney-corners, there was no provision in the room for bodily ease or
comfort: a lack unperceived by its occupants, but which an American
house-wife--missing her many small luxuries and conveniences--would have
found sharply marked.


The crèche, around which the children were gathered in a swarm, was
built up in one corner; and our coming was the signal for the first of
the ceremonies, the lighting of the crèche candles, to begin. In this
all the children had a part--making rather a scramble of it, for there
was rivalry as to which of them should light the most--and in a moment a
constellation of little flames covered the Bethlehem hill-side and
brought into bright prominence the Holy Family and its strange attendant
host of quite impossible people and beasts and birds.

The laying of the yule-log followed; a ceremony so grave that it has all
the dignity of, and really is, a religious rite. The buzz of talk died
away into silence as Elizo's father, the oldest man, took by the hand
and led out into the court-yard where the log was lying his
great-grandson, the little Tounin, the youngest child: it being the rule
that the nominal bearers of the _cacho-fiò_ to the hearth shall be the
oldest and the youngest of the family--the one personifying the year
that is dying, the other the year new-born. Sometimes, and this is the
prettiest rendering of the custom, the two are an old, old man and a
baby carried in its mother's arms--while between them the real bearers
of the burden walk.

In our case the log actually was carried by Marius and Esperit; but the
tottering old man clasped its forward end with his thin feeble hands,
and its hinder end was clasped by the plump feeble hands of the
tottering child. Thus, the four together, they brought it in through the
doorway and carried it thrice around the room, circling the supper-table
and the lighted candles; and then, reverently, it was laid before the
fire-place--that still sometimes is called in Provençal the _lar_.

[Illustration: ELIZO'S OLD FATHER]

There was a pause, while the old man filled out a cup of _vin cue_; and
a solemn hush fell upon the company, and all heads were bowed, as he
poured three libations upon the log, saying with the last: "In the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!"--and then cried
with all the vigor that he could infuse into his thin and quavering old

                Alègre! Alègre!
                Diéu nous alègre!
            Calèndo vèn! Tout bèn vèn!
    Diéu nous fague la gràci de vèire l'an que vèn,
    E se noun sian pas mai, que noun fuguen pas mens!

                  Catch fire!
                  Joy! Joy!
              God gives us joy!
          Christmas comes! All good comes!
    May God give us grace to see the coming year,
    And if we are not more, may we not be less!

As he ended his invocation he crossed himself, as did all the rest; and
a great glad shout was raised of "Alègre! Alègre!" as Marius and
Esperit--first casting some fagots of vine-branches on the bed of
glowing coals--placed the yule-log upon the fire. Instantly the vines
blazed up, flooding the room with brightness; and as the yule-log glowed
and reddened everybody cried

    Alègre! Alègre!

again and again--as though the whole of them together of a sudden had
gone merry-mad!

In the midst of this triumphant rejoicing the bowl from which the
libation had been poured was filled afresh with _vin cue_ and was passed
from hand to hand and lip to lip--beginning with the little Tounin, and
so upward in order of seniority until it came last of all to the old
man--and from it each drank to the new fire of the new year.

Anciently, this ceremony of the yule-log lighting was universal in
Provence, and it is almost universal still; sometimes with a less
elaborate ritual than I have described, but yet substantially the same:
always with the libation, always with an invocation, always with the
rejoicing toast to the new fire. But in modern times--within the last
century or so--another custom in part has supplanted it in Marseille and
Aix and in some few other towns. This is the lighting of candles at
midnight in front of the crèche; a ceremony, it will be observed, in
which new fire still bears the most important part.

One of my Aix friends, the poet Joachim Gasquet, has described to me the
Christmas Eve customs which were observed in his own home: the Gasquet
bakery, in the Rue de la Cepède, that has been handed down from father
to son through so many hundreds of years that even its owners cannot
tell certainly whether it was in the fourteenth or the fifteenth century
that their family legend of good baking had its rise. As Monsieur
Auguste, the _contre-maître_ of the bakery, opened the great stone door
of the oven that I might peer into its hot depths, an historical
cross-reference came into my mind that made me realize its high
antiquity. Allowing for difference of longitude, the _contre-maître_ who
was Monsieur Auguste's remote predecessor was lifting the morning's
baking out of that oven at the very moment when Columbus saw through
the darkness westward the lights of a new world!

In the Gasquet family it was the custom to eat the Great Supper in the
oven room: because that was the heart, the sanctuary, of the house; the
place consecrated by the toil which gave the family its livelihood. On
the supper-table there was always a wax figure of the Infant Christ, and
this was carried just before midnight to the living-room, off from the
shop, in one corner of which the crèche was set up. It was the little
Joachim whose right it was, because he was the youngest, the purest, to
carry the figure. A formal procession was made. He walked at its head, a
little chap with long curling golden hair, between his two grandfathers;
the rest followed in the order of their age and rank: his two
grandmothers, his father and mother, Monsieur Auguste (a dashing blade
of a young baker then) with the maid-servant, and the apprentices last
of all. A single candle was carried by one of his grandfathers into the
dark room--the illumination of which, that night, could come only from
the new fire kindled before the crèche. Precisely at midnight--at the
moment when all the clocks of Aix striking together let loose the
Christmas chimes--the child laid the holy figure in the manger, and then
the candles instantly were set ablaze.

Sometimes there would be a thrilling pause of half a minute or more
while they waited for the bells: the child, with the image in his hands,
standing before the crèche in the little circle of light; the others
grouped behind him, and for the most part lost in dark shadow cast by
the single candle held low down; those nearest to the crèche holding
matches ready to strike so that all the candles might be lighted at once
when the moment came. And then all the bells together would send their
voices out over the city heavenward; and his mother would say softly,
"Now, my little son!"; and the room would flash into brightness
suddenly--as though a glory radiated from the Christ-Child lying there
in the manger between the ox and the ass.

Every evening throughout the Christmas season the candles were relighted
before this Christmas shrine, and there the members of the family said
in common their evening prayer; and when the time came for taking down
the crèche those parts of it which were not preserved for the ensuing
year--the refuse scraps of wood and pasteboard and moss and laurel--were
burned (this is the orthodox general custom) with something of the
flavour of a rite; not cast into the household fire nor the bakery oven,
but saved from falling into base places by being consumed in a pure fire
of its own.


While our own more orthodox yule-log ceremonial was in progress, the
good Elizo and Janetoun--upon whom the responsibility of the supper
rested--evidently were a prey to anxious thoughts. They whispered
together and cast uneasy glances toward the chimney, into the broad
corners of which the various cooking vessels had been moved to make way
for the _cacho-fiò_; and the moment that the cup of benediction had
passed their lips they precipitated themselves upon the fire-place and
replaced the pots and pans for a final heating upon the coals.

The long table had been set before our arrival and was in perfect
readiness--covered with a fine white linen cloth, sacredly reserved for
use at high festivals, that fairly sparkled in the blaze of light cast
by the overhanging petroleum lamp. Yet the two ceremonial candles, one
at each end of the table, also were lighted; and were watched anxiously
as the supper went on: for should the wick of one of the Christmas
candles fall before the supper is ended, the person toward whom it
points in falling will pass from earth before the Christmas feast is set
again. But Misè Fougueiroun, to guard against this ominous catastrophe,
had played a trick on Fate by providing wax candles with wicks so fine
that they wasted away imperceptibly in their own flame.

Beside those fateless candles were the harvest harbingers, the plates on
which was growing Saint Barbara's grain--so vigorous and so freshly
green that old Jan rubbed his hands together comfortably as he said to
the Vidame: "Ah, we need have no fears for the harvest that is coming
in this blessed year!" In the centre of the table, its browned crust
slashed with a cross, was the great loaf of Christmas bread, _pan
Calendau_; on which was a bunch of holly tied with the white pith of
rushes--the "marrow" of the rush, that is held to be an emblem of
strength. Old Jan, the master of the house, cut the loaf into as many
portions as there were persons present; with one double-portion over to
be given to some poor one in charity--"the portion of the good God." It
is of a miraculous nature, this blessed bread: the sailors of Provence
carry morsels of it with them on their voyages, and by strewing its
crumbs upon the troubled waters stay the tempests of the sea.

For the rest, the table had down its middle a line of dishes--many of
them old faience of Moustiers, the mere sight of which would have
thrilled a collector's heart--heaped with the nougat and the other
sweets over the making of which our housekeeper and her lieutenants so
soulfully had toiled. And on the table in the corner were fruits and
nuts and wines.

Grace always is said before the Great Supper--a simple formula ending
with the prayer of the yule-log that if another year there are no more,
there may be no less. It is the custom that this blessing shall be asked
by the youngest child of the family who can speak the words: a pretty
usage which sometimes makes the blessing go very queerly indeed. Our
little Tounin came to the front again in this matter, exhibiting an air
of grave responsibility which showed that he had been well drilled; and
it was with quite a saintly look on his little face that he folded his
hands together and said very earnestly: "God bless all that we are going
to eat, and if we are no less next year may we be no more!" At which
everybody looked at Janetoun and laughed.

In our seating a due order of precedence was observed. Old Jan, the head
of the family, presided, with the Vidame and myself on his right and
with Elizo's father and mother on his left; and thence the company went
downward by age and station to the foot of the table, where were grouped
the servants from the Château and the workmen on the farm. But no other
distinction was made. All were served alike and all drank together as
equals when the toasts were called. The servers were Elizo and Janetoun,
with Nanoun and Magali for assistants; and those four, although they
took their places at the table when each course had been brought on, had
rather a Passover time of it: for they ate as it were with their loins
girded and with full or empty dishes imminent to their hands.

The stout Nanoun--whose robust body thrills easily to superstitious
fears--was still farther handicapped in her own eating by her zealous
effort so to stuff the family cat as to give that animal no excuse for
uttering evil-portending miaus. For it is well known that should the
family cat fall to miauing on Christmas Eve, and especially while the
supper is in progress, very dreadful things surely will happen to the
family during the ensuing year. Fortunately Nanoun's preventive measures
averted this calamity; yet were they like to have overshot their mark.
Only the cat's natural abstemiousness saved her that night from dying of
a surfeit--and in agony surely provocative of the very cries which
Nanoun sought to restrain!

As I have said, the Great Supper must be "lean," and is restricted to
certain dishes which in no wise can be changed; but a rich leanness is
possible in a country where olive-oil takes the place of animal fat in
cooking, and where the accumulated skill of ages presides over the
kitchen fire. The principal dish is the _raïto_--a ragout made of
delicately fried fish served in a sauce flavoured with wine and
capers--whereof the tradition goes back a round twenty-five hundred
years: to the time when the Phokæan housewives brought with them to
Massalia (the Marseille of to-day) the happy mystery of its making from
their Grecian homes. But this excellent dish was not lost to Greece
because it was gained to Gaul: bearing the same name and made in the
same fashion it is eaten by the Greeks of the present day. It usually is
made of dried codfish in Provence, where the cod is held in high esteem;
but is most delicately toothsome when made of eels.

The second course of the Great Supper also is fish, which may be of any
sort and served in any way--in our case it was a perch-like variety of
dainty pan-fish, fresh from the Rhône. A third course of fish sometimes
is served, but the third course usually is snails cooked in a rich brown
sauce strongly flavoured with garlic. The Provençal snails, which feed
in a _gourmet_ fashion upon vine-leaves, are peculiarly delicious--and
there was a murmur of delight from our company as the four women brought
to the table four big dishes full of them; and for a while there was
only the sound of eager munching, mixed with the clatter on china of the
empty shells. To extract them, we had the strong thorns, three or four
inches long, of the wild acacia; and on these the little brown morsels
were carried to the avid mouths and eaten with a bit of bread sopped in
the sauce--and then the shell was subjected to a vigorous sucking, that
not a drop of the sauce lingering within it should be lost.

To the snails succeeded another dish essentially Provençal, _carde_. The
carde is a giant thistle that grows to a height of five or six feet, and
is so luxuriantly magnificent both in leaf and in flower that it
deserves a place among ornamental plants. The edible portion is the
stem--blanched like celery, which it much resembles, by being
earthed-up--cooked with a white sauce flavoured with garlic. The garlic,
however, is a mistake, since it overpowers the delicate taste of the
carde--but garlic is the overlord of all things eatable in Provence. I
was glad when we passed on to the celery, with which the first section
of the supper came to an end.

The second section was such an explosion of sweets as might fly into
space should a comet collide with a confectioner's shop--nougat,
_fougasso_, a great _poumpo_, compotes, candied-fruits, and a whole
nightmare herd of rich cakes on which persons not blessed with the most
powerful organs of digestion surely would go galloping to the country of
dreadful dreams. This was prodigality; but even the bare requirements of
the case were lavish, the traditional law of the Great Supper ordaining
that not fewer than seven different sweets shall be served. Misè
Fougueiroun, however, was not the person to stand upon the parsimonious
letter of any eating law. Here had been her opportunity, and she had run
amuck through all the range of sugary things!

Of the dessert of nuts and fruit the notable features were grapes and
winter-melons. Possibly because they are an obscure survival of some
Bacchic custom connected with the celebration of the winter solstice,
the grapes are considered a very necessary part of the Great Supper; but
as Provençal grapes are of a soft substance and soon wither, though a
world of care is taken to preserve a few bunches until Christmas, this
part of the feast usually is a ceremony rather than a satisfaction.

But our melons were a pure vegetable delight. These winter-melons are a
species of cantaloupe, but of a firmer texture than the summer fruit,
sowed late in the season and laid away a little green on beds of straw
in cool and dark and well-aired rooms. Thus cared for, they will keep
until the end of January; but they are preserved especially for
Christmas, and few survive beyond that day. They are of American origin:
as I discovered quite by chance while reading a collection of delightful
letters, but lately published, written near three hundred years ago by
Dr. Antoine Novel; that Provençal naturalist, whom Buffon quotes under
the wrongly Latinized name of Natalis, sometime physician to the Duke of
Medina-Sidonia in Spain. He was a rolling stone of a naturalist, the
excellent Novel; but his gatherings were many, and most of them were for
the benefit of his beloved Provence. It was from "Sainct Luquar," under
date of March 24, 1625, that he wrote to his friend Peiresc in Aix: "I
send you by the Patron Armand a little box in which are two specimens of
ore ... and ten sorts of seeds of the most exquisite fruits and flowers
of the Indies; and to fill the chinks I have put in the seeds of
winter-melons." And in a letter of June 12th, following, he wrote: "I
hope that you have received my letter sent by the Patron Armand of
Martigues, who sailed in Holy Week for that town, by whom I sent you
some seeds of exquisite fruits and flowers of the Indies, together with
two specimens of ore, the one from Potosí and the other from
Terra-Firma, and also a box of seven winter-melons of that country." And
so the winter-melons came into Provence from somewhere on the Spanish
Main. I could wish that my gentleman had been a bit more definite in
his geography. As he leaves the matter, his melons may have come from
anywhere between the Orinoco and Florida; and down in that region
somewhere, no doubt, they still are to be found.

With the serious part of the supper we drank the ordinary small wine
diluted with water; but with the dessert was paraded a gallant company
of dusty bottles containing ancient vintages which through many
ripening years had been growing richer by feeding upon their own
excellence in the wine-room of the Mazet or the cellar of the Château.
All were wines of the country, it being a point of honour in Provençal
households of all degrees that only from Provençal vineyards--or from
the near-by vineyards of Languedoc--shall come the Christmas wines.
Therefore we drank rich and strong Tavel, and delicate Ledenon, and
heavy Frontignan--the cloyingly-sweet Mouscat de Maroussa--and
home-made champagne (the _clairette_, with a superabundance of pop and
fizz but undeniably cider-like), and at last, for a climax, old
Châteauneuf-du-Pape: the dean of the Provençal vinous faculty, rich,
smooth, delicate, with a slightly aromatic after-taste that the
dallying bees bring to the vine-blossoms from the blossoms of the
wild-thyme. Anciently it filled the cups over which chirped the
sprightly Popes of Avignon; and in later times, only forty years back,
it was the drink of the young Félibrien poets--Mistral, Roumanille,
Aubanel, Mathieu and the rest--while they tuned and set a-going their
lyres. But it is passing into a tradition now. The old vines, the
primitive stock, were slain by the phylloxera, and the new vines
planted to replace them do not produce a wine like that over which
Popes and poets once were gay. Only in rich old cellars, such as that
of Vièlmur, may still be found a bin or two of dust-grey Papal
veterans: survivors of the brave army that has gurgled its life out in
a happy past!


But the material element of the Great Supper is its least part. What
entitles it to the augmenting adjective is its soul: that subtle essence
of peace and amity for which the word Christmas is a synonym in all
Christian lands. It is the rule of these family gatherings at Christmas
time in Provence that all heartburnings and rancours, which may have
sprung up during the year, then shall be cut down; and even if sometimes
they quickly grow again, as no doubt they do now and then, it makes for
happiness that they shall be thus banished from the peace-feast of the

Janetoun and one of her sisters-in-law were the only members of our
party who had a hatchet to bury; and the burial was over so
quickly--being but an extra hug and an explosion of kisses--that I
should have known nothing about it but for the over-long tongue of Misè
Fougueiroun: who, in a kindly way, is as thorough-going a gossip as ever
lived. Of all things in the world to quarrel about, this quarrel had
grown out of a spirited difference of opinion as to how the heel of a
knitted stocking should be turned! But the matter had come to be quite
of a seriousness, and all the family breathed freer when those
resounding peace-kisses were given and received. Actually, as I happened
to learn later, the reconciliation was pushed to such an extreme that
each of them incontinently adopted the other's knitting creed--with the
curious result that they now are in a fair way to have a fresh quarrel
for next Christmas out of the same matter on inverted lines! It was
before the lighting of the yule-log that the feud of the stocking heels
thus happily (even though only temporarily) was pacified, and the family
festival was cloudless from first to last.

When the serious part of the supper had been disposed of and the mere
palate-tickling period of the dessert had come, I was much interested in
observing that the talk--mainly carried on by the elders--was turned
with an obviously deliberate purpose upon family history; and especially
upon the doings of those who in the past had brought honour upon the
family name. And I was still more interested when, later, the Vidame
informed me that it is the Provençal custom at the Christmas festival
for the old thus to instruct the young and so to keep family tradition
alive. No doubt there is in this a dim survival of ancestor-worship; but
I should be glad to see so excellent a relic of paganism preserved in
the Christmas ritual of my own land.

The chief ancestral glory of the family of the Mazet is its close
blood-relationship with the gallant André Étienne: that drummer of the
Fifty-first Demi-brigade of the Army of Italy who is commemorated on the
frieze of the Panthéon, and who is known and honoured as the "Tambour
d'Arcole" all over France. It was delightful to listen to old Jan's
telling of the brave story: how this André, their own kinsman, swam the
stream under the enemy's fire at Arcolo with his drum on his back and
then drummed his fellow-soldiers on to victory; how the First Consul
awarded him the drum-sticks of honour, and later--when the Legion of
Honour was founded--gave him the cross; how they carved him in stone,
drumming the charge, up there on the front of the Panthéon in Paris
itself; how Mistral, the great poet of Provence, had made a poem about
him that had been printed in a book; and how, crowning glory, they had
set up his marble statue in Cadenet--the little town, not far from
Avignon, where he was born!

Old Jan was not content with merely telling this story--like a true
Provençal he acted it: swinging a supposititious drum upon his back,
jumping into an imaginary river and swimming it with his head in the
air, swinging his drum back into place again, and then--_Zóu!_--starting
off at the head of the Fifty-first Demi-brigade with such a rousing play
of drum-sticks that I protest we fairly heard the rattle of them, along
with the spatter of Italian musketry in the face of which André Étienne
beat that gallant _pas-de-charge_!

It set me all a-thrilling; and still more did it thrill those other
listeners who were of the Arcolo hero's very blood and bone. They
clapped their hands and they shouted. They laughed with delight. And the
fighting spirit of Gaul was so stirred within them that at a word--the
relations between France and Italy being a little strained just then--I
verily believe they would have been for marching in a body across the
south-eastern frontier!

Elizo's old father was rather out of the running in this matter. It was
not by any relative of his that the drum-sticks of honour had been won;
and his thoughts, after wandering a little, evidently settled down upon
the strictly personal fact that his thin old legs were cold. Rising
slowly from the table, he carried his plate to the fire-place; and when
he had arranged some live coals in one of the baskets of the waist-high
andirons he rested the plate above them on the iron rim: and so stood
there, eating contentedly, while the warmth from the glowing yule-log
entered gratefully into his lean old body and stirred to a brisker
pulsing the blood in his meagre veins. But his interest in what was
going forward revived again--his legs being, also, by that time well
warmed--when his own praises were sounded by his daughter: in the story
of how he stopped the runaway horse on the very brink of the precipice
at Les Baux; and how his wife all the while sat calmly beside him in the
cart, cool and silent, and showing no sign of fear.

When Elizo had finished this story she whispered a word to Magali and
Nanoun that sent them laughing out of the room; and presently Magali
came back again arrayed in the identical dress which had been worn by
the heroine of the adventure--who had perked and plumed herself not a
little while her daughter told about it--when the runaway horse so
nearly had galloped her off the Baux rock into Eternity. It was the
Provençal costume--with full sleeves and flaring cap--of sixty years
back; but a little gayer than the strict Arles dress of that period,
because her mother was not of Arles but of Beaucaire. It was not so
graceful, especially in the head-dress, as the costume of the present
day; nor nearly so becoming--as Magali showed by looking a dozen years
older after putting it on. But Magali, even with a dozen years added,
could not but be charming; and I think that the little old bowed
grandmother--who still was a bit of a coquette at eighty--would have
been better pleased had she been spared this encounter with what must
have seemed to her very like a meeting with her own young ghost, raised
suddenly from the depths of the distant past.

[Illustration: MAGALI]

By long experience, gained on many such occasions, the Vidame knew that
the culminating point of the supper would be reached when the family
drummer swam the river and headed the French charge at Arcolo.
Therefore had he reserved until a later period, when the excitement
incident to the revival of that honourable bit of family history should
have subsided, a joy-giving bomb-shell of his own that he had all ready
to explode. An American or an Englishman never could have fired it
without something in the way of speech-making; but the Vidame was of a
shy temper, and speech-making was not in his line. When the chatter
caused by Magali's costuming had lulled a little, and there came a
momentary pause in the talk, he merely reached diagonally across the
table and touched glasses with Esperit and said simply: "To your good
health, Monsieur the Superintendent of the Lower Farm!"

It was done so quietly that for some seconds no one realized that the
Vidame's toast brought happiness to all the household, and to two of its
members a life-long joy. Esperit, even, had his glass almost to his lips
before he understood to what he was drinking; and then his understanding
came through the finer nature of Magali--who gave a quick deep sob as
she buried her face in the buxom Nanoun's bosom and encircled that
astonished young person's neck with her arms. Esperit went pale at
that; but the hand did not tremble in which he held his still-raised
glass, nor did his voice quaver as he said with a deep earnestness: "To
the good health of Monsieur le Vidame, with the thanks of two very happy
hearts!"--and so drained his wine.

A great danger puts no more strain upon the nerves of a man of good
fibre than does a great joy; and it seemed to me that Esperit's absolute
steadiness, under this sudden fire of happiness, showed him to be made
of as fine and as manly stuff as went to the making of his kinsman who
beat the _pas-de-charge_ up the slope at Arcolo at the head of the
Fifty-first Demi-brigade.

But nothing less than the turbulence of the whole battle of Arcolo--not
to say of that whole triumphant campaign in Italy--will suffice for a
comparison with the tumult that arose about our supper-table when the
meaning of the Vidame's toast fairly was grasped by the company at
large! I do not think that I could express in words--nor by any less
elaborate method of illustration than a kinetoscope--the state of
excitement into which a Provençal will fly over a matter of absolutely
no importance at all; how he will burst forth into a very whirlwind of
words and gestures about some trifle that an ordinary human being would
dispose of without the quiver of an eye. And as our matter was one so
truly moving that a very Dutchman through all his phlegm would have been
stirred by it, such a tornado was set a-going as would have put a mere
hurricane of the tropics to open shame!

Naturally, the disturbance was central over Esperit and Magali and the
Vidame. The latter--his kind old face shining like the sun of an Easter
morning--gave back with a good will on Magali's cheeks her kisses of
gratitude; and exchanged embraces and kisses with the elder women; and
went through such an ordeal of violent hand-shaking that I trembled for
the integrity of his arms. But as for the young people, whom everybody
embraced over and over again with a terrible energy, that they came
through it all with whole ribs is as near to being a miracle as anything
that has happened in modern times!

Gradually the storm subsided--though not without some fierce
after-gusts--and at last worked itself off harmlessly in song: as we
returned to the ritual of the evening and took to the singing of
noëls--the Christmas canticles which are sung between the ending of the
Great Supper and the beginning of the midnight mass.


The Provençal noëls--being some real, or some imagined, incident of the
Nativity told in verse set to a gay or tender air--are the crèche
translated into song. The simplest of them are direct renderings of the
Bible narrative. Our own Christmas hymn, "While shepherds watched their
flocks by night," is precisely of this order; and, indeed, is of the
very period when flourished the greatest of the Provençal noël writers:
for the Poet Laureate Nahum Tate, whose laurel this hymn keeps green,
was born in the year 1652 and had begun his mildly poetic career while
Saboly still was alive.

But most of the noëls--_nouvè_, they are called in Provençal--are purely
imaginative: quaintly innocent stories created by the poets, or taken
from those apocryphal scriptures in which the simple-minded faithful of
Patristic times built up a warmly coloured legend of the Virgin's life
and of the birth and childhood of her Son. Sometimes, even, the writers
stray away entirely from a religious base and produce mere roistering
catches or topical songs. Such are those Marseille noëls which are
nothing more than Pantagruelian lists of succulent dishes proper to
Christmas time--frankly ending, in one case, with the materialistic
query: "What do I care for the future, now that my belly is well lined?"
It was against such "bacchanals of noël" that the worthy Father Cotton
preached in Marseille in the year 1602: but the flesh and the devil
always have had things pretty much their own way in that gay city, and
he preached in vain. And at Aix-en-Provence the most popular noël of all
that were sung in the cathedral was a satirical review of the events of
the year: that as time went on grew to be more and more of a scandal,
until at last the Bishop had to put a stop to it in the year 1653.

The Provençaux have been writing noëls for more than four hundred years.
One of the oldest belongs to the first half of the fifteenth century and
is ascribed to Raimond Féraud; the latest are of our own day--by
Roumanille, Crousillat, Mistral, Girard, Gras, and a score more. But
only a few have been written to live. The memory of many once-famous
noël-writers is preserved now either mainly or wholly by a single song.
Thus the Chanoine Puech, who died at Aix almost two hundred and fifty
years ago, lives in the noël of the Christ-Child and the three gypsy
fortune-tellers--which he stole, I am sorry to say, from Lope de Vega.
The Abbé Doumergue, of Aramon, who flourished at about the same period,
is alive because of his "March of the Kings": that has come ringing down
through the ages set to Lulli's magnificent "March of Turenne"; and it
is interesting to note that Lulli is said to have found his noble motive
in a Provençal air. Antoine Peyrol, who lived only a little more than a
century ago, and who "in our good city of Avignon was a carpenter and
wood-seller and a simple-hearted singer of Bethlehem" (as Roumanille
puts it) has fared better, more than a dozen of his noëls surviving to
be sung each year when "the nougat bells" (as they call the Christmas
chimes in Avignon) are ringing in his native town. And, on the other
hand, as though to strike a balance between fame and forgottenness,
there are some widely popular noëls--as "C'est le bon lever"--of which
the authorship absolutely is unknown; while there are still others--as
the charming "Wild Nightingale"--which belong to no one author, but have
been built up by unknown farm-house poets who have added fresh verses
and so have passed on the amended song.

The one assured immortal among these musical mortalities is Nicolas
Saboly: who was born in Monteux, close by Avignon, in the year 1614; who
for the greater part of his life was chapel-master and organist of the
Avignon church of St. Pierre; who died in the year 1675; and who lies
buried in the choir of the church which for so long he filled with his
own heaven-sweet harmonies. Of his beautiful life-work, Roumanille has
written: "As organist of the church of St. Pierre, Saboly soon won a
great and beautiful renown as a musician; but his fame and his glory
have come to him because of the blessed thought that he had of composing
his marvellous noëls. Yet it was not until the year 1658, when he
himself was fifty-four years old, that he decided to tie together and to
publish his first sheaf of them. From that time onward, every year until
his end, a fresh sheaf of from six to a dozen appeared; and, although no
name went with them, all of his townsfolk knew that it was their own
Troubadour of the Nativity who made them so excellent a gift just as the
nougat bells began to ring. The organ of St. Pierre, touched by his
master hand, taught the gay airs to which the new noëls were cast. And
all Avignon presently would be singing them, and soon the chorus would
swell throughout the Comtat and Provence. The inimitable Troubadour of
Bethlehem died just as he had tied together the eighth of his little
sheaves.... His noëls have been reprinted many times; and, thanks be to
God, they will be printed again and again forever!"[3]

In addition to being a genius, Saboly had the good fortune to live in
one of the periods of fusing and recasting which give to genius its
opportunity. He was born at the very time when Claude Monteverde was
taking those audacious liberties with harmony which cleared the way for
the transition from the old tonality to the new; and he died before the
great modern masters had set up those standards which composers of our
time must either accept or defy. He certainly was influenced by the then
new Italian school; indeed, from the fourteenth century, when music
began to be cultivated in Avignon, the relations between that city and
Italy were so close that the first echoes of Italian musical innovators
naturally would be heard there. Everywhere his work shows, as theirs
does, a searching for new methods in the domain of modulation, and a
defiance of the laws of transformation reverenced by the formal
composers of his time. Yet he did his searching always on his own lines
and in his own way.

Nor was his original genius lessened by his willingness at times to lay
hands on the desirable property of other people--since his unlawful
acquisitions received always a subtle touch which really made them his
own. He knew well how to take the popular airs of the moment--the
gavotte or minuet or vaudeville which every one was singing: the good
old airs, as we call them now, which then were the newest of the
new--and how to infuse into them his own personality and so to fit them
like a glove to his own noëls. Thus, his Twelfth noël is set to an air
composed by Lulli for the drinking song, "Qu'ils sont doux, bouteille
jolie," in Molière's "Médecin malgré lui"; and those who are familiar
with the music of his time will be both scandalized and set a-laughing
by finding the uses to which he has put airs which began life in far
from seemly company. But his forays were made from choice, not from
necessity, and the best of his noëls are his own.

Saboly's music has a "go" and a melodic quality suggestive of the work
of Sir Arthur Sullivan; but it has a more tender, a fresher, a purer
note, even more sparkle, than ever Sullivan has achieved. In his gay
airs the attack is instant, brilliant, overpowering--like a glad
outburst of sweet bells, like the joyous laughter of a child--and
everything goes with a dash and a swing. But while he thus loved to
harmonize a laugh, he also could strike a note of infinite tenderness.
In his pathetic noëls he drops into thrillingly plaintive minors which
fairly drag one's heart out--echoes or survivals, possibly (for this
poignant melody is not uncommon in old Provençal music), of the
passionately longing love-songs with which Saracen knights once went
a-serenading beneath castle windows here in Provence.

Nor is his verse, of its curious kind, less excellent than his music. By
turns, as the humour takes him, his noëls are sermons, or delicate
religious fancies, or sharp-pointed satires, or whimsical studies of
country-side life. One whole series of seven is a history of the
Nativity (surely the quaintest and the gayest and the tenderest
oratorio that ever was written!) in which, in music and in words, he is
at his very best. Above all, his noëls are local. His background always
is his own country; his characters--Micolau the big shepherd, gossip
Guihaumeto, Tòni, Christòu, and the rest--always are Provençaux: wearing
Provençaux pink-bordered jackets, and white hats bedizened with ribbons,
and marching to Bethlehem to the sound of the _galoubet_ and
_tambourin_. It is from Avignon, out by the Porte Saint Lazare, that the
start for Bethlehem is made by his pilgrim company; the Provençal music
plays to cheer them; they stamp their feet and swing their arms about,
because the mistral is blowing and they are desperately cold. It is a
simplicity half laughable, half pathetic--such as is found in those
Mediæval pictures which represent the Apostles or the Holy Family in the
garb of the artist's own time and country, and above the walls of
Bethlehem the church spire of his own town.

This naïve local twist is not peculiar to Saboly. With very few
exceptions all Provençal noëls are packed full of the same delightful
anachronisms. It is to Provençal shepherds that the Herald Angel
appears; it is Provençaux who compose the _bregado_, the pilgrim
company, that starts for Bethlehem; and Bethlehem is a village, always
within easy walking distance, here in Provence. Yet it is not wholly
simplicity that has brought about this shifting of the scene of the
Nativity from the hill country of Judæa to the hill country of
Southeastern France. The life and the look of the two lands have much in
common; and most impressively will their common character be felt by one
who walks here by night beneath the stars.

Here, as in the Holy Land, winding ways pass out from olive-orchards,
and on across dry reaches of upland broken by outcropping rocks and
scattered trees and bushes and sparsely thatched with short dry grass.
Through the silence will come now and then the tinkle of sheep-bells.
Sometimes a flock will be seen, dimly in the starlight, feeding beside
the road; and watching, from an overlooking standpoint on a rock or
little upswelling hill-top, will be its shepherd: a tall muffled figure
showing black against the loom of the sky. And it all is touched, in
the star-haze of those sombre solitudes, with the poetic realism of
unreality; while its deeper meaning is aroused by the stone crosses,
telling of Calvary, which are found at every parting of the ways. Told
to simple dwellers in such a land the Bible story was neither vague nor
remote. They knew its setting because their own surroundings were the
same. They practised the shepherd customs; the ass was their own beast
of burden; the tending of vines and fig-trees and olive-orchards was a
part of their daily lives. And so, naturally, the older noël writers
without any thought of anachronism, and the modern writers by poetic
instinct made complete their translation of the story of the Nativity
into their vernacular by transferring its scene to their own land.


It was with Saboly's "Hòu, de l'houstau!" that our singing began. It is
one of the series in his history of the Nativity and is the most popular
of all his noëls: a dialogue between Saint Joseph and the Bethlehem
inn-keeper, that opens with a sweet and plaintive long-drawn note of
supplication as Saint Joseph timorously calls:

    "O-o-oh, there, the house! Master! Mistress!
    Varlet! Maid! Is _no_ one there?"

And then it continues with humble entreaties for shelter for himself and
his wife, who is very near her time; to which the host replies with
rough refusals for a while, but in the end grants grudgingly a corner of
his stable in which the wayfarers may lie for the night.

Esperit and Magali sang this responsively; Magali taking Saint Joseph's
part--in which, in all the noëls, is a strain of feminine sweetness and
gentleness. Then Marius and Esperit, in the same fashion, sang the
famous "C'est le bon lever": a dialogue between an Angel and a Shepherd,
in which the Angel--as becomes so exalted a personage--speaks French,
while the Shepherd speaks Provençal.

"It's high time to get up, sweet shepherd," the Angel begins; and goes
on to tell that "in Bethlehem, quite near this place," the Saviour of
the world has been born of a Virgin.

"Perhaps you take me for a common peasant," the Shepherd answers,
"talking to me like that! I am poor, but I'd have you to know that I
come of good stock. In old times my great-great-grandfather was mayor of
our village! And who are you, anyway, fine sir? Are you a Jew or a
Dutchman? Your jargon makes me laugh. A virgin mother! A child god! No,
never were such things heard!"

But when the Angel reiterates his strange statement the Shepherd's
interest is aroused. He declares that he will go at once and steal this
miraculous child; and he quite takes the Angel into his confidence--as
though standing close to his elbow and speaking as friend to friend. In
the end, of course, he is convinced of the miracle, and says that he
"will get the ass and set forth" to join the worshippers about the
manger at Bethlehem.

There are many of these noëls in dialogue; and most of them are touched
with this same quality of easy familiarity with sacred subjects, and
abound in turns of broad humour which render them not a little startling
from our nicer point of view. But they never are coarse, and their
simplicity saves them from being irreverent; nor is there, I am sure,
the least thought of irreverence on the part of those by whom they are
sung. I noticed, though, that these lively numbers were the ones which
most hit the fancy of the men; while the women as plainly showed their
liking for those of a finer spirit in which the dominant qualities were
pathos and grace.

Of this latter class is Roumanille's rarely beautiful noël "The Blind
Girl" ("La Chato Avuglo")--that Magali sang with a tenderness which set
the women to crying openly, and which made the older men cough a little
and look suspiciously red about the eyes. Of all the modern noëls it has
come closest to and has taken the strongest hold upon the popular heart:
this pathetic story of the child "blind from her birth" who pleads with
her mother that she also may go with the rest to Bethlehem, urging that
though she cannot see "the lovely golden face" she still may touch the
Christ-Child's hand.

    And when, all thrilling, to the stable she was come
    She placed the little hand of Jesus on her heart--
        And saw him whom she touched!

[Illustration: "THE BLIND GIRL"--NOËL]

But without the music, and with only these crude translations in which
is lost also the music of the words, I feel that I am giving very much
less than the true effect of these Provençal Christmas songs. To be
appreciated, to be understood, they must be heard as I heard them: sung
by that Christmas company, with Magali's tenderly vibrant voice leading
the chorus in which every one of those singing Provençaux joined. Even
the old grandfather--still standing at the fire-place--marked the time
of the music with the knife that he held in his hand; and his thin old
voice piped in with the others, and had a gay or a tender ring in it
with the changing melody, for all that it was so cracked and shrill.

I am persuaded, so thoroughly did they all enjoy their own carolling,
that the singing of noëls would have gone on until broad daylight had it
not been for the intervention of the midnight mass. But the mass of
Christmas Eve--or, rather, of Christmas morning--is a matter not only of
pleasure but of obligation. Even those upon whom churchly requirements
at other times rest lightly rarely fail to attend it; and to the
faithful it is the most touchingly beautiful--as Easter is the most
joyous--church festival of the year.

By eleven o'clock, therefore, we were under way for our walk of a mile
or so down the long slope of the hill side to the village: a little
clump of houses threaded by narrow crooked streets and still in part
surrounded by the crusty remnant of a battlemented wall--that had its
uses in the days when robber barons took their airings and when
pillaging Saracens came sailing up the slack-water lower reaches of the
Rhône. Down the white road in the moonlight we went in a straggling
company, while more and more loudly came to us through the crisp night
air the sound of the Christmas bells.

Presently some one started a very sweet and plaintive noël: fairly
heart-wringing in its tender beseeching and soft lament, yet with a
consoling under-note to which it constantly returned. I think, but I am
not sure, that it was Roumanille's noël telling of the widowed mother
who carried the cradle of her own baby to the Virgin, that the
Christ-Child might not lie on straw. One by one the other voices took
up the strain, until in a full chorus the sorrowingly compassionate
melody went thrilling through the moonlit silence of the night.

And so, singing, we walked by the white way onward; hearing as we neared
the town the songs of other companies coming up, as ours was, from
outlying farms. And when they and we had passed in through the
gateways--where the townsfolk of old lashed out against their robber
Infidel and robber Christian enemies--all the black little narrow
streets were filled with an undertone of murmuring voices and an
overtone of clear sweet song.


On the little Grande Place the crowd was packed densely. There the
several streams of humanity pouring into the town met and mingled; and
thence in a strong current flowed onward into the church. Coming from
the blackness without--for the tall houses surrounding the Grande Place
cut off the moonlight and made it a little pocket of darkness--it was
with a shock of splendour that we encountered the brightness within. All
the side-altars were blazing with candles; and as the service went on,
and the high-altar also flamed up, the whole building was filled with a
soft radiance--save that strange luminous shadows lingered in the lofty
vaulting of the nave.

After the high-altar, the most brilliant spot was the altar of Saint
Joseph, in the west transept; beside which was a magnificent crèche--the
figures half life-size, beautifully modelled, and richly clothed. But
there was nothing whimsical about this crèche: the group might have
been, and very possibly had been, composed after a well-painted
"Nativity" by some artist of the late Renaissance.

The mass was the customary office; but at the Offertory it was
interrupted by a ceremony that gave it suddenly an entirely Mediæval
cast: of which I felt more fully the beauty, and the strangeness in our
time, because the Vidame sedulously had guarded against my having
knowledge of it in advance. This was nothing less than a living
rendering of the Adoration of the Shepherds: done with a simplicity to
make one fancy the figures in Ghirlandojo's picture were alive again and
stirred by the very spirit that animated them when they were set on
canvas four hundred years ago.

By some means only a little short of a miracle, a way was opened through
the dense crowd along the centre of the nave from the door to the altar,
and up this way with their offerings real shepherds came--the quaintest
procession that anywhere I have ever seen. In the lead were four
musicians--playing upon the _tambourin_, the _galoubet_, the very small
cymbals called _palets_, and the bagpipe-like _carlamuso_--and then, two
by two, came ten shepherds: wearing the long brown full cloaks,
weather-stained and patched and mended, which seem always to have come
down through many generations and which never by any chance are new;
carrying tucked beneath their arms their battered felt hats browned,
like their cloaks, by long warfare with sun and rain; holding in one
hand a lighted candle and in the other a staff. The two leaders
dispensing with staves and candles, bore garlanded baskets; one filled
with fruit--melons, pears, apples, and grapes--and in the other a pair
of doves: which with sharp quick motions turned their heads from side to
side as they gazed wonderingly on their strange surroundings with their
bright beautiful eyes.

Following came the main offering: a spotless lamb. Most originally, and
in a way poetically, was this offering made. Drawn by a mild-faced ewe,
whose fleece had been washed to a wonder of whiteness and who was decked
out with bright-coloured ribbons in a way to unhinge with vanity her
sheepish mind, was a little two-wheeled cart--all garlanded with laurel
and holly, and bedizened with knots of ribbon and pink paper roses and
glittering little objects such as are hung on Christmas-trees in other
lands. Lying in the cart placidly, not bound and not in the least
frightened, was the dazzlingly-white lamb, decked like the ewe with
knots of ribbon and wearing about its neck a red collar brilliant to
behold. Now and then the ewe would turn to look at it, and in response
to one of those wistful maternal glances the little creature stood up
shakily on its unduly long legs and gave an anxious baa! But when a
shepherd bent over and stroked it gently, it was reassured; lying down
contentedly again in its queer little car of triumph, and thereafter
through the ceremony remaining still. Behind the car came ten more
shepherds; and in their wake a long double line of country-folk, each
with a lighted candle in hand. There is difficulty, indeed, in keeping
that part of the demonstration within bounds, because it is esteemed an
honour and a privilege to walk in the procession of the offered lamb.

Slowly that strange company moved toward the altar, where the
ministering priest awaited its coming; and at the altar steps the
bearers of the fruit and the doves separated, so that the little cart
might come between them and their offering be made complete, while the
other shepherds formed a semi-circle in the rear. The music was stilled,
and the priest accepted and set upon the altar the baskets; and then
extended the paten that the shepherds, kneeling, might kiss it in token
of their offering of the lamb. This completed the ceremony. The
_tambourin_ and _galoubet_ and _palets_ and _carlamuso_ all together
struck up again; and the shepherds and the lamb's car passed down the
nave between the files of candle-bearers and so out through the door.

Within the past sixty years or so this naïve ceremony has fallen more
and more into disuse. But it still occasionally is revived--as at
Barbentane in 1868, and Rognonas in 1894, and repeatedly within the past
decade in the sheep-raising parish of Maussane--by a curé who is at one
with his flock in a love for the customs of ancient times. Its origin
assuredly goes back far into antiquity; so very far, indeed, that the
airs played by the musicians in the procession seem by comparison quite
of our own time: yet tradition ascribes the composition of those airs to
the good King René, whose happy rule over Provence ended more than four
centuries ago.

Another custom of a somewhat similar character, observed formerly in
many of the Provençal churches, was the grouping before the altar at the
mass on Christmas Day of a young girl, a choir-boy, and a dove: in
allegorical representation of the Virgin Mary, the Angel Gabriel, and
the Holy Ghost. But the assembly of this quaint little company long
since ceased to be a part of the Christmas rite.


When the stir caused by the coming and the going of the shepherds had
subsided, the mass went on; with no change from the usual observance,
until the Sacrament was administered, save that there was a vigorous
singing of noëls. It was congregational singing of a very enthusiastic
sort--indeed, nothing short of gagging every one of them could have kept
those song-loving Provençaux still--but it was led by the choir, and
choristers took the solo parts. The most notable number was the famous
noël in which the crowing of a cock alternates with the note of a
nightingale; each verse beginning with a prodigious cock-a-doodle-d-o-o!
and then rattling along to the gayest of gay airs. The nightingale was
not a brilliant success; but the cock-crowing was so realistic that at
its first outburst I thought that a genuine barn-yard gallant was up in
the organ-loft. I learned later that this was a musical _tour-de-force_
for which the organist was famed. A buzz of delight filled the church
after each cock-crowing volley; and I fancy that I was alone in finding
anything odd in so jaunty a performance within church walls. The
viewpoint in regard to such matters is of race and education. The
Provençaux, who are born laughing, are not necessarily irreverent
because even in sacred places they sometimes are frankly gay.

Assuredly, there was no lack of seemly decorum when the moment came for
the administration of the Sacrament; which rite on Christmas Eve is
reserved to the women, the men communing on Christmas Day. The women who
were to partake--nearly all who were present--wore the Provençal
costume, but of dark colour. Most of them were in black, save for the
white chapelle, or kerchief, and the scrap of white which shows above
the ribbon confining the knotted hair. But before going up to the altar
each placed upon her head a white gauze veil, so long and so ample that
her whole person was enveloped in its soft folds; and the women were so
many, and their action was with such sudden unanimity, that in a moment
a delicate mist seemed to have fallen and spread its silvery whiteness
over all the throng.

Singly and by twos and threes those palely gleaming figures moved toward
the altar, until more than a hundred of them were crowded together
before the sanctuary rail. Nearest to the rail, being privileged to
partake before the rest, stood a row of black-robed Sisters--teachers in
the parish school--whose sombre habits made a vigorous line of black
against the dazzle of the altar, everywhere aflame with candles, and by
contrast gave to all that sweep of lustrous misty whiteness a splendour
still softer and more strange. And within the rail the rich vestments of
the ministering priests, and the rich cloths of the altar, all in a
flood of light, added a warm colour-note of gorgeous tones.

Slowly the rite went on. Twenty at a time the women, kneeling, ranged
themselves at the rail; rising to give room to others when they had
partaken, and so returning to their seats. For a full half hour those
pale lambent figures were moving ghost-like about the church, while the
white-veiled throng before the altar gradually diminished until at last
it disappeared: fading from sight a little at a time, softly--as
dream-visions of things beautiful melt away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Presently came the benediction: and all together we streamed out from
the brightness of the church into the wintry darkness--being by that
time well into Christmas morning, and the moon gone down. But when we
had left behind us the black streets of the little town, and were come
out into the open country, the star-haze sufficed to light us as we went
onward by the windings of the spectral white road: for the stars shine
very gloriously in Provence.

We elders kept together staidly, as became the gravity of our years; but
the young people--save two of them--frolicked on ahead and took again
with a will to singing noëls; and from afar we heard through the
night-stillness, sweetly, other home-going companies singing these glad
Christmas songs. Lingering behind us, following slowly, came Esperit and
Magali--to whom that Christmas-tide had brought a life-time's happiness.
They did not join in the joy-songs, nor did I hear them talking. The
fullest love is still.

And peace and good-will were with us as we went along the white way
homeward beneath the Christmas morning stars.

        _September, 1896._

A Feast-Day on the Rhône


This water feast-day was a part of the biennial pilgrimage to the
Sainte-Estelle of the Félibrige and the Cigaliers: the two Félibrien
societies maintained in Paris by the children of the South of France.
Through twenty-three dreary months those expatriated ones exist in the
chill North; in the blessed twenty-fourth month--always in burning
August, when the melons are luscious ripe and the grapes are ripening,
when the sun they love so well is blazing his best and the whole land is
a-quiver with a thrilling stimulating heat--they go joyously southward
upon an excursion which has for its climax the great Félibrien festival:
and then, in their own gloriously hot Midi, they really live!

By a semi-right and by a large courtesy, we of America were of this gay
party. Four years earlier, as the official representatives of an
American troubadour, we had come upon an embassy to the troubadours of
Provence; and such warm relations had sprung up between ourselves and
the poets to whom we were accredited that they had ended by making us
members of their own elect body: the Society of the Félibrige--wherein
are united the troubadours of these modern times. As Félibres,
therefore, it was not merely our right but our duty to attend the
festival of the Sainte-Estelle; and our official notification in regard
to this meeting--received in New York on a chill day in the early
spring-time--announced also that we were privileged to journey on the
special steamboat chartered by our brethren of Paris for the run from
Lyons to Avignon down the Rhône.


We were called at five o'clock in the morning. Even the little birds of
Lyons were drowsy at that untoward and melancholy hour. As I slowly
roused myself I heard their sleepy twitterings out in the trees on the
Cours du Midi--and my sympathies were with them. There are natures which
are quickened and strengthened by the early day. Mine is not such. I
know of nothing which so numbs what I am pleased to term my faculties as
to be _particeps criminis_ in the rising of the sun.

But life was several shades less cheerless by the time that we left the
Hôtel Univers--which I ever shall remember gratefully because it
ministered so well, even in the very midst of the driving bustle of the
Lyons Exposition, to our somewhat exacting needs--and went down to the
river side. Already the mists of morning had risen, and in their place
was the radiant sunshine of the Midi: that penetrating, tingling
sunshine which sets the blood to dancing and thence gets into the brain
and breeds extravagant fancies there which straightway are uttered as
substantial truths--as M. Daudet so often has told us; and also, when
writing about this his own dearly-loved birth-land, so often has
demonstrated in his own text.

Yet had we come to the boat while still in the lowering mood begotten of
our intemperate palterings with the dawn we must have yielded quickly
to the infectious cheerfulness which obtained on board the _Gladiateur_.
Even a Grey Penitent would have been moved, coming unawares into that
gay company, to throw off his _cagoule_ and to dance a saraband. From
end to end the big _Gladiateur_ was bright with bunting--flags set in
clusters on the great paddle-boxes, on the bow, on the stern--and the
company thronging on board was living up to the brightness of the
sunshine and the flags.

For they were going home, home to their dear South, those poet exiles:
and their joy was so strong within them that it almost touched the edge
of tears. I could understand their feeling because of a talk that I had
had three days before, in Paris, with Baptiste Bonnet: up in his little
apartment under the mansard, with an outlook over the flowers in the
window-garden across roof-tops to Notre Dame. Bonnet could not come upon
this expedition--and what love and longing there was in his voice while
he talked to us about the radiant land which to him was forbidden but
which we so soon were to see! To know that we were going, while he
remained behind, made us feel like a brace of Jacobs; and when Madame
Bonnet made delicious tea for us--"because the English like tea," as she
explained with a clear kindliness that in no wise was lessened by her
misty ethnology--we felt that so to prey upon their hospitality in the
very moment that we were making off with their birthright was of the
blackest of crimes. But because of what our dear Bonnet had said, and of
the way in which he had said it, I understood the deep feeling that
underlay the exuberant gayety of our boat-mates--and it seemed to me
that there was a very tender note of pathos in their joy.

They were of all sorts and conditions, our boat-mates: a few famous
throughout the world, as the player Mounet-Sully, the painter Benjamin
Constant, the prose poet Paul Arène; many famous throughout France; and
even in the rank and file few who had not raised themselves above the
multitude in one or another of the domains of art. And all of them were
bound together in a democratic brotherhood, which yet--because the
absolute essential to membership in it was genius--was an artistic
aristocracy. With their spiritual honours had come to many of them
honours temporal; indeed, so plentiful were the purple ribbons of the
Palms and the red rosette of the Legion--with here and there even a
Legion button--as to suggest that the entire company had been caught out
without umbrellas while a brisk shower of decorations passed their way.
A less general, and a far more picturesque, decoration was the enamelled
cigale worn by the Cigaliers: at once the emblem of their Society, of
the Félibrien movement, and of the glowing South where that gayest of
insects is born and sings his life out in the summer days.

Most of the poets came to the boat breakfastless, and their first move
on board was toward the little cabin on deck wherein coffee was served.
The headwaiter at the improvised breakfast table--as I inferred not less
from his look and manner than from his ostentatiously professed
ignorance of his native tongue--was an English duke in reduced
circumstances; and his assistants, I fancy, were retired French
senators. Indeed, those dignified functionaries had about them an air of
high comedy so irresistible, and so many of the ladies whom they served
were personages of the Odéon or the Comédie Française, that only the
smell of the coffee saved the scene from lapsing into the unrealism of
the realistic stage.

Seven o'clock came, but the _Gladiateur_ remained passive. At the
gang-plank were assembled the responsible heads of the expedition--who
were anything but passive. They all were talking at once, and all were
engaged in making gestures expressive of an important member of the
party who had been especially charged to be on hand in ample time; who
had outraged every moral principle by failing to keep his appointment;
whose whereabouts could not be even remotely surmised; whose absence was
the equivalent of ruin and despair--a far less complex series of
concepts, I may add, than a southern Frenchman is capable of expressing
with his head and his body and his hands.

It was the pianist.

A grave Majoral, reaching down to the kernel of the matter, solved the
difficulty with the question: "Have we the piano?"

"We have."

"Enough!" cried the Majoral. "Let us go."

In a moment the gang-plank was drawn aboard; the lines were cast off;
the great paddle-wheels began to turn; the swift current laid hold upon
us--and the _Gladiateur_, slipping away from the bank, headed for the
channel-arch of the Pont-du-Midi. The bridge was thronged with our
friends of Lyons come down to say good-bye to us. Above the parapet
their heads cut sharp against the morning glitter of the sun-bright sky.
All together they cheered us as we, also cheering, shot beneath them:
and then the bridge, half hidden in the cloud of smoke from our huge
funnel, was behind us--and our voyage was begun.


Of all the rivers which, being navigable, do serious work in the world
the Rhône is the most devil-may-care and light-hearted. In its five
hundred mile dash down hill from the Lake of Geneva to the Mediterrænean
its only purpose--other than that of doing all the mischief
possible--seems to be frolic fun. And yet for more than two thousand
years this apparently frivolous, and frequently malevolent, river has
been very usefully employed in the service of mankind.

In the misty barbaric ages before history fairly began, and in the early
times of the Roman domination, the Rhône was the sole highway into
northern Gaul from the Mediterrænean; later, when the Gallic system of
Roman roads had been constructed, it held its own fairly well against
the two roads which paralleled it--that on the east bank throughout
almost its entire length, and that on the west bank from Lyons southward
to a point about opposite to the present Montélimar; in the
semi-barbarous Middle Ages--when the excitements of travel were
increased by the presence of a robber-count at every ford and in every
mountain-pass--it became again more important than the parallel highways
on land; and in our own day the conditions of Roman times, relatively
speaking, are restored once more by steamboats on the river and
railways on the lines of the ancient roads. And so, having served these
several masters, the Rhône valley of the present day is stored
everywhere with remnants of the barbarism, of the civilization, and of
the semi-barbarism which successively have been ploughed under its
surface before what we have the temerity to call our own civilization
began. Keltic flints and pottery underlie Roman ruins; just beneath the
soil, or still surviving above it, are remains of Roman magnificence;
and on almost all the hill-tops still stand the broken strongholds of
the robber nobles who maintained their nobility upon what they were
lucky enough to be able to steal. Naturally--those ruined castles, and
the still-existent towns of the same period, being so conspicuously in
evidence--the flavour of the river is most distinctly Mediæval; but a
journey in this region, with eyes open to perceive as well as to see, is
a veritable descent into the depths of the ancient past.

Indeed, the _Gladiateur_ had but little more than swung clear from
Lyons--around the long curve where the Saône and the Rhône are united
and the stream suddenly is doubled in size--than we were carried back to
the very dawn of historic times. Before us, stretching away to the
eastward, was the broad plain of Saint-Fons--once covered with an oak
forest to which Druid priests bearing golden sickles came from the Île
Barbe at Yule-tide to gather mistletoe for the great Pagan feast; later,
a battle-field where Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus came to a
definite understanding in regard to the rulership of Gaul; later still,
the site of a pleasure castle of the Archbishops of Lyons, and of the
Villa Longchêne to which light-hearted Lyons' nobles came. Palace and
Villa still are there--the one a Dominican school, the other a hospital
endowed by the Empress Eugénie: but the oaks and the Druids and the
battle are only faint legends now.

I am forced to admit that never a thought was given to that aggregation
of antiquities by the too-frivolous passengers aboard the _Gladiateur_.
At the very moment when we were steaming through those Gallo-Roman and
Mediæval latitudes there was a burst of music from the piano that fired
our light-headed company as a spark fires a mine. The music was the air
of "La Coupe," the Félibrien Anthem, and instantly a hundred voices took
up the song. When this rite was ended, the music shifted to a livelier
key and straightway a farandole was formed. On the whole, a long and
narrow steamboat is not an especially good place for a farandole; but
the leader of that one--a young person from the Odéon, whose hair came
down repeatedly but whose exceptionally high spirits never came down at
all--was not one of the sort whom difficulties deter. At the head of the
long line of dancers--a living chain held together by clasped hands--she
caracoled and curveted up and down the narrow passes of the boat; and
after her, also caracoling and curveting, came the chain: that each
moment grew in length as volunteers joined it, or (in keeping with
farandole customs) as the less vivacious members of the party were
seized upon and forcibly impressed into its ranks. And so we farandoled
clear away to Givors.

It took the place of a master of ceremonies, our farandole, and acted
as an excellent solvent of formalities. Yet even without it there would
have been none of the stiffness and reserve which would have chilled a
company assembled under like conditions in English-speaking lands.
Friendliness and courtesy are characteristics of the French in general;
and especially did our American contingent profit by those amiable
traits that day on the Rhône. Save for a slight correspondence with a
single member of the party, all aboard the boat were strangers to us;
but in that kindly atmosphere, before we had time to fancy that we were
outsiders, we found ourselves among friends.

Givors slipped by almost unnoticed in the thick of the farandole: a
little town hung out to sun in long strips upon terraces rising from the
water-side; the walls and tiled roofs making a general effect of warm
greys and yellows dashed with the bright greens of shrubs and trees and
gardens and the yellow green of vines. 'Tis a town of some commercial
pretensions: the gateway of a canal a dozen miles long leading up
through the valley of the little river Gier to iron-works and
coke-works and glass-works tucked away in the hills. The canal was
projected almost a century and a half ago as a connecting channel
between the Rhône and the Loire, and so between the Atlantic and the
Mediterrænean; wherefore the Canal of the Two Oceans was, and I suppose
continues to be, its high-sounding name. But the Revolution came, and
the digging never extended beyond that first dozen miles; and thus it is
that the Canal of the Two Oceans, as such, is a delusion, and that the
golden future which once lay ahead of Givors now lies a long way astern.
Yet the town has an easy and contented look: as though it had saved
enough from the wreck of its magnificent destiny to leave it still
comfortably well to do.

Before we fairly had passed it, and while the farandole was dying out
slowly, there crashed down upon us a thunderous outburst of song: as
though an exceptionally large-lunged seraph were afloat immediately
above us in the open regions of the air. Yet the song was of a gayer
sort than seraphs, presumably, are wont to sing; and its method,
distinctly, was that of the modern operatic stage. In point of fact,
the singer was not a seraph, but an eminent professor in a great
institution of learning and a literary authority of the first
rank--whose critical summary of French literature is a standard, and
whose studies of Beaumarchais and Le Sage have been crowned by the
Academy. In sheer joyousness of spirit that eminent personage had
betaken himself to the top of the port paddle-box, and thence was
suffering his mountain-cleaving voice to go at large: so quickening was
the company in which he found himself; so stimulating was the racy
fervour of his own Southern sun!


From Givors the river runs almost in a straight line to Vienne. On both
shores rise round-crested wooded hills--the foothills of the parallel
ranges of mountains by which the wide valley is shut in. Down this
perspective, commandingly upon a height, is seen the city--misty and
uncertain at first, but growing clearer and clearer, as the boat nears
it, until the stone-work of man and the rock-work of nature become
distinct and the picture is complete in all its parts: the time-browned
mass of houses on the hill-top; the tower of Philip the Fair; over all,
the huge façade of Saint Maurice--an ogival wonder that for centuries
was the cathedral church of the Primates of Gaul.

After Marseille, Vienne makes as handsome pretensions to age as are made
by any town in France. The tradition of its founding lies hidden in the
mists of heroic legend, and is the more momentous because it is so
impressively vague. Over its very name the etymologists wrangle with
such violence that one is lost in amazement at their ill-tempered
erudition; and over its structure the archæologists--though a bit more
civil to each other--are almost as violently at cross-purposes. The best
esteemed of those antiquary gentry--at least the one whom I esteem the
most, because I like the fine boldness of his claim--is the Dominican
chronicler Lavinius: who says flatly that Vienne was founded thirteen
centuries before the dawn of the Christian era by a contemporary of
Moses, one King Allobrox--a Keltic sovereign descended from Hercules in
a right line! That is a good beginning; and it has the merit of
embodying the one fact upon which all of the testy antiquaries are
agreed: that Vienne the Strong, as folk called it in those days, was a
flourishing town long before Lyons was built or Paris even thought of,
and an age or two before the Romans came over into Gaul.

When at last they did come, the Romans transformed the town into a great
city--the metropolis of the region lying between Geneva and Marseille;
and so adorned it with noble buildings--temples, forum, circus, theatre,
aqueducts, baths--and so enriched it with all manner of works of art,
that it came to be known as Vienne the Beautiful throughout the
civilized world. One temple, approximately perfect, has survived to us
from that time; and one statue--the famous Crouching Venus: and it seems
fair enough to accept Vienne's beauty as proved by these. Moreover,
painting and music were cultivated there, together with the other arts:
and from all that the historians have to tell us it would appear that
the Roman citizens of that city lived softly and well.

In the dark ages of Mediæval Christianity most of the beauties of Vienne
vanished: being destroyed outright, or made over into buildings
pertaining to the new faith and the new times. A pathetic little
attempt, to be sure, was made by the Viennese to hold fast to their
comfortable Paganism--when Valentinian II. was slain, and the old rites
were restored, at the end of the fourth century; but it was a mere flash
in the pan. The tendencies of the times were too strong to be resisted,
and presently the new creed rode down the old. Then it was that Vienne
was called Vienne the Holy--because, while losing nothing of her
splendours temporal, she gained great store of splendours spiritual:
whereof the culmination was that famous Council, at the beginning of the
fourteenth century, which crushed the Templars and gave over their
possessions to the Crown. While the Council deliberated, Philip the Fair
"watched his case," as the lawyers would put it, from the village of
Sainte-Colombe--across the river--where he was quartered with his court
in the convent of the Cordeliers; and in Sainte-Colombe, the next year,
he built the tower that was to safeguard the royal domains against the
aggressions of the Archbishops: whose too-notorious holiness was making
them overbold.

And nowadays Vienne is a mean little town; a withered kernel in the
shell of its former grandeur; a mere sousprefecture; scarcely more than
a manufacturing suburb of Lyons. In the tower of Philip the Fair are a
cheap restaurant, and a factory of macaroni, and a carpenter-shop. It is
enough to make the spirits of the Roman emperors indignant and the bones
of the Archbishops rattle dismally in their graves. No longer either
strong, or beautiful, or holy, they call it Vienne the Patriotic, now. A
city must be something, of course--and patriotism is an attribute that
may be had for the claiming, in these days.

But the saving grace of poetry, at least of the love of poetry, still
abides in Vienne: as was proved in a manner mightily tickling to our
self-complacency as we swept past the town. Taking the place of the
stone bridge that was built in Roman times--and so well built that it
was kept in service almost down to our own day--a suspension bridge here
spans the stream: and the poets and the poet-lovers of Vienne were all
a-swarm upon it, their heads and shoulders rising in an animated
crenellation above its rail, in waiting for our galley to go by. While
we still were a hundred yards away up stream there was a bustling
movement among them; and then a bouquet, swinging at the end of a light
line, was lowered away swiftly--the bright flowers flashing in the
sunlight as they swayed and twirled. Our brethren had calculated to a
nicety where our boat would pass. Right over the bow came the bouquet,
and fairly into the eager hands stretched out for it--while a great
cheer went up from the grateful poets in the boat that was echoed by the
generous poets in the air. And the prettiest touch of all was the
garland of verses that came to us with the flowers: to bid us welcome
and to wish us God-speed on our way. Truly, 'twas a delicately fine bit
of poetic courtesy. No troubadour in the days of Vienne the Holy (the
holiness was not of an austere variety) could have cast a more graceful
tribute upon the passing galley of the debonaire Queen Jeanne.


Before Vienne the river cuts its way narrowly through the rock, and on
each side the banks lift high above the stream. Far above us was the
town, rising in terraces to where was the citadel in the days of Vienne
the Strong. We had a flying glimpse of it all as we flashed past, sped
by the current and our great wheels; and then the valley widened again,
and soft meadows bordered by poplars and gay with yellow flowers lay
between us and the mountain ranges rising to right and left against the
sky. Here and there along the banks, where an outcrop of rock gave good
holding-ground, were anchored floating grist-mills carrying huge
water-wheels driven by the current--the wooden walls so browned with age
that they seemed to have held over from the times when the archbishops,
lording it in Vienne, took tithes of millers' toll.

We were come into a country of corn and wine. The mills certified to the
corn; and as we swung around the curves of the river or shot down its
reaches we met long lean steamboats fighting against the current under
heavy ladings of big-bellied wine-casks--on their genial way northward
to moisten thirsty Paris throats. Off on the right bank was the ancient
manor of Mont-Lys, where begins the growth of the Côtes-Rôties: the
famous red and white wines, called the _brune_ and the _blonde_, which
have been dear to bottle-lovers for nearly two thousand years: from the
time when the best of them (such as now go northward to Paris) went
southward to the Greek merchants of Marseille and so onward to Rome to
be sold for, literally, their weight in gold. And as to the melons and
apricots which grow hereabouts, 'tis enough to say that Lyons bereft of
them would pine and die.

The softly-swelling banks, capped by the long lines of yellow-green
poplars, slipped by us at a gallop; while the mountains in the
background, seen through the haze of flickering leaves, seemed to stand
still. It was the most peaceful of landscapes: but there was endless
fighting thereabouts in former times. In an Early Christian way the
archbishops of Vienne ravaged among the Protestants; between whiles the
robber-counts, without respect to creed, ravaged among the travelling
public with a large-minded impartiality; and, down in the lowest rank of
ravagers, the road-agents of the period stole all that their betters
left for them to steal. As we passed the little town of Condrieu--where
a lonely enthusiast stood up on the bank and waved a flag at us--we saw
overtopping it, on a fierce little craggy height, the ruined stronghold
of its ancient lords. Already, in the thirty miles or thereabouts that
we had come since leaving Lyons, we had passed a half-dozen or more
warlike remnants of a like sort; and throughout the run to Avignon they
continued at about the rate of one in every five miles.

Singly, the histories of these castles are exceedingly interesting
studies in Mediæval barbarism; but collectively they become a
wearisomely monotonous accumulation of horrors. Yet it is unfair to
blame the lords of the castles for their lack of originality in crime.
With the few possible combinations at their command, the Law of
Permutation literally compelled them to do the same things over and over
again: maintaining or sustaining sieges ending in death with or without
quarter for the besieged; leading forays for the sake of plunder, with
or without the incentive of revenge; crushing peasant rebellions by
hanging such few peasants as escaped the sword; and at all times robbing
every unlucky merchant who chanced to come their way. It was a curious
twist, that reversion to savagery, from the Roman epoch: when the Rhône
Valley was inhabited by a civilized people who encouraged commerce and
who had a genuine love for the arts. And, after all--unless they had
some sort of pooling arrangement--the robber lords in the mid-region of
the Rhône could not have found their business very profitable. Merchants
travelling south from Lyons must have been poor booty by the time that
they had passed Vienne; and merchants travelling north from Avignon,
similarly, must have been well fleeced by the time that they were come
to the Pont-Saint-Esprit. Indeed, the lords in the middle of the run
doubtless were hard put to it at times to make any sort of a living at
all. Nor could the little local stealing that went on have helped them
much--since, their respective castles being not more than five miles
asunder, each of them in ordinary times was pulled up short in his
ravaging at the end of two miles and a half. In brief, the business was
overcrowded in all its branches, and badly managed beside. The more that
I look into the history of that time the more am I convinced that
mediævalism, either as an institution or as an investment, was not a

Condrieu is a dead little town now. As a seat of thieving industry its
importance disappeared centuries ago; and its importance as a boating
town--whence were recruited a large proportion of the Rhône
boatmen--vanished in the dawn of the age of steam. They were good
fellows, those Condrieu boatmen, renowned for their bravery and their
honesty throughout the river's length. Because of their leather-seated
breeches they were nicknamed "Leather-tails"; but their more
sailor-like distinction was their tattooing: on the fore-arm a flaming
heart pierced with an arrow, symbol of their fidelity and love; on the
breast a cross and anchor, symbols of their faith and craft. From Roman
times downward until railways came, the heavy freighting of central
France has been done by boat upon the Rhône--in precisely the same
fashion that flat-boat freighting was carried on upon the Mississippi
and its tributaries--and three or four of the river towns were peopled
mainly by members of the boating guilds. Trinquetaille, the western
suburb of Arles, still shows signs of the nautical tastes of its
inhabitants in the queer sailor-like exterior and interior adornments of
its houses: most noticeable of which is the setting up on a house-top of
a good-sized boat full-rigged with mast and sails.

The survivors of the boating period nowadays are few. Five years ago I
used to see whenever I crossed to Trinquetaille a little group of old
boatmen sitting at the end of the bridge on a long bench that was their
especial property. They moved stiffly and slowly; their white heads were
bowed breastward; their voices were cracked with age. Yet they seemed
to be cheery together, as they basked in the hot sunshine--that warmed
only comfortably their lean old bodies--and talked of ancient victories
over sand-bars and rapids: and the while looked southward over the broad
Rhône water toward the sea. No doubt they held in scorn their few
successors--one where of old were a hundred--who navigate the Rhône of
to-day, clipped of its perils by dykes and beacons, in boats driven by

Yet these modern mariners, charged with the care of the great steamboats
two and three hundred feet long, are more heroic characters than were
the greatest of the old-time navigators. The finest sight that I saw in
all that day aboard the _Gladiateur_ was our pilot at his post as he
swung us around certain of the more dangerous of the curves: where rocks
or sand-bars narrowed the channel closely and where a fall in the
river-bed more than usually abrupt made the current fiercely strong. In
such perilous passes he had behind him in a row at the long
tiller--these boats are not steered by a wheel forward, but by a tiller
at the stern--two, three, and at one turn four men. He himself, at the
extreme end of the tiller, stood firmly posed and a little leaning
forward, his body rigid, his face set in resolute lines, his eyes
fixedly bent upon the course ahead; behind him the others, elately
poised in readiness to swing their whole weight with his on the instant
that his tense energy in repose flashed into energy in action as the
critical turn was made--the whole group, raised above us on the high
quarter-deck, in relief against the deep blue sky. Amy, or another of
the Southern sculptors, will be moved some day, I hope, to seize upon
that thrilling group and to fasten it forever in enduring bronze.


As we approached the bridge of Serrières it was evident that another
demonstration in our honour was imminent. On the bridge a small but
energetic crowd was assembled, and we could see a bouquet pendent from a
cord descending toward the point where our boat was expected to pass.
The projectors of that floral tribute cheered us finely as we came
dashing toward them; and up in our bows was great excitement--which
suddenly was intensified into anguish as we perceived that our admirers
had made a miscalculation: a fateful fact that was anticipated and
realized almost in the same instant--as we saw the bouquet level with
our deck but forty feet away a-beam! Yet good luck saved the day to us.
As we shot the bridge we also rounded a curve, and a moment after the
bow of the long _Gladiateur_ had gone wide of the bouquet the stern had
swung around beneath it and it was brought safe aboard. In the same
breath we had passed under and beyond the bridge and were sending up
stream to our benefactors our cheers of thanks.

When the discovery was made that a bottle was enshrined among the
flowers, and that upon the bottle was an inscription--necessarily a
sonnet, as we impulsively decided--our feeling toward Serrières was of
the warmest. Without question, those generous creatures had sent us of
their best, and with a posy of verse straight from their honest hearts.
Only poets ministering to poets could have conceived so pretty a scheme.
But the eager group that surrounded the Majoral who held the bottle flew
asunder in wrath as he read out loudly, in place of the expected sonnet,
these words: "Quinine prepared by Cuminat at Serrières"! And then our
feeling toward Serrières grew much less warm. Yet I am not sure that
Cuminat was moved only by the sordid wish to advertise at our expense
his preparation of quinine. I am disposed to credit him in part with a
helpful desire to check the fever rising in the blood of our boat-load
of Southerners who each moment--as they slid down that hill-side of a
river--were taking deeper and stronger drafts of the heady sunshine of
their own Southern sun. On the other hand, I am forced to admit that had
his motive been pure benevolence his offering would not have been so
pitiably scant.

But the people of Tournon--to which generous town, and to the breakfast
provided by its cordial inhabitants, we came an hour before
noon--entreated us with so prodigal a liberality in the matter of
bottles that the questionable conduct of the Serrières apothecary
quickly faded from our minds. In ancient times Tournon had a black
reputation for its evil-dealing with chance wayfarers along the Rhône,
and one's blood runs cold with mere thought of the horrors which went on
there in the times of the religious wars. But very likely because of an
honest desire to live down its own bad record--which I mention here
rather to its present credit than to its past shame--it now seems
determined to balance matters by manifesting toward passing travellers
the most obliging courtesy in the world. Certainly, we poets--coming
thither famished, and going thence full fed and sleekly satisfied--had
cause that day to bless its name.

As we came galloping around a curve in the river--I cannot insist too
strongly upon the dashing impetuosity that was the constant buoyant
undertone of our voyage--this Tournon the blessed shot up before us
perked out upon a bold little hill thrust forward into the stream: a
crowd of heavily-built houses rising around a church or two and a
personable campanile, with here and there bits of crenellated ramparts,
and higher still the tough remnant of a castle still fit to do service
in the wars. Indeed, it all was so good in colour--with its blendings of
green and grey shot with warm yellow tones; and its composition was so
excellent--with its sweep upward from the river to the castle
battlements--that to my American fancy (used rather to Mediæval
semblances than to Mediæval realities) it seemed to be temporarily
escaped from an exceptionally well-set operatic stage.


All Tournon was down at the water-side to meet us, and on the
landing-stage was the very Mayor: a lean and tri-coloured man who took
off his hat comprehensively to our whole company in a magnificent bow.
Notables were with him--the Sous-Prefect, the Mayor of Tain, the
Adjoint, leading citizens--who also bowed to us; but not with a bow like
his! Laurel garlands decorated the landing-stage; more laurel garlands
and the national colours made gay the roadway leading up the bank; and
over the roadway was a laurel-wreathed and tri-coloured triumphal
arch--all as suitable to welcoming poets and patriots, such as we were,
as suitable could be. As the _Gladiateur_ drew in to the bank there was
a noble banging of _boîtes_--which ancient substitute for cannon in
joy-firing still are esteemed warmly in rural France--and before the
Mayor spoke ever a word to us the band bounded gallantly into the thick
of the "Marseillaise."

With the _boîte_ banging fitfully, with the band in advance playing "La
Coupe," the tri-coloured Mayor led off with the most distinguished lady
of our company upon his arm: and away we all went, under the triumphal
arch and up the garlanded roadway two by two--as though Tournon were a
Rhône-side Ararat and we were the animals coming out of the Ark. Our
entry was a veritable triumph; and we endeavoured (I think successfully)
to live up to it: walking stately through the narrow streets, made
narrower by the close-packed crowds pressing to see so rare a poetic
spectacle; through the cool long corridors of the Lycée; and so out upon
a prettily dignified little park--where, at a triad of tables set within
a garlanded enclosure beneath century-old plane-trees, our breakfast
was served to us to the accompaniment of bangs from the _boîte_ and
musical remarks from the band. And all Tournon, the while, stood above
us on a terrace and sympathetically looked on.

In its adaptation to the needs of travelling poets the breakfast was a
master-stroke. It was simple, substantial, delicious; and in its
accompanying prodigal outpouring of red and white Hermitage, Cornas, and
Saint-Péray, the contrast with the bottle-niggardliness of Serrières was
bravely marked. The Hermitage, from the hill-sides directly across the
river from Tournon, around the town of Tain, scarcely lives up to its
heroic tradition just now--the phylloxera having destroyed the old
vines, planted by the hermit of blessed memory, and the new vines having
in them still the intemperate strength of youth. Yet is it a sound rich
wine, in a fair way to catch up again with its ancient fame.

While we feasted, the _boîte_ and the band took turns in exploding with
violence; and when, with the filet, the band struck up "La Coupe" away
we all went with it in a chorus that did not die out entirely until well
along in the galantine. The toasts came in with the ices, and on the
basis of the regional champagne, Saint-Péray--sweet, but of good
flavour--that cracked its corks out with the irregular volleyings of a
line of skirmishers firing in a fog. The tri-coloured Mayor on behalf of
Tournon, and Paul Arène and delightful Sextius Michel on behalf of the
Félibrige and the Cigaliers, and M. Maurice Faure, the Deputy, on behalf
of the Nation at large, exchanged handsome compliments in the most
pleasing way; and the toasts which they gave, and the toasts which other
people gave, were emphasized by a rhythmic clapping of hands in unison
by the entire company--in accordance with the custom that obtains always
at the feasts of the Félibres.

But that was no time nor place for extended speech-making. All in a
whiff our feast ended; and in another whiff we were up and off--whisking
through the Lycée corridors and the crowded streets and under the
triumphal arch and so back on board the _Gladiateur_. The Mayor, always
heroically ablaze with his patriotic scarf of office, stood on the
landing-stage--like a courteous Noah in morning dress seeing the
animals safely up the Ark gang-plank--and made to each couple of us one
of his stately bows; the _boîte_ fired a final salvo of one round; the
band saluted us with a final outburst of the "Marseillaise"; everybody,
ashore and afloat, cheered--and then the big wheels started, the current
caught us and wrenched us apart from all that friendliness, and away we
dashed down stream.


Long before we came abreast of it by the windings of the river we saw
high up against the sky-line, a clear three hundred feet above the
water, all that is left of the stronghold of Crussol--still called by
the Rhône boatmen "the Horns of Crussol," although the two towers no
longer shoot out horn-like from the mountain-top with a walled war-town
clinging about their flanks. One Géraud Bartet, a cadet of the great
house of Crussol--of which the representative nowadays is the Duc
d'Uzès--built this eagle's nest in the year 1110; but it did not become
a place of importance until more than four hundred years later, in the
time of the religious wars.

On the issue of faiths the Crussols divided. The head of the house was
for the Pope and the King; the two cadets were for God and the Reform.
Then it was that the castle (according to an over-sanguine chronicler of
the period) was "transformed into an unconquerable stronghold"; and
thereafter--always for the advancement of Christianity of one sort or
another--a liberal amount of killing went on beneath its walls. In the
end, disregarding the fact that it was unconquerable, the castle was
captured by the Baron des Adrets--who happened at the moment to be on
the Protestant side--and in the interest of sound doctrine all of its
defenders were put to the sword. Tradition declares that "the streams of
blood filled one of the cisterns, in which this terrible Huguenot had
his own children bathed 'in order,' as he said, 'to give them strength
and force and, above all, hatred of Catholicism.'" And then "the castle
was demolished from its lowest to its highest stone."

This final statement is a little too sweeping, yet essentially it is
true. All that now remains of Crussol is a single broken tower, to which
some minor ruins cling; and a little lower are the ruins of the
town--whence the encircling ramparts have been outcast and lie in
scattered fragments down the mountain-side to the border of the Rhône.

It was on this very mountain--a couple of thousand years or so earlier
in the world's history--that a much pleasanter personage than a battling
baron had his home: a good-natured giant of easy morals who was the
traditional founder of Valence. Being desirous of founding a town
somewhere, and willing--in accordance with the custom of his time--to
leave the selection of a site a little to chance, he hurled a javelin
from his mountain-top with the cry, "Va lance!": and so gave Valence its
name and its beginning, on the eastern bank of the river two miles away,
at the spot where his javelin fell. At a much later period the Romans
adopted and enlarged the giant's foundation; but nearly every trace of
their occupation has disappeared. Indeed, even the ramparts, built only
a few hundred years ago by Francis I., have utterly vanished; and the
tendency of the town has been so decidedly toward pulling down and
building up again that it now wears quite a modern and jauntily youthful

Valence was our next stopping-place, and we had a world of work to do
there during the hour or so that we remained ashore. Very properly
believing that we, being poets, could dedicate their local monuments for
them far better than they could do such work for themselves, the
excellent people of this town had accumulated a variety of monuments in
expectation of our coming; and all of these it was our pleasant duty to
start upon their immortal way.

Our reception was nothing short of magnificent. On the suspension bridge
which here spans the river half the town was assembled watching for us;
and the other half was packed in a solid mass on the bank above the
point where our landing was made. The landing-stage was a glorious blaze
of tri-colour; and there the Mayor, also gloriously tri-coloured, stood
waiting for us in the midst of a guard of honour of four firemen whose
brazen helmets shone resplendent in the rays of the scorching sun. A
little in the background was the inevitable band; that broke with a
crash, at the moment of our landing, into the inevitable "Marseillaise."
And then away we all marched for half a mile, up a wide and dusty and
desperately hot street, into the heart of the town. The detachment of
welcoming townsfolk from the bank closed in around us; and around them,
presently, closed in the detachment of welcoming townsfolk from the
bridge. We poets (I insist upon being known by the company I was
keeping) were deep in the centre of the press. The heat was prodigious.
The dust was stifling. But, upheld by a realizing sense of the
importance and honour of the duties confided to us, we never wavered in
our march.

Our first halt was before a dignified house on which was a
flag-surrounded tablet reading: "Dans cette maison est né Général
Championnet. L'an MDCCLXII." M. Faure and Sextius Michel made admirable
speeches. The band played the "Marseillaise." We cheered and cheered.
But what in the world we poets had to do with this military person--who
served under the lilies at the siege of Gibraltar that ended so badly
in the year 1783, and who did a great deal of very pretty fighting later
under the tri-colour--I am sure I do not know! Then on we went, to the
quick tap of the drums, the Mayor and the glittering firemen preceding
us, to the laying of a corner-stone that really was in our line: that of
a monument to the memory of the dramatist Émile Augier. Here, naturally,
M. Jules Claretie came to the fore. In the parlance of the Academy,
Augier was "his dead man"; and not often does it happen that a finer, a
more discriminating, eulogy is pronounced in the Academy by the
successor to a vacant chair than was pronounced that hot day in Valence
upon Émile Augier by the Director of the Comédie Française. When it was
ended, there was added to the contents of the leaden casket a final
paper bearing the autographs of the notables of our company; and then
the cap-stone, swinging from tackles, was lowered away.

We had the same ceremony over again, ten minutes later, when we laid the
corner-stone of the monument to the Comte de Montalivet: who was an
eminent citizen and Mayor of Valence, and later was a Minister under
the first Napoleon--whom he had met at Madame Colombier's, likely
enough, in the days when the young artillery officer was doing fitful
garrison-duty in that little town. Again it seemed to me that we poets
were not necessarily very closely associated with the matter in hand;
but we cheered at the proper places, and made appropriate and
well-turned speeches, and contributed a valuable collection of
autographs to the lead box in the corner-stone: and did it all with the
easily off-hand air of thorough poets of the world. In the matter of the
autographs there was near to being a catastrophe. Everything was going
at a quick-step--our time being so short--and in the hurry of it all the
lead box was closed and the cap-stone was lowered down upon it while yet
the autographs remained outside! It was by the merest chance, I fancy,
in that bustling confusion, that the mistake happened to be noticed; and
I cannot but think--the autographs, with only a few exceptions, being
quite illegible--that no great harm would have come had it passed
unobserved. However, the omission being discovered, common courtesy to
the autographists required that the cap-stone should be raised again and
the much-signed paper put where it belonged.

Having thus made what I believe to be a dedicatory record by dedicating
three monuments, out of a possible four, in considerably less than an
hour, we were cantered away to the Hôtel de Ville to be refreshed and
complimented with a "Vin d'honneur." That ceremony came off in the
council chamber--a large, stately room--and was impressive. M. le Maire
was a tall man, with a cherubic face made broader by wing-like little
whiskers. He wore a white cravat, a long frock-coat, appositely black
trousers, and a far-reaching white waistcoat over which wandered
tranquilly his official tri-coloured scarf. The speech which he
addressed to us was of the most flattering. He told us plainly that we
were an extraordinarily distinguished company; that our coming to
Valence was an event to be remembered long and honourably in the history
of the town; that he, personally and officially, was grateful to us; and
that, personally and officially, he would have the pleasure of drinking
to our very good health. And then (most appropriately by the
brass-helmeted firemen) well-warmed champagne was served; and in that
cordial beverage, after M. Édouard Lockroy had made answer for us, we
pledged each other with an excellent good will.

I am sorry to say that we "scamped" our last monument. To be sure, it
was merely a tablet in a house-front setting forth the fact that Émile
Augier had been born there; and already Augier had had one of the best
speeches of the day. But that was no excuse for us. Actually, we
scarcely waited to see the veil of pink paper torn away by a man on a
step-ladder before we broke for the boat--and not a speech of any sort
was made! Yet they bore us no malice, those brave Valençois. All the way
down to the river, under the blaze of the sun, they crowded closely
around us--with a well-meant but misapplied friendliness--and breathed
what little air was stirring thrice over before it had a chance to get
to our lungs. They covered again in a black swarm the bank and the
bridge in our honour. Their band, through that last twenty minutes,
blared steadfastly the "Marseillaise." From his post upon the
landing-stage the cherubic Mayor beamed to us across his nobly
tri-coloured stomach a series of parting smiles. The brass-helmeted
firemen surrounded him--a little unsteadily, I fancied--smiling too. And
as we slipped away from them all, into the rush of the river, they sent
after us volley upon volley of cheers. Our breasts thrilled and
expanded--it is not always that we poets thus are mounted upon high
horses in the sight of all the world--and we cheered back to those
discriminating and warm-hearted towns-folk until we fairly were under
way down-stream. To the very last the cherubic Mayor, his hat raised,
regarded us smilingly. To the very last--rivalling the golden glory of
the helmet of Mambrino--the slightly-wavering head-gear of his attendant
firemen shot after us golden gleams.


We drew away into calmer latitudes after leaving that whirlwind of a
town. For the time being, our duties as public poets were ended; and
there was a sense of restful comfort in knowing that for the moment we
were rid of our fame and celebrity, and were free--as the lightest
hearted of simple travellers--to enjoy the beauties of the river as it
carried us, always at a full gallop, downward toward the sea.

In that tranquil spirit we came, presently, to the leaning Tour-Maudite:
and found farther restfulness, after our own varied and too-energetic
doings, in looking upon a quiet ruin that had remained soberly in the
same place, and under the same sedative curse, for more than three
hundred years. It is an architectural curiosity, this Curséd
Tower--almost as far out from the perpendicular as is its better-known
rival of Pisa; but more impressive in its unnatural crookedness because
it stands upon an isolated crag which drops below it sheer to the river
in a vast precipice. Anciently, before it went wrong and its curse came
upon it, the tower was the keep of the Benedictine nunnery of Soyons.
Most ungallantly, in the year 1569, the Huguenots captured the Abbey by
assault; and thereupon the Abbess, Louise d'Amauze (poor frightened
soul!) hurriedly embraced the Reformed religion--in dread lest, without
that concession to the prejudices of the conquerors, still worse might
come. Several of her nuns followed her hastily heterodox example; but
the mass of them stood stoutly by their faith, and ended by making off
with it intact to Valence. I admit that an appearance of improbability
is cast upon this tradition by the unhindered departure from the Abbey
of the stiff-necked nuns: who thus manifested an open scorn equally of
the victorious Huguenots and of the Reformed faith. But, on the other
hand, there are the ruins of the Abbey to prove conclusively that it
truly was conquered; and there, slanting with a conspicuously unholy
slant high up above the ruins, bearing steadfast witness to the wrath of
heaven against that heretical Abbess and her heretical followers, is the
Curséd Tower!

While the Abbess of Soyons, being still untried by the stress of battle,
went sinless upon her still orthodox way, there lived just across the
river on the Manor of l'Étoile a sinner of a gayer sort--Diane de
Poitiers. The Castle of the Star dates from the fifteenth century; when
Louis XI. dwelt there as Governor of Dauphiny and was given lessons in
how to be a king. Diane the beautiful--"the most beautiful," as Francis
I. gallantly called her--transformed the fortress into a bower, and gave
to it (or accepted for it) the appropriately airy name of the Château de
Papillon. There she lived long after her butterfly days were over; and
in a way--although the Castle of the Butterfly is a silk-factory
now--she lives there still: just as another light lady beautiful, Queen
Jeanne of Naples, lives on in Provence. To this day her legend is vital
in the country-side; and the old people still talk about her as though
she were alive among them; and call her always not by her formal title
of the Duchesse de Valentinois, but by her love title of "la belle dame
de l'Étoile." Of this joyous person's family there is found a ghastly
memento at the little town of Lène--a dozen miles down the river, beyond
the great iron-works of Le Pouzin. It is the Tour de la Lépreuse:
wherein a leper lady of the house of Poitiers was shut up for many years
in awful solitude--until at last God in his goodness permitted her to
die. I suppose that this story would have pointed something of a
moral--instead of presenting only another case of a good moral gone
wrong--had Diane herself been that prisoner of loathsome death in life.

But aboard the _Gladiateur_ our disposition was to take the world easily
and as we found it--since we found it so well disposed toward us--and
not to bother our heads a bit about how moral lessons came off. With
cities effervescing in our honour, with Mayors attendant upon us hat in
hand, with brazen-helmeted firemen playing champagne upon us to
stimulate our poetic fires, with _boîtes_ and bands exploding in our
praise--and all under that soul-expanding sun of the Midi--'tis no
wonder that we wore our own bays jauntily and nodded to each other as
though to say: "Ah, you see now what it is to be a poet in these latter
days!" And we were graciously pleased to accept as a part of the tribute
that all the world just then was rendering to us the panorama of
mountains and towns and castles that continuously opened before us for
the delectation of our souls.

Off to the right, hidden behind the factory-smoke of La Voulte, was the
sometime home of Bernard de Ventadour, a troubadour whom the world still
loves to honour--quite one of ourselves; off to the left, commanding the
valley of the Drôme, were Livron and Loriol, tough little Huguenot nuts
cracked all to pieces (as their fallen ramparts showed) in the religious
wars; and a little lower down we came to Cruas: a famous fortified
Abbey, surmounted by a superb donjon and set in the midst of a
triple-walled town, whereof the Byzantine-Romanesque church is one of
the marvels of Southern France. Cruas was founded more than a thousand
years ago, in the time of Charlemagne, by the pious Hermengarde, wife of
Count Eribert de Vivarais; being a thank-offering to heaven erected on
the very spot where that estimable woman and her husband were set upon
in the forest by a she-wolf of monstrous size. But the fortified Abbey
was a later growth; and was not completed, probably, until the sixteenth
century. It was toward the end of that century, certainly, that the
Huguenots attacked it--and were beaten off finally by Abbot Étienne
Déodel and his monks, who clapped on armour over their habits and did
some very sprightly fighting on its walls.

Below Cruas, around the bend in the river, Rochemaure the Black came
into sight: a withered stronghold topping an isolated rock of black
basalt six hundred feet above the stream. It is a grewsome place: the
ruin of a black nightmare of a basalt-built castle, having below and
around it a little black nightmare of a basalt-built town--whereof the
desperately steep and crooked streets are paved with black basalt, and
are so narrowed by over-hanging houses as to show above them only the
merest strip of sky. It is a town to which, by preference, one would go
to commit a murder; but 'tis said that its inhabitants are kindly
disposed. Only a step beyond it lies Le Teil: a briskly busy little
place tucked in at the foot of a lime-stone cliff--town and cliff and
the inevitable castle on the cliff-top all shrouded in a murky white
cloud, half dust, half vapour, rising from the great buildings in which
a famous hydraulic cement is made. Not a desirable abiding place,
seemingly; but in cheerful contrast with its lowering neighbour up the

And then, passing beyond a maze of islands--amidst which the river
wandered so tortuously that our pilot had behind him a strong
tiller-crew in order to carry us through safely--we came to the noble
town of Viviers. From afar we saw its tall bell-tower, its beautiful
cathedral, its episcopal palace; and as we drew nearer the whole
environment of ancient houses and fortifications spread out around those
governing points in a great amphitheatre. But what held us most was the
gay dash of tri-colour on its bridge, and the crowd there evidently
waiting for our coming to manifest toward us their good will. They
cheered us and waved their hats and handkerchiefs at us, those
poet-lovers, as we neared them; and as we passed beneath the bridge a
huge wreath of laurel was swung downward to our deck, and a shower of
laurel branches fluttered down upon us through the sunlit air. In all
the fourteen centuries since Viviers was founded I am confident that
nothing more gracious than this tribute to passing Poetry is recorded
in the history of the town.

Naturally, being capable of such an act of nicely discriminating
courtesy, Viviers has sound traditions of learning and of gentle blood.
In its day it was a great episcopal city: whose bishops maintained an
army, struck money, counted princes among their vassals, in set terms
defied the power of the King of France--and recognized not the existence
of any temporal sovereign until the Third Conrad of Germany enlarged
their knowledge of political geography by taking their city by storm.
Yet while finely lording it over outsiders, the bishops were brought
curiously to their bearings within their own walls. Each of them, in
turn, on his way to his installation, found closed against him, as he
descended from his mule before it, the door of the cathedral; and the
door was not opened until he had sworn there publicly that he would
maintain inviolate as he found them the rights and privileges of the
chapter and of the town. Moreover, once in each year the men and women
of rank of Viviers asserted their right to a part enjoyment of the
ecclesiastical benefices by putting on copes and mitres and occupying
with the canons the cathedral stalls.

The line of one hundred and thirty bishops who in succession reigned
here ended--a century back, in the time of the Revolution--in a
veritable lurid flame; yet with, I think, a touch of agonized human
nature too. The church historian can see only the diabolical side of the
situation; and in a horror-struck way tells how that last Bishop, "being
overcome by the devil, abjured the episcopacy; with his own hands
destroyed the insignia of his sacred office; and thereafter gave himself
up to a blasphemous attack upon the holy religion of which he had been
for a long while one of the most worthy ministers."

It certainly is true that the devil had things largely his own way about
that time here in France; but it does not necessarily follow that in
this particular matter the devil directly had a hand. To my mind a
simpler and more natural explanation presents itself: That the
iconoclastic Bishop was a weak brother who had suffered himself to be
forced into a calling for which he had no vocation, and into an
apparent championship of a faith with which his inmost convictions were
at war; that for years and years the struggle between the inward man and
the outward Bishop had gone on unceasingly and hopelessly, until--as
well enough might happen to one strong enough to resent yet not strong
enough to overcome restraint--the galling irksomeness of such a double
life had brought madness near; and that madness did actually come when
the chains of a life and of a faith alike intolerable suddenly were
fused in the fierce heat of the Revolution and fell away.


Below Viviers the Rhône breaks out from its broad upper valley into its
broader lower valley through the Defile of Donzère. Here the foothills
of the Alps and the foothills of the Cévennes come together, and behind
this natural dam there must have been anciently a great lake which
extended to the northward of where now is Valence. The Defile is a
veritable cañon that would be quite in place in the Sierra Madre. On
each side of the sharply-narrowed river the walls of rock rise sheer to
a height of two hundred feet. The rush of the water is tumultuous. In
mid-stream, surrounded by eddies and whirling waves, is the
Roche-des-Anglais--against which the boat of a luckless party of English
travellers struck and was shattered a hundred years ago. Indeed, so
dangerous was this passage held to be of old--when faith was stronger
and boats were weaker than in our day of skepticism and
compound-engines--that it was customary to tie-up at the head of the
Defile and pray for grace to come through it safely; and sincerely
faithful travellers tied-up again when the passage was ended to offer a
service of grateful praise. But nowadays they clap five men on the
tiller and put on more steam--and the practical result is the same.

The cliffs bordering the cañon, being of a crumbling nature, are known
as the Maraniousques; but usually are called by the Rhône boatmen the
Monkey Rocks--because of the monkeys who dwelt in them in legendary
times and stoned from their heights the passing travellers. It was a
long while ago that the monkeys were in possession--in the time
immediately succeeding the Deluge. During the subsidence of the waters
it seems that the Ark made fast there for the night, just before laying
a course for Ararat; and the monkey and his wife--desperately bored by
their long cooping-up among so many uncongenial animals--took advantage
of their opportunity to pry a couple of tiles off the roof and get away.
The tradition hints that Noah had been drinking; at any rate, their
absence was not noticed, and the Ark went on without them the next day.
By the time that the Deluge fairly was ended, and the Rhône reopened to
normal navigation, a large monkey family was established on the
Maraniousques; and the monkeys thenceforward illogically revenged
themselves upon Noah's descendants by stoning everybody who came along.

Later, the ill-tempered monkeys were succeeded by more ill-tempered men.
In the fighting times the Defile of Donzère was a famous place in which
to bring armies to a stand. Fortifications upon the cliffs entirely
commanded the river; and at the lower end of the Defile the castle and
the walled town of Donzère, capping a defiant little hill-top, commanded
both the river and the plain. Even the most fire-eating of captains were
apt to stop and think a little before venturing into the Defile in those

All of those perils are ended now. The dangers of the river are so shorn
by steam that the shooting of the cañon rapids yields only a pleasurable
excitement, that is increased by the extraordinary wild beauty of that
savage bit of nature in the midst of a long-tamed land; and the ramparts
and the castle of Donzère, having become invitingly picturesque ruins,
are as placable remnants of belligerency as are to be found anywhere in
the world. Indeed, as we saw them--with the afternoon sunlight slanting
down in a way to bring out delectably the warm greys and yellows of the
stone-work and to produce the most entrancing effects of
light-and-shade--it was not easy to believe that people had been killing
each other all over them not so very long ago.


Having escaped from the Defile of Donzère, the river wanders away
restfully into a wilderness of islands--a maze so unexplored and so
unexplorable that otters still make their home in it, and through the
thick foliage poke out their snub noses at passing boatmen now and then.
Thence onward for a long way islands are plentiful--past Pierrelatte,
and Bourg-Saint-Andéol, (a very ancient and highly Roman flavoured
town), and the confluence of the Rhône and the Ardèche--to the still
larger archipelago across which the Bridge Building Brothers, with God
himself helping them, built the Pont-Saint-Esprit.

Modern engineers--possibly exalting their own craft at the expense of
that of the architects--declare that this bridge was the greatest piece
of structural work of the Middle Ages; certainly it was the greatest
work of the Frères Pontifes: that most practical of brotherhoods which,
curiously anticipating one phase of modern doctrine, paid less attention
to faith than to works and gave itself simply to ministering to the
material welfare of mankind. In the making of it they spent near half a
century. From the year 1265 steadily onward until the year 1307 the
Brothers labored: and then the bridge was finished--a half-mile miracle
in stone. In view of the extraordinary difficulties which the engineer
in charge of the work overcame--founding piers in bad holding-ground and
in the thick of that tremendous current, with the work broken off short
by the frequent floods and during the long season of high water in the
spring--it is not surprising that the miracle theory was adopted to
explain his eventual victory. Nor is it surprising that the popular
conviction presently began to sustain itself by crystalizing into a
definite legend--based upon the recorded fact that the Brothers worked
under the vocation of the Holy Spirit--to the effect that the Spirit of
God, taking human form, was the designer of the fabric and the actual
director under whose guidance the work went on. And so the genesis of
the bridge was accounted for satisfactorily; and so it came by its holy

Personally, I like miracles; and this miracle is all the more patent, I
think, now that the bridge has been in commission for almost six hundred
years and still is entirely serviceable. Yet while its piers and
arches, its essential parts, remain nearly as the Brothers built them,
the bridge has undergone such modifications in the course of the past
century--in order to fit it to the needs of modern traffic--that its
picturesqueness has been destroyed. The chapel of St. Nicholas upon one
of its piers, and the tower at its centre, were razed about the end of
the last century; a little later the fortified approaches were removed;
in the year 1854, to provide for the increasing river navigation, the
first two arches from the right bank were replaced by a single iron arch
of two hundred feet span over the main channel; and in the year 1860 the
entire superstructure on the north side, with a part of the
superstructure on the south side, was torn down--and in place of the old
narrow roadway, with turn-outs on each pier, there was built a roadway
uniformly twenty-two feet wide. In a sentimental way, of course, these
radical changes are to be regretted; but I am sure that the good
Brothers, could they have been consulted in the premises, would have
been the first to sanction them. For they were not sentimentalists, the
Brothers; they were practical to the last degree. What they wanted was
that their bridge, living up to their own concept of duty, should do the
greatest amount of good to the greatest number of men.

Almost as we came out from beneath that monument to practical
Christianity, we saw over on the left bank two monuments to the
theoretical Christianity of three hundred years ago: the grisly ruins of
Mornas and Montdragon--each on a hill dark green with a thick growth of
_chêne vert_, and each having about it (not wholly because of its dark
setting, I fancied) a darkly sinister air. In truth, the story of Mornas
is sombre enough to blacken not merely a brace of hill-tops but a whole
neighbourhood. In the early summer of the year 1565, a day or two before
the Fête-Dieu, the Papists surprised and seized the town and castle and
put the entire Huguenot garrison to the sword. Then, as now, it was the
custom in honour of the Fête-Dieu to adorn the house-fronts with
garlands and draperies; and by way of variant upon this pretty custom
"certain of the conquerors, more fanatical than the rest, flayed the
dead Huguenots and draped their houses bravely with Protestant skins."
Thereupon the Baron des Adrets, the Huguenot commander in that region,
sent one of his lieutenants, Dupuy-Montbrun, to avenge that deviltry. At
the end of a three-days' siege Mornas was conquered again, and then came
the vengeance: "for which the castle of Mornas, whereof the battlements
overhung a precipice falling sheer two hundred feet to broken rocks
below, offered great advantages." In a grave and orderly fashion, the
survivors of the conquered garrison were assembled in the castle
court-yard; were taken in orderly squads of ten up to the battlements;
and thence were thrust over into that awful depth. And so the account
was squared.

It is instructive to note that des Adrets, who ordered the vengeance on
Mornas, a little later abjured the Reformed religion and became a
Papist; and that Dupuy-Montbrun, who carried out his orders and who
succeeded him upon his recantation in the command of the Protestant
army, but a little while before had renounced Papacy to become a
Huguenot. So the leaders, the worst of them, shifted from side to side
as they happened to be swayed by pay or policy; and to such creatures of
no real faith were due the direst of the atrocities of those hideous
times. But the Huguenots of the rank and file were of another sort.
Their singleness and sincerity in their fight for their faith were
beyond question. They died for it willingly. Failing the happiness of
death, yet being conquered, they still held fast to it. In the end,
rather than relinquish it, they unhesitatingly elected--at a stroke
giving up country, rank, fortune--to be outcast from France.

For me the history of those desperate wars has a very vital interest:
for my own ancestors took the share in them that was becoming to
faithful gentlemen vowed to the Reform, and I owe my American birthright
to the honourable fact that they fought on the losing side. As I myself
am endowed with a fair allowance of stubbornness, and with a strong
distaste to taking my opinions at second hand, I certainly should have
been with my kinsfolk in that fight had I lived in their day; and since
my destiny was theirs to determine I am strongly grateful to them for
having shaped it so well.


But I was glad when Mornas, vivid with such bitter memories, dropped out
of sight astern. Sleeping dogs of so evil a sort very well may lie;
though it is difficult not to waken a few of them when they lie so
thickly as here in the Rhône Valley, where almost every town and castle
has a chapter of nightmare horrors all its own.

Even Châteauneuf-du-Pape--which we saw a half hour later off to the
eastward, rising from a little hill-top and thence overlooking the wide
vineyard-covered valley--came to its present ruin at the hands of des
Adrets; who, having captured and fired it, left standing only its tall
square tower and some fragments of its walls. This was an unfairly lurid
ending for a castle which actually came into existence for gentle
purposes and was not steeped to its very battlements in crime; for
Châteauneuf was built purely as a pleasure-place, to which the
Popes--when weary with ruling the world and bored by their strait-laced
duties as Saint Peter's earthly representatives--might come from Avignon
with a few choice kindred spirits and refreshingly kick up their heels.
As even in Avignon, in those days, the Popes and cardinals did not keep
their heels any too fast to the ground, it is an inferential certainty
that the kicking up at Châteauneuf must have been rather prodigiously
high; but the people of the Middle Ages were too stout of stomach to be
easily scandalized, and the Pope's responsibilities in the premises were
all the lighter because the doctrine of his personal infallibility had
not then been formulated officially. And so things went along
comfortably in a cheerfully reprehensible way.

It was in those easy-going days that the vineyards were planted, on the
slopes below the castle, which were destined to make the name of
Châteauneuf-du-Pape famous the toping world over long after the New
Castle should be an old ruin and the Avignon Popes a legend of the past.
Only within the present generation did those precious vines perish,
when the phylloxera began among them its deadly work in France; and even
yet may be found, tucked away here and there in the favoured cellars of
Provence and Languedoc, a few dust-covered bottles of their rich
vintage: which has for its distinguishing taste a sublimated spiciness
due to the alternate dalliance of the bees with the grape-blossoms and
with the blossoms of the wild thyme. It is a wine of poets, this
bee-kissed Châteauneuf, and its noblest association is not with the
Popes who gave their name to it but with the seven poets--Mistral,
Roumanille, Aubanel, Matthieu, Brunet, Giéra, Tavan--whose chosen drink
it was in those glorious days when they all were young together and were
founding the Félibrige: the society that was to restore the golden age
of the Troubadours and, incidentally, to decentralize France. One of the
sweetest and gentlest of the seven, Anselme Matthieu, was born here at
Châteauneuf; and here, with a tender love-song upon his lips, only the
other day he died. The vineyards have been replanted, and in the fulness
of time may come to their glory again; but the greater glories of
Châteauneuf--which belonged to it once because of its Popes, and again
because of its sweet-souled Poet--must be only memories forevermore.


The castles over on the right bank, Montfaucon and Roquemaure, are of
the normal painful sort again. Roquemaure is a crooked, narrow,
up-and-down old dirty town, where old customs and old costumes and old
forms of speech still live on; and, also, its people have a very pretty
taste in the twisting and perverting of historic fact into picturesque
tradition--as is shown by the way in which they have rearranged the
unpleasant details of the death of Pope Clement V. into a bit of
melodramatic moral decoration for their own town. Their ingeniously
compiled legend runs in this wise: Clement's death in the castle of
Roquemaure occurred while he was on his way homeward from the Council of
Vienne; where--keeping with the King the bargain which had won for him
the Papal throne--he had abolished the Order of the Templars and had
condemned their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, to be burned alive. When
that sentence was passed, the Grand Master, in turn, had passed
sentence of death upon the Pope: declaring that within forty days they
should appear together, in the spirit, to try again that cause misjudged
on earth before the Throne of God. And the forty days were near ended
when Pope Clement came to Roquemaure--with the death-grip already so
strong upon him that even the little farther journey to Avignon was
impossible, and he could but lay him down there and die. While yet the
breath scarce was out of his body, his servants fell to fighting over
his belongings with a brutal fierceness: in the midst of which fray a
lighted torch fell among and fired the hangings of the bed whereon lay
the dead Pope--and before any of the pillagers would give the rest an
advantage by stopping in their foul work to extinguish the flames his
body was half-consumed. And so was Clement burned in death even as the
Grand Master had been burned in life; and so was executed upon him the
Grand Master's summons to appear before the Judgment Seat on high!

It is interesting to note that this tradition does very little violence
to the individual facts of the case, and yet rearranges them in such a
fashion that they are at sixes and sevens with the truth as a whole.
When, in my lighter youth, I entered upon what I fancied was antiquarian
research I was hot for the alluring theory that oral tradition is a
surer preserver of historic fact than is written record; and as I was
not concerned with antiquities of a sort upon which my pretty borrowed
theory could be tested I got along with it very well. But I am glad now
to cite this capital instance in controversion of my youthful
second-hand belief--because it entirely accords with my more mature
conviction that oral tradition, save as a tenacious preserver of
place-names, is not to be trusted at all. And as unsupported written
record rarely is to be trusted either, it would seem that a certain
amount of reason was at the root of King David's hasty generalization as
to the untruthfulness of mankind.

The day was nearly ended as we passed that town with a stolen moral
history: and so swept onward, in and out among the islands, toward
Avignon. Already the sun had fallen below the crest of the Cévennes;
leaving behind him in the sky a liquid glory, and still sending far
above us long level beams which gilded radiantly--far off to the
eastward--the heights of Mont-Ventour. But we, deep in the deep valley,
threaded our swift way among the islands in a soft twilight which gently
ebbed to night.

And then, as the dusk deepened to the westward, there came slowly into
the eastern heavens a pale lustre that grew brighter and yet brighter
until, all in a moment, up over the Alpilles flashed the full moon--and
there before us, almost above us, the Rocher-des-Doms and the Pope's
Palace and the ramparts of Avignon stood out blackly against the
moon-bright sky. So sudden was this ending to our journey that there was
a wonder among us that the end had come!

       *       *       *       *       *

All the Félibres of Avignon were at the water-side to cheer us welcome
as the _Gladiateur_, with reversed engines, hung against the current
above the bridge of Saint-Bénézet and slowly drew in to the bank. Our
answering cheers went forth to them through the darkness, and a stave
or two of "La Coupe" was sung, and there was a mighty clapping of hands.
And then the gang-plank was set ashore, and instantly beside
it--standing in the glare of a great lantern--we saw our Capoulié, the
head of all the Félibrige, Félix Gras, waiting for us, his subjects and
his brethren, with outstretched hands. From him came also, a little
later, our official welcome: when we all were assembled for a _ponch
d'honneur_ at the Hôtel du Louvre--in the great vaulted chamber that
once served the Templars as a refectory, and that has been the
banquet-hall of the Félibrige ever since this later and not less
honorable Order was founded, almost forty years ago.

[Illustration: AVIGNON]

Not until those formalities were ended could we of America get away to
receive the personal welcome to which through all that day we had been
looking forward with a warm eagerness--yet also sorrowing: because we
knew that among the welcoming voices there would be a silence, and that
a face would be missing from among those we loved. Roumanille was dead;
and in meeting again in Avignon those who had been closest and
dearest to him, and who to us were close and dear, there was heartache
with our joy.

        _August, 1894._

The Comédie Française at Orange


After a lapse of nearly fifteen centuries, the Roman theatre at
Orange--founded in the time of Marcus Aurelius and abandoned, two
hundred years later, when the Northern barbarians overran the
land--seems destined to arise reanimate from its ruins and to be the
scene of periodic performances by the Comédie Française: the first
dramatic company of Europe playing on the noblest stage in the world.
During the past five-and-twenty years various attempts have been made to
compass this happy end. Now--as the result of the representations of
"Oedipus" and "Antigone" at Orange, under government patronage and by
the leading actors of the National Theatre--these spasmodic efforts have
crystallized into a steadfast endeavour which promises to restore and
to repeople that long-abandoned stage.[4]


If they know about it--over there in the Shades--I am sure that no one
rejoices more sincerely over this revival than do the Romans by whom the
theatre at Orange was built, and from whom it has come down to us as one
of the many proofs of their strong affection for that portion of their
empire which now is the south-east corner of France. To them this
region, although ultimately included in the larger Narbonensis, always
was simply Provincia--_the_ Province: a distinguishing indistinction
which exalted it above all the other dependencies of Rome. Constantine,
indeed, was for fixing the very seat of the Empire here; and he did
build, and for a time live in, the palace at Arles of which a stately
fragment still remains. Unluckily for the world of later periods, he
was lured away from the banks of the Rhône by the charms of the
Bosporus--and so, without knowing it, opened the Eastern Question: that
ever since has been fought over, and that still demands for its right
answering at least one more general European war.

Thus greatly loving their Province, the Romans gladly poured out their
treasure in adding to its natural beauties the adornments of art.
Scattered through this region--through the Provence of to-day, and, over
on the other side of the Rhône, through Languedoc--are the remnants of
their magnificent creations: the Pont-du-Gard; the arena, and the baths,
and the Tour-Magne, and the beautiful Maison-Carrée, at Nîmes; at Arles
the arena, the palace of Constantine, and the wreck of the once
exquisite theatre; the baths at Aix; the triumphal arches at Orange and
Carpentras; the partly ruined but more perfectly graceful arch, and the
charming monument, here at Saint-Remy--all these relics of Roman
splendour, with many others which I have not named, still testify to
Roman affection for this enchanting land.

The theatre at Orange--the Arausio of Roman times, colonized by the
veterans of the Second Legion--was not the best of these many noble
edifices. Decidedly, the good fortune that has preserved so large a part
of it would have been better bestowed upon the far more beautiful,
because more purely Grecian, theatre at Arles: which the blessed Saint
Hilary and the priest Cyril of holy memory fell afoul of in the fifth
century and destroyed because of its inherent idolatrous wickedness, and
then used as raw material for their well-meant but injudicious
church-building. But the Orange theatre--having as its only extant rival
that at Pompeii--has the distinction of being the most nearly perfect
Roman theatre surviving until our day; and, setting aside comparisons
with things nonexistent, it is one of the most majestic structures to be
found in the whole of France. Louis XIV., who styled it "the most
magnificent wall of my kingdom," placed it first of all.

The unknown architect who wrought this great work--traversing the Roman
custom of erecting a complete building on level ground--followed the
Grecian custom of hollowing out a hill-side and of facing the open
cutting with a structure of masonry: which completed the tiers of seats
cut in the living rock; provided in its main body the postscenium, and
in its wings the dressing-rooms; and, rising in front to a level with
the colonnade which crowned and surrounded the auditorium, made at once
the outer façade and the rear wall of the stage.[5] The dominant
characteristic of the building--a great parallelogram jutting out from
the hill-side into the very heart of the town--is its powerful mass. The
enormous façade, built of great blocks of stone, is severely simple: a
stony height--the present bareness of which formerly was a little
relieved by the vast wooden portico that extended along the entire
front--based upon a cornice surmounting open Tuscan arches and broken
only by a few strong lines. The essential principle of the whole is
stability. It is the Roman style with all its good qualities
exaggerated. Elegance is replaced by a heavy grandeur; purity by

The auditorium as originally constructed--save for the graceful
colonnade which surmounted its enclosing wall, and for the ornamentation
which certainly was bestowed upon the rear wall of the stage and
probably upon the facing-wall of the first tier of seats--was as severe
as the façade: simply bare tiers of stone benches, divided into three
distinct stages, rising steplike one above another in a great
semi-circle. But when the theatre was filled with an eager multitude its
bareness disappeared; and its brilliant lowest division--where sat the
nobles clad in purple-bordered white robes: a long sweep of white dashed
with strong colour--fitly brought the auditorium into harmony with the
splendour of the permanent setting of the stage.

It was there, on the wall rising at the back of the stage and on the
walls rising at its sides, that decoration mainly was bestowed; and
there it was bestowed lavishly. Following the Grecian tradition (though
in the Grecian theatre the sides of the stage were open gratings) that
permanent set represented very magnificently--being, indeed, a
reality--a royal palace, or, on occasion, a temple: a façade broken by
richly carved marble cornices supported by marble columns and pilasters;
its flat surfaces covered with brilliantly coloured mosaics, and having
above its five portals[6] arched alcoves in which were statues: that
over the royal portal, the _aula regia_, being a great statue of the
Emperor or of a god.

Extending across the whole front of this wall, entirely filling the
space between the wings, was the stage. Ninety feet above it, also
filling the space between the wings, was a wooden roof (long since
destroyed) which flared upward and outward: at once adding to the
acoustic properties of the building and protecting the stage from rain.
Still farther to strengthen the acoustic effect, two curved
walls--lateral sounding-boards--projected from the rear of the stage and
partly embraced the space upon which the action of the play usually went

I shall not enter into the vexed question of scenery. It is sufficient
to say that this permanent set, in regard to which there can be no
dispute--a palace, that also would serve as a temple--made an entirely
harmonious framework for most of the plays which were presented here.
Indeed, a more fitting or a more impressive setting could not have been
devised for the majority of the tragedies of that time: which were
filled with a solemn grandeur, and which had for their chief personages
priests or kings. Above all, the dignity of this magnificent permanent
scene was in keeping with the devotional solemnity of the early
theatre: when an inaugural sacrifice was celebrated upon an altar
standing in front of the stage, and when the play itself was in the
nature of a religious rite.


Certainly for two centuries, possibly for a longer period, the people of
Arausio maintained and enjoyed their theatre. The beautiful little city
of which it was a part was altogether charming: abounding in comforts
and luxuries and rich in works of art. From the hill-top where now
stands the statue of the Virgin was to be seen in those days a miniature
Rome. Directly at the base of the hill was the theatre, and beyond it
were the circus and the baths; to the left, the Coliseum; to the right,
the Field of Mars; in front--just within the enclosing ramparts, serving
as the chief entrance to the town--the noble triumphal arch that remains
almost perfect even until this present day. Only the theatre and the
arch are left now; but the vanished elegance of it all is testified to
by the fragments of carved walls and of mosaic pavements which still
continue to be unearthed from time to time. Surrounding that opulent
little city were farms and vineyards and olive-orchards--a gentle
wilderness interset with garden-hidden villas whereto the citizens
retired to take their ease; and more widely about it was the broad Rhône
Valley, then as now a rich store-house of corn and wine and oil.

No wonder that the lean barbarians of the North came down in hungry
hordes and seized upon that fatness as Roman strength decayed; and no
wonder, being barbarians, that the invaders wrecked much of the beauty
which they could neither use nor understand. After the second German
invasion, in the year 406 of our era, there was little left in Gaul of
Roman civilization; and after the coming of the Visigoths, four years
later, Roman civilization was at an end.

Yet during that period of disintegration the theatre was not injured
materially; and it actually remained almost intact--although variously
misused and perverted--nearly down to our own day. The Lords of Baux,
in the twelfth century, made the building the outguard of their fortress
on the hill-top in its rear; and from their time onward little dwellings
were erected within it--the creation of which nibbled away its
magnificent substance to be used in the making of pygmy walls. But the
actual wholesale destruction of the interior did not begin until the
year 1622: when Prince Maurice of Nassau and Orange, in manner most
unprincely, used the building as a quarry from which to draw material
for the system of fortifications devised for his little capital by his
Dutch engineers. And this piece of vandalism was as useless as it was
iniquitous. Only half a century later--during the temporary occupation
of Orange by the French--Prince Maurice's fortifications, built of such
precious material, were razed.

In later times quarrying was carried on in the theatre on a smaller
scale; but, practically, all that this most outrageous Prince left
standing of it still stands: the majestic façade, together with the
rooms in the rear of the stage; the huge wings, which look like, and
have done duty as, the towers of a feudal fortress; the major portion
of the side walls; most of the substructure, and even a little of the
superstructure, of the tiers which completed the semi-circles of seats
hollowed out of the hill-side; and above these the broken and weathered
remains of the higher tiers cut in the living rock. But the colonnade
which crowned the enclosing walls of the auditorium is gone, and many of
the upper courses of the walls with it; the stage is gone; the wall at
the rear of the stage, seamed and scarred, retains only a few fragments
of the columns and pilasters and cornices and mosaics which once made it
beautiful; the carvings and sculptures have disappeared; the royal
portal, once so magnificent, is but a jagged gap in the masonry; the
niche above it, once a fit resting place for a god's image, is shapeless
and bare. And until the work of restoration began the whole interior was
infested with mean little dwellings which choked it like offensive
weeds--while rain and frost steadily were eating into the unprotected
masonry and hastening the general decay.


This was the theatre's evil condition when, happily, the architect
Auguste Caristie, vice-president of the commission charged with the
conservation of historical monuments, came down to Orange early in the
nineteenth century--and immediately was filled with an enthusiastic
determination that the stately building should be purified and restored.
The theatre became with him a passion; yet a steadfast passion which
continued through more than a quarter of a century. He studied it
practically on the ground and theoretically in the cabinet; and as the
result of his patient researches he produced his great monograph upon it
(published in a sumptuous folio at the charges of the French Government)
which won for him a medal of the first class at the Salon of 1855. In
this work he reëstablished the building substantially as the Roman
architect created it; and so provided the plan in accordance with which
the present architect in charge, M. Formigé--working in the same loving
and faithful spirit--is making the restoration in stone. Most
righteously, as a principal feature of the ceremonies of August, 1894, a
bust of Auguste Caristie was set up in Orange close by the theatre which
owes its saving and its restoration to the strong purpose of his strong

And then came another enthusiast--they are useful in the world, these
enthusiasts--who took up the work at the point where Caristie had laid
it down. This was the young editor of the _Revue Méridionale_, Fernand
Michel--more widely known by his pseudonym of "Antony Réal." By a lucky
calamity--the great inundation of the Rhône in the year 1840--Michel was
detained for a while in Orange: and so was enabled to give to the
theatre more than the ordinary tourist's passing glance. By that time,
the interior of the building had been cleared and its noble proportions
fully were revealed; and as the result of his first long morning's visit
he became, as Caristie had become before him, fairly infatuated with it.

For my part, I am disposed to believe that a bit of Roman enchantment
still lingers in those ancient walls; that the old gods who presided
over their creation--and who continue to live on very comfortably,
though a little shyly and in a quiet way, here in the south of
France--have still an alluring power over those of us who, being at odds
with existing dispensations, are open to their genial influences. But
without discussing this side issue, it is enough to say that
Michel--lightly taking up what proved to be the resolute work of half a
lifetime--then and there vowed himself to the task of restoring and
reanimating that ruined and long-silent stage.

For more than twenty years he laboured without arriving at any tangible
result; and the third decade of his propaganda almost was ended when at
last, in August, 1869, his dream was made a reality and the spell of
silence was broken by the presentation of Méhul's "Joseph" at Orange.
And the crowning of his happiness came when, the opera ended, his own
ode composed for the occasion, "Les Triomphateurs"--set to music by
Imbert--echoed in the ancient theatre, and the audience of more than
seven thousand burst into enthusiastic cheering over the victory that
he had won. Truly, to be the hero of such a triumph was worth the work
of nine-and-twenty years.

Even through the dismal time of the German war no time was lost. M.
Michel and his enthusiastic colabourers--prominent among them being
"Antony Réal, _fils_," upon whom has descended worthily his father's
mantle--cared for the material preservation of the building; and
succeeded so well in keeping alive a popular interest in their work that
they were able to arrange for yet another dramatic festival at Orange in
August, 1874. Both grand and light opera were given. On the first
evening "Norma" was sung; on the second, "Le Chalet" and "Galatée." To
the presentation of these widely differing works attached a curious
importance, in that they brought into strong relief an interesting phase
of the theatre's psychology: its absolute intolerance of small things.
"Norma" was received with a genuine furore; the two pretty little operas
practically were failures. The audience, profoundly stirred by the
graver work, seemed to understand instinctively that so majestic a
setting was suited only to dramas inspired by the noblest passions and
dealing with the noblest themes.

During the ensuing twelve years there was no dramatic performance in the
theatre; but in this interval there was a performance of another sort
(in April, 1877) which in its way was very beautiful. M. Michel's
thrilling "Salute to Provence" was sung by a great chorus with
orchestral accompaniment; and sung, in accord with ancient
custom--wherein was the peculiar and especial charm of it--at the
decline of day. The singers sang in the waning sunlight, which
emphasized and enlarged the grandeur of their surroundings: and then all
ended, as the music and the daylight together died away.


In August, 1886, a venture was made at Orange the like of which rarely
has been made in France in modern times: a new French play demanding
positive and strong recognition, the magnificent "Empereur d'Arles," by
the Avignon poet Alexis Mouzin, was given its first presentation in the
Orange theatre--in the provinces--instead of being first produced on the
Paris stage. In direct defiance of the modern French canons of
centralization, the great audience was brought together not to ratify
opinions formulated by Parisian critics but to express its own opinion
at first hand. Silvain, of the Comédie Française, was the _Maximien_;
Madame Caristie-Martel, of the Odéon (a grand-daughter of Caristie the
architect who saved the theatre from ruin), was the _Minervine_. The
support was strong. The stately tragedy--vividly contrasting the tyranny
and darkness of pagan Rome with the spirit of light and freedom arising
in Christian Gaul--was in perfect keeping with its stately frame. The
play went on in a whirl of enthusiastic approval to a triumphant end.
There was no question of ratifying the opinion of Parisian critics:
those Southerners formed and delivered an opinion of their own. In other
words, the defiance of conventions was an artistic victory, a
decentralizing success.

Then it was that the Félibres--the poets of Languedoc and of Provence
who for forty years have been combating the Parisian attempt to focus in
Paris the whole of France--perceived how the Orange theatre could be
made to advance their anti-centralizing principles, and so took a hand
in its fortunes: with the avowed intention of establishing outside of
Paris a national theatre wherein should be given in summer dramatic
festivals of the highest class. With the Félibres to attempt is to
accomplish; and to their efforts was due the presentation at Orange in
August 1888, of the "Oedipus" of Sophocles and Rossini's "Moses"--with
Mounet-Sully and Boudouresque in the respective title-rôles. The members
of the two Félibrien societies of Paris, the Félibrige and the
Cigaliers, were present in force at the performances--so timed as to be
a part of their customary biennial summer festival in the Midi--and
their command of the Paris newspapers (whereof the high places largely
are filled by these brave writers of the South) enabled them to make all
Paris and all France ring with their account of the beauty of the Orange

Out of their enthusiasm came practical results. A national interest in
the theatre was aroused; and so strong an interest that the deputy from
the Department of the Drôme--M. Maurice Faure, a man of letters who
finds time to be also a statesman--brought to a successful issue his
long-sustained effort to obtain from the government a grant of funds to
be used not merely for the preservation of the building, but toward its
restoration. Thanks to his strong presentation of the case, forty
thousand francs was appropriated for the beginning of the work: a sum
that has sufficed to pay for the rebuilding of twenty of the tiers. And
thus, at last, a substantial beginning was made in the recreation of the
majestic edifice; and more than a beginning was made in the realization
of the Félibrien project for establishing a national theatre in
provincial France.

The festival of last August--again promoted by the Félibres, and mainly
organized by M. Jules Claretie, the Director of the Comédie
Française--was held, therefore, in celebration of specific achievement;
and in two other important particulars it differed from all other
modern festivals at Orange. First, it was directly under government
patronage--M. Leygues, minister of public instruction and the fine arts,
bringing two other cabinet ministers with him, having come down from
Paris expressly to preside over it; and, secondly, its brilliantly
successful organization and accomplishment under such high auspices have
gone far toward creating a positive national demand for a realization of
the Félibrien dream: that the theatre, again perfect, shall become the
home of the highest dramatic art, and a place of periodic pilgrimage,
biennial or even annual, for the whole of the art-loving world.

I am disposed to regard myself as more than usually fortunate in that I
was able to be a part of that most brilliant festival, and I am deeply
grateful to my Félibrien brethren to whom I owe my share in it. With an
excellent thoughtfulness they sent me early word of what was forward
among them, and so enabled me to get from New York to Paris in time to
go down with the Félibres and the Cigaliers by train to Lyons, and
thence--as blithe a boat-load of poets as ever went light-heartedly
afloat--on southward to Avignon on the galloping current of the Rhône.


Avignon was crowded with dignitaries and personages: M. Leygues, who was
to preside over the festival; the ministers of justice and of public
works, who were to increase its official dignity; artistic and literary
people without end. Of these last--who also, in a way, were first, since
to them the whole was due--our special boat from Lyons had brought a gay
contingent three hundred strong. With it all, the City of the Popes
fairly buzzed like a hive of poetic bees got astray from Hymettus Hill.

From Avignon to Orange the distance is less than eighteen miles, not at
all too far for driving; and the intervening country is so rich and so
beautiful as to conform in all essentials--save in its commendable
freedom from serpents--to the biblical description of Paradise.
Therefore, following our own wishes and the advice of several
poets--they all are poets down there--we decided to drive to the play
rather than to expose ourselves to the rigours of the local railway
service: the abject collapse of which, under the strain of handling
twelve or fifteen hundred people, the poets truthfully prophesied.

It was five in the afternoon when we got away from Avignon. A
mistral--the north wind that is the winter bane and summer blessing of
Provence--was blowing briskly; the sun was shining; the crowded Cours de
la République was gay with flags and banners and streamers, and with
festoons of coloured lanterns which later would be festoons of coloured
fire. We passed between the towers of the gateway, left the ramparts
behind us, and went onward over the perfect road. Plane-trees arched
above us; on each side of the road were little villas deep-set in
gardens and bearing upon their stone gate-posts the names of saints. As
we increased our distance from the city we came to market-gardens, and
then to vineyards, olive-orchards, farms. Rows of bright-green poplars
and of dark-green cypress--set up as shields against the mistral--made
formal lines across the landscape from east to west. The hedges on the
lee-side of the road were white with dust--a lace-like effect, curious
and beautiful. Above them, and between the trees, we caught glimpses of
Mont Ventour--already beginning to glow like a great opal in the nearly
level sun-rays. Old women and children stood in the gateways staring
wonderingly at the long procession of vehicles, of which our carriage
was a part, all obviously filled with pleasure-seekers and all
inexplicable. Pretty girls, without stopping to wonder, accepted with
satisfaction so joyous an outburst of merrymaking and unhesitatingly
gave us their smiles.

We crossed the little river Ouvèze, and as we mounted from it to the
northward the tower of the ruined Châteauneuf-du-Pape came into view. A
new key was struck in the landscape. The broad white road ran through a
brown solitude: a level upland broken into fields of sun-browned stubble
and of grey-brown olive-orchards; and then, farther on, through a high
desolate plain tufted with sage-brush, whence we had outlook to wide
horizons far away. Off to the eastward, cutting against the darkening
sky, was the curious row of sharp peaks called the Rat's Teeth. All the
range of the Alpilles was taking on a deeper grey. Purple undertones
were beginning to soften the opalescent fire of Mont Ventour.

Presently the road dipped over the edge of the plain and began a
descent, in a perfectly straight line but by a very easy grade, of more
than a mile. Here were rows of plane-trees again, which, being of no
great age and not meeting over the road, were most noticeable as
emphasizing the perspective. And from the crest of this acclivity--down
the long dip in the land, at the end of the loom of grey-white road
lying shadowy between the perspective lines of trees--we saw rising in
sombre mass against the purple haze of sunset, dominating the little
city nestled at its base and even dwarfing the mountain at its back, the
huge fabric of the theatre.

Dusk had fallen as we drove into Orange--thronged with men and beasts
like a Noah's ark. All the streets were alive with people; and streams
of vehicles of all sorts were pouring in from the four quarters of the
compass and discharging their cargoes on the public squares to a loud
buzzing accompaniment of vigorous talk--much in the way that the ark
people, thankful to get ashore again, must have come buzzing out on

I am sorry to say that the handling of a small part of this crowd by the
railway people, and of the whole of it by the local management, was
deplorably bad. The trains were inadequate and irregular; the great
mistake was made of opening only three of the many entrances to the
theatre; and the artistic error was committed (against the protest of M.
Mounet-Sully, who earnestly desired to maintain the traditions of the
Greek theatre by reserving the orchestra for the evolutions of the
chorus) of filling the orchestra with chairs: with the result that these
so-called first-class seats--being all on the same level, and that level
four feet lower than the stage--were at once the highest-priced and the
worst seats in the building. Decidedly the best seats, both for seeing
and hearing, were those of the so-called second class--the newly erected
tiers of stone. But so excellent are the acoustic properties of the
theatre, even now when the stage is roofless, that in the highest tier
of the third-class seats (temporary wooden benches filling the space not
yet rebuilt in stone in the upper third of the auditorium) all the
well-trained and well-managed voices could be clearly heard.

Naturally, the third-class seats were the most in demand; and from the
moment that the gates were opened the way to them was thronged: an acute
ascent--partly rough stairway, partly abrupt incline--which zigzagged up
the hill between the wall of the theatre and the wall of an adjacent
house and which was lighted, just below its sharpest turn, by a single
lamp pendant from an outjutting gibbet of iron. By a lucky mischance,
three of the incompetent officials on duty at the first-class
entrance--whereat, in default of guiding signs, we happened first to
apply ourselves--examined in turn our tickets and assured us that the
way to our second-class places was up that stairway-path. But we
heartily forgave, and even blessed, the stupidity of those officials,
because it put us in the way of seeing quite the most picturesque bit
that we saw that night outside of the theatre's walls: the strong
current of eager humanity, all vague and confused and sombre, pressing
upward through the shadows, showing for a single moment--the hurrying
mass resolved into individual hurrying figures--as it passed beneath the
hanging lamp, and in the same breath swept around the projecting corner
and lost to view. It looked, at the very least, treasons, conspiracies,
and mutinous outbursts--that shadowy multitude surging up that narrow
and steep and desperately crooked dusky footway. I felt that just around
the lighted turn, where the impetuous forms appeared clearly in the
moment of their disappearance, surely must be the royal palace they were
bent upon sacking; and it was with a sigh of unsatisfied longing that I
turned away (when we got at last the right direction) before word came
to me that over the swords of his dying guardsmen they had pressed in
and slain the king!


The soldiers on guard at the ascent, and thickly posted on the hill-side
above the highest tiers, gave colour to my fancy. And, actually, it was
as guards against assassins that the soldiers were there. Only a little
more than two months had passed since the slaying of President Carnot
at Lyons; and the cautionary measures taken to assure the safety of the
three ministers at Orange were all the more rigid because one of them
was the minister of justice--of all the government functionaries the
most feared and hated by anarchists, because he is most intimately
associated with those too rare occasions when anarchist heads are sliced
off in poor payment for anarchist crimes. This undercurrent of real
tragedy--with its possibility of a crash, followed by a cloud of smoke
rising slowly above the wreck of the gaily decorated ministerial
box--drew out with a fine intensity the tragedy of the stage: and
brought into a curious psychological coalescence the barbarisms of the
dawn and of the noontime of our human world.


We came again to the front of the theatre: to an entrance--approached
between converging railings, which brought the crowd to an angry focus,
and so passed its parts singly between the ticket-takers--leading into
what once was the postscenium, and thence across where once was the
"court" side of the stage to the tiers of stone seats.

[Illustration: THE GREAT FAÇADE]

However aggravating was this entrance-effect in the matter of
composition, its dramatically graded light-and-shade was masterly. From
the outer obscurity, shot forward as from a catapult by the pushing
crowd, we were projected through a narrow portal into a dimly lighted
passage more or less obstructed by fallen blocks of stone; and thence
onward, suddenly, into the vast interior glaring with electric lamps:
and in the abrupt culmination of light there flashed up before us the
whole of the auditorium--a mountain-side of faces rising tier on tier; a
vibrant throng of humanity which seemed to go on and on forever upward,
and to be lost at last in the star-depths of the clear dark sky.

Notwithstanding the electric lamps--partly, indeed, because of their
violently contrasting streams of strong light and fantastic shadow--the
general effect of the auditorium was sombre. The dress of the
audience--cloaks and wraps being in general use because of the strong
mistral that was blowing--in the main was dark. The few light gowns and
the more numerous straw hats stood out as spots of light and only
emphasized the dullness of the background. The lines of faces, following
the long curving sweep of the tiers, produced something of the effect of
a grey-yellow haze floating above the surface of a sable mass; and in
certain of the strange sharp combinations of light and shade gave an
eerie suggestion of such a bodiless assemblage as might have come
together in the time of the Terror at midnight in the Place du Grêve.
The single note of strong colour--all the more effective because it was
a very trumpet-blast above the drone of bees--was a brilliant splash of
red running half-way around the mid-height: the crimson draperies in
front of the three tiers set apart for the ministerial party and the
Félibres. And for a roof over all was the dark star-set sky: whence the
Great Bear gazed wonderingly down upon us with his golden eyes. We were
in close touch with the higher regions of the universe. At the very
moment when the play was beginning there gleamed across the upper
firmament, and thence went radiantly downward across the southern
reaches of the heavens, a shooting-star.

Not until we were in our seats--at the side of the building, a dozen
tiers above the ground--did we fairly see the stage. In itself, this was
almost mean in its simplicity: a bare wooden platform, a trifle over
four feet high and about forty by sixty feet square, on which, in the
rear, was another platform, about twenty feet square, reached from the
lower stage by five steps. The upper level, the stage proper, was for
the actors; the lower, for the chorus--which should have been in the
orchestra. The whole occupied less than a quarter of the space
primitively given to the stage proper alone. Of ordinary theatrical
properties there absolutely were none--unless in that category could be
placed the plain curtain which hung loosely across the lower half of the
jagged gap in the masonry where once the splendid royal portal had been.

But if the stage were mean in itself it was heroic in its surroundings:
being flanked by the two castle-like wings abutting upon huge
half-ruined archways, and having in its rear the scarred and broken
mighty wall--that once was so gloriously magnificent and that now,
perhaps, is still more exalted by its tragic grandeur of divine decay.
And yet another touch of pathos, in which also was a tender beauty, was
supplied by the growth of trees and shrubs along the base of the great
wall. Over toward the "garden" exit was a miniature forest of figs and
pomegranates, while on the "court" side the drooping branches of a large
fig-tree swept the very edge of the stage--a gracious accessory which
was improved by arranging a broad parterre of growing flowers and tall
green plants upon the stage itself so as to make a very garden there;
while, quite a master-stroke, beneath the fig-tree's wide-spreading
branches were hidden the exquisitely anachronistic musicians, whose
dress and whose instruments alike were at odds with the theatre and with
the play.

Two ill-advised electric lamps, shaded from the audience, were set at
the outer corners of the stage; but the main illumination was from a row
of screened footlights which not only made the whole stage brilliant
but cast high upward on the wall in the rear--above the gaping ruined
niche where once had stood the statue of a god--a flood of strong yellow
light that was reflected strongly from the yellow stone: so making a
glowing golden background, whence was projected into the upper darkness
of the night a golden haze.


With a nice appreciation of poetic effect, and of rising to strong
climax from an opening note struck in a low key, the performance began
by the appearance in that heroic setting of a single figure:
Mademoiselle Bréval, in flowing white draperies, who sang the "Hymn to
Pallas Athene," by Croze, set to music by Saint-Saëns--the composer
himself, hidden away with his musicians beneath the branches of the
fig-tree, directing the orchestra.

The subduing effect produced by Mademoiselle Bréval's entrance was
instantaneous. But a moment before, the audience had been noisily
demonstrative. As the ministerial party entered, to the music of the
"Marseillaise," everybody had roared; there were more roars when the
music changed (as it usually does change in France, nowadays) to the
Russian Anthem; there were shouts of welcome to various popular
personages--notably, and most deservedly, to M. Jules Claretie, to whom
the success of the festival so largely was due; from the tiers where the
Parisians were seated came good-humored cries (reviving a legend of the
Chat Noir) of "Vive notre oncle!" as the excellent Sarcey found his way
to his seat among the Cigaliers; and when the poet Frédéric Mistral
entered--tall, stately, magnificent--there broke forth a storm of
cheering that was not stilled until the minister (rather taken aback, I
fancy, by so warm an outburst of enthusiasm) satisfied the subjects of
this uncrowned king by giving him a place of honour in the ministerial

And then, suddenly, the shouting ceased, the confusion was quelled, a
hush fell upon the multitude, as that single figure in white swept with
fluttering draperies across from the rear to the front of the stage,
and paused for a moment before she began her invocation to the Grecian
goddess: whose altar-fires went out in ancient ages, but who was a
living and a glorious reality when the building in which was this echo
of her worship came new from the hands of its creators--seventeen
hundred years ago. The mistral, just then blowing strongly and steadily,
drew down upon the stage and swept back the singer's Grecian draperies
in entrancing folds. As she sang, standing in the golden light against
the golden background, her supple body was swayed forward eagerly,
impetuously; above her head were raised her beautiful bare arms; from
her shoulders the loose folds of her mantle floated backward,
wing-like--and before us, in the flesh, as in the flesh it was of old
before the Grecian sculptors, was the motive of those nobly impulsive,
urgent statues of which the immortal type is the Winged Victory.

The theory has been advanced that the great size of the Greek stage, and
of the palace in its rear which was its permanent set of scenery, so
dwarfed the figures of the actors that buskins and padding were used in
order to make the persons of the players more in keeping with their
surroundings. With submission, I hold that this theory is arrant
nonsense. Even on stilts ten feet high the actors still would have been,
in one way, out of proportion with the background. If used at all in
tragedy, buskins and pads probably were used to make the heroic
characters of the drama literally greater than the other characters.

In point of fact, the majestic height of the scene did not dwarf the
human figures sustaining serious parts. The effect was precisely the
contrary. Mademoiselle Bréval, standing solitary in that great open
space, with the play of golden light upon her, became also heroic. With
the characters in "Oedipus" and "Antigone" the result was the same: the
sombre grandeur of the tragedies was enlarged by the majesty of the
background, and play and players alike were upraised to a lofty plane of
solemn stateliness by the stately reality of those noble walls: which
themselves were tragedies, because of the ruin that had come to them
with age.

Upon the comedy that so injudiciously was interpolated into the program
the effect of the heroic environment was hopelessly belittling. M.
Arène's "L'Ilote" and M. Ferrier's "Revanche d'Iris" are charming of
their kind, and to see them in an ordinary theatre--with those intimate
accessories of house life which such sparkling trifles require--would be
only a delight. But at Orange their sparkle vanished, and they were
jarringly out of place. Even the perfect excellence of the players--and
no Grecian actress, I am confident, ever surpassed Mademoiselle
Rachel-Boyer in exquisitely finished handling of Grecian
draperies--could not save them. Quite as distinctly as each of the
tragedies was a success, the little comedies were failures: being
overwhelmed utterly by their stately surroundings, and lost in the
melancholy bareness of that great stage. It was all the more, therefore,
an interesting study in the psychology of the drama to perceive how the
comparatively few actors in the casts of the tragedies--how even, at
times, only one or two figures--seemed entirely to fill the stage; and
how at all times those plays and their setting absolutely harmonized.


Of scenery, in the ordinary sense of the word, there was none at all.
What we saw was the real thing. In the opening scene of "Oedipus," the
_King_--coming forward through the royal portal, and across the raised
platform in the rear of the stage--did literally "enter from the
palace," and did "descend the palace steps" to the "public place" where
_Creon_ and the priests awaited him. It was a direct reversal of the
ordinary effect in the ordinary theatre: where the play loses in realism
because a current of necessarily recognized, but purposely ignored,
antagonistic fact underruns the conventional illusion and compels us to
perceive that the palace is but painted canvas, and (even on the largest
stage) is only four or five times as high as the _Prince_. The palace at
Orange--towering up as though it would touch the very heavens, and
obviously of veritable stone--was a most peremptory reality.


The fortuitous accessory of the trees growing close beside the stage
added to the outdoor effect still another very vivid touch of realism;
and this was heightened by the swaying of the branches, and by the
gracious motion of the draperies, under the fitful pressure of the
strong gusts of wind. Indeed, the mistral took a very telling part in
the performance. Players less perfect in their art would have been
disconcerted by it; but these of the Comédie Française were quick to
perceive and to utilize its artistic possibilities. In the very midst of
the solemn denunciation of _Oedipus_ by _Tiresias_, the long white beard
of the blind prophet suddenly was blown upward so that his face was
hidden and his utterance choked by it; and the momentary pause, while he
raised his hand slowly, and slowly freed his face from this chance
covering, made a dramatic break in his discourse and added to it a
naturalness which vividly intensified its solemn import. In like manner
the final entry of _Oedipus_, coming from the palace after blinding
himself, was made thrillingly real. For a moment, as he came upon the
stage, the horror which he had wrought upon himself--his ghastly
eye-sockets, his blood-stained face--was visible; and then a gust of
wind lifted his mantle and flung it about his head so that all was
concealed; and an exquisite pity for him was aroused--while he struggled
painfully to rid himself of the encumbrance--by the imposition of that
petty annoyance upon his mortal agony of body and of soul.

In such capital instances the mistral became an essential part of the
drama; but it was present upon the stage continuously, and its constant
play among the draperies--with a resulting swaying of tender lines into
a series of enchanting folds, and with a quivering of robes and mantles
which gave to the larger motions of the players an undertone of vibrant
action--cast over the intrinsic harshness of the tragedy a softening
veil of grace.

An enlargement of the same soft influences was due to the entrancing
effects of colour and of light. Following the Grecian traditions, the
flowing garments of the chorus were in strong yet subdued colour-notes
perfectly harmonized. Contrasting with those rich tones, the
white-robed figures of the leading characters stood out with a brilliant
intensity. And the groups had always a golden background, and over them
always the golden glow from the footlights cast a warm radiance that
again was strengthened by the golden reflections from the wall of yellow
stone, so that the whole symphony in colour had for its under-note a
mellow splendour of golden tones.


In this perfect poetic setting the play went on with a stately
slowness--that yet was all too fast for the onlookers--and with the
perfection of finish that such actors naturally gave to their work
amidst surroundings by which they were at once stimulated and inspired.
Even the practical defects of the ruinous theatre were turned into
poetical advantages which made the tragic action still more real. The
woeful entrance of _Oedipus_ and the despairing retreat of _Jocasta_
were rendered the more impressive by momentary pauses in the broken
doorway--that emphasized by its wreck their own wrecked happiness; in
"Antigone" a touching beauty was given to the entry of the blind
_Tiresias_ by his slow approach from the distant side of the theatre,
led by a child through the maze of bushes and around the fallen
fragments of stone; and Mademoiselle Bartet (_Antigone_), unable to pass
by the door that should have been but was not open for her, made a still
finer exit by descending the steps at the side of the stage and
disappearing among the trees.

But the most perfect of those artistic utilizations of chance
accessories--which were the more effective precisely because they were
accidental, and the more appreciated because their use so obviously was
an inspiration--was the final exit of _Oedipus_: a departure "into
desert regions" that Mounet-Sully was able to make very literally real.

Over in the corner beside the "garden" exit, as I have said, was a
tangled growth of figs and pomegranates; and thence extending almost to
the stage was a light fringe of bushes growing along the base of the
rear wall among the fragments of fallen stone. It was through that
actual wilderness that _Oedipus_--crossing half the width of the
theatre--passed from the brilliant stage into shadow that grew deeper as
he advanced, and at last, entering the gap in the stone-work where once
the doorway had been, disappeared into the dark depth beyond.

An accident of the moment--the exhaustion of the carbons of the electric
lamps--gave to his exit a still keener dramatic intensity. The
footlights alone remained burning: flooding with a golden splendour the
stage and the great yellow wall, and from the wall reflected upward and
outward upon the auditorium; casting over the faces in the orchestra a
soft golden twilight, and a still fainter golden light over the more
remote hill-side of faces on the tiers--which rose through the golden
dusk, and vanished at last in a darkness that still seemed to be a
little softened by the faint suggestion of a golden haze.

Interest and light thus together were focused upon the climax of the
tragedy. Leaving the light, and with it love and hope and life, behind
him, _Oedipus_ descended the steps of the palace, leaning upon the
shoulder of a slave, and moved toward the thickening shadows. Watching
after him with a profoundly sorrowful intensity was the group upon the
stage: a gorgeous mass of warm colour, broken by dashes of gleaming
white and bathed in a golden glow. Slowly, painfully, along that rough
and troublous way, into an ever-deepening obscurity merging into
darkness irrevocable, the blinded king went onward toward the outer
wilderness where would be spent the dreary remnant of his broken days.
Feeling his way through the tangled bushes; stumbling, almost falling,
over the blocks of stone; at times halting, and in his desperate sorrow
raising his hands imploringly toward the gods whose foreordered curse
had fallen upon him because of his foreordered sin, he went on and on:
while upon the great auditorium there rested an ardent silence which
seemed even to still the beatings of the eight thousand hearts. And
when, passing into the black depths of the broken archway, the last
faint gleam of his white drapery vanished, and the strain relaxed which
had held the audience still and silent, there came first from all those
eager breasts--before the roar of applause which rose and fell, and
rose again, and seemed for a while to be quite inextinguishable--a
deep-drawn sigh.


"Antigone," played on the second evening--being a gentler tragedy than
"Oedipus," and conceived in a spirit more in touch with our modern
times--was received with a warmer enthusiasm. No doubt to the Greeks, to
whom its religious motive was a living reality, "Oedipus" was purely
awe-inspiring; but to us, for whom the religious element practically has
no existence, the intrinsic qualities of the plot are so repellent that
the play is less awe-inspiring than horrible. And even in Grecian times,
I fancy--human nature being the same then as now in its
substrata--"Antigone," with its conflict between mortals, must have
appealed more searchingly to human hearts than ever "Oedipus" could have
appealed with its conflict between a mortal and the gods. Naturally, we
are in closer sympathy with the righteous defiance of a man by a
woman--both before our eyes, passionately flaming with strong
antagonistic emotions--than we are with a man's unrighteous defiance of
abstract and invisible Fate.

As "Antigone" was given at Orange, the softening influences which had
subdued the harshness of "Oedipus" still farther were extended, making
its deep tenderness still deeper and more appealing. The inspersion of
music of a curiously penetrating, moving sort--composed by Saint-Saëns
in an approximation to Grecian measures--added a poetic undertone to the
poetry of the situations and of the lines; and a greater intensity was
given to the crises of the play--an artistic reproduction of the effect
caused by the accident of the night before--by extinguishing the
electric lamps and so bringing the action to a focus in the mellow
radiance which came from the golden footlights and richly lighted the

The poetic key-note was struck in the opening scene: when _Antigone_ and
_Ismene_, robed all in white, entered together by the royal doorway and
stood upon the upper plane of the great stage, alone--and yet so filled
it that there was no sense of emptiness nor of lack of the ordinary
scenery. Again, the setting was not an imitation, but the real thing.
The palace from which the sisters had come forth rose stately behind
them. Beside the stage, the branches of the fig-tree waved lightly in
the breeze. In the golden glow of the footlights and against the golden
background the two white-robed figures--their loose vestments, swayed by
the wind, falling each moment into fresh lines of loveliness--moved with
an exquisite grace. And all this visible beauty reinforced with a moving
fervour the penetrating beauty of _Antigone's_ avowal of her love for
her dead brother--tender, human, natural--and of her purpose, born of
that love, so resolute that to accomplish it she would give her life.


Again, the utter absence of conventional scenery was a benefit rather
than a disadvantage. When _Creon_ entered upon the upper plane, attended
by his gorgeous guard, and at the same moment the entrance of the chorus
filled the lower plane with colour less brilliant but not less strong,
the stage was full, not of things, but of people, and was wholly
alive. The eye was not distracted by painted scenery--in the ordinary
theatre a mechanical necessity, and partly excusable because it also
supplies warmth and richness of tone--but was entirely at the service of
the mind in following the dramatic action of the play. The setting being
a reality, there was no need for mechanism to conceal a seamy side; and
the colour-effects were produced by the actors themselves: whose
draperies made a superb colour-scheme of strong hues perfectly
harmonized, of gleaming white, of glittering golden embroideries--which
constantly was rearranged by the shifting of the groups and single
figures into fresh combinations; to which every puff of wind and every
gesture gave fresh effects of light and shade; and over which the golden
light shed always its warm radiance.

Of all those beautiful groupings, the one which most completely
fulfilled the several requirements of a picture--subject, composition,
colour, light-and-shade--was that of the fourth episode: the white-robed
_Antigone_ alone upon the upper plane, an animate statue, a veritable
Galatea; the chorus, a broad sweep of warm colour, on the lower plane;
the electric lights turned off, leaving the auditorium in
semi-obscurity, and concentrating light and thought upon the golden
beauty of the stage. With the entry of _Creon_ and his guards both the
dramatic and the picturesque demands of the situation were entirely
satisfied. In the foreground, a mass of strong subdued colour, were the
minor figures of the chorus; in the background, a mass of strong
brilliant color, were the minor figures of the guards; between those
groups--the subject proper--were _Creon_ and _Antigone_: their white
robes, flashing with their eager gestures and in vivid relief against
the rich background, making them at once the centre and the culmination
of the magnificent composition. And the beauty and force of such a
setting deepened the pathos and intensified the cruelty of the
alternately supplicating and ferocious lines.

There was, I regret to say, an absurd anticlimax to that noble scene.
_Antigone_, being recalled and made the centre of a volley of bouquets,
ceased to be _Antigone_ and became only Mademoiselle Bartet; and the
Greek chorus, breaking ranks and scampering about the stage in order to
pick up the leading lady's flowers, ceased to be anything serious and
became only ridiculous. For the moment French gallantry rose superior to
the eternal fitness of things, and in so doing partially destroyed one
of the most beautiful effects ever produced upon the stage. Even in the
case of minor players so complete a collapse of dignity would not easily
have been forgiven. In the case of players so eminent, belonging to the
first theatre in the world, it was unpardonable.


But it could be, and was, for the time being forgotten--as the play went
on with a smooth perfection, and with a constantly increasing dramatic
force, as the action strengthened and quickened in accord always with
the requirements of dramatic art.

Without any apparent effort to secure picturesque effect, with a
grouping seemingly wholly unstudied and always natural, the stage
presented a series of pictures ideal in their balance of mass, and in
their colour and tone, while the turning off and on of the electric
lights produced effects analogous to those in music when the soft and
hard pedals are used to give to the more tender passages an added grace
and delicacy, and to the stronger passages a more brilliant force. And
always, be it remembered, the play thus presented was one of the most
tenderly beautiful tragedies possessed by the world, and the players--by
natural fitness and by training--were perfect in their art.

Presently came the end--not a climax of action; not, in one sense, a
climax at all. With a master-touch, Sophocles has made the end of
"Antigone" the dead after-calm of evil action--a desolate despair.
Slowly the group upon the stage melted away. _Creon_, with his hopeless
cry upon his lips, "Death! Death! Only death!" moved with a weary
languor toward the palace and slowly disappeared in the darkness beyond
the ruined portal. There was a pause before the chorus uttered its final
solemn words. And then--not as though obeying a stage direction, but
rather as though moved severally by the longing in their own breasts to
get away from that place of sorrow--those others also departed: going
slowly, in little groups and singly, until at last the stage was bare.

The audience was held bound in reality by the spell which had seemed to
bind the chorus after _Creon's_ exit. Some moments passed before that
spell was broken, before the eight thousand hearts beat normally again
and the eight thousand throats burst forth into noisy applause--which
was less, perhaps, an expression of gratitude for an artistic creation
rarely equalled than of the natural rebound of the spirit after so tense
a strain. In another moment the seats were emptied and the multitude was
flowing down the tiers--a veritable torrent of humanity--into the pit:
there to be packed for a while in a solid mass before it could work its
way out through the insufficient exits and so return again to our modern

And then the Roman Theatre--with a fresh legend of beauty added to the
roll of its centuries--was left desert beneath the bright silence of the
eternal stars.

        _December, 1894._



[1] _Recipe for Poumpo_: Flour, 10½ oz.; brown sugar, 3½ oz.; virgin
    olive oil (probably butter would answer), 3½ oz.; the white and the
    yolk of one egg. Knead with enough water to make a firm paste. Fold
    in three and set to rise for eight or ten hours. Shape for baking,
    gashing the top. Bake in a slow oven.

[2] _Vin cue_, literally cooked wine, is made at the time of the vintage
    by the following recipe: Boil unfermented grape-juice in a well
    scoured cauldron [or porcelain-lined vessel] for a quarter of an
    hour, skimming thoroughly. Pour into earthen pans, and let it stand
    until the following day. Pour again into the cauldron, carefully, so
    as to leave the dregs, and boil until reduced to one-half--or less,
    or more, according to the sweetness desired. A good rule is to boil
    in the wine a quince stuck full of cloves--the thorough cooking of
    the quince shows that the wine is cooked too. Set to cool in earthen
    pans, and when cold bottle and cork and seal. The Provençal
    cooked-wine goes back to Roman times. Martial speaks of "Cocta fumis
    musta Massiliensis."

[3] The admirable edition of Saboly's noëls, text and music, published
    at Avignon in the year 1856 by François Seguin has been reissued by
    the same publisher in definitive form. It can be obtained through
    the Librarie Roumanille, Avignon.

[4] As yet (1902) these high hopes have not been fully realized. In the
    past eight years dramatic performances repeatedly have been given in
    the Orange theatre, and always with a brilliant success; but their
    establishment as fixtures, to come off at regular intervals, still
    is to be accomplished.

[5] The dimensions of the theatre are: width, 338 feet; depth, 254 feet;
    height of façade and of rear wall of stage, 120 feet; radius of
    auditorium, 182 feet.

[6] The conventions of the Greek theatre--and, later, of the Roman
    theatre--prescribed that through the great central portal kings
    should enter; through the smaller side portals, queens or princesses
    (on the left) and guests (on the right); from the portals in the
    wings, natives of the country (on the left) and strangers (on the
    right). The conventional entrances from the wings arose from the
    fact that the spectators in the Dionysiac theatre, on the Acropolis,
    saw beyond the stage on the one side the white houses of Athens and
    on the other the plains of Attica: and so to them the actors coming
    from the Athenian side were their own people, while those entering
    from the side toward Attica were strangers. In the modern French
    theatre the "court" and "garden" entrances still preserve this
    ancient tradition.

       *       *       *       *       *


Obvious printing errors were repaired; these changes are listed below.
Other variation in hyphenation is as in the original text.

    Felibrien changed to Félibrien
    "it was the drink of the young Félibrien poets"

    builded changed to built
    "long before Lyons was built or Paris even thought of"

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Christmas Kalends of Provence - And Some Other Provençal Festivals" ***

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