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Title: Breton Folk - An artistic tour in Brittany
Author: Blackburn, Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: CAVALIERS AND ROUNDHEAD.]

                                                        (_See page 108_)



                              Breton Folk
                     _AN ARTISTIC TOUR IN BRITTANY_


[Illustration]

                                   BY

                            HENRY BLACKBURN.

            _WITH ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY ILLUSTRATIONS BY_

                             R. CALDECOTT.

                                BOSTON.

                      JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY

                                 1881.

[Illustration]



                                PREFACE.


The following notes were made during three summer tours in Brittany, in
two of which the Author was accompanied by the Artist.

_Breton Folk_ is not a description of the antiquities of Brittany, nor
even a book of folk-lore. It is a series of sketches of a
“black-and-white country” under its summer aspect; of a sombre land
shrouded with white clouds, peopled with peasants in dark costumes, wide
white collars and caps, black and white cattle and magpies.

The illustrations, one hundred and seventy in number, have been drawn by
the Artist from sketches made on the spot, and, apart from their
artistic qualities, have the curious merit of truth. They have been
engraved with the utmost care by Mr. J. D. Cooper.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]



                               CONTENTS.


  CHAP.                                                             PAGE

    I.— THE WESTERN WING                                               1

   II.— ST. MALO—ST. SERVAN—DINARD—DINAN                               6

  III.— LAMBALLE—ST. BRIEUC—GUINGAMP                                  27

   IV.— LANLEFF—PAIMPOL—LANNION—PERROS-GUIREC                         45

    V.— CARHAIX—HUELGOET                                              58

   VI.— MORLAIX—ST. POL—LESNEVEN—LE FOLGOET                           69

  VII.— BREST—PLOUGASTEL—CHÂTEAUNEUF DU FAOU                          83

 VIII.— QUIMPER—PONT L’ABBÉ—AUDIERNE—DOUARNENEZ                      100

   IX.— CONCARNEAU—PONT-AVEN—QUIMPERLÉ                               123

    X.— HENNEBONT                                                    143

   XI.— LE FAOUET—GOURIN—GUÉMÉNÉ                                     152

  XII.— STE. ANNE D’AURAY—CARNAC—LOCMARIAKER                         171

 XIII.— VANNES                                                       190


        MAP OF BRITTANY, AND POSTSCRIPT FOR TRAVELLERS, _at end_.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                                    PAGE

 Cavaliers and Roundhead                                  _Frontispiece_

 Vignette                                                   _Title page_

 A Breton Gate                                                       iii

 Sketching                                                            iv

 Carrying Corn                                                         v

 Vignette                                                             vi

 Old Château                                                         vii

 Sheep sheltering from the Wind                                      xii


                               CHAPTER I.

 Hill and Dale                                                         1

 On the Road                                                           5


                               CHAPTER II.

 Caps of Côtes-du-Nord                                                 6

 Map of the Mouth of the Rance                                         7

 Peasants of Côtes-du-Nord                                            11

 Fruit Stall at Dinan                                                 15

 A Loaded Hay Cart                                                    16

 On the Place, Dinan                                                  17

 Outside the Walls                                                    18

 Old House near Dinan                                                 20

 Old Woman of Dinan                                                   21

 Porte de Brest                                                       22

 A Little Beggar                                                      23

 “The Hour of Repose”                                                 24

 Farmhouse of Côtes-du-Nord                                           25

 Farmer meditating on his Stock                                       26


                              CHAPTER III.

 Caps of Côtes-du-Nord                                                27

 The Buckwheat Harvest                                                30

 A Road Scraper                                                       31

 Sketch of Château                                                    32

 On the Sands near St. Brieuc                                         33

 Winnowing near St. Brieuc                                            34

 Mathurine                                                            35

 Corner Turret at Guingamp                                            38

 Going to Market                                                      39

 The Market-place, Guingamp                                           40

 Waiting-maid at Hôtel de l’Ouest                                     41

 The Ossuary at Guingamp                                              42

 By the River                                                         44


                               CHAPTER IV.

 Cap of Côtes-du-Nord                                                 45

 Three Children                                                       50

 Riding to Market                                                     53

 Returning Home                                                       57


                               CHAPTER V.

 Cap of the Monts d’Arrée                                             58

 Peasant in Sabots                                                    60

 Girl tending Sheep                                                   61

 Old House at Carhaix                                                 62

 On The Road to Market                                     _face_     62

 A Cart Party                                                         63

 Trotting out a Horse                                                 64

 Cattle Fair at Carhaix                                    _face_     64

 A Gentleman Farmer                                                   65

 A Family Party                                                       66

 Waiting for Dinner, Huelgoet                                         67

 Shepherd of the Monts d’Arrée                                        68


                               CHAPTER VI.

 Cap of Morlaix                                                       69

 Washing in the River                                                 70

 Women of Morlaix                                                     72

 Potato-getting near St. Pol de Léon                       _face_     75

 Three Men of St. Pol de Léon                                         76

 Children in Cabbage Garden                                           77

 Gurgoyle at Roscoff                                                  78

 An Owner of the Soil                                                 79

 “The Fool of the Wood”                                               80

 In the Church of Le Folgoet                               _face_     80

 On Horseback                                                         82

 Horse Fair at Le Folgoet                                  _face_     82


                              CHAPTER VII.

 Cap of Finistère                                                     83

 Map of the Bay of Brest                                              84

 “Every Dog has his Day”                                              87

 Wayside Cross                                                        89

 Going to the Pardon at Châteauneuf du Faou                _face_     90

 Calvary at Pleyben                                                   91

 Street Musicians                                                     92

 Races at Châteauneuf du Faou                                         94

 Two Spectators                                                       95

 Stewards of the Fête                                                 96

 Dancing the Gavotte                                       _face_     96

 Pleased Spectator                                                    97

 Threshing                                                          { 98
   Corn                                                             { 99


                              CHAPTER VIII.

 Caps of Finistère                                                   100

 A Promenade                                                         101

 On the Place, Quimper                                               102

 Towers of Quimper Cathedral                                         103

 Waitress at Hôtel de l’Épée                                         104

 At a Well                                                           105

 Professional Beggar                                                 106

 A Domestic Scene                                                    107

 Two Heads; sketched at Audierne                                     108

 Prize-giving at Quimper                                             109

 Two Heads; sketched at Audierne                                     110

 A Domestic Interior                                                 111

 River below Pont l’Abbé                                             112

 Landscape in Finistère                                              114

 Inhabitants                                                       { 116
   of                                                              { 117
   Audierne                                                        { 117

 Cutting the Corn                                                    118

 Harvesting in Finistère                                   _face_    118

 Waiting for the Sardine Boats at Douarnenez                         120

 Waitress at Douarnenez                                              121

 Beggar on the Road                                                  122


                               CHAPTER IX.

 Woman and Child, Finistère                                          123

 Concarneau: Coming from Church                                      124

 On the Place at Concarneau                                _face_    124

 The Last Touches                                                    125

 On the Quay at Concarneau                                           126

 A Boating Party                                                     127

 Old Man and Child                                                   128

 Pont-Aven: Washing at a Stream                                      129

 Pont-Aven                                                           131

 Returning from Labour, Pont-Aven                                    133

 Models                                                              135

 At Quimperlé Station                                                136

 Old Woman at Quimperlé Station                                      137

 Gathering Sticks                                                    138

 On the Place at Quimperlé                                           139

 A Big Load                                                          140

 Augustine                                                           141

 Evening: Near Quimperlé                                   _face_    142

 Drawing Water                                                       142


                               CHAPTER X.

 Little Cap of Morbihan                                              143

 In the Ville Close, Hennebont                                       144

 The High Street of the Ville Neuve                                  145

 Poverty and Riches                                                  146

 Reapers returning                                         _face_    147

 Opposite the Old Inn                                                147

 At the Well                                                         148

 Carrying Water                                                      149

 Washing Parties                                                     149

 Old Doorway in the Ville Close                                      150

 A Conversation                                                      151


                               CHAPTER XI.

 Cap of Morbihan                                                     152

 Reaping near Hennebont                                              153

 Street In Le Faouet                                                 155

 A Breton Propriétaire                                               156

 Le Faouet                                                 _face_    156

 Bed-time                                                            157

 The Man on Two Sticks                                               158

 Stairs leading to the Chapel of Ste. Barbe                          160

 Gourin                                                              161

 “Montez, s’il vous plait, Monsieur!”                                162

 Bullock Cart on the Road                                            163

 Waitress at the Inn                                                 164

 High Street of Guéméné                                              165

 A Meeting                                                           166

 En Promenade                                                        167

 Sunday Morning at Guéméné                                           168

 A Conversation                                                      169

 The Bottle                                                          170

 Betrothal Party                                           _face_    170


                              CHAPTER XII.

 At the Hôtel Pavillon d’en Haut                                     171

 The Tower on the Belvédère at Auray                                 172

 Evening on the Belvédère                                            173

 At the Pardon of Ste. Anne d’Auray                                  174

 At the Pardon of Ste. Anne d’Auray                                  175

 At the Pardon of Ste. Anne d’Auray                        _face_    176

 At the Pardon of Ste. Anne d’Auray                                  177

 At the Pardon of Ste. Anne d’Auray                                  180

 Map of Carnac                                                       182

 Sketch on the Fields of Carnac                                      183

 In the Kitchen of the Hôtel des Voyageurs at Carnac                 185

 On the Road                                                         186

 In the Wind                                                         187

 The Great Menhir                                                    188

 Scavengers                                                          189


                              CHAPTER XIII.

 Caps of Morbihan                                                    190

 Vannes from the River                                     _face_    190

 An Old Inn                                                          192

 In a Café                                                           193

 Three Hot Men of Vannes                                             194

 Side-spring Boots                                                   195

 Some Inhabitants                                                    198

 A Chase                                                             200

[Illustration]



                              BRETON FOLK:

                     AN ARTISTIC TOUR IN BRITTANY.


[Illustration]



                               CHAPTER I.

                           THE WESTERN WING.


In an old-fashioned country-house there is often to be found a room
built out from the rest of the structure, forming, as it were, the
extreme western wing. It has windows looking to the west, its door of
communication with the great house, and, in summer-time, a southern
exterior wall laden with fruit and fragrant with clematis, honeysuckle,
or jasmine. The interior differs from the rest of the mansion both in
its furnishing and in the habits of its occupants. It is a room in which
there is an absence of bright colours, where everything is quiet in tone
and more or less harmonious in aspect; where solid woodwork takes the
place of gilding, where furniture is made simply and solidly for use and
ease, where decoration is _the work of the hand_—holding a needle, a
chisel, or a hammer. The prevailing colours in this quaint old room,
which give a sense of repose on coming from more highly decorated
saloons, are blue, grey, and green—the blue of old china, the grey of a
landscape by Millet or Corot, the green that we may see sometimes in the
works of Paul Veronese.

This “western wing” is haunted, and full of mysteries and legends; its
furniture is antique, and has seldom been dusted or put in order. Nearly
every object is a curiosity in some way, and was designed in a past age;
on the high wooden shelves over the open fireplace there are objects in
wrought metal work, antique-shaped pots and jars. About the room are
fragments of Druidical monuments, menhirs and dolmens of almost fabulous
antiquity, ancient stone crosses, calvaries, and carvings, piled
together in disorderly fashion, with odd-shaped pipes, snuffboxes,
fishing-rods, guns, and the like; on the walls are small, elaborate,
paintings of mediæval saints in roughly carved gilt frames, and a few
low-toned landscapes by painters of France; on shelves and in niches are
large brown volumes with antique clasps, and perhaps a model in clay of
an old woman in a high cap, a priest, or a child in sabots.

The room is a snuggery, well furnished with pipes and tobacco, and
hitherto evidently not much visited by ladies; but the door is open wide
to the rest of the mansion, through which the strains of Meyerbeer’s
opera of _Dinorah_ may sometimes be heard. The lady visitor is welcome
to this out-of-the-way corner, but she must not be surprised to find
herself greeted on entering in a language which, with all her knowledge
of French, she can scarcely understand; to be asked, perhaps, to take a
pinch of snuff, and to conform in other homely ways to the habits of the
inhabitants.

Such a quiet, unobtrusive corner—pleasant with its open windows to the
summer air, but much blown and rained upon by winter storms—is Brittany,
the “western wing” of France, holding much the same position
geographically and socially to the rest of the country, as the room we
have pictured in the great house, to the rest of the mansion.

The Brittany described in these pages is comprised principally of the
three departments of CÔTES-DU-NORD, FINISTÈRE, and MORBIHAN, the
inhabitants of these districts standing apart, as it were, from the rest
of France, preserving their own customs and traditions, speaking their
own language, singing their own songs, and dancing their own dances in
the streets in 1879. In these three departments is comprehended nearly
all that is most characteristic of the Bretons, and the district forms
itself naturally into a convenient summer tour of three or four weeks.

Brittany is essentially the land of the painter. It would be strange
indeed if a country sprinkled with white caps, and set thickly in summer
with the brightest blossoms of the fields, should not attract artists in
search of picturesque costume and scenes of pastoral life. Rougher and
wilder than Normandy, more thinly populated, and less visited by the
tourists, Brittany offers better opportunities for outdoor study, and
more suggestive scenes for the painter. Nowhere in France are there
finer peasantry; nowhere do we see more dignity of aspect in field
labour, more nobility of feature amongst men and women; nowhere more
picturesque ruins; nowhere such primitive habitations and, it must be
added, such dirt. Brittany is still behindhand in civilisation, the land
is only half cultivated and divided into small holdings, and the fields
are strewn with Druidical stones. From the dark recesses of the
Montagnes Noires the streams come down between deep ravines as wild and
bare of cultivation as the moors of Scotland, but the hillsides are
clothed thickly in summer with ferns, broom, and heather. Follow one of
these streams in its windings towards the sea, where the troubled waters
rest in the shade of overhanging trees, by pastures and cultivated
lands, and we may see the Breton peasants at their “gathering-in,”
reaping and carrying their small harvest of corn and rye, oats and
buckwheat; the women with white caps and wide collars, short dark
skirts, and heavy wooden sabots, the men in white woollen jackets,
breeks (_bragous bras_), and black gaiters, broad-brimmed hats and long
hair streaming in the wind—leading oxen yoked to heavy carts painted
blue. Here we are reminded at once of the French painters of pastoral
life, of Jules Breton, Millet, Troyon, and Rosa Bonheur; and as we see
the dark brown harvest fields, with the white clouds lying low on the
horizon, and the strong, erect figures and grand faces of the peasants
lighted by the evening sun, we understand why Brittany is a chosen land
for the painter of _paysages_. Low in tone as the landscape is, sombre
as are the costumes of the people, cloudy and fitful in light and shade
as is all this wind-blown land, there is yet a clearness in the
atmosphere which brings out the features of the country with great
distinctness, and impresses them upon the mind.

To the antiquary who knows the country, and is perchance on the track of
a newly discovered menhir, long buried in the sands; to the poet who
would seek out and see that mystic island of Avilion,

              “Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
              Nor ever wind blows loudly”;

to the historian who would add yet other links in the chain of facts in
the strange eventful history of Brittany; to the resident Englishman and
sportsman, who knows the corners of the trout streams and the best
covers for game, scanty though they be, the tour suggested in these
pages will have little interest; but to the English traveller who would
see what is most characteristic and beautiful in Brittany in a short
time, we should say—

Enter by the port of St. Malo from Southampton (or by Dol, if coming
from France), and take the following route, diverging from it into the
country districts as time and opportunity will permit. From St. Malo to
Dinan by water; from Dinan to Lamballe by diligence (or railway), thence
to St. Brieuc, Guingamp, Lannion, Morlaix, Brest, Quimper, Quimperlé,
Hennebont, Auray, Vannes, and Rennes.

Thus, then, having set the modern tourist on his way, and provided for
the exigencies of rapid holiday-making, let us recommend him to diverge
from the beaten track as much as possible, striking out in every
direction from the main line of route, both inland and to the coast,
travelling _by road_ as much as possible, and seeing the people, as they
are only to be seen, “off the line.”

In _Breton Folk_ the reader will be troubled little with the history of
Brittany, with the wars of the Plantagenets, or with the merits of
various styles of architecture, but some general impression of the
country may be gathered from its pages, and especially of the people as
they are to be seen to-day.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER II.

                   ST. MALO—ST. SERVAN—DINARD—DINAN.


[Illustration]

On a bright summer’s morning in July the _ballon captif_, which we may
use in imagination in these pages—our French friends having taught us
its use in peace as well as in war—floats over the blue water-gate of
Brittany like a golden ball. The sun is high, and the tide is flowing
fast round the dark rock islands that lie at our feet, pouring into the
harbour of ST. MALO, floating the vessels and fishing-boats innumerable
that line the quays inside the narrow neck of land called Le Sillon,
which connects the city with the mainland, and driving gay parties of
bathers up the sands of the beautiful Baie d’Écluse at Dinard.

On the map on the opposite page, we see the relative positions of St.
Malo, St. Servan, and Dinard, also the mouth of the river Rance, which
flows southward, wide and strong, into innumerable bays, until it winds
under the walls and towers of Dinan. Looking down upon the city, now
alive with the life which the rising tide gives to every sea-port;
seeing the strength of its position seaward, and the protection from
without to the little forests of masts, whose leaves are the bright
trade banners of many nations, it is easy to understand how centuries
ago St. Malo and St. Servan were chosen as military strongholds,[1] and
how in these later times St. Malo has a maritime importance apparently
out of proportion to its trade, and to its population of not more than
14,000 inhabitants.

Footnote 1:

  St. Servan is built on the site of Aleth, one of the six capitals of
  ancient Armorica; there was a monastery here in the sixth century.

[Illustration]

From a bird’s-eye point of view we may obtain a clearer idea of St. Malo
and its neighbourhood than many who have actually visited these places,
and can judge for ourselves of its probable attractions for a summer
visit. It seems unusually bright and pleasant this morning, for the
light west wind has cleared the air, and carried the odours of St. Malo
landward. There is to be a regatta in the afternoon, the principal
course being across, and across, the mouth of the Rance, between St.
Malo and Dinard, and already little white sails may be seen spread in
various directions, darting in and out between the rock islands outside
the bay. On one of these islands, Grand Bé, marked with a cross on the
map, is the tomb of the illustrious Châteaubriand, a plain granite slab,
surmounted by a cross, and railed in with a very ordinary-looking iron
railing. This gravestone, which stands upon an eminence, and is
conspicuous rather than solitary, is described by a French writer as a
romantic resting-place for the departed diplomatist, characteristic and
sublime—“ni arbres, ni fleurs, ni inscription—le roc, la mer et
l’immensité”; but as a matter of fact it is anything but solitary in
summer-time, and it is more visited by tourists than sea-gulls. The
waves are beating round it now, but at low water there will be a line of
pedestrians crossing the sands; some to bathe and some to place
_immortelles_ on the tomb.

The sands of Le Sillon are covered with bathers and holiday crowds in
dazzling costumes, the rising tide driving them up closer to the rocks
every minute. Everywhere there is life and movement; the narrow, winding
streets of St. Malo pour out their contents on the seashore; little
steamers pass to and from Dinard continually, fishing and pilot boats
come and go, and yachts are fluttering their white sails far out at sea.
Everything looks gay, for the sun is bright, and it is the day of the
regatta.

Looking landward, the eye ranges over a district of flat, marshy land,
that once was sea, and we may discern in the direction of Dol an island
rock in the midst of a marshy plain, at least three miles from the sea.
On the summit of this rock is a chapel to Notre Dame de l’Espérance, and
near it, standing alone on the plain, is a column of grey granite nearly
thirty feet high, one of the “menhirs” or “Druid stones” that we shall
see often in Brittany. Eastward there is the beautiful bay of Cancale,
famous for its oyster-fisheries; the village built on the heights is
glistening in the sunlight, and the blue bay stretches away east and
north as far as Granville. Cancale is also crowded this morning, for it
is the fashion to come from St. Malo on fête days, to eat oysters, and
to _pay_ for them. A summer correspondent, who followed the fashion,
writes: “The people of Cancale are amongst the most able and industrious
fishermen in Brittany, and the oysters from the parcs of Cancale are
famous even in the Parisian restaurants; but in the cabarets of Cancale
the charges resemble those of Paris.” We mention this by the way because
travellers who have taken up their quarters at the principal hotels at
St. Malo, finding the charges higher than they expected, might, without
a caution, take wing to Cancale. They may be attracted thither, for the
day at least, to see the fishing operations, to study costume, to
explore the coast by boat, or to visit the island monastery of St.
Michel. The water is smooth in the shallow bay of Cancale, and the view
extending over miles of blue sea to the green hills beyond Avranches
makes a charming picture.

The aspect of St. Malo from the sea is that of a crowd of grey houses
with high-pitched roofs, surrounded with stone walls and
sixteenth-century towers, and with one church spire conspicuous in the
centre. At high-water the waves beat up against the granite rocks and
battlements, and St. Malo seems an island; at low water it stands high
on a pediment of granite, surrounded by little island rocks and wide
plains of sand; the spring tides rising nearly forty feet above
low-water mark.

But the chief interest of St. Malo is undoubtedly outside of it. In the
narrow, tortuous streets, shut in by high walls, we experience something
of the sensation of dwellers in modern Gothic villas; we have
insufficient light and air, we are cramped for space, but we know at the
same time that, outwardly, we are extremely picturesque. “Rien de triste
et de provinciale comme la ville de Saint-Malo, où tout le monde est
couché à 9 h. du soir; rues noires et tortueuses; pas de soleil, ni de
mouvement; enfin une ville morte.” Such is the popular French view of it
in the height of the season, when prices at the hotels are nearly as
high as in Paris.

The fortifications and towers of St. Malo are interesting as examples of
military architecture of the sixteenth century; the castle with its four
round towers was erected, it is said, by Queen-Duchess Anne to assert
her power over the bishops of St. Malo, who had held it from the time
when it was an island monastery. From the ramparts and quays we can best
see many of the old houses and residences of the wealthy traders of the
last century, now dilapidated or turned into barracks or public offices;
and we may also note here and there, in narrow streets, remnants of
carved timber beams and wooden pillars which formed the frontage of some
of the oldest houses. We can walk upon the ramparts all round the town,
from which there are extensive views over sea and land; and we can
inhale, on the western side, the fresh breezes of the sea, and, on the
other, the odours rising from innumerable unwashed streets and alleys.
The church, the spire of which was completed by order of Napoléon III.,
has little architectural interest. The structure dates from the twelfth
century, but its present aspect is modern and tawdry, with a huge
high-altar, candlesticks, gilt furniture, relics, and artificial
flowers. The most noteworthy objects are some carved woodwork in the
chancel, and a stained-glass window.

The principal streets of St. Malo are modernised, and the shops are full
of wares from Paris and Rennes. The appearance and manners of the people
are French rather than Breton, and—although the strange patterns of the
white caps worn by the peasants and fisherwomen, and the curiously
uncouth intonation of voices which already greets our ears, remind us
that we are very far from the capital of France—there is little here of
distinctive Breton costume.

St. Malo from its position is an important maritime station. It is busy,
and busier every year, with shipbuilding, for it has a large fishing
population and an export trade with all parts of the world. Brittany is
a food-producing land, and St. Malo is its principal northern port; but
its manufactures are comparatively unimportant, and its retail trade is
largely dependent on the influx of visitors.

In the suburb of ST. SERVAN, where a few English people live quietly,
there is less appearance of commercial activity than in St. Malo. It is
in fact a faubourg, comparatively unprotected by walls, and undisturbed
by much traffic. Its population of 12,000 have their principal business
in St. Malo, and there is a constant stream of pedestrians passing to
and fro, crossing on a movable bridge worked by steam, the supports of
which are on rails under water. The principal street of St. Servan is
wider than Wardour Street in London, but it resembles it somewhat in
dinginess, and in the fact that its shops are full of tempting baits for
the _bric-à-brac_ hunter; old wood carvings, pots, and stones, which
should be purchased with caution.

The Bretons, both in St. Malo and St. Servan, are a little demoralised
in summer, and wish to be “fine.” To-day being a fête day, they are _en
grande toilette_, and the wonderful white caps worn by some of the women
are trimmed with real old lace. In the shops and on the promenades the
majority of women are dressed as in Paris, and they wear kid gloves
“like their betters”; the country people and the fishing and poorer
class of Malouins, only, wearing any distinctive costume. The fishermen
of Cancale make money and save it, and send their children to school by
train to Rennes, and the fisherman’s daughter comes back in a costume
that makes her neighbours envious. Every year more white caps are thrown
aside, for Mathilde will not be outdone by Louise; and so the change
goes on, and each year the markets of St. Malo and St. Servan have less
individuality of costume.

Nevertheless, groups such as are sketched are to be seen to-day in St.
Malo, St. Servan, and Dinard: the women in white caps, dark stuff gowns,
and neatly made shoes; the men in blue serge and sabots. The women’s
caps vary in pattern according to their district. They generally wear a
close-fitting under cap, with a small high-crimped crown, and a wide
lappet pinned on the top of the head. In St. Malo we may see Normandy as
well as Brittany caps, and it is not until we get farther into the
interior that the costume of the district is strongly marked.[2]

Footnote 2:

  The caps peculiar to different parts of Brittany are indicated at the
  head of each chapter.

[Illustration]

DINARD—once a little fishing-village, now a fashionable
watering-place—the position of which we see on the map on page 7, is a
delightful residence in summer, and nearly as dear as Trouville, in
Normandy; but the air is bracing and exceptionally good, the walks in
the neighbourhood shady and delightful, and the bathing in the sheltered
Baie d’Écluse as good as any in France. In Dinard there are about 800
houses and villas in pleasant gardens, most of which are let for a short
summer season of three months. There is a well managed “Établissement
des Bains” and casino, and several good hotels. Dinard is the
starting-point to reach Dinan by road; also for the little
fishing-villages of St. Briac and St. Jacut, on the coast, westward. At
St. Briac the visitor who does not care to be fashionable will find an
inn, good bathing, and summer quarters of a rougher kind than at Dinard;
and at St. Jacut there is a convent standing almost out at sea, where
the nuns take boarders in summer for a very small sum. At Dinard you
play at croquet on the sands; at St. Briac you scramble over granite
rocks, and fish in the pools under their shadows; at St. Jacut you
wander over the sands with a shrimp-net, and in the evening help the
nuns to draw water from the convent well.

But we have come to Brittany to sketch and to note what is most
characteristic and picturesque. So far, on the threshold as it were,
what have we seen? Coming from England, and sailing southward into its
blue bay on a summer morning, there was an impression of brightness and
colour unusual on our own shores. In St. Malo itself three pictures
remain upon the memory. The first is the sunset between the islands and
across the sands, near the bathing-place of Le Sillon; the second the
moonlight view of its cathedral tower at the end of a narrow street,
filling it and towering above it with a grandeur of effect almost equal
to that of St. Stephen’s at Vienna; the third picture is in the small
courtyard of the Hôtel de France. This house, or part of it, belonged to
the family of the Vicomte de Châteaubriand, and it was here, in a room
facing the sea, that the celebrated author and diplomatist was born. In
the hotel the family arms (the peacock’s plume) are emblazoned, and just
outside its gates, in the little dusty square called “La Place de
Châteaubriand,” a new bronze statue, bright and shining, has lately been
erected to his memory. Travellers imprisoned between the narrow streets
and dingy walls of St. Malo, fortified and barricaded against the fresh
breezes of the sea, may perchance seek the cool courtyard of the Hôtel
de France as a place of refuge during the heat of the day, and, if not
quite tired of hearing of Châteaubriand, may dwell in imagination upon
the historic associations of this house. In a corner of the courtyard,
now used as a café, there is an old stone staircase leading to the first
_étage_, such as we may see in the courtyard of many a French château,
and upon it there lingers this afternoon an English girl in the costume
most affected by society in 1878. She wears a rich, dark, close-fitting
dress in simple folds, spreading where it trails upon the rough granite
steps with the stealthy grandeur of a peacock’s tail upon a ruined wall.
As she turns her head and leans over between the pillars of the covered
balcony, her “Rubens hat” and fair hair are framed in antique carved
stone. The effect is accidental, but the harmonious combination of
costume and architecture brings out suddenly the beauties of each, and
gives us a glimpse, not to be forgotten, of the graces of a past age.


                               THE RANCE.

The tide is now flowing fast up the Rance, filling its numerous bays and
inlets, floating odd-shaped little boats and rafts that are moored off
the villages on its banks, running up here and there inland between
rocks and trees and forming miniature lakes, which will disappear as the
tide goes down. The little steamer for Dinan starts from the Quai
Napoléon, and goes up on the flood in about three hours, having just
time to reach Dinan and return to St. Malo before the water has
subsided. The foredeck is crowded with market-women and small
merchandise, and on the afterdeck, which is but a few yards square,
there are some French and English tourists under a canvas awning, which
is useful alike for shelter from sun, rain, or cinders. Steering
south-east by south, we steam gently up the Rance, getting a fine view
of St. Servan in passing (a view which we should have missed altogether
by the land route to Dinan); a river that, near its mouth, seems to have
no boundaries or banks, that flows in and out amongst cultivated fields,
then suddenly through narrow defiles of rocks and under the shadow of
forest trees that might be Switzerland. Once or twice we sail, as it
were, in an inland lake, or, as the French call it, “une petite
Mediterranée”; we can neither see where we entered nor any outlet on our
route. There are fishing and market boats, lying in quiet corners, and
one or two pleasure yachts with flags flying, moored in the prettiest
spots near modern summer châlets, the slate roofs of which appear above
the trees. We pass one considerable village, St. Suliac, on the east
bank, behind which is the ancient fort of Châteauneuf; and, on the west,
the grey walls of more than one old château are visible. The water is
blue and tidal until we arrive at a lock a few miles from Dinan, when
the little steamer ploughs through a narrow canal-like stream, and sends
the water flowing over the banks, washing the stems of the poplar trees.

[Illustration: FRUIT STALL AT DINAN.]

We are entering Brittany now, and are far out of hearing of the waves
that beat upon St. Malo, and of the band of the casino on its sands. On
either side the valleys are rich with verdure and with orchards of
fruit. There are farmhouses and villas dotted about, and peasants at
work in the fields. We pass close to the banks during the last mile, and
are shut in by rocks and trees; but all at once the view enlarges, and
there rises before us a scene so grand and, at the same time, so
familiar that we feel delighted and rewarded at having approached Dinan
by water. The prevailing tone of landscape during the last few miles has
been sombre, and the valleys in shadow with their dark granite rocks and
gloom of firs have contrasted picturesquely with the sunshine on distant
fields. As we reach Dinan in the afternoon, the valley of the Rance is
in shadow, whilst above and before us, crowning a hill, are the old
roofs, towers, and spires of Dinan shining in the sun. The sides of the
valley here are almost precipitous, and across it, high above our heads,
is a plain modern viaduct, reaching to the suburb of Lanvallay. Dinan is
on the west or left bank of the Rance; and near the bridge where we land
the steep streets of the old town reach to the water’s edge. Above our
heads are feudal towers, and parts of old walls, and the grey roofs of
houses between the trees, and away southward the valley of the Rance
winding out of sight. We said it was a familiar picture, for the
approach to Dinan by water and the view from the hills on the opposite
bank of the Rance, seen under summer suns, have been perpetuated in
brightness by many an English artist. It is well to see Dinan thus, _en
couleur de rose_, and to remember it in its most bright and attractive
aspect, for on a nearer and longer acquaintance our impressions may
change. Dinan—situated on the summit and slopes of wooded hills, their
dark granite sides appearing here and there through the trees, its
mediæval towers and terraces, and its old grey houses with pointed
roofs, and its handsome white modern houses—forms a good background to
the market-women, with their stalls of fruit and vegetables, peasants in
blue blouses, and the usual summer crowd of tourists, including
Parisians in suits of white, with broad straw hats and blue umbrellas,
thronging on the quay waiting for our little steamer. There are several
hundred English residents in Dinan, and the voices in the streets have a
familiar sound, neither French nor Breton. But the population, including
English, scarcely exceeds 10,000 even in summer; and the inhabitants,
who are not given up to trading with visitors, are principally occupied
in agriculture, or working in their dark dwellings at hand looms.

[Illustration]

As we climb up a steep, dirty street, leading from the quay, called the
Rue de Jersual, and under a Gothic gateway—past old houses, with
high-pitched roofs and leaning timbers, rising one above another in
irregular steps—we hear the sound of the loom in the darkness on either
side, and the inhabitants come out to stare as usual; shining red faces,
under white caps, lean out from little latticed windows and from
doorways, and in the gutters many a little pair of sabots stuffed with
hay is rattling on the stones. It is a ladder of cobblestones and dirt,
cool and slippery, sheltered by projecting eaves from the afternoon sun;
the principal approach from the river a century ago, up which a stream
of pilgrims files into the upper town. They pause to take breath at the
top, and then disperse on the _Place_, where, in front of dusty rows of
trees, the omnibuses and carts, which have come round by the broad,
circuitous road, are setting down travellers. The entrance to the inn is
blocked by a loaded hay cart, stuck fast in the archway of the house, as
in the sketch. We have ascended at least 300 feet to the _Place_, and
take up our quarters in one of the hotels in the wide open square,
looking as dusty and uncared for as usual in French provincial towns,
and commanding, as usual also, no view of the country round.

[Illustration]

In a few minutes the bustle caused by the arrival of travellers has
ceased, and the principal square of Dinan resumes its ordinary aspect on
a summer’s day. Nurses, in white caps, sit knitting under the shadows of
stunted trees, while the children play in the dust; cavalry officers of
all grades play at cards and drink absinthe at little tables half hidden
by trees planted in boxes at the hotel doors; ladies and children, a
priest, a workman in blue blouse dragging a load of stones, a woman
coming from market, and an Englishman or two, on pleasure intent, with
draggled beard and grey knickerbockers, as is the fashion of the time.
Above the trees, the houses across the square rise in irregular lines,
their steep roofs, old and sun-stained, are full of variety and colour;
behind them tree tops wave, and great masses of white clouds drive
northward to the sea.

[Illustration]

Dinan is full of interest both for the artist and the antiquary. The
cathedral of St. Sauveur, with its fine carved doorway and Romanesque
architecture, the old clock-tower in the Rue de l’Horloge, the mediæval
gateways, and the old houses in the narrow streets, form a succession of
pictures worthy of study. It is well to examine the castle, once
occupied by the Queen-Duchess Anne and now a prison, and to ascend the
tower, from which there is a magnificent view. In the museum at the
Mairie there are several interesting monuments and ecclesiastical
relics. And yet perhaps the chief interest of Dinan is in the variety
and beauty of its environs; on every side will be found charming wooded
walks and valleys, from which we can see its position, set high on green
hills, the sky-line a fringe of trees and towers. The walks on the
ramparts, with their lines of poplars and the views across the deep
fosse below will give an idea of the military architecture of the middle
ages, and especially of the natural strength and importance of Dinan as
a fortified city when besieged by the Duke of Lancaster in 1359 and
defended by the brave Du Guesclin. In St. Malo, Châteaubriand was the
hero; in Dinan it is Du Guesclin, constable of France in the fourteenth
century. In the cathedral of St. Sauveur they have burned candles before
the jewelled casket containing his heart, for centuries, and on the
_Place_ there is a poor statue of him in plaster; but the more lasting
monuments are the records of his deeds and the songs of the people,
which we shall hear often on our travels.

Whichever way we turn in Dinan, we find some new view and point of
interest, and the inhabitants are so accustomed to the incursion of
strangers, and reap so many benefits by their coming, that we are
allowed to sketch almost undisturbed. There is an old woman with
deformed hands and feet, who sits knitting on the _Place_, whose
familiar figure will be recalled by the sketch on page 21.

The ramparts are comparatively deserted by day, and form a promenade by
moonlight worth coming far to see. If ever there was a spot on earth
prepared for lovers, it is surely the broad walk on the southern
ramparts of Dinan, where the moon shines upon the path between tall
waving poplars and silvers the distant trees, where there is scarcely a
sound to break the stillness, where there is room for every Romeo out of
hearing of his neighbour, and where the sounds of the city are hushed
behind granite walls. It is naturally romantic and beautiful, and, with
the associations which cling around its towers, has a charm which is
almost unique; but we must tell the truth. There are clusters of white
roses clinging to the old masonry above, which have scattered their
full-blown leaves at our feet, and below, in the deep dell which formed
the ancient fosse, there is honeysuckle in the straggling garden; but
the odours that rise on the evening air are not of roses nor of
honeysuckle, nor from the broad champaign around. There surely was never
a beautiful spot so defiled. As a picture, the general aspect of Dinan
will remain in memory—a picture not to be effaced by the erection of
large new barracks, or by the railway now constructing in the
valley—stately Dinan with its ancient groves and terraces, its hanging
gardens, and sylvan views.

[Illustration]

We must not linger in such a well-known part of Brittany, or we would
take the reader in imagination to one or two of the old houses in the
neighbourhood, like the one sketched below; also, a little way up the
river, to the picturesque ruins of the abbey of Lehon. This last is a
spot especially to be visited, and where, if we are wise and have time,
we should take apartments for a week in summer. Another favourite walk
is on the opposite side of Dinan, leaving the town by the ramparts
towards the north. Here in the midst of a tangle of briars and bushes,
hemmed in on every side, run over with ivy and every variety of creeper,
shut off entirely from some points of view by an orchard laden to the
ground with fruit and by a garden of flowers, is the one tower left of
the famous château of LA GARAYE The grey octagonal turret, with its
crumbling Renaissance ornament, stands high above the surrounding trees,
and catches the evening sunlight long after the avenue of beeches by
which it is approached is in gloom. The place is as solemn and quiet, at
the end of a long avenue, as any poet could desire; but as we approach
the gates of the château of “the lady with the liberal hand,” whom Mrs.
Norton has immortalised in her poem, there are the usual signs of
demoralisation. There are pigs about, and tourists; and the show is
charged for in the usual way. We pay our money and take away some
souvenir of the place. Americans who have read (and recited often in
their own homes) “The Lady of La Garaye” sometimes make Dinan the
extreme western point of their tour in Europe, and have trodden the
ground into a deep track to the château with their pilgrim feet; but the
position is inconvenient for tourists who have much to see, and so, it
is understood, they are going to buy the turret and take it home. The
idea is not as absurd as it may sound; it is a very pretty ruin as it
stands, but it will fall soon if not cared for, and the low wall on
either side of the turret will disappear behind the fruitful orchard.
The old hospital is now used as a farm-shed, but wants repairing to be
habitable; and the ancient cider-press, with its massive wooden beams,
lies rotting in the sun. The farm children are gathering blackberries
from the bushes which grow between the hearthstones of the old
banquet-hall, poultry swarm in my lady’s boudoir, and there is a hum of
bees and insects about the ruin.

[Illustration]

We have said nothing of the English colony and church at Dinan, of the
convent of the Ursulines and their good works, or of the people to be
seen on market-days, because Dinan is well known to travellers, and
there is very little to distinguish it from other French towns. To see
the people, and sketch the Bretons in their most picturesque aspects, we
must go farther afield.

As we leave Dinan by diligence with much cracking of whips and jingling
of bells, through the wide square tenanted as usual by white-capped
nurses and idlers; rolling in the high _banquette_ down past the old
gateways, out into the country road towards the west, we see the last of
Dinan and its towers. Whether in its autumn beauty with rich surrounding
woods, or with its winter curtain folded softly, with tassels and
fringes of frost, Dinan leaves a brilliant impression upon the mind. We
forget the modern incursion of tourists, and the demoralisation amongst
the poorer inhabitants caused by the scattering of sous, we forgive its
dingy, neglected streets, its ill-kept boulevards and squares, and its
slow, unenterprising ways; we remember only its grandeur and
picturesqueness.

[Illustration]

As we pass out by the Porte de Brest, we meet a Breton _propriétaire_
and his wife in a cart, whom we must not take for peasants because of
the black stuff gown and white cap of the bright-faced woman, and the
broad-brimmed hat and blouse of the man.

We drive through a straggling suburb of houses, where the peasants stare
at us from their dark dwellings; we stop at wayside inns—unnecessarily,
it would seem—and are surrounded by beggars of all ages and sizes. Here
is one who comes suddenly to earth at the sound of wheels, and peers
from the darkness of her home underground with the brightness and
vivacity of a weasel; her black eyes glisten with astonishment and with
the instinct of animal nature scenting food; she transforms herself in
an instant from the buoyant youth and almost cherub-like beauty in the
sketch to a cringing, whining mendicant. “Quelque chose, quelque chose
pour l’amour de Dieu,” in good, clear French, nearly all the words that
her parents would have her learn, in the intervals of playing and
road-scraping—the latter her only serious business in life. But the
schoolmaster is abroad in Brittany; the edict has gone forth that every
child of France shall henceforth learn the French tongue; and this
little creature will be caught and tamed, and civilised into ways that
her parents never knew.

[Illustration]

One more picture on the road, an incident common enough, but
characteristic and worth recording. It is a sultry afternoon, with a
deep blue sky and a burning sun. So fierce is the heat that it has
silenced for a time the barking of dogs and the arguments of some of our
passengers. Just outside a village the straight road, unsheltered even
by poplars, is fringed with low brushwood and long grasses withering
under a curtain of dust. There is nothing stirring but a little
yellowhammer and a magpie on the road, a _cantonnière_ in wide straw
hat, chipping at a heap of stones, and the lumbering diligence in which
we travel; no shelter but in a wood hard by.

Presently we come to a halt in a narrow part of the road, for M. Achille
Dufaure’s cart of charcoal stops the way. It is a suggestive picture,
which we may call “The Hour of Repose.” In the foreground, in the
burning road, is a tall white charger, encumbered, now in his old age,
with a great wooden collar and clumsy harness, chained to a dark blue
cart with dirt-encrusted wheels, half smothered on this summer’s day
with a blue woolsack over his shoulders, foaming at the mouth, and
streaming with the wounds of flies and other injuries, but pricking his
ears as of old at the sound of approaching wheels. In the background,
but a few yards off, is a cool wood of beech and elm, dark in its
shadows, green in its depth with ivy and fern, and fringed against the
sky with tops of waving poplars. This broad mass of green, which comes
between the brightness of sky and the burning road, with its foreground
of dry grasses, is relieved on one spot by a cool ripple of blue—it is
Achille lying on his face asleep, his blouse just lifted by a breeze; he
will repose for two or three hours, whilst his horse stands in the sun,
and the hot shadows lengthen from his heels. No amount of shouting on
the part of our driver will waken the sleeper; blessings and curses,
cracking of whips and blowing of horns, are all tried in vain, and the
monotony of our journey is relieved by the diligence being dragged, as
it might have been at first, over the field at the roadside, and we
resume our way.

[Illustration]

As we travel westward, the aspect of the land becomes suddenly changed;
it is clouded over and rained upon, and is a sombre contrast to the
former brightness. After the glare of the sun the senses are grateful
for quiet tones; but the sight is strange, almost mournful. The district
is only a few miles from busy towns and sea-ports, and on the main line
of railway from Paris to Brest, but it is out of the world, and seems,
under its cloudy aspect, farther than ever removed from civilisation; we
pass substantial-looking farmhouses, but the dwellings of the peasants
are generally hovels, with tumble-down mud walls and immovable windows;
in their gardens are dungheaps and stagnant pools of water. We see women
at work in the fields, girls tending cattle, and the men, generally,
looking on.

[Illustration]

The distance from Dinan to Lamballe by road is twenty-five miles, a slow
and sleepy journey of about five hours by the direct route; a journey
seldom taken by travellers since the completion of the railway westward.
Everything we pass on the road looks comparatively untidy, rough, and
poor, with the poverty of ignorance and neglect rather than of means,
for the soil, as we approach Lamballe, is rich, and yields well. The
country is really fruitful, but an acre of land is often divided into
twenty different lots, in each of which there are separate crops of
hemp, buckwheat, or potatoes, or they are filled with gorse for winter
fodder for cattle. The hedges are made of mud-banks, gorse, and ferns,
and the gates between them are formed of felled trees, the stem forming
the upper bar, the roots being left as a counterpoise to lift the gate
on its rough, wooden latch.

The rain ceases as we approach Lamballe; the air is fresh with the wind
coming from the bay of St. Brieuc, and as the sky clears, we obtain, at
intervals on the undulating road, views over finely wooded valleys, with
high hedgerows, banked up and planted with elms and oaks. The chestnut
trees, wet with the rain, are rich in colour, and the fields of
buckwheat lighten the landscape again. Another turn in the road, and we
are in evening light, there is open pasture land, and the cattle are
winding home; at another, a farmer is meditating on his stock in the
corner of a field. Thus we pass from one picture to another, quaint and
idyllic, the last reminding us more of Troyon than of Rosa Bonheur.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER III.

                     LAMBALLE—ST. BRIEUC—GUINGAMP.


[Illustration]

It is half past five o’clock on a summer’s morning at LAMBALLE, and the
deep-toned bell of Notre Dame resounds through the valley of The
Gouessan. The sun is up, and gleams upon the roof tops, and upon the
heads of the old women who are sitting thus early in the market-place,
surrounded with flowers, taking their morning meal of _potage_. It is
market morning, and the open square in the centre of the town is filling
fast with arrivals from the country. Everything is fresh from the late
rains, and the air is laden with the scent of flowers, butter, and milk.
On every side carts are unloading, and itinerant vendors are fitting up
stalls for the sale of provisions and goods. There are rows of stalls
for the sale of cloth stuffs, shoes, and wooden sabots, for pots and
pans, and for innumerable trinkets of small value to tempt the
peasantry. The shops are opening one by one, displaying less
fashionable, if more useful, wares than we have seen at St. Malo and
Dinan; agricultural implements, and all articles for the use and
temptation of the country people who come from far to make purchases,
bargaining in a rather uncouth tongue, but with a certain dignity and
determination of manner which we shall find peculiar to the Bretons.
Both buyers and sellers speak in a language apparently half French and
half Welsh, and the majority dress in plain, dark, home-spun stuffs, the
men with their blouses, the women with their caps, all put on clean for
the day. This market-place at Lamballe is a sight, if only to see the
fowls and the flowers. It is full of the killed and wounded, bright
plumage and delicate leaves; beauty led captive by vigorous hands,
hustled out of the market-place by rosy, unsentimental housekeepers;
carried heads downwards, both fowls and flowers!

The noise and chattering of a market morning have begun in earnest, but
the great bell of Notre Dame resounds above all; two other churches soon
join in the concert, and the clatter of sabots over the rough
cobblestones up to the church doors adds to the clamour. It is time to
follow the people up the streets, almost too steep for wheels, which
lead to the great church of Notre Dame, built oh the site of the ancient
castle of the counts of Penthièvre.

Travellers, especially summer tourists coming from Dinan or Rennes, on
their way westward by railway, seeing the beautiful position of this
town, with its church above the valley, pause sometimes to consider
“whether Lamballe is worth stopping at for a night.” As we are writing
for all, we may tell them, as we pause to take breath on the ladder of
stones which leads to Notre Dame, that the Gothic pile which crowns the
hill before them, whose granite walls almost overhang a precipice, and
from the rocks of which its pillars and arches seem to spring, is not
only full of historic interest, but has a grandeur of effect in the
interior which we shall seldom find equalled in Brittany. The original
structure was a castle chapel, built early in the sixteenth century, but
the present building does not present many special architectural
features of interest, excepting the remains of an ancient rood-loft and
some stained glass. The building has undergone several periods of
restoration down to the present time, when workmen are busy repairing
its outer walls. But the interior, on Sundays and fête days, is a
picture to be remembered, and is especially full of human interest. The
nave is less obstructed with modern ornaments than usual, and there is a
quietness about the services which we do not find in larger towns. There
are the usual wooden cabinets set against the side wall with green
curtains in place of doors; in the centre compartment there is a dark
object concealed, and on one side the skirt of a woman’s dress peeps
from under the curtain; it is only Marie in a new gown telling some of
her sins. There are several women kneeling on chairs, dressed in dark
green or brown shawls, stuff dresses, and neat strong shoes; all heads
turn one way as we enter, the old women, especially, scanning us from
head to foot and mentally taking our measure as they pray. Here, on this
summer morning, crowded with men, women, and children on their knees,
their figures just distinguishable in the subdued light, the proportions
of the lancet arches supported by clustering pillars, and the
stained-glass windows, have a fine effect.

Before leaving Lamballe, a sketch should be made, from the valley, of
the church of Notre Dame, with its surrounding houses, walls and rocks
in evening light. The drawing, if accurate, will be considered
exaggerated, on account of the extraordinarily picturesque and
commanding site. The views from the terraces and old ramparts of
Lamballe form an almost complete panorama of the country round. It is a
view of rich cultivated land, covered with crops of cereals, and cattle
grazing in the valleys. Over all this land the great bell of Lamballe
makes itself heard in company with the whistle of the locomotive which
hurries travellers on to St. Brieuc, a distance of twelve miles
westward.

In ST. BRIEUC we find ourselves in a busy city of 15,000 inhabitants,
apparently too much occupied with trade and agriculture to think about
beautifying their houses and streets. There are many narrow, irregular
streets, in which the old houses have been replaced by others generally
modern and mean; “une vraie ville de rentiers qui aurait besoin d’être
‘hausmannisée.’” There is a large square _Place_ for the military, and a
market-place near the cathedral, where the old women congregate. St.
Brieuc, as will be seen on the map, is the principal town in the
department; it carries on a large export trade in the produce of the
country, especially in butter and vegetables, for the English and
European markets. Cattle are exported largely from Légué, the actual
port, about two miles off, in the centre of the bay of Brieuc, hidden
from the town by intervening hills.

[Illustration]

In the country round and on the hills overlooking the sea, there are men
and women at work in the fields, girls carrying milk on their heads from
the neighbouring farms, and others busy in the farmyards. The buckwheat
harvest has commenced, and the fields are being robbed of their rich
colour; but the scene is bright with fresh green and yellow mustard, and
rich here and there with clover. The sombre figures are the peasantry
with their dark costumes. Here we feel inclined, for the first time, to
stay and sketch, wandering along the coast to the fishing villages on
the western shore of the wide-spreading bay of St. Brieuc, visiting the
farms and homesteads, and making studies of the interiors of dwellings.
The rough, wasteful method of husbandry, the old farmhouses with their
one living-room with massive furniture and mud floors, and the simple
manners of the peasants, remind us irresistibly of Ireland, whilst the
names of people and places and the intonation of voices are altogether
Welsh.

[Illustration]

Everyone is at work near St. Brieuc in the summer months, every man,
woman, and child, in the fields, on the roads, or on the shore; a
bright, quick-witted population, accustomed to the inroads of strangers.
The inhabitants are superintended in their occupations by some officers
of the line, whose regiments are quartered near the town. The soldiers
are sprinkled over the streets, and dot the hillsides with colour. The
rattle of drums and the smoke of innumerable bad cigars make a lasting
impression in this city.

St. Brieuc, or St. Brioc, is the site of a very ancient bishopric, whose
chapter was loyal and powerful to the last. Its history is told best in
the strength of its cathedral walls, and especially in the ruins of the
tower of Cesson, a castle once commanding the entrance to the bay and
the approach to St. Brieuc from the sea. There is little that is
remarkable in the churches, and, unless it be some old overhanging
houses near the cathedral, little to sketch in the town that we shall
not find of a better type elsewhere. The business of nearly everyone at
St. Brieuc is to prepare ox hides, tallow, hemp, and flax, to sell
stores for the ships that fit out here for the Newfoundland
cod-fisheries, and generally to provide the agricultural population with
the necessaries of civilisation. The town is as noisy as any French
market-town where soldiers are quartered. In the evening come the carts
from the country, and the clatter of sabots over the stones; at sundown
the regimental drums, at midnight the evacuation of the cafés, and the
songs of warriors going to their rest; at dawn a market generally begins
under our windows. When do these people find rest? The answer comes
laconically from the _femme de chambre_ at our inn. “There is the winter
for rest”; and there is the French saying, applicable enough in this
land of noises, that we have “l’éternité pour nous reposer.”

[Illustration]

In the neighbourhood of St. Brieuc is a picturesque château, part of
which is shown in the sketch; on the sky-line fringing the roof are
metal figures of horses, men, and dogs, typical of the chase.

There are modern innovations of high white houses, factories, steam
ploughs, plate-glass windows, and smooth pavements to walk on, and the
majority of people one meets in St. Brieuc are dressed in modern
fashion, but there are odd corners, and very odd old men and women in
the by-streets. There is an old woman who sits in the market-place
surrounded by earthenware pots, rather disconsolately, for trade is bad;
but who, facing the last rays of the setting sun, unconsciously makes a
picture which for colour is a delight to the eye; a comfortable old
woman in dark blue dress, with dazzling white cap, bronzed hands and
wrinkled face, all aglow under its snowy awning; a background of brown
and blue earthenware piled in straw, a distance of dark shadows, and
half defined leaning eaves.

[Illustration]

St. Brieuc is much visited in the summer for sea bathing. The large
buildings near the sea, surrounded by high walls and gardens, are
convents or seminaries, where several hundred children are boarded and
educated for about £20 a year. In the summer the children give place to
adult _pensionnaires_, who come from all parts of France for the bathing
season, and the convents are turned into lodging-houses, reaping a good
harvest in spite of the apparently moderate terms of five or six francs
a day. These _pensionnaires_ spread over the cliffs and sands like
summer flies, to be discerned sometimes in the distance as in the
sketch.

[Illustration: WINNOWING NEAR ST. BRIEUC.]

It is at a village on the cliff near Fort Rosalier that we first see men
and women winnowing, their arms extended in the breeze, a bright and
characteristic scene recorded exactly in the sketch; a picture soon to
vanish before patent winnowing-machines and other improvements.
Mathurine, one of the party—who has pinned a clean white band of linen
over her flowing hair and under-cap, and put on a dark brown embroidered
shawl—takes the opportunity, during the midday meal of _potage_, to
stand for her portrait.

[Illustration]

About midway between St. Brieuc and Guingamp, on the north side of the
railway, is the quiet little town of Châtelaudren. It is washed and
watered by the Leff, the “river of tears,” which, coming from the
mountains that we see to the south, winds its way through rich valleys,
seaward. In its course, and in its time, the Leff has done much havoc in
this peaceful valley, inundating and destroying Châtelaudren in 1773,
and still occasionally overflowing its banks. To-day it is to the angler
a capital trout stream, if he will follow its course southward to the
mountains; to the artistic eye it is a sparkling river of light, set in
a landscape of green and grey. In the town of Châtelaudren, with its one
wide and rather dreary-looking street, there is not much to detain the
visitor, but it is a good starting-point from which to explore the
country and the Montagnes Noires. The land is thickly cultivated, and
well grown with crops almost down to the sea; and on every side in this
autumn time there are signs of industry. From the fields we hear voices
of women at work; in the farmyards there is the dull thud of the flail
and the burr of the winnowing-machine. Across the sloping fields from
the sea come sounds of singing and laughter, disconnected and weird
sometimes, from being caught up by the wind, then dropped and taken up
again.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Eight miles from Châtelaudren, in a green valley watered by the river
Trieux, is the quiet old town of GUINGAMP. Its past history, like that
of nearly every town in Brittany, has been so eventful that its present
normal state may well be calm; but once a year its inhabitants neither
work nor repose. In the month of September they hold their annual Fête
de St. Loup, and pilgrims come from all parts of Brittany by excursion
trains to the famous “Pardon” of Guingamp.

These religious festivals which are held once a year in nearly every
town in Brittany, and are generally combined with dancing, fireworks,
and other festivities, are the occasion of a great gathering of the
people from remote parts of the country; excursion trains bring tourists
and pilgrims from all parts of France, and during the week of the fête
it is difficult to find a resting-place in Guingamp. The three principal
Pardons are generally held at Ste. Anne d’Auray in Morbihan, in July, at
Ste. Anne de la Palue in Finistère, in August, and at Guingamp, in
September. The Pardon at Guingamp is held on Sunday and Monday, when
processions are formed to the shrine of a saint a mile and a half
outside the town, indulgences are granted, relics and crosses are
distributed, trinkets are blessed, and sermons preached by the bishop of
the diocese to the people assembled in the open air. After the services
there is a fête in the town, of which the programme on the next page
will give the best idea.

     PROGRAMME OF THE FÊTE AT GUINGAMP AT THE TIME OF THE “PARDON.”

[Illustration:

  VILLE DE GUINGAMP

  FÊTE DE S^TLOUP

  PROGRAMME


  DIMANCHE ET LUNDI MATIN, DE ONZE HEURES À MIDI

  Musique Militaire sur la Place du Centre

  À DEUX HEURES APRÈS MIDI, CHAQUE JOUR

  _DÉPART DU CORTÉGE, MUSIQUE EN TÊTE, POUR SAINT-LOUP_

  À SIX HEURES DU SOIR

  RETOUR, EN VILLE, DES DANSEURS ET DE LA MUSIQUE


  LES DEUX SOIRS, À HUIT HEURES, SUR LA PLACE DU CENTRE

  BAL À GRAND ORCHESTRE

  BRILLANTE ILLUMINATION


  _À LA FIN DU BAL_

  EMBRASEMENT DE TOUTE LA PLACE

  _Aux Feux de Bengale de diverses couleurs (Effets de Jour, Effets
    d’Incendie)_

  GRANDE RETRAITE VÉNITIENNE

  AUX PYRAMIDES DE LANTERNES ET FEUX DE BENGALE

  Illuminations et Décors, par M. Kervella, de Rennes
]

The religious aspect of these Pardons, and the gathering of the
pilgrims, is sketched in Chapter XII.; we will therefore speak of
Guingamp as it is seen every day. Whether it be from the interest
attaching to the great annual fête, or from reports of the miraculous
cures that have been effected by the patron saint, Guingamp has always
attracted travellers, and has been written of in terms of rapture which
may astonish a visitor when he sees it for the first time. It is a town
of not more than 8000 inhabitants, with one principal street, which
winds irregularly down like a stream, spreading and overflowing its
banks at one point, in triangular fashion, in what is called the
market-place, then narrowing again, and working its way through a suburb
of small houses into the great high-road to Morlaix. It has two
monuments—the church of Notre Dame, and a bronze fountain in the
market-place. The timbered houses are old, and many of their gables
lean; the cobblestones in the streets are rough, and the public square
of dust, with withering trees, built on the old ramparts, looks as
dreary as any we shall see on our travels. But it is surrounded by green
landscape, and the view from the walks on the ramparts, seen through the
tops of poplars, is of a green valley with trees and grey roof-tops,
between which winds the river Trieux, slowly turning water-wheels.

[Illustration]

The church was built between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, and
represents several styles of architecture—Romanesque, Gothic, and
Renaissance. It was originally founded as a castle chapel, and part of
the structure is as early as the thirteenth century. It has three
towers, the centre one having a spire. The interior is impressive, on
account of the simplicity of arrangement for services and the
comparatively uninterrupted view of the nave and aisles; an effect more
like that on entering a cathedral in Spain than in France.

[Illustration]

Brittany is a land of lasting monuments; and of its buildings it has
been well said, “ce que la Normandie modelait dans le tuf, la
Basse-Bretagne le ciselait en granit”; but remembering the magnificent
churches we have seen in Normandy, we need not detain the reader long in
Notre Dame de Guingamp. If we were asked by tourists if the church of
Notre Dame at Guingamp was worth going very far to see, we should
answer, No. It is only as a picture that it attracts us much. We shall
see finer buildings in other parts of Brittany, but nowhere a more
characteristic assembly. The most curious feature is a chapel forming
the north porch, which is open and close to the street, lighted at night
for services, and separated only from the road by a grille. This
_portail_, as it is called, forms the chapel of Notre Dame de Halgoet,
and is the sacred shrine to which all come at the fête of Guingamp. It
is ornamented by rich stone carving and grotesque gurgoyles. The people
of Guingamp love the chapel of Notre Dame de Halgoet; it is a retreat
for them by day and by night, a place of meeting for old and young, with
a perpetual beggars’ mart at the door. This north porch with its open
grille is a house of call for rich and poor of both sexes, and placed as
it is in the centre of the town, abutting upon the principal street, it
forms part of their everyday life to go in and out as they pass by. It
is one of the many welcome retreats in France; in a land of perpetual
noises and glare, of shrill, uncouth voices and latch-less doors, it is
the church that gives us peace and shade.

[Illustration]

In the centre of Guingamp is its market-place, and in the centre of the
market-place is a fountain, consisting of a circular granite basin with
a wrought-iron railing. There is a second basin of bronze, supported by
four sea-horses with conventional wings, and a third by four naiads; the
central figure is the Virgin, her feet resting on a crescent. This
fountain was constructed by an Italian artist, and its waters played for
the first time on the night of the annual Pardon, in 1745. The history
of Guingamp is not complete without recounting the story of the
construction of this fountain; but regarded from a picturesque point of
view, the smooth green bronze with its Renaissance ornamentation
harmonises neither with the surrounding houses, with their high-pitched
roofs and pointed turrets, nor with the towers of Notre Dame. We are
more interested with the living groups which furnish the wide
market-place in the morning sun.

[Illustration]

A few yards from the cathedral, on the opposite side of the street, is
the old Hôtel de l’Ouest, where travellers are entertained in rather
rough but bountiful fashion.

“Take a little trout or salmon, caught this morning in the Trieux, a
little beef, a little mutton, a little veal, some tongue, some
omelettes, some pheasant, some fish salad, some sweets, some coffee, and
then—stir gently,” is the prescription for travellers who stay at the
Hôtel de l’Ouest. As this is an average hotel, it may be worth while to
state that the bill presented (by the young lady in the sketch) to
_three_ English travellers, who spent a night and part of a day there,
was 12 fr. 80 c.

Excepting at the time of fêtes, Guingamp is almost as quiet and
primitive in its ways as in the days of the Black Prince. Our notes of
days spent in this city in different years are the most uneventful in
our records. On one summer’s morning we hear an unusual sound from the
great bell of Notre Dame, and find a procession of priests and
choristers winding up the principal street, followed by hundreds of the
inhabitants. What is the occasion? “The mother of the Maire is dead; she
was a bountiful lady, beloved by all, and we are to bury her this
morning.” And so the inhabitants turn out _en masse_, and march with
slow steps, for about half a mile, to the cemetery. It is a dark, silent
stream of people, filling the street, and carrying everything slowly
before it; the only sounds being the chanting of the choir, and the
repetition of prayers. We follow to the cemetery, which is crowded with
graves, each headed by little iron or wooden crosses, hung with
immortelles. The procession divides and disperses down the narrow paths,
a few only of the friends of the deceased standing near the grave.

[Illustration]

At one corner of the cemetery is a shabby little wooden building, like a
gardener’s tool-house, which seems to excite much interest. A girl, with
shining bronzed face, in a snow-white cap, holding a little child by the
hand, is coming out of the door; we venture to ask the reason of her
visit. “Just to see my father for a minute,” is the ready answer.

In a little wooden box, about the size of a small dog kennel, is her
father’s skull or _chef_, as it is called; he is tumbling over with his
friends in other boxes exactly as in the sketch, which, rough as it is,
has the grim merit of accuracy. The sight is a common one in Brittany,
but it is startling and takes us by surprise at first, to see at least
fifty of these shabby boxes, some on shelves in rows, but generally
piled up in disorder and neglect. The lady who is being buried so
solemnly this morning will some day be unearthed, and her _chef_, in a
box duly labelled and decorated with immortelles, will take its place in
the ossuary of Guingamp.

From the high ground near the cemetery, and especially from a hill a
little farther from the town in a north-easterly direction, we obtain a
good view of Guingamp and of the country round. There is a mound,
covered with smooth grass, clumps of gorse, and tall fir trees, through
which the wind moans on the calmest day; a spot much favoured on summer
evenings by the youth of Guingamp. Looking round over the thickly wooded
but rather sombre landscape, and on the old grey roofs of the town, one
is a little at a loss to account for the rapturous descriptions which
nearly all travellers give of Guingamp. On a fine summer’s morning the
landscape is seen to perfection; but to tell the truth about it, the
scene is not very striking either for beauty or for colour. Guingamp has
been described as “a diamond set in emeralds,” and we read of its
landscape “riant,” and so on. “Guingamp m’a pris le cœur,” says another
traveller; but their interest is in the past, they people it with
memories, and with the events of past years.

Our business is with the present aspect of Brittany, and we are bound to
record that Guingamp, excepting at the time of the Pardon, is a very
ordinary place indeed. The artist and the angler may linger in its
valleys, and make it headquarters for many an excursion. If we might
suggest one walk to them, we should say—

Go out of the town in a south-easterly direction, following the course
of the river Trieux on its right bank for half an hour, and you will
come to a suburban village, with a rough wooden cross (like the one
sketched on page 89) raised aloft in the centre of the street, and the
bright and trim new stone spire of a chapel conspicuous amongst its
irregular roof-tops.

Turn round to the right hand, just by the cross, and enter a large
farmyard; the women are busy winnowing, not with hands upraised in the
wind, as we have seen them at St. Brieuc, but twirling by hand a new
patent blue-painted rotatory winnowing-machine with a burring sound, in
a cloud of choking dust. They are storing their harvest in a large barn,
the remains of an ancient Gothic church, the abbey of Ste. Croix, with
its choir window piled up with straw. Immediately in front are the farm
buildings, part of a round tower and a corner turret standing, and much
of the old woodwork and massive interior fittings is still preserved.
The garden reaches to the river, where ancient and historic trout
disregard the angler of to-day. The farm and its surroundings are as
picturesque as any painter could desire.

The inhabitants of this suburb have a real grievance; they had lived for
generations in familiar sight and sound of the cathedral of Guingamp;
they saw its spire and towers at evening, standing out sharp and clear
against the western sky, and were in feeling living almost in the town
itself, when suddenly the engineers of the “Chemin de Fer de l’Ouest”
threw up a mountain of earth in their midst, and shut out the town and
the sunset light from them, and from their children, for evermore.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER IV.

                 LANLEFF—PAIMPOL—LANNION—PERROS-GUIREC.


[Illustration]

Twelve miles north-east of Guingamp is Lanleff—“the land of tears,”
celebrated for one of the most curious architectural monuments in
Brittany, the circular temple of Lanleff. Leaving Guingamp, we pass
through a solitary wooded country, the undulating road soon rising high
above the valley of the Trieux. The air is fresh and invigorating, and
the views from the summits of the hills extend over a wide range of
land. At Gommenech we enter the valley of the Leff that we passed at
Châtelaudren. There is no prettier river, or one that should more truly
delight an artist’s eye, than the Leff in its long, winding journey from
the mountains to the sea.

Sheltered by woods, shut in here and there by granite walls, with ruins
crowning the heights, between green banks and through sloping fields, it
is one of those picturesque rivers which are peculiar to Brittany of
which we seldom hear mention, but which many an English angler knows
well. The view of Gommenech is to be remembered as we cross the valley
on our way to the temple of Lanleff; the temple is in ruins, and
partially unroofed, but enough remains of the original nave supported by
pillars, and its outer circle of aisles, to give us a perfect idea of
the structure, which resembles closely and has, doubtless, the same
origin as the round churches in England built by the Crusaders on their
return from the Holy Land. The diameter of the church to the walls of
the outer aisles is not more than 20 feet; in the inner circle, or nave,
the twelve arches are round and Romanesque in style, with rude carvings
on the capitals. A chancel was afterwards built into the original
structure, so that the unroofed walls of the temple formed, as it were,
a vestibule to the parish church, and in this circular open porch, under
the shadow of a yew-tree, the congregations used to kneel. But the
people now assemble in the new parish church on the hillside, and the
temple is kept for show. The “holy well with its blood-stained stone” is
pointed out to visitors; the pieces of oolite, that encircle the well,
show shining red spots when wetted, to mark the place where, according
to tradition, “an avaricious priest received money from a father who
sold his child to the Evil One.”

We listen to the story gravely, and certainly no sign of doubt, or of
levity, passes over the grave face of the Breton woman who tells it; we
are in a land of historic monuments and traditions of the past, and the
people who live at Lanleff are too wise even to smile at the interest
travellers take in these things. The story has been handed down from
father to son, from mother to daughter, and is now passed on to tourists
who can master a little of the Breton tongue.

Continuing our journey northward, we soon arrive at the summit of a hill
overlooking the bay of Paimpol and the thickly wooded country round; we
have passed good country-houses on the route, with flower-gardens
skirted by hanging woods; and as we approach Paimpol, there are houses
scattered in sheltered bays, with fishing and pleasure boats aground; an
old church surrounded closely by houses, a little _Place_, a custom
house, a quay, boatmen, and fisherwomen; but—where is the water? It has
retreated for more than a mile, and the long bay or estuary and the port
of Paimpol are a desolate waste of mud. Paimpol is a small but busy
fishing village, much frequented in summer by the French for bathing. It
is not fashionable, but the inns are comfortable, and the country is
full of attractions for the summer visitor. The houses on the _Place_
and in the narrow streets are old and weather-worn; some are dark and
mysterious-looking, and have that peculiar smuggling aspect with which
we soon become familiar on this coast.

In a corner of the quiet churchyard of Paimpol there reposes at full
length, in stone, “L’Abbé Jean Vincent Moy,” many years _curé_ of this
place and honorary canon of St. Brieuc; and round about him, placed
thickly in rows, the former inhabitants of Paimpol rest under black
wooden crosses. The _curé_ is carved in dark green stone, from which
time has taken the sharpness of the chiselling; but the expression is
life-like, representing him in the popular act of blessing. There is a
cup of holy water at his feet, supplied by an old woman who kneels
before the tomb on the damp ground. It is her pious office to guard the
tomb of her pastor, and brush off the leaves which fall thickly from the
grove of elms overhead. They move slowly and die leisurely at Paimpol;
this old woman’s time is not yet, for she “has only eighty years.” In
four newly made graves there repose Eugénie, Marie, Mathilde, and
Hortense, and their respective ages are eighty-two, eighty-four,
eighty-eight, and eighty-nine!

At Paimpol in summer every one seems to take life easily, the French
visitors driving about, bathing, boating, and living perpetually in the
fresh, pure air; the native inhabitants getting up boat-races, and
dancing the “gavotte” at night, in streets lighted by paper lanterns in
old Breton fashion, as we see sketched at Châteauneuf du Faou. There is
unusual brightness on this sombre, storm-washed shore; there is the
dazzle of a crimson pennant, and the flashing of a snow-white sail;
there are green banks, in contrast to water of the deepest blue, for in
these little inlets of the sea the summer sun clothes everything with
brightness in a moment. Perhaps we have seen Paimpol _en couleur de
rose_, for there has been blue sky overhead nearly every day for a
fortnight, and the sun is so hot at midday that the market-women put up
their red umbrellas, and the men descend into cool cellars for shelter
and refreshment.

There is a favourite walk, of about a mile, to a promontory on the south
side of the port, by a pathway skirting fields of corn and buckwheat,
which brings us to high ground and a shady plantation of firs, where we
lose sight of Paimpol itself, but obtain the best idea of the
surrounding scenery. We choose this walk a little before sunset on a day
when there is a high tide. At our feet, on the left hand, is a steep
bank with tree-tops _below_, their dark foliage contrasting with the
blue of the water and the orange stems of weather-worn firs. Looking far
away northward and eastward across the water, dotted with white sails
coming in with the tide, the island rocks light up brilliantly in the
setting sun. The air is so clear seaward that we can distinguish little
houses on the island which guards the port, and on more distant rocks
far out to sea, all glittering in the sun. Turning southward, to the
real bay of Paimpol, which we cannot see from the town, the opposite
banks are in shadow, and the foliage which reaches to the water’s edge
takes a rich purple tinge. The outlines are soft and indistinct,
excepting on a tongue of land in the middle of the bay, where in the
midst of a garden of fruit-trees, and surrounded by ivy-grown walls, we
can just trace the Gothic lines of the abbey of BEAUPORT.

It is a shaded walk of about a mile and a half from Paimpol to Beauport.
The road and the by-paths are shut in by high banks, so that we come
upon it rather suddenly, looking down upon the ruins, through the bare
windows of which we can see the sea. The Gothic chapel is a complete
ruin, but part of the abbey building is in good preservation, and
inhabited. One room is turned into a school-house, and a great roofless
hall, once the refectory, is used as a threshing-floor. The romantic
aspect of the ruins of Beauport, with its surrounding scenery, has been
described in every book on Brittany, and the view of it by moonlight
over the bay of Paimpol is as famous as that of “fair Melrose.” To this
ancient abbey come pilgrims of the nineteenth century to study and
wonder at the art of life shown by the monks of the thirteenth. If ever
there was a spot where nature and art seem combined for man’s special
enjoyment, it must have been at Beauport. Here the fruitful land meets
the bountiful sea, and there is no arid line of demarcation; the corn
waves at the water’s edge, and the flowers bloom and shed their leaves
into the water. The soil is rich, and the air is soft, and in this
autumn time the harvest seems everywhere ready to man’s hand—a harvest
of fruit and grain on land, a harvest of fish and rich seaweed spread at
every tide upon the shore.

The abbey of Beauport is considered by M. Merrimée to be “the most
perfect example of the monastic architecture of the thirteenth
century”—in fact, the most important and beautiful ruin in Brittany.

                                               “It lies
             Deep-meadow’d, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
             And bowery hollows, crown’d with summer sea.”

As we wander round the gardens and through the avenues of trees that
line the raised walks on the breakwater, or under the shadow of high
brick walls, laden with old fruit-trees, it is easy to realise in our
minds the lives of its former occupants. The picturesqueness of
Beauport, especially the view, from the eastern side, of the
chapter-house and other dwellings, should attract artists. This
afternoon there is one large white umbrella planted firmly in the gravel
of its deserted walks, and one canvas spread with a green landscape in
which old, grey, mullioned windows, and the stems of weather-beaten
trees, form prominent features.

From Paimpol to Lannion is twenty miles by the road, crossing the river
Trieux by a lofty suspension bridge at Lézardrieux, and halting at the
ancient cathedral town of Tréguier by the way.

TRÉGUIER, as will be seen on the map, is well situated for exploring the
coast and for visiting a variety of places of interest in the
neighbourhood; and it is a town in which the artist and the antiquary
would desire to stay. The cathedral with its graceful spire, “percée au
jour,” and its old market-place, with the streets leading from it, form
pictures more characteristic and interesting than anything we have seen
in Dinan or Guingamp. Tréguier, which was one of the four original
bishoprics of Brittany, abounds in historical associations. Everywhere
we hear of “St. Ives,” or “St. Yves” (the lawyers’ patron saint), who
lived here in the thirteenth century, and who is buried in the cathedral
by the side of Duke John V. From Tréguier to the sea there is a wide
estuary, capable of floating, at high tide, vessels of large tonnage;
and it was here that the famous expedition against England by “Constable
Clisson” in the fourteenth century was to have embarked. The
shipbuilding which is carried on at Tréguier and the views on the banks
of the estuary are not the least picturesque points to notice. The
cathedral is in a variety of styles; it has a north porch of Norman
work, and a square tower, “the tower of Hastings,” of the eleventh or
twelfth century, and some beautiful cloisters of the fifteenth. It might
be worth while to stay at Tréguier if only to examine and sketch the
interior of an old Breton farmhouse in the neighbourhood, containing the
bed of “St. Ives,” and other relics of the patron saint; here too we are
within easy reach of the remains of the castle of “La Roche Derrien,”
with its fine views northward over the sea.

[Illustration]

It is near Tréguier that we make the discovery of a watering-place,
Perros-Guirec, where we can live in the height of the summer season for
five francs a day, and where it is difficult to spend more. The bay of
Perros-Guirec is just sufficiently off the track of tourists to make it
delightful in summer. There are two small inns on the shore, one at
either extremity; but the actual village of Perros-Guirec is situated
amongst the trees which crown the northern promontory of the bay; there
are a few summer-houses and gardens, an old church, and near it a
convent, where in July and August strangers may board for a small sum.

It seems hard to break up the peace of this retreat by printing a
description of it, but here, we are bound to record, is a spot where we
can spend our summer days with the greatest delight. We can live as we
like, dress as we like, bathe in the water at our feet, sit and sketch
in the shade of woods, through the branches of which we see the shining
sea. The air, so fresh and bracing, sweet with the breath of pines, is
more grateful in the hot summer months than at Dinard or Trouville, and
the sights and sounds are certainly more healthful and restful.

It is evening as we return from a walk by the sea north of
Perros-Guirec; before us is a wide and beautiful bay, extending for
nearly half a mile in a noble curve of shore; it is shut off from the
land by sloping hills, and bounded at either extremity by rocks. The
tide is nearly out, and the sand is as pure, smooth, and untrodden, as
on Robinson Crusoe’s island. There are no projecting rocks or stones on
this wide plain, nothing to be seen on its surface but our long dark
shadows and two little crabs, behind their time, making hard for the
retreating water. We cross the bay leisurely, treading lightly on the
carpet of sand, and watching the sunset light on the rocks and on the
little islands which make this coast such a terror to navigators. They
are smiling this evening in that roseate hue which storm-washed red
granite rocks put forth on gala days, and their purple reflections in
the water are as deep and glowing as from the steep walls of the Lago di
Garda under an October sun.

The two crabs soon disappear in the water, but as we cross the bay, two
other little spots appear at some distance on the sand. The sight is so
unusual here that the thought of Crusoe on his island occurs again, and
we approach cautiously. The objects are larger and farther off than at
first appeared, in fact nearly a quarter of a mile; they consist of two
neat little bundles of clothing, one of which appears to be a silk dress
surmounted by a white straw hat! There is nothing near them but sand, no
sign of human creature; but, presently looking seaward, the mystery is
explained by two heads appearing suddenly on the surface of the sea, one
with long hair floating from it. We beat a retreat and learn afterwards
that an evening walk in “ce pays ici” is often supplemented by an
evening bath. Thus Monsieur and Madame, strolling together on the sands,
make a diversion without ceremony or “machines,” and without the
slightest “mauvaise honte.”

A little to the north of Perros-Guirec is the village of Ploumanach,
almost built out into the sea. It is a place to be visited above all
others on this coast for its wildness, and to see the hardy fishing
population, living amongst a loose mass of rocks, nearly surrounded by
water. Looking northward, on a clear day, we may see a group of islands
that form, as it were, outworks of granite protecting the land from the
waves that break upon this shore. One of these islands, the abode of
innumerable wild-fowl, is said, with doubtful authority, to be the
Island of Avalon, or Avilion, where King Arthur was buried.

All round these rocky promontories the inhabitants live more on the sea
than on the land; they look to the sea for their harvest, and glean on
the shore rather than in the fields. The children of this seafaring
community, when tired of the earth, take to the water naturally, and it
is not an uncommon thing to see the mother of a family rush from her
cottage, lift up her skirts deftly, and jump into the sea to the rescue.

The principal town in this neighbourhood is LANNION; it is a natural
commercial centre for the surrounding districts, collecting and
dispersing the produce of the sea and of the shore, and busy also in
providing and fitting out vessels for the mackerel-fisheries. It is a
busy town, with a fixed population of about 7000, but apparently with
accommodation, and occupation in the busy seasons of spring and autumn,
for a much larger number. Lannion dates from the twelfth century. It is
picturesquely situated on the steep slope of hills above the river
Guier. The market-place in the centre of the town, from which steep
streets descend to the river, is remarkable for its curious old houses,
but nearly all traces of local costume have vanished. So, too, has
vanished the antique tapestry representing the story of Coriolanus, and
“a staircase up which a regiment of grenadiers could march in double
columns,” which used to be shown at the Hôtel de l’Europe. In their
stead we find plate-glass shop fronts, good pavements, and little
children seated on dirty doorsteps dressed _à la parisienne_. On
market-days the country people come in wearing their old costumes, and a
few well-to-do farmers and their wives, who put up at the best inns, are
dressed in the old homely fashion of the Bretons of the Côtes-du-Nord.

[Illustration]

Lannion, at the time of writing, may be said to be one of the outposts
of French tourist civilisation in the Côtes-du-Nord. Hither come in
summer-time a few Parisians, and families from the interior, for the
bathing; driving to and from Perros-Guirec and other places on the coast
daily, but seldom actually staying on the seashore. In their train come
the latest fashions, both in manners and in dress, and it is here we may
notice, especially on Sundays and fêtes, the strange contrasts in
costume between the Bretons and “the French,” as the natives persist in
calling their visitors.

It is on their way down to the Jardin Anglais one Sunday morning that a
gay Parisian and his wife walk through the market-place and down one of
the old steep streets; behind them come nurse and _bébé_, all “en grande
toilette de l’été.” The lady wears a white dress, which trails over the
cobblestones; the gentleman is in brown holland, with white shoes, white
tie, and a new straw hat shaped like a Prussian helmet and decorated
with a crimson band; the baby is decorated in as much of the fashion of
the day as its size will permit; the nurse, the neatest of the party,
wears a spotless white cap and dark short dress. An old dame, seated at
her doorstep, taking a bountiful pinch of snuff, emits a harsh sound,
more like “Jah!” or “Yah!” than the customary approving “Jolie!” which
comes so trippingly on every French tongue. The Breton woman, in her
old-fashioned gown, black stockings, and neat stout shoes, who owns the
house she lives in, and perhaps half a dozen others, regards the
fashionable visitors with anything but pleasure, and resists the advance
of fashion into Lannion as an evil almost equal to an inroad of
Prussians.

In Lannion the most interesting buildings will be found in the
neighbourhood of the Grande Place, where some curious slated “hoods,”
and projecting roofs, break up the perpendicular lines of the modern
buildings; enough remaining even now to account for the frequent
descriptions of its picturesqueness. The church of St. Jean, with its
high terrace overlooking the valley, is interesting principally from its
commanding position above the town. From its terraces and between the
stems of its dusty trees there is a pretty sight on Sunday morning when
the people crowd to the neighbouring church of Brélévenez.

Looking northwards across a deep ravine—through which a once clear,
rapid stream rushes full of soap into the river Guier—we see that in
course of time it has worn its way through rocks, washed the slight
covering of earth from the roots of trees that grow on its steep sides,
that it has been utilised to turn water-wheels, dashing in and out of
holes in wooden houses built over its banks. It has “washed” for Lannion
for hundreds of years, and every summer’s evening down by the bridge,
the women, old and young, may be seen on their knees at work on wet
boards. On the opposite side of the ravine the houses rise one above the
other in a series of steps to the church of Brélévenez with its fine
spire cresting the hill; and it is up and down these steps that on
Sundays and fête days the people crowd in a dark procession all day. The
ascent is steep indeed, and the young have to help the old to make the
pilgrimage.

If we follow the crowd across the ravine and up this narrow way, we find
that it has been selected by suffering and poverty-stricken humanity as
a public mart. The path is so narrow and steep that there is no escape
from the beggars that line the way. In the churchyard at the top it is a
pretty sight to see the country people meeting and chatting together
under the trees, standing in groups waiting for the service. They are
evidently accustomed to the beggars; but it seems hard upon Marie and
Mathilde, coming on a summer’s morning through the fields to church, to
have to run the gauntlet of so much misery and disease, to have hideous
deformities thrust upon their sight, and curses hurled at them if they
do not give. A stranger is of course fair game—he is Dives, and Lazarus
is waiting for him at the gate; but all are importuned alike, and every
hideous artifice is used to extract alms under the protection of the
church. The women and children push their way bravely, slipping over the
stone stiles modestly one by one, their neat short skirts being suited
to the work. The air is fresh and sweet, blowing through the churchyard;
but inside the church the crowd is great, and the heat almost
insufferable. The beggars do not go in, at least not many of them, but
they lie in wait and line the descent of this ladder of life, sunning
themselves in corners until the pilgrims pass down.

Before leaving Lannion, a word should be said about the inn
accommodation, because it is exceptionally good. They may be small
matters to record in print, but it will be useful to travellers to know
that in Lannion they will find at the principal inn the comforts of
civilisation, including an excellent cup of tea. After a few days’ stay
at the Hôtel de l’Europe the illusion will be dispelled that in
travelling in Brittany, away from railways, it is necessary to “rough
it,” as the saying is. In all the principal towns on our route the
hotels will be found as good as in Normandy and other parts of western
France; and throughout Brittany we get abundance of good meat, bread,
butter, milk, and wine. At the Hôtel de l’Europe at Lannion, English
families come to stay, it being quieter and less crowded than Dinan, as
well as a convenient centre for visiting some of the most interesting
spots in Brittany; interesting to English people especially for their
historical and romantic associations.

Everyone makes a short stay at Lannion, in order to visit the
thirteenth-century castle of Tonquédec, in a lovely valley about eight
miles south of the town. It is easy to reach it by taking one of the
diligences on the road to Guingamp to a point about five miles from
Lannion, or by taking a carriage direct. At the time of writing, this
castle is one of the best preserved specimens of military architecture
in all France, and it is to our mind one of the beauty spots in
Brittany. Time has covered its towers and walls with thick and luxuriant
foliage, graceful in line, and altogether picturesque from its untrimmed
aspect; in autumn time it is as rich in colour as a pheasant’s wing, and
the lines of the landscape which surround it are as varied as the waves
of the sea.

The castle of Tonquédec was one of the ancient strongholds of Brittany;
the present structure is in great part the restoration of Henry IV., and
the ruin the work of Cardinal Richelieu; time and ivy having done the
rest. It is rare to find, as at Tonquédec, so “complete a ruin,” if we
may use the word, showing the plan and structure of its different
courts, its fortifications, and surrounding dwellings, as used in the
thirteenth century. We must not dwell upon architectural details, but we
may mention the views that are to be obtained from its windows and
towers, the adjoining park and avenues of old trees, and the lake with
its ancient carp asleep under the banks, who—according to the women in
charge of the castle—“have lived so long that their tails are worn out”!

At Lannion and Tonquédec we are on the border-land which divides the
departments of the Côtes-du-Nord and Finistère. The little river Douron,
which takes its source in the Monts d’Arrée, and falls into a bay
between Plestin and Lanmeur, marks the boundary of the departments and
also of the ancient bishoprics of Tréguier and St. Pol de Léon. There is
a natural division between the two departments in the general aspect of
the country and demeanour of the people. From the hanging gardens of
Beauport and the sleepy orchards and cornfields which surround Lannion
and Tonquédec we shall shortly pass to a wilder and sterner part of the
coast, dominated by the cathedral spires of St. Pol and Le Folgoet.

[Illustration]



                               CHAPTER V.

                           CARHAIX—HUELGOET.


[Illustration]

Thus far we have spoken of the northern coast, where the busy
inhabitants of the Côtes-du-Nord come most in contact with French
traders, and travellers of different nations. Let us now turn towards
the mountains, where the country is less fertile, the people are more
isolated, and there is more character and local costume to be seen.

If we leave the Western Railway at Guingamp or Belle-Isle-en-Terre, we
may follow the course of the streams which take their rise in the Monts
d’Arrée, and, passing through Callac, reach Carhaix the same evening. We
cross the purple mountains where the solitary shepherd in goat’s-skin
coat (sketched on page 68) tends his flocks on poor pastures, and where
the, almost equally solitary, Englishman is busy with a fly-rod. At
Callac, where comfortable quarters are to be obtained, many Englishmen
stay for the fishing and shooting seasons; the streams are well stocked
with fish, and there is little difficulty in getting permission for
fishing.

The game laws are very strict in France, as is well known; the opening
and closing of the shooting season varies every year, the prefect
deciding the day in September when shooting may begin. The _chasse
courant_, which includes hunting the wolf and the wild-boar, commences
about a month later. The seasons close at the end of January, and
whenever snow is on the ground. Altogether there is more attraction for
the angler than for the sportsman in Brittany, and there is no better
centre for the angler than Callac.

The aspect of the people and their dwellings in this neighbourhood is
more simple and primitive than we have yet seen; and the features of the
peasants are more strongly marked with the privations of generations. It
is the same dull round of life, labour, and hardship, with a few gleams
of sunshine in summer; and a Pardon and a blessing from the priest at
the annual fête. There is the same story everywhere. “We move slowly; we
do as our fathers did, and live contentedly as they lived.”

How did they live sixty years ago? An Englishman who spent some time in
Brittany in 1818 says of the peasants:—“They are rude, uncivilised,
simple, and dirty in their habits; they live literally like pigs, lying
upon the ground and eating chestnuts boiled in milk as their principal
food. Their houses are generally built of mud, without order or
convenience, and it is a common thing in Brittany for men, women,
children, and animals to sleep together in the same apartment, upon no
resting-place but the earth covered with straw.”[3] This was written
sixty years ago, but the mud houses are before us, and the description
holds good to-day. Forty years later a writer in an English newspaper is
sent to report upon the state of the agricultural labourer in Brittany;
what does he find? “The Breton peasant,” he says,[4] “is still isolated
from the towns by his language. He has kept himself apart, and mistrusts
the outer world. His fare is black bread, made of buckwheat, or rye,
oats or barley, boiled with milk. If he have a change in his diet, it is
in the shape of potatoes. His life is an unbroken monotony. He never
changes his manners, his habits, or his dress. He is a stranger in the
large towns, where even his language is not understood, save by a few
people who deal with him. He is as patient and quiet as a beast of
burden; his daily hard labour seems to subdue even his affections, it
leaves him no time for grief, no hours for the indulgence of remorse, no
moment for despair.”

Footnote 3:

  Stothard’s _Brittany_, 1820.

Footnote 4:

  Blanchard Jerrold’s Letters to the _Morning Post_, 1853-60.

[Illustration]

Twenty years later, what do we find? Excepting in a few districts, such
as that near Lannion, where there is a considerable advance in
agriculture, and where the peasant’s position is better, we find the
same figure wearing the same coat, standing just where he did; his life
the same weary round of labour by day, and rest in an old mud hovel at
sundown. The problem of a life of labour and monotony is yet unsolved;
he is just where he was in 1850, and where his father was in 1820. The
great Chemin de Fer de l’Ouest, that was to do so much for the owners of
the land and the tillers of the fruitful soil of Brittany, which has
been driven through the heart of the country, with its enormous viaducts
and its trains of cattle trucks; which has thrown up embankments of
earth that shut him off from the rest of the world, appear to have done
little good. A train rushes past his patch of land several times a day,
and perhaps his priest is in it, on his way to Paris or Rennes; it no
longer startles his children or his pigs, for it has passed now for
years; but “traffic,” or what is generally understood by the term,
scarcely exists, and passengers, excepting in summer, are few and far
between.

A step higher than the peasant, and we find the farm people, all working
on in the old grooves, and, excepting in the matter of sending their
children by train to be educated (which to a certain extent is
compulsory), and in the gradual use of modern agricultural implements,
showing little signs of change. Nearly all the farms are worked on a
small scale, and with the least employment of capital. “Thrift, thrift!”
is the watchword with them all; early and late they labour, man, woman,
and child, and year by year gain a little on the past; a piece more
land, a few hundred francs put by; but they live on in the same humble,
penurious way, with little care or trouble about the outer world, and
knowing little of its movements. Their very charities are an investment
by the teaching of their own church: a sou is given to a beggar without
grudging, for shall it not be repaid? Thus on the one side we may
contemplate a life of work and thrift, which is admirable, and a
conservatism which keeps the soil in the hands of the labourer; but on
the other, the view is of a race behindhand in civilisation, wanting in
knowledge and in sympathy with the rest of mankind.

[Illustration]

We descend the hills from Callac, following the course of the river Aven
to CARHAIX, the ancient capital of a province and the centre of a large
agricultural district, owing its present importance to its cattle fairs.
At ordinary times life is peaceful enough at Carhaix; in the principal
square is the Hôtel de la Tour d’Auvergne, where visitors can live as
comfortably as in any country town in France, and where the days
resemble one another very closely. Every afternoon the people sit and
sun themselves in the principal square, as in the sketch below, and pigs
lie down undisturbed in the middle of the street; every evening the
inhabitants walk under the trees on the dingy _Place_, with its avenues
of limes, where there is a fine view over the country, and where is
Marochetti’s bronze statue of La Tour d’Auvergne, “le premier grenadier
de France.”

[Illustration]

Between two and three o’clock in the afternoon there is the only
communication with the outer world, when, with much cracking of whips
and rattling over stones, a crazy vehicle called “the courier,” with its
lame and battered horse, covered with dust and foam, comes lumbering in.
It brings a packet of newspapers, chiefly local; for Carhaix cares
little for the doings of the world beyond that of which it is the
centre. But we must now speak of the fair.

Six roads converge upon Carhaix, and upon these roads, and across the
open land, on a summer’s morning, comes a stream of horses, cattle,
pigs, and people. It is the day of the cattle fair, a day for meeting
and marketing for all the country round; a day of rejoicing, bargaining,
and of cruelty to animals scarcely to be paralleled elsewhere; the day
and the place to see the Breton farmers and cattle-dealers, to study the
costumes and the ways of the peasants from some of the most primitive
districts of Brittany.

[Illustration: ON THE ROAD TO MARKET.]

It is only four o’clock in the morning, but the sounds of shouting (in
strong Breton tones, which seem to Englishmen a perpetual echo from the
Welsh hills), the lowing of cattle, the shrieking of pigs, and the heavy
thud of sabots resound upon the roads. On the rising ground just outside
Carhaix, on the western road, we can see them through an avenue of trees
coming across the country in narrow defile, like the commissariat train
of an army on the march; the men leading cattle, the women on horseback
and on foot, laden with provisions; and others in holiday attire,
arriving in country carts.

[Illustration]

The sun shines full on the wrinkled faces of the men, and on the white
caps of the women, and lights up the group with unwonted brilliancy;
even the sober costumes of the people with their blue and brown stuffs,
and the black, and white and fawn-coloured, cattle which they lead,
would, if recorded faithfully by a painter, stand out in high accents of
colour against the low-toned land; a rustic picture so fitful and
vanishing that only the rapid artist, who has presented Brittany to us
in these pages (as it has never been pictured before), could depict. It
is the sunny side of Brittany in all its quaintness, the pastoral aspect
of life which those who dwell in cities seldom see. There is nothing to
mar the beauty of the morning, for the noise of the market is as yet a
distant sound, mingled with the bells of Carhaix for early mass; there
is nothing to suggest a change but the gathering of the clouds towards
the west, and the stout umbrellas and cloaks carried by the women.

[Illustration]

Let us follow them, later in the day, to a large square where the fair
is held, and where there are wonderful sights and sounds; under the
trees a crowd of men and women, in the dust and heat, horses, cattle,
and pigs, in perpetual movement, with much drinking and shouting at the
booths which line one side of the enclosure. There are a great many
horses for sale, which do not find buyers, although the government
agents are here from the neighbouring _haras_ at Callac, and
horse-dealers have come from all parts. The cattle market is
overstocked, and the little black and white cattle, a cross between
Alderneys and Bretons, go for very small sums to reluctant purchasers.
The pig market is more active, as every Breton peasant likes to possess
a pig, and the noises proceeding from this part of the square are
deafening. The gentleman farmer in blue blouse to keep off the dust is
the portrait of a prominent figure moving amongst the crowd.

[Illustration: CATTLE FAIR AT CARHAIX.]

[Illustration]

The meetings of the country people, and the groups sitting under the
trees to rest, are as suggestive pictures as we have seen, and the
costumes are full of variety and interest; the whole forms a scene of
which the full-page sketch gives an accurate idea. These markets are
held several times a year, and for a few hours disturb the quiet of the
sleepy town of Carhaix.

We could well stay at Carhaix, for the scenery is varied and
interesting, and there is much to observe in the farmhouses in the
neighbourhood; old furniture, old carved bedsteads, cabinets, and
clocks; old brass-work, old lace and embroideries.

Pictures come to us at every turn, pictures of domestic happiness and
content, only to be seen in byways far removed from cities and their
troubles; family groups, in which our presence seems sometimes an
intrusion. Brittany, like Spain, is a country that should be travelled
through cautiously; the inhabitants live out of doors in summer-time,
and perform various domestic operations in the roads, regardless of
traffic. Turn a corner suddenly and you may come upon a scene of family
discord, or affection, where you are of necessity _de trop_; take a walk
in the evening in the outskirts of a town, and the mute aspect of the
people, one and all, is that the road belongs to them, that the dirt and
the dunghills of the poorest are heirlooms which no invading sanitary
inspector shall reform.

[Illustration]

In the farmhouses in the neighbourhood we shall often find but one
living and sleeping room—kitchen, sitting-room, bedroom, all in one; the
bedstead of carved oak, the cupboards and chests with brass handles and
bosses, the copper cooking utensils bright and shining, the floor at the
same time being of bare earth. There is often a dungheap outside, and a
shed for cows opening into the living room, which is common alike to
pigs, fowls, and children. We see the women coming out of their dark,
unhealthy dwellings on fête-days, looking bright and clean, with old
lace in their caps, embroidered shawls, and the neatest of shoes. We see
them thrashing corn and scattering the grain wastefully on the ground,
and farming on a small scale in primitive fashion. But the Bretons who
live thus are nearly all prosperous and thrifty in their own way; they
own most of the land they farm, paying rent, for a portion perhaps, at
the rate of twenty or twenty-five francs an acre, but adding to the
extent of their ownership year by year. Nearly everyone we meet at
Carhaix is engaged in agriculture, and the majority are well-to-do. The
land yields well, and there is the Canal de Brest passing through the
town to take the produce to the coast.

[Illustration: WAITING FOR DINNER, HUELGOET.]

Turning northwards towards Morlaix, we pass through somewhat dreary
scenery, until we come to a gorge near Huelgoet, which, with its rocks
and rushing streams, will remind us of Switzerland; here are some
ancient lead and silver mines, which were a source of considerable
wealth in the fifteenth century.

There is a silent and deserted air about the streets of Huelgoet, seldom
disturbed by the sound of wheels; at the inn where we rest our dinner is
cooked in the _salle à manger_ at the open fireplace, and from the
manner of the people it is evident strangers are rare, even in summer.
We are asked by the taciturn landlord to take up our abode here “for the
sake of the fishing,” and a book is shown containing the names of
visitors who have staid at the inn.

The road between Huelgoet and Morlaix, passing over a spur of the Monts
d’Arrée, is again wild and desolate; we see flocks scattered over barren
pastures, and men and women at work on open ground far away from
habitations. It is a suggestive part of Brittany for the landscape
painter, a dark lonely land of rugged outline, full of poetry and
mystery.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER VI.

                  MORLAIX—ST. POL—LESNEVEN—LE FOLGOET.


[Illustration]

From the quiet of Carhaix and the solemn landscape which surrounds
Huelgoet to the bustle of Morlaix, only sixteen miles to the north,
seems a rapid transition. If we arrive at Morlaix by railway, we cross a
lofty viaduct over a deep ravine, and, far below, see clusters of grey
roofs, white houses, rocks and trees, church towers, and factory
chimneys. Descending to the town, we find ourselves in the centre of
more commercial activity than we have seen since leaving St. Malo.
Morlaix is a prosperous town, containing about 15,000 inhabitants,
busily engaged in trade. It is built at the confluence of two streams,
the Jarlot and the Queffleut, which meet in the centre of the city, and
(arched over for some distance in their course) wind down the valley to
the sea, six miles away. On either side of this canal-like stream are
quays, and rows of houses, old and new, strangely intermixed.

The commercial traveller, the shipper of native products, and the
importer of foreign goods is ever busy at Morlaix. But its aspect is
still essentially old; its outward characteristics are primitive:
weather-worn gables with carved beams, steep streets and rough pavements
with open gutters, and, in the centre of the city, a dingy river, with
washerwomen on its banks. The sketch gives an exact idea of the scene as
enacted every day in the principal street; but the old architecture of
Morlaix is best indicated on page 72. A few demolitions take place every
year, but, visiting Morlaix for the third time in 1878, we find the most
interesting buildings standing and leaning against each other as of old.
Tradition is strong in this city, and many new shops preserve over their
doors their old signs, the ancient insignia of the trades of the
merchants of Morlaix. Some are grotesque figures carved in wood, painted
and gilt; there is one little figure, for instance, at the corner of the
Rue Notre Dame, “Au Sommeur Breton,” in cocked hat and curled wig, which
carries us back in imagination several centuries.

[Illustration]

In the “Rue des Nobles,” where the high-pitched roofs and overhanging
eaves nearly meet across the street, we may see the actual dwellings of
the nobles of Brittany in the fifteenth century, whilst above on the
steep hillsides, and all around, are the modern, meaner, and more
healthy dwellings of the traders of the nineteenth.

The approach to Morlaix by water in the old days, when at the last turn
of the river the pointed gables and towers came into view, must have
been very picturesque. Its aspect in 1505, when the nobles received the
Queen-Duchess Anne on her pilgrimage through Brittany, and later—when
Mary Queen of Scots landed here on her way to Paris to espouse the
Dauphin in 1548—we may picture to ourselves, with some regret, as we
walk down the new wide Rue de Brest, and see above us the great railway
viaduct. It is a strange medley of grey roofs, trees, rocks, towers,
factory chimneys, quays lined with stores, precipitous streets,
tottering dwellings, and defaced churches (one turned into a granary),
arched over by the modern railway viaduct, from the view of which there
is no escape, but which, from its very height and solidity, has a
certain grandeur of effect. But the old is quite overwhelmed by the new,
and even the steep hillsides seem dwarfed by the giant proportions of
the viaduct. There is not only more movement, but there is more colour
in Morlaix, than we are accustomed to in Brittany; down on the quay, for
instance, there are red sashes, and clothing of bright Oriental hues,
drying in the wind; and there is a certain Eastern air about the open
shops in the old quarters which tells of distant commerce. But the
present prosperity of Morlaix is in its tobacco manufactories, in its
trade in butter, grain, fruit, &c., and in its position as the natural
place of export for the products of a fruitful part of Brittany.

It is well to stay at Morlaix to make sketches of some of the lofty
interiors with their carved staircases, some of which are quite unique;
and it is well to see it on Sundays, for nowhere shall we see pleasanter
faces or a happier and brighter-looking population. On market mornings
the country people crowd the _Place_, and, in the morning and in the
evening, five or six hundred factory hands, men and women, pass up and
down the Rue de Brest. It is a familiar sight, but the neat caps and
dark homely attire of the women are again delightful to see. The
brightness, style, and vivacity, of the women of Morlaix leave a
distinct impression on the mind.

[Illustration]

In the neighbourhood, in the direction of Brest, are two of the most
famous calvaries and churches of the Renaissance, St. Thégonnec and
Guimiliau. It is half an hour’s journey by train to the little deserted
station of St. Thégonnec, on the railway to Brest, and a mile to the
north is the village. There is no one at the station but the
station-master, and no communication with the village of St. Thégonnec
excepting by a covered cart, which meets the morning train. The fine
church, which stands in the midst of a straggling village of dilapidated
houses, pigsties, and dirt, is rich in sculpture and gilding in the
style of the Renaissance; on the high-altar, on the pulpit, and in the
side chapels are elaborate carvings, much overdone with gilding and
restoration, but grand in general effect. In the churchyard all is grey,
sad-looking, and dilapidated; the ancient calvary, erected in 1610 in
dark Kersanton stone, is injured and time-stained; the quaint figures,
elaborately carved, representing passages in the history of Christ
(dressed in ruffs and gowns of the sixteenth century), are roughly
propped up and stuck together, for the benefit of pilgrims who come to
the shrine.

The calvary of St. Thégonnec, like most others in Brittany, depicts
scenes in the life and Passion of Christ. In the centre is a group of
three crosses, representing the scene of the Crucifixion, with figures
of the centurion and soldiers, angels, and the Virgin and St. John, and
on either side are the two thieves. Below, round the base of the
structure, are figures in Breton costume, representing the judgment of
Pilate, Christ bearing the cross, the Entombment, and the Resurrection.
Some of the figures are remarkable for animation, and, in spite of the
state of the monument, appeal more powerfully to the imagination than a
group of coloured life-size figures representing the Entombment which is
shewn to visitors in the crypt.[5]

Footnote 5:

  For a sketch of one of the calvaries, see page 91.

The church and calvary of Guimiliau is in a quiet village a few miles to
the south-west, a short drive from St. Thégonnec, crossing the railway.
The church dates from the Renaissance, and is rich in carving and
decoration; the interior is loaded with ornament, the eastern end being
a mass of crude colours and florid decoration. In the south porch is
some elaborate carving, and in the organ loft are some bas-reliefs on
the oak panels. There is a baptistry of carved oak, consisting of a
canopy with allegorical figures, supported on eight spiral pillars,
around which are twisted vine leaves, fruit, flowers, and birds. The
pulpit, dated 1677, is also a remarkable work of art. But in the
churchyard, time-stained and crumbling to decay as usual, is the great
object of our visit, a solid stone structure raised upon arches, upon
which is a crowd of little carved figures in the costume of the
sixteenth century, representing the various scenes of the Passion. There
are saints in the niches at the corners, and high above is a crucifix,
with the figures of Mary and St. John on either side. This monument
dates from 1580, but many of the figures have been restored at a later
date.

Altogether the calvaries of St. Thégonnec and Guimiliau, whether
regarded from a picturesque or antiquarian point of view, are the most
interesting monuments we have yet seen; interesting in their very
loneliness, the object of so much thought and labour in the middle ages,
left thus neglected and in ruin. The calvaries of Brittany seem little
cared for, excepting as curiosities; but once a year, at Easter time,
there are religious ceremonies connected with them, when special
services are performed, and the various scenes depicted on the monuments
are explained to the people. Then is the time to visit St. Thégonnec and
Guimiliau, when the people are seen gathered round the sculptured
crosses, in the same costumes and in the same attitude of faith as their
forefathers.

From the time we left St. Thégonnec station until our return in the
evening, after visiting these two calvaries, we have seen few people in
the fields or on the roads. The busy city of Morlaix absorbs all
available hands, and leaves the country towns almost deserted. When the
railway was advanced at an enormous cost through a difficult country to
the port of Brest, it was thought, naturally enough, that it would open
up traffic _en route_; but here at St. Thégonnec no one comes. “I live,”
says the station-master, “in a vast solitude, the monotony of which is
only broken by the passing of five or six trains a day; scarcely any one
comes near me; a stray tourist or two in the summer, and an occasional
visit from a wolf in winter, one of which has killed my favourite dog.”
This station-master, whose daughter was being educated at Morlaix, kept
a brood of turkeys for distraction; but it was “a lonely life,” as he
said, a solitude the more keenly felt because he was connected by a
telegraph wire with the headquarters of the administration of the Chemin
de Fer de l’Ouest. “It was solitude without peace, for at any moment,
day or night, the bell might ring.” It is difficult to realise that this
is on the main line of railway between Paris and Brest!

[Illustration: POTATO-GETTING NEAR ST. POL DE LÉON.]

There is no stranger or more suggestive contrast for the traveller in
Brittany than to leave Morlaix on a summer’s morning and drive twelve
miles in a north-westerly direction to St. Pol de Léon. It takes only
three hours, but in that short journey we pass, as it were, from life to
death, from the commercial activity of to-day to a stillness which
belongs to the past. The passage is from wharves and warehouses, from
crowded factories and the shrieking of steam, to open country, hill and
dale, to the sea. In Morlaix the monuments are to commerce, in St. Pol
de Léon to the church; in Morlaix there is activity and a certain amount
of civilisation, in St. Pol de Léon, by contrast, there is stillness,
poverty, and degradation. Our last view of Morlaix is of a stupendous
railway viaduct, of comfortable villas and trim gardens; our first view
of St. Pol de Léon across the open land is of three noble church spires
standing out sharply against the sky. Ancient stone crosses and images
of saints in glass cases are passed as usual on the roadside, before we
approach Léon, “the Holy City,” which five centuries ago, when Morlaix
was unknown, was an important bishopric and the centre of great
ecclesiastical wealth. To-day its aspect is poor and dreary, even in
sunshine; grey and cold in colour, and generally dirty.

But the cathedral with its spires and the tower of the church of Notre
Dame de Creizker (nearly 400 feet high) are the absorbing points of
interest, the reason of our journey to St. Pol.

The inhabitants, numbering about 7000, are principally agricultural, or
are employed at the port; fishermen and knitting women, reserved and
dignified in manner, living rough homely lives, disdaining many of the
modern ways of Morlaix, but having a keen eye to commerce, which they
carry on actively with far-away places, including Norway and Greenland.

[Illustration]

As we saunter up the rough, ill-paved streets of the cathedral square,
the men come out of the cafés and _débits de tabac_, and give us a rough
but not unkindly greeting, as in the sketch. The principal occupation of
our three friends is to cultivate potatoes, cabbages, onions, asparagus,
and other vegetables for foreign markets; for this part of Brittany
forms one vast market-garden, whence the cities of Western Europe are
supplied. The inhabitants who live in the cathedral square have grown up
in perpetual wonderment (expressed in their faces) at the summer
procession of pilgrims to St. Pol de Léon; pilgrims in strange costumes,
who dispense sous to their children, inquire for the keys of the tower
of the Creizker, and then mount several hundred feet above them in the
wind.

[Illustration]

The cathedral dedicated to St. Pol is a fine example of early Gothic
architecture, noble in proportions, rich in carving and sombre in
colour, the dark green Kersanton stone giving a fine effect to the
interior, in which some white-robed nuns are generally to be seen on
their knees. The nave is thirteenth-century work, there is some florid
carving on the south porch, and a fine rose window; above are two
towers, with lofty lancet windows, and spires which remind us of
churches in Normandy.

But the spire of Notre Dame de Creizker—literally, “Our Lady of the
Middle Town”—which is higher than the cathedral towers, is the most
interesting object in St. Pol; the central point round which the lives
of the Léonnais radiate, a landmark seen far and wide by land and sea.
This spire, built in the fourteenth century, in the reign of John IV.,
Duke of Brittany, is supposed to be the work of an English architect.
The tower is of granite, richly ornamented with a projecting cornice,
and its spire is pierced through to the sky. The beauty and magnificence
of the churches of St. Pol de Léon are out of all proportion to the
present importance—or unimportance—of the place. The inhabitants have
little sympathy with the art of the sixteenth century, or with the
Druidical remains they find in their fields, but they welcome travellers
gladly in the nineteenth.

It is a wide plain round about St. Pol, from which the Gothic spires
seem to reach to heaven, and where a human figure, standing in a field,
points upwards with strange emphasis against the sky; a district peopled
by classic-looking market gardeners, whose children walk in groves of
cabbages five feet high, and play at hide and seek in their shadows.

[Illustration: GURGOYLE AT ROSCOFF.]

Three miles north of St. Pol is the little sea-port of Roscoff,
historically interesting as the landing-place of the child princess Mary
Queen of Scots, who passed through Roscoff on her way to Nantes in 1548.
There are the ruins of a chapel founded by her, still standing on the
seashore; in the church, with its open belfry tower, are some curious
alabaster reliefs; and in the neighbourhood, in a convent garden, is a
gigantic fig-tree, said to be two centuries old. Roscoff is now used as
a bathing-place, and there is a constant passing to and fro in summer
between this port and a little island three miles farther north, the Île
de Batz, where a hardy population of fishermen and women ply their
dangerous trade, with hardly any communication with the shore in winter.
It is almost worth while to cross to the Île de Batz to see the
“Druidesses,” as the women of the island are called, assembling on
Sundays in their island church; and it might be worth while for a
painter to make a longer stay in this neighbourhood, to make studies (if
only for colour) of some of the curious figures to be seen in such
out-of-the-way corners as Roscoff. Here is one of an old man with long
hair and semi-nautical aspect, who sits in the evening on a stone seat
in front of the cottage which he owns, facing the sea; a poor man to
outward appearance, but an owner of the soil; his face is screwed and
weather-worn, his clothes are patched in various shades of brown; his
blouse is of a dark and greasy tinge; his working life has been spent in
the fields or down at the port, but his final cause is undoubtedly to
smoke; he has coloured by degrees, like a good old pipe, and his sabots
have caught the true meerschaum tinge; he has smouldered at Roscoff for
many years, and seems ready for burning, stacked against the wall like
the fagots collected for winter fires. There is no difficulty in making
a sketch, for this rich-toned “owner of the soil” of Finistère has a
perfect contempt for strangers, and is as immovable as the gurgoyle
sketched on the preceding page.

[Illustration]

Let us now turn westward in the direction of Lesneven and Le Folgoet, to
see one of the finest churches in Finistère. There are two roads to
Lesneven, of which we would recommend the traveller to take the one to
the north, near the sea. The country is for the most part dreary in
aspect, but there are some curious wayside crosses on the route. There
are a few fields of buckwheat, corn, and rye, banked up by high hedges,
and skirted by pollard trees. It is one of those drives which should be
taken leisurely by the antiquary or the archæologist; a route where
there is little to remind us of the present, and much to bring before us
the habits of the past. Every monument we pass on the road, every hovel
at the roadside, and nearly every peasant in the fields, is of the
pattern of a past age.

[Illustration]

As we skirt these quiet shores of northern Finistère, we may listen for
a moment to a story just five hundred years old, a story that every
Breton peasant that we pass on the road knows by heart: how a poor idiot
named Salaun, who lived in the neighbourhood of Lesneven for forty
years, and begged for his bread in the name of the Virgin, uttering only
the words, “Ave Maria,” was found dead by a fountain and buried on the
spot; how a white lily grew upon his grave, with the words, “Ave Maria,”
inscribed upon the leaves; and how John of Blois, then fighting for the
dukedom of Brittany, hearing of the “miracle,” vowed that, if successful
in battle, he would erect a church to Notre Dame de Folgoet, _i.e._
“Fool of the Wood.”

[Illustration: IN THE CHURCH OF LE FOLGOET.]

The church was completed by his son, John V., about 1420. It was built
like most of the churches and monuments of Finistère, of the dark
Kersanton stone found near St. Pol de Léon, and at the village of
Kersanton, near Brest. The church consists of a lofty nave and aisles
under one roof, with a long projecting transept on the south side. The
great beauty of the church is in its carving, that on the south porch
being perhaps the finest. The great west door, now falling into ruin, is
elaborately ornamented with wreaths of the vine and other devices, and
above it is a bas-relief representing the Nativity and the Adoration of
the Shepherds. In the beautiful south porch, which is supposed to have
been added by the Queen-Duchess Anne, are the arms of Brittany and
figures of the twelve apostles in niches, and round its roof are traces
of a richly carved parapet. In the interior there are five altars, with
carved figures of angels, birds, and flowers; and on the rood-loft,
between the choir and nave, supported upon elaborately carved pillars,
is some open tracery cut in stone, in good preservation. There is a fine
rose window, as at St. Pol de Léon.

The spring, or Fool’s Well, is under the high-altar, and the water flows
into a basin _outside_ the church. It is here that the sick and needy
come and kneel before a statue of Our Lady set in a Gothic niche, and
bathe their limbs in the water of the miraculous well; a retired spot,
where, at all hours of the day, peasants are to be found on their knees
in prayer.

We have given but slight descriptions of the churches of St. Pol de Léon
and Le Folgoet, but enough to indicate that here at least the traveller
will be rewarded for going out of the beaten track, and that in
Brittany, owing to the wonderful durability of the Kersanton stone, we
can still see the handwork and judge of the skill of the sculptors of
the fourteenth century.

The church of Le Folgoet stands, as guide-books tell us, on “a silent
spot, unvisited save on certain festivals, and removed a mile and a half
from any town.” We find it the centre of a tumult impossible to
describe. There is a large horse-fair being held, which has collected a
crowd almost equal to that at Carhaix; but here there is more variety in
the costume of the men, the red Phrygian caps and sashes lighting up the
crowd with unusual colour. It is a scene strangely in contrast with the
quiet of the cathedral, where under its cool arcades men are kneeling,
whip in hand; they have come to pray for a special blessing from St.
Cornély, the patron saint of cattle.

The men, in light canvas trousers and blue jerseys, standing on the left
in the picture of the fair, are horse dealers and agents for the
government, who attend every cattle fair and market throughout the
country. The men on the right, watching a horse being trotted out, are
thoroughly characteristic figures, portraits of well-to-do Breton
farmers and dealers.

The boy on the horse is a good example of the Breton _gamin_, or
hanger-on at fairs, who trots out the horses with untiring energy, and
with a freedom and grace of limb delightful to behold.

[Illustration]

[Illustration: HORSE FAIR AT LE FOLGOET.]



                              CHAPTER VII.

                 BREST—PLOUGASTEL—CHÂTEAUNEUF DU FAOU.


[Illustration]

At Landerneau we are once more on the high-road to Brest. We have left
for a time the dreary wind-blown promontories of the coast, and find
shelter in a pleasant valley, surrounded by trees and gardens, and
watered by a river which opens out westward into the bay of Brest.

The railway from Landerneau to Brest is carried for the most part at a
high level, and from the windows on the _left hand_ we obtain beautiful
views of the scenery of the bay. Below we can see the stores of timber
for naval use, and are otherwise reminded of our approach to a sea-port
by the company which collect at the small stations _en route_. In the
crowded carriage are old weather-beaten fishermen and countrywomen with
market baskets, and, in one corner, two boys with fair fresh faces, set
in wide straw hats, bearing upon them the inscriptions of _Vulcan_ and
_Vengeance_.

Brest is a naval station of such importance that even travellers in
search of the picturesque should not pass it by without a short visit;
the arsenal, docks, and harbour are on a scale of completeness second
only to Cherbourg; moreover, Brest is the most convenient point from
which to visit other parts of the coast of Finistère, especially the
fishing village of Le Conquet, the abbey of St. Mathieu on the extreme
western point of Brittany, and the island of Ouëssant. Brest is situated
on an elevated position on the north side of one of the finest natural
harbours in the world, commanding good views from its ramparts and
promenades. The population is about 70,000, exclusive of soldiers and
sailors; a busy cosmopolitan maritime city, in which there is little of
the Breton character to be studied.

[Illustration]

In order to realise the beauty of the inland bay of Brest, we must look
down again from our imaginary _ballon captif_, and see its blue waters,
green banks and woods coming down to the water’s edge; the country
dotted with white villas and little wooden châlets belonging to the
wealthy traders of Brest, and here and there the sombre avenues of a
château with grey, high-pitched roofs and pointed turrets peeping
through the trees.

Across this inland sea, traversed by little steamers and dotted with
white sails—raised high upon the heath-clad hills which form the western
spur of the Monts d’Arrée—is the little town of Plougastel.

It is too late to cross the bay on the occasion of our visit to
Plougastel, and so we take the last train to Kerhuon station, where
there is a ferry. A vessel has just been paid off at Brest, and in the
railway carriage are several sailors on their way home. One of them gets
out with us at Kerhuon, and we go down together to the river. By some
mischance the ferry-boat is missing, and all is darkness at the little
boathouse. The young sailor, ready at expedients, puts down his pack,
collects some furze, and lights a fire as a signal. We sit and wait and
shout at intervals, burning the fuel until just about midnight, when we
hear the plash of oars, and a dark object glides past; it is a
fishing-boat with one mast, with three men in the stern, and two women
rowing. After a little parleying they agree to take us across for thirty
centimes each, and the women turn the boat round, running it heavily
against the stones of the causeway. We get in quickly and stand in the
bows, whilst we silently cross the Landerneau river. It is a strange,
mysterious boat-load; not a word is uttered, there is no sound but the
heavy plodding and working of the oars, and the night is so dark we
cannot see the faces of the men or the nature of the packages that weigh
down the stern. The moon, rising through the clouds, just illumines the
darkness as we near the shore; it shines on the smooth, wet mast, on the
waterproof hat of the marine standing up in the boat, and reveals close
to us the strong, stout arms of a girl, bared to the shoulder, her head
concealed in a dark, tight-fitting headdress, with lappets like an
Egyptian sphynx; the head is raised for a moment, and eyes are turned
upon us as we leave, but no word is uttered, scarcely a “Bon soir!” as
the boat drifts away into the night.

The moon shines as we ascend the hill—winding up a path between great
rocks and under the shadow of stunted trees, to Plougastel—revealing a
poor-looking town of plain stone houses, silent and deserted at this
midnight hour. At a corner of two streets our companion points out the
inn and takes leave, having to go to his home at the further end of the
town. We knock for admittance, but without avail; heads are put out of
various windows, but the answer is that every house is crowded, for
“to-morrow is the fête”; and, truth to tell, curses are heaped upon the
strangers for disturbing the dogs, who begin to howl as they trot by on
their midnight errands. There is nothing to be done until daybreak, and
so the night is spent in the open air.

We have come to Plougastel to see the people, and also its famous
calvary, which stands in the middle of a desolate churchyard strewn with
newly cut stone. As the day begins to dawn, we make our way to the
church, and to the spot where we can just discern the calvary, with its
carved figures standing darkly against the sky. There is a flutter at
our approach, for birds have been nestling behind the headless horsemen,
and sheltering in the nooks and corners of the ancient pile. We leave
them to silence a little longer, and stroll out to the highest ground to
see the sun rise. Soon there is a streak of light from the east, which
gives shape and outline to the church tower and the grey roofs of
Plougastel, and, as we reach the high ground outside the town, the
landscape southward is lighting in the morning sun; we see cultivated
valleys and parklike views, with pleasant green slopes leading down to
the sea. But beautiful as is the foreground, with its undulating green,
interspersed with granite boulders, with dew upon gossamer webs and
little clouds of vapour stealing between clumps of grass, the view
across the bay, where the distant headlands (indicated on the map
overleaf) take a pearly tinge, is the best sight of all. A little
northward and westward are the masts, chimneys, and church spires, and
the smoke and steam, of Brest, for the morning is breaking over a busy
scene at the arsenal and dockyards; but here, as the sun shines out, the
sound in the long grass are of grasshoppers, birds, and bees.

It is the morning of the fête; the thrush clears his throat, and so do
the peasants in their own way, as they come slowly up the hill. Let us
leave the view and go into the streets of Plougastel, which are already
alive with people, some of whom might be the descendants of Eastern
races, wearing Egyptian or Phrygian headdresses, caps from Albania,
embroideries from Greece, and sashes from Arabia. Here, then, for the
first time in our travels, we find colour predominating in the costumes
of the people. Some of the women wear close-fitting dark green caps
embroidered with gold thread, their dark skirts also bordered with
embroideries or stripes of colour; some wear white stockings and
neat-fitting, red or black, slippers or shoes. But the prevailing
headdress of the women is the white cambric _coiffe_ with large side
lappets and wide collars which we see elsewhere in Finistère; the men
have broad-brimmed hats with embroidered strings or ribbons. Some of the
men who come from the south wear striped trousers with a red sash, and
spare blue jacket with numerous silver buttons, as in the sketch
opposite. Some are dressed entirely in blue cloth or serge, with sashes
and red caps, but others have broad white trousers and belts, their
jackets and blouses embroidered on the shoulders and sleeves. There is
colour everywhere, subdued by the dark blue of blouses and the sober
brown and green stuff gowns of the older women.

[Illustration]

It is said that the people of Plougastel, preserving their old costumes
and traditions, still live much apart from their neighbours; a life half
seafaring, half agricultural, whose origin is traced to some early
immigration of Eastern races. By ten o’clock hundreds of people have
come in from the neighbouring villages, and as they all crowd together
at the church door and in the square round the calvary, we see the
strangest medley of costumes in all Brittany. They collect round the
calvary, some praying, some quarrelling or bargaining for small wares; a
general place of rendezvous on fête-days, especially on the 24th of June
(the Feast of St. Jean, called the “Pardon of Birds”), when a large
number of birds are offered for sale. This is a good day to see the
costumes of the peasants, to hear their songs, and to see the dances in
the streets of Plougastel.

The calvary was erected about the year 1602, and some of the figures are
as sharp and clear as if carved yesterday; some are headless, and
otherwise injured or destroyed. Around the three elevated crosses are a
series of bas-reliefs, full-length figures cut in Kersanton stone,
depicting various incidents in New Testament history—the Entry into
Jerusalem, Christ teaching among the Doctors, the Offerings of the Magi,
the Baptism of St. John, the Entombment, &c. On the south side is a
representation of the Bearing of the Cross, on the north is the Judgment
of Pilate, and so on. Some of the figures are very expressive, some have
a certain quaintness and humour, and here and there we detect the same
anachronisms in costume as at St. Thégonnec, where the Breton costume is
introduced.

Altogether we must regard the calvary of Plougastel as a curiosity
rather than as a great work of art; a grotesque group which, in its dark
rugged outline set against the sky, will be remembered by travellers as
something peculiar to Brittany, something which, in this land of strange
mediæval monuments and relics, is yet perhaps the strangest sight of
all.[6]

Footnote 6:

  See sketch of a calvary on page 91.

Returning to Daoulas, we join the high-road between Landerneau and
Quimper, and pass southwards along the inland shores of the bay of Brest
to Châteaulin. As travellers speed through this district by railway,
they get glimpses, on the left hand, of the forest of Guimerch, and on
the right, through the tree-tops, of inlets of the bay, and of the
ancient little town of Le Faou, lying as it were at their feet.

On the railway we pass over an estuary at a great elevation, and on a
greater part of the route to Châteaulin are on the spurs of the Monts
d’Arrée. Travellers from Brest to Quimper should not be deterred from
stopping at Châteaulin by the one line devoted to it in guide-books,
viz. “a dirty little town in parklike scenery, with no good inns.”

[Illustration]

The shores of the bay of Brest and the bay of Douarnenez are districts
to be lingered in when the sun shines, for the days are really few when
we may see the country to advantage. The luxuriance of foliage on the
hills, the height of the grasses, the deep green in the valleys, and the
enormous umbrellas carried by the peasants, should remind us that fine
days are few.

Châteaulin is crowded once a year to visit the Pardon of Ste. Anne la
Palue, a ceremony that generally takes place on the last Sunday in
August. The modern chapel of Ste. Anne stands alone upon high ground,
overlooking the bay of Douarnenez, near Plonévez-Porsay, a small village
about eight miles west of Châteaulin. Crowds of people come from Brest
by boat, and every road and pathway leading to the chapel is lined with
people on the morning of the Pardon. The ceremonies are nearly the same
as at Guingamp and at Ste. Anne d’Auray, but the camping-out of the
people on the hillside above the sea (sometimes 10,000 in number), the
processions of pilgrims, bare-footed, to the Holy Well of Ste. Anne, and
other customs, are more curious than any to be seen elsewhere.

It is at the Pardon of Ste. Anne la Palue that the ceremonies of the
church are rendered most picturesque from the surroundings, and where a
greater variety of the ancient costumes of Cornouaille are to be seen.
The trinkets, rosaries, and ribbons which are blessed and sold to the
peasants are a modern importation from Angers or Lyons, but the
embroidery round the dress of a beggar woman may be rare in colour and
design. Nowhere else, excepting at Plougastel, shall we see such
embroidered caps and bodices; nowhere, not even at Auray, such bronzed
and wrinkled human creatures.

The procession of the priests and people takes place on Saturday, about
three in the afternoon, when the banner of Ste. Anne la Palue is carried
across the hills by girls dressed in crimson, gold-embroidered robes,
with scarves of silver thread and headdresses of lace and tissue of
gold.

These are pictures in sunshine which are rare at Pardon times, and of
summer nights when camping under tents is no hardship; but what must the
scene be at Ste. Anne la Palue in storm and rain, when thousands of
pilgrims, old and young, have no shelter, when all colour and brightness
has vanished, and the wind sweeps over the hills?

Let us now turn inland a few miles, following the course of the Canal de
Brest, to Châteauneuf du Faou, a small town where Mr. Caldecott made
sketches at a Pardon which was held in the rain. This visit, made in
1874, will be best described in the artist’s own words:—

“The courier for Châteauneuf du Faou left Châteaulin at 3 A.M. So we
hire a phaeton, and proceed up the hilly road towards Pleyben. On the
left is a beautiful vale with a pretty village by the side of the river
which runs towards Brest. The scenery is like the borders of Wales, and
the weather like that of Scotland; but the clean, elderly girls coming
down the road are like themselves only.

[Illustration: GOING TO THE PARDON AT CHÂTEAUNEUF DU FAOU.]

[Illustration]

“We reach Pleyben in about two hours, a small deserted-looking town with
a wide _Place_, at one end of which is a curious calvary (date 1670)
undergoing repair, and an old church, partly Gothic, partly Renaissance.
The painted window over the altar is apparently old, but part is
replaced by plain glass. The ceiling is blue with gold stars, and there
are large painted effigies of the apostles in the porch.

“In about two hours after leaving Pleyben, the phaeton rattles into the
little town of Châteauneuf du Faou, knocking about the umbrellas of the
people crowding the streets on the occasion of a pardon. The Hôtel du
Midi, where we put up, is at the farther end of the town, and is
conducted in a simple manner. Ladies would not like its arrangements.
Several inhabitants, and a visitor or two, dine at the table d’hôte, but
all are unable to carve a duck except the English visitor, who is
accordingly put down as a cook. There is music in the streets, and the
town is full of people, some of whom dance a kind of quadrille, called
the ‘gavotte,’ in the market-hall; others attend a large booth to see
acrobatic and other performances.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

“The next day is still wet, and there are many people again in the
streets, some from far away. The races come off on the high-road. I go
to see the finish of one; four horses, strong and about fourteen hands
high, gallop up a hilly length of a high-road; a pink, a red, a yellow,
and a green and white jacket, dash by with a flourish of gaily tied up
tails. I join the admiring crowd which encircles the winner, and we all
go in procession to the Hôtel de Ville. I notice as the rider dismounts
and enters the building to receive the prize (twenty francs) that he
uses no saddle, wears his usual trousers, and has his coloured cap and
jacket made of calico.

“In the large timber-built market-hall is a vast crowd of extensively
linened, many-buttoned men—some with rosettes, the stewards of the
fête—joined hand in hand in one long serpentine line with clean,
red-faced, large-capped, big-collared girls. They jig along the earthen
floor in shoes, clogs, and sabots to the music of a flageolet and a
bag-pipe, varied by an occasional few bars of the voice. This is called
the ‘gavotte,’ as the waitress of the hôtel, who is dancing, informs me.
A farmer in blouse, with a collar (sketched overleaf), beats time with
his sabots. One soldier, two town bonnets, and a few gendarmes relieve
the costume of the peasants, which is, however, full of variety.”

[Illustration]

The Breton _ronde_ or round dance, of which the gavotte is a good
example, is one of the most characteristic scenes to be witnessed in
Brittany. At nearly every fête and gathering—in the streets, in the
fields, or in the town-hall—we see the peasants dancing the gavotte, the
musicians being generally two, one with the ancient Armorican bag-pipe
(_biniou_), the other with a flageolet. Frequently, as in the sketch,
one of the musicians puts down his instrument to sing.

[Illustration]

The dancers keep good time, going through a variety of figures, but
always returning to the _ronde_, dancing together, hand in hand, with
great precision and animation, and a certain kind of grace. The gravity
of manner and the downward look of the women in certain figures, as they
advance and retire with hands down, give a peculiar quaintness to the
gavotte, which, apparently rollicking and unrestrained, is, in fact,
orderly and regular in every movement. The circular motion of the
dancers, now revolving in several circles, now in one _grande ronde_, is
traced by M. Emile Souvestre, and other writers, to Druidic origin and
the movements of the stars.

[Illustration]

But as the dancers come swinging down the centre of the hall, hand in
hand, now meeting, now parting; as fresh couples join and others fall
into the rear; as we hear the measured tread and the voices which never
seem to tire, we should be content to describe the “gavotte” as a good
old country dance of singular animation and picturesqueness; a scene of
jollity and at the same time of good order, of which the sketch gives an
admirable idea.

[Illustration]

There is one figure dressed in the latest fashion of Quimper, who is
looked upon with doubtful admiration by the other dancers, but who will
serve to remind us that distinctive costume, even in these
out-of-the-way places, is a flickering flame, and that in a few years
such scenes as the above will have lost their character.

We give a few bars of a favourite air, played with great spirit, which
seemed to give the performers intense enjoyment, for they returned to it
again and again.

[Illustration]

At dusk oil lamps are lighted, a crowd fills the hall, and, when far
away down the wet streets of Châteauneuf du Faou, we can see the steam
rising between the rafters and hear the clatter of the dancers.

[Illustration]

Four years later, on the 8th of August 1878, we arrive on a quiet,
sultry evening at the same little inn at Châteauneuf. There is no one in
the house but two little children and some fowls, and the streets are
silent and almost deserted; but at a little distance from the inn we
hear the heavy thud of flails, and going up a little green pathway
across the road, where a grey cloud of dust rises between the trees, we
come upon a scene of energy and determination which defies description.
It is the last evening for threshing out a little patch of corn, and the
whole strength of the establishment has been enlisted in the service,
including the waiter, _chef de cuisine_, stable-boy, a farm labourer,
and one or two professional “batteurs”; four on one side, five on the
other, swinging and letting fall their heavy flails in turn, close to
each others’ heads, with a precision and desperate energy wonderful to
behold. Mr. Caldecott’s sketches, taken at the moment, in a cloud of
dust, bring the scene before us most vividly; the _garçon_ of the inn,
the second in the row, all energy and excitement, putting his face into
his work so to speak, urging on the rest by shouts and gestures, but
still keeping steady time with his flail; opposite to him, last but one,
is “Madame,” her face tied tightly over with a veil, as a protection
from the dust; and, last in the line, the _chef de cuisine_, working as
hard as the rest.

In the second sketch the leaders have changed position, the pace is
quickened, and, from where we stand, the flails seem to fly dangerously
close to the heads of the women. But no one flinches, and the strokes
come down together as if from two operators instead of nine.

The grain is beaten out wastefully on the ground, and gathered into
sacks by two old women, who put the straw afterwards into the pillows of
the Hôtel du Midi.

[Illustration]



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                QUIMPER—PONT L’ABBÉ—AUDIERNE—DOUARNENEZ.


[Illustration]

In the fruitful valley of the Odet and the Steir, where two rivers join
in their southern course to the sea, there rise the beautiful spires of
Quimper, the present capital of Finistère; a town containing about
13,000 inhabitants, now the centre of the commerce and industry of
southern Finistère, and, it may be added, the most pleasant
resting-place on our travels. If we approach Quimper for the first time
by road over the hills, we shall form the best idea of the beauty of its
situation and of the picturesqueness of its buildings. The first
impression of the traveller who arrives by train, and is hurried in an
omnibus along the straight quays lined with trees, to the Hôtel de
l’Épée, on the right bank of the river Odet, is one of slight
disappointment at the modern aspect of the town; but let him glance for
one moment from above out of one of the back windows of the inn (opened
for him by the bright-faced maiden sketched on page 104), and the view
of old roofs and cathedral towers will reassure his mind that neither in
architecture nor in costume is this city likely to be wanting in
interest. Quimper, the ancient capital of Cornouaille, with its warlike
and romantic history of the middle ages, the centre of historic
associations in the times of the War of the Succession, preserves many
landmarks and monuments that will interest the traveller and the
antiquarian. The fine Gothic cathedral has a richly sculptured porch
with foliated carving of the fourteenth century, such as we saw at Le
Folgoet. Above and between the two towers is an equestrian statue of the
somewhat mythical King Gradlon, who held a court at Kemper in the fifth
century, whose prowess is recorded in the early chronicles of Brittany,
and in the romances of the Round Table. The episode of his hunting in
the neighbouring forests, being miraculously fed by one Corentin, a
hermit, and finally converted to Christianity, is recorded continually
in song and story; and from this incident (related by Souvestre and sung
by Brizeux) dates the foundation of the ancient bishopric of St.
Corentin. The statue, like nearly every monument in Brittany, was partly
destroyed during the Revolution in 1793.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

In spite of railways, telegraphs, and newspapers, and the bustle of
commerce that fills the streets and market of Quimper, some of the
inhabitants of the neighbouring valleys find time, on St. Cecilia’s Day,
to perform a pilgrimage to the cathedral and to sing songs in honour of
St. Corentin. Thus we see how lovingly conservative Brittany clings to
its monuments and legends, and how its people still dwell in the past.
The story of King Gradlon may be a myth, but, like all legends and
traditions, it has its origin in fact; and we who are not historians may
be fascinated with the thought that the battered horseman, the object of
so much interest to pilgrims in the past and to tourists in the present,
is a link in a chain of facts, pointing backwards to a far-off time
when, a little westward of the site of the present city of Quimper, on a
promontory near Pont Croix, stood the ancient Celtic city of Is, remains
of which are to be found to this day upon the shore.

The cathedral of Quimper was founded in the thirteenth century, but was
principally built in the fourteenth and fifteenth. It has no very
remarkable architectural features, but there is a grandeur in the lofty
aspect of the interior, lighted by some fine stained glass, which leaves
an impression of beauty on the mind. It is the centre and rallying-point
for all the country round, the home of Catholicism, the “one church” to
the inhabitants of Finistère. No picture of the wide _Place_ by the
river, where the great gatherings take place on fête-days, and where so
many curious costumes are to be seen together, is complete without the
two modern spires of the cathedral rearing high above the town. The
procession of people passing up the wide street on a Sunday morning
leading to its doors—a dense mass of figures, fringed with white caps,
like foam on a heaving sea, the figures framed by projecting gables
nearly meeting overhead—forms another picture which has also for its
background the two noble spires.[7] The old houses in the market-place
in the cathedral square, and the old inn, the Hôtel du Lion d’Or (this
last well worthy of a sketch), are overshadowed by the pile. The people
that come in by the old-fashioned diligences and the country carts and
waggons go straight to the cathedral on arrival in the square.

Footnote 7:

  We believe it was to M. Viollet Le Duc, whose architectural taste and
  energy are so well known in France, that the completion of these
  towers is principally due.

[Illustration]

The interior of the cathedral, which is the largest in Brittany, is very
striking; there is a handsome chapel dedicated to Ste. Anne, the patron
saint of Brittany, to St. Roch, and other saints. There is high-mass at
half past ten, and a sermon by an ancient ecclesiastic preached from the
handsome carved pulpit in the nave. It is an eloquent discourse,
apparently, for along the aisles and between the pillars
familiar-sounding phrases are poured fluent and fast. But the dense
crowd of men and women with upturned faces on the pavement near the door
can hear little of what is passing; the words take an upward curve of
sound, and are heard more distinctly by the spiders and the flies. The
loss may not have been great if we take the testimony of a writer[8] in
1877, who says:—“I attended mass one morning at Quimper, and the
following is the substance of a sermon preached to a large and attentive
congregation mostly of working men and women: ‘There are three duties,’
said the preacher, ‘imposed by the church on the faithful: first, to
confess at least once a year; secondly, to confess in one’s own parish;
thirdly, to confess within the fifteen days of Easter.’ The omission of
the first of these is regarded by the church as a sin of such gravity
that it is condemned to be punished by the withholding of Christian
burial. Not one word, throughout a long discourse to simple, devout,
careworn peasant folk, of moral teaching, religious counsel, or
brotherly love!”

Footnote 8:

  _A Year in Western France_, by M. Betham-Edwards.

[Illustration]

In some of the chapels there are services during the day, and there is a
continual movement of white caps in and out of the confessionals; and,
occasionally during the day, some poor, weather-worn man is doing
penance, going round and round the cathedral on his knees, making a
curious slouching sound on the pavement (as grotesque a figure as
sketched on page 106). He is dressed in rags, and carries his sabots
under his arm during his long journey; thus, several times round the
pavement, dragging his weary limbs and—according to the enormity of his
sins—paying his sous as he goes.

The character of the people of this part of Cornouaille seems less
reserved, and there is a gay, genial aspect about them which is
refreshing when coming from the north. The bright face and figure of the
girl whose portrait Mr. Caldecott has caught exactly is one of a flutter
of five, who wait at table at the Hôtel de l’Épée in the costume of the
country, which, by the way, is worn here for the especial benefit of
travellers. It is probable that every one of these bright-faced women
would discard it to-morrow if they had the chance (as their mistress and
her children have done); but there is still plenty of local costume to
be seen in Quimper. We have only to go out into the gardens, to visit
the farms, by-roads, and lanes, and we shall come upon some of the most
picturesque scenes in our travels.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

In the corner of a field just outside the town, where a lively
discussion is going forward between a farm labourer and three girls at a
well, there is a picture which for colour alone is worth remembering. It
is one of those everyday scenes in which costume and the surrounding
landscape harmonise delightfully. We give few sketches of architecture
because photographs of the best examples may always be obtained,
preferring rather to give the life of the people. There are more figure
subjects in the streets of Quimper than there is time to note. Thus, for
instance, as we pass through a poor, dirty suburb at the lower end of
the town, a woman comes to the door of a dark dwelling, and gives alms
to a professional beggar, so grotesque and terrible in aspect that he
hardly seems human; but the woman standing at the stone doorway wears a
costume that might have been copied from an Elizabethan missal. She
gives, as every one gives, to the poor in Brittany, but her husband’s
small wages at the pottery works hard by leave little margin for
charity, and he will want all his spare money at this time of year for
the fêtes. The fêtes are an occasion for universal feasting and
rejoicing, in which the drinking propensities of the holiday makers are
only too apparent in the streets, leading in the evening, sometimes, to
domestic interviews like the one sketched below.

[Illustration]

At the time of the Fête of the Assumption there is a crowd at Quimper
from all parts of Finistère, and there is an amount of festivity which
must be bewildering to the quiet inhabitants; it is then that we may see
sometimes in the streets the splendid type of Breton woman sketched at
the head of this chapter, and, by contrast, some others much more
grotesque.

But perhaps the most interesting group of all, and the most complete and
characteristic of Mr. Caldecott’s sketches, is the one which forms the
frontispiece to this volume—a scene in a _cabaret_, or wineshop, where
the farmers who have come in to market, whose carts we may see on the
cathedral square, meet and discuss the topics of the day, amongst which,
after the state of trade and the crops, the term of Marshal McMahon’s
government and the results of the annual levy of “les conscrits” are
uppermost. Soon after harvest-time, generally early in September, the
annual levy of reserves for the army takes place, and Quimper, being the
centre of a populous district, is the rallying-point for lower
Finistère.

[Illustration]

It is the nearest approach to an open political discussion that we may
witness on our travels, and a good opportunity to see the conservative
Breton farmer, the “owner of the soil,” one who troubles himself little
about “politics” in the true sense of the word, and is scarcely a match
in argument for the more advanced republican trader and manufacturer of
Quimper, but who, from hereditary instinct, if from no other motive, is
generally an upholder of legitimist doctrines and a royalist at heart.

Seated on the carved oak bench on the left is a young Breton clodhopper
or farm help, whose ill-luck it has been to be drawn this year; who
leaves his farm with regret—a home where he worked from sunrise to
sunset for two francs a week, living on coarse food and lodging in the
dark with the pigs. As he sits and listens with perplexed attention to
the principal speaker, and others gather round in the common room to
hear the oracle, we have a picture which tells its story with singular
eloquence, and presents to us the common everyday life of the people of
lower Brittany with a truthfulness and vivacity seldom, if ever,
exceeded. The only bright colour in the picture is in the red sashes of
the men and in one or two small ornaments worn by the women.

[Illustration]

Other scenes should be recorded if only to show, by way of contrast,
that Quimper is very like other parts of France. At one of the _lycées_
the annual prize-giving is going forward, and there is a fashionable
gathering, in which military uniforms are prominent. It is an
opportunity for seeing some of the _élite_ of Quimper both on the
platform and in the crowded hall, and a great chance for a sketch. The
boys come up one by one, and stand on a raised platform to be decorated
with a paper wreath, to receive a book and a salutation on both cheeks.
It is interesting to note that, before joining his applauding friends in
the hall, the boy takes off his wreath and throws it away. There is
scarcely a Breton costume in the hall.

[Illustration]

In Quimper we are in a pleasant valley, surrounded by gardens, orchards,
and fields, and sheltered from the wind by clustering woods. The sun
shines so warmly here that it is difficult to realise that a few miles
to the west and south there are stretches of broad moorland leading to
the boldest coast on the west of France. It is true that the people that
come in from Pont l’Abbé, Audierne, and Douarnenez bear the impress of a
seafaring life, and are different in style and costume to any that we
have yet seen.

It is worth while for every one who stays in Quimper to see something of
the coast, and to make a tour of at least two or three days to Pont
l’Abbé, Penmarc’h, Pont Croix, the Pointe du Raz, and Douarnenez. In
this short journey the traveller will see some of the finest coast
scenery in Brittany, and people differing in character and costume from
other parts of Finistère; a hardy fishing population, tempted to dangers
and hardships by the riches to be found in the sea.

If the scenery which we have passed through on our way to Quimper
resembled Wales, the district west of Quimper will remind us of
Cornwall. We are, in fact, on the extreme edge of Brittany,
corresponding to the Cornwall of England, _Cornouaille_, the _Cornn
Galliæ_ of the ancients, a dangerous, storm-blown coast, wild, desolate,
and picturesque. We may go down the river from Quimper to Pont l’Abbé,
or a shorter route by road a distance of twelve miles, the first part
over hills and through cultivated lands, in the latter part over wide
moorland, covered with gorse and edged with pines. This is a beautiful
drive, but, to judge of the quiet, almost mediæval stillness of Pont
l’Abbé, it should be approached by water on a summer’s evening, when,
after a long and sometimes rather boisterous passage from the mouth of
the river Odet, the little fishing-boat is rowed up the Pont l’Abbé
river under the tower of its ancient castle. On the left, before
entering the river, the little port of Loctudy is passed, where there is
an ancient Romanesque church, well preserved, said to have been built by
the Knights Templars in the twelfth century.

[Illustration]

Pont l’Abbé with its dull, straight streets and deserted-looking houses,
has no striking architectural features; but the costumes of the people
are altogether unique in Brittany, and the interiors of their dwellings
are as quaint and curious as any painter would desire. The women wear
close-fitting caps of red or green, embroidered with gold thread, the
hair being turned up at the back and fastened at the top; they wear
skirts of blue or green with a border of yellow, and the men, short blue
jackets and sashes.

In Pont l’Abbé we may see, what is so rare in these days, an old street
in which the costume of the people harmonises with the date of the
buildings, and in which the quiet of a past century seems never to have
been disturbed. Walk down a narrow grass-grown street to the open square
above the river, at the end of which is the western porch of the fine
church of Pont l’Abbé, and the only two figures visible in the afternoon
are a girl carrying a basket coming from the Carmelite convent, and a
priest in black robes crossing the square. The church and convent were
founded in 1383, and there is little here to mark the passage of years.
The church has been completed and beautified since those early times,
and afterwards wrecked by the Revolution; but the aspect of the square
and of the cloisters of the convent are little altered. The interior of
the church is remarkable for the grace and lightness of its pillars, and
for the richness of its stained glass; the rose windows are said to
rival in beauty those of Rouen. Notwithstanding that the church has but
one aisle, that the ceiling is now painted blue, and that the carvings
in stone and wood are sadly mutilated, it is an architectural monument
of great interest.

[Illustration]

Six miles south-west of Pont l’Abbé, across a dreary, marshy plain is
the poor fishing town of Penmarc’h, built upon the dark rocks that form
a barrier against the sea, on one of the wildest promontories of
Cornouaille; a city whose riches in the fifteenth century were so great
that, according to historians, “she could equip her three thousand
men-at-arms, and shelter behind her jetties a fleet of eight hundred
craft.” The original prosperity of Penmarc’h arose from the
cod-fisheries, which were the source of immense wealth before the
discovery of Newfoundland. The history of its invasion by the English in
1404, and the disasters in the sixteenth century, when the town was
partly destroyed by an inroad of the sea, and afterwards sacked by Guy
Eder Fontenelle at the time of the Wars of the League, is one of the
most romantic and terrible in the history of Brittany. It is a place to
see if only to mark the traces of this wonderful city, once containing
10,000 inhabitants. A few ruined towers and the foundations of streets
mark the site of the ancient city, which is now inhabited by a scattered
fishing population numbering in all about 2000, the men braving the
elements in their little fishing-boats, the women and children
collecting seaweed and tilling the poor soil. There is a mass of rocks
separated from the land, called the Torche de Penmarc’h, which all
visitors are taken to see, and where the waves break upon the shore with
the sound of thunder.

We have said little of the ruins of the church of St. Guénolé and of the
parish church of Ste. Nonna at Penmarc’h, with its stained glass and
quaint stone carving, or of other relics of the ancient city, because in
nearly every town in Cornouaille there is some object of interest to
examine. Antiquarian travellers should stay at the Hôtel des Voyageurs
at Pont l’Abbé, where they will be very comfortably housed, and can
explore this district, interesting not only for the historic
associations connected with Penmarc’h, but for Druidical remains which
the winds of the Atlantic are laying bare every year on this coast. It
is a dreary, wind-swept promontory, from which the quiet superstitious
inhabitants are only too glad to retreat. No wonder they flock into
Quimper, and sun themselves on the _Place_ during the summer days!

On the road between Pont l’Abbé and Audierne we obtain fine views of the
open landscape, with solitary figures here and there working in the
fields, and occasional glimpses of the sea. It is a windy drive; the
colour is sombre, and the clouds which come up in heavy masses from the
sea cast deep shadows over the land.

[Illustration]

If we try to recall the impression of the scene, it is principally of
clouds, as in landscapes by Ruysdael or Géricault. The land for miles is
without sign of habitation, the highest point of interest is a bank of
furze, a stunted tree, or a heap of broken stones, chipped perhaps from
a fallen menhir; a solitude that seems more hopeless and remote from the
tumultuous aspect of the heavens.

But as we approach the town of Pont Croix, and, turning westward,
descend the hills to cross the estuary of Audierne, the view over the
bay is more luxuriant. Below us, through the stems of pine trees that
line the steep road, cut in granite rocks—as we descend to the right
bank of the river Goayen where it widens into an estuary—is the little
fishing village of Audierne, consisting of two or three straight streets
of granite houses, one or two large wharves and warehouses, a
lighthouse, and nearly a mile of protecting sea-wall. The evening is now
fine and calm, and the tide is coming in without a ripple, bringing a
few fishing-boats up to the quay, and attracting the inhabitants on to
the _Place_ in front of the principal inn, the Hôtel du Commerce, where
the portly Père Batifoulier receives us, and provides us with excellent
accommodation. It is a sheltered, sunny spot, surrounded by cultivated
hills, where people come from Quimper to bathe in summer; but if we walk
upon the downs behind the town, we shall get glimpses of a coast almost
as exposed and dangerous to mariners as at Penmarc’h, where the sardine
fishermen are spreading their nets on the grass.

Audierne is within six miles of the famous Pointe du Raz, the Land’s End
of Brittany, beyond which, stretching out into the Atlantic, is the Île
de Sein, inhabited by a poor population of fishermen and seaweed
gatherers. A glance at the map will show the position of the island, and
the “Bec du Raz,” the dangerous channel which divides it from the shore,
through which the fishermen of Audierne and Douarnenez, with many
prayers and crossings of the breast, pass and re-pass in their frail
boats.

It is a dreary road from Audierne to the Pointe du Raz, passing the
villages of Plogoff and Lescoff. At this point the rocks are higher
above the sea than at Penmarc’h, and the scene is altogether more
extensive and magnificent. We are on an elevation of eighty or ninety
feet, and almost surrounded by the sea. To the south and east is the
wide bay of Audierne, to the west the Île de Sein, the ancient home of
Druidesses, and the horizon line of the Atlantic; to the north and east
the bay of Douarnenez, across which is the jutting headland of La
Chèvre.

A cloud of sea-birds rises from the rocks below, and floats away like a
puff of steam, there is an orange tint in the seaweed piled upon the
shore, and a purple tinge upon the distant hills across the bay of
Douarnenez; but the green upon the scanty grass in the foreground is
cold in colour, and almost the only flowers are yellow sea-poppies and
the little white bells of the convolvulus. On every side are piles of
rocks stretching out seaward as barriers against the waves of the
Atlantic; a dangerous, desolate shore, on which many a vessel has been
wrecked. To the north is the Druids’ “Baie des Trépassés,” where,
according to ancient legends, the spirits of the departed wait on the
shore to be taken in boats to the Île de Sein. It is a Celtic legend,
recounted in every history of Brittany.

[Illustration]

The exposed position of the Pointe du Raz, the strange, fantastic
grandeur of the rocks, and the wildness of the waves that beat upon the
shore in almost all weathers, are alone worth a visit. The numerous
artists who stay at Quimper, Douarnenez, and Pont-Aven, in the summer
months would do well to pitch their tents for a time near the Pointe du
Raz, if only to watch from this elevation the changing aspects of sea
and sky, to see the sea, calm and blue in the distance, but dashing
spray in sunshine over walls of rock, and seaweed gatherers on a summer
evening getting in their harvest, as deep in colour as the corn.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

Leaving Audierne, and turning eastward towards Douarnenez, following the
course of the river Goayen, we come in about an hour to Pont Croix, an
ancient town of 2500 inhabitants. The church is a fine Romanesque
building of the fifteenth century, with a curious porch and some good
carving in the interior. It is a quiet, rather deserted-looking town, on
an eminence above the river, reminding one in its position and its air
of faded importance of the ecclesiastical city of Coutances, in
Normandy.

[Illustration]

It is a fine drive over undulating hills to Douarnenez, with views of
landscape more fertile than any we have seen since leaving Quimper;
landscape with open moorland, interspersed with fields of corn, where
harvesting is being actively carried on, as in the sketch. Here we get a
glimpse of one of the old farmhouses of Finistère, and (on a very small
scale) of the farmer himself approaching in the distance to superintend
operations.

A few miles farther, and the landscape is again bare and uncultivated,
we see peasants in the fields at rare intervals; flocks of black and
brown sheep feeding on the open land. There is a charm of wildness and a
peculiar beauty about the scenery here that we who write for artists
should insist upon with all the power of the pen. It is the fashion to
stay at Douarnenez and at Pont-Aven, but we have few records of the best
scenery in Cornouaille.

[Illustration: HARVESTING IN FINISTÈRE.]

Douarnenez, the headquarters of the sardine-fisheries, has a population
of about 9000, almost entirely given up to this industry; the men in
their boats, and the women and girls in the factories. It is a busy,
dirty, and not very attractive town, with one principal street leading
down to the port; but walk out of it in any direction, so as to escape
the odours of the sardine factories, and the views from the high ground
are most rewarding.

There is no prettier sight, for instance, than to watch the arrival of a
fleet of several hundred fishing-boats rounding the last promontory,
racing in whilst they are eagerly watched from the shore. At the point
where the sketch was taken, the little fleet divides, to come to anchor
at different inlets of the bay. Of the scene down at the port, where the
boats unload; of the massing of a forest of masts against the evening
sky, with rocks and houses high above as a background, we can only hint
in these pages.

[Illustration: WAITING FOR THE SARDINE BOATS AT DOUARNENEZ.]

At Douarnenez, in summer, the inhabitants are accustomed to an inroad of
visitors who come for the bathing season, and there is a little colony
of artists who live comfortably at the principal inns (_en pension_ for
five or six francs a day), but it is not as quiet as Pont-Aven, of which
we shall speak in the next chapter, for the streets are closely built
and badly paved, and the busy inhabitants wear sabots which are rattled
down to the shore at all hours of the day and night, according to the
tide. Moreover, the inhabitants of the town are scarcely typical
Bretons; they are a little demoralised by success in trade, a little
inclined to smuggling, and decidedly fond of drinking. The men, living
hard lives, facing the most fearful storms of the Atlantic in their
exposed little boats, out sometimes for days without a take, are apt to
be uproarious when on shore. The hardy, bright-featured women of
Cornouaille, whose faces are becoming so familiar to us in these pages,
have a rather sad and reckless look at Douarnenez; their homes are not
too tidy as a rule; the little children play in streets which steam with
refuse from the sardine factories, where their elder sisters are working
in gangs, with bare feet and skirts tucked up to their knees, sifting,
and sorting, and cooking sardines, and singing snatches of Breton songs
the while. The lower streets, steep and narrow, are blocked with
fish-carts, and the port is crowded with boats with nets drying in
festoons. But the view of Douarnenez seen at a little distance out at
sea, with its high rocks and overhanging trees almost reaching to the
water’s edge, and above, the spire of the old church of Ploaré standing
sharp against the sky, will remain best in the memory. There is no end
to the beauties of the bay of Douarnenez, if we explore the
neighbourhood, starting off early for the day and not returning until
sundown.

[Illustration]

In the evening there is a great Bohemian gathering at the Hôtel du
Commerce; its artistic visitors overflow into the street, and make
themselves heard as well as seen. There is a clatter of tongues and a
cloud of smoke issuing from the little café presided over by the neat
figure in the sketch. Those who have been to the Hôtel du Commerce at
Douarnenez will recognise the portrait at once; those who have not must
picture to themselves a girl with dark hair and brown complexion, a
headdress and bodice in which scarlet and gold are intermingled, a dark
skirt with a border of yellow or orange, and a spotless white apron and
sleeves. In soft shoes she flits silently through the rooms and supplies
our clamorous wants in turn; neither remonstrance nor flattery will move
her, or cause her to raise her eyes.

The children of Douarnenez have learned to beg, and along the broad road
which leads to Quimper, beggars are stationed at intervals to waylay the
charitable. Driving home in the little covered carriage shown in the
sketch, a dark object appears before us on the way. Near it, at the side
of the road, is a little shed roughly made with poles and brambles, and,
protruding from it, two sabots filled with straw, two sticks, and a pair
of _bragous bras_. The rest of the structure consists of dried ferns,
and a poor deaf human creature propped up to receive the alms of the
charitable, a grim figure watching and waiting in the sun and wind.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER IX.

                    CONCARNEAU—PONT-AVEN—QUIMPERLÉ.


[Illustration]

Fourteen miles south-east of Quimper is Concarneau, another important
fishing station of Cornouaille. It is well to go thither by road, in
order to see the view of Quimper and the valley below, when a few miles
out of the town; a view which few travellers see in these days. The old
town of CONCARNEAU, with its fortifications and towers, called “Ville
Close,” which in its position somewhat resembles St. Malo, is approached
by a drawbridge from the mainland, and at high tide is surrounded by
water; it consists of one long irregular street with old houses shut in
by dark walls, through the loopholes of which we see the sea. The
nominal population of Concarneau is 5000, but in the Faubourg Ste.
Croix, where the fleet of fishing-boats come and go at every tide, the
population is upwards of 10,000. There is a fine modern aquarium, and
there are several interesting monuments in the immediate neighbourhood,
but there is nothing very remarkable in the situation of the town
itself, and it is certainly not a place for visitors to stay in; the
work of life at Concarneau is to catch and cure little fishes, and the
odours of the dead and the dying, the cured and the fried, pervade the
air. The hedges are made of the cuttings of sardine boxes.

[Illustration]

We happen to see Concarneau at its best on a fine summer’s morning, when
the wide quay of the Faubourg Ste. Croix, where the sketch is taken, is
alive with people, the majority on their way to church across the
drawbridge in the Ville Close. The little fleet of fishing-boats is
moored in a cluster at the quay; the nets are drying in the sun _en
masse_, and the cork floats hang from the masts in graceful festoons.
Everyone is in holiday attire, and seems bent upon going somewhere—to
church, for a drive in the country, or for an excursion out to sea. The
fishermen and workmen have for the most part disappeared into the
wine-shops, whence their hilarity overflows into the streets. The girls
employed in the sardine factories have put on their best dresses and
neatest shoes, and go in companies of six or eight together to the
church. Their smooth white caps and lappets glisten in the clear air
which blows lightly from the south-east, and the odours of sardines are
for the time forgotten. It is the time and the spot from which to take
away an impression of Concarneau, for its ordinary everyday aspect is
not romantic. The procession of people coming from church down the
old-fashioned street, shut in by walls and towers, makes a good picture.
The majority wear their proper costume, as sketched on opposite page; a
few only have fallen into temptation, and carry bonnets, trains, and
high heels across the _Place_.

[Illustration: _Concarnean Sunday morning_]

[Illustration]

[Illustration: ON THE QUAY AT CONCARNEAU.]

There is a wide, open space in front of the Hôtel des Voyageurs, on the
quay Ste. Croix—where, at a window overlooking the quay, the _femme de
chambre_ is putting the last touches to her toilet—but behind it are
narrow, dirty streets, crowded cafés and estaminets, where the husbands
of these white-capped women have disappeared for the day. The majority
of the well-to-do inhabitants are _en promenade_ under the trees, and
nearly everyone is bent upon pleasure of some sort. Here is a party just
starting for a boating excursion across the bay, singing a Breton air to
the time of the rowers, which we can hear on the quay. The sketch gives
the exact picture: the heavy fishing-boat built for rough weather and
stormy seas; the rowers standing four abreast, the heavy oars plashing
in the sunlight, the boat down at the stern with its holiday load;
whilst the _gamin_ of Concarneau sits on the edge of the quay, over the
principal drain of the town, with a string to catch little fishes.

[Illustration]

The sketch on the quay when the tide is out, with people waiting for the
ferry-boat, gives the aspect looking seaward, on a quiet evening, as we
drive away towards PONT-AVEN.

To reach Pont-Aven, we ascend and descend some gently sloping hills, in
an easterly direction, for about eight miles. On the left hand of the
road, near the village of Trégunc; we pass one of the largest rocking
stones in Brittany, a block of granite 12 feet long by 9 feet, poised
upon a second slab half buried in the ground. Little children lie in
wait for travellers, and move this stone, which is known far and wide as
“La pierre aux maris trompés,” a stone by which husbands are said to
test the fidelity of their wives. All the heath-covered land on the way
to Pont-Aven is strewn with granite boulders; there is a celebrated
dolmen, or “table stone,” in the neighbourhood, and, near at hand, at
Rustéphan, are the picturesque remains of a fifteenth-century castle,
which may be reached through a wood by leaving the road at the village
of Nizon, two miles from Pont-Aven.

[Illustration]

At a point where the river Aven—breaking through its narrow channel,
dashing under bridges and turning numerous water-wheels—spreads out into
a broad estuary, is the little port of Pont-Aven, built four miles from
the sea. The majority of the houses are of granite, and sheltered under
wooded hills; the water rushes past flour-mills and under bridges with
perpetual noise, and a breeze stirs the poplar trees that line its banks
on the calmest day. The widest part of the village is the _Place_,
sketched (looking northwards) from the stone bridge which gives
Pont-Aven its name. A small community of farmers, millers, fishermen and
peasant-women, is its native population, supplemented in summer by a
considerable foreign element.

[Illustration]

Pont-Aven is a favourite spot for artists, and a _terra incognita_ to
the majority of travellers in Brittany. Here the art student, who has
spent the winter in the Quartier Latin in Paris, comes when the leaves
are green, and settles down for the summer to study undisturbed. How far
he succeeds depends upon himself; his surroundings are delightful, and
everything he needs is to be obtained in an easy way that will sound
romantic and impossible in 1879. Pont-Aven being set in a valley between
two thickly wooded hills, opening out southwards to the sea, the climate
is temperate and favourable to outdoor work. In the centre of the
village is a little triangular _Place_, and at the broad end, facing the
sun, is the principal inn, the Hôtel des Voyageurs, which, at the time
of writing, has an excellent hostess, who takes _pensionnaires_ for
about five francs a day, “tout compris,” and where the living is as good
and plentiful as can be desired. This popular hostelry is principally
supported by American artists, some of whom have lived here all through
the year; but many English and French painters have stayed at Pont-Aven,
and have left contributions in the shape of oil paintings on the panels
of the _salle à manger_.

We have mentioned the Hôtel des Voyageurs; but there are other inns;
there is the Hôtel du Lion d’Or, also on the _Place_, frequented
principally by French artists and travellers; and down by the bridge, a
quaint little auberge (with a signboard painted by one of the inmates),
the Pension Gloanec. This is the true Bohemian home at Pont-Aven, where
living is even more moderate than at the inns. Here the panels of the
rooms are also decorated with works of art, and here, in the evening,
and in the morning, seated round a table in the road, dressed in the
easy _bourgeois_ fashion of the country, may be seen artists whose names
we need not print, but many of whose works are known over the world. The
resources of these establishments are elastic, accommodation being
afforded, if necessary, for fifty or sixty _pensionnaires_, by providing
beds a few yards off in the village. The cost of living, board and
lodging, at the Pension Gloanec, including two good meals a day with
cider, is _sixty francs_ a month! When we add that the bedrooms are
clean and bright, especially those provided in the neighbouring
cottages, we have said enough about creature comforts, which are
popularly supposed to be unknown in Brittany. The materials for work and
opportunities for study are similar to those in Wales, with fewer
distractions than at Bettwys-y-Coed.

[Illustration: PONT-AVEN.]

At Pont-Aven the presiding genius at the Hôtel des Voyageurs is one
Mademoiselle Julia Guillou. At this little inn, as at the Hôtel du
Commerce at Douarnenez, the traveller need not be surprised to find that
the conversation at table is of the Paris _Salon_, to find bedrooms and
lofts turned into studios, and a pervading smell of oil paint. It is
said of Pont-Aven that it is “the only spot in Europe where Americans
are content to live all the year round”; but perhaps the kind face and
almost motherly care of her _pensionnaires_ by the portly young hostess,
Mademoiselle Julia Guillou, has something to do with their content.

The views in the neighbourhood of Pont-Aven are beautiful, and the cool
avenues of beeches and chestnut trees, a distinctive feature of the
country, extend for miles. From one of these avenues, on the high ground
leading to an ancient chapel, there is a view over the village where we
can trace the windings of the river far away towards the sea, and where
the white sails of the fishing-boats seem to pass between the trees. The
sides of the valleys are grey with rocks, and the fields slope steeply
down to the slate roofs of the cottages built by the streams, where
women, young and old, beautiful and the reverse, may be seen washing
amongst the stones.

[Illustration: RETURNING FROM LABOUR, PONT-AVEN.]

Pont-Aven has one advantage over other places in Brittany; its
inhabitants in their picturesque costume (which remains unaltered) have
learned that to sit as a model is a pleasant and lucrative profession,
and they do this for a small fee without hesitation or “mauvaise honte.”
This is a point of great importance to the artist, and one which some
may be glad to learn through these pages. The peasants, both men and
women, are glad to sit for a franc for the greater part of a day; it is
only at harvest time, when field labourers are scarce, that the demand
may be greater than the supply. and recruits have to be found in the
neighbouring fishing villages. Once or twice a week in the summer, a
beauty comes over from Concarneau in a cart, her face radiant in the
sunshine, the white lappets of her cap flying in the wind. Add to these
opportunities for the study of peasant life and costume the variety of
scenery, and the brightness and warmth of colour infused into everything
under a more southern sun than England, and it will be seen that there
are advantages here not to be overlooked by the painter.

[Illustration]

The picturesque town of QUIMPERLÉ on the rivers Ellé and Isole, from
which so many English travellers have been scared, in years gone by, by
Murray’s laconic admonition, “No good inn,” is a most pleasant and
comfortable resting-place. It is approached on a high level when coming
by railway from Quimper, the road from the station winding round the
hills down to the _Place_, where there is the comfortable Hôtel des
Voyageurs. On arriving at Quimperlé, the aspect of the people is more
cosmopolitan, for we are approaching the borders of the province of
Morbihan, and are on the highway between Nantes and Brest.

[Illustration: at Quimperlé Station]

The people at the station are not numerous, and they are nearly all
third-class travellers. The quiet, almost taciturn company consists of a
tourist, a _sergent de ville_, a commercial man of Quimperlé, the same
old woman that we meet everywhere on our travels, in the comfortable
dark hood and cape of the country, and a peasant-woman taking home her
sack of meal, sketched on the opposite page.

Quimperlé contains about 6500 inhabitants, principally occupied in
agriculture. It is surrounded by hills covered with orchards and gardens
shut in by high walls; an old and sleepy place, full of memories of the
past, and with, apparently, little ambition for the future. There is an
ancient abbey church, built in the eleventh century, on the plan of the
Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem; in the crypt is the tomb of St. Gurloës,
one of the early abbots of Quimperlé. The large grey-roofed building on
the _Place_ adjoining this church, now used as the Mairie, was formerly
a convent of Benedictine nuns; and other buildings, such as the old inn,
the Lion d’Or, were originally used by the abbots of St. Croix.

[Illustration]

But Quimperlé, in spite of its railway, is a town where grass grows
between the paving-stones of its streets; a place which owes much of its
attraction to its picturesque site and its ancient buildings, to its
market-days, its weddings and fêtes. In the lower town there are some
old narrow streets, with most picturesque wooden gables, and there is
one dilapidated square, called “the Place of Revolution,” where there
would seem little left to destroy.

[Illustration]

A painter might well make Quimperlé a centre of operations, for its
precincts are little known; the gardens shine with laden fruit-trees,
and the hills are rich in colour until late in autumn; and in the
evening there is no better place for rest than under the trees on the
Place Nationale. Here the people pass to and fro, as in the sketch on
the opposite page; there are more women than men to be seen, for the
latter are resting from their labours, in the cafés. Beyond, and high
above this group, are the houses of the old town, surmounted by the two
square Gothic towers, with spires covered with lichen, of the church of
St. Michel. Under the trees near the river are women selling sardines
and fruit. The position of the bridge over the Ellé is indicated by the
man leaning over the stone parapet. The man with the cart has just come
in with wood for winter fires.

[Illustration: ON THE PLACE AT QUIMPERLÉ.]

The great attraction to Quimperlé is in the country round; in the beauty
of the woods and the windings of the streams. In this neighbourhood the
artist and the angler may settle down together and spend the summer
months delightfully.

[Illustration: A BIG LOAD.]

We said that Quimperlé, a town with a railway station, on the great
highway between Nantes and Brest, owes most of its life and picturesque
attraction to women, weddings, fêtes, and flowers. Let us picture a
prominent personage at the old Hôtel du Lion d’Or. She had a beautiful
name, _Augustine_, pronounced with enviable accuracy by all the
household. She hovered about us like a fairy, attending to our wants in
the most delicate way; to outward seeming a ministering angel with pure
white wings, but, in truth, a drudge, a methodical housewife, massive,
and hard to the touch. She did the work of three Parisian _garçons_, and
walked upstairs unaided with portmanteaus which it would require two men
to lift, anywhere out of Brittany. She slept in a box in the kitchen,
and dressed “somehow” in five minutes. She ate what was left,
contentedly, at the end of the day, and rose at sunrise to do the
laborious work of the house; helping also at harvest-time in the fields.
She had the sweetest of smiles (when she liked), an unconquerable habit
of taking snuff, and a murderous way of killing fowls in the early
morning which we shall not easily forget.

How it comes to pass that this girl of nineteen occupies such an
important position in the household is one of those things which are
peculiar to Brittany. The strong individuality, industry, and force of
character of the women make themselves felt wherever we go. Whilst the
men slumber and smoke, the women are building little fortunes or
propping up old ones. All through the land, in the houses, in the
factories, and in the fields, the strong, firm hand and arm of a woman
_does the work_.

[Illustration: AUGUSTINE.]

The pedestrian or sportsman, in his wanderings through Brittany, will,
if he knows the country, seek, at the end of a long day, the country
_auberge_ where a “household fairy” presides. The land is full of
legends and tales of gnomes and witches, but the reality is a
white-capped figure, that welcomes the traveller at the inn door the
modern representative of “mine host.” Her brightness and attraction, and
at the same time her whole armour and coat of mail, are her stiffly
starched cap, epaulets, and apron of spotless white. She presides at the
fêtes and weddings which are celebrated at the inns, and joins in the
frolics at the end of the day, dancing with the rest up and down the
street, and submitting with modest but hearty goodwill to some rather
demonstrative tokens of esteem. “How is it that these widespread collars
are never crumpled?” some one asks. “Oh, we just turn them round and
throw them over the shoulder for a minute!” is the quick answer.

Let us refer to our notebook to see how one of these weddings is managed
in Quimperlé in 1878. It is just after harvest, and the time for rest
and festivity in many a village round. Coats and gowns that have been
laid by for months are brought out, and many an antique-shaped garment
sees the light for the first time for a year. Two or three weddings are
arranged for the same day, and at early morning all meet at Quimperlé.
The girls come on foot, dressed in their local costumes, excepting a
little innovation of finery here and there; the “boys,” for they are
little more in age, have modernised themselves, and wear a clumsy
imitation of the conventional suit of black, being especially proud of
Parisian hats. But excepting in the matter of costume, they do as their
forefathers did; they spend the day in the streets of Quimperlé,
parading arm-in-arm with their brides, stopping to take, and to give,
refreshment at every inn-door and at the homes of all their friends. We
meet them early in the morning crossing the principal square; they have
registered their marriages, and have taken the sacrament in the church
of St. Michel, in the upper town, and for the rest of the long summer
day and half into the night they dance the “De Rober” up and down the
streets, hand in hand together, to the music of the bag-pipe and the
flageolet.

[Illustration]

[Illustration: _Evening: near Quimperlé._]



                               CHAPTER X.

                               HENNEBONT.


[Illustration]

From Quimperlé to Hennebont by road or railway, we pass Pont Scorff,
where is the boundary line which divides the departments of Finistère
and Morbihan. We enter now the district of Bas-Bretagne, the Arcadia of
Brittany, of which so much has been written and sung by French writers,
and of which only those who have lingered in its byways have discovered
the charm. It is the part of Brittany most interesting from its historic
associations, the land most strewn with dolmens and menhirs, and
mysterious Druidical remains.

Holiday travellers from Quimper to Vannes pass by the large and busy
town of L’Orient because it is described, truly, as “an uninteresting
modern town with straight streets and quays,” and many also pass by
HENNEBONT. There is no historic interest in L’Orient, whose 40,000
inhabitants are busy in shipping and trade—the trade, amongst other
things, of importing foreign spirits and tobacco, and of planting in
every village in Brittany the cheap manufactured cottons and fineries
which stamp out individuality in costume, the last stronghold of
self-respect amongst the peasants, both men and women. In every remote
village, on church walls and on mediæval towers, is posted in glowing
colours the announcement of a Grand Magasin des Modes at L’Orient, and
every afternoon there comes by train to Hennebont the _Petit Journal_ to
complete the work of civilisation; a little journal, distributed by hand
to all who possess a sou, giving in its daily sheet little beyond
Parisian gossip, but containing sometimes some strange paragraphs like
the following, which would seem of doubtful interest to Bretons:—

    “—On adoucit les mains et on les habitue à des mouvements
    aristocratiques.”

    “—On communique aux jeunes ladies le nom et la profession de leur
    futur mari.”

    “—On enseigne l’élégance et la grâce en douze heures, succès
    garanti.”

    “—On loue et on échange de petits enfants.”

    “—On coupe les oreilles et la queue aux chiens d’après la dernière
    mode.”

[Illustration]

Hennebont is only five miles from L’Orient, and of course some of the
inhabitants wear the modern dress, but it is still very
primitive-looking, being seldom visited by strangers. Sloping southward
towards the river, where ships are loading and unloading at the little
port, is the chief street, shown in the sketch opposite. Hennebont is an
old historic town, containing about 5000 inhabitants, and is the natural
outlet for the produce of the surrounding country. At the upper end the
street widens into a grass-grown _Place_, where is the church of Notre
Dame de Paradis, with its square tower and lofty recessed portal, the
work, it is believed, of an English architect in the sixteenth century,
a structure not in any way very remarkable. The town is divided into the
comparatively modern Ville Neuve, sketched above, the Ville Close, and
the Vieille Ville on the right bank of the Blavet, memorable for its
sieges in the War of Succession in Brittany, and for the exploits of the
Countess of Montfort in defending the city in the fourteenth century, of
which Froissart gives a spirited account in his Chronicles.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

In the high-street of the town, the Ville Neuve, are the two principal
inns, we can hardly call them hotels, outside one of which a traveller
reposes after the midday meal; and a little below are the older
hostelries, where there have been numerous arrivals during the day.
Opposite, on a low wall, is a shelter of trees, a favourite lounge,
whither come in the afternoon the old and the young to talk, to quarrel,
and to flirt.

[Illustration: REAPERS ON THE ROAD.]

Sit down on the wall and watch the passers by. First a cart, drawn by
diminutive bullocks, heavily laden with field produce, comes lumbering
down, the driver in broad-brimmed hat and heavy sabots; next, a clatter
of hoofs and a troop of high-bred horses, led or ridden by riders in
scarlet coats and white trousers, pass down to the river; they come from
the _haras_ in the neighbourhood, one of the government breeding
establishments; this gives a dash of colour and a style to Hennebont
quite foreign to its ordinary aspect. Next, with heavy, measured tread,
comes a procession, half solemn, half grotesque, of reapers and
professional _batteurs_ changing their quarters. Next comes out and
stands at the door of the Hôtel de France the innkeeper, dressed, unlike
most of his neighbours, in a frock-coat and hat; a slim man in dandy
Parisian attire, almost the only black figure to be seen in Hennebont.

[Illustration]

Women pass busily up and down, carrying heavy loads, some with the white
lappets of their caps thrown backward, treading heavily like beasts of
burden. Excepting for a short time in the heat of the day, when the men
rest and the women knit, there are few unemployed hands in Hennebont.

[Illustration]

The evening brings more activity, the farmers and their wives pack up
and depart in their country carts, shutters open in the dark grey-stone
houses on the _Place_ near the church; the _maire_ and the _avocat_ take
a walk, or a drive with their families; and women and children emerge on
various errands. It is then that out of side streets, and doorways in
walls unlocked with heavy keys, issue, one by one, the fairest
inhabitants of Morbihan, some especially erect, bearing earthen vessels
on their heads, wending their way up the town to a road beyond the
church, where, under the cool shade of trees, and partly shut in by
walls, is the fountain which supplies Hennebont with water. It is a
rendezvous for old and young, men, women, and cattle, a place to see and
to sketch, charming in its sheltered aspect after a midday sun; women
coming and going with their pitchers; men helping or bringing cattle to
water, and numerous washing parties on their knees.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

Every way we turn there is a picture of some sort to be sketched; if we
follow the narrow, winding streets of the Ville Close, sheltered by
trees and overshadowed by walls, we come suddenly upon an old
time-stained doorway like that below; and, amongst the people that crowd
the poorer quarter, are many quaint and interesting groups.

[Illustration]

Here we may notice again the harmonious combinations of costume and
buildings, and how the women, tall and straight, clad in draperies of
soft material, seem to give dignity to the most squalid surroundings.

They are a pleasant, homely people at Hennebont; a town worth visiting
before simplicity, individuality, and local costume have passed away.

But the air is close in this valley, and we are too near the main line
of railway; let us turn northward to see something more of the interior
of the province of Morbihan.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER XI.

                       LE FAOUET—GOURIN—GUÉMÉNÉ.


[Illustration]

It is a pleasant change, even from the quiet of Hennebont, to wind
slowly up the hills covered thickly with ferns and woods, to disturb the
magpies on the roads, and the yellowhammer and the lizards on the rough
stone walls; to see the silent peasants knee-deep in the fields, the
little black and white cattle tethered to pasture, the black and brown
sheep grazing in the open land, and the pigs at the cottage doors. It is
a considerable ascent from the town through an undulating landscape of
woods and streams and ferns; the valleys green in their depths, the
trees turning gold and brown where they fringe the hills.

[Illustration: REAPING NEAR HENNEBONT.]

As we approach Le Faouet, the scene changes gradually to a sterner
aspect, the trees are less luxuriant, and the soil is less fruitful.
Here and there we pass on the road a busy harvest scene, the people
turning round at the sound of approaching wheels to watch the travellers
pass. It is the farmer himself that gazes at us, half amused; the time
for harvest is short on these rainy hills, and so master and man, and
every available help, work early and late to get in the crops. The sun
that shines so brilliantly to-day, and lights up the harvest field with
a golden glow, will disappear in a few hours, and the fields may be a
wreck from the wind and rain. Every now and then a deep shadow is thrown
over the land from the clouds that drift eastward from the sea, but they
are high in the heavens to-day, and the sky is of an almost Eastern
blue. Before us northwards the horizon is of a colder hue, and as we
ascend the last long hill to Le Faouet, the cupola on the church tower
and the grey roofs of the houses with their backgrounds of firs have by
contrast a sombre tinge.

[Illustration]

On the road from Quimperlé to Le Faouet a stream is crossed that divides
the two provinces of Finistère and Morbihan; it is a stream well stocked
with trout; in fact, in most of these rivers there is excellent fishing,
and there are no better headquarters for sport than Le Faouet. The town,
which is well situated and has fine views of the country, contains not
more than 3000 inhabitants, nearly all but the oldest and the poorest
being engaged in agriculture. It is a great centre on certain days, when
the people collect under the eaves of the market-place shown in the
full-page sketch.

But excepting the visits of a few sportsmen and tourists in summer, Le
Faouet is scarcely ever visited by the outer world. The houses are built
of stone, old and covered with lichen; the covered market-place has
heavy wooden eaves, and is protected by ancient elms; the inhabitants
are dressed for the most part in rough and primitive fashion, the men in
white cloth jackets, loose breeches, and sabots, and the women in dark
comfortable cloth hoods, as in the sketch at the head of this chapter.

[Illustration]

It is a quiet, self-contained, dignified population at Le Faouet,
approached at intervals by the commercial traveller, and a few cattle-
and horse-dealers, but holding otherwise little communication with
towns. Here, in this neighbourhood, we may contemplate the typical
Breton, who, braced physically to withstand the shocks of the tempest,
resists with an almost irresistible _vis inertia_ the advance of French
civilisation; whom neither the progress of steam nor compulsory
education has much disturbed. He has, for trading purposes, acquired
some knowledge of French, but he keeps this knowledge to himself, and
never displays it unnecessarily; he has thus an advantage over
strangers, who may imagine he cannot understand a word.

[Illustration: LE FAOUET.]

To come into a quiet village like Le Faouet with no purpose but
observation requires a certain amount of courage, and, if it were not
that a little more than a mile north of Le Faouet there is the famous
chapel of Ste. Barbe, and southward about two miles, in an old church,
there is an elaborately carved rood-screen, we might hesitate to take up
our quarters here. Unless a man has business in Le Faouet unless he is
an antiquary, a fisherman, or a painter, he would leave it the day he
entered. It is not, however, uncommon for the landlord of the Hôtel du
Lion d’Or to have _pensionnaires_ who stay for the summer.

[Illustration]

In spite of the grandeur of its situation, the solidity of its
buildings, and the evident industry of the inhabitants, there is a
dreary, ruinous look about the _Place_ of Le Faouet even on a summer’s
day. What must it be in winter winds? On the brightest and driest day of
the year many of the houses are dark and unhealthy-looking, built close
together, with narrow lanes of mud and filth between them. What must
they be when the rains begin?

We have seen in Le Faouet some of the finest types of Bretons, both men
and women. Let us record one figure which will never be effaced from
memory. Passing down a street leading from the principal square, we meet
coming up the hill bareheaded, in the full blaze of the sun, in the dust
and heat, the strange, wild-looking figure in the sketch; his clothes
are patched, his hair is white, his face red; with crutches, and one
leg, he drags (with the help of a dog and one or two charitable
children) his house, with him about the town. It is a strange conveyance
made of sticks and dried ferns, but it is _home_. Travellers see strange
sights, but surely no sight more grotesque was ever seen than “the man
on two sticks” of Le Faouet, whose portrait is given to the life.

[Illustration]

Before leaving Le Faouet, a visit should be made to the
fifteenth-century church of St. Fiacre, to see the fine rood-screen
elaborately carved with figures representing scenes in the life of
Christ, panels of elaborate and grotesque workmanship. The work on this
screen was partly executed in 1480 and in 1627, and the whole was
restored, painted, and gilt in 1866. There is also some fine stained
glass, dating from 1552.

To the chapel of STE. BARBE is a shaded walk of about a mile and a
half—first through narrow lanes and broad avenues, then up a steep
ascent where the path is sometimes cut in steps in the rock. It brings
us in half an hour to a high plateau fringed with furze and wind-blown
pines. The view from the eminence is magnificent: the eye wanders
eastward and southward, over a broad valley with a mountain stream, the
Ellé winding first through beds of rocks, then into pastures, and
disappearing in cultivated fields. As we walk to the edge of this
mountain-side, where there is only a small hut visible, the panorama
increases in extent over the country, and the variety of colour, from
the grey of scattered boulders and blue of pines, to the deep green of
the meadows and woods, forms a scene of such natural beauty that we
almost forget the object of our mission.

The chapel of Ste. Barbe, approached down a flight of steps, is actually
close to our feet; it is built of granite under the hillside, sheltered
from the winds by enormous rocks and trees, and with a steep declivity
below; a solid granite structure fitted into the hillside, so to speak,
the space not permitting the nave of the chapel to be in the usual
position. In the interior—which is shown by an old man in tatters who
kneels at the altar whilst we walk round—is a gallery with carved
panels, supported by seraphim holding shields, and grotesque animals on
the mouldings; there is also some old stained glass.

There is a tradition attaching to this chapel, that a knight, hunting in
the neighbourhood in the fifteenth century, was overtaken by a storm in
the valley below, and, being preserved from falling rocks by the prayers
of Ste. Barbe, erected this chapel to her memory. From that day there
has been an annual pilgrimage to Ste. Barbe, when some of the devotees
creep round the precipitous exterior walls as an act of penance. Before
leaving, we pass up the rough stone steps in the sketch to even higher
ground, where there is a small chapel dedicated to St. Michel. It is
fortunate to have seen the view from Ste. Barbe on a clear day, for the
clouds, which gather in the distance, as white as snow, through the tree
tops, come up in a few hours and shroud the land.

[Illustration]

Ten miles in a north-westerly direction, in some of the finest scenery
of the Montagnes Noires, is GOURIN, a small town in the centre of a
district of old iron mines, stone and slate quarries. Mr. Caldecott, who
visited this district in a previous year, in bad weather, speaks of the
“wide, dirty, uninteresting-looking street of Gourin, at the top of
which is the Hôtel du Cheval Blanc,” but he has made a sketch of the
women washing at a stream just outside the town, which only wants colour
to be one of the most picturesque of our series.

[Illustration]

Excepting for fishing, shooting, or perchance to record the forms and
colours of the mountains in a sketch, few visitors will find their way
to Gourin, even in summer; but the following notes by the artist may be
interesting to travellers:—

“The dining-room of the inn at Gourin opens on to the public _Place_,
and is frequented by commercial travellers and two or three residents;
one of the latter, being a _chasseur_, is followed through the glass
door by a pack of hounds, the large sporting spaniels of the country,
and at each guest’s elbow a dog stations himself to receive gratuities.”

“After resting for the night in a comfortable room, separate from the
main premises, I hire a vehicle to take me to Le Faouet, as the morning
is wet; a long-bodied cart, drawn by a white horse, with the wheels set
forward and a shifting seat, on which is a large pillow. We drive
through a hilly, wooded country in a high wind.”

[Illustration: “MONTEZ, S’IL VOUS PLAIT, MONSIEUR!”]

The storm is so severe at Le Faouet that “slates are blown from the
roofs of the houses, men grasp their hats, women tack hither and thither
across the square, and geese take advantage of the breeze and try to
fly.” On the way to Ste. Barbe, “a tall tree crashes across the path,
which is strewn with unripe acorns, chestnuts, apples, fir cones,
leaves, and twigs.”

The hurricane that was experienced here swept over the whole of Brittany
with great violence, and, according to the _Journal de Rennes_, “laid
low at least a thousand trees.”

Up and down again on a good road, a drive of seventeen miles from Le
Faouet takes us to GUÉMÉNÉ, meeting a few reapers, and a cart drawn by
bullocks in charge of men who have succumbed to thirst and heat.

[Illustration]

We halt halfway at the poor village of Kernascléden, where there is
hardly an inhabitant to be seen, but where, abutting on the high-road,
is a beautiful Gothic church, rich in carving and grand in proportion, a
striking contrast to the hovels which immediately surround it. It is a
good example of fifteenth-century work, built at the same time as the
church of St. Fiacre, and by the same founder. There is a legend here
too curious not to repeat, that angels aided in the building of these
two beautiful churches, carrying the tools, which were scarce in those
days, backwards and forwards from one church to the other, to aid the
workmen.

At Guéméné, a little town on the river Scorff, we are still in the
interior of the country. It is in some ways more civilised than Le
Faouet, but as far removed from railways, and with as little
communication with the outer world.

[Illustration]

Let us first give our experiences of the principal inn, which is on the
left, looking up the street in the sketch, where travellers are driven
under an archway into a wide stable-yard, and enter the house by the
kitchen. The beds are clean and comfortable enough, the fare is homely
but plentiful, and there is nothing to scare away the most fastidious.
At the midday meal we have trout, caught a little way down the river
Scorff, one or two dishes of meat, an omelette if desired, and, as
usual, very good bread, butter, and cider. The dinner, or evening meal,
is rather more elaborate, especially if a fresh traveller has come in.
The view, across the table at breakfast time, of the presiding genius of
the inn, the bottle of cider, the large wineglass, and the half cut
loaf, are all depicted exactly. The vacant chair is soon to be occupied
by a commercial traveller, who has been busy all the morning in the
town, doing more havoc in the one day that he devotes to Guéméné than we
like to think of. He represents a cheap clothier’s house at L’Orient,
and has tempted many of the quiet inhabitants to change their simple
stuffs and white caps for the more fashionable dresses and hats of the
town. It should be remembered, however, that it is to this very _commis
voyageur_, whom we travellers are apt to treat with scant courtesy and
whose proceedings we often regard with anything but pleasure, that we
owe the comforts of these inns, and the possibility of travel in remote
places. The commercial traveller, coming from Vannes or L’Orient is the
pioneer in such towns as Guéméné; he teaches the Breton innkeeper the
mysteries of civilised life, and the art of living differently from the
lower animals. It is a heavy penalty to pay, from the artistic point of
view, that he should bring his patterns and his sham jewellery, and
leave so much of it behind in Guéméné. But our little waiting-maid is
not yet converted to the policy of adopting modern ways. Her spotless
white cap and sleeves, neat dress, and rows of pendent coins, are of a
pattern as old and characteristic as the gables of the houses of
Guéméné.

[Illustration]

So bright and charming is our little maid this morning that it is
difficult to believe that she came out of a carved wooden bedstead let
into the wall of the kitchen (a bed of two stories, holding four!), that
she does most of the work of the hotel, and helps in the stable. It is
enough for us to record that travellers are well cared for; that
Englishmen come here for the fishing, and sometimes stay for weeks,
living at the rate of four or five francs a day, including everything.

[Illustration]

The streets of Guéméné are full of people on Sunday morning—men in short
jackets, wide trousers, and black, broad-brimmed hats, old women in the
comfortable _coiffe_ sketched above, girls with white caps and
stomachers, short dresses, and neat shoes, all coming into the church
and afterwards meeting in the street. These are principally country
people; but the inhabitant of Guéméné, the small _propriétaire_ or
_employé_, who lives in the town, often wears a semi-nautical attire, as
sketched overleaf.

[Illustration]

Five old women sit together in the road, their chairs drawn together for
company, and to make an inclosure for two or three little tottering
inhabitants of Guéméné, who at the age of three are dressed in the
costume of their ancestors. Here the harmony of costume and
architecture, both in form and colour, strikes the eye at once, and we
want nothing to complete the picture. There is nothing, it seems, to
add, nothing to leave out; let us stay for a month (we are inclined to
say) and sketch in the high-street of Guéméné such figures as are
standing talking together at an old-fashioned doorway, opposite to our
inn. But the scene soon changes, and out of one of the old houses, dark
in the interior, with a floor below the level of the street, comes a
lady with a nurse and child; she has a light dress with a train, a hat
with scarlet feathers, and a parasol. She is going for a promenade, and,
as she passes down the street, is greeted by the old women thus: “See
they carry their tails in their hands, these fine demoiselles!”

The Café du Nord is a favourite house of call, and thither the men
resort to play at cards or billiards, whilst the women bring out their
chairs and sit under the eaves, knitting, gossiping, and watching the
passers-by.

[Illustration]

There is no traffic in the streets, and no fear of being disturbed. A
newspaper may arrive in the evening to inform the inhabitants of the
last market prices, or that a workman has fallen out of a window in
Paris. A very few items of local intelligence suffice for Guéméné, which
is too much occupied with its own interests to care for what the rest of
the world calls news. The sun and moon rise and set for Guéméné alone;
it is the “boss” of _their_ wheel of life.

[Illustration]

We have seen only the high-street of Guéméné, but the town should be
viewed from above, with its grey roofs, its church tower, and the ruins
of a castle eight hundred years old, in the midst of beautiful hills,
bright with gorse, and grey with granite boulders; and a view reaching
far away over a wooded valley with the river Scorff winding towards the
sea.

On one evening there is a great gathering at the old café with
high-pitched roof, at the division of the two streets at the top of the
sketch on page 165. The daughter of the popular hostess has been
betrothed at the presbytery, and in a month she is to be married. She
has her _dot_, or portion, of a few hundred francs, and her husband that
is to be, his little farm; they have met to celebrate the occasion, and
their immediate friends make merry until far into the night. They all
sit together round a rough table in the little room, the lamps lighting
the girls’ faces, the men in blouses or white jackets, with bright
buttons; a background of timbered ceiling, smoke, laughter, songs, and
jollity, continued long after the lights go out in the street and the
moon rises over the valley. All will go well with them if the bottle
which first drew them together does not scatter their happiness too
soon.

[Illustration]

[Illustration: Guéméné July 1878.]



                              CHAPTER XII.

                 STE. ANNE D’AURAY—CARNAC—LOCMARIAKER.


[Illustration]

On the 24th of July we take up our quarters at the comfortable Hôtel
Pavillon d’en Haut, at Auray. To-morrow is the great day of the Pardon
of Ste. Anne, the occasion of the annual pilgrimage to the miraculous
well, whither from far and near, on foot and on horseback, in carts and
other strange road conveyances, and by excursion trains, come pilgrims
to the shrine of Ste. Anne. Like the great annual gatherings at Guingamp
and at Ste. Anne la Palue, of which we have spoken, the Pardon of Ste.
Anne attracts a strange medley of people, and thus it is that the
ordinarily quiet little town of Auray, situated four miles from the
shrine, is crowded to overflowing.

The town of Auray, which contains about 5000 inhabitants, is finely
situated above the river which bears its name. It was formerly a port of
commercial importance, but its trade has drifted to Vannes and L’Orient,
and it is best known to travellers as a starting-point for visiting the
fields of Carnac and Locmariaker; also as a pleasant and healthy place
of residence, where fishing and shooting can be obtained. There are no
objects of great antiquity to be seen at Auray itself, its historic
castle has disappeared, but there is much to interest the traveller in
the old streets with timbered houses, leading down to the river.

On a wide _Place_ a few yards off, called the Belvédère, is a column to
ascend to see the view, looking northward and eastward, in the direction
of Vannes, over a wide stretch of cultivated land, pastures, and woods,
dotted with white houses and church spires, one of which is Ste. Anne
d’Auray. Immediately beneath is a rocky, precipitous path down to the
river, with small vessels loading and unloading, and the grey roofs of
toy-like houses and warehouses on the quay. A sudden cloud of smoke,
which curls through the gorse and bushes which conceal the greater part
of the river from view, comes from a little steamer which has arrived
from Belle-Île with the evening tide, and has brought another crowd of
pilgrims for Ste. Anne. All is quiet and beautiful from this
vantage-ground; the air is soft, and slowly waves the tree-tops in the
avenue which skirts the Belvédère on its southern side; there is nothing
to indicate the tumult of to-morrow.

[Illustration]

The morning of the 25th of July is bright, and the gilt statue of Ste.
Anne glitters above the trees. If at this moment we could look down from
the spire of its church, upon the country round, we should see on every
road, and across the open land, little dark specks which are pilgrims
all tending one way—to the shrine. They have been coming all through the
night, camping in the fields and sleeping at the roadside. The broad
Roman road from Vannes is covered with carts and carriages, and more
people are arriving by the river.

[Illustration: EVENING ON THE BELVÉDÈRE, AURAY.]

The crowd that has assembled in the open square near the church of Ste.
Anne at six in the morning numbers several thousands, and increases
every hour. They are pilgrims of every grade, from the marquis and his
family, who have driven from Vannes the evening before, and stay
comfortably at the large hotel, to the solitary herdsman in goatskin
coat and wooden shoes stuffed with straw, who has walked for two days
and nights from his home in the Montagnes Noires. But they have come on
the same errand, and will stand side by side before an altar in one of
the side chapels, and burn their candles together. They both believe, or
are taught to believe, in a legend that some time in the seventeenth
century a saint appeared to one Nicolazic, who rented a farm near this
spot, and commanded him to dig in a field for her image, and to erect a
chapel to her memory. They both have heard of the miraculous cures at
the well of Ste. Anne, and believe that no household can prosper, no
ships are safe at sea, no cattle or crops can thrive, unless once a
year, at least, they come to burn candles to Ste. Anne; and they both
have wife, mother, or sister christened _Anne_, the name in fact of
nearly every child we see to-day.

[Illustration]

The miraculous well of Ste. Anne is in a large inclosure at the western
end of which is the Scala Santa, a small, raised chapel, open to the air
and covered by a cupola; a modern wooden erection about twenty feet from
the ground, approached on either side by a covered flight of steps. It
is from this platform that the opening ceremony of the Pardon takes
place in the afternoon of the 25th of July, when after a procession
round the town with a brass band and banners, the bishop of Vannes, or
other dignitary, addresses the people in the open square. The procession
is a long one, gay with the green-and-gold-embroidered vestments of the
priests, and bright with the white robes of the acolytes with their
crimson sashes; a quickly moving procession of bareheaded men singing
the litany of Ste. Anne, with banners (representing different
departments and communes) waving above them, and silver crosses and
relics carried high in the air. The crowd presses forward to see, and
forms a narrow lane to let them pass to the Scala Santa, where the head
of the procession comes to a standstill, and as many of the priests and
attendants as can crowd on to the steps stand as a sort of bodyguard,
whilst the bishop addresses the multitude assembled in the square
beneath.

[Illustration]

Then the outsiders of the crowd get up and watch the proceedings
(including a cook in white cap and apron, who sits upon the hotel wall),
some eagerly from curiosity apparently, some with devotion, and some, it
must be confessed, with an easy, jaunty air more appropriate to a show
in a country fair. There are several hundreds on the grass before us in
the bright sun, in the glare of which the sketch was taken, sitting
together in parties, kneeling in prayer, or standing close together
intent upon the scene.

What those upturned faces were, and what the good bishop saw beneath him
in the crowd, as he rolled forth a discourse full of earnestness and
eloquence, the pencil has recorded in the sketch. It gives, as no words
could describe, the mingled expression of feeling on the faces of the
pilgrims, and tells more eloquently than any argument that the influence
of the Church is on the wane in Brittany. The words spoken are the old
story: first the history of “the miracle of Ste. Anne,” then an
exhortation as to the importance of confession and of works of charity
and masses for the dead. The costume of the people that listen is nearly
the same as in 1623, when Ste. Anne appeared in a wheat-field to a
peasant; and yet—and in spite of all accounts of the earnest devotion of
the people—if we look at the aspect of the crowd, we seem to understand
the matter better than we ever did before.

They stand bareheaded in the sunshine, old and young, rich and poor; on
the left, the pretty _bourgeois’_ daughter, from Auray, in plain cloth
dress, with velvet body, dark green shawl, and neatest of shoes; behind
her, in the background, a contingent from more remote districts, farmers
and small traders, the majority being comfortable people who have come
by train. The spare old woman with eccentric expression and worn hands,
holding purchases, or plunder, in her apron, is not a pauper, but a
hanger-on at a large household, who has saved money. Next, nearer to us,
is a peasant farmer, with long grey hair, in white jacket and breeches
and leathern girdle, who has come on foot from his home in the interior.
He has walked all through the night to be present at the Pardon, as he
has done every year, going through the round of services and exercises,
contributing several francs in money to the church, buying a few charms
and trinkets, and then plodding home. Behind him, with stick and
umbrella under arm, holding beads in her hand, with fat red face, a
white hood and apron, is a comfortable farmer’s wife from Baud; on her
right an old woman in dark green _coiffe_, framing a screwed-up face, a
study of colour in bronze and green. Behind them is a tall, bareheaded
man with his daughter, two of the best types of Bretons in the crowd. On
the right in the sketch is a pretty figure with a cross on her breast,
with shining face, in the white cap and wide collar so common in
Finistère; and, next, three peasants, old and wrinkled, bronzed with sun
and grime, the common type at Pardons. Thus—leaving out some of the more
hideous aspects of deformity and disease—this sketch gives an exact
picture of the crowd, and a true idea of the strange mixture of
curiosity, amusement, and religious awe with which the celebration of
Ste. Anne is received in the present day.

[Illustration: _At the Pardon of Ste. Anne d’Auray._]

[Illustration]

Let us add a few notes of the scene on Sunday, the second day of the
Pardon, when the crowd is greatest, and when there must be collected at
least 10,000 people; when, besides the peasants and country people,
visitors from Paris and other parts of France have filled to overflowing
the large modern hotel, the courtyard of which is full of carriages and
conveyances of all kinds. In the streets and round the open square there
are booths for the sale of trinkets and toys, rosaries, tapers,
statuettes, and medals of Ste. Anne, besides the more common objects for
sale at a country fair. In the roadway women cook fish and cakes
(_galettes_) at charcoal fires; there are itinerant vendors of gigantic
wax candles, there are peep-shows and other amusements, skittles and
games like quoits, played with leaden counters of the size of a
five-franc piece. There is every kind of amusement in honour of Ste.
Anne, and the family meetings and gatherings, that take place round the
cafés and in the open fields, suggest a picnic more than a pilgrimage.

But it is in the street leading to the church door, and in the adjoining
cloisters of a convent, that the more serious aspects of the Pardon are
to be witnessed, some of which it would be impossible to record in a
sketch.

From four o’clock in the morning masses have been said, and in and out
of the church there has been a continual stream of people, all in
holiday attire, and nearly all wearing strings of beads, crosses, or
silver ornaments bearing the image of Ste. Anne. They form in groups on
the grass in the centre of the cloistered square, close together, some
kneeling, some standing erect, with eyes strained upwards at a cracked
and weather-worn statue of the Christ; they tell their beads, and drop
sous into a box at the foot of the cross, the poorest contributing
something.

They pass round the cloisters in a continual stream, missing nothing set
down for them, but stopping and kneeling at each “station” with
expressions of devotion and awe at some grotesque paintings on the walls
representing the Passion. They stop and pray, some on one knee only with
beads in hand, some kneeling low on the pavement, sitting on the heels
of their sabots for rest. They have come a long and weary march, they
are at the end of their pilgrimage, and so it happens that sitting and
praying they fall asleep. A heavy thwack from a neighbour’s umbrella
falls upon the shoulders of the sleepers, and again they go the round.

By midday the crowd has increased so that movement in the road is
difficult. Coming slowly up the narrow street—blocked by carriages, by
vendors of “objets de dévotion,” and by the crowd that passes up and
down—is an, apparently very poor, old man with long dark hair, a white
sheepskin jacket and _bragous bras_, a leather girdle and sabots,
holding in his hand a hollow candle three feet high; it has cost him six
sous, and he will place it presently at the altar in the church with the
rest. Following him is a farmer and his wife, well-to-do people, who
have come by train, and combine a little marketing with their religious
observances. Following them are two young married people with their
child, all dressed in the latest costumes of Paris, the father manfully
taking off his light-kid gloves, and carrying his candle to the church
with the rest.

The scene in the church, where services have been held at intervals all
day, and the people crowd to burn candles at the side altars, is of
people handing up babies, beads, and trinkets to be blessed; of the
flaring of candles, of the movements of tired priests, and the perpetual
murmur of prayers.

We have spoken often of the simple, practical, and graceful dress of the
women; but here at Auray we must confess that many of the country people
in full holiday attire are anything but graceful in appearance. At a
side altar of the chapel there is a young face, very fair, with large
devotional eyes, deepened in colour and intensity by her white cap; but
below it is a stiff, shapeless bodice as hard as wood, and a bundle of
lower garments piled one upon the other, till the figure is a rather
ungainly sight; her large capable hands hold her book, her rosary, and a
stout umbrella; she is encumbered with clothing, but she differs from
her modernised sisters in one thing: her dress is not on her mind when
she says her prayers. She is on her knees nearly all day at Auray; but,
working or praying, half her young life has been spent in this position.
In spite of the grotesque element, which is everywhere at Pardons, the
sight is often a sad one; sad, especially, to see so many young faces
clouded by superstitious awe. The saying would seem to apply to
Brittany, that “national piety springs from a fountain of tears.”

We have purposely said little of the repulsive side of the spectacle; of
the terrible-looking men and women who have come out of their
hiding-places to kneel at the shrine and to beg from strangers; who
wander about like savages, and are propitiated with beads. Figures
strange, weird, and grotesque, the like of which we shall see nowhere
else in the world, pass round the cloisters of St. Anne d’Auray for two
days in the year.

There is one half witted man from the sea-coast, evidently soon “going
home”; as he drags himself along, the shadows seem to deepen, and the
light from human eyes to burn more fiercely in their tenement. Fed with
seaweed, thatched with straw, exposed to the wildest winds of the
Atlantic, his home little better than a hole in the rocks, what wonder
that he comes across the hills once a year to the Pardon of Ste. Anne
for a blessing; that he prays for a land beyond the sea, visioned in his
mind by innumerable candles, and paid for in advance through weary years
in his Passage to the Cross!

[Illustration]

Many of the pilgrims go through other religious observances before
leaving Auray, including washing in the well, going step by step up the
Scala Santa on their hands and knees; and all—the poorest and most
pitiable—leave _something_ in the coffers of Ste. Anne.

And so the long day passes, and at last the tide recedes. What if a
strong north wind and the running river Auray could bear them away
seaward to be seen no more? What if all the wretchedness, dirt, and
disease, collected, as if by a miracle, at Ste. Anne for two days,
could, by another miracle as great, be swept away for ever!


                                CARNAC.

Turning southward and westward from Auray, a drive of eight or nine
miles across a dreary-looking district, with patches of pasture
interspersed with gorse and ferns, and here and there a peasant leading
a cow, driving a cart, or digging in the poor soil—on reaching a rising
ground, we see before us a wide stretch of open land, grey and
monotonous in colour, and beyond, in the far distance, the horizon line
of sea. Leaving the carriage-road, about a mile before reaching the
village of Carnac, and turning off to the left, we come rather suddenly,
as it seems, upon a stubble field strewn with large grey rocks or
stones, some of them six or eight feet high, standing on end, upright,
or leaning against each other, but the majority lying _pêle-mêle_ on the
ground, some half buried in the earth, or hidden by gorse or long grass.
They are for the most part smooth and time-worn blocks of, apparently
unhewn, granite, of all shapes and sizes, some covered with moss and
lichen.

Is this, then, the famous field of Carnac, with its “avenues of
menhirs,” the object of so many pilgrimages, the origin of so many
theories, the birthplace of so many legends? The first impression, we
need hardly say, is disappointing, and fills the traveller with that
feeling of blank dismay which comes upon him on the first sight of the
“Court of Lions” at the Alhambra in Spain. But in a little while,
looking westward, and tracing a certain order and method in the position
of “the Stones,” he begins to realise that by no ordinary forces of
nature, but by some unknown hands in past ages, these pillars must have
been raised. But how raised, and by whom brought and strewn on this
desolate shore? That they were monuments of the dead, or that they mark
the spot where burials took place, forming a consecrated ground for the
ancient inhabitants of Armorica, is the commonly received opinion. We
are told also that these irregular rows of unhewn stone are relics of
serpent worship, that they represent serpents’ teeth and the waving
lines of its body; also that they mark the places of sacrifice of the
Druids; bones and ancient remains of human beings having been found to
support this theory.

The “menhir,” or “long stone of the sun,” will suggest the form of
monument used in all ages in religious worship, and the “dolmen,” or
table stone (which we see in the neighbourhood of Locmariaker),
consisting of a chamber formed by placing one large flat stone
horizontally on two or more upright blocks, points to the theory of a
place of sacrifice in Druidical times, or at any rate to a place of
burial.[9] All else seems vague and mysterious, leading men of
succeeding ages to surround the scene with legends and traditions. It
has been said that “the ancient temples of aboriginal races are
generally to be found where nature wears her saddest and most funereal
aspect,” and certainly Carnac is no exception to the rule.

Footnote 9:

  The forms of the menhir and the dolmen are indicated on the
  title-page.

It is a summer’s day, and the light south wind that comes over the sea,
and gently sways the trees inland, here blows up the sand into our
faces, and moans between the stones. It is such a wild and dreary
place—where, excepting for a farm and an oasis of a few trees, there is
no welcome colour presented to the eye—that the mind leans naturally to
the mysterious side, and clings rather to legend and tradition than to
historic facts; thus we may see in this confused array an army of pagan
warriors turned into stone, and cling, like the present inhabitants of
Carnac, to the story of the patron saint of their herds and flocks (St.
Cornély), who, pursued to the sea by a host of armed men, and finding no
means of escape, cursed his pursuers and turned them into stone.

If, by the aid of the map below, we look down upon the fields of Carnac,
we shall discern a certain order and method in the arrangement of the
stones, and carry away a more definite impression. Thus we see the
menhirs (or _peulvens_, “pillars of stone,” as they would be more
accurately described) arranged in three avenues extending from east to
west, commencing irregularly at Kerlescant, continuing in a second group
called Kermario, and ending abruptly near Carnac. These avenues form the
principal groups, but there are two others, one at Erdeven and one at
Ste. Barbe, in a north-westerly direction, besides separate menhirs or
_peulvens_, scattered about for miles, half buried in the soil or
standing in the long grass. It is estimated by old chroniclers that on
these fields there once were 12,000 or 15,000 Celtic monuments; at the
present time there are not 1000 to be found upon the fields of Carnac,
so many having been destroyed or taken away for building or other
purposes.

[Illustration]

The most prominent object on the field of Carnac is a mound of stones,
once a burial-place, on which there is a chapel and a calvary dedicated
to St. Michel. Every traveller ascends this mound to obtain a view, on
the one side, of the plains of Carnac, and, on the other, of the
peninsula of Quiberon and of the distant islands of Belle-Île, Houath,
and Hoedic. From the mound we can also see the spot where the ruins of
Roman houses and baths have been found. On the right, as we look
seaward, is the little village of Carnac close at hand, with its grey
spire and cluster of houses, and here and there in the distance are
trees, farms, and patches of cultivation. But all looks dreary and
wind-blown, even in summer-time and the inhabitants that stop in their
work in the fields to stare, or pursue the tourist through the day, have
a wild and weary look that is infinitely sad.

[Illustration: SKETCH ON THE FIELDS OF CARNAC.]

In the church of Carnac are some curious relics, and frescoes
descriptive of events in the life of St. Cornély, and in a house
opposite is a collection of ancient ornaments, weapons, bone implements,
and the like, which have been unearthed from time to time, and are now
exhibited for a small fee. Visitors to Carnac should make enquiry for
the site of recent excavations made by Mr. Miln, a Scotch gentleman who
has devoted some years to archæological labours in the neighbourhood.

Descending to the village of Carnac, the traveller finds a comfortable
resting-place at the Hôtel des Voyageurs, and a pleasant contrast to the
prevailing sadness of the outer world. In this old-fashioned inn a
sumptuous breakfast is prepared in summer for visitors; and here
assemble, at midday, the more prosperous part of the community,
including priests of antiquarian taste, small farmers, traders in fish,
travelling merchants, carriage drivers, and others. The kitchen should
be seen by all visitors, with its old fireplace and furniture, ancient
clock, and comfortable beds; the pleasant faces and homely welcome of
the people giving colour and character to the picture. For a few weeks
in summer-time, and at the time of the Pardon of Ste. Anne d’Auray, this
little inn is a centre of attraction; it is close to the church, where,
round its walls in grave procession, peasants still bring their cattle
to be cured—kneeling and praying, in the road, for miraculous aid.

[Illustration: IN THE KITCHEN OF THE HÔTEL DES VOYAGEURS AT CARNAC.]

Turning to the north-west, about two miles on the road to Erdeven, is
Plouharnel, a village somewhat poor in its surroundings, but giving
comfortable accommodation to travellers who come to see the dolmen of
Corcorro, one of the largest in Brittany. It consists of three chambers,
or “allées couvertes,” which were opened in 1830 and found to contain
fragments of earthen vessels, and an urn containing ashes, gold
necklaces, &c. The enormous slabs which rest upon and project beyond the
upright stones, measured originally, it is supposed, about forty-five
feet; the dolmen now measures twenty-four feet by twelve; it was
formerly underground, but now stands in the open moorland.

[Illustration]

The landlord of the inn at Plouharnel formed a collection of relics in
1849, including celts of jade and bronze, taken from this and other
dolmens in the neighbourhood. It should be noted that these relics
belong to a much later period than others found near Locmariaker, some
of which are to be seen at the Museum of Antiquities at Vannes.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The second principal excursion from Auray is to LOCMARIAKER and the
island of Gâvr Innis. Locmariaker, or “the place of the Virgin Mary,” is
situated nine miles in a southerly direction from Auray, and the island
of Gâvr Innis (Goat Island) is one of a cluster of little islands two
miles east of Locmariaker. At the extremity of the peninsula are two
large mounds or tumuli, where various implements and relics have been
found, pointing to the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul; and side by
side with these, remains of dolmens and menhirs of a much earlier date.

The Montagne de la Fée, a tumulus of stones about thirty feet high, was
excavated in 1863, and in the vaulted chamber or grotto were found
necklaces, beads, and other ornaments which may be seen in the museum at
Vannes. There is a guide who shows the interior to visitors, and points
to the hatchet-shaped inscriptions on the stones. In the Mané Lud, the
second great tumulus opened in 1863, was found a large chamber, supposed
to have been a sepulchre, containing the skeletons of horses’ heads, as
well as other bones.

[Illustration]

After visiting the tumuli, we cross the fields a little way from
Locmariaker, following upon the track of three priests, to see the great
fallen menhir, called “Men-er-Groách,” or “Stone of the Fairies.” It is
as wild and wind-blown here as at Carnac; in every direction, excepting
due north, is the sea, and beyond the sea is a strong south-west wind.
The sun that shines upon the islands, and light up the colours of the
lichen on the rocks out at sea, scarce illumines the foreground; there
is no relief upon the low land but mounds of earth covered with long
grass and furze, and here and there, half buried in the ground, grey
rocks, strewn about as if by some convulsion of nature. There is no
trace of man’s handling, as far as we can see; nothing to suggest a
monument, and nothing, by contrast, to give an idea of size. But all at
once, as we descend a little behind some clumps of heather, there loom
up before us against the sea and sky the dark rounded sides of two
enormous stones, half buried in the ground, but raised once, as history
and tradition tell us, in the form of an obelisk seventy feet high and
sixteen feet in diameter! All is silent but the wind coming through
distant pines, scattering the gorse blossom on the ground, and bending
the long grass. There are rooks floating in the air, and presently there
is a flapping of black garments as three pilgrims appear upon the more
distant portion of the menhir, clambering down its side. It is an
undignified contrast, but valuable to us for the impression of size and
grandeur it gives to the fallen monument.

[Illustration]

Two miles off, on the inland sea of Morbihan—approached easily by boats
at certain times of the tide, but often with great difficulty owing to
the currents—is the small island called Gâvr Innis. This island is about
three quarters of a mile in length, and is green and cultivated, but so
difficult is the approach that it is only in summer-time that there is
much communication with the mainland. On a summer’s day a few
adventurous tourists come scrambling up the wet rocks from boats, to
visit the tumulus or mound of stones which has been excavated of late
years, and in which there have been found various Celtic remains and
inscriptions. It is, outwardly, a mound or heap of stones about 300 feet
in circumference, and not more than 30 feet high.

Of the origin, or use, of these tumuli, of which the one on Gâvr Innis
is the most remarkable in Brittany, neither antiquaries of the past nor
the present owner, M. Closmedenc, who lives on the island in summer, can
give a satisfactory account. Like the island of Avalon, it sleeps in an
atmosphere of romance and mystery; the most searching of modern
antiquaries speaking of the “circular and serpent-like waving lines” cut
on the stones of Gâvr Innis as “unaccountable,” and of the inscriptions
as of “unknown meaning.”

Here we may pause, wondering no longer at the superstitions of the
peasants, or the romances and legends of the people of Morbihan.

[Illustration]



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                                VANNES.


[Illustration]

A few miles from Auray and Carnac is the ancient city of VANNES, the
chief town of the department of Morbihan and the capital of
Basse-Bretagne. This city, from its position, is the natural point of
departure for travellers entering Brittany from the east, as it is also
the natural place of rest when coming from the west.

There is not much to attract the traveller at first sight, but the
result of several visits is to leave an impression of great interest on
the mind. One of _the_ oldest, perhaps the oldest, of the cities of
ancient Armorica, its very name and its position carry us back to early
history, when the fleets of the Veneti commanded these seas, and were
finally conquered by Cæsar in the sea of Morbihan, their leaders put to
death, and their people sold for slaves.

The part of Vannes of most interest to travellers is the old city with
its narrow streets and overhanging houses, and the remains of its walls
and gates. In the narrowest part, near the Place Henri-Quatre, there
rises between the eaves of the houses the square tower and spire of the
cathedral of St. Peter, a structure dating from the eleventh century,
altered and almost rebuilt in the fifteenth. The interior of the
cathedral is gloomy, and the streets which surround it are dark and old.
There are some cloisters and a finely sculptured porch of dark stone.
The principal chapel in the interior is dedicated to the Spanish
Dominican monk St. Vincent Ferrier, who evangelised the province in the
time of Duke John V., and died at Vannes in 1419. The relics of this
saint are once a year carried in procession round the town.

[Illustration: SKETCH OF VANNES FROM THE RIVER.]

There is one side chapel with an altar, on which are three glass cases,
in one of which are relics, and, apparently, some wax models of bones
and imitation jewels; above these, between the folds of a curtain half
drawn aside, is a painting of Ste. Marie de Bon Secours, to whom the
chapel is dedicated. The light through a narrow stained-glass window
falls upon the figure of an old woman, holding beads in her worn hands,
who kneels upon the scagliola steps before the altar. There is nothing
uncommon in the sight; but there is a romantic story that this old woman
and the beautiful Madonna are one and the same; that she had sat in her
youth as a model for the Holy Virgin, and that she kneels every day
before the portrait of her old self.

We have spoken of the cathedral and of its patron saint, because Vannes
is an ecclesiastical city of importance, the see of an ancient
bishopric, and a radiating point for the church in Morbihan; but, as a
matter of fact, we see and hear very little of the church at Vannes; and
it seems by contrast with the country—where every wayside has its cross
or holy fountain, every district its little chapel or altar with saints
and relics amongst the trees, every group of peasant-women a pastor—that
the country people have more than their share of homilies and
exhortations.

Coming from the interior, we miss the attitude of religious awe amongst
the women, which seems to be put off at the city gates; and we miss,
also, the individuality of costume which vanishes fast in towns. If we
were to picture the people as we see them on Sunday in Vannes, they
would be very ordinary indeed, with just a sprinkling of white caps, and
a few touches of embroidery on a shawl or a blouse, to remind us that we
are in Morbihan; and in their general attitude they would seem as much
at a loss for occupation as in other centres of civilisation where
galleries and museums are closed on Sundays.

There is a museum of Celtic antiquities at Vannes, containing a
collection of ornaments, flints, &c., found in the cromlechs at Carnac
and the neighbourhood, which is well worth visiting; and there are
various shows and amusements for the people on the _Place_ and in the
public gardens; but the fact remains that the majority of the working
inhabitants sidle off on Sunday morning as we see them in the sketch,
gravitating one by one towards every house outside of which hangs a
bunch of dried mistletoe or broom.

[Illustration]

There are many picturesque old houses such as the above; there is a walk
by the river under the old walls and towers, and another in the upper
town with a view far away towards Nantes and the sea; and there is
almost southern warmth and colour under its sunny walls, where we are
sheltered from the winds of the Morbihan.

The people that we see are for the most part pleasant and
prosperous-looking, busy in commerce or in agriculture. There is, it is
true, more than one regiment of the line quartered here, and the cafés,
bright with plate-glass and gilding, are full of warriors of various
sizes; in the morning and in the evening the air vibrates with
regimental drums, but there is little else to remind us that the
inhabitants are the direct descendants of a warlike nation, and that
barons and knights once defended the battlements and towers of Vannes.
The morning is spent at billiards in most of the cafés, and in some,
especially frequented by the townspeople, there are such groups as the
above.

[Illustration]

Outside the café, seated on a bench, is a French commercial traveller,
dressed like a common dandy from L’Orient, with blue frock-coat, white
trousers, very narrow at the bottom, hair cut close to the head, and a
portentous moustache; and he does with it what every human creature
seems to do with an artificially contrived tuft of hair on his upper
lip, he twitches it round and round and pulls at it without ceasing; he
has done this every day for many years, and the action, apparently,
relieves his mind. The sight is familiar in civilised communities, but
this figure contrasts so strongly with the clean-faced, dignified
Bretons that it seems time to pack up our sketchbooks and depart.

[Illustration: THREE HOT MEN OF VANNES.]

Are the fashions changing in Brittany? or is it only the usual tourists’
cry, the complaint of those who resent all change in costume and
dwellings in order that villages should remain “picturesque,” who look
upon their brother living in a hovel as they do upon an old door-knocker
or a china plate? Let us think of the influences at work in
out-of-the-way places, where the travelling _marchand des bottes_, who
has followed us through nearly every village in Brittany with his
caravan of side-spring boots, plies his terrible trade; and let us
remember the expression on the faces of the dancers in the booth at
Châteauneuf du Faou, at the arrival from Quimper of the “fine lady,” who
stands up with her relations to dance the gavotte in the latest fashion
of the towns.

[Illustration]

Before leaving Vannes, we should go down at night to the old Place
Henri-Quatre, where the roofs of the houses meet overhead, where, in
moonlight, the gables cast wonderful shadows across the square, and
above our heads rise the towers of the cathedral with a grandeur of
effect not to be seen at any other time, or from any other point of
view. It is then that the cathedral precincts look most mysterious in
their darkness; narrow, irregular streets with open gutters, lighted
only by a glimmer from latticed windows, and where, from old doorways,
figures are dimly seen to pass in and out. It is a poor quarter, where a
Dutch painter would find work for a lifetime.

We said that there was no light in the streets, but, passing round the
cathedral, there is a strong light from a lantern held close to the
ground; it is the _chiffonnier_ of Vannes (who, like his Parisian
_confrère_, has learned the art of pecking and discrimination from the
fowls) wandering through the night with his basket and iron wand.

One more note made in Vannes in stormy autumn-time. We go down to the
port, sheltered from the wind by a high wall, through which narrow
passages have been made to reach the sea. It is nearly dusk, and the
rough-hewn edges of the stone wall stand out sharply against the sky. As
we pass one of these, facing the west, the narrow opening to the shore
is illumined by a blood-red sunset light, so bright by contrast that
three figures coming towards us from the seashore step, as it were, out
of a furnace. They have men’s voices, but as they approach and pass us
hurriedly, we see that their heads are bare, and that their robes touch
the ground. Upon their shoulders they carry a “dear brother” to his
rest—the drift of last night’s storm-tide. Next morning a rough stone
cottage-door just outside the town is hung round with black—the drapery
giving an appearance of height, and almost grandeur of dimensions, to
the little interior—and resting upon the step is the projecting end of a
wooden coffin painted white. There are candles burning on either side; a
metal crucifix is placed on the doorstep, and on a little table on the
ground in the road is a vase of flowers. The neighbours pass up and down
crossing themselves, and muttering Latin words of prayer for the dead,
and the little children stand and stare. Two days after there is a
bright procession, headed by a priest and acolytes in white robes, with
hymns and incense, followed by a little crowd bareheaded, all struggling
against the wind, to a plot of ground on a promontory near the seashore,
where the poor Breton is taken to his rest.

There is a crowd of his forefathers here before him, with black wooden
crosses where their heads should be; they are planted out in rows, and
labelled with wooden sticks to mark their species, and the garden is
walled in with stones and great rock boulders to keep out the wind. But
it is a dreary place; the wind finds it out from behind the stones,
blows down the wooden crosses, and strews the ground with seaweed and
dead leaves; nothing resists the havoc of the wind over the graves, but
some bright yellow _immortelles_ and some metal images of the Christ.

In the neighbourhood of Vannes there are numerous interesting excursions
to be made, especially southward to the peninsula of Rhuys, on the south
side of the sea of Morbihan, to Sarzeau (where Lesage, the author of
_Gil Blas_, was born), and to the abbey of St. Gildas, also to the ruins
of the fortress of Sucinio, built in 1250 by Duke Jean de Roux. A few
miles to the north-west is the military town of Pontivy, now called
Napoléonville, to be reached easily by railway from Vannes; and near it
the village of St. Nicodème (_see map_), where on the first Saturday in
August one of the largest gatherings of the people takes place. The
Pardon of St. Nicodème is as interesting as any described in this book,
but the customs and ceremonies are too similar to others to be described
without wearying the reader with repetition.

A little farther south, and we should enter the department of the
Loire-Inférieure; we are in fact but a few miles from the city of
Nantes, so well described by Miss Betham-Edwards, in _A Year in Western
France_. In this neighbourhood are the sunny vineyards of St. Nazaire,
the salt districts of Croisic where the costumes of the inhabitants are
again most curious, and the little sea-coast villages pictured by Mr.
Wedmore in his _Pastorals of France_; but there is enough in the
Loire-Inférieure for a separate book, peopled by Breton folk of an
altogether different type.

We have said little of the ancient châteaux of Brittany, many of which
are in good preservation, and are inhabited by direct descendants of the
barons of the fifteenth century; but we would suggest to the traveller,
before leaving Vannes, to visit the picturesque castle of Elven, where
Henry of Richmond, afterwards king of England, was confined for fifteen
years; and, if possible, to go by road to Josselin, where there is one
of the finest châteaux of the Renaissance. The numerous sketches, of
Breton folk, in this book have prevented us from dwelling more at length
on the architectural features of the country, which have been described
in many books of travel.

[Illustration]

What clings to our recollections of Brittany? Some things that are not
beautiful, and which by no stretch of fancy can be described _en couleur
de rose_. The public exhibition of disease and human deformities
permitted by the church are sights to which English eyes are
unaccustomed, and of which the young and untravelled part of our
community have happily little knowledge. But no wise determination to
see only the “bright side” of things, no infusion of otto of roses
amongst these leaves, can take away the stain that clings to many things
in Brittany.

It would seem a consideration of some consequence to the numerous
English residents abroad, though we seldom hear it touched upon, that
their children must of necessity be brought in contact with so much that
is cruel and repulsive. Some may think it salutary and right to see
these things; at any rate it is part of the bargain with those who live
abroad, and the habits of the people can scarcely be interfered with;
but it is a source of wonder to visitors to the principal towns that the
residents cannot persuade the authorities to keep more decently their
streets and public ways.

We will not dwell upon the cruelty to animals, upon the sights to be
witnessed in every market-town, such as tortured calves and half
suffocated pigs, because cruelty is everywhere, and we as strangers are
helpless in a land where it is not considered a sin to inflict suffering
upon animals. It is true that any very flagrant acts can be dealt with
by law, but the law is seldom enforced.

What does it matter about _les animaux_? asks the kindest-hearted, most
motherly of Breton women, whose children drag live birds through the
dust as playthings, and whose husband, if he be of a scientific turn,
may perchance keep a grasshopper with a pin through his head, _living_,
for days in a glass case!

But our lasting impressions of Brittany are of a people and of a
country, interesting for their isolation from the rest of Europe: of a
people who are, as has been well said, “dwelling in an heroic past that
possibly never existed, consoling the failures of their destiny by
beautiful fancies, and throwing a grace over their hard, unhopeful lives
with romantic dreams and traditions”; of a people who invest every road
and fountain with a holy name—for wherever two roads meet, there is a
cross or a sign, and wherever three streams meet, they are called La
Trinité;—of a land that stands alone in Western Europe, its rocks
unmoved by the shocks of tempest from without, and its manners
unpolished by advancing civilisation from within; of a land where men
look to the sea as well as to the earth for their harvest, where the
plough comes down to the water’s edge and the nets of the fishermen are
dried upon fig-trees, where laden orchards drop their fruit over
weather-worn walls on to the sands, and fish, leaping from the sea,
alight sometimes in a field of corn; of a land brightened for a few
weeks in summer with the flower of buckwheat, and coloured with the
coral of its stems, where the wind sweeps over waves of grass and grain,
and scatters the harvest over the sea.

[Illustration]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: BRITTANY]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                      _POSTSCRIPT FOR TRAVELLERS._


_The expenses of a journey to and from Brittany and England are limited
to a return ticket (£2 12s.) from London to St. Malo, viâ Southampton,
which lasts two months. All other travelling expenses on the routes
indicated on the map need not exceed five pounds, by taking the public
conveyances. Carriages at the usual posting rates. Small and inferior
one-horse carriages can be hired nearly everywhere._

_The average cost of living at the hotels (which are tolerable in all
the towns) is 10 fr. (8s.) a day; or by the week, 6 fr. and 7 fr.
Pedestrians spend very little anywhere._

_The principal rivers for fishing are the Blavet, the Trieux, and the
Aven. Anglers should stay at St. Nicolas du Pélem in Côtes-du-Nord, and
at Rosporden in Finistère. (See map.)_

_The most convenient guide-book is the_ Guide Diamant, _by Ad. Joanne,
published by Hachette. There is a good road map of Brittany published by
Aug. Logerot, 55 Quai des Augustins, Paris._

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES


 1. Inserted ‘as’ between ‘tone’ and ‘the’ on p. 4.
 2. Changed ‘or’ to ‘for’ on p. 4.
 3. Changed ‘above’ to ‘below’ on p. 107.
 4. Silently corrected typographical errors.
 5. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 6. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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