Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: In the Heart of the Vosges and Other Sketches by a "Devious Traveller"
Author: Betham-Edwards, Matilda, 1836-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Heart of the Vosges and Other Sketches by a "Devious Traveller"" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



IN THE HEART OF THE VOSGES

[Illustration]

AND OTHER SKETCHES BY A "DEVIOUS TRAVELLER"

BY

MISS BETHAM-EDWARDS

OFFICIER DE L'INSTRUCTION PUBLIQUE DE FRANCE

_WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY SPECIAL PERMISSION_

1911



"I travel not to look for Gascons in Sicily. I have left them at
home."--Montaigne.


PREFATORY NOTE

Some of these sketches now appear for the first time, others have been
published serially, whilst certain portions, curtailed or enlarged
respectively, are reprinted from a former work long since out of print.
Yet again I might entitle this volume, "Scenes from Unfrequented France,"
many spots being here described by an English traveller for the first
time.

My warmest thanks are due to M. Maurice Barrès for permission to
reproduce two illustrations by M. Georges Conrad from his famous romance,
_Au Service de l'Allemagne_; also to M. André Hallays for the use of
two views from his _À Travers l'Alsace_; and to the publishers of
both authors, MM. Fayard and Perrin, for their serviceableness in the
matter.

Nor must I omit to acknowledge my indebtedness to Messrs. Sampson Low &
Co., to whom I owe the reproduction of Gustave Doré's infantine _tours
de force_; and to Messrs. Rivington, who have allowed large reprints
from the work published by them over twenty years ago.

And last but not least, I thank the Rev. Albert Cadier, the son of my old
friend, the much respected pastor of Osse, for the loan of his charming
photographs.



CONTENTS

CHAP.

I GÉRARDMER AND ITS ENVIRONS

II THE CHARM OF ALSACE

III IN GUSTAVE DORÉ'S COUNTRY

IV FROM BARR TO STRASBURG

V THE "MARVELLOUS BOY" OF ALSACE

VI QUISSAC AND SAUVE

VII AN IMMORTALIZER

VIII TOULOUSE

IX MONTAUBAN, OR INGRES-VILLE

X MY PYRENEAN VALLEY AT LAST

XI AN OLIVE FARM IN THE VAR

XII PESSICARZ AND THE SUICIDES' CEMETERY

XIII GUEST OF FARMER AND MILLER

XIV LADY MERCHANTS AND SOCIALIST MAYORS



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

ST. ODILE

PROVINS, GENERAL VIEW

PROVINS, THE CAPITOL

PROVINS, THE CITY WALLS

GÉRARDMER

A VOSGIAN SCENE

CIRQUE DE RETOURNEMER

THE PINNACLE OF ODILE

ETTENHEIM

COLMAR

GUSTAVE DORÉ, INFANTINE SKETCH

GUSTAVE DORÉ, DO

OSSE

NEAR THE SPANISH FRONTIER

ORCUM

ARRAS, LA PETITE PLACE



I

GÉRARDMER AND ENVIRONS

[Illustration: PROVINS, GENERAL VIEW]

The traveller bound to eastern France has a choice of many routes, none
perhaps offering more attractions than the great Strasburg line by way of
Meaux, Châlons-sur-Marne, Nancy, and Épinal. But the journey must be made
leisurely. The country between Paris and Meaux is deservedly dear to
French artists, and although Champagne is a flat region, beautiful only
by virtue of fertility and highly developed agriculture, it is rich in
old churches and fine architectural remains. By the Troyes-Belfort route,
Provins may be visited. This is, perhaps, the most perfect specimen of
the mediaeval walled-in town in France. To my thinking, neither
Carcassonne, Semur nor Guérande surpass Hégésippe Moreau's little
birthplace in beauty and picturesqueness. The acropolis of Brie also
possesses a long and poetic history, being the seat of an art-loving
prince, and the haunt of troubadours. A word to the epicure as well as
the archaeologist. The bit of railway from Châlons-sur-Marne to Nancy
affords a series of gastronomic delectations. At Épernay travellers are
just allowed time to drink a glass of champagne at the buffet, half a
franc only being charged. At Bar-le-Duc little neatly-packed jars of the
raspberry jam for which the town is famous are brought to the doors of
the railway carriage. Further on at Commercy, you are enticed to regale
upon unrivalled cakes called "Madeleines de Commercy," and not a town, I
believe, of this favoured district is without its speciality in the shape
of delicate cates or drinks.

Châlons-sur-Marne, moreover, possesses one of the very best hotels in
provincial France--the hotel with the queer name--another inducement for
us to idle on the way. The town itself is in no way remarkable, but it
abounds in magnificent old churches of various epochs--some falling into
decay, others restored, one and all deserving attention. St. Jean is
especially noteworthy, its beautiful interior showing much exquisite
tracery and almost a fanciful arrangement of transepts. It is very rich
in good modern glass. But the gem of gems is not to be found in Châlons
itself; more interesting and beautiful than its massive cathedral and
church of Notre Dame, than St. Jean even, is the exquisite church of
Notre Dame de l'Épine, situated in a poor hamlet a few miles beyond the
octroi gates. We have here, indeed, a veritable cathedral in a
wilderness, nothing to be imagined more graceful than the airy open
colonnades of its two spires, light as a handful of wheat ears loosely
bound together. The colour of the grey stone gives solemnity to the rest
of the exterior, which is massive and astonishingly rich in the grotesque
element. We carefully studied the gargoyles round the roof, and, in spite
of defacements, made out most of them--here a grinning demon with a
struggling human being in its clutch--there an odd beast, part human,
part pig, clothed in a kind of jacket, playing a harp--dozens of comic,
hideous, heterogeneous figures in various attitudes and travesties.

[Illustration: Provins, The Capitol]

Notre Dame de l'Épine--originally commemorative of a famous shrine--has
been restored, and purists in architecture will pass it by as an
achievement of Gothic art in the period of its decline, but it is
extremely beautiful nevertheless. On the way from Châlons-sur-Marne to
Nancy we catch glimpses of other noble churches that stand out from the
flat landscape as imposingly as Ely Cathedral. These are Notre Dame of
Vitry le François and St. Étienne of Toul, formerly a cathedral, both
places to be stopped at by leisurely tourists.

The fair, the _triste_ city of Nancy! There is an indescribable charm
in the sad yet stately capital of ancient Lorraine. No life in its
quiet streets, no movement in its handsome squares, nevertheless Nancy
is one of the wealthiest, most elegant cities in France! Hither
flocked rich Alsatian families after the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine,
and perhaps its proximity to the lost provinces in part accounts for the
subdued, dreamy aspect of the place as a whole. A strikingly beautiful
city it is, with its splendid monuments of the house of Lorraine, and
handsome modern streets bearing evidence of much prosperity in these
days. In half-an-hour you may get an unforgettable glimpse of the Place
Stanislas, with its bronze gates, fountains, and statue, worthy of a great
capital; of the beautiful figure of Duke Antonio of Lorraine, on
horseback, under an archway of flamboyant Gothic; of the Ducal Palace and
its airy colonnade; lastly, of the picturesque old city gate, the Porte
de la Craffe, one of the most striking monuments of the kind in France.

All these things may be glanced at in an hour, but in order to enjoy
Nancy thoroughly a day or two should be devoted to it, and here, as at
Châlons-sur-Marne, creature comforts are to be had in the hotels. In the
Ducal Palace are shown the rich tapestries found in the tent of Charles
le Téméraire after his defeat before Nancy, and other relics of that
Haroun-al-Raschid of his epoch, who bivouacked off gold and silver plate,
and wore on the battlefield diamonds worth half a million. In a little
church outside the town, commemorative of this victory, are collected the
cenotaphs of the Dukes of Lorraine--the _chapelle ronde_, as the
splendid little mausoleum is designated--with its imposing monuments in
black marble, and richly-decorated octagonal dome, making up a solemn and
beautiful whole. Graceful and beautiful also are the monuments in the
church itself, and those of another church, Des Cordeliers, close to the
Ducal Palace.

[Illustration: PROVINS, THE CITY WALLS]

Nancy is especially rich in monumental sculpture, but it is in the
cathedral that we are to be fairly enchanted by the marble statues of the
four doctors of the church--St. Augustine, St. Grégoire, St. Léon, and
St. Jerome. These are the work of Nicolas Drouin, a native of Nancy, and
formerly ornamented a tomb in the church of the Cordeliers just
mentioned. The physiognomy, expression, and pose of St. Augustine are
well worthy of a sculptor's closest study, but it is rather as a whole
than in detail that this exquisite statue delights the ordinary observer.
All four sculptures are noble works of art; the fine, dignified figure of
St. Augustine somehow takes strongest hold of the imagination. We would
fain return to it again and again, as indeed we would fain return to all
else we have seen in the fascinating city of Nancy. From Nancy by way of
Épinal we may easily reach the heart of the Vosges.

[Illustration: GÉRARDMER]

How sweet and pastoral are these cool resting-places in the heart of the
Vosges! Gérardmer and many another as yet unfrequented by the tourist
world, and unsophisticated in spite of railways and bathing seasons. The
Vosges has long been a favourite playground of our French neighbours,
although ignored by the devotees of Cook and Gaze, and within late years,
not a rustic spot possessed of a mineral spring but has become
metamorphosed into a second Plombières. Gérardmer--"_Sans Gérardmer et
un peu Nancy, que serait la Lorraine?_" says the proverb--is resorted
to, however, rather for its rusticity and beauty than for any curative
properties of its sparkling waters. Also in some degree for the sake of
urban distraction. The French mind when bent on holiday-making is social
in the extreme, and the day spent amid the forest nooks and murmuring
streams of Gérardmer winds up with music and dancing. One of the chief
attractions of the big hotel in which we are so wholesomely housed is
evidently the enormous salon given up after dinner to the waltz, country
dance, and quadrille. Our hostess with much ease and tact looks in,
paying her respects, to one visitor after another, and all is enjoyment
and mirth till eleven o'clock, when the large family party, for so our
French fellowship may be called, breaks up. These socialities, giving as
they do the amiable aspect of French character, will not perhaps
constitute an extra charm of Gérardmer in the eyes of the more morose
English tourist. After many hours spent in the open air most of us prefer
the quiet of our own rooms. The country, too, is so fresh and delicious
that we want nothing in the shape of social distraction. Drawing-room
amenities seem a waste of time under such circumstances. Nevertheless the
glimpses of French life thus obtained are pleasant, and make us realize
the fact that we are off the beaten track, living among French folks, for
the time separated from insular ways and modes of thought. Our fellowship
is a very varied and animated one. We number among the guests a member of
the French ministry--a writer on the staff of Figaro--a grandson of one
of the most devoted and unfortunate generals of the first Napoleon, known
as "the bravest of the brave," with his elegant wife--the head of one of
the largest commercial houses in eastern France--deputies, diplomats,
artists, with many family parties belonging to the middle and upper ranks
of society, a very strong Alsatian element predominating. Needless to add
that people make themselves agreeable to each other without any
introduction. For the time being at least distinctions are set aside, and
fraternity is the order of the day.

I do not aver that my country-people have never heard of Gérardmer, but
certainly those who stray hither are few and far between. Fortunately for
the lover of nature no English writer has as yet popularized the Vosges.
An Eden-like freshness pervades its valleys and forests, made ever
musical with cascades, a pastoral simplicity characterizes its
inhabitants. Surely in no corner of beautiful France can any one worn out
in body or in brain find more refreshment and tranquil pleasure!

It is only of late years that the fair broad valley of Gérardmer and its
lovely little lake have been made accessible by railway. Indeed, the
popularity of the Vosges and its watering-places dates from the late
Franco-German war. Rich French valetudinarians, and tourists generally,
have given up Wiesbaden and Ems from patriotic motives, and now spend
their holidays and their money on French soil. Thus enterprise has been
stimulated in various quarters, and we find really good accommodation in
out-of-the-way spots not mentioned in guide-books of a few years' date.
Gérardmer is now reached by rail in two hours from Épinal, on the great
Strasburg line, but those who prefer a drive across country may approach
it from Plombières, Remiremont, Colmar and Münster, and other attractive
routes. Once arrived at Gérardmer, the traveller will certainly not care
to hurry away. No site in the Vosges is better suited for excursionizing
in all directions, and the place itself is full of quiet charm. There is
wonderful sweetness and solace in these undulating hill-sides, clothed
with brightest green, their little tossing rivers and sunny glades all
framed by solemn hills--I should rather say mountains--pitchy black with
the solemn pine. You may search far and wide for a picture so engaging as
Gérardmer when the sun shines, its gold-green slopes sprinkled with white
châlets, its red-roofed village clustered about a rustic church tower,
and at its feet the loveliest little lake in the world, from which rise
gently the fir-clad heights.

And no monotony! You climb the inviting hills and woods day by day, week
after week, ever to find fresh enchantment. Not a bend of road or winding
mountain-path but discloses a new scene--here a fairy glen, with graceful
birch or alder breaking the expanse of dimpled green; there a spinny of
larch or of Scotch fir cresting a verdant monticule; now we come upon a
little Arcadian home nestled on the hill-side, the spinning-wheel hushed
whilst the housewife turns her hay or cuts her patch of rye or wheat
growing just outside her door. Now we follow the musical little river
Vologne as it tosses over its stony bed amid banks golden with yellow
loosestrife, or gently ripples amid fair stretches of pasture starred
with the grass of Parnassus. The perpetual music of rushing, tumbling,
trickling water is delightful, and even in hot weather, if it is ever
indeed hot here, the mossy banks and babbling streams must give a sense
of coolness. Deep down, entombed amid smiling green hills and frowning
forest peaks, lies the pearl of Gérardmer, its sweet lake, a sheet of
turquoise in early morn, silvery bright when the noon-day sun flashes
upon it, and on grey, sunless days gloomy as Acheron itself.

[Illustration: A VOSGIAN SCENE]

Travellers stinted for time cannot properly enjoy the pastoral scenes,
not the least charm of which is the frank, pleasant character of the
people. Wherever we go we make friends and hear confidences. To these
peasant folks, who live so secluded from the outer world, the annual
influx of visitors from July to September is a positive boon, moral as
well as material. The women are especially confidential, inviting us into
their homely yet not poverty-stricken kitchens, keeping us as long as
they can whilst they chat about their own lives or ask us questions. The
beauty, politeness, and clear direct speech of the children, are
remarkable. Life here is laborious, but downright want I should say rare.
As in the Jura, the forest gorges and park-like solitudes are disturbed
by the sound of hammer and wheel, and a tall factory chimney not
infrequently spoils a wild landscape. The greater part of the people
gain, their livelihood in the manufactories, very little land here being
suitable for tillage.

Gérardmer is famous for its cheeses; another local industry is turnery
and the weaving of linen, the linen manufactories employing many hands,
whilst not a mountain cottage is without its handloom for winter use.
Weaving at home is chiefly resorted to as a means of livelihood in
winter, when the country is covered with snow and no out-door occupations
are possible. Embroidery is also a special fabric of the Vosges, but its
real wealth lies in mines of salt and iron, and mineral waters.

One chief feature in Gérardmer is the congeries of handsome buildings
bearing the inscription _"École Communale"_ and how stringently the
new educational law is enforced throughout France may be gathered from
the spectacle of schoolboys at drill. We saw three squadrons, each under
the charge of a separate master, evidently made up from all classes of
the community. Some of the boys were poorly, nay, miserably, clad,
others wore good homely clothes, a few were really well dressed.

Our first week at Gérardmer was wet and chilly. Fires and winter clothes
would have been acceptable, but at last came warmth and sunshine, and we
set off for the Col de la Schlucht, the grandest feature of the Vosges,
and the goal of every traveller in these regions.

[Illustration: CIRQUE DE RETOURNEMER]

There is a strange contrast between the calm valley of Gérardmer, a
little haven of tranquil loveliness and repose, and the awful solitude
and austerity of the Schlucht, from which it is separated by a few hours
only. Not even a cold grey day can turn Gérardmer into a dreary place,
but in the most brilliant sunshine this mountain pass is none the less
majestic and solemn. One obtains the sense of contrast by slow degrees,
so that the mind is prepared for it and in the mood for it. The acme, the
culminating point of Vosges scenery is thus reached by a gradually
ascending scale of beauty and grandeur from the moment we quit Gérardmer,
till we stand on the loftiest summit of the Vosges chain, dominating the
Schlucht. For the first half-hour we skirt the alder-fringed banks of the
tossing, foaming little river Vologne, as it winds amid lawny spaces, on
either side the fir-clad ridges rising like ramparts. Here all is
gentleness and golden calm, but soon we quit this warm, sunny region, and
enter the dark forest road curling upwards to the airy pinnacle to which
we are bound. More than once we have to halt on our way. One must stop to
look at the cascade made by the Vologne, never surely fuller than now,
one of the prettiest cascades in the world, masses of snow-white foam
tumbling over a long, uneven stair of granite through the midst of a
fairy glen. The sound of these rushing waters is long in our ears as we
continue to climb the splendid mountain road that leads to the Schlucht,
and nowhere else. From a giddy terrace cut in the sides of the shelving
forest ridge we now get a prospect of the little lakes of Longuemer and
Retournemer, twin gems of superlative loveliness in the wildest
environment. Deep down they lie, the two silvery sheets of water with
their verdant holms, making a little world of peace and beauty, a toy
dropped amid Titanic awfulness and splendour. The vantage ground is on
the edge of a dizzy precipice, but the picture thus sternly framed is too
exquisite to be easily abandoned. We gaze and gaze in spite of the vast
height from which we contemplate it; and when at last we tear ourselves
away from the engaging scene, we are in a region all ruggedness and
sublimity, on either side rocky scarps and gloomy forests, with reminders
by the wayside that we are approaching an Alpine flora. Nothing can be
wilder or more solitary than the scene. For the greater part, the forests
through which our road is cut are unfrequented, except by the wild boar,
deer, and wild cat, and in winter time the fine mountain roads are
rendered impenetrable by the accumulation of snow.

This approach to the Col is by a tunnel cut in the granite, fit entrance
to one of the wildest regions in France. The road now makes a sudden bend
towards the châlet cresting the Col, and we are able in a moment to
realize its tremendous position.

From our little châlet we look upon what seems no mere cleft in a
mountain chain, but in the vast globe itself. This huge hollow, brought
about by some strange geological perturbation, is the valley of Münster,
no longer a part of French territory, but of Prussian Elsass. The road we
have come by lies behind us, but another as formidable winds under the
upper mountain ridge towards Münster, whilst the pedestrian may follow a
tiny green footpath that will lead him thither, right through the heart
of the pass. Looking deep down we discern here and there scattered
châlets amid green spaces far away. These are the homesteads or
_chaumes_ of the herdsmen, all smiling cheerfulness now, but
deserted in winter. Except for such little dwellings, barely
discernible, so distant are they, there is no break in the solitary
scene, no sign of life at all.

The châlet is a fair hostelry for unfastidious travellers, its chief
drawback being the propensity of tourists to get up at three o'clock in
the morning in order to behold the sunrise from the Hoheneck. Good beds,
good food, and from the windows, one of the finest prospects in the
world, might well tempt many to linger here in spite of the disturbance
above mentioned. For the lover of flowers this halting-place would be
delightful.

Next morning the day dawned fair, and by eight o'clock we set off with a
guide for the ascent of the Hoheneck, rather, I should say, for a long
ramble over gently undulating green and flowery ways. After climbing a
little beechwood, all was smoothness under our feet, and the long
_détour_ we had to make in order to reach the summit was a series of
the gentlest ascents, a wandering over fair meadow-land several thousand
feet above the sea-level. Here we found the large yellow gentian, used in
the fabrication of absinthe, and the bright yellow arnica, whilst instead
of the snow-white flower of the Alpine anemone, the ground was now
silvery with its feathery seed; the dark purple pansy of the Vosges was
also rare. We were a month too late for the season of flowers, but the
foxglove and the bright pink Epilobium still bloomed in great luxuriance.

It was a walk to remember. The air was brisk and genial, the blue sky
lightly flecked with clouds, the turf fragrant with wild thyme, and
before our eyes we had a panorama every moment gaining in extent and
grandeur. As yet indeed the scene, the features of which we tried to make
out, looked more like cloudland than solid reality. On clear days are
discerned here, far beyond the rounded summits of the Vosges chain, the
Rhine Valley, the Black Forest, the Jura range, and the snow-capped Alps.
To-day we saw grand masses of mountains piled one above the other, and
higher still a pageantry of azure and gold that seemed to belong to the
clouds.

No morning could promise fairer, but hardly had we reached the goal of
our walk when from far below came an ominous sound of thunder, and we saw
heavy rain-clouds dropping upon the heights we had left behind.

All hope of a fine prospect was now at an end, but instead we had a
compensating spectacle. For thick and fast the clouds came pouring into
one chasm after another, drifting in all directions, here a mere
transparent veil drawn across the violet hills, there a golden splendour
as of some smaller sun shining on a green little world. At one moment the
whole vast scene was blurred and blotted with chill winter mist; soon a
break was visible, and far away we gazed on a span of serene amethystine
sky, barred with lines of bright gold. Not one, but a dozen, horizons--a
dozen heavens--seemed there, whilst the thunder that reached us from
below seemed too remote to threaten. But at last the clouds gathered in
form and volume, hiding the little firmaments of violet and amber; the
bright blue sky, bending over the green oasis--all vanished as if by
magic. We could see no more, and nothing remained but to go back, and the
quicker the better. The storm, our guide said, was too far off to reach
us yet, and we might reach the châlet without being drenched to the skin,
as we fortunately did. No sooner, however, were we fairly under shelter
than the rain poured down in torrents and the thunder pealed overhead. In
no part of France are thunderstorms so frequent and so destructive as
here, nowhere is the climate less to be depended on. A big umbrella,
stout shoes, and a waterproof are as necessary in the Vosges as in our
own Lake district.

We had, however, a fine afternoon for our drive back, a quick downhill
journey along the edge of a tremendous precipice, clothed with
beech-trees and brushwood. A most beautiful road it is, and the two
little lakes looked lovely in the sunshine, encircled by gold-green
swards and a delicate screen of alder branches. Through pastures white
with meadow-sweet the turbulent, crystal-clear little river Vologne
flowed merrily, making dozens of tiny cascades, turning a dozen
mill-wheels in its course. All the air was fragrant with newly-turned
hay, and never, we thought, had Gérardmer and its lake made a more
captivating picture.

Excursions innumerable may be made from Gérardmer. We may drive across
country to Remiremont, to Plombières, to Wesserling, to Colmar, to St.
Dié, whilst these places in turn make very good centres for excursions.
On no account must a visit to La Bresse be omitted. This is one of the
most ancient towns in the Vosges. Like some of the villages in the Morvan
and in the department of La Nièvre, La Bresse remained till the
Revolution an independent commune, a republic in miniature. The heads of
families of both sexes took part in the election of magistrates, and from
this patriarchal legislation there was seldom any appeal to the higher
court--namely, that of Nancy. La Bresse is still a rich commune by
reason of its forests and industries. The sound of the mill-wheel and
hammer now disturbs these mountain solitudes, and although so isolated by
natural position, this little town is no longer cut off from cosmopolitan
influence. The little tavern is developing into a very fair inn. In the
summer tourists from all parts of France pass through it, in carriages,
on foot, occasionally on horseback. Most likely it now possesses a
railway station, a newspaper kiosk, and a big hotel, as at Gérardmer!

As we drop down upon La Bresse after our climb of two hours and more, we
seem to be at the world's end. Our road has led us higher and higher by
dense forests and wild granite parapets, tasselled with fern and
foxglove, till we suddenly wheel round upon a little straggling town
marvellously placed. Deep down it lies, amid fairy-like greenery and
silvery streams, whilst high above tower the rugged forest peaks and
far-off blue mountains, in striking contrast.

The sloping green banks, starred with the grass of Parnassus, and musical
with a dozen streams, the pastoral dwellings, each with its patch of
flower garden and croft; the glades, dells and natural terraces are all
sunny and gracious as can be; but round about and high above frown
inaccessible granite peaks, and pitchy-black forest summits, impenetrable
even at this time of the year. As we look down we see that roads have
been cut round the mountain sides, and that tiny homesteads are perched
wherever vantage ground is to be had, yet the impression is one of
isolation and wildness. The town lies in no narrow cleft, as is the case
with many little manufacturing towns in the Jura, but in a vast opening
and falling back of the meeting hills and mountain tops, so that it is
seen from far and wide, and long before it is approached. We had made the
first part of our journey at a snail's pace. No sooner were we on the
verge of the hills looking down upon La Bresse, than we set off at a
desperate rate, spinning breathlessly round one mountain spur after
another, till we were suddenly landed in the village street, dropped, as
it seemed, from a balloon.

A curious feature to be noted in all the places I have mentioned is the
outer wooden casing of the houses. This is done as a protection against
the cold, the Vosges possessing, with the Auvergne and the Limousin, the
severest climate in France. La Bresse, like Gérardmer and other sweet
valleys of these regions, is disfigured by huge factories, yet none can
regret the fact, seeing what well-being these industries bring to the
people. Beggars are numerous, but we are told they are strangers, who
merely invade these regions during the tourist season.

Remiremont, our next halting-place, may be reached by a pleasant carriage
drive, but the railway is more convenient to travellers encumbered with
half-a-dozen trunks. The railway, moreover, cuts right through the
beautiful valley of the Moselle--a prospect which is missed by road.
Remiremont is charming. We do not get the creature comforts of Gérardmer,
but by way of compensation we find a softer and more genial climate. The
engaging little town is indeed one of nature's sanatoriums. The streets
are kept clean by swift rivulets, and all the air is fragrant with
encircling fir-woods. Like Gérardmer and La Bresse, however, Remiremont
lies open to the sun. A belt of flowery dells, terraced orchards, and
wide pastures, amid which meanders the clear blue Moselle, girds it round
about, and no matter which path you take, it is sure to lead to inviting
prospects. The arcades lend a Spanish look to the town, and recall the
street architecture of Lons-le-Saunier and Arbois in the Jura. Flower
gardens abound, and the general atmosphere is one of prosperity and
cheerfulness.

The historic interest of this now dead-alive little town centres around
its lady abbesses, who for centuries held sovereign rule and state in
their abbatial palace, at the present time the Hôtel de Ville. These
high-born dames, like certain temporal rulers of the sex, loved battle,
and more than one _chanoinesse_, when defied by feudal neighbours,
mounted the breach and directed her people. One and all were of noble
birth, and many doubtless possessed the intellectual distinction and
personal charm of Renan's _Abbesse de Jouarre_.

There are beautiful walks about Remiremont, and one especial path amid
the fragrant fir-woods leads to a curious relic of ancient time--a little
chapel formerly attached to a Lazar-house. It now belongs to the
adjoining farm close by, a pleasant place, with flower-garden and
orchard. High up in the woods dominating the broad valley in which
Remiremont is placed are some curious prehistoric stones. But more
inviting than the steep climb under a burning sun--for the weather has
changed on a sudden--is the drive to the Vallée d'Hérival, a drive so
cool, so soothing, so delicious, that we fancy we can never feel heated,
languid, or irritated any more.

The isolated dwellings of the dalesfolk in the midst of tremendous
solitudes--little pastoral scenes such as Corot loved to paint--and
hemmed round by the sternest, most rugged nature, are one of the
characteristics of Vosges scenery. We also find beside tossing rivers and
glittering cascades a solitary linen factory or saw-mill, with the
modern-looking villa of the employer, and clustered round it the cottages
of the work-people. No sooner does the road curl again than we are once
more in a solitude as complete as if we were in some primeval forest of
the new world. We come suddenly upon the Vallée d'Hérival, but the deep
close gorge we gaze upon is only the beginning of the valley within
valley we have come to see. Our road makes a loop round the valley so
that we see it from two levels, and under two aspects. As we return,
winding upwards on higher ground, we get glimpses of sunny dimpled sward
through the dark stems of the majestic fir-trees towering over our head.
There is every gradation of form and colour in the picture, from the ripe
warm gold barring the branches of the firs, to the pale silveriness of
their upper foliage; from the gigantic trees rising from the gorge below,
each seeming to fill a chasm, to the airy, graceful birch, a mere toy
beside it. Rare butterflies abound, but we see few birds.

The hardy pedestrian is an enviable person here, for although excellent
carriages are to be had, some of the most interesting excursions must be
made on foot.

I do not suppose that matters are very greatly changed in hotels here
since my visit so many years ago. In certain respects travellers fare
well. They may feast like Lucullus on fresh trout and on the dainty
aniseed cakes which are a local speciality. But hygienic arrangements
were almost prehistoric, and although politeness itself, mine host and
hostess showed strange nonchalance towards their guests. Thus, when
ringing and ringing again for our tea and bread and butter between seven
and eight o'clock, the chamber--not maid, but man--informed us that
Madame had gone to mass, and everything was locked up till her return.

Even the fastidious tourist, however, will hardly care to exchange his
somewhat rough and noisy quarters at Remiremont for the cosmopolitan
comforts of Plombières within such easy reach. It is a pretty drive of an
hour and a half to Plombières, and all is prettiness there--its little
park, its tiny lake, its toy town.

It is surely one of the hottest places in the world, and like Spa, of
which it reminds me, must be one of the most wearisome. Just such a
promenade, with a sleepy band, just such a casino, just such a routine.
This favourite resort of the third Napoleon has of late years seen many
rivals springing up. Vittel, Bains, Bussang--all in the Vosges--yet it
continues to hold up its head. The site is really charming, but so close
is the valley in which the town lies, that it is a veritable hothouse,
and the reverse, we should think, of what an invalid wants. Plombières
has always had illustrious visitors--Montaigne, who upon several
occasions took the waters here--Maupertuis, Voltaire, Beaumarchais, the
Empress Josephine, and a host of historic personages. But the emperor may
be called the creator of Plombières. The park, the fine road to
Remiremont, the handsome Bain Napoleon (now National), the church, all
these owe their existence to him, and during the imperial visits the
remote spot suffered a strange transformation. The pretty country road
along which we met a couple of carriages yesterday became as brilliant
and animated as the Bois de Boulogne. It was a perpetual coming and going
of fashionable personages. The emperor used to drive over to Remiremont
and dine at the little dingy commercial hotel, the best in the place,
making himself agreeable to everybody. But all this is past, and nowhere
throughout France is patriotism more ardent or the democratic spirit
more alert than in the Vosges. The reasons are obvious. We are here on
the borders of the lost provinces, the two fair and rich departments of
Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin, now effaced from the map of France. Reminders of
that painful severance of a vast population from its nationality are too
vivid for a moment to be lost sight of. Many towns of the Vosges and of
the ancient portion of Lorraine not annexed, such as Nancy, have been
enriched by the immigration of large commercial firms from the other side
of the new frontier. The great majority of Alsatians, by force of
circumstances and family ties, were compelled to remain--French at
heart, German according to law. The bitterness and intensity of this
feeling, reined-in yet apparent, constitutes the one painful feature of
Vosges travel. Of course there is a wide difference between the
supporters of retaliation, such journals as _L'Alsacien-Lorrain_,
and quiet folks who hate war, even more than a foreign domination. But
the yearning towards the parent country is too strong to be overcome. No
wonder that as soon as the holidays begin there is a rush of French
tourists across the Vosges. From Strasburg, Metz, St. Marie aux Mines,
they flock to Gérardmer and other family resorts. And if some
Frenchwoman--maybe, sober matron--dons the pretty Alsatian dress, and
dances the Alsatian dance with an exile like herself, the enthusiasm is
too great to be described. Lookers-on weep, shake hands, embrace each
other. For a brief moment the calmest are carried away by intensity of
patriotic feeling. The social aspect of Vosges travel is one of its chief
charms. You must here live with French people, whether you will or no.
Insular reserve cannot resist the prevailing friendliness and
good-fellowship. How long such a state of things will exist, who can say?
Fortunately for the lover of nature, most of the places I have mentioned
are too unobtrusive ever to become popular. "Nothing to see here, and
nothing to do," would surely be the verdict of most globe-trotters even
on sweet Gérardmer itself!



II

THE CHARM OF ALSACE

The notion of here reprinting my notes of Alsatian travel was suggested
by a recent French work--_À travers l'Alsace en flânant_, from the
pen of M. André Hallays. This delightful writer had already published
several volumes dealing with various French provinces, more especially
from an archaeological point of view. In his latest and not least
fascinating _flânerie_ he gives the experiences of several holiday
tours in Germanized France.

My own sojourns, made at intervals among French friends, _annexés_
both of Alsace and Lorraine, were chiefly undertaken in order to realize
the condition of the German Emperor's French subjects. But I naturally
visited many picturesque sites and historic monuments in both, the
forfeited territories being especially rich. Whilst volume after volume
of late years have appeared devoted to French travel, holiday tourists
innumerable jotting their brief experiences of well-known regions,
strangely enough no English writer has followed my own example. No work
has here appeared upon Alsace and Lorraine. On the other side of the
Channel a vast literature on the subject has sprung up. Novels, travels,
reminiscences, pamphlets on political and economic questions, one and all
breathing the same spirit, continue to appear in undiminished numbers.

Ardent spirits still fan the flame of revolt. The burning thirst for
re-integration remains unquenched. Garbed in crape, the marble figure of
Strasburg still holds her place on the Place de la Concorde. The French
language, although rigidly prohibited throughout Germanized France, is
studied and upheld more sedulously than before Sedan. And after the lapse
of forty years a German minister lately averred that French Alsatians
were more French than ever. _Les Noëllets_ of René Bazin, M. Maurice
Barrès' impassioned series, _Les Bastions de l'Est_, enjoy immense
popularity, and within the last few months have appeared two volumes
which fully confirm the views of their forerunners--M. Hallays'
impressions of many wayfarings and _Après quarante ans_ by M. Jules
Claretie, the versatile, brilliant and much respected administrator-general
of the Comédie Française.

Whilst in these days of peace and arbitration propaganda the crime of
enforced denationalization seems more heinous than ever, there appears
little likelihood of the country conquered by Louis XIV., and re-conquered
by German arms a century and a half later, again waving the Tricolour.

Let us hope, however, that some _via media_ may be found, and that
if not recovering its lost privilege, the passionately coveted French
name, as a federal state Alsace and Lorraine may become independent and
prosperous.

For a comprehensive study of Alsace and its characteristics, alike
social, artistic and intellectual, readers must go to M. Hallays' volume.
In every development this writer shows that a special stamp may be found.
Neither Teutonic nor Gallic, art and handicrafts reveal indigenous
growth, and the same feature may be studied in town and village, in
palace, cathedral and cottage.

We must remember that we are here dealing with a region of very ancient
civilization. Taste has been slowly developed, artistic culture is of no
mushroom growth. Alsace formed the highroad between Italy and Flanders.
In M. Hallays' words, already during the Renaissance, aesthetic Alsace
blended the lessons of north and south, her genius was a product of good
sense, experience and a feeling of proportion. And he points out how in
the eighteenth century French taste influenced Alsatian faïence, woven
stuffs, ironwork, sculpture, wood-carving and furniture, even peasant
interiors being thereby modified. "Alsace," he writes, "holds us
spell-bound by the originality of culture and temperament found among her
inhabitants. It has generally been taken for granted that native genius
is here a mere blend of French and German character, that Alsatian
sentiment appertains to the latter stock, intellectual development to the
former, that the inhabitants think in French and imagine in German. There
is a certain leaven of truth in these assumptions, but when we hold
continued intercourse with all classes, listen to their speech,
familiarize ourselves with their modes of life and mental outlook, we
arrive again and again at one conclusion: we say to ourselves, here is an
element which is neither Teutonic nor Gallic. I cannot undertake to
particularize, I only note in my pages those instances that occur by the
way. And the conviction that we are here penetrating a little world
hitherto unknown to us, such novelty being revealed in every stroll and
chat, lends extraordinary interest to our peregrination."

It is especially an artistic Alsace that M. Hallays reveals to us.
Instead of visiting battlefields, he shows us that English travellers may
find ample interest of other kind. The artist, the ecclesiologist, the
art-loving have here a storehouse of unrevealed treasure. A little-read
but weighty writer, Mme. de Staël, has truly averred that the most
beautiful lands in the world, if devoid of famous memories and if bearing
no impress of great events, cannot be compared in interest to historic
regions. Hardly a spot of the annexed provinces but is stamped with
indelible and, alas! blood-stained, records. From the tenth century until
the peace of Westphalia, these territories belonged to the German empire,
being ruled by sovereign dukes and princes. In 1648 portions of both
provinces were ceded to France, and a few years later, in times of peace,
Strasburg was ruthlessly seized and appropriated by the arch-despot and
militarist, Louis XIV. By the treaty of Ryswick, that of Westphalia was
ratified, and thenceforward Alsace and Lorraine remained radically and
passionately French. In 1871 was witnessed an awful historic retribution,
a political crime paralleling its predecessor committed by the French
king two centuries before. Alsace-Lorraine still awaits the fulfilment of
her destiny. Meantime, as Rachel mourning for her children, she weeps
sore and will not be comforted.

Historically speaking, therefore, the annexed provinces present a
strangely complex patchwork and oft-repeated palimpsest, civilization
after civilization overlapping each other. If Alsace-Lorraine has
produced no Titan either in literature or art, she yet shows a goodly
roll-call.

The name heading the list stands for France herself. It was a young
soldier of Strasburg--not, however, Alsatian born--who, in April, 1792,
composed a song that saved France from the fate of Poland and changed the
current of civilization. By an irony of destiny the Tricolour no longer
waves over the cradle of the Marseillaise!

That witty writer, Edmond About, as well as the "Heavenly Twins" of
Alsatian fiction, was born in Lorraine, but all three so thoroughly
identified themselves with this province that they must be regarded as
her sons. Those travellers who, like myself, have visited Edmond About's
woodland retreat in Saverne can understand the bitterness with which he
penned his volume--_Alsace 1870-1_--and the concluding lines of the
preface--

"If I have here uttered an untrue syllable, I give M. de Bismarck
permission to treat my modest dwelling as if it were a villa of Saint
Cloud."

The literary brethren whose pictures of Alsatian peasant life, both in
war and peace, have become world-wide classics, suffered no less than
their brilliant contemporary, and their works written after annexation
breathe equal bitterness. The celebrated partnership which began in 1848
and lasted for a quarter of a century, has been thus described by Edmond
About: "The two friends see each other very rarely, whether in Paris or
in the Vosges. When they do meet, they together elaborate the scheme of
a new work. Then Erckmann writes it. Chatrian corrects it--and sometimes
puts it in the fire!" One at least of their plays enjoys equal
popularity with the novel from which it is drawn. To have witnessed
_L'Ami Fritz_ at Molière's house in the last decade of the nineteenth
century was an experience to remember. That consummate artist, Got, was
at his very best--if the superlative in such a case is applicable--as
the good old Rabbi. No less enchanting was Mlle. Reichenbach, the
_doyenne_ of the Comédie Française, as Suzel. Of this charming artist
Sarcey wrote that, having attained her sixteenth year, there she made
the long-stop, never oldening with others. _L'Ami Fritz_ is, in reality,
a German bucolic, the scene being laid in Bavaria. But it has long been
accepted as a classic, and on the stage it becomes thoroughly French.
This delightful story was written in 1864, that is to say, before any
war-cloud had arisen over the eastern frontier, and before the evocation
of a fiend as terrible, the anti-Jewish crusade culminating in the
Dreyfus crime.

It is painful to reflect that whilst twenty years ago the engaging old
Jew of this piece was vociferously acclaimed on the first French stage,
the drama of a gifted Jewish writer has this year been banned in Paris!

Edmond About and Erckmann and Chatrian belong to the same period as
another native, and more famous, genius, the precocious, superabundantly
endowed Gustave Doré. Of this "admirable Crichton" I give a sketch.

For mere holiday-makers in search of exhilaration and beauty, Alsace
offers attractions innumerable, sites grandiose and idyllic, picturesque
ruins, superb forests, old churches of rare interest and many a splendid
historic pile.

There are naturally drawbacks to intense lovers of France. Throughout M.
Hallays' volume he acknowledges the courtesy of German officials, a fact
to which I had borne testimony when first journalizing my own
experiences. Certain aspects of enforced Germanization can but afflict
all outsiders. There is firstly that obtrusive militarism from which we
cannot for a moment escape. Again, a no less false note strikes us in
matters aesthetic. Modern German taste in art, architecture and
decoration do not harmonize with the ancientness and historic severity of
Alsace. The restoration of Hohkönigsburg and the new quarters of
Strasburg are instances in point. All who visited the German art section
of the Paris Exhibition in 1900 will understand this dis-harmony.

The reminiscences of my second and third journeys in Alsace and Lorraine
having already appeared in volume form, still in print (_East of
Paris_), are therefore omitted here. For the benefit of English
travellers in the annexed portion of the last-named province I cite a
passage from M. Maurice Barrès' beautiful story, _Colette Baudoche_.
His hero is German and his heroine French, a charming _Messine_ or
native of Metz. In company of Colette's mother and a friend or two, the
_fiancés_ take part in a little festival held at Gorze, a village
near the blood-stained fields of Gravelotte and Mars-la-Tour--

"At Gorze, church, lime-trees, dwellings and folks belong to the olden
time, that is to say, all are very French.... In crossing the square the
five holiday-makers halted before the Hôtel de Ville and read with
interest a commemorative inscription on the walls. A tablet records
English generosity in 1870, when, after the carnage and devastation of
successive battles, money, roots and seeds were distributed among the
peasants by a relief committee. The inspection over, the little party
gaily sat down to dinner in an inn close by, regaling themselves with
fried English potatoes, descendants of those sent across the Manche forty
years before."

As I re-read this passage I think sadly how the tribute from such a pen
would have rejoiced the two moving spirits of that famous relief
committee--Sir John Robinson and Mr. Bullock Hall, both long since
passed, away. To the whilom editor of the _Daily News_ both
initiative and realization were mainly owing, the latter being the
laborious and devoted agent of distribution.

But an omission caused bitterness. Whilst Mr. Bullock Hall most
deservedly received the Red Ribbon, his leader was overlooked. The tens
of thousands of pounds collected by Sir John Robinson which may be said
to have kept alive starving people and vivified deserts, were gratefully
acknowledged by the French Government. By some unaccountable
misconception, the decoration here only gratified one good friend of
France.

"I should much have liked the Legion of Honour," sighed the kindly old
editor to me, a year or two before he died.

I add that my second sojourn in Alsace-Lorraine was made at Sir John's
suggestion, the series of papers dealing with Metz, Strasburg, and its
neighbourhood appearing from day to day in the _Daily News_.

English tourists must step aside and read the tablet on the Hôtel de
Ville of Gorze, reminder, by the way, of the Entente Cordiale!



III

IN GUSTAVE DORÉ'S COUNTRY

The Vosges and Alsace-Lorraine must be taken together, as the tourist is
constantly compelled to zigzag across the new frontier. Many of the most
interesting points of departure for excursionizing in the Vosges lie in
Alsace-Lorraine, while few travellers who have got so far as Gérardmer
or St. Dié will not be tempted to continue their journey, at least as far
as the beautiful valleys of Munster and St. Marie-aux-Mines, both
peopled by French people under German domination. Arrived at either of
these places, the tourist will be at a loss which route to take of the
many open to him. On the one hand are the austere sites of the Vosges,
impenetrable forests darkening the rounded mountain tops, granite
precipices silvered with perpetual cascades, awful ravines hardly less
gloomy in the noonday sun than in wintry storms, and as a relief to these
sombre features, the sunniest little homesteads perched on airy terraces
of gold-green; crystal streams making vocal the flowery meadow and the
mossy dell, and lovely little lakes shut in by rounded hills, made double
in their mirror. In Alsace-Lorraine we find a wholly different landscape,
and are at once reminded that we are in one of the fairest and most
productive districts of Europe. All the vast Alsatian plain in September
is a-bloom with fruit garden and orchard, vineyard and cornfield, whilst
as a gracious framework, a romantic background to the picture, are the
vineclad heights crested with ruined castles and fortresses worthy to be
compared to Heidelberg and Ehrenbreitstein. We had made a leisurely
journey from Gérardmer to St. Dié, bishopric and _chef-lieu_ of the
department of the Vosges, without feeling sure of our next move.
Fortunately a French acquaintance advised us to drive to
St. Marie-aux-Mines, one of the most wonderful little spots in these
regions, of which we had never before heard. A word or two, however,
concerning St. Dié itself, one of the most ancient monastic foundations
in France. The town is pleasant enough, and the big hotel not bad, as
French hotels go. But in the Vosges, the tourist gets somewhat spoiled
in the matter of hotels. Wherever we go our hosts are so much interested
in us, and make so much of us, that we feel aggrieved at sinking into
mere numbers three or four. Many of these little inns offer homely
accommodation, but the landlord and landlady themselves wait upon the
guests, unless, which often happens, the host is cook, no piece of
ill-fortune for the traveller! These good people have none of the false
shame often conspicuous among the same class in England. At Remiremont,
our hostess came bustling down at the last moment saying how she had
hurried to change her dress in order to bid us good-bye. Here the
son-in-law, a fine handsome fellow, was the cook, and when dinner was
served he used to emerge from his kitchen and chat with the guests or
play with his children in the cool evening hour. There is none of that
differentiation of labour witnessed in England, and on the whole the
stranger fares none the worse. With regard to French hotels generally
the absence of competition in large towns strikes an English mind. At
St. Dié, as in many other places, there was at the time of my visit but
one hotel, which had doubtless been handed down from generation to
generation, simply because no rival aroused a spirit of emulation.

St. Dié has a pleasant environment in the valley of the Meurthe, and may
be made the centre of many excursions. Its picturesque old Romanesque
cathedral of red sandstone, about which are grouped noble elms, grows
upon the eye; more interesting and beautiful by far are the Gothic
cloisters leading from within to the smaller church adjoining. These
delicate arcades, in part restored, form a quadrangle. Greenery fills the
open space, and wild antirrhinum and harebell brighten the grey walls.
Springing from one side is an out-of-door pulpit carved in stone, a
striking and suggestive object in the midst of the quiet scene. We should
like to know what was preached from that stone pulpit, and what manner of
man was the preacher. The bright green space, the delicate arcades of
soft grey, the bits of foliage here and there, with the two silent
churches blocking in all, make up an impressive scene.

We wanted the country, however, rather than the towns, so after a few
days at St. Dié, hired a carriage to take us to St. Marie-aux-Mines or
Markirch, on the German side of the frontier, and not accessible from
this side by rail. We enter Alsace, indeed, by a needle's eye, so narrow
the pass in which St. Marie lies. Here a word of warning to the tourist.
Be sure to examine your carriage and horses well before starting. We were
provided for our difficult drive with what Spenser calls "two unequal
beasts," namely, a trotting horse and a horse that could only canter,
with a very uncomfortable carriage, the turnout costing over a
pound--pretty well, that, for a three hours' drive. However, in spite of
discomfort, we would not have missed the journey on any account. The
site of this little cotton-spinning town is one of the most extraordinary
in the world. We first traverse a fruitful, well cultivated plain,
watered by the sluggish Meurthe, then begin to ascend a spur of the
western chain of the Vosges, formerly dividing the two French
departments of Vosges and Haut Rhin, now marking the boundaries of
France and German Elsass. Down below, amid the hanging orchards,
flower-gardens and hayfields, we were on French soil, but the flagstaff,
just discernible on yonder green pinnacles, marks the line of
demarcation between France and the conquered territory of the German
empire. For the matter of that, the Prussian helmet makes the fact
patent. As surely as we have set foot in the Reich, we see one of these
gleaming casques, so hateful still in French eyes. They seem to spring
from the ground like Jason's warriors from the dragon's teeth. This new
frontier divided in olden times the dominions of Alsace and Lorraine,
when it was the custom to say of many villages that the bread was
kneaded in one country and baked in the other.

Nothing could be more lovely than the dim violet hills far away, and the
virginal freshness of the pastoral scenery around. But only a
stout-hearted pedestrian can properly enjoy this beautiful region. We
had followed the example of another party of tourists in front of us,
and accomplished a fair climb on foot, and when we had wound and wound
our way up the lofty green mountain to the flagstaff before mentioned,
we wanted to do the rest of our journey on foot also. But alike
compassion for the beasts and energy had gone far enough, we were only
too glad to reseat ourselves, and drive, or rather be whirled, down to
St. Marie-aux-Mines in the vehicle. Do what we would there was no
persuading our driver to slacken pace enough so as to admit of a full
enjoyment of the prospect that unfolded before us.

The wonderful little town! Black pearl set in the richest casket! This
commonplace, flourishing centre of cotton spinning, woollen, and
cretonne manufacture, built in red brick, lies in the narrow, beautiful
valley of the Lièpvrette, as it is called from the babbling river of
that name. But there is really no valley at all. The congeries of
red-roofed houses, factory chimneys and church towers, Catholic and
Protestant, is hemmed round by a narrow gorge, wedged in between the
hills which are just parted so as to admit of such an intrusion, no
more. The green convolutions of the mountain sides are literally folded
round the town, a pile of green velvet spread fan-like in a draper's
window has not softer, neater folds! As we enter it from the St. Dié side
we find just room for a carriage to wind along the little river and the
narrow street. But at the other end the valley opens, and St.
Marie-aux-mines spreads itself out. Here are factories, handsome country
houses, and walks up-hill and down-hill in abundance. Just above the
town, over the widening gorge, is a deliciously cool pine-wood which
commands a vast prospect--the busy little town caught in the toils of
the green hills; the fertile valley of the Meurthe as we gaze in the
direction from which we have come; the no less fertile plains of
Lorraine before us; close under and around us, many a dell and woodland
covert with scattered homes of dalesfolk in sunny places and slanting
hills covered with pines. It is curious to reflect that St.
Marie-aux-Mines, mentioned as Markirch in ancient charts, did not become
entirely French till the eighteenth century. Originally the inhabitants
on the left bank of the Lièpvrette were subjects of the Dukes of
Lorraine, spoke French, and belonged to the Catholic persuasion, whilst
those dwelling on the right bank of the river, adhered to the seigneury
of Ribeaupaire, and formed a Protestant German-speaking community.
Alsace, as everybody knows, was annexed to France by right--rather
wrong--of conquest under Louis XIV., but it was not till a century later
that Lorraine became a part of French territory, and the fusion of
races, a task so slowly accomplished, has now to be undone, if, indeed,
such undoing is possible!

The hotel here is a mere _auberge_ adapted to the needs of the
_commis-voyageur_, but our host and hostess are charming. As is the
fashion in these parts, they serve their guests and take the greatest
possible interest in their movements and comfort. We would willingly have
spent some days at Marie-aux-Mines--no better headquarters for
excursionizing in these regions!--but too much remained for us to do and
to see in Alsace. We dared not loiter on the way.

Everywhere we find plenty of French tourists, many of them doing their
holiday travel in the most economical fashion. We are in the habit of
regarding the French as a stay-at-home nation, and it is easy to see how
such a mistake arises. English people seldom travel in out-of-the-way
France, and our neighbours seldom travel elsewhere. Thus holiday-makers
of the two nations do not come in contact. Wherever we go we encounter
bands of pedestrians or family parties thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Nothing ruffles a French mind when bent on holiday-making. The good-nature,
_bonhomie_, and accommodating spirit displayed under trying
circumstances might be imitated by certain insular tourists with advantage.

From St. Marie-aux-Mines we journeyed to Gustave Doré's favourite resort,
Barr, a close, unsavoury little town enough, but in the midst of
bewitching scenery. "An ounce of sweet is worth a pound of sour," sings
Spenser, and at Barr we get the sweet and the sour strangely mixed. The
narrow streets smell of tanneries and less wholesome nuisances, not a
breath of fresh pure air is to be had from one end of the town to the
other. But our pretty, gracious landlady, an Alsacienne, and her husband,
the master of the house and _chef de cuisine_ as well, equally
handsome and courteous, took so much pains to make us comfortable that
we stayed on and on. Not a thousand bad smells could drive us away! Yet
there is accommodation for the traveller among the vineyards outside the
town, and also near the railway station, so Barr need not be avoided on
account of its unsavouriness. No sooner are you beyond the dingy streets
than all is beauty, pastoralness and romance. Every green peak is crested
with ruined keep or tower, at the foot of the meeting hills lie peaceful
little villages, each with its lofty church spire, whilst all the air is
fragrant with pine-woods and newly turned hay.

These pine-woods and frowning ruins set like sentinels on every green
hill or rocky eminence, recall many of Doré's happiest efforts. "_Le
pauvre garçon_," our hostess said. "_Comme il était content chez
nous_!" I can fancy how Doré would enjoy the family life of our little
old-fashioned hotel, how he would play with the children, chat with
master and mistress, and make himself agreeable all round. One can also
fancy how animated conversation would become if it chanced to take a
patriotic turn. For people speak their thoughts in Alsace,--nowhere more
freely. In season and out of season, the same sentiment comes to the
surface. "_Nous sommes plus Français que les Français_." This is the
universal expression of feeling that greeted our ears throughout our
wanderings. Such, at least, was formerly the case. The men, women and
children, rich and poor, learned and simple, gave utterance to the same
expression of feeling. Barr is a town of between six and seven thousand
souls, about twenty of whom are Prussians. A pleasant position, truly,
for the twenty officials! And what we see at Barr is the case throughout
the newly acquired German dominion. Alike the highest as well as the
humblest functionary of the imperial government is completely shut off
from intercourse with his French neighbours.

Barr lies near so much romantic scenery that the tourist in these parts
had better try the little hotel amid the mines. For, in spite of the
picturesque stork's nest close by, an excellent ordinary and the most
delightful host and hostess in the world, I cannot recommend a sojourn in
the heart of the town. The best plan of all were to halt here simply for
the sake of the excursion to St. Odile--St. Odile leads nowhither--then
hire a carriage, and make leisurely way across country by the Hohwald,
and the Champ de Feu to Rothau, Oberlin's country, thence to Strasburg.
In our own case, the fascinations of our hosts overcame our repugnance to
Barr itself, so we stayed on, every day making long drives into the
fresh, quiet, beautiful country. One of the sweet spots we discovered for
the benefit of any English folks who may chance to stray in that region
is the Hohwald, a _ville giatura_ long in vogue with the inhabitants
of Strasburg and neighbouring towns, but not mentioned in any English
guide-book at the time of my visit.

We are reminded all the way of Rhineland. The same terraced vineyards,
the same limestone crags, each with its feudal tower, the same fertility
and richness everywhere. Our road winds for miles amid avenues of
fruit-trees, laden with pear and plum, whilst on every side are
stretches of flax and corn, tobacco and hemp. What plenty and
fruitfulness are suggested at every turn! Well might Goethe extol "this
magnificent Alsace." We soon reach Andlau, a picturesque, but, it must
be confessed, somewhat dirty village, lying amid vineyards and chestnut
woods, with mediaeval gables, archways, wells, dormers. All these are
to be found at Andlau, also one of the finest churches in these parts.
I followed the _curé_ and sacristan as they took a path that wound high
above the village and the little river amid the vineyards, and obtained
a beautiful picture; hill and dale, clustered village and lofty spire,
and imposingly, confronting us at every turn, the fine façade of the
castle of Andlau, built of grey granite, and flanked at either end with
massive towers. More picturesque, but less majestic are the
neighbouring ruins of Spesburg, mere tumbling walls wreathed with
greenery, and many another castled crag we see on our way. We are
indeed in the land of old romance. Nothing imaginable more weird,
fantastic and sombre, than these spectral castles and crumbling towers
past counting! The wide landscape is peopled with these. They seem to
rise as if by magic from the level landscape, and we fancy that they
will disappear magically as they have come. And here again one wild
visionary scene after another reminds us that we are in the land of
Doré's most original inspiration. There are bits of broken pine-wood,
jagged peaks and ghostly ruins that have been already made quite
familiar to us in the pages of his _Dante_ and _Don Quixote._

The pretty rivulet Andlau accompanies us far on our way, and beautiful is
the road; high above, beech- and pine-woods, and sloping down to the road
green banks starred with large blue and white campanula, with, darkling
amid the alders, the noisy little river.

The Hohwald is the creation of a woman; that is to say, the Hohwald of
holiday-makers, tourists and tired brain-workers. "Can you imagine,"
wrote M. Edmond About, forty years ago, "an inn at the world's end that
cost a hundred thousand francs in the building? I assure you the owner
will soon have recouped her outlay. She had not a centime to begin with,
this courageous lady, left a widow without resources, and a son to bring
up. The happy thought occurred to her of a summer resort in the heart of
these glorious woods, within easy reach of Strasburg." There are gardens
and reception-rooms in common, and here as at Gérardmer croquet, music
and the dance offer an extra attraction. It must be admitted that these
big family hotels, in attractive country places with prices adapted to
all travellers, have many advantages over our own seaside lodgings.
People get much more for their money, better food, better accommodation,
with agreeable society into the bargain, and a relief from the harass of
housekeeping. The children, too, find companionship, to the great relief
of parents and nursemaids.

The Hohwald proper is a tiny village numbering a few hundred souls,
situated in the midst of magnificent forests at the foot of the famous
Champ de Feu. This is a plateau on one of the loftiest summits of the
Vosges, and very curious from a geological point of view. To explore it
properly you must be a good pedestrian. Much, indeed, of the finest
scenery of these regions is beyond reach of travellers who cannot walk
five or six hours a day.

Any one, however, may drive to St. Odile, and St. Odile is the great
excursion of Alsace. Who cares a straw for the saint and her story now?
But all tourists must be grateful to the Bishop of Strasburg, who keeps a
comfortable little inn at the top of the mountain, and, beyond the
prohibition of meat on fast-days, smoking, noise and levity of manner on
all days, makes you very comfortable for next to nothing.

The fact is, this noble plateau, commanding as splendid a natural
panorama as any in Europe, at the time I write of the property of
Monseigneur of Strasburg, was once a famous shrine and a convent of
cloistered men and women vowed to sanctity and prayer. The convent was
closed at the time of the French Revolution, and the entire property,
convent, mountain and prospect, remained in the hands of private
possessors till 1853, when the prelate of that day repurchased the whole,
restored the conventual building, put in some lay brethren to cultivate
the soil, and some lay sisters, who wear the garb of nuns, but have taken
no vows upon them except of piety, to keep the little inn and make
tourists comfortable. No arrangement could be better, and I advise any
one in want of pure air, superb scenery, and complete quiet, to betake
himself to St. Odile.

Here again I must intercalate. Since these lines were jotted down, many
changes, and apparently none for the better, have taken place here.
Intending tourists must take both M. Hallays' volume and Maurice Barrès'
_Au Service d'Allemagne_ for recent accounts of this holiday resort.
The splendid natural features remain intact.

The way from Barr lies through prosperous villages, enriched by
manufactories, yet abounding in pastoral graces. There are English-like
parks and fine châteaux of rich manufacturers; but contrasted with these
nothing like abject poverty. The houses of working-folk are clean, each
with its flower-garden, the children are neatly dressed, no squalor or
look of discontent to be seen anywhere. Every hamlet has its beautiful
spire, whilst the country is the fairest, richest conceivable; in the
woods is seen every variety of fir and pine, mingled with the lighter
foliage of chestnut and acacia, whilst every orchard has its walnut and
mulberry trees, not to speak of pear and plum. One of the chief
manufactures of these parts is that of paints and colours: there are also
ribbon and cotton factories. Rich as is the country naturally, its chief
wealth arises from these industries. In every village you hear the hum of
machinery.

You may lessen the distance from Barr to St. Odile by one-half if you
make the journey on foot, winding upwards amid the vine-clad hills, at
every turn coming upon one of those grand old ruins, as plentiful here as
in Rhineland, and quite as romantic and beautiful. The drive is a slow
and toilsome ascent of three hours and a half. As soon as we quit the
villages and climb the mountain road cut amid the pines, we are in a
superb and solitary scene. No sound of millwheels or steam-hammers is
heard here, only the summer breeze stirring the lofty pine branches, the
hum of insects, and the trickling of mountain streams. The dark-leaved
henbane is in brilliant yellow flower, and the purple foxglove in
striking contrast; but the wealth of summer flowers is over.

Who would choose to live on Ararat? Yet it is something to reach a
pinnacle from whence you may survey more than one kingdom. The prospect
from St. Odile is one to gaze on for a day, and to make us dizzy in
dreams ever after. From the umbrageous terrace in front of the
convent--cool and breezy on this, one of the hottest days of a hot
season--we see, as from a balloon, a wonderful bit of the world spread
out like a map at our feet. The vast plain of Alsace, the valley of the
Rhine, the Swiss mountains, the Black Forest, Bâle, and Strasburg--all
these we dominate from our airy pinnacle close, at it seems, under the
blue vault of heaven. But though they were there, we did not see them:
for the day, as so often happens on such occasions, was misty. We had
none the less a novel and wonderful prospect. As we sit on this cool
terrace, under the shady mulberry trees, and look far beyond the
richly-wooded mountain we have scaled on our way, we gradually make
out some details of the fast panorama, one feature after another
becoming visible as stars shining faintly in a misty heaven. Villages
and little towns past counting, each with its conspicuous spire, break
the monotony of the enormous plain. Here and there, miles away, a curl
of white vapour indicates the passage of some railway train, whilst in
this upper stillness sweet sounds of church bells reach us from
hamlets close underneath the convent. Nothing can be more solid,
fresher, or more brilliant than the rich beech- and pine-woods running
sheer from our airy eminence to the level world below, nothing more
visionary, slumberous, or dimmer than that wide expanse teeming, as we
know, with busy human life, yet flat and motionless as a picture.

[Illustration]

On clear nights the electric lights of the railway station at Strasburg
are seen from this point; but far more attractive than the prospects from
St. Odile is its prehistoric wall. Before the wall, however, came the
dinner, which deserves mention. It was Friday, so in company of priests,
nuns, monks and divers pious pilgrims, with a sprinkling of fashionable
ladies from Strasburg, and tourists generally, we sat down to a very fair
_menu_ for a fast-day, to wit: rice-soup, turnips and potatoes,
eggs, perch, macaroni-cheese, custard pudding, gruyère cheese, and fair
vin ordinaire. Two shillings was charged per head, and I must say people
got their money's worth, for appetites seem keen in these parts. The
mother-superior, a kindly old woman, evidently belonging to the working
class, bustled about and shook hands with each of her guests. After
dinner we were shown the bedrooms, which are very clean; for board and
lodging you pay six francs a day, out of which, judging from the hunger
of the company, the profit arising would be small except to clerical
hotel-keepers. We must bear in mind that nuns work without pay, and that
all the fish, game, dairy and garden produce the bishop gets for nothing.
However, all tourists must be glad of such a hostelry, and the nuns are
very obliging. One sister made us some afternoon tea very nicely (we
always carry tea and teapot on these excursions), and everybody made us
welcome. We found a delightful old Frenchman of Strasburg to conduct us
to the Pagan Wall, as, for want of a better name, people designate this
famous relic of prehistoric times. Fragments of stone fortifications
similarly constructed have been found on other points of the Vosges not
far from the promontory on which the convent stands, but none to be
compared to this one in colossal proportions and completeness.

We dip deep down into the woods on quitting the convent gates, then climb
for a little space and come suddenly upon the edge of the plateau, which
the wall was evidently raised to defend. Never did a spot more easily
lend itself to such rude defence by virtue of natural position, although
where the construction begins the summit of the promontory is
inaccessible from below. We are skirting dizzy precipices, feathered
with light greenery and brightened with flowers, but awful
notwithstanding, and in many places the stones have evidently been piled
together rather for the sake of symmetry than from a sense of danger. The
points thus protected were already impregnable. When we look more nearly
we see that however much Nature may have aided these primitive
constructors, the wall is mainly due to the agency of man. There is no
doubt that in many places the stupendous masses of conglomerate have been
hurled to their places by earthquake, but the entire girdle of stone, of
pyramidal size and strength, shows much symmetrical arrangement and
dexterity. The blocks have been selected according to size and shape, and
in many places mortised together. We find no trace of cement, a fact
disproving the hypothesis that the wall may have been of Roman origin. We
must doubtless go much farther back, and associate these primitive
builders with such relics of prehistoric times as the stones of Carnac
and Lokmariaker. And not to seek so wide for analogies, do we not see
here the handiwork of the same rude architects I have before alluded to
in my Vosges travels, who flung a stone bridge across the forest gorge
above Remiremont and raised in close proximity the stupendous monolith of
Kirlinkin? The prehistoric stone monuments scattered about these regions
are as yet new to the English archaeologist, and form one of the most
interesting features of Vosges and Alsatian travel.

We may follow these lightly superimposed blocks of stone for miles, and
the _enceinte_ has been traced round the entire plateau, which was
thus defended from enemies on all sides. As we continue our walk on the
inner side of the wall we get lovely views of the dim violet hills, the
vast golden plain, and, close underneath, luxuriant forests. Eagles are
flying hither and thither, and except for an occasional tourist or two,
the scene is perfectly solitary. An hour's walk brings us to the
Menelstein, a vast and lofty platform of stone, ascended by a stair, both
untouched by the hand of man. Never was a more formidable redoubt raised
by engineering skill. Nature here helped her primitive builders well.
From a terrace due to the natural formation of the rock, we obtain
another of those grand and varied panoramas so numerous in this part of
the world, but the beauty nearer at hand is more enticing. Nothing can
exceed the freshness and charm of our homeward walk. We are now no longer
following the wall, but free to enjoy the breezy, heather-scented
plateau, and the broken, romantic outline of St. Odile, the Wartburg of
Alsace, as the saint herself was its Holy Elizabeth, and with as romantic
a story for those with a taste for such legends.

Here and there on the remoter wooded peaks are stately ruins of feudal
castles, whilst all the way our path lies amid bright foliage of young
forest trees, chestnut and oak, pine and acacia, and the ground is purple
with heather. Blocks of the conglomerate used in the construction of the
so-called Pagan Wall meet us at every turn, and as we gaze down the steep
sides of the promontory we can trace its massive outline. A scene not
soon to be forgotten! The still, solitary field of Carnac, with its
avenues of monoliths, is not more impressive than these Cyclopean walls,
thrown as a girdle round the green slopes of St. Odile.

We would fain have stayed here some time, but much more still remained to
be seen and accomplished in Alsace. Rothau, the district known as the Ban
de la Roche, where Oberlin laboured for sixty years, Thann, Wesserling,
with a sojourn among French subjects of the German Empire at
Mulhouse--all these things had to be done, and the bright summer days
were drawing to an end.



IV

FROM BARR TO STRASBURG, MULHOUSE AND BELFORT

The opening sentences of this chapter, written many years ago, are no
longer applicable. Were I to revisit Alsace-Lorraine at the present time,
I should only hear French speech among intimate friends and in private,
so strictly of late years has the law of lèse-majesté been, and is still,
enforced.

Nothing strikes the sojourner in Alsace-Lorraine more forcibly than the
outspokenness of its inhabitants regarding Prussian rule. Young and old,
rich and poor, wise and simple alike unburden themselves to their
chance-made English acquaintance with a candour that is at the same time
amusing and pathetic. For the most part no heed whatever is paid to
possible German listeners. At the ordinaries of country hotels, by the
shop door, in the railway carriage, Alsatians will pour out their
hearts, especially the women, who, as two pretty sisters assured us, are
not interfered with, be their conversation of the most treasonable kind.
We travelled with these two charming girls from Barr to Rothau, and they
corroborated what we had already heard at Barr and other places. The
Prussian inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine--for the most part Government
officials--are completely shut off from all social intercourse with the
French population, the latter, of course, still forming the vast
majority. Thus at Barr, a town consisting of over six thousand
inhabitants, only a score or two are Prussians, who are employed in the
railway and postal service, the police, the survey of forests, etc. The
position of these officials is far from agreeable, although, on the
other hand, there is compensation in the shape of higher pay, and much
more material comfort, even luxury, than are to be had in the
Fatherland. Alsace-Lorraine, especially by comparison with Prussia, may
be called a land of Goshen, overflowing with milk and honey. The vine
ripens on these warm hill-sides and rocky terraces, the plain produces
abundant variety of fruit and vegetables, the streams abound with trout
and the forests with game. No wonder, therefore, that whilst thousands
of patriotic Alsatians have already quitted the country, thousands of
Prussians are ready to fill their places. But the Alsatian exodus is far
from finished. At first, as was only natural, the inhabitants could not
realize the annexation. They refused to believe that the Prussian
occupation was final, so, for the most part, stayed on, hoping against
hope. The time of illusion is past. French parents of children born
since the war had to decide whether their sons are to become Prussian or
French citizens. After the age of sixteen a lad's fate is no longer in
their hands; he must don the uniform so odious in French eyes, and
renounce the cherished _patrie_ and _tricolor_ for ever.


The enforced military service, necessitated, perhaps, by the new order of
things, is the bitterest drop in the cup of the Alsatians. Only the
poorest, and those who are too much hampered by circumstances to evade
it, resign themselves to the enrolment of their sons in the German army.
For this reason well-to-do parents, and even many in the humbler ranks of
life, are quitting the country in much larger numbers than is taken
account of, whilst all who can possibly afford it send their young sons
across the frontier for the purpose of giving them a French education.
The prohibition of French in the public schools and colleges is another
grievous condition of annexation. Alsatians of all ranks are therefore
under the necessity of providing private masters for their children,
unless they would let them grow up in ignorance of their mother tongue.
And here a word of explanation may be necessary. Let no strangers in
Alsace take it for granted that because a great part of the rural
population speak a _patois_ made up of bad German and equally bad
French, they are any more German at heart for all that. Some of the most
patriotic French inhabitants of Alsace can only express themselves in
this dialect, a fact that should not surprise us, seeing the amalgamation
of races that has been going on for many generations.

Physically speaking, so far the result has been satisfactory. In
Alsace-Lorraine no one can help being struck with the fine appearance of
the people. The men are tall, handsome, and well made, the women
graceful and often exceedingly lovely, French piquancy and symmetrical
proportions combined with Teutonic fairness of complexion, blonde hair,
and blue eyes.

I will now continue my journey from Barr to Strasburg by way of the Ban
de la Roche, Oberlin's country. A railway connects Barr with Rothau, a
very pleasant halting-place in the midst of sweet pastoral scenery. It is
another of those resorts in Alsace whither holiday folks flock from
Strasburg and other towns during the long vacation, in quest of health,
recreation and society.

Rothau is a very prosperous little town, with large factories, handsome
châteaux of mill-owners, and trim little cottages, having flowers in all
the windows and a trellised vine in every garden. Pomegranates and
oleanders are in full bloom here and there, and the general aspect is
bright and cheerful. At Rothau are several _blanchisseries_ or
laundries, on a large scale, employing many hands, besides dye-works and
saw-mills. Through the town runs the little river Bruche, and the whole
district, known as the Ban de la Roche, a hundred years ago one of the
dreariest regions in France, is now all smiling fertility. The principal
building is its handsome Protestant church--for here we are among
Protestants, although of a less zealous temper than their fore-fathers,
the fervid Anabaptists. I attended morning service, and although an
eloquent preacher from Paris officiated, the audience was small, and the
general impression that of coldness and want of animation.

From the sweet, fragrant valley of Rothau a road winds amid green hills
and by the tumbling river to the little old-world village of Foudai,
where Oberlin lies buried. The tiny church and shady churchyard lie above
the village, and a more out-of-the-way spot than Foudai itself can hardly
be imagined. Yet many a pious pilgrim finds it out and comes hither to
pay a tribute to the memory of "Papa Oberlin," as he was artlessly
called by the country folk. This is the inscription at the head of the
plain stone slab marking his resting-place; and very suggestive it is of
the relation between the pastor and his flock. Oberlin's career of sixty
years among the primitive people of the Ban de la Roche was rather that
of a missionary among an uncivilized race than of a country priest among
his parishioners. How he toiled, and how he induced others to toil, in
order to raise the material as well as moral and spiritual conditions of
his charges, is pretty well known. His story reads like the German
narrative, _Des Goldmachers Dorf_. Nor does it require any lively
fancy to picture what this region must have been like before Oberlin and
his fellow-workers made the wilderness to blossom as the rose. The soil
is rocky and barren, the hill-sides whitened with mountain streams, the
more fertile spots isolated and difficult of access. An elaborate system
of irrigation has now clothed the valleys with rich pastures, the river
turns a dozen wheels, and every available inch of soil has been turned to
account. The cottages with orchards and flower-gardens are trim and
comfortable. The place in verity is a veritable little Arcadia. No less
so is Waldersbach, which was Oberlin's home. The little river winding
amid hayfields and fruit-trees leads us thither from Foudai in
half-an-hour. It is Sunday afternoon, and a fête day. Young and old in
Sunday garb are keeping holiday, the lads and lasses waltzing, the
children enjoying swings and peep-shows. No acerbity has lingered among
these descendants of the austere parishioners of Oberlin. Here, as at
Foudai, the entire population is Protestant. The church and parsonage
lie at the back of the village, and we were warmly welcomed by the
pastor and his wife, a great-great-granddaughter of Oberlin. Their six
pretty children were playing in the garden with two young girls in the
costume of Alsace, forming a pleasant domestic picture. Our hosts
showed us many relics of Oberlin, the handsome cabinets and presses of
carved oak, in which were stored the family wardrobe and other
treasures, and in the study the table on which he habitually wrote.
This is a charming upper room with wide views over the green hills and
sunny, peaceful valley.

We were offered hospitality for days, nay, weeks, if we chose to stay,
and even the use of Oberlin's study to sit and write in! A summer might
be pleasantly spent here, with quiet mornings in this cheerful chamber,
full of pious memories, and in the afternoon long rambles with the
children over the peaceful hills. From Foudai, too, you may climb the
wild rocky plateau known as the Champ de Feu--no spot in the Vosges chain
is more interesting from a geological point of view.

After much pleasant talk we took leave of our kind hosts, not going away,
however, without visiting the church. A tablet with medallion portrait of
Oberlin bears the touching inscription that for fifty-nine years he was
"the father of this parish." Then we drove back as we had come, stopping
at Foudai to rest the horse and drink tea. We were served in a cool
little parlour opening on to a garden, and, so tempting looked the tiny
inn that we regretted we could not stay there a week. A pleasant pastoral
country rather than romantic or picturesque is the Ban de la Roche, but
close at hand is the lofty Donon, which may be climbed from Rothau or
Foudai, and there are many other excursions within reach.

Here, for the present, the romance of Alsace travel ends, and all is
prose of a somewhat painful kind. The first object that attracted our
attention on reaching Strasburg was the new railway station, of which we
had already heard so much. This handsome structure, erected by the German
Government at an enormous cost, had only been recently opened, and so
great was the soreness of feeling excited by certain allegorical
bas-reliefs decorating the façade that for many days after the opening
of the station police-officers in plain clothes carefully watched the
crowd of spectators, carrying off the more seditious to prison. To say
the least of it, these mural decorations are not in the best of taste,
and at any rate it would have been better to have withheld them for a
time. The two small bas-reliefs in question bear respectively the
inscription, "_Im alten, und im neuen Reich_" ("In the old and new
Empire"), improved by a stander-by, to the great relish of others, thus,
"_Im alten, reich, im neuen, arm_" ("In the old, rich, in the new,
poor"). They give a somewhat ideal representation of the surrender of
Strasburg to the German Emperor. But the bombardment of their city, the
destruction of public monuments and the loss of life and property
thereby occasioned, were as yet fresh in the memories of the
inhabitants, and they needed no such reminder of the new state of
things. Their better feelings towards Germany had been bombarded out of
them, as an Alsacienne wittily observed to the Duchess of Baden after
the surrender. The duchess, daughter to the Emperor William, made the
round of the hospitals, and not a single Alsatian soldier but turned his
face to the wall, whereupon she expressed her astonishment at not
finding a better sentiment. Nor can the lover of art help drawing a
painful contrast between the Strasburg of the old and the new _régime_.
There was very little to see at Strasburg except the cathedral at this
time. The Library, with its 300,000 volumes and 1,500 manuscripts--the
priceless _Hortus Deliciarium_ of the twelfth century, richly
illuminated and ornamented with miniatures invaluable to the student of
men and manners of the Middle Ages, the missal of Louis XII., bearing
his arms, the _Recueil de Prières_ of the eighth century--all these had
been completely destroyed by the ruthless Prussian bombardment. The
Museum, rich in _chefs d'oeuvre_ of the French school, both of sculpture
and painting, the handsome Protestant church, the theatre, the Palais de
Justice, all shared the same fate, not to speak of buildings of lesser
importance, including four hundred private dwellings, and of the fifteen
hundred civilians, men, women and children, killed and wounded by the
shells. The fine church of St. Thomas suffered greatly. Nor was the
cathedral spared, and it would doubtless have perished altogether, too,
but for the enforced surrender of the heroic city. On my second visit
ten years later I found immense changes, new German architecture to be
seen everywhere.


Strasburg is said to contain a much larger German element than any other
city of Alsace-Lorraine, but the most casual observer soon finds out how
it stands with the bulk of the people. The first thing that attracted our
notice in a shop window was a coloured illustration representing the
funeral procession of Gambetta, as it wound slowly past the veiled statue
of Strasburg on the Place de la Concorde. These displays of patriotic
feeling are forbidden, but they come to the fore all the same. Here, as
elsewhere, the clinging to the old country is pathetically--sometimes
comically--apparent. A rough peasant girl, employed as chambermaid in the
hotel at which we stayed, amused me not a little by her tirades against
the Prussians, spoken in a language that was neither German nor French,
but a mixture of both--the delectable tongue of Alsace!

Strasburg is now a vast camp, with that perpetual noisy military parade
so wearisome in Berlin and other German cities, and, as I have said,
there was very little to see. It was a relief to get to Mulhouse, the
comparatively quiet and thoroughly French city of Mulhouse, in spite of
all attempts to make it German. But for the imperial eagle placed over
public offices and the sprinkling of Prussian helmets and Prussian
physiognomies, we could hardly suppose ourselves outside the French
border. The shops are French. French is the language of the better
classes, and French and Jews make up the bulk of the population. The Jews
from time immemorial have swarmed in Alsace, where, I am sorry to say,
they seemed to be little liked.

This thoroughly French appearance of Mulhouse, to be accounted for,
moreover, by an intensely patriotic clinging to the mother country,
naturally occasions great vexation to the German authorities. It is,
perhaps, hardly to be wondered at that undignified provocations and
reprisals should be the consequence. Thus the law forbids the putting up
of French signboards or names over shop doors in any but the German
language. This is evaded by withholding all else except the surname of
the individual, which is of course the same in both languages.

One instance more I give of the small annoyances to which the French
residents of Mulhouse are subject, a trifling one, yet sufficient to
irritate. Eight months after the annexation, orders were sent round to
the pastors and clergy generally to offer up prayers for the Emperor
William every Sunday. The order was obeyed, for refusal would have been
assuredly followed by dismissal, but the prayer is ungraciously
performed. The French pastors invoke the blessing of Heaven on
"_l'Empereur qui nous gouverne_". The pastors who perform the
service in German, pray not for "our Emperor," as is the apparently loyal
fashion in the Fatherland, but for "the Emperor." These things are
trifling grievances, but, on the other hand, the Prussians have theirs
also. Not even the officials of highest rank are received into any kind
of society whatever. Mulhouse possesses a charming zoological garden,
free to subscribers only, who have to be balloted for. Twenty years after
the annexation not a single Prussian has ever been able to obtain access
to this garden.

Even the very poorest contrive to show their intense patriotism. It is
the rule of the German government to give twenty-five marks to any poor
woman giving birth to twins. The wife of a French workman during my
sojourn at Mulhouse had three sons at a birth, but though in very poor
circumstances, refused to claim the donation. "My sons shall never be
Prussian," she said, "and that gift would make them so."

The real thorn in the flesh of the annexed Alsatians is, however, as I
have before pointed out, military service, and the enforced German
education. All who have read Alphonse Daudet's charming little story,
_La dernière leçon de Français_, will be able to realize the
painfulness of the truth, somewhat rudely brought home to French parents.
Their children must henceforth receive a German education, or none at
all, for this is what the law amounts to in the great majority of cases.
Rich people, of course, and those who are only well-to-do, can send their
sons to the Lycée, opened at Belfort since the annexation, but the rest
have to submit, or, by dint of great sacrifice, obtain private French
teaching. And, whilst even Alsatians are quite ready to render justice to
the forbearance and tact often shown by officials, an inquisitorial and
prying system is pursued, as vexatious to the patriotic as enforced
vaccination to the Peculiar People or school attendance to the poor. One
lady was visited at seven o'clock in the morning by the functionary
charged with the unpleasant mission of finding out where her boy was
educated. "Tell those who sent you," said the indignant mother, "that my
son shall never belong to you. We will give up our home, our prospects,
everything; but our children shall never be Prussians." True enough, the
family have since emigrated. No one who has not stayed in Alsace among
Alsatians can realize the intense clinging to France among the people,
nor the sacrifices made to retain their nationality. And it is well the
true state of feeling throughout the annexed territory should be known
outside its limits. With a considerable knowledge of French life and
character, I confess I went to Mulhouse little prepared to find there a
ferment of feeling which years have not sufficed to calm down.

[Illustration: ETTENHEIM]

"Nous ne sommes pas heureux à Mulhouse" were almost the first words
addressed to me by that veteran patriot and true philanthropist, Jean
Dollfus.

And how could it be otherwise? M. Dollfus, as well as other
representatives of the French subjects of Prussia in the Reichstag, had
protested against the annexation of Alsace in vain. They pointed out the
heavy cost to the German empire of these provinces, in consequence of the
vast military force required to maintain them, the undying bitterness
aroused, the moral, intellectual, and material interests at stake. I use
the word intellectual advisedly, for, amongst other instances in point, I
was assured that the book trade in Mulhouse had greatly declined since
the annexation. The student class has diminished, many reading people
have gone, and those who remain feel too uncertain about the future to
accumulate libraries. Moreover, the ordeal that all have gone through has
depressed intellectual as well as social life. Mulhouse has been too much
saddened to recover herself as yet, although eminently a literary place,
and a sociable one in the old happy French days. The balls, soirées and
reunions, that formerly made Mulhouse one of the friendliest as well as
the busiest towns in the world, have almost ceased. People take their
pleasures very soberly.

It is hardly possible to write of Mulhouse without consecrating a page
or two to M. Jean Dollfus, a name already familiar to some English
readers. The career of such a man forms part of contemporary history,
and for sixty years the great cotton-printer of Mulhouse, the
indefatigable philanthropist--the fellow-worker with Cobden,
Arles-Dufour, and others in the cause of Free Trade--and the ardent
patriot, had been before the world.

The year before my visit was celebrated, with a splendour that would be
ridiculed in a novel, the diamond wedding of the head of the numerous
house of Dollfus, the silver and the golden having been already kept in
due form.

Mulhouse might well be proud of such a fête, for it was unique, and the
first gala-day since the annexation. When M. Dollfus looked out of his
window in the morning, he found the familiar street transformed as if by
magic into a bright green avenue abundantly adorned with flowers. The
change had been effected in the night by means of young fir-trees
transplanted from the forest. The day was kept as a general holiday.
From an early hour the improvised avenue was thronged with visitors of
all ranks bearing cards, letters of congratulation or flowers. The great
Dollfus works were closed, and the five thousand workmen with their
wives, children and superannuated parents, were not only feasted but
enriched. After the banquet every man, woman and child received a present
in money, the oldest and those who had remained longest in the employ of
M. Dollfus being presented with forty francs. But the crowning sight of
the day was the board spread for the Dollfus family and the gathering of
the clan, as it may indeed be called. There was the head of the house,
firm as a rock still, in spite of his eighty-two years; beside him the
partner of sixty of those years, his devoted wife; next according to age,
their numerous sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law; duly
following came the grandsons and grand-daughters, then the
great-grandsons and great-granddaughters, and lastly, the babies of their
fifth generation, all accompanied by their nurses in the picturesque
costume of Alsace and Lorraine. This patriarchal assemblage numbered
between one and two hundred guests. On the table were represented, in the
artistic confectionery for which Mulhouse is famous, some of the leading
events of M. Dollfus's busy life. Here in sugar was a model of the
achievement which will ever do honour to the name of Jean Dollfus,
namely, the _cités ouvrières_, and what was no less a triumph of the
confectioner's skill, a group representing the romantic ride of M. and
Mme. Dollfus on camels towards the Algerian Sahara when visiting the
African colony some twenty years before.

This patriarchal festival is said to have cost M. Dollfus half a million
of francs, a bagatelle in a career devoted to giving! The bare conception
of what this good man has bestowed takes one's breath away! Not that he
was alone; never was a city more prolific of generous men than Mulhouse,
but Jean Dollfus, _"Le Père Jean,"_ as he is called, stood at the
head. He received with one hand to bestow with the other, and not only on
behalf of the national, intellectual and spiritual wants of his own
workmen and his own community--the Dollfus family are Protestant--but
indiscriminately benefiting Protestant, Catholic, Jew; founding schools,
hospitals, libraries, refuges, churches, for all.

We see at a glance after what fashion the great manufacturers set to work
here to solve the problem before them. The life of ease and the life of
toil are seen side by side, and all the brighter influences of the one
brought to bear on the other. The tall factory chimneys are unsightly
here as elsewhere, and nothing can be uglier than the steam tramways,
noisily running through the streets. But close to the factories and
workshops are the cheerful villas and gardens of their owners, whilst
near at hand the workmen's dwellings offer an exterior equally
attractive. These _cités ouvrières_ form indeed a suburb in
themselves, and a very pleasant suburb too. Many middle-class families in
England might be glad to own such a home, a semi-detached cottage or
villa standing in a pretty garden with flowers and trees and plots of
turf. Some of the cottages are models of trimness and taste, others of
course are less well kept, a few have a neglected appearance. The general
aspect, however, is one of thrift and prosperity, and it must be borne in
mind that each dwelling and plot of ground are the property of the owner,
gradually acquired by him out of his earnings, thanks to the initiative
of M. Dollfus and his fellow-workers. "It is by such means as these that
we have combated Socialism," said M. Dollfus to me; and the gradual
transformation of the workman into an owner of property, is but one of
the numerous efforts made at Mulhouse to lighten, in so far as is
practicable, the burden of toil.

These pleasant avenues are very animated on Sundays, especially when a
universal christening of babies is going on. The workmen at Mulhouse are
paid once a fortnight, in some cases monthly, and it is usually after
pay-day that such celebrations occur. We saw one Sunday afternoon quite
a procession of carriages returning from the church to the _cité
ouvrière_, for upon these occasions nobody goes on foot. There were
certainly a dozen christening parties, all well dressed, and the babies
in the finest white muslin and embroidery. A very large proportion of the
artisans here are Catholics, and as one instance among others of the
liberality prevailing here, I mention that one of the latest donations of
M. Dollfus is the piece of ground, close to the _cité ouvrière_, on
which now stands the new, florid Catholic church.

There are free libraries for all, and a very handsome museum has been
opened within the last few years, containing some fine modern French
pictures, all gifts of the Dollfrees, Engels, and Köchlins, to their
native town. The museum, like everything else at Mulhouse, is as French
as French can be, no German element visible anywhere. Conspicuous among
the pictures are portraits of Thiers and Gambetta, and a fine subject of
De Neuville, representing one of those desperate battle-scenes of 1870-71
that still have such a painful hold on the minds of French people. It was
withheld for some time, and had only been recently exhibited. The
bombardment of Strasburg is also a popular subject in Mulhouse.

I have mentioned the flower-gardens of the city, but the real
pleasure-ground of both rich and poor lies outside the suburbs, and a
charming one it is, and full of animation on Sundays. This is the
Tannenwald, a fine bit of forest on high ground above the vineyards and
suburban gardens of the richer citizens. A garden is a necessity of
existence here, and all who are without one in the town hire or purchase
a plot of suburban ground. Here is also the beautiful subscription garden
I have before alluded to, with fine views over the Rhine valley and the
Black Forest.

Nor is Mulhouse without its excursions. Colmar and the romantic site of
Notre Dame des Trois Épis may be visited in a day. Then there is Thann,
with its perfect Gothic church, a veritable cathedral in miniature, and
the charming, prosperous valley of Wesserling. From Thann the ascent of
the Ballon d'Alsace may be made, but the place itself must on no account
be missed. No more exquisite church in the region, and most beautifully
is it placed amid sloping green hills! It may be said to consist of nave
and apse only. There are but two lateral, chapels, evidently of a later
period than the rest of the building. The interior is of great beauty,
and no less so the façade and side porch, both very richly decorated.
One's first feeling is of amazement to find such a church in such a
place; but this dingy, sleepy little town was once of some importance
and still does a good deal of trade. There is a very large Jewish
community here, as in many other towns of Alsace. Whether they deserve
their unpopularity is a painful question not lightly to be taken up.

[Illustration: COLMAR]

Leisurely travellers bound homeward from Mulhouse will do well to diverge
from the direct Paris line and join it at Dijon, by way of Belfort--the
heroic city of Belfort, with its colossal lion, hewn out of the solid
rock--the little Protestant town of Montbéliard, and Besançon. Belfort is
well worth seeing, and the "Territoire de Belfort" is to all intents and
purposes a new department, formed from that remnant of the Haut Rhin
saved to France after the war of 1870-71. The "Territoire de Belfort"
comprises upwards of sixty thousand hectares, and a population, chiefly
industrial, of nearly seventy thousand inhabitants, spread over many
communes and hamlets. There is a picturesque and romantic bit of country
between Montbéliard and Besançon, well worth seeing, if only from the
railway windows. But the tourist who wants to make no friendly calls on
the way, whose chief aim is to get over the ground quickly, must avoid
the _détour_ by all means, as the trains are slow and the stoppages
many.

[Illustration: SKETCH BY GUSTAVE DORÉ, AETAT EIGHT YEARS]



V

THE 'MARVELLOUS BOY' OF ALSACE

I

It is especially at Strasburg that travellers are reminded of another
"marvellous boy," who, if he did not "perish in his pride," certainly
shortened his days by overreaching ambition and the brooding bitterness
waiting upon shattered hopes.

Gustave Doré was born and reared under the shadow of Strasburg
Cathedral. The majestic spire, a world in itself, became indeed a world
to this imaginative prodigy. He may be said to have learned the minster
of minsters by heart, as before him Victor Hugo had familiarized himself
with Notre Dame. The unbreeched artist of four summers never tired of
scrutinizing the statues, monsters, gargoyles and other outer
ornamentations, while the story of the pious architect Erwin and of his
inspirer, Sabine, was equally dear. Never did genius more clearly
exhibit the influence of early environment. True child of Alsace, he
revelled in local folklore and legend. The eerie and the fantastic had
the same fascination for him as sacred story, and the lives of the
saints, gnomes, elves, werewolves and sorcerers bewitched no less than
martyrs, miracle-workers and angels.

His play-hours would be spent within the precincts of the cathedral,
whilst the long winter evenings were beguiled with fairy-tales and
fables, his mother and nurse reading or reciting these, their little
listener being always busy with pen or pencil. Something much more than
mere precocity is shown in these almost infantine sketches. Exorbitant
fancy is here much less striking than sureness of touch, outlined
figures drawn between the age of five and ten displaying remarkable
precision and point, each line of the silhouette telling. At six he
celebrated his first school prize with an illustrated letter, two
portraits and a mannikin surmounting the text.

[Footnote: See his life by Blanch Roosevelt, Sampson Low & Co. 1885;
also the French translation of the same, 1886.]

His groups of peasants and portraits, made three or four years later,
possess almost a Rembrandt strength, unfortunately passion for the
grotesque and the fanciful often lending a touch of caricature.
Downright ugliness must have had an especial charm for the future
illustrator of the _Inferno_, his unconscious models sketched by the
way being uncomely as the immortal Pickwick and his fellows of Phiz. A
devotee of Gothic art, he reproduced the mediæval monstrosities adorning
cornice and pinnacle in human types. Equally devoted to nature out of
doors, the same taste predominated. What he loved and sought was ever
the savage, the legend-haunted, the ghoulish, seats and ambuscades of
kelpie, hobgoblin, brownie and their kind.

[Illustration: SKETCH BY GUSTAVE DORÉ, ÆTAT EIGHT YEARS]

From the nursery upwards, if the term can be applied to French children,
his life was a succession of artistic abnormalities and _tours de
force_. The bantling in petticoats who could astound his elders with
wonderfully accurate silhouettes, continued to surprise them in other
ways. His memory was no less amazing than his draughtsmanship. When
seven years of age, he was taken to the opera and witnessed _Robert le
Diable_. On returning home he accurately narrated every scene.

At eight he broke his right arm, but became as if by magic ambidextrous,
whilst confined to bed, cheerily drawing all day long with the left
hand. At ten he witnessed a grand public ceremony. In 1840 Strasburg
celebrated the inauguration of a monument to Gutenberg, the festival
being one of extraordinary splendour. Fifteen cars represented the
industrial corporations of the city, each symbolically adorned, and in
each riding figures suitably travestied and occupied, men, women and
children wearing the costumes of the period represented. Among the
corporations figured the _Peintres-verriers_, or painters on stained
glass, their car proving especially attractive to one small looker-on.

Intoxicated by the colour and movement of the fête, garlanded and
beflagged streets, the symbolic carriages, the bands, civic and
military, and the prevailing enthusiasm, the child determined to get up
an apotheosis of his own: in other words, to repeat the performance on a
smaller scale. Which he did. Cars, costumes, banners and decorations
were all designed by this imp of ten. With the approval of his
professors and the collaboration of his school-fellows, the Doré
procession, consisting of four highly decorated cars, drawn by boys,
defiled before the college authorities and made the round of the
cathedral, the youthful impresario at its head. The car of the painters
on glass was conspicuously elaborate, a star copied from a Cathedral
window showing the superscription, _G. Doré, fecit_. Small wonder is it
that the adoring mother of an equally adoring son should have believed
in him from the first, and seen in these beginnings the dawn of genius,
the advent, indeed, of a second Michael Angelo or Titian.

The more practical father might chide such overreaching vaticinations,
might reiterate--

"Do not fill the boy's head with nonsense."

The answer would be--

"I know it. Our son is a genius."

And Doré _père_ gave way, under circumstances curious enough.


II


In 1847 the family visited Paris, there to Gustave's delight spending
four months. Loitering one day in the neighbourhood of the Bourse, his
eye lighted upon comic papers with cuts published by MM. Auber and
Philipon. Their shop windows were full of caricatures, and after a long
and intent gaze the boy returned home, in two or three days presenting
himself before the proprietors with half-a-dozen drawings much in the
style of those witnessed. The benevolent but businesslike M. Philipon
examined the sketches attentively, put several questions to his young
visitor, and, finding that the step had been taken surreptitiously,
immediately sat down and wrote to M. and Mme. Doré. He urged them with
all the inducements he could command to allow their son the free choice
of a career, assuring them of his future.

A few days later an agreement was signed by father and publisher to this
effect: During three years the latter was to receive upon certain terms
a weekly cartoon from the sixteen-year-old artist, who, on his side,
bound himself to offer no sketches elsewhere.

[Footnote: This document was reproduced in _Le Figaro_ of
December 4, 1848.]

Meanwhile, Gustave would pursue his studies at the Lycée Charlemagne,
his patron promising to look after his health and well-being. The
arrangement answered, and in _Le Journal pour rire_ the weekly
caricature signed by Doré soon noised his fame abroad. Ugly, even
hideous, as were many of these caricatures, they did double duty, paying
the lad's school expenses, and paving the way to better things. Of
caricature Doré soon tired, and after this early period never returned
to it. Is it any wonder that facile success and excessive laudation
should turn the stripling's head? Professionally, if not artistically
speaking, Doré passed straight from child to man; in one sense of the
word he had no boyhood, the term tyro remained inapplicable. This
undersized, fragile lad, looking years younger than he really was, soon
found himself on what must have appeared a pinnacle of fame and fortune.

Shortly after his agreement with Philipon, his father died, and Mme.
Doré with her family removed to Paris, settling in a picturesque and
historic hôtel of the Rue St. Dominique. Here Doré lived for the rest of
his too short life.

The house had belonged to the family of Saint Simon, that terrible
observer under whose gaze even Louis XIV. is said to have quailed. So
aver historians of the period. The associations of his home immediately
quickened Doré's inventive faculties. He at once set to work and
organized a brilliant set of _tableaux vivants_, illustrating scenes
from the immortal Mémoires. The undertaking proved a great social
success, and henceforth we hear of galas, soirées, theatricals and other
entertainments increasing in splendour with the young artist's
vogue--and means.

The history of the next twenty years reads like a page from the _Arabian
Nights_. Although dazzling is the record from first to last, and despite
the millions of francs earned during those two decades, the artist's
ambition was never satisfied. We are always conscious of bitterness and
disillusion. As an illustrator, no longer of cheap comic papers but of
literary masterpieces brought out in costly fashion, Doré reached the
first rank at twenty, his _Rabelais_ setting the seal on his renown. So
immense was the success of this truly colossal undertaking and of its
successors, the _Don Quixote_, the _Contes de fées_ of Perrault
and the rest, that he meditated nothing less than the illustration of
cosmopolitan _chefs 'd' oeuvre, en bloc_, a series which should include
every great imaginative work of the Western world! Thus in 1855 we find
him noting the following projects, to be carried out in ten years'
time:--illustrations of Æschylus, Lucan, Ovid, Shakespeare, Goethe
_(Faust)_, Lamartine _(Méditations)_, Racine, Corneille, Schiller,
Boccaccio, Montaigne, Plutarch's Lives--these names among others. The
jottings in question were written for a friend who had undertaken to
write the artist's biography.


The _Rabelais, Don Quixote, The Inferno_, and several more of these
sumptuous volumes were brought out in England. Forty years ago Doré's
bold and richly imaginative work was in great favour here; indeed,
throughout his life he was much more appreciated by ourselves than by
his countrymen. All the drawings were done straight upon wood. Lavish in
daily life, generous of the generous, Doré showed the same lavishness in
his procedure. Some curious particulars are given upon this head.
Fabulous sums were spent upon his blocks, even small ones costing as
much as four pounds apiece. He must always have the very best wood, no
matter the cost, and it was only the whitest, smoothest and glossiest
boxwood that satisfied him. Enormous sums were spent upon this material,
and to his honour be it recorded, that no matter the destination of a
block, the same cost, thought and minute manipulation were expended upon
a trifling commission as upon one involving thousands of pounds. The
penny paper was treated precisely the same as the volume to be brought
out at two guineas. In the zenith of his fame as an illustrator, at a
time when tip-top authors and editors were all clamouring for his
drawings, he did not despise humbler admirers and clients. His delight
in his work was only equalled by quite abnormal physical and mental
powers. Sleep, food, fresh air, everything was forgotten in the
engrossment of work. At this time he would often give himself three
hours of sleep only.

Doré's ambition--rather, one of his ambitions--was to perfect wood
engraving as an art, hence his indifference to the cost of production.
Hence, doubtless, his persistence in drawing on wood without preliminary
sketch or copy.

Perhaps such obsession was natural. How could he foresee the variety of
new methods that were so soon to transform book illustration? Anyhow,
herein partly lies the explanation of the following notice in a
second-hand book catalogue, 1911--

"No. 355. Gustave Doré: _Dante's Inferno_, with 76 full-page
illustrations by Doré. 4to, gilt top, binding soiled, but otherwise good
copy. _42s._ for _3s. 6d._ London, n.d."

A leading London publisher consulted by me on the subject, writes
as follows--

"Doré's works are no longer in vogue. One of the reasons lies in the
fact that his pictures were done by the old engraved process. He drew
them straight on wood, and there are, accordingly, no original drawings
to be reproduced by modern methods."

The words "fatal facility" cannot be applied to so consummate a
draughtsman as the illustrator of Dante, Cervantes and Victor Hugo. But
Doré's almost superhuman memory was no less of a pitfall than manual
dexterity. The following story will partly explain his dislike of
facsimile and duplication.

An intimate friend, named Bourdelin, relates how one day during the
siege of Paris, the pair found themselves by the Courbevoie bridge. One
side of this bridge was guarded by French gendarmes, the other by
German officers, Prussians, Saxons, Bavarians, a dozen in all. For a
quarter of an hour the two Frenchmen lingered, Doré intently gazing on
the group opposite. On returning home some hours later he produced a
sketch-book and in Bourdelin's presence swiftly outlined the twelve
figures, exactly reproducing not only physiognomic divergences but
every detail of costume! Poor Doré! In those ardently patriotic days he
entirely relied upon victory and drew an anticipatory picture of France
triumphant, entitled, "Le Passage du Rhin." But the French never
crossed the Rhine, and the drawing was given to this friend with the
words: "My sketch has no longer any _raison d'être_. Keep it in memory
of our fallacious hopes."


III


In an evil hour for his peace of mind and his fame, Doré decided to
leave illustration and become a historic painter. He evidently regarded
genius as a Pandora's gift, an all-embracing finality, an endowment that
could neither be worsened nor bettered, being complete in itself.

A reader of Ariosto, he had not taken to heart one of his most memorable
verses, those mellifluous lines in which the poet dwells upon the
laboriousness of intellectual achievement. Nor when illustrating the
_Arabian Nights_ had the wonderful story of Hasan of El-Basrah
evidently brought home to him the same moral.

Between a Doré and his object--so he deemed--existed neither "seven
valleys nor seven seas, nor seven mountains of vast magnitude." A Doré
needed no assistance of the flying Jinn and the wandering stars on his
way, no flying horse, "which when he went along flew, and when he flew
the dust overtook him not."

Without the equipment of training, without recognition of such a
handicap, he entered upon his new career.

In 1854 for the first time two pictures signed by Doré appeared on the
walls of the Salon. But the canvases passed unnoticed. The Parisians
would not take the would-be painter seriously, and the following year's
experience proved hardly less disheartening. Of four pictures sent in,
three were accepted, one of these being a historic subject, the other
two being landscapes. The first, "La Bataille de l'Alma," evoked
considerable criticism. The rural scenes were hung, as Edmond About
expressed it, so high as to need a telescope.

Both About and Th. Gautier believed in their friend's newly-developed
talent, but art-critics and the public held aloof. No medal was decreed
by the jury, and, accustomed as he had been to triumph after triumph,
his fondest hopes for the second time deceived, Doré grew bitter and
acrimonious. That his failure had anything to do with the real question
at issue, namely, his genius as a historic painter, he would never for a
moment admit. Jealousy, cabals, prejudice only were accountable.

The half dozen years following were divided between delightfully gay and
varied sociabilities, feverishly prolonged working hours and foreign
travel. The millions of francs earned by his illustrations gave him
everything he wanted but one, that one, in his eyes, worth all the rest.

Travel, a splendid studio, largesses--he was generosity itself--all
these were within his reach. The craved-for renown remained ungraspable.

Even visits to his favourite resort, Barr, brought disenchantment. He
found old acquaintances and the country folks generally wanting in
appreciation. With greater and lesser men, he subacidly said to himself
that a man was no prophet in his own country.

Ten years after the fiasco of his first canvases in the Salon came an
invitation to England and the alluring project of a Doré gallery. The
Doré Bible and Tennyson, with other works, had paved the way for a right
royal reception. The streets of London, as he could well believe, were
paved with gold. But many were the _contra_. "I feel the presentiment,"
he wrote to a friend, "that if I betake myself to England, I shall break
with my own country and lose prestige and influence in France. I cannot
exist without my friends, my habits and my _pot-au-feu_. Folks tell me
that England is a land of fogs, that the sun never shines there, that
the inhabitants are cold, and that I should most likely suffer from
sea-sickness in crossing the Manche. To sum up, England is a long way
off, and I have a great mind to give up the project."

Friendly persuasion, self-interest, wounded self-love carried the day.
Reluctantly he decided upon the redoubtable sea-voyage. Whether he
suffered from sea-sickness or no we are not told. In any case the visit
was repeated, John Bull according the great Alsatian, as he was called,
what France had so persistently withheld.

Doré was here accorded the first rank among historic painters. His
gallery in Bond Street became one of the London sights; in fashionable
society, if not in the close ring of the great Victorian artists, he
made a leading figure. Royalty patronized and welcomed him. The Queen
bought one of his pictures ("Le Psalterion," now at Windsor), and invited
him to Balmoral. The heir-apparent, the late King, admired his talent
and relished his society. By the clerical world he was especially
esteemed, being looked upon as a second Leonardo da Vinci. And, in fine,
Doré must be regarded as an anticipator of the Entente cordiale.
"Gustave Doré," his compatriots would say, "he is half an Englishman!"
Forty years ago our popular favourite might indeed have believed in the
fulfilment of his dream. The Thorwaldsen Gallery of Copenhagen had ever
dazzled his imagination. Bond Street was not Paris, certainly, but in
the greatest metropolis of the world his memory would be for ever
perpetuated. Turning to the dithyrambic utterances of the London Press
at the time we can hardly wonder at the hallucination.

Here are one or two passages culled from leading dailies and weeklies--

"In gravity and magnitude of purpose, no less than in the scope and
power of his imagination, he towers like a Colossus among his
contemporaries. Compared with such a work as 'Christ leaving the
Prætorium,' the pictures in Burlington House look like the production of
a race of dwarfs whose mental faculties are as diminutive as their
stature. And it is not alone the efforts of the English School of
Painting that appear puny in presence of so great and gigantic an
undertaking; the work of all the existing schools of Europe sinks into
equal insignificance, and we must go back to the Italian painters of the
sixteenth century to find a picture worthy of being classed with this
latest and most stupendous achievement of the great French master."

Elsewhere we read--

"The most marvellous picture of the present age is to be seen at 35, New
Bond Street. The subject is 'Christ leaving the Prætorium,' The painter
is the world-renowned Gustave Doré."

A journal devoted to art-criticism wrote--

"In 'The Christian Martyrs' we have a striking, thrilling and
ennobling picture."

And so on, and so on. Yet at this time among "the dwarfs" of Burlington
House then exhibiting was Millais, and contemporaneously with Doré in
our midst, 1870-1, was Daubigny, whose tiniest canvases now fetch their
thousands!

It was during Doré's apogee in England that a well-known French amateur,
also visiting our shores, was thus addressed by an English friend: "Come
with me to Bond Street, you will there see the work of your greatest
living painter."

"_Our_ greatest painter!" exclaimed the other. "You mean your own. Doré
is our first draughtsman of France, yes, but painter, never, neither the
greatest nor great; at least we were ignorant of the fact till informed
of it by yourself and your country-people."

Doré knew well how matters stood, and bitterly resented the attitude of
his own nation. Accorded a princely welcome across the Manche, his work
worth its weight in gold on the other side of the Atlantic, in France he
was looked at askance, even as a painter ignored. He regarded himself as
shut out from his rightful heritage, and the victim, if not of a
conspiracy, of a cabal. His school playmates and close friends, Taine,
Edmond About and Th. Gautier, might be on his side; perhaps, with
reservations, Rossini and a few other eminent associates also. But the
prescient, unerring verdict of the collective "man in the street"--

"The people's voice, the proof and echo of all human fame"--

he missed; resentment preyed upon his spirits, undermined his vitality,
and doubtless had something to do with his premature breakdown.

The Doré gallery indeed proved his Capua, the long-stop to his fame.


IV


As a personality the would-be Titian, Dürer, Thorwaldsen and Benvenuto
Cellini in one presents an engaging figure. His domestic life makes very
pleasant reading. We find no dark holes and corners in the career of one
who may be said to have remained a boy to the end, at fifty as at five
full of freak and initiative, clingingly attached to a devoted and
richly-endowed mother, and the ebullient spirit of a happy home. With
his rapidly increasing fortune, the historic house in the Rue Dominique
became an artistic, musical and dramatic centre. His fêtes were worthy
of a millionaire, and, alike in those private theatricals, _tableaux
vivants_ or concerts, he ever took a leading part. An accomplished
violinist, Doré found in music a never-failing stimulant and
refreshment. Rossini was one of his circle, among others were the two
Gautiers, the two Dumas, Carolus Duran, Liszt, Gounod, Patti, Alboni and
Nilsson, Mme. Doré, still handsome and alert in her old age, proudly
doing the honours of what was now called the Hôtel Doré. By his literary
and artistic brethren the many-faceted genius and exhilarating host was
fully appreciated. Generosities he ever freely indulged in, the wealth
of such rapid attainment being dispensed with an ungrudgeful hand. To
works of charity the great illustrator gave largely, but we hear of no
untoward misreckonings, nor bills drawn upon time, health or talents.
With him, as with the average Frenchman, solvency was an eleventh
commandment.

Meantime, as the years wore on, again and again he bid desperately for
the suffrages withheld, his legitimately won renown held by him of small
account. To his American biographer he said, on showing her some of his
pictures: "I illustrate books in order to pay for my colours and
paint-brushes. I was born a painter."

On the lady's companion, an American officer, naively asking if
certain canvases were designed for London or Paris, he answered with
bitter irony--

"Paris, forsooth! I do not paint well enough for Paris." As he spoke his
face became clouded. The gay, jovial host of a few minutes before sighed
deeply, and during their visit could not shake off depression.

Two crowning humiliations came before the one real sorrow of his life,
the loss of that gifted mother who was alike his boon companion, closest
confidante and enthusiastic Egeria. Perpetually seeking laurels in new
fields, in 1877 he made his _début_ as a sculptor. The marble group, "La
Parque et l'Amour," signed G. Doré, won a _succès d'estime_, no more.
In the following year was opened the great international exhibition on the
Champ de Mars, Doré's enormous monumental vase being conspicuously
placed over one of the porticoes. This astounding achievement in bronze,
appropriately named the "Poème de la Vigne," created quite a sensation
at the time. Reproductions appeared in papers of all countries
containing a printing press or photographic machine. But for the
artist's name, doubtless his work would have attained the gold medal and
other honours. The Brobdingnagian vase, so wonderfully decorated with
flowers, animals and arabesques, was passed over by the jury.

Equally mortifying was the fate of his marble group in the same year's
Salon. This subject, "La Gloire," had a place of honour in the sculpture
gallery and won universal suffrages. The critics echoed popular
approval. The jury remained passive. It was in the midst of these
unnecessarily crushing defeats--for why, indeed, should any mortal have
craved more than mortal success?--that Mme. Doré's forces gave way. From
that time till her death, which occurred two years later, her son's
place was by her side, floutings, projects, health and pleasure,
forgotten, his entire thoughts being given to the invalid. No more
beautiful picture of filial devotion could suggest itself to the painter
of domestic subjects than this, Doré with table and sketching materials
seated in his mother's sick-room, or at night ministering to her in
wakeful moments. At dawn he would snatch a few hours' sleep, but that
was all. No wonder that his own health should give way so soon after the
death-blow of her loss.

"My friend," he wrote to an English boon companion, on March 16, 1881,
"she is no more. I am alone. You are a clergyman, I entreat you to pray
for the repose of her beloved soul and the preservation of my reason."

A few days later he wrote to the same friend of his "frightful
solitude," adding his regret at not having anticipated such a blank and
made for himself a home--in other words, taken a wife.

Some kind matchmaking friends set to work and found, so at least they
fancied, a bride exactly calculated to render him happy.

But on January 23, 1883, Doré died, prematurely aged and broken
down by grief, corroding disappointment and quite frenzied overwork
and ambition.

He never attained recognition as a historic painter among his
country-folks. One canvas, however, "Tobit and the Angel," is placed in
the Luxembourg, and his monument to Dumas ornaments the capital. His
renown as an illustrator remains high as ever in France. And one, that
one, the passionately desired prize of every Frenchman, became his: in
1861 he was decorated with the Red Ribbon. Six of Doré's great religious
subjects retain their place in the Bond Street Gallery, but for reasons
given above his wonderfully imaginative illustrations are here
forgotten.

The superb edition of the _Enid_ (Moxon, 1868), a folio bound in royal
purple and gold, and printed on paper thick as vellum, the volume
weighing four pounds, awakens melancholy reflections. What would have
been poor Doré's feelings had he lived to see such a guinea's worth, and
cheap at the price, gladly sold, rather got rid of, for three shillings!

Doré's last work, the unconventional monument to the elder Dumas, was
left unfinished.

Completed by another hand, the group now forms a conspicuous object in
the Avenue Villiers, Paris.

The striking figure of the great quadroon, with his short crisped
locks, suggests a closer relationship to the race thus apostrophized by
Walt Whitman--

     "You, dim descended, black, divine souled African...."

He surmounts a lofty pedestal, on the base being seated a homely group,
three working folks, a mob-capped woman reading a Dumas novel to two
companions, evidently her father and husband, sons of the soil, drinking
in every word, their attitude of the most complete absorption.
Classicists and purists in art doubtless look askance at a work which
would certainly have enchanted the sovereign romancer.

"Will folks read my stories when I am gone, doctor?" he asked as he lay
a-dying. The good physician easily reassured his patient. "When we have
patients awaiting some much-dreaded operation in hospital," he replied,
"we have only to give them one of your novels. Straightway they forget
everything else." And Dumas--"the great, the humane," as a charming poet
has called him--died happy. As well he might, in so far as his fame was
concerned. _La Tulipe Noire_ would alone have assured his future.



VI

QUISSAC AND SAUVE

One should always go round the sun to meet the moon in France, that is
to say, one should ever circumambulate, never make straight for the
lodestar ahead. The way to almost any place of renown, natural, historic
or artistic, is sure to teem with as much interest as that to which we
are bound. So rich a palimpsest is French civilization, so varied is
French scenery, so multifarious the points of view called up at every
town, that hurry and scurry leave us hardly better informed than when we
set out. Thus it has ever been my rule to indulge in the most
preposterous peregrination, taking no account whatever of days, seasons
or possible cons, hearkening only to the pros, and never so much as
glancing at the calendar. Such protracted zigzaggeries have been made
easy to the "devious traveller" by one unusual advantage. Just as
pioneers in Australasia find Salvation Army shelters scattered
throughout remotest regions, so, fortunately, have I ever been able to
count upon "harbour and good company" during my thirty-five years of
French sojourn and travel.

To reach a certain Pyrenean valley in which I was to spend a holiday
would only have meant a night's dash by express from Paris. Instead, I
followed the south-eastern route, halting at--Heaven knows how
many!--already familiar and delightful places between Paris and Dijon,
Dijon and Lyons, Lyons and Nîmes; from the latter city being bound for
almost as many more before reaching my destination.

Quite naturally I would often find myself on the track of that "wise and
honest traveller," so John Morley calls Arthur Young.

Half-way between Nîmes and Le Vigan lies the little town of Sauve, at
which the Suffolk farmer halted in July 1787. "Pass six leagues of a
disagreeable country," he wrote. "Vines and olives."

But why a disagreeable country? Beautiful I thought the landscape as I
went over the same ground on a warm September afternoon a century and
odd years later, on alighting to be greeted with a cheery--

"Here I am!"

As a rule I am entirely of Montaigne's opinion. "When I travel in
Sicily," said the philosopher of Gascony, "it is not to find Gascons."
Dearly as we love home and home-folk, the gist of travel lies in
oppositeness and surprises. We do not visit the uttermost ends of the
globe in search of next-door neighbours. That cordial "Here I am!"
however, had an unmistakable accent, just a delightful suspicion of
French. My host was a gallant naval officer long since retired from
service, with his English wife and two daughters, spending the long
vacation in his country home.

High above the little village of Quissac rises the residence of
beneficent owners, master and mistress, alas! long since gone to their
rest. From its terrace the eye commands a vast and beautiful panorama, a
richly cultivated plain dotted with villages and framed by the blue
Cévennes. Tea served after English fashion and by a dear countrywoman,
everywhere _"le confortable Anglais"_ admittedly unattainable by French
housewives, could not for a single moment make me forget that I was in
France. And when the dinner gong sounded came the final, the
unequivocal, proof of distance.

Imagine dining out of doors and in evening dress at eight o'clock in the
last week of August! The table was set on the wide balcony of the upper
floor, high above lawn and bosquets, the most chilly person having here
nothing to fear. It is above all things the French climate that
transports us so far from home and makes us feel ourselves hundreds,
nay, thousands of miles away.

I have elsewhere, perhaps ofttimes, dwelt on the luminosity of the
atmosphere in southern and south-western France. To-night not a breath
was stirring, the outer radiance was the radiance of stars only, yet so
limpid, so lustrous the air that cloudless moonlight could hardly have
made every object seem clearer, more distinct. The feeling inspired by
such conditions is that of enchantment. For the nonce we may yield to a
spell, fancy ourselves in Armida's enchanted garden or other "delightful
land of Faëry."

Not for long, however! Pleasant practical matters soon recall us to the
life of every day. That laborious, out-of-door existence, which seems
sordid in superfine English eyes, but which is never without the gaiety
that enchanted Goldsmith and Sterne a hundred and fifty years ago.

Whilst host and guest dined on the balcony, the farming folk and such of
the household as could be spared were enjoying a starlit supper
elsewhere. Later, my hostess took me downstairs and introduced her
English visitor to a merry but strictly decorous party having a special
bit of sward to themselves, bailiff, vintagers, stockmen, dairywoman,
washerwoman and odd hands making up a round dozen of men, women and
boys. All seemed quite at home, and chatted easily with their employer
and the visitor, by no means perturbed, rather pleased by the intrusion.

And here I will mention one of those incidents that lead English
observers into so many misconceptions concerning French rural life.
Little things that seem sordid, even brutifying to insular eyes, really
arise from incompatible standards.

The Frenchman's ideal of material comfort begins and ends with solvency,
the sense of absolute security from want in old age. Small comforts he
sets little store by; provided that he gets a good dinner, lesser
considerations go. I do not hesitate to say that the comforts enjoyed by
our own farm-servants half a century ago were far in excess of those
thought more than sufficient by French labourers and their employers. On
the following day my hosts took me round the farmery, fowl-run,
piggeries, neat-houses and stalls being inspected one by one. When we
came to the last named, I noticed at the door of the long building and
on a level with the feeding troughs for oxen, a bed-shaped wooden box
piled up with fresh clean straw.

"That is where our stockman sleeps," explained the lady.

Here, then, quite contentedly slept the herdsman of a large estate in
nineteenth-century France, whilst his English compeers two generations
before, and in much humbler employ, had their tidy bedroom and
comfortable bed under the farmer's roof. What would my own Suffolk
ploughmen have said to the notion of spending the night in an ox-stall?
But _autres pays, autres moeurs_. In Déroulède's fine little poem, "Bon
gîte", a famished, foot-sore soldier returning home is generously
entreated by a poor housewife. When she sets about preparing a bed for
him, he remonstrates--

     "Good dame, what means that new-made bed,
         Those sheets so finely spun?
     On heaped-up straw in cattle-shed,
         I'd snore till rise of sun."

The compensations for apparent hardship in the case of French peasants
are many and great. In Henry James's great series of dissolving views
called _The American Scene_, he describes the heterogeneous masses as
having "a promoted look". The French proletariat have not a promoted
look, rather one of inherited, traditional stability and self-respect.
One and all, moreover, are promoting themselves, rising by a slow
evolutionary process from the condition of wage-earner to that of
metayer, tenant, lastly freeholder.

Although the immediate environs of Quissac and Sauve are not remarkable,
magnificent prospects are obtained a little farther afield--our drives
and walks abounded in interest--and associations! Strange but true it is
that we can hardly halt anywhere in France without coming upon historic,
literary or artistic memorials. Every town and village is redolent of
tradition, hardly a spot but is glorified by genius!

Thus, half-an-hour's drive from our village still stands the château
and birthplace of Florian, the Pollux of fabulists, La Fontaine being
the Castor, no other stars of similar magnitude shining in their
especial arc.

Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian was born here in 1755, just sixty years
after the great fabulist's death. Nephew of a marquis, himself
nephew-in-law of Voltaire, endowed with native wit and gaiety, the young
man was a welcome guest at Fernay, and no wonder! His enchanting fables
did not see the light till after Voltaire's death, but we will hope that
some of them had delighted his host in recitation. Many of us who loved
French in early years have a warm corner in our hearts for "Numa
Pompilius", but Florian will live as the second fabulist of France, to
my own thinking twin of his forerunner.

How full of wisdom, wit and sparkle are these apologues! Take, for
instance, the following, which to the best of my ability I have rendered
into our mother tongue--

       VANITY (LE PETIT CHIEN).

                         I
     Once on a time and far away,
       The elephant stood first in might,
     He had by many a forest fray
       At last usurped the lion's right.
     On peace and reign unquestioned bent,
       The ruler in his pride of place,
     Forthwith to life-long banishment
       Doomed members of the lion race.

                        II
     Dispirited, their best laid low,
       The vanquished could but yield to fate,
     And turn their backs upon the foe
       In silence nursing grief and hate.
     A poodle neatly cropped and clipped,
       With tasselled tail made leonine,
     On hearing of the stern rescript,
       Straightway set up a piteous whine.

                        III
     "Alas!" he moaned. "Ah, woe is me!
       Where, tyrant, shall I shelter find;
     Advancing years what will they be,
       My home and comforts left behind?"
     A spaniel hastened at the cry,
       "Come, mate, what's this to-do about?"
     "Oh, oh," the other gulped reply,
       "For exile we must all set out!"

                        IV
     "Must all?" "No, you are safe, good friend;
       The cruel law smites us alone;
     Here undisturbed your days may end,
       The lions must perforce begone."
     "The lions? Brother, pray with these,
       What part or lot have such as you?"
     "What part, forsooth? You love to tease;
       You know I am a lion too."

[Footnote: The first translation appeared with others in _French Men,
Women and Books_, 1910. The second was lately issued in the
_Westminster Gazette_.]

Here is another, a poem of essential worldly wisdom, to be bracketed
with Browning's equally oracular "The Statue and the Bust," fable and
poem forming a compendium.

           THE FLIGHTY PURPOSE
     (LE PAYSAN AND LA RIVIERE).

     "I now intend to change my ways"--
       Thus Juan said--"No more for me
     A round on round of idle days
       'Mid soul-debasing company.
     I've pleasure woo'd from year to year
       As by a siren onward lured,
     At last of roystering, once held dear,
       I'm as a man of sickness cured."

     "Unto the world I bid farewell,
       My mind to retrospection give,
     Remote as hermit in his cell,
       For wisdom and wise friends I'll live."
     "Is Thursday's worldling, Friday's sage?
       Too good such news," I bantering spoke.
     "How oft you've vowed to turn the page,
       Each promise vanishing like smoke!"

     "And when the start?" "Next week--not this."
       "Ah, you but play with words again."
     "Nay, do not doubt me; hard it is
       To break at once a life-long chain."
     Came we unto the riverside,
       Where motionless a rustic sate,
     His gaze fixed on the flowing tide.
       "Ho, mate, why thus so still and squat?"

     "Good sirs, bound to yon town am I;
       No bridge anear, I sit and sit
     Until these waters have run dry,
       So that afoot I get to it."
     "A living parable behold,
       My friend!" quoth I. "Upon the brim
     You, too, will gaze until you're old,
       But never boldly take a swim!"

As far as I know, no memorial has as yet been raised to the fabulist
either at Quissac or at Sauve, but as long as the French language lasts
successive generations will keep his memory green. Certain of his fables
every little scholar knows by heart.

Associations of other kinds are come upon by travellers bound from
Quissac to Le Vigan, that charming little centre of silkworm rearing
described by me elsewhere. A few miles from our village lies Ganges, a
name for ever famous in the annals of political economy and progress.

"From Ganges", wrote the great Suffolk farmer in July 1787, "to the
mountain of rough ground which I crossed" (in the direction of
Montdardier), "the ride has been the most interesting which I have
taken in France; the efforts of industry the most vigorous, the
animation the most lively. An activity has been here that has swept away
all difficulties before it and clothed the very rocks with verdure. It
would be a disgrace to common sense to ask the cause; the enjoyment of
property must have done it. _Give a man the sure possession of a bleak
rock, and he will turn it into a garden_." The italics are my own. When
will Arthur Young have his tablet in Westminster Abbey, I wonder?

The department of the Gard offers an anomaly of the greatest historic
interest. Here and here only throughout the length and breadth of France
villages are found without a Catholic church, communities that have held
fast to Protestantism and the right of private judgment from generation
to generation during hundreds of years. Elsewhere, in the Côte d'Or, for
instance, as I have described in a former work, Protestantism was
completely stamped out by the Revocation, whole villages are now
ultramontane, having abjured, the alternatives placed before them being
confiscation of property, separation of children and parents,
banishment, prison and death.

[Footnote: See _Friendly Faces_, chap. xvi.]

The supremacy of the reformed faith may be gathered from the following
facts: A few years back, of the six deputies representing this
department five were Protestant and the sixth was a Jew. The _Conseil
Général_ or provincial council numbered twenty-three Protestants as
against seventeen Catholics. The seven members of the Board of Hospitals
at Nîmes, three of the four inspectors of public health, nine of the
twelve head-mistresses of girls' schools, twenty-nine of forty rural
magistrates, were Protestants.

My host belonged to the same faith, as indeed do most of his class and
the great captains of local industry. It is not as in Michelet's
fondly-loved St. Georges de Didonne, where only the lowly and the toiler
have kept the faith aflame.

But whilst neighbours now live peacefully side by side, a gulf still
divides Catholic and Protestant. Although half a millennium has elapsed
since the greatest crime of modern history, the two bodies remain apart:
French _annexés_ of Alsace-Lorraine and Germans are not more completely
divided. Mixed marriages are of rarest occurrence, intercourse limited
to the conventional and the obligatory. There are historic curses that
defy lustration. St. Bartholomew is one of these. I must now say
something about the country-folks. Calls upon our rustic neighbours,
long chats with affable housewives, and rounds of farmery, vineyard and
field attracted me more than the magnificent panoramas to be obtained
from Corconne and other villages within an easy drive.

George Sand has ever been regarded as a poetizer of rural life, an
arch-idealist of her humbler country-folks. At Quissac I made more than
one acquaintance that might have stepped out of _La petite Fadette_ or
_La mare au Diable_.

One old woman might have been "la paisible amie," the tranquil friend,
to whom the novelist dedicated a novel. Neat, contented, active and
self-respecting, she enjoyed a life-interest in two acres and a cottage,
her live stock consisting of a goat, a pig and poultry, her invested
capital government stock representing a hundred pounds. Meagre as may
seem these resources, she was by no means to be pitied or inclined to
pity herself, earning a few francs here and there by charing, selling
her little crops, what eggs and chickens she could spare, above all
things being perfectly independent.

A charming idyll the great Sand could have found here. The owner of a
thirty-acre farm had lately died, leaving it with all he possessed to
two adopted children, a young married couple who for years had acted
respectively as steward and housekeeper. We are bound to infer that on
the one hand there had been affection and gratitude, on the other the
same qualities with conscientiousness in business matters. The
foster-father was childless and a widower, but, among the humble as well
as the rich French, ambition of posthumous remembrance often actuates
impersonal bequests. This worthy Jacques Bonhomme might have made an
heir of his native village, leaving money for a new school-house or some
other public edifice. Very frequently towns and even villages become
legatees of the childless, and the worthy man would have been quite sure
of a statue, a memorial tablet, or at least of having his name added to
a street or square.

Before taking leave of Quissac I must mention one curious fact.

The Proteus of Odyssean story or the King's daughter and the Efreet in
the "Second Royal Mendicant's Adventure," could not more easily
transform themselves than the French peasant. Husbandman to-day,
mechanic on the morrow, at one season he plies the pruning-hook, at
another he turns the lathe. This adaptability of the French mind,
strange to say, is nowhere seen to greater advantage than in
out-of-the-way regions, just where are mental torpidity and unbendable
routine. Not one of Millet's blue-bloused countrymen but masters a dozen
handicrafts.

Thus, whilst the heraldic insignia of Sauve should be a trident, those
of Quissac should be surmounted by an old shoe! In the former place the
forked branches of the _Celtis australis_ or nettle tree, _Ulmaceæ_,
afford a most profitable occupation. From its tripartite boughs are made
yearly thousands upon thousands of the three-pronged forks used in
agriculture. The wood, whilst very durable, is yielding, and lends
itself to manipulation.

In Florian's birthplace folks make a good living out of old boots and
shoes! Some native genius discovered that, however well worn footgear
may be, valuable bits of leather may remain in the sole. These fragments
are preserved, and from them boot heels are made; the _débris_, boots,
shoes and slippers, no matter the material, find their way to the soil
as manure. But this subject if pursued further would lead to a lane,
metaphorically speaking, without a turning, that is to say to a treatise
on French rural economy.



VII

AN IMMORTALIZER

In Renan's exquisitely phrased preface to his _Drames Philosophiques_
occurs the following sentence which I render into English _tant bien que
mal_: "Side by side are the history of fact and the history of the
ideal, the latter materially speaking of what has never taken place, but
which, in the ideal sense, has happened a thousand times."

Who when visiting the beautiful little town of Saumur thinks of the
historic figures connected with its name? Even the grand personality of
Duplessis Morny sinks into insignificance by comparison with that of the
miser's daughter, the gentle, ill-starred Eugénie Grandet! And who when
Carcassonne first breaks upon his view thinks of aught but Nadaud's
immortal peasant and his plaint--

     "I'm growing old, just three score year,
       In wet and dry, in dust and mire,
     I've sweated, never getting near
       Fulfilment of my heart's desire.
     Ah, well I see that bliss below
       'Tis Heaven's will to vouchsafe none,
     Harvest and vintage come and go,
       I've never got to Carcassonne!"

The tragi-comic poem of six eight-lined verses ending thus--

     "So sighed a peasant of Limoux,
       A worthy neighbour bent and worn.
     'Ho, friend,' quoth I, 'I'll go with you.
       We'll sally forth to-morrow morn.'
     And true enough away we hied,
       But when our goal was almost won,
     God rest his soul!--the good man died,
       He never got to Carcassonne!"

No lover of France certainly should die without having seen Carcassonne,
foremost of what I will call the pictorial Quadrilateral, no formidable
array after the manner of their Austrian cognominal, but lovely,
dreamlike things. These four walled-in towns or citadels, perfect as
when they represented mediaeval defence, are Carcassonne, Provins in the
Brie, Semur in upper Burgundy, and the Breton Guérande, scene of
Balzac's _Béatrix_. To my thinking, and I have visited each, there is
little to choose between the first two, but exquisite as is the little
Briard acropolis, those imaginary "topless towers of Ilium" of Nadaud's
peasant bear the palm. That first view of Carcassonne as we approach it
in the railway of itself repays a long and tedious journey. A vision
rather than reality, structure of pearly clouds in mid-heaven, seems
that opaline pile lightly touched with gold. We expect it to evaporate
at evenfall! Vanish it does not, nor wholly bring disillusion, so fair
and harmonious are the vistas caught in one circuit of the citadel, mere
matter of twenty minutes.

But the place by this time has become so familiar to travellers in
France and readers of French travel, that I will here confine myself to
its glorifier, author of a song that has toured the world.

The first biography of the French Tom Moore, published last year, gives
no history of this much translated poem. Had, indeed, some worthy
vine-grower poured out such a plaint in the poet's ears? Very probably,
for one and all of Nadaud's rural poems breathe the very essence of the
fields, the inmost nature of the peasant, from first to last they reveal
Jacques Bonhomme to us, his conceptions of life, his mentality and
limitations.

[Footnote: My own rendering of this piece and many other of Nadaud's
songs and ballads are given in _French Men, Women and Books_, 1910.
American translators have admirably translated _Carcassonne_.]

Nadaud's career is uneventful, but from one point of view, far from
being noteless, he was pre-eminently the happy man. His biographer (A.
Varloy) tells us of a smooth, much relished, even an exuberant
existence. The son of an excellent bourgeois, whose ancestry,
nevertheless, like that of many another, could be traced for six hundred
years, his early surroundings were the least lyric imaginable.

He was born at Roubaix, the flourishing seat of manufacture near Lille,
which, although a mere _chef-lieu du canton_, does more business with
the Bank of France than the big cities of Toulouse, Nîmes, Montpellier
and others thrice its size. Dress fabrics, cloths and exquisite napery
are the products of Roubaix and its suburb; vainly, however, does any
uncommercial traveller endeavour to see the weavers at work. Grimy walls
and crowded factory chimneys are relieved at Roubaix by gardens public
and private, and the town is endowed with museums, libraries, art and
technical schools. But Nadaud, like Cyrano de Bergerac, if asked what
gave him most delectation, would certainly have replied--

     "Lorsque j'ai fait un vers et que je l'aime,
      Je me paye en me le chantant à moi-même."

Here is the boy's daily programme when a twelve-year-old student at the
Collège Rollin, Paris. The marvel is that the poetic instinct survived
such routine, marvellous also the fact that the dry-as-dust in authority
was a well-known translator of Walter Scott. If anything could have
conjured the Wizard of the North from his grave it was surely these
particulars written by Gustave Nadaud to his father on the 19th of
October, 1833--

"Five-thirty, rise; five-forty-five, studies till seven-thirty;
breakfast and recreation from seven-thirty till eight; from eight till
ten, school; from ten to a quarter past, recreation; from a quarter past
ten till half past twelve, school; then dinner and recreation from one
till two. School from two till half past four; collation from half past
four till a quarter past five; school from a quarter past five till
eight. Supper and to bed."

Poetry here was, however, a healthy plant, and in his school-days this
born song-writer would scribble verses on his copy-books and read Racine
for his own amusement. Turning his back upon the mill-wheels of his
native town and an assured future in a Parisian business house, like Gil
Bias's friend, _il s'est jeté dans le bel esprit_--in other words, he
betook himself to the career of a troubadour. Never, surely, did master
of song-craft write and sing so many ditties!

Quitting school with a tip-top certificate both as to conduct and
application, Gustave Nadaud quickly won fame if not fortune. Hardly of
age, he wrote somewhat Bohemian effusions that at once made the round of
Parisian music-halls.

The revolution, if it brought topsy-turvydom in politics, like its great
forerunner '89 brought the apogee of song. The popular young lyrist,
ballader and minstrel, for Nadaud accompanied himself on the piano, now
made a curious compact, agreeing to write songs for twenty years, a firm
named Heugel paying him six thousand francs yearly by way of
remuneration.

Two hundred and forty pounds a year should seem enough for a young man,
a bachelor brought up in bourgeois simplicity. But the cost of living in
Paris was apparently as high sixty years ago as now. In 1856-7 he wrote
to a friend: "How upon such an income I contrived to live and frequent
Parisian salons without ever asking a farthing of any one, only those
who have been poor can tell." The salons spoken of were not only
aristocratic but Imperial, the late Princess Mathilde being an
enthusiastic hostess and patroness. Several operettas were composed by
Nadaud for her receptions and philanthropic entertainments. Here is a
sketch of the French Tom Moore in 1868 by a witty contributor of the
_Figaro_--

"Nadaud then seated himself at the piano, and of the words he sang I
give you full measure, the impression produced by his performance I
cannot hope to convey. Quite indescribable was the concord of voice and
hands, on the music as on wings each syllable being lightly borne, yet
its meaning thereby intensified. In one's memory only can such delight
be revived and reproduced."

With other poets, artists and musicians Nadaud cast vocation to the
winds in 1870-1, working in field and other hospitals. "I did my best to
act the part of a poor little sister of charity," he wrote to a friend.
His patriotic poem, "La grande blessée," was written during that
terrible apprenticeship.

With Nadaud henceforward it was a case of roses, roses all the way.
Existence he had ever taken easily, warm friendships doing duty for a
domestic circle. And did he not write--

     "I dreamed of an ideal love
      And Benedick remain?"

His songs proved a mine of wealth, and the sumptuously illustrated
edition got up by friends and admirers brought him 80,000 francs, with
which he purchased a villa, christened Carcassonne, at Nice, therein
spending sunny and sunny-tempered days and dispensing large-hearted
hospitality. To luckless brethren of the lyre he held out an ungrudgeful
hand, alas! meeting with scant return. The one bitterness of his life,
indeed, was due to ingratitude. Among his papers after death was found
the following note--

"Throughout the last thirty years I have lent sums, large considering
my means, to friends, comrades and entire strangers. Never, never,
never has a single centime been repaid by a single one of these
borrowers. I now vow to myself, never under any circumstances whatever
to lend money again!"

Poor song-writers, nevertheless, he posthumously befriended. By his will
with the bulk of his property was founded "La petite Caisse des
chansonniers," a benefit society for less happy Nadauds to come. By aid
of these funds, lyrists and ballad-writers unable to find publishers
would be held on their onward path. Full of honours, Nadaud died in
1893, monuments being erected to his memory, streets named after him,
and undiminished popularity keeping his name alive.

And the honour denied to Béranger, to Victor Hugo, to Balzac, the
coveted sword and braided coat of the Forty were Nadaud's also. With the
witty Piron he could not ironically anticipate his own epitaph thus--

"Here lies Nadaud who was nothing, not even an Academician!"

Before taking leave of Carcassonne, poetic and picturesque, the most
inveterate anti-sightseer should peep into its museum. For this little
_chef-lieu_ of the Aude, with a population under thirty thousand,
possesses what, indeed, hardly a French townling lacks, namely, a
picture-gallery. If not remarkable from an artistic point of view, the
collection serves to demonstrate the persistent, self-denying and
constant devotion to culture in France. Times may be peaceful or stormy,
seasons may prove disastrous, the withered, thin and blasted ears of
corn may devour the seven ears full and golden, the ship of State may be
caught in a tornado and lurch alarmingly--all the same "the man in the
street," "the rascal many," to quote Spenser, will have a museum in
which, with wife and hopefuls, to spend their Sunday afternoons. The
local museum is no less of a necessity to Jacques Bonhomme than his
daily _pot-au-feu_, that dish of soup which, according to Michelet,
engenders the national amiability.

The splendid public library--the determinative is used in the sense of
comparison--numbers just upon a volume per head, and the art school,
school of music, and other institutions tell the same story. Culture
throughout the country seems indigenous, to spread of itself, and, above
all things, to reach all classes. Culture on French soil is gratuitous,
ever free as air! We must never overlook that primary fact.

One or two more noticeable facts about Carcassonne. Here was born that
eccentric revolutionary and poetic genius, Fabre d'Eglantine, of whom I
have written elsewhere.

 [Footnote: See Literary Rambles in France, 1906]

Yet another historic note. From St. Vincent's tower during the
Convention, 1792-5, were taken those measurements, the outcome of which
was the metric system. Two mathematicians, by name Delambre and Méchain,
were charged with the necessary calculations, the _mètre_, or a
ten-millionth part of the distance between the poles and the equator
(32,808 English feet), being made the unit of length. Uniformity of
weight followed, and became law in 1799.

But to touch upon historic Carcassonne is to glance upon an almost
interminable perspective. The chronicle of this charming little city
on the bright blue Aude has been penned and re-penned in blood and
tears. In 1560 Carcassonne suffered a preliminary Saint Bartholomew, a
general massacre of Protestants announcing the evil days to follow;
days that after five hundred years have left their trace, moral as
well as material.



VIII

TOULOUSE

A zigzaggery, indeed, was this journey from Nîmes to my Pyrenean valley.
That metropolis of art and most heroic town, Montauban, I could not on
any account miss. Toulouse necessarily had to be taken on the way to
Ingres-ville, as I feel inclined to call the great painter's birthplace
and apotheosis. But why write of Toulouse? The magnificent city, its
public gardens, churches, superbly housed museums and art galleries, its
promenades, drives and panoramas are all particularized by Murray,
Joanne and Baedeker. Here, however, as elsewhere, are one or two
features which do not come within the province of a guide-book.

The only city throughout France that welcomed the Inquisition was
among the first to open a _Lycée pour jeunes filles._ In accordance
with the acts of 1880-82 public day schools for girls were opened
throughout France; that of Toulouse being fairly representative, I
will describe my visit.

The school was now closed for the long vacation, but a junior mistress
in temporary charge gave us friendliest welcome, and showed us over the
building and annexes. She evidently took immense and quite natural
pride in the little world within world of which she formed a part. Her
only regret was that we could not see the scholars at work. Here may be
noted the wide field thrown open to educated women by the above-named
acts, from under-mistresses to _Madame la directrice_, the position
being one of dignity and provision for life, pensions being the reward
of long service.

The course of study is prepared by the rector of the Toulousain Academy,
and the rules of management by the municipal council, thus the programme
of instruction bears the signature of the former, whilst the prospectus,
dealing with fees, practical details, is signed by the mayor in the name
of the latter.

We find a decree passed by the town council in 1887 to the effect that
in the case of two sisters a fourth of the sum-total of fees should be
remitted, of three, a half, of four, three-quarters, and of five, the
entire amount. Even the outfit of the boarders must be approved by the
same authority. A neat costume is obligatory, and the number and
material of undergarments is specified with the utmost minuteness.
Besides a sufficient quantity of suitable clothes, each student must
bring three pairs of boots, thirty pocket-handkerchiefs, a bonnet-box,
umbrella, parasol, and so forth.

Such regulations may at first sight look trivial and unnecessary, but
there is much to be said on the other side. From the beginning of the
term to the end, the matron, whose province is quite apart from that of
the head-mistress, is never worried about the pupils' dress, no shoes in
need of repair, no garments to be mended, no letters to be written
begging Mme. A. to send her daughter a warm petticoat, Mme. B. to
forward a hair-brush, and so on. Again, the uniform obligatory on
boarders prevents those petty jealousies and rivalries provoked by fine
clothes in girls' schools. Alike the child of the millionaire and of the
small official wear the same simple dress.

Children are admitted to the lower school between the ages of five and
twelve, the classes being in the hands of certificated mistresses. The
upper school, at which pupils are received from twelve years and
upwards, and are expected to remain five years, offers a complete course
of study, lady teachers being aided by professors of the Faculté des
Lettres and of the Lycée for youths. Students who have remained
throughout the entire period, and have satisfactorily passed final
examinations, receive a certificate entitling them to admission into the
great training college of Sèvres or to offer themselves as teachers in
schools and families.

The curriculum is certainly modest compared with that obligatory on
candidates for London University, Girton College, or our senior local
examination; but it is an enormous improvement on the old conventual
system, and several points are worthy of imitation. Thus a girl quitting
the Lycée would have attained, first and foremost, a thorough knowledge
of her own language and its literature; she would also possess a fair
notion of French common law, of domestic economy, including needlework
of the more useful kind, the cutting out and making up of clothes, and
the like. Gymnastics are practised daily. In the matter of religion the
municipality of Toulouse shows absolute impartiality. No sectarian
teaching enters into the programme, but Catholics and Protestants and
Jews in residence can receive instruction from their respective
ministers.

The Lycée competes formidably with the convents as regards fees.
Twenty-eight pounds yearly cover the expense of board, education, and
medical attendance at the upper school; twenty-four at the lower; day
boarders pay from twelve to fifteen pounds a year; books, the use of the
school omnibus, and laundress being extras. Three hundred scholars in
all attended during the scholastic year ending July 1891.

Day-pupils not using the school omnibus must be accompanied to and from
the school, and here an interesting point is to be touched upon. In so
far as was practicable, the Lycée for girls has been modelled on the
plan of the time-honoured establishments for boys. As yet a uniform
curriculum to begin with was out of the question; the programme is
already too ambitious in the eyes of many, whilst ardent advocates of
the higher education of women in France regret that the vices as well as
the virtues of the existing system have been retained. Educationists and
advanced thinkers generally would fain see a less strait-laced routine,
a less stringent supervision, more freedom for play of character. The
Lycée student, boy or girl, youth or maiden, is as strictly guarded as a
criminal; not for a moment are these citizens of the future trusted to
themselves.

In the vast dormitory of the high school here we see thirty neat
compartments with partitions between, containing bed and toilet
requisites, and at the extreme end of the room, commanding a view of
the rest, is the bed of the under-mistress in charge, _surveillante_ as
she is called. Sleeping or waking, the students are watched. This
massing together of numbers and perpetual supervision no longer find
universal favour.

But I am here writing of fifteen years ago. Doubtless were I to repeat
my visit I should find progressive changes too numerous for detail.
Happy little middle-class Parisians now run to and from their Lycées
unattended. Young ladies in society imitate their Anglo-Saxon sisters
and have shaken off that incubus, _la promeneuse_ or walking chaperon.

Works on social France, as is the case with almanacs, encyclopædias and
the rest, require yearly revision. Manners and customs change no less
quickly than headgear and skirts.

Charles Lamb would have lived ecstatically at the Languedocian capital.
It is a metropolis of beggardom, a mendicant's Mecca, a citadel of Jules
Richepin's cherished _Gueux_. Here, indeed, Elia need not have lamented
over the decay of beggars, "the all sweeping besom of societarian
reformation--your only modern Alcides' club to rid time of its
abuses--is uplift with many-handed sway to extirpate the last fluttering
tatters of the bugbear _Mendicity_. Scrips, wallets, bags, staves, dogs
and crutches, the whole mendicant fraternity with all their baggage are
fast hasting out of the purlieus of this eleventh persecution."

No, here is what the best beloved of English humorists calls "the oldest
and the honourablest form of pauperism," here his vision would have
feasted on "Rags, the Beggars' robes and graceful insignia of his
profession, his tenure, his full dress, the suit in which he is expected
to show himself in public." "He is never out of fashion," adds Lamb, "or
limpeth outwardly behind it. He is not required to wear court mourning.
He weareth all colours, fearing none. His costume hath undergone less
change than the Quaker's. He is the only man in the universe who is not
obliged to study appearances."

Here, too, would the unmatchable writer have gazed upon more than one
"grand fragment, as good as an Elgin marble." And alas! many deformities
more terrible still, and which, perhaps, would have damped even Lamb's
ardour. For in the Toulouse of 1894, as in the London of sixty years
before, its mendicants "were so many of its sights, its Lions." The city
literally swarmed with beggars. At every turn we came upon some living
torso, distorted limb and hideous sore. Begging seemed to be the
accepted livelihood of cripples, blind folk and the infirm. Let us hope
that by this time something better has been devised for them all. Was it
here that Richepin partly studied the mendicant fraternity, giving us in
poetry his astounding appreciation, psychological and linguistic? And
perhaps the bard of the beggars, like the English humorist, would wish
his _pauvres Gueux_ to be left unmolested.

The sights of Toulouse would occupy a conscientious traveller many days.
The least leisurely should find time to visit the tiny square called
_place du Salin_. Here took place the innumerable _autos-da-fé_ of the
Toulousain Inquisition, and here, so late as 1618, the celebrated
physician and scientist Vanini was atrociously done to death by that
truly infernal tribunal, and for what? For simply differing from the
obscurantism of his age, and having opinions of his own.

The atrocious sentence passed on Vanini was in part remitted, evidently
public opinion already making itself felt. His tongue was cut out, but
strangulation preceded the burning alive. Here one cannot help noting
the illogical, the puerile--if such words are applicable to devilish
wickedness--aspect of such Inquisitorial sentences. If these
hounders-down of common-sense and the reasoning faculty really believed,
as they affected to believe, that men who possessed and exercised both
qualities were thereby doomed to eternal torments, why set up the
horrible and costly paraphernalia of the Inquisition? After all, no
matter how ingeniously inventive might be their persecutors, they could
only be made to endure terminable and comparatively insignificant
torments, not a millionth millionth fraction of eternity!

Refreshing it is to turn to the Toulouse of minstrelsy. The proud seat
of the troubadours, the Academy of the Gay Science and of the poetic
tourneys revived in our own day! Mistral's name has long been European,
and other English writers have charmingly described the _Feux Floraux_
of the olden time and the society of _Lou Felibrige_ with its revival of
Provençal literature. But forty years ago, and twenty years before his
masterpiece had found a translator here, he was known and highly
esteemed by a great Englishman.

In Mill's _Correspondence_ (1910) we find a beautiful letter, and
written in fine stately French, from the philosopher to the poet, dated
Avignon, October 1869.

Mill had sent Mistral the French translation of his essay, "The
Subjection of Women," and in answer to the other's thanks and flattering
assurance of his own conversion, he wrote: "Parmi toutes les adhésions
qui ont été données à la thèse de mon petit livre, je ne sais s'il y en
a aucune qui m'ont fait plus de plaisir que la vôtre."

The letter as a whole is most interesting, and ends with a
characterization, a strikingly beautiful passage in the life and
teaching of Jesus Christ. Hard were it to match this appreciation among
orthodox writers.

So transparent is the atmosphere here that the Pyrenees appear within an
hour's ride: they are in reality sixty miles off! Lovely are the clearly
outlined forms, flecked with light and shadow, the snowy patches being
perfectly distinct.



IX

MONTAUBAN, OR INGRES-VILLE

An hour by rail from Toulouse lies the ancient city of Montauban, as far
as I know unnoticed by English tourists since Arthur Young's time. This
superbly placed _chef-lieu_ of the Tarn and Garonne is alike an artistic
shrine and a palladium of religious liberty. Here was born that strongly
individualized and much contested genius, Dominique Ingres, and here
Protestantism withstood the League, De Luyne's besieging army and the
dragonnades of Louis XIV.

The city of Ingres may be thought of by itself; there is plenty of food
for reflection here without recalling the prude whose virtue caused more
mischief than the vices of all the Montespans and Dubarrys put together.
Let us forget the Maintenon terror at Montauban, the breaking up of
families, the sending to the galleys of good men and women, the
torturings, the roastings alive, and turn to the delightful and soothing
souvenirs of genius! Every French town that has given birth to shining
talent is straightway turned into a Walhalla. This ancient town, so
strikingly placed, breathes of Ingres, attracts the traveller by the
magic of the painter's name, has become an art pilgrimage. The noble
monument erected by the townsfolk to their great citizen and the
picture-gallery he bequeathed his native city well repay a much longer
journey than that from Toulouse. We see here to what high levels public
spirit and local munificence can rise in France. We see also how close,
after all, are the ties that knit Frenchman and Frenchman, how the glory
of one is made the pride of all. The bronze statue of the painter, with
the vast and costly bas-relief imitating his "Apotheosis of Homer" in
the Louvre, stand in the public walk, the beauty of which aroused even
Arthur Young's enthusiasm. "The promenade," he wrote in June 1787, "is
finely situated. Built on the highest part of the rampart, and
commanding that noble vale, or rather plain, one of the richest in
Europe, which extends on one side to the sea and in front to the
Pyrenees, whose towering masses heaped one upon another in a stupendous
manner, and covered with snow, offer a variety of lights and shades from
indented forms and the immensity of their projections. This prospect,
which contains a semicircle of a hundred miles in diameter, has an
oceanic vastness in which the eye loses itself; an almost boundless
scene of cultivation; an animated but confused mass of infinitely varied
parts, melting gradually into the distant obscure, from which emerges
the amazing frame of the Pyrenees, rearing their silvered heads above
the clouds."

The Ingres Museum contains, I should say, more works from the hand of a
single master than were ever before collected under the same roof.
Upwards of a thousand sketches, many of great power and beauty, are
here, besides several portraits and one masterpiece, the Christ in the
Temple, brilliant as a canvas of Holman Hunt, although the work of an
octogenarian. The painter's easel, palette, and brushes, his violin, the
golden laurel-wreath presented to him by his native town, and other
relics are reverently gazed at on Sundays by artisans, soldiers and
peasant-folk. The local museum in France is something more than a little
centre of culture, a place in which to breathe beauty and delight. It is
a school of the moral sense, of the nobler passions, and also a temple
of fame. Therein the young are taught to revere excellence, and here the
ambitious are stimulated by worthy achievement.

Ingres-ville recalls an existence stormy as the history of Montauban
itself. This stronghold of reform throughout her vicissitudes did not
show a bolder, more determined front to the foe than did her great
citizen his own enemies and detractors. Dominique Ingres and his
life-story favour those physicists who discern in native soil and
surroundings the formative influences of aptitudes and character. The
man and his birthplace matched each other. Indomitableness characterized
both, and to understand both we must know something of their respective
histories. To Montauban Henri Martin's great history does ample justice,
to her illustrious son contemporary writers have recently paid worthy
tributes.

[Footnote: See _Les Grands Artistes--Ingres_, par J. Mommeja,
Paris, Laurens; _Le Roman d'amour de M. Ingres_, par H. Lapauze, Paris,
Lafitte, 1911.]

"When a writer is praised above his merits in his own times," wrote
Savage Landor, "he is certain of being estimated below them in the
times succeeding." In the case of Ingres, opposition and contumely were
followed by perhaps excessive laudation whilst he lived, after his
death ensuing a long period of reaction. Time has now set the seal upon
his fame. The great Montalbanais has been finally received into the
national Walhalla.

The father of the so-called French Raphaël, writes his biographer, was
not even a Giovanni Santi. Joseph Ingres, in the words of M. Momméja,
was _un petit ornemaniste_, a fabricator of knick-knacks, turning out
models in clay, busts in plaster, miniatures and other trifles for sale
at country fairs. Who can say, this humble craftsman may yet have had
much to do with his son's aspirations?

An inferior artist can appraise his masters. From the humble artificer
and purveyor of bagatelles the youth not only imbibed a passion for
art and technical knowledge: he inherited the next best thing to a
calling, in other words, a love of music. From the palette throughout
his long life Ingres would turn with never-abated enthusiasm to his
adored violin.

The learned monograph above-named gives a succinct and judicial account
of the painter's career. The second writer mentioned tells the story of
his inner life; one, indeed, of perpetual and universal interest.

For to this sturdy young bourgeois early came a crisis. He found himself
suddenly at the parting of the ways, on the one hand beckoning
Conscience, on the other ambition in the flattering shape of Destiny. To
which voice would he hearken? Would love and plighted troth overrule
that insistent siren song, Vocation? Would he yield, as have done
thousands of well-intentioned men and women before him, to self-interest
and worldly wisdom? The problem to be solved by this brilliantly endowed
artist just twenty-six--how many a historic parallel does it recall!
What three words can convey so much pathos, heroism and generosity as
"il gran riffiuto?"--the great renunciation. Does the French language
contain a more touching record than that of the great Navarre's farewell
to his Huguenot brethren? What bitter tears shed Jeanne d'Albret's son
ere he could bring himself to sacrifice conscience on the altar of
expediency and a great career!

At the age of twenty we find Dominique Ingres studying in Paris under
David, then in his apogee.

The son of an obscure provincial, however promising, would hardly be
overwhelmed with hospitalities; all the more welcome came the
friendliness of an honourable magistrate and his wife, by name
Forestier. During five years the young man had lived on terms of
closest intimacy with these good folks, under his eyes growing up their
only daughter.

Alas! poor Julie. Mighty, says Goethe, is the god of propinquity. On
Dominique's part attachment seems to have come insensibly, as a matter
of course and despite the precariousness of his position. M. Forestier
encouraged the young man's advances. To Julie love for the brilliant
winner of the Prix de Rome became an absorption, her very life. Not
particularly endowed by Nature--we have her portrait in M. Momméja's
volume--she described her own physiognomy as "not at all remarkable, but
expressive of candour and goodness of heart." For Julie, as we shall
see, turned her love-story into a little novel, only unearthed the other
day by M. Lapauze.

The Prix de Rome meant, of course, a call to Rome, the worthy magistrate
exacting from his prospective son-in-law a promise that in twelve
months' time he would return. During that interval correspondence went
on apace not only between the affianced lovers, but between M. Forestier
and Ingres, the former taking affectionate and not uncritical interest
in the other's projects. For Ingres was before all things a projector,
anticipating by decades the achievements of his later years. The glow of
enthusiasm, the fever of creativeness were at its height. Italy
possessed Ingres' entire being when the crisis came.

After delays, excuses, pleadings, Julie's father lost patience. He would
brook no further tergiversations. Ingres must choose between Italy and
Paris; in other words, so the artist interpreted it, between art and
marriage, a proud destiny or self-extinction.

Never had a young artist more completely fallen under the spell of
Italy. The recall seemed a death-blow. "On my knees," he wrote to Julie,
whom he really loved, "I implore you not to ask this. It is impossible
for me to quit immediately a land so full of marvel."

But the practical M. Forestier would not give way. Ingres' persistence
looked like folly, even madness in his eyes. The young man was with
difficulty living from hand to mouth, portraits and small orders barely
keeping the wolf from the door. The return home and marriage would
ensure his future materially and socially, and up to a certain point
render him independent of malevolent criticism. For already Ingres was
fiercely attacked by Parisian authorities on art: he had become
important enough to be a target. After cruellest heart-searching and
prolonged self-reproach, _il gran riffiuto_ was made, youthful passion,
worldly advantages--and plighted faith--were cast to the winds.
Henceforth he would live for his palette only, defying poverty,
detraction and fiercely antagonistic opinion; if failing in allegiance
to others, at least remaining staunch to his first, best, highest self,
his genius.

Julie, the third imperishable Julie of French romance, never married.
Let us hope that the writing of her artless little autobiography called
a novel brought consolation. Did she ever forgive the recalcitrant? Her
story, _Emma, ou la fiancée,_ ends with the aphorism: "Without the
scrupulous fulfilment of the given word, there can be neither happiness
nor inner peace."

Did that backsliding in early life disturb the great painter's stormy
but dazzling career? Who can say? We learn that Ingres was twice, and,
according to accredited reports, happily, married. His first wife, a
humbly-born maiden from his native province, died in 1849, leaving the
septuagenarian so desolate, helpless and stricken that kindly
interveners set to work and re-married him. The second Mme. Ingres,
although thirty years his junior, gave him, his biographer tells us,
"that domestic peace and happiness of which for a brief space he had
been deprived." Heaped with honours, named by Napoleon III. Grand
Officer of the Legion of Honour, Senator, Member of the Institut, Ingres
died in 1869. Within a year of ninety, he was Dominique Ingres to the
last, undertaking new works with the enthusiasm and vitality of Titian.
A few days before his death he gave a musical party, favourite works of
Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven being performed by skilled amateurs. His
funeral was a veritable apotheosis, disciples, admirers and detractors
swelling the enormous cortège.

Those who, like myself, have times without number contemplated the
master's _opus magnum_ in the Louvre, and have studied his art as
represented in the provincial museums, will quit the Musée Ingres with
mixed feelings. It must occur to many that, perhaps, after all, _il gran
riffiuto_ of opposite kind might have better served art and the artist's
fame. Had he returned to France--and to Julie--at the stipulated period,
the following eighteen years being spent not on Italian but on native
soil, how different the result! Then of his work he could have said, as
did Chantecler of his song--

                                                           "Mon chant
     Qui n'est pas de ces chants qu'on chante en cherchant
     Mais qu'on reçoit du sol natal comme une sève."

Would not most of us willingly give Ingres' greatest classical and
historic canvases for one or two portraits, say that of Bertin, or,
better still, for a group like that of the Stamiti family? What a
portrait gallery he would have bequeathed, how would he have made the
men and women of his time live again before us!

[Footnote: Both are reproduced, with many other works, in M.
Momméja's volume.]

Ingres, the artist, ever felt sure of himself. Did the lover look back,
regretting the broken word, the wrong done to another? We do not know.
His life was throughout upright, austere, free from blot; born and bred
a Catholic, he had doubtless Huguenot blood in his veins, many of his
most striking characteristics pointed to this inference.

A word more concerning Montauban itself. The stronghold of reform, that
defied all Richelieu's attempts to take it, is to this day essentially a
Protestant town. Half of its inhabitants have remained faithful to the
faith of their ancestors. Tourists will note the abundance of cypress
trees marking Huguenot graves, the capital of Tarn and Garonne is a
veritable Calvinistic _Campo Santo_. After the Revocation, many families
fled hence to England, their descendants to this day loving and
reverencing the country which gave them a home.

Montauban, as we should expect, has raised a splendid monument to its
one great citizen.

Since writing these lines, an Ingres exhibition has been opened in the
Georges Petit Gallery, Paris. Apropos of this event, the _Revue des Deux
Mondes_ (May 15, 1911) contains a striking paper by the art-critic, M.
de Sizeraine. Some of the conclusions here arrived at are startling.
Certain authorities on art are said to regard the great Montalbanais as
a victim of daltonism--in other words, colour-blind!

In company of the mere amateur, this authority turns with relief from
the master's historical and allegorical pieces to his wonderfully
speaking portraits. Here, he says, all is simple, nothing is
commonplace, nothing is unexpected, and yet nothing resembles what we
have seen elsewhere; we find no embellishment, no stultification. He
adds: "In art, as in literature, works which survive are perhaps those
in which the artist or writer has put the most of himself, not those in
which he has had most faith. The "Voeu de Louis XIII," the "Thétis" of
Ingres, we may compare to Voltaire's _Henriade_ and to the
_Franciade_ of Ronsard, all belong to the category of the
_opus magnum_ that has failed, and of which its creator is proud."
With the following charming simile the essay closes--

"Posterity is a great lady, she passes, reviews the _opus magnum, la
grande machine_ disdainfully, satirically; all seems lost, the artist
condemned. But by chance she catches sight of a neglected picture turned
to the wall in a corner or passage, some happy inspiration that has cost
its author little pains, but in which he has not striven beyond his
powers, and in which he has put the best of himself. The _grande dame_
catches it up, holds it to the light. 'Ha! here is something pretty!'
she cries. And the artist's fame is assured."

Has not Victor Hugo focused the same truth in a line--

     "Ici-bas, le joli c'est le nécessaire!"

And our own Keats also--

                                 "For 'tis the eternal law,
     That first in beauty should be first in might."



X

MY PYRENEAN VALLEY AT LAST



                         Osse, la bien aimée
                           Toi, du vallon
                         Le choix, la fille aînée
                           Le vrai fleuron!
                         C'est sur toi qu'est fixée
                           Dans son amour,
                         La première pensée
                           Du roi du jour
                         Comme à sa fiancée
                           L'amant accourt.
                                                   Xavier Navarrot.


Between Toulouse and Tarbes the scenery is quite unlike that of the
Gard and the Aude. Instead of the interminable vineyards round about
Aigues-Mortes and Carcassonne, we gaze here upon a varied landscape.
Following the Garonne with the refrain of Nadaud's famous song in
our minds--

     "Si la Garonne avait voulu,"--

we traverse a vast plain or low vale rich in many-coloured crops:
buckwheat, sweeps of creamy blossom, dark-green rye, bluish-green Indian
corn with silvery flower-head, and purple clover, and here and there a
patch of vine are mingled together before us; in the far distance the
Pyrenees, as yet mere purple clouds against the horizon.

We soon note a peculiarity of this region--vines trained to trees, a
method in vogue a hundred years ago. "Here," wrote Arthur Young, when
riding from Toulouse to St. Martory on his way to Luchon, "for the first
time I see rows of maples with vines trained in festoons from tree to
tree"; and farther on he adds, "medlars, plums, cherries, maples in
every hedge with vines trained." The straggling vine-branches have a
curious effect, but the brightness of the leafage is pleasant to the
eye. No matter how it grows, to my thinking the vine is a lovely thing.

The rich plain passed, we reach the slopes of the Pyrenees, their wooded
sides presenting a strange, even grotesque, appearance, owing to the
mathematical regularity with which the woods are cut, portions being
close shaven, others left intact in close juxtaposition, solid phalanxes
of trees and clearings at right angles. The fancy conjures up a
Brobdingnagian wheat-field partially cut in the green stage. Sad havoc
is thus made of once beautiful scenes, richly-wooded slopes having lost
half their foliage.

A hundred years ago Lourdes was a mere mountain fortress, a State prison
to which unhappy persons were consigned by _lettres de cachet_.
Apologists of the Ancien Régime assert, in the first place, that these
Bastilles were comfortable, even luxurious retreats; in the second, that
_lettres de cachet_ were useful and necessary; in the third, that
neither Bastilles nor _lettres de cachet_ were resorted to on the eve
of the Revolution. Let us hear what Arthur Young has to say on the
subject. "I take the road to Lourdes," he writes in August 1787, "where
is a castle on a rock, garrisoned for the mere purpose of keeping State
prisoners, sent hither by _lettres de cachet_. Seven or eight are known
to be here at present; thirty have been here at a time; and many for
life--torn by the relentless hand of jealous tyranny from the bosom of
domestic comfort, from wives, children, friends, and hurried, for crimes
unknown to themselves, most probably for virtues, to languish in this
detested abode, and die of despair. Oh liberty, liberty!"

Great is the contrast between the lovely entourage of this notorious
place and the triviality and vulgar nature of its commerce. The one
long, winding street may be described as a vast bazaar, more suited to
Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims than to holders of railway tickets and
contemporaries of the Eiffel Tower.

A brisk trade is done here, the place wearing the aspect of a huge fair.
Rosaries, crosses, votive tablets, ornamental cans for holding the
miraculous waters, drinking-cups, candles, photographs, images, medals
are sold by millions. The traffic in these wares goes on all day long,
the poorest "pilgrim" taking away souvenirs.

The Lourdes of theology begins where the Lourdes of bartering ends. As
we quit the long street of bazaars and brand-new hotels, the first
glimpse gives us an insight into its life and meaning, makes us feel
that we ought to have been living two or three hundred years ago. We
glance back at the railway station, wondering whether a halt were wise,
whether indeed the gibbet, wheel, and stake were not really prepared for
heretics like ourselves!

The votive church built on the outer side of the rock from which flows
the miraculous fountain is a basilica of sumptuous proportions,
representing an outlay of many millions of francs. Its portico, with
horse-shoe staircase in marble, spans the opening of the green hills,
behind which lie grotto and spring. We are reminded of the enormous
church now crowning the height of Montmartre at Paris; here, as there
and at Chartres, is a complete underground church of vast proportions.
The whole structure is very handsome, the grey and white building-stone
standing out against verdant hills and dark rocks. A beautifully
laid-out little garden with a statue of the miracle-working Virgin lies
between church and town.

Looking from the lofty platform on the other side of the upper church,
we behold a strange scene. The space below is black with people,
hundreds and thousands of pilgrims, so called, priests and nuns being in
full force, one and all shouting and gesticulating with fierce zealotry,
a priest or two holding forth from a temporary pulpit.

Between these closely-serried masses is a ghastly array. On litters,
stretchers, beds, chairs, lie the deformed, the sick, the moribund,
awaiting their turn to be sprinkled with the miraculous waters or
blessed by the bishop. These poor people, many of whom are in the last
stage of illness, have for bearers, volunteers; these are priests, young
gentlemen of good family, and others, who wear badges and leather
traces, by which they attach themselves to their burden.

All day long masses are held inside the church and in the open air; at a
given signal the congregation stretching out their arms in the form of a
cross, prostrating themselves on the ground, kissing the dust.

We must descend the broad flight of steps in order to obtain a good view
of the grotto, an oval opening in the rocks made to look like a
stalactite cave, with scores and hundreds of _ex-votos_ in the shape
of crutches. Judging from this display, there should be no more lame folks
left in France. The Virgin of Lourdes must have healed them all. In a
niche of the grotto stands an image of the Virgin, and behind,
perpetually lighted with candles, an altar, at which mass is celebrated
several times daily.

On one side, the rock has been pierced in several places, deliciously
pure, cool water issuing from the taps. Crowds are always collected
here, impatient to drink of the miraculous fountain, and to fill vessels
for use at home. We see tired, heated invalids, and apparently dying
persons, drinking cups of this ice-cold water; enough, one would think,
to kill them outright. Close by is a little shop full of trifles for
sale, but so thronged at all hours of the day that you cannot get
attended to; purchasers lay down their money, take up the object
desired, and walk away. Here may be bought a medal for two sous, or a
crucifix priced at several hundred francs.

The praying, chanting, and prostrating are at their height when the
violet-robed figure of a bishop is caught sight of, tripping down a
side-path leading from the town. Blessing any who chance to meet him on
the way, chatting pleasantly with his companion, a portly gentleman
wearing the red ribbon of the Legion of Honour, the bishop hastens
towards the grotto, dons his sacerdotal robes of ivory-white and gold,
and celebrates mass. The ceremony over, there is a general stir.
Adjusting their harness, the bearers form a procession, the bishop
emerges from the grotto, and one by one the thirty and odd litters are
drawn before him to be sprinkled, blessed--and healed! alas, such,
doubtless, is the fond delusion of many.

The sight of so many human wrecks, torsos and living skeletons all agog
for life, health, and restoration, is even less heart-breaking than that
of their companions. Here we see a mother bending with agonized looks
over some white-faced, wasted boy, whose days, even hours, are clearly
numbered; there a father of a wizen-faced, terribly deformed girl, a
mite to look at, but fast approaching womanhood, brought hither to be
put straight and beautiful. Next our eye lights on the emaciated form of
a young man evidently in the last stage of consumption, his own face
hopeful still, but what forlornness in that of the adoring sister by his
side! These are spectacles to make the least susceptible weep. Grotesque
is the sight of a priest who must be ninety at least; what further
miracle can he expect, having already lived the life of three
generations?

The last litter drawn by, the enormous crowd breaks up; tall candles are
offered to those standing near, and a procession is formed, headed by
the bishop under his gold and white baldachin, a large number of priests
following behind, then several hundred men, women, and children, the
black and white robes of the priests and nuns being conspicuous.
Chanting as they go, outsiders falling on their knees at the approach of
the baldachin, the pilgrims now wind in solemn procession round the
statue in front of the church, and finally enter, when another religious
celebration takes place. Services are going on all day long and late
into the night. Hardly do these devotees give themselves time for meals,
which are a scramble at best, every hotel and boarding-house much
overcrowded. The _table d'hôte_ dinner, or one or two dishes, are
hastily swallowed, and the praying, chanting, marching and prostrating
begin afresh. At eight o'clock from afar comes the sound of pilgrims'
voices as the procession winds towards the grotto.

There is picturesqueness in these nocturnal celebrations, the tapers
twinkling against the dark heavens, the voices dying away in the
distance. Superstition has its season as well as sulphur-baths and
chalybeate springs. The railway station is a scene of indescribable
confusion; enormous contingents come for a few hours only, the numbered
trains that brought them are drawn up outside the main lines awaiting
their departure. Here we are hustled by a motley throng; fashionable
ladies bedizened with rosaries, badges, and medallions; elegant young
gentlemen, the _jeunesse dorée_ of a vanished _régime_, proudly
wearing the pilgrim's badge, all travelling third-class and in humble
company for their soul's good; peasant women from Brittany in charming
costumes; a very, very few blue blouses of elderly civilians'; enormous
numbers wearing religious garb.

It seems a pity that a bargain could not be struck by France and
Germany, the Emperor William receiving Lourdes in exchange for Metz or
Strasburg! Lourdes must represent a princely revenue, far in excess, I
should say, of any profit the Prussian Government will ever make out of
the annexed provinces; and as nobody lives there, and visitors only
remain a day or two, it would not matter to the most patriotic French
pilgrim going to whom the place belonged.

The tourist brings evil as well as good in his track, and the tax upon
glorious scenery here is not the globe-trotter but the mendicant.
Gavarnie is, without doubt, as grandiose a scene as Western Europe can
show. In certain elements of grandeur none other can compete with it.
But until a balloon service is organized between Luz and the famous
Cirque it is impossible to make the journey with an unruffled temper.
The traveller's way is beset by juvenile vagrants, bare-faced and
importunate as Neapolitans or Arabs. Lovers of aerial navigation have
otherwise not much left to wish for. Nothing can be more like a ride in
cloudland than the drive from Pierrefitte to Luz and from Luz to
Gavarnie. The splendid rock-hewn road is just broad enough to admit of
two carriages abreast. On one side are lofty, shelving rocks, on the
other a stone coping two feet high, nothing else to separate us from the
awful abyss below, a ravine deep as the measure of St. Paul's Cathedral
from base to apex of golden cross. We hear the thunder of the river as
it dashes below by mountains two-thirds the height of Mont Blanc, their
dark, almost perpendicular sides wreathed with cloud, on their summits
gleaming never-melted snow, here and there the sombre parapets streaked
with silvery cascades. At intervals the Titanic scene is relieved by
glimpses of pastoral grace and loveliness, and such relief is necessary
even to those who can gaze without giddiness on such awfulness. Between
gorge and gorge lie level spaces, amid dazzlingly-green meadows the
river flows calm and crystal clear, the form and hue of every pebble
distinct as the pieces of a mosaic. Looking upwards we see hanging
gardens and what may be called farmlets, tiny homesteads with minute
patches of wheat, Indian corn, and clover on an incline so steep as to
look vertical. Most beautiful and refreshing to the eye are the little
hayfields sloping from the river, the freshly-mown hay in cocks or being
turned, the shorn pasture around bright as emerald. Harvest during the
year 1891 was late, and in the first week of September corn was still
standing; nowhere, surely, corn so amber-tinted, so golden, nowhere,
surely, ripened so near the clouds. In the tiny chalets perched on the
mountain ridges, folks literally dwell in cloudland, and enjoy a kind of
supernal existence, having for near neighbours the eagles in their
eyries and the fleet-footed chamois or izard.

These vast panoramas--towering rocks of manifold shape, Alp rising above
Alp snow-capped or green-tinted, terrace upon terrace of fields and
homesteads--show every variety of savage grandeur and soft beauty till
we gradually reach the threshold of Gavarnie. This is aptly called
"chaos" which we might fancifully suppose the leavings, "the fragments
that were left," of the semicircular wall now visible, thrown up by
transhuman builders, insurmountable barrier between heaven and earth. No
sooner does the awful amphitheatre break upon the view, than we discern
the white line of the principal fall, a slender silvery column reaching,
so it seems, from star-land and moon-land to earth; river of some upper
world that has overleaped the boundaries of our own. No words can convey
the remotest idea of such a scene.

We may say with regard to scenery what Lessing says of pictures, we only
see in both what we bring with us to the view. More disconcerting than
the importunities of beggars and donkey-drivers are the supercilious
remarks of tourists. To most, of course, the whole thing is "a sad
disappointment." Everything must necessarily be a disappointment to some
beholders; and with critics of a certain order, the mere fact of not
being pleased implies superiority. The hour's walk from the village to
the Cirque is an event also in the life of the flower-lover. We have
hardly eyes for Gavarnie, so completely is our gaze fascinated by the
large luminous gold and silver stars gleaming conspicuously from the
brilliant turf. These are the glorious flower-heads of the white and
yellow Pyrenean thistle that open in sunshine as do sea-anemones,
sending out lovely fringes, sunrays and moonbeams not more strikingly
contrasted. As we rush hither and thither to gather them--if we
can--their roots are veritable tentaculae, other lovely flowers are to
be had in plenty, the beautiful deep-blue Pyrenean gentian, monk's-hood
in rich purple blossom, rose-coloured antirrhinum, an exquisite little
yellow sedum, with rare ferns. On one side, a narrow bridle-path winds
round the mountain towards Spain; on the other, cottage-farms dot the
green slopes; between both, parting the valley, flows the Gave, here a
quietly meandering streamlet, whilst before us rises Gavarnie; a scene
to which one poet only--perhaps the only one capable of grappling with
such a subject--has done justice--

                                                      "Cirque, hippodrome,
     Stage whereon Stamboul, Tyre, Memphis, London, Rome,
     With their myriads could find place, whereon Paris at ease
     Might float, as at sundown a swarm of bees,
     Gavarnie, dream, miracle!"

     [Footnote: "Un cirque, un hippodrome,
     Un théâtre où Stamboul, Tyre, Memphis, Londres, Rome,
     Avec leurs millions d'hommes pourraient s'asseoir.
     Ou Paris flotterait comme un essaim du soir.
     Gavarnie!--un miracle! un rêve!"--Victor Hugo, "Dieu."]

How to give some faint conception of the indescribable? Perhaps the
great French poet has best succeeded in a single line--

     "L'impossible est ici debout."

We feel, indeed, that we are here brought face to face with the
impossible.

Let the reader then conjure up a solid mass of rock threefold the
circumference of St. Paul's Cathedral; let him imagine the façade of
this natural masonry of itself exceeding the compass of our great
Protestant minster; then in imagination let him lift his eyes from stage
to stage, platform to platform, the lower nearly three times the height
of St. Paul's from base to apex of golden cross, the higher that of four
such altitudes; their gloomy parapets streaked with glistening white
lines, one a vast column of water, although their shelving sides show
patches of never-melted snows; around, framing in the stupendous scene,
mountain peaks, each unlike its majestic brother, each in height
reaching to the shoulder of Mont Blanc. Such is Gavarnie.

My next halting-place was a remote Pyrenean village admirably adapted
for the study of rural life. Within a few hours' journey of the Spanish
frontier, Osse lies in the beautiful valley of Aspe, and is reached by
way of Pau and Oloron. At the latter town the railway ends, and we have
to drive sixteen miles across country, a delightful expedition in
favourable weather. The twin towns, old and new Oloron, present the
contrast so often seen throughout France, picturesque, imposing
antiquity beside utilitarian ugliness and uniformity. The open suburban
spaces present the appearance of an enormous drying-ground, in which are
hung the blankets of the entire department. Blankets, woollen girdles or
sashes, men's bonnets are manufactured here. "Pipers, blue bonnets, and
oatmeal," wrote an English traveller a hundred years ago, "are found in
Catalonia, Auvergne, and Suabia as well as in Lochaber." We are now in
the ancient kingdom of Beam, with a portion of Navarre added to the
French crown by Henry IV, and, two hundred years later, named the
department of the Basses Pyrenées.

[Illustration: OSSE]

Every turn of the road reveals new features as we journey towards Osse,
having always in view the little Gave d'Aspe, after the manner of
Pyrenean rivers, making cascades, waterfalls, whirlpools on its way.
Most beautiful are these mountain streams, their waters of pure, deep
green, their surface broken by coruscations of dazzlingly white foam and
spray, their murmur ever in our ears. When far away we hardly miss the
grand contours of the Pyrenees more than the music of their rushing
waters. No tourists meet us here, yet whither shall we go for scenes
sublimer or more engaging? On either side of the broadening velvety
green valley, with its tumbling stream, rises a rampart of stately
peaks, each unlike its neighbour, each having a graciousness and
grandeur of its own. Here and there amid these vast solitudes is seen a
white glittering thread breaking the dark masses of shelving rock,
mountain torrent falling into the river from a height of several hundred
feet. Few and far between are the herdsmen's châlets and scattered
cornfields and meadows, and we have the excellent carriage road to
ourselves. Yet two or three villages of considerable size are passed on
the way; of one, an inland spa much frequented by the peasants, I shall
make mention presently.

For three hours we have wound slowly upward, and, as our destination is
approached, the valley opens wide, showing white-walled, grey-roofed
hamlets and small towns all singularly alike. The mountains soon close
round abruptly on all sides, making us feel as if we had reached the
world's end. On the other side of those snow-capped peaks, here so
majestically massed before our gaze, lies Spain. We are in a part of
France thoroughly French, yet within a few hours of a country strikingly
contrasted with it; manners, customs, modes of thought, institutions
radically different.

[Illustration: NEAR THE SPANISH FRONTIER]

The remoteness and isolation of Osse explain the existence of a little
Protestant community in these mountain fastnesses. For centuries the
Reformed faith has been upheld here. Not, however, unmolested. A tablet
in the neat little church tells how the original place of Protestant
worship was pulled down by order of the king in 1685, and only
reconstructed towards the close of the following century. Without
church, without pastor, forbidden to assemble, obliged to bury their
dead in field or garden, these dales-folk and mountaineers yet clung
tenaciously to their religion. One compromise, and one only, they made.
Peasant property has existed in the Pyrenees from time immemorial, and
in order to legitimize their children and enjoy the privilege of
bequeathing property, the Protestants of the Vallée d'Aspe were married
according to the rites of the Romish Church. In our own days, here as
elsewhere throughout France, the religious tenets handed down from
father to son are adhered to without wavering, and at the same time
without apparent enthusiasm. Catholics and Protestants live amicably
side by side; but intermarriages are rare, and conversions from Rome to
rationalism infrequent. The Sunday services of the little Protestant
church are often attended by Catholics. Strangers passing through Osse,
market-folk, peasants and others, never fail to inspect it curiously.
The Protestant pastor is looked up to with respect and affection alike
by Catholic and Protestant neighbours. The rival churches neither lose
nor gain adherents to any extent. This fact is curious, especially in a
spot where Protestantism is seen at its best. It shows the extreme
conservatism and stability of the French character, often set down as
revolutionary and fickle. In England folks often and avowedly change
their religion several times during their lives. Is not the solemn
reception into Rome of instructed men and women among ourselves a matter
of every day? In France it is otherwise, and when a change is made we
shall generally find that the step is no retrograde one.

If the social aspect is encouraging at Osse, the same may be said of
peasant property. Even a Zola must admit some good in a community
unstained by crime during a period of twenty years, and bound by ties of
brotherhood which render want impossible. A beautiful spirit of
humanity, a delicacy rare among the most polished societies,
characterize these frugal sons and daughters of the soil. Nor is
consideration for others confined to fellow-beings only. The animal is
treated as the friend, not the slave of man. "We have no need of the Loi
Grammont here," said a resident to me; and personal observation
confirmed the statement.

As sordidness carried to the pitch of brutality is often imputed to the
French peasant, let me relate an incident that occurred hereabouts, not
long before my visit. The land is minutely divided, many possessing a
cottage and field only. One of these very small owners was suddenly
ruined by the falling of a rock, his cottage, cow and pig being
destroyed. Without saying a word, his neighbours, like himself in very
humble circumstances, made up a purse of five hundred francs, a large
sum with such donors, and, too delicate-minded to offer the gift
themselves, deputed an outsider to do it anonymously. Another instance
in point came to my knowledge. This was of a young woman servant, who,
during the illness of her employer, refused to accept wages. "You shall
pay me some other time," said the girl to her mistress; "I am sure you
can ill afford to give me the money now."

Peasant property and rural life generally here presented to me some
wholly new features; one of these is the almost entire
self-sufficingness of very small holdings, their owners neither buying
nor selling, making their little crops and stock almost completely supply
their needs. Thus on a field or two, enough flax is grown with which to
spin linen for home use, enough wheat and Indian corn for the year's
bread-making, maize being mixed with wheaten flour; again, pigs and
poultry are reared for domestic consumption--expenditure being reduced
to the minimum. Coffee is a luxury seldom indulged in, a few drink
home-grown wine, but all are large milk-drinkers. The poorest is a good
customer of the dairy farmer.

I was at first greatly puzzled by the information of a neighbour that he
kept cows for the purpose of selling milk. Osse being sixteen miles from
a railway station, possessing neither semi-detached villas, hotels,
boarding-houses, convents, barracks, nor schools, and a population of
from three to four hundred only, most of these small farmers--who were
his patrons?

I afterwards learned that the "ha'porth of milk," which means much more
in all senses than with us, takes the place of tea, coffee, beer, to say
nothing of more pernicious drinks, with the majority. New milk from the
cow costs about a penny a quart, and perhaps if we could obtain a
similar commodity at the same price in England, even gin might be
supplanted. Eggs and butter are also very cheap; but as the peasants
rear poultry exclusively for their own use, it is by no means easy at
Osse to procure a chicken. A little, a very little money goes to the
shoemaker and general dealer, and fuel has to be bought; this item is
inconsiderable, the peasants being allowed to cart wood from the
communal forests for the sum of five or six francs yearly. The village
is chiefly made up of farmhouses; on the mountain-sides and in the
valley are the châlets and shepherds' huts, abandoned in winter. The
homesteads are massed round the two churches, Catholic and Protestant,
most having a narrow strip of garden and balcony carried along the upper
storey, which does duty as a drying-ground.

One of these secluded hamlets, with its slated roofs, white walls, and
brown shutters, closely resembles another; but Osse stands alone in
possessing a Protestant church and community.

Although the little centre of a purely agricultural region, we find
here one of those small, specific industries, as characteristic of
French districts as soil and produce. Folks being great water-drinkers,
they will have their drinking-water in a state of perfection. Some
native genius long ago invented a vessel which answers the requirement
of the most fastidious. This is a pail-shaped receptacle of yewen wood,
bound with brass bands, both inner and outer parts being kept
exquisitely clean. Water in such vessels remains cool throughout the
hottest hours of the hottest summer, and the wood is exceedingly
durable, standing wear and tear, it is said, hundreds of years. The
turning and encasing of yewen wood, brass-bound water-jars is a
flourishing manufacture at Osse.

Here may be seen and studied peasant property in many stages. I would
again remark that any comparison between the condition of the English
agricultural labourer and the French peasant proprietor is irrelevant
and inconclusive. In the cottage of a small owner at Osse, for
instance, we may discover features to shock us, often a total absence
of the neatness and veneer of the Sussex ploughman's home. Our disgust
is trifling compared with that of the humblest, most hard-working
owner of the soil, when he learns under what conditions lives his
English compeer. To till another's ground for ten or eleven shillings
a week, inhabit a house from which at a week's notice that other can
eject him, possess neither home, field nor garden, and have no kind of
provision against old age, such a state of things appears to our
artless listener wholly inconceivable, incommensurate with modern
civilization and bare justice.

As an instance of the futility of comparisons, I will mention one
experience. I was returning home late one afternoon when a
poorly-dressed, sunburnt woman overtook me. She bore on her head a
basket of bracken, and her appearance was such that in any other country
I should have expected a demand for alms. Greeting me, however,
cheerfully and politely, she at once entered into conversation. She had
seen me at church on Sunday, and went on to speak of the pastor, with
what esteem both Catholics and Protestants regarded him, then of the
people, their mode of life and condition generally.

"No," she said, in answer to my inquiry, "there is no real want here,
and no vagrancy. Everybody has his bit of land, or can find work. I come
from our vineyard on the hillside yonder, and am now returning home to
supper in the village--our farmhouse is there". She was a widow, she
added, and with her son did the work of their little farm, the
daughter-in-law minding the house and baby. They reared horses for sale,
possessed a couple of cows, besides pigs and poultry.

The good manners, intelligence, urbanity, and quiet contentment of this
good woman were very striking. She had beautiful white teeth, and was
not prematurely aged, only very sun-burnt and shabby, her black stuff
dress blue with age and mended in many places, her partially bare feet
thrust in sabots. The women here wear toeless or footless stockings, the
upper part of the foot being bare. I presume this is an economy, as
wooden shoes wear out stockings. We chatted of England, of
Protestantism, and many topics before bidding each other good-night.
There was no constraint on her part, and no familiarity. She talked
fluently and naturally, just as one first-class lady traveller might do
to a fellow-passenger. Yet, if not here in contact with the zero of
peasant property, we are considering its most modest phase.

A step higher and we found an instance of the levelling process
characteristic of every stage of French society, yet hardly to be looked
for in a remote Pyrenean village. In one of our afternoon rambles we
overtook a farmeress, and accepted an invitation to accompany her home.
She tripped cheerfully beside us; although a Catholic, on friendliest
terms with her Protestant neighbours. Her thin white feet in toeless
stockings and sabots, well-worn woollen petticoat, black stuff jacket,
headgear of an old black silk handkerchief, would have suggested
anything but the truth to the uninitiated. Here also the unwary stranger
might have fumbled for a spare coin. She had a kindly, intelligent face,
and spoke volubly in patois, having very little command of French. It
was, indeed, necessary for me to converse by the medium of an
interpreter. On approaching the village we were overtaken by a slight,
handsome youth conducting a muck-wagon. This was her younger son, and
his easy, well-bred greeting, and correct French, prepared me for the
piece of intelligence to follow. The wearer of peasant's garb, carting
manure, had passed his examination of Bachelor of Arts and Science, had,
in fact, received the education of a gentleman. In his case, the
patrimony being small, a professional career meant an uphill fight, but
doubtless, with many another, he would attain his end.

The farmhouse was large, and, as is unusual here, apart from stables and
cow-shed, the kitchen and outhouse being on the ground floor, the young
men's bedrooms above. Our hostess slept in a large, curtained
four-poster, occupying a corner of the kitchen. A handsome wardrobe of
solid oak stood in a conspicuous place, but held only a portion of the
family linen. These humble housewives count their sheets by the dozen of
dozens, and linen is still spun at home, although not on the scale of
former days. The better-off purchase strong, unbleached goods of local
manufacture. Here and there I saw old women plying spindle and distaff,
but the spinning-wheel no longer hums in every cottage doorway.

Meantime our hospitable entertainer--it is ever the women who wait on
their guests--brought out home-grown wine, somewhat sour to the
unaccustomed palate, and, as a corrective, home-made brandy, which, with
sugar, formed an agreeable liqueur, walnuts--everything, indeed, that
she had. We were also invited to taste the bread made of wheaten and
maize flour mixed, a heavy, clammy compound answering Mrs. Squeers's
requirement of "filling for the price." It is said to be very wholesome
and nutritious.

The kitchen floor, as usual, had an unsecured look, but was clean swept,
and on shelves stood rows of earthen and copper cooking-vessels and the
yewen wood, brass-bound water-jars before mentioned. The façade of the
house, with its shutters and balcony, was cheerful enough, but just
opposite the front door lay a large heap of farmhouse manure awaiting
transfer to the pastures. A little, a very little, is needed to make
these premises healthful and comfortable. The removal of the
manure-heap, stables, and cow-shed; a neat garden plot, a flowering
creeper on the wall, and the aspect would be in accordance with the
material condition of the owner.

The property shared by this widow and her two sons consisted of between
five and six acres, made up of arable land and meadow. They kept four
cows, four mares for purposes of horse-breeding, and a little poultry.
Milch cows here are occasionally used on the farm, an anomaly among a
population extremely gentle to animals.

My next visits were paid on a Sunday afternoon, when everybody is at
home to friends and neighbours. Protestant initiative in the matter of
the seventh day test has been uniformly followed, alike man and beast
enjoy complete repose. As there are no cabarets and no trippers to
disturb the public peace, the tranquillity is unbroken.

Our first call was upon an elder of the Protestant Church, and one of
the wealthier peasants of the community. The farmhouse was on the usual
Pyrenean plan, stables and neat-houses occupying the ground floor, an
outer wooden staircase leading to kitchen, parlour, and bedrooms; on the
other side a balcony overlooking a narrow strip of garden.

Our host, dressed in black cloth trousers, black alpaca blouse, and
spotless, faultlessly-ironed linen, received us with great cordiality
and the ease of a well-bred man. His mother lived with him, a charming
old lady, like himself peasant-born, but having excellent manners. She
wore the traditional black hood of aged and widowed Huguenot women, and
her daughter-in-law and little granddaughter, neat stuff gowns and
coloured cashmere kerchiefs tied under the chin.

We were first ushered into the vast kitchen or "living room," as it
would be called in some parts of England, to-day with every other part
of the house in apple-pie order. Large oak presses, rows of earthen and
copper cooking-vessels, an enormous flour-bin, with plain deal table and
chairs, made up the furniture, from one part of the ceiling hanging
large quantities of ears of Indian corn to dry. Here bread is baked once
a week, and all the cooking and meals take place.

Leading out of the kitchen was the salon or drawing-room, the first I
had ever seen in a peasant farmer's house. A handsome tapestry
table-cover, chimney ornaments, mirror, sofa, armchairs, rugs, betokened
not only solid means but taste. We were next shown the grandmother's
bedchamber, which was handsomely furnished with every modern
requirement, white toilet-covers and bed-quilt, window-curtains, rug,
wash-stand; any lady unsatisfied here would be hard indeed to please.
The room of master and mistress was on the same plan, only much larger,
and one most-unlooked-for item caught my eye. This was a towel-horse
(perhaps the comfortably-appointed parsonage had set the fashion?), a
luxury never seen in France except in brand-new hotels. As a rule the
towel is hung in a cupboard. We were then shown several other bedrooms,
all equally suggestive of comfort and good taste; yet the owner was a
peasant, prided himself on being so, and had no intention of bringing up
his children to any other condition. His farm consisted of a few
hectares only, but was very productive. We saw his cows, of which he is
very fond, the gentle creatures making signs of joy at their master's
approach. Four or five cows, as many horses for breeding purposes, a few
sheep, pigs, and poultry made up his stock. All that I saw of this
family gave me a very high notion of intelligence, morality, thrift and
benevolence.

Very feelingly all spoke of their animals and of the duty of human
beings towards the animal world generally. It was the first time I had
heard such a tone taken by French peasants, but I was here, be it
remembered, among Protestants. The horrible excuse made in Italy and
Brittany for cruelty to beasts, "Ce ne sont pas des chrétiens," finds no
acceptance among these mountaineers.

Our second visit brought us into contact with the bourgeois element. The
farmhouse, of much better appearance than the rest, also stood in the
village. The holding was about the size of that just described. The
young mistress was dressed in conventional style, had passed an
examination at a girls' Lycée, entitling her to the _brevet supérieur_
or higher certificate, her husband wore the dress of a country
gentleman, and we were ushered into a drawing-room furnished with piano,
pictures, a Japanese cabinet, carpets, and curtains.

The bedrooms might have been fitted up by an upholsterer of Tottenham
Court Road. It must be borne in mind that I am not describing the
wealthy farmers of the Seine and Marne or La Venidée.

The fact that these young people let a part of their large,
well-furnished house need not surprise us. There is no poverty here, but
no riches. I do not suppose that any one of the small landowners to whom
I was introduced could retire to-morrow and live on his savings. I dare
aver that one and all are in receipt of a small income from invested
capital, and have a provision against sickness and old age.

The master of the house showed me his stock, five or six handsome cows
of cross breed, in value from £10 to £16, the latter the maximum price
here. We next saw several beautiful mares and young colts, and four
horned sheep. Sheepkeeping and farming are seldom carried on together,
and this young farmer was striking out a new path for himself. He told
me that he intended to rear and fatten sheep, also to use artificial
manure. Up to the present time, guanos and phosphates are all but
unknown in these regions, only farmhouse dung is used, cows being partly
kept for that purpose. Although the land is very productive, my
informant assured me that much remained to be done by departure from
routine and the adoption of advanced methods. The cross-breeding of
stock was another subject he had taken up. Such initiators are needed in
districts remote from agricultural schools, model farms, and State-paid
chairs of agriculture.

Each of the four instances just given differed from the other. The first
showed us peasant property in its simplest development, a little family
contentedly living on their bit of land, making its produce suffice for
daily needs, independent of marts and markets as the members of a
primitive community.

The second stage showed us a wholly dissimilar condition, yet not
without its ideal side. We were brought face to face with that
transitional phase of society and pacific revolution, of happiest augury
for the future. From the peasant ranks are now recruited contingents
that will make civil wars impossible, men who carry into politics
learning and the arts, those solid qualities that have made rural France
the admiration of the world, and more than once saved her Republic.

The first instance exemplified the intense conservatism of the French
peasant. Liberal in politics, enlightened in religion, open to the
reception of new ideas, here was nevertheless a man absolutely satisfied
with social conditions as they affected himself and his children,
utterly devoid of envy or worldly ambition. To reap the benefits of his
toil, deserve the esteem of his neighbours, bequeath his little estate,
improved and enriched, to his heirs, surely this was no contemptible
ideal either.

The last case differed from the other three. We were now reminded of the
English tenant, or even gentleman-farmer--with a difference. Alike master
and mistress had received a good education and seen something of the
world; they could enjoy music and books. But in spite of her _brevet
supérieur_, the wife attended to her dairy; and although the husband
was a gentleman in manners and appearance, he looked after the stock.
They lived, too, on friendliest terms with their less-instructed and
homelier neighbours, the black alpaca blouse and coloured kerchief,
doing duty for bonnet, being conspicuous at their Sunday receptions. Not
even a Zola can charge French village-life with the snobbishness so
conspicuous in England. It will be amply shown from the foregoing
examples that peasant property is no fixed condition to be arbitrarily
dealt with after the manner of certain economists. On the contrary, it
is many-phased; the fullest and widest development of modern France is
indeed modern France itself. The peasant owner of the soil has attained
the highest position in his own country. No other class can boast of
such social, moral and material ascendency. He is the acknowledged
arbitrator of the fortunes of France.

I will now cite two facts illustrating the bright side of peasant
property in its humblest phase, where we have been told to expect
sordidness, even brutality. The land hereabouts, as I have before
stated, is excessively divided, the holdings being from two and a half
acres in extent and upwards. It often happens that the younger children
of these small owners give up their share of the little family estate
without claiming a centime of compensation, and seek their fortunes in
the towns. They betake themselves to handicrafts and trade, in their
turn purchasing land with the savings from daily wages.

Again, it is supposed that the life of the peasant owner is one of
uniform, unbroken drudgery, his daily existence hardly more elevated
than that of the ox harnessed to his plough. Who ever heard of an
English labourer taking a fourteen days' rest at the seaside? When did a
rheumatic ploughman have recourse to Bath or Buxton? They order these
things better in France.

Between Osse and Oloron stands Escot, long famous for its warm springs.
The principal patrons of this modest watering-place are the peasants. It
is their Carlsbad, their Homburg, many taking a season as regularly as
the late King Edward. The thing is done with thoroughness, but at a
minimum of cost. They pay half a franc daily for a room, and another
half-franc for the waters, cooking their meals in the general kitchen of
the establishment. Where the French peasant believes, his faith is
phenomenal. Some of these valetudinarians drink as many as forty-six
glasses of mineral water a day! What must be their capacities in robust
health? The bourgeois or civilian element is not absent. Hither from Pau
and Oloron come clerks and small functionaries with their families.
Newspapers are read and discussed in company. We may be sure that the
rustic spa is a little centre of sociability and enlightenment.

Let me now say something about the crops of this sweet Pyrenean
valley. The chief of these are corn, maize, rye, potatoes, and clover;
the soil being too dry and poor for turnips and beetroot. Flax is
grown in small quantities, and here and there we seen vines, but the
wine is thin and sour.

From time immemorial, artificial irrigation has been carried on in the
Vallée d'Aspe, and most beautiful is the appearance of the brilliantly
green pastures, intersected by miniature canals in every direction; the
sweet pastoral landscape framed by mountain peaks of loveliest colour
and majestic shape. These well-watered grasslands produce two or even
three crops a year; the second, or _regain_ as it is called, was being
got in early in September, and harvest having taken place early, clover
was already springing up on the cleared cornfields. Everywhere men and
women were afield making hay or scattering manure on the meadows, the
latter sometimes being done with the hands.

All these small farmers keep donkeys and mules, and on market-days the
roads are alive with cavalcades; the men wearing gay waist-sashes, flat
cloth caps, or berets, the women coloured kerchiefs. The type is
uniform--medium stature, spareness, dark eyes and hair, and olive
complexion predominating. Within the last thirty years the general
health and physique have immensely improved, owing to better food and
wholesomer dwellings. Goître and other maladies arising from
insufficient diet have disappeared. Epidemics, I was assured, seldom
work havoc in this valley; and though much remains to be done in the way
of drainage and sanitation, the villages have a clean, cheerful look.

The last ailment that would occur to us proves most fatal to those
hardy country folks. They are very neglectful of their health, and as
the changes of temperature are rapid and sudden, the chief mortality
arises from inflammation of the lungs. It is difficult indeed to defend
oneself against so variable a climate. On my arrival the heat was
tropical. Twelve hours later I should have rejoiced in a fire.
Dangerous, too, is the delicious hour after sunset, when mist rises
from the valley, whilst yet the purple and golden glow on the peaks
above tempts us to linger abroad.

The scenery is grandiose and most beautiful. Above the white-walled,
grey-roofed villages and townlings scattered about the open, rise
sharp-pointed green hills or monticules, one gently overtopping the
other; surmounting these, lofty barren peaks, recalling the volcanic
chains of Auvergne, the highest snow-capped point twice the altitude of
the Puy de Dôme, two-thirds that of Mont Blanc.

Whichever way we go we find delightful scenery. Hidden behind the folded
hills, approached by lovely little glades and winding bridle-path,
tosses and foams the Gave d'Aspe, its banks thickly set with willow and
salicornia, its solitary coves inviting the bather. The witchery of
these mountain streams grows upon us in the Pyrenees. We hunger for the
music of their cascades when far away. The sun-lit, snow-lit peaks,
towering into the brilliant blue heavens, are not deserted as they
appear. Shepherd farmers throughout the summer dwell in huts here, and
welcome visitors with great affability.

Let me narrate a fact interesting alike to the naturalist and
meteorologist. On the 7th September, 1891, the heat on one of these
summits, nine thousand feet above the sea-level, was so intense that a
little flock of sheep were seen literally hugging the snow, laying their
faces against the cool masses, huddled about them, as shivering mortals
round a fire in winter. And, a little way off, the eye-witnesses of this
strange scene gathered deep blue irises in full bloom.

[Illustration: ORCUM]

On the lower slopes the farmers leave their horses to graze, giving them
a look from time to time. One beautiful young horse lost its life just
before my arrival, unwarily approaching a precipitous incline. As a rule
accidents are very rare.

The izard or Pyrenean chamois, although hunted as game, is not yet a
survival here, nor the eagle and bear, the latter only making its
appearance in winter-time.

Tent-life in these mountain-sides is quite safe and practicable. Who can
say? A generation hence and these magnificent Alps may be tunnelled by
railways, crowned by monster hotels, peopled from July to October with
tourists in search of disappointments.

At present the Vallée d'Aspe is the peacefullest in the world. Alike on
week-days and Sundays the current of life flows smoothly. Every morning
from the open windows of the parsonage may be heard the sweet, simple
hymns of the Lutheran Church, master and mistress, servants and
children, uniting in daily thanksgiving and prayer.

And a wholesome corrective is the Sunday service after the sights
of Lourdes.

The little congregation was striking. Within the altar railings stood
two _anciens_, or elders, of the church, middle-aged men, tall,
stalwart, the one fair as a Saxon, the other dark as a Spaniard. Both
wore the dress of the well-to-do peasant, short black alpaca blouses,
black cloth trousers, and spotless collars and cuffs, and both worthily
represented those indomitable ancestors who neither wavered nor lost
heart under direst persecution.

By the time the pastor ascended the reading-desk, the cheerful,
well-kept little church was full, the men in black blouses, the women
wearing neat stuff or print gowns, with silk handkerchiefs tied under
the chin, widows and the aged, the sombre black-hooded garment,
enveloping head and figure, of Huguenot matrons of old--supposed to have
suggested the conventual garb.

Among the rest were two or three Catholics, peasants of the
neighbourhood, come to look on and listen. The simple, intelligible
service, the quiet fervour of the assembly, might well impress a
sceptical beholder. Even more impressive is the inscription over the
door. A tablet records how the first Protestant church was pulled down
by order of the king after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and
rebuilt on the declaration of religious liberty by the National
Assembly. Gazing on that inscription and the little crowd of
worshippers, a sentence of Tacitus came into my mind. Recording how not
only the biographers of good men were banished or put to death, but
their works publicly burnt by order of Domitian, the historian, whose
sentences are volumes condensed, adds: "They fancied, forsooth"--he is
speaking of the tyrant and his satellites--"that all records of these
actions being destroyed, mankind could never approve of them." An
illusion shared by enemies of intellectual liberty, from the Caesars to
their latest imitator, unhappily not wholly dispelled in our own day.

Whether the homeward journey is made through the Landes by way of
Bayonne and Bordeaux, or through the Eastern Pyrenees by way of
Perpignan, we are brought face to face with scenes of strangest
transformation. In the former region the agency has been artificial, the
shifting sands being fixed and solidified by plantations on a gigantic
scale, and large tracts rendered fertile by artificial irrigation; in
the latter, Nature has prepared the field, the more laborious portion of
the husbandman's task is already done.

"The districts of sand, as white as snow and so loose as to blow," seen
by Arthur Young towards the close of the last century, can hardly be
said to exist in our own day. Even within twenty-five years the changes
are so great as to render entire regions hardly recognizable. The
stilts, or _chanques_, of which our word "shanks" is supposed to be the
origin, become rarer and rarer. The creation of forests and sinking of
wells, drainage, artificial manures and canals are rapidly fertilizing a
once arid region; with the aspect of the country a proportionate change
taking place in the material condition of the people.

No less startling is the transformation of lagoon into salt marsh, and
marsh into cultivable soil, witnessed between the Spanish frontier,
Perpignan and Nîmes.

Quitting Cerbère, the little town at which travellers from Barcelona
re-enter French territory, we follow the coast, traversing a region long
lost to fame and the world, but boasting of a brilliant history before
the real history of France began.

We are here in presence of geological changes affected neither by shock
nor convulsion, nor yet by infinitesimally slow degrees. A few
centuries have sufficed to alter the entire contour of the coast and
reverse the once brilliant destinies of maritime cities. With the
recorded experience of mediaeval writers at hand, we can localize
lagoons and inland seas where to-day we find belts of luxuriant
cultivation. In a lifetime falling short of the Psalmist's threescore
years and ten observations may be made that necessitate the
reconstruction of local maps.

The charming little watering-place of Banyulssur-Mer, reached soon after
passing the Spanish frontier, is the only place on this coast, except
Cette, without a history. The town is built in the form of an
amphitheatre, its lovely little bay surrounded by rich southern
vegetation. The oleanders and magnolias in full bloom, gardens and
vineyards, are no less strikingly contrasted with the barrenness and
monotony that follows, than Banyuls itself, spick and span, brand-new,
with the buried cities scattered on the way, ancient as Tyre and Sidon,
and once as flourishing. There is much sadness yet poetic charm in the
landscape sweeps of silvery-green olive or bluish salicornia against a
pale-blue sky, dull-brown fishing villages bordering sleepy lagoons,
stretches of white sand, with here and there a glimpse of the purple,
rock-hemmed sea. Little of life animates this coast, in many spots the
custom-house officer and a fisherman or two being the sole inhabitants,
their nearest neighbours removed from them by many miles. Only the
flamingo, the heron, and the sea-gull people these solitudes, within the
last few years broken by the whistle of the locomotive. We are following
the direct line of railway between Barcelona and Paris.

The first of the buried cities is the musically-named Elne, anciently
Illiberis, now a poor little town of the department of the Eastern
Pyrenees, hardly, indeed, more than a village, but boasting a wondrous
pedigree. We see dull-brown walls, ilex groves, and above low-lying
walls the gleaming sea. This apparently deserted place occupies the site
of city upon city. Seaport, metropolis, emporium had here reached their
meridian of splendour before the Greek and the Roman set foot in Gaul.
Already in Pliny's time the glories of the Elne had become tradition. We
must go farther back than Phoenician civilization for the beginnings of
this town, halting-place of Hannibal and his army on their march towards
Rome. The great Constantine endeavoured to resuscitate the fallen city,
and for a brief space Elne became populous and animated. With other once
flourishing seaports it has been gradually isolated from the sea, and
the same process is still going on.

Just beyond Perpignan a lofty tower, rising amid vineyards and pastures,
marks the site of Ruscino, another ancient city and former seaport. The
Tour de Roussillon is all that now remains of a place once important
enough to give its name to a province. Le Roussillon, from which was
formed the department of the Pyrénées Orientales, became French by the
treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. Here also the great Carthaginian halted,
and here, we learn, he met with a friendly reception.

Monotonous as are these wide horizons and vast stretches of marsh and
lagoon, they appeal to the lover of solitude and of the more pensive
aspects of nature. The waving reeds against the pale sky, the sweeps of
glasswort and terebinth, show delicate gradations of colour; harmonious,
too, the tints of far-off sea and environing hills. Not cities only seem
interred here: the railway hurries us through a world in which all is
hushed and inanimate, as if, indeed, mankind no less than good fortune
had deserted it. The prevailing uniformity is broken by the
picturesquely placed little town of Salses and the white cliffs of
Leucate. Strabo and Pomponius Mela describe minutely the floating
islands or masses of marine plants moving freely on the lake of Salses.
Here, as elsewhere, the coastline is undergoing slow but steady
modification, yet we are in presence of phenomena that engaged the
attention of writers two thousand years ago.

From this point till we approach Cette the region defies definition. It
is impossible to determine nicely where the land ends and the sea
begins. The railway follows a succession of inland salt lakes and
lagoons, with isolated fishermen's cabins, reminding us of
lake-dwellings. In some places the hut is approached by a narrow strip
of solid ground, on either side surrounded by water, just admitting the
passage of a single pedestrian. The scene is unspeakably desolate. Only
sea-birds keep the fisher-folk company; only the railway recalls the
busy world far away.

Of magnificent aspect is Narbonne, the Celtic Venice, as it rises above
the level landscape. The great seaport described by Greek historians six
centuries before our own era, the splendid capital of Narbonese Gaul,
rival of the Roman Nîmes and of the Greek Arles, is now as dull a
provincial town as any throughout France. Invasions, sieges, plagues,
incendiaries, most of all religious persecutions, ruined the mediæval
Narbonne. The Jewish element prevailed in its most prosperous phase, and
M. Renan in his history of Averroës shows how much of this prosperity
and intellectual pre-eminence was due to the Jews. The cruel edicts of
Philip Augustus against the race proved no less disastrous here than the
expulsion of Huguenots elsewhere later. The decadence of Narbonne as a
port is due to natural causes. Formerly surrounded by lagoons affording
free communication with the sea, the Languedocian Venice has gradually
lost her advantageous position. The transitional stage induced such
unhealthy climatic conditions that at one period there seemed a
likelihood of the city being abandoned altogether. In proportion as the
marsh solidified the general health improved. Day by day the slow but
sure process continues, and when the remaining salt lakes shall have
become dry land, this region, now barren and desolate, will blossom like
the rose. The hygienic and atmospheric effects of the _Eucalyptus
globulus_ in Algeria are hardly more striking than the amelioration
wrought here in a natural way. The Algerian traveller of twenty-five
years ago now finds noble forests of blue gum tree, where, on his first
visit, his heart was wrung by the spectacle of a fever-stricken
population. On the coast of Languedoc the change has been slower. It has
taken not only a generation but a century to transform pestilential
tracts into zones of healthfulness and fertility.

An interesting fact, illustrating the effect of physical agencies upon
human affairs, must be here mentioned. Till within the last few years
this town counted a considerable Protestant community. The ravages of
the phylloxera in the neighbouring vineyards caused a wholesale exodus
of vine-growers belonging to the Reformed Church, and in 1886 the number
had dwindled to such an extent that the services of a pastor were no
longer required. The minister in charge was transferred elsewhere.

The dull little town of Agde is another ancient site. Its name is alike
a poem and a history. The secure harbourage afforded by this sheltered
bay won for the place the name of Good Fortune, [Greek: agathae tuchae],
whence Agathe, Agde. A Greek settlement, its fine old church was in part
constructed of the materials of a temple to Diana of Ephesus. Agde
possesses interest of another kind. It is built of lava, the solitary
peak rising behind it, called Le Pic de St. Loup, being the southern
extremity of that chain of extinct volcanoes beginning with Mont Mezenc
in the Cantal. A pathetic souvenir is attached to this lonely crater. At
a time when geological ardour was rare, a Bishop of Agde, St. Simon by
name, devoted years of patient investigation to the volcanic rocks in
his diocese. The result of his studies were recorded in letters to a
learned friend, but the Revolution stopped the poor bishop's
discoveries. He perished by the guillotine during the Terror. The
celebrated founder of socialism in France was his nephew.



XI

AN OLIVE FARM IN THE VAR

The friendly visit of a few Russian naval officers lately put the
country into as great a commotion as a hostile invasion. I started
southward from Lyons on the 12th October, 1893, amid scenes of wholly
indescribable confusion; railway stations a mere compact phalanx of
excited tourists bound for Toulon, with no immediate prospect of getting
an inch farther, railway officials at their wits' end, carriage after
carriage hooked on to the already enormously long train, and yet crowds
upon crowds left behind. Every train was, of course, late; and on the
heels of each followed supplementary ones, all packed to their utmost
capacity. As we steamed into the different stations "Vive la Russie!"
greeted our ears. The air seemed filled with the sound; never surely was
such a delirium witnessed in France since the fever heat of 1789!

At Valence, Montélimar, Avignon, Arles, the same tumult reigned; but
before reaching the second place, the regulation number of carriages,
twenty-five, had been exceeded, and as hardly one per cent of the
travellers alighted, we could only pass by the disconcerted multitudes
awaiting places. And a mixed company was ours--the fashionable world,
select and otherwise, the demi-monde in silks and in tatters,
musicians, travelling companies of actors and showmen, decorated
functionaries, children, poodles, all bound for the Russian fleet!

At Marseilles, a bitter disappointment awaited some, I fear, many. No
sooner were we fairly within the brilliantly-lighted, crowded station,
and before the train had come to a standstill, than a stentorian voice
was heard from one end of the platform to the other, crying--

"LOOK TO YOUR PURSES!"

And as the gorged carriages slowly discharged their burden, the stream
of passengers wending towards the door marked "Way out," a yet louder
and more awe-inspiring voice came from above, the official being perched
high as an orator in the pulpit, repeating the same words--

"ATTENTION À VOTRE PORTE-MONNAIE!"

The dismay of the thwarted pickpockets may be better imagined than
described. Many, doubtless, had come from great distances, confident of
a golden harvest. Let us hope that the authorities of Toulon were
equally on the alert. Marseilles no more resembles Lyons, Bordeaux,
Nantes, than those cities resemble each other. Less elegant than Lyons,
less majestic than Bordeaux, gayer by far than Nantes, the capital of
Southern France has a stamp of its own. Today, as three thousand years
ago, Marseilles may be called the threshold of the East. In these hot,
bustling, noisy streets, Paris is quiet by comparison; London a Trappist
monastery! Orientals, or what our French neighbours call exotics, are so
common that no one looks at them. Japanese and Chinese, Hindus,
Tonquinois, Annamites, Moors, Arabs, all are here, and in native dress;
and writing letters in the salon of your hotel, your _vis-à-vis_ at the
_table d'hôte_, your fellow sightseers, east and west, to-day as of old,
here come into friendly contact; and side by side with the East is the
glowing life of the South. We seem no longer in France, but in a great
cosmopolitan mart that belongs to the whole world.

The Marseillais, nevertheless, are French; and Marseilles, to their
thinking, is the veritable metropolis. "If Paris had but her
Cannebière," they say, "she would be a little Marseilles!"

Superbly situated, magnificently endowed as to climate, the _chef-lieu_
of the Bouches du Rhône must be called a slatternly beauty; whilst
embellishing herself, putting on her jewels and splendid attire, she
has forgotten to wash her face and trim her hair! Not in Horatian
phrase, dainty in her neatness, Marseilles does herself injustice. Lyons
is clean swept, spick and span as a toy town; Bordeaux is coquettish as
her charming Bordelaise; Nantes, certainly, is not particularly careful
of appearances. But Marseilles is dirty, unswept, littered from end to
end; you might suppose that every householder had just moved, leaving
their odds and ends in the streets, if, indeed, these beautifully-shaded
walks can be so called. The city in its development has laid out alleys
and boulevards instead of merely making ways, with the result that in
spite of brilliant sky and burning sun, coolness and shadow are ever to
be had. The Cannebière, with its blue sky, glowing foliage and gay,
nonchalant, heterogeneous crowds, reminds me of the Rambla of Barcelona.
Indeed, the two cities have many points of resemblance. Marseilles is
greatly changed from the Marseilles I visited twenty-five years ago, to
say nothing of Arthur Young's description of 1789. The only advantage
with which he accredited the city was that of possessing newspapers. Its
port, he wrote, was a horsepond compared to that of Bordeaux; the number
of country houses dotting the hills disappointingly small. At the
present time, suburban Marseilles, like suburban London, encroaches
year by year upon the country; another generation, and the sea-coast
from Toulon to the Italian frontier will show one unbroken line of
country houses. Of this no one can doubt who sees what is going on in
the way of building.

But it is not only by beautiful villas and gardens that the city has
embellished itself. What with the lavishness of the municipality, public
companies, and the orthodox, noble public buildings, docks, warehouses,
schools, churches, gardens, promenades, have rendered Marseilles the
most sumptuous French capital after Paris. Neither Lyons, Bordeaux,
Nantes, can compare with it for sumptuosity. In the Palais de
Longchamps, the splendour of municipal decoration reaches its acme; the
horsepond Arthur Young sneered at now affords accommodation of 340
acres, with warehouses, said to be the finest in the world; last, but
not least, comes the enormous Byzantine Cathedral not yet finished,
built at the cost of a quarter of a million sterling. Other new churches
and public buildings without number have sprung up of late years, the
crowning glory of Marseilles being its Palais de Longchamps.

This magnificent group of buildings may be called a much enlarged and
much more grandiose Trocadéro. Worthily do these colossal Tritons and
sea-horses commemorate the great achievement of modern Marseilles;
namely, the conveying of a river to its very doors. Hither, over a
distance of fifty-four miles, are brought the abundant waters of the
Durance; as we stand near, their cascades falling with the thunder of
our own Lodore. But having got the river and given the citizens more
than enough water with which to turn their mills, supply their domestic
wants, fertilize suburban fields and gardens, the Town Council seem
satisfied. The streets are certainly, one and all, watered with rushing
streams, greatly to the public health and comfort. A complete system of
drainage is needed to render the work complete. When we learn that even
Nice is not yet drained from end to end, we need not be astonished at
tardy progress elsewhere. Sanitation is ever the last thing thought of
by French authorities. Late in the afternoon we saw two or three men
slowly sweeping one street. No regular cleaning seems to take place. Get
well out of the city, by the sea-shore, or into the Prado--an avenue of
splendid villas--and all is swept and garnished. The central
thoroughfares, so glowing with life and colour, and so animated by day
and night, are malodorous, littered, dirty. It is a delightful drive by
the sea, over against the Château d'If, forts frowning above the rock,
the deep blue waves, yellowish-brown shore, and green foliage, all in
striking contrast.

We with difficulty realize that Marseilles is not the second city in
France. The reason is obvious. Lyons lies less compactly together, its
thickly-peopled Guillotière seems a town apart; the population of Lyons,
moreover, is a sedentary one, whilst the Marseillais, being seafarers,
are perpetually abroad. The character, too, is quite different, less
expansive, less excitable, less emotional in the great silk-weaving
capital, here gay, noisy, nonchalant. Nobody seems to find the cares of
the day a burden, all to have some of the sunshine of the place in their
composition. "Mon bon," a Marsellais calls his neighbour; there is no
stillness anywhere. Everybody is "Mon bon" to everybody.

The out-of-door, rollicking, careless life, more especially strikes a
northerner. We seem here as remote from ordinary surroundings as if
suddenly transported to Benares. The commercial prosperity of the first
French sea-port is attested by its lavish public works, and number of
country houses, a disappointing handful in Arthur Young's time. Hardly a
householder, however modest his means, who does not possess a cottage or
châlet; the richer having palatial villas and gardens. Nothing can
convey a greater notion of ease and wealth than the prospect of suburban
Marseilles, its green hills, rising above the sea, thickly dotted with
summer houses in every part.

All who wish to realize the advance of French cities since 1870-71
should visit Marseilles. Only those who knew it long ago can measure the
change, and greater changes still are necessary ere its sanitary
conditions match climate and situation.

From Marseilles to Nice, from the land of the olive to that of the palm,
is a long and wearisome journey. That tyrannical monopoly, the
Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée Railway Company, gives only slow trains, except
to travellers provided with through tickets; and these so inconveniently
arranged, that travellers unprovided with refreshments, have no
opportunity of procuring any on the way. Whenever we travel by railway
in France we are reminded of the crying need for competition. The
all-omnipotent P.-L.-M. does as it pleases, and it is quite useless for
travellers to complain. Every inch of the way points to the future of
the Riviera--a future not far off. A few years hence and the sea-coast
from Marseilles to Mentone will be one unbroken line of hotels and
villas. The process is proceeding at a rapid rate. When Arthur Young
made this journey a century ago, he described the country around Toulon
thus: "Nine-tenths are waste mountain, and a wretched country of pines,
box, and miserable aromatics." At the present time, the brilliant red
soil, emerald crops, and gold and purple leafage of stripped vine, make
up a picture of wondrous fertility. At every point we see vineyards of
recent creation; whilst not an inch of soil between the olive trees is
wasted. On the 28th of October the landscape was bright with autumn
crops, some to be _répiqué_, or planted out according to the Chinese
system before mentioned.

The first thing that strikes the stranger at Nice is its Italian
population. These black-eyed, dark-complexioned, raven-haired,
easy-going folks form as distinct a type as the fresh-complexioned,
blue-eyed Alsatian. That the Niçois are French at heart is self-evident,
and no wonder, when we compare their present condition with that of the
past. We see no beggars or ragged, wretched-looking people. If the
municipal authorities have set themselves the task of putting down
mendicity, they have succeeded. French enterprise, French capital is
enriching the population from one end of the Alpes Maritimes to the
other. At the present time there must be tens of thousands of workmen
employed in the building of hotels and villas between Marseilles and
Ventimille. That the Riviera will finally be overbuilt no one can
doubt; much of the original beauty of the country is already destroyed
by this piling up of bricks and mortar, more beauty is doomed. But
meantime work is brisk, wages are high, and the Post Office savings bank
and private banks tell their own tale.

Of course the valetudinarians contribute to the general prosperity, a
prosperity which it is difficult for residents in an English
watering-place to realize. Thus I take up a Hastings newspaper to find a
long list of lodging-house keepers summoned for non-payment of taxes.
Arrived at Nice, a laundress employed by my hostess immediately came to
see if I had any clothes for her. On bringing back the linen she
deposited it in my room, saying I could pay her when fetching the next
bundle. I let her go, but called her back, thinking that perhaps the
poor woman had earned nothing for months and was in distress. My hostess
afterwards informed me with a smile that this good woman had £2,500 in
the bank. I could multiply instances in point.

If the condition of the working classes has immensely improved, the cost
of living has not stood still. A householder informed me that prices of
provisions, servants' wages, house rent and other items of domestic
economy have tripled within the last twenty years. There is every
prospect that this increase will continue. Last winter hotels and
boarding-houses at Nice were all full; fast as new ones are built, they
fill to overflowing. And, of course, the majority of visitors are rich.
No others should come; they are not wanted.

In studying the rural population we must bear in mind one fact--namely,
the line of demarcation separating the well-to-do peasants of the plain
from the poor and frugal mountaineer. Follow the mule track from Mentone
to Castillon, and we find a condition of things for squalor and poverty
unmatched throughout France. Visit an olive-grower in the valley of the
Var, and we are once more amid normal conditions of peasant property. My
first visit was to the land of Goshen.

Provided with a letter of introduction to a farmer, I set off for the
village of St. Martin du Var, a village of five hundred and odd souls,
only within the last year or two accessible by railway. The new line,
which was to have connected Nice with Digne and Cap, had been stopped
short half-way, the enterprising little company who projected it being
thereby brought to the verge of ruin. This fiasco, due, I am told, to
the jealous interference of the P.-L.-M., is a great misfortune to
travellers, the line partially opened up leading through a most wildly
picturesque and lovely region, and being also of great commercial and
strategic importance. But that terrible monopoly, the
Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée, will tolerate no rivals. Folks bound from Gap
to Nice must still make the long round by way of Marseilles in order
to please the Company; merchandise--and, in case of a war with Italy,
which may Heaven avert!--soldiers and ammunition must do the same.

The pretty new "Gare du Sud" invites patronage, and three services are
performed daily. On this little line exists no third class. I imagine,
then, that either the very poor are too poor to take train at all, or
that there are none unable to pay second-class fare. In company of
priests, peasants, and soldiers, I took a second-class place, the guard
joining us and comfortably reading a newspaper as soon as we were
fairly off.

It is a superb little journey to St. Martin du Var. The line may be
described as a succession of tunnels, our way lying between lofty
limestone cliffs and the Var, at the present time almost dry. As we
slowly advance, the valley widens, and on either side are broad belts
of verdure and fertility; fields, orchards, gardens, olive trees
feathering the lower slopes, here and there, little villages perched
high above the valley. One charming feature of the landscape is the
aspen; so silvery were its upper leaves in the sun that at first I
took them for snow-white blossoms. These verdant stretches on either
side of the river were formerly mere waste, redeemed and rendered
cultivable by means of dykes.

My destination is reached in an hour, a charmingly placed village amid
beautiful mountain scenery, over against it towering the hamlet of La
Roquette, apparently inaccessible as cloudland. Here a tributary
stream joins the Var, the long winding valley, surrounded by lofty
crags and olive-clad slopes, affording a delightful and most
exhilarating prospect. The weather on this 20th of October was that of
a perfect day in July.

St. Martin du Var has its Mairie, handsome communal schools, and large
public walks or recreation ground, a parallelogram planted with trees.
The place has a neglected, Italian aspect; at the same time an aspect of
ease and contentment. The black-eyed, olive-complexioned,
Italian-looking children are uniformly well dressed, with good shoes and
stockings. French children, even of the poorest class, are always
decently shod.

I found my host at dinner with his wife, little daughter, and
sister-in-law. The first impression of an uninitiated traveller would be
of poverty. The large bare kitchen was unswept and untidy; the family
dishes--soup, vegetables, olives, good white bread, wine--were placed on
the table without cloth or table-cover. As will be seen, these
hard-working, frugal people were rich; in England they would have
servants to wait upon them, fine furniture, and wear fashionable
clothes. My letter of introduction slowly read and digested, the head of
the family placed himself at my disposal. We set off on a round of
inspection, the burning mid-day sun here tempered by a delicious breeze.

We first visited the olive-presses and corn-mill--this farmer was
village miller as well as olive grower--all worked by water-power and
erected by himself at a heavy outlay. Formerly these presses and mills
were worked by horses and mules after the manner of old-fashioned
threshing-machines, but in Provence as in Brittany, progress is now the
order of the day.

In order to supply these mills, a little canal was dug at my host's own
expense, and made to communicate with the waters of the Var; thus a good
supply is always at hand.

The enormous olive-presses and vats are now being got in for the first
or October harvest. This is the harvest of windfalls or fallen fruit,
green or black as the case may be, and used for making an inferior kind
of oil. The second harvest or gathering of the olives remaining on the
trees takes place in April. Linen is spread below, and the berries
gently shaken off. I may add that the periods of olive harvests vary in
different regions, often being earlier or later. An olive tree produces
on an average a net return of twelve francs, the best returns being
alternate or biennial; the roots are manured from time to time,
otherwise the culture is inexpensive. The trees are of great age and,
indeed, are seldom known to die. The "immortal olive" is, indeed, no
fiction. In this especial district no olive trees have, within living
memory, been killed by frost, as was the case in Spain some years ago.
Nevertheless, the peaks around St. Martin du Var are tipped with snow in
winter. The olive harvests and necessary preparations require a large
number of hands, the wages of men averaging three francs, of women, the
half. Thus at the time I write of, day labourers in remote regions of
Provence receive just upon fourteen shillings and sixpence per week;
whereas I read in the English papers that Essex farmers are reducing the
pittance of twelve and even ten shillings per week for able-bodied men.

Ten days later, my cicerone said that the first harvest would be in
active progress, and he most cordially invited me to revisit him for
the purpose of looking on. From the lees of the crushed berries a
third and much inferior oil is made and used in the manufacture of
soap, just as what is called _piquette_ or sour wine is made in
Brittany from the lees of crushed grapes. I was assured by this farmer
that the impurity of olive oil we so often complain of in England,
arises from adulteration at the hands of retailers. Table oil as it
issues from the presses of the grower is absolutely pure; merchants add
inferior qualities or poppy oil, described by me in an earlier page,
and which my present host looked upon with supreme contempt. The olive,
with the vine and tobacco, attains the maximum of agricultural profits.
This farmer alone sells oil to the annual value of several thousand
pounds, and to the smaller owner also it is the principal source of
income. Peasant owners or tenants of an acre or two grow a little corn
as well, this chiefly for their own use.

The interior of the corn-mill presented an amusing scene. Two or three
peasants were squabbling with my host's subordinate over their sacks of
flour; one might have supposed from the commotion going on and the
general air of vindictive remonstrance that we were suddenly transported
to a seigneurial mill. A few conciliatory words from the master put all
straight, and soon after we saw the good folks, one of them an old
woman, trotting off on donkeys with their sack of corn slung before
them. I need hardly say that the talk of these country-people among
themselves is always in patois, not a word of which is intelligible to
the uninitiated.

Just above the mills are groves of magnificent old olive trees, and
alongside the little railway were bright strips of lucerne and pasture,
folks here and there getting in their tiny crops of hay.

The iron road is not yet regarded as an unmixed good. My host told me
that local carters and carriers had been obliged in consequence to sell
their horses and carts and betake themselves to day labour. Such
drawbacks are, of course, inevitable, but the ulterior advantage
effected by the railway is unquestionable. I should say that nowhere are
life and property safer than in these mountain-hemmed valleys. The
landlady of the little hotel at St. Martin du Var assured me that she
always left her front door open all night. Nothing had ever happened to
alarm her but the invasion of three English ladies at midnight, one of
these of gigantic stature and armed with a huge stick. The trio were
making a pedestrian journey across country, apparently taking this
security for granted. Neither brigands nor burglars could have given
the poor woman a greater fright than the untimely appearance of my
countrywomen.

It was now too hot to visit the open tracts of pasture and cultivation
alongside the Var. The farmer's wife proposed a shady walk to a
neighbouring farm instead, our errand being to procure milk for my five
o'clock tea. Without hat or umbrella, my companion set off, chatting as
we went. She explained to me that on Sundays she wore bonnet and mantle
after the fashion of a _bourgeoise_; in other words, she dressed like a
lady, but that neither in summer nor winter at any other time did she
cover her head. She was a pleasant-mannered, intelligent, affable woman,
almost toothless, as are so many well-to-do middle-aged folks in France.
Dentists must fare badly throughout the country. No one ever seems to
have a guinea to spend upon false teeth.

We were soon out of the village, and passing the pretty garden of the
Gendarmerie, reached a scene of unimaginable, unforgettable beauty.
Never shall I forget the splendour of the olive trees set around a
wide, brilliantly green meadow; near the farmhouse groves of
pomegranate, orange and lemon with ripening fruit; beside these, medlar
and hawthorn trees (_cratoegus azarolus_), the golden leafage and
coral-red fruit of the latter having a striking effect; beyond, silvery
peaks, and, above all, a heaven of warm, yet not too dazzling blue. At
the farther end of the meadow, in which a solitary cow grazed at will,
a labourer was preparing a ribbon-like strip of land for corn, beside
him, pretending to work too, his little son of five years. My hostess
held up her jug and stated her errand, proposing that the cow should be
milked a trifle earlier in order to suit my convenience. The man
good-naturedly replied that, as far as the matter concerned himself, he
was agreeable enough, but that the cow was not so easily to be put out
of her way. She was milked regularly as clockwork at a quarter to five,
the clock had only just struck four; he might leave his work and take
her home, but not a drop of milk would she give before the proper time!
Leaving our jug, we roamed about this little paradise, unwilling to
quit a scene of unblemished beauty. A more bewitching spot I do not
recall; and it seemed entirely shut off from the world, on all sides,
unbroken quiet, nothing to mar the exquisiteness of emerald turf,
glossy foliage of orange and lemon trees, silvery olive in striking
contrast, and above, a cloudless sky. In the heart of a primeval forest
we could not feel more alone.

The thought occurred to me how perfect were such a holiday resort could
a clean little lodging be found near! With some attention to
cleanliness and sanitation, the little hotel at St. Martin du Var might
satisfy the unfastidious. I am bound to admit that in French phrase it
leaves much to desire.

My host gave me a good deal of interesting information about the place
and the people. Excellent communal schools with lay teachers of both
sexes have been opened under French régime; and the village of five
hundred and odd souls has, of course, its Mairie, Hôtel de Ville, and
Gendarmerie, governing itself after the manner of French villages.

Whilst the ladies of the house chatted with me they knitted away at
socks and stockings, in coarse, bright-coloured wool. Such articles are
never bought, the home-made substitute being much more economical in the
end. As an instance of the solid comfort of these apparently frugal
folks, let me mention their homespun linen sheets. My hostess showed me
some coarse bed-linen lately woven for her in the village. Calico
sheets, she said, were much cheaper, but she preferred this durable
home-spun even at three times the price. An old woman in the village
still plied the loom, working up neighbours' materials at three francs a
day. The flax has to be purchased also, so that the homespun sheet is a
luxury; "and at the same time," the housewife added, "a work of
charity. This poor old woman lives by her loom. It is a satisfaction to
help her to a mouthful of bread."

The moon had risen when I took leave, hostess, little daughter, and
sister all accompanying me to the station, reiterating their wish to see
me again. Nothing, indeed, would have been pleasanter than to idle away
weeks amid this adorable scenery and these charming people. But life is
short and France is immense. The genially uttered _au revoir_ becomes
too often a mere figure of speech.

I add, by the way, that the little daughter, now trotting daily to the
village school, is sure to have a handsome dowry by and by. Four
thousand pounds is no unusual portion of a rich peasant's daughter in
these regions. As an old resident at Nice informed me, "The peasants are
richer than the _bourgeoisie_"--as they deserve to be, seeing their
self-denial and thrift.



XII

PESSICARZ AND THE SUICIDES' CEMETERY

Pessicarz is a hamlet not mentioned in either French or English
guide-books; yet the drive thither is far more beautiful than the
regulation excursions given in tourists' itineraries. The road winds in
corkscrew fashion above the exquisite bay and city, gleaming as if built
of marble, amid scenes of unbroken solitude. Between groves of veteran
olives and rocks rising higher and higher, we climb for an hour and a
half, then leaving behind us the wide panorama of Nice, Cimiez, the sea,
and villa-dotted hills, take a winding inland road, as beautiful as can
be imagined. Here, nestled amid chestnut woods, lay the little farm I
had come to see, consisting of three hectares let at a rent of five
hundred francs (between seven and eight acres, rented at twenty pounds a
year), the products being shared between owner and tenant. This modified
system of _métayage_ or half profits is common here, and certainly
affords a stepping-stone to better things. By dint of uncompromising
economy, the metayer may ultimately become a small owner. The farmhouse
was substantially built and occupied by both landlord and tenant, the
latter with his family living on the ground floor. This arrangement
probably answers two purposes, economy is effected, and fraud prevented
on the part of the metayer. Pigs and poultry are noisy animals, and if a
dishonest tenant wanted to smuggle any of these away by night, they
would certainly betray him. The housewife, in the absence of her
husband, received me very kindly. I was of course introduced by a
neighbour, who explained my errand, and she at once offered to show me
round. She was a sturdy, good-natured-looking woman, very well-dressed
and speaking French fairly. The first thing she did was to show me her
poultry, of which she was evidently very proud. This she accomplished by
calling out in a loud voice, "Poules, poules, poules" ("chickens,
chickens, chickens"), as if addressing children, whereupon they came
fluttering out of the chestnut woods, fifty or more, some of fine breed.
These fowls are kept for laying, and not for market, the eggs being sent
daily into Nice. She then asked me indoors, the large kitchen being on
one side of the door, the outhouses on the other. Beyond the kitchen was
a large bedroom, her children, she explained, sleeping upstairs. Both
rooms were smoke-dried to the colour of mahogany, unswept and very
untidy, but the good woman seemed quite sensible of these disadvantages
and apologized on account of narrow space. A large supply of clothes
hung upon pegs in the bed-chamber, and it possessed also a very handsome
old upright clock. The kitchen, besides stores of cooking utensils, had
a stand for best china, and on the walls were numerous unframed
pictures. I mention these trifling details to show that even among the
poorer peasant farmers something is found for ornament; they do not live
as Zola would have us believe, for sordid gains alone.

We next visited the pigs, of which she possessed about a dozen in three
separate styes. These are fed only upon grain and the kitchen wash
supplied from hotels; but she assured me that the disgusting story I
had heard at Nice was true. There are certain pork-rearing
establishments in the department at which carrion is purchased and
boiled down for fattening pigs. My hostess seemed quite alive to the
unwholesomeness of such a practice, and we had a long talk about pigs,
of which I happen to know something; that they are dirt-loving animals
is quite a mistake; none more thoroughly enjoy a good litter of clean
straw. I was glad to find this good woman entirely of the same opinion.
She informed me with evident satisfaction that fresh straw was always
thrown down on one side of the piggery at night, and that the animals
always selected it for repose.

The first lot were commodiously housed, but I reasoned with her with
regard to the other two, the pig-styes being mere caverns without light
or air, and the poor creatures grunting piteously to be let out. She
told me that they were always let out at sundown, and heard what I had
to say about pigs requiring air, let us hope to some purpose. Certainly,
departmental professors have an uphill task before them in
out-of-the-way regions. These poor people are said to be extremely
frugal as a rule, but too apt to squander their years' savings at a
paternal fête, wedding or any other festivity. Generations must elapse
ere they are raised to the level of the typical French peasant. On the
score of health they may compare favourably with any race. A fruit and
vegetable diet seems sufficient in this climate. Besides her poultry and
pigs my farmeress had not much to show me; but a plot of flowers for
market, a little corn, and a few olive trees added grist to the mill. On
the whole, want of comfort, cleanliness, and order apart, I should say
that even such a condition contrasts favourably with that of an English
agricultural labourer. Without doubt, were we to inquire closely into
matters, we should discover a sum of money invested or laid by for
future purchases utterly beyond the reach of a Suffolk ploughman.

Just below the little farm I visited a philanthropic experiment
interesting to English visitors. This was an agricultural orphanage
founded by an Englishman two years before, seventeen waifs and strays
having been handed over to him by the Municipal Council of Nice. The
education of the poor little lads is examined once a year by a school
inspector, in other respects the protégés are left to their new patron.
Here they are taught household and farm work, fruit and flower culture,
the business of the dairy, carpentering, and other trades; being
afterwards placed out. I question whether an English Board of Guardians
would so readily hand over seventeen workhouse lads to a foreigner, but
it is to be hoped that the Niçois authorities will have no reason to
regret their confidence. The boys do no work on Sundays, and once a year
have a ten days' tramp in the country; the buildings are spacious and
airy, but I was sorry to see a plank-bed used as a punishment.

Indeed, I should say that the system pursued savours too much of the
military. Here, be it remembered, no juvenile criminals are under
restraint, only foundlings guilty of burdening society. Whether this
school exists still I know not.

Very different was the impression produced by the State Horticultural
College recently opened at Antibes.

Around the lovely little bay the country still remains pastoral and
unspoiled; a mile or two from the railway station and we are in the
midst of rural scenes, tiny farms border the road, patches of corn,
clover, vineyard, and flower-garden--flowers form the chief harvest of
these sea-board peasants--orange, lemon and olive groves with here and
there a group of palms, beyond these the violet hills and dazzling blue
sea, such is the scenery, and could a decent little lodging be found in
its midst, the holiday resort were perfect.

One drawback to existence is the treatment of animals. As I drove
towards the college a countryman passed with a cart and pair of horses,
the hindmost had two raw places on his haunches as large as a penny
piece. I hope and believe that in England such an offender would have
got seven days' imprisonment. The Italians, as we all know, have no
feeling for animals, and the race here is semi-Italian--wholly so, if we
may judge by physiognomy and complexion.

Until the foundation of the Horticultural College here, the only one in
existence on French soil was that of Versailles. Whilst farm-schools
have been opened in various parts of the country, and special branches
have their separate institutions, the teaching of horticulture remained
somewhat in abeyance. Forestry is studied at Nancy, husbandry in general
at Rennes, Grignan, and Amiens, the culture of the vine at Montpellier,
drainage and irrigation at Quimperlé, all these great schools being made
accessible to poorer students by means of scholarships.

In no other region of France could a Horticultural College be so
appropriately placed as in the department of the Alpes Maritimes. It is
not only one vast flower-garden, but at the same time a vast
conservatory, the choice flowers exported for princely tables in winter
being all reared under glass. How necessary, then, that every detail of
this delightful and elaborate culture should be taught the people, whose
mainstay it is, a large proportion being as entirely dependent upon
flowers as the honey bee! Here, and in the neighbourhood of Nice, they
are cultivated for market and exportation, not for perfume distilleries
as at Grasse.

The State School of Antibes was created by the Minister of Agriculture
in 1891, and is so unlike anything of the kind in England that a brief
description will be welcome. The first point to be noted is its
essentially democratic spirit. When did a farm-labourer's son among
ourselves learn any more of agriculture than his father or
fellow-workmen could teach him? At Antibes, as in the numerous
farm-schools (fermes-écoles) now established throughout France, the
pupils are chiefly recruited from the peasant class.

How, will it be asked, can a small tenant farmer or owner of three or
four acres afford to lose his son's earnings as soon as he quits school,
much less to pay even a small sum for his education? The difficulty is
met thus: in the first place, the yearly sum for board, lodging and
teaching is reduced to the minimum, viz. five hundred francs a year; in
the second, large numbers of scholarships are open to pupils who have
successfully passed the examination of primary schools, and whose
parents can prove their inability to pay the fees. No matter how poor he
may be, the French peasant takes a long look ahead. He makes up his mind
to forfeit his son's help or earnings for a year or two in view of the
ulterior advantage. A youth having studied at Antibes, would come out
with instruction worth much more than the temporary loss of time and
money. That parents do reason in this way is self-evident. On the
occasion of my visit, of the twenty-seven students by far the larger
proportion were exhibitioners, sons of small owners or tenants. Lads are
admitted from fourteen years and upwards, and must produce the
certificate of primary studies, answering to that of our Sixth Standard,
or pass an entrance examination. The school is under State supervision,
the teaching staff consisting of certificated professors. The discipline
is of the simplest, yet, I was assured, quite efficacious. If a lad,
free scholar or otherwise, misbehaves himself, he is called before the
director and warned that a second reprimand only will be given, the
necessity of a third entailing expulsion. No more rational treatment
could be devised.

Besides practical teaching in the fields and gardens, consisting as yet
of only twenty-five hectares, or nearly sixty acres, a somewhat
bewildering course of study is given. The list of subjects begins well.
First, a lad is here taught his duties as the head of a family, a
citizen, and a man of business. Then come geography, history,
arithmetic, book-keeping, trigonometry, linear drawing, mechanics,
chemistry, physics, natural history, botany, geology, _agrologie_, or
the study of soils, irrigation, political economy. Whilst farming
generally is taught, the speciality of the school is fruit and flower
culture. A beautiful avenue of palm and orange trees leads from the
road to the block of buildings, the director's house standing just
outside. I was fortunate in finding this gentleman at home, and he
welcomed me with the courtesy, I may say cordiality, I have ever
received from professors of agriculture and practical farmers in France.

We immediately set out for our survey, my companion informing me, to my
surprise, that the gardens I now gazed on so admiringly formed a mere
wilderness a few years ago, that is to say, until their purchase by the
State. The palm and orange trees had been brought hither and
transplanted, everything else had sprung up on the roughly-cleared
ground. Palm trees are reared on the school lands for exportation to
Holland, there, of course, to be kept under glass; ere long the
exportation of palms and orange trees will doubtless become as
considerable as that of hothouse flowers.

I was shown magnificent palms fifteen years old, and nurseries of tiny
trees, at this stage of their existence unlovely as birch brooms.
Hitherto, majestic although its appearance, the palm of the Riviera has
not produced dates. The director is devoting much time to this subject,
and hopes ere long to gather his crop.

As we passed between the orange trees, here and there the deep green
glossy fruit turning to gold, I heard the same report as at Pessicarz.
At neither place can the lads resist helping themselves to the unripe
oranges. Sour apples and green oranges seem quite irresistible to
hobbledehoys. The trees were laden with fruit, and, unless blown off by
a storm, the crop would be heavy. An orange tree on an average produces
to the value of two hundred francs.

I was next taken to the newly-created vineyards, some consisting of
French grafts on American stock, others American plants; but vines are
capricious, and one vineyard looked sickly enough, although free from
parasites. The climate did not suit it, that was all.

But by far the most important and interesting crops here are the
hothouse flowers. I fancy few English folks think of glass-houses in
connection with the Riviera. Yet the chief business of horticulturists
during a large portion of the year is in the conservatory. Brilliant as
is the winter sun, the nights are cold and the fall of temperature
after sundown extremely rapid. Only the hardier flowers, therefore,
remain out of doors.

I was now shown the glass-houses being made ready for the winter. All
the choice flowers, roses, carnations and others, sent to Paris, London,
Berlin, St. Petersburg, are grown under glass. Roses thus cultivated
will bring four francs per dozen to the grower; I was even told of
choicest kinds sold from the conservatories at a franc each. It may
easily be conceived how profitable is this commerce, destined without
doubt to become more so as the culture of flowers improves. New
varieties are ever in demand for royal or millionaires' tables, bridal
bouquets, funeral wreaths. I was told the discoverer or creator of a
blue carnation would make his fortune. I confess this commercial aspect
of flowers takes something from their poetry. Give me a cottager's plot
of sweet-williams and columbine instead of the floral paragon evolved
for the gratification of the curious! As we strolled about we came upon
groups of students at work. All politely raised their hats when we
passed, and by their look and manner might have been taken for young
gentlemen.

A great future doubtless awaits this delightfully placed Horticultural
School. Whilst the object primarily aimed at by the State is the
education of native gardeners and floriculturists, other results may be
confidently expected. No rule keeps out foreigners, and just as our
Indian candidates for the Forestry service prepare themselves at Nancy,
so intending fruit-growers in Tasmania will in time betake themselves to
Antibes. A colonial, as well as an international element is pretty sure
to be added. French subjects beyond seas will certainly avail themselves
of privileges not to be had at home, carrying away with them knowledge
of the greatest service in tropical France. Horticulture as a science
must gain greatly by such a centre, new methods being tried, improved
systems put into practice. In any case, the department may fairly be
congratulated on its recent acquisition, one, alas, we have to set
against very serious drawbacks! In these intensely hot and glaring days
of mid-October, the only way of enjoying life is to betake oneself to a
sailing-boat. Few English folks realize the torture of mosquito-invaded
nights on the Riviera. As to mosquito curtains, they afford a remedy
ofttimes worse than the disease, keeping out what little air is to be
had and admitting, here and there, one mosquito of slenderer bulk and
more indomitable temper than the rest. After two or three utterly
sleepless nights the most enthusiastic traveller will sigh for grey
English skies, pattering drops and undisturbed sleep. At sea, you may
escape both blinding glare and mosquito bites. A boat is also the only
means of realizing the beauty of the coast. Most beautiful is the
roundabout sail from Cannes to the Île St. Marguerite: I say roundabout,
because, if the wind is adverse, the boatmen have to make a circuit,
going out of their course to the length of four or five miles. Every
tourist knows the story of the Iron Mask; few are perhaps aware that in
the horrible prison in which Louis XIV kept him for seventeen years,
Protestants were also incarcerated, their only crime being that they
would not perjure themselves, in other words, feign certain beliefs to
please the tyrant.

At the present time the cells adjoining the historic dungeon of the
Masque de Fer are more cheerfully occupied. Soldiers are placed there
for slight breaches of discipline, their confinement varying from twelve
hours to a few days. We heard two or three occupants gaily whiling away
the time by singing patriotic songs, under the circumstances the best
thing they could do. Lovely indeed was the twenty minutes' sail back to
Cannes, the sea, deep indigo, the sky, intensest blue, white villas
dotting the green hills, far away the violet mountains. When we betake
ourselves to the railway or carriage road, we must make one comparison
very unfavourable to English landscape. Here building stone, as bricks
and mortar with us, is daily and hourly invading pastoral scenes, but
the hideous advertizing board is absent in France. We do not come upon
monster advertisements of antibilious pills, hair dye, or soap amid
olive groves and vineyards. Let us hope that the vulgarization
permitted among ourselves will not be imitated by our neighbours.

In 1789 Arthur Young described the stretch of country between Fréjus
and Cannes as a desert, "not one mile in twenty cultivated." Will
Europe and America, with the entire civilized world, furnish
valetudinarians in sufficient numbers to fill the hotels, villas, and
boarding houses now rising at every stage of the same way? The matter
seems problematic, yet last winter accommodation at Nice barely
sufficed for the influx of visitors.

Nice is the most beautiful city in France, I am tempted to say the most
beautiful city I ever beheld. It is the last in which I should choose to
live or even winter.

Site, sumptuosity, climate, vegetation here attain their acme; so far,
indeed, Nice may be pronounced flawless. During a certain portion of the
year, existence, considered from the physical and material point of
view, were surely here perfect. When we come to the social and moral
aspect of the most popular health resort in Europe, a very different
conclusion is forced upon us.

Blest in itself, Nice is cursed in its surroundings. So near is that
plague spot of Europe, Monte Carlo, that it may almost be regarded as a
suburb. For a few pence, in half-an-hour, you may transport yourself
from a veritable earthly Paradise to what can only be described as a
gilded Inferno. Unfortunately evil is more contagious than good. Certain
medical authorities aver that the atmosphere of Mentone used to be
impregnated with microbes of phthisis; the germs of moral disease
infecting the immediate neighbourhood of Nice are far more appalling.
Nor are symptoms wanting of the spread of that moral disease. The
municipal council of this beautiful city, like Esau, had just sold their
birthright for a mess of pottage. They had conceded the right of
gambling to the Casino, the proprietors purchasing the right by certain
outlays in the way of improvements, a new public garden, and so on. As
yet roulette and rouge-et-noir are not permitted at Nice, the gambling
at present carried on being apparently harmless. It is in reality even
more insidious, being a stepping-stone to vice, a gradual initiation
into desperate play. Just as addiction to absinthe is imbibed by potions
quite innocuous in the beginning, so the new Casino at Nice schools the
gamester from the outset, slowly and by infinitesimal degrees preparing
him for ruin, dishonour and suicide.

The game played is called _Petits Chevaux_, and somewhat resembles our
nursery game of steeplechase. The stakes are only two francs, but as
there are eight to each horse, and you may take as many as you please,
it is quite easy to lose several hundred francs in one evening--or, for
the matter of that, one afternoon. Here, as at Monte Carlo, the gambling
rooms remain open from noon till midnight. The buildings are on an
imposing scale: reading rooms, a winter garden, concerts, entertainments
of various kinds blinding the uninitiated to the real attraction of the
place, namely, the miniature horses spinning around the tables.
Already--I write of October--eager crowds stood around, and we heard
the incessant chink of falling coin. This modified form of gambling is
especially dangerous to the young. Parents, who on no account would let
their children toss a five-franc piece on to the tables of Monte Carlo,
see no harm in watching them play at _petits chevaux_. They should,
first of all, make a certain ghastly pilgrimage I will now relate.

Monaco does not as yet, politically speaking, form a part of French
territory; from a geographical point of view we are obliged so to regard
it. Thus French geographers and writers of handbooks include the tiny
principality, which for the good of humanity, let us hope, may ere long
be swallowed up by an earthquake--or moralized! The traveller then is
advised to take train to Monaco, and, arrived at the little station,
whisper his errand in the cab-driver's ear, "To the suicides' cemetery."

For the matter of that, it is an easy walk enough for all who can stand
the burning sun and glare of white walls and buildings. Very lovely,
too, is the scene as we slowly wind upwards, the road bordered with
aloes and cypresses; above, handsome villas standing amid orange groves
and flowers; below, the sparkling sea.

A French cemetery, with its wreaths of beadwork and artificial violets,
has ever a most depressing appearance. That of Monaco is like any other,
we find the usual magnificence, and usual tinsel. Many beautiful trees,
shrubs, and flowers, however, relieve the gloom, and every inch is
exquisitely kept.

Quite apart from this vast burial-ground, on the other side of the main
entrance, is a small enclosure, walled in and having a gate of open
ironwork always locked. Here, in close proximity to heaps of garden
rubbish, broken bottles and other refuse, rest the suicides of Monte
Carlo, buried by the parish gravedigger, without funeral and without any
kind of religious ceremony. Each grave is marked by an upright bit of
wood, somewhat larger than that by which gardeners mark their seeds, and
on which is painted a number, nothing more. Apart from these, are
stakes driven into the ground which mark as yet unappropriated spots.
The indescribable dreariness of the scene is heightened by two
monumental stones garlanded with wreaths and surrounded by flowers. The
first records the memory of a young artisan, and was raised by his
fellow-workmen; the second commemorates brotherly and sisterly
affection. Both suicides were driven to self-murder by play. The
remainder are mere numbers. There are poor gamesters as well as rich,
and it is only or chiefly these who are put into the ground here. The
bodies of rich folks' relatives, if identified, are immediately removed,
and, by means of family influence, interred with religious rites. Many
suicides are buried at Nice and Mentone, but the larger proportion,
farther off still. Not to descant further on this grim topic, let me now
say something about Monte Carlo itself.

Never anywhere was snare more plainly set in the sight of any bird.
There is little in the way of amusement that you do not get for nothing
here, a beautiful pleasure-ground, reading-rooms as luxurious and
well-supplied as those of a West End club, one of the best orchestras in
Europe, and all without cost of a farthing.

The very lavishness arouses suspicion in the minds of the wary. Why
should we be supplied, not only with every English newspaper we ever
heard of, but with _Punch_, _Truth_, and similar publications to boot? Why
should Germans, Russians, Dutch, every other European nation, receive
treatment equally generous? Again, to be able to sit down at elegant
writing-tables and use up a quire of fine notepaper and a packet of
envelopes to match, if we chose, how is all this managed? The concerts
awaken a feeling of even intenser bewilderment. Not so much as a penny
are we allowed to pay for a programme, to say nothing of the trained
musicians. Where is the compensation of such liberality?

The gambling tables, crowded even at three o'clock on an October
afternoon, answer our question. The season begins later, but gamblers
cannot wait. "Faites le jeu, messieurs; messieurs, faites le jeu," is
already heard from noon to midnight, and the faster people ruin
themselves and send a pistol shot through their heads, the faster others
take their place. It is indeed melancholy to reflect how many once
respectable lives, heads of families, even wives and mothers, are being
gradually lured on to bankruptcy and suicide.

In cruellest contrast to the moral degradation fostered below, is the
enormous cathedral, at the time of my visit in course of erection
directly above the gambling rooms. The millions of francs expended on
this sumptuous basilica were supplied by the proprietors of the Casino
and the Prince of Monaco. Nothing can strike the stranger with a
stronger sense of incongruity--a church rising from the very heart of a
Pandemonium!

Monaco is a pretty, toy-like, Lilliputian kingdom compared with which
the smallest German principality of former days was enormous. Curiously
enough, whilst Monte Carlo is peopled with gamesters, the only tenants
of Monaco seem to be priests, nuns and their pupils. The miniature
capital, state and kingdom in one, consists chiefly of convents and
seminaries, and wherever you go you come upon these Jesuit fathers with
their carefully-guarded troops of lads in uniform. A survey of the
entire principality of Monaco, Monte Carlo included, requires about a
quarter of an hour. Nowhere, surely, on the face of the civilized globe
is so much mischief contained in so small a space. Fortunately, the
poisonous atmosphere of the Casino does not seem to affect the native
poor. Everywhere we are struck by the thrifty, sober, hard-working
population; beggars or ragged, wretched-looking creatures are very rare.
If the authorities of the Alpes Maritimes have set themselves to put
down vagrancy, they have certainly succeeded.

Nice is a home for the millionaire and the working man. The intermediate
class is not wanted. Visitors are expected to have money, are welcomed
on that account, and if they have to look to pounds, shillings, and
pence, had much better remain at home.

Woe betide the needy invalid sent thither in search of sunshine!
Sunshine is indeed a far more expensive luxury on the Riviera than we
imagine, seeing that only rooms with a north aspect are cheap, and a
sunless room is much more comfortless and unwholesome than a well-warmed
one, no matter its aspect, in England. The only cheap commodity, one
unfortunately we cannot live upon, is the bouquet. In October, that is
to say, before the arrival of winter visitors, flowers are to be had for
the asking; on the market-place an enormous bouquet of tuberoses,
violets, carnations, myrtle, priced at two or three francs, the price in
Paris being twenty. Fruit also I found cheap, figs fourpence a dozen,
and other kinds in proportion. This market is the great sight of Nice,
and seen on a cloudless day--indeed it would be difficult to see it on
any other--is a glory of colour of which it is impossible to give the
remotest notion. I was somewhat taken aback to find Sunday less
observed here as a day of rest than in any other French town I know, and
not many French towns are unknown to me. The flower and fruit markets
were crowded, drapers', grocers', booksellers' shops open all day long,
traffic unbroken as usual. I should have imagined that a city, for
generations taken possession of by English visitors, would by this time
have fallen into our habit of respecting Sunday alike in the interests
of man and beast. Of churches, both English and American, there is no
lack. Let us hope that the Protestant clergy will turn their attention
to this subject. Let us hope also that the entire English-speaking
community will second their efforts in this direction. Further, I will
put in a good word for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals founded at Nice some years since, and sadly in need of funds.
The Society is backed up by the Government in accordance with the
admirable Loi Grammont, but, as is the case with local societies in
England, requires extraneous help. Surely rich English valetudinarians
will not let this humane work stand still, seeing, as they must do
daily, the urgent necessity of such interference! From the windows of a
beautiful villa on the road to Villefranche, I saw baskets of chickens
brought in from Italy, the half of which were dead or dying from
suffocation. As the owner of the villa said, "Not even self-interest
teaches this Italian humanity." By packing his fowls so as to afford
them breathing space, he would double his gains. The habit of cruelty is
too inveterate. My host assured me that large numbers of poultry sent
across the frontier are suffocated on the way.

Horrible also is the pigeon-shooting at Monte Carlo. Hundreds of these
wretched birds are killed for sport every day during the winter. The
wounded or escaped fly back after a while to be shot at next day.

The word "villa" calls for comment. Such a designation is appropriate
here. The palatial villas of Nice, standing amid orangeries and palm
groves, are worthy of their Roman forerunners. For the future I shall
resent the term as applied in England to eight-roomed, semi-detached
constructions, poorly built, and with a square yard of flower-bed in
front. Many of the Niçois villas are veritable palaces, and what adds to
their sumptuousness is the indoor greenery, dwarf palms, india-rubber
trees, and other handsome evergreens decorating corridor and
landing-places. The English misnomer has, nevertheless, compensations in
snug little kitchen and decent servant's bedroom. I looked over a
handsome villa here, type, I imagine, of the rest. The servants'
bedrooms were mere closets with openings on to a dark corridor, no
windows, fireplace, cupboard, or any convenience. The kitchen was a
long, narrow room, after the manner of French kitchens, with space by
the window for two or three chairs. I ventured to ask the mistress of
the house where the servants sat when work was done. Her answer was
suggestive--

"They have no time to sit anywhere."

It will be seen that our grey skies and mean-looking dwellings have
compensations.



XIII

GUEST OF FARMER AND MILLER

"Nine hours' rolling at anchor" was Arthur Young's experience of a
Channel passage in 1787, and on the return journey he was compelled to
wait three days for a wind. Two years later, what is in our own time a
delightful little pleasure cruise of one hour and a quarter, the journey
from Dover to Calais occupied fourteen hours.

We might suppose from the hundreds of thousands of English travellers
who yearly cross the Manche, that Picardy, Artois, and French Flanders
would overflow with them, that we should hear English speech wherever we
go, and find ourselves amid more distinctly English surroundings than
even in Switzerland or Norway; but no such thing. From the moment I
quitted Boulogne to that of my departure from Calais, having made the
round by way of Hesdin, Arras, Vitry-en-Artois, Douai, Lille, St. Omer,
I no more encountered an English tourist than on the Causses of the
Lozère a few years before. Many years later, on going over much of the
same ground, with a halt at Étaples and Le Touquet, it was much the
same. Yet such a tour, costing so little as regards money, time and
fatigue, teems with interest of very varied and unlooked-for kind.

Every inch of ground is historic to begin with, and has contributed its
page to Anglo-French annals or English romance. We may take the little
railway from Hesdin to Abbeville, traversing the forest of Crécy, and
drive across the cornfields to Agincourt. We may stop at Montreuil,
which now looks well, not only "on the map," but from the railway
carriage, reviving our recollections of Tristram Shandy. At Douai we
find eighty English boys playing cricket and football under the eye of
English Benedictine monks--their college being a survival of the
persecutions of Good Queen Bess.

And to come down from history and romance to astounding prose, we find,
a few years ago, Roubaix, a town of 114,000 souls, that is to say, a
fourth of the population of Lyons--a town whose financial transactions
with the Bank of France exceed those of Rheims, Nîmes, Toulouse, or
Montpellier, represented by a man of the people, the important functions
of mayor being filled by the proprietor of a humble _estaminet_ and
vendor of newspapers, character and convictions only having raised the
Socialist leader to such a post!

In rural districts there is also much to learn. Peasant property exists
more or less in every part of France, but we are here more especially in
presence of agriculture on a large scale. In the Pas-de-Calais and the
Nord we find high farming in right good earnest, holdings of from ten to
fifteen hundred acres conducted on the footing of large industrial
concerns, capital, science and enterprise being alike brought to bear
upon the cultivation of the soil and by private individuals.

I travelled from Boulogne to Hesdin, in time for the first beautiful
effect of spring-tide flower and foliage. The blackthorn and pear trees
were already in full blossom, and the elm, poplar and chestnut just
bursting into leaf. Everything was very advanced, and around the
one-storeyed, white-washed cottages the lilacs showed masses of bloom,
field and garden being a month ahead of less favoured years.

       *       *       *       *       *

Near Étaples the wide estuary of the Canche showed clear, lake-like
sheets of water amid the brilliant greenery; later are passed sandy
downs with few trees or breaks in the landscape. This part of France
should be seen during the budding season; of itself unpicturesque, it is
yet beautified by the early foliage. Hesdin is an ancient, quiet little
town on the Canche, with tanneries making pictures--and smells--by the
river, unpaved streets, and a very curious bit of civic architecture,
the triple-storeyed portico of the Hôtel de Ville. Its 7000 and odd
souls were soon to have their museum, the nucleus being a splendid set
of tapestries representing the battle of Agincourt, in loveliest shades
of subdued blue and grey. The little inn is very clean and comfortable;
for five francs a day you obtain the services of the master, who is
cook; the mistress, who is chambermaid; and the daughters of the house,
who wait at table. Such, at least, was my experience.

       *       *       *       *       *

My errand was to the neighbouring village of Hauteville-Caumont, whither
I drove one afternoon. Quitting the town in a north-easterly direction,
we enter one of those long, straight French roads that really seem as if
they would never come to an end. The solitude of the scene around is
astonishing to English eyes. For miles we only meet two road-menders and
an itinerant glazier. On either side, far as the glance could reach,
stretches the chessboard landscape--an expanse oceanic in its vastness
of green and brown, fields of corn and clover alternating with land
prepared for beetroot and potatoes. The extent and elevation of this
plateau, formerly covered with forests, explain the excessive dryness
of the climate. Bitter indeed must be the wintry blast, torrid the rays
of summer here. As we proceed we see little breaks in the level
uniformity, plains of apple-green and chocolate-brown; the land dips
here and there, showing tiny combes and bits of refreshing wood. The
houses, whether of large landowner, functionary or peasant, are
invariably one-storeyed, the white walls, brown tiles, or thatched roof
having an old-fashioned, rustic effect. One might suppose earthquakes
were common from this habit of living on the ground floor. The dryness
of the climate doubtless obviates risk of damp. Much more graceful are
the little orchards of these homesteads than the mathematically planted
cider apples seen here in all stages of growth. Even the blossoms of
such trees later on cannot compare with the glory of an orchard, in the
old acceptance of the word, having reached maturity in the natural way.
Certain portions of rural France are too geometrical. That I must admit.

Exquisitely clean, to use a farmer's expression, are these sweeps of
corn and ploughed land, belonging to different owners, yet apparently
without division. Only boundary stones at intervals mark the limits.
Here we find no infinitesimal subdivision and no multiplicity of crops.
Wheat, clover, oats form the triennial course, other crops being rye,
potatoes, Swede turnips, sainfoin and the _oeillette_ or oil poppy. The
cider apple is also an important product.

I found my friend's friend at home, and after a chat with madame and her
daughter, we set out for our round of inspection. This gentleman farmed
his own land, a beautifully cultivated estate of several hundred acres;
here and there a neighbour's field dovetailed into his own, but for the
greater part lying compactly together. The first object that attracted
my notice was a weather-beaten old windmill--sole survivor of myriads
formerly studding the country. This antiquated structure might have been
the identical one slashed at by Don Quixote. Iron grey, dilapidated,
solitary, it rose between green fields and blue sky, like a lighthouse
in mid-ocean. These mills are still used for crushing rye, the mash
being mixed with roots for cattle, and the straw used here, as
elsewhere, for _liage_ or tying up wheatsheaves. The tenacity of this
straw makes it very valuable for such purposes.

Corn, rye and sainfoin were already very advanced, all here testifying
to highly scientific farming; and elsewhere roots were being sown. The
soil is prepared by a process called _marnage_, _i.e_. dug up to the
extent of three feet, the _marne_ or clayey soil being brought to the
surface. A very valuable manure is that of the scoria or residue of
dephosphated steel, formerly thrown away as worthless, but now largely
imported from Hungary for agricultural purposes. Nitrate is also largely
used to enrich the soil. Sixty years ago the Pas-de-Calais possessed
large forests. Here at Caumont vast tracts have been cleared and brought
under culture since that time. These denuded plateaux, at a considerable
elevation above the sea-level, are naturally very dry and very cold in
winter, the climate being gradually modified by the almost total absence
of trees. Wisely has the present Government interdicted further
destruction; forests are now created instead, and we find private
individuals planting instead of hacking down. Lucerne is not much
cultivated, and my host told me an interesting fact concerning it; in
order to grow lucerne, farmers must procure seeds of local growers.
Seeds from the south of France do not produce robust plants.

The purple-flowered poppy, cultivated for the production of oil, must
form a charming crop in summer, and is a most important product. I was
assured that oil procured from crushed seeds is the only kind absolutely
free from flavour, and as such superior even to that of olives. Of equal
importance is the cider apple.

The economic results of war are curiously exemplified here. During the
war of 1871 German troops were stationed in the neighbouring department
of the Somme, and there acquired the habit of drinking cider. So
agreeable was found this drink that cider apples are now largely
exported to Germany, and just as a Frenchman now demands his Bock at a
café, so in his Biergarten the German calls for cider.

My host informed me that all his own apples, grown for commerce, went
over the northern frontier. Cider is said to render the imbiber
gout-proof and rheumatism-proof, but requires a long apprenticeship to
render it palatable. The profits of an apple orchard are threefold.
There is the crop gathered in October, which will produce in fair
seasons 150 francs per hectare, and the two grass crops, apple trees not
hurting the pasture.

The labourer's harvest here are his potato-fed pigs. In our walks we
came upon men and women sowing potatoes on their bit of hired land; for
the most part their bit of land is tilled on Sundays, a neighbour's
horse being hired or borrowed for the purpose. Thus neither man nor
beast rest on the seventh day, and as a natural consequence church-going
gradually falls into abeyance. My host deplored this habit of turning
Sunday into a veritable _corvée_ for both human beings and cattle, but
said that change of system must be very slow.

On the whole, the condition of the agricultural labourer here contrasts
very unfavourably with that of the peasant owner described elsewhere.

The same drawbacks exist as in England. Land for the most part being
held by large owners, accommodation for poorer neighbours is
insufficient. Many able-bodied workmen migrate to the towns, simply
because they cannot get houses to live in; such one-storeyed dwellings
as exist have an uncared-for look, neither are the village folks so well
dressed as in regions of peasant property. In fact, I should say, after
a very wide experience, that peasant property invariably uplifts and
non-propertied labour drags down. This seems to me a conclusion
mathematically demonstrable.

Mayor of his commune, my host was a man of progress and philanthropy in
the widest sense of the word. He had lately brought about the opening of
an infant school here, and dwelt on the beneficial results; children not
being admitted to the communal schools under the age of seven, were
otherwise thrown on the streets all day. Infant schools are generally
found in the larger communes. Intersecting my host's vast stretches of
field and ploughed land lay the old strategic road from Rouen to St.
Omer, a broad band of dazzling white thrown across the tremendous
panorama. An immense plain is spread before us as a map, now crudely
brilliant in hue, two months later to show blending gold and purple.
Vast, too, the views obtained on the homeward drive. Over against Hesdin
rises its forest--holiday ground of rich and poor, as yet undiscovered
by the tourist. From this friendly little town a charming woodland
journey may be made by the railway now leading through the forest of
Crécy to Abbeville.

Between Hesdin and Arras the geometrically planted cider apple trees and
poplars growing in parallel lines are without beauty, but by the railway
are bits of waste ground covered with cowslip, wind flowers,
cuckoo-pint, and dandelion. On the top of lofty elms here and there are
dark masses; these are the nests of the magpie, and apparently quite
safe from molestation.

By the wayside we see evidences of peasant ownership on the most modest
scale, women cutting their tiny patch of rye, as green food for cattle,
sowing their potato field, or keeping a few sheep. Everywhere lilacs
are in full bloom, and the pear and cherry trees burdened with blossom
as snow. Everything is a month ahead of ordinary years. I write of
April 1893.

The Hôtel St. Pol at Arras looks, I should say, precisely as it did in
Robespierre's time. The furniture certainly belongs to that epoch,
sanitary arrangements have made little advance, and the bare staircases
and floors do not appear as if they had been well swept, much less
scoured, since the fall of the Bastille. It is a rambling, I should say
rat-haunted, old place, but fairly quiet and comfortable, with civil
men-servants and no kind of pretence.

Arras itself, that is to say its Petite Place, is a specimen of
Renaissance architecture hardly to be matched even in France. The
Flemish gables and Spanish arcades, not a vestige of modernization
marring the effect, make a unique picture. Above all rises the first of
those noble belfry towers met by the traveller on this round, souvenirs
of civic rights hardly won and stoutly maintained. The first object
looked for will be Robespierre's birthplace, an eminently respectable
middle-class abode, now occupied by a personage almost as generally
distasteful as that of the Conventionnel himself, namely, a
process-server or bailiff. A bright little lad whom I interrogated on
the way testified the liveliest interest in my quest, and would not lose
sight of me till I had discovered the right house. It is a
yellow-walled, yellow-shuttered, symbolically atrabilious-looking place,
with twenty-three front windows. Robespierre's parents must have been in
decent circumstances when their son Maximilian was born, and perhaps the
reverses of early life had no small share in determining his after
career. Left an orphan in early life, he owed his education and start in
life to charity. The fastidious, poetic, austere country lawyer, unlike
his fellow-conventionnels, was no born orator. Thoughts that breathe and
words that burn did not drop from his lips as from Danton's. His
carefully prepared speeches, even in the apogee of his popularity, were
often interrupted by the cry "Cut it short" or "Keep to the point." The
exponent of Rousseau was ofttimes "long preaching," like St. Paul.

But there are early utterances of Robespierre's that constitute in
themselves a revolution, when, for instance, in 1789 he pleaded for the
admission of Jews, non-Catholics, and actors to political rights. "The
Jews," he protested, "have been maligned in history. Their reputed vices
arise from the ignominy into which they have been plunged." And although
his later discourses breathe a spirit of frenzied vindictiveness,
certain passages recall that "humane and spiritual element" commented
upon by Charles Nodier. This is especially noticeable in what is called
his _discours-testament_, the speech delivered on the eve of Thermidor.
At one moment, with positive ferocity, he lashes the memory of former
friends and colleagues sent by himself to the guillotine; at another he
dilates upon the virtue of magnanimity in lofty, Platonic strains.

[ILLUSTRATION: ARRAS, LA PETITE PALACE]

With Danton's implacable foe it was indeed a case of "Roses, roses, all
the way. Thus I enter, and thus I go." Twenty-four hours after that
peroration he awaited his doom, an object of ruthless execration. And
visitors are still occasionally shown in the Hôtel des Archives the
table on which was endured his short but terrible retribution.

A public day school for girls exists at Arras, but the higher education
of women--we must never lose sight of the fact--is sternly denounced by
Catholic authorities. Lay schools and lay teachers for girls are not
only unfashionable, they are immoral in the eyes of the orthodox.

The museum and public library, 40,000 and odd volumes, of this town
of 26,000 souls are both magnificent and magnificently housed in the
ancient Abbaye de St. Vaast, adjoining cathedral, bishopric and
public garden.

Besides pictures, statuary, natural history and archaeological
collections, occupying three storeys, is a room devoted exclusively to
local talent and souvenirs. Among the numerous bequests of generous
citizens is a collection of _faïence_ lately left by a tradeswoman,
whose portrait commemorates the deed. Some fine specimens of ancient
tapestry of Arras, hence the name arras, chiefly in shades of grey and
blue, and also specimens of the delicate hand-made Arras lace, are here.
There is also a room of technical exhibits, chemicals and minerals used
in the industrial arts, dyes, textiles.

Quite a third of the visitors thronging these sumptuous rooms were young
recruits. A modern picture of Eustache St. Pierre and his companions, at
the feet of Edward III and his kneeling Queen, evoked much admiration. I
heard one young soldier explaining the subject to a little group. There
were also many family parties, and some blue blouses. How delightful
such a place of resort-not so much in July weather, on this 9th of April
one might fancy it harvest time!--but on bleak, rainy, uninviting days!
One of the officials advised me to visit the recently erected Ecole des
Beaux Arts at the other end of the town, which I did. I would here note
the pride taken in their public collections by all concerned. This
elderly man, most likely an old soldier, seemed as proud of the museum
as if it were his own especial property.

I was at once shown over the spacious, airy, well-kept building--school
of art and conservatorium of music in one, both built, set on foot, and
maintained by the municipality. Here youths and girls of all ranks can
obtain a thorough artistic and musical training without a fraction of
cost. The classes are held in separate rooms, and boys in addition learn
modelling and mechanical drawing.

The school was opened four years ago, and already numbers eighty
students of both sexes, girls meeting two afternoons a week, boys every
evening. Arras also possesses an École Normale or large training school
for female teachers.

On this brilliant Sunday afternoon, although many small shops were open,
I noted the cessation of street traffic. Every one seemed abroad, and
business at a standstill. All the newspaper kiosks were closed.

Next morning soon after eight o'clock I was off to Vitry-en-Artois for
a day's farming. At the little station I was met by a friend's
friend--a typical young Frenchman, gaiety itself, amiable, easy, all
his faculties alert--and driven by him in a little English dogcart to
the neighbouring village. Twenty-five minutes brought us to our
destination--house and model farm of a neighbour, upwards of twelve
hundred acres, all cultivated on the most approved methods. Our host
now took my young friend's reins, he seating himself behind, and we
drove slowly over a large portion of the estate, taking a zigzag course
across the fields. There are here three kinds of soil--dry, chalky and
unproductive, rich loam, and light intermediate. In spite of the
drought of the last few weeks, the crops are very luxuriant, and quite
a month ahead of former seasons.

This estate of six hundred and odd hectares is a specimen of high
farming on a large scale, such as I had never before witnessed in
France. I do not exaggerate when I say that from end to end could not
be discerned a single weed. Of course, the expense of cultivation on
such a scale is very great, and hardly remunerative at the present
price of wheat.

Sixty hectares, _i.e._ nearly 150 acres, are planted with wheat, and
two-thirds of that superficies with beetroot. The young corn was as
advanced as in June with us, some kinds of richer growth than others,
and showing different shades of green, each tract absolutely weedless,
and giving evidence of highest cultivation. Fourteen hectolitres per
hectare of corn is the average, forty the maximum. Besides beetroot for
sugar, clover and sainfoin are grown, little or no barley, and neither
turnips nor mangel-wurzel.

[Footnote: Hectolitre = 2 bushels 3 pecks.]

The land is just now prepared for planting beetroot, by far the most
important crop here, and on which I shall have much to say. Henceforth,
indeed, the farming I describe may be called industrial, purely
agricultural products being secondary.

On the importance of beetroot sugar it is hardly necessary to dwell at
length. A few preliminary facts, however, may be acceptable. Up till the
year 1812, cane sugar only was known in France; the discovery of
beetroot sugar dates from the Continental blockade of that period. In
1885 the amount of raw sugar produced from beetroot throughout France
was 90 millions of kilos. In 1873 the sum-total had reached 400
millions. The consumption of sugar per head here is nevertheless
one-third less than among ourselves.

[Footnote: Kilogramme = 2 lb. 3 oz.]

We come now to see the results of fiscal regulation upon agriculture.
Formerly duty was paid not upon the root itself but its product. This is
now changed, and, the beetroot being taxed, the grower strives after
that kind producing the largest percentage of saccharine matter. Hardly
less important is the residue. The pulp of the crushed beetroot in
these regions forms the staple food of cows, pigs and sheep. Mixed with
chopped straw, it is stored for winter use in mounds by small
cultivators, in enormous cellars constructed on purpose by large owners.
Horses refuse to eat this mixture, which has a peculiar odour, scenting
farm premises from end to end. The chief manure used is that produced on
the farm and nitrates. On this especial estate dried fish from Sweden
had been tried, and, as on the farm before mentioned, chalky land is dug
to the depth of three feet, the better soil being put on the top. This
is the process called _marnage_. We now drove for miles right across the
wide stretches of young wheat and land prepared for beetroot. The wheels
of our light cart, the host said, would do good rather than harm. Horse
beans, planted a few weeks before, were well up; colza also was pretty
forward. Pastures there were none. Although the cornfields were as clean
as royal gardens we came upon parties of women, girls and boys hoeing
here and there. The rows of young wheat showed as much uniformity as a
newly-planted vineyard.

Ploughing and harrowing were being done chiefly by horses, only a few
oxen being used. My host told me that his animals were never worked on
Sundays. On week-days they remain longer afield than with us, but a
halt of an hour or two is made for food and rest at mid-day. Another
crop to be mentioned is what is called _hivernage_ or winter fodder,
_i.e._ lentils planted between rows of rye, the latter being grown
merely to protect the other. On my query as to the school attendance of
boys and girls employed in agriculture, my host said that authorities
are by no means rigid; at certain seasons of the year, indeed, they are
not expected to attend. Among some large landowners we find tolerably
conservative notions even in France. Over-education, they say, is
unfitting the people for manual labour, putting them out of their place,
and so forth.

Moles are not exterminated. "They do more good than harm," said my host,
"and I like them." I had heard the same thing at Caumont, where were
many mole-hills. Here and there, dove-tailed into these enormous fields,
were small patches farmed by the peasants, rarely their own property.
Their condition was described as neither that of prosperity nor want.
"They get along." That was the verdict.

In our long drive across weedless corn and clover fields we came upon a
small wood, a recent plantation of our host. Even this bit of greenery
made a pleasant break in the uniform landscape. We then drove home, and
inspected the premises on foot. Everything was on a colossal scale,
and trim as a Dutch interior. The vast collection of machinery included
the latest French, English, Belgian and American inventions. Steam
engines are fixtures, the consumption of coal being 160 tons yearly per
300 hectares.

We are thus brought face to face with the agriculture of the future,
ancient methods and appliances being supplanted one by one, manual
labour reduced to the minimum, the cultivation of the soil become purely
mechanical. The idyllic element vanishes from rural life and all savours
of Chicago! Stables and neat-houses were the perfection of cleanliness
and airiness. Here for the first time I saw sheep stabled like cows and
horses. Their quarters were very clean, and littered with fresh straw.
They go afield for a portion of the day, but, as I have before
mentioned, pastures are few and far between.

The enormous underground store-houses for beetroot, pulp and chopped
straw were now almost empty. At midday, the oxen were led home and fell
to their strange food with appetite, its moistness being undoubtedly an
advantage in dry weather. The cart horses were being fed with boiled
barley, and looked in first-rate condition. Indeed, all the animals
seemed as happy and well-cared for as my host's scores upon scores of
pet birds. Birds, however, are capricious, and nothing would induce a
beautiful green parrot to cry, "Vive la France" in my presence. After an
animated breakfast--thoroughly French breakfast, the best of everything
cooked and served in the best possible manner--we took leave, and my
young friend drove me back to Vitry to call upon his own family.

M.D., senior, is a miller, and the family dwelling, which adjoins his
huge water-mill, is very prettily situated on the Scarpe. We entered
by a little wooden bridge running outside, a conservatory filled with
exotics and ferns lending the place a fairy look. I never saw anything
in rural France that more fascinated me than this water-mill with its
crystal clear waters and surrounding foliage. M.D. with his three sons
quitted their occupation as we drove up. Madame and her young daughter
joined us in the cool salon, and we chatted pleasantly for a quarter
of an hour.

I was much struck with the head of the family, an elderly man with blue
eyes, fine features, and a thoughtful expression. He spoke sadly of the
effect of American competition, and admitted that protection could offer
but a mere palliative. Hitherto I had found a keenly protectionist bias
among French agriculturists. Of England and the English he spoke with
much sympathy, although at this time we were as yet far from the Entente
Cordiale. "C'est le plus grand peuple au monde" ("It is the greatest
nation in the world"), he said.

Nothing could equal the ease and cordiality with which this charming
family received me. The miller with his three elder sons had come
straight from the mill. Well-educated gentlemen are not ashamed of
manual labour in France. How I wished I could have spent days, nay
weeks, in the neighbourhood of the water-mill!



XIV

LADY MERCHANTS AND SOCIALIST MAYORS

Only three museums in France date prior to the Revolution, those of
Rheims, founded in 1748, and of Dijon and Nancy, founded in 1787. The
opening in Paris of the Muséum Français in 1792, consisting of the royal
collections and art treasures of suppressed convents, was the beginning
of a great movement in this direction. At Lille the municipal
authorities first got together a few pictures in the convent of the
Récollets, and Watteau the painter was deputed to draw up a catalogue.
On the 12th May, 1795, the collection consisted of 583 pictures and 58
engravings. On the 1st September, 1801, the consuls decreed the
formation of departmental museums and distribution of public art
treasures. It was not, however, till 1848 that the municipal council of
Lille set to work in earnest upon the enrichment of the museum, now one
of the finest in provincial cities. The present superb building was
erected entirely at the expense of the municipality, and was only opened
two years ago. It has recently been enriched by art treasures worth a
million of francs, the gift of a rich citizen and his wife, tapestries,
_faïence_, furniture, enamels, ivories, illuminated MSS., rare bindings,
engraved gems. Before that time the unrivalled collection of drawings by
old masters had lent the Lille museum a value especially its own.

The collections are open every day, Sundays included. Being entirely
built of stone, there is little risk of fire. Thieves are guarded
against by two caretakers inside the building at night and two patrols
outside. It is an enormous structure, and arranged with much taste.

The old wall still encircles the inner town, and very pretty is the
contrast of grey stone and fresh spring foliage; lilacs in full bloom,
also the almond, cherry, pear tree, and many others.

Lille nowadays recalls quite other thoughts than those suggested by
Tristram Shandy. It may be described as a town within towns, the
manufacturing centres around having gradually developed into large rival
municipalities. Among these are Tourcoing, Croix, and Roubaix, now more
than half as large as Lille itself. I stayed a week at Lille, and had I
remained there a year, in one respect should have come away no whit the
wiser. The manufactories, one and all, are inaccessible as the interior
of a Carmelite convent. Queen Victoria could get inside the monastery of
the Grande Chartreuse, but I question whether Her Majesty would have
been permitted to see over a manufactory of thread gloves at Lille!

Such jealousy has doubtless its reason. Most likely trade secrets have
been filched by foreign rivals under the guise of the ordinary tourist.
Be this as it may, the confection of a tablecloth or piece of beige is
kept as profoundly secret as that of the famous pepper tarts of Prince
Bedreddin or the life-sustaining cordial of celebrated fasters.

In the hope of winning over a feminine mind, I drove with a friend to
one of the largest factories at Croix, the property of a lady.

Here, as at Mulhouse, mill-owners live in the midst of their works. They
do not leave business cares behind them, after English fashion, dwelling
as far away as possible from factory chimneys. The premises of Mme. C.
are on a magnificent scale; all in red brick, fresh as if erected
yesterday, the mistress's house--a vast mansion--being a little removed
from these and surrounded by elegantly-arranged grounds. A good deal of
bowing and scraping had to be got through before we were even admitted
to the portress's lodge, as much more ceremonial before the portress
could be induced to convey our errand to one of the numerous clerks in a
counting-house close by. At length, and after many dubious shakes of the
head and murmurs of surprise at our audacity, the card was transmitted
to the mansion.

A polite summons to the great lady's presence raised our hopes. There
seemed at least some faint hope of success. Traversing the gravelled
path, as we did so catching sight of madame's coach-house and half-dozen
carriages, landau, brougham, brake, and how many more! we reached the
front door. Here the clerk left us, and a footman in livery, with no
little ceremony, ushered us into the first of a suite of reception
rooms, all fitted up in the modern style, and having abundance of ferns
and exotics.

At the end of the last salon a fashionably dressed lady, typically
French in feature, manners and deportment, sat talking to two gentlemen.
She very graciously advanced to meet us, held out a small white hand
covered with rings, and with the sweetest smile heard my modestly
reiterated request to be allowed a glimpse of the factory. Would that I
could convey the gesture, expression of face and tone of voice with
which she replied, in the fewest possible words!

After that inimitable, unforgettable "Jamais, jamais, jamais!" there was
nothing to do but make our bow and retire, discomfiture being amply
atoned by the little scene just described.

We next drove straight through Lille to the vast park or Bois, as it is
called, not many years since acquired by the town as a pleasure-ground.
Very wisely, the pretty, irregular stretch of glade, dell and wood has
been left as it was, only a few paths, seats and plantations being
added. No manufacturing town in France is better off in this respect.
Wide, handsome boulevards lead to the Bois and pretty botanical garden,
many private mansions having beautiful grounds, but walled in completely
as those of cloistered convents. The fresh spring greenery and multitude
of flowering trees and shrubs make suburban Lille look its best; outside
the town every cottage has a bit of ground and a tree or two.

During this second week of April the weather suddenly changed. Rain
fell, and a keen east wind rendered fires and winter garments once
more indispensable. On one of these cold, windy days I went with
Lille friends to Roubaix, as cold and windy a town, I should say, as
any in France.

A preliminary word or two must be said about Roubaix, the city of
strikes, pre-eminently the Socialist city.

City we may indeed call it, and it is one of rapidly increasing
dimensions. In the beginning of the century Roubaix numbered 8000 souls
only. Its population is now 114,000. Since 1862 the number of its
machines has quintupled. Every week 600 tons of wool are brought to the
mills. As I have before mentioned, more business is transacted with the
Bank of France by this _cheflieu_ of a canton than by Toulouse, Rheims,
Nîmes, or Montpellier. The speciality of Roubaix is its dress stuffs and
woollen materials, large quantities of which are exported to America. To
see these soft, delicate fabrics we must visit Regent Street and other
fashionable quarters, not an inch is to be caught sight of here.

Roubaix is a handsome town, with every possible softening down of grimy
factory walls and tall chimneys. A broad, well-built street leads to the
Hôtel de Ville; another equally wide street, with mansions of wealthy
mill-owners and adjacent factories, leads to the new Boulevard de Paris
and pretty public park, where a band plays on Sunday afternoons.

But my first object was to obtain an interview with the Socialist mayor,
a man of whom I had heard much. A friend residing at Lille kindly paved
the way by sending his own card with mine, the messenger bringing back a
courteous reply. Unfortunately, the Conseil-Général then sitting at
Lille curtailed the time at the mayor's disposal, but before one o'clock
he would be pleased to receive me, he sent word. Accordingly, conducted
by my friend's clerk, I set out for the Town Hall.

We waited some little time in the vestibule, the chief magistrate of
Roubaix being very busy. Deputy-mayors, adjoints, were coming and going,
and liveried officials bustled about, glancing at me from time to time,
but without any impertinent curiosity. Impertinent curiosity, by the
way, we rarely meet with in France. People seem of opinion that
everybody must be the best judge of his or her own business. I was
finally ushered into the council chamber, where the mayor and three
deputy-mayors sat at a long table covered with green baize, transacting
business. He very courteously bade me take a seat beside him, and we at
once entered into conversation. The working man's representative of what
was then the city _par excellence_ of strikes and socialism is a
remarkable-looking man in middle life. Tall, angular, beardless, with
the head of a leader, he would be noticed anywhere. There was a look of
indomitable conviction in his face, and a quiet dignity from which
neither his shabby clothes nor his humble calling detract. Can any
indeed well be humbler? The first magistrate of a city of a hundred and
fourteen thousand souls, a large percentage of whom are educated,
wealthy men of the world, keeps, as I have said, a small _estaminet_ or
café in which smoking is permitted, and sells newspapers, himself early
in the morning making up and delivering his bundles to the various
retailers. Here, indeed, we have the principles of the Republic--Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity--carried out to their logical conclusion.
Without money, without social position, this man owes his present
dignity to sheer force of character and conviction. We chatted of
socialism and the phases of it more immediately connected with Roubaix,
on which latter subject I ventured to beg a little information.

[Footnote: I give Littré's meaning of _estaminet_.]

"We must go to the fountain-head," he replied very affably. "I regret
that time does not permit me to enter into particulars now; but leave me
your English address. The information required shall be forwarded."

We then talked of socialism in England, of his English friends, and he
was much interested to learn that I had once seen the great Marx and
heard him speak at a meeting of the International in Holborn twenty-five
years before.

Then I told him, what perhaps he knew, of the liberty accorded by our
Government to hold meetings in Trafalgar Square, and we spoke of
Gladstone. "A good democrat, but born too early for socialism--the
future of the world. One cannot take to socialism at eighty-three years
of age," I said.

"No, that is somewhat late in the day," was the smiling reply.

I took leave, much pleased with my reception. From a certain point of
view, the socialist mayor of Roubaix was one of the most interesting
personalities I had met in France.

Roubaix has been endowed by the State with a handsome museum,
library, technical and art school, the latter for young men only.
These may belong to any nationality, and obtain their professional or
artistic training free of charge. The exhibition of students' work
sufficiently proclaims the excellence of the teaching. Here we saw
very clever studies from the living model, a variety of designs, and,
most interesting of all, fabrics prepared, dyed and woven entirely by
the students.

The admirably arranged library is open to all, and we were courteously
shown some of its choicest treasures. These are not bibliographical
curiosities, but albums containing specimens of Lyons silk, a marvellous
display of taste and skill. Gems, butterflies' wings, feathers of
tropical birds are not more brilliant than these hues, while each design
is thoroughly artistic, and in its way an achievement.

The picture gallery contains a good portrait of the veteran song-writer
Nadaud, author of the immortal "Carcassonne." Many Germans and Belgians,
engaged in commerce, spend years here, going away when their fortunes
are made. More advantageous to the place are those capitalists who take
root, identifying themselves with local interests. Such is the case with
a large English firm at Croix, who have founded a Protestant church and
schools for their workpeople.

Let me record the spectacle presented by the museum on Sunday afternoon
during the brilliant weather of April 1893. What most struck me was the
presence of poorly-dressed boys; they evidently belonged to the least
prosperous working class, and came in by twos and threes. Nothing could
equal the good behaviour of these lads, or their interest in everything.
Many young shop-women were also there, and, as usual, a large contingent
of soldiers and recruits.

Few shops remained open after mid-day, except one or two very large
groceries, at which fresh vegetables were sold. It is pleasant to note a
gradual diminution of Sunday labour throughout France.

The celebration of May-Day, which date occurred soon after my visit, was
not calculated either to alarm the Republic or the world in general. It
was a monster manifestation in favour of the Three Eights, and I think
few of us, were we suddenly transformed into Roubaix machinists, would
not speedily become Three Eighters as well.

At five o'clock in the morning the firing of cannon announced the annual
"Fête du Travail," or workmen's holiday, not accorded by Act of
Parliament, but claimed by the people as a legitimate privilege.

Unwonted calm prevailed in certain quarters. Instead of men, women, boys
and girls pouring by tens of thousands into the factories, the streets
leading to them were empty. In one or two cases, where machinery had
been set in motion and doors opened, public opinion immediately effected
a stoppage of work. Instead, therefore, of being imprisoned from
half-past five in the morning till seven or eight at night, the entire
Roubaisien population had freed itself to enjoy "a sunshine holiday."
Such a day cannot be too long, and at a quarter past seven vast crowds
had collected before the Hôtel de Ville.

Here a surprise was in store for the boldest Three Eighter going. The
tricolour had been hoisted down, and replaced, not by a red flag, but by
a large transparency, showing the following device in red letters upon
a white ground:--

          FÊTE INTERNATIONALE DU TRAVAIL,
                 1er Mai 1893.

             Huit Heures du Travail,
             Huit Heures du Loisir,
             Huit Heures du Repos.

[Footnote: Translation-International festival of labour; eight hours'
work, eight hours' leisure, eight hours' repose.]

The mayor, in undress, that is to say in garments of every day, having
surveyed these preparations, returned to his _estaminet_, the Plat d'Or,
and there folded his newspapers as usual for the day's distribution.

In the meantime the finishing touch was put to other decorations,
consisting of flags, devices and red drapery, everywhere the Three
Eights being conspicuous.

A monster procession was then formed, headed by the Town Council and a
vast number of bands. There was the music of the Fire Brigade, the
socialist brass band, the children's choir, the Choral Society of
Roubaix, the Franco-Belgian Choral Society, and many others. Twenty
thousand persons took part in this procession, the men wearing red
neckties and a red flower in their button-holes, the forty-seven groups
of the workmen's federation bearing banners, all singing, bands
playing, drums beating, cannons firing as they went.

At mid-day the defile was made before the Hôtel de Ville, and delegates
of the different socialist groups were formally received by the mayor
and deputy-mayors, wearing their tricolour scarves of office.

I must say the mayor's speech was a model of conciseness, good sense
and, it must be added, courtesy; addressing himself first to his
fellow-townswomen, then to his fellow-townsmen, he thanked the labour
party for the grandiose celebration of the day, dwelt on the
determination of the municipal council to watch over the workmen's
interests, then begged all to enjoy themselves thoroughly, taking care
to maintain the public peace.

Toasts were drunk, the mayor's health with especial enthusiasm, but when
at the stroke of noon he waved the tricolour and an enormous number of
pigeons were let loose, not to be fired at but admired as they flew away
in all directions, their tricolour ribbons fluttering, the general
delight knew no bounds. "Long live our mayor," resounded from every
mouth, "Vive le citoyen Carrette!"

The rest of the day was devoted to harmless, out-of-door amusements: a
balloon ascent, on the car being conspicuous in red, "Les trois huits,"
concerts, gymnastic contests, finally dancing and illuminations.

Thus ended the first of May, 1893, in Lille.

       *       *       *       *       *

St. Omer is a clean, well-built and sleepy little town, with some fine
old churches. The mellow tone of the street architecture, especially
under a burning blue sky, is very soothing; all the houses have a
yellowish or pinkish hue.

The town abounds in convents and seminaries, and the chief business of
well-to-do ladies seems that of going to church. In the cathedral are
many votive tablets to "Our Lady of Miracles"--one of the numerous
miracle-working Virgins in France. Here we read the thanksgiving of a
young man miraculously preserved throughout his four years' military
service; there, one records how, after praying fervently for a certain
boon, after many years the Virgin had granted his prayer. Parents
commemorate miraculous favours bestowed on their children, and so on.

The ancient ramparts at this time were in course of demolition, and the
belt of boulevards which are to replace them will be a great
improvement. The town is protected by newly-constructed works. Needless
to say, it possesses a public library, on the usual principle--one
citizen one book,--a museum, and small picture gallery. The population
is 21,000.

I was cordially received by a friend's friend, foremost resident in the
place, and owner of a large distillery. As usual, the private dwelling,
with coach-house, stables and garden adjoined the business premises. The
_genièvre_ or gin, so called from the juniper used in flavouring it,
here manufactured, is a choice liqueur, not the cheap intoxicant of our
own public-houses. Liqueurs are always placed with coffee on French
breakfast-tables. Every one takes a teaspoonful as a help to digestion.

French people are greatly astonished at the absence of liqueurs in
England. The excellence of French digestions generally would not seem to
discredit the habit. In the fabrication of gin here only the corn of rye
is used, and in small quantities, the juniper berry; it is ready for
drinking in six months, although improved by keeping. I saw also curaçoa
in its various stages. The orange peel used in the manufacture of this
liqueur is soaked in alcohol for four months.

My object, however, was to see the high farming on an extensive scale
for which this region is famous. Accordingly my host, accompanied by his
amiable wife, placed themselves, their carriage, and time at my
disposal, and we set out for a long round.

In harvest time the aspect of the country must be one of extreme
richness. The enormous sweeps of corn, clover, and beetroot have no
division from each other or the road; no hedges are to be seen, and not
a tree in the middle of the crops, few trees, indeed, anywhere.
Everywhere, on this 17th of April, the corn was a month ahead of former
seasons, and, in spite of the long drought, very flourishing.

The first farm visited consists of 360 hectares (just upon 900 acres),
all in the highest cultivation, and conducted strictly on the footing of
a large industrial concern, with offices, counting-house, carpenters',
saddlers' and wheelwrights' shops, smithies, mills and machinery, every
agricultural process down to grinding the corn being performed on the
premises, and by workmen in the employ of the owner.

As we enter these vast premises, and hear the buzz of machinery, we feel
the complete prosaicization of rustic life. The farmhouse scenes of my
own childhood in Suffolk, the idyllic descriptions of George Eliot, no
more resemble actualities than the poetic spinning-wheel of olden times
the loom of latest invention. Utility is the object aimed at,
incontestably with great results, but in effect unromantic as Chicago.
It is high farming made to pay. All was bustle and activity as we made
the round of the premises, beginning with the vast machinery and
workshops. These walled-in buildings, divided into two portions, each
covering three-quarters of an acre, reminded me of nothing so much as of
the caravanserais of Algerian travel twenty-five years ago. Once the
doors are bolted none can enter, yet to render security doubly sure dogs
are chained up in every corner--we will hope, let loose at night.

I will not here go into agricultural details, only adding a few
particulars.

The splendid wheat, clover, bean and rye crops attested the
excellence of the farming. Dovetailing into these enormous fields
were small patches of peasant owners or tenants, all without division
or apparent boundary.

In the villages I was struck by the tidy appearance of the children
coming out of school. The usual verdict on peasant proprietors
hereabouts was that they do not accumulate, neither are they in want.
Very little, if any, beggary meets the eye, either in town or country.
We then drove to the château, with its English grounds, of the Vicomte
de----, friend of my host, and an ardent admirer of England and English
ways. This gentleman looked, indeed, like an English squire, and spoke
our tongue. He had visited King Edward, then Prince of Wales, at
Sandringham. As an illustration of his lavish method of doing things, I
mention a quantity of building stone lately ordered from Valenciennes.
This stone, for the purpose of building offices, had cost £800. In this
part of France clerks and counting-houses seem an indispensable feature
of farm premises. An enormous bell for summoning work-people to work or
meals is always conspicuous. The whole thing has a commercial aspect.

Here we saw some magnificent animals, among these a prize bull of
Flemish breed. It was said to be very fierce, and on this account had a
ring in its nose. This cruel custom is now, I believe, prohibited here
by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. On the other
hand, I was glad to find the Vicomte a member of the kindred society in
Paris, and he assured me that he was constantly holding his green card
of membership over offenders _in terrorem_.

We hardly expect a rich aristocrat to make utility the first object in
his agricultural pursuits. High farming was nevertheless here the order
of the day.

We next drove to Clairmarais, a village some miles off in quite another
direction, coming in sight of magnificent forests. Our errand was to
the ancient Cistercian abbey, now the property of a capitalist, and
turned into the business premises of his large farm. Of the original
monastery, founded in 1140, hardly a trace remains. Abutting on the
outer wall is the chapel, and before it a small enclosed flower-garden
full of wallflowers and flowering shrubs, a bit of prettiness welcome to
the eye. Just beyond, too, was an old-fashioned, irregularly planted
orchard, with young cattle grazing under the bloom-laden trees, the turf
dazzlingly bright, but less so than the young corn and rye, now ready
for first harvesting.

The vaulted kitchens with vast fireplaces are relics of the ancient
abbey, and even now form most picturesque interiors. At a long wooden
table in one sat a blue-bloused group drinking cider out of huge yellow
mugs--scene for a painter. Another, fitted up as a dairy, was hardly
less of a picture. On shelves in the dark, antiquated chamber lay large,
red-earthen pans full of cream for cheese-making. The brown-robed figure
of a lay brother would have seemed appropriate in either place.

Outside these all was modernization and hard prose. We saw the shepherd
returning with his sheep from the herbage, the young lambs bleating
pitifully in an inner shed. It is the custom here to send the sheep
afield during the day, the lambs meantime being fed on hay. Here again,
I should say, is a commercial mistake. The lamb of pasture-fed animals
must be incontestably superior. Humanity here seems on the side of
utilitarianism. Who can say? Perhaps the inferiority of French meat in
certain regions arises from this habit of stabling cattle and sheep. The
drive from Clairmarais to St. Omer took us through a quite different and
much more attractive country. We were now in the marais, an amphibious
stretch of country, cut up into gardens and only accessible by tiny
canals. It is a small Holland. This vast stretch of market garden,
intersected by waterways just admitting the passage of a boat, is very
productive. Three pounds per hectare is often paid in rent. The early
vegetables, conveyed by boat to St. Omer, are largely exported to
England. Every inch of ground is turned to account, the turf-bordered,
canal-bound gardens making a pretty scene, above the green levels
intersected by gleaming water the fine towers of St. Omer clearly
outlined against the brilliant sky.

The English colony of former days vanished on the outbreak of the last
war, not to return. A few young English Catholics still prepare for the
priesthood here, and eighty more were at this time pursuing their
studies at Douai, under the charge of English Benedictines. "Why,"
impatiently asked Arthur Young in 1788, "are Catholics to emigrate in
order to be ill-educated abroad, instead of being allowed institutions
that would educate them well at home?"

The disabilities he reprobates have long since been removed, but
English-speaking seminarists still flock to Douai.

Here I close this agricultural and industrial round in Picardy and
French Flanders, regions so near home, yet so unfamiliar to most of us!
And here I close what, in many respects, may be called another round in
unfrequented France.


THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Heart of the Vosges and Other Sketches by a "Devious Traveller"" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home