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Title: A Childhood in Brittany Eighty Years Ago
Author: Sedgwick, Anne Douglas, 1873-1935
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Childhood in Brittany Eighty Years Ago" ***

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Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  Incorrect page numbers in the Table of Contents have been corrected.

  [Illustration: "Keransiflan and I, sitting on our wheelbarrow, were
   allowed to go on eating in peace"]

     A Childhood
     in Brittany
     Eighty Years Ago

     Anne Douglas Sedgwick

     With illustrations by
     Paul de Leslie

     New York

     The Century Co.


     Copyright, 1918, 1919, by

     _Published, October, 1919_


     CHAPTER                               PAGE

     I    QUIMPER AND BONNE MAMAN            3

     II   ELIANE                            44

     III  THE FÊTE AT KER-ELIANE            55


     V    TANTE ROSE                        83


     VII  BON PAPA                         122

     VIII LE MARQUIS DE PLOEUC             131

     IX   LOCH-AR-BRUGG                    153

     X    THE PARDON AT FOLGOAT            196

     XI   BONNE MAMAN'S DEATH              204



This little sheaf of childish memories has been put together from many
talks, in her own tongue, with an old French friend. The names of her
relatives have, by her wish, been changed to other names, taken from
their Breton properties, or slightly altered while preserving the
character of the Breton original.




I was born at Quimper in Brittany on the first of August, 1833, at
four o'clock in the morning, and I have been told that I looked about
me resolutely and fixed a steady gaze on the people in the room, so
that the doctor said, "She is not blind, at all events."

The first thing I remember is a hideous doll to which I was
passionately attached. It belonged to the child of one of the
servants, and my mother, since I would not be parted from it, gave
this child, to replace it, a handsome doll. It had legs stuffed with
sawdust and a clumsily painted cardboard head, and on this head it
wore a _bourrelet_. The _bourrelet_ was a balloon-shaped cap made of
plaited wicker, and was worn by young children to protect their heads
when they fell. We, too, wore them in our infancy, and I remember that
I was very proud when wearing mine and that I thought it a very pretty

I could not have been more than three years old when I was brought
down to the _grand salon_ to be shown to a friend of my father's, an
Englishman, on his way to England from India, and a pink silk dress I
then wore, and my intense satisfaction in it, is my next memory. It
had a stiff little bodice and skirt, and there were pink rosettes over
my ears. But I could not have been a pretty child, for my golden hair,
which grew abundantly in later years, was then very scanty, and my
mouth was large. I was stood upon a mahogany table, of which I still
see the vast and polished spaces beneath me, and Mr. John Dobray, when
I was introduced to him by my proud father, said, "So this is Sophie."

  [Illustration: "Quimper is an old town"]

Mr. Dobray wore knee-breeches, silk stockings, and a high stock. I see
my father, too, very tall, robust, and fair, with the pleasantest
face. But my father's figure fills all my childhood. I was his pet and
darling. When I cried and was naughty, my mother would say: "Take your
daughter. She tires me and is insufferable." Then my father would take
me in his arms and walk up and down with me while he sang me to sleep
with old Breton songs. One of these ran:

     Jésus péguen brasvé,
     Plégar douras néné;
     Jésus péguen brasvé,
     Ad ondar garan té!

This, as far as I remember, means, "May Jesus be happy, and may His
grace make us all happy."

At other times my father played strange, melancholy old Breton tunes
to me on a violin, which he held upright on his knee, using the bow
across it as though it were a 'cello. He was, though untaught,
exceedingly musical, and played by ear on the clavecin anything he had
heard. It must have been from him that I inherited my love of music,
and I do not remember the time that I was not singing.

I see myself, also, at the earliest age, held before my father on his
saddle as we rode through woods. He wore an easy Byronic collar and
always went bareheaded. He spent most of his time on horseback,
visiting his farms or hunting.

My father was of a wealthy bourgeois family of Landerneau, and it must
have been his happy character and love of sport rather than his
wealth--he was master of hounds and always kept the pack--that made
him popular in Quimper, for the gulf between the _bourgeoisie_ and the
_noblesse_ was almost impassable. Yet not only was he popular, but he
had married my mother, who was of an ancient Breton family, the
Rosvals. One of the Rosvals fought in the Combats de Trente against
the English, and the dying and thirsty Beaumanoir to whom it was said
on that historic day, "Bois ton sang, Beaumanoir," was a cousin of

  [Illustration: We played in the garden at Quimper]

My mother was a beautiful woman with black hair and eyes of an intense
dark blue. She was unaware of her own loveliness, and was much amused
one day when her little boy, after gazing intently at her, said,
"_Maman_, you are very beautiful." She repeated this remark, laughing,
to my father, on which he said, "Yes, my dear, you are."

My mother was extremely proud, and not at all flattered that she
should be plain Mme. Kerouguet, although she was devoted to my father
and it was the happiest _ménage_. I remember one day seeing her bring
to my father, looking, for all her feigned brightness, a little
conscious, some new visiting-cards she had had printed, with the name
of Kerouguet reduced to a simple initial, and followed by several of
the noble ancestral names of her own family.

"What's this?" said my father, laughing.

"We needed some new cards," said my mother, "and I dislike so much the
name of Kerouguet."

But my father, laughing more than ever, said:

"Kerouguet you married and Kerouguet you must remain," and the new
cards had to be relinquished.

My mother, with her black hair and blue eyes, had a charming nose of
the sort called "_un nez Roxalane_." It began very straight and fine,
but had a flattened little plateau on the tip which we called "_la
promenade de maman_." My memory of her then is of a very active, gay,
authoritative young woman, going to balls, paying and receiving
visits, and riding out with my father, wearing the sweeping habit of
those days and an immense beaver hat and plume.

Quimper is an old town, and the _hôtels_ of the _noblesse_, all
situated in the same quarter and on a steep street, were of blackened,
crumbling stone. From _portes-cochères_ one entered the courtyards,
and the gardens behind stretched far into the country.

In the courtyard of our _hôtel_ was a stone staircase, with elaborate
carvings, like those of the Breton churches, leading to the upper
stories, but for use there were inner staircases. My mother's boudoir,
the _petit salon_, the _grand salon_, the _salle-à-manger_, and the
billiard-room were on the ground floor and gave out upon the garden.

The high walls that ran along the street and surrounded the garden
were concealed by plantations of trees, so that one seemed to look out
into the country. Flower beds were under the salon-windows, and there
were long borders of wild strawberries that had been transplanted from
the woods, as my mother was very fond of them. Fruit-trees grew
against the walls, and beyond the groves and flower beds and winding
gravel paths was an orchard, with apricot-, pear-, and apple-trees,
and the clear little river Odel, with its washing-stones, where the
laundry-maids beat the household linen in the cold, running water.

It was pleasant to hear the _clap-clap-clap_ on a hot summer day. Is
it known that the pretty pied water-wagtail is called _la lavandière_
from its love of water and its manner of beating up and down its tail
as our washerwomen wield their wooden beaters?

Beyond the river were the woods where I often rode with my father, and
beyond the woods distant ranges of mountains. I looked out at all this
from my nursery-windows, with their frame of climbing-roses and
heliotrope. Near my window was a great lime-tree of the variety known
as American. The vanilla-like scent of its flowers was almost
overpowering, and all this fragrance gave my mother a headache, and
she had to have her room moved away from the garden to another part of
the house. How clearly I see this room of my mother's, with its high,
canopied four-poster bed and the pale-gray paper on the walls covered
with yellow fleurs-de-lis!

The wall-paper in my father's room was one of the prettiest I have
ever seen, black, all bespangled with bright butterflies. Of the
_grand salon_ I remember most clearly the high marble mantelpiece,
upheld by hounds sitting on their haunches. On this mantelpiece was a
huge _boule_ clock, two tall candelabra of Venetian glass, and two
figures in _vieux Saxe_ of a marquis and a marquise that filled us
with delight. On each side of the fireplace were two Louis XV court
chairs--chairs, that is, with only one arm, to admit of the display of
the great hoop-skirts of the period. I remember, too, our special
delight in the foot-stools, which were of mahogany, shaped rather like
gondolas and cushioned in velvet; for we could sit inside them and
make them rock up and down.

The houses of the _noblesse_ swarmed with servants; many of them were
married, and their children, and even their grandchildren, lived on
with our family in patriarchal fashion. Men and maids all wore the
costumes of their respective Breton cantons, exceedingly beautiful
some of them, stiff with heavy embroideries, the strange caps of the
women fluted and ruffled, adorned with lace, rising high above their
heads and falling in long lappets upon their shoulders, or perched on
their heads like butterflies. These caps were decorated with large
gold pins and dangling golden pendants, and these and the materials
for the costumes were handed down in the peasants' families from
generation to generation. My young nurse Jeannie--there was an old
nurse called Gertrude--wore a skirt of bright-blue woolen stuff and a
black-cloth bodice opening in a square over a net fichu thickly
embroidered with _paillettes_ of every color. Hers was the small flat
cap of Quimper, with the odd foolscap excrescence, rather like the
horn of a rhinoceros, curving forward over the forehead. Needless to
say, the servants did not do their daily work in this fine array;
while that went on they were enveloped from head to foot in large

The servants and the peasants in the Brittany of those days had a
pretty custom of always using the _thou_ when addressing their masters
or the Deity, thus inverting the usual association of this mode of
address; for to each other they said _you_, and on their lips this was
the familiar word, and the _thou_ implied respect. Our servants were
of the peasant class, but service altered and civilized them very
much, and while no peasant spoke anything but Breton, they talked in
an oddly accented French. I remember a pretty example of this in a
dear old man who served my little cousin Guénolé du Jacquelot du
Bois-Laurel. Guénolé and I, because of some naughtiness, were deprived
of strawberries one day at our supper, and the fond old man, grieving
over the discomfiture of his little master, said, or, rather chanted,
half in condolence, and half in playful consolation: "Oh, le pauvre
Guén_o_lé, que tu es dés_o_lé!" accenting the _o_ in a very droll

  [Illustration: "A very stately autocratic person"]

The servants were all under the orders of a very stately autocratic
person, the steward or major-domo. It was he who directed the service
from behind his master's chair at the head of the table and he who
prescribed the correct costume for the servants. His wife had charge
of Jeannie and of me; it was she who, when two little sisters and a
brother had been added to the family, took us down to our breakfast
and supervised the meal. We had it in a little tower-room on the
ground floor, milk soup or gruel and the delicious bread and butter of

We lunched and dined at ten and five--such were the hours of those
days--with our parents in the dining-room, and it was here that one of
the most magnificent figures of my childhood appears; for my devoted
father brought me back from Paris one day a splendid mechanical pony,
life-sized and with a real pony-skin, the apparatus by which he was
moved simulating an exhilarating canter. Upon this steed, after
dessert, we children mounted one by one, and we resorted to many ruses
in order to get the first ride of the day. This dear pony accompanied
all my childhood. He lost his hair as the result of an unhappy
experiment we tried upon him, scrubbing him with hot water and soap,
one day when we were unobserved. He had a melancholy look after that,
but was none the less active and none the less loved. When I saw his
dismembered body lying in the garret of a grand-niece not many years
ago I felt a contraction of the heart. How he brought back my youth,
and since that how many generations had ridden him!

We played at being horses, too, driving each other in the garden,
where we spent most of our days when at Quimper. Strange to say, even
while we were thus occupied, we always wore veils tightly tied over
our bonnets and faces to preserve our skins from the sun. We all wore,
even in earliest childhood, stiff little dresses with closely fitting
boned bodices. My sister Eliane was delicate and wore flannel next her
skin; but my only underclothing consisted of cambric chemise,
petticoats, and drawers, these last reaching to my ankles and
terminating in frills that fell over the foot in its little sandaled
shoe. When I came back from a wonderful stay, later on, of four or
five years in England, a visit that revolutionized my ideas of life, I
wore the easy dress of English children, and had bare arms, much to my
mother's dismay. Another change that England wrought in me was that I
was filled with discomfort when I saw the peasants kneeling before us
at Loch-ar-Brugg, our country home; for in those days, although the
Revolution had passed over France, it was still the custom for
peasants to kneel before their masters, and my mother felt it right
and proper that they should do so. I begged her not to allow it, but
she insisted upon the ceremony to her dying day, and only when I came
as mistress to Loch-ar-Brugg with my children and grandchildren was it

Another early memory is the long row of family portraits in the
_salle-à-manger_. I think I must have looked up at these from my
father's shoulder as he walked up and down with me, singing to me
while my mother went on with her interrupted dessert, for the awe that
some of them inspired in me seems to stretch back to babyhood. Some
were so dark and severe that it was natural they should frighten a
baby; but it was a pastel, in flat, pale tones, of an old lady with
high powdered hair, whose steady, forbidding gaze followed me up and
down the room, that frightened me most. This was an elder sister of my
grandmother's, a March'-Inder, who, dressed as a man, had fought with
her husband and daughter in the war of the Chouans against the
republic. Her husband was killed, and her daughter, taken prisoner by
a French officer, had hanged herself, so the family story ran, to
escape insult. Another portrait of a great-grandmother enchanted me
then, as it has done ever since, a charming young woman seated, with
her hands folded before her, her golden hair unpowdered, her dress of
citron-colored satin brocaded with bunches of pale, bright flowers.
And there was a portrait of my grandmother in youth, with black hair
and eyes as black as jet. I thought her very ugly, and could never
associate her with my dearly loved _bonne maman_.

I must delay no longer in introducing this most important member of
the family, my mother's mother, with whom we lived, for the old
Quimper _hôtel_ was her dower-house.

Poor _bonne maman_! I see her still, in her deep arm-chair, always
dressed in a long gown of puce-colored satin, a white lace mantilla,
caught up with a small bunch of artificial buttercups, on her white
hair. She wore white-thread lace mittens that reached to her elbows,
and her thin, white hands were covered with old-fashioned rings. My
mother was her favorite daughter, and I, as the eldest child of this
favorite, was specially cherished. Both of _bonne maman's_ parents had
been guillotined in the Revolution. I do not think her husband was of
much comfort to her. He came to Quimper only for short stays. He was
_directeur des Ponts et chaussées_ for the district, but also a deputy
in Paris, and these political duties, according to him, gave him no
leisure for family life. He was at least ten years younger than _bonne
maman_, very gay and witty, _l'homme du monde_ in all the acceptations
of the term, full of deference to _bonne maman_, whom he treated like
a queen, with respectful salutes and gallant kissings of the hand. He
seemed very fond of his home at Quimper when he was in it, but he
seldom graced it with his presence.

When I went up to see _bonne maman_ in the morning, she would give me
her thumb to kiss, an odd formality, since she was full of
demonstrations of affection toward me. I did not find the salute
altogether agreeable, since _bonne maman_ took snuff constantly, and
her delicate thumb and forefinger were strongly impregnated with the
smell of tobacco. Taking me on her knees, she would then very gravely
ask to see my little finger, and when I held it up, she would
scrutinize it carefully, and from its appearance tell me whether I had
been good or naughty. Beside her chair _bonne maman_ had always a
little table, the round polished top surrounded by a low brass
railing. On this were ranged a number of toilet implements, her
glasses, scent-bottle, work-bag, and various knickknacks. A very
unique implement, I imagine, was a little stick of polished wood, with
a tuft of cotton wool tied by a ribbon at one end. This she used,
when her maid had powdered her hair or face, to dust off the
superfluous powder, and I can see her now, her little mirror in one
hand, the ribboned stick in the other, turning her head from side to
side and softly brushing the tuft over her brow and chin. The table
was always carried down with her to the _petit salon_, where, her
morning toilet over, she was borne in her chair by means of the
handles that projected before and behind it.

  [Illustration: "_Bonne maman_ was devoted to my father"]

_Bonne maman_ had an old carriage, an old horse, and an old coachman.
None of these was ever used, since she never went out except on Easter
day, when she was carried in a sedan-chair to hear mass at the
cathedral near by. The sedan-chair was gray-green with bunches of
flowers painted on it, and upholstered with copper-colored satin. It
was carried by four bearers in full Breton costume. They wore jackets
of a bright light blue, beautifully embroidered along the edges with
disks of red, gold, and black; red sashes, tied round their waists,
hung to the knees; their full kneebreeches were white, their shoes
black, and their stockings of white wool. Like all the peasants of
that time, they wore their hair long, hanging over their shoulders,
and their large, round Breton hats were of black felt tied with a
thick chenille cord of red, blue, and black, which was held to the
brim at one side by a golden fleur-de-lis, and that had a scapular
dangling from the end. Within the chair sat my grandmother, dressed,
as always, in puce color; but this gala costume was of brocade,
flowers of a paler shade woven upon a dark ground, and the lace
mantilla of every-day wear was replaced by a sort of white tulle
head-dress, gathered high upon her head and falling over her breast
and shoulders. I remember her demeanor in church on these great
occasions, her gentle authority and _recueillement_, and the glance of
grave reproach for my mother, who was occupied in looking about her
and in making humorous comments on the odd clothes and attitude of her
fellow-worshipers. On all other days the curé brought the communion to
my grandmother in her room. I remember the first of these communions
that I witnessed. I was sitting on _bonne maman's_ bed when the curé
entered, accompanied by his acolytes in red and white, and I was
highly interested when I recognized in one of these important
personages the cook's little boy. The curé was going to lift me from
the bed, but _bonne maman_ said: "No; let her stay. When you are gone
I will explain to her the meaning of what she sees." This she
attempted to do, but not, I imagine, with much success. Old Gertrude,
Jeannie's chief in the nursery, had of course already told me of _le
petit Jesus_, and I had learned to repeat, "Seigneur, je vous donne
coeur." But _bonne maman_ was grieved to find that I did not yet
know "Our Father."

"Sophie does not know her Pater," she said to my mother. "She must
learn it."

"Oh, she is too young to learn it," said my mother. But _bonne maman_
was not at all satisfied with this evasion and saw that the prayer was
taught to me. She was very devout, and confessed twice a week; but
more than this, she was the best of women. I never heard her speak ill
of any one or saw her angry at any time, nor did I ever see her give
way to mirth, though I remember a species of silent laughter that at
times shook her thin body.

_Bonne maman_ was devoted to my father, even more devoted than to her
own sons, of whom she had had eight. They had been so severely brought
up by her, but especially, I feel sure, by my grandfather, that
through exaggerated respect and absurd ceremony they almost trembled
during the short audiences granted to them by their parents. My father
trembled before nobody. He was always cheerful, good-tempered, and
kind. During our life at Quimper he was not much at home, as he had a
horror of receptions and visits,--all the bother, as he said, of
social life,--and the time not spent in hunting was fully occupied in
seeing after his farms, his crops, and his peasants. Therefore, when
he came back for a three-or-four-days' stay with us, it was a delight
to young and old. I see him now, sitting in a low chair beside _bonne
maman's_ deep _bergère_, his head close to hers, his pipe between his
teeth,--yes, his pipe--for _bonne maman_ not only permitted, but even
commanded, him to smoke in her presence, so much did she value every
moment of the time he could be with her. So they smiled at each other
while they talked,--the snowy, powdered old head and the fair young
one enveloped in the midst of smoke,--understanding each other
perfectly; and although their opinions were diametrically opposed,
politics was their favorite theme. They must have taught me their
respective battle-cries, for I well remember that, riding my father's
knee and listening, while he varied the gait from trot to gallop, I
knew just when to cry out, "_Vive le Roi!_" in order to please _bonne
maman_, and "_Vive la République!_" to make papa laugh. When disputes
occurred in _bonne maman's_ room, they were between my father and
mother, if that can be called a dispute where one is so gay and so
imperturbable. It was _maman_ who brought all the heat and vehemence
to these differences, and, strange to say, _bonne maman_ always took
my father's side against her beloved daughter. My mother's quick
temper, I may add, displayed itself toward me pretty frequently in
slaps and whippings, no doubt well deserved, for I was a naughty,
wilful child; whereas in all my life I never received a punishment
from my father. I remember his distress on one of these occasions and
how he said, "It is unworthy to beat some one who cannot retaliate."
To which my mother, flushed and indignant, replied, "It would indeed
need only that." She was a charming and lovable woman, but I loved my
father best.

  [Illustration: "I heard music constantly"]

_Bonne maman_ was very musical, and in the _petit salon_, when she was
installed there for the day, I heard music constantly, performed by
two young _protégés_ of the house. One of these was Mlle. Ghislaine du
Guesclin, the youngest descendant of our great Breton hero. It was a
very poor, very haughty family, and extremely proud of its origin.
Ghislaine's father, the Marquis du Guesclin (for with a foolish
conceit he had separated the particle from the name) had died, leaving
his daughter penniless and recommending her to my grandfather, who
placed her as _dame de compagnie_ beside my mother and _bonne maman_.
Ghislaine was an excellent musician, and their relation was of
the happiest. The other _protégé_ was called Yves le Grand, and was
the son of _bonne maman's coiffeur_. His story was curious. As a boy
of fourteen or fifteen he had come three times a week to wash the
windows and doors, and while he worked he sang all sorts of Breton
songs and strange airs that, as was learned later, were his own
improvisations. _Bonne maman_, noticing his talent, had him taken to
Paris by her husband, and he was educated in the conservatory, where,
after ten years of admirable study, he took the second prize. He
returned to Quimper, and earned a handsome livelihood by giving
pianoforte lessons while remaining in a sense our private musician,
for he was much attached to us all and accompanied us on all our
travels. Ghislaine sang in a ravishing fashion, and Yves accompanied
her on the clavecin that stood in the _petit salon_, mingling the
grave accents of his baritone with her clear soprano. When I first
heard them I was almost stupefied by the experience, cuddling down
into _bonne maman's_ arms, my head sunk between her cheek and
shoulder, but listening with such absorption and with such evident
appreciation that _bonne maman_ loved me more than ever for the
community of taste thus revealed between us.

I must often have tired her. I was a noisy, active child, and
sometimes when I sat on her knee and prattled incessantly in my
shrill, childish voice, she would pass her hand over her forehead and
say: "Not so loud, darling; not so loud. You pierce my ear-drums; and
you know that _le bon Dieu_ has said that one must never speak without
first turning one's tongue seven times round in one's mouth." At this
I would gaze wide-eyed at _bonne maman_ and try involuntarily to turn
my tongue seven times, an exercise at which I have never been
successful. I may add in parenthesis that I have often regretted it.
Another amusing adage I heard at the same time from Gertrude. If a
child made a face, it was told to take care lest the wind should turn,
and the face remain like that forever. I was much troubled by this
idea on one occasion when _maman_ and Ghislaine had been to a fancy
dress ball. Ghislaine told me next day about the dances and dresses.
_Maman_ had danced a minuet dressed in a Pompadour costume, and she
herself had gone as a deviless, with a scarlet-and-black dress and
little golden horns in her black hair. I felt this to have been a very
dangerous proceeding, for if _le bon Dieu_ had noticed Ghislaine's
travesty, He might have made the wind turn, and she would then have
remained a deviless and been forced to live in hell for all eternity.

A pretty custom at that time and in that place was that the young
matrons who went to such balls and dinner-parties were expected to
bring little silk bags in which they carried home to their children
the left-over sweetmeats of the dessert; so that we children enjoyed
these entertainments as much as Ghislaine and _maman_.

Ghislaine taught me my letters from a colored alphabet in the _petit
salon_, showing an angelic patience despite my yawns and whimperings.
My memories of the alphabet are drolly intermingled with various
objects in the _petit salon_ that from the earliest age charmed my
attention. One of these was an immense tortoise-shell mounted on a
tripod, and another a vast Chinese umbrella of pale yellow satin, with
silk and crystal fringes, that, suspended from the ceiling in front of
the long windows that gave on the garden, was filled with flowers.
This had been an ingenious contrivance of my father's, and _bonne
maman_ found it as bewitching as I did, never failing to say to
visitors, after the first greetings had passed: "Do you see my Chinese
umbrella?" When I had learned seven letters _bonne maman_ gave me four
red _dragées de baptême_,--the sugar-almonds that are scattered at
christenings,--and promised me as many more for each new attainment.
Thus sustained, I was able to master the alphabet and to pass by slow
degrees to Æsop's Fables, with pictures and a yellow cover. It was
later on that Ghislaine began to coach me in all the _départements_ of
France and their capitals. _Maman_ lent a hand in this and instituted
a method that was singularly successful. I still laugh in remembering
how at any time of the day, before guests, at meals, or while we were
at play, she might suddenly call out to us, "Gers!" for instance, to
which one must instantly reply "Auch." Or else it was "Gironde!" and
the reply, "Bordeaux," must follow without hesitation. If I replied
correctly, I was given fifty centimes; if incorrectly, I received a
slap. I used to dream of the _départements_ and their capitals at
night. One rainy day I was playing in the _petit salon_, lying at full
length on the floor and making a castle of blocks, when _maman_,
coming suddenly out of the library, a great tray of books in her arms,
cried out to me as she came, walking very quickly, "Gare!" ["Take
care!"] Without moving and without looking up, I replied obediently,
"Nîmes" (the capital of Gard), and an avalanche of books descended
upon me, poor _maman_ and her tray coming down with a dreadful
clatter. _Maman_ was not hurt, but very much afraid that I was.

When she found us both, except for a few bruises, safe and sound, she
went off into a peal of laughter, and I followed suit, much relieved;
for I had imagined for one moment that I had made a mistake in my
answer, and I found the punishment too severe.

"You are sure I have not hurt you, darling?" said _maman_, kissing me;
and I replied with truth:

"No, _Maman_; but I should have preferred the _gifle_." On that day,
instead of fifty centimes, I received a franc for consolation.

It was not until my brother's tutor came to us, when I was eight or
nine years old, that I ever had any teacher but Ghislaine.

Poor Ghislaine! Hers was a rather sad story. She had great beauty,
thick, black hair, white skin, her small prominent nose full of
distinction, but one strange peculiarity: there were no nails on her
long, pointed fingers. This, while not ugly, startled one in noticing
her hands. As I have said, she had been left penniless, and it was
difficult in France, then as now, to find a husband for a _jeune fille
sans dot_. Ghislaine only begged that he should be a gentleman. But
after _bonne maman's_ death, when we had gone to live in Paris,
Ghislaine was left behind with my aunt's family, and they finally
arranged a marriage for her with a notary. My mother was much
distressed by this prosaic match. She had for a time cherished the
romantic project of a marriage between Ghislaine and Yves, who,
besides being an artist, was the best of men, sincere, devoted, and

  [Illustration: "Ghislaine taught me my letters"]

For a descendant of du Guesclin the _coiffeur's_ son would, however,
have been as inappropriate as was the notary. The latter, too, was an
excellent man, and Ghislaine was not unhappy with him.



An important event in my child life was the birth of my sister Eliane.
I remember coming in from the garden one day with a little basket full
of cockchafers that I had found, and running to show them to _maman_.
She was lying in her large bed, with its four carved bedposts and high
canopy, and, smiling faintly, she said: "Oh, no, my little girl; take
them away. They will creep and fly over everything." I was, however,
so much disappointed at this reception of my gift that _maman_,
bending from her pillows, selected a specially beautiful green
cockchafer and said that that one, at all events, she would keep. When
next morning I was told that I had a little sister, old Gertrude, in
answer to my eager, astonished questions, informed me that it was the
cockchafer who, fed on milk, had become very large during the night
and had given birth to a baby cockchafer, which it had presented to my
mother. This story of the cockchafer became a family jest, and later
on, after my mother had had four children, I remembered that when
cockchafers were referred to she would laugh and say: "No! no! No more
cockchafers for me, if you please! I have had enough of their gifts."

The story, which was repeated to me on the occasion of each subsequent
birth, made a rather painful impression upon me. I did not like the
idea of the baby cockchafer. Nor did I like my little sister Eliane
into whom the cockchafer had grown. _Maman_ remained in bed for a long
time and paid no more attention to me, and I was deeply jealous. I was
no longer allowed to go in and out of her room as had been my wont,
and when my father took me in his arms and carried me gently in to see
my little sister, and bent with me over the small pink cradle so that
I might give her a kiss, I felt instead a violent wish to bite her.
One day I was authorized to rock Eliane while my father and mother
talked together. I was much pleased by this mark of confidence, and I
slipped into the cradle, unnoticed, my horrible doll Josephine, all
untidy and disheveled, not to say dirty, so that she, too, might have
a rocking. She lay cheek to cheek with Eliane, already a young lady
ten days old, and the contact of this cold, clammy cheek woke my
little sister, who began to cry so loudly that, in order to quiet her,
I rocked with might and main, and unless papa had rushed to the rescue
it is probable that Eliane and Josephine would have been tossed out
upon the floor. Jeannie was at once summoned to take me away in
disgrace, and in _bonne maman's_ room I was consoled by two _dragées_,
one white, I remember, and one pink.

"You love your little sister, don't you, my darling?" asked _bonne
maman_, to whom Jeannie related the affair of the rocking.

"No," I replied, the pink _dragée_ in my mouth.

"Why not, dear?"

"She is horrid," I said. And as _bonne maman_, much distressed,
continued to question and expostulate, I burst, despite the _dragées_,
into a torrent of tears and cried: "She is bad! She is ugly! She

Eliane's christening was a grand affair. Her godmother was _bonne
maman_, and her godfather my uncle de Salabéry, who brought her a
casket in which was a cup and saucer in enamel and also an enamel
egg-cup and tiny, round egg-spoon, and this I thought very silly,
since Eliane, like the cockchafer, ate only milk. The casket was of
pale-blue velvet, and had Eliane's name written upon it in golden
letters. She was carried to the cathedral by her nurse, who wore a
gray silk dress woven with silver fleurs-de-lis, a special silk, with
its silver threads, made in Brittany. The bodice opened on a net
guimpe thickly embroidered with white beads. The apron was of gray
satin scattered over with a design, worked in beads, that looked like
tiny fish. Her coif was the tall medieval hennin of Plougastel, a
flood of lace falling from its summit. Eliane, majestically carried on
her white-lace cushion, wore a long robe of lace and lawn, and again I
found this very silly, since if by chance she wished to walk, she
would certainly stumble in it! The curé was replaced by the bishop of
the cathedral, who walked with a tall golden stick, twisted at the top
into a pretty design. Papa, who was near me, explained to me that this
was called a crozier (_crosse_), which puzzled me, as _crosse_ is also
the name for the drumstick of a chicken. I also learned that what I
called the bishop's hat was a miter. When he passed before us every
one knelt down except me, for I wished to gaze with all my eyes at the
magnificent apparition. The bishop leaned toward me, smiling, and made
a little cross on my forehead with his thumb, and then he put his
hand, which was very white and adorned with a great ring of amethyst
and diamond, before my lips. "Kiss Monseigneur's hand," papa
whispered, and, again much puzzled, I obeyed, for _maman_ and _bonne
maman_ gave their hands to be kissed by men and never kissed theirs.
When the bishop put the salt in Eliane's mouth she made the most
hideous grimace. Heavens! how ugly she was! _Maman_ took her into her
arms to calm her. I was near _bonne maman_ who had been borne in her
sedan-chair into the cathedral, and I whispered to her: "You say
that she is pretty, _bonne maman_. Only look at her now! Doesn't she
look like an angry little monkey!" But _bonne maman_ reminded me in a
low voice that unless I was very good, I was not to come to the
christening breakfast, and, hastily, I began to turn my tongue in my

  [Illustration: The beach of Loctudiy]

I remember that on this day _bonne maman_ had left her puce-color and
looked like an old fairy as she sat, covered with all her jewels, in
the sedan-chair, dressed in orange-colored velvet.

When we came out of the cathedral the square was full of people, and
all the children of Quimper were there. My father, leading me by the
hand, was followed by a servant who carried a basket of _dragées_. He
took out a bagful and told me that I was to throw them to the
children, and this I did with great gusto. What a superb bombardment
it was! The children rolled upon the ground, laughed, and howled,
while _maman_, and _bonne maman_ from the window of her chair,
scattered handfuls of _centimes_, _sous_, and _liards_, an old coin of
the period that no longer exists. Never in my life have I seen
happier children. They accompanied us to our door and stayed for a
long time outside in the street, singing Breton canticles and crying,
"Vive Mademoiselle Liane!"

It must have been at about this time that I first saw the sea and had
my first sea-bath. Papa said one day that he would take me to the
beach of Loctudiy, near Quimper, with old Gertrude. It is a vast sandy
beach, with scattered rocks that, to my childish eyes, stood like
giants around us. Gertrude took off my shoes and stockings, and we
picked up the shells that lay along the beach in the sunlight like a
gigantic rainbow. What a delight it was! Some were white, some yellow,
some pink, and some of a lovely rosy mauve. I could not pick them up
fast enough or carry those I already had. My little pail overflowed,
and the painful problem that confronts all children engaged in this
delicious pursuit would soon have oppressed me if my thoughts had not
been turned in another direction by the sight of papa making his way
toward the sea in bathing-dress. The sea was immense and mysterious,
and my beloved papa looked very small before it. I ran to him crying:

"Don't go, papa! Don't go! You will be drowned!"

"There is no danger of that, my pet," said my father. "See how smooth
and blue the water is. Don't you want to come with me?"

I felt at once that I did, and in the twinkling of an eye Gertrude had
undressed me, my father had me in his arms, and before I could say
"Ouf!" I was plunged from head to foot in the Atlantic Ocean. It was
my second baptism, and I still feel an agreeable shudder when I
remember it. My father held me under the arms to teach me to swim, and
I vigorously agitated my little legs and arms. Then I was given back
to Gertrude, who dried me and, taking me by the hand, made me run up
and down on the hot sand until I was quite warm.

When I came home, full of pride in my exploits, I told _bonne maman_
that during my swim I had met a whale which had looked at me.

"And were you afraid of it?" asked _bonne maman_.

"Oh, no," I replied. "They do not eat children. I patted it."

Perhaps my tendency to tell tall stories dates from this time.



It was shortly after Eliane's christening, and to celebrate my
mother's recovery, that my father gave a great entertainment at
Ker-Eliane, near Loch-ar-Brugg.

Loch-ar-Brugg, which means Place of Heather, was an old manor and
property that my father had bought and at that time used as a
hunting-lodge, and Ker-Eliane was a wild, beautiful piece of country
adjoining it, a pleasure resort, called after my mother's name.

To reach Loch-ar-Brugg we all went by the traveling carriage to my
father's native town of Landerneau. I dreaded these journeys, since
inside the carriage I always became sick; but on this occasion I sat
outside near an old servant of my grandmother's called Soisick, the
diminutive of François, and was very happy, since in the open air I
did not suffer at all. Soisick was an old Breton from Brest. He wore
the costume of that part of the country, a tightly fitting, long,
black jacket opening over a waistcoat adorned with white-bone buttons,
full knee-breeches of coarse, white linen girded over the waistcoat
with a red woolen sash, with white woolen stockings, and black shoes.
One still sees very old Bretons wearing this costume, but nowadays the
peasants prefer the vulgar, commonplace dress of modern work-people.

My father was waiting for us on the quay of Landerneau. What joy I
felt when I saw him! When he climbed up beside me and Soisick my
happiness was complete.

  [Illustration: "The Château de Ker-Azel near by, where we were to

Loch-ar-Brugg at that time was not suitably arranged for our
habitation, and we drove on to the Château de Ker-Azel near by, where
we were to stay with my _tante_ de Laisieu. This elder sister of my
mother's was a fat, untidy, shiftless woman who had once been a
beauty, but whose abundant fair hair was now faded, and who went about
her house and gardens in the mornings _en camisole_. When dressed
for the day her appearance was hardly more decorous, for she wore no
stays, and fastened the slender bodices of her old dresses across her
portly person in a very haphazard fashion, so that intervals of white
underclothing showed between the straining hooks. She was a singular
contrast to my mother, always so freshly perfect in every detail of
her toilet. The château was partly old and partly new and very ugly,
though the park that sloped down to it was fine. Near the château
stood a very old and beautifully carved font that must have belonged
to a church long since destroyed. Later on, in the days of her
descendants, it was kept filled with growing flowers and was a
beautiful object, but my aunt merely used it as a sort of waste-paper
basket for any scraps she picked up in the park. We children used to
conceal ourselves in it in our games of hide-and-seek. I enjoyed
myself among my many cousins, for I was at this time so young and so
naughty that they tended to give way to me in everything. One of them,
however, a singularly selfless and devout boy called France, was fond
of me for myself, and though I never paid much attention to him,
victim rather than play-mate as he usually was in the games of the
others, I was always aware of his gentle, protecting presence, and
happy when his peaceful gaze rested upon me. After long years of
separation and in our great old age we discovered, France and I, that
we had always been dear friends, and in the few years that remained to
us before his recent death we saw each other constantly. But I must
return to the fête.

My mother and my aunt were absorbed in preparations. It was a general
hurly-burly, every one running north, south, east, and west--to
Landerneau, to Morlaix, to Brest, to every place, in short, that could
boast some special delicacy. And at last the great day came, and we
children were up with the lark. There was first to be a luncheon for
the huntsmen, friends of papa's, and the ladies were to follow in
carriages and to enter Ker-Eliane from the highroad. But we preferred
the shorter way, by the deep paths overgrown with hawthorn and
blackberry. The boys rushed along on the tops of the _talus_, the
sort of steep bank that in Brittany takes the place of hedges, and
even with Jeannie to restrain me I was nearly as torn and tattered as
they when we arrived at Ker-Eliane. What a fairy-land it was! Rocks
and streams, heathery hills, and woods full of bracken. An old ruin,
strange and melancholy, with only a few crumbling walls and a portion
of ivy-clothed tower left standing, rose among trees on a little hill
near the entrance, and farther on, surrounded by woods of beech or
pine, were three lakes, lying in a chain one after the other.
Water-lilies grew upon them, and at their brinks a pinkish-purple
flower the name of which I never knew. The third lake was so somber
and mysterious that my father had called it the Styx. An ancient
laurel-tree--in Brittany the laurels become immense trees--had been
uprooted in a thunderstorm and had fallen across the Styx, making a
natural rustic bridge. We children were forbidden to cross on it, but
on this day I remember my adventurous cousin Jules rushing to and fro
from one bank to the other in defiance of authority. At the foot of
the hill, below the ruin, a clear, delicious stream sprang forth from
a stony cleft and wound through a valley and out into the lower
meadows, and at the entrance to the valley, among heather and enormous
mossy rocks, rose a cross of gray stone without Christ or ornaments.
The peasants made pilgrimages to it on Good Friday, but I never
learned its history.

It was among the lower meadows, in a charming, smiling spot planted
with chestnuts, poplars, and copper beeches, that the table for the
thirty huntsmen was laid in the shade of a little avenue. Already
the _crêpe_-makers from Quimper, renowned through all the country,
were laying their fires upon the ground under the trees, and I must
pause here to describe this Breton dish. A carefully compounded
batter, flavored either with vanilla or malaga, was ladled upon a
large flat pan and spread thinly out to its edge with a wooden
implement rather like a paper-cutter. By means of this knife the
_crêpes_, when browned on one side, were turned to the other with a
marvelous dexterity, then lifted from the pan and folded at once into
a square, like a pocket-handkerchief, for, if allowed to cool, they
cracked. They were as fine as paper--six would have made the thickness
of an ordinary pancake, and were served very hot with melted butter
and fresh cream, of which a crystal jar stood before each guest, and
was replenished by the servants as it was emptied.

The _crêpes_ were eaten at the end of the luncheon as a sweet, and
among the other dishes that I remember was the cold salmon,--invariable
on such occasions, salmon abounding in our Breton rivers,--with a
highly spiced local sauce, _filet de boeuf en aspic_, York ham, fowls,
Russian salad, and the usual cakes and fruits. The huntsmen seated at
this feast did not wear the pink coats and top-hats of more formal
occasions, but dark jackets and knee-breeches and the small, round
Breton cap with upturned brim that admitted of a pipe being tucked
into it at one side. And so they carried their pipes, as the peasants
did, and the legitimists among them had a golden fleur-de-lis fixed in
front. The ladies of the party, in summer dresses and wide-brimmed hats,
arrived when the more substantial part of the repast was over, and
their carriages filled the highroad outside the precincts of Ker-Eliane.
A feast was spread at a little distance for the peasants, and wine
flowed all day. After the feasting two famous _biniou_-players took up
their places on the high _talus_ that separated Ker-Eliane from
Loch-ar-Brugg and played the _farandol_, the _jabadao_, and other
country-dances for the peasants to dance to. The _biniou_ is rather
like a small bagpipe and produces a wild, shrill sound. The players
wore a special costume: their caps and their stockings were bright
red; their jackets and waistcoats bright blue, beautifully
embroidered; their full white breeches of coarse linen. Like all the
peasants at that time, they wore their hair long, falling over the
shoulders. It was a charming sight to see the peasants dancing, all in
their local costumes. The women's skirts were of black or red stuff,
with three bands of velvet, their bodices of embroidered velvet, and
they all wore a gold or silver Breton cross, hung on a black velvet
ribbon, round their necks, and a _Saint Esprit_ embroidered in gold on
the front of their bodices. Among the coifs I remember several
beautiful tall hennins. What a day it was! Landerneau talked of it for
years, and I have never forgotten it. We children had our luncheon
sitting on the grass near the big table, and afterward there were
endless games among the heather and bracken. My little sister Eliane
appeared, carried in her pink basket, and seemed to look about her
with great approval.

  [Illustration: "A feast was spread at a little distance from the
   peasants, and wine flowed all day"]

Later on in the day, when the dancing had begun, we went to look on at
that, and I wanted very much to dance, too; but nobody asked me, for I
was too little. I must by that time have begun to get very tired and
troublesome, for I remember that _maman_ promised me a little
wheelbarrow if I would be good and allowed Jeannie to take me back to
Ker-Azel. I was already sleepy, as I had drunk a quantity of
champagne, with which the servants had replenished my little
liqueur-glass, and I allowed myself at last to be carried away by
Jeannie, and fell asleep in her arms.



During these early years of my life our time, though mainly spent with
_bonne maman_ at Quimper, was also given for many months of the year
to Landerneau, and a little later on was divided between these two
houses and Loch-ar-Brugg. At Landerneau we lived in a vast old house
that had been part of my mother's marriage dowry. The family house,
equally old and vast, of the Kerouguets was also at Landerneau, and
the house of dear Tante Rose, my father's eldest sister. Landerneau
was a picturesque old town, so near the sea that the tides rose and
fell in the River Elorn, which flowed through it. A legend ran that
the part of Landerneau lying on the southern banks of the river, still
all wild with great rocks that seemed to have been hurled together by
some giant's hand, had been reduced to this condition by the devil.
He had been traveling through the country, and the inhabitants of the
southern half of Landerneau had refused to give him food and drink,
whereas those of the northern half had suitably and diplomatically
entertained him; and it was in vengeance that he had hurled these
great rocks across the river, to remain as permanent, if picturesque,
embarrassments to southern Landerneau. The morality of the story was
disconcerting, and very much puzzled me when I was told it by old
Gertrude. Our house formed a corner of the principal street in the
northern side of the town. In the days of the Terror, not so far
distant in my childhood, it had been used, with the house of Tante
Rose across the way, as a prison where the condemned were put on their
way to be guillotined at Brest, and a subterranean passage that ran
between the two houses, under the street, conveyed the unfortunates
swiftly and unobtrusively, if occasion required it, from one prison to
the other. Another lugubrious memento of that terrible time were the
small square openings in the floors of the upper rooms in these
houses. In our days they were used to summon servants from below, but
their original purpose had been for watching the captives unobserved.
In the panels of the great oaken door that opened on the street, in
our house, were little grated squares through which those who knocked
for admittance could be cautiously examined, and this feature gave a
further idea of the strange and perilous circumstances of bygone days.
The kitchen, which was entered from a stone hall, was our delight; it
was called the every-day kitchen. Enormous logs burned in a vast open
fireplace, archaically carved. At that time coal was little known in
the country, and the joints were roasted on a spit before this fire,
which looked like the entrance to an inferno. There was a little oven
for stews and sweets, etc. Under a square glass case on the
mantel-shelf, lifted high above the busy scene, stood a statue of the
Virgin, very old and very ugly, dressed in tinsel, a necklace of
colored beads around its neck. This was a cherished possession of
Nicole's, an old cook of my grandmother's, who followed us everywhere,
and at its foot, under the glass cover, lay her withered
orange-flower wedding-wreath. The kitchen was lighted at night by
numbers of tallow candles that burned in tall brass candlesticks, each
with its pincers and snuffer. (A candle with us does not "take snuff";
it has "its nose blown"--_on mouchait la chandelle_.) Brass
warming-pans, which we children called Bluebeard's wives, were ranged
along the walls, and a multitude of copper saucepans hung in order of
size, glittering with special splendor on those spaces that could be
seen from the street, for "_où l'orgueil ne va t'il pas se nicher_?"
Through an opening in the wall opposite the big windows dishes could
be passed to the servants in the dining-room during meals.

The dining-room windows looked out at a garden full of flowers, the
high walls embroidered with espalier fruit-trees, plum-, cherry-,
mulberry-, and medlar-trees growing along the paths. At the bottom of
the garden was a large aviary containing golden and silver pheasants,
magpies, canaries, and exotic birds that my father's naval friends had
brought him from their long Oriental voyages. My father himself
tended these birds, and I can answer for it that they lacked nothing.
I must tell here of the strange behavior of a golden pheasant. Despite
papa's gentleness and care, this bird seemed to detest him and would
not let him enter the aviary; but when I came with papa, the pheasant
would run to the wires and eat the bread I held out to it from my
hand. Papa was surprised and interested, and suggested one day that I
should go with him into the aviary and "see what the pheasant would
say." No sooner said than done. The bird rushed at papa and pecked at
his feet with a singular ferocity; then, feeling, evidently, that he
had disposed of his enemy, he turned to me, spread out his wings
before me, bowed up and down as if an ecstasy of reverent delight, and
taking the bread I held out to him, he paid no more attention at all
to papa.

  [Illustration: "In the panels of the great oaken door ... were little
   grated squares"]

The principal rooms on the ground floor of the house opened on a stone
hall with an inlaid marble floor, where, in a niche carved in the
wall, and facing the wide stone staircase, stood another Virgin, much
larger and even older than Nicole's. She was of stone, with a
blunted, gentle countenance, and hands held out at each side in a
graceful, simple gesture that seemed to express surprise as much as
benediction. As we came down from our rooms every morning it was as if
she greeted us always with a renewed interest. Fresh flowers were laid
at her feet every day, and we were all taught, the boys to lift their
hats, the girls to drop deep curtseys before her. Indeed, these
respects were paid by us to all the many statues of the Virgin that
are seen on our Breton roads. From the hall one entered the salon,
with its inlaid parquet floor, so polished that we were forbidden to
slide upon it, for it was as slippery as ice, and falls were
inevitable for disobedient children. On the mantelpiece was a clock
representing Marius weeping over the ruins of Carthage. His cloak lay
about his knees, and we used to feel that he would have done much
better had he drawn it up and covered his chilly-looking bronze
shoulders. On each side of the clock were white vases with garlands in
relief upon them of blue convolvulus and their green leaves. But what
bewitched us children were the big Chinese porcelain figures,
mandarins sitting cross-legged, with heads that nodded gently up and
down at the slightest movement made in the room. Their bellies were
bare, their eyes seemed to laugh, and they were putting out their
tongues. Black ibises upon their robes opened wide beaks to catch
butterflies. I remember crossing the hall on tiptoe and opening the
salon-door very softly and looking in at the mandarins sitting there
in their still merriment; and it required a little courage, as though
one summoned a spell, to shake the door and rouse them into life. The
heads gently nodded, the eyes seemed to laugh with a new meaning at me
now; and I gazed, half frightened, half laughing, too, until all again
was motionless. It was as if a secret jest had passed between me and
the mandarins. In an immense room to the left of the salon that had
once, perhaps, been a ball-room, but was now used as a laundry, was a
high sculptured fireplace that was my joy. On each side the great
greyhounds, sitting up on their hind legs, sustained the mantelpiece,
all garlanded with vines. Among the leaves and grapes one saw a nest
of little birds, with their beaks wide open, and the father and mother
perched above them. And, most beautiful of all, a swallow in flight
only touched with the tip of a wing a leaf, and really seemed to be
flying. Only my father appreciated this masterpiece, which must have
been a superb example of Renaissance work, and when, years afterward,
my mother sold the house, the new owner had it broken up and carted
away because it took up too much room!

On the two floors above were many bedrooms not only for our growing
family, but for that of my Aunt de Laisieu, who, with all her
children, used to pay us long and frequent visits, so that even in the
babyhood of Eliane and Ernest and Maraquita I never lacked

My mother's room was called _la chambre des colonnes_, because at the
foot of the bed, and used there instead of bedposts, were two great
stone pillars wreathed with carving and reaching to the ceiling. What
a pretty room it was! In spring its windows looked down at a sea of
fruit-blossoms and flowers in the garden beneath. The bed had a domed
canopy, with white muslin curtains embroidered in green spots. Above
the doors were two allegorical paintings, one of Love, who makes Time
pass, and one of Time, who makes Love pass. A deep, mysterious drawer
above the oaken mantelpiece was used by _maman_ for storing pots of
specially exquisite preserves that were kept for winter use. On her
dressing-table, flowing with muslin and ribbons, I specially remember
the great jar of _eau de Cologne_, which one used to buy, as if it
were wine, by the liter.

From this room led papa's, more severe and masculine. Here there were
glass cabinets fitted on each side into the deep window-seats and
containing bibelots from all over the world. A group of family
miniatures hung on the wall near the fireplace.

On a turning of the staircase was a bath-room, with a little sort of
sentry-box for cold douches, and at the top of the house an enormous
garret, filled with broken old spinning-wheels and furniture, bundles
of old dresses, chests full of dusty papers. I found here one day
_bonne maman's_ betrothal-dress. It was of stiff, rich satin, a wide
blue and white stripe, with a dark line on each side of the blue and a
little garland of pink roses running up the white. The long, pointed
bodice was incredibly narrow. A strange detail was the coarseness with
which this beautiful dress was finished inside. It was lined with a
sort of sacking, and the old lace with which it was still adorned was
pinned into place with brass safety-pins. Finally, for my description
of the house, there was a big courtyard, with the servants' quarters
built round it, and a clear little stream ran through a _basse-cour_
stocked with poultry.

I had not seen this house for over fifty years when, some time ago, I
went to visit it. The new proprietor, an unprepossessing person, was
leaning against the great oaken door. He permitted me, very
ungraciously, to enter.

I went through all these rooms that two generations ago had rung with
the sounds of our happy young life, and it was misery to me. In the
kitchen, which had been so beautiful, the window-panes were broken,
and the dismantled walls daubed with whitewash, with dusty, empty
bottles where Nicole's Virgin had stood. Upon the table was a greasy,
discolored oil-cloth, where one saw M. Thiers, with knitted eyebrows
and folded arms, surrounded by tricolor flags. The salon--I sobbed as
I stood and looked about it; all, all that I had known and loved had
disappeared. The stone Virgin was gone from her niche in the hall.
Trembling, I mounted to my dear parents' rooms. What desolation!
Unmade beds and rickety iron bedsteads; dust, disorder, and dirt. The
carved chimneypiece, with its great drawer, was gone; the paper was
peeled from the walls. Only over the doors, almost invisible under
their cobwebs, were the painted panels of Love, who makes Time pass,
and Time, who makes Love pass. The garden was a dung-heap.

When I came out, pale and shaken, the proprietor, still complacently
leaning against the door, remarked, "_Eh bien_, Madam is glad to have
seen her house, isn't she!"

The animal! I could have strangled him!

  [Illustration: "I felt that Tante Rose was enchanting"]



Over the way lived Tante Rose. We children liked best to go to her
house by means of the subterranean passage. It was pitch-dark, and we
felt a fearful delight as we galloped through it at full speed, and
then beat loudly upon the door at the other end, so that old
Kerandraon should not keep us waiting for a moment in the blackness.
In the salon, between the windows, her tame magpie hopping near her,
we would find Tante Rose spinning at her wheel. There were pink
ribbons on her distaff, and her beautiful, rounded arms moved gently
to and fro drawing out the fine white linen thread. Sitting, as I see
her thus, with her back to the light, her white tulle head-dress and
the tulle bow beneath her chin surrounded her delicate, rosy face with
a sort of aureole. She had a pointed little chin and gay, blue eyes,
and though she had snowy hair, she looked so young and was so active
that she seemed to have quicksilver in her veins. A tranquil mirth was
her distinguishing characteristic, and even when hardly more than a
baby I felt that Tante Rose was enchanting. Her first question was
sure to be, "Are you hungry?" and even if we had just risen from a
meal we were sure to be hungry when we came to see Tante Rose. She
would blow into a little silver whistle that hung at her waist, and
old Kerandraon (we children pronounced it Ker-le dragon) would appear
with his benevolent, smiling face.

"Take Mademoiselle Sophie's orders, Kerandraon," Tante Rose would say;
but the dear old man, who was a great friend, did not need to wait for

"Demoiselle would like _crêpes_ and fresh cream; and there is the rest
of the chocolate paste which Demoiselle likes, too."

  [Illustration: "She did not conceal that she found him a dull

"Bring what pleases you," Tante Rose would say, "and take my key,
Kerandraon, and fetch the box of _sucre d'orge_ from the shelf in my
wardrobe." When Kerandraon had come ambling back with his laden
tray he would stop and talk with us while we ate. He was seventy years
old and had a noble air in his long Louis XV jacket. Tante Rose's
mother had taken him from the streets when he was a little beggar-boy
of twelve. He lived in the family service all his life, and when he
died at seventy-five he was buried in the family vault. Jacquette, the
magpie, sometimes became very noisy on these festive occasions, and
Tante Rose would say: "Go into the garden, Jacquette. _Tu m'annuis_"
(so she pronounced _ennuies_). And Jacquette, who seemed to understand
everything she said, would go obediently hopping off. In the garden,
adjoining the salon, was a greenhouse full of grapes and flowers, and
that was another haven of delight on our visits to Tante Rose. It was
the prettiest sight to see her mounted on a step-ladder cutting the
grapes. A servant held the ladder, and another the basket into which
the carefully chosen bunches were dropped. Tante Rose's little feet
were shod in a sort of high-heeled brown-satin slipper called
_cothurnes_, probably because they tied in classic fashion across the
instep, little gold acorns hanging at the ends of the ribbons. I have
the most distinct recollection of these exquisite feet as I stood
beside the ladder looking up at Tante Rose and waiting for her to drop
softly a great bunch of grapes into my hands. The fruit-trees of Tante
Rose's garden were famous. A great old fig-tree there was so laden
with fruit that supports had to be put under the heavy branches; there
were wonderful Smyrna plums, and an apple-tree covered with tiny red
apples that were our joy. From a high terrace in the garden one could
watch all that went on in the town below. Tante Rose's cream, too, was
famous. Great earthenware pans of milk stood on the wide shelves of
her dairy, and when _maman_ came to see her she would say, "May I go
into the dairy, Rose?" It was always known what this meant. _Maman_
would skim for herself a bowlful of the thick, golden cream.

Even the kitchen had an elegance, a grace, and sparkle all its own,
and it is here that I can most characteristically see Tante Rose
distributing milk for the poor of Landerneau. Her farmers' wives had
brought it in from the country in large, covered pails, and Tante
Rose, dressed in a morning-gown of puce-colored silk (like _bonne
maman_ in this, she wore no other color), her full sleeves, with their
wide lawn cuffs turned back over her arms, ladled it into jars, giving
her directions the while to the servants: "This for Yann. This for
Hervé [an old cripple]. Did this milk come from the yellow? It is
sure, then, to be very good; take it to the hospital and--wait! This
little jug of cream to the _supérieure_; she is so fond of it. And,
Laic, this large jar is for the prison," for Tante Rose forgot nobody,
and all with such quiet grace and order. The poor of Landerneau adored
her. The thread she spun was woven at her country place, La Fontaine
Blanche, into linen to make clothes for them, and she knitted socks
and waistcoats even as she went about the streets on her errands of
mercy. If the poor loved her, it was respect mingled with a little
fear that the _bourgeoisie_ felt, for she had no patience with
scandal-mongering and sharply checked their gossiping, provincial
habits. The chatelaines of the surrounding country sought her out and
delighted in her charm, her accomplishments, and her devil-may-care
wit. Tante Rose was married to a wealthy and excellent Landernean,
Joseph Goury, whom we called Tonton Joson, and his friends, Jason. He
had a placid, kindly face, and stout, fine calves incased in silk
stockings. Still in love with his wife, he was patiently submissive to
her gay sallies; for though very fond of him, she did not conceal that
she found him a dull companion. Very drolly, though she tutoyéd him,
she used always to address him as "Monsieur Goury." "_Tais-toi,
Monsieur Goury_," she would say; "you are as tiresome as the flies."
And after enduring his prosy talk for some time she would say quite
calmly: "I am beginning to drink hemlock. Go away, Monsieur Goury--_va
t'en_. You bore me to distraction. You stun and stupefy me. Go away.
_Je n'en puis plus._" And poor Tonton Joson remaining helplessly
gazing, she would lift the little trap-door beside her chair, if the
scene took place in her room, and call out to the servants below,
"Tell Laic to come up and help monsieur on with his coat."

"But, my dear, I was not thinking of going out," Tonton Joson would
protest; and Tante Rose would reply:

"_Mais tu sors, Monsieur Goury._"

Tante Rose was very devout, but after her own fashion. She read the
office to herself every day, but had many _librepensant_ friends, with
whom she used good-temperedly to argue. Any bishop who came to
Landerneau stayed always with Tante Rose.

Her cuisine was the best I have ever eaten; and oh, the incredible
abundance of those days! All the courses were served at once upon the
immense table. The great silver soup-tureen, big enough for a baby's
bath, and so tall that she had to stand up to it, was in front of
Tante Rose, and before she began to ladle out the platefuls, with the
light, accurate movements of her arms characteristic of her, a servant
carefully fastened behind her her long sleeves _à la pagode_. It was
really charming to watch her serving the soup, and I remember one
guest asserting that he would eat _potage_ four times if Mme. Goury
helped him to it.

An enormous salmon usually occupied the center of the table, and there
were six _entrées_, _four rôtis_, two hot and two cold, and various
_entremets_ and desserts. A favorite _entrée_ was a _purée_ of
pistachio nuts, with roasted sheeps' tails on silver spits stuck into
it. The hot dishes stood on silver heaters filled with glowing
charcoal. Between the courses little pots of cream, chocolate,
vanilla, and coffee were actually passed and actually eaten! Chocolate
cream to fill the gap between woodcock and _foie-gras_, for instance!
Champagne-bottles stood in silver coolers at each corner of the table.
I wonder that we all survived. On the other hand, when Tante Rose or
my mother received the visits of their friends, there was no afternoon
tea to offer them, as nowadays. The servants merely passed round
little glasses of Spanish wines and plates of small biscuits. The good
ladies of Landerneau afforded, I imagine, much amusement to my mother
and to Tante Rose, who, though a native, was of a very different
caliber. One little trait I remember was very illustrative of the
bourgeois habit of mind. At that time, as now, lengths of velvet were
included in every _corbeille_ offered to a bride by the bridegroom's
family, and the velvet dresses made from them were dignified
institutions worn year after year. One knows how marked and unsightly
velvet soon becomes if sat upon, and it was a wise and crafty fashion
to have a breadth of perfectly matching silk introduced between the
full folds at the back of these dresses, so that when one sat down it
was upon the silk. It was in regard to this sensible contrivance that
the ladies of Landerneau were reported to declare that it was strange
indeed to see the _noblesse_ so miserly that they could not afford a
whole velvet dress, and therefore let silk into the back.

  [Illustration: "I had only to sweep up the rubbish ... and carry it
   out of the wood in my little wheelbarrow"]

Some of Tante Rose's children were, like herself, very clever and
charming, some very stupid, like Tonton Joson. It can be imagined what
games we all had. Once, in the coach-house, my older cousins put young
Raoul into a large basket with a number of smooth stones under him
and told him that they were eggs and that if he were quiet and
patient, they would hatch out. Then by means of a rope and pulley to
which the basket was attached (it must have been used for raising and
lowering hay and fodder) we pulled poor Raoul up to the rafters, and
there we left him and forgot all about him. His desolate cries were
heard after a time, and when he was rescued, it was found that the
rocking of the basket had made him very seasick.

Of all our games the best were those in the woods of La Fontaine
Blanche. This property of Tante Rose's, with its old manor-house
dating from the time of Queen Anne of Brittany, was near Landerneau,
and since papa went there nearly every day, caring for it as if it
were his own, we were able to go with him and take full possession of
the beautiful woods. We were given planks and tools, and we built a
little hut on the banks of the stream. I was so young that my share of
the labors was unexacting, as I had only to sweep up the rubbish left
by the builders and carry it out of the wood in my little
wheelbarrow; but I remember that pride with which I felt myself
associated in any capacity with such marvels of construction. Not only
was the hut entirely built by my cousins, but they made an oven inside
it and even fabricated a sort of earthenware service with the clay
soil found along the banks of the stream. It would never fire
properly, however, and therefore our attempts to bake bread were not

But _crêpes_, as pure-blooded young Bretons, we could make, and our
parents were often entertained by us and regaled with them as they sat
under the trees. Oh, how happy we were! The woods were full of lilies
of the valley, and our hut had been baptized by the curé of Landerneau
the château de la Muguetterie, while we were called _Robinson
Crusoes_, and this was to us all our greatest glory.



Across the way from our house in Landerneau lived two old maiden
ladies, the Demoiselles de Coatnamprun. The Marquis and Marquise de
Coatnamprun, their father and mother, had died many years ago, and
most of the small fortune had been filched from them in some
iniquitous lawsuit. I remember them very clearly, for I often went to
see them with _maman_ and Tante Rose, who watched over them and
protected them; gentle, austere figures, dressed always in threadbare
black, almost like nuns, with long, white bone rosaries hanging at
their sides, and on their breasts, tied with a red cord, great
crucifixes of brass and wood. Around their necks they wore white
handkerchiefs folded, the points behind, and when they went out,
old-fashioned black _capotes_, which were large bonnets mounted and
drawn on wires, a quilling of white inside around the face. The elder
was called Isménie, and the younger Suzette; they had the tenderest
love for each other.

Their house was one of the oldest in Landerneau and was covered with
strange carvings. The great knocker always fascinated me, for it
represented a devil with his pitchfork, and one lifted the pitchfork
to knock. Almost always it was one of the Demoiselles de Coatnamprun
who answered, and she always held a clean white handkerchief by the
center, the points shaken out, and always swept us, as she appeared
before us in the doorway, a wonderful, old-fashioned, stately court
curtsey. The sisters were plain, with dark, mild eyes, faded skins,
and pale, withered lips; but their teeth were beautiful, and they had
abundant hair. Isménie's features were harsh, and her half-closed,
near-sighted eyes gave her a cold and haughty expression; but in
reality she was a lamb of gentleness, and no one seeing the sisters in
their poverty would have taken them for anything but _grandes dames_.

  [Illustration: "Gentle, austere figures, dressed always in threadbare

When we were ushered into the house it was usually into the
dining-room that we went. The drawing-room, which was called the
_salle de compagnie_, was used only on ceremonious occasions, Easter,
the bishop's visit, or when the _noblesse_ from the surrounding
country called, and the proudest among them were proud to do so. So in
the _salle de compagnie_, where engravings of the family coats of arms
hung along the walls, the ugly, massive mahogany furniture was usually
shrouded in cotton covers, and it was in the dining-room that the
sisters sat, making clothes for the poor. Here the pictures interested
me very much; they were _naif_, brightly colored prints bought at the
Landerneau fairs, and representing events in the lives of the saints.
St. Christopher, bending with his staff in the turbulent stream, bore
on his shoulder a child so tiny that I could never imagine why its
weight should incommode him, and another doll-like child stood on the
volume held by St. Anthony of Padua. The oil-cloth cover on the table
had all the kings and queens of France marching in procession round
its border, the dates of their reigns printed above their heads.
The chairs were common straw-bottomed kitchen chairs. _Maman_
sometimes tried to persuade the sisters to paint the chairs, saying
that if they were painted bright red, for instance, it would make the
room so much more cheerful. But to any such suggestion they would
reply, with an air of gentle surprise: "Oh, but _maman_ had them like
that. We can't change anything that _maman_ had." Their large bedroom
was on the first floor, looking out at the street. It was a most
dismal room. The two four-posted beds, side by side, had canopies and
curtains of old tapestry, but this was all covered with black cambric
muslin and had the most funereal air imaginable. At the head of
Isménie's bed, crossed against the black, were two bones that she had
brought from the family vault on some occasion when the coffins had
been moved or opened. The only cheerful thing I remember was a
childish little _étagère_ fastened in a corner and filled with the
waxen figures of the _petit Jésus_, and the tiny china dogs, cats and
birds that had been among their presents on Christmas mornings. To
give an idea of the extreme simplicity and innocence of the
Demoiselles de Coatnamprun I may say here that to the end of their
lives they firmly believed that _le petit Jésus_ himself came down
their kitchen chimney on Christmas eve and left their presents for
them on the kitchen table. _Le petit Jésus_, as a matter of fact, was
on these occasions impersonated by _maman_ and Tante Rose. Tante Rose
always had the key of the sisters' house, so that at any time she
could go in and see that nothing was amiss with _ses enfants_, as she
tenderly called them,--and indeed to the end they remained lovely and
ingenuous children,--so she and _maman_, when the sisters were safely
asleep, would steal into the house and pile every sort of good thing,
from legs of mutton to _galettes_, upon the table, and fill the garden
sabots that stood ready with bonbons, handkerchiefs, and the little
china figures of animals the sisters so cherished. And always there
was a waxen figure of _le petit Jésus_ and the card with which he made
his intention clear; for "_Aux Demoiselles de Coatnamprun, du petit
Jésus_" was written upon it.

  [Illustration: Old Kerandraon]

Other instances of the sisters' ignorance of life and the world I
might give, but they would simply be received with incredulity. Such
types no longer exist, and even then the sisters were unique. I do not
believe that in all their lives they knew an evil thought; they were
incapable of any form of envy or malice or uncharitableness, and
filled with delight at any good fortune that came to others and with
gratitude for their own lot in life. Sometimes Suzette, in the
intimacy of friends, would refer with simple sadness to the one drama,
if such it can be called, that had befallen them. "_Oui_," she would
say, "_Isménie a eu un chagrin d'amour_." Once, when they were young,
in their parents' lifetime, an officer had been quartered with them, a
kindly, intelligent, honest young fellow of the _bourgeoisie_, and at
once aware of the atmosphere of distinction that surrounded him. He
showed every attention to the sisters, and poor Isménie found him
altogether charming. He never even guessed at her attachment. Indeed,
no such a marriage at that time would have been possible, but she was
broken-hearted when he went away. Her sister was her confidante, and
this was the _chagrin d'amour_ to which Suzette sometimes referred.

I have said that when they walked out they wore _capotes_. On one
occasion Mlle. Suzette found in a drawer, among old rubbish put away,
a crumpled artificial rose, a pink rose, and had the strange idea of
fastening it in front of her _capote_. Isménie, when her near-sighted
eyes caught sight of it, stopped short in the street and peered at her
sister in astonishment. "But, Suzette, what have you there?" she
asked. Suzette bashfully told her that she had found the rose and
thought it might look pretty. "No, no," said Isménie, turning with her
sister back to the house, "you must not wear it. _Maman_ never wore
anything in her _capote_." It required all my mother's skill to
persuade them to allow her to dress their hair for them on the
occasion of an evening party at Tante Rose's, to which, as usual, they
were going, as "_maman_" had gone, wearing black-lace caps.
"_Voyons_, but you have such pretty hair," said _maman_. "Let me only
show you how charmingly it can be done." They were tempted, yet
uncertain and very anxious, and then _maman_ had the opportune memory
of an old picture of the marquise in youth, her hair done in puffs
upon her forehead. She brought it out triumphantly, and the sisters
yielded. They could consent to have their hair done as "_maman's_" had
been done in her youth.

  [Illustration: "They were buried together on the same day"]

We children always went with our parents to the evening parties in
Landerneau. _Maman_ did not like to leave us, and it will be
remembered that in those days one dined at five o'clock and that we
children had all our meals except breakfast with our parents. It was
at a dinner-party at Tante Rose's that Mlle. Suzette, next whom I sat,
said to me smiling, with her shy dignity, "I have a present here for a
little girl who has been good," and she drew a small paper parcel from
the silk reticule that hung beside the rosary at her side. I opened
it, and found, to my delight, a sugar mouse and a tiny pipe made of
red sugar such as I knew _maman_ would never allow us to eat when we
went to the confectioner's. But here, in the presence of Mlle.
Suzette, and the gift a gift from her, I felt that I was safe, and I
devoured mouse and pipe at once, quite aware of _maman's_ amused and
rallying glance from across the table. "I saw you," she said to me
afterward. "Little ne'er-do-well, you know that I could not forbid it
when Mademoiselle Suzette was there!"

The only flower that grew in the Demoiselles de Coatnamprun's garden
was heliotrope, for that had been "_maman's_" favorite flower. They
were poor gardeners, and the little _bonne_ who came in by the day to
do the housework could give them no help in the garden. So it was
Tante Rose, trotting on her high heels, a little garden fork on her
shoulder, who appeared to do battle with the moss and dandelions and
to restore a little order. She always gave to this service the air of
a delightful game, and indeed, in her constant care of the poor old
ladies, had the prettiest skill imaginable in making her gifts weigh

"My dears," she would say, leaning forward to look at their black
robes, "aren't these dresses getting rather shabby? Hasn't the time
come for new ones?"

"They are shabby," Isménie would answer sadly, "but _que voulez-vous,
chère Madame_, our means, as you know, are so narrow. It costs so much
to buy a dress. We could hardly afford new ones now."

"But, on the contrary, it doesn't cost so much," Tante Rose would say.
"I know some excellent woolen material, the very thing for your
dresses, and only five francs for the length. You can well afford
that, can't you? So I'll buy it for you and bring it to-morrow."

And so she would, the innocent sisters imagining five francs the price
of material for which Tante Rose paid at least thirty. Since the
sisters were very proud, for all their gentleness, and could consent
to accept nothing in the nature of a charity, and since indeed they
could hardly have lived at all on what they had, Tante Rose had woven
a far-reaching conspiracy about them. Her tradespeople had orders to
sell their meat and vegetables to the Demoiselles de Coatnamprun at
about a fifth of their value. Packets of coffee and sugar arrived at
their door, and milk and cream every morning, and when they asked the
messenger what the price might be, he would say: "_Ces dames régleront
le compte avec Monsieur le Curé_," and since they did not like to
refuse gifts from the curé, the innocent plot was never discovered. Of
course fruits from Tante Rose's garden and cakes from her kitchen were
things that could be accepted. She would bring them herself, and have
a slice of _galette_ or a fig from the big basketful with them. They
were rather greedy, poor darlings, and since any money they could save
went to the poor, they could never buy such dainties for themselves.
One extravagance, however, they had: when they came out to pay a
visit, a piece of knitting was always drawn from the reticule, and
when one asked what it was one was told in a whisper: "Silk
stockings--a Christmas present for Suzette," or Isménie, as the case
might be. Beautifully knitted, fine, openwork stockings they were.

Another contrivance for their comfort was invented by Tante Rose. They
were great cowards, afraid of the dark and in deadly fear of the
possible robbers that might enter their house at night. Tante Rose
arranged that when they went to bed a lighted, shaded lamp should be
placed in their window, the shade turned toward their room, the light
toward the street, so that any robbers passing by would be deceived
into thinking the house still on foot and forego their schemes for
breaking in.

Their hearts were tender toward all forms of life. I can see one of
them rising from her work to rescue a fly that had fallen into trouble
and, holding it delicately by the wings, lift the _persiennes_ to let
it fly away. One day in their garden I cried out in disgust at the
sight of a great earthworm writhing across a border.

"Oh, the horrid worm! Quick! A trowel, Mademoiselle, to cut it in

But Mademoiselle Suzette came to look with grieved eyes.

"And why kill the poor creature, Sophie? It does us no harm," she
said, and helped the worm to disappear in the soft earth.

The Demoiselles de Coatnamprun died one winter of some pulmonary
affection and within a day of one another. They died with the
simplicity and sincerity that had marked all their lives, and toward
the end they were heard to murmur continually, while they smiled as if
in sleep, "_Maman--Papa_."

Isménie died first; but since it was seen that Suzette had only a few
hours to live, the body was kept lying on the bed near hers, and she
did not know that her beloved sister had been taken from her. They
were buried together on the same day.

       *       *       *       *       *

  [Illustration: "In the days of the Terror ... it had been used ... as
   a prison"]

There was another and very different old lady in Landerneau of whom I
was very fond and whom, since she took a great fancy to me, I saw
often. Her daughter was a friend of _maman's_ and made a _mésalliance_
that caused the doors of Landerneau to close upon her. _Maman_,
however, remained devoted to her, and continued to see as much of her
as ever, and her mother, my old friend, was entirely indifferent to
the doors, closed or open, of Landerneau. She wore a brightly colored
Turkish silk handkerchief tied turban-wise about her head, and soft
gray-leather riding boots,--men's boots,--so that she was known in her
quarter as _Chat-botté_. In her own house she wore men's
dress-breeches, short jacket, and high boots. Her feet were remarkably
small, and the wave of hair on her forehead was as black as jet. She
was very downright and ready of speech, and used to talk to me as
though I were a person of her own age. "Do you see, Sophie," she would
say, "my poor daughter is a great goose. She struggles to be received,
and gets only buffets for her pains. Why give oneself so much trouble
for nothing?"

The disconsolate daughter and the son-in-law made their home with her
in a great old house standing on the banks of the river. He was a
wholesale wine merchant, and barrels and casks of wine stood about the
entrance. My old friend lived almost entirely in her own room on the
first floor, the strangest room. It was at once spotlessly clean and
completely untidy. The bed had no posts or canopy and was shaped like
a cradle. Bottles of salad-oil stood on the mantel-shelf, and a bunch
of carrots might be lying on the table among bundles of newspapers.
From the windows one had beautiful views up and down the river and
could see the stone bridge that had old houses built upon it. Across
the river were her gardens, and she used often to row me over to them
and to show me the immense old cherry-tree, planted by her
grandfather, that grew far down the river against the walls of an old
tower. This tower had its story, and I could not sleep at night for
thinking of it. In her girlhood mad people were shut up there. There
was only a dungeon-room, and the water often rose in it so that the
forsaken creatures stood up to their knees in water. Food was thrown
to them through the iron bars of the windows, but it was quite
insufficient, and she gave me terrible descriptions of the faces she
used to see looking out, ravenous and imploring. She remembered that
the bones protruded from the knuckles of one old man as he clutched
the bars. She used to pile loaves of bread in her little boat, row
across to the tower, and fix the loaves on the end of an oar so that
she could pass them up to the window, and she would then see the mad
people snatching the bread apart and devouring it. And when the
cherries on the great tree were ripe she used to climb up into the
branches and bend them against the window so that they might gather
the fruit themselves from among the leaves, and she herself would
gather all she could reach and throw them in. They had not even straw
to sleep on. When one of them died, the body was taken out, and this
was all the care they had. Such were the horrors in a town where
people across the river quietly ate and slept, and the church-bells
rang all day.



My most vivid recollections of Grandfather de Rosval place him at
Landerneau, where he would stop with us on his way to Quimper during
his tours of inspection. His arrivals in the sleepy little town were
great affairs and caused immense excitement: post-chaise, postilion,
whips cracking, horns blowing, and a retinue of Parisian servants. We
children never had more than a glimpse of him at first, for he
withdrew at once to his own rooms to rest and go through his papers.
When he made his entry into the salon,--the salon of the slippery
parquet and the nodding mandarins,--all the household was ranged on
each side, as if for the arrival of a sovereign, and we had all to
drop deep curtseys before him.

  [Illustration: Grandfather de Rosval]

He was a rather imposing figure, with splendid clothes, the coat
thickly embroidered along the edge with golden oak-leaves, and a
fine, handsome head; but he was enormously, even ridiculously, stout.
With an often terrifying and even repellent severity he mingled the
most engaging playfulness, and our childish feelings toward him were
strangely compounded of dislike and admiration.

When he arrived in the salon a lackey came behind him, carrying a
large linen bag filled with a sweetmeat bought at Seugnot's, the great
Parisian confectioner. I always associate these sweetmeats with _bon
papa_. They were called _croquignoles_, were small, hard, yet of the
consistency of soft chalk when one bit into them, and glazed with
pink, white, or yellow. After the salutations, _bon papa_ would take
up his position before the mantelpiece and beckon the servant to give
him the bag of _croquignoles_. We children, quivering with excitement,
each of us already provided with a small basket, stood ready, and as
_bon papa_, with a noble gesture, scattered the handfuls of
_croquignoles_ far and wide, we flung ourselves upon them, scrambling,
falling, and filling our baskets, with much laughter and many
recriminations. Then, besides the little case for _maman_, also from
Seugnot's, filled with tablets of a delicious _sucre-de-pomme_ in
every flavor, were more dignified presents, bracelets and rings for
her and for our _Tante de Laisieu_ and boxes of beautiful toys for us.
The only cloud cast over these occasions was that after having
distributed all his bounties, _bon papa_ sat down, drew a roll of
manuscript from his pocket, and composed himself to read in a sonorous
voice poems of his own composition. Their theme, invariably, was the
delight of reëntering one's family and country, and they were very
pompous and very long, sometimes moving _bon papa_ almost to tears.
The comic scene of family prayers that followed was pure relief, for
even we children felt it comic to see _bon papa_ praying.

"And are they good children?" he would ask. "Have they said their

  [Illustration: "The château was one of the oldest in Finisterre"]

"Not yet, _mon père_," _maman_ would answer. "They always say their
prayers at bedtime." But _bon papa_ was not to be so deterred from yet
another ceremony.

"Good, good!" he would reply. "We will all say the evening prayers
together, then."

And when we had all obediently knelt down around the room, _bon papa_
recited the prayers in the same complacent, sonorous voice, making
magnificent signs of the cross the while. On one of these occasions we
were almost convulsed by poor little Ernest, whom _bon papa_ had taken
in his arms, and who was so much alarmed by the great gestures going
on over his head that he broke at last into a prolonged wail and had
to be carried hastily away.

One of _bon papa's_ poetic works I can still remember, of a very
different and more endearing character. I was taken ill one morning
while we were living with him in Paris and had been given to console
me by a cousin of ours staying with us, the Duchesse de M----, a
delicious little purse in white, knitted silk, embroidered with pale
blue forget-me-nots. I told _maman_ that I wished very much to show
this purse to _bon papa_, and that he should be informed of my
illness. So I wrote him a note, and it was taken, with the purse, to
his room. Presently the little parcel, much heavier, was brought back
to me, and on opening my purse, I found inside it a centime, a liard,
a sou--every coin, in fact, up to and including a golden twenty-franc
piece. And this is the poem that was sent with the purse:

     "Vous voulez jeune Princesse
     Que je me rends près de vous?
     Que je baise de votre altesse
     Les pieds, les mains, et les genoux?
     Dans un instant je vais me rendre
     A vos désirs et à vos voeux,
     Mais vous me permettrez de prendre
     Deux baisers sur vos beaux yeux bleus."

Such a grandfather, it must be admitted, had advantages as well as
charms, yet our memory of him was always clouded by the one or two
acts of cruel severity we had witnessed and of which I could not trust
myself to speak.



In the Château de Ker-Guélegaan, near Quimper, lived an old friend of
my family's, the Marquis de Ploeuc. The château was one of the oldest
in Finisterre, an immense weather-beaten pile with a moat, a
drawbridge, a great crenellated tower, and a turret that, springing
from the first story, seemed, with its high-pointed roof, to be
suspended in the air. Tall, dark trees rose in ordered majesty about
the château, and before it a wide band of lawn, called a _tapis vert_,
ran to the lodge-gates that opened on the highroad. From the upper
windows one saw the blue Brittany sea. Along the whole length of the
front façade ran a stone terrace with seven wide steps; the windows of
the _salle d'honneur_ opened upon this, and the windows of the _petit
salon_ and the dining- and billiard-room. The furniture in the _salle
d'honneur_ was of Louis XV white lacquer, court chairs, and
_tabourets de cour_. There were tall mirrors all along the walls, and
in the corners hung four great crystal chandeliers. The curtains and
portières were of a heavy, white silk that had become gray with time;
they were scattered with bouquets of faded flowers, and caught up and
looped together with knots of ribbon that had once been rose-colored.
This glacial and majestic room was seldom used; it was in the _petit
salon_, leading from it, that guests usually sat. Here the chairs were
carved along their tops with garlands of roses and ribbons so delicate
that we children were specially forbidden to touch them. The walls
were hung with tapestries, at which I used often to gaze with delight.
One saw life-sized ladies and gentlemen dancing in stately rounds or
laughing under trees and among flowers and butterflies. The great
dining-room was paneled with dark wood carved into frames around the
portraits of ancestors that were ranged along it. The coffers and the
sideboards, where the silver stood, were of the same carved wood. I
remember once going down to peep at the kitchen in the basement, and
the dark immensity, streaming, as it were, with cooks, servants,
kitchen-boys, and maids, so bewildered and almost frightened me that I
never ventured there again.

The old marquis was a widower, and his married daughters, the Marquise
de L---- and Mme. d'A----, usually lived with him and his unmarried
daughter Rosine, who became a nun. He was a splendid old gentleman,
tall, with a noble carriage and severe, yet radiant, countenance. In
the daytime he dressed always in gray coat and knee-breeches, with
gray-and-black striped stockings and buckled shoes. At night his
thick, white hair was gathered into a _catogan_,--a little square
black-silk bag, that is to say,--tied with a bow, and he wore a
black-silk suit. On festal occasions, Christmas, Easter, or his
fête-day, he became a magnificent figure in brocaded coat and
white-satin waistcoat and knee-breeches; he had diamond shoe- and
knee-buckles, diamond buttons on his waistcoat, and golden
_aiguillettes_ looped across his breast and shoulder.

The diamond buckles he left to me, to be given to me on my first
communion, and in his lifetime he had made for me a beautiful missal
bound in white parchment and closed with a diamond and emerald clasp;
inside were old illuminations.

In his youth M. de Ploeuc had been an officer of the Chouans, and he
was, of course, a passionate royalist. He always wore the Croix de St.
Louis, a fleur-de-lis, with the little cross attached by blue ribbon.
I asked him once if it was the same sort of decoration as my
Grandfather de Rosval's, which, I said, was larger and was tied with
red, and I remember the kindly and ironic smile of my old friend as he
answered, "Oh, no; that is only the Légion d'honneur."

  [Illustration: "He was a splendid old gentleman"]

Brittany had many marquises, some of them also old and distinguished;
but he was the _doyen_ of them all, and was always called simply _le_
marquis. Any disputes or difficulties among the local _noblesse_ were
always brought to him for his decision, and on such occasions, if the
discussions became heated, he would say, "_Palsan bleu, mes seigneurs,
il me semble que vous vous oubliez ici_," using the dignified oath
already becoming obsolete. His French was the old French of the court.
He never, for instance, said, "_Je vous remercie_," but, "_Je vous
rends gráce_."

Guests at Ker-Guélegaan arrived with their own horses and carriages to
stay a month or more, and open house was kept. Breakfast was at six
for those who did not take communion at the mass that was celebrated
every morning in the chapel adjoining the château; these breakfasted
on returning. It was permissible for ladies, at this early hour, to
appear very informally in _peignoirs_ and _bigoudics_. _Bigoudics_ are
curl-papers or ribbons. The marquis almost always took communion, but
he usually appeared at the six o'clock breakfast. After mass, once his
correspondence dealt with, he played billiards with Rosine, the
beautiful girl who became a nun in the order of the Carmelites, an
order so strict that those who entered it died, to all intents and
purposes, since their relatives never saw them again, and at that time
were not even informed of their death. I see Rosine very clearly,
bending over the billiard-table under her father's fond gaze, and I
can also see her kneeling to pray in a corner of the _petit salon_. It
was with such simplicity that any suspicion of affectation or parade
was out of the question. In the midst of a conversation she would
gently ask to be excused and would go there apart and pray, sometimes
for an hour. The ladies quietly gossiping over their embroidery-frames
took it quite as a matter of course that Rosine should be praying near

  [Illustration: "Guests at Ker-Guélegaan arrived with their own horses
   and carriages"]

_Déjeuner_ was at ten, and it was then that one saw how strongly
feudal customs still survived at Ker-Guélegaan. The marquis sat at the
head of the table, and behind his chair stood his old servant Yvon,
dressed in Breton mourning-costume in memory of his defunct mistress;
that is to say, in blue, black, and yellow. The other servants wore
the livery of the house. Half-way down the table the white cloth
ended, and the lower half had a matting covering. Here sat all the
farmers of Ker-Guélegaan and their families, taking their midday meal
with their master, while M. de Ploeuc and his guests and family sat
above. We children were usually placed at a little side-table. The
meal aways began by M. de Ploeuc rising and blessing the company with
two outstretched fingers, like a bishop, and he then recited a
benediction. He was always served first, another survival of
patriarchal custom, forced upon him, rather, for I remember his
protesting against it and wishing my mother, who sat next him, to be
served before him; but she would not hear of it. During the repasts a
violinist and a _biniou_-player, dressed in his Breton costume, played
to us.

After luncheon the ladies drove or rode or walked as the fancy took
them, or, assembled in the _petit salon_, talked over their work. On
hot days the blinds would be drawn down before the open windows, but
in the angle of each window was fixed a long slip of mirror, so that
from every corner one could see if visitors, welcome or unwelcome,
were driving up to the _perron_. _Goûter_, at three, consisted of
bread, fruit, and milk, and dinner was at five. After that the ladies
and gentlemen assembled in the _petit salon_ and talked, told
ghost-stories and legends, or played games till the very early
bedtime of the place and period.

This was the _train de vie_ at Ker-Guélegaan; but my memories of the
place center almost entirely around the figure of my old friend. I was
his constant companion. When he rode out after luncheon to visit his
farms, I would sit before him on his old horse Pluton. He never let
Pluton gallop for fear of tiring him. "Do you see, _ma petite_," he
would say, "Pluton is a comrade who has never failed me. He has earned
a peaceful old age." We passed, in the wood behind the château, a
monument of a Templar that frightened and interested me. He lay with
his hands crossed over his sword, his feet stayed against a couchant
hound, and I could not understand why he wore a knitted coat. My old
friend burst out laughing when I questioned him, and said that I was
as ignorant as a little carp, and that it was high time I went to the
Sacré Coeur. He told me that the knitted coat was a coat of mail,
and tried to instil a little history into my mind, telling me of the
crusades and St. Louis; but I am afraid that my mind soon wandered
away to Pluton's gently pricked ears and to the wonders of the woods
that surrounded us. We had walks together, too, and went one day to
the sea-shore, where there was a famous grotto often visited by
strangers. When we arrived at the black arch among the rocks and I
heard it was called the Devil's Grot, I was terrified, clinging to M.
de Ploeuc's hand and refusing to enter.

  [Illustration: "_Maman_ wrote secretly to _bon papa_ in Paris"]

"But why not, Sophie? Why not?" he questioned me. "I am here to take
care of you, and there is no danger at all. See, Yann is lighting the
torches to show us the way."

"But the devil--the devil will get me," I whispered; "Jeannie told me

Jeannie, indeed, was in the habit of punishing or frightening me by
tales of the devil and his fork and tail and flames, and of how he
would come and carry off disobedient little girls; so it was not to be
wondered at that I feared to enter his grot. I imagined that he
himself lurked there and would certainly carry me off, for I was well
aware that I was often very disobedient. M. de Ploeuc sat down on a
rock, took me on his knee, and said:

"It is very wrong of Jeannie to fill your head with such nonsense, my
little one. Nothing like her devil exists in the whole world, and you
must pay no attention to her stories."

He told me that the cavern was filled with beautiful stalactites, like
great clusters of diamonds, and was so gentle and merry and reasonable
that the devil was exorcised from my imagination forever, and I
consented to enter the grotto.

Yann and the guide, a young farmer of Ker-Guélegaan, led us in with
their lighted torches, and I suddenly saw before me, strangely
illuminated, a somber, yet gorgeous, fairy-land. Diamonds indeed!
Pillars of diamonds rose from the rocky floor to the roof, and
pendants hung in long clusters, glittering in inconceivable vistas of
splendor. I was so dazzled and amazed that I gave the vaguest
attention to M. de Ploeuc's explanation of the way in which the
stalactites were formed among the rocks. Indeed, that night I could
not sleep, still seeing diamond columns and pillars, and my dear
old friend was full of self-reproach next day when he heard that
during the night the Devil's Grot had given me a fever.

  [Illustration: "As a country gentleman he had lived and as a country
   gentleman he intended to go on living"]

Sometimes the Marquis de L---- accompanied us on our expeditions, and
sometimes I was even left in his charge for an afternoon. I disliked
this very much, for he had no amusing stories to tell me and walked
very fast, and when my pace flagged, he would pause to look at me
reproachfully, tapping his foot on the ground, and crying out, as
though I were one of his horses, "Get up! Get up!"

M. de Ploeuc often took me, after lunch, into his little study and
played the flute to me. I liked being in the study, but it rather
frightened me to see my old friend remove his teeth before beginning
to play. Their absence sadly altered his beautiful and stately
countenance, and gave, besides, an odd, whistling timbre to his music.
Still, I listened attentively, looking away now and then from his
rapt, concentrated countenance to the _tapis vert_ outside, where the
cows were cropping the short grass, or glancing around rather
shrinkingly at the headless bust of Marie Antoinette that stood on the
mantelpiece. The head lay beside the bust, and there was, even to my
childish imagination, a terrible beauty in the proud shoulders thus
devastated. This was one of two such busts that had been decapitated
by the Revolutionists. The other belonged, I think, later on, to the
Empress Eugénie. When the marquis had finished his thin, melancholy
airs, it was my turn to perform, and that I liked much better. I saw
that he loved to hear the old Breton songs sung in my sweet, piping
little voice, and it was especially pleasant, our music over, to be
rewarded by being given chocolate pastils from a little enamel box
that stood on the writing-desk. While I softly crunched the pastils M.
de Ploeuc told me about the countries where the plant from which the
chocolate came grew. It was not at all common in Brittany at that
time, and the pastils much less sweet than our modern bon bons. M. de
Ploeuc also carried for his own delectation small violet and
peppermint lozenges in a little gold box that he drew from his
waistcoat-pocket, and these gave the pleasantest fragrance to his
kiss. I often sat on with him in the study, looking at the pictures in
the books he gave me while he read or wrote. He wore on the third
finger of his right hand an odd black ring that had a tiny
magnifying-glass fixed upon it, and while he read his hand moved
gently across the page.

I owe a great deal to this dear old friend. He took the deepest
interest in my deportment, and _maman_ was specially delighted that he
should extirpate from my speech provincial words and intonations. He
entirely broke me of the bad habits of shrugging my shoulders and
biting my nails.

"Only wicked men and women bite their nails," he told me, and pointed
out to me as a terrible warning the beautiful and coquettish Mme. de
G----, one of his guests, who had bitten her nails to the quick and
quite ruined the appearance of her hands.

"And is she so wicked?" I asked. At which he laughed a little, and
said that she must become so if she continued to bite her nails. He
made me practise coming into and going out of a room until he was
satisfied with my ease and grace.

"Do you see, _ma petite Sophie_," he said, "a woman, when she walks
well, is a goddess. Walk always as if on clouds, lightly and loftily.
Or imagine that you are skimming over fields of wheat, and that not an
ear must bend beneath your tread."



And now I must tell of Loch-ar-Brugg, the center of my long life and
the spot dearest to me upon earth. It was situated amidst the
beautiful, wild, heathery country that stretched inland from
Landerneau. I first saw it one day when I drove over from Landerneau
with my father, and my chief recollection of this earliest visit is
the deep shade under the high arch of the beech avenue and the
aromatic smell of black currants in an upper room where we were taken
to see the liqueur in process of being made. I was given some to drink
in a tiny glass, and I never smell or taste _cassis_ that the scent,
color, warmth, and sweetness of that long-distant day does not flash
upon me. The liqueur was being made by the farmer's wife; for part of
the house, which, as I have said, papa at that time used only as a
hunting-lodge, was inhabited by a Belgian farmer and his family. They
were all seated at their midday meal when we arrived, and another
thing I remember is that the eldest daughter, a singularly beautiful
young creature, with sea-green eyes and golden hair, was so much
confused at seeing us that she put a spoonful of the custard she was
eating against her cheek instead of into her mouth, greatly to my
delight and to papa's.

"Monsieur must excuse her," said the mother; "she is very timid." On
which my father replied with some compliment which made all the family
smile. I see them all smiling and happy, yet it must have been soon
after that a tragedy befell them. News was brought to my father that
the farmer had hanged himself. The poor man's rent was badly in
arrears, but when he had last spoken to my father about it, the
latter, as was always his wont in such circumstances, told him not to
torment himself and that he could pay when he liked. _Maman_ always
suspected that my father's agent had threatened the poor fellow and
that he had done away with himself in an access of despondency.
Papa, overcome with grief, hastened to Loch-ar-Brugg and remained
there for a week with the mourning family. He gave them money to
return to Belgium, and the beautiful young daughter became, we heard,
a very skilful lace-maker.

  [Illustration: On the road to Loch-ar-Brugg]

I was too young for this lugubrious event to cast a shadow on my dear
Loch-ar-Brugg, but for many years _maman_ disliked the place. We still
lived at Quimper or Landerneau, using Loch-ar-Brugg as a mere country
resort; but by degrees the ugly walls, nine feet high, that shut in
the house from the gardens and shut out the view were pulled down,
lawns were thrown into one another, great clumps of blue hydrangeas
were planted all down the avenue, on each side, between each
beech-tree, and the house, if not beautiful, was made comfortable and
convenient. It was when we were really established at Loch-ar-Brugg
that _maman_ began to take the finances of the household into her
capable hands. She reproached my father with his lack of ambition, and
asked him frequently why he did not find an occupation, to which he
always replied, "_Ma chère_, I have precisely the occupations I care
for." _Maman_ wrote secretly to _bon papa_ in Paris and begged him to
find a post for her husband there, and an excellent one was found at
the treasury. But when the letter came, and _maman_, full of joy,
displayed it to him, papa cheerfully, but firmly, refused to consider
for a moment any such change in his way of life. As a country
gentleman he had lived and as a country gentleman he intended to go on
living, and so indeed he continued to the end of his long life. I
don't imagine that he made any difficulties as to _maman_ taking over
the financial management. He was quite incapable of saying no to a
farmer who asked to have his rent run on unpaid, and realized, no
doubt, that his methods would soon bring his family to ruin. So it was
_maman_ who received and paid out all the money. I see her now,
sitting at the end of the long table in the kitchen, between two tall
tallow candles, the peasants kneeling on the floor about her while she
assessed their indebtedness and received their payments. She was never
unkind, but always strict, and I was more than once the sympathetic
witness of an incident that would greatly have incensed her. My
father, meeting a disconsolate peasant going to an interview with _la
Maîtresse_, would surreptitiously slide the needful sum into his hand!
What would _maman_ have said had she known that the money so brightly
and briskly paid to her had just come out of her husband's pocket!

  [Illustration: "My father, meeting a disconsolate peasant, ... would
   surreptitiously slide the needful sum into his hand"]

I was always a great deal with papa at Loch-ar-Brugg. At first I used
to walk with him,--when he did not take me on his horse,--trotting
along beside him, my hand in his. Later on, when Tante Rose had given
me a dear little pony, I rode with him, and he had secretly made for
me, knowing that _maman_ would not approve, a very astonishing
riding-costume. It had long, tightly fitting trousers, a short little
jacket, like an Eton jacket, with a red-velvet collar,--red was my
father's racing color,--and on my long golden curls a high silk hat.
_Maman_ burst out laughing when she saw me thus attired and was too
much amused to be displeased. She herself rode a great deal at this
time, but it was to hunting- and shooting-parties, from which she
would return with her "bag" hanging from a sort of little pole fixed
to her saddle; and I remember that one day she brought a strange beast
that none of us ever saw in Brittany again, a species of armadillo
(_tatou_) that her horse had trodden upon and killed.

It was at Loch-ar-Brugg, on one of those early walks with papa, that
my first vivid recollection of a landscape seen as a beautiful picture
comes to me. We had entered a deep lane where gnarled old trees
interlaced their fingers overhead and looked, with their twisted
trunks, like crouching men or beasts; and as we advanced, it became so
dark and mysterious that I was very much frightened and hung to papa's
hand, begging to be taken out. He pointed then before us, and far, far
away I saw a tiny spot of light. "Don't be frightened, Sophie," he
said; "we are going toward the sunlight." So I kept my eyes fixed on
the widening spot, holding papa's hand very tightly in the haunted
darkness; and when we suddenly emerged, we were on the brink of a
great gorge, and beyond were mountains, and below us lay a tranquil,
silver lake. I have never forgotten the strange, visionary
impression, as of a beauty evoked from the darkness. Papa told me the
story of the lake; it was called "le lac des Korrigans." The Korrigans
are Breton fairies--fairies, I think, more melancholy than those of
other lands, and with something sinister and _macabre_ in their
supernatural activities. They danced upon the turf, it is true, in
fairy-rings, but also, at night, they would unwind the linen from the
dead in the churchyards and wash it in this lake. I felt the same fear
and wonder on hearing this story that all my descendants have shown
when they, in their turn, have come to hear it, and my little
granddaughter, in passing near the lake with me, has often said,
shrinking against me, "Je ne veux pas voir les blanchisseuses,

  [Illustration: Le Lac des Korrigans]

Unlike the marquis, who filled my mind, or tried to fill it, with the
facts of nature and history, papa, on our walks, told me all these old
legends, not as if he believed them, it is true, but as if they were
stories quite as important in their way as the crusades; and perhaps
he was right.

Sometimes, when we were walking or riding, we met convicts who had
escaped from the great prison at Brest. I was strictly forbidden ever
to go outside the gates alone; but once, at evening, I slipped out and
ran along the road to meet papa, who, I knew, was coming from
Landerneau on foot. He was very much perturbed when he saw me emerge
before him in the dusk, and drew me sharply to his side, and I then
noticed that two men were following him. Presently they joined us and
asked papa, very roughly, for the time.

"It is nine, I think," said my father, eyeing them very attentively.

"You think? Haven't you a watch, then?" said one of them.

I suppose they imagined that the rifle papa carried over his shoulder
was unloaded; but unslinging it in the twinkling of an eye, he said

"Walk ahead. If you turn or stop, I shoot." They obeyed at once, and
as they went along we heard a queer clink come from their ankles.

"Escaped convicts," said papa in a low voice. "Poor devils! And you
see, Sophie, how dangerous it is for little girls to wander on the
roads at night."

  [Illustration: "Papa took out his hunting-flask and made him drink"]

On another occasion we found a wretched, exhausted man lying by the
roadside, and papa stopped and asked him what was the matter. He must
have felt the kindness of the face and voice, for he said:

"I am an escaped convict, monsieur. For God's sake! don't betray me. I
am dying of hunger." Papa took out his hunting-flask and made him
drink, and then, when we saw that the brandy had given him strength,
he put some money into his hand and said:

"It is against the law that I should help you, but I give you an hour
before I raise the alarm. Go in that direction, and God be with you!"

The church-bells were rung everywhere, answering one another from
village to village when a convict was known to be at large; but on
this occasion I know that my father did not fulfil his duty, the poor
creature's piteous face had too much touched him. Once, too, when we
children were walking with Jeannie along the highroad we caught sight
of a beggar-woman sleeping in the ditch. In peering over cautiously to
have a good look at her, we saw huge men's boots protruding from her
petticoats, and, at the other end, a black beard, and we then made off
as fast as our legs would carry us, realizing that the beggar-woman
was a convict in disguise. At an inn not far from Loch-ar-Brugg there
was a woman of bad character who sold these disguises to the escaped

Papa and my little brother and sister (Maraquita was not then born)
were not my only companions at Loch-ar-Brugg. The property of Ker-Azel
adjoined ours, and I saw all my Laisieu cousins continually, dear,
gentle France, domineering Jules, and the rest. There were nine of
them. It was Jules who told us one day that he had been thinking over
the future of France (the country, not his brother), and had come to
the conclusion that we should all soon suffer from a terrible famine.
Famines had come before this, said Jules, so why not again? It was
only wise to be prepared for them; and what he suggested was that we
should all accustom ourselves to eat grass and clover, as the cattle
did. If it nourished cows, it would nourish us. All that was needed
was a little good-will in order that we should become accustomed to
the new diet. Jules was sincerely convinced of the truth of what he
said; but he was a tyrannous boy, and threatened us with beatings if
we breathed a word of his plan to our parents. We were to feign at
meals that we were not hungry, and to say that we had eaten before
coming to the table. I well remember the first time that we poor
little creatures knelt down on all fours in a secluded meadow and
began to bite and munch the grass. We complained at once that we did
not like it at all, and Jules, as a concession to our weakness, said
that we might begin with clover, since it was sweeter. For some time
we submitted to the ordeal, getting thinner and thinner and paler,
growing accustomed, it is true, to our tasteless diet and never daring
to confess our predicament; we were really afraid of the famine as
well as of Jules. At last our parents, seriously alarmed, consulted
the good old doctor, as nothing could be got from us but stout
denials of hunger. He took me home with him, for I was his special
pet, and talked gravely and gently to me, reminding me that I was now
eight years old and of the age of reason, going to confession and
capable of sin. It was a sin to tell lies, and if I would tell him the
truth, he would never betray my confidence. Thus adjured, I began to
cry, and confessed that we had all been eating nothing but grass and
clover. The doctor petted and consoled me, told me that it was all
folly on the part of Jules, and that he would set it right without any
one knowing that I had told him. He kept his promise to me. It was as
if by chance he found us all in our meadow next day, on all fours,
munching away. Jules sprang up, sulky and obstinate.

"Yes; we are eating grass and clover," he said, "and we are quite
accustomed to it now and like it very much, and we shall be better off
than the rest of you when the famine comes."

The doctor burst out laughing, and his laughter broke the spell Jules
had cast upon us. He told us that not only was there no probability
of a famine, no possibility even, France being a country rich in food,
but that even were there to be a famine, we should certainly all be
dead before it came if we went on eating as the cattle did, since we
were not accommodated with the same digestive apparatus as they. He
described to us this apparatus and our own, and at last even Jules,
who was as thin and as weary as the rest of us, was convinced, and
glad to be convinced. It was not till many years afterward that we
told our parents the story.

One day we children were all in a deep lane--perhaps the same that had
frightened me years before--when, at a turning, the most inconceivable
monster towered above us in the gloom. We recognized it in a moment as
a camel (a camel in Brittany!), and with it came a band of Gipsies,
with dark skins, flashing teeth, bright handkerchiefs, and ear-rings.
Our alarm was not diminished when we saw that they led, as well as the
camel, two thin performing bears. But as we emerged into the light
with the chattering, fawning crowd, alarm gave way to joyous
excitement. The camel and the bears were under perfect control, and
the Gipsies were not going to hurt us. They asked if they might make
the bears dance for us, and we ran to show them the way to
Loch-ar-Brugg. _Maman_, in her broad garden hat, was walking in the
beech-avenue, and came at once to forbid the Gipsies to enter, as they
were preparing to do; but as we supplicated that we should be allowed
to see the bears dance, she consented to allow the performance to take
place in the highroad before the _grille_. We sat about on the grass;
the camel towered against the sky, gaunt, tawny, and melancholy; and
the bears, armed with wooden staffs, went through their clumsy,
reluctant tricks. _Maman_, from within the _grille_, surveyed the
entertainment with great disfavor, and it lost its charm for us when
we heard her say: "How wretchedly thin and miserable the poor
creatures look! They must be dying of hunger." We then became very
sorry for the bears, too, and glad to have them left in peace, and
while we distributed sous to the Gipsies, _maman_ went to the house
and returned with a basket of broken bread and meat, which she gave to
the famished beasts. How they snatched and devoured it, and how
plainly I see _maman_ standing there, the deep green vault of the
avenue behind her, the clumps of blue hydrangeas, her light dress, her
wide-brimmed garden hat, and her severe, solicitous blue eyes as she
held out the bread to the hungry bears!

  [Illustration: "A woman of bad character, who sold these disguises to
   escaped convicts"]

A great character at Loch-ar-Brugg was the curé. It was he who had
baptized me, for I was baptized not at Quimper, but in the little
church of St. Eloi that stood at the foot of the Loch-ar-Brugg woods
and had been in the Kerouguet family for generations. During my
earliest years there he was our chaplain, inhabiting one of the
_pavillons_ in the garden with his old servant; later on he was given
the living of Plougastel, some miles away, and my father had to
persuade him to accept it, for he was very averse to leaving
Loch-ar-Brugg and our family. Still, even at Plougastel we saw him
constantly; he drove over nearly every day in his little pony-trap,
and officiated every Sunday at the seven o'clock mass at St. Eloi.
What a dear, honest fellow he was, and what startling sermons I have
heard him preach! Once he informed his congregation that they would
all be damned like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Fénélon! This threat,
pronounced in Breton, was especially impressive, and how he came by
the two ill-assorted names I cannot imagine, for he was nearly as
ignorant of books as his flock. He was devoted to my father body and
soul, being the son of one of his farmers. They were great comrades.
Whenever my father had had a good day's shooting he would go to the
_pavillon_ and cry: "Come to dinner! There are woodcocks." And the
curé never failed to come. I see him now, with his rustic, rugged
face, weather-tanned, gay, and austere. One of my first memories is of
the small, square neck ornament (_rabat_) that the clergy wear,--a
_bavette_ we children called them,--stitched round with white beads. I
longed for these beads, and when he took me on his knee I always fixed
my eyes upon them. Unattainable indeed they seemed, but one day,
noticing the intentness of my gaze, he questioned me, and I was able
to express my longing. "But you shall have the beads!" he cried,
touched and delighted. "I have two _rabats_, and one is old and past
wearing. Nothing is simpler than to cut off the beads for you, my
little Sophie."

His performance was even better than his promise, for he brought me a
bagful of the beads, collected from among his curé friends, and for
days I was blissfully occupied in making chains, rings, and necklaces.
Some of these ornaments survived for many years.

The curé was not at all happy in the presence of fine people. "_Je me
sauve!_" he would exclaim if such appeared, and he would make off to
the garden, where he was altogether at home, true son of the soil that
he was. Here he would gird up his _soutane_ over his homespun
knee-breeches, open his coarse peasant's shirt on his bare chest, and
prune and dig and plant; and when he took a task in hand it went
quickly. One of my delights was when he put me into the wheelbarrow
and trundled me off to Ker-Eliane to dig up ferns for _maman's_

He, too, told me many legends. The one of St. Eloi especially
interested me. St. Eloi was the son of a blacksmith and helped his
father at the forge in the tiny hamlet called after him. One day as
they were working, a little child came riding up, mounted on a horse
so gigantic that four men could not have held him. "Will you shoe my
horse, good friends?" said the child,--who of course was _l'Enfant
Jésus_,--very politely. "His shoe is loose, and his hoof will be
hurt." The father blacksmith looked with astonishment and indignation
at the horse, and said that he could not think of shoeing an animal of
such a size; but the son, St. Eloi, said at once that he would do his
best. So _l'Enfant Jésus_ slid down, and took a seat on the _talus_ in
front of the smithy, and St. Eloi at once neatly unscrewed the four
legs of the horse and laid them down beside the enormous body. At this
point in the story I always cried out:

"But, _Monsieur le Curé_, did it not hurt the poor horse to have its
legs unscrewed?"

And the curé, smiling calmly, would reply:

"Not in the least. You see, this was a miracle, my little Sophie."

So St. Eloi was able to deal with the great hoofs separately, and when
all was neatly done, the legs were screwed on again; and the child
remounted, and said to St. Eloi's father before he rode away:

"You are a little soured with age, my friend. Your son here is very
wise. Listen to him and take his advice in everything, for it will be

It was no doubt on account of this legend that all the horses through
all the country far and near were brought to the church of St. Eloi
once a year to be blessed by the curé. This ceremony was called _le
Baptême des Chevaux_. The horses, from plow-horses to carriage-horses
and hunters, were brought and ranged round the church in groups of
fours and sixes. At the widely opened western door the curé stood,
holding the _goupillon_, or holy-water sprinkler, and the horses were
slowly led round the church, row after row, seven times, and each time
that they passed before him the curé sprinkled them with holy water.
After this initial blessing the curé took up his stand within beside
the christening-font, and the horses were led into the church,--I so
well remember the dull thud and trampling of their feet upon the
earthen floor,--and the curé, with holy water from the font, made the
sign of the cross upon each large, innocent forehead. Finally the tail
of each horse was carefully cut off, and all the tails hung up in the
church together, to be sold for the benefit of the church at the end
of the year, before _le Baptême des Chevaux_ took place again. This
touching ceremony still survives, but the horses are only led round
the church and blessed, not brought inside.

  [Illustration: "A great character at Loch-ar-Brugg was the curé"]

The Church of St. Eloi was very ancient, and adorned with strange old
statues of clumsily carved stone painted in garish colors. One was of
a Christ waiting for the cross, His hands tied before Him. It was a
hideous figure, the feet and hands huge and distorted, the eyes
staring like those of a doll; yet it had an impressive look of
suffering. There were no benches in the church except for our family,
near the choir. The peasants, the men on one side, the women on the
other, knelt on the bare earth during the office. They had used,
always, when they entered the church, to pass round before _les
maîtres_, bowing before them; but even my mother objected to this, and
the curé was told to give out from the pulpit that _les maîtres_ were
no longer to be bowed to in church, where there was only one master.
_Maman_, however, did not at all like it that my father should insist
on us children kneeling with the peasants, and it was the one subject
on which I remember a difference of opinion between my grandfather
Rosval and papa. But the latter was firm, and Ernest on the side of
the men, Eliane and I on the side of the women, we knelt through mass.
This was no hardship to us, for the kind peasants spread their skirts
for our little knees and regaled us all through the service with

  [Illustration: "All the Breton women smoked"]

_Crêpes_ seem to be present in nearly all my Breton memories. The
peasants made them for us when we went to visit them in their
cottages, and it would have hurt their feelings deeply had we refused
them. We children delighted in these visits not only on account of the
_crêpes_, but on account of the picturesque interest of these peasant
interiors. The one living-room had an earthen floor and a huge
chimney-place of stone, often quaintly carved, and so large that
chairs could be set within it about the blazing logs. The room was
paneled, as it were, with beds that looked, when their sliding wooden
doors were closed, like tall wardrobes ranged along the walls. They
were usually of dark old wood and often beautifully carved. A narrow
space between the tops of these beds and the ceiling allowed some air
(but what air!) to reach the sleepers, and, within, the straw was
piled high, and the mattress and feather bed were laid upon it. It was
quite customary for father, mother, and three or four children to
sleep in one bed, several generations often occupying a room, as well
as the servants, who were of the same class as their masters. The beds
were climbed into by means of a carved chest that stood beside them.
These were called _huches_, and contained the heirloom costumes, a
store of bread, and the Sunday shoes! Potatoes were kept under the
bed. In the window stood the table where the family and servants all
ate together, and above it hung, suspended by a pulley and string
from the ceiling, a curious contrivance for holding spoons. It was a
sort of wooden disk, and the spoons were held in notches cut round the
edge; it was lowered when needed, and each person took a spoon. A
great earthenware bowl of creamy milk stood in the center of the
table, and with each mouthful of porridge, or _fare_, the spoons were
dipped, in community, into the milk. _Fare_ was a sort of thick
porridge made of maize, allowed to cool in a large round cake, and cut
in slices when cold. It was one of the peasants' staple dishes, and
another was the porridge made of oatmeal, rye, or buckwheat, served
hot, with a lump of butter. For breakfast they all drank _café au
lait_, strong coffee boiled with the milk; fortunately milk and butter
were plentiful. Of the hygienic habits of the peasants at this time
the less said the better; a very minor detail was that the long hair
of the men and the closely coiffed tresses of the women swarmed with
vermin, and after every visit we paid, our heads were always carefully
examined. One peasant, I remember, a good fellow, Paul Simur by name,
of whom my father was specially fond, was so dirty and unwashed that a
sort of mask of dirt had formed upon his features. One day, at a
hunting-party, papa called to Paul to come and sit beside him, and the
other huntsmen, with singular bad taste, began to make fun of poor
Paul, who sat much abashed, with hanging head. Papa affectionately
laid an arm about his neck and defended him, until his friends finally
cried out that they wagered he would not kiss him. At this, although
he confessed afterward to the most intense repugnance, he at once
kissed Paul heartily. Poor Paul was quite overcome. He came to my
father afterward with tears in his eyes and said, standing before him
and gazing at him:

"_Oh, mon maître, que je t'aime!_"

"And why don't you ever wash your face, Paul?" papa asked him then,
and Paul explained that he had never been taught to wash and was
afraid it would seriously hurt him to begin. Papa undertook to teach
him. He got soap and soda and hot water and lathered Paul, gently and
firmly, until at last his very agreeable features were disinterred.
Paul was perfectly delighted, and his face shone with cleanliness ever

  [Illustration: "One sometimes saw such an old woman sitting on a

A special friend of mine among the peasants was dear old Keransiflan,
the lodge-keeper. I was fond of joining him while he tended the road
in front of the lodge-gates and sitting on his wheelbarrow with him to
talk to him while he ate his midday meal. This consisted of a huge
slice of black bread thickly spread with butter, and it seemed to me
that no bread and butter had ever looked so good.

One day he must have seen how much I longed for it, for he said,
holding out the slice, "_Demoiselle, en veux-tu_?" I did not need to
be asked twice, and can still see the great semicircle that I bit into
the slice, and I was happily munching when _maman_ appeared at the
lodge-gates. She was very much displeased, and mainly that I should be
devouring poor Keransiflan's luncheon, and she rated me so soundly
that the kind old man interceded for me, saying, "_Notre maîtresse,
c'est moi qui lui l'ai donné_." I think that _maman_ must have seen
that it gave him great pleasure to share his bread with me; at all
events, Keransiflan and I, sitting on our wheelbarrow, were allowed to
go on eating in peace.

But the peasants were a hard, harsh race and pitiless in their
dealings toward one another. Their treatment of their old people was
terrible. If an old mother, past work, had no money, she was
ruthlessly turned out to beg. One sometimes saw such an old woman
sitting on a _talus_, her pitiful bundle of rags beside her, helpless
and stupefied. I remember a story that was told me by one of my
servants about such an old woman that she had known. She had four
hundred francs, and was cared for in the family of one son until it
was spent, when she was turned out. Another son more kindly took her
in; but his wife was a hard woman, and though she finally consented to
accept the useless old mother into the household, she grudged every
sou spent upon her. Thus, though the only two joys remaining her in
life were snuff and coffee, only two sous a week was allowed her for
tobacco, and as for coffee, she was given never a drop. When she was
dying she told the servant from whom I had the story that what made
her suffer most had been to sit by in the morning and smell the
delicious odor of the coffee as the others drank it. This has always
seemed to me a heart-piercing story. All the Breton women smoked, by
the way, and pipes, and in a curious fashion; for the bowl was turned
downward, though why, I do not know.



I was taken while I was a child at Loch-ar-Brugg to the famous _Pardon
de Folgoat_, to which people came from all Brittany. In Folgoat was
the summer residence of Anne de Bretagne, and in the vast hall of the
château she had held her audiences. The château is now the presbytery,
and is opposite the church, of which there is a legend. A poor child,
Yann Salacin, who was devoid of reason, spent hours every day before
the altar of the Virgin, which he decorated with the wild flowers that
he gathered in the fields, and wandered in the forest, swinging on the
branches of the trees, always singing Ave Maria, the only words he was
ever heard to pronounce. He begged for food from door to door and
slept in the barns. The peasants became impatient with him and began
to whisper that he was possessed of an evil spirit, and at last they
drove him out of the village. The curé, who was a good man, missed him
in the church, sought vainly for him, and at last heard what had
happened. He was filled with indignation, and told the peasants that
they had committed a crime. Then he set out to look for poor Yann, and
found him at last in a distant forest, dead with hunger. He brought
the body back to Folgoat and buried it near the church, and one day he
saw that a tall white lily had grown up from the grave; when he opened
the grave he found that the lily sprang from the lips of the little
innocent, and on the petals of the flower one could read in letters of
gold Ave Maria. This legend is believed in all Brittany, and a
stained-glass window in the church tells the story.

Behind the church is the Well of Love, so called because not a day
passes that lovers do not come to test their fate by trying to float
pins upon the surface of the water. If the pins float, all promises
well, and they go away happy. Astute ones slightly grease the pins,
and thus aid destiny.

But to return to the _pardon_. I remember that on this occasion an
old cook in the family had permission to start two or three days
before the _pardon_, so that she might go all the way on her knees,
and during those days one met many such devout pilgrims making their
way on their knees along the dusty roads. Some of them came from far
distances. We children were called before dawn on the August morning,
and it was a sleepy, half-bewildered dressing by candle-light. As a
closed carriage made me sick, I was put into the coupé with papa and
_maman_. Eliane, Ernest, their nurses, and all the other servants,
followed in a sort of omnibus, and behind them came all the horses,
trotting gaily along the road to share in the blessings of this great
day of the Assumption of the Virgin. The horses of Brittany, it will
be conceded, are a specially favored race. Although I was in the coupé
and had all the freshness of the early air to invigorate me, I
remember of the journey from Loch-ar-Brugg to Folgoat only that I was
deplorably sick, and the greatest inconvenience to my parents.
Fortunately, I was restored the moment I set my feet upon the

  [Illustration: "Je me sauve," he would exclaim]

We were to be entertained for the day at Folgoat by the curé, and to
lunch with him and with the bishops at the presbytery; but we were
already ravenously hungry, so, although papa and _maman_ must continue
to fast until after taking communion at the early service, we children
had a splendid picnic breakfast in the presbytery garden, and a
jellied breast of lamb is my first recollection of the day at Folgoat!
Then we went out to see the great festival. Seventy-five years or more
have passed since that day, and it still lives in my mind with a
beauty more than splendid, a divine beauty. In the vast plain, under
the vast, blue sky, six bishops, glittering with gold and precious
stones, celebrated mass simultaneously at six great altars among
thousands of worshipers. It was a sea of color under the August sun,
and the white _coiffes_ of the women were like flocks of snowy doves.
There was an early mass, and the high mass at eleven. When this was
over, we assembled at the presbytery to lunch with the bishops. The
table was laid in Anne de Bretagne's council-chamber, its stone walls
covered with archaic figures, and it must have been a picturesque
sight to see the bishops sitting in all their splendor against that
ancient background; but what I most remember are the stories they told
of Louis XI and his misdeeds, which seemed to me more interesting and
more cruel than the Arabian Nights and Ali Baba and his forty thieves.
In the church itself was shown a superbly carved bench where, it was
said, while praying, he ordered with a nod the death of a Breton noble
who had refused to do him homage. When we went into the church after
lunch to see this bench, I sat down on it, and my long golden curls
were caught in the claws of the interlaced monsters on the back, and I
hurt myself so much in wrenching myself free that I hated still more
fiercely the wicked king who condemned men to death while he prayed. O
the horrid monster!

Then at three came the great procession. First went the six bishops,
mitered and carrying their croziers; then followed the children of the
_noblesse_, we among them, all in white, with white wreaths on our
heads; then all the vast multitude, twenty or thirty abreast, singing
canticles, a stupendous sight and sound, all marching round the
plain, from altar to altar, under the burning sun. I remember little
after that. The Marquis de Ploeuc was there, his hair tied in the
_catogan_, and wearing his black silk suit: I think he must have
lunched with us at the curé's. It was arranged that he and his two
eldest daughters were to drive back to Loch-ar-Brugg with _maman_ and
spend some days with us, and so, though I must have been very tired, I
was to ride back beside papa on my pony, which had been duly blessed.
It was already night when we started, and what a wonderful ride it
was! I remember no fatigue. I still wore my white dress, and _maman_
swathed my head and shoulders in a white lace shawl, and all the way
back to Loch-ar-Brugg papa told me stories of hunts, of fairies, of
saints, and of escaped convicts. Every group of trees, every rock,
every turning in the road, had its legend or its adventure.



We were at Quimper when _bonne maman_ died. She had been failing for
some time, and her character, until then so gentle, had altered. Mere
trifles disquieted her, and she became fretful, alarmed, and even
impatient. She seemed so little in her big bed, and, when I wanted to
climb up beside her, after my wont, she signed to Jeannie to take me
away and said that it tired her too much to see children and that the
air of a sick-room was not good for them. "Tell my daughter--tell her.
They must not come!" she repeated several times in a strange, shrill
voice. I slid down from the bed, I remember, abashed and disconcerted,
and while I longed to see my dear _bonne maman_ as I had known her, I
was afraid of this changed _bonne maman_; and it hurt me more for her
than for myself that she should be so changed.

But one day when _maman_ was in the room, she caught sight of me
hanging about furtively in the passage, and called out gently to me to
go away, that _bonne maman_ was tired and was going to sleep. Then a
poor little voice, no longer shrill, very trembling, came from the
bed, saying: "Let her come, Eliane. It will not hurt me. I want to see
her for a moment."

I approached the bed, walking on tiptoe; the curtains were drawn to
shade _bonne maman_ from the sunlight, and I softly came and stood
within them. O my poor _bonne maman_! I could hardly recognize her.
She seemed old--old and shrunken, and her eyes no longer smiled. She
looked at me so fixedly that I was frightened, and she said to

"Lift her up on the bed. I want to kiss her." She took my hand then,
and looked at my little finger as she always used to do, and said: "I
see that you have been very good with your mother, but that you don't
obey your nurse. You must always be obedient. You understand me,
don't you, Sophie? Do you say your prayers?"

"Yes, _bonne maman_," I answered.

"Have you said them this morning?"

"No, _bonne maman_."

"Say them now."

I made the sign of the cross and said the following prayer, which I
repeated morning and evening every day, and with slightly altered
nomenclature, my children and grandchildren have repeated, as I did,
until the age of reason: "_Mon Dieu_, bless me and bless and preserve
_grand-père_, _bonne maman_, _maman_, _papa_, my sisters, my brother,
Tiny" [this was my little dog], "Ghislaine, France, Kerandraon, all my
family, and make me very good. Amen." When I had finished, _bonne
maman_ drew me gently to her, pressed me in her arms, and kissed me on
my eyes.

  [Illustration: Paul]

After this, for how many days I do not remember, everything became
very still in the house. The servants whispered when they had to
speak, and the older people, when they met us, told us gently to go
into the garden and to be very quiet. We did not see _maman_ or
_papa_ at all. My _tante_ de Laisieu was with us, and dear France.
_Bon papa_ arrived from Paris. One morning was very sunny and
beautiful, and as I played with Eliane in the garden I forgot the
oppression that weighed upon us and began to sing to her a Breton song
which Jeannie had taught me. These were the words:

     Le Roy vient demain au château,
     "Ecoute moi bien, ma Fleurette,
     Tu regarderas bien son aigrette!"

     "Je regarderai," dit Fleurette,
     "Pour bien reconnaître le Roy!
     Mes yeux ne verront que toi,
     Et mon coeur n'aimera que toi."

While I sang I looked up at _bonne maman's_ window, for I knew how
fond she was of hearing me. The window was shut, and this was unusual;
so I sang the louder, that she should hear me, of _Fleurette_ and _le
Roy_. Then France and one of the servants came running out of the
house, and I saw that both had been crying, and France put his arm
about me while the servant said, "Mademoiselle must not sing." And
France whispered: "You will wake _bonne maman_. Go into the orchard,
dear Sophie. There you will not be heard." In the evening papa came
for us in the nursery, and I saw that he, too, had been crying. I had
never before seen tears in his dear eyes. He took us up to _maman's_
room. All the blinds were drawn down, but I could see her lying on her
bed, in her white woolen _peignoir_, her arms crossed behind her head,
her black jet rosary lying along the sheet beside her. We kissed her,
one after the other, and I saw the great tears rolling down her

"_Maman_--is _bonne maman_ very ill?" I whispered. I felt that
something terrible had happened to us all.

"My little girl," said _maman_, "your poor _bonne maman_ does not
suffer any more. She is very happy now with the angels and _le bon
Dieu_," but _maman_ was sobbing as she spoke.

  [Illustration: We children had a splendid picnic breakfast]

I knew death only as it had come to one of my little birds that lived
in the round cage hung in the nursery-window, and I was very much
frightened when papa said: "I am going to take Sophie to your
mother's room, Eliane. She is old enough to understand." But I went
with him obediently, holding his hand. Outside _bonne maman's_ door he
paused and stooped to kiss me and said: "I know how much you loved
your _bonne maman_, Sophie, and I want you to say good-by to her, for
you will never see her again. She loved you so much, my little
darling, and you shall be the last one to kiss her." The room was all
black, and in the middle stood the bed. Beside it, on a table, a
little _chapelle_ had been made with a great silver cross and
candelabra with lighted tapers. A bunch of fresh box stood in a goblet
of holy water. _Bonne maman_ lay with her arms stretched out before
her, the hands clasped on her black wooden crucifix with a silver
Christ that had always hung upon her wall. Her hair was not dressed,
but drawn up from her forehead and covered with a mantilla of white
silk Spanish lace, which fell down over her shoulders on each side. I
stood beside her holding papa's hand. Her profile was sharply cut
against the blackness, and I had never before seen how beautiful it
was. Her eyes were closed, and she smiled tranquilly. I felt no longer
any fear; but when papa lifted me in his arms so that I might kiss
_bonne maman_ and my lips touched her forehead, a great shock went
through me. How cold her forehead was! O my poor _bonne maman_! Even
now, after all the lusters that have passed over me, I feel the cold
of that last kiss.



It was not long after _bonne maman's_ death that we left Brittany and
went to Paris to live with _bon papa_. I remember every detail of this
my first long journey. The day began with a very early breakfast,
which we all had together in the dining-room and at which we had the
great treat of drinking chocolate. Then came the complicated business
of stowing us all away in our capacious traveling-carriage. It was
divided into three compartments. First came what was called the
_coupé_, with windows at the sides and a large window in front from
which we looked out past the coachman's red-stockinged legs and along
the horses' backs to where the postilion jounced merrily against the
sky in a red Breton costume like the coachman's, his long hair tied
behind with black ribbon, a red jockey's cap on his head, and black
shoulder-knots with jet _aiguillettes_. After the _coupé_, and
communicating with it by a tiny passage, though it had doors of its
own, was another compartment for maids, nurses, and children, and
behind that another and larger division for all the other servants. On
the top were seats beside the coachman, and papa spent most of the day
up there smoking. The luggage, carried on the top, was covered by a
great leather covering, buckled down all over it, called a _bache_.
The horses were post-horses, renewed at every post. It was decided
that I was to go in the _coupé_ with _maman_, papa, and little
Maraquita, as I should get more fresh air there. I wore, I remember, a
red cashmere dress made out of a dress of _maman's_. The material had
been brought from India and was bordered with a design of palm-leaves.
Indeed, this red cashmere must have provided me with a succession of
dresses, for I remember that when I made my _entrée_ at the _Sacré
Coeur_ years afterwards, the bishop, visiting the convent, stopped,
smiling, at my bench, and said, "Why, this is a little Republican, is
it not?" Eliane and I both wore _capulets_ on our heads. These were
squares of white cloth that fell to the shoulders and that folded back
from the forehead and fastened under the chin with bands of black
velvet, a Spanish head-dress. Our cloaks were the full cloaks,
gathered finely around the neck and shoulders, that _maman_ had made
for us, copied from the peasants' cloaks, of foulard for summer and
wool for winter. Little Maraquita, who spent most of the three days'
journey on _maman's_ knees, wore, as always until she was seven or
eight, white and pale blue, the Virgin's colors, as she had been
_vouée au bleu et au blanc_ after a terrible accident that had
befallen her in infancy. She had fallen into the fire at Landerneau,
and her head and forehead had been badly burned, and _maman_ had thus
dedicated her to the Virgin with prayers that she might not be
disfigured--prayers that were more than answered, for Maraquita became
exquisitely beautiful. Papa, I may add here, had many friends and
connections in Spain; hence my little sister's name, and hence our

Eliane and Ernest traveled in the second compartment with their
nurses, Eliane carrying Tiny and her huge doll, and Ernest,
unfortunately for our peace of mind, a drum of mine that I had given
him and upon which he beat the drumsticks hour after hour. _Maman_, in
the _coupé_, cried out at intervals that it was intolerable to hear
such an incessant noise and that the child must really, now, be made
to stop; but papa always mildly soothed her, saying: "Let him play. It
keeps him distracted; he would probably be crying otherwise." So
Ernest continued to roll his drum. In the _coupé_ I was fully occupied
in playing at horses. Real leather reins had been fixed at each side
of the front window, passing under it so that, looking out over the
horses' haunches, I had the delightful illusion, as I wielded the
reins, of really driving them. I do not remember that I was sick at
all on the first day. The country was mountainous, and at every steep
hill we all got out and walked down, and this also, probably helped to
preserve me. One feature of the Brittany landscape of those days
stands out clearly in my memory, the tall, sinister-looking
telegraph-poles that stood, each one just visible to the last, on the
heights of the country. When I say telegraph it must not be imagined
that they were our modern electric installations, although so they
were called. These were of a very primitive and very ingenious
construction. At the top of each pole, by means of the projecting arm
that gave it the look of a gallows, immense wooden letters were hung
out, one after the other; these letters were worked by means of wires
that passed down the poles into the little hut at its foot. Each wire
at the bottom had a label with its corresponding letter, and the
operator in the hut, by pulling the wire, pulled the letter into its
place at the top of the pole, and was thus able laboriously to spell
out the message he had to convey and to make it visible to the
operator at the next post, who passed it on to the next. These clumsy
telegrams could be sent, as far as I remember, only at certain hours
of the day, and I think that it must have been during a wayside halt
on this journey that I visited a hut with papa and had the system
explained to me and saw a message being sent, for I remember the
clatter and shaking as the big letters overhead were pulled into
place. I do not know whether this method of communication was used all
over France, but one or two of the old poles still survive in

  [Illustration: The postilion sounded his horn]

Our first stop that day was at Quimperlé. The postilion, as we
approached a town or village, sounded his horn, and what excitement it
caused in these quiet little places when we came driving up, and how
all the people crowded round us!

The inn at Quimperlé was called the Hôtel du Trèfle Noir, and though
very primitive, the thatch showing through the rafters in the roof of
the immense kitchen-dining-room, it was scrupulously clean. We all sat
down together at the long table, servants, coachman, postilion, and
all, and the _déjeuner_ served to us by the good landlady was fit to
put before a king. I remember _maman_ laughing and asking her why she
served the salmon and, afterward, a heaping golden mound of fried
potatoes, on a great plank, and the landlady saying that she had no
dishes large enough. There was a turkey, too, stuffed with chestnuts
and of course _crêpes_ and cream. Next door to us, in a smaller room,
a band of commercial travelers were also lunching, and as we finished
each course it was carried in to those cheerful young fellows, whose
hurrahs of joy added zest to our own appetites. That night we slept at
Rennes, where I remember only that I was very tired and that a horrid
man who came to make a fire in our bedrooms spat upon the floor, to
our disgust and indignation. I remember, too, a very pleasant crisp
cake, or roll, that _maman_ gave me to eat before I went to bed.

It was on the third day that we drove at last into Paris, a fairy-land
to my gazing, stupefied eyes. What struck me most were the fountains
of the Place de la Concorde, the bronze mermaids holding the spouting
fish, and the little sunken gardens, four of them, that at that time
surrounded the obelisk. _Bon papa_ lived in the rue St. Dominique, St.
Germain, and as we drove up to the door I remember that it was under
blossoming acacia-trees and that the postilion blew a great blast
upon his horn to announce our arrival. The house, which was, indeed, a
very pleasing specimen of Louis XV architecture, looked palatial to my
childish eyes. _Bon papa_ was standing, very portly, on the terrace to
welcome us, and we ran into a park behind the house, with an avenue of
horse-chestnuts and a high fountain. But Brittany was left far behind,
and many, many years were to pass before I again saw my Loch-ar-Brugg.


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Childhood in Brittany Eighty Years Ago" ***

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